SO IS IT LIKE MATTER-EATER LAD? In the category of reader’s digest, we bring you "The Big Skinny: How I Changed My Fattitude," which may be the first "memoir-as-self-help-book-as-graphic-novel," presenting a true challenge to the shelfing system over at Barnes & Noble. The book is the handiwork of Carol Lay, the cartoonist behind the weekly strip WayLay, and she talked recently to Michael C. Lorah about living large: "’I was obese when I was 19, reaching 206 pounds before my mom sent me to a doctor who put me on diet pills. I shed 40 pounds pretty quickly, but then I was addicted to speed for a few years. Over the next 28 years or so I yoyo-ed between 140 and 160, but I was often at the larger size. And I was unhappy. Not because I was fat; I was fat because I was unhappy, but the two states feed on each other. One day I looked at a photo of myself and made a decision to change. At the same time I started taking a good look at myself so I could root out the underlying causes of my self-defeating behavior. This part was necessary for me to finally make a whole-body change. I needed to understand where I’d been in order to see what wasn’t working for me any longer. This is what I put in the book that makes it different. I tell my story, a personal journey –- sometimes funny, sometimes kind of sad, but always honest –- as it relates to changing this aspect of my life. And the graphic aspect of this book really makes it stand out. The information is accessible, immediate and entertaining. The color is gorgeous –- I’m very happy with how it turned out.’" [Newsarama]
TALKING "TORSO": Filmmaker David Fincher was talking to MTV about "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (a film, by the way, that now has a grim footnote after a shooting in Philly) and the topic turned to "Ness," his planned (and retitled) adaptation of "Torso," a true-crime tale that sits on my "favorite graphic novels" shelf. The director of "Fight Club" and "Zodiac" said nothing to dissuade rumors that Matt Damon and Casey Affleck are likely cast members and he talked a bit about the allure of the Eliot Ness story: "'[Ness is] kind of the self-righteous, American do-gooder,’ Fincher told MTV. ‘He was an interesting and extremely flawed guy who had a lot of problems. He did a lot of destructive things in the name of cleaning up the streets.’ Fincher said it was the ‘flawed’ heroism of Eliot Ness that attracted him to the story in ‘Torso,’ which was initially published in 1998 by Image Comics. The graphic novel chronicles Ness’ experiences after rising to fame as the leader of Chicago’s Prohibition-era law enforcers ‘The Untouchables,’ and his decision to leave Chicago for a position as Cleveland’s Safety Director — only to have an investigation of the notorious ‘Torso Murderer’ complicate his life and career. ‘Not to take anything away from [Ness] — he wasn’t an evil guy at all — but at one point in his career he burned to the ground a shanty town in Cleveland,” said Fincher. ‘This was three or four years after the Untouchables. He was just like 27 when The Untouchables happened. He was really young.’ ‘He sort of fashioned himself as a J. Edgar Hoover,’ added Fincher. ‘The bureau’s image of Ness and how he stole some of their limelight is in there.’" [MTV]
FACES TO WATCH 2009: This past Sunday’s Los Angeles Times Calendar section had a feature on "Faces to Watch for 2009" in film, music and the Web, and I wrote two of the entries; one is Chris Pine, who I am officially predicting will do great things as the new Capt. James T. Kirk (a forecast based entirely on the 30 minutes’ worth of footage I’ve seen from the J.J. Abrams revival of "Star Trek"), and the other is Malin Akerman from "Watchmen," who pretty much makes me dizzy when she does that whole curvy crimefighting thing. Also check what my colleague John Horn wrote about Sam Worthington, who poised for a huge 2009 with "Terminator Salvation" and will also star in the upcoming "Avatar," and a longer (and great) article that Hero Complex contributor Denise Martin wrote about Tahmoh Penikett, who is going from "Battlestar Galactica" to "Dollhouse." [Los Angeles Times]…ALSO: Speaking of "Star Trek" and "Watchmen," previews for those films finished atop Cinematical’s list of the seven best trailers for 2008.
SHATNER TALKS … AND TALKS … AND TALKS: Writer Nancy Franklin has a fun appraisal of the new talk show hosted by William Shatner, although she doesn’t mention how thrilling it would be if Chris Pine were to be announced as one of the upcoming guests. Here’s what Franklin did write: "William Shatner is, forty years after the end of the original ‘Star Trek,’ a ham that has got only more delicious with time. As much of him as there is out there — Priceline ads, the ABC series ‘Boston Legal’ (which just finished its run last week), the public squawking about whether or not he was invited to George Takei’s wedding or how he felt about being left out of the new ‘Star Trek’ movie — is there ever enough? I think not. His half-hour interview show, ‘Shatner’s Raw Nerve,’ on the BIO channel (an offshoot of A&E), could bring on Shatner fatigue, though, thanks to a guest list that is rigorously uncompelling, daring you not to yawn. Some of his guests this season are Tim Allen, Valerie Bertinelli, Kelsey Grammer, Judge Judy, Jenna Jameson, and Jimmy Kimmel. But, as it happens, Shatner’s intense weirdness makes things compelling. In the first two episodes, he elicits some thoughtful comments from Allen on death and on screwing up his life, and he attempts to have a worthwhile exchange with Bertinelli on the subject of sin. Unsurprisingly, beneath Shatner’s persona of an egotist glorying in and making fun of his own egotism — and please, Bill, don’t ever change — is a very engaging oddball." [The New Yorker]…ALSO: To see some footage from "William Shatner’s Raw Nerve" go to bottom of this post. Also you can read my odd interview with Shatner at a Starbucks on Ventura Boulevard right here.
KEANU STIFF, WRITER SURPRISED: The remake of "The Day the Earth Stood Still" hit theaters way back on Dec. 12, so it was a bit odd to see it as the subject of an Editorial Notebook piece in today’s New York Times opinions section. More surprising, though, is that its author, Brent Staples, is unaware that actor Keanu Reeves is actually a mannequin. Staples compares the new film to the original and found that the new "Stood Still" left him unmoved: "The minimalist — and altogether cool — effects in the 1951 film leave lots of room for the performers. Michael Rennie is aces as Klaatu, the brainy, handsome and thoroughly polite alien who threatens to eliminate every creature on the planet — kittens, puppies and cute little babies included — if earthlings become a danger to the galaxy. Watching the movie as a middle-aged man, I saw what I lacked eyes to see as a 12-year-old. There is no shred of sentimentality in Rennie’s performance. He is a congenial exterminating angel, dropping round for tea to tell of horrors to come. Rennie’s Klaatu is God-fearing, emotionally sophisticated, superior to but indistinguishable from the earthlings among whom he walks. That’s an open-minded characterization at the start of a decade dominated by red-baiting and fear of outlanders in general. Keanu Reeves’s Klaatu is numbingly monotonic. He is emotionally underdeveloped, and suffers from a robotic flatness of affect. Instead, the scriptwriters gave him powers that are predictably demonstrated through pricey special effects that do not sustain dramatic momentum. With all this digital sleight of hand, the performers are reduced to the equivalent of bystanders at a fireworks show." [New York Times]
TAPE EJECT: It’s not really a fanboy story (although it does mention Superman), but I had a big front-page story in the L.A. Times this past week on the final pop-culture death of the VHS tape and if you’re curious you can find it right here.
ON THIS DATE: Today is the 32nd birthday of Danny McBride, who blew it up real good in "Tropic Thunder" and will be running from dinosaurs this summer in the remake of the Krofft Bros classic "Land of the Lost." Today is also the 36th birthday of Jude Law, whose filography includes a surprising number of sci-fi films with "Artificial Intelligence:AI," "eXistenZ," "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" and "Gattaca." Next, Law will be starring as Dr. Watson opposite title-role star Robert Downey Jr. in Guy Ritchie’s "Sherlock Holmes," so to celebrate let’s try to keep everything elementary today.
Now those "William Shatner’s Raw Nerve" clips. This one with Tim Allen:
And this one with Valerie Bertinelli:
Hmm. I’m not sure I find this show nearly as compelling as Nancy Franklin did. What do you think?
– Geoff Boucher
Photo credits: Brian Michael Bendis art from "Torso" courtesy of Image Comics. Chris Pine photo by Matt Sayles/Associated Press. 2007 photograph of William Shatner by David Sprague for the Los Angeles Times. "Watchmen" photo courtesy of Warner Bros, "A.I" image courtesy of Warner Bros\Dreamworks SKG.