Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
especially welcome to extensive readers

Monday, August 29, 2005

Jennifer Weiner ain't no Hollaback Girl!

One of the trailers I saw this weekend was for In Her Shoes,starring Toni Collette,Cameron Diaz and Shirley Maclaine and it's based on Jennifer Weiner's second book. I like Weiner's books alot(even got a cool tote bag promoting her new novel,Goodnight Nobody,at this year's BEA)so
I'm looking forward to seeing this movie. However,the trailer and the poster/tie in movie book
cover art have me puzzled.

The story is about two sisters,one lonely and responsible and the other rather flighty. The only
thing they seem to share is a shoe size(hence the title). When they have a falling out over a guy,the younger sis takes off and finds their long lost grandmother to stay with. From the trailer,however,the focus is mainly on Cameron Diaz in revealing outfits(Little Sister said the title should be "Cameron Diaz's Ass) and the poster,while having all three of the star's names
in large print,only shows Diaz in a sideways pose bathed in an off white glow.

I felt that this was totally unfair to Toni Collette,one of my favorite actresses,so I went to Jennifer Weiner's site to find an e-mail addy to ask her opinion about this. I doubt that I'll
get a reply(the lady's not only promoting a new book and movie,she has a toddler to toilet train) but I thought it was worth a shot and she honestly tells you that she may not be able to answer you directly. She has a blog and while I persued it,there was mention of an article called"Eight
Reasons Why Chick Lit Authors Should Be Kicked to Death"(I linked this little ditty in the title).

It was apparently written by Curtis Sittenfeld,the author of "Prep",and it basically bitchslaps
chick lit authors,blaming them for the pink covers on the books and using Jane Austen's name in vain,amongst other things. This in-fighting has got to stop,ladies. You don't see Tom Clancy and Dan Brown sniping at each other,do you(and Clancy has a rep for being a major jerk)?

This is so Jerry Springer-whenever he has a love triangle with two women and one man who's sleeping with the both of them,who do the women go after first? That's right,each woman attacks the other instead of the two of them teaming up to kick the guy's sorry ass wee wee wee
all the way home. There is no need to do this,really. Fight the real power,girls!

Let's get real:Chick Lit is a marketing device-some of the books are good despite the cartoony covers(which the authors have no say in,9 times out of 10)and alot of them are not. The same
is true with Arthouse Literature-some of the books are good and alot of them are boring as hell.
Also,the whole Mean Girls vibe,where some woman writers refuse to acknowledge those who
they feel are putting out books that bring down feminism and won't let them play in their reindeer games,is repulsive. It would be nice to see some support and not just in a Victoria
Secret's bra(what the hell is an "Ipex",anyway?)

I'm glad that Jennifer Weiner is not taking this crap lying down but I wish there didn't have to be this feuding and fussing in the first place. I read "Prep" and liked it but I also enjoyed reading "Undomestic Goddess" by Sophie Kinsella and so will many other women. I think that Curtis
and Jen need to have a sit-down or atleast a meeting at the House of Blue Leaves with a pair of
Hanzo swords in hand. Don't player hate,player particpate!

Sunday, August 28, 2005

After you deflower the 40-Year-Old Virgin,take The Baxter out for a power walk

Little Sister and I went to see The Baxter on Friday and wound up watching The 40-Year-Old Virgin Saturday(meant to see The Brothers Grimm but were mislead about the starting times online-bad Internet,bad!). Both movies were fun but I felt that The Baxter is a victim of too close a release time to 40YOV,so I'm here to plead Baxter's case.

The Baxter is written,directed and stars Michael Showalter(currently seen on Comedy Central's "Stella" with Michael Ian Black and David Wain,all alumni of the MTV cult comedy show,The State)as Elliot Sherman,hapless accountant who always winds up on the short end of the stick
in a love triangle. His grandmother coined the term"Baxter" for folks like him,who are nice enough to be marriage/date material,which also seems to apply to the ladies such as Cecil(Michelle Williams and I have to say the Dawson's Creek gal can go dowdy very belivably),the temp would-be singer who shares Elliot's love of reading the dictionary.

Elliot,however,falls forCaroline Swan(Elizabeth Banks,who also appears in 40-YOV), a blonde
beauty still holding the torch for her high school sweetie,Bradley Lake,who of course reappears in her life just as soon as Elliot and Elizabeth's engagement is announced. Elliot is immediately on guard but is such a good natured schmoe that he can't help putting up with Bradley's interfernce while trying not to get involved with Cecil,who has boyfriend probelms of her own(Paul Rudd plays her jerky boyfriend and is also in 40-YOV;talk about a small world!).

The Baxter is the flip side of The 40 Year Old Virgin in that both share similar themes of losers in love but the humor levels are on different settings. Baxter is very low key,with a very 1940's film vibe in not only the jokes(a nice trying to hide the other person from your intended bit is one of the best scenes)but in the wardrobe and visual look of the film. The vulgar factor is on the low side as well and Showalter does make you root for him-I got really ticked at one scene where Elliot tries to make up with Caroline and she lets Bradley tag along on their date. The two of them treat Elliot like crap and then Caroline accuses him of not being"romantic". He does stand up for himself but not in an overdone fashion-kept right in character when another
actor would've not been able to resist the chance to go off,bigtime. That shows true talent and

I had fun at The 40 Year Old Virgin;Carrell and Co. kick ass. Unfortunately,many of the critics are comparing Baxter to it and putting out the bad word on it. The Baxter is not the Anti-Carrell,rather it's a great bookend to it or you can enjoy it's sweetly simple charms for their own sake. Take a chance,people!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Who would win in a fight:Patrick Bateman or Tom Ripley?

I treated myself to the ultimate in posable inaction figures:The official American Psycho 18" Patrick Bateman with motion activated voice chip that says such memorable movie lines as"Do you like Huey Lewis and The News?" "I have to return some video tapes." and "Don't just stare at it,Sabrina-eat it!"(see the movie if you want to know what that last one means). Little Sister has the Bride from Kill Bill from the same company line,Reel Toys(she got it at Spencer's Gifts for the best mark down price,$10-even the clerks were amazed)-me,I couldn't wait to add that bad boy to my collection.

This purchase lead me naturally to watch AP again(I own the original unrated DVD edition)and to pair it up with The Talented Mr. Ripley. It made sense to double feature these films:both are based on novels that created quite a buzz in their day(AP being the more notorious),both of the main characters share the same dilemmas of identity,social class and use murder as the solution to their confusions. I also watched the actor interviews on both DVDs,which lead me to the question posed:who would win in a fight between the two?

In this corner is Patrick Bateman,well played by Christian Bale(who startles you with his very British accent in the interview feature)and probaly the most well known Bret Easton Ellis character. I will tell you up front that I am not a fan of Ellis' work but not because I'm "offended"(which should be obvious,given my recent purchase)by his attempts at gross-out
horror. Frankly,that whole generation of writers-Tama Janowitz,Jay McInterney-don't impress me much. I read Less Than Zero,Bright Lights Big City and A Cannibal in Manhattan(and some of Slaves of New York) and was not inclined to read anything else by them. They stuck me as
folks with no real life experience(or a rather limited one)to base their fictional worlds upon.

I did flip thru AP but couldn't connect to it and I'm a gal who has read quite abit of Clive Barker.
What BEE seems to be with his work after Less Than Zero is a guy who thought"Hey,if I mix some horror movie stuff into my social satirical style,that'll set me apart from the rest!" After all,he's used vampires in Rules of Attraction and in his new book,Lunar Park,he does his own version of Stephen King's The Dark Half by having Patrick Bateman invade his world(that movie I would see).

Anyway,back to Bateman-I always thought the movie was much better than the book due to the director,Mary Herron,going more for the social satire than the goreshow scenes in the book.
During the Christian Bale interview,Bale says that he never bothered with potraying Patrick in a realistic way-since Patrick was such an artifical person,he approached it that way which made it easier for Bale to step out of character during the filming. He also points out that Bateman is a product of his world,he wouldn't be able to survive beyond the set realm of his fellow yuppies.
This,to me,is the main difference between him and Tom Ripley.

I loved the Minghella film(the man couldn't make a less than two and a half hour movie if his life depended on it,IMO,which is fine by me)and wound up reading the first three Ripley books due to it. Ripley is given a more sympathic treatment by the film than Bateman is(Patricia Highsmith's novels are not as romantic about Tom-by the time the third book,Ripley's Game,comes around,Tom amuses himself by tricking a decent man into committing a murder). This is due to social class-Jude Law in the actor interviews is the only one to bring that up directly-while Patrick is a bored soulless yuppie,Tom is a social climbing working class man.

Ripley's reasons for killing are not to feel connected or to make himself unique(which Bateman strives for-the big running gag in the movie is how cookie cutter all his fellow rich boys are,that you can't tell one from the other,even if they're right in front of you)-Ripley kills to protect the identity he decides to have:Dickie Greenleaf's. Dickie and Patrick would be buddies if they were thrown together-both are spoiled man-brats of different degrees,which weakens their intelluctual skills. Tom is smarter,due to having to really use his brain to cover his tracks and to ingratiate himself to other people. Patrick crumbles under the pressure of his own needs(also,excessive coke snorting tends to kill the brain cells)-he can't even give a good excuse to leave his friends when he can't take them anymore.

So,who would win? Tom,of course. While Patrick begs to be believed as the psycho killer that he is,Tom accepts the fact that he must use deadly means to achieve his ends. Tom Ripley is a sinister survivor who could easily be your next door neighbor while Patrick Bateman is as real
as Freddy Kruger,which is why there is a American Psycho doll and not a Tom Ripley one. The coolest thing about the AP figure is that it comes with a Patrick Bateman business card,which
I have him holding out with more menace than the axe that came with the other accessories. The business card comparision scene is more menacing than the naked chainsaw chase later on. Trust me on that one.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Judging a book by it's cover literally

In the NY Times this morning,there was an article about the upcoming Rick Moody book The Diviners but not about the content of the pages but the cover art. At Book Expo America,the publishers saw folks not bother to pick up copies(I already had a copy from work so I didn't grab one either)from the huge display and did some checking around as to why. Their main concern was that women were rejecting it due to the cover,so they changed it.

Hopefully,the link in the title will show you the difference but just in case,I'll describe the artwork in question-the Advance Reader's Copy(ARC for short)has a large wraparound battle scene bathed in a bright golden aura with a Robert E. Howard theme. The front of the jacket has a barbarian warrior holding aloft a forked branch as he is perched atop a large rock. The new jacket has the same has the same Conan wannabe but his image is now shown on a movie screen in a darkened theater.

Normally I would be against cover change just on general principle(my dad was an artist)but in this case,I think they may have the right idea. When I first saw the ARC,I thought it was some Robert Jordan hunk of junk but then I looked at it later and noticed the author's name. I was going"Rick Moody? Ice Storm Rick Moody?"(I saw the movie). I have to confess that I've only read an introduction written by Moody for The Mayor of Casterbridge(and it was very well done-got me to atleast try to read it but Thomas Hardy outdones Hawthorne in the major league angst department)but this cover with his name on it intrigued me. However,in this biz
one look is all some folks give a book and a bad cover does turn people off,especially if you're
not a name brand author.

My only suggestion would've been to project the barbarian onto a TV screen-the plot of the book(yes Virginia,there's a plot)is about a woman trying to launch a miniseries about the history of diviners-water finding folk,hence the Mr. Pointy held by the He-Man cover boy. Women are central characters in the novel which is the main reason Time Warner was nervous about the
lack of feminine interest. I wish Rick Moody and co. well and just hope the book gets good publicity from the reviews so that this cover art change doesn't become a harbinger of bad book sales.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Bad Movie Month:The Final Chapter

It took me awhile to select the final entry to wrap up BBM-so many choices,from Showgirls to Gigli(didn't see Gigli,which made the choice abit easier)and beyond. Even looked thru my MST3K sets for inspiration but then a moment of clarity came forth and a conversation with one of my co-workers popped into view. We had been discussing why Hollywood can't make a simple genre adaptation work(in particular,comic books and video games,which was really his pet peeve-I personally don't believe that any video game can beget a good movie since the whole nature of games require some interaction and skill which a movie is not meant to deliever) and I brought up one of my pet peeves,Hideaway.

Hideaway was a mid-ninties horror film based on a Dean Koontz novel(back then,I think he was still called Dean R. Koontz)which was pretty cool but the movie was such a crapfest that Koontz sued the studio to take his name off the picture(a second go around for director Bret Leonard who had Stephen King win a similar lawsuit for Lawnmower Man,a way better sci-fi flick.)Being a Koontz fan,I couldn't blame him but did see the damn thing anyway(and bought the soundtrack because I liked the opening song,"Go to Hell" I hang my head in shame.) Jeff Goldblum starred as Hatch Harrison,an antiques dealer who died in a car crash but only long enough to come back from the dead with a psychic connection to a punky serial killer(Jeremy Sisto) who soon sets his sights on Hatch's daughter,Regina,as portrayed by a pre-Batgirl Alicia Silverstone.

Alicia was the main probelm with the adaptation(no,not her acting)-in the book,Hatch and his wife adopted a little girl after his near death experience who was physically handicapped. Regina was not a Little Nell sterotype;she was a smart,good natured character in her own right. Of course,Hollywood loves kid in jeopardy stuff but they were anxious to hook the MTV audience so hey,let's turn her into Jeff's firstborn kid and make her a sexy teenager but for some extra angst,we can make up a younger sister that gets hit by a car to make Jeff even more protective of his daughter!

The rewrite clearly shows in one early scene when the fatal car crash happens;Jeff and wife Christine Lahti take Alicia on a picnic or something(bear with me,haven't seen this sucker in a while)and during the accident,Alicia is conveniantly given the chance to escape the teetering auto just before it goes over. Gee,it helps to be a character that's not supposed in that part of the story in the first place,doesn't it?

I do have to admit that Jeremy Sisto was good casting as Vassago(he excells at being creepycool,which got him that gig on Six Feet Under)-too bad he wasn't made as interesting as the novel's version was. Alfred Molina gets some screen time to explain how Sisto fits into the plot but winds up being another victim,along with the audience. I won't even go into the goofy
F/X used for the final showdown,which looks videogamish in a bad way. So sad to see a potentially good story get grinded up in the multiplex mill.

Dean Koontz really has bad luck with film adaptations-the closest to a good one was the TV miniseries,Intensity(the French thriller,High Tension,has some plot similarites but they diverge on a major plot twist). It's a shame because while guys like Stephen King have a good mix of books-to-film adaptations(high point,Misery and The Shawshank Redemption-low point,Carrie 2 and Pet Semetary),a fella with really great storytelling skills can't seem to cut a break in this department. Granted,I'm not fond of his series titles-the Christopher Snow books and now the Frankenstein titles leave me cold-but when Dean gets his plot on,get ready for a meaty sucker that you can gleefully sink your teeth into.

Friday, August 19, 2005

"We will bring you the limp and beaten body of Bob Barker!"

I've been browsing thru Ken Tucker's book,Kissing Bill O'Reilly-Roasting Miss Piggy:100 things I love/hate about Television,and find him to be a rather grouchy fellow. I use to read his tv write-ups in Entertainment Weekly and enjoy some of his opinions(he atleast appreciated Buffy as a good show) and while I can certainly agree to disargee,some of his dislikes are puzzling to me.

One that caught my eye was that he hates The Price Is Right,claiming it to be a gaudy carnival
spectacle that only requires contestants("hungover college students")to know "rudimentary addition and the price of a love seat at Wal-Mart". How can you hate The Price Is Right? It's one of the best examples of goofy game show fun. The audience is not just made up of college kids but also retirees and middle aged homemakers(very red state,I suppose). Where else are you going to see both the older and the younger generation compete on equal terms?

Yes,Bob Barker is a animal rights loving lech(he still gets alittle too excited with female contestants) but at this point,he's rather quaint. I only object to his drawing out the suspension towards the end of a pricing game-he really milks the time hardcore,big audience teaser. Also,the pricing games are cool-how can you hate Plinko? In case you don't know,Plinko is a large scale version of those handheld pinball games that your mom buys right off the toy store rack. I also love the mountain climber game,where if you guess wrong ,the yodeling fella falls off the cliff. Kitsch at it's finest,people.

To each his own,I guess. Ken's a nice guy but can you trust the wisdom of a man who hates The Brady Bunch like they killed his dog(then again,Jan was always abit offcenter there)but loves Full House and ABC's TGIF line-up?

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Son of Bad Movie Movie Month

We continue our celebration of Bad Movies with one of the genre's most urksome offerings:The Bad Literary Adaptation. It's a time honored Hollywood tradition:turn one of your favorite books(or atleast a decent classic)into a Bizarro World version of itself.

Many will quickly point to such charmers as The Bonfire of the Vanities(a movie I actually booed at in the theater but will admit that I found Melanie Griffith's line"Sherman,where are all the white people?"amusing) or Simon Burch(the fact that they changed not only the original title,A Prayer for Owen Meany,but also the name of the title character is a clear sign of bad things to come)but for my money,Demi Moore's version of the Scarlet Letter is prime rib rankness.

Before you say"Hey,be fair! Demi didn't direct or write the screenplay",I must remind you of her brilliant statement that changing the plot wasn't a big deal because "not many people have read the book."Well,the Cliff Notes people might agree-their sales of Scarlet Letter notes would indicate that. Nevermind that there's been more than one film version,either-Demi knows best. Mind you,this is a woman who willingly dates Ashton Kutcher and takes him on double dates with her ex-husband,so can you blame me for doubting her judgment skills?

I was not forced to see SL when it was out but I couldn't resist;it drew me in like a driver slowing down to get a really good look at a major auto accident. Some things you just have to see for yourself to truly gauge the damage. I did read the book and liked it quite abit. Hawthorne is one moody sob-for a man who wasn't catholic,he certainly wore a hair shirt well.Guess that that whole story about guilt and accepting responsibilty wasn't dramatic enough for Demi,Roland Jaffe and co;naw,let's add some hot barn sex,a mute slave girl,Robert Duvall dancing around with a dead deer hat and oh,don't forget the indian attack!

Let's take the mute slave girl issue;first off Hester doesn't own a slave in the book and actually during the time period of the story,indentured servants were more of the rage. Even if she did own a slave,her name would not be Mituba. She would've been called Hope or Ellie,not some P.C. attempt at bringing up issues that have nothing to due with the plot. Of course,she's mute because what better way to add an unnessasary character than to not give her any dialogue and what better way to get rid of her than to have crazy Robert Duvall murder her to frame Gary Oldman which helps to bring in that Indian attack!

I do wonder if anyone assigned to read the Scarlet Letter ever used this movie to puff up their book report;I can only imagine the teacher's eyes bleeding as she reads about the "red" bird that leads Hester to the barn where she gets her bones jumped while Mituba takes a bath as the fake red bird watches(I truly pity the actress given the part of Mituba;hoped she changed agents after this movie). The bird looks like a canary that was attacked with a Magic Marker-you think a big budget film could've have afforded to hijack a cardinal or at least make a better looking obvious symbolic gesture.

The sad part is Demi Moore was really hoping to get some Oscar talk out of this but wound up being the belle of the Razzies ball that year. Cheer up,hon-maybe there'll be an even worse classic remake that will make your cinema diaster look quant,like a version of Moby Dick starring Jon Heder("Call me Ismael-Gosh!")perfecting his whaling skills,with Richard Gere as Captain Ahab and Hillary Duff as Queenie(gotta have a love interest). Hope I didn't give anyone any ideas there......

Friday, August 12, 2005

Kung Fu High School,coming to a theater near you

Kung Fu High School is actually a book but I would be truly surpised if Hollywood hasn't yet come a-calling for film rights to one of the most action packed and emotionally charged books I've ever read in my life. The plot is simple:MLK (Martin Luther King)High School has become a all-out gangbanger warzone. Every student is in a gang,either to oppose Ridley,the local druglord or working for him-every authority figure knows about it but they're either on the take or just minding their own. Into this situation walks Jimmy Chang,a young and legendary marital arts champion who has recented vowed to give up fighting after a run-in with the law and decides to stay with his cousins,Cue and Jen B,who are main members of the Waves,one of the gangs not tied to Ridley.

On his first day,Jimmy gets"kicked in"-an inititation ritual where you get beat down and I'm not talking about a few punches and kicks here. In being "kicked in"bones breaking and permenant scarring are the norm. Jimmy refuses to fight back and when Cue intervenes,a domino effect of
death,loss and major league showdowns is set off.

Jen is the narrator(she has a bit of a not-so-cousinly crush on Jimmy,yet another complication to the plot)and altho,she sees herself as "Cold Jen",she is the heart and soul of this story. Trapped in a hopeless mess with a father who was crippled at his construction job and dependant on his daughter's care,guilt ridden by memories of her dead mother and being made a pawn in Ridley's game to wipe out any competition,Jen wavers but never falls down in her mission to avenge her loved ones and do what is right by the code of honor present in her world.

Time Out in London compared Ryan Gattis(this is actually his second novel-his first one,Roo Kickkick and the Big Bad Blimp,came out in the UK)to Bret Easton Ellis but this is a fella who is more in step with Chuck Palahniuk and just as damn good. At times,I was reminded of the great '70's cult classic The Warriors(most folks will think of Battle Royale)but what hooked me into finishing this book is the realism laced with kung fu storytelling and pop culture bites that snap just right. Hell,it reminded me of when I was in high school(which had a notorious rep for plenty of good reasons). In this day and age of Kill Bill,Sin City and Kung Fu Hustle,it's nice to see a literary equilivent at a bookstore near you.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Bad Movie Month 2:Electric Boogaloo

We continue our celebration of Bad Movie Month with one of my favorite it's-so-bad-it's-good guilty pleasures:Once Bitten,starring a very young pre-In Living Color Jim Carrey as the hapless male virgin being pursued by the clearly desparate to pay her rent that month Lauren Hutton as the vampire known only as the Countess,eager to preserve her youth and beauty by biting Jim's inner thigh three times(yep,the sex jokes are that subtle,folks).

The Countess is backed up by the amazing effeminate Cleavon Little as her Renfield,who is in charge of getting her a fresh virgin and keeping the other junior vampires in line(for some reason,even tho the Countess must feed from young men,there are a few vampirellas tossed in the fang gang). The thing about this movie is that it's really just a goofy sex comedy with vampires spinkled in;horny boy wants good girl,horny boy goes out with equally horny friends to find bad girl but meets older woman who gets him in over his head and back to good girl who
finally has sex with him.

Lauren Hutton is R. Kelly creepy as she prowls after Carrey-woman looks old enough to be his mom(or stepmom)and if the genders were reversed,Benson & Stabler from SVU would be on the case. Hutton's main move as an evil-doer is to leer ghoulishly in fake fangs and push people
over in crowded areas. Also,one of the best moments is at the school Halloween dance,where the Countess battles for Carrey in a dance contest against his good girlfriend(dressed in a Jill of Jack and Jill costume that quickly adjusts into a somewhat sexy outfit)with Jim making gooney faces while swearing that he's"not wearing a costume!" The song that plays during the dance battle is called"Hands off"-again with the subtle.

With bad dream sequences,lame sex jokes with a dash of homophobia and lines such as"You can have your butler and your chaffeur and your slut who eats buttons!"(not an accurate qouting but yes,Miss Hutton does bite off buttons),Once Bitten is a classically bad '80s movie to be treasured-if you don't believe me,check it for yourself-it came out on DVD at last to enjoyed by all.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Studio Shenanagans and why the Traveler is going nowhere

The NYT had a story in the Arts section over the weekend about the making of the Da Vinci Code movie;seems the studio powers-that-be are wussing out and trying to make script changes in order to get "Passion money" at the boxoffice. The biggest change they want to have is to dilute the main premise(which even a non-DVC fan like me knows):that Jesus had a child with Mary Magdalene who was to be the true Holy Grail and that Mary was to run things but was upsurped by men who wished to dominate the Church(a theory that's been around even before the book came out and has some scholarly backing).

First off,I didn't read the Da Vinci Code-had a copy but never got around to it,it's one of those books that are so trendy you'ld rather not bother with it. I have nothing against Dan Brown's books but he just doesn't seem like my cup of tea. However,it is real damn stupid of the studio to think that the same audience that went in droves to the Passion of the Christ(one of the best gore films I've ever seen-saw it while attending a horror convention and it put me and my friends in the right mood,let me tell ya)will flock to a castrated version of DVC. Even the consultant person they went to said"Are you kidding me?" Granted,this is a Ron Howard
movie with Tom Hanks in the lead so they're bound to gloss over some part of the story but mark my words,screw with the main premise and you'ld better be prepared for the massive backlash that will ensue. You have been warned,Sony.

Also saw a story in Yahoo entertainment news about why the book The Traveler is a great big flop;one theory is that the mysterious author, John Twelve Hawks, who lives"off the grid" not being available to do a promotional tour hurt sales. That's part of it but the main reason the book hasn't done any major chart climbing could be due to the overpromotion by the publisher and the fact that it's a hokey sci-fi fantasy conspiracy mess. I overheard the sales rep trying to sell my boss on this sucker and he was floundering around for a way to explain the plot. My boss even asked me about it while the rep was there(I had heard of it but wasn't worried about having it in the store)and wanted to know why I didn't order some for the store(I do that from time to time-if it's something we don't have and should,I'll put it on order with our supplier).

I faked them out with"Well,I was waiting to see if any of our customers requested it"-truth of the matter was,I didn't think anyone would want to read it. We have a small area of customers and not alot of sci-fi people(despite the college crowd within the vicinity),not to mention the story sounds like luke-warm Carlos Castenada mixed in an X-Files sauce of silliness. I mean,
having the last of a ancient warrior race called "Harlequins" doesn't strike me as badass,it makes me think of killer clown girls who hang out with the Joker.

Not to mention,gee ,there are two brothers who share"traveler" powers,this isn't going to be some Cain and Abel,one good and the other bad kind of deal,is it? No,it can't be THAT obvious!
Now the Traveler,I might actually read because Gods know these days,we need a good laugh.
Heck,reading out some of the chapters of the new Anne Rice Jesus novel with Little Sister made for quite a few funny moments(that's another tale for another time). Anyway,turns out I was right-did order The Traveler and we haven't sold a copy yet. The Historian,however,(a book that I knew was good and made sure we had in stock)has sold at a good clip and hit the best sellers lists around the country. When you want escapist literature,classics are a nice base to start from and Dracula is prime real estate.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Bookselling ain't easy!

Recently,an issue of Publishers Weekly(the biggest magazine in the book industry)published an essay by a fellow named Seth Grodin,who expressed his ideas about how independant bookstores need to be more service friendly,which is like saying KFC doesn't have enough chicken on the menu. He said that many bookstores(chains and indies)are very supermarket like and only cater to needs rather than wants. Bookstores should be more like a jewelry store,with select items showcased elegantly. That's a nice ideal but let me clue you in on the real deal.

First,the supermarket analogy is good in terms of being overwhelmed by product but faulty by saying they only have what people need. People do need bread and milk but they don't need cheese popcorn and Oreos;those are wants. Supermarkets have both,like many other retail businesses. The jewelry store goal is nice but not praticial;most people don't go to jewelry stores on a regular basis and in most places,you can't touch anything due to the security glass. That might work for a rare book dealer but not for someone selling current titles. Folks need to be able to walk in and pick up a book,check the back cover for plot info,admire the front cover art-in other words,enjoy the sensation of a fresh copy the way you would savor the aroma of freshly baked bread from the corner bakery.

Being service friendly is a good selling point and it's one where most indies excell at. Of course,dealing with the public is rather nasty at times-for every pleasant person who says "thank you",there are a dozen who are downright wacky. I've had a woman who was so angry at me for not giving her free giftwrap that she literally spoke in tongues. I said to her"Ma'am if you're going to rant at me,please do it in English." One of the other customers tried to reason with her(a major sign that you're dealing with a probelm person is when other customers feel bad for you and try to help)and said to her"If you were in a coffee shop and ordered a cup of coffee and they have packs of sugar and creamers,would you expect to use the sugar and creamers there or take them home?" to which she replied"I would take ALL of the creamers!"
-how very christian of her.

What keeps me going(and not postal)is that I love books and like to help people find the ones they want,need or just desire. I've gotten over the "Can you order from Amazon/do they have it at Barnes & Noble" enquires you get(which,to me,is like going into McDonalds and asking them to sell you a Whopper)to an extent and try to do the best that I can for someone who just needs a book to relax or give as a gift. If I owned a bookstore,it would an all fiction store with novels galore and literary biographies,how to write and appreciate literature titles and plenty of bookmarks-see,even I get dreamy-eyed about this racket.

The best model for a bookstore would be the one set by Giles when he opened the Magic Box"It's just like the library,only people pay for the things they never return."

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Celebrate Bad Movie Month!

I unofficially declare August to be Bad Movie Month-I know,bad movies crop up bigtime in January/February but since August is the only month without a holiday in it,it deserves the crown much more. Is it a coincidence that Deuce Bigalow:European Gigolo is coming out this month?(if you really think so,you should not enter a video store without supervision,seriously).

In honor of this glorious tradition of bad cinema,I intend to write about a bad movie every week-let's start with the John Travolta Folly known as Battlefield Earth. I didn't see this when it was out in theaters but I recieved a very interesting phone call at work the weekend it was released. I got the call on Sunday from Bridge Publications(the official publishers of L. Ron Old Mother Hubbard's books) and a ultra-cheerful female voice said:

"Hi,We're calling from Bridge Publications and were wondering if you had Battlefield Earth in stock and how many you've sold so far!"

First off,it's unusual for any publishing house to make any calls on a weekend,particularly a Sunday(most are closed on weekends)and while a publishing rep might call to see if you recieve the latest new releases in on time,they rarely ask about how many you sold. Anyway,I looked up the title(we only had two copies-no movie art covers,just a "now a movie" sticker pasted on the front)and told the lady"Sorry,we haven't sold any."

"Really? Where do you have it in the store?"

"In the science fiction section."

"Is it face out?(face out means instead of shelving the book with the spine showing,you place it cover first so as to catch the eye)"

"Yes,it's face out"

"Where do you have it on the shelf? Is it up front? Is it near the front of the store?"

Ok,this was getting much too much-I wrapped up the call as quick as I could and wondered about it with my co-worker. The scary thing was...

They called again the next day.

I kid you not-I handed the phone over to my boss(who had been told about the previous call). She let them know she didn't need any other titles and hung up,fast as hell. If that is not the workings of a cult,I don't know what is. I wound up seeing BE on HBO(which I no longer have,not due to watching BE but it came close after The Postman aired)just to see how bad it was. Whoa,mama! This is the kind of movie that you watch for a few minutes and think"This can't get any worse" and yet,it does. You watch Barry Pepper go into his hair whipping action poses and say"This can't get any worse" and it does while John Travolta in a bad mutant Wookie Klingon suit runs around,calling people "rat-brain" and forcing poor Forrest Whittaker to join him.

The stupidest thing about BE is not the costumes,the bad overacting or the image of Kelly Preston with a giant alien tongue;no,the plot premise is the worst thing about it. The plot is this: Earth is taken over in a matter of minutes by an advanced warlike alien race,out to use Earth as a gold mine(this was written in the fifties,after all) and humans have become ignorant savages that John Travolta decides to enslave as a cheap source of labor to find more gold to get a promotion(Earth's like working in a crappy neighborhood). However,the Aliens have no idea that Fort Knox exists-it's only when Barry Pepper gets a mental upgrade from some techno glowworm f/x that he is smart enough to find Fort Knox and use the gold still there to turn the tables on the alien overlords.

Now,I ask you-how am I suppose to believe that an alien race,bent on conquering Earth to find gold,is so highly advanced that the invasion lasted only a matter of minutes that they can't find Fort Knox?! Have no clue that it exists?! People,please-suspense of disbelief is all well and good but this is barely a thread here! Truly a bad movie for the ages-only wish there was a MST3K version of it available on DVD.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Keeping Cool about Gwen Stefani

I just saw the latest Gwen Stefani video"Cool",which my sister and I have had a debate about for a couple of days. We both like her music(my sis is much more of a music person than me-if I see a video and don't recognize the singer,9 times out of ten,she knows who they are)but Little Sis was insistant that the song/video was passive-aggressive.

First off,I must confess that I am not a whole album person(meaning:I only play certain songs that I like and skip the rest-I am the audience CD singles were made for)and am old enough to really remember a time before MTV,when you had to make your own mental music video. I do appreciate the High Fidelity mindset,however-how better to define a person than by their personal mini-obessions,I ask you? I just can't play a whole album(except for musicals which is obvious why)and dissect each song's meaning in relation to the one before/after it.

My Little Sis is not like that but she takes her music pretty serious(no,she's not a musician-she's a cartoonist)and can get annoyed at things with a passion just like I do when she starts teasing me about vampire babies(don't ask-really weird debate). She finds the "Cool" video,in which Gwen recieves a visit from an ex-lover and his current girlfriend while having flashbacks of their former relationship,to be total bullshit and her version of it would have Gwen poisoning the new girlfriend's tea(they serve tea in "Cool")and then gutting the ex with a paring knife while chasing him around with a meathook. Girl's been watching too many horror movies lately,I swear.

She's kidding,of course,in her own way but if she was directing this video it would like something out of American Psycho(more like the movie than the book-I tried reading that sucker but it was like watching one of those American Idol auditions where the person singing badly has no clue on God's earth just how talentless he/she is). As for me,I heard the song before I saw the video and really liked it. Actually did buy the album just to have the first three songs readibly available and was pleasantly surpised by "Cool". The smooth contrast of it right after "Hollaback Girl" gives it a nice flow and Stefani's voice is bittersweet with beauty. I really didn't pay attention to the lyrics the first time-I just grooved on her voice.

The video is pretty good-the sets are Euro-eque and the lighting has that combo of so-clear-and yet-so-sepia-glow(particularly in the flashbacks). I don't think that the sentiment is phony-maybe Gwen is really over her former relationship and wants to use this song to move on or maybe she just thought it sounded cool:).