Friday, December 31, 2010

2011

As this picture illustrates, I am both dreadfully excited and dreadfully terrified of the new year which is just now dawning. I always like how the New Year is personified by a newborn. It seems so harmless and meek. But you and I know the truth. Because of where my life is right now, there's almost no way we're getting out of 2011 without some very large developments, hopefully in a good way. So we'll see. It certainly won't be boring. Happy 2011! I can't wait to see what we all do/make!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Inevitable Best and Most Notable of 2010 Post

So you're probably sitting at home, reflecting on 2010, and racking your brain over one question - WHAT DID SCOTT BENSON DIG THIS YEAR?

Well, wonder no more.

MOVIES
I didn't see as many movies as I would have liked this year.
In no particular order:

Winter's Bone
This movie took me by surprise. I had heard that it was great, and that it was kind of a "country-noir". That intrigued me, so I tracked it down and loved it. The lead actress is fantastic, giving this very tough and very determined performance that never falls back on gender cliches. Most notably, the movie captures rural poverty and near-poverty better than any I have seen. There are certain environments and characters that ring so true, yet I have never seen them in a movie before that doesn't in some way use them for humor. This is a movie that takes its setting and its characters seriously, and finds courage and compassion in a part of the country usually only ripe for mockery and chainsaw-massacre-related stories. It has been decried in some circles for being too reliant upon or even exploitative of it's setting, but it's really only a small step away from the type of area one can easily find by driving a few hours into the center of Pennsylvania. I think that perhaps those who find the setting too outrageous have simply not been far enough away from the freeway when driving through the middle of nowhere.

True Grit
We saw this on Christmas and the wife and I were giddy afterwards. It's not a mind-blowing or game-changing movie, but it is expertly crafted and wildly entertaining. It's a surprisingly dark and funny movie, with some moments of classic western bravado woven throughout. The featured performances are wonderful to a person, though again the lead female character steals the show. She is fast-talking, smart, relentless, simultaneously worldly and naive. I mentioned in another post that this was a great year for lead women playing strong characters in traditionally male situations with no trace of in-your-face "girl power". In these stories, they simply were people caught up in extraordinary circumstances.

The Social Network
This movie was described to me as a tell-all hit-job on Mark Zuckerberg, and a generation-defining movie in regards to its expose on social networking. It is neither. Mr. Zuckerberg comes off as brilliant but flawed, full of insecurities, and unable to really connect with anyone. It has very little to say about our inter-connected culture, despite the hoopla to the contrary. It is nothing like a generation-defining movie, unless your generation happens to be filthy-rich teens and young adults from a Harvard background. It IS, however, a great character study filmed, written, acted and scored as well as you could want. Jesse Eisenberg's performance is justly lauded and I would be surprised if he did not receive an Oscar for it.

Scott Pilgrim vs The World
As an adult who doesn't enjoy reference-based comedy all that much, I'm not sure that I'm supposed to like this movie. But I do. I really, really do. I had heard from a friend who didn't like it that it was a movie that thought it was more clever than it was, and was purely based upon obscure references. I suppose if you count Street Fighter, comic books, Final Fantasy and Seinfeld as obscure, that description might be fair. It's a visually inventive movie and shows how well in-your-face special effects can work when they are integrated and art-directed well. It's also very, very funny and genuinely exciting.

Inception
I mentioned earlier this year that Inception is pretty much the base-line for action movies that I can enjoy. It's just smart and inventive enough. Parts of it do not hold up to repeated viewings (and it is nowhere near as complicated and profound as the internet would have you believe), but that parts that work do it well. Christopher Nolan hasn't put out a movie that I don't like, and I think he is honestly the only guy making big summer blockbusters that I could care less about. The ensemble cast is great, as they are in most of Nolan's movies (and proves once again my theory that Joseph Gordon-Levitt makes everything better), though DiCaprio's character is easily the weakest point of the movie. That is a shame, as he is the star. Regardless, if you're one of the few people who didn't see it, go check it out.

I haven't seen Black Swan or The Illusionist yet, though I aim to correct that in the next week or so. As far as other notable movies I saw this year, Bruno was an ok movie with a tremendous performance at the center of it. I tend to find biopics very unfulfilling as stories (I know, I feel shallow). Dogtooth was fascinating and sterile. Shutter Island was a not-so-great movie made by incredibly talented and skilled people. A Prophet was very enjoyable but overall didn't grab me. I have all 5 hours of Carlos on my hard drive but just haven't taken the plunge. I also saw the Rifftrax versions of Twilight:Eclipse, Clash of the Titans, and The Last Airbender. They were all appropriately terrible and hilarious. Also, has anyone seen Micmacs?

Television
What a great year for tv it was! Seriously.

Boardwalk Empire
Well well well, this show came out of nowhere for me and became the most consistently entertaining and interesting thing I watched this year. A slow, reflective, very adult take on what could have easily been Goodfellas vs Prohibition kept Bethany and I glued every week. The cast was great, it looked gorgeous and it was (most of the time) very well-written. If you missed out, go find it on dvd or your preferred internet solution.

Doctor Who
I can't believe it was only last Christmas that Doctor #9 made my wife weep openly by shuffling off this mortal coil. We were both a bit nervous about the new Doctor and the new showrunner in Stephen Moffat, but we needn't have been. Matt Smith is easily my favorite Doctor. He certainly acts like an alien, with a healthy mix of crazy uncle. And what a season it was. It carried a running plotline through to the excellent last episode. It played heavily with the possibilities (and impossibilities) of time travel and in the end, things that you thought were just continuity errors ended up being bread crumbs, purposely dropped along the way. One of my favorite quotes of the year was in Craig Ferguson's description of Doctor Who - "The triumph of intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism". I couldn't have said it better myself, and that is why The Doctor is the one superhero I can really cheer for. Can't wait till next year.

The Venture Brothers
It's no secret that my wife and I are the biggest Venture fans you're likely to ever meet. It's been a turbulent season for the Ventures, as it was split in two and often seemed to be running in 15 directions at once. But it was always hilarious and inventive. Unlike seemingly every other adult cartoon, this show loves its characters. They have flaws and emotions, hopes and fear. They try and fail and sometimes they move on. The last five minutes or so of the season finale was so brilliant that it gave me honest-to-goodness chills and remains my favorite sequence of any show this year, though I would mention that you'd really need to have been following the show since season 1 to understand any of it. It has been announced that the show is coming back for a fifth season, and it remains the best cartoon show for adults currently in existence, and in the pantheon of all-time greatest animated shows.

The Thick of It
In The Loop was one of my favorite movies of 2009, and when I found that it was based upon a british tv show, I tracked it down. It's scathingly funny and as caustic as anything I've ever seen - in a great way. Peter Capaldi as Malcom Tucker is a force of nature. It helps if you know a bit about British politics works, but if you don't (I didn't), you'll have a decent idea of it by the end of the season.

Other notable tv shows included Look Around You, which was played and replayed again and again over the summer. The Walking Dead was promising but deeply mediocre. It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia and Peep Show are still the funniest and best sitcoms on their respective sides of the Atlantic. Stephen Moffat's Sherlock Holmes was a procedural I could actually watch, and I am frightened to say that I identify with the series' very sociopathic Holmes more than I'd like to. I enjoyed the slow but almost endlessly fascinating (and cancelled) Caprica. It was like nothing else I'd ever seen on television and was getting into some really unique themes. Alas.

Music
This was a year in which, despite my best intentions, I couldn't find much to get into, new or old. Most everything that is going on in music right now doesn't interest me, and I feel at times as though I've discovered all there is to be found in the music released in years past. I'm definitely wrong on both counts, though. Either way, only two bands made big impressions on me this year.

Fucked Up
I actually started listening to these kids last December, but it wasn't until this fall, when we were driving cross country seemingly every weekend, that they became regular staples. I don't know how to describe them. They are certainly a hardcore punk band, but they throw so much else at the wall (in songs that sometimes clock in at 7 or 12 minutes) that for me it transcends the genre and becomes something else entirely. I can't remember another band that sounds so... alive. It was a huge and epic year, and this was the perfect soundtrack. It's not for everybody, but what good thing is? Also: Canadians!



Dum Dum Girls
Hey look! I like a band that is currently hip and popular! It's finally happened! They're even on the radio sometimes! I heard a lot of girl-fronted, blown-out noise-pop this year, but something about this band really grabbed me. In all honesty, I never listen to the full album, but I listen to about half of it all the time. The opening track is excellent for driving at night, and "Bhang Bhang" and "Jail La La" are perfect singalong songs.



The new album from The Decemberists leaked, and though it's very good, it's probably my least favorite of their catalog. It might as well be the polar opposite of their last album, which is both good and bad. It's simply missing a good deal of the whimsy and non-rock instrumentation that I like in a Decemberists album, though it does have some fantastic songs. It's also more than a little country-fried. For some bizarre reason, 2010 was a year in which we listened to a metric ton of Atom & His Package. Go figure. The World/Inferno Friendship Society recorded a new album and then didn't release it, so naturally it was leaked immediately. It's great, but more importantly they have a new album coming out in the next couple of months and it sounds awesome. I was contacted to do the album artwork for it, but in the end a band member wanted to take a crack at designing it so these beauties shall never be used:
Yes, I know I misspelled Ecstasy. I totally would have fixed it before it went to print. My Achilles Heel when working on projects is stupid typos. I am smart.

I was going to write a bunch about video games, but you know... I have other things to do. So check out Mass Effect 2 for the unparalleled side stories, Bioshock 2 for the excellent final third of the game, Red Dead Redemption for the looooone praaaairie and another unexpectedly awesome final third, Just Cause 2 for one of the biggest, most gorgeous and FUN open-worlds ever (just so long as you don't ever play the actual missions, as the game proper is terrible. I could spend forever just driving around the islands, blowing things up, and jumping cars over dunes in the desert until the explode.), StarCraft 2 and Civilization 5 for the predictably-great strategy goodness, Limbo for an dark and difficult treat, Lord Of The Rings Online for free massively multiplayer Tolkien-themed nerdery, and Fallout:New Vegas if you liked the last Fallout and want a slightly polished and expanded version.

Lastly, lets share in some of my favorite likes from Vimeo this year, won't we?







It was a great year, and a big one. 2011 looks to be even bigger, and I'm not even sure what that means yet. Stay tuned.

Useless

I should have probably written "tired" on that banner instead, as I got too sleepy to write but then went and drew this instead of just taking out the trash and going to bed.

I am going to do this.

Writing and drawing, drawing and writing.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Egger

My wife's uncle passed away on Christmas, about 26 hours after we last saw him. He was a great guy. Stormed the beach at Normandy but couldn't stay awake for anything. He was also so forgetful that we'd end up having the same conversation with him multiple times during a visit. It was fascinating to see how the conversations would change each time they were repeated, with us answering the same questions and Edgar making the same jokes and laughing uproariously. Bethany tells me this wasn't necessarily a product of age - he had always been a somewhat forgetful, sleepy guy. He thought the world of Bethany and always talked to me as if I were a friend he'd met down at the VFW.

I totally saw True Grit

It's been a fantastic year for strong, great female protagonists from rural settings. I simply love the heroine from True Grit, and she's probably my favorite character from a 2010 movie.

Oh, and the movie was great too. Go see it.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Beast Below



Inspired by this piece of folky-art and a not-particularly-great episode of Doctor Who.

I liked the head-stab guy so much I did a quick little portrait of him.



Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Onward, Swift!

Here we go - my reboot of David the Gnome.

Friday, December 10, 2010

I finally made a Christmas card!

It is totally The Krampus.

WANT TO MAKE YOUR OWN KRAMPUS CARD?
DOWNLOAD THE .PSD HERE!
It's 6x9, cmyk and 300 dpi. Just pick a nice printer and go for it!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

New reel and a sad little picture.



Enjoy the new reel.

Anyone interested in a Tadly storybook? I keep getting requests for it. We'd have to bind it ourselves, which might make it ultra-cool. Why is Tadly so sad? Well, read the book if we ever get a chance to make it.