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Comic Con Report, volume 5 Jul. 28th, 2016 @ 07:52 pm

Here's Elvira posing for photos on Saturday in the event hall. I guess she hasn't aged, and I thought she wasn't supposed to be a vampire.

I'm currently on a plane from Charlotte to San Diego, happily with wi-fi this time.* Not that I would've used it in the four hour flight from San Diego to Charlotte which I mostly spent sleeping. I hadn't been on a plane in seventeen years. It's not that I don't like flying--I remember liking it. I think I still like it now but to-day's the first time I've been awake enough to analyse my feelings. Having a destination I actually want to get to helps a bit.

I find my opinion of Tennessee hasn't improved. I love all the green, the beautiful trees, and all the undeveloped land is great. But in between are all these depressing buildings that almost invariably seem to resemble barns and contain churches, church related establishmens, restaurants that try to find creative uses of the word "pig", and bars. I'm glad the family emergency I came for ended up being a false alarm for more reasons than one.

I think this bear knows a lot about life:

My notes for other panels I attended are in my bag under the seat in front of me and I don't feel like getting them out. So I'll just share some pictures to-day.

I didn't see a lot of sword fighting this year. The little arena was mostly deserted but I finally caught a duel on Saturday;

I took a few stills of the fighting I might use as reference later for my comic.

I went east, across the street from the convention centre, to the Hilton for the first time since the Con had expanded to using its indigo ballroom. I was trying to get into the Samurai Jack panel but I quit when the number of people lined up made it look impossible. Apparently there's a show on Adult Swim now called Rick and Morty that's very popular and a lot of people wanted to see its panel, which was in the same room. So I wanted around the little carnivals set up by different companies. Here's a Statue of Liberty for The Strain, optimised for carnal pleasure;

I think she'll make another statue somewhere very happy.

Nearby was the Adult Swim area with delightful, surreal décor as usual. I liked this illustration on the fence:

Here's the event hall from Thursday, the aisles remarkably clear this year.

I wonder if the new security system actually prevented a significant number of people without badges from getting in. It was all paid for by The Walking Dead so promotional pictures for the show were on the electronic badge scanners and even on the badges themselves. With that kind of exposure, maybe people will finally start paying attention to this obscure little gem.

*It's a lie. Only I, the footnote, know the truth, that the wi-fi ended up costing six dollars for thirty minutes so this was saved and posted from home instead.
Current Location: Air
Current Mood: tiredtired
Current Music: "Just Squeeze Me" - Ella Fitzgerald

Comic Con Report, volume 4 Jul. 27th, 2016 @ 02:33 pm

Two days, I saw Nichelle Nichols in the autograph area with only about five people around her. You wouldn't think this was the big Star Trek 50th anniversary Con. I don't see why Nichols wasn't on the big Hall H panel, which I didn't see, though not because I wasn't interested. Just as I thought, the whole thing ended up online anyway but I heard about Bryan Fuller using an unusued 1970s Ralph McQuarrie Enterprise design for the new show's ship, from Mark A. Altman author of several books on Star Trek, when he couldn't help gushing about the announcements when I saw him on another, much smaller panel.

I saw one Star Trek panel this year. This year, there were several panels spread out on various days in various rooms called Inside the Writers Room that gathered groups of writers to discuss aspects of the process and business. On Friday I saw the Inside the Writers Room focused on former writers for Star Trek. Moderated by Altman, the panellists included David Weddle, who wrote for Deep Space Nine and now works on The Strain; Robert Hewitt Wolf, who worked on Deep Space Nine and now Elementary; Michael Sussman, who worked on Voyager, Enterprise, and now Perception; Fred Dekker, who worked on Enterprise and he wrote the 80s movie The Monster Squad; Naren Shankar, who worked on The Next Generation and is now showrunner on The Expanse; and Ronald D. Moore--of TNG, DS9, the new Battlestar Galactica and currently showrunner on Outlander. I thought about asking him if there would be any upcoming group of three episodes without an attempted sexual assault. Moore did say he was frustrated with the limitations imposed on the subject matter he was allowed to explore on Deep Space Nine, I wonder if he envisioned the Attempted Rape of the Week format that now distinguishes Outlander.

As much as a rut as his current show seems to be in, though, Moore has written some of the best episodes of Star Trek and I loved his Battlestar Galactica. He and Shankar were the two writers I was most interested in hearing from.

Sussman said working on the fourth season of Enterprise was the most fulfilling time of his career because the execs stopped giving a fuck. Shankar mentioned that he also used several ideas on The Expanse which he first had while working on Deep Space Nine. In talking about how DS9 was a precursor of modern serialised television, Shankar said the old self-contained format allowed the writers to write wildly different kinds of stories for one show. Robert Hewitt Wolf seemed to miss being able to change things up but said how writing murder mystery episodes of DS9 were a good early experience for now writing on Elementary.

When the panel were asked how they got their jobs writing for Star Trek, Hewitt Wolf said he got a masters degree in screenwriting and then didn't find work for five years. He tried to sell a script for an episode about the Watts Riots but finally got a script approved, "A Fistful of Datas", when he was working on the show as an intern. Those who remember that lousy western pastiche holodeck episode might agree with me that his degree should be rescinded.

Moore got his job through his girlfriend who worked on the show. Of the panellists, only Fredd Dekker, who had Hollywood movies under his belt, was hired through his agent and wasn't required to pitch.

Dekker used a term that sounded like it was familiar from writers' rooms and producers, "Care and feeding of franchise" when he talked about the limitations Moore and Shankar mentioned on the kinds of stories they could tell. The panellists agreed that Deep Space Nine ushered in a new era of serialised television--no-one mentioned Babylon 5--though Hewitt Wolf said Hill Street Blues was the true originator of the format. I guess ignoring soup operas, Doctor Who, and various anime series.

Moore said the reluctance to switch to a serialised format was due to the fear that people would tune out if they missed crucial episodes and got lost. Serials can flourish now that people can binge watch.

Nearly everyone cited the book The Making of Star Trek, which was published during the original series' run, as a major influence for getting into the business.

Along with Rick Berman, the late Michael Piller was showrunner on Star Trek: The Next Generation in its defining years. When asked to comment on Piller, Moore said he was "a unique man";"guileless" and "with no filter". He would criticise a script quite casually to a writer's face without seeming to feel any remorse about it. Moore said Miller believed in the process and the writers' room. He said Miller gave a lot of writers their first shots.

Shankar said Miller brought discipline to the show, wanted little hierarchy and encouraged people to voice their disagreements. Shankar said he was "like a laser beam" adding that the lessons he learned from Miller he carried to other series he worked on.

The writers on the panel were asked to name their favourite episode and their favourite episode to which they contributed writing. Hewitt Wolf said the TOS episode "Amok Time" and the DS9 episode "The Wire". Sussman seconded "Amok Time" for favourite episode. Dekker said "City on the Edge of Forever" and the ENT episode "Sleeping Dogs". Shankar seconded "City on the Edge of Forever", though he also mentioned TNG's "Inner Light". His favourite that he worked on was TNG's "The First Duty". Moore, rather surprisingly, chose TOS's "Conscious of the King", with Shatner at his hammiest, as his favourite episode and, less surprisingly, chose TNG's "Yesterday's Enterprise" as his favourite he worked on.
Current Mood: exhaustedexhausted
Current Music: "Mood Indigo" - Duke Ellington

Comic Con Report, volume 3 Jul. 26th, 2016 @ 06:19 pm

Here's an unconventional conventionist. Where else but Comic Con would you find Rocky Horror Picture Show cosplay? Yeah, okay. Well, it was nice to see a Columbia. I guess she was there for the panel on the new TV movie version. I can't say the trailers look very inspiring, even with Tim Curry in the Charles Gray role. But given the regular disparity in quality between trailer and film these days I probably oughtn't to judge yet.

I felt like meeting some comic writers and artists this year. One of the nicest to talk to was Emily Willis, who writes an alternate history comic called Cassius, illustrated by her wife. It presents a version of ancient Rome where women are not barred from any profession or position in society as they were in real life. I read the first issue and it seems like a nice adventure. Willlis told me the story is based in part on Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. Telling her a little about my comic, we got to talking about doing research and she told me she was speaking on a panel regarding historical research in comics later that afternoon.

It turned out to be an LGBTQ history in comics panel. In addition to Willis, there was Joseph Hawkins, from USC ONE Archives, the largest archive of LGTBQ media in the world; Mister Loki, a transman who writes a comic about werewolf dog fighting in the twenties, the panel moderator mentioning that werewolves in the story are a metaphor for the trans experience; and Trina Robbins, who was instrumental in the production and promotion of comics by women in the U.S. for decades, beginning in the late 60s. Robbins was by far the most interesting person on the panel, with an easy manner telling stories about authors she's known. She talked about how the comic book shop kind of killed women's comics, saying that she used to sell her products primarily in women's book stores and head shops. Once comic book stores started opening and women's book stores started going away in the early 90s, she suddenly couldn't find anyone to buy her comics as the comic book stores became an exclusive domain of young men.

The souvenir book this year was filled with art and essays dedicated to Forrest J Ackerman, the well known figure in Science Fiction fandom responsible for bringing attention to many artists and writers and for inspiring greater respect for Sci-Fi in general. Robbins was a friend of Ackerman's and told the audience, "Forry loved lesbians."

The panelists talked about the difficulty of researching some subjects because of the lack of primary sources. Mister Loki embarrassingly told the audience how difficult a task Willis had in writing about ancient Rome because no writing from the time as survived. I suppose Loki's yet to come across obscure finds like Virgil and Seneca in his researches.

Well, I'm in Tennessee now and really wishing I was back at Comic Con. Among other things, internet is spotty and unrealiable here but hopefully I'll be able to post again to-morrow. I get back to San Diego on Thursday so I'll probably start longer, proper posts on Friday.

Twitter Sonnet #895

A legend walking past the vacant screen
Affords to cellular ventilation
A kind of shining cranberry or bean
Or plant becoming versed realisation.
In space the outer spoils lean across
To see the hole the rain took months to scrape
Into the glass and rotten wood and moss
In no appointed thatch did lines escape.
Ablutions blued the reddest cabbage if
Cantank'rous roustabouts esteem the colt
Now born in bordello chutes claimed a gift
To rivets shorn of scrap too soon to bolt.
The yellow threads obliged to raise the lead
Traversed the metal leg of journey's head.
Current Location: Distant
Current Mood: tiredtired

Comic Con Report, volume 2 Jul. 25th, 2016 @ 07:13 pm

Here's Georgia Congressman John Lewis walking past me at Comic Con on Saturday. I guess he's probably at the Democratic Convention now or "Dem Con" as I suppose no-one calls it. I bet he misses Comic Con. I think he was actually promoting a comic.

Getting back to the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 panel, which was moderated by Paul and Storm, Joel Hodgson was asked by Paul why he recast everyone for the new season. I'd never heard Paul and Storm's podcast before but I heartily appreciated Paul's guts for asking the question. Though Joel replied with an even less satisfying explanation than he's given previously, that he felt the show needed to be "refreshed". It's funny to have heard this right before he started talking about how the fans dictated what was best about the show. He also talked about how the unique flavour of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 had to do with the fact that all the writers and performers lived within miles of each other in Minneapolis, that they were part of a culture of performers well outside of, and ignorant of the normal writing processes of, the LA and New York comedy scenes. For the new show, writers weren't even in the same room, relying on Skype to communicate from all over the country.

Hodgson seems to have traded home grown for the best he could get from all over the place--Elliot Kalan, former head writer of The Daily Show, replaces Mike Nelson as head writer on Mystery Science Theatre 3000; Robert Lopez, composer of the songs for Frozen, is writing the new music; Patton Oswalt and Felicia Day are playing the mad scientists. The big hired gun Hodgson spent most of the panel talking about, though, was Guy Davis, a comic book artist and conceptual artist for film who has worked with Guillermo Del Toro on Crimson Peak and Pacific Rim. Hodgson showed slides of designs Davis did for the "Backjack", a sort of space tow truck that halls meteors on cables in a way Hodgson said he wanted to "look like mylar balloons". In spite of this amusing concept, Davis' designs of course looked like sophisticated blueprints right out of Pacific Rim. Hodgson showed the new designs for the corridor of doors leading to the theatre he worked on with Davis--each one is in the shape of a number that splits in the middle to reveal different rooms. It all looked pretty fascinating though, again, well divorced from the conspicuously cheap design of the original series. The new show might be good but it's clearly going to be a fundamentally different beast. Again, Hodgson saying the fans dictated what was best about the show started to seem more and more ironic.

Hodgson was joined on the stage by Felicia Day and the new voices of Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot--Baron Vaughn and Hampton Yount, respectively. The two guys seemed funny enough and with a genuine love of the show but not close to being able to fill the shoes of Kevin Murphy, Trace Beaulieu, or Bill Corbett.

The show won't be completely devoid of old cast members. Hodgson did announce that Mary Jo Pehl, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett would be appearing as Pearl Forrester, Professor Bobo, and Brain Guy.

The panel were asked to name their favourite episodes of the original series. Yount named Cave Dwellers and Pod People while Vaughn chose Laserblast. Vaughn, a black man, remarked sarcastically how he felt for the poor white guy in Laserblast who felt undervalued by society. Day picked Santa Claus Conquers the Martians or any of the sand and sandal films, like the Hercules movies--anything "with oiled chests".

Hodgson, surprisingly, chose a Mike era episode, Final Sacrifice, as his favourite--though he later added that the episode where he felt like his team did the best job was I Accuse My Parents.

Someone from the audience asked Hodgson if Crow's doppelgänger, Timmy, would be returning. Hodgson said he couldn't answer that question, which sounded like a yes to me. Someone else asked about the remarkable good natured quality of the show. Yount opined that it was because the performers were all from the midwest. Hodgson said midwesterners have plenty of problems but talked about how there was no real premeditation in the clean humour, beyond the knowledge that they were limited by the standards of their networks. But he did say that there was some deliberate push back against an emerging comedy scene of dark or nasty humour, mentioning Sam Kinison and Andrew Dice Clay. Hodgson remarked he felt that kind of humour burnt out quickly and as Mystery Science Theatre 3000 was meant to be a sort of a "companion", someone you would want to hang out with, "no one wants to hang out with an asshole."

Hodgson seems to have spent a lot of time thinking deeply about the show and what made it work. He talked about how each movie they watched drew something from the riffers, each movie had a different character which made him and the bots different people by the reflection.

I didn't get much video of the panel, just this bit from the beginning when Hodgson announced where you could find the new show:

Then my camera's memory card ran out. It was mostly filled with footage of William Gibson I'd taken in the morning, which I present to you here:

I dig his references to the influence of Naturalism in crafting characters and William S. Burroughs' relationship to Sci-Fi. I saw Gibson wandering the exhibit hall later. I made eye contact and he looked away quickly like he didn't want to be recognised so I didn't say anything. I settled for this creepy picture:

I'm flying to Tennessee early in the morning to-morrow and I won't arrive there until the evening. I'll post if I can find internet access, I have a lot more about this year's Comic Con to share.
Current Location: Not at the con
Current Mood: tiredtired
Current Music: "Let's Go Crazy" - The Clash

Comic Con Report, volume 1 Jul. 24th, 2016 @ 09:22 pm

I saw this Sarah and two Jareths (from the movie Labyrinth) to-day. I asked the Sarah to look confused and the two Jareths to look angrily at each other and this is what they came up with:

I didn't see much else to-day, I mostly just roamed the event hall. I suppose I could've gotten up really early and tried to get into the Sherlock Hall H panel but last night was the latest I'd stayed at the Con in years and getting up at 10am this morning was too early as it was. Last year I was starting to think maybe I was getting a little sick of the Con, this year I just didn't want it to end. I saw a panel on comics and therapy and the moderator described the Con as his "mental health week" just for the atmosphere of decent and strange people all in one place. To-day I bought a birthday present for someone in the event hall--I picked it off the rack and looked in the dense crowd calling, "Who's selling these?" It was a couple minutes before someone who evidently wasn't even slightly afraid of thieves came up and told me the item was his. And if anyone wants a perfect model of how a diverse society can function beautifully together, I would offer Comic Con. 200,000 people from all over the world, frequently crammed together like sardines, openly gay, straight, bisexual, transgender, Muslim, Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Shinto, or an anime version of Shinto. I saw four dwarves this year, making me reflect on the idea that Peter Dinklage may be the Sidney Poitier of our time--one man whose performance completely shifted a society's perspective on a minority group. Really, I think Dinklage can take more single handed credit for it than Poitier. And Game of Thrones is better written than Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

I'm rambling. Well, kind of. If there was a theme for the panels and various other experiences I had this year it was perspective or ownership of perspective.

This is what I stayed up so late for--Joel Hodgson on the left and Felicia Day on the right, there for the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 panel. There was a lot of info about the new season and Joel also discussed his feelings about the old episodes. He described each episode as a "document" of the best the performers and writers could do that particular day and once that document was complete, it became different when it was released to an audience. He said the audience decides the "great riffs" and the best episodes, things he and the others never know while they're making the show. "Watch out for snakes!" one of the most quoted lines, he pointed out, came from a movie they watched on the show, not something Joel or the bots said.

He looked back to the old series to see what was most popular when making decisions about the new show. I was reminded a bit of attitudes regarding George Lucas' special editions of the original Star Wars trilogy, how people said once the product was finished it belonged to the audience, by way of describing how Lucas could be an intruder on something that was patently his. There's a strange "neurotic auteur" thing happening now where even creators who have total control of their art seem to be obsessively second guessing based on fan demands. I thought the problem with Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was that Spielberg made a movie more for what he thought the audience was than for himself. Now it seems he's doing it again for the next Indiana Jones, I've already seen one quote where he's said precisely that, that he's making it "for the fans." There's an inescapable ouroboros about being aware of subjectivity--being aware of it doesn't really help you circumvent it because you have only your own perspective of the subjective perspective; it's like a copy of a copy. You have to somehow manifest thoughts that you don't think you can manifest on your own, inevitably muddying the image that would have been clearest if you'd just gone with your own impulse.

Earlier, at the Mental Health and Pop Culture panel I mentioned, someone from the audience asked the panel if "neurotypical" people should, as actors, portray people with mental disorders and should neurotypical writers write people with mental disorders. This was the first time I'd heard the term "neurotypical", and I'd barely caught up to this addition to my vocabulary before I started to contemplate another thing that's supposed to be off-limits to writers. On the panel was recent Eisner award winner Nate Powell, a comic book writer and artist who has also worked as a caregiver for adults with mental disorders. He responded to the questioner, saying he felt neurotypical actors shouldn't portray people with mental disorders but that writers could, though only if they avoided sensationalism, romanticism, exploitation, and other things conducive to inaccuracy.

As far as actors, I guess that's bad news for the Anthonys Hopkins and Perkins. Powell said something I liked about how a writer should try as hard as they can to get to the actual experience of the character, to use their imagination to go through it as much as possible. This contributes to empathy, he said. I would also argue it makes the writing more interesting--when you're trying to be sensational, you're in a sense being the neurotic auteur again as you're thinking more about how the audience will react than about what you want to express. But I would argue there is a place for portraying even inaccurate perspectives of other people because inaccurate perspectives are also part of a human experience. That's how we get Impressionism.

Anyway, hopefully to-morrow I'll have time and energy for a proper post. It looks like I'm going to need to fly to Tennessee this week to see to a family emergency so I don't know how much time I'll have between that and school.

I'll leave you with two pictures from two separate days of the fantastically dressed comic artist Joe Phillips whose pin-up drawings of naked men you can find on his web site here.

Current Location: My skull
Current Mood: exhaustedexhausted
Current Music: "Ship Song" Nick Cave cover - Concrete Blonde
Other entries
» Weather Collects

From the sea, a fog overtook Comic Con Saturday morning.

Amount of money I've spent so far on Comic Con this year:

15 dollars on trolley fare.
16 dollars on comics.
9 dollars on coffee.

Starbucks is undercutting Mrs. Fields at the Con this year--a grande Starbucks drip coffee is 2.50 while Mrs. Fields sells a small for three dollars. What can this mean?

Twitter Sonnet #894

Ordained to lakes across the scorchéd plain
A pie consumed at night in ice but warm.
A towing snake usurps assumption's lane
If enmity were left athwart the storm.
In Rome, a Forest praised and loved Sappho.
The radio nickel has drawn no crowd.
Across the books a dame could wield lasso.
Unknown TVs transmit no churning cloud.
A trail of energy condensed to bars.
The eyes between the cats observe the line.
Not ev'ry robot found its way to Mars.
A glowing orb ascends a certain pine.
A hinted twin returns in golden pin.
A nat'ral neuron spoke of bloodless kin.

» They Can See You

Looks like Newt spotted me taking her picture to-day. Well, I'm glad she survived the beginning of Alien 3 after all.

I sure did a lot of walking to-day. 100+ Fahrenheit weather. I think I'll take a cold shower.

Lots more to see to-morrow. I'm still not sure whether I want to try to get into Hall H for the Aliens and Star Trek panels when all the Hall H stuff is going to be broadcast anyway. There are three other panels I'd like to see but I'd have to skip Hall H to see them. At the same time, Hall H is, common wisdom dictates, the Main Event. There've been people camped out for days for it, though only a few hundred. I'll see how I feel in the morning.
» Comic Con Bird

This bird was trapped inside Comic Con to-day. Luckily there was plenty to eat:

So the newly beefed up Con security is no match for the humblest creatures. Still, I wonder if I'll be hearing about as many people sneaking in this year with the new Walking Dead key card badge system. I feel like I'm entering a secret government lab or conference when I go through. Still no frisking, though.

» Preparing the Eyes

Clearing my camera out to-day for Comic Con, which starts this afternoon with Preview Night. I don't seem to have accumulated a lot of pictures over the past few months, though.

I haven't even had a proper look at the schedule. I kind of want to see the Aliens anniversary panel. Maybe the Star Trek panel. Ever since I got a C in Star Trek class last year, though, I've kind of had an identity crisis as a Trekkie. Do I really belong? Surely. I had the Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual when I was in high school. I knew the name Heisenberg from the Heisenberg Compensator more than a decade before anyone heard of Breaking Bad. It seems like Star Trek is kind of pathetically running a bit behind Star Wars lately though. The fact that it seems that way even after Star Wars poached its director from Star Trek only seems to confirm it's real. It's not just that Star Wars can take Star Trek's lunch money, it's that everyone feels that money is better off in Star Wars' hands.

They're going to be having the San Diego Symphony Orchestra playing Star Trek music just like they played Star Wars music last year. How can something so magnificent seem so pathetic? Well, maybe I'll change my tune if I see it. I might as well since Doctor Who seems to be all but absent this year.

As usual, posts from me will be scarce or short until after the Con.

Twitter Sonnet #893

The best defined of clouds conspire cut.
Afforded late, the logs awash embark.
At heads, the storms and trees with noise rebut.
A walking mop surveyed the deck of lark.
Behind the organ, hid within the tin,
In houses built by trees for Grecian urns,
A round reverséd road avasts a grin.
In turning round, a vane yet never learns.
Ingrained before a crack of fondue drips;
A balcony condemns a lower door.
Abused by rank, a languished gourd she sips.
Her armless chair occurred in times of yore.
A climb begins with cattish knocks outside.
A further proof conceals the word's divide.

» The Goldfish in the Mind's Cake

Arguments for the existence of God in previous centuries often were based on the premise that a world without God is simply too monstrous to contemplate. A warrior of faith fights not to establish a truth but to rebuke those who obnoxiously deny what's plainly true. So you can understand Francie Brady's frustration in 1997's The Butcher Boy, my favourite Neil Jordan film. That's not to say Francie's especially religious, though he does have visions of the Virgin Mary. He simply can't understand how people don't recognise what a threat Mrs. Nugent and her son Philip are and how Joe is the finest fellow around. It may seem extreme to kill to argue his point, but what can you do when people aren't able to face certain essential facts?

"You know where I met Joe first?" asks Francie (Eamonn Owens) at lunch with the other boys at the reform school. When one asks, "Joe who?" Francie's incredulous reply makes it seem Joe's renown is roughly equal to the Pope's. In the cosmos of Francie's mind, Joe (Alan Boyle) is that important.

The two are a couple bullies, best friends, as the film opens in their small home town, the opening credits accompanied by an instrumental of "Mack the Knife". The boys steal apples from a neighbour's yard and comic books from young Philip (Andrew Fullerton). As the film progresses, Francie's private war with the Nugents--Philip and his mother (Fiona Shaw)--and his mythologising of his relationship with Joe gain increasing strength as Francie's home life disintegrates.

Francie's father, played by Stephen Rea (who also provides voice over narration as an adult Francie) is a talented trumpeter but also a drunk. He and Francie's mother (Aisling O'Sullivan) have violent brawls.

One could see the film as a tour of Irish and Catholic stereotypes--there's even a paedophile priest. What makes it really work is its matter-of-fact attitude. The pizza parlour version of "Mack the Knife", the folk song "The Butcher Boy" from which the film takes its title, reflect Francie's apparent unflappability. He is capable of great violence without real remorse but he never seems especially vehement. It's all one chore after another just to get reunited with Joe as the two are the local Lone Ranger and Tonto for the upcoming atomic war.

The Virgin Mary in Francie's visions is played with a nice lack of self-consciousness by Sinead O'Conner. It's somehow really lovely hearing her finally become exasperated and say, "For fuck's sake, Francie." Mostly she talks how you might expect a vision of Mary to speak--gently and comfortingly. She doesn't entirely seem like she's Francie's hallucination. She tells him to stop fixating on the goldfish Joe mentions in a letter that Phillip won for him at the fair. But Our Lady has no hope of extracting that from Francie's craw.

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