Sunday, August 24, 2008

Recap: 24 August 2008

It was a pretty unspectacular weekend for the box office. But it is August, so I guess that's to be expected.
  1. Tropic Thunder ($16.1 million)
  2. The House Bunny ($15.1 million)
  3. Death Race ($12.3 million)
  4. The Dark Knight ($10.3 million)
  5. Star Wars: The Clone Wars ($5.7 million)
  6. Pineapple Express ($5.6 million)
  7. Mirrors ($4.9 million)
  8. The Longshots ($4.3 million)
  9. Mamma Mia! ($4.3 million)
  10. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor ($4.1 million)
I only caught one movie this week: Bottle Shock (3½ stars). There's nothing here that's going to blow you out of the water, but it's a charming flick with good acting and a heartwarming ending that you know is coming but that's done in such a way that you love it anyway. I must admit, though, I did want to pull Alan Rickman aside and explain the difference between a French 'r' and the pseudo-Italian 'r' he was using every time he had to speak French, but that's a nitpick that will go unnoticed by most of the population, I'm sure.

I spent a lot of my free time this week (of which there wasn't much) devouring Watchmen. It's a compelling read, and I'll go ahead and throw my hat in with everyone else who highly recommends it. Also, the trailer makes a lot more sense (and looks exponentially more amazing) now.

In lieu of more mini movie reviews, I'll leave you with this (surprisingly accurate, at least for me) quiz I came across. While initially disappointed that my personality's corresponding font is so boring, I decided it was actually fitting enough, being a screenwriter and all (though technically I write in Final Draft's version of Courier).

You Are Courier New

You have a deep appreciation for tradition and history.

You don't eschew modernity, but you do have a deep reverence for the past.

You are very literate. It's likely you enjoy writing and reading.

Some people may feel you're a bit cold, but you just have high standards for who you hang out with.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Box Office Predictions: 22 August 2008

Better late than never. I blame the lack of anything notable opening. Wide releases include The House Bunny, Death Race, The Rocker and The Longshots, none of which managed to crack "Fresh" on Rotten Tomatoes. I'm putting The House Bunny at No. 3 only because the target market is different from pretty much everything else playing.

Official Predictions:
1. Tropic Thunder
2. The Dark Knight
3. The House Bunny

I'm spending my weekend doing edits on Mute so I can send it out to my beta readers on Sunday. With nothing to draw me to the theatre, it should be a productive weekend.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Dialog Study No. 1

I've been trying to listen to day-to-day dialog lately as an exercise to hopefully improve my writing. Whenever I hear something unique, catchy or well-said, I take the opportunity to write it down as I would write it in screenplay or prose format. From time to time, I hope to feature these bits of dialog here. And so...

Because I lack the knowledge and couldn't quickly find it via google, I present to you with sketchy formatting (that most likely won't even show up in RSS) Dialog Study No. 1.


The scene: Kate, 16, has just told Sarah, 25, that she can borrow her nearly-brand-new car to drive to work the next day so that Sarah does not blow out a tire and die on her way to work.

See, if I weren't around, who would you hang out with?


OK, well, who would you work out with?


All right, all right. But what about all of our dorky jokes?
Who would do those with you?

Kate considers the question for a moment.

You're right. I'd be so much cooler.

You so would be.

End Scene.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Recap: 17 August 2008

I somehow managed to peg the top three this week, as Tropic Thunder finally dethroned The Dark Knight.
  1. Tropic Thunder ($26 million)
  2. The Dark Knight ($16.8 million)
  3. Star Wars: The Clone Wars ($15.5 million)
  4. Mirrors ($11.1 million)
  5. Pineapple Express ($10 million)
  6. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor ($8.6 million)
  7. Mamma Mia! ($6.5 million)
  8. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 ($5.9 million)
  9. Step Brothers ($5 million)
  10. Vicky Cristina Barcelona ($3.7 million)
What I Watched:
  • Barton Fink (3 stars): I was entertained. John Goodman was great, as always, and John Turturro delivered as well, but I wasn't really sure what the point was other than the movie industry sucks.
  • Wilde (3½ stars): A fairly standard biopic with excellent performances and a compelling story. It was interesting to hear the film makers talking about DVDs and Web sites as new media in the special features. Things have come quite a long way in 10 years.
  • Step Brothers (2½ stars): I was forced to see this because of a deal I made with my sister a few weeks ago, and I was pleased that it wasn't nearly as bad as I was dreading. That being said, it wasn't all that great either. I chuckled throughout it, and I daresay I even laughed quite a bit during a few scenes, but I was hardly in stitches. That being said, there are worse (and better) ways to spend a couple of hours.
  • Tropic Thunder (4 stars): I've been looking forward to this movie, and it didn't disappoint. It's gruesome, hilarious, and it even borders on touching at times. Ben Stiller is finally funny again, Robert Downey Jr. is a riot, and Jay Baruchel steals the scene whenever he gets the opportunity.
I know I said I'd be seeing Bottle Shock this weekend, but fear not; I'm actually seeing it Monday with the family instead.

What I Read:
I've finally finished the three books I've been reading for the past [insert embarrassingly long timeframe here]. Last up was Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere. It didn't seem quite as polished as Stardust, but I thoroughly enjoyed it nonetheless. The end was perfect. I'm also tempted to pull out a handful of my old troll dolls and station them on my desk at work as a tribute that no one will get except me.

Up next, upon recommendation from both Matt and Jon, along with seemingly the rest of the world, is Alan Moore's graphic novel, Watchmen. This is my first time reading a graphic novel, so it should be an interesting journey.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Box Office Predictions: 15 August 2008

This week marked the arrival of the highly-anticipated Tropic Thunder. It didn't open to spectacular numbers on Wednesday, but that just means there are more people to see it this weekend.

Of course, I thought Pineapple Express would knock TDK out of the top place last week and was wrong then, too, but it has to happen some time. At least I think it does...

Also opening are Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which is set between Episodes II and III of the saga, and horror flick Mirrors starring Kiefer Sutherland.

There are also a smattering of semi-wide releases, including Henry Poole is Here, Brideshead Revisited, Vicky Cristina Barcelona (Woody Allen's latest), and Bottle Shock (which I'll be seeing this weekend).

While none of these will break the Top 5 obviously, they could draw some of the audience away from the bigger releases. So, I've gotta tell you, I'm pretty stumped this week. Oh well, here goes.

Official Predictions:
1. Tropic Thunder
2. The Dark Knight
3. Star Wars: The Clone Wars

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The 12 Movies Meme, or If I Held a Film Festival

I came across a meme the other day over at Bamboo Killers that sounded like fun. Originally started at Lazy Eye Theatre, the idea is to post your dream film festival à la Diablo Cody's turn at New Beverly Cinema.

Moulin Rouge!

To kick off my festival, I'm starting with two films that seem to split the crowd between passionate love and passionate hate. My feelings about these two films fall into the "love" category, which is appropriate since this is my imaginary film festival.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Edward Scissorhands

The most recent Burton-Depp collaboration followed by the first one seemed an appropriate way to pay homage to the pairing that has nearly become a genre in and of itself.

The War
Summer Stock

For Siblings Night, I polled my sisters for their picks. What came out of that was two films featuring siblings from my siblings that are generally underappreciated. I'm taking my middle sister's word for that on the first pick, which I haven't seen since it came out. The second one is a Judy Garland-Gene Kelly musical that is really quite charming. It's my youngest sister's favorite movie, and I actually prefer it over the better-known Singin' in the Rain.


Ever After

I originally had The Princess Bride slotted in Ever After's spot for Fairytale Night, but I think fewer people have seen Ever After. I think both of my choices are underappreciated, but, more importantly, they're both a lot of fun. Ever After had quite an influence on one of my first screenplays, and Stardust is going to have a major influence on what I'm writing for NaNoWriMo this year as well.

Playing by Heart

While it's grown in popularity, too many people still have not seen Once. As for my second pick, I think the only people who have ever heard of this movie are people I've told about it. I found it during the height of my X-Files mania when I was exploring the filmographies of Gillian Anderson (who stars) and David Duchovny. The cast is really phenomenal: Sean Connery, Gena Rowlands, Ryan Phillippe, Dennis Quaid, Madeleine Stowe, Jay Mohr, Ellen Burstyn, Jon Stewart, and a very young Angelina Jolie, among others.

The Wizard of Oz

And we end with two undeniable classics. I don't think either one of these needs much explanation. It just felt right to end with two paragons of cinema, and these are the two that jumped to mind. They also made this list of the Top 50 Movie Endings, which seemed fitting for the last night of my imaginary film festival.

So, there you have it. This little exercise has made me wish I had my own little theatre so I could actually run festivals like this. Alas, the start-up cash for such a venture eludes me for the time being. Maybe some day. For now, maybe I'll just have to run my own one-man, one-viewer film festival in my own home.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Recap: 10 August 2008

The Dark Knight, despite nearly everyone's predictions, reigns again.
  1. The Dark Knight ($26 million)
  2. Pineapple Express ($22.4 million)
  3. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor ($16.1 million)
  4. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 ($10.8 million)
  5. Step Brothers ($8.9 million)
  6. Mamma Mia! ($8.1 million)
  7. Journey to the Center of the Earth ($4.9 million)
  8. Hancock ($3.3 million)
  9. Swing Vote ($3.1 million)
  10. WALL-E ($3 million)
It was a slow movie week for me, but here's What I Watched:
  • The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 (2½ stars): After crying our eyes out during the first installment, my sisters and I were hoping for a similar tug on the heartstrings. Sadly, the sequel didn't deliver, and nary a tear was shed. It was still decent enough, but it seemed as if the writer had trouble tying the myriad threads of the story together. As it was, it was pretty much like watching four separate movies intercut with one another. That being said, the performances were pretty solid for the most part.
  • Pineapple Express (2½ stars): I've been having trouble pinpointing exactly what went wrong here, I can I can't seem to put my finger on it. The movie seemed to move at a snail's pace. There were some story elements that could have been cut that might have led to a tighter, funnier film. However, Seth Rogen's performance was typically enjoyable, and James Franco was wonderful.
  • Pride and Prejudice [BBC mini-series] (3 stars): I actually enjoyed this version of Jane Austen's novel more than the 2005 version starring Keira Knightley, mostly because it followed the book nearly to the page, or at least to my recollection of it. It was also nice to see a different side of Colin Firth.
There were a few reasons my movie-watching was lower than usual this week: 1) I am tired of scanning and thus avoided it a bit more than usual this past week, plus I started in on Season 1 of The X-Files; 2) I left my three Netflix DVDs at work over the weekend; 3) I spent most of the weekend working feverishly on Mute to get it ready to send out to my alpha readers (it went out in the wee hours of Sunday morning); and 4) I've been trying to finish up the three books I've been reading. Which takes us to...

What I've Been Reading:

I'm happy to report I finally finished Tom Robbins' Jitterbug Perfume last week, and just before writing this post I finished up a collection of Oscar Wilde's major works that included The Picture of Dorian Gray, Lady Windermere's Fan, Salomé, An Ideal Husband, The Importance of Being Earnest, and The Ballad of Reading Gaol.

I don't want to do a full review of either book here, but suffice to say, both are certainly worth picking up. Jitterbug Perfume is a wonderful study in how to turn a phrase. My only major complaint is that the story would have moved along more quickly had the major players not had to stop to have sex so often. Beyond that, I was charmed almost against my will at times by the story of Alobar and his adventures.

As for Oscar Wilde, he is a master at saying one thing and meaning another. He is possibly the most out-of-context-quoted author I've ever come across. And something tells me the notion would make him chuckle. I think I've already made clear my love for Dorian Gray, but it's worth noting that The Ballad of Reading Gaol is one of the most potent and heart-wrenching poems I've ever read. For as much as Oscar Wilde is known for his wit, it's evident through his writing (both comic and otherwise) that there was a sincerity and sensitivity in his manner that has the capacity to make your heart swell or break. I am now and forever an ardent fan.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Box Office Predictions: 8 August 2008

Our wide releases this week include Apatow stoner action comedy Pineapple Express and unapologetically chick flick The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2. Both of these movies opened on Wednesday, and it looks like Pineapple Express is finally going to dethrone The Dark Knight.

Official Predictions
1. Pineapple Express
2. The Dark Knight
3. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2

On a side note, they've also released the first promotional pic for next year's Dorian Gray.

I was a little nervous about the casting choice of Colin Firth as Lord Henry (in my opinion, he was perfectly suited for Basil), but this picture gives me a bit more confidence. And really, between Colin Firth and Ben Barnes, it's hard to complain too much.

Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray is one of my favorite novels, and I'm ridiculously excited about this film adaptation. So, fair warning, you'll have to excuse my occasional squee-induced off-topic postings about this movie for probably the next year or so.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Short Fiction: The House

The result of The Schadenfreude Challenge¹ with Matt, I present to you my first-ever complete effort at short fiction, entitled The House.

"Our houses are such unwieldy property that we are often imprisoned rather than housed in them."
— Henry David Thoreau
"People make one happy, not houses? I do not think so. Houses are more to be trusted than people."
-- Elizabeth Aston

The House

Kay wakes from a naive sleep, filled with technicolor rainbows and poppy fields and cinnamon swirls. With her lids shut tight, her mind's eye desperately grasping the vestiges of that innocent dream world, she rolls over and reaches for the strong arm of her husband. Decorated by a silver bracelet from which a dozen charms dangle, her hand finds only air, then the sheet, then the pillow.

Faced with such an unexpected and unpleasant reality, Kay reluctantly pries open her eyelids. Her hand has not deceived her. She sits up.

Her unlined brow furrows, putting on a show of confusion with one particularly deep crease starring as frustration. The cast is quickly booted off the stage in favor of a chorus of crinkling around her eyes, the audience of her mind favoring amusement instead.

Maybe John's bringing me breakfast in bed!, she thinks. Butterfly wings beat her stomach. She lies back down, feigning sleep lest she ruin her own surprise. The minutes pass. They choose captains and pick teams. They engage in a rousing game of kickball. They take their balls and go home. And still Kay waits.

Giddy anticipation fades to a light slumber. Finally, her stomach, having run out of patience before her brain, announces its complaint with an annoyed grumble. It cues the original cast, and the deep crease takes center stage on her forehead for its encore performance. She sits up again. Her eyes catch the absence of light emanating from her alarm clock. She stands, berating the clock with her stare. Her eyes catch another anomaly. A black plug sits idly on the wooden floor, daydreaming of an electrifying union long since past. Kay picks it up. The plug hopes for, longs for, aches for its rendezvous with the socket. Always the hopeless romantic, Kay gently inserts the prongs into the only place they've ever felt truly alive.

But the spark is gone. The clock remains stubbornly unmoved by the plug's overtures. Still crouched, eyes fixed on the failed relationship in front of her, Kay calls out.


The house answers, but, having no vocal cords, goes unheard. Kay, always a pillar of modesty if no longer one of chastity, rises and pulls on the pastel pink terry cloth robe she'd discarded onto the chair beside the closet before sliding into bed last night.

"Johnny!" she calls again, the deep line on her forehead now making a cameo appearance in the tone of her voice.

The house tries again to tell her. She only hears the creak of the boards under her feet. She does not understand their language.

She plods down the stairs, her bare feet slapping against the wood.

"Johnny?" she calls again. The vertical blinds sway, shaking their heads sadly.

Kay wanders into the kitchen, the lines around her mouth spidering into a show of perplexion. Her eyes grasp a stark white rectangle where only a deep cherry should be. She retrieves the paper from the dining room table . Embers of teenager-in-love passion burn deep into her skin, and, despite being well out of her teens, she swoons at the sight of John's handwriting.

She starts with dessert, savoring his signature and its preface proclaiming "all my love." The paper scratches against her skin, scoffing at the words. Kay ignores it. She instead digs into the decadent appetizer: "My dearest Kay."

The industrial gray light fixture above her head sighs. Sleek and masculine, hanging from exposed rafters, it was the only bit of decorating John had been allowed. The light fixture was ashamed of its heritage.

By the time Kay finishes the introduction and the finale, she is nearly too full to consider the main course itself. Out of politeness, she nibbles at John's explanation that he'd been called away while the stars still twinkled in the sky.

Kay does not think much of it. She never had. He's a doctor, and these nighttime excursions are to be expected. At least that's what television and movies and John himself had always told her, and she had no reason to doubt those gods.

The spring back in her step, she springs back up to their bedroom. She has grand plans for her day, and she wants to look good whilst accomplishing them. And, more importantly, she wants to seduce her husband when he returns home. The electricity can wait. She has other circuits to ignite.

As the water rushes to the shower from the depths, it makes an inquiry to the pipes. The pipes hiss a bitter reply. The water resolves to make Kay feel beautiful even if--and perhaps because--her husband so often fails to do so.

As the water rushes over her, conspiring with the soap, Kay admires her own glistening skin.

"There's no way he'll be able to resist me tonight," she says aloud. The tiled wall hears the rest of her thought, though she does not voice it: "... again."

While Kay half-reminisces and half-fantasizes about tender caresses from her husband, the components of the house they share hold court. Collectively, the house decides it can take no more. A plan had been set in motion by the circuit breaker. The house would see it through to its end.

Back in her robe and still damp from the shower, Kay begins laying out her clothes. A casual but flattering green dress, with buttons undone only enough to hint at indecency--and then only from the right angle--would be her bait. It had worked before.

She removes it from the hanger as gently as she imagines John removing her bra tonight. A smile plays on her lips, and a mischievous twinkle glints in her matching green eyes. She continues her fantasy, laying the green dress on the bed in the manner she hopes to be once the green dress has served its purpose.

Next, she considers her lingerie. She browses the catalog in her mind and settles on her favorite--and the one that had proven to be John's in the past. She imagines her friends at church discovering she owns something so blatantly sexual and petitioning on the spot for her excommunication. A giggle escapes her, and she is not sorry for it.

She moves to the dresser she shares with John. The top two drawers are dedicated to her unmentionables; the bottom two house John's, and the drawers are embarrassed by just how unmentionable they are.

Kay tugs on the brass handle of the second drawer. It does not open. She and the drawer engage in an epic battle of tug and war for a full three minutes before she falls to the floor in defeat and the drawer, in its glorious moment of victory, remains shut.

"It must be jammed," she says aloud. If that's what you choose to believe..., the drawer thinks smugly.

She sighs and moves to John's first drawer. It offers its own challenge.

"You, too?" she asks, incredulous. Its staunch resistance against her second tug confirms its stance on the issue.

Desperate, she moves to the bottom drawer. Always a dreamer, the drawer imagines Kay as a young King Arthur, and it styles itself as a bejeweled, destiny-laced sword. Accordingly, it slides out at her touch.

"At least someone's on my side," Kay notes. The exasperated tone in her voice does not go unnoticed by the drawers, who sit indignantly in their grooves.

She pulls out John's bottom drawer 'til it teeters dangerously on its precipice. She feels at the bottom of the drawer on top, unintentionally shuffling John's boxers around, disturbing evidence never meant to be uncovered.

The dresser shudders as Kay's charm bracelet catches on a piece of lace. The dresser remembers watching John as he debated keeping the artifact now clinging to Kay's wrist.

"What could it hurt?" he'd whispered. "She'll never find them, and, if she does, I can play it off as a gift for her or something."

The dresser remembers his wicked smile as he believed his own justification. It had watched as he'd tucked the black lace thong into the least-worn pair of boxers he owned. The dresser had cringed as John had made it an accomplice by shoving the boxers into the back corner of the bottom drawer and covering them with several other pairs. In the dresser's mind, the memory evokes the notion of a dog covering its shit with dirt.

The dresser feels sick with pity as Kay's arm emerges from its belly, wearing another woman's underwear as a new charm on her bracelet.

At first, a glimpse of amusement plays the lines around her eyes before they snap in shock at the realization that this lace garment is not hers. She picks it off delicately, holding as little of the offensive lace as possible between her thumb and forefinger.

Her own blood applies a rouge to her cheeks, and her brain feels like a head of cabbage on St. Patrick's Day. Her breath becomes deliberate as her autonomic reflexes cease to function properly. She tosses the underwear onto the regretful dresser and runs out of the bedroom.

She is suddenly overcome with a primal, urgent need for fresh air. The house, however good its intentions, is stifling her. She arrives at the back door.

"There's more you need to see," it tells her.

She grunts in frustration at the door's refusal to cooperate.

"Please!" she yells. The door stands its ground.

She runs again, feet battering the floor, this time down the path to the front door. She does not realize it is in cahoots with the back door.

Desperate, drawing rickety breaths, she runs into John's office to the window overlooking the garden. She rips open the shades, nearly pulling them off the rods, much to their chagrin.

"Don't shoot the messenger!" they insist.

At the sight of the boards haphazardly nailed across the window, the thong is momentarily forgotten. Kay's stomach turns over in her abdominal cavity. The rouge retreats in favor of a seasick olive green. She fingers the lock on the window clumsily.

Against he protests of the pane, the lock replies, "What can it hurt?" It unlatches at Kay's touch.

"Hope deferred makes the heart sick," the pane replies.

"This is no time to get Biblical," the lock snorts.

The pane shudders in agreement as Kay tries to force open the frame holding it. "You're right. That time was long ago."

Kay grabs the phone on John's desk and punches John's number into its face. Her ear is greeted with silence. She drops the phone to the floor. Being dead, it doesn't mind much.

Kay stumbles back from the boarded window, suddenly afraid it might attack her. Despite the boards' pleas that they're only trying to help, she flees from them.

Her journey takes her to every window in the house. Each one proves complicit in the plot. Each drapery steps aside, every blind rolls up, each painted eyelid lifts to reveal a wooden eye staring back at her.

By the time she reaches the last window, Kay is no longer running. She is resigned to her role, though she is uncertain as to what it might be. She begins to believe she might be dreaming. Yes, she must be dreaming. That explains everything, she thinks. John is surely sleeping beside her, his arm draped over her abdomen. The sun must still be sleeping, and her house is once again a gentle cocoon and not a fortress in which she is the proverbial trapped princess. Most important, there is no incriminating lace thong in her husband's underwear drawer.

"I should get dressed," she says, no longer caring to keep her thoughts inside her mind. "Who knows how long this dream will last?"

She returns to the scene of the crime. The thong remains, taunting her, but the dresser is on her side once again, it seems. She opens her drawer and pulls out a satin bra and underwear. Their shiny, pale blue looks positively Puritan compared to the lace phantasm on her dresser. She no longer fears excommunication. Determined to ignore it, she turns away from the underwear and walks to the bathroom. The house sighs sadly, but it is unsurprised.

The terry cloth robe once again discarded on the chair, Kay now stands in front of the mirror in what she'd once viewed as her most powerful tool of seduction: her birthday suit. Where once her eyes took her on a greatest hits tour, they now push her through a haunted house.

An old scar turns into a mad scientist flinging colored noodles disguised as brains. A wrinkle, barely visible, becomes moving eyes in a classical painting. The extra insulation on her thighs turns into a chainsaw-wielding psychopath bent on tearing her apart.

She makes it out of the haunted house alive, but not unscathed. Tears wet her cheeks as she pulls on the satin underwear. The mirror tries to tell her she's beautiful, but it is clumsy, and its compliments only serve to point out the contrast to what Kay has just seen with her own eyes.

Kay pulls on the green dress. She forgoes shoes. She grabs the thong from the dresser, no longer bothering to touch as little of it as possible. The house begins to fear its plan may have unintended consequences.

As she passes by the boarded widows, shafts of light stream through the cracks, trying to impart hope. Kay is unfazed by them.

She sits in the executive leather chair in John's office. She drops the lace underwear onto the desk blotter calendar. They engage in a staring contest.

"This isn't my fault," the underwear tells her.

"It's not my fault," Kay retorts.

Kay rests her head on her crossed arms, and her crossed arms rest on John's desk. Her bracelet begins excavating her forehead. It finds nothing, but its ditches remain when Kay lifts her head from the desk some time later. Anger casts rarely-seen shadows on her face.

"I want to wake up!" she screams. She doesn't listen to the house, who gently tries to inform her that she is, indeed, already awake. Instead, she pounds her fist on the desk.

The drawer to her right rattles a whisper in her direction. It is open only a centimeter, but the invitation is definitive and obvious. Kay pulls it open, and, ignoring any sense of foreplay, she thrusts her hand straight to the back and fumbles for she knows not what. Tired of her groping and just wanting to get back to sleep, the drawer offers up a crumpled piece of paper. A bitter smile forges new paths on Kay's face. She takes the ball of dead tree with her as she exits the office.

At the dining room table, Kay flattens the paper and lays it beside the note left for her. She looks up at the exposed rafters she once thought beautiful and rustic. They now strike her as painfully practical.

Her eyes travel down to the two sheets of paper. Long-lost cousins? No, twins separated at birth, perhaps. One clean, unblemished and pure; the other roughly-handled, smudged and used. This time, she starts at the beginning.

"My dearest Kay," one reads. "My dearest Jane," declares the other.

She skips to the end. They are signed with the same lie.

The body no longer matters to her, but she offers each a glance. One is an excuse for being gone; the other is an excuse for being unable to leave. Kay's eyes once again travel upward.

"I've got to wake up," she whispers. The house reads her thoughts and weeps for her.

Hours later, John cheerfully walks up the path to the front door wearing traces of lipstick and perfume--among other things--that only a forensic scientist could detect. He is always careful. The house knows this, too. It has seen him plan, seen him carry out, and occasionally been forced to drive the getaway car in his crimes. But no longer.

John opens the door. It whines a smarmy hello. He steps inside. The floor boards creak their I-told-you-so's. He notices that all the window shades are drawn and that light is streaming into the house. He thinks it strange but pushes it out of his mind in favor of more pleasurable thoughts. The air conditioner kicks on, scolding him. He turns the corner into the dining room.

The rope is pleased to be in service once again, having long sat in the cellar unused. John's eyes slide from the rafter down the length of the rope to the makeshift necklace under his wife's chin. His eyes dart to the two letters below her bare feet. She sways gently above them in a morbid but strangely enchanting dance. John declines to join her and instead falls to his knees. The house stands still, but John's world spins. The house screams at him, accuses him, blames him, sentences him. But he hears nothing except his own agony as it escapes from his lungs, travels up his windpipe, and sweeps over his vocal cords, finally entering the world as a pinched, vibrato-filled wail.

© 2008 Elizabeth Ditty

¹The prompt that was the catalyst for this story was, "Female main character awakens to find her husband vanished and her country house boarded up from the outside."

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Recap: 3 August 2008

For my loyal readers who missed my box office predictions on Friday, I am sorry. As far as I know, there's only one of you who cared, but, nonetheless, I figured an apology was in order. I was filled with overwhelming apathy, and the lack of compelling new wide releases was the non-catalyst for the blog. That being said, here's your box office recap.
  1. The Dark Knight ($43.8 million)
  2. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor ($42.5 million)
  3. Step Brothers ($16.3 million)
  4. Mamma Mia! ($13.1 million)
  5. Journey to the Center of the Earth ($6.9 million)
  6. Swing Vote ($6.3 million)
  7. Hancock ($5.2 million)
  8. WALL-E ($4.7 million)
  9. The X-Files: I Want to Believe ($3.4 million)
  10. Space Chimps ($2.8 million)
As for me, my sister dragged me to Mamma Mia! for the second time Friday night. Despite my reluctance, I will admit I had a remarkably good time mocking Pierce Brosnan every time he sang as well as dancing to the credits once the theatre was empty.

What Else I Watched:
  • Rope (3 stars) - Filmed in seven 10-minute takes and styled as one continuous tracking shot, watching this was almost like watching it on stage. While technically impressive, the story doesn't become compelling until the second half. Its best moments are reminiscent of Oscar Wilde. Speaking of...
  • The Importance of Being Earnest (3½ stars) - This is the only major Wilde play I haven't yet read, but I enjoyed the adaptation quite a bit. Colin Firth is always enjoyable to watch, and the rest of the cast was up to par as well.
  • Shopgirl (4½ stars) - Penned by Steve Martin from his own novella, this is an extremely simple story about three people and their journeys through life. The palette is beautiful, the characters are complex and compelling, and the story is engaging. Highly recommended.
  • The Lion King (4 stars) - Classic animated Disney. Stands the test of time.
  • Harvey (4½ stars) - This is now my favorite James Stewart movie. I'd put off watching this because I found the logline to be a bit silly, which just goes to show the limitations of loglines at times. James Stewart is at his best here, and the story is heartwarming without being saccharine.
  • Frankenstein (3½ stars) - If I hadn't read the novel (1818 text, to be specific), I probably would have enjoyed this a lot more. There are several rather small departures from the book that bothered me, though, all in all, it's a solid film with a stellar performance from Boris Karloff.
  • El Mariachi (3½ stars) - A charming action indie filmed for only $7,000. It had moments that reminded me of West Side Story sans music (in a good way), and the 10-minute film school in the extra features was eye-opening.
  • Desperado (3 stars) - The follow-up to El Mariachi, Antonio Banderas takes over the original title role. Not quite as interesting as the first in the trilogy, it was still fun and entertaining.
  • Once Upon a Time in Mexico (3½ stars) - Honestly, the third and most likely final film in Robert Rodriguez's Mariachi trilogy would have only mustered three stars from me had it not been for Johnny Depp's Agent Sands. Hands down best part of the movie. Also, the 10-minute cooking school recipe in the extra features looks amazing.
I'm also pleased to report I have finished my short story challenge. Look for it to be posted on Tuesday.