Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Movieworld, the jewel of Eastern Queens, to close

From the Facebook page of Movieworld Douglaston, dated June 11:

...The landlord has exercised a clause in the lease that requires us to vacate within 30 days.  We are not closing for any other reason than we are being required to under the terms of our original lease.  A Lowes store will be taking the entire lower level of the shopping center and construction will start right away.... It has been an amazing experience being able to bring movies to all of you.  We encourage everyone to keep going to the movies!

(Thanks to Andrew for the tip)

Man, I hate writing these posts. It seems like I've written too many of them in the not-quite eight years this blog has been active. Some hurt more than others. This isn't that painful, but only because I'm not as familiar with this theater as with others. Still, I feel this loss, too.

Movieworld might have provided the best bargain for first-run films in Queens, if not all of New York: $11 full price for 2D films, $7 matinee before four PM, and $6 all day Wednesdays.

A proudly independent, community-based cinema located near the border of Queens and Nassau County, in Douglaston, MW had been around for over thirty years. At one point, it was operated by UA until 2004. It shut its doors in April 2008, only to reopen two months later with new owners, and it remained local and independent ever since. MW went digital in 2012, and luxury seats were added a year later.

People complained about the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas being located below street level; well, try running a theater located underneath a mall, inside a parking lot! It was a turn-off for me when I first went there, until I stepped inside and saw it was much like other theaters. In addition to the usual movie food for sale, they have a small cafe with a slightly better class of food and drink. It won't make anyone forget the Alamo Drafthouse, but it's a cozy place to wait for your auditorium to seat.

Reading the FB comments gave me a much better sense of what MW meant to the Eastern Queens/Nassau faithful. When MW was threatened with closure in 2017, the fans, like those of the Lincoln Plaza, started a petition to save the theater.

It proved fruitless in February of this year when the local community board voted in favor of bringing in a Lowes on the former site of Macy's, above MW, in order to bring in more business and preserve the mall. The only way Lowes said they could fit, though, was if they also took the space occupied by MW, a claim disputed by the MW defenders. Read more about it here. (Apropos of nothing: I find it very interesting that the debate is compared in this article to a dispute over bike lanes.)

While there are other movie options nearby, such as AMC theaters in Bayside and Fresh Meadows, neither of them are as affordable, nor as diverse (MW also screens Filipino movies from time to time), nor as quirky (you have to admit, its unusual location makes it unlike other cinemas).

I intend to see Incredibles 2 at MW; also, a going-away party is planned for July 2. If I can make it, I'll stop by. MW has said they'll search for a new location, so hope remains alive for now, but like I said, I'm tired of writing these post-mortems, especially for theaters in Queens.

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Movies I've seen at Movieworld:
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Guardians of the Galaxy
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Finding Dory
Wonder Woman
Pacific Rim: Uprising

Friday, June 1, 2018

Incredible links

Remember the short story I wrote that appeared in a local literary magazine? Well, last month I got invited by the same group to appear at a special reading for past published authors — with a twist.

Newtown Literary put on a reading in which some of their own — other authors — read work by past published authors. I didn't have to say or do anything except show up! It felt odd; my piece, "Airplanes," was a work of speculative fiction inspired by my post on the movie The Terminal, and while I put effort into it, of course, I didn't expect the story to make it, but it did. That was one thing, though; to see it publicly appreciated in a venue like this was quite another.

The woman who read my work was Aida Zilelian, who runs a local reading series called Boundless Tales. I read at a BT show once, which is where I met her, not that I thought she remembered me. I guess she did. She wasn't sure at first if "Airplanes" was a SF story or not; she had to ask me before the show began to make sure!

The show went well. Some of my friends from my old writing group turned up, which was nice. I got to meet more of the NL crew, as well as other local writers, and best of all, I didn't have to embarrass myself!

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One other new movie I saw this month which I never wrote about was The Seagull, with Annette Bening and Saoirse Ronan. Based on the Anton Chekhov play, it's about all these people hanging out in the summer house of a famous stage actress and all the stuff they get into with each other. It was okay; the acting felt very big and theatrical, even though the screenplay made it look more like a movie. Saw it at the Paris in midtown with Vija and Debbie; afterward, we were joined by Vija's visiting grand-niece Cecelia, who Vija thought bore a resemblance to Saoirse Ronan. We ate pasta.

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Margot Kidder was the perfect Lois Lane, just like Christopher Reeve was the perfect Superman. They had a terrific chemistry in those movies that at its best, was reminiscent of Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant. She played Lois exactly how you would imagine her to be: modern, perky, independent-minded, a little reckless at times, yet devoted to Superman whether she knows he's really Clark Kent or not.

I'm afraid I haven't seen much of Kidder's other movies, though I did see Black Christmas. I read about her in Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, of course, and some of the risque things she got up to back in the 70s. It's a pity she wasn't a bigger star.

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Cynthia Nixon update: Governor Cuomo clobbered her in the state Democratic convention, easily winning his party's nomination, whereas she wasn't even invited to the event. I admit, I'm beginning to lean towards her, especially now that she's basically endorsed the MTA plan to fix the subway, the same one the governor had no interest in when it was released a week ago.

Win or lose, Nixon has proven herself to be someone serious about reforming and changing a lot of things in New York State that need changing. If she does lose the governorship, I hope she'll consider running for another position, such as state congresswoman or something similar.

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Sorry it's been quiet around here lately. The novel. You know.

Links after the jump.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Time Machine (1960)

The Time Machine (1960)
seen @ Landmark Loews Jersey Theater, Jersey City NJ

Last year I bought a used anthology of HG Wells stories: The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Invisible Man, War of the Worlds, and today's subject, The Time Machine.  I haven't finished it; I started Time but other things distracted me, as they tend to do.

Wells' writing is different from modern fiction. It's sparser, but a bit more florid also. Time the book didn't necessarily bore me, but it didn't quite suck me in either. Maybe that was because I had seen the time travel genre to death, in many forms (especially recently), and he was practically inventing the genre when this was written.


Herbert George Wells, born in England in 1866, started out as a teacher and later a journalist and even an artist before he got into short story and novel writing, and not just SF. Of course, it is SF for which he's best remembered.

In Wells' day, science fiction was called "scientific romance," a term associated with writers like Arthur Conan Doyle and Jules Verne, as well as the filmmaker George Melies. Wells' approach to the genre revolved around grounding the reader in credibility, so that the incredible elements could be more easily accepted. He felt one crazy assumption, such as the possibility of time travel, was all you needed on which to build.

Time was not Wells' first time travel story. In 1888, seven years before Time, he wrote a short story called "The Chronic Argonauts," which was also about an inventor of a time travel apparatus. (Some say Wells was inspired by Thomas Edison.) Before even that, in 1881, a short with a different kind of time machine, "The Clock That Went Backward" by Edward Page Mitchell, ran in the New York Sun.


Did you know there's a deleted scene from Time? Wells wrote it at his editor's suggestion. The nameless protagonist goes even further into the future, past the era of the Eloi and Morlocks, and discovers a new species that resembles them both. Wells didn't like it, though.

I had seen the 1960 film adaptation before, but I had forgotten how entertaining it was. Screenwriter David Duncan, in adapting the book, fleshed out the protagonist's 19th-century buddies and his relationships with them in a way that really humanizes him.


Rod Taylor, under George Pal's direction, portrays the idealistic humanist well, in a way that made me think he might have been an influence in shaping Star Trek's Captain Kirk. And speaking of Trek, Wah Chang, one of the Oscar winners for the film's special effects, went on to work on the show as a prop man, designing the original tricorder and communicator.

I saw Time with Virginia. It was her first time at the Loews JC and she loved it, taking pictures on the mezzanine level and digging the Wonder Organ. I was thrilled to have her there in a place that means so much to me.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Avengers: Infinity War

Avengers: Infinity War
seen @ Cinemart Fiveplex, Forest Hills, Queens NY

It never occurred to me I could see Avengers: Infinity War with anyone else. Not that I was so psyched to see it, like I would have been twenty years ago, but even now, after the new wave of superhero movies have broken the bank time and again, I still thought of this, however unconsciously, as a niche pleasure, not something "ordinary" people would dig.

So when I told Virginia I was gonna see it — alone, by implication — there was this awkward pause for a second. We had seen Black Panther together, but even that almost didn't happen: when we tried to pick out a movie, I had said to her something like well, you're probably not interested in an action movie... are you? 

Turned out she was willing. She didn't grow up a superhero geek, you see. She had no sentimental ties to BP or any other long underwear types, so why would I think this might interest her — or so my logic went.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Oliver Twist (1922)

The Lon Chaney Blogathon is an event devoted to the life and career of the silent film star, hosted by Maddy Loves Her Classic Films and Silver Screenings. For a list of participating blogs, visit the links at either site.

Oliver Twist (1922)
YouTube viewing

I never read Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist in school or anyplace else. Dickens was one of those old authors I probably took for granted. A Tale of Two Cities was one I tackled in school, naturally; I think I might have read, or tried to read, Great Expectations in college, back in my reading classic literature phase, but I couldn't tell you much about it. I know Oliver from the movies, especially the 1968 musical.

The 1922 silent film is, I believe, the first film adaptation. It was a vehicle for rising child star Jackie Coogan, hot off the smash success of The Kid, with Chaplin. He was all of eight years old when he made Oliver, but he's not bad in it. He knew how to look pathetic and downtrodden, at any rate, as his character is shuffled from one fate to another by opportunists, oppressors and no-goodniks. One would never know he'd go on to be Uncle Fester in The Addams Family!


But he's not today's subject; that would be his Oliver co-star, the man of a thousand faces, the one and only Lon Chaney Sr. He played Fagin in the film, and as you'd expect, he was made up to look really old, with scraggly hair and beard, plus ratty clothes. He's good, as usual, getting deep into the role: walking hunched over, gleefully teaching his charges, including Oliver, how to pick pockets from unsuspecting marks.

I've talked about Chaney before. In an era in which computers can make anybody look like anything, Chaney still stands out for his chameleon-like ability to embody a wide range of characters.

The child of deaf parents, he learned how to pantomime early in life. On the stage, he used makeup to hide his insecurity, and after awhile he became an expert on the craft of using makeup. Eventually, he made his way to Hollywood, and the medium of film, still in its infancy, proved the perfect vehicle for him.


In her book Silent Stars, film teacher and historian Jeanine Basinger praised him for his ability to empathize with outsiders:
...As Chaney's career developed, he was drawn to playing two basic types of social outcast: the criminal and the cripple. He seemed to identify deeply with characters who were outsiders and loners. No matter how twisted mentally or physically these characters were — either human or monster — he played them as having recognizable emotions... so the audience could understand their evil, realize where it came from, and even sympathize with it if they chose to. He brought understanding and tolerance to these outsiders, and a conviction that there was another side to their lives beneath the obviously ugly surface. Audiences responded to this conviction, and they still do.
Practically the entirety of Chaney's career was in the silent era. What kind of films would he have made in the sound era? His only talkie, a remake of his silent film The Unholy Three, provides a clue. Here's a clip.

Would he have continued in this vein of playing outsiders? We'll never know, but I prefer to think of him as being of the silent era. The films he made then were like nothing we've seen before or since. I'd argue they belong there.

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Related:
Lon Chaney Jr.
Tod Browning

Other Lon Chaney films:
He Who Gets Slapped
The Phantom of the Opera
Laugh Clown Laugh

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Ready Player One

Ready Player One
seen @ Cinemart Fiveplex, Forest Hills, Queens NY

I have so much to say about Ready Player One that I'm dividing this post into segments. It's much easier for both of us. Trust me.

1. The internet and internet culture

2. Ernest Cline's 80s vs. my 80s

3. Steven Spielberg's 80s

4. Columbus

5. RP1 the movie


Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Solo links

Bill Cosby's downfall is complete at last. I had talked to my mother about this; she's convinced the whole thing was a case of entrapment that he was dumb enough to fall for in his youth. Maybe. I'm not here to debate it one way or another, though; I want to hold a candle up for him one last time, for all the good he achieved as an entertainer and as a pioneer for black people in television. Like it or not, he's part of the official record and always will be; he was part of my childhood; and he helped bring positive change to the image of blacks on television, and the culture at large. Though we may condemn him for what he did when the cameras stopped rolling, we cannot and must not dismiss him.

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I finally decided, after almost four years within my writing group, to part company with them last month. I've found an online group months ago that I think can help me better, particularly now that I'm in the revision stage; plus, I was getting kinda tired of running things.

What I wasn't prepared for, though, was how hard it would be to say goodbye. The group roster had changed completely from when I had first joined, and many of the people in the group now signed on within the last year, but I still felt a connection with them — and they with me. I truly didn't realize how much of an impact I had made on them. They were disappointed to see me go. Some of them friended me on social media. They pretty much insisted I come back to visit, which I will.

They were a great bunch, both the current membership and the ones from the past, minus the occasional oddball or two. I've talked about Jen here before, who I still think was the best writer we had in my time in the group, and will get published for sure.

I'm glad to have been part of them. My Sundays won't be the same.

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I've been devoting more time to the novel revision, which is why I haven't been around much (that and I just needed a break), but I did see movies. I saw Isle of Dogs and liked it. I think it's Wes Anderson's most ambitious film, not just because of the stop-motion animation (which was smoother and slicker than in Fantastic Mr. Fox), but because of its political overtones. The film is set in Japan, and while most of the human characters spoke Japanese, there were no subtitles; either someone was on hand to translate or the meaning was clear through context. I thought that was quite clever on Anderson's part.

I also watched Black Panther again, this time with Sandi, and once again, she noticed something I didn't the first time around: apparently the deities invoked by characters in the film are not native to Central Africa, where Wakanda resides. She's an expert on mythology, so if she says it, I believe it, though I'm sure Ryan Coogler has some manner of justification.

The Ready Player One post is coming. Promise.

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I'll keep things up here, but it probably won't be as frequent as in the past. I saw Avengers: Infinity War and I'll write about that, of course; I've got one blogathon post coming this week and I may take part in another; not sure. Sorry for the light schedule, but the novel has to take priority.

Your links:

Raquel and Danny, among others, have coverage of this year's TCM Film Festival.

Jacqueline writes about an adaptation of a book that was never filmed — but totally should have been.

Le checks out a compilation of rare Chaplin flicks.

Ivan has the skinny on the first Shirley Temple film in which she gets kissed.

Flash Gordon himself, Sam Jones, came to Jennifer's hometown.

The long and convoluted tale of ailing comics legend Stan Lee and his battles with his daughter.

Is Quentin Tarantino writing a script for the next Star Trek movie?

Tommy Wiseau wants to be the Joker.

The radical, sci-fi-flavored philosophy of musician Sun Ra was once turned into a movie.

A bunch of Broadway stars held a secular Passover seder, performing non-traditional tunes.

What makes a movie bad?

MOMA has restored a Swedish short about life in Manhattan from over a century ago. Note how slowly the cars travel.

Friday, April 13, 2018

A Trip to the Moon

The Outer Space in Film Blogathon is an event about films set in space, hosted by Moon in Gemini. For a complete list of participating blogs, visit the link at the host site.

YouTube viewing

PARIS, 1969

Eugénie opened the door and saw six solemn men in grey overcoats and suits. The white-haired one closest to her spoke.

"Bonjour, Mademoiselle. May we come in?"

Mère sacrée. They came after all.

"Of course." She widened the door and they entered one by one, removing their caps. Once they were all in, she shut the door. The leader took off his monocle.

"How is he?"

"Struggling, but by the grace of God he lives still."

"Mademoiselle, I assure you if the doctor continues to cling to life, it is by the force of his stubborn nature, not any divine intervention." His scowl gave her a tremble. "May we see him?"

She felt her ears burn. You could at least say please.

"This way, messieurs."

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The Death of Stalin

The Death of Stalin
seen @ IFC Center, New York NY

I'm gonna do a quick post about this one because I'm still a bit behind and I wanna catch up as soon as possible. This was Vija's suggestion, and if you've heard anything about it, you know it's gotten spectacular reviews.

Cold War-era Russia has been the subject of comedy before, but mining the demise of its most notorious ruler for laughs is a new one to me, and it's actually pretty good, no matter how little or how much you know about Stalin and his cabinet. You see the atrocities of the Stalin regime, but you also see the bumbling and the weirdness too — and one can't help but be reminded, to a certain degree, of the current administration here in America. 


Director and co-writer Armando Iannucci lets the international cast (including Steve Buscemi as Nikita Khrushchev!) keep their native accents; no one speaks with a Russian accent, which lends a somewhat surreal aspect to the story, but hey, if black people can portray the founding fathers of America, anything's possible, right?

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Pacific Rim: Uprising

Pacific Rim: Uprising
seen @ Movieworld, Douglaston, Queens NY

You know how in those old Godzilla movies, he stomps all over Tokyo but it's never as serious as it looks because it's SO OBVIOUS the sets are just models? Ever wonder what that might look like if it were real? Well, watch Pacific Rim: Uprising then, preferably on the biggest screen you can afford.

At first, seeing the jaegers (the robots) and kaiju (the monsters) battling it out amidst a giant cityscape is breathtaking as well as terrifying, though they do make a point of saying the population was safe in underground shelters, so one can watch the fights guilt-free!

After awhile, though, even these scenes have an air of artificiality to them, and not just because jaegers and kaiju don't exist (as far as we know).


They're almost too real. Jaegers, when operated by their two pilots, run, throw punches, even get tossed around like humans, even though they're hundreds of feet tall. It's the old comics cliche: how can something so big move so fast? As for the kaiju, you can see every scale on its hide, every tooth in its wide, wide mouth, every drop of water as it rises out of the ocean.

There ought to be some sort of medium in which these kinds of movies can look better than dudes in rubber suits yet maintain a level of... I dunno, low-budget, B-grade cheapness, for lack of a better term? Then again, maybe I'm still wedded to the way SF movies looked like back in the 80s, when I grew up. I'm sure that puts me in the minority. Fine, I'm used to it.


Uprising, regrettably, is little different from the first PR film. It wasn't until the final twenty minutes or so that I started to get into it. Eh. I knew this wasn't Black Panther. I just wanted a mindless action movie and that's what I got.

How about that John Boyega, huh? His ascension from no-name to rising action hero has been pretty quick, but that's what two Star Wars movies will do to you. Even when he played an inner-city hoodlum in Attack the Block, he had a certain magnetism that has turned into a youthful exuberance and strength that's nice to see. I hope he expands into other work: maybe a Shane Black-style crime comedy, or a Kathryn Bigelow-type war movie. He has definite potential.


There's this young girl in my writers group named Anna who has been hyped for Uprising for weeks, talking about the actors, the director, the previous film, all sorts of details, etc. Last Sunday, we talked about the movie and wouldn't you know it, she was let down big time.

We both agreed that Boyega was great, but killing [SPOILER] was a tremendous mistake. Anna also hated [SPOILER]'s heel turn, though it didn't bother me as much because I barely remembered the character from the first film. She said she complained to director Steven DeKnight on Twitter, saying he should've gotten her to write the screenplay! I guess that's the risk that comes with high expectations.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Infinite links

Lynn discovered a website for something called New Plaza Cinema, and it looks like it's built from the ashes of what was the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas. A group is looking to start up a new indie theater on Manhattan's Upper West Side. So far, they're still in the embryonic stage, but the fact this is in the works is encouraging.

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So last month I met a multiple Emmy winner. Now I'm not sure if I should mention who it is, because of the circumstances: I met her at her home, where she and her husband host a soiree for musicians on a regular basis, but I think it's a private function. Nothing illicit went on; in fact, it was very sociable, a party, basically, but I don't know them, and I don't know how private their private lives are, so in this instance, I'm gonna play it safe. She won her Emmys for a TV show you all know and love.

Virginia invited me to this gathering. She plays an instrument called a viola da gamba (it's kinda like a cello) and she was part of a number of musicians and singers who put on a variety show, basically, playing classical music and modern compositions that sound like classical music. She also sang with a small group.

The Emmy-winning hostess has her awards on display on a shelf. I looked closely at the statuettes, but I was too afraid to touch them, since they belonged to a stranger and all. They're about a foot tall, maybe a bit more, and they're as elegant as they look. And they were the real thing.

I didn't get much of a chance to talk to the hostess about them because she was busy with other stuff, though I will say she was quite nice. Virginia has known her for awhile; they seemed really familiar with each other, as the hostess was with many of the people at the informal recital. So in my own personal Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game, I can connect to some pretty famous people now...

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Big thanks once again to everybody who came out and/or spread the word about the Time Travel Blogathon, and to Ruth for co-hosting with me. I knew time travel films didn't begin with The Time Machine, but there were more of them from the distant past than I realized, done in a number of ways, so this was enlightening.

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A few more words about Cynthia Nixon: I think it's absolutely fair to question her qualifications for holding such a high position as governor, especially New York governor, but at the same time, she's a citizen too, and if she thinks she's got the goods, then she deserves to take a shot. I admit, I'm giving her more of the benefit of the doubt than the former TV star currently in the White House, but then she seems to actually have a brain in her head.

That said, between Nixon, the Rock, Oprah, the girl from Clueless, and who knows who else, America does seem more preoccupied than ever with celebrities either running for office or flirting with the idea at least (though we're nothing compared with countries like India). If there weren't so many precedents, I'd suspect the current president opened the floodgates somehow; I dunno.

I would feel more confident about Nixon if I knew she had experience, I admit, but I'm willing to give her a chance to prove herself worthy. She's aware of the transportation crisis in NYC (which is about more than the local subways and buses and impacts more than just the tri-state area) and says she'll make it a priority of her campaign, but it's still way too early to decide if she can win.

Links after the jump.


Monday, March 26, 2018

QWFF 2018 part 2


Part 1

MARCH 21

What would QWFF be without snow? There was a hint of the white stuff as I came home last night, but this morning it started in earnest, and it went on all damn day, to the point where tonight's screening of Vincent Gagliostro's After Louie was cancelled. I was interested in that one too...

Here's an interview with Gagliostro from last fall about After Louie.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

QWFF 2018 part 1


The Queens World Film Festival is bigger and better than ever this year, and as someone who has been coming to it ever since 2012, it's breathtaking to see. Don & Katha Cato both go to extraordinary lengths to make the show as inclusive as possible without sacrificing quality, and little by little, the rest of New York City is noticing. I'm grateful to be back writing about the movies here. Expecting some good stuff, as always.

Once again, the Museum of the Moving Image and the Zukor Theater at the Kaufman Astoria Studios are the venues. This year's report will be split into two parts, one for today and the other for next week.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time
seen @ Alamo Drafthouse, Yonkers NY

Madeleine L'Engle almost gave up writing by age forty on account of all the rejections she kept receiving. The reality of rejection is something I've read about on a few writers blogs: how one has to accept the fact that no matter how spectacular you think your work is, the odds of you hitting a home run with it the first time at bat, or the tenth, are slim at best. Some writers tell you to embrace rejection as a fact of writing life, since it's happened to the best authors as well as the worst.

I haven't written enough to experience rejection to the same degree, partially because much of my work is self-published — including this blog, in a way. I know when I finish revising my novel and sending it out to authors, though (assuming I don't self-publish that too), I'll have to face that reality as well. I'm probably not ready for that, but who ever is?



L'Engle's book A Wrinkle in Time was rejected over thirty times. I cannot imagine what that must be like: to receive a litany of no's yet to keep going anyway. Actually, I take that back, I can imagine that: I suspect it's like going on blind date after blind date and never getting past that initial dinner-and-a-movie stage. You question your self-worth.

One of the wittiest and most heartfelt books about writing is Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. She talks about what she calls "the myth of publication":
...Many nonwriters assume that publication is a thunderously joyous event in the writer's life, and it is certainly the biggest and brightest carrot dangling before the eyes of my students. They believe that if they themselves were to get published, their lives would change instantly, dramatically, and for the better. Their self-esteem would flourish, all self-doubt would be erased like a typo. Entire paragraphs and manuscripts of disappointment and rejection and lack of faith would be wiped out by one push of a psychic delete button and replaced by a quiet, tender sense of worth and belonging. Then they could wrap the world in flame.
But this is not exactly what happens. Or at any rate, this is not what it has been like for me.


L'Engle's path to publication is by no means unique, but it's a textbook example of how a writer needs (justified) faith in their work, even in this time where self-publishing your work is easier than before. My path is probably harder than many: I'm writing a sports novel, not exactly a popular genre — but it's what I want to do. I'll just have to suck up the inevitable rejections when the time comes. But I won't like it.

I never read Wrinkle as a kid. No particular reason; there were lots of books I never got around to in my childhood. Not sure how eight-year-old me would have taken to it, but I imagine the religious elements would've flown over my head — except I'm told there's a scene with Jesus, Buddha, Einstein and Gandhi all together, as a kind of spiritual Justice League.


That did not make the new film adaptation of Wrinkle, needless to say. While I thought it was good, it did have a touchy-feely vibe to it, and knowing of L'Engle's spiritual beliefs now, I can see why, even though much of the religious aspects were expunged for the film.

It reminded me, in part, of The NeverEnding Story. The nebulous force known only as the It (sans red balloons) is a lot like the Nothing, with similar effects — and love is the redemptive counterforce in the end. It's all very earnest, in its way, not that this is necessarily a bad thing.

The best line I read from Ava DuVernay about Wrinkle came when she was asked about opening a month after Black Panther, even though the two films have very little in common besides having black directors. She compared Panther to Michael Jackson's Thriller album and said she'd settle for being Prince's 1999 album, since they both came out in 1982. I thought that was funny. Still, if the reviews are any indication, she may have to settle for being the Rolling Stones' Still Life.


Once again I left my house well over three hours in advance to get to the Alamo Drafthouse in Yonkers, and once again I just barely made it, only this time the trains were to blame. The train that took me into Manhattan totally bypassed the station in which I had to get off because something had happened there; the conductor, of course, didn't specify. I had to get out at the next stop and walk back down 57th Street to take the uptown train to the Boogie Down Bronx — but then that train was delayed two stops from the end of the line for 15-20 minutes due to "signal problems." Have I mentioned how effed up the subways are lately?

Madeleine L'Engle's granddaughters write her biography

Friday, March 16, 2018

Five Hollywood actors who ran for public office

...The ongoing woes of New York City’s subway system, which are run by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority — overseen by Mr. Cuomo — are widely seen as one of Mr. Cuomo’s greatest political vulnerabilities.
[Cynthia] Nixon has been openly critical of Mr. Cuomo for many months as she has mulled a campaign. But her conversations with two Democratic strategists, Bill Hyers and Rebecca Katz, who are aligned with the party’s left flank in the state, appear to be a sign of her growing seriousness.
I can't say I've ever had much interest in Sex and the City, so I know little about Cynthia Nixon beyond what I've read in the past few weeks. If she thinks she can take out Governor Andrew Cuomo in the Democratic primaries and go all the way to Albany from there, well, who knows for sure?

I know I'm dissatisfied with Cuomo for his  indifference to the public transportation crisis here in New York, and the slow pace he has taken to not only finding a solution to that, but to enact tougher laws to deter reckless driving on city streets. 

I would need to know Nixon's ideas about transit before I could endorse her, but I have to admit, the thought of a Hollywood celebrity as governor of my home state is intriguing. (IMDB says she has played both Nancy Reagan and Eleanor Roosevelt in the past, and was in a Robert Altman TV mini-series about politics, Tanner '88.)

Celebrities running for public office is certainly nothing new. Ronald Reagan, of course, was governor of California long before he became the 40th US president. I recently provided a link to a review of a new book about how the Reagans used the movies to inform their politics. (The Amazon reviews are almost overwhelmingly positive so far, for what it's worth.) And who can forget Arnold Schwarzenegger's recent gubernatorial reign in California?

Here are a few more examples; some you probably know, others you might not, with varying levels of success.


Saturday, March 10, 2018

Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah

The Time Travel Blogathon is an event devoted to films with time travel as a plot point. Ruth and I thank you all for participating. The complete listing of bloggers can be found here and at Silver Screenings!

Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah
YouTube viewing

It will not surprise you to know a Godzilla store exists in Tokyo. It opened last fall, in the Shinjuku district, and though I don't read Japanese, I can tell from looking at the pictures there's no shortage to the depth and breadth of merchandise available. Take a look inside with this video (it's in English).

With the forthcoming release of the new Pacific Rim movie, now seems like a good time to talk about what the Japanese call kaiju, or as we called them when I was a kid, giant monsters. They wreak havoc on our cities in the movies, leaving mayhem and destruction in their wake, and we love them for it. What's the big deal, anyway?

Friday, March 9, 2018

Time has come today: the Time Travel Blogathon begins!

Whether you've come from the Middle Ages, jousting with knights in armor, or from the 25th century, hanging out with aliens, welcome to the Time Travel Blogathon! Today and tomorrow, I'll collect your entries, and Ruth will gather the rest on Sunday. Provide your link in the comments or tweet it to me @ratzo318. Thank you so much for participating. Enjoy the posts!

My post is for Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, while Ruth writes about Tomorrow I'll Wake Up and Scald Myself with Tea.

Maddy Loves Her Classic Films
"The Odyssey of Flight 33" & "Once Upon a Time" from The Twilight Zone

The Midnite Drive-in
Beyond the Time Barrier and The Time Travelers
GI Samurai

I Found It At The Movies
Time After Time

Karavansara
The Time Machine (1960)

Caftan Woman
Repeat Performance

Thoughts All Sorts
The Lake House

Realweegiemidget Reviews
Somewhere in Time

SindrElf
Source Code

4 Star Films
A Matter of Life and Death

Taking Up Room
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
Kate and Leopold

Once Upon a Screen
Back to the Future trilogy

Critica Retro
The Road to Yesterday

Life's Daily Lessons
Timeline

Voyages Extraordinaires
Twilight Zone episodes, For All Time and Somewhere in Time

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Feud: Olivia and Ryan

“...I believe in the right to free speech, but it certainly must not be abused by using it to protect published falsehoods or to improperly benefit from the use of someone’s name and reputation without their consent. Fox crossed both of these lines with ‘Feud,’ and if it is allowed to do this without any consequences, then the use of lies about well-known public figures masquerading as the truth will become more and more common. This is not moral and it should not be permitted."

When I watched Feud last year, I remember wondering how much of it was fact and how much was fiction. I was surprised it wasn't based on a book, though in hindsight, I'm not sure why I made a point of that. Maybe because it was television? Not sure. Regardless, Feud had the air of authenticity to it.


Ryan Murphy
The scenes with Olivia de Havilland commenting on the story of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford had struck me as a construct meant to put everything in perspective, a use of artistic license to better tell the story. I never thought it was meant to be taken as literal (even though within the story context, it was part of a "documentary"). It's possible, though, that people could take it seriously — hence this lawsuit by the centenarian actress against Feud creator Ryan Murphy and FX.

The real ODH has portrayed famous people in her career: Charlotte Bronte in Devotion; Elizabeth Bacon Custer in They Died With Their Boots On; Queen Elizabeth II in a TV movie about Prince Charles and Lady Diana (ironically, the subjects of Murphy's next Feud installment).


Catherine Zeta-Jones as ODH in Feud
She was part of a Hollywood that often played fast and loose with the facts whenever they made biographies — not that it's much different today. Boots is an excellent example of this. One wonders if ODH had any objections to factual inaccuracies in these films.

Her own feud with her sister Joan Fontaine was common knowledge for a long time, therefore, when her Feud character calls Fontaine a bitch, that didn't strike me as odd. Then again, my knowledge of the private lives of celebrities past and present is limited, by choice.

Still, I don't wanna come down on her. I have total respect and admiration for ODH. The fact that her reputation and her self-respect mean so much to her that she's willing to go to court over her portrayal in Feud says much about the person she is and the era she forged her career in. I sympathize with her situation, and I sincerely hope she doesn't leave this world with the matter unresolved.


ODH (right), with Bette Davis
Still, I'm uncomfortable with the precedent this case could set if she wins. Should Murphy have at least consulted her first, out of respect, if not obligation? Yes, but even if she was unavailable, he wasn't making a documentary. 

There's a distinction between that and what we call a "docudrama": one purports to present the facts as is (emphasis on the word purports), the other dramatizes them, presents the facts in a narrative that resembles fiction, and both are legitimate forms of storytelling, practiced in media other than film and TV. Yes, there are exceptions in both cases, and yes, it's annoying when they get the facts wrong, but in general, I believe audiences are able to tell the difference between 20 Feet From Stardom and Dreamgirls, to pick two examples.

Was there intent to damage ODH's reputation on Murphy's part? That's for a court to decide, but what motive would he have? Was he secretly a Fontaine fan out for revenge? I can't imagine.

This is a case to watch, for its long-term implications lay beyond the realm of film.

Monday, March 5, 2018

The Oscar-nominated animation shorts plus an Oscar wrap-up

Here's something new for the blog: every year, in select theaters around the country, the Academy releases the Oscar nominees in the short film categories — live action, documentary and animation.

I'm not sure, but I think last Friday may have been the first time I went to see some of them theatrically, before the Oscar telecast. It was actually Virginia's idea; we were gonna have a late lunch near the IFC Center in Manhattan and she decided she wanted to go to the movies also. I opted for the nominees for Animated Short. The late lunch turned into an early dinner.


Dear Basketball
I hadn't been to the IFC in some time. They're in the process of trying to expand their Greenwich Village venue, but they've run into some problems that may threaten their future in that location. I remember signing a petition in support of their proposed expansion. I don't need to explain to you how important it is for them to remain viable, in the wake of the demise of the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas, so I hope everything works out for them.

The nominated films are the following:


Garden Party
- Dear Basketball. Hoop superstar Kobe Bryant reflects on his lifelong love affair with the game. This may be the sentimental choice. I know little about Bryant, but I'm aware he's a top NBA player, and this seems like a heartfelt tribute. The art is a lot like the video for A-ha's "Take On Me": sketchy and subtle, yet energetic and metamorphic.

- Garden Party. A bunch of frogs and other creatures explore an abandoned mansion — but why is it abandoned in the first place? This one was my favorite. The ridiculously photorealistic art is enough of a treat on its own, but the mystery of the mansion and what happened there before the frogs came may be even more tantalizing, especially since we're only given bits and pieces of the puzzle.


Lou
- Lou. A playground bully and thief gets his comeuppance from an unusual creature born of his spoils. The token Pixar entry, "Lou" is also a mystery, but who and what it is ultimately counts for less than how it handles the bully. It's Pixar, so you know it's good.

- Negative Space. How packing luggage unites a father and son. This one's in stop-motion; it's probably the least of the five, but it's visually appealing, and it has a clever ending.


Negative Space
- Revolting Rhymes. Based on a Roald Dahl story, this is a mash-up of classic fairy tales in a modern setting. Dahl's slightly skewed humor is at play here, taking archetypal characters like Snow White, Red Riding Hood, the Big Bad Wolf and others and reimagining them while sticking to the original tales. The CGI art was fine; no complaints. There were also some honorable mentions included with the screening.

Virginia liked these shorts but thought a number of them had a dark undercurrent, particularly Rhymes (gunplay, animals devouring other animals), though it didn't really bother her.

I could easily see Basketball winning, though I would give the Oscar to Garden.

------------------


Revolting Rhymes
Now it's the day after the Oscars, and it turns out I was right: Dear Basketball did win. Like I said, it struck me as the sentimental choice, although looking further into Bryant's history, I doubt his win will be celebrated in certain circles.

I didn't bother watching; I knew The Shape of Water would take top honors, and it did. Del Toro got Director too. I can't argue with either choice. 

I knew Oldman and McDormand would get the lead acting Oscars, but I'm thrilled to also see Sam Rockwell and Allison Janney take the Supporting ones too; they're both fine actors I've admired for a long time.

Bibi and Eric had shared their predictions with me and other friends by email last weekend. They will be pleased to see Get Out take Original Screenplay; they liked that one a lot; they were less excited about Call Me By Your Name, even though that won Adapted Screenplay. Eh. It's over now, so we can all get on with our lives.

Here's the full list.