Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Serendipity and epiphanies

So just last night, I started a whiny, complaining email to one of my friends about writing. I got just one sentence typed in it before I decided it was rude to inflict my selfish woes on her and saved the email to draft instead of finishing and sending it. The sentence was:

I've probably said this before, but I do not appear to write well when I am not obsessing over someone.

And I thought nothing more of it. Just went to bed reading, as I usually do. My current novel is in PDF form, so I switched to a new book and read the first three chapters of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards. Now, I'm not reading this book to learn how to draw (though I won't mind at all if my drawing abilities improve!), but this book is very highly recommended by Holly Lisle in her Think Sideways class. The lessons in the book are designed not so much to teach you how to draw as how to perceive things with the right half of your brain, so the drawing then comes naturally. Holly recommends this book for everyone, not just artists or even writers. I figured I'd better check it out, as I've really enjoyed the class and I respect Holly's opinion.

And right when I got ready to close the book for the night, that's when I realized (in a non-verbal right brain flash, LOL) that that's what "obsession" meant to me, and why I'd written that one sentence earlier. I've been using obsession to access the right half of my brain. It's my shortcut, my jumpstart. I mean, what happens when I obsess over some actor? I spend a lot of time daydreaming, a lot of time thinking in images not words. A lot of time letting the right half of my brain run completely and happily amuck while my left brain tries to tell me how completely silly I am, how useless it is to spend perfectly good hours lost daydreaming about dead actors, and to get back to reality. Right. This. Second. Every novel I've written has come during an obsession over one actor or another. From Sam Neill to Sean Bean to Vic Morrow to Dana Andrews to a little unknown actor no one has heard of named Fletcher Fist. I write very well when I can't get those actors out of my head.

So yes. My whining, complaining observation was actually valid: I haven't been writing well since November because I'm not obsessing over anyone anymore. Or in more logical words: I'm not accessing or listening to the right half of my brain as easily as I do when I'm gone over someone who appeals to me. And my left brain cannot write a novel without the right brain.

I guess this book has come along at a good time, as there appear to be no actor obsessions in my near future. I can use the book's techniques to get to the same place, and possibly in a better manner (though I can't see it as being quite as fun as my previous method.... :-D)

I am very interested now to finish reading this book and see where it takes me.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Hollywood Collector's Show

So, tootled down to Burbank on Saturday to attend this show. It was quite fun. There's two parts - the vendors selling lots of cool movie stuff, and then the actors attending. It's also quite pricey, and so I only got one autograph. That was Malcolm McDowell's. I've liked him since I first saw Time After Time when it came out in the theaters. Best part of meeting him? Listening to his voice... it is so much richer and lovely in person than in a movie. Mmmmm.

The two unexpected highlights of the day were talking with Garrett Wang (played Harry Kim on Star Trek: Voyager) and Kevin Sorbo of Hercules fame. Both were very nice, down-to-earth, non-ego-y, and super easy and fun to talk to. For someone who's pretty shy like me, that's a very welcome thing! I had good long conversations with both of them and it was just very very cool.

There were quite a few others I wouldn't have minded talking to, but I simply had no clue what to say to them, so contented myself with exchanging smiles and head nods. The one I really would like to have met was Debbie Reynolds. She was ADORABLE!! Looked absolutely fabulous, like she hasn't changed in forty years, and was all smiles. But she arrived late, and by the time my family returned from lunch, she had already departed. That's the way it goes.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Betty Hutton extravaganza

So, thanks to this really nice site, I've watched three Betty Hutton films I've never seen, each starring one of my favorite men:

The Fleet's In (1942) with William Holden
Somebody Loves Me (1952) with Ralph Meeker
Spring Reunion (1957) with Dana Andrews

Now, I have mixed feelings about Betty Hutton. Sometimes I really like her, and other times she's simply too loud and annoying for me. This goes for both her acting and her singing. My mileage definitely varies. For example, I don't particularly like Annie, Get Your Gun, but I do like The Stork Club. So, these three new films were an interesting mix.

My least favorite of the three... Spring Reunion. Sorry, Dana, but I did not like this film at all. This is like a chick flick from the 50's. I don't like current ones; I don't like old ones. Premise... the man and woman voted most likely to succeed in their senior year in high school meet again at their school's fifteen year reunion, find out they both have done nothing with their lives, and since neither's married, they fall in love in one day and run off immediately to get married because this will make their useless-to-date lives complete. *rolls eyes* Okay, now I'm not really arguing that a chick can't fall for and decide to marry Dana Andrews in one day, ahem, but really... it's just a completely nerve-grating movie where I want to slap all the characters at various points. Blech. But high points go to Jean Hagen -- always wonderful in whatever films she turns up in, and I loved Betty Hutton here. She's low key and very appealing, and she worked well with the material given. Dana... hm. His character was a very odd clash of opportunist and sincerity, with a bit of lonely desperation. Hard to get a fix on who he was really aiming to be here.

The middle-rated movie was The Fleet's In. Oh sigh. William Holden is absolutely adorable, Dorothy Lamour is sassy and snarky, and the premise simple, but cute. Navy sailor Holden gets photographed kissing a movie star (an accident of location) and his shipmates plug the naïve sailor as top wolf of the boat. A bet gets made that he can't get famous night club singer Dorothy Lamour to kiss him in public. That's it... simple and cute. I loved everything with Holden and Lamour. But unfortunately they're not the whole movie. And the movie was sideswiped way off track in the last half hour by a variety show put on for the sailors... the story ground to a halt, and every act in their show either creeped me out or was so far gone into slapstick I couldn't deal. Cut all that extra stuff out, and this would have easily been my favorite film of the three. And alas, this was also Betty Hutton quite loud and obnoxious (though she did have some very funny scenes), so I had a hard time getting through the parts minus Holden and Lamour. And oddly, this was another film with an overnight romance leading to marriage, but at least this one had the benefit of a WWII setting when men and women did need to act quickly sometimes. Spring Reunion had no such excuse.

And my favorite of the three films was Somebody Loves Me. I really loved Betty Hutton in this one. There's no brash hollering, no craziness; she's soft-spoken, emotional, pretty, and her singing is beautiful. This one's the story of the rise and fame of a real vaudeville singer and her husband, from 1906 to somewhere in the 1920s. It had a lot (a LOT) of songs, most as performances on stage, but I think with only one exception, I enjoyed them all. Ralph Meeker is at the beginning of his career and very young here. He's playing a character type he does very well... the scheming heel who ultimately redeems himself. Betty Hutton falls for him almost instantly, but his character simply uses her, her wealth, and her fame to get ahead in the show biz world -- until he realizes he's really in love with her. It's sounds a bit corny, but they play it straight and it never falls into yucky pretentiousness baloney sandwich material like Spring Reunion (no, I really didn't like that movie!). Only lousy part of this movie? Whoever they picked to dub Ralph Meeker's singing voice. I mean the voice itself is very lovely, it's just that Meeker has such a distinctive speaking voice (one of the things I love about him), the filmmakers couldn't find any baritone a little closer in quality than this? I mean, really?? Cuz it was such a bad match it yanked me out of the movie and just made me giggle every time he started "singing."

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


I love dreams. I have always had weird, cool, crazy, memorable dreams and the ones of the past few days got me thinking about movie and book dream sequences. I tend to have issues with fiction's dreams, as they never seem anything like real life dreams. Dreams, particularly in books, always seem to have Import with a capital I. In fiction, dreams seem mostly contrived to further the plot. Dreams seem to always mean something. Characters follow dream portents to reach goals in their fictionalized lives. My dreams may be pretty darned awesome, but they've never led me on a quest or given me any great truths about life. Unfortunately. :-D I have gotten story ideas out of some of them, but that's the extent of it. And all those fictional dreams-with-meaning miss out on the sheer wild beauty of the reality of dreams.

Once upon a time, I read some article on one theory that dreams were simply the brain's way of clearing out the mental trash. A mental garbage dump, so to speak. That stuck with me as it always seemed to fit a little better than theories trying to give real meaning to dreams. I mean, if you look hard enough, you can assign meaning to just about anything. I prefer thinking my dreams are simply the product of my brain cleaning house at the end of the day. I also have my own pet fictional theory on dreams that I've been trying to turn into a novella but have yet to find the right story to go with the idea. One of these days!

I was trying to think of movie dream sequences and couldn't really come up with many, though I know there's really a lot out there. Most just don't stick in my head, because, again, they're not representative of the dreams I have. The ones I can think of off the top of my head are in Murder, My Sweet, though it's drug-induced, so I'm not sure it quite counts. The Marrying Kind has a really funny one that I rather like because it does display some of the sheer randomness of dreams. And I loved Wim Wenders' Until the End of the World. I always wanted one of those dream recording devices!

But probably my favorite dream sequence of all is from Vertigo. Now, that one, to me, hits everything right. It's got the right sense of disconnect, hits some of the things that are bothering Jimmy Stewart's character at that time but doesn't try to make sense of them or Scotty, it just is. Add in Bernard Hermann's score and that makes it truly nightmarish.