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Pulp Culture
'Iron Giant' is second best
animated film of the year


December 30, 1999
By Franklin Harris

It's the end of the year, and that means it's time once again to trot out The List: the good the bad and the otherwise of 1999.

  • Best Animated Feature Film That Is Not "Princess Mononoke": Anyone who has read this column over the past several weeks knows I've raved about "Princess Mononoke," director Hayao Miyazaki's anime masterpiece. It is clearly my favorite animated film of the year. So, to keep from blowing the grading curve, I'm throwing it out. This time I'll rave about the second best animated film of the year, "The Iron Giant."

    Based on a story by Ted Hughes and directed by Brad Bird, "The Iron Giant" was a victim of one of the worst marketing campaigns in film history. First Warner Bros. underpromoted the film's theatrical release. Then, when WB did run television ads for it, they were awful. And finally, after promising to do a better job of promoting the movie's home video release, Warner Bros. screwed up again. As a result, "The Iron Giant" has never received the audience it deserves.

    Set during the 1950s, with Cold War hysteria looming everywhere, "The Iron Giant" is, in its simplest terms, the story of a boy and his robot, the latter a lumbering giant from outer space. At a deeper level, however, it is a story about trust and friendship. It is rather like "ET the Extra-Terrestrial" without the blemishes of Steven Spielberg's sentimentalism (which crop up in all his family movies).

    Do your family a big favor and rent "The Iron Giant" the next time you go to the video store.

    And an Honorable Mention (or is that Dishonorable Mention?) goes to "South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut," the funniest send-up of Old Hollywood's musicals ever made.

  • Best Comic Book: This is a tough one. There are many good comics out these days, including Caitlín R. Kiernan's "The Dreaming," Warren Ellis' "Transmetropolitan" and small-press gems like Craig Thompson's enchanting debut graphic novel, "Goodbye, Chunky Rice." But the one comic I always read the moment I get it home is "GloomCookie" by Serena Valentino and Ted Naifeh.

    At turns funny, sweet and clever, "GloomCookie" is a modern-day fairy tale set amongst a group of black-clad, poetry-reciting, club-hopping goths. Cute, doe-eyed Lex is in love with Max, but Max is infatuated with the evil Isabella, who Sabastian is convinced is a monster, and Sabastian knows his monsters. One lives under his bed and keeps eating his would-be girlfriends.

    "GloomCookie" gently pokes fun at the goth subculture's stereotypes while remaining accessible to all us outsiders. There is also a touch of "Dangerous Liaisons" in some of the book's romantic maneuverings.

    My only problem with "GloomCookie" is that it is a bi-monthly. And 60 days is too long between servings.

  • Biggest Movie Disappointment: This is an easy one. I had no expectations for "Wild Wild West" and "The Haunting," so neither disappointed me when it started stinking up the place. "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace," on the other hand, did.

    I don't know where George Lucas got the idea that I'd been waiting since 1983 for Jar Jar Binks, a two-headed pod-race announcer and a pseudo-scientific explanation for the mysteries of the Force, but I know he didn't get it from me.

    But it isn't so much the silly, juvenile elements of "The Phantom Menace" that bother me as much as the sloppy storytelling, awkward pacing and general lack of dramatic tension. Yes, the final lightsaber duel is spectacular, but one lightsaber fight does not a "Star Wars" movie make. And Lucas should know that.

  • Best TV Series (Sci-Fi): It is still "The X-Files." But I swear this show better get wherever it is going soon! I mean it this time! Honorable Mention: "Farscape."

  • Best Movie (Not Animated): "Sleepy Hollow." Tim Burton has redeemed himself. "Mars Attacks" is all-but forgotten.

  • Worst TV Show (Sci-Fi): Any episode of "Star Trek: Voyager" or "First Wave" guest-starring a professional wrestler.
  • Pulp Magazines

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