Monday, December 29, 2008
After all, he's one of the least likely to appear on my favorite leading men list. The lisp. His big, old, basset hound head. His funny walk. He's named 'Humphrey' for crying out loud. And yet, he's damn near at the very top of my favorite leading men list. The lisp! His big, old, basset hound head! That funny walk! He's named Humphrey for crying out loud! I love it. Love it all. Who else had the balls to "bogart" one of James Cagney's cigarettes and therefore have their name become a permanent fixture in stoner slang -- as a verb. Who else, not only in his time, but even now, could ever so perfectly embody romantic pessimism. James Dean became the rebel without a cause, but Bogie was the rebel with a cause. His characters were troubled and tempestuous, and yet also deeply moral and principled. He had no trouble playing the brutal gangster or the tough-guy hero, or, most winningly, the reluctant hero.
He played both Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade and is a true icon of vintage film noir. How hard-boiled was his Spade? He didn't just punch out Peter Lorre while Lorre was holding a gun on him. He did it with a laugh! Seriously, a brilliant and winning touch. And as Marlowe? Tough and ethical, and yet the viewer has the joy of watching not just his Marlowe fall for his client, but watching the sparks fly (again) as Bogie fell even harder for Lauren Bacall.
Speaking of the great dame Bacall, Bogie was also the founding father of the original Hollywood "rat pack," of which Sinatra was a member, and which Bacall appropriately named. Bogart, he once said that the "trouble with the world is that it's three drinks behind." How could I, of all people, not adore that philosophy?
Much of his personal history is still in dispute, clouded in myth by the studios. His real birthday? How he got that lip injury that gave him the lisp? Also, one of his most repeated quotes (Play it again, Sam) was never even spoken. What is not in dispute is his influence and stature, even today, as a legend and icon. He ranks #1 on the AFI's list of greatest screen legends. And if you don't know why, the biggest favor you could do yourself is to sit back and take in a few of his classics.
And among those classics, is, of course, the most classic, Casablanca. Of course, I have to pick this as his defining role, as it embodied so many of the characteristics he was drawn to portray. Now, that said, I have to admit that Casablanca, for reasons I can't fully understand, is not one of my favorite films or roles of his. I just don't connect with the film. I love Bergman. Love Bogart. What's not to like? Swarming Nazis, a hot nightclub, a bitter club owner. And yet, for his best work, I prefer Charlie Allnut in African Queen, or, frankly, Dixon Steele in In a Lonely Place. But I understand why Casablanca resonates through the decades in a way these other films don't. There's both melancholy and romanticism in the movie, and disillusionment gives way to idealism, giving you the best of everything that Bogie so easily personified within that seemingly lurid, tough exterior.
So even though it wasn't my personal favorite, it remains the zenith of his incredible career as it shot him forever from leading man to the stratosphere of true star. The public embraced him as never before. I guess you could say it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Friday, December 19, 2008
So, though I don't claim to be an Anglophile of any sort, I have watched and weighed all the delightful nuances of modern hot Brits to bring you this little hidden-gem suggestion. Even I can't deny the earnest intensity of Colin Firth, or the scoundrel charm of Hugh Grant in Bridget Jones's Diary, particularly when they're engaged in their slaptastick fist fight.
And I have no problem with the new Bond, Daniel Craig, as I've been on to him since Layer Cake.
But, for me, if I'm going to look across the pond, I'd most likely be gazing at Clive Owen. I don't think I really need to talk about his assets, do I? Pretty self-evident with this guy. I mean, he doesn't mesmerize me to the point where I'll try to convince you that Shoot 'Em Up is a decent flick. But I sure don't mind watching it, either. Though, slight digression here, a nearly identical flick, Hitman starring the riveting Timothy Olyphant was sneered at by audiences, mostly because the movie didn't resemble the vastly popular game it was based upon, and so the gamers didn't support it. And yet, it's a completely watchable, and even pretty enjoyable movie. If you're in the mood for some serious action, check it out.
But Shoot 'Em Up got roundly panned, and it's understandable why. On paper, it all sounds good. Paul Giamatti as an arch villian, Monica Bellucci as the hottie, and Clive shooting everything in sight. And yet, well. A lot of Clive's movies have turned out that way. He took a turn in a twisty psychological thriller that could've done better, but he starred opposite Jennifer Aniston, and for whatever reason, her movies always flop. He played opposite Julia Roberts in Closer, but that whole movie just turned out to be a mean-spirited dirge. He made a couple classy pictures back-to-back with the highly underrated Inside Man and then the somewhat overrated Children of Men. But both pictures had a slow and lumbering feel, something Clive seems drawn to, which is what makes it so refreshing to check him out in the unexpected Greenfingers. He's been Sir Walter Raleigh and King Arthur, and was made for his role in Sin City. Gosford Park? Critics ate the shit up; it's an English Manor-Manner whodunit by Robert Altman, but it's not a satisfying film for everyone. I actually liked it quite a bit, which is saying quite a lot, but it's still not my top pick.
Often, Clive picks characters or scripts that are, to say the least, morally ambiguous. And in that vein was the lifeblood of Clive's blossoming film career: Croupier.
I actually think Clive's gotten better looking over the years since this movie, but he certainly wasn't anything to kick out of bed even then. But he's also perfect as the dual characters Jack and Jake in this neo-noir that's absolutely riveting. As a failing writer, Jack takes a job as a croupier at a casino and begins to write a novel about it. A dark meditation of fate vs. free will, this is equal parts thriller and philosophical drama, and Clive is hypnotic, completely pulling this movie together with nuances that aren't charming or sexy, but instead is cunning and enigmatic. It gives him enough credibility to be able to skate by on his deep voice and insouciant charm in Hollywood crap like Shoot 'Em Up. And believe me, I know my crap.
What I love about this show and its finales? It really makes a clean cut and then wraps things up as neatly as one of Dex's victims. It just keeps hiking the suspense all season, and it has fallen into the habit of releasing most of the tension in the penultimate episodes with the big climax, and then the final eps reach for some more, but basically still end up bringing the audience back down. It's a bit different than the usual format in this respect, and there can be moments where I think the final ep was a bit of a letdown because of it. But, overall, I'm getting to like this format, because it is overall satisfying. And this year, they did manage to leave a few splatters to be mopped up next season.
I will miss Jimmy, and though I loved this season, I am hoping they find a new angle next season instead of repeating this now well-worn storyline. I have confidence they will. After all, this show has pulled off the nearly impossible. I now think of Lauren Velez as "LaGuerta" instead of as "Gloria."
Monday, December 08, 2008
Sunday, December 07, 2008
And here are the rules...
RULE ONE, I have to grab one of the books closest to me, go to page 56, type the fifth line and the next two to five lines that follow.
The book closest to me right now was a gift, and I'm in the middle of it, and I'm loving it! It is Declan Burke's The Big O.
RULE TWO, I have to pick five people who love books. My five picks are:
Donna George Storey
Mick Halpin (the giver of the gifted book that's quoted above)
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Entourage, well, the boys wrapped it up, too, and after a grueling year that tested Vince's patience and pride, and therefore pushed me to testing my patience with him, the unthinkable happened: Vince broke up with Eric! And I was not at all happy about it! I was actually pissed at Vince. PISSED. But, of course, it is Entourage and everything ended up more than okay when the big guinea, Martin Scorsese, swooped in to save the day. Tony Bennett and Martin Scorsese in the same season! It's enough to make me tune in next year again, even if they are hitting levels of unforeseen douchery overall.
And then there's Dexter, still managing to be the superstar of Sunday, Bloody Sunday.
The twist! I did NOT see that coming, and I LOVE it! Just when the show was feeling comfortably formulaic, here came this brilliant twist to make me salivate for the last couple of episodes. Praise to you, oh Dexter writers, and praise as always to Michael C. Hall, and I fully endorse the Emmy that I expect Jimmy Smits to dance off with for this season.
Lastly, though they reside on Monday instead of Sunday, since we're also down to the penultimate episode of Boston Legal, I wanted to give a mention to David E. Kelley's drama. Spader and Shattner weren't on my favorite film actors list, but they sure do give any couple, (even Sandler and Barrymore) a run for their money for best couple ever.
Alan Shore and Denny Crane are a match made in heaven, both comedic and dramatic. This show was one of the liberal bastions that made living through the W years bearable as Kelley constantly railed against the ridiculous and outrageous by using Denny and Alan as his loving, confrontational mouthpieces. They are what Alan Sorkin so desperately wanted his star-crossed couple on the ill-fated Studio 60 to be. Except where Sorkin failed, Kelley succeeded and exceeded. They are a bromance to make even Judd Apatow jealous. Not despite them, but because of their radically different values and constant bickering, Alan and Denny are truly one of the great love affairs for the ages, and it'll be sad to smoke that last cigar.
Just how much do I like Adam Sandler? Well, how's this -- I know all the lyrics to Lunch Lady Land. Not enough? Okay. I'm probably one of only three people in existence who actually liked Punch Drunk Love. I did. I liked it! A lot. And I'm not one of those people who encourage comedians to do "serious" work. Frankly, it mostly pisses me off when they do that. But I still liked that movie.
I know a lot of people really can't stand his humor. People with good taste, people whose funny bone I respect! And I can't even explain why I do laugh at his shenanigans. It's obvious humor, often stupid, but I guess what I like is that he's got this soft, cuddly appeal, and then, just below that is that explosive, juvenile temper, and then, beneath that is more cuddly appeal. I like that he's always casting Steve Buscemi and also Rob Schneider (He can do it!), not to mention all his other buddies, who even made their own damn film which made me giggle (Grandma's Boy).
Even better? He's got great taste in his love-interest co-stars. Joey Lauren Adams, Marisa Tomei, Winona Ryder, Drew Barrymore, and, again, Drew Barrymore.
It's hard for me to pick a favorite between those two flicks. They're both sneaky in their charm, even if they are obvious in their laughs. And Drew Barrymore is a romantic comedy darling. She's both beautiful and adorably cute with a talent for pratfalls along with her lispy innocence. In The Wedding Singer they successfully mine bad '80s fashion, Billy Idol, and youthful romance with a banterful elan. But in 50 First Dates, they get to frolick in the gorgeous Hawaiian setting while infusing the light comedy with some truly touching deep devotion in the romance.
It's still a silly comedy, and not quite classic screwball. But Sandler and Barrymore are a classic, enchanting pairing with absolutely mad chemistry. Something about them onscreen just clicks and connects and feels right as a couple. Not the steamiest couple ever, or the most dreamy, or even the most witty. But together, they do seem like the perfect fit, and a matchup made to last from the '80s to the '00s, (<--I pronounce that "the oughts" by the way) and from the east coast to the Pacific.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Susie conducted interviews with the contributors, regarding our stories and inspirations and sex and writerly things. A sample from mine:
Has your work ever been banned in a nation, or seized at Customs?
Answer: My work hasn't, but I have! I'm still not allowed to return to the Bahamas. That was
such a fun trip!
You can check out the entire interview here, along with people much more interesting than I am. People like Amorous Woman author Donna George Storey, whose short "Yes" is featured in the collection. And, of course, many other erotic-literati answer questions.
And, of course, even better than the interviews are the actual stories, and the book is so beautifully packaged it'd make a lovely, high-end holiday gift.
Also, forgive me for repeating myself, but since books do make such wonderful gifts, and since they make affordable gifts, I'll remind you that one of mine is currently on sale. 24/7 -- now on sale for $12.59, and with free shipping! With things getting tighter, you may not be able to take a trip to Vegas, but this book will take you on a virtual tour, and nearly get you laid.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
It's a tough call to pick my favorite Ben Stiller flick, because I also hold a strong affinity for Farrelly Brother movies, and still think that the first fifteen minutes of There's Something About Mary is some of the funniest film ever. But even though the Farrellys have also worked with Jack Black, they aren't really considered in the core of the Frat Pack, and I do have a Stiller flick that I think I like even better.
Zoolander got buried at the box office when audiences flocked away from the stupid comedy in the wake of 9/11. But it's still one of the silliest and most satisfying on Stiller's resume. It's a family affair, with his wife and dad both turning in funny performances, and even features a cameo by his mom. Will Ferrell nearly steals the show, and it's at least once a week that I wail "I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!" Also, the world would be a poorer place without the Blue Steel.
Close on the heels of Zoolander comes quite possibly the most packy of the Frat flicks -- Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. With the notable exception of Owen Wilson, this film features nearly all the full-fledged packers and even a fine assortment of pledges. It may even be the film that drew Steve Carrell into the craziness, and his Brick -- particularly when killing a man with a trident or holding pants parties -- is a true highlight. There's also Christina Appelgate, who shows off fine comedic timing as Tits McGee. But Anchorman is primarily a Will Ferrell vehicle, showcasing his loud, obnoxious outbursts and stupendously self-involved stupidity.
If there's a movie more underrated than Zoolander, it's probably Anchorman, which is probably the one of the single most quotable flicks ever. (Go back to your home on whore island! I'm 72% sure that I love you. Smelly pirate hooker.) It's not high-brow, but it sure does make me laugh. As much as I laughed at Talladega Nights, and enjoy Elf (again, that Favreau guy pops up on the periphery), and yeah, I still bounce my head to that Roxbury song, Anchorman ties down the number one spot for Ferrell for me.
And, of course, I can't talk about the Frat Pack without talking about the tall cool one, Vince Vaughn. Written by his pal Jon Favreau, Swingers launched motor-mouth Vince into full-fledged stardom. And I do love Swingers with its Rat Packy vibe, trip to Vegas, and freelance feel. But the pairing of Vince and Owen Wilson was given a warm reception by the public at large and its charm, and Vince's, is undeniable.
Wedding Crashers has its problems. There's an abundance of humor that's homophobic and therefore somewhat offensive. And yet, how can you NOT love Todd Cleary?
Everything about this breezy romantic comedy clicks, and even though Owen is the "lead," Vince more than holds his own. Those plaid pants. The motorboating on the stairway. The dancing. The freaking out about stage four virgin clingers. Getting shrapnel plucked from his ass. It's good shit. It's the kind of thing that makes you wish you had hung out more with Seamus O'Toole and Bobby O'Shea at those frat parties back in the day.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
As an extra special bonus, since my publisher is offering this sale and free shipping, if you take advantage of the sale and pick up a copy of the book now, I'd be happy to sign it for you and pay for the shipping to you. You could either have the book shipped to you and then mail it to me, or ship it directly to me. Either way, I'll sign it and send it back to you and pick up the cost of that postage. Or, alternately, to save the whole extra shipping, you can let me know you ordered a copy, and I can send you a signed bookplate that you can place in the book.
So if you're into raunchy, racy fiction -- or if you know someone else who is and want to get some gift shopping done -- now's the time to get a good deal. Here's the official blurb on the book:
Marina Martino is a bright, young woman who has a talent for counting cards. Miguel Rodriguez is a charming casino dealer. Sparks fly when they meet during a serendipitous game of blackjack. But as they become entangled in a dizzying romance through Sin City, details about Miguel's dark past surface and Marina begins to doubt his intentions as the stakes rise and danger unfolds. In the city of illusion, the normally calculating Marina has to make a decision to trust her brains or her heart - to bet on her skill or push her luck.
And, of course, it's chock full of lots of scandalous sex. Click here for the sale: $12.79 and free shipping.
And even if you're not into my style, do remember that books make great gifts and give the rest of Zumaya's bookstore a browse. You might find something else you fancy for 30% off.
Monday, November 17, 2008
I love David Duchovny, but the novelty of his charm really can't pull the crass Californication out of the dreary mire of bad TV any longer. And whatever they pay Jeremy Piven, and Rex Lee, on Entourage should really be increased. Because those two did manage to keep that rapidly sinking show afloat this year. Ari and Lloyd just don't get old, and they've got me wishing that Doug Ellin and Co would consider branching out. Shows age and I know it's generally a death knell when they're forced to bring on new characters. But I have really lost the capacity to give a shit about Vince and his posse this season. The worst part? I even sort of like Eric now, but it's only in a bland way. But the whole season of Vince getting ground down just didn't play, possibly because he was such a bitch about some of the circumstances, and possibly because it just got too over-the-top and redundant. We saw brief of flashes of Ari with a couple of his other clients. Jeffrey Tambor was hilarious, and even the smarmy Mark Wahlberg appearance was a relief. (If they want to do clever meta-funny, they need to bring on Donny Wahlberg and have him face off with Drama. Now that'd be wink-wink funny, and probably funny.) And though Seth Green again juiced up the show with some ridiculous antics for an episode, on the whole, as this season closes, I find myself wishing Ari would find another movie-star wannabe or two and then they could show us those people and their posse as they navigate Hollywood from the shallow shores to the rocky reefs in even shallower shores.
I still want to love the boys, but they've hit levels of stupidity, vapidity, and just downright self-centered meanness this year that frayed my patience for their shenanigans. Drama, don't cock-block Turtle! Ever!
Oddly, nearly all the characters on True Blood fray my edges, too, and yet I'm still riveted because the plot pulses along, and it's precisely everyone's idiocy that allows the twists. Anna Paquin's Sookie, I can forgive a lot. Frankly, I like that she's got such a hard bitch edge under that sweet exterior. And considering the level of trauma she's suffered, and her young age, I can even go along with her fatuous self-involvement. It's not an attractive trait how utterly involved with herself she is, but it's fairly accurate and allows her swings in emotion to keep things with loverboy Bill tense. But this week pushed the envelope of believability: Bill's on trial for murder and she gets huffy that he's been unavailable to serve her needs for two whole days so she flings herself at Sam, even though she knows that he's taken up with her best friend. And her best friend? Tara could be lying in a ditch dead, but neither Sam nor Sookie seem too concerned about it. And yet, it feels not so much like convenient writing as actually in-character actions from these two to behave this way! So I can go with it!
And as for Bill, I've finally warmed to him, probably because he's finally getting put through the wringer. He was forced to be a "maker" last week as punishment for his murder of another vampire. But his baby-vamp Jessica turned out to be even more of a monster than you'd expect for a vampire, in the most hilarious way.
Not only does he have to frustratedly deal with Jessica whining about hunger and calling him a dick, but then he returns home to find Sookie making out with Sam! I love it. I love it nearly as much as I love Lafayette, who's rapidly vying with Lloyd for my favorite Sunday night side dish.
And when it comes to creating monsters, it's not just Bill who took the protege-plunge and had his creation come out a little icky. Over on Dexter, Jimmy Smits has taken a creepy turn to send shivers up my spine.
This isn't exactly new territory for Dexter. Season One was all about Dexter coming to grips with his identity and accepting the solitude it'd bring him, and then discovering kin and kind in the ice truck killer. Then, in season two, we had the British invasion where Dex thought maybe crazy arsonist Lila could light his fire and understand him. Neither of those experiments turned out so well. So this season, we've got Jimmy Smits as ADA Miguel Prado, and he's got a dirty little hidden agenda. Hoping, again, for camaraderie and understanding, Dex allowed this guy to insinuate himself into Dexter's life waaay too deeply. As disturbing as it is to have James Remar ever be right, Dex should've been listening to his dearly departed dad on this one, but, luckily for viewers, and for Prado's bloodlust, Dex has started training another killer. But, much like Bill's Jessica, Dexter's protege just goes a little over the edge. (Let's hope over on Entourage, Ari's new agen-pal played by Gary Cole is even half the disaster these two have parented!) I think we all know exactly where this is going to end up for Dexter, but that hardly matters. How it gets there is all the fun. I just wish there were more episodes of all this crazy killer madness.
Friday, November 14, 2008
It's got a great premise. The short stories begin in the 17th century when the titular character, Dr. Olaf is forced to flee from the Old World to then New Amsterdam when his propensity for slipping into catatonic spells culminates in him performing a fatal bloodletting -- and then deciding it best to go on ahead and dissect the brain of the corpse. So he brings his insane mother with him to the New World, and she is tantamount to his determination to continue to dissect brains, as he's certain he can cure her if he keeps researching. But, you know, Dr. Olaf is a bit off his rocker, too, what with the blackouts and lunatic ravings. Menger-Anderson then follows his offspring through generations as they become physicians and wrestle with the vogue maladies and chic cures of the day.
The writing in this collection is remarkable itself. Subtle and smart, Kirsten is able to alter her style to match the mood of the story and of the day to more fully immerse the reader in the already vivid historical detail. But it is still character that rules the day, and wisely so. As we move through time, although these are descendants of Dr. Olaf, each with their own story, there are recurring threads which give this collection an almost novel-like approach. There are plenty of mad men and willful women, particularly in times when that wasn't a desirable trait in one's daughter or would-be lover. In the pivotal "Hysteria," set in the early 1800's, an unhappily married doctor must demand his daughter quit her beloved job at the prison so that she may receive proper suitors, all while he resents his own wife from steering and manipulating him away from his own true love. The pendulum swings back as the daughter grows up, and, after being married and having a child of her own, her husband departs across the country to scout their relocation. The daughter, however, again takes up work at an institute where phrenology is the brilliant fad, and she eventually forces her father to allow her to begin the practice in their home.
There are hypnotists and shock therapy in here, and we move from suffragettes to silicone implants, until we finally meet another father-daughter pair, this time, both of them physicians, but again, both of them struggling to balance on the fine and important line between work and family, science and social desires, and what is most important to keep propelling forward, not just for this family, but also for humanity. And, again, it is the brain of one that drives the other in their decisions.
Sunday, November 09, 2008
Cary Grant, to this day, exemplifies the dashing, suave, charming, and handsome leading man. His X factor was always off the charts, and he sure could deliver witty, wry comedy. But as retired jewel thief John "the cat" Robie, his carefree, cavorting lifestyle gets cramped when a copycat thief begins burgling in his backyard. So why not enlist the help of an American heiress to track down the real thief to clear his name? Especially when that heiress is none other than Grace Kelly.
Between the costumes, the setting, and the two leads, this picture is a visual feast. It's also a bit of a departure for Hitchcock, because although it's suspenseful, it's also romantic, and the cheeky dialogue still glitters today.
Cary Grant, by this time in his career, merely had to show up, and his likeability factor could command everything else. But he does more than just clock in here. He's everything you ever expect from him. He's Cary Grant, and that's more than enough to steal any woman's heart.
Friday, October 31, 2008
Onscreen? You gotta love Robert Rodriguez, who showcased him in two of his flicks. Savini was a deputy in Rodriguez's zombierific Planet Terror, but, more famously, he was Sex Machine in From Dusk Till Dawn.
Now go watch something really disgusting and squeal and scream and thank Savini for it.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
The only difficult part is trying to narrow down my favorite film role of his, and I'm sure plenty of people would disagree with my choice. How can you go wrong with a bloody, violent, Tarantino/Rodriguez film which helped launch George's film career? From Dusk Till Dawn still boasts one of the best opening sequences in modern films. And one a line from Clooney near the end that still cracks me up every time I hear it: "Did they look like psychos? Is that what they looked like? They were vampires. Psychos do not explode when sunlight hits them, I don't give a fuck how crazy they are!"
Clooney's turn as Seth Gecko was about as big a departure from his ER role as possible. He flaunted his .44, he robbed, and he punched people out if they looked at him funny. And yet, in trademark Tarantino style, he managed to make the bad guy utterly redeemable. He was a bastard, but not a fuckin' bastard.
And yet, though I love me some Gecko, that's only the runner-up. A couple years later, Clooney perfected his "honor among thieves" coolness with sultry elan in the terribly underrated Out of Sight.
This movie was so good and Clooney and Lopez threw off so many sparks that they managed to make Detroit -- in winter -- seem exotic and desirable. Seriously. Directed by Steven Soderbergh and based on a novel by the great Elmore Leonard, this movie even features a superb supporting cast. And yet, for some reason, it tanked at the box office and is still overlooked to this day. People just don't know what they're missing.
Maybe it was Leonard's character of Karen Sisco that was the kiss of death. Carla Gugino couldn't strike success with her on a short-lived tv series, either. It wasn't Michael Keaton's fault, who reprised his brief role of Ray Nicolette for this flick, even though it was a different studio and director. (I do believe he's still the only actor to ever pull off that trick.) And it most certainly wasn't Clooney who sunk this vehicle. What he did do is manage to refine his irresistible bad-boy role with this choice of film. He upjumped Seth Gecko with his character of Jack Foley here, and then we got the ultra-suave, high class Danny Ocean which rocketed Clooney to riches just a few years later. And while this movie lacks the luster of the high-tech Vegas hijinks, it has every bit the panache and punch, with even more romance between the leads. Like I said. Detroit. In winter. Hot. It's a Clooney classic.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Based on Charlaine Harris's Dead Until Dark, and boasting Alan Ball (American Beauty and Six Feet Under) at the helm, this show is just one delight after another. I hadn't even heard of the books until this series started, but I've now torn through the first two already and am set to dig into the third. They're fast and addictive. And with Ball thrown in the mix to bring it onscreen, the humor is dark and quirked. There's a definite dash of Claire Fisher in Sookie Stackhouse, but Anna Paquin is making her all her own. Strong and seductive, sweet and sassy, all mixed together. I do STILL have problems with this unattractive male cast, especially because there is so much graphic sex (yay!) and their bad looks just totally detract from the sex appeal. I mean, when you've got Anna Paquin and now Lizzy Caplan (!!) getting naked, give them something to work with, dammit. But there's just enough gore, and plenty of thrills, and they just keep unveiling shock after shock in the plot.
After several shitfests like John From Cincinatti and Tell Me You Love Me, it's nice to see HBO get its groove back here, and True Blood is a great lead in for Entourage. On that subject, though, man. I don't know. Suddenly, I'm not feeling it so much for Vince and the boys this year. There have been plenty of laughs, and Ari is in rare form, but now he's basically carrying the show. And, unfortunately, I don't think it's the economic downturn that's making me a little bristly toward Vince this year. Last week, when he pissed on Ari's parade, I sort of had it with him. And now, this week, Drama took macho-male ball-busting with Turtle a step into nasty territory. This show's in a precarious position, because it's a little more difficult to watch millionaire fuckheads floundering around when everyone around you is truly struggling. But when those fuckheads are also suddenly starting to act a little more assholey and superficial, it makes it even more unpalatable. Worse? I find I'm really liking Eric this year. It's just weird.
Also weird? Jimmy Smits on Dexter. They've taken the tantalizing turn with Lila knowing Dexter's nature last year and pushed it to a whole new disturbing level this week as Jimmy's DA has trapped Dexter. And he wholeheartedly approves of Dexter's disgusting bloodlust for criminals! YAY! I love it! I haven't got a freaking clue how Dexter is going to handle this twist, but that's what makes the show so good. Also? I really hope Angel gets some from his fellow vice cop.
Friday, October 24, 2008
Speaking of the Pacino-Garcia resemblance, and knockout flicks, it's easy to peg what should've been Garcia's immortal role -- Vincent Mancini-Corleone in The Godfather III. This film had the pedigree and star power, but, unfortunately, unlike its predecessors, it didn't have the tight script in its arsenal. As Sonny Corleone's illegitimate son Vincent, Garcia got to pull the best qualities from all three Corleone brothers. He had Michael's machinations, Sonny's temper, and Fredo's lovable sweetness.
And he looked smashing in a tux. But it's perhaps because of this mishmash of qualities that Vincent lacked focus. This lack of shaping wasn't a shortcoming of Garcia's performance, which earned him an Oscar nomination, as he managed to be both smoldering and romantic, alternately threatening and endearing, all while looking like the very definition of a movie star. It's just that this movie had some fundamental problems. So although it's still more than watchable and a worthwhile entry into Coppola's canon, if for nothing else than the beautiful look of the film, it's really not worthy of the first two installments and it can't be considered the apex of Garcia's career, because he, unfortunately, has some major screen time devoted to the structural problems. And that's all I have to say about that, since I'm being nice and not scathing.
So instead, for me, it's a much more simple character -- in an equally visually stunning movie -- that finally gave Garcia an iconic turn. Littered with enough stars at its disposal to make even Ari Gold blush, it was 2001's Ocean's Eleven where Garcia got to turn up his wattage, and, for my money, outshine everyone else. Why? Simple. It's a fun movie, and no one, no one on that screen was having more fun than Andy.
As the classy-but-nasty casino owner Terry Benedict, Andy got to condescend to Clooney and romance Roberts with a coldly calculating elan. He wasn't one of these sympathetic villains. He was a good, old-fashioned villain, snide and sly, finally getting his comeuppance.
I will admit that I have very fond personal memories of this flick, as I actually lived in Vegas when it was filming. And, being young and mostly drunk, I spent a lot of time stalking the Ocean's cast, generally to little success. But one day at the Bellagio, I happened to luck out, and, from a roped off area at the Fontana Bar, I got to watch as Andy Garcia and Julia Roberts filmed a re-shoot of their kiss-off elevator scene. It was awesome. Dazzling.
And even as the charm of this Ocean's franchise sort of faded, Andy's Terry Benedict kept the funny coming, along with the snarky laughs. And so it's fitting that Al Pacino joined him as a nemesis for the final installment in Thirteen. In The Godfather, it was still ultimately all about Al Pacino's Michael Corleone, not Andy's Vincent. But this time around, in the Ocean's world, Andy's Terry Benedict, he may have gotten the shaft from Danny Ocean once again> But Andy, in this movie, I think he finally got the best of old Al Pacino.
Name that tune, you say? Okay, now name the erotic legend that goes with the tune...
As I mentioned before, Susie Bright has a new book out for the holidays, a fancy-pantsy slip-covered hardback called X: The Erotic Treasury, with forty stories from her favorite erotic literary fiction authors.
She asked all her writers, "What song would you like to dedicate to your story?"
Twenty-three of them answered— including me.
Twenty-three of them answered— including me.
Above is Susie's "jukebox," where you can hear snippets of all the songs. Below is a list of all the stories, with the title, author, song, and synopsis. Susie said she loved doing this... "it gives me another insight into what each author was thinking as they twisted the short and curlies!" Naturally, leave it to me to pick a spectacularly cheezy song amongst some hardcore punk. But that's me, you know. Always there to bring a handful of anachronisms and vapidity along with the martini ingredients.
Above is Susie's "jukebox," where you can hear snippets of all the songs.
Below is a list of all the stories, with the title, author, song, and synopsis.
Susie said she loved doing this... "it gives me another insight into what each author was thinking as they twisted the short and curlies!" Naturally, leave it to me to pick a spectacularly cheezy song amongst some hardcore punk. But that's me, you know. Always there to bring a handful of anachronisms and vapidity along with the martini ingredients.
1. Wish Girls
by Matthew Addison
"Wished for You" by the Squirrel Nut Zippers
A boy grows weary of his two devoted fembots.
2. On the Road with Sonia
by Paula Bomer
“Freeway,” by Aimee Mann
One mother's erotic road trip.. several months pregnant.
by Corwin Ericson
“Barnacle Bill the Sailor,” by The Controllers
A fisherman applies a shocking gift from the sea to his lingam.
4. Beyond the Sea
by Susan DiPlacido
"The Girl from Ipanema," Getz/Gilberto
Beautiful con artist works washed-up surf star on last chance cruise.
5. Night Train
by Martha Garvey
“Take Off Your Clothes (For World Peace),” by Royal Pink
They got on at Broadway-Lafayette... and the rest is history.
6. Electric Razor
by Irma Wimple
"Good Vibrations," by American Black Lung
The potential of household appliances in one woman's life.
7. Must Bite
by Vicki Hendricks
“Monkey Man” by the Rolling Stones
Stripper takes on a new husband with an exotic pet collection and a huge insurance policy.
8. Loved It and Set It Free
by Lisa Montanarelli
“Memories of Times Square (The Dildo Song),” by The Neal Pollack Invasion
(What a perfect, perfect, song- SB)
Two young women's night of debauchery have to cover up their misdeeds in a hurry.
by Nick Kaufmann
"Magic" by Olivia Newton-John
A broken down porn star gets one hell of a supernatural last chance.
10. Parts for Wholes
“Cue The Strings,” by Low
A tender, painful, and pleasurable intervention.
by Bill Noble
“Food and Pussy,” by Dan Reeder (How did I never hear this before?-SB)
Two unlikely lovers set adrift off the Na Pali coast.
12. A First Time for Everything
by Rachel Kramer Bussel
“Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go!)” by Garbage
One woman's self-made bukkake party is no Martha Stewart affair.
by Peggy Munson
"Carnival,” by Bikini Kill
A trio of outlaws and crips take their sex act to the carnival grounds.
by R. Gay
“Angel,” by Massive Attack
A guy who doesn't think he stands a chance with a certain kind of woman finds he has a physical gift he didn't realize.
15. God’s Gift
by Salome Wilde
“Big Bottom,” by Spinal Tap
A legendary Rock Star is reincarnated beyond his wildest sexual imagination.
16. Red Light Green Light
by Shanna Germain
“L'il Red Riding Hood,” by Sam the Sham
A tourist takes a turn in a brothel window in Amsterdam.
17. Puffy Lips
by Susie Hara
“Flamenco Tangos,” by Manuel Salado
A dare at a bar goes one step further than either lover expected.
18. Gifts from Santa
by Tsaurah Litzky
“Jingle Bells,” by Duke Ellington & his Orchestra
That jolly ole' elf knows exactly how to get you off.
"4'33" by John Cage
Two refugees from a charismatic religious cult know they have one catharsis left undone.
Watch the Cage performance here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HypmW4Yd7SY
"The Power of Love" by Huey Lewis and the News
Just how far you can take one dinner guest, one accommodating hostess, and one highly authoritative master of ceremonies.
21. Cold Ass Ice
by Chelsea Summers
"Hot Child in the City, " by Nick Gilder
A sweltering summer in an un-airconditioned apartment in The City can take one right past the point of no return.
23. Rock of Ages
by P.S. Haven
“Pictures Of Lily” by The Who
One young man's coming of age, thanks to rock'n'roll and his sister's unintentional inspiration.
24. A Perfect Fit
by Katya Andreevna
"I'll Be Seeing You," by Françoise Hardy and Iggy Pop
A last-minute trip to the shoe shop takes one customer into a fitting session she'll never forget.
24. Clean Comfortable Room
by Pam Ward
"Swordfishtrombone," by Tom Waits
What's a woman gotta go through for a decent room and a pack of cigarettes?
24. Valentine's Day in Jail
by Susan Musgrave
"If You Were Crying Over Me," by Rita Chiarelli
This autobiographical-based story was made into a film for the Canadian TV series Bliss, which is devoted to women's erotic memoir. Rita's song was used on the soundtrack.
Photos: Rachel Kramer Bussell hitting the bowl again, and P.S. Haven, coloring outside the lines.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Cage has carved out his niche in the flicks by alternately making odd little pictures where he gets to chew scenery to making bona fide blockbusters where he gets to chew, regurgitate, and then rechew scenery. Or, sometimes, he even chews cockroaches onscreen. But that's what makes him Nic, and that's what makes me love him. Now, even though I'll watch any movie he's in, no matter how crappy it is, I do still realize that many of his movies are, indeed, crappy. But hey, that only makes the non-shitfests that much more delightful!
Unlike Keanu, Nic isn't aging with a whole lot of grace. He's still got a nice face and hot bod, but I can't believe that with all the money thrown at special effects they can't come up with a workable way to deal with his rapidly receding hairline with a little more style or ingenuity. That said, my favorite Cage flick isn't what I'd consider the peak of his physical prowess. That'd probably came a decade later with The Rock, and though that's still a worthy action flick, his character was just a bit too normal to consider it the pinnacle of Nicness. Instead, I give that honor to 1987's Moonstruck.
This movie is pure fluff, a straightforward mix of romance with a dash of operatic fairy tale and just enough cultural detail to ground it while lightening it. Cher, of course, took home the big prize for her turn as a Loretta, a practical widow who unexpectedly finds a second chance at romance with Nic's character, Ronny Cammareri. As if that name isn't enough to get me interested, Nic's Ronny is also a moody, eccentric baker, who toils away in front of a hot oven, wearing his white wifebeater, while hiding his deformed hand. Oof. He's sweaty and luggish, more than a hint of Stanley Kowalski around his edges, but instead of violently purging his demons like SK, Nic's Ronny finds passionate fulfillment through opera, and, eventually, Loretta.
Though he was only twenty-three at the time, and only had a handful of leading roles under his belt, this movie works primarily because of the way Nic and Cher manage to carry to the frothy material and keep it charming. Already, the now-famous affectations in his voice are already appearing in this performance, and, even more interesting, his prosthetic, metal hand only makes him sexier. That's surprising, because if you're a Nicolas Cage aficionado, as I obviously am, you know that his hands are a primary part of his appeal. He's got these long, strong, expressive fingers, and since he uses his hands so often while speaking -- insert your own Italian joke about that here -- they're very often on display. Although he's missing one here, it gives him that rough edge while simultaneously pulling more attention to the other one he's still got.
He doesn't have that approachable charm that Keanu had going in Speed. Instead, he's definitely working a borderline misanthropic angle, prone to tortured outbursts, but that's complemented with a raw, needy lust that combines with a starry-eyed adoration.
Over the years, Nic would go on to successfully play all sorts of lunatics, louts, and losers, many of them with a great deal of success. But in Moonstruck he wasn't just wild or weird, he was also woefully lovable and wonderfully endearing. And that, even more than tall, dark and dago, is just my type.
Friday, October 17, 2008
So I figured I'd start this off with the one that actually kept me up last night. It's not a secret that I've harbored a long standing crush on Keanu Reeves. Before it came to be known as a "bucket list," I often put that as one of my primary goals in life -- to kiss Keanu Reeves. Believe me, I know it's never gonna happen, but a girl has to dream. I don't harbor fantasies about hooking up with him or anything like that. (Though, sometimes, in the middle of summer on a hot day when I'm not feeling up to the task, I do daydream about having him cut my lawn. I guess it's the "hero" thing. Or just that I still imagine he'd look the best sweating in a white t-shirt. Whatever.) But just one smooch, even on his cheek, and I'd be pretty happy.
Keanu is a strange specimen. He's aging curiously, almost preternaturally well, so it's hard to say if he even has hit his actual peak yet as far as his looks. But he also doesn't always make it easy to adore his movies, because he waffles between offbeat-borderline-bizarre roles and sometimes over-the-top sentimental dreck. But he has, though his many critics would deny it, also managed to bag a few choice gems over the years. It's hard to turn down the surfer fun with Gary Busey in Point Break, and, of course, The Matrix was a feast for the eyes not just because of the introduction of bullettime effects. But even with those in the running, it's still 1994's directorial debut from Jan de Bont that races to the lead. Speed blows past the others.
Not only did Keanu finally cut his hair, but he also showed off an easy charm that kept the action hurtling along without ever derailing the audience with cringe-worthy line deliveries. (Okay, one or two slip in there, but mostly at the end, when he's really emoting, dude.) The movie boasts a simple plot with a tight script and all the right smart flourishes to keep it a classic among action flicks, but Keanu does carry the flick. Instead of the cocky swagger that Bruce brought to the modern action hero template, Keanu grounded his do-gooder with a decided lack of pretense or depth which worked in his favor.
There was no nagging tragedy in his backstory, and instead of smirking at his own cleverness, it was scripted right in that Dennis Hopper, between his mustache-twirling antics, would often mock Keanu's Jack Travers for not being fully cocked in the brain department. And it worked. His forearm muscles rippled while he flirted with Sandra Bullock and managed to figure out all the right moves, and he undertook his death-defying tasks with a mix of gum-chewing cool and stoic resignation. But he even delivers the required smart-ass line at the end --when he speaks of the villain's fate -- with a deadpan gravity instead of twinkly-eyed wit. And he does deliver plenty of crinkle-eyed smiles along the way, but they're all directed with an earnest intent, not laughing at his own jokes, but reacting to Jeff Daniels or Sandra's quips. And it's precisely those unguarded, light moments that catapult this movie to the top when ranking Keanu-eye-candy moments. He always looks great, but in most of his roles, he's confined to his "brooding" or "intense" looks, carrying a dour demeanor. But his smile unleashes his happy-go-lucky demeanor, and it knocks my socks off, allowing him to accomplish the seemingly impossible -- become even better looking.
And his looks are nothing to scoff at. Frankly, I'm not sure a man can be made any better looking than he is. He is the very definition of tall, dark, and handsome, and yet, somehow, he never seems to allow even a recognition of his physical appearance to manifest onscreen in his manner, let alone ever give off a whiff of typical macho/preening/smug attitude. And that's not vapidity, as many of his detractors would try to say. Plenty of vacant people still recognize -- and wallow in -- their own good looks. But instead of narcissism, he, particularly as Jack Travers, absolutely drips approachability. Which is perhaps why I put him, and not Nic Cage, on my to-do list to be kissed.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Speaking of cast additions, Dexter added Jimmy Smits this year. Adding Jimmy Smits to the cast of an already successful show is sort of like taking a perfectly good beverage like the gin and tonic and then adding a lime to it. It had always been a perfectly good, stiff, refreshing drink before the lime, and you didn't really miss it. But then you added the slice of lime and suddenly you don't know how you lived without it. Wisely, the writers of the series have veered far away from Jeff Lindsay's novels now. All respect to Lindsay, because "Darkly Dreaming Dexter" was wonderful, but he really went off the rails in the third installment, and the series is wisely staying with a more compelling suspense formula. It's a testament to the episodic pull of the series that I'm totally willing to blow off some of the credibility-stretching of some events. I just honestly don't care about some minor hiccups because overall, it feeds the forward momentum.
Losing all forward momentum, for me, is DWTS this season now that Maks is out. I'll still watch it because Bruno makes me happy and cracks me up. I still long for my own pocket Bruno to give me encouragements and affirmations, but since that's not on the market, I'll tune in to the show.
Also keeping me tuned in is True Blood. I still have trouble with all the unattractive guys, particularly when there's so much sex abounding. I mean, why does the one good looking, sexy dude have to be the gay guy, LaFayette? As brooding vampire Bill, Stephen Moyer has presence and mixes the spooky-predatory vibe with the smoldering-protective appeal. But, just, a fucking haircut or something here? I know he has to be pasty, but, come on. But the show is still grossly bloody, creatively campy, and surprisingly funny, so on the whole, I'm getting past the fug-factor and liking it anyhow.
Still good looking and crusing along is Entourage. It's not its tightest season ever, but it's still plenty entertaining even if it has, finally, managed to drain the last bit of water from its already shallow pool. But they still manage to hit some absurd heights with Eric Roberts in the best as-himself cameo since Gary Busey.
Haven't really fallen for any other new shows this year, yet. You watching anything spectacular?
Sunday, October 05, 2008
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
About the book:
X: The Erotic Treasury -- If there's only room for one book on your bedside table, this should be it.
The reigning mistress of erotica, Susie Bright, has expertly chosen 40 of the hottest stories ever written: breathtaking new stories as well as the most sought-after stories from The Best American Erotica series. Designed in a "gotta-touch-it" slipcase with a cloth-covered book, the package cultivates the quality and taboo satisfaction of the stories themselves. Luminaries like Carol Queen and Robert Olen Butler contribute to the stories about all kinds of lovers: heartbreakers, foxes, maniacs, romanticists, hell-raisers, and utter bandits. This delicious collection is certain to satisfy.
Back to me now:
Shiit. Can you believe I got something in there? The book is now available, but I'll have interviews with some of the other writers in it, along with some other promo madness in the future, cause I've a feeling you'll want this book near your bedside for a long time to come.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
According to The Big Read, the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books on their list.
Look at the list and...
* ...bold those you have read.
* ...italicize those you intend to read
* ...underline the books you LOVE.
* ...encourage people to reprint this list on their own blogs.
1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4. Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6. The Bible
7. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8. 1984 - George Orwell
9. His Dark Materials- Philip Pullman
10. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11. Little Women - Louisa May Alcott
12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14. Complete Works of Shakespeare
15. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16. The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18. Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19. The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20. Middlemarch - George Eliot
21. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23. Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy -- ahh, someday, so I say.
25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26. Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28. Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33. Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34. Emma - Jane Austen
35. Persuasion - Jane Austen
36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40. Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41. Animal Farm - George Orwell
42. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47. Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48. The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49. Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50. Atonement - Ian McEwan
51. Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52. Dune - Frank Herbert
53. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57. A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time- Mark Haddon
60. Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63. The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65. Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66. On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68. Bridget Jones’ Diary - Helen Fielding
69. Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70. Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72. Dracula - Bram Stoker
73. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74. Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75. Ulysses - James Joyce
76. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77. Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78. Germinal - Emile Zola
79. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80. Possession - AS Byatt
81. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83. The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87. Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90. The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92.The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93. The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94. Watership Down - Richard Adams
95. A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96. A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98. Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo
Nitpicky perhaps, but Hamlet isn't a book. It's a play. I have read it, anyhow, many times. Fuck, I'm currently writing my own version of it, because I am actually that big of a fan and so daft that it doesn't really bother me to sully my favorite dramatic work. But it is intended to be watched, performed. And it's better that way.
Also, no Hemingway? Seriously? Or The Divine Comedy? This list is kind of weird. Gimme a list of the top 100 flims/movies, and I'd be willing to bet a benjamin that I've seen 'em all.
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Had to give up on Weeds this summer. Nancy is just too much of a completely shitty mother for me to deal any longer.
I did come indoors early on Sunday to usher in the new season of Entourage. Thank heavens the guys are finally back. They really nail what Weeds stumbles with -- making characters do assholey things and yet still make you root for them. This week, Drama was in the throes of a prima donna meltdown, but it had to be backburnered when he got a whiff that his baby bro was in trouble. I love Drama. I really wish they could Emmy Kevin Dillon this year. Even though he's in one of the categories not entirely dominated by 30 Rock (and I'm not complaining about 30 Rock getting props) he's still got really tight competition from his own show and Piven, again. Not to mention NPH.
And, since I was in, I watched True Blood, too, because Alan Ball has a lot of goodwill built up from Six Feet Under. I like vampire stuff, and this show seems cool, though I was a bit shocked at how bad the acting was. And I don't mean campy. I like campy. But also just...bad. And bad and campy is completely excusable when you're dealing with enormously attractive people -- Showgirls is a great example -- but when the people aren't very attractive, it's a little harder. And this cast just isn't very attractive. Yes, that's mighty damn shallow of me. I don't give a shit. It's TV. If I want to watch semi-attractive people overacting, I'll stick with Big Brother After Dark. But since I do love camp, I'll stick with it for a couple more weeks. After all, it can't be as bad as John from Cincinnati was.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
It won't win Oscars. (Even if one of the actors in it should.) But it really made me appreciate Ben Stiller even more.
First, he's not Judd fucking Apatow and even though I actually don't mind the Apatow-stamp on movies as long there aren't any women in them, I've gotten a little weary of his touch on seemingly every comedy the past couple years. (And, the reason I don't mind the women-less movies such as Pineapple Express and Superbad is not because I dislike women -- it's because I like women and it's exasperating to see them through the Apatow-lens, so I much prefer the straight-shot gay (though veiled as "bromance") all-guy shenanigans.) In Stiller's Tropic Thunder, there's hardly a female to be found. It's a man-fest, alright, but instead of Seth Rogen's doughy tummy we have Stiller's ripped arms and, well, Jack Black's doughy tummy.
Second, though plenty of critics will probably nail Stiller's directing style as pedestrian, I'd instead peg it as straightforward. He manages to take the script written by himself, Justin Theroux, and Etan Cohen, which mixes both slapstick and verbal comedy with action. And though the action scenes are generally shot for laughs, what I most appreciate about them is that you can actually tell what the fuck is going on. I'm just, just so sick to fucking death of the shaky-cam and clever cuts and shadowy, indistinct figures throwing punches at...something. In Thunder, Stiller blows shit up and we actually see it full detail. He picks his shots that others with a penchant for more flair would probably consider to be obvious, but that's exactly why the shots work. He's not trying to be clever with the production here, he's just delivering.
What is somewhat simply clever -- in an admittedly obvious meta way -- is the premise of the whole flick. It's about the making of a Vietnam war movie where the actors get sent out to do hardcore shooting and end up being engaged by a child druglord. Much like in the highly underrated Zoolander, Stiller uses the whole premise to poke fun at preening actors, greedy Hollywood, clueless directors, and rabid agents. You know, Stiller's real-life lifeblood.
By now, you've heard that Tom Cruise has a lauded appearance in the movie. And, well, if you hadn't heard it before, you have now. It's a bookend performance to his "respect the cock" turn in Magnolia. Here, in Thunder, his sulfur-tongue spills the wrathful venom of a movie mega-producer losing millions on a quagmire of a movie set. Now, I'm just as "Cruise is a loony" as the next person. Believe me, I laugh and laugh about his manic thetan proclivities. But, admittedly, I do also think he's done some good work. I know plenty of people will dispute that. But when he plays an asshole, like in Rain Man or Color of Money, he has this almost freaky ability to put his uber-wired energy in front of the camera and create a near trance inducing spell. It's uncomfortable to watch, and yet I can't pull myself away. And here, he takes that manipulative ability and actually does perform a nearly meditative, trancelike victory dance while proposing the most vicious deal to a fast-talking Matthew McConaughey.
Which brings me to another reason to appreciate Stiller, or at least his cinematographer. The last time I saw MM was in Failure to Launch and he looked like hammered shit. So did Sarah Jessica Parker. I wondered what the fuck was wrong with the both of them. Then I wondered if the person filming them was just an asshole. Suspicion confirmed. In Tropic Thunder, Matt is back to looking fabufuckinglicious. So, thank you, Ben. Also? Ben looked great. Everyone who was supposed to looked great. I do still question why Jay Baruchel speaks exactly like Christian Slater, not just in timbre but also in cadence and elocution, but since he does it in everything I've seen him in, I guess that's not Stiller's doing.
And, of course, then there's Robert Downey Jr., scoring big for the second time this year. You don't need me to vivisect his performance, you just need to sit back and enjoy it.
Hollywood does love itself, even when it's lampooning itself, but credit also to Stiller for making the "in" jokes accessible. Which is another way of saying that the humor here isn't exactly the most advanced, but it probably will get you to laugh at least a couple of times unexpectedly.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Saturday, August 09, 2008
Eventually, I did get around to reading the more "dry" stuff, including Dumas, so that I wouldn't go through life as an ignorant dumbass, and even fell in love with a few of those highbrow things.
Now, as a writer, I generally throw myself headlong into sleaze and yearn to be even a fraction as good at "trash" writing as my childhood entertainers. (But I do also try to use a few less exclamation points than Queen Collins.) And as a reader, I can't say that my tastes have completely changed from those books that imprinted on me when I was so young. But I can, definitely, say that while I retain a deep love for the fast plots and thrilling characters of those books, I also did acquire a taste for things with a bit more heft, craft, and better prose. And what I love most of all is a book that can deliver the whole package -- entertainment and literary merit. Elmore Leonard. Chris Moore. Yeah, haters, Chuck Palahniuk.
All of this is my long and windy way of introducing you to the latest book that fires on all these cylinders.
The Smart One by Ellen Meister. Leave it to me to make a book review all about me, huh? But that's the thing about a great book -- it does become personal to you. And when I review movies or television shows on here, I do so under the assumption that you've probably already seen the show, so I can go into picky detail and make allusions to specifics. But who the fuck wants that in a book review when the joy of reading a book is discovering all those fun things on your own?
And believe me, The Smart One is loaded with plenty of fun details. The plot centers on Bev Bloomrosen, the middle child in a triumvirate of sisters. To find her niche in the family, Bev carves out her role as the smart sister, while her older sister Clare is the beauty and her younger sister Joey is the wild one. When her parents are out of town and they request that Bev stay in their house to help oversee the selling of a neighbor's property, it starts a series of crazy events. Bev's old flame comes back to town just as the sisters make a grisly discovery of an old corpse stuffed in a drum, practically in their own backyard.
That's the setup. But within this framework, Meister delivers witty repartee, hilarious hijinks, plenty of action, some steamy sex, a dizzying romance, and, obviously, a murder mystery. Well, that sounds pretty damn entertaining right there, huh? So what the fuck more do you want?
Personally, I'd be pleased with a book like that. But Meister doesn't stop there. She gives us lucid, compellingly readable yet polished prose. She gives us beautiful symbolism and even slips in clever references to a beloved classic that she's updating. And, mostly, she doesn't give us characters so much as people. People who'll drive you nuts, and people you'll fall in love with.
There are times during certain TV shows or movies -- or series of books -- where the writers/directors will manage to deliver enough that they gain my trust. Then, they can take me around unexpected corners and I don't feel manipulated. Instead, I'm delighted. It takes an awful lot of skill for those writers to get me to that point where I'm putty in their hands. But by the end of The Smart One, Meister had me as her bitch.
It's the kind of book I'd have been delighted to tear through as a kid if my mom had brought it home for me. But it's also got enough intelligence and elegance so that my grandfather wouldn't have blown a fuse.