Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

May this be a grand and gay night, with no bad news lurking to ambush you by phone (or other modern method), and may 2009 bring us all what we're looking for.

Monday, December 29, 2008

"Missing's the word."

18,000 words on the cursed fanfic story, just a few thousand words left to reach the end... and I'm stuck. I've outlined the whole thing up to present (after writing it) to make sure everything's in the right order (almost, but not quite). I've freewritten. I've daydreamed. I've played with the dog. I've read more of the novel I'm reading. I've watched half of Alvarez Kelly again (I've decided I think I need to own that one - the subject line is one of my favorite smug WH quotes from it, only I'm feeling anything but smug). I've done more freewriting but, mostly, I keep rewording the same damned question, the one I can't answer, the "why" question that's halted me in my tracks, hoping that maybe if I reword it just so, the answer will jump out at me.

Thinking about it now, I did let myself go slightly astray in the story, which might have been a bad idea. It gave me a new cool scene and direction, but I think all I did was complicate matters. And to go this direction, I had to throw out a scene that's been in my head from very early on... I'm wondering what might happen if I yank the new scene and re-write more along the original lines, might that eliminate the problem? No, cuz the nasty question still remains unanswered, and I can't move forward until I know the answer. Grrr.

Can't write a nice simple story, no... it has to have enough subplots, character arcs, and povs for a novel. Seems to be a commonality in my longer fanfic stories lately... and that makes them both logistical nightmares and, despite my frustrations, very fun.

(And I think I need to write a post sometime about the Movie Clothes I Wished I Owned. Like Dana's jacket in The Ox-Bow Incident.)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

"He's kinda grand, ain't he?"

I am such a dork. I was in the mood for a Joel McCrea western, so I bumped this movie, The Silver Horde (1930), to the top of my netflix queue. There are a couple of big things wrong with this idea of mine:

1. I insisted on interpreting "Horde" as "Hoard," and, as the vague description was about an adventurer in Alaska making his fortune, I assumed it would be a Western reminiscent of The Far Country, just with silver instead of gold.

2. I know JMC didn't make any Westerns until a few years later.

Uh... duh, Deb! What were you thinking??

So, the silver horde referenced by the title is... salmon, and the movie was set in modern times (relatively speaking) and was about rival fisheries and salmon canning. No hoard of silver. No back-stabbing claim jumpers. Not a single cowboy or a horse within sight. Instead, there were manicurists (darned funny scene), evening gowns and JMC in one of his oh-so-wonderfully fitted tuxes, some lovely real Alaska scenery, and some sled dogs. Not to mention lots of salmon and the cannery operations...

After my initial disappointment (and laughing at my own blind wishful thinking), I found a fun movie with a few surprises. A few spoilers follow...

JMC plays one of those bright-eyed and rather naive do-gooder types, out to make his fortune, and having no luck at it. He's given a business opportunity by Cherry (Evelyn Brent), a famous woman of ill-repute that everybody's heard of -- except JMC. The villain is this "no one competes with my fishery, mwah-hah-hah *rubs thin moustache* kind of guy. He's also trying to marry (naturally!) JMC's wealthy scoiety girl, Mildred, who's played by Jean Arthur. Naturally, with the unknown help of Cherry, JMC's cannery succeeds, which forces the bad guy to implement various nasty plans to stop him and results in a very cool giant brawl -- on the fishing fleet, no less! Woo! This scene actually looked rather dangerous to film: the two rival fleets colliding mid-river, cannery workers from both sides jumping between moving ships, fighting and throwing each other overboard. Yikes! A love triangle between Cherry, Mildred, and JMC anchors the rest of the story. Of course, JMC eventually discovers Cherry's reputation and has an angry meltdown. There's also a couple fabulous confrontations between the two women. In the big one, Mildred, our respectable society girl is dressed all in white, Cherry's dressed in black... but when all's said and done, guess who JMC actually ends up with? Yeah, Cherry, the woman with a reputation from San Francisco to Sitka. I'm not sure that would have happened if this movie had been made a few years later. I actually cheered when he dumped Mildred to go to Cherry, because Mildred (cute as Jean Arthur is) was annoying and shallow and selfish and just so not the right match, but I was sure the movie couldn't possibly let him end up with a famous prostitute. Particularly after the villain is exposed as still being married to another prostitute!! But it did! WOOO! Happy ending!

So, not at all what I was expecting, but quite enjoyable. Highlights were the fishing fleet brawl, the scathing social-commentary dialog between the two women, a sequence showing the entire process from netting the salmon through the various processing to the canning and crating, and seeing all the main actors actually working and getting fishy in the cannery. Actor Louis Wolheim any time he's on screen. He steals the show! He gets the hilarious manicurist scene, and I love when he physically restrains JMC (no easy feat) and gives him a piece of his mind. And, of course, there's JMC himself, so darned cute when he's angry and sad. Or happy. Or dancing. Or tired. Or punching out the opposition....

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Bend of the River (1952)

And that wraps up my Anthony Mann/Jimmy Stewart Western viewings. I saved this film for last because it was the only one I'd seen before, when I was young. I'd completely forgotten Rock Hudson was in it, but, well, he had almost no part and should have been cut out anyway. Not that I have anything against him, it's just the plot would have been tighter without him. He didn't add anything other than an extra gun. Besides, he's just so vanilla next to Arthur Kennedy and James Stewart.

Ahhh, Arthur Kennedy. This was the first movie I ever saw him in, and I've liked him ever since. It was kind of funny, because watching it now, I realize the first thing that attracted me to him -- was his horse. Horses were big in my family, well with my mom, anyway. My dad, not so much. She'd always owned and ridden horses, was always talking and watching horses. We watched Westerns as much to see the horses as the shoot-outs and barroom brawls. And in Bend of the River, Mr. Kennedy is riding a buckskin, and that was always my favorite coloring. Hee. But he's fabulous in this, just like in Man From Laramie. All the right shades of charming, brave, shifty, determined, and desperate.

I think it's fascinating how similar his character and Jimmy Stewart really are, how it could easily have been Jimmy Stewart who betrayed Arthur Kennedy instead. They're both skirting the edges of their pasts and future, looking for a new life. Kennedy's just a little greedier, where Stewart wants redemption. Their scenes together are the best in the film and make me grin grin grin. I love the way they each realize who the other is in the beginning, how it's mostly conveyed in looks, not words, because they both have a lot to hide, and they respect each other enough not to give each other away to the settlers. Gotta dig that. I love their Oriole/Indian talk. I love how quick Kennedy is to defend Stewart (a lot quicker than the reverse) multiple times. I love Kennedy's horse. :-D (Hah! Just re-read my review of Man from Laramie, and apparently, he's also riding a buckskin in that movie. That I also had to comment on.)

Julie Adams is the love interest in this, and I couldn't help but be cross with her. This isn't her fault so much as her character's. I seem to have encountered a rash of fickle Julie Adams characters lately, and I'm still mad at her for messing with Joel McCrea's heart in The Gunfight at Dodge City. I think she's just as cold and fickle here. I mean, she's clearly attracted to Arthur Kennedy the moment he appears. She spends months with him in Portland, and then she condemns him completely in less than a minute flat when he turns on Jimmy Stewart. Now, honey, don't you even want to hear his side of it? Stand by your man just a little? Particularly after knowing he's a gambler and already deciding to stay in Portland with him and ignore your family? Sheesh! I would have. At least let him 'splain things. Maybe there was more to his plan, maybe he had grander ideas. But nooooo. She tells him instantly to get lost. Hmph. Silly fickle woman.

But really, I loved the movie very much. And the Mann/Stewart collaborations really are a great series of Westerns. I'd personally rank them as follows:

1. The Naked Spur
2. Bend of the River
3. The Man from Laramie
4. The Far Country
5. Winchester 73

Probably an obvious order for anyone who knows me, me being the plot-girl I am: The Naked Spur is the only one with a really tight story. The others are a little too sprawly, a little too segmented into different sections. And, of course, Naked Spur has Ralph Meeker. And as much as I love Arthur Kennedy, I love Meeker a lot more, even if he doesn't ride a buckskin. LOL!

Friday, December 19, 2008

20, er.... 10 favorite actresses

This meme comes from Asleep in New York. This was quite difficult for me as, I admit, I don't pay all that much attention to the women in movies usually. Shame on me! If you asked me who my all-time favorite actress is... er, I don't think I could honestly name a true genuine favorite. But I like many actresses for a variety of reasons. So, I'm just picking 10, because after the first ten, it gets into the impersonal generic "oh, I like that actress cuz she's gorgeous and talented" realm, but I don't actually know her work that well. So these ten are ones I have always had special affection for, whose performances haven't diminished over time, or that I still admire (or secretly want to be), or that really did make me pay attention when the men weren't around.

This list is alphabetical by first name (just cuz I needed some order).

1. Anne Baxter

I fell in love with her when I was a kid and first saw her as Nefretiri in Ten Commandments. Not only was she beautiful, but she has that wonderful low, sultry voice. I have a radio show of Where the Sidewalk Ends with her and Dana Andrews, and it really got me musing what she would have been like in the movie instead of Gene Tierney. I like Gene, I really do, she's just so fragile and broken (even when she's playing strong or scheming, she's still incredibly vulnerable), and I can't relate to her the way I can to Anne Baxter. I've actually sought out a few of her movies and liked her in every one. I'm very tempted to name Anne Baxter as my favorite actress.

2. Barbara Stanwyck

She's a newer addition, but as she starred with just about every single classic actor I love (lucky woman!), as well as in Big Valley, I've had tons and tons of screen time with her lately and have really gotten to love her. She can play any kind of character and make you believe in her.

3. Betty Grable

I simply think she's wonderful. I've liked her in everything I've seen her in, and I actually went hunting for more of her movies just because she's so fun and seems so honestly nice.

4. Dorothy Lamour

Mostly a childhood favorite, from watching all those Road pictures over and over and over... Another one with a sultry voice too... and she goes right along with my love of South Seas romance movies.

6. Grace Kelly

I often think of her first when I'm asked about actresses, but that's mostly from how much I love her in Rear Window and To Catch a Thief. I don't particularly like her in High Noon or High Society. Even still, I can't think of any other woman who wears her clothes quite as well or simply looks quite that elegant.

7. Janice Rule

Caught her first in old tv shows, but have since seen her in quite a few movies, enough that I have gone looking for more of her work. There's a simple directness and natural beauty to her that I just really like.

8. Jeanette MacDonald

My dad loved old musicals, so I grew up on a lot of Jeanette MacDonald. I love her particularly in San Francisco, but she gets to sing Tosca in Rose Marie (and have Jimmy Stewart for a brother!), and that, plus her voice, put her ahead of most other musical stars for me.

9. Mary Ure

I've only seen her in two movies (both with Richard Burton, interestingly!), but one of those was one of the base founding movies of my life: Where Eagles Dare. She was the first female action hero I idolized. I always wanted to be a blonde because of her. Heck, I wanted to be just like her in that movie. I mean she's right in there doing everything the guys are, and Richard Burton trusts her to watch prisoners and shoot down bad guys while he's vulnerable. I don't know about favorite actress, but Mary Elison in Where Eagles Dare is still my all-time favorite female character.

5. Merle Oberon

She's the brunette version of Grace Kelly for me. Stunningly elegant, always beautiful even when she's dressed down. And I adore her in Night Song.

10. Vitina Marcus

Ha! Okay, I know almost nobody's heard of her (I assume), but when I was little, she seemed to be in everything the family watched. The Lost World, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Time Tunnel, etc. She was usually playing the exotic and beautiful native girl, and I sooooooo wanted to be her. :-D

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Well, well. I hate when I overlook the obvious

So, there's this cool meme going around regarding naming your 20 favorite actresses, and, while I was contemplating who I'd put on that list, I let my thoughts drift to my favorite actors instead. Naturally! And you know, I realized something. I realized who my all-time favorite actor actually is.

It's William Holden.

Which surprised me a little, because I've tended to try to dismiss him, maybe because he has been such a constant figure in my life. But he's so clearly at the top over everyone else when I just stop and think about it. He's the only actor I've consistently and faithfully loved since childhood, ever since my first viewing of The Horse Soldiers. I like him at every age. He's never fallen out of favor, never angered me or embarrassed me with a performance, never been anything but my favorite for thirty or so years (and I most definitely cannot say all of those things about any other actor I like). And if anything, he gets better and better with each movie I see. Dana Andrews and everybody else on my list are relative newcomers, and as much as I adore them, and as special a spot as they have in my heart, they lack that solidity of lasting all those years and years. It was always William Holden's picture on my wall, and his book of complete films I read over and over out of all my movie books. And no matter who catches my eye, no matter whose movies I seek out, it's William Holden I always come back to. The one by whom I subconsciously measure everyone else. Because he plays the character-types I love best. Because he's handsome and bitter and sarcastic and vulnerable and has the best grin and a wonderful voice and he's a damned fine actor.

William Holden in The Horse Soldiers

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Route 66, second season

So, went Christmas shopping yesterday and, of course, ended up with one thing for myself. That's the second season of Route 66 (and yay for Roxbury Entertainment not even attempting to muck about with this season's format). I fell thoroughly in love with the first season. This was a show where every time I'd get a disc from netflix, I'd think, okay, four episodes, let's do one each night. And I never, ever could. Once the dvd went in, I simply could not turn it off. It didn't matter if I didn't start watching until 10 pm, I'd stay up however long it took to watch all four episodes. It was that good. Many eps wrung me out emotionally. This show deals with a lot of unpleasant things, makes you think, makes you care about strangers you just met. The stories, the snappy, snazzy dialogue, the great real locales, the two leads, the guest stars, the music.... This show does everything right.
So sure enough, I put in the first disc of Season 2 last night... and I didn't stop watching until I'd seen all four eps. I just can't (nor want to) turn this show off! The last ep on the disc surprised me for a 1960 show. Naive Tod wants to help a heroin addict get through withdrawal enough to go into a drug rehab program and gets his eyes opened. Not-so-naive Buz has a spot-on raging rant that just blew me away. I didn't expect that kind of honesty and openness about drug abuse. Though it shouldn't surprise me, because this show dives in headfirst everywhere else.

I cannot wait to watch the rest of the season.

Favorite line of dialogue last night, from "Goodnight Sweet Blues," said by the wonderful, wonderful Ethel Waters: "Time has nothing to do with who you love."

Monday, December 08, 2008

Bird of Paradise (1932)

This movie reminded me of something I'd almost forgotten: how much of a complete sucker I am for a romantic South Seas Island story. It reminded me that my favorite, most-read part of "Mutiny on the Bounty" is not actually the mutiny or even anything having to do with Fletcher Christian, but rather the swimming contest between Tehani and Byam. Yeah, seriously -- I mostly read Mutiny on the Bounty for everything that happened on the islands. And when I watch South Pacific, it's really to get to the parts with Lt. Cable and Liat on the island. What can I say? I really am a complete sucker for a romantic South Seas Island story.

So, did I get what I wanted from Bird of Paradise?

Romance? Check! Natives enthusiastically greeting boat and subsequent wild party? Check! Shark attack? Check! Boy gets, then loses girl, check! Unexpected brutal violence, check! Lots of boats and swimming, Joel McCrea tied up not once, but twice, lots of beautiful scenery, coconuts, everyone (including our handsome hero) scantily clad... yeah. All of that. Oh, and did I mention the romance?

Bonuses: 1) The volcano. 2) Snappy dialog, particularly among the ship passengers/crew. 3) And the absolutely wonderful native lady that Joel McCrea bribes with a record player. I loved her!

So, yeah, this version of Bird of Paradise was a lot of fun for me. It gave me everything I want out of a palm tree flick, and quite a bit more. Sailor falls for native girl, only she's off limits (of course) being a princess. She falls for him too, so her dad hurriedly shoves her into marriage with a prince on another island. Only Joel McCrea follows, steals her right out of the middle of the wedding ceremony (now that takes guts!). Off they run to their own little tropical island, where he builds a house and she shows him what they can eat and he teaches her English, and life is oh-so-sighingly indolent and lovely. Then the volcano starts erupting, and everything goes south from there.

I think it's kind of ironic how good the special effects were back in the 30's (Wizard of Oz's tornado still looks better than any CGI crap they do nowadays. Ditto, The Hurricane's typhoon) compared to even just a decade later. This movie gets a lovely lava flow with real footage, and the volcano itself looks pretty good in all but a couple shots.

The only very minor disappointment was that I was expecting an ending more like the Debra Paget remake's ending, and this one sort of faded to black before it quite got there. This movie was far superior in every other aspect, I thought (though it's been ages since I've seen the remake, so that might be an unfair comment).

Friday, November 28, 2008

2008 nano wrap up

And that's nano #5 done, gone, and behind me. FOREVER! The boys can relax, and I can get out of Normandy for awhile and get back to the Old West. Though, ironically enough, I got the most words in today (figures), and I'm ready to keep going right now. Which is, of course, the idea... now that I'm nicely in the daily habit of writing, I must not lose it again. Must not, I tell you! Overcoming entropy is the hardest part.

So, wrapping up... I actually had far better discipline this year despite everything than during any previous year. I wrote every day (even if I did have to throw the word count out for two days) except for one. However, it took me half the month before I was actually, you know, writing, instead of merely interrupting my time-wasting sessions with a few words every few minutes. Writing shorts was both easier and harder than novel. Easier because when I got stuck on one, I could just jump to another. Harder because there's no room to ramble and explore, and so I had to stay better focused. But as long as I visualized the next day's scenes before I went to bed, I usually didn't have a problem picking up again. What surprised me most were the three unexpected stories that came out of nowhere and mostly wrote themselves. They sort of broke loose and went crazy. And even better -- all three of those are now completed too!


Least daily words: 0
Most daily words: 6,034 (today)
Daily average: 1,800

Stories Completed:
Crossroads (5,700 words)
In Little Stars (3,000 nano words, 18K total)
Untitled Christmas story (4,000)
Teeth of a Dragon (12,000)

Still in progress:
Blood of the Air (17,000 nano words, 18K total to date)
Murder's Melody (6,700 nano words, 14.5K to date)
Misc fanfic bits and bobs (2,000)

Music listened to most:
The Bridge at Remagen (Bernstein)
Raggedy Man (Goldsmith)
The Stripper (Goldsmith)
Studs Lonigan (Goldsmith)
Main Title from Ride the High Country (Bassman) -- and no, I'm still not tired of it

Pandemic 2 games played until humanity was overcome:

Netflix movies watched:
8 (gulp! Bad me! And that's not counting repeat viewings on a couple of those. Ahem)

Hot tea consumed:
Too many mugfuls to count

Monday, November 24, 2008

And that's 40,000 behind me

Finally! I am fully back in the writing habit. I'd forgotten how wonderful it is to wake up in the morning unable to wait to turn on the computer so I can get to it, to have scenes swirling in my head just waiting to be thrown on paper.

So far this nano, I have completed first drafts of:

1. "In Little Stars"
2. "Crossroads"
3. an Unnamed Christmas Challenge Story

Tonight, I should wrap up "Teeth of a Dragon," which is a Halloween Challenge story, which only leaves the much longer work "Blood of the Air" still in progress. I actually will complete Nano before I complete it though, I realized, because at 18,000 words, I'm only 2/3rds through it. If that. I may only be halfway through it, as there's still a lot ahead.

And then, there's "Murder's Melody" which I should have done first, but of course, pushed aside, waaaay aside. Bad bad me. I did get a few thousand on it intermittently, but nowhere near what's needed to complete it. I guess I'll have to buckle down on that one in December. Grrrrr.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Most Dangerous Game (1932)

Ahhhh, habit. Writing habits are a good thing, and I'm finally settling back into mine. It's a really good feeling, particularly after a night like tonight, where I whipped right through 1800 words in an hour. It was quite nice to realize I wasn't stopping every paragraph to check my word count (oooh, look ma, another 101 words... how exciting!), I just immersed and went. I did the math and I need 2000 words a day between now and Nov 30 to complete Nano. Definitely can't afford any slackage. And short stories, I've found, are a far more difficult thing to tackle in a Nano sprint than a novel. On a novel, you can just blithely plow ahead no matter what, and there's room to roam. That doesn't work so well with shorts. At least not with my shorts.

Speaking of shorts, Richard Connell's "The Most Dangerous Game" has always been one of my favorites. I had this very treasured book growing up called A World of Events that had all sorts of fiction and non-fiction in it. I read "The Most Dangerous Game" over and over until I had sections memorized. Probably one of those early influences that led me to believe that the scariest villain will always be another human being. Here's a photo from that book (of course, I still have it!). I always loved this particular picture. I always thought Zaroff looked like Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in this drawing (click pic to make big). And Ivan always scared the pants off me, as I'm sure he supposed to. And yes, this book was a teacher's edition and has all sorts of interesting annotations in the margins.

So, since I did so well on writing tonight, I had time to watch the 1932 version of The Most Dangerous Game and not feel guilty. The movie changes a few things, naturally, from the short. Mostly in adding a woman to the mix. It is Hollywood, after all. Gotta have a woman around for the hero to protect. Fortunately she's played by Fay Wray and is a nice mixture of spunky, brave, and understandably a bit freaked. And despite her, the movie rather eerily captured exactly the feelings and atmosphere reading the story gave me. Weird. I didn't expect that at all. The jungle sets (same ones used in King Kong), the foggy swamp, they all looked like I used to imagine when I was a little girl. Being chased by a bloodthirsty pack of hounds... eiiii! Now there's something that always makes me cringe and hide on the couch. (Too much of The Hound of the Baskerville when I was young, I think!)

I expected the movie to be corny, and it wasn't at all, exact opposite, in fact. It was tense and the violence and a couple of the deaths quite gruesome. Some of the dialogue was even straight out of the short story. They shortened the timeline from the story's three days to 24 hours, and that suits the movie quite well. Injects a lot more tension into it, as there's no time for the hunted to rest. This Zaroff's also quite mad, where I never quite got that impression from the story version. That makes him quite creepy in the movie. Him and his forehead scar, and his post-kill cigarette, and mad buggy eyes. AHHHH! I have to admit, if I were Fay Wray in this movie, I'd rather take my chances in the jungle too than be anywhere near Zaroff. Particularly as going into the jungle means going with Joel McCrea, and I'd go with him anywhere.

Ah yes, Joel McCrea. The real reason this movie got bumped up to the top of my Netflix queue right now. Thirty years younger here than in Ride the High Country, still learning how to act, but he's still a wonderful combo of earnest and athletic and naturally relaxed. And he's already got that intense way of looking at his female co-stars, like time just stopped for him when they entered his view and nothing else in the world matters but them. Something about the way he's so laidback the rest of the time just makes it that much more arresting. He does this in every film I've seen so far where he's the romantic lead, and it's one of the absolute sexiest things I've ever seen from any male actor, and, out here in the audience, it melts me every time.

The Most Dangerous Game only has an hour running time, so I'll probably watch it again before I return the DVD. I've always wanted to see the Richard Widmark movie variant of this story, Run for the Sun, but somehow I don't think it will be nearly as satisfying as this one.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Hah! I made the halfway mark in Nano. Minor miracle considering all the fits and starts, but it's taken this long to get back into the daily habit of writing. I'm finally actually sitting down and writing, instead of checking out internet sites I've already visited sixteen times that day alone. I've also set my movie watching and reviewing aside for now, like a good girl, until I can finish out the month.

I've now finished drafts of two stories, "In Little Stars" and "Crossroads." I'm about halfway done with "Blood of the Air" and the one everyone really wants me to finish, "Murder's Melody"... well, I've gotten a couple thousand words on it, but other than that, it languishes. Naturally. I don't want to write that one. But BotA is not going to last me another 25K, so I'll have to get to it eventually before November ends.

(Joel McCrea in Buffalo Bill, sprawled and scribbling a letter...
my reward movie, and another writing picture for my collection!)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Quantum of Solace (2008)

Be warned. The following is both spoilerific and quite the rant. Because I am furious. If I ever meet the director of Quantum of Solace, I will slap him for messing up this movie so thoroughly I will never sit through it again.

See, I love James Bond. Seeing James Bond movies (or rather, being sent to bed after the teaser and before the credits) is one of my earliest memories. It's part of my consciousness, part of my life's blood. Yeah, I may be a girl, but I never wanted to be a Bond girl (with the exception of Fiona (Luciana Paluzzi) in Thunderball, because she is made of more awesome, as the kids these days are fond of saying, than all the other Bond girls put together). No, I wanted to be a spy like Bond himself. I grew up with Sean Connery, put up with Roger Moore, cheered on Timothy Dalton, even liked George Lazenby, politely loathed Pierce Brosnan, and fell completely head-over-heels in love with Daniel Craig. Casino Royale was so damned good it actually pushed Sean Connery aside and gave me a new favorite Bond. Who'd have thought that'd ever happen?

I have invested many many hours in Bond's company, watching those films, waiting for marathons on tv growing up, etc. I have spent lots of good money on repeat viewings in the theater, soundtracks, DVDs, books, posters, and pictures, and never regretted a single penny. So, yeah, I'm a big fan and I take Bond movies personally.

Take away the director, and Quantum of Solace would be an okay movie. Not great, but still good. It's flawed -- the new characters are undeveloped and just a bit cliche, plot is sloppy and unfocused, bad guy lacks a truly interesting agenda, but Bond and M and Felix help offset that. I probably would have seen it again, probably would have bought it when it came out on DVD. But no... someone gave control of the camera over to this jackass who made every action scene (and 98% of the rest of the movie) nothing but extreme close-ups and non-stop moving camera so much that I couldn't tell what the hell was happening. I actually gave up trying to figure out who was who and what they were doing in a couple scenes. It was giving me a headache, and I no longer cared. I know dancing camera work is en vogue right now, but do these people ever try and watch the movies they make? I mean, for real?? Mr. Forster, sir, the exciting part of a car chase is you know, people in one car chasing people in another car. With guns. And traffic. All that danger, excitement, and how's our hero going to get out of it in one piece. And it's a funny thing, but we kind of need to SEE the goddamned chase it to appreciate it. I know, I normally am not a swearing type of girl. This is how furious I am at how this director made this movie hell to sit through. It only has an hour and forty-five minute running time too. Where Casino Royale zipped by so fast I couldn't believe it was over (and it's about forty minutes longer), this sucker felt about three-hours long. At least. If I owned a watch, I would have been checking it constantly. I came *this* close to actually getting up and walking out. Only Daniel Craig kept me in my seat. I still love him and still think he's the best Bond, but please, please please, somebody get a director like Martin Campbell back for the next one. Someone who will actually back off, frame his shots, stop jerking the camera around and cutting the scene every two seconds, stop being all weirdly artsy at the wrong times, and let us see what's going on. Thank you.

Oh, and the next time you use opera? Don't add a weird extra bit and chop up the music so stupidly. Yeah, you do have people out here in the audience who happen to know opera quite well. (But I should add that despite that, watching the action/fight part of that scene with Tosca playing in the background was sheer heaven on the big screen and my favorite part of the movie.)

Speaking of music, I will add that I thought David Arnold's score for Casino Royale was great. It had some really nice themes, gave that film back more of a John Barry feel, and the music actually supported the film. This score? Quite the letdown. No themes were developed, it was mostly a jumble of notes... but then that pretty much sums up the movie. A big fat jumble of nothing.

I think I'm feeling old, or maybe just old-fashioned. I'm really not a hard-to-please viewer. I'll tolerate a lot of stupidity in movies. But this... nope. When I can't even figure out who's shooting at who in an action film, you've lost me. I guess there's a reason I don't go to the movies anymore, why I prefer watching DVDs of movies made before I was born.

And now, I'll go console myself with Joel McCrea and Buffalo Bill (after I get my word count... must remember -- work first, reward second).

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Reason #1 not to read TCM's schedule

Dang it. I really really wish I could get just subscribe to one cable channel sometimes: Turner Classic Movies. Cuz they're having a Ralph Meeker night tonight, and as I don't have cable or satellite, I can't watch any of it. Sniff. And if I'm going to procrastinate on Nano writing, I can't think of a better way to do it.

Maybe it's a good thing, because my goal is to get 5000 words today. (The most I've done is a little over 6000 in a day, so I know 5K is doable.) I'm thoroughly distracted already by Joel McCrea right now... add a healthy dose of Meeker back into the mix (including two movies I've never seen that aren't out on DVD) and I'm doomed.

But what a pleasant doom it would be.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Ahhhh, road blocks

And not the good kind.

My neck spasmed again yesterday, and that kept me from sitting at my computer last night, which kept me from writing. I'm icing it now, so hopefully that will help get me through work today. Nano has been up and down, and right when it was coming up again... this happens. I'm not sure why I even keep trying this year. Though nano has gotten me through a stuck part in ILS and now I just have a few hundred words to button that story draft up.

I've been watching more Joel McCrea movies, but that's a whole happy post all by itself.

Yesterday, I got the Indiana Jones Soundtracks Collection from Intrada. Ah yes, me happy. There's music on here I've been waiting years and years for, like the "Approaching the Stones" cue from Temple of Doom. Naturally, that was the first music in the set I listened to. I'm not the biggest John Williams fan (give me Jerry Goldsmith and Elmer Bernstein any day), but I do love the Star Wars and Indiana Jones scores with all my heart. They're part of the fabric of my existence, much like the movies themselves. I'll be kicking back and checking out the rest of the previously unreleased cues this weekend, and I can't wait.

Speaking of unreleased music, it appears Bernstein's score to Hud has never been released. Damn. I watched that film for the first time as part of a mini Paul Newman tribute, and while I did not like the movie, the score was great. Hud reminded me a bit of The Sweet Smell of Success -- I recognize both are very well-done movies, but the lead character(s) are so nasty and miserable, spending time with them is just too unpleasant to do more than once. And no, the wonderfulness of Melvyn Douglas and Martin Milner, respectively in each film, does not offset the yuckiness of the other self-serving characters.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Ride the High Country (1962)

Okay, I had to pick this Joel McCrea movie out of all the netflix movies to watch first?? Because, if there was ever a Joel McCrea movie written just for me that will make me love him for life, this is it.

Here's another film that fits in my newly-understood love of aging, worn heroes with a code faced with a changing world. Only, as opposed to The Wild Bunch, this Peckinpah movie is kinder and gentler and far less bloody and dissolute (though it has its moments). And it deals with my all-time favorite themes of friendship, betrayal, redemption, and honor.

Oh sigh. Where to even begin? At the beginning... I love George Bassman's main title theme. It's beautiful, melancholy, and coincidentally completely encapsulated my mood yesterday. That theme seemed written just for me yesterday. The rest of the score... meh. Obtrusive and annoying, but that main theme is wonderful and suits the movie to a T.

Randolph Scott's back, and I have to admit, from not knowing him as anything other than a name, I've watched a dozen or so of his films over the past year and really come to like him. He and McCrea work wonderfully together here. Both bring such class and dignity, even when one's scheming and fast-talking. It's hard to believe they never actually made any other films together.

What I didn't like... the female character played by Mariette Hartley. Now, I really do like the actress a lot, it's just that her character drives me a bit crazy and her side story interferes with screen time that I'd rather be spending with Joel McCrea and Randolph Scott. Okay, okay, that's also entirely unfair, as hers is not just a random subplot, it ties in with everything and sparks some moral dilemmas, changes of heart, and the climax, but I just personally could have done without it.

And Joel McCrea? Mmmmmm. Dig him dig him dig him. He aged well. His character hides his misgivings and fears behind a solid wall of confidence, and he can back it up, easily whupping a young whippersnapper, as well as standing his ground against superior numbers. McCrea does so many wonderful little things in this movie that help define his character. The defiant/embarrassed look he shoots Randolph Scott when he picks up his dime, the uncomfortable shoulder roll when his prospective employer eyes his frayed cuffs, how far he has to move the paper away to be able to see where to sign. He even made me cry at one point. Yep, I's in luv!

I also get to watch my beloved Sierra Mountains. Those places are so familiar to me, I can smell the air, feel the streams. There's still nowhere on earth I'd rather be then in those mountains. This was Eastern Sierra and was one of the movies on my Inyo County viewing list. And when the young guy tosses his food wrapper into the bushes, Joel McCrea snaps at him, "Pick that up. These mountains don't need your trash." Right on! Couldn't have put it better myself.

Monday, November 03, 2008

So, it's going to be one of those days

Unexpected interruptions and just now Word crashed and took all my latest words with it despite me saving every few minutes. Like I'm not having a hard enough time.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

And then again...

I've just dropped my nano word count back down to zero, as I've decided not to write "The Traitor" right now. I really wanted to write the book following the Think Sideways course techniques start to finish to see what works/doesn't work for me, and I simply decided on this project too late to get all the right prep work done in time. I know very well I can write a book without more planning than I have right now, I've done it successfully before. But I want to try something different with the next book I write. So, back into storage it goes.

I do believe (and this will delight Ms. Maggie LeMay to no end) that I'm going to follow my Fruit Salad partner's steps, and do 50K of new words on Combat! fanfiction. Why? Because I'm bloody sick to death of having these last three stories taking up brain space, and I want them gone gone GONE.

This will do it. One month. Three stories. 50K. Out of my head forever.

And then, I can focus properly on the novels. This makes me very very happy. It's a win-win proposition!

And nano has begun

1700 words on the first day, in fits and starts. Gave the book the temp title of "The Traitor" so I at least have something to call it. Today I spend most of the day babysitting my nephew, so I guess that means I'd better hop to it! Tea is brewing, music is playing (Goldsmith's Masada appears to be the kick-off score for this one).

Thursday, October 30, 2008

How to avoid Nano prep work

So, just two days left until nano insanity begins and last night, after struggling with determining my new novel's world's naming conventions, I gave up and watched Foreign Correspondent instead.

You know I don't think it would be very hard at all to develop a crush on Joel McCrea. This is the second film I've seen him in recently (the other was Sullivan's Travels), and in both he's so unpresuming, laid-back, and earnest, just an all around nice guy. And he's pretty darn cute besides. After Nano, I'll have to see what else he's got out there.

This movie was quite fun and entertaining. Nothing truly unexpected or twisty, just a good, solid spy yarn. Built some excellent tension and creepy suspense in places, and it has that spectacular plane crash. Dude, they don't make plane crashes look that good nowadays. Not just the crash itself, but the sinking aftermath. Yikes! I was pleased George Sanders got to play a good guy for once, just as suave and cool as always, but on the right side of the law. It was also nice to have someone as tall as Joel McCrea around so he didn't tower over everyone. And Ian Wolfe... was he ever young? LOL! He looks perpetually old. From this film to Star Trek twenty-eight years later, he doesn't seem to change hardly at all. He's even more unchanging than Walter Brennan!

Oh, and for the record, between Alistair MacLean's "Puppet on a Chain" and this movie's creepy windmills, I am never visiting Holland. I'm sure there's nothing scary about the real Holland, but the fictional versions are always so damned freaky.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Why, there must be less than a week left before NaNo...

...because I've changed my project. The YA novel is out. The new idea I came up with a couple months ago for the Think Sideways course is in. It doesn't have a title, nor do the two lead characters (any of the characters for that matter) even have names. But I know what happens in the first few chapters, I know a couple of the important plot points, I know enough of the setting, I have one ending in mind (which I already know will most likely change as I get into it), and I've still got four whole days to figure out the rest. Woo! I mean... oh yeah, four days. Dandy. Nothing like coming down to the wire.

Why? Because the one major similarity between the YA novel and both DTD and POW was driving me crazy. I don't need or want another book exploring those same things. I want something completely different. Well, the Think Sideways novel is radically different, so it earned itself a chance to step up to the plate. Oddly, I'd forgotten all about it until last night. Then it sort of raised its hand, tentatively, and asked "what about me?"

So, those characters better step forward and name themselves, right away please. Writing "the traitor" and "the serving girl" just doesn't cut it. Hahhahahah! Cheesy fake title alert!! "The Traitor and the Serving Girl." Groan. Oh, I just love snatching at ideas at the very last minute.

This is positively my last NaNo.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

East Side, West Side (1949)

Entertaining little melodrama about love and adultry that veered nicely into noir with an unexpected murder... and then about-faced before it could go anywhere truly fun. Rats. That murder posed such delicious possibilities too. Instead, it's used merely as a device to resolve the characters' romantic problems. Pfffft. I hate it when movies remove obstacles the easy way. Despite that, it was still a pretty good film and I enjoyed it a lot.

This film's elevated quite a bit by its cast. Barbara Stanwyck and Ava Gardner, who could swap their character roles with ease (and I have to admit I spent a fair bit of time imagining them playing the opposite character, just because). James Mason, who is dark and broody and unfaithful. Van Heflin, who is all grins and smarts and integrity. Sigh. And the ever-lovely Cyd Charisse, who you particularly gotta love when she refers to the other women in the movie as "dames." Hee. Actually, thinking about it, she's got most of the sassy, snappy lines. She says it like it is, and she cracked me up.

And this film has some really fun scenes, such as when James Mason, seeking to reconcile with his wife, Barbara Stanwyck, goes to her mother (Gale Sondergaard!) for assistance, and she most viciously and delightfully cuts him down to size, never losing her wickedly charming smile. Never mess with Gale Sondergaard! (She and Judith Anderson both quite intimidate me.) And then there's Van Heflin's reaction after a six-foot tall blonde tries to beat him up in his car. Priceless!

Most disappointing moment was finding out the policeman in charge was one Lt. Jacoby -- but not played by Hershel Bernardi. Of course not. This isn't Peter Gunn, but darn it all, I wanted my Lt. Jacoby.

New look

So, I finally upgraded the blogger template and started playing with it. What do you think?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Gearing up for year five...

...or, in other words, yes, I am insane.

I committed to NaNo 2008.

Went through all the open projects, and unless it changes at the eleventh hour (which wouldn't be the first time), I'm aiming to do the long-delayed fantasy YA novel, current title: "The Barristal Riders." I was figuring my brain wouldn't get excited about it, as my brain has rejected everything without a noir aspect (and the men to go with it) for three years now, but I sat down with paper and pen and got down the main characters and a map with most of the main locations named. I know where the story ends, I know where it starts. I understand pieces of the subplots and the character arcs that go with them. My characters sure did choose some most interesting names, but I know better than to argue with them. One important character even cast himself with a "who else should be in this role but me?" big grin, without giving me a chance to even look around the wings. Well, I haven't worked with this one before, um, er... that's not true. I have! It was just awhile ago. How could I forget that? Duh! And he was very easy and professional to work with too. Okay, maybe I won't mock him. And besides... he's right. He is perfect for this novel, and you know me... when I have the right men to write for, the novels write themselves.

Rule #1. Always trust your muse(s) and your subconscious. They know what they're doing.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

flash fiction

So, I just read that my entry "Life Sentence" to Concept Sci-fi's 150-word competition made the short list and now goes on to judging by Walter Jon Williams. I'm excited cuz I haven't been writing short stories at all for awhile now, so it's neat to see this little bit of fiction go somewhere, particularly as it was written directly using techniques learned in the Think Sideways course.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

"Let's sink it!"

In Who Was That Lady (1960), Janet Leigh plans to divorce Tony Curtis after catching him kissing a student, so Tony turns to pal Dean Martin (who's a tv writer) to come up with a plausible excuse for his indiscretion and so save his marriage. Big mistake. Dean convinces him to tell her that he's an FBI agent, and he was kissing the student in the line of duty. They get a fake ID and a gun, and Janet falls for it. So much so that Dean decides they can use this excuse for further "approved" dalliances. Tony is a pushover and lets Dean overrule his objections. Much craziness with the real FBI and foreign agents ensues.

It's is a very lightweight, but amusing film. Runs a little too long, needs some of the slow romantic stuff cut out, but the ending where Tony and Dean try to sink the "submarine" is soooooo worth it. That scene is priceless. You can practically skip the rest and just jump to the end. Though then you'd miss James Whitmore and he's awesome. Man, he plays the best straight man in this movie as a real FBI man. His reactions to the situations totally cracked me up. Dean Martin and Tony Curtis make a great pair. Too bad they didn't do more together!

(The DVD also had another Dean Martin movie, How to Save a Marriage and Ruin Your Life which I made the mistake of watching. A confused muddle. Starts as a mistaken identity movie, switches into a battle of the sexes movie, never succeeds at either, sends many mixed messages, and Dean didn't even sing the title song. Hmph. However Eli Wallach was pretty darned funny and had the best moments in the movie, and dude! Stella Stevens looks so much like Barbara Eden it's uncanny. Or Barbara Eden looks like Stella Stevens.)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

To nano or not to nano

Oh, it's that pesky time of year again... I've completed nano successfully the last four years, how can I not make it five? Particularly as Tillane is doing it, and as we started this madness together, I don't think I'll be able to watch him cross the finish line while I sit idly twiddling my thumbs. (Competition can be a very healthy thing!)

But if I do it, which project do I pick? Do I re-do POW from scratch? Do I do 50k of C! fanfic? Do I start on that YA novel that was supposed to be my nano novel 3 years ago until DTD shoved it into a corner? Or start the trilogy that I've also been debating doing for four years of nano? Or something brand spanking new?

Whatever I do, this year I'm determined to be organized. As much as I love what I got last year on POW, as much fun as I had writing it, it ultimately doesn't work because I didn't know when I started where the story needed to go. The last thing I need this year is 50K I'm promptly going to throw out and re-write. I need something like DTD that worked the first time. So, I have half a month to get those ducks rowed.

But which novel to pick??

Friday, October 10, 2008

Work Space and classic movies

(from Asleep in NY)

I'm fortunate to work from home, so this means there are lots of movie related things around me. Starting with my work computer desktop picture, which is still my favorite picture of Aldo Ray.

On the wall to my right are several movie posters, but my favorite (hung in my line of sight, of course) is my "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" poster. (There's also a picture of the Nautilus at sunset to my left) "20,000" is still, after all these years, my favorite movie of all time. Behind me is a three-shelf bookcase, with the bottom shelf all movie-related books.

And directly to the right of my desk is the all-important CD/DVD rack, with all my soundtracks and movies. Over it are two of my autographed pictures, one of Dana Andrews, one of Coleen Gray and Tyrone Power. The rest of the house is filled with other movie pictures, but the ones shown here are the true work space-related ones.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Golden Boy (1939)

Awwwwww, WH is a baby in this one! I thought he looked young in Arizona and Texas, even though this is only a year or two before, he just looks unbelievably young!

I really enjoyed this movie. Of course I'm a sucker for anything with a music theme, and this one gave it to me nicely, with its story of a young man who wants success and money now, and trades studying to be a concert violinst for prizefighting. WH is convincing as both. When he finds the violin his father bought him as a present and his eyes light up and he starts playing... gotta be my favorite scene. All his family come in to listen, his sister (who is a total crack up -- love her) accompanying him on the piano. This is exactly the emotions about music I grew up with, and it made me tear up. It's funny, cuz I was just talking with a friend about how classic movies seem to nail what music means emotionally to people who really love it, and I haven't yet found that in a modern film. Maybe because it's simply too sappy or too melodramatic and immersive for today's audiences, but you know what? That's how it feels. Well, at least for me!

Once WH's character Joe got involved with the very scary gangster, I was actually afraid worse things were going to happen to the characters than actually did. He made a few threats that had me really worried. I was actually relieved that none of that happened.

The rest of the cast fit perfectly, and I like the way the movie dovetailed their various subplots. Sure it works out in the end, but there's some nice escalations and stakes-raising... perfect examples of how to twist a bad situation and make it worse. Barbara Stanwyck (I soooo want to steal one of her dresses from the movie!) is lovely and sassy and pushy and repetant. I admire her more and more. And I loved Lee J. Cobb as his father. He reminds me of some of my Italian relatives.

DVD had some nice extras too. A cartoon, short feature, news reel stuff, and a Barbara Stanwyck Western show that was fun (though way too predictable).

And I'm making a pot of the family spaghetti sauce for dinner tonight, to go with the Italian theme. Yum.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

And I'm off!

It's vacation time for me... no computer, no work, just relaxing and fun while I celebrate a birthday. I'm not bringing printed novel with me, because I want to think fresh on things, without being able to refer to what I've already written, particularly on POW. There's some serious brainstorming on that one to do. Back in a week.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Three Musketeers (1948)

Look! I'm actually watching something without Ralph Meeker in it! Well, I did re-watch Paths of Glory the other night, and plan on savoring Kiss Me Deadly again for my birthday movie... but I decided I needed a happier movie this weekend.

Silly me. Not sure what I was thinking there, as this cheerful romp was soooo not what I wanted.

I'm quite fond of the Three Musketeers in general, but I was realizing that I have yet to see a movie version that gives me what I'm really looking for. And ironically, given how much I prefer older movies, my favorite movie rendition (so far) might actually have to be the 1993 one. How weird is that? But at least all the musketeers get stuff to do in it. The 1973 one is... bizarre (though Oliver Reed almost single-handedly saves the whole film anyway -- that is one fascinatingly charismatic, sexy but scary man), and I'm planning on watching the 1921 Douglas Fairbanks one off Netflix, see what it's like. The 1948 one is, well, just plain silly.

I think most of my problem might be that the older I get, the less I like Gene Kelly. Oh, he's still indisputably one of the greatest dancers, and I will always love Anchors Aweigh, Singin' in the Rain, Cross of Lorraine, and Brigadoon, but really, he's not the type of guy who appeals to me physically or emotionally. His movie characters often seem to face life with such cheer and abandon, he wears me out. This movie was no exception. But I wasn't watching Three Musketeers for him. I was watching it for Van Heflin. Gene Kelly just kept getting in the way.

Van Heflin, on the other hand, is immensely appealing for all the reasons Gene Kelly isn't. I prefer VH in noir films, like The Strange Love of Martha Ivers and Act of Violence. (The latter is probably my favorite VH film.) In noir, he tends to be slick and tough and cool and smirky and if you push him he pushes back, and I love it. But he plays an interesting Athos. Less angry and unforgiving, more sad and resigned. I think I prefer angry, but that's okay. He gets plenty of nice moments in this movie. And he's still smirky and cocky and tough, and he's not too shabby with a sword either. And since all the movie versions of Three Musketeers seem to rely on humor (and why is that exactly?), he also gets the best one-liners of the characters in the movie too. "Will you stop looking happy?" is probably my favorite line of his at the moment. Sort of summed up my own exasperation with Gene Kelly's D'Artagnan. He actually made me laugh out loud a couple of times, where everyone else's dialogue made me roll my eyes.

The swordplay was all over the board... some of it was actually really good. Some of it... dude, I could have killed some of these people three times in the time it took them to flourish their swords in the air. Pointy end goes into the other man, remember? It doesn't wave around pointing out the pretty clouds in the sky. Sigh. I miss fencing regularly.

The other good thing about this movie was Vincent Price, who can ham it up with the best of them when he wants to... and here he doesn't. He's very restrained and quiet. Scheming without being over the top like everyone else. He and VH were the class acts in this otherwise quite cartoony film.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

T'is the season?

I can be such a fool. I know I need fallow times, and I know sometimes they're longer than I expect or want. What I forget, what I always forget, is that when that need to write comes back, it comes back with a vengeance. And then all that procrastinating and twiddling about the internet that I've wasted so much time on? It stops. It stops because my muses want to work, and won't tolerate the delays.

I think I just need to accept that summers are downtime, end of statement. I have never yet done anything truly constructive on a novel -- any novel -- during the summer months. But come autumn, and I become productive again. It may just be old school-impressed habits that summers are for goofing off, it may just be that that's when a break is required after the fall/winter/spring writing. I don't know, but it seems to happen every single year, and every single year I forget and get frustrated with myself all over again when it happens.

Maybe by writing it down, this time I'll remember. It's just summer! So don't fight the down time. Watch all those movies, read those books, go walking and gardening, cuz it's just recharge time.

Interestingly, what's pressing now? And I mean really pressing? DTD. The muses are screaming about it, and I've worked on it all evening. Not writing, but tearing apart the scenes, figuring out just which ones have no critical change or conflict in them. I'm back at that stage where the whole novel is visual and pressing in from all sides. I can see the changes that need to happen clearly. And even had a revelation about one of the lead characters that just opened my eyes.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Continuing with the no-happy-endings trend...

Knocked two more movies off my list of "Famous Movies I've Never Seen and Should" this weekend: "The Defiant Ones" and "The Third Man." The first I loved, the second bored me.

What surprised me most about "The Defiant Ones" was the people/problems the two escapees encountered on their run for freedom. Not one was what I expected. Like that town? Aiiiieeee! Wasn't anticipating that at all, but Lon Chaney Jr. sure made me grin and cheer. He was my favorite part of the entire film, in a film where everything was well-done. It cuts right to the chase (literally) and stays there until the end.

"The Third Man," on the other hand... Sigh. On the surface, this movie should be everything I like. Noir, shifty ambiguous characters, cover-ups, very cool shadow visuals. Only it wasn't, or it wasn't enough. For a movie with a lot of character... it lacked character. For me, there wasn't enough to latch onto to get involved with these people. The movie didn't particularly give me any reasons to care what happened to any of them, and as none of the actors make any of my favorite lists, I didn't have an inate investment in them to carry me through where the film failed. On the other hand, those sewers? Awesome. Reminded me a lot of "He Walked by Night" which was filmed a year earlier, only those European sewers are cooler. I liked Trevor Howard too.

However, watching "The Third Man" had lots of other good repercussions. I had to lie there on the couch after it ended analysizing exactly why it didn't work for me and a movie like "Kiss Me Deadly" does. The film also brought me back to the post-war Vienna of "Four in a Jeep". Didn't realize how much that situation intrigued me until I saw it again, and it also helped me realize why the setting in my POW novel has remained so vague and unformed. A lot of stuff for the novel clicked into place after watching this movie.

It's interesting that the stuff we don't like is often more useful than the stuff we do.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Class Update

So, I hit the first lesson in the Think Sideways class that I think will be one that just won't work for me. It's about calculating how many scenes there are in your novel, and then writing up an index card for each (or only for some, depending on how detailed you want to get). Of the varying forms of outlining available, it appears I have been working for years with what she terms an editor's outline. Interesting. I guess I won't have any trouble writing one when the time comes! I've never found such a form restricting at all, and, as my novel shifts and changes, I've always simply changed the editor outline accordingly. I've never felt constrained to follow what I first put down. But I like the format of an editor's outline. It's the easiest method of simply telling myself the story I want to write.

Index card usage (as a story creation tool) leaves me absolutely lost, though I gave it a try anyway but it took me twice as long, and if the cards got out of order (which is supposed to be half the freedom here -- you can shuffle easily), I just got incredibly frustrated. I also have issues with needing to see as much material at one time as possible, so to me, the cards end up being the limiting method.


However, taking my own outline and using the Sentence treatment on each scene? Now that's useful! I'll just be doing that technique in a Word doc rather than on cards.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

"Brute Force" 1947

I don't remember how this one ended up in my Netflix queue, other than I had Miklos Rozsa's main title to it on an album and always liked it and wanted to hear the rest of the score. I watched this in two pieces and was a bit "why am I watching this" after the first half hour. That all changed in the second hour. Whoa. I was on the edge of my seat from the minute Louie got called into Capt. Munsey's office until the end. It wasn't that I couldn't tell how it was going to end -- it really could go only one way -- it was just done so well that even knowing how it was going to end, I was still hoping the entire time it'd go differently. And they hit all the necessary plot points just right in the climax to make me cheer or cry.

Highly unusual for me to get emotionally invested in criminals, but really, ultimately, this isn't a true prison movie. I don't think in a true prison movie, the inmates would be this "good." Of the prisoners we follow, only Burt Lancaster's character seems like he really should have been sent up. Other's are set up, or taking the rap for someone else, or doing non-violent crimes like embezzlement. But that's okay, cuz like I said, this isn't really a movie about prison life or the people who end up there. You could swap the prisoners for any group of people suppressed, beaten, and imprisoned by another group of people and still have the same story. They just chose to make it a prison-noir film.

The cast is great in this film, from Hume Cronyn playing one of the most despicable excuses for a human being I've ever seen, to Charles Bickford and Sam Levene, to Whit Bissell in his first credited roll, to all the character actors in between. I loved the doctor, perpetually drunk and therefore free to say whatever's on his mind, helping the prisoners any way he can, condemning Capt Munsey. Sure, he's represents the morality of the story, but his dialogue is snappy and I liked it. Cronyn's Munsey... I honestly am not sure I have ever hated a film character more than I hate Munsey. He's such a nasty piece of work, hate's not even a strong enough word. I think the fact that he's a little guy and so soft-spoken really helps augment his character's power-hungry sadistic nature. You expect him to be refined and a bit of a pushover, not personally beating people to death and enjoying it. Gah!

I can't say it's an enjoyable film -- it's too violent, brutal, and sad for that -- but it's still a powerful and satisfying one. It'll stay with me for awhile.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Now for some happy movies -- NOT!!

Watched "On the Beach" a few days ago and then last night, "Testament." Both were quite similar, not just in subject matter, but some of the details. No one quite knows what happened, who attacked who, they just know the bombs have exploded and the radiation's coming/here. They both deal with the people left behind, the people who still love and feel and fight. Both end with the same kind of warning, to not let the world get to that point.

"On the Beach" had more of a resigned, civilized quality to it. "Testament" was more emotional, the survivors not organized. But then, the Australians in "On the Beach" have time to prepare, where the ones in "Testament" do not. The best part of "On the Beach" was Fred Astaire. He was fabulous in his scientist/car racer role. Makes me wish he'd done more non-musical roles. I loved him here. And of course, there's a submarine. Can almost never go wrong with submarines.

"Testament," however, was the one that kept me awake last night, where "On the Beach" just made me terribly sad. "Testament" made me stare at my venetian blinds waiting, expecting that brilliant flash that signals the end of life as I've known it. I have always, and will always, fear that moment when my normal life and petty daily concerns are shattered by something beyond comprehension. Anticipation of that moment makes me stock my basement with extra food and water, and always worry when I dip into those supplies and don't replace them. Because you never know. "Testament" was even more personal than "On the Beach," more desperate in its losses and needs, more despairing. There's simply no way to save the lives of those you love under those circumstances.

It'll take a little while to shake the impending apocalypse mood now.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Think Sideways Writing Course - month 2 report

I wasn't entirely sure what I was going to get out of this course. I mean, I don't have trouble coming up with ideas, I don't have trouble finishing novels, I'm good with world building, etc. But none of it happens as fast and as smoothly as I'd like, and I don't quite have the discipline to treat my writing as a business, which is something I need to work on. I've had short stories published, but I still don't have my novels on the local bookstore shelves. I'm at a point where I'm ready to start sending DTD out, but the whole agent/editing/publishing/success side of it I have little experience with. I've enjoyed following Holly Lisle's journal of the past couple years, and have found her writing essays on her website very useful, so I figured, what the heck, why not take the class. I need a fresh outlook on what I do, new tools in the box, new techniques.

And I got them.

We're six weeks into the six month course, and I've really been surprised at how much cool stuff is here. I figured most of it would be like, "yeah yeah yeah, I know that," but that's not the case at all. Her techniques so far take me straight to the heart of a book. I love it! Some of it, like coming up with your single defining sentence, is something I've always tried to do, but I never had a good explanation for how to do it, and so I never could write an effective sentence for my own story. I always tried to do some variant of a TV Guide summary line. That might work for some people, but it never did for me. In one of the first few lessons, Holly provided a straight-forward explanation and examples of what the sentence does and how to create it, and darned if it her technique doesn't work like a charm. For the first time I can turn them out rather easily -- and for the first time, I've realized why some ideas fall flat -- because they're missing part of what forms the sentence. It may seem like such a little thing, but this technique alone is almost worth the price of admission.

I don't regret signing up for one moment. It's been eye-opening in the best ways, and I'm thoroughly enjoying it. I'm applying things to my completed novels, my novels in progress, and a new one I'm working on specifically as part of the course, and I'm watching things come together that have been giving me fits. That also, has been worth the price.

The class sold out when she originally offered it, but if anybody's interested in checking it out for themselves, she's opening the course up again to new students for this week only. Click on the link above or in the sidebar if you'd like more information.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Miscellaneous movie roundup

So, I've watched a whole bunch of movies lately, but none have stood out enough to warrant their own review, but I still wanted to keep track of the more interesting ones.

"Brannigan" -- seen this one before, of course, cuz it's John Wayne. I remember liking it, and sure enough, it was still a lot of fun popcorn action. John Wayne can kick ass at any age and watching him and Richard Attenborough together is fabulously enjoyable. I also wanted to see Ralph Meeker, even in a tiny little cameo, playing John Wayne's boss, just because the thought of him ordering John Wayne around cracks me up. (And yes, I did rent it to get that whole two-minutes of RM screen time... hey, when I fall, I fall hard.)

"The Street with No Name" - Man oh man, Richard Widmark... never cross a character of his when he's on the wrong side of the law. He is so bloody intimidating. This was an okay movie, had that sort of documentary narrated style going on that doesn't really do much for me. It was good when it was in the nitty gritty of it. It was good whenever Richard Widmark was around. And it was even better when John McIntire was around. McIntire's one of those guys who shows up everywhere in older films. I mostly know him as a bad guy from westerns, but he was a good guy here, one that I was really really really rooting for. No, I wasn't particularly worried about the hero, but I sure was on the edge of my seat when McIntire was nosing around Widmark's lair.

"The Stranger Wore a Gun" - Randolph Scott western. Boring and the plot felt cobbled together, despite the great people in the cast, like Claire Trevor, Lee Marvin, and Ernest Borngine. Lee Marvin was the reason I had netflixed it, and he never does disappoint. He is just way too cool. This was also one of the many movies filmed in Lone Pine, and I've been systematically checking those out. They actually not only went up the Whitney Portal road, but into Whitney Portal itself for one of the shoot outs. It was quite cool to see what the pond looked like fifty years ago. Not much different, really! LOL!

"The Night Heaven Fell" -- Mmmmmm, Stephen Boyd. They dubbed over his lovely voice, so I had to listen to someone else speaking French, even though he was clearly saying his lines. Maybe they didn't like his Irish accent? So, quite disappointing from an audio standpoint, but ye gods the man is smolderingly sexy and brooding in this movie and... yeah. I've always found him attractive, but I've never seen him playing up the sexy angle in a role quite like this. He does it extremely well, and I have to admit, it caught me off guard. Didn't realize just how much he could turn on the sex appeal when he wanted to. He was downright mesmerizing. It was worth it just to watch him reduce every female in the film (and the audience, ahem) to melted goo. A young Brigitte Bardot's in it for the guys to drool over. She sure does show a LOT more skin than Boyd does. Hmph, but I think it says a lot that he doesn't have to. All he has to do is look at you.

"Duck, You Sucker" -- HAH! This movie amused me greatly. Sergio Leone spaghetti western, starring Rod Steiger and James Coburn, who make a surprisingly good pairing. "Duck, you sucker" is Coburn's signature line, and he uses it to great comedic effect when he first meets Steiger and they engage in a little tit for tat destruction of each other's property. Had to watch that part three times, it was so danged funny. I've always loved Coburn, but it surprised me just how much I loved Steiger here. Movie's a rather odd mix of humor and nasty deadly seriousness, but I thought it worked. Of course, it also explores friendship and betrayal, two of my favorite things, so that helped. And the bridge explosion.... holy moly. Now THAT is an explosion. That might just be the most jaw-droppingly spectucular explosion I have EVER seen on film. Wow.

"The Blue Bird" -- watched this Shirley Temple movie for sentimental reasons. I remember this movie from my youth because the cat and dog turned into people, because of the place of unborn children that freaked me out when I was little, with the ship that sailed in the sky carrying them down to earth, and the giant forest fire. Yep, those were all there, and still somewhat freaky and bizarre. But Gale Sondergaard was the cat and she rocked, even if they did make her a stereotypical, conniving feline out for her own good.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


So, I've been attacking an old short story of mine slated for publishing soon. The editor needs it knocked down to 10,000 from its current 11, 600 word count. This is the kind of thing I actually love doing. Particularly as this story was originally written 3 years, and I have learned all sorts of things about word economy since then.

On just the first read-through, I knocked out almost 800 words. The second 800 will come from consolidating and re-shifting action, and removing some more excess dialogue -- all of which it sorely needs.

I love having this opportunity! Otherwise, I would have cringed at the thought of anybody ever reading it!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Ask and ye shall receive

So, even if #2 is still AWOL, my other muses are still on the ball. I had asked them for three ideas per the latest writing assignment, one novel idea and two short story ideas. The novel came right away, the two shorts last night - all well within the allotted week. Honestly, I didn't expect the two short story ideas. I haven't written a short I could submit anywhere in well over a year now. I thought that part of my brain was gone, dead, turned off, never to be seen again.

Boy, how wrong can you get? Interestingly, all three ideas did fall squarely in with the things on my creative map. I'm not sure why that surprises me so much, but it does. Perhaps it's just finally having a visual to go with things I've always known that I hate/fear/love etc.?

This class so far is definitely well worth it.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Doing homework

I forgot to say that in the midst of novel workings, I did get a short fanfic piece done. Was happy with it initially, but reading it back just made me shake my head. Subtlety? Yeah, sure, what's that? Oh well. It was fun to write anyway.

I was just going to read the lessons in the Think Sideways course, but then I decided that was stupid, I might as well do the exercises too. I mean, what am I paying for? Current lesson is on creating good exciting ideas within a deadline, based on ideas from these cluster-type maps we created. I really didn't want to do that because I have too many ideas as it is and I want my focus on polishing up existing novels, not thinking up new ones. But darn it all, that's a lame excuse. That's simply that old nemesis lack-of-discipline trying to interfere.

So, last night, I treated myself to listening to a new score the real way -- not running around the house doing things, but lying on the couch, doing nothing but listening to the music for fifty minutes. And there was my first new idea for the exercise. Right in the middle. I was only supposed to jot down a few key words, but I ended up with a couple paragraphs of notes on the new novel as it took rapid shape. And oh, I loves it so!! I think I've gotten so locked into "finish what you've got open" that I forgot the sheer joy that comes with new cool ideas (little fanfic story notwithstanding). We have a week to come up with three idea, so I've got until next Saturday. Wonder what the next two ideas will be like?

Thursday, August 07, 2008

They listened!

What do you know? Roxbury Entertainment listened to all the complaints about cropping their "Route 66" episodes into a false widescreen image -- and they did something about it! They've restored the original uncropped image, and re-released season one in its own new complete set (it was previously in 2 half-season sets, the second of which had the hated cropped image). How about that?

And true to my word, I immediately bought the new, all-fixed set. Thanks, guys! Now, that's customer service. Color me impressed.