Sunday, November 30, 2008

Happy Endings

Well. So True Blood ended with a front-loaded finale that wrapped up the season and managed to set up next season by closing out with screams and a shiver and a cliffhanger. Generally, I really fucking hate cliffhanger season endings. Like the Seinfeld once said, if I want something long that just keeps continuing, I have my own life. Fuck. But they managed to do it and make it satisfying and tempting, though I will be PISSED, just utterly PISSED if that dangling ending (and by that I mean the dangling foot) ends up being attached to a harmed Lafayette. Don't do it, Alan Ball! Don't do it!

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.

Adam Sandler -- Gimme More Barrymore!

Well, I hope I'm not putting the hex on Adam Sandler by talking about him next. I'd just gotten through blabbing about the pleasures of Vince Vaughn, only to actually go see Four Christmases and get a fairly grinchy feeling going about him. It's now two years in a row that Vince has wrecked Christmas movies, first with Fred Claus and now with this year's un-funny holiday drag. But hey, at least Jon Favreau looked fantastic in it! And I hope Adam fares better in his upcoming seemingly kid-friendly epic Bedtime Stories. But even if it turns out to be a turkey, I'll forgive Sandler more quickly than I forgive Vaughn, mainly because his track record is better, and, after all, he does know turkeys.

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

Interviews, Felonies, and Discounts

As I've mentioned, I've got a story in Susie Bright's new book, X: The Erotic Treasury

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

Frat Party

I like to laugh. I like urbane and witty repartee, I like squirmy, uncomfortable humor, I like screwball and romantic comedy. But I also really like good, old idiotic chuckles. Juvenile, bad-taste, borderline offensive silly slapstick -- often the kind of shit that you'd associate with frat boys. Which is precisely why the Frat Pack cracks me up. Though I'm often confused on the particulars of full membership status (Jon Favreau -- why not?) I do know enough to pick out my favorite major movies.

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

Sex in Vegas for Sale -- and On Sale

Zumaya Publications is having a big 30% off (and free shipping!) sale for the next three weeks. My book, 24/7 is among the titles being offered for this sale. So, if you've ever been curious about what I write, other than Idol blog posts and blatherings about movies and tv shows, now is an excellent time to treat yourself to an early holiday gift, as it's only $12.79. (Free Shipping!)

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

Building the Not So Perfect Beasts

The great thing about cable TV shows is how good they can be, how different from regular network fare. Quirky and kinky, demented and delicious. But the downside is they also have incredibly short seasons. HBO and Showtime's shows typically run 12 to 13 episodes a season, often with extremely long lag times of over a year between seasons. If it's Californication, which overstays its welcome pathetically quickly, that's a good thing. If it's Entourage, after the season they're ending, it's not shattering. But the truly vampy, campy True Blood is going to be sorely missed over the winter, as will the equally sinister, though slightly less bloody Dexter.

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

Brainy Book

I just finished Kirsten Menger-Anderson's debut collection of short stories Doctor Olaf van Schuler's Brain. Loved it. Unique, absorbing, and animated, this is the kind of book that makes me wonder why it's so difficult for writers to get short story collections published. But then I think about it again and realize that the difficulty is probably because most collections just aren't as good and cohesive as this one.

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

Grant at his Grandest

Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. The French Riviera. A comedy by Hitchcock. Those first three gems are enough to make a stunning picture. But even that last, unlikely component -- a Hitchcock comedy ends up making this piece the crown jewel on several already luminary careers in 1955's To Catch a Thief.

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.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008