If you enjoy the daily posts on Myrant, you’ll love this book series — packaged by SpiderBaby Grafix & Publications and published by Black Coat Press — collecting over 1000 pages (!!!) of my reviews, interviews and insights on all aspects of cinema, DVD and video.
S.R. Bissette’s Blur pulls it all together into an engaging, entertaining and intoxicating feast for movie-buffs, cinephiles and anyone who loves movies.
Blur Volumes 1-4 collects the complete weekly “Video Views” DVD and video review column I wrote for a variety of New England newspapers and zines from 1999 to 2002, including in-depth interviews with truly independent filmmakers and definitive analysis of key films that were revised, expanded and published in award-winning zines like The Video Watchdog.
They’re all here, fully indexed for handy reference and research use (the complete index for volumes 1-4 concludes Blur Volume 4), sporting eye-catching covers painted by Bissette and designed and executed by cartoonist, Center for Cartoon Studies alumni and cutting-edge graphic designer Jon-Mikel Gates.
There’s also some personal history here for avid fans of my career: in each volume’s introduction, I provide a chronology of what was going on for me during these fateful years after I retired from the American comics industry. I write about what film criticism had always meant to me, as a reader and as a writer, and how this never-before-collected body of professional work played an essential role in my personal, professional and creative life. [Explanatory note: I named this book series Blur because, to most of my fans, my post-comics career years of 1999-2005 was usually described as "a blur." The myth is that once I left comics to earn my weekly paycheck in the video retail marketplace, I ceased to be creative or productive; this archival book series should definitively prove otherwise, whatever the nay-sayers maintain.]
Every volume is jam-packed with unique info, insights, opinion and analysis. Get them while you can!
or scroll down below for previews of each volume and links to order them directly from from my publisher Black Coat Press.
* S.R. Bissette’s Blur Volume 1:
Welcome to the first of the four volumes, collecting reviews for 1999′s classics and pop favorites – The Matrix, Run Lola Run, The Sixth Sense, Election, Bowfinger, American Pie, The Red Violin and South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut – films just about everyone found easy to like and even love.
But what about clinkers like Jack Frost, The Haunting remake, Stigmata and Bats? (“…by the time the leads are up to their nipples in a lake of bat guano, you’ll realize you’ve been wading in the same for over an hour, and it’s getting mighty deep…”) They’re all here, too!
I found a lot to love in movies most critics dismissed and/or roasted, from the likes of Stanley Kubrick‘s final film Eyes Wide Shut (hey, it worked for me!) to The Rage: Carrie 2, Teaching Miss Tingle, and Alan Rudolph‘s adaptation of the late Kurt Vonnegut‘s Breakfast of Champions.
Here, too, are my favorite sleepers of the year — Arlington Road, The 13th Warrior, The Castle, Pirates of Silicon Valley, Broken Vessels, A Stir of Echoes, Joe the King, The Brandon Teena Story, Best Laid Plans, The Best Man, Desert Blue — the overlooked foreign films — Abre Los Ojos (Open Your Eyes), Ba Mua (Three Seasons), Los Amantes del Circulo Polar (Lovers of the Arctic Circle), the jaw-dropper Perdita Durango (Dance with the Devil) — and already-forgotten curios like Freeway 2: Confessions of a Trick Baby, The Naked Man, Free Money, Trekkies, The Dead Hate the Living and The Highwayman.
Never heard of ‘em? Read about them here, then ferret them out on DVD for yourself — you won’t be disappointed!
Also in this volume, you’ll find my ‘comics industry insider’ view of “comicbook movies” like Mystery Men and animated features The Iron Giant, Yellow Submarine, Walt Disney’s Tarzan, Pokemon and the whole anime invasion, which went big-time in 1999. If you (like me) love horror movies, check out my “Creeper Sleepers” Halloween horror movie overviews in this volume, alongside in-depth essays on underground filmmaker Maya Deren, the breakthrough success of fundamentalist Christian horror movies with The Omega Code, the 1999 Blair Witch Project phenomenon and its unfairly neglected inspiration The Last Broadcast, the real breakthrough digital feature from the year before.
There’s lots, lots more in this first volume of Blur. I recommend what I considered the best horror movies available on video and DVD at that time, and my “Woodchuck Video Turkey Feasts” clucks about the worst Thanksgiving and Christmas movies of all time — ‘must see’ or ‘must avoid’ picks, depending on your own twisted tastes.
That’s a lot of reading for just one book — and it’s only the beginning, folks!
* S.R. Bissette’s Blur Volume 2:
Sorry, George Lucas and Star Wars fans — Blur Volume 2 opens with my scathing dissection of George Lucas‘s Star Wars: Episode 1: The Phantom Menace (“…the young man’s dreams implicit and explicit in Star Wars swept up a generation; the rich man’s fantasies of The Phantom Menace are lumbering, sterile, and mercantile in nature, as mechanical as the Droid army at the center of its most spectacular set pieces…”). How could Volume 2 go anywhere but uphill from there? The book closes with my selection of the best & worst horror films of 2000, along with my daughter Maia Rose and son Daniel‘s all-time top-12 recommended Halloween titles for kids.
And between those bookend articles — and the tasty covers — is a Millennial buffet for cinephiles!
What a year it was: American Beauty, Fight Club, The Insider, Three Kings, Boys Don’t Cry, Being John Malkovich, Magnolia, Dogma, The Straight Story, The Cider House Rules and Erin Brockovich were easy to champion, but it’s surprising how much even the most astute mainstream critics missed (did you know Three Kings was essentially a Gulf War spaghetti western?). I found some diamonds amid what too many critics considered beneath notice, from Snow Falling on Cedars (“…in a culture obsessed with delineating love almost exclusively in sexualized or familial terms, it is unusual to find such an honest and uncluttered expression of the most fragile of virtues we hold dear…”), to gems like David Twohy and Jim and Ken Wheat‘s Pitch Black, Luc Besson‘s The Messenger, Ang Lee‘s Riding with the Devil, Martin Scorsese‘s ghost movie Bringing Out the Dead, and just-plain-fun opuses like Galaxy Quest, Sleepy Hollow, Jackie Chan’s Project A and others.
It was also a year for animation masterworks like Hayao Miyazaki‘s magnificent Princess Mononoke and masterquirks like Bill Plympton‘s I Married a Strange Person. There was a tsunami of underrated sleepers: The War Zone, My Dog Skip, Ghost Dog, La Cucaracha, The Third Miracle, End of the Affair, Tumbleweeds, Boiler Room, The Minus Man, The Adventures of Sebastian Cole, Love & Basketball, and more. Here’s the overlooked foreign films — The Dinner Game, Todo Sobre Mi Madre (All About My Mother), and video restorations/resurrections like Fritz Lang‘s The 1000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse, the lost PBS sf gem The Lathe of Heaven and Roger Corman‘s rescued-from-the-fire cheapjack scorcher Fire on the Amazon. I even found pleasure in botched genre efforts like Walter Hill‘s Supernova, but little to redeem Scream 3, 28 Days, The Skulls and Bicentennial Man.
2000 was also an incredible year for documentaries (American Movie, Beyond the Mat, Divine Trash, Mr. Death) and already-forgotten curios like The Cradle Will Rock. This volume also features my in-depth overviews of Mary Harron‘s American Psycho and Julie Taymor‘s Titus — and why cutting-edge female filmmakers are drawn to such mayhem — the trio of Ripley films based on Patricia Highsmith‘s novels, and the definitive Andy Kaufman video catalogue.
* S.R. Bissette’s Blur Volume 3:
As 2000 eased into 2001, we all discovered first-hand how wrong Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick had been back in 1968. Mired in the first year of George W. Bush‘s disastrous presidency (which was dire even before 9/11/01′s cataclysmic events), we completely abandoned any real-world option to explore worlds beyond in favor of full-blown cinematic fantasies that used cutting-edge computer graphic imagery (CGI) technology to make the impossible look — well, sorta possible.
It was the year impossible missions still looked utterly impossible in John Woo‘s misbegotten MI2 / Mission Impossible 2: “…as in so many modern Hollywood thrillers, however ‘real’ the stuntwork, we cease to be amazed given the soup of CGI-enhanced non-reality they swim within. To paraphrase an old hippy joke, when there is no gravity, action films suck.” It was the year Ridley Scott — director of Alien and Blade Runner – used CGI to take us all back to Rome (and almost imperceptibly bring Oliver Reed back from the dead to posthumously complete his performance) in Gladiator: “Yes, Commodus is a dim echo of the real corruption Rome’s most terrifying despots personified; for that, the justifiably infamous X-rated Bob Guccione travesty Caligula (1980) and Joe D’Amato’s even more depraved (!) knock-offs come closest to the mark, and they still fall short of the genuine excesses history has recorded.” And it was the year hamsters became movie monsters, thanks to CGI and The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps: “…proof once again that less is more — and more is much, much less when it comes to overblown, overproduced, over-calculated filmmaking-by-committee sequels. Feed ‘em all to the giant hamster, I say.” Of course, now we have G-Force to contend with — obviously, I was more prescient than I ever dared imagined!
But it was also the year a new generation of filmmakers refuted CGI and the artifice of Hollywood moviemaking to embrace the bare-bones Dogme 95, as in Lars Von Trier‘s confrontational Dancer in the Dark (“…Von Trier embraces the seductive power of the musical form… while surgically exposing its madness…”) and Harmony Korine‘s rivetting Julien Donkey-Boy (“…a calculated assault on the very notion of film-as-entertainment. You aren’t meant to be entertained, or amused, but challenged. This is an ugly, distressing, depressing work; but it’s also an engaging, fascinating sui generis work, and once seen, it is impossible to forget.”)
As the Millennium turned, a bumper crop of true indy films emerged — When Pigs Fly, Tracy Moffet‘s BeDevil, etc. — and as documented in this volume, I was often able to interview the filmmakers themselves (of Delinquent, Waiting and Nice Guys Sleep Alone). Here are the 2000-2001 season revivals (Dementia, The Exorcist: The Version You’ve Never Seen, Georges Franju‘s Les Yeux Sans Visage/Eyes Without a Face) and rehashes (Heavy Metal 2000), the glorious (The Sopranos, Almost Famous, Tigerland, Wonder Boys, and 2000′s top 20) and the ghastly (Battlefield Earth).
Lively reading, as ever, and sure to have you discovering many new films to watch — and many old favorites to revisit.
* S.R. Bissette’s Blur Volume 4:
This fourth volume completes the archival collection of my complete weekly “Video Views” columns. It includes the final columns (originally published May to October 2001) along with various video & DVD-related articles from this period from Video Watchdog, VMag and my never-before-published work for the VSDA (Video Software Dealers Association) ‘Filmmakers of Tomorrow’ program — plus an essential index for the entire four volume set, making this highly-entertaining read into an invaluable research tool.
Between the weekly review column and the inside-industry work with the VSDA, helping to bring independent films to the marketplace, I wrote extensively about the era’s true indy films (Home to Tibet, Butterfly, Radio Free Steve, etc.), including interviews with the filmmakers. I also wrote about my all-time favorite sex scenes in the movies (you’ll have to buy the book to find out!) and my all-time favorite movie soundtrack CDs — and I promise you there are some surprises in both those articles!
I couldn’t avoid the masterpieces (O Brother Where Art Thou?, Memento, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, You Can Count on Me, Once Upon a Time in China I and II, etc.) and misfires (Shadow of the Vampire, Cast Away, State and Main, Sweet November, Monkeybone, Valentine, Blow Dry, etc.). But I paid close attention to the already-forgotten gems (See the Sea, The Pledge, Alex Winter‘s Fever), the resurrections (the Esperanto opus Incubus), revivals (Akira, Blood Simple, City on Fire) and rehashes (Dracula 2000, Driven).
Along the way, I rhapsodized over the virtues of Steven Seagal thrillers (“…most entertaining for their utterly deadpan absurdities…”), crafted expansive essays like “For Love of Cinema” (“…Miramax has calculated, with surgical precision, how to titillate the ‘alternative’ taste buds, and do so here with singular, shameless hucksterism. Here we are, a generation of Truffaut, Kurosawa and Bergman aficionados, played like rubes at the carny…”), and scribed a loving ode to Hannibal, “the Bush Era Bogeyman We Deserve” (per usual, Blur archives the superior revised and expanded version of this essay published in the award-winning zine The Video Watchdog).
I also carefully compared the UK miniseries Traffick and its American feature film adaptation Traffic (“By skirting the spidery source of all the corruption, collusion, addiction, denial, and betrayal at the heart of its web, the feature film version of Traffic cut itself from the root of all evil exposed in Traffick…”), dissed gruelling comedy-romances like The Wedding Planner (“…the entire confection exists to stretch the seemingly irreconcilable situation between these star-crossed lovers to the breaking point. I squirmed through every agonizing moment of the prolonged syrup, angst and tedium…”), recognized the true virtues of Snatch as only a vet cartoonist could or would (“To my mind, [director] Guy Ritchie perfectly translates [Dick Tracy cartoonist Chester] Gould‘s dark universe to celluloid, with an ingratiating wit, vigor and savagery guaranteed to put off the squeamish and faint-hearted…”) and proudly scribed my most succinct review ever for Dude, Where’s My Car? (“Dude, where’s my movie?”).
All that and the complete four-volume index — you know you want it. You know you need it. What are you waiting for? You can’t have everything for free from the internet! Some book series are worth buying and owning!
BRAND-NEW — NOW AVAILABLE from BLACK COAT PRESS!
* S.R. Bissette’s Blur Volume 5:
With this volume, Blur truly shifts into the 21st Century, collecting into book form the best of the Myrant online essays and articles from 2005-2007.
In these pages you’ll find me rhapsodizing over masterpieces like Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth and Guy Maddin’s Cowards Bend the Knee, savoring the genuine pleasures of home movies, and lambasting the wretched The Wicker Man remake as well as the encroachment of commercials into movie theaters.
This volume includes analysis of a previously undefined genre – ‘the awful place’ cinema, including Silent Hill, Chain and The Decay of Fiction; European and Russian science-fiction movies of the 1960s and ‘70s (First Spaceship on Venus, Ikarie XB-1, etc.); blistering anti-war films from Abel Gance’s classic J’Accuse (both versions!) to Joe Dante’s Masters of Horror episode The Homecoming; George W. Bush-era horror movies, from ‘amnesia horror’ to notorious torture films like Saw and Hostel to the really bone-chilling fare like DC 9/11: Time of Crisis and Faith in the White House; and moving away from the screen, I wrote about the 2006 Broadway revival of Sweeney Todd, Vermont’s celebrated Ground Hog Opry stage show and the man behind it, and even my dream-inspired rant “Santo for President!” It’s all in this volume.
Also inside: reviews of popular theatrical titles like The History Boys, Underworld, Apocalypto, Children of Men, The Good Shepherd, and more, and of recent DVD releases of once-rare Mario Bava, Edgar G. Ulmer, Val Lewton, Hammer Films and Mexican horror classics; cutting-edge animation from Sally Cruikshank (“Hello, Quasi!”) and mind-bending anime based on Jim Woodring’s celebrated Frank comics stories; rarities like Existo (The Forbidden Movie), I Was a Zombie for the FBI, Massacre, Satan’s Children, The Descendant, Hintertreppe/Backstairs, and the delightful Ali Baba Goes to Town.
Go to town yourself with this fifth volume of S.R. Bissette’s Blur!
NOW AVAILABLE and SHIPPING from BLACK COAT PRESS!
SR Bissette’s Blur Volume 6 coming soon!
Coming soon: The complete SR Bissette collection of articles, essays and interviews on horror/sf/fantasy films and media will be archived in the multi-volume series Gooseflesh!