4-Color to 35-Millimeter: Sin City

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On the one hand, Robert Rodriguez teamed with Frank Miller to do one of the most perfect adaptations of a comic book ever done in 2005 when they gave us Sin City. On the other hand, being faithful to the source material just means you’re stuck with that source material, with its awful dialogue, cardboard characters, and repetition all over the damn place. The great superhero movie rewatch visits Sin City.

An excerpt:

Part of the problem is that this stuff reads way better than it sounds. The cheesy pulp dialogue is stronger written down than it is coming out of an actual human mouth, and while some of the actors manage to sound convincing uttering this hard-boiled nonsense (Rosario Dawson, Mickey Rourke, and Powers Boothe handle it best; Carla Gugino, Michael Madsen, and Brittany Murphy handle it worst), it mostly doesn’t sound like people talking so much as reading dialogue. Miller’s stylized artifice is better suited to the page than it is to the screen. For one thing, hearing it spoken aloud makes you realize how repetitive a lot of it is. (If I had to hear Hartigan call himself “old man” one more time…)

me and Chuck Wending are Fantastic Fiction’s June readers!

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The monthly “Fantastic Fiction” reading series has been going on at the famous KGB Bar on E. 4th Street in the East Village area of New York City for twenty years now. Originally curated by author Terry Bisson and the late great editor Alice K. Turner, these days the reading series’ caretakers are editor Ellen Datlow and author Matthew Kressel. It happens on the third Wednesday of every month, and admission is free!

I’ve been to many a KGB reading in my time, but in June 2019 I finally get to be one of the featured readers! On the Wednesday the 19th of June, Chuck Wendig and I will do readings from our new works, him from Wanderers, me from A Furnace Sealed (I know they’re using Mermaid Precinct for publicity, but it’s an NYC reading, I wanna read the NYC book).

Hope to see folks at KGB at 7pm on the 19th!

4-Color to 35-Millimeter: Modesty Blaise and My Name is Modesty

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A comic strip that was a huge hit everywhere but the United States starring a strong female character, Modesty Blaise was twice adapted into live-action, with middling success, once in the 1960s (very much a product of its time), once in the 2000s (that both works and doesn’t work). The great superhero movie rewatch examines both Modesty Blaise and My Name is Modesty.

An excerpt:

On top of that, the pacing is abysmal. The movie is only two hours long, but I felt like it went on for several ice ages. Having said that, Terence Stamp is a delight as Garvin, and Monica Vitti has an impressive physicality in the role—she slinks across the screen magnificently. And eventually, she even gets to be competent. Another of the biggest issues with this interpretation of Blaise is that—until the breakout from Gabriel’s redoubt in the climax—Blaise doesn’t really do very much. Garvin saves her from the explosive on the boat, Garvin and Tarrant save her from being captured by Gabriel’s thugs, Mrs. Fothergill gets the drop on her far too easily, and just in general she is remarkably ineffectual—until the end, anyhow, but by then it’s too late. In the strip, her sexuality was a tool in her work—in this movie, the sexuality is all there is for three-quarters of the running time.

from the archives: the ending to How I Met Your Mother was perfect and good

There’s a lot of talk right now about the final season of Game of Thrones, and a Twitter user that I’ve since lost track of was asking for shows that fucked up the ending, and almost everyone listed How I Met Your Mother. Thing is, I don’t think HIMYM fucked up the ending, they fucked up the road to the ending. Here’s the post I made on the old LiveJournal blog in December 2016 on the subject.

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There’s a meme going around Facebook asking for ten unpopular opinions. It’s been interesting to see people opine about stuff — and the meme dictates that the opinions all be non-political, which means the subsequent discussions haven’t been nasty — and I decided to participate. But I was lazy, and only listed two similar opinions, to wit, that The Walking Dead and The Matrix are overrated claptrap whose mass appeal is incomprehensible to me. These opinions should not surprise anyone, as I’ve been up-front about my dislike for both all along, and I dissed TWD on The Chronic Rift podcast back in December 2011 when the first season ended, and I eviscerated The Matrix back when I finally saw it on HBO in April 2000.

However, my dear friend Stevie Williams mentioned that she never liked either Friends or How I Met Your Mother. I agree with her on the former, but actually adored the latter, as I thought the writing craft on that show was brilliant and superior to most of what you get on television, and certainly superior to almost any sitcom.

But it reminded me of a rant I’d been meaning to post since HIMYM ended and never did…..

The ending of the show came in for a lot of shit, with a lot of people dissing it and hating it and loathing it and ripping it to pieces. I think the dissatisfaction with that ending is why the show has fallen right out of the zeitgeist.

Thing is, the ending was perfect. It was absolutely the right ending for the show.

Having said that, I totally get why people don’t like the ending, and it’s the true reason why the show failed:

It got renewed for a ninth season.

If the show had ended after eight seasons, the ending would’ve been the perfect wrap-up. The collapse of Robin and Barney’s marriage, the progression of Ted and The Mother’s relationship, Barney discovering fatherhood, The Mother’s death, and Ted and Robin winding up together all would have worked perfectly.

But they came back for season nine, and they spent the entirety of season nine on Robin and Barney’s wedding. Prior to that ninth season, Barney and Robin’s relationship was on-again/off-again, tumultuous, and problematic. It could’ve worked, but it could just as easily not have worked. Going straight from the wedding in the penultimate episode of season eight to the one-hour ending would’ve worked.

Instead, we spent more than twenty episodes chronicling Barney and Robin’s wedding weekend. By the time we got to “The End of the Aisle,” we’d spent six months living with that wedding weekend. We were heavily invested in that wedding weekend, which made us heavily invested in Barney and Robin as a couple.

So to trash it in an hour came across as a betrayal. To put Robin together with Ted just didn’t make sense because the entire ninth season was dedicated to the rightness of Robin and Barney as a couple.

The thing is — Ted and Robin winding up together was the way the story was set up to end back from the very first episode. As Ted’s kids said (in a sequence that Lyndsy Fonseca and David Henrie filmed back in 2006 during the second season of the show, saved for the finale), the story that Ted told over the course of the show’s run wasn’t really about how he met their mother, it was about Ted’s life with Robin. That started with the pilot episode in which we think the story is about how Ted met their mother and is in fact about how he met Robin. Robin has been the fulcrum of Ted’s life throughout the run of the show, and having them get together at the end, and having the true reason for him telling the story to them in 2030 being to get their permission to date Robin now that their mother is dead, makes perfect story sense.

And if the show had ended in season eight, everyone would probably have realized that……….

HAPPY MOTHERS DAY!

I have been lucky enough to have several mothers in my life, including the woman who gave birth to me in April 1969, GraceAnne Andreassi DeCandido; “Mom-like product” Helga Borck, who helped raise me when she became part of our family in the mid-1970s; the Godmommy Livia DeCandido, my wonderful aunt; and two amazing women who are no longer with us, my grandmother Ann Andreassi, who died in 2016 at the age of 93, and my great-grandmother Grazia Silverio DeBacco, who died in 2003 at the age of 98.

All the mothers in question are magnificent, and many of whatever good qualities I might have as a person is in large part due to all these amazing mommies in my life.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

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My aunt Livia, with her brother/my father. From a family gathering in 2018.

 

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My mother, my great-gradmother, and my grandmother at a family reunion some time in the 1980s.

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Helga with my father enjoying her birthday cake in 2006.

 

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Wrenn, me, my father, and Helga at the Bronx Zoo in 2015.

 

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Me and my mother at my parents’ house in 2016.

midweek music: “Further On Up the Road”

In 1976, The Band had what was billed as their farwell concert. Probably best known as the group who backed up Bob Dylan when he went electric in the mid-1960s, The Band released one of the most influential albums of the rise of rock and roll in the 1960s, Music from Big Pink.

Guitarist/songwriter Robbie Robertson was tired of going on the road, so he basically broke the band up and had a big-ass farewell concert that Martin Scorcese filmed and made into The Last Waltz, arguably the best concert movie ever made. (The rest of The Band, minus Robertson, would wind up re-forming a few years later.)

Among the many guests was Eric Clapton, and I particularly love this version of “Further On Up the Road,” because at the beginning, Clapton’s guitar strap broke in mid-solo. While he fixed it, Robertson stepped in and effortlessly filled in with a solo of his own for a verse before Clapton came back in. And then they both trade solos at the end. It’s glorious work from two of the greatest guitarists in rock history.

talkin’ season 2 of Star Trek: Discovery on The Next Trek Podcast

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The fine folks at The Next Trek Podcast had me on for their second-season overview of Star Trek: Discovery. I covered the good (Anson Mount, Ethan Peck, Sonja Sohn), the bad (an incomplete pass on the Culber-Stamets drama), and the ugly (the obvious disconnect between the visions of two sets of showrunners) of the show’s sophomore season alongside hosts Kate B., Chris Farrell, and Tyler Howat. You can listen at this link. The show is also on iTunes.

 

Monday music: “Walk This Way”

The divide between white music and black music has always been a sharp one, for all that there has always been crossover. Most of the white British rock musicians of the 1960s (The Who, Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones, Jethro Tull, etc.) owe their very existence to the black American blues musicians of the 1940s and 1950s (Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf, etc.). And yet, the divide has often remained.

In 1986, the rock group Aerosmith had fallen into obscurity, while the rap group Run-DMC were rising stars. Then (and now), a collaboration between a white heavy-metal-tinged rock group and a black rap act was pretty much unheard of, and yet Run-DMC collaborated with Steven Tyler and the gang to do a cover of Aerosmith’s 1975 hit “Walk This Way.”

It remains one of the great collaborations in modern music history, a glorious breaking down of walls (a metaphor used to good effect in the video).