Friday, April 18, 2008

The Scream Dream Team

Now suppose you find yourself in the all-to-common situation of having to assemble an all-star team of screamers (and we're talking blood-curdling, ear-piercing skull reverberations here). Who do you choose?

My starting five for the Scream Dream Team:

1) Jamie Lee Curtis
Easy. Her performance in the 1978 horror film Halloween earned her the nickname, "The Scream Queen." What's a Scream Dream Team without the Scream Queen being seen .... een. Sorry, wasn't sure how to end that sentence.

2) Macaulay Culkin
When the first image that comes to mind of this kid (creepy guy now) is screaming with hands firmly on cheeks, you know you have a solid vocal chord virtuoso that can belt one out with the best of them. Macaulay Culkin, as Kevin McCallister in the 1990 film Home Alone, defined the scream for a younger generation, adding an essential visual component of wide-eyed gaping shock and horror. And this was only aftershave he applied to his face! Imagine his scream if he saw Dracula or Freddy Krueger or Michael Jackson? Actually, he did see Michael Jackson. The horror.

3) Maria Sharapova
Her loudest grunt on the tennis court measured an ear-drum perforating 101.2 decibels. For those of you requiring some context, 100 decibels is how loud the average car stereo is at maximum volume. Welcome to the team, Maria. Welcome to the team.

4) Fay Wray
The actress who played Ann Darrow in the original King Kong inspired a contest to see who most closely matches her famous scream. Can there ever be a real winner?

5) The Scream
The painting by Edvard Munch. Variety, spice, terror. The opposing scream team would never expect a visual knockout blow like this! Not bad for oil, tempera and pastel on cardboard (seriously, it was on cardboard).

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Harry Potter and the Hallows

The road to hell is paved with adverbs.
- Stephen King

This quote appeared in my iGoogle Quotes of the Day box and reminded me of what King had to say about J.K. Rowling last summer during The Anticipation:
(from "Deathly adverbs" by Jan Freeman of The Boston Globe")

Even Harry Potter's most loyal fans would concede that his creator, J.K. Rowling, has a weakness for adverbs. Four years ago, in an otherwise admiring review of "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," Stephen King observed that Rowling "never met [an adverb] she didn't like." Harry, he noted, "speaks quietly, automatically, nervously, slowly, and often -- given his current case of raving adolescence -- ANGRILY."

King found this flaw "endearing rather than annoying," but not all readers are so indulgent. In December, when the title of the final volume was announced but "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" was not yet finished, a writer at the online review Blogcritics told Rowling it wasn't too late to improve her style.

"Ms. Rowling, I have a challenge for you while you're still in the editing stage of book seven," proposed M.J. Ryan. "Take a highlighter and mark those adverbs up. Get rid of them. Release yourself, and your readers, from 'Adverb Hell.'" And start at the top, said Ryan: "'Deathly' is an adverb. In the title. How lazy can you get?"

That said, there better be an 8th book. LEGACY AND SERIES CONCLUSION BE DAMNED.

Charlton Heston passes away

I think it's odd for someone like me to be writing about Charlton Heston's death in any serious way. Politically, I tend to hang out on the left side of the fence and generally think we should go gunless in the United States (let's give cops big sticks and just beat people). However, after taking several film classes in college, two films stand out in my memory -- Orson Welles's Touch of Evil and the epic Ben-Hur, both of which I had the pleasure of seeing on the big screen.

Heston played Ramon Miguel Vargas in Touch of Evil. That's right, he played a Mexican. "My name is Var-gahs!" I remember hearing. Very strange and way off-base by today's standards. But seeing Ben-Hur was one of the most exhilarating film experiences I've ever had, and I suppose I should thank Charlton (did anyone ever call him that?) for that performance. Rest in peace you crazy epic gun-touting man. Rest in peace.