Thursday, January 28, 2010

RIP JD Salinger

I was going to write something, but ten seconds after I started typing, Salinger rose up from the grave, hired a bunch of lawyers, and sued me.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Manhattan Sonnets First Series (1 - 13)

So here they all are in one place, the first group of what is probably going to be an ongoing series, for which you can thank (or blame) Ava.


Yes, Ally -- Ava in Australia. A lot of writers get asked "Where do your ideas come from?" My old answer to that used to be: "A storage space in Schenectady." My current answer is: "E-mail conversations with Ava." Here's the one from 12/4 between the two of us that resulted in the baker's dozen of 14-liners below. And for those of you who might be interested in how things get written, as opposed to where they come from, may I direct your attention to how the first sonnet proceeds directly from what Ava mentioned in her last response.

AVA: A sonnet to restore one's faith in New York City; harsh and tender, terrible and lovely. We fight, but I love her.

ME: And since that describes every woman I've ever fallen for? Too easy. You're on.

AVA: Please write a poem. I'd like that.

ME: Already starting to make notes for sonnet. It will be a sequence. It will probably be holiday related. Give me your top three places/things to do that you miss the most, and I will include them somewhere.

AVA: Oh! I miss the entire city as a living entity. Once, when I went to the top of the ESB, I heard the white noise of the city all at once. It was like listening to the goddess breathing. Fierce and pacific. I lost it for New York at Christmastime. Ghosts escaped from the pavement as snow fell outside Penang. The Rockettes’ legs looked like a shredder. I was never the same.


The white noise of your breathing falls like snow
And swirls up to my smile, drifting and heaping.
I feel your heartbeat everywhere I go:
It's fierce and peaceful,like a goddess sleeping.
Your wind bites like a hundred thousand knives.
I meet each slice as if it were a kiss:
Promising love in neon-dappled dives,
Keeping me distant with your tiger's hiss.
You shred me like the legs of the Rockettes;
I want to eat you like Red Devil Cake.
You fill me up with yearning and regrets;
I need you like the vampire needs the stake.
My terrible desire, vicious and pretty --
My harsh and tender love -- my soul -- my city.


I know I cannot chain you by my side.
I know you need more loves than mine to live.
I know we'll never be husband and bride:
Your Take is king, and beggar is my Give.
I know you have to feed your appetites --
You're on the town with pearls and a chignon.
I know the way you like to spend your nights:
You're drinks till 3 and after-hours till dawn.
You're seeing shows with tourists in Times Square.
You're Sunday brunch and afterwards the Met.
You're sipping kir royale at the Pierre.
You're cocktails in a Slipper Room banquette.
I know, too, even though you love to roam,
That, when I wake up, you'll always be home.


I wake up and you’re home, but when I reach
To hold you closer, I grab empty space.
You’ve vanished like a wave does on the beach,
Drawn back into the city’s deep embrace.
You splash my face with hope and disappear;
You touch, then drift away like luck and fame.
You say, “What will I do with you, my dear?”
Then whisper everything except my name.
My love, I know you treat your loves alike:
You keep them distant every time you kiss,
Say no to Mark, and then stroll off with Mike,
And then swing back like nothing is amiss.
But I know this with total certainty:
You will be different when it comes to me.


You never come to me -- I go to you,
And always find you in fast company:
Cabbing from the passé to some debut,
Ditching Group A for up-to-date Group B.
You’re always in the swim, so I must try
To win Olympic gold just to keep up --
Only the next chic place will satisfy;
The au courant alone will share your cup.
But in the end you’ll leave us all behind
And find a fresh crowd at the latest spot,
And we will envy them but be resigned,
For everything grows cold that once was hot:
No matter where we stand or who we’ve been,
We’re always on the outside looking in.


I hate it that you’re never there with me
At spots I can’t afford; it hurts like sin
To see you as some moneybag’s jeune fille,
Like you’re first prize and Rich Boy cries “I win!”
While he throws me a look that screams: “You lose!”
And by his rules? I have and always will.
I can’t compete with him; you’ll always choose
Suites over sweet and T-bills over Bill –-
At least when you’re with him. When you’re with me,
It’s places he would not be caught in dead.
His rooftops and my dives lack alchemy:
His silver will not marry with my lead.
He dazzles you with gold, and cannot see:
In your eyes, even lead is currency.


Some nights you stare at me as if I were
Metal too soft to meddle with, and say,
“Let’s take a rain check on the massacre.
We’ll do some mischief, dear, some other day.”
And some nights you can see I’m fit to fly
And hale enough to hazard life and limb,
And so you gentle me into the sky
Where I will wheel and hover at your whim.
And some nights you’re the one who’s weak and needy –-
Who trembles like a fawn that’s terrified --
Who looks at me like Dunaway to Beatty
Before the bullets end Bonnie and Clyde:
A world-without-end look, as if to say,
“Come, paltry death -- we two have lived today.”


"Do this," you urge, and how can I refuse?
You know I crave whatever you can give.
Just lead the way and I will go, my muse.
You are the opium I need to live.
We two will share such highs that all the lows
Will feel like small inconsequential bumps.
We’ll chase the dragon wherever it goes,
Your smile the height that lifts me from the dumps.
You are my queen: command me anything.
I am your puppet speaking with your voice.
You are the balm that cools my suffering.
You are the road and I am your Rolls Royce.
Lead and I’ll follow; feed me and I’ll chew.
I’m nothing till you tell me what to do.


And when I’m drunk with you and all the world
Shouts answers to my every silent prayer,
And hope is king, and life’s an oyster pearled,
And every street I walk is bold and rare,
There’s nothing you can play that I can’t sing --
Nothing you want that I cannot supply --
Nowhere I go where I won’t be the king --
Nobody else alive but you and I.
We’ll laugh at jokes that no one else will get
(And I will grab your hand and draw you near),
Pick random numbers and win every bet
(And you will stick your tongue into my ear),
And I will eat life up from lips to legs
And drink it till I drain death to the dregs


And when I wake up, everything is pain.
I blink my eyes and feel my face explode.
My skull is home to cactus spines, not brain.
My mouth tastes like the inside of a toad.
I shake with drumbeats like twelve time bombs ticking.
(What is that sound? Wait -- it’s my cells dividing.)
Some stallion in my gut just won’t stop kicking.
(Oh God -- that’s all my molecules colliding.)
This is what happens every time we play --
For every late night laugh, two days of groans.
The bill comes due and I will always pay
A price that troubles me down to my bones
And swear you off for good, till you ask “When?”
And I say, “Now,” and pay the price again.


I hear your song calling me from outside
My bedroom window, and I scorn to sleep.
There are no dreamy airs that can abide
Comparison to tunes we two will keep --
No fantasies to equal how the real
Will rapture us as we reel out the night --
No might-have-beens to dog us at the heel --
No burning maybes yearning to ignite.
Those are the promises I hear in your
Quick whisper as I’m wrapped up in my sheets --
Today, tonight, tomorrow: I will soar
And you will swing me high above your streets
And beckon for a stare with ginger eyes
And gershwin me with clamor till I rise.


The winter makes you sullen, gray and cold --
You’re dark and dreary almost all the time.
Your bitterness is keen and uncontrolled;
Your winds are raw and vicious, like a crime.
You greet the sunshine with a frigid hate
That like Medusa stares the world to stone.
Your fingers are like whips that flagellate,
Lancing through flesh and muscle to the bone.
Only the snow can scarf your biting edge --
It muffles your complaints beneath a quilt
That blankets skyscrapers into a hedge,
Softening stings like good deeds soften guilt,
Till all your coldness, anger, distance, spite,
Are hushed away in kissing drifts of white.

12 (The Day Job Sonnet)

The things I have to do to be with you
Are like slow poison to my soul and heart:
I have to smile at those I’d rather sue,
Bow to the stupid as if they were smart,
Nod with respect to those who irritate,
Saying, “Yes, please,” and not an expletive --
Profess to love what I confess I hate,
All for the salary that lets me live
With you -- a life where something in me dies
Each time my conscience with my wallet quarrels
And I embrace a fiscal compromise
By banking paychecks that bankrupt my morals:
Kingdoming devils in a daily hell
To woo the angel that I love so well.


You are what I give thanks for on Thanksgiving:
The meal so rich it makes my table groan,
The waking breath that whispers I’m still living
And says, while you’re on earth, I’m not alone.
You are my Christmas Day, and like a toy
I wished for but I never thought I’d get,
The sight of you turns my despair to joy
The way good deeds make treasure out of debt.
You are my New Year’s Eve, my Times Square crowds --
The endless now, caught between then and soon,
Bright as a star that spears through sullen clouds,
Rare as an eclipse of a full blue moon.
And you’re my New Year’s Day, when Time’s wild spin
Is halted by your hopeful cry: “Begin.”

Copyright 2009, 2010 Matthew J Wells

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Manhattan Sonnets - 14

There is no mercy in you -- there is just
The teasing smile that hides the butcher knife.
There’s nothing in your ways that I can trust;
No street that’s not a threat against my life.
One night you’ll say “Hello, there!” with a gun.
One day I’ll tease you and you’ll have my head.
One wrong step and my walking days are done.
One hint of weakness and you’ll cut me dead.
The price I pay for loving you is hard:
I need to grow a second pair of eyes
To see behind me and keep up my guard,
And extra ears to listen for your lies,
And extra hope, that when you start to tear me
Limb from devoted limb, you’ll smile and spare me.

Copyright 2010 Matthew J Wells

Other posts in this series:

Sonnet 1
Sonnet 2
Sonnet 3
Sonnet 4
Sonnet 5
Sonnet 6
Sonnet 7
Sonnet 8
Sonnet 9
Sonnet 10
Sonnet 11
Sonnet 12
Sonnet 13

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Welcome to the Green Gray World

There's actually more color in this picture than there is in the set.

If you were to ask me for a two-sentence review of The Bridge Project's As You Like It at BAM, then I would tell you to prepare to hear the words "There is no reason on earth for a fucking water-boarding scene to be within five miles of this comedy." Which brilliantly sets up the second sentence: "But of course, we are not watching a comedy, and Sam Mendes is not about to let us forget it."

So what are we watching? A production in which scene changes are done to sad violin music and the mournful notes in the script have become the entire symphony. A lot of acting that feels slight instead of light. And a play in which the city and the country are about as different as two cubicles in the same dreary office. This is supposed to be a comedy about contrasting worlds, and while there's a valid point in answering a cheery cry of "Let's run away to the forest!" with the harsh reality of "Fine, but how we will live there?" the only contrast here is between "stark and cold" and "slightly less stark and a tad bit warmer." And yes, the word "desert" is spoken as much in the first two acts of As You Like It as it is in all of Lawrence of Arabia, but that does not mean you bring camels into Arden. (I exaggerate; there are no camels in this production, mostly because camels are not colorless.)

Jacques in Oklahoma.

Which is not to say that you can't infuse a Shakespearean comedy with languid melancholy; the Watteau-inspired Much Ado with Derek Jacobi and Sinead Cusack did it brilliantly, mostly by showing how foreign Benedick and Beatrice were to the general mood around them. The only foreigner in this production is Stephen Dillane's chipper, low-key (and occasionally inaudible) Jacques; and the fact that I can, without any irony at all, use the word "chipper" to describe a character the script keeps calling "melancholy" pretty much nails how low the Glum Bar has been set in this production.

As for the Fun Bar, the evening has its moments, but they are just that: moments -- like flashes of sunlight in a forest, they illuminate but do not warm. Because the production feels heavy and weightless at the same time, there's a flatness to everything, which makes the jokes stick out like muffins on a baking pan. As for the acting, the supporting characters generally fare better than the leads. This is that rare production of As You Like It in which Celia is more lively than Rosalinde, Phoebe feels more intriguing than Jacques, and Silvius gets as many laughs as Touchstone.

This is also that rare production in which, instead of the usual question everyone asks about the play ("What in the name of God does Rosalinde see in Orlando anyway?") you find yourself saying "What does Orlando see in this girl again?" Juliet Rylance, looking for all the world like Geneva Carr crossed with Ellen Degeneres, spends so much time dashing back and forth onstage that it's a comment on the way she's playing Rosalinde: she never really inhabits the part, she just keeps approaching and retreating, approaching and retreating. And Christian Carmago's Orlando has pretty much one look, one tone of voice, and one manner throughout. Can't wait to see his Ariel. (Note to director: if you are crazy enough to have Orlando kiss Rosalinde while she's pretending to be a guy, then the characters have to actually deal with the moment for like, y'know, a moment, okay?) (Better yet: don't have them kiss in the first place.)

It occurs to me as I'm writing this that there's a hint of Beckett to this production, like Mendes decided to direct Waiting For Rosalinde. But that's probably just me. For instance: I can't see a guy in a bowler hat without thinking of either Beckett, Magritte, or Lena Olin in The Unbearable Lightness of Being. They get all mixed up in my mind. Just like a bunch of things seemed to have gotten mixed up in Sam Mendes' mind. It's obvious that a certain amount of thought has been brought to the script, and a certain amount of thought to the interpretation, but they're neither compatible nor consistent. Unless I'm missing something, there's not one single prism that you can look through to see this As You Like It whole. Instead, you wind up looking at everything through a pair of blurry bifocals.

So no, can't say I liked it much, though it had its moments. Silly me. I went to BAM expecting to see a comedy about love. Word to the wise: don't make my mistake. Go to BAM expecting to see Measure for Measure, and I bet you walk out pleasantly surprised. Because this is not a comedy about love. It's not a comedy about anything. And Sam Mendes is not about to let you forget it. (And technically it's not a water-boarding either, it's just a guy shoving another guy's head into a bucket of water until he starts to drown, and then yanking his head out. And then doing it all over again. To which I can only say: in As You Like It? Really??? WTF, Sam?)

Forest? Forest?!? This isn't a "forest"!

Now that's a forest!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sigh . . .

"I belong to no organized party. I'm a Democrat."
-- Will Rogers

Thought for the Day

"One ceases to be a child when one realizes that telling one's troubles does not make them any better.

-- Caesare Pavese

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Manhattan Sonnets - 13

You are what I give thanks for on Thanksgiving:
The meal so rich it makes my table groan,
The waking breath that whispers I’m still living
And says, while you’re on earth, I’m not alone.
You are my Christmas Day, and like a toy
I wished for but I never thought I’d get,
The sight of you turns my despair to joy
The way good deeds make treasure out of debt.
You are my New Year’s Eve, my Times Square crowds --
The endless now, caught between then and soon,
Bright as a star that spears through sullen clouds,
Rare as an eclipse of a full blue moon.
And you’re my New Year’s Day, when Time’s wild spin
Is halted by your hopeful cry: “Begin.”

Copyright 2010 Matthew J Wells

Other posts in this series:

Sonnet 1
Sonnet 2
Sonnet 3
Sonnet 4
Sonnet 5
Sonnet 6
Sonnet 7
Sonnet 8
Sonnet 9
Sonnet 10
Sonnet 11
Sonnet 12

Lock Stock and Two Smoking Victorians

Well, THAT was fun. And I say that as someone who always stops what he's doing when one of the Rathbone Holmes movies comes on, thinks James Mason was the best Watson ever, and is currently re-reading all the original novels and stories. (There's a story behind that. Hopefully three or four.) Ritchie's movie is fun; and yes, it does go all 'splodey one time too many, and like all movies over 2 hours these days it's 20 minutes too long, but because it's anchored by solid acting and an intricately-worked-out mystery, it works a lot more than it doesn't. So, some thoughts and impressions.

The plot. Plotwise, the movie is totally consistent with the Conan Doyle stories, which always set up a head-scratchingly-unexplainable mystery that Holmes can recognize and ultimately explain by revealing the significance of seemingly insignificant facts. This is done very well throughout the movie; when you see a crime scene through Downey’s eyes, you get (a) the oddity, (b) Downey’s mental impression of what caused the oddity, and (c) his investigation of the oddity, usually involving touching, tasting, or licking. There is also a marvelous little moment in a restaurant, where Downey is two things for the first and only time in the movie: alone, and in a public place. In those few moments, he’s aware of every conversation and every action around him to a terrifying degree, and you get a brief but real sense of what it must be like to be gifted (or cursed) with a vaccuum cleaner for a brain.

Holmes and Watson. The underlying tension between this movie’s detective and doctor goes back to Gunga Din, where Cary Grant and Victor McLaglen will do anything to derail Douglas Fairbanks Jr’s imminent marriage to Joan Fontaine. Downey tries to do the same thing to Law and Kelly Reilly, but I sensed a recognition on Reilly’s part that this adventuring is one of the things that attracts her to the man she’s marrying, making the potential conflict so negligible that it feels tacked on, like some producer somewhere said, “But wait! We can’t just have them be friends! We have to show the friendship being threatened! That's more dramatic!” Sorry, that’s not Holmes and Watson; and it’s not Watson and his wives, either, none of whom ever stood in his way when a case with Holmes beckoned.

So forget the tension part; what about the friendship? It’s not hero and bumbling comic foil, thank God, but it’s not Batman and Robin, either. It’s actually Batman and Alfred, because Law is more like Downey’s butler than his sidekick. The sitting room of 221B Baker Street looks like the inside of Holmes’ head after a bomb-blast, and you can easily picture Law’s Watson spending a lot of weary time picking up after Downey’s various experiments in chemistry or ballistics. (And of course the minute anybody who knows the Conan Doyle stories hears a series of gunshots coming from that room, the phrase “Holmes is spelling VR with bullet holes over the mantelpiece” springs immediately to mind.) It's like a criminological version of Jeeves and Wooster, and while there is (thankfully) a scarcity of hyper-clever banter between the two actors, there is a lightness of touch that indicates a marriage of equals, like a Victorian Nick and Nora. Or in this case, Nick and Norman.

The Great Detective. Downey’s Holmes is one hell of a damaged human being, which is only something you see in flashes from other actors (with the exception of Jeremy Brett, who has the unnerving ability to switch from friend and companion to The Brain From Another Planet every time someone within earshot makes a thoughtless remark). But Downey's Holmes is not totally useless from the neck down; he’s also very physical, a quality which is mentioned in the Conan Doyle stories but never shown as much as, say, Holmes’ ability to disguise himself so well that even Watson doesn’t recognize him. The brains-and-brawn duality is set up right from the start in (comic-book-geek alert) two Midnighter-like segments where Downey predicts the course of a fight in slow-motion and then executes the prediction in real time. Why? Because that’s what he does; because he can’t help himself. Ask him to be honest and your fiancée will end up throwing a glass of wine in his face. Give him nothing to mentally wrestle with and he’ll resort to cocaine just to stimulate his brain. (But not in this movie; although God knows it fits the way Downey plays the character.) This Holmes is four chess moves ahead of everybody, he’s playing 20 people at once, and he’s as a wacky as a room full of Bobby Fischers. And Downey makes him downright likable.

Irene Adler. If Downey is Batman then Irena Adler is Catwoman, somebody he’s attracted to because of her wits and daring, in spite of (or because of) the fact that she lives and operates on the other side of the law. Or at least she should be Catwoman; alas, in this movie, she comes across as a snippy little pussycat rather than a tigress with claws as sharp as her brain. Personally, I think Conan Doyle created Adler by mixing George Sand with Lola Montez, which automatically made her a chess piece that could hop around the board as brilliantly as Holmes does. But in this take, instead of presenting her as an opposite number to Downey’s oddly-moving knight, they’ve made Irene a pawn by putting her in the power of a nameless villain (guess who, Holmes fans), which means she’s not doing anything illegal because she wants to -- she’s doing it because she has to, because somebody has a hold over her. Once again, I deduce from this the dread hand of some nervous producer, and hear his voice saying, “But she can’t be bad! She has to have a reason for being bad! She has to be forced to be bad!” (This is why every single novel ever written by a movie producer has sucked. I'm telling you. All three of them are totally unreadable.)

The acting. I give it a 3 out of 4 for the over-the-title actors. Mark Strong gives his usual fierce and focused best. Jude Law humanizes both Watson and Downey’s Holmes. And Downey makes it all look far too easy. The only disappointment here is McAdams. Part of me wishes that Michelle Pfeiffer had been born in ’78 and not ’58; I would love to see her Adler matching wits with Downey’s Sherlock. Which is the problem: there’s very little wit-matching here, and I can’t tell if it’s because McAdams isn’t working or she wasn’t given anything to work with. (Or what she was given to work with kept changing so much that she didn’t know who the hell she was –- see below.) Notable under-the-title performances: Kelly Reilly made me wish she was playing Adler as well as Mary Morstan (as two different people, mind you, not Adler trying to vamp Watson; wouldn’t it be delicious to have both men in love with essentially the same actress?). And the actress playing Mrs. Hudson made more of an impression in 3 minutes than McAdams did in 2 hours (sorry, Rachel).

So what can we deduce from this highly enjoyable action-adventure steampunk-seasoned faithfully-revisionist regrettably-cocaine-free Sherlock Holmes?

This is not your father's Great Detective. Missing: one meerschaum, one magnifying glass, and one deerstalker cap.

None of that, now.

Somebody in Hollywood has actually read The Sign Of Four. Evidence: the presence of Mary Morstan, Watson’s soon-to-be first wife (or second, depending on who's counting). Odd corollary to evidence: since, in this movie, Holmes has never met Mary, then, in this particular continuity, the actual case behind The Sign Of Four never happened. Other evidence: (1) in The Sign Of Four, Holmes meets up with a prizefighter named McMurdo, with whom he went three rounds at a benefit once; odds are that this is the source of the bare-knuckle boxing scene in the film (I'll lay you a bet that Downey's opponent is named McMurdo in the final script); and (2) the bit about examining the pocket-watch is lifted from Holmes examining Watson’s pocket-watch in the same novel, said watch having been the property of Watson’s dissolute dead brother. Nice movie touch: Watson finishes Holmes’ sentences during the watch deduction scene. Even nicer touch: the way Jude Law finishes those sentences says, “I have taken this test so many times before that I know the answers by heart, you silly git.”

Somebody in Hollywood actually did some research on Watson’s life. Watson limps, which means the Jezail bullet he took in Afghanistan is lodged in his leg, not his shoulder; Watson has a bit of a gambling addiction, evidence of which is in some of the stories (Silver Blaze comes to mind); plus the bull pup which is mentioned once in A Study In Scarlet and then disappears forever now has a name (Gladstone) and is on screen about as much as Mrs. Hudson. This touch would score a lot higher if Ritchie didn’t then have a scene in which Gladstone farts to get a laugh. Because that’s, y’know, so totally Victorian.

Somebody is fond of the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce films. There's a scene with Holmes, a violin and a jar full of flies that is a direct steal from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Plus, if memory serves, the bit about Inspector Lestrade being unable to pronounce the word "catatonic" is a word-for-word echo from Sherlock Holmes and the Pearl of Death.

Parts of the modern world still look like Victorian England. Specifically alleys in Manchester, Chatham, Liverpool, and (of all places) Brooklyn. Whoever scouted location on this film deserves an Oscar for finding these places.

Somebody re-thought Irene Adler's character.

MOVIE-GOERS EVERYWHERE: Concerning this deduction, is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?
ME: To the curious incident of the sex scene in the hotel room.
MOVIE-GOERS EVERYWHERE: There was no sex scene in the hotel room.
ME: That was the curious incident.

Remember these scenes from the trailer?

They are nowhere to be found in the movie, but based on their presence in the early trailers, we can assume that there was a fully-filmed hotel scene between Holmes and Adler with Rachel McAdams wearing corset, garter and nylons. Since not a shred of this underwear exists in the movie as released, one can deduce that there was a change in Irene Adler’s character that all but eliminated the sexual element from her relationship with Holmes. At whose instigation, one wonders? McAdams herself, perhaps? She is, after all, the actress who refused to pose naked with Tom Ford on the cover of Vogue along with Scarlett Johansson and Kiera Knightly. Or it may have been part of a production rewrite. One cannot do more then speculate without actual data, but in either case, the change from half-naked vamp to fully-clothed sparring partner is a plus. Giving Downey's Holmes a knee in the groin wouldn't hurt him half as much as outwitting him. And if you want to see corsets and garters, there are more than enough to go around in Nine.

Lose the bustier and garter belt, gain a gun and slacks: I call that a fair trade.

One further deduction: the scene with Downey handcuffed and nekkid in the hotel bed would work better as the punch line to a sex scene between Holmes and Adler rather than what's in the released film. This would indicate that somewhere on the cutting room floor is a scene where Adler (decked out in all that lingerie) lures Holmes to bed, and, while he's naked, handcuffs him to the bedposts and then teasingly tests his escape-artist talents by placing a pillow over his privates, and a key under that pillow which will unlock his cuffs. And because we don't see the set-up, the moment when a chambermaid finds Downey in the altogether ends up getting a WTF laugh rather than a real laugh. (Downey mentions a key. What key? Who put it there? We can guess, but I'm betting at one point we actually saw it happen.) In any event, one blown joke aside, the lack of a sex scene between Holmes and Adler is (again) a plus. Nobody ever (ever) (EVER) needs to see Sherlock Holmes trying to deduce an erogenous zone.

Never mind trying to retrieve a key at his crotch by playing "Let's bob for apples."

And yet. And yet. I cannot help but infer from this that there was and is some unresolved confusion about Irene Adler's character and function in the film. Is she Holmes' sexual partner? The trailer says yes, the movie says no. Is she Holmes' equal? The premise says yes, the part as written says no. She is several things that we see -- damsel in distress, agent of an unseen villain, woman who is obviously in love with Holmes -- but more things that we are told about and do not see, or cannot credit. This is supposed to be a woman who has seduced a reigning monarch, been married at least once, and scandalized Europe; and as presented in the film she has not half the spark, mystery, or allure of a contemporary scandalous woman like Michelle Pfeiffer's Countess Olenska in Age Of Innocence (it's so hard not to keep coming back to Pfeiffer when thinking of this character). Bottom line: in this film, Adler's character is a total muddle. One can only hope that in the sequel, she will be a little more Marion Ravenwood and a little less Vicki Vale.

There will be a sequel. But of course, right? And while the identity of the villain is no mystery, the identity of the actor tapped to play him has been the subject of a great deal of online speculation. Search the net if you want the prevalent theories; the one with the biggest buzz says it's the actor who was originally slated to play Watson.

Someone in Sussex Downs is celebrating a birthday today. Yes, January 6th is the birthday of the man who was christened William Sherlock Scott Holmes over a century and a half ago. Which means a very old beekeeper in Sussex is injecting himself with a seven percent solution of cocaine, so he'll have enough energy to blow out the 156 candles on his cake.