Monday, February 28, 2011

Oscar Dreams

One quick followup to my Oscar post. I'm very pleased with all of The King's Speech victories. They helped my Oscar ballot with 17 of 24 correct. Hurrah!

I loved David Seidler's acceptance speech. He won for Best Original Screenplay. Elderly white haired gentleman who overcame a stutter - this award obviously meant the world. He began by saying that his father always said he'd be a "late bloomer". Classy and understated. Wow!

Kudos to him.

I love the movies. This year's Academy Awards show was a tad boring, trying too hard to be hip and cool. And yet, when it came down to the actual victors - they gave really heartfelt speeches, they are true to their craft, and they epitomize acting star quality. It was worth paying my $$$ and sitting in the dark and spending precious time to enjoy their performances.

Hooray for Hollywood and here's to the David Seidler's of the world. Write, write, write, create, and dream.

Oscar awaits

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Oscar Picks

A year's worth of sitting in the dark, and it comes down to Sunday, February 27th. Academy Awards time. Who shall win Oscar?

I look back at 2010 as a so-so year for movies, and yet when I look at the nominations, I think, "Wow. That one was great. Or such a superb performance. Or I could watch that one again." So, I think 2010 was a good year for a small number of really fine films. It was "eh!" for the medium grade - entertaining and worth your money, but not awesome. There's been a whole lot of crap made and I think films are being cranked out to fill the DVD and instant viewing pipeline. With that said, let me give an opinion on key categories.
Ballot courtesy of Entertainment Weekly.
Best Picture: All worthy contenders. I think The King's Speech will win - it fits the Oscar sensibility. Well filmed, well acted, and British accents. As far as innovation - Inception or Black Swan should take the statue. And for sheer joy to watch again and again - Toy Story 3.
Best Actor: Colin Firth, hands down. Jeff Bridges won last year and gets better and better. Jesse and James - young brilliant actors who shall build great careers. Javier - sorry, didn't see you. But I bet you were good.
Best Actress: Natalie Portman has grown through the years and I think she was excellent in her ballerina breakdown. I give her the statue, but I'm fine if Annette Bening wins. She's so dynamic on the screen.
Best Supporting Actress: This is so tough. Melissa Leo started out ahead, but I think Hailee Steinfeld might just pull the final punch. I'd award the whole lot of 'em. (Jacki Weaver is a surprise gem in a wee Aussie film - whew!)
Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale went full tilt into his role and came up a winner. But Geoffrey Rush could ride that King's Speech momentum and he was awfully key to Colin's performance.
Best Director - David Fincher - Social Network. The old split the award from picture trick and I think that's okay. We'll see.
Best Original Screenplay - either King's Speech or Inception (that was darn good creative writing)
Best Adapted Screenplay - Aaron Sorkin knocked it out with Social Network. This movie captures 2010 with his language and pacing.
Just working on this post makes me want to re-watch these movies and performances. Hollywood is still alive and brings magic to the darkness.
Roll film...............

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Moving the Merchandise

In America, it is sport that is the opiate of the masses. (Russell Baker) Ray and I hosted a sports theme party, and in decorating, I realized how much sports paraphenalia we own. It is brilliant merchandising, and I'm thinking authors need to apply the sport model to book marketing.

There is no business like show business - except sports business. (William J. Baker) In a recent WSJ article, it was noted that writers are using iPads and sex toys to bump up sales and generate buzz. Use of social media, contest drawings, and hustle are part of the author's job. "It's no longer a top down media culture," says Paul Bogaards from Knopf Doubleday. Instead skimpy advertising budgets, Borders bankruptcy, scaled back marketing and publicity departments, and more writing competition necessitate extra effort to get noticed.

Back to sports. It's no longer just the game. It's pre, post, and halftime entertainment. Athletes are celebrities, and authors need to do the same to get the spotlight on them.

"Freebies such as bookmarks or key chain logos generate reader goodwill and may provide an author with more Facebook friends, a larger email list, and can goose preorders, which gets attention of publishers." It's truly a juggling act with razzle dazzle.

One author, Christopher McDougall (Born to Run, 2009) throws cases of books in his car and drives to races, running clinics, and athletic retailer conventions. "I found that slapping the shoe leather is what works." Face to face contact, and one sale can spread the word to umpteen others.

Amidst the hoopla, there is one thing to keep in mind. Just like an athlete still must practice and play to remain in the public eye, an author still must write. Promotion is important, but you need the muscle (i.e.words, plot, character) to back it up.

Play ball!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Salvator Rosa at the Kimbell

My Valentine's treat on Sunday was a visit to the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth. Ray was willing to stroll through this exhibit and discover the talent of this 17th century artist. Rosa was dark and brooding and explored the subjects of witchcraft, bandits, and behind it all was Italian scenery. Evocative and satirical, Salvator Rosa was an artist to be reckoned with and the Kimbell exhbit, as always, offers a wide range of his works.
His portraits are haunting and his landscapes are gorgeous. Craggy ravines and superb lighting enhance his work. Thirty six paintings cover a wide range of spirit from very, very dark to intense. I enjoyed this exhibit and also strolled through the Kimbell's regular collection - always a treat to see pieces from their vast warehouse. The Fort Worth Cultural District is a gem - Go explore it!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Humorous Mystery

See a picture of a casket and think, "Huh, is this book going to be depressing?"

See that the author is Susan Isaacs and think, "Well, this'll be funny with a twist."

Sure enough, As Husbands Go, is a witty mystery laden with Isaacs' usual memorable characters. Susie Gersten, happily married to Jonah, a plastic surgeon, has a great life. Her floral business is good, her four year-old triplets are healthy and keep her busy, and she has a husband who loves her.

Or does he?

He's not home when the triplets wake her one morning. No messages, no notes, no nothing. Nobody's heard from him. She notifies the police and her world is upended when they arrive to tell her Jonah's been found dead in a call girl's apartment. It looks like the escort killed him. Susie's life is now headlines in all of the New York papers. Her wealthy in-laws are stricken, and Susie is in shock. Had she missed clues, how could Jonah have sought "companionship" elsewhere? There has to be more to this story. And of course, there is and you'll want to keep reading to follow Susie on her road to recovery and discovery.

Talking about Susie's mother: p.73 She was belligerently unattractive, almost as if she'd been created in the late sixties by a male-chauvanist cartoonist as a malicious caricature of a feminist.

p.123 In regards to what people must be thinking: Or that someone like me had managed to score a privileged attractive-charming-gifted-successful Yale doctor only because he was one deeply twisted dude.

p. 140 Susie's grandmother says, "I can smell a lousy marriage a mile away. Anyone's, not just the three stinkos I wound up with. But yours, it smelled like a rose."

p.253 I tried to tune him out while I had a triangle of turkey and avocado and a bite of a grilled vegetable with hummus wrap that tasted like something you regret buying at an airport. ( I love that description.)

You won't regret reading As Husbands Go.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Irish Tale of Murder

If you want a good read that takes place in the old sod, pick up Faithful Place by Tana French.
Her characters are rich and she moves easily from the past to the present, as Detective Frank Mackey is pulled back to his youth and family as he investigates a murder.
Poor Rosie Daly. Everyone thought she managed to escape Faithful Place, a downtrodden Irish neighborhood, to seek a new life in London. Frank was left behind waiting for her, thinking he was stood up. He chose to leave too, on that fateful night and ultimately became a cop, working undercover. Now, he gets a call from his sister Jackie that a suitcase was found stuffed in a fireplace and it's Rosie's. She didn't move on after all.
He's sucked back into family dynamics - alcoholic father, demanding mother, resentful older brother, and tentative younger brother, plus a loyal sister. Everyone knows everyone's business and the neighborhood is suspicious of Frank's motives as he uncovers Rosie's body, discovers betrayals, and seeks to resolve his feelings for Rosie. Mackey's juggling his beloved nine year old daughter, Holly, and her desire to know family. Plus, he has to contend with his ex-wife and job priorities.
French's writing is as smooth as Irish whiskey. She has a fine ear for dialogue and pacing. Her previous books In The Woods and The Likeness are equally captivating reads. Here's a sample description: (p.108) The air was so cold that it made a high fine ringing sound somewhere miles above us, like breaking crystal; her breath was hoarse and warm on my throat, her hair smelled like lemon drops and I could feel the fast shake of her heart trembling against my ribs. Then I let go of her and watched her walk away, one last time.
(p.134) I had spent my whole adult life growing around a scar shaped like Rosie Daly's absence.
Read The Faithful Place - pity Rosie's lost youth, commiserate with Frank on years of wonder and loss, and fight, cry, and drink with the Mackey family to past and present sorrows. Once you finish the book, a bit of the old sod sticks with you.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Whimsical Winterfest

"I think we're not in Miami, anymore."
Adrift on an ice floe in Bedford, Texas, Felicia Flamingo, hopes she finds dry land before Super Bowl XLV begins.

Aaah, I've claimed a deck chair. Now where's the cabana boy service?

I'm doing my best to help. Push harder

Brushing snow and chipping ice works up a thirst.
What do you think, folks? A kid's picturebook? Everyone loves flamingos, but how about that snow plotline twist?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Super Snow Bowl

It could be rain, It could be snow, Weathermen never know - Willard Scott/NBC Today Show 11/27/95
The weathermen actually did get it right this week in Dallas-Ft.Worth. Ice on Tuesday, temperatures in the teens Wednesday and Thursday, then snow up to three inches or more accumulation on Friday. Bingo! All plows all the time on any Road to the Super Bowl - Cowboy Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Our visitors from Pittsburgh and Green Bay must regret packing shorts, sunscreen, and a swimsuit. Hopefully, they brought an ice scraper for their car rental.

Some are weatherwise, some are otherwise - Ben Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanac, December 1735.

Nature is always serious - does not jest with us Ralph Waldo Emerson 1883

Nature, as we know her, is no saint - Ralph Waldo Emerson 1844
Day Four. Cabin Fever. To heck with writing poems about the ice, snow, lovely flakes falling so delicately - Joanne Faries

Thursday, February 3, 2011

"Chick Wit" Writer Isn't Ordinary

It's hard to read the title tag line on this cover. After My Nest Isn't Empty, It Just Has More Closet Space there is a subtitle The Amazing Adventures of an Ordinary Woman I beg to differ. Lisa Scottoline, successful author of twenty six mysteries and columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, might do ordinary things but her humor and skewed view of the world is extraordinary.

This collection of essays is a follow-up to My Third Husband Will Be a Dog and has laughs aplenty. Her daughter has featured essay viewpoints in this book, and lovingly agrees her mother is a tad nuts. A menagerie of pets have a starring role in Ms.Scottoline's life and her mother, Mother Mary is a hoot.

From Nancy Drew, to dating at age fifty plus, gray hairs, cars, purses, and a host of small details that can drive anyone crazy, each column is a gem. On her search for a new car (p.166) "Eenie, meenie, miney mo is an excellent way to buy a car." (p.167) "To me, a car is a cupholder with an engine." She goes on to discuss that like dating men, at times you want to drive a solid SUV, other times a sports car. Each keen life observation kept me chuckling.

(p. 232) "I'm a library slut. I visit libraries every year, speaking and fundraising, and nothing gives me greater pleasure than to know librarians and support public libraries. I'll tell you why. I owe them. I wouldn't be an author, or a bookaholic, without libraries."

Lisa Scottoline is my kind of gal. She still lives in Philly, loves desserts, and reads.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Penguin Days with Flamingos

It was 70s on Sunday, and now a brisk 20 degrees with wind chill factor. Good day for editing, writing, and perhaps a nap. Our Sunday at the zoo was colorful. I never did snap pictures of the penguins. However, here are flamingos - reminding us of sunshine, palm trees, and coral beaches.
Nifty statues and fountains at the Dallas zoo lend atmosphere and a cohesive design.

Horny-toed frog bench outside the reptile house. Just in case you get the creeps from too many snakes, lizards, and frogs, you can have a seat and bask in sunshine.

Giraffe statue pointed the way towards the new Savannah area.

Nothing quite like a huge gorilla - massive build, contemplative gaze. While standing in Dallas, you feel the heartbeat of the Congo.
The lower animals are our brethren - Gandhi