Sunday, October 31, 2010

Just Another Week-End




I am in love with that photo. Cornering my boy Andy Zamora to victory in Ottawa yesterday night. Finally a photo where I don't look like a hydrocephalus dweeb.

Taken by Éric Gaudreault

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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Chuck Palahniuk Interview Bundle





This guy is a riot. A lot of people (including me) are reading his novels, but hearing the guy talk is another ball game. He's a very smooth talker and a gifted storyteller without having to resort to fiction. In those two interviews he's talking about the inspiration for Fight Club, other novels (Choke, Tell-All) and his fights with language and technology.

He's an interesting hybrid in between the man of letters and the over-enthusiastic teenager. I'm not crazy-in-love with all his novels, but the man achieved success and remained true to himself. Have to admire that. Probably my last post of the month since I'm leaving for Ottawa in a few hours. See you in November!

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Some Numbers To Play Around With



Tomorrow is a Pagan Holiday which marks the end of October. A month I spent it four different countries, resting, reading and not writing much. I posted four times during the first ten days. Of course, my hit count was affected, but by less than I thought. I was down 150 visits from September. Nothing to be worried about. My RSS feed went booming from the 20-30's to mid-40 suscribers. I don't undestand the logic of RSS feeds. The less you post the more it goes up as long as you're being regular (like once a week).

Since I came back, I've been hitting the keyboard like it owed me money and the results are showing. Now, despite having been M.I.A for ten days, I'm just a few visits shy of my September record of 1472. There are 48 hours to go and I'm at 1390. I owe that to a few good ideas (like the interview with Adam Purple) and, ironically, to the more time I spent on other people's blog. Yesterday has been one of my best days ever, the first time I ever got more than 50 visits during a day I only posted personal rants. 81 was the number. The NaNoWriMo rant had something to do with it. I hit a few sensitivities and tapped into the actualities. Anyway, those numbers couldn't have happened without you, thank you all!

I'm probably not going to beat September. Not this month. The NaNoWriRant would have to make babies. During the week-end, things are usually slower anyways. But the readership is growing and you're starting to give me feedback. Thank you dear readership. I'm promise I'm going to keep the manic pace going as long as you keep being so cool! Into November we go!


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Friday, October 29, 2010

NaNoWriNot



I don't get it. I need education on the subject. Why is there such a fuss around this NaNoWriMo thing? All I hear from it is bitching from editorial assistants, flooded with crappy novel queries from NaNoWriMo and nostalgic rants from various blogger about how shitty their NaNoWriMo novels were, but how great and O.G the writing process was. I've been trying to go on with my shitty novel for ten months now and I'm nowhere near completion. Why would I believe that anybody that's not Fitzgerald can produce in one month a 50 000 words novel that can bypass my soon-to-be years of effort.

I'm not going to do NaNoWriMo and I'm pretty fuckin' tired of bloggers around the web telling me how amazing and hardcore of an experience it is. Does that make me a bad person? Were there any NaNoWriMo novels ever published? Were they good? I feel there's something very big, clear and awesome that I dont' get. Is there?




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Friday's People Thread - Your Literary Entertainment




Hey folks,

It's Friday and I'm sick of the sound of my own voice. What's up with you guys this week-end? What are you reading? What are you planning to read in the next few weeks. As you know I'm into DFW's Consider The Lobster, but also in Self-Editing For Fiction Writers (which is really like...meh). On my book shelf are Sean Ferrell's Numb and The Writer's Journey, which I find quite exciting to look at. Do you do that also? You buy books in advance so you can look at them with lust from the bookshelf?

In a close future there's Dennis Lehane's new book Moonlight Mile coming out next Tuesday and will be bumping writers from my priority list. I'm also intrigued in John Updike. I might check him out soon. There's also the "Projected Readings". As you can see, I'm very easy to inspire and entertain. What about you?

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Segments



I'm currently reading Consider The Lobster, David Foster Wallace's other essay book. I think it's the first time I read three books from a single writer in a month. It's enlightening. I never thought readers could be interested in somebody personal thoughts on a subjects. The essay is a form that shows total humility in terms of legitimacy claims. Plus, they are bought by magazines. It's like the greatest thing ever. I'm already working on something while Solace goes under the scrutiny of my focus group.

I haven't been watching much television lately. I'm trying to gather up the titles that kept me in front of the screen for more than ten minutes and here it is: The Ultimate Fighter (duh!), Law & Order SVU, Chef Academy, America's Next Top Model and CSI. A little more reality television I wished for, but I'm happy with the overall amount of time I spent in front of a television screen for the last two weeks. Five to eight hours maybe. It's more time for writing, more time for Josie, more time for the dogs. I'm really wondering if television have any use, but to numb existential pain for a few hours.

I've been shopping for a new cell phone lately. A smart phone where I can take my email and pick up quick entertainment when Josie wants to shop or something. I'm alarmed that this decision appeals to what kind of person I am. Blackberry is more work-oriented and displays more a more serious, businesslike attitude as the iPhone is more of an entertainment center. Right now I'm more Steve Jobs than Jim Balsilie because in the long run, I might save a ton of money from the eventual purchase of a handheld gaming consoles. It's 200$ right off the bat, not to mention than the games are a lot cheaper.

This week in writing has been productive. I've made a first round of edits to Solace's first chapter and progressed well on my first essay. One thing I couldn't do was a first paragraph though. I'm trying to say too much in too little space and I'm white noising, trying to filter it up. I'm pretty happy with my chapter overall, but a first paragraph, much more a first sentence has to shine with grace and minimalism. No matter how complex is your novel. I'm a purist of first sentences, they have to grab you by the throat effortlessly. Are you?


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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Courage Wolf Advice Of The Week




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Interview with Adam Purple



Hello readers!

In an effort to stir things up in the writers/bloggers community, I have initiated this little project. See, it's a pain to be unpublished because you have to fight your way through waves of writers and shine in mere seconds. I decided it would be cool to cheat the process. With the help of New England's own Adam Purple, we started something new. Unpublished writers interviewing each other. If no one takes the time for us, we would create the time ourselves. The rules are simple. It's an exchange of interviews. I post my interview with Adam on Dead End Follies and he links to it on his kick-ass blog Writer Not. Then he interviews me on Writer Not and I link to him on Dead End Follies. This way we put up many links for consultation and make available more substantial material about ourselves.

I'm not sure what's exactly going to happen from here. I don't expect publication, but hey, if unpublished writers feel less alone by sharing the experiences. If you're interested, contact me in the comments section and I'll interview you on Dead End Follies...if you interview me! Thanks to Adam for being the first participant. He gave me answers that were both amazing and sincere!


*Adam Purple doesn't look like Neil Patrick Harris. I just thought I'd put a "casual pub talk" photo*


Tell us a bit about you, Adam Purple, the man who decided to write a novel. Who are you? Where do you come from?

I was born and raised in New England, but have lived many places around the country, including New York City and LA. I have degrees in engineering, and I've worked for more than twenty years in the fields of engineering and information technology. I've been writing fiction for many years, mostly in the form of short stories that I have kept to myself. I've blogged for several years, and my current blog is Writernot.com. I have written some flash fiction that appears on various sites. Nauset's Close is my first novel, and I'm currently trying to find an agent for it.


What was your first literary love? The first time a novel "swallowed your soul" and made you forget about reality.

As an adolescent, I very much enjoyed science fiction. I devoured Star Trek and Star Wars novels, but my favorite was Larry Niven, particularly his Ringworld saga. I've always been a science and technology geek, and I enjoyed how Niven's stories were steeped in science. It made his worlds seem believable and approachable to me.

Although I read and enjoyed all of the usual required reading in high school, none of them made a profound impression on me. Quite by accident, I stumbled across The Fountainhead. I'll be the first to say that I'm opposed to Rand's politics and philosophy, but The Fountainhead struck a chord with me. I find the writing clunky and wooden, but the essence of the story, and how the story unfolds, made a large impact on me. It may have been the first novel I'd read that truly asked me to challenge myself, to challenge my thinking. The message I took from it was simply this: trust your own mind, and use it well. That was a very heady experience for me, at the age of eighteen, headed off to college. Reading The Fountainhead also reignited my own passion for reading, which continues to this day.

Who are the writers that helped shape your style?

Although I've admired and have been influenced by many writers, I never really settled on a particular writer or writing style. Like many, I have simply been attracted to good writing, and good stories. Some favorites include Wallace Stegner, John Irving and Tracy Kidder.


Most people I know think they can write a novel as long as they find the time and the discipline to do it. We both know it's not given to anyone. When did you know you had to do this? What was that defining moment when you told yourself you had to write a novel?


I firmly believe that everyone has some sort of story to tell. Getting things to paper--or to canvas, or music, or stage--is the challenge. Most of my own storytelling has taken place in my mind. I've written countless scenes, stories, vignettes, often repeating them over and over, exercising the words and dialog, all without committing the words to paper. I assume that many people do just that type of "writing" with their own stories.

It wasn't until I was in my twenties that I actually put some of my ideas to paper, in the form of awful short stories that I'd share with friends. Much later in life, I had the germ of a story that I felt could become a novel. Late one night on a summer vacation, I found myself thumb-typing that story into my smartphone. It eventually became a typed chapter. I plotted out much of the remaining story in my head, but couldn't write it. It became like a loose tooth for me. I couldn't leave it alone; neither could I just sit down and complete the job. Years went by.

The summer of last year, I committed myself to actually writing the whole story. I decided I either had to see it through to completion, or give up on it completely. I set a goal of writing 500 words per day, every day, and completed the story last fall. Rewrites and revisions took me into late spring of this year. I'm now comfortable saying that it is done. That little fragment of a story, typed into my smartphone about six years ago, became Nauset's Close.

Nauset's Close is a family saga. What compelled you to chose this style of novel?

The story really didn't lend itself to being classified in a more popular commercial genre. It has elements of romance and suspense, but it is really the story of the conflicts within a family. It suppose that I could have written the story as YA, which is immensely popular now, but I think the YA genre would have been too limiting for the story I wanted to tell.

What were the biggest difficulties you've encountered while writing Nauset's Close?

The hardest part was simply committing myself to the process. I floundered for years simply because I wasn't smart enough to treat writing as a job. I also found that I had to get used to the idea of thinking myself as a writer, and not simply someone playing at writing a story. Once I put myself on a regular schedule, writing every night and weekends, I made great progress.

I can't help noticing you talked about Young Adult novels. They have soared in the literary world, from the inception of the Harry Potter series to the Twilight Saga. What's your opinion on them? Have they played a role some way or another in your literary evolution?


I think YA is a very interesting genre. I'm happy to support any writing that gets young people reading more. As a father myself, I know how difficult it can be to good books for kids to read. I'm very glad that YA is available, though I wish there were more offerings directed at boys.

Only recently I've come around to the idea that YA can appeal to adult readers as well. I read the Hunger Games this fall. While it's not exactly my type of story, I enjoyed it, and I can see why it has such a devoted following. In terms of writing, I'm not sure that I could create a convincing YA story. I afraid any serious attempt I might make would sound false to the reader.


If you had the attention of an agent or a publisher in a house party for example, how would you present your project?


This is a painful task for me. You might think that having written a full-length novel, I would very easily be able to describe it in a query letter or short pitch. Yet I struggle with this, daily. Part of my struggle is, I think, due to the fact that Nauset's Close doesn't fit into a hot commercial genre. I can't simply start by saying that it's a dystopian YA fantasy, for example. I like to think that Nauset's Close is more on the literary side of the commercial/literary divide, perhaps along the lines of Katherine Towler's Snow Island trilogy, or Jamie Ford's novel (a current favorite of mine), Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.

For Nauset's Close, here is the best elevator pitch that I've come up with so far:

When Willy's mother dies, no one thinks to blame him for her death. No one except Jack, the boy's widowed father. Willy, a hyperactive boy growing up in a quiet and orderly household, only wants love and acceptance from his father, the stoic war hero. Jack simply looks forward to the day when Willy, the constant, chattering reminder of his loss, is finally out on his own. But when Willy is nearly grown and ready to leave, Jack's disguised and long-simmering resentment erupts. Ultimately it is up to Willy to find the grace to forgive the unforgivable.

Are you considering e-publishing and self-publishing as avenues?

I think e-publishing will happen as a matter of course. I doubt I will pursue self-publishing. If I can't get a publisher interested in my work, then that's probably telling me something.

Are you only interested in writing fiction or are you tempted to take the same road than Wallace, Wolfe, Thompson and Mailer, to publish essays in magazines?

That would be heady company. I've never tried writing a magazine article, but I'm certainly willing to try. I originally got into blogging several years ago so that I could post my essays on energy, conservation, and climate (some of these are still available on my current blog, Writernot.com). But I don't currently have any essays that I could easily shop to magazines or journals.

What can we wish you in the future?

I am very new at this game. I will take any constructive advice and good luck that anyone wishes to offer. And thanks for the opportunity to speak with you.

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Movie Review : The Hangover (2009)



Country:

USA

Recognizable Faces:

Bradley Cooper
Zach Galifianakis
Heather Graham
Jeffrey Tambor
Mike Tyson

Directed By:

Todd Phillips



There are movies a real man must have seen to claim a Darwinian superiority on his peers. Anything that Clint Eastwood start in is mandatory. Same for the first Star Wars trilogy. There is no scientific reasoning behind those imperatives, it's just something that guys do. Lately, I've been stigmatized by my friends about that Hangover movie, which was apparently the funniest thing since Ace Ventura. "BEN, IT'S FUNNY AND FUCKED UP AT THE SAME TIME, YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS SHIT OR YOU'RE NOT A MAAAAAN". Last Monday, I was reborn into manhood apparently and checked out The Hangover.

So, Doug Billings (Justin Bartha) is about to get married. But first, his friends prepared him a nasty bachelor party in Las Vegas. A major issue happening over there, they all black out during the evening and end up losing Doug. So Phil (Cooper), Stu (Helms) and Doug's weirdo new brother in law Alan (Galifianakis)embark on a quest to piece up the memories from the bachelor party and find their buddy before his wedding. They will realize it's easy to be stupid in Vegas for one night, but not to make amends.

The movie is articulated about a joke that no one remembers. It's an ingenuous plot device, borrowed from crime fiction (the amnesia device, just think Jason Bourne). I wouldn't have a problem with it if it wasn't a comedy. Because of that narrative choice, the humor is delivered to the viewers little by little, joke by joke, drop by drop. Don't get me wrong, when it decides to be crass, it's pretty funny and had me laughing out loud, but the movie is so entrenched in its storyline and takes itself so seriously that those heartily laughs were few and far between. I heard the sound of my own voice five or six times during The Hangover. My favorite joke being the running gag with the Chinese mob boss.

I also have two big problems with this movie. First, it's one of those films draws a tender portrait of irresponsibility. Males are so irresponsible, but it's cool because they just want to have fun and recuperate their lost youth. By representing males like this, Hollywood is turning a whole generation of young boys into this strange archetype. There are other pleasures than losing yourself in alcohol. It's a cardboard depiction of male characters and while it was cute for a moment, it's getting boring twelve years after The Big Lebowski.

Also, have you seen how women were portrayed in this movie? The only relevant female protagonist is a stripper (Heather Graham) who is dumb but oh so Vegas-wise and sympathetic. Other female characters are seen mostly on a brass pole during the ending montage or even better, Tracy (the beautiful Sasha Barrese) as "the trophy bride". She literally has NO ROLE in the movie whatsoever except to coerce Doug and the boys into coming back home for the wedding. Other movies replace the Tracy-Plot-Device with a time bomb or a nameless terrorist with hostages, it's the same. In the end, she's the object of love, where the other women were objects of desire. Other name, same shit.

The Hangover would have been great as a slapstick comedy in the tradition of Buster Keaton. Too bad the director drowned his movie in questionable choices from the cast of Bradley Cooper to the rigid mold he imposed to more talented actors like Zach Galifianakis. The Hangover is like the cool kid in school. It can be really funny, but it has a shitty personality.

SCORE: 60%




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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Zero Punctuation - Castlevania: Lords Of Shadow



Aaaaah Castlevania! One of my first loves. I heard actually great things about Lords Of Shadow. Does Yahtzee think it's great? Probably not. Nonetheless, let's check out what he has to say...

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Where The Wild Things Aren't (Guest Post)



I am proud to bring you Dead End Follies' first official guest post (meaning a post I didn't copy pasted from somewhere else). Say hello to Anne R. Allen, author of romantic suspenses such as Food Of Love and The Best Revenge. Anne also writes a kick-ass eponymous blog that I found on Jane Friedman's Best Tweets For Writers Column. I strongly encourage you to visit her place by clicking here.

She's quite the thinker and offers very good writing advice. Today though, she's going to talk about a movie I reviewed a few months ago and will share with you a completely different opinion than mine. Force is to admit, she's kinda right! Don't hesitate to comment and visit her blog!



by Anne R. Allen

A friend and I watched the DVD of Where the Wild Things Are recently. We both adore the Sendak book and figured the Spike Jonz version could only be edgier and more fun.

But it wasn’t. We both fell asleep—in spite of the phenomenal effects, stellar cast, and faithful adherence to the spirit of the book.

Why? I think the filmmakers forgot several things that all writers need to keep in mind, whether writing for film/print or kids/adults.

Identify your audience and give them an idea of what to expect

No matter how much you like caviar, if you think you’re biting into blackberry jam, you’re not going to be happy.

The book’s audience is four-year-olds, but the film’s audience is intellectually sophisticated adults—people who watch esoteric Swedish films and adore Woody Allen.

But that’s not the way it was marketed. We don’t see toy stores filled with action figures of Annie Hall or skateboards decorated with scenes from The Seventh Seal.

I didn’t know until I looked it up that the screenplay of Wild Things was co-written by David Eggers—the Heartbreaking-Work-of-Staggering-Genius David Eggers. If I’d expected a McSweeney’s story instead of a kid’s movie, I probably would have liked this a whole lot better.

Make your protagonist sympathetic

What’s adorable and fun in Sendak’s original four-year-old Max seemed kind of creepy and unwell in a kid twice that age. A kid can be a brat, and your protagonist can be horrible, but it has to be brattiness the reader can relate to—and it has to be motivated by something we can believe might make us act horrible too. Otherwise it’s about as fun as watching somebody’s kid misbehave in the supermarket.

Don’t just talk about feelings—make the audience FEEL

The Sendak book was originally controversial because it was considered “too scary.” But there was nothing scary in the movie. Not even for four-year-olds. Except maybe the threat of falling asleep and suffocating in their popcorn.

Don’t peak too early

The most exciting thing was when Max first met the monsters at the end of the first act, but after he won them over, not much was at stake. Max became more of an observer than a participant, and he was hardly ever in danger.

Don’t have a muddle in the middle

In the second act, the monsters had relationship scuffles, artistic differences, and anger management issues—all charming and witty—but instead of each scene escalating the tension, the story ambled from episode to episode. The incidents related metaphorically to the first act, but were not set in motion by it—or by each other.

Tension has to build in order to have a compelling story. You can’t simply throw rocks at your protagonist; you need to throw bigger and bigger rocks. You have to be increasingly afraid for his welfare.

If your story confuses the audience, has an unsympathetic MC, or doesn’t subject him—and your reader—to escalating tension, there will be no Wild Things there.

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Top 10 Scariest Books I've Ever Read



Once again following the lead of the delightful Brenna from Literary Musings, here's my Top 10 follow-up to The Broke And The Bookish's Top 10 Tuesdays. Today, my top 10 scariest books. It's a hard top 10 to make because it's an emotion cinema triggers SO much better for me. Also, vampires don't scare me so we chalk a good chunk of horror lit. right there. Nonetheless, it's Halloween soon, so I made and effort and I found ten books that triggered that uncanny feeling within.

1-The Whisperer In Darkness by H.P Lovecraft: The story in itself is only 72 pages. So this is a novella, a short story, whatever you call it. It's the only written narrative who put me in a state of profound terror. I worked security at night when I read it. Not a good idea.

2-Adrift by Koji Suzuki: From the Dark Water short story collection. Sailors board the ghost ship of the Marie Celeste...and boy, what a ship this is....

3-The Shining by Stephen King: A more classic pick. King's portrait of a haunted hotel really got to me. I was paranoid of evil spirits for a few days after that reading.

4-Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk: The unhealthy feeling of this book is unparalleled. Makes you scared of yourself as a writer. It's scary because it's a story you can relate too so easily.

5-120 Days Of Sodom by Marquis de Sade: It's truly scary to realize mankind never really had a downfall of their morals. Human being were always those dark and twisted creatures. Only book of the top 10 I will never read again.

6-Child Of God by Cormac McCarthy: This novel got to me in this unique and deranged way. Lester Ballard first appears as this strange loose cannon, only to make you wonder at the end, who is really the monster in that story. More disturbing than scary, but it has it's moment. McCarthy's prose is angst-inducing.

7-Killer On The Road by James Ellroy: I don't think anybody got into the mind of a killer with such drive and abandon. It's mesmerizing and petrifying at the same time.

8-2010: Odyssey Two by Arthur C. Clarke: If you fear the unknown, please do yourself a favor and read Clarke's space odyssey series (even if you don't like science-fiction, please do). 2010: Odyssey Two is the biggest argument against the existence of God.

9-Darkness, Take My Hand by Dennis Lehane: Once you can get over how shitty and cliché the title is, you will find a novel in proper Lehane tradition where the bad guys do terrible things, but you're not so sure you wouldn't have done the same.

10-To The Lighthouse by Virgnia Woolf: It appeals to a more personal fear of mine, but reading this novel felt like a suffocating nightmare. It made Woolf to be one of my favorite female writers.


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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Facebook Vs Pop Culture



I like Facebook. And I like Internet Memes. Here is for you a compilation of funny mock Facebook pages that relate the greatest moments of pop culture:

Avatar
Harry Potter
Hitler
James Cameron
Jesus
Lord Of The Rings
Osama Bin Laden
Satan
Star Wars
Steve Jobs

If you got others, put them in the comments, I'll add them!

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About Short Stories





Almost a year ago, I wrote a short story called Burning Ashes on my 27th birthday. It's a 2000 words story, based on a nightmare I had where Josie had a car accident and called me, just to die over the phone. It lacks a bit of structure, but I'm rather happy with it overall.

Since then, I haven't been able to write a short story. I tried many times, but I lamentably failed. The writing of Solace is going admirably well and ideas of other novel ideas start to pile up at an interesting rhythm. BUT. I can't write a short story to save my life. Whether it's a thousand words flash fiction or a thirty pages piece, I can't seem to structure my thoughts and my ideas around that format. It's frustrating, because it's usually where writers start and get their name around.

I'm curious. This is an appeal to readers and colleague writers. What's your angle on short stories? How do you write them? What kind of ideas you know are better suited for shorter fiction? Do you have reading suggestions? Theoretic or practical? As I'm entering an editing phase for Solace, I might have more time to spend on other (smaller) projects. Come on guys(and gals). Don't be shy.


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Amazon & Literature




Internet wholesaler Amazon.com offer its clients the possibility to review products. They even encourage you to do so after every purchase. That had for effect to democratize the critic. Everybody now can pass godly judgment on anything and be heard and read by the world. The point whole of the exercise is to give the consumer an accurate point of reference in order to help them buy better. Sometimes it's useful and sometimes it's unbearably stupid.

It's normal. You have to understand, not every product, let alone every work of art can reach out to everybody. There are different kind of sensitivities. Some people cry while reading Twilight and some people burn the pages in literary discontent. Other people (like me) refuse to read it. Here are a few gems I collected about some of my favorite novels from this post.

* - In between stars, my editorial comments on the reviews

Harry Mickalide gave Fight Club 1 out of 5 Stars...

This is one of very few books that I have found so unentertaining and devoid of literary merit that I chose not to finish it. Sitting in place and staring at a wall is a better use of my time; at least that does not want to make me throw up.

and

Also, the characters are immensely unlikeable. Despite any intentions to reveal truths about humanity, the characters are inhuman. They show no vulnerability, possess none of the weaknesses with which we all have to deal. Any problems they may have are too obviously intended to seem cool and countercultural.


Slim gave Mystic River 2 out of 5 Stars...

I was really looking forward to both the book and the movie. Unfortunately I think both are very much overrated. Character development is non-existent *Have we read the same book?*. We're supposed to believe that the haunted, passive, timid character Dave was an all-star shortstop in high school? The book had a great premise and good beginning, but went nowhere interesting. The handling of Dave's character relies on cliche and we never really get insight into the book's most intriguing character.



Paul Schnaars gave Blood Meridian 1 out of 5 Stars


Let's begin with Cormac McCarthy's control of the English language. It is abominable: for there are times when it even seems as though English were not McCarthy's first language *!!!!!!!!!!*

and

But I cannot fathom how a writer of any talent could have failed to perceive that this unimaginably gory description of gunfire, disembowelment, scalping and sodomy had already spun out of his control before it was even underway, that spraying such dense clouds of horrors so unrelentingly at the reader would not only fail to produce shock but cause everything to degenerate into unintentional farce. * Overwritten and pretentious sentence, anyone? *



A Customer gave Get In The Van 1 out of 5 Stars...

Rollins is a meathead and the poor writing displayed in this book proves it.

*Comment* Now most of the criticism in bad reviews, I can understand. They expected funny stories. Meathead and poor writing now? Come on.



Geoanna gave The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles 2 out of 5 Stars...

I made a mistake while reading this books and that's the reason I am rating it with two stars instead of one or none. My mistake was that I was reading Faulkner's "Light in August" at the same time. *Your point?* Every possible comparison is possibly unfair an out of turn but I couldn't avoid doing it anyhow.
Murakami has some good ideas and bring it all together in an attempt to convince us about his hie sociological and metaphysical concerns. I don't deny them but he gives the impression that he is trying too much. Why? Does he try to sell something ? (actually he does, doesn't he?)
His prose is silly and boring, possibly good for teenagers though.
In my opinion, this book has nothing to offer unless you have plenty of time to kill.* College Student *




Candelario Henry Galvan gave The Great Gatsby 1 out of 5 Stars...

I have been asked many times. What do I look for in a book? The answer is simple, the characters.

If I don't care about the characters I won't care much about the book. Usually I give it 10 pages, if they can't get my attention by then they usually never can.
Which I might add is the only thing I got out of this book.

I didn't care about these people at all. A bunch of millionaires wallowing in their lives.

Had it not been for all these reviews I wouldn't have bothered to read this book past page 10, and looking back I can't believe I finished it.


Next time 10 pages and your out. * My man...do you even like to read? *




For some books I had hard time to find empty criticism. Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas for example. It just appeals to a very specific type of people. For Gatsby, it's hard to find a review that's worth posting. But try it, browse Amazon reviews for your favorite novels. You will be entertained. Post some find in the comments section if you like.






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Monday, October 25, 2010

Norman Mailer Vs William Buckley On Firing Line






Holy Cow! Thanks to my friend Maz for pointing this out to me. This is intellectual belligerence at its best. William Buckley is a legendary right wing interviewer that rejoices in bullying his guests with diverging opinions (if you doubt it, watch this). Mailer stands up to him and keeps dragging the discussion back on the subject: his book Armies Of The Night, without giving up the fight.

Bot play a cat and mouse game, but there is no mice. Just two cats trying to out-best each other in a challenge. In all fairness, both kept it clean. Buckley threw a little dirt to Mailer's face, but not much. Great debate.



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Movie Review : The Joneses (2009)



Country:

USA

Recognizable Faces:

David Duchovny
Demi Moore
Ben Hollingsworth

Directed By:

Derrick Borte



The first thing I heard when I came to work Friday morning was: "Benbenbenbenbenbenbenben". It was an eccentric co-worker of mine walking across the room with robot-like drive to make a suggestion: "Ben you gotta watch this movie I watch last night it's called Keeping Up With The Joneses or Meeting The Joneses. You will love it because it's intellectuallll". Fair enough. As soon as I left work, I went hunting for that movie that flew under my radar with potent stealth skills. It'd been out for a year and it was the first time I heard about it. I took a while to find it also. Three video stores around my apartment had no clue about the movie's existence, I ended up finding it on my cable provider "on demand" service. My curiosity was raised.

First observation, it hired two over-the-hill stars. David "Fox Mulder" Duchovny and Demi "I'm not even close to 50 years old" Moore as Steve and Kate Jones. A fun loving family that moves in a new residential neighborhood with their children Mick (Hollingsworth) and Jenn (Amber Heard). They are nice, popular, seemingly happy, but there's scratch on the portrait: they're not a family. They're a decoy, actors and salespeople hired to do intensive placement product among the population, guerilla style. Their goal is to provoke jealousy and send the local folk into buying sprees by creating what they call "the ripple effect" (selling so hard to individuals that they start selling for you). It's a Drama, so I'm leaving you to wonder where does it go from here. This was a disaster in theaters and I can think of a few hundred companies responsible for that.

Like most Hollywood movies that intend to do good, it's not very subtle. It's smart, but you can resume it in the immortal words of Tyler Durden: "The things you own end up owning you". I'm not going to convince anybody by saying consumerism exists only to distract you from existential dread. The Joneses shines in it's way to explain the vicious circle of high pressure consumerism. The more you buy, the more you have payments to make, the more you're a slave to your job and to credit companies. But the money ends up in the same pockets. The middle class becomes poor and indebted and the rich gets richer.

I always though socialist views had nothing to offer but dry formulas, but The Joneses beg to differ. The storyline of neighbor Larry, arguably the high point of the movie, displays the distress of a credit addict. He has the car, the flat screen, the house, the pool, but he also has the payments and the despair. Of course, the movie spends a lot of time dealing with unbearable clichés like Duchovny and Moore's professional romance or the kid's existential dramas. That's why I say it's not very subtle. There's a kind hearted, truthful message in The Joneses, but it's so well gift-wrapped in Hollywood shining-paper that it's somewhat misleading. It requires an effort, but The Joneses make an important point, no matter how small it is.

SCORE: 81%


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Real Life Vs The Absolute



The hardest thing I have to do on a daily basis is to keep an absolute. A dream, a vision of how I want to evolve. It's hard because that involves staying away from life, this all-seeing, all-being concept that wants us all to itself. It's easy to dream and foresee when you're a teenager. You don't have rent, bills, clean-up, laundry, stupid television shows that keep you hooked and your body isn't piling up fat as it's young.

Keeping up the level of absorption necessary to write a good and focused novel requires inhuman focus capacity. I can find the necessary dedication to sit at the computer at least one or two hours a day, but my mind is all over the place. I'm starting to think Jonathan Franzen's solution of getting a computer without any internet connection and put yourself in a voluntary sensory deprivation might just be what I need.

I like what I wrote so far. I'm not passionately in love with it, the words might not be final yet, but I feel the images are in the right order. The blocks are in the right place (to make a Lego analogy). I just need to decide what color the whole thing will be. In all truth, I don't see what I'm doing different from Joe Schmoe renovation that spends 30 000$ in a new kitchen. We're both using a lot of free time on this. We're both negating a part of our future for an hypothetical financial/aesthetical gain and we both started this with a dissatisfaction about the current state of things. I don't know if it validates my life choices, but it sure narrows the gap in between me and those renovation t.v shows I'm bagging on all the time.

To each his absolute I guess. I just can't help thinking that television-proposed absolutes are financial traps. I'm not only talking about renovation shows here. Jersey Shore, for Baphomet's sake. Do you know how expensive is that shitty, vain lifestyle? Gym, tanning salons, clothes, tattoos, skin products, beautician...all that to go spend hundreds of dollars to look good in bars and bring back girls to stop the loneliness feeling for a moment. It's like these shows that incite you to spend try to tell you: "Stop being unhappy by aiming at impossible goals. Here's how you can be happy within reasonable credit means".

But all these show do is to make you stop dreaming. Because people with a dream, an absolute goal don't spend. They stock on money and try to be smart, because they have a vision they want to establish. This dream they want to be their reality. I came to distrust television. I distrust it, but I still watch it. More than ever, I feel justified to watch fiction because it's the last castle of those inspiring figures. Those who make you dream to be somebody else and transcend their life. Not necessarily by making it materially better.

I'm about to be 28 years old and I still don't feel that I fit anywhere. Except in front of a word processing software...


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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Cinemassacre's Monster Madness



My month of October in 2010 has been made 30% more interesting by James Rolfe and Mike Matei. Other than their monthly episode of AVGN, they started an Halloween project called Monster Madness. For the whole month, James reviews one or two shitty 80's monster movie. I thought I was an expert about crap movies before I started watching this. I knew only one these titles (Critters). The rest was new and unsettling.

If you want to stock up on Halloween movie suggestions or simply have fun, try watching a few of Cinemassacre's Monster Madness reviews. Soon enough, you will have spent a whole afternoon on it.

Cinemassacre's Monster Madness


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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Book Review : Don DeLillo - White Noise (1985)



Country: USA

Genre: Literary

Pages: 310



White Noise is the best novel about death I have ever read. Not about murder/suicide/disease, etc. but about death itself. Don DeLillo has managed to write a book about the approach of death without including old people, sick people or hospitals. Pretty impressive for a writer I almost chalked off my interest list after reading the mild and uninspiring Running Dog.

Jack Gladney is a teacher (and a world renowned expert) in Hitler Studies. Funny thing he doesn't even speak German. He lives with his wife Babette in Blacksmith, along with the four children they had from previous weddings: Denise, Steffie, Heinrich and Wilder. None of them have been conceived by Jack and Babette together. Both of them are animated by a strong fear of death that seems petty until the day a cloud of deadly toxins leaks into the world, killing people. It's the AIRBORNE TOXIC EVENT (*thunder roars*. Exposed to the fumes while filling the gas tank of his car, Jack will have to face the fact that he is slowly dying. His doctor affirms that death is within him and that it's a question of time. Jack will try then by any means to ready up and silence this terrible fear.

The four parts of the book are smartly working together, the last two make sense of of the firsts. The first part, Waves & Radiations exposes Jack and his family as the sum of their consumerist habits. They watch t.v, they go to the supermarket, they hold nonsensical conversations, unable to relate to each other. The scenes are short and funny, but the characters themselves are scared and lonely. Then, the long chapter of the Airborne Toxic Event happens and confronts Jack with what he tried to avoid with these useless preoccupation, this "white noise".

Death.

What White Noise does better than the others is discuss death and face the question of the futility of existence. It's a ballsy novel (if there was ever such a thing) that attacks from an intellectual point of view, a lot of the big problems of occidental society such as consumerism, family and violence. DeLillo raises the problem more than he offers solution, but he also challenges the reader by asking: "What do you do that still counts once you're dead?" It's a bleak report, but it's something you need to hear before trying to numb the loneliness and the fear in shopping and television. Another all-time great. It's worth many readings.





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Friday, October 22, 2010

Literary Tattoos

The Word Made Flesh - book trailer from Tattoolit on Vimeo.



I found this on Pimp My Novel's ever amazing Friday round-up. This is mind-blowing to me, because I thought I was the only person in the world sporting a literary tattoo. It's a whole paragraph, right on my forearm. Seems like many people share the love of words with the same intensity that I do. It's cool, I'm no hipster. I can dig other people having the same things that I have.

Check it out, fellow writers. It might inspire you to get the word of your favorite authors inked in your skin.

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Analyzing Cheeseburger Josh



I discovered this meme last summer and I can't stop watching it. Josh enters the local Whataburger and wants his goddamn order served. And served now. Apparently intoxicated, he starts thrashing around, screaming and making a public scene...about a cheeseburger. Yep. I bet there's more to the story than a stupid burger. He probably walked in already frustrated and flustered from a previous event, and from booze.

Then a fight broke out. Over a burger order (I know, I know). An upstanding client with an arrogant attitude and a love for his burger decided to play knight and defend the honor of his local fastfood chain. And maybe to show off his basic Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skills. He manages to wrestle Josh down with ease and to control him, using a basic submission move. Unscathed by the display of the gentle art (and the gentle practitioner), Josh leaves the restaurant unconvinced, at the demand of his ashamed friends that don't want to have anything to do with this. The End.

Why is it so funny?: The minute you start making a big deal out of a five bucks cheeseburger, you have very little dignity left. That's just the beginning. Josh's drunken ego takes over and throws his life down the shitter, right next to Star Wars Kid. First, no one behind the counter wants to serve him his goddamn burger. The personnel stand up for their integrity and give Josh a profanity-laced bucket of shit. And so does the clientele, who can't seem to enjoy their burger while a fat asshole runs all over the restaurant, screaming in desperation for his ration of saturated fat.

Then a fight broke out. Between a scrawny martial artist and our friend Josh, who gets his pants pulled down in the process (and we find out he likes it "commando" ) and gets thoroughly dominated. The scrawny kid fascinates me as much as Josh. He's so confident in his ability he gets in a fight for a burger, apparently not conscious that the guy came along with a whole crew. If those guys would have been just a little dumber. Scrawny kid would probably have been dead and the video streaming on Liveleak instead.

It's easy to point the fingers and say: "LOOK, BURGERS ARE SO IMPORTANT IN AMERICAN CULTURE", but I think it's not the point of the video. Two kids clashed because they wanted to affirm an image they don't have. The tough streetwise guy Vs the knightly martial artist. In a sense, they are lucky to have found each other to create this messy piece of anthology. They couldn't have been dead otherwise.

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Friday Morning's Utilitarian Communication (Journal)




I'm in a lot better mood than last time I did this. I'm a bit sleep deprived because yesterday evening Laika arrived in our home and Scarlett kind of turned it into this big deal at bed time, but overall, they were amazing together. They are playful but submissive. After a week or two, when the dust will have settled, they will make a good team together. Their days (and also mine) will be sunnier, even under the heaviest rainfall.

In other news, I've submitted the first chapter of Solace to my focus group in order to get ready for the QWF Mentorship Program. I'm not really nervous regarding the critic. I'm expecting harsh comments, half warranted and half uncalled/arbitrary opinions. The hard part will be to discern what's useful and what's not. I tend to take critic like gold in a sense I always think they're right. Then I apply the change and realize I've jeopardized the nature of my story in order to fit somebody's personal tastes. It's a sign I'm still a novice. My confidence in my work and in my vision are still not set in stone. And they need to be.

It feels a little naked now that my Work-In-Progress is on the ice for a little while. I'm trying to keep my mind and my fingers busy on the keyboard. Yesterday, I have written three pages of an essay on the Mixed Martial Arts lifestyle. It's going well and I'm expecting to reach 15 to 20 pages. It might not take long before it gets published. In fact, agent Jane Friedman on her lovely blog There Are No Rules has informed me about Kindle Singles. A new publishing avenue for non-fiction from 10 000 to 30 000 words. It's brand new, fresh from the oven and I intend to make the most of it. I'm going to finish that essay, get it proofread and try my luck. Because whoever doesn't try never gets anything, right?

Also, I intend to fine tune the very basic synopsis I had for Solace. Thanks to fellow blogger/writer Joanna St-James, I have been convinced of the importance of the process. The timing is perfect. I have written my kick-ass beginning and included new data I need to explore (mostly Charles' backstory). It's a golden opportunity to look at the big picture. My fellow writers will know the writing process is some NOSETOTHEWINDOW kind of micromanagement. I'm going to make the most out of that break.

That's what I have in store until the end of October. Busy month, but the good kind of busy. Not the stressful, pressurizing type of busy that my September was. Now back to regular programming.

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Top 10 Literary Characters I'd Want As Friends



The Literary Musings Top 10 this week was about Literary Crushes. I don't fall in love with fiction characters as I read the less romance I can, but I'll make is the Top 10 Characters I'd like to have as friends instead. It's a tremendous achievement for a writer to make a character so lively, your readers what to hang out with him.

1) Tyler Durden from Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club: The gritty imaginary friend I've always been seeking. Tyler's wild nature and maniacal drive seduced me from the first page. Whether he uses his fists, a bomb or just a simple verbal threat, he gets into peoples mind....literally.


2) Bubba Rogowitz from Dennis Lehane's Patrick Kenzie Stories: He has a lot of firepower, sadistic tendencies and a bulletproof loyalty. Bubba can not only save your life, but also annihilate potential threats and entertain the audience. He's the complete package.


3) Aragorn from J.R.R Tolkien's Lord Of The Rings: He's got money, power and respect like Tony Montana and yet he goes out of his way to help a four foot tall munchkin walk through Middle Earth, waging war and shit. Plus, I'm sure he's a great wing man.


4) Kilgore Trout from Kurt Vonnegut's Fiction: I'm sure I'd learn a thing or two about writing, hanging out with the old writer. He's so sour about everything, he'd make an amazing drunk.


5) Tom Hagen from Mario Puzo's The Godfather: Good ol' Tom is loyal as a mutt and rational like Aristotle. He's the good-advice friend who's not going to spare you and you know it's for your own good.


6) Vaughan from J.G Ballard's Crash: He's that artsy-fartsy friend you're never sure to understand, but is a riot to hang out anyway. If I'd ever hang out with him, I'd never know whether I should call the psychiatric ward or laugh at his antics. Harmless to everybody but himself.


7) Sergius O'Shaughnessy from Norman Mailer's The Deer Park: Decadent, good with the ladies, loves to have fun, but the man has a conscience and knows when to stop. Sergius is a good clubbing friend, a wing man and an interesting philosopher. Ideal to create ruckus during long evenings of boredom.


8) Varg Veum from Gunnar Staalesen's Varg Veum Stories: +10 cool points for being Norwegian. He's also courageous, driven and unconditionally love kids. Hell, he'd be a great catch for the ladies too. Maybe I'd have to be HIS wing man!


9) Jay Gatsby from F.S Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby: Knightly genetleman, throws the sickest parties around. He's the type of guy I'd have a blast with.


10) Dave Bowman from Arthur C. Clarke's Space Odyssey Series: Despite being hard to reach nowadays, I'm sure Dave has killer stories about outer space. It doesn't matter if he tells them from the T.V set or the toaster.





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Chemical Brothers - Setting Sun


The Chemical Brothers - Setting Sun
envoyé par EMI_Music. - Clip, interview et concert.

Part of my grinding indifference towards the Chemical Brothers comes from this song. It's the first I heard and in my mind, they never made anything even remotely close afterwards. The vocals on this track are performed by...you won't believe it...Noel Gallagher from Oasis. What a little electronic distortion can do to a voice huh? He sounds otherworldly, like voices in your head. Apparently, the song is inspired by The Beatles' Tomorrow Never Knows and Oasis' Half The World Away. I can link Setting Sun to the first one, but not to the second. I'll put that on the legendary Gallagher ego. Anyway, here's what electronic music has best to offer (plus, check out the kick-ass Michel Gondry video):


The Chemical Brothers - Setting Sun

You're coming on strong
You're shining your gun
Like a setting sun

You're the devil in me I brought in from the cold
You said your body was young but your mind was very old
You're coming on strong and I like the way
The visions we have are fading away
You're part of the life I've never had
I'll tell you now it's just too bad
I'll tell you now it's just too bad
I'll tell you now it's just too bad
I'll tell you now it's just too bad
I'll tell you now it's just too bad

You're coming on strong
You're shining your gun
Like a setting sun

You're coming on strong
You're coming on strong
You're shining your gun
Like a setting sun

You're the devil in me I brought in from the cold
You said your body was young but your mind was very old
You're coming on strong and I like the way
The visions we have are fading away
You're part of the life I've never had
I'll tell you now it's just too bad
I'll tell you now it's just too bad
I'll tell you now it's just too bad
I'll tell you now it's just too bad
I'll tell you now it's just too bad

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Zero Punctuation - Spiderman: Shattered Dimensions



It feels good to be in Q3 of 2010 and to see Yahtzee review some high profile titles!

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Suggestion - Laura Pauling's Blog



Laura Pauling is a woman that writes middle-grade fiction. She's as far as it gets from my writing preoccupations. Yet, her blog is the smartest piece of thinking on the craft around. On a weekly basis, Laura posts two to four subjects that will trigger reflexion and active discussion on the ins and the outs of written fiction.

Here were some of her most inspiring subjects:

Writing Action Scenes

The Mechanics Of Good Description

and sometimes a great digressing piece like:

Are We Giving Up On Young Boys As Readers?

Part of the fun of Laura's blog is to discuss with other writers in the comments section and to learn a thing or two. Many bloggers give you advice that sound alike, but in Laura Pauling's advices transpire long hours of craft and reflection. Add to this, the sincere opinions of different amateur writers and you get a great discussion on the craft and perhaps make you see things differently!


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Movie Review : The Limits Of Control (2009)



Country:

USA

Recognizable Faces:

Isaach De Bankolé
Alex Descas
Jean-François Stévenin
John Hurt
Gael Garcia Bernal
Tilda Swinton
Billy Murray

Directed By:

Jim Jarmusch



One of the greatest heartbreak of my college years was the lack of life-altering revelations. I've discovered great writers and directors, but those I liked best beforehand are still those I like best today. I thrived on Philip K. Dick's fiction in high school and ended up making my master degree thesis on him. I would count the discovery of Haruki Murakami as a life-altering revelation if the hipsters wouldn't have yanked him away from me by claiming they brought him to America. One of the directors I loved before college and I still revere as a Pagan God today is Jim Jarmusch.

As Jarmusch can hold his own intellectually against the pedant European film elite, he's also clever enough to remember that cinema is a narrative art and refuses to torture his medium in the name of art, the way the likes of Jean-Luc Godard did. Jarmusch is responsible for my favorite movie Dead Man, a western epic and a tragedy, starring the ever dreamy Johnny Depp. You get the point, I fucking love the guy. His name only has a soothing effect on me. I popped The Limits Of Control into my DVD player with only one negative feeling. A little guilt that I hadn't seen it in theaters.

The storyline is typical Jarmusch. A lonely stranger (De Bankolé) receives an undisclosed mission from another nameless character played by Alex Descas. They speak with codes and secrecy in the way criminals do, but you have no idea what the mission is about. Jarmusch keeps you guessing by making the stranger interact with shady and paranoid looking people. The best one being a completely naked girl (Paz De La Huerta) who waits for the stranger in his hotel room. For the whole movie he keeps disarming her and refusing her advances. He keeps an Olympian cool around the naked beauty. I remember thinking: "For a shady operation...this is going pretty fucking well!"

But that's just how Jim Jarmusch is. He will deny your expectations, but will reward you with something else that will force you to think. I remember reading somewhere he wanted The Limits Of Control to be a film noir without any violence. His experiment is working because of the terrific mix of subtlety and clichés his actors work and because of Jim Jarmusch's patience. He leaves the characters in the frame for a long time, letting them soak in the atmosphere. Sometimes, he stretches scenes really thin and strips them of their meaning. For example that scene in the beginning where the strangers takes the plane and walks to his hotel room. The whole thing takes 10-15 minutes and brings nothing. It's just a pain to watch up to a certain point. Sure it reinforces the aura of loneliness around the stranger, but it's a little much.

Another annoying trait is the dialogs. They are minimalists, which I get, but they are also rehashing an old Dead Man joke ("Do you have any Tobacco?"), but without the great timing (which, really, made all the strenght of it). Repetition kinda kills the noir mood he tried to set up at the first place. The Limits Of Control is a riveting watch for Jarmuch fans because we know how to play his games, but I can see why casual art films fans were frustrated with it. It's an hermetically sealed movie that doesn't try to reach out. It's an experiment and at the same time a reflection on his career. I loved it, but I missed the sensitivity of Broken Flowers and the masculine introspection of Ghost Dog and Dead Man. Easily the most aesthetic-oriented Jarmusch movie.

SCORE: 80%


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