Monday, December 31, 2012

Leopard's List of Top 10 Movies of 2012

The Leopard saw armloads of movies this year, and NO doubt about it. 2012 was an extraordinary year for film. Last year, picking out even 10 pictures that I could recommend to everyone was a chore. This year, though, I struggled to produce a list of 10 titles without excluding some really wonderful films.

As usual, I don't like competitions or ranking. These movies are all great within their genre and they are exceptionable in their execution of  storytelling and performances. One isn't necessarily better than the other. I loved 'em all.

Here they are in no particular order:

1. The Turin Horse (A torinói ló)  Directed by Béla Tar

2.  Once Upon a Time in Anatolia  Directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan

3.  Amour  Directed by Michael Haneke

Emmanuelle Riva in Amour

4. Argo  Directed by Ben Affleck 

5. Django Unchained  Directed by Quentin Tarantino

6. Lincoln Directed by Steven Spielberg

7. Moonrise Kingdom Directed by Wes Anderson

8. The Master Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson

9. Beasts Of the Southern Wild  Directed by Benh Zeitlin

10. Skyfall Directed by Sam Mendes

Honorable mentions:
The Grey Directed by Joe Carnahan
Dark Knight Rises Directed by Christopher Nolan
Flight Directed by Robert Zemeckis
Haywire Directed by  Steven Soderbergh
Bernie Directed by Richard Linklater

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Junot Díaz

Though it didn't make The New York Times' 10 Best Books Of 2012, Junot Díaz' latest, This Is How You Lose Her, made The Leopard list for one of the most enjoyable read of the year. Yunior, Díaz' protagonist, is a young Dominican -American man who goes through life's trials and tribulations in these cleverly written and winning stories bringing to mind the old Langston Hughes' Simple tales - an everyman of his culture,  just doing what comes natural.

A short collection of stories, Lose Her doesn't have the heft and ambition of his Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winning novel The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao, but in it's own way just as satisfying in it's own neat, compact way. Call it portable Díaz. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Time Run Out: Dave Brubeck


Among the first jazz records The Leopard ever listened to in a semi-serious way was Miles Davis'  seminal Kind of Blue,  John Coltrane's My Favorite Things and Dave Brubeck's Time Out. Miles' album made me appreciate the sensual intricacies of improvisational music, Coltrane the fiery expression, and with Brubeck, the seemingly limitless possibilities of the medium.
Tunes such as "Blue Rondo A La Turk", " Kathy's Waltz" and the massively popular "Take Five"  expressed what jazz could be, and where it was going. it could be crazy popular (Time Out was the first jazz recording to sell over a million copies), but also challenging. Brubeck was a visionary.
 As Donald Fagen Of Steely Dan immortalized in his tune "New Frontier":

I hear you're mad about Brubeck
I like your eyes, I like him too
He's an artist, a pioneer
We've got to have some music on the new frontier".

Click here for the Dave Brubeck composition "Blue Shadows In The Street". 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Black and White Comics

The first article the Leopard ever published was for a comic book fanzine called Amazing Heroes.  Back in 1989, comics were still not mainstream - it was before the Spider-ma n movies, before the Summer blockbusters adapted from comics like The Avengers. It was still a world of kids and fanboys. We actually read the things and talked about the stories, the artists, the writers. 

 I was trying to break in to the comic business at the time as a cartoonist, and still read superhero stuff.   I loved comics –especially as a child, but one thing that always bothered me was how they depicted minorities, particularly African Americans.

The portrayals were usually stereotypical and often offensive. Superheroes almost by definition were were square-jawed uber-muscled white men. There was almost no portrayal of them as anything else, except the odd sidekick.

So I wrote an article about how I felt they were depicted in comics. I even drew the Editorial illustration.
It may have been among the first of its kind.