Monday, February 21, 2011

Sleeping... But Not Gone

Seems I was having this same debate about a year ago. Then, as it is now, it was over Blogger's less than feature-rich commenting system -- plus it seemed over the short life of this blog, I received feedback stating that the same system had munged their detailed remarks and forced them to re-type their comment more than once. Not good. I did manage to delay the argument by deploying a third-party system (JS-Kit's Echo system) last April, and that helped... some. But even with its nice social networking features, threading, and better editor, that too began to crack (and some like my friend Will couldn't even comment because older browsers had issues with Echo). Of late, whether it was Blogger's or JS-Kit's fault, it stopped working more than once... then Echo's support (did I mention it's a paid service?) stopped responding to this client's requests. It appears like I wasn't the only one unhappy with it.

While all of that was diverting enough, I began to feel that wasn't the only thing driving this. Then I remembered this scene from Silence of the Lambs:
Hannibal Lecter: First principles, Clarice. Simplicity. Read Marcus Aurelius. Of each particular thing ask: what is it in itself? What is its nature? What does he do, this man you seek?
Clarice Starling: He kills women...
Hannibal Lecter: No. That is incidental. What is the first and principal thing he does? What needs does he serve by killing?
Clarice Starling: Anger, um, social acceptance, and, huh, sexual frustrations, sir...
Hannibal Lecter: No! He covets. That is his nature. And how do we begin to covet, Clarice? Do we seek out things to covet? Make an effort to answer now.
Clarice Starling: No. We just...
Hannibal Lecter: No. We begin by coveting what we see every day...
I guess the gist of it has been the fact that I've wanted to change or improve things for a while. Don't get me me wrong. Blogger is not a bad blogging system. In fact, Google made it quite easy for me to join in on the sphere back in 2008. Ridiculously so. But again, after a while, there were things I began to notice that I craved. So when I opened a Wordpress.com account (also free like Blogger) early last year on a lark (or so I believed), I liked what I saw in its writing and publishing features. I'm not, nor do I ever expect to be, a blogger that produces extraordinary content or have a boatload of followers. However, I am one who likes to tinker with things. That's just me. And I'm not interested in getting into flame wars over platforms: Mac vs. PC, iPhone vs. Android, or Blogger vs. Wordpress (but there are loads of posts arguing one way or another on this one). But, I am making a switch... or sorts.
Since change seems to be in the air with some many of my blogging friends (Jen and Kaye have deployed her own custom domains [http://www.jensbookthoughts.com/ and http://www.meanderingsandmuses.com/, respectively], and author John Kenneth Muir and Sci-Fi Fanatic have updated their blogsite's design with nifty new templates), I'll begin posting new content exclusively over at my Wordpress blog site: It Rains... You Get Wet (points awarded to the first person who names the film this quote emanates from) starting this week. I contemplated moving my Blogger posts and comments over to the new blog with this change, but decided against it since I am not really abandoning this blog site or giving up my Blogger account. The only difference is what I've written about in the past (here) will just begin to land over there, instead. If someone leaves a comment on a blogpost (on either site), they'll still get a reply and thank you, regardless, since I'll monitor both to the best of my abilities. I don't do this lightly (hence my months long procrastination) because I realize getting people who are regular readers of Lazy Thoughts... to also make a change to a new site (and/or add another email subscription or RSS feed) is a big request.


I sincerely hope I don't alienate anyone with this, especially those who have read (or lurked), followed, and/or commented over the last few years. In many ways they are the best part of it all, but I do feel like it is for the best at this point in time. Lazy Thoughts (past) will be here, and there (those future posts that are coming). This in no way changes my commitments to friends -- I plan on contributing the promised posts to Kaye Barley and Edward Copeland on their wonderful blogs, and continuing the joint post project with the wordy one, Rachel over at Scientist Gone Wordy. I've learned, too, to never burn your bridges. So who knows, I might myself right back here sometime in the future. But for now, one leopard will be sleeping while another begins prowling. My heartfelt thanks to you all for your readership and understanding.



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Monday, February 14, 2011

The Border Lords

Having been introduced to author T. Jefferson Parker care of Robert Crais a few years back at a L.A. Times Festival of Books panel, I can honestly say it's been an enjoyable stretch. While friends have read and recommended his earlier works (notably The Fallen, Laguna Heat, and Silent Joe), I started it off with his L.A. Outlaws novel from 2008. It introduced the character of Charlie Hood (along with the personas of Joaquin and Alison Murrieta who continue to haunt all of these novels) and launched a series that has constituted my entire connection with the author. Though I have to admit my time with this string of novels hasn't been without its bumps -- see my review of The Renegades (the L.A. Outlaws follow-up) as a case in point.

Still, there are Southern California authors I will stay with no matter what because they write so well and craft their stories in and around the landscape that is their home (and mine) so adeptly. Parker is one of them. As well, he regularly delivers a consummate perspective (through a myriad of new and continuing characters) on the Drug War theatre happening on either side of the California-Mexico border through the four novels I've read. This author manages to give all the personalities he puts on the page a depth that poorer writers just turn into stereotypes and caricatures. Although, what I've finally come to recognize in the Hood novels is that Charlie is not so much the lead character, but is the platform that forms the basis of Parker's narrative. CH remains relatively interesting, but he can pale when compared to some of those TJP puts into orbit around him by way of southland crime.

That realization of mine began with last year's Iron River, the third book in the series. The history of southern California gun-making and gun-running, and its impact on both sides of the border, were manifest. Let alone the acts of devilry and butchery perpetrated among the drug cartels which Parker chronicled in that novel. Still, the SoCal native raised it up another notch with the fourth in the series published last month, The Border Lords. The synopsis of which has Sean Ozburn, a lone ATF agent 15 months into a deep undercover with the Baja Cartel, going rogue and devising his own strategy for doing good acts and 'fighting evil' that his own people would never condone, let alone authorize. It'll be left to Charlie Hood to ferret out the truth and what is behind the madness on both sides of the border. Jeff Parker has admitted that Border Lords is his implicit homage to his favorite work, Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. IMO, it is one of his best books in the series (one that is projected to be six novels in length) and the genre.

A bit of fair warning, however: the author, who's research and detail of crime and the bureaucracy of law enforcement in the southland is extraordinary, introduced what many have perceived as a bit of mysticism into the last two Charlie Hood novels. Some readers have found it oft-putting (if you bother to read some of Amazon's customer reviews). If that seems incongruent, you may want to steer clear. However, if you do, you'll miss some compelling storytelling by this author and the spellbinding amalgam he's managed to capture on the page. Tim Rutten in his L.A. Times book review may have described it best:
"The border, for both peoples, always has been a moral frontier and a boundary of the imagination as much as a political one, and in this latest novel Parker takes full advantage of the physical and mental landscape's ambiguities. Almost nothing or no one in this gripping narrative is exactly who or what they seem to be. The author, moreover, has a knowing hand and pushes — in a sophisticated but never merely ironic way — against familiar literary memories as varied as Cormac McCarthy's border-hopping cowboys, Carlos Castaneda's Native American shaman and Graham Greene's whiskey priest. In fact, the book's most chilling character — and it's a tight competition — is a twisted pirouette off Greene's memorable character and one of the most appalling clerics in contemporary literature, if he really is what he appears to be."
Brilliance Audio once again produced the audiobook of this novel, as they've done for many of Parker's novels, with their usual fine production values. As well, David Colaci performed the narration with his customary skill, and he's been involved with the entire line since L.A. Outlaws. If you've heard him before, I think you can tell this narrator has become quite comfortable with the Hood character through his readings. Still, Colaci really seems to get a kick out of the variety of individuals Parker brings on to his stage. Although, having to assemble a large and distinct stable of vocal characterizations would not be his strong suit, IMO. Still, he's an asset for the audiobook listener and delivers on what the author has in store for fans who savor what he brings to the table.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Friday Forgotten Song: Castles in the Air

In the 1975 film adaptation of James Grady's first novel, the re-titled Three Days of the Condor, Kathy Hale (Faye Dunaway portraying the reluctant 'draftee' to Robert Redford's Joe Turner) says something that decades later continues to strike a chord with me:
"Sometimes I take a picture that isn't like me. But I took it so it is like me. It has to be. I put those pictures away."
The printed photos of desolate city scenes ("lonely pictures", says Turner) in her apartment catch the protagonist's attention, and for which he finds telling. That they are personal in a way that's difficult for her* to share is obvious in those scenes. Such is the case with the song of this forgotten post.

This post has been updated and moved to my current blog, found here.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Black Swan Discussion at The Aero Theatre

Last night, the good folks at American Cinematheque Los Angeles had another of their Oscar season events. This one highlighted Darren Aronofsky's five time nominated Black Swan film. Shown along side his debut work, Pi (1998), a discussion occurred in between the screenings with the director, DP Matthew Libatique, and film editor Andrew Weisblum. Some interesting back stories were revealed -- I mean who knew the director feared his 90 lb. lead actor more than Mickey Rourke from The Wrestler and how much those characters are alike. It really was another enjoyable event by the staff at The Aero Theatre who gave their usual marvelous presentation to the film fans in attendance at this sold out event. Below is the start of my video recording of the discourse (you can see the rest in parts 2, 3, 4, and 5). For those who haven't seen the film or anything by this director, it is highly recommended. I'll refer to you to two reviews by a couple of my favorite bloggers:

I hope you enjoy.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Friday, February 4, 2011

Friday Forgotten Song: You Only Live Twice

With this week's passing of one of the all-time great film composers, John Barry (1933 - 2011), you'll understand why I sought one of these forgotten posts out. Having scored so many memorable films through his well recognized four-decade career -- including The Lion in Winter, Midnight Cowboy, Body Heat, Dances with Wolves... ah, hell I even list the splendid one he did for Out of Africa here (and I don't even like the film outside of its music and Streep's performance) -- a number of the tributes to the man by bloggers are covering many of the prominent tracks associated with Barry. I highly recommend the blog salutes by friends John Kenneth Muir , Steven Hart, and christian highlighting why this famed English music arranger/composer mattered so heavily in cinema.

The rest of this post has been updated and moved to my current blog, found here.

Friday, January 28, 2011

"Fer Shur"... It's an '80 Thing

The film blogger over at Colonel Mortimer Will Have His Revenge recently wrapped up his 1980 Project. A personal proposal begun some years ago, my friend examined the lion's share of films for that particular year (and posted on many of them).
"For the last few years I have had a slow moving film geek pursuit. The whole endeavor stemmed from my issues with the annual end of the year top ten film lists. I have nothing against them, I love reading them, though I never regard them as anything close to a true sense of what the ten best films of any given year is, but rather revealing the tastes and personality (or lack thereof) of the writer of said list. Does it contain the prerequisite foreign film that the viewer saw once at a festival and appears on the list pretty much solely in a possessive manner (it's mine, and only mine!), does it contain an out of nowhere mainstream blockbuster to prove the writer's ability to register and enjoy pop art (this from someone who would have included Talladega Nights on his non existent top ten list for last year)? No my issue is with my dogged completest attitude. How could I truly create a Top Ten List if I haven't seen every film released in the year, or at least every film that provided me a modicum of interest or critical attention, since a viewing of say, Wild Hogs, would not have any effect on the process."
The rest of the article has been moved and updated to my current blog, found here.
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Monday, January 24, 2011

William Friedkin at the Sorcerer Screening


On Sunday night, I attended the second part in American Cinematheque Los Angeles' two-day tribute for director William Friedkin. The clear emphasis of the evening for this double-feature though was the neglected gem from 1977, Sorcerer. Screenwriter Josh Olson was in attendance and conducted the intro and the discussion afterwards. Josh has been the clear and leading champion for this film's appreciation: see last year's post on the film which includes his Trailers From Hell clip that lobbied fans of gritty and spectacular cinema of the 70s -- as well as Friedkin enthusiasts -- to check it out. I must say, Mr. Friedkin was in extraordinary form during the on-stage discussion with Josh in-between the screenings. I have to admit, too, it was a strange but exciting experience to be in a setting where a film as ferocious and seminal like The Exorcist takes second billing. But, it's one I savored because it was a long time coming. And if there is a movie that's finally getting the recognition it long deserved, this one (like Hickey & Boggs) is it.

I managed to record the interview (see links below) with only one real hiccup. Because the discussion went almost 20 minutes over the expected half hour duration, my wife's Flip recorder ran out of time -- luckily, I had my digital camera as back-up and that allowed me to finish the session. Some interesting highlights:
  • Josh Olson introduced the film (not recorded) and admitted to the entire audience of Friedkin followers that Sorcerer is his all-time favorite by the director (and no one raised an objection)
  • the director of the hour sat with the audience the whole time and enjoyed watching the stellar print of the film which the American Cinematheque acquired for the event
  • quick survey (show of hands) by Josh showed that the majority in the theatre's attendance had never seen Sorcerer -- Josh was plainly really thrilled by that knowing they would be in for a treat
  • William Friedkin, if you watch the entire interview, can crack a funny line with the best of them; he drew multiple laughs throughout the discussion (and ends the fact- and anecdote-filled interview with a perfect close-out story that was the ideal intro for the second feature)
  • there will definitely be a Blu-ray disc of the film! Friedkin, after he completes post-production of his latest work, should start the BD and remastering process for Sorcerer around March of this year.
  • as Josh Olson anticipated, after the film's quintessential 70s ending played out and Sorcerer's end credits appeared, a loud and boisterous applause was thrown by the audience
Below is the start of that event discussion which began as the lights came up (and here are the links to parts 2, 3, 4, and 5). I hope you enjoy -- I sure did.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Angel Heart Film (& Disc) Review

"Alas... how terrible is wisdom when it brings no profit to the wise, Johnny?"
It's still winter, yes? I say that because mother nature continues to toy with those of us in the southland. It's been a false spring for L.A. dwellers of late, and it seems few know that it won't last. It's just a wicked joke waiting to be played (this after a weird and very wet Fall). I don't expect to get much sympathy on this point from much of the country given what many have gone through in this cold and snowy January. Still, everyone else is not under constant threat to slide into the Pacific Ocean after a gargantuan quake like us (the fact that we'd be wearing shades and sunscreen when it happens is besides the point). So, it's probably good timing for the Scientist Gone Wordy and I to get the duo post series back on track after the holidays. As usual, the wordy one will examine the text of a famed novel later adapted to film, which I will review. In this case, she'll be looking at the source novel for the 1987 Angel Heart film, Falling Angel. Rachel's book review can be found here:


A brief synopsis of the film: In January 1955 New York City, an archetypical low rent private investigator by the name of Harold Angel hits a jackpot of sorts. He lands a seemingly routine missing-persons case for a wealthy client. It appears some big band singer from years back didn't fulfill a contract with the mysterious vendee, a chap named Mr. Cyphre. It is explained that the crooner was institutionalize long term due to WWII injuries and shell shock. PI Angel's job then is to prove the hospital in question has falsified the records, and using what he comes across, to locate the fellow with the stage name of Johnny Favorite so that a certain 'collateral' can be collected by the patron. The dark elements that the private eye uncovers, and the peril he faces in doing so, will be laid bare in the telling of the tale.

[spoiler warning: some key elements of the film are revealed in this review]

The rest of the review (now updated) can be found on my current blog, located here.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Return of Sorcerer


Okay, I'm going to flat out mimic someone else's post about a screening for a little seen and under-appreciated film. In their case, that someone is author Duane Swierczynski (writer of crime thriller fame and various Marvel comic characters), and his post was the one that spotlighted last Friday's showing of a forgotten film he categorizes as one, "downbeat, sunbaked PI movie":


I'd have loved to have been there and watched it on the big screen (as I originally did back in October 1972). I've maintained a firm love of this film coming up on four decades now. Nonetheless, I'll have to settle for another like gem from that same decade, this one closer to my neck of the woods. The 1977 neglected film, Sorcerer. For those who are interested, here's the link to my appreciative post of the film from April 2010:

Strangle-Hold: The Gripping Films of William Friedkin

The good folks over at the American Cinematheque Los Angeles will host a similarly cool event this upcoming weekend. They'll welcome the one-of-a-kind William Friedkin to the Aero Theatre for a two-day retrospective of his films, with a discussion between films with the director each day. While all of the films presented at this function are extraordinary (and most have been seen and lauded over through the years in revival theaters and celebrated DVD releases), it is Sorcerer that has been the least seen of the lot and earned the title of forsaken. And it still doesn't have a decent release on disc. Luckily, as with Hickey & Boggs, that seems to be changing. The film where Mr. Friedkin earned his less-than-affectionate nickname of 'Hurricane Billy' has been climbing in many people's estimations. So, catching this film in a theater will be a treat.
"Friedkin’s most visually awesome film follows small-time crook Roy Scheider from Brooklyn to the sweltering South American jungles, where he lands a job hauling nitroglycerine with hard-luck losers Bruno Cremer and Francisco Rabal. Rather than simply remake Henri-Georges Clouzot’s famed WAGES OF FEAR, Friedkin re-imagined the story as a cosmic vision of man vs. nature, climaxing in the mind-bending image of Scheider and crew literally pushing a loaded truck across a spindly rope bridge." ~ American Cinematheque at The Aero
I would herald the new 35mm print being made available for the show, and forgive me for saying this in the most antithetical of manners, but the event had me at hello.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The L.A. Requiem Book Discussion

A few months back, and one of my best blog post picks from last year, Jeff over at Stuff Running 'Round My Head wrote a more than fine examination of one of my favorite books: The Use of Flashbacks in "L.A. Requiem". And it got a bunch of us Craisies wanting to re-read the novel and re-examine it since many of us consider it the watershed moment in the Elvis Cole and Joe Pike series of books. The chief Craisie amongst us, and our dear friend, Elyse (otherwise known as Pop Culture Nerd) came up with a fantastic idea of...
"... an online discussion about it so we can share our thoughts with old and new fans alike."
That event occurred this past weekend. And since Robert Crais is launching another book in the series tomorrow, The Sentry, she expertly summarized the discussion and posted it today as the appropriate tie-in. Of course, I highly recommend it (and the new book):


My sincere thanks to both Jeff and Elyse for this.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Friday Forgotten Film: Sharky's Machine

To put it mildly, Burt Reynolds has had an interesting career. His charismatic presence with early recurring roles on the Gunsmoke and Riverboat TV series got many people's attention (mine included as a kid). He parlayed that into larger and larger film roles. His rendition of the Lewis Medlock character in John Boorman's adaptation of the great James Dickey novel, Deliverance, was the breakthrough impetus for that big screen vocation. Its impact skyrocketed him during the 70s, and his subsequent films successfully propelled him to the #1 box office crown. The world was his oyster. Then, the 80s collided with it like a bad meteor movie. The evidence becomes painfully clear when the films of that span are mentioned (some of which were purely for the paycheck). Among them, Stroker Ace, Paternity, Stick, Rent-A-Cop, and/or any of the Cannonball or Smokey and the Bandit sequels (among others) will tell you which direction his path then headed.

The rest of this post has been updated and moved to my current blog, found here.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Spanish Makes Everything Sound More...

I keep seeing this 30 second commercial on television:



It works on so many levels with me. First, whoever cast this series of commercials for Kahlúa should be given a medal for selecting Ana de la Reguera. She's simply one drop dead gorgeous and talented latina (and besides that she'll also be in Cowboys & Aliens later this year). On top of that, both the actress and the coffee liqueur maker's roots are the same. The unique trade port city of Veracruz, Veracruz, Mexico is their mutual birthplace. With its distinctive Spanish, African, and Caribbean cultural heritage, it's one location that has always fascinated me (no disrespect to my family's ancestral home of Chihuahua, mom). Of course, before my stomach swore me off alcohol, Kahlúa was one of my last spirits of choice. Damnit!
"We speak Spanish, mostly because it's the language we speak."
The ad (and series) manages to squeezes out a seriously frisky sense of humor throughout its very short span, too. Plus, Ana in truth plays her part to the hilt with a sexy charm that's palpable. Intriguing really becomes a word and half by the time she's through with it, no? Notice how she even pronounces Roberto. My grandmother would deliver a loud clamor if she heard me admit I couldn't roll an 'R' to save my own life. This admission from one with a double 'r' in his hispanic surname (which to pronounce correctly incorporates the use of the famed Spanish trill). And she has me in her grips by the time we reach, Piano ("Okay, maybe not the best example."). Put it all together and it blends to the best commercial going, IMO. ¡Delicioso!