Writing Proceeds Apace; In the Mean Time, Follow These Links

“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%.

“Alone, nothing, together, a household word, a legend”

Even though I’m on the record (ad nauseum) as hating musicals, it’s probably more accurate to say I hate most musicals or bad musicals. The shows I’ve seen by Adolph Green, who collaborated for sixty+ years with Betty Comden, don’t fall into either category. Unbenknownst to me, they were sitting right in front of me at The Public Theater’s 1997 revival of On The Town; right before the show started, an announcement was made and they stood to accept a round of applause. It was the first show for Comden, Green, Jerome Robbins and Leonard Bernstein.
In mid-November, Singin’ In The Rain is screening at Film Forum in a new 35mm Dolby Stereo print. Adolph Green died today at his home in Manhattan.

1979 Star Trek, or The Thin Line Between (Punch-Drunk) Love and Hate

punch-drunk love poster

I’m watching Star Trek: The Motion Picture right now, and it’s blowing me away. It’s the first movie, the one with the original crew, the bald chick, and V’Ger, a cloud-like alien vessel with the Voyager space probe at its core. Anyway, wide swaths of the movie are a nearly psychedelic trance, which I never remembered. There’s an incredible 10+ minute abstract FX sequence of the Enterprise entering the vessel. It’s similar to Jeremy Blake’s digital work and the passages he did for Punch-Drunk Love. Or, it’s as abstract, at least. A very unexpected place for such a confluence.
Syd Mead's rendition of V'Ger

[The visual effects on STTMP were originally led by Richard Taylor, then Douglas Trumbull took over after overruns in the chaotic production’s budget. So far, I think the V’Ger sequence was John Dykstra‘s and Trumbull’s realization of Syd Mead‘s concepts. An interview with Taylor survives for now in Google’s cache: page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6. Charles Barbee wrote about lighting and shooting the V’Ger Flyover, including accounts of 10-pass in-camera composited shots and finding just the right “glare angle.” Syd Mead discusses creating V’Ger.]
While I mentioned before that elements of the Star Trek IV story inspired the latest script for the AYUAM, it turns out that several ideas from this Star Trek worked in as well. I’m not unaware that these are considered two of the lamest Star Trek films made (“The V’Ger flyby was interminable.”). Combine this with the fact that I don’t like musicals, and I find myself deeply engaged in something I should be hating, but instead, I’m loving it. Can someone explain this to me?

On flashbacks and the As-yet Unannounced Animated Musical Feature

Did a few walkthroughs this weekend on the story & structure of this project. It’s a crime story (whether it’s a “based on a true story” story or “any similarity to real persons is entirely coincidental” story depends on how we proceed with the rights. I’ll discuss this subject in some detail later, as I did with Lolita: The foreword Nabokov appended to his novel nominally sets Humbert Humbert up as an unreliable (and hence, seemingly unsympathetic) narrator. here is an article about various similarities between Nabokov’s and Alfred Hitchcock’s use of unreliable narrators and other devices attributed to the influence of 19th century literature.

  • The Princess Bride: a slightly post-modern version (it was the 80’s, after all) of the classic “once upon a time” storytelling frame, with Peter Falk. William Goldman actually wrote The Princess Bride as if he had remembered his own grandfather reading “just the good parts” of an otherwise unremarkable tale to him. Check out SMorgenstern.com, a fan site named after the fictitious “original” author.
  • Interview with the Vampire: Interview-driven flashbacks. Christian Slater’s journalist provides a skeptical-yet-vulnerable entree to Louis’ story. Works well when your characters don’t age. Ever.
  • Cannibal! The Musical: This is a courtroom musical drama comedy, where an enterprising young reporter sweet-talks Alferd Packer/Trey Parker to tell his tale. Voted “Movie Most Like A Mormon Roadshow” by me. [A brief article about roadshows. A representative roadshow script.]
  • On giddy, embarassing glee derived from movie log lines

    On the plane this week, I made myself laugh (and my wife nervous) by coming up with the pitch way too quickly and unabashedly for a half-rewritten script I’m…rewriting: It’s like Monster’s Ball meets Memento. It pales in comparison to “Ghost meets The Manchurian Candidate” and “Out of Africa meets Pretty Woman,” though. (Too many of these log lines, and I’ll screw my movie/director index up.)

    New Project: Did I mention

    New Project: Did I mention it’s animated? Actually, yeah, I did. Indirectly, anyway. Did I mention it’s a musical? Umm, yeah. Well, I’ve been researching anime, animation production, CG, and techniques today. Here are some interesting links I’ve assembled so far:

  • Animation through Virtual Studios, from Animation World Magazine. Forget posting an online production diary. These guys made an animated short entirely online, with 100+ collaborators worldwide using a production website and database.
  • Robert Breer. I was wracking my brain this morning to remember his name. Breer is widely known (among underground animation fans, anyway) for his animation, which is experimental, minimalist, and whimsical (but not in a stupid way). But I was blown away by an exhibition last year of his sculpture (think 60’s minimalism, but motorized so that it wanders around the gallery floor). Turns out he worked on The Electric Company in the 70’s.
  • Stephen Arthur’s Vision Point: a fascinating example of pixilation, the animation of live images. (Remember Peter Gabriel?) Vision Point was made by animating 35mm photographs taken every four seconds along a western Canadian roadtrip.
  • On July Fourth, I watched a lot of movies and called it research. (But don’t hate me; one was Flashdance)

    For the new project (comments to follow):

  • Everyone Says I Love You(Woody Allen) – An utterly joyless, excruciating experience. I just wanted his characters to shut up for even one second. Everyone seemed to be doing a frantic, bad Woody Allen impression; the most “successful,” Poor Ed Norton was possessed. Just wrong in every way. This is one of the films he sued his longtime producer over; he’s lucky I wasn’t on the jury.
  • Disney’s Classics of the 50’s (Various) – Some animated shorts (what we called “cartoons” when we watched them on Saturday mornings.), including “Pigs is Pigs” and a too-long stop-action “Noah’s Ark.” What I really need is “Donald Duck in Mathmagic Land.”
  • Bedknobs & Broomsticks (Robert Stevenson) – Waiting to watch it on the train
  • Flashdance (Adrian Lyne) – The invention of the music video. heh. Watching this was prompted by Buffy’s dread of “a workout montage” (see previous post). Pretty unwatchable, but interesting. (How is that possible?)
  • Erin Brockovich(Steven Soderbergh) – Saving grace. I thought I’d better get a crowdpleaser, in case all my other choices fell through (which they have, so far. Only Angela Lansbury can save me now.) Soderbergh’s style is there for the groupie (me) but invisible to anyone who just wants “a good movie.” People smiled politely at my excitement over the long early shot, the one where Julia Roberts gets in a car, drives off, and then gets slammed by a car going 50 mph. How’d they DO that? (Agent- and insurance-wise, it’s impossible. Turns out to be a composited shot, although I still can’t believe it.)
  • On hating musicals while making plans to watch Buffy; On The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, which I don’t hate

    Last night was a rerun of Buffy: The Musical, Joss Whedon’s annual stunt episode of the show (two seasons ago, there was the silent episode, then the “no background noise” episode. In 2001, it was the “background singer” episode, I guess.) Not a Buffy fan, but with the gushing reviews from last fall still fresh in my conscience, we sat down to watch it. [note: Stephanie Zacharek’s Salon.com review is dripping with the vampire-inspired ecstasy that so scared the Victorians. You want to offer her a cigarette by the last paragraph. In the mean time, here’s a site with enough mp3 files and lyrics links to restage the whole thing at home.]
    Anyway, it was pretty interesting, especially for the unexpectedness of it. Favorite lines were self-referential: “Off we go to stop the killer/ I think this line is mostly filler.” And it was pretty game of the whole cast to sing. Makes me wonder, what if Catherine Deneuve hadn’t been dubbed in Jacques Demy’s Umbrellas of Cherbourg? Cherbourg is a bizarre (if you think about it) technicolor classic where garagistes offhandedly sing about fixing the fuel injector on a Mercedes. Thanks go to Agnes Varda, whose tireless efforts to restore and rerelease Cherbourg in 1992 brought the film–and her former husband’s reputation–new life.
    [Chicago Reader has a looong, impassioned article from 1996 about Demy and coming to love Cherbourg. Buy Cherbourg here.]
    Even though I hate musicals (with the exceptions noted previously), or maybe because I hate musicals, I feel compelled to make one. If only to rationalize writing about Buffy, The new project I’m working on (in addition to the feature-length story incorporating Souvenir) is a musical. I guess I’d better add streaming to the site.

    A couple of inspirations for the new project

    Spent most of this morning and evening digging around, looking for contextual material for the new project (it’s a feature right now). Here are some source links.
    For this, I’ve been really hung up on music videos, actually. Mike Mills (who directed the wonderful, easy-going documentary, Paperboys, which just played at the
    Brooklyn Int’l Film Fest in early May) has done some great work.
    Also, Gorillaz is a favorite. Brilliant videos, hard to take my eyes off them when they’re on. (Thanks, MTV2 and MuchMusic!)

  • Gorillaz.com is the homeworld of the animated band.
  • Here is an article from Res about the making of Gorillaz vids. Includes an interview with co-creator Jamie Hewlett, a lot of technical information, translation from storyboard to video, etc.
  • Here is an interview with Mike Mills, also from Res.
    The afternoon was taken up with a trip to P.S. 1, which opened its new Playa Urbana/Urban Beach in the courtyard, and a related show of Mexican art. And that’s enough about that.

  • Watching Mike Mills for 90 min

    When I saw an hour and a half on
    Sundance Channel blocked out for Meet Mike Mills, I couldn’t figure out how interesting he could possibly be. 90 minutes with Scorsese, sure. But 90 minutes with Mike Mills? Naturally, I HAD to watch it.
    Turns out they showed the entirety of his shorts, Architecture of Reassurance and my favorite, Paperboys. It’s one of the most unassuming films in a long time, and it’s got a really engaging, smart view of a world many adopted New Yorkers have fled. (Architecture is actually about a girl who longingly wanders around an oppressively homogeneous suburban subdivision.
    Paperboys figured into my first documentary project, adding to my conviction/hypothesis (depending on the day) that a studied look at rural life could be interesting.
    Mills also directed the some of my favorite Gap ads (did that phrase just chase you all away? hello? …hellooo?), the ones inspired by West Side Story, which is one of only four musicals I can stand. (For your purchasing pleasure, the others are Moulin Rouge, South Park and Umbrellas of Cherbourg.)
    Mills’ videos, commercials, and some shorts can be seen in the archives at The Director’s Bureau site, which has one of the only Flash intros I don’t mind watching. Work and info from his partners, including Roman and Sofia Coppola, is also available on the site.

    My daily Baz Lurhman and

    My daily Baz Lurhman and Martin Scorcese encounter: They’re both in this NYTimes article about rampant botox injections “playing havoc with facial expressions.”

    One of many priceless quotes, this one about the only-temporary effects of treatment:

    “You could marry a woman with a flawlessly even face,” one doctor said, “and wind up with someone who four months later looked like a Shar-Pei.”

    The writer, Alex Kuczynski, formerly of the Times’ business beat and the NY Observer, which first broke the Botox story (to me) five or so years ago. She’s turning back the clock on her writing subjects, and she’s never looked better!