October 8, 2013

Evil Mothers in Movies or Books - My Ongoing Character List (Narcisstic Mothers, Sociopath Mothers)

This is interesting -- someone (actually, a woman named Kimberly Turner) has published an article entitled "Literature's Ten Most Disturbing Sociopaths."  The Top 10 of Villains, in a way, I guess.

Got me to thinking -- specifically about mothers.  Evil mothers.  On film, in books.  Maybe they are sociopaths (like Turner's inclusion of Cathy from East of Eden) or maybe they're narcissists.  Ask a daughter who served as narcisstic supply to her mother and she's probably not going to debate that her parent might have a bit of evil ribboning through her soul.

So, I thought I would start my own list of Evil Mothers - be they narcisstic or something else.

Here goes.  I'll come back and update this post as I think of more entries, and I welcome any suggestions you may have in the comments.

In no particular order:

The Grifters by Jim Thompson
book and movie (screenplay by Donald E. Westlake)
mother = Lilly Dillon

White Oleander by Janet Fitch
book and movie
mother = Ingrid Magnussen

Now, Voyager by Olive Higgins Prouty
book and movie
mother = Mrs. Windle Vale

Ordinary People by Judith Guest
book and movie
mother = Beth Jarrett

Mommie Dearest by Christina Crawford
book and movie
mother = Joan Crawford

Hamlet by William Shakespeare
play and movies
mother =Queen Gertrude

Suddenly, Last Summer by Tennessee Williams
play and movie
mother = Violet Venable

September 30, 2013

The Emerald Cat Killer by Richard A. Lupoff - A Great Find (Book Review)

The Emerald Cat Killer, author Richard A. Lupoff, detective stories, best sellers
 The Emerald Cat Killer (2010) was a really good read for me, but not for the usual mystery / detective series reasons. Not that it’s bad as a detective story: no! Far from it!

This is a solid work by a seasoned writer — there’s just more to this book than a caper and this is why I like it so much. Well, that and the fact that I love discoveries like this one.

First things first, I have to tell you that I stumbled upon this author at Dollar Tree, yes: Dollar Tree. The Emerald Cat Killer, as a hardback mind you, was there on the shelf along with some other hardback NYT bestsellers, all being sold for a buck. 

That’s right: one dollar for this sweet find last week here in San Antonio. (For more on that bargain buy, check out my post on recent book finds at the dollar store, here).

I grabbed it up on whim. One dollar, right? (Richard Lupoff was unknown to me; I’ll be reading more of his stuff.)

Here’s the thing that really caught my interest about The Emerald Cat Killer — aside from its intriguing hook of film noir references (which gave me a list of some movies I want to see on Netflix): Lupoff understood the dynamic between a narcissistic parent, her child, and her spouse very well. Very well.

Rebi is a great character, because she provides a wonderful example of what can happen to the offspring of narcissistic mothers when things all go the wrong way. The bad way. The dark and evil road that is always an option for these kids.  Her mother, her father — if you have dealt with narcissistic parent psychologies, then you’ll recognize the expertise of these characterizations.

As for the mystery itself, it was enough to keep me up late reading so I could finish it. The plot moves fast. The detective team of Hobart Lindsey and Marvia Plum is sweet and endearing, and I’ll be catching up on their love story by going back and reading the series starting with The Comic Book Killer.

Sometimes you get lotsa plot and shallow characters. Sometimes you get characters with depth and little if any plot. Here, The Emerald Cat Killer gives you both, with subtle humor ribboned all through everything.

The Emerald Cat Killer is worth your time to read IMHO.

January 5, 2013

Watching Different Versions of Movies for Lessons in Plots: The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side

Yesterday had a cold, wet, dismal night and all the new fuzzy throws we got for Christmas came in handy, as did the marvelous ROKU streaming TV gizmo (which actually hit the door in November, when I decided to cut the cable).

We watched two film versions of the book I just finished re-reading: Agatha Christie's The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side.  It was fascinating to watch the changes made in the Angela Lansbury version as opposed to the later version with Joan Hickson.

Hickson's my favorite actress to play Miss Marple, by a long shot - but I'm a huge fan of Angela Lansbury and I have no complaints about her take on the character.

Here's the thing: this isn't a movie review.  Goodness knows there are more than enough Agatha Christie books made into films if I wanted to go that route.  Nope.

I wanted to share here something that I discovered by watching how the directors and screenwriters took Agatha Christie's work and adapted it for their own purposes.  The Hickson version is pretty close to the book itself; the Lansbury version makes changes.

Writing lessons are here to be learned, I think.  I find myself pondering the omission of Gladys - was this wise?  I consider the opening of the Lansbury version, where the black and white film is being played for St. Mary Mead's vicarage as a regular weekly event, and I like this addition for various reasons.

It's as if the story is clay and the two movie versions have molded it in different ways.  As I hold that same clay in my hands, having read the book, what would I do with it - if I had to write the screenplay with Big Name Stars needing screen time and limitations of settings and the like?

It's fun to think about and it's helping me with plotting.  Characterization, too.  

There's another version on Netflix, too -- one with Julia McKenzie as Miss Marple.  We're watching it tonight with homemade pizza.  Can't wait!