Musings, Ravings, and Rantings

In nova fert animus.   Ovid, Metamorphoses.

Noir City DC 2016—Art of Darkness III

Now, we come to the end, to the bad, to the unredeemable. There’s no getting around the fact that these films are flops. Some weren’t then, but definitely are now. Others were unmitigated disasters. But as John Floyd once wrote, reading—watching—the bad teaches you want doesn’t work and inspires you to do better. I may never make a movie, but I’d like to think I create better characters and stories than these pictures.

Noir City DC 2016—Art of Darkness II

In my favorite joke from an absolutely terrible comedy, St. Peter says to a newly arrived soul—“You’re not good enough to go to Heaven, but you’re not bad enough to go to Hell. If you were music, you’d be Barry Manilow.” No, I”m not keen on Barry Manilow, but he does have a few good songs. His voice is not remarkable, and most of his songs are forgettable. That’s what makes writing about anything in the middle of the pack tough. …

Noir City DC 2016—The Art of Darkness I

I love the noir film festival Eddie Muller brings to DC every year. This year, Art of Darkness, was distinctly uneven. Of the 15 films I saw in less than two weeks, there was a clear pattern of good, middling, and bad. I’ll take each one as a separate blog. Today’s installment covered the ones I liked the best.

The Best—

IN A LONELY PLACE is s brilliant movie. It’s better than the novel by Dorothy Hughes, tho’ they are very different creatures and the novel’s very style gets to the heart of the dissociative mind. …

2016—The Year in Review

In fine, it was a bowl of mixed nuts. 

But as the Daily Dharma for today points out—there’s no need to be afraid of having faults because knowing we have them can help us to improve. It means embrace and learn from them. So what’s the fault here? Mostly wasting time.

On the upside, the grant writing classes from 2015 paid off. I received the 2016 William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic Grant for Unpublished Writers. …

The Music of Game of Thrones

The Emmys are over, and GAME OF THRONES won a few. Best score wasn’t one of them. Why? It isn’t because Ramin Djawadi isn’t a great composer. He is. Fundamentally, he didn’t nominate himself. (see www.WinterIsComing.net “Why Game of Thrones’ Composer Isn’t Nominated for an Emmy) Pity that the fans can’t do it--then vote. He would win in a landslide.

Music is enormously important to movies or TV. Think about it. …

Great UnExpectations

(Warning:  If you haven’t seen Season 6 of GoT, please don’t read the following. The night really is dark and totally full of spoilers.)

I have to say I loved Season Six. Many things happened that I wanted to see happen. Everybody I wanted to live--surprise, surprise--actually did. Ser Kevan Lannister was the sole exception, but I didn’t have high hopes for him. Many of those I wanted dead died spectacularly. …

Valar Morghulis

Yes, all men must die. Some need to do it right bloody now. Of course, the way Season 6 is blasting people to the Seven Hells--if they exist--I may be running to catch up. The ones I really want dead form a short list. Longer than Arya’s, but still short. In order from least to absolute worst--Ellaria Sand and the Sand Snakes, Cersei and Jamie Lannister, the High Sparrow, Ramsay Bolton, Lord Walder Frey, and Lord Petyr Baelish.

Loyalty

Tywin Lannister asked his cupbearer, a girl he didn’t know was Ayra Stark, what killed her stonemason father. She answered succinctly and with finality, “Loyalty.” Tywin understood, calling her a sharp little thing. We the fans understand, too--loyalty is a cause and a manner of death in GAME OF THRONES.

The following is my list of characters whom I desperately wish to survive, but I have no illusions they shall. …

GoT—Wish List

In honor of the opening of the new season of GAME OF THRONES, I’m initiating a series of blogs. They aren’t prognostications. Picking the Superbowl or World Series winner at the beginning of the season will be easier than picking who’s living and dying in this show. I wish certain characters to survive, not merely season six, but the whole, bloody show.

It’s a short list. 

Of the major characters--meaning POV characters--there are only five. …

La Bête Humaine

Rarely do I tell people to watch the movie in preference to reading the book. However, that’s what I’m going to tell you. Jean Renoir in LA BÊTE HUMAINE (1938) and Fritz Lang in HUMAIN DESIRE (1954) both made better movies out of Émile Zola’s hot mess of a novel. Both directors possessed very different sensibilities and took very different interpretations of their source material. In the end, they managed to focus on the human heart of the story without getting sidetracked like Zola.

Duds of 2015—DC Noir

My favorite film festival is DC Noir, held at the AFI Silver Theater in Silver Spring, Maryland. Seeing stuff on the big screen is always good. We see it as it was meant to be seen. It’s more immersive. The eye catches more, especially small details that can go unnoticed or unseen on the TV screen. In THE MALTESE FALCON, one of my all time favorites that I recently saw on the big screen, Caspar Gutman’s hand clasp on Sam Spade’s thigh becomes much creepier when we see where the fingers fall--the inner thigh. …

Duds of 2015—TCM’s “Summer of Darkness”

Yes, I love le film noir. No, I don’t believe all noir films are good. Some are downright awful, for a variety of reasons—silly, unbelievable plots full of holes or plots too reliant on coincidence, insufficient characterization, weak endings, wooden acting, and any combination of the aforementioned. There’s also a special kind of noir dud, at least for me--the overt social problem/criticism flick. …

Duds of 2015—Mysteries

I’ve done a blog on duds before, several years ago. This year, I’m thinking specifically of failed ordinance. Stuff that didn’t explode as it should’ve done. It’s a great metaphor for books and movies that didn’t work for me in some fashion. The question then becomes why not. 

All reviews are terribly subjective essays. They always say more about the reviewer than the author. These blurbs are far less reviews than they are explorations of what didn’t work for me and what I learned about myself as a reader and as a writer.

A Year for Fantasy

This year has been one for the books--the fantasy books. I’ve always been more of an SF reader. After all, I took one college class solely because my friends were taking it; it was Science Fiction as a literary genre. In that class I discovered Octavia Butler, one of my all-time favorite authors. I read both soft and hard SF, with a slight preference for hard.

So what the hell happened? Why and where did elves and jinni and golems and seons and Lady Heirs and red priestesses become more interesting? 

Noir City DC 2015

Eddie Muller, the Czar of Noir and President of the Film Noir Foundation, was on hand for the first weekend of the Noir City Festival in DC this year. Not only did he introduce movies on Saturday and Sunday (including some fantastical Argentinian ones), he headlined a special Saturday presentation, reception, and screening of the newly restored WOMAN ON THE RUN.

(This presentation and screening occurred in partnership with Smithsonian Associates, who convinced 300 people to show, a huge turnout by DC’s Noir City standards. …

THE HARDER THEY FALL

This was my favorite movie in TCM’s Summer of Darkness. It’s about boxing, a sport that frequently comes up in noir. It was then and certainly is now a sport ripe with corruption. In fact, THE HARDER THEY FALL (1956) suggests boxing is irretrievably corrupt.

The opening to the film is excellent. Someone arrives in New York City--we see the sights via the cab from La Guardia--and several cars are headed somewhere. …

Revoir—To See Again

I took film criticism in college. It was mostly wasted on me. Dr. Wagner, my professor, wanted to discuss all the technical aspects of film. All I could see were the stories. But movies are like novels. For ones of any quality, seeing or reading it once generally is not enough. Three times will probably let you see what needs to be seen--story arc, acting, cinematography, directing. You might even smack your forehead and wonder where you were the first time you saw it. …

TCM’s Summer of Darkness

In June and July, TCM (Turner Classic Movies) ran classic noir movies every Friday in their Summer of Darkness extravaganza. All day on Fridays for eight weeks. 24 hours of noir started at 6am. During the evenings, Eddie Muller, the Czar of Noir, introduced films. I didn’t partake so much of the evening films--it’s summer, the baseball season’s in full swing, and the Nationals are killing me--but when I did catch the Czar, he was great. …

World Building

Historical fiction, science fiction, and fantasy, especially epic fantasy, have to create believable worlds--emotional, intellectual, physical realities inhabited by characters who live and breath their cultural imperatives as much as we do ours. True world building gives an author a taste of being God, and it’s a daunting task. It’s even more so when an author deliberately chooses to avoid things too obviously drawn from human history.

Karma is a Direwolf

I’ve just finished reading the first novel in G. R. R. Martin’s A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE, which is A GAME OF THRONES, and Brandon Sanderson’s MISTBORN trilogy, THE FINAL EMPIRE. There’s much that all writers can learn from great fantasy writers. Namely, characterization and world-building. Both Martin and Sanderson are excellent at both. I give the nod in characterization to Martin and in world-building (coming next blog) to Sanderson.


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