Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
especially welcome to extensive readers

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Catching up on classics the miniseries way

Arriving this week in my mailbox,courtesy of Netflix,is The Buccaneers,a BBC miniseries from 1995 which aired on Masterpiece Theater as well. It's based on an unfinished novel by Edith Wharton and tells the tale of four young American women(one of whom is played by Mira Sorvino)husband hunting in Europe during the 1870s.

This is prime Wharton material and I'm glad to be seeing this,especially since it will give me an idea of what the book is like. Yes,even tho I am an admirer of Edith Wharton(except for Ethan Frome-way too depressing),I haven't yet read The Buccaneers. There is some advantage to that;for one thing,the twists and turns of the plot will be a true surprise to me. As much as I love seeing how books I've read before come to life on screen,it's also fun to discover something new from the realm of classic lit this way:

And I must confess that this is not the only miniseries adaptation of a book that I have yet to read. It's not for lack of trying,believe you me-somehow,certain classic novels are able to catch my eye better as a made for TV movie than on the printed page.

Some of that is due to the excellence of the screenplay translation. Andrew Davies,who is the master of this genre,did the script for Wives & Daughters,based on another unfinished novel written this time by Elizabeth Gaskell.

It's a multi-character story that centers around Molly Gibson(Justine Waddell),the daughter of the local doctor whose remarriage to a flighty former governess of the neighborhood nobility brings alot of extra drama to town. The cast is a merry mix of fresh new faces and old school performers who make this series compelling and charming all at once :

Davies also put his hand into the telling of The Way We Live Now,which is from a completed title from the works of Anthony Trollope. The plot focuses on the arrival of a newly made financier named Melmotte(David Suchet) in 1870s London,whose influence is sort after by all kinds of dubious society folk and ultimately leads to their mutual ruin. Sort of the Victorian version of the Bernie Madoff story.

Other soap opera elements crop up such as the unexpected arrival of a former fiancee from America(Miranda Otto) that mucks up the romantic plans of Paul Montague(Cillian Murphy),an ambitious young man hoping to do well enough by Melmotte's latest venture in order to be with the woman he truly loves:

I'm starting to think this is all about Andrew Davies,since the next item on my list here is Thackeray's Vanity Fair which was shown on A&E back in 1998. Yes, Davies is once again the man accredited with the screenplay.

However,I've also seen the big screen version of this story starring Reese Witherspoon made in '04 and own the DVD as well but haven't gotten too far with the actual novel itself. I must try again at some point,since Becky Sharp is too delightfully wicked to be ignored:

Since The Buccaneers is not from a Davies adapted script,the cycle can be broken. However,I can't really blame him for my lack of literary concentration. Perhaps it's just that not every classic author on the shelves are meant to be in my mental library. After all,the saying "so many books,so little time" has held on there for a reason.

Don't get me wrong,I'm not throwing in the towel just yet. The best solution is to take things as they come and get to those books in my own sweet time. In the meanwhile,there's plenty of new miniseries on the horizon for next year such as a brand new take on Jane Austen's Emma.

While it may not live up to my favorite version of the book(yes,it's the Andrew Davies one-I am such a fangirl),it'll be worthwhile,if not familiar viewing. Then again,this upcoming adaptation may be an eye opener to others the way The Buccaneers will be to me. Only one way to find out,folks-join me,won't you?:

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The art of the remix never dies

One of the recent pop culture highlights in Entertainment Weekly's last issue was for a YouTube clip called "At Merlotte's",which reedits some of the scenes from season two of True Blood and adds a laugh track to turn it into a sitcom.

Naturally as a fan of the show,I had to check this out. Interestingly enough,the star of "At Merlotte's" is not Sookie(altho she does make an appearance towards the end). The leading lady here is Arlene(Carrie Preston)and the focus of the plot is on her blossoming romance with Terry(Gilmore Girls alum Todd Lowe),which is one of the kooky charming parts of True Blood in it's regular form. A cute concept that's nicely done:

This isn't the only re-imagining of a popular vampire series via video,of course. Whether you either hate Twilight and worship Buffy the Vampire Slayer or vice versa,the clever editing of this "Buffy vs. Edward" is to be admired. As someone who enjoys both of these teen vamp sagas,I find it helps to have a good sense of humor about this:

While it may seem like this video remix craze is a flashy new item borne out of the internet,the roots of this parody genre have a very firm rooting in the field of comedy over the decades.

It's been used to make entire movies,such as Steve Martin's 1982 film noir spoof Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid. Martin,along with Rachel Ward and Carl Reiner,go thru a goofy 1940's style detective movie plot that was intercut with clips from various vintage films of that time period such as Double Indemnity,The Big Sleep and White Heat.

The results were mixed,to say the least but playing "spot the scene" is kind of fun and Martin's elaborate maneuvers to adapt his silly story line into the classic clips is admirable:

Some of the earlier attempts at movie remixing went the simplest route,such as the soundtrack. Woody Allen made his directorial debut in Hollywood with What's Up,Tiger Lily? back in 1966 and all he really did was throw out the original soundtrack of a couple of Japanese spy films and used a new one with all new dialogue to form an entirely different plot line.

To be fair,he did also do some rearranging of the sequence of the scenes and a few other editing tricks that were ground breaking for it's day. The movie is now considered a classic,but modern audiences might do a bit of eyebrow raising at some of the stereotypical jokes made at the expense of the Asian actors here:

The best jokes,however,can come from trying not to be funny in the first place. Ed Wood,Jr. is the reigning champion of this genre. His usage of stock footage to pad out such clunkers as Bride of the Monster was never meant to be noticed by film goers but it was as painfully obvious as the lumbering presence of Tor Johnson at any given moment.

Nonetheless,those bits of hastily added film serve as a rich spice to Wood's style of overblown movie making. Many of his fans love those bad edits and seek to emulate that Woodian brand of awful editing and clueless about the quality story telling:

So it looks as if the video remix is here to stay and perhaps that may be a good thing for pop culture parody. It certainly does give a platform for folks to test out their technical skills and even stretch their creative wings to bring us a whole other outlook at well loved TV and films that we would've never thought of before. If done right,these little slices of satire could become as beloved as your favorite romantic comedy-we'll just have to keep on watching:

Monday, September 28, 2009

And now for our fabulous Fat Cat giveaway!

I'm happy to announce the beginning of yet another book giveaway here at LRG,especially for such a great book as Robin Brande's second novel for teens,Fat Cat. Not only will this be one of the longest contests ever held at this blog,it will have five winners who will receive a specially made bonus with their book.

Before I get into that,let me tell you about this wonderful book. It's the story of Kat Locke,a brilliant high school student who has personal as well as intellectual motivation to come up with a topic for her AP science project that will not only win the annual science fair but show her former friend and imagined enemy Matt McKinney that she can beat him at his own game.

Kat's experiment uses her as the guinea pig for a radical lifestyle change;she takes on the habits of hominads(cave people,in layman's terms)by giving up such things as make up, TV and junk food and limiting her use of modern technology(computers,cell phones,riding around in cars).

All of the exercise from walking everywhere and eating more of a vegetarian menu causes her to lose some extra weight and make Kat more attractive to guys,which launches another experiment that may lead to some interesting revelations about her and Matt and what really happened that caused the break between them.

Another positive result of Kat's experiment is her taking up old interests that she abandoned after the situation with Matt like cooking. Kat becomes a pretty great chef,so much so that she's recruited by her best friend(and budding poet)Amanda to take over the kitchen at the Karmic Cafe,a vegan restaurant with the good taste to hold open mike nights for local poets but bad tasting dishes.

As part of your Fat Cat prize package,you will get a "Karmic Cafe" T shirt along with your signed copy of the book(winners will be asked to provide their shirt sizes upon e-mail notification of their prize). Hopefully,the photo on the right hand side here gives you a good idea of what the shirt looks like(it's my own Karmic Cafe shirt which I'm wearing right now).

The Fat Cat Giveaway starts today and ends on October 6,with this contest being open to both U.S. and Canadian residents. All you have to do to enter is just leave a comment at this post,naming your favorite fictional scientist. Since science plays an important part in Robin's work,I thought that it would be the most fitting theme.

"Uh,Lady T,that's kind of hard,isn't it?" Not really,folks. Turns out there are scientists all around us in pop culture land,both heroes and villains alike. They're not just in sci-fi books or film(which you can chose from,of course)but in other ends of the entertainment spectrum.

For example,most of the crime fighting shows these days have a team of crack experts ready to use chemical analysis and technical details to catch the bad guys. One of the best is Bones,based on Kathy Reich's series of mystery novels featuring forensic anthropologist Temperance "Bones" Brennan.

Dr. Brennan(played by Emily Deschanel)and her super smart staff work with FBI agent Booth(David Boreanaz)to solve unusual murders but it's the connection between Booth and Brennan that makes their professional(and potentially personal)partnership work:

Another odd couple pairing on the crime scene is the brother act in Numb3rs,where Special FBI agent Don Eppes (Rob Morrow)often relies upon the off the wall but accurate insights of his genius mathematician sibling Charlie(David Krumholtz)in hunting down potential threats to society:

If you look to silver screen,there are plenty of savvy scientists to choose from such as Contact,where Jodie Foster's determined astronomer puts herself on the line to make possible mankind's first contact with extraterrestrial life:

Scientists have a sense of humor,too as 1985's Real Genius shows,with it's amusing arrogant Chris Knight,who never fails to make a memorable,if not always appropriate impression on others:

My favorites,I must admit,are the villains,those builders of death rays and manipulators of biology who scheme to rule the world or at least a part of it. Tops on my list is Dr. Pretorius from The Bride of Frankenstein. Played by the delightfully wicked Ernest Thesiger,this charmingly ruthless mentor is one of the best elements of the film and my only weakness when watching it again and again:

All right then,let's get this party started,shall we? I look forward to seeing your picks for favorite fictional scientists(yes, Dr. Horrible counts)and to announcing our five fabulous winners as well. Good luck to one and all and hopefully this contest gives you something to celebrate,one way or another:

Friday, September 25, 2009

Revive your love of reading during Banned Books Week '09

With the advent of autumn comes the promise of falling leaves,sweater weather and Banned Books Week,that yearly reminder of the need to protect the right to read freely. If you have any doubts regarding the relevancy of it in these "modern times",there's a certain Google map out there you might want to look at.

Banned Books Week starts tomorrow and this year,I thought it would be more mentally healthy to take an out of the box approach in honoring this celebration of reading freely. Instead of focusing on books that are the targets of censorship, why not highlight those which deal with the reason many of us care about this issue in the first place-the love of reading.

So,here are a few suggestions from the LRG reader's circle in both fiction and nonfiction for books that embrace the inner lives of readers and give their bibliophile based fantasies a meadow to run free in:


This debut novel has a book lover as it's leading lady;Margaret Lea grew up in and around her father's antiquarian bookshop and took it over as an adult while pursuing a career as a biographer. One day,an unbelievable opportunity comes her way-Vida Winter,a renowned and reclusive writer who has often told tall tales about her past,want Margaret to visit her home to hear her true life story.

Margaret does go to Vida and while the bizarre details related to her are strange enough to be real,Margaret decides to do some private investigating on her own. What she finds out is worthy of a gothic novel mixed with the emotional depth that only reality can bring. The flavor of this story is suitable for those who adore the likes of Jane Eyre,Wuthering Heights or any of Daphne Du Maurier's works. It's both a tribute to that style of writing and an original take on the genre.


Zafron's story,set in post WWII Barcelona,paints a thrilling romantic portrait of book love as a young man is taken by his father to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and allowed to chose one for himself. The book that he selects turns out to be by a mysterious author whose works are being hunted down by a determined enemy who plans to destroy every copy he can get his hands on.

Reading this book is like falling into an old school glossy b&w film noir,with all of the rich atmosphere and the delightful characters that those movies excelled in. Think of it as Literary Noir.


Masha Hamilton creates a multi-character novel based on the real life efforts to spread literacy in remote areas of the world such as Africa and Somalia with this tale of a traveling library and it's impact upon the woman who runs it along with the rural community of one village on her route.

The Camel Bookmobile deals not only with the struggles of people seeking to understand one another's way of life and changes that intensify the teetering balance between traditionalism and modernization,it also shows how just having a chance to read any book can make a difference in someone's life:


This amazing hybrid series of books that have as it's star a female detective named Thursday Next,who solves crimes against literature in an alternate universe where people have street brawls over who really wrote Shakespeare's plays is the ultimate catnip for book lovers.

If you've never read any of these books,it's best to start with the first one,The Eyre Affair,which does have Jane Eyre herself as a kidnapping victim and Rochester joining forces with Thursday to rescue her. This is an elaborate world filled with tons of literary references and tidy British humor that only adds to the fun and the folly on the pages:


There are numerous novels about book clubs of all sorts,but I still find this one to be the best and not just because it holds Jane Austen in such high regard. Karen Joy Fowler lets her characters really talk about the books themselves and shows how each person's preference for a certain title reflects on their personality and personal dilemmas in life with a subtle flair.

Also,The Jane Austen Book Club achieved another rare feat in this day and techno age;the big screen adaptation is just as satisfying as the book. Talk about a hat trick there,folks!:

And now for the nonfiction:


Sara Nelson had this book on the shelves before she was tapped to be the Editor in Chief for Publisher's Weekly,a position she no longer holds. After reading her account of the books in her life for one year,you'll see just how much of a real loss to the magazine and it's subscribers her not being there any more is.

Sara is the kind of book buddy who you wish that you could call up to discuss the current bestsellers and the latest trends(which may or may not be worth following). Some of her topics include rereading a book from your youth and getting a much different take on it,the frustrations of getting sucked into a book slump and whether or not giving out reading suggestions to friends is a good idea. A great book to have on hand when you need to be reassured about your own reading habits and quirks.


Speaking of quirks,the Pulpwood Queens have them in abundance and are eager and ready to share with all and sundry. Kathy Patrick,the founder of the group and owner of Beauty and the Book(a beauty salon/book store)in East Texas,talks about how it came to be that her small band of book lovers turned into a national reading group sensation.

The book is filled with tons of recommendations and chock full of down to earth delight about the joys of reading:


This charming collection of essays covers such literary controversies like the task of merging two personal libraries into one and the difference between courtly and carnal love of books(a courtly person,for example,would never even think of writing in the margins or bending a page corner as a place marker).

Fadiman grew up in a literary household(she used to play with her father's set of Trollope novels as building blocks when she was a child)and that love of books which follows her thru life truly seems to be in her blood. Ex Libris captures that quaint tone of old fashioned book lore without seeming to be out of date.


For those who loved 84,Charing Cross Road,the book and film which chronicled the overseas correspondence of plucky NYC writer Helen Hanff and the folks at Marks and Co,an antiquarian book store in London,this memoir is a must have.

Helene talks about how she discovered the works of Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch(known as Q)while completing her own education sans college during the Depression and the path she went down towards creating the book that gave her a brief shot of fame.

Helene also recounts the many letters and meetings with fans of 84,CCR,along with attending theatrical adaptations(on stage and BBC television)of the book as well. Afraid there's no mention of the film here but I'm sure that Helene endorsed it wholeheartedly:


This user friendly look at the world of book collecting starts off with a quest for a copy of War and Peace as the perfect birthday gift that leads the Goldstones into enhancing their mutual love of books by creating their own personal library of collectible favorites,along with picking up a wealth of knowledge about rare books themselves.

Used and Rare is the first of three book collecting memoirs by the Goldstones(the other titles are Slightly Chipped and Warmly Inscribed)and it's been compared to A Year In Provence,a book I haven't read but hopefully it's as good as this wonderful romp thru rare books that are not as out of reach as you might think.

Larry and Nancy are delightful guides to this realm of book lore and their descriptions of the books and authors they most adore make you want to run out and improve your own home library.

Banned Books Week is from September 26 to October 3 and no matter how you celebrate it,the freedom to read is something to cherish. While book banning is a serious subject,it doesn't hurt to spread the word about it with a smile:

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Top Chef breaks it down,Heroes seek Redemption and Mad Men's office party massacre

For the Quickfire Challenge on Top Chef this week,the chefs were asked to make a duet of dishes to represent the "angel" and the "devil" of their natures. Robin,whose cancer treatments have made her more selective about the foods she can eat,won immunity with a apple fennel salad that was paired up with a cardamom and ginger apple crisp.

There's a lot of resentment towards Robin and I really don't get it. True,she's had some bad dishes but so have plenty of the others. Also,what Eli said about her win in the aside interview was terrible(apparently,he's apologized but that was still totally uncalled for).

The Elimination Challenge was to make a "deconstructed" classic dish for guest judge Michelle Bernstein and the team of Penn and Teller(who did one of their show and tell magic tricks for the group). Toby Young returned,sitting in for Judge Gail,which made everyone extra special nervous. The dish selection was chosen by knife pull and the plates had to be served up in pairs.

Jennifer had meat lasagna and she was freaking out throughout the whole service,convinced that her dish was a dud. Turns out all the worrying was for naught,since the judges chose her as one of the Top Four this round. Padma particularly loved the cheesy crust that Jennifer achieved for the top of her flat iron steak with mascarpone bechamel sauce and parmesan crisp.

Ashley joined her in the winner's circle with her take on pot roast that had Michelle Bernstein swooning about the meat. I was a little anxious about the dish during prep because Ashley had said while she liked the flavor of pot roast,she wasn't crazy about the texture.

Even Michelle Bernstein mentioned that it wasn't her type of food but she liked it here. No offense to the vegans out there,but who doesn't love a good pot roast? I know I do!

One of the Voltaggio brothers was up for the win but Kevin took the top honors for his breakdown of chicken mole negro. He was tense about it( a lot of shaky nerves this round)since it was similar to what he had made for the last challenge that didn't go over well. Kevin was given a set of cookware as his prize,pretty sweet.

Two of the three chefs on the bottom had dishes that are British favorites,so Toby Young was keenly critical of them. Ash's remix of shepard's pie lacked any potato(his potato and parsnip puree was gummy so he substituted pea puree instead)which is a major component of the plate. Also,his lamb chops were either over or undercooked. Consistency is key here,folks.

Laurine's fish and chips had very few chips due to her screwing up most of them and not a great fish to boot. She was not shy about expressing her discomfort with making deconstructed food which,as the judges pointed out,showed up on the plate.

Ron was the one to go,for his seafood paella that wasn't really deconstructed. He might have been spared if his rice and fish were not overcooked but alas,they both were. He took it well and best of luck to him. I think the guy was just overwhelmed by this challenge but he chose to make this experience a positive one.

Next week,Mikey I has to team up with Robin for the Elimination and he's not too thrilled about that or the ingredients they have to work with. This dislike of Robin is putting a bad taste in my mouth and either they come up with a good reason why or let it go:

Heroes started off season five with Clare going to college,Peter working overtime and then some as an EMT in NYC and Noah Bennet trying to make peace with a revived Tracy,whose water powers have increased tenfold.

In addition to that,Mama Petrelli is worried about Sylar breaking out of the Nathan shell that Matt put him in(one of the worst ideas ever!)with the added bonus of Sylar becoming Matt's personal Freddy Kruger who shows up even when he's awake.

The new Big Bads on the block are a group of super powered carny folk led by Samuel(Robert Knepper)who is determined to have the likes of Peter,Sylar and Hiro join his ranks. He's already started with Hiro,encouraging him to tamper with fate via time travel and an emissary of his(Ray Park,who played Toad in the first X Men movie) had a deadly encounter with Peter and Noah Bennet over a mysterious compass:

The title of this new chapter of the Heroes saga is "Redemption"and while most of the characters here won't be achieving that any time soon,there are some interesting plot lines set up to keep me interested for awhile. One of them is the mystery regarding the untimely demise of Claire's roommate(who was the most annoying roomie since that demon girl Buffy shared space with in Season Four)and what the carnival crew is really up to. Should be worth watching:

Mad Men had quite a show stopper this Sunday as Joan's going away party at the office took a gruesome turn for the worse. While the Sterling Cooper crowd was drowning their sorrows over their British bosses paying a visit that didn't bode well,Lois took a ride on that John Deere tractor that ended in a mini bloodbath. If this show wasn't fast becoming a TV legend,this scene alone would have surely done the trick:

Joan proved herself extremely useful in a life or death crisis and hopefully,the higher ups at Sterling Cooper do more for her than just dry clean her dress. No doubt that she will somehow still be part of this show but I just hope they won't make us wait long. She and Don shared an oddly nice moment,which was lovely to see and make you wonder what might've been if those two had hooked up romantically:


EMMY SURPRISE: The only thing that I regret about not watching the Emmy awards on Sunday was this "unexpected" on-air invasion by Dr. Horrible and friends. Thank goodness for the marvelous internet for catching up on such goodies as this:

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Browsing thru book trailers

One of the many benefits of internet promotion,in my humble opinion is the advancement of the book trailer. While various other pop culture products were easily showcased via the visual medium,books just didn't seem to translate very well.

Most of the advertising was print based,which does make sense but also limited the target audience quite a bit there(not to mention discouraging any interested newcomers from finding out more about certain titles).

TV ads have featured the likes of James Patterson and Nora Roberts over the past couple of decades but in a rather stiff fashion at best. Granted,that was at least an improvement over the ones around during my youth for those never ending series of Time Life books:

Fortunately these days,publishers and authors have been given a more direct and creative format to promote upcoming titles that online booksellers and bloggers like me are happy to use for the mutual benefit of all concerned. Book trailers are still in their toddler years at this point but are fast becoming a major driving force in the industry and to the reading public at large. Let's take a quick look over the various standard molds that have been set so far:


This one is pretty self explanatory;you have either the author or one of his/her associates(fellow writer,editor or fan)speak to the camera about why you should check out their new book. James Ellroy takes this tact for his soon to be released novel Blood's a Rover(which I am still slowly reading)and Ellroy's offbeat personality gives you a true sense of what his inner world is like:

Testimonials can also be helpful to projects where some doubts may arise about it's possible success or reception by longtime fans.

For example,Eoin Colfer,best known for the Artemis Fowl children's fantasy series,has been tapped as the author for several new Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy titles and his "first" one,And Another Thing...will be out in October. Many of the fans of the original Douglas Adams books will most likely be less than thrilled about someone else taking up the wacky mantle here.

While Colfer does have a direct testimonal video,there is also a clip from the San Diego Comic Con held this past June that has Buffy alum Amber Benson expressing great interest in the new Hitchhiker's book. That's a smart move,since Amber is a huge fan favorite and clearly an authentic admirer of the Adams series as well:


These trailers range from mini movies(such as the infamously funny one for the newest Quirk Classic) to straightforward teaser material that attempts to reel in readers with it's snazzy F/X and stylish tones.

One of the best marketers of her work is Chelsea Cain,whose Gretchen Lowell thrillers have taken off on the bestseller lists due in part not only to her great writing but the sinister vignettes produced for the first two titles,Heartsick andSweetheart.

The one for her third in the series,Evil at Heart,combines some of the elements from the earlier videos(a gruesome Greatest Hits,if you will) and blends in some chilling new hints for this current terror tale:


For books with historical content,a glimpse into the background hosted by the author has been the norm. I've mostly seen this with historical fiction but surely nonfiction titles have gone down this road as well.

These are often accompanied by tours of the places where the action of the book is set,along with relevant photos and other timely documents. It does create interest in both the work and the author;I started reading Robert Hick's Widow of the South after checking out his video for A Separate Country(a double review for both is coming soon;watch this space):

You can also get a sense of what personally motivated the writer to pursue that certain section of history as the focal point of their work. Shandi Mitchell was intrigued to know more about the truth regarding the death of her grandfather that lead to the plot of her first novel,Under This Unbroken Sky.

It's interesting to see how a casual inquiry into your family tree can lead one person into getting an account at Ancestry.com and take another down the path towards writing a whole book based on that initial spark of interest:


Some folks just can't wait for an official trailer to talk about a new book that they want to share with others. Thanks to YouTube,a number of homemade videos have sprouted up with either carefully edited footage or mini sketches performed by family and friends to help spread the good word for upcoming titles.

The ladies at Smart Bitches,Trashy Books proved their cleverness yet again by holding a contest for fans to make their own trailers for their book Beyond Heaving Bosoms. Many great videos were made and voted on and while I enjoyed the winning entry immensely,I do have a soft spot for this Romancelandia protest skit(the best line comes from a multiple amnesia sufferer-"I don't know why I'm here but I'm very angry!"):

Even with all of the debate about fancy new gadgets like the Kindle and other E-readers taking over the marketplace,it's nice to see that some technological wonders can be helpful in promoting the old fashioned,always user friendly tangible book.

This is not only a boon to the big leagues but can be a great blessing to the smaller press and indie titles looking for their place in the sun and on bookshelves. Of course having a few friends and family of the author slip that special book into key sections of their local bookstore has it's benefits as well. Just keep in mind that today's grassroots campaigns are waged online and offline with excellent results:

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

How hot will vampires stay in the pop culture spotlight?

Now that True Blood is gone until next year,I've been giving The Vampire Diaries a chance to ensnare my vampire fangirl blood lust and while it's not quite as toothsome,it'll do for some nosferatu nighttime noshing(pardon the bad puns,cheesy shows like this just bring them out in me,like hives).

I must admit that the villain of the piece is well cast: Ian Somerhalder,who plays bad brother Damon to Paul Wesley's struggling to be good bloodsucker boy,is quite the charmer. He really brings a delightful sense of menace and dark humor to the role without too much hammery so far and makes an excellent instigator for those slightly subtle social encounters that pop up when least expected:

Between the Vampire Diaries and the upcoming release of New Moon,the second book in the Twilight saga,it looks as if those creatures of the night are here to stay for a good long while. As much as that prospect thrills me,I do have some lingering worries about overexposure of the genre leading to another early demise for our fanged friends.

I think even the folks behind the Twilight movies might be a little worried about that,too,since the latest trailer makes damn sure to highlight the vamps over the werewolves(particularly the Volturi,a set of vicious Euro vampires who are considered the ultimate authority and keeper of the underworld laws). Don't get me wrong,it does appear as if the plot lines are in sync with the book but one can see why it may look like the weres might be getting shortchanged here:

It might be a little more reassuring if we had more word about vampires meant for grown-ups other than True Blood. There's been talk of adapting such novels as John Marks' Fangland and Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian for the big screen but not a lot of filming going on at the moment.

That,to me,is a shame since it is a frequent media tendency to cater to what is considered the target audience(i.e.the one spending the big bucks to consume most of the ghoulish goods)and ignore those are just as excited about the genre but not as young.

Come on,guys,think with the blinders off there. The Harry Potter fandom thrives on fans in nearly all age groups and it's not that much different with the vampire crowd,trust me on this one. True Blood shows that vamp lore is not just kid stuff and a good chunk of the Twilight followers are over the legal drinking age,only they like their bloodsuckers on the lighter side of the scarescope.

Well,with any luck,the vampire craze will get better instead of worse as things go on. Just stay alert for the signs of the beginning of the end such as cutesy kid vamps,toothless parodies and the true signal of despair,the vampire musical. Some great things just don't go together,like peanut butter and motor oil,and such it is with singing vampires:

Monday, September 21, 2009

The follies of recreating Fame

As Dennis Miller would say,I don't want to go off on a rant here but has Hollywood become allergic to original concepts the past few years? If it's not a video game,TV show or a remake,a fresh new screenplay doesn't seem to have a snowball's chance in hell of getting green lit.

The ones that do and yet don't fall into one of those three categories are chock full of rehashed cliches and clumsy dialogue familiar to anyone who's watched more than a week's worth of Nick at Nite reruns-perhaps,that's the show business way of going "green".

I don't mean to be so grumpy but this week,the needless remake of "Fame" opens up and it's irking me a little. I remember seeing the original decades ago and it made quite an impact on me.

The idea of a school where you could pursue your artistic ambitions particularly full time was magical to me and part of the appeal of the whole film was the down to earth tone taken with the multiple story lines as we followed Coco,Ray,Doris and many of the other supporting players thru a four year education in art and life.

While I'm sure that this new version has plenty of talented young people on board(along with the likes of Kelsey Grammer,Charles Dutton and Bebe Neuwirth as their teachers),the overall look and feel of the movie has such a glossy coating that any nuances in plot and character may be easily lost by the blinding "High School Musical" energy poured all over it. That's the impression I get from the trailer,at least:



Part of the difference in style may be due to the director;Alan Parker manned the helm for the first Fame and he's always kept to a realistic tone when it comes to his films.

His other well known look at young people trying to make their mark in show business,The Commitments, is pretty much in sync with Fame with it's working class vibes and cast members who look a lot more like your friends and neighbors than a group of kids waiting to audition for the CW:

That type of film making was still in vogue in 1980,when Fame first appeared in theaters. Those realistic,almost documentary feel to mainstream films were the fashion by the mid 1970s,thanks to folks like Mark Rydell with his fictional wink and nod to Janis Joplin's legacy,The Rose and Robert Altman with Nashville.

Speaking of Nashville(a movie I must confess to having not seen),another big tribute to the performing arts that also showed up in 1980 with similar earthy tones was Coal Miner's Daughter,the Loretta Lynn biopic(which I not only saw but read the book as well).

Michael Apted,another Seventies from the arthouse to the big studio leagues director,was the man behind the curtain here and his tendencies toward a more natural approach to visual story telling definitely enhanced this film which earned Sissy Spacek a well deserved Best Actress Oscar:

Some might think that such back to basics film making is strictly old school and wouldn't click with today's audiences but I have my doubts about that.

A good example is the 2006 movie Once,that received both critical acclaim and a strong fan following,not to mention scoring a win for Best Song at the Academy Awards over the trifecta of songs from Enchanted(still wish "That's How You'll Know" got the nod but I can't resent such a sweet little number from getting it's kudos here):

What I'm ultimately trying to say here is that while some gloss and glitter is fine and in some cases,necessary for a show biz saga,the same broad stroke of the brush doesn't apply to all of them.

It would be great to see both on film and in Hollywood in general the goal that places like the Performing School of the Arts works hard to give it's students;helping promising young entertainers to showcase their talents in material that is as fresh and new as themselves,along side some classical influences from the past. That would be worth singing the body electric about,at the multiplex and elsewhere: