No Country for Old Men – A Movie Review

It’s a rare occurrence indeed when a film adaptation lives up to its source material, but with No Country for Old Men, Ethan and Joel Coen have done right by Cormac McCarthy. 

In McCarthy’s novel, he is terse and economic with details.  The book moves at an incredibly frantic pace and he shows no mercy to any of his characters.  Often violence is implied and sometimes even painfully described.  The Coens made sure not to deviate from this established tone.

Because they work in a visual medium, the Coens not only had to capture the essence of No Country for Old Men, but they also had to literally show us what these characters looked like, all the way from their faces to their boots.  McCarthy allowed the reader to fill in quite a few visual and auditory gaps, but the Coens had no such luxury.

And so, in my mind, we were awfully lucky the Coens found the perfect Moss and Chigurh in Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem.  Brolin oozed the silent, capable resourcefulness of Moss while Bardem took a character who had thus been sparsely described and created cinematic gold. 

Chigurh is unsettling in the novel, but in the movie the Coens and Bardem make him a terrifying study of subtle villainy.  I don’t think Bardem raised his voice even once in the movie, but his empty facial expressions and slight voice inflections were more nerve-wracking than any chest-thumping or profanity-laced tirades.  Too often villains simply become the reverse of the protagonist.  Not in No Country for Old Men.  Not by a long shot.  Each character is his own man, far and away.

From a cinematic point of view, the Coens were marvelous with their choice of shots, locations, costumes, props, and acting directions.  There’s a particular scene near the beginning of the movie where a man is strangled while laying on his back upon the floor.  Graphic, yes, but what impressed me to no end is the fact that the Coens made sure the man’s boot heels left hundreds of scuff marks on the tiled floor.  That sort of attention to detail is much appreciated.

Some may feel the Coens offered too violent of a film.  I think it’s important to note that they embellished nothing from the novel.  The movie is one of the purest adaptations I’ve ever seen, and McCarthy wrote one very violent, unapologetic, merciless novel. 

I personally am grateful to the Coens for taking a masterfully written novel and treating its subject matter just as the author intended.  It would seem that because they converted literary art to true cinematic art, they were amply rewarded.

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Banner-Mania!

Watch out, World!  Scott William Foley has learned how to make banners.  From now on, no one is safe.

Below are the banners I’ve made so far.  If you’d like to use one as a link on your blog or website, I’d be ecstatic to send you the code.  Just email me at scottwilliamfoley@gmail.com.

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Chabon Writes about Superhero Unitards

Being a regular kind of dude, I have to admit I’m not a frequent (or even infrequent) consumer of The New Yorker.  However, last week I read several notices and received a few emails informing me that The New Yorker had published an article focusing on two of my favorite literary subjects: Michael Chabon and superheroes.

Of course, Michael Chabon wrote the article about superheroes, so that made it all the more enticing.  Before I could read it online, a friend loaned me the magazine.  I don’t know which I found more impressive: the fact he thought enough of me to go out of his way to loan me his copy of The New Yorker, or the fact someone living in Central Illinois subscribed to The New Yorker.

Nonetheless, as I waited to meet my wife at a local restaurant, I finally took the time to read Chabon’s cerebral article titled “Secret Skin: An Essay in Unitard Theory.”

This is an essay about adults’ misunderstanding of superheroes and the significance they have on the imaginations of children.  Or, this essay is about how superheroes’ choice of clothing often reveals the very secrets they go to great pains to hide.  No?  Okay, this article is about the beauty of the human form, and how the greatest superheroes have the simplest costumes and thus reveal humanity’s potential for greatness.  That doesn’t work for you, either, huh?  Let’s try … this article is about the fact that a superhero’s costume can never truly be replicated in real life because it is more than just a unitard, it is the essence of all that hero symbolizes and such ideology cannot be sewn.

All right … I admit it.  I don’t know exactly what this article was about.  I’m not even sure if Chabon knew his “thesis statement.”  He does, however, manage to churn out a fascinating read that, while difficult to follow, brings forth several interesting points about superheroes, their choice of clothing, and the plight of humanity.

Hey, Chabon is a winner of the Pulitzer Prize, his book called The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is a love letter to the world of comic books, and he’s an admitted fan of the genre.  The guy can write whatever he wants however he wants as far as I’m concerned.

I’m glad he chose this topic and I’m glad The New Yorker published it.  Superheroes (in one form or another) have always been a part of the social conscience, and it’s high time everyone admitted to that.  Whether it be Heracles, King Arthur, or Superman, stories of those with great power fighting for others have always been magnetic to mankind.

And who hasn’t wondered about those tights?  Seriously, underwear over leggings?  What’s up with that?

If you’d like to read Chabon’s article, high diction and all, hit the link at:

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/03/10/080310fa_fact_chabon?loc=interstitialskip

the prefex is Back!

After a brief hiatus, the prefex is back!  These guys have a unique sound and I urge you to give them a listen.  I’m fairly uneducated when it comes to music; I don’t really know the difference between melody, tone, pitch, and so on.  But, I do know what I like, and it’s the sound of the prefex.

 Lend them your ear:

http://www.myspace.com/theprefex

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman – A Book Review

Living under the shadow of Sandman and American Gods, Gaiman has difficulty impressing me with other works because those two are so utterly superb. 

Anansi Boys is an unfortunate example of just such a case. 

It tells the story of Fat Charlie, the son of the trickster god Anansi.  Early on in the story his father dies, and Fat Charlie finds himself more relieved than anything.  Fat Charlie’s life continues on with the dull routine most of us suffer, until his long-lost brother appears at his doorstep.  From that moment on, Fat Charlie’s fiancée, job, sanity, and freedom are put in jeopardy.

Anansi Boys begins rather slowly and takes its time establishing the main characters’ traits-perhaps too much time.  However, once the book gets rolling about three-quarters of the way through, it moves very quickly and becomes a bit of a nail-biter.

I wouldn’t consider Anansi Boys one of Gaiman’s must-reads, but it also isn’t something I’d say you should avoid.

A Sketch of Xaphan from Dr. Nekros: Phantasms and Chicanery

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Above is the grand tormentor of Dr. Nekros … the demon Xaphan.  Fourteen years ago this demon slashed Dr. Nekros’ face and literally tried to tear his heart out.  Ever since, Dr. Nekros hasn’t been able to rest due to his obsession with getting revenge against the ghoul. 

Xaphan is mentioned in Dr. Nekros: The Tragedian (Volume I, Episode I), and Dr. Nekros’ ex-wife, Zetta, even sees the monster in a nightmare in Dr. Nekros: Phantasms and Chicanery.

The only question is … when will we see Xaphan again … and what will it mean for Dr. Nekros and Zetta?

The Darjeeling Limited – A Movie Review

Not as eccentric as The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou or as dark as The Royal Tenenbaums, The Darjeeling Limited falls somewhere in-between and is an entity unto itself.  However, make no mistake; this is a Wes Anderson movie through-and-through.  In other words, it’s well-made and very fun to watch.

Owen Wilson plays Francis, the oldest of three siblings who calls his two brothers, Peter and Jack played (respectively played by Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman) to India.  They meet on the train called the Darjeeling Limited with no idea as to Francis’ plans for them.  It turns out they haven’t seen each other in a year, and Francis wants them to reconnect as brothers on a spiritual quest.  However, he also has some other plans for them that he keeps to himself for as long as possible.

Wes Anderson is one of those creators that I prize.  He brings a unique vision to his projects that I both revere and respect, no matter what the subject matter or presentation.  The Darjeeling Limited was equal parts funny and dramatic, but it was never laugh-out-loud, nor did it bring a tear to your eye.  At times, though, it had you on the verge of both.

Furthermore, it delved into the relationships between brothers and delivered dialogue and ridiculous situations that, while certainly “Anderson” in nature, were still relatable to anyone with a brother.

The quiet interpretations of such outrageous characters by Wilson, Brody, and Schwartzman made me love them and, at times, detest them.  Really, though, isn’t that what real life is like with people? 

I’d like to say that Schwartzman is always wonderful, Owen presented himself as the actor I wish he always was, and Brody was a fine addition to the Anderson universe.  We’ve seen Schwartzman and Wilson with Anderson before, so I knew they’d knock it out of the park with his direction, but Brody was a pleasant surprise.  He played both the most grounded and troubled of the brothers, and that’s saying something.  There were also some special appearances by Anderson’s favorites that I won’t spoil for you.

A pleasant surprise on the DVD was the inclusion of the short film, Hotel Chevalier.  Roughly ten minutes, it serves as a prequel of sorts to The Darjeeling Limited and fleshes out some of Jason Schwartzman’s character and that of his ex-girlfriend played by Natalie Portman.  It’s not totally necessary to understand The Darjeeling Limited, but it does help the film make a bit more sense in terms of some references.

If you didn’t enjoy any of Wes Anderson’s previous films, there’s no reason to believe you’d like one set in India, primarily on a train, exploring the complex relationship of dysfunctional brothers.  However, while I still consider The Royal Tenenbaums my favorite of his work, The Darjeeling Limited was very cleverly made with delightfully peculiar characters.