Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
especially welcome to extensive readers

Friday, March 31, 2006

Reruns are not just for TV

Over a week ago,I went book shopping and wound up buying two titles that I've already read in ARC format. It wasn't an easy decision to make,there were a few other tempting books out there(such as the new Sophie Kinsella aka Madeline Wickham novel)but in the end,I went with the tried and,in my opinion,true,plus a copy of Anna Quindlen's Imagined London to fill my not-previously- read qouta.

Most of you are saying"Why in the world would you buy two books that you've read for free?". Well,one reason is that I don't have them at home(they were loaned out to others and never made their way back to the book store's treasure trove of readers' copies)and the other is that they're really great books worth rereading. Mind you,I am not always sensible about things like this;I've been known to own both the hardcover and the paperback editions of the same book,many of the justifications for that include"But I have his/her other books in paperback" and "This one has the tie-in movie cover!" Sad,sad,sad.

Anyway,the books I bought are The Good Wife by Stewart O'Nan(many of you may recognize his name from the baseball book he co-wrote with Stephen King)and The Ha-Ha by Dave King. Both books introduced me to these authors(The Ha-Ha is a first novel) and they both recieved excellent reviews from the critics. Saleswise,they're no threat to the Da Vinci Code but they should get a wider audience in soft cover and are a shoo-in for the reading group circuit.

The Good Wife of O'Nan's story is Patty Dickerson,a young lower middle class housewife who wakes up one morning and finds her husband charged with murder. Seems he and his good buddy decided to do some B&E,only to find the elderly female homeowner still on the premises which leads to her death and a botched fire to cover up the crime. Patty's husband winds up doing hard time(his friend gets a better deal for himself by turning state's witness)and Patty has to face everyday life without him. She raises their son and holds down a number of go-nowhere jobs to make ends meet while regularly visiting her husband,Tommy,in prison over the years.

One of the good things about this book is the matter-of-fact way the situation is treated;this plot could easily become Lifetime made-for-televison fodder but O'Nan respects his characters enough to treat them as realistically as possible. Patty is not a very introspective person but she handles the bad luck life has given her with resolve and frustration at times. There's no big drama bomb dropped towards the end or major moment of clarity. The Good Wife is a slice of real world experience that few people care to focus on or even think about. It's like watching a really good indie flick,compelling with plenty of food for thought.

The Ha-Ha's leading man is Howard Kapostash,a Vietnam vet with a major injury that keeps him from speaking and give the impression that he's mentally retarded. An old girl friend of his,Sylvia,asks Howard to take care of her nine year old son(who is not Howard's)Ryan while she hits the rehab trail. Howard already has a couple of roommates,one of whom acts as sort of an unofficial caretaker. Ryan's presence in the household not only opens up Howard's limited world but also helps to form a surrogate family between the house mates during the tough times.

Again,this book has a similar matter of factness vibe that saves the story from the land of melodrama. Dave King's narrative style helps you get in synch with Howard and even provides some humorous moments,particularly involving a riding lawn mower. A ha-ha,btw, is a depression in the earth used as a land boundary-the best way to describe it is as a waterless moat. I took a picture of one during my Jane Austen trip a few years ago and even loaned it to someone who wanted to show her reading group what a ha-ha looked like(she never returned it but I did have double prints made.). The Ha-Ha is a stunning debut and I hope that King's next book will be available soon.

So,if you're looking for a decent read this weekend or any night that's there is nothing to watch on the boob tube,keep these two in mind. Whether it's your local book store or the library,The Good Wife and The Ha-Ha are kind of books that make you take your time in answering the phone or being interrupted by one of your family members who can't find something that's probaly right smack in the middle of the room. I look forward to revisiting these stories again and perhaps finding some new insights the second time around. Even if I don't,I know that I'm guaranteed to have a real good read.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Where everbody knows her name

I've been developing quite a small town jones for some time now(partly fueled by daily viewings of Gilmore Girls) and there's something about living in a place that's not as fast paced or as alienating as a large city can be that holds an attraction for me. I know that small communites have their own particular brands of malcontent and pettiness and are not sweet little Shangri-las that cast a magical spell over life's worries and woes. However,it would be nice to be part of a community doesn't just reach out to someone only when there's a crisis and annual events are actually fun.

I don't know if I have the fortitude that Heather Lende does-she and her family live in Haines,Alaska,which is ninety miles north of Juneau and is best gotten to by water or air when the weather is good. Heck,it would be easier to find Superman's Fortress of Solitude just before disaster strikes Metropolis. Haines has very little industry to keep steady employment,other than fishing,tourism and lumber. There's no traffic light,everyone goes to the post office to pick up their mail and there's not a Starbucks or a MickeyD's in sight.

Heather writes obituaries for one of the local papers,The Chilkat Valley News, and her book,If You Lived Here,I'd Know Your Name(due out in paperback this June) covers that and a lot more about her friends and neigbors. One of the many reasons people from all walks of life choose to live in Alaska is the oneness with nature. Getting up every morning to the sounds of sea lions and catching a view of some of the most majesic mountain ranges in the world does sweeten the pot.

True,there is alot about death in this book but it's not the end all and the be all of it. Heather also focues on the life around her,such as adopting a young Bulgarian girl(affectionately called "Stoli"),worrying about her daughters as they work on a fishing boat with their friends and getting involved in local politics such as setting up tolerance workshops for the high school students after a nasty incident that revealed social and racial bias. One of the workshops wanted to focus on homophobia but that caused an uproar so it was eventually dropped. Heather eased up on some of her political involvements after that.

One of the strengths of the book is that Heather doesn't shy away from the tough side of life in Haines but also finds the good in it as well. She's also not afraid to express her doubts and concerns about choosing this way of life and how it affects her marriage and six children. She does find much to inspire her,such as the "grand dames" who never let up such as "Porcupine Jo" Jurgeleit,a one legged lady gold miner who was not hesitate to settle her differences with a shot gun. Even the members of her local church are quite lively-a number of them were leads in the Lynn Canal Community Players production of a musical called Angry Housewives that featured such ditties as "Eat Your Fucking Corn Flakes". I'd certainly pay good money to see and hear something like that!

If you're like me and have a hankering for hometown events and bake sales,get ahold of Heather's book and see what it's really like to live in one of the remotest areas in the world. Even if you're happy where ever you are,If You Lived Here,I'd Know Your Name is an excellent mediation on community,nature and the bonds that hold lives together. If you want to read and know more about Heather Lende,please click the title link above. Those so-called "desparate" housewives who think the suburbs are a wilderness should try really roughing it in a place where you may have to drive to Canada for emergency surgery for your kid. That's extreme living,if you ask me.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Open letter to Randy Quaid

Dear Randy,

According to the story I read this morning in the NYT(heck of picture of you they used btw,you looked like you had just gotten over a three day bender),you're suing the makers of Brokeback Mountain over your salary. Seems that you agreed to take a low fee due to the small budget(which was 14 million-no dispute there)but your beef is that the film distributors spend over 30 mil to promote BBM,so you want some more do-re-mi.

Randy,what is up with that? Nevermind the fact Brokeback is a rather nice item to put on your resume(perhaps it looks odd next to those National Lampoon Vacation flicks,but even so) or that your part was only slightly longer than Quentin Tarantino's cameo in the Muppets' Wizard of Oz,it's the principle of the thing. You've been in this business for over forty years now and you're not some sweet young thang off the Greyhound bus,with stars in your eyes. You've been around the block and back again a few times over,buddy.

You know perfectly well that all the marketing money in the world doesn't quarantee box office success-if it did,The Adventures of Pluto Nash and The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle would've been at the top,not the bottom of the barrel. You were in those suckers as well as offbeat films such as Parents and Freaked so you're no stranger to small budget films and what it takes to make those babies work. If you had made a deal to share in the future profits of Brokeback,that's one thing. But it seems to me that you're mad at yourself for not cutting a better deal and you want a do-over.

Perhaps the studio will make some out-of-court settlement with you,to avoid a lengthy legal debate,but even if you win,you lose here,Randy. You know how word gets around in the film world and your doing this looks bad on you,not the studio. Maybe folks won't say anything to you directly but don't be surpised if certain projects are not sent your way and the next small part in a potentially great movie goes to John Goodman or someone just him and not you.

Oh,well-good luck to you and Christmas Vacation 2:Cousin Eddie's Island Adventure. That should help you pay the lawyers-they charge by the hour,you know.

Lady T :founder of We Despise Greedy Artists,Inc.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

On Stage for you,Xanadu!

Yes,Virginia,it's true-an Off-Broadway production of Xanadu is in the works. Songs from the Olivia Newton-John/Gene Kelly roller disco fantasy will be included such as "Suddenly" and ELO's"All Over the World". No word on casting yet(there's more details in the article linked above)but this should give some of those voted-off American Idol contestants some hope at being onstage again without worrying about a Simon Cowell Snark Attack.

Xanadu has been one of my cult faves for a long time-I remember when the movie was due out in theaters and even had the tie-in comic book edition(should've kept that baby-it's probaly roommates with that large sized Princess Leia doll I had as a kid that would've made me some sweet E-Bay moola). For those of you who don't know the story,it's about Kira(ON-J),a muse who comes to earth to inspire commerical artist Sonny(Michael Beck) to team up with old school retired musician Danny Mcguire(Gene Kelly) to start up a roller disco nightclub. Of course,Kira and Sonny fall in love and her big secret is revealed,blah blah blah,you get the idea.

The plot is the least important element of the film(as usual)-it's the musical numbers that get you and some of them are doozies-my favorite one is where Sonny and Danny debate over what type of music they want to feature in their club and their ideas come to life,with a big band dance number on one side and the Tubes singing "Dancin'(that has such hip lyrics as "lover/won't take a back seat tonight/woo hoo")on the other. The two merge into one towards the end,in a weird way that reminds you of Paula Abdul's "Coldhearted" video. Not as sexed up but very copycatty.

There's even an animated sequence,courtesy of Don Bluth,where Kira and Sonny become fish and birds who pursue each other to the tune of "Don't Walk Away". No,it's not explained or even acknowledged by the characters-it's just one of those random moments in life where two people turn into cartoons and share some shapeshifting fun.

The soundtrack is the best and strongest part of the original Xanadu and I'm glad that they're keeping alot of the songs. In my stroll thru the internet,I found out that there's also some sort of Rocky Horror version called "Xanadu Alive" that's been playing for the devoted followers of this film. Sounds like fun on a stick! I've never been a big theater buff but with Xanadu hitting the boards hopefully by '07,I may have to find me some fancy duds and go on the town. I just hope that they don't just cast anybody-Sebastian Bach on Broadway was bad enough-and that "Suspended in Time" is also included. It's a lovely song and I won't be the only one tempted to toss some tomatoes if it's left out.

Monday, March 27, 2006

...With Lindsay Lohan as Blunder Woman!

Lindsay Lohan is running around Europe,telling anyone who will listen that she really,really wants to play Wonder Woman in the upcoming Joss Whedon version that's yet to cast a leading lady. According to the Sun article(linked for your pleasure in the title above),she thinks this part will give her some big league actor cred since most of the movies on her resume are " aimed at younger girls and are light-hearted."

Now,I'm a huge WW fangirl and would be standing on line today to see the Whedon version if there was a release date announced but I must say that if Lohan actually thinks this would elevate her into serious actress work,she definately should not be allowed to operate heavy machinery unsupervised. Granted,Jodie Foster did some Disney kid flicks back in the day but Jodie has this thing we call talent which our gal Lindsay doesn't seem to have clue #1 about. Then again,there's always Herbie:Unloaded 2 for her to fall back on!

Actually,the best thing to do about Wonder Woman is to cast an unknown in the part and round up a few seasoned actors for support and marquee value. One of the reasons that I have high hopes for Superman Returns is that Brandon Routh(who looks like Chris Reeves' long lost lovechild) has the lead role and Kevin Spacey is playing Lex Luthor. Of course,we'll have to put up with Parker"Overrated" Posey as Lex's gangsta bitch but if we're lucky,she will have as much screen time as Jar Jar Binks did in Revenge of the Sith(That movie would've been so much better if Jar Jar had gotten wacked right after the opening credits). One of my favorite lines in Lloyd Kaufman's All I Need To Know About Filmmaking I Learned From The Toxic Avenger perfectly describes her:"an actress who's so excruciating aware of her own glib hipness that you feel like she might swirl and give the camera a backhanded high five at any moment." Watch any of her scenes in Blade:Trinity and tell me that statement doesn't hold up today.

Anyway,before I went off the garden path there,most people are not worried about Lohan donning the Amazon mantle since Joss Whedon is at the helm here and the man has excellent casting skills. Some fans want Sarah Michelle Geller or Charisma Carpenter but that's never gonna happen,gang. Those ladies are a)not right for the role and b)have moved on,bigtime. Jon Heder has a better shot at being the next James Bond,if something happens to Daniel Craig. Whedon will most likely go the unknown route for Wonder Woman but I'm sure he'll slip in some of his favorite troopers from his Buffy/Angel/Firefly days(please find a part for James Marsters,pretty please!!!).

Lohan would be better off going to the indie film circuit to expand her horizons-hey,it worked for Michelle Williams and Katie Holmes,the darlings of Dawson's Creek! Just be careful to avoid leading men with e-meters in their trailers,ready to give you some private auditing sessions,Lindsay,and you'll do just fine there,hon.

Friday, March 24, 2006

What's up with the creepy candy commericals?

Lately,I've been noticing some damn strange ads on TV for a couple of my favorite sugary treats,Starburst and Skittles. The Skittles ad(which I found a link to and have placed in the title above)has a bearded man at a job interview. His beard is longer than both of those ZZ Top guys and moves about with a Muppet like ability. During the interview, the woman behind the desk tells Beard Man that his resume is fine but they're looking for someone with more experience. Beard Man then uses his freakish facial hair to pop a Skittle into her mouth and pats her face while chuckling at her last comment. You're expecting the next scene to be one where Interview Lady is being strangled by the Beard That Wouldn't Die while its' owner is still chuckling and gobbling up the rest of the candy but I guess that'll be for the sequel!

The Starburst ad has a kid walking up to his buddies while a sinister voice over points out that he'll be expected to share his pack of Starbursts with his friends:"But what if you had no friends?" Creepy Kid then proceeds to be mean to his pals by dumping their stuff and tearing one guy's shirt while the V.O. cheers him on. No one speaks during this weird little assault and as Creepy Kid walks away with his candies intact,the V.O. praises him with"That went well!" Is it just me or does that sound abit too close to Columbine for comfort there?

Listen up,you marketing people-I don't know what demographic you think this appeals to or what drugs you may or may not be on but quit being wackers with my candy! Being creative is one thing,being disturbing is another. I should not get the same feeling after watching a candy ad that I have after watching Hostel! Hell,those Orbit gum ads are goofy but they're actually cute,with that Brit Wit and make me actually consider trying a piece. If I didn't already know and enjoy the mixed fruit basket flavor of either of the candies in question,I'ld give a wide berth to them at the candy rack just based on those mini freakshows that air on a daily basis!

I don't ask for much in this life-some good books,a DVD set or two,world peace(in someone's lifetime,not neccessarily mine)-and I'm damn sure that I'm not the only one confused and befuddled by these commericials. Leave the offkilter stuff to those who know how to use it for the right products(the VW ads with Peter Stomare are a great example of this)and get back to the drawing board. You're making those Mentos "Fresh and Full of Life" ads look like welcome relief at this point.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Da Vinci Code Mania continues

I just watched the new Da Vinci Code trailer(there's a link to it in the title above)and have to say,yes it looks great and no,I probaly won't see the movie. Having Ian Mckellan in the cast is a nice incentive but would much rather wait to see him in X Men 3. The more I see of Tom Hanks here,the more this whole movie looks like the Masterpiece Theater version of an Indiana Jones movie. I'm sure DVC will do well at the box office,without my ten bucks added to the coffer.

Also,the big Dan Brown trial has finished up over in the UK,with everyone waiting for the verdict which should be given in a few weeks. In case you haven't heard,Dan Brown and his Brit publishers are being sued by the co-authors of the non fiction book,Holy Blood & Holy Grail, for copyright infringment. It's been no secret that HB&HG was one of the research sources used in the writing of the book(Holy Blood & Holy Grail has had a nice reprint run due to this connection) and this case has become quite a hoop-de-do in publishing circles.

This all sounds like a tempest in a teapot,in my opinion. Many of these cases are legit but the timing of this lawsuit is fishy. Quite a coincidence that just a few months before the film version is to be released worldwide and sure to rake in the bucks,that these fellas decided to fight for their rights. Yeah,okay....and Issac Hayes' decision to leave South Park had nothing to do with his membership in the "Church" of Scientology(Tonight's season premiere of South Park focues on Chef so I have to see it-fortunately,F/X shows "Black.White" at 10 and 11 so I can have the best of both worlds). Many are concerned that a guilty verdict will block the release of the movie but I wouldn't worry-there'll be some of kind of backroom deal made if the case doesn't go a certain way,mark my words.

Yesterday,Javier Sierra's The Secret Supper hit the bookstores and it's definately worth a read. It may not be as action packed as DVC but TSS gives you a pretty good historical mystery to mull over. I have to get cracking on Kate Mosse's Labyrinth which has a classic "two women in different time periods connected by mysterious object from the past" theme(have to admit that when I first looked over the book,I was strongly reminded of the Lana/Isobel storyline from last year's Smallville-not a turn-off to me at all). It's good to have a strong female viewpoint emerge in this genre and hope that we all get some good reads out of this interest that Dan Brown has sparked up.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Dates From Hell and other mixed media

So,I finished up Dates From Hell this morning and can wholeheartedly recommend it-the Kelley Armstrong story"Chaotic"(which is about a tabloid reporter who runs into a werewolf jewel thief on her rather bad blind date)had a nice mini action movie vibe to it and the finale,Lori Handeland's "Dead Man Dating" was fun. DMD's plot has a Plain Jane literary agent being pursued by an incubus and meeting the rogue demon hunter of her dreams(nice Buffy shout-out,btw). Worth your time,if you're into the genre or just curious about the authors profiled. It should be hitting a bookstore near you sometime next week,so keep an eye out for it!

In other news,American Idol's music theme tonight is the 1950s-a good decade of tunes to pick from but you never know what horrors to expect on stage. Hopefully,we won't be subjected to likes of Kevin singing"Part Time Lover"(that kid looks like a reject from the cast of Napoleon Dynamite,I swear!)in the music selection but he's not the only one to be on the look out for: Ace has pretty bland tastes. I can't even remember what he sang last week,all I can recall is that he didn't wear his trademark beanie. Paula and Simon click differently this season;last time it was all that "Opposites Attract" fighting but now,Paula has that Bitter Divorcee vibe wrapped around her like a cheesy mink stole.

Speaking of Bitter Divorcees,Tawny Kitaen looks to be the Prima Diva on the new Surreal Life and I am already sick of her constantly declaring her five time refusal to appear in Playboy(gee,we're not intimidated by the Playboy channel's Andrea Lowell being the resident hot girl,are we dear?). Having Mrs. Brady be the group advisor here is pretty cool(wonder what she thought of the season 4 hook-up between former Brady boy Christopher Knight and Adrienne Curry)and I hope that things will get even more wacky with the wrestler Maven joining the crew. The first thing that struck me about Alexis Arquette was his hair-it's a dead ringer for his sister Patricia's! Was that a coincidence or some weird sibling envy? Inquiring minds want to know.

Brokeback Mountain is due out(no pun intended)on video April 4,so if you didn't see it yet,you're gonna get your chance. I know that Crash was rereleased in theaters after it's big win but it doesn't seem to have made much of a box office dent. V For Vendetta,however,kicked some major ass and raked in 26.1 mil so far. I've ordered the original graphic novel as well as The Count Of Monte Cristo online right after seeing the movie(if you're scratching your head about the Dumas book,trust me it does tie into VFV's plot. Smart booksellers would do well to keep a few copies on their shelves). It's about time I read Dumas,anyway.

Well,that's all for now. Tune in next time,same blogger time,same blogger channel!

Monday, March 20, 2006

A slice of Evil Chocolate

Over the weekend,I picked up a copy of Laurell K. Hamilton's new paperback,Micah,but haven't read it yet(Little Sister reading aloud from it at random and laughing like hell doesn't count)but did read this knee slapper of a review at It's Not Chick Porn,I Swear! I wound up bookmarking the site,just due to the comparison of being a LKH fan and being in a bad boyfriend trap(the kind that requires a restraining order)...too damn funny and accurate to ignore!

There's alot of good paranormal fiction out there but there's also plenty of shelf filler as well,which is why it's cool to find someone who does most of the heavy reading and is willing to be bluntly humorous about it. It's hard for me to do that because I tend to defend the not-so conventional tastes I have in pop culture like a mom with a career criminal for a son. Some in my family use to say that even Stephen King's mother wouldn't back him up like I would for books like IT(that TV movie version bought me quite alot of derision from the peanut gallery,trying to explain that Pennywise wasn't really a giant spider-sometimes,you just gotta know when to pick your battles,folks). Silly of me,I know but there's a part of me that's just taking her sweet time to mature.

Also,another reason I haven't dived into Micah yet is that I'm currently making my way thru Dates From Hell,a upcoming anthology that has a quartet of paranormal romance writers sharing stories about the otherworldly things we do for love. The line-up include Kim Harrison,Lynsay Sands,Kelley Armstrong and Lori Handeland. The Kim Harrison story,Undead In The Garden Of Good and Evil,is really a pre-story about Ivy Tamwood from the Rachel Morgan series. It's not bad but I think that ones who will enjoy it the most are those already familar with her earlier books. Also,it's written in third person which may be a little disconcerting for those use to the first person mode Harrison's used in her regular novels.

I'm almost done with Lynsay Sands' The Claire Switch Project,which is about a scientist who gets shape shifting abilities from an accidentally on purpose lab mishap and uses her new powers to help her best friend get even at their high school reunion. Very readable but rather sit-comish at times(a particularly clunky move is having Claire morph into a hot actor called Brad Cruise-that name does not roll off the tongue with ease). I might try one of Sands' books but not any time soon. She's ok but I like alittle more oopmh in my paranormal reading and here,I'm just having a few chuckles.

As for Kelley Armstrong and Lori Handeland,they're new to me as well but the Handeland story I've peeked at(Dead Man Dating)and it looks pretty sweet to me. I'm willing to give Armstrong a chance,since her werewolf novels have gotten some decent buzz but I'm more partial to vamps and demons in general. That's just me being me. Please do click the title link above to read the Micah review-even if you've never read LKH,you'll get a big kick out of it-and I'll let everyone know if Dates From Hell is worth spending a night or two with.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

V For Vendetta:What's wrong with a little destruction?

Yesterday,my whole family decided to celebrate St. Patrick's day by seeing V For Vendetta(less hectic than hitting the bars for some Killian brews to "get your Irish on!")and in a way,it's appropiate to watch this movie on a holiday,since the story's time frame is focused on Guy Fawkes Day. On the fifth of November is when the heroine,Evey(Natalie Portman) encounters the masked revolutionary known only as V(brilliantly played by Hugh Weaving)who rescues her from the curfew cops who want to administer their own brand of justice,gang bang style.

V then treats Evey to a rooftop viewing of his bombing of the Old Bailey buildings,with the 1812 overture playing thru loudspeakers. The man has style,which is probaly one of the reasons Evey keeps crossing paths with him,despite her reluctance to get politically involved. Her folks became activists and wound up being taken by the secret police which explains part of her fear and also her fascination
with V.

The facist forces of the government pursue V with a fury,especially after his televised challenge to the public to rise up from their apathy and get ready for the Parliament buildings to be destoyed on the next Guy Fawkes' day. Many disturbing questions pop up during the hunt for V that particularly plague one of the lead investigators(Stephen Rea) such as why are the former employees of a certain detention center being targeted by V? What does it have to do with the outbreak of a deadly virus that helped put the current administration in power?

Very few movies force you to pay attention and truly make you think;V For Vendetta does that,plus give you a set of compelling characters that are not always sympathic but belivable despite the comic book stylings of the story. The strongest part of the plot is the bond between Evey and V-it's not some "my heart will go on" tale of tragic lovers. Rather,it's a relationship that seesaws thru different modes: mentor/student,friend/enemy and father/daughter.

This movie is already getting alot of buzz but the best way to figure out what it's for or against to see it for yourself and keep your mind wide open. Nevermind the politics,just check it out-it's a brilliant ballet of what it means to truly fight for what you believe in and the aftermath that follows. The only fault I can find with it is that some of the talkiness goes overboard(mainly in the scene where Evey and V first meet) but when's the last time you actually had a hero worth listening to? Alan Moore may not want credit for this film but he doesn't have to hang his head in shame-everyone involved(yes,the Wachowski brothers as well) here did a damn fine job of bringing such a dark yet hopefull world to light.

Friday, March 17, 2006

On The Shelf with Maryjanice Davidson

One of the rising stars of the paranormal romance scene,Maryjanice Davidson is the creator of several series,her most popular being the UnDead books which feature Elizabeth "Betsy" Taylor,the reluctant Queen of the Vampires. Betsy's the type of gal who is more at home shoe shopping than ruling the underworld but she's very capable of handling both,with style and humor. Betsy's allies include best friend Jessica,Vampire King Eric"Sink Lair" Sinclair and half sister Laura Goodman,who is also the daughter of the devil herself.

Davidson also has a werewolf series(Derik's Bane)and one about an Alaskan princess(Royal Treatment). She's also written Young Adult books,Sci-fi and many other great stories that have given her a legion of fans. I consider myself very fortunate to have gotten the chance to chat with her and to share her words with my viewing audience:

1)Do you consider yourself a romance writer or a fantasy writer?

A writer, actually. I like to write anything, everything. YA,
paranormal,sci-fi, mystery, contemporary romance, paranormal romance...pretty much
everything but regency.

2)Who or what became the inspiration for Betsy Taylor?

One day, this image popped into my head: a woman waking up in a
morgue,with no idea how she died and no idea that she was a vampire.
Why didn't she know? In the movies,the vampires always know they're
undead. But Betsy didn't have a clue. I couldn't get that image out of my brain,
so I finally sat down and wrote a whole book around just that one scene.
And voila! A series was born.

3)Are you planning a crossover novel for the Wyndham wolves and Betsy's
Fang Gang?

You betcha, and you'll see some of that in DEAD AND LOVING IT, out the
first Tuesday in April. And lots more to come. See, the tricky thing is,
werewolves believe in vampires, but vampires don't believe in
werewolves. Hilarity will ensue

4)Would you like to see the UnDead series become a movie or a tv show?

Sure, I think it'd be great. I've got a Hollywood agent sniffing
around L.A. even as we speak, talking to ABC Family, Tri-Star, HBO, Showtime,
etc. Should be a fun year as we try to get a green light for production!

5)You've written books in other genres such as Young Adult-is it hard for
you to switch from one to the other?

No, I love it. If I'm stuck in a Betsy book, I can switch to the
Alaskan royals or the murderous book club. I love writing more than one book
at once; keeps me from getting blocked.

6)Will Laura Goodman ever get a book of her own?

If I have my druthers? A whole SERIES of her own!

7)What are some of your favorite books and films?

Book: Gone with the Wind, the Prey books by John Sandford, anything by
Carl Hiaason, anything by Andrew Vacchss, anything by P.C. Cast, anything by
Olivia Goldsmith.

My thanks again to Maryjanice for granting me this interview-please click the title link above to go to her website and find out more about her books and upcoming projects. My recommendation for any new readers is UnDead and UnWed,the first of the Betsy Taylor titles. Betsy is a kickass combo of Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Elle Woods from Legally Blonde , with a twist of Dracula(the '79 version with Frank Lagella)on the romance side. Definately a must have for anyone who loves a good sexy sinister read with a few good laughs along the way.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Charlaine Harris & HBO: a winning combination

Recently in my house,we decided to switch from Showtime to HBO(Mom wanted to see The Sopranos and since the only two Showtime series I liked to watch-Dead Like Me & Queer As Folk-are no longer on,it seemed like a good idea to me)and now I'm happy we did due to some great news! Alan Ball,the Six Feet Under guy,is putting together a new series for HBO based on Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse series-woo to the hoo!

Ok,I know some of you are going"Uh,that's nice,dear(whispering to person next to you)who the hell is Sookie Stackhouse?" She's not a stripper or a cartoon babe,Sookie is the psychic heroine of what are known to many as the Southern Vampire Mysteries. She's a cocktail waitress who can read minds which keeps her from forming any real relationships until she hooks up with local vampire Bill,whose thoughts she can't pick up at all. This peace of mind is only one of the things that bring Sookie and Bill together but also puts her in danger from Bill's vamp friends and other various fiends.

The stories are set in Louisiana and have alot of southern charm and humor-just the fact that there's a vampire named Bill should give you a hint. The basic premise of Sookie's world is that vampires really exist and are acknowledged by the human world which gives them some rights but also restrictions. Artificial blood is openly sold and marketed in stores while there's a black market value put on vampire blood. Sookie also has a troublesome brother,Jason and winds up dating a werewolf named Alcide. If any of this tickles your fancy,you should start with Dead Until Dark,the first Sookie book-most of them are in paperback and her new one,Definately Dead,will be out in hardcover this May.

The Sookie books are not as sexed up as Laurell K. Hamilton's but they do not lack romance-short and sweet is the best way to describe them. Click the title link above to read more about the upcoming HBO series and check out Charlaine's other books(she has several series out with female leads with great names like Lily Bard and Amelia Teagarten.) Showtime was fun while it lasted but now that I'm back with HBO,the party can really get started. Like the song says,waiting is the hardest part but to see Sookie on my TV screen will be worth it.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Alan Moore's movie miseries

Over the weekend,I read Alan Moore's The Watchmen,sort of my way of getting ready to see V for Vendetta on Friday. The Watchmen is also due to be a feature film sometime in the future but as with VFV,it most likely will not have his name in the credits. Moore hates all adaptations of his work with a fiery passion,similar to the passions that flow thru out his graphic novels.

On the one hand ,you can understand his frustrations-Hollywood tends to muck up quite a few literary works and since comic books are considered by many to be the red headed stepchild of the industry(a viewpoint that is rapidly changing but is still in the early stages),the goofiness factor is set much higher. As someone who actually paid money to see the likes of SuperGirl,Superman IV:the Quest for Peace and Tank Girl in theaters,I can testify to the horror,the horror!

However,as James M.Cain once said about how movie versions of his work turned out,the books are still on the shelves,just waiting to be read and appreciated by the right audience. I've also read the first two volumes of Promethea(recommended to me by a fellow bookseller who called it"Wonder Woman,if they actually did it right")and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen-Moore weaves intricate details into his plots with a hearty mix of spiritualism,political theory,social commentary and existentialism.

Alot of that naturally falls to the wayside when it comes to making the movie. From some of reviews of V for Vendetta that I've read,many of Moore's ideas seem intact but there are the usual changes. Since I didn't read the original comic I won't go into them but even for those who know the book by heart,my advice is to just go with the flow. Sure,maybe that character had a different job or someone else said that line on page 97,but if the basic elements of the plot hold up and it's true to the spirit and intents of the author,give it a chance.

The only movie I can really see Moore having a legit beef about is League of Extraordinary Gentlemen-the comic and the movie are as different as night and day. The simple explanation for that is Sean Connery;he not only stars in the film as Allan Quartermain but is one of the producers as well. Realistically,the odds of Sean Connery playing Quartermain as written(i.e. an opium addict)is as likely as Kayne West singing The Star Spangled Banner at a White House function. I did enjoy LOEG when it was out and even own the DVD-some of it is goofy(particularly Stuart Townsend as Dorian Gray in a cult movie kind of way)but not as bad as say,Batman and Robin.

From Hell was a damn decent flick as well,even with Heather Graham in it. Johnny Depp keeps the movie on track and it's one of the better films by the Hughes brothers. As we all know,the Matrix boys put V For Vendetta together and maybe another team of collaborators will do right by Watchmen. After all,graphic novels and films have one thing in common;good or bad,it's a team effort.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

TV viewpoints are not always Black/White

Today,Issac Hayes announced that he would be no longer be the voice of Chef on South Park,saying that the show's "inappropriate ridicule" of religion is the reason. Matt Stone and Trey Parker have no probelm with his leaving(the network is letting him out of his contract)but find it "feel that it's a bit disingenuous (for Hayes) to cite religious intolerance as a reason for him pulling out of the show" and I for one,agree.

Complaining about South Park making fun of religion is like complaining that America's Next Top Model focues too much on phyiscal beauty-it's an ingrained part of the show! Hayes didn't seem to have any qualms about The Passion of the Jew episode last year...this wouldn't have anything to do with that Tom Cruise/Scientology epsiode now,would it? Naah,couldn't be that! Hey, Hayes is still cool but I guess that his departure from the show will give him more time to write the perfect wedding march for Katie and Tom.

Last week,I watched the premiere of the F/X series"Black.White" but didn't write about it until now due to needing time to reflect on my feelings about it. My take on the whole deal is that white family,The Wurgels,are so damn embarassing that it's not even funny. Particularly the parents(Rose,the daughter,just seems to be very naive to me)-Bruno keeps going aroung,looking for Archie Bunker confrontations and dropping the N word like there's no tomorrow and his wife,Carmen,just kills me with her dumbass comments like"What if we're in a room with black people and they just start jiving". I would understand their behavior more if they came from somewhere in Midwest or a very isolated area,but they live in L.A!

I'm not claiming sainthood here-I've lived in a racially diverse city all my life and my parents taught me to treat others with respect and be open to differences of lifestyles. It just blows my mind that it never seems to have occured to the Wurgels to just act like regular people but with some adjustments. Tomorrow's episode has them buying African dashikis to wear to church and Carmen getting into a fight with Renee Sparks over calling Renee a bitch. This sounds like a comedy skit,doesn't it?
I wish it was some kind of "Punk'd" thing-I could put up with Ashton Kutcher's dopey antics here.

People are already arguing that F/X has limited the scope of the show and it's all a stunt but I will say this-it certainly makes for interesting TV. I'll probaly keep watching B/W and cringing at every word the Wurgels say. It's like gawking at a horrible roadside accident-you feel bad for looking but can't help staring all the same. Then again,I could follow Hayes' example and only act offended when my special interest group is put on the hot seat,instead of admitting that there's flaws in the system and that a little laughter can bring people together.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Is Naomi crying Wolf over teen books?

Today in the Sunday book review section of the NY Times,there's an essay by Naomi Wolf about such sexed up teen book series as Gossip Girls,A-List,etc. She has taken the time to read some of them and is shocked! shocked to find gambling...er,meaniness going on here!(Couldn't resist the Casablanca qoute,folks). Wolf is particularly distressed that all the girls in these books seem to be cold blooded Material Girls with Mean Girls attitudes towards each other and for some reason,brings up comparisons with Jane Austen,Alcott and Frances Hodgson Burnett(whose novels target a much younger audience).

I'm of two minds here-I used to sell these books(and believe me,they were in demand)and found them to be total crap. However,I wouldn't call for removing these titles from any book store or library. Young people have just as much of a right to read trashy novels as adults do. Sure,some people are going to agrue about how easily young girls are influenced by media images,etc but I think we should give the gals more credit than that for knowing the difference between the real world and the fantasy versions served up for their enjoyment.

Alot of the readers of these books probaly take them as seriously as their moms did watching Sex and the City on HBO or nowadays,Desparate Housewives. It's something to chat about with your friends and look forward to after dealing with your daily/weekly routine. Am I suggesting that folks should turn a blind eye to this? Hell to the no-if you're a parent of a teen girl and these books bother you,talk about it with your daughter and get her take on it. Take the time and the responsiblity to see what your kids may or not be influenced by.

Wolf also mentions that Rainbow Party,a controversal YA novel about teen sex parties with color codes,didn't sell very much. One important reason that it didn't was this: it came out in hardcover. Most parents are very reluctant to buy hardcovers for their kids and most kids don't want to spend that much of their own money on them. A strong selling point of the GG type of books is that they're all in paperback,which also shows you how the publishers view these titles as well. Many children's/YA series titles are in paperback since the target audience is seen as very faddish and once a series has lost it's popularity,it would be easier to find
a snowball in Hell than any of the backlist titles.

Wolf means well,I'm sure,but part of the reason stuff like this is popular is due to feminist backlash. For a long time,girls who expressed interest in such things as makeup,hair and clothes were all written off as bimbos and traitors to the cause. Denying women and girls their femininity is just as bad as denying them their equality with men,in my opinion. Shallowness is not limited to idle rich or those who seek to copy them. The more you make something taboo,the more in demand it becomes.

I've put a link to the Wolf essay in the title above(hopefully,you can read it without being registered-I tried to get an easy access link)and you can judge for yourself if she's right on the money or just stirring up the pot. As for me, I wouldn't start mourning the decline of Western civilization just yet-if our forebearers could start a revolution with the likes of Peyton Place,Valley of the Dolls or Lace on their bedside table,there's still hope yet for us all.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Making time for Mary Reilly

While channel surfing the other day,I caught part of a not so old movie that inspired me to check my book shelves to see if I still had the paperback copy of the novel it was based on. Not only did I still have it(somewhat faded but otherwise in good shape)but I decided that there was no better time than now to actually read it.

As you can guess from the title of this post,the book is Mary Reilly by Valerie Martin,which was made into a Stephen Frears film starring Julia Roberts as the title character who is a housemaid working for a certain Dr.Henry Jekyll(played by John Malkovich). Mary and the good doctor do share an attraction to each other but the social boundaries of the Victorian society keep them at bay,until the introduction of Edward Hyde(I don't need to tell who plays him,right? You guys know this story pretty well)into their lives,causing more than one upheaval.

I saw the movie when it first came out in theaters and was one of the few who actually liked it-most people were expecting a horror flick and many mocked poor Julia for trying out a dramatic role. This was way before Erin Brockovich gave Roberts some arthouse cred. Glenn Close is also in the cast as Mrs. Farraday,a madam who covers up some of Hyde's misdeeds but not without a price. She and Malkovich had last worked together in Dangerous Liasons so that was brought up in comparison. Sort of like comparing apples to Oldsmobiles,in my opinion.

The book is very compelling-it's told in journal form as Mary struggles to contain her feelings about Master(as she calls Jekyll)and her worst childhood terror which was being locked into a cupboard with a large rat by her drunken father. The scars from that experience open up a dialogue between servant and employer-Mary is asked to give Master a written account of her wounds,due to his professional curiosity. The arms length at which these two hold each other is sad and all too real,one of the strong elements of the plot.

It's been awhile since I saw the movie version from start to finish but the one main difference between the film and the book is the talkiness of the characters. It's not a criticism; in order to present the story visually,you need folks to open up their mouths to tell you what's going on. Different mediums require different methods. Otherwise,there's very little difference that I can pick up. The growing intimacy between Mary and Master is made abit more obvious in the film but that's understandable,too.

Mary Reilly is a wonderfully dark story and my only regret here is waiting so long to read it for myself. Valerie Martin has written a few more books since then but you wouldn't go wrong by starting off with this sinister slice of a servant girl's struggles with heart and soul. Don't avoid the movie either-Malkovich gives you a good show and Roberts is not so bad either. It's funny,the things you keep around and refuse to throw out,just in case. Sometimes,that really pays off.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Clear a space on your mantle for the Blooker Prize

Lulu,a well known self publishing website,is sponsoring a brand new literary award called the Blooker Prize,which is for published books based on blogs. The Blooker has three catagories,Fiction,Non Fiction and Comics. You can see the short list of nominees and get more info about who's involved thru the title link above.

I've only read one of the books up for this;Julie and Julia by Julie Powell(a book that I enjoyed and was of the inspirations for me to follow the way of the blogger)so it's hard for me to have a major rooting interest in the winner. However,if someone is willing to set up an award for blog to book success,it seems like a good sign that the blogosphere must be doing something right here.

Sounds naive,I know but I'm not the only one out there who hopes that their blog has some meaning and purpose,other than to set up your own personal soapbox to shout from. Some folks think that blogs distract writers from doing their "real" work and to me,that's a matter of opinion. If a writer truly feels that the blog they've been working on is stalling that novel or series of poems that need to be done,that's one thing. Others may find it a useful stimuli-after all,you could argue that the diaries,journals and longtime correspondence of many classic authors could be just as distracting as any blog and that didn't slow down the likes of Virginia Woolf,Henry James or G.B. Shaw!

You could even point to such works as Pepys' diary or the Life of Johnson as great-great-great granddaddies of the blogger realm. I'm not saying that every single blog out there is the stuff of literary genuis(and yes,that includes me,too)but the potential is there and like any fertile planting ground,could use a little tending to encourage the smaller seeds to grow. Hopefully,the Blooker becomes a welcome provider to the cultural crop garden and not another useless lawn ornament.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Taking your book club to the streets

Out in Fresno,Ca,they're using a new approach to get folks interested in reading. Instead of the usual meeting places to hold book discussions(libraries,people's homes),such venues as restaurants,nursing homes and museums are being used instead. a 24 hour readaloud of To Kill A Mockingbird took place at a Krispy Kreme to kickstart the whole thing off.

This may seem wacky to some but hey,one thing a reader learns to appreciate is creativity and I don't know what's more creative than this. Some of the book choices are not my cup of tea-The Great Gatsby,for one(I read it in high school but always felt cold about Fitzgerald)-but it's not a bad start.

This got me thinking,okay if you want to discuss a book in an innovative setting, where would you read certain books? For a Krispy Kreme,I would've chosen a book like Empire Falls(which takes place in a diner),for example. You could really make quite a game out of this while hanging out at the mall:what book would fit in with stores like The Gap,Hot Topic or Sam Goodys? Would it be better to have a Harry Potter reading at a Toy'R US or a kid's clothing store?

You could also mix it up abit-imagine holding a reading of Fight Club in a hospital waiting room or The House of Mirth in a comedy club. The possibilites are endless. Hats off to Fresno for daring to think outside the box and good reading to all and to all a good book.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Protecting our youth from gay penguins

And Tango Makes Three is a children's book about two male penguins in the Central Park Zoo who adopted an orphan chick named Tango. Before you make any March of The Penguins/Brokeback jokes,you should know that this is based on a true story and it has been challenged at two libraries in Missouri(click the title above for a more complete article on this). The solution the library took was to move the book to the non-fiction section so that people wouldn't be "blindsided".

I have no probelm with putting the book in nonfiction but it sounds to me like it was placed with adult,rather than children's non-fiction and this is really meant for and written for kids. I've read this book myself(was even asked about it during the sales rep meeting with the boss)and it's not some explicit penguin porn. The artwork was what first caught my eye-Henry Cole did the illustrations and they're lovely.

Roy and Silo,the penguin parents,have more of a Felix Unger and Oscar Madison relationship-they're shown as two friends who decided to stay together and form their own family which gets even stronger when an abandoned egg is given to them by the zoo keeper and they hatch out little Tango.

And Tango Makes Three may not be what some folks want to read to their children at bedtime but it is an interesting and nicely done story about penguin family life. If people don't wish to be "blindsided",maybe they should take the time to actually read the books they get for their kids and not just grab whatever's new. A good reader is a well informed reader,whatever the age or species.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Crash and burn,Oscar style

Well,I'm still reeling from last night's Oscar show,which had a major upset by giving Best Picture of the Year to Crash instead of the odd-on favorite,Brokeback
Mountain. It was crazy enough that "It's hard out here for a pimp" won Best Song(that production number was quite a trip but not as wackers as that whole"In the Deep" number for Crash,which looked like a scene from "Carrie:The Musicial")and that when the "In the memory" of Hollywood notables who died this past year,the first person showcased,Teresa Wright,recieved no applause!

I was particularly peeved at that,since I had watched The Best Years Of Our Lives that morning,which has Teresa as one of it's stars,not to mention that Teresa is one of my favorite ladies of the old school Hollywood films. She's also a featured player in Mrs. Miniver(another Academy Award winner)and in Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt. Teresa tended to play love interests but she wasn't some weak at the knees kind of gal-girl had some gumption! She should've gotten some applause,but then again,the crowd barely gave it up for Richard Pryor.

As to the outfits,Keira Knightley looked amazing-totally regal and stylish but not in an ice maiden mode at all. Reese Witherspoon's dress seemed to be adorned with shiny chewing gum wrappers(girl likes metallic outfits for some reason)and Naomi Watts' dress was a wreck. It looked like one of those Santino dresses from Project Runaway that would have the judges shaking their heads at his folly.

Brokeback Mountain did get some of the expected awards they were a shoo-in for,such as Adapted Screenplay,Score and Director. I do wish that atleast one of the actors had gotten an award(George Clooney didn't seem very grateful for his Best Supporting Actor with the first thing out of his mouth being"Guess this means I won't get Best Director". I saw him trying to make similar jokes about his movies losing out to Brokeback and all I can say is:these grapes are sour!)and that that whole Meryl Streep/Lily Tomlin rambling intro for Robert Altman had been cut short by Sandman Sims and an old fashioned off stage hook.

Crash is not the first film to win Best Picture thru an upset but as to it holding up in quality for future generations,only time will tell. I think it will be put along side such winners as Dances With Wolves and The Greatest Show On Earth in the"what were they thinking?!" catagory and that Brokeback will be more sought out by those seeking cinematic inspiration. Anyway,it's over-let's prepare for next year's follies,shall we?

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Who would be on your Oscar dream team?

I know most people don't check blogs over the weekend but today is Oscar Sunday and I just spent the morning watching The Best Years of our Lives,the seven time Academy Award winner from 1946,for a couple of reasons-to put myself in the right
frame of mind for tonight's show and also to reward myself after watching Crash and being able not to gag on the sicking scent of sanctimous speechifying that wafted off every scene.

I'm sure everyone involved had good intentions while making and promoting this film but Crash just comes across as an overdone morality play that has all the subtlety of a Very Special Episode of____(insert the TV show of your choice). It wouldn't hurt some of the creative folk out there to catch up on a few classics and take a hint about how to get a message out thru art without sacrificing plot credibility and character development.

Enough ranting and raving-I've also noticed that many people are not as enthused about the Oscars as they used to be. There's always been some cynicism but the latest discontentment seems to be from the selection of nominees. That got me to think about having some fantasy Oscar nominees-why should picking your favorites to compete against each other be only an option for sports fans? Movie Lovers are just as devoted as they are(only without body painting and big foam fingers to wave around).

It's too late to set up anything this year but I thought I'll share with you my dream team for 2006(to keep things simple,this will only be five catagories). Ok,here we go with:

BEST ACTOR:...and the nominees are,

Christian Bale/Batman Begins

Viggo Mortenson/A History of Violence

Steve Carrell/The 40 Year Old Virgin

Nathan Fillon/Serenity

Mickey Rourke/Sin City

As much as I love Brokeback Mountain and Heath Ledger's performance(he's gotta win,screw Capote!),Viggo in History of Violence gave one of most memorable performances I've ever seen on film. Comedies get overlooked alot and I think that Carrell's work in FYOV raised that movie over the low bar usually set for sex comedies. The guy that would win,however,would be Mickey Rourke. His Marv in Sin City is just as much of a comeback role as Travolta's Vincent Vega,plus none of that L. Ron Hubbard vibe to deal with.

and the nominees are.....

Maria Bello/History of Violence

Toni Collette/In Her Shoes

Cecile de France/High Tension

Summer Glau/Serenity

Rosario Dawson/Sin City

Most of the ladies here were in rather action packed roles but to pull off a good,memorable character amongst fight scenes and special effects is no lightweight challenge. Toni Collette is a particular favorite of mine and while Cameron Diaz seemed to get more of the media's attention,Toni's the one who held the heart and soul of the story together. The award would go to Maria Bello who along with Viggo gave one hell of a nonverbal end scene in HOV.


Paul Rudd/The 40 Year Old Virgin

Ed Harris/History of Violence

Cillian Murphy/Batman Begins

Jamie Foxx/Jarhead

Alan Tudyk/Serenity

Many of the best scenes in FYOV feature Rudd(one of my favs is his complaint to the supervisor about her choice of Michael McDonald as the video Musak of the store)and he nearly steals the show at times. It was to select one actor from Batman Begins but Cillian's performance was a stand-out(also loved the way he said"The Bat-man!"). The winner here would be Alan Tudyk,mainly for his"I am a leaf on the wind" mantra.


Brenda Blethyn/Pride and Prejudice

Francine Beers/In Her Shoes

Jaime King/Sin City

Elizabeth Banks/The Baxter

Yuen Qiu/Kung Fu Hustle

I did get to finally see the new version of Pride & Prejudice this week and while I enjoyed Keira's Elizabeth Bennet,Blethyn's Mrs Bennet was very well done indeed. Beer's Mrs. Lefkowitz in In Her Shoes has Sophia Petrillo beat for giving old school sass and advice. My ultimate winner would be Yuen Qiu as one of the toughest landladies aroung in Kung Fu Hustle-her acceptance speech alone would be worth it!


and the nominees are....






Atleast with these picks,most folk have heard,if not seen most of them. Not that being popular or having a high box office gross means quality but with these films,most critics gave them just as much praise as films like Brokeback or Capote. Hard to chose from amongst them but the award would go to Sin City-it was a groundbreaking film on many levels and Robert Rodriguez may be scorned for his insistence on sharing credit with Frank Miller by the Director's Guild but many others will see him as the generous artist that he is.

Well,that's my take on it-I'll be watching the real deal later on,with a bowl of popcorn and my ballot on hand to capture all of the hijinks. Hopefully,that one moment of unexpectedness that longtime Oscar watchers wait for will occur,be it a truly horridable choice of dress or a dark horse candidate being called forward to accept a golden guy,because that makes all the hoopla worth it,atleast for me.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

NYC ComicCon Recap

At last,I get to talk about the ComicCon last Saturday-Little Sister was amazed at how big the Javits was(she took all the pictures posted here,btw and I thank her most kindly for her assistence)and it was a miracle that we actually managed to stay together with the major mob scene action all around us. Yes,it was crowded-how crowded was it? You could find more elbow room in a can of sardines,for starters. Part of the probelm was in getting into the main display room-the two escalators right up front were set aside for "exhibitors only" use and for anyone else to enter,you had to walk over to the other side of the building and stand on a line that went in via a roundabout fashion. The bottlenecking alone caused many delays(not to mention that we missed the Kevin Smith signing due to a twenty minute wait to reenter).

Despite the hassles,we did have fun. The highlight of the show for us was a talk given by Patrick McDonnell,the creator of Mutts and his website team. Patrick's not a computer guy so he was lucky to have one of his neighbors,Rich Mansfield, convince him that a website would be a good idea. Patrick talked about the goals of both his strip and the website,which has many links to his favorite causes and upcmoing projects,like his new kid's book ART(due out in the spring).

Seems that Patrick recieved a four children's book deal from Time Warner(which gives me renewed hope for children's picture books-this is the kind of person who should be encouraged here,not Madonna or some sitcom star recycling a stand-up routine)and The Gift of Nothing,released last fall,was the first one. Mutts merchandise is sold at the website and the group assembled where shown a preview of a set of Mutts figurines(Earl,Mooch,Guard Dog and Stinky)that'll be available for ordering soon. Patrick confessed to being a bit"Bill Watterson" about having Mutts items at first but they are made with natural materials and a portion of the profits are donated to various animal protection charities. You can even get a Lil' Pink Sock catnip toy for your kitty!

I've met Patrick before at the last BEA I went to and he was just as nice then as he was now. Also,his website staff was very sweet(I particularly appreciated two of the ladies pointing out Little Sister,who was trying hard to ask her questions about getting a strip syndicated,to Patrick during the Q&A/Drawing session). Due to the hectic scene on the main floor,Patrick signed books after the talk right in the conference room before making his way thru to the King Features booth. If you want to check out the Mutts site,just click the link in the title above.

As for the rest of the show,my sister did get to meet Kane and have a See No Evil poster signed. I wound up buying a signed DVD of "Jay and Silent Bob Do DeGrassi:the Next Generation"(hey,it was one I didn't already have,plus I like DeGrassi:TNG)and increasing my Buffy collection with a Palz Angel figure and a Sideshow Collectible Subway Spike. There was a Sideshow one eyed Xander but I'm more of a villian fangirl.

Hopefully,the next ComicCon will not be so crammed and we'll get to see and do more. The best thing about it was the fanlove;folks who truly enjoy the art of comics and animation sharing space and some good times. We need more of that kind of bonding in this world and fandoms need to do more than be seen as the gathering of outsiders. There were people from all walks of life and ages,which proves that art doesn't have to be just for museums but can be appreciated anywhere,even in your friendly neighbohood comic book store.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Following Goodman's Intuition

Thanks to BookReporter.com's One To Watch feature,I've been spending most of this week reading Allegra Goodman's new novel,Intuition. This is the first book of hers that I have ever read(did own Kaaterskill Falls for awhile but never got around to it and eventually donated my copy to the local thrift shop)and now I'm wondering what took me so damn long to introduce myself to her world of words.

Intuition's plot is centered around a cancer research lab run by the charismatic Sandy Glass(I keep picturing Phillip Seymour Hoffman in my head when I get to his character)and Marion Mendelssohn,the Felix to his Oscar Madison. When one of their postdoctoral students,Cliff,turns a seemingly failed experiment into an overnight success,Sandy is more than ready to publicize the findings while Marion(despite her natural cautiousness)goes along for the ride.

Much needed funds and professional status due to the project become jeopardized when Cliff's ex-girlfriend and lab partner,Robin,starts to question Cliff's results and begins to find evidence that contradicts his findings. If this sounds like a dry medical thriller,think again. This is very much a family drama,with no white hat/black hat characters or pat solutions,rather all too real people caught up inside their professional lives so much that the smallest thing could cause that realm to shatter apart and affect more than just themselves.

The staff of the Philpott Institute are as entwined as any other clan and react like siblings when the tide starts to turn for the favored or not so favored child. Goodman doesn't shortchange any of the supporting characters in terms of depth and story arc;one of my favorite people in this book is Feng,the quirky tech who becomes the media focus of the experiment publicity mill,much to Cliff's disappointment. Feng is one of those quiet yet intregal people who seem to blend into the background but are the first to be called upon when the chips are down.

Intuition is already gathering critical praise as I write this but don't put it in the Overhype catagory just yet;try it for yourself and if it's the first time for you as it is for me to read Allegra Goodman,don't be too hard on yourself. Just be glad you met up with her in the nick of time as she's at her very best.