The Graphic Report: Zombie Pixies and Frank Black’s New Graphic Novel

Thegoodinn-coverIn a development that would seem highly overdue, the Pixies’ frontman Frank Black wrote (or co-wrote at least) a graphic novel. Called The Good Inn, it’s something of a laundry list of his likes, particularly Surrealism and early French cinema.

My essay on The Good Inn and the Pixies is at Avidly:

Why did Black Francis take this long to write a graphic novel? Sure, he’s been busy of late with reunion tours of both the actual Pixies and their more recent and inexcusably Kim Deal-less zombie incarnation (in that one, audiences must suffer not just listless performances but the travesty of hearing somebody not Kim sing “Gigantic”)…

There’s an excerpt of it over at the A.V. Club.

Writer’s Corner: Instruct or Amuse

Henry James, c.1882 (Library of Congress)

You could do much worse than get writing advice from the late and very great Henry James. Sure, you wouldn’t listen to what the old man had to say (nothing, most likely, on structuring a chase scene). But in almost any other instance, the man who could write both a masterful drawing-room melodrama like The Portrait of a Lady and a cracking good ghost story like The Turn of the Screw deserves to be heeded.

To that end, consider this imprecation from his 1884 essay calling for realism above all in literature, “The Art of Fiction“:

Literature should be either instructive or amusing…

Well put, and curiously succinct for James (well, he does go on).

Also interesting from the same essay is James’ take on “good” literature versus “bad” and how the former will inevitably triumph:

It must be admitted that good novels are somewhat compromised by bad ones, and that the field at large suffers discredit from overcrowding … [The novel] has been vulgarized, like all other kinds of literature, like everything else to-day, and it has proved more than some kinds accessible to vulgarization. But there is as much difference as there ever was between a good novel and a bad one … the good subsists and emits its light and stimulates our desire for perfection.

Now Playing: ‘The Drop’

Tom Hardy, faithful dog, and Noomi Rapace in 'The Drop' (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Tom Hardy, faithful dog, and Noomi Rapace in ‘The Drop’ (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

With a screenplay by Dennis Lehane (Mystic RiverShutter Island), an Oscar-nominated director (Michaël R. Roskam, for Bullhead), and an Oscar-worthy turn by Tom Hardy, The Drop would seem to have plenty of ability to overcome its status as a run-of-the-mill crime drama about a mob-linked bar in Brooklyn. Whether it does or doesn’t is up for debate; the genius of Hardy’s performance shouldn’t be.

The Drop is playing in most markets around the country now. My review is at PopMatters:

The response of your average cineaste, upon hearing the words “In Brooklyn…” in a film’s opening narration, is to look for the nearest exit. What follows is too frequently more mythologizing than storytelling. The borough is transformed from specific place to psychic landscape, full of tribal loyalties and tight bonds, where the begrimed and as-yet ungentrified street scene indicates bootstrapping and self-policing pride. Cops not needed here.

However, if you follow your instincts and bolt at the start of Michael R. Roskam’s sturdy and bleak noir The Drop, you miss Tom Hardy creating a thing of beauty yet again…

You can see the trailer here:

Department of Weekend Reading: September 26, 2014


New in Theaters: ‘Jimi All Is By My Side’

Andre Benjamin in 'Jimi All Is By My Side' (Darko Entertainment)
Andre Benjamin in ‘Jimi All Is By My Side’ (Darko Entertainment)

Outkast’s Andre Benjamin as Jimi Hendrix in a film written and directed by John Ridley (Twelve Years a Slave)? Yes, please. No rights to any original Hendrix songs? Hmmm…

Jimi All Is By My Side is opening Friday in limited release and probably won’t hang around too long. My review is at Film Journal International:

Eventually somebody will make a sprawling, all-inclusive Jimi Hendrix movie with the estate’s full cooperation. The cinematography will be lush, the highs glorious and the lows despairing, past and present will bleed together, and the artist will emerge as a troubled but epochal figure who blazed brightly before burning out. Stars will litter the screen and the Dolby-assisted tidal wave of tunes will bring tears to every baby boomer in the house. That movie will almost definitely be better than the scattered and unsatisfying Jimi: All Is by My Side. But it won’t be as honest an attempt to get at the mystery of the man…

You can see the trailer here:

Reader’s Corner: Run this Bookstore

Wigtown (Shaun Bythell)
Wigtown, book town (Shaun Bythell)

Hey, wanna run a bookstore? If you can get yourself over to Wigtown in beautiful, not-independent Scotland, they’re giving away the chance to learn all the ins and outs of the trade. According to The Bookseller:

The Open Book project will invite interested parties to apply to live in and run a local bookshop, renamed The Open Book, for a period of up to six weeks. Anyone is invited to apply, with preference given to artists, writers, thinkers, and “bibliophiles”. Participants will be given a crash course in bookselling and will be asked to contribute to a blog outlining their experiences, as well as keeping the shop open for a set number of hours a week.

Check it out. Wigtown (it’s Scotland’s National Book Town, don’t you know) is on the western shore, looks remote and positively gorgeous. You’ll get a lot of reading done and perhaps learn why booksellers are both frequently grumpy and at the same time highly content with their lives.

Department of Weekend Reading: September 19, 2014