The Great Hannibal Lecter Deep Dive

Do you ever get really excited about a deep dive, go full-boat into it and then wash out? Well, that’s kind of what happened last year when I found myself minorly obsessed with Hannibal Lecter and his exploits throughout television, film and, of course, the written word. I started watching the series, which made me read the books, while still watching the show (a very unique and interesting experience) and then the movies, but I petered out after seeing my third take on the Red Dragon story. But, I still wanted to get these thoughts out there, so here’s most of the original post I started sometime last spring.

For years, I’d been hearing great things about NBC’s three season-long series Hannibal based on Thomas Harris’ character made most famous in The Silence Of The Lambs. It ran from 2013-2015 with Mads Mikkleson starring as the title character and Hugh Dancy as Will Graham, a pure empath who FBI Behavioral Sciences head Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) brought back in from his teaching gig in an effort to help catch a serial killer. I decided to dive right into the series thanks to its presence on Amazon Prime Video and now have a new favorite show! Continue reading The Great Hannibal Lecter Deep Dive

A Few Thoughts On Five Cary Grant Movies

I do this thing when I read a book about someone or watch a documentary about them where I want to absorb as much of their art as possible. Usually, I can’t get to the material fast enough and something else catches my eye, but I’m trying to stay focused on watching Cary Grant movies after reading Marc Eliot’s book on the actor. I’ve borrowed a number of his films from the library and only watched half of one, but recently took advantage of several of his films appearing on TCM On Demand. In the last few months, I’ve come to realize that TCM doesn’t keep its films on there for very long, so I’m not sure if they’re still there. Hit the jump to read my quick roundups of To Catch A Thief, Mr. Lucky, Houseboat, Walk, Don’t Run and The Philadelphia Story!

Continue reading A Few Thoughts On Five Cary Grant Movies

Halloween Scene: Old School Round-Up

bride-of-frankensteinAs I mentioned yesterday, I got to an early start when it came to watching horror movies this fall. So, I’ve got a lot to talk about! First, if you haven’t already, check out a pair of lists I wrote for CBR. One’s about movies and shows to follow Stranger Things up with while the other focused on the best classic horror movies to stream on Netflix and Amazon Prime!

Continue reading Halloween Scene: Old School Round-Up

Halloween Scene: Universal’s Wolf Monsters

chaney-wolf-manI might have to rethink my position on werewolf movies. For a while, they just didn’t click with me, but after loving An American Werewolf In London and four Universal Monsters movies revolving around lycanthropes, I might be changing my tune! And thanks to picking up the big UM DVD set, I’ve been able to do a pretty deep dive on all (or most) things wolf from that era. Continue reading Halloween Scene: Universal’s Wolf Monsters

Riverdale Trade Post: Archive Vol 1 & Archie Vs. Predator

archie-volume-1No one’s more surprised than me that I’m writing a post about not one, but two Archie books I love, but that just goes to show that I was previously being close-minded about this company AND that they’re pretty awesome right now. Continue reading Riverdale Trade Post: Archive Vol 1 & Archie Vs. Predator

Halloween Scene Triple Feature: Shivers, After Midnight & Billy Club

shivers posterLast week I found myself in the enviable position of being in the house alone during the day with a bunch of work to do on my laptop and the television unoccupied by children demanding to watch the same two episodes of Bubble Guppies on repeat. So, like anyone who hasn’t been able to stay up past 11 on a week night in recent memory, I decided to watch three movies in a row all on Amazon Prime! Continue reading Halloween Scene Triple Feature: Shivers, After Midnight & Billy Club

Book Review: The Sun Also Rises By Ernest Hemingway (1926)

The Sun Also Rises My name is TJ Dietsch and I have a confession to make: I just finished my first Ernest Hemingway novel at the age of 31. Yes, I majored in English and yes, I consider myself a good reader even though I stick to a smaller group of beloved modern authors when I decide to focus on a book. However, when I was looking at the Amazon Kindle ebook deals sometime last year, I jumped at the chance to add Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises to my library. It took a while to get to and through this book, partly because I was reading it while lying next to my kid’s bed as she tried to fall asleep and partly because I didn’t like it very much.

Told from the first person POV of Jake, an American living in Paris and working for a newspaper, Sun follows him as he goes to bars, travels around Spain and pines for a woman who can’t/won’t/doesn’t love him. After half the book, Jake and a group of his friends decide to go see the bullfights which exacerbates the problems in their group dynamic. From what I’ve read, Hemingway was going to write an article about bullfighting, but instead decided to write a story featuring analogs for his pals. And to that I say, Hemingway’s friends must have been insufferable.

I’m torn between loving the things these people do and hating the people doing them. There’s something so romantic about being an expatriate who gets to take long, extravagant vacations in Europe, but there’s not a likable character in this novel aside from Montoya, the guy who runs the hotel in Spain.

Jake’s okay but when you think about it he’s just a facilitator for these other people to get together. He doesn’t stand up for himself or go after what he wants so what good is he? Brett (Jakes love interest, sorta) doesn’t care about who she hurts, Mike’s a drunken jerk, Bill’s a smarmy intellectual and Cohn’s a lovesick, obsessive doofus. I get why this lifestyle would have fascinated to people in the 20s/30s, especially because it seems so far outside the norm of going to work, coming home, being with your family and that’s about it, but to a modern reader it feels like a Bravo reality series. Think about it, a bunch of people who don’t really like each other go on a vacation which intrinsically leads to fights, betrayal and a showcase of their lack of perspective. Real Expatriates Of Paris, anyone?

This will sound lazy, but I found myself wishing that this was a movie instead of a book. Like I said, the ideas are fascinating and set in lush locales, but I’d rather see them than read Hemingway’s sparse descriptions. In this book he has a tendency to go into more lush detail at times when I just wanted things to move along story-wise, especially after they all leave Spain. At that point, I just wanted it to be over, I was done with these people and didn’t want to hear about the amazing places they got to drive through. Plus, were this a film, I only would have spent 90 to 120 minutes with these characters I dislike instead of the weeks it took me to read the book.

Even with these complaints though, I don’t want to make it sound like I don’t respect Hemingway as a writer. I understand how influential and important he is/was to the world of writing and get the mystique surrounding him. The Sun Also Rises feels true and honest. It’s real and raw, but it reflects that reality by engaging characters I’m not particularly interested in. I’ve also read a bit about Hemingway’s minimalist nature when it came to writing and appreciate the style even if it makes following the parties in a conversation a bit more difficult.

I realized about 2/3 of the way through this novel that it reminded me of another famous author’s first book: Hunter S. Thompson’s The Rum Diary. Both are about newspaper men who travel to exotic locales, throw themselves into local events, lose women they’re attached to in some way and drink a bunch. I much prefer Rum Diary though because while it might have been influenced by Sun, it features far more interesting characters, especially in the lead.

I wish it went without saying, but this is the internet and I know full well it doesn’t, but it’s important to note that my liking or disliking of something does not always relate to the thing’s quality, which is a distinction not enough people make. The Sun Also Rises is a well-crafted novel filled with realistic people. They’re just the kind of people I wouldn’t want to share a bus ride with let alone an international vacation, that’s all. This also doesn’t put me off all Hemingway. I just need to find something he wrote that’s not filled with vapid jerks. Any suggestions?

Christmas Stories: 12 Of My Favorite Christmas Records Of All Time

It doesn’t feel completely accurate to say that my wife and I like Christmas music. We freaking love it. We both come from homes that celebrated old school classics as well as newer material. As a result we have a pretty solid and impressive collection of Christmas music. In fact, we actually have an iPod dedicated specifically to Christmas music. When my wife got a new iPod, we took her old mini (which very appropriately is green), cleared out all the old stuff and loaded it up with holiday tunes. As soon as Thanksgiving’s over, we pop that bad boy on and dig those tunes until Christmas. I figured it would be a good time to lay down a list of some of my favorite records to listen to around this time. Hit the jump to dig these crazy tunes. Continue reading Christmas Stories: 12 Of My Favorite Christmas Records Of All Time

Ambitious Reading List III

 

Long before I finished Please Kill Me, I was working on creating my next Ambitious Reading List. As I said at the end of that review, I’m a big fan of this much-smaller version of my larger to-read pile. Helps me stay focused while also keeping my interest not only in reading, but in crossing one book off the list and moving on to the next. Most of the books in this pile are newer to that pile, but there are a few that have been sitting around for a while too.

From the top, I picked up Robert Ludlum’s Bourne Identity at a flea market out of sheer interest based on the Matt Damon movies. I can’t keep the straight, but I’m curious to see how this book compares to the movies as well as an audiobook version of The Bourne Legacy that we finished recently and will review soon. I’ve also got an Elmore Leonard book called Riding The Rap in there. I bought this for $2 at a used book store based solely on Leonard’s name. Love that dude’s books. After that is Hunger Games, which my wife read and liked. My last ARL got in the way of me reading this over the summer, so I included it this time. I hope to compare it to the movie somewhere down the line too.

I actually started reading Michael Chabon’s Manhood For Amateurs around the time our daughter was born, or maybe just before. It’s a great book of essays I’m looking forward to finishing. I’ve been living a lie with Wizard of Oz, keeping it on my shelf since high school without every reading the whole thing. I plan on remedying that and also telling a pretty great story about the signature I have in that book. After that it’s Patton Oswalt’s Zombie Spaceship Wasteland which I got from the library for a list I was working on before my pal Rob Bricken moved from Topless Robot to io9. I have no idea where that list will lie, but that’s the first book on the pile I’m reading because I’m lousy at getting books back on time.

From there I’ve got the illustrated version of the unfilmed Harlan Ellison script based on Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot,Marc Eliot’s book about Cary Grant which I got because George Hamilton made him sound really interesting in his book and Peter Ackroyd’s retelling of Geoffry Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. I read parts of the original in college, but could barely get through it, man.

I got Raiders! thanks to a PR email letting me know about this book about the guys that made the 80s Raiders of the Lost Ark fan film. Then I’ve got It Happened In Manhattan, an oral history about the Big Apple by Myrna Katz Frommer and Harvey Frommer and finally Harvey Pekar’s graphic novel adaptation of Studs Terkel’s classic look at careers, jobs and Americans Working. As you can see, it’s another eclectic mix. I’m pretty jazzed to be adding a few different formats (screenplays, essays, graphic novels) and also think that this one might go a little bit quicker than the previous one, assuming I still have time to read. The next few months are going to be pretty busy/crazy.

A Few Thoughts On Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

I took a break from my consumption of Prison Break to go through a few movies my Instant Netflix Queue told me were expiring soon and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was on the top of the list because it was expiring soonest, was directed by Howard Hawks, stars Marilyn Monroe and, most importantly, it’s pretty short. I didn’t intend for this to be a full-on review, but it kind of morphed into one as I thought more and more about the movie. So, let’s jump in.

I’m always forget the artificiality involved with romantic comedies from the 1950s. In this case, Monroe’s character has a thing for men with money because she wants to be taken care of while her dancing partner played by Jane Russell likes the handsome fellas. Neither deviate from this path, nor do they seem to fully understand the other’s position. Everything ends exactly how you think it will, but it really is the journey that’s important and this journey involves a cruise liner, the US Olympic team and Paris, so at least there’s something to look at aside from the ladies and the dance numbers. On the other hand, there’s a kind of brutal honesty involved in this story and the portrayal of the characters. Sure, things wind up well for them, but there’s something to be said about people staying steadfast to their desires. Those things don’t just change overnight or thanks to an imagined betrayal of trust. People have a hard time changing and this movie goes along those lines from beginning to end, you just keep looking until someone fills the cut-out you’re looking for. Sometimes that’s forever sometimes it’s for now. Relationships are tricky. Okay enough philosophy. Jane Russell was totally barking up the wrong tree if she thought these dudes would be into her:

They ain’t there for love with you honey, but I bet they have a grand old time together. Speaking of which, George Winslow would have been about 6 or 7 if my math is correct when he played Mr. Henry Spofford III and got to sit between Russell and Monroe. If he wasn’t king of his world by that point, I don’t know what it must take to impress Hollywood kids. He also steals scenes from his counterparts like a master pickpocket picking off tourists in Times Square.

Killing it. Anyway, the most famous part of this movie is Marylin performing “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend” which I’ve seen before in various clip shows and copied/parodied/homaged a million times. The number itself was pretty much what I expected. This movie isn’t really jam packed with epic dance numbers. I read that the filmmakers had to teach Monroe to dance less sexy and Russell to spice it up a bit. That really comes through in the performances. Russell’s stiff and seems like she should be playing more straight ahead comedic roles without dancing or striking dark ladies in mystery flicks. I know nothing about her, but she does get to show her comedic and sexy sides, I’m just not sure if the dancing fits. Her impersonating Monroe at the end of the film and doing this number on her own is pretty  fantastic. I wish I could dance my way out of my next parking ticket.