Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Drama Queen

About a month ago, I sorta ragged on the new season of Entourage. I take it back. It was crawling along there, and Vince and Ari being broken up was comedy fodder for Ari, but Vince's new agent just annoyed me. But the show has started steaming along again with Medellin back on track.

I never thought I'd say this, but I love Johnny Drama. Lovable loser finally getting some luck his way! It may not be noble or cool, but there's a lot of Johnny Drama in me. I'm certainly more Johnny Drama than I am Vince, that's for sure.

Johnny protecting his new condo from the party was over-the-top, but I liked it. Some good chuckles in there. Kevin Dillon has this character nailed. You know what cracked me up? When Johnny was shooting his big monologue scene for "Five Towns" and Dillon did such an admirable job of having Johnny act "bad." Too funny.

Even funnier? Seeing Vince dressed up as Pablo Escobar!

Isn't that a riot? He looks like Andy Kaufman's alter-ego, Tony Clifton! This is something Entourage has always done, and it's a sly, funny joke. Every time we see Vince acting, it's bad, man. And I don't mean half-assed bad. It's always exaggerated, over-enunciated, intense-looks bad. But the audience and suits and viewers fawn all over it. Nice commentary on acting and Hollywood. And Medellin is supposed to be this grand epic, and it looks awful! An interesting twist that Eric actually doesn't like it.

I'm also glad to have Rhys Coiro back as crazy Billy Walsh for a few episodes. Have you ever had to deal with a volatile asshole like Billy? They make life interesting, but Entourage also totally nails how silly and frustrating dealing with a guy like that can be. Such a temperamental artiste! Completely disregarding social niceties, flaunting budgets and authority, totally committed and passionate about his "work" -- and then it's shit! Who do you think he's based on? I totally think they based Billy on Vincent Gallo.

You know how you know this show is suddenly cooking again? All that good shit, and I barely even mentioned Piven/Ari. Not that Ari's taken a backseat, though. He's still Ari, and he's still great. But this show works best as an ensemble, and that's how it's been clicking recently. Fat suits on Vince, Turtle and his endless pursuit of tits, and Drama being Drama are the cake, and Ari is the icing.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Famous Fathers & Other Stories

Famous Fathers and Other Stories by Pia Z. Ehrhardt is now available.

I haven't yet read this entire collection, but I am familiar with Pia's work and it's fab. You can check out her website right here.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Enjoy the Sunset!

Now Available from Rebel Press

Into the Sunset by Donald Capone.


Wayne Benson has decided that the easy life of cooked meals and laundry service of the Sunset Retirement Community is for him. Too bad he's only 30 years old. But Wayne thinks he can pull off an elaborate scheme involving theatrical makeup and mild identity theft of his father to get himself the lush and easy accommodations he desires. All works well until he starts forming friendships with other residents at the Sunset. Then, it's only a matter of time before he has to start worrying about his new golden-aged girlfriend or nosy next-door neighbor discovering his ruse, not to mention suspicious security guards and an intrusive community administrator.

This book starts off with a clever and carefree plot that promises plenty of fun, and boy does it deliver. When Wayne's hoax seems set to crumble, the laughs are fast and frequent. He's a likable character, but so are all his new friends at the Sunset. Eleanor and Herb make for great comedy, but also ground the novel with plenty of heart. This is a completely charming debut novel from Donald Capone.

Unlucky Thirteen

I think I heard an interview years ago where George Clooney said that he wanted to remake Ocean's 11 because it was a movie with a great idea, but ended up not being so good. His theory was that you shouldn't bother remaking a great movie, because it's already great. I thought that was pretty smart, and an accurate assessment of the original movie.

Don't get me wrong. I liked the Rat Pack Ocean's 11, but not because it was a particularly good flick. It was breezy and fun and showed the guys hanging around Vegas and there was a heist tossed in and a clever ending. But overall it came off exactly like what it was: An excuse for a bunch of friends to live the high life on the studio's dime while screwing around in Vegas and tossing in just enough fluffy entertainment to get the viewing public to throw their money away going to see the onscreen antics.

When Clooney & Co. remade the first one, it retained the breezy charm of the first one, and while it had plot holes you could drive an Escalade through, it all moved quickly and entertainingly and held together as a great movie. The director, Steven Soderbergh, isn't a guy to be trifled with. He'd previously directed Clooney is the highly underrated Out of Sight, which was based on an Elmore Leonard novel. So he definitely had a feel for enticing heists and colorful criminals. He'd just come off a best director win for the highly overrated Traffic, and the Eleven project allowed him to brighten and lighten up, literally.

One of Soderbergh's trademarks that I really love is how he can make a movie look so damn good. His Ocean's Eleven really did manage to capture the Bellagio on film with the dreamy, creamy colors and diffuse golden lighting everywhere. He was working with an amazingly good-looking cast, even by Hollywood standards, and the flick really did bring back echoes of old-Hollywood glamour.

Overall, the original entry in this franchise captured the charm and swagger necessary to pull off a successful heist flick, and did it with plenty of style to spare.

The second movie in the Ocean's franchise wasn't as well received as the first, but I still liked it. Certainly, the plot was ludicrous. Also, I'm not a big Brad Pitt fan. Sometimes I watch him in movies (Fight Club, Twelve Monkeys) and I'm not appalled by him. But his looks do nothing for me, and I have to laugh because he's basically filling the Dean Martin role in this crew. Dino, to a lot of people, symbolized odious Hollywood excess and a way of sliding by based on connections with little talent to back it up. Lots of people thought he was smarmy. But I like Dino and don't even FF through him singing "Ain't That a Kick in the Head" -- which he performs twice in the original Ocean's movie. Brad Pitt, on the other hand? Well, he is a kick in the fucking head. I do find him to be an example of odious Hollywood excess and smarmy as hell.

He slid by in the first one, eating in every scene and generally not annoying me. But in Twelve he had a love interest and beefier part. But, for me, that was counterweighted with Matt Damon's presence as the earnest and innocent youngster trying to get a better handle on the business. And though this may be out-of-fashion to admit, I like Julia Roberts. She didn't come off particularly well in the first movie with all the walking she did. Though she's a lovely woman, she walked like a cow and undermined her glam-factor. In the second installment she didn't have to play the gorgeous card. Instead, in a move that annoyed most people but made me laugh, she mocked herself. And instead of walking around like a cow, she went over the top with a fabulously de-glammed awkward, pregnant jog.

Clooney, in both pictures, was the anchor, and he looked great and showcased his smirky, fatuous charm that he somehow pulls off. But Andy Garcia's role was slightly diminished for Twelve, which didn't work for me for two reasons. First, for me, Garcia, not Clooney, is Teh Hot. I was in Vegas when they were shooting Ocean's Eleven and I was all about catching a glimpse of Garcia. I was lucky enough to watch them film a re-shoot scene of Garcia and Julia Roberts in the casino. It made my year. Everyone else in the city was chasing down George, but I was more than happy to watch Andy.

Second, and more important, have you ever seen anyone have more fun onscreen than Andy Garcia in Ocean's Eleven? For real. Sometime, watch that flick and take note of Andy. He's not chewing the scenery and he stops short of twirling a mustache, but his walk and talk and manner as the arrogant foil to Clooney's thief is truly delightful.

In Twelve, he has a nice turn at the start, rousing everyone together again, but then the clutter starts and he gets pushed aside when the main opposition to Clooney's crew is Vincent Cassel as a French master-thief. Cassel, he was a drag, man.

But, overall, for me the movie worked because although Soderbergh lost that gilded Vegas look, he was able to reminisce the sleepy blues he did so well in Solaris while filming around gorgeous Lake Como, and he kept the pace swinging like a Bobby Darin tune.

So now here comes the third installment, Ocean's Thirteen. Soderbergh's colors are again brilliant, and we're back to the Vegas palate. From jazzy reds to nearly electric gold, the look of the flick sizzles. There's also one well-placed exterior shot outside at the Bellagio fountains which must've been shot shortly after dawn, where he captures the strange, misty, dreamy look of the place that's so unbelievable plunked down there in the middle of the strip.

But you know you're in a little trouble when the best part of a movie is the colors. Dig?

The interiors this time aren't shot in Bellagio, or at a Vegas casino at all. They're a Hollywood soundstage version of Vegas, and it's just not quite right. I don't blame them for not going back to Bellagio, because it would've been a logistics nightmare, and, frankly, Bellagio is a property in decline. Part of the beauty of watching Ocean's Eleven is that although it's recent, even that version of Vegas is already gone. Once the crown jewel of the strip, Bellagio is already living off its reputation as it cheapens and changes and gets cluttered and has relinquished its title as the IT resort in Vegas.

And that gives it something in common with this latest Ocean's installment -- because it's also living off its reputation. The latest movie shows the strain that sequels tend to do, and it's become both more extravagant and cheapened by the clutter.

It's hard for me to find an exact fault with it, as the plot is tighter than Twelve, and the stars are just as charming. The additions to the cast come off well. Al Pacino is a ha-ha funny shade of orange, and Ellen Barkin is sexy and silly as ever. Andy still has a diminished role, but he got me to laugh along with him in one scene where he was enjoying getting his evil on. Clooney still looks fabulous, and Damon is still cute. Pitt is still a tool, whatever. Soderbergh again keeps a tight pacing and breezy tone.

But yet. I don't know. Kind of like how it's supposed to be set in Vegas, but you can just tell that it's not. Believe me, it's hard to get more superficial than Las Vegas, but a Hollywood studio can most certainly pull off that magic, and they do in this movie. I know that the casino is supposed to be beastly and atrocious in its excess, but they still managed to somehow get it not quite right.

It's not a spoiler to tell you that there's a running line in Thirteen about shaking Sinatra's hand. It's a nice little tip of the hat to bygone days of Vegas, and to the guy who created the original material for these films. But it only serves to show how this whole thing has come full circle. Because although what's onscreen this time is fairly enjoyable, it no longer plays like a great movie. It now comes off like a bunch of pals who wanted to jerk-off the studio for a ton of money while they screwed around onset and tossed in enough fluffy entertainment to get the viewing public to throw their money away to see the onscreen antics. It's still a great idea, but this just isn't such a great movie. It's the most clever part of the heist, really.

YAY Myfanwy

Myfanwy Collins can be found this month in some very fine publications. Her story "The Emergency Contact" is in The Jabberwock Review, and her story "Have You Seen Us?" is in The Kenyon Review! Sharing pages with TC Boyle! Congrats, Myfanwy, and these places are lucky to have such great fiction.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Gandolfini the Great

What I want to talk about today is James Gandolfini. Because I, unlike Chase & Co., can't let shit go in the blink of an eye. And I watched John From Cincinnati but if you think I'm ever going to bother talking about that waterlogged piece of shit show, you've been left out in the sun and surf too long.

Anyhow, with the end of The Sopranos, I could write an essay about Tony and fan the flames of debate of sociopath vs. not. (He wasn't one. I think Chase was trying to present one, but somewhat failed, which was for the overall good of the show. I think we've come to toss that term around loosely for anyone who shows a selfish streak and propensity for doing bad things. But that doesn't define a sociopath, and Tony Soprano lacked many key sociopathic traits. I also think it's easier and a simplification to explain away bad or violent behavior by placing it under that umbrella; it's kind of like dividing the world up into good vs. evil and it's just not that simple most of the time.)

But, my point is this. The writers of The Sopranos (David Chase, Terence Winter, Diane Frolov, Matthew Weiner, Michael Imperioli (occasionally) and Andrew Schneider) were amazing. They built a complex show with difficult characters that kept us engaged, shocked, and amused for eight years. But I still don't think it ever would have worked without the perfect man to anchor the role of Tony Soprano.

What Gandolfini was able to bring to Tony was the X factor in spades. I remember back when the show first started, and it was shocking to the media that ladies loved him. He wasn't the Hollywood version of a leading man. He's too old, too bald, too fat, and too goombah-Jersey-dago. But hey, women enjoy bad boys and don't mind going slumming in the suburban wasteland of the east coast sometimes. So the character of Tony had that going for him -- the roguish thug appeal. But Gandolfini brought the charm.

If you'd seen him as the sadistic hitman Virgil Vega in Tony Scott's True Romance, you know he'd be able to bring the goods when it came to explosive violence and threatening malice. But there were flickers, even in that fiendish role, where Gandolfini was able to show glimmers of playfulness.

He's got the cuddly appeal and a winning smile, even if it's not veneered and whitened. And he's so devilishly appealing a potential as a husband/lover exactly because he doesn't get all mooney-eyed saptastic. He's a throwback kinda guy, a man for all seasons, if you will. And it was that guy's guy ease and jokester glimmer that helped him create a smoky aura of dangerous appeal around Tony instead of leaving him a razor-edged beast.

After The Sopranos started its run, Gandolfini became notoriously press-shy. In his few interviews, he's always come off as more educated than Tony, and with a wit that's just as sharp but less cutting. He's gracious and endearing in his manner, often rolling his eyes when his talent is remarked upon and often volleying back a self-effacing comment when heaped with praise.

And yet he's managed to land only a few plumb roles; notably in the Julia Roberts flick, The Mexican. He played, of course, a hitman. The twist, however, was that he was a sweetheart and gay. How daring, the critics noted and reviewed him favorably. Other than that, he got a few roles, mostly playing assholes or bastards. Or, worse, starring opposite Ben Affleck. Because maybe over on the other coast he can be a leading man on a TV show, but I don't think Hollywood is going to gamble on Gandolfini stuffing the seats of the local cineplexes in the bible belt.

I know he's producing a thingy about Ernest Hemingway for HBO. And I hope he'll be able to step out of the heavy typecasting and find some Hollywood success. Aren't we about due for a movie version of "Gilligan's Island" or something where he could be the skipper? Oh, yeah, it's not exactly dignified, but as long as Ben Affleck isn't cast as Gilligan it's not like he hasn't done worse, you know. Can't he start getting some of those cherry roles that Alec Baldwin used to snag now that Al's done with acting?

Monday, June 11, 2007

In the end, it's all a big nothing.

Initial reaction to The Sopranos finale:

What the fuck?! My cable!

Don't lie. Your reaction was the same.

8 years for us to learn that Meadow is lousy at parallel parking? You're fucking with me, right, Chase?

After it settled a minute, I was struck by how deeply divisive this seemingly closure-less finale scene would be. There would be those who would proclaim it Great Art and Pure Brilliance. And there would be those who felt cheated and thought it sucked and lacked closure and marred the series. And there would be a third category who felt a little of both.

One thing is certain. This series that was both shotgun shine bright and bad moon dark hadn't capitulated and had closed with an ending every bit as controversial as any of its storylines or characters.

Truly, it wasn't lacking so much closure. The feds are still closing in on Tony, same as always. But he won the battle with Leotardo and they've fallen back into business. Carm's fight is over, she's content being a material girl. AJ has become the master manipulator to carry the torch of Livia, showing both his father's willingness to do what needs done and his mother's ability to shut out the morality and spirituality and be content with living the lush life. Earlier in the episode he lashed out at people for being fucked and living in a dream and went on a disjoined discourse about consumerism and superficiality. But eventually, he happily sinks into that very lifestyle. Meadow's deep river of denial cuts to depths unknown as she unwittingly sticks the knife in her father's heart by telling him she's not a doctor because of seeing him treated unfairly by the justice system so often. They are the quintessential American-made children, with nurture and nature colliding to make them the only people they ever could be.

In the "unresolved" category, Chase did hang Chechov's gun on the wall in the first episode of the season when Bobby gave Tony that massive machine gun/grenade launcher. And in the previous episode, we saw Tony fall asleep cradling it. Of all the mob films that had been referenced and subverted through this series, it definitely conjured images of Tony Montana's "little friend."

But it never got used. Though, fittingly, that final scene couldn't have been more stamped with a DePalma feel unless Chase had actually used a split screen at some juncture. Thankfully, he refrained.

The episode itself, the first one since the premier episode to be both written and directed by David Chase, was filled with hilarious moments:
Paulie and the Christopher cat!
Agent Harris!
Tony using AJ's leggy therapist as a stand-in for Melfi!
Uncle Jun telling Janice that Janice is a lousy kid!
Phil's head getting squished and the puking bystander!
AJ banging a high school girl!
Paulie seeing the Virgin Mary at the Bing!

And there are many potential ways of looking at the ending.
Philosophical -- the angsty existentialism had finally tipped into nihilism
Religious/Literary -- the ninth circle of Dante's inferno had finally, inexorably been reached, with Phil getting sold out and one of Tony's crew flipping on him.
Psychological -- parents fuck us up.
Filmic -- Film school Hitchcockian suspense 101 for the sheer delight of it.
Contemplative -- Uh, did Tony get whacked? What with the replay of his and Bobby's conversation, about how you never see the one that gets you coming, and in the end it's just silence. Livia's repeated refrain of "it's all a big nothing" haunting the final season. The whole series was about Tony, and the sudden quiet and black could signify...
Hopeful -- Who was left to wanna whack Tony? He's fine. Chase is a dick. AJ recalled the first season dinner at Vesuvio by admitting Tony was right when he told him we should "focus on the good stuff."
Redundant -- Does EVERY season have to end with the family sitting down to eat together?

In the end, I guess Chase gave us the only ending that hadn't yet been presented in mob fiction. As the song by Journey says:
Some will win, some will lose
Some were born to sing the blues
Oh, the movie never ends
It goes on and on and on and on.

Don't stop

For me? I think those final minutes were a true taste of Tony Soprano's POV. Back when we met him, he was under so much stress he'd pass out from it. We understood on an intellectual level the shit he was dealing with. But that final scene found Tony pretty much back where he'd started the show, only this time, it wasn't a rational presentation of his life. This time, we felt the stress of it. And it was nothing. It was a dinner at an ice cream parlor. But everyone around was suspicious, everyone made us edgy and nervous. What the fuck was Meadow doing? Who was the guy at the counter? Is that a Fed in the trucker hat? Are those kids going to cause trouble? Where the fuck is Meadow? Why is that Members Only guy getting up? It was nearly heart-stopping, the tension. But it's just dinner, man.

It was true to the series, as it followed the previous season's same rhythms. We were poised for a bloodbath, but as usual, the major and shocking violence came in the penultimate episode, with Phil and AJ's SUV being the only victims of graphic injury and death this week.

Uncle Jun got his final say, with Tony trying to jar some of his pride back into place by whispering to him that he used to run the mob in North Jersey. Addle-brained Junior's response? "That's nice."

Tony, he couldn't get out of there and away from Junior quick enough after that.

These final nine episodes were clearly patterned after Dante's Inferno, with Chase & Co. doing a masterful job at locking the various characters, rhythms and plotlines into those sinful themes. Just as the "Made in America" title worked to show non-mob overviews of our societal decay, the mobbed-up implications rang out throught the finale and this entire season to showcase this descent.

Limbo was well represented by the lake house visit, and lust and doomed lovers were handled poetically by Johnny and Ginny Sacrimoni, while Carm got pissy about Tony's dalliances being portrayed on the big screen in Cleaver in episode 2. Circle three of gluttony culminated with Doc Santoro literally reaching over and helping himself to Phil's food, and Phil ends up whacking the guy who reached too far and for too much. Paulie, playing the fool in this episode, he got spared from Tony's suspicions and paranoia after giving T a plate of rigatoni.

In the fourth episode, avarice played a key role when Tony destroyed his only true friendship to Hesh over a money dispute, as Tony was losing his ass at the gambling game. Episode five was all about the sullen and slothful, as AJ sunk into depression and Christopher couldn't deal with Paulie insulting his father-in-law, and he sank into an alcoholic stupor and whacked Tim Daly.

Then, just like in Dante's masterpiece, the shit really started to hit the fan. Episode six was the one where Chris got killed by Tony. That's Dante's circle for heretics and liars. Tony couldn't stomach Chris's deceit over his drug problem any longer, and then Tony had to hide from everyone what he'd done so he jetted off to Vegas. The violently wrathful? The seventh episode is when Tony went ballistic on Coco for insulting Meadow and where AJ tries to kill himself.

In the eighth episode, the frauds and liars come to front, with Phil making a final stand and starting a war with Tony, reasoning that Tony's crew doesn't respect tradition and conduct things in an upright manner. We see Agent Harris tip off Tony, and most damning, we see Melfi, a doctor who's taken an oath, dump Tony in a time of crisis, claiming she can no longer help him. (I guess it's clear where Chase stands on psychiatry. I have to ask, does anyone know -- is he a scientologist??)

Tony's life, sometimes it feels like hell on earth, but as in Dante's Inferno, you have to keep hoping to make it to the next plateau and hit purgatory or eventual paradise.

Pretty clever, really. Same as the final ending scene of the series. Clever. Always clever, this show. Did it leave you with the warm fuzzies? No. Did it leave you despondent? No. It left you feeling the way you always did about it, the way a life in this thing of ours will leave anyone, the way anyone's life, when truly lived, examined or not, will, hopefully, keep them. On the edge.

So I'd like to know. What'd you think? Brilliant of Chase? Or dickheaded bullshit to pull that abrupt shit and actually make us find the meaning of it all in a Journey song? (Fucking Tony and classic rock, paired with his sentimental tendencies. Passing over Tony Bennett and settling on Journey. Perfect.) Was it meant to be artistic? Or as a final "fuck you" to fans who became too enamored with the show? And, mostly, 100 years from now, when we're all dead, will people still be watching this thing?

Friday, June 08, 2007

Porn Star?

Speaking of erotica, my quest to be one of the best (or least one of the most-published) writers of unsavory, filthy fiction had some nice forward progess this week.

I was notified that a story of mine was accepted into Maxim Jakubowski's annual collection Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica, Vol. 7. The story is "Coyote Blues" and, fitting for this collection, it's actually pretty good. This anthology will be available in Jan 2008. Yay!

Also, a story of mine titled "Afterdeath" can be found in the newly released anthology from Xcite Books, Five Minute Fantasies 2 edited by Cathryn Cooper.

This book should also be available via Amazon shortly.

Alicia Night Orchid

Erotica fans, please meet Alicia Night Orchid. She runs an extremely successful blog and has a large following of fans already. You can check out her work, which includes fiction, essays, and commentary, on her blog and website. You can also get a taste of her fiction in her book Fulfillment and other Stories.

Jane's Guide says Alicia's site is "impressive and hot. Well worth the visit!" And I definitely agree. This week, she's featured me and one my stories. Thanks, Alicia!

Orange Crush

I love this story by Myfanwy Collins!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Snow for Pyros

My house is surrounded by these damn trees that release fuzzy, cotton-like puffs this time of year. Some people call them cottonwood trees, some people tell me they're poplar trees. I don't know the name for them, but they're hell. Seriously. This is my front lawn.

And this shit goes on for about three weeks. It's disgusting and messy and cutting the grass just makes it fly all over the place and stick to you and get in your eyes. Sometimes, if there's a big storm, the rain will knock some of it down and mash in the stuff that's on the grass and there'll be a day of relief before it starts again.

If there's no rain, there is one thing you can do to get rid of the stuff. Burn it.

You have to make sure the grass isn't TOO dry, or else it'll just catch on fire and burn to a crisp along with the cotton. Last year, my neighbor, who's a chemical engineer and a bit of a pyro, torched his entire front yard by miscalculating the moisture on the underlying grass. It was great fun for a few minutes!

I live about two minutes away from the beach here, and that's also surrounded by these bastard trees. So when it's a day without much wind, the bay gets nice and still and the cotton floats on top and congeals together, and that can be lit and you can watch the flame rush across the bay. You're not supposed to do that, as boats can catch fire. But every year some dumb teenager doesn't think about that and ends up burning the bay. I did it with my pals about 20 years ago. I know my nephew is maturing quickly, as he was escorted home in a cop cruiser yesterday with a few of his pals. They'd set the bay on fire. I lectured him sternly, pointed to our neighbor's lawn and told him don't ever try that shit on my lawn.

That'd be taking away my fun.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Bang Bang at The Bada Bing

Oh no! Not Silvio!

Up until his long run on The Sopranos, Steven Van Zandt was best known as a guitarist for Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band. During shows, Bruce would introduce his band mates with special titles, and Steve was often called "the minister of faith and friendship, keeper of all that is righteous." When it comes to The Sopranos, I think the same title could apply to Silvio Dante.

Has there ever been a more dependable, more level-headed, more trustworthy, more loyal consigliere in mob fiction than Sil? Tom Hagen was great and all, but he just didn't have that affectionate, co-conspirator streak for his boss. Silvio's last name is Dante, but he's been more like Virgil, accompanying Tony as they navigate through the myriad layers of this hellish snakepit. But Silvio never reached the 9th circle of traitors.

Last night, when his loyalties were put to the test, Sil never even wavered. He knew a bigger, better, and probably safer deal was waiting for him in New York, and he answered by strangling the mutinous son of a bitch who brought it to his attention. Though I feel the worst for Bobby's children, now left with Janice as their only parent, Sil getting shot just sucks.

The scene itself, however, was a finely-tuned piece that played every note of my nerves like a staccato solo. That was a seriously intense episode, with the suspense mounting the whole way, and when Sil was trying to lamb it out of The Bing and Phil's crew came roaring into the lot, guns blazing at Sil and Patsy Parisi, OH NO! was all I could think. Even in the rain of bullets, Sil turned to grab his gun. Then, of course, the unexpected hilarity of all the strippers and Bing patrons standing there topless and gape-mouthed staring, and even funnier, them scampering out of sight so as not to be seen as witnesses! Then a slow pan of Silvio in the front seat, unconscious and bloodied. And then the poor neon-yellow outfitted motorcycle guy getting squished as collateral damage -- truly ghastly. And the strippers watching that, too!

Truly a sick scene -- and I do mean that in the cool, youth-version of the term sick.

So this is what it's come to for Tony, huh? Alone in the dark on a strange bed with no sheets, holding a shotgun to his chest. His inner circle is destroyed -- Sil probably won't regain consciousness, Christopher is dead and so is Bobby. His trusted therapist and de facto cumare Dr. Melfi has broken up with him, and he's had to remove himself from his wife and children. Exactly what's left for him to fight so hard for now? All that remains is Paulie Gaultieri.

Could it be? Could it possibly be that Paulie ends up top dog in New Jersey when all the dust settles? And how about Patsy Parisi as his partner? Couldn't be coincidental timing that Carm and Tony get quizzed by Charmaine and Artie (I love Artie) about Meadow and her dating Pat Parisi, with Charmaine remarking how it's odd that Patsy is one of Tony's underlings. And we've been left to question Paulie's loyalty all season, and were reminded again last night that he's the cockroach of the Soprano family. He may not be considered "management" by the New York crew, but he has "survived the '70s by the skin of his balls" because he's one tough walnut.

How will Agent Harris play into all this? Sure, he's always had a good rapport with Tony, so it wasn't shocking that he tipped Tony off about the ordered hits. But what is strange is that Harris has all this information even though he's supposedly working the terror detail. Phil Leotardo himself said it last night. There are five families, and the New Jersey gang is just a pygmy outfit. Even more damning, Tony's never done time. Tony's not a big prize, but the Feds have been putting a case together against him, and Harris just buttered him up. Do they want Tony alive merely so they can offer him a deal? As Kupferberg alluded to this episode, sopranos are singers. And Tony has enough dirt on the NY crew to sing an opera.

How about that scene where Dr. Melfi broke up with him? So unprofessional! Such a scream! Her bitchy therapist Kupferberg finally got through to her. But we all know it wasn't in her best interest. His smug satisfaction and jealousy over her prize patient couldn't contain itself. You'd think therapists would be better at masking their true emotions. But he had to commit the cardinal sin of revealing Tony's identity in a crowded room, even while admonishing her for being immoral and unsafe for treating him. And yet -- the peer pressure and humiliation worked. Finally, with a tainted eye, Jen, not Dr. Melfi, but Jen sat in bed and read the paper about treating sociopaths.

And it most surely was Jennifer, not Dr. Melfi, who dumped Tony in session. They've had their spats before, and it's at those times that her professional veneer gets thin and her personal interests become transparent. It wasn't a doctor dismissing a patient, but a woman dismissing a man who'd disappointed her. Pissed off that he'd "defaced her reading material" in the waiting room! Him, clueless about what's really eating her, asking if she was being hostile because he'd made that crack about her being divorced!

And of course, all his righteous indignation and seething was kept to a minimum as he cockily replaced the steak recipe into her defaced "Departures" magazine in the waiting room before leaving. It's not exactly the ending of "Casablanca", but these two star-and-gun-crossed, would-be lovers have finally parted. And it ended with a bigger dose of reality than cinema breakups generally hold, meeting the same fate as most tragic couples do: Neither one is wiser or better for the experience, really. They're just worn out, beat up, and let down from the whole thing.

Also speaking of things that aren't very rewarding, there's AJ. Even though Melfi chastised Tony about his preferred method of parenting, wanting to stick his foot up AJ's ass, by asking him if he was a better man for "having several assorted pairs of wingtips and loafers inserted into his lower bowels" (I'm gonna miss Melfi the most!), AJ tripped Tony's triggers at the wrong time. Tony basically pleaded for AJ to grow up and be responsible for a short time, but AJ was stuck in his terror-minded, selfish myopia and made his Uncle Bobby's death and his father's potential murder all about his own depression and inability to "maintain", and so Tony gave in and finally dragged him out of bed and screamed at him to pack his bags.

Frankly? I thought it was long overdue. Though wingtips being forcefully inserted up my lower bowels weren't the most happy experiences of my life, I needed it at times.

I was happy to see Rosalee Aprile at least one last time. She's Carmela's Silvio. Even though she's been through the shit, with a dead husband, murdered son, and then "gone missing" boyfriend, she, unlike AJ, has been able to "maintain" and also stick by Carm's side no matter what. Is she a reflection of Carm's future? No longer the queen of the family, but no longer encumbered by those trappings, either. Free and breezy to enjoy a trip to Paris without being haunted by visions of dead friends?

Phil Leotardo, he's gone into hiding, same as Tony. However, there are glaring differences between their situations. Phil is still insulated and safe. His crew was given orders and so far, they've been successful. Meanwhile, Tony's "glorified crew" from New Jersey has bungled their jobs and paid the price. Paulie accepts responsibility, but in the end, does that really matter?

Tony is left to fight for his life -- and not much else. His family is destroyed, his friends have either forsaken him or are dead, there's no one left to keep the faith, and is what he's fighting for all that righteous anymore?

There's a saying that comes from the opera -- It's not over until the fat lady sings. Well, right now, on this show, she's backstage, clearing her throat. Or is possibly a fat man named Soprano, laying on a bed, holding a shotgun, who's getting ready to belt one out before the curtain falls?

Friday, June 01, 2007

Well. Shit.

The Sopranos took a week off, Idol is finished, Ocean's Thirteen isn't released yet, and I haven't seen Pirates. So I don't have much to say this week. Sorry.