Movie Watching in Quarantine

As a writer, I stay home and write. That’s the nature of the process, but when I put my photographer’s  hat on I am outside. Again, that’s the nature of the process. Covid-19 has put my photography on hold. Sure, I can do indoor photography, but my taste has usually run toward the outdoors.
These days, I’m spending more time inside than out. My writing is at its best in the early hours. Subsequently, to pass time I read, and I have been watching movies, movies and more movies.
I have been posting on Facebook a few thoughts on most and decided to share a few here.

Cape Fear

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Cape Fear one of the great thrillers from the early 60s. Robert Mitchum’s revenge-seeking crazed Max Cady is one of cinema’s great psychopaths. What makes his performance so effectively terrifying is his laid back style. He’s a relentless, vengeful, monster that would put fear in anyone’s heart. The film is a twisted tale that will keep your nails short due to all the biting you will do while sitting on the edge of your seat. Bernard Herrmann’s score is one of his best as is Mitchum’s off-kilter, heavy-lidded, sexually charged, nasty performance.

Carrie

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Brian DePalma’s Carrie is best remembered for the film’s prom night climax: the bucket filled with pig blood dropping on Carrie, the split-screen, the bursting flames of fire, and the deadly revenge filled bloodshed as the highlights in this film. True, it’s one of the most shocking of screen massacres and all-time great sequences in horror. But complementing thasequence is the sequence that comes prior to it. The tense filled scenes beginning with the collection of prom queen ballots to the tracking shot of the bucket’s cord and the fated spilling of blood onto Carrie’s hair and body. That sequence creates a slow, but tense, nail-biting buildup to the final destruction

Three Days Of the Condor

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Paranoia Strikes Deep as Buffalo Springfield once sang. Three Days of the Condor strikes deep into the heart of the CIA. Robert Redford reads books for the agency looking for ideas, plans, secret codes that may be Thembedded. He is not a field agent. So when there is a mass slaughter of his co-workers (with the hits occurring while he is literally out to lunch). Redford calls his superior and wants to be brought in from the cold. One little problem. He finds himself a target not only from the assassins but the Agency itself. Condor is one of the great paranoid thrillers of the day. Sydney Pollack was an efficient filmmaker whose crisp, no nonsense style moves the film along at a sharp pace. There are no fancy shots, and he manages to clearly explain what is sometimes a convoluted tale. Even in quiet, simple scenes like the elevator ride where Redford slowly comes to the realization that Max Van Sydow, his co-rider on the elevator is the enemy Pollack can build up suspense. I did find the love affair that ensues between Redford and Faye Dunaway lacking believability but this is a film I like watching over and over.

The Professionals

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Recently watched Richard Brooks’ classic western, The Professionals, a film that contains one of the great closing lines in cinema. Ralph Bellamy’s arrogant and lying Texas millionaire calls Lee Marvin, one of four men he hired to bring his alleged kidnapped wife back, a bastard. Marvin’s character responds “Yes sir. In my case an accident of birth. But you, you’re a self-made man.”

Photographs Over Time – Part 3

Part 3 in my series of Photographs Over Time.

Cape Elizabeth, Maine 2016-FinalCape Elizabeth Lighthouse, Maine (2016)

 

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Yellow-headed Blackbird – Yellowstone Park (2014)

 

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Atlantic Puffins – Machias Island, Maine (2007)

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Sandhill Cranes – Bosque del Apache NWR, New Mexico (2007)

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Lady Slippers (2017)

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The Palouse (2017)

Book Review: The Perfect Daughter

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I have never lived in Maine, but if you follow and read my blog posts, you know that it’s one of my favorite destinations. It’s scenic, for my photographic endeavors, and it has the inner aura of a place I’d like to live. Shepard’s Bay, a fictional coastal town in Maine, is divided. There are lifelong locals, mostly lobster fishermen and there are the wealthy newbies who are getting prime real estate to build their large new home. It’s also driving up real estate values, forcing many long-time local folks to worry about their future. It’s the type of situation where resentment can easily build up. When a wealthy teenager, Dakota James, goes missing followed by two teenage girls, life in town soon changes.

The Perfect Daughter is a twisty story of a town divided by financial status and secrets, plenty of secrets: love affairs, drugs, wild parties, jealousy, gossip, regrets, and more.

The two teen girls, Katie, from the poor side of town, and Willow, from the wealthy side, have become best friends. After Katie’s disappearance, Ilsa, Katie’s mother is in a panic. A search party is formed and two days later Katie’s found, though bruised, bloodied and with a loss of memory. But where is Willow? The local police, led by Karl, Ilsa’s high school sweetheart, is overwhelmed by this type of situation. He toughest job ususally is handing out parking tickets. Ilsa’s husband, Ray, is a drunk and rarely ever around.

As one secret is revealed, a new layer of secrecy pops up. The secrets, the twists, and turns continue throughout this multifaceted and riveting tale of small-town life on the brink. Author Joseph Souza knows how to keep you on the edge, and just when you think you have it figured out, he smacks you with another twist that leaves you misdirected and wanting for the answers.

Photographs Over Time Part 2

Part two in my series of photographs taken over time.

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Rivergate Tower aka the Beer Can Building in downtown Tampa (2015)

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Yellowstone Park (2014)

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Jenn’s Farm -Vermont (2015)

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Washington State (2018)

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Vermont Woods – (2018)

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Short Story: Social Distancing

Tad was a wild and reckless kid. We’ve known each other since middle school, hanging out many afternoons when we cut classes: smoking pot, drinking, and picking up girls. They were good times until we’d get caught. Our parents reacted in different ways to the news. Tad’s father always physically hit him. There were times he came to school with visible bruises. When the teachers questioned him, he always said he got into a fight with some kids who he refused to name. My father never hit me. Instead, he’d sermonize. No, he’s no preacher, at least not in the traditional sense. Dad would sit me down and give me what he called a good talking to or a lecture: why cutting classes is wrong, why it is wrong to lie, why it is wrong to be friends with a kid like Tad. The talks were long, lasting close to an hour each time. By the end of his sermon, I prayed he would just hit me and get it over with.

As time passed, I became more responsible: graduated high school, went to college, and got a good job. I guess my father’s sermon’s sunk in; I did not want to jeopardize my future by having a bad reputation that would follow me through the years. Tad didn’t give a damn. He barely graduated from high school. Had one low-paying job after another, none of which lasted long. Through it all we remained best friends, though he thought I became a flaming pussy. Afraid to take chances I wasn’t, I just grew up and learned that many of those chances were not worth taking, like sleeping with your best friend’s wife. Technically, Jenny wasn’t my wife at the time; we were engaged. Tad later said that still made her available.

Jenny and I married. I didn’t know about their hooking up at the time. Neither of them ever mentioned it. After Jenny and I divorced ten years later, Tad assumed it was okay to tell me about it since Jenny and I no longer were husband and wife.

I never forgave him.

I finally understood what my father told me at the end of all those lengthy sermons which he always finished by saying, “Tad’s a jerk.” That he was. Still, we remained friends. Don’t ask me why? I don’t think I can explain why.

Jerks! There are plenty of jerks around these days. Stupid may be a better word, and unlike COVID19 when someday there will be a cure. There will never be a cure for stupid. After being caged up in his apartment for more than a month, Tad couldn’t take it any longer and decided he needed to get some beach time in now that the county reopened the beaches.

“Tad, I don’t think it’s a great idea, going to the beach,” I said. “There will be hundreds of people there and who knows who is carrying the virus.”

“Hey man, we live in Florida! The beach is what we live for, Sand and surf, watching women strolling along in bikinis, fishing, watching women hanging out in bikinis, what could be better?”

“It’s reckless!”

“All these years and you’re still a flaming pussy.”

“People are not going to social distance.”

“The sun and heat kill the germs.”

“Tad, there is no proof of that.”

“The President wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t true.”

“Listen to the scientist and doctors. You’re better off.”

“You’re coming with me, my friend.”

“No, I’m not.”

Tad laughed. “Fine, I’ll go myself. Sit in your apartment all day, every day, doing whatever you do. I can’t take it anymore. No one in our lifetime has ever had to sacrifice like we’re doing now. This is America, man, we have rights, and we have the freedom to do what we want.”

“You make it sound like staying home is the biggest sacrifice ever. How about the people who went through the years of the Great Depression, World War

i and II? And what about Anne Frank and her family who hid from the Nazis for over two years? No sun, no rain, they couldn’t see the sky or the grass.  All we have to do is stay home and watch Netflix, and you can’t do it!”

“That’s all bullshit; this is not a war. And we have our rights.”

“Oh yes, it is a war, and we will lose it, or at least those of us who are reckless enough will lose it. Freedom doesn’t mean you can be reckless and get other people sick and die!”

Tad didn’t pay attention. He called me a drama queen and went to the beach.

That night on TV they showed the crowds on the newly opened beach, hundreds, if not thousands, of people. There was no room for social distancing, even if you wanted to observe it. Tad made it on the news that night. As the local news commentator spoke and the camera scanned the crowded beach, there stood Tad next to this beautiful blonde in a skimpy bikini. They were part of the crowd in the background cramped together with other beachgoers, Tad, the blonde and everyone waving at the camera attempting to get their one moment of TV fame. Less than a minute later, as the commentator wrapped up the segment, Tad and the blonde were hugging and kissing each other as the surrounding crowd egged them on, and giving each other hi-fives.

Tad told me the next day over the phone, since I refused now to see him in person, that her name was Sandy; they met that day. Like Tad, Sandy loved the beach.

That was the last time I spoke to Tad. His father called me a few weeks later; he was crying. Tad was dead from COVID 19.

Copyrighted 2020 by John Greco

You can find more of my short stories at Amazon.

Photographs Over Time

I have been sharing photographs on Facebook over the past few weeks, hoping to bring a small ray of happiness during troubling times. Posted below are some of my works taken over time.

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Orca Sunset – Washington State

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Fox – South Beach, San Juan Islands

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Yellowstone Park (2014)

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Little Blue Heron – Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, Naples, Fl. (2015)

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Skagit River – Washington State (2018)

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Maple Syrup – Vermont (2015)

Real Life Authors as Characters on Screen

I recently watched a couple of films that featured real life authors as characters on screen. There was Hammett (Dashiell) about the Pinkerton detective and author of The Maltese Falcon and other crime classics. Not long after, I watched the 1979 movie, Agatha, starring Vanessa Redgrave as the famed author. This got me wondering about other authors whose story made it to the big screen. Quite a few as it turns out. Here are some I came up with. This is not a complete list so feel free to add!

Agatha Christie made it on film three times so far, with a fourth film in the works. Only one film though made it to the big screen. Vanessa Redgrave starred as Ms. Christie in the 1979 film Agatha. The movie is a fictional take on Ms. Christie’s eleven day disappearance which to this day has never been explained. Dustin Hoffman plays a fictional American reporter on her trail. Read more here.

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In 2018, our British cousins produced an authorized fictional story called Agatha and the Truth of Murder (now available on Netflix). A second MTM, Agatha and the Curse of Ishtar was made by the same folks in 2019. A third film, Agatha and the Midnight Murders recently completed production.

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Sir Arthur Conan Doyle appeared in quite a few MTM productions and TV shows, too many to list. That said, Actors David Warner played  Doyle in Houdini a 1998 MTM, and David Calder portrayed Holmes creator in a 2014 miniseries also called Houdini.

Philip Seymour Hoffman portrayed Truman Capote and Catherine Keener played Harper Lee in Capote (2005). One year later came Infamous with Toby Jones as  Truman Capote and Sandra Bullock as Harper Lee. Both films focused on the period when Capote, and Lee as his assistant, were researching his non-fiction novel, In Cold Blood.

Elle Fanning portrayed Frankenstein creator Mary Shelley in Mary Shelley (2017)

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Sam Spade and Nick and Nora Charles creator, Dashiell Hammett, made it to the big screen with Frederic Forest in the title role. You can read an article I wrote on the author and film Hammett here.

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Poet, novelist and short story writer, the man Time magazine called the “laureate of American lowlife,” Charles Bukowski is portrayed by Mickey Rourke in the 1997 film, Barfly. In the film, written by Bukowski, the author is given the alter-ego named of Hank Chinaski.

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In 2018, Keira Knightly portrayed French author Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, known more simply as Colette.

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James Franco starred as Beat Poet Allan Ginsberg in the 2010 film Howl. Also portrayed in the film are Jack Kerouac (Todd Rotondi),  Neal Cassady (Jon Prescott), Peter Orlovsky (Peter Tveit), Lawrence Ferlinghetti (Andrew Rogers)

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Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady were back in the 1980 film Heart Beat. John Heard and Nick Nolte starred as the authors with Sissy Spacek as Carolyn Cassady.

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Book Review and Interview: Hitchcock’s California

Book Review and interview with photographer Robert Jones on the new book, “Hitchcock’s California: Vista Visions From the Camera Eye.”

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Photographer Robert Jones, along with film writer Dan Auiler (author of Vertigo: The Making of a Hitchcock Classic), and photographer Aimee Sinclair have compiled a stunning new book called Hitchcock’s California: Vista Visions from the Camera Eye.Years in the making, the book includes an informative and fascinating introduction by actor Bruce Dern and an afterward by Dorothy Herrmann, daughter of the late composer Bernard Herrmann. One of the highlights of the Dern introduction is when the actor writes about an absorbing short conversation that happened after he introduced Hitchcock to fellow film director, John Frankenheimer. For me, that short exchange that ensued is worth the admission.

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Book Review: And Then We Vanish

And Then

In his first collection of short stories, D.H. Schleicher’s And Then We Vanish gives us an intriguing assortment of 11 tales accumulated over a ten year period. Each story ends with a twist, many of which you will not see coming. In each tale, people’s lives change, not always for the better. “When Night Falls on Niagara,” one of my favorites is both a whimsical and mysterious tale and will make you wonder what’s real and not real about one of America’s most famous landmarks. Another gem, “Upon the Unfortunate News of My Death,” deals with modern-day social media. How spreading rumors and misinformation can so easily change lives. “Anthrax and Cherry Blossoms,” “Somebody You Use to Know,” “Boko Harem’s Greatest Hits” are a few more of my top picks. Schleicher has a style that draws you in and makes you care about each of his characters. There is both humor and chills.  And Then We Vanish is available at Amazon.