Reviews, articles, rants & ramblings on the darker side of the media fringe

Archive for October 4, 2011

Anne Rice

Anne Rice (born Howard Allen Frances O’Brien; October 4, 1941) is a best-selling Southern American author of metaphysical gothic fiction, Christian literature and erotica from New Orleans, Louisiana. Her books have sold nearly 100 million copies, making her one of the most widely read authors in modern history.

Rice spent most of her childhood and teenage years in New Orleans, which forms the background against which most of her stories take place. She graduated from Richardson High School in 1959, completed her freshman year at Texas Woman’s University in Denton and transferred to North Texas State College for her sophomore year.

While living in San Francisco that she met her future husband, Stan Rice. They married and had a daughter Michele, nicknamed “Mouse”, was born on September 21, 1966. In 1970, while Rice was in the graduate program, her daughter was diagnosed with acute granulocytic leukemia. Rice claims she had a prophetic dream, months before her daughter became ill, that her daughter was dying from “something wrong with her blood.” On August 5, 1972, Rice’s daughter died of leukemia in Palo Alto.

In 1973, while she was still grieving the loss of her daughter, Rice took a previously written short story and turned it into her first bestselling novel, ‘Interview with the Vampire’. Many believe that Rice created the child vampire, Claudia, in the novel to help her overcome the loss of her daughter. After completing the novel and following many rejections of it, Rice developed Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD). Rice was obsessed with germs, thinking that she contaminated everything she touched, engaged in frequent and obsessive hand washing and obsessively checked locks on windows and doors. Of this period, Rice says, “What you see when you’re in this state is every single flaw in our hygiene and you can’t control it and you go crazy.”

In August, 1974, after a year of therapy for her OCPD, Rice attended a writer’s conference at Squaw Valley, where she met her literary agent, Phyllis Seidel. In October 1974, Seidel sold Interview with the Vampire to Alfred A. Knopf for a $12,000 advance of the hardcover rights. Most new authors were receiving $2000 advances. Interview with the Vampire was published in May, 1976.

Following Interview with the Vampire, while living in California, Rice wrote two historical novels, ‘Feast of All Saints’ and ‘Cry to Heaven’, along with three erotic novels under the pseudonym A.N. Roquelaure (The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty, Beauty’s Punishment and Beauty’s Release) and two more under the pseudonym of Anne Rampling (Exit to Eden and Belinda). Rice then returned to the vampire metaphor with her best selling novels ‘The Vampire Lestat’ and ‘Queen of the Damned’.

In July, 1988, following the success of The Vampire Lestat and with Queen of the Damned about to be published, the Rice’s purchased a second home in New Orleans. Stan Rice took a leave of absence from his teaching, and the Rice’s moved to New Orleans. Within months, they decided to make it their permanent home. In New Orleans, Rice felt whole again and wrote ‘The Witching Hour’ as an expression of her joy of coming home. In New Orleans, Rice continued her popular ‘Vampire Chronicles’ series, which now includes over a dozen novels, three novels in the ‘Lives of the Mayfair Witches’ series, and ‘Violin’ a tale of a ghostly haunting.

Rice returned to the Catholic Church in 1998 after decades of describing herself as an “atheist.” Her return did not come with a full embrace of the Church’s stances on social issues; Rice remains a vocal supporter of equality for gay men and lesbians (including marriage rights), as well as abortion rights and birth control. Although declaring that she would now use her life and talent of writing to glorify her belief in God, but did not renounce her earlier works. On July 29, 2011, Rice publicly renounced her dedication to her Roman Catholic faith, while remaining committed to Christ.

In 1994, Neil Jordan directed a film of ‘Interview with the Vampire’, from Rice’s own screenplay. The movie starred Tom Cruise as Lestat, Brad Pitt as the guilt-ridden Louis and was a breakout role for young Kirsten Dunst as the deceitful child vampire Claudia. Rice made it well known to anyone who cared to listen that she was against Cruise in the lead role, she envisioned Rutger Hauer as Lestat.

A second film adaptation, ‘Queen of the Damned’, was released in February 2002. Starring Stuart Townsend as the vampire Lestat and singer Aaliyah as Akasha, Queen of the Vampires, the movie combined incidents from the second and third books in the series: The Vampire Lestat and The Queen of the Damned. Produced on a budget of $35 million, the film only recouped $30 million at the domestic(US) box office. It was woeful.

Charlton Heston

Charlton Heston (born John Charles Carter; October 4, 1923 – April 5, 2008) was an American actor of film, theatre and television. Heston is known for heroic roles in films such as ‘El Cid’, ‘The Ten Commandments’, ‘Touch of Evil’ and ‘Ben-Hur’, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor.

Heston was also known for his political activism. In the 1950s and 1960s he was one of a handful of Hollywood actors to speak openly against racism and was an active supporter of the Civil Rights Movement. Initially a moderate Democrat, he later supported conservative Republican policies and was president of the National Rifle Association from 1998 to 2003.

However, he is also known for dystopian movies ‘The Planet of the Apes’, ‘Soylent Green’ and ‘The Omega Man’. Three of the best darkly futuristic movies ever. Despite his position as the NRA poster boy, I love these three movies and always will.

Buster Keaton

Joseph Frank “Buster” Keaton (October 4, 1895 – February 1, 1966) was an American comic actor, filmmaker, producer and writer. He was best known for his silent films, in which his trademark was physical comedy with a consistently stoic, deadpan expression, earning him the nickname “The Great Stone Face”.

Keaton was recognized as the seventh-greatest director of all time by Entertainment Weekly. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Keaton the 21st-greatest male star of all time. Critic Roger Ebert wrote of Keaton’s “extraordinary period from 1920 to 1929, [when] he worked without interruption on a series of films that make him, arguably, the greatest actor-director in the history of the movies.” Orson Welles stated that Keaton’s ‘The General’ is the greatest comedy ever made, the greatest Civil War film ever made, and perhaps the greatest film ever made. A 2002 worldwide poll by Sight & Sound ranked Keaton’s The General as the 15th best film of all time. Three other Keaton films received votes in the magazine’s survey: ‘Our Hospitality’, ‘Sherlock Jr., and ‘The Navigator’.

His father Joe Keaton owned a traveling show with Harry Houdini, the Mohawk Indian Medicine Company, which performed on stage and sold patent medicine on the side. At the age of three, Keaton began performing with his parents in The Three Keatons. The young Keaton would goad his father by disobeying him, and the elder Keaton would respond by throwing him against the scenery, into the orchestra pit, or even into the audience.  He was eventually billed as “The Little Boy Who Can’t Be Damaged,” with the overall act being advertised as “‘The Roughest Act That Was Ever in the History of the Stage.” Keaton claimed he was having so much fun that he would sometimes begin laughing as his father threw him across the stage. Noticing that this drew fewer laughs from the audience, he adopted his famous deadpan expression whenever he was working.

In February 1917, Keaton met Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle at the Talmadge Studios in New York City, where Arbuckle was under contract. During his first meeting with Arbuckle, he asked to borrow one of the cameras to get a feel for how it worked. He took the camera back to his hotel room, dismantled and reassembled it. With this rough understanding of the mechanics of the moving pictures, he returned the next day, camera in hand, asking for work. He was hired as a co-star and gag man, making his first appearance in ‘The Butcher Boy’.

In 1920, ‘The Saphead’ was released, in which Keaton had his first starring role in a full-length feature. After Keaton’s successful work with Arbuckle, Schenck gave him his own production unit, Buster Keaton Comedies. He made a series of two-reel comedies, including ‘One Week’ (1920), ‘The Playhouse’ (1921), ‘Cops’ (1922), and ‘The Electric House’ (1922). Based on the success of these shorts, Keaton moved to full-length features. Keaton used various writers, but the most ingenious gags were often conceived by Keaton himself. Comedy director Leo McCarey, recalling the freewheeling days of making slapstick comedies, said, “All of us tried to steal each other’s gagmen. But we had no luck with Keaton, because he thought up his best gags himself and we couldn’t steal him!” The more adventurous ideas called for dangerous stunts, also performed by Keaton at great physical risk. During the railroad water-tank scene in Sherlock Jr., Keaton broke his neck when he fell against a railroad track, but did not realize it until years afterward. A scene from ‘Steamboat Bill Jr.’ required Keaton to run into the shot and stand still on a particular spot. Then, the facade of a two-story building toppled forward on top of Keaton. Keaton’s character emerged unscathed, thanks to a single open window which passed directly over him. The stunt required precision, because the prop house weighed two tons, and the window only offered a few inches of space around Keaton’s body. The sequence became one of the iconic images of Keaton’s career.

Aside from Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928), Keaton’s most enduring feature-length films include ‘Our Hospitality’ (1923), ‘The Navigator’ (1924), ‘Sherlock Jr.’ (1924), ‘Seven Chances’ (1925), ‘The Cameraman’ (1928), and most famously, ‘The General’ (1927). The General, set during the American Civil War, combined physical comedy with Keaton’s love of trains, including an epic locomotive chase. Though it would come to be regarded as Keaton’s proudest achievement, the film received mixed reviews at the time. It was too dramatic for some filmgoers expecting a lightweight comedy, and reviewers questioned Keaton’s judgment in making a comedic film about the Civil War, even while noting it had a “few laughs”. The fact that the heroes of the story were from the Confederate side may have also contributed to the film’s unpopularity.

It was an expensive misfire, and Keaton was never entrusted with total control over his films again. His distributor, United Artists, insisted on a production manager who monitored expenses and interfered with certain story elements. Keaton endured this treatment for two more feature films, and then exchanged his independent setup for employment at Hollywood’s biggest studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). Keaton’s loss of independence as a filmmaker coincided with the coming of sound films (although he was interested in making the transition) and mounting personal problems, and his career in the early sound era was hurt as a result.