Thursday, July 31, 2008

Lesson plans

Thanks for the suggestions yesterday. I'll check out some of those films.

Today I finished watching King Corn and it got me thinking. For the next four weeks I'm covering persuasive writing, then next semester I have to cover expository writing. When do we cover literature, you may ask? Oh, isn't that the million dollar question we've all been asking?

Apparently I'm supposed to spend 8 weeks - let me repeat that - EIGHT WEEKS reading and studying To Kill a Mockingbird. It's a fantastic story to read to yourself. It's a tedious job to read aloud to 25 teenagers for eight weeks.

Instead I show the movie over two days so they're familiar with the story and we read Night, then do some poetry with our left over time.

Don't tell anybody.

Anyway, so what I think I'll do for persuasion is show An Inconvenient Truth after all. I'll make them fill out some kind of worksheet to keep them paying attention because Al Gore on global warming isn't exactly every kid's idea of a fascinating film.

Then, during the expository writing phase I'll have them write a food diary for a week, then discuss their eating habits and the eating habits of most Americans. Then I'll show them King Corn so they can see how food's produced and be appalled at how much of their body is made of corn. Then we'll have another discussion, then I'll show Supersize Me.

Then I'll give them extra credit for reading Fast Food Nation, but only because we don't have a class set of the book so I can't require them to read it.

Then I can make them write a well informed essay on eating habits and America. It's too bad I can't make them read The Jungle because then I might swear them off beef altogether. Because I hate America.*

I can't have them read The Jungle anyway because we do not have a class set of the book. Also, it's 11th grade material.

We don't really have a class set of anything except books that suck.

*I do not really hate America.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I love the docs

For the past two years I've had the same planning period - third. Third is the best planning period because it straddles our two lunch periods, so while everybody else gets 35 minutes to eat, I get two hours.

This semester, though, the administration blindsided me with first period planning. I still have to get to work at 7:19 or they dock my pay $45, so I go in every morning and spend the first hour and a half planning for the day. The upside: I actually get more work done this way because I tend to plan things at the last minute. The downside: If a teacher is late I end up covering their class.

Most days, though, I sit at my desk and create my handouts and research things and whatnot. And it's kind of boring because I'm really sleepy.

So a week ago I started watching documentaries through Netflix instant viewing while I worked. Documentaries are great because you can get the story even if you're not actually watching. I can't really watch narrative films because I'll miss too much of the visual elements while I'm working on teaching stuff, but with a documentary a lot of the scenes are audio. So I'll listen, then when it sounds like I need to be watching I'll switch over to the movie and check out what's going on, then go back to typing

They need to be happy movies though or I won't be able to have a good day. Born into Brothels has been sitting in my queue for ages but I just don't want to start my day with child prostitution.

I've seen the first two Evenings with Kevin Smith (which were fucking awesome and if you haven't seen these shows you should), Super High Me, Confessions of a Superhero and am currently in the middle of King Corn.

I'm learning things. I don't remember ever sitting and watching this much educational material in this short a period of time before so it's kind of like taking a college class in assorted topics.

I keep seeing something I wish I could show the kids. Super High Me got me excited for a minute because there's some terrific persuasive technique in that film, but then I realized I can't show Super High Me because it is about how awesome it is to smoke pot every single day forever.

I think the administration would frown on that.

Instead I'm getting an Inconvenient Truth, which is not available on instant viewing, although if anybody can think of a persuasive film that's better and less boring for a group of 15-year-olds, feel free to share. Bowling for Columbine isn't really persuasive and Farenheit 911 is too filled with fallacies for my taste. Maybe Supersize Me.

After I finish King Corn I don't know what else I'll watch. Got any ideas? What are your favorite documentaries?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

My first earthquake

Emily is not really a panicky kind of person. My mom used to get all mad when I brought home a C in geometry and I'd be like "eh." When I was robbed at AIDS needlepoint in Dublin I was like "You can't have my money and what's that for?" When I was mugged in Hollywood I chased the guy down without my shoes on.

I don't really get scared by the things that scare most people. I'm fairly convinced it will eventually be my undoing. I will have a hero's demise - not because I'm an actual hero, but because I'm too stupid to know better.

So today, as you may already know, the earth around Orange County shook. I was about 45 miles away in my school at my desk emailing a friend while my kids worked on these cool first amendment persuasion projects I'm making them do.

My desk shook and I looked up, angrily, to see which little pissant was jostling my desk when they were supposed to be researching school uniforms. And nobody was there.

I looked around. "Is this an earthquake?" I asked.

"YES!!!!" the kids all screamed as they scrambled around the room in a panic.

I stood up and looked around. The TV kind of wobbled. I hoped it didn't fall.

"What are we supposed to do?" I asked. The kids were too busy screaming to answer.

I've never been through and earthquake before. I grew up in hurricane territory. I know that if there's a tornado you're supposed to line up in the hallway and kneel down and cover your head with your hands. I know that if there's a fire we all have to line up and run out of the room into the grass outside. And if there's a hurricane I know the only way to handle it is to run outside with sparklers and wade in the water, or perhaps to throw a frisbee down the hall in your dorm room.

But we've never had an earthquake drill. Hell, we haven't had a fire drill in over a year. Every time the alarm goes off we ignore it until the principal comes over the intercom to tell us to continue to ignore it. If I don't die in a moment of ignorant heroics, I will most likely burn to death while my class sits and waits for instructions.

So when the earth started shaking I sort of stood there, wondering if the roof would collapse and asking the kids if they knew what one was supposed to do in this sort of situation. For most of them it was their first earthquake too, so they were sort of wandering around trying to figure out if there was a magic spot where the land was still.

At least I didn't do like that one teacher who just ran straight out of the room, leaving her kids behind to be crushed to death.

We made it through okay and the TV didn't fall down. And apparently I was supposed to make them all get under their desks and wait it out. I'll do that next time.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Angelina does not scare me

I been thinking about tough girls lately. I like to write tough girls. I saw Wanted last week and just now I watched Mr. and Mrs. Smith on FX and I saw Tomb Raider not too long ago, and it's got me thinking about old Angelina.

She's a terrific actress and she certainly does love playing that tough as nails broad with the perfect face, but I just wish she'd put some effort into her muscles. When you play an action hero as much as she does, she really should look the part. The things she is supposed to do are physically impossible for a woman with noodle arms and 85 lbs of bulk.

In Terminator 2 you get one glimpse of Linda Hamilton and you know she could get the ass of the average man. She's all muscle and sweat and aggression and if I met her in real life I'd give her whatever she wanted and get the hell out of her way.

But Angelina.... I could lift her over my head and throw her. There's no way in hell she could take on a man twice her size. I just don't buy it.

Bruce Lee was five foot nothin and could beat the crap out of any man he came across, but he was all muscle. I think a woman could certainly use her strengths and body position to fight off bigger guys, but any professional assassin would work out her arms on occasion.

She probably couldn't do five pushups. Seriously. She may be able to buy and sell me, but I could knock her out with one hit.

Think about it, if that was a dude with those flimsy little arms people would be all pissy about realism, but since she's a hot chick nobody pays attention.

I love Angelina Jolie. But I'd love her more if she had some visible biceps.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Know your audience

Friday night I went to the OC to karaoke with a bunch of people. Normally when I go to karaoke Best Friend and I go to a place in Venice where there's a stage and a captive audience and room to dance. But the place we went Friday was basically a restaurant where during your turn to sing you sort of wander around with the mic, serenading everybody.

Early in the night some mysterious benefactor - who we all believed was this dude with a cowboy hat and sunglasses - offered $500 for a contest. The first five people to get the whole bar to sing get $100 each.

Now, the place in Venice would have been easy. It's a young crowd and I've been there enough times to know what gets everybody going. Oddly enough one of the better songs is "Gloria." You could also get a big reaction with "Santeria."

But this was not the place in Venice. This was a place in Tustin. The crowd was a little older, less Hollywood, a little more country. The song list was packed with Reba MacIntyre. I don't do country.

So what do I sing that will get these people going?

"Hey Jude" took a prize at our table. Then "Dancing Queen" took a prize for the drunk girls in the back. Then two guys from our table sang something by Queen I think and took another prize for our table. The prizes were disappearing.

I examined my crowd. I had to pick a song that would get them all singing - one song everybody knows, everybody loves, and everybody would sing. One song that would be a hit at any karaoke bar anywhere. A song I can nail in my sleep.

I went up to the guy. There was this dude standing there looking at the computer where my song was listed under his name going "I'm not singing that song. She put that in for me - I didn't put it in. I'm not singing it."

So I said "Hey, that's the song I was going to sing."

So the guy deletes the dude's name and puts mine in. And I sang it. And I ran up to the old people and sang it in their faces. And I ran up to the dude in deep conversation and sang a lyric to him, at which point he went "whoa." And I held up the microphone while everybody shouted along. And I won the last $100.

To be honest, though, I have to admit I kind of cheated. I sang "Sweet Caroline."

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Celebrity writers' night at the Arclight

Last night I met some writer friends at the Arclight to see The Wackness. Except The Wackness wasn't playing because it had been bumped for the launch party for the DVD boxed set of the series Spaced.

Oh, but Meet Dave and Sex and the City were still available. Wooohooo. Sony has been notified of this travesty.

We saw Wanted instead. As I said as soon as that film was over, it had an awesome quotient of like a billion. That movie was way better than Shoot 'Em Up, and I really liked Shoot 'Em Up. I was a bit perturbed by Angelina Jolie's spaghetti arms, but all in all that movie was rock 'em sock 'em, and I will definitely be purchasing the DVD.

But while we were waiting for the rest of our group to arrive we watched all the celebrities arrive for the Spaced thing. Diablo Cody was there looking exactly as you expect Diablo Cody to look - kind of retro in a little black dress. When Quentin Tarantino lumbered in and bought his tickets the theater staff looked bored and Cody didn't even acknowledge his presence, which I thought was odd. Maybe they hate each other. Maybe she thinks he's a dork. Maybe he banged her. Maybe she didn't realize it was him.

We also saw Clive Barker and Edgar Wright. And Simon Pegg wandered into the bar with a posse of Turtles, looking very unamused and a little short, but still kind of cute. He's more muscular than I had thought.

Then Kevin Smith came in at the last minute and rushed into the theater surrounded by his groupies. Rumor has it he was supposed to speak after the screening.

The great Bill Martell was there too. Everybody was star struck.

The screening was followed by a party at the upstairs bar. I was sad that I had worn my Sporty Spice outfit and therefore did not look slutty enough to seduce my way into a fancy nerd party.

And then after celebrating the fact that my bike didn't get stolen, I rode it home at 11 pm without getting mugged. And now I am tired.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Fake heroes

This morning I watched a documentary called Confessions of a Superhero. I started watching it to keep my brain busy while doing a mundane task in my classroom, but after a big I got pretty into it.

It's a film about the superhero lookalikes who hang out on Hollywood Blvd and take photos with tourists. It centered around a Superman who has blurred the line a bit between reality and fiction, a Batman with rage and truth issues, a Wonder Woman who married a man she met two weeks before, and a Hulk who was once homeless but now has an acting career on the rise.

These people are crazy. Spoilers ahead.

I remember that Batman. I was once up on Hollywood walking from store to store - the way you do - and Batman lunged at me and yelled. Now I have issues with costumed characters and clowns and anyone who's face is not visible so Batman made me very uncomfortable that day. In this film the same guy is eventually arrested for his inability to control his temper.

They were all a bit sad. The Hulk was the only one who didn't lie about his life a bit - he admitted that working for tourists tips in a sweaty Hulk costume all day is not his ideal profession. Superman, meanwhile, although kind of nuts, is the one who embodies the character more than the others. When he's in the Superman costume, he IS Superman. But when he's away from the street he doesn't seem to know how to be himself.

Still, he finds himself a woman in the end, proving that there is someone for everyone.

These are people I pass all the time. All I think about when I see them is how hot the costume must be, or how annoyed I am that they won't get the hell off the sidewalk so I can get to the Virgin Megastore. I never thought before about how they live. I just knew that Batman pissed me off.

The film turned out to be much better than I thought it would be. It's about one aspect of what it takes to be a struggling actor in LA - the denial, the hope, the frustration. It's about what people do to avoid admitting failure. It's a really good film overall, and next time I push past the actors on Hollywood I might be a little nicer.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Love Journals

I keep a journal. Do you keep a journal? I'm not talking about a blog. I'm talking about a little book I update once a week or so with thoughts about boys and stuff. Mostly boys.

In class I sometimes make my kids write journals. Through these pages I learn a lot about the way teenagers think about relationships.

This is a typical girl's journal:

Day one: In ten years I will be married to Anthony and we will have three kids. I'll be a lawyer and I'll live in Beverly Hills and drive a BMW....

Day two: My biggest pet peeve is my ex-boyfriend Anthony. I dumped him yesterday but he keeps calling me...

Day three: My favorite thing in the world right now is my boyfriend Eric. Eric is the best guy ever...

Day four: If I had a million dollars, I'd buy a car.

And this is a typical boy's journal:

Day one: In ten years I'll be traveling around the country banging a different girl every night...

Day two: My biggest pet peeve is girls. They're so stupid...

Day three: My favorite thing in the world is my new girlfriend Sylvia. She's so beautiful. I want to marry her and make a million babies with her.

Day four: Sylvia is the most amazing person ever. If I had a million dollars I would buy her a house and a car. And I would arrest her ex-boyfriend because he keeps coming around. He says she slept with the whole football team but that sounds stupid because she is amazing and she tells me how to be a better person so I love her. If it weren't for her I'd still be hanging out with my bad friends...

So in case you ever want to write about teenage relationships, keep that in mind.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Sharing is caring

Whenever you start a new relationship one of the first things you have to do is the old film exchange. I always bust out Firefly and Buffy episodes and yell "Ooooh! This one! You have to watch this one!"

The kind of guys I date have always already seen my favorite movies so it's the TV I have to show them. The kind of guys I date don't generally watch TV but when I show them what I love they usually get into Firefly pretty quickly. Buffy is a harder sell.

For me, it's always some action movie. Ex-Boyfriend made me watch Con Air an absurd amount of times, and I'm still convinced it was my refusal to stop making fun of Nick Cage's mullet that got me dumped.

So this time it's gonna be Conan, The Way of the Gun and The Wild Bunch. Two of them are sitting on my table right now on loan and the other is in my Netflix queue. I'm also pretty sure I'm going to end up watching a lot of Robocop. Fortunately I like Robocop a lot more than I like Con Air.

Back in high school it was music. I knew about emo long before Dashboard Confessional came on the scene because one of my exes was a major Promise Ring fan. I remember the day he introduced me to Sunny Day Real Estate. I also remember the day another ex played me my first Sublime song and how happy it made me feel.

I still learn new music, but most of the guys I date don't listen to all that new gay shit. They listen to classic rock because they're men, goddammit.

It's one of my favorite parts of starting a new relationship - that moment where the other person gets all excited because they want to show their favorite films with you so you can share their love.

So they introduce me to the films they love, manly films with manly protagonists and lots of guns and muscles and explosions. Which suits me just fine.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Weekend Update

I saw The Dark Knight of course. And it was good of course. I did not see Mamma Mia.

Friday night I went to a gay and lesbian film festival and watched a documentary about Jack Wrangler, a gay porn star from the seventies. It was interesting. It was prefaced by a short film made by some gay dude who killed himself a while back, and the short was designed to showcase his boyfriend's acting abilities. I'm not sure if anybody got it because it didn't really make a lot of sense, but it had a lot of shots of seagulls in it so that was cool.

I might like David Lynch more if he used more seagulls.

Also, going to see a movie at a gay and lesbian festival means there's never a line in the women's bathroom. In fact there's never really any women in the women's bathroom. The men's room is a different issue.

I watched Be Kind, Rewind. It was okay. It was a bit silly, but a fun movie all in all.

People who I am supposed to read your material and give you notes: I swear I'm on it. I got kind of distracted this weekend by a big dude with muscles.

I've seen the first third of Game Night and it made me laugh my ass off. What made it so funny was how seriously Lead Actor took that shit. On set he had to lock himself in the bathroom, snort a couple of bumps of Ibuprofen and then act s though he'd just done some good coke. There's like 15 minutes of material and he gave it his all - absolutely serious. And everybody on set silently watched, mesmerized and somber and moved.

Except when editor did a bunch of quick cuts and added some spunky music all that seriousness became a fucking riot of hilarity. And now I realize what is going to end up being the best thing about this film - ALL my actors played it straight. Well, sometimes the Tardnut who used to be Writing Partner got a little goofy, but mostly everybody was deadly serious about playing Taboo with a coked-out whackjob. So I am excited.

Now it's Sunday night and I'm doing laundry. And here's a message to people who live in a building with 30 apartments and three washing machines: If you decide to do your laundry on Sunday night, please do not take up all three machines and then forget to come and get your clothes for half an hour. That's how people get beaten to death with bottles of detergent.

And that's how I spent my weekend.

There was also some karaoke.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Does your mother know?

Everybody and their mom is talking about The Dark Knight today and god knows I want to see it too, but I've got something else on my mind right this minute.

Mamma Mia.

Yes, the ABBA movie. Today this movie is a bittersweet film for me.

When I was a little girl my mom used to teach sign language to teenagers by using ABBA songs. This was before the Internet and before CDs and Itunes and other such nonsense, so we listened to records, then eventually upgraded to tapes. So Mom had to listen to each song over and over and write down the words so she could figure out how to sign them. And I helped.

That means I know how to sign bits of "Dancing Queen," "Take a Chance on Me" and "Knowing Me, Knowing You" among others. Just bits, though. Oddly enough I can also sign the chorus to "Three Times a Lady."

But this is about ABBA.

There was a brief period when I was in college when my mom and I spent a Christmas without Stepfather. Now I love Stepfather, but he was always kind of an anal bastard about decorating the tree. Every light had to be just so and every ornament had to be perfectly placed in the right spot to impress anyone who walked in the door, and if it wasn't exactly right he'd tear everything off the tree and start over.

So this one year when Mom and I got to decorate the tree we had a field day. We threw the lights up all willy-nilly, we put ugly ornaments in front, we mixed colored lights with white lights with blinky lights and had a good time doing it. And we listened to ABBA. Specifically "Does Your Mother Know That You're Out" over and over and over all afternoon.

One year for Christmas my parents bought me the three disk ABBA greatest hits set. The next year for my mother's birthday I copied them onto tapes so she could listen to ABBA in the car.

I always wanted to go see the live musical with my mom but it just kind of never came up.

So when I saw ads for Mamma Mia show up on TV I got excited.

The other day when Officer Beefcake and I were eating pizza on Larchmont some promotional weirdos for the movie marched by with a boom box and beach balls videotaping themselves singing "Dancing Queen." Of course I immediately chimed in and may have ended up on the video, which is probably a special feature for the DVD so, you know, I might be on there. Officer Beefcake was disgusted because beefcakes are morally opposed to ABBA. They prefer Van Halen.

So I'm all excited about Mamma Mia. It's the perfect movie for me and my mom to go see together.

Except that Mom lives in North Carolina and I live in Los Angeles. So today, for the first time in almost four years, I am homesick.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Just like a Reese's Cup

I hate the title of my current script. Jacking? Really, Emily? That sounds lame as hell.

So the other day I was driving home and thinking about how much I hate my title and how I wish I could come up with a cooler title. And then I thought about how I had this great title that I liked a lot - Fear of Clowns - and how I wished I could have used it but the story I had to go with it didn't work and got scrapped.

And then it was like that whole thing with the chocolate and peanut butter as my brain ran into itself and went HAY! That could be the title of THIS story!

Because one of the things my kids like to draw is clowns. I sit in class while they draw these terrifying little pictures and pretend I'm not scared shitless. I usually nag them about paying attention as a cover for my fear so they'll put the drawing away, but clowns are one of the most common things they draw. I think it's a gang thing or something. So since my story is about my kids and gangs and white ladies it was really easy to stick in a scene where the white lady talks about how clowns scare her.

And you know why clowns scare me and her and a lot of other people? Because you can't see their true faces. The fake smile covers the true face of the person who wears it, so it fucks up your perception and you can't tell what you're truly looking at. And those of us with coulrophobia get freaked out by that feeling.

The idea of a man whose true face is hidden behind a false smile is a perfect theme to add into a story about a kid who's trying to avoid gang life. The people who try to steer him toward a life of crime pretend to be his friends, hiding their true faces from him until it's too late.

Besides, Fear of Clowns has always sounded like either a scary horror movie or a deep emotional drama. This script just happens to be a deep emotional drama. With guns.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Blackface is back!

I know you've seen the posters for Tropic Thunder. And like me, you've probably done a double take when you saw "Downey Jr" over what is clearly the face of a black man. And yes, that is him, and yes, he's in black face.

Ben Stiller has big brass cojones and so does the studio because Christ, blackface? In 2008?

But then I thought about Soul Man and White Chicks and I looked up some info on the movie, and here's the thing: He's not playing a black man.
White Chicks may be stupid because they look neither white nor like chicks, but it's not horribly offensive either because the Wayans aren't actually portraying white women; they're portraying what two black men THINK white women act like.

And Soul Man is about a white guy who learns that his preconceived notions about black people may not have been so spot on when he decided to become one - not about a white actor pretending to be a black man.

And I think in the end that's the difference. Downey's character is a white actor who is cast in a role that was written for a black man so he decides to go all the way into character by dyeing his skin and hair and pretending to be black. He's NOT pretending to actually be black.

Blackface was offensive because it was white people pretending to be black and encouraging stereotypes as if they were real characteristics of black Americans. I think if it's a white man pretending to be a white man who's pretending to be a black man, that's not the same thing.

So at first when I saw that billboard with Downey in blackface I was like Whaaaaaaaaaaaa? But then I realized it's probably gonna be okay.

Still. Damn, Dreamworks. Balls.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Leave Samurai Jack alone

I'm showing the pilot episode of Samurai Jack today in my 11th grade class. Yes, it is relevant. I'm using it to demonstrate the hero's journey and the whole principal of "show, don't tell" and also I am sleepy and don't have the energy to talk to hyper teenagers right now.

So I'm showing Samurai Jack. And that is why I love my job.

I figured most of the kids had never heard of the show, but the second I pulled it out one kid was like "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaawwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww! That show's BORING." And that set off other kids who were like "Really? I don't wanna watch something Boooooooriiiiiiiiiing........."

So I told them we'd either watch Samurai Jack or do some worksheets. They opted for the show but I was just bluffing. I don't have any worksheets.

Most of them are now watching intently anyway.

Anyway, I was thinking about how attached people get to things they love. I love this show, so when a kid says it's boring and gets all whiny about it I kind of take it personally.

And just about everybody does that. Whenever someone says your favorite movie sucks, you probably get all mad and defensive. But it's not your movie - it's not like you labored over it for years or anything, but you still get all bent out of shape if somebody doesn't love it. I know I do.

Why do we do that?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Screw your preparedness


Stop buying tickets so damn far in advance.

I went to see Hellboy2 on Friday night at the Grove. I'm not gonna go into detail, but overall I thought it had some great action scenes and looked beautiful but the relationships between the characters seemed forced.

Anyway, Officer Beefcake and I got some tickets to Hellboy and wandered around. We ate and then we started to wander and that's when we came upon the line. The Hellboy line. And it was loooooooooooong. And it was at 10:40. And it was currently 9:50.

Really? Who the hell started getting in line over an hour early for the 10:40 screening of Hellboy? What is wrong with you people? You're at the mall - wander around and contribute to the economy a little.

And now I want to go see The Dark Night this weekend but it would seem some of the more nerdy set bought their tickets while they were still in the womb so I'm not sure I'll be able to see it. And I want to see it opening weekend because ignoring spoilers for an entire week will be virtually impossible. I dunno. Maybe I can go on a Tuesday at 3:30 or something.

It's not like it's a concert or something. There are multiple showings for multiple days, but people still get all antsy and buy the tickets ahead of time. I like to be a little more flexible. What if I'm sleepy? I reserve the right to flake on seeing a movie at the time I had originally planned on seeing the movie. And I can't successfully do that if you bought your seat at the Arclight four years ago.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Liars, guns and money. Or maybe just guns.

I shot some guns. Here is what I learned:

Shotguns are heavy. I box with 14 ounce gloves but that shotgun was weighing me down. A woman my size would never be able to carry one around for too long. So from now on in stories I give shotguns to big dudes. The shotgun was also badass. I felt like shooting some zombies but there were none to be found.

Speaking of big guns, I actually felt safer holding them because I felt like there was less chance I would accidentally shoot something that required my entire body's attention.

The 45 was fun to shoot and I actually managed to hit what I aimed for. It was a WW2 gun and I wish I could say I was pretending to shoot Nazis but really I was thinking "I would like to make a hole there." I think guns make you a little bit more retarded.

The Magnum scared the pants off of me. I shot it only once and then fled, squealing in terror while OFFICER BEEFCAKE - for that is his name since he is in law enforcement and he is indeed beefcakey - blew lots of big old holes in the target with his ridiculously large hand cannon, a gun I referred to as "the laser gun" because it had a laser site on it. Officer Beefcake believes this makes me sound silly. I believe it makes me sound adorable. We'll see who's right.

Guns are loud. Not that I'm surprised to learn that guns are loud, but damn. Guns are loud. As soon as I walked into the range I jumped about ten feet out of my skin. An hour later I was just blinking hard when a gun went off. I never really got comfortable with how loud the Magnum was though. People in movies are all "ladeedaaa" about guns but Christ they are loud. And recoiley.

I also learned a few little combat tricks and that my thumb is weak and my hands are small and nobody needed my ID to shoot guns as long as I was with a big dude who brought his own artillery. And shells fly up in the air and hit you on the head if you stand right next to the guy firing the gun so you probably shouldn't do that.

Next time I'm totally gonna shoot the rifle, because fuck a zombie.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Young storytellers

My semesterlong project for my juniors is to teach them to write a short story. In the process of writing the story they learn story structure and literary terms and read essays about technique and write similar essays. And at the end of the semester they each have a shiny new story to bind in construction paper and keep forever and ever.

I've done this once before but I didn't focus too well so the stories weren't quite as good as they could have been. This semester I'm determined to make them awesome.

Now in the years I've been teaching at my school I've seen some pretty slack behavior. They do NOT want to do any work. For every assignment they will find a way to distract you and lollygag until they run out of time and then turn in some little piece of crap paper with a couple of loosely scribbled sentences on it.

Today I gave them a character development sheet I stole from my screenwriting group and gave it to them. They had one class period to create a character and give him or her backstory based on the traits I listed.

And I tell you what - rarely have I seen a class full of teenagers have so much goddamn FUN.

They were yelling out names to each other to see if everybody liked them. They were making people stand up so they could measure them to see what was an appropriate height for a boy. They were reading their descriptions aloud to each other to get pointers. They were checking their spelling, looking up words in the dictionary, asking questions. At one point a girl yelled out "I thought this would be easy but this is HARD!"

It was the most beautiful thing I've seen so far this year.

And at the end of the day, NOT ONE KID failed to do the assignment. That may not sound crazy, but at my school that's a fucking miracle. And now they're going to take those characters and beat them up. It's gonna be awesome.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

I will shoot you dead.

I grew up in Raleigh. Not quite a big city, not quite a village, kind of a suburban area with some big buildings in the middle and a downtown nobody ever visits. Not a lot of crime, but not a lot of abandoned wooded areas either so there's not much reason to own a gun.

Stepdad had a BB gun. He was an angry man - sometimes he'd shoot our chained up Labrador as target practice. When neighborhood cats would pester our little Sally the tabby he would shoot at them and yell. Don't worry, the man couldn't hit the broad side of a barn with a bazooka.

I shot a BB gun at camp a couple of times but I wasn't very good at it, and I took an archery class that I also was not overly good at. I don't even shoot well in video games.

The point here is, guns aren't really for me.

And yet every story I write includes some kind of gun-centric stand-off so really, I should know how to shoot a gun. You know, in the interests of accuracy.

So Friday I have a date to shoot a gun. Date (I will call him that because he actually reads this blog and given that he can crush me with his pinkie finger I will wait for his approval before giving him a permanent nickname) thinks I will pee my pants. I do not think I will pee my pants, but I do think I will shriek like the little girl that I am.

I hope this will improve my writing. When I started taking kickboxing, my fight scenes got exponentially better and more realistic. I think shooting a real gun will probably do the same for my shootouts. Now I just need to find someone who works with demolitions to show me how to blow things up properly and I'll be all set.

Emily: Action Princess.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

My favorite bad movie

Recently I was thinking a lot about the movie Johnny Mnemonic. I know, awesome movie, right?

There's this scene toward the end after Keanu has been through lots of unpleasant experiences where he has a complete melt-down involving his wish for a club sandwich and a hooker. It's a pretty excellent scene.

The movie is not very good, I know this. But I own a copy of it on VHS - sadly, not the version with Keanu's head poking through the box - and yes, I paid for it with my own money. Because it's AWESOME.

I also love The Pirate Movie, an eighties version of Pirates of Penzance including music by Kool and the Gang and a scene that parodies Star Wars. I also own this film on VHS. It's a terrible movie but it is an AWESOME movie that my sister and I went to see like three times in the theater and bought the soundtrack for as soon as it was available on LP.

In fact, when I went to visit my sister in Texas several years ago we divvied up the records pretty evenly until we came to that soundtrack. We fought over it for like half an hour. She was pregnant so I let her have it. I figured her child should appreciate such rad tunes as "Pumpin' and Blowin'."

I am not ashamed to admit that I love these films. I know how bad they are. I also know they bring me joy.

What bad film do you love?

Monday, July 07, 2008

Thoughts on the film: Hancock


I know everybody on earth has weighed in on this movie already but I just can't let that be the end of it. I saw it yesterday at a Grove matinee and it made me sad.

Maybe it was the people in front of me who decided it was a good idea to bring three four year olds to a PG 13 movie where they alternately yelled and cried and ran up and down the aisle during the film. Please, parents of the world, I know it's a daytime showing but if your child only knows three words of English and the sight of Will Smith makes him scream in terror, you may want to go see something a little more his speed so that everyone else in the theater doesn't beat you to death with nachos.

But I don't think it was those people who made me upset about the movie. It was the fact that the story was lacking.

Not in special effects because, good lord there are special effects. This was an extravaganza for the eyes of which Michael Bay is no doubt extremely jealous.

And it's not Will Smith because I would watch that man put on a plastic bag and stare at the camera for like three hours as long as he kept smiling that goofy smile. I would let that man do unspeakable things to me. Un. Speakable. Things.

SPOILERS for both the script and the film

In the script there's a scene where Hancock is so depressed he can't even get his rocks off with a hooker so he goes into the bathroom and masturbates with so much force it blows the roof off. Not only is that hilarious, but it shows just how broken down this man is emotionally. I feel like in the film we're left with a bunch of sad looks and exposition to tell us he's lonely.

In the script there's a scene where he is so broken and lonely and depressed that he shoots himself in the mouth repeatedly but he can't even kill himself because he's invincible. It's a terrific scene and my heart was breaking as I read it. That's not in this story at all, I guess because you can't have a suicidal hero or people won't feel all warm and fuzzy.

In the orignal script the dad, who was a loser until Hancock came along to make him seem like an even bigger loser, saves his son's life and redeems himself. In the film he knocks a guy out, saving Hancock in a moment that is okay but doesn't really connect to anything that was previously set up. His set up as a loser isn't that big a deal in the film because they have a nice house and a nice car and live in a nice neighborhood and the wife loves him, so I don't really see too much lacking in his existence.

In the script, the wife gives Hancock a haircut, touching a man who hasn't been touched with a gentle hand in a very long time. It's thick with sexual tension and longing. In the film, they exchange a few glances and some dialogue in the presence of her son.

A lot of paths were missed here.

Charlize Theron, who plays the wife, is considerably stronger than her husband but pretends she can't open a jar so he feels better about himself. What a cool theme - a wife hiding her true nature so her husband feels like a man - but it went unexplored. The end result of the story is that two people who love each other - so I'm told, anyway - would rather live apart than die together. Isn't that backwards from what we're always supposed to believe? What an interesting topic that went unexplored.

It was funny and fun to watch, but it wasn't what I'd call good.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

I like it better when I beat them up

I admit I'm having a little trouble with Jacking. I love the story and I think it has potential to be a great script, but I'm just finding hard to get up the energy to write it.

I usually write stuff with explosions and gun fights and I sail through that shit because it's loads of fun to kill people on paper. Yeah, I said it, I like killing made-up people on paper.

Oddly enough not in role playing games though. I'm always the good guy in those things which I find hilarious since one of my favorite things to do in a script is to brutally murder the nicest person in the story.

Gun and knife fights and zombie battles and giant fireballs and tidal waves are just a blast to write about. I usually run through those scenes in like ten minutes because they're so easy. I get carried away by the coolness of a martial arts move that lands a hairbrush down somebody's throat. And Not Dead Yet was full of those kinds of scenes, which is why writing it was just one awesome day after the other, with the brief exception of the time I got stumped on some technical shit.

But Jacking is different. No one will call this an action script. It's a drama, straight up, and a serious story with no explosions at all. Nobody rams a hairbrush down anybody's throat.

I still really enjoy writing it once I get going, but it's just not the blast of zombie killing. This shit is depressing and it's about teenage Latino males so I'm stretching a bit more when I write. It's harder.

I think I'm doing okay with that, though, because I'm just channeling my kids a little when I write the dialogue. I keep going back and changing a few things to match their style. For instance, most Latino kids never say "Do you have a stapler?" They only say, "You don't got a stapler?" which always makes me feel self conscious, like they're accusing me of not having the proper tools for teaching.

I'm still not used to that manner of speech, but it helped because I was able to go into my story and insert that kind of language to help the authenticity. I imagine I'll still need one of my Latino coworkers to read it for me and make sure my boys don't sound too middle class white lady.

But really, my problem with writing this, once I get beyond the time and exhaustion factor, is that it has no great action scenes. It's a lot of talking.

That's why I wrote so many pages today I think. I just wrote 6 pages in less than an hour because I was writing a shooting. That shit just flies by when I write it, and I very rarely change it much after. The dialogue is much harder than the gun fights, and this script is chock full of dialogue so it's just a little tougher than the last thing I did.

But I'm writing again, at least. I get to write another shooting and a beating tomorrow, so maybe I'll get jazzed enough about the abuse of my characters to really pop out some pages. Because violence is fun.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The Wickity Wickity Wackness

So obviously the big movie this weekend will be Hancock. It's going to make thirteenty billion dollars and entertain most people and I'm probably going to be one of them. After all the fuss I've been making about Tonight, He Comes I can't very well not go see the movie.

But if I have time to see another movie, I'll go see The Wackness.

Now I'm not a big fan of stoner comedies usually. I liked Half Baked and I liked Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, but most of the time the stupid pot head prat falling every thirty seconds doesn't really do it for me.

Fortunately this is not that kind of film. I haven't seen it yet but I read the script when it circulated on the Black List many months ago and I loved it, and from what I can tell the film is fairly true to the source material.

The story is about a kid named Luke who wants to smoke pot and get laid and figure out what the hell he's going to do with his life back in the '90s. His analyst, played by Ben Kingsley, is an even bigger mess who trades sessions for some of Luke's pot. It's not a pot film; it's a film about people who need a purpose and smoke pot to forget about the fact that they haven't found it yet. And it's funny. Luke's view of the world in particular is funny. I honestly didn't expect to like the script, but I laughed in spite of myself.

It's only playing in NY and LA this weekend but it goes wide pretty soon, in case you're looking for something a little more mellow to see once you've gotten your fill of Will Smith careening into trains.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

That last moment

I watched Death at a Funeral the other night, and although I really enjoyed most of the film and laughed a bit, and I enjoy so many of the actors in this movie, I have one major complaint about the ending.

This isn't really a spoiler because it doesn't tell you anything about the plot, but just in case you're really worried - COMPLETELY INSIGNIFICANT SPOILER WARNING.

You go through this story and you're laughing and enjoying yourself and thinking, hey that's that dude from MI-5 (aka Spooks) and he was kinda hot on that show but now he's kinda dorky, and then comes the end. And Peter Dinklage is the shit and Alan Tudyk completely steals the show and then comes the climax and there you have the movie.

But there's this coda. After the movie's essentially over Frank Oz decides to swoop in for one last joke. An old man who has been helpless in a wheelchair ends up sitting casually on the roof of the house. It's a funny joke, and I get why it was done, but it caused a major problem for me. This dude couldn't even lift himself out of the wheelchair to go to the bathroom earlier, and now he's up on a roof that we've already established is only reachable by ladder.

So instead of the end making me laugh, it just made me try to figure out how the hell he got up on the roof. I don't think that's the thought you'd want me leaving with. And yes, I know, suspension of disbelief and all, but that's not an excuse. You can't just do whatever you want and then excuse it by asking me to pretend I don't notice.

And God knows I'm not knocking Frank Oz. I mean, he's Frank Oz for fuck's sake. But I was just thinking it's something to remember about final moments in my own films. So I have a new rule to contemplate - don't let a punchline get in the way of the departing emotional state of the film's viewer.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

My not so secret shame

Today was the first day of school so I've been busy. Between prom and graduation and finals and then starting school all over again, I've had no time to write. I've somehow sandwiched a social life in there, but the only way I've been able to breathe was taking a few hours a week to stare at my television.

That means I've had no time to write. I know, I know, I'm Ms. WHY AREN'T YOU WRITING YOU LAZY FUCK?! but yeah, I haven't written a word in like three weeks. I've been thinking about my script but I haven't typed any new scenes. I'm a hypocrite and I am ashamed.

I did shoot a new movie and I did learn some initial editing techniques so I didn't stay completely out of the film world, but I feel bad about not pushing my script forward.I was thinking of getting it ready for Disney but I think I'll put up the zombie script instead. I like the zombie script, I'm proud of the zombie script, but I'm not happy that the zombie script is all I really have to offer that's got legs. Bitten off, bloody legs.

But now I've kicked off a new semester and Friday I've got the day off, so maybe things will calm down and I can start writing again. I'm doing nothing Friday but cleaning my cluttery apartment and working my way through ten more pages. Because that's how I celebrate America.