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    Friday, January 29, 2010

    On The Web: Lem Dobbs 

    Sorry I haven’t posted this week. So much time and so little to do.

    Wait a minute. Strike that. Reverse it.

    One thing I have made room for in recent days is this Cosmoetica interview with screenwriter Lem Dobbs, whose credits include Dark City, The Limey, and The Limey’s commentary track, which is so good it deserves to be treated as a separate project. The interview is truly epic – 53,000 words, 90 pages – wide-ranging, and brutally honest. It’s also one of the best things I’ve read in years. Some excerpts:

    Books are published now – crime novels, for example, which is a field I still follow – that are so horrible, it’s mind-boggling. Covered in laudatory review quotes and blurbs, listing all the awards they’ve won – you can’t believe it. It’s quite often impossible to find a bad review of a book, that’s how much of a racket it’s become.

    I agree with him. Which kills me, because when I read a lousy crime novel – and lately I’ve read a few, all blurbed by writers I respect and touted elsewhere – I hold my tongue. Bill Crider recently summed up my feelings on the subject of reviews perfectly. I don’t see myself as a critic. I like to use my tiny corner of the internet to call attention to the good stuff. But every once in a while, when for reasons of my own I finish a book that’s a dud, I question that approach.

    Dobbs on Hollywood now:

    They’d much rather hear what they think is a “cool take.” But not knowing what’s old, they have no idea what’s new. So the whole phony, broken system is an exercise in futility and another reason movies are much more uniform in their awfulness. There’s absolutely no patience for, or respect or appreciation for, ideas outside the airless dome of a very limited frame of reference. If you engage in a discussion of who the “villain” is, for instance, you’d better do it in an excited and animated way (this is why it’s helpful to have a writing partner who’s also wearing big ol’ baggy shorts and a Hawaiian shirt and a turned-round baseball cap and chortling) – because to roll your eyes and sigh and question whether there even has to be a villain would be to challenge the whole current paradigm. And the “villain,” of course, once established, has to be motivated by nothing less than destroying the entire world – and so on – from cliché to cliché. If you’re unwilling to – sincerely – play this game, you might as well stay home ... Who was the “villain” in THE GREAT ESCAPE, or THE DIRTY DOZEN? Remade now – and don’t think they’re not trying – there would have to be an evil, evil, evil, evil Nazi in alternating scenes, constantly snarling, “I want them caught, I want them stopped, I want them dead!”

    Bookmark it. Go back to it in stages. It’s worth the effort.

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    Thursday, December 10, 2009

    On The Web: Crimespree Cinema

    The gang over at Crimespree Cinema has asked some big names to contribute 5 favorites for 2009 – film, TV or DVD. Somehow I slipped through their defenses. My picks are up now.

    Sort Of Related: The Fallen Sparrow (1943)/Nobody Lives Forever (1946)

    John Garfield may not have the same level of recognition as noir icons like Humphrey Bogart and Robert Mitchum, and the rediscovery of other names from the era like Richard Conte has allowed him to get lost in the cracks. But Garfield’s shadow may extend the furthest. The type of character he often portrayed – streetwise but fundamentally decent, a boyish tough guy who could be tamed – is a standard today. Put it this way: alone among his contemporaries, Garfield could have played either Matt Damon’s role or Leonardo DiCaprio’s in The Departed, and been brought back to read for Mark Wahlberg’s into the bargain. Watching two lesser known Garfield films with serious crime fiction pedigrees brought home the potency of that persona.

    In The Fallen Sparrow, based on a novel by Dorothy B. Hughes (Ride the Pink Horse, In a Lonely Place), Garfield plays a veteran of the Spanish Civil War held prisoner by the Nazis. He’s freed in 1940 and returns to New York only to discover the Germans are still shadowing him while he delves into the murder of the childhood friend who delivered him from harm. The first third of the movie is rough sledding, a muddle with too many characters in a convoluted backstory. And may the gods of cinema take pity on you if you can’t figure out who the villain of the piece is. (Hint: The person it couldn’t be, because that’d be too obvious? Yeah, that’s who it is.)

    But Sparrow fascinates for several reasons. There’s a troika of interesting women, foremost among them Maureen O’Hara as an ice princess who only begrudgingly thaws. But it’s Garfield’s work as a proto-Manchurian Candidate, still suffering the effects of torture at the hands of his captors, that compels. The film’s MacGuffin is also just right, a mixture of nobility and stubbornness that suits Garfield to a T.

    By comparison, Nobody Lives Forever is light entertainment. W.R. Burnett is credited as writing the original screenplay, but it’s adapted from a story serialized in Collier’s in 1943. Garfield is Nick Blake, recovered from his WWII service and ready to resume his grifting career. He lights out for the coast and sets his sights on a rich widow, but when he falls for her for real he has to deal his partners out.

    Nothing in Nobody is even remotely surprising, but the machinery is so finely assembled by Burnett and director Jean Negulesco that you’re happy to take a ride to a familiar destination if only to enjoy the scenery. George Coulouris chafes nicely as an aging con man who can’t accept that he’s no longer a pretty boy. Retro crush Faye Emerson is on hand as a bad girl, matched forehead for lovely forehead by Geraldine Fitzgerald as the pigeon who becomes a swan. But Garfield gives the enterprise life, charming as hell in rogue mode, touching when he goes soft on his mark. I’ve got some other Garfield films kicking around. It may be time to dig them out.

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    Friday, September 04, 2009

    On the Web: More Playboy’s Penthouse

    What say we kick off the holiday weekend with a little music? These clips will give you a sense of the variety show I wrote about yesterday, and spare you the indignity of looking up Playboy’s Penthouse online. Safe search, my ass. My computer may never forgive me.

    First up in Hef’s pad is Frances Faye, one of the premiere nightclub entertainers of the era. Listen to her album Caught in the Act and tell me I’m wrong. With the awe-inspiring Jack Costanzo, aka “Mr. Bongo.” Part one is below, and here’s the rest.

    You can also enjoy the folk duo Bud & Travis in the first of three parts. Playboy’s Penthouse booked a range of artists – jazz, cabaret, folk – and let them perform several songs in a mini-concert that provided a real flavor of their shows. Better than the band doing one number before the infomercials start.

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    Wednesday, August 05, 2009

    On The Web: Ed Gorman

    Ed says far too many fine things about the Noir City Sentinel. Such as, “I’ve never read a book on noir that was as informative and just as much as downright fun” as the latest issue.

    Go read it for yourself. Then kick in a few bucks to the Film Noir Foundation and have the goodness delivered straight to your inbox.

    Speaking of noir ...

    DVR Alert: Glenn Ford

    As part of their Summer Under the Stars festival, Turner Classic Movies is dedicating this Friday, August 7, to the films of Glenn Ford. Gilda understandably gets pride of place, with the original 3:10 to Yuma not far behind. (One of Ford’s best known noirs, The Big Heat, will air on August 13 as part of Gloria Grahame Day.) Among the lesser known Ford films are two that I can heartily recommend.

    The first is Framed (1947), airing at 4:45PM EST/1:45PM PST. I saw this one at Noir City. Take advantage of this rare opportunity to enjoy Janis Carter, all legs and cheekbones and wildly darting eyes, in her I’m-gonna-say glory.

    The other is 1949’s The Undercover Man (10PM EST/7PM PST). TCM ran this neglected film for the first time last month, and I’m glad they’ve got it on the schedule again already. Expert noir hand Joseph H. Lewis (Gun Crazy, The Big Combo) directs this account of Treasury agents scrambling to take down Al Capone, referred to throughout the film solely as “the Big Fellow.” Featuring a dandy performance by Barry Kelley as a Mob lawyer who’s got almost all the angles figured, a hair-raising foot chase scored to the plaintive cries of a little girl, and a scene with Esther Minciotti as an Italian immigrant whose speech about America, translated by her granddaughter, is guaranteed to put a lump in your throat. Watch it and tell me I’m wrong.

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    Sunday, June 07, 2009

    Book: The Way Home, by George Pelecanos (2009)

    When George Pelecanos is good – witness The Night Gardener – he has few peers. When he misses, he manages to do so in his own unique way. The unsuccessful Pelecanos novels seem to have been set down on paper because there were no stone tablets handy. They’re not sober but somber, ascetic to the point of being overbearing. Reading his books is occasionally like falling into conversation with a guy at a bar who becomes steadily more grave until he seizes your arm and says, “Let me tell you what it means to be a man.” Then you shake him off and point out that you only came in for a cold beer and some of the ball game, and things stay awkward until you close out your tab with the game still in progress.

    That said, I prefer Pelecanos’s approach, always mindful of choice and consequence in people’s lives, to the cavalier one prevalent in other crime fiction. And I continue to pick up every book he writes.

    It’s no surprise that The Way Home is one of his stronger outings, because he’s working with the genre’s elemental plot – The Bag of Money. It’s an intriguingly structured book, the first third devoted to the adolescence of Chris Flynn, a troubled kid from a good working class background. He finally goes too far and ends up doing juvenile time. Several years later he’s working as a carpet installer at the family business. Unambitious and half-heartedly trying to go straight, he’s still a worry for his father. And he continues to hang out with people he met on the inside.

    Then, on a job, he discovers The Bag of Money.

    The simplicity of the story and the leanness of Pelecanos’s prose complement each other here, leading up to a finale with genuine understated power. Pelecanos introduces the shrewish realtor trying to flip a house Chris is working on, apparently a minor character, then beautifully sketches in the woman’s life with a few concise paragraphs involving a waitress at the restaurant she frequents. He then goes one better by giving us the totality of the waitress’s existence in miniature. This is one of the Pelecanos books that’s like buying a round for a stranger to keep the conversation going.

    On The Web: Ebony, Ivory & Jade

    Meet my new favorite thing on the internet, courtesy of Jaime Weinman. It’s the titles to Ebony, Ivory & Jade, a busted 1979 TV pilot starring Bert Convy and Debbie Allen. (Convy is Jade, in case you were wondering.) As far as I can tell, the premise is Tony Orlando & Dawn as crimefighters. As far as I’m concerned, that’s pure genius. Turns out it was written by one of my heroes Jimmy Sangster, from a story by M*A*S*H’s Mike Farrell. I want this show found, and found now.

    On The Web: New Blogs In Town

    Hey! Joe R. Lansdale has a blog!

    Hey! Scott Phillips has a blog, too!

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    Thursday, May 14, 2009

    Book: Hunt at the Well of Eternity, by James Reasoner (2009)

    Odds are a few of you have heard of this book by now. What with the gales of publicity, the starred review in Publishers Weekly, the raves across the blogosphere. High time, I think, for someone to be a contrarian, to throw a little cold water on this enterprise.

    That someone ain’t gonna be me.

    James Reasoner launches the new adventure series from the people at Hard Case Crime in high style. The tone is perfectly established from the opening pages, when an exotically beautiful woman turns up at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art bearing some strange artifacts for globe-trotting adventurer Gabriel Hunt, and the gala erupts in gunplay. Before long – and I mean that, because I read this book in a flash – Gabriel’s up to his ears in Civil War lore, ruthless Mexican bandits, and, of course, more exotically beautiful women. Additional books are coming from a battery of authors including Christa Faust. I’ll read ‘em all.

    Random question #1: Is it me or is Gabriel Hunt in the Glen Orbik cover art above a dead ringer for Rod Taylor?

    Random question #2: Does anybody remember the 1986 movie Jake Speed, another cable staple of my youth? Jake’s the hero of pulp paperbacks that turn out to be chronicles of his actual derring-do. I recall a great dyspeptic performance from John Hurt, the vague sense that the movie was crap, and nothing else. Maybe I should rent it.

    On The Web: JAFO

    Saints be praised, author Terrill Lee Lankford has a blog. Currently it features a long overdue critical reappraisal of Porky’s. It’ll also point you toward part one of Conflict of Interest, an original companion film to Michael Connelly’s upcoming novel The Scarecrow, written by Connelly and directed by TL. Go watch in HD.

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    Tuesday, April 14, 2009

    Movie: Bewitched (1945)

    Pop culture can be a cruel mistress. Once Arch Oboler was practically a household name, mentioned in the same breath as Orson Welles. Now he’s a neglected pioneer, remembered only by devotees of old-time radio.

    I know Oboler’s name for one reason: my obsessive high school rereading of Danse Macabre, Stephen King’s overview of the horror genre. Calling Oboler radio terror’s “prime auteur,” King lovingly detailed several stories from Lights Out, the program that made Oboler’s reputation.

    Like Welles, Oboler jumped from radio to the movies. He was a trailblazer there, too. In a span of three years he directed the first movie set in the aftermath of nuclear war (1951’s Five), the first commercial 3-D film (Bwana Devil), and an anti-television satire before most people had televisions (The Twonky).

    Haven’t seen any of ‘em. My introduction to Oboler’s work came with Bewitched, one of the earliest screen treatments of multiple personality disorder. It’s also one of the most wildly ambitious B movies of the 1940s.

    Joan (Phyllis Thaxter) is quiet and demure. When she yields to “Karen,” the voice she hears in her head (provided without credit by one of my favorite Dark City Dames, the lovely Audrey Totter), she becomes wanton. And murderous. Because let’s face it, those two go hand in hand.

    Oboler cannily uses lighting effects to convey Thaxter’s transformation. Totter’s presence is a gift, especially when Joan runs down a street with Karen’s taunts ringing in her head. (“... craaaazy ... craaaazy ...”) There are sequences – a montage depicting a courtship over several weeks, a boldly photographed scene where Joan seeks refuge in a concert hall – that show Oboler relishing the opportunities of playing with a new medium.

    Then there are passages that remind you that Oboler came from radio. The dialogue is stylized. Some scenes – like one with a ship captain – are interminable. There’s occasional unexplained omniscient narration. And the third act is heavy-handed, simplistic and patently unbelievable. I’d have to go back and check, but I’m pretty sure the structure makes no sense. We open with a psychiatrist (Edmund Gwenn) recounting Joan’s case to a reporter one hour before her execution, with Joan in prison. That’s not how the movie ends.

    Still, the sections of Bewitched that work are striking. It’s amazing to think that Oboler was dramatizing these ideas over 65 years ago. Turner Classic Movies will be showing The Twonky tomorrow at 2PM EST/11AM PST. I’m setting the DVR.

    New York’s WFMU has made Oboler’s 1962 album Drop Dead! available on line. I listened to it after watching Bewitched. The preachy final segment makes Rod Serling sound like Judd Apatow. But the rest still chills the blood. Like the two stories cited in Danse Macabre, “A Day at the Dentist’s” and Oboler’s most famous work, “Chicken Heart.” (Bill Cosby remembers it well.) And my favorite, “The Dark.”

    On The Web: B Movies

    AMC is now streaming B movies. I mentioned this on Twitter the other day and based on the reaction, that’s the only publicity this initiative has gotten.

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    Wednesday, February 25, 2009

    Book: Spade & Archer, by Joe Gores (2009)

    Yes, I took a brief sabbatical. You try seeing two movies a night and then staying up late to post about them.

    While attending Noir City, I was also reading Spade & Archer, the prequel to Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon. I’m not a purist about Falcon; after all, it took three tries to get the movie right. (In the comments on my post about the first two films, I am schooled by none other than Max Allan Collins. Go look.) And the character of Sam Spade later appeared in a radio series.

    As for following Hammett, you couldn’t ask for a better choice than Joe Gores. They have a lot in common. Both know San Francisco, both toiled as gumshoes themselves. And Gores is a talented writer whose work includes a novel with Dash himself as the protagonist.

    But the opening pages of Spade & Archer gave me pause, because we see a young Sam Spade investigating the Flitcraft episode. Spade recounts this incident from early in his career to Brigid O’Shaughnessy in several extraordinary pages in Falcon. Rehashing this story – or, to use a hated term that seems appropriate, unpacking it – at the outset is a miscalculation.

    Soon, though, Gores’s uncanny approximation of Hammett’s voice and his feel for San Francisco take over. The book is in three linked segments, another technique lifted from Hammett. The third section, in which Spade finally confronts the villain who has dogged him amidst a caper involving a woman who may be the daughter of Chinese revolutionary Sun Yat-sen, is overcomplicated and anticlimactic. Various aspects of Spade’s life familiar from Falcon are fleshed out in ways that satisfy without surprising. At times Spade & Archer reminded me of Casino Royale, the movie that rebooted the James Bond franchise by explaining a character who was already fully formed. Of course, I liked Casino Royale, and I liked this book. Gores has done as good a job as possible with the project, but when I reread The Maltese Falcon I won’t remember what I learned in Spade & Archer. I won’t need to.

    I’d be remiss if I didn’t include this exchange from the book.

    “The bank making money?”

    “Tons if it. If you have the routine down and don’t make any crazy investments or shaky loans, it’s all so darned easy.”

    Too bad that wasn’t in the original. Someone might have paid attention.

    On The Web: The Larry Sanders Show

    I have only now discovered that episodes of my favorite sitcom are available on Crackle. To think I am but a click away from the seething anger of Hank Kingsley, or the wisdom of Artie.

    “After my first wife gave me the gate, I went on a binge of sex, drugs, and 180 proof Everclear that lasted for three years. After my fourth divorce, I was able to squeeze the same amount of debauchery into a long weekend. But I have a scar from that one.”

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    Wednesday, February 04, 2009

    Memes: V For Victory

    No less an authority than Dr. Johnson said it: memes are the last refuge of the overworked. This one has been making the rounds at Facebook and Mark Evanier has done it, so I figure it can’t hurt to post mine here.

    The rules are simple. 20 questions. Each answer must start with the same letter as your first name. No repeated answers. If you’re tagged by someone whose name begins with the same letter, you can’t repeat their answers, either.

    1. Your name: Vince
    2. Four letter word: Vent
    3. Boy’s name: Vance
    4. Girl’s name: Vivian
    5. Occupation: Vintner
    6. Color: Violet
    7. Something you wear: Vest
    8. A food: Vindaloo
    9. Something found in the bathroom: Vileness
    10. A place: Verona
    11. A reason for being late: Vapors (the)
    12. Something you shout: “Visigoths!”
    13. A movie title: Vanilla Sky
    14. Something you drink: Vieux Carre
    15. A musical group: Ventures (The)
    16. An animal: Vole
    17. A street name: Vine
    18. A type of car: Volkswagen
    19. A song title: Veronica, by Elvis Costello
    20. A verb: Vivisect

    No tags, but if your name also begins with V, let’s see what you’ve got.

    Miscellaneous: Links

    OK, you deserve a little more than that. Via John August comes this post on the grammar and aesthetics of comic book lettering.

    Yahtzee may have outdone himself with his review of Little Big Planet.

    Speaking of video games, more fun Flash: The Visitor, via Paul Herzberg.

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    Sunday, February 01, 2009

    Miscellaneous: Stuff

    Taken (U.S. 2009). Luc Besson knows how to make action films – sturdy, slick, a little sleazy – and he delivers the goods once again. There hasn’t been a kill-your-way-up-the-ladder movie in a while. Having the villains be members of a human trafficking ring means that ex-CIA op Liam Neeson could off them twice and they’d still deserve it.

    The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death, by Charlie Huston (2009). Huston’s latest, about an LA slacker who becomes a crime scene cleaner, felt kinda slight to me. But the chapter in which our hero spends a boozy afternoon with his estranged father, a teacher turned one-shot novelist turned semi-legendary if unproduced screenwriter, is a scorching character study and the best piece of writing I’ve encountered in a while.

    The Swinger (1966). Some rubicon has clearly been crossed. Once I could watch bad movies with relish. Now I keep a finger poised over fast forward. The button got quite the workout during this exercise in ersatz ‘60s hipness, with Ann-Margret as a decent Midwestern girl pretending to be a hellion so she can be published in a smut rag. (I didn’t get it either.) There were so many Dutch angles I thought I’d stumbled onto A-M playing a forgotten Batman villain, The Vixen. During her striptease to “That Old Black Magic” I wanted to put my wallet in her mouth so she wouldn’t swallow her tongue. For further appreciation, consult the title sequence.

    Bars of Black and White. An interesting hand-drawn Flash game.

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    Sunday, January 11, 2009

    On The Web: More Westlake

    The Rap Sheet collects memories of and tributes to Donald E. Westlake from dozens of crime writers in two posts. Also, a reminiscence by director Stephen Frears, Westlake’s collaborator on The Grifters, and Westlake talks to Ed Gorman about the return of Parker.

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    Thursday, January 08, 2009

    Miscellaneous: No Time For Blog, Doctor Jones

    The first week of the year is always a mess, isn’t it? I’m on a new schedule, which is actually an old schedule, and as a result I haven’t had time to update the site these last few days. I tried, though. I took a whack at that sixteen random things meme making the rounds and realized that there are only eleven salient facts about me. And only six of them are interesting.

    So until equilibrium is restored, check out some other blogs of note. Like author Tom Piccirilli’s The Cold Spot. Or JohnAugust.com. This recent post outlining his involvement with the Captain Marvel movie is as good a primer on how Hollywood works as you’ll find.

    I know, that’s not enough. Tell you what. Here’s a song that Cary Grant used to perform at parties. It’s sung to the tune of “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean.” I learned it from the book I’m currently reading, Roger Moore’s memoir My Word Is My Bond.

    I once had a box of tin soldiers
    I knocked off the general’s head
    I broke all the sergeants and corporals
    Now I play with my privates instead

    Go on, try to do it in Cary’s voice.

    Oh, all right. I know what you really want.

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    Saturday, January 03, 2009

    DVD: The Maltese Falcon (1941)

    Falcon was my first movie of 2009. I always watch a classic on January 1 to set the tone for the rest of the year. And it’s preparation for a jaunt to San Francisco later this month to take in some of Noir City.

    One of my favorite scenes is the initial encounter between Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart, but you knew that) and “the fat man” Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet). They take each other’s measure with that sparkling Dashiell Hammett dialogue left largely untouched by John Huston. (“Here’s to plain speaking and clear understanding ... I’ll tell you right out I’m a man who likes talking to a man who likes to talk.”) Spade tries to leverage what he’s learned into more information, but Gutman refuses to play along. So Spade erupts, hurling his glass down, threatening Gutman’s gunsel Wilmer, and storming out of the room. It’s a startling moment.

    Cut to the corridor. As Adolph Deutsch’s music takes a turn, a smile spreads across Spade’s face. Losing his temper was an act, a way of stirring the pot. What makes the scene is that as Spade presses the button for the elevator, he notices that his hand is shaking. And he smiles at that, too.

    As I watched it for the umpteenth time, I thought: no way this scene would play out like this today.

    Spade would still pitch a fit, of course. Only we’d be told about it in advance. The hero of the movie appearing not to be in control? That note would be fast in coming. We’d get a simple dialogue fix, Spade telling loyal secretary Effie Perine that he’ll raise a ruckus if the fat man won’t play ball. And something ineffable would be lost.

    I’ve had this deluxe edition of Falcon for ages, but I’ve yet to watch either the 1931 adaptation or the ’36 version Satan Met A Lady. That situation will shortly be rectified. I did, however, watch the 1941 Warner Brothers blooper reel included on the DVD. Profanity in black and white? Jimmy Stewart cursing? Unbelievable.

    On The Web: Movie News on the Move

    Brush up your web links. Aaron Hillis takes over GreenCine Daily, while outgoing editor David Hudson begins working his magic at IFC.com’s The Daily. David does a superhuman job collecting all the net’s film news at a single location. It’s worth bookmarking his site and reading it every day.

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    Tuesday, August 12, 2008

    Movies: And Jack Carson Goes Rolling Along

    Here at Chez K, we keep the Jack Carson fires burning. He’s an unjustly neglected actor, remembered primarily for his comic performances. Even that’s misleading; his lighter turns have undercurrents of frustration and loneliness, while his natural buoyancy lends an extra dimension to his dramatic work (The Hard Way, Mildred Pierce).

    I would have recorded The Good Humor Man (1950) for the title alone, not to mention timely reminders from Bill and Ivan. But the draw, in addition to Carson, is the one-of-a-kind writing credits. Script by animation legend Frank Tashlin, based on a story by Roy Huggins, called a pop culture giant by no less an authority than this website. The result is a live-action cartoon with a halfway decent crime story at its core, as Carson plays – surprise! – a Good Humor man caught up in a heist. Not many locked room mysteries end with circular saws on the loose cutting holes in the floor. Silly, entertaining stuff.

    Allow me a digression on this Huggins business. Humor is based on his 1946 Saturday Evening Post story “Appointment with Fear,” which featured P.I. Stuart Bailey. Bailey appeared in several short stories and novels as well as the 1948 film I Love Trouble before being repurposed in Huggins’ landmark TV series 77 Sunset Strip. But there’s a second 1950 film based on the same material. State Secret, aka The Great Manhunt, involves a dictator replaced by an exact double and a surgeon on the run. I haven’t seen it, but I’ll wager it features no ice cream at all.

    We didn’t plan on watching two Carson films over the weekend, but another turned up on TCM. Romance on the High Seas (1948) is old Hollywood heaven. Get a load of these credits. Studio system director par excellence Michael Curtiz behind the camera. Zingy script by the brothers Epstein of Casablanca fame, with additional material by Billy Wilder’s future writing partner I.A.L. Diamond. Jule Styne/Sammy Cahn songs including the standard “It’s Magic,” all choreographed by Busby Berkeley. You want character actors? They’re all here: S.Z. Sakall, Franklin Pangborn, Eric Blore. Yet somehow neither Rosemarie nor I had heard of the movie before.

    There’s even a plot, with Carson as a shamus hired by a suspicious husband to follow his wife on a cruise, unaware that the wife, intent on shadowing her hubby, has given her ticket to a lounge singer (Doris Day, enchanting in her screen debut).

    It makes for a tasty confection, but the bourbon in this meringue comes courtesy of Oscar Levant, grousing and grumbling from the margins. (ASIDE: You know you’re in an odd marriage when both parties feel they’re “the Levant.”) As usual, Oscar gets the best lines:

    You can’t expect to start at the top – although I’ve often wondered why not.

    (Her name is) Georgia Garrett. Georgia as in marching through, Garrett as in starving in.

    Miscellaneous: Links

    The Line has been around for weeks, and I’m only catching up to it now. Here’s the backstory, and Episode I.

    Did you watch Eddie Muller’s The Grand Inquisitor yet? What are you waiting for?

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    Saturday, August 09, 2008

    On The Web: The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three (1974)

    I can’t believe I didn’t mention this yesterday. More than one person told me about it, and Bill Crider even thinks I’m responsible. But The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three in its glorious entirety is now free on Hulu. Meaning you have no excuse not to have seen the greatest motion picture ever made.

    TV: The Olympics Opening Ceremonies

    Director Zhang Yimou did an extraordinary job with last night’s spectacle, even if the Death Star made an appearance and Lang Lang had Heat Miser’s hair.

    DVD: Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay (2008)

    Forget the Olympics. Nothing in recent memory has stirred my patriotism like this movie. USA! USA! USA!

    Miscellaneous: An Open Letter to Senator John Edwards

    Dear Senator Edwards:

    Jesus, man, you’re a trial lawyer! You of all people should know there’s no way to keep an affair secret during a Presidential bid, even if you didn’t father the woman’s child and then pay her off. What if you’d actually gotten the nomination? A laughable notion, I know, but lawyers should consider every angle. I hereby retract every positive statement I have ever made about you, your policy positions, or your hair.

    Vince Keenan

    PS. OK. I stand by my statements about the hair.

    Miscellaneous: An Open Letter to the Various Cable News Networks

    Dear Various Cable News Networks:

    I understand how difficult it is to resist the siren song of the aforementioned scandal, particularly when Edwards himself says, “If you want to beat me up – feel free.” But could you maybe backburner the story for a spell while Russia is attacking another country? I’d kinda like to know what the hell is going on.

    Vince Keenan

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    Friday, August 08, 2008

    On The Web: The Grand Inquisitor

    During Noir City I raved about my friend Eddie Muller’s short film The Grand Inquisitor. You can experience this hellish little gem for yourselves now that it’s online.

    Marvel at the performances of noir veteran Marsha Hunt and newcomer Leah Dashe! Shudder as a decades-old mystery is solved! Vote on its behalf!

    Visit the film’s official site for more information. Then watch the movie. You won’t be disappointed.

    On The Web: The Brass Verdict

    More multimedia for your Friday, from someone I know. Terrill Lee Lankford has directed another stylish video promoting Michael Connelly’s upcoming novel The Brass Verdict. Watch it here.

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    Friday, July 18, 2008

    Book: Screen Plays, by David S. Cohen (2008)

    On this week’s episode of TCM’s Elvis Mitchell: Under The Influence, Bill Murray was the latest person to voice the truism that it takes a lot of work to make any movie, even a bad one. Plenty more ammo can be found in Screen Plays, subtitled How 25 Scripts Made It To A Theater Near You – For Better Or Worse.

    Cohen, expanding on features he wrote for Script magazine, traces the histories of two dozen films through the eyes of their writers. He includes a broad range of titles from every genre, studio and indie fare, originals and adaptations, hits and misses. The strongest sections detail the sturm und drang of big-budget productions: David Franzoni getting fired from Gladiator, based on his original idea, while remaining as producer; Ken Nolan climbing back on the merry-go-round after being replaced by bigger names on Black Hawk Down; Leslie Dixon writing Pay It Forward “almost in spite of the premise.” Some of the most instructive material is in Cohen’s introduction chronicling his own screenwriting career, which consists of a single episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. His limited experience is a Hollywood fractal. The part contains the whole.

    TV: The Emmy Nominations

    They’re out. But as always, you’ve got to go deep to find the real contests. Two songs from Flight of the Conchords versus “I’m F***ing Matt Damon”? I expect blood on the walls.

    On The Web: Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog

    Why am I extending the awesome cachet of VKDC to this little web venture? It’s pretty damn funny, for one thing. But mainly it’s because Joss Whedon needs my help.

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    Saturday, July 05, 2008

    Book: Dirty Money, by Richard Stark (2008)

    There are plenty of reasons to read Richard Stark. His offhand way with description, for instance:

    Oscar Sidd’s car was so anonymous you forgot it while you were looking at it. A small and unremarkable four-door sedan, it was the color of the liquid in a jar of pitted black olives; dark but weak, bruised but undramatic.

    But Stark – you all must know who he really is by now, considering how often I bring him up – may have outdone himself with his latest run of books. In 2004’s Nobody Runs Forever, the thief’s thief known as Parker pulls an armored car robbery with some cronies only to be forced to leave the swag hidden in a church. The book ends with Parker scrambling up a hillside to avoid the cops. He reaches the top of the slope in Ask The Parrot (2006), only to be dragooned into another job in return for a hideout. Dirty Money finds Parker heading back to pick up the Nobody stash, making this a heist story without a heist.

    That’s three books covering a stretch of, what, two weeks? Let’s see the Victorian novelists top that. Westlake himself considers these last few titles “more a triptych than a trilogy, where the side panels reflect on one story and the center panel reflects on something else.”

    Whatever it is, it works like a charm. Dirty Money may be the strongest of the three, but I’m in the odd position of not recommending it outright. So many characters and incidents from the previous two books play into it that I’d read them all in sequence. You won’t regret it.

    On The Web: Ready When You Are, SK

    Sheer bloody genius. That’s what this commercial is.

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    Tuesday, July 01, 2008

    Miscellaneous: Movie Notes

    Frank Cottrell Boyce, who has a few movies to his credit, offers a few tips on how to write one. Lots of good advice here, with my favorite being rule #4, Forget The Three-Act Structure:

    When you’re shaping things, it’s more useful to think about suspense. Suspense is the hidden energy that holds a story together. It connects two points and sends a charge between them.

    David Mamet said something similar when he observed that movies are simply about getting the audience to ask, “What happens next”? Do that all the way through, and you’ve got it made.

    Much attention has been deservedly paid to Mark Gill’s grimly optimistic, or optimistically grim, assessment of the current state of independent film. It’s prompted plenty of analysis, like this column from David Carr of the New York Times. But perhaps the best appraisal comes from director, screenwriter and newlywed John August, who uses his own Sundance film The Nines as a case study.

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    Friday, June 27, 2008

    Movie: The Crimson Kimono (1959)

    Turner Classic Movies aired this Samuel Fuller rarity as part of the network’s Race in Hollywood: Asian Images in Film series. A pair of LAPD detectives (Glenn Corbett and James Shigeta) investigating a murder both fall hard for a material witness in the case. Neither man is sure if the tensions that result in their friendship are the product of sublimated racism or simple jealousy.

    All the Sam Fuller touches are here. Startling composition. Excellent location work on the streets of L.A.’s Little Tokyo. A roster of offbeat, lived-in characters, like Anna Lee’s cigar-puffing alcoholic muralist. It’s also a perfect example of the extraordinarily effective storytelling style that Fuller borrowed from pulp fiction: spring wild plot twists on the audience in a way that maximizes their impact, and explain ‘em later. Exposition goes down a lot easier when you want someone to tell you what the hell just happened.

    Sam Goldwyn once said, “Pictures are for entertainment, messages should be delivered by Western Union.” Fuller found a way around that. Open your “message movie” with a big blonde stripper running half-naked down a crowded street only to be gunned down in traffic, and brother, you can preach to me about anything you want.

    On The Web: Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog

    This Fast Company article explains how Hollywood’s “Geek Elite” is transforming entertainment by creating brands that play out across platforms.

    That’s the educational portion of the program, and an excuse to run this, from Joss Whedon:

    Teaser from Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog on Vimeo.

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    Friday, June 06, 2008

    On The Web: Ellison Unbound

    The AV Club serves up the first half of an interview with Harlan Ellison, coinciding with the release of the documentary Dreams With Sharp Teeth. (UPDATE: Part two is now available.)

    For better or for worse, Harlan was a big influence on me when I was growing up. I remember catching him on TV and thinking, “Wait a minute – adults can act like that?” He was cantankerous, but funny about it. I started reading him, primarily his essays, when I was in high school, and promptly became unbearable.

    As an adult, I don’t match Ellison’s vitriol. Partly because I don’t have the stamina, and partly because when the Catholics get their hooks in you early, your anger is sublimated into incipient alcoholism and bizarre sexual fetishes. And the truth is Ellison’s antics and his tone often seem childish and self-aggrandizing to me now.

    And yet ... I, too, “get very annoyed at the potential that is in everybody, and how little people will settle for.” I’ve got a head full of quotes thanks to Ellison; the Pasteur one he cites is a personal mantra. Here’s another favorite Ellison taught me, from the poet Günter Eich: “Be uncomfortable; be sand, not oil, in the machinery of the world.”

    Ultimately, Harlan is on the side of the angels. I’ll always remember one of his appearances on Bill Maher’s Politically Incorrect. Ellison, talking about Nixon’s funeral, used the word catafalque. Maher gave him a hard time about it and Ellison gave it right back, essentially saying, “I know what it means and I’m the asshole?” In a world where college students think it’s elitist to expect people to know information they can look up on the web, we could all stand to let our inner Ellisons out.

    Miscellaneous: Filmmaking Links

    Screenwriter Larry Gross is publishing his diaries from the production of 48HRS. at Movie City News. They’re already up to part three. Start reading here.

    Karaoke with Tori Spelling, crying when the monorail doesn’t come through. All part of making an independent movie in Seattle.

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    Friday, March 14, 2008

    On The Web: Zero Punctuation

    I’ve alluded to this cryptically in the past and will allude to it cryptically in the future, but I now have a job in the video game industry. I landed this position in spite of and to some degree because of the fact that my experience with video games is, shall we say, limited. In related news, I am now also a heart surgeon, a test pilot, and Leonardo da Vinci.

    Henry David Thoreau warned to beware of all enterprises that require new clothes. He didn’t say anything about new cultural references. In my video game life, I’ve had to abandon much of my usual shtick. My boundless repertoire of Henry David Thoreau quotes, for instance, cuts no ice. Whereas repeated viewings of The Big Lebowski, Super Troopers and Arrested Development have served me in good stead.

    Cultural exchanges are a two-way street. There are landmarks I discover in that world and wish to share. Such as the work of my new hero, Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw.

    Yahtzee is responsible for Zero Punctuation, a feature at The Escapist magazine. His short animated reviews of video games are breathless, profane, and insulting. They are also damn near perfect, the ideal blend of form and content. Even the song choices work. Most web videos, no matter how brief, are truly dire. Not so Zero Punctuation. After being introduced to one, I scarfed the rest of them down like a box of Raisinettes, which as always left me feeling hyper, vaguely nauseated, and annoyed that I reached the bottom so quickly. I can’t believe I have to wait until Wednesday for a new one.

    I’ll start you out with Yahtzee’s take on Devil May Cry 4. It’s NSFW. But what the hell, right? It’s Friday.


    Sunday, February 24, 2008

    Already Happened: GreenCine Oscars Live Blog

    Damn, live blogging is hard. But I did it. Here’s the full transcript. Personally, I think I peaked during the pre-show, when I said that I was also a stripper-turned-writer like Diablo Cody and that I perform under the name Regis Thrillbin. You really need to pace yourself if you’re going to go all night. That’s what she said. No time!

    My thanks to Craig Phillips and GreenCine Daily for the invite. I had a lot of fun.

    Overall, the Academy Awards show was low energy, but Jon Stewart made the best of a bad situation. And I have no complaints about the winners. I cleaned up in my Oscar pool. Thank you, Marion Cotillard and The Bourne Ultimatum.

    I gave up on E!’s post-show coverage when I saw that the horrible Olly girls from Sunset Tan were there, and on the Barbara Walters special when a graphic read that Raiders of the Lost Ark came out in 1985, not 1981. Both errors could have been easily corrected. Anyway, I’ve got work to do. Regis Thrillbin goes on at midnight.


    Saturday, February 23, 2008

    Upcoming: GreenCine Oscars Live Blog

    I’ve linked many times to GreenCine Daily, perhaps the best movie site on the web. This year, they’re hosting their first-ever live blog of the Academy Awards. They’ve invited a stellar gaggle of film bloggers to participate, including yours truly. Currently I’m receiving “special guest appearance” billing. Very Quinn Martin. I feel like Robert Lansing. Or John Saxon.

    That’s just an example of the kind of razor-sharp wit and timely references to expect on Sunday night. Open up a box of wine and join us, won’t you?

    The party is here.

    To put you in the right frame of mind, here’s a reprint of Oscar Night in Hollywood, a 1948 essay from The Atlantic by, wait for it, Raymond Chandler. A sample:

    Making a fine motion picture is like painting ‘The Laughing Cavalier’ in Macy’s basement, with a floorwalker to mix your colors for you.

    Ouch. Sunday night, kids. Fun and games to be had.

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    Saturday, January 19, 2008

    Miscellaneous: One Step Behind Links

    I haven’t posted for a few days, so I might as well link to some stuff I should have tumbled to earlier.

    The 2008 Edgar nominations are out. Hey, I’ve actually read a bunch of these! And where’s the screenplay nod for Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead?

    Here’s the original, unaired 1994 pilot of 24.

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    Friday, August 03, 2007

    On The Web: Siskel & Ebert

    More than ten years’ worth of reviews from Siskel & Ebert, beginning in 1985, are now available online. Looking at a few clips reminded me how much of an impact the show had on me during my budding movie buff years. Sometimes the only thing I’d know about an independent or foreign film that wouldn’t play the hinterlands of South Florida would be what Gene and Roger said about it.

    Too bad you can’t watch entire episodes. I have vivid recollections of one from June 1987, when Gene’s annoyance that Roger gave a thumbs down to Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket while praising Benji, The Hunted ate away at him throughout the telecast. He kept circling back to it, goading Roger. When they appeared on talk shows that summer, Gene continued to bring it up.

    The Full Metal Jacket clip shows both critics at their best. (For the record, I’m with Gene.) Gene Siskel is a classic example of someone who shouldn’t work on television – a vinegary, balding, middle-aged man – taking to it with aplomb.

    I stopped watching the show regularly after Gene’s death in 1999. I have tremendous respect for Roger Ebert as a critic and a human being, but it was his tetchy chemistry with Gene that made the program worth watching. For proof, check out the look of disbelief on Gene’s face as Roger famously gives a thumbs up to the Burt Reynolds kiddie comedy Cop and a Half. “Where’s your red suit and beard, Santa, ‘cause you just gave them a gift.”

    Miscellaneous: Blow Out the Candles

    When I was a kid, my least favorite days of the year were December 25 and August 3. Christmas and my birthday. Because for at least part of those days, I was the center of attention. And believe it or not, I hated being the center of attention.

    But that was then, this is now, and I’m starting to warm up to the spotlight. So, for the good of my own mental health: today is my birthday. Hooray for me.

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    Friday, June 22, 2007

    Rant: Deface The Nation

    It’s not like it was the first time I checked out a library book and discovered that someone had written in it. I often find scratches in the margins, usually some private code I was never meant to understand.

    Still, it’s odd to open a non-fiction book and find ‘ALL LIES’ scrawled on the first page of text. Stranger still to realize that the phantom scribbler actually agrees with the author and is trying to back him up. You’d think lucid, machine-printed prose would be enough.

    I flipped through the book and found several more unnecessary contributions. Fortunately, they were made in pencil. (True believers use ink.) The several minutes I spent erasing made me feel like a good citizen. Next time I’ll wait and do it in the library, so as to lead by example.

    I get the same feeling removing a new type of spam comment that’s cropping up around here. Recently I made an idle crack about the ad campaign for an upcoming fall TV series that I’m interested in. I won’t mention its name again for obvious reasons. Instead, I’ll take a cue from Knocked Up and call it Shmiva Shmaughlin, whose star Shmugh Shmackman is best known for playing Shmolverine in the Shmex-Men movies.

    Since then, I’ve gotten numerous “comments” that are excerpts from newspaper articles about how the show might fare in the ratings. Said “comments” have been deleted. My house, my rules. And if said “comments” keep turning up, maybe I won’t watch the show after all. Take that, ShmeeBS.

    On The Web: Cultural Ignorance

    From Andrew Sullivan comes this post by Ilya Sonin on “rational ignorance of pop culture.” It was prompted by Forbes’ list of the top 100 celebrities as determined by pay and media exposure. Sonin hadn’t heard of 26 of them, the highest being Jay-Z at #9.

    Big surprise: I knew 98. I’d heard of Michael Schumacher (#25), but not his Formula One cohort Kimi Raikkonen at #41. I also couldn’t place motorcycle racer Valentino Rossi (#58); clearly I don’t follow motor sports. I’m going to give myself Rhonda Byrne at #93. Her name was familiar, and I knew she had something to do with self-help, but I had to click on the link to see that she’s one of the people peddling that mystical hooey The Secret. Why not test yourself?

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    Saturday, May 26, 2007

    On The Web: The Rap Sheet

    The crime fiction blog’s One Book Project has been running all week, and what a treat it’s been. I imagine that none of the overlooked titles mentioned by the participants will be overlooked any more. I’ve got some reading to do.

    My nomination appears in the series’ last installment. I’d like to thank Rap Sheet editor J. Kingston Pierce both for asking me to play, and for referring to me as a “culture critic.” The description has gone right to my head and my business card. Other answers we would have accepted include gadabout, curmudgeon, and force for good in his time.

    Head over to The Rap Sheet. You’ll enjoy yourself.

    Anniversary: John Wayne

    Today is the centenary of Marion Morrison’s birth. A war movie, not a western, was my introduction to one of the greatest of film stars. The Duke received his first Academy Award nomination for 1949’s Sands of Iwo Jima, playing a hard-bitten Marine sergeant prepping raw recruits for battle even as his personal life falls apart. It’s a well-made film that hits all the standard war movie notes – it may well have invented some of them – but I didn’t know those notes, so Sands made a vivid impression. Particularly Wayne’s final scene. Now I’d see it coming a mile off. Then, I was shattered for the rest of the day. It’s the strength of Wayne’s onscreen presence that gives the moment its impact.

    Wayne was honored at Grauman’s Chinese Theater after the success of the movie. The cement in which he left his footprints and his fist print was mixed with sand from Iwo Jima.

    GreenCine Daily rounds up tributes to the actor. James Reasoner lists his favorite John Wayne films. I second ‘em all.

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    Tuesday, May 22, 2007

    On The Web: The Rap Sheet

    Today marks the one year anniversary of The Rap Sheet, the crime fiction blog that has quickly become indispensable. Industrious types that they are, they’re not celebrating idly. Instead, they’re using the occasion for The One Book Project. A question was posed to authors, critics, and bloggers:

    What one crime, mystery or thriller novel do you think has been most unjustly overlooked, criminally forgotten, or underappreciated over the years?

    Answers will be posted all week. Installments one, two and three are available, and my to-be-read pile has swelled accordingly. Plenty of great titles there to be plundered.

    It’s always a relief with such lists to see that I’ve read some of these books. Even better, I loved ‘em. Steve Brewer picks any of Ross Thomas’s standalones, singling out The Singapore Wink. Blogger Jiro Kimura names Dover Beach by Richard Bowker. Bowker wrote several SF/mystery hybrids in the 1980s that sustained me through high school, including Replica and Marlborough Street, and I’ve still got them all. Gar Anthony Haywood nominates Eight Million Ways To Die by Lawrence Block, saying it hasn’t “received anywhere near the credit it deserves for turning the P.I. subgenre on its head.” In a recent conversation on Crimespace, I said that this was the book that truly kindled my interest in crime fiction. It’s great to see it remembered here.

    Swing on by and unearth some treasures for yourself. Full disclosure: Rap Sheet editor J. Kingston Pierce was kind enough to ask me to participate. With any luck, my answer should appear there before the week is out. I’ll let you know when it does.

    Miscellaneous: Links

    Bill Crider, who’s already weighed in at The Rap Sheet, on a Gold Medal paperback that might be one of the first graphic novels. Michael at 2 Blowhards sings the praises of Ed Gorman.

    GreenCine Daily is always a regular stop, but during the Cannes Film Festival it’s essential. They have complete recaps of reaction to every major film as soon as it debuts. A Bela Tarr adaptation of Georges Simenon in which Tilda Swinton’s dialogue is dubbed by a Hungarian actress? I am so there. Or at least I would be, if Tarr movies ever played Stateside.

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    Saturday, April 28, 2007

    Magazines: There’s No Me In Us Weekly

    Yet there is in Premiere. Provided you scramble the letters.

    The other day we received a card informing us that for every issue remaining in our subscription to the late, not really lamented Premiere, we’d receive a copy of Us Weekly.

    Rosemarie: I don’t want that rag in my house. I won’t even look at it when I’m at the gym.

    Issue #1 – technically, issue #638 – arrived today. The print is big. See-Jane-run big. Everything is punctuated with exclamation points, including the masthead. One feature measures the gap between the thighs of famous women to show they’re too thin.

    Rosemarie: My IQ is actually dropping as I look at this. I can feel it. There goes all my French.

    What I didn’t realize is that Us Weekly is essentially nothing but paparazzi photos. I make it a point not to look at these photos, and now bound copies of them are being sent to my house against my will.

    Rosemarie: Can we cancel this? I don’t care about the money. I just don’t want other people to see this in our mail.

    Only two more issues to go.

    (Editor’s Note: Rosemarie would like me to point out that she is a longtime subscriber to InStyle magazine, and that she enjoys that publication very much.)

    TV: Line Of The Week

    Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) on the 30 Rock season finale, thinking he’s having a fatal heart attack:

    “Ride it, Donaghy! Ride it straight to hell!”

    Miscellaneous: YouTube Clip Of The Weekend

    I’m now excited about installment four later this summer. Well played. Hat tip to Kung Fu Monkey.

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    Thursday, March 22, 2007

    On The Web: Mystery*File

    Steve Lewis and I continue our conversation about Brett Halliday’s shamus Mike Shayne and his incarnations on screen and on the radio. Steve, ever diligent, has even included a 1948 episode of The New Adventures of Michael Shayne starring Jeff Chandler. It’s a blast. Give it a listen.

    On The Web: Crimespace

    I’ve hung out a shingle at Crimespace, the new social networking site dedicated to crime fiction. It’s the brainchild of writer Daniel Hatadi, who’s doing a bang-up job of running the place. It’s meant to be the online equivalent of the bar at a convention. Considering that I attended my first convention earlier this year and found the experience ... odd, maybe a virtual version is more my speed.

    At such sites you’re faced with the eternal dilemma of making friends. At least, you’re supposed to be. You should see my MySpace page. My only friends are tumbleweeds. And Tom.

    So I’ve established some hard and fast rules at Crimespace. I don’t want to go all Tila Tequila on the place. If I’ve read your books or your blog, you get a friend request. What the hell, right? It’s only the internet. Trust me, I’m a good guy to know. I don’t eat much and I tend to keep to myself.

    Whereas if you send me a friend request, I’ll accept it even if I don’t know you from Adam or Eve. That’s just how I roll. Amigo de todos.

    Miscellaneous: Links

    One of the pluses of living in Seattle is proximity to the unassailable Zen cool of the Mariners’ Ichiro Suzuki. Turns out he’s also a talk show host. Here’s a clip of him playing a word association game with singer/musician Shiina Ringo. It’s in untranslated, unsubtitled Japanese and I don’t care. The man is that charismatic.

    Speaking of baseball, I want this nonsense resolved in a hurry. I’ve got Mets games to watch next month.

    I have a near-pathological dislike of National Public Radio. The sound of earnest vanilla voices backed by tastefully-selected world music makes me want to hurl in my eco-friendly tote bag. So I don’t know much about This American Life, the radio show. But if it’s going to have animated segments by Chris Ware, I may gave the TV edition on Showtime a shot.

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