Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I'd rather be chasing zombies

Every Tuesday we have shortened class periods so the kids can go home early and we can stay for a long, boring meeting where everybody complains about how much everything sucks and the administrators nod and agree and remind us that there's nothing we can do.

I hate meetings. I'm the cranky girl in the back of the room who sits silently until finally someone says something utterly ridiculous and then my opinion flows like pus from the pinch of a long overdue zit on your face.

But mostly I just sit and pretend to listen until someone makes me participate in creating some silly chart that we have to present to the rest of the group. I usually bow out of making the chart because I have really bad handwriting. Also, I can't come to your place; you should come to mine. It's closer to Hollywood where all the cool stuff happens. And you'll have to drive because my car has no roof and is too small.

I digress.

I just really hate meetings, is my point. Today we have a real doozie. We were reminded like thirty times about how mandatory it is, so you just know there will be a sign-in sheet. I have to go or I'll get a lecture from somebody. Maybe everybody.

But there is one cool thing I can do during meetings: write. I bring a notebook and work on my stories. I'm still in the process of outlining zombie story and I made some headway brainstorming with Best Friend at lunch today, so maybe today's meeting won't be so bad. It's been a while since I had time to sit and zone out and plan a story in my brain.


There's a metaphor in there somewhere.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Gimme your money, bitches.

I keep dreaming of heists. Every night I break into a bank or some fancy place filled with money and run with my rotating partner in crime.

Last night I wore nothing but silk underwear and an open trench coat and spikey heels and carried an automatic that I used to threaten some brunette bitch when she tried to stop me from making my escape.

Maybe I was accidentally channeling that chick from The Transporter 2. My dream was a lot cooler than that movie.

The other night my partner in crime was a friend's ancient dog. She was a fantastic decoy. She barked at everybody while I ran for it with big bags of money.

There's a lot of yelling, running and fighting in these dreams. A far cry from that time I went to a party and danced with Willem Dafoe right before I hit Kevin Bacon with my car.

Or that time Ross Gellar called me boring while we were playing chess on that lake of ice.

I wonder what this heist thing is all about. Are the midichlorians trying to tell me to write a heist story? 'Cuz I tried that several months ago with miserable results. It turns out, I don't actually know anything about arranging a heist.

Or maybe I'm not just supposed to write about a heist. Maybe I'm supposed to go commit a heist in my silk panties and trench coat. I just don't know if I can run fast enough in those heels.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The good, the bad, and the poorly edited

I've seen a ridiculous amount of films this weekend. Thursday I watched Thank You For Smoking, which I enjoyed overall, although I have mixed feelings about the decision to never actually show anyone smoking throughout the film. I understand the point they were making, but I think parts of the story actually suffered from the absence of cigarettes in the hands of characters who talk about how much they smoke. The alcohol lady drinks in the film, the gun guy brandishes his firearm, but the chain smoker never actually lights up. An interesting choice.

But I liked the message behind the film: make your own decisions. Anyone who wanted to decide your morality for you was the bad guy, despite what side of the argument he was on.

Friday I caught Playmates in 3D at the New Beverly theater. The director stood up before the film and announced that the red never came out right in the coloring so the 3-D didn't really work that well. The film had about twelve plots, only one of which ever really got resolved, and the sex wasn't even real sex. People were taped down and dry humping.

And the theater was filled with laughing 50-year-old men cracking jokes. So that was funny.

The movie was supposed to be terrible and that's why it was funny. A porn that embraced it cheesiness so much it make a joke about Rosebud sleds as a poke at its own sad self-image.

Boyfriend and I did not stay for the second film, some blacksploitation porn not in 3-D.

Yesterday I watched The Simpsons in the theater. I already gave my opinion about that.

I tried to watch Bend it Like Beckham and couldn't get excited. Then I tried to watch a Prairie Home Companion and couldn't get excited. Then I watched Supertroopers and enjoyed my laughter. I forgot how funny that movie was. Did you know they're making a sequel?

Then boyfriend and I watched Night of the Living Dead and the original Dawn of the Dead. It's cool to see a genre film that is about more than just the straight story. In both films the zombies serve as symbols of flaws in our society, and that's something I definitely want to emulate in my own zombie film. My story is about zombies, but the zombies are simply a vehicle for a story about trust and love and appreciating what you have.

Tonight Boyfriend and I will watch Taladega Nights and Rocky Balboa and eat quesadillas. And then I'll look out the window to remind myself of what the sky looks like.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Homer dooms us all

That James L. Brooks sure knows what he's doing.

There's no real spoilers you didn't get from the preview, so read on.

The Simpsons movie wasn't just funny. It has all the elements of a great family film with a moving story about trust and selflessness and courage and what it means to be a husband and father. But also, funny.

The theater was packed. Even after a bulb blew in the projector and we all waited half an hour for the film to start (there was booing but thankfully no violence). The guys beside me spent the entire wait time discussing whether or not they were going to wait, even up to the minute the movie came on.

I was alone so I didn't want to give up my seat to go pee, so the 85 minute length of the film was just right for my tiny bladder. Also I don't drink things at the movies for that very reason.

The Grove has a theater with a balcony and leather seats. I did not know this. They were very comfortable.

Anyway, about the movie: it had all the same basic elements of a Simpsons episode (the inciting incident that then becomes irrelevant once it's achieved its purpose, Maggie doing something kind of scary, Homer choking Bart) but structured like a film. It had action, adventure and a bit about Alaska. I only wish I could have seen more of Springfield under siege. The movie was short enough, they could have spared some more time for people who aren't related to Homer.

Still, there's something to be said for quick, clean and simple. And funny.

There are a few things they couldn't have done on television: some surprising and extremely comical nudity right at the beginning, one "goddamn" and a joke about Carl that the censors probably wouldn't have approved.

I didn't roll on the floor laughing at any point, but I did plenty of laughing out loud at Homer's big screen absurdity.

It was definitely higher quality than the last comedy I saw, Playmates in 3D. That was a really bad soft core porn I caught with friends at the New Beverly last night. I mean seriously, just because you're a porn movie does not mean you have to be poorly edited.

Anyway, Simpsons good. But you probably already knew that.

Friday, July 27, 2007

There were so many possible puns for the title of this post my brain almost exploded

Steven Spielberg and Ford are putting a lot of money into On The Lot. And the show's still tanking in the ratings.

This week they're filming "car week" also known as "car commercials week" or "all of you ungrateful little film makers need to learn a little humility and beg for your almighty dollar by embracing product placement week." Some of them already have. Notice how may Fords have already been featured in their shorts since the show began? Or Verizon phones?

But this week they're actually required to use Fords in their shorts, so they're essentially directing car commercials. If I had this assignment I'd save the car for the very end and barely show it. I'd use it as a McGuffin for the rest of the story. I wonder if they'd let me.

I hate doing what I'm told.

Anyway, Ford is also sponsoring a thing for bloggers. They're inviting 20 bloggers to fly to LA on their dime and ride around in a Ford and stay in a fancy hotel and meet the cast and crew and see the show. If you've seen this offer come your way, know that it's legitimate. I have a good Friend who works on the show and he affirmed its legitimacy.

I'm just not sure why. I guess nothing else is working, so they're embracing the blogosphere as a way to get word of mouth about the show. If it works then maybe other companies will do it too.

But that's dangerous I think. If you take a blogger with a heavy base of readers and give him lots of presents and send him back to write about his experience, isn't that a bit like paying someone for a good review? I suppose they're not requiring a good review, but it is very difficult to take gifts from someone and then crap all over them. And if you do that you'll never be given the opportunity again. Many of the bloggers asked are trying to break into screenwriting. Perhaps there's a little hope dangled in front of the out-of-towners on this. If I write a good review, maybe the studio execs will take a look at my script....

I'll be driving around the show with Friend in a car that is not a Ford because I don't like opportunities that come with invisible strings. Unless Friend is just trying to get me to sleep with him. Then I guess I'll have to pony up.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

When zombies attack

Boyfriend has a zombie contingency plan. So last night for no reason whatsoever we started planning what we'd do in the event of an overnight zombie attack and we were stuck at my place with no real weapons and my car with no roof. And I tell ya, if there is a zombie attack I'll be lucky to have Boyfriend at my side because he has some badass skills.

Unless I turn into a zombie. Then he evidently has no qualms about chopping off my head and leaving me in the street.

Anyway, during our planning session one idea beget another and suddenly poof! Awesome zombie movie idea.

But zombie movies have been done before and with varying degrees of success many times throughout the history of the horror film, so the question becomes how to make our zombie story any different from the gazillion other zombie stories? Everything I came up with at first was too much like Shaun of the Dead.

So Boyfriend and I kept passing ideas back and forth. It was like a scene out of some boring indie movie. He was going on about what he would do in certain zombie infestation situations, and I was zoned out thinking of how I could plot this out without being too derivative. And somewhere in the two conversations we were having with ourselves we came together: A high concept zombie film.

French Biopic can wait. It's waited this long. I'm going to do something that will be loads of fun and make money first. As soon as Game Night hits the festival circuit and wows everybody with its awesomeness and THEY give me lots of money to make a movie I'll be pushing Bamboo Killers for me to direct and then I'll hold up Zombie Movie for Boyfriend to direct. And then people will give me money for French Biopic. And then pigs will sail through the skies on beautiful gold-trimmed wings.

I mean, everything will be awesome because I'm going to will this all into being. My optimism knows no bounds.

Although I might puzzle THEM all by going from Pulp Fictionesque chapter film about sex and violence and drugs to high concept zombie movie to French royalty biopic, but I'll deal with that when the time comes. By then THEY'll love me so much THEY'll just throw money at me when I bat my little eyelashes.

Now I fear I must do lots of research which consists of watching every decent zombie movie ever made. It's going to be a rough weekend.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Some more stuff you didn't know

I was tagged by Nick the writerist to list eight things nobody knows about me.

So here goes.

1) I broke my middle finger in kindergarten when a desk I was sitting in fell over because I was trying to reach a black magic marker I dropped on the floor. I wore a giant cast on the finger. I kept sticking it up at people to show them until one kid told her mommy she was very upset because I kept giving her The Finger. That's how I found out that The Finger is bad.

2) Wyle E. Coyote is my favorite WB character because he never gives up and is actually a pretty humble and clever guy. I have a stuffed doll and two T-Shirts with his mug on them. I believe the Road Runner is a smug little bastard who must be destroyed.

3) My only regret in life is that I didn't take a job I was offered in high school to work at Quick Ten, an oil-changing place, where I could have learned about car repair. Instead I stayed at Boston Market where I was making a little bit more money. I'm not usually that short-sighted.

4) I have a tendency to turn myself into a foil for whoever I'm around. As in, the more upset you get the more I fall into a zenlike calm to counter what you're feeling. If you're calm I get hyper and can't stop talking. I just think I instinctively need to balance things out. Around shy people I'm outgoing. Around outgoing people I'm shy.

5) I only date dark-haired men.

6) I haven't ironed an item of clothing in three years.

7) I can't sew. Not even buttons. Thank goodness for Maggie.

8) I got a ticket for speeding two weeks after I got my license. Since then I have had literally a dozen warning tickets for various traffic violations but no actual citations.

Ok. I tag Maggie the seamstress
Just Me

Prior approval required

I was out yesterday and didn't see a computer all day, so I wasn't able to check my email until this morning when I discovered three nasty personal attacks presumably by the same anonymous person who apparently had enough time on his or her hands to read the blog of someone he or she does not like and comment with poor grammar about what a horrible person I am.

It was a fun way to start my morning.

When these comments first started to appear I just deleted them, then I blocked anonymous comments. But I had a few people who aren't members of Blogger tell me it blocked them too, so I opened my comments back up. And then this morning I had those lovely notes about why I'm the worst thing to happen to America since Paris Hilton.

I can definitely see the similarities. I, too, have blond hair and know how to breathe.

Most of the time I've seen anonymous comments on this blog they've been written by cowardly people who enjoy being rude, so from now on if I see anything posted anonymously and rude I'll just delete it.

If I criticize you I will do it like an adult and you will know who I am. I expect no less from my smattering of readers. I'm fine with criticism. I'm not fine with anonymous personal insults.

Later today I will address the meme I've been tagged with.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Hey, man. Don't be mean.

Harry Potter is a four-quadrant book. It appeals to over 25s and under, boys and girls alike. It works in the film industry; makes sense that it works for a book.

I say that if you're an adult and you read the book, you have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. I own a copy of The Emperor's New Groove. I liked Finding Nemo and The Incredibles. It's no different from enjoying a book about a teenage wizard fighting the forces of darkness.

I suppose I'm harping on this a little because Chez at Deus Ex Malcontent seems obsessed with trying to make people who read Harry Potter feel as bad about themselves as he can. Why someone wants to waste so much time and energy making fun of people for enjoying something is beyond me. All his ranting hasn't made me feel the least bit bad about my love for Harry Potter. It has made me wonder why I bother reading something written by someone who obviously needs to put other people down so he can feel superior.

One of the things recommended on his posts - maybe by him, maybe by someone else in a comment, I don't remember - was for the last page of the book to be covered in poison so we could "thin the gene pool". That's a hell of a thing to say.

I can't stand country music. But I have friends who like it and that's fine with me as long as they don't force me to listen to country while we're in the car. I'm certainly not going to write a rambling post about what horrible people they are for enjoying the caterwauls of Randy Travis because it doesn't make them horrible people. They like something I don't care for. Big deal. I just shrug and go about my business.

It makes me wonder, what makes somebody feel the need to put other people down? What is it in human nature that brings us some sense of satisfaction when we make snap judgments, when we get to decide in our minds whether or not someone is worthy of life because of their taste in music or movies or books?

Chez's main point is that Harry Potter is not written for adults. Grown ups should only read grown up-books. I've read a lot of grown-up books and some of them are pretty good. Lolita is a difficult book to read and I quite enjoy it. But it's about the repeated rape of a teenage girl by her stepfather. Catch 22 is an excellent book, and very difficult for most people to read, and it's about the stupidity and horrific oddities of war. Heart of Darkness is required reading for anyone who wants to consider himself a well-read adult. It's a horrifying story of man's inner demons.

Harry Potter is about good overcoming evil and the courage one boy can show in the face of danger. It's a hopeful story, a story that makes me feel warm and fuzzy instead of depressed and hopeless. It may not be the most difficult to read, but neither is Animal Farm. Neither is Of Mice and Men. Neither is Night. All of these are considered "adult books". Come to think of it, those are all depressing books too.

Is that what makes something a children's book? A happy ending? In order to be an adult you have to be depressed?

Then I shall stay a child.

People often hold me to some strange standards because of my chosen profession. They think I must have perfect spelling and grammar and rush to correct me if I'm wrong even though I never correct anyone's grammar unless they're in my classroom. They also expect me to only read the most lofty of literature. But I judge a book by how much I want to turn the page. If I resist going to the bathroom because I want to see what happens next, it's a good book. Harry Potter makes me feel that way. Heart of Darkness does not.

I believe it was James Baldwin who once said "Men pay for their crimes by the lives they lead." That's always sort of been my motto. People who are mean-spirited tend to be very unhappy. They can make fun of me all they like for my taste in literature, but the more venom they spout my way, the more comes back on them. That's a lesson they might have learned if they'd ever read Harry Potter.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The ratings board has spoken

I went to the sight that rates blogs and typed myself in. It came up with a "G" rating.

So I thought, what the fuck?

Then I published a new post with the word "fuck" in it. And I rerated it. And here were my results:

Free Online Dating

That's more like it. Ratings are silly things.

Friday, July 20, 2007

An open letter to my multitude of bosses

Dear School Administrator
(Literacy Coaches, Principals, Assistant Principals, Superintendents, School board members, and anybody else who bosses teachers around):

Please stop "helping" me.

Some teachers have their kids in tidy little rows, backs straight, mouths closed as they copy the notes from the board like obedient little automatons. That's how they teach and it works for them.

I am not that teacher.

That bores me almost as much as it bores them. When I teach my kids are loud and laughing and that's how I like it.

When you walk in the room all you hear is "Once his penis got reattached, John Wayne Bobbitt started to star in porn films."

And you shake your head and write it down in your little notebook and leave.

You don't stay for the conversation about the symbolism of the penis as a source of a man's power, the fact that the word "impotent" means both powerless and erectionless, the way phallic symbols are used throughout architectural history to represent fortitude, that the Egyptians and Romans practically worshipped the penis and made sculptures of it as part of their artistic culture.

This is how I teach. My students think I'm talking about porn so they think it's all secretive and dirty and they're not being forced to learn anything. I'm really teaching them symbolism. At the end of the year they all gasp when they realize how much they know. They don't remember learning anything.

But all you hear is the word "penis", and we all know that's not in the textbook.

Every year you send me to a new three-day workshop that costs millions of dollars and pulls me out of the classroom to sit in a room where some old lady who hasn't seen a child in eight years hands me a big fat book that details every second of classtime and takes all the thinking out of my job. And it's the magical answer to all our problems and some day soon every class will be identical and all the children will learn the exact same thing and we will have a world of beautiful automatons.

Until we discover that this doesn't work either and make me go to a new workshop to learn the new magical plan next year.

Want to help? Here's what you do. Tell me what you want me to teach. Not the standards, not some generic idea about writing - specifics. World Literature. Literary terms. How to write a research paper.

Then leave me alone.

By the end of the semester they'll know what you need them to know. They'll pass all your standardized tests. They'll write dynamite essays. But only if you stay out of my way.

If you have a great idea for a lesson plan on how to teach theme, by all means share it. I'll listen and tweak it and maybe use it if I like it. I'm always open to new ideas. But stop telling me how to run my class.

I just want to shut my door and teach. Please let me.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

In defense of the boy who lived

This is in response to a post by the normally most excellent and wise but currently wrong Chez at Deus Ex Malcontent.

During my second year as a teacher I started hearing a lot of hubbub about the Potter boy. Suddenly kids who hated reading were becoming avid readers all thanks to this strange little wizard.

So out of professional curiosity I picked up a copy of The Sorcerer's Stone. I figured an English teacher should read a book that has kids hooked on literature.

I read it in one day. Then I immediately ran to Wal-Mart and picked up The Chamber of Secrets.

Unfortunately that's all my local Wal-Mart had. I had to graduate to trips to Barnes and Noble for the rest, which was at the time an hour away from where I lived.

The Half-Blood Prince is about 672 pages. I bought it the day it came out and read it in 24 hours.

I did not dress up as a witch. I'm not planning on standing in line at midnight on Saturday. I just love these books, the same way I love Siddhartha or Lolita or Bleak House or Stars My Destination. It's a good story.

It's a fine example of the hero's journey, for one thing, just like Star Wars. Yes, it's written with kids in mind, but so is the Pirates of the Caribbean (also a hero's journey). Harry Potter is a four-quadrant book. In the film industry we reward that concept. Why if it's a book do we look down on people for reading "beneath" themselves?

However you feel about the films, to me the books are compelling reading and I greatly enjoy the stories as they get darker and more twisted and spiral to the end. I love stories in all their forms. And doggone it, kids, Harry Potter is as entertaining as they get.

Don't bother me Saturday. I'll be reading.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

This is what happens when you talk back


TRAINER holds a pad up to the side of his face.

EMILY clasps the side of his head with her left hand and sends a sharp elbow flying at the pad. It connects.

Hit harder! Really put your body behind it!

Emily really lets it go and pounds her elbow into the pad where it slides off and clocks Trainer right in the cheekbone.

Trainer clasps his face and stumbles back. Emily cackles.

When you left I was the student. Now I am the master.

Only a master of evil, Emily.

Trainer reaches his hand into the equipment box behind him and pulls out a light saber. He turns it on and squares off against the enemy.

Emily smirks, reaching into her wasteband for her own laser sword.

Oh it's on, bitch.

They fall to, lightsabers flying. Other trainers scramble for cover as the pair locks in an epic battle for Kickboxing room supremacy.

Oh, wait. It didn't actually go like that.


TRAINER holds a pad up to the side of his face.

EMILY clasps the side of his head with her left hand and sends a sharp elbow flying at the pad. It connects.

Hit harder! Really put your body behind it!

Emily really lets it go and pounds her elbow into the pad where it slides off and clocks Trainer right in the cheekbone.

Oh my god oh my god oh my god!

She holds her gloves up to hide her guilty face, protecting it much better than she ever did when she was sparring.

Trainer looks around at the other trainers who are watching.

It's ok.

I'm so sorry!

It's okay.

Trainer glances at the mirror.

Let's go again.

Emily hesitates. Will she do it again?

She does it again.

Oh my god! I'm so sorry!

(rubbing his cheek)
You're obviously worried about this. We should stop.
Can you see it?

Emily looks at the red welt forming on the side of his high cheekbone.

Kind of.

Trainer glances once more into the mirror.

It's okay. I'll tell my girlfriend I got jumped.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

You gotta have standards

Having a social life makes me sleepy. I'm not sleeping anymore because I'm doing stuff instead, which seems great at the time but has really started to catch up with me. And I'm hungry. And I'm babysitting another teacher's class with no lesson plan.

Get off my lawn.

I can't believe there are two shows airing this season about people trying to karaoke poorly. For a while there we were forced to deal with shows that played underhanded tricks on people like My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance or Joe Millionaire. It was straight up trivia for a bit, like The Weakest Link or Who Wants to be a Millionaire. Now we reward people for breathing. Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader? Wooo, don't aim so high.

Let's not even try to figure out where The Swan fits in. Did you know that show is out on DVD? Know what's not out on DVD? Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet.

I like shows that reward talent like Project Runway or America's Next Top Model. At least there people can't win without learning and improving and showing some kind of genuine skill.

Deal or No Deal will be the new lead in for Friday Night Lights because NBC's hoping the massive ratings connected to a show about opening suitcases will help out one of the most brilliant shows on television. It makes me want to smack myself in the forehead.

And now we have two shows about whether or not people forget lyrics and say stupid funny things instead. It sounds a lot like what my friends and I used to do as we rode around drunk through the college campus back in the day. I should have videotaped it. Then I could have been a millionaire.

I don't blame the network. They're playing to their audience. The audience would rather watch Howie Mandel open suitcases for an hour than get involved in the family friction in Dillon, Texas.

But I guess it makes sense in a sad way. Realistic stories and drama just don't serve as nightly distractions the way watching real people do dumb things for money or fame does.

I just know I won't be watching The Singing Bee.

Monday, July 16, 2007

I'm waiting for Gilgadeth 3

Last night I watched a film by an 18-year-old action junkie shot entirely on his dad's camcorder in an old steel warehouse in Pennsylvania. It was violent and contained a lot of nudity and made me laugh repeatedly at the bad special effects.

And it was beautiful. As the film's producer/writer/cinematographer/star sat beside me, a grown man now and with a much better haircut, explaining occasionally that the squeaky sound in the office was a result of a broken tripod or why metal cans filled with fire suddenly disappeared in the middle of a fight sequence, I thought about how much I wish I'd had the gumption to make a movie like that when I was 18.

The dialogue was all improv, the story was convoluted and the acting was pretty bad. But every so often you'd see a glimmer of something promising like an unexpected close-up or a sudden shot of boobs to introduce a ridiculously bloody fight montage. It was popcorn fare to be sure, but it was made with the love of a promising director. And it showed an enormous amount of creative energy.

And I know 18-year-old films. I've had to sit through many a video about Don Quixote or King Lear. They're usually funny, but they don't try very hard to be clever. This film was clever.

That's what I tried to get across as the director sat beside me, sad that I didn't love his film the way others love his film.

But he's wrong. I do love his film. I love that he made it. I love that anybody picks up a camera and shoots a story from beginning to end. I wish I'd done the same a lot sooner.

I'd love to see a sequel. I want to see what that kid can do all grown up.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

What Emily is watching

I just reorganized my DVR schedule so now I am pondering it to figure out what the list says about my personality and interests. I'm clearly into dark scifi and superheroes. Here's the top 30. What's at the top of your list?

And if you haven't seen any of these shows please do. They're fantastic.

1) Battlestar Galactica
2) Lost
3) Heroes
4) Friday Night Lights
5) Supernatural
6) Stargate Atlantis
7) Eureka
8) Prison Break
9) Dr. Who
10) House
11) The Office
12) My Name is Earl
13) Scrubs
14) The Wire
15) Hex
16) Project Runway
17) The Shield
18) Best Week Ever
19) Hustle
20) The Soup
21) Entourage
22) Psych
23) Flight of the Conchords
24) 24
25) Grey's Anatomy
26) The Riches
27) The Simpsons
28) America's Next Top Model
29) Dresden Files
30) MI-5 (AKA "Spooks")

Friday, July 13, 2007

A long time ago, we used to be friends

There's a married couple at work that we are all watching as they slowly implode. They met here last year when they were both seeing other people. I was friends with both of them, but particularly "Roger". He helped me figure out I didn't want to get married and we used to talk for hours about whatever. I read his horror screenplays and gave him page-by-page notes. I was not remotely attracted to him.

"Catherine" was a Mormon. She was Mormon because her boyfriend was Mormon.

Then she broke up with her boyfriend and started trolling for new blood. She went after at least three teachers at the school who weren't interested. Then Roger broke up with his girlfriend and two needy people came together. She was a Mormon no longer because now her boyfriend is a heavy drinker. So she became a heavy drinker.

Six months after they met I drove with them to Vegas and watched them get married. They were both hammered. I helped Catherine change into her wedding dress in the dirty bathroom while Roger flirted with the girl who drew up his marriage license.

They got married at some random cheap-ass chapel, giggling the whole time. Then we went to a club where the newlyweds had a fight and she rode back to the hotel while he whined about how it was all over and he was going to break up with her. I reminded him that he had just gotten married, handed a cab driver $20 and shoved Roger into the cab so he could go back to the hotel and screw his new wife.

I never got my $20 back. I did get to chauffer them both the entire way back to LA in the middle of the night after waiting the extra day and a whole afternoon they decided to stay in town so they could swim in a pool and get drunk more.

Flash forward a few months and they're the official married couple of the school. They teach in ajoining classrooms, they eat lunch together, they sit next to each other at meetings and Catherine's classroom wall is a shrine to her husband. Her screensaver is nothing but pictures of them together.

And they don't talk to anyone else unless it's to complain.

They don't return phone calls. They don't respond to memos. They don't even say hi back if you wish them a good morning. They are angry at everybody and everything and have completely isolated themselves from anyone who's not them. I joined Bally's originally so we could all be workout partners, but they quit the gym so they could work out in their apartment building together where they wouldn't be tempted by hot boys and girls around them. Roger's not even allowed to look at girls anymore, even me. I confronted him about it once and all I got was a blank stare and a lot of stuttering, and we haven't spoken since. Every time Catherine looks at me I feel rays of contemptuous rage burning my face because I'm pretty sure he told her about my confrontation.

All the faculty agrees it's a cautionary tale for the ages. No matter how much you think you love somebody, it's a bad idea to try to crawl into their skin and actually become one person. And don't get drunk and married in Vegas.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Cute, cuddly and explosive

I'd like to take a moment to talk about my favorite adorable show that just keeps chugging along under the radar.

Eureka is a show that has just started its second season on Scifi. It stars Colin Ferguson as the sheriff of a town where America's smartest scientists live and work on crazy inventions that often go awry. Stuff explodes a lot.

It's the kind of science fiction comedy Sci-Fi has attempted over and over without success. Good Vs Evil, The Chronicle, The Invisible Man - all of these were decent shows that never rounded up enough ratings to survive long term, although Invisible Man did get a much deserved second season.

So now Eureka is in the Invisible Man position. It's filled with CGI effects and quirky characters and a charming male lead who's a bit clueless about sciency stuff but knows how to solve problems his own way. They're very similar shows. I just hope Eureka doesn't suffer the same fate and disappear at the end of the season. So far the ratings look good.

Most episodes function very well as standalones. Even if you've never seen an episode, picking up in the middle is easy as mutated pie, but there is an overall mysterious conspiracy about an ancient artifact nobody can figure out what to do with. And in the middle of it all is our sheriff and his rebellious daughter and the woman the sheriff's in love with and her ex-husband and their autistic child who has evidently just absorbed some kind of superpower. And the rest of the town spins around them.

And it's adorable. And funny. And has somehow found its way into fifth place of 74 on my DVR recording list.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A little bit of inspiration

Thanks to Ali, I now know how to approach my 15th Century French Royalty biopic.

Let me explain.

There are two projects I dream of putting on film in my lifetime. One is the adaptation of Alfred Bester's Stars My Destination, which keeps getting bandied about Hollywood since nobody seems to know how to approach it successfully, (ME! I Do! Gimme!) and the other is my French royalty biopic - I know, that's a hell of a lucrative field and quite appropriate for a girl who's DVD collection is 90 percent action films.

But I love this story so much I wanted to wait until I knew how to tell it right before I started trying to tell it at all, so I've been sitting on it for seven years.

There is a French queen I have studied and admired and wanted to write about since the first time I ever wrote a paper about her in a French history class in college. Her story is amazing, but aside from some inaccurate cameos in other people's stories and the occasional historical book about her husband, very little has been written about the woman.

The biggest problem I've been having with this story is trying to find a frame for it. Too many stories about famous queens go in a direct chronological order, so what else can you do? Start with a major incident from childhood like Ray? Or start at the end and tell it in flashback?

It just seems like everything has been done.

But then I watched Ali. Ali opens with Will Smith pounding on a speed bag and remembering key moments of his life. The moments aren't about boxing. The moments are quick glimpses that show the way young Cassius Clay was introduced to racism in American society. It's not a boxing story; it's a story about a boxer dealing with racism.

So I realized that the key to framing a biopic is to decide what the core of the story is about. It sounds simple, but I'd never thought about it quite that way before. I don't have to tell the queen's whole life story - I just have to tell the part that drew me to her in the first place. Her story is about her mission to bring France an heir to the throne. Everything else in her life is a part of that mission. So the story begins with the first time she was really made aware of what she had to do. Any part of the story that is not about her desire to have and raise a son is irrelevant to the story.

So now, for the first time in the seven years I've been noodling with this story I finally know how it has to be done. See? Boxing is the answer to everything.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Celebrity Sightings

Saturday I joined Scribe and a few other cool people again at the Hollywood Cemetery screening. This week's movie - Fast Times. Drew Barrymore showed up, as did the director, Amy Heckerling. They got up and introduced the film to the crowd, which got us all jazzed. Apparently Drew goes to those screenings all the time. It makes you wonder who else does. I somehow doubt they had to wait in line with the rest of us.

Then on Sunday morning New Boyfriend and I were discussing the pros and cons of Minority Report and I started singing the praises of Neal McDonough and going on about Band of Brothers and lamenting that his current project, Traveler, is not as awesome as the untimely cancelled Boomtown.

Then we walked up to Larchmont for the farmer's market to get some potatoes and garlic when we got held up in this little pathway by some douche with a giant baby carriage in the middle of conversation with some friends he'd evidently run into. I was thinking about being rude and pushing the fool out of the way when I realized it was Neal Freakin' McDonough.

So I waited and basked in his glow. He finally pushed on but kept running into more people he knows. That man is very popular. I wonder if he lives in my neighborhood? I could run into him while jogging, perhaps and then stare at him and really creep him out by mumbling "You're awesome" and running away.

Still, he was majorly holding people up and his kid has far too much legroom in that carriage.

I went "Oh my god oh my god oh my god" and stopped when his friend looked at me and smirked. Boyfriend was unfazed and bought some jalapeno pistachios.

Then as we were walking back I saw another dude I recognized but couldn't place him right away. After we turned the corner and started walking down Beverly I realized it was Kevin Weisman, Marshall from Alias. He looked concerned about his bagel situation.

Boyfriend works on a studio lot all day so he did not get excited, but I have yet to lose my immediate glee when I see an actor I admire in person. I don't say anything, of course, because I don't want to look like a massive dork, but I still get excited. It was a good day. I got garlic and saw Buck Compton from Band of Brothers.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

The Bratz collection

If any of you are coming here to read my recaps of the Bratz movie filming at my school, here you go.

I'm sure I'll update it when the movie opens.

Is this what you were looking for? Part two

It's time for another installment of the bizarre search terms people use to find me. Here are my favorites:

i don't like white people. i hate rednecks. you people are rednecks, which means i'm enjoying this shit

For the record, there is a big difference between a white person and a redneck. Rednecks are called "rednecks" because they spend all day out in the sun on the farm and they get suburned on the back of their necks. But that's really a misnomer because not all farm workers are rednecks. And all white people get sunburned if they hang out outside. Okay, so maybe all white people are rednecks. But that's no reason to hate, buddy.

white lady comes into the ghetto and teaches writing

Yes, yes I did. But if you made a movie out of my experience it would be really boring, although you could always jazz it up with a new song from Coolio.

i got pain inside my brain because i drank martell alcohol

Stop fucking people up, Bill.

wet white assholes

So is this a reference to aforementioned rednecks covered in water or are you just looking for porn?

dvd studio pro chapter markers skip back to the main menu too early

It's called a bootleg, honey. Stop buying your DVDs from that skeezy guy who hangs out in front of the taco stand.

how to loose virginity pictures

That word is spelled with one "O" dude. Were you looking for some kind of diagram?

I've been getting a lot of people looking for information on how to lose their virginity. First of all, why are you in such an infernal hurry? Unless you're like 35 and still live with your mom, in which case step one to losing your virginity is moving out of your mom's house. But seriously, watch some porn to learn the basics and then go get naked. The rest you learn as you go. And wear a condom.

explode koala

That's funny. And kind of evil. And it reminds me to reestablish that people shouldn't eat pandas.

the movie markers that cut down and people say marker what are they called

Clapboards, right? Did I win the prize?

animation humorous alien sings i can survive

I wish I had this YouTube video. It sounds awesome.

i am the other woman but he doesn't have to keep reminding me

Oh honey, get out. Get out now.

napoleon bonaparte - all women are bitches except my mother

So the greatest warrior in French history was a mama's boy. Interesting.

teacher ambushed and fucked by five students

Ummmmmmmmmm.................... no?

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Sometimes the studio gives good notes

USA's got a new show called Burn Notice. It stars Jeffrey Donovan who used to be on the short-lived and vastly underappreciated Touching Evil, and the great Bruce Campbell in a story about a fired spy who's stuck in Miami and forced to solve mysteries while he tries to figure out who sabataged his career.

I love Jeffrey Donovan and Bruce Campbell so of course I watched the pilot. I watch all the pilots.

The pilot for this show was cute but had a few annoying little quirks. The mom was way too whiny and over-the-top and the ex-girlfriend's Lucky Charms Irish accent (The actress is British) was grating. Some of the dialogue was too on-the-nose as well, like the way Mike (Donovan)'s mom let us all know Mike's dad was dead by the complete nonsequitor comment about it.

But there was enough adorable quirkiness to the pilot to convince me to check into the second episode to see if it got any better.

And boy did it ever. Whoever gave this show notes really knew what they were doing. The annoying mom has been greatly softened to the point where I'm not sure she's the same actress. She's much less annoying but still maintains an edge. The girlfriend has completely changed accents in an odd but ultimately pleasing way (although she really should eat more food since in one scene you can clearly see her spinal column), and the dialogue has improved.

Good job, Matt Nix. Way to adapt.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

More mediocre direction from the gallery

I just watched this week's On The Lot.

The judges are way too nice.

It's horror week. The redneck kid, Jason, made a movie called Eternal Waters. It was about a woman who's son is dead and he comes back to save her from a would-be rapist or murderer home invasion guy. Unfortunately, Eli Roth was the only judge who had real criticism because this film is a prime example of an excellent idea poorly executed because of bad writing.

The story opens with a woman in her bedroom dreaming about her dead son. Then two seconds before the home invader shows up we see him. All of the tension is built around her dead son, which I get, but when the bad guy shows up it's kind of out of the blue and I'm not sure what he has to do with the dead kid. On top of that, the mom doesn't call 911 like any normal person would. Then, after we've been in this story from her point of view the entire story, we suddenly switch to the bad guy's point of view for a minute.

And the actress is not remotely believable feeling all bittersweet about her son coming to save her. It's a shame, really, because this was the first film from Jason that I thought had some real potential. But as it is I wasn't really very scared and horror movies are supposed to scare you, right?

Mateen had the same problem as Eli Roth pointed out. In his film the point of view shifted so many times we weren't sure who we were supposed to be following, so the film failed to make its point effectively. That's something you learn when you focus on making your story as strong as it can possibly be before you roll cameras.

The problem is the directors are all filled up with ideas about shot composition and coloring and music cues, but they forgot to think about story. Their shots usually look really good because they all know what to do with the camera but they don't know how to write. But story isn't something you can gloss over. Before you worry about the actor's performance you have to give them something good to do.

I don't know that much about the cinematography - something I'm working on - but I do know story.

And even though I still wish The Lot would do more behind the scenes footage and how-to stuff (for instance this week they could have talked about what fake blood is made), I still like watching this show because I can look at what the directors did right or wrong and rewrite it in my head. And that's always good.

Monday, July 02, 2007

By Grabthar's Hammer, what a savings

First of all, Maggie is awesome. She brought Pink Bag back to life. Pink Bag cost me six dollars in Rome and has fallen on hard times, but last night during our Galaxy Quest - pizza - margaritas - Farscape event she busted out the sewing machine and patched my favorite purse right up.

I do not sew, not even buttons. The fact that anyone can take a piece of thread and some cloth and make a wearable item from it completely fascinates me.

Watching Galaxy Quest - on VHS, no less - reminded me of how awesome that film is. Maggie IMDB'ed it (IMDBeed? IMDB'd?) and we looked at the writers and thought it was odd that they didn't have more credits.

We realized as we were watching the film that the main reason it works is because everybody's personal arc follows the main arc of the story. Galaxy Quest is primarily about people on the verge of giving up on themselves learning to believe they can accomplish great things. The crew members must embrace their assigned roles and believe that they can do more than just act like heroes, but actually become heroes or the whole ship will be destroyed. Even Guy must believe he is more than just an expendable redshirt. The Thermians must believe they can operate their own machinery. Even the nerd squad is energized to believe they can save the crew with their vast amount of previously unnecessary knowledge.

Not only do all the characters have a clearly defined arc, but it's the same arc. Learning to trust yourself, learning to trust your crew.

And as an added bonus, some awesome quotes. My personal favorite: "Let's get out of here before one of those things kills Guy."

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Blow Stuff Up

Yesterday I went to our high school's first ever graduation. It was very hot. I got sunburned on my shoulders and my nose but I sold a dozen yearbooks and got some hugs and some pictures so it was worth it. Next time I won't forget the sunscreen.

Last night I saw Live Free or Die Hard. That was ridiculous actiony fun. Lots of vehicles exploding in the air and on the ground, crazy martial arts, John McClain wisecracks, various awesomeness just running mad on screen.

The plot was about computer hackers but there was no trouble understanding it at all. The exposition was really well hidden too, thanks largely to Justin Long's incredible talent. That kid is amazing. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to find him picking up and Oscar in a few years.

There are, of course, some believability problems with the film. As Date pointed out, there's a swirly stairway to nowhere on the freeway that seems put there only to provide a cool action sequence where a plane tries to destroy the semi McClain is driving. That was a hell of a sequence though and it got applause from the audience when it was over, so maybe the stairway to nowhere wasn't that important. And characters survive some hits that would kill the average person instantly, but whatever. Stuntguys are tough, or in this case, stuntgirls.

Oh, and there was this one scene where this Henchman comes up on Justin Long and Bruce Willis paying no attention and instead of killing these guys straight up, which they've been trying to do the entire film, he tells them to freeze and step away from the console. Dumb Henchman.

And the editing to make the film PG 13 is notable. There's a scene where Justin Long talks about how crazy everything is and whatever he's saying is obviously not what we're hearing. Bruce Willis is in the foreground, but you can still see enough that it's a profanity-filled tirade and all we're hearing is the baby version. And the blood is minimized, which is just silly when you're dropping a guy through one of those bladed fans things you evidently often find in computer cooling towers. And I don't even think they needed it to be PG 13. I think the main audience for this film is people over 17 anyway.

Let's hope the DVD release fixes all that. I want the director's cut.

But it's okay because all that I can overlook due to the awesomeness and McClain's reacting to all the crazy shit like it's the most amusing crazy shit he's seen today.

Something that made the film even more interesting is that even the minor characters had moments of backstory. Timothy Olyphant's team of evil computer programmers sometimes showed a sign of having a conscience on occasion and he himself had a completely believable reason for everything he was doing. It's old school Die Hard. Just like we all hoped for.