Saturday, December 30, 2006

Peace on Earth...

Well, the holidaze are nearly over.

A funny thing happened to me while I was walking around with the Minx on Xmas eve. We walked by the windows at Macy's. Apart from appreciating the talent that went into creating the windows, I also noticed something interesting:

People from all over the world and of all ages, races, creeds, etc. were standing by the windows, being nice to each other. Despite the crowd and the loads of kids (some of whom were acting a bit bratty), I didn't hear a single harsh word, feel a bump as I walked around (I get those a lot on the subway), or see anyone being anything but fascinated by the display:

For a brief few seconds, there was peace on earth. Sniff.


Go see Childen of Men. Really interesting stuff, very well done. Have seen it twice this week (with two different folks) and am still processing it. I think my intellectual reaction will probably come later. My emotional reaction is: what an involving, heartfelt piece of work.

Finally got through Vellum. I told y'all about this sci-fi novel a few posts ago. I have to revise my opinion a little bit: it's a very good piece of work, and the writer is very talented. However, I really feel that a strong editor and a stronger sense of story would have propelled this novel into the stratosphere.

The piece is constructed to be nonlinear and somewhat post-structuralist in nature (there are multiple storylines that are interrelated thematically, that occur on different planes of existence and at different time periods). But the net effect is less than the sum of its parts. However, I'll probably still buy the sequel "Ink" when it comes out.

Happy new year folks! Peace on earth, goodwill towards all.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Holidays Are Upon Us

I just want to take a moment out to wish everyone the best of everything: peace, love, happiness, joy, all that good stuff.

Our world is a complex and sometimes frightening place. We are forced to judge our surroundings, the situations we find ourselves in, and the people we meet, based on very imperfect evidence, just to stay alive and focused on our day.

At holiday time this becomes more acute. What do I get someone? Do they really like this band's CD or am I getting them a present that's really for me? Is the person in front of me going to take that parking space?

When it's all over and done, you end up with a pile of used-up wrapping paper and a big credit card bill.

It's at times like these that I feel the most alien. I wish I could connect to people's hearts. I wish I could suspend my judgement of people and look at them as they really are. I can't really do it. I wish I could, but my own emotions (both good and bad) ultimately color the picture I see of them.

Do you know what I mean?

Oh and by the way, happy holidays.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Control And the "Fuck It" School of Film

The other night I went out to work on a new script. Sometimes I find writing alone in my apartment too onerous - I need to be around people even if I'm not interacting with them, just to feel like I've got some connection to the rest of the world. And sometimes there's too many distractions at home - television, the cat, my bed (which looks very attractive right now), etc.

Anyway, so I wander out to this cafe/bar I'd passed by before, went in and settled down to work - and I saw that a musical act was setting up shop. Oh well, I thought, maybe I should try somewhere else. But I had my iced cappucino in my hand already, and they were a few minutes away from starting, so I decided to keep going.

Anyway, the act started - and they were terrific. Nothing complicated: a singer, a bassist (fretless electric, wow!) and a pianist. The bassist also played violin on some numbers. Mostly covers ("Love For Sale," "Us and Them", "You Give Me Fever") and a couple of original tunes.

Great stuff. And I still got some writing done after they were finished.

If I'd tried to control the situation by going somewhere else, I would have missed out on something really wonderful. This brings up the issue:

Is control such a great goal? Is it possible, even?

I ask myself these things because my job requires me to stay on top of a lot of things at once: money, people, equipment, scheduling, locations etc. If I lose control of something, bad things happen - we don't get done on time and/or on budget.

At least, that's the theory. The dirty truth is, I don't really have control over very much at all, except when I show up for work (unless the subway decides to fuck me, in which case even that goes out the window). Everything else is held in place by a kind of contract or agreement. Even so, bad things happen all the time. Equipment breaks on the weekend. It rains out while we're trying to shoot a sunny park scene. The sun just WON'T stay up for another goddamn minute (the worst thing to hear is "We're losing the light!") And maybe someone on the crew got a day-play gig for tomorrow that pays triple what you're paying, and hasn't been able to find a replacement for himself yet. And on and on.

But out of these accidents and "bad things" have come some great moments, the "fuck it" moments. Like when I said "fuck it" and decided to stay and see the band.

When it rained cats and dogs on the last shoot I was on we kept shooting because it actually worked for the story better. No one was terribly happy (it was also cold out) but it worked. On my own film I used a couple of outtakes because the actors were more relaxed, more real, than when we were officially "rolling." Once or twice the lead actor dropped something and, because he's supposed to be tired and a little clumsy in the story, his reaction worked better.

This leads me to wonder how many of those brilliant moments in the movies we love came out of the "fuck it" experience. In the original Star Wars (Episode IV for the geeks out here) there are some scenes where the wind on Tattooine (actually, Tunisia) picks up in the middle of a take, blowing Luke's hair and Obi-Wan's robe around. I'm sure it wasn't planned, but at those moments you feel like you're in the desert with them. There's nothing like that in the last three movies to make you feel like you're in a real environment.

Anyway, your homework assignment is to walk around the city and take a minute from your busy schedule to see what happens. Get off on a subway stop you've never gotten off of before. Walk into a restaurant you've never eaten at. Surfing the internet sort-of counts, but I think the problem is that you're still taking in information solely through your eyes - there's no physical activity involved. One of my favorites is to buy a magazine at Hudson News that I've never read before.

Good luck! Report back.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A Week of Snot

Oh yes, wrapping up a film can be SO much fun. The crumpled up receipts, the invariably late art department, the paperwork you thought you had in your box but didn't, and the inevitable sickness that accompanies the end of a job. My head feels like a Gatorador full of snot with my nose acting as a faucet.

So, I've spent most of the last week trying to get out of bed to go into the office and put all the paperwork bits into their proper places.

So now I'm starting to think about Xmas and all the crap that goes along with it (cards, presents, buying stuff you can't afford, watching happy couples walking around hand in hand, which makes you want to chop them off, etc.)

On the other hand, I love the city this time of year. The light is beautiful. Here's a couple of recent pics to keep you happy:

The first one is heavily Photoshopped. The second features one of my best friends on the planet, my kittie (it's a "he" in case you're wondering). Expect more of these cat shots.

READING: It's Good For You ...

I'm reading a novel at the moment called "Vellum." I really, really want to love it. But sadly, I can't quite recommend it. It's TOO fragmented, TOO full of itself, to be good. The author is talented but needed to stop thinking he's Pynchon crossed with William Gibson and James Joyce, and just try to write a fucking straightforward sentence.

The Link to Vellum

... And Tastes Great Too!

On the other hand, I'm also reading Wallace Stevens. I've been reading other folks who quote him a lot, so I figured it was worth getting the "Collected Poems" book.

Well, it ain't easy reading. On the one hand, I can finish a single poem on a subway ride. But that doesn't mean I can understand it. However, even without understanding it completely, I feel moved by it. Which is, sadly, more than I can say for Vellum.

The Amazon Link to Wallace Stevens collected poems.

Another thing that inspires me about Stevens is that he was 36 when he started attaining critical success. He was no spring chicken, in other words. So there's hope for all of us (including me) who haven't reached fame and fortune by the age of 25.