Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Speaking of Utterly Calm Killers...

I've elsewhere noted my high regard for crime novelist Donald Westlake. He's also known as "Richard Stark" when writing about Parker, inveterate thief and all-around bad-ass.

With thanks to Sarah Weinman, here's a great interview with Westlake/Stark in the Times Online.

Call It, Friendo

If you like the Coen Brothers, you're going to like "No Country for Old Men." If you sat through "Intolerable Cruelty" and "The Ladykillers" and wondered whether the boys would find their groove again, you're going to love it.

I haven't read the Cormac McCarthy novel from which the movie has been adapted, but I've heard that the Coens stuck pretty close to it, reportedly lifting big chunks of dialogue out of the book. It's basically a gussied-up "find the stolen money and wind up in hell" thriller, but it works mighty fine on the screen. Some people have problems with the book, but that's a different issue.

I don't think there's a bad performance in this film. Josh Brolin exhibits the right degree of close-mouthed working class fatalism, and Glaswegian actress Kelly Macdonald transforms herself into a young Texas housewife who's smarter than she first appears. Tommy Lee Jones keeps the folksiness to manageable portions. Tess Harper, Barry Corbin and Stephen Root lend their usual stalwart support. Even Woody Harrelson is fine.

The stand-out, though, is Javier Bardem as the utterly calm, terrifyingly implacable killer, Anton Chigurh. Watch the scene between him and Gene Jones, as Chigurh engages a gas station owner in an existential game of Heads-or-Tails. It's brilliantly shot, edited, acted and sound directed.

Best movie I've seen this year.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Sooper Geenius

cash advance

I'm not sure what this signifies. It's not like I spend a lot of time discussing the finer points of string theory on this blog. Still, I'll take whatever approbation I can get, not matter how specious.

So, if your IQ's less than 150, back on out of here, pardner!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Recommended SF/Fantasy for the Holidays

The San Francisco Chronicle published my list of recommended science fiction and fantasy reading for the holidays. This is usually interpreted as a "Best of the Year" list, but it's really only 10 books I particularly liked among those I happened to read between January and October, sorted alphabetically by author's last name.

Have a look if you're interested in good books by Kage Baker, Christopher Barzak, Emma Bull, Joe Hill, China Mieville, Naomi Novik, Patrick Rothfuss, Matt Ruff, Dan Simmons and Charles Stross.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Reckless Disregard

Here's a heartbreaking and infuriating story via Romenesko.

A socially awkward 13-year-old girl named Megan befriends Josh, a hot-looking 16-year-old boy via MySpace. She's all excited until other local teens begin leaving online bulletins calling her "fat" and a "slut." Then Josh turns on her and allegedly writes that "the world would be a better place without you."

So Megan hangs herself in her closet.

You probably think you know the kicker to this awful tragedy. That's right, there never was any Josh. Somebody created a false account and purposefully set out to humiliate Megan. But here's what you probably didn't guess -- the hoax was perpetrated by two adults, the parents of one of Megan's former girlfriends.

Read the story in the St. Charles Journal. The writer omits the name of the -- what's the word I'm groping for -- evil people who exploited the trust of a child they'd previously vacationed with. He does, however, paint a vivid picture of the hell Megan's parents currently occupy.

Some readers see the newspaper's reticence to identify the culpable neighbors as cowardly. I'm not sure I agree. But I'm not sorry that others have done some elementary online sleuthing and identified the creators of "Josh."

I hope there's some payback. Legal recourse would be better than not. But I hope someone other than Megan's poor parents is losing some sleep tonight.

Vertigo Fatigue

Comics from Vertigo, DC's "mature" imprint, just make me tired these days.
Back in its heyday, I used to read practically everything from this imprint. Gaiman's "Sandman." Morrison's "The Invisibles" and "The Filth." Ennis's "Preacher." "Hellblazer" by Delano and Ennis. Carey's "Lucifer."
Not anymore.

"Hellblazer"? Stopped when Mike Carey left.

"Y: The Last Man"? Bailed about 40 issues in. Figure I'll get around to reading all the trade collections one of these days.
"DMZ," "Scalped," "Crossing Midnight." "American Virgin," "Exterminators," Testament"? Read review-copy trades and was never tempted to pick up another single issue on its own.
"Army @ Love," "The Un-Men," "Faker," "Jack of Fables"? Nope, nope, nope, nope.
The only Vertigo books I buy anymore are "100 Bullets" and "Fables." "Fables" alone has the momentum and personality to keep me engaged month-to-month. I purchase "100 Bullets" more or less out of habit. I want those characters to just start killing each other and be done with it. I'm ready for the bloody saga to end. I get the sense series creator Brian Azzarello is too.
Have I aged out of the Vertigo demographic? Am I just too damn cheap to spend more tha $7 a month on these comics? Or maybe I just need a nap?

"Rock 'n' Roll" Takes a Breather

Broadway's largely dark because of the stagehands strike, but folks keep writing about "Rock 'n' Roll."

Irene Backalenick writes about the play for All about JewishTheatre.

At Broadway World, Michael Dale discusses the play, in between notes about the Ziegfeld Follies and "Richard III."

Carolyn Clay covers it for the Boston Phoenix.

Nicholas Wapshott provides an opinion piece for the New York Sun.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

"Rock." Papers. Scissors Not Required.

More newspaper articles about "Rock 'n' Roll":

Chris Jones in the Chicago Tribune calls the play "one of this remarkable writer's most profound and personal works."

Louise Kennedy in the Boston Globe deems it "a hymn to the great god Pan."

In the New York Times, John Pareles writes, at length, about the music of the Plastic People of the Universe.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Autumn Reading

This week's Chronicle science fiction and fantasy review covers four titles that provide a high level of entertainment and range in genre from near-future high-tech caper to retro-superhero adventure. The books discussed are "Halting State" by Charles Stross, Naomi Novik's "Empire of Ivory," "Eat the Dark" by Joe Schreiber and Jeff Smith's new version of "Shazam!"

Next week, look for the Holiday Books issue, with my 10 picks for the year's notable Science Fiction and Fantasy Releases.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Gimme That "Rock 'n' Roll" Music

In The Nation, Eric Alterman starts out talking about "Rock 'n' Roll" and somehow winds up castigating Maureen Dowd for her alleged dishonesty, with a side trip to the legacy of the Enola Gay. He does deem the play "brilliant," however.

Toby Zinman at the Philadelphia Inquirer calls "Rock 'n' Roll" "intriguing."

The Daily Mail claims that the New York production is interfering with Stoppard's work on a new adaptation of Chekhov's "Ivanov."

Jeremy McCarter at New York Magazine doesn't think much of Mel Brooks' musical "Young Frankenstein" but finds "Rock 'n' Roll" "triumphant."

Kurt Loder at MTV.com explores the play's connection to Pink Floyd's Syd Barrett.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

"Rock 'n' Roll" Reviews Rolling In

The word is spreading about the New York production of "Rock 'n' Roll." Terry Teachout writes about it for the Wall Street Journal and says that "2007 will be remembered as the year Tom Stoopard fooled everyone" (in a good way, presumably).

Linda Winer at Newsday calls "Rock 'n' Roll" a "direct and worthy descendent of 'The Coast of Utopia.'"

The Complete Review maintains an extremely informative page about the play, with plenty of links to reviews of the London production.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Wall-to-Wall Mamet

The folks who put on last year's well-received Stoppardfest in Winnipeg are gearing up for Mametfest in 2008. I'm not sure I could deal with marathon performances of "Speed-the-Plow" and "Oleanna" in Manitoban sub-zero weather, but Len Cariou, Winnipeg native and Sondheim's original Sweeney Todd, is directing "Glengarry Glen Ross" at the Manitoba Theater Centre. That's certainly a selling point.

Better Red Than Dead

From the "Gee, I Wish I Reviewed Mysteries for Money" file comes the trade paperback edition of Duane Swierczynski's "The Blonde."

For those coming in late, this volume contains the full, unexpurgated text of the chase-thriller/sci-fi spy adventure that reads like Cornell Woolrich on a nitrous oxide bender. Plus, it includes "The Redhead," a bonus novella that serves as nasty little coda to the main event.

I like the idea of paperbacks that provide added value, though I must say that I now wish I had been able to read "The Redhead" the minute after I finished "The Blonde" in hardcover. My middle-aged mind loses track of a lot of plot details over the course of 10 months.

Like Stuart MacBride, Swierczynski is someone I discovered more or less through serendipity and am now willing to follow pretty much anywhere. If you haven't tried him yet, start with "The Wheelman."

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Make My Logo Bigger!!!!

If you've spent any time at all in advertising, you'll find this video hilarious.

"Rock 'n' Roll" Opens Sunday

In previews since Oct. 19, the New York production of "Rock 'n' Roll" is set to open officially on Nov. 4. In anticipation of that event, Stoppard has been making the interview rounds.

He submitted to a Q&A with Time Magazine as part of a fuller portrait of him and the production. Time Out New York sat down with him for a short interview. Robert Feldberg of the North Jersey Media group conducted a telephone interview with him.

Meanwhile, the New York Daily News spoke with lead actor Rufus Sewall. Co-star Brian Cox groused about the state of the American Theatre to New York Magazine.