Thursday, April 7, 2016

"11.22.63" Episode 8: The Day In Question

A few months ago, I sat down with the intent of writing -- for You Only Blog Twice, my other blog -- a review of Spectre, the new James Bond movie.  I detested that movie, and what came pouring forth from my keyboard was a vitriolic mess.  I abandoned the review after working on it for an hour or so, disgusted with myself for not managing to keep better control of myself.  I wasn't wrong about what I was writing; I wasn't lying about how I felt.  But I always hope for at least some measure of restraint in such situations, and my inability to find it disappointed me.
 
That review remains unwritten.  At the time, I said that I was going to wait for the Blu-ray, to give the movie time to settle in my gut in the hopes that a reappraisal might find me more generously disposed.  I'll get to it eventually, too; but I can still feel that hate boiling under the surface, and I'm in no rush to stir it up again.
 
All of that is a way of warning you that there is almost sure to be a certain amount of vitriol in this review, too.  Not as much: in the end, I didn't hate 11.22.63 very much, if at all.  My disdain for aspects of it are of the lamentation-for-what-could-have-been variety, and not (as they were with Spectre) of the how-dare-you-fuckfaces-do-this variety.
 
But there is some disdain, let's have no doubts about it.  I can feel that disdain itching to get out of my brain and play on the keyboard for a while, and I'm inclined to indulge it.  Hopefully, I'll be able to keep the leash on it, but if it runs free and shits in your yard while I'm not looking, sorry 'bout that.
 
Much of my ranting is going to be of the big-picture variety, and is probably thus best saved for the end of this post, as a sort of summing-up-the-miniseries thing.  So first, let's get to a review of this specific episode.
 
I thought it was okay.  I would say I liked it at about a C+ level.  You can graduate from college with a C+, so that's not entirely awful as far as grades go.  I'd have given the previous couple of episodes something more like a C-, or maybe even a D+.  I think you can even graduate from college with a C-; maybe even a D+, for all I know.  Does that matter?  It does not.  My point is, I disliked the previous two episodes; this one was mildly better, enough so that I would say I liked it.
 
I was surprised by how emotionally unengaged I was during it, however.  We will talk about that more later, but if you wanted a capsule review up front, there it is: it was okay, but overall it sort of left me cold.
 
I took some notes and screencaps, so I think we'll just sort of follow those for a while, starting with this:
 
 
 
 
The episode begins with a car-speeding-down-the-road sequence that makes me think the second-unit director was trying to earn a bonus.  It's executed well, especially for a television series; but it's a little too vigorous, and feels out of place.  The series has had a lot of talk about "the past pushing back," and there's a good bit of that in this episode, too.  So do you expect me to believe that Jake Epping Amberson (who seems like the last guy who would be capable of Vin Dieselesque driving) can take a stolen car speeding wildly down a major road in a very large American city during the middle of the day and not have there be a serious problem?  I don't buy it.  I don't buy that Jake would be a good enough driver to make this possible.  The past seems to have fallen asleep during this sequence; it misses some major opportunities to push back.  Perhaps it was so slack-jawed with disbelief that Jake was bold enough to try this sort of gambit that it simply forgot to do anything for a while.
 
I'm not buying that, either.  Bottom line is that this scene is incongruous with the rest of the series.  On its own, it's fine.  In context, it's kind of awful.
 
By the way, I'm almost positive that Sadie is played by a stuntman in a blonde wig and lipstick.  Check that screencap and see if you agree with me.
 
This sequence also contained a number of examples of a type of cinematic storytelling that, once you are aware of it, you can never forget.  I say that as a way of warning you that you might not want to read the next bit.  It might ruin movies and tv for you in some ways.  If that seems like a thing you'd like to avoid, skip down to Josh Duhamel's face.
 

Still here?
 
Okay.
 
There is a type of dialogue in filmed narrative that is sometimes used to help explain certain aspects of a scene, often as a means of covering up plot issues or maybe even covering for scenes that never got filmed.  I always think of this as ADR (Automated Dialogue Replacement, also called "looping"), but that's a term most commonly used to designate the process of rerecording dialogue in a studio and dubbing it over the dialogue recorded on set/location.
 
What I'm talking about is another type of ADR, Additional Dialogue Recording.  The Internet doesn't seem sure as to whether both forms of ADR are actually the same thing, so for all I know, I'm using incorrect terminology.  For the record, what I'm referring to is dialogue added in post-production that is designed to clarify or enhance the plot.  This dialogue is -- I'm guessing -- often written after the fact, meaning that no shots of the actors speaking this dialogue was ever filmed.  Therefore, the dialogue, once edited into the film, almost always takes place when the character speaking the words is offscreen.
 
As I understand it, dialogue like this is often employed so as to make sure that unobservant viewers aren't confused by what is happening on screen.  You might cut from one scene of characters talking about getting to their grandmother's house before dinner to a scene of the characters walking down a street, and via ADR there will be a line added in which a character -- whose back is to the camera -- will say something like, "We should be at grandma's house in about ten minutes."  This is said so that stupid people don't think the characters have decided to walk someplace else.
 
There is a lot of this sort of dialogue in 11.22.63.  It's especially egregious in this scene, which culminates with Jake and Sadie running into a snarl of traffic and pedestrians.  They can't turn the car around to escape the gridlock, so they abandon the car and continue their quest on foot.  All of this is perfectly well conveyed, as the following screencap will illustrate:
 
 



Despite the essential clarity of the plot point as visually realized, some doofus producer or studio exec (who worried that people in their eighties wouldn't understand what was happening) has decided to add a line in which Sadie says, "We can't turn around!"  Those hypothetical viewers with no powers of discernment would possibly wonder why Jake and Sadie get out and start running when they had a perfectly good car to get them someplace.  But if they are that brain-dead they won't remember where Jake and Sadie are trying to get, in which case they are a lost cause; so who cares about these viewers?  They are not worth pandering to, and anyways, if you think they are technically savvy enough to be watching this on Hulu, you're stoned.  Those viewers set their tv to CBS in 1976 and never changed channels again.
 
You can often spot this sort of ADR for what it is by virtue of the audio quality taking a sudden, and sometimes unnatural, leap upward in quality.  If it sounds a little cleaner than you think it should, it's probably ADR.  If it's giving you information that you'd have to be an idiot to not already know, it's probably ADR.  If the acting seems weaker than normal, it's probably ADR; and remember, the poor actor having to deliver these lines is probably doing so months after the scene was filmed, so don't blame her for not being able to find her character again.
 
There is a LOT of this sort of thing in 11.22.63, and if it seems as though I'm dwelling on this topic for too long, I'd counter by saying that I think the sheer amount of this stuff indicates something about the overall intent of the filmmakers.  I think it shows a certain amount of uncertainty about the degree to which the storytelling worked, and, worse, I think it indicates a certain degree of pandering to the fabled Lowest Common Denominator.  Conventional wisdom of television used to be that you were best-served to pitch everything so that even the dumbest viewer would understand what you meant.  There is still a lot of that to be found on tv, of course, but as the landscape has become more fractured and diversified, the wheat has slowly become separated from the chaff, and the best shows exhibit very few hallmarks of LCD courtship.  Once upon a time, a series like Breaking Bad -- which isn't quite a Greatest Common Denominator show, but gets close -- would have been unthinkable, but today, it's common for shows to be artful and even somewhat oblique.  For fuck's sake, even a show like The Walking Dead engages in occasional bouts of quasi-avant-garde filmmaking.
 
So for 11.22.63 to have lapsed so often into LCD mode is disheartening at best, and insulting at worst.  King's novel has very few of those tendencies; this is not to say that his career is devoid of it (it certainly isn't); but that particular novel -- one of his finest -- mostly is.  Why should it not receive an equivalent television adaptation?  I've got my theories, but let's avoid those for now.
 
Suffice it to say that if you were to rewatch this series from an ADR-spotter standpoint, you're going to be in heaven.  If you'd never encountered an explication of this concept before, I apologize for how you will watch television from this point forward.
 
In any case, let's move on.  Earlier, I promised you Josh Duhamel, and now, you shall have Josh Duhamel.
 
 

 
 
As Jake and Sadie are rushing through the crowd to try to get to Dealey Plaza, Jake bumps into someone.  Turning around to apologize, he sees Frank Dunning looking back at him.  Understandably, Jake is stunned by this.  Moments later, Frank is gone, seemingly never there at all.  Moments later, Sadie has a similar moment in which Johnny appears in front of her; he even grabs her arms and calls her by name.  Then, Bill, who is sitting on a bench, trips Jake and causes him to fall to the ground; Jake looks back, and it's not Bill, but some stranger.
   
In the moment of it happening, the brief reappearance of Josh Duhamel worked for me big-time.  As the scene progressed, though, it became clear that none of it made the slightest bit of sense.  What the fuck is this all about?  I suppose it's a kinda-sorta callback to Bill thinking he sees Clara, but in that episode I thought it was patently evident that he was only imagining Clara.  Here, there's no way Jake and Sadie are imagining what they're seeing, because Frank and Johnny are phantoms, and Bill is . . . well, I don't know what to make out of the Bill moment at all.

I can only assume that this must somehow be the past pushing back.  That makes no sense, but it's  the only thing I can think of that would account for it.  And I have to ask: if the past can conjure up holodeck-style illusions of Josh Duhamel for a moment, then why would it not do so at a key moment to prevent Jake from stopping Lee?  The past pushes back, but only when the screenwriter wants it to; only when it won't actually impede the plot.  In King's novel, the obdurate past felt a bit like a swamp through which Jake had to wade; it gave him plenty of resistance, and occasionally there might be an alligator or a spot of quicksand or something to threaten him, but by being persistent, he could get the job done.  In the miniseries, the past has been presented as a sword that somebody will swing at you so as to chop off your head, except that they only bother to swing it every so often.  All I can think watching the show is that the past is a lazy piece of shit that could have stopped Jake anytime, but was too busy live-Tweeting an episode of The Big Bang Theory to do it.
 
We're going to come back to that topic (of the past pushing back), by the way, but for now, let's press forward.
 
 


Detractors of Jurassic World, sucketh thee a dadblamed dick as you view Sarah Gadon running like a damn champ while wearing heels.  The Internet shit its pants last summer decrying Bryce Dallas Howard being in heels and running away from dinosaurs, but Sarah Gadon sure seems to be doing it with ease, and she doesn't even have extinct monsters to motivate her.
 
I like the entire run-to-the-depository sequence.  There is a nice Zapruder appearance, and I gather from another review that a lot of conspiracy-theory Easter eggs show up.  Well done, show.
 
Now, speaking of Easter eggs:
 
 
 
 
What am I to believe here?  That a young Jack Torrance, who would later teach his son Danny how to write "REDRUM" with a backwards R, was dicking around in the Texas School Book Depository one day in 1963?
 
I don't know at what point it seemingly became mandatory for there to be Stephen King Easter eggs in adaptations of his work, but folks, let me tell you, I fucking HATE that shit.  An occasional one can be amusing and gratifying, if deployed artfully.  Having "REDRUM" scrawled on a wall is LCD pandering.  This is Family Guy level stuff, but deployed at a moment of high tension.  There will be chuckleheads aplenty who, as they watch this episode with some non-King-fan friend, will start talking over this scene and explaining what "REDRUM" means, and what it comes from.  "Wow," their friends will say, "you really know your Stephen King, huh?"  Yes, well done, Mr. I Saw One Of The Most Popular Horror Movies In Cinema History Guy; you are today's Real Man Of Genius.
 
There have been Easter eggs peppered liberally throughout the series, of course, and some have been more successful than others.  I enjoyed Annette O'Toole showing up in episode two, for example.  But at a certain point, this stops being a television series and begins being a Bingo game with a narrative.  I thought that certain point was precisely this moment, and if you're the type of person who is enjoying this sort of foofaraw, well, feel free to accuse me of grumpy-old-mandom.  I'll accuse you of placing fan service over narrative integrity in importance, and we'll both walk away satisfied that we are correct.
 
It gets worse, by the way.  The design of the "REDRUM" is plainly tipping its hat to the Stanley Kubrick movie and not the Stephen King novel.  Perhaps this tells you something about the extent to which the supposed Stephen King fans who made this series are, in fact, Stephen King fans.  Stephen King fans know that Stephen King kind of hates the Stanley Kubrick movie; he's talked about it in approximately 1,408 interviews over the course of the past thirty-six years, and will sometimes bring it up even if nobody asks him about it.  So for you to, as a filmmaker, create a miniseries that is peppered with Stephen King Easter eggs and then include one that indicates that even in a series on which King is an executive producer, it's the Kubrick version of The Shining that sticks...?  Well, look, y'all know me, know what I'm about.  I'm a big fan of the Kubrick movie.  But I'm a big fan of the novel, too, and in this instance, if you're the filmmaker responsible for this particular moment, you deserve to have your Constant Reader card revoked.  In my opinion, you shouldn't be making a redrum reference at all, but if you're determined to do so, thou shalt not reference the movie version instead of the novel.  Go sit in the corner and think about what you've done.
 
Speaking of which...
 
 
 
 
I don't know where to begin with this.  In fact, I'm not going to bother to say anything, apart from saying this: this makes no sense on a plot level, and while I'd like to assume it's an intentional misspelling, I can't actually do so.  Let's move on before I become angry.
  
The score by Alex Heffes is very good in the depository scene.  I've enjoyed his work on the series, and I hope it gets a soundtrack release of some sort.
 
 


Seeing the motorcade speed off, the President hiding but patently safe, is very effective.  Has a moment of Kennedy surviving the assassination attempt ever been put on screen?  Beats me, but I thought this was very compelling.
 
Sadie, of course, is shot and mortally wounded by Lee.  I'm not impressed by her death scene.  Franco gets emotional, but in a very sloppy way, by which I mean that he is slobbering and spits a lot every time he says "Sadie!"  Gross.  I was so grossed out that I couldn't be moved by Sadie's death, which ought to have ripped me -- us all -- to pieces.  Maybe it ripped you to pieces.  It did me, in the novel; here, not at all, partially because that marvelous line of exiting-this-life dialogue of King's ("How we danced!") has been eliminated.  Of the entire novel, you'd think that would be the line safest from excision in an adaptation.  Not here; it's gone, baby, gone.
 
 
 
 
Jake is taken into custody and is besieged by reporters and photographers.  Many of them have a card that reads PRESS in their hatbands, and I halfway expected the Yellow Card Man -- whose yellow ouroboros card is never explained -- to be there leering at Jake cartoonishly.  Mercifully, he was not, although by this point it wouldn't have made much of a difference to me.  I hated everything involving the Yellow Card Man in this series.  It took me a while to realize it, but boy, yeah, in retrospect, I hate it.
 
 


What is up with Jake seeing Sadie in the bus station?  Is he pretending to see her?  Imagining what it might be like to see her again as she was the first time he saw her?  If so, it's doing the series any favors, because we've already had to wrestle with the notion of phantom-Frank and phantom-Johnny, both of whom seemed real(ish).  People unfamiliar with the novel would be totally forgiven for thinking something else is going on here, and that none of them are actually dead.  If you think so, that's a line of thought that will not be rewarded.
 
 


The mechanics of getting to 2016 from 1960 are wonky.  In the novel, you had to know a precise series of movements in order to find the 1958 end of the rabbit hole, and the odds of accidentally replicating them must be monumentally vast.  In the miniseries, all you've seemingly got to do is be walking through the middle of a gravel parking lot across the street from a busy industrial complex.  Doesn't it seem like assholes from 1960 would be unwittingly falling into 2016 every five minutes or so?
 
 
 
 
I don't even know what to say about the CAPTAIN TRIPS graffiti.  You wannabe King-experts are going to be pleased as punch to be able to start loudly telling your friends about how Captain Trips is the name of the superflu in The Stand.  A few minutes later, Harry is going to mention his mother dying of the flu inside a Kennedy Camp, and I totally forgive your King-novice friends for assuming that this means that the world of The Stand takes place as a prequel to this section of 11.22.63.  It's not what the screenplay is aiming for, but because the screenplay is happily smelling its own farts and calling them "Easter eggs," your friend is now potentially very confused, and doesn't even know it.
 
 


The nu-2016 execution is okay, but, just as I began to fear a few weeks ago, the miniseries jettisons the idea that Jake's actions have torn the universe apart.  Instead, what we've got is a vague implication that Kennedy was so awful a President that it destroyed America over the long haul.  What other conclusion can be drawn?  There are aspects of that in the novel, too, but they are presented as a sort of side-effect of the cosmological damage, and therefore Kennedy himself remains more or less a mythically positive figure.  I don't know how you could see it that way in the miniseries, and that seems like more of an anti-Kennedy dig than I would personally like to see.  It's also at odds with the rest of the miniseries, I'd say.

It all falls flat, and while Leon Rippy very nearly saves it in his return as Harry Dunning, the fact remains: the book handled most of this SO much better.
 
 


"He was my Dad," Harry says, on the verge of breaking down.  This is maybe the most emotionally affecting moment in the entire series, and give Leon Rippy all the credit for it.  He is terrific, as is almost always the case when he shows up in something.

Jake goes back to the ruins of the diner, where the rabbit hole is just sitting in the middle of open air, making one wonder why assholes from the future are not constantly falling into 1960.  He's accosted by a trio of ruffians as he tries to get to the hole, and I have to ask: why bother with this as a screenwriter?  You're adding pointless tension, which not only goes nowhere, but detracts from what ought to be an emotional moment for Jake.
 
In 1960, Jake sees the car of three young women go by.  We saw it in episode 1, and this time, we see -- in a fairly satisfying twist -- that Sadie is one of the women.  Jake chases them down, and begins talking to Sadie.  He's got blood on his face, he's soaking wet, and he's got mud on his shirt, and yet Sadie talks to him as though he's Kirk Douglas or something.  Is it remotely plausible that Sadie would do anything other than run screaming from this filthy man who confronts her and her cousins?   Of course it isn't.  So why present Jake that way?  None of these decisions make any sense to me.
 
And really, what's the point of this scene?  To give Jake a goodbye with Sadie?  He already had one!  And he's got another one coming up!  Anything that puts Sarah Gadon's face on my television is at least a little okay by me, but none of what is happening here works for me on a storytelling level.  The loathsome Yellow Card Man even puts in another appearance.  Screw you, show.
 
Now comes the time when I engage in Armchair Screenwriting and tell you all How I Would Have Done It.  Ready?  Here it comes.

What this motherfucker needed was a montage.

Have Jake go back to 1960 and just . . . be there for an extended period of time.  Maybe have him write a book like in the novel; maybe have writing a book be some sort of breakthrough for Jake, to give him a purpose.  That could have been his life goal at the beginning of the series, and he could talk about it several times with Sadie, who, as an avid reader, would encourage him and think it was hot.  Have him go back to Holden, sit in that bar, see Bill serving drinks to Frank and giving him a surreptitious stink-eye; he says nothing to any of them.  He watches Harry playing in the yard.  He goes to Dallas and sees Lee slap Marina; he visits the school in Jodie and sees Deke fussing good-naturedly at Miz Mimi.  Sees Jim LaDue -- who was a character in this version -- throw a touchdown to win a football game.  Sees Sadie stamping books in a library or some such damn thing; dancing with students at a dance, maybe.  (How and why is Jake there?  Beats me.)  Seeing it all, interacting with none of it, intercut with Jake sitting alone in a room, writing it all down.  Then he throws the manuscript into a river before going back to 2016 forever; he's written the book, but he cannot keep it, and his abandonment of it is a cathartic act of separation from the past.  In the present, the diner is torn down by whoever bought it after Al's death, and afterward Jake goes to the spot where the rabbit hole was; it is gone, forever.  The past is gone, forever.
 
All of this would be accompanied by zero production sound; it would purely be score, or maybe a song that would be designed to rip your heart out.  Not sure what; Bobby Vinton's "Over and Over" (used so memorably in the show's first commercial) comes to mind, but I lean toward wanting something modern (or modernish), something that would let us know that even though Jake is physically in the sixties, he was, at that time, emotionally a man of 2016.  Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" also comes to mind, for perhaps-obvious reasons; but that might be the wrong era, and it might alienate people rather than draw them in.
 
Arcade Fire's "Ocean of Noise" -- which contains the lyrics "who here among us still believes in choice?" and "no way of knowing what any man will do; an ocean of violence between me and you" (and is, in general, a goddamn powerhouse of a song) -- came to mind next, and while it is perhaps not a perfect choice, it'll serve as an indication of the sort of thing I'm reaching for.  Give me a music supervisor to do some research based on my suggestions, and we'll make magic happen, I guaran-goddamn-tee it.  And shit, actually . . . as I'm listening to it, "Ocean of Noise" might fit the bill rather nicely.  Have Jake's inability to cry (a slight change from the novel, I will grant you) be a major plot point, and have him break into a flood of tears as the song crescendos.  I'll rip your motherfucking heart out with that shit.
 
Instead, we got James Franco looking like a mental patient.  This does not work for me, guys.
 
Speaking of things that do not work for me:
 
 

 
Before we proceed, let me clear: I think Constance Towers does a perfectly good job as Sadie.
 
However, I think it's a disastrous decision to have anyone other than Sarah Gadon in the role, in what ought to be a heart-wrenching scene.  It simply doesn't work.
 
The alternative was old-age makeup, or CGI used to approximate it.  Old-age makeup is always a risk; it's rarely worked, in fact, so I can understand why the producers of this series didn't want to go down that road. My thinking is that you make it work; you devote the budget needed to get the job done, and you support the makeup crew relentlessly in order to make it happen.  If it becomes necessary, use CGI, or a CGI hybrid; it worked with Hayley Atwell in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and it could have worked here, too (although it would have been a more complicated effect, and one that spent more time on screen than that version of Agent Peggy Carter did).
 
I can hear the counter-arguments: casting a different actor worked in The Green Mile.  And yes, it absolutely did.  But Paul in that movie was, for all purposes, a different man in the modern-day scenes, so having a different man playing him reinforced the themes that powered that movie.  Here, the idea is supposed to be that what we see -- and, more importantly, what Jake sees -- is fundamentally the same Sadie.  So having a different woman in the role falls utterly flat.
 
Apparently, Bridget Carpenter tried to cast Eva Marie Saint and couldn't get her.  That MIGHT have worked: Sadie has a purposefully Hitchcock-blonde look, and having an actual Hitchcock blonde (North By Northwest, in case you were wondering) play her as an older woman would have had some resonance.  But Constance Towers isn't Eva Marie Saint, and I have no connection to her whatsoever, and there is no resonance.  She gives it her all, and does a good job (as does Franco playing opposite her), but it simply doesn't work.  The spark isn't there.  You want this scene to put you on the floor, sobbing a puddle into existence.  Instead, you find yourself wondering if this lady had any earthly idea why James Franco was making googy eyes at her.

So that's that.  It all comes to a vaguely unsatisfying conclusion, and if you are wondering why you aren't crying, it's because there's no earned emotion there.
 
And it's not just the conceptual error of casting a different actor as Sadie.  It's that the series failed to spend enough time on the relationship.  Did we ever really find out why Jake loved Sadie?  No, we didn't.  If we find Sarah Gadon to be attractive, some of that may have leaked out of our own hearts and into Jake as a proxy for us, but that's not the same thing as a narratively satisfying exploration.

In my opinion, the decision to shortchange the time Jake spends in Jodie was the cause of this.  And it was a disastrous decision as a result, because I think it genuinely robs the story and the characters of the emotional connection the audience could have had with them.  I don't think we ever feel any genuine pull on Jake from the past.  Maybe in a few stray moments, it comes across; such as when he's walking down the hallway in the school.  Mostly, though, his sole focus is on spying on Lee.  And he's kind of shitty at that.
 
So what's the point of all of this?
 
I'll tell you friend: I don't know.  I know the point of the novel; the point of the miniseries eludes me.
 
I can't help but think of a moment in the first episode, when Sadie tells Jake that "the book is always better" than the movie version.  It's a cute little joke, but it also feels like a pre-emptive "don't blame me, this is how this always works!" from screenwriter Bridget Carpenter.
 
It's ludicrous for me to think I could do a better job than Bridget Carpenter did.  I'm sure there are so many decisions that go into a series like this, so many high-stress situations that impact a production like this, that I'd be lost at sea in such a capacity.
 
I'll tell you this much, though: I wouldn't admit defeat right up front.  You'd never catch me with an "I can't capture the novel" attitude.  I'd do everything in my power to not only meet the novel's standard, but to exceed it.  Would I fail?  Maybe; probably.  But if I didn't try, what the fuck would the point be?  Stephen King himself has often expressed a rather ambivalent attitude toward cinematic adaptations, and one senses from interviews on the subject that he feels it's inherently an inferior medium.  I don't.  I feel it's an inherently different medium, sure; but an inferior one?  No way, pal.  Again I cite Breaking Bad.  The defense also cites The Wire, Mad Men, and The Sopranos, for starters; if you need me to kick in more of your teeth with evidence of how right I am, I guess I'm able to do so upon request.
 
It feels to me that this miniseries was the product of someone who simply didn't try hard enough.
 
Is that an insulting thing to say?  Yes, of course it is.  I don't know Bridget Carpenter, and am unlikely to.  I suspect she probably tried very hard indeed, but my perception is that the end product does not always reflect it, and, specifically, it often does not reflect it on a conceptual level.  Carpenter is on the record in interviews saying that Hulu told her she could take as many hours of screentime as she needed to tell the story, and that it was her decision to limit it to eight.  In other words, she could have spent as much time in Jodie as she wanted; she chose not to spend more than a few minutes there.  That, my friends, is a conceptual failure.  That is, to my way of thinking, a fundamental failure to understand what made the novel work.
 
It's not all on her.  J.J. Abrams and James Franco, also ostensibly fans of the novel, could have potentially intervened and said, "Hey, shouldn't we spend more time in Jodie?  Shouldn't we actually use the trial-run ideas and have Jake have to try twice to save Harry?    Can't we hint at Pennywise?  Shit, half of this screenplay is Easter eggs, so what sense does it make to toss Pennywise and Derry out the window?  Shouldn't we show that Jake's actions bring the universe to the edge of collapse?"
 
Let's spend some time on that last question.
 
In the novel, it could not be more clear that the reason the past is obdurate is because the universe -- the multiverse, perhaps -- is a beautiful and intricate construction, one that either has agency of its own or has agents working on its behalf.  Jake's actions wound that construction, and nearly tear it apart, but the honey-trap that is Sadie Dunhill ultimately allows the threads which form that web to remain intact.
 
In the miniseries, the past has no reason to push back.  The multiverse is not at risk; Jake's actions have no consequences for the grand scheme of things (in the cosmological sense), and so I have to ask: why would the past care?  The only logical conclusion to draw is that one of two things is the case: (1) it doesn't; or (2) it doesn't like any sort of change to its order.  If the first option is the case, then all of the past-pushing-back stuff is pointless and contradictory.  If it's the second, then the past -- which, I'll contend, is a factor free of awareness and therefore free of judgment and incapable of prioritization -- would care just as much about buying an ear of corn destined for some other eater as it would about Kennedy living.  It would care just as much about Ellen and Tugga Dunning living as it would about Jack Kennedy living.  So, again, all of this is pointless and contradictory.
 
Without the grander implications for the multiverse, none of this works AT ALL, except perhaps as brief entertainment and distraction.  In the novel, it serves a philosophical purpose; in the miniseries, it serves as a rickety plot device.
 
This is a conceptual failure of a very high order indeed.  I lay that squarely at the feet of Bridget Carpenter, and J.J. Abrams, and James Franco.
 
And, yes, at the feet of Stephen King.
 
Uncle Steve, I love you like an uncle.  An actual uncle, mind you, not a metaphoric one.  I wish you cared more about these adaptations of your work.  I wish you had heard that the Jodie scenes were going to be cut, and that the concepts behind the rabbit hole and the changing of the past were going to be cut, and had put your foot down.  "Nope, those stay, or you don't do the show," you could have said.  By all accounts, you are too nice a guy to do so even if you believe that wrong decisions have been made; and it seems possible that you are too apathetic toward adaptations to feel there are such things as wrong decisions, provided that you establish friendships with the people making the movies and shows.  You weren't friends with Stanley Kubrick, and so even while he's in his grave you carp about his failures; but nary a word about the failures of Bridget Carpenter, even when you are in a position to prevent them from happening in the first place.
 
I find it to be a real shame.  Because I'm telling you, there IS a version of this show that's every bit as good a tv show as the novel is a novel; if I had that pink Kindle, I'd buy it on Blu-ray and send you a copy.  If it can happen in that universe, it can happen in this one.
 
So why does it keep not happening?
 
Many King fans will feel that I'm being much too harsh in my judgment.  They will have "enjoyed the show for what it is."  I don't begrudge them that enjoyment.
 
But neither do I share it.
 
I want better.  I want more.  If that makes me harsh and/or unrealistic, then I'm content to be judged in that manner.
 
I don't think I have much else to say, but I'd be remiss if I left off on a totally negative note.  The fact is, a lot of the series did work for me.  Episodes 2-5 were fairly exceptional, and I actually liked a lot of the changes to the novel within the context of those individual hours.  The casting was mostly excellent.  James Franco ended up not working for me all that well, but that's as much due to the screenplays as to his acting; moreso, probably.
 
And hey, there's Sarah Gadon.  Let's talk about her a moment.  She's terrific.  The Sadie who exists on the page of the screenplays is a near-complete nothing, but Gadon imbued her with so much light that you'd be forgiven for being blinded by it.  Will it be utterly creepy of me to say that I'm in love with her?  Probably, but you've all felt that weird brand of remote love, so don't pretend you haven't.  Brother, I'll tell you this much: I look at her, and I see some sort of divine truth.  Not religious in nature, mind you; this is some sort of existential yearning, not unlike what one supposes cavemen must have felt looking into the starry night sky back before man knew what the hell a star was.  Looking at those points of celestial light, our ancient ancestors perhaps could not even think actual thoughts about them; they thought in colors, or unspecific yet powerful emotions.  That's kind of how I feel when Sarah Gadon smiles.  She's not the only actress to have ever had this effect on me, so she need not feel unduly singled out.
 
But yeah, boy; that lady is a star.
 
If that's the only thing I take away from 11.22.63, I suppose that's not too shabby.  Overall, I think it's mid-range King adaptation.  Roughly on the same level as something like Hearts In Atlantis.  A certain step up from Under the Dome, so we've got that to be thankful for.
 
We deserve better, though.  Maybe someday we'll get it.

43 comments:

  1. Going by pure reaction in the moment, here's what I remember:

    Opening race:

    Hmmm, I wonder if there's some tension missing from all this. Maybe if they'd combined the last two episodes together, although who knows.

    Showdown with Oswald:

    Well, a bit more involved than the novel, although I still wonder if giving Lee so much screen time doesn't rob him of menace again.

    The Ending:

    Well, at least they tried to go out on the proper note. It's a shame that it's supported by such a lackluster middle. As it stands, I don't think it can stand up against the negative pull of the rest of the series.

    Final Verdict:

    All in all, eh. That's it really, just "eh". In the end, I'd say stick with the novel if you want an entertaining story.

    ChrisC

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    1. ChrisC - totally agree on the effect of giving Lee too much screentime. It almost seemed a favor to the actor, which also punctured the effect.

      JV move, Carpenter et al.!

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    2. I was more or less okay with the amount of Lee, but I wish I liked the actor a little bit better. He was mostly fine, but the accent didn't work for me. Did it become illegal to cast Americans as Americans at some point? Must producers fill a quota of Australians and Brits in their productions? I don't get it.

      It's fine if they can do the accents, but Daniel Webber couldn't.

      But he was mostly good otherwise. The one major exception for me was that horrible scene in his first episode where he's screaming about Walker. "Iyuh hahuve something to suhayuh!!!" He sounds liked pissed off Australian Forrest Gump in that scene. Terrible.

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  2. I have to say I've enjoyed your weekly reviews of the show and want to thank you for spending the time writing. I also find your criticism truly justified!
    More time was needed to build the on screen relationship between Jake and Sadie for the final to have the same impact as the novel.
    I don't see the reason in having the yellow card man in there at all if they weren't going to use him the same way as the novel. I have no idea of his purpose in the show.
    The book is my favourite book and although the show isn't a bad show it could have been so much better.
    Thanks again for your time spent on the reviews.

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    1. You are very welcome!

      I had planned to go on a long rant about how much I disliked what was done with the Yellow Card Man, but I didn't have the heart. I didn't like the actor at all, but I don't want to blame him too much, because the conceptualization of the character is so poor that I'm not sure Benedict Cumberbatch could have made that work. The character was DOA, and the worst part about that is that he's utterly irrelevant to the actual story. Ah, I feel that rant coming on again! I'm choking it down, though.

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  3. Actresses and performers-in-heels have been demonstrating how you can run, twirl, jump, kick-box, leap and land in heels for decades, yet every so often, the wailing you refer to flares up. I remember it happening with Stephanie Zimbalist, Jr. and Cybil Shepherd in Remington Steele and Moonlighting, respectively. As performers from Lady Gaga to Kylie Minogue to Paul Stanley will tell you, too much acrobatics in a pair of heels can eff up your hips, but that’s after decades of performing. If Paul Stanley can do it for decades, a character in heels can run for her character’s life from a monster/ towards a JFK assassination for a brief scene. I just don’t understand the big mystery or whence the indignation. Not that indignation ever needs a sound basis in reality or logic.

    I don’t know how much of it is JJ Abrams, but he’s got such a track record of plot-by-coincidence. His movies always seem like he’s decided, on set, to combine a bunch of different scenes into one, with some visual flourish that has the same sort of impact you cite for the viewer breathlessly pointing out the incongruent Kingverse Easter Eggs, yet falls apart when reflected upon afterwards. It’s most evident in 11.22.63 in what you describe with the past – it just makes no sense, overall, for the Yellow Card Man and all of the ways we were shown the past pushing back, once you get to the end. It all just “looked cool” or felt cool. But… why? To what purpose? I think you hit the nail on the head – in the book, the past is a swamp, hard to navigate/ surmount, but it can be done. The past doesn’t want to be changed. And that’s because a fundamental structure might come undone. Not so in the mini-series, and it’s not just a minor failure, it’s a HUGE failure. That the production powers that be (and I think you’re right to call out King on not caring about this stuff enough) didn’t see that, and designed things to get there in the first place, is not the sort of hit I as a viewer can recover from.

    So, in the span of a few minutes, I went from “Okay, this would have been better had they just filmed the novel instead of trying to out-think it, but parts of it were fun. Maybe they’ll pull this off.” To “Oh dear God, now I have to like the first few episodes less, because this retcons the good will they engendered.”

    I liked the motorcade speeding off, too. (Better than the phone call afterwards, though I am glad that survived the transition-to-screen.) The scene in the interrogation room had some nice lighting effects. Everything and everyone outside looked purple and orange. Great lighting and visual design throughout the series. But Franco’s performance, again, just didn’t work in this scene. I agree completely on how the car chase scene doesn’t fit, and a lot of Franco’s post-Sadie’s-death acting doesn’t fit in the same way for me. (And yeah – they must have dunked the man’s head in a bucket of water in-between takes. It was ridiculous. And above all distracting.) They needed some way to convey that while all of that was going on, Jake’s mind was hardening on getting back to the diner so he could return and re-set and save Sadie. Instead, when the FBI guy drops him off at the station and says “Sorry about your girl,” it was almost like, oh yeah, Franco: remember?

    The scene in the bus station – besides offering up the most beautiful views of Sarah Gordon of the whole mini-series – also failed to convey that.

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    1. I love love LOVE the idea of Paul Stanley getting on Facebook one morning last summer and reading some viral rant about how Bryce Dallas Howard couldn't run in those heels. "Ai-yay!" he hollers at nobody. "You know, people, I just KNOW that you all think you know what you're talking about. But let me get this off my chest: you do NOT know! You can do a LOT of things in heels, baby, lemme tell you. Ai-yay!"

      You make a good point about liking the first few episodes less once you start viewing them through the prism of the final few episodes. I hadn't thought of that, but yeah, I feel certain that will be the case. Except maybe for the big Josh Duhamel episode; I think that one might hold up.

      Good call on the lighting of the interrogation scene. The production design and technical aspects of the show were, in general, beyond reproach. I probably didn't talk about that anywhere near enough. (If I talked about it at all!)

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    2. I wish you were Paul Stanley's social media manager.

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    3. I predict I would be underpaid and underappreciated but still enjoy it.

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  4. Hearts in Atlantis seems about right for where this falls on the King’s-Adaptation-Spectrum.

    Along the lines of the why-didn’t-they-do-this thoughts (and I like your montage idea. Not sure what I’d pick for the score, but my inclination would be something native to 1960 rather than 2016) I was really worried for a minute that the episode was going to go wildly off-book (or wildly more off-book) and have Jake executed in the past or something, by Jack Ruby. While I thought that might have been interesting (this all went through my head when I was watching the scene and I kept waiting for it to happen, until just about the call from JFK) the mini-series just had that feel to it, like, oh, okay, we’re going to second-and-third-guess the novel… again. Why not just film the damn thing the way it was written? Anyway, if Ruby killed Jake, or if the FBI revealed to Jake he somehow screwed up their own plan to kill Kennedy, or some other variation, I’d have hung with THAT change a lot easier than changing the essential conceits of time travel.

    I second the thanks-for-hosting-this weekly wrap-up party! I only wish it had all ended on a better note.

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    1. You and me both, homes.

      I had the EXACT same thought about Jake getting killed by Jack Ruby! It wouldn't have made a lick of sense, but hey, neither did a lot of the other stuff, so why not?

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  5. I have only thing to say: https://49.media.tumblr.com/26d1a751413648efca98df35fb67f6e0/tumblr_nqj8wxph2u1s2wio8o1_500.gif

    Mircalla

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    1. As in many areas of life, I agree with Immortan Joe.

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  6. One more - along the lines of what was the point of all the King-allusion-graffiti, etc. (while discarding the ones from the novel), what exactly was the point of all the conspiracy Easter eggs in the one street scene?

    i.e. if there was no conspiracy, at all, was it just to give the viewer a chance to say "Oh, hey! There's the guy with the umbrella!" What narrative point did it serve? I'm fine with a little bit of that ("oh, it just looked cool/ cracked me up, I enjoyed it") but it just felt like more we-don't-really-know-we're-doing-with-this-story-or-what-beats-to-hit-so-let's-just-throw-crap-at-the-wall storytelling.

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    1. My friend just sent me this: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/fien-print/112263-changes-stephen-kings-bestseller-864071

      Okay, so... I wasn't sure who to blame. But, looks like Bridget Carpenter carries a good share of the load on this one. The reasons she gives for the things she didn't adapt are just not very compelling - and, in some cases, the things she decided to add achieved the exact same effect she claims to have wanted to avoid by omitting/ changing, etc.

      She doesn't sound like she understood either the book or how to adapt it.

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    2. I think those little tips of the conspiracy hat (or umbrella) work both ways in this case: if you're a conspiracy nut you get to jump up and down, surely disturbing your tin-foil hat in the process, gleefully shouting "The Umbrella Man!" at your cat; if you're more the Occam's Razor type, you just nod and say, "That guy had an umbrella. Huh." Because who gives a shit, he's a guy with an umbrella.

      Bryant, I agree completely about the Montage. And I'd have ended it with Jake sitting on the Grassy Knoll itself, witness to the greatest crime of the 20th century and now helpless against its inevitability. Then maybe a fade into watching Sadie from afar as she and some other Jodie regulars react to the news and mourn the president's death.

      This episode left me utterly flat, from the awkward car chase to the ham-fisted attempt to pin a motivation on Oswald. If he was all about becoming famous, doing something and making a name for himself by killing JFK, why did the real Oswald DENY EVERYTHING? He's clearly guilty, we was absolutely the shooter, but unlike every other historical assassin he chicken-shit the bed and denied everything. So hearing this Oswald crow in his sniper's nest about being someone and making a name for himself really rubbed me wrong. The most disturbing thing about Lee has always been that lack of a clear motive.

      Franco was a flatline the entire episode. The fake rain under a clear blue sky in nu-16 drove me nuts. Americans are too fucking stupid to know how truly horrifying a Wallace presidency would have been (though we all may find out soon enough if Trump wins), and I thought the exact same thing about the time portal: any asshole can fall in!

      They needed more time. More money. A better Jake. I'm glad I saw it, but I'm also glad it's over.

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    3. I'd never heard of the umbrella man (unless he's mentioned in "JFK" and I forgot it). I had no idea any of that was Easter-egg material for conspiracy buffs, actually; so in that sense, I guess it played okay for me. Sometimes it pays to be ignorant.

      CDM, you make a good point about wondering why they drew this version of Lee as an attention-seeking guy when the real man was obviously something else. (Unless that's what he WANTED us to think...) I can't remember if any of that is in the novel; I don't think it is, but somebody correct me if I'm wrong.

      Either way, yeah, it does seem incongruous. I hadn't thought of it, but I'll likely see it that way exclusively now.

      As an Alabamian, I'm more than a bit glad that President Wallace never happened. Ugh. I don't know that much about him, but what I know, I don't like.

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    4. McMolo, I'd read that interview with Carpenter (among others), and I sort of intended to bring up certain points from it in my review. Ultimately, though, I felt like that might veer me too close to attack-Bridget-Carpenter mode, and I didn't want to go there.

      But I'll say this: I've been reading and archiving a lot of interviews with her (as well as pieces she has written for various places). The only conclusion to draw from it all is that she is owning the show as a screenwriter. She seems like a nice person, and I believe her when she says she's a Stephen King fan. But I'm sorry, I simply can't envision a scenario in which a Stephen King fan would willingly gut the Jodie scenes. I mean, for fuck's sake, if you found it necessary to condense them and restrict them to a single episode, that'd be one thing. But to gut them entirely?!?

      I can't support that in any way. Especially when Bill -- a character who didn't even exist in the novel, for all intents and purposes -- got so much screentime. I had to suffer through a subplot about him being in a mental institution. You're telling me that ten minutes wouldn't have been better-spent on "Of Mice and Men"? Can't support that, nosir.

      So in the end, when I hear Carpenter talking about how she'd love to adapt "Firestarter" and how she and Franco would like to work together on another King project, I have to say that I hope neither of those things happen.

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  7. "Stephen King fans know that Stephen King kind of hates the Stanley Kubrick movie; he's talked about it in approximately 1,408 interviews over the course of the past thirty-six years"

    Please, please tell me that was an intentional reference; or, you know, don't - maybe the idea of it being a subliminal one is even cooler! :D

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    1. As soon as I wrote that little reference (which was definitely intentional), I considered going back into the rest of the post and littering it with painfully obvious Stephen King "Easter eggs." Then I realized that that would be too snarky even for me, so I restrained myself.

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  8. I'm really struggling with how Stephen King can sign off these poor attempts of adaptions of his work and speak so positive about them then go and shit all over Kubrick's The Shining.

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    1. My guess would be that he simply didn't like Kubrick on a personal level, and therefore viewed the project from an outsider's standpoint and grew a massive chip on his shoulder over it. I can see how it would happen, and if it were the case I wouldn't blame him all that much. He's only human, and sometimes humans just dig in their heels and dislike something for no better reason than that they dislike it. Rationality need not enter into it.

      And yet here, I think the heart of the novel has been ripped out. I picture Bridget Carpenter as Mola Rom, chanting wildly about Kali Ma as she tears the still-beating Jodie subplot out of the story, holding it up so the rest of the plot can look upon it in despair for a few agonized seconds.

      I'll say this, though: at least "11.22.63" fared better than "Under the Dome." King signed off on both, for the record, and that's the reason why his name being attached to these projects no longer makes me hopeful. Uncle Steve can send out as many Tweets as he wishes about how great the screenplay for "The Dark Tower" is. He's sort of entered cry-wolf territory with me as regards adaptations, though, so I can't invest any trust in it.

      Does this change the fact that he is far and away my favorite author and likely always will be? Not for a single second.

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    2. The personal dislike would explain it as he comes across as someone that sees the good in everything, Bag of Bones and Good Marriage also come to mind.
      He's always going to be my favourite author too I just have to take his opinions on screen adaptions with a pinch of salt

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    3. Yes indeed. And I agree, he seems like the sort of guy who bases his likes/dislikes (in terms of the adaptations of his work) on the degree to which he befriends the people involved. That tells me that he is a fundamentally good guy, one who places friendships over the politics of the movie business. All of that is probably to his credit personally; I just wish the end result was better films and tv shows, and currently that's not the case.

      But the same method gave us those three movies by Frank Darabont, so it certainly ain't all bad.

      And let's not ignore the possibility that I might be dead wrong about all of this. Speculation is just speculation, after all.

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    4. It's only cause we care so much about his work we wish the adaptions get treated with the same love we have for them. Which I guess doesn't make us bad guys for finding fault with them

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    5. Hopefully not. I tend toward the judgmental-prick side of things, and that comes out on this blog more than I'd like sometimes. But yeah, absolutely, I just wish all the movies and tv shows could be -- at minimum -- as good as the books/stories. Or at least be in the ballpark!

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  9. Great write-ups, man.

    I check Only Blog Twice every goddamn day for the Spectre review. I was appalled myself, and my own vitriol-laced review was REJECTED for publication by the website I write for (first time that's ever happened in over 10 years!) Very curious to hear your analysis of what went wrong; I can only imagine how much worse it was for someone who loved Skyfall.

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    1. Sigh...

      Yeah, man, I really need to get that done. As a matter of fact, I hereby make the pledge that I will not undertake any further bloggings until I do.

      What I'll say to address your final sentence is this: "Spectre" actually makes me like "Skyfall" less. Oddly, it makes me think some aspects of the plot make more sense -- for example, if Silva is being funded by SPECTRE it suddenly becomes a bit more believable that he would have as much pull as he has -- but makes me dislike the character work more.

      What's worse, I think it's made me like both "Casino Royale" and "Quantum of Solace" a smidge less, too. I'd been assuming all this time that Daniel Craig was playing out an arc, wherein his version of Bond would travel from the darkness and cynicism of "Casino Royale" to something a bit more like what we all think of as traditional Bond. Not that I need to see him defusing nukes dressed as a clown, but do I need to see him occasionally behaving as something other than a homicidal prick? Yeah, I really do.

      So in other words, all of a sudden I think I understand why the people who've been down on Craig for at least a movie or two feel the way they feel. He's too good an actor for me to totally dislike what he's doing, but at the same time, I think I have to admit that what we're seeing really and truly ISN'T James Bond. I thought we were going in that direction, but it appears as if he and the producers are determined to simply go farther down that road with each successive movie, and if that's the case, does it retroactively make me feel less enthusiastic about where the (not-)journey began?

      It's a good question. I haven't figured the answer out for myself yet. I suppose that the only way to do so is to watch my way through all four of his movies again and see what happens.

      For the record, by the way, I'm aware that "Spectre" included more humor from Craig/Bond. Very little of it worked for me. It was like spraying Lysol in a bathroom in which you just defecated out a bunch of tacos; doesn't make that shit smell any better.

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    2. Totally agree. The end of Quantum did a decent job knocking down what Royale had set up: Bond allowing MI6 to arrest Yusef rather than executing him in cold blood offered a closure to his involvement with Vesper and suggested he was going to leave some of that darkness behind and, as you said, become more of a reliable action hero and less of a brooding psycho. He had played out the arc, exactly.

      That's a big reason Skyfall didn't sit right with me. It felt like Mendes came in and ignored the work Campbell and, to a lesser extent, Forster had done and basically started all over giving Craig's Bond a brand new reason to be an asshole. And its new Q stating "we don't do gadgets anymore" not only felt like a self-satisfied "fuck you" to the rest of the series, it broadly stated what Casino Royale had merely implied in terms of the new approach.

      And then along comes Spectre, where they completely throw out that smug mission statement by bringing back the gadgets and the quips and the henchman and the "easily escapable situation involving an overly elaborate and exotic death" and the banging of perfunctory female characters! So Mendes can't even stick to his flatly-stated humorless approach to the material. Which is a big reason I've been anticipating you putting it through the YOBT system - unlike Skyfall, it includes all the tropes we fans have come to expect, it sets itself up to be rated in all categories, but its execution of practically each and every standard is beyond incompetent. There's nothing in any of the Brosnan movies as ridiculous as the plane coasting down the snowy hill, not even parasurfing on the ice in Die Another Day.

      I'd never ask you to put your other excellent postings on hold, but I am looking forward to what you have to say.

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    3. You make many good points here. I'll try to at least be inventive in rephrasing them when I steal them for my post!

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    4. I'm already thinking of how I can cannibalize my unpublishable piece for bulletpoints to add to the comments section when you put your review up. One stupid joke I'm particularly proud of is, when Craig kills Bautista, that the script calls for him to "throw MMA from the train." That one's gold, feel free to steal that - ha ha!

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    5. Pretty good! If I do, I will attribute accordingly.

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  10. Guess who's back in business!

    Here's Dave S's review of the series over at Talk Stephen King:

    http://talkstephenking.blogspot.com/2016/04/112263-mondays-just-got-dark-again.html?showComment=1460498457523#c8977245587974654173

    ChrisC

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  11. Hi Bryant. I skipped these 11/22/63 posts mostly for spoiler reasons, never having read the book or watched the miniseries. Count me as another one eager to see your review of Spectre, which I saw in January and definitely didn't love, as much as I wanted to since I've enjoyed the rest of the Craig movies, and my love for Christoph Waltz.

    Also, a non-related question: I just finished reading It. Have you written extensively somewhere on this blog about it? I did a search using "Pennywise," since "It" is unlikely to yield what I'm looking for, and you don't have anything related listed among your favorite posts. I'm still processing the novel, and hoped you might have some fairly in-depth analysis, since you list it as #2 in your Worst to Best list, and you've devoted huge long posts to Needful Things and a few others you don't have listed anywhere near as high. Anyway, point me in the right direction, if you don't mind.

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    1. No, I haven't written about "It."

      A peek behind the curtain: years and years ago, I began a chronological reread of all of King's books. I'd gotten all the way to "Misery" before the idea of starting this blog occurred to me. "It" was a few novels prior to that, so it got missed.

      I've made shockingly little progress in that time, and at this rate, the chronological reread is going to take another couple of decades. Gotta find a way to accelerate, eventually!

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  12. I just finished the Fireman by Joe Hill, and even if it's sadly vastly inferior to NOS4A2 in my opinion, it has a lot of connections to The Stand. Not spoiling anything, but there is a Harold doppelganger who even shares the same name. Just thought it might be of interest ;)

    Millarca

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    1. Definitely!

      I have my copy, but have not begun reading it yet. It may be a few weeks before I get to it; I've got a backlog of other things I'm determined to get to first. Strange, but true.

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  13. The Fireman is a weird novel - during my reading of it, I enjoyed it immensely, and yet by the time I got to the end of it - the book left me underfed. Agree NOS4A2 is a much stronger book and upon reflection, I put this one at the bottom of his novels.

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    1. Bottom-of-the-list Joe Hill is still pretty good, I'd imagine.

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  14. I see Franco could be doing a movie of Drunken Fireworks - there's a story I never thought would be adapted! (One of the worst audio books I've ever listened to.)

    Tonally though this story is a better fit for Franco's sensibilities than 11/22/63.

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    1. I haven't listened to the audio version. I'm increasingly averse to audiobooks, especially with the readers King is choosing.

      I agree that this does seem on the face of things like a much more natural vehicle for Franco. I hope it turns out well!

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