The L.A. based writer talks about her blog, Sunset Gun, which focuses on classic films, cars and glamour, with a healthy dose of B-movie masterpieces thrown in.
Tell us about your blog.
I feel like I’m being called on in class here, but in a few sentences, my (ugh) blog (I hate the word blog. It’s ugly. I always call Sunset Gun my site), anyway, my site is about movies, some new movies, but mostly classic or eclectic cinema and directors I continually champion (like Von Trier, Polanski, Hellman, Aldrich, Fuller, Dassin…the list could go on). I love film noir, pre-Code pictures, cars, movies about cars, movies about crazy blonde women and watching John Garfield, Warren Oates, Lee Van Cleef, Richard Widmark, Alain Delon, Tuesday Weld, George Sanders or anything involving Barry Sullivan and Vittorio Gassman wresting in a swamp (that’s the under-seen masterwork Cry of the Hunted). There’s also music, and my obsession with stuffed animal claw machines, Dare Wright, Warren Beatty as Berry-Berry and Dennis Wilson. And I like to take pictures. That was more than a few sentences. Apologies.
How would you describe your readers? Do you have much contact with the people who read you?
My readers are not a specific type. At least I don’t think so. I get a lot of email from readers who love cars, noir, horror, 70s cinema, Jackie Wilson, Bon Scott and Tuesday Weld conspiracy experts (some believe she’s an Illuminati high priestess and her arch rival, who has only been referred to as K.M., is me…). I don’t have that much contact on my site – more on Facebook which I treat as an extension of Sunset Gun. I do love many of my readers. Even readers who hate me.
Tell us how – and why – you started your blog?
After writing for an alternative weekly where I was afforded more freedom, I became a film critic at a daily newspaper in Portland Oregon for three years and then made a pretty extreme move to Los Angeles (I dropped everything and essentially, left in the middle of the night, and in the snow. With a U-Haul and a car hitch!). I wanted to express myself further than I had at the daily and I wanted control. As much as I respect and appreciate my work and colleagues at the daily (it’s a great place to understand length and economy and especially grammar), I always felt over-edited. I yearned to really dig into movies and music and culture, and I wanted to do it instantly. I wanted to write freely about, say, Irreversible, or post a piece on Jacques Tourneur’s Nightfall. So why not create my own salon to do just that?
Describe your blog day – do you work at home? Go to a café? Sit in an office?
I work from my bedroom. Often in bed. I do not work from an office and rarely in a café. I take notes in cafés. I love writing on the train, however. My favorite place.
How do you find things to blog about and how do you decide that an entry is worth being in your blog?
They come to me sometimes, out of the blue. I might think about Monty Clift and Marilyn in The Misfits and then linger on his eyes and my fingers start flying. Or, I feel the urgency to discuss under-looked gems like Wicked Woman or the Jack Garfein directed Something Wild with Carroll Baker and Ralph Meeker (two posts I really need to finish writing). Occasionally I stew on a movie for such a long time that I don’t write and feel regretful (like I haven’t written about Antichrist yet). But usually, if I believe I can write or show something interesting, anything can be a post.
What is your favorite blog entry?
What was your most popular/controversial blog entry?
The Roman Polanski case and Repulsion. Though I received some nice support, I have never gotten so much mail in my life. I can handle it, and understand people’s sensitivity regarding the matter. Many readers against my take made reasonable, clear points. But some of the ugly, rape tinged, I-hope-you-never-bear-children salvos caused me to wonder what truly lies beneath these finger wagging moralists. They seemed to enjoy writing the words “anal rape” over and over again. They seemed to enjoy thinking I enjoyed thinking about it. I can be perverse, but they seemed like their subconsciouses could have a nice discussion with the protagonist of I Stand Alone. And then, certain bloggers attacked me (and a few championed my take, thank you Bright Lights After Dark) and even Nightline called me for a future interview. I thought I was humane, rational and personal about the matter, especially regarding Repulsion. And I stand by every word of it.
Is blogging the new path to fame and fortune?
It worked for Diablo Cody, didn’t it? Maybe a small amount of fame. Fortune? Not so sure about that. It would have been a wonderful outlet for Rupert Pupkin.
What separates journalism from blogging?
I worked at a newspaper, and though I never wrote hard news, there is a rigor and strictness, and that terror of making a mistake in print (no changing ink), and this thing called journalistic ethics that many bloggers ignore. Sometimes for better, often for worse. There’s so much sub-par online writing – so many long-winded posts that say very little, that I wish those bloggers would shoot their essays to an editor for word count, shaping and to remove those abused, “clever” asides. (I include myself in the abuse of asides, which I just did again). But then I also think the Wild West aspect of blogging is exciting – a form of new journalism, and the terrific online writers out there – those who, with style and nerve, cover movies and music and fashion and photography or whatever obsession – are doing a great service. And often for free! If the great bloggers all had say, a Clay Felker in their corner, we might see a more artistic renaissance. I hope it veers in that direction.
Who are the bloggers that you read religiously?
There’s the three S’s: Sheila, from The Sheila Variations, Siren, of Self-Styled Siren, and Stacie Ponder of Final Girl. They have style. They can write. They’re knowledgeable, which is great, but a lot of writers know things – these writers are witty, personal and obsessive in the best way possible. I know I’ll forget some, but I also read Jim Emerson’s Scanners, Dennis at Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule, Film Noir of the Week, Bright Lights After Dark (I love how contributor Erich Kuersten will shout it from the rooftops, he lets that cup runneth over). I adore James Wolcott and my good friend, “Czar of Noir” Eddie Muller whose Film Noir Foundation publishes the beautifully crafted Noir City Sentinel (join the foundation and you can receive the PDF version – here’s an excerpt: http://www.filmnoirfoundation.org/belita.pdf). And I check out Charlie Parker and Starlet Showcase constantly. Actually, I think I look at Starlet Showcase every day. I never tire of pretty girls.
How has your life changed because of your blog? Has it gone in any new directions because of your newfound prominence?
It’s helped me tremendously. Much of my extra work has come from Sunset Gun, including my column at Garage Magazine, my Hitlist blog at MSN Movies, my work with the Film Noir Foundation and the Noir Festivals, my DVD commentary on the excellent Lupino/Widmark/Wilde noir Road House, my guest critic spot with Richard Roeper and a beautiful Opus book (out this December) about Michael Jackson – the first one approved by the family and estate. I wrote three chapters – one about MJ the video visionary, one about his fashion, and one on Michael the dancer, which was actually emotional for me. Watching and studying all the things I love that inspired Michael, from Fred Astaire to James Brown to Bob Fosse, was profoundly moving. And sad. The blog/site has also helped me personally. It matters to me that someone might actually care about Tyrone Power in Nightmare Alley. Or Kris Kristofferson in Cisco Pike. Or John Garfield in He Ran All the Way. And I cherish the touching email Garfield’s daughter Julie sent me. I think the site keeps me sane. I hope. Maybe not.