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Archive for May, 2005


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I don’t want to say too much about it yet, because I have other articles coming later and I don’t want to blow my wad too early, but seeing the sneak preview of Serenity four months early in a theater with 700 other people who worship Joss Whedon as I do and care about those characters as much as I do…that was a pretty amazing experience, I’ve gotta say. The entire audience was emotionally invested in what happened from the outset, and their reactions to both the good and to the very, very bad were heartfelt.

That’s the power of strong writing and honest characterization, and that’s a major reason why those we Whedon fans love him the way we do–it’s the major reason for me, and it’s one of the qualities I most want to achieve with my own writing. More to come on the subject later, both here and in my official review at Moviegeekz (hopefully coming Friday night).

Written by Allen

May 27th, 2005 at 2:11 pm

Posted in Pop Culture,Writing

Brain spasms

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John Irving’s Until I Find You finally comes out in July, and I swear it feels like it’s been years that I’ve been hearing about this book. CNN has a rambling mini-article about Irving (my favorite novelist, incidentally) and the new novel discussing how his issues with not knowing his father have informed the book. (And really, if you’ve read much of Irving’s other work, those issues shouldn’t really come as much of a shock.)

But the thing that really jumped out at me in the article: Irving’s original manuscript for the book was 345,000 words. THREE-HUNDRED-FORTY-FIVE-THOUSAND FRIGGIN’ WORDS. His final manuscript–which he completely rewrote, by the by–was still 315,000. Even with the elevated quantity of output I’ve had lately, I feel pretty proud of myself when I write something’s that one thousand coherent, cohesive words. The thought of writing one thing that’s more than 300,000 words gives my brain spasms.

Maybe it’s time I start working on some longer pieces…

Written by Allen

May 26th, 2005 at 4:19 pm

Posted in Books,Writing

Not quite what they usually mean by “ghostwriting”

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(I’m experimenting a bit here with some quick-hit posts as the impulse strikes. Bear with me as we see if works out.)

Listenting to Hole‘s “Violet” from their Live Through This album, the one released the week after Kurt Cobain put a gun in his mouth–Is there any way Cobain didn’t ghostwrite this song? The rage simmers right on the surface just as it did in the best of Nirvana’s work, anger radiating less from the meaty hooks of the guitar riffs (muffled back somewhat in the mix) than from the aggression of Patty Schemel’s drums and Courtney Love’s throaty yell…this song would have fit nicely on In Utero, methinks.

Written by Allen

May 26th, 2005 at 11:01 am

Posted in Music

Does it count as prostitution if she doesn’t have to sleep with him?

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So I’ve found myself wondering: just how long will Katie Holmes be contractually bound to date Tom Cruise?

By now you’ve all heard taht they’re “dating,” a “couple,” “partnered in a mutually beneficial business arrangement.” I’d imagine she’s got the standard Tom Cruise Girlfriend Contract. She gets to have her public profile raised exponentially, hopefully from mid-list celebrity to A-list, and he gets to continue to convince the readers of People and the viewers of “Entertainment Tonight” that’s he’s heterosexual. Everybody wins.

Something’s different with Katie, though–Tom’s publicists altered the routine since the failures of the last two girlfriend hires. It’s become obvious that just announcing to the world that Mr. Short-N-Sexy has found “love” with whichever actress they’ve signed isn’t enough, either for Tom or for the contractee. Penelope Cruz rarely got any public face time with her homonymic mega-beau during their two-year deal; consequently, her star wattage failed to increase and Tom still had to sue some guy for daring to claim he and Tom had had a thing. (And by “thing,” I mean “sex.”)

And Tom, to the best of my knowledge, never one actually appeared out with Sofia Vergara–and that “who?” you just mouthed silently to yourself shows how well that arrangement worked out for her.

But Penelope and Sofia both had short-term contracts, so maybe they didn’t have the time to get themselves exploited to their full potential. Nicole Kidman, of course, had a ten-year deal and that one paid off very well for the both of them. When she signed on after meeting Cruise on the Days of Thunder shoot, she was just starting out in America. Ten years of legally-enforced marriage later and she was one of the biggest stars in the world, thanks in no small part to her time served as Mrs. Tom Cruise. (Makes you wonder just how badly Mimi Rogers fucked up to get herself fired after three years.)

Nicole’s contract was for so long, and right in the middle of her prime child-bearing years, that they had to allow her to adopt her two children during that time. Not like Tom was going to touch her, right? And have you seen even a mention of him hanging with the kids since Nicole’s deal expired? No, you have not.

Back to the handling of Katie Holmes (and man, what I wouldn’t give to handle her myself!) Team Tom knows they have to publicize this new relationship more, so the “happy couple” debuts at a photogenic film festival in Italy–perfect for those photo ops for the American press. Katie’s a big enough name already that this story instantly hits the covers of all of the celebrity mags.

But that’s not enough. Tom then has to go visit his buddy Oprah and not just fawn and gush over Katie but stage an obnoxious, embarrassing, borderline-psychotic proclamation of his adoration for the new woman on his payroll. She’s conveniently backstage, of course, so she gets pulled out to let Desperate Housewife America get a good look at them together. Pretty savvy–that should do the trick, don’t you think?

Now interest in Miss Holmes will skyrocket, both from the Oprah crowd and from the studio executives looking to cash in on her newfound marketability. And Tom…well, surely Tom can’t bat for the other team if he’s dating a woman as gorgeous and wholesome as Katie Holmes, right?


Written by Allen

May 25th, 2005 at 11:13 pm

Posted in Pop Culture

Review: A Love Song for Bobby Long

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The New Orleans found in A Love Song for Bobby Long doesn’t map to the real New Orleans: it’s a romantic impression of a mythical New Orleans, all hot jazz and cool rain, a city imagined by writers for generations as a safe haven for broken creatives. This New Orleans can’t help, of course, but be narrated with florid turns of phrase by tortured alcoholic once-geniuses trying to prove they haven’t yet totally drowned their talent.

A Love Song for Bobby Long (2004)
Grade: C-
Written and Directed By: Shainee Gabel
Starring: John Travolta Scarlett Johansson Gabriel Macht
Studio: Dimension/Lions Gate

The “talent” in this case comes in the person of Lawson Pines (Gabriel Macht), a former student of one-time English professor Bobby Long (John Travolta) who escaped with Bobby from Alabama to New Orleans nine years before the story here begins. They’ve dedicated their lives to staying as inebriated as possible and assumed squatter’s rights on the house of a friend of theirs, a jazz singer. But when that friend dies, her teenage daughter (Scarlett Johansson) comes for the funeral and ends up moving in with them–they convince her the house is one-third hers when in reality it’s three-thirds hers. They have to try to learn to live together, have things to teach each other, yadda yadda yadda…really, it became difficult to care much about what happened because Travolta’s performance was so obnoxious.

John Travolta has been doing this acting thing professionally and successfully for more than thirty years now. He’s got a couple of Academy Award nominations under his belt. Don’t you think that by now he might have learned a little bit of the art of subtlety? Admittedly, Bobby Long is just the kind of hambone part many actors, especially ones with penchants for chewing scenery, love to latch onto: Bobby’s a man whose many weaknesses overtake and overwhelm the rest of his character. Travolta, unsurprisingly, grabs Bobby and holds on a little too hard. Every scene feels like he’s hoping that’s the one they’ll show during his Oscar nomination vignette. Even his physical performance goes too far. He plays Bobby less like a worn-down fifty-year-old alcoholic than an arthritic eighty-year-old who never got that hip replacement he so desperately needed. Travolta created Bobby Long by dusting off his Bill Clinton impersonation from Primary Colors and removing all of the charm.

If Travolta needs some acting lessons to refresh his craft, he could do far worse than to call up his co-star Scarlett Johansson, who’s been alive less time than Travolta’s been famous yet still bests his acting in this movie at every turn. Everywhere that he’s off-key, she’s perfecly in tune; for every exaggerated facial contortion of his, she responds with a delicate expression–even her faux Southern accent trumps his. (Travolta makes the common non-Southerner’s mistake of overselling the eccentricities of the accent, but Johansson knows that a lighter touch comes off more believably.) Johannson’s performance as the ridiculously-named Purslane Hominy Will is rarely less than superb. Unfortunately, it’s also subtle and so gets squashed by the leviathan that is John Travolta’s overacting.

(“Hominy?” Really? Girl, your mother named you after grits? Exactly the kind of thing only someone not from the South would think a Southerner would do.)

Much of what bugged me about A Love Song for Bobby Long was exactly that feeling, that it was a movie about Southerners made by people with no knowledge of the South. It felt like a South imagined by someone who’s only familiar with the region from listenting to old blues music and watching reruns of “In the Heat of the Night.” I don’t know how much of that problem can be blamed on writer/director Shainee Gabel (from Philly) and how much on Ronald Evertt Capps, who wrote the novel Off Magazine Street on which this movie was somewhat loosely based, but almost nothing about how the South was presented felt true to me (and I’m a Southerner, current New England residence aside). I can’t say for certain that no one in New Orleans lives the way Bobby Long and Lawson Pines and their friends do, but I just didn’t buy it for a second.

Written by Allen

May 25th, 2005 at 10:32 pm