Still conducting interviews for my Patch.com staff…
May 5, 2010
MSNBC.com just posted my movie piece: How to Not Screw Up the Iron Man franchise.
Read it here.
May 3, 2010
Sean Chercover, author of Trigger City , just wrote:
“By compiling the last words of people put to death by the state in America, juxtaposed against details of their crimes and victims, Robert K. Elder has created an extraordinary book.
No matter which side of the capital punishment divide you find yourself, LAST WORDS OF THE EXECUTED is a must-read. Because this is not a political book, but a human journey. You may find your beliefs challenged, changed, or reaffirmed, but you will not come away unaffected.”
May 1, 2010
My first reading for Last Words of the Executed is this Tuesday, May 4, at 7 p.m.
Hosted by The Parlor,1511 N. Milwaukee Ave, 2nd Floor, in lovely Chicago, IL.
See you there!
More news to come on my East Coast tour (June 3-10) and West Coast tour (fall, 2010).
April 30 , 2010
Check out the review of Last Words of the Executed in the April 29 print edition of The Economist, also available online.
Excerpt: “The last words are remarkable for their remorse, humour, hatred, resignation, fear and bravado…America’s diverse heritage is stamped even onto its killers’ final moments.”
Read the complete review here .
April 26, 2010
I’m now the north suburban Regional Editor for AOL’s Patch.com. Translation: I’m starting 12 community news sites & hiring local editors.
April 25, 2010
I just got word that Steve James, director of At the Death House Door and Hoop Dreams , will join me for a reading at the Oak Park Public Library on Wednesday, June 23.
I’m hoping we can show some film clips and have a discussions on stage. Stay tuned for more details.
April 19 , 2010
Last Words of the Executed was just reviewed in Harper’s Magazine!
Here’s an excerpt:
“As harrowing as it is to read about slave owners and Nazis, one can be consoled by the thought that they (theoretically, at least) lie safely buried in the past. By contrast, there is something particularly nauseating about knowing that one’s own country stands proudly alongside China, Saudi Arabia, and Myanmar in embracing legal murder.
Even though the topic is polemical, Elder’s book is dispassionate: the ‘last words’ are printed above a sober description of the dead person’s purported crimes.”
—May 2010 issue, pages 71-72
March 13 , 2010
Last Words of the Executed now has its own website.
Visit us here.
We’ve also put up Studs Terkel’s complete foreword, plus a chapter exerpt and this quote from Dead Man Walking author, Sister Helen Prejean:
“This is a dangerous book. Who knows how we will emerge from the encounter? It makes me want to live , to use my energies in soul-sized pursuits like justice, like love…”
Go here to pre-order on Amazon.com!
March 12 , 2010
We now have a publisher for book versions of http://itwasoverwhen.com and http://itwaslovewhen.com !
I have to
sign contracts before an official announcement…
but stay tuned!
“Last Words of the Executed” (with a foreword by Studs Terkel) just got its own page on Amazon.com!
Now available for pre-orders!
Today, I’m dropping off the finished index and final changes for Last Words of the Executed.
The first book release party will be on May 20 at Northwestern University, a joint event with the talented Jonathan Eig, who is promoting his book Get Capone.
We’re jokingly calling the event “Crime & Punishment.”
Jan. 22, 2010
So, how is your New Year?
The index is due at the end of the month for “Last Words of the Executed”–then it goes to the printers and will be out in May.
I also just handed in the first draft of my next book “The Film That Changed My Life: 30 Directors Talk about Their Epiphanies in the Dark” (out in February of 2011).
The websites, ItWasOverWhen.com and ItWasLoveWhen.com, continute to gather momentum and there are books in the works for each of them. I’ll also be doing a “radio tour” of interviews about the sites in Febraruy, around the Valentine’s Day season…
Oh, and for those of you who are interested you can follow ItWasOverWhen.com on Twitter at @overwhen and me personally at @robelder.
Dec. 23 , 2009
Merry pre-Christmas to all!
Well, both books are in and I am waiting to index one of them. The proof should be back from the printer in early January.
And, I have a new job.
More details to come…
Nov. 30, 2009
What happens when Facebook and Twitter take over?
Well, your blog suffers. Not that this is a blog. It’s more like: This is who I am, what I’m up to. Remember me?
Right now, I’m finishing two books and dodging a bug that has everyone else in the household sniffling.
Also, I’m about to start a new job. More on this soon.
October 28, 2009
Since the last entry, I was in New York for UGCX (User-generated Content Expo) for ItWasOverWhen.com and ItWasLoveWhen.com.
Also took the time to catch up with friends and meet with my agent, who just sent out a book proposal for ItWasOverWhen on Tuesday.
I also got to see the first cover design for “Last Words of the Executed,” which is amazing. As soon as I am allowed, I will post the image.
Oh, and thanks to Rick Kogan on WGN radio for having me on to talk about the websites this past Sunday. By far, the best interview about ItWasOverWhen.com and ItWasLoveWhen.com yet.
October 5, 2009
Canadian fans of ItWasOverWhen.com!
I will be interviewed on Toronto’s “The Breakfast Show with Mad Dog and Billie” tomorrow morning at 7 a.m. about the site.
You can listen to the radio broadcast online here.
October 4, 2009
ItWasOverWhen.com got a shout-out from movie director Kevin Smith (“Clerks,” “Chasing Amy ”) today.
He called it “…an addictive site…” and we are now on track to log 35,000 page views.
September 25, 2009
Thanks to everyone who came to the launch party for ItWasLoveWhen.com and ItWasOverWhen.com, especially those who waited in line to get their photos taken in our photobooth!
A huge success! Stay tuned for more news.
September 22, 2009
Thanks to again for UrbanDaddy.com for the article today on ItWasOverWhen.com…
A couple nice quotes:
“…Part catharsis, part Seinfeld plot generator…”
“Hallmark somehow still doesn’t make a card for such moments…”
“…a chronicle of the precise instant when that little voice in the back of your head says,
‘Run for your life!’ ”
Read the whole thing here.
September 21, 2009
Just did a nice interview with Chris LaMorte at UrbanDaddy.com about ItWasOverWhen. I’ll get a link up as soon as it’s posted.
The launch party at Bar DeVille in Chicago is in three days!
September 18, 2009
Two new interviews up at Stop Smiling, with co-directors of “Cloudly with a Chances of Meatballs ”
Here is Phil Lord talking about “The Beaver Trilogy”
and Chris Miller on Woody Allen’s “Sleeper.”
September 10 , 2009
Check out my Demo magazine cover story, a look behind the scenes at Second City’s comedy classes.
The troupe, of course, spawned Bill Murray, John Belushi, Gilda Radner–the Mount Rushmore of Comedy. The main story is here, but my interview with found uncle Sheldon Patinkin is here.
His best quote: “Better an asshole than a chickenshit.”
September 9 , 2009
Well, the redesigns are well underway.
At It Was Over When and It Was Love When, we have added a voting function, a comments section and some ads. More improvements to come.
Also: Make your calendars. We are having a launch party.
Photobooth Make-Out Party!
Co-hosted with 312Photobooth.com
ItWasLoveWhen.com and ItWasOverWhen.com, our websites dedicated to Tales of Romantic Beginnings and Dead Ends, are coming out of beta testing, and this is our official launch party. We are also redesigning the logos and want you to be part of it!
Come party with us, bring your significant other and make-out in a Digital-Retro photobooth. The couples with the steamiest photos will be made part of the new logos. Everyone will get a free copy of their digital photos.
When : Thursday, Sept. 24, 6:30 p.m. until 10:30 p.m.
Where: Bar Deville, 1958 W Huron St., in the backroom of this Ukrainian Village hangout.
Visit: itwasoverwhen.com and itwaslovewhen.com to learn more!
August 28, 2009
I woke up this morning and was taking the kids to their pediatrician when I got a call from my brother, who told me It Was Over When was being featured on Johnjay & Rich–a nationally syndicated radio show–for the second day in a row.
Before I knew it, I was on the air talking to them, so flustered that I gave out the wrong URL for my own website. Eventually corrected it, but I was caught completely off guard in this, our redesign week. But, completely flattering. Thanks again, guys.
August 26, 2009
OK, so the websites (It Was Over When & It Was Love When) have completely taken over my life.
More advertisers lined up, but we won’t be rolling any of that out until the redesign in September. New colors, new content management system–maybe even new logos.
We’re getting more Over When stories than Love When, but that’s to be expected…didn’t somone once say something about kissing a lot of frogs before you get a prince?
Well, some of these stories are far worse.
August 18, 2009
Just received an advanced copy of Time Out’s Chicago guidebook. Very cool. They even replaced the artwork on my chapter about Chicago Today with a photo of Obama.
It’s not out yet, but can be ordered in advance here.
August 17, 2009
We’re almost there.
Even in beta testing, we’ve had more than 25,000 visitors for
It Was Over When…and a few thousand for It Was Love When. We haven’t even really launched Love When yet, but the response has been copious and wildly unexpected. So, thanks for visiting us.
Over the next couple weeks, we’ll be rolling out some redesigns and a bright, shiny new content management system. In other words, soon users will be able to vote for their favorite stories, leave comments and overall, have a better community experience.
We’ve also just been accepted as a Match.com advertising affliate, which is exciting. More to come.
August 6, 2009
I mean that in the very Keanu-Reeves-in-“The Matrix” -whoa-meaning of the word.
The response to–
It Was Over When: Tales of Romantic Dead Ends
–has been overwhelming and amazing. Thanks to everyone who helped get the word out.
I’ll be posting updates from the avalanche of new submissions we get every day on the site, through Facebook and via Twitter.
August 5, 2009
After spending seven years on “Last Words of the Executed,” I’ve turned in the manuscript and have decided to turn my attention to something fun and frivilous.
So, a fter a couple years of planning, and a few months of design and programming, we have launched:
It Was Over When: Tales of Romantic Dead Ends
It’s a party game I’ve been playing for more than a decade and a Website I bought years ago. Now, we’ve made something of it.
Come visit us & share your stories at http://www.itwasoverwhen.com
Please email your friends, join our Facebook group , blog and Twitter ( @overwhen ) about us!
I asked him what his sexual fantasy was, and he said, “two redheads.” I’m a brunette.
Aftermath: He left me two months later. For a blonde.
She offered me her ex-boyfriend’s jean shorts to sleep in. Her guest room was full of her ex-boyfriend’s clothes.
Aftermath: My first clue should have been that the guy before me abandoned an entire wardrobe to get away from this woman.
I woke up, looked at my partner sitting on the edge of the bed and realized that I absolutely detested the shape of his head.
Aftermath: It only lasted 3 months after that.
August 2, 2009
I’ve just turned in my final manuscript for “Last Words of the Executed,” out in hardcover in the spring of 2010.
And…this gives me the opportunity to turn my attention to other projects. Please stay tuned.
July 25, 2009
Some coverage from Comic-con, including:
Richard Kelly’s “The Box”
Matthew Vaughn’s “Kick-Ass”
Syfy Channel’s new “Stargate Universe”
and Wolverine with a waist-length mullet. No kidding.
July 22, 2009
Off to the San Diego Comic-con, covering movies for Wizard magazine…
July 5, 2009
Check out the print edition of Chicago magazine…I contributed a bunch of stories for its “Best of Chicago” issue.
June 15, 2009
In this month’s Time Out Chicago: Which businesses do well in a down economy? Read about it here.
June 1, 2009
News: I’ve just been named Contributing Editor to Stop Smiling magazine, which is best known for its lengthy interviews, particularly with directors. Happy to be aboard. More announcements to come.
But for now, click below to read my debut Stop Smiling interview with Pete Docter, director of Disney/Pixar’s “Monsters Inc.” and the new movie “Up.”
Here, we talk about “Up,” criticism from conservatives and the upcoming “Toy Story 3.”
May 25, 2009
Looks like I’m off to New Orleans again, this time to visit with John Malkovich, Megan Fox and Josh Brolin on the set of “Jonah Hex” — sort of a neo-Western, which may or may not involve zombies.
Also, I just filed my “Chicago Today” chapter for Time Out’s forthcoming guidebook of the Windy City.
May 8, 2009
Wizard just posted my preview of the “Dead of Night” set visit, complete with a photo.
Check it out here.
May 6, 2009
Back from New Orleans and after 36 hours of no sleep, I have turned the book manuscript. “Last Words of the Executed” will be out this time next year.
A couple folks emailed and asked what movie set I was on. It’s called “Dead of Night,” starring Brandon Routh (the guy in the blue tights from “Superman Returns”). It’s an adaptation of the Italian comic book character Dylan Dog, a private investigator of the supernatural.
I’m writing about the set visit for Wizard magazine later, but a quick anecdote now:
I spent the whole time in a cavernous, rusted-out power factory with Routh and some zombies, who spent 14 hours in makeup before being used for a 30 minute shoot at the end of the day. These guys were caked in mud, muck and Hollywood gore. Some had fake, decaying teeth rubber-cemented into their mouths.
At the beginning of the day, the makeup guy came around and said, “OK guys, you’re all getting KYed later in the day.” As in KY jelly, because their makeup would dry up.
“Don’t worry,” said the makeup guy. “I have rubber gloves.”
The bad news: They each got the same rubber glove.
May 1, 2009
Just got a call from a magazine asking, Can you be in New Orleans on Sunday to cover a movie set?
Yes, I can.
April 30 , 2009
Here’s my interview with Kenneeth Bi, director of “The Drummer” which stars Jaycee Chan (Jackie Chan’s son) in a gangster/Zen journey hybrid movie.
A quick quote from Bi about his film: “I needed a person who was not like me to change. In this case, he was the prince of darkness, the son of a gangster. Jaycee has a very powerful father figure, and he’s kind of like a prince in Hong Kong, movie royalty. I really didn’t have to explain anything to him. I didn’t talk about his life in relation to the story. I didn’t say anything that would touch a nerve.”
Read it here.
April 24, 2009
After being around the house for just two weekdays, the twins are starting to look at me funny. In fact, Eva’s first words were: “Why the heck aren’t you at work, Daddy?” Then, I sat them down and calmly explained that Daddy was now a hobo and would make his living playing poker and riding the rails.
April 22, 2009
I’m celebrating Earth Day by looking for a new job…
Being laid off builds character, I’m told.
That’s right: The Chicago Tribune and I have broken up. The newspaper thinks we should see other media. I hope we can still be friends.
But seriously: Almost a decade ago, the Tribune recruited me and brought me to Chicago. Here, I met an amazing woman and we had our beautiful twins, who just turned a year old. Not such a bad deal.
Officially in the job market again.
Thanks to all those sending encouraging notes.
April 21, 2009
A few quick updates:
First, my interview with author Michael Chabon about the Coen Brothers adapting his last novel, movies in general, plus sexuality.
#2) It’s Twitter meets “Mystery Science Theater 3000.”
#3) I talk to director Paul Haggis about Netflix’s top rental of all time. Any guesses?
April 2 , 2009
Now, a moment of silence for “ER.”
Plus, two pieces: One on the show’s impact on Chicago.
And a second wherein I talk to stars Noah Wyle,
Parminder Nagra and David Lyons about the drama’s final days and legacy.
March 21 , 2009
Well, the twins are sick.
Which means I’m up, late at night, posting items and waiting for them to squawk.
First up: The sex life of Tony Curtis. I talked to the Hollywood icon about movies, his newest memoir “American Prince” and about living at the Playboy Mansion. “Some Like It Hot” indeed.
Then: The business of murder and suicide. What do real crime scene clean-up crews think of the movie “Sunshine Cleaning”?
Lastly: A conversation with Craig Robinson of “The Office” about his stage act, his arrest record and the limits of comedy.
March 10 , 2009
The Tribune ran my interview with Gary Sinise today, who railed against negative portrayals of the military in movies. Sinise, best known as Lt. Dan from “Forrest Gump” and Mac Taylor on “CSI: New York,” just produced the documetary “Brothers at War.”
Also, a Q&A with Jack Rademacher, director of “Brothers at War.”
Lastly: Haven’t read enough about “The Watchmen”? Well, then, check out my piece with Chris Borrelli on author Alan Moore.
February 28 , 2009
Spring can’t get here fast enough. The Crickets have started their first swimming lessons and Dylan is already posing for the next Nirvana album cover. Eva just kicks and squeals.
In the Tribune:
An interview with documentarian Frederick Wiseman.
And…a profile of the folks behind CrimeSpree Magazine.
February 16 , 2009
Some quick updates.
First, an interview with punk icon Patti Smith.
Second, my set visit in Chicago for the final season of “ER.”
Lastly, a conversation with Ken Kwapis, director of “He’s Just Not That Into You.”
January 25, 2009
I’ve been away for most of this month, trying to finish this book manuscript…
But, here a couple Tribune stories:
1) Spider-Man meets Barack Obama. That’s right, in the most recent “Amazing Spider-Man,” the webslinger saves the day at Obama’s inauguration. Also, check out this link, which is my gallery of presidential appearances in comic books, from Kennedy and Nixon to Clinton and Reagan.
2) My review of
“The Elvis Encyclopedia.”
Dec. 30, 2008
In case you missed them during the holidays, some recent articles:
Hellblazer’s John Constantine (via writer Brian Azzarello) attempts to break the Cubs’ Billy Goat curse, via comic book.
A conversation with DreamWorks Animation’s Jeffrey Katzenberg about 3-D, Shrek and the future of Star Trek movies…
Plus, will Christopher Nolan and crew head back to Chicago for a third installment of their Batman franchise?
Lastly: Call it the Silent Invasion. Or, the second British Invasion with an Australian flank. More and more Brits and Aussies are talking on American accents and American characters. Two articles.
Dec.13 , 2008
Pinup icon Bettie Page passed away this week and I wrote about her “lost years ” in Chicago.
Also, inside the Chicago Underground Library.
Lastly, my interview with “Mystery Science Theater 3000” creator Joel Hodgson about his new cinema heckling venture “Cinematic Titanic” and about leaving “MST3K.”
Dec.7 , 2008
Some articles about the time I spent with actor Freddy Rodriguez (“Six Feet Under,” “Grindhouse”) and producer Robert Teitel (“Barbershop”) in the run-up to the release of “Nothing Like the Holidays,” their Chicago-based movie…
#2 Freddy revisits his high school
#3 Barack Obama visits the set of “Barbershop”
Plus, another skull story.
Dec.6 , 2008
Lots of articles coming up…
including an interview with “Evil Dead 2” star Bruce Campbell about his new movie “My Name is Bruce”..
Also, my profile of Frank Kasy, who serves as artist Alex Ross’ model for Superman.
Lastly, a piece about the Secret Lives of Books…
Nov. 18 , 2008
A visit on the set of A&E’s “The Beast,” starring Patrick Swayze as a rogue FBI agent.
Then, in a Q&A with me, the “Dirty Dancing” and “Outsiders” star talks about his love for Chicago, fighting cancer and his new series.
Here’s a quick sample:
Swayze: Chicago is “The Beast,” like many things are the beast—the dark side. Working undercover is the beast. But Chicago needed to be its own animal, its own living, breathing character that encompasses everything, holds the characters within its consciousness.
Nov. 14 , 2008
I spent a little time with Robert Pattinson, who plays vampire Robert Cullen in “Twilight.” We talked about immortality, high school and the possibility of his becoming the next Doctor Who.
Two pieces, check them out here and here. The second link has him talking about sequels…
Also, behind the scenes of “Monthy Python’s The Life of Brian.”
Nov. 5 , 2008
Here is how I covered the election…
AT A STRIP CLUB
As polls closed across Indiana, the dancers’ pole at Déjà Vu Showgirls of Hammond was just opening for business. Employees outnumbered customers eight to two. Three large, flatscreen TVs brought in election results, two positioned behind the stage.
“Whoa! New Hampshire just went for Obama,” said assistant manager Aaron Kallio, 36.
The staff of Déjà Vu was looking for change they could believe in, mostly $1 and $5 bills. One dancer, Essence, 26, said this is the first time she has voted.
“For me, a dancer with a child, you think I’d be able to afford health care. But I can’t,” she said.
When asked if election reports would distract her on stage, she said, “No, I watch TV all the time when I’m up there. They don’t pay any attention to my face anyway.”
Oct. 27, 2008
Here, I catch up with Tura Satana, star of the Russ Meyer classic “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!” Read it here.
Also, The Great Train Story….
Oct. 19, 2008
A quick interview with director Barry Levinson (“The Natural”) and Art Linson, producer of “Fight Club,” “The Untouchables,” and “What Just Happened”– based on his book of the same name. Linson is played by Robert De Niro.
Also, a Q&A with Mark Wahlberg and Ludacris about tattoos, video games and their movie “Max Payne.”
In a seperate item, Wahlberg told me about working with director Peter Jackson on their forthcoming film adaptation of “The Lovely Bones.”
He said, in part, Jaskson is “extremely collaborative… extremely open to suggestions and ideas, almost to the point where it’s painful to watch because you have to put up with someone who has a crazy, kooky idea and he won’t tell them to shut up and stand on the mark.”
Oct. 9, 2008
Here’s my full interview with Bill Murray. We talk about
his new film (“City of Ember“), politics, sky diving, and the fate of his skull.
Oct. 3, 2008
I just got off the phone with Bill Murray, who offered advice to his beloved, ailing Cubs in their playoff fight against the Dodgers…
“They’re not out of it yet, it’s baseball,” Murray told me, while we talked about his new movie “City of Ember.“
To read his full commentary, go here.
September 25, 2008
I recently sat down with former Bears coach Mike Ditka and actor Dennis Quaid to talk about football, ego, mentors and Quaid’s new movie, “The Express.” Read it here.
Also: Director Neil Burger talks about “The Lucky Ones” …
and DJ Caruso talks about filming “Eagle Eye” in Chicago. Caruso also suggests that he wants to shoot “Y: The Last Man” in Chicago.
September 15, 2008
A couple new items, most notably an interview with “Six Feet Under” creator and “American Beauty” scribe Alan Ball.
We talk about his new movie, “Towelhead,” burying “Six Feet Under” and his new HBO series, “True Blood.”
Also…a conversation with actress Karen Black, covering everything from her Midwestern roots to Scientology. Read it here.
August 13 , 2008
From the Tribune today:
Pat Gleason is a mess.
Blood streaks across his chest. His shirt is torn, the bridge of his nose split open. Under the sun, during a cigar break, the broken nose has begun to fray and peel, much to the exasperation of makeup artist Liz O’Leary.
“Patrick!” she says, as he walks back inside Congress Theatre. Almost no one calls him Patrick, just Pat, so when she uses his full name, he knows he’s in trouble.
But this is his first movie set, his first movie, his first starring role.
In the indie movie “Fancypants,” Gleason plays Leo the Blue Lion, a wrestler of legendary ferocity inside the ring who can’t quite adapt to life outside it.
Gleason understands his role; he can empathize. Two and a half years ago, he emerged from a 15-year prison sentence for two counts of attempted murder. He’s still adapting….
For the full story, go here. There’s also a nice video.
August 4 , 2008
A couple quick posts:
First: the complete list of filming locations from “The Dark Knight,” which was largely shot in Chicago.
Second: An interview with the Duplass Brothers, of “Baghead” and “The Puffy Chair” acclaim.
Lastly, my favorite recent profile: Beth Horn, aka Venom from “American Gladiators.” The piece is called “So I married an American Gladiator.”
July 10, 2008
I had lunch a little bit ago with actor and Steppenwolf Theatre co-founder Terry Kinney. Best known as Tim McManus on the HBO series “Oz,” Kinney has focused more on directing.
This month, he releases his first feature film, “Diminished Capacity,” starring Alan Alda and Matthew Broderick. He is also directly Neil LaBute’s latest play on stage in New York.
But, for Screen Scene, we talked mostly about his move from stage to screen.
Read the interview here.
June 19 , 2008
I gave my Screen Scene column to a 7-year-old girl this week, so she could interview Abigail Breslin, start of “Little Miss Sunshine” and “Kit Kittredge: An American Girl.”
See the video, read the interview here.
May 30, 2008
WTTW’s “Chicago Tonight” just posted their interview with me about my Tribune Unabomber piece. You can view it here.
May 18, 2008
Some of you know I’ve spent more than a year working a top- secret story.
Well, today the Chicago Tribune published it — the cover of its Sunday edition. It’s called “A Brother Lost, a Brotherhood Found” — a four-page story of the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, his brother David and Gary Wright, a man Ted nearly killed.
It’s published just before the 30th anniversary of the Unabomber’s first strike in his hometown of Chicago. The story includes rare access to family photos, letters & Ted’s unpublished writings, which contradict his public image as an eco-crusader.
Above all, however, this is the story Dave and Gary. Dave lost a brother in a very tragic, public way but formed a new, unlikely bond with Gary. Here is the print story.
We also have a robust multimedia package, with 50 years of Kaczynski family photos, new video interviews and an audio interview with Wanda Kaczynski, Ted and Dave’s 91-year-old mother. That stuff is here.
Those of you in the in Chicago can hear me talk about the piece Monday on WBEZ’s morning radio show “Eight Forty-Eight” (8-10 a.m.) and then again on TV at 7 p.m., on WTTW’s “Chicago Tonight.” You can also listen or watch over the web, I believe.
April 27 , 2008
Apologies for the late posting…
But we have two additions to our family: twins.
Their names are Eva Irena Sasha Elder and Dylan McLean Edgerton Elder. Two babies, eight names — like Spanish royalty.
March 21, 2008
Practical jokes between newspapers are a time-honored tradition. Here’s the latest one. I may have been a small part of it.
Check out this link: Tribune Wins Sun-Times Video Contest.
Also, an embarrassing performance we did this morning on the WGN Morning News.
Lastly, check out the latest Screen Scene column.
March 3, 2008
The month really just got away from me…
The book is due soon, and there’s a big, top-secret-like project coming up this month in the Tribune.
For now, a couple of new columns about the Chicago production of “Humboldt Park,” starring Freddy Rodriguez and Debra Messing, among many others — plus a sneak peak at the movie adaptation of Scott Smiths “The Ruins.”
February 3, 2008
Super Bowl Sunday…and I’m stuck at a computer.
A couple items to catch up on here…
First, RIP Heath Ledger – the world of film lost a promising actor last month. I did a quick piece about his time in Chicago, playing the Joker in “The Dark Knight,” which is online here.
In (strangely related) news, check out my profile of Logan Square’s
Museum of Mourning Photography & Memorial Practice. The piece begins:
Anthony Vizzari sees dead people.
In antique stores, on eBay — in his living room.
A whole museum of them…
Read the entire piece, and see the video, here.
January 13, 2008
Thanks to the folks who wrote me about the Cut Man piece in the Tribune this last week. For the uninitiated, cut men patch up boxers and mixed martial artists. They are this small, secret ive brotherhood of blood men. Read it here and check out the video.
Also, a quick interview I did with Clive Barker, in which he talks about the “Hellraiser” remake…
January 5, 2008
We’ve begun the New Year with a new house and old back problems.
The Crickets (see previous postings) will be here in 3 months, which means “Last Words of the Executed” is due in 2 months.
Take a look at the last Chicago Tribune “Unauthorized Access” series: a behind-the-scenes tour of the city ’s most famous music clubs, written by yours truly. Can you guess which venue has a “wall of ham”? And what – exactly – will get you kicked out of the Double Door?
Check out the outstanding video by Chris Booker about life backstage at the Metro — where Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love started their romance. The story and the video are both here.
Check out next week’s Screen Scene column for an interview with author/painter/filmmaker Clive Barker.
December 7 , 2007
Here’s my Q&A with Philip Pullman, author of “The Golden Compass,” about his books, the controversies around his athiestic mythology and his Republic of Heaven….read it here.
November 25, 2007
(Post) happy Thanksgiving to all…
Some updates, especially from the Screen Scene column, including:
A few questions with Brian DePalma about “Redacted” and
A piece about the Chicago punk rock documentary
“You Weren’t There,” plus…
A fascinating conversation with director Todd Haynes ( “The Velvet Goldmine,” “Far From Heaven”) about his Bob Dylan inspired film “I’m Not There” — in which six actors (include Cate Blanchett and Heath Ledger) play different aspects of Dylan.
We also talk about a seventh Dylan, cut from the script. Read the article here.
Coming up: Keep an eye out for my conversation with author Philip Pullman (“The Golden Compass ”) in the first week of December.
October 26 , 2007
A couple quick updates, most notably my Q&A with author
David Sedaris, posted on the Chicago Tribune website here.
Also, a new Screen Scene column with Tony Kaye, the director of “American History X” and “Lake of Fire.” Read it here.
In the next couple weeks, I’ll be talking to the Chicago Film Archives and Brian De Palma.
October 13 , 2007
Dang, September just kind of slipped away.
My Tribune column, Screen Scene, soldiers on and picks up momentum, especially during festival season. Also, in Tempo we’re finishing up our Unauthorized Access series.
But I’m burying the lead here.
I don’t often use this space to talk about non-writing concerns, but this it too big.
So, here it is: In April, Betsy and I are expecting a baby.
Then, a couple minutes later, we’re expecting another baby.
That’s right: TWINS!
In utero, we’re calling them The Crickets. Individually, I’m calling them Slash and Axel, though Betsy hasn’t quite warmed up to the names. I’m sure they’ll change.
To add more pressure:
The University of Chicago Press just picked up my book, “Last Words of the Executed,” for a Spring 2009 release. It’s essentially an oral history of capital punishment, as told from the gallows, the chair and the gurney. Studs Terkel was nice enough to write me an amazing foreword.
I have to say, as a Montanan, it’s an honor to be part of the press that publishes Norman Maclean’s “A River Runs Through It.”
It contains my favorite ending paragraph of any book:
“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.”
Enough news for one entry.
September 27, 2007
Who saw “Knocked Up”?
If so, than you might be interested in my profile of Chicago’s Jim McBride, aka Mr. Skin.
August 7 , 2007
Today, the Chicago Tribune launched my film column, Screen Scene, in our Friday Movie section. I interviewed Chicago power couple Xan Aranda of the Chicago Short Film Brigade and her longtime boyfriend, Andrew Bird.
So, every Friday from today, I’ll be covering the indie, art house and foreign film scene. Here’s the beginning of the column:
“Welcome to Screen Scene. Do you have a favorite, well-loved seat at your local movie theater? Do you listen to DVD commentary tracks? Find yourself at film festivals and drive-in movies? Read geeky movie Web sites?
If so, Screen Scene is for you. Every Friday, we’ll bring you the inside scoop on the indie film scene, from director Q&As and festival coverage to special events and Chicago filmmaker profiles.
Now that you’ve sat through the coming attractions, we begin our feature presentation…”
For the full column, click here.
August 21 , 2007
My apologies for the lack of updates this summer. Lots of stories, book stuff, life entanglements, summer visitors…
Life has picked up a certain velocity.
More updates soon, but here are few stories from recent travels, including a return to the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument.
Also: an interview with author Amy Hempel.
A brief report on “The Dark Knight,” the sequel to “Batman Begins,” which debuted footage of Heather Ledger as the Joker at the Wizard World Convention. “The Dark Knight” films in Chicago until the end of the summer.
Lastly a story and video on Rocky, the hoved star of Indian weddings in Chicagoland. Anyone recognize the narrator of the video?
June 23 , 2007
We’ve been all over the last couple weeks (Salt Lake City and Park City, on assignment for the Tribune) and will be gearing up again for 10 days in Montana next month.
But, here’s a column that appeared today, revealing my obsession with drive-in movie theaters….
and, a Tempo cover story about the state of the postcard — old fashioned, quaint and still kicking postal ass.
Next week, look for my piece about Al Capone’s connection to the tunnels under the jazz club The Green Mill and bookstore Shake, Rattle & Read in Uptown.
May 15, 2007
Happy Birthday Mom!
April just flew by, no time for updates. Plenty of time spent on the road for Tribune stories and grading finals for my class at Columbia College.
A recent link: my interview with Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright, the team behind “Shaun of the Dead” and
Since the latter is a cop comedy, I got them to come clean with their youthful indiscretions and brushes with the law.
March 27, 2007
Back from Alaska now, and it’s taken me weeks to warm up. Ten days of waking up to -24 degrees F can do you in. It was otherwise lovely though, and it afforded a weekend trip to Anchorage, where my lovely bride and I celebrated our first anniversary.
A couple stories from the trip:
The World Ice Art Championships, with Web video and stills shot by yours truly. A local artist, from Wheaton, took 2nd place.
The 25th Annual World Clown Association convention. Who doesn’t love frozen clowns? Read about it here.
Lastly, a Q&A with Sister Julie Vieira, the blogging nun.
I spent this morning with Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright, the guys behind “Shaun of the Dead” and the upcoming cop comedy “Hot Fuzz.” Watch for the Tribune interview in April.
February 22, 2007
I’m a little bit late with the updates, my apologies.
Yesterday, the Tribune published this story about students who design their own majors.
And, here’s a piece about retiring Playboy art director Tom Staebler and some of his most memorable covers (read the Dolly Parton story).
Lastly, an article about
Paul Teutel Sr., or “Paul Sr,” for fans of cable’s “American Chopper.”
January 28, 2007
Check out the Sunday Chicago Tribune today…not only is there a huge Super Bowl section (go Bears!), but my story on visual search engines hit the front page.
Traditional search engines, like Google or Yahoo!, require keywords for a search — but what happens when words fail?
Starting this spring Like.com will allow users to upload there own photos for digital mapping and search to find similar photos or products.
For example: Want to replace those favorite sneakers your dog ate? Just take a photo, upload it and Like.com will search its database for a similar pair.
Other companies, like Pixsta, are applying the tech to vacations — so people who want Hawaii-like vistas can go someplace similar for half the price.
The technology has lots of possibilities: Don’t know the name of a flower? Upload a photo of it and search. What about a building or city landmark? In the near future, a photo taken via cell phone could lead you to not only names — but the histories of cities.
Read the story here.
There’s even a video component here.
January 17, 2007
I just received Darrell Schweitzer’s Neil Gaiman Reader, to which I contributed a chapter, in the mail for Amazon today.
It looks grand. Check it out here.
Also, the Tribune published my story about the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa. You can read it here.
December 23 , 2006
I’ve filed my last story, turned in my final grades and am headed Montana-ways, where I’ll be visiting West Yellowstone with my bride.
The Chicago Tribune ran the story about my visit to Francis Ford Coppola’s Rubicon Estate winery earlier this month, and PopMatters just picked it up here.
The Trib also published my story about Chicago film talent and a-day-in-the-life story about Chicago Christmas tree vendors.
No more postings until 2007…
November 12 , 2006
Just back from San Francisco, where I wrote this piece on Second Life — sort of MySpace meets “The Matrix.”
It hit the front page of the Chicago Tribune today and can be read here. Be sure to click on the videos we shot, including a tour of Second Life, narrated by yours truly.
“Snow Crash” author Neal Stephenson talked about Second Life for the first time and its comparison to his own “Metaverse” in a sidebar here.
Sidebar II: About Kurt Vonnegut and Ben Folds in Second Life.
Sidebar III: About everyday users on the site. (since removed)
I also got the chance to visit Francis Ford Coppola’s Rubicon winery, Lucasfilm’s new campus in the Presidio and the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa. More pieces to come.
October 16, 2006
Today, the Tribune published “The undercover agent comes in from the cold” on page 1. It’s my profile of former FBI special agent Robert Hamer and the piece I’m most proud of this year.
The man spent 26 years on various undercover assigments, posing as drug peddlers, arms dealers, mob guys, a pedaphile, etc. — an amazing guy and an amazing story of a man who, near the end, lead not just a double — but a quadruple — life.
Read it here, while it’s still up.
Be sure to listen to the audio segments and the two videos we posted.
October 4, 2006
The folks (namely: Tad Friend) at the New Yorker picked up and expanded my piece on Del Close’s skull. After 7 years, his friend and will executor Charna Halpern admitted the skull wasn’t Del.
Read the piece here online.
Also, I’ve just returned from San Diego where I reported a (super secret) piece that should break this Sunday on the front page of the Tribune.
September 10, 2006
It’s fall semester at Columbia College Chicago…
August 8, 2006
Back from the honeymoon now and was met with all sorts of mail for the Del Close article (see below).
Thanks to all those who wrote.
July 21, 2006
Today in the Chicago Tribune, my story on Del Close’s skull hit the front page.
Close, an improv comedy icon and teacher to folks like John Belushi and Bill Murray, willed his skull to Chicago’s Goodman Theatre when he died in 1999.
But is the skull at the Goodman actually Close’s cranium?
Del is laughing his head off somewhere, if he still has it.
Read the story here in the Trib or here in PDF form.
July 7, 2006
I just saw that Darrell Schweitzer, editor of the Neil Gaiman Reader, put up an Amazon page for the forthcoming book here. Check out the cool cover.
It’ll be out in November, with an in-depth interview I did with Gaiman as he was finishing up DC Comics’ “The Sandman.” We met at a Greek restaurant in Minneapolis in 1995 — on the day Jerry Garcia died — and Neil good-naturedly answered my questions and spun tales for hours.
The piece, which spans his life and career up to that piont, will be one of two interviews in the Reader. More to come.
July 2, 2006
Any Laura Ingalls Wilder fans out there? “Little House on the Prairie” viewers?
I married one.
And I wrote about it here in the Chicago Tribune. We went to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Walnut Grove, Minnesota.
So I’ve been a little remiss in updating this thing. Busy, I guess.
A summer full of Tribune stories, book work, concerts, softball and poker is now in full swing.
What am I doing now? Midnight laundry and watching Disney’s “Lilo and Stitch” sequel, “Leroy and Stitch.” Oh, the glamour.
A couple new posts. The Chicago Tribune recently posted its 4th Annual 50 Best Magazines list.
Also, my interview with director Terry Zwigoff and comic book artist Daniel Clowes about the film “Art School Confidential” is up here.
April 5, 2006
Ah, back home.
The book tour of the Northwest was a resounding success. Thanks again to Kathleen Karlyn and her staff for hosting the mini-John Woo film festival, and thanks to all who showed up for the party.
March 20, 2006
The nice folks at the University of Oregon
Film & Media Group in Eugene, Oregon are hosting a 2-day John Woo film festival, followed by a book signing for me April 3 – 4.
Showing Monday, April 3: “The Killer” at 7 p.m., on campus at 110 Willamette
Tuesday, April 4, same location:
Reception and book signing at 6 p.m., followed by a screening of Woo’s ultra-violent action masterpiece “Hard Boiled” at 7 p.m. I will conduct a Q&A at the end of the session and sign books afterward as well.
I’ll be in Portland over the weekend as well, reporting a story for the Chicago Tribune and signing a few books at Powells Books on Burnside…
March 19, 2006
Well, got hitched.
Thanks to everyone who came to the throw-down, to the folks who have loved and supported us through it all.
Feb. 22, 2006
More changes abound.
I survived turning 30 (while at the Grand Canyon), and next month: the wedding. All is running pretty smoothly.
Also, the nice folks at the University of Oregon and the Cultural Forum in Eugene are hosting a two-day film event and book party for me April 3 & 4. More details to come, as I may have an event in Portland as well…
Jan. 16, 2006
Well, I’m turning 30 this week.
There is some raging against the machine, however. For the first time in my life, I’m published in Mad magazine. They kindly featured an excerpt from John Woo: Interviews.
If you want to look for it on the newsstand, it’s issue #462 — the American Idol cover.
Lastly, there are some updates at johnwoointerviews.com.
Jan. 4, 2006
The Billings book party was a smash success — thanks again to all of you who came out and helped make it happen.
Jaci Webb of the Billings Gazette wrote a nice profile article, which should still be up here. Beware, clicking on this link will automatically launch Windows Media Player and start right up.
Also, Ken Siebert of Yellowstone Public Radio conducted an amazing interview which can still be heard online here.
Next up: wedding invitations, turning 30 and more wedding plans.
Now, if I could only get over this cold.
Dec. 18, 2005
My Best Movies of 2005 list is up on the Chicago Tribune website here.
Also, plans are being finalized for the hometown book party on Friday, Dec. 30.
More to come…
Dec. 6, 2005
Oh, one last thing — for my friends and family, I’ll be hosting a hometown book party at the Eleven Cafe in Billings, Montana on Friday, Dec. 30, from 5 to 8 p.m.
More news to come…
I think Jaci Webb from the Billings Gazette will be writing a profile piece on me before the party.
Dec. 5, 2005
So, the wedding date is set: March 18. The joke is, because of its proximity to St. Patrick’s Day, I’ll remember to buy flowers at the sight of green beer.
A few new stories up, inlcuding my interview with director Ang Lee (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”) on his new film, “Broken Mountain” — the so-called “gay cowboy” movie with Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal. It’s based on the story by Wyoming author Annie Proulx.
You can read the piece here.
Also up: A piece with Scott McGehee and David Siegel, the directors behind “The Deep End” and now, “Bee Season.”
Lastly, I spent some time with Elvis biographer Peter Guralnick and L.C. Cooke, the brother of soul star Sam Cooke (“Chain Gang,” “Wonderful World”).
We hung out in Bronzeville’s Negro League Cafe and talked about this South Side neighborhood the Cooke’s grew up in, and Guralnick’s new biography of the singer “Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke.” It’s up, for awhile, on the Chicago Tribune’s main site here.
Oct. 22, 2005
So, the book party was at the Siskel Center was a big hit. Thanks again to everyone who showed up to chat and get their books signed. I didn’t get to sit down (or eat) for the entire party, which is a sign of success, I guess.
One small drawback: Betsy’s engagement diamond popped out and wasn’t found. At least it made the night more memorable.
More book events in November, December and throughout 2006.
Oct. 16, 2005
Lots of news this entry…
The book party for John Woo: Interviews closes in…only 5 days away now. I’ll be appearing on some Chicago-based radio this week, so listen for me on:
Sunday, Oct. 16, 7:30 – 8 a.m., WGN 720 AM, The Sunday Papers with Rick Kogan.
Wed., Oct. 19, 7:30 p.m., WCKG 109.5 FM, Slippin’ into Darkness with Stan & Terry.
Thursday, Oct. 20, Mac & Slater, 2-3 p.m. on Fearlessradio.com.
Steve Edwards at WBEZ’s program Eight Forty-Eight also asked me to talk, appearance TBA.
It seems that Amazon has stocked up on the book, and all accounts from my publisher have been positive.
Woo called me early last week, after seeing the book. “I feel so honored,” he said. “I feel like I don’t deserve it,” — which is completely untrue, but very sweet. He’s in Beijing now, doing pre-production for “The Battle of Red Cliff,” to be his first movie with Chow Yun-Fat in a decade.
He also gave me a nice quote about the book:
“I never go back and watch my own movies. But it’s nice to hear what my true friends have to say about them, the good and the bad. Thanks to Rob and my friends, your perspective helps me know myself better.”
Also, the folks at Midway Games asked if they could host the Chicago premiere of the trailer for Woo’s 2006 game (under his Tiger Hill Entertainment company) called “Stranglehold ” in tandem with the book party. Looks like that plan is a go; the more the merrier.
Also, the folks at Midway Games asked if they could host the Chicago premiere of the trailer for Woo’s fall 2006 game (under his Tiger Hill company) called “Stranglehold” in tandem with the book parthy. Looks like that plan is a go; the more the merrier.
Asian Cult Cinema also made the book its cover story, and ran a lengthly excerpt. I just received some advanced copies, but the issue should be out on stands in early November.
ReelChicago.com posted a nice article, and the Chicago Journal will have a piece out later this week. The Chicago Reader, Time Out Chicago and New City should bits as well.
The Chicago Tribune is running an excerpt today, along with a news item about the party. I haven’t seen it online yet, but will post it when it’s available.
Lastly, Inside Kung Fu and Mad magazine (no, I’m not kidding) are also running something on the book this fall.. Keep an eye out.
Again, the book party details are:
Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State Street, Chicago
Reception and signing: 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m
“The Killer” screens at 8 p.m., tickets $8, with introduction by me
More signing: 9:30 to 10 p.m.
Advanced tickets on sale here.
More details and updates at: www.johnwoointerviews.com
Oct. 3, 2005
A couple bits of new news about John Woo: Interviews…after two days on sale, Amazon.com only has three copies left. I’m elated and disturbed and more will be available soon.
In the meantime, the book has a new home on the web at www.johnwoointerviews.com.
Also, tickets for the post-book party screening of The Killer just went on sale here.
The book party and reception is free, but you need a ticket for the movie.
September 23, 2005
I just received early copies of John Woo: Interviews and they look extraordinary.
Word from Woo’s office today is that he’s pleased with the book (and wants more copies — hey publisher!), which makes me happy.
Thanks again to all my contributors and copy editors who kept my dyslexic brain from tanking the project. Copies will hit bookstores slowly, by region, and I’m planning signings here:
Chicago: Oct. 21, 2005 at the Gene Siskel Film Center (see below for party details)
Billings, Montana: mid-February, 2006
Seattle, Portland & Eugene: April 1-3, 2006, tentatively
More dates later, as the book gets a push in each region of the country.
Also, I’ve added reviews of “The Constant Gardener” and “Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride” in the portfolio section.
August 24 , 2005
Life changes abound.
Betsy and I have begun consolidating households, dates are being set and planning for the John Woo book party is being solidified.
Save this date: John Woo: Interviews book signing and movie
Gene Siskel Film Center,
164 N. State Street, Chicago
Reception and signing: 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m
“The Killer” screens at 8 p.m., tickets $8, with introduction by me
More signing: 9:30 to 10 p.m.
In other news, more filmmaker profiles are now online. One for Jim Jarmusch and the other for John Dahl, who is also from Billings, Montana, like yours truly.
July 16 , 2005
This week, at my girlfriend Betsy’s birthday party, I said: “I’ve been asking Betsy for months now what she wanted for her birthday. She could never tell me…so I got her something I wanted…”
I then presented a ring and asked Elizabeth Ruth Edgerton to marry me.
Luckily, she said “yes.”
Details to follow, no date set yet.
July 6 , 2005
Some pleasant news from writer/editor Darrell Schweitzer. He tells me that his new book, The Neil Gaiman Reader, will be out later this year from Wildside Press. I submitted a chapter to him way back in 2002 — an unpublished interview I did with Neil years earlier, just as he was finishing up his run on The Sandman.
Darrell emailed to confirm that it will be a chapter in the book, which I’m excited about.
If you haven’t yet checked out Neil’s amazing blog, click here.
June 13 , 2005
My review for Cinderella Man, which sparked more love/hate mail than I’ve ever received, is up here.
Also, news from Montana says that my mom and sister will join me for the Gene Siskel Film Center party for the release of John Woo: Interviews.
Now, if I can just schedule one in my hometown in December.
May 31, 2005
Just heard from the nice folks at the Gene Siskel Film Center, and we’ve set the date for the book release party for John Woo: Interviews. It is: Friday, October 21. Barbara Scharres is trying to get ahold of Woo’s new short film, plus we’ll screen The Killer, if all goes to plan.
Save the date.
April 15 , 2005
Amazon.com has the listings up for John Woo: Interviews, in both hardcover and paperback. They don’t have jpegs of the bookcover up yet, and the information isn’t entirely complete…but it’s there and it’s a start!
March 18 , 2005
After a break-neck week, I was finally able to finish indexing the John Woo: Interviews book. We (meaning Betsy and friends Herman and Adrienne) did one final read of the proof pages and only found one or two heart-attack inducing mistakes. My God, how did I make it this far in journalism with dyslexia this bad?
Now, it’s done and on its way to the printers…plans for a book party are in the works for the end of October.
Details to come….
Feb. 8 , 2005
Oh, I almost forgot.
My pieces on photobooths and the history of the squished penny are online at ChicagoTribune.com. Enjoy!
Feb. 7 , 2005
My film course af Facets, Mindbending Movies II, powers along thanks to the ethusiasm the class. Below, I’ve included past links from the movies we’ve screened.
“Memento” Christopher Nolan, 2000
The short story that inspired the film:
Memento Mori by Christopher’s brother Jonathan Nolan
Andy Klein’s analysis at Salon.com
Official “Memento” website
Christopher Nolan interviews here and here
“Mulholland Drive” David Lynch, 2001
Everything You Wanted To Know About Mulholland Drive via the Salon.com crew
Decoding Mullholland Drive via Pitchforkmedia.com
Background articles from: New Yorker, Guardian & Movieline
Original TV pilot screenplay
An alternate audio commentary
Village Voice review
“Jacob’s Ladder” Adrien Lyne, 1990
Biblical Jacob’s Ladder, from Genesis
Roger Ebert’s review
About Birth Trauma?
Interview with screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin
LSD experiments on British Troops (a video)
History of government drug experiments
“Videodrome” David Cronenberg, 1983
David Cronenberg career profile
Interview about “eXistenZ,” sister film to “Videodrome”
A great, non-official website
Jan. 4 , 2005
Happy New Year!
My review of “Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events” is up here.
I’m also proud to announce that I’m teaching another course at Facets, starting January 14, a sequel to last year’s Mindbending Movies. Here’s the film list and the course description.
“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” Michel Gondry, 2004
“Jacob’s Ladder” Adrien Lyne, 1990
“Mulholland Drive” David Lynch, 2001
“Zardoz” John Boorman, 1974
“Memento” Christopher Nolan, 2000
“Videodrome” David Cronenberg, 1983
Certain movies defy definition, while others perversely elude it altogether. The provocative films selected for this course fall somewhere in between, placing the wary spectator in an amnesiac trance, where we feel that our narrative loyalty has been betrayed. Did you ever leave the theater and talk about a movie late into the evening? These movies challenge your imagination, ultimately making us more skeptical about the world around us. This course will make another exploration into the world of what we take for granted in film, and how certain filmmakers play against our expectations through story structure, editing and any number of other cinematic acrobatics.
January 13 – February 17
Official site: Facets
If you’re interested, sign up here.
More news in 2005!
Dec. 11 , 2004
Back from the Nieman Conference on Narrative Journalism in Cambridge, seeing friends in NYC and reporting stories in Baltimore and Washington D.C.
Completely exhausted now, but check out www.chicagotribune.com for new reviews and articles!
Nov. 16, 2004
Check out my review of Pixar’s “The Incredibles” here.
My publisher tells me “John Woo: Interviews” will be released in Fall 2005, and I’m pushing for a shipping date next October. Now all I have to do is make it through mountains of pre-publicity work.
Also, Facets Multimedia asked me to teach another film course, so the next one will be during their winter session. It’s called:
Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the War Movie
War movies as political statements: war movies in support and in protest of war. Although Fahrenheit 9/11 is poised to be the first anti-war (or anti-president) blockbuster, this does not mean that it was the only one ever made. In this course, we will examine films that could be seen as “patriotic” or as “propaganda,” each focusing on a different cause and ideology. M*A*S*H , though set in the Korean War, was aimed directly at policy makers for Vietnam; Shakespeare’s Henry V has been seen both as a celebration and a condemnation of war, depending on the artistic and dramatic choices by that particular filmmaker. This course will examine these films, by reflecting on the aesthetic and political currents of the contemporary movement in which they were written, filmed and viewed.
FRIENDLY FIRE runs
November 11-18 & December 2-23
Films to be screened:
Stanley Kubrick, 1964
“The Green Berets”
John Wayne, 1968
Robert Altman, 1970
Kenneth Branagh, 1989
David O. Russell, 1999
“The Weather Underground”
Sam Green/Bill Siegel, 2002
If interested, go to Facets online here to sign up for the class.
Aug. 25, 2004
Sorry for the delay, but here are the final notes for OPEN YOUR EYES.
Thanks again for your thoughtful comments. I’m constantly amazed by the insight and interpretations brought forth in the class.
Thanks to all of your for making the class something I looked forward to each week.
I’ll send out a general email in a couple weeks to let you know if I’ll be teaching any of those classes we talked about. Have a wonderful rest of the summer, and if any of you see the new DONNIE DARKO cut, I’d be interested in your reactions.
For now, interviews on VANILLA SKY and it’s Spanish original, OPEN YOUR EYES.
The U.K.’s Guardian
New York Times
*Vanilla Sky articles*
Cameron Crowe writes about movie origins
July 26, 2004
Hey class, here are some notes on Spider. If you are looking for the original book, you can find it here.
Interviews with David Cronenberg
Interviews with Ralph Fiennes: here, here and here.
REMINDER: Our last class is next week, Sept. 29, Thursday from 7 – 10 p.m. After the movie, we’ll move a few doors down to:
Hog Head McDunna’s Bar and Grill
1505 W. Fullerton Pkwy.
Be sure to bring a few extra bucks for drinks and nibbling matter. Diehards are welcome to stay past 10, as I will.
See you then!
July 19, 2004
For my class, on our discussions of Adaptation…
For those interested in reading more about ADAPTATION, consider the links below:
Susan Orlean and John Larouche interview.
Photos of the real people here.
Adaptation –Script Tease from The Oregonian. Interview
Meryl Streep Talks about Adaptation.
Jonze and Kaufman interviewed.
July 6, 2004
I talked to a couple students after class, including one who talked about how “amazing” some of their fellow student’s writing on “Donnie Darko” was (particularly Amy’s response). So, while you’re free to read this and not respond, I encourage you to pass compliments and reactions along to me and then I’ll send them out to everyone on the list. If you just have questions for me, however, I will not post those unless given permission.
Below are some links relating to Ingmar Bergman’s “Persona,” including Susan Sontag’s seminal (but very dense) essay.
Sontag’s link is here.
The New York Times’ review
(may require free registration)
One fan’s intense reading
A Bergman bio.
Career Analysis here.
AND, for those who asked there are two famous versions of “Electra” — I’ll list them in full text below, but here’s a good summary first.
Also, helpful books:
Ingmar Bergman’s Persona (Cambridge Film Classics) by Lloyd Michaels
The Magic Lantern (Bergman’s autobiography)
The movie itself, new to DVD: Persona.
Next week: Fight Club.
June 27, 2004
So, Mindbending Movies kicked off with a bang, a spirited discussion after a screening of “Donnie Darko.“
For those in the class, or if you are just curious about Richard Kelly’s complicated masterpiece, check out the links below:
(If you haven’t seen the film yet, warning: Spoilers ahead.)
Richard Kelly interviews about “Donnie Darko,” plus the director’s cut info : http://romanticmovies.about.com/cs/donniedarko/a/rkellyint.htm http://www.indiewire.com/people/int_Kelly_Richard_011024.html
“The Philosophy of Time Travel” : http://ruinedeye.com/cd/time1.htm (with graphics) http://www.tangent-universe.org/dump/time_travel.html#foreword (without graphics)
An esoteric page with a bootleg script and analysis: http://www.stainlesssteelrat.net/dd.htm
Another fan’s very complete analysis (agree or disagree) : http://www.tonystuff.co.uk/darko-spoilers.htm
Lastly, if you have time and patience, the official DD sight is very cool: http://www.donniedarko.com/
The DVD is available on Amazon here and Kelly’s companion book is here.
June 14, 2004
My Facets class, Mindbending Movies, starts up this week and there are only a few slots left, so that’s encouraging.
Also, my piece on the history and state of photobooths is up on chicagotribune.com. Click here. If you check out the photo galleries, you can spot my girlfriend Betsy in the last selection in the “Reporter’s pictures” section. Just click on the middle photograph.
May 21, 2004
The University Press of Mississippi asked me to assemble and edit the book, “John Woo: Interviews,” as a part of their Conversations with Filmmakers series. It’s a respectable academic press and quite a prestigious series, so I was honored to be asked.
For the volume, I’m reprinting a profile I wrote on Woo during his “Windtalkers” tour. We just hung out at Andy’s jazz club in downtown Chicago, chatting away like old friends and it was the first time we’d met. There are few nicer people in Hollywood.
I’ve also conducted a 35-page new interview with John, in which we talk about every film from 1968 to 1990. Quite an undertaking.
Other books from the press include:
“Martin Scorsese: Interviews” by Peter Brunette
“Billy Wilder: Interviews” by Robert Horton
“John Huston: Interviews” by Robert Emmet Long
May 15, 2004
Happy Birthday Mom! We’re taking you to Ireland this year!
Easter — April 11, 2004
Cadbury Mini-egg season is over. And now, a moment of silence.
This summer, starting June 14, I’m teaching a course at Facets Multimedia, the Chicago arts cinematheque, called
I originally wanted to call the course
“Mindfuck Movies” but good taste (& marketing) won out in the end.
I wanted to assemble a list of films that inspire a reaction of
“What the hell?” as you leave the theater.
The full course description, also posted on the Facets site, is:
“Certain movies defy definition, while others perversely elude it alltogether. The provocative films selected for this course fall somewhere in between, placing the wary spectator in an amnesiac trance, where we feel that our narrative loyalty has been betrayed. These movies challenge your imagination, ultimately making us more skeptical about the world around us. This course will also explore what we take for granted in film, and how certain filmmakers play against our expectations through story structure, editing and any number of other cinematic acrobatics.”
Films in the course include:
“Open Your Eyes”
Spike Jonze’s “Adaptation”
If anyone is interested in attending the course, call 773-281-9075 for more information or sign up online here.
April 5, 2004
My good friend Christine Whitmer has come back from her military tour of Iraq. Thank goodness she’s home.
Over the last year, I’ve tried to write her a postcard a day and exchange tapes. We’ve known one another since high school and I’m breathing easier with her stateside. Welcome home kid.
In Tribune news, my profile of indie filmmaker Bill Brown is online here.
March 15, 2004
Well, the Gondry piece is out and online.
March 7, 2004
I’m working on a profile of director Michel Gondry right now, best known for his groundbreaking White Stripes videos (the Lego-mation of
“Fell in Love with a Girl”) his work with Bjork and Radiohead. His second feature film,
“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” comes out in a couple weeks. It’s one of those rare mindbending films that also wraps around your heart and makes you question the nature of waking reality.
So, that’s Trib stuff.
On the homefront, I’m five (count ’em, 5) days away from being free of credit card debt. It’ll be the first time in roughly 10 years. Moving everything three months for three years before I was hired on at the Tribune took its toll, but there was also that little habit of buying DVDs in bulk. The dating life and eating out a bunch didn’t help either.
But, I’m almost done with my New Year’s resolutions: paying off debt, losing a few pounds (6 more to target weight — although my Achilles heel, Cadbury Mini-eggs, have slowed the process) and doing some more outside writing.
Two out of three isn’t bad.
Feb. 2, 2004
Happy New Year!
… a little bit late.
So, I’ve been getting used to Dreamweaver, and still haven’t yet worked out all the kinks.
My piece on the Jack Dempsey/Tommy Gibbons fight of 1923 in Shelby, Montana ran recently. It’s an epic story of a small town with dreams of heavyweight boxing match that was ultimately its doom, and 80 years later, its redemption.
Oct. 1, 2003
One more bit of news: Earlier this year, Bill Ryan asked me to write about film in his visual design book for International Thomson Publishing .
I just got word that “Graphic Communications Today ” will be available in December 2003.
My section begins with a quote by François Truffaut: “Film lovers are sick people.” And, in a way, I suppose we are.
Sept. 30, 2003
So, I’m getting the hang of this. A broken foot (volleyball accident) has slowed me down a bit, but I’m adjusting. I’ve just graduated from the crutches to the cane now, and am on the mend.
The poker book is now out, and in a store near you. They placed my story right next to Neal Pollack’s, a fine honor. Sales have been solid as well, the editors tell me.
In related news, I’ll be introducing a panel of poker personalities at the next Chicago Humanities Festival. I had a blast hosting one a few years ago with Michael Chabon, Neil Gaiman, Will Eisner, Chris Ware and a few other comics legends, so I was delighted when they asked me again.
This time around poker guru James McManus “Positively Fifth Street,” radio host Ira Glass (“This American Life”), Jake Austen (editor, “A Friendly Game of Poker”) and company will debate the culture merits of poker. Six shooters will be checked at the door.
When: Saturday November 1, 2003, 8:00 to 9:30 p.m.
Where: Symphony Center, Buntrock Hall, 220 S. Michigan Ave.
Tickets: click here
More Humanities info:
I’ve also interviewed actor/director/comedian Roberto Benigni (“Life is Beautiful ”) for the Chicago Tribune’s Humanities Festival Guide (out Oct. 12), which was a delight. A student and enthusiast of Dante’s “Divine Comedy,” Benigni will open the festival with a performance of the last canto of “Paradiso,” the final book in the series.
The nice folks at Istituto Italiano di Cultura, Chicago will also reprint the interview in a small, square-bound folio for the event. A limited print run will be given to attendees of the event.
When: Saturday November 1, 2003, 10:00 to 11:30 a.m.
Where: Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave.
Tickets: click here
September 13, 2003
Thanks to the folks who made the third season of Chicago Culture Club’s “International Dinner and a Movie” a success. By most accounts, I didn’t embarrass myself (too much) with my introduction of Wes Anderson’s “Rushmore,” a personal favorite and absolute modern classic.
I opened up their first evening back in 2001, on Sept. 12 – the day after the horrors in NYC, Washington D.C. and nationwide. It felt right then to screen Jean Renoir’s anti-war allegory “Grand Illusion.” Still does.