July 31, 2008
They aren't exactly works of art, but I spent the evening work on storyboards for the short and now my hand hurts from drawing so much. They are very good because they force you to visualize your film beforehand and you end up with much more solid shots. I had to do them, because we're hiring a DP and I can't just tell the guy to "roll with it." I need to show him what I want.
I used to draw a lot. I used to be fairly good at it. Now, not so much. But with the animation class I took and now this, I'd like to shake some of the rust off and draw more.
This is the first page.
July 29, 2008
This is a total and complete shocker.
Bennigans is closing all their restaurants immediately! That's crazy, right? No more brownie bottom pies for me.
(For those of you with more expensive tastes, Steak and Ale is closing along with Bennigans, they belong to the same company.)
Attack of the Scary Movies!
Joe, Collin, and I got together and watched a number of Horror Films to dissect their shots, use of color and light, stuff like that in preparation for the short we're shooting in a couple of weeks.
We watched the following films in fast forward (except for scenes that really caught our interest):
Texas Chainsaw Massacre (really beautiful cinematography)
Sasquatch (totally stunk)
The Hills Have Eyes (ahhhh terrifying and so messed up but also well shot and effective)
Friday the 13th (such a terrible film, I've always heard so much about it but it does not stand up to the test of time.)
The Descent (we were liking it, but we specifically need to figure out daytime scary shots in a woods or a building and these were all in darkness in a cave.)
The Ruins (again, liking it, but not all that helpful because the terror is the result of a plant or something, we need a large hulking pursuer.)
Wrong Turn (really really scary, nicely shot, mostly in the woods.)
Anyway, none of us are horror movie fans at all, so this was a weird yet kind of fun experience. The interesting thing to me is how much these films have in common. Young hip teens find themselves somehow waylaid (often by spikes meant to pop car tires) in the middle of nowhere where cell phones don't work and are then at the mercy of some creepy horrible rural bumpkins / genetic freaks of nature. That really is the basic storyline for much of the above stories. But hey, it works.
Also, the experience of sourcing actors and a director of photography and an audio engineer has been really fun, but also kind of difficult. First of all, what is it with actors? Why do they have to be so weird sometimes?
Cases in point:
1) I've had 3 different actors ask me to call them so we can "discuss the role." That would be fine at the time when I've cast them, but this is pre-auditions and we're up to 20 potential actors. I just don't have time to chat with all these actors!
2) I've had a mom respond to my ad saying her 15 year old son would be perfect for the role of the hulking chainsaw killer. Uh, no!
3) I've gotten a response from a petite woman saying she wanted the role. When I responded to her saying that I'll keep her in mind for future projects but that I really need a large, intimidating man for this role, she replied "This is the kind of role I need to expand my acting reportoire. Please reconsider your decision." Uh, I cannot cast a petite woman in this role!
4) I've had 3 actors say they are in Philly with no cars and would need rides. One asked me to figure out the best public transportation bus route to get from Philly to the audition. What world do these people live in where this is my responsibility?
For the DPs, we're down to 3. I think I've made my decision. Just for fun, I'll post links for the reels for the three of them and you let me know which you prefer.
Either way I'm psyched because I think the footage is going to look incredible. I really am wondering why I never thought of hiring a DP before. The talent in this area alone is really impressive to me.
July 28, 2008
Some Good News
Two bits of good news:
I have two scripts that placed in the Landlocked Film Festival screenwriting competition. Black Family placed as a semifinalist and Well-Adjusted Boy is one of three finalists. On August 23rd they'll announce the winner of best in show, which could possibly be mine. Pretty cool.
I've become friends with a guy who is a UCLA grad in producing (he worked at Maguire with me). He just got a job as a manager for a company that both produces films and manages writers and he wrote me saying he'd love if I'd be his first client.
July 25, 2008
The Electric Chainsaw Massacre
We'll be shooting a 3 minute short comedy film, written by me and based on an idea by my older brother Josh.
Anyone who would like to help with the shoot, let me know by writing me at jason @ the look machine . com. We'd love to have you.
We'll be shooting Friday and Saturday, August 15th and 16th.
I posted on Craigslist for the male lead, the director of photography, and the audio engineer. You wouldn't believe the response I've gotten so far. It's been positively overwhelming! I was told that if I wanted to shoot a short as a UCLA student I should do it away from LA, because away from LA people really want to work with you (but in LA you're kind of ho-hum).
I'd have to say that's true, some of the resumes I've gotten are very impressive.
That combined with the fact that we'll be using a fancy-schmancy Red One Camera has really made those three positions hot commodities. (Plus the fact that we're paying a little for each of them, I'm sure that can't hurt.)
Seriously, as good as some of the reels are looking for the DP alone, I'm wondering why I didn't think of doing this a long time ago!
Again, if anyone would like to be involved, let me know. We'd love to have you.
Writing Some Black Family Music
Tonight Darby, my brother Josh, Nathan, and me all got together to actually start writing music for the Black Family Singers... We treated it kind of like a comedy show's writers room. We took a song title and each of us just wrote down any idea that entered our heads for about five minutes. Then we started sharing our ideas with each other and then the magic of collaboration happened. It was.. surprisingly fun and easy and we came up with some real gold. In the end we had most of the material for three songs.
Good times. Lots of laughs.
July 24, 2008
Eleven years ago, when I was running a summer camp for kids, I wrote a play for the drama week about David and Goliath. It's very funny, and it holds up all these years later. Jonathan, my brother, is doing a drama camp this summer and wanted to stage it again.
Lyric and Ollie are both in it. I never imagined of how awesome these two kids could be when I was writing this play so long ago, and now I'll see them on the stage performing it. It's really crazy. And Lyric is playing Goliath, and really taking to the role. It's so cool.
July 23, 2008
The Black Death Revisited
I spent most of today reading through and doing a light re-write on the second screenplay I ever wrote, "The Black Death." I re-arranged some scenes, made some action sequences clearer and more exciting, cleaned up some dialogue, deleted a lot of unneeded dialogue.
I haven't read it in some time, and I was happy to see that there is still much to like here. But what was actually quite surprising to me was how much of it was similar in conflict and setup to the latest screenplay I completed, "The Kingdom of Tovenray." I've heard it said that every writer has a story they are always trying to tell. One of my mentors at UCLA always has children caught in messed up, dangerous situations, for instance. If you had asked me yesterday if The Black Death and Tovenray had anything in common, I would have honestly told you no, not much, because I was completely oblivious to how similar things were. So I must be trying to get something out of me here.
Both stories have a reluctant hero who doesn't want to take up their grand destiny (in fact, the opening of both stories finds the heroes actively denying who they're meant to be) but is forced into the quest to save a loved one.
Both stories have a young boy who is captured by the evil villain and pressured into becoming that evil villain's son.
Both stories have a part where the hero is being trained by a mentor character and thinks he (and she) is ready and don't need any more of this training.
Both stories have a moment where the heroes refusal to take up his (and her) destiny results in a tragedy.
In both stories, the evil Villain has a daughter who actually is good hearted and ends up helping the good guys.
Of course there are tons of things which are very different, (and in fact I could probably think of many other stories that have these same basic elements in them, ones that aren't written by me at all) but still I was pretty stunned to see how many similarities there were... I guess there's a lot to analyze about my psyche there!
I'm happy to report that I'm now MORE charged up about adapting this story into a graphic novel. It was only my second script and I've learned so much since about writing and what you should be doing with a screenplay, but I must say that it's a very visual story with a ton of cool moments to see on the screen, yet there's a lot of heart in the story too. So all together, not bad. And actually, pretty good.
July 20, 2008
The Bifurcated Life
As I've been home and seeing more people that I love and are familiar, and hanging out in places that are the same, I've realized just how split my life has become. I haven't figured out whether it's good or bad that I love people and places and things that are thousands of miles away from each other, and will probably, from now until the end of my life, both thoroughly enjoy where I am and really really miss where I'm not, but I can tell you that it's very strange, and unsettling.
Part of me thinks it is very good. I have a ton of new friends and experiences and loves because of our move to California, things I wouldn't want to miss at all. Of course that is great! But while I'm there, I'm missing the trip to Fair Hill where you can spend the afternoon swimming in the creek and chasing down frogs, and the quiet easy get togethers with family and friends.
But then when I'm on the east coast, I really do miss the intoxicating goldrush that is California, where anything seems possible, where almost anything is possible.... where the weather is so perfect that you rarely even think about it. Where every day you meet someone who could get you on to the next level of your career. Where the idea of accomplishing your dreams are no longer faraway mirages but tangible and happening for people all around you. Where you drive with the ocean on one side of you and mountains rising up on the other. Where there are a ton of people all chasing the same dream, and you bond together with them in that pursuit. Where people spend a ton of the time outside, being healthy and active.
So here I am, split. It's just so weird, mostly because it's so different than most people's lives that I see around me. I'm still adjusting to it, but I think on the whole I do like it. It's exciting, and certainly not hum-drum.
* My kids are going to a drama camp starting tomorrow and they'll be putting on a play that I wrote a while ago. I just re-wrote it a tiny bit and it's really quite funny. It's always nice partially forgetting something you've written because you get to be surprised by some jokes in it all over again like someone else wrote it.
* Related to that, I was re-reading my Black Family script on the flight from LA and I was laughing out loud at some of the jokes that I had completely forgotten. The lady sitting next to me, who I had already told that I was a writer, asks, "That script must be really funny. Whose is it...?" I have to, somewhat embarrassingly admit. "It's mine." She observes. "Wow, you must really think you're funny."
* The short film shoot is coming together and looking like August 12-14th. I think we'll have a Red One Camera (look them up, they're a big deal) and it'll be a blast.
* I'm getting together with the very talented Brett Weber to discuss collaborating on a graphic novel. I bought 5 different graphic novels this week and looking over them I'm really excited about the possibilities of what we can do. I have some contacts so I think I can get it published, too... I'll be doing this for one of my already written scripts that I think won't be made as just a spec script but would definitely be purchased as a graphic novel (to make into a movie.) Isn't Hollywood weird?
July 18, 2008
This last week has almost felt more like summer camp, with swimming lessons everyday, then swimming in the pool, and then swimming in the creek at Fair Hill. It's been really fun spending so much time with family and the kids, but at the same time... the writing suffers. I'm itching to write some more, and have to carve out some time and find a routine in a life that doesn't have a place for it right now.
The Dark Knight was really excellent. It's a very smart action film that grapples with huge themes, ones much larger than your normal summer blockbuster fare. And let me tell you (and this is no surprise, I know) Heath Ledger is just magnetic and brilliant and a complete genius in this film. I need to see it again, I can't quite figure out if I liked it better than Batman Begins, which I just adored. This was certainly a more complex film (which doesn't have to be a bad thing) which didn't have a clear Main Character (which again, doesn't have to be a bad thing) and so Batman Begins was easier to engage with on a first viewing. Batman Begins was much more of a classic hero's journey story, while Dark Knight deals largely in shades of grey and the moral ambiguity of trying to survive in a chaotic world.
July 16, 2008
Passing on the Indiana Jones Legacy
I'm proud to say that I watched Raiders of the Lost Ark with Lyric and Ollie today and they both loved it. (Of course I covered their eyes for the scary parts, what kind of parent do you take me for!?) And watching this movie again only made me more disappointed with the new one. But let us not talk of such things, let's focus on the magic that is this film.
It's simple, it's engaging, it's got a huge number of incredible sequences (opening in south america with the collapsing temple, the closing stone door, the big stone; the Well of Soulds with the snakes and the fire and the discovery of the ark; the amazing car chase and fight and stunts with Indy going under the car and back around; and of course the final judgement where the Nazis got their just desserts). After seeing Lawrence of Arabia, I realized anew how much of the film was a tribute to that great movie. (Seriously, watch them back to back, Spielberg was just having a great time with it.)
Question: Does Harrison Ford have the greatest slate of films of any actor? Think about it: Star Wars trilogy, Indy movies, Blade Runner... Who's better? Brando? Tom Hanks? Give me some names here, people.
July 15, 2008
What a soccer game
Collin, Shane, and I are playing on the Elany Arts 1 outdoor soccer team (yes, there are 2 Elany Arts teams.) Today we played a very good team comprised of YMCA employees. They had skills. So much so that they jumped ahead to a very quick 3-0 lead which honestly could have been 5-0 because they hit the top post twice.
In a outdoor soccer game, that's basically the end of the game. No one comes back from 3-0, at least that I've ever seen.
Fortunately, we finally got something going when Joe Kempista, striker extraordinaire, got us on the board. We took that 3-1 score into the half. Early in the 2nd half, Kris Copeland worked his magic by somehow intimidating their keeper into dropping the ball so Kris could get behind him and kick it into the net. 3-2.
Now is probably a good time to mention that outdoor soccer is EXHAUSTING. Seriously, I play basketball a couple times a week for an hour to two hours a pop, and work out on an elliptical for 45 minutes a day, but this is way more tiring. At one point I was playing halfback, which basically means you're responsible for the whole field, and you have no excuse to be doing anything but sprinting around like a madman.
So I was so tired, as you would imagine. But late in game, a halfback kicked the ball towards the offensive end of the field. I was chasing it. I had a Ben Kenobi moment where coach Christian Dunn said to me "Just charge that goal and their fullbacks, good things will happen Jason." So I reached down deep and found the energy inside me to make a total sprint after the ball. Their defender tried to take the ball and clear it, but I met it at just the right moment and directed it right to the waiting foot of striker extraordinaire Joe Kempista, and next thing we knew the ball hit the back of the net, and the score was knotted up at 3-3.
There was still work to be done, and of course another goal needed from Joe Kempista. This time he was tripped up as he let the ball go, but didn't let his impending collision with the ground keep him from thrusting a fist of celebration into the air as the winning goal slipped by the befuddled keeper.
We still had to hold on for another 5 minutes, but at this point we were simply controlling the ball and retaining possession. It was an amazing turnaround, and just a great game all around.
Now I'm tired. But happy.
* I no longer have a beard, but I will certainly be re-growing one periodically.
* It's really hot here. It would be nice if our convertible VW had AC. I felt like I was getting baked today. (not the drug kind of baked.)
* My kids are awesome at swimming now. It's really cool to watch.
* I left my laptop at home like an idiot, so I had to have a friend bail me out by getting into my place and fedexing it to me. What is my problem sometimes?
* I really have to start writing more pages for my latest screenplay soon!
July 12, 2008
Observations on Living Alone
I've been living on my own since June 18th. This is the longest I've lived alone in my entire life. Yes, that's right. I lived with, you know, my parents and brothers and sisters from birth until I moved out for college. Then I lived with my good friend Joe Kempista, then Joe and a whole plethora of friends (Chris, Christian, and Steve), then I got married and have been living with Darby ever since.
I've always wondered why people live alone. If I weren't married, I'd definitely live with a roommate. For one, I would want to split the rent and the utilities with people. But even aside from practical matters, I'm not too crazy about being all by myself. I like time to myself. But let me tell you, when you're living alone, there is way too much of that time.
1) Whole days can go by where I don't speak a word out loud.
When I'm really busy working all day on a project (like writing or editing or whatever), I can accidentally go a whole day without every leaving the house. Later in the day, I'll start to realize... my goodness, I haven't used my vocal cords at all today. Now this hasn't happened much, but it has happened. I actually don't feel like a loser when this happens, because...
2) I have been more social during this time then probably ever before.
Impromptu movie nights, last minute dinner parties, meeting people at the beach for the 4th, last minute trips to The Laugh Factory, parties with Jessica's dancer friends, regular meetings with friends, pick up basketball, watching plays with friends. When you have no one else in your life to consider and check with, you do a ton of unplanned things.
3) There is sooo much time in the day.
When you have one of those days where it's just going to be you, there are a ton of hours to fill up and you can get so much done.
4) It's easy to procrastinate
Because of all that time, it's important to force yourself to structure it or else you can... maybe.. oh I don't know, fill it up with playing video games and reading weblogs.
5) I stay up way too late.
When living with Darby and the kids, my normal schedule is go to bed by 1AM and wake up at 8AM. Since they've been gone, that has surely shifted until now I go to bed at 3AM and wake up at 11AM. Waking up at 11 is not good. By the time I've worked out and showered and caught up on emails and eaten breakfast, it's often 12.30 or 1.
6) Life is better with kids in it.
I love seeing things through Lyric and Ollie's eyes, and playing with them. I am a kid still, consciously holding onto much of what I was as a child (and probably unconsciously not growing up in places where I could stand to do so.) and so I miss so much having their pure, exuberant viewpoints on everything.
7) Beautiful things are much better when shared with others
I've gone on some amazing hikes here, but the times when I was all alone they felt a little more hollow because I wanted Lyric and Ollie and Darby to see these things I was seeing. However, spending time all alone like this in a beautiful place is a good thing at times because...
8) There is much more time to think and reflect about yourself and what you're doing.
Without being in constant relationships and having to think about what this person or that person is thinking at this time, you are freed to focus your attention on yourself some more. And you realize some things, figure some stuff out. When there is no one around but you, there is no one to blame but yourself for things you don't like. That's eye opening.
9) Growing a beard is a pretty cool thing to do.
It's worked out better than I imagined it would. I like it. Maybe it's primal or something, but I feel more... masculine with it. Tougher. Edgier. Like I could take someone out if they threatened me. (Don't worry, I'm still nice.) It's not going to be a permanent feature, but I will be dusting it off seasonally. I think it brings out the browns in my eyes, too.
10) I'm meant to live with Darby, Lyric and Ollie
I have no doubt about it. While a short amount of time away can be good, it's just not right to be apart from them. There is a hole in my life, a hollowness... and I can't wait to spend time with them again.
Bride of Frankenstein
It's as if someone watched Frankenstein, then read the original novel, and said, "Wait a minute, we missed out on a ton of great stuff here!" and then decided to make Bride of Frankenstein.
Put this one on that small list of "sequels that were superior to their predecessors" along with Empire Strikes Back, Toy Story 2, Godfather 2, and The Two Towers. (Which others would you add?)
Bride of Frankenstein is more clever, Frankenstein's monster learns to speak and becomes much more sympathetic, it has a large dose of humor that was completely absent in the first, and it's just all around more entertaining. But mostly it revolves around the needed for companionship and the pain of unrequited love.
I had a professor this last year who said he would give us $20 if we could name 3 popular movies that dealt with unrequited love. We couldn't think of 3. I came up with 2 - Hunchback of Notre Dame and Edward Scissorhands. And now, I could totally get that $20 because Bride of Frankenstein makes that list. (Can you think of any others.)
He maintained that unrequited love was not a popular theme in movies because it's just too painful for humans to face, and people don't want to be reminded of it. We can handle loss, we can handle suffering, we can handle death and all that stuff. But the idea of loving something that just cannot or will not love you back is unbearable.
I wrote my professor today to tell him and he was happy that I thought of it. I also made the observation that it's strange that the only 3 I could think of involved freaks or monsters, and that still fits within his theory. We can't handle it happening to actual people, they have to be cursed creatures.
3 out of 4
I remember reading Mary Shelley's Frankenstein in High School and the book being a revelation to me. This wasn't some grunting monster stumbling around, this was a thoughtful creature who was genuinely hurt because he was rejected by his creator. And he could talk. I never knew that the original story was so smart, and full of such amazing themes...
All that to say, Universal's Frankenstein (1931) takes these things I loved about the book and flushes them down the toilet. It was exactly what you think of when you think of Frankenstein (and, is probably the reason you think of all those things). It was a lumbering monster groaning and strangling people.
That's not to say it's a bad film. For 1931 especially, it's quite impressive. And it's entertaining. But I much prefer the Kenneth Branaugh version from the 90s, because it's more true to the book.
I realized something while watching. You may remember that I wasn't completely thrilled with the style of the film 300. With all the digital backgrounds and scenery it felt really small to me (when I know that it was meant to feel epic and huge.)
It's the way films used to be made! No real locations, everything constructed and put together in a sound stage. Now the computer has replaced the sound stage, but it's the same idea.
It bothered me here with Frankenstein especially, where the backdrops were obviously cloth and everything was shot indoors. Both 300 and Frankenstein, I now realize, felt more like plays than movies.
And boo-hoo for me, the remake of Clash of the Titans (which I've been reallly hoping for for some time) is reportedly being made in the same style as 300.
2 out of 4
July 11, 2008
A Vice President at Gracie Films just requested to read Retro Band because she read the logline in the UCLA Showcase Festival program and thought it sounded like a great idea for a film.
She's reading it now.
Gracie Films produced a number of amazing films... like Spanglish, and As Good as it Gets, and Jerry Maguire, and Big and Say Anything. Oh yeah, and a little show you might have heard of called the Simpsons.
I'd of course be amazed and honored to be in that company.
It's crazy, I now have some kind of interest around 5 of my scripts. I know these things can evaporate, but I do feel like there will eventually be this tipping point and stuff will really start rolling.
July 10, 2008
Black Family Update
I had a meeting with the producer at Maguire today about the Black Family project. He is REALLY excited about it, and thinks it's a great idea. He definitely wants to produce, and put a deal for funding together. So when I get back into LA we're going to meet and start putting together meetings around town.
It's really exciting!
July 08, 2008
One of the reasons it's so great to live in LA is that the people you meet and talk to every day are involved in film making. So there are just often exciting opportunities and tantalizing events, so many that I know eventually this whole career of mine is just going to break through and be amazing (I have definitions for what that means, but I'll leave it up in the air for now.)
Two more kind of exciting things happened today.
1) I was emailing the guys at Maguire to remind them this is my last week, and thanking them for the chance to work with them, and promising to stay in touch (after all, Trevor is making that short that I wrote.) I also mentioned to Trevor that I want to sit down with him because I'm getting serious about filming my script The Black Family Singers of the Church of God Hallegulujah next summer and I wanted his advice on funding and distribution and all that good stuff. (I don't remember if I've made it clear, but of the 8 screenplays I've written, Black Family is the only one that I feel like I need a large amount of control over to make it just right... mostly because I want many of the guys from boysetsfire in it - I wrote it with specific people in mind for specific parts - and I have a very specific sense of what the whole project should be.) Anyway, he got excited about the project and asked if he could produce it. I told him, yes, for sure... I would love if he did. Having a good producer on a project is essential, and Trevor already has so much know-how and so many contacts. So maybe we'll have a feature film filming next summer, and do this the right way. Trevor's an up and coming producer, so having such a great relationship with him is just awesome. And the chance to actually make the Black Family will be so gratifying.
2) A UCLA grad student in the Producing Program wrote me and told me she loved by script called Retro Band and wanted to know if I had anything else she could read. At UCLA, the producing program students "final project" is to identify a script that they love and pitch it around town, in all their classes, at their final showcase, etc. She's looking for that perfect script now. I asked her what she was looking for, and she said ideally family fantasy action adventure and multi-cultural inspirational dramas. Sometimes things seem realy tailor-made, because the last two screenplays I wrote are Tovenray's Curse, which is a G-rated family fantasy, and Harriet's 14th Mission, which is a multi-cultural inspirational drama. I pitched her both ideas and she loved them both, especially Tovenray. I'm in the midst of a re-write for that right now, but I'll send it to her when it's ready.
Making good impressions on and relationships with producers while they are on the rise and still young in the business is the best way to break in, because you develop your working relationship and then in 3 years they are running the show, and they already trust you and your work. So it's very cool.
Things like this just keep happening. The situation with the producer in town is still awesome for Well Adjusted Boy, and it just feels sometimes like it's headed towards a tipping point... It's very very exciting.
I think I'm a shoe-in...
For the George Michael look alike contest... if I can find where they're holding it.
PS. If you don't know who George Michael is, I'm much older than you (or, I guess, much younger.)
Here's a clue.
July 07, 2008
Network came out in 1976 (the year of my birth) and was nominated for a slew of Oscars, including Best Picture. It won Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Supporting Actress.
It's a very dark, cynical film that is amazingly prophetic. It features a downtrodden TV Network which takes advantage of the fact that one of its news anchors has a mental breakdown. When he promises to commit suicide on screen, the ratings soar. So instead of firing him as planned, they give him his own show, and he becomes the biggest sensation around.
Featuring an outstanding performance by the amazing Faye Dunaway as the unscrupulous programming executive, this film perfectly predicts the current state of TV, where news is not really news but entertainment, and people's private lives, pains, and trainwrecks are everyone's favorite topic of conversation. I really coudn't believe this was filmed 31 years ago, because it so amazingly captures our world today.
Nice little tidbits:
- The famous "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!" line comes from this film.
- There is a hilarious part of the film where they give a Black Panther's-like domestic terrorist group their own TV show, to goose ratings. They even get footage of a bank robbery in progress!
4 out of 4 stars.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
I had read once that this film had as perfect a screenplay as you'll find. I will say that it does mix drama and humour, tragedy and comedy and action with an expert touch. For me, it draws a ton of parallels to Bonnie and Clyde, and I greatly enjoyed it just as I did that excellent film.
The basic story is that Paul Newman (again, great to see him in his prime) is Butch Cassidy, the leader of the Hole in the Wall gang, a group of bank and train robbers. He's got a sidekick / silent protege named the Sundance Kid (Robert Redford, who's just awesome.) They rob a certain rich man's train one time too many, and it becomes personal, with a team of relentless expert trackers dispatched to catch and kill them.
So it's a chase film, really, with Butch and Sundance trying to stay a step ahead. Yet it's also a film about how it's hard to leave your past behind, even when you go to another continent and resolve to "go straight."
It has an end similar to Bonnie and Clyde. But this time, they take on the world guns blazing, with hope still in their hearts. They aren't ambushed, they end their story on their terms, together.
Robert Redford liked this role enough to name the whole Sundance Film Festival after it. Who am I to disagree?
4 out of 4.
The French Connection
This is the first R-rated winner of the Best Picture award (which is funny, because now an R-rating almost seems a pre-requisite to winning that Oscar.) It features a plot where two NYC cops track down a huge amount of heroin being imported from France into America. It also won a best Actor award for Gene Hackman, which he completely deserved because he's awesome in this film, playing this tough semi-crazed cop. Roy Scheider is his partner, and it was great seeing Sheriff Brody from Jaws in another good role.
The film is famous for an amazing car chase (if you like car chases in modern movies, you have this one to thank for it... it was an inspiration to countless directors. If you don't.... sorry) where Hackman's character actually chased an elevated train. (Nice little trivia, Christopher Nolan used the car chase in this film as direct inspiration for many of the batmobile sequences in Batman Begins.)
As much as I liked this film, I'm a little surprised that it won Best Picture. It's a very good film, but doesn't seem like your normal Oscar material... it's more like a really good crime action film. It's definitely worth watching, though.
3 out of 4
Mosaic at the Mayan
My sister Jessica's seven week stay in LA is sadly coming to a close, and we go to hang out one last time before she goes to SF tomorrow. We went to Mosaic church at a nightclub called the Mayan in downtown LA. It is quite a experience, with a really excellent band, a smoke machine, cool multimedia art, a light show, and the whole building is decorated to look like a Mayan temple. And I'm a pretty big fan of the founder of Mosaic, Erwin McMahanus. He's got a great sense of humor, and a lot of wisdom too. So it was quite nice going there tonight.
The message was all about loving other people, and how it's actually easy to love God, but loving other people is where things get really difficult. And yet, proof of God's love on earth comes from people being able to love one another... it was inspiring.
After the church meeting was over, we were going to the Getty Center but it was closed. So instead we ate at In-N-Out burger and got a delicious ice cream sandwich at Diddy Reise in Westwood. All in all, it was a nice ending to a great time with Jessica being in town. It was a real blessing that she got to be here for so long, and a blast hanging out with her so much.
July 05, 2008
How Californians See America
Not that I (completely) agree with this, but I do think it's funny.
4th of July
I had a very Malibu 4th of July. Some of my fellow students from UCLA went to Zuma Beach, and my good friend Matt and I drove up and met them. The weather was really nice, and I met some very interesting new people (one of which worked marketing Disney films, and another is a writer for Entertainment Weekly). We threw frisbees and footballs around, went into the fierce tumultuous waves, ate at a seaside restaurant (that was surprisingly nice) and then caught a stunning sunset and fireworks show over the water.
Can't complain about that...
Except if you miss your wife and kids. Which I do! Only another week until I see them.
July 04, 2008
Happy 4th of July
Go watch some big explosions in the sky in honor of liberty. I'm going to Zuma Beach in Malibu with friends. It'll be a blast, no doubt.
Here's a picture of me with a beard so you can check out the progress.
July 03, 2008
My main job at Maguire is to read a ton of novels and write coverage on them (which is basically a fancy word for a good old fasioned book report.) So I'm reading more novels then I've ever read before, sometimes even one a day. But I just had to take on a densely written 579 page manuscript which was about a post-apocalyptic world with monsters, ninjas, pirates, and mimes. It was actually a fairly good story, but wow did it take forever to finish.
The main exec at Maguire asked me to pitch the story of the book to him, and it was very good practice for one day when I pitch my own stories... which will hopefully be very soon, actually.
For some reason I'm having a hard time getting to bed before 3am these days. That's a bad habit I have to break soon.
July 01, 2008
The Ferocious Water Bug
Jessica and I went to Leo Carillo State Beach today, thinking we were going to swim. However, the ocean breeze (ok, it was more like a gale force wind) made that thinking instantly foolish, once we actually got there. Instead, we went to the Solstice Canyon trail.
We climbed that same waterfall, and swam in a really awesomely deep, clear pool. (It was over my head.) While in the water, we noticed that there was a ton of life swimming through the water. Lots of newts, and tadpoles, and we even caught a very small, very pale frog. But the most amazing moment was when The Ferocious Water Bug entered the scene.
I'm not making up that name. I looked it up online, because it was such a crazy bug. We thought it was actually a crab. It was BIG, like 2 inches long, and it swam excitedly from under a rock. It was brown and kind of flat, and really fast. And on it's back... a ton of eggs.
It looked like this:
Turns out the bugs with eggs are actually the males. The females cement the eggs to the males' backs. Interested, huh?
It takes it's name from the fact that it's actually quite vicious. It eats minnows, and tadpoles, and is even sometimes called a "Toe biter" because, well... it bites toes. (Only if threatened.) That sounds like a great insult for an aggressive short person, by the way, a toe biter. I will be sure to remember that for a script, and maybe even real life.
Hands Free Device
I have to admit, I owe Drew an apology. I always made fun of him for wearing this (what I previously thought to be a) dorky bluetooth attachment in his ear. Oh, how I foolish I was. I know this now.
California has passed legislation that as of tomorrow, all cell phone calls while driving must be made using a hands free device. I bought one.
It's AWESOME. I love being able to talk without holding a phone. In fact, I always thought I didn't like talking on the phone. I've since realized that mostly I just don't like holding the phone. Talking is just fine. I love being able to just talk into the air as if I'm having a normal conversation. It's great.
Now I know, people with these attachments in their ears who just kind of talk into the air look crazy, like seriously insane... but I just don't care. That's how much I like this little thing.
I'm sorry Drew, you were right all along.
Update on the Well Adjusted Boy situation
The boss at the production company read it over the weekend and really liked it a lot. The producer wrote me and said she still has to talk to him about how they want to proceed, because today was extremely busy because Nicolaus Cage agreed to star in one of their films.
So I wait, but at least he responded to it, initially. We'll see how this goes.