November 12, 2002

Oh, Canada!

Working on the Animated Musical, which is humming right along, thanks. There's a whole Canada thing in the script, which keeps me on edge a bit. Some puppet-wielding treehuggers may blame South Park for depleting Canada's natural comedy resources, but I'm sorry. When I stare into the deep comedic wells of the whole Canada Concept, I get as giddy as a moose-stepping Republican in the Arctic. Bumperstickers flash before my eyes: Faster, Fat Cat! Drill! Drill! and Fill up my SUV--with cheap laughs!. Ahem.

Twas ever thus, at least as far back as Steve Martin's 1974 debut TV special, "The Funnier Side of Eastern Canada":
Some guy John's Canada parody of Apple's "Switch" Ad? Funny.
The Molson "I AM Canadian" ad it dovetails so well with? Funny.
CBC's Larry Sanders-like series, The Newsroom? Not just funny, but Canada Funny (think "Minnesota Nice").
Suck's early-and-often Canada-bashing? Very Funny.
South Park? Dude.

"I can do things the traditional Hollywood route. I don't have to try the new, unproven Internet."
- Screenwriter Pamela Kay, leaving the new crop of screenwriting communities behind in Matthew Mirapaul's NY Times article, "Aspiring Screenwriters Turn to Web for Encouragement"

What I hate to see/hear in historical documentaries: the expert interviewee's super-affected use of the third person present tense. Listen to a twee example (about 2 minutes in) from NPR's story of the song, Dixie. Obviously, I enjoyed soaking in the smug displeasure 2blowhards' lengthy rant about tedious PBS documentaries.

Movie Reviewers I'm Reading (for wildly different reasons): Flick Filosopher offers engaging, pretension-free, reviews and recommendations for movies and dvds. Just the ticket when you're looking for film-as-unabashed-entertainment. (She didn't like Thin Red Line, but her putting Buckaroo Banzai at #1 more than makes up for such a lapse.)

Zabriskie Point album cover from AllFloyd.com


When anguish in a world of insufferable fools is your game, though, check out the voluminous and uncomfortably revealing user comments of one Mr Noel Bailey on IMDb. It's lonely at the top of Mr Bailey's bleak world, as he points out (Again! You people!) in a comment on the ur-sequel, 2010: "2001: A Space Odyssey as I suggested some time back is able to be understood and appreciated by marginally less than 5% of the world's population. The chances are therefore, that you didn't make it..accept that!"

Lonely and tough, even when he saw Zabriskie Point in theaters as an impressionable 24-year old: "[ZP] may be shy of 'masterpiece' status (mind you, who amongst is solely qualified to make THAT call?) but it is probably now, THE defining film of 70's culture. A time when acid trips, communal living, even just plain old fashioned 'love' were not that easy a choice to live with!"

What with all my easy-to-live-with acid trips, my film's "lonely solo piano" background music, and my "new, unproven Internet," I guess I should find me a place well-nigh the bottom of that 95%.

In the Casino resaurant, not the slightest impedance at all to getting in, no drop in temperature perceptible to his skin, Slothrop sits down at a table where somebody has left last Tuesday's London Times. Hmmm. Hasn't seen one of them in a while....Leafing through, dum, dum de-doo, yeah, the War's still on, Allies closing in east and west on Berlin, powdered eggs still going one and three a dozen, "Fallen Officers," MacGregory, Mucker-Maffick, Whitestreet, Personal Tributes...Meet Me in St Louis showing at the Empire Cinema (recalls doing the penis-in- the-popcorn-box routine there with one Madelyn, who was less than-- ) --

Tantivy. Oh shit no, no wait--

"True charm...humblemindedness...strength of character...fundamental Christian cleanness and goodness...We all loved Oliver...his courage, kindness of heart and unfailing good humour were an inspiration to all of us...died bravely in battle leading a gallant attempt to rescue members of his unit, who were pinned down by German artillery..." And signed by his most devoted comrade in arms, Theodore Bloat. Major Theodore Bloat now--

Staring out the window, staring at nothing, gripping a table knife so hard maybe some bones of his hand will break. It happens sometimes to lepers. Failure of feedback to the brain--no way to know how fiercely they may be making a fist. You know these lepers. Well--

Ten minutes later, back up in his room, he's lying face-down on the bed, feeling empty. Can't cry. Can't do anything.

They did it it. Took his friend out to some deathtrap, probably let him fake an "honourable" death...and then just closed up his file...

It will occur to him later that maybe the whole story was a lie. They could've planted it easy enough in that London Times, couldn't they? Left the paper for Slothrop to find? But by the time he figures that one out, there'll be no turning around.
- Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow p. 293

So I'm reading Gravity's Rainbow, small, resonant details of which, I freely acknowledge, find their way into the animated musical screenplay. But when I mention Anthony Lane's writing about Cannes one day and read this bit of Pynchon (set in Nice. !) the next, please understand --please, just don't sneer-- if Lewis's post the next day about Cannes and the grisly fate of first-time filmmakers weirds me out just a little.

Not that I've been expecting a full-blown review for Souvenir in the New Yorker...but, maybe a smart little bit in Talk of the Town...

Marie Kreutz (FRANKA POTENTE) tries to understand why a French news story has upset Jason Bourne (MATT DAMON).

Post-script: A reader pointed out that using the mass media to send messages to the troubled protagonist is a plot point in The Bourne Identity as well. So what are you saying? That stealing ideas from Pynchon, the best I can hope for is to be Robert Ludlum? Or that I'm (un)consciously campaigning to have Matt Damon play me in the movie?


In case that doesn't narrow it down enough:
Dublog, which has, among many other interesting things, this link about astronauts' photographs or earth. Bears out what Thoreau said, which I wrote about a few weeks ago.
Purse Lip Square Jaw, a lot of interesting IA, A (architecture, that is), and culture. (thanks for the heads up, Peter)
Movie Poop Shoot, Kevin Smith's worthy vehicle for online empire.

The travails of the writer, indeed. While I type away in semi-obscurity on a screenplay for a musical cartoon, and while Anthony Lane (not Lewis, as a few readers pointed out. They just look so much alike, though...) puts aside his Mont Blanc to wrestle with publicists for Harry Potter tickets, there are people who not only write and publish, they contribute significantly to the expansion of human knowledge and our understanding of the universe.

Beginnings of a neutron star burst, NASA animation Beginnings of a Neutron Star Burst, NASA Animation Still

One example from today's issue of Nature: "Gravitationally redshifted absorption lines in the X-ray burst spectra of a neutron star," by Drs Jean Cottam, Fritz Paerels, and Mariano Mendez. (The NASA News page is a little more colloquial: "Exotic Innards of a Neutron Star Revealed in a Series of Explosions". See the final draft of the paper on astro-ph, the Napster of Astrophysics.)

Don't ask me to explain it to you. When one's wife is a high-energy astrophysicist, gravitationally redshifted absorption lines are just one more of the mysteries of women you hope to understand, some day. I do know, however, that she is made of rather exotic matter.

For a price, the small army of researchers and Jeopardy contestant manque's at Google Answers will answer your questions, things you just can't find with Google the search engine.

In my site logs, I see your queries that bring you here. When what you're searching for doesn't immediately appear, sometimes it's the search engine. but sometime it's you. I'd certainly hope it's not me. Along with fresh breath, customer satisfaction is a priority in my life. So I'm introducing greg.org answers, the information you thought you'd find on my weblog but didn't. Until now. Let's begin:

Q "Why is Agnes Varda called 'The Grandmother of the Nouvelle Vague'?"
A Because she tells you to, and you should generally do what great filmmakers tell you to do. From an Indiewire interview: "...because my first feature I made in '54, five years before the New Wave, and I already had the freedom and the principles that they had. I hadn't met with the Cahiers du Cinema. I never had any training. I wasn't a cinebuff like they were. I wasn't a film critic. So, they called me the Grandmother, because I started it, almost."

Q "Matthew Barney Cremaster screening in Washington"
A It was Oct.31 and Nov. 1 at the Hirshhorn. You missed it, dude. Try London until Nov. 14, Paris, alongside the exhibit until Jan. 5. [I saw it, though, and all I got was this lousy t-shirt]

Q "Greg's Western Wear Online"
A Greg's Western Wear is a Central Florida western wear empire dedicated to "making wester wear shopping fun."

Q "How much do producers spend making movies?"
A John Lee's The Producer's Business Handbook is a very useful reference for new or aspiring producers.
A The guys at Cyan Pictures clearly know how to spend money smartly, and it looks like they spent $42.5K on their nearly completed short film. I've spent a little more than half that on my short, Souvenir.
A How much you got?

Q "In which films are the clocks stuck at 4.20?" [from Yahoo UK, winner of the 2002 most proper search engine grammar prize]
A Huh. Uncharacteristically for an obscure topic related to smoking pot, there's a looooong, excruciatingly detailed discursis about 420 on Phish's site.
The rumor that the clocks in Pulp Fiction are all set to 4:20 is easily refuted. Only one is, apparently. (According to disinfo, Tarantino took his revenge on these baked rumormongers by killing each of the potsmokers in his next movie, Jackie Brown, at 4:20.
Anyway, disinfo also mentions a 4:20 clock appearance in Ingmar Bergman's The Magician.

Q All Quiet on the Western Front symbols
A I'll answer your questions, but I won't do your homework for you. Watch the movie yourself. I hear there's a book, too.

Harrison Ford in a tuxedo Meryl Streep, Yale grad

Film critic Anthony Lane is writing the diary at Slate. So far, it's been torrid accounts of the perils of writing. It's pretty suspenseful stuff, journaling as a pitch/plea for giving Lane the Charlie Kaufman Treatment. (Kaufman wrote the screenplay adaptation of Susan Orlean's book, The Orchid Thief, which became Adaptation, starring Ms Meryl Streep as Ms Orlean.) Vivid imagery, action movie material, even. Tuesday, rewrite day, for instance:

"If this [my Tuesday as a New Yorker writer] were an Indiana Jones movie, I would merely have proceeded to the next plank in the creaking, swaying rope bridge over a ravine. Below me, the crocodiles gape. One more pace, twice as fraught, will bring me to the fact-checking department, into whose miasmic maw writers far stronger than I have disappeared, their cries fading into the dark. Pray God that I come out alive.

(There's much more of this in the book, Nobody's Perfect: Selected Writings from the New Yorker. We should have breakfast about it. London? Fine. Tea.) I enjoy Lane's writing. A favorite is his 1997 report from Cannes [Yeah, I got the book, hardcover. When you've been throwing out the paperback version every week, what can you do? Just buy it!]:
...at Cannes, unlike anywhere else, the act of waiting justifies what you are waiting for, and deepens your need to get there. I wandered around town for two full days in a tuxedo, feeling like the world's most underused gigolo, for no other reason than to smooth my path into screenings of films from which I would normally run a mile.

Hmmm. Get me Richard Gere on the phone...

Richard Gere on the phone


Three clothing-optionalists and one writer on the set of Starship Troopers
On the set of Starship Troopers: DP Jost Vocano,
director Paul Verhoeven, star Casper Van Dien, writer Ed Neumeier

Yesterday's NY Times Magazine is a veritable toolbox (and I use that word deliberately) for film, all you want to know, and more. First, what you want to know: There's the Cinderella-story of indie director Joe Carnahan's tremendous success on the Bel-Air Circuit, where Narc, his ignored-at-Sundance cop flick became the favorite film of (among others) Tom Cruise and Harrison Ford.

And the more: The "How to..." section provides expert opinion on potentially tricky subjects, all in a neat little package. Here's a quote from Paul Verhoeven's How to Shoot a Nude Scene:

When I did Starship Troopers, the cast was balking about going through with a group shower scene. So I took off all my clothes. And my director of photography did also. It worked, because everybody started laughing, and then they got naked. And we didn't hear anymore complaints.

You can read reviews of Verhoeven's piece at CNdb, the Celebrity Nudity Database.

November 4, 2002

Some Quotes and Links

"Asbury's book is a tribute to the magical power of naming: long stretches of 'Gangs [of New York]' are taken up by lists of gangs and villains and even fire engines, and, like the lists of ships in the Iliad, they are essential to the effect...We read of Daybreak Boys, Buckoos, Hookers, Swamp Angels, Slaughter Housers, Short Tails, Patsy Conroys, and the Border Gang, of Chichesters, Roach Guards, Plug Uglies, and Shirt Tails, and we melt."
-- Adam Gopnik discussing Herbert Asbury's cult-fave 1928 book in the New Yorker

"What you really are afraid of is that you're competing against somebody who is rich and irrational. I mean, it used to be a given, a saying in the industry: Don't ever bid against Rupert Murdoch for anything Rupert wants, because if you win you lose. You will have paid way too much."
-- media mogul John Malone, in an interview with Ken Auletta at NewYorker.com

"Just as Italians don't translate Johnny Cash as 'Giovanni Soldi,' and we don't take Federico Fellini and rename him 'Freddy Cats,' so the term Arte Povera has to stand unchanged and unexplained."
-- Blake Gopnik, brother, writing (entertainingly but incorrectly) about the Hirshhorn Gallery's latest show in the Washington Post

"Then sometimes you're given the chance to make a memory for someone, give them a pleasant moment to remember, which is the greatest thing you can ever do. Keep the Oscar and all that."
-- Rod Steiger, Oscar winner, on Jon Favreau's Dinner for Five on IFC

"We're a little tired of the thin-skinned whining, which is much of what we get from north of the border...
-- Pat Buchanan, defending his comment about "Soviet Canuckistan" on the CBC's As It Happens [Pat's about 12:00 into the stream.]

Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

comments? questions? tips? pitches? email
greg [at] greg [dot ] org

find me on twitter: @gregorg

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