Saturday, July 31, 2010

Balaclava time

For some reason the term "cos-play" springs to mind. The trailer has a soft core naughty-anime dimension that will likely repel as many people as it attracts. I can't imagine walking into a theater playing this without wearing a ski mask. Thank God for DVDs. C.I.: Cinerati.

Much less conflicted about this one, a film that really seems to understand why 3-D was invented.


Friday, July 30, 2010

Couldn't have done it without you....

Thanks, in part, to the readers of this blog, "The Long Ships" is number five on the Amazon "Movers and Shakers" list , with a 991% increase in sales since yesterday!

And the Boston Globe sez that Vikings are the new Vampires...

"Hungry Ghost Blog": One stop shopping for all your book publicity needs. Addresses for review copies on request.


Your homework for the weekend

Learn how to swear in English.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Two deeply obscure (to me) and, yet, somehow necessary novels

The hits just keep on coming... As US readers become more aware of the joys of translation (I blame Steig Larsson, myself, but who knows) more publishers seek to find audiences for classics unheard of a short time ago.

Two examples:

In the WSJ, Michael Dirda reviews "Eline Vere", the masterpiece of Louis Couperous 'the greatest Dutch novelist of his time" (late 19th century), under the irresistable headline "Tolstoy and Trollope Fans, Meet Couperous":

With this "novel of The Hague," Couperus produced one of those beautifully composed, old-style realist novels that present an entire society to us while simultaneously questioning its values. If you enjoy Tolstoy or Trollope, you really should try Ina Rilke's new translation of this superb, albeit too little-known book.
And at New York Review Books, they have teed up "The Long Ships", by Frans G, Bengtsson, with an introduction by Michael Chabon (him again). "Long Ships" was written in the 1940s in Sweden and originally published as two novels, described as follows by the publisher:

Frans Gunnar Bengtsson’s The Long Ships resurrects the fantastic world of the tenth century AD when the Vikings roamed and rampaged from the northern fastnesses of Scandinavia down to the Mediterranean. Bengtsson’s hero, Red Orm—canny, courageous, and above all lucky—is only a boy when he is abducted from his Danish home by the Vikings and made to take his place at the oars of their dragon-prowed ships. Orm is then captured by the Moors in Spain, where he is initiated into the pleasures of the senses and fights for the Caliph of Cordova. Escaping from captivity, Orm washes up in Ireland, where he marvels at those epicene creatures, the Christian monks.......
Sounds like Robert E. Howard meets Dorothy Dunnett to me. Cool cover, too:


The Doctor Who Prom

An annual parents and children event at the Royal Albert Hall: the BBC Symphony offers music from the series (surprisingly good as movie music goes), light/fast/short classics (this year: "Mars" from The Planets, some John Adams (good on you), Ride of the Valkyries, O Fortuna from Carmina Burana.) and much facetiousness: Daleks, Cybermen, a fez on the statue of Sir Henry Wood....

Also... Matt Smith, Karen Gillen (as host), the guy who plays Rory, and a panto sketch about Daleks taking over the BBC Symphony, defeated by the Doctor.

If you're a fan, how can you resist? Available here for a bit longer


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Least surprising news of the week, twice

1. The Stephen Moffat-David Gatiss "Sherlock" was a huge hit on Sunday night.

2. Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch (see photo, below) was Moffat's initial pick for the Doctor....

I heard David Tennant on the radio once saying that the four essential roles in British culture were James Bond, Sherlock Holmes, Hamlet, and the Doctor.....


Monday, July 26, 2010

Larsson loses.

The (British) CWA International Dagger for best crime fiction translated into English -- created as the result of the CWA's decision to stop awarding their best novel award to foreigners (It was getting embarrassing... ) -- was just awarded to Johan Theorin's Darkest Room, not to the increasing ubiquitous Hornet's Nest.

The translator gets an award, too, which is cool.

Theorin's been on the radar for a while, ever since Camilla Lackberg included one of his books (Echoes from the Dead) on her list of the top 10 Swedish crime novels.

Larsson wins in the film adaptation of the first book in the Trilogy. Noomi Rapice is riveting. And all casting queens should note that, as evidenced by the interview with her that is one of the extras on the DVD, she resembles Salander about as much as I do. She actually looks rather like Catherine Deneuve....


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Drag Me to Heck

Designed to be PG-13 in language and splatter, Del Toro says the MPAA gave "Don't [Be Afraid of the Dark]" an R-rating saying their decision was "not negotiable because of pervasive scariness." Del Toro says they asked what they could do to get the film to a more commercially friendly PG-13 and the ratings body replied, "'Why ruin a perfectly scary movie?' We had the studio backing us up into going an R. Horror has to have balls and those balls have to be sweaty and wrinkled."

UPDATE: Del Toro, among his bazillion other potential projects, says he has always wanted to do a serious take on the “Mexican wrestler versus vampire” genre.

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark in HD

Trailer Park Movies | MySpace Video


Mieville sighting in the New York Times

Rousing itself from centuries of torpor, the New York Times discovers the 'new weird' and China Mieville. Not surprisingly, the writer of the piece is Sarah Lyall, who is not one of their book people, but the woman who covers the British culture beat.

I just finished "Kraken" myself, and it's marvelous, if a bit clunky in its exposition... Jaw-dropping sense of wonder on every page -- and I'm all about sense of wonder. Turns out that Mieville is too:

..what attracts him to the genre, as a reader and a writer, is the importance of the imagination — “that sense of the world blown apart, that sense of a crack in reality, that visionary sense, that ecstatic sense,” as he described it.
There's an amusing reflection on Star Trek as well -- turned into a small horror as a significant plot point in Kraken:
...... teleportation, or travel by “beaming up,”... has long irritated Mr. Miéville because, in his view, it entails ripping people apart and then piecing them, inadequately, back together.

“I spent much of my youth soul-suckingly horrified by Star Trek and not understanding why no one else could understand that it was a charnel ship manned by ghosts, because you die every time you teleport!” Mr. Miéville said. “It freaked me out.”


Thursday, July 22, 2010

All that useless beauty

The Festo AirPenguin, self-controlled and self-navigating German robots. Click through for wide-screen if necessary.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

David claims to like hot food....

..... but I'll bet he can't deal with phall. The WSJ explains the economics of an East Village curry cult (Sorry if the link is firewalled. ):

Managing partner Sati Sharma, who put the dish on the menu in a nod to its ubiquity in British curry houses, says that phaal is too spicy for even him. “I can only do a teaspoon at a time,” he says. “You don’t want to see a 300-pound man cry.”

From Brick Lane’s perspective, the number of patrons who complete the phaal challenge matters less than how many start it. Before (a documentary about the restaurant on The Travel Channel) aired, Brick Lane served five or six orders of the dish (priced from $14-20) per week. Since then, Sharma estimates he serves ten to 15 orders of the conversation-piece curry in a busy evening, with spikes in orders when re-runs appear......

Julianne Buenting, an Episcopal priest visiting from Chicago, texted a friend about the dish but didn’t order it. Told that phaal packs sixty times the heat of a jalapeno, Buenting crossed herself and said “Oy.”


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Inception: Alas

A lumbering bore, for the most part, and surprisingly gloomy for a concept that has so much promise for fun.

Imagine being able to roam at will in your dreams.... Imagine if you entered your dreams and found....... nothing surprising or funny -- just a generic urban space and some guys with machine guns.

What a waste. 150 minutes without a single joke or smile. Christopher Nolan has wanted to make this movie for about ten years, I read the other day. He should have spent ten minutes with Stephen Moffat first.

(Correction: There is a joke of sorts: A labored meta-reference to Marion Cotillard's previous gig playing Edith Piaf. Repeated about fifteen times.....)


Monday, July 19, 2010

Voix originale

C.I.: Bob Dylan



Modern-dress Holmes. Written by Moffatt, who apparently doesn't sleep. Starts Sunday on BBC 1. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch (Really. RSC type, was in Atonement and played Stephen Hawking on television) and Martin Freeman (the John Krasinski prototype on the British 'Office')

Sit down while you watch the trailer. It's too cool to watch unprepared. Click through for widescreen.


Saturday, July 17, 2010

In the Soup

Another crime writer who gives his sleuth the thought processes of a novelist.

"Cashin thought that he knew the answer, delivered to him by some process in the brain that endlessly sifted, sorted and shuffled things heard and read, seen and felt, bits and pieces with no obvious use, just clutter, litter, until the moment when two of them touched, spun and found each other, fitted like hands locking."
                     --Peter Temple, The Broken Shore (2007), p. 293.


Things I learned from reading Kraken, by China Mieville

He claims this cartoon as an influence. Would never have heard of Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising otherwise. Clearly belongs in the canon... (Respecting modern sensibilities, I will mention, but not link to, the Harmon-Ising series of "Bosko" cartoons, clearly already banished from the canon when I was younger and probably destroyed by now, other than these few shards found on You Tube...)


Friday, July 16, 2010

Bob Dylan's Natural Facts

"A giraffe can go a long time without water, but he wants to see a menu right away. Isn't nature amazing?"


Why didn't anyone tell me? Bizarro fiction!

The Guardian book pages on top of things as always in a piece written by the indefatigable Damien Walter.

Essentially aimed at the midnight movie crowd, Bizarro fiction dials the offense up to eleven (after all, you don't need a producer and a budget to write a book).

The genre is still seeking its cross-over star. It will not be Carlton Melnick III (writer of Adolph in Wonderland and The Cannibals of Candyland) or Cameron Pierce (whose "Ass Goblins of Auschwitz" is so disgusting, I won't even quote the plot summary). As he says, though:

In an era when very little remains shocking, Pierce might have actually managed to create a genuinely disturbing work of fiction, the literary equivalent of Schindler's List rewritten by the Marquis De Sade and filmed as a Tim Burton animated feature.
Walters does recommend a book called "Cursed" by Jeremy C. Shipp, which he describes as an episode of Seinfeld written by Chuck Palhaniuk.

Go on, I dare you...


Armond hammers "Inception"




"What's a vittle?"
"Victuals. Food. In general."
"How do you spell it?"
"I find that hard to accept."

-- from Peter Temple's The Broken Shore


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Top 5 "Essential Films" determined, somehow, by the Toronto International Film Festival:

  • 1. The Passion of Joan of Arc (Carl Theodor Dreyer)
  • 2. Citizen Kane (Orson Welles)
  • 3. L’Avventura (Michaelangelo Antonioni)
  • 4. The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola)
  • 5. Pickpocket (Robert Bresson)
The only films in the Top 100 that are also firmly on my personal favorites list are The Godfather (4), Seven Samurai (6), Taxi Driver (45), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (72), Blue Velvet (92) and The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (93). No Peckinpah, no Laurel and Hardy; the wrong Cronenberg, Hitchcock and Almodovar.

How out of step are you?



Monday, July 12, 2010

Radio on

BOB DYLAN: "If I had to pick an American to compare to Bertolt Brecht, I would say it was Jonathan Richman. There's a lot of similarities. You can decide for yourself by listening to Road Runner."


Lost: Adam Roberts Summarizes

I can't resist calling attention to this from Adam Roberts, which has to be (I haven't seen the series) a masterpiece of compression...

I liked this quote, which makes me want to find the time to go back and do the whole thing:

But perhaps there is a danger in attempting to respond to a series like Lost after the end. The main motor of the show, the hook upon which were painfully suspended so many millions of fans, myself included, was "What's it all about?" (alloyed with a little "What's going to happen next?"). The last few episodes of season 6 provided the definitive answer to the first of these questions, and that answer will now inevitably colour memories of the show. More: that answer will tend to diminish the show—as we all knew it would, even before we had an inkling of what it was—not only in the sense that it closes down the other avenues of possible interpretation, but because it involves a kind of optical illusion of coherence. We need to hold in mind just how wonderfully streaked, freaked, spattered, and dribbled this show used to be. How superbly it resisted the stare-eyed hermeneutic obsessions of its fanbase (myself included), not with mere opacity but by a sort of glorious promiscuity of more "meaning" than even we could stomach.


Taking Armond White to the Woodshed

Richard Brody points to this extraordinary piece of meta-criticism by a writer named Paul Brunick, unknown to me. It's a VERY detailed examination of a short, and apparently quite controversial, review of "Toy Story 3" by Armond White. Brody has his own views, which are also interesting, but Brunick is pretty devastating -- especially to someone like me who admires White's spirit and verve. Brunick's conclusion:

So where does this leave us? By my count there are about three declarative statements in this entire piece that are not categorically inaccurate. The rest is a seething tissue of factual errors, self-negating examples, glaring elisions, logical inconsistencies, specious industrial analysis, mystifying rhetorical constructions and basic grammatical errors. It speaks for itself. As White's critical hero and much invoked "mentor" Pauline Kael once said in an interview, "No one should trust any critic who does not take the art form he is writing about seriously enough to write a decent paragraph. I simply do not trust the observations of people who write sloppily or in illiterate hyperbole." Of course, all of these mistakes would be far less objectionable if they weren't used to prop up some of the most misanthropic mudslinging that any "professional" reviewer has passed off as criticism since, well, the last outrageous thing Armond wrote.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Of course...

...he could also simply be wrong


"The Lodger"

Quite enjoyed this light, playful run-up to the titanic season finale -- a lot more than this guy did, anyway, hugely missing the point with his complaint that it wasn't scary enough. This was basically a comic (and romantic-comic) episode. Matt Smith clearly had a great time milking the Doctor's eccentricities for laughs -- a ploy that did have serious implications, as the most important thematic strand seemed to be a timely reminder that for all his benign and thoughtful qualities the Doctor is, after all, an alien, which is to say, not human. Always a fascinated tourist on earth, IOW, no matter when the Tardis lands.


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Dylan Dog

"I don't trust a man who doesn't tear up a little watching Old Yeller." -- Bob Dylan


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

An artist without imitators

I suspect that it's too hard to do.....

COMBO a collaborative animation by Blu and David Ellis (2 times loop) from blu on Vimeo.


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Price: "Not a mystery writer..."

Ricahrd Price on his third Dempsey novel, Samaritan

ROGER BIRNBAUM: I read a fair number of mysteries and rarely care about whatever the purported mystery is. In this story you did a great job of keeping me guessing about who the perpetrator is.

RICHARD PRICE: I think that was on purpose.

RB: (Laughs) Right, but many times writers aren't successful.

RP: I don't consider myself a mystery writer. It's just a convenience, following a police investigation. It is a built-in structure and I'm kind of spacey when it comes to running a tight ship. So, I found that by following an investigation it gives you an automatic framework upon which you can drape anything you want to explore in human nature. Plus, I write about life at the urban, entrenched level.

RB: So-called "urban realism."

RP: I don't know what it's called. Kitchen-sink realism. Or magic social realism. Or social magic realism. But anyway, on one level it's a mystery and one level I have to keep you guessing. But it's not really the thing I am, primarily. It's more like a "why dunnit" than a "who dunnnit." Somebody said about mystery books, it's the only genre in which the reader is trying very hard to make the writer fail. By getting there before the writer wants them to. It's good that you didn't know, I guess. Some people said they knew, but I don't believe them.
UPDATE: To Charlie Rose he sez: "A crime is a lazy man's way to a plot."


Saturday, July 3, 2010

Another four best

Admired mystery writer Laura Lippman names her four best "literary" crime novels. I've read three and own the fourth, so I'm officially cool.


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Turns out it's "performance art"

An elaborate fake, IOW. Art schoolers pretending to be SA trailer trash.

Still, if this is Fincher's notion of Salander, there may be some hope for his "Girl" adaptation, after all.

I like this video better than the one that's making the rounds.


Happy Fourth of July

Boat — Miller High Life from Michael Williams on Vimeo.

Genius documentarian Errol Morris pays the rent by directing ads, like the above from about ten years ago. Never saw it, but love it now. The series can be seen here.