Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Movie Review: Bridge of Spies


Bridge of Spies is the 2015 full-length movie directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance, which chronicles the capture of Soviet spy Rudolph Abel (played brilliantly by Rylance) and Abel's trial, conviction and subsequent exchange for Francis Gary Powers, the U-2 spy plane pilot shot down and captured by the Soviets. Inspired by--and holding reasonably well to--the true story, Bridge of Spies is the story of Brooklyn attorney James Donovan (played by Tom Hanks) who is tasked with the job of defending Abel, incurring as he does the wrath of just about everyone, including his fellow New Yorkers, his wife, and the members of the New York Bar Association who asked him to do it. Suspenseful, painstakingly crafted and wonderfully written, Bridge of Spies is a throwback to a time in cinema when writing, direction and acting ruled the stage. 



And let's not forget cinematography, either. The camera work in Bridge of Spies is excellent from start to finish, a collection of angles, lens and filters that transports the viewer back to the late 50's. Spielberg's direction is top notch as well; each scene works, and there is no inessential material--the bane of modern Hollywood. 



The heart of the movie, though, is the acting. As much as I loved the screenplay (which was nominated for--but did not receive--an Oscar) Bridge of Spies is what it is because of two excellent performances by veteran silver screen performers. Hanks is brilliant as Jim Donovan, a role in which he could have been guilty of over-dramatization many times but never was. It was a steady portrayal, and one that manifested great restraint--which I would like to see more of  in modern day Hollywood. Hanks should be commended, but wasn't--no nomination for the Oscar as a lead actor in this effort. His portrayal of the civic minded lawyer draws many parallels to Gregory Peck's portrayal of Atticus Finch iTo Kill A Mockingbird (for which he won the Oscar for Best Actor, and which is considered by many to be one of the finest acting jobs in the history of the big screen.) 



Rylance steals the show nevertheless, and was well worthy of his Oscar as the best supporting actor. You want to talk about restraint... Rylance more or less defines it in his role as the captured spy. If it is possible to make a Soviet agent--at the height of the Cold War, no less--sympathetic, likable and at the same time realistic, then Rylance does it with panache. I have not seen that much of Rylance in the past, but rest assured I will be seeing more of him in the future. And good luck to his agent, who will likely be answering the phone night and day for the foreseeable future.

No plans tonight? You do now. Enjoy.Cheers, peter


Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing physician, public speaker and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include THE INTERN, a novel based loosely on Peter's medical internship, excerpts of which can be seen on Wattpad; ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; and THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of The Book Stops Herethe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of three tribes on Triberr, The Big ThrillFiction Writers and The Book Shelf. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and fouchildren--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.


:)  






  

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The 6 Habits of Highly Effective Public Speakers, on The Saturday Evening Blog Post

The Saturday Evening Blog Post, Edition #21

Let's set the scene: You've been selected to speak at a public function and you would rather have a frontal lobotomy or get a root canal instead. You tried to say no, but maybe came out, and the maybe has morphed into a firm yes. You're stuck--unless you're lucky enough to contact the Spanish flu or get the Shingles. But don't panic--there's hope.

While it is true that some people were just born good speakers, many others have learned how to do it, and so can you. Without further ado, The 6 Habits of Highly Effective Public Speakers:

1) Brevity is the soul of wit--and all other forms of communication. Keep it brief. We can all remember otherwise good speakers who lost us by droning on too long. I once went to a funeral during which one of the eulogists went on for over 50 minutes--true story--and only finally sat down when the organist struck up for the third time. The caveat of this maxim is that you had darn well have something good say in those few minutes. But for heaven's sake keep it short.

2) An ounce of preparation is worth a pound of cure. Some people can speak well with minimal preparation, but most people can't. It is easy to pick out a poorly prepared speaker; look for a person who repeats himself often, jumps from one topic to the next without a thoughtful transition, speaks too quickly and without the proper enunciation, and who generally has the air of someone who wants to get the hell out of there. Good preparation breeds confidence, and confidence is the real secret of effective public speaking.


3) Remember people are listening to what you say, not reading what you wrote. You need to keep this in mind when you are speaking, but especially when you preparing the speech. Some speeches which read well don't orate well. Going back to #2 above, write a few sentences and practice orating them. See if they work on an auditory level. If you are going to write your whole speech out (I don't advise this, but it works for some people) write speeches with shorter sentences and leave natural pauses in place. When I edit speeches, the biggest thing I look to do is add pauses in the right spots, and to simplify sentence structure. As much I love to use the em-dash, parentheses, semi-colons, and colons in written prose, they rarely work for oration.

4) Speak, don't read. You can't engage an audience without looking at them. For this reason, many highly effective public speakers don't write their speeches at all. Unless there is a teleprompter (not the easiest thing to master) I prefer to keep a single sheet of paper in front of me on the lectern, on which I have written in block letters all the points I am trying to make. Underneath each heading I write my sub-points and any any phrases (in quotes) that work well toward making those sub-points. That's it. When I am done, I add any turns of phrase that worked particularly well toward getting my point across.

Keep in  mind that there is a connection between yourself--the speaker--and your audience, and this connection is one of the primary benefits of oration. The really good speakers are those who excel at making this connection. When I am writing, I can only imagine the reaction my audience is going to have; when I speak, I can feel how the audience is responding, and react accordingly. If they are responding well, I often elaborate on something; If they aren't responding, I move on to the next heading on my speech sheet. Remember, speaking is interactive in a way that writing isn't: a good speaker is sensitive to this interaction and evolves as the speech unfolds.

5) Begin well, and End Well. Toward this goal, I go ahead and write the first few sentences of my speech. Everyone gets a little nervous in these venues--some more than others--so it makes sense to commit the first 30 seconds to memory, so you can speak them to the audience and maintain eye contact and begin establishing the connection that is so important. Speaking publicly is a lot like playing a sport: start off well and things roll from there; start poorly and things go to hell in a hand-basket. If you are an inexperienced or not naturally inclined orator, a good start is an absolute must; write a good one, and practice delivering it.


6) Inflection, Inflection, Inflection. When I am trying to stress something (like just how important inflection is) I often lower my voice and speak slowly and softly. At other times I raise my voice. At no time do I speak in a quick monotone. Pausing is really a form of inflection. When I repeat something--and it better be worth repeating--I generally pause, and then repeat what I want to say in a slow whisper. The listener will get the message. This is a far better way of stressing a point than saying "This is really important" or "And I really mean this," which is amateurish, and implies that everything else you have said you didn't mean anything and isn't important.  And good oration is like good writing in that it is better to show than to tell--show them you are saying something is important by changing your inflection, as opposed to telling them it is important.

With those six points, the next time you are asked to give a presentation at work, or speak at a Rotary luncheon or commencement ceremony, you will be ready. Best of luck.


Cheers, peter


Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing physician, public speaker and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include THE INTERN, a novel based loosely on Peter's medical internship, excerpts of which can be seen on Wattpad; ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; and THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of The Book Stops Herethe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of three tribes on Triberr, The Big ThrillFiction Writers and The Book Shelf. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.


:)  




Friday, April 22, 2016

The Travelers: A Novel, on the #MINI Book Review


The Travelers, a novel by Chris Pavone, takes off on a similar course as did The Ex-Pats and The Accident, Pavone's first two efforts, which were both widely read and critically acclaimed. But this is Pavone's third novel, and the third novel can be tricky. Stay the course too much and one is accused of being formulaic; there are whispers of stagnation. Change it up too much and run the risk of losing your hard-earned readership.



No problem for Pavone. In his best work to date, the accomplished novelist takes a similar premise (a reluctant protagonist, ill-suited for spycraft by both training and inclination, thrust into the shadowy world of espionage and deceit) and travels with it, going beyond the horizons he established with his previous books, a transcendence he achieves almost wholly though his brilliant prose. The Ex-Pats and The Accident both feature outstanding settings, great pacing and superb plotting, and so does The Travelers, but this one, the critical third book, features an evolved writing style and richer, more complex characters. One is reminded of Olen Steinhauer and Robert Wilson, two of the best in the business of writing international thrillers.

If you are looking for a new name to reach for when you stand in front of the bookshelf, give Chris Pavone a try. The Travelers is smart, well written and entertaining.

As always with the #MINI, here are a few other book reviews from other--less respectable--sources:
New York Times Book Review
Washington Post Book Review
 
Cheers, peter


Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; and THE INTERN, a novel loosely based on Peter's medical internship, excerpts of which can be seen on Wattpad. Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of The Book Stops Herethe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of two tribes on Triberr, The Big Thrill and Fiction Writers. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.


:)  


Monday, March 7, 2016

Donald Trump and the New Presidential Politics: The Return of the #MINI


We are all aware that the field of candidates for the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination looks like a casting call for the new Three Stooges movie. The question is why. Why, in all of this land, can we not come up with something better than Donald Trump and the Three Dwarfs? (The word dwarf here alludes to size of character and scope of accomplishments only; this is not a reference to genitalia measurements, even though this has become something of a criteria on the Republican side of the race.)


After much thought--and a few dry martinis--I finally figured it out. What had perplexed me for so many weeks became readily apparent, almost obvious. Since this is the #MINI, I am going to tell you straight out, with no more beating around the bush. 


We--meaning me, you, and everybody else in this country--have created an election process that is so ridiculous that no decent person wants to run. If you don't think our process is ridiculous, let me remind you that Donald Trump is winning the Republican race. Hilarious, isn't it?


Ummmm, no. I mean, I used to think that way, but as the Republican convention draws near the humor has been lost like Mylie Cyrus' virginity. Imagine, if you will, Trump at the helm during the Cuban Missile Crisis (Mushroom clouds over the Caribbean.) Imagine Trump with the football during the Berlin Airlift (Nuclear dust clouds over most of Europe.) Think about trump leading the charge in the Cold War. (We're still shivering through a nuclear winter.)



A president needs to be calm, even-keeled, steady under pressure; Trump can't even shut his mouth when Marco Rubio insults his hand size. This country needs anything but a Trump-like buffoon in the Oval office, but the election process we have created favors one. What decent person with sound judgment wants to go through this circus? (Answer: No decent person with sound judgment.) That's why we have Ted Cruz (unimaginative, intolerant right-wing ideologue) Marco Rubio (petulant whiner who would sell his mother's soul to the devil to win the presidency) and John Kasich (the man that drove Lehman Brothers into bankruptcy and the country into the worst depression since the Great Depression.)


And that leaves us with Donald Trump, the man who has no:  qualifications for holding office; political experience; platform (claiming we're all going to be rich doesn't count); and issues in the penis size department--per his report, which has yet to be corroborated. Donald Trump has: the obligatory piles of cash to fund his own campaign; an ego the size of a small planet; and lots of experience making an idiot of himself on reality TV.


Maybe if we made this a shorter, less glitzy process decent candidates would consider running. The presidential race should be about qualifications, character, and issues, not bluster, false promises and braggadocio. But until we make substantiate changes in the way we choose our nominees, that's what we're going to get. 

Cheers, peter


Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; and THE INTERN, a novel loosely based on Peter's medical internship, excerpts of which can be seen on Wattpad. Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of The Book Stops Herethe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of two tribes on Triberr, The Big Thrill and Fiction Writers. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.


:)  


Thursday, February 25, 2016

6 Six Methods Not to Use When Editing Your Manuscript


As you might gather from the title of this post, I am editing my manuscript. Every once in a while, when my oxygenation levels get very close to frankly hypoxic (read, wicked low), I convince myself I love the process of turning my first draft (read, bloated, indulgent French mess) into something that's more or less readable. After going through this process with four novels, I have patented six unique and little-used methods to turn that diamond in the rough into the next great American novel. (Results may vary, success not guaranteed.) In no particular order, here are the six methods you can--but probably shouldn't--use to edit your manuscript.

1) Use all the time you've alotted for editing to do things you enjoy, like playing aboriginal instruments, teaching your cat to pee on the toilet or learning to curse in 100 languages (May the fleas of a thousand camels infest your armpits!) and let your mother edit the manuscript. I mean, come on, she's your mother, She's Going to Love It! And if she doesn't love it--take it as a sign to give up writing and take up the Didgeridoo.



2) Print out the manuscript and toss it up into a stiff breeze. Take out any page that is lost, found up-side down, or smeared with bird poop. The resulting manuscript will be quite a but shorter, and that's good, because your literary agent wanted you to tighten it up, right?



3) Invite all your friends over for a 'Bring Your Own Booze and Edit My Manuscript' Party. In addition to getting your manuscript edited (and possibly vomited on) there are some other perks. Many of your previous friends will never speak to you again, and who needs so many friends when there is NetFlix and HBO Go? Also, if you are looking for honest feedback, think Tequila. In Vino there may be Veritas, but in Tequila there is mucho Veritas.



4) Send the manuscript to your sixth-grade English teacher, you know, the one that said you had real potential. 


5) Take a lot of naps, learn to speak Entish, and send the manuscript to your literary agent as is. I mean, if you wrote it, it must be profound, right? Editing a masterpiece like this is akin to smearing finger paints on the Mona Lisa, adding a  row of kazoo players to the Boston Symphony Orchestra or putting windmills and fake volcanos on Augusta National. 



6) This would be the place where I write something intelligent, and reward you for wading all the way through this tripe. No such luck! (I will say this, however: I think the googly eyes on Mona really work.)

Cheers, peter
:)
Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; and THE INTERN, a novel loosely based on Peter's medical internship, excerpts of which can be seen on Wattpad. Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of Prose&Consthe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of two tribes on Triberr, The Big Thrill and Fiction Writers. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.


  



Sunday, January 17, 2016

Star Wars: The Forces Awakens, a movie review on The Saturday Evening Blog Post, Edition #20


At the same time brilliant and very average, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a difficult movie to watch. Immensely enjoyable and also sorely disappointing, the most recent edition of the Star Wars saga is an even harder movie to review. No one wants to hear anything but glowing reviews of the movie that brought back the entire cast from the original--blockbuster--movie: but I would be lying if I said they didn't leave a lot on the table. The Force Awakens was a good movie--no question about it--but it wasn't great, not by a long margin, despite every opportunity to be great.

 
 So the question is: Where did it go wrong? Why did its tremendous potential go unfulfilled? The simple answer is the screenplay. When you watch VII, it becomes very obvious early that a remake of the original Star Wars was at hand. And there's nothing wrong with that, especially when you add in a stellar new cast of characters intended to be the new face of the series.


Add that to the return of the big three, Han, Luke and Leia, and it's a lead-pipe cinch, right? Sorry, but no--this was a case of resting on your laurels in the extreme. The original Star Wars was an epic movie in every respect, yes, but that doesn't mean using essentially the same script is going to be epic again. Far from it: entertaining, yes; worth the price of admission, yes; epic, no. 

  

In addition to the lack of original plotting, I thought the dialogue was stilted as well, especially in the exchanges between Han and Leia, where approximately no chemistry was exhibited. Any watcher of the first three episodes (IV-VI) will tell you that the chemistry between Han and Leia made the film. Opportunity missed. I was also underwhelmed by the villains, both Kylo Ren and the Supreme Leader Snoke, who disappointed. Kylo Ren is a far cry from Lord Vader, and the Supreme Leader Snoke is not the Emperor, not at all.


But don't get me wrong, I would go see it again. And I will see it again--Daisy Ridley's performance as Rey left me wanting to see the next movie without delay.


It's four stars, then, for The Force Awakens, with great hopes for a better screenplay for Episode VIII. 

Cheers, peter
:) 


Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; and THE INTERN, a novel loosely based on Peter's medical internship, excerpts of which can be seen on Wattpad. Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of Prose&Consthe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of two tribes on Triberr, The Big Thrill and Fiction Writers. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.

 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Movie review: Spectre, on the Saturday Evening Blog Post, Edition #18



James Bond is more than a character in film and literature. James Bond is an icon, a fact that makes it exponentially more difficult for the directors, producers and actors of any given Bond film, who have--in addition to everything else--posterity to face. Bond films endure; Bond films collect on shelves and cases; Bond films are a genre of their own. And so I am sure that it was not without some trepidation that director Sam Mendes set about making Spectre, the 24th Bond film in a 52-year era.



As any Bond fan can tell you, the opening scene from a Bond film sets the stage for the movie--in dramatic fashion--and the opening scene in Spectre sets the stage in classic Bond style, brash and spectacular, leaving your mouth watering for more. The cinematography is consistent and excellent, subtle in places and over the top in the others, another trademark of the genre. The locations are everything you have come to expect; splashy, historic, and exotic. 

Action scenes and gadgetry have been a staple of Bond films since Bond was attacked by a flame-throwing tractor in Dr. No, and Spectre continues the evolution of the craft. That said, Producer Barbara Broccoli--daughter of the original producer, Albert Broccoli--does a masterful job not letting the action and the special effects steal the show, incorporating them seamlessly into the movie. 



What sets Bond apart, however, is style. No one has style like Bond; style is the reason why Bond is an icon. Anyone can escape an exploding fortress filled with armed mercenaries; Bond does it with his French cuff links still polished. But Bond's style goes way beyond his pressed tuxedo and perfect bow-tie.  Bond's style is an amalgam of bravado, hyperbolized English reserve, and his trademark witty ripostes. 

Daniel Craig elevates Bond's style to new and dizzying heights. If Bond is the very the essence of cool, then Daniel Craig's Bond is still cooler, and Daniel Craig's Spectre Bond is Bond at his completion. In Spectre, Bond's style reaches a new zenith--and I wish luck to the next actor who tries to match it. 




For every Bond, there is a Bond girl, and Léa Seydoux plays the part to perfection. Bond girls are smart, resilient, and--it goes without saying but I'll say it anyway--sexy, and Seydoux hits the trifecta with a fabulous performance. There is also a Bond car for every Bond, and Bond's sleek Aston Martin sets a new standard.


Add to all this a fantastic supporting cast (Ralph Fiennes really shines as M) and you have a Bond classic which will keep my BluRay player busy for a long time. 

It's five stars for Spectre.

Cheers, peter
:) 


Peter Hogenkamp is a practicing physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; and THE INTERN, a novel loosely based on Peter's medical internship, excerpts of which can be seen on Wattpad. Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of Prose&Consthe literary blog for readers and writers written by authors, editors, agents, publishers and poets; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and the chief of two tribes on Triberr, The Big Thrill and Fiction Writers. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. Peter can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.