The Colonial Theatre Tea Garden
Reflections in a Bloodshot Eye
The beauty spot of downtown Richmond was, in 1921, the Tea Garden of the brand-new Colonial Theatre. Herein, we recreate the essence of elegance, joy and hauteur that was once found in Virginia's first real picture palace. Bathtub gin is available at the top of the grand ramps.
Thursday, January 17, 2013
Sunday, June 10, 2012
When You Are Engulfed in Do-Gooderism
Friday, June 08, 2012
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
I occasionally enjoy reading Stephen King. (Sweet rollerblading Christ, I hope none of my English profs down in Williamsburg are reading this.) Come on now--did you really think I spent all of my leisure reading with a cup of tea, a cat in my lap and a copy of Mansfield Park? Oh, wait. You did think so because sometimes I do. Pffft.
I enjoy King for the same reason that I enjoy horror movies. Sometimes a good scare is just damned fun. And really, there are worse novelists out there. Honestly, horror novels do tend to the schlocky, but in a world where Danielle Steele and Erica Jong exist, I think that my guilty pleasure isn't too bad after all. King's characters are usually pretty believable, and have that sort of Everyman quality that a good scary story needs. After all, if it's going to frighten you, you need to be able to imagine yourself on the streets of your hometown when, all of a sudden, everyone's undead. (Actually, I feel that way on the streets of Baltimore rather often.)
With this in mind, I checked out a copy of Full Dark, No Stars a few days ago. While I'm not going to claim that the four novellas within are successors to Fitzgerald, I'll give them some props. This is exactly the kind of book you want when you've decided that it's Saturday, you haven't got anything to do, and it would be fun to stay in bed until after noon with a book.
One of the stories involves a woman who makes an extremely unpleasant discovery about the man to whom she's been happily married for years. That one is by far the most interesting, and probably the most unsettling. The other three are, essentially, revenge stories. I'm never quite sure how I feel about revenge stories, anyway. Probably, we all like them because...well, don't we all fantasize about avenging perceived injustices, sometimes?
Of the three, though: One was still a fun story, but it was pretty much already done, if a little more artlessly, by the cult movie "I Spit On Your Grave." If you know the movie, then you won't need any more information. Another features a man who's secretly hated his "best friend" for decades and, with some supernatural help, is able to get back at the friend by destroying his "perfect" life. (And don't a lot of us want to do that, too?) The remaining story has an unreliable narrator (see, still an English teacher at heart, ain't I?) who cools his wife because she's pretty much of a nasty bitch, and suffers hideous consequences.
In all four stories, the reader ends up siding with the protagonist, despite their less-than-pleasant actions. And I think that, after all these years of surreptitiously enjoying King's work, I'm starting to understanding why my snooty profs wouldn't appreciate him. It's not that his plots are poorly-constructed, or his characters bad. It's just that...I've kinda read this before. Often. Or, in the case of one story, I saw it at a drive-in twenty-five years ago.
Also, in the bitchy-wife-gets-horribly-offed story, King uses a fictional setting that he's used in several other tales over the years. I don't like recurring devices in an author's work, and I particularly dislike having to buy into a recurring mythos. I didn't like it when Lovecraft did it with Arkham, and I'm not wild about King's Hemingford Home, either. When he's set stories in Derry, Maine, it's just a setting--but in the wake of The Stand, Hemingford has become this sort of magical touchstone. While I understand the idea of continuity, I find this one a bit contrived.
Big props, though, for his naming a "walk-on" character Rhoda Penmark. And big props for you, readers, if you know who Rhoda Penmark is.
Monday, March 26, 2012
And, since both of us like old movies, or at least fairly offbeat new ones, Video Americain was just the right place. I always wondered how many actual new-release, popular type things they rented, since I'm fairly sure that most people in Charles Village are also weirdos who like B-horror from 1958.
So it was with great reluctance that we decided to explore Netflix, which at least promises to have a bazillion movies right at your fingertips. And it sort of does; but mostly they're DVDs and you can't just decide right now that you're going to watch a movie. Given my viewing patterns, I need right now.
They do have a fair amount of stuff that's immediately available and streaming, though, so we've tried a couple.
Last night's viewing: A Rage to Live.
You know, it wasn't a terrible movie. With a cast of also-rans in the Hollywood pantheon (Suzanne Pleshette and Ben Gazzara), it's better than I'd expected it to be.
See, here's the problem: I love the original novel, and you know the old saw--if you love the book, run away from the movie. In the case of A Rage To Live, it's not so much that they screw up the story, it's more that they didn't really use much of it at all. It's pretty much a movie named for a book that uses the book's characters, while doing away with 80% of the book's plot. Sort of the same way that Taco Bell is inspired by Mexican food but doesn't really have much to do with actual Mexican food.
John O'Hara's novel is fairly complex, so I'll not get into a plot synopsis, or worse, compare its plot with that of the movie; I've forced too many high school students to do that sort of thing to ever want to do it myself. Besides, since the movie's plot bears so few resemblances to that of the novel, it would be far more effort than it would be worth.
So, my question: Why--particularly in the mid-20th century--did Hollywood insist on doing this with novels? If they'd followed the actual plot of the book, it would still have been a pretty good movie. I have a feeling, since they cast minor stars in the main roles, that they were hoping to trade on the book's popularity anyway, rather than using it as a star vehicle. Thus, people probably went to see it because they'd liked the book, and probably did just what I did last night: spend most of the film thinking, "but that's not what happens!"
I don't want to imply that it's a bad movie, because it's not. It's simply that, other than character names and setting, it doesn't have much to do with the book. The same script could have been used, with different names and a different locale, without bothering to buy the rights to the novel. John O'Hara himself wouldn't have noticed any resemblance.