Archive for the ‘Things To Watch And Read’ Category

Pale Immortal – the novel that refuses to die

October 18, 2009
pale immortal

pale immortal

PALE IMMORTAL by Anne Frasier is available now as a download, published by Belfry Press, Anne’s own new label.

Disclaimer: I haven’t read Pale Immortal yet, but I have read the sequel, Garden of Darkness, which is just wonderful. Frasier’s storytelling is fast-paced, creepy and lovely at the same time.

Her descriptive skills are so powerful that you don’t even realize she’s used all these words about trees and underbrush and chilled winds — you just think you’re in a forest. And something’s coming to get you, eek!

The link above and this one go to Frasier’s website where you can click on the e-junkie link to download. E-junkie works with PayPal, quick and easy.

You can also read about Frasier’s crooked road to re-release this book after getting her rights back. It’s a story in itself, as Pale Immortal has gone from published to out of print to flagship reprint for Quartet Press (talk about nipped in the bud), to the search for the best web-publishing platform.

If you’ve ever wondered what authors can do with works they own the rights to, this is an ongoing story. Bookmark Frasier’s webpage. Support her efforts — (or just buy her novels because you like good reads). She’s doing all the hard work and generously sharing the process.

Big Love Goes Dark

August 14, 2007

And I don’t mean stops transmitting. All the men, even the “good guys,” are slipping into darkness. Even Joey is ignoring his principles in favor of his comfort.

I really don’t like Bill lately. And his father (played with nasty craptastic glee by Bruce Dern) Frank has always been a dastard, but he’s really bringing it on now.

Frank torments Lois — materially, spiritually, physically. Turns out he’s got quite the pile while over the years he kept her on food stamps and desperate. This she finds out after he steals all her peas! (she had been stashing her recently acquired lucre in pea cans) Next, Frank goes to Alby, who is taking steps to become the next profit prophet by murdering his father Roman. Frank offers to become Alby’s spy on Bill and Joey. He just wants one thing in return: Joey and Wanda’s intended new wife Kathy.

Kathy is such a sweet puppy of a person! Kathy + Frank::cotton candy + acid.

All the men are getting creepy on Big Love, though, not just the creepy ones. Bill is starting to look like a self-absorbed, patriarchal, jerk. And Benny, yikes. Douglas Smith is a marvel of an actor. He gets innocent/sweet mixed with obnoxious/clueless/self-centered/entitled teenager just right. You want to slap him!

Something I’m noticing, and I imagine it must be on purpose: It’s the women of the compound who have the most audacious survival skills: Rhonda is a dissembling liar. Lois has guns and is ready to use them; plus, she —

[omigod. “Home Plus” — I just got it.]

Life constantly throws boulders on Lois’s highway, but she keeps going forward. Nicky walks right onto the compound and just takes $60K cash. Meanwhile, all the noncompound women complain and worry and hope other people (meaning the men) will change! I guess the compound women gave up on that illusion a long time ago, or maybe they never had it.

Harry Potter

July 25, 2007

Spoiler Alert!

Perfection.

My first encounter with Harry Potter was well into the series, when HBO showed the first movie and the second had just come out on DVD. I had never read the books — I was above all that silliness, that crass commercialism. I didn’t know about the magic.

It was a time when my life was falling apart again. My mother had died, I was estranged from the rest of my family, I was disabled, jobless, with a son to raise and no hope of any future that didn’t include the term baglady.

I just happened to turn on the television on a rainy day, my favorite kind of weather, to see the opening: Dumbledore capturing the lighting on Privet Lane. I fell into it, I was Harry: a child removed by the unfairness of it all from my true place in the world, left with barbarous and insensitive people to live, somehow.

And then the discovery: there is another world, a world of magic and light, yes, but more than that, a world where love, hope, fun, delight — in short, happiness — is waiting for us, for me. From that day, I have often said, wistfully, I want to go to Hogwarts!

When the movie was over, I went out and bought the two DVDs and the books that were available. I joined the fans who bought the books on the first day as they came out. I knew they were badly written, but I didn’t care. My favorite pronouncement on the Harry Potter books was, JK Rowling is a terrible writer, but she’s a fabulous storyteller!

The wizarding world grew darker and darker, mirroring our own world. Rowling, the pied piper, lead us into the destructive, life-killing forces of racism, aristocratic thinking, lust, bullying, and fascism that threat our own Muggle world. I didn’t like the penultimate book, The Half-Blood Prince at all.

But I wasn’t supposed to — darkest before the dawn and all that.

Harry, Hermione, Ron and all the others brought me deep into a magical rendering of the way we live now: a world corrupt with despair and hopelessness, run by bought-off politicians and the hidden, dark practitioners who hold their strings. They brought me into that world, and in this final chapter Rowling has brought me out again, crying through the last pages with happiness and recognition, as the best books will have me do.

Rowling brought me so low into the place where the Dark Arts live that I could not believe miracles or magic could save anything. I had to read The Deathly Hallows, but I was certainly afraid to. It has left me renewed, even restored. I feel better about the world than I have in a long time. And this time, I will say the story is as well-written as it is well-told.

I am on the other side of middle age. Not the target audience for the Harry Potter books. But they have saved me, a little. Like Dumbledore’s Deluminator, the books have re-illuminated my world; I can be happy here.

Thank you, Ms. Rowling.

No Sophomore Slump, Come Now In Praise of the Writers

July 9, 2007

I was not looking forward to this season of Big Love. It was so good, so satisfying, I couldn’t see how they could possibly top the first season.

But they have, they do, they are. The acting is marvelous, but what do you expect from such marvelous actors? I blame the excellence of this season of Big Love on the writers.

Last season, it was all about the novelty of polygamy. This year, it’s about the people. Chloë Sevigny is simultaneously hard as obsidion and vulnerable as a stepdaughter. I’m not sure I like Bill going for a fourth wife! Yikes. Is it weird to think he’s betraying Barbara — and Nicky — and Margene? And what about Margene’s reaction? I totally did not see that coming, ha.

Very clever move with the music at the end, too.

Big Love Update

June 19, 2007

I’m not sure what I want to say about this week’s episode of Big Love, except that I love how Nicky gets all pushed out of shape because everybody forgot her anniversary, but then she steps up when Joey and Wanda need help. And Lois has a great scene, of course, where she wonders why Bill’s wives all like each other so much. She spills a little to Margene, who she supposedly doesn’t like. Margene eats it up.

Things are getting out of hand — everybody is finding out about you-know-what. Benny’s girlfriend, Sarah’s friend — and Wendy comes by to plead to have the Hummers called off. She’s going to end up somebody’s wife, I think.

Yay! Big Love Is Back

June 12, 2007

Big Love brings out my Inner White Trash Insert Proper Term Here quotient, and I am so glad it is back. You know it’s a pretty kooky show when the sane character is the one who thinks it’s a great idea to have three wives. Big Love appeals to the same spot in my psyche as Harry Potter does: it’s the magical thinking, baby!

This season’s opener seemed to move slow, but today I’ve been thinking of all the story lines that were set up. There’s kookoo Wanda, the poisoning avenger. I had to crack up when Roman threatened to take her away from her husband and give her to someone else, ha! She’d poison her way out of that one, too. And isn’t Mary Kay Place fabu as Nicky’s mom? She’s pretty tough with that Hummer. . . . I think more will be revealed about the prophet’s first wife.

There were several gems in this episode, like Nicky sliding over into boss-lady’s seat at the planning table or Don becoming emotionally involved in the illness of Wendy’s kitty (as he’s eavesdropping on her).

I think my favorite character at the moment is Lois, played by Grace Zabriskie.hideout700.jpg

Zabriskie’s Lois is such a treat. Tell me you can watch any other character when she’s in the scene! No, I knew you couldn’t. Now what is that box about? It’s about how Grace Zabriskie is an artist in many ways. Just read the text that accompanies the box here and you’ll be glad there is such a person in the world, and maybe you’ll be inspired to revel in the white trash joy of your own life.

Edit: That didn’t come out the way I intended. The “you” above is me — it’s the white trash joy in my life I am calling out to me. Badly written. Some people are offended by the term white trash, and I want to think about that. It’s for another post.

Anyway, Grace Zabriskie is one of those actors you know you’ve seen somewhere before. She first captured a place in my mind’s List of Actors I Know when I saw her play Dennis Quaid’s Mama in The Big Easy. Quaid is one of the best actors on the planet — which he shows again here in this cognac-on-cotton-candy of a film. And still, when Grace is on screen, she is the one you watch.graz2.jpg Whoever casted her in Big Love is a genius.

Sam Neill, the Wonder

June 11, 2007

The Tudors

Wowzers. Everything Sam Neill delivered in The Tudors led to his last marvelous scene. Wonderful.

I have always loved Sam Neill. You could tell he would amount to something from My Brilliant Career, and he could have had a nice, Harrison Ford-type acting life — not too shabby. His Brian de Bois-Guilbert in Ivanhoe way back in 1982 gave an early clue that Sam Neill is more than a movie star — his is an actor.

And last night, in his final moments in The Tudors, Neill left it all on the boards.

And, I must add — many kudos to the camera work and editing. Gotta see it again.

More On The Tudors: Iconoclasm Is Not Painless

June 7, 2007

From the Comments, chacha said: I wonder whether this message will actually be posted since it is not complimentary.

# chacha Says:
June 7th, 2007 at 8:45 am edit

Sorry, I think that John Rhys Meyers is horribly miscast. He’s very good at playing angry, wounded youths but here his “authority” is expressed through bulging eyes and temper tantrums. He’s in over his head.

This show cannot be taken seriously. I don’t mind liberties been taken with history but Henry composing Greensleeves – that’s a stretch & it doesn’t showcase his musical talents (which is historically accurate). Could’t the producers come up with something else or was it too expensive to hire a composer?

There’s no electricity between Henry & Ann (who is also miscast). It’s as if the writers said “we need more rock stardom and sex. The audience won’t want character development.” I think that they underestimated the audience which would have responded just as positively & probab;y even more so to a higher standard of production.

I loved HBO’s Rome” and the sex in this show pale in comparison but the sex in “Rome” was tightly integrated with the story, in other words it was not gratuitus.

I love the other characters – Maria Doyle Kennedy, Sam Neill, Steve Waddington, Jeremy Northram (who is underused), Henry Czerny & I could go on & on. Even Hanry Cavill has his moments.

The costumes & settings don’t make up for the torpid script & the underwhelming performances of the main characters.

Such a great comment! My response:

Jonathan Rhys Meyers is miscast. But I think the opening sequence . . . “you think you know a story . . .” takes care of the matter. When I watched the first episode, my reaction was more in line with yours. But Rhys Meyers has grown on me, especially when I remember how young Henry was when he came to the throne. Till now, my image of Henry VIII was a mix of the fully adult Richard Burton and Robert Shaw — and Ray Winstone was also quite a hearty Henry a few years ago.

To enjoy The Tudors, you have to leave the story you think you know at the door. Meyers has grown on me, and I love his scenery chewing. The tantrums his Henry throws are dangerous, but not reckless. (For an example of reckless tantrum throwing, see Bush, George W.) I hate to say a bad thing about an actor, but Natalie Dormer is on the verge of awful as Ann —

edit: I do enjoy those headpieces she wears!

— she just doesn’t have the inner whatsit to match Rhys Meyers. Who would? I mean that seriously. The one tragedy of this production is that there is someone out there who would have made this her part but didn’t get the part. But who? I’m going to think about that.

And as for Greensleeves, I am in the camp who does not believe Henry wrote the song, but I have no problem with the use of it here. I’m more bothered by some of the other historical inaccuracies.

But I don’t care! I love the show for what it is, and I don’t hate it for what it is not.

I do feel sorry for poor Thomas More in this one. Jeremy Northam is excellent, and much more sympathetic than Paul Scofield’s More in A Man For All Seasons. You mention Steve Waddington — I think he would have made a perfect Henry VIII in the traditional mold.

But then, The Tudors is the iconoclast of Henry VIII treatments.

I Almost Forgot

May 25, 2007

James Wolcott is god. And this number on The Tudors isn’t even his best work.

The Tudors is my current guilty pleasure. (My current guilt-free pleasurepaloosa is Ugly Betty, but that is another post.)

The Tudors is a guilty pleasure, because despite its fab production values, it is pure kitsch: power struggles and sex and eye candy and sex and murder and sex and petty selfishness and sex and murder and well, you get the idea.

Everybody is good in this, and some are better than good. Wolcott is right to mourn the inevitable loss of Sam Neill as Wolsey goes the way of Wolsey. But I anticipate James Frain is about to give us all something to watch as Thomas Cromwell.

But really, you can watch this for Johnathan Rhys Meyers alone. This actor gives me the creeps in everything he’s in, even Bend It Like Beckham. In The Tudors, this creepiness reaches new heights, reborn and complicated by self-doubt, then renewed by self-will. Yummy.