Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Dear Charlie:

You know, sometimes it's just plain good to bump into old friends.

I took one of my advance copies over to the old office I used to work in to give to Missi, the receptionist I worked with for several years there. She's a riot, and she's always been such a friend. I put a nifty little note and signature inside the cover and everything. She deserves it. She's a doll.

But I got so much more than just the one friend.

I hadn't been there ten minutes before Jon came up, too. I just love Jon. He's a riot. We hit it off from his first day there. Same warped sense of humor. Same amusement value in the Undead Christmas lyrics (he was there the first day I started doing them and laughed harder than anyone but me). Good times.

Then, not too much later, while Missi and I were still marvelling over the tangible reality of a print novel in hand and Jon was demanding the next turn in line to read it, Tammy walked in, too.

Now, Tammy's the therapist who actually read the old printed-out manuscript copy before any edits were made. I hadn't even sent it off at the time, I don't think. I was just sitting on the finished product in that vast empty lake of time between finishing and the first revision pass, and she volunteered to read and tell me what she thought. Bless her heart.

So she was excited, too. Good friends, there. I wish I had more freebies to hand out, because I want to give everyone a copy! Luckily, most of them will probably buy one when it hits the shelves, but hey. I like a little instant gratification now and then.

Anyway, after regaling them with my new favorite joke -- What was Michael Jackson's favorite thing about twenty-nine year olds? There's twenty of them! -- I left on a wave of good feelings, and you know? That's what it's all about, there. I may be more glad than I can express that I'm no longer in that situation, but that doesn't mean I don't miss the people. There are some seriously good people there, and I miss them all the time.

Good times. And remember: April 5 is just a few days away now! Eee!!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Dear Charlie:

Well, I'm gearing up for the print release of my book, My Gigolo: The Care and Feeding of a Male Prostitute. Eee!

As of April 5, you can hold it in your hot little hand. Hey, that's what I'm gonna do. It's available for preorder at the Samhain site (linked above) or at Amazon or almost any of your favorite book-buying sites. Gotta love that.

I really, really can't wait to have it in hand. And hopefully, I'll be adding to it soon. The novella is coming along swimmingly, and I hope it catches my editor's attention. It's contemporary, which again surprises me, but hey. When both your steampunk and your urban fantasy characters turn their backs on you, an author's gotta do what an author's gotta do.

Take that, Alex. Take that, Diplomat. Ha.

And on a less personal but still fun note, I just realized I've never gotten around to enthusing over RocknRolla. I was so enamoured with The Phantom of the Opera that I, of course, couldn't not think of RocknRolla. Yes, my brain works in odd ways. The only thing the two have in common is Gerard Butler, but even a tenuous link works for my poor little mind.

I do remember blogging here on how annoyed I was that the flick wasn't coming to the big screen anywhere around this area. I really wanted to catch this one at the theater. I guess I kinda lost steam on it after that.

But after it came out for rental and I watched it, I just never got around to enthusing properly. Oh, I said lovely things about Mark Strong (not enough lovely things can be said about that man), but not about the movie itself.

So, here goes.

Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels was fun. Snatch was a riot. RocknRolla is just a beautiful thing. It has all the great stuff from the earlier flicks, but amped up with the director's experience. It's like the difference between a brilliant high school research paper and a best selling novel. Both are nice in their own way, but the latter has... I dunno... polish.

Usually. But that's another story. Just making an analogy here.

You know, I didn't like Johnny Quid the first time I watched this flick. Everyone kept calling him absolute class, and I just didn't see it. A junkie through and through, I found him self-serving and just plain annoying. Of course, that means he's well-acted, but hey. Just didn't like him.

I've watched it several times since, and he's growing on me. He still takes a distant back seat to Archy and the Wild Bunch, but I can definitely see the class. He's a nutter, for sure, but he's bought his crackers with blood and come out with a sense of humor (warped, of course) on the other side. I'll call that class.

Archy is the man, but I've already talked about him, though I'm too lazy to go back for the link.

This post is for the Wild Bunch and for Guy Ritchie himself.

Now, Ritchie flicks -- the killer British ganster dark comedies, anyway -- revolve around convoluted plots interlocking and coming free and interlocking again like the inner workings of a clock. At some point, all those separate, spinning cogs come together for the payoff, but in my opinion, it's how well they perform separately that makes the payoff really spend the money.

One of those cogs, the Wild Bunch, cracks me right the hell up. Half the reason is because I remember when a member of the old college group suddenly realized what the rest of us already knew -- that another member was gay. Bless his heart, but he just about lost his mind.

Gerard Butler nails that reaction. I laugh so hard each time, picturing poor Mikey trying not to remember wrestling matches and so forth. Heheh.

And, as in the flick, it didn't take long for him to realize that the other guy being gay didn't mean he was gay. Nor did it mean he wasn't his friend.

When you find art that imitates your own personal life, it's always an experience.

But beyond that, the Wild Bunch is an absolute riot. They're just trying to get along the best they can in a dog-eat-dog world, doing the odd job now and again to keep afloat, not realizing they're pissing in their own pool until they're all but drowning in it. Heh.

That second robbery is a scream. If Dave and I got together for a bit of slipping about, I'm pretty sure our plans would end up in just that kind of chaos. There'd be a helluva lot of running and crashing and hitting people with golf clubs. In other words, we'd screw it up royally enough to maybe laugh about later. If we lived.

And the Russians?

And the look on Archy's face when he breaks into poor One Two's private party with said Russians?

God, I love this flick. It has its serious moments, of course. The funny wouldn't be as fun if it weren't balanced. Johnny Quid wouldn't be a proper junkie if he didn't break down into convulsions (and smell like a rotten goat). Archy wouldn't be the real rocknrolla he is if he wasn't capable of such swift and heated retribution when he discovers who's been snitching on them all. When he discovers how his unswerving loyalty has been repaid.

There is a certain honor amongst thieves. They don't take snitches lightly. They might be bad lads, but they don't turn on each other. Those who do... pay the price.

But there's humor to be found even in such black material. Even in a botched robbery that nearly kills the whole group. After all, if not for those oh-so-determined Russians, we'd never have this lovely line:

"Realize? What, you didn't realize that they had guns? Big, long, dangerous machine guns? With war criminals attached to the trigger?"

And there lies Guy Ritchie's strength. He finds that humor, and that's what steps his flicks up from the rabble. He makes these bad guys into good guys. There's rarely a "good" character in a Ritchie film, but you just don't care. The bad guys are too much fun.

Bless their dark little hearts.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Serious Sidebar:

Family Video has done me quite a favor this time around.

I rented The Phantom of the Opera. The one with Gerard Butler. I should have watched it years ago.

Why didn't I? Lots of reasons. Sometimes, musicals don't turn out well on film. Sometimes, modern musicals don't stand up to classic ones. Plus, the Phantom has never been on my list of favorites. I never watched any stage version or anything, though I've watched tons of other stuff.

I think I've always liked Les Miserables better, though I admit it's because I saw it performed live on stage and, yeah, it struck a chord down there somewhere that's never stopped thrumming.

But the Phantom? No. Christine pisses me off. The Phantom gets totally shafted. I never liked Raoul. The music's great -- we did a sort of pastiche of it one year for the ol' high school's Memories program (sort of a spring concert) -- but I just never got the feel for the show itself.

That grave oversight has been rectified.

I'm sure there are those who'll scoff and tell me the film craps all over the stage version. What could I be thinking? Those poser film actors could never bring it to life like Broadway can. They may be right.

All I can say in response is that Butler's Phantom brings me to my knees.

I can't explain it. He simply steals every scene he's in. I can't take my eyes off him, and I can't bear it when he stops singing. Who the hell knew he was that amazing a singer? I mean, obviously millions of people do now, but hey. I'm behind the curve. Still haven't read a Harry Potter novel. Sosumi.

He hits every note with his heart. I can't explain it better than that. Whether he's spitting curses or whispering lyrics of love or projecting pure seduction, his voice is pure power. The loud high notes are hard enough, but the light, searching ones? They require such incredible control, such careful pitch.

I'm just so impressed. He sounds like he's trained his whole life, but it turns out not so much. People can train since childhood and never sound as incredible as he does in this movie. Amazing.

Now, don't get me wrong. He's not the only draw. I absolutely adore Minnie Driver's La Carlotta. She's just AWFUL, and I love her. I also get a kick outta the managers and their helpless groveling to protect their investment. It's not just Butler who endears me, though he gets the lion's share of the credit.

The musical numbers are spectacular, however often they're remixed. That scene where the Phantom holds Raoul hostage for Christine's decision and they're all singing different melodies at each other? I could listen to that all day.

But... oh... the Music of the Night....

And the Point of No Return....

I have enjoyed Gerard Butler in every movie of his I've seen, but he's never made me want to cry until now. And the Ice Queen does not cry. But his Phantom's despair, his agonizing loneliness, his impossible longings for kindness in a world that so clearly values perfection of appearance instead of in person....

He hits every single level on which the Phantom should perform. He can be commanding. He can be terrifying. He can be tender. He can be loving. He can weep for what he doesn't understand and never will because he was never given simple compassion.

They might have found someone else to play the Phantom. This hypothetical other person might have sang well. Might have coaxed more than high notes and streaming tears from Emmy Rossum. Might have made it through both the songs and the fight scenes intact. Yadda yadda.

But I can honestly say that if it hadn't been Mr. Butler, I wouldn't have enjoyed it half as much. His Phantom will haunt me, and I truly don't mean that as a pun.

...Though it is a little punny. Heh.

Anyway, I couldn't not write a bit on this one. I can see why it's held my beloved sister willing hostage for so many years. Why my nieces will sit and watch it when they'd rather pull their own teeth than be quiet, otherwise. I've had it two days and have watched it five times.

No, I'm not kidding. I never expected it to grab me so hard.

I think it's at the end, where he's listening to his little music monkey's tinkling song and barely whisper-singing "Masquerade... paper faces on parade... masquerade... hide your face... so the world will never find you...."

The look on his face just cuts my heart out. And I don't even have a heart to cut. You can see how much he just wants to disappear, how he's worn a mask his whole life, even with Christine, how he has no idea what he is without that mask and doesn't dare try to find out. For him, in that moment, his life is over, and it's all over him.

And when he looks up and she's there, the naked, aching expression as he whisper-sings, "Christine, I lo...ove you...."

The catch in his voice... the way he seems to be clinging to one last, desperate hope that she might stay with him, love him, teach him to be a human being....

Oh, God, it almost makes me wish I had a heart, just so I can feel it break for him.

Thank you so much, Mr. Butler. I know you're not the only one who brought this beauty forth, but as I said before: from me, you get the lion's share of credit.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Dear Charlie:

Okay, so sometimes I like to watch indie horror flicks. Yes, I know. I'm more likely to root for the protagonists to die in most of 'em, but hey. Once in a while, you find something great.

And sometimes, you just find something weird. Like an Italian version of Red Riding Hood. Honestly, with a little higher production value, this wouldn't have been so bad. The earlier acting is stilted and tentative, but the longer the movie goes on, the more I think that's intentional (to an extent; this is probably the very young lead actress's first film role). After all, the main character is not only 12 years old, but batshit crazy.

I'll spare you the details, but it comes down to this: she's the worst kind of crazy -- the wicked-smart kind. She's a veritable prodigy, but her views of the world are juuuuust a bit outside. There are reasons for this, which is impressive in an indie flick. Honestly, the plot of this thing is very well done.

You put a group of more seasoned actors on this and better production value overall, and it'd easily overwhelm most of the horror crap Hollywood's putting out these days.

And I gotta admit, the grandmother was well-played. Even the tutor wasn't bad. Unfortunately, the crazy chick is a bit of a sour note, but honestly, she grows on you. Her acting isn't spot on, but she has an enormous amount of dialogue to impart, and she spits it out with admirable aplomb. It's gotta be tough to sound genius-level crackers while calmly contemplating the precise way to drill through Gramma's kneecaps to safely immobilize her without killing her.


But the plot is infinitely more solid than you usually get from movies like these. I just wish they hadn't made George's wolf face solid white. It works for Michael Myers, but not for the wolf face. If they'd made it more rustic, like on the poster/cover, it would've been much more creepy. As it is, it looks like plaster fresh from the mold, like the crew was too rushed to even run a sander over it.

But overall, if you're like me and like to occasionally risk your own sanity by dipping a toe into the vast pool of unknown indie flicks, this one's worth a try. If nothing else, it's worth a chuckle or two. Intentional or not. Heh.