The beautiful image that tops the blog this week is a photograph taken by Michael Pieretti. Michael gave me permission to use this image as a book cover but I never got around to it. Perhaps for the next Delta Mystery.
Michael was a true artist. He lived on Sutter Island and loved The Delta. His photographs are among the most beautiful I've ever seen and truly bring the area to life. I was fortunate to meet him on my last trip there.
I am sad to say that Michael Pieretti passed away on March 13, 2013. However it is still possible to view his work online and I recommend that you search for it if you would like to see the places that are the setting for The Delta Mysteries.
As noted above, this week's post is not related to writing. Or perhaps, in some way, it is. Because I have a few thoughts on the current state of movies and that certainly involves writing.
In the past three weeks, my husband and I have seen three movies - all at Laemmle Theatres - the home of independent and foreign films in an age devoted almost exclusively to less than thrilling action thrillers, 3D and tired remakes of movies that weren't that good the first time around.
The first was Phoenix - a German film directed by Christian Petzold starring the incomparable Nina Hoss (if you don't see foreign films, you may have seen her in Homeland) as a concentration camp survivor searching for her husband, who may have betrayed her to the Nazis, in post war Berlin.
The second was Meru - a documentary about three men who attempt to climb Meru - a mountain less high than Everest but one that has never been successfully scaled. When one sets out to climb Meru, one does it without Sherpas - dragging one's own gear and pitting oneself against nature at its most dangerous. I have never understood climbers but then I am a confirmed coward - especially where heights are concerned. This movie came as close as anything could to making me understand why they do it.
The third was a film we almost passed on based on the description - a middle aged woman (the always wonderful Patricia Clarkson) whose husband has left her, takes driving lessons and learns to control her own life while teaching her driving instructor, a Sikh, played by Ben Kingsley, how to adjust to an arranged marriage. I know - sounds boring, right? Thank goodness, Laemmle will show you the trailer on line. Once we saw it, we wanted to see the movie. And we were not disappointed. It is a film filled with rich performances and genuine emotions.
It is no accident that these are the only three movies we've seen at the theatre all summer. Well, that's not entirely true - we did see Woody Allen's newest An Irrational Man - good cast - Joaquin Phoenix, Emma Stone and Parkey Posey. Not only did it lack suspense and humor, I found the dialogue forced and artificial and the acting amateurish - embarrassingly so - given the caliber of the acting talent.
It was like watching a movie made by someone trying to imitate Woody Allen at the top of his game. Based on this, I'd say it's time he retired. But then I remember Match Point, one of his best. And Midnight In Paris - which suffered somewhat from that artificial dialogue but was saved by its sheer inventiveness.
The problem with movies these days is not that some of our best directors seem mired in the past, but that audiences apparently crave:
A bottomless pit of bad remakes of movies that were bad to begin with
Movies in which Tom Cruise dangles from a helicopter
Movies in which cars hurtle through mid air and buildings explode
Or the world is facing an apocalypse due to an invasion of zombies (Hasn't anyone figured out that you don't even have to be able to run to escape from them? You just have to walk fast.)
And for this, they expect us to pay $10 for a bargain matinee and $11.50 for popcorn and a drink. When I see a family lined up at the concession stand, I have to believe our economy must be a lot stronger than I've been led to believe.
My last thought on this subject is this - someone is remaking Point Break. Now a lot of people think that was a bad movie. On this one, I disagree. This is one of Kathryn Bigelow's best. It meets the Joan Klengler test for an entertaining movie - if you're channel surfing and you come across a movie, and you start watching, even if it's been cut for TV and is interrupted by commercials and you own it, but you still watch it - it's a good movie. It's a classic, albeit a cult classic. Don't remake it. Watch the original.
Next time - the rich golden age of Television. Thank you Netflix.