Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Celtic New Year

The pic is from our front walkway - a string of jack o' lantern lights from Target. Happy Halloween, kids. Wheeeeeee!

Of course for Samantha, this was Samhain (SAH-wen), or Celtic New Year's Eve. The time when the fabric between the material and the spiritual planes were thinnest. After much historical and cultural study, it became my New Year as well.

So honestly I was not surprised when Kayligh and I showed up at my brother's house to let her trick-or-treat in her pirate best, and what should we hear wafting out from his front room but the opening strains of "Demons" by And Tears Fell. Gavin had just opened the door and the last song was fading out, when my opening guitar chords rang out. Gavin stood there with a creeped out look on his face, and Kayleigh flashed a big grin when she heard Sam's voice start to sing.

Thanks for checking in, hon. We're doing fine.

I'll have pics of Kayleigh's pirate getup tomorrow. Right now I'm exhausted and need to go turn off the pumpkin lights. Cheers all - Happy Celtic New Year. May the coming year bring blessings beyond measure.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Different World

My 91yo grandfather recently had spinal surgery. I just talked to him on the phone, along with my grandmother. He's doing great in physical therapy and she's a human dynamo - just as always. I love them fiercely.

Something my grandfather said stuck with me. They read my blog regularly (he calls my entries "soliloquies"), and he said how much they enjoy keeping up on what's happening in my life, although some of what I talk about is way outside their experience. "It's a different world," he said. Not like in a "you young whipper-snappers and your rock & roll" kind of way, but as a legitimate, heartfelt, observational truth. How often do we of the generations subsequent to the Greatest Generation actually stop to ponder how the world has changed (for better or worse)? And what contribution are we making to forge a better world?

65 years ago, my grandfather stood with his peers and fought against fascism, genocide and unbridled imperialism. Stuff not unlike what we're exporting now. The technology that made his spinal surgery possible (and thus, years of additional comfort and mobility) also makes the world smaller. Makes it easier to communicate and yet easier to be misunderstood. On the upside, that technology has given everyone a voice. On the downside, everyone can talk at once, in fire-and-forget soundbytes - so there's more crap to sift through. The technology that put humans on the Moon also carries death and destruction to any target in the ever-shrinking world. On the one hand, I hold a lot of hope for future humans leaving this planet to explore the galaxy beyond. On the other, I have to ask: do we deserve that privilege before we've got our collective shit together as a species?

I'm not saying my grandfather's generation didn't have its problems - they had plenty. But at least at some point they stared down an economic depression, a world war (and the curtain call in Korea), and kept a sense of optimism and hope for the future. My generation is the product of Vietnam, Watergate, OPEC embargoes and corporate media. Hard to maintain a sense of optimism when you've been conditioned by experience not to trust authority. I don't have a "solution" so much as just stating the obvious fact: that is our challenge.

"It's a different world." Amen. Food for thought.

* * *

Finished the rewrite on Duo. The aforementioned producer seems to like it. It finally has the ending I was always trying for, but never quite achieved. Unfortunately, I was so head-down in the work that I totally spaced calling my little brother to wish him happy birthday. I'm the worst big brother EVAR. Although on Sunday the kids and I met up with Gavin and some of his friends for The Nightmare Before Christmas in 3D. Some of the 3D was well done, some of it was way off and gave me a headache.

Watched my region-2 UK import copy of Hannie Caulder. It's crappy quality, but I'll take it over no movie. With the new interest in westerns and exploitation movies from the '70s, why is this film not getting a new region-1 special edition? It's an underrated western, and Raquel Welch's character is arguably the inspiration behind Sharon Stone's character in Sam Raimi's The Quick and the Dead. Just a thought, Anchor Bay. We love Raquel. We love a nice spaghetti western. We love revenge plots. Give us a decent edition of Hannie Caulder.

Also watched the original 3:10 to Yuma with Glenn Ford. What a great western! I never really heard about it until the recent remake came out. Really great character study. And... IT'S GLENN FORD! Come on. How can you go wrong??

Another coffee date coming up this week, and of course Halloween tomorrow. I promise pictures.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

I Has a Flavor!


What Flavour Are You? Hot hot! I am Curry Flavoured.Hot hot! I am Curry Flavoured.

I have a spicy personality. If you can take the heat, you'll love me, if not, I'll probably make you cry. I am not for the faint-hearted. What Flavour Are You?

Six Bullets

  • Saturday: had a brunch date, saw Elizabeth - The Golden Age (and despite it being a shamelessly pro-England propaganda piece, found it extremely well done, a satisfying sequel to the first Elizabeth film). We went out to coffee afterwards.
  • Sunday: hung out with the kids, watched movies, did projects.
  • Monday: got a ton of work done, especially on the currently top-secret collaboration with a well-known actor whose name I cannot yet reveal. I'm diggin' the concept.
  • Today: FINALLY got my car back from the dealership - took it in two weeks ago to get the driver's side seatbelt fixed and ended up with a whole new SRS harness... all the airbags, all the pre-tensioned belts, all replaced. Gotta love that warranty!
  • While the Kia was in the shop, the dealership didn't have any extra loaner cars, so they put me in an Enterprise rental. Unfortunately the first car (a 2007 Taurus) was a piece of crap, so after a couple days I switched out at the West Seattle location into a 2008 Monte Carlo coupe. I don't think I'd ever own one, but it was definitely preferable to the Taurus! Nonetheless, I now have my Sportage back, and I'm a happy man!
  • Several of my peeps are in plays around town, so I think I have a lot of theater to go see in the next week.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Grindhouse, As Promised

Having a couple kids, I don't always get to go see "grown up" movies in the theater, and must await their arrival on DVD. Such was the case of the Grindhouse double feature of Robert Rodriguez' Planet Terror and Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof. Please remember this is only one filmmaker's opinion - I don't claim to be the definitive authority on anything, so if you absolutely love or hate these directors, save the fan/hate mail for them.

Planet Terror - I don't always like everything Rodriguez does, but I *always* respect his maverick, low-budget process. And more often than not, I actually *do* like his work. He's consistently pushing the envelope in terms of the Hollywood production model, creating films one either loves or hates, and when a director creates something that inspires such vehement emotion (on either side of the coin), in my opinion, that's the very essence of art. Look at Sin City. Love it or hate it, you cannot deny it is a work of staggering visual genius.

So let me preface my commentary on PT by saying I didn't start out a Rodriguez fan. I thought his half of From Dusk 'Til Dawn blew goats, and totally didn't fit with Tarantino's first half. Then I went back and discovered El Mariachi, and followed that trilogy through Desperado and Once Upon a Time in Mexico. And that won me over. I finally started to understand this guy. Then I took Tyler to the first Spy Kids movie, and it blew my mind - here's a director who can clearly compartmentalize the creative process and make different kinds of films for completely different audiences, with a high standard of technical quality on a low budget (thus "buying" himself more creative control on his projects).

Anyway, I've grown to respect the man as an auteur (he frequently writes, produces, directs, directs his own photography, edits and scores his films), and must say Planet Terror was a filmmaker's dream to watch. The DVD is the extended unrated cut, and since I missed the general release I don't know how it varies. But it does include a trailer for a fake movie called Machete, in the best grindhouse exploitation tradition. Cheech Marin as a shotgun-toting priest who delivers one of the best, most trite lines I've ever heard delivered: "God has mercy. I don't."

Planet Terror is a zombie movie. More specifically, it is THE zombie movie. A rural Texas population is exposed to a military chemical experiment gone awry, and soon popstar Fergie is getting her brain eaten. The cast is a smorgasbord of talent from across the spectrum of TV and cinema: Jeff "Lawnmower Man" Fahey, Michael "The Terminator" Biehn, Josh "The Goonies" Brolin, Michael "Twin Peaks" Parks, Bruce "Sin City" Willis, Tom "Dawn of the Dead" Savini, Carlos "El Mariachi" Gallardo, Freddy "Six Feet Under" Rodriguez, Marley "Pleasantville" Shelton, and the incredible Rose "The Black Dahlia" McGowan (and an army of really great quirky character actors). The plot revolves around a disparate group of uninfected folks having to fight their way through zombies that go POP! when you shoot 'em, through the infected soldiers at the military base, and into the helicopters that will take them to a remote part of Mexico.

It's ludicrous-level violence, and the "film" is "aged" to look like a piece of celluloid that's been chewed up by a projector over and over again. I found this to be particularly impressive, since Rodriguez shoots in HD video. The color correction and aging are perfect. There's even a point at which the film breaks and burns, and we get a MISSING REEL slide from "The Management", only to be thrown back into the movie at a later point in the story. Now, this is not the first time a film has been artificially aged and/or chopped up to convey a story. The parody Amazon Women on the Moon did exactly that. But the way in which Rodriguez uses the gimmick clearly evokes the visceral grindhouse movie experience - I loved it. I mean, come on: a stripper loses her leg and has it replaced with an automatic rifle!! A doctor carries around a hypodermic needle pistol strapped to her leg!! Fergie gets her brain eaten!! What's not to love??

Which made Death Proof somewhat of a disappointment in comparison. Although it has a totally able cast (Kurt Russell, Zoe Bell, Rosario Dawson, Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Tracy Thoms, Rose McGowan, Jordan Ladd & Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and a workable premise for an exploitation movie, it felt like most of the second act was more like The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. I mean, I like Tarantino's writing more than his direction most of the time, but this was chatty even for him, and it didn't necessarily do anything to advance the plot. And while the film (and Tarantino does shoot on actual film) carries some of the wear & tear that Planet Terror uses to such great effect, by the middle of the film it's pretty much gone, and we're watching a pristine print, which kind of defeats the purpose of using the gimmick in the first place. It was almost like Tarantino, with his vast, impressive knowledge of film history, was trying to make a good-looking product, and in doing so, misses the point of making something look crappy on purpose. Death Proof is not a bad film (certainly not his worst), but is completely outclassed by the total camp sci-fi horror experience that is Planet Terror.

On the upside, the chase sequences and car stunts are AMAZING, and the first wreck has some of the most amazing cinematic violence ever put on film, in my opinion - another application of the term gore-nography, for sure. But the chatty stuff just distracts from the whole stalker/cat/mouse/revenge story.

And for the record, I preferred Tarantino's portion of From Dusk 'Til Dawn to Rodriguez' portion, and think QT's best screenplay was True Romance. I still think Pulp Fiction is iconic cinematic genius, and I loved Kill Bill Vol. I. So I'm not writing this as some kind of Tarantino-hater/Rodriguez-fanboy.

Also recently watched Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (wow) and Domino (Tony Scott, you are a mad genius and I love you). Those two films really deserve more than a blogger's footnote, but I really need to get to work...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

No Sh**, There We Were...

Well, suck. We had one of those "we'll look back on it later and laugh" moments last night at the Comic Stop screening of OA. I promoted it, the shop promoted it (both on the front page of their website and on their MySpace page), and they'd had customers asking about it and phone calls asking about it for days. Kayleigh and I spent two hours setting up the back room for the screening.

Dennis (Lucifer), Natasha (Eloa), Aaron (Cadmiel) and Oliver (Child) showed, Dan (Editor/Assoc. Producer) showed, Oliver's family showed, and Brian (friend and associate) showed. No one else showed. Granted, the wether was crappy and Seattle was setting records for multiple-car accidents, so maybe it's to be expected... maybe it was just a crappy time to hold a screening.

On the upside, I got to hang out with Kayleigh, have dinner with her, chat. That's always good. And I got to see some of my actors again, which is always fun for me. I also hadn't seen Dan in over a month I think. So it was a nice reunion. We're looking at holding a mini-film fest at Emerald City Comicon in May, and will assemble our actors again for a better-targeted experience.

I've decided I'll hold off on the posting about Planet Terror until I've watched Death Proof as well. This Friday for movie night I will screen something family friendly first, and then show Planet Terror after the kids go off downstairs to play games. That's usually how it works. Pizza and one flick, then they get bored and go amuse themselves with games and various creative projects. Which is great, really, because I get daddy/kid time, and I also get Todd/adult-friends time.

Kayleigh has been discovering her dad's life through the films of John Hughes. Last week it was Ferris Bueller's Day Off, or An Analog for Todd's Senior Year in High School. She's already seen The Breakfast Club, or The Time Todd Got Caught Having a Ferris Bueller Day Off and Got Sent to Saturday School. This week it will be She's Having a Baby, or Todd & Sam Get Married and Begin Adult Life. It's really spooky how John Hughes and Cameron Crowe really nailed my life - how they captured the essence of the post-Boomer generation. Case in point: Fast Times at Ridgemont High (written by Crowe, directed by Amy Heckerling) - came out in 1982, the summer before my freshman year in high school. The Breakfast Club (written & directed by Hughes) - came out in 1985, junior year. Ferris Bueller's Day Off (written & directed by Hughes) - came out in 1986, senior year. She's Having a Baby (written & directed by Hughes) - came out in 1988, forecasting the life of Todd & Sam by 2 to 4 years. Say Anything (written & directed by Crowe) - came out in 1989, recalling the life of Todd & Sam 3 or 4 years previous. Singles (written & directed by Crowe) - came out in 1992, just after we moved to Seattle, capturing the essence of being a twentysomething creative type in the Emerald City. I guess they've just had an eye for the zeitgeist.

Anyway, back to the morning grind. Gotta drop Kayleigh at school and Elvis at the vet. Then back to work writing.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Note to Self:

Write a blog entry on Robert Rodriguez' Planet Terror, which just came out on DVD and left me chortling and steeping in a pool of my own mirth.

Right now, I need to get to bed...

P.S. "zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz..."

Monday, October 15, 2007

Zodiac, or Early Childhood in the Bay Area

I watched Zodiac today. If you haven't seen it, this post may contain spoilers. I've been a fan of David Fincher since Alien 3. Now just hear me out on this, because there's a method to my madness. It's amazing that such a steaming pile of crap of a script like Alien 3 could be given to a first time director, who could make it look so good, given the limitations of material and budget. That's some fancy directing skill. And of course, Se7en was his redemption. Sam and I went to see that in the theater, and were totally blown away - from the juxtaposition of Morgan Freeman's and Brad Pitt's characters to the hyperkinetic opening credits, to the incredibly intense morality play. And Fight Club... genius.

So, David Fincher gooood. Fire baaaad.

Zodiac really hit me, and here's why. First of all, it's based on the case files of an infamous serial killer who stalked the entire state of California in from the mid '60s to the mid '70s (mostly known for a very active period in the San Francisco Bay Area between 1969 and 1972). Although a prime suspect was finally identified in 1993, he died before arrest and the case remains open in several California counties. So it's viscerally real. It's also really well designed, with very impressive historical detail.

I was a wee lad when we moved back to the States from my dad's Army posting in Germany, and we lived in San Mateo, which actually had a curfew in effect due to the Zodiac killer. In fact, my first memories of TV news were (in order): Vietnam coverage, Zodiac, Watergate and the Patty Hearst kidnapping. Fincher's team does an excellent job recreating the Bay Area of that time period, right down to the construction of the Transamerica Pyramid, aside from the Golden Gate Bridge and Coit Tower, probably the most recognizable San Francisco landmark. It's all there - the hairstyles, the clothing, the cars. The air of depression, the ever-present layer of cigarette smoke wherever you went... you can almost smell the laundromats and urine. My only beef with the art direction is that the main characters don't change a whole lot over the 20 years covered. My parents were not exactly fashion plates, but they changed their hair and clothing styles radically (several times) throughout the '70s. But since I don't know what the real people being portrayed looked like during those years, I can't really say it's a huge issue.

Yes, there are scenes of brutal killings, as you'd probably guess, given the film's subject matter. But the way they are captured totally take any potential Hollywood gloss and throw it away. The camera is usually at the victim's level, and there is an eerie lack of musical score during those intense moments, which means that Fincher is really putting us there in the moment. He knows what buttons to push, and it's really effective.

The cast is great: Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Edwards, Donal Logue, Elias Koteas, Dermot Mulroney, Adam Goldberg, Charles Fleischer (who knew the guy who played Roger Rabbit could be so damn creepy??) and Brian Cox as famous California attorney Mevin Belli (they even mention his episode of Star Trek). Ione Skye makes a short and uncredited but memorable appearance as Kathleen Johns, a potential Zodiac victim who lives to tell the tale.

Anyway, it just really made that time in my childhood come back to me, as bittersweet as that is. A similar thing happened with The Pursuit of Happyness, with Will Smith - another really powerful film also set in San Fancisco.

So that gets me thinking, if my earliest TV memories were the aforementioned tragedies, what were we watching to escape? Mod Squad. Ironside. Bridget Loves Birney. Bewitched. I Dream of Jeannie. The Courtship of Eddie's Father. That Girl. Nanny & the Professor (loved me some Juliet Mills). The Flying Nun. The Brady Bunch. The Partridge Family. The Monkees. And Star Trek in syndication.

Watch this film. Funniest most perversely beautiful documentary I've seen in a long time.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


Had a productive couple days writing. Also had my niece here for the weekend, but all three kids miraculously kept each other amused without a major meltdown.

Met up with Sally & Justin and signed off on my '06 taxes. They get mailed in tomorrow. And I've sworn it's not going to take 10 months to do my '07 taxes. :)

Been listening to this band. Elle & Elliott Nelson are the talented offspring of the iconic Bill Nelson, on of my all time top musical influences. The apples didn't fall far from the tree in this case. Imagine Dif Juz meets Mazzy Star meets Cocteau Twins and you'll get the basic idea.

Wednesday evening we have an Ordinary Angels screening/Q&A/signing at the Comic Stop in Lynnwood. If you're in the greater Seattle area, try to get out there - it's gonna be fun!

Elvis Catstello goes into the vet on Thursday to get his first checkup and probably get snipped as well. Sorry buddy, but we can't have you getting into the spray habit.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Pirates and Projects and Teens, Oh My!

Wow - over a week without an exciting post to fill the time. But in all honesty, I've been so busy living the excitement that I have either lacked the time or energy to post at a given moment.

So here's what the last week and a half brought:

Did the Twelfth Night Cabaret fundraiser last Friday, put on 30lbs of costume and gear and did my thang. I haven't heard the final numbers, but I think we came close to our $20K goal. I had a serious temporal wtf experience in looking at one of the players, John, who is 16 with the requisite acne and braces. The same age and condition I was in when Sam & I got together. It blew my mind.

Kayleigh had a pirate-themed birthday party on Saturday; four 10yo girls dressed as pirates, hopped up on sugar. And two 13yo boys trying to eat me out of house and home while leaving messes behind (during my cleanup for K's party especially). You see, Tyler chose that weekend to have Project Halo, wherein he and his best bud Miles stocked up on oh-so-healthy chips and soda, and proceeded to play all three Halo games in their entirety in 48 hours. And me the only adult. So that was fun. Hang on, let me lay down for a minute.

Sunday I had a very productive 2-hour production meeting over lunch at the Swell with a couple creative professionals I really dig - one of whom I've known for 7 years, the other I met in recent weeks (but am very familiar with her previous work). Unfortunately, I cannot say more about the project at this time, but it's looking like a lot of fun and a great opportunity.

Simultaneously, there has been interest in Duo, the film we were working on when Sam died, from a production company in Seattle. They want to add it to their pitch roster to a funding source, as most of the projects are pretty heavy dramas and they need a romantic comedy to balance things out a bit. Duo does have a lot of elements in its favor: it's pretty much ready to rock, pending an editing pass to finesse and tweak a few bits; despite some interpersonal drama in the story, it's a pretty light, feel-good screenplay without being saccharin or predictable; three of the principal actors Samantha cast are willing (and excited) to come back and do the project. The deal is that if Duo gets funded, I will direct. To think of what I could do with that film with a proper budget...

Still working on the OA feature script, as well as a classic scifi parody screenplay. Plate full, certainly. But carved out enough time to have a coffee date with someone from Match. Nice gal, intelligent, well-traveled and with a common music culture. Spent a great deal of time in Heidelberg, Germany, my own hometown. You don't find a lot of folks out here in Seattle who can say they hail from Heidelberg, Germany, so I figure it's worth exploring a bit. We'll see - I'm certainly in no hurry.

Took the Sportaaj into the shop yesterday for an oil change and to replace the driver's side seatbelt, which hasn't retracted properly in awhile. Turns out the faulty retractor can cause the entire airbag system to not work, so it's good I'm having it done - it's a warranty fix anyway, so I'm not out any money. Unfortunately they were missing a part and had to overnight it, which means I'm in a loaner: an ugly as f**k white Taurus with a cassette deck. Anyway, the repair should be done today or tomorrow.

I close on my refi today. Thanks to Carrie, one of my widda pals from Gilda's, who happens to be a mortgage banker and got me a nice 30-year fixed. Beats my current ARM, and it will allow me to pay off the stupid lien on my house from the rebuild. Then I won't have to fight on two fronts and can concentrate on my settlement with RestorX (for which I've hired a local attorney).

I'm checking off the to-dos and lining up really cool professional projects. Aside from getting over a nasty flu bug and a sore shoulderblade, life is good.