Of Al Capone, The Thief Maker and Death by Baklava

On a whim this Saturday I decided to take a friend on a Thief Maker Reality Tour by visiting the famous Philadelphia neighborhood where the majority of my book was set, touring Eastern State Penitentiary and dining at one of my all-time favorite restaurants.  

It had been a well over a year (maybe even two) since I had been back to the Art Museum District centered around Fairmount Avenue (and I’ll be there again next weekend for the Late Renoir Exhibit at the PMA).  Though I’ve only ever been a visitor to the area, it was like returning home as it had lived in my imagination for so long and served as the inspiration for the primary setting of my “first” novel, which now seems like such a distant memory.  It was great stomping around my old haunts, and for the first time, I played the part of a true tourist by paying to enter the famed Eastern State Penitentiary – former home of Al Capone. Continue reading

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Dead by Daylight

It’s summertime!  And what comes to mind more than…yup, uh-huh…graveyards!

It might be the summer doldrums for refined film buffs — and if you consider yourself party to such self-inflicted snobbery, then pray your city has been one of the selected cities for Winter’s Bone’s limited release – it’s killer good and the perfect antithesis to summer movie hell.  Meanwhile every girl and woman you know is lining up for tonight’s midnight showing and about to go crazy over the latest in the Twilight Saga…dun dun dun…Eclipse!  Can you hear Bonnie Tyler now?  Turn around…

So, in the most tenuous of ties to the Total Eclipse of the Box Office, I have decided to post a hodge-podge collection of my daylight graveyard photography.  Some of these photos have been posted before in travel logs and some have never before seen the light of day.  The cemeteries visited span the states of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New York. 

Ga’head, ladies, use your imagination and picture your favorite vampire or werewolf hunk amidst the trees and the stones.  Or better yet…don’t.  Continue reading

Bad Movie Marathon

Twas the stars and my Netflix queue aligned this weekend as the Hurri-Rain-Pocalypse pimp-slapped the East Coast (thanks El Nino!) and delivered to my mailbox were no less than three monumentally bad movies to pass the time as flood waters receded.  One of these films was so awful, it reached that rarified pantheon where film buffs bestow upon special movies the title of “So Bad it’s Good.”  In fact, I dare say, it might be the perfect “Bad Movie” and one that had me entertained and laughing for its entire 2 hour 38 minute run time.  Good Citizens of Filmlandia …I give you…Roland Emmerich’s DUN-DUN-DUH 2012!

"Umm...kids...I don't think we're going to make it to the Gap's End of the World Super Sales Spectacular this weekend."

2012:  Every German director has their fetish.  Continue reading

Point and Shoot

Remember that German mountain film Bridget Von Hammersmark kept rambling on about in QT’s Inglourious Basterds?  Well, North Face (Nordwand) isn’t it.  (POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD) You see, this historical suspense-packed mountaineering film clearly paints the Third Reich’s desire in 1936 to use two politically indifferent Germans’ race to the top of the north face of the Eiger as a part of their propaganda machine, but it wasn’t meant to be.  What’s so refreshing about North Face is that instead of showing the triumph of the men who would eventually make it to the top of the Eiger, it shows the folly of the men who didn’t: ordinary men trying to do extraordinary things (the climbers) and a government catastrophically over-reaching its power.  However, whether or not the Third Reich ever gets their story about “Superior Aryan Mountain Climbers” (and they do, though it’s a footnote in history) becomes the least of their problems. Continue reading

Goodbye 2009 Hello 2010

 

Happy New Year from The Schleicher Spin!

There will be no reinventing the wheel here in 2010 as we continue to cover books, films, travel and anything that strikes a cord in the happily demented mind of D. H. Schleicher.

Stay tuned in January for upcoming reviews Up in the Air, The White Ribbon and Margaret Atwood’s novel, The Year of the Flood.

And what January would be complete without The Annual Davies Awards in FilmContinue reading

Philadelphia Film Festival Closing Night

Apparently I had been asleep at the wheel and missed the fact that the Philadelphia Film Festival had been going on since March 26th.  Luckily at the last minute, I was still able to fit in some showings on the festival’s closing night on Monday, April 6th.

All the people with beautiful smiles ride bikes together in Tel Aviv.

All the people with beautiful smiles ride bikes together when spending a weekend in Tel Aviv.

For a late matinee For My Father aka A Weekend in Tel Aviv showcased just the type of thoughtful independent filmmaking one comes to expect from a world class festival. The film delicately weaves the tale of a Palestinian suicide bomber who gets stuck in Tel Aviv after a botched job and befriends a young Jewish woman trying to escape her orthodox heritage. The screenplay boils down the complex issues of the Palestinian conflict to a simplistic, but ultimately humanistic and relatable level. The film shows how the telling of stories can form a bridge to healing wounds and features nice production values, a well placed sense of humor, and a likable cast portraying interesting characters easy to route for. As the characters’ back-stories are slowly revealed, some tighter control of the plot points and development would’ve done the film well, but it’s easy to overlook the narrative flaws when the rest of the film is so naturally compelling as it careens towards a harrowing conclusion.

This vampire should not be for sale!

This vampire should not be for sale!

For the final showing of the evening, it was a totally different type of film presented indicative of the vast diversity of films represented every year at the Philadelphia Film Festival.  The horror flick I Sell the Dead (whose title sounds so much more intriguing if you say it with a There Will be Blood style Daniel Plainview accent) seemed a fitting choice to close the fest since Philly always likes to showcase horror films and it was at the 1st annual Philadelphia Film Festival many moons ago where Guillermo Del Toro first cast a blip on the American filmgoers’ radar with his Mexican vampire flick Cronos.  Sadly, I Sell the Dead did not stand up to Del Toro’s high standards even though it featured a can’t miss plotline involving hapless grave robbers uncovering…dun dun dun…the UNDEAD.

The cool title aside, I Sell the Dead is one of those schlocky mish-mashes that tries way too hard as it clumsily marries old-school Hammer-era homage with Gilliam-esque silliness while being stylistically influenced by graphic novels.  The film featured a distractingly bad sound design (which I assume could be fixed if it gets picked up by a larger studio) and so much fake fog blowing through its gothic Victorian set designs that it could make your eyes water.  Though it’s not nearly as clever as it thinks it is, I Sell the Dead contains just enough fun moments (like the goofy vampire bit and lovely Fanny’s back-story as a “wrecker”) that I imagine it could still develop a small cult following.  I for one will be no part of said cult.

For more information on the Philadelphia Film Festival and Cinefest ‘o9, click here.

Written by David H. Schleicher

To the Victors the Spoils

World Champion Philadelphia Phillies.

Still to this day it sounds unbelievable…like I’m living in a dream…and just a year ago seemed as unlikely as President Barack Obama. 

In late October of 2008, the newly crystallized reality of the former and the hope of the latter were all that the city of Philadelphia had to hold onto in the wake of Wall Street slitting its throat and flooding the streets of America with blood.  But Philly’s streets were proud to run red, and in early November it turned out American’s hearts beat blue once again as Obama swept into the White House.  My most lasting memory from that time period was walking the quiet autumn painted streets of Society Hill in the swell of Philadelphia’s rising tide towards victory in the playoffs and seeing on every other window in the neighborhood an Obama sign next to a Phillies’ sticker.  The feeling of impending triumph was palpable.  Pardon the cliche, but you could almost taste it.

And now to the victors go the spoils, at least for a short while.  Continue reading

Talking Patrons Push Philly Filmgoer’s Button

CAPTION:  Columbus Blvd, here’s your fifteen minutes!

So as I’m reading up on reviews of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button in preparation for a Sunday outing to go see the film, I came across the most curious piece of local news in a long while.

Apparently an angry filmgoer shot a man in the arm during a showing of the film at the United Artists Theater at Riverview Plaza on Columbus Blvd. in Philadelphia.  The shooter had earlier asked the man to quiet his talking son, and the boisterous family continued to make noise despite the request.  After most other patrons fled, the shooter remained in the now silent theater watching the film until the police arrived.  I guess that means the movie is really good!

While yet another shooting in my beloved Philly is nothing to write home about, the most curious piece of this case is the reaction from the public. 

The outcry has been clear:  BE QUIET IN THE MOVIE THEATER!

The American public is fed up with people who won’t shut up at the movies.

Also, wake up parents!  Don’t take your kids to movies like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button where they will be bored to death and act out.  There were plenty of other options for this family at Christmastime, so show some common sense, folks.

Of course I don’t condone shooting people–unless they were the Hollywood producers responsible for The Day the Earth Stood Still–but can we really blame the guy?  Perhaps they showed a preview of Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino in front of the film, and that gave the shooter the idea to be the ultimate bad-ass.

Meanwhile, I’ll be seeing the film in Jersey at a curious theater where people know how to be quiet, and no one will be carrying a gun.

Check out the local spin from the Philadelphia Inquirer.

A Visit to the Brandywine River Museum

UPDATE FOR READERS:

Click here for a post on Andrew Wyeth’s passing on Januaury 15, 2009.

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Over the years I’ve seen some great exhibits at the Philadelphia Museum of Art including the Renoir Landscapes and the recent one featuring Frida Kahlo.  However, the one that will always stay with me most is the amazing Andrew Wyeth Memory & Magic exhibit.  His art highly influenced some of the imagery I tried to create in The Thief Maker and continues to captivate me. 

This summer I finally ventured out to the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, PA, which houses much of Andrew’s art as well as other painters and works from his father, N. C. Wyeth and son, Jamie Wyeth.  About an hour from my neck of the woods in South Jersey and about forty minutes from Center City Philadelphia, the museum is a picturesque three-story masterpiece that cozily wraps around a lazy stretch of the Brandywine River (where kayakers can be seen gently passing by) and is situated in quaint pastures just off of Route 1.  Part of the museum’s appeal beyond the beautiful setting is the level of intimacy it allows visitors to achieve with the works of the Wyeth Family, and in some cases, with actual members of the family.  Guided tours by shuttle-bus take you to the N. C. Wyeth House and Studio, and to be able to see the family quarters and the working space of three generations of world-renowned artists is a unique experience few other museums can claim. Continue reading

A Review of M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Happening”

My Mood Ring Indicates Laughter, 17 June 2008
4/10
Author: David H. Schleicher from New Jersey, USA

Some mysterious “event” causes people in the Northeast to start killing themselves (loved the Philadelphia Zoo scene!) and forces an unhappy couple (Mark Whalberg and Zooey Deschanel) to work on their marriage problems lest they die. The audience is put on the ground level as people react in different ways to the impending doom and the need to escape creates heightened paranoia. The half-decent set-up combined with an unintentionally funny screenplay make M. Night Shyamalan’s eco-disaster flick The Happening the most entertaining bad movie you’ll see all year.

Shyamalan has developed into a truly unique breed of director over the past decade. He’s capable of crafting a decent thriller (The Sixth Sense) but he’s also been responsible for one the worst films ever made (Signs) and some of the dumbest movies I have ever seen (Wide Awake and Lady in the Water). Whereas his tactics in Signs made me angry, I noticed something in Lady in the Water that gave me a perverse sense of hope. That film was so bad, it was almost good. With The Happening, Shyamalan has finally crossed that threshold, and he’s done it without irony or camp. He takes himself dead seriously, and he’s crafted the crap in The Happening beautifully. Special nods go to cinematographer Tak Fujimoto (who has become the premier photographer of trees and grass blowing in the wind) and James Newton Howard’s excellent film score.

In Shyamalan’s “Twilight Zone” universe, the scenes meant to be suspenseful or scary are instead hilarious, the moments meant to be emotional become banal, and the lines meant to be funny fall completely flat. The dialog in The Happening is so bad I think the academy should go back and take away his best screenplay nomination for The Sixth Sense. Watching poor Mark Whalberg (completely unbelievable as a science teacher who figures out what is happening) give what is possibly the worst performance of the last ten years makes you wonder how Shyamalan was ever able to direct Toni Collette and Haley Joel Osment to Oscar nods. Shyamalan leaves his cast, like the plants in the film, to blow in the wind without giving them a single helpful direction.

Despite all this, I have to admit I loved every stupid piece of this movie from Zooey Deschanel’s high-as-a-kite performance to the mood ring to Mark Whalberg talking to a potted plant to the crazy old lady in the woods to the people walking backwards. Shyamalan has performed a miracle by finally crafting another film that is suspenseful, but in all the wrong ways. When I wasn’t busy laughing, I was on the edge of my seat wondering when the film would finally dive off the deep end into complete idiocy, and it did in that “rifle” scene on the porch of the boarded-up house. Unlike an Uwe Boll who never showed a lick of talent, or a Michael Bay who has some technical skills but edits his films to the point of being unwatchable, Shyamalan has become an awful director whose films are completely watchable…and dare I say it…enjoyable.

Originally Published on the Internet Movie Database:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0949731/usercomments-437