Monday, September 29, 2008

Johnny Dollars Goes All Huffington On Me

My friend John Donald Carlucci has a new political blog-

Please give it a gander.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue

Everybody remembers actors for their best roles, yet I remember Paul Newman not only for his great roles, but for the way that he always transcended his material. There were a lot of movies he did where he was the sole redeeming factor in a sea of dreck and he just rose above it all. You know what I'm talking about if you've ever watched TV back in the 70's, or HBO, Showtime, and Cinemax.

You would sit there and right about twenty-five minutes into this video torture by lazy network or local programmers you would say to yourself, "you know? I think I'm only watching this because of Paul." Do you doubt me? AMC will surely run "The Towering Inferno" often these next couple of week and you will see a raging tower of suck, yet I always watch the thing for five minutes (and only for five minutes) because of Newman and Steve McQueen.

"The Drowning Pool?" A big bowl of meh, but Paul virtually walked on water. Almost everything recently this side of "The Verdict" with the exception of "Road To Perdition" was mediocre at best (I liked "Hudsucker," few do), yet you know he was a consummate professional and a master thespian.

In this day and age, we still have plenty of character actors that are great thespians, but rare now is the lead man that doesn't let his looks or ego hinder his role. Even rarer still is the actor who is dedicated to each and every role that portrays, no matter the caliber of the film or stage.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Screenwriter Always Rings Twice

You can't trust writers. Anything you say or do is fair game to us. We dress you up in a different gown and use your words and your hair and your eyes and steal your soul.

from "Robbie's Wife" by Russell Hill.

"Robbie's Wife" was a good read, a bit of James M. Cain goes to England if you will, and I mean that in the best possible sense. And while that quote is a little too on the nose and that character literally writes down each and everything that he experiences, it made sense within the plot.

Of course I can't imagine an actual screenwriter (the protagonist's profession) this side of Joe Ezterhas at his most self-indulgent, writing every other thing down in an almost verbatim fashion. So trust me when I say that unlike the police, I will not hold everything you say against you...

...unless it's juicy enough. Then, I'm at least going to change your gender and ethnic origin.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

This Is A McGuffin, Right?

The Missus and I saw "Burn After Reading" yesterday, we are talking good Coen Brother hi-jinks. Brad Pitt surprised the both of us just to how funny he was and while this film was not up there with "The Big Lebowski" or "O Brother, Where Are Thou," it was still very enjoyable.

Just right now, we were watching "Witness For The Prosecution" before it was preempted by The Kid's show and I was wondering about something. First, please don't tell me the ending (though I bet I have that figured out already) or discus the film, that's not what I'm concerned about.

What I want to know is this: Tyrone Power's character allegedly built a better egg-beater that he demonstrated to the Widow French. The Widow French asked more or less if the beater used centrifugal force and he said "no, it uses specific gravity." Now, I Wiki-ed it and while I don't claim to know the first thing about science, an egg-beater that uses specific gravity is just a McGuffin, right?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Is That So Wrong Goes To The Movies

For the 46th Annual New York Film Festival, Is That So Wrong has screen some of the upcoming films that will be shown at the Lincoln Center. The first being Wendy and Lucy with Michelle Williams. Pop on over and take a gander.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Where Have You Gone Cormac Brown?...

...a nation turns its bored eyes on you (woo, woo, wooo).

Unrefined video crack, Sid Meier-style.

Goodbye family.
Goodbye social life.
Not goodbye to bathing and toothbrushing, but virtually everything else.

That's the good video crack, Jack!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

John Puts Our Lives In Perspective

John puts most of our lives in perspective with this post.

P.S. after you click it, you have to scroll down the page to see it.

Monday, September 8, 2008

On Wiki-tangents And "Monkey Island"

The beauty of the Internet is that all this information is available to anywhere you have a connection, any time of the day that you need it. The bad part of it is the dilettante aspect where you retrieve just the information you need and only the information that you need, as well as wiki-tangents (Wikipedia + tangents = wiki-tangents).

You know where you study one subject and you click a link to another, and by the end of it, you need to click your Internet history to find out just exactly what it was that you were originally searching for? Yeah, that writing black hole. As an example, I have a good story all written up and the only problem with it is that it doesn't have a middle. It literally has a few sentence fragments and nothing more. So I have to fill those sentences in, while staying clear of the borders of Anachronism Land.

The first wiki-tangent yielded actual useful information, though I wasted a good amount of time because a video of the shell that was Bonnie and Clyde's death car, wouldn't load for shit with my dial-up. Ehi, I had to surrender. The second thing that amazed me was when I was researching orange groves in the San Fernando Valley and I found out about a place back in the day called "Monkey Island." Try to put something up that abysmal today and the PETA people will hound you to the ends of the Earth...where they will torture by feeding you a tofu effigy of yourself and singing really crappy folk songs off-key.

If you click the link, please scroll up and down. You'll find other quotes about the San Fernando Valley by Michael Connelly, Raymond Chandler, Robert Redford, and many others. Now, if only I can figure just what exactly is my fascination with Mulholland Drive, despite never having drove or set foot on it, then I can get some sleep.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Quoth The Lovecraft

"At night, when the objective world has slunk back into its cavern and left dreamers to their own, there come inspirations and capabilities impossible at any less magical and quiet hour. No one knows whether or not he is a writer unless he has tried writing at night."

– H.P. Lovecraft, from the Creative Screenwriting Weekly Newsletter

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Road of The Shaken

An old Cormacism, but a goodie-

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And got stuck behind an old lady in a Cadillac...all the way from Portola to Monterey, g*dd*mn it!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

"Heads You Lose"

"A conscience is a luxury no private dick can afford."

Mike Shayne from "Heads You Lose," page 46.

Before "Hammer" became the detective name most synonymous with "Mike" and way before Horatio Caine perpendicularly sidled up to people, to pelt them with bad puns and clichés, there was another Mike that had the red-headed crime fighting market cornered, Mike Shayne.

This book was given to me by the Baroness and "Heads You Lose" is a reprint of the 1943 story "Blood On The Black Market." This was the eighth Mike Shayne story to be printed, according to the Brett Halliday forward. So in a sense, the 1950's cover can throw a reader's expectations off, though not me, I read it with open mind in terms of wanting to soak up the era.

The history buff/dilettante in me feasted on all the details of WWII black outs, gas rationing, the old speed limits (which would've drove me out of my skull, 35 mph on Florida's highways???) and black marketeers.

Mike Shayne likes a sip of cognac...or four and he tugs his earlobe in this book, almost as many times as Carol Burnette typically did in one season. You can see Dashiell Hammett's influence on Halliday. Shayne puts the booze away like Nick and Nora did, though unlike them, he didn't have quite as many quips, bon mots, and he was lacking a dog. He made moves on one character's wife while that character was still in the room, just like Ned Beaumont. And Shayne tried to pit good and evil against each other...though he didn't manage with quite the same finesse as Ned did.

Other observations-

In "Heads You Lose," the Miami Dade Police Department sure has absolutely no reservations about drinking while on the job.

Everbody in this book seems to have a two cigarette pack-a-day habit.

Bad editing strikes again! Cointreau is not wine, mon Dieu!

Spoiler! You have to highlight it with your mouse to read it(cool, a "The Usual Suspects" ending!)
My second favorite bit of dialogue is...

"You're a fool," she said drearily. "We could have had so much, but you're afraid to believe in anything. You're cursed with the need to look beneath the surface for a hidden motive. I feel sorry for you."

Shayne's laugh was sardonic. "Hidden motives are my meat," he confessed.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

"Poker Face"

"Poker Face" originally appeared in Powder Burn Flash

Well, there are curveballs and there are curveballs. And this? This is like the other seven guys on the playing field have decided that they want to pitch too…

…All at once.

…While the catcher is tying the batter’s shoelaces together.

“This was supposed to be easy pickings,” Pratt curses. He knew from the other kids that went to the same privileged high school as he did, that almost half of this neighborhood was spending Christmas vacation in Tahoe and the other half was in Hawaii . Pratt guessed that nobody explained that to the man of this house, Dougray Hiatt, that he should be some 2,300 miles away in Kauai.

Why just a minute ago, Pratt was just mulling throwing a party in what he believed to be an empty house and now he is cursing himself for not checking first or even bothering to have a mask on. He knows that his partner John won’t care either way, which is bound to make this tenuous situation even worse.

“You’re supposed to be in Hawaii ” Pratt says out loud. “Because we wouldn’t be here or at least we would be wearing masks” he finishes in his head. His partner John comes into the room holding a laptop inside a gray Tumi bag and is just as startled as Pratt was seconds ago to find someone home.

There Dougray is, sitting in the combination computer and exercise room that was formerly the bedroom of his eldest daughter, Deborah, who was currently in college, but was now in Kauai with his youngest daughter, Dana. He was sitting the same spot some eleven hours ago, but something work-related came up and he had to cut short his vacation. He had four files out on his desk and until Pratt’s intrusion, he was typing away on his desktop computer.

Pratt is trying to figure out just what the fuck is this guy doing at home and why didn’t he heard them come in. The burglar alarm’s chime made an awful racket throughout the two times it took Pratt to disarm it, because he was so nervous, that he momentarily forgot the code. He knew the code well enough; he spent many a night spying on Deborah to have seen it. Then Pratt hears the washing machine and realizes that Dougray probably was putting a load in and didn’t hear them enter.

And when Deborah moved out for college, Pratt’s eyes moved onto Dana as she worked out in this very room, five days a week. He couldn’t help but overhear about the Kauai trip, because Dana’s friends called her about it every three minutes, cutting short her dance routine and his fun. Now Pratt’s fun is cut short again, with a complication that seems completely nonplussed at the fact that he and John are standing in his house at three in the morning.

The silence between them and Dougray’s cool exterior get to John. He thrusts his chest out and pulls his shirt up, exposing the cheap Glock knockoff that was in his waistband of his baggy jeans.

Dougray responds by merely sitting at his desk with a face that any poker champion wishes they could own. He doesn’t seem scared or particularly perturbed; he isn’t happy or grim-faced. As a matter of fact, he is just sitting there with his lips slightly clenched.

Pratt looks over in askance to John as to what should be their next move, and John answers back with a scowl. Pratt winces as John reaches under his shirt with a snarl and pulls the nine millimeter out. Pratt almost pulls his gun out too, but he doesn’t like the math behind this. He wants to run away, but he stands his ground and resigns himself to the fact that nothing good will come of this. Yet Dougray just sits there, blinking every so often.

Pratt wonders if this is just a case of Dougray being as scared as he is and that Dougray is simply too damn scared to move. Finally, Dougray’s nose twitches and a nervous John almost pulls his trigger. His nose twitches again and Dougray takes a few, long, large gasps.


Dougray sneezes hard and his dentures flew across the room, where they land inches away from John’s feet. John and Pratt both look down at the displaced false teeth and that’s when John flies backward into the wall with a crimson hole in his chest. Wide-eyed, Pratt looks at the last bit of life escaping John and turns around to see a still-seated Dougray. He had the same poker face, but it looks pathetic without any front teeth.

A small wisp of smoke escapes the barrel of the silver-plated hand cannon that Dougray has pointed at Pratt and the last thing that Pratt sees is that cannon roaring again.

Dougray shakes his head and thinks, there are sticky wickets and then there are sticky wickets. And this?

This is like the other nine fielders have decided that they want to be bowlers too...

…All at the same time.

…While the wicket-keeper bites your ankles.

Here he is a hit man of nearly thirty years of experience and he has let two amateur burglars get the drop on him as if he still was wet behind the ears. He has to be in Tahoe within the hour to take out somebody that is in the witness protection, before the mark moves to another safe house, and now? He has two bodies in his own house to contend with.

Well, he’ll have to tarp them and leave them in the garage; the paying job always takes precedence.