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Betsie's Literary Page Newsletter
. December 21, 2003 Happy Holiday's
. Betsie's Literary Page Newsletter
in this issue
In the News & More


1 in 37 Americans has served time in state or federal prison. Among black men, the figure is an astounding one in six. These figures come from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, which collects data and publishes reports on crime, law enforcement, the courts, prisons, and prisoners.


Some people still believe a Web property, the company's ill-advised acquisition of Infoseek, nearly destroyed Walt Disney Co. Now a disgruntled stakeholder wants to use the web to save the embattled mouse house. Roy Disney, the nephew of founder Walt, has launched

Roy, who recently stepped down from the Disney board, has been waging a so far unsuccessful campaign to oust Disney chief Michael Eisner, whom he says has scuttled much of the company's "magic." In a letter posted on, Roy asks for support "as we embark on this extremely important mission to restore the magic and wonder" to the company. Roy doesn't say exactly how he plans to do that, what kind of support he needs, and who he actually wants it from, but we don't think he should hold his breath waiting for the company's shareholders to sprinkle some fairy dust and clap their hands in belief.


Even as nephews are jumping from the Disney board, the Riff wonders what brave soul would actually accept a seat on beleaguered Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia's. Bradley Singer answered our question yesterday, agreeing to fill the seat vacated when Dalra Moore stepped down. In truth, Singer seems better suited for the position. As CFO of American Tower Corp., a company that builds transmission and relay towers for the wireless communications industry, Singer is familiar with the financial complexities of the media and communications industry and during his tenure there helped manage the company through an especially volatile period. That's great, but what how well versed is he in legal matters?



The Return of the King

First I'd like to say I waited an hour in line on opening day to get in, but having read Tolkien's works as a child it was well worth the wait!

Because movie-adaptations of books become new works of art in their own right, they cannot be measured too strictly against their originals. Even so, we must ask whether a film retains the spirit if not the letter.

With this said, Director Peter Jackson's The Return of the King does manage to convey the majesty and solemnity of Aragorn's crowning as the true King of Gondor, but then film immediately undercuts the dignity of the event by having Aragorn give his future queen, the elven-maiden Arwen, a prolonged Hollywood kiss. Yet the battle scenes are magnificent. The winged Nazgūl with their deafening shrieks are truly terrorizing, and the giant oliphaunts-with their deadly swaggering tusks and their huge wooden towers manned by dozens of archers-remain fearsome even in their fall. Jackson also succeeds in having Aragorn resuscitate the Sleeping Dead, who are then able to atone for their earlier betrayals by fighting valiantly against the forces of Sauron.

Jackson is to be praised for the wrenching melancholy of the otherwise playful Pippin as he is made to sing a Shire song in strange and dreadful land. Jackson also catches the bitter-sweet quality of the novel's end, where Tolkien shows that true victories over evil are won not for the sake of the valiant but for the little people-the unheralded and the defenseless. So drastically have the hobbits been altered by their grueling Quest that Sam and Merry and Pippin will never be able to resume the care-free lives that they once lived. Jackson also captures the poignancy of Gandalf and Frodo's final parting for Valinor, the elven-realm where they will find peace and rest from their long labors.

Calendar Girls

Calendar Girls features a group of middle-aged individuals stripping off their clothing. The film is based (rather loosely) on a real-life event that occurred in 1999 when a group of 11 middle-aged women living in Yorkshire posed in the buff for an unofficial calendar released under the auspices of the Rylstone & District Women's Institute. The calendar, which had an initial print run of 500 copies, became an unexpected success both in England and the United States (the "calendar girls" were featured on Jay Leno's "The Tonight Show"), raising more than half-a-million pounds for a local hospital.

As the film opens, best friends Chris Harper (Helen Mirren) and Annie Clarke (Julie Walters) are enduring the weekly snooze-fests that represent the meetings of the Women's Institute. Presided over by the humorless Marie (Geraldine James), they feature colorless speakers who offer information about broccoli or show slides of an around-the-world vacation. Annie's world is turned upside down when her husband, John (John Alderton), is diagnosed with leukemia. Various treatments, including chemotherapy, keep him alive for a while, but he eventually succumbs. Annie becomes devoted to honoring his memory in the best way she can - by raising money to support leukemia research and to help the hospital where he was treated.

No doubt, Calendar Girls will appeal to its target demographic - women of approximately the same age as the protagonists. It's a sad testament to the way motion pictures are made and marketed that there are so few roles for mature actresses (most of whom can act circles around younger performers). As a result, it takes a gimmick like the one underlying this film to gather together such an impressive cast.

Mona Lisa Smile

Mona Lisa Smile is an exercise in relentless mediocrity - a trite melodrama that raises a number of interesting possibilities, then ignores them in favor of taking the "safe" path. In the process, it undermines its own thesis of female empowerment, and is guilty of underutilizing a vast pool of talent. Actresses Julia Roberts, Kirsten Dunst, and Julia Stiles are relegated to playing one-dimensional, uninteresting roles in a movie that could easily be dubbed Dead Poets Sorority. If the point of Mona Lisa Smile was to be as bland as possible, it accomplishes the goal.

Julia Roberts is a fine actress, but she sleepwalks her way through this part, imbuing Katherine with little in the way of charm or passion. The opposite is true of Kirsten Dunst, who goes over-the-top in turning Betty into the most astonishingly one-dimensional bitch to hit screens this year. Julia Stiles shows even less personality than Roberts; her character is easily overlooked and is the most likely to be forgotten. Mona Lisa Smile's bright spots come from Maggie Gyllenhaal (Secretary) and Ginnifer Goodwyn (TV's "Ed"), whose performances are on-target and whose characters are interesting enough to warrant more screen time than they are given.

Mona Lisa Smile's director is Mike Newell, whose previous credits include the gangster film Donnie Brasco, the underrated jewel Enchanted April, and the internationally-known Four Weddings and a Funeral. For Newell, this is an inexplicable misstep. He tries his best to fashion an inspirational, feel-good tale, but the lack of compelling characters and the reliance upon formulas makes this movie a late-night cable TV time killer at best. The most likely facial expression to be elicited by Mona Lisa Smile is a grimace.

Upcoming Movies

"The Alamo"
directed by John Lee Hancock. Starring: Dennis Quaid, Billy Bob Thornton, Jason Patric, Patrick Wilson. Originally to be directed by Ron Howard before he went and did "The Missing", this film tells the story of the classic siege of the Alamo in Texas. Hancock hired Thornton, Quaid and Patric to portray the very famous characters of Davy Crockett, Sam Houston and Jim Bowie, respectively. December 25

"Cold Mountain"
directed by Anthony Minghella. Starring: Nicole Kidman, Jude Law, Renee Zellweger, Donald Sutherland, Natalie Portman. Law plays a confederate soldier who gets wounded in battle and travels a long way home to be with his beloved Ada (Kidman). He encounters a lot of eccentric characters along the way, in this film from the director of "the English Patient", which has a lot of people talking Oscar. December 25

"The Company"
directed by Robert Altman. Starring: Neve Campbell, James Franco, Malcolm McDowell, Emma Harrison. Celebrated director Robert Altman, on the heels of his Oscar-winning hit "Gosford Park", orchestrates this ensemble tale about the trials and tribulations of a ballet company. Star Campbell also produced and co- wrote the story. December 25

directed by John Woo. Starring: Ben Affleck, Uma Thurman, Aaron Eckhart, Paul Giamatti, Michael C. Hall. Action favorite John Woo directs this futuristic story of a scientist (Affleck), whose memory is erased and has to find out what happened. Already being compared to Philip K. Dick's "Total Recall", this should satisfy both sci-fi and action fans. December 25



By Nancy Rechtman

Well, 'tis the season once again for opening our wallets and bleeding ourselves dry so that we can spend the next eleven months paying for all of the toys and trinkets that will soon lie broken or shoved in the back of someone's closet until the next holiday season comes rolling around and we can all hop on the merry- go-round once again. What is this spending frenzy about anyway? Does the real meaning of the season have anything to do with toys doing the hokey pokey or 14 karat earrings? And why is it suddenly OK for the malls to open at dawn on Sundays for the month of December when the rest of the year they are not allowed to open before noon? Is this the month when we trade in worshipping at our churches and synagogues for worshipping at the altar of the almighty dollar?

Let's face it. Everyone loves getting presents. Tearing open the wrapping paper on a box is one of the legal thrills we can still get as adults, as our childhoods recede rapidly into the distant past. While our stomachs might drop like a rock once we actually get a glimpse of the contents of the unwrapped box, we have at least had our little moment in the sun, seeking the thrill of unknown possibilities. For one moment we can actually believe it is possible that the little four-inch by six inch box with the gold wrapping paper and matching bow really does contain that high definition TV we've been hoping for. So what if it turns out to be peanut brittle that will crack our teeth. We can always re- wrap it and pass it on to the next adult in need of a quick thrill. It's the thought that counts, right?

Speaking of gifts, think about the needy celebrities in our midst. You know, the ones who make millions of dollars for each movie they make whether it tanks or not. But they don't have to wait for the holidays, they get gifts just for gracing us with their presence. Have you heard about the latest trend in award shows? It's no longer about who wins the best actor/actress/writer/director/egomaniac award. Who really cares about that? After all, there used to be only three major awards shows each year. Now they proliferate like rabbits, so of course celebrities have to be discerning about which ones they agree to appear at. In order to entice stars to appear as presenters at these award shows the producers of these shows now offer gift baskets to the celebs who deign to show up. Now, we're not talking about a nice bottle of perfume or a fuzzy pair of slippers here. Oh, no, we are talking big bucks. Like $10,000 per basket, I swear upon the gold award statuette that I am not making this up. What is contained in these baskets is supposed to be "top secret," but that claim is about as transparent as the cellophane wrapping paper around the fruit basket you got from your grandmother in Florida. After all, the companies who contribute these lavish gifts want the publicity, that's the whole point. They want people to know that Mrs. Top A-List celebrity sports their new watch, sleeps on their new mattress, uses their silk travel blanket or plays backgammon with their leather set.

So the big secret here is,,, that we don't really care. Do they actually think the rest of us are going to race out to buy a $400 basket because that's the same exact one they gave the stars at the awards show? Well, maybe some fans who salivate at their favorite star's every move. But the rest of us? We're lucky to have $400 to pay for those new tires we need for our car or for the next installment on our kids' braces. A large segment of America is one paycheck away from being out on the street. But as they say, the rich keep getting richer. Now don't get me wrong. I love going to the movies and I believe that acting can be a noble profession. There are many stars that do brilliant work and are worthy of our admiration. But when you come right down to it, what they are giving us is make- believe. And as they say (once again), hey folks, this isn't brain surgery.

It makes as much sense to give a multi-million dollar movie star a $10,000 gift basket as it does to ignore the people in our lives who are truly deserving of reward. Think about the teachers and policemen and firemen who take care of us every single day. Where are their $10,000 gift baskets? But this, of course is the real world where people don't make millions of dollars just for showing up to work. And take our soldiers, laying their lives on the line for us overseas. They're lucky to get enough pay to cover their mortgage payments. And what about our veterans? I recently read a letter to the editor of our local newspaper from a veteran who had waited 33 years to get his decorations for serving our country, and he still hasn't received them! And his letter mentioned that another veteran had finally received his decorations after 57 years! What exactly are we waiting for here - aren't these the people who are truly worthy of our admiration and respect?

Shame on us for worrying more about who wears what on the red carpet than worrying about the welfare of those who are and were willing to lay down their lives so we can have the freedoms that we take so often for granted. Of course, maybe if they made it all into a movie....

Read more Inanities columns at

Copyright by Betsie, 2003 All contents of this email are for the use of Betsie's Literary Page subscribers and may not be reproduced in any way and/or posted on websites without prior express written permission. If you would like to have friends or associates receive our emails, rather than forwarding this, please have them subscribe.

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Joke of the Day

Best Excuse To Get Out of A Ticket

A man was driving home late one afternoon, and he was driving above the speed limit. He notices a police car with its red lights on in his rear view mirror. He thinks he can outrun this guy, so he floors it and the race is on. The cars are racing down the highway -- 60, 70, 80, 90 miles an hour.

Finally, as his speedometer passes 100, the guy figures "what the heck," and gives up. He pulls over to the curb.

The police officer gets out of his cruiser and approaches the car. He leans down and says "Listen mister, I've had a really lousy day, and I just want to go home. Give me a good excuse and I'll let you go."

The man thought for a moment and said... "Three weeks ago, my wife ran off with a police officer. When I saw your cruiser in my rear view mirror, I thought that you were the officer and that you were trying to give her back to me!"


Title: The Winds of Fortune
Author: Janet Flickinger-Bonarski
Publisher: 45th Parallel Publishing Co. June 2003
Genre: Historical Fiction
Paperback: 320pp

Rating: Highly Recommended

Stormy romance on the bay!

Winds of Fortune, a novel about 19th century Fayette, Michigan is filled with a number of interesting characters. Carrie Gray is a lonely widow who falls for a schooner captain, Drew McGeary after being of some assistance to the captain during a rainstorm.

Carrie is the independent owner of a stone mining quarry, who is being wooed by Henry LaTermine. Henry is the manager of the general store who for reasons known only to himself lets Carrie know that the captain is a man of questionable character.

The authors' story unfolds like a soap opera. There is murder, adultery, deceit, greed, jealousy, kidnapping, as well as regret, despair, and forgiveness. The characters range from a mysterious brothel madam named Phoeny to a bible toting hellion named Bertha, just to name a few.

I highly recommend this whirlwind tale filled with fortune for some, and misfortune for others. Not only is the novel a great read, but also the descriptive details used to bring the bluff area and its characters to life.

Reviewed by Juanita Reynolds

To learn more about the author or purchase a signed copy go to: http://www.historic-fayette-

Opening Bell
Author: Keith D. Cummings
Publisher: 1stBooks Library; (September 2002)
Genre: Mystery & Thrillers
ISBN: 1403353190
Hardcover; 364pp

Rating: Highly Recommended

A fictitious account of one man's attempt to create a Utopia in a country where bureaucracy has created the need for a revolution. Absolutely breathtaking from the beginning to the end!

I received Mr. Cummings' Media Kit almost 2 weeks ago and the level of perfection portrayed by the documents enclosed has also been applied to his novel. Mr. Cummings has done an excellent job in the development of the plot and the characters that are bound to the pages of Opening Bell. You can see a sense of purpose similar to that of John Grisham, where current events take on a life of their own

Marc Reid is an intelligent, calculating, wealthy and able man - with a vision of perfecting welfare, eliminating affirmative action and downsizing the corrupt government. These are a few of the motivations that have inspired Marc Reid to plot a takeover of that government, a plan that took over 20 years to reach fruition. He has recruited a team of "visionaries" with similar goals and on May 10, 2010 at 8:30 A.M. they take over the financial functions regulated by computer and effectively take over the United States of America.

Marc has his own personal motivations for this coup d'etat (The sudden overthrow of a government by a usually small group of persons in or previously in positions of authority.) In his late teenage years he felt that he was the victim of government policy as he witnessed the demise of his small but affluent family. His father's fortune was "stolen" by the family's attorney and his mother was reduced from a proud matron of the household to a prisoner of a reality that she created to deal with the tragedies that poured into her life.

Marc was powerless to make any effective change to his life during that time. Therefore, as an adult, he created and executed this plan to effectively change everyone's life and exact vengeance at the same time. Somewhere between Marc's vision of a better society where welfare and the IRS no longer existed and the stifling bureaucracy was downsized, Marc's vengeful goals were accomplished. His own personal agenda became the country's agenda. He had attained a level of power that one could even consider a dictatorship. Even his fellow revolutionaries could see that their goal was over exceeded and Marc's will controlled everything.

This is a true journey through the harsh cycle of power and helplessness. A lot of issues inspired by nonfiction are included and developed by this piece of fiction. Opening Bell is a beautiful book for your library as well as an excellent and well-planned novel.

Reviewed by Tyrone Banks

To read the interview or purchase your own copy go here

Title: Protectors of Klairn - Book One
Author: Erin Elder
Publisher: Publish America (May 2002)
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy
ISBN: 1591294061
Trade Paperback; 128pp
Price: $17.95

Rating: Recommended

Adventurous drama!

The first chapter sets the scene for the reader to progress through the rest of the book. Ms. Elder's description of the surroundings is quite graphic and transports the reader to that special time and place. Readers are introduced to the characters with well- rounded physical, as well as psychological descriptions. It provides the reader with a clear mental image of each contestant.

We are taken on the journey, as Iona Stonefinder, the main character is on a quest to become one of the Protectors of Klairn. Ms. Elder has the reader taking each step with Iona as she competes in physical and mental trials to be chosen as one of the Protectors. Iona not only has to compete against other contestants, but her family is very unhappy with the choice she has made and refuse to support her in this quest. Uncertain of her fate, Iona shows the courage needed to proceed towards her goal. There is also a love interest for Iona, which only complicates matters.

For those readers interested in a good fantasy, this book is recommended to add to their list. It provides good character development, excellent visualization of the surroundings and a lightheartedness that keeps the reader engaged.

Reviewed by Lee Burlison

To read the interview or purchase your own copy go here

Celebrity contacts

Malpaso Prods. (Clint Eastwood)
c/o Warner Bros.
4000 Warner Blvd, Bldg. 81
Burbank, CA 91522-0811
818-954-4803 fax

Mandy Films, Inc. (Leonard Goldberg)
9201 Wilshire Blvd., #206
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
310-246-0350 fax

Material (Jorge Saralegui)
3000 Olympic Blvd., Suite 2311
Santa Monica, CA 90404
310-998-5827 fax

Matthau Company, The (Charles Matthau)
11661 San Vicente Blvd, #609
Los Angeles, CA 90049

Meno Film Co. (Gus Van Sant)
122 Hudson Street, 5th Floor
New York, NY 10013

Merchant-Ivory (Ismail Merchant & James Ivory)
250 W. 57th St., Ste. 1825
New York, New York 10107

Mike's Movies (Michael Peyser)
627 N. Las Palmas
Los Angeles, CA 90004
323-462-4699 fax

Miracle Pictures (A. Kitman Ho)
1223 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 916
Santa Monica, CA 90401


1) Romano Productions

I am looking for a completed script revolving around gang members who are battling/fighting off supernatural creatures (werewolves, vampires, zombies etc.) in the vein of 'Warriors' and/or 'Freddy vs. Jason'.

Budget range will not exceed 10 mil.

Credits include 'Only in Venice' and 'You Never Know' for Paramount. More info can be found on

Please email a logline followed with a synopsis to:
Mario Romano

2) Andrew Putschoegl

I am looking for a completed script that takes place on an island, preferably Hawaii, where I will be shooting it. I am open to any genre so long as it can be shot on an island and is NOT a horror, Sci-Fi or musical.

Budget will not exceed 30 million.
WG and non-WG writers are welcome.

I have directed two feature films, several shorts and commercials. My most recent feature, 'Window Theory,' is currently in post-production.

To avoid having your logline deleted without being read, please confirm at the top of the email that your completed script can be shot 100 percent on an island.

Please email a logline followed with a synopsis to:
Andrew Putschoegl

3) Kidnap The Dog

I am looking for completed, high-concept, youth- oriented scripts with a strong comedic element in the vein of 'Freaky Friday,' 'What a Girl Wants,' and 'Bend it like Beckham'.

Budget range is between $10-25 mil.

I am an independent producer/manager with a deal at Catch 23 Entertainment ('One Hour Photo'). Prior to that I was at MBST Entertainment for 7 years as a development exec and worked on 'Krippendorf's Tribe' and 'Super Dave The Movie'. After that I ran development at DeMann Entertainment and worked on 'The Life and Death of Peter Sellers', which is currently in post-production at HBO Films.

Please email a one-page logline/synopsis to:
Aghi Koh



The 4th Annual / The Radmin Company 2004 Screenwriting Competition

Deadline: January 31, 2004

The Radmin Company will read top 50 screenplays. Ten Finalists Get to Pitch their Winning Script to a Hollywood Producer.
First Prize $5,000; 2nd Prize $1,000; 3rd Prize $500

The 3rd Annual American Gem 2004 Short Screenplay Competition

Deadline: February 02, 2004
FOX will read top 25 Short Scripts.
Winning Script Produced!
Winner is Guaranteed Representation.
First Prize $1,000; 2nd Prize $500; 3rd Prize $250... Top Three Get to PITCH their Winning Script to Hollywood Producers.

Who's Buying Spec Scripts


Writer Ari Rubin sells his drama spec "Brutus Complex" to Radar Pictures for low to mid-six figures.

Stratus Film Co. pays low-six figures to writer Ben Younger for his spec romantic comedy script "Prime".

Drama spec "Lulu" earns writers Peter Nickowitz and Bill Oliver low-six figures from buyer actress/producer Neve Campbell.


Writers Brandon Camp and Mike Thompson get mid-six figures from Columbia Pictures for their thriller spec "911".

A drama spec "Premonition" gets mid-six figures for writer Jon Glascoe from Bedford Falls Co.

Warner Bros pays mid-six figures to Lara Shapiro and Stacy Kramer for "Labor Pains", their comedy spec script.


"Fat Man", a comedy spec from Mike Reiss earns him high-six figures from Columbia Pictures.

Writer Bragi Schut Jr. cashes in for high-six figures from MGM for his horror spec "Season of the Witch".

Touchstone pays out high-six figures for spec comedy "Corporate Retreat" to writer Brad Copeland.

$1 Million or more:

Writer Mark Perez enjoys seven figures from Universal Pictures for his comedy spec "Accepted".


Heaven's Gate Films optioned the short film script "Donor" written by Screenwriter Benedict R. Fancy for an undisclosed amount...

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