Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sin City

Sin City
first seen @ Pavillion Park Slope, Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY

When Sin City came out I was working in a comic book store. It was both the best job I've ever had and the worst. The best in that I've loved comics most of my life, and I saw this as an opportunity to not only meet more fans like me, but to shill for them to an audience slowly re-discovering the medium. The worst in that my boss was, to put it bluntly, not a good guy. There's a reason why the comic shop owner character on The Simpsons has struck a chord with so many fans - he's not very far removed from reality. My boss wasn't as snobbish when it came to comics trivia and lore, but he did exhibit a similar level of disdain and indifference to many of his customers.

I did my best to try to improve the atmosphere of the place. I recommended buying popular titles that weren't corporate superhero comics. I created a "staff suggestions" shelf. I rearranged the order of the new releases on the shelves to make it easier for the customers to find what they want. I held contests. I booked local artists for in-store signings and promoted them around the neighborhood with money out of my own pocket. All of this was done singlehandedly, and while my boss consented to it, I never felt I had his support. He was content to push the toys and gaming cards - the bigger moneymakers - and do nothing towards bringing in new customers or even making the store more inviting for non-fans. You can imagine how that would make someone like me - as big a cheerleader for comics as you'd find anywhere - feel.

For all its inroads into the mainstream through works in other genres, the comics industry continues to be dominated by a single one - superheroes. Imagine if 90% of the movies Hollywood pumps out every week were romantic comedies: some of them genuinely entertaining and even artistic, but most of them rehashes of the same old thing. Imagine if moviegoers consumed them voraciously to the extent of everything else; filmmakers like Nora Ephron and Nancy Meyers dictated the look and feel of American movies by example; and actors like Katherine Heigl and Paul Rudd were A-level superstars, while the Scorseses and Eastwoods and Bigelows had to struggle to get their work noticed simply because they choose not to make romantic comedies all the time - or at all. That's what the comics industry is like - and it has shown absolutely no signs of changing.

I saw Sin City after work at the Pavillion in Brooklyn's Park Slope. This theater gets a bad rap from the locals for a number of reasons, and yeah, while the seats are threadbare and the sound isn't always perfect, it's not the worst theater I've ever been to. The last movie I saw there was Precious, last year, and the theater wasn't unpleasant. Then again, I don't live in Park Slope, so maybe I'm not the best one to judge. It's the only theater in the otherwise delightful neighborhood, unless you wanna walk all the way over to Carroll Gardens or downtown Brooklyn, so I could see how locals who have been going there for years might be much more critical.

I never liked the idea of recreating the Sin City graphic novels to near-perfection in the movie. It's one thing to hear author Frank Miller's purple prose in your head as you're reading it, another altogether to hear it spoken aloud by Bruce Willis and Clive Owen. And shooting everything in front of a green screen made the movie look artificial and synthetic in a way that I found off-putting. Afterwards I wrote a "review" of the movie if it had been made in 1952. I cast Robert Mitchum in the Mickey Roarke role and Lauren Bacall in the Jamie King role. I still like my version better.

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