July 2009

Pushing Daisies: Ned and Chuck

Pushing Daisies: Ned and Chuck

A bitter-sweet moment came in the mail for many “Pushing Daisies” fans as their pre-ordered copies of the second, and final, season of the Emmy award winning television series arrived this past week.  I certainly hope that a movie comes along, since there is much more to be said in the world of “Daisies.”  There may be graphic novels in the fall, but as much as I would treasure those, it is not the right format for this truly cinematic show.  The fast and literary dialog has a special quality when performed by the cast and the look of the show can’t be captured in another medium.

The world of “Daisies” is a fantasy about a pie-maker, but it is more that that.  It is a contemporary fairytale that, not surprisingly, reminds one of films such as the French film “Amelie,” that use vivid and highly saturated colors and creative camera and editing techniques.  The shot construction often mirrors classic Hollywood (including many references to Alfred Hitchcock and even “The Sound of Music”).  It is a fantastic hard-boiled murder mystery combined with the film “Big Fish” on the small screen…and then some.  The sets and props are brilliant examples of pure imagination explosion.  When Brian Fuller (creator and executive producer) and his crew put something together they go all out.

Pushing Daisies cast in The Pie Hole

Pushing Daisies cast in The Pie Hole

The facts are these…
“Pushing Daisies” is the story of a pie-maker named Ned (Lee Pace) who owns a pie shop (The Piehole).  Ned can wake the dead with his touch, but only for a minute.  If he doesn’t touch the dead thing (or person) again in that minute another must die in its place.  He may never touch a once dead thing a second time or they will die for good.  Ned has teamed up with private investigator Emerson Cod (Chi McBride), “a man named for a poet and a fish,” (ep. 6, s. 2) to solve the murders of the dead by waking them up and asking who killed them.  Then everything changes when lonely tourist Charlotte Charles (Anna Friel) is the victim.  Charlotte (or “Chuck”) is Ned’s childhood sweetheart so he hasn’t the heart to redead her.  But the lovebirds can’t touch or she will die, this time forever.  Toss into the mix Olive Snook (Kristen Chenoweth), a feisty waitress at The Piehole and you have a bizarre love triangle.  In addition to these colorful characters add Chuck’s aunts Lily Charles (Swoosie Kurtz) and Vivian Charles (Ellen Greene), the former synchronized sister swimming act, The Darling Mermaid Darlings.  And let us not forget Digby, the once dead dog, and later the pig — aptly named Pigby.

Pushing Daisies: from episode "Dummy" about Dandelion Car Company

Pushing Daisies: from the episode Dummy about the Dandelion Car Company

Every episode features bizarre and hilarious deaths and scenarios.  Season one features such gems as windmills and a bird with a Bedazzled wing (ep. 4), a scratch and sniff book that kills (ep. 7), and (possibly my favorite) the Dandelion Car Company (ep. 2).  Season two offers up more fun with a friend-renting service (episode introduces David Arquette as a taxidermist and love interest, ep. 4), widows making death dioramas (with glitter, ep. 9), and a deep fried murder of chef Colonel Likkin (ep. 8).

Also, the series has a great soundtrack.  Olive (Kristen Chenoweth) breaks into song a few times in the series, adding another special layer of surrealism to the show (Ellen Greene who plays aunt Vivian also gets in on the fun a couple times).  Sadly the soundtrack, which came out prior to season two, does not include Chenoweth’s ballad from Comfort Food which is hilarious (ep. 8, s. 2).  However, it does include the three songs sung in season one and the fantastic score composed by James Dooley.

Episodes are narrated by Jim Dale (a voice recognizable to fans of “Harry Potter”) which gives an extra special touch, like a story being read aloud.  Episodes flashback to the characters’ childhoods.  Ned is a lonely boy left at boarding school.  Chuck keeps bees as a hobby.  Emerson Cod is, as always, a modern day Marlow (the kid cast for Emerson is especially spot on). Olive is kidnapped as a child. And Lily and Vivian become the Darling Mermaid Darlings, forever strengthening their sisterly bond.

While the season finale wraps up the story as well as it could, it also says that it is not the end, but rather a beginning.  As a huge fan of “Daisies” I sure hope that is true.  I know that there is a lot more story to tell.  However, as much as I look forward to the rumored comics, this story is meant to be told on screen.


Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist: movie

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist: movie

“Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist” is an example of a rare case where the movie is very different from the book in some key ways, but both are insanely good.  What they do have in common is the main premise — the excitement of being young and looking for affection and great music — without the usual corniness of Hollywood.

Nick is the only straight member of a queercore band.  He has just been dumped by his girlfriend Tris, and by dumped I mean crushed into a squirming pulp of emo boy.

Norah would do anything to avoid talking to Tris and has been trying to get over her quasi-ex-boyfriend Tal, so, when Nick asks her if she will be his girlfriend for 5 minutes she plays along (in the movie Norah makes the first move).  This first kiss soon leads to a night of falling in and out of love, laughter, angst, and of course music that captures the frantic energy of this night (also heightened by being in NYC). If you are not young, it will make you wish you were again.

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist book

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist: book

Nick and Norah are straight-edge (label or not). However, I would be remise not to point out that there are many references to underage drinking and sex, but it is a story about teenage love after-all.

The book, by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, switches back and forth between the title characters’ points of view (a chapter at a time). Unlike the pair’s “Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List,” which takes a similar approach, but fails miserably, this technique in “Nick and Norah” allows the reader to have a sense of intimacy with the characters and avoids it becoming a book that only one gender will enjoy (the “No Kiss List” is a sad disappointment in contrast). This back and forth is especially effective in the sexy scene later on in the book (no spoilers from me!). I will say that while both book and movie have versions of this…um… climactic scene, the book is much more saucy (see it pays to read kids!).

The movie has a wonderful cast that infuse the script with humor (including a running joke about a piece of gum…trust me). While clearly Michael Cera and Kat Dennings shine in the lead roles, it is also the supporting cast that make this film a must have. In the book Tris is more relatable, but movie Tris (Alexis Dziena) is deliciously hate-able. The book shows her in more of a humanized way. Speaking of humanized characters, one of the shining points to both reincarnations are the gay characters. Instead of being token, they are just characters (key characters). Their sexuality is obvious, but not anymore-so than the straight characters. Rafi Gavron (Dev), Aaron Yoo (Thom), and Jonathan B. Wright (Beefy Guy) are fantastic (and not too bad to look at either). Despite her troubles throughout, Caroline (Ari Graynor) also still manages to look smoking hot…most of the time. Her comedic instincts took the film to another level. Jay Baruchel is convincing as Norah’s ex. All I have to say is Tal “brings the Jew fire” and I can totally see where Norah was coming from dating him.

The movie rocks — as evident by the soundtrack that features artists like Vampire Weekend, We Are Scientists, and Bishop Allen. I would also suggest purchasing the soundtrack. It is a fantastic trio of materials for a YA collection.

Check out extras and read the first chapter of “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan at:

  • http://www.randomhouse.com/teens/nickandnorah
  • Then watch the trailer, make a playlist, and search NYC for Where’s Fluffy at:

  • http://www.sonypictures.com/movies/nickandnorah
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    This week was my first time at the American Library Association National Conference.  This year it was held in Chicago so clearly the place was crawling with GSLISers (graduate students at the best library school ever, UIUC).  Monday by far was the best day as far as I’m concerned.  Not only did I get a chance to meet and chat with a few authors, but I also was able to attend a panel on graphic novels.

    At 8:10, I got in line to meet Neil Gaiman.  Neil of course was very sweet and signed a poster for my mom and a copy of the fantastic children’s book, “The Graveyard Book,” for myself.  I then went through the line again with my good friend Laura Rancani and she chatted him up about his favorite library.

    Later in the day we met Jacqueline Woodson, who was nice enough to sign a copy of “Feathers” to me.  I haven’t read it yet, so, look forward to a possible future review since I have enjoyed other novels by her.  I also had a chance to catch part of a reading by Sherman Alexie, before jetting off to the panel on graphic novels.

    Comix & Censorship was co-sponsored by IFC, AAP, & CBLDF; moderated by Charles Brownstein (Director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund); and featured the great Neil Gaiman, Terry Moore, and Craig Thompson.  Clearly with a line up like that I had to attend. Not surprising, it was amazing. I think it is fantastic that the Comic Legal Defense Fund exists and I hope you all support them. If I haven’t convinced you, maybe Neil can:

    That said, I wonder if we will ever be able to get away from the term “comics.”  Certainly some graphic novels are comedic, but most things we are talking about are not comics at all (not that ‘graphic’ is not problematic in another way).  I know I’m not the first person to say this, but despite coming a very long way in the fight for legitimacy, I wonder if calling them comics is hurting us with the uneducated.  When I hear comics I certainly don’t think of “Blankets.”

    All said, it was wonderful and it is great to know that librarians outside of the walls of academia are understanding the need for continued dialog and discussion on graphic novels, comics, and how they can best fit in our collections.  As stated at the panel, at least we can quickly thumb through them to see what is inside (unlike a book with only text or a movie).

    It is a bit depressing that the panel consisted of all men.  Despite some talk about this issue (women creating and the images of women in graphic novels), I hope next time will include all those fellows as well as a few ladies.

    Long live comics! Long live the graphic novel!