Imagining a Better Future by Re-imagining the Past

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Blade Runner 2049 - Movie Review

Back in 1982 the Dieselpunk classic Blade Runner was released. This movie set the standard that would inspire the Dark Deco look later found in Dieselpunk productions such as Batman: The Animated Series.

In 2017 Warners Brothers studio released a long awaited sequel, Blade Runner 2049, which is now on DVD/ BluRay.


The protagonist in this sequel is a Blade Runner named K (Ryan Gosling), which is short for KD9-3.7. K is not only a Blade Runner but is also himself a replicant. He dutifully does his job of ‘retiring’ rogue replicants and then goes home to his holographic girlfriend (think of her as an holographic Alexa with artificial intelligence) named Joi (Ana de Armas).

The world of Blade Runner 2049 is even harsher than it was in the original. The environment is more devastated and more bleak. Most people are packed into slums where they’re dependent upon food processing technology since the world-wide ecology, which had been in decline in the original, had completely collapsed several years prior.

The corporate bad guy in Blade Runner 2049 is Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) of the Wallace Corporation, which is the successor-in-interest to the Tyrell Corporation. The Tyrell Corporation had gone bankrupt shortly after 2022 when replicant technology was outlawed. Niander Wallace had successfully lobbied for a return to replicant manufacturing and has a monopoly on their production as well as the food production technology.

The sequel brings back three characters from the original. Harrison Ford reprises his role as Rick Deckard while Edward James Olmos appears briefly as Gaff. We even see a CGI creation of Sean Young as Rachel.


Blade Runner 2049 opens with K hunting a replicant named Sapper Morton who is superbly played by Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 and 2). What K discovers at Sapper’s farm sets into motion events that threaten to blow their society apart.

Blade Runner 2049 is a visually stunning movie. The sets are amazing and the special effects are awe-inspiring. I’m reminded of Buzz Aldrin’s description of the moon as being “Magnificent desolation”. His poetic description of the lunar surface also applies to the world of Blade Runner 2049.

In addition to grand sets the technology is intriguing. The technology is at times retro while at times futuristic. The technology has a hands-on depth to it. There's definitely an alternate history feel to the tech.


One criticism I have is its length. It’s a loooong movie. Blade Runner 2049 clocks in at 163 minutes, which is nearly the same length of 2001: A Space Odyssey. In addition, I found much of the pace and acting as subdued. Gosling’s acting I found to be especially subtle, which made moments where he did express emotions all the more poignant.

Another criticism I have is that I thought the characters of the sequel were less interesting than those of the original. None rise to the level of those in the original, human or replicant. Of all of the new characters I found the holographic Joi to be the most interesting.

This is a Dieselpunk blog and therefore I want to address the question that’s probably on the minds of all of my readers: “Is this sequel Dieselpunk?”

In a word: no.

While Blade Runner 2049 is an amazing movie it lacks the dark decodence of the original. There’s one scene with a holographic Frank Sinatra singing ‘One For My Baby”, which he did record in 1943. However, the scene was placed in nuclear devastated Las Vegas and it therefore had a more of a early 1960s Rat Pack setting than one of decodence. And the creators of Blade Runner 2049 focused on giving Los Angeles less of a Metropolis feel and more like a dystopian future Beijing.

While Blade Runner 2049 is an amazing movie I can’t call it Dieselpunk.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Best Dieselpunk Song… Ever!

There’s a lot of Dieselpunk music out there. However, what is the iconic Dieselpunk song? What song should we tell someone to listen to when introducing them to Dieselpunk?

In my (not so) humble opinion the iconic Dieselpunk song is Minnie the Moocher by Wolfgang Parker. This cover song hits on all cylinders.

Minnie the Moocher by Wolfgang Parker


Let me count the reasons why:

Cab Calloway’s Original Is the Iconic Jazz Age Song
Released in 1931, Minnie the Moocher by Calloway has become one of the most recognizable songs of the 1930s. In 1999, Minnie the Moocher was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.



The Lyrics Captures the Dark Side of the Diesel Era

According to Wikipedia,
The lyrics are heavily laden with drug references. The character "Smokey" is described as "cokey", meaning a user of cocaine; the phrase "kick the gong around" was a slang reference to smoking opium.

The November 22, 1951 issue of Jet magazine gives this account of the "Minnie" on whom the song was based:

        Minnie "The Moocher" has died. She was a familiar figure In downtown Indianapolis. A 82-year-old woman whose real name was Minnie Gayton, she acquired the quaint nickname of "The Moocher" by regularly begging food from grocers and carting it off in a baby buggy. She slept in doorways, on porches and in garages. During the record-breaking blizzard, her body was found on a porch, blanketed with snow. She died from exposure.

Lyrics

Folks here's a story 'bout Minnie the Moocher;
she was a red hot hoochie coocher.
She was the roughest toughest frail;
but Minnie had a heart as big as a whale.

Hi de hi de hi de hi
Ho de ho de ho de ho
Hee de hee de hee de hee
Ho oo waooo waoooo

She messed around with a bloke named Smokey;
She loved him though he was cokey.
He took her down to Chinatown and showed her
how to kick the gong around.

Hi-de-hi-de-hi-de-hi
Ho-whooooaaaa-ahhhh-ohh
He-de-he-de-hee-de-he
Ho-oh-ho-oh

She had a dream about the king of Sweden;
he gave her things, that she was needin'.
He gave her a home built of gold and steel,
a diamond car, with the puh-latinum wheels.

Hi-de-hi-de-hi-de-hi-de-hi-de-hi-de-hi
Ho-de-ho-de-ho-de-ho-de-ho-de-oh
Skeedle-a-booka-diki biki skeedly beeka gookity woop!
A-booriki-booriki-booriki Hoy!

He gave her his town house and his racing horses;
each meal she ate was a dozen courses.
She had a million dollars in nickels and dimes;
she sat around and counted it all, a million times.
Check Out

Hi-de-hi-de-hi-de-hi
Ho-oh-whoaa-oh-oh-whoa
He-de-he-de-hee-de-hee

Poor Min! Poor Min! Poo-oor Min
Wolfgang Parker’s Cover is Artistically Perfect
In 2010 Dieselpunk Founding Father Tome Wilson interviewed Wolfgang Parker for the website Dieselpunk:

Let's talk a bit about your "swing punk" sound. It has all the technical guitar styling of the rockabilly era, but you're still able to put the swing edge into the songs with the rhythms and vocals.

For example, your 2010 cover of Cab Calloway's famous "Minnie the Moocher" on Petty Standards has the flavor and lyrics of the original, but your band drives it into the 21st Century with tight guitar licks and punk style beat changes.

When you start deconstructing a classic like that, it must be like taking apart a pocket watch. What kinds of challenges are involved in getting the song working again as a coherent piece when you're done?

That is a tough order. You don't want a version that doesn't at least give the original a run for its money and these songs are classics. So you have to be confident.

I look at what qualities the song has that drew me to it in the first place. Then I use that quality as the basis for the re-construction. The process also allows you to really see the beauty of great songwriting, when you can re-vamp a song and it sounds totally different than the original, but still sounds great.

Calloway Would have Approved of Wolfgang Parker’s Cover
In that same interview Parker was asked by Wilson, “Do you think Cab would have approved?” He replied,

A woman that was directly related to him saw us perform that song in Pittsburgh years ago, and she said he would have loved it. I guess I gotta trust that.

These are just a few reasons that I believe Wolfgang Parker's cover of Minnie the Moocher is the best Dieselpunk song ever.

Runner-Up:

Mack the Knife cover by Dee Snider

Saturday, March 17, 2018

New Dieselpunk Anthology - Call for Submissions

Calling all Dieselpunk writers! Anthologist Rhonda Parrish is looking for writers to contribute to a new Dieselpunk anthology titled "GRIMM, GRIT, AND GASOLINE."

Parrish certainly seems to know her Dieselpunk. On her web site wrote,
"Dieselpunk and decopunk are alternative history reimaginings of the WWI and WWII eras beginning with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and ending before the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I’m looking for tales with the grit of roaring bombers, rumbling tanks, of 'We Can Do It', the Great Depression and old time gangsters or the glamour (real or imagined) of flappers, Hollywood starlets, smoky jazz, elegant cars and Radio City Music Hall."


However, there's more to this anthology. Not only must the stories be Dieselpunk but they must involve FAIRY TALES.

Parrish explains,
"For example: a ‘mend and make do’ take on the Elves and the Shoemaker, a trench warfare version of The Emperor’s New Clothes, or Hansel and Gretel as Bonnie and Clyde. The possibilities are limitless."

The stories can be retelling of the classics or they can be original. Either way they've got to be Dieselpunk.

To learn more about this anthology and how you can submit your work visit the web site. Deadline for submissions is September 30, 2018.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Seattle Prohibition-Era Jazz Club Art Revealed

Crosscut online magazine recently posted an article titled "Renovation unearths Seattle Prohibition-era jazz club art".

According to the article:
"The Louisa Hotel has stood vacant on 7th Avenue South and King Street in Seattle’s Chinatown International District for more than 50 years. But a new renovation project has unearthed a series of life-sized paintings that offer a colorful glimpse of the city’s nightclub jazz scene from the Prohibition era."

You can read the full article and view additional images here.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Dark Deco: A New Dieselpunk Flavor

Recently I posted a series about some changes to the Dieselpunk Cookbook. Since that time a new flavor has come to my attention that I had missed: Dark Deco.


According to the DC Comics Media website:
"Dark deco is an animation style created by Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski used in Batman: The Animated Series. They knew that Batman was a dark character so the two of them knew the show had to be dark as well. Backgrounds would be painted on black paper and anything that was black in the show was left unpainted. Kids WB once told Bruce Timm that his show was so dark he was about to reach the legal limit of how dark his show could be."

Dark Deco Art
Batman: The Animated Series Logo Fan-made by Vleermuisman, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16798083


Dark Deco Photographic Art
"See Shanghai transformed into a real-life Gotham City" Photogallery at CNN
See the entire series here.

Dark Deco Fashion
"The notion of elevated luxury has been one that has driven design for generations. With a slant towards the decadent and ways of elevating classic style, Dark Deco starts with the 1930s where plenty of grandiose was the norm. Mix in the romance of 1980s New Wave, with exaggerated silhouettes and a novel approach of blurring the lines between genders and even formality, and you get a fresh presence that’s as poetic as it is edgy." - Shop The Floor web site


One might describe Dark Deco as being midway between the flavors of Gothic Dieselpunk and Decopunk for it seems to have elements of both. I'm sure that I'll be writing more about this in the near future for I find this new flavor to be very tasty.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

90th Academy Awards

On May 16, 1929 the first Academy Awards ceremony took place at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles, California, USA. It consisted of a private dinner with 36 banquet tables, where 270 people attended and tickets cost five dollars (equivalent to roughly $71 today.) and was hosted by AMPAS director Fairbanks during a 15-minute event. Though the award categories were rather complex ultimately it was decided that the award for best picture would go to Wings. However, the public didn’t get to follow this live. The award show wasn’t introduced until the following year in 1930.

This year, the 90th Academy Awards ceremony has three Diesel-Era themed movies in the Best Films category.

Darkest Hour
Darkest Hour, directed by Joe Wright and written by Anthony McCarten, stars Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill, and is a fictionalised account of his early days as Prime Minister, as Hitler closes in on Britain during World War II, leading to friction at the highest levels of government. The film also stars Ben Mendelsohn, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James, Stephen Dillane, and Ronald Pickup.


Dunkirk
Dunkirk, written, directed, and produced by Christopher Nolan, depicts the Dunkirk evacuation of World War II. Its ensemble cast includes Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, James D'Arcy, Barry Keoghan, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance, and Tom Hardy.


Phantom Thread
Phantom Thread,written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, is set in London's couture world in the 1950s. It stars Daniel Day-Lewis as a dressmaker living with his sister, played by Lesley Manville, who falls in love with a young waitress, played by Vicky Krieps. The couple's relationship vacillates between affection and distance until they finally learn to live with one another's differences. The film was Day-Lewis's final film role before entering retirement. (Note: I included this since some set the Diesel-Era late into the 1950s.)


In addition to Diesel-Era themed movies there’s one Atomicpunk movie nominated for Best Picture.

The Shape of Water
The Shape of Water was directed by Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy) and written by del Toro and Vanessa Taylor. The film stars Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon (Boardwalk Empire), Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Octavia Spencer. Set in Baltimore in 1962, the plot follows a mute custodian at a high-security government laboratory who befriends a captured humanoid-amphibian creature. Many critics declared The Shape of Water del Toro's best film since his Dieselpunk film Pan's Labyrinth, praising in particular Hawkins's performance.


The 90th Academy Awards ceremony will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California on March 4, 2018 and will be televised in the USA on ABC.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Dieselpunk: A New Cookbook Part 3: Decopunk

In my last post I wrote about a new Dieselpunk flavor that I called Gothic Dieselpunk. In this final installment I address another new flavor that has been gaining a lot of attention in the genre-punk community. It’s called “Decopunk”.


The following is from the official website for the LARP Attaway:

"Attaway considers its parent genre to be dieselpunk, with some important distinctions. It’s commonly accepted that dieselpunk can be divided into two halves, either before or after the start of World War II as a jumping-off point. The first focuses on a world continuously at war on a global scale (“Piecraftian”), while the second focuses more on the pre-war Jazz Age and the so-called “Roaring Twenties.” If it isn’t already apparent, this second half describes the nature of Attaway as a game world and as a LARP on the whole. This subgenre is called decopunk. It takes a positive outlook towards technology as a form of innovation for humanity’s overall benefit, with an upbeat (if not devil-may-care) attitude towards the future and a general air of Art Nouveau decadence. Steampunk author Sara M. Harvey describes the subgenre thusly: “DieselPunk is a gritty version of Steampunk set in the 1920s-1950s. The big war eras, specifically. DecoPunk is the sleek, shiny very Art Deco version; same time period, but everything is chrome!”
 

Decopunk is a drop-dead-gorgeous lounge singer in a black velvet dress, clutching the microphone she croons into with a slick chromed prosthetic arm.
 

Decopunk is a hard-boiled detective in a leather trenchcoat cracking his knuckles as he prepares to confront his mark atop the roof of the midnight monorail going uptown.
 

Decopunk is the smoke from a revolver curling up the arm of a woman in a perfectly tailored three-piece suit and fedora, standing over the body of a crime lord… and her former lover.
 

Attaway is Decopunk."
 

In my opinion it’s time for the Dieselpunk community to recognize decopunk as more than just Hopeful Dieselpunk. With its growth and increased popularity I believe that decopunk should be recognized as its own flavor. 

For a good definition I go with the given at the Ash Dancer blog:
"Decopunk is considered a subgenre of Dieselpunk set in a more 1920’s diesel powered world."

Everyone welcome the new flavor of Dieselpunk: Decopunk.