The Tao of Doo


In his kind and generous review of my first mystery, DEATH NOTICE, author James Reasoner said the plot was vaguely reminiscent of something found in Scooby-Doo, only played seriously. He meant it as a compliment and I took it Read more

BAD MOON Rises


Another October, another release date. Since BAD MOON is my second book, you would think I'd be used to it. But nope, I'm not. BAD MOON's publication date feels as surreal as DEATH NOTICE's did last year. For readers, the Read more

Writing With ... Louise Penny


I am thrilled beyond words to welcome one of my favorite writers, Louise Penny, whose Armand Gamache mysteries have appeared on bestseller lists worldwide.  Her last book, BURY YOUR DEAD, won the Ellis for best mystery in Canada, and Read more

Is Browsing Dead?


I'll be the first to admit that I was a nerdy teenager. Not pocket protector nerdy, but no sports star, either. I was bookish, I guess you could say. I read A LOT back then, and nothing pleased me Read more

Why We Left Earth


Outer space has always been a mystery. Even before mankind fully grasped its vastness, they wanted to go there. Early astronomers, fascinated by the stars, invented ways to get a closer view. Think Copernicus, Galileo, Cassini. Writers not content Read more

Just For Fun

Books about Oscar

Posted on by Todd Posted in Just For Fun, Musings | Comments Off

I’m going to be blunt: The Oscars are meaningless.

Being named Best Picture doesn’t mean a movie is the “best,” nor does it mean that it’s actually any good at all. (I’m looking at you, Crash.) The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences distributes awards based on whatever is popular at the moment, what actor’s “time has come” and how many people Harvey Weinstein rubbed shoulders with at parties sponsored by Vanity Fair. As a result, Oscar history is riddled with more misses than hits, and, quite often, the films crowned Best Picture are eventually reduced to trivia questions and “What were they thinking?” columns. (That same fate awaits you, The Artist, no matter how charming you are at the moment.)

And yet, I love the Oscars. I love waking up early to watch the nominations be announced. I love reading about who’s ahead and predicting the winners and filling out the ballot in the office Oscar pool. I love the awkward red carpet interviews and rating the acceptance speeches and judging the fashions. No, I don’t think the Academy Awards are a true judge of quality. They’re a spectacle, a parade, a pageant. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Seeing how the Academy Awards have been around for more than eight decades, there are surprisingly few books devoted to them. Sure, you can read about the Oscars all over the Internet nowadays, and its rare when a celebrity autobiography doesn’t include at least one mention of them. But books solely about the Oscars are few and far between. Luckily, I’ve found a few. And they’re pretty darn good. So, in the spirit of Oscar weekend, here are three books that Oscar fans and movie buffs will love:

INSIDE OSCAR by Mason Wiley and Damien Bona

This zippy, gossipy history of the Oscars is as big as a phone book and filled with just as many bold names. What Wiley and Bona do is take readers on a crash course through Academy history, starting in 1927. Each chapter is dedicated to a year in film, briefly outlining the major contenders, what the critics thought of them and who came out on top. Along the way, there’s lots of catty comments, backstage drama and choice quotes. Those longing for depth should look elsewhere. Interested in the socio-economic conditions of the seventies that led to Rocky winning best picture? Sorry, that’s not here. Want to know all about Sacheen Littlefeather or the streaker who shared the stage with David Niven? Well, this is the book for you.

THE BIG SHOW: High Times and Dirty Dealings Backstage at the Academy Awards by Steve Pond

From 1994 to 2004, journalist Steve Pond was given unprecedented backstage access to the Oscars. He wrote about his experiences in the much-missed Premiere magazine before compiling the articles into a book. The result is a fascinating, fly-on-the-wall look at what happens before, during and after an Oscar telecast. Pond gets deep into the heart of the show, revealing what celebrities chat about backstage, how the producers got Woody Allen to appear during the 2002 ceremony and how much flop sweat David Letterman was shedding during his disastrous 1995 hosting stint. As the title suggests, there’s plenty of gossip packed in THE BIG SHOW’s pages, but the book is more than a tawdry tell-all. It’s a funny, in-depth look at just how much work goes in to putting on the Oscars.

PICTURES AT A REVOLUTION: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood by Mark Harris

In 1967, the five Best Picture nominees were Bonnie and Clyde, Doctor Dolittle, The Graduate, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and In the Heat of the Night. Strange bedfellows, to be sure. Mark Harris, who has written some great pieces about the current Oscar season over at Grantland, delves into the making of those films to examine the seismic shift old Hollywood was experiencing at the time. And, to paraphrase Dylan, the times were definitely a-changin’. The days of dull and expensive studio epics (Doctor Dolittle) were slipping away, replaced with movies about race (Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, In The Heat of the Night), sex (The Graduate) and violence (Bonnie and Clyde). Harris supports his study by interviewing, oh, everybody who had anything to do with all of those movies. It’s an exhaustive look at how movies are created, how they reflect the times in which they were made and how, sometimes, the Oscars can sum up a generational shift with just a list of five nominees.

Hitchcock or Disney No. 7

Posted on by Todd Posted in Hitchcock or Disney, Just For Fun | 1 Comment

It’s time for another round of¬†Hitchcock or Disney. I post a quote from a movie and you have to guess who made it, Alfred Hitchcock or Walt Disney. (Bonus points if you guess the name of the movie.)

Here is today’s quote:

If I didn’t know better, I’d think you had feelings for this monster.

Think you know which man it came from? Post your guess in the comments section.

A Song for Bond

Posted on by Todd Posted in Just For Fun, Musings | Comments Off

A week or so ago, it was revealed that Skyfall will be the title of the next James Bond movie. Now, I don’t put too much stock in Bond titles. They often have nothing to do with the plot and, in some cases, make no sense whatsoever. (I’m looking at you, Quantum of Solace.) So Skyfall is as good or as bad as any other.

Besides, everyone knows the titles are really chosen because they sound cool in a song. Curiously, though, both Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace didn’t follow this tradition. Perhaps the producers of the next Bond will do the same, even though Skyfall, if done right, could sound very, very cool.

But in order to do it right, they need the perfect vocalist to bring the song to life. A voice that will stand out over the series’ eye-popping opening credits. According to the Internet, always a reliable source, the frontrunners to sing the Skyfall theme are Adele and Michael Buble. Both are fantastic choices, although I definitely prefer one over the other. But who else could sing the hell out of a Bond theme? Here are my personal picks:

Adele
Yes, she’s the frontrunner. And rightly so. Other than the late Amy Winehouse, I can’t think of a modern voice so perfectly suited for the Bond franchise. Adele could more than sing the hell out of the theme song. Her pipes are capable of blowing it out of this orbit. The only downside is that her recent throat surgery could make her unavailable.

Beyonce
She may not have the brassy power of Shirley Bassey, but Mrs. Jay-Z could certainly do a Bond song justice. Don’t believer me? Sit back, close your eyes and imagine it’s her and not Carly Simon singing “Nobody Does it Better” from The Spy Who Loved Me. See what I mean?

Radiohead
Speaking of “Nobody Does it Better,” Thom Yorke & Co. have been known to do a cover version of the song during concerts. And while it might not sound perfect, you have to admit that something they write for themselves could be a great, eclectic addition to the Bond canon.

Florence + The Machine
This sounds like an out-of-the-box choice until you realize that Shirley Manson and Garbage were tapped to sing the theme to The World is Not Enough in 1999. In my opinion, Florence Welch has a far better voice and, with the right song, she and her group could hit a home run.

Lady Gaga
Oh, boy. Now this could be interesting. If you take away the crazy costumes, electronic gizmos and trademark stuttering lyrics, Gaga still has an incredible voice. But why strip Gaga of what she’s known for? I say give her the gizmos and stutter and see what she does with it. Skyf-f-fall, anyone?

Kanye West
Another idiosyncratic artist who, if commissioned to tackle a Bond theme, could either come up with something utterly brilliant or completely awful. Either way, I’d love to see him try.

So those are my picks. Who would you like to see sing the next Bond theme? Sound off in the comments section!

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