Monday, July 23, 2007

Ain't Nothing But a Hound Dog

#99 The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Watson may have wanted to be a little bit more intimate with the good sherlock.

After reading the lengthy Gone With the Wind, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes' classic The Hound of the Baskervilles brevity was indeed refreshing. The same could be said for Doyle's cutting dialog, clever scenarios and curve balls to keep you guessing throughout the read.

THOTB tells a tale of an established English family cursed by an ancestor who supposedly possesses a massive hound that haunts inhabitants of their manor....or so you are led to believe. Bottom line - someone is killed, Holmes and Dr. Watson are contracted to solve the mystery/protect the heir. Many twists and turns later, mystery solved, everyone is happy.

Some words on the novel, though.

Holmes may be one of the most interesting English characters ever created. Every time he appears, the reader is enticed by his genius and enthralled by every mystery (no matter bigger or small) he solves. The novel opens with a cane left at his house; after looking at it for thirty seconds Holmes predicts (accurately) the build of the man and his occupation. Sure, it's easy when the author is creating all of this, yet there is a great charm and mystery that Doyle keeps about the detective that does not disappoint.

Watson, on the other hand, is a big boob. Sadly for the reader, Watson narrates the story with his boobery (thank my mom for that adjective) and is much more active in the novel then Holmes. The pay-off for Holmes' absence is worth it, but the cost of spending time with this medical moron is painful.

Also, Holmes and Watson have this odd homo-erotic relationship going on between them. I've read that Watson had a wife in the first few books but she isn't mentioned in this one. For no reason the pair go to an art gallery in the middle of the novel and hang out. If I had the time, I bet I could prove that Watson had the hots for the sherlock. It would go for naught, however, as it seems Holmes is asexual and has no time for silly physical or emotional happiness.

Small shock to me when reading the book - Holmes apparently has a cocaine habit (Check this article out on it). Doyle doesn't directly allude to it in THOTB but he does depict the detective brooding in a smokey room where he loses all touch with reality and becomes fully in touch with the world of the crime. Watson reports feeling very light-headed every the incident and asks to open a window. I'm not sure why Doyle would give Holmes this character flaw but it is interesting that the great Sherlock Holmes and Tony Montana have something in common.

I now see why my grandmother likes detective stories so much as they are short and fun (like this guy). However, I don't know if it should have been included on this list. There wasn't any real social commentary (other than bad guys get caught by good guys) and, unless the hound = the devil, symbolism wasn't prevalent. All-in-all a good read and I suppose a good book doesn't necessarily have to be an English teacher's wet dream to be effective.

Up next (after a short break for Harry Potter) will be sure to be a swash-buckling good time - The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas (# 98).

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Addressing Racism, Party of Six

#99 Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? directed by Stanley Kramer

This movie would be different if dinner was at his house.

Watching movies on tape often takes me back to childhood and watching Teen-Aged Mutant Ninja Turtles (the movie) in my friend's basement. Recently I've been time warped twice. The first came in the form of Weird Al's masterpiece UHF, featuring Michael Richards, Victoria Jackson and, most importantly, Emo Phillips.

More pertinent to this blog, though, is my viewing of Guess Who's Coming Dinner? Sydney Poitier - a black man if you didn't know - plays a black man in love with a white woman. Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy (in his last film) are the white broad's parents - the Draytons - and must meet this situation head-on in one day, as Poitier and the albino chick will be leaving for Geneva by the end of dinner. Poitier's parents come over too and antics ensue.

The film was thought-provoking, stirring and funny in many parts. Hepburn endears herself to me every time she speaks and won the 1967 Best Actress Oscar - although I personally feel she's more of a supporting one in this role. A scene where she fires her assistant for being a bigoted bitch stirs the viewer to fist-pump and give Hepburn a pound. *POUND

However there are a few drawbacks to this film. One is the situation itself. Poitier is an accomplished black man; he is a UN doctor on a humanitarian mission. Mr. Drayton himself is a famous San Francisco newspaper publisher known for his liberal views. So the question this movie posed wasn't whether the family's would accept this mixed marriage, so much as how society would view them. To better clarify my problem, I think this situation was unique and didn't accurately reflect a realistic problem. In an ideal world - as Tracy eventually concluded - this shouldn't be a problem and love is all you need.

Also, I think the movie patted itself on the back a little too much. Like "look we're maturely addressing racism, give us a gold star." I mean good for them, but there were way too many hokey monologues about the new generation being dragged down by the dying out old fogies. Poitier has a particularly dramatic altercation with his dad that's well done on his part, but so cornily written.

All-in-all, great flick; better on VHS. I didn't do it justice. For some reason this one was difficult to write about. Apologies to McGee cuz she loves this movie. Up next more Heburn in Bringing Up Baby (#97)

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

A Non-Review

This post is for the world's benefit and stems from a comment made by Ms. Megan McGee. I erroneously stated that Cary Grant was in Gone with the Wind. In response to this, I will now better illustrate the difference between the two and other similar words than confuse me:

This is Cary Grant. He was NOT in GWTW. However, he did have a very successful career; you may remember that he played CK Dexter Haven in The Philadelphia Story, which we did at La Salle recently (John O'Riordan played him).

Here sits Clark Gable. He portrayed Rhett Butler. He has a fine mustache and was a different type of man-stud.

Furthermore, this is Brett Butler. She played the titled-role in Grace Under Fire - a semi-successful sitcom in the mid-90s. Her name sorta sounds like Rhett Butler; maybe that's where she got it from.

Comcast provides Cable. It is a service that transmits television programs to humans at a reasonably fixed price. Monk, Mind of Mencia and Baseball Tonight are features of it. Pat Rush doesn't have it.

Will Clark was a baseball player in the 1980s and 1990s. He played primarily for the San Francisco Giants and was the MVP of the National League Championship Series in 1989. His nickname was "The Thrill."
Lastly, here lies Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. It is a novel and became like a mini-series. My grandmother likes it.

I hope this clarifies things a little. My next reviews should be coming out shortly.