@
Cynthia Hawkins TNB Arts and Culture Editor CYNTHIA HAWKINS teaches creative writing at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Most of what she thinks she knows comes from movies, including how to tango, how to take someone down with a ballpoint pen, how to curse in French, and how to catch a moving train. Her work, on movies and otherwise, has appeared in literary journals and magazines such as ESPN the Magazine, Parent:Wise Magazine, The Good Men Project, New World Writing, Strange Horizons, and numerous alternative weeklies and anthologies. You can find Cynthia on Twitter and at cynthiahawkins.net.

Recent Work By Cynthia Hawkins

-1

It wasn’t too long ago that I thought undergoing chemo, again, would be the worst thing that could happen to me. I endured the first round a little under two years ago in the wake of a breast cancer diagnosis, the chemo infused through a medically inserted port just under my collarbone. Since then, I’ve had a lumpectomy, the port removed, radiation, recurrence, a double mastectomy with reconstruction, a hysterectomy, another recurrence, and another surgery. And in a few days I’ll be undergoing chemo once more, and I’m actually anxious to get started because, of course, chemo isn’t the worst thing. A particularly stubborn kind of cancer that keeps popping up again is. So on my last chemo-free weekend for the next several months, my husband, Joe, and I dropped my daughters off at my mom’s and bought tickets to Mad Max: Fury Road.

Desire Will Set You Free 2

When Yony Leyser wrapped his first film, the documentary William S. Burroughs: A Man Within, Leyser indulged TNB with a round of 21 Questions. Now, Leyser’s back with his second film, Desire Will Set You Free, a feature film he describes as “venturing into docufiction.” Starring Leyser, Amber Benson, Peaches, Nina Hagen, and other faces familiar to the Berlin underground, Desire Will Set You Free tells the story of the relationship between an “American writer of Israeli/Palestinian descent and a Russian aspiring artist working as a hustler, offering access to the city’s vibrant queer and underground scenes while examining the differences between expatriate and refugee life.” Leyser has completed shooting on the film and is now looking to Kickstarter to fund the rest as he’d successfully done with A Man Within. Leyser has blogged in-depth about the making of Desire Will Set You Free at Indiewire along the way, and as the Kickstarter nears its end I asked Leyser just a few questions about Desire Will Set You Free, a project based on his own experiences in Berlin.

It seems everyone I encounter in literary circles has had a Cheryl Strayed moment, a moment in which something Strayed has written, as the author of Wild or as The Rumpus’ dispenser of hard truths – “Dear Sugar,” has deeply resonated. For me, it would have to be this “Dear Sugar” response:

“Writing is hard for every last one of us—straight white men included. Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? They do not. They simply dig. You need to do the same. … So write, Elissa Bassist. Not like a girl. Not like a boy. Write like a motherfucker.”

It’s a quote I’d passed along to my creative nonfiction students one semester with my demure modification, “write like a mother fudgsicle.” But that’s what poises Strayed’s work for maximum impact. She doesn’t modify or shy away. She tells it like it is.  And Strayed’s circle of influence is rapidly widening as a result.

Screen Shot 2013-12-03 at 3.42.02 PM

First mammogram.  The machine’s clear plates squeeze in on my right breast.  A sticker clings just above the nipple.  Extreme’s “More Than Words” plays in the radiologist’s office.  I laugh when I should be holding my breath.  We have to start over.  One, two, three, now don’t breathe, the technician says.  She’s not laughing, anyway.  And she didn’t laugh when I told her that the sticker she applied, at a glance, looked like a sound-effects splat in a comic book – kapow!  The sticker marks the place where my doctor, one week prior, found something under her rolling fingertips.

Right there?

Right there.

frankenstein behind the scenes

Last Halloween, I’d asked a few Nervous Breakdown contributors to share their favorite terrifying movie scenes, and D. R. Haney was among them with his contribution from Rouben Mamoulian’s 1931 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I, on the other hand, had picked the tunnel scene from Willy Wonka, which I explain so you understand why I like collaborating with Duke. My brain grows three sizes bigger by association. He’s like a cinematic moral compass for which true north is James Dean. And this year for Halloween, Duke and I decided to discuss the classic tale that produced another old-school Hollywood icon.

h1203034Two Dollar Radio, the Columbus, Ohio boutique publisher of works such as Grace Krilanovich’s The Orange Eats Creeps and Joshua Mohr’s Termite Parade, recently announced the addition of a micro-budget film division, Two Dollar Radio Moving Pictures, set to release its first three titles beginning in 2015 with Editor-in-Chief Eric Obenauf’s I’m Not Patrick.  Subsequent films will include The Removals, written by Nicholas Rombes and directed by Krilanovich, and The Greenbriar Ghost, co-written and co-directed by Scott McClanahan and Chris Oxley.  I recently spoke via phone with Obenauf to learn more about Two Dollar Radio’s crowd-funded foray into indie film.

Start your New Year off with a little Bad Writing, Vernon Lott’s documentary featuring Margaret Atwood, David Sedaris, Nick Flynn and more, streaming for free all month:

 

pulp fiction

 

Once, to make up for a childhood deprived of the dance lessons, I enrolled myself in the nearest dance studio at age twenty-two. There I was, mastering heel digs and jazz hands with a dozen eleven-year-olds, living the dream. Mind you, I was 5’10 and all limbs, and when I wasn’t triggering a little-kid pile up I was working with the instructor on arm positioning to affect grace instead of sailor knots. It was a short-lived venture, but now I’m thinking I went about it the wrong way. Maybe all I needed were a few cinematic examples. So to usher in 2013 with the right moves, I’ve rounded up some of cinema’s most badass dance scenes in one handy playlist. Just to make things interesting, my rules were: no musicals (like Singing in the Rain) and no movies about dancing (like Footloose). And away we go:

Okay, full disclosure:  I’m not exactly a gamer.  In my house, you’ll find the likes of Skyrim, Call of Duty, and The Sims along with more than one brand of video console, but none of these are mine.  When I was eleven, you see, my mother sat me down in the doctor’s office as my right hand cramped into a seemingly permanent knot, convinced I was experiencing some kind of debilitating vitamin deficiency.  Nope.  It was Atari joystick carpal tunnel.  That was a thing.  And now you understand.  I’ve been on the wagon since 1987, but I’m willing to bail for Meriwether:  An American Epic, a role-playing game-in-development created by Sortasoft LLC designer Joshua DeBonis and writer (and, full disclosure, my friend) Carlos Hernandez.  The two met roughly five years ago via the Board Game Designers Forum in New York City where Hernandez learned of DeBonis’ fascination with the Lewis and Clark expedition and DeBonis learned of Hernandez’s gift for narrative.  Thus the Meriwether wheels were set in motion.  As Meriwether gathers funds from its Kickstarter campaign as well as interest from the likes of The Atlantic Monthly, I asked DeBonis and Hernandez to sit down for a conversation that covered everything from game design to the craft of writing to Borges to Roger Ebert to my eminent retreat from the real world sometime around November of 2013 when Meriwether officially drops.

With the November 20 release of Larry Clark’s Marfa Girl as a $5.99 pay-per-view feature-length film on his personal website, Clark (Kids, Bully) joins the ranks of indie directors (see Hal Hartley) who’ve been circumventing the system and, as he notes on his site, cutting out “the crooked Hollywood distributors.” Earlier this week Marfa Girl proved a hit at its Rome Film Festival premier, earning the Golden Marc’ Aurelio for Best Film. The synopsis from Clark’s site:

While the twenty-third Bond flick Skyfall enjoys its record-breaking box office debut, the auto and lifestyle online magazine Web2Carz is featuring an exclusive interview by Steve Karras with the man who’d shaped the look of the franchise in its earlier years – award-winning production designer Sir Ken Adam.  Adam has seven of the Bond films to his credits in addition to films like Agnes of God, The Madness of King George, and Dr. Strangelove. In the interview Adam discusses his family’s escape from Nazi Germany, his time in the RAF, 007, and his work with Stanley Kubrick.

Clint Eastwood’s tete-a-tete with a chair at the Republican National Convention seems a distant memory now that the 2012 election is a wrap, but at BAFTA’s Brittania Awards in Los Angeles last night Daniel Day-Lewis sat invisible Obama down for an encore of sorts.  Gesturing to an empty chair of his own, Day-Lewis, who received the Stanley Kubrick Award for Excellence in Acting from his Lincoln director Stephen Spielberg, said:

While I’d taken it upon myself to pick some horrific non-horror films a few Halloweens ago (Guillermo del Toro’s eyes-in-the-hands guy, you’re always on my mind), this year I was interested to know what my fellow TNB contributors might say were the most terrifying movie scenes they’ve endured to date. Below, if you dare to read on, you’ll find those iconic dead-eyed twins, bad hell-spawn hair, an unfathomable choice, and more, but first I’ll get this party started with Willy Wonka’s boat ride from the 1971 Mel Stuart film.  Most of my phobias can be traced back to these two manic minutes in the tunnel:

If you peruse the Arts and Culture archives of TNB’s 21 Questions, particularly the part that asks for a favorite actor, you’ll find Daniel Day-Lewis to be the most common answer.  He’s an actor’s actor, I suppose.  And also, he’s just that good.  I’m convinced, anyway, that if it weren’t for his casting as Abe in Spielberg’s Lincoln, fewer of us would be paying attention.  As TNB helmsman Brad Listi recently tweeted:

It would seem Alfred Hitchcock is silhouetting himself into the public consciousness once again. He’s everywhere these days. For one thing, Vertigo recently (finally!) rose above Citizen Kane to top Sight and Sound Magazine’s best movies of all time. All time. The end. For another, there are Hitchcock biopics aplenty on the horizon. On October 20, HBO premieres The Girl, based on Tippi Hedren’s account of working with Hitch on The Birds, and the feature film Hitchcock — starring Scarlett Johansson, Helen Mirren, and Anthony Hopkins as the man himself — hits the big screen November 23. Behold, the trailer: