October 2016

Aurochs and Angels

At ten in the morning on September 24, Kayce Yale is pitching.  Standing four foot nine, her brown ponytail flashes in the Arizona sun as she pulls back into her windup.  The pitch is a knuckle curve and drops with a tilt, hitting in the lower left corner of the rectangle painted on the wall, a low inside strike to a left-handed batter, and rolls most of the way back to her.  She picks the ball up and spins it in her hand, her fingers gliding along the stitches as she centers it in preparation.  Her fingers sit loosely on the stitches, then grip it tight in a two seam fastball.  Her windup is seamless and she snaps her hand forward, the ball rising up in the strike zone, a hard fastball rising above fifty miles an hour and hitting the wall near the top of the rectangle. (more…)

bernadetteWhere’d You Go, Bernadette

  • Author:  Maria Semple
  • Published:  2012
  • Publisher:  Little, Brown and Company
  • Pages:  326
  • First Lines:  “The first annoying thing is when I ask Dad what he thinks happened to Mom, he always says, ‘What’s important is for you to understand it’s not your fault.’”
  • Last Lines:  “Say yes.  And know I’m always, Mom.”
  • Film:  none
  • First Read:  Spring 2014

Old fashioned letter writing might be disappearing but the epistolary novel is still surviving.  In fact, the two novels over the last few years that I have enjoyed more than almost any other have both been epistolary novels.  (One of them, Dear Committee Members, is even still keeping letters alive, though not the kind of letters you necessarily want to read.)  Where’d You Go, Bernadette isn’t a complete epistolary novel – our valiant teenager, Bee, provides us with linking narratives that help explain some of the things.  But that’s necessary in this case, because she helps us sort through some of the e-mails, memos, faxes and vital documents that make up one of the funniest books of the last decade. (more…)

Reunion Blues

i’m trying not to move
it’s just your ghost passing through
t amos

“Who the fuck are all these people?”

“Please try not to swear in front of my daughter.”

“Kayce, honey, feel free to ignore any profane word you hear from me.”

“Mom told me I’m pretty much supposed to ignore everything you say, Uncle Kyle,” my six year old says.  We both turn to look at her.   She shrugs.  “I’m just following orders.”

“When did she tell you that?” he asks.

“She’s been telling me that as far back as I can remember.” (more…)

PULVER: Captain, this is Ensign Pulver. I just threw your palm trees overboard. Now what's all this crap about no movie tonight? (He throws the door open, banging it against the bulkhead, and is entering the CAPTAIN's cabin) Curtain.

PULVER: Captain, this is Ensign Pulver. I just threw your palm trees overboard. Now what’s all this crap about no movie tonight? (He throws the door open, banging it against the bulkhead, and is entering the CAPTAIN’s cabin) Curtain.

My Top 10:

  1. Mister Roberts
  2. East of Eden
  3. To Catch a Thief
  4. Picnic
  5. Bad Day at Black Rock
  6. The Man with the Golden Arm
  7. The Heart of the Matter
  8. Lady and the Tramp
  9. Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto
  10. Ugetsu

Note:  This year has one of the longest lists of this era, with several more mentioned down towards the bottom of the post. (more…)

Flight 437 to Sky Harbor

It is her book that catches his eye.  It is her hair that keeps his eyes fixed.  He finds a pencil and touches it to the pad in his hand.  He has never thought of himself as being particularly talented, yet the failure of the dream never leaves a shadow on his work.  His eyes stray to her to catch different aspects and they lock upon the book.  Invisible Man.  Ralph Ellison.

I am an invisible man, he remembers.  I am not invisible because people can not see me but because they choose not to see me.  If I had been younger, he thinks, those words would have melted my brain and I would have adored the book for its message alone.  But he leaves the book alone and his eyes drift higher and they catch again.  They catch on the hair, the short stray blonde hairs tucked behind her ears that made him find the pencil, watches as they float out from behind her ears and settle on her shoulders.  His pencil catches and he tries to give it a likeness, take something beautiful in life and commit it to paper. (more…)

One of the most touching friendships in film history.

One of the most touching friendships in film history.

You can read more about this year in film here.  The Best Picture race is discussed here, with reviews of all the nominees.  First there are the categories, followed by all the films with their nominations, then the Globes, where I split the major awards by Drama and Comedy, followed by a few lists at the very end.  If there’s a film you expected to see and didn’t, check the very bottom – it might be eligible in a different year.  Films in red won the Oscar in that category (or Globe, in the Globes section).  Films in blue were nominated.  Films (or directors) in olive are links to earlier posts that I don’t want to have show up in blue and be mistaken for a nominee.  Films with an asterisk (*) were Consensus nominees (a scale I put together based on the various awards) while those with a double asterisk (**) were the Consensus winners.

I’m listing the top 15 in the categories but only the top 5 earn Nighthawk nominations.  There happen to be 15 **** films in this year and there is at least 15 worth listing in most categories.

Nighthawk Awards:

  • Best Picture
  1. Ed Wood
  2. Pulp Fiction  **
  3. The Shawshank Redemption  *
  4. Four Weddings and a Funeral  *
  5. Three Colors: Red
  6. Quiz Show  *
  7. Heavenly Creatures
  8. Bullets over Broadway
  9. Grave of the Fireflies
  10. Clerks
  11. The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
  12. Three Colors: White
  13. Death and the Maiden
  14. Eat Drink Man Woman
  15. The Scent of Green Papaya

Analysis:  The first three films have stayed there since 1994 and that’s because they’re the best Top 3 since 1959.  The films from #4-8 have switched around a lot over the years.  It’s the third best Top 7 to-date, tied for the second best Top 8 to-date and tied for the second best Top 10 to-date.  It is the best Top 20 to-date (the next five films are The Crow, Nobody’s Fool, The Lion King, The Madness of King George and Queen Margot). (more…)

The Wedding Party

a little revenge and
this too shall pass
b springsteen

“Wishes can be dangerous.  They can come true.”

“A wish coming true is dangerous?”

“Think about it.  What if you wished somebody harm and it came true?  How bad would that be for karma?  So don’t wish for that.  Just wish for something very bad to happen to the building they’re standing in.  Things work out better that way.  For karma.  You know.  The way it goes.”

The sad thing is that I do believe him, more because I can not think of any good reason not to believe him.  This is a man who has wished enough harm that his karma couldn’t possibly ever recover.  He better hope that karma is driving an old Ford Pinto because anything faster and it’s going to run him down. (more…)

This is the notes page for all the stories that make up my novel sleep now the angels.  After each story posts, this post will be updated.  There will be, for the most part, two kinds of notes.  The first is copyright notices – as I mentioned in the introduction, I have a tendency to quote rock lyrics.  Or, to be more precise, my characters have a tendency to do so.  One of them also happens to quote classic literature.  So, if I use words that aren’t mine, that will be reflected here in the notes.

The second kind of note has to do with the writing of the stories themselves.  Because they were written over a long period of time, I will put up a little bit about how I wrote them.  Nothing in the notes will give anything away about events further along in the book, but they might reflect back, so it’s better to read the stories first as they post, then come back to this page.


sleep now the angels

erik beck


I was 19 years old the summer that I wrote my third novel.  That may sound like the introduction to a memoir, or perhaps a novel or short story about a writer, but it is actually, in this case, a fact.  How I came to write it and why I am now mentioning it is the subject of the rest of the piece.  The reason this piece exists is that over the next several (days? weeks? months?) I will be putting it up on the blog in its entirety and I want to provide an introduction as to why, especially since it takes me so damn long to finish all the film writing. (more…)

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