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The Townhouse of Ideas

Dark Shadows Fan Fiction: “The Center of the Light”

The Center of the Light (by Barb Lien-Cooper)

“They didn’t take me as seriously as they should have… because I’m a woman.”

–Dr. Julia Hoffman, Dark Shadows, episode 338

~ ~ ~

Dr. Julia Hoffman sat in the break room of the Windcliff Sanitarium with Dr. Dave Woodard… her friend (who wouldn’t mind at all if he were more than a friend).

“All in all,” Julia was saying, “I think my first interview went well. They, of course, wondered if I, a mere woman, could handle running this place,” she added sarcastically, “but…”

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The Townhouse of Ideas

Barb’s Early History of TV

Our colleague Patrick McCray (of The Dark Shadows Daybook) asked us, suddenly, “If you were going to tell people briefly about the history of television, what would you emphasize?”

Well, you can’t ask Barb a question like that and not expect her to do anything with it, so she wrote the following essay. If you are someone who can’t remember a time before the internet, then you might find this educational. If you are someone who can remember a time before the internet, then you might find this nostalgic.

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The Townhouse of Ideas

WMS November Newsletter 2023

Hi there! Sorry not to post on the official first week of the month, but there were a couple of other things I wanted to do, as you’ll see.

Let’s see: I want to point out some stuff that got posted here but which didn’t actually get put in a newsletter until now:

–First up, I made a book trailer for our graphic novel Hungry Ghosts: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKrJZh4VH9Q

–I finished posting my old interview with writer Steven Brust– I’ll let you look at that yourself: https://wickermanstudios.com/blog/

–I also did a fun interview with the creators of BITEMARK, a nailbiting manga that is also published by Lucha Comics, just like Wicker Man Studios’ HUNGRY GHOSTS: https://wickermanstudios.com/2023/10/11/interview-bitemark/

–Also, comics legend Keith Giffen passed away. His daughter and son-in-law posted online asking for remembrances and interviews, so I hurried and got mine up. There’s no images, but I feel that that’s appropriately somber: https://wickermanstudios.com/2023/10/12/keith-giffen-2006-interview/

–Finally, here’s footage of our very own Barb Lien-Cooper, being interviewed (and getting just a few words in edgewise during a panel) about her comic Gun Street Girl (see here: https://wickermanstudios.com/2015/04/15/gun-street-girl/ ) as part of Austin, Texas’ Staple! The Independent Media Expo! from 2005: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9XM-FwXBgyE

Okay, now that that’s all done, here’s my feature presentation, as it were– every Halloween season, Barb and I try to watch as many scary/intense films and stuff as we can, which we call PARKTOBER. So here’s this year’s report!

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Interviews The Townhouse of Ideas

Author Interview: Steven Brust, FINAL PART

Okay! So here we go with the THIRD AND FINAL part of this three-part interview that I did with fantasy author Steven Brust back in 2011! Here’s a link to Part One and Part Two of this interview, in case you missed them:

https://wickermanstudios.com/2023/09/06/author-interview-steven-brust-part-one/

https://wickermanstudios.com/2023/09/13/author-interview-steven-brust-part-two/

All right, here we go!

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The Townhouse of Ideas

Author Interview: Steven Brust, Part TWO

OKAY SO HI.

You’ve probably noticed that I/we stopped sending these out every week. Yeah, we decided to move to a new format– they’re not going to be every week anymore– they’re going to be monthly… MOSTLY.

HOWEVER! First we’re going to clear the decks as far as this Steven Brust interview goes! So here’s part two, and part three WILL be later this month, just to make room for other stuff! There’ll be one more thing this month, too, but MOSTLY it’s going to be a once-a-month update– the slight reversion to more-than-once-a-month this month is mostly just to finish what we started.

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The Townhouse of Ideas

Author Interview: Steven Brust– Part One

Steven Brust is a fantasy author who I interviewed one time, but I just found out that the website the interview was on is gone now, so I’ve decided it’s time to post the interview here!

You may remember the name of Steven Brust from my article I wrote on this site about writers who’ve been an influence on me… In the meantime, let’s let Wikipedia help introduce you to the man:

Steven Karl Zoltán Brust (born November 23, 1955) is an American fantasy and science fiction author of Hungarian descent. He is best known for his series of novels about the assassin Vlad Taltos, one of a disdained minority group of humans living on a world called Dragaera. His recent novels also include The Incrementalists (2013) and its sequel The Skill of Our Hands (2017), with co-author Skyler White.

As a drummer and singer-songwriter, Brust has recorded one solo album and two albums as a member of Cats Laughing. Brust also co-wrote songs on two albums recorded in the mid-1990s by the band Boiled in Lead.

Okay, so that’s some stuff you know now, if you didn’t before! So let’s jump into my interview with Steven Brust, who had apparently been recently talking to me, before the interview started, about how he watched the TV show Firefly

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The Townhouse of Ideas

Influences

Okay, so the third thing I thought I might write about here is my influences. Barb’s written at least one where she talked about Shirley Jackson (and, I imagine, Jane Eyre, because boy is that an influence on her, too), so I thought I might do the same.

So let’s talk about Roger Zelazny.

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The Townhouse of Ideas

That’s Entertainment: Park and Barb on Films

Okay, time to find out what Barb and I have been doing for entertainment and to try to relax lately– In general, we like streaming old movies.

–Maigret Sets a Trap: First, we lost our wi-fi connection. So, we watched a blu-ray we own of a movie we hadn’t seen in a while: Maigret Sets a Trap from 1958 with Jean Gabin as French detective Maigret. In fact, he’s the Chief Inspector of all of France’s Quai des Orfèvres– a bit like their Scotland Yard. A serial killer is stalking women in Paris, and Maigret must put a stop to it. A brilliant and exciting film with the excellent Jean Gabin (who used to have a relationship with Marlene Dietrich). And around the time the blu-ray was over, the wi-fi was back!

–Down Three Dark Streets: 1954, with Broderick Crawford and Ruth Roman. An FBI man’s partner is killed in the line of duty– but which of the three cases that he was working on at the time was it that got him killed? Written by a husband-wife team called The Gordons, this film really satisfied, with a great last line that suggested everything you need to know to extrapolate what life is going to be like for the two lead characters after the movie’s done. And Mr. Gordon really was an FBI man for a few years! In fact, J. Edgar Hoover wanted to block this film at first (until we calmed him down) because he was afraid we’d give away all the FBI’s secret crime-solving techniques to criminals!

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The Townhouse of Ideas

Barb on Film, Part Three

Okay, here we go, with Barb’s final picks for her (written-years-ago) movie list (now with added CRAFT sections for extra educational-ness):

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Klute

Jane Fonda’s performance is one for the books. Anger, pain, hurt… she’s just so damned good in this neo-noir.

CRAFT: Seriously, look at Fonda and Sutherland’s performances. She’s a wild creature, hurt and wounded. He’s a stoic rock, ready for her waves to constantly crash against all she needs to crash– but he’s hardly unfeeling. They’re two great performances– but hers is much harder, and nonetheless greater, even if we factor out any bonus points for her having the harder job of it.

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Mimbo

Interesting, original, and always entertaining Asian film. Almost impossible to categorize.

CRAFT: Look at the pacing! Look how they keep you interested at all times in what’s basically (kind of? basically?) a legal story!

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Ginger Snaps

A first. A contemporary feminist werewolf film. Scary, funny, and original.

CRAFT: Wow, such good acting from Bridget’s actress. But try to get the version where you get to watch the deleted scene where the girls’ mom is driving the car and reacts (to Bridget) about how Mom thinks that her daughters have been killing people (in a non-supernatural way, I mean) and that Mom still loves them and is determined to cover up for them. It’s maybe the best piece of acting in the movie, and that is saying a lot.

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Pretty Poison

Tony Perkins’ best mental-issues-challenged character. Tuesday Weld is just plain evil (and hot as a furnace) in this film!

CRAFT: Seriously, the script is so good. And Weld is so good at acting it, and so is Perkins. They’re both scary believable and Perkins makes his character so likeable… and he’s so in over his head….

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Alphaville

Strange French science fiction detective film from the 1960s. Neat.

CRAFT: Look at that cinematography!

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400 Blows

Beautiful, sad, funny film about childhood. Unblinkingly honest in tone.

CRAFT: Look at that cinematography!

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Tron

That’s entertainment!

CRAFT: Look at the special effects! The light! The… I dunno, the color palette! They were like “we need to make people believe that this is what it might look like if you could get inside the inner reality of a computer program, so it needs to look and feel really different” and sure enough, thanks to technical wizardry, they pulled that off. It’s amazing that they did that, that well, in those days.

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Auntie Mame

I’m an Auntie Mame nut. What more can I say?

CRAFT: Okay: look at the writing! Look at the writing! And then, more specifically, look at the characterization! What does this film say about snobs? About motherhood? About bigotry? About small-minded people? But it’s also so funny!

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Bedazzled (original)

Cook and Moore do the Faust legend. Hilarious comedy by two former University lads…and you can tell. Clever clever and clever.

CRAFT: Look at the writing! But also, specifically, look at what it says about religion! Well, Christianity, especially… And, I suppose, also, about human nature… But I think the hardest job might be Dudley. His transition from the little underdog guy to the sophisticated smooth talker…!

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Band Of Outsiders

Idiosyncratic French neo-noir. Joyful instead of cynical, which is weird for a noir. Anna Karina is lovely as a rose in all of her films.

CRAFT: Look at that cinematography! But also, look how this film uses narration, how it breaks “the rules…”

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The Birdcage

Elaine May’s script, Williams and Lane, a nice message about tolerance. Sweet.

CRAFT: Look at the pacing! But better yet, look at the characterization! Okay, mostly just look at the loving couple at the heart of it all. It’s seldom that one sees that kind of portrayal of a couple who’ve been together that long. It’s quite different from a couple who’ve only known each other for a short while. But wow, acting-wise, the comedy that Williams and Lane also pull off…!

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Curse of the Demon

Mature, sophisticated British horror with a tip of the hat to Val Lewton horror films.

CRAFT: I guess the biggest piece of craft in this, to me, is that they have to sell you on an impossible idea, and how they do it… how they commit to it.

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David and Lisa

Mental patients in love. Deeply affecting, very watchable.

CRAFT: Oh, so lovable. Both our boy and girl do a very good job acting. Thematically so much in common with Pretty Poison, or so you’d think, but it’s really so, so different..

Intacto

Bizarre film. I guess it’s in the suspense category, as it’s a nail-biter. Unique.

CRAFT: Good cinematography, good selling you a world where… the rules are just a little different…

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Freaky Friday (original)

Yeah, yeah, a Disney farce. But Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster are great in this film!

CRAFT: The best thing craft-wise is the acting. You forget that these two actresses’ characters have not really swapped minds. That’s hard! And they both really commit to it– although Jodie Foster was so emotionally mature at that age, I think Barbara Harris has the harder job.

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Grace of My Heart

John Turturro and Illeana Douglas make a flawed but interesting film into something great. They’re both incredible.

CRAFT: It’s good writing, and good acting! Probably especially on Illeana Douglas’ part.

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Love at First Bite

Slight, silly, but truly funny vampire farce.

CRAFT: Yeah it’s very silly, but it’s still kind of romantic and touching! The sillier it is, the harder it is to make it also romantic and touching, but they pull it off (enough)!

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Victor/Victoria

Robert Preston! He brings up the quality of anything he’s in.

CRAFT: Look at Robert Preston act! Okay, maybe he’s not acting, exactly. That’s just kind of what Robert Preston seems to really be like. But look at Alex Karras acting, as the bodyguard! He’s doing the most acting, I think, and he does a really good job of it.

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Pleasantville

Lovely liberal values! Great film. Hard to stop watching.

CRAFT: The pacing is good (though it’s easy to stop watching in the short time before Don Knotts shows up at the house). But Tobey McGuire does a good job, and Joan Allen does a very nice job as the mom.

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To Wong Foo: Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar

I can’t help it. I like this film. I can’t explain why, just that I like the characters, in spite of myself.

CRAFT: Talk about writing that gives you a lot of what you want. The shining(est) star, though, I think, has just got to be Patrick Swayze. Man, he’s good.

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What’s Love Got to Do with It?

One of the all time great bio-pics.

CRAFT: Wow, look at her act. That’s acting. Look at her. Seldom in the history of films has someone so yelled at the screen when a woman is finally pushed to fight back: “YEAH GET ‘IM, GET ‘IM, GET ‘IM AGAIN! GET ‘IM, GIRL!”

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What’s Up Doc?

On an objective level, this film is probably just failed neo-screwball comedy, but it was the first one I ever saw and I laughed a lot. If I hadn’t seen it, I probably wouldn’t have gotten into classic screwball comedies. Besides, I still watch it when it’s on TV.

CRAFT: Look at that writing! Look at the speed! This is another movie where trying to watch it at 1.5 would be too fast, and I don’t feel that way about most movies. And man, say what you will about him, but O’Neal has a very hard job of playing this straight man as stone-faced, and he does it very well…

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3:10 To Yuma (original)

This film is perfect and something a little different: a film noir Western with a villain you like as much (if not more) than the hero, in spite of his evil ways. Basically, it’s a psychological showdown between lawful good and lawful evil with a nice “will there be a shoot out or not” climatic scene. Great stuff.

CRAFT: The acting! The writing! It’s subtle! It’s powerful! Both the acting and the writing, I mean!

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The Brady Bunch Movie

The Wedding Singer

Sure, neither of these films are likely to win any awards, but they’re both funny, sweet little pieces of pop culture that make me smile every time I see them. After all, this is a favorite movie list, not a best-films-I’ve-ever-seen list.

CRAFT: Okay first, it’s bizarre that Carol Brady turns out to be a role that Shelley Winters was born to play, but here we are. Same goes for Mr. Brady and Marcia’s actress. But also, the writing of both movies! And finally, wow, I find Drew Barrymore lovable, but she manages to be extra-lovable in this. It’s romantic! It encourages me to feel things, instead of trying to manipulate me into feeling what the movie wants me to feel! And the weird-period-piece elements of each film just… somehow never get tired?! Amazing!

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Barb, asking about the three-part list you have just read: “…What’s on that old list, anyway?”

Park: (I take a deep breath and read every title really fast)

Barb: “…Wow, that was 2007. Half those things would be replaced by other things now.”

Park: “Wanna make a new list?”

Barb: “Ugh, I don’t have the energy. Maybe someday… I mean… there’s no giallo films! No Mexican horror! No Let The Right One In! No Trollhunter!”

Park: “You change a lot every year. You practically become a new person all the time.”

Barb: “Well I guess so!

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Okay, that’s it for now! Come back someday for Barb’s new-and-improved updated list!

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The Townhouse of Ideas

Barb on Film, Part Two

We’re back, with more of Barb’s favorite films (from a list she made years ago, anyway. She’s working on an updated list), with CRAFT sections about each!

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–Wild in The Streets

Bizarre American exploitation with the astounding song “Shape of Things to Come” in it. As my thesaurus puts it about another subject, this film is blatantly guilty of “showing a quantum characteristic of strangeness…”

CRAFT: Look at what this film is saying about youth, about society, about authority, about human rights.

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Privilege

One of the best rock films ever. Also one of the most disturbing (along with Wild in the Streets)

CRAFT: Look at what this film is saying about religion, and fame, and being a cult figure. But mostly religion…

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–Something Wicked This Way Comes

Not the greatest film ever made, but a serviceable version of Bradbury’s best foray into horror. Imagination and the theme of the transience of childhood, regret, and growing older. I’m a sucker for scary carnival films. Which leads to…

CRAFT: Look at Jonathan Pryce’s big speech to Jason Robards. God, just look at it. Look at what he’s doing and how he’s doing it. Look. Listen. Wow.

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–Nightmare Alley (the original)

Con games, film noir, fake psychics, circus geeks. One bizarre film.

CRAFT: What does this film say about corruption, about power, about self-fulfilling destinies? (Bonus: DOES the main character have any psychic gifts, really, maybe?)

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–X-Men II: X-Men United

The best superhero movie ever. Great acting, very good plot, very good dialog, neat thematic concerns. And Nightcrawler at his most Nightcrawler-est.

CRAFT: Look at what this film says about found families, as opposed to the family one just happens to born into. What does this film say about the concept of “being who you truly are”?

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Star Trek IV

I was a Star Trek fan as a kid. This entry into the franchise is funny in the ways that my favorite episodes of the show were. Plus, they saved the whales!

CRAFT: What does this film say about friendship, about the environment, about the future? Why is this funny? Why do people traditionally see Star Treks I, III, and V as failures, and II, this one, and VI as successes? What’s going right here, and why, and how?

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–Leon: The Professional

Jean Reno breaks your heart in this one. He’s good, he’s noble, and he’s the best hitman I’ve seen onscreen. It has plenty of sick, violent moments, done incredibly well, too.

CRAFT: What does this film say about found families, as opposed to the family one just happens to born into? What does it say about violence, about revenge, about mourning?

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–Red River

Called “the first Freudian Western.” That just about sums it up.

CRAFT: What does this film say about fathers and sons, and the meaning of masculinity? When is it time for a father to let go and let a son start making his own decisions?

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My Darling Clementine

John Ford sure directs him some durned pretty Westerns, don’t he?

CRAFT: What does this film say about society, about civilization, about laws?

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–The Crying Game

I like the characters. Sure, Mona Lisa or The Long Good Friday might be better examples of British neo-noir, but this one’s definitely the most personable.

CRAFT: What does this film say about love, about gender, about what’s important? What does it say about human nature?

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–To Have and Have Not

Plot: Bogie and Baby would like to get it on, but the French resistance keeps interrupting them. Plus, we get to hear “How Little We Know.” Sexy.

CRAFT: Look at how this film maintains suspense. Look at how it’s always clear which side the characters should be on. What does this film say about taking sides– and not taking sides?

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Shadow of a Doubt

Hitchcock’s best psychopath. Perhaps his best film.

CRAFT: What does this film say about society? About good and evil? What does it say about small communities, and about the larger world? What are we supposed to think of Hume Cronyn’s character’s and the father’s delight in murder mysteries?

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The Shining

Weird, way-way-way-over-the-top horror with plenty of nutty twists and turns.

CRAFT: Wow, look at how reality shifts in this film. Look at how many times Jack glances at the camera. What does this film say about the past?

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–The Adventures of Robin Hood

The Sea Hawk

Errol Flynn is a joy to watch.

CRAFT: Look at what these films say about right and wrong. Look at how Errol Flynn wins over everyone good in these films. I don’t just mean “wow look how pretty and charming he is” –I mean, someone wrote every word he’s saying! Look how they made us think these two characters are super, super cool…

A Fish Called Wanda

The 1980s answer to the Ealing Brothers. John Cleese is strangely sexy and sympatric. Jamie Lee Curtis is, well, just plain sexy.

CRAFT: What is this film saying about attraction, about romance, about love? Why is Wanda attracted (cough cough “attracted” ahem) by foreign languages?

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The Nutty Professor (original)

You watch this enough times you’ll start seeing what the French see in Jerry Lewis. Crazy comedy with an unexpected hipness factor.

CRAFT: Holy cow, look at Jerry impersonating the Rat Pack. Sure, Dean, but even more than Dean, Sinatra. Jerry understands exactly why this is sophisticated and cool and sexy and he nonetheless hates it. What does this film say about the concept of “being who you truly are”? And yeah, I just implied a double-feature of X-Men 2 and The Nutty Professor, so sue me.

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All The President’s Men

Winter Kills

The two reigning champions of the ’70s paranoia film.

CRAFT: What are these films saying about the United States government? About power? About secrets? About uncovering secrets? About corruption? About truth?

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Galaxy Quest

Well, I did mention that I like Star Trek…

CRAFT: What does it mean to be regarded as a hero– to one person, or to a lot of people? How does this movie talk about what it means to feel you should try to live up to someone else’s ideal? (That’s right: My Favorite Year/Galaxy Quest double feature. I’m as surprised as you people.)

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Addams Family Values

More quotable lines per square inch than any film since The Producers. The one about the Aristotelian unities is one I haul out when I particularly hate a comic or a movie.

CRAFT: What does this film say about conforming to societal expectations? Whatever the answer is, it is saying it a LOT.

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Don’t Look Now

Scared me as a kid, scares me as an adult.

CRAFT: What is this film saying about grief… and moving on?

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Tiger Bay

The Parent Trap (the original)

Pollyanna

Hayley Mills fascinates me. Few child actors are as natural, yet professional as she was. She acts like a real kid.

CRAFT: What is each movie saying about childhood? About adults? About hope?

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Curse of the Cat People

Strange little fantasy horror film. Oddest looking little blonde girl heroine I’ve ever seen. She’s as scary as her imaginary friend.

CRAFT: Wow oh wow, what is this movie saying about belief and trust?

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Grosse Pointe Blank

Say Anything

John Cusack, when he does films he really believes in, is a wonder to behold. I like both films equally. Grosse Point Blank has a slight edge because it’s a black comedy with some really great ultraviolence.

CRAFT: What is each movie saying about adulthood?

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Born Yesterday

Judy Holliday was sweet, funny, incredibly smart (something like a 165 IQ)…and, supposedly, a lesbian. She’s just the most glorious actress, so loveable. She died young, sadly.

CRAFT: What is this movie saying about the United States? About corruption? About education? About being smart?

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The Major and The Minor

Ginger Rogers was an excellent comedian. This comedy has lots of nice dirty moments, too.

CRAFT: What is this movie saying about being gullible? About how humans see what they expect to see? Okay, maybe it’s pretty clear what it’s saying in regard to those things, but dang, look at the craft of how they’re saying it?

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Portrait of Jennie

Supernatural romance that always leaves me in tears.

CRAFT: What is this movie saying about love? About destiny? Okay, never mind those– look how actress Jennifer Jones works hard to portray a character growing from a young girl to an adult. She makes it look at least a little easier than it really is…

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A Little Romance

Americanized Truffaut-esque comedy. Absolutely charming.

CRAFT: Look how the story is written to make us okay with two kids running off to explore Europe together! And look how the two young people are written, too. So many mistakes regarding how to write young people are avoided…

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The Heiress

Soap opera as horror, maybe? Intense.

CRAFT: What is this film saying about emotional abuse? What does it say about trust? About dysfunctional families? Look at how subtle this script is… Look at how it always shows instead of tells.

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Okay, that’s it for this time– come back soon for the rest of the list (and, sooner or later, an updated, better-than-ever list)!