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Daily Reads: Why Comics Don't Always Adapt Well, Gay Bars in the Golden Age of Television and More

Criticwire By Max O'Connell | Criticwire August 25, 2014 at 10:07AM

The personality behind Menahem Golan's empire of trash, R.I.P. Kim's Video and more.
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Carla Gugino and Mickey Rourke in 'Sin City'
Dimension Films Carla Gugino and Mickey Rourke in 'Sin City'
Criticwire's Daily Reads 

brings today's essential news stories and critical pieces to you.

1. Why Great Comics Aren't Always Adaptable. At first glance, comic books seem more easily adaptable to film than novels. Yet there are few great films made from one specific comic issue or story vs. an entire series. The Dissolve's Noel Murray writes that this might be because having to stick directly to the original story and visuals can be suffocating, while deviating turns it into something completely different.

I haven’t seen "Sin City: A Dame To Kill For" (which opens today), but while I find "Sin City" interesting as an experiment, I don’t think it’s all that successful as a film. The "Sin City" movie reminds me a lot of “motion comics”— that bastard form of straight-to-video entertainment that adapts fan-favorite comics storylines by adding limited animation to the original artwork. To me, Miller’s drawings are more dynamic on the page than they have been in live-action, where they’ve been so weighed down with makeup and effects that they barely move. Read more.


2. R.I.P. Kim's Video. For 25 years, Kim's Video was the go-to place to rent off-kilter and niche movies, but on August 25, the last store closes. Bedford and Bowery sought out former employees and customers with stories about the store and its founder, Yongmin Kim, including some who claimed it changed their careers. Here's a comment from Steve Puchalski, a former manager of Kim's and the founder and editor of Shock Magazine.

Mr. Kim found and employed people who really loved films, and he gave them a lot of freedom to make the store into what they really thought it could be. The interview process was very simple. He basically asked if I had any experience working retail, which I had. And then Mr. Kim asked me, “Can you name any Martin Scorsese films?” I started naming everything, including the most obscure films. And he just went, “Ok, you start tomorrow.” He started me at the Second Avenue store as a clerk immediately and just threw me right into the situation. Read more.


3. An Alternate Take on "Dinosaur 13." According to the documentary "Dinosaur 13," Peter Larson was a great paleontologist in a small South Dakotan town whose greatest discovery, the best Tyrannosaurus rex ever found, was taken away by the government. According to Slate's Don Lessem, "it's bullshit." Lessem asserts that Larson is not only not a trained paleontologist, but a man who came by and obtained the dinosaur illegally.

The files were seized as part of an investigation into widespread allegations of international fossil theft and misrepresentation against Larson. Laborious research resulted in convictions of Larson and others at Black Hills for customs fraud, money laundering, and other offenses. But, in Dinosaur 13’s curious reimagination of the legal process, several convictions and a two-year prison sentence for Larson—which was, admittedly, overly harsh—are somehow proof of Larson’s fundamental innocence. 

Read more.

4. "The Apple" After the Fall. The recent death of Menahem Golan brought new attention to his special brand of glorious trash, but Nick Pinkerton of Film Comment writes that there was more than desire for commercial gain in Cannon Films. Pinkerton looks as Golan's bizarre futuristic disco musical "The Apple" (on Netflix, for god's sake please watch it), and how its confused approach to allegory and morality tale says a lot about its director's own personality.

Though "The Apple" lays down its scene in a future America, a glimpse of West Berlin’s "Fernsehturm" (TV tower) betrays the actual location—I believe it may take place in the same “universe” as 1982’s R.W. Fassbinder-starring technothriller "Kamikaze 1989." Golan, born in Israel in 1929, was a proud Jew who changed his surname as a patriotic tribute to the Heights, and would have been more than a little aware of the recent historical legacy of Germany, which looms over the film. “Do the BIM!” is adopted as the official theme of the country’s “National Fitness Program,” which requires the citizenry to engage in a mandatory daily hour of Jazzercise, an edict which smacks of official "Körperkultur." In one scene, Margolyes’s stock-Jewish landlady (“You kids today, you’re so meshuga…”) is stopped in the street because she isn’t wearing her “obligatory BIM mark”—it’s a stick-on holographic triangle, but one has a funny feeling that Golan is evoking the "Judenstern" yellow badge. Read more.


5. Gay Bars in the Golden Age of Television. The much ballyhooed Golden Age of Television has its archetypes in antiheroes and put-upon wives, but The Washington Post's Alyssa Rosenberg found another: gay bars. Most might remember Vito Spatafore's storyline in "The Sopranos," but Rosenberg looked at how "Friday Night Lights" and "The Wire" dealt with this material, not always deftly.

“The Wire” does not reconcile Rawls as a gay man, Rawls as a married man (we see pictures of him with his family on his desk) and Rawls as a brutally ambitious man. I have mixed feelings about this decision. “The Wire” has other issues and plots to resolve, and there is something honest about leaving Rawls a man divided. But as with “Friday Night Lights,” I am left curious about both Stan and Rawls, and about navigating both Texas football and the Baltimore Police Department as closeted gay men. Read more.


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