a pro script reader ponders movies, reading, writing and the occasional personal flashback

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

A Very Telling Trend In The Screenplay Oscar Nominations....

All five nominees for Best Original Screenplay (CRASH; GOODNIGHT AND GOOD LUCK; MATCH POINT; THE SQUID AND THE WHALE; SYRIANA) were either written or co-written by their directors.

This just underlines the idea that to get a solid, thoughtful, original screenplay made today, you have to make it yourself, as well as having enough of a career history to give you the power to help push it through the system.

In contrast, all five nominees for Best Adapted Screenplay (BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN; CAPOTE; THE CONSTANT GARDENER; A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE; MUNICH) were written by someone other than their director.

Monday, January 30, 2006

The Relief of the Finished Draft

I just finished a draft of my supernatural thriller, and I realized how long it has been since I finished a draft of anything, even though this isn't the first draft I've done of this script, or the last.

Still, I love the sweet relief of being done for the moment, the uneasy excitement at dishing it off to friends to read. The sense of dread and anticipation, of urgency mixed with the need to be patient.

In a few weeks, when I get feedback back on this draft, I'll pick it up again. Meanwhile, next on my writing agenda (which I'm determined to stick to) is to do a definitive version of my frozen time script, meaning that I need to take the stuff that made the past draft great, and figure what to add from it from last year's misbegotten attempt to follow the notes of a friend who was trying to set up a reading of it in Manhattan.

Then I need to tweak my other good script, "Touching Blue", so that it can be all it can be.

Hopefully that will give me three solid scripts to march into the rest of 2006 with. Plus I still have a lot of other scripts to think about. Should I go in and finally crack the story of my fantasy/comedy/romcom? Finish off my sexy/gross/sexy b-movie horror tale? Take a whack at the raunchy teen comedy that I outlined a few years ago, then set aside? Dive into either one of two projects that I've been brainstorming with what could be my first (long-distance) co-writer?

It's nice to take off the Scott the Reader hat (even if it is just for an hour or so here and there) and be Scott the Writer again. Here's hoping that 2006 is going to be a prolific one for both hats (and for you, too).

Now get back to your draft.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Currently On My CD Player....

"Rabbit Fur Coat" by Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins. You can hear the first single here. A little folky, a little gospel, a little soul.

Jenny Lewis was an actress as a child and a teen (in movies like FOXFIRE and TROOP BEVERLY HILLS); she has since largely jettisoned the acting thing in favor of singing.

Her usual gig is as the lead sister of Rilo Kiley, a band whose last album "More Adventurous", should have been a much bigger hit than it was.

I've got tickets to see her at the Orpheum in April, which given how rarely I go to concerts any more is pretty notable. Looking forward to it.

Someone Owes Me a Beer

Brokeback Mountain is going to careen over the $50 million mark today.

My original $90 million prediction might not be so far off after all...

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

News Out of Sundance...

Not that I'm at Sundance or anything, or have ever been there. From what I hear, it's overrated anyway; unless you have a movie there and are being fawned over, its all lines, parkas and pretension.

It's much more comfortable watching from Los Angeles, and trying to piece things together from afar.

News -- "Little Miss Sunshine" sells for a record $10.5 million.

Little Miss Sunshine is directed by longtime star video directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, who did some of the better Smashing Pumpkins videos, among others. The basic plot is that it is a wacky road movie, about a makeshift family trying to get their pudgy little girl across the country for a beauty pageant. Steve Carell and Toni Collette topline.

It's nice to hear that they made this movie funny enough to get a bidding war out of it. But unfortunately, it is also too symptomatic of how the studios handle movies like this -- they tell the filmmakers to get the movie made themselves, and then if it is any good, the studios might buy it.

The budget of Little Miss Sunshine was $8 million. So the studios get to pass on it when it isn't a sure thing -- and now that it is a good movie, with suddenly-bankable stars, they can pick it up for a comparatively cheap $10.5 million. The extra $2.5 million is well worth it, knowing that you aren't going to get stuck with a stinker.

Of course, the Sundance record that the $10.5 million price broke was the $10.25 million that Miramax spent 7 years ago for "Happy, Texas", which tanked. So there are no sure things.

News -- Computer Geeks Figure Out How To Predict If a Sundance Film Will Be a Hit

A group of techies plugged all the information from the Sundance film guides of the last 10 years into a computer, as well as the info about which films had financial success.

They determined that the more producers a film had, the more likely that it might be a hit.

If, during the festival, a film is preceded by a short, it has a higher chance of being a flop than a hit.

And movies had a better chance being a hit if they had the following words in their program description: "academic, accomplished, bedroom, complex, dialogue, dream, death, focus, girl, human, high, journey, love, mother, narrative, romance, relationship, superbly, sex, ultimately".

Kiss of death words? "Africa, America, American, beautiful, black, best, emotional, fascinating, great, inspired, lake, new, riveting, Sundance, sexy, story, subtitles, truth, vision, world".

My analysis? The movies at Sundance with stars in them (and bigger budgets) have the biggest chance of being hits. The movies with stars and bigger budgets usually have more producers. Duh.

The short film thing feels like random chance. Though as it is, I think more Sundance films turn out to be flops than hits anyway.

The words thing is just random as well. Once, a friend of mine and I made a long list of movies with the word "Heart" in the title that had tanked; we figured it was a kiss of death word. Then Braveheart came out and was huge. There are no rules.

Lies, lies and damned statistics. Garbage in and garbage out.

News -- Missing Katie Holmes Nude Scene Sparks Mystery

The makers of the new film "Thank You For Smoking" were confused when a Katie Holmes naked sex scene disappeared from the print before it ran at Sundance.

Conspiracy theories were wafted. Was it the religious freaks? The Mormons? The Scientologists?

It turned out that the scene had accidentally been snipped out when the reels were being edited together, because it was at the end of a reel with a bit of black before it. Though somewhere, Tom Cruise is grinning.

News -- Filmmaker Slams the MPAA For Piracy

In a solid bid to get more publicity for his movie "This Film Is Not Yet Rated", a documentary that focuses on the shady MPAA and their ratings practices, filmmaker Kirby Dick has accused the MPAA of pirating his movie, because when he sent it to them to get rated (they gave it an NC-17), they also made a copy of it for in-company use.

The MPAA is hemming and hawing about how that really isn't piracy, even though they previously said that any illegally copying was piracy.

I think it's just brilliant to gave your film a name that pops up on so many other movie ads. I think I may call my next movie "Opens Friday At a Theater Near You".

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

TV Theme Songs

So I was tagged with this "Name Your Top 10 Favorite TV Theme Songs" meme, but I'm sure mine is pretty much the same as everyone else's; I grew up in the 1970s, when TV theme songs were in their heyday, whether it was new TV series or reruns of the classics (you know, The Brady Bunch, Gilligan's Island, I Dream of Jeannie, etc).

Instead, I thought I'd use it as an excuse to bring up the fact that I actually bought a lot of TV theme songs, as singles.

Which is actually pretty cool, because on the TV show you might get 30 seconds of the song, the single was the full 2-3 minute version. And only a few of these songs, like the themes to Happy Days or Welcome Back Kotter, ever got much airplay.

So the single is like the "deleted scenes" version; you got to hear the full thing -- or at least what the artist came up with as the full thing when asked to manufacture the single version.

So I dug through my box of singles, that my Dad send me last year when he was getting rid of all my crap. My box of singles is a scary look into my childhood -- all you really need to know is that the first single I ever bought was "Convoy" (which I like to think was nice foresight on my part -- how many hit singles become movies?)

There's also a copy of "Afternoon Delight" in there. And "Muskrat Love". Yikes. "Safety Dance". I'm going to stop now.

(There are also a lot of old Beatles and Wings singles in there. Ka-ching!)

Anyhow, though I thought I had more, I did find 3 TV theme 45s in there.

"Theme From S.W.A.T." was done by Rhythm Heritage, written by Barry DeVorzen. It clicks it at an impressive 4 minutes and 7 seconds. Flip side? "I Wouldn't Treat a Dog (The Way You Treated Me)". Nice.

"Making Our Dreams Come True", the theme from Laverne and Shirley. Performed by Cyndi Grecco. Clocks in at 2:29, complete with a funky instrumental break that was nowhere to be found on TV. Flip side "Watching You" (which could be anything from a stalker song to a paean to the joys of watching Laverne and Shirley -- I currently have no way to play these singles, and no memory of this particular song).

And, of course, the best theme song ever --

"The Rockford Files", performed by Mike Post. 3 minutes and 6 seconds of crunchy goodness. Copyright 1974, MGM records. Flip side? "Dixie Lullaby". Again, I have no idea what that was.

There's also a copy of "Shaduppa You Face" in there. God I was a weird kid.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

On the Bubble

There is a lot of talk about the implications of Steven Soderbergh's new movie "Bubble", which opens on Friday in theaters, as well as simultaneously on cable TV; it then debuts on DVD on Tuesday.

Soderbergh believes that consumers should have the choice about how to see their movies. Critics point to this as one more thing that is going to put the dagger into movie theaters.

The problem is that, as a test case, "Bubble" isn't a very good one at all.

It's a very low budget movie, that Soderbergh shot with non-actors, and it's only 71 minutes long. It's only opening in 6 arthouse theaters across the country. Though one assumes that Blockbuster might stock a few copies, if you want to buy it, it lists at $29.99. The cable TV network that it will be airing on is HD-Net, which not that many people get (and who are bankrolling this and 5 other Soderbergh low-budget films, apparently trying to get people to subscribe).

So, in terms of choices, there really aren't all that many in regards to this movie. Though early reviews seem to be very good, and I'd be interested in seeing it, I'm not going to drive all the way down the 405 to do so (particularly when there are so many other movies closer that I haven't seen yet). I'm not going to subscribe to HD-Net. I generally don't rent movies, so that's probably out too, though obviously that's where the largest percentage of people will probably "choose" to see it.

Essentially though, the theatrical release of this movie is just to give it a little higher profile; otherwise, this is a straight-to-DVD movie all the way. The true test will come when someone tries to do this with a bigger-scale movie that people would tend to rather see on the big screen -- or even with a smaller movie with big stars, a la "In Her Shoes", that people might just be content renting rather than seeing in the theater.

But though eventually the shrinking window between theatrical release and DVD/cable is something that is going to have to be addressed (particularly with the question of piracy as well), "Bubble" is really not the movie that is going to prove anything one way or the other.

Friday, January 20, 2006

So You Want To Be a Pro Writer?

As most of you have probably noticed, this blog is all over the map.

Sometimes I'll write about reading. Sometimes I'll write about movies, or the box office. Sometimes I'll try to make people laugh; sometimes I'm more serious.

Because so many other blogs deal so well with screenwriting, I haven't written all that much about that aspect, other than to occasionally filter writing ideas through my reading POV.

But now I'm inspired to just rant a little. I'm going to even use capital letters, and bold. (Wow, who knows, someday this blog might even have a photo or two. Nah).

Anyway, this is my thesis for the day:


You know what the biggest problem is with most young writers today? They sit down to their first script, and they don't say to themselves "I'm going to learn how to be a writer, by writing". They say "I'm going to write something, and sell it to Hollywood".

And then they knock out a script, and then they go over to the Internet message board they have been occasionally hanging out around, and they post "Hey, I just wrote my first script. How do I get an agent?"

Of course, they don't want to hear the answer, which is:

You don't. Throw the script into a drawer, and write another one. And then write another one.

There should be a rule, that you can't even try to sell one of your screenplays, until you have written at least 3. Or maybe 5. 7? 10's a good number. Because that's about the time most writers really start to figure out this whole screenwriting thing.

Of course, writers don't want to hear this, because it's daunting. It seems like work. And meanwhile, they think most movies in the theaters are so bad that anyone can write them.

But look at other careers. You want to be a doctor? You've got to put in a lot of time and effort -- LEARNING -- before you get to perform surgery on someone. You want to defend a killer? Again, you can't just walk in off the street and be a lawyer.

Unfortunately, there's no test for screenwriting. You don't need a license to practice. That's not necessarily a good thing.

Other careers even have rules. You can't even play football in the NFL, until you have been out of high school for at least two years. It's to protect the players, because they aren't ready, even if they think they are.

You think good screenwriting is really all that much easier than medicine or the law? You're wrong. You think you're ready to play with the big boys? No.

You need to treat it like a career. You need to read the books, you need to find writing exercises that sharpen your mind, your characters, your story, your dialogue. You need to see movies, and think about why and how they work.

You need to write scripts without worrying if they are commercial, because it isn't about that right now.

Hell, I think everyone should be required to adapt a book that they like a lot, that they don't have the rights to and probably never will get the rights to. Just as a writing exercise, to take you that much farther down the road. Adapt a J.D. Salenger short story. Do a screenplay based on that fantasy novel you've always loved.

Who cares if no one will ever buy it? That's the point. Write. The more you write, the better you get. And hell, if you adapt something that you like, you'll probably enjoy adapting it. Though if you don't enjoy simply writing, of creating something, then maybe you're in the wrong business anyway.

Of course, I'm terrible at taking my own advice. I haven't really consistently put in the work, outside of actually pounding out close to a dozen scripts. Though through the course of my reading career, I've actually been paid to do assignments that helped my writing.

I was paid to type the foreign film "Kolya" into screenplay form, from just watching the subtitled video. Want a good intensive exercise for screenplay form? Turn a movie back into a script.

I was paid to type the musical "Chicago" into screenplay form, from play form (apparently because execs' brains hurt if they have to read something that isn't a book or a screenplay). Want a good intensive exercise in screenplays? Simply retype the script of something someone else wrote.

Another company regularly hired me to do a scene breakdown of their scripts in development; basically the slugline of the scene and a brief description of what happens in the scene. Again, it's a way to find yourself looking at how scripts flow and come together.

There are a zillion different writing exercises that you can do to make your writing and your scripts better, from writing scenes between characters who never even meet during your script (just to explore different aspects of your characters), to trying to write sequences of your script without any dialogue at all, just to make yourself come up with ways of telling things without dialogue.

If all this sounds like work, it is. That's the point. Screenwriters aren't born, they are made. Talent helps, but unrefined talent isn't going to get you far enough.

Yes, there are stories of people selling their first screenplay, or having their first screenplay place well in a contest. It happens. But when they are inevitably asked "What else do you have", well, it's good to have an answer.

Write as much as you can. Don't make it about the selling, make it about the process. Aspiring TV writers have the right idea; they spec episodes of TV shows, not in hopes of actually selling them as episodes, but as writing samples, to show they can write. And in putting together all these samples, they learn how to write better.

Put in the effort. And if you don't want to, well, it just might not be the business for you.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Sometimes, Everyone Just Has The Same Idea

There are times when I read a lot of similar projects, though often they are in reaction to something being successful; when Quentin Tarantino was hitting big, everyone was writing, or dusting off, their Tarantino-esque screenplays.

But there has been a recent trend that has sort of hit me out of the blue, because I don't know where it's coming from.

In the last few months, I have read no fewer than 4 projects that are modern-day King Arthur stories. 4.

One was Meg Cabot's just-released novel Avalon High. The others were screenplays.

Similar elements abounded. All of the characters skew fairly young, except for the Merlin figure. Generally, the main character was unaware he was Arthur (or Lancelot), only to find out along the way that this is so. The main character was usually a meek man, who realizes that he needs to seize the responsibility that has suddenly been thrust upon him, to defeat villains whose evil plots seemed a bit muddled.

Everyone seemed to have similar names to the characters that they represented; the female lead was usually Gwen or Gwyneth. No one, in any of these tales, asked their parents why they gave them these names.

Excalibur usually popped up along the way; so did something called Avalon, whether it be a school or a corporation, and there is usually a big round table somewhere (and yes, one was in a pizza place).

Some of the stories deal with Gwen cheating with Lance. Sword fights and horseback riding usually come into play.

The general idea has a lot of potential, though none of these projects really fulfilled it. There may be a small opening for a really good modern day Arthur script to sneak in and be the one that actually makes the story work.

But just be aware, if you are writing a script like this, there may be a lot of modern-day-Arthur burnout going on among execs, while some of these (or some other project I haven't even read) are liable to catch someone's fancy and block the genre for the near future.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

I'd Like To Thank My Joke Writer

The most interesting thing about last Monday's Golden Globes (aside from all the gayness, and 8 million people pleading with Drew Barrymore to put on a bra) was the new trend in acceptance speeches.

The best ones not only were funny, they were pre-scripted funny. Winners coming up to the stage to accept their awards were suddenly launching into sketch comedy.

If you missed it, Geena Davis told an anecdote about a little girl coming up to her before the show and telling her that she wanted to be President when she grew up. Then -- beat, wait for it -- Geena admitted it was a lie. Her timing was perfect though, and it got a big laugh.

Hugh Laurie then comes up, with a bit in which he says there were so many people that he needed to thank, that he put everyone's name on little pieces of paper in his pocket, and was just going to pull out three. He pulls out and reads off the (supposed) names of two lowly crew members, throws away a third, and then reads the fourth, the name of his agent, which he says isn't in his handwriting.

The fact that this all worked better than it probably should have isn't the important thing. The important thing is that he felt so confident about winning that he could put together this whole prop-comedy bit.

Then Steve Carell gets up to accept his award, and says that though he didn't write a speech, his wife just gave him one, which he unfolds and reads. Which of course mentions his wife at least three times. Ha.

The problem is that all of this comedy stuff worked so well, that the people who actually just got up and thanked other people came off as drab and boring, so much so that the LA Times even mentioned the not-funny acceptance speeches as a flaw.

Which means award shows are doomed to this now. The bar has officially been raised -- people are going to have to bring the funny when they accept their awards. Reciting the familiar litany of names just isn't going to do it any more.

And I'm thinking that this has to be a good opportunity for writers. Because many actors just aren't that good at coming up with funny words to put in their own mouths.

I'm thinking we need to brainstorm wacky award-accepting bits, and at the end we'll find a way to get the three best to Philip Seymour Hoffman in time for the Oscars. Hopefully he'll pick one, and send the writer a $20 honorarium or a case of Scotch.


Sunday, January 15, 2006

32 Movies I'll Probably See in 2006

Turns out it might be a good year for movies in 2006, though I guess time will tell.

Here, however, are movies that are already on my radar (in alphabetical order):

ALL THE KING'S MEN. A remake, but it is written and directed by Steve Zaillian, and stars Sean Penn, Kate Winslet and Anthony Hopkins (release date to be announced)

AMERICAN DREAMZ. Satire of U.S. culture and politics, written and directed by Paul Weisz. (April)

ART SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL. "Ghost World" comic book artist Daniel Clowes and director Terry Zwigoff reteam. (April)

THE BLACK DAHLIA. Here's hoping that Brian DePalma has another great movie in him.

CARS. Because it's Pixar. (June)

CASINO ROYALE. James Bond gets another facelift. (November).

CLICK. Adam Sandler has had his best success with good scripts, and this one, about a remote control that can control your life, sold for a lot of money. (June)

THE DA VINCI CODE. Because Tom Hanks is in it, and apparently a few people read the book. (May)

THE DEPARTED. Remake of a Hong Kong film, starring Leo DiCaprio and Matt Damon. Oh yeah, and Martin Scorcese directed it. (To be announced)

FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS. Iwo Jima, directed by Clint Eastwood. (Fall)

FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION. Another Christopher Guest ensemble satire. (September)

THE FOUNTAIN. Time travel movie directed by Darren Aronofsky, so it could be interesting. Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz. (To be announced)

THE GOOD GERMAN. Written by Paul Attanasio, directed by Stephen Soderbergh, starring George Clooney. Do you really need to know what it's about? (To be announced)

GRINDHOUSE. Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez's homage to the exploitation film. (September)

LADY IN THE WATER. Because M. Night Shyamalan movies are interesting even when they don't work, and this one stars Paul Giamatti (July)

LUCKY YOU. Poker tale directed by Curtis Hanson. Drew Barrymore is in there somewhere. (To be announced)

MARGARET. Director Kennth Lonergan's new movie, starring Anna Paquin, Matt Damon, Mark Ruffalo and Matthew Broderick. (To be announced)

MARIE ANTONETTE. Sofia Coppola directs Kirsten Dunst; Jason Schwartzman plays King Henry XVI. (October)

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE III. Because the trailer makes it look like director J.J. Abrams is having fun with it, and Philip Seymour Hoffman plays the bad guy. (May)

MY SUPER EX-GIRLFRIEND. Luke Wilson dumps Uma Thurman, who turns out to have super powers and is really pissed at him. I read the script, and it was funny. (July)

PASSION OF THE CLERKS. Yeah, a sequel to Clerks. Because it'll probably be funny, and if not at least we can rip on Kevin Smith. (August)


THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE. Only because Wolfgang Peterson is directing it. (May)

A SCANNER DARKLY. Animated version of the Philip. K. Dick novel, directed by Richard Linklater and starring Winona Ryder. Because wow. (March)

SCARY MOVIE 4. Because there's plenty to make fun of out there. (April)

SNAKES ON A PLANE. Best. Title. Ever. (August)

SUPERMAN RETURNS. You know you'll be there too. (June)

TENACIOUS D IN 'THE PICK OF DESTINY". Because how could it not be funny? (September)

THANK YOU FOR SMOKING. A dark comedy about the tobacco industry starring Aaron Eckhart, which already has good buzz. (March)

V FOR VENDETTA. Natalie Portman with a really short haircut. (March)

WINTER PASSING. Only because I just saw the trailer, and the sight of Will Ferrell in an eccentric-dramatic supporting role looks interesting. Robert Duvall and Zooey Deschanel star. (February)

ZODIAC. David Fincher directs this tale of four lawmen pursuing a serial killer. Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Edwards. (Fall)


Weird. Though I titled this column before I started going through the movies, it came out to exactly 32 without any editing or pre-counting.

I'm sure I missed some good movies. But for the record, I don't have any faith in MIAMI VICE. Or Oliver Stone directing Nic Cage in WORLD TRADE CENTER Or in Brett Ratner directing X-MEN 3.

Or in Spike Lee directing anything, even if THE INSIDE MAN does star Denzel Washington, Clive Owen and Jodie Foster.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

I've Now Been "Tagged" At least Three Times, So...

I guess it's time to answer the questions that have been circulating around the Scribosphere, started by Fun Joel.

EARLIEST FILM-RELATED MEMORY. I can remember my parents taking me in to Radio City Music Hall, where they used to have a little show and then show movies. It was some period piece, maybe some 1970s Three Musketeers knockoff.

I also remember my father taking me and my little brother to see "The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings", which he had seen and loved. It was double-featured with another Richard Pryor movie called "Which Way is Up", which we stayed to watch. Unfortunately, Bingo Long was PG, but Which Way is Up wasn't. I remember some bit about trailers rocking because people were having sex in them. My dad hustled us out of there before the movie was over.

NAME TWO FAVORITE LINES FROM MOVIES. From Say Anything -- "I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought or processed, or repair anything sold, bought or processed. You know, as a career. I don't want to do that."

From Diner -- "It just pushed the flaps open?"

Catcher in the Rye

Camp counselor
Vegetable Stand worker
Computer Disk Copier
Paper Boy

Donald E. Westlake
Tobias Wolff
Stephen King

Westlake's "Help I Am Being Held Prisoner"
King's "The Long Walk"

Noah Baumbach

I'm not going to tag anyone, because I think the scribosphere is pretty much flooded by this meme at this point. However, I will shoot one back, to those sitting back thinking they are off the hook --


I don't even want context. Just throw the line out, here or in your blog.

Mine is "I meant in a circle".

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Surreal Real-Life Movie Moments

So late last night, I go to take a shower. I turn on the shower fairly high so that it can warm up, and then I sit on the nearby toilet to, you know, do my bidness.

And as I'm sitting there, I hear the shower get quieter, quieter... and then the water completely stop.

There's no one else in the bathroom, and no one could have gotten to the shower; literally, I'm sitting 2 feet away from it, and it has a glass door, not a curtain. I couldn't help but think that it would be a nice, spooky, wtf movie moment.


Unfortunately, I knew exactly what was going on.

For the second night in a row, the water main under our apartment had burst. Hundreds of gallons of water, pouring out onto the street right next to our balcony. The walls shuddering with the pipes dumping their load.

Freaked us out the first night, when I worried that any moment the apartment would start springing leaks all over. Fortunately it didn't happen, though after they finally turned the water off the first night (an hour after the leak), they didn't get it back on until last night. Hence the late shower attempt, that never happened.

I couldn't believe that it happened again, but sure enough, when I walked out onto the balcony, hundreds of gallons of water were again pouring out of a big hole. This is time I was so jaded I didn't even wake my wife.

Still, I can see the expression on my movie character's face, as the water slowly stops flowing in the shower...

Monday, January 09, 2006

This Week's Bad Writing Excerpt

I know I have been remiss recently in posting examples of bad-writing-that-is-nevertheless-being-submitted-to-production-companies, but business is picking up and the bad writing is starting to flow in again.

First off, let me say that I can sympathetize with writing a scene in a script, and then seeing the scene turn up in a major motion picture, and then worrying what to do with the scene in your script; do you jettison it in favor of something else? Do you find a fresh spin on it?

In this particular script I read over the weekend, there is a sequence in which the main character gets his chest waxed. I want to believe that it was written before "The 40 Year-Old Virgin" came out, but either way, since this draft is dated last week, there's no excuse for the writer not to do something with the chest waxing scene. But no, it just happens, and sits there, not even as interesting as the one that set the bar. Basically, it's a complete copy of it; the character yells a lot as his chest hair comes out in chunks.

(Ironically, the scene is there because it sort of fits into the story. Without going into the (godawful) plot too deeply, suffice it to say that it involves a midget who goes into hiding by disguising himself as a baby. Not that a chest wax really helps that much).

The bad writing comes in because the screenwriter obviously felt that someone reading the script was going to notice that the scene was similar to The 40 Year-Old Virgin's. But instead of reworking the scene, or doing something - anything - interesting with it, the writer settles for writing this to start of the scene.



King lies on his back as Madame Wong applies the first bit of wax and a strip of cloth to his chest hair. (Author's note... blatant rip-off coming.)


Here's a tip. If you are ripping off something so completely that you feel the need, in the script, to confess that you are ripping it off, you've already lost.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

The Top 10 Movies of 2005 Are --

Beats me. I have no idea.

There were years in the past when I could have taken a whack at a list like this, particularly when I lived in Manhattan, when I was averaging about 120 movies a year in theaters.

This year, I saw maybe 25.

Sure, they were generally good movies; when you only see a couple of movies a month, it is easier to avoid the crap. I can certainly come closer to a ten best movies list than a list of the ten worst movies, since I managed to avoid them all.

But this year I just didn't see much. I can't remember seeing a single foreign language film, or a single documentary. I'm sure I saw an independent film or two, but I'll be damned if I can remember what they were.

I know I liked Cinderella Man, and Crash, and Brokeback Mountain, and Good Night and Good Luck, and a lot of Jarhead. I liked Pride and Prejudice, and I liked King Kong more than most people. War of the Worlds, too. Narnia was good; so was In Her Shoes, and North Country. The Wedding Crashers and the 40 Year Old Virgin made me laugh.

I didn't really get the raves for A History of Violence; I thought it was predictable and underplotted. I'll have to see it again. I liked chunks of Elizabethtown, but it could have been a lot better.

I still plan to see Munich and The New World and Capote in the next few weeks, and I even hope to see The Squid and the Whale before it leaves the art house down the road. I'm sure I'd like Walk the Line too, if I can squeeze it in.

But I'm going to have to catch most of the 2005 releases on DVD and cable. So if you want a best-of list from me, you'll have to wait a few years.

Friday, January 06, 2006

My Hidden Self

So my wife finally started reading my blog, after someone told her about my King-Kong-as-a-Metaphor-For-Marriage post.

Fortunately, she laughed. A lot.

But then she started reading more of my posts. And it freaked her out a bit.

Because she didn't recognize me here. On this blog, I come across as outgoing and entertaining. In real life... not so much at all. In private with friends, maybe. Not with strangers.

She thought I was hiding this whole side of myself from her. I had to think about it, and then explain to her that it wasn't really true. It's an act.

Here, I'm forced to adapt a different persona. I have to play host, to be maitre d', to keep people's attention, to be funny and entertaining and hopefully interesting and informative at times.

I'm the ringmaster/juggler, keeping up a line of patter while 5 balls dance through the air.

But at the same time... maybe it is a part of me yearning to escape. Because my wife goes off to work all day, while I sit around the house, reading and writing coverage. Sometimes I go out to a coffee shop to read. Occasionally I go pick up work somewhere. But that's the only time I really have an honest conversation with anyone.

So it's nice to be able to come in here, and dance and sing a little. To pry open my brain, and see what flies out onto the page. To create a place where there's a little back and forth, and where I can make my little contribution to the scribosphere.

Or maybe it's just an act. Sometimes I'm not sure who is me, and who is blog me, and who is writer me, and who is husband me.

Still, it'll be interesting to see what's next on the bill.

On with the show...

Thursday, January 05, 2006

So I Did Sneak Into a Movie Last Weekend...

Not sure if I was the only one, but 10 points, I win.

The wife and I snuck into "Memoirs of a Geisha" after seeing "Brokeback Mountain", which aren't the best two movies to double-up on if only because they are both about 2 1/2 hours long.

Geisha isn't as bad as a lot of the reviews would have you believe; it looks good, and the story works if you can buy into it. But the main character is a bit too passive, and it's hard to really care about the central "romance".

We did the sneak in a 16-screen multiplex, and it wasn't even hard; apparently the staff is only st a level to clean theaters and not to keep an eye on other ones. I didn't see an usher the whole time.

We did drop $16 on the candy stand before Brokeback, so I don't feel too guilty. The only people that lost out were the people who made Geisha, but it's their fault for not making a movie worth paying to see.

I also saw "Pride and Prejudice" last week. Liked it a lot.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Resolutions For 2006

Work hard, but always carve out time for my wife.

Manage time better, so that I have the chance to write more.

Write more.

Dig out the fishing gear, and figure out a good place to use it.

Wonder if they make a fishing pole mount for laptops.

Write more.

E-mail my family more. Especially my parents.

Exercise more. Swim more.

Get my scripts in shape, and out there.

Eat better. Vegetables and fruit are my friends.

Put a baby in my wife.

Write more.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

So I Finally Saw Brokeback Mountain...

And it may well be the best movie of the year.

And this has nothing to do with the fact that it is a gay cowboy movie. Of course, it is a gay cowboy movie, and if this subject matter makes your brain shiver, it undoubtedly won't be the best movie of the year for you.

But it's a great movie (even to a straight guy like me) because it's the kind of character drama that we so rarely see any more. A movie that takes its time exploring its characters and the situation they find themselves in, and how it winds up affecting the rest of their lives. That hits each dramatic beat along the way perfectly, with some beautiful midwest vistas thrown in.

The movie is long, and it's slow in spots, but it works, because the characters are very well-rendered and extremely well-acted; who knew that Heath Ledger had this in him? Screenwriters Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana do an extremely good job exploring the main characters and the relationships with the others in their lives, and though the tale unfolds over a 20-year period, it is involving throughout.

(And, for you unrepentant heterosexual males, I can report that Michelle Williams and Anne Hathaway show more skin than Heath or Jake do).

Give this movie a chance. I no longer think this will make $90 million; it's too small and long to achieve that. But it should make over $50 million (it has already made $15 million, and hasn't fully expanded yet).

There have been comments on past posts by people who say they don't want to see this movie because they can't identify with the main characters. But these characters are human beings, just like you and me, wrestling with conflicts in their lives. If you can't open yourself up to stories of the kind of people you are likely to encounter in your life, then you have blinders on.