Friday, December 25, 2009
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Philosopher Jean Baudrillard has been credited with claiming alternately that Sergio Leone was the first post-modernist director and that Once Upon a Time in the West was the first post-modern film. Either seems like a specious claim, in that the French New Wave fairly lived in
Its post-modernity lies almost exclusively in the tenet of self-reflexivity, the ability to recognize that a work lies not outside its history, but is, indeed, a product of it. Sergio Leone, along with Bernardo Bertolucci and Dario Argento, who helped him fashion the treatment for Once Upon a Time in the West, repeatedly watched their favorite old Westerns during the story process, then consciously cribbed and quoted those films to lay the groundwork of familiarity against which the plot of the film would be set. In this way, they honored the conventions of the Westerns of their youth, while using them to deconstruct the Western itself.
The most striking use of this technique is in the casting. Henry Fonda, whose career had featured a long-line of heroic and morally-upright characters, including Abraham Lincoln, Tom Joad, Wyatt Earp, Mister Roberts, JFK, and Teddy Roosevelt, Jr., was cast as the evil, amoral Frank, a fact which was hidden from the audience until after he and his men had massacred an entire family, and just before he gunned down a child. The audience’s expectations for the character, then, were completely shattered, giving Frank full reign to be as brutal as he needed to be.
Also familiar to Western fans was Charles Bronson, who had appeared in Vera Cruz, Jubal, 4 For Texas, and Guns of Diablo. But it was his role as the wood-whittling Bernardo O’Reilly in The Magnificent Seven that made him the perfect choice for the role of Harmonica. What was, in The Magnificent Seven, a sweet and generous gift of music became a totem of revenge in Leone’s film.
Beyond this, there are many scenes or sequences in the film that refer directly or obliquely to previous Westerns. The beginning of the film is similar to that of High Noon, where three men wait for a single passenger at a train station. The person they are waiting for is a bad man named Frank. The massacre of the McBain family at Sweetwater was influenced by a similar sequence in The Searchers, where the Edwards family is setting their places for dinner, as the anticipation of an attack by unseen Indians mounts. The massacre is conducted by five men in dusters, including Frank, much the same way that the stagecoach is robbed by five men in dusters, including Liberty Valance, in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.
The funeral scene is borrowed very closely from the Sonewall Torrey funeral scene in Shane. The character of Jill McBain bears close resemblance to that of Joan Crawford’s Vienna in Johnny Guitar, in what Bertolucci called “one of the more explicit references in Once Upon a Time in the West.” Henry Fonda, working the dark side of his personality in Warlock, wears clothes similar to what Frank wears here. His character also kicks a crippled man off his crutches, much as Frank does to Morton near the end of the film. And, of course, the entire concept of the colonization of the West, and the role of the railroad in it, is a common theme in Westerns. Veteran writer Frank Gruber calls it one of the seven basic Western plots. But in Leone’s interpretation, it bears closest resemblance to John Ford’s The Iron Horse and Cecil B. DeMille’s Union Pacific in its affectionate close-ups of the trains.
But the references did not stop at Westerns. Leone pulled from all of film history, including a reference to the final scene of film noir Farewell, My Lovely, in which Marlowe says “She made good coffee, anyway,” echoing
Jorge Luis Borges once wrote that “every writer creates his own precursors.” Filmmakers are no different. Rarely are they as apparent in Once Upon a Time in the West, but we all live with a collective past, a collective memory, that exists to shape our perception of what is to come. Whether what is to come agrees with or contradicts what has passed is the choice of the artist.
~Jared Case, Head of Cataloging, Motion Picture Department, George Eastman House
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Monday, December 21, 2009
Monday, December 14, 2009
Bury Me Deep, by Megan Abbott
Another beautiful, elliptical novel from Megan, based on a true scandalous murder of the Thirties, then taken where Megan wants it to go. There aren't many better than Megan in crime fiction right now, and if you like your novels dark, then Megan is the way to go.
Murder is Binding, by Lorna Barrett
NY Times best-selling cozy from one of Rochester's own. It takes the meta-level lover of mysteries and plops her into a mystery of her own, in a small town with many eccentric peoples. The first of a series that now includes Bookmarked for Death and Bookplate Special.
Hit and Run, by Lawrence Block
The master at work on possibly his last novel. Keller is the likeable hit-man set up for a political assassination and on the run in post-Katrina New Orleans. Fourth in a series that you should read, too, if you haven't already.
For Better, For Murder, by Lisa Bork
The newest Rochester-based crime fiction purveyor starts her "Broken Vows" series with this not-quite-cozy that centers around expensive cars and dead bodies in a Finger Lakes small town. The complex relationship between the protagonist and her "ex-husband" is what draws me to this series.
Trigger City, by Sean Chercover
Sean is awesome. Dark, like his hero Lawrence Block's Matt Scudder novels, but also thoughtful and timely. In this one, our PI Ray Dudgeon is paid to investigate an open-and-shut case that puts him in the crosshairs of a multi-national security firm. Great stuff, and get the first novel, Gi City, Bad Blood, too.
Embrace the Grim Reaper, by Judy Clemens
Full disclosure - I haven't finished this yet, but I'm enjoying the hell out of it. Casey has had a near-death experience, and ever since then she's been having near-Death experiences. Wandering the countryside, the Grim Reaper is her nearly-constant companion. In this, she stumbles onto a recession-induced murder mystery in a small Ohio town. Fantasy or parable, I'm eager to find out.
Frames, by Loren D. Estleman
For the film geek in your life. Valentino is a UCLA film archivist that may have just found the sole remaining print of GREED. Salivating yet? Get it for your film geek friends and watch the drool flow...
Money Shot, by Christa Faust
Ex-porn star Angel Dare starts the novel in the trunk of a car, presumably at her own end, but this is only the start of the novel. Angel finds her way out, discovers who's behind the deed and extracts her revenge. Dark, fast and fun. But what else would a Hard Case Crime book be?
State of the Onion, by Julie Hyzy
Can a White House chef really become embroiled (heh-heh) in an international mystery? Of course she can! A "cozy thriller," this is the first in a (soon-to-be three book) series that follows Ollie Paras through the worlds of diplomatic exactitude, haute cuisine and Sorkin-esque behind-the-scenery.
Good People/The Amateurs, by Marcus Sakey
Holding up the back end of the alphabet all by himself, Marcus is a Chicago-based writer that focuses on the everyman in his thrillers. Not the John McClane Hollywood everyman, but the guy who has moved on from his dark past. Or the guy coming back from the war to a changed neighborhood (noir anyone?). Or, in the case of these two novels, a married couple just trying to have a baby, and a group of friends 10 years too late in finding that this is all there is. They really should be bought and read together as companion pieces (you can e-mail me if you've read them and want to discuss why), but they work very well individually as well.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
In the penultimate episode of the season, everything is coming to a head. Jax and Clay are back together, but at what cost? And can Clay pull all the colors together to fight the Aryan Nation, or are the Sons headed for ultimate ruin? Or worse.
Monday, November 30, 2009
BEAST OF THE CITY (1932)
THE BERLIN EXPRESS (1948)
THE BRIBE (1949)
DEEP VALLEY (1947)
EXPERIMENT PERILOUS (1944)
THE FALLEN SPARROW (1943)
HIGHWAY 301 (1950)
I DIED A THOUSAND TIMES (1955)
I WAS A COMMUNIST FOR THE F.B.I. (1951)
JOHNNY EAGER (1942)
LIGHTNING STRIKES TWICE (1951)
NORA PRENTISS (1947)
PARTY GIRL (1958)
RANCHO NOTORIOUS (1952)
THE TALL TARGET (1951)
THIS WOMAN IS DANGEROUS (1952)
THE UNFAITHFUL (1947)
THE UNSUSPECTED (1947)
THE VERDICT (1946)
There are also a handful of film noir at the increasingly ubiquitous hulu.com, available for viewing on your computer screen immediately. They're not on the site forever (I've included their expiration dates), but you don't have to make a trip to the video store or wait for the disc in the mail, so check them out:
99 RIVER STREET (1953) - 10/31/2010
COP HATER (1958) - 10/31/2010
CRIME AGAINST JOE (1956) - 10/31/2010
MR. ARKADIN (1955) - Never
THE STRANGER (1946) - Never
So, now there's more reason to explore the breadth and scope of noir. Some of it's at your fingertips, and some of it is easily within reach. Enjoy yourself!
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Monday, November 23, 2009
Congratulations to Lorna Barrett, author of the Booktown Mystery Series, and a Rochester, NY mystery writer. Her third book in the series, BOOKPLATE SPECIAL went to #20 on the New York Times Paperback Bestseller list. That means it gets in the paper. Awesome! Pick it up yourself to see what all the sales are about.
Friday, November 20, 2009
Yes, yes. I know. So sue me. This series started when I was 23 years old and was all about where I was in my life - hanging out with friends, trying to figure out the present and the future, as far as relationships and careers were involved. And the snarky, sarcastic Chandler was as close to who I thought I was as I could find on TV. So I watched. And I laughed. "The One with the Embryos" is still one of my favorite half-hours of all time. ("Actually, it's MISS Chenandler Bong.") And I still quote the pilot, although you may not know it. ("All right. Maybe I will.") Can't help it. I loved this show.
#4 - Rescue Me (2004-Present)
Although it really went off the rails in Season 5, this show has always been appointment TV for me. Hey, it's not every show about post-9/11 anxiety, survivor's guilt, divorce, alcoholism, rage, hallucinations, ghosts, religion and masculine failure that can make you laugh liquids out your nose. There have been some really, really dark moments on this show, and there have also been moments that have made me fall off the couch, and when you can do both well, and balance them against each other, you have an emotional experience that is hard to beat. Denis Leary leads a solid cast, and his two Emmy nominations have been well-deserved.
#3 - Lost (2004-2010)
What I love about LOST is that joyous sense of bewilderment I get from watching it. Oh, I can follow the story, at least as much as they give me, but I still don't know what's going on. And it's inevitable that there will be that point in an episode where I'll say, "What!?" But I'm along for the ride because of the storytelling, the philosophical questions, and the characters. Moving images, and especially the narrative form, are the purview of emotion, and LOST is the only show that gives me this sort of experience.
#2 - Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (2006-2007)
Okay, wait, let me see if I've got this right. You're going to take Matthew Perry from FRIENDS, Bradley Whitford and Timothy Busfield from WEST WING, pair them up in a show from Aaron Sorkin, toss in Amanda Peet and the revelation that is Sarah Paulson, top it off with the under-rated Steven Weber and set it behind-the-scenes at a comedy sketch show? Let's face it, I loved this show before the camera turned on. Luckily for me, the writing was fantastic and took on the War, the media, and personal responsibility with a fascinating multi-episode flashback arc. I think the show truly hit its stride, however, with its only Christmas episode:
#1 - The Shield (2002-2008)
If there was ever such a thing as TV Noir, this show was its epitome. Posit yourself as Vic Mackey, a cop in the toughest part of LA that gets things done to keep the public safe, catch the bad guys, and keep the gangs away from innocent people. Yeah, sure, he has to get rough, but it's a rough job. Yeah, sure, he has to make some deals with the devils, plant some evidence, but it's all for the greater good. For Vic, this is how the job needs to get done, and the results back him up. It's the Captains and other higher-ups that don't understand. So, in that moment that they find there's an FBI agent undercover in their Strike Squad - in that moment - it makes sense to kill him. And that's when the real spiral begins. It's a credit to Shawn Ryan that everything in THE SHIELD's seven seasons unspools from this first episode. The show wasn't always tight, but it was always focused. The characters became richer as the series went on. Vic's son turned out to be autistic, giving him more reason to stay on the dark side and give him the treatment he needed. Walt Goggins as Shane Vendrell went from the high-livin' adrenaline jockey giving witnesses "yammies full of Georgia joy-juice" to a shades-of-grey family man. The last episode is possibly one of the most shocking, gut-wrenching put to film. Michael Chiklis and Goggins are great, with a solid supporting cast, and excellent recurring turns from Oscar-nominees Glenn Close and Forest Whitaker.
What? you may say. Where's this show, or that show? Well, I can't rank what I haven't seen, and there are some shows that may be right up my alley that I've just missed. Usually because I have the $8 version of cable. So, my apologies to the following series that I'll try to catch up on: THE WIRE, THE SOPRANOS, MAD MEN, BREAKING BAD, DEADWOOD, and DEXTER.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
I was with this show from the beginning. Then I left. Then I came back and found that they had moved from an ensemble show to focus on Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin, which I'll take any day. The absurdist levels of plot development are right up my alley, the apex of which are Tracy Morgan's unique non-sequitirs. There is little plot development, but this show makes me laugh more often than any other show right now.
#9 - Friday Night Lights (2006-Present)
This is the show most likely to make me cry. Yes, it's "about football." But it's about so much more. It's about how you deal when something so totally consumes your life, personally and professionally. It's about the death of dreams. It's about broken families, and the families you make for yourself. It's about the homefront. It's about aging, expectations, personal responsibility, love, life, moving on, growing up. It's about time you started watching this show.
#8 - Battlestar Galactica (2005-2009)
I don't have the Sci-Fi Channel, so I came to this series this year on DVD. I've got a pretty sweet set-up where I get together with friends once or twice a week to watch the shows, and we get to talk about them afterward. And what we have to talk about. Short of OVER THERE, this is about as close as we've come to a weekly allegory about The War. Whether we're talking about torture, or the perception of inhumanity we place on our enemies, or the lengths we'll go to to achieve our goals, and what we'll sacrifice, both physically and personally, it's all here. We're into the third season now, and it's really getting good.
#7 - Sons of Anarchy (2008-Present)
Regular readers have heard me championing this series as a cross between the Godfather, The Wild One, and Hamlet. We have a main character caught at the crossroads of two American dreams: the freedom to be what you want to be without recrimination, and the freedom to make as much money as you can, any way you can. His father's dead, and his mother married his best friend. Oh, did I mention they were bikers?
#6 - Doctor Who (2005-Present)
I've been a fan of Doctor Who for, oh, let's call it 27 years now, ever since I saw "Earthshock" late one Saturday night on WXXI. When Adric (27-year-old spoilers ahead) died at the end of the episode, and they went back to "Robot" the following week, I was devastated. I wanted to know more and more about the show, and watched and taped the show faithfully. What's great about this new version of the show, is that it turns the concept on its ear. The first two series are as much about Rose, the companion, as they are the Doctor. How does her decision affect the life and family she left behind? What exactly is the relationship between the Doctor and his companions? What happens when it's time to leave? It's funny, exciting, touching, and it's a tentpole now on British television. David Tennant only has three specials left, so enjoy him while you can.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
I don't really go for procedurals on TV. But what I do go for is a crime show where the leads have a personal investment in the crime. In LIFE, Charlie Crews was a cop that was set up for murder and sent to jail. When he was finally proven innocent, part of his multi-million dollar settlement was that he get reinstated to the LAPD. Presumably, he wanted his old life back. What he really wanted was the resources to track down who had done this to him.
#14 - Sports Night (1998-2000)
Aaron Sorkin can write a series about watching paint dry, and I'd watch it. In this, his first series, he took a cast on the verge of greatness - Peter Krause (SIX FEET UNDER), Felicity Huffman (DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES), Joshua Malina (THE WEST WING) - and filtered the issues of the day - divorce, drugs, sexual harassment, corporate gluttony - through the eyes and hearts of a SportsCenter-type TV show. A lot of the pathos came from the fact that, no matter what was going on in these character's lives, their job was to be happy for the rest of us. There are some amazing supporting turns, including Robert Guillaume (before and after his stroke), Teri Polo, William H. Macy, Clark Gregg, the underestimated genius that is Ted McGinley, Brenda Strong, Paula Marshall, and Lisa Edelstein. The "behind-the-scenes" concept has carried Sorkin throughout his TV career.
#13 - How I Met Your Mother (2005-Present)
My wife turned me on to this one. The high-concept is this: Our hero, Ted, at a future time, sits his two children down to tell them the story of how he happened to meet their mother. Ostensibly, the entire series is told in flashback, and starts with the day that Ted met Robin, a Canadian emigre newscaster. Each episode, Ted takes a step closer to meeting the elusive "mother," or toward realizing that Robin is the one for him, although she's referred to in the first episode as "Aunt Robin." But don't believe them. The actors that play Ted and Robin are likable, but they are ably supported by Neil Patrick Harris, Jason Segel, and Alyson Hannigan, all TV comedy veterans.
#12 - The West Wing (1999-2006)
Our dream White House doesn't have to do with party affiliation. It has to do with having a thinking, feeling human being running the show. That's what Aaron Sorkin gave us with Jed Bartlett (Martin Sheen), a democrat by affiliation, but a compassionate, intelligent man by nature. Again, the supporting cast is outstanding - Bradley Whitford, Rob Lowe, John Spencer, Allison Janney, Richard Schiff - and Sorkin still had the ability to pull in more star power as the series went on - Joshua Malina, Stockard Channing, Mary McCormack, Jimmy Smits, Kristin Chenoweth, Alan Alda, Lily Tomlin, Mary-Louis Parker, Moira Kelly, Gary Cole, Ron Silver, Tim Matheson, Teri Polo, Marlee Matlin, Janeane Garofalo - not to mention solid guest turns by veterans like John Amos and Karl Malden.
#11 - Over There (2005)
Steven Bochco didn't go away after NYPD BLUE, he just moved to cable. This F/X series may not have been what people wanted to see (as evidenced by a similar reaction at the box office), but the war in Iraq was on everyone's mind, and just as there were films being made about World War II during the war, so too were there artists and producers concerned with getting our fighting men and women's stories on-screen. This series only lasted 13 episodes, and focused on the gritty, dirty world of war, as seen through the eyes of a single company, and the effect it had on the loved ones at home.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
#20: Clerks - The Animated Series (2000)
A whole 2 episodes of this series played on ABC in 2000, but 6 were produced and put onto DVD. It's loopy, meta-level plots and constant pop culture references were right up my alley, and Alec Baldwin is spot-on as the evil Leonardo Leonardo, pre-figuring his Emmy-winning turn on 30 Rock. "Who is driving the car? Oh no! Bear is driving the car!"
#19: The X-Files (1993-2002)
X-Files was still going for 2 1/2 seasons into the new Millennium, and is still one of the best sci-fi shows in history. It's supernatural investigatory premise virtually kickstarted the SciFi Channel, not to mention tons of shows on the WB.
#18: Gilmore Girls (2000-2007)
Yes, I have a feminine side. But this show is not about that. It's about the writing. It's about the dialogue. It's about generational conflict, and about a 30-something mom still finding strength within her.
#17: Damages (2007-Present)
There has only been two seasons of this show so far, but they have both been outstanding. Glenn Close is continuing the great work she started on THE SHIELD, and Rose Byrne is a revelation. Great supporting turns are all over this series, from Ted Danson to Zeljko Ivanek to Anastasia Griffith. I am looking forward to a new season in January.
#16: Da Vinci's Inquest (1998-2006)
Imagine CSI, only with humans! This Canadian series is based on an actual Vancouver coroner who became an activist and eventually a politician, gaining the Mayor's office. Nicholas Campbell is great as Dominic Da Vinci, and Ian Tracey and Donnelly Rhodes are great as the main cops that work with Dom. This may not be the last Donnelly Rhodes series on the list. Tune in tomorrow!
Monday, November 16, 2009
Jan. 7 – White Heat (1949)
Jan. 14 - Gun Crazy (1950)/My Name is Julia Ross (1945) (double feature) – Joseph Lewis
Jan. 21 - Kiss of Death (1947)
Jan. 28 – Crossfire (1947)/The Set-Up (1949) (double feature) – Robert Ryan
Feb. 4 – Dark Passage (1947)
Feb. 11 - Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (1956)/Kiss the Blood Off My Hands (1948) (double feature) – Joan Fontaine
Feb. 18 - Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950)
Feb. 25 – The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)
The double features will start at 7pm. All the other films will start at 8pm. I'm really excited about this line-up, and excited at the possibility that there may be a special guest or two stopping by to help celebrate. There will be many more details to come, including (I hope), sneak peeks at program notes, who is coming and when, and even (gulp) video of film introductions. We'll see how it works out.
Friday, November 13, 2009
Owen Keane is the perfect example of a character that illuminates the prosaic by highlighting the idiosyncratic. His background is like no other: On a religious retreat between his junior and senior years in high school he came across a boy who claimed he could talk to God. When this claim was proven a deceit, his faiths were shaken: his faith in God, his faith in Man, and his faith in The Truth. This event was never far from him, and his crises of faith were internalized, affecting his belief in God, his belief in himself, and his belief in his ability to find the truth. Hoping to tackle all of these crises simultaneously, he abandoned Mary, the woman who would be the love of his life, and entered the seminary. When his failure at the seminary coincided with Mary’s abandonment of him for his college roommate, Harold Ohlman, Owen began to wander, doing odd menial jobs, and ending up in a liquor store. In a fit of pique, he attended his tenth high school reunion under the guise of a private investigator, and Owen Keane, the amateur detective was born.
This backstory is specific enough to be unique, and yet the sum is the same for many of us. Our lives have been an accumulation of events that led us to question the world around us. And to this end, Owen Keane has many of the same investigative tools we all do. As a fan mystery fiction and mystery film, Owen has been indoctrinated into all the tropes and clichés of the detective’s process. His experience is our experience as he references Dashiell Hammett, or Nero Wolfe, or Double Indemnity. This makes him acutely self-aware of his place in the genealogy of detective fiction, but the broad shoulders he stands on don’t prevent him from jumping to the wrong conclusion or following a lead because he hopes it to be true. His failings are our failings, even as his cynical, self-deprecating exterior belies an underlying belief in the goodness of men and women, and the belief that he will be able to effect positive change through the search for truth.
In fact, his currency is truth. Rarely does he get paid for his services, and even then it only covers expenses. But if he can uncover the truth, not necessarily for himself, and not even necessarily for the victim, it adds to a growing tapestry of truth, something that he can point to as a basis for a belief in his ability to find the truth, which supports a belief in himself and in mankind, which holds up the possibility of a belief in the existence and effectiveness of God, despite the fact that faith requires neither proof nor support. Yet this is what drives him to toil in the long shadows of Sam Spade, Nick Charles and Travis McGee.
DIE DREAMING, the fourth book in Terence Faherty’s “Owen Keane” series, is perhaps the best, taking this mystery-fan/faith-in-crisis context and grafting it onto a mystery story that inverts the mystery story expectation of beginning-middle-end. Owen Keane, 28 and feeling a bit of a failure, decides to play a self-deprecating joke on his high school classmates, The Sorrowers, by running an ad for the Owen Keane Detective Agency in the 10th reunion program. But one of The Sorrowers is a jokester herself and sets up a fake mystery to lure Owen into an embarrassing situation. Owen falls for the ruse, but is saved by another classmate. In the meantime, however, a true mystery surfaces when loose lips mention an event that was suppressed 10 years ago and that tied The Sorrowers together in a code of secrecy. Owen’s investigation stumbles along, following false leads and shaky assumptions, but his dogged determination does eventually reveal the truth. It also reveals that there are as many victims as perpetrators, and in the end Owen decides that the truth, now discovered, is sometimes better left buried.
This decision comes into question 10 years later when one of The Sorrowers turns up dead. Owen must come to terms with his responsibility in the death and determine whether the truth did come out, and if someone would kill to keep it hidden. His investigation takes him back to his hometown and his 20th high school reunion. He starts to look at The Sorrowers and the mysterious event that took place 20 years ago, but he has to take into account the changes that have taken place in the last 10 years, when the end of his last investigation became the beginning of this new crime. He discovers that relationships are even more complex than they appeared, and that crimes can have implications generations removed from the original event itself.
There is no better feeling than finding a piece of art that resonates with you, unless you get to share that discovery with someone else. Terence Faherty and Owen Keane were such a discovery for me, and I hope that, by sharing the discovery with you, they will pass from the realms of the forgotten.I do hope you check out this book and all of Terence Faherty's work. And make sure you check Patti's blog every Friday for books that shouldn't be forgotten.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
I spent last night unsuccessfully turning back The Man, so I haven't watched this episode yet, but this is Hulu's description: "When SAMCRO's adult-film business becomes a hindrance to the club, Clay seizes the opportunity to revive the gun-running cartel." Plus, there's fire.
Friday, November 6, 2009
Two large candy boxes valued at $44 were reported stolen Sept. 27 from the Hess convenience store, 1954 Lyell Ave.
If at first you do succeed...
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Check out this single shot where Edward G Robinson goes from obsessing about the past to living in it with a neat switch of the light. The light low and to his right is ominous and keeps half his head in shadow, while the light high and to his left is almost like warm sunshine beating down on his face.
Monday, November 2, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
Friday, October 23, 2009
Thursday, October 22, 2009
On December 3, Canadian author Louise Penny will be speaking as part of the Rochester Arts and Lectures series at the United Presbyterian Church on Fitzhugh. The event starts at 7:30, and Standing Room Only tickets will be sold at the door starting at 6:45.
And if you want an idea of what local mystery authors are doing, all you have to do is be in Greece this Saturday, October 24. Lorna Barrett will be signing at the Greece Arts Festival at the Greece Public Library from 11am-2pm. Then at 2pm, new author Lisa Bork will be at the Barnes & Noble at the Mall at Greece Ridge. The two are doing a joint event at the School 46 Holiday Bazaar on December 5th. Barrett also has other signings throughout the holiday season, so if you miss these two events, maybe you can catch up with her another time.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
- Rochester is 9 hours from Indianapolis. It breaks down pretty well: 2 hours in New York, 1 hour in Pennsylvania, 5 hours in Ohio and 1 hour in Indiana.
- According to Sean Chercover, Toronto (on the other side of the lake) is 9 1/2 hours from Indianapolis.
- Indianapolis is the 12th largest metropolitan area in the US (credit: new friend Paul Vasquez)
- Indianapolis is the "Crossroads of America," where US 65 (Mobile to Gary) and US 70 (Baltimore to Cove Fort, UT) intersect.
- Jim Huang is full of good ideas. The Continuous Conversation was always interesting and the New Authors speed-dating event transferred over well from Malice Domestic.
- Always listen to James Scott Bell.
- Translating a book from another language is hard.
- You want Max Allan Collins to sneeze.
- Sean Chercover's Ray Dudgeon series was this close.
- Canadians dress funny. At least on their panels.
- No matter what Trey Barker says, I love it when authors get recognized. Congratulations again to Brett Battles, Julie Hyzy, Christa Faust and Sean Chercover.
- SJ Rozan gives good interview and I eagerly anticipate her trip to Rochester.
- I love talking to Terence Faherty.
- Video games at Bouchercon? It kinda works.
- Films are as much an influence on current authors as books are.
- Lockerbie Square is a beautiful place to live near a major downtown area.
- I have to read Stephen Jay Schwartz's book soon.
- I still don't know which Terence Faherty book is going to be the "Book You Have to Read."
- I have to read Derek Nikitas' books soon.
- I have to read more and sleep less.
- Write with your head down.
- Absent friends are indeed missed. I'm looking at you, Charles. You too, Lorraine.
- The International Thriller Writers is coming out with a book of essays by authors talking about the 100 Greatest Thrillers. Writers talking about writers is intellectual porn.
- Don't get stuck in the middle of a row.
- The Dark Books for Dark Times panel was a bad idea. Now I have five more authors to read: Reed Farrel Coleman, Larry Beinhart, JT Ellison, Michael Lister and Duane Swierczynski.
- Harley Jane Kozak is just as beautiful in person. And she will sign your DVDs.
- Y'know who else is beautiful? Louise Penny. And she's coming to Rochester, too!
- Authors are still fans.
- Trey Barker knows everybody. Well, almost everybody.
- Jack Daniels is good.
- Sean Chercover and Marcus Sakey are still two of the nicest G-D guys you'll ever meet.
- If you ever want to bring down a ceremony, just give Julie Hyzy an award. (That's facetious, folks.)
- Shannon Clute is almost as knowledgeable about film noir as I am. (Also facetious.)
- Loren Estleman likes film geeks.
- If you're ever in Indianapolis, make sure to hit the TaTa Cuban Cafe.
- Sean Chercover was the second person to recognize my ring. The first was The Hungry Detective, Dan Wagner. And that was a year and a half ago.
More to come, if I think of them.
Will I learn as much in San Francisco next year? It's hard to believe. But SF is a town that is steeped in mystery, and mystery writers.
Monday, October 19, 2009
City police have apprehended one person and suspect three more in the dismemberment of Holly Ween, the giant, pink-haired scarecrow. The scarecrow, Holly Ween, was erected Friday to inaugurate the downtown Fall into Canandaigua Festival, and the foot was stolen late that night, before the festival was even under way, said Nicole Mahoney, of the Business Improvement District. The red foot and shoe measured two-and-a-half-feet tall, police said. “It was disappointing,” she said. “We would at least have liked to have her whole for the festival.”
Used to be, back in my day, a scarecrow only needed brains.
Friday, October 16, 2009
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Someone stole a black and blue Trek mountain bike from an unlocked garage on Old Landmark Drive in Brighton between midnight and 8:20 a.m. Sept. 9. The thief left a blue Pacific Dune mountain bike in the yard.
Someone stole a Rally Passage bike from an open garage on North Country Club Drive in Brighton between 2:20 and 2:38 p.m. Sept. 11. The resident found a yellow men’s Trek bike that was not his.
So, is this actually stealing? Or more like a forced trade?
Monday, October 12, 2009
It seems like the Christmas season starts earlier and earlier every year.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Friday, October 9, 2009
Saturday, October 17
David Morrell previously published a list of the 70 greatest thrillers on the International Thriller Writers website. The list has apparently been expanded to 100 and he is presenting it at Bouchercon, along with Lee Child and Barry Eisler. But Julie Hyzy and Thomas H. Cook are both speaking at the same time, Hyzy on "Criminal Consumables" and Cook on "The Cold Dead Hand of the Past." Plus, there is a Kindle demonstration.
Throughout the program is a concept called "Continuous Conversation" where three authors sit down and talk about whatever they want. One author leaves and is replaced by a new author every 15 minutes. From 9:30-10:15 on Saturday morning, Megan Abbott will be part of the group, and she may be able to pull me away from whatever panel I'm in.
At this time, Michael Connelly is leading a tribute to Edgar Allan Poe during the 200th anniversary of his birth. Also Harlan Coben is talking about "What Do You Need to Know in Order to Write a Crime Novel?" If I feel satisfied with the Connelly interview on Friday, I may end up at the latter panel.
Again there's a lunch. Then Sean Chercover and Louise Penny are talking about the Dilys Award. But there are some interesting conceptual panels, too. "War Crimes" talks about war's relationship with crime fiction, and "Bouchercon 1934" posits what a panel would look like 75 years ago.
I'd like to see Judy Clemens talk about "Rules for the Paranormal Mystery" and Harley Jane Kozak contribute to "The Humor Panel," but I'm also intrigued by "Dark Books for Dark Times."
The Anthony Awards ceremony starts at 4:15, and the reception starts immediately after. But it's only scheduled till 6pm, giving me another night on the Indianapolis streets. Or maybe I'll catch up on some sleep. Maybe I'll sleep at the bar.
Sunday, October 18
It's a long drive home to Rochester, NY, so we may leave fairly early. But I do think we want to check out The Bazaar, where authors hand out free copies of their books to promote reading and awareness. I dig it. And I may even drop an extra $5 for another 5 books.
But once I get home, I'm definitely sleeping. If my wife lets me.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Friday, October 16
Christa Faust is featured in "More Noir Than You Are," but Sean Chercover is making himself seen again in "Short, Dark and Good Reading." And the concept of "Which End is Up?" intrigues me: debating plotting forward vs. writing backward from the end. I have a feeling my inner Noir will win out, though.
Also at this time (from 9:45-11:15) there will be a speed-dating type of introduction to new authors, including local author Lisa Bork. I may have to stop in and see how she's doing.
Get this. All the panels at this time have something to offer for me. Conceptually, there is a panel of "Agents and Editors," one on "Police Procedure" and "The PI Novel Through the Years" featuring Max Allan Collins and SJ Rozan talking about the last four decades of the form. Then there's Marcus Sakey talking about plotting from character in "Character is Destiny" and Megan Abbott and Derek Nikitas talking about "The Dark Side of the Fair Sex." No matter what I do, I'll end up feeling guilty.
After lunch is the featured Guest of Honor interview with Michael Connelly, conducted by Michael Koryta. This panel is running unopposed.
If I'm not already exhausted, I'll have to choose between Louise Penny talking about "Ordinary People, Extraordinary Circumstances" and a big heaping helping of backstory in "The Past is Always Present."
Another decision. This time between SJ Rozan talking about "Keeping it Fresh" and a panel on the dangers of modeling characters on real people in "You Talking About Me?" Although, if my good friend Charles Benoit was coming this year, he'd likely be on the panel called "Murder at the Edge of the Map," which was tailor-made for him, and I would definitely be there to support him.
I'll be on my own Friday night. I could use it to catch up on some sleep. Or hang out in the bar.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Lizabeth Scott is the female lead in this film, the object of the dead man's desire and the woman that Humphrey Bogart falls for. In this scene where she's introduced she's asked to sing a song. She's in the spotlight while the rest of the room is shaded, yet her mouth remains an empty maw of darkness. Can you believe anything that comes from it?
Monday, October 5, 2009
Thursday, October 15.
I'm going to hope that I'm up for the first session on the first day. My pick will likely be "Guidance from Writing Guides," moderated by Chris Roerden.
I'm interested in the "Lost in Translation" panel, featuring four people who take crime fiction in other languages and translate them to English. But I'm also interested in the "Inside Booklist" presentation from the Publisher and Senior Editor. This may be a gametime decision.
After lunch, there are a few interesting panels. "This Pen for Hire" is about continuing an existing series, including, among others, Max Allan Collins, who has finished some Mickey Spillane manuscripts. There is also "Twenty-First Century Private Eyes," moderated by the always-fun Austin Camacho. Then there is a presentation by the Head of Publisher Relations at Amazon on how that website connects authors with their audience. I'll play this one by ear.
This particular Bouchercon has a "One Conference, One Book" concept based around the Rex Stout-Nero Wolfe mystery SOME BURIED CAESAR. The town hall conversation on the book is in this time slot. I hope I can finish the book in time.
I'm going to clone myself for this time slot. It features "The Fixers" with Brett Battles and Lee Child, "Changing Gears" with Loren Estleman, "Adaptation" with Sean Chercover, and "O Canada" with Vicky Delany. If my day-job mentality wins out, I'll probably go to "Adaptation," but if it doesn't the field is wide open.
That night is the presentation of the Barry, Macavity, Derringer and Crime Spree Awards, followed by an interview of toastmaster SJ Rozan by Terence Faherty (a personal favorite, and an Indiana native), and concluding with an "Extravaganza" at some place called GameWorks Studio. Then off to bed. Or the bar.
Friday, October 2, 2009
Thursday, October 1, 2009
In 1950 New Orleans, Richard Widmark is a Navy Officer working for the National Department of Health. He is called in on his day off to attend an unusual autopsy. A gunshot victim shows signs of the virulent pneumonic plague. He enlists the mayor and the police to find the murderers before they infect the city or flee and infect the rest of the country. Meanwhile, the murderers (Jack Palance and Zero Mostel) are tracking down the victim's cousin, believing that he's holding onto something extremely valuable.
The intercutting of the killers' quest and Widmark's need to scour the underworld for them are the qualities that seem to qualify this film as film noir. But the protagonist does not fit into one of the noir roles: as a criminal, a cynical anti-hero, or a hero made to act like a criminal. He is a hero, complicated only by his strident attitude, a self-realization he makes halfway through the picture. And his token undercover work literally involves him covering up his uniform in a long overcoat to better blend in.
Jack Palance is truly evil in his screen debut and carries the qualities of cruelty and ambivalence alone on his shoulders. But there is nothing oneiric, erotic, or strange about the film. Too, there is very little that one would call noir style in the picture. A lot of the film was shot on location in New Orleans, and there is much in the way of realistic night-time photography, but expressionistic shadow and mise-en-scene give way to that reality. There is one particular shot of Palance waking toward the camera in silhouette that was nice, but it was early in the picture and not representative of the rest of the film.
Judgment: Not Noir.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
For her next trick, she's going to see if gravity really is an immutable law of physics.
Monday, September 28, 2009
F/X does anti-heroes better than anyone. Let's look at what they've done: The Shield, Rescue Me, Damages, The Riches, Thief, Nip/Tuck. Heck, even Over There, if you're looking to expand your definition of anti-hero.Then, last September, timed to coincide with the last season of The Shield, F/X premiered a new show that surprised me and pleased me with its dark characters and vicious and (in)human storylines.
Sons of Anarchy is the story of Jax, a young member of a the motorcycle gang SAMCRO (the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original). He has recently been promoted to Vice-President, the right hand man of his step-father, who was an original member of The Club with Jax's father. Meanwhile, Jax has just become a father to a sick child that his drug-addicted girlfriend gave birth to. Jax's true love, who has come back to town, is the doctor at the hospital. While cleaning out his father's storage, Jax finds a manuscript where his father lays out how The Club has gone wrong, and how they've sacrificed their pursuit of freedom at the altar of economic prosperity.
At the beginning of this season, Jax's best friend, Opie, is recovering from a tragic loss, while The Club tries to get its feet back under itself by making a new deal with the IRA at the same time they're trying to prevent neo-Nazis from moving into town. And Jax has to handle all of this while deciding if justice is attainable, or just an illusion.
It's less noir than it is 1930s gangster film, with some Oedipal undertones. It takes the standard Gangster film-critique of the capitalist American Dream and contrasts it with the original American Dream of individual freedom. It's sort of like, THE GODFATHER meets EASY RIDER meets HAMLET. It features great performances from Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal and The Awesome Ron Perlman. And with the additions of Adam Arkin (lately of another favorite, the canceled Life) and Henry Rollins, it promises to be an intense year.
Watch the video here or catch up with it on Hulu.com. But do it quick. This episode is only up until October 8.
Friday, September 25, 2009
Sigh...This still happens?
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
And with this sad final chapter, the HERB saga comes to a close. Not with a bang, but with a whimper. I only wish I knew more.
Friday, September 18, 2009
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
I'd look strongly at these people. Or anybody with a saw.
Monday, September 14, 2009
It's so hard to find good help these days. "No officer, I did not see or hear the three men break a locked door in my store, steal a safe that was heavy enough that three men couldn't carry it, and instead took one of my shopping carts to haul it off. But it was Monday. The Bachelorette was on."
Friday, September 11, 2009
Despite rumors to the contrary, I am not a "person of interest" in this investigation.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
It's an epidemic now! All the kids are doing it! It just seems like an awful lot of effort for $20 in small change.
Monday, September 7, 2009
Friday, September 4, 2009
I mean, I'm glad to see the cell phone law working and all, but, is that really your lead on this story? What with the drugs and all?
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Deputies later recovered the machine near the intersection of Clover Street and Mendon Center Road.
Hmmm... Well-planned binge eating. I'd search the MENSA meetings for bulimic truckers.
Monday, August 31, 2009
I guess the wondrous thing about this story is that the guy actually reported it. He musta been awful proud of that chicken-headed mailbox.
Friday, August 28, 2009
Update: And if that weren't enough for you, you'll be treated to an introduction by one of the leading film noir scholars in the zip code: ME!
Come on down and see something you may not find anywhere else in your lifetime: one of the few existing vintage 3-D prints of DIAL M FOR MURDER.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
I'm going to look into it and find out where my friend Nancy was on this day. She always has trouble with socks.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
Sometime between 11 p.m. on July 7 and 6:30 a.m. on July 8, an unknown person entered the unlocked garage at 1081 Whalen Road and stole a white Walter Hagen golf bag containing various Cleveland and Ping golf clubs.
An unknown person entered the open garage at 1 Pipers Meadow Trail sometime between 11 a.m. on July 7 and 6:30 p.m. on July 8 and stole a set of Titleist golf clubs.
Sometime between 4:30 and 5 p.m. on July 10, an unknown person stole a bag of golf clubs from the open garage at 34 Bainbridge Lane.
An unknown person stole a set of golf clubs from an open garage at 31 Watersong Trail between 6 and 8:30 p.m. on July 10.
An unknown person entered the open garage at 51 Seawatch Trail and stole set of golf clubs sometime between 6 and 8:45 p.m. on July 10.
In my imagination, the lead detective has a big map on the wall with pushpins (color-coded according to date) at each of the houses. He scratches his three-day beard, runs a hand through his hair, leans his forehead against the map. "Why?" he asks, a whisper to no one. "Why?"
Thursday, July 30, 2009
One-stop burgalry for all your picnicking needs...
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Curiosity killed the cat. It also made someone break into the store with the unanswerable question.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
A woman reported that were vehicle was broken into while it was parked on North Landing Road between 12:15 and 2:15 p.m. on June 22. Her wallet and a bag of groceries were stolen.
A resident of Chartwell Court reported that an unknown person poured flour and soup over her vehicle in addition to hitting it with eggs and letting air out of two tires between 4 p.m. on June 22 and 4:15 a.m. on June 23.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Note to vagrants: Laughing is okay. But don't you dare start coughing amongst those laughs, or we the residents of Brighton will rain the thunder of justice upon you.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Friday, July 10, 2009
Thursday, July 9, 2009
May 29: 4:29 a.m.: Limbs smoking on Austin Road at Route 31
The first image that came to mind was a guy standing at the corner, arms ablaze. But then I realized it could be a couple of legs holding Winstons between their toes. God I hate yellow nai.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
A Rochester teenager is facing charges in connection with the theft of property from unlocked vehicles in the village of Fairport.
Nathaniel J. Hoover, 17, of 91 Kislingbury St., Rochester, is charged with fourth-degree grand larceny, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, unlawful fleeing from a police officer, second-degree reckless endangerment, resisting arrest, unlawful possession of marijuana, reckless driving and numerous traffic violations.
Police said Sgt. Mathew Nielsen was driving on Dewey Avenue about 3:47 a.m. June 14 when he noticed a vehicle back out of a driveway with its lights off. Nielsen followed the vehicle down several village streets, pulling it over on West Avenue — along the Erie Canal — when the driver allegedly tried to drive through Kennelley Park, which does not have vehicle access.
And in a completely unrelated story--
Police received a report June 16 that damage was done to the railing and spindles of the gazebo in Kennelley Park, 2 S. Main St.
I think someone missed the inter-office memo...
Monday, July 6, 2009
Thursday, July 2, 2009
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Don't forget that THE MAN FROM LARAMIE is screening tonight at the Dryden Theatre. James Stewart! Anthony Mann! Noir Western? You decide!
This is the best of the series, and now's your chance to see it on the Big Screen!
Monday, June 29, 2009
Q: What is more important in a novel, Character or Plot?
A: Whatever is more interesting in that particular story.
Let's take a step back. This question doesn't even identify who is supposed to answer it. Are we talking to writers, now, or readers? I think Vicky Delany explained it best in her post on Setting. Vicky explains that when she is seeking out a book, setting plays a large part in whether she buys it or not. In the same way, this interest is reflected in her writing. But not everyone thinks this way. I know that setting plays a very small part in what I choose to read, but a much larger part in what I choose to write.
And other readers may have completely different priorities. A cop might like to specifically pick out police procedurals because he likes to check the authenticity of the writer's information. Another cop might seek out romance novels, because he deals with cop stuff every day and doesn't want to deal with it on his downtime as well. A third cop might pick up books because he has enjoyed the author's previous work.
The analogy I came up with in my head is this: What is most important in Cinnamon Rolls: the smell, the taste, or the texture? Surely one of these things draws you to eating a cinnamon roll, likely a combination of two or all of the factors. For instance, the smell might remind you of the soft, flaky texture of a roll. Or a hankerin' might come over you and the smell would seal the deal. And this limited scenario doesn't even take into account the ingredients, the literary equivalent of which might be vocabulary, or use of language, or a long, languid style.
My point is this: one of those factors might attract you to a project, but the project can't exist without the rest. Interesting characters with nothing to do is just as boring as constant action performed by cyphers. A cinnamon roll might taste good, but the experience won't be good if it smells burnt and the dough is stale. All of these factors have to come together in a particular way to be appealing to the eater, er, reader. And not all readers have the same tolerance level. Some may not want a cinnamon roll at all. Some may want a really big cookie. Or pretzel sticks.
I gotta stop hanging out at the mall.
So, in my opinion, there is no single important element in writing or reading a book. I may even pick different projects for different reasons. I love Lawrence Block's writing style. I'm attracted to Sean Chercover's Ray Dudgeon and Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs. I love Stephen King's twisty, unpredictable plots. The first book I wrote came from the setting, with the characters and plot shoe-horned in. Which is probably why I don't like it, now. But the book I (have been) writing now is more character-based, with the setting enhancing the character and the plot coming along. And I'm also thinking about doing something similar with the first novel.
Someday, I hope to put all the ingredients together for a tasty treat. But it's likely the recipe will never be the same.