Tag Archives: Cayla’s lavender turtleneck

Asinine Aphorisms

Link to Today’s Strip.

Les, that is a really, really, REALLY weird thing to say while staring lovingly into the chocolate brown sclera’s of your second wife’s eyes. What are you trying to say here? That you’ve realized you’re lucky your first wife died? Because in the end what you really wanted was both a supportive wife and a sob story? The knockout one-two punch that will win you gold in the victim Olympics in performative grieving.

I get the sentiment, it’s a nice sentiment. You’re trying to tell Cayla that you’re content in your life with her. That Hollywood fame wouldn’t have made you appreciably happier because you’re already happy. But, when talking about this to a second wife, as a widower, you should avoid words like, ‘lucky.’ ‘all along,’ and ‘in the end.’

By Cayla’s tired grimace, I can tell what she’s thinking. “I don’t know if he’s insulting me or snubbing Lisa, but at least he sounds happy she’s dead.”

Many of us this week have found ominous signs that the box office failure of Lisa’s Story might not be then end of this endless arc. That a box office bomb can still go on to be critically successful and win awards. And it would dovetail nicely with Batiuk’s sentiments on popular entertainment, for the true beauty of Lisa’s Story: The Movie, to only be admired by a few.

I fear we’re in for a Marvin’s Room deal. If TomBa is going to use anything as a template for Lisa’s Story’s success or failure, it’s not going to be one of the cancer movies of the last few years. It’s going to be from the glory days of weepy prestige drama. The 90’s.

Marvins room poster.jpg
Unfortunately the movie is not about a three headed multi gendered monster wearing a black sweater.

I’d never heard of this film before my cancer movie research of earlier in the week. And after reading the synopsis, and watching the trailer, it is top on my list of movies to never see. But the plot is Batiukian to the max. A movie about sarcasm in the face of disease, death, and poorly portrayed mental illness, written by a man who was himself dying of AIDS.

For 20 years Bonnie (Diane Keaton) has been taking care of her bed-ridden father, Marvin (Hume Cronyn) following a stroke. When she is diagnosed with leukemia, she reaches out to the sister she hasn’t seen for 20 years, Lee, (Meryl Streep), asking if she and her two sons would be tested for a bone marrow transplant. Lee retrieves her older son, Hank (Leonardo DiCaprio), from the mental health facility where he’d been kept since trying to burn her house down, and takes her family to see her sister. Much heartfelt sarcasm ensues. Bonnie’s treatment appears to be failing, but Lee is now comfortable caring for their father.

The movie bombed in 1996, making $12 million on a $23 million dollar budget.

And it got Diane Keaton an Oscar nod for best actress, Meryl Streep a Golden Globe nom, also for best actress, and three SAG nominations to boot.

The box office numbers might be in. But awards season is right around the corner.

And sometimes, the people you know the least…

are the ones you need the most…

and the places we’ve left behind…

are the places we’ve always belonged….

Marvin’s Room

Barf.

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When Arcs Become a Circle.

Link to Today’s Strip.

So after all of Les’ passive aggressive pouting yesterday, he’s actually happy the movie flopped. Peak Les. He’s happy at the failure of others, because it allows him to remain in his own comfort zone. Cassidy Kerr said the movie was going to change his life, and he worried if it was going to be changed for the worse or the better.

May 17, 2020

And ultimately he’s smugly satisfied to realize that his own life hasn’t changed at all. Millions of dollars of vainly wasted money; hours and hours of actors’ and crewpeoples’ lives; none of that is weighed against Les’ own desire to remain static.

Banana Jr. 6000 posted an awesome video in the comments of Tuesday’s post. It dissects what makes a character unlikable. I’m reposting it in case someone missed it, and I highly recommend it to anyone with writing aspirations.

The most damning criticism in the video, as it pertains to Les Moore, is the subject of repeated, fruitless, character arcs: where a portion of the story is dedicated to a character trying to overcome as struggle or flaw only to end up right back where they started from.

“The storytelling, in this case, puts our arc and character into the protagonist’s driver’s seat and makes a sort of promise that this is going somewhere. Instead, the wheel is turned all the way left and they’re going in circles. They’re left complaining about the same thing or acting in the same selfish way they have before. And it becomes harder for us to identify with a universal struggle that they’re going through, and instead we start to get frustrated with them personally.”

How many times have we seen Les pulled in circles? Like a dog lazily chasing its tail, half knowing it doesn’t want to catch it. Just killing time because it’s been chained to the same place for years, and it gives it a sense of a goal.

For my Funky/Cranky crossover continuity review a few days ago, I reread an obscene number of Crankshaft strips. And you know what? Crankshaft is so much better. I’m not saying it’s great, or even consistently good. The recent newspaper closing arc was Funky levels of unbearable. But the characters in that strip choose to do things. Cranky has decided he’s going to electrocute a tree using jumper cables and multiple cars, and he’s making it happen. Lillian decides she’s going to write a book, so she does. Then she writes ten more books and becomes famous in the same time it takes Les Moore to write a prequel about his dead wife in the strangest self-own I have ever seen.

While there are always exceptions: Crankshaft characters act, Funky Winkerbean characters react. In Funky Winkerbean there are a few ancillary characters, like Mason and Chester, who present the main characters with life changing propositions to react to. And in general the characters are happiest when they’re NOT moving. Everyone lives above Montoni’s, everyone works at the High School, or the restaurant. Darin, Pete, and Jess would rather take the nepotism hires close to home than capitalize on their Hollywood successes.

Les is happy the movie flopped. Inertia and entropy are the twin suns that warm his withered soul, and his only hope is to decay in place.

It’s all so tedious.

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Time in a Bottle.

Link to Today’s Strip.

For the best part of 10 years, I thought I understood the Funkyverse.

Crankshaft and Funky Winkerbean take place in two neighboring towns, Centerview and Westview. They both take place in roughly ‘present day’ in terms of technology and occasional oblique references to current events. But they also take place roughly ten years apart. Crankshaft is set in the past of Funky Winkerbean. It really wasn’t that hard to understand.

Crankshaft takes a picture.

Crankshaft. September 3, 2011

And Les looks at it framed on a mantle.

Funky Winkerbean. September 3, 2011

Jeff reminisces about his old Starbuck Jones comic. And considers buying the last issue of an Action Comics storyline he never finished.

Crankshaft. March 20, 2014
Crankshaft. March 28, 2014

And years later he gifts the Starbuck Jones comic to Holly for Cory’s collection. And she gifts him the end of the ‘Congorilla’ story in return.

Funky Winkerbean. April 4, 2014
Funky Winkerbean. September 5, 2014

Crankshaft and his Bus Barn buddies complete in a bowing competition against a younger Montoni’s Pizza crew.

Crankshaft. December 2, 2015

And Funky recalls the same event from his perspective in flashback. Complete with old timey photo corners.

Funky Winkerbean. November 30, 2015
Funky Winkerbean. December 2, 2015

Crankshaft’s secret hoard of Bean’s End back catalogues is discovered. And his daughter sells them to a strangely young and buff Chester Hagglemore.

Crankshaft. June 7, 2018
Crankshaft. June 9, 2018

Years later, Chester puts the entire collection up for sale to fund his new comics empire. And Morton Winkerbean buys Crankshaft back his favorite issue.

Funky Winkerbean. June 12, 2018
Funky Winkerbean. June 22, 2018

Simple. One is past. One is future. In fact. I would almost nearly give it credit for being clever. A weird way to tell a story non-linearly. But it adds a certain depth to the proceedings if you’re in the mood to be charitable to Batiuk’s intended sentiments.

For example, the county fair arcs.

Funky Winkerbean. August 13, 2019
Crankshaft. August 15, 2019
Crankshaft. August 16, 2019
Funky Winkerbean. August 16, 2019.

Taken alone, they’re a bunch of bland fair puns on the Crankshaft end, and an awkward date ending in an even more awkward wedding proposal between Mopey Pete and Minty in Funky Winkerbean. But I’ve got a soft spot for grandparents. Seeing the younger Mindy enjoy the fair with the ‘Gramps’ that loves her, simultaneous to seeing an older Mindy fondly remember those moments years and years into the future when he can no longer be there…It kinda gets me in the feels. She’s trying to pass on to her boyfriend the vital essence of a person she loves who is now a weakened shell of what she once knew.

We get on Mindy for being boring and stupid. And it’s true. Because she is bland af. But this is the closest she comes to being a character to me. Because I get it. We’re seeing both sides of a painful transition, where a precious adult goes from being a childhood pillar, to a fragile keepsake. The story is greater than the sum of it’s parts.

So there. I’ve complimented Batiuk for something. Stop the presses. I’ve complimented him for using the time skip well. And he’s even done it more than once. It’s interesting, and occasionally sometimes even approaching good.

So why? Why by all that is sweet and bright? Is he throwing it all away over the pandemic!?! WHAT IS EVEN THE POINT?!?

When I heard that The Valentine was closing in Crankshaft, I could still make it work in my mind. Yeah, the location has showed up multiple times in Funky Winkerbean, still owned by an older Max Murdoch. Yeah, THE STARBUCK JONES PREMIERE was held there. But maybe, I thought, he would find a way to give Max back the theater after a while. Max has years and years to get that theatre back in time for it’s appearances in Funky Winkerbean. I can’t blame Batiuk for wanting to be topical, and hey, it’s conflict at least, so yeah, sure, let him lose the theater for a few years…

But then…then there was that fateful day in May.

Crankshaft. May 24, 2021.

Jeff shows up at the Valentine theatre with a rock he’s not supposed to get FOR MORE THAN A DECADE.

Funky Winkerbean. September 6, 2020.

Why?

Why?

Why?

And my only hope, was maybe he forgot. Maybe, just once, he forgot which strip was supposed to be the past of which. Maybe, just maybe, this dumb rock from Bronson Canyon was not the rock that shattered the temporal pane that separates past from future in the Funkyverse. I begged. I pleaded. Please don’t do this, Tom. Please, don’t rip away the final shreds of sense propping up the cardboard walls of your paper doll playhouse. Don’t be like this. Make the right choice, and tell me that you will stick with what you’ve established.

And today…

He told me no.

WHY ARE YOU LIKE THIS TOM WHY

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Under the Micro Scope

Link to Today’s Strip.

I think we all kind of guessed that this movie must have the budget of a community college staging of CATS, when they chose to film a park bench in winter on a soundstage rather than on location. I’ve seen better production values in classic Bonanza episodes.

At least they had the decency to put up a matte painting!

I don’t know how well weepy cancer movies are generally received, because I try to avoid them. If I wanted to hear sad adults having heartfelt conversations about personal tragedy I would follow strangers around the local Wal-Mart. The last one I remember being big was ‘The Fault in our Stars.’ That made $300 million on a 8-12 million dollar budget.

But is that a normal expectation for terminal illness sadporn? How did cancer movies do in the age of covid?

I did a little digging through the interwebs, just to see if making a movie about dying of cancer in current era is a good idea or not.

Ordinary Love. Filming began in 2018. Liam Neeson is afraid his wife will be taken by breast cancer. They’re sad their daughter died years ago. His gay friend’s husband gets taken instead. His wife recovers, and they go on a nice walk. It was released in the UK in December of 2019, and the US in February of 2020. Rotten Tomatoes rates it at 93%. The thing bombed like crazy though. US Box office was $774,877. Global seems to have ended at around $5 million. The only website I could find that listed a budget had it at $50 million. It is now streaming on Hulu, where random trolls complain that Liam Neeson doesn’t spend enough time threatening cancer over the phone.

I Still Believe. Filming began in 2019. Based on a book. Based on a true story. Christian musician, Jeremy Camp, is engaged to his college sweetheart who is battling cancer. They think she gets better. They get married. Then she gets worse. He has a brief crisis of faith. She dies. He finds a note from encouraging him not to lose his faith. It was released in March 2020. As is normal for movies made by evangelical Christians for evangelical Christians, critics were split on it, and it has a 50% on Rotten Tomatoes. It made $16 million on a $12 million dollar budget. It is now streaming on Fubo TV, and my little sister cried so much after watching we wondered if she needed rehydration therapy.

Clouds. Filming began in 2019. Based on a book. Based on a true story. High School student and aspiring musician, Zach Sobiech, writes music about dying of cancer and becomes a viral YouTube star. Dies of cancer. Was originally scheduled for a theatrical release through Warner Bros, but Disney bought the rights to release on their streaming service. Released in October 2020. Budget was between $10-12 million. I couldn’t find how much Disney bought it for. It was received decently with a 76% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Life in a Year. Filming began in 2017. Will Smith’s son falls in love with pixie dream girl dying of cancer. She helps him on his journey to become a rapper. He marries her. She dies of cancer. Sony Pictures Releasing it showed it in 54 theatres in November of 2020. Box office was $43,862, and not enough critics reviewed it for a Rotten Tomatoes score. It is now streaming on Amazon Prime, where random people who love trash seem to like it. Couldn’t find a budget for it.

All My Life. Filming began in 2019. Based on a true story. Aspiring chef Solomon Chau is engaged to his girlfriend Jenn Carter. Then he gets liver cancer. They try to decide whether to postpone the wedding. Instead their friends encourage them to move the wedding up. They get married. He dies. It was released to theatres in December of 2020, and released to VOD a month later. Critics were split, with a 56% on Rotten Tomatoes. At the box office it grossed $2 million on a $25 million dollar budget. It is currently streaming to HBO Max.

Our Friend. Filming began in 2019. Based on an essay. Based on a true story. Mother and wife, Nicole Teague, is dying of cancer. Close family friend, Dane, moves in to help take care her, putting his life on hold for more than a year. His girlfriend doesn’t understand and breaks up with him. Cancer wife dies. Husband Matthew Teague writes essay thanking Dane. It was released into the theatres in January 2021. Had a positive critical reception, 85% on Rotten Tomatoes, but bombed big time. Not even $700,000 on a $10 million dollar budget. It is now streaming on Amazon Prime, where random people who love trash seem to love it.

So yeah, with the numbers we have, cancer movies look like a money sink. But that’s the thing, we have no ability to access the numbers that really matter. The streaming numbers. How much are they making on VOD? How much are they making on distribution rights? The theatre releases for many of these were perfunctory. Did they turn a profit for the studio in the long term? We don’t know. All of that is information hidden in the cloud.

Which terrifies me. Because it means that Lisa’s Story could still be a big success. It could still win awards. We might not be done with this yet. And I bet you dollars to donuts that commenter Jeff M. was right yesterday, and Les is going to start getting letters and emails from all the women whose lives he saved by profiting off of his wife’s death.

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How the Mighty Have Fall In.

Link to Today’s Strip.

Comic Book Harriet here! Ready to aim aim high and kick it off, hopefully without slipping and breaking a leg. I wanna thank our resident Spaceman Spiff for caring for us all over the last couple painful weeks. He brought us comforting sarcasm, and a barrel full of witty insights to dull the ache of Batiuk’s broken humor.

Today we get a real treat. The Passion of the Dead St Lisa movie bombed. So all of our comments about Funky Winkerbean gradually morphing into a Judge Parker, where characters are gifted success without merit, must have struck a nerve. Or Batiuk just finally remembered who he was, and is back to his old yanking-the-football ways.

But today is just PACKED with non sequiturs.

The only thing that confused me at first, but that I could make sense of after thinking about it, is that the release date of Lisa’s Story got pushed back. The movie just wrapped a few months ago, so it didn’t have any time to sit on the shelf mostly finished ala No Time to Die or Wonder Woman 1984. But then I remembered that movies get release dates well before they are finished, or have even started filming. And the great LA Firedemic of the vaguely defined ‘last year’ apparently shut down movie production long enough for Marianne Winters to be treated for early stage breast cancer. So yeah, the release date would have been pushed back significantly.

And it is an accurate and believable rendering of what did happen to a bunch of movies in the last couple years. There’s a whole Wikipedia page dedicated to the movies, cancelled, delayed, suspended, and/or dumped to streaming because of the pandemic. I’m actually surprised Batty didn’t decide to go topical-to-the-max and have it released directly to PicFlicks or Hula or whatever the Funkyverse equivalent of a streaming service would be. But apparently it was released in theatres.

And that is what is confusing me. There is no way Les and CauCayla would be learning about the movie bombing from an EMAIL from MASONEE. They went to a wrap party, but didn’t go to the premiere? They didn’t bother to check Box Office Mojo, or Rotten Tomatoes to see how the movie was being received critically or financially?

Les knows what it’s like to drop an anvil in a lake?

It that a popular idiom? I didn’t really know. So I went to grandpa Google and did a phrase search.

It really isn’t that common. Only four pages of results. I found it used a couple times in news articles because Judge Napolitano said it about Russiagate. A really sad blog about a sick kid. A few links to some fanfictions on wattpad…

And then things got weird.

What does this mean? What does any of this mean? Is it poorly translated from a language with ideogrammic elements? Is it some kind of secret code? Some kind of communication between hidden agents among us? It Funky Winkerbean PART of whatever this is? When Tom Batiuk ended today’s strip with “an anvil in a lake,” was he sending a message, recognized only by the few, that now, at last, was the time?

If you’re interested to see what dropping an anvil in a lake looks like, may I suggest this video. Where two Finnish people speaking nearly unintelligible English drop a red hot anvil into a lake and film it, just because, why not? Why not do that? Why not watch that? It makes a lot more sense than Funky Winkerbean most days.

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Kitchen Nightmares

Link to today’s strip

Ooooh. Les’ Kent State shirt is back! He used to wear it on the regular but I looked and he hasn’t been seen in it since March 2017. At least, I assume it’s a Kent State shirt. The sloppy way it’s drawn, I had previously took it for some kind of tribal symbol, or a bad Stargate fan shirt.

Speaking of sloppy drawing, there’s a non-sequitur of art in every panel today. In panel one Les hand disappears into Funky’s chest like he’s coping a feel. Or attempting to reenact that famous scene from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. In panel two Les’ face has melted into a Bell’s Palsy grimace as he hunches over the inky blackness of Funky’s coat, looking for all the world like he’s just grabbed the head of a tiny Nazgul.

Panel three we get a tiny bowl of balls invading the speech bubble atop the fridge. Are they oranges? Who puts oranges on top of the fridge? Are they novelty clown noses, tucked away for some kinky kitchen roleplay? Also in panel three we have the return of our Theme Of The Week: Funky making a horrified shocked face. Today’s offering has the overtones of ‘electric prostrate exam’ we’ve enjoyed thus far, but follows it up with a hint of ‘trousers full of spiders’ for good measure.

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The Meekness Monster

Women sure love shopping and nagging their husbands, amirite?
Eh?
Heh?
Today’s strip knows what I’m talkin’ about!
So, what’s the deal with airline food?

This is how we close six loooooooooooong days of debate about whether or not to take a free trip offer from a movie star… with gags that were pre-historic even when trilobites ruled the Earth. TB could at least give a tip of the Hatlo Hat Funky Felt-Tip to the tens of thousands of comic artists who have used this material before and much much better than he has here.

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Possibly nothing… interesting at all is going on here

Since we went over how what Cayla claims in today’s strip is in no way true back in Tuesday’s post, I have little left to say. This strip is almost spectacular in how utterly boring it is.

I don’t think anyone would cry if Les retired two years early. Same goes for a certain cartoonist who is now, in fact, about two years away from a milestone anniversary that some experts speculate may also mark his retirement.

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Re-Moore-seful

The thrilling marital back-and-forth between Les and Cayla continues in today’s strip. I don’t know about you, but I can totally relate to this. In fact, I’ve debated whether or not to take a free vacation offer from a movie star with my wife at least 4 times and I haven’t even been married a year yet!

Interestingly, Cayla tries a play out of her one-time romantic rival Susan Smith’s playbook: Threatening death if Les doesn’t do what she wants. Nice try, Cayla, but Les is an unfeeling inhuman monster. If you die, you die. He cares not, he worries only that he will miss the opportunity to condescend to teenagers.

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Perfect Atten-dunce

Hark! Saint Les has revealed his halo in today’s strip. He doesn’t want to miss teaching school to deal with the affairs that arise from being a professional writer. How noble!

Here is a list of strips where Les unremorsefully left his students with a substitute teacher:
January 9, 2011
January 31, 2011
September 25, 2017
October 5, 2017
October 30, 2017
November 14, 1997
May 7, 2018
And these are just the ones I could find in 15 minutes!

But this time… how noble!

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