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Reading, Listening, Viewing

Happy early birthday to gypsyjr. May you have a wonderful day and a terrific year to come!

A few random notes and recommendations...

* Many of you may recall the actor and singer (and Academy Award and Tony Award nominee) Michael Dunn, who is perhaps best remembered today as Dr. Miguelito Loveless from The Wild Wild West, Alexander from Star Trek's "Plato's Stepchildren," and/or Karl Glocken from Ship of Fools. His first cousin, Sherry Kelly, has written a new book about him called The Big Life of a Little Man: Michael Dunn Remembered, using interviews with his friends and associates and her own memories of growing up with Dunn, as well as writings by her aunt (Dunn's mother) and Dunn himself. I've had the pleasure of corresponding some with Kelly, and I just finished reading her book. She offers compelling descriptions of his background, from his time studying to be a Capuchin monk to the mystery surrounding his possible work in espionage for the U.S. government. A number of strange and unanswered questions remain about his unfortunate and early demise, and Kelly sets these out clearly, as well. The book tells a poignant story of the man behind the genius (both intellectual and artistic) and how, with courage and varying levels of success, he fought to overcome his disability with the support of his family. The book will be widely available in February, but it can be ordered now directly from the publisher.

* Last month I completely forgot to celebrate publicly one of my favorite holidays, New Tori Amos Album Day. I'm pleased to say that Midwinter Graces is a fantastic album. Two thumbs way, way up!

* Connie Willis's 1992 Doomsday Book is one of my absolute favorite novels of all time - definitely "Top Ten List" material - and so I am thrilled to see that her long-awaited next work set in its universe, Blackout, will be out in less than two months.

* It occurred to me, after seeing so many "Best Of" lists making their appearances, that some of the most interesting and intriguing science fiction or science fiction-related movies I've watched this year have been independent films. I thought I'd pass along some of those that most pleasantly surprised me: Franklyn, Final, Special, The Burrowers, and Timecrimes.

"I've lived so long with pain, I no longer feel it." - Dr. Miguelito Loveless, The Wild Wild West


( 30 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 12th, 2009 07:47 pm (UTC)
Blackout! Squee!
Dec. 12th, 2009 07:48 pm (UTC)
Seriously! I've only been waiting for this one for, um, years and years and years... ;)
Dec. 13th, 2009 09:28 am (UTC)
It's not yet listed at Blackwell's, but is available to preorder at Amazon.co.uk - I'd rather buy from somewhere with a physical presence, so will probably need to remind myself in a few weeks time.
Dec. 12th, 2009 07:53 pm (UTC)
Ooh, new Connie Willis Oxford timetravel book! EEee! *immediately adds to wishlist*
Dec. 12th, 2009 07:54 pm (UTC)
Isn't it exciting?
Dec. 12th, 2009 08:06 pm (UTC)
Oh gosh, I'm so excited about Connie Willis's book that there are no words. I love Doomsday Book so very much. Definitely Top 10 material!
Dec. 12th, 2009 08:16 pm (UTC)
I know exactly what you mean. I'm so excited! I saw her speak in 2005, and she said the book was "almost finished"... I've been on the edge of my seat waiting ever since. Now it's nearly here!

Edited at 2009-12-12 08:17 pm (UTC)
Dec. 12th, 2009 08:26 pm (UTC)
I agree with you on Timecrimes and The Burrowers being pleasant surprises. Timecrimes had been hyped a little bit more to me but was a highly competent example of the (possibly spoilery subject matter) done right--reminded me of The Door Into Summer, which is one of the few Heinlein novels I've finished and thoroughly enjoyed. And The Burrowers...how bout that deliciously nasty ending? Great stuff, and good soundtrack, too. Will check out the rest of your recs, especially Franklyn as I'd hereto heard kinda mixed things.
Dec. 14th, 2009 05:09 pm (UTC)
I see exactly what you mean about Timecrimes being reminiscent of The Door into Summer.

I absolutely loved The Burrowers' gut-punch of an ending. It was so effective! And the music was terrific. It reminded me of the score from my very favorite western, The Long Riders.

I quite liked all of the others. Franklyn was extremely ambitious, perhaps overly so for the director, but I was fascinated by it throughout, and I found the ending to be strangely satisfying.
Dec. 15th, 2009 05:38 pm (UTC)
The Long Riders is pretty damn special. Brotehrs! You wantem, we gottem! Keaches, Quaids, Guests! Carradines, Carradines, Carradines! Be there, be there, be there! Er, yeah, I like it, too.

Recently I've liked Pontypool, though I seem to be in the minority, and I really, really, really loved Sauna, but I seem to really, really, really be in the minority there. Hmmmm...it's been a while but I seem to remember digging another low budget western/reconstruction horror called Dead Birds. Oh oh oh, and if you haven't seen Ravenous is a criminally underrated horror western, imo, and has one of the best soundtracks evah.
Dec. 18th, 2009 03:25 pm (UTC)
Yay! Another Long Riders fan!

I've got Pontypool on my Netflix queue, and thanks to you I'll have to check out Sauna and Ravenous, as well. Thanks so much for the recommendations! I really liked Dead Birds; it didn't measure up to the level or The Burrowers for me, because I thought it lost some of its steam about 2/3 of the way in and only found it again in the very final minutes. So I didn't quite love it, but I did enjoy it - and I very much liked how it built its atmosphere using the historical setting. Thinking of that cornfield in front of that abandoned plantation house makes me shudder!
Dec. 18th, 2009 05:45 pm (UTC)
I think your take on Dead Birds is dead on--I do remember it dragging a bit, but yeah, the setting was great and it had some bang-up scenes and that strong ending.

Ravenous and Sauna are the two movies that I fell in love with upon first viewing and yet rarely find people who dig the, so definitely go in with low expectations--I have notoriously spotty taste, and I'd hate to diminish your enjoyment of either by over-hyping them. Whenever the stars are right and you check them out let me know what you thought, but again, don't expect fireworks--I didn't, and found them anyway.

Pontypool I didn't love but really liked--the ending didn't work for me as much as the rest of it, but I thought it was a fun idea.
Dec. 18th, 2009 05:52 pm (UTC)
Oh, and I should add that the less you know about Ravenous before watching it the better--true of all horror films, sure, but especially of this one, even if calling it "horror" is a little off...which makes the fact that the cover of the film has a giant quote telling you what happens in it all the more annoying.
Dec. 12th, 2009 11:45 pm (UTC)
You have made me very happy indeed - a new Connie Willis and in the same universe as Doomsday Book (one of my all time favourites, too) and a book about Michael Dunn of which I wasn't aware. He came up in some research I was doing for the book after the next one.
Dec. 14th, 2009 05:11 pm (UTC)
Oh, fantastic! I'm so glad the information was useful - and that you love Doomsday Book, too! Dunn really was a remarkable talent.
Dec. 12th, 2009 11:46 pm (UTC)
I loved the Doomsday Book too and would be pretty interested in Blackout. I also had a great mind-blowing experience in reading Passage...
Dec. 14th, 2009 05:12 pm (UTC)
Yay - another fan of Doomsday Book! I thought Passage was very good, too, but I think my second favorite of hers after DB is Lincoln's Dreams, which haunts me to this day.
Dec. 14th, 2009 10:21 pm (UTC)
Never read that one. I had a go at "To Say nothing of the Dog", but whimsy never works for me in books. Unless it's Barry Hughart's "Bridge of Birds"...
Dec. 14th, 2009 10:29 pm (UTC)
I really, really dislike Willis (or anyone else) in whimsy mode, too. I recommend Lincoln's Dreams, though - in its own strange way, it almost "out-bleaks" Doomsday Book.
Dec. 14th, 2009 10:37 pm (UTC)
Out-bleaking is an excellent recommendation for me :-)
Dec. 16th, 2009 03:04 am (UTC)
Ha! Same with me. My husband characterizes my reading habits roughly as follows: "Meet these people. Like these people. Ooops, everybody dies." I think that comes from being a historian. You can't get up close and personal with, for example, the Trail of Tears and then wholeheartedly believe in neat and tidy happy endings for everyone involved.

I have Tender Morsels on my desk right here to read over the holiday, and the Octavian Nothing books on my "must read" list for 2010, by the way - all thanks to you.
Dec. 16th, 2009 09:29 am (UTC)
Hurray! Tender morsels and ON should fit right in with the rest of your reading :)
Dec. 13th, 2009 01:19 pm (UTC)
Looks like a great book!
Thanks for the recommendation; I look forward to reading it when it comes out.
Dec. 13th, 2009 01:23 pm (UTC)
Re: Looks like a great book!
Oops, that wasn't very clear... I meant the book about Michael Dunn. I'm a big fan of Wild Wild West, and Dr. Loveless has to be my favorite villain. (We've discussed the series by email recently, as well as your other favorite series "The Prisoner"). I finally finished season 3, and will be getting the first season 4 disc in the mail next week. And thanks again for the "preferred viewing guide" for season 4.
Dec. 14th, 2009 05:14 pm (UTC)
Re: Looks like a great book!
It's great to see you on LJ! And you're most welcome. I agree: Dr. Loveless is a brilliant villain. And Dunn played the part to perfection.
Dec. 14th, 2009 05:13 pm (UTC)
Re: Looks like a great book!
My pleasure!
Dec. 13th, 2009 02:12 pm (UTC)
Dunn also appeared in the pilot episode of Get Smart as KAOS mastermind Mr. Big.
Dec. 14th, 2009 05:16 pm (UTC)
Yes indeed - good point! And I believe there was a tribute to him during the opening of the film remake, which showed a wanted poster for Mr. Big (if I remember correctly).
Dec. 15th, 2009 03:54 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the welcome. Love your background!
I only recognized Michael Dunn from the ST context. I always thought that was a poignant and significant episode though. I'm sorry to hear he's since died.
Dec. 15th, 2009 06:19 pm (UTC)
Hi there! *waves* Thank you so much for your kind words - I finally got my LJ and my official website to match in layout, and I'm super pleased about it.

I agree: "Plato's Stepchildren" was a remarkable episode. It's very sad that Michael Dunn died (and so young! only 39!). I hope books like this help make others aware of his talent and legacy.
( 30 comments — Leave a comment )

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