Frank Miller is God!

Sin City-Nancy OK, a couple of things right up front. When I say Frank Miller is “god” I don’t mean that he is the One True Supreme Being. I mean it more in the manner that we meant “Eric Clapton is God.”

Frank, (I’ve spoken with/interviewed him on a number of occasions, and even actually met him on at least once, so I can call him Frank) had a vision that was Sin City. A creator-owned comicbook were he could essentially do anything he wanted to do. And he did just that. His comics were full of graphic violence, nudity, and other ”dangerous” images and ideas. Miller was on a roll, and there was no one to stop him (not that anyone really could have).

Not that anyone really wanted to stop him. From his unique vantage point, he was quickly redefining what comics were all about. But this posting isn’t really about Miller, as much as it is about how his well comics were translated to the screen. And that can be told in one word. Faithfully.

Director Robert Rodriguez (Desperado, Spy Kids) treated Frank’s comics as his official storyboard thus, the Sin City you see on the big screen is what readers of the comicbook Sin City saw when they read the comics. You just can’t get any more faithful than that. (To my knowledge the only alteration between the two, is that Jessica Alba, who played Nancy onscreen (see poster at the top of this post), refused to do any nudity, whereas there were scenes in the comic when she was nude or partially nude).

MarvAs a work of art, Sin City is flawless. Played out in stark black and white with occasional splashes of color. We truly get the feel for the vileness and corruption of this dark, dank city. Politicians are corrupt, cops are corrupt, the clergy is corrupt, criminals are corrupt, the average citizen is corrupt (OK, frank has some issues, but he’s working them out brilliantly, don’tcha think?). People with actual virtue include hookers, prostitutes, (some) cops, and the dregs of society — (again, some) criminals. The world of Sin City is truly turned upside down (and again, yes, Miller has definite issues with the government, organized religion, and all sorts of things, but that’s an entirely different Blog).

Does the movie have flaws? Sure it does:Hartigan

  • • Marv, (Mickey Rourke with about 10 lbs of prosthetics on his face) gets hit three (four, five?) times by a car, and (apparently) suffers no ill effects.
    • Hartigan (Bruce Willis simply doesn’t look the 60+ years of age that his character is sup[posed to be) gets shot multiple times and doesn’t die.
    • Prostitutes walk around dressed up like refugees from a badly exaggerated B&D show gone uber-Hollywood and tote better ordnance than Navy SEALs under the Regan administration.
  • NancyI could go on, but why bother, I could likewise poke similar plot/consistency holes in just about every film ever made, but that simply ruins the fun of going to the movies in the first place. (It is called “Suspension of Belief”, and this is my blog, so sit back and keep reading, your comments can be posted at the end). This is Mickey Spillane’s hardboiled detective, Mike Hammer, on Anabolic Steroids, gone road rage. It’s Film Noir for the 21st Century, shot completely against a green screen with few, if any props, and the cityscape painted in around them in postproduction. Speaking strictly from a technological point of view, the film is a modern-day masterpiece, but it isn’t just style over substance (as was the case with the equally visually stunning, but essentially storyless, eye-candy Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow) this film has a coherent, cohesive plot, and is thoroughly character driven with an “A” list of top-flight talent that aren’t satisfied with simply phoning it in.

    Even if you don’t like (or have never seen) the comics in question, if you are a film buff, you’ll want to go see this flick. For, as the man behind it all, (Miller) did with comics, this film will revolutionize the way films will be made from now on.

    The Prefessor

    The Spider-Man Cometh (Back)!

    In response to Walt’s posting about Spider-Man3 (the movie) in the Cafe’s Sidebar.

    LOS ANGELES, California (Hollywood Reporter) — Thomas Haden Church, who was nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actor in “Sideways,” has been cast as Spidey’s new archenemy in the next chapter of the “Spider-Man” franchise.

    (You can read more of that article here.)

    Church, best known for his TV roles in Wings and Ned and Stacy also has some very impressive big screen creds as well (most notably the role of Jack, the self-indulgent actor from the Oscar-Award winning film, Sideways

    At any rate, looking for some “expert” input, I posted the note to my Spider buddies. As some of them had already heard about this so we had (and are still having, I might ad) some lively discussion on the matter. As to what we surmised thus far, in our preliminary round of postings is that Church could very well be cast as Sandman, Mysterio and Electro, all of which are what we call “Classic” Spidey villains (as well as being part of a villain group called The Sinister Six), plus one “modern” villain, Venom; all of which are very good guesses. (One thing we do know for certain, is that he won’t be cast as The Lizard, because we’ve already met the Lizard’s alter ego Dr. Curt Connors (played in Spider-Man 2 by Dylan Baker . Also, I personally feel strongly that he won’t be cast as The Vulture because this character is an older man, and thus should be cast as an older actor).

    At first, I was going with Mysterio, because his cool illusion powers would make for great visuals (while I personally loved Spidey 1 I felt that the single thing that made Spidey 2 a better film was the presence of Doc Ock. For while it is true that The Green Goblin is considered by many (myself included) to be the foremost villain in Spidey’s Rogue’s Gallery, Doc Ock simply made for a better visual in fighting with Spidey. Sandman would also be pretty cool for the same reasoning (since he can shape his body in multiple forms, he would make for great visuals). Electro falls to the bottom of my list because while his powers are OK, he just stands there and points at stuff and tosses electricity around the room. Not as compelling a visual.

    Now Venom, he’s actually close to the top, as he is extremely popular (and among all of Spidey’s foes, is the only one to ever have been granted his own series in which he starred without requiring the presence of Spidey). Plus, since he also can reshape his body as he consumes his victims, he would certainly make for great visuals. The question really is, in which direction will director Sam Rami go? Classic or Modern?

    Personally, I’m looking forward to a two or three villain storyline (akin to Batman Forever, which gave us Two-Face and The Riddler; or Batman & Robin, which contained Poison Ivy and Mr. Freeze. I think that it would be great to really put Spidey through his paces and put him up against the Sinister Six (which itself went through some seven different line-ups). Still, having said that, I can understand how Rami might want to actually introduce two or three more of these characters into his films before teaming them up.

    However, even though I know that fan speculation is high in this regard, and casting choices for comicbook films is the sport of choice amongst the geek set, I tend not to speculate in this arena (having other rants to occupy my time), and writing this column is probably the most time I’ve ever spent mused on the subject. Plus, Rami has just gotten the release date of Spidey 3 moved back a year, so we won’t see it until 2007. Giving us fanboys plenty of time to spin our, er, webs.

    The Perfessor

    In Good Company

    There are times in one’s life when one observes a pop-culture event that closely mirrors one’s own life. While this hasn’t quite happened to your humble columnist, I came close recently watching the Dennis Quaid, Topher Grace flick In Good Company? Now this wasn’t necessarily a flick that was going to cause people to rush out of their homes and stand in line overnight waiting for it to open, but it was a pleasant enough comedy cum drama with moments of warm self-awareness, charming humility, and modern-day insights.

    The film is essentially about a 51-year-old sales manager for a sports weekly magazine named Dan Foreman (Dennis Quaid), who has his world turned upside down when his wife becomes pregnant (with their third child) at the same time his company is bought out by a conglomerate and He is demoted from head of ad sales and has a 26-year-old, wet-behind-the-ears, kid named Carter Duryea (Topher Grace, from That ’70s Show) take over as his boss. Oh yea, then just to spice it all up, the kid winds up dating Quaid’s 18-year-old daughter, Alex (Scarlett Johansson).

    The fun stuff surrounds how Quaid’s character deals with his now topsy, turvy life where everything has been turned both upside down and inside out at the same time. I found the film to be very well made and I highly recommend that you check it out. At any rate, at the beginning of the film we see Carter working at the conglomerate and his is in a business meeting where he is pitching the idea of cell phones for tots (yeah, you heard that right).

    Anyway, Carter is a business school prodigy who preaches corporate synergy. While Dan develops clients through handshake deals and relationships, Carter’s first act of business it to cross-promotes the magazine with both the corporation’s cell phone division and Krispity Krunch, a breakfast cereal. Meanwhile both men are going through turmoil at home. While Dan tries to deal with his oldest growing up and the prospect of yet another a new child on the way; Carter, gets by his wife of seven months just as he lands this big promotion.

    Dan and Carter strike up an uneasy friendship, which — naturally enough — is thrown into jeopardy when Carter falls for, and begins an affair with Alex. As can be expected, we get to see all the inherent conflicts of Old School vs. new School, age vs. youth, and of course, protective dad vs. older suitor for his daughter. The film works it way along well enough highlighting the pitfalls of life and how things can turn on you in an unexpected moment.

    Again, not a falling-down, blockbuster comedy, but more of a heartwarming light drama. Check it out; you’ll be happy you did.

    The Perfessor

    My Oscar Rant (Part the Second)

    OK, boys and girls now that the dust has settled a bit on Oscar night it is time to tally up the score sheets, Sure, everyone is falling all over themselves to congratulate Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby (a great flick, and one of Clint’s best roles), and sure it did garner four statues:

    Actor In A Supporting Role (Morgan Freeman)
    Actress In A Leading Role (Hilary Swank)
    Best Picture (Clint Eastwood, Albert S. Ruddy And Tom Rosenberg)
    Directing (Clint Eastwood)

    but it actually didn’t receive the most awards that night, that honor went to The Aviator with a total of five awards:

    Actress In A Supporting Role (Cate Blanchett)
    Art Direction (Dante Ferretti (Art Direction); Francesca Lo Schiavo (Set Decoration))
    Cinematography (Robert Richardson)
    Costume Design (Sandy Powell)
    Film Editing (Thelma Schoonmaker)

    Making The Aviator the big winner over Million Dollar Baby (sure, sure Million Dollar Baby received the more prestigious awards but to settle for that is to not know how to spin-doctor in Tinseltown).

    The next big winners (quantity wise) were a tie for third place with Ray and The Incredibles landing two statuettes apiece.

    Actor In A Leading Role (Jamie Foxx)
    Sound Mixing (Scott Millan, Greg Orloff, Bob Beemer And Steve Cantamessa)
    Animated Feature Film (Brad Bird)
    Sound Editing (Michael Silvers And Randy Thom)

    In the category of writing (a personal favorite of mine), we have Best Screenplay (original and adapted from another medium)

    Adapted Screenplay
    Sideways Screenplay By Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor
    Original Screenplay
    Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind Screenplay By Charlie Kaufman; Story By Charlie Kaufman & Michel Gondry & Pierre Bismuth

    I’ve got to say that Sunshine was truly one of the top five most original movies I have ever seen, and while it’s mode of storytelling is certainly not for everyone — it completely knocked me down. The fact that such a non-linear storytelling technique was utilized can only make me hope that there are other unusual films of this ilk on the cinematic horizon.

    Also scoring one Oscar each were:
    Spider-Man 2 Visual Effects John Dykstra, Scott Stokdyk, Anthony Lamolinara And John Frazier
    Finding Neverland (Music: Score) Jan A.P. Kaczmarek
    The Motorcycle Diaries (Best Song)Al Otro Lado Del Río” Music And Lyric By Jorge Drexler
    Lemony Snicket’s A Series Of Unfortunate Events (Makeup) Valli O’reilly And Bill Corso

    OK, you all knew that I wasn’t going to let an opportunity go by without having my say about how way cool Spidey 2 was. I actually knew that Doc Ock was going to be a great visual way back when Universal launched it’s Marvel Island some years back and we were all treated to that commercial with the kid in the airplane watching Spidey and Ock go at it out on the wing span. Well, this movie was that good, only better! I also just read how director Sam Rami asked for (and got) another year to put together Spidey 3. Which means that third time is most assuredly going to be the charm (I’m predicting either the Lizard and maybe Harry Osborn as the new Green Goblin, or he’s going to go whole hog, and recreate for us the cinematic version of the Sinister Six (those two plus Ock, and supplement them with three of the following classic Spidey villains Kraven the Hunter, Mysterio, The Vulture and/or Sandman—Lizard wasn’t part of the original six, while the others were, but as this is a whole new version of Spidey, anything’s possible, and given how success Mr. Rami was on his first two outings, I, for one am entirely game for it!)

    Well, that’s about it for now, except to observe where the heck was Jack Nicholson? I thought he was always sitting in the front row of the Oscars, and can’t hardly remember a time when he wasn’t — even when he wasn’t up for any awards.

    The Perfessor