Evening Special Posting Supreme

*You cannot stop the march of contests! Contests will crush your skull to paste and burn your farm to ash! BeaucoupKevin has the latest: an opportunity to win yourself a copy of Antony Johnston and Brett Weldele’s “Julius” book from Oni, an update of Shakespeare’s tragedy to contemporary London. You must provide, in 35 words or less, your favorite comics moment from 2004. Contest ends on December 30th. Go to it!

*The Comics Journal message board never fails to deliver. Just the other day I wondered why Melinda Gebbie’s face was constantly obscured or hidden in a short story collected in the recent “American Splendor: Our Movie Year” book, and (like magic!) artist Ed Piskor appeared and noted that he (apparently) had no reference material from which to draw. Instant satisfaction on that board, every time!

*Superman v. The Abominable Snowman is going to be the comics event of 2005 (or possibly 2006). Morrison lays out some of his upcoming “All-Star Superman” 12-issue arc here. (Found at about twenty million other blogs and message boards and aren’t you glad you saw it here too yes you are)

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (movie AND comics adaptation)


I’ve not read any of the Daniel Handler (henceforth referred to by his pen-name Lemony Snicket) books from which these works are adapted from, so keep in mind that I have no idea how anything relates back to the source material in terms of tone, fidelity, etc. I first read the comics adaptation, a 38-page color story written by Frank Pittarese with art by Sam Hiti of “End Times (Tiempos Finales)” fame. It’s included (and indeed takes up most of the space) in a publication titled *deep breath* “Nick Mag Presents Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events Official Movie Magazine”. To be honest, Hiti was pretty much the only reason I picked the damn thing up. I was able to follow the plot along well enough, but the story is pretty closely tied to the movie’s script (or at least some version thereof; parts of the climax are slightly different from what is seen in the film) and Hiti is left with little room to employ the visual flourish he displayed in “End Times”. Now I seriously doubt that Nickelodeon was going to let Hiti directly transmogrify Snicket’s books into a 100-page theologically bejeweled fight sequence, but the story here is so closely wed to the film’s own presentation (aside from the silly caption-based narrative with Count Olaf giving ‘his version’ of events) that there’s little for Hiti to do but recreate sequences from the film in generally the same fashion as they appear onscreen; one nice departure arrives with the leech attack scene, in which Hiti employs a swirling cloud of tiny beasties in a more effective manner than the film. Unfortunately, Hiti is still trapped in tiny panels, robbing his art of some of its impact. Hiti also draws the Orphans’ faces in a curious way; they constantly appear to be gently smirking or grinning, no matter what sort of awful catastrophes they happen to be facing. One is left with the feeling that a better work could very well come of this, but not under the constraints imposed.

There’s also quite a loss of plot detail, some of it fairly important, although this doesn’t quite come out until you see the film itself, which I did just the other day as part of a delightful Holiday Family Togetherness Outing, since nothing says togetherness than sitting in the dark and staring at the screen for prolonged periods of time. I’m still not completely sure what to think of the film; it’s the sort of movie that doesn’t really fall behind in a lot of areas, but still leaves you unfulfilled. Jim Carrey is instantly the most prominent area of trouble. Count Olaf is the sort of character that seems to play to Carrey’s strengths as a performer, given the character’s overtly theatrical nature, with that vital core of darkness. But Carrey (as he does in so many roles) simply throttles the character into something that vaguely reminds the viewer of, well, every other character Carrey has ever played, particularly the mean ones, although the lethal Count is a bit meaner than most (Michel Gondry deserves a medal for managing to get Carrey to avoid 99% of his traditional tics and routines in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”). And it’s not that Carrey being Carrey is necessarily bad for a role, it’s just pretty bad for this role, which really could have used a slightly subtler touch. Carrey simply dominates to distraction.

Yes, distractions. The film looks decent, although it indulges in an awful lot of the Tim Burton circa “Beetlejuice” style production design that somebody at some point in the past must have enshrined as the uniform Big Studio look of dark whimsy. There’s at least a dozen Cute Baby reaction shots of the youngest Orphan, complete with subtitles for what her gurgles and coos are ‘saying’. The ending is positively ruthless in its efforts to jerk those tears, although events are left in a nicely uncertain position. The spirit of the film, however, proclaiming that long-suffering and oft ignored children can survive the hate and/or ignorance of world through intelligence and friendship is a sweet one. I liked the framing sequence shadow play cum narration of Jude Law as author Lemony Snicket, tapping out in his books in a large abandoned clock tower (after I write my best-selling series of children's book I'm going to demand to be played by a rambunctious animated puppy with the voice of a Casio keyboard in the film version). The intentionally jerky stop-motion animated opening was gorgeous. I understand that there’s a lot of books in the series, so it’s fine that the spyglass society subplot is left semi-unresolved (the movie also infers that Snicket himself is a member of the society, or that he’s possibly the male orphan as an adult; I’m guessing this is also part of the books). Given the episodic nature of the storytelling (it’s based on no less than three of Snicket’s books), the film holds together fairly impressively as a single unit.

It’s just that the distractions serve to mute enough of the film’s impact that I was left kind of uncertain. It wasn’t a bad film, just mildly underwhelming. Much in the way that the comics adaptation seems like a better comic unable to break free, one can almost glimpse through the curtains of unexplored option to see a much more interesting film unspooling inside.