Monday, May 31, 2010

Casting Call: Rosemary's Baby

[Note: This was composed for a recurring Wonderchroma column entitled Casting Call, in which the film adaptations (or remakes) of various classic properties are envisioned.]

Rosemary's Baby is one of the classics of horror, a masterpiece of mounting dread. Adapted from the novel by Ira Levin, the film tells the story of Rosemary and Guy, a pair of young newlyweds who move into Manhattan's stately Bramford building (based upon the notorious Dakota), which happens to be populated by a coven of witches. Without Rosemary's knowledge, Guy cuts a deal with the coven to saddle his wife with the spawn of Satan in exchange for career advancement. By the time Rosemary realizes that something is wrong, it is already too late—everyone she knows has conspired to make sure her unholy child is delivered.

Helmed by the incomparable Roman Polanski, Rosemary's Baby is a textbook exercise in suspense and paranoia, one of the most timeless and seminal works of the genre. As such, it is the perfect fodder for some studio hack (read: Satan) to option (read: violate) as a remake (read: Antichrist). Let us hope that said desecrators at least pack the film with genuine talent, lest their bastard product be a complete abomination.

Director (Roman Polanski): David Cronenberg

Cronenberg is a master at capturing the suffocating effects of our reliance on technology, as well as the paranoia that results from urban living. His entire career has been an extended study of the devastation that modern science has wrought upon the human frame, a theme which dovetails perfectly into Rosemary's Baby, the ultimate reproductive nightmare.

Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow): Amy Adams

Rosemary is a pure spirit, a classic ingénue with whom the audience can empathize immediately. Her character requires an actress with a wholesome demeanor and a sense of vulnerability. Amy Adams, whose recent turns in Junebug and Doubt have established her as one of the most promising new talents in Hollywood, would be perfect.

Guy Woodhouse (John Cassavetes): Javier Bardem

Guy is the embodiment of the pre-Feminism male, a man who is inured to the subjugation of women for his own benefit. Yet he maintains a presiding love for Rosemary, and although he proves susceptible to the wiles of the Castavets, he remains only a begrudging accomplice to their plans. Javier Bardem has demonstrated his capabilities as both a sensitive leading man in The Sea Inside and a terrifying psychopath in No Country for Old Men; this dramatic range, bolstered by his dark and mysterious good looks, would afford the compassion necessary to temper his character's shady actions.

Minnie Castevet (Ruth Gordon): Pat Crawford Brown

As the headmistress of the coven, Minnie is the prototypical nosy neighbor, investing herself into every decision regarding Rosemary's pregnancy. Pat Crawford Brown has made a career out of playing kindly old ladies, most notably on television series such as General Hospital and Desperate Housewives, and her genteel persona would lend itself beautifully to the sinister duplicity of this role.

Roman Castevet (Sidney Blackmer): Peter O'Toole

A stately old man with a grandfatherly air, Roman is the mannerly yin to Minnie's boisterous yang. Peter O'Toole, with his piercing blue eyes and impeccable class, would be ideal as the cool-headed spokesman for Minnie's schemes.

Edward 'Hutch' Hutchins (Maurice Evans): Bob Newhart

Rosemary's former landlord serves as her father figure and confidant, and is the first person outside of the Bramford to figure out what is going on. The character of Hutch requires an actor with affability and tenacity, someone to whom the audience could understand Rosemary's inclination to turn for guidance. Bob Newhart, with his immense likability and beleaguered disposition, would be a delight.

Dr. Abraham Sapirstein (Ralph Bellamy): Edward Herrmann

Sapirstein may well be the most devious character in the film, as it is he who exploits Rosemary's faith in authority to enable the Castavets to carry out their plot. To deliver the proper aura of paternalism, you would need someone with a commanding presence. Edward Herrmann, who so expertly utilized this capacity in The Lost Boys and The Cat's Meow, would be the best possible choice.

Terry Gionoffrio (Victoria Vetri): Natasha Gregson Wagner

As the daughter of Natalie Wood, the legendary starlet whose death by drowning remains shrouded in mystery, Natasha Gregson Wagner already carries some foreboding baggage. She would be ideal for the role of Terry, the gorgeous and headstrong recovering heroin addict who is considered for the role of Satan's surrogate baby mama before Rosemary comes along. Unfortunately, Gregson Wagner's screen time would be limited due to the early death of her character, but her staggering beauty would more than compensate for her transience.

You know what? After meticulously compiling the perfect cast and director for this project, I'm actually looking forward to seeing it. Anybody wanna pony up $50 million?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Get a Rope.

I am fascinated by those instances in which the thin façade that covers the throbbing, ever-present American mob mentality suffers a temporary breach. Much has been made lately of the growing chorus of outrage regarding the bailouts and the health care reform bill, but that vitriol is largely confined to a small contingent of loutish, inexplicably disaffected rich white men. No, your prime entertainment value ("entertainment" in the public lynching sense) comes from smaller human interest stories, primarily those regarding racial issues or child endangerment. has become notorious among my circle of friends for its comments page, which routinely exposes the unabashed racism and reactionism that typify much of the Post-Dispatch readership (i.e., those who live in the county and the sticks). Alas, throw enough tinder into the national pit, and you can warm yourself on an even bigger pyre, one which burns intensely, if only momentarily. (Give it up for that other classic American trait, zero short term memory.) recently covered a story about a four-year-old boy who was beaten to death for having wet his pants. The alleged perpetrator was the child's new rent-a-father-figure, who had been living with the boy's mother for about six months. Beating and/or killing children fulfills the societal need for emotional absolutes, in the same way that Hitler and 9/11 provide an easy knee-jerk reference to pure evil. People who would otherwise keep a tight lid on their anger feel safe to express themselves under such circumstances, knowing that they can vent their innermost rage without fear of recompense. Factor in total anonymity and a public forum, and you've got a perfect incubator for hysteria.

The comments page on the CNN article jumped off immediately with calls for extreme violence against the defendant, including castration and prison rape. As generally happens, the hostility fed upon itself, increasing at the same rate as the deterioration of grammar and spelling. Sample comment (verbatim):

I wish I was present in this situation I will beat this bastard to a pulp and have my dogs drill is ass , and I will take is teeth’s with an hammer and dose acid over before put a bullet on him
Like (2)

Sensing a raw nerve, I decided to push it.

Articles like this are great because their comments pages consistently expose the mob mentality.
Like (6)

What do you suggest we do? Provide him with some therapy? Kids are OF LIMITS!
Like (3)

Mob mentality? are you nut ? are you from San Francisco? is call People justice You moron!!!

or maybe we should give him a cookie and pat him on the back?
Like (4)

JoyGrenade is right. For days I have read Americans spewing hatred at each other over idiotic and petty political disagreements. Now, everyone has a common enemy to spew their hatred toward, but what is most revealing is the level of aggression that is ever present in people in this country. Everyone is on simmer, ready to boil over. For "the greatest country in the world" people are sure angry and vitriolic.
You liked this (3)

CeNsoriNg, what the hell are you talking about? Have you read the article? What do you expect people to do? Laugh and give high fives? If you don't get upset after reading something like this, you might have a problem.
Like (2)

JoyGrenade and CeNsoriNg you two are complete brainwashed drones, devoid of any emotions. You obviously didn't read this article...
Like (3)

No, I did read the article. I believe he should be tried and convicted and sent to prison. I do not feel the same inclination as you to fantasize about him being gang raped, strung up by his balls, tortured, killed slowly, had things rammed up his ass etc etc....I think the crime was horrible, and truly tragic and sad, and that is what I feel - sad. The world is an ugly place, and people do ugly things, and I don't think doing more ugly things stops ugly things from happening.
Like (1)

then next time you decide to comment you may want to at least acknowledge the brutal heinousness of this crime before you lambaste 99 percent of contributors to this forum with a stupid comment about mob mentality.
Like (2)

This is far too easy.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Why I hate the manga kids.

April 5, 2007

At my Borders store, I am in charge of keeping order in the Genre section, which consists of mystery, horror, science fiction, Western, romance, graphic novels, and manga. Every morning, I arrive at work to begin shelving the inventory we received the day before. Without exception, manga is a complete mess. This is because the store is plagued by what my coworkers and I refer to as:
man · ga kids (mahng-guh kids)

-noun (pl.)

1. Japanese-pop-culture geeks, age 7 to 40. [See also: otaku.]

2. Socially inept individuals who infest the narrow aisles containing manga.

3. Obnoxious emo kids whose headphones make them oblivious to everyone around them as they park themselves in the space where I'm trying to goddamn work.

These unsavory specimens generally appear between 10 and 11 a.m., although the less sleep-reliant among them enter the café between 7 and 9 and wait for the store to open. They then take up residence on the floor between the racks, curling up with their quarry and absorbing it for free. Once they've had their fix, they proceed to stuff the spent manga on top of whichever shelf happens to be closest. This is where I find it in the morning, and that's why I always shelve manga first.

My friends at work and I love to rip on the manga kids. It's one of the few things guaranteed to brighten up an otherwise shitty day. They don't deserve to be treated with respect; they consume product without buying, ignore everyone around them, and view the staff as their own personal cleanup service. I was unwise enough today to begin unloading a new cart in the afternoon, when a twenty-something kid with big glasses filled the entire second row with his bulbous frame. Despite my numerous attempts to shelve around him, he steadfastly refused to budge. This is not atypical—most of his ilk won't move an inch unless forced to. In this way, manga kids are a lot like my cat.

Manga itself is a strange commodity. It is designed to resemble the standard mass-market paperback novel, roughly 7 inches x 5 inches around and usually 200 pages or so. This lends it a slight air of sophistication over its emotionally stunted cousin, the comic book. The artwork of manga can range from the masterful to the banal, depending on the frequency with which a given series is released, but the storylines are almost invariably bizarre. Whereas American graphic novels of the last twenty years have attempted to gain mainstream credibility by mining the same emotionally complex terrain as their text-only brethren, manga seems to have taken the opposite course. At least two titles—Fruits Basket and Man's Best Friend—concern werepeople who change form during moments of physical intimacy. In the latter instance, said wereperson is a stray dog capable of transforming into a strapping young twink when aroused. Absolute Boyfriend details the romantic misadventures of a girl named Riiko and her animatronic lover, Night, who find themselves continuously quagmired in love triangles with other women who want Night to service them as well. It's no wonder so many titles are shrink-wrapped, nor that I usually find shrinkwrap all over the place in the mornings. At least half of the titles feature a parental advisory label, but I wonder about the supposed maturity of these titles' target audiences.

The most annoying aspect of manga is its current stranglehold on American youth culture. This is the reason our manga aisles are congested in the first place: series such as Naruto and Yu-Gi-Oh! are hot shit among the middle-schoolers who hang out at our store in the afternoon. My most memorable encounter with a budding otaku occurred near the end of the holiday season, when a harried young mother approached me with her children in tow and asked me if I knew anything about manga. "My son is always talking about it, but I don't know what it is," she pleaded. I informed her that manga was popular Japanese fiction, and compared it to a novel-sized comic book. At this point, her son, who looked alarmingly similar to me at that age (buzzcut, too-big glasses, grimace), furrowed his brow and sniffed, "They're graphic novels." Thankfully, I was able to suppress the urge to punch him in the face.

Despite the deepest wishes of the staff, our manga kids will not go away. The only option is to learn to deal with them. My friend Christine has posited that we could probably transport them from the section without any resistance; when I suggested that we simply pick them up and move them elsewhere, she said, "They probably wouldn't notice!"

I may just try that tomorrow.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Aiming for the Head of the Zombie Jesus

by Cyrus T. Peabody

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - The body of Jesus the Nazarene, a.k.a. Jesus Christ, was reported missing from its tomb by a guard on duty, Roman authorities report.

“I swear he was dead when we walled him up,” claims the centurion, who asked not to be named. “We cast lots for his clothes. I got his sandals.

“I don’t want to have to give them back,” he added.

Known to his friends as ‘Master’, Christ burst onto the local Messiah scene three years ago with a series of sermons and alleged miracles. Born under mysterious circumstances in Bethlehem in the year 0, Christ first aroused attention during King Herod’s infamous Christmas Baby Massacre, narrowly escaping with his parents to Egypt. He later came to prominence as a child preacher in the Temple of Jerusalem, before disappearing from the radar during puberty and only returning some eighteen years later.

It was here that Christ first won the admiration of the Jewish proletariat and drew the ire of the Pharisees.

“He’s all things to all people,” claims Frank Antonius, who credits Christ with the alleviation of his asthma. “[It] wouldn’t surprise me if he faked his own death. Jim Morrison did.”

Christ first gained a following during his stint as a carpenter, finding appeal among beggars and fishmongers alike with his insightful parables and flamboyant displays of power. Varying sources cite instances of aquatic acrobatics and superhuman food distribution, along with accounts of macular regeneration and the resurrection of the dead.

“Big deal,” sniffs local merchant Ezra Cohen. “My friend Apollonius of Tyana can do that, too.”

Christ’s egalitarian message and subversive ideology resulted in friction with the local authorities. Last Saturday, he was charged with blasphemy after encouraging his followers to harvest grain in spite of the Shabbat. A warrant was summarily issued for his arrest, but almost a full week passed before he was apprehended.

Israeli forces caught up with Christ early Friday in the Garden of Gethsemane, where he was in hiding with his disciples. According to one witness, Christ was singled out by his former apostle Judas Iscariot. (Iscariot could not be reached for comment.)

Following a trial before the Sanhedrin, Christ was presented to a local mob alongside notorious pig thief Barabbas. As per Passover custom, Roman Procurator Pontius Pilate offered to exonerate one of the two men. When the crowd selected Barabbas, Pilate reportedly ceded control of the prisoners and then began compulsively washing his hands.

The rest of the afternoon was devoted to Christ’s scourging and crucifixion, providing an unparalleled spectacle for the crowds who assembled to watch. According to several eyewitnesses, the death of Christ was accompanied by an earthquake of such severity that the great veil in the First Temple was split in half. Temple clergy are holding a bake sale to raise money for repairs.

The disappearance of Christ’s body has given rise to rumors of his resurrection, with several unnamed sources claiming to have encountered him on the road to Galilee. Such a feat seems not to surprise his adherents, who maintain their total devotion.

“I owe him my life,” says Lazarus of Bethany. “Jesus is my homeboy.”

Christ is survived by his mother, Mary, his father, Joseph, and several siblings, who may or may not exist.