December 17, 2010

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger

December 16, 2010





Years ago, whenever a Woody Allen film opened, I was first in line. These days, not so much. That was why I waited until this one reached the dollar cinema before taking the plunge. I’m glad I didn’t pay the full price.

The plot, such as it is, involves the lives of two British couples living in present-day London, Alfie (Anthony Hopkins) and Helena (Gemma Jones), the parents of Sally (Naomi Watts) who is married to Roy (Josh Brolin). The elders have divorced because Alfie, like his namesake in a classic 1966 film and its 2004 remake, has serious issues with women and himself.

December 14, 2010

Says Who?

December 12, 2010


Lately, I’ve been revisiting one of those novels of mine that I thought was finished but really isn’t. Editors want to see much more of the main female character.

Okay, I thought. I’ll change Sophie (that’s her name) from third- to first-person. Simple enough.

December 10, 2010

I've Loved You So Long

December 10, 2010





We’re down with colds at my house, and since I didn’t want to “share the wealth” by coughing all over my fellow moviegoers in a cramped theater, I decided to dip into the treasure trove backlogged on my DVR. Out popped “I’ve Loved You So Long,” a French-language film released in 2008 starring the British actress Kristin Scott Thomas in a role that’s fairly typical for her.

December 2, 2010

127 Hours


December 2, 2010




Sometimes a director is the right person to tell a story. Such was the case with Danny Boyle’s last film, “Slumdog Millionaire," winner of eight Academy Awards, but unfortunately not with his current offering, “127 Hours.”

The movie is based upon the real-life experience of Aron Ralston (recounted in a 2004 memoir with the groan-inducing title Between a Rock and a Hard Place). Hiking alone in Utah’s Blue John Canyon, he fell into a crevasse. His right hand was pinned between the canyon wall and a large immovable boulder. After winching himself into place, he survived for five days with almost no food or water, until he…let’s just say he did some creative surgery on himself, got free, and staggered to safety.

November 25, 2010

Fair Game


 November 25, 2010
Happy Thanksgiving!



Last weekend, while the hoards lined up around the block for the latest Harry Potter, I took a chance on a movie that received considerably less attention, “Fair Game.”

Starring an over-the-top Sean Penn and a more restrained Naomi Watts, the film tells the story of Valerie Plame, a veteran CIA covert operative who was outed by Robert Novak in The New York Times not long after her husband, former ambassador Joe Wilson, wrote an op ed piece in which he denied the Bush administration’s assertion that the African nation of Niger sold yellow cake uranium to Iraq for the manufacture of those phantom WMDs that provided the justification for invading Iraq.

November 21, 2010

The Finish Line--or Why I Miss my Typewriter

November 21, 2010

This past week, I helped a good friend update her resume. We exchanged numerous emails, and I suggested ways she might tailor her impressive talents to the kind of job she’s seeking.

A couple of days ago, I sent her a list of organizational and wording changes, though she wasn’t able to incorporate them in time for an interview she had scheduled. But that was okay, she wrote, because, “a resume is NEVER done.”

November 18, 2010

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

November 18, 2010





The last installment of the immensely popular Millennium trilogy, the Swedish-language version of Steig Larsson’s novel, continues the tale of Lisbeth Salander, computer hacker extraordinaire, and Mikail Blomkvist, the reporter who loves her. These days, their relationship is strictly platonic.

Lisbeth is the daughter of a Soviet defector who fed information to a secret arm of the police called the Section that now needs to keep her silent by maintaining the fiction that she’s incompetent and ought to be institutionalized for the rest of her life. That conspiracy is the “Hornet’s Nest” of the title.

November 15, 2010

Ziplining

November 15, 2010

This 2 1/2 hour adventure offers nature lovers and thrill seekers alike the opportunity to zip through the treetops on a network of cables and skybridges suspended high above the forest floor, overlooking a cave, rock cliffs, and the Hocking River.

--from the Canopy Tours brochure

I’m standing on a platform about twenty-five feet above the ground. I look across at the suspension bridge and dirt path that led me to this awful place and think seriously about admitting what a wimp I am and hiking back to the safety of the snack bar.

I’m tethered to a wire, waiting my turn to zip across the cable suspended from our tree to another one that looks to be about a mile away. We have two guides, one who goes ahead to wait for us at the next platform and one who stays behind. This is a “bunny” run, the stay-behind guide announces.

November 13, 2010

The Tillman Story


November 12, 2010




Who was Pat Tillman? That’s a good question to ask around Veteran’s Day. Too bad this documentary doesn’t provide a better answer.

Not long after 9-11, Pat Tillman, a standout NFL defensive back for the Arizona Cardinals, gave up his lucrative career and, along with his younger brother Kevin, enlisted in the Army Rangers. During his second tour of duty, while he was on patrol in a rocky valley in Afghanistan, he was shot to death.

November 6, 2010

Hello Again!

November 6, 2010

It’s been 3 ½ weeks since my last post. Why did I let so much time go by without putting a single word down on paper?

No crises of conscience, no reconsidering my life choices, no births or deaths. Just a weeklong trip to visit a great good friend, followed by various and sundry routine medical appointments AND the arrival of a new laptop that meant I had to overhaul my home network. Afterwards, I did battle with a stubborn printer, resulting in a seventy-five minute online chat with a technical support person, probably somewhere in India, judging by his or her name (and the darned thing still isn’t 100% right).

October 13, 2010

The Social Network

October 13, 2010




For the last two weeks, “The Social Network” has been number one at the box office. It’s also garnered uniformly excellent reviews, so naturally I have to put in my two-cents’ worth. I’m afraid I’m not nearly as enamored of the film as most of the critics have been.

October 8, 2010

Matinee

October 8, 2010




This week, I saw “Matinee,” a 1993 homage to all of those cheesy monster flicks that terrified me when I was a child. I remembered enjoying the movie when it first came out and wouldn’t have thought to see it again, except that Joe Dante, the director, was on-hand to introduce the film and participate in a q & a afterwards.

I enjoyed “Matinee” immensely, not the least because it accurately portrayed what it was like to go to Saturday matinees when I was a kid, complete with popcorn tossed in the air, tee shirts soaked with soda pop, and boys running wild in the aisles.

September 30, 2010

Remains of the Day

September 28, 2010




A few weeks ago, my satellite provider gave me a wonderful gift—three free months of the Encore channels. That means I have temporary access to many of my favorite films made during the last decade or two. Merchant/Ivory’s 1993 adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Remains of the Day falls into that category. In fact, I’d go so far as putting it on my list of top ten movies of all time.

Why? Because there’s not a bad scene in it.

September 23, 2010

Easy A

September 23, 2010




The list of movies I want to see right now—well, there is no list. That’s why I skipped my review last Thursday. This week, though, in a fit of desperation, I decided to try out “Easy A.” Some critics seemed to like it, and how could I resist a film that promised a humorous update on The Scarlet Letter?

September 14, 2010

My Love Affair

September 14, 2010

I lost my heart in 1980. The object of my affection, a dumb terminal, lived in a small room around the corner from my office in Ross Hall, the building that housed the English Department at Iowa State. The university gave each of us faculty members $100 worth of free computer time to do with what we would.

How could I resist?

September 9, 2010

The American

September 9, 2010




We’re definitely in the doldrums movie-wise if “The American” is number one at the box office this week. I saw the film one ninety-five-degree afternoon, not because I had high hopes, but because I was desperate for some relief from the heat.

Cooling my heels was not nearly a good enough reason to waste eight dollars and 103 minutes of my time.

September 6, 2010

Gone Fishing

September 6, 2010

My motivation to write has nosedived, especially after I spent most of last week in Cleveland. Granted, it’s only a two-hour drive from Columbus, and there’s no time change. So that can’t be the reason why I’m suddenly besieged by an attack of the lazies.

The weather is cool, and that’s supposed to be energizing, right?

September 2, 2010

Devil in A Blue Dress


September 2, 2010




This is the slow season for movie lovers like me who prefer small and smart over big and loud, subtle and unexpected over broad and formulaic. Not that these categories don’t bleed into one another. They do. Just not often enough.

I guess that’s why DVRs were invented—to make dry patches like this one bearable. Last week, I recorded and saw again the terrific 1995 adaptation of Walter Moseley’s first Easy Rollins mystery “Devil in a Blue Dress.”

August 29, 2010

Farewell Friendly Fairview

August 29, 2010

They’re tearing down my high school: Friendly Fairview, a lovely old building on the north side of Dayton, Ohio constructed sometime during the 1920’s. Her asbestos slip is showing, and apparently it’s cheaper to toss her in the trash than to stitch her hem back up again.

The last-walkthrough of the building is scheduled to take place on Saturday, September 18th. There has been quite a bit of chatter about this event by FHS alumni, including some outrage amongst the “Jewish kids”—now grandparents—because it takes place on Yom Kippur.

August 26, 2010

Bubba Ho-Tep


August 26, 2010




Here’s a “what if” that makes my mouth water:

Sometime in the 70s, the real Elvis trades places with an impersonator named Sebastian Haff. Sebastian lives out the rest of his days at Graceland and leaves the building for good after the infamous fatal overdose. Elvis, on the other hand, travels around the country impersonating himself, because being "the King" is simply what he does best.

August 23, 2010

Who do you know?

August 23, 2010

Did you know that, besides humans, dogs are the only creatures that understand what a pointed finger means? Like us, great apes have opposable thumbs, but they’re too aggressive and competitive to fathom hand gestures. So says Brian Hare, assistant professor of evolutionary anthropology at Duke University.

August 19, 2010

Mademoiselle Chambon

      August 19, 2010




This French gem is a reworking of one of my all-time favorite weepies, “Brief Encounter.” I’ve seen that movie dozens of times, and whenever it happens to be on TCM, I’ll DVR it and watch it again because it’s kind of like an old friend I haven’t visited with for a while. Certain films are like that.

If “Mademoiselle” were a book, it would be comprised primarily of internal dialogues because the characters don’t say much to each other. In its subject manner and style, it resembles a movie I talked about in post a couple of weeks ago called, “I Am Love.”

August 16, 2010

Promotion

August 16, 2010

I’ll bet you’re thinking I got a raise. If you are, you’d be wrong.

Instead I’ve arrived at that time in the writing cycle when I’ve had to come up with a “Marketing Plan” to sell Blind Love, my latest novel. Apparently editors these days want to know who I think my readers are, why I think they’ll buy my book, and how I intend to make sure they do.

August 11, 2010

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work

August 10, 2010


Boy do I wish I could have dreamed up a character like Joan Rivers: sassy, profane, bold, and scared out of her mind. Such a strange brew, so much larger than life.

Here is a woman who talks straight about everything, shouting down an angry heckler during one of her stand-up routines because he takes offense at the fact that she’s making fun of deaf people. Nothing is sacred, she yells at him. Everything awful about life needs to be laughed at. That’s how you survive.

August 9, 2010

Rules to Live By

August 9, 2010

Rule #1: Keys go in the outside pocket of my purse, preferably hooked over the flap so they don’t fall so deeply into said pocket that I have to fish around for them in the dark.

Rule #2: Cell goes into the inside pocket of my purse, except when I’m at home and need to use it for sending email or taking silly pictures of my keys. Which means I often have to search frantically for the phone and call my own self to find the darned thing.

August 3, 2010

I Am Love

August 3, 2010




Beautiful Milan. Sumptuous food. The fantastic Tilda Swinton as a Russian √©migr√© turned Italian society matron. Sweet. A film about mature people who don’t point guns at one another to solve their problems. What’s not to love?

Unfortunately, almost everything.

August 1, 2010

Robot Love

August 1, 2010

I still enjoy The Columbus Dispatch with my morning coffee. Granted the paper newspaper has shrunk exponentially over the last several years, and the on-line version is more up-to-the-minute.

But somehow my day doesn’t start until I’ve scanned the front page for the latest uproar in our state government, perused the obituaries to be sure I’m not listed there, studied my horoscope to determine whether it’s safe to leave the house, and caught up on such earth-shattering events as how Lindsay Lohan is doing in jail.

July 27, 2010

The Girl Who Played With Fire

July 27, 2010





Unless you’ve been on a remote island during the last year, you’ve certainly read about Stieg Larsson’s Millennial trilogy, a publishing phenomenon.

The books star computer hacker extraordinaire Lisbeth Salander, who has a brain at least twice the size of her eighty-eight pound body, and investigative reporter and Lisbeth’s sometime partner in solving crimes, Mikael Blomkvist. Like Blomkvist, Larsson was a middle-aged journalist. The author succumbed to a heart attack in 2004 before any of his books hit the stores—every writer’s nightmare, to die right before a mammoth payday.

July 25, 2010

Crossing the Pond

July 25, 2010

I had lunch the other day with a close friend who is going to England next month. Cruise lines are desperate for passengers, so she and her husband are sailing on the Queen Mary 2, instead flying on an overcrowded plane. Kind of a no-brainer, since the difference in fares is minimal.

“You’re in good company,” I said. “Even as we speak, P.D. James is headed to New York on the QM2.”

July 20, 2010

Smile







July 20, 2010

This past weekend, courtesy of my DVR, I revisited a gem from 1975, the year that produced “Jaws,” “One Who Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” and a couple of my all-time favorites, “The Man Who Would Be King” and “Hester Street.”

The movie is called “Smile” and satirizes the fictional Young American Miss Beauty Pageant that blows into Santa Rosa, California each summer. The contestants, including a teenaged Melanie Griffith and an equally young Annette O’Toole, are nearly as jaded as the men who leer at them throughout.

July 18, 2010

Curling Up With a Good Book

July 17, 2010

When I taught college and my students asked me how to get a better grade on their writing assignments, I replied, “Read good books.”

Not something most people do these days. A professor friend of mine requires her students to fill out a questionnaire at the beginning of each term. She asks them to write down something about themselves other people don’t know. One student answered—big secret, don’t tell anyone—, “I read books.”

July 12, 2010

Mid-August Lunch








July 13, 2010

Here in Columbus, we manage to get some rather obscure independent and foreign films, thanks in part to the Wexner Center for the Arts that operates a theater on the Ohio State University campus, as well as the Gateway Film Center a few blocks to the south.

This past Saturday, my husband and I took a chance on “Mid-August Lunch” at the on-campus theater. Our experience there has been pretty mixed. We always sit close to the fire exit to beat a quiet but hasty retreat from what’s simply unwatchable. That happens approximately half the time. As for the rest, the offerings range from the not-intolerable to the downright wonderful.