From Janet, John & Pendleton

Sometimes we see, hear or use things that we think are pretty cool, fun, interesting or just something we want to share! So Welcome To Our “Cool Things” Page!

February 2023

Janet recommends:

The American Cinema by Andrew Sarris

Want to know the who what when where of the first 40 years of Cinema in America? This is the book for you…and even if you didn’t know you wanted to know…you’ll want to know. Sarris, a great film historian created a masterwork with this book. Here is a  little bit about him and his work as a critic…

Andrew Sarris Film critic: Andrew Sarris was the leading American proponent of the auteur theory, of which, holds that artistry in cinema can be largely attributed to film directors.  Writers and others in the collaborative mix, like actors, DoP’s, editors is a history of American film in the form of a lively guide to the work of two hundred film directors, from Renoir, chaplin, Lubitsch, Minelli, Kubrick , Lumet, Wilder, to name a few

There is an alphabetical list of over 6000 films with their directors and years of release, included in the book, plus two essays… the seminal; Toward a Theory of Film History” and “The Auteur Theory Revisited.

Logitech Roller Ball Blue Tooth Mouse

More cool things for writers!   I LOVE this mouse!  The also have one with a side grip.  It is a game changer for working on the computer with a separate keyboard and mouse. Saves your wrist and your hands! And makes the job easier! I’ll go for that!

John recommends:

On Set and Off Guard: Behind the Scenes With the Movie Greats by Marc Brincourt

I love a good coffee table picture book, and one of the best you will ever find on what life is like on set is On Set & Off Guard: Behind the Scenes with the Movie Greats by Marc Brincourt, Guillaume Clavieres and Jean-Pierre Bouyxou.  This is a large format book, for which the reader will be thankful.  Each photo has a movie legend, from Charlie Chaplin to Grace Kelly to Jack Nicholson to Orson Wells to.,..well…you name them, they’re probably in the book.  

Published in 2002, it doesn’t contain any “new” cinema greats. Just the classics. And 180 gorgeous photographs with text to accompany them will have you immersed into a time where the star was king and queen.  A glorious book if you can get your hands on one.

January 2023

Janet recommends:

A Memoir: The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man

No one was cooler than Paul Newman a new memoir and Documentary are based on his diary entries and interviews he did with friends back in 1986.  He and his friend, screenwriter Stewart Stern, began doing an oral history of interviewing the friends and family of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward and when done… Newman burnt the tapes…But not before they had been secretly transcribed by Stern for posterity.  Lucky he did…an unflinching look at a very private and public life of the beloved actors, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward.

A Documentary: The Last Movie Stars

A beautiful look at the extraordinaryily talented husband and wife in the limelight and behind the doors – Directed by Ethan Hawke – George Clooney, Laura Linney and other great actors read the “parts” of Paul, Joanne, and their friends and colleagues.

A Software: Final Draft Screenwriting Program

I have used Final Draft since it came out in 1991 and it was a game changer.  I had been using Scriptor – the first screenwriting software. But from the moment I used Final Draft , that was it for me.

The company has been great with support and help and when I’ve needed upgrades and any questions, they are right there to help.

Every writer I know uses Final Draft.  It makes screenwriting just a little easier with the great formatting quick keys and shortcuts, name banks and other great features that let you focus on the words, not the formatting!

John recommends:

Save The Cat! Strikes Back: More Trouble for Screenwriters to Get Into… and Out Of by Blake Snyder

Who doesn’t like a trilogy?!!! Star Wars, Lord of the Rings…and…Save the Cat!  The final Save the Cat! book I am recommending is Save the Cat! Strikes Back (More Trouble for Screenwriters to Get into…and Out of).

What I enjoy about Blake Snyder’s series of books is that they don’t just pertain to movies – although that is his background.  If you are interested in storytelling of any kind, the deep dives Snyder takes really does open your eyes and mind to the tremendous amount of skill it takes to coherently tell a good story.  

Inspired by the questions that were asked of him during lectures, workshops, meetings, feedback sessions and more, Snyder brings his learnings to the structure of writing fiction of any kind.  The final chapter of the book is a must read for anyone struggling with the tenacity needed to write: “Discipline, Focus and Positive Energy”.  I think we can all use a bit of that these days, huh?

December 2022

Janet recommends:

Fun Gifts and Cinema Laughter

A real treat to see some of the greatest movie stars in their bloopers!  Classics from the Golden Era of Hollywood

Make some egg nog or pour a favorite glass of wine or make that super rich and yummy hot chocolate and eat leftovers and watch!! Just brilliant!

You’ll want to see the movies after watching the actors blow their lines or literally fall on their face.

A Documentary: The Wild and Wonderful 30’s!

Narrated by the brilliant Joseph Cotten.

And The Sonos Beam Soundbar with Voice Control

This is a great gift for someone who wants to HEAR their movies at home!

A Gift for the serious film lover who watches movies at home:

Some great sound from the usually bland speakers on TVs….This Sonos is a great product and gives you a good “in the movie theatre” sound feel – Its’ made watching movies at home a lot more fun…especially the great Hollywood Musicals – Getting that pure analogue sound 

John recommends:

Save The Cat! Goes to the Movies: The Screenwriter’s Guide to Every Story Ever Told by Blake Snyder

Another month…another book.  And as it is the movie business, why not have a sequel?  Last month’s recommendation was Blake Snyder’s “Save the Cat!”, a fantastic look at the structure of storytelling through scriptwriting.

This month is the “Save the Cat!” excellent sequel “Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies”.  Snyder takes you through 50 classic movie scripts and 10 genres in a deep dive of what makes movies leap off the page.  Movies range from Kramer vs. Kramer to Legally Blande – from Titanic to The Bad News Bears.  

It’s a brilliant follow up and has been adored by both movie fans and film students alike. 

One thing I did when reading the original book was to watch the movies that were being written about, so I could get an even better understanding of where Snyder was coming from. I know this would be a fun exercise with this book, too.

So, if you’re looking for a Christmas gift to a filmmaker or fan, or if you just want to treat yourself…look no further than “Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies”.

November 2022

Janet recommends:

Waldo Salt: A Screenwriter’s Journey

MY MENTOR FRIEND AND THE MAN WHO HELPED ME USE MY VOICE. Waldo’s journey is astonishing in that he never quit, he held onto his moral principles and did the right thing when faced with terrible adversity in the Hollywood Blacklist.  WIthout a passport, unable to work under his own name, needing a front, he made enough to eek by – only to finally get a job as a screenwriter at the end of the Blacklist which led to him writing a script on spec (on his own no $) and ended up being hired to adapt, “Midnight Cowboy” – winning an Oscar and getting a second chance at a life out of the shadows. I miss him every day. 

John recommends:

Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting That You’ll Ever Need by Blake Snyder

I have, in my time, written short films, tv series and some feature films…But I’ve let the professionals do that while I concentrate on my acting.  One of the books I absolutely recommend is Save the Cat!.  It’s very much like Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey.  But whereas Vogler’s book applies the Hero’s Journey to all sorts of stories, including films, Snyder explicitly takes that journey and applies it to films. Many films. Over and over until you start to really the patterns in successful screenplays.

Films like Elf, Pirates of the Carribean, Godfather 2, American Beauty and many, many more.

I love going back to this book when working on my scripts…it’s so funny and rewarding. And it pretty much does what it says on the tin…it might be the last book you’ll ever need.  But watch this space.  He’s got sequels!!!!

Boyata Laptop Stand

The Boyata lap top stand is a life-and-hand-and-wrist-and-eye-and-neck saver!!!!

I love, love this stand.  As a writer I work at my desk, sometimes at the coffee table, sitting up on the bed and this stand is so flexible and strong and balanced…you can’t go wrong and your hands and eyes and neck will thank you.

October 2022

Janet recommends:

Lux Radio Theater


When Radio was TV!

Movie Stars would go into the Live Radio show theatres and do trimmed versions of their HIT movies!  Could you imagine Brad Pitt and Jake Gyllenhall doing a radio version of “BrokeBack Mountain”  0r a radio version of “ Pulp Fiction?”   With Willis, Samuel L. Jackson and Uma Thurman?  Well if it were the 1950’s they would have done!!!  But have fun and see how masterpieces of film became popular home entertainment in the days of radio!

John recommends:

Ian McKellen: The Biography

Ian McKellen: The Biography from Garry O’Connor is a fantastic look back at this phenomenal actor’s work.

Prior to the pandemic, McKellen toured the UK and visited every theatre in which he appeared, and my family and I were lucky enough to see him at The Arts Theatre in London, where I spent quite some time in the Reduced Shakespeare Company.  I have had the pleasure of meeting Ian McKellen a number of occasions, and he is a consummate professional and holds your attention through conversations small and large.  

Which is exactly what he does in this book.

Ian McKellen was around so much longer than from the time he put on the grey wizard robes and hat and took a handful of hobbits, elves and dwarves on an epic adventure.  He was creating his own adventures on the stages of the UK and beyond. Although so much of his career was on stage, it was his turn as Gandolf that cemented his celebrity status…and also let to another iconic character the will go down in film superhero lore – Magneto.

It’s a great read, but it doesn’t necessarily give you the “warts and all” McKellen that one would hope to unearth in a biography.  However, there is plenty enough to keep the film fan intrigued and engaged.

September 2022

John recommends:

By Design: A Hollywood Novel

I am going to continue with the books.  So when your eyes are tired of focusing on the screen and you need something to hold on to…I have you covered.

I first read this book nearly 25 years ago when it came out.  And managed to go to a reading when Waterstone’s had a store on Charing Cross Road.  The bookshop is long gone, but the signed book is still on my shelf and I loved being able to tell Richard E Grant how much I enjoyed it.

By Design: A Hollywood Novel is a hoot.  Sure, it divided critics when it came out. Some loved it. Some hated it. Some were right in the middle.  It isn’t a challenging read at all, and sometimes that is exactly what you need.

A funny, wry story of an interior designer dealing with the sleazy underbelly of Hollywood, By Design is full of one liners, ridiculous stories and a plethora of over the top characters. It’s fun to play the game of “I wonder who Richard is basing this character on…”  It’s obvious the books narrator, Vyvian, is modeled after R.E.G himself, as a well-heeled, white African-born man who moves to Hollywood.

Highly recommend this as a good holiday read, which shouldn’t take you more than a few days.

Janet recommends:

Logitech Di Novo Edge Bluetooth

This incredible Logitech Di Novo Edge Bluetooth keyboard has saved my hands and wrists for years! As a writer, I can’t live without my full-sized, extended keyboard.
They make a MX update…but I love this workhorse of a keyboard!

August 2022

Janet recommends:

The Carol Burnett Show

No one has ever created such brilliant and truly hilarious “spoofs” on Hollywood film in sketch comedy before or since! I hope their spoofs make you want to watch the films if you haven’t already!

John recommends:

Books from Rob Lowe

Rob Lowe’s life story is something almost unbelievable. A midwest upbringing to Hollywood stardom in the days when teen films were all the rage. Actors like Charlie Sheen, Emilio Estevez (another of Martin Sheen’s sons), Ralph Machhio – even Tom Cruise – were lighting up the cinema. And Rob Lowe was right there among him. An incredibly good=looking young hunk of Hollywood, Lowe discovered the dangers of excess and success…and he doesn’t hold back in the two incredibly insightful autobiographies.

The first is Stories I Only Tell My Friends which was released over a decade ago. Lowe takes you right back to his earliest days of acting right up to West Wing and beyond. This was quickly followed by Love Life in 2014. The stories in this follow-up are much more personal and deal with the intimate parts of Lowe’s life that remained hidden pretty much up to the publication of this book.

They are easy, quick read and a brilliant insight into the dirty ways of 80’s and 90’s Hollywood, child performers and addiction recovery.

July 2022

Janet recommends:

Five Came Back

The five filmmakers who gave up their Hollywood careers to film WWII and /or make films for the War Department.

John recommends:

Uncommon Type

Uncommon Type is a collection of fantastic short stories from none other than the nicest guy in Hollywood – Tom Hanks! The stories vary in length from a few pages to an almost full blown hour-long drama script (and in the style of a screenplay). It shows the range of characters that live inside Hanks’ head, from soldiers to struggling actors to a journalist…even to a recent divorceé.

Each story is expertly crafted and entirely engaging. As you may or may not know, Tom Hanks is an aficionado on classic typewriters, and I can almost feel the typewriter smashing into each page, mechanically but beautifully constructing a book of stories that can be revisited again and again. Pretty much just like any Tom Hanks movie!

Janet recommends:

Pauline Kael: I Lost it at the Movies

One of the most legendarily great film critics, Pauline Kael – who died in September 2001, was absolutely the most influential American film critics of her era, and has left lasting impression on film criticism.. With her movies were all personal. She joined The New Yorker in 1968.

As a little girl we had the New Yorker subscription as a xmas present from my dad’s east coast mom and I devoured Kael’s reviews from the time I was about 6! I was movie mad.


Janet recommends:

John Lahr: Film Journalist-Playwright-Biographer-Novelist

I LOVED JOHN LAHR’S film and theatre reviews, again, since I was a little girl reading The New Yorker in my South Central LA tract home in Southern California. I dreamt of movies and of some day going to New York…and John’s writings and books have given me more dreams.

We’ve become friends in London and I can’t say enough about what a wonderful person he is, how his friendship has brightened my life and what joy spending an afternoon or evening with him and his fabulous wife, Connie is on every level.

Enjoy his works! Read his past reviews and Present reviews. At the New Yorker full time from 1992 – 2013 and still does reviews. He was a literary adviser to the Guthrie THreare, the Vivan Beaumont Theatre in NYC and then Lincoln Center Erp in the 70’s. He co-wrote Elaine Stritch’s one-woman show Elaine Stritch at Liberty. He and Stritch won a Tony Award and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Book of a Musical for the show.

June 2022

Janet recommends:

Dawson City: Frozen Time

That these films that survived in the ice in Alaska’s outback is incredible. The tale of how films were found and revived!

John recommends:


As actor biographies go, this one is a shining example of how to do it. McConaughey has been keeping a diary since his teens, which adds the incredible insights of what it takes to “make it” not only in Hollywood, but in life; grit, determination and a true sense of self-worth. This book goes beyond a traditional biography, too, in the sense that he delves into mental health awareness with wonderful quotes that you could (and should) print out and tack to your walls! And if you want to read along with his voice in your head, make sure to check out the audiobook version – it’s read by Matthew himself.

Janet recommends:

Truffaut on Hitchcock

One of my favorite film books ever – mesmerizing… totally inspiring. Two totally different people bonded by film and respect.

What can I say except the French Director of master pieces like: “500 Blows” and “Jules and Jim” and Master Cinephile ( and one of the writers of
Cahiers du Cinéma the famous ground-breaking film periodical founded in 1951 by André Bazin ) spent many hours in 1962 having week-long interview with Alfred Hitchcock. A great book if you love movies!