(of Mars.)

I didn’t see John Carter, the long burning adaption of the Edgar Rice Burroughs’ books, on its opening weekend.

But neither did you. And neither did a large chunk of the rest of North America.

I saw it today though, two weeks (perhaps?) or so into its run.

I’m going to wax ineloquently about its pros and cons, if you will, and I’ll do it as briefly as I can. I can already suspect that very little of what I’m going to say will be about the film itself.

PRO: The film is good. It is strong, and solid, and good. It is enjoyable, especially on a rainy Saturday afternoon, in the movie theater.

CON: It’s long. Not super long, no, but they could’ve cut about twenty minutes or so down and it would’ve felt like a sharper bullet fired at the audience (in the hopes of making a trilogy-sized wound?).

A somewhat similarly related CON: Another light breeze through the script could’ve helped. Michael Chabon does a decent job, definitely, but they should’ve brought in a seasoned script doctor (like Joss Whedon from the late 90s) and let them punch up the dialogue a little more, toss in a few more one liners.

Neither a PRO, nor a CON: It’s just funny to see McNulty in this movie. Does he only play incredibly sleazy bad dudes in his film work? I would’ve killed for a “What the fuck did I do?”

Also, neither a PRO, nor a CON: Ciarán Hinds and James Purefoy, reunited. Interesting. I wanted to scream, “CAESAR, LOOK OUT!” Purefoy’s only in the movie for about five and a half minutes, but he’s the only character really having a lot of fun, it seemed like. Which is weird because, at the same time, given the kind of characters that Purefoy usually plays, or doesn’t, I felt like he was ready and willing to take over Dominic West’s role in a heartbeat should he have felt ill or something.

Also, Polly Walker’s in the mix too. What a weird Rome reunion.

Related, but neither a PRO or a CON: You really could’ve unleashed this story as an HBO show, especially in light of success with properties like A Song Of Ice And Fire on HBO and Spartacus on Starz. Everything seen here in this movie would’ve made for a very strong first season.

PRO (obviously): Andrew Stanton. The guy’s good.

I remember going into the theater to see the last Mission: Impossible film, humorously subtitled Ghost Protocol, with no real expectations at all, mostly because the trailers and advertising were so sub par. Obviously I liked The Incredibles and Brad Bird’s talent there was undeniable, but there was no real clear indication in the advertising for Ghost Protocol as to what that would look like in Bird’s live action debut.

Long story short, Ghost Protocol was good. A real solid, fun popcorn flick. Definitely worth watching. I walked out of that thinking that, rather than jerking us or themselves around, Tom Cruise and J. J. Abrams and their associates might as well just lock Brad Bird down for another Mission: Impossible film. Will they? Who knows. Probably not. He’ll probably return as a “producer,” but they should.

PRO (continued): A little of that though, that ambivalence, is why I just wasn’t jazzed to see John Carter. I read more good reviews than negative ones, but nothing in that trailer was making my cock stand up, you know what I mean? I mean, I’ll probably go and see The Hunger Games, and I’ll most likely hate it and curse Gary Ross’ name in the dark, but I’ll see it out of obligation. The flat out suck is more than apparent already in The Hunger Games‘ trailers. I’m going to go out on a limb and say right now that Gary Ross will probably have spent more time obsessing over weird costume designs and facial hair and shit than developing strong stories, interesting action sequences, or interesting characterizations.

The difference between that instance and the one I’m somewhat talking about here in this post is simple: Gary Ross is a fucking hack and Andrew Stanton is the real deal.

Spoiler for all The CONS listed in this post: The marketing and advertising for this movie is fucking terrible and all the blame for the film’s poor Box Office performance should reside squarely on their shoulders.

PRO: There’s about ten minutes of this film set in the Old West, and every bit of it was more exciting than the entirety of Cowboys And Aliens. I’m very glad that Jon Favreau got shown the door from this production.

PRO: You get the sense that Stanton gets film, gets how it should flow and feel, especially the big popcorn munching blockbuster, in a way that can only be viewed in another modern filmmaker in the likes of someone like the aforementioned J. J. Abrams. Their style is original, using the tools of today, but it also feels like a respectful homage to a 70s style as well, something from George Lucas or Spielberg. I don’t say that in a bad way though. They’re not like the average Tarantino beast, inserting 13% original creativity into a mutant wearing a t-shirt that says “BIG SLOPPY HOMAGE” on it. But I feel like Super 8 was just Abrams addressing the fact that he knew what he was doing, where his style was born. I feel like John Carter is doing that too, but in a much more quiet voice.

Thesis Statement of the PROs: About half way through the viewing of this movie I started to wonder if this film was the closet that I would get to watching the original Star Wars film as a kid.

Perhaps it was thinking that that completely kicked me into a higher gear of of enjoying this film. I mean, I have nitpicks, yeah.

Tons of them, in fact: Starting with cutting this film down a little bit, not in the editing room, but at the drawing board stage, just tightening some things up, some of the chases and what have you, and punching up some of the dialogue. Some diversification of the character designs, especially the warring civilizations, and primarily the “red people,” the humanoids from the warring city-states. There should’ve been a mindset in place for the fact that this movie should be for KIDS, and also adults who accompany them. And more of a mindset than just slapping the tiny little Disney logo on top of the posters.

I mean… Right?

PRO: Taylor Kitsch doesn’t seem like a very interesting entity to be pushing upon filmgoers, but I guess I like him better than Sam Worthington. That said, Kitsch (Sorry, that’s a terrible last name for an actor) does a fine job in this film, but the rest of its cast is fascinatingly seasoned:

Lynne Collins as Dejah Thoris, as well as Samantha Morton, Willem Dafoe, Thomas Haden Church, Mark Strong, David Schwimmer, and Art Malik are in there with the aforementioned Hinds, Purefoy, Polly Walker, and Dominic West. And with a cameo by Jon Favreau. And thankfully no cameos whatsoever by Harry Knowles (taking the cheapest of shots here: we would’ve needed something a little bigger than IMAX for that).

Taking a smart note from the original Star Wars there is that you have a unique mixture of British pedigree there, all chewing on that Martian scenery.

CON: The shortened title. I get Stanton’s reasoning, that this film is about John Carter becoming of Mars. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Blah, blah blah. But still. I don’t know how many Tarzan and/or John Carter and/or lovers of old pulpy sci fi were out there, horny with desire at the thought of this finally coming to the big screen, but still. The OF MARS at the end of the title would’ve really clued you into something going on there. Something different. Simply titling the film John Carter tells me one thing about this movie: I don’t know what this is. Is it a film about a high school basketball coach who applies tough love to his students? Is it about a guy who starts his own company and starts a relationship with a receptionist and also has cancer? Is this a lawyer and/or a doctor flick?

CON, continuing: Leaving the “Of Mars” at the end of the title should’ve lit a fire under the advertising people’s asses too. And perhaps the production design as well. No one on this production should’ve been afraid to go weird here. Obviously they weren’t too precious about the original source material (who is these days?)(other than the people adapting Game Of Thrones), which is fine, because there was nothing too precious in Burroughs’ source material, but there should’ve been some steps outside of the box.

Interlude to this CON: An example of them not being terribly, painfully faithful to the source material: the (would be titular) princess of Mars, Dejah Thoris.

from here.

I like Lynn Collins, and I’m glad with how they reinvented her character for this story. The original idea of Dejah Thoris in the books seems like a castoff wet dream from Robert E. Howard’s Conan tales, and can rightfully belong in the wet dream and basement apartments of fan boys. This is the real world. “Tits” and “Ridiculous nudity” are not character qualities.

The princess of Mars, by Bruce Timm, from here.

Sorry, CON, continued: There should’ve been more steps outside the box in every aspect of this film’s production, really.

There’s no denying that filmmaking has gotten so much lazier since the late 90s, but that goes hand in hand with how much lazier advertising these films has gotten since then. And yet, the advertising budgets for studios is getting bigger and bigger, going through the roof, even when they’re seemingly returning less and less profits. The budget for John Carter is supposedly $250 million dollars, which really means that it’s total budget with the marketing is, what, a minimum of $350 million? Ugh. I’m sure they’ll make that back, but not quickly enough.

But I guess you could say that the film was doomed by the time its first teaser was released.

CON, still continuing, becoming more and more of a bitch session about modern movie marketing and more of a circle jerk over the original Star Wars: The beauty of the original Star Wars as that, to then modern cinema-going audience, it was new. Sure, all that Joseph Campbell shit was old, but they didn’t know that, not consciously. All the fat little nerds weren’t sitting in movie theater lines in 1977 waxing poetic over the hero’s journey. No, they wanted to see a good story and some cool shit, and the film fucking delivered. George Lucas took stuff from primal storytelling archetypes and he took a little from classic pulpy sci fi and he managed to remix it into a very new style.

I’m guess I’m telling you that John Carter has a little of that (but not enough). I guess I’m telling you that we desperately need more of that. We need that potential and we need marketing that delivers the suggestion of a little of that to audiences.

PRO: Again, the movie just solid, and fun. Not perfect. Not a home run, but better than a lot of the shit that you could end up seeing in theaters these days. I’m going on and on about the sins of films these days and how they’re slaves to the advertising departments, but the thing I really want you to take from this is that John Carter is a pretty good movie, even if the trailer would’ve lead you to that assumption, or to any kind of assumption of what kind of movie it is.

One last CON: The ending. It ends somewhat ambiguously, but in a happy way. It wraps this story up in a way that works, even if it means that there will never be a sequel, which could very well be the case. I was somewhat reminded of the adaptation of The Golden Compass from a few years ago, which was not great. I’m a huge lover of Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, of which The Golden Compass was the first entry, and I was ready to forgive a lot of the sins of that film adaptation, of which there were so fucking many, but the one I could never forgive was that they cut off the last thirty pages’ worth of the story’s ending, which they had filmed, with the intention of moving it to the beginning of the proposed sequel, which never happened.

Similar to what they did with the ending of The Two Towers, and how they moved its ending to the start of The Return Of The King.

And they did that because I guess they were afraid to end the film on a slightly downer of a cliffhanger. The fools. They needed that cliffhanger so badly. And The Golden Compass was edited like they weren’t expecting to be filming the follow up any time ever, so why not go for broke?

I’m not saying that John Carter needed to do that. They could’ve though. Rather than tying up the one last lingering plot point, such as they did, they could’ve thrown a mystery into your face. That’s another lesson Star Wars that a lot of the so called modern myth makers seem to not see: If you want to have a nice, large tapestry, it better have a lot of complex threads in it, any one of which could produce an interesting story. You walked out of A New Hope not quite sure of what was going on with that Darth Vader dude, or Luke’s dad, but you knew there would be an interesting story there if someone ever brought the story back to the movie theater near you…

“A rather tawdry device.”

“A rather tawdry device” is how Orson Welles describes “Rosebud” in his Citizen Kane, saying that it’s the part of the film he’s least happy with, and then he refers to it as a “Freudian gag.” This is from Welles’ famous 1960 interview in Paris which was conducted with Bernard Braden, and which I believe just came out on DVD, and is an interesting peak into the filmmaker’s life at that particular moment in time, when he was passionate and still very much immersed in his own powers of making magic. It’s a treat both for completionists and passing film buffs equally. Below is just an excerpt, which I encourage you to check out (as well the interview in it’s entirety which you’ll find linked to above), especially since Welles has some fascinating insights about the films he’s worked on, still working on, the actors he admires, and how Rome, his home at the moment, is being urbanized to the point that it’s starting to feel like “Philadelphia with spaghetti.”

Lions and tigers and blogs, oh my!

Ah, March. The Madness of Mars! Oh… the madness of it. Well, you know what they say about this month: In like a lamb and out like a…

Ha ha.

Yes. Like a lion.

Did the V countdown clock during last night’s episode of Lost hurt your enjoyment of the episode?

The most influential brands of 2090.

LL Cool J and Sarah Palin and Toby Keith and CONTROVERSY.

Something terrifying for you today, in visuals: the “Teabonics” photo set.

from here.

Reputation is dead. Time to overlook our indiscretions?

“Mind boggling” artwork that will tower over London.

Someone finally apologized for Battlefield Earth.

from here.

Though they’re not Roman, lions are kind of the gods of war in the jungle, right?

Do you honestly think that you could kill a zombie if you had the opportunity?

Terrifying sea creature hauled up from the ocean’s dark depths!

“Say hello to my little friends…” or, Scarface as a school play.

Tiger Woods blames it all on Michael Jordan. Gotta be the shoes!

Someday I’d like to see LOLcats evolve into LOL LIONS!

When I googled “LOL LIONS” just now I found this picture…

…from here. JESUS FUCKING CHRIST! Ha ha. Eeesh, that’s disturbing. Of course there’s someone out there who thinks that Jesus and bestiality go hand in hand.

Samuel R. Delany’s Dhalgren is being adapted as a stage play.

Jay Leno: “Conan got screwed. I got screwed.”

Robin Williams likes comic books like DMZ and Tekkonkinkreet.

A comic you should read: Brian K. Vaughan’s Pride Of Baghdad.

Useless factoid: March starts the same day of the week as November every year.

Also, the mars bar, which was previously discontinued in America, makes it’s return in 2010. It’s the year we make contact… with chocolate, almond, and nougat apparently. Honestly, I don’t know WTF nougat is.

The MGM logo and Nostradamus.

George Lopez and Lindsay Lohan arguing on twitter!

Fuck bullshit like “mansplaining,” now it’s all “retrosexuals” and “The Menaissance.”

Is robbing a bank on your bucket list? It should be, right?

I’m not the messiah,” says food activist.

Puberty makes you stupid.

The second half of the current season of The Venture Bros. returns in August.

15 fingers and 16 toes!

Things you may not have known about (that you missed) in March: The third week of the month is National Brain Awareness week in USA, which is not shocking that you didn’t know about it, right? March is also National Peanut Month (for us too, of course) and National Umbrella Month. This is also the month that Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone in (on March 7, 1876) as well as the month in which Hinckley tried to assassinate Reagan (on March 30, 1981). We know all about “the ides of March,” but did you know that March was originally the first month of the Roman Calendar until Caesar changed it to the third (for shits and giggles)? Also, violets are the official flowers of March. Hope yours was a good one.

In which we say “Fiat Lux!” upon the God particle of the cinema…

I saw Ron Howard’s Angels & Demons yesterday.

It’s like when your friend, who’s been dating some douchebag for years and years, and you’ve had to watch her slowly self destruct from it, watch her announce time and again that she’s found the strength to get out, but then slowly turn around and delude herself with reasons why she should stay with the prick. And then they finally do break up. And things are great. And then one day she’s all like, “Oh yeah, by the way, I fucked Matt again yesterday.” And you’re all like, “What? Ugh. Jesus.”

Well, perhaps it’s not that harsh, but it kind of is.

A simple plot summary if you somehow don’t know before a very simplistic review: Based on the novel by Dan Brown (of The Da Vinci Code fame, though this book came first but is now the film sequel) and starring Tom Hanks as Harvard professor Robert Langdon, well known symbologist, is called in when the Vatican needs a little help. You see, the pope just died and they’re in the process of electing a new old white man to rule the world’s enslaved spirituality, but it’s quite possible that the church’s enemies, the Illiuminati (gasp!), have returned with a vengeance. Ewan McGregor slums it up as the carmerlengo, essentially the pope’s secretary who is temporarily in charge until a new old white man is installed in the robes of the Holy See. Ayelet Zurer, the gorgeous Israeli actress who played Eric Bana’s wife in Munich, is around for some excitement as a scientist from CERN because – Holy Shit! – those naughty Illuminatus have stolen some antimatter to set up as  a time bomb that’s going to blow the Vatican to hell at midnight!

Wow, that sounds exciting, right? No, not so much. Like I said, I give you here a simple review in simple statements…

Much like The Da Vinci Code, while watching this movie, I wanted to watch a documentary about some of the realistic parts of this film rather than the film itself. Well, that’s only half true here because, as interesting as Galileo and Bernini and their contributions to Rome are, I don’t usually care so much for the anti-Catholic brand of Illuminatus lore. I guess I prefer the more Bavarian Illuminati? With Adam Weishaupt (or is it George Washington?) and those types.

Tom Hanks. You know what, Tom? I still dig you. At your worst, you’re absolutely harmless, posing a threat to no one. But your best, you’re usually working with Steven Spielberg.

The lovely Ayelet Zurer as Vittoria Vetra, the scientist from CERN, is pretty much just there to be the female lead, to give Tom Hanks someone to lecture to, and possibly diffuse the antimatter bomb if she can. I’m sad that they gave her pretty much nothing to do within those confines and they keep her character pretty passionless.

This whole film feels like one of those 90s CD-ROM games where you do something retarded, stop to solve a puzzle, and one of the characters gives you a two minute history less that is somehow important to whatever buttons you have to mash on the keyboard. I want to throw my keyboard at the screen here.

I blame anything that’s wrong with this movie solely on the direction. Ron Howard, you are the biggest director with no real sense of style or filmmaking craft out there. I’m amazed how you constantly are able to make these action-less action movies. You’re like a TV director given big screen projects to fuck around with. You are the poorest of poor man’s Spielberg (and Spielberg really knew how to balance action and adventure with a reverence for religion and history and also, you know, REAL FILMMAKING SKILLS!). That said, make a Arrested Development movie finally, but just produce it, okay?

Ewan McGregor with his good friend, Jude Law.

I think the truest statement you can say here is that the biggest sin of this movie is ours. Why have we neglected Ewan McGregor so badly that he’d have to resort to this film? I mean, he was in Trainspotting and A Life Less Ordinary and The Pillow Book and like a thousand other brilliant films that he was wonderful in. He’s Obi-Wan Kenobi for fuck’s sake! Also, did you see Young Adam? That shit was hot and wild.

Also, if you have any idea how movies work or have even looked at the casting of this movie then – SUPER SPOILER AHEAD OH NOES! – you can tell that Ewan McGregor is the bad guy here. Sure, you’ve got Armin Mueller-Stahl and Stellan Skarsgard as super eurotrash red herrings, which makes sense to have a former Stasi and a guy with a face like a Nazi, but still, it was always going to be Ewan McGregor. Plus, you should’ve guessed after an hour passed in the movie and he hadn’t shown you his cock yet.

Remember how the first movie was just a constant chase sequence of an airport thriller storyline? Same here, only slightly more ridiculous, and in reverse. This time Tom Hanks is doing all the chasing and running. His hair is much less silly and all of his exposition is done walking or running. It’s like The West Wing but talking about religious meanderings rather than politics. And on something a little less exciting than speed or cocaine.

That said, if this franchise were to become a TV with Tom Hanks, or obviously some decent small screen version of him, going around solving crisis after crisis and going off on art history lectures, I’d actually be down for it.

Antimatter bomb? Seriously? Antimatter is so cool, in real life, and constantly thrown around in the same sentences with the God Particle, which is really the Higgs boson, and I wish you could make bombs out of it. Bombs the size of blowing up small cities too. But really, you just can’t. It would take longer than human history to accumulate that much material.

Berninin’s Habbakuk and the Angel, the first “altar of science.”

I love that terms like “altars of science” keep getting thrown around here. If you think about it, Altars Of Science would make a great name for either a metal band or a children’s TV show.

Also, I love that CERN actually has an FAQ up just to deal with misconceptions that could be out there just because of this film/book.

And Dan Brown has a bit up at his site dealing with the bizarre secrets from the book. By now you kids should know that Bizarre Secrets is actually my middle name. No joke. Just reading my birth certifcate is a wild dip into the surreal.

Thanks to one scene that felt like it was a good 15 minutes long, I know where the jurisdiction of the Swiss Guard (or schweizergarde, if you will) ends and the Vatican police force picks up. Thanks, Angels & Demons!

Back to Ewan McGregor for a moment: Yeah, sure, he’s the bad guy here. He’s dome some heinous shit, but he’s so charming at it. And he seemingly kept a mastery of The Force from the Star Wars prequels because at one point he saves the day by flying his helicopter up however many miles high to set off the antimatter bomb away from people and then parachutes away to safety like it ain’t no big thing. So I’m going to throw out this kind of kind of radical notion: He did all this to be the fucking Pope? Give it to him, guys. I mean, seriously. I think he’s earned it. So he killed the old Pope. Whatever. The guy was old and weak and probably stupid. Obi Wan is young and vital and and has science fiction powers. Don’t you want him leading to continuing brainwashing of the hearts and minds of a billion suckers out there?

And yes, he is remarkably Kenneth Branagh-esque in this story.

Is this film sacrilegious? No. Not at all. I mean, I don’t even care, and I can tell you that it’s just not.

Actually, you know what the movie reminds me of quite a bit? The Name Of The Rose, the film with Sean Connery and Christian Slater, based on the novel by Umberto Eco. Yeah. It reminds me a little of that. But less dirty and sexy.

Bernini’s Ecstasy of Saint Theresa is actually one of my favorite pieces of art out there, and the story that goes with it. I’ll let you discover that for yourself if you so choose. Also, I have always loved the word “transverberation.”

Ambiagrams! They’re like palindromes but more symbol-ish. The one done for the movie (above) was done by John Langdon, whom the fictional Robert Langdon is based on.

Having read the synopsis of the novel version of this story, I have to say that the changes made to the story for the film adaptation actually work better. A lot better.

One of those changes is to the assassin character, called the Hassassin in the book, which seemed to play like a rape-happy Middle Eastern stereotype. Though it’s interesting that origins come from the the word Hashshashin, which ties into one of my favorite historical figures of all time, Hassan-i Sabbah, whom I’m sure you’ll hear me talk about here at some point…

Nothing is true, everything is permitted.”

Wait just one second here… In the book, Langdon is usually bedding his female leads? He’s like an intellectual Bond type? Interesting. I mean, kind of implausible, but still, it’s interesting.

Eh… anyway. Angels & Demons is not horrible, perhaps it’s better than The Da Vinci Code, I don’t know.  Technically they fall under the category of escapism for smart people, or enlightened people, if you will, and that can’t be that bad. And what’s worse, I think they’ve guaranteed that I’ll read Brown’s third Robert Langdon book when it comes out this year. But my sins? They shall never be purged.

When in Rome…

“Vivo!”

-Caligula (his last words, screamed out as he was being murdered by his own soldiers, which translates as “I live!”).

About a week ago I was bored at work (which really isn’t news or anything new) and my boss and I got to talking about old TV shows. Eventually it came to her saying to me with quite a bit of disdain, “You’ve never seen I, Claudius before? Really?”

I just shook my head and shrugged. “The Roman?” I asked, seeking clarification, but pondering for a moment if it was a show about Hamlet’s stepdad (though in addition to playing the Master in Doctor Who, Derek Jacobi, who plays Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus or Claudius I in the miniseries, did go on to play Claudius in Kenneth Branagh’s 1996 version of Hamlet)(Brian Blessed, who is wonderful as Augustus in the miniseries was also wonderful as the ghost of Hamlet’s papa).

“Yes, the Roman,” she told me and thrust a VHS copy of the first two episodes into my hand (thankfully, we have a VCR at work)(old school). “You’re in luck,” she said. “This is the unexpurgated copy. The stuff they couldn’t show on PBS.”

“PBS?” I asked, already doing a bit of online researching as we talked, finding out that this BBC miniseries was based on the novels by Robert Graves. “Like Masterpiece Theater?”

“That’s right,” she said.

Me: “What could possibly be in a BBC miniseries that couldn’t be shown on PBS?”

Her: “Tits. Lots of them. You’ll love it.”

Well, it’s a week later and I’m several episodes into the twelve part  miniseries and enjoying it quite a bit. First, you should probably know that my boss was quite right about the casual abundance of breasts on display: Everything frome a topless quartet of beautiful African women dancing for the pleasure of the Roman court in the second scene of the first episode all the way to a character casually pulling out the breast of a female guest of an orgy in third episode seeming specifically for the camera to take notice of. Ah, good times.

But, especially, the drama on display with these crazy scheming Romans is just amazing. The cast is top notch, with the aforementioned Derek Jacobi as the eponymous Claudius and Brian Blessed as Augustus, but with the added talents of William Hurt as Caligula and Siân Phillips as the ruthless and calculating Livia, wife of Augustus, and called Augusta by Claudius. And George Baker, Patrick Stewart, Simon MacCorkindale, Ian Ogilvy, and John Rhys-Davies are all in there too, all of them joyfully chewing up the scenery in the way that only fine British actors can.

Plus, for me, there’s just the fact that one of my favorite movies is The Lion In Winter, that perfect center point where trash talk, infidelity, scheming, and what would be today called sociopaths who are horny to keep their power meet up quite nicely with brilliant acting. Peter O’Toole and Katharine Hepburn give performances so good in their roles of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, so infused with majesty and venomous power, that you can almost suspect that they’re about to just orgasm  in the middle of scene after scene. Either them, or myself, on the edge of my seat as I watch them, riveted. I don’t know what others call that, but I call it art.

But as for I, Claudius, in it’s own fine, wonderful way, this excellent show is just pure trash. And I love me some trash TV.

Henry the VIII aside, do you get the impression that Jonathan Rhys Meyers is really just playing himself in The Tudors?

And it has to make you wonder when you watch shows like it or Rome (and I’d like to see a similar fate to Mussolini’s befall whoever chose the bottom line over renewing Rome) or whatever the hell is going on with The Tudors, if all of the past rulers of the Earth were insane, murderous, sexually insatiable monsters by divine right. But, I guess years of inbreeding and never being told “No” might due that to you.  But, while I love the tales of the greeks and the way the mortals wrestle with their metaphorical gods, I think I prefer the gluttonous Romans, because their lives do make for some good, dirty storytelling, don’t they?

It’s just like they say, all roads lead back to Rome, la città dei sette colli.

My favorite Roman emperor, as I said, is probably still that bizarre little imp Caligula, but possibly also Constantine (the Great), but I am also fascinated by Nero, but mostly because he was, in all likelihood, The Beast (666!). If I had to guess, I’d wager that Julius Caesar would be Benjamin Light’s choice, and my friend who I just discussed this with tells me that he’s a Marcus Aurelius fan, seriously, but right now I want to ask you: Who’s your favorite Roman emperor?