Thursday, December 15, 2011

Rory Williams, Stay Out Of My Territory


See? Even the .png name is "not OK". I'm meta like that.

Now, as you can probably tell from the above screencap of my pictures folder, I'm actually a pretty big fan of the show Doctor Who. (Top row? Third picture in from the left? That's a parody of the title screen of one of my other favorite shows, Mad Men, with the silhouetted figure wearing a fez and holding a sonic screwdriver instead of a cigarette. Bottom right corner? That's a still from an episode called The Stolen Earth in which the Earth gets--well, in which the Earth gets stolen. The show's not big on subtlety.)

So why, then, is the fact that Rory Williams, "Doctor Who", is currently leading Walter White, "Breaking Bad", in round two of RedEye's 2011 Best TV Character Tournament not okay?

Because I am capable of objective, evaluative judgment, that's why.

Does this look like a Greatest TV Character to you? Didn't think so.

There is simply no way that Rory Williams is a better character than Walter White. By no conceivable definition of that word could it be used to accurately describe the former in relation to the latter. The Doctor himself, maybe, but Rory? He's just the companion! Even worse, he's the companion to the companion! A pet! A mascot! A cheap knockoff of The Office's Jim Halpert who exists only to provide the actual companion with a reliably submissive romantic foil, someone loyal, deferential, affectionate, and comically emasculated enough to provide girls 15-24 in the audience with a sufficient number of "squee!" moments to keep them going when the sci-fi stuff becomes overly esoteric or starts to drag.

Plus he dies, like, all the time. Seriously. It's ridiculous. They even joke about it on the show.

If by better you mean morally superior, then okay, sure, maybe. More likable? Absolutely. But that's exactly my point. Rory Williams is nothing but likable. And "nothing but likable" is just another way of saying boring.

Walter White, on the other hand, is complex! And not just complex, one of the most juicily complex characters in the history of television! Maybe the most juicily complex! Sure, that means he's not always likable, but that also means he keeps you guessing! Sometimes he impresses you, sometimes he endears you, sometimes he disappoints you, and sometimes he even horrifies you, but you never stop rooting for him. That's the genius of the show, and of Bryan Cranston's performance in particular. No matter how many atrocities he commits or how much cowardice he displays--no matter how contemptible or paranoid or petty or sniveling or narcissistic he seems at his lowest--you never stop cheering at his highest. You never stop wanting to see him succeed. Even when you yourself aren't sure whether that means seeing him crush his enemies beneath him and ascend to the top of the drug trade or renounce his life of crime and achieve redemption. Whatever he wants, you want. However he feels, you feel. And if that sometimes means you feel like a prideful, vengeful, resentful opportunist with an inferiority complex who wants to kick in the teeth of every smug asshole you imagine ever slighted you, condescended to you or challenged your masculinity, so be it. That's the magic of television!

And just look at that hat! And those badass sunglasses!

So I call upon you, proud denizens of the internet, to combat this injustice. Redress the balance. Go to, cast your vote for Walter White, and ensure that this masterpiece of television writing and acting doesn't go down in the second round to a neutered, one-note, plagiaristic cliche of female wish-fulfillment like Rory Williams.

Or he might just come to your house and murder you while you sleep.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

'Tis Not Alone My Inky Cloak, Good Mother; Nor Customary Suits Of Solemn Black

So I wrote a short play (more of a sketch really) about Batman and the Doctor from the BBC series "Doctor Who" for a local high school drama club. The thing is, I wrote it in iambic pentameter, because, well, that's just how I roll.

Anyway, I'm pretty proud of it, so I thought I'd share with you some of the highlights.

Here's how the Greek chorus introduces Batman:

Behold! A city black and full of smoke,
beset by villains terrible and strange,
as steep'd in mystery as Roanoke,
as violent as Rome and like to change.
Therein a lone crusader long crusades
to turn to Heaven that which once was Hell;
atop its spires and perch'd on palisades,
each night he stands his solemn sentinel.
A prince of father, mother, robb'd in youth,
appall'd by Nature's cruel dispassion would
in manhood seek to remedy the truth,
and turn his own mischance to mankind's good.
And so this early curst aristocrat
assum'd the fearful mantle of the bat!

And here's how the Joker responds when Batman, in a fit of self-doubt, asks if it is not "but pride that leads a man, like Sisyphus 'gainst gravity, to act in opposition to the fates":

Pride? Ha! 'Tis fear that makes thee fume and fight:
of change, disorder, entropy and chance!
There is no good nor evil, wrong nor right;
there's only Discord's blind, demented dance!
These people of whose lives you make such fuss,
whose paths and purses you so grimly guard,
are all of them mere bags of meat and puss,
a pox by which the planet's ass is marr'd!
The godless heavens do not care a whit
for sinner, psycho, sidekick, saint or slut.
Concede, thou self-righteous hypocrite:
'tis all a cosmic joke, and thee the butt!
Explain me then, for I find it mysterious;
my question simply put is: Why so serious?

You like how he answers in the form of a sonnet? (Which, incidentally, is also how the Greek chorus introduced Batman, in case you didn't notice.)

Anyway, after the Joker takes the Jester (that's the play's narrator) hostage, the Doctor shows up to rescue her in classic Deus Ex Machina fashion by intimidating him into submission with this badass soliloquy (it starts off not rhyming, but ends with approximately two thirds of a sonnet and anyway includes some sweet Greek mythology references):

Be not assuag'd by my unmuscled form,
for like that equine chariot of lore
did secret through the gates of careless Troy
Odysseus, Anticulus, Ajax,
Cyannipus and countless more with swords
unsheath'd and appetites for Trojan blood,
so does this carriage, frail though it may be,
comprise a power so profound that Zeus
himself would tremble at its might and wish
that he could barter his for mine. I've seen
the skies ablaze with Hades' fire and seas
that sleep and wake again in tandem with
the tides; rivers that dream, statues that weep,
towers that sing, whole worlds of diamond made,
black holes, cold suns, a rift in time and space
named for that Gorgon who with serpent hair
would turn her hapless suitors into stone!
I've been both god and devil, fire and ice;
I am the voice with which the cosmos thrums.
I've peered into the time vortex itself
and heard the warlike beating of its drums.
I feel the planet spin beneath our feet
at sixty-seven thousand miles per hour;
consider that, then cower in defeat,
for now you know the meaning of true power.
Well whaddya think? Can I get a "bravo"?
Oh right, one last thing: Let the jester go.

Not bad, eh? In fact, you know what? I think I'll write everything in iambic pentameter from now on.

Anyway, the kids performed it last weekend, and though I was unfortunately unable to go see it I hear it went well and that the audience loved it. They also tell me it was videotaped, so stay tuned, because the first thing I do when I get my hands on a copy will be to post it here.

Who knows, maybe it'll go viral!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Cannonball Heard Round The World

Remember that time the Mythbusters fired a 30-pound steel cannonball into a slumbering San Francisco Bay area neighborhood and no one was hurt?

I do! And praise Sagan no one was hurt, not only for the obvious reason that that would have been tragic, but because if someone had been hurt then I would not have been allowed to make the following statement: the fact that that happened is awesome! (If the incident had resulted in the suspension or cancellation of the show as some have feared, then I think we can all agree that would have made it considerably less awesome. But according to a tweet by co-host Adam Savage the reports of the show's death are greatly exaggerated.)

It's not every day that real life suddenly resembles a Wile E. Coyote cartoon. But last night, for a few surreal and glorious moments it did. I mean, this thing didn't just fly in a perfectly straight line before harmlessly embedding itself in the side of a hill. It punched a hole through the side of a house, whizzed over the heads of a sleeping couple, punched a hole out through the other side of the house, then bounced across four lanes of traffic and off the roof of another house before smashing through the passenger side window of the parked minivan where it eventually came to rest, presumably in the passenger seat, where I imagine it said something like "Follow that bird!" before doing a double take when it noticed no one was behind the wheel and then frowning into the camera while the horn section of the score went "waaaaa waaaaa waaaaa waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa."

Providing hours of entertainment to generations of lonely and socially awkward children everywhere, Mr. Coyote. That's what you're doing.

Discovery Channel has of course promised to reimburse those whose property was damaged for any necessary repairs, and when interviewed on the eleven o'clock news those people of course attempted to adopt the appropriate postures of traumatized sobriety. But you can tell just by looking at them that even they think it's awesome.

Just look at the shit-eating expression on this guy's face!

And this guy's!

You just know these guys will be telling this story at every dinner party they go to for the rest of their lives. That's because the Mythbusters did, in fact, bust a myth last night--just not the one they were attempting to. The myth that Adam and Jamie busted last night was the myth that it is impossible to fire a 30-pound steel cannonball into a slumbering San Francisco Bay area neighborhood without hurting anyone.

Just think for a moment about what that means...

For what happened to have happened the way it happened, the cannon has to have been aimed just a milometer or two too high, the concrete safety wall at the firing range has to have been just a couple of pounds too weak, the slope of the hill behind it has to have been just the right number of degrees, the cars driving along that four lane highway have to have passed at the exact moments they passed, going the exact speeds they were going, the angle of the roof (like the slope of the hill) has to have been just the right number of degrees, not to mention strong enough to withstand the force of a cannonball, and that minivan where it landed has to have been parked in the exact spot where it was parked--which, according to its owner, it only just had been.

Oh, and on top of all that, you have to consider the odds that someone would be firing a 17th century cannon in the middle of the San Francisco Bay area in the year 2011 in the first place.

Close enough.

It all feels like a metaphor for something, but for what, I don't know. The unpredictability of life, maybe, or man's inability to contain the forces of nature. Those on the Right would no doubt point to it as an example of the dangers of science, of the hubris of mere mortals who would seek to harness the laws of God's universe.

I prefer to think of it as a metaphor for those occasional moments of the absurd, of the dangerous and the fantastical and the bizarre, that serve to liven up our otherwise mundane and monotonous existences.

We could all use a cannonball through our bedroom walls every now and then.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Invention of Georges Méliès

It has by now become a tired cliche to say that persons with abnormally orange skin, whether from the over-liberal application of self tanner or digital color correction on the part of a movie studio, resemble Oompa-Loompas. However, it was just this comparison that occurred to me during the otherwise visually thrilling opening sequence of Hugo, for Asa Butterfield in the titular role, with his diminutive stature and his mop of untidy brown hair and his musty tweed jacket and his corduroy shorts and his green and red horizontally striped sweater and his digitally enhanced bright orange skin, resembles nothing so much as one of Willy Wonka's vertically challenged crew of all singing, all dancing indentured servants. Certainly not a human, at any rate.

"Come with me, and you'll be, in a world of anal penetration..."

If this is not the sort of thing that bothers you, well, then I envy you, imaginary internet reader, for a considerable obstacle has been removed from your path to the enjoyment of many an otherwise fine and entertaining film. If, however, like my girlfriend and I you are irrationally offended by the representation of a world which has been seemingly drained of every color besides various shades of orange and teal, then Hugo is going to have one very major strike against it from the get-go.

But back to that opening sequence, which I called "otherwise visually thrilling". I am willing to stand by that, for it only took a few seconds of Martin Scorsese's first foray into the world of effects-driven 3D family entertainment to make me realize why my initial horror at what I perceived as the selling out of one of our greatest living directors was actually--to use another tired old cliche--a match made in heaven. You see, I had forgotten that ole Marty was not merely famous for directing gritty and violent movies about potty-mouthed tough guys and the underage prostitutes who love them, but also for shots like this:

And these:

"O ye of little faith," is what I would say to myself of two days ago if I was in possession of some futuristic piece of technology which allowed me to do so (note to NASA: Get on that!), for as it turns out, all these years Martin Scorsese was simply waiting for 3D technology--and 3D technology was waiting for Martin Scorsese. Hugo is far from his best film dramatically, but it is one of his very best films visually, opening with a shot of an intricate system of spinning gears that morphs before our very eyes into the electrically luminescent roadways and skyline of an early 1930's Paris before the camera (or "camera" I suppose I should say) zooms in impossibly fast through the window of a railway station, down a platform crowded with passengers dressed in period attire and obscured by occasional billows of steam, and across the teaming lobby to a giant clock face out of which, through a hole in the shape of the number "4", peer the shockingly blue eyes of our hero.

I found myself reminded more than once over the course of Hugo of its predecessor, 2001's Moulin Rouge!, in which director Baz Luhrmann played with depth of field through digitally enhanced shots of similar scale and kineticism (and which also, as it happens, takes place in Paris). If anything ought to be converted to 3D and re-released in theaters it's that, not James Cameron's bloated whore of an epic Titanic, a trailer for which played before the movie I am reviewing calling it "The World's Most Beloved And Acclaimed Film" (cue exaggerated eye roll).

But back to Hugo. The film is at its best when the camera is moving, which it often is, whether following our hero through a jungle of Parisian legs and coat-tails during one of the film's many chase sequences, or through the clockwork catacombs that are the only home he knows, bequeathed him by his drunken Uncle Claude (Ray Winstone, back under Scorsese's direction after 2006's The Departed), dodging and spinning and flipping right along with its subject.

Conversely, the film is at its worst when the camera is still, trained on two or more actors who are simply standing around discussing one of the film's tiresome magical-realistic plot points--for you see, this is the kind of film where a pretty and precocious older girl befriends the plucky and hardscrabble young hero and--gasp!--that pretty and precocious older girl just happens to be in possession of the missing heart-shaped key required to bring the plucky and hardscrabble young hero's mysterious clockwork automaton to life!

Your grandma will never see it coming.

Now certainly, such stories can be done well. In fact, one of my very favorite films is the 1993 adaptation of The Secret Garden, in which ornate old keys found in long-unopened drawers are discovered to fit the rusty keyholes of ivy-covered doorways as a matter of course. But in the case of Hugo, the director's heart just isn't in it. Scorsese is evidently going through the motions when it comes to all the typical warm-and-fuzzy kiddie-flick mumbo-jumbo about missing keys and hidden doorways and kindly dead fathers, until he can move on to the subject he actually cares about, which, I imagine, is the only reason he took on this project in the first place:

Around the end of the second act, Hugo and his pretty and precocious older companion Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz, a talented actress trying too hard to show what a mature young woman she's grown into on the cusp of this, her necessarily awkward transition from famous child actress to bona fide Hollywood star) learn that the latter's adoptive father, Papa Georges (played with characteristic gravitas by Ben Kingsley, another Scorsese veteran), is actually Georges Méliès, one of the great early silent filmmakers and the "cinemagician" responsible for the invention of the stop trick, as well as countless other special effects innovations before the term "special effects" had even been coined.

Scorsese, who in 1990 founded The Film Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and restoration of old films, is one of the most famously cinephilic filmmakers of his generation, and something amazing happens when the movie becomes about Hugo and Isabelle's rediscovery of the work of Georges Méliès: it comes cracklingly, passionately, joyously to life. Gone are the awkward pauses between stilted lines of expository dialogue; gone are the leaden attempts at saccharine humanist sentimentalism; gone even is the formerly ubiquitous binary color scheme (one almost wonders if the earlier oppressiveness of the colors orange and teal was deliberate, a way of drawing attention to today's homogenized artificiality as opposed to the more visually authentic films of Méliès's time; but alas, that is probably giving Scorsese too much credit).

What we are treated to instead is a protracted flashback sequence that is itself a sort of movie-within-a-movie, a biopic of George Méliès that is more compelling, more enlightening and more unreservedly affectionate than any full-length example of that genre to come out in the past decade at least, as the normally unearthly calm and composed Kingsley enthusiastically jogs and hops around the re-created set of one of Méliès's films, directing flamboyantly costumed actors portraying pirates or mermaids or space aliens, negotiating the logistics of having an on-set 8-by-20 foot manned dragon puppet that spews pyrotechnics out of its nose, and just generally being an endearingly mad perfectionist. It is a tribute to the creative process and to the process of creating films in particular, a love letter from one of the greatest living filmmakers to one of his greatest influences, and it is beautiful and thrilling to behold.

In fact, chief among Hugo's accomplishments--maybe it's only real accomplishment--is that it made me want to run right home and watch a George Méliès film.

But something tells me ole Marty would be OK with that.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Blogger Is Out

Gone to see Hugo with the girlfriend and her 'rents. Expect to like it, but heard the orange-and-teal-ness is off the charts. Review to come.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Comic Reminiscences

I bought my first comic book from a gas station convenience store when I was eight years old.

My parents and I were on our way to visit my sister in Hamilton, New York, where she was studying English at Colgate University, an eight hour drive we made at least twice a year for four years. We’d pile into the car at around ten o'clock with a lunchbox full of snacks and a stack of old cassette tapes, usually something like Simon & Garfunkel's Greatest Hits and a few of my favorite Disney soundtracks, and arrive in time for a late dinner.

By this point I was typically prostrate on the backseat, watching the streetlights shift through my semi-translucent white and yellow quilt and trying to gauge how close we were by the speed of the car and the frequency of stops and turns. But when we pulled up to my sister's dorm building at the end of this drive—sometime between September of '95 and May of '96, this would have been—I was still poring over my comic book, reading it for what must have been the thirteenth or fourteenth time.

It was a Batman comic book. Robin and Nightwing (that’s the superhero persona of Dick Grayson, the first Robin all grown up, for the uninitiated among you) were venturing into Gotham’s equivalent of Central Park to apprehend Poison Ivy, only to discover that she herself was being held prisoner by Clayface.

Looking back I realize it was a modern day parable, an allegory for the oppression of the sacred feminine by the brutish and unyielding masculine, with the central images being those of a sedated Poison Ivy first entombed in a pillar of clay, and then, later, exploding out of that same pillar, resplendently naked, with strategically placed froths and plumes of water obscuring—but only just—the R-rated parts of her anatomy.

At the time I only knew that the art, sketchy and amorphous and full of muted, secondary colors that bled into one another, was nothing like what I had expected, and looking at it gave me a warm, insular feeling like burrowing underground.

I can’t recall the rest of the visit. It’s probable that we saw my sister’s a capella group, the Resolutions, give a concert after eating Sunday brunch at the Colgate Inn, where for dessert I would have either had a slice of chocolate chip cookie dough pie or been bitterly disappointed to learn it wasn't on the menu that week. It’s also possible that my sister introduced us to her current boyfriend, and that he joined us for a game of Wiffle Ball on the campus green.

All that stands out is the comic book.

I grew up on Long Island, in a town called Greenlawn which was cited recently in the New York Times as proof that Small Town America is alive and well. There I attended Thomas J. Lahey elementary school, where for the first through third grades I was happy and generally well-liked by my classmates. It wasn’t until the fourth grade that my girlish appearance (wide-hipped and chubby with shoulder length hair that my mother was loathe to cut for its extraordinary thickness and sheen) and disposition (sensitive, artistic and prone to expansive fits of giggling) caught up with me.

I was teased incessantly, permanently barred from playing Air Force One (or whatever action movie was being advertized on TV that week) with the rest of the boys during recess. Whenever the teacher ordered us to line up by gender, one of them would invariably advise me that I was in the wrong line.

One day a pair of boys named Andrew Harder and Brando Casalichio came upon me sitting cross-legged on the pitcher’s mound of the empty baseball field, holding a pair of red rubber kickballs in my lap.

I don’t remember why I was sitting there all alone like that, or what I was doing with those kickballs. It seems in retrospect that I was inviting the sort of ridicule that followed.

At any rate, Andrew or Brando (I don’t remember which) pointed to the balls and wittily observed, “They look like his balls!”

My response to this was to ignore them in the hopes that they’d go away. Of course the two merely continued to point and laugh, shouting things like “Hey, nice balls!” and “How’d your balls get so big?” while I sat there looking down at the ground and feeling the heat of shame rise on the back of my neck.

After a few minutes of this I stood up and started to walk towards the school, letting the kickballs drop to the ground, where they rolled towards my assailants. That's when I heard Brando shout, “Hey!”

I turned around in time to see him kick one of the balls in my direction. It connected with my face with a loud rubber thwonk.

“Bull’s eye!” he exclaimed.

This was the only incident I ever reported to a teacher, having felt up till then that to tattle was unmanly, a violation of the code of the schoolyard. I’m sure she made the boys apologize, and that their apology was exactly as unsatisfying as teacher-prompted apologies always are.

Did I follow the example of the brooding and stoic Batman in order to make it through these hard times? Did I bury my nose in the pages of his comic books in order to escape a world that had suddenly become so hostile and unwelcoming?

I can't say for sure—my memories of childhood are so disjointed that I can't honestly recall whether the kickball incident took place before or after that fateful road trip when I was afforded my first glimpse into his world—but I'd like to think I did.

When I was in the fifth grade I convinced my father to take me to one of the myriad comic book conventions that are held around the country each year. This one was located in Manhattan. I don't remember what it was called, but I do remember the thrill of wandering a maze of brightly colored booths and kiosks decorated with posters and statues and action figures of all my favorite heroes, as well as many I had never seen before, along with a few hundred or so of my fellow true believers.

As fate would have it, one of them was a classmate of mine whom I had not previously known was also a fan of comic books. His name was Alec Horowitz. Our encounter in that convention hall was brief, and most of the conversation between my father and his mother, but it marked the beginning of a long, if tacit, mutual understanding that would prove more durable than even my closest friendships. In fact, to this day I am more likely to correspond with him over Facebook about a subject such as the latest casting announcement from a studio producing a movie based on one of our favorite comic books than I am with any of the friends with whom I sat during lunch or performed in the school plays.

That day I:

1) Shook the hands of Lou Ferrigno and Adam West, honors I bitterly regret not being old enough to appreciate, having never, at that age, seen even a single episode of either of the shows on which those actors are famous for having played the Hulk and Batman, respectively. I remember Lou Ferrigno being very polite, surprisingly soft-spoken, and spelling my name wrong on the photo of him and Bill Bixby that he autographed for me. Adam West, on the other hand, I remember being rushed and businesslike, scoffing at a woman who had brought her own poster for him to sign rather than buying one from the display on his table. This does not jibe with accounts of others who have met him at comic book conventions and award shows, however, nor with the impression of him I have gotten from interviews and his game self-parody on shows like Family Guy, so I like to think I simply caught him in a bad day—a belief which allows me to still become teary-eyed when I watch Beware The Gray Ghost, the episode of Batman: The Animated Series in which he voices the part of an aging and out-of-work actor who briefly reprises the role of the fictional, crime-fighting Gray Ghost in order to team up with Batman, who we learn was himself a fan of the Gray Ghost as a child.

2) Rather naively challenged a pair of much older self-proclaimed “ubergeeks” to a game of comic book trivia and received as a consolation prize when the two fairly trounced me an issue of an obscure indie comic about a sexy steampunk sorceress, the cover art of which would inspire many a pubescent fantasy in years to come.

3) Convinced my father to buy me a large to the point of unwieldy plastic Batmobile and a Batman poster painted by some Japanese artist whose name I cannot now remember depicting the hero as uncharacteristically skinny and pale, standing balanced atop the steeple of a skyscraper like an undead circus performer against an improbably large full moon. I would later consign this poster to the back of my closet, deriding the artist's depiction of Batman as “too Tim Burton-y”, though as it happens I was thinking not of that director's own take on the character from 1989 but of Jack Skellington, the fashionably emaciated hero of The Nightmare Before Christmas and patron saint of emo high school students everywhere.

Not all the booths we passed that day were devoted to things comic book related, however. At one of these a man who looked to be in his late twenties asked me if I'd like to see a trailer for a television pilot being optioned by the network he represented. I eagerly consented, and the man placed what looked like a futuristic virtual reality helmet on my head.

After a moment of total darkness and the muffled noises of the surrounding convention hall, a screen which filled my entire field of vision suddenly came alive with images and my ears were filled with the rumbling and portentous tones of a male voice-over narrator.

It was a trailer for the sci-fi action series Dark Angel starring Jessica Alba. It lasted about a minute, and when it was over the man removed the helmet from my head and asked what I'd thought. Did it seem like the kind of show I might be interested in watching?

I was going through a screenwriting kick at the time, and I told him that while I was intrigued by the initial nighttime shot of the camera panning up the dirt road towards the big scary house, I found the narrator's line about “searching for the answers to the mysteries of her past” a bit cliché.

He must have been impressed by my answer, because he asked my father and me to wait just one minute while he went and talked to his partner. When he returned, he handed me a business card with a date and a time written on the back of it and asked if I'd be willing to be part of a focus group the following day. I would be paid $300 for my time.

Of course I agreed, and when the next day arrived my father and I took the train back into the city, found the address on the business card and rode the elevator up to the designated office.

The lobby of what in retrospect must have been an advertising agency (I was too young at the time to fully grasp the details of the situation, or to bother with such distinctions) was spacious and white from floor to ceiling, save for some modern art sculptures the colors and dimensions of which I cannot remember except to say that even I, at the age of ten, could tell they were modern. It was filled with people, most of whom were older than I, whom I could tell from the self-conscious and impatient way they fidgeted must be there for the same reason I was.

There were also several stylishly dressed young urban professionals (or more likely, again in retrospect, interns) like the one who had given me his card at the comic book convention, though not, I was disappointed to learn upon a preliminary scan of the room, that precise one. They bustled and paced about frantically, apparently overwhelmed by the task of herding the large crowd of us where we needed—or rather, where they needed us—to be.

At last a group of us not including my father were ushered into a small, florescent lit room with gray carpeting on not just the floor but also three of its four walls. The fourth wall was almost entirely taken up by what I realize now must have been a two-way mirror. Occupying the center of the room was a long, brown conference table, around which were several black plastic chairs—but not, we quickly ascertained, enough for all of us.

After we had all either sat down or staked out a section of wall against which to lean—I, in deference to my age, had been granted a seat—one of the stylishly dressed young interns informed us that they had made a mistake: They had invited too many people. So what they were going to do was he was going tell us a little bit about the product they were focus grouping, then he was going to ask us a few questions, and then, based on our answers to these questions, they were going to decide who to keep and who to send home.

As it turned out, the product they were focus grouping was an example of what is today known as a smart phone—one of the very first examples, I would imagine, judging by the timeline—and I remember feeling confused as to why it had been decided that, based on my reaction to a trailer for Dark Angel, I would have anything useful to say about those. Still, there was the incentive of $300, and I was going to give it my best shot.

After the stylishly dressed young intern had described at length some of the smart phone's features, as well as some of its potential uses, he went around the table asking each of us, one by one, if it sounded like the kind of product we would consider buying. When he arrived at me, I decided the best course of action was to answer honestly.

The way I figured it, selling the product to someone who was already interested in buying it was easy. By talking to me, on the other hand, they could figure out how to sell it to someone who wasn't. Ergo, my perspective was the most valuable in the room. They were sure to ask me to stay!

“No,” I told him.

The stylishly dressed young intern thanked us all and asked us to please wait just a few more minutes and he would be right back. Then he left the room, presumably to confer with the other stylishly dressed young interns.

The adults made small talk while I sat quietly by myself. After a few minutes, our stylishly dressed young intern returned with a small stack of money. He thanked all of us once again for coming, but they had made the final decision as to who among us they wouldn't be needing. He read their names off a piece of paper. One of the names was mine.

“But because you were all kind enough to take time out of your weekends,” he added, “and because we don't want to send you away empty handed, we're going to give you each $100 of the $300 we promised.”

Truth be told, I was more disappointed that I wasn't going to get to take part in the focus group than I was about the deducted $200. When I told my father what happened, he gave me one of the few real pieces of advice I can remember him ever giving me: “When somebody asks you a question like that, always say yes.”

I reached puberty much earlier than most of my peers, so that by the time I reached the seventh grade I already had a heavy dusting of facial hair across my chin, shoulders like a Gotham Knights linebacker and a voice that was a deep baritone.

My classmates called me “girl” no longer.

In addition to these welcome physical changes I began to add new items to my wardrobe, including a long black coat that was to become by trademark. The teacher’s insistence that I take it off upon entering her classroom, my refusal to do so, and the subsequent contest of wills that ensued became a daily ritual, a pantomime on a small scale of the rebellion against authority in which each day my classmates and I felt an increasing call to enlist.

It was these miniature mutinies, along with an emerging talent for cracking jokes in the middle of lessons, that finally earned me the respect of my peers.

Coincidentally, this was also the year I delivered a lecture on the subject of comic books to the “Intellectually Gifted” class, thus effectively coming out of the geek closet. I had purchased from a local used book store that summer a book called Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud, a sacred tome that is to comic book readers, writers and artists what Darwin’s The Origin of Species is to biologists. I used it as my lesson plan, recreating in chalk the various charts and artworks contained therein on the classroom's blackboard, waxing enthusiastic as I did about the narrative virtues of the medium.

My classmates were rapt. Several of them even approached me afterward asking to see the small collection of graphic novels I had brought with me as visual aids: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland, The Long Halloween by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth by Grant Morrison and Dave McKean, That Yellow Bastard by Frank Miller, and Ghost World by Daniel Clowes.

We sat in a circle on the basketball court during recess, passing the books around, commenting on our favorite panels, reading our favorite lines aloud.

It must have been around this time that I decided I wanted to be a comic book artist when I grew up. I started by copying panels from the various comic books I owned into a hardcover Barnes & Noble's sketchbook that I had covered in stickers in emulation of Enid Coleslaw, the protagonist of both the graphic novel Ghost World and the film adaptation by director Terry Zwigoff, which had recently become one of my favorite films. I soon progressed to drawing portraits of my friends and classmates, which was especially useful as a means of flirting with girls.

One of my best was of a girl in my first period Global Studies class whom I had dubbed “Ethereal Girl” for the way her characteristic blue fishnets made her pale calves seem to glow with a faint blue light. In fact, those stockings were one of the few injections of color she ever lent to her ensembles, unless you counted the streaks of purple and green in her choppy brown hair.

Ethereal Girl had long, knobby limbs, sharp, jutting hipbones and small breasts, while I tended to prefer more voluptuous girls. But there was something about her personality, the ever-present smirk on her lips, the way she moved. She was slinky, like Catwoman. Even the thick, black rings of eyeliner around her eyes were reminiscent of that character's mask.

Though the attraction was eventually declared to be mutual it was never consummated, and though I have known many more beautiful women since—and though she eventually gave up the punk look in favor of a more sophisticated, mainstream fashion sense—it will always be Ethereal Girl whom I most regret not being with when I had the chance.

At the age of sixteen I experienced what I can only describe as a nostalgic revelation when, while reading the third volume in a series called Batman: No Man's Land, I found myself staring at the same sketchy, amorphous drawings and muted colors I'd spent the majority of that road trip staring at when I was eight years old.

I had long since lost that comic book, and could remember none of the relevant information with which I might have looked it up. And yet, here it was in my hands again after another eight years.

There's something about holding the object of a childhood memory that reconnects you to the person you were when the memory happened. Like the ham radio that allows Jim Caviezel to talk to his six year-old self in the movie Frequency. It's a feeling of past and present not so much colliding as exchanging a fond “Hello, how've you been?” before once again going their separate ways.

This nostalgia was pointed with a bitter irony, however, for I had made the discovery in the midst of a period of homelessness following my parents' divorce earlier that year.

After being evicted from my childhood home, my father and I spent a few weeks living like nomads, moving around between hotels, I occasionally spending a night or two at the house of a friend while he slept in his car in the parking lot of Huntington Hospital. One day a friend of his sister's with a large house in Syosset offered to take us in. We stayed with her and her family for just under six months, during which time they offered to assume legal guardianship of me, an offer my father very seriously considered for the simple reason that they were wealthy and he was not. I turned them down, however, and it became a point of contention between us. We moved out shortly thereafter.

Eventually my father and I ended up in a government housing facility in Wyandanch, also sometimes referred to by its unofficial moniker, “Harlem's Little Sister”. There we shared a house with several other families uniformly consisting of unwed black mothers and their two to four small children. One of these mothers had a habit of consoling herself by playing My Cherie Amour by Stevie Wonder at full volume, on repeat, for hours at a time, often all night. As a result, the effect that song has on me today is roughly comparable to the effect that coming across a late night showing of The Mark of Zorro might have on an insomniac Bruce Wayne.

The facility had a rule that said no minor was to be left unattended there by his or her parent for any reason at any time, which meant that when my father left for work early Saturday and Sunday mornings I had to accompany him to the Walt Whitman Mall, where for his entire eight hour shift in the luggage department of Macy's I would wander the white linoleum halls like my hero under the effects of one of the Mad Hatter's mind control devices, passing by the same storefronts, the same window displays, the same mannequins modeling the same outfits and the same dead-eyed stares, over and over again. The facility also had a curfew, 11:00 pm, which meant that I was prohibited from spending nights at friends' houses or even attending parties or social gatherings past 9:00, as the train ride back to Wyandanch took about two hours (by this point my father had either sold the car or it had been repossessed, I'm not sure which).

As a result, I spent the majority of my time within the wood paneled walls of that facility, with its torn black pleather couches and its plastic wrapped mattresses and its sign above the toilet reading “If you sprinkle when you tinkle, please be considerate and clean up after yourself and your children,” separated by what may as well have been a million miles from my friends, my hometown and the world I knew.

The No Man's Land saga, meanwhile, recounts the events of the year immediately after Gotham suffers a cataclysmic earthquake, reducing the already derelict city to rubble and prompting the U.S. government to officially evacuate the city and militarize its borders in order to isolate those who remain. The resulting no man's land is plunged into anarchy, and Batman and his sidekicks must struggle to maintain a sense of order amid the chaos.

It is an irresistibly seductive thing, the impulse to compare one's own life to the life of a superhero. I found myself dreaming I was Batman more and more often, and likening a particularly flippant and extroverted friend of mine to the Joker—although I admit there were times when I felt more like the Joker, so cynical and bewildered in the face of it all that I could only laugh.

I continued, too, the practice of drawing parallels between the women in my life and the various femme fatales of Batman's rogues gallery.

There was my girlfriend, who had a sort of ancient, Sephardic sensuality about her, and whose father, though not exactly a villain, I still found incredibly intimidating, and so she was Talia Al Ghul. There was my former crush, whose feline features and body language, combined with the sexual tension which was still present in our friendship and which frequently manifested as hostility, made her a perfect Catwoman. I even had my very own Harley Quinn for those days when I was feeling Jokerish—although in retrospect, her red hair may have made her better suited for the role of Poison Ivy.

There was, too, a feeling of being marked by destiny, of being chosen for greatness the way Batman had been chosen by the murder of his parents, Superman by the destruction of his home planet, the Flash by the cascade of volatile chemicals sent crashing down upon him by an errant bolt of lightning.

Even outside of comics, in the annals of classical mythology and literature there seemed to be a correlation between traumatic childhoods and glorious adulthoods. I decided that my early years of social isolation, my dysfunctional home life, my parents' contentious divorce and my present homelessness must all be a test, a right of passage, a cosmic trial by fire from which the future, epically heroic me would rise like Phoenix from Jamaica Bay.

And weren't there already signs of that transformation occurring? Hadn't I lately been cast as the lead in all the school plays? Won a national writing contest? Didn't members of the faculty half-jokingly request my autograph in the hallway so that when I became famous they could say they knew me when? And hadn't my English teacher, Ms. Goodman, cited me during the course of a lesson on the archetype of the Byronic Hero as a perfect example of that archetype? Hell, I had been born on my father's birthday! My name meant “strong and virile gift of god”! I had received my first kiss, at the age of fourteen, on an airplane, traveling alone, from a strange girl whom I had just happened to be seated next to and who was two years older than me! I was a literary protagonist!

Then, in June of 2006, the final month of my senior year of high school, my picture appeared on the cover of the “Long Island Life” section of Newsday. In the accompanying four page article detailing the story of how I had overcome adversity to win a full scholarship to the Carnegie Mellon School of Drama, the author wrote, “he walks with a calm stride, his confident gait absent the bravado and timidity that typically fill high school hallways” and “his dark brown eyes pierce his sentences like punctuation marks”.

This was it! My first brush with fame! My emergence into glory! My equivalent of the fateful Gotham Gazette headline “Strange Half-Man Half-Bat Spotted At Ace Chemical Heist”!

Like the article said, I had overcome the requisite adversity and now I was set to take the Carnegie Mellon School of Drama by storm! Within five years—tops!—I would surely be a movie star! Sitting down to chat with James Lipton Inside The Actors Studio! My image on the front of every magazine, my poster on the wall of every teen girl's bedroom!

I began practicing my Oscar acceptance speech—and, of course, I began practicing my Batman voice, sure that my being cast in that role was merely a matter of time. Hell, why wait to be cast? I would write and direct it myself! It would be the most faithful treatment of the character yet, a rumination on his nature as an avatar for our own tendencies to impose order and meaning on an inherently random and chaotic existence, with yours truly portraying both Batman and the Joker to symbolize how the pair were two sides of the same coin, two aspects of the same fractured psyche! Genius! Brilliant! It would be Citizen Kane, The Godfather and Casablanca all rolled into one! And I would be the next Orson Welles!

Everything else was just origin story.

I lasted three months at Carnegie Mellon. As it turned out, the trials of my adolescence were more than I could bare, and removed from the context of the fantasy world I had constructed atop my high school, wherein I was the hero at the beginning of his hero cycle and everyone and everything else around me had some symbolic significance, I simply could not function. I was skittish and insecure around my fellow drama majors, whom I found to be overbearingly flamboyant and self-assured, daunted by the workload assigned me by professors who, unlike my teachers in high school, knew nothing of my home life and so offered no special leniency, and most of all lonely, which, combined with a determination to turn over a new leaf after a high school career spent being perceived as an inapproachable loner by most of my peers, resulted in my coming off as desperately overeager whenever I made attempts to socialize.

Any resemblance between myself and an epic hero had vanished, tucked away in storage along with the posters and the memorabilia. I wasn't Batman. I wasn't even the Joker. I was just another helpless civilian in need of being saved.

Rescue came in the form of my mother and her new boyfriend, who allowed me to move in with them after I withdrew. I spent just under a year living in my mother's boyfriend's condo in Nashville, Tennessee, working in an ice cream shop, spending my free time watching X-Files reruns on Sci-Fi, Law & Order reruns on TNT and AMC's Fear Fridays, and attending weekly therapy sessions with a psychologist who informed me I was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

In the end, however, the therapy did the trick, and in the Fall of 2007 I began attending Prescott College for English literature and creative writing. I even lasted there a whole year before transferring to the State School of New York at Geneseo, where I finally learned how to socialize with my peers. Late night games of Mario Kart, Call of Duty and Dungeons & Dragons, as well as the occasional game of beer pong or flip cup, did me more good than any therapist ever could, and when my girlfriend graduated in 2010 I decided I was ready to follow her into the Real World.

Now we're just another couple of urban twenty-somethings—about the same age as those stylishly dressed young interns from the focus group!—making a go of it together in a cramped little studio apartment in Queens. Just us against the world. Partners in crime.

The dynamic duo.

Of course there's a Batman poster hanging on our wall—specifically Alex Ross's portrait of the character from his DC Heroes series, which I chose for its photorealism. I even persist in equating my girlfriend to one of his femme fatales, except that now she is Catwoman, not because she is slinky or feline in any way but because she is fiercely independent, in many ways a mirror of myself and yet a foil, capable of being both an antagonist and my closest ally. But most of my other memorabilia remains in storage, if not lost forever.

There have even been other heroes in my life since high school—Don Draper of AMC's Mad Men; a creative writing professor at Geneseo who became my mentor; President Obama, for whom I campaigned in 2008; and most recently the Doctor from the BBC series Doctor Who, whose livelier and more hopeful persona befits the changes to my own personality since my darker and more brooding days as a teenager.

Still, he watches over us, arms crossed, chin thrust out defiantly, knitted brow, mouth refusing to smile, and yet, somehow, evidently proud. And why shouldn't he be?

He's been through a lot.

The Projectionist's Apprentice

The first thing I think when I see Ty Wilton for the first time is that her appearance does not match the voice I spoke with over the phone. Friendly, laid back and self-possessed, that voice had conjured images of a lithe, dainty young woman with naturally brown or sandy blond hair worn up in a loose bun, or maybe a pixie cut, dressed in airy and colorful bohemian attire and not a lot of makeup.

The real Ty Wilton has thick, black rings of eyeliner around her eyes, hair the color of drugstore Valentine's Day decorations and is trying to pass off her short-and-stocky body type as voluptuous by strangling her extra body fat with too-tight black clothing and accentuating her smallish breasts by means of a partially visible push up bra.

She reminds me of awkward girls I knew in high school.

When she says she is glad to meet me, however, her voice is as friendly, laid back and self-possessed as ever, and I decide that, however questionable her fashion sense, it is unfair of me to lump her in with those girls from high school, and I am a prejudgmental asshole for doing so.

Repentantly, I extend my hand.

It’s nice to finally meet you, too, I say, putting extra emphasis on the “finally” (originally the plan was for me to come by The Mini, the independent movie theater where she works as head projectionist in Rochester, NY, last weekend, but I had to cancel on her twice, both times at the last minute, when I could not secure a ride. I am not just a prejudgmental asshole, I am an unreliable asshole).

“So tell me,” she says, “what is it exactly you wanted to do here?”

Well basically, I was hoping to follow you around, maybe see the inside of the projection booth, how all the equipment works, etc.

“We can do that. Come this way.”

She leads me past the ticket-taker’s booth and through an Employee's Only door between the entrances to Theater 1 and Theater 2. Behind this door is a steep and very narrow metal staircase that turns twice at a right angle like a fire-escape before we reach the top. As we climb she makes small talk of the “So how do you like school?” variety. On the landing is a cardboard box full of empty film spools. There is also another door, this one open, with a large poster hung on the inside. The poster is a landscape done all in shades of yellow: naked soldiers wade through a body of water at night as a city burns to the ground behind them. One of the soldiers stares out at the viewer mournfully. At least he would if somebody hadn't taped a pair of 3-D glasses over his eyes.

Waltz with Bashir. I wanted to see that. Was it any good?

“I didn’t see it either. I don’t know who put that up. The posters on the walls in here change all the time.”

“In here” is the projection booth, and it’s not at all how I imagined: a long, low-ceilinged room with shiny silver walls and a concrete floor. Actually it’s two rooms, but the door between them has also been left open and is nearly as wide as the room itself. To my right is a desk cluttered with loose papers, a desktop computer and a paperback copy of Twilight: Eclipse by Stephanie Meyer. On the wall above the desk are posters for Che, Steven Soderbergh’s biopic of Che Guevara, and Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, a crime drama starring Ethan Hawke and Philip Seymour Hoffman (not that you'd know that from looking at the poster: it boasts no photos of its leading men, only the title with a drawn-on tail and horns to make it resemble its mythical namesake). There is also an autographed black and white photo of Steve Martin, which makes up slightly for the copy of Twilight: Eclipse.

To my left are what look like three giant inverted Extra Extra Large pizza trays stacked one on top of the other and spaced a few inches apart. I am suddenly struck with the sensation of having been shrunk down and imprisoned inside a 1950s jukebox.

What are these?

“Those are called platters. They started using those in the '60s, I think. No more reel-to-reel changeover.”

What's reel-to-reel changeover?

“That’s when the projectionist would put a new reel of film inside the projector as the last one ended. A film comes in several reels.”

Like in Fight Club. Those little cigarette burns in the top right corner of the screen.

“Exactly. Little markings on the film to let the projectionist know when a reel was about to end. Only by the time they switched over to platters they didn’t look like cigarette burns anymore. They were little white circles. Nowadays what we do is build the film beforehand.”

She takes me into the adjoining room, where there is a work bench exactly like you'd find in a suburban garage, complete with pairs of pliers and scissors, a screwdriver, a tube of glue and a vice—only instead of a disemboweled lawnmower, this one's got three spools of film on it. On the floor next to it are three bulky, octagonal, construction-site-orange canisters that look more like something a James Bond villain would use to transport plutonium than anything that belongs in the projection booth of a movie theater. Looking closer, however, I can just make out the words written on their sides: Duplicity, Gomorrah, Sunshine Cleaning.

“We take the reels,” continues Ty, “cut off the ends which are blank, then attach them beginning to end, basically turning them into one long reel. Once it’s been built, we wrap it around the brain. We call the center of the platter the brain.”

Sure enough, there is a black doughnut of film around the center of the platter about four feet in circumference: the giant record to the platter’s giant turntable. The sensation of being inside a 1950s jukebox returns.

“Then you thread the end through the projector.”

The projector is the one thing that looks almost exactly like I imagined: a big metal box stuck on to a pole with a lens like the headlight of a car jutting out through a square shaped hole in the wall. The only things missing are the Mickey Mouse-ear film reels you always see attached to the back of them in old movies. Instead, the film simply stretches across the empty space between the projector and the platter about a foot above the floor like an impossibly flimsy conveyor belt. I am concerned that there is nothing to protect this conveyor belt while it makes its perilous journey: no screen, no plastic tubing, not even a railing to keep you from tripping over it if you’re not paying attention.

In fact I almost do trip over it when I step forward to peer through the square shaped hole in the wall down at the blissfully ignorant audience below. Luckily, I catch myself at the last second and opt for the other way around.

The seats are occupied almost exclusively by, shall we say, the elderly. I ask Ty what movie is playing:


That explains it. Or maybe it's just that the time, about 6:30, is a bit early in the evening for college students and hip, urban twenty-somethings to be out and about.

Ty opens a panel on the side of the projector and starts to thread the film through a series of pulleys inside. I’m surprised at how rough she is with it, how speedily she goes about the process. Once again, I am concerned about the film. I tell her so, and she laughs and informs me that what she’s threading now isn’t film, it’s something much more durable that you attach to the beginning of the film to get it started. It’s called leader. I ask if that’s leader as in “follow the leader” or liter as in a liter of Coke, although I'm pretty sure that is a stupid question.

“Leader as in follow the leader,” she says nonjudgmentally because she is a much better person than I am. “Now you crank the flywheel.”

Platters, brains, “crank the flywheel”: I'm loving this projectionist lingo! She grabs hold of a crank on the side of the projector (which I astutely take to be the aforementioned flywheel) and starts cranking. It is evidently difficult to turn; she puts some muscle into it. The leader snakes around the pulleys and out through a hole in the top of the projector. Once enough has made it through she lets go of the flywheel and drags the leader back to the platter.

“First we remove the brain,” she says, and proceeds to do so. I am tempted to reply with an enthusiastic and slightly sputtery “Yes, Master!” but I am afraid she will not get the reference and so instead I say nothing.

The brain is a hand-sized cluster of black plastic pulleys. The innards of the projector are pulleys. Everything is pulleys. (Or to phrase that observation in the form of a movie reference because movie references are an appropriate leitmotif for an article about the inside of a projection booth: My God! It's full of pulleys!)

“Then you wrap the film that’s been through the projector around the brain of the second platter so that when the movie plays the film goes through the projector, where the images are projected onto the screen, then threads back out again and winds around the second platter, so that by the end of the movie all that film that started off on the first platter will be wound around the second platter.”

And it does all that by itself?

“Yep. All I have to do is press play.”

I quickly compose a haiku in my head: A projectionist: / the elf who turns the light on and off in the fridge.

I ask Ty what she does while the movie's playing.

“Oh, sometimes I go downstairs and hang out with the concession workers, sometimes I just sit in here and play solitaire or read.”

What do you read? I ask, although I already know the answer.

“Well lately I've been working my way through the Twilight series. I know, I know, they're terrible, but my sister-in-law is making me read them. And besides, when there's a movie playing I have to keep one eye on the projector in case there are any problems, so it's good to have a book I don't really need to pay attention to.”

Once again I feel like an asshole, and I tell her I've heard how addictive they can be.

“Ha ha, yeah,” she says. Then she asks if I have anything else I'd like to ask her. I tell her I can't think of anything and she says, “Alright, well unfortunately there are some other things I need to go do, but you're welcome to stay and watch a movie on the house.”

I'd love to, but my friend is picking me up in half an hour, so I'll probably just walk around the corner to the coffee shop.

“Fair enough. Well, it was nice meeting you." She smiles. I melt a little inside.

Yeah, you too! And thanks again for letting me, you know, observe you.

“No problem! It was fun. Just make sure to send me a copy of the article when it's done!

I promise her I will and make a mental note to cut out the bit about her “questionable fashion sense” before I do. Then she leads me back downstairs and gives me a final little wave as we part ways. When I exit The Mini I do indeed walk around the corner to the coffee shop, where I order a mocha latte and sit down to look over my notes. I think about the little square shaped hole in the wall that separates the projection booth from the theater, about the blissfully ignorant audience members in their folding seats below. I think how every day people all over the world go to the movies in search of a little magic, forgetting that the magic doesn't happen by itself, that like all magic it is merely an illusion, one for which we owe our thanks to a lonely illusionist who by the very definition of their job must necessarily go unnoticed and unpraised.

An idea for another poem occurs to me. I am taking a class on Shakespeare, and so I decide to write this one in Shakespearean sonnet form:

Once all the lines have been declaimed with heart,
and the director shouted “That’s a wrap!”;
once all the sets have been taken apart,
and all the costumes folded, gown and cap;
once justice to the villain has been brought,
and all his victims’ mourners been appeased;
once by the test a lesson has been taught,
and from the plot all drops of drama squeezed;
once trusty brains have triumphed over brawn,
and all the worthy highly are esteemed;
once to the victor all the spoils have gone,
and those of disrepute have been redeemed,
and hero and his ingénue have kissed,
it's in the hands of the projectionist.