Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Cate Blanchett in Uncle Vanya

The Hitchcock blonde, sheathed in a scarlet dress,
   Curls her sleek body in a siren’s pose--
A cool, aroused, unfathomable mess,
   She squares her shoulders and looks down her nose
At all this sullen canine male display.
   She’ll slip a kiss to kiss on her own terms,
Return a hug and smoothly squirm away,
   Then roll her eyes and think, “Men are such worms.”
But she’ll do just what each man needs to think
   He’s her worm--warmly reach to hold a hand,
Pat this one’s knee, thrown that one a sly wink.
   She maps her country with a silky hand
      And waits.  Waits for one of these smitten curs
      To make a move, so she can make it hers.

Copyright 2012 Matthew J Wells

Thursday, July 26, 2012

How it feels to turn 60: the verbal

“How does it feel?” people keep asking me,
   As if my turning 60 was a weight--
As if each decade had a density
   That made me suffer and not celebrate--
As if it was a wound to have more years
   Behind me than I have ahead of me--
As if, just like the closing of frontiers,
   The one thing missing is a eulogy.
I have to say, I don’t feel any change:
   The ticking of the clock is still a call
To take new chances and expand my range.
   The moment’s in the movement, after all,
      And Life’s a tune that each new moment sings.
      How does it feel?  Like wings.  It feels like wings.

Copyright 2012 Matthew J Wells

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Before Rosebud

The following press release was issued this morning by Time Warner Entertainment:

This summer, Time Warner will begin filming all-new movies expanding on the classic film CITIZEN KANE. As highly anticipated as they are controversial, the five inter-connected sequel, prequel, and interquel films will build on the foundation of the original CITIZEN KANE, judged by many film critics to be the greatest movie ever made.  BEFORE ROSEBUD will be the collective banner for all five films.

“It’s our responsibility as scavengers to find new ways to keep all of our corporate-owned characters relevant,” said Time Warner executive producer Dank Vidio. “After almost a century, the cast of Citizen Kane is a group of classic characters whose time has come for new stories to be told. Which is why we sought out the best writers and directors in the industry to piss on the original.”

“The original film of Citizen Kane is the complete story that Orson Welles and my grandfather wanted to tell,” said Ben Mankiewicz, grandson of Kane co-author Herman Mankiewicz and co-host of Turner Classic Movies.  “However, I appreciate Time Warner’s reasons for this initiative and completely understand the motivations of the directors and writers who are publicly saying that they are just paying tribute to my grandfather’s work.  May these totally unnecessary films have the success they deserve.”

“Under the benevolent eyes of an army of executive producers with no talent at all, the individual vision of Welles and Mankiewicz is in the best hands possible,”  said Vidio.  “As filmmakers, we’d be remiss not to expand upon and explore these characters and their stories.  We’re committed to being an industry leader, which means making bold creative moves.  And there's nothing bolder or more creative than making sequels and prequels to a classic motion picture.  When you have a product like Citizen Kane that is as worldwide known as it is, and the fact that there are millions of DVD’s of it out there, we wouldn’t be doing our jobs if we didn’t go out and say, ‘Is there other ways (sic) we can grow new material from this?’  Because, in the end, original and unique works of art exist as great wonderful springboards for franchises, intellectual properties, and ancillary merchandise.”

The five films are:

The Girl In The White Dress. 
“Love.  It’s the only disease you never look forward to being cured of.”  An old businessman muses on the love of his life, whom he saw for a split-second in his youth, and then stalked for the next 50 years.  With Scarlett Johansson in the title role, and Dustin Hoffman as Bernstein.  Written and directed by Woody Allen.

Em and Jed.
The untold story of the romance between Jedediah Leland and Emily Monroe Norton.  With Tom Hanks as Old Jedediah, Meryl Streep as Old Emily, Grace Gummer as young Emily, and John Cusack as Young Jed.  Directed by Stephen Frears.

In Xanadu: The Secret History of a House. 
A young female blogger finds the long-lost secret diary of Jerry Thompson, the reporter in charge of finding out the meaning of Kane's last word, "Rosebud".  By following the clues hidden in his journal entries, she uncovers the hidden passageways in Kane’s old house which reveal its terrifying history.  Starring Jennifer Lawrence as the blogger.  Screenplay by Stephen King and Joe Hill.  Directed by Guillermo del Toro.

The Three Jakes.
The rise and fall of Jim Gettys, as told through the eyes of his son Jake at three points in Jake's life: his 20's in New York, his 70’s in Las Vegas, and his 30’s in LA, where he changed the spelling of his last name to Gittes and became a detective.  With Jack Nicholson as Jim Gettys and Leonardo di Caprio as all three Jakes.  Screenplay by Robert Towne.  Directed by Stephen Soderbergh.

The Two Mrs. Kanes
After faking her death in a car crash, Emily Monroe Norton Kane takes her son and moves to Pine Valley, Pennsylvania, where she marries the chief of staff at the local hospital.  But her past comes back to haunt her when Susan Alexander Kane comes to sing at a hospital benefit and recognizes her.  With Meg Ryan as Susan Alexander  Kane, and  Meryl Streep as Emily Monroe Norton Kane/Phoebe English Tyler Wallingford Matthews Wallingford.  Originally slated to be directed by Nora Ephron; currently unattached.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

"I told you that story to tell you this one."

Speaking of prequels, he said, as he began to ramble, . . . 

There must be something prequellian in the water because Prometheus opened the same week that DC Comics began publishing the first of their Before Watchmen cash-grabs, and Somebody Who's Not Martin Scorsese began filming  Raging Bull 2  in LA.  (I know, I know--that's a sequel--but "prequellian"--wow--I just invented a perfect rhyme for Orwellian.  Twenty bucks says Sondheim steals it before my birthday.)

If you ask me, all this so-called creative writing has more to do with product placement than actual creativity, which adds the latest Spider-Man reboot into the conversation, since the only reason Sony made the movie in the first place is because, if it didn’t, then the rights to the character would revert back to Marvel.  So if you read any interview where one of the thousands of executive producers on Spidey says that they made the movie because they wanted to tell a good story, try not to yell “Bullshit!” too loudly, okay?  

Ditto whenever DC editor Dan DiDio says something laughable like this:

After twenty five years, the Watchmen are classic characters whose time has come for new stories to be told.

TRANSLATION:  We’re taking the one piece of comic book fiction that everybody points to as exceptional and making it as run-of-the-mill as Superman.

Or like this:

The big selling point is that this material is true to the source material, but it gets the chance to examine all the aspects of ‘Watchmen’ that made it great.

Selling point is right.  It makes me want to yell out, “Hey DiDiot--you know what made Watchmen great?  It had a beginning, a middle, and an end!  You know--like literature?”

But comic books are not literature (which is why Watchmen has always been the exception).  And superhero comic book publishers (aka Marvel and DC, the Big Two) are, at the moment, in the business of churning out corporate-sponsored fan fiction based on intellectual properties owned by Time Warner and Disney.  Batman is not a character any more; he’s a brand--he’s a franchise--he’s something you market; and because he’s a product, you can’t really make any major changes to him.  (Which is why what Christopher Nolan has been allowed to do with Batman is nothing short of miraculous.  And it’ll look even more miraculous when the new Batman origin movie comes out in six or seven years, he said cynically.)


But again, this is what corporations do when they own products.  They slap NEW AND IMPROVED on the label and stock the shelves with them, which is exactly the same thing DC did when it re-started its universe last year, and exactly what Marvel is going to do when it re-starts its universe later this year.   In which situation the words NEW AND IMPROVED are meaningless, because the only new thing is the packaging, and the only improved thing is the artwork on the package.   

Think of it this way: as far as superhero comic books go, it’s literally a supermarket.  When a publisher says he’s trying to tell new stories and keep those characters relevant, it really means he's going to hire different writers and artists to revisit the same old avenues and maybe map a new alley or two in the same old city with the expressed purpose of increasing product sales.  He's not going to create a new city.  But if, in the course of working for him, somebody DOES create a new city, then he owns it, and everybody in it, and gets to market it to whoever he thinks will buy it.  Which is pretty much the Hollywood business model these days, no? 

And a pretty good example of Matthew's Third Law of CultureDynamics: "Everything decays into Hollywood."  Or in physics terms, if literature is radioactivity, then Hollywood is lead.  (Case in point: Raging Bull 2.  I mean, really?) (And what's the over/under on me living to see the inevitable Taxi Driver remake?)

THE SUPREME COURT: A lot better, now that we've passed Obamacare!

Remakes, reboots, sequels, prequels--none of those are the rules of literature.  And maybe that makes me a book snob, but there's a reason certain stories and characters appeal to successive generations of readers.  It's because they embody something, they epitomize something, they say something.  And then they shut up.  The fact that they actually do stop existing at the end--that their story is self-contained--adds weight and significance to the work in which they live.  Weight and significance which is diluted like Bretton Woods diluted the gold standard when you have remakes, reboots, sequels and prequels.

SIR ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE:  Says the guy who reads every new Sherlock Holmes story he can get his hands on.

ME:  Not every one, he said defensively.

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE: Says the guy who wrote a sequel to Hamlet.

ME:  Okay, okay--but that still doesn't mean I'm going to buy a single issue of Before Watchmen.

DAN DIDIO:  Why not?

ME:  Because I don't want to read Before Bovary or The Rise of Gatsby or Getting The Car Ready For The Road any more than I want to read what Rorschach did either before or in between those Watchmen panels in which he appears.  Because if I'm going to be sold a product, I want something that survives beyond its shelf life.  If you can promise me that you won't restock the Watchmen aisle with sequels, prequels, and side-stories--if you swear to me that your company is committed to NOT creating a whole Watchmen Universe--then I might reconsider.

DAN DIDIO:  I wish I could do that. 

ME:  And I wish I could live forever.  But it's against the law of nature.  Like corporations being creative.

DC AND MARVEL: Hey! We hire creators all the time!

ME:  I rest my case.

Sucker-r-r-r-r . . . .