Thursday, November 21, 2013

Love and Blandness in the Time of Zombies

So there's this amazingly unassuming fella, let's call him Kevin. He's as mild-mannered as they come, so meek that people sometimes forget he's even in the room. He doesn't speak up or draw attention to himself and to just about everybody he's a non-entity. In fact, he's SO bland that when the Zombie Apocalypse happens, even the zombies don't pay any attention to him. A horde of undead come shambling and moaning, and all of them go for the person cowering next to Kevin and completely ignore our wallflower hero.

This happens a few times before Kevin finally learns that he is safe in this new world being over-run by living corpses. He can walk right through a crowd of them and they don't even raise their heads. They are simply unaware of his presence. Despite his loneliness, Kevin realizes he's lucky; he can come and go as he pleases, hunting for food and supplies, while everyone else dies off one by one.

This goes on for about a year, and then one day Kevin is out ferreting for medicine when he stumbles across another survivor-- a beautiful young woman, all alone, and his heart bursts with an alien emotion. He has fallen in love, instantly...

...and in that instant, the zombies become aware of him, finally. The intensity of his feelings for this woman (let's call her Alice) is such that Kevin is suddenly a fully-formed human, and therefore FOOD. The zombies attack, and Kevin and Alice barely escape to the sanctuary of her fortified apartment.

Alice falls in love with Kevin, and for a year the two of them make a life together there in the apartment. Kevin steals out weekly to hunt for supplies, and it's different now-- he's taking his life into his own hands every time, because he's no longer the unassuming little man no one notices. The zombies go after him as fervently as they would anyone else.

But it's all worth it to Kevin, because for the first time in his life, he's in love.

For a while.

Toward the end of the year, the relationship starts to go sour. They argue. They grow bored. Kevin starts getting restless. And eventually, he realizes he's not in love with Alice anymore. He doesn't fully realize until he goes out one day and finds that, once again, the zombies don't notice him. It's a sobering moment for Kevin.

He returns to the apartment and tells Alice that he is moving on. She is distraught. She still loves him. But his mind is made up. He packs his gear and heads out, with Alice on his heels, begging him to stay. He makes it outside, where a large crowd of shamblers linger. They ignore Kevin, just like the old days.

Not so for Alice.

As she pleads with him to come back, the zombies swarm on her, tear her to pieces, eat her alive.

Kevin watches, vaguely sad. The zombies pay him no mind.

He turns around and walks away.

...and that, friends, is the sort of dream you have while taking Chantix and watching a Walking Dead marathon. The End.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Speaking of movies...

... I think my generation may have been the last one to have any deep appreciation of films that came before we were born. That's not meant as a disparaging remark about younger people; it's just that the options for discovery aren't there anymore. You can't really thumb through the channels and just stumble across some old black & white flick now. Yeah, there's TCM, and probably a couple of others, but that's it. And the thrill of "accidental discovery" is long gone. Quite literally hundreds of channels to choose from, and still so little in the way of old movies.

I grew up in the '70's, before the dawn of cable, and we had four or five channels to choose from. And I was a fairly obsessive television watcher. Cartoons, of course, and cop shows and syndicated sit-coms. But it was MOVIES that always gave me a thrill, movies usually made long before I was born, that gave me weird, tantalizing peeks into exotic and mysterious worlds.

In the Detroit area, the 4 O'CLOCK MOVE happened every weekday, coinciding perfectly between the time you finished your homework and the time dinner was ready. They would often have "theme weeks"-- "Elvis Week" was always something to look forward to, and "Godzilla Movie Week" was extra-special.

In the summer time, or on those days you stayed home from school, there was BILL KENNEDY AT THE MOVIES. Bill Kennedy was a bit player in Hollywood back in the day, and mostly showed classic flicks from the '40's and '50's. It was through his show I had my first glimpse of actors like Bogart, Mitchum, Jane Russell, Spencer Tracy, Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, etc, etc.

Black & white. Oh, black & white, how it thrilled me.

Saturday afternoons: SIR GRAVES GHASTLY. A cheesy horror movie host in the grand tradition, Sir Graves showed me the old Hammer Horror-- Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing-- as well as Roger Corman's Edgar Allen Poe adaptations, all in glorious blood red color.

If you forced yourself to get up early on Sunday morning, your day would start at 8 with an Abbot & Costello movie. Then some shorts, like Laurel & Hardy or Our Gang. After that, Tarzan would usually swing in, although sometimes it would be Shirley Temple instead (always a massive disappointment to me at the time) or a Blondie & Dagwood movie with Penny Singleton and Arthur Lake. I liked those, but mostly because I had a crush on Penny Singleton. If you were really lucky, you'd catch a Thin Man movie, because Myrna Loy was even more alluring than Penny.

Sunday afternoon was CHILLER THEATER time. The credits started with that creepy interlude from the Led Zepplin song "Whole Lotta Love" (I wonder if they had permission to do that?) and showed a lot of horror/sci-fi from the '40's and '50's, movies about giant ants and flying saucers, as well as the Universal Studios monster movies.

And in the evenings, there would almost always be a movie showing at some point, usually a drama or period piece. Late nights, if you managed to stay up, would be poorly-preserved flickering black & white images of places and things that seemed so alien-- men with guns and fedoras and dangerous slinky females and big black cars and rain and street lamps and one-room apartments-- that they were like artifacts from ancient times. Film Noir, although at the time I had no way of knowing that.

The jist of all this is, because our young brains were exposed to all this great cinematic art, we developed a specific set of references that went far beyond our own experience and our own lifetimes. When I talk to someone now in their teens or twenties, and they have no idea who Buster Keaton is, or the Marx Brothers or William Powell or Vincent Price or Greta Garbo, it makes me a little sad. It's not their fault; they missed out. They missed it all. So many viewing choices now, and yet the options have never been fewer.

I think I was really lucky to just catch them, those last few years before it got late and the station played the National Anthem and signed off.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

One last post of favorite actors & actresses

Here's the last of four posts, featuring my very favorite actors and actresses. Turns out there are twenty of each-- total coincidence, but it worked out pretty well. In the first post, I mentioned that they all had great acting chops, a lot of presence, and an over-abundance of sex appeal. Anyway, thanks for indulging me. I'm curious about YOUR picks, readers. Feel free to share.

Lauren Bacall. Must see movies: To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep, Dark Passage.

Gene Tierney. Must see movies: Laura, Leave Her to Heaven.

Natalie Portman. Old school beauty, talent, and class. Must see movies: Leon: The Profesional, Closer, Black Swan.

Michael Shannon. Must see movies: Take Shelter, The Missing Person, Boardwalk Empire.

Paul Newman. Must see movies: Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, Cool Hand Luke,The Hustler, Hombre.

Steve McQueen. Just cool, man. That's all. Must see movies: Bullitt, The Getaway, Tom Horn.

Richard Widmark. No one did "psycho" better, but he also had amazing diversity. Must see movies: Kiss of Death, Night & the City, Pick-up on South Street.

Robert Mitchum. The epitome of film noir cool, no matter what role he played. Must see movies: Out of the Past, Night of the Hunter, Cape Fear, Crossfire.

Toshiro Mifune. Bad-ass, with a quiet intensity few could match. Must see movies: Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, Rashomon.

Madeline Kahn. The funniest woman who ever lived. And sexy as hell. Must see movies: Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, High Anxiety.

That's it. Here's some quick links to the first three posts:

Favorite Actors & Actresses

More Actors & Actresses

Yet More Actors & Actresses

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Yet More Actors & Actresses

The third set of ten.

Ava Gardner. Must see movies: The Killers, Mogambo, Night of the Iguana

Richard Burton. Must see movies: Night of the Iguana, Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Where Eagles Dare

Michelle Rodriguez. Must see movies: Girlfight, Resident Evil, Machete

Helena Bonham-Carter. Must see movies: Fight Club, A Room with a View, Howard's End

Michael Caine. Must see movies: Alfie, The Ipcress File, The Man Who Would Be King, Get Carter, Sleuth, oh he's really my all time favorite so I could go on and on...
 Joan Blondell. Must see movies: Night Nurses, Gold Diggers of 1933, Public Enemy

Burt Lancaster. Must see movies: The Killers, Brute Force, Criss Cross, Sweet Smell of Success

Christopher Lee. Must see movies: The Curse of Frankenstein, Dracula, The Devil Rides Out, The Wicker Man

Marcello Mastroianni. Must see movies: 8 1/2, La Dolce Vita, La Notte, Big Deal on Madonna Street

Myrna Loy. Must see movies: The Thin Man, Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, The Bachelor & the Bobby Soxer.

Monday, November 11, 2013

More actors and actresses...

...and still, just because. The second of four sets of ten.

Dan Duryea. Must see movies: Criss Cross, Scarlet Street, Black Angel
 Linda Darnell. Must see movies: The Mark of Zorro, Blood and Sand.
 Daniel Day-Lewis. Must see movies: Gangs of New York, There Will Be Blood
 James Coburn. Must see movies: Duck, You Sucker, The Magnificent Seven, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid.
 Hedy Lamarr. Must see movies: Algiers, Dishonored Lady, Samson and Delilah.
 Humphrey Bogart. Must see movies: The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca, African Queen, Treasure of the Sierra Madre.
 Elizabeth Taylor.  Must see movies: Cleopatra, Butterfield 8, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, A Place in the Sun.
 Giulietta Masina. Must see movies: La Strada, Nights of Cabiria.
 Gloria Grahame. Must see movies: In a Lonely Place, The Big Heat, Odds Against Tomorrow.
 Lee Marvin. Must see movies: Point Blank, The Big Red One, The Dirty Dozen, Emperor of the North Pole.

More to come...

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Favorite actors & actresses...

... because why not.

All my favorite actors and actresses have three things in common: solid acting chops, major presence, and serious sex appeal. Most of them are from the by-gone days of cinema, but a handful are modern and still working. I picked 20 males and 20 females. Here's the first set of them, in no particular order:


Clara Bow. The It Girl. Must see movie: IT

Anna Faris, the best comedic actress working today. Must see movies: HOUSE BUNNY, SMILEY FACE

Anne Hathaway, all the allure and glamour of Old Hollywood. Must see movie: BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, DARK KNIGHT RISES

Marilyn Monroe. A much finer actress than she is generally given credit for. Must see movies: NIAGARA, SEVEN YEAR ITCH, SOME LIKE IT HOT

Joan Bennett, the fragile queen of noir. Must see movies: WOMAN IN THE WINDOW, SCARLET STREET

Buster Keaton. The greatest comedy genius of all time. Must see movies: THE CAMERAMAN, THE GENERAL, SHERLOCK JR, COPS




Friday, November 1, 2013

My favorite writers

I meant to do this some time ago, but the hospital stay and all sorts of other stuff delayed it long enough that I forgot all about it until now. A few months ago I did a series of posts all about my favorite writers in various genres, writers who influenced, educated or just entertained me significantly over the years. I'd meant to put all the post links in one spot after that; well, here they are:

Horror writers

Speculative Fiction writers

"Literary" writers

Espionage writers

Adventure writers

Western writers

Hard-boiled writers

Noir writers