Pixar filmmaker Andrew Stanton provides an insightful look into his storytelling process. Great high-level reminders.
So last month this guy from Connecticut was at a seafood restaurant and when it came time to choose who to eat, he spotted an enormous 17-pound lobster in the live tank. Instead of dining on Lucky Larry, as he’s now known, he set him free (in the ocean, not just in the restaurant parking lot). Continue reading
Since last year there seems to have been an exponential growth of opportunities to field creative work, especially online. I’ve also recently noticed certain past scripts of mine have been oddly prescient (mind you, I never predicted bath salt fueled zombie attacks). So I decided to sift through the archives to see if there was anything worth revisiting. I wasn’t particularly looking forward to the exercise, since I’m a brutal critic of my own writing. My worst fears were indeed realized, but not how I expected – some of that old shit was good.
Yes, I’m leading with JUSTIN BIEBER for curb appeal. Can you blame me? So while I’m at it, I might as well come clean to curating an end of year list for more-or-less the same reasons. Now that’s out of the way, I think these five films had unmet potential. Really! All they needed was a bit of love in the story department (yes, that’s a writer-centric view). Doubts? I’ll make you a Belieber. Continue reading
I’ve been crossing paths with The Shining lately. As you can imagine, it’s been somewhat disconcerting. I was looking for examples of artists subverting other’s work for their own purposes and hit the motherlode. There are no less than five major theories surrounding Stanley Kubrick’s contentious re-envisioning of Steven King’s classic (wait, they are both “SK”, make that six). After all, creatives generally have a “day job”, so why not put your own spin on it? Or in Kubrick’s case, potentially hide some of the most shocking revelation(s) in the history of film.
I had mixed feelings about Drive. Maybe that’s bound to happen with an ultra-violent existential B-movie heist film set in L.A. that’s directed by a Danish unicorn. However, then I saw this very-spoilery (a warning, not a criticism) animated tribute and I reconsidered the source material. It’s awesomeness made me think of how deliberate Gosling’s minimal performance, the anachronistic 80s vibe and the unapologetically blunt story were. This, in turn, made me ponder the art of writing films that are-not-quite-what-they-seem (more on that in an upcoming post). Now I’m considering buying a silk scorpion jacket or maybe not.
Lars Von Trier hates women, or so the body of evidence that is his movie catalog would suggest. Maybe that’s why he’s down. So to speak to his issues, he makes a movie about depression starring an actress who has admitted to suffering from it. And just to make the point larger than, well, life ‘Melancholia’ takes the form of a rogue planet about to wipe out all, well, life. Aside from the startling coincidence that his apocalyptic opus was released as the largest asteroid since 1976 was flying between Earth and the moon, the film made one point abundantly clear to me. Write what you know…and nothing else. Continue reading
F**k Twilight! Now that I have that out of the way, Let the Right One In is probably the best film I’ve seen this year. A subtle, elegant and evocative movie is a rarity, let alone one in the WTF Swedish romantic vampire genre. Plus any pic that can keep me enraptured on my iPod Touch on a crowded flight to nowhere is doing something right. LTROI worked on so many levels – thematic, allegorical, character study, sexually-ambiguous love – but I won’t muddy/bloody the waters with a review. I think that the true measure of a great film is how it challenges me to up my own game. Wanna know how this one did? Read on.
As geeks so often love to remind us, movies and TV shows have accurately predicted a lot of our current technology. Yes, a Star Trek communicator pre-dates a Motorola Razr by 40 years, and the non-holographic version of Minority Report’s touch screens are now on your iPhone. But really, who gives a f**k? All that proves is that the nerdy industrial designers of today used to all be sci-fi loving ‘indoor kids’ who had their first wet dream after watching Barbarella on late-night Cinemax. As a screenwriter, I’m less interested in guessing the next neato gadget, than predicting, or even shaping, the very culture we live in. As a result, I’ve compiled a list of films that did just that, albeit in really annoying ways.
You’re a caveman (I don’t need to say caveperson since political correctness has only been around for 0.000000000000001% of human existence). Your ability to effectively categorize sh*t is everything. Is that shadow moving in the woods tasty prey or a nasty predator? Is that berry fire engine red (granted you don’t know what a fire engine is since the whole flame thing is pretty new) because it’s delicious or deadly? Despite the body hair, protruding forehead and inability to really get your jokes, will that female humanoid bear you healthy Australopithi-babies or leave you for that asshole Uggghh and take you for your cave and wheel? Fast forward to now. The world is essentially stable (unless you’re living in the majority of it that isn’t). You don’t really need to filter your world into boxes, but you do cause it’s hard wired. Knowing this can help you to write screenplays, but if you’re like me, it probably won’t get your ass laid.
I’ll admit it, maybe I was tripping balls a bit inebriated. Actually, I’m admitting nothing, NOTHING. But, despite the fact that the first movie was superior in every regard, Silent P and I were blown away by The Matrix Reloaded. We couldn’t stop talking about the Zion Burning Man Rave scene, the dead heat of Bellucci as Persephone, that sick car chase (come on, you know it), even the stupid babbling architect. What did it mean, how would the series end, what were the philosophical ramifications? It was too much. Then, as we slid down the twinkling streets and I gazed into pulsating clouds, it hit me – we had been tricked. Not by Keanu’s “acting” but by what could be most important secret to making movies…whoa.
It’s a high school movie (not High School Musical, cause that’s bullsh*t). The unsung hero likes the abnormally pretty girl with character who is generally saddled with the handsome, mean-spirited Alpha…you know, captain of the football team, leader of the pack, etc. of the etc. The protagonist has a beautiful soul, some extraordinary talent and is actually kinda cute himself come-to-think-of-it. It’s just that the object of desire can’t see the hero because of the shadows cast by her radiance. But we know better and root for him. Why? Because he is us. More accurately, he is our perspective since we all experience life as the hero. Too bad in any story there can really only be one (f**king) protagonist and, let’s face facts, it most likely ain’t you.
I was somewhere and I was about to leave (you will understand my vagueness momentarily). But I heard someone on a call that sounded so deliberately on the up-and-up it had to be on the down-n-dirty. So I lingered. For a second I thought it was a bad idea. I wasn’t going to buy anything, what if he thought I was a narc? Then I remembered I was too stone-cold badass to be pegged as a cop (except maybe for the sex police). Before I had a chance to get all paranoid he arrived, didn’t give a shit that I was there and quickly produced a metal briefcase. Before he even cracked it open we all knew – it was on.
Back in Vancouver I used to DJ. Then, through a few twists of fate, I started doing live laptop performances (kinda on a Girl Talk tip). It was mad fun and my gigs were generally at interesting venues with appreciative crowds (as opposed to the opiate masses at some of the parties I would spin at). I was playing an ‘Electric Campfire’ at an avant garde artspace and a diminutive blond approached me after my set. She had seen all of my shows (which would make her the only one) and within 5 minutes she wanted to make out with me. At the time this shouldn’t have been a problem, but there was a definite aura of whack-ness about her so I declined. Which, just made her more determined. She ended up following me around the rest of the night, the insanity in her eyes glowing brighter with every spurned advance. I realized then that crazed female fans weren’t my ish – BUT fast-forward to now and I’m curious – do successful screenwriters have groupies?
My hands are where they alway are – home position. I wish I was being pervy, but I ain’t. I’m at work, typing. It’s 1PM. In seven hours I’ll be home, on the computer again IMing with Silent P about the second mid-act climax (again, not a euphemism). Maybe, I’ll take a break, go for a thug workout (4 real). At midnight, my hands will be where they always are as I research a scene idea. I’m not complaining mind you, just wondering if anyone else finds life on a computer as f*cked-up disorienting as I do??
I’d make a sh*tty father. Okay, make that my creative partner and I would make horrible parents. Not with kids or anything, we’d be great at that. Of course, I’ve never even considered the idea, I mean, he’s a dude. Well, I guess there was that one time – we’d been working all night, he went out and got me a hot chocolate (how sweet is that?) and I thought for a second if only the laws were different…Pretend you didn’t read that, okay?
Halloween in NY is full on. A year or two ago, I went to no less than six parties in one week, the highlight was being a zombie tourist on a Gravehound bus blaring skull-splitting techno in the massive Greenwich Village Parade. So by the weekend I was running a bit thin on costumes and party number four was in a few hours. That’s when inspiration silently struck. I dressed up as a mime (as best I could) and made a cartoony cardboard clock that showed the time moving back from 2AM to 1AM. I even taped “fall” and “back” on my knuckles. I was (perhaps) the world’s first DAYLIGHT SAVINGS MIME. What I failed to realize is that the costume I thought was so clever would come to be a metaphor for one of my creative failings.
I’ve been digging the Olympics. Not so much rooting for the underdog (other than my celebrity doppelganger who just unseated I – bet – he’s – actually – gay Federer), but watching ruthless domination. Michael Phelps IS an aquatic killing machine. He’s simply sick. As of this post he has six golds (all world records), so I’m beating the rush with a matching number of can’t miss feature ideas.
My mind gets f*cked up changes when I fly. I can feel it. Probably a bit more optimistic, definitely reflective. Kinda spacey, expanding. Synapses fire with a distinct (bluish) spark. So, of course, I try to…write. Which is a bit hard when they have on-demand movies (right now I’m half-watching Charlie Wilson’s War). But I soldier on. And since I can’t quite focus on our next screenplay, my altitudinally shifted mind is somewhat fascinated by its own (sorry) state. So the question of the moment is, is it beneficial to write high?