Sunday, February 14, 2016

Catching Up.....

Some odds and ends......

In anticipation of the movie, "The Maltese Falcon" being shown in local movie theaters later this month as part of the TCM/Fathom Events series, I decided that I would reread the classic Dashiell Hammett novel upon which it is based.  I know that I read this book sometime during my college years, and I have seen the movie many, many times since, so I thought that taking another look at the original would be worth my time, and it was.

"The Maltese Falcon" was published in 1929, and the novel and its main character, private eye Sam Spade, are considered the proto-types of the hard-boiled detective story genre.  The famous 1941 movie version stays fairly true to the novel (although Hammett's Spade looks nothing like Humphrey Bogart), and while the movie hints about sexual goings on between Spade and Iva Archer, and Spade and Brigid O'Shaughnessy, the book comes right out and tells you, although not in any graphic manner.

The book is considered a classic, and it is if for no other reason that the way that Hammett could write.  A couple of examples:  

A description of Iva Archer: "She was a blonde woman of a few more years than thirty.  Her facial prettiness was perhaps five years past its best moment."

A description of Spade during a meeting with Brigid: "He stood beside the fireplace and looked at her with eyes that studied, weighted, judged her without pretense that they were not studying, weighing, judging her."

And a quote from Casper Gutman talking to Spade: "This is actual money, genuine coin of the realm, sir. With a dollar of this you can buy more than ten dollars worth of talk."

The book is full of great writing like this.  Well worth reading.


As a prelude to watching the Super Bowl last Sunday afternoon, we took ourselves to the movies to see the newest from the Coen Brothers, "Hail, Caesar", and, sorry to say, we were disappointed.

Like all Coen Brothers films, this one had some great acting performances from a talented cast, some quirky and funny dialog, and was beautiful to look at. Unfortunately, the whole was not as good as the sum of the parts.

Two stars from The Grandstander on this one.


Speaking of books, "Breakdown" is the latest release from Jonathan Kellerman that features his main series characters, psychologist Dr. Alex Delaware and his police detective friend, Lt. Milo Sturgis.

Kellerman has written over two dozen of these Delaware novels, and perhaps he has lost a little something off of his fastball, but the stories are still engrossing and make for quick and entertaining reading.  I also think that Kellerman writes absolutely terrific dialog, perhaps the best of any of the popular novelists that I read.


I have been giving a couple of new television series a look-see.

The first is "Outsiders" that airs on WGN America.  It is the story of an off-the grid clan who have lived on a mountain top in Kentucky for generations.  Trouble is, the family, the Farrells, do not own the land, a giant coal company does, and they want to mine the land, and the local authorities now have to evict the hillbilly Farrells off of the mountain, and the Farrells, let us say, do not plan to go gently into the good night.

Normally, this is not the kind of show that I would watch, but I am drawn to it because a young man, Billy Hepfinger, whom Marilyn and I have known, literally, since he was a baby, has a fairly significant supporting part in the series, so I think that I am going to stick this one out for its thirteen week run.

Not so for FX's "The People vs OJ: An American Crime Story".  As the title suggests, this is all about the arrest and trial of OJ Simpson for the murder of his ex-wife, Nicole, and her companion, Ron Goldman.  I have watched the first two episodes of this ten week series, and I think that that is about enough.  Cuba Gooding as OJ Simpson doesn't quite wash with me and the characterizations of two of the principal parts are terrible. A woman named Sarah Paulson, with whom I am not familiar, plays prosecutor Marcia Clark so shrilly as the stereotypical put-upon-female-in-a-man's-world, that it's just hard to watch.  

Paulson, however looks like Meryl Streep and Katherine Hepburn rolled into one compared to John Travolta's Robert Shapiro.  I'm not sure quite how to describe Travolta's performance here, other than to say....well, I'm not sure how to say it.  It's bad.

I may look on this one from time to time over the next few weeks, but it is not appointment TV for me, and I have taken it off of my DVR schedule.

Pirates pitcher and catchers report this week for Spring Training, and in its preview story this morning, the Post-Gazette actually included the name of Pedro Florimon.  To which I say, Are you kidding me?

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