Sunday, October 31, 2010

Rabbit Hole & Death of Children Movies

Rabbit Hole is a new movie coming out for an award season run before the end of the year staring Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart. The film is based off the 2007 Pulitzer prize and Tony Award winning play, and there release schedule surely indicates hope for similar Academy Award success.

The film deals with parents grieving the death of their child, both in different ways.

Now, it seems to me, that this film theme is far from original. In fact, off hand, I can think of a handful of films that deal largely with this same theme.

It makes me wonder, why this theme keeps getting touched on through film. You know it's not for the entertainment value. And yet, it seems like a sure fire emotional discussion of an issue that's hard for people to wrap their brains around. Which lead to challenging scenes like the one in the preview below where Nicole Kidman's character (Becca Corbett) responds harshly to another mother in a group therapy session who is attributing her child's death to God's desire to have another little angel.

These are powerful scenes, even if they've been done before in different ways and with slightly modified scenarios. They're just not original, and I'm always surprised year after year to see another one of these films coming out.

Below is a list of films that I have thought of that have dealt with this very topic, particularly reflecting on how parents handle the situation differently.

Dramatic Films That Deal With The Death of Children
The Sweet Hereafter (1997; many of the kids in the town die on a school bus and the parents and town are encouraged to file a class action lawsuit)

In the Valley of Elah (2007; a father searches out the truth behind the death of his military son while he and his wife figure out how to cope)

Babel (2006; the death of Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt's characters infant child and they escape to Morocco to grieve)

Reservation Road (2007; Mark Ruffolo accidentally kills a boy in a hit and run. He keeps it a secret while the parents of the child grieve in different ways)

A Map of the World (1999, The child of a woman's friend dies on her property and people turn against her and charge her with child abuse)

In The Bedroom (2001, A parent's son is killed, but continue to struggle in different ways when the killer is released on bail).

Ordinary People (1980, A family grieves after the death of the eldest son)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Are you going to the "Sally Hawkins Dance?"

Sally Hawkins almost makes the 2010 "Reel (Real) People" list for her role of Rita O'Grady in the film Made in Dagenham, but everything I've read said she's based on a real person...not an actualy 1-on-1 copy of a real Rita O'Grady.

The film is a dramatization of the 1968 Ford sewing machine strike in the United Kingdom which led to the Equal Pay Act of 1970.

Since the critical fascination with her performance as Poppy in the 2008 film Happy-Go-Lucky, it seems like Sally Hawkins is short-listed for any role which requires a young British female, but does not require that this female has the prettiest face.

No offense Sally, but after playing smaller parts in films opposite Carey Mulligan, Keira Knighley, Rosamund Pike (An Education, Never Let Me Go). It seems like directors see character roles for Hawkins but those don't always mean lead parts.

But it seems like there's buzz around Made in Dagenhem that could carry Hawkins through award season in a lead role...correcting, what some people see as an error in her lack of Oscar nomination for Happy-Go-Lucky.

That being said, I feel like Hawkins has the potential to be a polarizing actress. My wife was very turned off to her Happy-Go-Lucky performance, and since then has hardly been a Hawkins supporter. On the other hands, those that lauded her performance in 2008 seem keen on pushing every role she has played since wondering if it will be the one to cement her shining star.

So will Hawkins be a contender in this year's award season? It's almost November and it's still just anyone's guess.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Candy Corn Theory

Any "seasonal" food (i.e. candy corn as the primary example) that only is produced as a seasonal item is probably disgusting and people who say they like it are fooled by their association with the holiday.
Photo via flickr by juushika redgrave.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Thoughts on Paul Harding's Tinkers

So after admiting publicly yesterday my failings as a fall reader. I got serious. The 181 page paperback copy of Tinkers, the most recent pulitzer prize winning novel was sitting beside my bed.

I had started reading it in August and I suppose got distracted, so I back tracked about 40 pages (I had been at 130) to page 90 and last night my wife and I had "quiet home coffee shop reading time." We sat in our living room reading.

And I caught up from where I was reading from page 90 to 181 in a couple hours.

So it's with this, preface that I share just a few thoughts on Paul Harding's award winning debut novel, Tinkers.


It's not surprising that this book hit the sight of Pulitzer voters, as Paul Harding like many past fiction winners comes from the Iowa Writers' Workshop that has previously awarded Phillip Roth, Michael Cunningham, Marilyn Robinson, and Robert Penn Warren (to name a few).

But I don't hold that against Harding, at the same time...I did not neccesarily love this book as much as I might have hoped to. The prose is generally well crafted and in fact the many passages, often disjointed are usually engaging, especially when it was the heart of the narrative, which is really a back-flash of the story of the main character's life as a child with his father (George and his father Howard).

The present day story is more "modern story telling" in it's feeling, but the action and narrative is less engaging.

And then finally least engaging of all to me was some of the creative prose that sprinkled the novel in various sections. Some sections created this poetic definitions of what would seem to be imaginary constelations built around the word borealis. And maybe I just didn't "get it" but this artistic endeavor was lost on me, and I tend to consider myself a poetic and artistic thinker.

So, that being said...perhaps if I was engaged in some deep discussins with the author I could be wowed by this book, but generally I just found it okay, and often times a little uncertain of where it was going or what it was trying to ultimatly convey.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Fall Reading - I'm the Worst

I don't really know why - but I am an incredible reader in the spring, but an awful reader once summer hits and going into fall.

I'm not sure if the early months following the holiday's if the weather, the lack of activity, and so forth leads itself to better reading opportunities.

Yet, somehow I find myself always hitting a wall sometime between May & June in my reading and not finding the ability to pick it up again until after the New Year.

I'm trying though. I really am.

The first part of the year the notable books I read incidentally were all very different types of books.

I read:

* Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely(thank you Jon for knowing I would love this)

* Maps and Legends: Reading and Writing Along the Borderlands by Michael Chabon (another gift by a favorite author, but who knew I would enjoy this book of essays on genre fiction so much)

* In The Garden Of The North American Martyrs: Stories by Tobias Wolfe (I rarely read a short story collect, but with a group discussion at the direction of Amy I through myself into the project and loved it)
It's not an expansive list, and I wish it were more exhaustive. I do love reading. But there's so many distractions.

I had an epic fail with my attempt to read Brighton Rock by Graham Greene- A month and only 40 pages in led me to stop.

Currently I'm desperately dragging my heels on the recently awarded Pulitzer prize winning novel Tinkers by Paul Harding - which is so tiny I should be done being that I started in August. But I can only make excuses.

I guess what this means is I need to prioritize my Spring 2011 reading so I get in what I really want to read. And maybe, if I'm optimistic (and focused) I can put a couple more, or at least one more, under my belt before year end.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

2009 Top Films According to

It seems like over 9 months after the end of the year, the vote on IMDb's top 250 seem to settle (past the initial fan-boy love that shoots genre films to the top of the list) and gives us an idea of what votes on the internet movie database say are the best films.

I did a similar post last year around this time, and thought I'd do the leg-work again and see what is telling us was the must sees of last year. As a dynamic list this could all change as soon as I press "post" but it's an interesting snap-shot.

1. Inglourious Basterds ( rank #80)
2. Up (#89)
3. Avatar (#123)
4. District 9 (#126)
5. The Secret in their Eyes [El secreto de sus ojos] (#171)
6. Star Trek (#177)

Honestly, tthese rankings don't paint a very exciting picture for 2009 if you ask me. Of course some of my top films of 2009 don't hit the list. So, it is what it is. But this certainly doesn't suggest that 2009 was a magical year of film.

Would you agree with this being the consensus of 2009's top films?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Juan Williams, Anonymity, Jackie Robinson, and Men on Elevators

Juan Williams. I'm sure everything under the sun has been said about the firing of Juan Williams, the long time NPR news analyst fired recently for making comments on Fox's The O'Reilly factor admitting nervousness when people who identify themselves as Muslim through their dress board an airplane.

Here's what I find ridiculous. He was expressing his own personal feelings, he was not making a comment about Muslims being terrorist, but that there is a personal bias that comes into play by the way someones dressed and how it makes him feel. Obviously, one can assume, that Juan Williams adjusts this bias as he's there, but that this is a knee jerk reaction.

We all have knee jerk reactions and biases. Not all the same, but whether it's pregnant teens, certain racial or ethnic groups, certain styles of dress, age, or anything inbetween. Do identifying these biases further the conversation? Maybe, maybe not. But we should be able to expose our biases.

Here's what I can understand. There is an understandable conflict of interest when a news analyst is also involved with an editorial program. When Juan Williams is on Fox news there is potentially a tainting of his news analyst position when he expressing editorial opinions. This I can understand. Juan Williams has the right to free speech as an American, but his employer also has the right to terminate the relationship is free speech jeopardizes his role.

Here's what I don't understand. If NPR allows there news analyst to go on editorial programs how can they then fire someone for what they say? Mara Liasson is another NPR analyst who is regularly a FOX News contributor as a panelist on Fox News Sunday, again providing editorial content, not preparing news packages. Is Liasson next? If I were her I would be fearful of this mixed relationship. I feel like NPR could have handled the situation more diplomatically then firing for one comment. And maybe they tried, but this was not conveyed to the public. But it seems rash to allow him to editorialize, but then fire him for editorial comments.

Anonymity. It's interesting how our first amendment right to free speech is rarely challenged. But that our jobs and even future unheld jobs impact our speech. It is for that reason that I write my own blog anonymously. I don't say anything to "rock the boat" but one comment could be taken the wrong way and jeopardize future jobs or my current job. That's unfortunate, because it definitely limits dialogue and true expression of thoughts (liberal, conservative, spiritual, personal doubts, etc). We have a new time when things like Facebook encourage openness but our greatest fears are not what other people think but what future employers, current employers, and co-workers might do with this information.

Jackie Robinson: And it's not just about playing it safe. I was in an HR training once where a scenario was hypothesized where a group of white men compliment a new member of the team, a black man, by saying "You're our own Jackie Robinson." The debate was whether a comment of this nature was inappropriate or not. Some would say, yes, it's inappropriate because your identifying someone by the racial characteristics by identifying them as black. Where others said, no, there was nothing wrong with this because Jackie Robinson is a positive figure and a trailblazer, and to compare someone to Jackie Robinson is a compliment. The fact is, our comments will be perceived differently by others, and that who knows how anything we say will be perceived by others. Even if we think we're being careful about what we say.

Men on Elevators: When I'm at work, I've noticed women talk freely on elevators while men are usually far more reserved and quiet. Women (as a generality, not a rule) will share a great deal more about their personal life, work life, feelings, frustrations, and life on an elevator. Men might be talking to a friend and be silent as they enter an elevator. Again, this is a general rule, but I have to wonder, that as our society historically has relied on men as the bread winners for families, if the pressure for men to monitor what they say is far greater than that of women. I think most men feel this pressure to careful monitor what they say in a work environment. Maybe I'm off, but ask some men.

Fear. It's a scary prospect that a company might determine that you are unfit for their company based on comments you make about social taboo subjects like politics, religion, society, or personal admissions of bias. I don't think the intention behind human resource departments and corporate management is to fight the first amendment right, but our media age makes sound bites, e-mail snippets, and news articles fly so fast that they're right to have something to protect, but in protecting these things they create fear in people that their professional career could be over in a sentence.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Confronting the Thought: Giving Should Be Painful

It's strange that almost a year since the movie the Blindside came out - but I still receive hundred's of hits a week on my post on the film, and the performance by Quinton Aaron's performance as Michael Oher in this film.

On one of my post praising giving in a long term way (not drive-by service) has received some cranky comments, including one recently that criticizes the fact that The Blindside praises an athletic family that selfishly takes in someone for personal gain and that if the film makers really cared they will tell a story about someone who made a more painful sacrifice like adopting a handicapped child. (Which in my assessment on the surface is offensive as it's written on it's own).

One of things that saddens me about a comment like this is the concept that people have that giving should be painful.

One of my favorite definitions of the word "Sacrifice" is giving up something you love for something you want love even more. Miriam-Webster gives a similar definition as shown in the image below.

Not even speaking to this specific case, but isn't it often true that when we make sacrifices we get so much more in exchange?

I hate the train of thought that thinks "people only give because it makes them feel good." I think this is short-sighted to begin with, but let's say that's it...let's say people are selfishly looking for a feeling -- that doesn't negate giving and sacrifice.

What does it say about us if we judge others acts of compassion? charity? love?

Who taught us that sacrifice and giving should be painful with no reward, and even a side-effect reward or blessing would negate our sacrifice?

Definition from

Monday, October 18, 2010

Movie Night With A Toddler and The Chorus

The other night my daughter (just over 2 years old) had her first movie night...popcorn and all.

We watch Disney's Peter Pan on DVD.

Like when she watches Sound of Music she was very concerned with where people's mother's were. Which makes sense because Mr. and Mrs. Darling do leave their kids alone in the house for the evening.

But what I thought was so funny was was when there were songs she was very disturbed and she would ask again and again...who's singing? Who's singing daddy? Who's singing Mommy?

Saying "the chorus" was not a satisfactory answer.

Mad Men Season 4 Finale: Megan

**Warning this post does contain spoilers about the season finale which aired October 17, 2010**

Before we delve into the Mad Men's season 4 finale (titled "Tomorrowland") and the role of Megan (Jessica Paré) lets talk about an earlier episode from the season...episode 4 "The Rejected."

In episode 4, Don's previous secretary Allison (Alex Alamanni, pictured above at far right) has a breakdown while doing a product study for Ponds.

Allison is one of the single woman on the office staff who are poked and prodded about their singleness. Allison's breakdown comes from the feeling of rejection she has from Don after a one night stand that Don completely wants to push under the rug that apparently means nothing to him.

After 20 episodes, this episode is Allison's last, and instead Don becomes connected to his market researcher, Dr. Faye Miller (Cara Buono) who incidentally is conducting the Pond's Study.

When Allison leaves, Don of course needs a new secretary, and he is given one whom there is no fear of physical relations. He receives Miss Blankenship (Randee Heller) who for her time as Donald Draper's secretary she is really quite the comical element.

Joan's move to bring on Miss Blankenship is appreciated by Don helping him focus.

Of course, Miss Blankenship another young thing takes her place. Which brings us to Megan who becomes his secretary.

Megan had been included in the Pond's focus group from episode 4. I have circled her in the picture above. Megan is the least emotional wreck of them all, at that time the front desk secretary talks about her French mother's beauty routine is simple getting the water to just the right temperature and patting her face.

So when Megan becomes the secretary in episode 9, who's to guess by the finale (episode 13) Don would be popping the question...not to mention after Dr. Faye Miller has been a love interest the bulk of the season in what seems like a generally stable relationship. Megan Calvet (soon to be Draper) just the thing of season finale's? Is she here to stay?

I will definitely be paying attention to credit positioning when season 5 premiers to see if Jessica Paré's name gets regular billing. If not, I will assume something extremely wrong occurs early on that breaks off the wedding.

But of course, I feel like the writers have given us a great deal of indication that Don's wants to settle down a little bit, and his promiscuous sex life has waned from a fast-moving 10 to something...not quite zero, but not quiet full steam ahead with any offer that comes his way.

So Megan, I must say, I was curious of your character arch from the moment you became the ambitious secretary, and the invitation to Disneyland got my head spinning early on in the finale, but by the time of the proposal I really wasn't sure what was going on. In fact, we were watching saying "Is Don having a dream?"

But now, we will wait and see what the reality of your character is. Hello, season 5. What will you do!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Annette Bening Without Hilary Swank?

One of the early highly likely Oscar contenders for this upcoming year is Annette Bening for her role in The Kids Are All Right.

Annette's been nominated 3 times previously (lead actress American Beauty, and Being Julia and supporting actress for The Grifters).

Bening's bitter-trivia is that every time she's been nominated for lead she's lost out to Hilary Swank's "performance of a life time roles" (Boys Don't Cry, Million Dollar Baby).

So when there was this buzzed about film in the back ground the same year as Annette's potential success staring Hilary Swank - believe me, I've been watching to see how the year would play out.

The best actress race is still very open, especially with no sure-fire stand out wins, but Conviction has opened in theaters this weekend in limited release (11 theaters) but the early reviews have been lack-luster suggesting that this might not be a Swank vs. Bening through down after all.

Early feel would suggest that for this upcoming year, Bening will be short listed for playing fictional spouse to Julianne Moore, while Swank will be left out of the running for her role as Betty Anne Waters in Conviction.

With a questionable list of contenders, I suppose Swank could still sneak in, but at this point, I feel like her name has been moved off the list much like it did last year with a lack-luster response to Amelia.

The same question looms for a possibility of a Bening win. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Where's Her Mother? The Sound of Music

My two year old little girl doesn't watch much TV, but my wife pulled out her VHS of Sound of Music a couple weeks ago and my little girl loves watching it.

Obviously, she doesn't really get the film, but is always excited for the songs and says "she singing, she singing."

The most confusing part of the film to her at this point is the fact that Julie Andrews' character Maria begins the film in the nunnery where Maria talks to the "reverand mother."

And so my daughter ask, "that her mommy? That her mommy?"

And of course, then she leaves her mom to go to the Van Trapp house, which brings on additional questions about her leaving her mom.

It's a pleasure to have the film playing in the background.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Why Short Stories Make Great Feature Length Films

The other day I mentioned why short form film and fiction make for an unpopular medium. The primary reason is that there is a speed bump to get over as the initial entry point of the work, the short form focuses on artistry above entertainment, and it's lack of general popularity creates minimal discussion around something that is highly discussion inducing.

At the same time, I think there is an interesting magic that occurs when a short story is made into a feature length film.

In fact, I would suggest that a film based on a short story is far more likely to be successful than a feature length film based on a novel.

I can usually quickly identify a feature length film that is based on a short story. In school I remember learning that a short story is a film with minimal characters (usually only one that is truly developed) minimal settings (usually only one), takes places in only one time (no major time change), and can be read in one sitting.

So when a screenwriter and director take a short story instead of being confined the tons of plot details and characters, instead they are given the freedom that comes with the shell of a story that they can then give texture too, as opposed to be bound by pages of descriptions, characters, and dialogue that readers will hold them to.

Additionally, because these short stories tend to be less popular, film makers can take some one else's wonderful story and make it there own with out readers guaging their adaptation up to the original work (how often do you hear "the movie wasn't as good as the book" the reason primarily being is the movie's feature format was forced to leave out moments readers found essential).

Here's some examples of short stories made into feature length films (old & new):
  • The Most Dangerous Game (1932) [based on "The Most Dangerous Game" by Richard Connell]

  • It Happened One Night (1934) [based on "It Happened One Night" by Samuel Hopkins Adams]

  • Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936) [based on "Opera Hat" by Clarence Budington Kellan]

  • All That Money Can Buy (1941) [based on the "The Devil and Daniel Webster" by Stephen Vincent Benét]

  • It's A Wonderful Life (1946) [based on "The Greatest Gift" by Phillip Van Doren Stern"]

  • All About Eve (1950) [based on "The Wisdom of Eve" by Mary Orr]

  • Roshomon (1950) [based on "Roshomon" and "In A Grove" by Ryûnosuke Akutagawa]

  • Rear Window (1954) [based on "It Had to Be Murder" by Cornell Woolrich]

  • Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1964) [based on "The Sobbin' Women" by Stephen Vincent Benét]

  • 3:10 to Yuma (1957) [based on "Three-Ten to Yuma" by Elmore Leonard]

  • The Fly (1958) [based on the "The Fly" by George Langelaan]

  • Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961) [based on "Breakfast at Tiffany's" by Truman Capote]

  • The Birds (1963) [based on "The Birds" by Daphne Du Maurier]

  • 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) [based on "The Sentinal" by Arthur C. Clarke]

  • The Man Who Would Be King (1975) [based on "The Man Who Would Be King" by Rudyard Kipling]

  • Memento (2000) [based on "Memento Mori" by Jonathan Nolan)

  • A.I. (2001) [based on "Supertoys Last All Summer Long" by Brian Aldiss]

  • In the Bedroom (2001) [based on "Killing" by Andre Dubas]

  • The Emperor's Club (2002) [based on "The Palace Theif" by Ethan Canin]

  • Minority Report (2002) [based on "The Minority Report" by Philip K. Dick]

  • The Million Dollar Baby (2004) [based on "Million $$$ Baby" by F.X. Toole]

  • Brokeback Mountain (2005) [based on "Brokeback Mountain" by Annie Proulx]

  • Away from Her (2006) [based on "The Bear Came Over the Mountain" by Alice Munro]

  • The Illusionist (2006) [based on "Eisenheim the Illusionist" by Steven Mullhauser

  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) [based on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald]

Friday, October 08, 2010

Why Short Is Not Popular

When people read books, it's usually a book of a couple hundred pages. Not short stories or poems.

When they watch a movie, they usually watch a feature length film. Not a festival short film.

When I was in college, I got an minor in English, mostly taking classes with short form writing (poetry, short stories, and poems) because the thought of reading a pile of novels in a single semester seemed unachievable, and it least if I didn't do the reading back in the dorms I could still contribute to class discussion by reading the poem or short story real quick.

And while I can only imagine how hard it is to get a novel published, the thought of getting a series of short stories published (a la, James Franco) or a poetry anthology seems increasingly challenging because the market for such genres seems so limited.

The short film seemed doomed to the same fate. The only time I really think of short films is during the Oscars and I think about how I don't care for the category.

And here's why I think Short form art is not popular:

If I'm reading a book or watching a movie. The primary reason is to be entertained. It may take a couple dozen pages or a few minutes into a film to get hooked, but if it's good - I'll be grabbed.

If it's a short story, I'll read, I'll enjoy, but when it's done, that initial push that gets me to read the next work in the anthology or collection is a speed bump I don't experience in the same way with chapters in fiction.

I believe this is the same with a short film as well.

Similarly, if you're reading poetry or engaging one of these short art forms, they usually take the opportunity of the short form to be artistic, shocking, or have the intentions of being conversation inducing.

This works great in a college class where you all read the same poem, you all discuss, and you all fall in love with the text. But in isolation, the thought of reading poetry by myself with no outlet for discussion sounds, well...uninspiring.

It's a pity. But I think the lack of communal investment in a medium that strives for art over entertainment makes short, well...not popular. And certainly not marketable.

Why news, journalism, and even TV shows are exceptions:

Where films, fiction, and poetry are typically mediums for art and entertainment. Journalism is about passing information. I can read an interesting news story or pick up a magazine and not feel the need to pass the information along to others. I can feel informed, and given the opportunity to pass the time.

In fact, in this medium, the idea of reading a long article in one of the prestige journals, sound dreadful, because I'm not that interested in most of the topics that might be covered.

TV is a little different. TV has found a way to be a huge brain-fry of entertainment. No need to discuss it. No need to get the motivation to watch's just there, playing whether I'm there or not. Sure some shows are artful, but generally TV has found a way to abandon art and focus on marketability and sustainable people watch it, even if it's in a 30-minute format.

Just some thoughts on short.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Franco's Short Story Collection & The Aspiring Author

The other day I posted an excerpt from James Franco's collection of short stories, Palo Alto, due out later this month.

In a way, I great is that for Franco. Instead of just expressing his creativity through films and TV, he is exploring and enhancing his own artistic abilities through attending classes at UCLA, working with established authors (like Mona Simpson), and exposing himself creatively through writing his own stories.

At the same time...inside I find myself critiquing this publication without having read it - perhaps that is why I initially simply posted an expert, allowing the work to speak for itself.

In fact, I like the excerpt that I posted because it speaks to the fact that in the creative process, when writers draw from "what they know" they may quickly find that there experience is rather limited.

I have felt that way before in trying to pen my own screenplays, novels, and short stories.

You hit a block when you realize your experience limits your ability to easily access terms, images, and realism you are longing for in your 18th century morality story that takes place in France or your tale about a detective in Seattle with a spinal condition. critic of James Franco's publication is not on the writing, for which I have not read, it is for the thousands of aspiring authors who dream of seeing their books in print and on shelves.

For Franco to do some college-level creative writing and get it published, be interviewed about his work, and be given all the opportunity authors aspire for based on his established-name (not the merit of his work) is part of the disheartening reality of public art.

Obviously, the same thing happens in all art. Actors, authors, painters, dancers who establish themselves initially off their connections not their work.

Hence Franco's work to me is a symbol of a book that is made at the cost of an unknown who's manuscript was disregarded. Not to mention, I can only imagine how many unpublished short stories are being written all the time without publication being that it is a lesser read genre of fiction.

This is a big year for Franco, with two prestige films, Howl and 127 Hours, and now a short story collection.
Pictured above: James Franco as poet Allen Ginsberg in the film Howl.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Meet James Franco, Author

"It got so boring, I stopped looking for splices. Instead, I drew pictures on computer paper that I pulled from the recycling bin. Jan was never around, so I drew a lot. I drew rainbows, and people, and cities, and guns, and people getting shot and bleeding, and people having sex. When I got tired I just drew doodles. I tried to draw portraits of people I knew. My family always looked ridiculous, but funny because the pictures resembled them, but not enough. Then I drew all these things from my childhood, like Hello Kitty and Rainbow Brite and My Little Pony. I drew my brother's G.I. Joes. I made the My Little Ponys kill the G.I. Joes.

I drew hundreds of pictures and they were all bad. I wasn't good at drawing. It was also a little sad to draw so much because I could see everything that was inside me. I had drawn everything I could think of. All that was inside me was a bunch of toys, and TV shows, and my family. My life was boring. I only had one kiss, and it was with my gay cousin, Jamie."

--From Palo Alto: Stories by James Franco (yes, James Franco, the actor). The book of short stories comes out October 19, 2010.

As read by Franco on his NPR interview with Terry Gross that aired today

Monday, October 04, 2010

Ben-Hur: Pretentious or Amazing?

My wife and I just finished watching Ben-Hur a week or so ago, and I am thankful that I've finally seen this film. Part of me wants to recommend it to the world if they have never seen it, because we found it quite enjoyable, but I think there is fear that our recommendation might be taken as pretentious and that some film viewers might find this hardly entertaining viewing.

With that in mind I present the pro-con list in the format of "Pretentious" and "Amazing."

Pretentious: Almost 4 hours long

Amazing: Such an epic film that it seems perfectly appropriate to watch as though it were a mini-series because every scene is entertaining independently.

Pretentious: Some scenes in this 1959 movie run far longer than modern films would have, and part of that relates to the wordy dialogue.

Amazing: This "wordy-dialogue" is pretty intriguing. The story that is set in the time of Jesus Christ's life warrants a rich a full dialogue. The power of many of the scenes and decisions made by the characters rest in the understanding (or teaching) of what it meant to be Jewish or Roman in this time in history. The film provides context in a wonderful way.

Pretentious: It's also long because the action scenes are center-stage and long.

Amazing: The "action oriented" scenes, namely those in the galley of the slave ship and the famous chariot race are so cinematic that it is no wonder that more than 50 years later these are some of the most famous scenes in film history. The chariot race is grand and deserves to be seen, and seen in the context of this film.

Pretentious: To place a story in the time of Christ and the use Jesus' birth and death as the end caps to your story.

Amazing: The opening scene with the birth of Christ has to be one of the greatest film versions of this ever. And I think it is amazing to tell this well known event through a cultural historic lens, mixed with the intrigue of action, romance, and epic story telling. Also, I love the fact that Jesus' character in this film does not speak, but instead we hear others interpreting and passing on what they have heard and how they relate to his teaching.

Pretentious: Some over-acted characters.

Amazing: For what at time's seems like stage acting, to not see Charlton Heston in this role is a tragedy.

I think you will see that I'm glad I sat down and took the time to watch this film and recommend to the patient and open film viewer.