The 2010 movie Moon staring Sam Rockwell can stand proudly in the pantheon of cerebral SciFi that includes 2001: A Space Odyssey and Solaris (the 1972 original - not the Soderbergh/Clooney abomination).
Apart from a cracking script and a delightfully mischievous robot-voice performance from Kevin Spacey. One feels much of Moon’s success comes from the brilliant casting of Rockwell. He conveys an enigmatic, low-key screen persona underpinned with a cocksure confidence that few leading men can pull off. He quietly builds an engaging interaction with the audience that is deeply satisfying – in less deft hands this movie would have been an interesting but ultimately shallow star-vehicle (think Oblivion).
- SPOILER: One does feel that Moon did miss an opportunity to resurrect an age-old favourite science fiction trope: If you screw a copy of yourself is that just masturbation?
- On a more high-brow note, checkout this comprehensive analysis of Moon's typography: http://typesetinthefuture.com/moon/. So good
Danger 5 is quite simply the greatest thing to come out of South Australia since the Chappell brothers. It's a brilliantly executed mashup of World War II action/comedy overlaid with 60's kitch.
The titular team are 5 crack allied operatives whose mission is simple: Kill Hitler!
Series 2 is coming soon, so if you aren't up to speed, the trailer from Series 1 gets right down to the biscuits (in joke):
I wonder how Woody & Buzz would feel about this stylish fella landing next to them in the toy chest?
This 18inch Patrick Bateman "action figure" features a ball-jointed neck and is poseable at the shoulders and wrists - just in case his factory position isn't creepy enough. He also speaks many of his lines from the movie including my favourite: "I've got to return some video tapes"
These limited edition prints are created by Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima, the graphic design team who created many of the typographically interesting props in the Harry Potter movies. In particular they created many of the layouts for the Daily Prophet and the sinister wanted posters for some of the deatheaters including that nasty frumpet Bellatrix Lestrange (booooo).
This poster contains some fascinating close up detail, in the masthead just under the emblem there is what looks, at first glance, like placeholder gooblygook but if you flip it vertically it reveals the words "beguile bewitch ensorcel hex". Yes ensorcel is a real word!
Also of note, the main headlines of the Daily Prophet are set in LL Rubber Grotesque designed by Markus Schröppel, I think it looks authentic in the Potter universe and imparts a nice gritty impact. Also it's available for free on dafont.
11.22.63 is as good as anything Stephen King has produced since The Stand. It's a time travel story with some mild horror but it's probably more accurate to characterise it as a "suspense/thriller". In less skilful hands there would be any number of pitfalls in this novel's ambitious plot but with King you need not be worried; The time travel "logic" is sound, the large cast of characters are marvellously developed and the historical events and setting are thoroughly researched.
King so totally immerses you in the America of the late 50s/early 60s that you can pretty much smell the Lucky Strikes and taste the root beer. It goes beyond nostalgia, there's no wistful affection or inherent "goodness" to the past, although the overall feeling is that it does seem like a damn nice place to be. There is however a strong undertone that the protagonist, Jake Epping - as human a character as there ever was, finds himself a virtual alien playing at being human in a world populated by a different iteration of "us". Jake is at once fooling nobody and everybody.
But for all that is good about this book, it wouldn't make it onto Quintessential Cool if it wasn't for the audiobook performance by Craig Wasson. This is by far the best reading of any audiobook we've encountered. Wasson's IMDB credits suggest a busy but unremarkable career, but he surrenders himself completely to King's prose delivering an uninhibited performance that is a joyous achievement.
Please, Please, Please - A Tribute to The Smiths starts out with an energetic version of Panic by Kitten, which doesn't wander too far from The Smiths own style, making it a gentle introduction to this compilation, especially for diehard Smith fans who may be sensitive to any mishandling of Morrissey's precious material.
They needn't worry though as the album continues with outstanding performances throughout; William Fitzsimmons gives a tender rendition of the title track, The Wedding Present deliver a satisfyingly thrashy Hand In Glove and Sara Lov is a (new to us) revelation with her take on Well I Wonder.
Shoplifters of the World Unite by Tanya Donelly is hauntingly slowed down to good effect, as is There is a Light That Never Goes Out by Trespassers William, a bold move to fuck with such an iconic track, but it works.
Speaking of bold, opinions are sure to be divided by Mike Viola's treatment of the distinctive vibrato guitar chord from How Soon is Now, possibly Johnny Marr's most enduring sonic legacy. Viola's version features a more orchestral sound that lacks the edginess of the original, but engages the listener on a different level. If challenged on his interpretation, you might hope Viola would insolently hiss: "You shut your mouth... how can you say... I go about things the wrong way", you know the rest...
- Correct nomenclature... MozArmy?
- Incidentally the cover features a photo of Sandie Shaw who also covered Hand In Glove in 1984
For the uninitiated Vonnegut comes as a bit of a shock. Slaughterhouse Five is at once glib, tragic, humane, absurd and sharply satirical, but above all else it is essential reading.
We were skeptical of Ethan Hawke as the voice talent for this audiobook, he just doesn't seem badass enough for Vonnegut, but it turns out badass isn't what was called for at all. Hawke's soft, almost whispered, performance is just perfect. There's a soothing tempo to his reading which lends a poetic quality to the prose. If you've only ever read the dead-tree form of this classic, we encourage you to try the audiobook as well, it's the most immersive way to enjoy it1.
If you've never experienced this book before you're in for a treat, this is the quintessential Vonnegut2.
As testament to our respect for this book, our art department has put together this FREE So-It-Goes desktop wallpaper3. Enjoy... and share it around!
- Sadly the same can't be said for the 1972 movie version by the otherwise competent (sometimes brilliant) George Roy Hill. So it goes...
- After being suitably impressed by Slaughterhouse-Five you shall be wanting to move right along to Cat's Cradle, followed soon thereafter by Breakfast of Champions. You're welcome.
- Yes, the skyline depicted in the wallpaper is based on a genuine circa 1945 photo of Dresden
We had to look this up, but we were fascinated to learn that "Fass" is German for "barrel", particularly with regards rifle barrels, so Michael Fassbender (Henceforth: The Fassbender) heralds from a proud lineage of um... rifle barrel benders? Is this a uniquely German occupation? What does it accomplish? The mind boggles.
The Fassbender is pictured above in his super-cool role in Tarrantino's Inglourious Basterds. He remains unruffled despite just stuffing up German-style finger counting 101, but he leaves us with this sage advice "There's a special rung in hell reserved for people who waste good scotch". Well said sir!
Sunshine echoes the mood of recent meditative sci-fi such as Soderbergh's Solaris, but is arguably the best of this genre since 2001: A Space Odyssey (we'll call it a tie with Moon - more about that another time). It superficially deals with a (somewhat unlikely) doomsday scenario, but it is the unravelling of the human relationships that gradually build a psychological tension which carries the film to it's satisfying climax. The awesome visuals (witness the transit of Mercury in the photo above) and immersive sound track provide the perfect backdrop to the drama.
The Blu-Ray version includes a fascinating director's commentary, but it is the addition of a commentary from the film's science adviser Dr Brian Cox which makes this a must have.
The golden age of science fiction writing was also a stellar period for cover artwork, and this 1976 cover of Philip K. Dick's Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said is one of the best. You've got jet cars, a super funky police uniform (check the helmet!), and that laser beam cleaving a path through the air1... whoa.
Pretty much all the sci-fi novels published by Panther in this era had cover artwork as awesome as this one, it's always worth a quick scan of the science fiction aisle in 2nd hand book shops to see what you can pickup.
Incidently, this is one of Dick's best books, it hits most of his favourite themes: dystopian setting, paranoia, stolen identity. He also tells this story without getting so trippy that you have to strain to follow along, making it one of his more accessible novels.
- OK, we acknowledge that this cover may in fact depict a conventional gun firing with one hellava flame coming out of it rather than a laser beam, but c'mon... what's cooler?
About Quintessential Cool
WhatDaily cool reconnaissance curated by Adrian Logue.
WhoAdrian heads an enormous team of dedicated workers who tirelessly slave at this site (for free) until he is happy… which is never.
HowThis site was hewn from the finest oak, harvested from an ancient tree that once stood in peaceful solitude in a beautiful summer meadow. It was home to butterflies and tiny critters, it is now this website. You're welcome.