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Dublin Film Critics Circle Awards, 2017

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Snow! Christmas! Terrible but enjoyable music! End of year “best of” lists!

I’m a member of a couple of critics’ organisations, so we’ll be releasing a couple of these lists upon which I voted. I’ll also hopefully be releasing my own top ten as part of a Scannain end-of-year podcast some time next week.

In the meantime, the Dublin Film Critics Circle have released their end of year awards. Thrilled to be a part of the group, who are voting on films released in Ireland during the calendar year of 2017. As such, it will be a different pool of films than the Online Film Critics Society awards.

A massive thanks to the wonderful Tara Brady for organising the awards this year, balloting members and collating results.

Anyway, without further ado…

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22. Logan – This Just In (#37)

This is what podcasting looks like. You should take a moment. Really feel it.

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney and this week with special guest John Hanney, This Just In is a subset of the fortnightly The 250 podcast, looking at notable new arrivals on the list of the 250 best movies of all-time, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, James Mangold’s Logan.

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No Country For Old Man Logan: The Apocalyptic New West…

The American frontier is a formative myth, one that permeates popular culture.

The cowboy is an American icon, as much as the gangster or the superhero. The archetype embodies a set of ideals that inform the country’s perception of itself. Indeed, part of the charm of Logan is seeing that archetype evolution rendered explicit. If The Wolverine posited its central character as a lost samurai who had evolved into a superhero, then James Mangold’s follow-up positions the character as a lost cowboy in a western wasteland. The third and final film in this series has been described as “Unforgiven, with claws.” It is a label that fits. A brand that sticks.

Logan even offers its closing judgment on the character by quoting directly from Shane, a very literal example of the superhero genre quoting from westerns. Mutants are not just an evolution of mankind, they also represent a storytelling evolution. Of course, the western has been evolving for quite some time. Many prognosticators announced the death of the western some time in the seventies, perhaps coinciding with the loss of faith in American institutions (and perhaps mythology) coinciding with the twin blows of Watergate and Vietnam.

Of course, the western film never really went away. There were always westerns lurking in the background, even after Heaven’s Gate was erected as gigantic tombstone to the genre in 1980. Pale RiderSilveradoDances with Wolves, Unforgiven, Tombstone. However, the many of the more successful (and impactful) westerns of the era tended to have a very mournful and funeral tone to them. There is also something to be said about the success of playful or deconstructed westerns, from Young Guns to The Three Amigos to City Slickers.

Many prognosticators would argue that superhero films came to take the ideological place of the western, accessible entertainment for large audiences built on an American archetype. However, the twenty-first century found the western creeping back into cultural awareness. This took many forms; the neo-westerns of films like No Country for Old Men or Hell or High Water; the self-aware Tarantino scripts for Django Unchained or The Hateful Eight; the prestige picture charm of The Revenant; the cultural smash of Westworld.

There were any number of interesting observations that might be made about these films. Most obviously, there was a recurring sense of horror to these reimaginings of the American west, whether reflected in the human-like form of Anton Chigurh or the zombie movie aesthetic of Ira Glass’ journey back to civilisation. However, there was also a very strong apocalyptic vibe to these modern westerns. Many classic westerns lamented the death of wilderness crushed beneath the heel of advancing civilisation. Modern westerns seem to fear the opposite.

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Non-Review Review: Logan

Logan is a powerful piece of blockbuster cinema, an R-rated feature film that recognises the distinction between “adult” and “mature.”

Logan is unashamedly a comic book movie. There is no getting around that. It features all manner of fantastic trappings, from Charles Xavier’s telepathy to self-driving trucks to clones to cyborgs. Logan is a film that revels in its superhero trappings, in particular the genre’s tendency to appropriate imagery and iconography from wider popular culture to fashion something unique and distinct. Logan is a superhero post-apocalyptic western road movie, and is unapologetic about that.

Bloody murder.

Bloody murder.

However, Logan never lets any of that get in the way of what is essentially a very intimate and personal story about a surrogate family unit and what it means to be a parent in a cruel and uncaring world. Logan is very much character-driven, using a very simple story to delve into its characters in a way that feels earned and nuanced. As much as Logan is proud of its more outlandish elements, it never allows them to crowd out a simple story about growing up and growing old.

Logan is a superb piece of cinema, one that knows when to go quiet and when to go loud, approaching its central character with considerable empathy and dignity.

A driving plot.

A driving plot.

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Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine by Jason Aaron and Adam Kubert (Review/Retrospective)

This May, to celebrate the release of X-Men: Days of Future Past, we’re taking a look at some classic and modern X-Men (and X-Men-related) comics. Check back daily for the latest review.

Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine is a beautifully absurd comic book. Writer Jason Aaron and artist Adam Kubert keep the comic moving at a frantic pace, twisting and turning as they introduce crazy concept after crazy concept. There are enough brilliant over-the-top ideas in Astonish Spider-Man and Wolverine to sustain an on-going for years – and yet the duo tear through them with a speed that makes all of Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine seem like a delirious blur.

And yet, despite that, Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine reads like a tribute to the glorious ridiculousness possible within the confines of mainstream comic books – giant metal-faced sentient planets! robotic dinosaurs! guns that fire the energy of creation! a diamond-encrusted baseball bat as a means of time travel! There’s a surreal magic to Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine that marks it as one of the highpoints of Jason Aaron’s work on Wolverine. It’s funny, awe-inspiring and even occasionally moving.

Blood brothers...

Blood brothers…

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Weapon X by Barry Windsor Smith (Review/Retrospective)

With our month looking at Avengers comics officially over, we thought it might be fun to dig into that other iconic Marvel property, the X-Men. Join us for a month of X-Men related reviews and discussion.

Barry Windsor-Smith’s Weapon X was a fairly divisive comic when it was first published. Tasked with providing an origin for that most popular and iconic X-Men character, Windsor-Smith produced a twelve-part tale exploring the character’s history inside the secret “Weapon X” programme. While most fans would have probably preferred a more straight-forward and accessible exploration of the character’s history and back story, Weapon X is a wonderfully dense piece of work and, I’d argue, a true piece of comic book literature.

A bloody mess...

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Brian Michael Bendis’ Avengers – New Avengers Vol. 1-2 (Hardcover) (Review/Retrospective)

This is the first in a series of comic book reviews that will look at the direction of Marvel’s “Avengers” franchise over the past five or so years, as they’ve been attempting to position the property at the heart of their fictional universe. With The Avengers planned for a cinematic release in 2012, I thought I’d bring myself up to speed by taking a look at Marvel’s tangled web of continuity. Get an overview of what I’m trying to take a look at here.

Alright. I figure I sound a bit hypocritical complaining about the impact of big events on Marvel’s storytelling continuity without reading said big events. Well, actually, I don’t think I’m a hypocrite – I think it’s perfectly reasonably that a reader should be able to pick up Ed Brubaker’s Captain America without having to worry about Mark Millar’s massive Civil War crossover which they either don’t know enough to care about or know enough not to care about. However, I feel like maybe – just maybe – I should try to ride this “cross-continuity” thing out just once and see if the story somehow justifies the damage it causes to the cohesion of individual runs.  Yes, I’m going to jump head-first into the event-populated minefield of continuity which is recent Marvel history, and I will be using New Avengers as a checklist to that. I’m going down the rabbit hole, following the arc from Civil War through to Siege.

Sentry is responsible for the Carnage in this run...

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