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Month: February 2005


Souvenir Press is reprinting the Modesty Blaise books, but they’re in no particular hurry about it. For my own notes:


Sabre-Tooth (1966)
I, Lucifer (1967)
A Taste for Death (1969)
The Impossible Virgin (1971)
The Silver Mistress (1973)
Last Day in Limbo (1976)
Dragon’s Claw (1978)
The Xanadu Talisman (1981)

Have Nots

Modesty Blaise (1965)
Pieces of Modesty (short stories) (1972)
The Night of Morningstar (1982)
Dead Man’s Handle (1985)
Cobra Trap (1996)

If only

Random technology comment:

Dave Winer asks, “And consider what heat would be generated if what Google is doing to us were done to Google. Can I put up a Web app that scrapes Google and replaces their ads with mine, or adds mine to theirs?”

Dave answers himself, “When you search Scripting News with the Weblog Search page, it sends your search request to Google, and gets back the top 50 matches.”

Can you hear the paper rip?

It’s about that time. I’ll probably live-blog the Oscars tonight, just because I like doing it. My commentary on the nominees is here. My picks for winners (and preferred winners if I had to pick from the nominees):

Best Actor: Jamie Foxx. Should be Clint Eastwood, but the Academy will steer clear of him this year. The political aspects to Million Dollar Baby didn’t help him.

Best Actress: hard to call, but I think Hilary Swank. (My other guess would be Catalina Moreno.) Kate Winslet should win it, though.

Best Supporting Actor: Morgan Freeman. Should be Clive Owen, although the more I think about Sideways the more I remember Thomas Haden Church’s performance with fondness.

Best Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett will win. But they’re all really deserving performances. If I was pushed to decide, I’d give it to Virginia Madsen. No, Laura Linney. By a nose.

Best Animated Feature Film: Could just possibly be The Incredibles, as it should be.

Best Directing: The Aviator, cause Scorsese needs to win one and the Academy is getting nervous that he won’t direct another real masterpiece. Of the nominees, I guess I’d agree with that. It’s technically dazzling, even if the pacing is lumpy.

Best Picture: The Aviator for the same reasons. I’d give this one to Million Dollar Baby, though. (The performances made Million Dollar Baby great, not the directing, although Eastwood certainly did a good job on that side of the lens.)

Best Adapted Screenplay: I think Sideways will win, to make up for the lack of wins elsewhere, but I don’t feel confident about that prediction. Before Sunset should win.

Best Original Screenplay: Damned if I know, but I think Eternal Sunshine will take it. I’m still not confident about that. It’s my favorite screenplay of the movies nominated, however.

Tune in tonight to see how I did.

Song and dance and sorrow

In 1981, Steve Martin took on his second starring role in a motion picture in Pennies From Heaven. It was not exactly what was expected from the guy who’d just starred in The Jerk. People went in looking for broad slapstick, and found themselves in the middle of a deeply cynical musical. Instead of using the musical numbers as uplifting emotional high points, Pennies From Heaven recasts the musical number as an unhealthy fantasy. This goes beyond the musical work of Sondheim, who broadened the emotions depicted by the musicial number to include angst and despair, and subverts the entire concept of the musical. Pennies From Heaven uses the musical form to critique the musical form. It is unclear to me how this ever got greenlit; I suspect MGM was just caught up by the idea of reviving the musical.

Regardless of that, however, Herbert Ross managed to get himself a 22 million dollar budget (in 1981) and made a hell of a movie with it. The art direction is stylized and passionately beautiful; the dance numbers are lush, as they must be in order to effectively subvert themselves. Steve Martin’s Arthur Parker needs to believe utterly and completely that he can escape his drab Depression-era life by entering the musicals of the period; he needs to really think that the homeless accordion player can alleviate his poverty by launching into the title song. Without the contrast, the movie would fail.

At the same time, the grim needs to be properly grim. It is. Steve Martin is perhaps the weakest link here; he was young, and at times his comedic persona got in the way of his acting. Jessica Harper, playing his wife, had primary responsibility for embodying the reality of the Depression; she’s the only main character who never gets to escape. They were good together, but not great, and that for me was the only real weakness of the movie. There wasn’t quite enough tension; we never saw the possibility that Arthur Parker would find his feet on real ground as opposed to the dance floor. He had no reason to come back to his wife.

Then again, maybe that’s just Dennis Potter — the screenwriter — being Dennis Potter.

Anyway, it’s a fairly challenging movie and it’s an angry movie, although I’m not certain who it’s angry with. Everyone, maybe: Arthur and his fantasies, his wife and her inability to indulge desire, Christopher Walken and his slick corruptive influence, and Bernadette Peters for falling into whatever path is the most exciting. A lot of people find it worth watching just for Walken’s dance routine and striptease, and I think I’d have enjoyed that even if I wasn’t fascinated by the rest of the movie. It’s definitely a cult movie and perhaps an acquired taste, but the cast and crew knew just what they wanted to do and they more than accomplished it.

Cutting edge

In her first scene in Constantine, Tilda Swinton wears a bespoke suit. A bespoke suit is the best possible suit: hand-sewn and carefully tailored to the individual. English Cut is a bespoke blog: a blog written by a Savile Row bespoke tailor, who has made suits for Bryan Ferry, Prince Charles, and Ralph Lauren. Not a shabby resume.

ABC, Part 2

Read this first.

I spent a while pondering this one during my vacation, and I think the system is a modified Feng Shui with revamped templates. Not as many hit points, to get it more gritty — possibly even a wound system. Steal the madness meters from Unknown Armies and turn them into corruption meters and you’re good to go.