Saturday, November 25, 2006

Questions To The Universe

In regard to David Evanier's* book on Bobby Darin. How the hell did he manage to mix up Gene Kelly with Donald O'Connor in referencing what is quite possibly the most famous movie musical scene of all time?

*Cousin of Mark.

For the 99% of you who didn't get a certain reference in my "thankful for" post...

Go here and all will be revealed. All together: Ra-ta-ta-tum-Army!...

Friday, November 24, 2006

But it plays with my emotions

The novel Loverboy was never going to make an easy transition to film, even with the right stars, director and script. Without any of those things, it never has a fighting chance.

The shorthand description of the plot might be, for those of you who know the movie & book World According to Garp: Imagine if Jenny Fields was crazy. In a bad way, not the good way that she is.

The book depends-like Endless Love, an even worse film of an even better book-on the interior monologue of its lead character for much of its power. And though the movie tries to make that come across through the use of voice-over, it really puts more weight on Kyra Sedgwick's performance than it can bear.

I don't mean to be unkind to Sedgwick, who has been good in movies like Born on the Fourth of July and Singles, and she's not even that bad here, just IMO miscast. But I'm not sure who the right casting would have been, and it seems likely it's not all Sedgwick's fault.

Sedgwick's husband Kevin Bacon (yes, that one), not incidentally, was the director. In the DVD commentary Bacon reveals he felt the ending of the book was ambiguous; it is not. I'm left to infer that he missed the bittersweet irony of the book's ending.

So they changed it. Bacon and a screenwriter ironically named Hannah Shakespeare did not help Sedgwick's performance with a script that wants to make her character sympathetic. The novel arguably succeds at this because we are inside the woman's head and, although we naturally condemn her actions, at least we feel we understand her motivations. And when we come to the end we feel she has-metaphorically-dug her own grave.

I won't reveal exactly how this is changed in the film for those of you who have not read the book, but they "lightened it up," to a degree that ends up making it unintentionally even more disturbing.

This is almost a caricature of the actor's classic mistake: To try to make your own part-or your wife's- sympathetic or sand down the rough edges of a piece, at the cost of losing its flavor.

And this film is a classic example of why, with certain obvious exceptions like Clint Eastwood, most actors shouldn't direct.

Give it up now baby, come on, come on, darlin.

You are The Magician

Skill, wisdom, adaptation. Craft, cunning, depending on dignity.

Eleoquent and charismatic both verbally and in writing,
you are clever, witty, inventive and persuasive.

The Magician is the male power of creation, creation by willpower and desire. In that ancient sense, it is the ability to make things so just by speaking them aloud. Reflecting this is the fact that the Magician is represented by Mercury. He represents the gift of tongues, a smooth talker, a salesman. Also clever with the slight of hand and a medicine man - either a real doctor or someone trying to sell you snake oil.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

PS: If anyone gets the reference in the headline I will be absolutely amazed, so leave a quick comment if you do.

Roger Ebert on Robert Altman

As I'd kinda suspected he might, the editor of Ebert's website has put together a selection of Ebert's reviews of Altman's films and interviews with the filmmaker over the years. It's worth reading.

That link'll lead you to a page of excerpts from each piece, from there you can follow links to read a review or interview in full if you so choose.

ETA: Said editor, Jim Emerson, has also added an appreciation of Altman to his own blog, Scanners.

That's enough to make you believe the old thing about stealing your soul

Original entry.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Things To Be Thankful For, 2006

As always, in no particular order:

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Okay, so it's not like this is a new thing. But in this past year or so I've really started to think about what an effect Douglas Adams' legendary multi-media piece had on me. It's one of things I quote so often you may not always be aware I'm doing it (I'm not even sure I am).

Kate Winslet. Even her eyebrows make me crazy.

John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin.

Mad About You reruns.

My West Wing dvds.

Scritti Politti's new album (about which you'll be hearing more later). Having lately decided that the Pet Shop Boys and I need to go our separate ways, it's heartwarming to know someone from back in the day is still doing stuff I like.

Garry Trudeau.

For the one percent of you who will get this: THE KING! rat tat tat tat AIR FORCE! rat tat tat tat MARINES! rat tat tat tat DEPARTMENT OF THE SANITARY! BOOM!

The Dixie Chicks.

Finally discovering Sgt Bilko, thanks to Mark's blog.

Mark's blog.

My favorites from the Jay Ward studios, Mr. Peabody and Sherman.

Bill Sherman's blog.

My nephew. This weekend I spent a few hours with him, just the two of us. I took him to a park and two or three girls, some of them slightly older (he's four), were very nice about playing with him. While I of course tripped on the Keitha & Colley-ness of it all.

Keitha, Colley and Annabel.

Anne Hathaway. I am without words.

House and the fact that I triumphed over technology by learning to tape it while Veronica Mars is on.

Amber Benson.

Corey Klemow. For his support. For his being one of the only people I can talk geek with about Veronica, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and Doctor Who (otherwise I'd just inflict more of it on you). For his constructive comments. For being fun to argue with because he doesn't seem to have anything to prove even when he's completely wrong and I'm completely right (such as about Bones).

Two series of books by two writers both called Simon: Simon Brett's Charles Paris novels, and Simon Callow's multi-volume Orson Welles biography.

Bob Black for all his help.

John Edwards. I get queasy at the thought of saying I even believe in such things as political heroes, but still: If I were endorsing anybody, it'd be him.

Roger Ebert being, reportedly, "on the mend" and the fact that he's writing again. I don't care so much when or if he returns to his TV gig, but I love to read his writing.

Johnny Cash.

Am'ee. My one regret is-well, she knows what my one regret is. And speaking of Sinfests;

Sinfest. Are any of the rest of you following that little link over to the right there, I hope I hope I hope?

Veronica getting a (nearly) full season order and more importantly, slowly but surely rebuilding the trust they lost from me as a viewer last season. Of course, he reminds himself, last year at this same time I still thought VM was one of the greatest dramas on television, so I reserve the right to recall these thanks if they blow it again.

Studio 60, its cast, directors, and oh yeah that writer guy, and the fact that it's been given a chance to grow.

As always, the ever-lovely, and much missed, Kirsty MacColl.

The Nine, the latest episode of which I've just watched and once again been impressed by. My only niggle remains: Just how long can they sustain it? Which, given that ABC doesn't seem to in as patient a mood as NBC and the CW (for perhaps obvious reasons), may not be an open question much longer.

Bones. The first thing that attracted me-surprise-was the always entertaining dialogue, but as I've been able to watch more of it this season I've found I've come to care for the characters a little bit. It's a series that's definitely grown on me and gains from coming to know the characters week in week out.

James Bond movies.

Bobby Darin (about whom you'll also be hearing more later).

Random Flickr blogging.

Columbo w/Peter Falk.

This year I had the odd experience of a couple different women apparently wanting to be, he said discretely, more to me than I wanted to be to them. I'm not exactly thankful for these experiences but it's nice to know people care.

The fact that, (to date) none of the stars of my favorite sitcoms of the '90s have had very public, very fast flameouts...okay except maybe Andy Dick, but that one's just lingering...

The songs in Xanadu. Shut up.

And oh yes, that election didn't suck, did it? Among the minor triumphs, it made me feel much better about watching 24 next year. The producers may think Bush would be Jack Bauer's bestest friend ever in the world, but the country just gave that a great big vote of no confidence. That's how I'd like to see it, anyway.

Wish the ladies luck

I mailed off three query packages to publishers today. Getting them in the mail followed three days of trying to do so and having various things go wrong. At times like I've been having these past few days, all I can think of is "Got the Time" by Joe Jackson.

(No such thing as tomorrow, only one two three go!)

Now comes the waiting. The awful waiting. Wish the ladies luck. Or better me (I probably need it more than they do. They have someone looking out for them, after all).

If you see fit to pray, that would be very nice. Or, if you're not the kind to be offended by naked self-serving: I could always point you to my Wish List, where you could see if you want to send me something to listen to or read while I'm waiting.

Fortunately, I'm above that sort of thing.

(It's accessible if you look over to the right there and click the View my complete profile link.)

Sense & sanity prevail

In their second-wisest project kill of the week, Fox has called a permanent halt to production on a remake of Revenge of the Nerds. Good thing, too. For the record, I think the original RotN is one of the two best teen sex comedies of the '80s-the other is Fast Times at Ridgemont High. They're two of the only ones you can watch for anything other than laughs and titty.

I know I'm not the first person to say this, and it's probably not even the first time I've said this. But I wish Hollywood would stop remaking films that don't need to be remade. Especially in the video era, when virtually every film possible is availible in a five-minute trip to the video shop.

My idea of a great remake? Ocean's 11. It took an original film that, even for Sinatra fans (which I am) isn't really that good and gave it a better director, better actors, and a better script. Hey presto!

On the other hand, I haven't heard anything for a while about that supposed remake of Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid with Matt Damon & Ben Affleck. For which I am truly thankful at this time of year.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Okay, the Michael Richards thing

I think Waveflux has got it: The man's career is over. I don't think I'm breaking the pinata there.

For me personally, this is a time I'm fortunate that "Seinfeld" means nothing to me; I've always thought it was overrated. So I'm not disturbed, as Waveflux posits (I think correctly) many are, by the question of how could loveable old Cosmo Kramer say such things?

To me it's more interesting because we don't often see a celebrity so completely flame out so fast. There are some things there's no coming back from, and I think this is one of them.

Putting aside for a moment the question of whether Richards revealed himself as a racist. I don't know.

(I do recollect reading an essay by a Puerto Rican actor (I think it may have been John Leguizamo) who related being cast in an episode of "Seinfeld." He was then replaced because he would not play the part in what he considered to be a stereotypical manner, though he was urged to by others, including Richards.)

But I'm astonished by his abuse of the stage. I think there are no rules to stand-up comedy and one of them is this: There are certain words you can't use and keep an audience with you unless you're a master, I mean, an absolute master.

One of those words is "nigger," if you're white (another is "cunt"). They're comedy killers. As I say obviously there are exceptions, but in today's comedy landscape you can count those exceptions on the finger of one hand and his name is George Carlin.

If Richards thought he was up there with Carlin, Pryor and Bruce, and that's why he said what he said, he's fucked in the head. If he was reaching for the most loaded word possible in order to hurt some fellow human beings, his go-to word was nigger.

If that's why he said what he said...he's fucked in the head.

Either way, his career is over.

I'll only care the next time I come across a showing of "UHF" with Weird Al Yankovic.

Britney Spears-that bra must hurt

Photo via the TMZ gallery, which is actually a treasure trove for those who like reading things into photographs. See the photo that Britney will one day use to explain to her children where they came from, and posing with not-at-all phallic objects.

Beware the Jabberwock, my son (Robert Altman)

You hear good and bad things about Robert Altman, dead today at 81. On the one hand, his skill with an ensemble cast ("MASH" "The Player") was justly legendary. Actors loved him, relaxed around him, and sometimes gave performances better than they ever had or would before or again for him.

In "Dr T. & the Women," for example, which was not on the whole a creatively successful film, he got a touching and memorable performance out of Tara Reid, of all people.

He was a filmmaker who, for better or for worse, deserved to have his name attached to a style of filmmaking. It's quite possible that some years from now if you say a film is "Altmanesque," people will know what you're talking about-big ensemble, overlapping dialogue, improvised in feel if not in reality, etc.

He was also, just to lighten things up a moment, one of the few Great American Directors who could get great American actresses to buy this argument: Taking off your pants is integral to your character.

(The story goes that in the phone conversation where he convinced Julianne Moore to do her infamous scene in "Short Cuts", she told him, "Bob, you get a bonus. I am a real redhead.")

I'm also a fan of "Tanner 88" his political-satire collaboration with Garry Trudeau, and I'm pleased it's currently rated second only to "MASH" in his listing at the IMDB.

And I'm one of those who thinks "O.C. and Stiggs," which seems generally thought to have been misconceived, is at least somewhat underrated. If nothing else the soundtrack by King Sunny Ade is always worth listening to, and he gets some fun and sexy performances from his cast, including a young Cynthia Nixon.


He was also enamored and enraptured by The Auteur Theory, to the point where he tended to diminish the contribution of screenwriters and claim that he and the actors improvised much of his films.

This started especially after the success of "MASH," his first hit. According to people who were there at the time, most of "MASH" was in the script by Ring Lardner, Jr. But the bigger a hit it became, the less you heard Altman mention that name.

He was also publicly very negative about the TV series version of "MASH." Although in (series developer) Larry Gelbart's memoir, he records a meeting with the director in which he professed jealousy as the primary motivating factor for those comments.

Altman made the mistake, I feel, that many actors with a gift for improvisation make as well: He relied on it, trusting it to pull rabbits out of his ass when he hadn't prepared sufficient material. I loved "Popeye" as a kid and it's still a guilty pleasure today, but there's no denying it's a film that has no ending. It has a stopping place, not an ending, and that's not the same thing. Even Jules Feffier, the guy who wrote it, will tell you that.

In a way, if you wanted to make a satire of Altman's weaknesses as a filmmaker, you couldn't do better than his own "Ready To Wear." This is an indulgent movie which, dramatically, has no ending and, as a film, ends with Nude Women On Parade.

As Alice said of the Jabberwocky, it seems very pretty, but it's awfully hard to understand.

For better and for worse, such might be Altman's epithet.

Monday, November 20, 2006

"Gee, Davey, do you think it was...God?"

One of my all-time favorite "host segments" on Mystery Science Theatre 3000 was one during that fine film, Eegah! Joel and the 'bots had a little discussion as to the exact nature of Hell. You can watch it in the last two quarters-or-so of this 10-minute clip from the episode, which is recommended.

But if you don't have the inclination or the time to watch a 10-minute clip, here is a transcript of the bit. Or if you're really feeling like a lazy bum, here's the last handful of lines:

Tom: Joel, what chance do we have in a world that keeps presenting us with vivid images of Hell?
Joel: Well, there's personal liberty, strength of conviction, those have been known to work... Then there's the times the country rallies together to beat back Hell, like the time we as a nation said no to Yahoo Serious.
Crow: I remember that, all of us, together, drawn inexplicably to the slobbering mouth of Hell, and then suddenly, somehow, by some unknown force, rescued in the nick of time like Moses and the Israelites.
Tom: Now, who in creation is powerful enough to do that?
Crow (in a deep, Goliath voice): Gee, Davey, do you think it was...God?

On a completely unrelated matter, the OJ Simpson book and TV special If I Did It has been cancelled. Proving that the American public can still be sickened by the poison the fangs of Rupert Murdoch have been pumping into them for years. Well done, American public. You're having a nice few weeks.

Keep up the good work.


Fox is considering airing "a 'Daily Show'-like program" for conservatives. Good luck to them. Conservative satire is, traditionally, much harder than it might at first appear. Mark Evanier compared it to

writing a Marx Brothers movie and trying to make Margaret Dumont the funny one.

Comedy, after all, usually involves a knee-jerk attack on the Establishment. Even today [Mark was writing in 1996], you won't get a lot of laughs mocking the underprivileged and disadvantaged
Of course, guys like Rush Limbaugh and, back in the day, Andrew Dice Clay do just that, so it may be safe to assume, as American Street does, that this is the level of humor we can expect from this undertaking.

I'm also reminded of something in the interview Playboy did with the cast & crew of "West Wing" in October 2001 (See? I told you I buy it for the articles). To quote Bradley Whitford, the actor who played Josh, the closest thing that series had to a lead (and now of "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip"):

"If we were a bunch of Republicans, the show would end with swelling music and we'd be jumping up and down and saying 'Hurrah! We have managed to unprotect the land!' 'The tax break came through for the dot-com guys!"

Besides, "a Daily Show for conservatives" suggests that the "Daily Show" itself is a lot more progressive and liberal than it really is. You know I think they hit the heights almost every night, but they don't do it by trying to move the US in one direction or another.

A study a couple of years ago found that (if memory serves), in the months leading up to the 2004 election, the "Daily Show's" shots were almost equally distributed between George Bush and John Kerry.

They do it by seeing what's funny about reality. But then of course, as Stephen Colbert famously pointed out, reality has a well-known liberal bias. Which may be more what the Fox guys want to counter.

BTW, the mooted show is reportedly to be executive produced by "24's" Joel Surnow and Manny Cota. Well, "24" is a great show, but I don't know if they'd be my go-to guys for comedy, even if Surnow can spit George Bush's dick out of his mouth.

You'd be drinking, too, if you'd had the couple of weeks he's had

Good article from the New Statesman in the UK about the recent US election. I think I agree with about 98% of it. Especially the bits about how yeah, the Democrats won, but considering what they had to work with it's amazing they didn't deliver more of an asskicking. The article suggests that indeed, the Democrats didn't win, rather, the Republicans lost.

In an aside, the writer refers to John Edwards as "right-wing," which I don't actually think he is except maybe compared to someone like Dennis Kucinich. But then, Edwards/Dean remains the ticket that, at this time, I'd most like to see in 2008. This will almost certainly change by the time that year rolls around.

Anyway, that's hardly the main thrust of the article, which seems to have been written before it had been confirmed that the Democrats had taken the house and senate. So a few paragraphs near the end become less relevant.

But the last couple of paragraphs are especially interesting. In them, the writer reports claims he sources as high-up that President Bush is drinking again. For the record, I believe it, and I've believed it for a long time.

I've said this before, but it always bears repeating. Do you really think Bush passed out...from eating a pretzel?

Gosh, I love living in this city

There is nothing like being awakened before dawn's early light by the sound of some guy banging and kicking at your door repeatedly for minutes at a time. Whining "Come's cold."

You can call me a coward, but...I don't even like opening the door to unexpected strangers in the middle of the day when I'm well-rested. There was no way I was going to do it to someone doing that, when it's still so dark I can't see through the peephole. Before five o'clock in the morning when as it happens I haven't even had four hours sleep yet.

I admit it, I waited what seemed like several long minutes hoping whoever it was would go away. When he didn't, I called through the door, "Who is it?"
He replied what sounded like "Six."
I said "Who?"
"Tell me who you are."
"Who are you?"
"I don't think you have the right apartment."
Then he said something else I don't remember and I said "Go away."

He far as I can tell...and I came in here and started writing this. Why? Well, I'm hoping/assuming that in a few hours time after a better night's sleep this will seem like paranoia.

Logic would seem to suggest it was some drunken or otherwise brain-clouded friend of one of my neighbors. This apartment building is actually, technically, two facing apartment buildings so that I periodically get people knocking (in the day!) who want my apartment # in the opposite building. But that may be applying too much logic to it.

It seemed like a good idea to get down a timeline and as-immidiate-as-possible account of the weird experience. "See" you, god willing, tomorrow...

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Random Flickr-Blogging: IMG_1635

As it turned out, Janet was glad the picture was out of focus, because, well...y'know.


A short rant.

You know what I don't like? Writing samples. Specifically, preparing writing samples of my work to send to potential publishers and, in the past, theater companies. I'm trying to prepare two or three packages to send out tomorrow and one of the publishers I intend to try accepts email queries or, by regular mail, 10-page writing samples.

The task of picking 10 pages out of my work that represents what it is and what I can do, is a daunting one. There are scenes and chapters that I like but to place them out of context anguishes me.

I think (fingers crossed) that a lot of whatever effect My Girlfriend's Boyfriend has depends on its build. Some strong scenes I'm afraid won't have nearly as much effect if you haven't just spent the last x number of pages getting to know the characters and situations.

So you might well ask, as I have myself, why don't I just forgo the writing sample and take the emailed query option? That way I give them the premise of what my story is about, and they-we live in hope-tell me if they think it sounds like something they'd like to read. If yes, I send them the entire manuscript.

Well, that's fine, except that I actually do think the characterizations and dialogue are the best things in it, and that is perhaps best represented by a writing sample. So you see the hell that I am in this afternoon.

Should I-
If so, then what-
Or what about-
Yeah, but then-


In a perfect world, of course, all publishers would be able to read entire manuscripts at all times. I understand that there are practical reasons why that's not possible. Nevertheless...


ETA: Never mind. I fixed it.

John McCain: Earning respect left and right.

Well, right.