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Apologies for the rant in advance, but I felt like I needed to share it.

I was really excited when I heard about Gaiman’s book coming to the small screen. It’s definitely not a movie material (although it could be adopted in a LOTR-like three part epic), but the TV looks like a better medium. So I thought.

Upon seeing the first part I realized I forgot most of the book, so I’ve read it before the next episode came up.

The second episode… well, I watched it with my fiancee who did not read the book, and knew nothing of the plot. A couple of observations.

First, the adaptation is needlessly obscene (do we really need the dick-picks and the rant about spitting semen on the unfaithful husband’s grave?) and violent. I know, Gaiman’s work is full of sex and violence, but they are not just there to be there. Here a lot of it seems to be pushed upon the viewer just for the shock value.

Second, the plot is absolutely missing. If you don’t know the book, you have no idea what is going on, even after the end of the second episode. And this is deal breaking. Why would you watch something that’s obscene, violent, and nothing much happens in it, if you don’t know what the main plot is? If you’re a Gaiman fan, you know the story; if you’re not a hard-core Gaiman follower, why would you waste your time on the third episode? I know for sure my fiancee is not going to- and she so furious about how little these first two episodes actually gave her, she lost all interest in the book itself. Not sure how general this sentiment is, but you just lost a potential reader there.

 

Third: nothing happens. There are some characters coming and going, some dialog going on, but unless you’re familiar with the book you don’t know who the characters are (they are, generally, old, forgotten gods, and it’s kind of cool reading up on them, by the way), and why these characters matter. You don’t understand who the guy with the hammer is, and why he likes his hammer so much; you also don’t get why it’s important that he joins with Mr Wednesday and Shadow, so it makes absolutely no sense for Shadow to risk his life for his support. I understand they wanted to stick to the book as much as possible, but the book made a much better job at implying what’s going on -at least-, and the TV series format kind of makes it necessary to cut up the plot, and create tight episodes with proper beginnings and endings. A seven episode cliffhanger is just not going to cut it.

 

Fourth: for the trickster spider god, Anansi, we get a pimp-Malcom X mixture who delivers an angry ham-fisted tirade about how screwed black people are, and then proceeds to get the slaves in the cargo hold of a slaver ship murder everyone, and commit suicide by burning down their ship out in the open sea. This is definitely not insolent, cheeky god who tricked the Tiger to give him his big, hairy Tiger-balls and then shifted the blame to the Monkeys.

 

Anyhow, I’m really disappointed. The camera work is fine, the cast is nice, but the whole thing just falls flat on the major issue: unless you know the book you will have no idea what is going on (something to do with gods, going by the title), and will not be interested to find out.

 

A shame, really.

 

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I have to be absolutely honest. I do not know why they are having a divorce, and I do not know how they got together (or how many kids they have).

I like some of their movies, and I’m somewhat jealous of the looks and the money. However, this divorce thing reminded me of a little game I played while I was living in the US.

For years, literally for years I kept checking the newspaper stand in front of the counter in Publix to see if I see Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie or Jennifer Aniston on the covers. The rule was: if I don’t see either of them I am allowed to buy any one product I want but never bought. (I was not exactly swimming in money while I lived in Florida.)

I played this game for years and years. I saw covers of the National Enquirer announcing that Saddam Hussein and Bin Laden have adopted an alien baby together (I’m not kidding; I still regret not buying that issue), but never once did I win this game. Not once.

I expect I would not be able to win for a good couple of years more.

When I watch a movie usually the problems, plotholes, discrepancies only come to me a day or even a week after watching it; my brain apparently needs some time to process the information.

So.

About a week ago I’ve watched The Cinder House Rules on TV. The story apparently is a great one, very moving with some heavy-handed message that illegal abortions hurt people (aside from the foetus, that is).

If you’re not familiar with the story here’s a short recap: Peter Parker is delivered by his mother in an orphanage, and is promptly left there. The place is run by Alfred, a gynaecologist, who grooms the boy to be his replacement. (Later on he even forges a Harvard degree for him.) He grows up learning the ropes, so to speak, emptying suspicious bowls after abortions performed (illegally) by Alfred (what would Bruce say to this I’d ask) into furnaces, helping out with deliveries, and so on, and so on. We even witness the death of a pregnant woman, who came to Alfred after a botched abortion by some other doctor.

All is well until Imperator Furiosa comes around with Ant Man, the bomber pilot, because Ms Furiosa got pregnant by her dashing pilot boyfriend. Spiderman -against the wishes of Alfred- leaves with them to see the world, and gets as far as Ant Man’s apple orchards (not very far, in other words), where he is employed to pick apples by the family (a profession with little career advancement opportunities). Ant Man goes to fight the war (we’re in 1940 here), so Peter and Furiosa get a bit too close, and surprise, surprise the FBI Instructor from Point Break, who is also an apple picker, knocks up his own daughter. It falls to our hero, the Amazing Spiderman to perform an abortion. This convinces Peter to go back to the orphanage and take up the mantle of the heroic gynaecologist/orphanage director.

We dry up our tears, and credits roll.

Now, you see this in a lot (and I mean a LOT) of movies/books. The hero has some very specific skills, he renounces his set path in life until an accident forces him to use those very skills that he does not wish to employ, hence making him realize that he has to go back to his true chosen path.

This is just lazy. Just think about it for a minute. I mean what are the odds that you have someone who needs an abortion ASAP right where our hero happens to be? Not a broken leg, not a yeast infection, not a kidney stone, but an abortion, exactly where and when our unwilling hero happens to be. As if like the fate of the world depended on my abilities to run a qPCR on Sindbis virus samples, even though I’ve left the lab, and now working as a civil servant. This makes me take the whole story less seriously, which is a shame, because there were some truly good acting (and message, don’t forget the message) in this movie. I get it: you wanted to send a strong message about why abortions should be legal. But at least the writers could have had our hero drive the pregnant daughter up to good old Alfred, so that he (you know, the actual doctor) could do it. At this point he did not know he graduated from Harvard yet, and there was no clicking timebomb scenario which would have had this abortion essential right there and then. (I can imagine the scene with the time is ticking down: “which chord do I cut?” “the umbilical one!”)

Anyhow. Good movie. You really should watch it.