Q & A With John Farrell

May 30, 2012

Check out the conversation I had with John Farrell for his Forbes.com blog on all things tech.

John and I met as students enrolled at the Radio TV Institute at UNC-Chapel Hill, then an intensive summer program for high schoolers.  I was from down the road in Jamestown (yes, then as now), and John was an exotic creature from Boston.

We’ve maintained our respective interests in storytelling and media, and it was good to talk with him about how things have changed…and how they have stayed the same in our field!





May 28, 2012

Sometimes a movie is exactly what you expect it to be – and that’s okay.

I took my mother to see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which she’d been eagerly awaiting since seeing ads for the film on television.

A group of retirees leave the UK for India expecting luxurious accommodations at bargain rates and, perhaps, a little bit of adventure.  Instead of finding the expected, however, each character figures out that sometimes the unexpected is more fitting.

Given the pedigrees of director John Madden (Shakespeare in Love) and the exquisite cast of talented and popular British actors (including Maggie Smith, Judy Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, and Penelope Wilton), the film manages both accomplishment and predictability at the same time.

Several versions of this thought are repeated throughout the film:  “Everything will be all right in the end.  And, if it is not all right, it’s not the end.”

How nice to think that this may be true.


Recent Books II

May 28, 2012

While I was enjoying a little downtime last week, I read three good novels: Train Dreams (Denis Johnson), The Marriage Plot (Jeffrey Eugenides), and In One Person (John Irving).

Fort Macon


Though each has quite a bit to recommend it (and the Eugenides novel resonated the most personally), I think I like Irving’s latest the best (what craft he has). One short paragraph made me chortle because it is so, so true: “I just love it when certain people feel free to tell writers what the correct words are. When I hear the same people use impact as a verb, I want to throw up!” (p. 376)

Summer Television

May 23, 2012

Hmmmm….I think Girls is growing on me. The HBO show is still sad (and sometimes degrading for some of the characters), but at least it makes me feel happier about not being their age. There is also an honestly permeating the bleakness of it all, and I’m big on authenticity.

It’s now 1965 on Mad Men, and I think Don Draper is feeling a bit out of touch, which works for me. I’m enjoying the season. It’s kind of fun, too, to think about the series creator Matthew Weiner and many of the crew from the series on location in Winston-Salem and other points in the Triad shooting the comedy You Are Here. The Executive Director of the Piedmont Triad Film Commission tells me that Weiner is enjoying his time in Winston-Salem and other points in the Triad – he likes the vibe of the city.

I’m also watching the new seasons of Nurse Jackie and The Big C, which have both taken a few interesting turns and introduced some new characters (including one played by Susan Sarandon) to keep things fresh. It’s great that the end of May sweeps doesn’t mean the end of new shows since so many cable series run on a different schedule. It’s also good that networks are wise to the fact that they can’t trot out a bunch of reruns and generate any numbers any more, so that even the big four are trying something new in search of ratings.

More choices for me.


Recent Books

May 20, 2012

Lately (over the last three years!), there hasn’t been enough time for reading.  I’m a lover of good books, mostly novels but also the occasional bit of compelling nonfiction.

To combat the fact that I’ve been too focused on work, including the movies and television shows I love, I’ve selected 16 books that I really need to read and have started in on the list.


Here’s where I am so far:

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes:  sublime.  Sometimes one word is enough.

The Ask by Sam Lipsyte: not what I expected or hoped.  I should have read Moo for the third time or even Straight Man for a second time.

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion:  honest and sad.  I read her novel Play It as It Lays years ago and was taken by the bleakness of it.  This account of her husband’s death and daughter’s illness is raw and true and made me sad but maybe a little wiser.

I’ll keep you posted periodically as I read on, especially since there aren’t a lot of tempting films right now.


May 15, 2012

With so much grading and so little movie watching this time of year, it was partly the fact that my sister (who almost never wants to go to the movies) wanted to see Dark Shadows that got me out (nearly) opening weekend to see the film.

Not that I would miss a Tim Burton Film, of course, because his work is indelible and seems more like installments in on way or another than individual films.  Perhaps I feel that way because his oeuvre is more compelling than most of the individual films.

Dark Shadows is no exception.  I have a passion for the story, which is usually the weakest element in Burton’s films, which tend to emphasize style and spectacle.

Even so, Dark Shadows is a pleasant entertainment.  Based on a 60s-70s soap opera that I vaguely remember seeing an episode or two of as my grandmother would say, “Maybe you should turn that off,” the film plays up period kitsch and camp while showcasing Johnny Depp’s considerable strengths as a vampire, Barnabas Collins, entombed for nearly 200 years who returns in 1972 to try to restore his family’s good name and fortune.

The cast is good.  I always enjoy Michelle Pfeiffer and Helena Bonham Carter, and newer faces rise to the occasion, too.  The production design is predictably noteworthy (love the macramé allusions—so 70s—and especially some earrings that continue the theme), but one surprise for me was the fun use of the soundtrack to play up the silliness of it all.

Fun.  I don’t want to see it again.  It’s no Ed Wood or Edward Scissorhands or whatever, but it’s a nice couple of hours at the movies.


May 6, 2012

I’m ambivalent about super hero films as a genre.  Sure, I go see the big ones, but I don’t have a lot of anticipatory zeal for them.

What do I think about The Avengers?  It’s fun with engaging characters (if not a lot of actual thrills).  I liked it.