Match Point

As a life long Woody Allen devotee, I’ve let him slide. Sure, Small Time Crooks, Curse of the Jade Scorpion, Hollywood Ending, Anything Else, and Melinda and Melinda are total and utter shit… but, just before those we had Sweet and Lowdown, Deconstructing Harry, Everyone Says I Love You, etc. etc. etc. So, y’know, the guys made sixty movies, is seventy years old, and has been butchered in the press for the better part of ten years now. But, you always hope that he’s going to come back from it.

Match Point’s at least a step in the right direction. Aside from two big problems, the movies pretty excellent. The third act does a lot of good to fix what’s not so good in the beginning, leaving you with a sense that the movie is much better than it actually is. The directing is incredible. The shots and editing are master classes in film making, and it shows that Woody is every bit the filmmaker his idols Fellini and Bergman are. The spare use of music, the delicate use of location and letting… it’s really pretty outstanding.

Then there’s the two problems.

The first is actually not so much a problem as a sticking point. Everyone points out the similarities with Crimes and Misdemeanors… Well… I’d say it teeters on the edge of being a remake, or as their known now a ‘reimagining’ of the movie. It’s achingly similar. And while Dina, who’s never seen C&M enjoyed the movie well enough, it nagged at me throughout.

Secondly, and there’s no easy way to say this. Scarlett Johansson is positively atrocious. Every scene she’s in the movie loses steam and chemistry, the inevitablity inherent in the story instead feels like formula all because of her less than one-note performance (a semi-tone performance?) She’s gorgeous. Really, really sexy. And has the presence of a three day old Sea Bass Special at Norm’s. The scene’s where Rhys-Myers is ‘over-come’ with his desire for her become caricatures rather than eruptions of passion. And it’s not just a stylistic thing. She’s so out of place in the movie, and completely and utterly out-acted by everyone around her that it really, really hurts the film overall.

It’s definitely the best movie Woody’s made since Sweet and Lowdown, but, it doesn’t capture the uniqueness nor mastery of that film by any means. Instead, you’re left with a fairly successful pot-boiler with one extremely bad performance. Worth a rent, though.

A word from J-Rod

“Dear Friend, I received your card this morning and will say that I’m not afraid of the quarantine. If you can come when you said on Sat. all right. E –”

That was from an actual postcard, sent on March 16th, 1909 to a Mr. Elmer Reese of Leesburg, Pennsylvania. A moment of someone’s life captured in two sentences. It was purchased at the Georgetown Flea Market in Washington DC for fifty-cents, pulled from a dusty shoebox from a guy who had a table in a dirt field, next to some lady who was selling Beanie Babies for two-dollars, three for five. This story had to be told. It deserved better.

POSTCARDS will be a 168-page hardcover anthology available early 2007 from Eximious Press, a new publishing company founded by me, Jason Rodriguez, editor for ELK’S RUN and WESTERN TALES OF TERROR. It will feature 16 stories from some of the greatest talents in comics. Every team will be using mailed postcards from the early 1900s to tell a story about the people behind them – stories about romance and war and disease and faith. Stories about our lives – based on forgotten residuals.

And there’s room left, still. We’re gearing the submissions more towards the people just starting out – looking for new, refreshing voices in the world of comics to round out the book. The submissions process for the print version is currently laid out on the production blog – in the coming months we’ll start rolling out the submission guidelines for the supplemental web-edition content. Feel free to ask any questions, I’ll answer what I can.

Dr. Who

My brother loved Dr. Who when he was a teenager, and being 9 years his junior, I’d sit there figuring “Well, if my big brother likes it…”  It never actually reverberated for me though.  Not the way Hitchhiker’s Guide or The Young Ones did.  The new series, though, is just… wow.

There’s a few iffy episodes early on (the Dickens one and the Sun exploding ones aren’t quite up to snuff to the stuff that follows), but the past three episodes have been some of the best Sci-Fi television this side of the Prisoner.  I think it actually puts Lost to shame.  The show gives resolution, a feeling of progress, and character development.  Lost, while the character beats, and the plotting from episode to episode is interesting, just never delivers, and, well, most likely never will.  It’s the nature of the beast, and a core difference between the shows.

The Doctor is Batman.  He’s Superman.  He’s James Bond.  Except, they even came up with a decent enough explanation for why he’s always changing actors.

Anyways, my point is that I think a lot of people are like me and have less than fond memories of the original (which, as i’ve been watching some aren’t actually quite as bad as I remembers, and some are actually quite good), this is a totally new, totally seperate beast, and some of the best Sci-Fi currently on the TV.

Come on in… Take off your skin…

FOR SOME REASON THE OFFICIAL SITE WENT DOWN, SO ALL THE IMAGES AND SUCH ARE GONE.  OH WELL.Just got home from seeing The Black Rider at the Ahamnson Theater. For those not in the know, The Black Rider is the musical written by Tom Waits and William S. Burroughs and brought to the stage by Robert Wilson. The show was originally produced about a decade ago, and this is a revival, with Wilson still at the head.It’s this Faustian folk tale done Brecht style with a heaping helping of Waitsian charm and Burroughs-y insanity (or, as I like to call it Burroughsanity) and a Murnau aesthetic The Waits Album that serves for most as their only vision of the piece is one of his classic discs, and it’s a must own for fans of the later period Waits (I’d say it’s second only to Bone Machine).

So, the show. Hm. It’s good. It’s very good. (Watch my BFA in theater go now!) The mis-en-scene is positively breath-taking. The sheer degree of stagecraft that went into making the whole thing work, is just obscenely impressive. The scene transitions happen without you noticing, the sets morph and grow, shrinking into nothing, growing from back drops, and lighting effects become three dimensional objects. It’s positively transcendent.

The performers… well… in that Brechtian tradition, what the actors are doing is so stilted and stylized that very little of it is acting, so much as it is an elaborate combination of dance and vocalization. Even a quick walk across the stage is becomes an epic event. It’s pretty amazing. That aside, one of the strangest biproducts of the show being written by Waits is a lot of the cast attempts to do a Waits impression especially on some of the more ‘trademarked’ songs. Fact is, there’s only one Tom, and nobody else can even come close.

The music is absolutely the highlight. The performance is epic, I’d say the band is better than Tom’s actual touring band (at least, the band he toured with on Mule Variations, which is the last time I saw him.) The vibrancy and precision of what they do is just… wow. The vocal side of things, aside from the Tom apeing mentioned above, is also pretty damn great. Lots of interesting choices and arrangements. Really, really amazing stuff.

Then, we get to the show itself. Here’s the thing. There’s a big flaw in the shape and structure of the piece, in part due to a strangely timed intermission (it falls nearly 2 hours into a 2 hour and 45 minute show) leaving the final act feeling very small and disconnected to the rest of the plot. In fact, when the curtain call started, it took about 4 or 5 actors before the audience figured out it was a curtain call. At the end of the day, it fails in a lot of the ways that I think a lot of Burroughs work fails. 2/3rds of the way through the plot falls by the wayside, and it becomes a bit self-indulgent. Which is a shame, because the actual set pieces are really breath-taking. Really, really breath-taking. For me, though, the combination of the extremely stylized series of vignettes that make up the final 1/3rd, and the forward story momentum of the first chunk just does not mesh. The thing is, that at the end of the day, the plot is identical to that of Brigadoon or Oklahoma, just with a darker take. And part of what makes those shows (while somewhat atrocious in their own ways) successful is the feeling of completion. I don’t think the show accomplishes that.
All in all, a truely unique piece of theater, and the fact that it not only got put on at one of the biggest theaters in LA, and had a pretty decent size audience is a feat and accomplishment in itself. If you’re a fan of Waits, Burroughs, or giant avant garde theatrical art pieces, you’ll enjoy it.

At the very least, I know that Sean Maher is jealous as fuck.

As the humming bird churns

I’ve been clocking in full time hours at the day job and fuller time hours at the writing desk, so I’ve been a bit absent, save for the quick posts here and there.

So, here’s your mega-crazy-fantastic-crazy-monkey-update.

The “WHERE THE FUCK IS ELK’S RUN?” Fan E-Mails continue, and, I, unfortunately, still can’t talk about it.  We’re getting everything in order now, and the announcement, as I’ve said repeatedly, is pending.  Keep coming here, and you’ll be the first to know.

World’s End is on a temporary hold, as Keating finishes up the coloring chores on Elk’s Run 7 and 8 (I should have some art to show off in the next few days… maybe even something special for FCBD.)

Punks has many wheels in motion, including some pretty groovy merchandise manufacturer types expressing interest.  Kody and I are on the phone plotting and scheming literally every day, so, there ya go.

The script for what is shaping up to be the next Fialkov/Tuazon book is getting underway still, and I’m just about through with my preliminary research, so I’m sure I’ll be talking about it more and more in the coming weeks.

I’m wrapping up a screenplay I’ve been working on for far too long already in the next week or so, that might just end up in comic book form sometime in the near future.  That’s what these were for.

The Miller is being reworked a bit before I finish it up.  I’ve read something like 3 or 4 dozen pulps since I started it, and came to terms with some realities of structure etc. that need to be worked in before I can go any further.

Both Red Mob and The 8th (nee Ritual Homicide nee Vodou) are on hold.  Datsun Tran, artist on Red Mob, had to drop out because he just didn’t have the time, and Chris Burnham, artist on the 8th had to drop out because the son of a bitch has some REALLY cool projects coming out.  The 8th, you’ll remember was my mini-series about a super-natural serial killer in New Orleans that causes the city to get swallowed up by a hurricane that causes the levees to break, and the government to abandon the city.   We’d actually come up with a way to salvage the book and it’s art, and take advantage of Chris and my mutual childhood years in Pittsburgh, but alas, the man is destined for bigger things.  For now.
Working on a new thing with Screenwriter Gary that’s been percolating for a while, and pays tribute to our mutual adoration for Coast to Coast AM.

I’ve got stories in about four upcoming anthologies, two westerns, one horror comedy, and one anti-romance drama.

And that’s it.  Just makin’ my way, the only way I know how

Recommended Read – Stranger Than Fiction

I’m a huge Palahniuk fan. Fight Club’s a classic of the 90’s, and Diary might just be the best book of the 00’s. His ability to craft stories equal parts true to life and complete absurdity is second to none, and I really think he’ll be considered one of the definitive writers of our age. And, yet, for some reason, I’ve stayed away from most of his non-fiction stuff. Turns out I made a big mistake.

Stranger Than Fiction collects several essays, interviews, and non-fiction ramblings that Chuck had published between books, a lot of which seems to have come from the research he did for his books. There’s a section about the Olympic Wrestling Tryouts that obviously was in part the inspiration for Fight Club, another about Castle Building that plays an important part in Choke, and so on. The personal remembrances that make up the last 1/5th of the book are almost all fixated on how Fight Club has changed (in some cases ruined) his life, and how the series of traumatic events that surrounded it colored the event that most of us writers dream of all of our lives.

The sheer dexterity of his prose is mind-blowing. Say what you will about his topics and narrative devices, the son of a bitch crafts a sentence like no one else on Earth. His voice rings through in every piece (even some of the more drab pieces) and it makes what for the most part would be dry New Yorker style articles ring with a relatability that’s unmatched.

Just as Fight Club the book will be taught in late 20th Century Lit classes for years to come, and Fight Club the movie will be taught in Film Theory classes, Stranger Than Fiction should be taught in Journalism classes, because it’s some of the most engaging, stylish, and thought provoking non-fiction I’ve ever read.

Link below takes you to Amazon to buy the book. Stranger Than Fiction : True Stories: Books: Chuck Palahniuk

Ah the things I waste what little money I have on.

The Dwight Schrute Bobble Head Doll. Available for Pre-Order now.

Thank you NBC. You’ve made my dreams finally come true. And given me faith that The Office’ll be around to wear out it’s welcome, see Steve Carrell replaced by Ed Helms, and do a musical episode guest starring Barbara Streisand. Or whatever else they can do to ruin the show.