Wednesday, December 26, 2007

2007 Howard M. Shum Awards

Yes, it’s that time again for the most prestigious and sought after award by those who are cool. Here’s the best of 2007:

Best Film - Hot Fuzz directed by Edgar Wright, written by Edgar Wright & Simon Pegg. I know what some of you are thinking, “Howard, you come off as this pretentious, pseudo-intellectual snob. Why did you choose a populist type of film instead of something like No Country for Old Men, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, or Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead?” To which I reply, “Say that to my face, bitch! I’ll do you like Michael Vick did Iggy! Wu-Tang!”


You can see the love of film and filmmaking that Wright and Pegg have in Hot Fuzz. It’s cleverly written and made. It’s a joy to watch and hilarious.

While I also like No Country for Old Men, I can’t get beyond its ending. I’m not against ambiguous or unhappy endings - I tend to write those myself. I am opposed to endings where I think it just stops awkwardly. While watching the ending to No Country, I thought we were in a transition scene and was eager for a character to stop yapping so we didn’t lose momentum and get to the ending. Little did I know the scene to follow this was credits.

Creepiest Film - The Orphanage. What an amazing debut by writer Sergio Sanchez and director Juan Antonio Bayona. This is a suspenseful movie where you’re not sure if the paranormal exists or if it’s just in the character’s head - quite like what Henry James did in his book The Turn of the Screw. The film has great atmosphere and mood. You need to see this film in a big dark theater. I don’t care how big a TV screen you have. Watching this at home won’t have the same effect. I predict continued strong work from these two talented Spanish filmmakers.

Musical - Once. Once is not a typical musical where characters break out into song for no apparent reason. It’s about a boy and girl in Ireland who are musicians. They meet cute and the singing comes mostly through the process of song writing or making a CD. My description probably sounds boring, but it is really a good and entertaining film plus the music is well done.

Director - Joe Wright (Atonement) - How and why is cinema different than other art forms? Wright shows the reasons in Atonement.

Cinematographer (Atonement) - Seamus McGarvey. Great lighting and beautiful shots. Simple, right? If it was that easy everyone would do it. McGarvey is a master.

Comeback Filmmaker - Tamara Jenkins. I liked The Slums of Beverly Hills when I first saw it around nine years ago and was eager to see what its writer-director would do next. Nothing came from Tamara. What happened to her, I wondered. A super bad case of writer’s block? Too busy clubbing with her frenemies: Paris, Britney, and Lindsay? One hit wonder? Decided to become a recluse like J.D. Salinger? Well it turned out Tamara was spending her time with Paris, Britney, and Lindsay, but managed somehow to squeeze in a new film with The Savages. I’m glad she did and hope she won’t take as long with the next one.

Actor - Johnny Depp (Sweeney Todd). Not only is Johnny Depp the coolest guy I have ever met (yeah that’s right, I dropped Johnny’s name - so that makes me cool by association - oh, wait I’m surrounded by comic nerds so that negates it. Damn nerds.), but he’s also the greatest actor of his generation.

Actress - Ellen Page (Juno). She won’t have to do tripe like X3 anymore.

Screenwriter - Diablo Cody (Juno). Diablo kicks major ass. I love how she doesn’t follow Hollywood rules and formulas.

Television Show (comedy) - Extras. Ricky Gervais is brilliant. He shows that from pain and sadness can come great comedy. He is a rare true genius.

Television Show (drama) - Lost. A strong season this year. I honestly think the writers are actually going somewhere and have a point to it all. I like how they apparently don’t care what their fans think (they shouldn’t). On an earlier episode in the spring, I thought a Hurley episode was filler and had nothing to do with the overall story and was glad to be proven wrong. The mythology on this story is pretty intricate and to do this on episodic TV and to do it well is difficult. This is all very impressive. Kudos to the writers!

Animated TV Show - South Park. Still great after all these years with no drop-off. No one can match Trey Parker and Matt Stone with their cutting satire.

President - Nicolas Sarkozy (France). I have no idea what his policies are or even if he’s doing a good job. I do know that he’s dating Carla Bruni which makes him Kennedyesque.

New Musical Act - Paramore. My drawing is of lead singer Hayley Williams. I think other chicks should follow her lead and wear T-shirts with my signature on it (sorry no fatties).

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

8th International Comics Artist Conference

Last month I was invited to give a speech and participate in the 8th International Comics Artist Conference in Hong Kong. My friend and fellow artist Randy Green came along to help me represent the mighty U.S.A. If you are a professional comic book artist, I highly recommend attending this fun event. We had a great time and were treated amazingly. Next year's conference will be held in Kyoto. A big thanks to Alan Wan and Adeline Ho for all they did for me.

Here are some photos from my camera. I still have another roll to develop. Yes, I still shoot on film. I'm not opposed to digital, but I like shooting with SLR cameras and a digital equivalent to mine is out of my range at the moment. If Canon wants to give me one for free, by all means do so.

Here's Randy, Tony Wong (big time Hong Kong publisher) and me at the opening ceremony.

Randy and Tan Eng Huat (Silver Surfer artist) drawing on the panda mascot

Can you spot my drawing?

Randy was excited when we went to a 5-star restaurant and he saw a complementary hat on his plate. He cried when I told him it was a napkin.

Look it's me on the big screen getting an award. The award was for "stupidest comic creator who attempts to make comics for cool people as opposed to fat nerds."

Didier Pasamonik and me holding our awards. Bad focus by Randy.

Here I am outside the Cyperport waiting for a boat to take us to a restaurant on an island. Little did we know the boat took us instead to a secret island where they forced us to compete in a deadly martial arts tournament. Luckily we survived, but Randy now has a life long scar from a sword across his right thigh and is married to the island chief's daughter (don't tell his wife and kids back in the U.S.).

Monday, December 10, 2007


Atonement is the most beautiful film I have seen this year. It's directed by Joe Wright, written by Christopher Hampton, based on a novel by Ian McEwan, and the D.P. is Seamus McGarvey. It stars James McAvoy and Keira Knightley. It about how a misunderstanding of events (or also could be viewed as lying) ruins the lives of two people. Joe Wright shows the power of cinema with his use of visuals and sound. It's not often enough where filmmakers show the uniqueness of the medium and it's good to see Wright command it.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Arwen and Juno

Here's a recent Arwen commission I did.

If you're looking for a good new film, check out Juno written by Diablo Cody and directed by Jason Reitman. It's a funny movie about a teenage girl (Ellen Page) who gets pregnant and thinks about letting a yuppie couple adopt her baby. Diablo Cody is a writer to keep your eyes on. Her script is clever and her dialogue is sharp and witty especially Juno's which is full of sarcasm. I like stories where it's not obvious what will happen and I'm happy the characters didn't fall into or become cliches. I like that Juno's best friend is a cheerleader because in a typical Hollywood movie they would be enemies. That stuff is boring and been done to death. That's why Diablo is cool.

Ellen Page's performance is strong and she will surely get numerous acting award nominations. She deserves to win them too. There's good acting all around by the rest of the cast as well: Michael Cera, Jason Bateman, J.K. Simmons, and Olivia Thirlby.