Corrosive Knights, a 4/29/20 Update

It’s been roughly two weeks (actually, just a little shy of that) since my last update (you can read it here) and I figured it was time to give a new update.

So I printed out the latest Corrosive Knights novel, #8, and decided this time around I’d do something different with the revision of draft #3 of the book: Instead of reading through the printed copy of it, writing up a bunch of corrections, then going to the computer and putting them into a new copy, I’d strike while the proverbial iron is hot and just read and revise the book on the computer simultaneously.

I didn’t know how it would work out.

On the one hand, printing the book out and revising the printed work allows me to more easily flip back and forth through the pages, sometimes even quite literally cutting up pieces of a page here and there and taping it to another section. This sounds dreadfully low tech and it is, but lining up all the “cut” pieces does allow you to look them over better than the way it is presented on the computer screen, at least for me!

On the other hand, because much of what I wrote I felt was pretty good as it was, I found there were sections I was able to whiz through, making my corrections as I found the “errors” and not wasting as much time as I might have.

But, in the end, have I saved time? I haven’t finished the third draft yet. In fact, I’m roughly 1/2 of the way through the thing but do feel the second half is a lot stronger/better developed than the first half, which did require some big changes. Bigger changes = more rewriting/new writing = more time.

If I had printed the whole thing out and revised it first, would I today be done with the read through and placement of corrections on paper? Would I now be entering the revisions on the computer stage?

Or is it possible I’d still be reading the printed out stuff and working on fixes?

Hard to say, really.

But it does bring me to the inevitable reality check one seems to always face: As optimistic as you may be about your work (and in that last post I wrote I was damned optimistic about how things were going), one shouldn’t get too excited -as I admit I did- about where things are because when you get to the next revision and it turns out what you have isn’t quite as great as you thought it was, it can really take the proverbial wind out of your sails.

Mind you, I wasn’t entirely wrong in my last post. I do still feel this book is further along than the others I’ve written. For a third draft, it is remarkably “complete”, story wise. This in turn means I’ll be getting that much quicker to the stage of dealing with grammatical/writing issues, rather than dealing with the more time consuming creative writing stuff.

Yet I’d be lying if I said that the work I’ve done in the last two weeks didn’t do just that: Deflate my sails just a little.

As I said, I’m halfway through the book right now and I’ve done a lot of fixing up, especially in the very early going of the book. I still feel there is some work to be done there but I don’t want to get totally bogged down with fixing every little detail at this point.

Part of the revision process involves assimilating the entire novel into your mind, realizing how one detail leads to the next and the next and the next. Sometimes something that happens on page 6 of the book becomes important on page 106.

So I plow along, fixing the big stuff while slowly memorizing almost every element of the story. I suppose its not unlike an actor memorizing a play, only in this case I memorize not just one role, but all of them.

When one has a clearer global view of the book, from page 1 to the very end, one then knows the actions on that theoretical page 6 should go this way or that. You maximize the elements, whether it be dialogue or action, so that when you get to the theoretical payoff or reference to that action/dialogue on page 106, you hope everything is there for the readers to make that connection.

Hopefully by the very end, when your reader gets to that last page and it all comes to an end, every plot point or bit of dialogue made sense and led you to that very ending and you close the book (or turn off your Kindle app) with a satisfied smile on your face.

In the very end, I am to make you as a reader satisfied.

I’ll get back to you when I’m done with Draft #3!

Swamp Thing: The Bronze Age Volume 2, a (Very Mildly) belated Review

Unknown to me and back on January 14th of 2020 DC Comics released Swamp Thing: The Bronze Age Volume 2.

Those who have read my entries here for a while may know this so forgive my repetition.

All the way back in 1974 and when I was no older than eight, I went into a drug store and found this comic on the newstand:

Swamp Thing Vol 1 10 | DC Database | Fandom

I read comic books before finding this issue, but Swamp Thing #10 was a watershed comic book for me. Why? Because it was the first time I realized comic books could be art.

Written by Len Wein and featuring the incredible art of Bernie Wrightson, what I didn’t know way back then was that this would be the last issue of Swamp Thing these two would make. Mr. Wein would write the following three issues, up to #13, then bow out of the series as well. Nestor Redondo, another incredible but not as well lauded artist, had the enviable task of following up on Mr. Wrightson. He did a great job, but when you follow a legendary run, odds aren’t great you’ll distinguish yourself quite as well.

Regardless, those 13 issues of the original series plus the very first Swamp Thing short story presented in House of Secrets #92…

House of Secrets Vol 1 92 | DC Database | Fandom

…were reprinted in Swamp Thing: The Bronze Age Volume 1. It’s a terrific reprint volume and I highly recommend it except for one issue that’s been bugging me for years. When the beloved (by me) issues #2 (the first appearance of Arcane and his Un-Men) and #10 of the series was reprinted many years ago, they re-colored Arcane’s un-men into all these (beware a very technical professional term) idiotic colors. You had red un-men, you had orange-un-men, you had purple un-men.

The original issue #10 had all the un-men flesh colored which, to my eyes, made the horror of what they are all the greater. These were human beings converted to weird freaky monsters…

Swamp Thing Volume 01 Issue 10 by Bernie Wrightson | Bernie ...
The original coloring for the grand reveal of Arcane and his Un-Men

When they re-colored the book, we had this…

Reprint coloring. Note how Arcane’s Un-Men have all kinds of different colors, but other than Arcane, none of the colors are “flesh”.

To me, this re-coloring was, IMHO, a very bad idea.

Its far more horrifying -and creepy- that they all be flesh colored rather than looking like they came in from Mars.

Regardless, back in 1974 I was so blown away by issue #10 of Swamp Thing I wound up spending the next ten years (at least!) going to various comic shops looking for comics that came before -and after!- featuring the character of Swamp Thing.

In time I collected the entire original run of Swamp Thing, issues 1-24, along with some of the character’s subsequent appearances in Challengers of the Unknown (following the cancellation of the original Swamp Thing series, there were a few plot threads that needed to be closed and the Challengers issues did this), Brave and the Bold, and DC Comics Presents.

I managed to grab most of the stuff, missing out only on a few of the later Challengers issues, but now, with Swamp Thing: The Bronze Age Vol. 2 I have the whole thing beautifully wrapped up in one volume.

For that alone, I highly recommend the book -and the first volume, of course- to anyone that’s a fan of the original run of Swamp Thing.

However, this volume includes one more thing that moves it -for me- from a must have to an absolutely must have: The inclusion of all materials from the unpublished 25th issue of the original series…!

That’s right, kids: DC has gone out of their way to reprint what they have of what would have been the 25th issue of the original Swamp Thing, an issue I always suspected was out there somewhere, filed away and never used… until it found its way into this volume.

So let me take you back to issue #24 of the original Swamp Thing, an issue written by David Anthony Kraft who was coming in after Gerry Conway’s short run…

Swamp Thing Vol 1 24 | DC Database | Fandom

I’m going to come out and say it: By the time Swamp Thing reached its final issues, it was clear the folks working on the book were trying to find new types of stories to write. With this issue, Swamp Thing was becoming more of a “superhero” type character, complete with a sorta/kinda Hulk type attacker.

At the end of issue #24, we had this intriguing posting:

So, issue #25 of Swamp Thing, following the superheroish motif they were doing, was to feature our favorite muck monster dealing with Hawkman. It would have been the second time Swamp Thing would feature a DC hero (issue #7 of the series had Batman)…

Swamp Thing (1972-1976) #7 - DC Entertainment

Though issue #25 of Swamp Thing and the confrontation between him and Hawkman never came out, I always suspected the issue had been written, at the very least, and perhaps even drawn before ultimately being filed away.

Why? Because back then the book was bi-monthly, meaning it would come out every second month, and the amount of time they had to get an issue ready before printing it didn’t allow them to sit around wasting time. They had to have that issue somewhat close to being “done” before the book was cancelled…

…and for quite literally decades I wondered what the issue must have looked like.

Welp, Swamp Thing: The Bronze Age Vol. 2 finally gives closure to my curiosity.

Not only do they include all the art they could find of the issue (which amounts to the whole thing minus one page), but they also include the scripts. The first script was a rough outline of what happens on each page and was meant to allow the artist to create the book uninhibited by the placement of captions and dialogue. The second script was the one that was likely written after the artwork was sent in and features the dialogue and captions for the letterer to put into the issue.

Then we get the artwork… Oh man…

There it was, after so much time: The cover to what would have been the 25th issue of Swamp Thing. Finally decades of curiosity and wonder (on my part) were fulfilled and I finally got to see the Swamp Thing/Hawkman meeting.

The first 8 pages of the issue, however, were never “completed” beyond rough pencils and look like this:

The next 8 pages of the issue, minus page 15 (which appears to be lost, perhaps forever) were completed with inks and lettering before word came down that the book was cancelled. They look like this:

So there it was, finally… Issue 25 of Swamp Thing.

If you’re at all like me, buying Swamp Thing: The Bronze Age Vol 2 was already a no-brainer.

But now, with the addition of this “lost” issue, its a must have for fans of the series.

Needless to say, I highly, highly recommend it.

Coronavirus Diaries 15: Staying Insane Edition

Ho boy…

After plenty of …uh… push back to this incredibly insane suggestion that people should somehow “inject” themselves with some kind of cleaner -Which, let’s be perfectly clear: WILL INJURE AND/OR KILL YOU!- “President” Trump now claims he was being “sarcastic”.

Here we have an article by Daniel Dale presented on CNN.com which pretty much debunks that claim:

Fact check: Trump lies that he was being “sarcastic” when he talked about injecting disinfectant

Of course, Fox “News” is trying to spin this but… its horrifying.

This is our “President”, and clearly he has no fucking idea what he’s talking about.

Worse, we haven’t, as President Obama stated, no clear path to dealing with the Covid-19 virus from the federal government… even to this point!

It’s the local Governors and Mayors that are dealing with this versus the Federal Government which, I have to say: I don’t know what they’re doing.

We hear about shortages of supplies, of supplies being snatched away from states/cities. We have a “President” who doesn’t seem to know or understand medicine, much less the numbers of dead and infected.

Nor does he seem to care.

Has he even once noted or said anything about the horror medical hospitals are facing? Has he expressed any sympathy at all?

What we get are increasingly ridiculous ramblings. What we got yesterday was a sure way to put yourself at risk of actually killing yourself.

How does one defend any of this?

If you’re a masochist, here’s some more, also from MSNBC’s Morning Joe show:

This is our leader, folks.

Coronavirus Diaries 14: Staying Sane Edition

I mentioned before that if there was one positive about this whole Covid-19/self-isolation situation its that I’ve been afforded much more time to devote to my writing.

This morning it occurred to me that I look forward to getting on the computer and typing away. The process allows me to take my own personal flights of fancy, moving away from the realities facing everyone.

While this is my own personal escape, I sincerely hope everyone else out there has found their own little hideaway to escape to, whether it be in catching up on reading, movies, TV shows, knitting, drawing, playing video games or board games, listening to music, playing your music, etc. etc.

Each day I do wonder when we’ll get out of this self-isolation and each day it seems to me that day lies further and further in the future.

Sadly, until there comes an effective treatment -a vaccine likely will not be ready until at least next year- we’re in this for a longer haul than anyone would like.

Oh, and to those who are spending this time reading my stuff, a sincere thank you.

It’s most appreciated and I hope to have a new book for you soon!

ChangesNowBowie (2020) a (On Time) Review

Released to digital/streaming services on April 17th, ChangesNowBowie is the latest David Bowie project released since his passing (gulp) four years ago.

I swear, I had to look that up and double check to be sure, but, yeah, David Bowie passed away on January 10, 2016. It’s been a little over four years since his passing!

Anyway, genius.com offers the following list of the songs and a little behind the scenes information on what this album is:

David Bowie: ChangesNowBowie

Repeating a little of what was at that website, ChangesNowBowie features essentially acoustic versions of several of Mr. Bowie’s songs. They were recorded as David Bowie was practicing for the big 50th Birthday Bash party he hosted back in 1996.

The songs aren’t bad at all yet I would add that neither was I necessarily totally blown away by these more mellow interpretations. The songs chosen are mostly songs that are more obscure to those who are only casually familiar with Mr. Bowie’s discography. Perhaps the most famous/well known songs are The Man Who Sold The World and Lady Stardust. What makes this album most interesting is hearing him go through some of these more obscure songs.

In fact, I’d say the later half of the album, starting with Lady Stardust (one of my favorite Ziggy Stardust tracks) through The Supermen (a song that works incredibly well as acoustically, from the album The Man Who Sold The World) through Repetition (a Lodger track I’ve always liked) through Andy Warhol and Quicksand (both found on Hunky Dory) are the highlights of the album.

On the other hand, the album starts with The Man Who Sold The World (its ok, didn’t really blow me away) goes to Aladdin Sane (this track works better frantic rather than the more laid back acoustic version, IMHO) to White Light/White Heat (a Velvet Underground song Bowie really enjoyed covering in concert, especially during his Ziggy Stardust era) and finally goes to Shopping For Girls (from Tin Machine II) which, also to me, sounded better in the original version.

Still, a nice enough album worth checking out if you’re a fan of David Bowie.

Anyway, see if you agree with me on at least one of the songs, the pretty obscure Tin Machine II entry Shopping for Girls. Here’s the original version…

And this is the more mellow/acoustic version found on ChangesNowBowie

It’s not bad, as I said above, but it didn’t necessarily prove a significant counter to the original.

Swing Time (1936)… Yikes…!

Whenever I present a review of a film, optimally I like to see the whole thing or as very close to the whole thing as I can.

This should be an obvious statement!

There are times, however, when I catch a film when its halfway through its run time (or a little more) and wind up watching the whole thing but don’t write about it because, frankly, since I’ve only seen a part of it it feels wrong to give it a “full” review.

The other day I was flipping through the various channels and they were showing the 1936 film Swing Time. I saw the film once before, in a film class I took as an elective back in the stone age and during my very early college years.

I recalled very little of the film, frankly. See, though I love most film genres, film musicals don’t really do all that much for me. That’s not to say I don’t find some of them enjoyable (I liked, for instance, Grease).

Anyway, when we were about to see Swing Time, I recall our teacher say that this is considered one of the very best Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers pairings. The film was directed by George Stevens, who would go on to direct such classics as Gunga Din, A Place In The Sun, Shane, Giant, etc., but, frankly, I recalled very little about the film other than my teacher’s statement.

So when I spotted it on, I was curious. I kept it on and caught some of the early minutes.

The film was, I must admit, quite charming in its early going. Astaire is elegant and Ginger Rogers is quite lovely and when they dance, they move so smoothly. There is plenty of chemistry between them and, given the Depression era these films were originally released in, it much have been quite a relief to get out of the negatives one faced on a daily basis and lose yourself -if only for an hour and a half- in a movie featuring such lovely people having such a lovely time.

I was enjoying the film quite a bit even if it was corny (at least according to these more jaded eyes). I was enjoying it.

And then came the Bojangles of Harlem number…

Le… yikes…!

What this clip doesn’t show is Fred Astaire applying his blackface right before the number.

As he was doing it, I thought to myself: “Is that… is that what I think it is…?!”

Yup, it sure was.

The dance number itself was, like the rest of what I saw in the film, entertaining and beautiful and exciting and Astaire sure does seem to walk on air…

…but…

…blackface…?!?

Holy cow I had completely forgotten that was in the film (again, when I first saw it years ago, none of it really stuck with me at all).

I suppose this is another of those examples of things that were permissible and, indeed, deemed quite entertaining way back when but today…

Yeah, this just doesn’t fly.

At all.

And with good reason!

I shook my head and shut the film off after this… I simply didn’t have the time to finish it up, and I was left wondering how many other famous/well known films like this one have similar sequences. How many musicals from this era (and this was one of the bigger eras for musicals) feature such numbers?

I suspect there are many.

I know, for example, that the first “talkie” film was the 1927 feature The Jazz Singer. The concluding number was Al Jolson singing Mammy while looking like this…

Yikes indeed.

Coronavirus Diaries 13… The Inmates Are Getting Restless…

I suppose it was a matter of time but, as the heading above tells you, there is evidence all this social distancing/self-isolation is starting to make some people crack.

Sadly, we have a “President” who feel the need to use this to his advantage, so desperate is he to get re-elected.

First up, in Michigan some yahoos protesting against the supposed harshness of self-isolating decided to protest. Among other wonderful things they did was block access to a hospital with their barricade of vehicles.

Read all about it in this article by David Neiwert and presented on dailykos.com:

Fringe right closes down Michigan Capital with ‘gridlock’ protest against coronavirus measures

Thankfully, it appeared that no ambulances involved in an emergency situation were slowed/delayed in arriving at the hospital but it could have easily happened. Imagine you or a loved one desperate to get to the hospital because of some emergency (whether Covid-19 related or not) and you’re delayed by a bunch of idiots blocking the streets.

Worse, some of these protesters, like these…

People take part in a protest for "Michiganders Against Excessive Quarantine" at the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, Michigan on April 15, 2020. - The group is upset with Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer's(D-MI) expanded the states stay-at-home order to contain the spread of the coronavirus. (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY / AFP) (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images)

Weren’t following proper distance from each other.

The irony of this whole situation is that the self-isolation/social distancing measures were not created to screw with people’s freedoms. It is intended to keep people -even these people- from getting sick and spreading this disease around.

By doing what they’re doing, they’ve just endangered themselves and their communities.

All because they can’t handle being indoors a little more than usual?

And these same right wing heroes are the ones that bash liberals as snowflakes?

…Hmmmm…

Anyway, “President” Donald Trump added fuel to the proverbial fire by tweeting a bunch of shit about “freeing” Michigan and other places and…

…sigh…

You know what? You want to go out and hang around with people and don’t fear getting sick? You’re convinced the Coronavirus is a liberal scam? Then by all means hang out with your fellow extremists.

It’s Darwinian selection at its finest, I suppose. The only negative is that these fools may give the disease to others who did observe proper precautions. All because of their selfishness and carelessness.

*****

Speaking of which, over in my home state of Florida, our “Governor” decided to allow Jacksonville beaches to open though there are certain restrictions.

Welp, though there were plenty of people cheering and frolicking on the beach, these scenes, presented in this article by Lee Moran on CNN.com, sure do make me sweat…

Yup, here we got a bunch of people hanging around really close to each other, most without masks or any sort of protective gear.

I wonder how many new cases of Covid-19 are going to pop up in the next two weeks.

I suspect we’ll see a rise.

But, hey, at least these separate groups of people have the comfort of their guns and beaches.

Corrosive Knights: A 4/15/20 Update…!

As I wrote before a few days ago, if there is any upside to this whole Coronavirus mess its that with the “free” time I’ve come into I’m able to focus a lot more on my writing and have put in many more hours doing so of late.

On Monday, the 13th of April, I finished the 2nd full draft of Book #8 in the Corrosive Knights series.

And I’m damn happy with the end results!

Usually when I get to the end of a second draft of any of my novels, I’m still a pretty long way from having what I consider a “complete” draft. I might have quite a bit of the plot to sort through or there might be big chunks or pieces missing. Hell, there might be quite a bit to re-do, story wise, before heading to the later stages/drafts which require more grammatical review than anything else.

Welp, in this case I feel like I’ve gotten most of the story elements done. There are a few things that need to be smoothed over and/or expanded upon, but the story, beginning, middle, and conclusion, are effectively finished…

…and to my liking!

I truly believe I’m one more draft away from having all the story elements in their place and perhaps another two or three drafts away from being done with the book entirely!

In other words, I might be done with this book by Draft #5 versus my usual twelve drafts…!

Needless to say, I’m very excited because I can envision -provided no pitfalls appear along the way- being done with this book by either the middle or late summer versus toward the end of the year.

Obviously things could change and dramatically but I’m excited with where I’m at today.

Yesterday, I printed the whole thing out and starting today or tomorrow I’m going to start the revision.

Let’s see how quickly I make it through Draft #3, shall we?

Murder By Death (1976) A (Criminally) Belated Review

I saw the 1976 Neil Simon written comedy Murder By Death once, perhaps twice, a very, very long time ago but it stuck with me. When I saw it on sale at VUDU, I had to pick it up and, yesterday, I had a bit of time to spare and watched it again.

Here’s the movie’s trailer:

Murder by Death is a parody of the popular literary detectives of the past and features a very star studded cast in all the key roles.

In this film you have David Niven and Maggie Smith playing Dick and Dora Charlston (a parody of Nick and Nora Charles from Dashiell Hammett’s novel The Thin Man and subsequently made into a delightful film series featuring William Powell and Myrna Loy). Peter Falk is Sam Diamond, a parody of Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade from The Maltese Falcon and is accompanied by his right hand “dame”, Tess Skeffington (Eileen Brennan).

James Coco plays Belgian detective Milo Perrier, an obvious parody of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot, who is accompanied by his driver Marcel (James Cromwell in his movie debut) while Elsa Lanchester plays Jessica Marbles, a parody of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple who is accompanied by her nurse (Estelle Winwood).

Finally, Peter Sellers plays Sidney Wang, a parody, I’m guessing (I’m not as familiar with the character!) of Charlie Chan, who is accompanied by adopted son Willie Wang (Richard Narita).

The plot: Eccentric millionaire Lionel Twain (Truman Capote, delivering quite well!) invites the most famous detectives of all time to his mansion to solve a murder that will be committed at the stroke of midnight. The person who solves the murder wins one million dollars. If no one solves the crime, however, it will stain the reputation of these world famous detectives.

Meanwhile, the Butler (Alec Guiness), who is blind, has to deal with the new cook (Nancy Walker) who is deaf and can neither speak nor read.

What could possibly go wrong?!

The movie plays out as one would think a Neil Simon feature would: It feels like a filmed Broadway play, with a diverse set of characters running back and forth from room to room in an at times frantic way. The situations are at times quite hilarious and reminded me of what we would see four years later with the movie Airplane!: A star studded farce where silliness is the order of the day.

However…

While the movie plays out like an Airplane!-like dark mansion/murder/detective film, the humor is far less sharp and perhaps a little too gentle, at least when looked at now. There are some more edgy jokes (one involving Dick Charlston’s possible infidelity and Sam Diamond’s possible homosexuality) that are brought up but… again, its pretty gentle stuff by today’s standards of humor.

Still, seeing such a large and fascinating cast come together for a pretty good -if not always great- comedy winds up being a damn fun time.

Recommended!

By the way, when the film aired on TV, they re-inserted four clips into the film but they weren’t put back into the digital copy I have. The quality of the clips isn’t terrific and, truly only two of them -Willie Wang finding a clue and the last guest arrives after everything is over- are most worthwhile, IMHO. Those two clips are the last two presented.

Sorry for the murky quality of the scenes, but this seems to be the best you’re going to find them at this point.

Here they are!

Under The Silver Lake (2018) a (Mildly) Belated Review

Back in 2001 the film Donnie Darko, directed by Richard Kelly and starring Jake Gyllenhaal was released. It didn’t do much business but when it came to home video, the film met a far more pleasant fate: It became a cult classic and suddenly Richard Kelly’s near forgotten work was met with considerable acclaim.

It was deserved: Donnie Darko is a film that carried a lovely nostalgic bent which appealed to older (cough) viewers who lived through the 1980’s, when that film took place. But its themes regarding high school alienation struck a cord with younger viewers as well.

Flush with a new found success, Mr. Kelly parlayed that success in the creation of Southland Tales, a movie that… wasn’t very good.

In fact, its rare that I start seeing a film and have to shut it off, but Southland Tales was a film that, frankly, gave me a headache.

Self-indulgent seems almost too good a term to describe it.

Mr. Kelly’s subsequent career folded rather quickly. He re-edited Donnie Darko, creating a “director’s cut” which though I haven’t seen, have heard was nowhere near as good a film as the original theatrical version. His next film, 2009’s The Box, was met with both audience and critical scorn, and Mr. Kelly hasn’t been heard or seen since and for the past ten long years.

I point all this out because there are parallels -and significant differences- between Mr. Kelly’s career trajectory and writer/director David Robert Mitchell.

Mr. Mitchell’s big hit, 2014’s It Follows, is a damn good horror film, IMHO, confidently directed by Mr. Mitchell and incredibly tense and frightening.

Flush with success, Mr. Mitchell would follow up that film with Under The Silver Lake, a film which, like Mr. Kelly’s Southland Tales, was clearly an indulgence on Mr. Mitchell’s part, a film that likely would never have been made had Mr. Mitchell, like Mr. Kelly, had the clout to get investors to try his oddball project.

But, unlike Southland Tales, I found Under The Silver Lake (lets abbreviate it to USL) a far better work overall, though that doesn’t excuse some of its indulgences.

USL involves slacker/deadbeat Sam (Andrew Garfield) who lives in an apartment building in Hollywood and is about to be evicted from his apartment. He doesn’t take that -or just about anything- too terribly seriously. He has an actress girl friend who shows up for sex and watches an older -but not elderly- woman in an apartment opposite his who takes care of a bunch of parrots… while topless.

Then one day he spots a beautiful blonde (Riley Keough) bathing in the apartment building’s pool and is smitten by her. That night he bumps into her and spends a time in her apartment watching an old movie (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes with Marilyn Monroe, if memory serves) and as things get a little heated, her roommate and a few other oddball characters show up and Sam has to leave.

The next day, his neighbor’s apartment is completely cleaned out and the neighbor is gone.

This strange occurrence arouses the interest of Sam, who begins to investigate what happened to his neighbor, and in the course of the movie uncovers many of the secrets of La La Land.

USL is a film that one cannot view literally. Most of what we see and experience through Sam is symbolic and, sometimes, incredibly absurd. Sometimes, its so absurd as to be laughable… but not necessarily in a good way.

But unlike (once again) Southland Tales, USL presents us with more food for thought than the former film ever did, including some sequences (one involving an old Songwriter and another featuring Sam dancing in a club to What’s The Frequency Kenneth, the REM song) that are quite striking..

Having said all that, the movie does feel like a “light” or not quite successful version of David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive. We get the whole Hollywood is a meat grinder storyline but with more absurd -again not in a necessarily good way- sequences than we should.

Still, when USL is good, its damn good but that doesn’t excuse the excesses or long runtime (the film clocks in at nearly 2 hours and 30 minutes and could have been trimmed down, IMHO, by at least a half hour without injuring the quality of the work).

USL, like Southland Tales, was hardly a hit. A24, the studio that released it and released such works as The VVitch, The Lighthouse, Hereditary, and Midsommar, appear to have lost faith in the movie when it was originally scheduled to be released and after a disastrous playing in Cannes a few years back. It was ultimately put out without much fanfare and doesn’t appear to have a BluRay release (I picked up a digital copy of it through VUDU when they were having a sale on A24 features).

In conclusion, USL is an odd bird of a film, self-indulgent and silly/stupid at times but at other times quite striking and thought provoking. I can only offer a mild recommendation, however, because the film is so strange it is just as likely to turn viewers off as it is to engage your interest.

For me, it was the later, but I won’t pretend to say the film works all the time.

Still, if you’re feeling adventurous, you could do much worse than spend time Under the Silver Lake.

The Blog of E. R. Torre

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