Friday, February 17, 2006

Things to do while Willow dances in a fat suit.

- DATE MOVIE, which stars BUFFY alum Alyson Hannigan and is a play upon the cliches of other, countless romantic comedies, hits theaters today, conveniently after Valentine's Day. It appears to play upon everything from SHALLOW HAL and WEDDING CRASHERS to KILL BILL, the awful NAPOLEON DYNAMITE and SAY ANYTHING ... I'm not sure what I'll think of this movie. It wasn't screened for critics.

- WHY WE FIGHT, a new documentary about the U.S. "military industrial complex" - a term coined by Eisenhower - and how it sways foreign policy, hits the Landmark this weekend. Its reviews have been solid, and it's been a while since I caught a good, thought-provoking political documentary designed to make me angry.

- When it comes to Paul Walker, the only EIGHT BELOW I'm interested in seeing is below his belt. I am not a dog person. I don't care to see a movie about rescue dogs in Antarctica who nearly freeze to death, particularly one made by Disney. Any movie that features Paul Walker but doesn't feature a shower scene is a waste. All the dogs in this movie, in all likelihood, live through their ordeal. Nobody would dare make a dead dog movie.
- Justin Tussing's debut novel THE BEST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD has received some good notices from USA Today and the New York Times. It's about a high schooler who starts an affair with his teacher, then goes on the run with her.
- Last night, I tried writing a short story. You know, just starting one. I thought I had a good idea. For two hours, I sat in front of my laptop, the screen practically blank. I hate when this happens. I have all these books that are supposed to help me: Natalie Goldberg's WRITING DOWN THE BONES, Stephen King's ON WRITING, William Zinsser's ON WRITING WELL and Anne Lamott's BIRD BY BIRD. Nothing helps. I wanted to write something for class Monday. I thought it would be fun. Instead, I ended up screaming myself to sleep. This probably explains why Hemingway shot himself.
- Mystery writer Jeff Lindsay recently published DEARLY DEVOTED DEXTER, a sequel to DARKLY DREAMING DEXTER. The fun of these novels is the protagonist, a forensics expert named Dexter Morgan who - in his spare time - is a serial killer. Dexter is a severely damaged man with no relatable emotions, but he pretends well. He's funny. Other characters in the books think he's really nice. And he murders people with a flair. The books are being adapted into a TV series for Showtime, and Michael C. Hall from SIX FEET UNDER is attached to star as Dexter.
- Several friends of mine have now read CELL, the new horror novel from Stephen King. They've called it bloody, horrifying fun. I've never actually read a Stephen King book, not even the one I mentioned above in this list, but this one sounds cool.

- FREEDOMLAND, in spite of its stellar cast, including Samuel L. Jackson, Julianne Moore and Edie Falco, probably sucks. The reviews have been bad. It's directed by Joe Roth, after all, and that guy can't direct at all. I mean, he made CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS and AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS, which is one of the worst movies featuring good people that I've ever seen.

- My friend Kacoon tells me that, to her surprise, HOODWINKED was hilarious. The plot sounds like LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD meets RASHOMON, and the voice talent, featuring Glenn Close and Anne Hathaway, is strong. I've missed this in theaters for weeks, but it's been a sleeper hit.
- Since I cannot write a story of my own, I'm going to indulge in the other people's stories for inspiration. Writers I recommend, above others, are John Cheever, Roald Dahl and J.D. Salinger. If you want stuff with a feminine or Southern or Southern feminine flair, try THE COLLECTED STORIES OF KATHERINE ANNE PORTER or THE COMPLETE STORIES OF FLANNERY O'CONNOR. THE COLLECTED STORIES OF WILLA CATHER is another favorite. And this week, someone recommend A.S. Byatt's ELEMENTALS to me, thinking it might help me build ideas. THIS WEEK'S QUESTION: Everyone who's been through an English class has at least read one short story. And if you've read more than two short stories in your life, then you probably have a favorite. You may not remember the exact title or the person who wrote it. At the very least, though, you remember a character or a plot or a really, really excellent twist at the end of a spooky story. Tell me about it. What's your favorite short story? Which stories' twists have freaked you out the most? What story meant the most to you? Why did you like it?

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