Geezers, Screenwriters & Directors

It’s my guess that we cling to the harsher bits of the past not just as a warning system to remind us that the next Indian raid or suddenly veering, tower-bound 757 is always waiting but as a passport to connect us to the rest of the world, whose horrors are available each morning and evening on television or in the Times. And the cold moment that returns to mind and sticks there, unbidden, may be preferable to the alternative and much longer blank spaces, whole months and years wiped clear of color or conversation. Like it or not, we geezers are not the curators of this unstable repository of trifling or tragic days but only the screenwriters and directors of the latest revival.

-Roger Angell, “Life in rerun, now playing near you.” >The New Yorker, Issue of 2004-06-07

Try Explaining “Famous Bloggers”

That was my dilemma last night in attending Gothamisty NY Bloggers forum at the Apple store. Like everyone else, I went to drum up traffic for my own weblog.
Sure, some will act like they care about the Freddie Nick vs. Jason feud; a couple of MovableType geeks lobbied Anil to include their pet features in the next release; and of course, Lock & Loaded were funny.
But when the entire audience raised their hands in response to Anil’s cry of “bloggaz in da house!” it was obvious we’d all come prepared–just in case we were asked at the last minute– to fill in and flak our sites to 200 potential linkers. To wit: the blogcard that got shoved into my hand from Rosmania, a sort of Gawker-for-Detroit, whose posts have more circular footnotes than a David Foster Wallace novel.

The Birthday Boy from La Mancha

Marlise Simons reports in the Times on celebrations under way all over Spain to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Don Quixote, the country’s “secular bible.”
Festivities included a marathon 44-hour mundo hispanico reading, which mirrors nicely my own weeklong marathon reading of the excellent new English translation on an otherwise painful cruise to Mexico.
If your schedule’s somewhat limited, try the hilarious fiasco doc of Terry Gilliam’s failed DQ movie, Lost in La Mancha. And if that’s too long for you, pop on over to First Sally, my production company site, where there’s a single image of Quixote and Pancho to stare at for a few seconds.

Movie Mag Maven Mad for Mitchell’s Manic Metaphors

MMMMWAHAHAHA. Wendy Mitchell demonstrates why she gets the big pro blogger bucks. Like free sample day at the Whole Foods cheese department, she’s laid out bites of Elvis Mitchell’s ripest metaphors for you to sample with your little review-reading toothpick.
[For those about to knock, we dispute you. Try writing like that yourself. It’s like making a sculpture from undercooked pasta; it’s not hard, exactly, but you’re probably gonna end up with a sticky mess.]

Writing about making bottles

Whether it’s momentum, or a mindshare takeover, or a drive to push the site out of the nest and let it learn to fly, or the fact that I’ve changed 200 diapers in the last three weeks, I’ve been posting on a lot more than here lately. And for that, I apologize.
Of course, if you’re interested in anything like the following, stop on by:

  • SUV-like strollers
  • infant t-shirts with swear words printed on them
  • loft-compatible baby furniture
  • what to do when your kid pukes
  • what cars gay soccer dads drive
  • Dan Cortese’s daughter’s name
  • why Cassavetes’ Shadows is an infant’s best possible first movie. (See? There’s some overlap.)
  • While I Was (heh) Out

    The following were not reasons for my not posting for five days:

  • Was walking the dog in the park at 4AM and “fell for a con” [Is that what they call it on Oz now, Kevin?]
  • Was hiring a hitman to ice my daddy-aged roommate.
  • Was skewering Plum Sykes’ book, Bergdorf Blondes so skilfully she may not even feel it. [Get it straight, people: THOSE SYKES’S ARE NOT TWINS.]
  • Was shopping for napkin rings with my bestest friend (we agreed it’s OK to see other people).
  • Was taking the 8 week-old kid to occupational therapy for sensory integration development.
  • You know that guy?

    At that graduate writing lecture? The one on the front row of the auditorium, with the grimy totebags stuffed with sheafs of paper? The old dude, who kept asking about, didn’t you ever notice in Shakespeare’s Titus how…? and how Nabokov subconciously cribbed then referenced some German short story in both Lolita AND Pale Fire? The one who then pulls out some sweat-curled manuscript he’s been writing in his paperback-stuffed rent stabilized apartment on 108th st, where he’s figured out his Grand Unification Theory of Literature, if only you’ll read it, you’ll see that it’s…
    No, the other one, the one who keeps talking about Skull & Bones? Yeah, yeah, that’s him.
    Well, he has a 10,000-word column in the New York Observer. No, seriously. Like every week.

    On Adapting for Film

    [via IFP] New York Women in Film and Television is sponsoring a panel titled The Art of Adaptation on Jan. 28 in New York, thank you. In fact, it’s at the Alliance Francaise/French Institute, East 60th St, so even I can stumble out of bed and wander on over by, um, the 6:30 start time.
    IFP members and others get $5 off the $20 registration fee. NYWIFTies get in for a mere $10.
    Related: Jason Kottke made a sweet weblog for Susan Orlean’s view of Adaptation.
    This panel may be payback for the last adaptation panel I attended, a misogyny-tinged but hilarious and enlighteneing discussion sponsored by Harper’s Magazine. At the New School, a lone woman, Susan Minot, squared off against David O. Russell, David Foster Wallace, Todd Solondz and Dale Peck. Editor/moderator Lewis Lapham complained about Leonard [sic] DiCaprio, while everyone else discussed James Cameron at length.
    Alas, with no known tape or transcript, this panel only lives on in our hearts. And in this funny weird/funny haha DFW-centric account from some delusional DFW groupie chick (“He’s trying so hard to be everyman, when we all know he’s uberman… poor Dave.”). Quelle surprise, it’s written in the overly footnoted style of the uberman himself.

    On Scripts

    Salon is not only still publishing, they’re publishing the shooting script of the Ronald Reagan TV movie that the conservative closet cases wanted to see on Showtime (the Queer as Folk Network). It’s an 8Mb pdf. Of a TV Movie. Starring James Brolin. About Ronald Reagan. You’ve been warned.
    [For an invigorating Reagan text, try Joan Didion’s prescient 1997 review of DiNesh D’Souza’s Ronald Reagan: How an Ordinary Man Became an Extraordinary Leader. It costs money, but it’s worth it.
    For the definitive Reagan movie, buy or rent David O. Russell’s Flirting With Disaster, in which Reagan has two cameos: on the wall of Mel Coplin’s first adoptive “mom,” and on the tabs of acid of his real parents.]
    In today’s Movie Issue of the NYT Mag, Lynn Hirschberg convenes a “roundtable” with two screenwriters, Brian Helgeland and Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, the Silver Surfer convo airdropped into the middle of Crimson Tide) “share some wisdom about the screenwriting life.”
    1) We always knew Tarantino’s too much of a loudmoth to pull off the Terence Malick thing. 2) How many participants actually constitute a roundtable? I want to know who couldn’t manage to stumble over to the Regent and run up the Times‘s bar tab. 3) Reason enough to read it in print: the Favorite Screenplays Speed Round, which runs along the bottom of the piece. I may have my data entry lackeys in Madagascar transcribe it for your illicit online pleasure.
    Tarantino scripts online:
    Kill Bill
    Jackie Brown (pdf)
    Pulp Fiction
    Natural Born Killers early draft
    Brian Helgeland scripts online:
    Blood Work draft (pdf)
    LA Confidential draft
    The Postman early production draft (pdf) [heads up: think Kevin Costner, not Pablo Neruda]
    Assassins draft, with the Wachowskis
    The script’s not online, but a A Knight’s Tale is out on DVD. [Have a hard time keeping the similarly comical anachronism of A Knight’s Tale (“An InStyle Editor in King Arthur’s Court” starring Heath Ledger) and First Knight (“Ralph Lauren Camelot Collection” starring Richard Gere) straight? No problem. Amazon’s selling them together. Supplies are supposedly limited.
    Think you can do better? Well, get Final Draft and start writing, script monkey.
    [links via Daily Script and Screenplays For You]

    Things I want to write about, given world enough (or time)

  • Matthew Barney’s Cremaster cycling through the red states. C1‘s playing in Boise, where it was shot (and Barney’s hometown), and C3 has apparently won the Strangest Movie Shown In Nashville Award. (Heads up, bootleggers: The Tennessean’s Kevin Nance has a screener tape!)
  • Gerry reviewed in the Guardian (“If you can imagine Dude, Where’s my Car? by Samuel Beckett”). Casey Affleck writes about working–as an actor, editor, and writer–with Gus Van Sant. Net net, this means the DVD is still years away, I guess…
  • Film, Samuel Beckett’s only screenplay (besides the aforementioned DWMC?), in which a man (Buster Keaton) is pursued by an only occasionally perceived camera. Film at The Modern World. Up to 30 of you can buy it on VCD from the Czech Republic. via Dublog
  • One 9/11 pseudo-docu too many, reviewed and excoriated in the Voice. (Still, it’s a good argument for getting HBO; this horrible-sounding Bushagiography is on Showtime.) Related: Gail Sheehy’s impressive Observer article about the WTC widows who are holding the administration’s obfuscatory feet to the fire over details of the 9/11 AM timeline.
  • The Hirshhorn Museum, reviewed by Tyler Green of Modern Art Notes fame.
  • On Writing A Screenplay About A Writer

    In the Guardian, British docu maker John Brownlow tells about the tricky business of writing a screenplay about Sylvia Plath, one of the most fought-over writers of the modern era. With duelling critics, conflicting biographies, testy literary estates controlling the rights to Plath’s and Ted Hughes’ poetry, and an ending even Hollywood can’t spin, it sounds like an impossible task. Oh, and “there had to be humor.” Humor and a head in the oven.
    Brownlow ended up completely re-researching Plath’s and Hughes’ stories to find a bearable story, and, after realizing the couple didn’t “speak in verse” with each other, he says, “[I] cut dialogue and if I couldn’t cut it I made it as banal as I could, while ensuring the situations were dramatic.”
    His writing war story is long, maybe not really of general interest, but if you write, you won’t want to miss it. Two good lessons: 1) Brownlow is a huge fan of treatments and outlines and the discipline they impose on the writer’s story, and 2) he wants to direct.
    Interestingly, I just rewatched Steven Soderbergh’s Solaris on DVD, and in his commentary (with the deeply shallow James Cameron), he talks about cutting and cutting dialogue, too, in order to reveal the characters’ emotional subtexts. From what he says, I think he greatly improved the movie (which I liked better the second time, btw). Soderbergh tells people if they don’t like the pacing of the first ten minutes, they should leave, “because it’s not getting any better.”

    Ugh. It should be called “American Publishers Yawn at Foreign Fiction”

    In the NYT, Stephen Kinzer easily pulls some horrible quotes from major publishers about how Americans don’t want to read books translated into English. From a marketing hack at Harcourt: “We [Americans] are into accessible information. We often look for the story, rather than the story within the story. We’d rather read lines than read between the lines.” And from a hack at Hyperion: “The hard fact is that given the reality of the world, we [Americans] simply don’t have to be concerned about Laos, but people there might well want to be or have to be concerned about America.”
    Granted, it’s not literature, but if a webful of kids can translate Harry Potter in German in two weeks [read Kottke comments here], why can’t the world of people who don’t work for ridiculous publishers start bubbling these things to the top and translating them collaboratively? Just to see what sticks.
    If I were Jeff Jarvis, I’d say this was a project for webloggers.

    On Taste Tribes

    via Boingboing: On Mindjack, Joshua Ellis writes at length about what he calls Taste Tribes, friendship by cultural affinity–liking people who like the same stuff. Blogs are the engines for the smarter artist/chiefs of their own taste tribes.
    shagpad logoI cooked something up along those lines in 1999 at Shagpad, which was based on the Austin Powerish, Abercrombie & Fitchy theory that people bought stuff in direct relation to its ability to get them laid. Or as the VC-Powerpoint presentation-ready slogan goes, “ leverages web and e-commerce technology to monetize aspirational lifestyle portfolios that facilitate getting mad play.” The idea came out of some client work which became, in part, (They chose the wrong part, I thought.) At Shagpad are a couple of essays that are not quite embarassing enough to take offline (and besides, the buy-this-lifestyle Amazon links usually pay the hosting).
    [Update: It should be noted that I peeled off my friend Jeff’s last name; he’s a sculptor in Red Hook, and the Google searches were beginning to cramp his style. Now that Wallpaper* has declared Red Hook trendy, I’ll probably have to change that, too. Aaron, you have my sympathy.]

    I Like Sites We Like

  • Daily Script is an excellent-looking archive of html/pdf screenplays. I’m reading the Three Kings shooting script.
  • I got Daily Script from the Guardian film section’s Sites We Like, an excellent mix of the entertaining and useful, the mainstream and obscure.
  • Marc Forster‘s first film, Everything Put Together, is on Sundance right now, but I can’t watch it right now. With a tremendous DV transfer, it looks great while it bleeds all hope for suburban humanity from your system. Monster’s Ball‘s a veritable The Sound of Music by comparison. Read a good Indiewire interview with Forster.