Thursday, August 24, 2006

Hollywood Poet

Movie and television director Stephen Gyllenhaal takes readers on a profoundly humanistic journey in CLAPTRAP: Notes from Hollywood, his first book of poetry. Recently published by Cantarabooks LLC, this impressive offering includes 46 poems that evoke marvelous cinematic images and stir the emotions, two things I always expect good poetry to do for me.

Gyllenhall, husband of screenwriter Naomi Foner and father of actors Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal, has directed the acclaimed films Paris, Trout and Losing Isaiah, but poetry seems to be the foundation of the many facets of his life as husband, father, movie-man, friend, and Hollywood observer, which probably explains why CLAPTRAP is such a rare treat to read and savor. Where can you find this hidden gem? Only at, a small new online company.

My complete review of CLAPTRAP: Notes from Hollywood is posted at Just look for the feature article entitled Behind the Glitz.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Honoring Heroes

WORLD TRADE CENTER is a tribute to ordinary people who became extraordinary heroes after aircraft crashed into the Twin Towers in New York City on September 11, 2001. It tells the true story of Port Authority policemen John McLaughlin, played by Nicolas Cage, and Will Jimeno, portrayed by Michael Pena, who were two of the men entering the Trade Center, hoping to help with the evacuation of as many as possible on that fateful day.

Almost immediately these two become trapped and find themselves immobile. Although not being able to see each other, they can talk. And talk they do, simply to keep each other alive. Meanwhile, their families are devastated and can do nothing but wait for news of their loved ones. Miraculously, through efforts led by Dave Karnes, a former U. S. marine played by Michael Shannon, the two men are rescued.

This Oliver Stone movie reminds us that out of a tragic event in which thousands lost their lives, many good people banded together to take care of one another. I found the rescue sequences in the film extremely involving, but I am disappointed that more time was not devoted to the rescue instead of adding so many scenes filled with manipulative sentimentality. An emphasis on sentimentality is unnecessary here, for there are too many emotional wounds not yet healed as a result of that terrible tragedy. Nevertheless, I admire filmmaker Stone for creating this poignant cinematic tribute to the many people who became heroes on September 11th.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Sorry, M.Night

I'm a big M. Night Shyamalan fan who has loved all his previous thrillers, but Lady in the Water lacks his usual brilliant storytelling talent and filmmaking skill. In fact, I found it downright annoying.

I could barely understand Story, the title nymph, because she mumbles and whispers so much of the time. Shyamalan usually presents intriguing characters in his films, but in Lady in the Water, they are just plain boring, and most of the actors seem to be reading their lines. Believe it or not, Shyamalan gives the best performance as one of the important humans Story must contact. Surprisingly, he is better as an actor than a filmmaker here. His bedtime fairy tale was not suspenseful, scary or magical to me. In some parts it reminded me of a bad home movie. Even the ferocious creature coming after Story looks like a fugitive from an Ed Wood movie.

Thanks to my husband for giving me permission to conclude this blog entry with his observation about Lady in the Water: I smell dead box office.