Bloom County memes and stranger things

“Before there was The Daily Show or South Park, there was Bloom County, Berkeley Breathed’s satirical eighties comic strip that centered around a sensitive penguin named Opus, and ribbed such cultural cartoons as Donald Trump, Al Sharpton, and George H.W. Bush.”

New York magazine Vulture blog, Oct. 12, 2009

Growing up in the Eighties, I didn’t read political news in the A-section. I assuredly devoured newspapers, but it was 80% sports pages and 5% movie reviews and entertainment news. The other 15% was the funnies, particularly Berkeley Breathed’s Bloom County. I would clip comics and stick them in a manila folder. At one point, I had several folders stuffed with the musings of Opus, Steve Dallas and Bill the Cat. I had folders for For Better or For Worse, Garfield, Family Circle (why I don’t know), and, of course, Peanuts, too, but Bloom County was my favorite.

Having little use for political news at the time, I didn’t even get most of the jokes — or rather, I just assumed all politics were a running joke, but somehow cool at the same time (a worldview I still hold today).

I certainly caught on to the pop culture references though, and I even had that floppy, square 45ish record by “Billy and the Boingers” that came with one of the compilation books that were released every other year or so (which I used to buy, even though I had already clipped the comics that were collected in those editions).

Even more, at one point I wanted to be a cartoonist, and would imitate (read: steal) Breathed’s style in my own comics, which I cut-and-pasted into my own two-page neighborhood newspaper I produced in my teens. (I was thrilled to bike down to the local “Copy-A-Second” place and plunk down 5 bucks for like two dozen photocopies, thrilled that the place could print on both sides of a sheet of paper, giving my Commodore 128-produced 8½ × 11 tabloid a sheen of pure professional.)

Bloom County spoofed the Era of Reagan, but, like a lot of Eighties critique during the Eighties (and 20+ years later, my memory is hazy to be sure, so I’m probably mangling this), I don’t remember Reagan himself getting skewered much in the land of Opus. His policies and his clique, sure, but not Reagan himself so much. (Or maybe I’m just confounding my memory with the line from Raising Arizona: “They say he’s a decent man, so maybe his advisors are confused.”) Breathed himself recently said he felt he was trying to play it more down the middle, and that jives with what I can remember.

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Who will watch the Cold War watchmen?

Twenty-three years after its first appearance and a week before its movie adaptation is released, I finished reading Watchmen (and you thought you were a procrastinator). I cannot express how much I loved it, particularly its overriding ambiguity toward its main characters.

With the movie officially out tomorrow, I have no doubt it will be a hit, regardless of reviews. But putting aside its fascinating character study, my concern is will its overriding Cold War theme about the threat of nuclear annihilation go over the heads of the under 30-fan base critical to its success? My guess is, yes it probably will. I’ve been thinking of this since I finished the novel last week, and io9 reviewer Charlie Jane Anders struggles with this question too — she makes the perceptive observation: “We understand superheroes and costumed asskickers, but we no longer understand Henry Kissinger.”

I think all this will hardly matter to its bottom line, as it comes in with a heavy dose of marketing momentum and little box-office competition at this time of the year (a brilliant move to release a potentially controversial, decidedly R-rated superhero movie in early March, thus avoiding the PG-13-friendly summer competition, in my humble opinion). Most importantly to its box-office ambitions, but perhaps not to its modern pertinence, it promises a superhero movie that blows shit up real good.


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Merry Christmas, ’80s style

Microwaved little green men. Roy Rogers references. Gary Busey.

What do these three things have in common? They’re The Icepick’s incomplete and utterly subjective list of the Best Christmas Movies of All Time That Have (Almost) Nothing to Do With Christmas.

I don’t know what it says that my top three picks …

  1. Gremlins
  2. Die Hard
  3. Lethal Weapon

… were made in the 1980s, except that it shows how deep the influence of that neon decade runs in the ole Icepick’s addled psyche; and that stuido execs in the ’80s liked to blow stuff up to the strains of “Ode to Joy.” Either way, I’m OK with it.

And please note, that yes, Die Hard is of course a better movie than Gremlins, but Gizmo and Co.’s treatise on small-town America and the dangers of eating after midnight gets the nod here because it’s more obviously a “Christmas movie.” For one, there’s snow (as opposed to the Southern California of the other two flicks), plus more caroling, an attacking Christmas tree, and a Santa. There’s Phoebe Cates. And especially, there’s the many subversive nods to that great (and subversive in its own right, as the Times has been noting all month) classic Christmas movie, It’s a Wonderful Life.

Lethal Weapon kind of made the list because I needed a third.

Which brings me to wonder, what other movies did I miss?

The qualifications are: the flick can’t obviously be a Christmas movie like A Christmas Story or National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation or Scrooged (though, what is it about the ’80s and Christmas? Just about every flick I’ve mentioned here was made in that decade except for Jimmy Stewart’s seminal film. Did every studio pitch from 1984 to 1989 begin with: “Christmas Day. In a world of man-eating muppets, Eurotrash terrorists, axe-wielding Santas, and Gary Busey… .” Did moguls re-discover Dec. 25 as something other than a date to release Oscar-bait films? But I digress).

To make this list, the movie must, however, take place during Christmas or use Christmas as a background to tell it’s larger story (technically, this is the case with It’s a Wonderful Life).

Just so you know, I’m on the fence about whether Bad Santa and Silent Night, Deadly Night count on this list. (Update: Because these are clearly classic Christmas movies in the It’s a Wonderful Life vein. Especially Silent Night, Deadly Night.)

Somewhat paradoxically, rankings will be based on how much the movie weaves Christmas into its story (see the Gremlins vs. Die Hard reasoning, above).

Merry Christmas, Mrs. Deagle.