Noah and the Ark

Words: Christopher Forsley / Illustration: Cameron Forsley

FilmMonthly (2014)

From what I remember learning in catechism class, the entire story of Noah’s Ark is chronicled in only four chapters of the Bible’s Book of Genesis, and its plot-line is simple: Noah, after receiving detailed instructions from Mister Almighty, builds an ark to act as a safe-house against the Great Flood for his family and all the world’s animals. Although I’m sure there is more to the story than that, I’m not sure how Darren Aronofsky, with Noah (2014), successfully adapted four brief chapters of ancient text into a 136min Hollywood epic. Maybe Aronofsky was raised as an inquiring Jewish boy and knows a more detailed version of the Noah’s Ark story than the one I, who was raised as an unquestioning Catholic boy, know.

But it’s more likely that, in the telling of his Noah tale, Aronofsky made a series of fabrications and additions to the film’s biblical source material to fully express his vision. . . and to meet the demands of Hollywood producers and the special-effect addicted modern movie-goer. Directors of big-budget epics — whether it was Michael Bay with Pearl Harbor (2001) or Zach Snyder with 300 (2007) — are practically required to adapt their particular historic tales in a way that either perverts or ignores the source material in which their stories are based. And when such movies are attacked critically, it is the historically inaccurate alterations that are targeted and the director who made them that bleeds.

NOAH low resBlaming the failure of these films on any given director’s adaptation choices, however, is not only lazy but also irrational. Bay’s Pearl Harbor and Snyder’s 300 are critical failures not because of their historical inaccuracy, but rather because they do little more than highlight an array of one-dimensional characters speaking lines better suited for energy drink commercials. All the greatest book to film adaptations — such as One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), Fight Club (1999), The Graduate (1967), Blade Runner (1982), The Long Goodbye (1973), and 2001: Space Odyssey (1968) — are, like Noah, far removed from the source material that inspired them. While Noah doesn’t deserve to be compared to those great films, it does, like them, prove that a good adaptation is rarely an accurate adaptation.

I believe, since I was raised as a Catholic cinephile, that it is a cinematic sin to critically attack a book to film adaptation because its director took creative liberties. Just as a Double O agent has a license to kill, a director has a license to reinterpret. Different mediums require different approaches. When you go to the South of France, you don’t expect every starry night to look like a Van Gogh painting. . . so when you go to a Daniel Craig Bond movie, you shouldn’t expect the color of his hair to match the description in Ian Fleming’s novels. It is, in fact, Aronofsky’s unique interpretation of the Noah’s Ark story that makes his film one of the better biblical epics to ever come out of Hollywood. Continue reading

Hawaiian Shirts Make Everyone and Everything Better

Words: Christopher Forsley / Illustration: Cameron Forsley

Total Bozo Magazine (2014)

I’m not Hawaiian and I don’t often wear shirts, but, from this day forward, I’m going to wear Hawaiian shirts and only Hawaiian shirts.  Mark Twain said that clothes make the man and that naked people have no influence on society.  I disagree. Naked people always have an influence on society.  I’ve been naked in society and influenced a cabbie to reject me, an old lady’s heart to fail, and a firefighter to hose down my fire-crotch.  But I agree that clothes make the man.  Tight jeans make the man infertile. Dresses make the man less manly.  And Hawaiian shirts make the man both classy and comfortable.

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I didn’t decide to dedicate my torso to Hawaii’s finest garments overnight.  Rather, it was this morning while slurping up oatmeal and watching James Bond in Casino Royale (2006) that I made my decision.  This Bond, Daniel Craig, is my least favorite.  He’s blond and brainless.  But his first Bond flick, Casino Royale (2006), ranks among the franchise’s best. . . and, along with the poker sequence where Jeffrey Wright does the best Felix Leiter since Rick Van Nutter, it’s because Craig wears a Hawaiian shirt.  It’s the shirt that provides him with the class and charisma he’s naturally lacking.

Sean Connery, unfortunately, didn’t wear Hawaiian shirts, but, unlike Craig, he didn’t need to.  His natural charisma and class allowed him to conjure the character of Bond with ease.  Craig isn’t so lucky.  In his second Bond film, Quantum of Solace (2007), he didn’t wear a Hawaiian shirt and, as a result, the film is tied with Die Another Day (2002) as the franchise’s worst.  It’s impossible for Craig to play Bond with the natural class and charisma Connery displayed in the likes of From Russia With Love (1963) and Goldfinger (1964), but if he would make Hawaiian shirts a permanent part of his wardrobe, I think he could compare with the Connery of Diamonds Are Forever (1971).   Continue reading

An Evening with Richard Linklater

Words: Christopher Forsley / Drawing: Cameron Forsley

The Rumpus (2014)

The 2014 San Francisco International Film Festival is underway and tonight is this year’s only event guaranteed to induce a boner.  Let me clarify: the Bay Area’s queen of film criticism, Pauline Kael, suggested that all cinema, especially great cinema, has a sexual force inherent to it.  While Bernardo Berolucci’s Last Tango in Paris (1973) may be the only film to fully express, as Kael wrote, this “primitive. . . thrusting, jabbing eroticism,” every great film is naturally sexy.  And because tonight’s 7PM event consists of an onstage interview with director Richard Linklater followed by a screening of his new film, Boyhood, every San Francisco cinephile should be aroused enough to head to the Castro Theater — which is an aesthetic aphrodisiac in itself.  The $25 admission (or $20 if you’re a member) will make you witness to what one of this generation’s most innovative filmmakers has to say about what is sure to be his most innovative film yet.  Then you get to watch the innovation for yourself.

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With the seventeen films preceding Boyhood, Linklater has put together a dynamic filmography that is unified by his distinct voice which has been echoing across the cultural landscape of this country for the last 25 years.  He found this voice in 1991 Austin, Texas after scraping together 23,000 to film Slacker.  By directing a rag-tag cast of local students and artists to act out their cinematic doppelgängers — anarchists, conspiracy theorists, lounge-lizards, and bar-bullies — Linklater broke down barriers with the film.  Arranged as a series of intermingling episodes where conversation and ideas overshadow action and plot, Slacker is, as far as I’m concerned, solely responsible for the independent film movement of 90s America.

In one of the film’s episodes, a neo-Dostoevskian-coffeehouse-philosopher, hyped-up on what looks like an early version of the Frappuccino, offers this rhetorical question to his caffeine fiend friends: “Who’s ever written the great work about the immense effort required in order not to create?”  And Linklater, true to his Slacker roots, has continually failed to put in the effort it takes not to create.  In fact, in the two and half decades since Slacker, he has been as productive as a rabbit taking Spring-break on the lawns of the Viagra factory.  Whether it was the near-perfect, coming-of-age tale Dazed and Confused (1993), the mind-bending, uniquely-rotoscoped Waking Life (2001), or the ‘Before’ trilogy — Before Sunrise (1995), Before Sunset (2004), and Before Midnight (2013) — which I believe is, when taken as a whole, the most honest and convincing love story to have ever graced the big screen, Linklater has put out on average a film a year. Continue reading

Make More Informed Decisions About Your Books And Burritos, Your Essays And Enchiladas

Words: Christopher Forsley / Drawing: Cameron Forsley

Broken Pigeon (2014)

I love San Francisco, its people and its places, both from the past and the present. Jerry Garcia, Laffing Sal, Andre Nickatina, Harvey Milk, Frank Chu, John Waters, Fillmore Slim, Bruce Lee, S. Clay Wilson, Willie Mayes, Emperor Norton, Tim Lincecum, Janis Joplin, The Gonz, Robin Williams — I love them all. I love them like I love Chinatown, McCovy Cove, Booksmith, Last Gasp, DELUXE, Sutro Baths, Delirium, Fort Funston, Castro Theater, Hippie Hill, Kayo Books, Musee Mecanique, Muddy Water’s, Clarion Alley, and Little Shamrock.

But it is San Francisco’s writers, who attracted me here, and its taquerias, which keep me here, that I love best. No other American city besides New York — which is unlivable due to its pigs, pollution, and pinstripes — can boast of a literary tradition and a food culture that are both historically enriching and contemporarily bitching. And this boasting, if you ask me, is only possible because of San Francisco’s word-wielders and tortilla-tossers.

The two, I admit, seem to have little in common with each other. While the products that San Francisco’s writers produce are consumed intellectually, the products that its taquerias produce are consumed physically. The writers explain shit, but the taquerias create shit. One favors English and the college-class, the other favors Spanish and the working-class. And although they both uphold the city’s liberal conventions, the writers do so through their opinions whereas the taquerias do so through their portions.

Low Res Books and Burritos

But they have more common than you know. Their products are affordable and, in both cases, go down better with beer. They also, in addition to helping you get to sleep, come in a disguise — with a book cover and a tinfoil wrap — that makes their glorious insides a surprise. They both face technological threats: for the writer it’s the internet and e-books, and for the taqueria it’s the microwave and frozen burritos. And they each offer their ingredients in different forms. Writers, for example, use their words to form essays, poems, novels, scripts, plays, and short-stories. Taquerias, on the other hand, use their fillings to form tacos, enchiladas, burritos, nachos, quesadillas, and tamales.

These similarities are not a coincidence, rather they are proof of their boundless bond. This bond between San Francisco’s writers and taquerias is so strong that you could, based on their individual characteristics, pair every great San Francisco writer with every great San Francisco taqueria. . . well, maybe you couldn’t pair them, but I certainly could. And I will do just that so you, San Franciscans, can make more informed decisions about your books and burritos, essays and enchiladas.

I’ll start by pairing the first San Francisco writer I ever read, Jack London, with the first San Francisco taqueria I ever ate at, Taqueria Cancun. Neither offer anything extraordinary, but they both offer consistent creations at accessible locations. London, a San Francisco native, wrote two adventure novels, Call of the Wild and White Fang, that, because of their potent plots and simple symbolism, have been taught by teachers and scanned by students for over a hundred years and can now be found in every bookstore and library under every section from ‘teens’ and ‘classics’ to ‘animals’ and ‘sports’. And Cancun, with its properly folded rather than haphazardly rolled burritos and its rational ratio of fillings that include the oh-so-rare whole sliced avocado, is so solid that I’d use any of its three locations as an earthquake shelter — especially since their jammin’ jukeboxes and free ice-water allows one to hydrate with Mariachi music. Continue reading

News: Last Gasp Logos

Last Gasp, distributor of The Forsley Brother’s Bums of the Bay, held a logo contest that inspired Cameron to bust out these pieces:

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And we advise you to check out the rest: http://www.lastgasp.com/story/2014/04/logowinners

Free Zines

Email ChristopherForsley@gmail.com with an address to receive an envelop full of Forsley Feuilleton zines left over from the East Bay Alternative Book and Zine Fest.

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