Tuesday, January 31, 2006

OSCAR-esque

What day is it? Oscar announcement day! Did I get up at 5:30 this morning to see the live broadcast? Um, yeah. I’m a geek, remember?

In case you haven’t seen the list yet, here is part of it (reflecting the five categories people usually talk about the most):

Best Picture: "Brokeback Mountain," "Capote," "Crash," "Good Night, and Good Luck," "Munich."

Actor: Philip Seymour Hoffman, "Capote"; Terrence Howard, "Hustle & Flow"; Heath Ledger, "Brokeback Mountain"; Joaquin Phoenix, "Walk the Line"; David Strathairn, "Good Night, and Good Luck."

Actress: Judi Dench, "Mrs. Henderson Presents"; Felicity Huffman, "Transamerica"; Keira Knightley, "Pride & Prejudice"; Charlize Theron, "North Country"; Reese Witherspoon, "Walk the Line."

Supporting Actor: George Clooney, "Syriana"; Matt Dillon, "Crash"; Paul Giamatti, "Cinderella Man"; Jake Gyllenhaal, "Brokeback Mountain"; William Hurt, "A History of Violence."

Supporting Actress: Amy Adams, "Junebug"; Catherine Keener, "Capote"; Frances McDormand, "North Country"; Rachel Weisz, "The Constant Gardener"; Michelle Williams, "Brokeback Mountain."

Somehow, even though my movie watching was waaaaayyyy down this year, I managed to catch 3 out of 5 of the Best Picture nominees: BROKEBACK, CRASH, and MUNICH. If you read my previous blog about MUNICH, you know that I’m stoked about this nom, but I’m utterly shocked it happened. I truly believed that the biz would think this film was too controversial; it doesn’t provoke a Hollywood-friendly moral stance. I’m, of course, not surprised to see BROKEBACK on the list—and it’s absolutely well deserving. I just watched it the other day and, while I wasn’t as taken with it as I thought I’d be when I walked out of the theater, I woke up in the middle of the night, pressed on all sides by what I’d seen. I couldn’t get back to sleep. It was a film that slowly worked its way into me and hasn’t left. What I did appreciate right away, though, was that script. Dialogue-wise, Larry McMurtry and his writing partner Diana Ossana know how to turn a phrase and have it resonate. Situation-wise, the film is also an example of the power of silence--the writers, director, and actors weren't afraid to use it. When the main characters are introduced, they don’t say a word; but, somehow, you know so much about them from what they’re not talking about. Then there’s CRASH. I have mixed feelings about this nomination. On one hand, the movie stirs up a strong message and there’s a duality about each character that works to prove a point about racism. What I didn’t love so much were some character motivation issues as well as plot holes. I can live with all the coincidences in the movie because they serve a purpose, but still, when I’m focusing on what’s bugging me about the structure instead of just going with it, that’s not cool. Don’t get me wrong: this is a good, solid movie. It just suffers next to BROKEBACK and MUNICH, IMHO.

As far as the acting races go? Well, kudos to everyone who got nominated. I do think Eric Bana got shafted, but are you surprised by that? I’ve got HUSTLE AND FLOW waiting for me to watch it, and I’m really excited to see Terrence Howard’s performance because he’s always awesome. And Heath Ledger was incredible, with the way his BROKEBACK cowboy hunched into himself, from body to mouth. His body language reflected a tightly coiled man who contains a lot of passion, which unfortunately takes the form of violence when he’s pushed.

I haven’t seen enough movies this year to have any educated favorites, and I can’t make any picks right now. Not that picks matter. Truthfully, we all know that whoever wins is normally the top dog in the popularity contest that is Tinsel Town: if you’ve got an awesome publicist and a great campaign, more power to you. All I know is that on Oscar night, I’ll be there with my Chinese food, snarking on the fashion parade and dishing with my fellow watchers. Viva pageantry!

P.S. My next blog is going to feature the first www.outoftheblogosphere.com book tour. I'll be featuring Robin Owens' current release, so pop on by!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

INXS in the arena

Remember back when Michael Hutchence died? A lot of people wondered how this star--an incredibly charismatic and talented lead singer of a great band--could end his life. It's true that times were thin for INXS when he committed suicide, but didn't he know how many people still adored him?

There were a lot of questions for me, and many of them came to the forefront when INXS concocted a televised international audition for a new lead. Would their sound ever be the same without Michael? How could they possibly hope to replace a singer with such an emotionally gritty yet smooth voice? How could they replicate (or avoid copying) his presence? The band ended up choosing a guy named J.D., whose voice vaguely recalls Hutchence's, and off they went to create a new album as well as to tour.

I went to their performance last night at Mandalay Bay and came out with really mixed feelings. It was awesome to see the band back together: their new songs retain the power of the old without covering ground that's already been well traveled. And their backlist? It's absolutely amazing how many hits this band had and how distinctive their sound still is. "What You Need," "Original Sin," "Never Tear Us Apart"--a lot of them, but not all, were accounted for. I just wish they'd played "I Send a Message." I love that song in a way that transcends scary.

J.D.'s voice was thrashed, so I can't give you much of an opinion about the quality of it, except to say that much of his musical phrasing echoed Michael H's. Stage presence? A lot of women appreciated it. I, myself, was more into the band as a whole, so I can't say I'm swept into the J.D. thing. To tell you the truth, Marty, who opened the show with his band Lovehammers, was more impressive, but he has a totally different style.

All in all...worth the ticket price. My ears are still ringing and my chest cavity is still vibrating with the bass, but what also remains is a huge appreciation for a band that has a lot of good years left in them. Best of luck, INXS--keep at it.

Friday, January 27, 2006

DANCING WITH THE STARS or popularity contest?

I must admit to a complete fascination with DANCING WITH THE STARS. When it was first aired during the summer, I almost didn't watch it because it looked like a desperate limbo for c-list celebrities (not actually "stars") and a form of dancing that belonged on a cruise ship. I'm happy to say I was totally wrong. I've come to realize that ballroom dancing is awesome--especially the Latin dances. I love to watch the professional partners because, basically, these people are one hundred times the athlete I'll ever be. And how much do I admire the celebrities for putting in all this effort? (Well, most of them give it their all, but we'll get to that in a second.) I'm truly amazed at their routines because I would never be able to do what they do. In addition to a horrendous lack of rhythm, I'd never get over my need to lead. Put those two together and you've got one bad dancer.

This season, I was really happy to see the list of competitors expand from six to ten, and I think, for the most part, the celebrities were well chosen. True, there's this whole thing with Master P that I'm not enjoying, but I think it was great of him to step in at the last minute for his son. Still, at this point in the season, I want to see a competition, not a popularity contest, and if this show is ultimately going to be based on who has the biggest fan base as opposed to how they actually dance, then let's just get it over with now by having the celebrities merely stand there and stare at the camera without spending any time rehearsing or caring. Why go through the actual dancing part at all? I want to see the celebrities improving week by week, like Kelly Monaco did last year. Seeing them putting such sweat and tears into their performances makes me feel good and, IMHO, it's only right to separate the chaff from the wheat. If a celebrity isn't going to put in the hours that it takes to excel, then I have no problem seeing them go. The competitor in me just doesn't respect a job half done.

So that was my Type A diatribe, and here's my fangirl blip board for last night's episode:

George and Edyta: Charm aplenty from "the gay blade." George Hamilton is out there trying his heart out, even if his body can't keep up with his enthusiasm. I hate to say it, but he's falling behind and it won't be long until he's gone. Nonetheless, he's been very entertaining and his attitude is kick-ass. I just wish he were twenty years younger so he could really spank that dance.
Tia and Maksim: Every week I notice that Tia's increase in poise and talent is equaled by the loss of that baby chub around her middle. I'd say that the Foxtrot is my least favorite ballroom dance, but she carried it off with style and grace. If this couple isn't worked over by the phone call portion of the voting process, I can see them gaining momentum and being a force to deal with in the finals. Tia's been improving that much. (But what do I know about dancing? I just like what I see.)
P and Ashly: Scott Savol from American Idol, part 2, anyone? Good for P for taking a chance in something that's way out of his league, much like Kenny, who got voted off first, did. But I can't help but notice that Ashly does 99% of the dancing. Looking at last night's performance strictly from a competitive point of view, I thought the judge Carrie Ann's "4" was extremely generous. Then again, I grew up competing in one thing or another, so I put a lot of stock in scoring. Still, Ashly admitted that they hadn't rehearsed more than 20 hours so far when all the other couples have put in about 130 hours on the average. Wow. It really shows that hard work can pay off...if you do it.
Stacy and Tony: There have been rumors that Stacy has had, like, 14 years of dance training. If that's true, then I think she probably belongs in a different competition, but...my God, do I enjoy watching these two dance. I think Stacy's legs are the length of my torso, and the girl can sure use those gams.
Drew and Cheryl: My favorite. Did I love the Michael Jackson "Thriller" choreography? Yes! Did I bop up and down in my chair when Drew swished around his cape as if he were inviting "the bull" (Cheryl) to charge him at the beginning? Oh, yeah. Was I on the edge of my seat during the whole dance? Scarily, yup, I was, because I'm such a geek. But did these two use everyone else to wipe the floor this time or what? If they get voted out, I'm going to be ill--especially since that means I'm way too invested in this program for my own good.
Jerry and Anna: Jerry Rice is a demigod. On the football field, he was an artist. He made some of the most astounding plays ever recorded for posterity. This man is a COMPETITOR (upper case well earned). I see a lot of improvement in Jerry, notwithstanding last week, and I'm hoping he's going to blow everyone away as the competition goes on. He definitely has the heart to do it as well as the athletic skills. I think he's at his best when he's being smooth on the floor, as last night proved. My dad noted that maybe some of Jerry's difficulties in previous dances had to do with knee injuries he suffered during football, and I think that could be a factor, even though he seems to be working through them.
Lisa and Louis: To me, Lisa is the Kelly Monaco of this season, except with an accelerated learning curve and even more power to do backbends and leg lifts. Last night, she worked those head snaps. All in all, this couple's Paso Doble was high-energy and dazzling. (OMG, I just used the word "dazzling." Help me.)

And there you go. If you think my interest in this show is unhealthy, then you should see me when I watch NFL football games. It ain't pretty, either.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

AMERICAN IDOL blahs?

I don't know, you all--I think I'm already sick of AMERICAN IDOL.

Is it because we're getting three hours of awful try-outs per week right now and that's way too much? Is it because it seems that more and more people without talent are dressing up in costumes or slutty clothing to distract the judges from their voices (or are they just figuring that they stink anyway, so they might as well make the ultimate asses out of themselves on TV?)? Or am I just anxious to get to the "real" part of AI, where they actually perform and I start getting way too opinionated and nervous about who should stay and who should go?

Last night, I wanted to be watching more talented performers, just like that young Billie Holiday named Paris (OMG, was she awesome or what???). But--all right, I'll admit it--Simon can be really funny, too...when he's not being a dipthwack. The reason I generally like Simon is because he genuinely does seem to know what he's talking about, even when Paula and/or Randy are too loaded to know any better. And Simon's pointed wit can occasionally be hilarious, when he's not going overboard. Because, seriously, guy? Cut back on the fat jokes and "gender-confused" cracks. It's not only uncomfortable to watch but I'm sure half the people who try out actually don't have enough self-esteem to cope (which leads to the question of why they come to the auditions in the first place.... Masochists?).

Anyway--bring on the real competition, I say. I'm done with the bad variety show.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Classic Camp from the Horror Vault: SLEEPAWAY CAMP

****THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS: READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!****

So I'm doing my thing a couple weeks ago, pretending to work while actually surfing the Net and telling myself I'll start writing my new chapter in a few minutes, when I notice that Netflix has recommended yet another movie for me. "SLEEPAWAY CAMP," it says, boasting a very effective image of a kid's sneaker impaled on a bloody knife.

"SLEEPAWAY CAMP!" I actually say out loud because I'm ten kinds of eccentric and I don't mind talking to an empty room. "I remember this movie!"

Ah, yes, 'tis a flick I have never, ever forgotten. And as I continue to avoid working, I'm inspired enough to decide that it'd be an excellent idea to read every single comment about the movie on Netflix. Heck, there're only 177 of them, so no problem. As the minutes tick by, I find myself becoming obsessed with this bizzare slasher flick. I then scoot over to the IMDB site and read every single member review because I'm completely in this grasp of zombie-like determination to avoid anything productive. Five hours later, it's too late to start writing my chapter and I browbeat myself for that. But, hey, that would be a premise for another movie--something David Cronenberg would direct, perhaps.

Anyway, let me tell you the reason I was so bent on gorging myself with SLEEPAWAY commentary that day. First, I was being a lazy good-for-nothing, yet that's been duly noted. Second, and more importantly, this is a movie that has stuck with me over the years, but in a very sneaky way: the truly weird, shocking ending has flashed through my mind on random occasions and, for a bottom-of-the-barrel budget movie that was no doubt released to earn a quick buck from teens who were just out for a good scare, SLEEPAWAY CAMP contains some extremely deep issues. There are no hockey-mask lack of motivations, here: the plot and characterizations are practically gothic in their sensibilities. There's a quality of repressed anger and confusion that changes this movie from FRIDAY THE 13th, Part V, to something more along the lines of a much tamer SANTA SANGRE, another psychological exercise that made me uncomfortable.

The basic jist of the movie is this: in flashback, we see a father taking his son and daughter for a sailboat ride. There is laughing and horseplay, resulting in the family spilling into the lake. Unfortunately, there are some dopey teenagers driving a boat, and they end up killing 2/3 of the family: the dad and one of the children. Eight years later, the really unsettling stuff begins. We visit "Aunt Martha"'s house on the day she's sending her son, Ricky, and her adopted daughter, Angela, to summer camp. The thing is, after about two seconds, you realize Aunt Martha is bat-poo crazy, with her wide empty eyes and affected speech. It's like she's wandered into this picture from the set of CABARET and she's the Joel Grey character, except she doesn't know when she's not on stage anymore. Just...eck. She causes minor mental trauma. But I digress. She packs Ricky and Angela off to camp, and you also notice that Angela is more than a little silent and shy. There's definitely something wrong with her, but you can make excuses because you realize that she's the child who suffered through the ugly death of her dad and sibling.

Yada, yada, we get to camp and are quickly introduced to Paul, who will be Angela's puppy-love interest, and Judy, who is way too close to all the uber-bitches who turned your seventh-grade life into Dante's lowest circle of hell. (That's another thing about this film: part of the disquiet comes from reliving what it felt like to be thirteen--from an awkward first kiss to enduring taunts from the other kids to just feeling like a freak in general; even though SLEEPAWAY's acting is stiff and endearingly dorky, the reality of adolescence is all too real.) We also meet a cook, who doubles as a pedophile. (Yeah, great, huh? Told ya--uck.) After the cook hits on Angela, bad things start to happen at camp, like the culinary pervert getting blistered by boiling water.

What follows is the "murder portion": bee attacks, shower stabbings, and a brutal, brutal killing with a curling iron. (Even though it's presented in shadow, it's one of those moments where you're sitting there going, "Did that really just happen the way I think it happened? Holy crap.") All the while, Judy the Evil attacks Angela with her sneers and rolling eyes and bitingly personal comments and anything else that is inevitably stowed in the arsenal of a hormonally driven malcontent. Surprisingly, Angela and Paul's puppy love story is sweet, even if it doesn't last long.

BIG SPOILAGE

The killer is pretty obvious--it even shows a face as he/she stands in the doorway ready to attack another victim. However, Ricky and Angela look so much alike, that I was hard-pressed to identify whose face the director actually superimposed on the figure. I rewound the DVD several times to get a clear look, too. I think that trick was rather smart; it confused the audience and emphasized a theme of gender confusion. But crime solving isn't really the point of this movie: it's the ending that blows most viewers, like me, away.

When I first saw SLEEPAWAY CAMP, I was in high school, at a "get together," where the boys and girls would watch a few videos on a Friday night and eat popcorn and flirt. Very harmless. As usual, I think we were chatting throughout much of the flick but, when things got really intense with the murders, we shut our traps. We missed some clues that might've helped us to anticipate the ending, but who knows? We might never have guessed it because it's really well done. And, also, it was a real kick in the head. At our "get together," when the final image faded from the screen, we all just looked at each other and went, "What the...?" But that picture of the killer always lingered.

As much as I'd like to, I can't bring myself to tell you the actual finale. I just can't. But I will say this: while it seems to come out of the blue, it doesn't. If you've been paying attention, it makes perfect sense. And the revealtion's imagery? Creepy. Downright nightmarish. It's here that you realize SLEEPAWAY CAMP has tried to dig deeper than mere gore. It has stitched together the terror of growing up with the taboo, and the killer becomes an utterly tragic figure.

If you're a horror fan and you haven't seen this flick, try it out. It might do nothing for you. It might be just an awfully produced slasher movie that tried to ride the wave of FRIDAY THE 13th and HALLOWEEN. But then again, you might be in a different frame of mind, going along with the director's intention of showing us what's going on beneath the surface where tiny ripples only hint at the chaos underneath. And then those ripples turn to waves....

Friday, January 20, 2006

Finito with the latest

This has been a very strange cycle of writing for me. Days ago, I wrote the last chapter for THE PLAYBOY TAKES A WIFE, my Special Edition work in progress. I should be cheering, right? But I'm not...yet.

Usually, I write a chapter, go to the gym, pound down some lunch, then edit my pages. This schedule really makes things flow for me, but because of the holidays, I really got thrown off my groove this time. I wrote this particular story "Book in a Week" style. That doesn't mean I wrote the whole darn thing in that amount of time (cah-rap!), it means that I wrote a chapter, then went on to the next one without even reading what I'd put to paper the day before. I have to tell you--I don't like this way of working. It makes me nervous. To me, going on to the next chapter without looking over the previous one is like failing to make my bed in the morning. I can't stop thinking about the mess as I carry through the rest of the day and, when I get ready for slumbertime at night, I hate looking at the tumbled covers. Oh, yeah, that's neurotic, but what can I say? It's true. I'm a freak.

At any rate, I'll going into super heavy edit mode on PLAYBOY, then starting on the next Vampire Underground book. (BTW, still awaiting the release date and title on the first one....)

Happy Playoff Weekend!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

MUCH ADO ABOUT a play

Have you ever wondered what Shakespeare crossed with a cheeky splash of THE AVENGERS would produce? I found out last night when I saw a preview of MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING at the La Jolla Playhouse.

As most of you know, I've been going to the Playhouse for years. (There's even a review of the last play I attended, THE MISER, in this blog's archives.) They present a real range of shows, from musicals to experimental theater to works from the masters. MUCH ADO is a Shakespeare comedy (even though it does have some dark moments)--it's a wild, fast-paced romp based on misunderstandings and mechanations. It features two of Shakespeare's most enjoyable characters, IMHO--Beatrice and Benedick, who are crazy in love with each other but are too proud to admit it. Thus, these two motormouths fight whenever they meet. They're the two popular witty kids in junior high who have no idea how to handle what they're feeling so they take it out on the guy/girl whom they like. Yeah, that's about the level of my emotional maturity, too, so you see why I have a soft spot for this pair. Anyway, everyone who's hanging out decides to lure Beatrice and Benedick into admitting their love for each other. That's the fun plot. The counterplot, though, disturbs me, because it involves the mental beat down of an innocent girl named Hero. (Her fiance, Claudio, assumes that she was with another man on the eve of their wedding, but what he really saw was merely a cruel ruse perpetuated by the play's villain, Don John. Claudio then visciously rejects her at the altar, and it's ugly. Bleh. But they do live happily ever after since this is a comedy, so don't worry. But that doesn't mean I like Claudio. Jerk.)

I've seen MUCH ADO performed before, in a pretty traditional manner--the type of 1500's costumes you'd expect, etc. I've also seen the movie version with Kenneth Brannagh and Emma Thompson--that one's set in Tuscany, I believe, and spotlights Keanu Reeves as Don John. (Very interesting casting choice. I'll leave it at that.) But I never, ever, in my life thought I'd see a version with the characters dressed up and acting like spies. It's a very clever conceit cooked up by the Aquila Theater Company, who came into the Playhouse for a limited engagement. The translation makes perfect sense and actually heightens everything that makes this play work. The plot revolves around misinterpretations of what the characters think they see, and there are many secret meetings and fake-outs. It's ALIAS except nobody dies and comes back to life again and again! Oh, wait, Hero does.

It is ALIAS!!!

If you get down to San Diego, I recommend this production. It's a lot of fun with the cat suits, little British car driving around the stage, and music inspired by THE SAINT and James Bond.

Monday, January 16, 2006

The return of 24

What happens when the first fifteen minutes of a season premiere goes through more action than most programs do in three episodes? I almost get a heart attack, that’s what. Case in point? Last night’s 24.

Exhibit 1: David Palmer. Here I am, riding a geeky little return-to-TV high as we’re sympathetically reintroduced to our hero Jack Bauer. Afterward, I’m ready to meet up again with all the other characters we’ve grown to appreciate during the previous four seasons. David Palmer, our favorite ex-president, is next. Generally, this is what happens: he’s talking with his brother, former chief of staff, blah-de-dah, David are you listening to me or are you looking at the newspaper to provide the audience with backstory about the current administration and how they worked you over, bla-de-la-dah-tra-do-dah, David don’t you dare turn your back on me and walk toward that window while I’m talking to you-- BAM! Oh. My. God. David Palmer has been shot. And not only shot…he’s dead. That’s right—one of our favorite characters, a guy who spent the entire first season trying not to be assassinated, has just been wasted. But we’re not going to stop there.

Exhibit 2: Tony and Michelle are reunited, and amidst the exposition about how they’re reacting to President Palmer’s death and their new jobs at a security firm they own, I take a second to think, “Awwwww. Tony and Michelle together again. This makes me so happy, especially after how they spent all of last season looking longingly at each other--” BOOOOOOOOOM. Michelle’s car blows up and Tony gets a bit of the bomb, too. Damn you, 24!

Exhibit 3: Oh, crap, Jeff Kober is now after Chloe’s butt. She’s dust, because we know that Jeff Kober not only shot Palmer, but he usually plays the nearly indestructible bad guy. Also, I have a totally inexplicable fondness for Chloe; I really like how she’s a basic disaster but, in the office, she’s amazing. In fact, if you need help, Chloe’s the gal you’d want on your side because she kicks techno ass (and ever since they put her in the field for that one episode last season, she’s The Terminator, so she can shoot, too. Therefore, do not mess with Miss Personality Disorder.). My pep squad rah-rah for this character is odd, but it’s there, and I really don’t want her to die. Yet, since she’s able to call Jack, I feel a bit better about her chances. But…man, the writers killed Palmer and Michelle. I am not so secure at this moment. In fact, I am a scared weenie.

Exhibit 4: Okay, they killed Michelle, but they’ve brought back…Audrey??? Audrey, the ballbuster who broke Jack’s heart last season? As she darkens my TV screen, I hear millions of voices cry out in terror. But I feel better when I realize that she’s surely on the hit list, too. Please? But…wait. Audrey is defending Jack. Then I realize something and the world rights itself once again: if she’s on Jack’s side, she’s definitely going to die. Excellent.

My point is, by this time, 24 has not only killed off two main characters and put a beloved one in surgery, but they’ve just let us know in no uncertain terms that everyone on this show is fair game. That’s why this program is awesome, and that’s why I get so pukey nervous watching it. Pukey in a good way, though.

Another thing: it struck me that when the writing on 24 is good, it’s damned good. Take, for instance, the way the writers revealed some of the main characters during the first minutes and emphasized what they wanted us to remember about them:

  • Jack (Oh, Jack, good to see you again!) is our hero, but he’s been reduced to a mere face in the back of a crowd. His leathered features are puckered in some kind of anguished grimace as he finds out that he doesn’t have a job to earn him some moola today. Instant sympathy slays me. He reminds me of a Depression-era man who needs to put food in the mouths of his destitute family, but this guy is a loner, and he doesn’t even have anyone to come home to, I’ll bet. We find out that’s only half true when we follow him back to the Jack Shack, where this season’s love interest immediately hits on him. I pretty much can’t blame her, because who can resist The Voice?
  • Derek is this season’s requisite brat teenager (Early Kim with a sex change, but maybe smarter. Allow me to qualify that with only two words: mountain lion. You all know what I mean when that particular phrase refers to Kim. At this early point, Derek still has a fighting chance of not being a Kim-caliber dipthwack since we barely know him.). We first see Derek of the Long Flowing Blond Locks snarking at his mom in the kitchen about Jack, who’s been invited to breakfast. “Use a cup,” the patently put-upon mom then tells her son as he swills the orange juice straight from the carton. But you can tell that every request this woman makes of Derek is useless and she’s basically just sort of pretending that she has a son who listens to her; her request is an exhausted parody of the household’s pecking order, really. Anyway, cue Jack trying to make some attempt to establish a foundation with the kid before he has to have that majorly awkward talk with him about how he’s having sex with the teen’s mom. “Here,” Jack says, kindly giving Derek a cup. In a silent slam, our petulant token rebelette takes a big, screw-you gulp at Jack, telling the audience everything we need to know about how much of a royal pain he’s going to be. Then, later, as terrorists shoot up a lobby that Derek has wandered into, he proves us right by exposing how much of a village idiot he actually is while standing as everyone else hits the floor. He is mountain lion bait after all.
  • Chloe is the aforementioned unexpected heroine. At first, she’s shown tumbling out of bed. Then, with a mixture of appalled disgust, shameful discomfort, and maybe even wonderment that she actually got some hot sex last night, she tells her coworker to get his underling-one-night-stand-boinkin’ self out of her sight. Ah, Chloe, even if you are Xena now, you’re still the same social moron. Her inability to deal on a one-to-one basis with a guy who seems to like her (We’ll see about that, you token CTU mole candidate….) is on full view here. After that, her life is threatened and she goes on the run with Jack until she’s caught. Yea, Team ChloeJack!
  • The First Lady of the Twilight Zone is very interesting to me, even at first sight. Is she the White House equivalent of that great TZ episode in which William Shatner or John Lithgow sees the gremlin on the plane wing and no one believes him? When we initially see her, she’s staring at herself in a mirror. “I look like a wedding cake,” she pronounces in a dead tone that somehow also manages to be pompous. She then suddenly dunks her face with poised abandon in a sink full of water. Mascara running from her eyes, she grandly deems herself ready to start over. Now, I have no idea why she completes her vanity in front of a full sink of water—does this little episode happen every day?—but it was a neat introduction.

I missed you, 24, even if you are a bit daffy sometimes. Thank you once again for introducing high blood pressure into my weekly existence.

Until next week: Boop (boom). Biip (boom). Boop (boom). Biip (boom).

Saturday, January 14, 2006

New Superman pics!

Hey--check out the new Superman stills that've hit the net! If you go to http://www.calendarlive.com/movies/cl-et-superman15jan15-pg,0,248315.photogallery?index=4 or www.aintitcoolnews.com (I hope those work....) you'll be treated to some very cool stills. I'm going to try to post this one, from www.caldendarlive.com, here (wish me luck--pictures don't seem to work very well on this blog).




While this has a fake plasticity to it...still, how cool! It's a nicely composed portrait of Superman/Clark Kent and it makes my heart go thud-a-thud-thud just a tad. From all indications, this movie is going to look beautiful, if not anything else. Last year in my Comic-Con San Diego report, I told you that Bryan Singer is modeling this film after the old animated Superman short movies. The muted tones of the costume are testiment to that, and the art direction evokes a sense of retro-modern splash. Love it.

So try to hit the links! There're some great pix of Clark Kent and a nice one of Superman shooting some "blue steel" as he poses.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Sneak peek of April's new cover

Here's the cover for my April, 2006, release, THE LAST COWBOY!

I like the image itself, even though the hero's personality isn't quite this happy-go-lucky. Jackson North, a drifter, is haunted and hard to know; but by the end of the book, he's renewed by the love of the heroine (Felicia Markowski, one of Emmylou Rhodes' friends from last year's THE MILLIONAIRE'S SECRET BABY), so I guess a smiling hero could be appropriate! All in all, I'm very happy we were able to keep THE LAST COWBOY title. It's a very important part of the story, seeing as the plot is based upon a prediction Felicia hears about how "the last cowboy" will make her a mother. The thing is, Felicia has been told by doctors that she might not be able to have children. However, she comes to believe that Jackson might be this "last cowboy," so she sets out to win his heart and to see if she can make her dreams of a family come true.
I'll be posting this on the site fairly soon, but for now, enjoy that cute cowboy!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Disney goes artsky

Back before THE LION KING went from screen to stage, who would've ever thought that Disney would go the "arty" route instead of choosing a straightforward presentation of their movie?

Obviously, I've just experienced this musical--finally!--and I was completely blown away. But I have a confession: I haven't even seen the animated movie. It's true! Some film buff I am. Still, I knew just about everything that happened during the story, so there were no surprises on that front. The plot is a very simple one: a young king is banished from his kingdom and he must return to fight for his throne. We've seen variations on this theme time and again. But something about the movie clearly spoke to children and adults alike: was it the use of animals instead of humans? Was it the Elton John music? Was it the setting? Or was it simply the "Circle of Life" message?

Whatever the case, the musical definitely goes with whatever originally worked and then some. The people who brought this from screen to stage made a bold choice in choosing Julie Taymor to direct the show. She was known for very progressive work in the theater at the time, and what she brought to this basic Disney-ized story allowed the show to be both mainstream and highbrow.

Bluntly, the presentation is breathtaking. When the sun first rises on stage and the wildlife silhouettes first wander into view, you're immediately transported. A voice calls out in song as "The Circle of Life" begins, then other voices mingle in harmony and rhythm. Then, slowly, the light rises, revealing something astounding: there's a man in the giraffe suit who's using stilts. Just...wow. Most of the characters are a strange and ultra-creative mixture of costume and puppetry and their movements are so effective and true that it's a beautiful thing to watch.

And the creations get better and better. Later, the hyenas come on stage: they stalk about with animated, yet menacing grace, darting into bursts of hyper aggression every once in a while. The child actors playing Simba and Nala are choreographed to swipe and bounce around like young animals, and they're perfect. Every single character on that stage is a surreal work of wonder that connects with the audience while conveying everything you need to know about that character.

If you get the chance to see this musical, go for it before the tickets are sold out. It's even appropriate to bring your kids to the theater.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

From my nephew

I've invited my almost-three-year-old nephew to blog today. First, allow me to tell you what he is wearing. It's his favorite suit: yellow rain boots and his skin. We call him Naked Monkey Boy because of his fondness for running around au natural. Without further ado, here he is, the man himself...

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmjhhhhgggfdxsssd
(translation: Ay, ah, Mama! I fall down on the tile.)
(note: last week, he had a bit of an accident and has an owie on his knee. He's okay. Just active.)

jhhggggggggggfffddhgggggggtgtghhhgtfttyyyhuuiiijhhhn
(translation: I want to play write. With...Mommy!)

xxxxcccssaaaaaaaaasddddddsssssdfddddddddfffffffff
(translation: Mommy said this. We go to a date. We go to a hike, too.)

xxxxzzcfdfgffffrfffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff
(translation: I am Rodney Copperbottom. I am Pug. How 'bout Rodney Copperbottom?)

vvvvb bbzsgsssduyruthy6trrrrdssswswsqqqsddffhhgxfvxfgfzvcdgfyyrtt4
(translation: I want to say moon. Moon. Pizza.)

All right, that's it. He's run away from the keyboard and is tearing apart some headphones of mine, so it's time to go. But my nephew is really excited to have had the opportunity to express himself, and I know that he'd thank you for hanging out here if he could.

I know. Weirdest. Blog. Ever.

Friday, January 06, 2006

MEMOIRS OF A GEISHAdance

When I first read MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA, I fell in love with the book. The details and challenges of the heroine’s life—a girl who is sold into servitude but who manages to get some control in the end—enchanted me. It was a page-turner. It was beautifully written (and, yes, a simile is used by the author every minute, but they’re great similes). It was wonderful reading. I loved the cat fights, especially, and I kept thinking that when it was turned into a movie, I’d be blown away.

But, oddly enough, after seeing the film, I don’t have much of an opinion.

(What?)

I have no idea why this is. The cinematography is absolutely gorgeous ,and I thought the acting was strong. (And, yes, they did cast Chinese actors in Japanese parts but, generally, that’s nothing new. How many times have we seen English thespians playing Romans, etc.? Too many to count. All I know is that Gong Li was an awesome Hatsumomo. ‘nuff said.) So why did I like the movie and not love it?

I guess maybe it felt as if this was more Geisha 101 than a real character study. There wasn’t a ton of depth, but the story itself is entertaining. Basically, we’ve got a rags-to-riches tale about a poor girl who turns into one form of “the perfect woman” (depending on your point of view of what a perfect woman is, of course. If you like ‘em oppressed, this lady is for you.). She’s pitted against an evil geisha, then taken under wing by a kind one who nevertheless has her own agenda, and then the fur flies. As I said, the cat fights are awesome, whether they’re staged at a tea house with barbed words as weapons or physical. Definitely, the best parts of the movie are when Hatsumomo (the evil one) is baiting Sayuri (the heroine).

The director, Rob Marshall, was at the helm of CHICAGO, and you can definitely draw many visual parallels between the two works. When Sayuri performs an emotion-ridden dance in the “snow,” it looks like a strobe-y version of Velma and Roxy on stage, or maybe as if Sayuri even wandered into FLASHDANCE. (OMG—now that would be the coolest movie—GEISHADANCE. I’m so on it. Dial up Jerry Bruckheimer for me, babe.)

I do recommend this movie to you, especially if you’ve read the book (which I HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommend.). The beauty and hints of the veiled world of a geisha, who is NOT a courtesan, mind you, are intriguing.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Contest winner!

Just a quick note: The lucky winner of the December Erica Orloff/Crystal Green contest is Joy Isley!

Congratulations, Joy, and I hope you enjoy the package. I'm even envious!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

New contest at main site!

I just want to remind you all to check out my main site because it's been updated (go to:
www.crystal-green.com). Erica Orloff and I are still in the process of drawing the winner for last month's contest, and the name should be posted within the next couple of days, but that doesn't mean it isn't a good time to check out what I have for you in January. Are you familiar with Swarovski? They produce beautiful crystal work, and many people throughout the world collect their creations. If you enter at my site, you could win an intricate pin that depicts a clown playing an accordian. Now, this isn't one of those creepy clowns you should be afraid of. (That's right: no POLTERGEIST or IT for me; I basically have clown nightmares, so if I like this little crystal clown, there's no reason to be afraid.) This guy is real cute and is worthy of display.

So bop on over there and take your chances. Good luck!

Monday, January 02, 2006

New year wishes

Happy New Year!

Did you all set any resolutions for 2006? I did, even though I rarely follow through. That’s because they’re usually based on personal issues and those aren’t always easy to control or face, LOL. Aside from too-secret-to-share resolutions that I made Saturday night/Sunday morning, I can tell you one that is more within my grasp. I’m going to try to not develop an ulcer this year. No joke. I need to schedule my time better and allow for some trips, just like I did in 2004, when I went to Japan, Italy, and New Orleans. I’d love to go back to the Women’s Fiction Festival in Matera, Italy, in late September. And my friend from Japan has invited me back there, too. We’ll see what the year brings, but I know I can’t keep telling myself that “all the hard work will pay off” and then I can coast because, as with most jobs, the work never seems to end! I just need to deal with that accordingly and relax.

Here’s to your resolutions coming true!