Filoli is a historic site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and one of the finest remaining country estates of the early 20th century. It’s 30 miles south of the City (San Francisco), and built to resemble an English country estate.
Like I told my pal A, it felt like walking into a Jane Austen novel, all without putting a stamp in my passport. Someday soon though! If the place looks familiar, it’s been used many times in movies and TV. I told A it was used in Dynasty and Joy Luck Club, but a LOT more than I could list here.
There’s a security guard but I think his only job is to tell people to pay their entrance fee at the visitors’ center. I got a student discount ($10) and took the self-guided tour.
There are docent-led tours, but they were all full by the time I got there. There were docents dotted throughout the self-guided tour to answer questions, and professional signage and roped off areas, so I didn’t get lost. The house was built with a traverse hallway, which connected every location in the house. It was very easy to do it on my own. I much preferred that anyway.
I took a lot of great pictures with my Nikon D-40. Here are a few of my favorites…
If you ever have the opportunity to go, I would highly recommend it. It’s too beautiful not to go. Parking is ample, and the staff is great. There’s a cute little gift shop there as well.
The movie takes place in the midst of the fall of the Berlin Wall, but the filmmakers embraced The Coldest City graphic novel source material full force. They played it close to its comic book roots rather than relying on true reality. I was six when it came down, but I legit remember when and where I was when the Wall fell. But the way Charlize filled every frame, the way James McAvoy chewed the scenery, the way it was lit… it had the aroma of a comic book panel. Every frame a painting. I really liked that.
The sets they used for the late 80s Berlin felt so fake, but they made that world work in a good way. So, props to the filmmakers for embracing that. A lot of movies based on graphic novels (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World nailed that comic book-y world too) take the cinematic elements of the source material and try to put it in the real world. The filmmakers didn’t do that with this movie, and it worked really well. I was impressed. You never once forgot that you were watching a real-life comic book.
The fight training was heavily grounded in reality though because Charlize said during the press tour that she never full-on punches anybody. She uses objects to take the brunt of her power. If she were to full force sock it to somebody, she risked shattering her whole hand. It was comical the way she used some of the objects. You’ll never use your car keys the same way again.
As far as the writing goes, I enjoyed the subversion of the spy trope. It’s always spy vs. spy when it comes to stories in that world, but it’s spy vs. spy vs. spy vs. spy. But it’s not in a straight line, someone is playing someone else, who’s playing the first person, but then there’s this dude disguised as another dude. I loved it.
The director of John Wick: Chapter I bowed out of Chapter 2 to develop this picture. Keanu ended up training for Chapter 2 alongside Charlize, since they were filming concurrently, and they go way back. There were rumors that they were going to try for a crossover with John Wick, and I thought that was a great idea because I love Keanu and Charlize’s chemistry.
But after seeing Atomic Blonde, it doesn’t make logistical sense. They don’t even take place at the same time unless they introduce some time travel plot device, and I will scream bloody murder if they try. They both work in their own respective, stand-alone worlds. What is up with pop culture where everything has to crossover nowadays? This is coming from a Marvel fan who wants the film series to acknowledge the TV series in some way.
Now to my complaints. I’m probably the only person this affected, but music is a huge part of the movie-going experience. It should enhance the movie, not take people out of it. You hear the Funeral March of a Marionette, and you immediately think of Alfred Hitchcock. That’s just how it is.
I wish they would’ve called me to help with the soundtrack because they did what Watchmen did. They relied on songs reminiscent of the time rather than actual charted songs from the year the movie takes place: November 1989.
1981’s Under Pressure by David Bowie
1981’s Der Kommissar (though I think this was a cover because it wasn’t Falco singing, and not the ATF version either)
1983’s Blue Monday by New Order
1983’s 99 Luftballons by Nena
1985’s Voices Carry
were the ones I recognized that I can recall. I’m fairly sure I heard a Clash song but I could be projecting. 1988’s Father Figure by George Michael gets a pass, only because it’s marginally close to the date. But, I went back to check Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1989, and aesthetically, none of these songs would have worked for the era of the movie. So, they get a pass for the marginally accurate soundtrack. But, not much.
Rating: PG-13. Category: Drama/Verbal Abuse. Summary: Lucius loathes the day he came face to face with Angel. Timeline: “Deleted scene” of episode 17. Disclaimer: Harry Potter and related characters belong to JK Rowling and related entities. Buffy and Angel belong to Joss Whedon and Co. Sarky poo belongs to Jabrams and company. Made-ups are mine and mine alone.
Lucius Malfoy simmered in his son’s Italian villa. Why he had allowed Julian Sark to stop him from performing the Avada Kedavra curse on Angelus, or to stake the bloody git, was beyond him. His heart ached. He yearned to get one back for his family.
In an effort to try and get back to square one, I took myself on an Artist’s Date into the city. My Artist’s Dates have always been going to museums, not sure why. They’re not particularly creative but they do satisfy my wanderlust. I went to The Beat Museum and City Lights.
If you don’t know me, the Beat writers have been a heavy influence on my life, particularly Jack Kerouac. There’s an inkling in me that wants to shed my privileged life and run off into the wild blue yonder but I couldn’t do that. I live vicariously through their writing. “On the Road” changed my life. I don’t want to say it propelled me to be a writer because I’m one of those people who believe they were born to be a writer. I’ve always felt an affinity for their beliefs as a literary movement.
The Beat Museum was sparse, all things considered. It was educational, for sure. It had two levels. One part was 3/4 of the first floor, which included the movie theater that showed a lovely documentary on Jack. The second level is where all the goodies were at. They told the story of the Beats through presentations and all that, although that felt kind of haphazardly put together. It didn’t flow.
It could have easily been done by the year or by the author, but I felt like everything was set up to maximize the space. I didn’t know where one section started and another began. I’d be reading one sign and then it would jump to another author. They had a very small section on the females in the movement. All in all, it could have been better. But then again, what can you really have in a museum about a literary movement? It’s not something you visit, it’s something you read and soak into your veins like water.
I felt like their main draw was the gift shop, which was cool. It took up most of the first floor. It screamed hipster. Vinyl records, vintage Playboys, and a small selection of new and used books, as well as bags and t-shirts. If you look at the gallery below, you’ll see three postcards. I got the one with Kerouac’s face on it a poster as well. I can’t wait to hang it up in my room in Vegas! The typewriter t-shirt ached hipster, so I had to buy it. The gentleman that rang me up said they sell a lot of them. I’m buying it ironically, of course. I would never dream of typing on a typewriter in this day and age!
You don’t go to City Lights for the first time and not buy something, so I bought “Howl” by Ginsberg, the Penguin Classics version of T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” and a fascinating book on Locke. I’ve been meaning to write a story that takes place in Locke so I think it will help my research. I wasn’t even looking for it but that’s the best thing about bookstores, am I right? The right book falls into your hands when you least expect it.
Being in City Lights reminded me of when I worked at the Reading Room. That musty book smell, the cramped space filled to the brim with books, trying not to step on people as you’re both looking at titles on the same shelf, the staff picks. That is one past life of mine that I miss a ton. Independent bookstores are a dying breed. There are some fighters out there. Plus there are heavyweights like City Lights that won’t ever go away as long as humanity survives.
It had to look real. Bruise had to be shaped just so. Lampshade swayed like Newton's law. Equal but opposite. It was the only heavy object within reach. Timed carefully. The neighbors would hear. They would see his car in the driveway. The wound would be temporary, Band-Aid. This house; a prison, An expensive gilded cage.
Mystere was amazing. It was a dress rehearsal, but there weren’t any accidents or anything during the show. There was so much going on that I didn’t know what to focus on. The comic relief was seamless, and clearly there to help fill the time in changing sets.
There was one performer that I called la Bebe, which means “the baby” in French, but her actual character name is Bebe Francois. So I was pretty close. She had the baby thing down pat, down to the little laugh and movements.
Then there was sort of a caricature of a clown without makeup, wearing a messy suit and wearing black Converse. If the website is correct (and they say information changes constantly), his character’s name is Brian le Petit. He warmed up the audience and had his own act during the show. Very funny!!
The music was live too. They were set up on either side of the stage. Mostly new age, but it definitely helped the story along. I miss that in live theatre! Spamalot had a fake band in their pit. I felt cheated, haha. And we were too far up at Mamma Mia to see if there was a live band or not.
There was a scene where two guys in green pants did a scene called “Hand to Hand.” They were really bendy and the shapes they created with their two bodies were mind-boggling.
Loads of audience participation too. Baby Francois chose a woman in the audience early in the show to play with her big ball and called her Mama. Then there was a part where la Bebe stole a golf cart thing and whisked her “mama” away. La Bebe and her “mama” appeared during one of the scenes, later on, riding in the golf cart, and her “mama” was dressed like a clownish version of la Bebe!
An edited version was published in the April 2, 2005 edition of College of Southern Nevada’s Coyote Press.
What if I told you that there’s a song on Top 40 radio dedicated to our humble town?
“Somebody told me/that you had a boyfriend/that looked like a girlfriend/that I had in February of last year.”
Who hasn’t dated someone in Vegas that didn’t look androgynous? If so, send them my digits.
The Killers – made up of lead singer/keyboardist Brandon Flowers, guitarist David Keuning, bassist Mark Stoermer, and percussionist Ronnie Vannucci – became an outfit after Flowers answered a newspaper ad by Keuning in the Las Vegas Weekly. The name comes from the bass drum set of the 2001 “Crystal” video by New Order (directed by Sophie Muller, who in turn directed “Mr. Brightside”, the second single from their debut album, “Hot Fuss”).
How Vegas is this band? Flowers worked as a bellhop at the Gold Coast, Keuning (the only non-Vegas native, having moved here from Pella, Iowa in 2000, but we’ll overlook that) worked at the Banana Republic, Stoermer shuffled body parts as a medical courier, and Vannucci was a photographer at the Little Chapel of Flowers (yeah, the same one Britney Spears put on the map last New Year’s Eve). As it was, they were heard by Lizard King, a UK-based indie record label, and they subsequently toured in support of “Somebody Told Me” and the UK version of “Hot Fuss.” Island/Def Jam released the US version of “Hot Fuss” with “Change Your Mind” in place of “Indie Rock ‘n’ Roll.”
“Hot Fuss” opens with “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine,” the perfect opener to an even better album. “Jenny” is one part of the murder mystery trilogy with “Midnight Show” and the currently unreleased “Bourbon on the Shelf” rounding out the three. The two tracks that did end up on “Hot Fuss” give you some insight as to what exactly the mystery is. It’s obvious how true to their influences the band succeed when listening to “Hot Fuss” the first time around. You can hear the shameless ghosts of Morrissey (in “Smile Like You Mean It”, rumored to be the third single), Duran Duran, New Order, The Cars, and 80s rock bands.
I decided to do a double feature of the original Mystery of the Wax Museum and its 50s remake, House of Wax.
Mystery is a fun 30s romp… on the surface. It was a suspenseful thriller, and it hooks you from the first punch to Igor’s face. I liked the pacing. It didn’t fill up the time with useless backstory, or filler montage scenes like we expect in modern films. It was just go go go. I think that’s what I appreciate about movies back in the day. They didn’t waste anyone’s time with nonsense. Michael Curtiz was a masterful director, later directing Casablanca and Mildred Pierce, among many others.
Igor’s backstory reminded me of the Pygmalion myth, where the creator falls in love with his creation. You could say Mystery takes the Pygmalion myth further, when he takes a human being devoid of humanity, and turns them into creatures (the judge into Voltaire, Joan Gale into St. Joan of Arc). I love exploring the idea that humanity is controlled and harnessed to live forever in art.
What is unique about the film is the power the women hold. The villains from Mystery fall into the same gender slots: Igor is horribly disfigured, and wax is the only thing preserving the appearance of humanity. Professor Darcy is a junkie and follows Igor’s directives because he is guaranteed his next fix. Drugs are bad m’kay? Hugo is a deaf-mute and must follow his master’s orders or be cast out in the dark. I love that dynamic. He’s guaranteed room and board, so long as he keeps Igor’s macabre secret. No one would question Hugo, and no one would go so far as to harbor a deaf-mute back in those days. The autonomy of the villains is fascinating, and probably not thought of much.
The affections of Joe Worth – the millionaire playboy suspected of murdering Joan Gale – change as soon as he meets Florence. Which brings me to my next point. I felt the way that Florence’s love life played out was poor. She establishes her goals in life quite early in the film that she’s all about being a legit reporter and having fun, and if she’s gonna marry, she’s gonna marry for money. She interviews Worth in jail and dazzles him. She’s a sassy broad, and he wants to strap on the old ball and chain and marry her within 24 hours of their initial meeting.
Of course, my feminist lens became further blurred with annoyance when her editor-in-chief’s final directive was “act like a lady and marry me.” Rude. He spent the whole film maligning her work, going as far as to fire her for lack of good stories. He spends the whole movie telling her she wasn’t good enough. The moment she shows her mettle, then he goes, “oh a worthy opponent. She should be my wife!” She shoves aside Worth – a guy guaranteed to take care of her and genuinely love her without any pretension – in favor of the editor. It’s technically a Pre-Code film, so I’m a little off-put by the happily ever after we Americans are so famous for. I only like HEAs if they make sense. She should’ve married for money, that’s all I’m saying. At least she could continue being a reporter. She wouldn’t have to worry about financing her lifestyle. Yes, I know I am looking at this with a modern lens but I want to believe.
It’s technically a lost film, and the print that is being distributed now is a poor man’s copy of the original Technicolor. There were some parts of the film where the Technicolor saturation was mastered terribly, as has been noted by other reviews and on Wikipedia. Of course, that’s the copy I have since I have the bundled version of Mystery and House. It’s okay. Some of the colors are a bit jarring but doesn’t detract all that much. It only becomes an annoyance when you know to look for it.
House of Wax follows the original plot of Mystery with some slight changes. I don’t wish to dwell too much on that aspect. I preferred Mystery over House, to be honest.
I caught the opening credits where it said it was mastered for 3-D. Apparently, when it was first released, it was the first successful 3-D picture. Fascinating. You can always tell when a movie slathers on the 3-D. I was like, “why is this annoying guy with the paddle ball breaking the third wall right now?” Then my brain looped my thoughts together: his character was meant to be seen in 3-D. How exciting it must’ve been to see that in a theater. I personally and professionally hate 3-D. You might as well give the people Smellovision. But this movie came out in 1953. The novelty must’ve made for a fun theater-going experience.
I loved Vincent Price’s performance as Professor Jarrod. I think he carries the picture. The evolution of his character was fun to see play out too. He embraces the horror that he has to live with every day. I’m glad Mr. Wallace called him out on it. I would definitely think something was amiss if an artist changed his point of view so rapidly like that. I kept looking at Igor and tried to place him every time he came onscreen. I finally had to look it up. He was played by Charles Bronson!! That was hilarious to me. You can’t forget that chin.
I think the cops in this film were more believable than Mystery, however. I will give it that. They actually did detective work, rather than having a newspaper lady character to kick rocks. I was thoroughly annoyed by the vapid Cathy character. I did feel bad that she had to die in that manner to become Joan of Arc though.
From the feminist side, you can clearly see who owns this version of the story. That’s right; THE MEN. Pfft. They dominate this story. I didn’t feel anything for Sue even though she was a huge part of the story moving forward. She was relegated to an even lesser status than Florence. At least Florence was brassy enough to keep making noise. Sue was diminished to the point where her fears were merely troublesome for the men in charge because she was a lady.
The difference between Sue and Florence is that Florence didn’t let her gender stop her. She kept busting balls. For Florence, she had something to prove to everyone. Sue cried from the grief of losing Cathy the whole time, and the men only kicked rocks to shut her up. There was a part of me that hoped House would truly become a horror picture and refuse the happily ever after for Sue. I had no sympathy for her and hoped she would die. You can see how the Production Code had a huge influence on movies. Remember that only 20 years elapsed between Mystery and House.
Maybe that’s why they remade it: to remind women of their place in a horror picture.
Rating: PG. Category: Suspense. Summary: A happy-go-lucky woman with political roots and a near-genius brain joins OST. Timeline: Mid-season 2. Disclaimer: The Agency characters belong to their respective entities. Made-ups are mine and mine alone.
Maria Sieber was an internal, cerebral person. From a young age, she was taking apart the family vacuum cleaner and putting it back together in a matter of hours. She loved seeing how things worked. She loved manipulating machines and was gifted with the knowledge on how to program and use the family VCR with no trouble at all. Somehow, none of this impressed her father, who had had political aspirations since before she was born. He felt that little girls shouldn’t be cooped up in their houses on their computers in their spare time. Girls should be girls, he always said. Maria never let him down in school though; she was a B student with above-average intelligence. But her choice of extra-curricular activities exasperated him to no end. And for that, Maria always felt like the black sheep in the family.