Comedy Class

Good afternoon. It is I Gigi the parti poodle once again and let me tell you this has been a most distressing week. My novelist has been taking a ten-day screenwriting class and I have had to man the fort. The Maltese has been up to his usual tricks like sleeping behind the couch and barking when he knows its suppertime. At times, I have had to lie by my novelist’s side in the Barcalounger as she holds her head in her hands and makes use of our foot massage machine. But she has been able to turn her work in on time and is getting to the end of the course after which she will prepare the final touches on her new novel Musicology: Volume Four, Sweetie! for March publication.  

As for myself, I have been busy on my own writing project which I am hoping to premiere on this blog soon. It is a glorious tale, and I am excited to share it with you. But for now, I am going to hand the blog back over to my novelist so she can talk a bit about her class. Without further ado, here is my novelist.     

For the past week I’ve been taking a ten-day online writing class. The class is designed for writing comedic screenplays. Taking classes as you know are a blessing and a curse. And this one has been no different. Everyday I have a writing assignment due in twenty-four hours. Kind of like Jack Bauer except more daunting. I have a list of over 200 log lines, so I pulled one of the lines and basically built a day-by-day story out of it. The good part is it forced me to come up with a brand-new tale I had never thought of past the log line stage that might be fun to write once I shoot my boss in the back of the head, rescue a child from kidnappers, behead some guy with a saw and find the love of my life bound and dead in a desk chair before the clock runs out.

I have taken more than my share of writing classes over time and am at the point where the only good choice would be to get another degree. But as I write comedic novels (a genre that for some reason doesn’t really exist) I thought this class might be a good refresher. And it does what all classes do which is take me away from my novel writing and turn me into this thing:

Self Portait of Class Taking Karen

I think writers walk on a tightrope between when to block out time to take a class and when to cut the cord and go solo. I prefer solo most of the time. I do think you need both but once one has completed one’s college education the more one focuses on writing and reading instead of classes the better one gets. That said, I in no way regret taking this class. It has forced me to think and act quickly and gave me a couple more things to add to my toolbox, which is the point. As the class is designed to build a scene layer by layer it justifies the tools I have garnered over time and others I naturally work with. I found while taking the course, I had often already put in several of the elements that were eventually taught in upcoming lessons.  

That said, one of the items I gained from the class and have added to my toolbox is the specificities of props. I often put props in my stories automatically because of my acting background (I studied both writing and theatre) and so props are often important. However, this class forced me to punch them up a bit so instead of a pencil cup for instance it becomes for example a pencil cup shaped like a rabbit because of the characters obsession with bunnies or springtime or whatever.

I did get a good price on the class which played a large part in my deciding to take it. And I do encourage other seasoned writers to take courses here and there provided they help and not hinder their ability to get their core writing done. It’s good for the mind and adds more concepts you can use going forwards.

My Books

You can check out my books Chicane and the first three installments in my Musicology book series Musicology: Volume One, Baby!Musicology: Volume Two, Kid!, & Musicology Volume Three, Twist! on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback editions. You can also check out Musicology’s web site at www.musicologyrocks.com and vote for who you think will will Musicology!!!

STREAM OF THE WEEK: STARMAN (1984)-Amazon Prime

This wonderful little Sci-fi gem from the early 1980’s often gets forgotten or overlooked and I thought it would be a great one to feature. Jeff Bridges earned his third Oscar nomination (and he deserved all seven nominations and the one win he has gotten) stars in the title role as an alien who has gotten stuck on earth and has a limited amount of time he can spend here until he dies unless he can meet his spaceship in a few days and catch a ride home. He takes safe harbor in the home of young recently widowed Jenny Hayden (Karen Allen who is fantastic here) and after looking through a photo album while she is sleeping morphs into a human baby and grows into a living embodiment of Jenny’s deceased husband hoping doing so will help convince her to assist him in his quest.

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Snakehood

Good afternoon. It is I Gigi the parti poodle here to introduce another one of my novelist’s blogs. Today my novelist is going to discuss one of my most favorite subjects: money. I love the smell of currency. It’s like the fragrance of fresh air intertwined with something dirty. You may not think poodles have much interest in finance. You are grossly mistaken. We need collars, leashes, beds, veterinary visits, food, little stuffed weasels and treats, treats, treats. You don’t think we believe these things grow on trees, do you? Absolutely not. That is why I, much like the great mushers overseeing their dog sled team, crack my whip and get my subservient to bring home a paycheck. Not to mention how much I love to watch my stocks and mutual funds widen and expand much like that dullard Maltese. But enough about my tastes. Here is my novelist.  

This week I read an article about a college student who, last June at the age of twenty took his own life because he believed he had a deficit of $730,000. Perhaps you have heard this story. The money was a negative balance in his investment account. The company he had his investments with was also the investment company known for being a large player in the whole Reddit fiasco where companies that weren’t worth much suddenly had stock being purchased at an unbelievable pace. I see the value in that situation but let’s stick to this part of the story. The young man panicked when he could not get ahold of the company which did not have phone support. Because let’s face it, online chat is so much better when you are trying to figure out why you are suddenly $730,000 in debt.

I could go on for hours about how phone support for Americans regardless of the company should be based in America and follow an around the sun model meaning you should get phone support in America during the morning and through the evening and then at night and the early morning hours like say four AM you should get support in somewhere like say Ireland, especially if you are doing tech support. That is not how most support models are set up. The reason they should be set up this way is a support desk is an entry level position into a company. And it’s a position that helps you learn how said company works and provides a place to start learning the product or technology the company is in the business of making. Thus, you would pull your best and brightest off the desk and start having them work up the ladder filling jobs in house which creates a more knowledgeable employee which in turn helps to create a stronger company and hopefully a stronger economy without outsourcing labor from foreign nations. This costs more in the initial stages and pays off much bigger in the long run provided the company doesn’t waste its finances creating more and more overpaid management jobs, bureaucracy, and a weaker product.

Apparently these financial bozos thought it would be a good idea to have no phone support at all for a financial company no less. People go to business school for four to ten years to learn about the intricacies of the stock market. If it takes that long to understand complex investing why would anyone think a video game and a whole lot of lure would allow a twenty-year-old to cultivate the same knowledge?

Apparently, the company’s logo looks suspiciously like Pied Piper from Silicon Valley and if you watch the show’s entire run you know how that turned out. And this company strives to be the Joe Camel of the twenty first century. Big phallic nose and all. And who is their target customer? Why inexperienced zoomers and millennials of course! Especially college kids who are intellectually bright and financially dim.

I decided to run a little experiment of my own. As you know psychopaths have speech patterns which involve disfluencies (um and uh), subordinate conjunctions (because, so that, therefore, etc.) and repeated words as in saying the same word twice like the-the. All humans do these, but a psychopath does them more frequently. So, I decided to watch a few videos of one of the executives in the company being interviewed because, let’s face it, narcissists (psychopaths are always narcissists) crave attention. I watched four different interviews done at different points in time and counted how many combined disfluencies, subordinate conjunctions and repeated words said executive had. In the first interview which was four minutes the count was 36. In the five-minute interview the count was 28. And in the twenty-nine-minute interview the count was 254. For reference, I clocked a known psychopathic minister during two separate sermons at 100 both times. The sermons were around the same length as the twenty-nine-minute interview. I am not a psychiatrist or psychologist, but 254 sounds suspect to me. His favorite word was “um” and his second was “uh”.  If you want to read more about Wall Street reptiles like this sweetheart, you can read Snakes in Suits: When Psycopaths Go to Work by Dr. Robert Hare.

Our education system (if I can even call it a system) is run by brilliant individuals who have not figured out that psychopaths want three things: sex, food, and money. That’s pretty much it. Everything else is incidental. A lot of folks want to believe evil human beings want power. No. They want sex, food, and money. Power is just a way to attain these three things. When I hear someone say the creep who harmed them wanted power over them, I rage inside and look at them like they are stupid. Again, psychopaths don’t care if they have power over their mark or not. They don’t care about human beings at all. All they care about are sex, food, and money. If power is a way to take that from you that is the tactic or strategy, they will use. Evil people are always thinkers never feelers despite what some misguided idiots want to believe.

And yet the education system refuses to teach two basic skills to thwart making someone a mark: self-defense and financial responsibility. Probably because most of the education system doesn’t know how to teach these things because they tend to be individuals who are logistical or idealistic who, by the way are likely the most common marks for financial and sexual abuse.

Might I also add intelligent, educated people are notoriously terrible with money. Professionals are some of the worst. You can read about how many brilliant individuals cannot figure out how to pull and not push open the door marked PULL as well as screw up their finances in the famous book The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley Ph. D. and William D. Danko Ph. D.. You can also watch my Stream of the Week below which I re-watched this week and it chilled me to the bone as much as it did on first viewing.

My Books

You can check out my books Chicane and the first three books in my Musicology book series Musicology: Volume One, Baby!Musicology: Volume Two, Kid!, and Musicology Volume Three, Twist! on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback editions. You can also check out Musicology’s web site at www.musicologyrocks.com and vote for who you think will will Musicology!!!

STREAM OF THE WEEK: MAXED OUT: HARD TIMES, EASY CREDIT, and the ERA OF PREDITORY LENDERS (2006)-YouTube

“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Gospel of Mathew 7:15, King James Version”. When I read the article about the young man who took his life whom, by the way, my whole heart goes out to, I remembered this important documentary on how lousy we Americans are with credit. That doesn’t mean all Americans suck at handling money and many save and pay off credit cards in full every pay period on time and invest wisely. But a lot of Americans don’t and are easily sucked into financial preditory traps which are much more daunting than I realized. This documentary does a good job of showing some of these traps and how fragile Americans are and how easily it is to get sucked in. It covers not only the individual citizen but our nation’s attitude as well. You may see a few familiar faces in this film such as Louis C.K., Robin Leach and Elizabeth Warren. But honestly, the non-celebrities are more fascinating and their stories more riveting.

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FINAL DAY! MUSICOLOGY: VOLUME TWO, KID! FREE ON KINDLE!

After Ruby Diamond’s shocking decision, the Circle of Ten results have been revealed. Now Ruby is about to drop another timebomb into Max Buckner’s hands, a dangerous secret that puts the show on a collision course with legal and financial ruin. As Max scrambles to find out which contestant is “The Kid” and save Musicology from scandal, the Circle of Ten start carrying out agendas of their own …especially the resident diva who will stop at nothing in her attempt to destroy every contestant in her path, dominate the competition, and take the Musicology crown. Vote for who you think will win Musicology at www.musicologyrocks.com.

Much Ado About Bridgerton

Good afternoon. Gigi the parti poodle here once again to introduce my novelist. Tomorrow starts Valentine’s Day weekend and President’s Day weekend. I must say I love Valentine’s Day. Being a gorgeous specimen of the canine variety, I am often showered with many gifts from suitors. There is a dachshund across the street who adores me. Down the way there is a Pardon Russell terrier who finds me mysterious and intriguing and then there’s a black and white Pomeranian who…

Tucker loves you very, very much!    

It’s never going to happen, you unkempt Maltese, so forget it!

I don’t love you in that way. I love you as a friend.

You are friend zoning me? Seriously? You aren’t even in my league.

I think that King Charles Spaniel by the park is cute.

Cute?!

And she likes me.

She doesn’t even know you exist!

I asked her to go out on Valentine’s Day. We are going to walk in the park and sniff each other.

Good grief! I don’t need those kinds of sordid details!

Maybe someday a dog will recognize your unique beauty.

My unique beauty?! I’m beautiful in all eyes!

Do you mind if I borrow the Lucy Blue Lightning Blueberry Grooming Spray? I want to smell my best.  

Get out of here! Can you believe the nerve of that…? Anyhow. Without further ado here is my novelist.

Happy Valentine’s Day and President’s Day weekend! First, I must make a confession. I tried to read Harlequin Romances when I was younger. I gave it the old college try. But every single time I cracked open one of these books and began to peruse the pages I’d get a headache. I am not kidding. A nasty headache. This stuff was not for me. Now, don’t get me wrong I am 110% behind a great romance. In fact, I am suggesting one of the best for this week’s Stream of the Week. I love Harold and Maude, The Graduate, 9 ½ Weeks, The Apartment, Rebecca, Chasing Amy, The Painted Veil, Sex Lies and Video Tape, Secretary, Blue Velvet, Paris, Texas, Bound, Leaving Las Vegas, Sweet Hostage, Welcome to the Dollhouse, The Terminator, Kissed, Flower, Vertigo, Boxing Helena and of course Zac and Miri Make a Porno. But apparently my taste in romance is different from the swooning pretty boy adoring stories others flock to.

Which brings us to Bridgerton, the newest girly hit on Netflix and yes, I have watched the entire first season. It has gorgeous costumes, beautiful sets, solid direction, well cast actors. Some of the jewelry looks a little too modern at times but that is not the problem. In fact, at first, I could not figure out what the problem was. But I knew the show had a problem from the first episode.

That doesn’t mean romance stories are bad. But something was wrong with Bridgerton. Then on a Sunday morning after I was two thirds of the way through the series it dawned on me. There is no villain in this story. Now, if you look at one of my favorite Netflix shows Cobra Kai you’ve got a villain. In fact, you have more than one. But in Bridgerton most of the characters make choices based on desperation or some “cleverly” written promise they made to someone. And then these would-be baddies quickly see the error of their ways and their villainy vanishes. Not so with Cobra Kai. Kreese is nasty and he just keeps getting nastier. Hawk is vengeful and he just keeps getting more violent. Tory is manipulative and she just keeps getting more maniacal. Their actions steer the lives of the other characters, compound the tension, and keep things intriguing. Not so with Bridgerton.

Bridgerton is a Gossip Girl-esque style show with someone called Lady Whistledown in the Gossip Girl role who is the eyes and ears of this niche group of aristocrats. And I will say when they reveal who Whistledown is the writer made an excellent character choice. But in Gossip Girl you have villains who become more and more interesting. So much so they started to take the center stage more frequently as the show progressed at least for a few seasons. But as far as its first season goes, there is no villain in Bridgerton, and I believe that’s why the storylines feel flat. There is no Chuck Bass there is no Blair Waldorf or if you want a period piece there is no Valmont there is no Marquise de Merteuil. The villain is what often smartens up a story. It’s what gives a tale it’s verve. Although Bridgerton is a very watchable show it lacks verve.  

I remember taking a class with a writer who penned a screenplay with no conflict. As admirable as this experiment is it does not work. In fact, it defies physics. An object at rest will stay in rest and an object in motion will stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force. All stories need an outside force to push it along or change its course. I hope Bridgerton finds that force.

MUSICOLOGY: VOLUME TWO, KID! IS FREE ON KINDLE!

My novel Musicology: Volume Two, Kid! is FREE on Amazon now until Sunday, 2/14! Happy Valentine’s Day!!!

STREAM OF THE WEEK: THE PIANO (1993)-Pluto

One of the most original and sumptuous romances ever filmed, Jane Campion’s magnum opus garnered three academy awards as well as one Golden Globe, three Baftas, eleven Australia Film Institute awards, five Los Angeles Critic’s Association awards, two National Society of Film Critics’ Awards, three New York Film Critics’ Awards, the Writer’s Guild of America best screenplay, National Board of Review top ten film and best actress, best actress at Cannes and the Palm d’Or. This extraordinary film set in the mid 1800’s is about a mute Scottish woman named Ada McGrath (Holly Hunter in her brilliant academy award winning performance) who expresses her emotions through her piano. She has a ten-year-old daughter named Flora (Anna Paquin in her academy award winning performance). Ada’s father marries her off to a man she has never met named Alisdair Stewart who lives in the craggy New Zealand forest and Ada and Flora go to live with him. Not understanding Ada or for that matter women at all, Alisdair insists she leave her precious piano on the shore because it is too heavy to bring back home. He ends up selling the piano to his neighbor George (Harvey Keitel) who sees Ada’s disappointment in her new life and talks Alisdair into having her give him piano lessons of a most peculiar kind.   

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MUSICOLOGY: VOLUME TWO, KID! IS FREE ON KINDLE!!!

MUSICOLOGY: VOLUME TWO, KID! IS FREE ON KINDLE WEDNESDAY 2/10-SUNDAY 2/14!

After Ruby Diamond’s shocking decision, the Circle of Ten results have been revealed. Now Ruby is about to drop another timebomb into Max Buckner’s hands, a dangerous secret that puts the show on a collision course with legal and financial ruin. As Max scrambles to find out which contestant is “The Kid” and save Musicology from scandal, the Circle of Ten start carrying out agendas of their own …especially the resident diva who will stop at nothing in her attempt to destroy every contestant in her path, dominate the competition, and take the Musicology crown. Vote for who you think will win Musicology at www.musicologyrocks.com.

GIGI TAKES OVER

Greetings. I am Karen and I am a novelist. Today I am introducing my owner Gigi, a parti poodle who will be taking over the blog this week. Gigi is a fledgling writer and has been working diligently on a story of her own. She asked me if she could write the blog this week for writing practice. I said certainly especially since I have been busy getting my next book Musicology Volume Four, Sweetie! ready to release in March. I thought it would be good preparation for her as she has shown an uncommon interest in the written word for a poodle and I could use the break. This was all decided on the condition that she would behave herself and not harm Tucker the Maltese. So, without further ado, here is my poodle Gigi.

Good afternoon. I am Gigi the parti poodle, canes lupis familiaris. I am the owner of a novelist and am studying to be a writer myself. I thought I would let my poor bedraggled novelist take a break and I would write this week’s blog. I must tell you this is most exciting. How often does a poodle like me get to express her point of view? This week I have been going over a long list of log lines from which I will choose one to turn into a book. This is not an easy task. My novelist taught me to make a list of ideas, one must create such a list one idea at a time. Thus, I followed her lead. She challenged me to come up with one logline every time she took the Maltese and me for a walk. I have to say it has been cold since my professional sheering and my novelist puts me in this rather stylish grey sweater with a skull on it which fits me well. But the point here is since we walk almost daily, I now have a bevy of ideas from which to draw my masterpiece.

The problem of course is narrowing it down to one artistic concept. It is important the idea I choose is one I am willing to stick to. We poodles have such short attention spans you see. But I think it is important to be knowledgeable about the subject one is writing so being a dog I have a unique view of the world. I see it from a much lower level than humans. And yet I can climb up to heights much loftier than my size. I can squeeze my way into places humans do not fit. I can smell things with far more accuracy, and I can hear things that are further away.

Because I sit on my writer’s lap in the evenings watching television series and films, I understand the shows you humans like to watch. Some are marvelous and some are dreadful. But I have learned much from both types and believe myself confident in embarking on the journey of canine writer.

I am still working on finding my voice. This is something I do not struggle with when Fedex, USPS, UPS or even OnTrac comes to the door. But when I am engaged in creating my prose, this becomes more harrowing. I am told my bark is much bigger than my diminutive size, a statement I find most insulting if I am being honest. One should not judge one’s bark by the size of one’s frame. Just the same I am experimenting with ways to bring out my own inimitable style. As I am a cultured creature and descended from one of the brightest breeds of dogs, I think I can safely say I will bring a literary voice to the table as none have before...

I am Tucker and I am a…

Get out of here, vile mutt or I shall bite your ear like…!

Gigi! You promised me you wouldn’t harm Tucker!

This is MY blog! It is not his blog! It’s mine! You promised me! This was supposed to be my week to take over! He should be…!

Tucker, you need to go back to your pillow now. Gigi is doing the writing this week.

But I just wanted to make an appearance. I am cute and cuddly and make good appearances.

Tucker, just…please.

My feelings are hurt. Gigi hurt my feelings.

Okay, well…Gigi, could you apologize to Tucker?

Not a snowball’s chance!

Gigi is sorry, Tucker. How about you come with me and you can curl up while I read.

I still feel hurt. I do not thing Gigi apologized to me. But I will go. I like curling up. It is comforting.

Good riddance! As I was saying, I believe I will bring a unique literary voice to the annals of literature…can you believe that insipid fluffball! Trying to steal my thunder! Self-serving little…anyway, thank you for your ear and I look forward to presenting my work to you in the future. Au revoir!

MUSICOLOGY: VOLUME ONE, BABY! IS FREE ON AMAZON THURSDAY, 2/4 UNTIL SUNDAY, 2/7!

MUSICOLOGY: VOLUME TWO, KID! WILL BE FREE NEXT WEEK STARTING WEDNESDAY, 2/10!

STREAM OF THE WEEK: KEITH (2008)-Tubi

Todd Kessler co-wrote and directed this underrated realistic sleeper that is not your typical high school romance. This is the third choice in my Valentine’s movie series. We first meet Keith (Jessie McCartney) playing a game of pool with Al (Michael O’Keef) a man old enough to be his father. Keith tells Al he has figured out his concrete goal. When Al asks what it is, he tells him a girl. And when Al asks what Keith intends to do, Keith with a twinkle in his eye and verve in his voice says, “I’m going to have fun with her.” The her in question is Natalie (Elizabeth Harnois), who as Keith says is “smart, beautiful, popular” a “classic TGFY” (Too Good For You). Natalie is a hardworking likeable girl who is bound for Duke university on a tennis scholarship with a stellar grade point average. The question is why is Keith going to have fun with Natalie and what is the secret at the center of his cryptic plan?

SMART MOVIES FOR SMART KIDS: BOYS OVER FLOWERS (2009)-Netflix

This tremendously well-done romantic Korean television soap opera for the older kids is a genuine must see. Lower class Geum Jan-di (Ku Hye-sun) inadvertently rescues bloodied and beaten student Lee Min-ha from committing suicide by delivering his dry cleaning right before he is about to jump to his death at the Shin Hwa High School and grabs him in midair stopping him from plummeting to his death. Jan-di’s heroic act is awarded with a scholarship to the prestigious prep school. But there is a dark side to her reward: the F4. The F4 is a gang made up of the four wealthiest boys in the school: Goo Joon Pyo (Lee Min-Ho), Yoon Ji Hoo (Kim Hyun-joong), So Yi Jung (Kim Bum) and Song Woo Bin (Kim Joon) who drove Lee Min-ha to try and commit suicide in the first place and now have it in for Jan-di especially the leader of the pack Goo Joon Pyo.   

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Ten More Films That Are Difficult To Find On Streaming

Good Afternoon. I am Gigi the Parti poodle, owner of a novelist. As you know I have been steadily working on my own written works. I do a lot of speedwriting to help me get my thoughts out on paper. I have also written down a list of different log lines and concept ideas of which I am going to pick one and tell my tale. It has been going smashingly as I have a vivid imagination, uncommon talent for a Canis Lupus Familiaris. I may even be able to call myself a published writer one day. My novelist has been typing up my work on her computer and saving it in a file which I have been given permissions to access. It is lovely seeing my gorgeous prose sprawled out across the screen. Being involved in my work is taxing on my time. For instance, I cannot simply stop writing and go discipline the Maltese. I fear he may be getting away with more than he should. I might have to bark at him harshly and give his ear a good nip. Alas, I hear the word processer calling my name. But before I go, here is my novelist.

Greetings! This week I thought I’d post ten more films that are difficult to get on streaming. What I mean by that is they are not available on a streaming service like Amazon Prime, Netflix, HBO Max etc. But I thought because they are all excellent films and worth a watch, if you can get them on disk or even find them in a different manner take advantage and give them a watch. Again, I realize this list is subject to change because what is available on streaming is always in flux. But for now, here is the list:

The Full Monte (1997)- Sometimes the Oscars will make a serendipitous nomination not only for Best Screenplay but also for Best Picture and shed light on something like this remarkable little gem. One thing you might notice in all the movies in this short series is that they nail their endings. This film nails its ending with a jackhammer. Set in Sheffield, South Yorkshire England where the once successful steel mills have closed, unemployed steelworkers, mostly men, are getting more and more desperate and question their value both personally and professionally. Then one day a Chippendale’s striptease act comes to town. Gary “Gaz” Schofield (Robert Carlyle) whose wife has left him and is trying to get sole custody of their son Nathan, notes how many women line up to see the show. Realizing the profitability of a male striptease act he encourages his overweight friend Dave Horsefall (Mark Addy) to help him recruit a dance group who include a suicidal security guard named Lomper (Steve Huison) and their older former foreman Gerald Arthur Cooper whom they find out takes dance classes with his wife Linda (Deirdre Costello). The four men hold auditions and recruit older but talented Barrington “Horse” Mitchell (Paul Barber) and attractive young Guy (Hugo Speer). The six men begin practicing their routine which becomes altered after Gaz brags to a couple of local women who are putting up advertisements for the next Chippendales show that his group is better because they go “the full monte”.

A History of Violence (2005)- This fantastic action-thriller written by Josh Olson who received an Academy Award nomination is based on the graphic novel of the same name by John Wagner and directed by David Cronenberg. In a small town called Millbrook, Indiana lives a mild-mannered diner owner named Tom Stall, his strongminded lawyer wife Edie (Maria Bellow) and their two children teenager Jack and young daughter Sarah. One night while closing his cafe, two killers come in to rob the place. To everyone’s surprise Tom kills both men expertly. At first the incident seems like freak luck…until a gangster named Carl Fogarty (Ed Harris) shows up claiming Tom is not who he seems.

The Hustler (1961)- One of the finest films ever made but not easily found on streaming. Based on Walter Tevis’s fantastic novel and starring Paul Newman in his greatest performance ever, this classic has been called “A Greek Tragedy played out in pool halls”. “Fast” Eddy Felson (Paul Newman in an Oscar nominated performance) is a talented but reckless pool player hustling his way from joint to joint who dreams of playing and beating the best of the best Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason in his Oscar nominated performance). After finally getting a game with the champ Eddy plays and ultimately loses to him. Devastated, he wanders into a bus station where he meets intelligent but handicap Sarah Packard (Piper Laurie in an Oscar nominated performance). The two are smitten with each other until Eddy allows agent Bert Gordon (George C. Scott in an Oscar nominated performance) to bank roll him.

Red Rock West (1993)- This modern film noir has a great cast and is a whole lot of fun! John Dahl (Rounders and The Last Seduction) co-wrote the screenplay with his brother Rick and directed this smart tale about a Texan named Michael (Nicholas Cage) who travels to Montana for a job on an oil drilling crew. When the job falls through, he finds himself mistaken for a hitman by a man named Wayne (J.T. Walsh) who believes he hired him to kill his wife Suzanne (Laura Flynn Boyle). But Suzanne is onto her husband’s plan and offers Michael money to kill Wayne instead…until the real hitman Lyle (Dennis Hopper) finally shows up.

Bad Santa (2003)- What would the holiday season be without this classic? Directed by Terry Zwigoff it’s the uplifting story of a drunken safe-cracking conman named Willie (brilliantly portrayed by Billy Bob Thorton) and his partner in crime dwarf mastermind Marcus (Tony Cox) who dress up as Santa and an elf respectively every Christmas, get a gig at a department store and rob it on Christmas Eve. Every year Willie swears he’s retiring and by the time the holiday season rolls around he’s broke again and forced to play the Grinch…until one year he meets a likeable bartender named Sue (Lauren Graham) and moves into the house of a plucky but tortured boy known only as The Kid (Brent Kelly) and his grandmother (Cloris Leachman) whom he planned to rob.

Repulsion (1965)- Here is a film that messed me up for days when I first saw it. I recommend it highly. A young beautiful innocent Belgian immigrant named Carol (fantastically played by Catherine Deneuve) lives in London with her older sister Helen (Yvonne Furneaux) and works as a manicurist. Carol is introverted, says little and as Helen puts it is “sensitive”. Helen has a typical a-hole boyfriend named Michael (Ian Hendry) who really ticks quiet Carol off. Carol just wants to be left alone but in addition to having Michael at the apartment more than she’d like she also must deal with a likeable but clueless suiter named Colin (John Fraser) who is captivated by her. And then Helen and Michael make the brilliant decision to take off on a weekend trip to Pisa, Italy and leave Carol alone in the apartment. That’s when the real fun begins. Masterfully written and directed by Roman Polanski and shot in glorious black and white this is one of the most terrifying films you may ever see. And not for the reasons you think.

The Lookout (2007)-This is a great little crime thriller with a lot of depth and compassion. All the performances are great and the stellar script with a terrific premise “Whoever has the money has the power” was written by Scott Frank who also directed. Chris Pratt (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a high school star hockey player from a well to do family with a promising future ahead of him…until one night when he takes his girlfriend, his best friend and his friend’s date out for a drive to show his lady the fireflies. The event leaves Chris brain damaged working as a janitor for a bank and living with a blind roommate named Lewis (Jeff Daniels) who sells flower bouquets over the telephone. Into Chris’s life comes an old high school classmate asthmatic Gary Spargo (Matthew Goode) who introduces Chris to the beautiful but questionable Luvlee Lemons (Isla Fisher) and presents a proposition to Chris which Chris believes will turn his life around…or will it?

Easier with Practice (2009)-Based on an autobiographical GQ article What Are You Wearing? by Davy Rothbart this is a wonderfully unusual film that meditates on loneliness, intimacy, and perception. Introverted novelist Davy Mitchell (Brian Geraghty) is on a road trip with his gregarious womanizing younger brother Sean (Kel O’Neill) going from small bookstore to small bookstore to promote his unpublished book. Davy, though likeable and intelligent has a difficult time communicating with women and after watching his brother score repeatedly, becomes disillusioned and burned out. That is until one night while staying in a cheap motel he gets a call from a stranger, a woman named Nicole. They quickly start a phone sex affair that brightens Davy’s outlook on life. But as their relationship deepens Davy finds he longs for and needs their long-distance affair to become flesh and blood regardless of the consequences.     

Zero Effect (1998)- Jake Kasdan wrote and directed this fantastic sleeper shot in Portland, Oregon about a sociophobic private investigator genius named Daryl Zero (phenomenally played by Bill Pullman) who may also be an erotophobic, genophobic, philophobic, and/or sexophobic as well but in a delightfully charming and eccentric way. Zero spends most of his days in his multi-locked apartment that is as secure as Fort Knox. His disgruntled and droll associate Steve Arlo (Ben Stiller) is his one and only connection to the outside world and sets him up with gigs promoting him as “the best private investigator in the world”. Zero’s latest job is for a businessman named Gregory Stark (Ryan O’Neil) who has lost the keys to a safety deposit box and is being blackmailed by an unknown person.

Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)- The best weirdest film you’ll probably ever see. Based on the novella by Joe R. Lansdale, Elvis Presly (Bruce Campbell who is great here) is alive and well living in a nursing home along with John F. Kennedy (Ossie Davis). Elvis claims he got tired of being famous and switched places with an Elvis impersonator named Sebastian Half. He really doesn’t like being old and spends much of his time pondering his life and being patronized by The Nurse (Ella Joyce) and longs for purpose in his old age. Into his life comes a cursed mummy named Bubba Ho-Tep (Bob Ivy) who begins consuming the souls of the nursing home’s elderly residents. When Bubba attacks Elvis, Elvis fends him off and afterwards enlists Kennedy to help him triumph over the evil creature.

My Books

You can check out my books Chicane and the first two books in my Musicology book series Musicology: Volume One, Baby!Musicology: Volume Two, Kid!, and Musicology Volume Three, Twist! on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback editions. You can also check out Musicology’s web site at www.musicologyrocks.com and vote for who you think will will Musicology!!!

STREAM OF THE WEEK- UNTAMED HEART (1993) HBO Max

Continuing with my Valentine theme here is a wonderful little film with a lot of heart and poignancy. Set in Minneapolis, Minnesota, beauty school student Caroline (Marisa Tomei) makes ends meet as a waitress where she works with her wisecracking friend Cindy (Rosie Perez), a dishwasher named Adam (Christian Slater) and her boss Jim (Joe Minjares). Caroline has a bad habit of picking one loser guy after another and finds herself alone during the Christmas season after her newest boyfriend dumps her. One night a couple of guys come into the café where Caroline works and harass her. Caroline is the closing waitress and after the guys leave, she walks home as usual. But once she gets part way home the two guys who harassed her show up planning to rape her. She attempts to fight them off until one of them knocks her unconscious. Unbeknownst to all of them Caroline has a stalker who has been following them and throws an unexpected wrench into the situation.  

SMART MOVIES FOR SMART KIDS: SURF’S UP (2007)-Netflix

This wonderfully droll animated feature tells the story of young up and coming rock hopper penguin Cody Maverick (Shia LeBeouf) as he prepares to compete in the Big Z Memorial surfing competition on Pen-Gu Island. He meets fellow surfer Chicken Joe (Jon Heder) a rooster from Wisconsin. Cody finds himself smitten with gentoo penguin Lani Aliikai who works as a lifeguard. Cody met the surfer Big Z, for which the competition was named for years ago when he was a child. The Big Z gave Cody a necklace and Cody which he has worn ever since. So, when he sees emperor penguin Tank “The Shredder” Evens defacing Big Z’s memorial Cody challenges him to a surf competition and loses badly and loses his precious necklace in the battle. Lani saves the nearly drowned Cody and takes him to her Uncle Geek (Jeff Bridges) who teaches him to be a better surfer.

TEN MOVIES THAT ARE DIFFICULT TO GET ON STREAMING

Good evening. Gigi the parti poodle here to introduce my novelist. This has been a relatively mundane week except of course for the Maltese getting a home haircut as he is more inclined to sit still than I. I must say he looks a bit better…as much as a Maltese can I suppose. My novelist believes he will need another going over and a nail trim but for the most part he is groomed. As you may know, I have been working steadily on my own writing project. It is a tedious undertaking, but I feel compelled to share my thoughts through the written word. I will keep you abreast of my anecdotes as the weeks go on. Until then, here is my novelist.

Greetings! I thought would be a good week to start choosing some Valentine’s Day movies for my Stream of the Week section. And speaking of movies, I have found there is a list of exceptionally good films out there that are difficult to get on streaming. Films I have wanted to feature in my Stream of the Week section and haven’t because they do not appear to be on a streaming service like Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO, HBO Max, Showtime, Peacock etc.

And so, for that reason this week I am going to list ten of these treasures and encourage you to try and see them if you can. Now, I realize this list is subject to change because what is available on streaming is always in flux. But for now, here they are:

Bound (1996)-The Wachowski siblings are best known for The Matrix films. But in my opinion, this is their finest work by far both in its direction and its extraordinary script. Recently paroled professional thief Corky (Gina Gershon) takes a job as a plumber in a mob-owned apartment building. She quickly meets mafia money launderer Caesar (brilliantly portrayed by Joe Pantoliano) and his sexy girlfriend Violet (Jennifer Tilly). When Violet loses a precious earring down the sink, she enlists Corky to come to the rescue. Things between the two women heat up fast and as they fall for each other they began to plan an elaborate scheme to steal $2,000,000 blood-stained dollars Caesar brings home one night. Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly have fantastic chemistry here and the tension is so strong you could cut it with a knife…or gardening sheers.

Bridesmaids (2011)-This laugh-out loud comedy is as smart as it is raunchy and was nominated for the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo and Best Supporting Actress for Melissa McCarthy. Loser in love Annie (Kristen Wiig) wants to be the Maid of Honor for her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph). Unfortunately, the two women have drifted apart more than Annie realizes when she finds herself competing for the position with Lillian’s new friend Helen (Rose Byrne) who is a Master of Social soirées. Thus, begins Annie’s sometimes funny sometimes poignant journey from her dependency on her booty calling friend with benefits Ted (Jon Hamm) and her journey to growing up with some help from her fellow bridesmaids: self-made dog loving Megan (Melissa McCarthy), naive Becca (Ellie Kemper), sharp-witted Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covy) and a likeable traffic cop named Rhodes (Chris O’Dowd) Annie meets getting a speeding ticket.  

Sex, Lies & Videotape (1989)-If any film was responsible for kicking off the independent film era at the end of the twentieth century, it was Steven Soderbergh’s first full length dramady. This was one of those rare movies that blew me away on first viewing and would make an excellent Valentine’s Day movie pick. Ann (Andie MacDowell) is a beautiful smart young married woman who is obsessed with garbage. Why? Because her arrogant lawyer husband John (Peter Gallagher) is cheating on her with Ann’s acid-witted bartending younger sister Cynthia (Laura San Giacomo). Unexpectedly, John’s old college chum Graham (James Spader who rightly won best actor at Cannes for his performance) comes into town. Graham was just as wild as John back in the day. But now Graham is on a pilgrimage to reinvent himself with a little “personal project” which inadvertently proceeds to spin everyone’s life out of control.

Yanks (1979)-This underrated little romantic gem directed by John Schlesinger finds a slew of World War II American soldiers including Technical Sergeant Matt Dyson (Richard Geer) and Captain John (William Devane) shipped to England to help build up the Normandy landings where they each find themselves falling in love with local women. John falls for the married Helen (Vanessa Redgrave) and Matt falls hard for young innocent Jean Morton (Lisa Eichhorn) who is engaged to a British soldier named Ken (Derek Thompson). Because of her engagement Jean and Matt keep their relationship platonic. But when they find themselves thrust into an unexpectedly dire situation; they begin to question the paths they are on. One of the great things about this film is the intelligence of one of the love scenes. I doubt many films today would handle a scene like that with as much poignancy as this film does.

The Wrestler (2008)-To this day I cannot give any logical reason as to why Mickey Roark who won every acting award out there did not win the Oscar for best actor for his landmark performance. It was one of those situations like Memento which after winning every writing award out there lost the Oscar for best original screenplay to the unbearably boring and forgettable Gosford Park. Darren Aronofsky masterfully directs this wonderful character study about aging wrestler Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson (Mickey Roark) who’s years of abuse force him to retire from the ring after he has a heart attack. Into his life comes aging stripper Cassidy/Pam (Marissa Tomei in an Oscar nominated performance) a single mother who provides Randy a chance at a normal life and even encourages him to reconnect with his daughter Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood). But retirement is challenging for the former star who begins working at the deli counter in a grocery full time for a surly jealous boss.

Gattaca (1997)-When he is at the top of his game, Andrew Niccol is one of the best science fiction screenwriters around. And this film certainly proves it. Set in the future where parents can program the baby they are going to have with all the perfect genes through the eugenics program, Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke) comes from a natural conception and is thus an “invalid” susceptible to genetic disorders. Doomed to live his life on the lower rungs of society due to genetic discrimination, he cuts a deal with Jerome Eugene Morrow (Jude Law) a “valid” who was recently paralyzed in a car accident. Eugene is willing to provide Vincent with all the samples he needs to take his identity and secure a job at the Gattaca Aerospace Corporation to allow Vincent to fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming an astronaut. But Vincent’s plans are put into jeopardy when he meets and falls for his coworker Irene Cassini (Uma Thurman).

Foul Play (1978)-A smart funny film that was quite popular when it first came out but is difficult to get your hands on for streaming. Shy librarian Gloria Mundy (Goldie Hawn) finds herself divorced and alone. One night after leaving a party she by chance finds a man in a broken-down car by the side of the road. He introduces himself as Bob “Scotty” Scott (Bruce Solomon). The two hit it off and he invites her on a date to the movies. He tells her he is trying to quit smoking and insists she take his last pack of cigarettes from him. Gloria takes the cigarettes. But when she goes to the theatre to meet Scotty for their date, he tells her to “beware of the dwarf” and then dies. The next day after work Gloria is chased by an albino man and attacked in her home by a man with a scar whom she ends up stabbing with a pair of knitting needles. The events lead her to contact police officers Lt. Tony Carlson (Chevy Chase) and his partner Inspector “Fergie” Ferguson (Brian Dennehy) neither of whom believe her bizarre story. Dudley Moore is fantastic as a would-be British philanderer named Stanley Tibbets.

Head-On (also known as Gegen die Wand) (2004)-This Golden Bear winner is an absolutely riveting brilliantly realized love story about an unlikely Turkish couple with suicidal tendencies. Cahit (Birol Ünel) is a forty-year-old man whose girlfriend has abandoned him. One night after his job picking up empty bottles at a club, he decides to drive his car into a wall (“Gegen die Wand” translates to “against the wall”). Failing to kill himself he finds himself in a psychiatric hospital where his psychiatrist gives him a piece of advice: “If you want to end your life, end it. You don’t have to kill yourself to do that”. Before he leaves the hospital, he meets a young woman named Sibel who has also tried to kill herself. Sibel is insistent she get to know Cahit and the two go to a bar where Sibel attempts to strike a deal with him that they marry so she can have the freedom from her family to go out and sleep with anyone she wants.

The Good Girl (2002)- One of Jennifer Aniston’s finest performances and an excellent dark comedic script written by Mike White. Thirty-year-old Justine Last (Jennifer Aniston) is stuck. She lives in Texas and works a steady but boring job at a discount store called Retail Rodeo along with her equally bored and sardonic co-worker Cheryl (Zooey Deschanel) and devoutly religious security guard Corny (Mike White). Justine is married to pot smoking house painting husband Phil Last (John C. Reilly) and begrudgingly puts up with Phil’s creepy pot head friend Bubba (Tim Blakely). Growing increasingly bored with her mundane life Justine strikes up a friendship with a new introverted young cashier named Holden (Jake Gyllenhaal) who is obsessed with The Catcher in the Rye. Their friendship starts out well and each one seems to nurture the other’s best attributes. But though their mutual company causes their lives to improve, their friendship causes the other people in their lives to become vicious.

How to Get Ahead in Advertising (1989)- This truly original and wacky dark comedy is a must see especially for Richard E. Grant’s (as always) stellar performance. Advertising executive Denis Dimbleby Bagley has lost his mind. He cracks after trying to come up with a brilliant add for pimple cream. As his mental breakdown begins, he spies a rather large boil on his shoulder while looking in the mirror. After awhile the boil begins to take on a different and more sinister form.

My Books

You can check out my books Chicane and the first two books in my Musicology book series Musicology: Volume One, Baby!Musicology: Volume Two, Kid!, and Musicology Volume Three, Twist! on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback editions. You can also check out Musicology’s web site at www.musicologyrocks.com and vote for who you think will will Musicology!!!

STREAM OF THE WEEK- THE CENTER OF THE WORLD (2001)– Tubi

It has always perplexed me why some critics do not like this movie apart from some like Roger Ebert and Richard Roper who’s reviews I agreed with. Especially what Ebert points out about this being a story about the mind games more than the sex in his critique. But then Ebert wasn’t your average critic. It is an explicit film but a provocative one which examines the power of sex, money, and emotions with the help of two fantastic and brave actors. Richard Longman (Peter Sarsgaard) is on the brink of his IPO going public. But like many computer nerds (and incels) though he is highly intelligent he lacks the social skills he needs to meet and keep a personal relationship. Richard frequents a local café where he meets Florence (no last name) who reveals to him she is a drummer but makes her money working as a stripper. Surprised but titillated by this information Richard starts frequenting her club, buying lap dance after lap dance. Finally, on the eve of his company going public Richard, burnt out from constantly working, invites Florence to go to Las Vegas with him for a weekend. When she turns him down, Richard offers to compensate her with ten thousand dollars. But Florence quickly sees this as a business transaction. Not wanting to be viewed as a prostitute but in need of the cash, Florence writes a list of demands for the trip which Richard initially agrees with. But once in Las Vegas, a place neither of them has visited before, the lines in the sand begin to blur.

SMART MOVIES FOR SMART KIDS- BACK TO SCHOOL (1986)-Amazon Prime

This one is for the older kids. This smart funny gem stars Rodney Dangerfield as a successful millionaire businessman named Thornton Mellon, a jolly high-spirited guy who graduated from the school of hard knocks but not from college. When his disheartened son Jason (Keith Gordon) heads off to university and his wife cheats on him, Thornton gets a divorce and enrolls as a student to keep his son’s spirits up and ends up falling for his English teacher Doctor Diane Turner (Sally Kellerman) and drives his business school professor Doctor Philip Barbay (Paxton Whitehead) up the wall.  

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