Category: NJ

American Crime Story: Versace and A Young Widow’s Promise by Ryan Field

American Crime Story: Versace and A Young Widow’s Promise by Ryan Field 

I watched another installment of ACS: Versace last night and it reminded me of something that’s related to my novella, A Young Widow’s Promise. It’s unique because you don’t hear about it often…if ever.

While he was on a cross country killing spree, Andrew Cunanan wound up in a remote part of Southern New Jersey where he murdered a man named William Reese at Finn’s Point National Cemetery. Cunanan murdered Reese because he needed Reese’s truck. At that point, Cunanan had already murdered 3 other people and he was on the run.

The connection to all this with regard to A Young Widow’s Promise is that I used Finn’s Point National Cemetery as the setting for my story. Even though it’s been highly embellished in ACS: Versace, Finn’s Point is a place I was very familiar with growing up. I’m from Salem County, New Jersey, and I used to run every morning at Finn’s Point. It’s really nothing at all like you see in the TV show. Finn’s Point is one of the most remote, out of the way places in the state of New Jersey. In fact, it’s actually interesting that Cunanan would even find it, let alone murder the caretaker, because most people don’t even know it exists unless they are looking for it specifically.

The other interesting point to be made about Finn’s Point is that it was once used as a burial ground for confederate prisoners of war who’d been captured and died at Fort Delaware. That’s the basic story line from A Young Widow’s Promise. It’s a forbidden romance, and a love story, that would have been highly irregular if it had actually happened.

In any event, here’s the blurb to A Young Widow’s Promise. And here’s a link to Amazon.

Felecia Roundtree is thirty-seven years old, she’s already lost her husband in battle, and prays each morning her two young sons live to see another day. With her own two hands, she’s turned the front of her property at remote Locust Point, NJ, into a burial ground for unknown Confederate prisoners of war, hoping someone will return a kind gesture to her own loved ones. Then one morning in August, just after she has a vision of her dead husband, three Confederate prisoners of war turn up at her doorstep begging for mercy. One is near death; the other two aren’t much better. Though she’s reluctant at first to help the enemy, she offers them food and shelter, and then eventually begins the romance of her lifetime with a young old Confederate named Calvin. When she learns a deep dark secret about the other two Confederates, she’s not sure what to think. Felecia has no idea she’s even falling in love. Nor does she realize she’s preserving an important part of American History. But she’s true to her promise every step of the way.

James Franco in New Jersey; Anne Rice, Reviews, Petition

Anne Rice, Reviews, Petition

An article written five days ago talks more about the online petition to get Amazon to make changes in its review policies, and talks more about Anne Rice and how she’s been such a large part of all this. The article begins with a comment about reading bad reviews of classic books…Lolita. I can back that up with one star reviews I once read about The Great Gatsby.

But this issue in a general sense seems to be gaining more speed and doesn’t seem to be going away.

What prompted Rice to sign the petition were her experiences in an Amazon forum this past January (although she’s been talking about the Amazon problem for some time). She was answering questions while “predatory career bullies” (screengrabbed here) spat venom and abuse, anonymously. She told the Guardian: “They’ve worked their way into the Amazon system as parasites, posting largely under pseudonyms, lecturing, bullying, seeking to discipline authors whom they see as their special prey . . .  They’re all about power. They clearly organise, use multiple identities and brag about their ability to down vote an author’s works if the author doesn’t ‘behave’ as they dictate.”

You can read more here.

James Franco in New Jersey

Had I known this I would have put on my best underwear and taken a quick ride down to Princeton. It’s less than a half hour from New Hope. James Franco is starring in and directing a new historical film, The Sound and the Fury, and he was shooting a scene not far from Princeton University.

Bundled up in a leather jacket, a thick black hat and dark sunglasses, actor James Franco stood near the Washington Road bridge today, sizing up the bridge over Carnegie Lake in Princeton where an actor had just jumped for a scene in “The Sound and the Fury,” an adaptation of William Faulkner’s 1929 novel directed by and starring Franco.

“What do you think about this for B camera? Just look at this first,” Franco said to a cameraman as he made his way around the West Windsor set on the Princeton border and fans gathered along Faculty Road, hopeful they’d get a look at the movie and the man making it happen.

You can read more here…with a photo of Franco suffering through this winter that just doesn’t want to end.

There have been a lot of films made around here in the Bucks County area and when I owned my gallery I saw customers that ranged from soap opera stars in New York to Mick Jagger. One well known actor I won’t name once asked me back to his hotel room in Lambertville and I politely declined and said I was married. Most people around here aren’t star struck and most celebrities feel free to be just like everyone else. But had I known about Franco I might have been tempted to take my iPad down there and have him sign a bookplate on the back for his novel, Actors Anonymous.

In any event, this was the only day Franco will be here, so I guess I missed my one shot in life to be a fangirl. Franco did, however, make the day of a few young women in Princeton.

“It’s so random that he’s here, but I’m a fan and he’s welcome here any time,” Byrne said. “We’re just some girls in love.”

Don Jon Film Review; Gay Mayor Atlantic City NJ

Gay Mayor Atlantic City NJ

In what many are calling the beginning of changing times, the new mayor of Atlantic City, New Jersey was recently sworn in and there are several significant facts about him worth mentioning. One, he’s gay. Two, he’s Republican. And three, he’s interested in the concept of giving free land to the poor. He’s also the first Republican mayor there in 23 years.

Don Guardian was sworn in as the resort city’s 49th mayor amid a brutal slowdown that has seen it lose its place as the nation’s second-largest gambling market, with casino revenues falling more than 40 percent and thousands of jobs being lost in the past six years. The 60-year-old Guardian warns of challenging times ahead as his administration tries to turn things around.

Not only does this erase several stereotypes, it also shows the world that New Jersey is nothing like you see it portrayed on TV and in films…which of course is highly significant to my film review of Don Jon, below.

You can read more here.

Don Jon Film Review

Over the holidays, I ran across an article I thought was interesting about authors insulting readers by not taking the time to research basic (important) details. This particular article discussed historicals and how some authors ignore historic details to the extreme…at the risk of insulting readers who might know more than the author. When I wrote A Young Widow’s Promise I remember researching power mowers, among many things, because I’d set the story during the civil war and the main character turns her front property into a burial ground. I didn’t want the main character mowing her front property with a John Deer from Home Depot. That would have been stupid on my part, and because I don’t write historical fiction often I tend to take that kind of research to extremes. I also did this same kind of research in the story I wrote for the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic (can’t remember the title of that one right now). I spent a couple of days researching corsets worn during the Edwardian period, among other facts I thought were important to get right. Because if you don’t get these facts right, at least in the most basic sense, you’ll wind up with a film or book like Don Jon filled with misconceptions and stereotypes.

This review contains spoilers, so you’ve been warned. Frankly, there aren’t enough surprises in the film to even care about spoilers. The reason it contains spoilers is because I think everyone should know, in this case, what they are getting into before they spend their hard-earned money. We see the money issue a lot in book circles, and some book reviewers even mention book prices in reviews, but we never see it with film reviews and I don’t think that’s fair…especially when you consider how privileged those like Joseph Gordon-Levitt are to be garnering millions of dollars at the expense of hard working people, with films like Don Jon. I watched Don Jon on demand and paid 5.99. That’s six bucks I’ll never see again. And if this film had been an e-book on Amazon I would have returned it that same night. Unfortunately, we can’t return films on demand; just books. If it had been a DVD, Tony would have stepped on it.

I had been looking forward to this film because I’ve been writing erotica for many years and I thought  Gordon-Levitt would treat the subject of porn addiction well. Unfortunately, the film begins with a voice over through the main character’s POV (Don Jon) and I had a bad feeling when I heard the overly clichéd outer borough New York accent. But things only devolved from there. As it turns out, the main character is from New Jersey, and the accent turned out to be more like something you’d expect to hear from someone mocking New Jersey accents without knowing a thing about New Jersey or the millions of people who live there. I’m from New Jersey and I don’t have that accent, nor do I know anyone in New Jersey with an accent like that. Evidently, no one’s told Gordon-Levitt New Jersey is the home of Princeton University. And even in those few sections of northern New Jersey where you might find a hint of the accents in Don Jon they are so highly exaggerated I thought this film might be a parody at first. But it’s not a parody. It’s supposed to be deep and meaningful, ahem. And if I go any further about how deep and meaningful it is I’ll be writing a parody right now.

As the film tries to move forward, the main character is portrayed as a dumb fuck with too much testosterone who spends his time working out at the gym, hunting for pussy, and jacking to free porn clips. But there’s nothing sexual about it, not one single scene. And I think if you’re going to get into porn addiction this way you should at least know and touch certain topics lightly. In other words, this main character is so into porn he views and jacks multiple times a day, however, he does this sitting at his desk, in his clothes, into a tissue. I’m not joking here. That’s the extent to which his addiction goes, and there’s no mention of online interaction or web cams, or anything else many people with porn addictions are doing these days. Young men like the character Gordon-Levitt portrays can’t wait to show off their bodies with web cams…even if they are more voyeuristic. But this idiotic portrayal of a porn addict didn’t even come across as remotely believable because it lacked so much of what triggers excitement in most porn addicts. If they had made him a lame porn addict that would have been different. But they just made him a porn addict in general. Again, there’s nothing sexy about the movie either. So if you’re thinking of seeing this film to get a glimpse of the body Gordon-Levitt worked so hard to get for this film you’ll wind up even more disappointed. There was one scene where he’s wearing low-rise jeans that make him look hot, but that’s not even realistic because those jeans cost so much the main character would never have been able to afford them in the first place.

So, Don Jon’s addicted to sitting in his small apartment while jacking to porn, he spends his free nights cruising bars with straight brainless buds mocking and degrading women in a way that resembles a rape culture mind set, and goes through a string of one night stands without emotion because he prefers porn and tissues to the real thing. Then along comes Hollywood’s Missy Right to save the day, he falls batshit crazy in “love” with her, and tries to change his evil porn addict ways. But Missy Right is not only a manipulating, controlling woman with a limited intellect who baits him with sex, and she’s such a bad stereotype of all young women she could set feminism back hundreds of years. There’s one scene where he’s literally panting for sex with her, but she refuses to indulge him and will only let him dry hump her out in the hallway of her apartment building while they are both still fully clothed. I swear I’m not joking about this either. It’s the kind of WTF-ery you don’t see often. He actually climaxes by dry humping her from behind, both remain fully clothed, and it was the one scene in the film where I actually felt sorry for the main character. But all in all, he deserves what he gets.

While he’s seeing Missy Right, he continues to jack at his desk to cheap free porn clips. She eventually catches him, the shit hits the proverbial fan, and she creates this weird scene where it looks more like he screwed her sister instead of watching free porn. She really goes ballistic on him, ultimately dumping him in a following scene just like this one when she catches him a second time by snooping through his browsing history. And while I get the basic premise behind this, scenes like this do nothing for women or the fact that women also enjoy visual erotic fulfillment, too, sometimes. In this film it’s as if only men enjoy adult entertainment and anything resembling Fifty Shades of Grey is “mommy porn.” There have been articles and rants about this kind of double standard for women and I’m not going into too many details now. The point is the film seems to promote the stereotype that only men watch porn, and women want nothing but emotional stimulation and to watch Dr.Phil. Or worse, that it’s wrong for women to enjoy porn. But that’s not where the insult to women ends.

Before she breaks up with him, Missy Right talks Don Jon into taking a course. A course will save his life. She has plans for him, oh yes, and she holds sex over his head the entire time to get him to do whatever she wants him to do. Of course he does it. His family loves her, which goes into another cliché of the good woman standing behind the evil porn watching man. While he’s taking the course, he meets a slightly older woman who is “different.” I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the kind of course he’s taking is never mentioned, what kind of school he’s attending is never mentioned, and his goals are never once mentioned. He’s just taking a “course,” you know, like the boy goes to college kind of thing to turn his life around. Ugh! I wasn’t even certain he’d graduated from high school! In any event, he meets the older woman and she notices him watching porn on his phone. At this point, I thought there might be hope. I thought this might be the relationship that will turn the film into something important and make all the fresh hells I’d suffered through worth while.

But the older woman who had so much potential as a character who can help Don Jon evolve only turns out to be as dysfunctional as Don Jon and they wind up in a creepy relationship that’s based on sex, emptiness, and this strange brand of sexual schadenfreude that left me with the feeling they both actually do deserve each other and Missy Right was smart to dump him in the first place. And not because he watched porn, but because he’s just a creep.

And if all this isn’t enough, the film insults Catholics, too. In an attempt to absolve his sin of watching free porn clips, the main character never misses mass on Sundays (with his family) and he goes to confession once a week. He tells the priest in this old fashioned confessional how many times he jacks to porn, how much pre-marital sex he has, and the priest gives him his penance. I’m also Catholic. I went to twelve years of Catholic school. That’s not how it works in 2014.

There are a few scenes with the main character’s family and they also portray New Jersey families with the same kind of stereotypical nonsense that’s so consistent throughout the film. Tony Danza is in these scenes, and he never seems to leave the dining room (except for church, I think) where there’s a huge flat screen TV set up over the buffet so he can watch football in his undershirt, scream like a madman, and insult his son with the same inauthentic New Jersey accent.

It could have been great. It could have been something worthwhile, and I think that’s what bothered me the most about this movie. But it turned out to be insulting and immature and I don’t think Gordon-Levitt would have done it quite the same way if he’d been older. I think HE should take a course somewhere. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who won’t know this when they see the film and once again a bad film will slip through the proverbial cracks because most people won’t know any better. Some reviews have been good, more than a few others mimic what I just wrote. I know it’s all subjective. But you can’t make details and facts subjective. That just doesn’t work for those who do know better.

Internationally, the film has grossed over thirty million dollars.