I feel almost as if this were a cop-out review. I make no secret of the fact that I love The Princess Bride. It’s one of the funniest, sweetest, swash-bucklingiest, greatest modern fairy tales ever put to film, IMHO. Thankfully, I’m not alone in this opinion, as the movie continues to amuse and delight all age groups who see it. Simply put, it’s one of the most delightful films I own or I have ever seen. William Goldman, who both wrote the original novel and the screenplay for the movie, even stated that this is his favorite of all the things he has ever written. He loves the story so much that he was terrified of what might become of it in the hands of Hollywood.
Clearly, his worries ended up being totally and wondrously unfounded.
This entry isn’t about the original novel—although I do need to read that at some point. I own it. Of course, saying that I own a book doesn’t mean that I have read it, or will read it any time soon, for that matter. I own the unabridged version of Les Misérables as well. I bought it in 1992. It might be the longest-standing “un-read” book in my whole library.
Instead, this is about Cary Elwes’ memoir As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride. Elwes, who played Westley in the film, provides us with some of his recollections of filming this movie and of being around the cast and crew on what he concedes is the most important film he has ever done. I have to admit, no matter what I see him in, my first thought is, “Ooh, Westley is in a new movie!” It’s not a bad thing at all.
One of the lovely things about this book is that Elwes doesn’t make it all about him. Instead, he opens it up to allow others from the film to share their memories as well. Sidebars abound from director Rob Reiner, Goldman, Robin “Buttercup” Wright, Mandy “Inigo Montoya” Patinkin, Wallace “Vizzini” Shawn, Billy “Miracle Max” Crystal, Carol “Valerie” Kane, Christopher “Count Rugen” Guest, Chris “Prince Humperdinck” Sarandon…Elwes invited them all on board, making this a delightfully communal commemoration of what they all seem to believe was a wonderful experience and a wonderful film. Either they are all genuine or all great actors. I’d like to think it’s a little bit of both.
There’s not much else to say. If you loved this movie, then I highly recommend this book. It’s funny, sweet, kind, and entertaining. Kind of like the movie it discusses in such reverent ways.
Final Verdict: I would not be averse to adding this to my library. I also really need to read The Princess Bride.
I feel a bit guilty, as this is going to be the second negative book review in a row (although I promise it won’t be quite as negative as my last one). I feel even more guilty because of the fact that I usually enjoy Jeanette Winterson’s writings a lot. However, for some reason, The Daylight Gate was not the Winterson book I was looking for this time.
I think one of the things that became the largest hurdle for me with this book was the fact that it was a fictionalized account of a true historical atrocity. It deals with the Pendle witch trials, which occurred in the early 1600s in England during the reign of James I. You know, the king under whom the only approved Bible for good fundamentalist Christians came into being. Never mind that it wasn’t an actual translation of the original texts, but a poor translation of a poor translation that was even further whittled down by random editing to help fit the Bible into all the square pegs James I wanted fitted. James I, of course, being the king who believed during his reign that Scottish witches were plotting against him.
But, again, I digress.
The Pendle witch trials were horrific enough in their facts. Truly, you don’t need to fictionalize anything about the trials to get a terrifying account of what occurred. It started as a decree from King James a year into his reign that all justices of the peace in Lancashire should provide lists of all within their jurisdiction who refused to attend church and take communion. By the end, 10 people had been hanged. Seems fair enough, right?
I don’t know why, but something about adding fictional elements to real horrors, or conversely, injecting real atrocities into fictional horror (see every season of American Horror Story for examples of that) has always bothered me. I don’t like history being trivialized. Call it the Cameron Effect, I guess. However, certain historical horrors should never have to have fictional elements added to make them compelling or important to know. The Pendle witch trial apparently fits into this category for me.
Final Verdict: I still very much like Winterson, and I even believe that this book is crafted well enough that, if you don’t have the same odd hangups that I apparently have when it comes to history and historical fiction, then you might enjoy it. I, however, shall bide my time until my next Winterson fix.
Y’all know that Loba likes a little bit of wine, right? Je voudrais un verre du vin rouge. Know what I’m saying? So I was definitely intrigued when I found Kathryn Borel’s memoir Corked and saw that it was about a special trip that she planned with her French father to visit wineries throughout the south of France and try to absorb from him some of the wine wisdom he possessed thanks to his career as a hotel manager. They were going to visit all the premiere wine-making regions, such as Alsace, Burgundy, Languedoc…places that, even without her father there to guide her, would have been extraordinary to visit, to describe, to share with readers.
That would have been a great book to read.
This book was, hands down, one of the biggest wastes of time I’ve encountered in a very long time. I honestly wish that I hadn’t finished it, but I’m still deep down disgustingly optimistic, especially when it comes to books. I kept hoping that the book would stop being all about Borel airing dirty laundry, whether it be hers or her father’s. I wanted to read about his knowledge of wine. I wanted to read about wineries and beautiful settings and tastings and learning. I did not want to know about Borel’s life or her problems or her obsessions or anything about her at all, really. I wanted to learn about wine. All I learned was that some people should never be allowed to write. Borel is one of those people.
Final Verdict: The term “corked” actually means that the wine has gone bad because of a cork failure, thus making the wine undrinkable. Once a wine is corked, all you can do is dump it. This memoir is most definitely corked.
Honestly, anyone who has ever experienced the exquisite joy of owning a dog already knows inherently what this book tries to tell us empirically: Dogs are far more complicated and intelligent than we ever anticipate them being.
I write “tries to tell us” not because I thought Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods failed in any capacity with their book The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs are Smarter Than You Think. Instead, I think that it’s both an oversimplification to state something so obvious, but also that we are still great lengths away from understanding the depths of these creature’s intellect in any holistic capacity. While this book does take us deeper down the rabbit hole than most, I think the truth is that most people overlook the intellectual capacity of “man’s best friend” because we aren’t looking to them to be furry Einsteins. We want them to wag their tails, woof amiably, lick our faces, and generally just make us smile.
However, it takes a degree of intellectual and emotional depth to comprehend what is expected of them and to deliver in such compelling and completing ways. They come to know us in ways that we don’t quite know ourselves, and how they do it is one of the sweetest, most comforting mysteries of this universe. It’s something we might never fully understand, simply because how could they ever possibly explain it to us? However, this book provides some insights into the observable mental complexities of our canine companions. Again, though, it’s a fine line to walk between fact and supposition when contemplating certain elements of intellect in an animal that can neither confirm nor deny our assumptions. Yes, some things can been empirically proven. The things I want to know? Those are the beautiful mysteries that dogs keep to themselves.
Final Verdict: Interesting book, but not one I feel compelled to add to my library at the moment.
What to do on a cold, rainy Saturday? Read a little, drink a little coffee (or a lot of coffee), work out while watching part of a documentary on Harlan Ellison, and then write some book reviews. Finally. Why? What do you do on a cold, rainy Saturday?
I read John Scalzi’s Redshirts back in January of this year, yet it has stuck with me as one of those delightful surprises that I need to add to my sci-fi collection at some point in the future (look at that, already giving you the final verdict).
First off, if you are not a fan of the original Star Trek series, then the term “Redshirt” might not mean anything to you (of course, with the proliferation of geekery in the mainstream pop culture lexicon now, it’s kind of hard not to know the term, but I digress as usual). Quick summation: The term refers to the fact that the unknown, usually unnamed extra thrown into the landing party with Kirk, Spock, and McCoy always wore the security officer’s tunic, which was red on the original show (it later changed to gold on TNG, but the term remained). That officer rarely made it back to the ship, thus equating the red tunic with the survival short straw on any away mission. Because, really, did you think one of the Trek Triumvirate was going to bite it on that planet, Ensign Ricky?
Therefore, naming your novel after the unluckiest crew members of the original Enterprise guarantees you geek points right out of the gate. Of course, I instantly thought that it was going to be a Galaxy Quest-esque parody full of yucks and insider haha moments penned specifically to appeal to thoroughbred nerds.
I was not expecting it to take a wonderfully surprising sharp turn that would steer us all, character and reader alike, into a fantastical meta mixing of fantasy and reality that never once felt anything less than sincere to me as I went along willingly and happily for the ride.
Scalzi takes something so well-known among genre fans and twists it by giving it far more plausibility than the original show could ever afford it (why did the Redshirts always die on the original show? Because they weren’t Shatner, Nimoy, or Kelley…now stop asking stupid questions!) Instead, Scalzi takes the question seriously, examines it from more than the patently obvious answer, and provides a patently wonderful alternative response.
I could say more, but I don’t want to spoil this for anyone. It’s fun, it’s funny, it’s intriguing, and it’s far more than the parody I was expecting. It’s still whimsical and at times flat-out ridiculous, but Scalzi sells it in such a way that you willingly buy even the weirdest of the story’s elements.
Final Verdict: Seriously, were you not paying attention? I already told you, I’m adding the book to my collection…and you should add it to your reading list. If you love science fiction and Star Trek, then you, too, may love this book.
Visitors to the lair know that when I’m devoted to a show, I’m in it to win it until the very end. I’ll even follow you into continued “seasons” in book form if I’m really into you (which reminds me: I need to finish the “eighth season” of Deep Space Nine before I completely forget the firstthreebooks from the run). It’s no surprise, then, that I have continued to watch the original CSI: Crime Scene Investigation through every bump and dip the show has seen in recent years. And, even though I confess to no surprise from the announcement earlier this year that CBS had cancelled the series after 15 years, I still felt a pang of loss. This show has meant a great deal to me for myriad reasons—so much so that, even though it had become only a sliver of its former self, I mourned the inevitable loss of the comfort I took from its familiar presence in my life.
It was, therefore, with no small amount of sadness that I tuned in this past Sunday to watch the final 2-hour movie that CBS green-lit to wrap up story lines and give fans one final Vegas hurrah. The final movie was, indeed, written almost exclusively for those of us who had watched the show with any sense of religious devotion. It was all about the characters, as it had become within recent years (much to my dismay, TBH). They brought back numerous characters, including Detective Jim Brass, “fan favorite” Lady Heather (who I found entertaining at first, but then quickly found irritating), and one-time show stars Gil Grissom and Catherine Willows.
Clearly, from the title of this post, I’d like to focus primarily on Catherine Willows as well as, more generally, how CSI ultimately failed many of its female characters as well as its female fans. I charge that its biggest failure in this regard, however, was to Ms. Willows.
When the series began in 2000, Marg Helgenberger and William Peterson clearly were marketed as the stars—sort of the Scully and Mulder of the forensic world, with the sassy headstrong redhead and the nerdy-hot socially awkward loner. As the series got its footing, it became more and more clear that, while Grissom was the technical leader of the team (read: He was the one making the bucks and getting all the attention), Catherine was the engine that made the operation run. However, there was a far less progressive message being conveyed in the depiction of Catherine’s “behind the scenes” role. She wasn’t in charge, but everyone on the team, including Grissom, depended on her to keep everything on track—paperwork completed, assignments passed out, reviews given, etc. In essence, in addition to being a high-ranking and capable CSI, Catherine Willows was Gil Grissom’s administrative assistant, taking care of all the clerical duties that Grissom felt were not what he should be focusing on.
This is not to say that there is anything wrong with anyone who performs clerical tasks. There isn’t even anything wrong with setting up a scenario in which Grissom is completely inept at such tasks and Willows steps in to provide him the support he needed to keep the team on-track. What was wrong, however, was the turn of events that started at the beginning of Season 5, when the lab director decided to split up the grave shift, setting up Catherine as the new swing-shift supervisor in charge of Nick and Warrick. With Willows and Grissom separated, Grissom continued on as he always did, and no attention was paid any longer to his clerical ineptitude. He was simply the grave-shift supervisor. Period.
However, almost from the start, TPTB wrote Catherine Willows as unable to perform her supervisory duties with any degree of aptitude. She bungled cases, her team (two people previously under her supervision on the grave shift and previously possessed of respect for her skills and supervision) disagreed with her constantly, and the generally accepted presentation to viewers was that she was not suitable as the swing-shift supervisor. This was disappointing, of course, but also problematic. When the team was together, it was very clear that Grissom cared far more for cases, evidence, and investigations than in his supervisory duties. Catherine was the one who took care of all that, and Grissom trusted her implicitly. Plus, he trusted her implicitly as a CSI, often deferring to her as the next senior-ranking investigator on the grave shift. Nick and Warrick respected her as well while they were all on the same team. Splitting her away and making her their actual supervisor should not have changed any of what had already been established—should it? And yet, it did. The implication, of course, was that Catherine Willows could only be successful if she was supported by Grissom, who actually gave her no support at all. But clearly, she couldn’t handle all the things she used to handle without someone there to give her no help at all!
It was no surprise, then, that the next season brought them all back together as one team, Catherine once more serving as second to Grissom. Now, I get that this “breaking up the team” story arc was just a one-season ploy to begin with—something to stir up some controversy, shake the dust of familiarity off everything, and whatnot. What was frustrating was the fact that the ploy had to come at the expense of showing a previously capable member of the team fail so dramatically that no one even questioned her unspoken demotion at the beginning of the sixth season. Or at the beginning of the 12th season…but we’ll get to that in a minute.
I’ve already gone off on a tangent about how CSI treated its female characters. And while some of my thoughts from that post have evolved with time, they’re still pretty on-target. However, what I point to from that post is the fact that Jorja Fox and Marg Helgenberger were the ones to call for a truce between their characters. They saw the value of ceasing and desisting with the continuation of discord between Willows and Sidle. It’s just one of the many reasons that I admire both of them. Of course, the writers’ solution? Stop having Willows and Sidle interact. Instead of climbing out of their clear comfort zone of supporting the notion that women cannot work together in the same collegial way that male characters often do and writing Willows and Sidle into two representatives of a new idea…a fantastic idea…the amazing notion that women can work together without sinking teeth into each other, figuratively or literally…they just gave up on having the women interact at all unless they had to. And usually? It was to spark some kind of fight between them that required male intervention to solve.
Again, all part of the process of pushing stories forward, but it’s trite. It’s demeaning. And it reflects the perpetuation of a misconception that deserves to DIAF. Women work together all the time without fanging each other or deceiving each other or betraying each other or just in general hating each other, “because women.” I do it every day. Even better, my female coworkers and I can pass the Bechdel test with almost every single conversation we have—something that, even by the last episode of a 337-episode run, Willows and Sidle failed almost completely.
But I digress. This is about CSI Willows. Fast-forward from the sixth season demotion to William Peterson’s departure in the middle of the ninth season and Catherine Willows’s subsequent promotion-by-default to head of the grave shift. Again, a shift she’s been helping to run for many years, supervising people she’s worked with for years—she’s got this. Right? And yet, at the beginning of Season 10…the beginning of Season 10, when Catherine Willows has barely been in charge for half a season, we learn that one of her staff has left after filing charges against Willows, for what? Incompetent management.
Again, the writers needed to cover the fact that an actress they’d cast the previous season either left or they let go because the character wasn’t working, but notice how this is the second time they’ve made Catherine Willows incompetent to fix the flow of the story? Sara even tells Catherine, in one of those delightful yet sadly rare moments when these two characters interacted amicably, that she’s a great CSI and that “the only thing that Grissom had that you don’t, is you.” (P.S., this was yet another instance in which Sara and Catherine also failed the Bechdel test, because apparently the only way these two could see eye-to-eye was if they first discussed Sara’s relationship with Grissom…but we’ll get to that in a moment as well).
[Loba Tangent: By the way, this could have been an incredible moment in which the writers decided to make Sara Sidle the second-in-charge to Catherine Willows, thereby having two women in supervisory roles. Can you imagine? Instead, they had Catherine make Nick Stokes her second-in-command. Look at there: Catherine Willows, supported yet again by a man. Surely, she’ll be successful this time!]
So was Sara lying? Or was it simply the fact that the writers at some point decided that the best way to fix major story changes was simply to make Catherine Willows the default incompetent scapegoat? Don’t believe me? Head on over to the beginning of Season 12. Laurence Fishburne had decided that serial television was not to his liking so he departed, to be replaced by Ted Danson. Arriving as D.B. Russell, Danson’s character quickly was established as, what? The grave-shift supervisor. Apparently, being He Who Was Sam Malone trumps the status of the woman who has been on the series since the beginning, and once again Catherine Willows becomes too incompetent to lead.
What’s even worse is that this time her incompetence stems partly from her emotional response to actions that took place at the end of the previous season—actions that a few of the male characters were complicit in carrying out for equally emotional reasons. But it was Catherine Willows who fell and served in demoted silence for all of one season before Helgenberger finally called it quits and left the realm. At least they replaced her with another woman when they brought Elisabeth Shue on as CSI Julie Finlay. Strangely enough, Shue didn’t get to become the head of the team. You’d think that being an Oscar-nominated film star would trump being Sam Malone. Guess not.
Jump, jump, jump ahead to the end. Catherine Willows returns in her new capacity as a field agent for the FBI’s Los Angeles office. Incompetent as a state employee? Don’t worry. The federal government has got you covered, bae!
Seriously, though. By the time Helgenberger left the show, the writers had written the character of Catherine Willows as someone whose personnel file was so riddled with problems that she should have been shipped back to the strip club where she started. And yet, they felt it was appropriate to send her off to the FBI? Forreals?
So Willows comes back to help during a time when Sara Sidle, by dint of reason that she’s literally the last remaining original CSI left (even though she didn’t appear until the second episode), oh and the show is ending, is up for consideration as the director of the crime lab. WHO’S THE BIG DAWG? Winning by default is still winning, AMIRITE?
Never mind that she’s up for a job that we will never get to see her actually work. No, scratch that. That’s one of the things that really pissed me off about seeing Sara Sidle up for this huge promotion. Pardon my language, but big fucking deal. Why didn’t the writers consider her for the promotion when they decided to demote Willows a third time? You want to give these women reason to fight? There would have been your reason. You know, because women never support each other in the workplace. Instead, she’s not up for any kind of promotion until the last episode. A promotion that she gets (spoilers) and then just as quickly gives up (spoilerz) because love interest is love interest and nothing more. Sara Sidle was always meant to be, first and foremost, Gil Grissom’s love interest. All that time that Sara Sidle was on the show after Grissom left? Well, none of that counted. All those cases she worked and victims she helped and suspects she put away. Meaningless. Everything about her was meaningless until Grissom could return and woo her away once more.
So who became the director after Sara rode off into the sunset with her Prince Charming (literally, spoilers)? The intimation was…it was Catherine Willows. Third time’s the charm? Again, though, big fucking deal. Not only do we not get to see Director Catherine Willows, we don’t even get to see her take the role. It was far more important to see Sara Sidle give up everything to fulfill her ultimate destiny as “Gil Grissom’s love interest.”
Wow. That’s a lot more than I anticipated writing. And yet I barely scratched the surface. Not to say that the show didn’t have great female characters. It honestly had many wonderful female characters come and go through the years. For instance, Julie Finlay was a fascinating character—you know, up until the point where they had her beat into a coma by a serial killer, stuffed into a trunk, and then confirmed as dead in the last 10 minutes of the final episode.
Why does any of this matter? After all, it’s just a show. Just a show that not only ran for 15 years but inspired the creation of at least a dozen knockoffs, including three spinoffs. A show that helped change the course of television in highly influential ways. And yet, when TV Guide dedicated a cover to Helgenberger and Fox? This was the photo they felt was most appropriate:
Nothing like women on their knees, eh?
Oh, and if you’d like to dress like a CSI for Halloween? Better just put your own costume together, because this is what you’re going to find in the stores:
Positive representation matters. If you think it doesn’t, then you probably are lucky to belong to a group that has never had to worry about any kind of representation, either in the media or in reality. To everyone else, it’s a big deal. CSI made a huge impact in many positive ways, but it also missed the opportunity to make the same kind of impact on how women are depicted in popular culture. They could have taken the character of Catherine Willows and made her an example of a woman who brought herself up from a life she no longer wanted to lead to a life that could have inspired. Instead, she was Catherine Willows, forever destined to make poor professional and personal choices and never ever ever learn from any of them. She—and we—deserved better.
There’s still hope, even in this particular franchise. Patricia Arquette is the lead in CSI: Cyber, which returns this upcoming Sunday. Of course, Ted Danson is shifting over to that show now that the Vegas crew has investigated their last crime. So help me, if he somehow ends up bumping Arquette to second-banana, hell will truly have no fury like Loba unchained.
Talk about much ado about nothing. I relaunch the blog after so much time and effort to rebuild my online lair and then…nothing. Pfft. Fizzle. A couple of Flashback Fridays, some book reviews, some PhotoShop trickery…but no meat. Just sides.
I want more. Truth is, though, that I feel sometimes like there are so many variables against “more.” My job has evolved into something far more consistently all-consuming than before, which means that by the end of the day, there’s not much intellectual energy left. I mean, come on now, I’m practically running on fumes all the time anyway…now, I’ve reached the point where by the end of the day, I simply can’t brain anymore.
Please don’t make me brain anymore.
Seriously, though, I work out my focus all day long, trying to keep multiple projects on track, on time, on budget, on fleek. I come home and I got nothin’ left. The jam jar is empty and all that’s left is the dried-out jam crust around the lid. No one wants that.
The other problem (beyond my tendency to make really disgusting analogies) is that I’ve lost my indignant fire. In my Angry BloggerTM Days, I had no dearth of anger for fueling myriad rants. I’m old now, and I see the futility of ranting. Not to say that I don’t still go on rants…but they’re usually about things meant to incite wrath from the geek community. I’m really good at that.
Ranting about things that matter IRL though? Ranting just deepens the divide. I’m more into (or I’m more into trying to be more into) seeking solutions. Trying to find the problem and fix it. Trying to find answers to questions that I’m quite frankly tired of asking and tired of watching everyone in charge ignore simply because the answers aren’t…simple.
The problem is that this path isn’t easily packaged into a navel-gazing blog blurb. And this path shouldn’t be easily packaged or reduced or simplified. It’s a path of thorns and brambles. A path abandoned for too long because choosing this path requires serious work, and who wants to do that? It’s way more fun to keep ignoring this path and taking the easier one that solves nothing but lets us all be utter cockwombles from the anonymous comfort of our Internet-trolling couches.
[Loba Tangent: In other news, my British friends have taught me the word cockwomble, and I now try to fit it in whenever I can. Because cockwomble.]
So that’s where I’m at. I’m still here, pacing the lair, trying to figure it all out. I’m still writing blog posts. I’ve got a couple saved as drafts (which I couldn’t do before I repaired things, so progress!!). If it makes you all feel any better, I’m not just ignoring the lair. I haven’t even really been reading all that much lately either. Again, jam crust.
And just so I don’t leave you all with that disgusting image in your head, have this. Uzo Aduba is one of my new favorite people in the entirety of the universe. If you don’t know why, then get thee to a Netflix account and stream the hell out of Orange is the New Black. Hers is one of the most captivating characters from what is one of the most delightfully diverse, female-centric shows ever (a shame, though, that we can only get diversity behind bars).
If you’re lucky enough (or unlucky, depending on how you look at it) to follow me other places online, you have already seen an iteration of this image. I’ve tweaked it little by little every day since that original posting. I think I’m finally pleased with the end result. You know me, though. I’m sure I’ll probably swing back around and replace this image a few times. Not that I’ve ever done that here with any of my other Photo Fun Friday posts.
To be honest, I’m actually more excited by the fact that Aaron Sorkin has been tapped to write the screenplay. I like Cate Blanchett, but I might be the only person on the planet who was not impressed by her attempt at Katharine Hepburn. However, I thought her portrayal of Veronica Guerin was exceptional (far more Oscar-worthy than her Hepburn performance), so she’s 1 and 1 with me for her portrayals of real people.
And now that I’ve dropped that bit of cinematic sacrilege on you all, here is my latest mistresspiece. Ha. What I did there. I see it.
Quick rundown there is that Ralph Steadman is a brilliant satirical cartoonist from the British realm who teamed with Thompson to illustrate many of the gonzo journalist’s pieces during his most (in)famous writing period. Steadman’s art is deliciously idiosyncratic and instantaneously recognizable. For full disclosure, I first fell in love with his artwork not through Thompson but by the fact that Steadman designs all the label art for one of my favorite breweries, Flying Dog.
Somehow, I believe that both Thompson and Steadman would find this alcoholically appropriate.
Anyway, Johnny Depp, who played Thompson in the movie version of this book, did the documentary on Steadman. I watched it, loved it, couldn’t remember why I hated the movie, rented it, remembered why I hated the movie, and then decided to read the book.
I actually found it very difficult to put down the book. I also found it very difficult not to purchase my own copy before I had even finished the copy I borrowed from the library.
Whereas the movie is simply too much of a sensory overload, IMHO, the book was a compelling guidebook to Thompson’s “gonzo” journalistic experiments. His narcissistic desire to not just write about the events transpiring (as a good journalist should do) but to become the main story (as a good narcissist should do) shines in full intoxicated glory with this book. I was equal parts intrigued and horrified as to how his injection into said events would play out…not to mention appalled and slightly in awe of how the man continued to function in any sort of fashion without completely, pardon the slang, losing his shit from all the alcohol and drugs he consumed.
And while I don’t necessarily think that his alteration of reporting to include the reporter ultimately had a positive impact on the field, I must admit that I found his regaling to be almost hypnotic. Needless to say, during my last visit to San Francisco, I picked up a copy of this for my collection from City Lights (best bookstore EVAR). I’ve also added several more of Thompson’s books to my list to find at the library. We’ll see if I ever follow up there.
Final Verdict: I bought the book. Enough said.
I don’t really have all that much to say about Lori Rader-Day’s The Black Hour. I didn’t really find it all that compelling a read. Neither did I find the characters all that compelling. There were intriguing ideas—for example, the overarching question of what happens when a professor who specializes in the sociology of violence becomes a victim of what she previously only considered through the lens of academic abstraction? And what happens when not even she can provide the answer of “why” when a student chooses to shoot her, as he also shot and killed himself right after?
I wish the answers had been a bit more interesting, or that I had found the characters more compelling. They ended up being mostly flat and predictable. A couple were compelling enough that I would have probably found the book more satisfying if it had focused on them. But it didn’t.
Final Verdict: Kind of obvious, isn’t it?
Grady Hendrix’s Horrorstör: A Novel, however, was a wondrous delight from start to finish. Don’t expect Dostoyevsky. But do expect a grotesque, bizarre, and entertaining new riff on the “haunting” horror trope. Also, expect a silly but clever spoofing of IKEA catalogs with this book’s design, including chapter introductions that feature IKEA-like furniture…and then torture devices based on said IKEA-like furniture, to go along with the story that transpires within the showroom of a furniture store known as ORSK, which is honestly not trying to be like IKEA at all. Honestly.
Final Verdict: I’m definitely adding this one to my library, as I not only can envision revisiting the story but also just flipping through it for the humorous IKEA spoofing.
She’s a reluctant dog owner. She ends up with a dog. Come on, you know where I’m heading with this denizens. Hilarity. It’s coming like winter to Westeros. Or wherever the hell it’s supposed to come. I don’t know. I don’t watch Game of Thrones. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
What the hell was I saying? Oh, yeah. Dog book. Emily Yoffe. Funny. Dog. Vignettes. Laughing. Ha.
Seriously, though, it’s a cute beach read for anyone who loves dogs or doesn’t love dogs but ended up with their own dog and now they kind of sort of do love dogs now. Even when they do bad things. Which they do. Often. Check the title of this book, FFS.
Final Verdict: Cute but not something I would revisit.
Anyone who follows me on Google+ (yeah, I meant Google+…what’s it to you?) knows that I recently went on a massive John Waters viewing kick, where I watched every single one of his movies that I could rent through Netflix. One of the major drives behind that decision was reading his latest book Carsick and being reminded how nauseatingly brilliant he is.
For anyone who is curious, I pretty much came to the same conclusion after watching his films, many of which I’d already seen but hadn’t revisited in many years.
For this book, Waters decides to see what it would be like to hitchhike from his home in Baltimore to his home in San Francisco. Yes, John Waters literally hitched rides across the country for a book. And it was divine.
Sorry. I couldn’t resist that.
Anyway, he breaks down the book into three parts: How he envisions the trip as a perfect experiment; how he envisions it as a hellish nightmare; and how it actually happens. Each section holds its own meritorious place in the narrative. My favorite, of course, was Waters’s take on how terribly the experiment could have gone. No one does chaos quite like John.
Final Verdict: I don’t know if I would own this book, but it did make me want to read more of what he’s written. I’d kind of fallen out of connection with our hometown hero for a while and didn’t realize that he had shifted almost completely to the written word. I’ve got some catching up to do, apparently.
And here is the most embarrassing moment of this post, in which I confess that I remember absolutely nothing about this book other than that I checked it out of the library, I read it, I vaguely remember enjoying it…but I cannot tell you one thing about any of the short stories in Antonya Nelson’s Funny Once: Stories.
Sorry. I’m serious. I can’t remember anything about this book. Even after reading the description and some of the reviews on Amazon, I got nothing for you on this one.
Final Verdict: Um. Maybe I should check it out again and try to refresh my memory?
And I’m spent. Totally worth the 3-month wait, though, right? Totally.
I thought about doing this on the original 1984 movie, but I wanted to shake things up a bit and go instead with the movie that continued to show Wes Craven as an innovator of the horror genre as well as helped lay the groundwork for the franchise that would once again place his name at the top of the horror movie game. And so it goes with Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.
Released in October 1994, New Nightmare marked Craven’s return to the franchise that he unwittingly launched 10 years earlier. Craven’s original intention was to make a one-off film. He never intended that first movie to receive sequels. In fact, the movie’s original ending was far less ambiguous than the one that producer Bob Shaye insisted be tacked on at the last minute. Just like any money-hungry producer, Shaye saw the potential of this film to spawn the one thing that producers crave: a franchise (isn’t that right, Spielberg? Could have had a great horror ending to Paranormal Activity, but, no, you had to ruin it with a franchise-friendly ending…just like you ruin most movies you have anything to do with).
Fast-forward through the first sequel, with which Craven had nothing to do and which kind of hangs in this weird homoerotic netherworld among the rest of the franchise as not quite belonging but still being kind of awesome in its own weird right, and Shaye and New Line invite Craven back to pen the third movie (they had actually wanted him back to direct as well but he was still working on Deadly Friend). However, again, Craven doesn’t want Freddy to become a series. His original script for Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors was far more disturbing, dark, and demented than what Shaye finally greenlit. Craven returned as a way to try to take back control of his creation, to take Freddy to those darker places that he always thought Freddy should inhabit. Craven’s original Fred Krueger wasn’t just a child killer; he was a molester. He was so horrific in death because he was horrific in life. Craven’s original Fred Krueger was not in any way meant to be a hero of any kind. Shaye, however, wanted the camp, the lovable child murderer who smacks you down with zingers before gutting you in a haha gotcha kind of way that makes fans love him so. Guess who finally got their way? Craven’s Freddy was shelved…until he returned once more to the franchise to reclaim his monster and ultimately save him from what he had never wanted Freddy to become.
All that being said, was it such a terrible thing that Craven’s original creation became the franchise he became? I’m sure no one whose bank accounts grew from the series ever complained. And as I mentioned in my post yesterday, I discovered Freddy Krueger through one of those haha sequels. I had no idea how gruesome Krueger originally was. Also, because I first discovered him through the campier side of the character, I do hold a special place in my heart for that iteration. But from a more pure horror perspective, I think that Craven’s original monster is, by far, superior. But what about the new Krueger that Craven unleashed in 1994? Not only was this Krueger more in line with that original depraved character, but he also looked more in line with Craven’s original visual concept. Nothing but sinews and organic claws and hideous deformity.
I know that Craven would later state that he regretted changing Freddy Krueger’s look for New Nightmare. I actually think that it was necessary to make this change for this particular story. Remember, we see the “original” Freddy—the version portrayed oh so many times by Robert Englund and the version that die-hard fans had come to have such a gloriously Pavlovian response to—early in the film. This was “Freddy.” This was the fantasy that fans made real through their devotion to the character and the actor portraying him. It was integral to the story, therefore, to somehow differentiate this Freddy from the darker, more elemental Freddy. This Freddy did not deal in witty bon mots and scenery chewing. This Freddy sprang from the most primal, most basic, most genetically programmed vein of fear within us all.
He had to look different. He was not who any of us had known before this movie. I always felt as though this was one of the concepts that Craven was trying to convey through this film—that Freddy Krueger had become far more than even his creator ever dreamed he would become. He lurked in the shadows of his fictional self, feeding upon the fear released by those films, biding his time until the lines between worlds could blur and recede and he could finally step forward at the franchise’s end to claim his rightful place and begin anew as king of infinite space and unceasing nightmares.
For this reason, it was imperative for Craven to convince Heather Langenkamp to return. Her Nancy was the character who both gave that original Krueger life and then snatched it back (one of the main reasons I chose Nancy as a bad-ass Lady of May-hem). Without Nancy, there would have been no Krueger. His focus on her, I believe, stemmed from his understanding that she was ultimately the only one who could take away his power and his life. Not even Craven could do that, because Craven granted this gift to Nancy in the first film. It’s why Craven tells Langenkamp in the film that stopping this nightmarish Krueger pretty much depended upon her willingness to be Nancy one more time.
Sounds deliciously meta, doesn’t it? While I’m sure that this metafictional approach to what had become a watered-down slash-o-rama was neither what franchise fans were hoping for nor what the horror genre at the time was looking to embrace, it planted the seed that, 2 years later would be ripe for the picking, in part by the man who planted it in the first place.
Again, while Craven didn’t write the script to Scream, the power of his directorial influence cannot be denied. Neither can the influence of his metafictional approach to his heretofore most famous contribution to the genre. Kevin Williamson’s own metafictional script this time blurs the lines of fantasy and reality on the viewer’s level rather than the creators’ level. He demolishes the protection granted by the fourth wall and subsequently drops us all into the path of a monster we can understand because “we” are creating him. After all, “movies don’t make psychos. Movies make psychos more creative!”
That level of self-referential awareness is part of what makes Scream work so well. We are lulled in by the familiarity of what we think we understand, only to have the floor summarily drop out from beneath us. Nothing is as how it should be in the town of Woodsboro, just as nothing was as it should have been in the Hollywood horror machine of Craven’s New Nightmare. Craven thrived upon facing the ugliest fears within ourselves and by facing them, defeating them. His was the Litany Against Fear, embraced myriad times in myriad ways by characters who helped sculpt and ultimately save us from our worst nightmares:
I will not fear.
Fear is the mind killer.
Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone, there will be nothing. Only I will remain.