Friday, July 3, 2015

Summer of '15

Work has been coming my way fast and furious, preventing me from updating ye old blog. In the time between now and the last update I’ve subbed lots of films and crafted their English PR text, something I find a lot of fun to do. Well, not swimming and hanging out on a pristine beach with a Piña colada buzz going kind of fun, but fun as in challenging, enjoyable, and if everything goes well, highly satisfying.

That Miike movie I worked on, “Yakuza Apocalypse,” opened some two weeks back (6/20/2015), along with two other films I slaved away on: Ju-on: The Final Curse, and Torakage. I celebrated the same-day opening of three films I worked by not seeing any of them. Instead, I had a beer with Ed G, one of my best friends in this whole crummy world, and my girlfriend Miyako, while looking out on the full-sized Godzilla head in Shinjuku. It was a lot of fun to just gaze over a huge, decapitated Godzilla head thinking, "If it hadn't been for the success of the US Godzilla film, this cool as bunk bust wouldn't be here." I'll drink to that!

It doesn’t matter much about going to see films I worked on anyway since I find those opening day events with actors and directors a bore. The people on stage always talk about the same thing: How tough the set was. How cold or how hot the set was. What ungodly hour of the day they had to wake up at. How hard everyone worked. What a genius the director is. Blah, blah, blah. Most of the time it's a pack of lies. So, I’d rather my seat go to a fan who eats this sort of nonsense up.

“Yakuza Apocalypse” had its international premiere at Cannes Film Festival recently, and I’m pleased by the reviews of the film. As a subtitlest, it’s always a good sign when you find lines of dialogue quoted in reviews, which pretty much means “mission accomplished” in my book. In fact, my favorite review of the film comes from Indie Wire, in which the reviewer kindly writes, “the subtitles are pretty hilarious throughout.”

You can find that review here, if you like:

Indiewire: The Playlist

And, in return, the review is pretty hilarious throughout as well.

A fun thing I did recently was a Bigfoot show following a screening of “Exists,” the Bigfoot movie directed by Eduardo Sánchez. Being a semi-well known Bigfoot enthusiast in Japan, I was contacted by the releasing company here and asked to put on a show, which I was happy to do. I gathered a bunch of odd Bigfoot related photos to detail the history of Bigfoot in America (and Canada). Best of all was getting to project the Patterson–Gimlin film onto a large screen. One of the audience members thanked me for this afterward, saying they never thought they’d ever get to see it projected that large. Yeah, that was a fun show. Bigfoot rules.

And, so, yeah...despite what I said above about after screening shows, I always do my best to make them visually interesting and truly informative. 

I also did a short stint in the first episode of the upcoming Ultraman TV show. Not like I’m any great fan of Ultraman, but it was nice to help my friend Taguchi, the director of the episode. I think it’s going to be broadcast this month in Japan. Unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to take photos, not that I really would have anyway as it was all pretty standard fare for me. But it was nice to be able to take Miyako over to Nikkatsu and show her the studio and give her a taste of what I’ve been doing for the past 15 years in Japan.

Well, subbing and all that aside, my big news is that I got the still job on a major film out of Toei Studio. Shooting starts in the middle of July and will gone on until early September. At the moment I’m busy gathering shots that will be used as props in the film (ID badges, photos on walls, family portraits, etc).

I have to say, it’s entirely enjoyable to be working on a real studio film with a fairly large (by Japanese standards) budget and not those cheap quickies that have mind-numbingly short shoots that end just when you're starting to get a feel for the whole thing. Also, by being a studio film, it means I don’t have to deal with emotionally disturbed people, which is the bane of almost all of the B-movies I’ve worked on in Japan. But I do so love B movies...

Oh, and my Eiga Hiho writing has been going great (more news on this later). The publisher even tapped me to write a set report on “Yakuza Apocalypse,” which is currently on sale in bookstores in Japan in a mook called, 『別冊映画秘宝 世界鬼才映画監督列伝』, which my friend Matt Alt deciphered as meaning, "Eiga Hi-Ho Supplemental: Legends of World-Class Genius Directors." Yeah, his Japanese puts mine to shame.

Anyway, that’s it for the time being.

Oh, and yesterday I began my 23rd year of living in Japan. Let's see how things go from here... Have a great summer!


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Final Ninja Comments

A couple of more shots from that ninja film have been released by the production company. I think this is the last batch I’m going to comment on since I’m kind of ninja'd-out now and I did finish working on the film at least six months ago.

Anyway, this one is one of my favorites from the production. It features actors Masanori Mimoto and Nana Seino. These two were probably my favorite characters to photograph during the production since they were always making interesting expressions, especially Mimoto, who always takes his roles to heart.

This one was shot on the grounds of Iga Castle on one of the bigger days of the production. There were about a hundred extras (maybe more, maybe less, I didn’t count) and the art staff had built a long stretch of traditional looking stands selling this and that.

This is another one of Mimoto and is one of my favorites taken during the entire shoot (yes, I seem to have a lot of favorite shots). For this scene, we were shooting in some strip-mining place (don’t ask me where, I had to get up at 5am and just climbed into the bus, waking up when we arrived, wherever that was in Iga prefecture).

Near the end of the day the shoot split into two groups, with the action director dealing with Mimoto and Nana fighting a bunch of angry ninja. The action director shot the scene as one long take so all non-essentials had to hide behind rocks, but I got behind him and when I could, snapped away, hoping to god I could take good photos and stay out of the film camera’s way. I mean, he was spinning that thing this way and that! This one caught my eye right away and when I showed it to Mimoto he literally hugged me.

One actress I enjoy working with is Eihi Shiina. She’s always got a smile ready and is pretty much just a calm, happy person. Torakage marks the fifth time I’ve worked on-set with her. This photo was taken after the production returned to Tokyo. It was taken in a small room at a wonderful home tucked away in some woods above Tokyo. It was insanely hard to get because there were so many of us packed behind the film camera. Although it was the only useable shot from this scene, it’s a beauty (in my opinion). All it really takes is one good shot per scene, you know.

Well, that's about if for me and Torakage. I did my work and got my pay. Hippity hip hooray!

In other news, I finished up two big jobs. One the Takashi Miike film “Yakuza Apocalypse”. I had a bunch of English writing to polish off for the studio so they could close their files relating to my work on the production. I still have to write a set report for Eiga Hiho and Fangoria magazines, which I’ll do that later this month. I'll mention the other one when I have the strength and when things are cleared by the studio. 

I’ve started work on a few other films too this month. More on them at some future point, I suppose.

Until then…

Friday, March 27, 2015

Another One...

Here’s another “Torakage Ninja” photo I shot that has finally made it through the intricate approval process of Japanese actor management and distribution companies. Hoorah! 

On the day this photo was shoot - the first day back to shooting after the 10 days in Iga - we went out near Mt Fuji to work. The ground was a complete swamp of dry, yellowed grass stalks and mud. Actor Takumi Saito had the no fun job of running back and forth while being followed by the camera crew in a truck. As there wasn’t room in the truck for me, I pretty much just stood on the sidelines hoping to get something usable with my zoom lens. Didn’t though… But when we repositioned ourselves elsewhere I was able to get this shoot, which I’m pretty happy with. A little less hair in his face would have been better but it's fine, I feel. Actually, I hate perfectly posed shots of actors...although Japanese production companies love those staged looked photos.

Oh, and the trailer for the film was just released. 



In other "happy" news, I wrote a teaser article for director Miike's "Yakuza Apocalypse" that was upped to the Fangoria site about 2 weeks ago. I'm penning a longer piece now for Fangoria (and one for Eiga Hiho) but am unsure when and where it will appear (on-line or in the magazine). 

Here's the link. 


Oh, and I'm not so thrilled with these Miike set photos. I've got better ones on their way. I had to get them approved ASAP. I guess they're OK... Fuck it.

I also just finished writing a screenplay that will be shooting in the Philippines from next week. Not my story, but I had to write all the English dialogue. I finalized the script with the director and producers yesterday in a grueling 7 hour script meeting. Actually, it was a lot of fun and it's nice to work with people who don't micro-manage you. That is, sometimes you work for people (i.e. piece of shit creeps) who need to put their dumb-ass fingerprints over everything simply because they want to say "I did that". 

So, yeah, it's nice working with professionals who understand the nature of cooperative creation, which is what filmmaking is, and don't do juvie shit. Jesus, even director Miike let me do what I wanted on the set of his film when it was my turn up at bat (so to speak). 

I digress...

Until next time.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

On The Subject Of Set Photography...

Small update to share three photos I took on the "Torakage" set. These were put up by a film festival screening the movie so I guess it’s OK for me to run them on my blog.

I’m pleased with how my photos turned out on the film and hope the distribution company will place more on-line in the near future.

As for when the film will be given a wider release, I haven’t the foggiest clue. My job was set stills and English subs. 



This one was a lot of fun to shoot. I'm a big fan of "heroes assembling for the final showdown and walking calmly to meet the enemy" shots taken with a long lens. For this one I snapped my 200mm onto my D800 and set the depth of field as shallow as I could. Then I got as far back as I could without bumping into DP Shu G. Momose, as he was going for the same effect. After the shot was complete, the two of us got a kind of sappy, happy look going and we could tell we were both on the same wavelength over this one. Although actress Nana Seino is loads cute and I always want to show her face, I choose this shot because I felt it diversified the picture by showing her struggling to get over the ridge. It also shows off that cool ass weapon on her right hand.


This was kind of a tough one to get and out of the hundred or so I took for this scene it's the only usable one. This is because all the actors were running at the film camera, making it hard to get the right focus, or else lead actress Eihi Shiina was blocking actress Miyuki Tori, or else the actresses had odd expressions on their faces as will happen when people are screaming like banshees and running wildly. After I sent this shot to Eihi for her collection, she wrote back to say she thinks this is the best photo of her ever taken and that I captured "the Shiina look". Yeah, I was happy to hear that.



This was an extremely difficult shot to get as the actress was standing on a platform, had a blanket wrapped around her waist to stay warm, and the crew was massed around her. Basically I had to hold my camera over my head and pray. I guess the gods headed my plea as it came out fantastic.

I guess it's obvious that I truly love taking set stills. Give me a mike and I'll talk till the end of time on the subject. 

Until next time...

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Long Time No Whatever

It’s been months since I did any sort of an update on el blog-o (bet you didn’t know I speak Spanish!). That last blog entry about Buck Rogers probably doesn't even count too. (Come to think of it, I should make that a separate blog/webpage.)

Thing is, I make a living writing and a blog doesn’t generate the kind of monetary return that keeps my landlord from kicking in my door and throwing me out onto the spit stained streets of Shimokitazawa. However, as someone who suffers from chronic something-always-on-the-brain, a blog is a good way to calm my nerves when normal writing work offers no solace.

Like now… I did a script translation for a studio in Japan over the New Year and thought that was that. They contacted me two weeks ago and asked for a re-write because the Japanese script had been re-done.

“When do you need it?” asks I.
“This month,” says studio.
“March?”
“No, this month, February.”
“But it’s the 26th!”

Somehow I managed to make all the changes AND go to the Setagaya Museum of Art with my friend Ed to catch their Toho exhibit. It was a pretty comprehensive show detailing the history of the studio. Of course, given the vast amount of films Toho has made it would be impossible to cover everything, but I felt it did a good job showing the Herculean efforts the generations of Toho staffers have put in over the many decades. It was also interesting to see the various stylistic changes as they developed over the years. 

Interesting too, however, is how Toho considers its two crowning achievements to be 7 Samurai and Godzilla ('54). Of course they are both great films, but they also happen to be the two films most embraced by the west. I wish Japanese could see the value in their own work and not be swayed by their desire to be accepted by the west. I know...I shouldn't wish for the impossible.

Well, much of my time over the past several months has been spent working on a selection of films. Mostly subtitling. I did a still job on a low budget film that played at Yubari Film Fest last month, but that production was nothing to write home about. OK, it wasn’t Tomomatsu disorganized, but… Most of the staff and cast were people I’ve worked with on bigger productions and that made the several days I put in on the shoot tolerable enough. However, every single day I showed up to the location it was a “where the fuck is everyone?” situation.

A call to an AD was always met with a, “Oh, we decided to move to XXX location at the last minute.” The worst was dragging all my camera gear to a location one early morning only to find no one there and calling to learn the shoot was pushed back 5 hours. When I got to the set that afternoon, the first thing the cinematographer said to me was, “So, did anyone bother to call you to tell you about the change?” Cue one eye roll from me and lots of hahahahas from the staff.

Honestly, after years of this, I’m thinking it best to divorce myself from low-rent productions. I’ll work on professional productions no problem. But I’m pulling down the fadeout lever on my participation with so-called indie films. It's just not worth it.

I went to Ikebukuro to see a screening of the Shusuke Kaneko film “Danger Dolls”. They had a big display that featured the girls’ outfits and a large selection of my set photos. It was fun to watch people taking photos of my photos with their phones. Even Rina Takeda was taking photos of them.

“Uh, Rina… I gave you copies of most of these.”
“I know, but I want to take photos of them on the wall!”

Unfortunately, I wasn’t so happy with the selection. The shots used were ones that focused on the girls behind the scenes. You know, stuff to appeal to otaku fans. I would have preferred shots from within the world of the film, god knows I took enough good ones to fill a couple of photobooks. This is really up to the people promoting a film, so all I can do is provide them with various kind of set photos and let them use them in the way they feel is right. Still, it was fun to see my work so prominently displayed and right next to Tim Burton's "Big Eyes" display. (No behind the scenes of smiling actresses on that one, 'natch.)

Well, I finally finished my work on the Takashi Miike directed “Yakuza Apocalypse”. It took 3 passes to work the subtitles into a form I liked. The movie has a lot of yakuza posturing and it was a real effort to make their very unique culture accessible to those in the audience unfamiliar with the yakuza way. All of us who worked on the film went the extra mile, so I’m indebted to the wonderful Nikkatsu staff. All in all, it was a highly satisfying film to work on.

And as a film, it’s probably the best movie I’ve ever worked on. No matter how many times I watch it I find something new, or I just enjoy its great performances and bizarre situations. It was also a very good set, and I have a ton of wonderful memories associated with it.

I was over at Imagica the other day and finally got to see the film on a big screen. It looked even better. The movie has a film-ish quality to its look, giving it a kind of '70s sheen. I went with Tei, who plays one of the bad guys in the film. Tei's dialog was all in English (I wrote his lines and did on-set dialect coaching for him and Yayan). He was nervous before hand, but his lines came out great. All that relentless drilling during shooting really made the difference. Sure, he doesn't sound like he's from Brooklyn or anything, but he is understandable and the native nuances are there. All told, Tei was happy with his performance and it was satisfying for me to see him satisfied. “Yakuza Apocalypse” is a fantastic film and I highly recommend it. 

I’ve worked on a couple of other films too, but I don’t want to talk about them as they mostly sucked. *sigh*

I went to Wonderfest too. What can I say about that? It’s always the same thing. I think I’ll take a break next year unless any foreign friends come out for the show. However, I did bump into a lot of Godzilla staffers and got to shoot the breeze with them. Most notably, Makoto Kamiya, who I don't think I've seen in 5 years or so. I really owe Kamiya a lot for putting up with me near daily on the GMK set. I think he's sick of hearing me thank him, actually.

Check out the weird ass English on that sign. When I see stuff like this I feel good knowing I'll always have a job in Japan.

One super fun thing I did was to see Rocky Horror Picture Show for the first time in a theater since 1977. My buddy Yoshiki is a big guy in Rocky Horror fandom here in Japan and even translated the film and its lyrics for more recent stage performances. In fact, before the screening there was a large band (at least 10 piece) and a live cast that performed about 8 pieces from the film. The sold-out screening was a blast, and Yoshiki and me were probably the most vocal. I surprised myself with how much I recalled of the audience participation stuff.

After the screening, a bunch of us climbed on stage and joined in for a couple of raucous numbers. It was actually a lot more fun than I thought it was going to be.

Speaking of Yoshiki, the night Leonard Nimoy died we went out for dinner (with his genius artist partner Yuko a.k.a. Utomaru) to remember Trek and just talk about how completely awesome Nimoy was. Our mantra for the night was, “I don’t want to live in a world without Spock!” For the next issue of Eiga Hiho I was planning to write about The Blob, but have since changed that to Leonard Nimoy. It truly is saddening to think he’s just not in this world of ours. I always admired his mind, his dedication to his craft, and his overall maturity. He was truly a good and honest human being. 


I was interviewed by the rock magazine Rock Jet about being a Kiss fan in the 70s. The article came out great. It's pretty long too, 7 pages in total. It was fun to recall all those years of taking hell for liking Kiss in the mid to late 70s. 

Oh, and a Greek website did an interview with me, in case anyone at this point hasn't had enough of my  ceaseless chatter. It's in Greek at the top and English at the bottom.

http://sin-kazama.blogspot.gr/2015/02/norman-england.html

Well… until whenever I find the time to write something.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Critical Analysis of the Final Freeze Frame of Every Single Episode of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century

Making TV a much more cozier place for sci-fi fans, Buck Rogers In The 25th Century had its television premiere on 09/20/1979. As part of the Star Wars aftershock, Buck could be said to have been a cash-in of the times, as producer Glen Larson was well known for porting over the premises of successful films to the small tube. However, that Buck dates back to the 1920s and has been part of the sci-fi collective since its creation muddles the merits of this accusation. The same can’t be said for the producer’s bigger sci-fi show, Battlestar Galactica, a show I prefer to Buck, but in hindsight realize is not as much brainless fun as Buck. All in all, Buck was an enjoyable hour of nonsensical science fiction, cranked out by the Universal Studios production machine with no claims to being anything more than what it delivered.

Each episode followed a similar formula: Buck (played to perfection by actor Gil Gerard) meets a beautiful woman in a fix and rises to the occasion to rescue said woman. It being the late ‘70s, any kind of sexual relationship between Buck and these women was ambiguous. Sometimes these damsels in distress had boyfriends or fiancés and Buck was merely helping the young lovers overcome whatever it was that was keeping them apart. Other times it seemed as if Buck was together with the women, with the stress on the word “seemed”. Buck’s connection with women was further complicated by the ambiguous relationship he shared with show regular Lt. Wilma Deering (the wonderful Erin Grey). It was never clear what was going on between these two. At some points their relationship was sibling-like, at others lover-like, and at its weirdest Wilma coming on to Buck with Buck responding to her advances with a dismissive, “That’s nice.”

When Buck went into re-runs in the 1980s I would watch it with Geoff Notkin, the bass player of my then band “Proper iD”. (Geoff currently hosts space science shows of his own, such as Meteorite Men and some other stuff that we don’t get in Japan (where I live now) so I’ll have to take his word for it). The two of us being sci-fi fans, we would gather in my room (as a band, we lived together in a large band house) and watch Buck re-runs.

One day, one of us noticed something odd about the show. For arguments sake, I’ll credit Geoff with the discovery since it’s not something that’s going to be written on either of our tombstones.

Following an episode, our conversation went something like this:

Geoff: Have you ever noticed how at the end of each episode of Buck it freezes on a shot of his smiling face?

Norman: You sure? I mean, yeah, this episode did do that, but all of them? That would be too weird.

Geoff: Seems to me they all do.

Norman: Well, let’s put it to the test with next week’s episode.

Sure enough, next week’s episode ended with the same kind of bizarro head-and-shoulders shot of Buck smiling like he’d just hit the lottery while high on Nitrous Oxide. As each re-run proved Geoff right, the two of us would prepare ourselves for that final, glorious freeze frame, striking our own versions of Buck’s maxed out whatever-it-was-I-dreamed-of-getting-in-life-I-just-got-in-spades smile.

With it being the New Year, a time when I try to do one off-the-wall bit of writing, I submit to the cyber community an analysis of the final shot of each episode in the first season of Buck Rogers. Not included is the pilot episode / theatrical release, “Awakening,” because it didn’t follow the same weekly constraints of the show. Also not included is the second season of Buck because, alas, they changed the format and ruined all the things that made Buck the awesome hour of TV it was.

Without further ado:

 












Episode: (1,03 & 1,04) Planet of the Slave Girls
Obviously, being an early episode, it hadn't yet occurred to the creators of the series that each episode must end with a medium close-up of Captain William "Buck" Rogers smiling in cornball bliss. In this episode's final shot, while Buck is smiling in cornball bliss, he is sharing the final frame with co-star Erin Grey and guest star David Groh, otherwise known as Rhoda's husband. Thus preventing us from really feeling the power of Buck's frozen smile. Rating: 2 out of 5














Episode: (1,05) Vegas in Space
The show, still in its infancy, hadn't yet hit on its winning formula as, for some odd reason, we only get a profile shot of Buck. It seems that with Wilma in the last shot of this episode and in the one from the previous episode, the producers were thinking of treading a more Wilma / Buck balance. Fortunately, this was the last of that and Wilma never appeared in another all-important final freeze frame. Rating: 2 out of 5 (It would be a 1, but Wilma's a dear, especially when wearing blue spandex.)














Episode: (1,06) The Plot to Kill a City, Part 1
Getting there... While this is a perfect medium close-up of Buck, he isn't smiling like a spoiled kid on Christmas morning. This can be explained, however. The Plot to Kill a City was a two-parter and as a two-parter it was required to end on a cliffhanger. This means Buck has to be in a predicament strong enough for audiences to remember to tune in the following week, which translates to no wacky Buck smile at episode's end. Rating: 1 out of 5














Episode: (1,07)  The Plot to Kill a City, Part 2
We have arrived! Although Buck's head is turned to the right a bit more than I'd like, here we have the very first instance of what I call "Smilin' Freeze Frame Buck". He's also sporting a kind of vest outfit similar to the one seen by Han Solo in Star Wars, giving it an of-the-times look. And lots of chest hair. A rat's nest of chest hair. Rating: 3 out of 5














Episode: (1,08) Return of the Fighting 69th
Again, while not exactly centered and exactly not the kind of smile I like to see on Buck's face at the end of an episode - the kind of smile that will keep me going until the next episode - we do have a shot of a happy Buck, chest hair, and a color reversal of the vest / shirt seen in the previous episode. Rating: 2.5 out of 5














Episode: (1,09) Unchained Woman
Because Jamie Lee Curtis was a big star at the time, it's natural that the producers would let her share the all-important final freeze frame with Buck. Guess it can't be helped. And Buck's seen in a profile shot here. And it's kind of too dark to really get that "You are so cool, Buck" feeling. Still, he's sitting next to Jamie Lee and that's kind of right on. Rating: 2 out of 5














Episode: (1,10) Planet of the Amazon Women
This is more like it. We have a good, near centered Buck, which I approve. However, it's more an ironic smile than an actual, "Oh my God, I'm Buck Rogers and you're not" kind of smile. But he is in uniform and that's neat. Rating: 4 out of 5














Episode: (1,11) Cosmic Wiz Kid
Here we are again in the situation where a star, this time Gary Coleman of that Diff'rent Strokes TV show (featuring the goddess Dana Plato), carried enough weight to warrant he be seen beside Buck in the final freeze frame. At least Buck has a good smile going. And they are touching. Rating: 3 out of 5














Episode: (1,12) Escape from Wedded Bliss
This one would be perfect if it weren't for the crummy lighting on Buck. Also, Buck's smile is more like a snicker. And his shirt seems a bit too much off-the-Sears-rack to really give it a sci-fi feel. Same thing with that lamp behind him. What's up with that? Rating: 2.5 out of 5














Episode: (1,13) Cruise Ship to the Stars
Who can forget Dorothy Stratten, the starlet shot down before her time? It is entirely far-out that she graced an episode of Buck. But as a final freeze frame this one is a little ill-conceived. Still, the background is cool and Buck looks like he's having a good time, although a bit more of a "Holy crap, I'm sitting next to Dorothy Stratten!" grin would be more appropriate. Rating: 3.5 out of 5














Episode: (1,14) Space Vampire
This one is weird. Good points first: We got Buck almost dead center. Always a good way to end an episode. But it's a spooky episode, somewhat horrific, and it took all the ingenuity of the writing staff to make it end on a high note. So, considering that, while Buck's non-toothy smile doesn't give up the goods, it does fit the episode. Rating: 2.5 out of 5














Episode: (1,15) Happy Birthday, Buck
This one has a lot going for it: A great my-denist-is-better-than-yours smile and a full Buck head shot. However, the frame suffers from blur as it was caught in mid-movement. What the hell? Rating: 2 out of 5














Episode: (1,16) A Blast for Buck
Now this is one fantastic ending freeze frame! While not only a solid, "Until next week, broheims" smile, Buck is holding a bottle. An honest to God glass bottle! And check out that blue background. Blue lends itself well to sci-fi, at least it did in the '70s and '80s. Not really sure what happened to the yellow in Glen Larson's title. It's all faded and not that strong radioactive banana yellow in other episodes. Rating: 4 out of 5














Episode: (1,17) Ardala Returns
Now we're getting somewhere! We have Buck giving his best thinned out upper-lip smile, wide collar against ugly vest, and a slightly unfocused background. A little blue behind him would have made this one perfect. Rating: 4 out of 5














Episode: (1,18) Twiki is Missing
This one... It had all the makings of perfection, but where is the smile?!? Goddamnit! Where is the smile, Buck? The fact that it has blue in the back gives it a point up. Rating: 2.5 out of 5














Episode: (1,19) Olympiad
This one rocks...almost. We have a great shot of Buck, smiling away like he just made the last train with a second to spare. And there is mandatory blue in the background. However, the shot is too high and someone's arm and shoulder are sharing precious screen space with what is supposed to be Buck's moment. Rating: 3 out of 5














Episode: (1,20) A Dream of Jennifer
Ah, perfection thy name is "Smilin' Freeze Frame Buck"! We have the blue, we have an outfit that looks futuristic, and we have Buck displaying his piano key smile like tomorrow will never come. Rating: 4.5 out of 5














Episode: (1,21) Space Rockers
This is the kind of final frame that makes any Buck fan take to their feet, throw their fist up in the air, and scream, "All hail the mighty Buck!" Its slightly low angle gives us the full glory of Buck's uninhibited smile. And look at all that gnarly chest hair! Buck is so happy and confident that he doesn't even care if you like chest hair or not. Man, I wish I was Buck (minus the chest hair). Rating: 5 out of 5














Episode: (1,122) Buck's Duel to the Death
This one is more a causal smile than an actual the-forces-of the-universe-congeled-to-make-my-awesomeness smile. But it's solid all around. Strong smile, square jaw, some blue in the back. The series really knew what it was about at this point. Rating: 5 out of 5














Episode: (1,23) Flight of the War Witch
Sadly, the final episode of the first season ends with a mixed bag of a freeze frame. It's a perfectly framed shot of Buck, but the lighting isn't happening. And Buck's smile has a tinge of insanity. I suspect actor Gil Gerard was getting a bit worn out from a season of smiles by this point. Rating: 3 out of 5

(This page is dedicated to my buddies Geoff Notkin for being a good Buck pal and artist Bob Eggleton for being super cool and buying me the Buck DVD box set several years back.)