Friday, September 17, 2010

And Then There Were None: four ways

A few weeks ago, I saw a theatrical production of And Then There Were None, adapted from the Agatha Christie novel of the same name (some editions were entitled Ten Little Indians). Did you know that it's the seventh bestselling book ever? And that Christie is the third bestselling author of all time, after the Bible and Shakespeare?

The story involves ten people invited to an island under different pretenses. Once there, each guest is accused by a mysterious voice on a gramophone record of committing a particular murder. Then the guests themselves begin falling prey to a murderer. After each killing, a soldier (or Indian) figurine from the dining room table is broken. In each of their rooms is hung a copy of the nursery rhyme "Ten Little Soldiers" (or "Ten Little Indians") and the murders eerily echo the verses of the rhyme. If they are alone on the island, then the murderer must be among the ten of them, but who?

Christie herself adapted the novel for the stage, changing the ending significantly (basically, injecting a form of a "happy" ending). I was interested in reading the book to compare the two, and my curiosity extended to my viewing two film versions, Rene Clair's And Then There Were None (1945) and George Pollock's Ten Little Indians (1965). In terms of the story, I thought the book was the best, followed by the 1945 film version, the 1965 version, and finally the play. The problem with the play was that it did not spell out certain things that the movie versions did fill in. Ten Little Indians is inferior to the 1945 film for several reasons: the setting is changed to an Austrian mountaintop; some of the characters, their alleged crimes, and how they are killed off are changed (and not for the better); there are too many gratuitous shots of Vera undressing; and it seems too dated to the 60s.

Overall, though, the book cannot be beat. What I most appreciate about it is the "note found in a bottle" postscript. It explains everything from the murderer's point of view. And Then There Were None is an extremely clever mystery!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Paste magazine bites the dust

Last year, amidst financial difficulties, Paste magazine appealed to its readers for donations so that it would not have to cease publication. The readers came through, and the magazine remained in print. Last week, however, Paste announced that its print publication has been suspended: "the prolonged downturn of the ad market has forced a hiatus . . . Paste, while considering strategic alternatives, is focusing on its digital assets, including" That a number of generous readers were able to keep the magazine afloat before makes this news more of a bitter pill.

I had been reading the magazine for a couple of years because I enjoyed its music coverage. I just read a reader comment saying that Paste had gone downhill since it broadened its scope beyond music to include movies and pop culture. I had not been reading it long enough to attest to that, but I wonder how many readers it lost with that change. Paste's announcement is disappointing given the lack of quality and coverage of music magazines currently in print.

Friday, September 3, 2010

At first listen: I'm Having Fun Now

I just received my copy of Jenny and Johnny's album I'm Having Fun Now. This is their debut as Jenny and Johnny, but you might know them for their previous accomplishments as singer-songwriters Jenny Lewis and Johnathan Rice. They have previously collaborated (they are also a real-life couple), but not to the extent that they do here. Johnathan joined Jenny as part of her touring band and they appeared on each other's solo albums. I liked them each separately and collaboratively from what I'd heard so far, so naturally I was eager for this project.

The album has Jenny's trademark deceptively upbeat sound mixed with more downbeat lyrical content written all over it! As in, "I'm having fun now, but I got some cynical banter for you." Johnathan is a talented musician and writer, but Jenny ups him on intrigue and charisma, and he's always been more willing to take a backseat anyway. Still, he rocks out on two of the best tracks: "Animal" and "Committed."

I was hoping for a "that's what I'm talking about" reaction like the one I had to Jenny's "The Next Messiah" on Acid Tongue, which featured Johnathan. They were going for a different sound and idea with this album, and it leaves something to be desired. Though not as complex as I was hoping for, it is called I'm Having Fun Now.