Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Thoughts on seeing "Jaws" on the big screen

It's no secret to anyone who knows me well that Jaws is one of my favorite movies. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it's pretty much a perfect film. It's got a well-balanced three-act structure, a compelling story, deftly sketched characters, and excellent acting. Plus it's damned entertaining and still scary after all these years.

I got the chance to see it on the big screen for the first time ever, and it was a wonderful experience. Much as I love movies on DVD/Blu-Ray in the privacy of my own home, there's no substitute for seeing a film with an appreciative audience. (The audience at the showing of Jaws was particularly good, applauding at the famous "You're gonna need a bigger boat" line and respectfully awed at the Indianapolis monologue.)

If you're at all a fan of the film, you should seek out one of these 40th Anniversary showings put on by Fathom Events. In the meantime, here is my review of it from my book A Nerd Girl's Guide To Cinema:

I try not to throw around the words “masterpiece” or “perfection” too often, but I really have to use them when I talk about Jaws. Everything about it just works so well. The terror it instills in the audience. The three-act dramatic structure. The performances, especially by the three leads. John Williams’ famous score. I could go on and on. And it’s still being ripped off and paid homage to more than thirty years after its release.Jaws is one of those movies that is so embedded in the American culture that even people who haven’t seen it know the basics, but here goes. A great white shark decides to make the New England island of Amity his lunch buffet, his first victim being an unlucky skinny-dipper. Water-phobic sheriff Brody (Roy Scheider in an underrated performance), a New York City √©migr√© who’s still settling into his role as Amity’s leading lawman, wants to close the beaches but the mayor (odious Murray Hamilton), who’s thinking only of the dollars the summer tourists bring in, won’t have it. More deaths happen, and it’s up to Brody along with ichthyologist Hooper (hyper Richard Dreyfuss) and fisherman/shark hunter Quint (Robert Shaw) head out to sea to kill the shark.It’s hard to pinpoint what makes Jaws so effective after all these years. Certainly there’s the unease all of us have, consciously or not, at being in the ocean where we are (literally) out of our element. The ocean is big, its motion is out of our control, and most of the time you can’t see what’s around you. There really is no way to know what’s swimming just beyond you or beneath you. And it’s not easy to escape it, as the scene of panicked beach-goers fleeing the water demonstrates: people flounder, get knocked over, and no matter how fast they move they’re no match for the predator that’s after them.
That’s a major factor, but what really makes Jaws work is how real it feels. If the movie was made today, the beaches of Amity would be packed with pretty hardbodies. But the beaches of Jaws are full of ordinary people. Families, people of every age and variety, from the partiers in the opening scene to the wannabe landscape painter who sees the shark in the estuary. They’re people just like us and we identify with them.
Of the shark-hunting trio, it’s Brody we meet first, and though he’s the least entertaining of the three, he’s the one we relate to. He’s a man who’s decent — even honorable. He’s left crime-ridden New York City behind and, despite his deep fear of the water (notice during the second shark attack scene, he runs down to the water but doesn’t get his feet wet) has moved to an island to give his wife and children a better life. He’s “not an Islander” and is still finding his way among the town’s petty politics; it’s not his fault that the beaches aren’t closed and more deaths occur, but as a lawman he feels responsible. And when his own son has a narrow escape from the shark it’s his duty not just as a lawman but as a father to help find and kill the shark. Always an underrated actor, Scheider gives an excellent performance, particularly when the action moves to Quint’s boat and he is completely (and literally of course) in over his head, relegated to “chum duty” because he doesn’t know which rope to pull. Probably his best acting moment is during a night-time attack by the shark when Brody draws his handgun and wears a look of fear as he realizes that the weapon that may have served him in the past will do no good.
Fear and bravery are two themes that come up often during the movie’s third act, from Brody’s last stand against the shark to Hooper’s descent into the shark cage. Throughout the shark hunt scenes we’ve seen Hooper’s boyish enthusiasm over the shark become increasingly manic in response to the “arrr, I don’t need a city boy on me ship” taunts from Quint. (It’s interesting that Quint never taunts Brody but rather treats him with a sort of benign pity.) But all of Hooper’s bluster goes away when he’s ready to go into the shark cage, and is unable to spit into his mask because the fear reaction has dried up his saliva. Likewise, all of Quint’s “here’s to swimmin’ with bow-legged women” banter goes away, first when he gives his haunting monologue about the USS Indianapolis, then when he realizes that of the hundreds of sharks he’s hunted, this one may be his match.
Today’s blockbusters are so big, so loud, so focused on the next big thrill that they’ve forgotten how to tell stories and get audience members involved. Jaws could be made again. Yes, the shark would look better. But the soul of the movie — ordinary people against the terrors the deep can hold — would be lost. If you need your faith in the power of cinema restored, watch Jaws again.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Limited-time offer - Ashes (Ashes #1) ebook is FREE

Yes, that's true. For a limited time, the ebook of Ashes, book 1 in my two-book suspense series, is available for FREE.

You can download it at:

Barnes and Noble

Happy reading!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Review: Mad Max - Fury Road

Shiny and chrome! My review of the decidedly NOT MEDIOCRE Mad Max - Fury Road is up at Horrorview.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Monday, April 27, 2015

Editor problems

There is a bus bench I pass every time I take my kid to school. It has an ad on it, for some sort of escrow/property management business.

This ad is so wordy and full of Random Capitalizations and multiple exclamation points!!!! that I'm getting perilously close to bringing a red Sharpie with me next time and marking it up.

I'd get busted for vandalism, but the sign would be grammatically correct.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Today's mood

Interview at To Read Or Not To Read

There's an interview with me over at the To Read Or Not To Read blog, where I talk about Undertow and what my favorite nerdy thing is. Check it out!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Friday, April 10, 2015

Book recommendation: If I Go by Diane Molberg

If you enjoy coming-of-age novels with well-written characters, may I recommend If I Go by Diane Molberg?

Here's my review from the book's Amazon page:

Diane Molberg's debut novel is an excellent coming-of-age story, reminiscent of Larry McMurtry's The Last Picture Show. Young Buck Malone wants to be a writer, an ambition his friends don't understand and his family doesn't support. One night, in the local drugstore, he sees a woman who's been beaten; she is Pauline, and soon she and Buck enter into a relationship that will change both of their lives, and the lives of Buck's friends Lorrie and Ray.

Molberg has a deep understanding of her characters, who are always engaging and sympathetic even when they flounder looking for direction in their lives; she has a deft way with location as well, taking the reader from a small Colorado town that's airy yet stifling to the fog-shrouded hills and smoky jazz clubs of San Francisco.

Highly recommended!

If I Go is available in both print and ebook.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Kelly's Big Score: V is for Vintage Edition

Well, today I went to the Los Angeles Vintage Paperback Collectors Show, and I may have bought a few too many books. I know you're all shocked at this turn of events.

I found some excellent treasures as well as some interesting oddities. Probably my biggest coup was finding ten (count 'em, TEN) more books in Donald Hamilton's Matt Helm series. This excellent spy series is out of print and books can be fairly difficult to find, so I'm particularly pleased.

The total haul consists of:

Donald Hamilton - The Terminators, The Detanators, The Menacers, The Intriguers, The Betrayers, The Poisoners, The Shadowers, The Devastators, The Ravagers, The Ambushers, Assassins Have Starry Eyes, Murder Twice Told, Line of Fire

Fredric Brown - The Screaming Mimi

Harlan Ellison - Paingod, Ellison Wonderland

Jeffrey Konvitz - The Sentinel

William Goldman - The Temple of Gold, No Way to Treat a Lady

Cornel Woolrich - The Bride Wore Black

Hugh Zachary - Gwen In Green

Gimone Hall - Witch's Suckling

Chelsea Quinn Yarbro - Dead and Buried

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Calling all fans of musty old paperbacks...

Do you like vintage paperbacks? I know I do, and that's why on Sunday, March 22 I'll be at the Los Angeles Vintage Paperback Collectors Show.

I somehow did not know about this event until about a month ago. Now I can't wait for it. In addition to vendors of vintage paperbacks, there will be a number of authors and illustrators signing their works (including Joe R. Lansdale and John Skipp). All this, and the cost is only $5 to get in (with free parking).

I will be there with bells on!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Saturday, February 28, 2015

A Nerd Girl's Guide to Cinema hits the shelves!

I am pleased to announce the release of my first nonfiction book, A Nerd Girl's Guide to Cinema.
For those of you who know me for my novels, here's some background: I've been in love with movies nearly as long as I've been in love with fiction. And the movies that I enjoy the most are ones that are … how shall I put it … odd. I chalk it up to seeing movies like The Last Wave and Phantom of the Paradise when I was young and impressionable. Those movies tweaked my psyche in ways that could never be undone.
I started writing movie reviews back in the early 2000s for the Horrorview website. And a few years ago, I got the notion to do a book of movie reviews; my inspiration came from reading review books by Joe Bob Briggs and Pauline Kael, and especially Danny Peary's Cult Movies and Guide for the Film Fanatic books.
A Nerd Girl's Guide to Cinema has reviews of 200 movies in a variety of genres from art house oddities to grind house horrors and everywhere in between. It's available in both ebook and paperback.

Friday, February 27, 2015