Sunday, October 30, 2011

Howling at the Moon

Recommended Halloween viewing:  THE WOLFMAN (2010), a masterful version of the werewolf myth rendered in classic Hollywood style by director Joe Johnston.  Ominous, painterly, full of bravura action sequences and subtle, seething passions, the movie is a gorgeous period piece, set in England in 1891. The leads, Benicio Del Toro and Emily Blunt, give pitch-perfect performances with sizzling on-screen chemistry.  Anthony Hopkins is perfectly cast as Benicio's eccentric, willful father, presiding over a fog-laden, decaying country estate. Lush sets and art direction, dark and moody, yet vividly evocative, bring the period and the performances dramatically to life.  Danny Elfman works his usual magic with a brilliant, brooding score, and Shelly Johnson's cinematography is nothing less than breathtaking.

An overlooked masterpiece--miss it at your own peril!

Saturday, October 29, 2011


My friend and manager Ken Atchity is in Rome for the premiere of his movie HYSTERIA at the Rome International Film Festival.  Starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, Hugh Dancy, Jonathan Price, Rupert Everett,and Felicity Jones, HYSTERIA is a romantic comedy about the invention of the vibrator in Victorian England.  Ken is executive producer.

UPDATE 10/30:  Ken reports film was very well received, with a standing ovation!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


A passage from Neal Stephenson’s new book:
Neither of these men had much in the way of formal education, since each had decided, during his late teens, to simply go out into the world and begin doing something. And each of them had found his way from there, sometimes with good and sometimes with bad results. Consequently, neither had much in the way of money or prestige. But each had a kind of confidence about him that was not often found in young men who had followed the recommended path through high school to college and postgraduate training. If she had wanted to be cruel or catty about it, Zula might have likened those meticulously groomed boys to overgrown fetuses, waiting endlessly to be born. Which was absolutely fine given that the universities were well stocked with fetal women. But perhaps because of her background in refugee camps and the premature death of her mother, she could not bring herself to be interested in those men. This quality that she had seen in Peter and now saw in Csongor was — and she flinched from the word, but there seemed little point in trying to distance herself from it through layers of self-conscious irony — masculine.

Friday, October 14, 2011


"Never has a man, a moment, and a movement come together like this."
Ed Driscoll

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick

Here's a shout out for my friend Joe Schreiber, a prolific and talented thriller and horror author, whose new 'young adult' novel comes out October 25th.  Starred review in Publisher's Weekly and movie rights to Paramount. I'd order it based on the title alone, but if that doesn't do it for you, get a load of this:

Sunday, October 9, 2011

New Faster-than-Light Theory Must be a Joke

Einstein Albert
"We don't allow faster-than-light neutrinos in here," says the bartender.  A neutrino walks into a bar.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


"Amid the tornadoed Atlantic of my being, do I myself still for ever centrally disport in mute calm; and while ponderous planets of unwaning woe revolve round me, deep down and deep inland there I still bathe me in eternal mildness of joy."
--Herman Melville

The Silent Service

Another addition to my research on courage. In his Spectator review of Tim Clayton's Sea Wolves, James Delingpole describes the risks taken by British submariners in WWII:
Of all the Allied fighting service branches in which you wouldn’t have wanted to spend the second world war, probably the grimmest was submarines. Sure, their losses weren’t quite as bad as the German U-boat fleet, where your chances of being killed were four in five. But in the course of the war about one third of British submariners lost their lives; and in the earlier years your chances of coming back from a mission alive were no more than 50/50.

Bomber crews, of course, had to face similarly grim odds. But at least they got back home to clean sheets, a hot shower, a beer and a fag or two. On subs a patrol meant at the very least a fortnight in a foetid, claustrophic hell of cramped, shared bunks and rank air sometimes poisoned with chlorine gas, your clothes perpetually damp and stained with oil, with no water to wash with, increasingly rotten food, and the constant, nagging fear that at any second you could die one of the most horrible deaths imaginable.

Depth-chargings were the worst. You could hear the propellers of the destroyer thrumming louder and louder above you. Then came the agonising wait. The enemy knew your position but not your depth, so your survival depended on how deep they set the various charges to explode. Even a miss was pretty traumatic: the noise, said one captain, was like being ‘in a 15-inch turret standing between the guns when the guns go off.’ The interior of the boat would become a fantastic blur of shaking as paint shredded off the bulkheads and lights smashed. Then you’d hear rivets popping and the hull groaning ominously and you’d wonder whether or not you were about to burst at the seams.

(Click to Enlarge)
Though the second-world-war subs were equipped with an escape hatch, your Davis Submerged Escape Apparatus took ages to put on and was only effective at depths of less than 100 feet (though someone did once survive an escape at 171 feet below). More likely, if your sub was damaged, you’d end up being torn apart as it sank to the bottom and imploded. When the Italian destroyer Circe depth-charged P38 in the Med, it knew it had scored a hit from what rose to the surface: first bubbles and oil; later, ‘a polished cupboard door, a table top, a bag of flags, a human lung’.

So what on earth possessed these sub-mariners to do it? Though it’s a myth that they were all volunteers, the majority of them were drawn to the Silent Service partly by its elitist mystique, partly by its much higher pay (a little less than double the ordinary mariner’s rate) and partly by its independence.
 Lieutenant Commander George Phillips and the crew of the submarine HMS Ursula
An ambitious officer could find himself with his own command at just 28 (and by 35 you were considered past it), while crews relished the cameraderie and the unstuffiness. Discipline was adamantine, because the slightest mistake by one man could destroy an entire crew. But there was no space for the vile bullying or rank snobbery you still often found on capital ships. Submariners relished their piratical raffishness, returning to port after successful patrols by flying the Jolly Roger.

Whether they lived or died was dependent above all on the skill and nerve of their CO. A submarine was only as good as the tonnage it sank, and torpedoing a ship required verve and daring bordering on the suicidal. Commanders who failed to close and kill were quickly replaced: it wasn’t a job for the squeamish. German U-boats may have machine-gunned the crews of ships they’d just sunk but so, on occasion, did British submariners. This was a war of attrition and there is little space for prisoners on a sub.

Was it all worth it? In his gripping history Sea Wolves, Tim Clayton argues that it was. He cites the claim, by Rommel’s chief- of-staff Fritz Bayerlain, that it was British subs which really defeated the Afrika Korps by destroying so many of their supply ships. But this was achieved at the cost of 42 per cent of British submarines lost in the Med alone. Many of these young men’s lives, it’s clear, were simply thrown away by a naval establishment which never quite understood the point of subs. Their radios and guns were poor; their supply of torpedoes pitiful; and the missions they were sent on sometimes suicidal, especially in the Baltic, in the summer, where the near 24-hour daylight made it impossible to surface safely by night and recharge their batteries. Perhaps the pride of being in the Submarine Service was the only real recompense.