Saturday, December 29, 2012

Django Unchained

All I wanted for Christmas was a new Quentin Tarantino movie. Isn't it great when your wishes come true?

You know I love Quentin. (And if you don't know that, you don't know me at all.) You probably know that I love him even more as a writer than as a director. Maybe you even know that it's because of QT that I decided to try writing. For real. "Reservoir Dogs" inspired me that much. Since then, after working at it and trying to improve, I have definitely realized that I will never be nearly as good a writer as he is. But that's okay, because not many are.

If you're interested in "Django," you'll read other reviews to get the full plot recap and insight into details by Western aficionados that I can't give you. I don't dislike westerns, but other than Butch & Sundance, Gary Cooper, and, of course, Clint Eastwood, I don't have vast experience with the genre. But that's part of the beauty here in Django. Even though I'm sure I'm missing out on some lovely homage turns, I never felt lost. In fact, maybe it helped make it seem fresher. I'm not sure. But I can tell you this about the film: It's not as visually gorgeous as "Inglorious Basterds," but I don't know how it could be given that westerns demand an overall dusty and gritty landscape. Other than sunsets and mountain backgrounds, you just won't find deep and lush colors abundant in this genre, with the notable exception of Tarantino blood red.

Tarantino has already become as dependable as Scorsese for pulling amazing performances from his cast, and "Django" rises to this reputation. Jackson, DiCaprio, and Waltz are absolutely mesmerizing. And Jamie Foxx has the somewhat less thankful role of being a solid centerpiece. He's not as flashy or charismatically dazzling as the supporting players, but I can't imagine a more solid turn as he subtly transforms from slave to heroic gunslinger ala mythological Siegfried to save his maiden. There is a disturbing discussion about Django's nature -- whether he's a common man who accidentally became an oddity, or if he really is different, a one in ten thousand kind of guy.

It's in exactly this kind of detail, and at least a hundred others, where Tarantino shines. Yes, there is a terrible beauty in the way he frames his shots and the music he meticulously matches to each scene. But at the heart of it all is the script. This, this beautifully detailed, seeming meandering, and yet always extremely sharp script. It weaves in western canon and standards, it's at times blissfully and unapologetically heavy-handed, and it's deft and quick in the interplay of light and dark. This is, at heart, a Spaghetti western, and the Italians have a word for the juxtaposition of light and dark -- chiaroscuro. "Django" is a picturesque study in this technique. The horror and the laughs. Man, those laughs. I won't spoil, but there is one scene that revolves around masks that got so absurdly, inanely funny I was starting to wonder if Larry David had a hand in it.

Tarantino does borrow heavily. One of the major climaxes is right out of his pal Robert Rodriguez's playbook. But here, it's still fresh and delightful. And quite a commotion revolves around white cake. In this movie, much like in "Basterds," Tarantino manages to have his cake and eat it, too. It's pretty difficult to top the crazy fun of killing a shitload of Nazis, but in "Django," Tarantino manages to work up our bloodlust in much the same manner. He displays -- graphically - horrific acts of cruelty, sadism, and just plain wrongness so that when the tables are turned and it's time to spill the blood of some villains, the abundance of the audience isn't just ready for it, we're salivating for it. This is, of course, where some of the more sensitive and faint-hearted will get lost, as they won't be able to morally distinguish the difference, and that's their right. But for those of us who can take glee in a solid revenge fantasy, it's outlandishly satisfying.

And at the very end, it's not too much of a spoiler to say that Tarantino seems to tip his cap to himself yet again. The final line of "Basterds" was Brad Pitt looking into the camera and talking about his masterpiece, which I always assumed was Tarantino's sly pat on his own back. He'd earned it. This time around -- mild spoiler alert here if you don't want to know anything about the film -- Django's true nature is revealed. He is not an accident. He is the very special one in ten thousand, and he boldly tells us that. Exactly. Just like this film. It's been three years since the last Tarantino film, and that makes this picture about one in ten thousand. But Tarantino? He already knows it, and so do I. I will never be even remotely the artist he is. But that's okay, because Quentin? He's one in a million.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I'm with Coco

File this under a couple of pathetic sections. First, how the chronically unemployed fills her time. Second, how lowering the bar on goals makes for excessive happiness when they're met. Fulfillment through silly expectations is still wonderful fulfillment. So, here's what I managed to accomplish in the past month. I got a picture on Conan last night. YAY!

As you may know (should know if you're a Conan O'Brien viewer) is that Coco loves to keep his fans engaged. He's got his "ha ha I made an error" thing going on right now and they've also just opened the Coco Moca -- the Museum of Conan Art. Before the Coco Moca was even opened though, they had used fan art as bumpers after commercial breaks, so I made it my mission to get a piece on the show. So I basically frittered away a month doing drawings of Conan. Not a bad way to spend a month. (Some would argue that, but, fuck 'em!) Anyhow, when I saw they'd opened the Coco Moca, I was lucky enough to have a picture on the front page there, and I figured my TV aspirations were shot to shit. But then last night I did a string dance of joy when I saw one of my works appear just before the Chris O'Donnell segment. YAY!

Thank you Team Coco. And let this be a lesson to you, kids. Keep cool, my babies, and remember that sophomoric priorities and irrelevant determination actually can lead to validation.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Into the Sunset - ABNA Quarterfinalist

Congrats to Don Capone! His comic novel, Into the Sunset is a quarterfinalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards. That's whittled down to just 250 entries from an original 5,000! Yay, and well deserved!

Check out his excerpt right here.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Big Sex Little Death by Susie Bright

I just found out that superstar Susie Bright has just released a memoir, Big Sex Little Death. The book is now available at Amazon and your local bookstores, and it's getting tons of advance praise. I just ordered my copy and can't wait to check it out. Susie will also be doing an extensive book tour, so you can check to see if she's coming to your town. Details of the book tour, along with info about the book are all available right here.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Other Life by Ellen Meister

Funny and talented writer Ellen Meister's new book The Other Life is now available!

What if you could return to the road not taken?

Happily married with a young son and another child on the way, Quinn Braverman has the perfect life. She also has an ominous secret. Every time she makes a major life decision, she knows an alternative reality exists in which she made the opposite choice-not only that, she knows how to cross over. But even in her darkest moments-like her mother's suicide-Quinn hasn't been tempted to visit . . . until she receives shattering news about the baby she's carrying.

Desperate to escape her grief, Quinn slips through the portal that leads to her other life: the life in which she stayed with her exciting but neurotic ex- boyfriend, and is childless. The life in which-as she is amazed to discover-her mother is still very much alive.

Quinn is soon forced to make an impossible choice. Will she stay with the family she loves and face the painful challenges that lie ahead? Or will a more carefree life-and the primal lure of being with her mother-pull her into her other life for good?

This gripping emotional journey is both shocking and poignant . . . as the bonds of love are put to the ultimate test.

I've already read it, and I LOVED this book. It's a poignant story about choices, regret, hope, love, and family, and Ellen manages to do the near impossible. She lets the readers have their cake and eat it, too, because this book has a powerful, page-turning plot that's full of twists and turns, excitement and heartbreak, and even some laughs and entertainment, which is what makes it so commercially appealing. But it's not all fluff and frosting. It's written deftly, with a keen eye for detail and a wonderful use of all the symbolic, metaphoric, and subtle tricks in a literary fiction writer's arsenal that elevate it and give it depth and weight. It's just the best of both worlds.

One of my main complaints with a lot of modern literary fiction is that it's not much more than a bunch of ennui the main character "suffers" through. In "The Other Life," Meister's Quinn is an expectant mother who gets the most devastating news possible -- her child isn't well. This isn't drama that propels this story. It's actual serious problems. Quinn is a wonderful character that you'll care deeply about, while also falling in love with the rest of her family.

At one point in the story, Quinn's mother, an artist, has a heated discussion with her mother in law about why cultural experiences are important. Quinn's mom ends up simply stating, "Because it's art." And that is, happily, what this book is. A work of art.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Strut - A Run Devil Run novella

A couple weeks ago I posted about the cool new anthology of books based on LA rock band Run Devil Run's songs. This week, my book in the series has been released. It's titled Strut, and it's a Cinderella story based on the song of the same name by RDR.

Rachel Carrington made me a super cool book trailer for it, and you can check that out right here. You'll hear part of the song during the trailer, but you can check out the full tune right here at Run Devil Run's facebook page.

Now here's the best part. My book cover.

Isn't that awesome? That's the band's drummer, Dave Plesh. I'd seen pictures of the band before I started the project, and right away I was all about their drummer, Dave. So, naturally, to make sure I'd snag him for the cover photo, I made one of my characters a drummer. My (not so) clever ploy worked, and I ended up with him on the cover. Hot, right?

And remember, if you buy the book, you get a free download of the song to go with it.

Here's the book blurb:
California girl Lisa is living a very un-Hollywood life, and that’s just fine by her. She took over her father’s pool service business and enjoys sunny days and a quiet home life with her mom. But one of the guys on her crew who moonlights as musician occasionally puts an extra spring in her step, and when she starts facing financial pressures, she starts wondering if there might be a few things she’s missing. Then her mom finds out that one of Lisa’s premier clients possesses a mysterious and enigmatic pair of shoes that are rumored to change fortunes, and lives, for those who wear them.

Will Lisa decide to take a walk on the wild side and test the powers of the supposedly serendipitous high heels? And do the shoes really possess magical powers that could make Lisa’s Cinderella dreams come true? Or is what Lisa really wants just a click of her heels away in the form of a smoldering rock drummer? From swank Beverly Hills days to sexy Sunset Strip nights, Lisa is on the cusp of finding out what really makes LA glitter.

Strut -- buy now for $2.99

also available at Amazon for $3.99

YAY to Train!

Grammy number two! And that lead singer of theirs is still damn fine.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Run Devil Run

So, there's this hot rock band in L.A. called Run Devil Run. They're pretty well known in L.A. for their live shows, and they've got an acoustic one coming this Saturday, Jan 29 at Beachfront 301. Now, they've also done this pretty cool thing in the publishing world. Heather Bennett of Decadent Publishing came up with the idea to have stories written based on their songs, and Run Devil Run agreed. So they've let the writers use their titles, lyrics, and even their faces for the book covers. The novellas will be available first in e-book format, and then collected into a print anthology. And the absolute coolest part is that when you buy one of the novellas, you also get a free download of the Run Devil Run song that inspired it. Can't beat that fuckin' deal, huh?

I tell you about this because I was lucky enough to write one of the novellas. Mine will be out in a couple weeks, and I'll tell you more about it then. (Including my sly subterfuge to snag the band member that I was smitten with for my cover image.) But the first novella is being released today. It's by well known romance writer Rachel Carrington.

Rachel's story is titled Share Your Soul and it's available right here. I was lucky enough to get an advance read of it, and I thought it was great. Here's the lowdown on what I thought about it:
Like many women, Olivia wants revenge on her ex-husband. Unlike most women, the reason she wants revenge is because he killed her. For the past five years, she's been lingering as a ghost, trying to formulate a plan to bring him to justice, which is a particularly tall order because he's already been tried -- and exonerated -- for her murder. Then, Olivia finally gets her break when another spirit refers her to someone who can potentially help her -- the mysterious and powerful Gabriel.

With "Share Your Soul." Carrington creates a sultry and moody romantic suspense with a twist of the paranormal. The sparks between Olivia and Gabriel leap off the page, and it's impossible to not keep turning the pages.

Now, as an extra special bonus, with this first novella, you actually will get TWO free downloads from Run Devil Run. You'll get "Dance All Night" right away, and then, later on, you'll get a download of their new song, "Go."

So, for real. I love the RDR songs, and I loved Rachel's story. So check it out. And here is her book cover, featuring Jeremy Aric, the lead singer of Run Devil Run.