Wednesday, June 30, 2010
We interrupt this pop culture news feed for a breaking personal story; Awhile ago,it was announced at the literary website Galleycat would be holding "The World's Longest Literary Remix" contest,that would give interested folks a crack at rewriting a page from a forgotten work of Horatio Alger,called Joe's Luck or Always Wide Awake,in any manner or style that they chose.
The point of this was to create a college of creativity that ultimately result in a special e-book version of this public domain title,not to mention a number of prizes for several participants including a nifty little gift pack from the folks at Quirk Classics. Eager to seek a new writing challenge, I threw my hat into the ring and got more than I bargained.
Some of you out there may be saying at this point"That's nice for you,Lady T,but who the heck's Horatio Alger?" Well,to sum it up in short,Horatio Alger was an American author from the 19th century who was best known for writing pulp fiction novels aimed at a young male audience.
He's credited with bringing about the rags to riches genre in American writing,aka "poor boy makes good in the world" that influenced the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Hunter S. Thompson. You can also count the films of Frank Capra in there as well,in my opinion.
Alger's work was mostly over the top in terms of story telling and became unknown to mainstream audiences as the decades passed but his literary legacy managed to leave an indelible mark on the pop culture scene,nonetheless:
That dime store novel vibe made Joe's Luck a good pick for Galleycat readers to work their imaginative wiles upon. Interested parties were given a link to an online edition of the book to read and request a section from the story to rewrite.
Most of the contestants had only one page to work with and there were plenty of interesting concepts played out within those boundaries. One person had a Willy Wonka tone to his piece and another used the Wizard of Oz as her muse. One of my favorites was the "What Would James Ellroy Do?" page that gave a neat L. A. Confidential twist to the proceedings:
As for me,I was given a whole chapter. The section of the book that sparked my imagination is the third chapter titled "The Soiled Suit." The hero of the book,Joe,is offered by his clueless employer Major Norton a set of ruined clothes from his son's wardrobe(said son hates Joe,mainly because even while walking around in rags,Joe still has the prettiest girl in town by his side).
Joe refuses to accept the suit,due to it being too small for him and covered in acid stains as well. This had me picturing a certain time traveling phone booth entering the scene,containing a band of futuristic reality show fashionistas looking for a suitable subject to comment on while being on camera. Here's a little excerpt to give you an idea of our intrepid show biz stylists in action:
*PAUSE-both Joe and the Major are frozen in place, as the stylish stranger points and activates his device, then turns to knock on the booth door and gestures to someone still inside.
Several someones are inside and make their way out into the room, including a small hovering orb whose use is to be a video recorder of the events.
The other occupants of the booth include a rather masculine featured woman clad in a hugely adorned blonde wig while wearing a dress of shiny gold that has tiny flashing lights on the bodice which extend to her short ruffled skirt, a clear glass jar holding a shriveled patchwork brain rolled out on a self moving cart and a robotic hand, also hovering unsupported, carrying an oversized version of a traditional lady’s perfume atomizer.
The gentleman who first appeared adjusts the microphone stem attached to the wire rim glasses implanted on either side of his head and taps a button on the incredibly small panel soldered to the shiny plate of metal that makes up his jaw. He appears to receive the response he desires and takes his place in front of the recording orb. He then begins to speak:
“Hello, everyone and welcome to another fabulous episode of Timeless Fashion, the show that seeks out style choices in all reaches of the space-time continuum. As always, I am your host, TGunn 9000, the latest cyber clone of the wondrous He Who Decreed Make It Work. Joining me on this gorgeous galaxy quest is the lovely five time winner of Drag Diva Supreme, the enchanting Miss Amber Dextrous…
*Ms. Dextrous steps forward and blows the orb a kiss*
…our two for the price of one pairing, the remaining halves of the brain cells that once belonged to famed Red Carpet correspondents and comediennes Joan and Melissa Rivers…
*the brain jar moves over, with two voices from the transmitter attached to the lid being quite audible, repeating the same sentences over and over:
“Can we talk?” “MOM!”
…And last but certainly not least, everyone’s favorite colony of nanobots fueled by celebrity designer perfume, our very own Britney Beyonce Kardashian!”
*The robotic hand takes center stage and squeezes the bulb of the atomizer, sending a cloud of bizarrely bright pink essence in which tiny sparkling dots are visible into it’s glass chamber.*
“Okay, everyone, gather around”.*TGunn waits until his companions are properly assembled next to him within full range of the recording orb to start up again.*
“Now, as we and our regular viewers all know, our mission is seek out remote moments in time where crucial life changing fashion decisions are made and through our advanced technology and sense of style, determine whether or not we should intervene or simply observe.”
*A nod and other motions of agreement are made by TGunn’s companions*
“Our challenge today takes us far into the past, where young luckless Joe over here (the orb swivels around to get a close-up of Joe) is at the crossroads of a major fashion dilemma as his need for new clothes is about to be badly met by his employer, Major Norton, who certainly could use a bit of a makeover himself there."
(Close-up of the Major is taken with wide angle lens by orb)
Amber speaks:” TG, my psychic senses are telling me that Joe’s desire for a new wardrobe is motivated by more than just not being able to afford a good tailor-there’s a young lady in the picture that our boy wants to dress to impress as well!”
Joan/Melissa brain comments:” Can we talk…her blood type is Ragu!”
If you're interested in seeing more,the full e-book edition of the Galleycat Remix is online at Scrid.com(yes,it's free)and while I never expected my first published work to appear in an e-book,it's still a honor to be part of this amusing literary experiment.
While I wasn't a recipient of any of the prizes,this was a rewarding experience that I hope leads to bigger and better things in my hoped-for writing career. Galleycat plans to hold another remix challenge this August that I've already signed up for and I'm also on the lookout for other writing contests as well. This isn't the only publishing path being taken by me but every bit counts as you head for the finish line there.
I know this is a small achievement but I did want to share this good news with my faithful blog readers(and thank you for checking in,I do really appreciate it). With any luck,perhaps someday I will have an official book of my own to promote and offer up to eager reviewers as a giveaway. I'm a long ways away from that day but in the traditional Horatio Alger style,some hard work and persistence may pay off for me and those who give me their love and support along the way:
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
It is official,folks-Steve Carell is making the next season of The Office his last one on the show. While he will be missed,this may be a good move for the sitcom,due to many of it's current and former fans bemoaning the level of humor going down over time.
Casting changes on TV series are nothing new,yet when it comes to sitcoms,this can be a serious kiss of death for the show. Sometimes,the aftereffects can take awhile to settle in and completely kill off what viewers loved about the series in the first place,as with Designing Women.
With the double departure of Delta Burke and Jean Smart by season six and their subsequent replacement by Julia Duffy and Jan Hooks,the ratings were still good but the critical and fan response was not.
Julia Duffy wound up leaving at the end of that season due to her character's unpopularity and when Anne Potts packed up and left in season seven,no one bothered to replace her. Even in reruns,most fans prefer the earlier seasons to the latter which is a recurring theme with many classic TV comedies.
Let's take a look at a few other TV comedy casting hijinks that have,for better or for worse,made a major impact for those characters above and beyond their original supporting player status.
One of the strangest cases was the role of oldest daughter Becky on Roseanne;Lecy Gorenson originated the part but when the actress went to Vassar college in the fifth season,she was replaced by Sarah Chalke(best known for her work on Scrubs these days)for the start of the sixth season. Gorenson came back by the eighth year of the show but Chalke finished the series as Becky. To the show's credit,the change in Beckys was always acknowledged with a wink and a nod at different points,including some very TV savvy parody moments:
When Shelley Long left her role as pretentiously charming barmaid Diane in Cheers,it was considered a awful career move for her and the series,which lasted a few more seasons with Kristie Alley taking over the leading lady reins. That didn't keep Long from ever hooking up with her former friends from the place where everybody knows your name professionally.
Long did a guest spot on the successful spin-off from Cheers,Frasier,as Diane,who visited her former fiance in Seattle and managed to get him to provide funding for her play. Her theatrical piece turned out to be very inspired by their past mutual connection in Boston and caused the cool headed doctor to put on quite the performance himself:
One of the most talked about casting departures was Suzanne Somers' from Three's Company back in 1980,due to her asking for more money. Sadly,the days of female actresses being taken off their shows by daring to demand a better financial shake are still with us.
Somers was replaced at first by Jenilee Harrison and later by Priscilla Barnes,proving that bubbly blonde persona was not as disposable as the network seemed to think it was at the time. While she was never quite able to regain her previous level of fame,Somers will forever be considered a TV icon as Chrissy Snow to future generations of funny women:
Granted,Mystery Science Theater 3000 wasn't a sitcom but many of the faithful followers of that movie mockery series did go into mourning when host and show creator Joel Hodgson left the Satellite of Love(along with Dr. Forrester and TV's Frank) and turned the helm over to Mike Nelson,who completed MST3K's eleven year run.
While some may debate over which years were better,Joel or Mike,the sci-fi satire kept up it's high level of humor and ended rather well,not something that many other shows can say about themselves. An amusing face to face between the SOL hosts took place during the final season,as a welcome relief from watching Soultaker,and even another old fiendish friend dropped in for the raucous reunion:
How things will turn out for The Office after Carell takes his leave is as murky as the answer from a Magic 8 Ball,yet hope for a brighter and funnier future is not totally off base. The remaining set of players are talented folk able to reform an entertaining new dynamic that can revive the flagging spirits of the series and give us a plethora of fresh new punchlines and silly subplots to enjoy a few seasons more.
Having cast changes to deal can make a show stronger or weaker depending on the people both in front and behind the scenes who want to make it work. So,look on the bright side,folks-at least no one is planning on doing a doppelganger number here,which could be funny at first but turn real freaky as time goes on:
Monday, June 28, 2010
With the official start to summer under way,many are no doubt planning on cooling their heels during this upcoming Independence Day weekend at their nearest multiplex,particularly to check out the latest cinematic installment in the Twilight series,Eclipse or to see Toy Story 3 yet again.
That sounds good to me,too but don't forget to stop by the bookstore on the way to the theater to either check out or reserve some of these enticing new reads set to hit the shelves this season. After all,some of those movies wouldn't be around if it weren't for the book first(not to mention that you don't have sit thru a bunch of commercials for products and movies that you could have stayed at home to see on TV):
FICTIONAL FOREIGN INTRIGUE
Anne Zouroudi's debut novel,The Messenger of Athens,introduces us to Hermes Diaktoros,a self appointed investigator of mysteries who goes to the Grecian island of Thiminos to look into the death of Irini, a local woman found at the bottom of a cliff.
While the police are quick to call it a suicide,the more that Hermes talks to those who knew Irini best,(including her husband Andreas,her not-so-secret lover Theo and his wife Elpida)it soon becomes apparent that her untimely demise was more of fortunate for some incident. Zouroudi's detective takes a laid back approach to crime solving that will remind many of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series and it wouldn't be too shocking to see both of these down to earth detectives sharing a cup of tea together(July)
I was lucky enough to win another interesting book from Good Reads this summer and with Anne Fortier's Juliet,I have another gem twinkling on my Must Read Pile.
When Julie Jacobs receives a key to a security box located in Sienna, Italy as an inheritance,she has no idea just how far this trip across the world will ultimately take her.
Turns out that one of her ancestors was the basis for Shakespeare's classic leading lady of love and to this day,a feud between the descendants of both plagued houses still quietly exists. That calm is interrupted by Julie's presence and the hunt she under takes to recover a lost family treasure. Romance,adventure and a literary linkage to the past;sounds like a recipe for a great summer read to me(August):
Kelley Armstrong is well renowned in paranormal fiction circles for her spell binding Women of the Otherworld series,that includes werewolves,witches and psychic detectives galore. In her newest book,Waking the Witch,the youngest member of this mystical maiden society gets her debut solo adventure.
At age 21,Savannah is determined to prove to her guardians that she's capable of using both her mind and magic powers as a valuable asset to their supernatural detective agency so she jumps at the chance to investigate a triple homicide in a small factory town.
Soon enough,Savannah is in over her head in more ways than one and must do the one thing that she hoped she wouldn't have to;ask for help. Another feisty magical crime fighter from Armstrong is always a welcome as well as charming sight to behold(late July):
Popular paranormal fantasy writer Carrie Vaughn is giving her fans a double dose of summer time story goodness this year,starting with Discord's Apple. Evie Walker is visiting her dying father and during her stay at his rundown old house in Hope's Fort,she soon discovers that the basement leads to a secret storeroom which she is destined to be the protector of.
Figures from Greek mythology and literature pop up in this narrative,including a fellow who played an intrinsic part in getting the Trojan Horse through the city gates. Vaughn is taking a new turn with her writing here and it's one that many will be happy to encourage her in(July).
Vaughn's regular series about the adventures of celebrity werewolf radio talk show hostess Kitty will also be getting a new entry. Kitty Goes to War has our heroine lending some aid and comfort to three Army soldiers who used their shapeshifter abilities in defense of their country.
Kitty is willing to help them readjust to civilian life by having them join her pack to give these traumatized men a chance to be themselves in both human and wolf form.
With that heavy burden and a burgeoning lawsuit from a supermarket chain upset about her report on their strange proclivity for drawing supernatural trouble,Kitty really has to watch her step more than usual(late June,early July):
MUSICAL MEMORY LANE
Rob Sheffield follows up his touching tune laden memoir,Love is a Mix Tape,with another glance back to his past with a soundtrack.
Talking to Girls About Duran Duran covers his pop culture adolescence in the eighties,where MTV was an amazing new development and John Hughes movies seemed like great guides to figuring out how to be cool and find that perfect love.
Rob's humorous and thoughtful journey into that nostalgic mental jukebox should be a blast and perhaps offer up an answer to the eternal 1980s question-what is it with girls and Duran Duran anyway?(July):
HEAT WAVE HEARTWARMERS
In Elin Hilderbrand's The Island, a family flock of four women retreat to Tuckernuck,just off the coast of Nantucket,in order to figure out their next moves and future relationships. Mother Birdie is dealing with a late in life divorce while her daughter Chess is recovering from the death of her fiancee.
They are joined by younger daughter Tate,who still doesn't know where she's going in life and Aunt India,eager to help them all but concealing a private sorrow in her own heart. Hilderbrand's tales of summer renewal of spirits are fast becoming the ideal beach book to enjoy all the year round and hopefully,more will be on the way for years to come(July):
In Alicia Bessette's debut novel,Simply from Scratch,a beautiful friendship is being baked between moody widow Zell Roy and her young neighbor,nine year old Ingrid who is convinced that celebrity chef Polly Pinch is her real mother.
As a way of coping with their emotional dilemmas,both of these troubled souls enter Polly Pinch's Desserts That Warm the Soul contest and wind up bonding with batter and hope to achieve their personal dream goals. As the two of them ultimately discover, cooking contests are not just about winning-they are also tasty roads towards healing your heart(August):
I know you may feel overwhelmed with plenty of good books to read already,but that shouldn't keep your eyes off the new releases table for the next couple of months. I hate to be a book tease but it's duty as a bibliophile to spread the word about any and all enticing titles coming down the pike. Consider this a pop culture form of civil service,folks:
Friday, June 25, 2010
As I mentioned the other day,the Pride and Prejudice book covers created by two of the competing artists on Work of Art this week was truly a let down and still hard to get out of my mind.
However,it turns out that many of my fellow Jane Austen fans have been making lists of their favorite P&P covers lately,which inspires me to make some lemonade after seeing such sour representations of Our Dear Jane. Here for your viewing pleasure are a few other off beat looks at Austen cover art:
NORTHANGER ABBEY NOIR: This overly Gothic design for Austen's playful novel which satirizes the pulp fiction frenzy of it's day is on regular display at The Republic of Pemberley and it's a real find to be sure.
The blurb on the inside of this "genuine Paperback Library Gothic" is quite the howler,claiming that naive little Catherine is in danger of being "enmeshed by evil" from Henry Tilney and his house of horrors.
Clearly the PR people behind this edition never read the book or they would have known that all of the heroine's fears about unearthing the family secrets of her beloved turned out to be nothing more than overwrought figments of her imagination(as about as overwrought as the advertising blurb written here).
The scariest parts of the book have to do with dealing with terrors of mingling with seemingly good society and finding out that looks as well as manners can truly be deceiving there:
SENSE AND INSENSIBILITY: Tor Classics is notorious for turning out rather cheesy covers for great works and Austen's best known books were not spared from that dubious honor at all.
Take a gander at this one for Sense & Sensibility;not only are the Dashwood sisters clad in hideous matching shades of pink,they appear to be a couple of giddy gossip girls(the facial expression on the gal listening to whatever her sister is whispering in her ear is particularly dim-witted).
It is possible that the illustrator was confused and drew the scheming ditz Lucy Steele and her man hungry sister Anne instead or perhaps,wicked sister-in-law Fanny Dashwood had a hand in this. It would be just like her to make sure a less than flattering portrait of Eleanor and Marianne was in public view:
THOSE PERSUADING LIPS: Now,the cover art for this volume of Persuasion went a tad too literal with the book's theme of suffering the consequences of being talked into and out of crucial life decisions.
The dour sepia tone of that intense close-up of a mouth suggests a poster for a grim foreign film festival rather than the sweetly sincere story of love lost and regained that Persuasion truly is. It might have been an attempt to give the book a Very Serious appearance but that is as suitable as having poor Anne run a relay race all about the streets of Bath,which one recent film adaptation saw fit to do:
MANSFIELD MULTIPLES: Is just me or is this a creepy little cover here? It's bad enough that Fanny Price gets little respect as an Austen heroine without her being made to look like a demonically possessed puppet with two little men bookending her shoulders(not to mention that she's showing more cleavage than Fanny herself ever would,even at her coming out ball).
I suppose the guys on either side of her are supposed to be her guardian angel and tempting devil,aka Edmund and Henry. However,unlike most of the characters in the book,Fanny never waivers in her resolve to do the right thing when it counts.
Henry Crawford,on the other hand,wanted Fanny to be his Jimminy Cricket but she wisely refused that position. Too bad for Henry that he refused to make up his own mind about checking his bad behavior,might have spared him and everyone else some heartache there:
Oh,well,to look on the bright side,at least the power of Austen's work is still strong enough to warrant numerous re-printings,regardless of visual quality. It is what is inside that counts,both with people and books,however I suspect that even Jane herself would be chiming in with her own two cents about which cover looks best on her books and yet,would be somewhat amused by the repackaging of her little bits of ivory for each new generation:
Thursday, June 24, 2010
True Blood's Tara gets a reality check,Top Chef gets schooled and Work of Art gets a classic booking
An interesting new Quickfire challenge was introduced on Top Chef last,with everyone divided into teams of two to make a sandwich in thirty minutes. Sounds too easy,you say? The chefs thought so,too,until Padma showed them the double sided aprons that each team had to wear which turned them into conjoined culinary twins.
While most of the teams managed to whip up a tasty bite there,Angelo continued his winning streak with Tracey literally by his side. Their flounder marinated in fish sauce with a spicy mayo and pickled red onions rocked both Padma and special guest judge Sam Kass(the Assistant Chef for the White House)and granted immunity to Angelo and Tracey for the Elimination challenge ahead.
Sam Kass staid on to judge that round as well,which grouped the chefs into groups of four to create a healthy lunch for middle school kids. They had to use a budget equivalent to what a regular public school gets to feed about fifty students($130 or $2.60 per child)and make it as nutritious as possible.
There was a change of pace at the Judges' Table,with the two worst teams being called in first to receive their grilling. Angelo's winning ways didn't help him out here since the closest thing to a vegetable on his team's plate was the peanut butter mousse with celery on top of a tuile cookie that he made.
It was almost like they had two dessert offerings(the peanut butter is extra protein,but still..)which is not what the judges were hoping for,health wise.
One of the teams that did well was Kelly's and she took the win for this challenge with her braised pork tacos with pickled onions and cilantro.
The only bad thing about that was her constant insistence about the tacos being her creation all the way thru the challenge,which was understandingly annoying to the rest of her team(especially Arnold). Oh,well,at least their food was kid appropriate and tasted good to boot.
Back to another losing team,Amanda headed up the lunch list of failures for her group by serving up chicken thighs in a sherry jus. Yep,sherry as in alcohol,for kids! I know that booze tends to burn off most of it's intoxicating content during cooking but come on,now!
Not to mention that chicken thighs are not the best part of the bird to begin with(I prefer white meat,folks). The judges asked why sherry and Amanda's basic response was "That's how I like it." *Sigh* How do you become a professional chef and not comprehend that cooking for a client is about their preferences,not yours!
The worst thing about the chicken sherry incident is that it wound up getting someone else on Amanda's team sent home. Jacqueline had planned to make a chocolate banana pudding but her group went over budget at the checkout counter and most of the stuff she needed was taken out.
She switched gears and made a banana pudding with fresh strawberries instead,only it was starting to get too starchy so Jacqueline dumped in a mess of sugar to straighten that out. Unfortunately,it didn't work and she was called on the carpet for adding that extra sugar and told to pack her knives and go. Jacqueline should have been more forceful about keeping her ingredients but Amanda's bizarre insistence on that cooking sherry for a nutritious school lunch rightly should have sent her home as well.
Next week,another run-in with desserts has the chefs scrambling for cover. Probably,if they just calm down a little,things will turn out as easy as pie.
The gang at Work of Art had a literary challenge this week;to create a cover for a classic novel. The choice of books included Frankenstein,Dracula and Alice in Wonderland,which produced some interesting designs but I'm sad to say that one of my favorite authors got a couple of very off putting showcases for her best known book,Pride and Prejudice.
One of the artists assigned to P&P was Jaclyn,who claimed to have seen a film version of the story but her misspelling of Jane Austen's name and calling Darcy "Darby" makes me doubt her word on that. Her concept was to take a half nude picture of herself,with a bowler hat in one hand and turn it into a sketch drawing along side a tree. That would be fine if the book was The Unbearable Lightness of Being,not Pride and Prejudice!
Judith was the other person who had P&P and at first,she tried to make a fingerprint painting that suggested flowers(she said that she's read Jane Austen but didn't expand on any of the book's details much).
That wasn't getting her anywhere so she just wrote the title as backwards letters across a color divided canvas,which made as much sense as the Mad Hatter's tea party in any film adaptation(maybe she should've gotten Alice in Wonderland instead!).
The end result,plus Judith's attitude about "I don't work on assignment" earned her a one way ticket out of the competition. Hello,it's a competition and that means you work on assignments in order to win! No one forced you to be here,seriously.
The winner here was John,for his abstract take on H.G. Wells' The Time Machine. Granted,it wasn't my first choice for the win(Mark's Dracula cover was a strong contender here)but it does have a retro sci-fi vibe to it that makes the book look appealing enough to a new reader to pick up and browse through it.
A new edition of The Time Machine with John's cover art is now available from Penguin and no doubt pretty soon at a book store near you. I hope to have an interview with Kathryn Court,the president of Penguin who appeared on this episode,to talk about this selection and other upcoming artwork for the Penguin Classics line in the near future.
Congrats to John,whose victory is even sweeter due to his dad being a librarian. He will be very proud to shelve this volume and show it off to his patrons indeed. Nice job in making an old school classic look shiny and new wave:
With all of the supernatural hijinks and soap opera subplots on True Blood that dominate the landscape,it's nice to see a realistic yet sad moment between two characters once in a while. Lafayette had no choice but to get in Tara's face after her botched suicide attempt and the best way to sober her up was to show her where she could end up if her grief couldn't be controlled.
They took a trip to visit Lafayette's mother(Alfre Woodard)who is being kept in a rather expensive mental home,thanks to those illegal side jobs of his. That went a long way towards helping Tara snap out of her funk and to a touching scene of family truth telling.
It's good to see this bond of familial love and solidarity between these two troubled souls and hopefully they'll be able to keep each other grounded as time goes on. How Lafaytette is going to feel about Tara making the new vampire in town a good friend of her is a whole other story but we'll see about that next time:
DESIGN STAR: Courtland got a little karmic victory this week,by winning the apartment makeover challenge with the guys. Nina,who threw him under the bus the last time,made plenty of enemies on the girl's team by bossing everyone around but it was Emily who took quite a few lumps with the judges this round:
THE NEXT FOOD NETWORK STAR: Dzintra finally got the boot as her team challenge with Aria showcased her worst personal traits. During the presentation of their food to the judges(plus,singer Colbie Caillat,whose after party it was),Dzintra actually went "Shush!" to Aria and then proceeded to talk about how the salad she made didn't resemble a hairball. Not appetizing there,to say the least:
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Some of you out there may be all familiar with the LRG official salute to schlocky cinema we hold each August but for the newcomers in the audience,let me introduce you to Bad Movie Month. Each Friday in August,a post is dedicated to highlighting the low points of a particularly awful film for well deserved mockery.
Why August? Two good reasons;A)there are no major holidays in that month,so we need something to fill up the time til Labor Day and B)August is one of the prime dumping grounds for crappy movies to come out in,next to midwinter,of course.
This year,we're going to do something a little different-Bad Movie Month will now have a thematic thread that connects all of our selected features together. We'll start this party off with Terrifying Teens,a set of supposed to be scary flicks about those crazy kids and their killing ways.
One of the first to be chosen for this dubious honor is Wes Craven's Deadly Friend,a movie that I not only remember seeing at a theater near me but also read the novel upon which it was based upon.
Future vampire slayer Kristy Swanson stars as Samantha,whose budding bond with the geeky boy next door(Matthew Laboteaux) ends in disaster as his scientific experiments intended to save her life turn his best gal pal into a one girl killing machine. Wes Craven has made many modern day classic fear films but his share of stinkers is nearly dead even there:
Our next film I happened to catch on cable,sparing me the buyer's remorse of paying good money to see such a terror tease as The Haunting of Molly Hartley.
Haley Bennet is the leading lady of the title,who is not so much being haunted(which I associate with ghosts)but is being hounded by supernatural forces and all too human ones,like her dear old mom who tries to kill Molly to "save" her from the dark destiny that awaits her on her eighteenth birthday.
This movie has a real CW tacky teen show vibe,which explains the casting but not the total cheat of the ending(more than that in good time,which will be very spoiler laden,you have been warned):
Speaking of bad vibes,Jennifer's Body had plenty of them on display,along with sexy sinister shots of the newly crowned winner of the Box Office Poison award this past weekend,Megan Fox.
From what I read in the many reviews for Jonah Hex,the blame for that cinematic bomb can't be entirely placed on her shoulders;everyone involved did their fair share of time wasting on that project.
However,having this tale of a demonically possessed mean girl treating all the boys in class like lunch meat literally on the list means I have no choice but to watch it. It's the only way to really do justice to ripping this trying to be trendy bag of tricks apart:
Last and possibly least is Teenage Strangler,a 1964 cult movie gem that has among it's many delights a whiny kid brother named Mikey,a bad impromptu dance number at a diner and numerous adult actors trying to pass for under 21.
We will be covering the Mystery Science Theater 3000 edition of this sad little film,which makes it much more fun to watch. I did manage to track down a clip of the original trailer(thank you,YouTube!)that demonstrates just why the MST3K crew hauled this bad boy out of the back room to reveal in it's stupefying splendor:
Well,folks,I hope you like what we have on the Bad Movie menu this season and please feel free to offer up suggestions for any other worthwhile wincing films for future BBM fests or themes for next year. Also,we are willing to add a couple more movies to this series,provided that video clips are available for embedding and I can stand to watch it(my only prerequisites for picking the movies here).
August can be a dreary month,so it helps to have something to look forward to even if it's a cheesy blog series. None of the bad movies ready for the LRG chopping block,however,will be as frightening as the blue menace threatening to hit the multiplexes around the same time(in 3D,no less! The horror,the horror...):
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
I know it's still just June but there are already a crowd of contenders for the title of Song of the Summer 2010 forming lines and desperately trying to get everyone's attention.
Not being always in tune with the new music,I checked out a few of them and found to my delight that quite a few of them owe their lyrical style and/or background beat to some great pop songs of Summer Past. For your listening/viewing pleasure,here are three of the major musical acts out there who are bringing the new wrapped up in the glory of the old:
Alejandro/Lady Gaga: Truth be told,I have been enjoying this song long before the video finally came out,so I am a tad predisposed to love it. The song itself is a gorgeous arrangement of melody and lyric that successfully evokes power mixed with sorrow and desire all at once.
While I can fully understand that the video may not be everyone's cup of tea,it certainly is memorable and speaks to what was in Gaga's mind when she created the song. Many will say that Alejandro echoes Madonna but I find the thread of inspiration to go further back than the heyday of the Material Girl:
Others like myself will hear the chords that ABBA brought forth decades ago,with the likes of "Chiquita" and in particular,"Fernando",in blending a Spanish operatic style with mainstream pop. Gaga's not as sentimental as ABBA was,perhaps,but they both share a soulfulness in their seemingly straightforward ballads:
California Gurls/Katy Perry: Yes,that is a deliberate misspelling as Katy attempts to shock us all yet again by dancing around clad in short shorts and whipped cream pie tops while Snoop Dog struts his usual stuff. Her recent live performance at the MTV Movie Awards of this ode to beach life for the ladies was a little more scaled down than the official video but you get the picture pretty quick:
In a weird way,all of Katy's jumping about and jiggling reminded me of an old school one hit wonder that also had a beach setting and sugary treats as props. Bow Wow Wow's "I Want Candy" was fun and funky,with more subtle sexy hints to the lyrics than anything Katy has ever penned so far. Maybe she should take a few tips from this tune and see how even a flash in the pan could bring the heat without the excess grease:
Airplanes/B.o.B. with Hayley Williams: This guy is new to me,but after listening to this song that he performs with the lead singer from Paramore,he's one to watch out for. B.o.B. has a excellent pace with his fast fluid rhythms and Hayley's lyrical asides compliment his vocals nicely:
B.o.B puts me in mind of Will Smith,in his best laid back songs like "Miami" and "Summertime" that showcase his eloquent ease with music far better than most of the over the top tunes and movie theme songs he later was known for:
Time will tell who comes out on top as the winner of the Summer Music wars but no matter the victor,it's up to you to manage your music planning for those car trips or other outdoor activities on your vacation calendar.
Sure,you could take a chance and hope to find a blast from the past on your radio dial,however,fate sees that as a opportunity to plant unwanted ear worms as pop culture punishment for your carelessness-you have been warned!:
Monday, June 21, 2010
In the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly,the cover story is all about The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series(aka The Millennium Trilogy)and in one of the sidebar articles is an essay by Missy Schwartz entitled "Did Stieg Larsson have trouble with women?"-Larsson being the writer of these books who passed away before the first one was published.
Missy's main concern is about the central female lead of the books,Lisbeth Salander,a troubled computer hacker who gets mixed up in an investigation lead by Mikhael Blomkvist,a journalist charged with looking into the disappearance of a young woman from a well-to-do family. In addition to the violence enacted upon many of the women in this narrative,Missy is also displeased with Lisbeth's attempt to improve her body image by having a breast enhancement done.
This deeply offends her and she accuses the author of "betraying" the character,quite a serious literary charge there. While not having read any of the books just yet(the first two are on my Must Read Before Labor Day pile),I can't truly take a side yet this whole "betrayal" bit sounded awfully familiar to me. Where have I heard that charge before?
Ah,yes,that argument was being made when Thomas Harris' sequel to Silence of the Lambs came out. The main objection to Hannibal was that Clarice Starling by the end of the book had been psychologically broken by Lecter and was going over to the dark side as his beloved culinary companion.
That outraged a lot of the feminist crowd,who preferred the Jodie Foster version of the character from the Oscar winning adaptation,and Ms. Foster herself eventually dropped out of the Hannibal cast allegedly due to the backlash. Julianne Moore took over the role,which offered up a more P.C. friendly ending.
Now,I read that book and frankly found the original outcome of the events between Lecter and Clarice to be incredibly suspenseful and intriguing,since you weren't quite sure if she had totally lost herself in his calculating clutches or was she stringing the not-so-good doctor along,planning to outdo the master? Either way,it was a bold move to make and I respect Harris for doing it. Too bad Hollywood couldn't follow suit:
Don't get me wrong,I fully understand the desire to want the best ending possible for any compelling character,especially one that goes down the path of righteous retribution.
For example,my sister and I finally watched Inglourious Basterds and were rooting for Shosanna,the plucky young French woman who saw her chance to bring down the Nazi regime in one fell swoop by destroying her movie theater packed with the prime players for a premiere of their newest propaganda piece,to survive.
Suffice it to say,her fate was not as I or my sister would have ideally wanted it to be. However,it was in keeping with the logic arrangements of the plot and ultimately,Shosanna had the last laugh against her enemies,so we decided to be content with that:
Part of me wonders if some of this anger towards the way Lisbeth and Clarice have been portrayed in print is due to their authors being men. Stieg Larsson was a strong proponent of women's rights in his native country of Sweden yet many are questioning his stance on that based on their dislike of some of the content of his novels(especially since the original title of TGWTDT was Men Who Hate Women).
This critique of violence against women,particularly in the mystery genre,seems to only be raised when it's a man at the literary helm. Plenty of female writers have gruesome actions done to their characters as well,such as Chelsea Cain's books about her seductive serial killer Gretchen Lowell and the Japanese noir novels of Natsuo Kirino are definitely not for the teacup cozy mystery crowd. Yet I don't hear word one about how they should be showcasing the women or the men in their books in a role model worthy manner.
Nor should they be. While you may not like everything that an author dishes up for your mental viewing pleasure,that person does have the right to display their characters as he or she sees fit,according to the guideposts that are arranged for them by the plot.
Bad writing will always reveal itself for what it is,sooner or later,but if all of the pieces are in place to make a complete picture towards the end,the author has done their job.
You may not want to read that book again or steer your looking for a good read recommendation friends away from it,that's fine. What you really shouldn't do is assume that the gender of the author is the sole reason that they didn't "get" the character who you wanted to have a happy ending and wrote their story,either on or accidentally on purpose, to degrade the opposite sex.
It's an age old accusal levied at writers that they share the same viewpoints as their fictional creations and one that has been shot down by better advocates for artistic freedom than me. Obviously,not every mystery writer longs to be a detective or a psycho killer in real life just as not all folks who write about vampires want to become children of the night(not seriously,anyway). Isn't it time that we give the author the benefit of the doubt in this area?
That doesn't mean that the audience doesn't have a say-so. Their input is shown on the bestseller lists and more importantly,in the word of mouth that really keeps a book alive and kicking with readers. Popular doesn't mean better quality,of course,but there must be something to this Lisbeth and her hard road to hell here. She's hitting on many nerves and resonating with both guys and gals at the bookstore,not an easy thing to do in any major media format.
The best way to settle this argument is to read the books and thanks to Missy,I'm more eager than before to turn the pages and discover Lisbeth for myself. Something tells me that Lisbeth would find all of this fuss to be trivial and not give a damn about what we think of her. Sounds like someone I'd want to have my back when trouble's around,that's for sure:
Friday, June 18, 2010
With the combination of summer reading and summer movie going as popular pop culture pastimes,your choices for prime entertainment can be overwhelming at times. If we look towards the future,however,it may be easier to keep things in perspective by making a few mental notes about what's coming up later in the year.
It's also a good excuse to catch up on some of those "meant-to" reads that have been recommended to you by so many others and a great excuse to reread that one book or two that you felt guilty about indulging in all over again. So,get your bookmarks in place for these hopefully not lost in translation big screen adaptations:
SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD
Due to arrive in August,the cult comic book series by Bryan Lee O'Malley already has it's league of fans savoring every sweet second of this trailer. Michael Cera stars as the hapless title character,a guy just looking for love with the perfect girl of his dreams.
Unlucky for him,his ideal love match comes with a nightmare pack of seven evil exes who Scott must battle in order to win her hand. Even if you've never read the books,the movie should be a blast with Shaun of the Dead director Edgar Wright at the helm of this wacky wild ride:
NEVER LET ME GO
For something completely different,Kazuo Ishiguro's sedately set futuristic tale focuses on three students from a special boarding school that purposely isolates them from the outside world until their ultimate fate and reason for being is revealed.
Keira Knightley and Carey Mulligan are the leading ladies here and the beautiful tragedy of this story is sure fire Oscar bait,which is probably why it's set to be in theaters by October. Even with such lofty intentions,however,this does look like a truly moving film about the limits of life and love:
For a light and lively change of pace,Disney is set to come out with a spunky retake on the classic Rapunzel story. Instead of a handsome prince coming to visit the mysteriously maiden trapped in the tower,we have a roguish thief wanting to use our heroine's home as a hideout from the local authorities.
The long haired young lady(voiced by Mandy Moore) who lives there is no push over and is quick to show this cocky guy just who is really in charge. This should be a fun and funky way to have your feminist fairy tale cake and eat it too:
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS
The last chapter in J.K. Rowling's fantasy saga is so jam packed with plot goodies that even the usual amount of script whittling can't keep in all together for only one movie. Therefore,Harry Potter 7 will be split into two films,with the first half debuting this December.
The Twilight series is planning to do the same with their adaptation of Breaking Dawn,which some may see as copycat marketing but I've read both books and trust me,there is way too much going on to simply sandwich the high points of these finales
into just three hours or so. Especially with the Potter books that have already had their fair share of finer details snipped out,to not give enough screen time for the ultimate showdowns would be a real disgrace:
Speaking of Twilight,with the impending release of Eclipse and it's more action orientated plot,there is a chance that the fan base may start to interest those who previously wrote it off as a girls only gothic romance. That's fine but I do hope that everyone keeps in mind that the themes of unlikely love in the series have been and can be easily set in any genre. When it comes to creative inspiration,books and movies share the same lane on the artistic highway:
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