First Dog, a charming children’s film

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First Dog is a family‑friendly film for young children screened at the Arkansas Film Festival on Saturday, June 4, 2011. It’s about a boy who finds the President’s dog after the dog wanders away after a press rally. Although Danny is tempted to keep “Teddy,” he decides that returning the dog is the right thing … Continue reading

Indie Film Distribution panel

From June 7, 2011 At the Little Rock Film Festival there was an excellent panel on independent film distribution (Friday, June 3, 2011). Tim Basham from Paste magazine moderated the discussion with Diana Sperrazza (Executive Producer for Investigation Discovery), Harry Thomason (Director of the festival’s featured film The Last Ride, and Erik Jambor (Director of Indie … Continue reading

Sons of Perdition, a documentary

From June 7, 2011

Sons of Perdition is a riveting documentary following three teenage boys who escape the right‑wing‑Mormon polygamist sect headed by Warren Jeffs.

The director, Tyler Measom, was present for a Q&A session following the Friday, June 3 screening at the Little Rock Film Festival.

Tyler and his wife worked on the film for five years. During the time when the movie was being made, most escapees fled to a rapidly‑growing city in close proximity to their families.

Since boys in the sect work construction sites from the age of eight, and there was a lot of construction work within the city, their skills allowed them to find employment and earn money.

An audience member asked whether the filmmakers ever felt afraid while they were making the movie?

Tyler said yes. Members from the sect drove white vans; the filmmakers saw white vans driving by their locations. Some of the drivers took photographs. At one point, stones were thrown at them.

Another question was, how did you find these particular boys?

Tyler explained that a number of teenagers were interviewed. Bruce, Joe, and Sam had that “certain something.” Plus they travelled in a group, so their stories were intertwined, and yet they followed different paths. These boys were also outgoing and articulate, and enjoyed being in a movie.

Tyler felt that he could relate somewhat to their difficulties, having left the Mormon Church himself.

He volunteered that, while they were filming Sons of Perdition, they kept true to documentary filmmaking. There were no re‑enactments. The boys were never told “say that again,” or “walk through here.” Said Tyler, “We missed a lot of great stuff, but we also caught a lot of great stuff.

Indeed they did.

Little Rock Film Festival 2011 (day 2)

From June 3, 2011 Art, film, literature. They go hand-in-hand. Last week, I read an article in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette about an upcoming event, the fifth-annual Little Rock Film Festival. Unfortunately, opening night tickets were sold out, so I was unable to attend Wednesday’s red-carpet event. But I did buy a bronze pass online … Continue reading

Clearwater Marine Aquarium — home of Winter the tailless dolphin

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Flipping through a journal I keep in my handbag, I noticed notes from my visit to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium (dated September 2011). The Aquarium is home to Winter, the tailless dolphin whose story became a major motion picture. I was in Florida visiting my mother. It was to be my last day, but Mom … Continue reading

Stephen King’s Misery a work of art

I always enjoy a good horror-suspense movie – one supported by story rather than outright gore. (Sci-fi Originals are definitely not my favorite.). I love Aliens, Poltergeist, Tremors, Arachnaphobia…

A few years ago, I wrote a horror screenplay, which placed in the top 15th percentile in the Nicholls Fellowship competition. This, I’ve decided, will be the basis of my next novel, Spider House.

But there are some very violent scenes in this to-be-novelized work. Visually, a scene can be quickly implied and then blinked away. But when writing such a scene for a novel, I can only wonder how-far is too-far.

I decided I should read something “gory” by a master storyteller, and selected Stephen King’s Misery – largely because I’ve seen the film and enjoyed it, in spite of some very disturbing scenes.

Up until now, I wasn’t a Stephen King fan. I’d read Hearts in Atlantis – loved the first half, but felt the second half didn’t go anywhere. I’d also read Dolores Claiborne, but liked the movie better. (That being said, I appreciated King’s attempt to write an entire book as though it’s being breathlessly narrated by an accused murderess; and thought the  omission of apostrophes in all contractions brilliant, since it made the work read at a quickened pace.)

But Misery is a work of art. It’s more than the story that makes it entertaining. The characters are solid; knowable. The vocabulary is sometimes unfamiliar (fortunately I could easily look up words on my Nook), but chosen for sound as well as meaning. Paul Sheldon, the main character, is a writer; we read his manuscript – complete with typographical errors – as he tries to please his “biggest fan,” Annie Wilkes.

Now I cannot wait to read more Stephen King novels – in search of another book that makes me go Wow!

And what did I learn about handling violent scenes? That too much detail is distracting; slows the cadence. And giving too much information makes the action seem less believable, since we’re trying to force ourselves to see the world through the author’s eyes rather than our own.

Now it’s time to start writing.

Perfect Host — An interesting movie that I nearly turned off halfway through

There have only been two movies that I’ve ever walked out on. One was Pulp Fiction – it was simply too violent. The other was Who Framed Roger Rabbit – the merging of the cartoon characters and traditional film images made my eyes feel crossed and my stomach queasy.

I rented this film, and nearly turned it off halfway through. Again, simply too violent. “Just another movie about a psychopath torturing someone,” I thought.

“Kind of sad that there are so many deranged-psychopath movies that I could make that assumption,” I’m thinking now.

If it weren’t for David Hyde Pierce’s mesmerizing performance, I would have walked away — and then been denied what turned out to be an intriguing tale with many twists and turns.

Throughout the movie, I found myself tensing one moment, and then chuckling the next.

Definitely a movie that will make one uncomfortable — and then surprise with twisted whimsy.

The Tunnel a very exciting movie

My husband and I just rented The Tunnel, about an athlete who defects from East Germany in the 1960′s, only to cross the border again to lead others to freedom. It is subtitled, but the pace of the movie allows one time to read the lines and watch the film. Very suspenseful, with lots of twists and turns.

Read more about this movie on Netflix.

Morgan Freeman as Vincent the Vegetarian Vampire

Is there anyone who doesn’t like Morgan Freeman?

Before Mom had her heart attack, I visited The Clearwater Marine Aquarium [Florida]. Tim, a fantastic tour guide at the facility, told the audience that he spotted Morgan Freeman during the filming of Dolphin Tale.

“Vincent the Vegetarian Vampire!” Tim blurted.

Freeman’s jaw dropped. He put his hands on Tim’s shoulders and said, “Of course you know, you just dated both of us.”

So of course, when I got home from Florida,  I had to look up videos of “Vincent.”

Zing, Zang, Zoom and Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Saturday we went to Zing, Zang, Zoom, one of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey’s traveling circuses. It was the first event I’d attended inLittle Rock’s Verizon Arena, which was much smaller than I’d imagined. We sat in the first row, right on the exhibition floor.

There was a single ring and the acts were small-scale – definitely targeted toward younger children. My favorite (of course) was an animal act featuring horses and camels. There were two dromedaries, two horses, and two miniature horses, and they pranced and danced around the ring. Watching the animals move in sync was actually quite beautiful.

There were no lions or tigers – instead a trained cat act. But there was an elephant act, and we were close enough to look into the eyes of the pachyderms and see the wrinkles in their skin. A motorcycle rolled across a wire above our heads; beneath it a woman sat on a swing. A pair of tight-rope walkers performed, but were only about eight feet off the ground.

Between acts, I enjoyed the first cotton candy I’ve had in roughly fifteen years. Yum! Just as good as I remember! (Not like candy corn, Pixi Stix, and those candy necklaces, which definitely become less appealing with age.) Like most items, the cotton candy came with a souvenir item to warrant the $10 charge. I gave the tall hat that came with mine to the little boy next to us.

We’d had so much fun at the circus, that Sam and I wanted our date to continue. So we decided to make a day of it and go see Rise of the Planet of the Apes. It was pretty good. My only complaint was that, no matter how many apes got wiped out, they seemed to magically multiply. Also, some of the distant scenes showing groups of apes terrorizing the city didn’t look natural. However, the animals’ expressions in close-ups were quite convincing.

After that, we ate at the Rib Crib in Benton. Not bad. Not great. But better than ending the day by cooking and cleaning up at home.