I saw It On Netflix: All My Friends Are Funeral Singers

I saw It On Netflix: All My Friends Are Funeral Singers

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This is a bitter-sweet movie. It engaged me early and didn’t wait too long, as most films of this nature do, to let me in on its secrets, to make me an insider. Keeping me an outsider is just annoying. On the other hand, once I’m in how can it continue to hold on to me? Rod Serling might have been right to keep his supernatural stuff in a half hour format. This genre usually has one trick and once the Genie’s out of the bottle, the rabbit’s out of the hat, the Dracula’s out of his casket, The monster’s alive, ALIVE!-well you get the idea.

Zel, the protagonist, actually has psychic powers (or does she?). She is a psychic living in a house filled with ghosts. They are not unfriendly ghosts nor are they ghosts Zel imagines, but real ghosts who live in the rooms of her house. She spreads salt at the threshold of her bedroom to keep them out. Keep that in mind when you’re going to bed tonight. Once that one idea is out in the open the film drifts into nothingness searching for a subplot. Here are some of them.

1. With the help of a child ghost she is able to predict the outcome of horse races.  A client uses this information to buy himself a hideous suit.

2. She channels a client’s dead husband (and cures her headache) with the help of the child ghost.

3. The ghosts want to leave but can’t, and they blame Zel.

4. She loves the ghosts and wants them to stay.

5. Her grandmother is the one who trapped the ghosts in the house because she was lonely.

6. The child ghost is Zel’s mother (you figure that one out).

 Even with all of that the movie is enjoyable and the actors believable until the filmmakers lose their way and decide handheld camera is the way to go during scenes of noisy chaos and confusion. Cinema Verite (disambiguation) the French documentary technique, widely adopted by documentarians everywhere, is fine for documentaries. This film is not a documentary. There is no sensible reason for the camera to become one of the characters and start acting like one of the trapped ghosts.  We are not lead to believe we are seeing things through the eyes of one of the characters or through their mental state, the camera merely starts swooshing and bobbing as though the viewer was suddenly drunk. You want me to think I’m drunk buy me a drink. It would be the polite thing to do.

 

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I Saw It On Netflix: Raising Flagg

I Saw It On Netflix: Raising Flagg

Raising_FlaggI don’t remember what I first saw Alan Arkin in. It might have been Catch-22 (if he was in that) or, more likely, The In-Laws. He always plays the same guy as far as I can tell. A narrowly competent someone or another, who understands the world to be a small thing (dentistry, as in The In-Laws, handyman here) and behaves accordingly. Alan Arkin has been playing a slacker since before the category existed. In other words, he’s good at what he’s good at and oblivious to everything else. In this film he’s a handyman (as stated) who people put up with despite his lack of social graces. Here he takes it to a new level. When the town turns against him for suing his friend Gus, someone everyone likes, Flagg Purdy’s life begins to come apart.
His answer is to take to his bed. What actor in his right mind would agree to play a part where he is flat on his back, covered to his chin, for 40% of the movie? The answer is obvious: Alan Arkin. What actor could make something of it? The answer is obvious: Alan Arkin. Flagg wakes up one morning and can’t get out of bed. When he claims to be cold his wife, Ada, reaches under the blanket, touches his leg, and tells him he doesn’t feel cold. He informs her it’s his bones that are cold. It’s a sign that he’s dying. A Purdy’s bones always get cold when they’re dying. The family, and the few neighbors that still like him, gather. He’s giving away worldly possessions. Even things that don’t belong to him. His wife takes to wearing everything she owns, layered on her, at the same time, so that he can’t give any of it away.
This is a room full of competent actors. No one is stealing scenes or emoting all over everyone else’s shoes. They’re playing the characters as real people. People who other people, actual people, like you or me, might want to know. If this is your kind of indie you’ll like this and you’ll get a kick out of the lesson of Flagg’s `dying’.
It has some of the problems of indie movies in general. It’s not lit like a Hollywood movie, it’s not cut like a Hollywood movie. It’s not a Hollywood movie. Wait. Did I say problems? I meant strengths.

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Video Wednesday: 5X5 Five 5 Second Clips That Tell a Story

Project video for 5×5 01.08.2012
The challenge here is to find beauty in the mundane. Your day-to-day might seem boring to you, but I can assure you there is beauty in it — in your breakfast routine, commute to work, 8am biology class, lunch hour, trip to the gym, or bedtime ritual. Capture the fascinating tiny details you always notice, or the special things that make you smile. You might take these quotidian moments for granted, but sooner or later they’ll change and you’ll have a new daily grind. Wouldn’t it be nice to remember today’s grind later on?

Almost A Poem

toilet flush ×
electric toothbrush ×
espresso maker ×
cute dog ×

umm-beer ×

Have A Happy…

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Video Wednesday: The Woman Who Lived Her Life Inside Out

Spoken verse, Poetry. Woman’s love and her understanding of life. She is too open, too accepting, too easily hurt by careless people.

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Ron Felber, author of A Man Of Indeterminate Value.

We RonFelberheadshotsm‘re talking today with Ron Felber, author of A Man Of Indeterminate Value.

Question:  A Man of Indeterminate Value is the first novel in a planned trilogy featuring Jack Madson. What makes Madson tick?

Ron Felber:
Jack Madson is a classic protagonist locked in the myth of the American Dream. He worked his way into a prestigious university, and landed a job at NuGen, a hyper-aggressive Wall Street firm that specializes in buying and gutting moderately successful American manufacturing companies, later purchased by deep-pocket Asian conglomerates at eight-times their value.

But his life is still out of whack. Jack’s marriage has degenerated into an orgy of hate. His father-in-law despises him, and he is hopelessly in debt because of his wife’s profligate spending.

While Madson detests the hypocrisy of NuGen, he eventually finds himself as jaded as they, when he starts selling the intellectual property of the companies NuGen buys to the Chinese criminal Triads.

Question: How does Jack Madson’s background impact his thinking and his actions?

Ron Felber:  Because Madson blindly follows the premise of 21st Century America’s culture which is that money and happiness equate, every action he takes to free himself from the web of debt, compromise, drugs, booze, and climbing the ladder of success, has the exact opposite effect of entangling him more deeply.

Jack wants out, but his solution – faking his own death – only takes him deeper into the underbelly of the American Dream, prowling the darkest corners of “the empire in decline.”

Question:  How much of your own life is reflected in A Man of Indeterminate Value?

Ron Felber:  In writing the non-fiction biography Il Dottore, I got very close to former mafia chieftain Bill Bonanno, who in a reincarnation became a successful author. He told me to “write about what you know.”

Business is certainly something I know about. I have been CEO of a large and successful manufacturing company for more than fifteen years. I also understand the criminal mind. I transported federal criminals for three years after graduating college. I also know about boxing and marshal arts. I fought Golden Gloves and hold a blue belt in jiu jitsu. So these areas – along with going to school in Newark, New Jersey’s inner city – all have something to do with Jack Madson.

On the other hand, I’ve never stolen trade secrets or faked my death. Unlike Madson, I have been happily married for many years and have three great kids. While I occasionally travel to Mexico, it is never to engage in mortal combat with members of a drug cartel or to collect $2.5 million in stolen money.

Question: As CEO of a company, how does your background impact your writing?

Ron Felber: A Man of Indeterminate Value is a special and exciting genre of crime fiction that you can call the “business thriller.” Much of the novel’s background regarding business represents my views on the state of American corporations and their blasé attitude toward dismantling the U.S. manufacturing base, something I believe is vital to the country’s future.

Question: How real is corporate spying?

Ron Felber: Very real. It is the untold story of our generation. In my career, I’ve twice been involved in thwarting thefts that brought in the FBI, and that was here in the United States. The degree of technology theft West-to-East over the past fifteen years has literally changed the balance of financial power in the world.

Question: Do you have a special routine when writing?

Ron Felber: Discipline. I write during long plane flights to the West Coast, Europe, and Asia. Often, I wake up at 4 am to work on weekends when it’s quiet and my forced isolation doesn’t annoy anyone. Remember, I have a family.

Question:
Who is the audience for this book?

Ron Felber: Anyone who likes a fast-paced, gutsy book that grabs you by the lapels with it’s opening paragraph. I’m proud of the fact that it’s not just a story. There is real and, I believe, important social commentary that makes this novel more ambitious than most, along with the fact that it explores territory previously uncharted in crime fiction. It breaks new ground.

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Available from Amazon

Ron’s Web site: www.ronfelber.com

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Keys to a Spiritually Based Life: Book Trailer

Keys to a Spiritually Based Life: Book Trailer from Joseph Valentinetti on Vimeo.

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It Could Be Worse: Chicken Fried Steak and NPR

My brother and me get together once a year or so. For some reason we don’t go to each others homes but we meet somewhere. It’s a long story. It involves places like Little Rock, Milwaukee, Palm Springs, Chicago and others. This time it was Phoenix. I dropped him at the airport just short of 7 am and wanted to run up some miles before stopping for coffee or something to eat. There was a wind storm today. The desert usually has a breeze but today the wind was predicted to be 60 mph: hurricane strength. It started early and buffeted the car like a dame being slapped, front-hand-back-hand, by some tough guy wearing a fedora, in a 1940’s black and white. After a couple of hours of that I had to pull off.

That’s how I wound up in Quartzsite. There are two Quartzsite exits. I took the first. I like the business loops off the main road that go through towns like this. I’m always looking for a non-chain place. What used to be called a mom & pop. The kind of place that has almost disappeared, or have slipped further back inside towns where they can’t be as easily gobbled up by the chains. They’re predictable, they’re cleaned up and presentable but the chrome edging on the counter doesn’t shine up like it use to and the paint on the walls is far from fresh. Some of the booth seats are repaired with Mystic tape and the smell of thousands of meals and thousands of people linger in a pleasant way, a way no chain can match.

      I sat at the counter and ordered the usual, chicken fried steak and eggs, rye toast. Four men sat in the last booth along the wall not far from me. They talked the way small town men talk to each other; with a wry modesty. I’ve heard it in many places. Restaurants like this, cafes, VFWs. It might go like this. One will ask the other what they got this year and the other will answer, a little beans, a little corn. That can mean a single row or thousands of acres. The answer comes with a slight smile, a slow blink of the eyes-the modesty I mentioned. A fifth man came in and sat at the last counter seat facing the booth.

                What’re you havin’ here today? he asked.

                A meeting of the minds, one of the men said.

                Don’t look to me like there’s any minds to meet, chuckling to himself.

                They ignored him so he turned to the waitress, who had come for his order, and said. Don’t look like there’s any minds to meet, he repeated.

                Coffee? she replied.

                One of the four men, a tall scarecrow of man with an Adam’s apple that had the shape and texture of a peach pit, stood up and put $2.00 under his empty cup.

                Better put some rocks in your pockets, Henry. It’s windy out there, the waitress said.

                Big surprise today, the ignored man said. He was dressed a peg or two better than the booth crowd, not more respectable just less like he labored for a living. He carried a tablet computer crammed full of paper notes. He could have been the mayor, an academic or a newsman. Big surprise, he said again.

The men from the booth looked at him but nobody asked him what the big surprise was, they just looked at him, unwilling to help him off the hook he snared himself on. Finally he looked at me through his thick oval glasses and I looked at my coffee. It needed my attention.

                Big surprise, he said again. NPR’s coming here.

                Finally one of the booth men asked, Coming where?

                Right Here! he declared, pointing down to the ground that lay between him and them. Right here today!

                What do they want?

                They want to know what we do in the summer around here. It’s publicity for our town. He studied the men in the booth, then asked. What’ll you say? What are you going to tell them?

                I’m leaving, one said. Got to get back to work. These two hour breakfasts cut into my day something awful.

                Another made the universally recognized gesture for masturbation, including a bright toothsome grin and a sparkle in his eye.

                I hope you don’t do that. It’s a woman that coming. The tablet man said. He turned on his stool and pleaded with the waitress. I hope he don’t do that. It’s a female reporter.

                More coffee? she asked him.

Maybe when you go NPR won’t be about to show up but the foods good and the staff are nice people. It’s called Times Three Family Restaurant. Quartzsite Az.

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