June 30, 2008
The Maltese Falcon
This is the first movie I've ever seen Humphrey Bogart in, and I have to admit, he's very cool. His character - Sam Spade - is so vividly drawn, it's a joy to watch. He's so full of confidence, so unflappable, and yet so unpredictable... this was very good writing. I keep a little notebook handy when I watch these films and I write things that strike my fancy. Bits of dialogue, big moments, awesome plot twists, little details, just anything that I want to remember. I was writing a lot while watching this film. So many excellent lines.
This was clearly from a day when movies were still more like plays. And it occurred to me while watching this film that the modern demand of films to make a certain amount of real life sense was absent from those times. There are large and small things in this film that make no sense logically but that you kind of just accept because it's part of the story, much like you'd do with a play.
Anyway, I continue to be amazed at these old movies that entertain me. And here was another one. Watch it for Bogart's smooth coolness, some great lines, and a great mood.
3 out of 4
June 29, 2008
Solstice Canyon in Malibu
Today I decided to go hiking. There is a trail I had heard was excellent nearby, but that had been closed due to fires since November. It finally opened June 20th, and it was awesome. I love a lot of the hiking in the Santa Monica mountains, and Solstice Canyon is among one of my favorites.
Click on for some cool pictures (which would be cooler but I only had my iphone to take pictures)
There is a ruin (actually there are a lot of ruins, which makes the hike really fun and mysterious) of a very large Malibu estate which burned in 1982. One thing that's sad is it looks like it burned more because I found this picture of the same room from 2006.
You had to work for it, because the ascent was really quick and difficult, but once you reached the top of the mountain the view was incredible. You can't quite tell here, but that's the ocean in the distance.
There was this great 30 foot tall waterfall. And then you could climb up it and there was an awesome pool at the top with another waterfall, and then you could climb up that one and... another pool, and another waterfall, on and on until I was sweaty and exhausted and exhilarated and I had found a really deep pool that I vowed to come back to and swim when I had a mask and snorkel. This part was seriously like my dream hike: fairly challenging (but not impossible) climbs, waterfalls, pools (with newts in them!), caves... it was amazing to see. I finally had to turn around just because I didn't want to run out of daylight. And it's a good thing I did turn back, because I didn't realize just how hard the hike back to the parking lot was (the ascent I mentioned previously)... and I had already pushed myself with the waterfall climbing.
June 28, 2008
Reversal of Fortune
Some of you may know, at one point in my life I thought I'd like to be a lawyer. Not just any lawyer, but the kind you see in movies, the ones who argue with lives in the balance in a packed courtroom. But then, at one point I realized that I truly couldn't live with the idea of convicted an innocent person or setting a guilty one free. So I gave up the thought of becoming one. If I make a mistake, I want it to have much less tragic consequences!
But because of this, I'm a sucker for legal / courtroom films. I always imagine myself in them, because while I don't have any regret, I still think I would have liked being a lawyer.
Interestingly enough, Reversal of Fortune addresses my exact concern, about setting a guilty man free, and makes a pretty good ethical defense of defending someone regardless of whether you know they are innocent.
Based on a book by the famous Alan Derschowitz (one of the defenders of OJ), and telling a true story of how he was able to overturn a a rich man's conviction for the murder of his wife, this film offers no easy answers. It is very similar to Rashomon in that sense, where as an audience you are purposely left without knowing exactly what happened between the accused and his wife.
The film does make a good case for defending a man who might be guilty, and it also gives a great behind the scenes view of what it takes to mount a good legal appeal. it's a tightly written, well acted story, and very enjoyable.
Bonus: You get to watch the voice of Scar from the Lion King, Jeremy Irons, play the accused rich man, Claus Von Burrow. He's excellent, a very complex character. He utters a line here which in the Lion King, created 3 years later, he says in exactly the same way. "You have no idea." Obviously Disney was having some fun with that one.
And speaking of fun, It's fun to watch a young Felicity Huffman in this film.
I saw two animated films in the theater today!
You have to see Wall-E. It's an achievement... those geniuses at Pixar have really made a masterpiece here. It's a beautiful story, one very similar in theme to Bladerunner, oddly enough (humans learn about really living from machines) and it's just.... amazing. it'll make you laugh, and probably make you cry. It'll give you chills.
PS. Kung Fu Panda was really good too.
June 26, 2008
Really encouraging - Well Adjusted Boy related
I was recently asked to submit A Well Adjusted Boy to a producer in town who had read the logline and thought it looked intriguing. I sent it yesterday... she wrote me back today.
just wanted to let you know that i read well adjusted last night,,,and cried the last 10 pages or so... and before those pages, i was thoroughly intrigued and fascinated. the characters were brilliant.
loved the script. absolutely loved it. asked [her boss] to read it this weekend... hope you don't mind. also asked my fiance to read it, as i know it will affect him as it did me. i hope you don't mind. i
believe [her boss] will respond to it, given his own personal experiences, and i believe my fiance will respond for the same reason. i guess we all have our own issues... [her boss] said he would read it over the weekend, so hopefully he will do so. i am anxious to hear his response.
i hope you don't mind, but when i told him who wrote it, he told me that he remembered you and that your father was a minister... which made me realize why your material explores religion (at least the two
scripts you have submitted to me). i just started reading the other script at work, but need to finish it. again, good stuff...
what are your plans for these projects? i just want to know before i attempt to push one or both of them...
thanks again for sending them to me. well adjusted boy really spoke to me on so many levels... that is why i wanted other people to read them, because i want to make sure i am not projecting my own issues on to a project...
will be in touch soon!
Not bad news at all. In all honesty, this is the very reason I write. To create a story that touches someone this much... it's exhilarating and makes me feel like a success already. All script sales and mansions in Malibu aside, this is why I do this.
This is a sci-fi classic from 1982. The basic idea is that mankind has created genetic clones of humans, called "replicants," to work as slaves (labor and pleasure oriented.) But as a result of a revolt, they are banned from earth, and only allowed in "off world" colonies.
As a safeguard, the replicants are created with just a 4 year lifespan, so that even if they go haywire, they can only go bad for 4 years at the most.
But a group of 6 replicants come back to earth to find their creator because they want to live longer. They are violent, and killing people to fulfill their quest. Enter Harrison Ford, who's excellent in the role as a "Blade Runner," a police officer who's job is to hunt replicants.
In the end Ford learns more about being human and preciousness of life and love from these replicants then he himself knew... in other words, these clones teach him how to appreciate being human. This is the kind of film that makes me angry when people assume that action, sci-fi movies can't have a heart. As with Terminator and T2 (both of which I thought were better than this film), this is a shining example of how awesome effects laden sci-fi can be when it tries to tell a story "that matters."
3 out of 4
A Clockwork Orange
This is one messed up film. I mean really, truly twisted in a "oh my goodness I can't believe what I'm see and hearing right now" way. It's probably the first masterpiece that I don't think I could really recommend to someone... The violence is so over the top and disturbing.
Yet it did win me over by the end. The bombastic use of visuals and Ludwig Van music and ridiculous voice overs is total artistic genius, and the story and message are both quite interesting and compelling. So, while I won't recommend it, I will say that it's a shock to the system, but I'm glad I saw this film in the end.
3 out of 4
This is a slow burn emotional film directed by Robert Redford. It explores the aftermath of a family who loses a son, and how the mother, father, and brother all deal with it. It's an intense film, where the son is suicidal, and the mother is angry that he is the one who lives when her favorite son dies, and the father doesn't know how to handle this situation.
It's a very good film. In many ways, it reminds me of Good Will Hunting, where the boy forges a healing bond with a therapist, played by Taxi's Judd Hirsh...
After all, it won Best Picture in 1980, so it has to be good. The reason it works is because Redford shows a lot of restraint and allows the emotions to be subtle and pulled back some. It's never melodramatic, even though the story could be played that way in lesser hands.
3 out of 4
An Update on the Short Film Script
Trevor loved the screenplay I wrote, and said it was awesome and he could really see it on the screen. He liked all the choices I made in adapting it... so basically it's all good news.
He also said that Dan (the main exec in the office) wants to produce the project, so this really might be a real film that will get me credits and everything.
June 25, 2008
Goal Check In
I went through the 7 page treatment today and rewrote parts, getting it ready for my writing group, so I can really lock in on the story and write an outline.
I turned in my first draft to the director... haven't heard back yet. That's always the worst, working like mad on something, finally give it to someone and be met with silence. But it doesn't mean they hate it, there could be a ton of reasons that would happen. But still, it's always better to hear back immediately with a nice strong "Genius! The best thing I've ever read!"
I wrote my 3 page treatment for the whole episode, and I'm pretty happy with it so far. It's very funny, and feels very true to a Curb Your Enthusiasm show... Of course it needs work, but it's great to have a lot of that work out of the way.
Making the Bed
Every day so far. Not bad, right? I even did dishes today.
I'll have to shave it once I go back to be with Darby and the kids. It freaks the kids out. But it's fun to have for now...
I also worked out, did my taxes (finally mailed them off!), booked flights, and put a good number of things up for sale on eBay today.
It's AMAZING to me how much time there is to just do STUFF when you live alone. I mean, it's incredible. I get a ton accomplished and then find I still have a ton of time to do more.
But I would not trade this vast landscape of time for being harried and stressed to get the things... because I definitely miss time with the kids and Darby. It's crazy! Last Friday I realized that I went most of the day without speaking out loud at all. I even managed to go get a haircut in Westwood.
June 23, 2008
My short film script - The Interlopers
Cross one of the list of goals, I worked hard over the weekend and finished a first draft and two slight rewrites of the adaptation of the short story for Trevor at Maguire. I sent it to him today. I really like it, and think it will make an excellent short...
I'll keep you posted.
While I didn't care for his more famous classic, The Lady Eve, I greatly enjoyed this Preston Sturges film. It's about a director who decides he wants to make "more important films" so he sets out to discover what it's like to be poor and downtrodden. Of course, calamity and hilarity ensues, and I'm pleased to report that actually the intended humor was funny (for me) and I laughed quite a lot.
The female lead, Veronica Lake, was completely charming, and the overall story hit a sweet spot for me. And there's a scene late in the film where convicts watch a Mickey Mouse short film at a black church... and it just spoke to me so much because I believe that stories really do fulfill such a deep human spiritual need... You have to see this scene to understand what I'm saying, but it really is quite beautiful.
3 out of 4
PS. If you remember, when I saw Some Like It Hot, I commented on how this old movie so easily mixed a lot of bloodshed and slaughter into a comedy, and that it seemed strange to me. This film does the same thing, with a hobo being run over by a train and blood spattering on his cloths... It was nasty.
This is a well-crafted, amazingly intricate suspense film where the audience isn't sure whether the lead character is a victim of a horrible plot or merely paranoid for quite a lot of the movie. And the pay-off is big and satisfying (if a tad bit cheesy by modern stadards, admittedly.) But once you know "the truth" you can look back and see all the meticulous set-ups and pay-offs which are spread throughout the film, many of which the filmmakers don't make explicit, but rather trust their audience to be smart enough to remember them on their own.
Make no mistake, this is a film oozing with creepiness, and in a good way. Not horrific, like the Exorcist, but just an unsettling dread throughout, a sense that something is not quite right, an impending doom. It works.
I'd highly recommend it (though be warned, there is a very trippy dream sequence with some extremely disturbing imagery. This film earns its R rating.)
* A young Mia Farrow looks a whole lot like Gwyneth Paltrow in my opinion.
* Ruth Gordon, of Harold and Maude fame, completely steals this film. She is incredible.
* This film doesn't have a happy ending, at all... and in fact it's quite subversive. But it's pretty satisfying from a filmmaking perspective.
* I've discovered that I love American films from the late 60s and early 70s. Who knew?
4 out of 4
June 21, 2008
Just to put them all out there so people can either rejoice along with me or rub my face in my failures (depending on how things turn out), I wanted to make it a matter of record what I hope to accomplish this summer while in LA.
1) Write another feature film. The romantic comedy "Just Marry Him." (I will finish this by 9/1)
2) Write a Curb Your Enthusiasm spec script.
3) Prepare my own two 3-5 minute short film scripts for shooting in August.
4) Write the short film script for Trevor at Maguire (the adaptation of the public domain short story he wants to direct and film this summer).
Then there are some unrelated to film:
1) Grow a beard.
2) Make the bed every day.
3) Play an amazing concert with the Look Machine
4) Maybe even record a 2-3 song EP (how awesome would that be, fellows? Lose Yourself, Sing You A Song, and something else!)
If I do all those things, this will have been a VERY productive summer.
The Laugh Factory
Today while I was working at Maguire, a fellow intern told me he had free tickets to see a comedy show at the World Famous Laugh Factory. I thought... huh, why not, Darby and the kids are out of town and this is the kind of thing I'd normally not do because they were home waiting for me.
It turned out it was a real great time. All three of the comics were HILARIOUS. Look them up on youtube, you won't regret it... they are:
I'm glad that I can now say I've been to the Laugh Factory. Now I just have to go to the Comedy Store, too. And actually, I enjoyed it so much, I might go next Friday, too. Seriously, it was really really funny.
Cool Hand Luke
One of the great things about going back and watching all these old classics is that I'm gaining such an appreciation for movie stars who by the time I was watching films were older and not quite the stars they had been. To discover them in their prime has been a really eye-opening experience, whether it was Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe in Some Like it Hot, or Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty in Bonnie and Clyde, and now... Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke. Yes, he did more than make salad dressing. A whole lot more.
He's a total and complete star in this film, which is quite excellent. He plays a small town crook who gets assigned to a prison work camp and keeps trying to escape. In many ways, this film draws a whole lot of parallels for me to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, only not as funny, and criminals instead of mental patients.
It's also got something of a twist, which was satisfying and completely surprised me. And, it's the origin of that famous movie quote "What we got here in a failure to communicate" that Guns N Roses uses in their song "Civil War."
If all that isn't cool enough to get you to watch it, then I don't know what to tell you.
3 out of 4.
There Are Crazy People All Around!
I often hear people say things like "People would never do that!" when you are talking about a TV Show or watching a Film... and I used to agree. But now I believe that actually you can find some crazy person out there who will do just about anything, regardless of how little sense it makes.
Two examples for you:
* Almost 30 girls (no older than 16!) in Massachusetts made a "pregnancy pact" so they could all get pregnant and raise their kids together. At least 17 were successful.... one choose a 24 year old homeless man as the father. People are wondering if the portrayal of pregnancy in the hit film Juno might have had something to do with it. Read about it here.
* The second one I don't even want to put into words on this blog. It's horrible. But if you're curious you can read about it here. But you've been warned, it's really terrible, disgusting behavior!
What in the world is wrong with people?
June 19, 2008
I mentioned this short film before, but now it's actually viewable.
You HAVE to watch it until the end, the 4 minute film is so beautiful and amazing.
Watch it here.
It's by an animation graduate student at UCLA.
Beauty and the Beast
This isn't the Disney animated classic from the 90's. This is the 1939 French Language film. That alone would probably be enough to scare you away, but in truth it was a highly watchable, beautiful film. The surreal effects are visually impressive, especialy when you consider they were all accomplished long before special effects were really an expertise in filmmaking.
But overall, if you're already familiar with this fairytale, there isn't a ton here to discover anew outside of the look of the film. The plot and story differences between this version and the Disney version all tended to make me appreciate the choices the Disney version made, as I think they served the story much better.
Still, if you want an idea of good effects from the 1930's and a romantic movie, it's worth your time.
2 out of 4
Trying to Prove I'm Not A Complete Loser
I just realized that this will be the longest I've ever lived by myself in my entire life. I'm a very independent person, maybe even too independent (depending on who you're asking, like maybe Darby). But at the same time, I went from living with my parents, to living with my good friend Joe, then more roommates moved in with us, and then I married Darby.
Consequently, I don't think I'm very good at living by myself. I miss having other people hanging out in the house. It may drive Darby crazy when the kids wake up at night, but I actually often like it because it's a great reminder that there are people out there who love me and want me to be near them.
But actually, where I am worst at living by myself is that in the past it has turned me into a complete loser. It's like its such a rare occurance that I decide to take a vacation from being at all civilized. Darby thinks I'm a slob when she's around, but in honesty she should see me when she's not around. In truth, I do work very hard to not horrify her. When I change my clothes, I simply drop them wherever I may be, on the floor. I leave dishes all around. I don't wake up on time. I play too many video games. It's pretty depressing.
In this time, I'm trying to prove I don't have to be this way. So far, so good. I've woken up at 8.30 am, already exercised, did work I had to finish, put dishes in the sink, and put all my clothes away. Hopefully I can continue on with these basic life skills.
June 18, 2008
missing a piece of me
I'm going back to LA while Darby and Lyric and Ollie stay on the East Coast. It's really bumming me out, more than I even anticipated. Those 3 are such an integral part of my life it's like things just aren't right when I'm away from them for any lengthy period of time.
Ollie often asks me who I love more, him or me. I think it's a funny question, but I can easily and honestly answer him every time, which I think is an answer he likes. Then he asks me who I love more, Lyric or me. Again, easy. Lyric. Darby or me. Darby. Then he gets sneaky and asks who I love more, him or Lyric! I tell him I can't choose and he says I have to. I tell him I'm the daddy and I don't have to. He laughs and that's that.
And the truth that illuminates is that I love those three so much and seeing how much they love me too, their sad teary eyes when I had to go, only makes me love them more. While spending this time in LA is necessary for certain goals I have to accomplish this summer... I am counting the days until July so I can be with them again!
June 14, 2008
Back on the East Coast
It took much longer than expected, but here I am, back in the good old tri-state area. (Those tri-states being MD, PA, and DE, by the way.)
I sat down on the plane at LAX and immediately we are told, "There will be a 2.5 hour delay for take-off."
But I was resolved to making my flight and delay production. I read a friend's whole script and wrote very involved notes for it. And...
I finished my latest screenplay!
And I quite like it. Although I don't know what my problem is lately. This one, the one I thought would be around 90 pages and "a breeze" ended up being 135 pages long. I need to cut that down considerably!
All told though, I got a ton of the emotional that I was hoping for, and about 60% of the imaginative fun of a fantasy world that I think I'll have in the final draft.
It's funny with this one, after lumbering through the first 60 pages at a very slow 6 pages per week pace, I wrote the last 65 in one week. And actually, the last 45 in two days.
It's such an odd feeling leaving Philadelphia Airport and driving on I-95 in our old convertible VW, as if none of the California stuff has actually happened, that it was just a dream... And my GPS, which was turned off and in my suitcase for the flight, was awfully disoriented by the change too. It practically screamed "How did we get across the country and why wasn't I activated to navigate it!"
It's late, I'm going to bed.
For those of you keeping track. The Kingdom of Tovenray marks the third screenplay I've written at UCLA, and my 8th screenplay overall.
Of course, I'm only trying to write top tier screenplays anymore, but I think by the 4th or 5th draft, this one will definitely be ranked up there with me. It's a tremendous amount of fun and I really want to see it on the screen.
June 11, 2008
Long for the Machine
Today I drove for one of Ollie's fieldtrips, to a strawberry farm about an hour away. I drove with a parent of one of Ollie's friends, Mike (who is also a good friend of Darby and mine). He wanted to hear Darby's music, so I played Casting Out stuff for him, and then he wanted to her The Look Machine too.
It was weird, I hadn't listened to us for a while now, and playing the album again with him listening was a pretty bittersweet experience. It sounded good, something I could be proud of... but at the same time, I really missed playing that music, and writing new music, and playing with this group of peope.
I'm looking forward to the summer when we get to play again, for sure.
From Coast to Coast
In two days I'll be flying back to the east coast with Darby and the kids. It's crazy to me that I've just completed my first year here at UCLA. It seems like not very long ago that we were stressed about moving out here, and now we're stressed about visiting back home for the summer.
I feel very bad for Darby and Lyric, because both of them have the hardest time with transitions and right now our lives seem marked by major transitions at every turn. Ollie and I seem to handle them with ease, but poor Darby and Lyric just have the most difficult time.
I'm only going to be on the east coast for 5 days and then I'm actually coming back until July 15th, while Darby and the kids stay in Delaware visiting family and friends. I've got a number of promising things going on here in LA that I don't want to miss out on, but I'm really sad abou the prospect of being away from them for a whole month...
June 09, 2008
The Lives of Others
This German made film is incredible. It's about a Eastern European State Security Officer who is assigned to monitor a prominent playwrite. It's such an emotional journey, beautifully acted, filled with organic conflict and amazing character interactions.
I cannot recommend it enough!
June 08, 2008
I'm on page 84 of my Tovenray's script. I thought it would be a 90 page script, but as of right now there is more story than that... It's looking more like 115 for the first draft. I really want to finish it! I want to write it as a novel next, actually.
I saw the movie "300" and I still don't quite know what to make of it. I think I liked it, but it was so weird and I wouldn't like it if many more movies were made in that style. It felt like I was watching a ton of cut-scenes from video games. Some shots were just gorgeous, and in the end it won me over. But it was so odd, all those greenscreen backgrounds, and slowmotion, and washed out hyper-real colors, and constant voiceover telling us things that we were seeing so we didn't really need to hear it. What can I say... SPARTA! It was certainly imaginative, and their vision of everything was mindblowing. I guess I liked it.
The executive at my internship said he wanted to talk to me about my story treatment that I submitted, because he had heard about it from the assistant and thought it sounded really good.
June 05, 2008
This is one of those films that you hear about all the time, it's completely iconic. I do have to say, it oozes style and I do feel like it's perfectly capturing a time and a lifestyle. And yes, I enjoyed it. Yet I couldn't shake the feeling that it's an extended music video with lots of a scenes of motorcyles and beautiful landscape set to classic rock tunes. Now this isn't really a criticism, it's fun to watch this stuff.
OK, that's not all there is by any stretch. It's a celebration of 60's counter-culture... where "all the cities are the same" in that their big business corporate culture creates cookie cutters that can only be escaped by getting out into nature and finding yourself. The only places in the film that aren't nightmarish are those beautiful landscapes and a peaceful age of aquarius commune.
And the good old boys can't handle anyone different, to the point of murder... it's a scary world.
Oh, and there's a completely wacked out acid trip in a cemetery in New Orleans.
Overall, I feel like I just stepped out of a time machine, and it was a weird wacky groovy trip that I didn't mind taking. The film had so much style that it's lack of humor or plot or much of anything that a movie normally needs didn't really matter.
3 out of 4 – You would probably like this film
June 04, 2008
Pretty cool situation
The assistant at Maguire Entertainment is an aspiring director, and he and I get along very well. I was psyched because today he sent me a short story he wants to shoot as a short film, asking my thoughts about it. I shared my notes on the idea, which he really appreciated.
And he wants me to collaborate with him on the screenplay for it. I'm excited about it for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the story itself is strong and cinematic. But also because it's always nice to find a creative match, and the assistant has read a couple of my screenplays and he obviously likes them enough to want me to work on one of his own projects.
I know it sounds weird, but whenever someone who isn't family or friend actually likes my writing, it's a special thrill.
June 03, 2008
I have recently learned that my sister, Jessica (happy birthday!), is always sucking her stomach in and flexing her ab muscles. She said this is pretty normal behavior if you don't want to look like you have a big stomach.
Does everyone else do this!? I've been trying and it's hard work.
June 01, 2008
Indy 4 - More commentary (not from me)
You already know I was disappointed. Here's an excellent write up about the flaws of the film, and why it didn't live up to the Indiana Jones franchise.
I agree with just about every one... great insight into movies in general.
Bonnie and Clyde
I've seen a ton of black and white foreign films lately... some with little semblance of story, most with little humor.
So it was a breath of fresh air to see "Bonnie and Clyde." This was a film with a great story, great acting, lots of laughs, lots of meaning, and it was instantly accessible for me.
It wasn't "work" to watch this movie, it was easy and fun and meaningful right away.
And Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty (two famous actors who I've never really seen in much) were perfect in their roles. Faye especially, she was just awesome.
In a similar way as the Sopranos, this film makes you care and cheer for total criminals. That's a very impressive feat, to make really psychopathic people sympathetic. I can't quite figure out why I like it so much when films do this. I think it's because we're all messed up, and it's comforting to know that you can still be loved. Or maybe guns are cool.
4 out of 4 - You should love this film.