Mysteries, scandals, and murders of Hollywood, particularly the Golden Age ones, are always interesting, but they can easily be turned into embarrassiMysteries, scandals, and murders of Hollywood, particularly the Golden Age ones, are always interesting, but they can easily be turned into embarrassingly smutty books. All the warning bells should be ringing when an author has added Wikipedia articles, TMZ stories, and E! programs to the bibliography section. Di Mambro's decided to dig herself into a hole by also having a minimum amount of criticism about the statements of her sources. It's commendable that she's managed to made the effort to interview some of the people involved (and it shows that she's wanted to try something different than Kenneth Anger with his Hollywood Babylon ), but there's no sign that she doesn't take their stories at anything but face value.
The description "[a] tantalizing mixture of classic Hollywood nostalgia and true crime" is spot on. Di Mambro presents the basic facts of each case and doesn't take sides, which might seem like her purpose of letting the reader to make conclusions about the events has been successful, but in reality it takes more to make a good work of true crime. "Tantalizing" is not the way to go, especially if it means the chapters begin with "the sun glistening off the Pacific Ocean, which sparkled like limitless diamonds" or some equally awkward statement about the weather that in the middle of neutral text feels like a splinter in the eye. Add to that several cases of repetition and you start to miss a good editor.
True Hollywood Noir isn't entirely without its merits, though. In a few instances Di Mambro manages to correct a few rumours and is overall respectful towards the people. The corruption of the police force and how the studio executives were involved with tampering evidence are discussed very candidly. Protecting actors and actresses was important to the studios, but there's no question that protecting the studios' image the big bosses wanted to maintain in the eyes of the public to get more money was also a good motivator.
It's just unfortunate that the impression I got from the book overall wasn't polished or professional, even though Di Mambro avoids a voyeuristic and sleazy voice. Furthermore, I'd be curious to know where she found the information that Joan Bennett claimed to have begun the affair with Jennings Lang when she was ill, despite the fact that she has always denied having an affair with him.
Other illogicalities and choices that Di Mambro doesn't explain occur throughout, like referencing Bill Wellman's It's Made to Sell - Not to Drink (2006) (there's no reason to presume that Wellman is telling the truth, especially this day and age when there are plenty of people who'd like to cash in on celebrities), saying that shooting Lang helped Wanger's career despite stating earlier that his life was never the same again, and claiming that the reader supposely has never heard the story that Lana Turner was the real killer of Johnny Stompanato when in fact it's been speculated for years and is a well-known theory.
On another level of feeling uncomfortable was the stench of admiration that emanated from the Mickey Cohen chapter. He may have known movie stars and other celebrities, but there's no valid reason for an overly long chapter about him, and certainly no reason why Cohen's associate Jim Smith would deserve so much space, especially because all he does is explain away Cohen's crimes and make him seem like some charismatic gentleman who just happened to kill people for a living. Doesn't matter if the people deserved their fate in the world of organized crime, it's still murder.
Di Mambro seems to be supporting Smith, though, and even calls Smith's voice as "smooth, baritone [and] suitable for broadcasting". I'm not even going to begin talking about the picture of Smith's son holding a toy machine gun, and him having it framed in his house and showing it proudly to mobsters. There's just a whole lot of irrelevancy going on in the Cohen chapter, and it was the last straw.
All in all, short and quick to breeze through, but I wouldn't expect anything revelationary, nor the film noir theme being tied into the cases in any relevant way....more
Susann knows how to sink her claws into the reader. Just when things seem to get better for our women and the future shines bright in the distance, soSusann knows how to sink her claws into the reader. Just when things seem to get better for our women and the future shines bright in the distance, something happens and the tunnel closes. Then some turn of events gets you believing again, and the roller coaster starts again and again and again... The circle of life turns into a circle of dolls and resentment.
Valley of the Dolls isn't a mushy romance that sinks into an abyss of paper-tasting plastic characters, who seem to melt under a tighter scrutiny, or a glossy, emotionally simplistic, and rose-tinted fairy tale world, where predictability is a given. Instead, it actually makes you invested in the characters, although they are practically one-dimensional vehicles of psychological exploration.
Both unrealistic with its cheesy plot twists which seem to occur only for shock value, and realistic with its oh-so-common story of downward spiralling lives in the show business, the story is structurally kind of a mess, but a glorious and trashy mess. The fact that I don't mind the heap of clichés dumped on me is a testament of Susann's genius.
Like with The Best of Everything (1958), I noticed that I can digest chick lit when it's set in another time period and has some kind of melancholy or tragic events involved. A retro Mad Men-ish backdrop has so much more value in terms of atmosphere (and basically the only reason why I decided to read this). Valley of the Dolls wouldn't be what it is if it wasn't set in 1940s-60s, or if it didn't have a hilarious cat fight in a ladies' room, self-destructive women popping pills in all the colors of the rainbow, dreams crashing and burning, struggles with fame and expectations concerning private and professional lives, loads of vodka and champagne, and men who are far from dreamy Fabios.
Girly pulp that doesn't make you want to vomit, but to have a cocktail or two and eat chocolate until your head explodes. Essentially, this is the glamorous and excessive cousin of Peyton Place (1956).
"Who wants respect? I want to get laid!" - Helen Lawson...more
Sometimes certain people appear on and off all the way through your childhood and teenage years, but you don't realize it until later. I recently rewaSometimes certain people appear on and off all the way through your childhood and teenage years, but you don't realize it until later. I recently rewatched Gremlins (1984), one of my favorite films as a kid, and Corey Feldman was in it. When I was fifteen, we watched Stand by Me (1986) in school and I remember being impressed by the scene where Feldman is screaming about his father, but his name didn't register then. At some point I started getting interested in vampires and watched The Lost Boys (1987). It was ok, but I liked the actors more than I did the film. When I heard about the legendary The Goonies (1985) that many remember fondly, I watched that as well. Again, Feldman was in it, but I don't remember if he was good, I just remember the film was underwhelming.
The next time I "met" Feldman again was many years later, when I stumbled into a Vice article about his birthday party where women were dressed in their underwear and, according to the author, the mood was grim and the guests were few. At the time, it felt depressing to see yet another former child star going downhill, and somehow I unfairly juxtaposed Feldman with Charlie Sheen. There was, however, a patronizing tone in the article that made me uncomfortable. Like it was a pat on the head of someone who didn't ask for pity. At the end, there was a note saying Feldman wasn't too happy about the article, because it wasn't what was promised to him.
Fast forward to year 2016, when I found out Feldman had written a positively received memoir three years previously. I've avoided modern celebrity memoirs, because there are very few contemporary celebrities who interest me in terms of taking the time to read a whole book about their lives (and then there's the branch of narcissistic rants of people who have proven time and time again they're out of touch from reality, so those I'm definitely not going to read, ever). However, something drew me towards Feldman's book, although I sensed he wouldn't let me off easy.
Turns out, I was right. Feldman starts with a punch in the stomach by recounting the moment he heard about Corey Haim's death. For some reason that hit me really strongly, and a part of that was how well Feldman described the game of vultures: an endless stream of phone calls from journalists and people who think that just because they're celebrities, they have a right to claim a special relationship with the deceased. Helicopters hunting a good shot of Haim's apartment building, one of Haim's neighbors trying to get a funeral gig for his singer girlfriend, Warren Boyd (whose job was to keep Haim clean, but disappeared whenever Haim ran out of money) trying to stuff A-list celebrities into the funeral despite their nonexistent relationship with Haim, the pressure to come up with a media-friendly statement, photographers stalking unsuspecting people in bushes, trespassing reporters etc. It's a sickening jungle out there, and reading about this stuff always makes me slightly anxious and out of breath.
As it can be guessed from that first chapter, this isn't only Feldman's story. Haim and Feldman were both molested several times at a young age by men who worked in the industry, so Feldman feels like Haim deserves to heard as well, and is adamant that parents who have kids in the industry should be warned. The documentary An Open Secret (2014) addresses the problem. It's a shame it bombed (probably because it's more difficult to get people see documentaries than escapist flicks in theaters), but although I haven't seen it yet, the importance of the topic makes it an urgent watch for everyone. Movies are a big part of our society and it should be made aware what happens behind closed doors, especially when it concerns kids and teenagers. The film has apparently already suffered edits after a lawsuit, and seems to be extremely elusive and difficult to see anywhere in the Internet. Time will tell whether Hollywood will subtly push the film under the radar and eventually into oblivion. In any case, the problem of child actors being taken advantage either financially by their parents or emotionally by industry employees (some of them high up in the pecking order) has to be dealt with. It should've never existed and it shouldn't exist now.
As the case of Martin Weiss shows, there's still work to do what comes to the actual sentences when things finally progress to that point. Like Feldman says, "the bright lights of Hollywood are blinding, and the sanctity of childhood is easily trumped by the deafening drumbeat of fame". Power hungry casting agents are prepared to do anything to acquire fame for their clients, and the film industry is the perfect place to surround yourself with kids who desperately want to be famous. Kids, who don't necessarily have proper support systems to guide them through the very surreal world of Hollywood.
In a lot of ways, Feldman didn't have a great start in childhood. He and his siblings lived with a mentally unstable mother, who forbid them to have friends over, sometimes left the kids to starve because they weren't allowed to eat before she woke up in the late afternoon, and who did her best not to seem like a pushy and intense stage mother to outsiders (sometimes succeeding, sometimes not). We're talking about a home where Feldman had only seen from the television how parents tucked in their kids and kissed them goodnight, and where a mother physically attacked her child. Granted, she was sick, but it must have been a nice change to get to the movie sets.
Feldman talks about his experiences over the years candidly. The suicide attempts and the drug problem aren't glossed over, and blame isn't directed at anyone else. There's no bitterness, just honest discussion about the past that has molded Feldman, and about all the mistakes he has done along the way (doing an anti-drug awareness program while having a drug problem, throwing a huge party at the Four Seasons - when the studio execs told the bill was open and he should relax - and completely trashing the room etc.). He doesn't claim to be perfect, and that's what's appealing about the memoir. Feldman willingly admits he has difficulties saying no and a need to see good in people, even in the most untrustworthy ones. Sadly, he also believes he contributed to Haim's death by being one of the first who introduced him to cocaine.
Despite all the great stories about filming processes and the friendship with Michael Jackson, there's an inherent tone of sadness throughout the memoir that I couldn't shake off for a while after finishing it. It's not the kind of patronizing sadness that many feel about once famous celebrities (some would use the word washed up, but I try to avoid it, it sounds so demeaning), but the kind of wistful sadness that comes with the knowledge that a person has had a troubled past, but has still come through as a winner. Feldman has been sober for years, and I honestly wish him and his son nothing but the best.
When a celebrity fucks up his life, it often happens under the watchful eye of millions of people (some of them who have no problem tearing a celebrity to shreds, because "hey, he chose the profession, he has no right to complain when we poke at his personal life despite him trying to keep it private"), but it doesn't mean the public knows the person and everything that's happened. Preying on vulnerable people has never been attractive and never will be. In the end, Feldman's memoir ends with a positive note, because he's still here. There's no need to feel sorry for him and treat him like a pathetic invalid whose life's over or somehow insignificant....more
If Valley of the Dolls (1966) is the glamorous and excessive cousin of Peyton Place (1956), The Best of Everything is the Seconal-sedated twin ofIf Valley of the Dolls (1966) is the glamorous and excessive cousin of Peyton Place (1956), The Best of Everything is the Seconal-sedated twin of Valley of the Dolls. The Jekyll of the Hyde. Booze is flowing, but in a sophisticated Mad Men fashion. In case your blind date is a twat, just order loads of drinks in succession.
Chick lit is still a problematic genre for me, but instead of having another Bridget Jones's Diary (2001) experience, The Best of Everything was pretty entertaining. I liked the smuttiness of Valley of the Dolls more, but The Best of Everything had a relaxing smoothness to it. It's the time period and everything that comes with it, like the experiences of working women in a world of men, that instantly makes the story more interesting and the plight of the characters more engaging.
The characters, unfortunately, are less interesting. There's a lot of naiveté going around, and the moment when you realize that one of the women is clinging to her former man like she was drowning, you also notice you don't care about the women at all. Like in Valley of the Dolls, they define themselves through men, but because of the more everyday and conventional tone of the novel it gets tiring after a while.
The stories are prolonged for way too long and the underlying message against single life is the cherry on a moldy sundae. Honestly, the plot twist at the end is just terrible, because it doesn't fit the rest of the book at all. It's like Jaffe was trying to stick something scandalous in there to hammer her point home, but it destroys all credibility and ends up in the daytime soap territory.
Jaffe was clearly trying to concoct a moral tale about the dangers of a big city, but I'm not surprised that many girls were instead inspired to move there. Life in New York City might be difficult, even dangerous, and subject you to sexual harassment at the office, but it's also an adventure (at least that's what I imagine the girls were thinking). The lack of personality in the married zombies and in those who aspired to become zombies was so horrifying, though, that it's difficult to imagine Jaffe thought things through regarding character development and her audience (would the 1950s readers have been tempted to aim towards marriage and nothing else because of Jaffe's characters?).
Still, The Best of Everything is a quick and light read. It doesn't even remotely try to melt your brain, and better yet, instead of relying on a simple happy ending, the ending is kind of ambiguous and makes it seem like some of the characters have an uncertain future. The world of a working girl was tough in the 50s, and the lack of sugar coating might appeal to modern audiences, too. It's not like sexism or sexual harassment have disappeared from the working places, but Jaffe's novel definitely makes you appreciate the improvement of working conditions....more
This has been in my reading list for ages, and now that I finally managed to grab the thing for a reading challenge, it couldn't fly any faster to myThis has been in my reading list for ages, and now that I finally managed to grab the thing for a reading challenge, it couldn't fly any faster to my list of absolute must-sees. With the likes of Jeremy Irons, Lesley Manville, and Hadley Fraser starring, the adaptation at the Bristol Old Vic would be a dream, but the circumstances are what they are, so this will just have to wait.
Reading a play instead of seeing it performed can be complicated and underwhelming. No such problem here. Long Day's Journey Into Night comes from an extremely dark place and lays bare the tragedy of not wanting to live in the world as it is, but it's also an incredibly moving and beautiful piece of drama. The power of the dialogue combined with O'Neill's unusually specific stage directions (including the appearance and facial expressions of the actors) creates a very tangible atmosphere, one that is heightened even further from the knowledge that the family's struggles were once real for O'Neill, and that due to the autobiographical content he didn't want it to be published until 25 years after his death.
In 1912, a day in the Tyrone family consists of them escaping their guilt and frustration. Mary's morphine addiction has created a protective cocoon, where she can remember her happy pre-marriage years, when she still felt like she had a real home. Her absolute denial of the negativity around her, like Edmund's illness, is slowly destroying her personality and strength, making her even more discontent and lonely. Meanwhile, James Tyrone and sons Eugene and Jamie detach themselves from reality with whiskey.
There's palpable tension from the start, when suspicious glances are thrown in all directions. If noticed, they contribute to a mutual feeling of distrust. True meaning of words shows on embittered faces, and the indirectness and failure to address the problems in a constructive way, the men resorting instead to childish name-calling and criticizing, further worsens the atmosphere of the day.
The Tyrones suck you into their vortex. The fleeting moments of sincerity and affectionate tears sink into the darkness of the house, a house that becomes more and more surrounded by the fog and the sounds of the foghorn, closing it into its own world of bitterness. The ending is dream-like and suffocating, leaving the audience uncertain about the family's future yet also feeling like it's the death of everything. The future wasn't all happy (eleven years later, Jamie drank himself to death), but Mary's fight with her addiction led to victory two years later, so at least there's some glimmer of hope.
A deeply personal project for O'Neill, I'm not surprised about his decision about the publication. I'm also not surprised that Sweden, the land of Ingmar Bergman, appreciated his works more than any other country, and was also the first to produce it on stage. The list of actors involved in productions all over the world since the 1950s is impressive: Laurence Olivier, Jack Lemmon, Kevin Spacey, Jessica Lange, Bibi Andersson, Peter Stormare (the latter two directed by no other than Ingmar Bergman in 1988) etc. Let's just hope the next production will be more accessible to me.
"MARY. None of us can help the things life has done to us. They're done before you realize it, and once they're done they make you do other things until at last everything comes between you and what you'd like to be, and you've lost your true self for ever."...more
"Once a psychiatrist wrote me. He had a young patient who had heard of Freddy Krueger and was having nightmares about him. I really wanted to help, so"Once a psychiatrist wrote me. He had a young patient who had heard of Freddy Krueger and was having nightmares about him. I really wanted to help, so I got in touch with Robert and asked if he would say a few words to the kid into a vidcam. Not only did Robert do that, but he did it while he was being put into, and then out of, his Freddy makeup, describing each step of the way how Freddy was nothing more than latex and glue, and nothing to be worried about." - Wes Craven
I think the first time I saw Robert Englund was about ten years ago when the Masters of Horror anthology series aired in Finland (I love anthologies by the way; film or tv show, it's always exciting to see what the next segment looks like), where he played an MC at a night club with dead strippers. At that point I had already heard of his legendary reputation, but it was only a few days later that I watched the classic A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). I wasn't that impressed, but I hadn't yet become an avid horror fan, so I had no real knowledge about the history of horror film and what place Elm Street has in it to appreciate the movie.
I've since watched only two other Englund movies, Urban Legend (1998) and The Phantom of the Opera (1989), both of which were, er, less than stellar, but I was intrigued by Englund's performances and dedication. The latter shows a mile away, and his memoirs proved me right: he accepts scripts he likes the most, and doesn't care about the financial success of his movies, or whether they win awards and critical acclaim. He just seems like a guy who genuinely respects horror and always puts a hundred percent on the table, and also fully embraces his fanbase (I cannot even remember how many times I've heard how nice and warm he is in person). It's sometimes difficult to see behind a celebrity's public persona, but Englund is one of the few I'm sure is just as nice as he seems to be.
The tone of the memoir is very conversational, because co-writer Alan Goldsher wrote the book based on Englund's dictations, but that suits his style. He has a great sense of humour, and reading this felt like I was sitting at a diner with him eating pancakes, drinking coffee, and listening to him talk about his escapades. No dirt here, though, he only discusses his work and leaves most of his personal life out, which I respect. It should also be remembered, that being a memoir of Robert Englund, this really does focus on him and his point of view of his career, so there's no reason to expect a whole book to be just about Freddy (despite the cover).
There's a lot of repetition about the problems Englund had with makeup and naturally the focus is on his, I presume, favorite projects, but I guess at least the latter is expected when space is limited. A thick tome wouldn't have been as alluring, although I still would have liked to get a little deeper look of the movie industry from a horror actor's perspective. So, although I didn't passionately adore the memoir, I think it's still worth the read for every horror fan (doesn't matter if you're an Elm Street fan), even if it's just for 'hearing' the voice of the man himself.
Most of the anecdotes are entertaining, and it's always great to hear a bit about the behind-the-scenes stuff. Saying how enjoyable it was to work with the legendary Roger Corman is fine, but "catering that consisted of peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches for breakfast, lunch, and dinner" or mere plastic chairs in the depressing dressing rooms are more telling things about Corman and his frugal ways.
I also felt a sting of jealousy that Englund's childhood was surrounded by the entertainment industry in the most positive way, like stumbling into Clark Gable in the grocery store, visiting the sets of his uncles' tv shows, or "watching cowboy stuntmen do horse falls on the RKO backlot behind my house". It's interesting how his parents took him to see scary adult movies, and they somehow stayed with him so that despite a stint as a California surfer (!) and a classically trained theater actor, he became a horror icon. It's also due to the brilliance of a modern musical (Stephen Sondheim's Company) that made him realize art could be both popular and meaningful. I wish I'd seen him play Judas in Godspell, that would be one of my time machine destinations.
Surprisingly, there was some Finnish presence as well: I had no idea Renny Harlin had directed a Freddy Krueger movie! I'm not a fan, but Englund had nothing but positive things to say about him and his modesty and perceptiveness. Anyway, Freddy Krueger sneaking around the Desilu Studios (where, strangely, the home of I Love Lucy was) is something I want to see again, so I'm going to be rewatching Elm Street soon. Maybe even tonight, it's already dark. Although I need to stop thinking about the story how the concept of the film was conceived. That was scary as hell. I'm glad I live in an apartment building. ...more
East of Eden is a family saga, a story of fathers and sons, a tale of love manifesting in different ways and sparking different reactions, an examinatEast of Eden is a family saga, a story of fathers and sons, a tale of love manifesting in different ways and sparking different reactions, an examination of how people sometimes speak past each other without truly understanding, and really everything in between you can think of. It's a hefty tome, one that Steinbeck himself liked the most and considered his magnum opus, but also one that suffers from being uneven and not really knowing where it wants to go.
It never quite finishes all the threads satisfactorily, jumps from one thing to another, and has too much exposition (particularly regarding the Cain and Abel allegory: at one point, the characters are discussing how the Biblical story relates to their lives, as if its significance hadn't already been spelled out before) and lectures about Salinas Valley and world events. A little subtlety would have been nice, instead of heavy-handedly stretching a message with capital letters across several generations. Add to that the ridiculous name alliteration, and I'm just about on the verge of exhaustion.
Steinbeck's descriptions of most of the main characters and their struggles are the saving grace. Overall, there are no heroes and villains in the families, only deeply human emotions. Sometimes polar opposite emotions (and characters) are strongly connected and it's difficult to distinguish where each one begins and ends. The very last scene I thought was very moving.
However, the downfalls of the overall narrative exists in the characters, too. Lee, the Chinese servant, is the epitome of a Chinese philosopher with a tragic background. Although he pretends to be a white man's version of a Chinese man by hiding his perfect American English and education behind his pidgin and clothes, he still feels like a stereotype, always there to grant calm wisdoms when someone needs guidance.
Cathy's capable of fear and reflecting her actions, but she's still clearly a sociopath, which is fine. Not settling to that, though, Steinbeck stated she's supposed to represent the Devil (if it's true that she was modelled after Steinbeck's second wife, he really must have hated her). That and her actions that ooze evil through and through are again heavy-handed references to the Bible (and if that's still not enough to make readers understand, she's also described as being snake-like), and they reduce Cathy into an image of something universal instead of a real character. Abra, on the other hand, is devoid of personality and seemingly exists only to enhance Aaron's struggles.
The oversimplifications didn't help make sense of the messy structure, nor lift the characters from the pages to the realm of believability. Instead, the characters mainly carried the heavy burden of being clumsy allegories. Everything was chewed on the reader's behalf, not giving the opportunity to make one's own conclusions and observations, and I found myself gradually losing interest everytime I picked up the book. I've said before how wonderful The Grapes of Wrath (1939) is, but I now dread the day when I decide to reread it. Thing is, I vaguely remember it being just as preachy, but the societal issues might have been a slightly better platform for it. I understand why East of Eden is so well-loved, and in a sense it's not a badly written novel nor is it one of the worst I've ever read, but the more I think about it the more it ticks me off.
- - -
Dean would have turned 85 last month. East of Eden is the only film of his I haven't seen yet, and it's been patiently waiting in my watchlist, because I knew I'd want to read the book first. Not surprisingly, I liked the movie more.
The story has been simplified immensely by removing some of the characters altogether, making the plot more streamlined, and by focusing only on the second half that deals with Cal and Aaron. Usually I expect faithfulness from film adaptations, but sometimes it just isn't always the best option (often the case with big tomes). There's limited space and opportunities in a little less than two hours, but Paul Osborn's screen play is fantastic and Kazan has no trouble guiding the characters and the story forward.
The changes do cause some implausibility, like when Cal borrows money from his mother, and Cathy doesn't seem as powerful and cunning as in the book. These are just minor issues, though, because the overall story works so well on screen. The valley looks beautiful in color, too, even though most of it isn't Salinas but Mendocino.
And what about Dean? If all beginners were as good as him in their first roles, the world would burst from all the energy and talent. Dean puts his soul into his role, and sometimes it only takes a quiet smile or a slight adjustment of posture. If only he had stuck around, he'd have had great chances of polishing his skills even further....more
In films, Los Angeles has many faces (none have shown that better than one of my favorite documentaries Los Angeles Plays Itself ), and Silver aIn films, Los Angeles has many faces (none have shown that better than one of my favorite documentaries Los Angeles Plays Itself ), and Silver and Ursini (film noir experts familiar to many) examine that from noir's point of view. For me, it's sometimes difficult to differentiate filming locations, but here's a fairly decent source if you want to know which noirs have actually been shot in L.A.
One might think noir only focuses on the seedy parts of the city, but the book is organized by area, and there's a lot to be said about the coastal parts where the rich live a seemingly satisfying life. A mixture of corruption and crushed dreams, it's amazing what lies under the surface of sunny California, and how especially Raymond Chandler revealed it for what it truly was (his novels contain my absolute favorite descriptions of L.A. of that era). It's that strange combination mixed with the oddities of the movie industry that differentiates L.A. from all the other cities out there.
Offering tidbits about the history of Los Angeles and the various changes it has gone through, Silver and Ursini tie it all with moviemaking: during the shoot of Double Indemnity (1944), police officers guarded the food because of the World War II rationing, and the creation of the suburban nuclear family and the new suburbs offered a great opportunity to examine the growing dissatisfaction behind closed doors. In the midst of all the cynicism and fatalism, a hope is still lingering that social injustices can be fixed.
A great introduction to the world of L.A. as a shooting location (and maybe to film noir and neo-noir, too), this is still a pretty basic overview of the topic, one that could have been an even greater analysis of how the L.A. pulse is beating in the noir spirit. The film segments lean more towards synopses than anything else, but there are plenty of successful moments as well to make this a worthwhile read. The photographs are amazing, that goes without saying. Not just film stills of gorgeous cinematography, but also rare behind the scenes photos (of the latter, the photo also appearing in the cover is my favorite).
"Dream and reality are the touchstones of film noir. Los Angeles is where the filmmakers of the classic period brought these elements together, created the emotional conundrums which the noir protagonist must confront—the land of opportunity and the struggle to get by, the democratic ideal and the political corruption, the American dream and the disaffection of veterans who gave up the best years of their lives."
"The dream of “Hollywood” is in many ways just another, slightly more profane version of the American dream."...more
The purpose of a short overview of only twelve serial killers escapes me, because I presume there are tomes referencing every single American serial kThe purpose of a short overview of only twelve serial killers escapes me, because I presume there are tomes referencing every single American serial killer (or at least most of them) and acting as introductions. I was testing Kindle in my phone the other day, and this was available for free in Amazon's Kindle books, so I figured I wouldn't be losing anything by at least trying this out.
Well, I did finish this, since I was morbidly curious about how much the level of craziness would grow, but otherwise I have to say I wasn't particularly impressed.
Obviously, there are interesting details here. John Gacy performed as a clown, and was known as an outgoing and succesful businessman. One of Jeffrey Dahmer's drugged victims escaped and the police believed he was his lover, because Dahmer (who worked at a chocolate factory at one point) was so well-spoken and calm, but if they had checked his apartment when they escorted them back there, they would've found the decomposing body of one of his latest victims on the bedroom floor. Well, later this happened: "There's a goddamn head in the refrigerator!". Ted Bundy worked at Seattle's Suicide Hotline crisis center, and earned a commendation from the police for saving a toddler. David Berkowitz had no success with women, so he decided to off them instead.
All these, however, I'd rather read from a proper and coherent reference book, or from an individual biography of one of the killers. Keller's approach is much too simplistic and, as he admits, subjective. A bit more polishing would have been great, too, since there's repetition in the parts where the victims are listed. It's all and well to note every single victim and treat them with respect, but at least a bit of variation sentence-wise would have been nice. I found no reason why one should read this instead of a Wikipedia article....more
Noir. I can always trust it when I feel like reading something where it's guaranteed that things go horribly wrong or someone goes apeshit. Williams hNoir. I can always trust it when I feel like reading something where it's guaranteed that things go horribly wrong or someone goes apeshit. Williams has been an unknown to me until now, but if this really isn't his strongest novels, I'm going to be in paradise later.
A Touch of Death smells like fear, sweat, powder, lipstick, and sex, and it's the colour of sharp scissors in the evening light. Williams's prose is to the point, yet a sizzling atmosphere of passion and suppressed rage are looming somewhere beneath. The plot is unarguably drawn out and as a mere framework not that interesting. However, it sticks with you regardless like a piece of chewing gum. Scarborough seems like a sleepwalker at times, and although he understands the woman in the bikini is trouble, he's unable to turn away. Just like in a nightmare. The final scene in the car is the hottest thing I've read in a while, and the ending is like a slap in the face, although you always knew what would happen. How can anything be ice cold and burning hot at the same time?...more
As a fan of vintage King, I honestly didn't expect much going in. I knew I'd be entertained and sucked in, but the chance of experiencing that particuAs a fan of vintage King, I honestly didn't expect much going in. I knew I'd be entertained and sucked in, but the chance of experiencing that particular atmosphere spiced with crazy supernatural phenomena didn't cross my mind. There was still "that something" missing, but this was a hell of a ride in any case.
We've seen so much of apocalyptic metropolises, but Peyton Place (1956) showed that a small town where people know each other can be a gateway to hell, dome or not. Small-mindedness and gossiping create snakes out of even the most unwilling of residents, but when a town is shut into its own universe, its when people actually start eating each other alive. This is a dynamic that gives a lot of room for exploring several themes and personality types, and King has definitely succeeded. On the surface, Chester's Mill is an unassuming conservative town, but beneath that deceptively moralistic and Christian surface there's poison brewing.
When disaster strikes, often the villains have the most guts to take charge, whereas most are happy to just follow someone and pretend everything's ok and will be in the future. Big Jim is the most vile character I've come across in a long time. When a man of that level of demented starts calling the shots, we all know it can't end well, especially when very few realize he's not actually interested in anyone but his own ass. He's like the shepherd of a flock of blind sheep, the nurse of terminally ill patients, with a severe case of a Christ complex.
In this, though, lies also the weakness of the novel. King resorts to painting his characters with very broad strokes, making villains behave like they're possessed by the devil and heroes are just all-round cool guys destined for greatness. It detracts from the otherwise realistic situation, where the dome ties into more general political issues. Actually, there isn't a lot of cracking under pressure either, meaning that the small town mentality isn't fully utilized, because only existing traits are heightened and secrets not tied to personalities but outward things are slowly revealed.
At the same time, what really pushed this into another level was the black humour, which I appreciate enormously (even when it's distasteful and disgusting á la The Devils ). Murder is compared to potato chips (as an avid fan of almost all kinds of chips, I completely understand the comparison), a priest with mommy issues is flogging himself in orange bike shorts (which themselves are a horror to behold), a "green burrito" carpet, and a self-professed prophet becomes like a Judas of sorts (only high on meth). Oh, and there's a reference to Breaking Bad (and Jack Reacher, but I don't know him as a character so I'm not able to appreciate it). Even Anderson Cooper and Bill O'Reilly make an appearance (albeit through a television screen).
Besides, anyone who seems to have been completely confident about a giant character gallery like this deserves to be applauded. Usually a large amount of characters disturbs me to no end, but in this case there are only a few important key players, while the rest mostly end up as dog food.
So yeah, I had fun peeping through a magnifying class these ants engaging in various activities in a catastrophic situation (and gasping when that disturbing event at the end struck). Easily my favorite of 21st century King....more