The Wicked Dreams of Paula Schultz Frank Miller

Although expertly plotted and paced, the original "Sin City" graphic novels never told the most original stories, but instead happily existed in a world of spiced-up homage. The plots were fun and twisty, if thin, but the dialogue often seemed pointedly campy -- the running joke being that everything in "Sin City" was an exaggerated version of old-school hardboiled crime/noir novels and movies.

The stories worked best when a sense of reality seeped in, most notably in the earliest storylines featuring Marv. Frank Miller later got carried away, allowing more fanciful and fetishistic superhero-type characters (ninja hookers, bright-yellow bad guys) to overtake the simulated veracity of his noir world.



But telling wholly original tales was never the point of "Sin City." Instead, Miller seemed to be looking for a strong vehicle to showcase the breathtaking new black-and-white drawing style he'd developed. His relief work -- pitch-black backgrounds splashed and splattered with abstract white patterns that upon closer inspection coalesce into recognizable characters momentarily suspended in time -- is especially stunning.

The stories in "Sin City" are thrilling enough, however, to inspire a number of movies or a serialized TV show. A subtle writer and a director with realistic-tendencies could have developed the plots and characters into fully realized forms onscreen, while the escapist plots and snarky dialogue would surely have pleased a large audience.

Robert Rodriguez is not a man of subtlety or realism, but he showed great courage and a lack of ego in allowing Frank Miller the opportunity to write and direct alongside him. With that in mind, one cannot deny the brilliance with which Miller and Rodriguez played up their strengths in adapting "Sin City" into a feature film.



Re-creating the ineffable "Sin City" artwork is impossible, but the close visual approximation that Rodriguez was able to maintain through cinemagraphic and FX acumen is astounding. Regrettably, "Sin City" the movie also serves to highlight all the weaknesses and flaws found in the often two-dimensional, sometimes cheesy (but always sinfully lovable) "Sin City" comic books, but it's successful attempt at being absolutely true to its source material is a triumph.

Yes, a more mature and nuanced filmmaker-writer team might have created a better film from the "Sin City" comics (but perhaps nothing as visually and pedantically loyal to its source); and one can certainly argue that movies should aspire to be more than adaptations of comic books or regurgitations of old crime/detective/noir story ideas (or revamps of old movies, foreign movies, and expired TV shows, for that matter); and comic-book purists such as Alan Moore would say that stories told as sequential art should stay in print and not be abused as movie fodder.

And Rodriguez -- a brilliant cinematographer (even when shooting DV) and an expert at creating fast-paced adventure -- has a tone-deaf writing style and a lackluster ability for pulling believable performances from actors. "Once Upon a Time in Mexico" suffered from the same flaws and highlights as "Sin City": flashes of brilliance and eccentricity and excitement tempered absurdity, plot holes, and groan-worthy camp; extreme violence with no emotional heft or impact; daring experimentation undercut by a complete ridiculousness.

Then again, no other filmmaker alive today is as capable of consistently and regularly bringing their entirely realized and uncompromised cinematic vision to the screen, reaching a large audience, and making money while not bowing to studio pressure, union pressure, or a politically conservative society. And no other filmmaker is making films that look or feel like Rodriguez’s films. He is an iconoclast, and in this day and age of constant remakes and sequels and church-marketed, product-tested, megaconglomerate cinema, that has to be appreciated and applauded -- even if his films do fall far short of perfection, even if they do too often immerse themselves in a juvenile mentality, even if they aren’t everything we hope for from the new vanguard of Hollywood.



Plus, as a longtime reader of “Sin City,” I can’t help but marvel at the perfection of the film’s casting—I’d long dreamed of bringing Mickey Rourke back from the depths and casting him as Marv in a “Sin City” film, so Rodriguez read my mind in that regard. And it was nice to see that Rodriguez didn’t shy away from violence and nudity, happily accepting an R rating despite the studios’ current loathing of anything that will keep kids from being able to buy tickets. With “Sin City,” Rodriguez shows Hollywood that audiences will still queue up for a bit of T&A and blood, just like in the good ol’ days of Roger Corman and Adrian Lyne. Perhaps this will open a door for better films from other filmmakers that have found themselves trapped in studio-mandated PG13 hell.

My only complaint with the T&A in “Sin City” is Jessica Alba being cast to play a stripper even though she doesn’t do nude scenes. Like lovely Natalie Portman in Mike Nichols’ “Closer” and Salma Hayek in Rodriguez’s “From Dusk Till Dawn,” Alba gives strippers everywhere a bad name with her chaste and clothed portrayal an exotic dancer. Having a no-nudity clause is respectable, and having a nude-free movie is fine, but don’t play a stripper if you refuse to show the goods, I say.

All in all, “Sin City” functions incredibly well for what it is, but until Rodriguez begins working with a more grounded writer, pays more attention to the performances of his actors, and tones down the theatrics just a tad, he’ll never become the Sam Peckinpah he has the potential to be.

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Frank Miller’s Greatest Hits: “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns” (and the rest of Miller’s Batman work), the Martha Washington sci-fi series (starting with “Give Me Liberty,” drawn by Dave “Watchmen” Gibbons), “Ronin” (one of my personal favorites), “300” (a historical epic), various Daredevil and Elektra tales, and “Hard Boiled” and “Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot” (both with art by the incomparable Geoff Darrow). For more, visit The Complete Works of Frank Miller.

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If you liked "Sin City," don't miss maestro David Cronenberg's celluloid adaptation of the lesser-known graphic novel "A History of Violence." (The comic was written by John Wagner and drawn by Vince Locke.)

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Sinful Art: Not at all safe for work, but a pretty funny and damn near mesmerizing look at what's underneath it all .... Scroll over the ladies to see the goods and click on the figures to see their back sides ... This is naked art, people, not porn -- Mise à nu (2005, Reynald Drouhin). From those fine folks at Incident.net.

Founding Fathers' Formulations Faked to Further Church in State -- Find Out Far More Below, Folks!

An intelligent and politically conservative acquaintance of mine mass-emailed the following to everyone he could think of:

“James Madison, the fourth president, known as ‘The Father of Our Constitution’ made the following statement: ‘We have staked the whole of all our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government, upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.’”

The above quote isn’t very shocking—politicians have evoked the Bible for centuries, and the Founding Fathers of the young U.S. of A. were as likely as anyone to drop the word God into a conversation, axiom, or pronouncement. After all, the Western culture of that time period was even more totally entrenched in Judeo-Christian beliefs than it is today, and there was little concern for being politically correct toward religious cultures that barely existed within the geographic, social, or political sphere of Americans or Europeans. And many of the founders of America were deeply religious men.

However, it’s important to take a historic perspective on such statements. One has to ask, Would James Madison or any of the Founding Fathers make such overt references to the Ten Commandments and Judeo-Christian beliefs as being cornerstones of our government if they lived the more diversified and global culture of the 21st Century? And also, did James Madison mean to imply that the United States of America is a wholly Christian nation, as my politically conservative, mass-email loving friend seemed to be hinting? And if so, how much importance should we stake on the single statement of one man who lived a couple hundred years ago?

If we see the Founding Fathers as sacred, then can we honestly cherry pick only a handful of these men to steal quotations from? And even if we only concentrate our efforts on Madison, we can’t ignore the direct responses Madison’s views received from such fellow Founding Fathers as President Thomas Jefferson or the great American thinker Benjamin Franklin. Call me old-fashioned, but I do believe that the words of the Founding Fathers are important.

Their views and ideas were instrumental in forming the U.S. and keeping it strong well after their own lives had worn away, and, tangentially, shaping the entire world we live in today. But winning the argument that Christianity is an integral part of the U.S. Constitution, U.S. courts, U.S. schools, and so on needs more than a single quote from a single man. Especially when that quote is a lie.

Yes, that’s right. This Ten Commandment quote—which rightly or wrongly could be interpreted as implying that Judeo-Christian religious law is the basis of the U.S. Constitution and political system—is nothing more than a widely circulated piece of right-wing revisionist history. An archconservative propaganda advertising-campaign turned Internet “fact” turned endlessly forwarded email.

It’s quite a controversial quote, in point of fact: It’s been printed in hundreds of places but its true origin is unknown. According to some reports it’s a complete fabrication, although a few experts believe that the statement may simply be attributed to the wrong person, or perhaps the words were misinterpreted, although the correct version and/or attribution for the quote has not been found as far as my research has been able to uncover.

The following expos√© excerpts are from a left-leaning website, so conservatives will certainly find bias afoot when the article partially blames Pat Robertson knowingly spread this false quotation amongst the populace. However, the verified and genuine Madison quotes below are edifying and undeniable. If you want to swear by the Founding Fathers, then you’d do well to first learn their true words. (And remember, compared to Jefferson and Franklin, Madison was often seen as being a right-wing chap—but these quotes show that even a conservative, religious man like Madison could make many modern-day neoconservatives seem like madmen).


National Magazine Ad For TV Preacher's Graduate School Recruits Donations With Bogus James Madison.

... The inaccurate Madison Ten Commandments quote was circulated among the Religious Right chiefly by David Barton, a Texas man who peddles a revisionist history arguing that the United States was founded as a ‘Christian nation.’ In 1996, Barton admitted that the quote is bogus and recommended that people stop using it.

In 1993, the curators of the Madison Papers at the University of Virginia were asked if they could verify the quote. They replied that they could not. Wrote Curators John Stagg and David Mattern, ‘We did not find anything in our files remotely like the sentiment expressed in the extract you sent us. In addition, the idea is inconsistent with everything we know about Madison's views on religion and government, views which he expressed time and time again in public and in private.’

[Madison] opposed tax funding of religion, publicly funded chaplains in the Congress and the military and even expressed regret for issuing proclamations declaring official days of prayer during his presidency. [Note] that in an 1819 letter to a friend, Madison wrote, ‘[T]he number, the industry and the morality of the Priesthood & the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the Church from the State.’... ”

-- By Americans United for Separation of Church and State.


Madison also said: “The experience of the United States is a happy disproof of the error so long rooted in the unenlightened minds of well-meaning Christians, as well as in the corrupt hearts of persecuting usurpers, that without legal incorporation of religious and civil polity, neither could be supported. A mutual independence is found most friendly to practical Religion, to social harmony, and to political prosperity.”

And he said: “Ye States of America, which retain in your Constitution or Codes, any aberration from the sacred principle of religious liberty, by giving to Caesar what belongs to God, or joining together what God has put asunder, hasten to revise & purify your systems, and make the example of your Country as pure & compleat, in what relates to the freedom of the mind and its allegiance to its maker, as in what belongs to the legitimate objects of political & civil institutions. Strongly guarded as is the separation between Religion & Govt. in the Constitution of the United States the danger of encroachment by Ecclesiastical Bodies, may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history.”

And he said: “Torrents of blood have been spilt in the old world, by vain attempts of the secular arm, to extinguish Religious discord, by proscribing all difference in Religious opinion. Time has at length revealed the true remedy. Every relaxation of narrow and rigorous policy, wherever it has been tried, has been found to assuage the disease.”

More relevant quotes can be found at AU.org's post, "What God Has Put Asunder: James Madison Quotes On Church And State."

Also, I highly recommend the Snopes.com "National Capital" urban legends article, which references the much passed-around (most-likely fake) Madison Ten Commandments quote as well as expertly showing how to spot false info of this nature, including other instances of Ten Commandment and U.S. Law fact-twisting found in a popular chain emails and right-wing propaganda.

And Christian journalist James Watkins' objective, balanced, and entertaining "One Nation Under the Supreme Being of Your Choice" is required reading for Christians, Deists, Unitarians, Agnostics, Atheists, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindoos, et al., with even the slightest interest in the men behind the founding of the United States of America. Watkins takes powerful shots at both "the 'revisionist left' [that] would like to make [the founding fathers] secular and the 'religious right' [that] would like to make them saintly," juxtaposing some startling quotes from Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, Hamilton, and more.

What Makes Brachish Run?

Scattered points of interest slapped down on the page like a fictional hooker slapped down by her pimp...

Yes, it's true—I haven't posted on this blog for a long time (regrettably) and I won’t have time to post much in the near future.

I’ve been too busy with work crap (one day I might have to rant here about how ridiculously low-paying the publishing industry can be, and how outrageous it is that the media world can get away with screwing so many people out of overtime pay), I'm constantly noodling with a screenplay in my spare time, and I’ve been spending inordinate amounts of time losing money by investing what little capital I have in companies like the following: AMRE, DWCH, KNOS, ICMH, NNOS, and WDAM (all of which have serious, exponential growth potential—if they don’t go of out of business first—and are currently available at knock-on-wood “rock-bottom” prices, meaning they’re highly speculative penny stocks and could very well ruin me if they don’t kick it in gear soon. These are mostly cutting-edge technology companies with ideas that caught my eye first, my imagination second, and my wallet last).

I've linked some of my favorite stock-research websites on the sidebar of Celebrity Cola, so have a look if you have a thirst for high-stakes gambling.

Anyway, lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Brendan Benson, New Pornographers, Matisyahu (the Hassidic-convert reggae rapper-singer), the new Gorillaz album (not as catchy as the first album, but a good record nonetheless), and Aussies like The Waifs and Missy Higgins. I’ve also rediscovered the joys of old Missy Elliot, and I finally got a copy of “Without Earth and the Moon” by The Moon and “Resurrection” by the Aerovons (both very good, if not as mind-blowing as I’d hoped considering the high-pedigrees and/or amazing origin stories behind these almost-lost masterworks).


I’ve fallen behind when it comes to seeing current films, but on the comic-book front I finally got around to reading some of the graphic novels collecting the work of Peter Milligan (writer), Mike Allred (primary artist), and Laura Allred (colorist) on the 2000-2004 X-Force/X-Statix run. Others have said it before, but I’ll reiterate: Stupendous art; cynical but emotionally and socially relevant story; unarguably violent, sexy, smart, and funny. This is unlike any X-Men-related comic you’ll ever read, it’s a limited commitment of your time (since it has a clear beginning and end), and it’s just a beautifully done piece all in all. Don’t miss it. Wait till you see what happens to the rambunctious Edie Sawyer/U-Go Girl. You'll cry like a baby. Great news: the X-Statix (aka, X-Statics) are being brought back in small doses with X-Statix Presents: Dead Girl and Mike Allred has a few cool projects in the works, including his groovy issue of DC's Solo (out now!).



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I came across this Warhol-inspired piece of pop art by an artist named Euria, and since it’s related in name and theme (in a way) to this Celebrity Cola blog, I thought I’d share the image here:


Celeb-Cola (pop art by Euria)

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This month’s Shout-Outs go to: Wendy (Tales From the Dorkside and Film Geeks 2.0), Eric Berlin (Dumpster Bust), Sequential Tart, my old pal Susan, and the new Google Blog Search.

And Will Brady recommends CronyJobs.com.

Now please go and visit the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, which notes the important fact that "global warming, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters are a direct effect of the shrinking numbers of Pirates since the 1800s." It's the truth!

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This makes me blush:
"... Several months ago, one of the most talented and creative members of the blogging community had featured Alexa's site in a posting. Lucas Brachish is the pseudonym used by a magazine editor and well-known, published writer, living in New York city...." -- David Harper, SpaceCoastWeb (Sunday, October 9, 2005)

Nice, right? But even better yet, this quote is from another fine and informative SpaceCoastWeb blog article, "A nod to link exchange schemes." Disclosure: I lived in Florida for many, many years, and I love checking out Mr. Harper's SpaceCoastWeb for news on my old state, as well as insightful and literary posts involving everything under the sun of the ol' planet Earth. (For instance, SpaceCoastWeb turned me on to the Eggcorn Database, another site worthy of multiple visits.)