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Over 21
Over 21
DVD ~ Irene Dunne
Price: $19.99
25 used & new from $11.99

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Triumph of Neo-Liberalism via Beefcake, June 18, 2013
This review is from: Over 21 (DVD)
The movie has to be seen to be believed, for any description of it would only make you think, why is he recommending this? It's hard to believe it actually got made, its premise (insofar as one can be made out) is so unlikely to entertain. It's the way the thing gets worked out that makes it amusing, even suspenseful. But, I must say, if you're not a liberal you're unlikely to enjoy the bushels of liberal propaganda that runs rampant in every scene. And I'm a liberal and it even irked me. Irene Dunne doesn't even really belong in the movie, but she is inserted into it as if to make you think that even the most normal member of society must now, at the end of the long WWII effort, be automatically a liberal and concerned about the world to come--winning the peace, you might say.

She's amazingly dressed in the ugliest costumes I've seen on a major star in many a moon. When her husband's colonel comes to call, she runs behind a door and zips herself into a glittering black rubber catsuit that might have inspired the then children Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren to open up their notorious Sex shop in London 30 years on. She's glamorous, and director Charles Vidor photographs her to stunning effect when it's just her face and head--for one amazing scene he shows her head horizontally, as though she were the sun on top of the horizon, thinking in profile, her eyes watching the ceiling above her --the top frame of the film--she is like Lee Miller in a Man Ray photo, and Dunne gives it everything she's got, which is plenty as Dunne fans know. No, she doesn't sing in this one, but she feels liberal and makes it seem as though household inconveniences must be ignored because we're going to make a better world, so a springbound chair is one step to victory, a kitchen sink with no water another, ration coupons a third. I began thinking, if she ran the world the world would be pretty much the same place it is today. perhaps it's because she's set like the jewel in the crown of a complicated system of military careerism in which her husband, Alexander Knox, has to pass a series of impossibly difficult exams for some reason I never understood. Alexander Knox! Movie lovers will hear this name in horror, thanks to his colorless performances in Wilson (1944) and in that Rossellini movie in which he and Ingrid Bergman are sophisticated socialites who lose their child and then she becomes a saint and he just looks bored. But here he actually has energy and in his trim little uniform he's rather sexy with his muscles popping out of his biceps and shoulders. But stop the presses! The real draw in OVER 21 is Mr. Loren Tindall, the most beautiful man at Columbia Pictures in the mid 1940s. His career was over pretty much as soon as it began, but check him out here as the officer married to young Jeff Donnell and the two of them are packing their little cottage when Irene Dunne arrives. He's tall--like a maypole--and well-built, like an ice cream cone, with delicious ice cream skin and hair hand-dipped into waves of dark vinyl. Did Vito Russo ever write about Over 21? There is so much to be said, I wish he were here to take over for me now because, frankly kids, I'm feeling a little lightheaded.

Okay, so, have you got that name memorized? "Loren Tindall." "Loren Tindall." Not much of an actor but, like Tynan said about Garbo, a complete reason for going to the movies.


What To Expect When You're Expecting [DVD + Digital Copy]
What To Expect When You're Expecting [DVD + Digital Copy]
DVD ~ Cameron Diaz
Price: $5.00
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Put them all together, they spell "M-O-T-H-E-R", June 14, 2013
What to Expect when you're Expecting hits a home run from the title on. Like Sex and the Single Girl in the 1960s, Hollywood can't resist a self help book of any kind--that's nearly all they read there--so they buy the rights to the title and then invent a plot or narrative to give moviegoers perhaps more of a treat. Woody Allen made Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask) into a sort of Laugh-In of brief sight gags and sketches. Even Mean Girls started out as a self=help book. So, it's a whole genre filled with built-in history. We speculated that the screenwriters of Expecting originally envisioned the whole movie initially as the full length story of Cameron Diaz and Matthew Morrison's characters, a reality TV trainer and a professional dancer, but actually as the movie wore on I got to dislike it every time they showed up with their story about whether or not their son should get circumcized. Mr. Shoe wanted it, but Cameron Diaz no way. It was a story that never made sense, well maybe it made sense but it is executed as though it were a heavy issue, like the passion of Christ in an Ingmar Bergman film. Anyhow, Mr. Shoe had enough scenes so he must have felt like he was still playing Shue in the old days when he was married to that deceptive lying wife of his on Glee.

We did notice a lot of gay leading men in this movie! Most of them were able to play heterosexuals more or less adequately. Maybe when the Cameron Diaz plot was getting too grim, producers thought they might as well have a second string to their bow and they asked Elizabeth Banks to come on and play a gorgeous woman with a schlubby dentist husband (Ben Falcone). She is a heavily conflicted character, just like Cameron Diaz, and maybe the only reason why her story is a little lighter than Cameron Diaz' is that it's not a debate about circumcision. She is the daughter in law of elderly Dennis Quaid, a wealthy and famous race car driver with more money than sense. Quaid himself is about to have twins with his young wife, played by model Brooklyn Decker. The joke is that Banks, carrying only one child and heavily invested in the myth that pregnancy is a sacred state of being, looks infinitely heavier and more bedraggled than the one having twins who wears six inch heels and is still horny for Dennis Quaid. Banks is an especially good actress, but I found Ben Falcone trying, like if you really wished for a new, chubby version of Hank Azaria really hard every night and made sacrifices to Pan, you might open your front door one day and there Ben Falcone would stand with a bacon wrapped hot dog in each hand.

Those who read my reviews will already know my next sentence, which would have been something to the effect of, "Despite her reputation as a bad or indifferent actress, Jennifer Lopez delivers the best performance in the movie." I say this every time around, but it never stops offending some people who can't see the forest (Ethel Barrymore-like greatness as an actress) for the trees (her image and her allegedly awful personality). But there you go. Paired not so much with Rodrigo Santoro as her selfish husband as with Wendi McClendon Covey as Kara, her boss at the aquarium. Do I believe Jennifer Lopez as a struggling photographer? She is one who makes tangible the drive people have to photograph others and dolphins. Very much so, and her trip to Ethiopia, while not really fitting in with the rest of the movie, should have been an IMAX travelogue all by itself. It is more stirring than, what was that movie with Klaus Kinski pulling an opera house over a mountain with vines and native labor?

Let's see, who else--Chace Crawford and Anna Kendrick. I'm looking at that name "Chace Crawford" and wondering what part of it I got wrong because it just looks wrong. As a pair of food truck entrepreneurs who once tried dating in high school, the two try to act serious but the gravity of the situation seems beyond either of them. They have chemistry, but shopping chemistry, like they'd rather go to Uniqlo and see what's new on the racks, than fall in love and get unexpectedly pregnant, All in all, a good movie, well directed y Kirk Jones, with plenty of appealing side characters, including the amazing Chris Rock, probably the funniest part of the movie, well, him and his little son "Jordan," a hapless sort of cute little kid drawn from silent film, never says anything, just falls down repeatedly, and some mean little part of one's id laughs its ass off every time.


The Last Enemy
The Last Enemy
DVD ~ Benedict Cumberbatch
Price: $17.26
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36 of 49 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars How to Save a Marriage, May 26, 2013
This review is from: The Last Enemy (DVD)
My wife's infatuation with Benedict Cumberbatch continues unabated, so I was invited to watch five hours of this nonsense with her and, well, it was that or divorce, what would you do? While it was going on she admitted that even Cumberbatch, the single greatest man who ever lived in all of history she thinks, was finding it heavy going breathing life into this story which we had both seen, like, one million times. Anyone who has watched Tom Cruise in a futuristic movie has seen it, and seen it done much better. I hereby give Tom Cruise a Bell Curve Oscar for his sterling work in Oblivion, Vanilla Sky, War of the Worlds, etc. Lifetime Achievement Award, and it will be presented live on TV to him by Rosie O'Donnell and a deflated Benedict Cumberbatch.

The story is ridiculously expanded to pad out two hours to five. My questions include, Who are those evil foreign brothers from Russia or wherever? Who is Robert Carlyle playing and how does he know so much, and yet so little, about every twist and turn of the plot? Is every government employee in England satanically evil? If you were a woman passionately devoted to your husband, and he died, and his brother showed up the day of his funeral, a brother you had never met and moreover looks nothing like your husband--we were 100 per cent sure it would turn out that he actually was the husband, with a facelift and his memory shifted as in Total Recall or Source Code--would you skip the funeral and have sex with this stranger instead? While a plague stricken woman lies dying in the next room, a woman you are sworn to help? (This is no spoiler as it occurs within the first 25 minutes of the miniseries.) My wife murmured, "Benedict Cumberbatch couldn't help himself, but that woman Kasim is a slut." Later she apologizes by explaining that, "He was there.... And I wanted him," a sentiment my wife sympathized with. OK, more questions, Carrie's boss in Homeland, David Estes, shows up in this effort playing the exact same part, only here he's British. Does he play no other sort of role? It is the sort of part Rod Steiger and then John Malkovich used to excel in, cold as ice and pure and icy ambition.

Then there's the Robert Carlyle question. It seems like only yesterday he used to be a great star, in The Full Monty and Trainspotting and others. Surprised to see him still alive, and unable to follow a single word of his dialogue due to my accent recognition software malfunctioning, I spent a lot of time looking him up simultaneously on IMDB and finding out that in fact he's been busy acting in thirty-two movies I have never heard of, sometimes playing characters such as "Third Man in Tavern" or "Chauffeur." I guess he saw he had a lead part in a miniseries and jumped in with both feet, but the cruel producers here made him leave off his lifts, so he tries his best to menace and murder and hold hostage, but it's cute because he's no more than five feet three I would estimate. It's like watching little Haley Joel Osment from The Sixth Sense as a supervillain, in punky clothes borrowed from, oh I don't know, Punky Brewster.

Final question, have you ever seen a tacked-on ending before? Of course you have, but this one will leave you with your head in your hands, mumbling and pouting, one thought ratcheting through your brain, that soon, very soon, your wife is going to be forcing you to see Benedict Cumberbatch in the forthcoming biopic of Julian Assange (!!!) and she'll be whispering in your ear, "Oh be a sport, at least it will be better than The Last Enemy."
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Marcel Duchamp: The Afternoon Interviews
Marcel Duchamp: The Afternoon Interviews
by Calvin Tomkins
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.26
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interior Contradictions, May 20, 2013
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Marcel Duchamp was an enigma to many, and the new collection of his interviews (conducted in the early 60s by a magazine writer attempting a profile on a mercurial figure) will fascinate those already hooked on the guy, while newcomers will find here an easy, painless and exceedingly swift introduction into the mind and humor of one of the world's leading artistic figures. At least our book club found it so: in our club there are veritable Duchamp newbies while at the other end of the spectrum there are those among us who have studied him for ages. One man revealed that his dad took his little hand in his big hand and walked our member into the Pasadena Museum of Art where under Walter Hopps wise tutelage Duchamp sat and played chess with a totally nude girl--a sight to dream of, not to tell, as Coleridge said in a similar situation.

Anyhow there are a few puzzles in the book, such as, why was this material been hidden for so long? The addenda to the slim volume fail to mention the provenance, though artist slash publisher Paul Chan interviews Calvin Tompkins about his long ago meetings with Duchamp; we just don't hear about it. Maybe Tompkins, who interviewed Chan himself for the New Yorker not all that long ago, stumbled onto these treasures in an old vase or attic and mentioned them to the young artist over drinks at La Cote Basque, 1965. But all of us were grateful that they are here for us now. Duchamp remains full of tricks, and so deadpan that some of his amazing provocations go unchallenged, and contradictory from afternoon to afternoon.

He grows irate--maybe not irate, but call it upset--only once or twice, when Tompkins tries to link him to one or another artistic movements--the Dadists, the pop artists, the Futurists, and Duchamp resists being put into a box and goes to absurd lengths and prevarications to escape categorization. Once or twice his resort to pidgin English betray anxiety, he speaks of people with good taste (whom he disdains) as "tast-y people," and any reader will find other examples, peculiar in such an erudite yet plainspoken guy. He can be quite funny and outrageous, but used I think by this date to hearing the words, "Yes Master" so often that he doesn't hear anything else. And then there's the question of Tompkins finding out only after Duchamp's death that he actually hadn't given up making art, and was busy for twenty years creating the sketches, maquettes, scaffolds and drawings of the "Etants Donnes." One thinks, if he could omit so smoothly the most important item on his agenda, what else is his bland, humorous tone keeping from The New Yorker and from Tompkins personally? And thus from us. I find it hard to believe a thing he says, and such are the lessons of postmodernism. As if to compensate, Tompkins argues that by the time they met (say, 1959) Duchamp had mellowed and warmed due to the influence of Teeny, his enchanting American-born wife who made life worth living for everyone she knew. He must have been horrid with a chip on his shoulder, but here, he's wise and paternal as, say, Walt Disney was hosting The Wonderful World of Disney.


Paleopoetics: The Evolution of the Preliterate Imagination
Paleopoetics: The Evolution of the Preliterate Imagination
by Christopher Collins
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $33.25
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Back to Bedrock, May 14, 2013
A kind friend, aware of my interest in the intense research conducted by the Hanna-Barbera studio when preparing the "Bible" for their long-running early 60s hit The Flintstones, suggested that Christopher Collins' new book might include some Flintstones tidbits. Well, not exactly, but what I uncovered opening its pages was reward enough for my curiosity. I find his imaginative and sympathetic recreation of prehistoric man and his movement from sight to thought to speech almost as convincing as the time-based, seven season run of the Hanna-Barbera classic from 1960 through 1966 9and on to present TV culture). There's no "Ann-Margrock" in Collins' scholarly book, but that is about the only thing he's missing. All the other tropes are there, including a detailed account of Merlin Donald's four stages of development.

No one would ever say the The Flintstones is meant to be a documentary. In fact, it is really more or less a satire of American life in the contemporary Cold War atmosphere in which it was made. Similarly, Collins' cavemen are very much a product of today's prisms of thought, particularly in the way that for him (he is the professor emeritus of English at NYU, not really a scientist or archaelogist per se) ontogeny i never better than in its stringent recapitulation of phylogeny. If I understand it, primitive man in the days before speech still possessed a sort of poetic. A man or woman in the jungle veldt might look at a tree and see it sharply and vividly, but if he or she saw that tree again a few minutes later, they had no way to realize it was the same tree as the one they had just seen. The disconnect was even sharper when the tree flowered, or became covered with snow, etc, its visual impact altered in any way. It was only when man started walking towards the tree, that he learned it was one object from moment to moment, and an element of narrative entered the paleopoetic.

Man is the only animal to be able to use speech to conjure up the absent (though Collins shows us that bees have been observed dancing around objects that used to exist in a particular location, like a mulberry bush chopped down since the bees were last there--perhaps not even those exact bees, but their ancestors!), and in The Flinstones bees were put to use for all sorts of anticipations of modern day projects--such as the electric razor, which Hanna-Barbera configured as a clamshell filled with buzzing bees tat would bite off parts of a man's beard. Fred and Barney often had what we would call five o'clock shadow since the Ur-electric bee razor had flaws. Collins asks us repeatedly to keep in mind the question Noam Chomsky asked to challenge behaviorist theories of child development that theorized language grasp as a pattern of call and response, "arguing that the amount of time used by parents to teach this behavior could not account for the complex grammatical learning that the child achieves by three years of age."

Flintstones fans will be familiar with Collins' argument through the osmosis of comparing Pebbles Flintstones' speech acceleration over seven years, with that of her counterpart/love interest Bamm-Bamm, the towheaded son of Barney and Betty Rubble. Bamm-Bamm is cute but he's sort of monosyllabic if that. (It is implied that there's an innate difference in development between the natural-born like Pebbles, and the adopted such as Bamm-Bamm.) In the adventures of the two youngsters, which gradually came to dominate the series (my colleague Derek McCormack points to the existence of a contemporary tie-in volume called Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Meet a Wicked Witch, which unexpectedly parallels Collins' citation of Donald's third step of language development as the "Mythic") the glib and cute yakety yak of Pebbles is frequently contrasted to little Bamm-Bamm as the miniature "stone face" boy nothing like either of his putative parents Barney and Betty.

As Cole Porter wrote (in "Find Me a Primitive Man"), "I don't mean a kind that belongs to a club,/ But the kind that has a club that belongs to him./ I could be the personal slave/ Of someone just out of a cave." Collins is a wonderful writer who keeps surprising us at every turn with the twists of language development, including changes in physiology that allowed words beyond the grunts of Bamm-Bamm. If imagination was the mammal's most effective tool, it is equally true, he argues, that instantly a social problem arose once what he calls the "mental photography" of the imagination took root. "The first scrap of object information ever communicated was likely to have been a lie." (Lies, like poetry, might have been devised to create an alternate universe than the one unfolding in front of the witness' eye.)


Viva Miscegenation
Viva Miscegenation
by Brian Kim Stefans
Edition: Paperback
Price: $16.75
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Neuropathic Catullus, April 22, 2013
This review is from: Viva Miscegenation (Paperback)
Brian Kim Stefans hasn't had the normal career of a poet, but instead the zigzags of his life and leanings gave him access into fields of inquiry that most of us were ignorand of until he opened the way. His latest book "Viva Miscegenation" comes already titled with the quotation marks Louis Zukofsky took to distinguish his "A" from other A's, Or should I have written "other As"? Miscegenation itself is a cold, distant and cruel word, so one wonders why anyone would wish it long life, especially a poet of mixed racial heritage as rehearsed in his own name (for he is Brian, the emperor of the Irish, then Kim, Polish like Kim Novak, and somewhere back in his ancestry his family belonged to the Stefans). There's a lot to unpack just on the cover of the book, and I'm not discounting the glittery, shiny silver on white tiny stripes that roll vertically across its recto and verso--like an ornate wedding present in a 1950s society wedding.

I trace the movement of the book from a measured, mannered New York School pastiche to the somewhat scattered and tangential vibrations one picks up in Southern California. It is not immediately easy for poets such as BKS or Aaron Kunin (who writes a blurb for this book and to whom one of the very best poems is dedicated) to subject the keen ice of their intelligence, that bristling wit, to the torporous history of LaBrea's famed tar pits, but in each case the operation has been a success, both poets writing as never before with an ease new to them, a contingent glow of imperfection, almost a Cheshire cat's smile. evaporating from the pages as quickly as one reads them. There's a distinct luxuriance in mouthing the words, those that Brian Wilson whispered in Glen Campbell's ear during Campbell's 1965 solo recording sessions, "I guess I'm dumb, but I don't care." (Cf. the end to ""Metro" on page 123: "Why are you never asking/ or putting your arms around me when you see, I'm dumb?" --such a beautiful heaping of the tropes of abled vs disabled, questions vs sentence, first ve second person, all come tumbling down like the perfect endless wave. The impression is of a beloved genius somewhat happy at last, like he would even kiss a sunset pig to quote another unlikely transplant from colder climes.


Enlightened: Season 2
Enlightened: Season 2
DVD ~ Various
Offered by westcoastmedia
Price: $15.67
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A New Pilgrim's Progress, April 21, 2013
This review is from: Enlightened: Season 2 (DVD)
What can an everyday person do to help change the world? Enlightened Season Two maps the territory in an erratic, sometimes aimless way that eventually delivers its punch through underplaying (yes, even Laura Dern and her mother try underplaying here, to great result) and some script surprises which I dare not reveal in this public space, eve though the show's been cancelled and anyone who cared for it has doubtless subscribed to HBO and gone for it. But anyhow when the end times came for Enlightened I put aside my grudges and totally embraced the ethos of the show, confusing and arbitrary as it is/was.

I should add that some varied acting helped the pace of Season Two. Viewers, some of us, had a hard time with Laura Dern's continual swing between relentless optimism and Nazimova-like gloom, which occurred in every episode; one wanted to reach out and counsel her, Amy Jellicoe, don't stop taking your meds just because you saw a flower in your mother's garden. And Christa, her assistant, obdurately chipper and phony, and Mike White sitting there looking like the underside of a log in every episode, his lips twitching--well, the director made them all act this way We looked forward to Luke Wilson showing up once in a while not because he's a better actor, nor because he used to be a hunk (sorry, that boat sailed long ago) but because he gave some relief from the one dimensionality of everything else we knew about the world of Enlightened. Southern California is a two-edged sword in this series, one blade ripe for satire of New Age belief in self-improvement, and the other blade trying to cut through the thorny, perdurate fiber of corporate culture with its lies standing in for truth. But Season Two brought us Molly Shannon and James Rebhorn as the top players at Abbaddon and the show got much more intriguing instantly. And also late in the season, we got a blast of Charlie from GIRLS in Hawaii trying out rehab and failing miserably, right before he got fired from GIRLS itself, poor guy. Yet another victim of corporate culture, meta style? He was good in this show too.

Did they know ahead of time, last year, when Laura Dern was pushed into the bowels of Timm Sharp's Cogentiva, that the humble IT department would be put into use, episode by episode, in a Herculean effort to bring down Abbadon? Every time you saw the word Abbaddon engraved in stone on its gleaming building surface, you were reminded that it was the name of Satan in ancient Babylonian teleology. (The show was never about subtlety exactly--Luke Wilson's first name, for example, was "Levi" and his last name "Callow." Mike White makes characters' names the way John Bunyan did in Pilgrim's Progress.)


Center Square: The Paul Lynde Story
Center Square: The Paul Lynde Story
by Joe Florenski
Edition: Paperback
48 used & new from $3.67

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars In Memory of Bing Davidson, April 17, 2013
I remember seeing Paul Lynde on TV game and variety shows when I was a boy, and then seeing him in George Sidney's version of Bye Bye Birdie. What an astonishing dad he made, with that somewhat handsome face that crumpled at the drop of a phone call or a sign from Ann-Margret that she was growing up. He was great at reacting, and that's rather rare in screen acting, but you could watch the whole movie if Christian Marclay-like photoshop interns blacked out ninety per cent of it, cut out the soundtrack, and just left his expressive face react to his daughter's confusing combination of daughterly pampering and siren-like keening. She--Ann-Margret--embodies life, or youth, as no other star ever could, and Lynde watching her seems like an old man, though he was what, 33 when the movie was filmed? His is the gaze of death, puzzled death, death mystified that life goes on without him, life has got another life to lead, outside of the family structures Dad embodies.

Of course the authors make clear how ironic this set up is, since Lynde was himself running headlong from the disaster of his own nuclear family (and the line of individual deaths it entailed) and his own drive for pleasure was no less pure and driven than Ann-Margret's. Now that I think of it, funny how neither star had any children themselves? I'm not saying there was a curse on Bye Bye Birdie, but--

In fact how could there be when Janet Leigh, playing the Spanish songwriter Rosie so memorably with the black wig, was already the mother of two lovely daughters?

This is all prelude to my concise description of Center Square as a biography of a great showman who used alcohol as a crutch to make his way through a difficult, if charmed life. The authors have apparently interviewed a number of players in Lynde's life,. though unfortunately the editing of the book obscures their original research, making it seem as though they surrounded themselves with twenty years of TV Guides and let the chips fall where they may. But a vivid picture of a legend shines through. He had his own cadres of celebrity fans, if we can believe authors Steve Wilson and Joe Florenski--including Garbo, who sent him a fan letter (where is it now?), Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne; Harry S. Truman--an unlikely bunch all around. Hollywood Squares, of course, propelled him into superstardom, and eventually he clawed his way into the center square, sometimes attaining a political edge that made remaining in the closet a moot issue. "According to the old song, what's breaking up that old gang of mine?" he was asked, and after a pause he ventured, "Anita Bryant?" You tell em Paul Lynde! I came away from the book thoroughly impressed by Lynde's durability as a star, and his sex, drug and alcohol problems I chalked up to the perils of fame, but I wasn't prepared for the incident of July 1965 that occurred here in San Francisco, on the eighth floor of the famed Sir Francis Drake Hotel here on Powell Street, coincidentally enough right around the time famed San Francisco poet Jack Spicer was writing his final poems very close by.

That was the night that Paul Lynde checked in with a bartender boyfriend and before the wild party was over, the younger man was dead. Bing Davidson plunged to death after lowering himself out of the window ledge and clinging by his fingertips. The last thing he saw was Paul Lynde's leering face hovering above him and one by one his fingers slipped. Bye, bye,. Birdie! Kenneth Anger left this lurid story out of his book Hollywood Babylon. Was he paid off I wonder? Kenneth Anger: we thought you had integrity! Anyhow I can't walk up Powell Street now without thinking of the poor man, Bing Davidson, cute, smushed up victim of a comic's lust.


Masterpiece Classic: The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Masterpiece Classic: The Mystery of Edwin Drood
DVD ~ Matthew Rhys
Price: $15.20
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unexpected ending, April 15, 2013
Spoilers ahead! Of course the novel ended after only 50 percent of the book was written--there was the "Sapsea Fragment," though some think Dickens didn't write that piece at all, and that it was the product of Forster's hand Dickens did sketch out notes; and he instructed the artist he had chosen to illustrate the periodical version for which he was writing month to month, on the sorts of things that would be needed in the second half, and that's why Drood nerds--the "Druids" as they are sometimes known--have been arguing about this novel for many many years. It takes big balls to go ahead and finish it, but on the other hand it's almost irresistible.

Part of the problem is what we know of the plot seems irretrievable obvious. Many are convinced that Jasper, in a fit of opium induced madness ("wickedness" is the word constantly in play in the novel) kills his beloved nephew and throws him into the quicklime of the cathedral underbelly. And that the second half of the book would feature Dick Datchery bringing Jasper to justice. But if this is the case, argued the Victorian writer Andrew Lang, there is no mystery whatsoever, except that it seems clear that Datchery himself is someone else we have already met under another guise, and his unmasking might provide a surprise. And so, there have been zillions of continuations, but a paucity of actual suspects outside of Jasper.

The BBC version shows an awareness of many of these issues and actually surprised me with an unexpected ending. As soon as Datchery starts inquiring (in some scenes definitely not written by Dickens) into the career of the elder Edwin Drood (thought to be long dead), well, my little mind was going, No! They can't be playing it that way! But play it they did and by Gad, I liked it! The post-colonialist reading of Edwin Drood is especially marked in the new second half, but you figure, Dickens was going somewhere with the Landless pair, they weren't just dropped out of India into Cloisterham without a social justice point to make. My friend Alistair Johnston has complained on his blog that not one single font visible in any of the many words, signs, or texts visible in this film had been invented in the 19th century, so that to a specialist like himself the show is unwatchable and, he would argue, even to one without any knowledge of typography, one's unconscious registers the disparity and smells out the falsity anyhow. For me it was the casting that disappointed. Matthew Rhys was fine in the part of Jasper but just too magnetic and charismatic to play the unassuming sad sack guy no one notices slipping in and out of Princess Puffer's opium joint. Why get someone who smoulders more than Olivier, more than Logan on Veronica Mars? And on the other hand, the young people are all properly young, but they're all ugly! Rosa Bud is supposed to be gorgeous, well, a perfect flower, but this girl reminds me of Sissy Spacek in the last scenes of Carrie, and Edwin Drood is like something John Jasper scraped off of his shoe, what a mess. The actor is called Freddie Fox and both first name and last name are lies! Oh, I know, does anyone remember the US movie of 1980,"FAME"? And Paul McCrane played the young, sad, gay boy mooning over the comedian boy? Paul McCrane when he still had hair (big, permed. Bozo hair) and his name was Montgomery? They should have called this show, The Mystery of Paul McCrane.


The Trouble Makers
The Trouble Makers
by Celia Fremlin
Edition: Hardcover
7 used & new from $13.30

5.0 out of 5 stars Missing Scissors, April 6, 2013
This review is from: The Trouble Makers (Hardcover)
Celia Fremlin was one of the word's great mystery writers and she is too little known today, but fifty years ago she was acclaimed around the world for her suspenseful, yet often hilarious novels detailing London domestic life. I don't remember many of her male characters but she was wonderful with women, and her novels show us a world of put-upon women having to deal with the ignorance of society and the general cussedness of men. I was about to say she was the UK version of America's Charlotte Armstrong, but Armstrong did not concentrate quite as much on the torments of family life as did Fremlin. The Trouble Makers brings us close into a neighborhood apparently populated with women who don't much care for their husbands, to the point that, to a modern reader, it isn't quite clear why they don't divorce the SOBs and move on. But perhaps in those days the institution of marriage was worshiped with more fervor, and the institution of divorce perhaps not quite so practiced.

All the women on the block look down on poor Mary Prescott, whose husband Alan is mean and fierce with her, critical about everything, able to silence her with a single dark glance or if something is wrong with his dinner. Our main character, Katharine, has gone back to work part-time but is still trying to raise three daughters all under ten, and to please her husband Stephen, a cold fish almost as trying as Alan Prescott. The main entertainment the female characters have is getting together and discussing how awful their husbands are. Katharine is bright enough to realize that there are less despairing ways to spend one's time but somehow the pleasures of gossip and community have their places in what is otherwise a doleful life. Every moment of every day is awful for these women, and turning the pages one learns more about how to light a fire, how to ruin a pudding, how to stop your child from crying while swotting over 9 year old exams, how to light a Guy Fawkes firework--all these purely English details which will leave you perfectly happy you don't live there--or maybe you didn't live there in 1963. Suddenly Mary's friends realize that she has become obsessed by a dark man in a raincoat haunting the neighborhood and trailing her in the local "building site" (a vacant lot) and the whole thing ends up in a tremendous climax in the very last lines of the novel.

In one scene a braggart housewife invites Katharine and Stephen and another couple to dinner and tells them that the splendid meal she's just served was made up of odds an ends she found in the larder. The husbands turn to their wives accusingly, asking them why can't they be more like Stella.

"Stephen and Mr. Plumber both nodded at Stella in admiring agreement, and Katharine succeeded in hiding her total disbelief. Fresh prawns--button mushrooms--thin strips of veal wrapped round black olives--these are not the sort of items a housewife's eye lights on when she looks round her larder to see what she's got. It would take a lunatic to believe it--or someone else's husband."

Celia Fremlin won the Edgar for best mystery of the year in 1960 for her masterpiece The Hours Before Dawn (her first mystery, though apparently there was an nearlier "straight" novel which I would love to read, sort of a Nancy Mitfordish book), and she lived on to a great age (94!) but by that time her books had largely gone out of print, and all three of her own children had died before her, which I always think is so sad! Anyhow once you start the habit with Celia Fremlin you will always be reading and rereading a handful of her early novels--her first 5, or 6, or 7. Fans still debate whether the decline began with POSSESSION or with PRISONERS BASE---somewhere in there she wasn't so scary and her characters were not so amusing. I imagine it's hard to take this all in, for you newbies who haven't read Fremlin, but at her best she could be laugh out loud funny at the very same time as she's making you uneasy and looking over your shoulder to see if a dark man in a raincoat is slouching behind you, his face unreadable but aglitter with menace. And why is the pair of scissors missing from its drawer?


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