Book Review: PreDumb: Before I Came To L.A. by Mark Hayes

PreDumb by Mark Hayes

So, two years ago, I had the pleasure to read, review, and recommend a book called Randumber by Irish comedian and DJ Mark Hayes.  In Randumber, Mark wrote about the experience of being an Irishman in that most American of cities, Los Angeles.  He brought a biting but never cruel wit to his examination of American culture and, if my previous review didn’t convince you to order that book, you should do so right now.

And while you’re ordering Randumber, why not go ahead and get Mark’s latest book, PreDumb: Before I Came To Los Angeles, as well?

As you might guess from the title, PreDumb serves as a prequel to Mark’s life in Los Angeles.  I’ve just recently finished reading it and, speaking as someone who is endlessly fascinated by her Irish roots, I absolutely loved it and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Written in an episodic fashion, PreDumb follows Mark’s life from his childhood and adolescence in Ireland to his adventures in Germany and Hong Kong.  Each chapter deals with a different topic, covering everything from Mark’s relationship with his family to his first awkward experiences with the opposite sex to the first time he drank booze.  There’s also a bit of space devoted to soccer because Mark is Irish, after all.

And that’s one of the main reasons why I enjoyed PreDumb.  While the experiences of childhood and adolescence are universal, Mark brings his own uniquely Irish spin to the telling.  As Mark writes at the beginning of one chapter, “Ireland is a great place to go if you ever want to hear some made up facts.  We are masters of myth.”  Myself, I can’t wait until I visit Ireland in person but, having read Predumb, I almost feel as if I’ve already been there.

Mark tells his stories with a gentle humor that’s full of both nostalgia and a very obvious love for the people that he left behind in Ireland when he came out to L.A.  The end result is a very likable book, one that celebrates both family and youth.  On a personal note, when I first started reading PreDumb, I was actually going through one of my dark moods.  Reading the book really helped to lighten my mood, it’s just such a cheerful and heartfelt story that there’s no way that it couldn’t have.

It’s a book that you should read.

You’ll enjoy it, I promise.

And you can order it here!

What Lisa Watched Last Night #104: Petals on the Wind (dir by Karen Moncrieff)

Last night, I watched the Lifetime original film, Petals On The Wind.

Why Was I Watching It?

It’s the sequel to one of the greatest Lifetime films of all time, Flowers in the Attic.  How could I not watch it?

What Was It About?

10 years have passed since the Dollanganger children escaped from the attic.  Christopher (Wyatt Nash) is a medical student who, despite being engaged, is still attracted to his sister, Cathy (Rose McIver).  Cathy is a dancer who finds herself trapped in an abusive relationship with the handsome but controlling Julian (Will Kemp).  And finally, Carrie (Bailey Buntain) is still struggling with her memories of being held prisoner.  After several tragedies occur outside of the attic, Cathy returns to Foxworth Hall, looking to get revenge on both her grandmother (Ellen Burstyn) and her mother (Heather Graham).

What Worked?

Heather Graham and Ellen Burstyn reprised their roles from Flowers in the Attic and both of them gave Emmy-worthy performances.  Burstyn, in particular, managed to invoke some sympathy for a potentially monstrous character while Graham brought a great combination of immaturity and evil to her character.

On a personal level, I appreciated all of the dancing.  It brought back a lot of good memories.

What Did Not Work?

Watching Petals On The Wind really made me appreciate Flowers in the Attic, which was great for Flowers but not so good for Petals.  As I sat there, trying to figure out why Petals just wasn’t working for me, it occurred to me that the strength of Flowers in the Attic was that the attic itself became as much a character as any of the Dollangangers.  Even more importantly, being trapped in that attic, gave all of the characters a link that went beyond family and sex.  For the viewer, that attic allowed us to know when the story had truly begun (when the kids were first locked up there) and when the story was over (when they finally got to leave).  In Petals, without the attic, the story of Dollangangers often felt formless and random.  As a result, the film may have been watchable but it was rarely compelling.

Since Petals was supposed to take place ten years after the end of Flowers, all of the Dollanganger children were recast.  And while Rose McIvar and Wyatt Nash are both talented, they didn’t have much chemistry when they were on screen together (especially when compared to their predecessors in Flowers).  That lack of chemistry made all of the incest even ickier than it would normally be.

“Oh my God! Just like me!” Moments

All of the dancing, of course!  I also have to admit that, like Cathy, I’ve known a few Julians.

Lessons Learned

From a narrative point of view, it is sometimes better to just stay in the attic.

Petals on the Wind

The Eternally Frustrating Nicolas Cage


Just put yourself in my 4 inch heels for a moment.

You’re a film blogger who, though her tastes may be quirky, can usually defend her opinions fairly well.  You make an effort to see films that others may have missed and you pride yourself on your willingness to take and defend unpopular positions.

And let’s say that you’ve defied the conventional wisdom of so many of your fellow bloggers by declaring that Nicolas Cage is still a good actor and he still has something to offer the film world, beyond bad movies and weird performances.  You’ve even reviewed a film called Joe and triumphantly declared that this film proves that Nicolas Cage is a “great actor.”

And maybe, when certain people on Facebook laughed at you for using the terms “great” and “Nicolas Cage” in the same sentence, you argued that Cage is about to make a Matthew McConaughey-style comeback.  How?  By playing challenging roles in intelligent indie films.  You might have even said, “McConaughey had his Killer Joe and Nicolas Cage has Joe.”

And then this trailer for an upcoming film is released:

Nic, I still believe in you but, oh my God, you do test me sometimes.