Friday, July 30, 2010

Heroic Silhouette Images

My good friend and movie blogger, J.D. from RADIATOR HEAVEN, recently tagged me with a meme that has been making the rounds. It is naturally close to my heart, since I tend to be so visual (just ask my wife)... and love film.  The original meme, begun at Stephen Russell-Gebbett's Checking on My Sausages blog, asked that those participating submit...
"... a gallery of images... to stand for so much of what makes Cinema such a rich and exciting medium."
Blogger Jeremy Rickey (of the Moon in the Gutter blog), who tagged J.D., seized upon another's (The Dancing Image) lead by offering up some stills that captured a certain theme byway of his image collection. J.D.'s meme post followed suit and centered upon director Michael Mann's protagonists in isolation. Who am I to buck such a trend?

I've chosen the theme of heroic silhouette images in cinema (shown below after the jump).

I've moved and updated this post to my current blog, which is found here.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Vega$ Trip

As I sit in our Golden Nugget hotel room waiting to attend another in my wife's long line of (big) family reunion celebrations tonight (not to be outdone, my small side has them, too -- they're just called Christmas), I recall when I first came to Las Vegas...
Dad, who returned to the lives of his second set of sons around the start of the 70's, always wanted to go back to Las Vegas. I believe the old man had been there during the 60's, right before Howard Hughes started playing Monopoly and buying hotels (with real properties) on The Strip. And in the summer of 1975 he came looking for a trip co-pilot to help him with the driving portion of his excursion.

This post has been moved and updated to my current blog, which can be found here.
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Friday, July 23, 2010

Gentleman of the Hour: Don Winslow Part 3

Picking up and re-iterating from Part 1 and 2:
One of the best discoveries I made last year (care of the L.A. Times Festival of Books book panel with him, Robert Crais, Jeff Parker, and Joseph Wambaugh), was reading Don Winslow for the first time. As I've said before, the transplanted New Yorker by way of Perryville, Rhode Island (and now a southern Californian and renowned chronicler of this region) is simply one hell of a writer. Starting with the fabulously titled, The Winter of Frankie Machine, in May and ending with the man's fierce opus (an epic that once started, doesn't let you go), The Power of the Dog come December, his novels helped to make 2009 quite a year for me in the literary sense.

Cover of "Shibumi"Cover of Shibumi
When Pop Culture Nerd informed me that the author's new publisher, Simon & Schuster, would be bringing out a new book of his in 2010 -- and it wouldn't be The Gentlemen's Hour (what I covered in the previous post) -- I was somewhat bummed. Still, it is a work by Don Winslow... And the man hasn't written anything that I've read that comes close to a by-the-numbers gig. This being the same guy who was tapped last year to write the prequel to the classic Trevanian thriller, Shibumi. Back in the day, for young males past their teens, and who weren't brain-dead as they left the decade of the 70's (I limit it to those who lifted a book on occasion), this book was required reading. Believe me, you just had to be there. Having DW helm this effort (expected in 2011), therefore, was a bit of good news. Nonetheless... what to make of the new book? Then, I found its descriptor:
"... a gritty, humorous, and drug-fueled ransom thriller set amidst the Baja Cartel in Laguna Beach, CA"

Let's go to the video, shall we?

Sign. Me. Up.

Savages was released on July 13th (I love that number, btw) and didn't disappoint. It turned out to be one hell of ride. Stylish as all get out, but never stupid in a vapid way, I can see why the publisher wanted this one pushed up. [Doing a sequel to a popular novel that came from another publisher never entered into their decision-making process, of course (queue the eye-roll, or so author hinted at last Tuesday's The Mystery Bookstore tour stop for the novel)] Indeed, having a pair of anti-heroes to cheer on, all the while you're anxiously and enthusiastically turning the pages (or in my case, pressing the Play button on the old iPod), certainly revealed an undeniable and irresistible 70's crime vibe to its modern noirish proceedings. Don't worry, it is manifestly a product of this century (OMG). If this doesn't grab the attention of folks who've yet to read him, I don't know what will (perhaps, an IED... but don't quote me on this).

Mr. Winslow, for the sake of audiobook enthusiasts, has also benefited by drawing an excellent narrator for this work. Michael Kramer, who did exceptional job with Thomas Perry's STRIP, sure as shootin' belted this one on and nailed the author's rapid-fire and distinct verve/verse. Without question, he captured the character Chon's bad-itude, Ben's mellow environmentalist/philanthropist leanings, and Ophelia's O's (friends, you've got to hear these) on the Tantor Media audiobook recording (follow the link to catch an MP3 audio sample of it). Like what Ray Porter did for The Dawn Patrol, The Power of the Dog, and Ron McLarty did for California Fire and Life, narrator Kramer brings the right amount of emotion, intellect, and sass in his delivery (some of it as the omnipresent commentator that is a root component of this tale). He gets it, and delivers the quintessential Winslow lines with the stipulated flair:
"The cartel will let them stay in business only if they sell solely to the cartel, which will then take the big profit margin for itself.
'They're Walmart,' O says.
(Have we covered that O is not stupid?)"

"The wine world is basically divided into red and white. (We ain't gonna go far with this--wine types are almost as hateful as tweekers. Every great wine-tasting session should end with arsenic.)"
See. What did I tell 'ya? No wonder Oliver Stone snatched up the rights for this book muy pronto (and was smart enough to get the screenwriter/novelist to write a draft of the proposed film's screenplay). Do yourself a favor, discover Don Winslow or this book (in any order... the rest will sort itself out.)

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Gentleman of the Hour: Don Winslow Part 2

Picking up and re-iterating from Part 1:
One of the best discoveries I made last year (care of the L.A. Times Festival of Books book panel with him, Robert Crais, Jeff Parker, and Joseph Wambaugh), was reading Don Winslow for the first time. As I've said before, the transplanted New Yorker by way of Perryville, Rhode Island (and now a southern Californian and renowned chronicler of this region) is simply one hell of a writer. Starting with the fabulously titled, The Winter of Frankie Machine, in May and ending with the man's fierce opus (an epic that once started, doesn't let you go), The Power of the Dog come December, his novels helped to make 2009 quite a year for me in the literary sense.
In between those books, byway of recommendations from my dear blogging friends Pop Culture Nerd and Corey Wilde, I read the author's 2008 novel, The Dawn Patrol. Even though I'm a born and raised Angeleno, surfing is not in my DNA (nor on my radar). Still, the story it weaved had me enthralled (right along with having me yearn to get on a board... of all things). Plus, the character universe Winslow built around his P.I. protagonist (and surf legend) Boone Daniels grew my attachment to the Pacific Beach-centered story even more. I noted in my very brief review of the audiobook that a sequel would soon arrive (as in July 2009). Of course, the love-fest only went so far since its publication was only in the U.K. Bummer.

Pop Culture Nerd then informed me that the author's new publisher, Simon & Schuster, would be bringing out a new book in 2010 -- and it wouldn't be the that Boone Daniels and friends sequel, The Gentlemen's Hour. Wipe-out. Can you wait til 2011? Since I'm crotchety now that I'm in my fifties, the answer is, ah... no. I firmly believed holding back this man's work (and talent) is just a waste for him, his fans, and those people who've yet to discover how great this writer really is. So, I bought TGH from the U.K., and decided to share it with my blogging friends.

My copy of (a William Heinemann publication) The Gentlemen's Hour made its way to Ohio (three times), Arizona, Tennessee, Naucalpan, Mexico, and back to California (more than once) from mid-October 2009 to early July of this year. I had hopes to share the story with the author at this year's L.A. Times Festival of Books, but Mr. Winslow was out of country during that event (hence, the softcover stayed out on the road). With this year's new book release, I scheduled my rendezvous for last night's book signing for Savages at the wonderful indie book store, The Mystery Bookstore in Westwood Village (near the UCLA campus). I shared the softcover's journey with the author, and he seemed touched by it (he is definitely a gentleman and a scholar, and a class guy).

And how good is The Gentlemen's Hour? Excepts from my friends who reviewed or wrote in the book:

Elyse Dinh-McCrillis:
"Loved this."
Corey Wilde (from his review of the book):
"And it is this complex overlay of work and friendships that is one of the major points of difference between this book and most other SoCal crime fiction. The only other book I know that thoroughly works this particular complication is Crais's LA Requiem, and if a book can stand comparison to that particular classic then you know you've got your mitts on one heckuva story."
Jen Forbus (from her review of the book):
"While the ocean may not look like it's doing much in THE GENTLEMEN'S HOUR, Winslow is making a huge splash with the return of "Boone freaking Daniels" and his surfing crew: "Dave the Love and War God, Johnny Absolutely Banzai, High Rolling Tide, and Hang Tough Twelve," not to mention "Loco Ono." If you enjoyed THE DAWN PATROL, you will love THE GENTLEMEN'S HOUR. If you haven't read THE DAWN PATROL, now's the time."
Naomi Johnson:
"Wonderful book."
Alphonso Padilla:
"An amazing book!"
Brian & Christine McCann:
"Brian's right, only surfbonics will do: EPIC. MACKING, CRUNCHY. :-) A real treat!"
Lesa Holstine (from her review of the book):
"Don Winslow's powerful novel is a crime novel of society out of control. But, The Gentlemen's Hour is actually the story of Boone Daniel's search for answers. Petra Hall sees him as a complicated man, "A Tarzan-like surfer boy who reads Russian novels at night...A disillusioned cynic with barely concealed idealism." Winslow has taken the detective as knight errant and turned him into a surfer trying to make his world right. Boone Daniels is an unforgettable man in a complicated, fascinating story."

That, my friends, is how good this novel is. When I read the book, the characters in the story pulled me right back in (as if I never left the sand and sea). This time, without too much need for character backstory (like in TDP), Winslow's comfort level with the various personalities shined through immediately and help build the story's suspense and power. No, I do not consider myself a champion for this writer (his work stands up quite nicely without my help), but I know what I like. And I like spreading the word of what's good in this case. Luckily for folks like us, as the author confirmed last night, The Gentlemen's Hour be out next summer (and a couple others in the series are already planned for). BTW, the book Don Winslow is holding in the picture below is my copy of TGH (the one that holds the handwritten words of my friends). It uses the old cover art (based upon a Getty Image). The new version for the U.K. softcover is now this. As you tell by now, I highly recommend the novel -- now and next summer.

(click to enlarge)

To be continued...

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Gentleman of the Hour: Don Winslow Part 1

One of the best discoveries I made last year (care of the L.A. Times Festival of Books book panel with him, Robert Crais, Jeff Parker, and Joseph Wambaugh), was reading Don Winslow for the first time. As I've said before, the transplanted New Yorker by way of Perryville, Rhode Island (and now a southern Californian and renowned chronicler of this region) is simply one hell of a writer. Starting with the fabulously titled, The Winter of Frankie Machine, in May and ending with the man's fierce opus (an epic that once started, doesn't let you go), The Power of the Dog come December, his novels helped to make 2009 quite a year for me in the literary sense.

Last night, I attended the book signing for Mr. Winslow's latest, Savages, at the wonderful indie book store, The Mystery Bookstore in Westwood Village (near the UCLA campus). And it was quite an event (the Zac Efron movie premiere going on a few doors down really couldn't compete, at least with the readers in attendance). Here are some of the photos I managed to get (with kudos and props to the entire staff at The Mystery Bookstore, see bottom image):

To be continued...

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday Forgotten Film: The Uninvited

As a rule, I'll watch some or all of a decent movie again if it is replayed on network or cable television. That is, if I'm channel-surfing and not pressed for time. So-so or terrible films don't get repeat showings, ever, in my home. I avoid them like the plague (e.g., Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen). Now, the truly great ones I'll see again and again (this is something that generally causes my wife's eyes to roll, btw). However, there are a small handful of films that certainly qualify for the great category but I've only seen them once due to circumstances beyond my control. For this forgotten post, the 1944 British ghost story, The Uninvited, qualifies nicely on these terms. In my mind, this film is one of those haunted stories that used to be so original and plentiful way back in the day, but aren't anymore (I don't count the U.S. studio trend of remaking Asian ghost stories being anywhere close to original -- it's why I suggest Ju-on to friends instead of The Grudge).

The Uninvited (not to be confused with the 2009 film of the same name, which was itself an American remake of the South Korean Janghwa, Hongryeon film, aka A Tale of Two Sisters) starred Ray Milland, Ruth Hussey, Donald Crisp, Gail Russell, and Alan Napier (who, if you're old enough, will recognize as Alfred from the 60's Batman TV series). It told the tale of a brother and sister (Milland and Hussey) who buy a house on the Cornish seacoast only to find that it's very much of the haunted variety. Incidentally, outside of the moors, locating this story (and manor) at the edge of a foggy cliffside is a perfect setting for a tale like this one. Essentially, ghost stories are mystery thrillers. IMO, this type of story is why they resonate more broadly with people who usually aren't into the horror genre. Those normally not into the more chilling works of H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allen Poe, or Stephen King are more apt to manage their way through and enjoy a classic ghost story than the other ilk. This explains why the superb crime/mystery writer Michael Koryta could effortlessly swing over to the supernatural with his latest work, So Cold the River (a recommended read, if Jen and I say so), and seemingly never skip beat with his readers.

As a kid I watched this Lewis Allen-directed film in the late 60's on a black & white television set during one afternoon at my grandmother's house. It scared and thrilled me to no end, all the while I was glued to the set that day. The Uninvited is one atmospheric yarn to say the least (enough that the daylight hour outside gave me little relief as I watched the film). As well, its well-plotted and clever story was accompanied by a great cast that performed splendidly. I believe it's one of the best ghost stories ever put on film (along with classics like The Innocents, The Haunting, and The Changeling). However, opposed to those I've just mentioned, The Uninvited has yet to be released to disc. Oh, there is a VHS tape version out there, but it's a little pricey (even if you still have the old equipment on hand to play it). This is essentially why I've only seen it only once (if it played on the Turner Classic Movies or American Movie Classics networks, I keep missing it). Luckily, I'll get to rectify this situation tonight.

The New Beverly Cinema, the Los Angeles revival movie theater director Quentin Tarantino saved and now owns, will be showing The Uninvited on a double-bill with The Haunting tonight and tomorrow, using a new 35mm print for this occasion. From the New Beverly web site:

You can see why I can't miss this. While both are vintage, this pair of films is among the best in the haunted house genre and in a class of their own. Nonetheless, this revival showing will grant me a chance to watch this forgotten film once more (and perhaps introduce it to my teen son, if he wants to hang out with his old man and a gem of a ghost story, that is).

I hope you all have a great weekend (I know I will).

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Monday, July 12, 2010

My Favorite Lines From Favorite Movies Part 6

Sally Albright (Meg Ryan) and Harry Burns (Bil...Image via Wikipedia
This is my conclusion of a film arc I started a short while back. Each segment contained some of my all-time favorite lines from the movies I never tire of watching. Some of the best writers of dialogue on the planet have written for film throughout the decades, and this has been a celebration of what they've achieved and immortalized on film. In no way has this been comprehensive, that's for sure. But, it's been fun to recall those special moments when the words registered on the screen, and in my memory. For those who wish to look back on what's come before, below are the links to the previous posts in this series:

So, for those times when you need something to say...

Sam: "So, how'd you get started in this business?"
Dierdre: "A wealthy scoundrel seduced and betrayed me."
Sam: "Same with me. How about that?"
The Eagle Has Landed
"A wink from pretty girl at a party results rarely in climax, Carl. But a man is a fool not to push a suggestion as far as it will go."
The Dirty Dozen
"You've all volunteered for a mission which just gives you just three ways to go. Either you can foul up in training and be shipped back here for immediate execution of sentence. Or you can foul up in combat, in which case I'll personally blow your brains out. Or, you can do as you're told."
Prizzi's Honor
"If Marxie Heller's so f**kin' smart, how come he's so f**kin' dead?"
Rob Roy
Montrose: "Great men, such as yourself, draw rumors as shite draws flies."
Duke of Argyll: "You are the shite, Montrose, and the flies upon it!"

"One must never underestimate the healing power of hatred."
Dr Ray Stantz: "You know, it just occurred to me that we really haven't had a successful test of this equipment."
Dr. Egon Spengler: "I blame myself."
Dr. Peter Venkman: "So do I."
Dr Ray Stantz: "Well, no sense in worrying about it now."
Dr. Peter Venkman: "Why worry? Each one of us is carrying an unlicensed nuclear accelerator on his back."

Dr Ray Stantz: "Everything was fine with our system until the power grid was shut off by dickless here."
Walter Peck: "They caused an explosion!"
Mayor: "Is this true?"
Dr. Peter Venkman: "Yes it's true... This man has no dick."
Thelma and Louise
"Look, you shoot off a guy's head with his pants down, believe me, Texas is not the place you want to get caught."

"Well, we're not in the middle of nowhere, but we can see it from here."
Some Like It Hot
"The story of my life. I always get the fuzzy end of the lollipop."

"Will you look at that! Look how she moves! It's like Jell-O on springs. Must have some sort of built-in motor or something. I tell you, it's a whole different sex! "
Duck Soup
"Remember you're fighting for this woman's honor, which is probably more than she ever did."
"But love don't make things nice. It ruins everything. It breaks your heart. It makes things a mess. We aren't here to make things perfect. The snowflake is perfect. The stars are perfect. Not us. Not us. We are here to ruin ourselves and to break our hearts and love the wrong people and die."
Mommy Dearest
"Don't f--k with me, fellas. This ain't my first time at the rodeo."
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Marion: "You're not the man I knew ten years ago."
Indiana Jones: "It's not the years, honey, it's the mileage."
When Harry Met Sally
Harry Burns: "There are two kinds of women: high maintenance and low maintenance."
Sally Albright: "Which one am I?"
Harry Burns: "You're the worst kind. You're high maintenance but you think you're low maintenance."

"I love that you get cold when it's 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you're looking at me like I'm nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it's not because I'm lonely, and it's not because it's New Year's Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible."

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Friday, July 2, 2010

Friday Forgotten Book, Film, & Song: 4th of July Edition

In honor of the upcoming 4th of July holiday, I decided that a forgotten post was warranted (plus giving credit to blogger pattinase's excellent Friday Forgotten Books series). Because we're into the second half of the year, and have a three-day weekend, I thought this one should be a triple-header, as well:

Book: During my earlier Stephen King-reading years, if it had his name on it, even in reference, it got my attention. Whatever it was. In the early 80's I came across a recommendation by Mr. King about a certain book he thought was pretty ferocious. It was titled Red Dragon. Later, the publisher would begin advertising it with this quote by the famed writer of horror:
"The Best Popular Novel to be Published in America Since The Godfather"
As Vincent Vega would put it, "That's a bold statement." Its author, Thomas Harris, I recognized as the one who wrote the thriller Black Sunday (I'd seen the 1977 film and subsequently read the book it was based upon). Hmm... If it piqued the horror-meister's awareness, perhaps that 1981 book was worth reading... I innocently thought.

This segment has been updated and moved to its own post on my current blog, found here.

Film: During the mid-70's, in my condensed stint as a movie theater projectionist, I had the pleasure to show The Great Waldo Pepper for a one-week period in '76. I've never forgotten it. Since someone in their right mind over at Universal is finally releasing this underrated film in a widescreen version come August (fans have had to live with the crappily cropped Goodtimes Home Video disc for years), I'm spotlighting it here. This is director George Roy Hill's homage to the aerial barnstormers of yesteryear, as told through another remarkable William Goldman screenplay. The film's wonderful story also contains some of the best aerial photography around, and more than a few of its stunt flying sequences have got to be seen to be believed. Plus, it's great to watch the results of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid collaborators Hill, Goldman, and Redford again. For me, director Hill really knew how best to deploy Robert Redford on film (perhaps, even better than Sidney Pollack did). It's well worth catching.

Song: You're a Friend of Mine remains one of my favorite One Hit Wonders. Written by Narada Michael Walden/Jeffrey Cohen and released in 1985, I appreciate this unlikely duet (Clarence Clemons and Jackson Browne) for its sheer joy and exuberance with regard to friendship (one of the good qualities of the blogosphere, too). Not to mention, it has that telltale and unashamedly 80's vibe to it that makes it one infectious tune to listen to. Having Jackson Browne's then girlfriend singing in the music video is not a bad thing, either. If you're interested, the song's lyrics can be found here.

I hope everyone has a wonderful and safe holiday weekend.

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