Archive for July, 2005

Comic-Con and FilmFax

Tuesday, July 26th, 2005

Check out the latest issue of FilmFax magazine! The cover is an old Empire Strikes Back piece by Yours Truly. Inside is the first of a well-illustrated three part interview with moi. The guys at FilmFax did a great job on this issue. The interview touches on things I’ve never talked about in public before. I think it turned out great so far — Let me know what you think!

Comic-Con International 2005 turned out to be my best ever Comic-Con. Attendance is rumored to have topped 100,000 attendees! By Friday night I had already cracked my previous Comic-Con sales record. I sold lots of original art and plenty of books. By Friday I had also sold out of all the copies I had brought of William Stout: 50 Convention Sketches – Volume 11 as well as my Tribute to Ray Harryhausen Sketchbooks. I celebrated with my longtime friends and collectors and sold quite a few pieces to some Stout newbies, too, inviting them into our ever-widening circle.

We held a very touching memorial for my friend and publisher Byron Preiss on Sunday at Comic-Con. It was very well-attended. Many people came up to share their thoughts and memories of Byron. My thanks to all who came to remember this dear, dear man who was a beloved father and husband as well as a friend to many.

Movie Tip: Although it’s timeliness is now slightly blunted by the passing of the G-8 Summit (its release was timed so that it screened on HBO just before the Summit meeting), one of the best movies of the year is the made-for-HBO film The Girl in the Cafe. Written by Richard Curtis, the same fellow who wrote Four Weddings and a Funeral and Love Actually, this is his finest script. It is filled out and illuminated with a heartbreakingly painful (and funny) performance by the great Bill Nighy (I also loved Nighy in Love Actually and Still Crazy but this is hands down his best work) as well as a deft, rich and stunning turn by Kelly MacDonald (that cute sexy teen in Trainspotting). I believe that if this had been a theatrical release Bill Nighy would have received a well-deserved nomination for a Best Actor Academy Award.

If the Music Header above appears with this entry (sometimes it disappears when I hit “Add this entry” — Hey, I don’t know why) it should mention Saint Etienne. I’ve been grooving to their latest CD: Tales From Turnpike House. It’s sort of Brian Wilson-meets-60s Jobim with a sexy chick singer. Yum! This new CD also includes an extra “children’s” CD in the package which is a terrific bonus.

My murals are coming along quite well, thank you. I hope to have something to show you all soon. At Comic-Con I discussed a deal with John Fleskes (John published the recent book on Franklin Booth , two great books on Joseph Clement Coll and the latest Mark Schultz sketchbook) to produce a book on the making of the murals. I also approached the great Randy Dahlk (designer of several stunning Mark Schultz projects) at Comic-Con to be the book’s designer. You got the scoop here, my friends!

I’ll see you in a bit; I need a vacation!

Bill

BYRON PREISS

Monday, July 11th, 2005

I am devastated by the news of the death of my dear friend Byron Preiss. I expected to be seeing him this Wednesday. We always had dinner together the Friday evening of Comic-Con at the Panda Inn in Horton Plaza. Byron always picked up the tab. This year I planned to surprise him and pay for him and his crew, just to see the expression on his face.

Byron Preiss has been a part of my family since the late 1970s. Byron shared my triumphs in this funny business; I shared his. Together we celebrated the mainstream success of our 1981 book THE DINOSAURS – A Fantastic New View of a Lost Era. While I produced the content for that book, Byron was the glue that held it together, the engine running the machine. We met and mutually (and wholeheartedly) approved of each other’s future spouses. In fact I met my wife-to-be at LAX, coming home from a New York meeting with Byron regarding my dinosaur book in 1980. It’s funny how fate is. If I had never worked with Byron I never would have met my wife. When Byron and I became parents we were both as proud of each other’s kids as we were of our own. Whenever Byron phoned me he greeted me, “Hiya, Uncle Bill”.

In reality, Byron was more like a brother to me than a nephew. We took turns at being each other’s older and younger brothers. Like brothers we had our disagreements — but these were always business disagreements, differences of aesthetics or production — rarely anything major. And even though I was usually the hothead in these arguments not for once did I ever let that color or diminish our personal relationship or the love I felt for him and his family.

We shared many common loves. Despite (or maybe because of) being a New Yorker, Byron was a huge Beach Boys fan. One of our first projects together was The Authorized Beach Boys Biography. Through Byron I was able to meet the Beach Boys I hadn

Top Ten Films

Saturday, July 9th, 2005

Long time, no blog.

When I first saw the film “High Fidelity” my wife jabbed and poked at me throughout the entire film. “That’s you,” she said, referring to the John Cusack character.

One of the things that made her say that (besides my ongoing obsession with music and making mix tapes) was the Cusack character’s penchant for making Top Five lists. I never read the book upon which this movie was based; I understand, though, that in the book the character actually makes Top Ten lists. These were apparently halved to facilitate cinematic efficiency.

Well, yes: as an enjoyable little side exercise in my life, I make Top Ten lists. Besides being a fun pasttime for me, Top Ten lists provide a quick snapshot or index of someone’s tastes and passions. They also infuriate my family (which I find hilarious) because, in mock-arrogance, I proclaim these lists to them as absolute truths. “How can you say that these are the ten greatest films of all time? How can you even make such a list? What about John Ford? Howard Hawks? John Huston?” they exasperate. “Hey, just tell me where I’m wrong,” I respond. So, from time to time, I will pepper my journal with some of these lists. Hopefully, they’ll turn you on to something wonderful you might have missed. Maybe (like my family) they’ll really piss you off. Anyway, here’s the first.

INDISPUTABLY
THE TOP TEN GREATEST FILMS OF ALL TIME
(In no particular order except for the first one)
1. King Kong
2. Walt Disney’s Fantasia
3. The Wizard of Oz
4. Fellini Satyricon
5. It’s A Wonderful life
6. Sullivan’s Travels
7. The Shawshank Redemption
8. Brazil
9. Sunset Boulevard
10. Citizen Kane

If you’ve read this far and are still interested, Blow-Up sits at #11, Bladerunner is #12, Dersu Uzala is #13, The Man Who Would Be King #14. For a long time Women in Love and Morgan – A Suitable Case for Treatment were on the list, but they’ve been bumped by Shawshank and Brazil. If there are any movies on this list you haven’t seen — well, get on it! You won’t be disappointed.

I found the Top Ten Films list one of the easier lists to compile. Very few films truly stand the test of time and repeated viewings. At a certain point with even a lot of the best films, their resonance begins to diminish (that’s why Morgan and Women in Love got bumped, yet Bladerunner and Dersu are waiting in the wings). There are a lot of great films (like John Ford’s and Howard Hawks’ movies) — but, great as they are, I just can’t watch them over and over with any frequency and still get a substantial creative or inspirational buzz with each viewing. Or, over time they accumulate a quaint datedness that the quality of the film no longer seems to overcome.

I’ve been asked to write a critical appreciation of King Kong for a book on that subject. I’ll post that here on my Journal after it’s finished. From time to time I’ll also add essays about the other nine films and tell you why I think they deserve to be on this list.