Carlos Ezquerra

carlosdreddJust a short post to note my sadness at the recent news of the passing of Spanish artist Carlos Ezquerra, whose remarkable work was a big part of my teenage years reading the British comic 2000AD.  Most famous for being the co-creator (with John Wagner) of Judge Dredd, Carlos did so much other great stuff too- notably Strontium Dog for sister comic Starlord and strips based on The Stainless Steel Rat books, as well as war strips for weekly comic Battle.

For myself, I’ll just say this- one my fondest memories from my youth is of reading the Judge Dredd epic The Apocalypse War week by week in 2000AD and sharing the weekly twists and turns with my mate Andy. A little bit like water-cooler television for us, we’d  each week marvel at the epic events and discuss what we’d read like people do over stuff like Game of Thrones now. Incredibly fast, Ezquerra somehow managed to single-handedly provide the art for an entire saga that stretched over six months. Several years ago I bought the Apocalypse saga collected in a handsome IDW hardback edition and re-reading it was such a great experience, it proved easily as good as I remembered it. Ezquerra’s storytelling was cinematic and peerless.

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Carlos was some kind of genius and as others have wisely noted in comments over the past few days, easily deserves to be considered one of the very greats of comicbook artists, like Kirby and Eisner before him. Yeah, another one gone.

Rachael 2049

Since I was posting those paintings earlier, lets complete this mini-topic with images of the CGI Rachael created for BR2049. I’m sure this creation was no small part of the film being awarded its Oscar for visual effects. While not completely flawless, its success seems largely subjective- individual suspension of disbelief is largely dependent on personal taste, and I admit being utterly entranced when I first saw BR2049 last October. I believe I groaned and my jaw dropped, as I was totally ‘into’ the film at that point. I still buy into it whenever I watch the film, even in less-forgiving 4K, which tells me that its not just what you do effects-wise, but how its applied and how it is supported by the rest of the film.  If you are ‘into’ a film, you’ll forgive and accept anything, really, whether it be dodgy matte-lines/bluescreen or wholly cgi characters.  Film is all make believe, ultimately.

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Rachael art too

rach2Here’s another painting,  most likely from the same photographic source that the painting I posted yesterday was based upon (which for reference, I include below). This artwork has a more traditional approach but is none the worse for that- superb likeness again. There’s some really lovely Blade Runner-inspired artwork online. I used to draw and paint Blade Runner stuff years ago in my youth, but it was never as good as much of this stuff, although in my defense, back in 1982/1983, good reference material was exceedingly hard to come by.

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Rachael art

rachInteresting image this, of Sean Young’s Rachael from Blade Runner.  Beautifully drawn, I like the fragmentation which  the artist has given it- adds a nice touch and gives it a feeling seperate from the usual Noir feel that such ‘art inspired by Blade Runner’ usually seems to have. In any case, its another reminder just how iconic the ‘look’ of this character remains so many years later.

BR2049 Recording Sessions artwork

BR2049 rec sessionsSo they save the best BR2049 poster for an amateur-sourced work for the cover of a soundtrack bootleg? Go figure.

I suppose BR2049, like the original Blade Runner, is a tough nut to crack regards poster artwork. Back when BR2049 came out on DVD in January, a friend of mine passed it by in the shop, not realising the DVD was indeed BR2049 as he initially mistook it for a Marvel movie. It does indeed look like a Marvel movie, which, sure, might help sell the film to some but hardly declares what kind of film it really is. Alienates the arthouse crowd who might give it a try and pisses off the superhero junkie who buys the film and ends up with a long, slow, thought-provoking work of art. But clearly the marketing boys for BR2049 suffered in just the same way as they did with the 1982 original. Just how do you sell a film like Blade Runner or its sequel?

Anyway, I quite like this image used for this boot.  Isn’t perfect but I quite like the black surround that lends it a darker mood and recalls the original Blade Runner painting by John Alvin. The poster is probably a final, and while it does look like a tonal study in preparation for a final render, its not a bad effort.

One thing I’ve noticed over the years is all the amateur poster artwork designs for Blade Runner, some of them bad, some of them frankly amazing, that surfaced. The film is clearly a visionary inspiration for many artists. I like the ones that reflect the mood of the film; a difficult thing to capture. Since last Autumn, those Blade Runner designs have been joined by lots and lots of designs for BR2049. Its been fun looking at them. There’s a great artbook that will never happen, containing the best paintings inspired by the two films.

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Wow me don’t involve me?

Reading various forums, hardware and disc reviews over the past few weeks as part of my research regards buying a new (4K) television, has resulted in some troubling observations. I watch movies because, well, I love movies- good, bad, indifferent, I enjoy watching them, experiencing them, being uplifted, frustrated, awed by them. I enjoy the art and craft of them. Sure, some might turnout to be stinkers but its extremely rare that I ever stop a film mid-way. When I start watching a movie I’m making an effort, a statement of intent,  an investment of my time and I’ll see it through no matter what. I love movies, just as  I love books.

But I don’t choose to watch particular movies because they look good, or show off the hardware I’m watching them on. I watch them because I enjoy them or want to experience something new, perhaps be enlightened or surprised.

I have discovered the rather troubling trend of many enthusiasts who watch particular films just because they look great. Regardless of how good a movie it actually is, if the film has a brilliant image quality and ‘wow’ credentials, it gets praised/highly rated and bought and watched if only to justify the expense of that high-end screen sitting in the corner/on the wall.  Films are actually rated not by credentials like story, acting, drama, craft, but rather by superficial nonsense such as moments of impressive HDR or Dolby Atmos sound-staging, as if the films are simply multi-million tech demos and not creative pieces of art.

Surely these home cinema enthusiasts are simply missing the point?

I loved Blade Runner at the cinema, and I enjoyed it on a pirate-copy VHS that I was gifted at Christmas in 1983, grainy and fuzzy and mono and replete with blooming colours as it was, it was still a great movie. I am certain that it will look great someday when I watch it in 4K on a new television, but it has always been a great movie and while it would not be ideal, if I had to watch it on an ancient b&w portable because that was the only way to re-watch it, then I probably would. The movie is the thing, not the bells and whistles of the hardware I’d be watching it on.

But this does make me wonder if this trend is indicative of why films are so often all visuals and spectacle and little substance now. Are people so obsessed with the size of their screens and all the bells and whistles of modern hardware that elements like script and drama seem antiquated and immaterial? Wow me don’t involve me?

Vangelis piggy bank

vangpigHere’s something of an oddity; a piggy bank designed by Vangelis for charity, sold at auction yesterday for £2,900. Really, the world is crazy enough with Trump in charge across the pond without news stories like this having me convinced I’ve slipped into the Twilight Zone. Vangelis? Piggy bank?  Not words I’d have associated with each other before this past weekend, naturally.

For Vangelis collectors, of course, this one-of-a-kind item must have been irresistible- I suppose I should just thank my lucky stars it wasn’t some one-off edition of a complete Blade Runner soundtrack. Proceeds went to a fine cause – the charity ‘Innocence in Danger’, for the protection of children against sexual abuse.

The selfish fan in me would rather suggest that Vangelis release some of his unreleased albums/material with the proceeds of the sales going entirely to charity, like his original El Greco limited edition back in the early 1990s,  There’s plenty of material in the vaults, I hear, and plenty of fans who would buy it even at the somewhat premium prices some of these ‘superdeluxe’ sets go for, but hey ho, piggy banks it is.

The world is getting sillier by the minute, I fear, and news such as this does nothing to dissuade me otherwise, but its a nice gesture by Vangelis to get involved.

 

Enterprise

CGI EnterpriseWhilst on the subject of Star Trek: The Motion Picture in my previous post, here’s an image I came across recently of the Starship Enterprise from that film; surely the most beautiful-looking spaceship miniature to ever grace a movie, rendered here in a CGI image that rather lovingly recaptures the ‘look’ from the film. Images such as this throw me right back to 1978/1979 when I was a young Trek-geek in awe of how they were re-creating the Enterprise and making it ‘more’ after so many years of enjoying the tv show.  I could stare at images like this for ages (and don’t get me started on all those fascinating behind the scenes photos of the actual miniature being built and photographed, I’ve been a sucker for those for years).

startrekmovieposterThat CGI image actually reminds me of the pre-release poster, a slight variant of the one here which I remember from the back of an American Marvel comic in Winter of 1979 which I stared at for much longer than the actual contents of the comic. Ah, those were the days, back when you could so excited about a Star Trek movie….

Anyway, I don’t care how the actual movie turned out (I still like it, so sue me) but I still get weak at the knees remembering how it was back then, the anticipation for the movie (hey, I was a Star Trek nut many long years before Star Wars came out) and how beautiful the Enterprise redesign looked and was realized in miniature.

Sigh. Where’s that blu-ray….

V’ger Annunciation

Over Easter I saw a documentary which featured this painting by Henry Ossawa Tanner from 1897, of the Annunciation. Its an unconventional image depicting Mary being visited by the angel Gabriel – Mary is depicted as an ordinary young woman, without halo or any holy adornment, and Gabriel is, brilliantly, simply depicted as a shaft of very bright light…

The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner 1896

…and immediately this sprang a connection in my mind to the V’ger probe from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, in which the probe penetrates the Enterprise defenses and appears on the bridge of the ship, examining the crew and the ships equipment/computer. I wonder if Tanner’s painting was an inspiration for the effects crew’s realisation of the V’ger probe? It does look particularly close, a bit like one of those ‘separated at birth’ captions from Private Eye etc.

In any case, that Tanner painting is quite exquisite, and the decision to render the angel as a strange shaft of light was a stroke of genius on Tanner’s part.  Astonishing really; I was quite taken aback by the sheer audacity of the painting and the realism of it, considering how embroidered with symbolism and religious tropes many such paintings were. The V’ger connection just made it all the more weird. Its a strange world sometimes.

Blade Runner Art

Well, I’m sure you can all guess what I was watching last night.

On a related topic whilst I digest 2049 one more time (doesn’t the blu-ray look gorgeous? What in the world can 4K add, I wonder?), here’s some artworks inspired by the original film that have caught my eye recently. Some ‘work’ better than others, but I like how these pieces rather capture the spirit of the original film:

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