Chapter 74: COVID Chronicles

June 10, 2020

By Karen

Day 91

Protesters Try to Drown Columbus & Tony’s New Hangout

Protesters in Richmond branched out from the Confederacy last night, leaving Monument Avenue for Byrd Park, where they took down an 8-foot statue of Christopher Columbus. When they couldn’t burn it, they threw it into nearby Fountain Lake…

Photo James H. Wallace, Richmond Times-Dispatch

Italian-Americans gave the statue to the city in 1927, where it has apparently been standing on Powhatan ground. It became a target because indigenous peoples are joining African Americans in solidarity against white supremacy and oppression.

In early 2002, I used to drive from my last office cubicle past that statue to Fountain Lake every lunchtime to eat my sandwich alone and plot my freelance escape from corporate America.

Columbus has been fished out of the water and is stored in a secret location.

HBO Max has pulled Gone with the Wind from its library. This might just finish off 103-year-old Olivia de Havilland, the only living cast member. It certainly must have Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh — not to forget Margaret Mitchell, who created it — spinning in their graves.

I got the book in paperback for Christmas when I was 10 (the same year I got Little Women) and I remember reading it straight through TWICE. In 1965, Scarlett O’Hara and Jo March were my paradoxical role models. This still hangs upstairs…

And this is on the landing…

This in no way means I endorse Gone with the Wind. I’ve actually been wanting to replace them both with relaxing seascapes. I’ve had them for at least 40 years and need a change; Gable is custom-framed.

Speaking of movies, last night I needed comedy, so I watched The Onion Movie from 2008. It was stupid, gross, lewd and sometimes funny. Really a series of skits hanging around a loose fantasy about The Onion being a respected news network. Its lead anchorman revolts at the network’s acquisition and commercialization by a huge corporation that’s using his news broadcast to promote a movie franchise called Cockpuncher.

This tells you all you need to know about that.

So next I watched What We Do In the Shadows, the movie from New Zealand that morphed into the FX TV series I love. In the movie, four male vampires share a house who range in age from 183 to 8,000. Their familiar is a housewife with a husband and kids who comes by to clean up their victims’ blood and run errands in hopes of being given immortal life.

It had many good moments, especially when the vampires faced off against a gang of werewolves. But the TV show is 100% funnier.

They share the same theme music, and the houses are baroque and creepy. But the show added a female vampire and a human-looking energy vampire. Their familiar is an overweight nerd with no life beyond serving them. These changes open up so many more plot possibilities, I better appreciate how brilliant the TV adaptation is.

Tony has a new hidy hole. Well, he’s been hanging out here for a few weeks, but with his camera savvy, it’s been hard to capture.

I often don’t realize he spends hours in the corner under my desk until I quit at dinnertime and he comes out. He’s there right now and has been all afternoon. But I did manage to catch a few shots…

BONUS: Here’s Sarah Cooper channeling Trump on “How to Bunker”…


Chapter 39: COVID Chronicles

May 6, 2020

By Karen

Day 56

My New Grocery Phobia & Laughing in the Shadows

Just went online to pay bills and found my $1,200 stimulus sitting in my checking account as “pending,” so that’s progress.

I haven’t had fresh produce in a week and I’m nearly out of frozen veggies, so it’s time for groceries. After the extra $40 for fees and tip for home delivery, I’m going to go myself, but I’ve been procrastinating because…

  1. It’s been nearly two months since I last shopped in person. Should I make the longer trip to Aldi (small store, quicker to get through, but doesn’t have everything) or hit Food Lion a mile away (larger store, better selection, but higher prices)? I’m leaning toward the Lion.
  2. It might be full of Trumpers not wearing masks, pawing over everything and not keeping their distance. Could it turn ugly?
  3. I dread the extra work of bleaching every blessed thing I bring into the house.

Decisions, decisions. In the meantime, until I muster the nerve to leave the house, there’s no green in my diet.

Last night I caught up on my current all-time favorite, actually funny, sitcom. It’s on FX and called What We Do in the Shadows.

It’s sort of like Dark Shadows, had it intentionally been written as comedy, with hints of The Addams Family and The Munsters. Back in the ‘60s, I watched them all. The format is mockumentary, like The Office and Modern Family.

It stars traditional Eastern European vampires who still dress as they did in their mortal prime hundreds of years ago. They also live by normal vampire rules, which I love. No Twilight sparkling shit. And no sunlight.

There’s a married couple named Nadja and Laszlo, and a senior vampire, Nandor. They live in a creepy house on Staten Island and have a human nerd named Guillermo who serves and protects them. Guillermo wants Nandor to make him a vampire, but then discovers he’s descended from Dracula’s nemesis, Professor Van Helsing, so now he’s conflicted.

There’s also a seemingly normal human roommate named Colin who’s actually an energy vampire that preys on his victims by boring them. These videos give you a good snapshot of the Shadows world…

It’s based on a 2014 movie that I haven’t seen.

Most episodes are about clashes with other monsters or misunderstandings of modern life. For example, their next-door neighbor invites them to his Super Bowl party, and they go, thinking it’s a “Superb Owl” party.

This season is attracting a variety of celebrity guests, so they seem to be gaining a following.


Dark Shadows Movie: DOA

May 12, 2012

By Karen

I hated the comical advertisements for Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows movie, but I couldn’t stay away opening day.

I should have.

I’m not doing spoilers, but will say this DS was neither an homage nor a mockery of the show. Rather, it’s a cynical hijacking of well-known, beloved characters, locations, and plotlines that enabled Burton & Co. to skip creating their own.

I don’t care what fans they’ve claimed to be. They obviously didn’t know the basics–right down to the name of servant Willie Loomis.

Screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith doesn’t know sh** about vampires. Since when do their fingers grow when they turn? And walk freely in daylight with sunglasses and umbrellas (á la Michael Jackson)? And not notice themselves bursting into flame in direct sunlight?

Johnny Depp’s decision to play Barnabas Collins channeling Nosferatu doomed the movie. When the “real” Barnabas (Jonathan Frid) was freed from his coffin in a new century, he noted changes in people’s behavior, speech, and dress, and did his best to fit in—albeit with a suave and courtly Old World flair. The FIRST thing he would have done was CUT HIS DAMN FINGERNAILS.

Depp’s Halloweeny white greasepaint with black eye sockets and cheeks made it impossible to believe that Victoria Winters—or even the witch Angelique—could be attracted to him.

And speaking of Victoria, the governess. As the reincarnation of Barnabas’ love, Josette, Bella Heathcote was woefully miscast. She looks about 12 and they dressed her like a child, so in her scenes with the boyishly-built Depp, they looked like 6th-graders. Zero sexual chemistry.

Eva Green played Angelique as sexually agressive trailer trash in designer labels. Her centuries-old beef with Barnabas drove the whole story, but Depp’s goofy looks killed whatever sparks might have been there.

Helena Bonham Carter had to play Dr. Julia Hoffman as a boozer for no reason, and her growing co-dependency with Barnabas got no screen time, so her behavior just seemed shallow and wacky.

I’ll give credit to Michelle Pfeiffer, who played matriarch Elizabeth Collins Stoddard. She lacked Joan Bennett’s regal presence, but she didn’t make the character ridiculous.

The overall film was extremely dark. The comic bits used in the ads were forced and fell flat.

This could have been a good movie if Depp hadn’t made Barnabas a buffoon. He even carried an cheap wooden knockoff of Barnabas’ elegant brass wolf’s head cane.

The original Dark Shadows’ may have had cheesy production values, but the actors gave it something this film, with its multimillion-dollar budget, utterly lacked—heart and class.

Depp and Burton had a chance to resurrect the franchise for original fans and a new generation, but they blew it. Big-time.


New Moon Sucks the Life Out of Vampires

November 25, 2009

By Karen

I was sort of railroaded into seeing New Moon last week (don’t ask). I know I’m spitting in the face of the film’s rampaging success, but as a vampire aficionado, I hated almost every minute of it.

At least Mathew DeKinder of the St. Louis Suburban Journals is in my corner.

First, I don’t understand why author Stephanie Meyer gave nocturnal titles to any of her 4 Twilight saga books. She could have called the series High Noon. By ignoring or failing to research vampire legend, her vampires are basically ordinary folk with pale skin and red eyes — more albino than bloodsucker. They don’t drink human blood. In daylight, they sparkle like jewels. Sunlight doesn’t even sting.

Nighttime, coffins, native earth, crosses, mirrors, stakes, running water. Forget ‘em. These pathetic excuses for vamps probably order extra garlic on their Domino’s pizza.

I know, I know. I need to read the books to see why vampire Edward Cullen is so mesmerizing. But I never read the books because I suspected no good could come from a Mormon writer playing with the undead, and New Moon proves me right. She’s steered a whole generation wrong on vampires.

The audience consisted mostly of teen girls. God help them if they identify with boring Bella Swan. Bella loves the vacant Edward, while a werewolf named Jacob loves her, and we waste the better part of 2 hours watching the 3 of them stare deeply into each other’s shallow eyes.

In Twilight world, the ultimate sin a vampire can commit is to go shirtless and let people see him sparkle.

Werewolves don’t fare much better. A full moon doesn’t trigger their transformation. Just annoy them and they turn furry. As humans, they wear nothing but shorts year-round in the Northwest. Shorts that seem to miraculously disappear and reappear. I wondered if they represented the ubiquitous underwear Mitt Romney refuses to talk about.

The film never explains why Bella loves Edward, but much of her screen time is spent is moping around after he disappears “forever” to protect her — from what? Another vampire sparkling at her?

Except for a few moments of spectacular werewolf special effects, New Moon is sheer tedium, the brief appearance of Michael Sheen (Tony Blair in The Queen, David Frost in Frost/Nixon) as ancient vampire Aro notwithstanding. Why, Michael, why?

Dracula, Nosferatu, Lestat, and Eric from True Blood must be curling in their coffins to think the torch has been passed to a droopy drip like Edward Cullen.

I’m counting on Johnny Depp to restore vampires to their former gory glory in 2010 when he plays Barnabas Collins in the remake of Dark Shadows.


Suave Vampire is Back in Depp’s “Dark Shadows”

December 17, 2008

By Karen

Rumors to the contrary, Johhny Depp is starring in a new Dark Shadows movie and Barnabas Collins will rise again.

The original Barnabas, Jonathan Frid

The original Barnabas, Jonathan Frid

Years ago, I was a minor vampire expert, starting with Dark Shadows every day after school. That led to insatiable reading: Dracula by Bram Stoker, 40+ DS novels by Marilyn Ross (I still own the complete set), ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King, a children’s book called Bunnicula, Anne Rice’s books, beginning with Interview with the Vampire, and dozens more, fiction and “non-fiction.”

I finally burned out on Lestat and stopped doing research, so this new crop of vamps snuck up on me. But they’re so popular, I feel compelled to check them out.

So far, I’m unimpressed. They’re so ordinary.

Edward Cullen is a kid in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series.

Bill Compton is a redneck who seems covered with dirt more often than not in HBO’s True Blood, based on Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels.

I can’t wait for Barnabas to come back and show them how it’s done.

In an interview with Collider.com, producer Richard Zanuck confirmed that Depp is teaming up with Tim Burton in summer 2009 to film Dark Shadows in London.

Depp will be about the same age (46) actor Jonathan Frid was as Barnabas, but that’s probably where the similarity ends, except for superficial trappings like the onyx ring, the Inverness cape, the wolf’s head cane.

Depp will undoubtedly make Barnabas suave, sexy, and irresistible. A mysterious, mature Don Juan DeMarco – with fangs.

I haven’t been this excited since Sex and the City: The Movie.

Here’s a great picture of Depp as Barnabas in the portrait that hung in Collinwood’s foyer.

And I found some interesting speculation on casting for the movie. I could see Paul Giammatti as Willie Loomis, even though he might think it’s a come-down from John Adams.

Vampire purists should be thrilled by the return of Barnabas Collins.


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