Saturday, August 28, 2010

Adding Politics to the Brew

I've decided to make a small change here on my blog.  From now on, every once in awhile, I will address current issues and events.

Politics, in other words.

No one need worry about this venue becoming a place where some one spews venom and hyperbole like it was going out of style.  While I can wax vitriolic as much as the next person, such is not my goal.  Nor hopefully is it my norm.

Rather I'd like to offer my own opinions on current issues, making valid observations as I see them.  I'll not be spouting conspiracy theories.  But holding a few up for ridicule is fair game.  Not steadily though.  Just as the focus on Night Tinted Glasses will remain history and certain genres of dramatic/literary art.  Only now and then will I venture in politics.

By way of a warning/disclaimer/introduction allow me to give a quick precis of where I stand on various issues--and why I call myself a moderate.  My views might seem somewhat more liberal than they are, mostly because (at least in my opinion) a very loud group of people on the far right are making so much noise these days.  When I was going to university, folks on the far left were making just about as much fuss.

Abortion - I believe it should be legal, safe, available and rare.  Restrictions on such make perfect sense to me, especially in the last trimester.  But I do not consider the so-called "morning after" pill to validly belong even in debate on the subject.

Capitalism and Socialism - One of the things so few of my fellow Americans seem to realize is that virtually all industrial nations adopted a blend of these two many decades ago.  Including this one.  We do not in fact have to choose between one or the other, any more than we must decide whether to eat meat or vegetables.  Folks can and often do enjoy both.  Neither one is going anywhere, by the way.

The Environment - Methinks it takes some seriously large blinders not to realize this is an important issue, especially in light of recent events.  Having grown up on the Gulf Coast of Florida, I am only too aware of what can and has gone wrong in our stewardship of this world's systems.

Faith - I am a quietly devout Christian of the Orthodox Church.  Theologically I am very liberal.  Like most Christians, my interpretation of the Bible is not literal.  My belief is that the Bible was inspired , but not dictated, by God.  And there is no genuine conflict between science and my faith, no matter what some folks insist must be the case.

Civil Liberties - Possibly the greatest glory of the United States was that we (at first a little reluctantly) enshrined into law the whole concept of "legal rights" and have ultimately proven their advocate.  Making that idea workable is an ongoing and deeply divisive process.  It is not a simple matter, nor should it be.

Some hopefully entertaining and (maybe) thought-provoking words may follow on these and other subjects.  Now and then.  You have been warned.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

More Cellulloid Anticipation

Haven't done one of these for awhile...

Quite simply, there are some movies not out yet to which I am hugely looking forward.  Consider this a cinematic rorshach test if you will about what really goes on inside my soul.  Be afraid.  Be very afraid.  Muhahahah...

One of  these is Black Swan.  I'll admit that what got my attention at first was the much-bally-hooed sex scene between stars Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis.  But the idea of an intense psychological drama/thriller set in the world of ballet was intriguing in and of its own right.  Then, earlier this week, I saw the trailer and was blown away.  Click on the title above to see said trailer.  Like the poster to the right, it was disturbing in an exciting way.  From what I can gather, the lead character seems to be going mad.  Or perhaps is already mad.  Or (perhaps most intriguingly) is straying outside what is normal, safe and mundane--an artist who glimpses a world that exists in shadows and behind our backs.  How that is different from insanity is another question, and I'm not sure an answer is particularly necessary.

Anyone who knows me very well realizes just how much I'm looking forward to Let Me In, based on the Swedish novel that already produced on the best vampire films ever (again, click on the title to see the red band trailer--not real sure why it is restricted, though).  Chloe Moretz plays a little girl vampire who befriends a lonely, tortured boy played by Kodi Smit-McPhee.  In an interview the latter put one aspect very well.  She gives him, he says, "something to look forward to."  Novel and first film created a strange, nightmarish and yet innocent, even sweet love story.  More than one reviewer called this the anti-Twilight and while I don't share their (presumed) hatred of Myers' series, the logic is clear.  No pulling of punches.  No dreamy love interest who is a romance novelist's stereotypical ideal.  For one thing, these are children, on the verge of sexuality but not there yet (and one will likely never be), yet still sensual.  The vampire is not a "vegetarian."  She cannot be.

The director (Matt Reeves of Cloverfield) stated in various forums that he wanted to make the setting of his film clearly American, in keeping with the themes of the novel.  From the trailer and other hints, he seems to have done precisely that.  Good!  I don't want a carbon copy of the first film.  What would be the point?

Another vampire movie I'm looking forward to--Suck, which after showing at film festival after film festival has finally gotten a DVD/Blueray release later this year.  Over the past year or sot there've actually been a lot of trailers for this but I included my favorite (click the title).  Vampire comedies are tricky, at least in my humble (HAH!) opinion.  Most simply don't work.  My own theory is that its a question of tone.  Pure camp or silliness has its place (I say this as a huge fan of Red Dwarf and Monty Python as well as the late, lamented The State on MTV) but to my mind the best comedies explore the humor of these weird creatures called human beings.  This seems to go double or even triple for comedies about no-longer-human creatures like vampires.  My two favorite vampire comedies have plenty of jokes, but remained focused on the characters first and foremost (Love at First Bite and Sundown if you're interested).  Having watched five or six different trailers for this movie I think it likely this one succeeds where so many others have failed.  Just watch the trailer and you'll see what I mean.

Monday, August 9, 2010

August Blog Chain: Color????

The AW August Blog Chain is upon us.  As usual I am participating and the theme this month is -- If you had to pick one color, and one color only, for an aspect of your writing, which one would it be and why?

Honestly, this one was tricky.  Offhand I'd no idea how to approach the subject, which is why I delayed joining the chain this time.  Because I wasn't sure about taking part?  Well, a little bit.  Mostly, though, it was a matter of strategy.  Allowed me to take a gander at how others went after the same theme.  Heh heh.

But here is my answer.  My writing is teal.

Precisely why is more of a puzzle.  I'm not completely sure.  That might indeed be a major reason for choosing this one.  Say the word "teal" and in truth all kinds of shades come to mind.  Yes, it is pretty clearly a blue-green or green-blue but like one of the primary colors it lends itself to dark versions, pale varieties, vivid teals, plain teals, etc.  It sounds like it should be the color of the sea (and to be honest--the few months I've spent in my life away from the sea left me feeling out-of-tune in some way) but isn't quite.  There are gemstones that come in teal, but no one specific such.  In my imagination teal is associated with the orient for some reason, with artwork from that area of the world.  Odd, since while I'm not ignorant of Asia it is hardly an area of study.  As such.

Mind you, teal is considered (or can be) a shade of blue and that is my name!  But methinks it is more telling that teal has enormous variety despite its relative simplicity as a color.  Like my own world view, it is baroque rather than rococo.  It can be, often is, an accent to darker colors like black.  It reminds me of the earth, of rocks and stones.  Often mottled, it has the complexity of a cloud or better yet a wall of mist against a landscape.  Yet it can just as easily be a solid band of color, something simultaneously bright yet muted.

Whether any of this actually describes or harkens to my writing is for others to say.  I can only not this what my writing seems to me.  Or what I strive to make it.

The super summery participants of the August Coloring Blog Chain are:
Aheïla: and direct link to her post
Ralph_Pines: and direct link to her post
AuburnAssassin: and direct link to her post
semmie: and direct link to her post
Anarchicq: and direct link to her post
CScottMorris: and direct link to his post
DavidZahir: <<YOU ARE HERE
NEXT >> aimeelaine:

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Carmilla Screen Treatment

Okay I finally did it!

Last week I was suffering through a bout of writers' block, when on a whim my fingers began opening Word and started putting words down.  Inside three days I had produced a screen treatment for Carmilla, based on Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu's famous vampire novella!

For those of you who don't know, a screen treatment is something akin to a detailed outline of a movie, a description of what the movie would be like to watch.  Not a shot-by-shot, but a narrative to capture the "feel" as well as the story.

Cannot tell you how long I've been wanting to scratch that itch!

Don't know what I'll do with it, not yet.  Perhaps if End of the Line really takes off, I'll be able to interest a movie studio.  Hey, a guy can dream!  For the record, I tried to make the title character both sympathetic and monstrous.  Another goal was to remain faithful to the strange waiflike quality of the narrator, Laura.  Part of that involved cutting one of the few characters and I know some folks will be distressed but so be it.  Along the way I also found what I felt to be a good ending to this particular story.  The novella's final pages are a good read but make for a poor set of scenes.  But they do give a notion of what is in someways a straightforward destruction of the vampire coupled with Laura's own mixed feelings about her experience.  Methinks I may have captured that, as well as suggesting a wonderfully spooky something as well.

Along the way, I also designed a coat of arms for the Karnsteins--that "wicked" and mostly extinct family from which Carmilla (and interestingly, Laura's mother) arose.  Imagine if you will a heraldric wolf, pierced by two swords.

I'm also proud to have retained some of the my favorite little "bits" from the novella.  Laura's insistence on having the portrait of "Countess Mircalla" in her bedchamber.  The presence of both governesses as well as the advanced age of Laura's father (she was a late-life child clearly).  The peddler/mountebank.  The sleepwalking incident.  Laura and Carmilla combing each others' hair.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Russian "Ten Little Indians" (Review)

Spoilers ahoy!

Came across this little treasure on YouTube last week and was mighty impressed.  Finding it elsewhere is likely to be quite a chore, but for now at least anyone can watch it online.

For those who don't know, Ten Little Indians or And Then There Were None is one of Agatha Christie's most famous and oft-adapted works of fiction.  The title has undergone some changes over the years, indicating how some things have changed for the better.  Quite by accident, I stumbled across a Russian version of the story filmed in 1987.  It is easily and by far the best version--as well as being the most faithful.

The story is simple enough (which is often a hallmark of complex themes, not coincidentally).  Ten strangers are invited to a mansion on a remote island off the coast of England.  Some have been hired as staff, yet have never yet met their employer.  Others are guests urged to come via friends, usually second-hand.  But the hosts, a Mr. and Mrs. U.N. Owen ( i.e. "unknown") aren't present and after dinner the butler follows directions and puts on a specific record.  Upon that record is the voice of a man accusing each person present of murder.  All react in shock.  Many do so with some measure of guilt.  Within a few minutes one of them has died, poisoned by his drink.

Upon the wall of each person's bedroom is a nursery rhyme about "Ten Little Indians" and it isn't too long before someone remembers the first line:  TEN little Indians went out to dine; One choked his little self and then there were NINE.  Sure enough, the mysterious Mr. Owen intends to execute every one of them, using the nursery rhyme as a pattern.

Many previous adaptations of this book try to infuse humor into the proceedings.  This one does not.  Others have changed the locale, shifting it to an oasis or a sky lodge atop a mountain.  But this film retained the island, and what an island!  Literally a barren rock surrounded by mists and crashing waves--yet with mansion built into the rock like a small castle.  Its interiors are comfortable, even luxurious, but with more than a hint of claustrophobia.  Each guest reacts differently to the situation of course, but in this one even the laughter has an hysterical, uneasy ring to it. 

Near the end, someone even points out "We're not human anymore.  We've become beasts."

The characters are a broad range.  A judge.  A  doctor who drinks too much.  A former police officer governess.  A retired general.  As the story unfolds we learn also about their victims.  A supposedly innocent man.  The woman dead on an operating table.  An innocent man framed, who died in prison.  The lover of a commanding officer's wife, sent deliberately into harm's way.  Rather like peeling an onion, the facade of civilization gives way to what sorts of people these really are--with the implied question about who are we the audience?  Would we call running over a pair of children with our car a piece of "bad luck?"  If we held a position of power over a helpless girl who'd gotten herself into trouble, would we dismiss her or offer to help?  Here is where most adaptations (starting the stage play penned by Miss Christie) pull their punch.  Two guests--a young man and woman--seem to hook up on some level.  Other versions sweeten this, portraying it as a growing love affair.  When they become the seemingly only two people left on the island, they simply cannot bring themselves to believe the other a murderer.  And they are right!  Not only are they themselves innocent, but the real killer has already faked his death and is waiting for them to kill each other.

But that isn't what happens in the book--nor in this film version.  Everyone really is guilty. Oh sure, the real killer faked his death but otherwise his plan worked perfectly.  The former governess is haunted by thoughts of the child she killed, an act of weakness on behalf of the man she loved who then rejected her.  She turns to the arms of a ruthless young army officer in a desperate attempt to feel alive, or at least blot out her own despair and terror.  At the end, she kills him.  Discovering a noose hanging from the ceiling of her bedroom, she gives in to depression and fulfills the last stanza of the nursery rhyme:  ONE little Indian left all alone; He went out and hanged himself and then there were NONE.  Everyone is guilty.  Everyone dies.  But was that justice?  And if it was, then is it a mere accident we ourselves haven't earned as much?  More, is the desire for such justice any better than what it is punishing?

The performances in this film are uniformly good.  Rather than becoming stock characters, each remains an individual.  One even gets a sense of a life before this story begins, a subtle but vital point.  More, there is a grittiness to them that seems real, rather than a glossy stereotype.  The romantic male lead for example (who left 20 men to starve to death) is somehow both handsome and repellent at the same time.

Behold links by which you yourself can enjoy this remarkably faithful adaptation of Christie's murder mystery.  Yes, there are English subtitles.  You might also notice that the title is mistranslated, as one can figure out when looking at the figurines stolen/broken as each victim meets his or her fate.

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five
Part Six
Part Seven
Part Eight
Part Nine
Part Ten
Part Eleven
Part Twelve
Part Thirteen