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.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

More reading

I'm emotional right now anyway, but I've been crying during the last forty pages of the non-fiction book I just read. It's taken me several months to finish this book, "Foot Soldier: A Combat Infantryman's War in Europe" by Roscoe C. Blunt, Jr., not for any particular reason other than I just wanted to read it slowly, and I don't think I could have taken it in one fast sitting anyway. There's too much pain there to absorb any faster.

There's a huge difference between WWII fiction an WWII memoirs. No matter how grave and grim the fiction is, it just fails to convey the same reality that the memoirs do. This book had me in tears a lot, sometimes just in frustration and impotence that I can't do anything to change what happened. I thought often of the B-17 navigator I spoke with for a good hour at the Palm Springs Air Museum, how the gruesome stories he told me have that same candidness as the tales in this book. The WWII veterans who do choose to share what happened to them do so with chilling bluntness. No whitewashing, no gloss. Man's ability to abuse his fellow man is unbounded. The moments of kindness and comfort stand out almost as surreal, even when the givers are punished by death.

The last forty pages were arrival in Germany and seeing his first concentration camp through the push towards Berlin, victory, waiting to go home, and finally... home. The author's final journey simply to get home again had me crying the most.

We really do not quite appreciate what we have, and what could be taken away so easily.