Category Archives: Books

It’s Dorothy Parker’s Birthday

Dorothy Parker (22 August 1893 – 7 June 1967)

It’s been 124 years since the birth of Dorothy Parker. Poet, critic, short story writer, political activist, and one of the greatest wits of the 20th century.


I do not like my state of mind;
I’m bitter, querulous, unkind.
I hate my legs, I hate my hands,
I do not yearn for lovelier lands.
I dread the dawn’s recurrent light;
I hate to go to bed at night.
I snoot at simple, earnest folk.
I cannot take the gentlest joke.
I find no peace in paint or type.
My world is but a lot of tripe.
I’m disillusioned, empty-breasted.
For what I think, I’d be arrested.
I am not sick, I am not well.
My quondam dreams are shot to hell.
My soul is crushed, my spirit sore;
I do not like me any more.
I cavil, quarrel, grumble, grouse.
I ponder on the narrow house.
I shudder at the thought of men….
I’m due to fall in love again.

― Dorothy Parker

The Disaster Artist — The True Story of the Making of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room

The Room is a 2003 film that has deservedly earned a high ranking on any recent list of “The Worst Movies Ever Made,” up there with Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space and Nicholas Webster’s Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.

The Orson Welles of this “Citizen Kane of bad movies” is the mysterious and staggeringly untalented Tommy Wiseau, who produced, directed, and wrote the screenplay, such as it is. Mr. Wiseau also plays the lead. Here he is, at his finest:

Acting like that would embarrass William Shatner. Hell, it might even embarrass David Caruso.

So, of course, The Room has become a cult favourite, with midnight screenings and Rocky Horror-esque audience participation.

Greg Sestero, who played the aforementioned Mark—“Oh, Hi Mark”—in the movie, wrote a book about his experience, and now James Franco is bringing it to the screen. A new teaser takes a look at the making of the scene in the above video:

It’s called The Disaster Artist, and in addition to James Franco, it stars Dave Franco and Seth Rogen. The release date is 1 December 2017.


Want to see more?

Here’s a selection of some of the funnier stranger more deranged scenes from The Room:

Ready Player One — First Trailer

Ok, now about that other key trailer from Comic-Con: The trailer for Ready Player One.

Ernest Cline’s science-fiction novel, Ready Player One was the fanboy must-read book of 2011. It’s set in the unhappy and decaying United States of 2044, when a decades-long recession, a trashed environment, and the general collapse of civil society have driven many people to spend much of their time hooked into a virtual reality universe called the OASIS. When there’s a two-year waiting list for jobs at Burger King, escapism is a logical choice.

As our hero and narrator, Wade Watts, known in the OASIS as “Parzival,” points out:

“Now that I was eighteen, I could vote, in both the OASIS elections and the elections for U.S. government officials. I didn’t bother with the latter, because I didn’t see the point. The once-great country into which I’d been born now resembled its former self in name only. It didn’t matter who was in charge. Those people were rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic and everyone knew it. Besides, now that everyone could vote from home, via the OASIS, the only people who could get elected were movie stars, reality TV personalities, or radical televangelists.”

[Keep repeating, “It’s only a movie. It’s only a movie. It’s only a movie.”]

Anyhow, the now-dead creator of the OASIS was a man named James Halliday who, not unlike many of the readers of this book, was a 1980s obsessive. You know, the kind of person who goes nuts over spotting the 80s allusions in Stranger Things….

OASIS made Halliday very, very rich. When his will was read, it revealed that he’d hidden three “keys” in OASIS, and that the first person to find them, and solve the puzzles linked to them, would be the sole inheritor of OASIS and of Halliday’s massive fortune. All that would be required to solve the puzzles was an encyclopedic knowledge of the movies, music, video games, and TV shows of the 1980s.

Enter Parzival.

I liked the book, but didn’t love it. It’s a fast, easy, enjoyable read, full of Easter eggs for those of us who have, well, “an encyclopedic knowledge of the movies, music, video games, and TV shows of the 1980s,” but it was definitely light reading, without much depth or meaning. It’s a book that’s the perfect source for a big spring/summer movie.

Steven Spielberg (who else?) is directing. The film is scheduled to be released on 30 March 2018.

The Vivien Leigh Collection — Movie Auction of the Year

Vivien Leigh won Academy Awards for playing Scarlett O’Hara and Blanche DuBois, two of the all-time great women’s movie roles.

Now, 50 years after her death, what remains of her estate is being offered at auction by Sotheby’s London. The full auction catalogue has not yet been posted, but you can see a small sample at the auction site.

From the press release: “Passed down through Vivien’s family, the collection comprises paintings, jewellery, couture, books, furniture, porcelain, objets d’art and further items celebrating all aspects of her life, from the pre-war years in London, to Hollywood and beyond, up to her death in 1967. Myriad pieces drawn from the city and country homes Vivien shared with her husband Laurence Oliver [sic] will give a new perspective on Vivien, from her appreciation of art and patronage of Modern British artists, to her passion for books and fondness for entertaining and interior design.”

Included in the sale will be Vivien Leigh’s personal copy of Gone with the Wind, given to her by the author Margaret Mitchell.


As Blanche DuBois, Leigh puts her faith in the kindness of strangers in A Streetcar Named Desire.

As Scarlett O’Hara, Leigh rises from despair in Gone with the Wind.


The auction for “Vivien: The Vivien Leigh Collection” will take place on 26 Sep 2017 at Sotheby’s London.

A Wrinkle In Time — First Trailer

The movie won’t reach theatres until next Spring, but this weekend attendees at the D23 Expo got an early peak at Disney’s adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s classic novel, A Wrinkle In Time.

D23 is the official fan club for The Walt Disney Company, and the D23 Expo is its biennial exposition event.

You can never judge a movie based on its trailer—see, for instance, Ghost in the Shell, which had me all hot and bothered for weeks—but I’m lowering my previous high hopes for this project. Sorry, but Oprah Winfrey looks laugh-out-loud ridiculous here.

A Wrinkle in Time is scheduled to open on 9 March 2018.


Is That the Sydney Opera House on Your Head, or Are You Just Happy to See Me?

Lady Macbeth Trailer

First of all, no, it’s not the Scottish play, the name of which must never be mentioned.

This Lady Macbeth is an adaptation of Nikolai Leskov’s 1865 novel, Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District. It finally opened in five US theatres this weekend, after making the rounds on the festival circuit and getting rave reviews in the UK. The Tomatometer has it at 89%.

The movie has gotten high praise, especially for what’s been called “an amazing performance” by Florence Pugh, who plays Katherine. At 21, it’s only her second feature film.

What first drew my attention to Lady Macbeth was the subheading for Eric Kohn’s IndieWire review: “Imagine Alfred Hitchcock directing Wuthering Heights and you’ll get an idea of William Oldroyd’s tense period drama.” Pretty irresistible.

More theatres will be added in the weeks to come.

International Agatha Christie Festival

The 2017 International Agatha Christie Festival will take place from Wednesday, 13 September through Sunday, 17 September, in Torquay, the British seaside resort where Christie was born. This year’s festival emphasizes her connection to the Middle East, where she spent considerable time with her husband, archaeologist Sir Max Edgar Lucien Mallowan.

The full schedule for the festival has just been posted, and it includes readings, films, concerts, tours, performances, and workshops. One of the highlights is likely to be the weekend-long Garden Party at Torre Abbey,

Torre Abbey

Torre Abbey

The historic Torre Abbey gardens “… will come alive with music, films, stalls and gastronomic delights for all the family.” There will be a garden marketplace and an open air screening of a classic Agatha Christie film.

Mathew Prichard, Agatha Christie’s grandson, will be on hand to discuss his memories of the writer.

Given the setting and the theme, I wouldn’t be the least surprised if someone is the victim of murder most foul during the weekend. If festival guests are in search of clues clews, they’d be well-advised to begin by looking in the herbaceous borders….

Single-day passes start at £15, and top out at £150 for the Grand Tour Ticket.


Torquay is about four hours from London, by car or train. While it’s certainly proud of its most well-known daughter, the city’s greatest claim to fame is probably that it was the (fictional) home of Fawlty Towers, Basil Fawlty, prop.

Take a break and watch as Basil, suffering from a concussion, tries to avoid embarrassing some German guests by not mentioning WWII.