Taking the Swamp Thing Tour
Recalling the Salad Days with the Pals Who Were Part of It
For those who couldn’t make it (and maybe for some of those who did):
Here’s the complete Cincinnati Comic Expo Swamp Thing reunion panel, moderated by none other than Dave Aikins, who kept things rolling.
This is two hours of Tom Yeates, John Totleben, Rick Veitch, and yours truly dishing on one another and our 1980s efforts, and if you can spare the time today or this weekend, I think some of you will find it worth the watch.
Thanks to Dave and the Expo organizers, I’ll be donating a DVD of the panel to my now-adult kids, to the CCS Schulz Library, to the Stephen R. Bissette Collection at HUIE Library, and to the Billy Ireland Comic Art Collection at University of Ohio, but here it is via Youtube:
If for some reason you’d rather watch it over on Youtube,
Now in Theaters:
A glorious act of hubris about inglorious acts of hubris?
Here’s the first impressions I posted on Facebook Tuesday night, immediately after seeing Paul Thomas Anderson‘s THE MASTER (2012):
Joaquin Phoenix (as alcoholic WW2 vet Freddie) seems to have hollowed out his body, racking himself over, concave-chested. He is another cinematic broken man, his face the movie’s ravaged roadmap of addiction, awash in any numbing liquids in reach, craving affection, a partner, a mentor, the titular ‘master’ played by Philip Seymour Hoffman (as L. Ron Hubbard surrogate Lancaster Dodd).
Freddie humps & fingers women of sand, dreams of a too-young teen lover, drinking torpedo fuel & undefinable toxic potions, a lost sailor adrift in a sea too vast: life itself.
Like all Anderson‘s previous films, it’s also a meditation on unconsummated, all-consuming, but almost inexpressible male love between surrogate sons and fathers, the need/devotion/resentment of seemingly aimless young men for/of paternal authority figures doomed to shape/elevate/savage/betray/destroy anyone so in absolute need of their orbit. Per usual, that very orbit defines the narrative’s deceptively meandering tragic-tory, and Anderson orchestrates the rich tapestry and flawless cast (including Amy Adams, light years from Enchanted, and a wonderful Laura Dern role as a Philadelphia socialite in thrall of Dodd‘s “Cause”) through their paces through over decades—I found it terribly moving at times, recognizing too many people I’ve known in it.
It’s also a crash course on Hubbard‘s Dianetics/Scientology history, in part, but more profoundly a parable on the inability of forging rewarding (much less lasting) devotional bonds between surrogate sons/surrogate fathers if both are defined only by need, hunger, appetite, and a sort of emotional autocannibalism. This one’s going to haunt me for some time.
A few other impressions: No, it’s not an exposé of Scientology. Anderson made a film about addiction to authority figures, and of authority figures’s addiction to acolytes: a dissection of America, and a very timely one at that, in an (particularly this) election cycle.
Karl Janice commented on my FB post: “It’s ambitious and well made – but I think the themes by their nature don’t/won’t resolve nicely within the context of a movie. Hoffman‘s character was likable…too likable for those looking for a Scientology bash fest. Phoenix‘s character was unlikable…too unlikable for the lead protagonist. I did love the American culture that was captured which explained in some small way how the heck Scientology was able to obtain a foothold in the psyche back then….”
To which I replied:
“Karl: charisma feeds cult; Hoffman was perfect. And making the protagonist the unlikable man was the whole point—as Hoffman/Dodd (accurately) stated in jail, “I’m the ONLY one who likes you, Freddie.” Telling the entire tale from the POV of “the irredeemable man” was the point.”
The ideal next Anderson movie: another American family tale, that of William Moulton Marston‘s extended family, the invention of the lie detector, and the creation of Wonder Woman… well, that’s my two-cents, if I were ever asked (which I’m not).
Anyhoot, this is plenty to chew on for a Friday, and I’ll leave you to it. Have a terrific weekend, and thanks again, Andrew Satterfield, Dave, Rich Henn, and all the Cincinnati Comic Expo organizers and heavy-lifters who made the reunion happen.