“Thing” Biopics

I called my inside source at MGM today. He tells me that the studios are tired of celebrity biopics and want us screenwriters to cast our nets wider. Five scripts that I’m working on:

Ruler – Evidently, Leonardo DiCaprio has a red plastic ruler in his work desk at home that means something important to a prominent Hollywood producer who has just been released from the institution where he was committed four years ago. Tell the story of that ruler in a script that kills, and the producer will pay you whatever it takes to buy the screen rights. Gawker has also promised a reward for the person who steals the ruler, so that any residues on it can be analyzed, but if that happens, it will just add to your denouement.

Pipe -There is a sewer pipe in New York’s East 60s that over the past decade has maintained the highest percentage of abandoned alligators, crocodiles, turtles, and gold fish. The neighborhood’s block association will put up the money for a fun flick about this pipe and the numerous small dogs that have disappeared into it.

Buttons – For the past 15 years, Brad Pitt has worn only one pair of blue jeans at home. What stories might the buttons on those jeans tell? Guest appearances by Jennifer’s right hand and Angelina’s left hand. Insider’s view of some of the world’s finest urinals. Funding available from Levi’s.

Wig – Burt Reynolds has always kept his wigs in a freezer dedicated for that purpose. His original wig is in there. No one has ever seen that first wig on Reynold’s head, with one exception: a maid whom he promptly shipped back to her home village in Belize. Go to Belize. Interview the maid. From her verbal description, recreate Burt with that wighat on his head, using an I-Dent-O-Kit. Come back north with the maid, promising her her old job back. Ride with her through Mexico on freight trains. Include  a drug angle. At some point, Reynolds and his bald old head will be forgotten.

Hollywood Sign – No part of the original Hollywood Sign remains. Over the years, little bits and pieces of it have been broken off and sold to collectors, and replaced with cheap plastic. The State of California will pay you to write a story detailing the current whereabouts of all the original pieces, if you include juicy tidbits about the folks who acquired them. Reacquire all of the pieces and reassemble them on the lawn in front of the Capitol in Sacramento and the Governor, if a Republican, will give you an important position in the administration. Some owners of pieces of the original sign will not part with them for any price; these individuals must be eliminated.

Animal Biopics

My agent in Hollywood tells me that they’re screaming for animal biopics down there. They’ll buy anything you toss into the office.

Guidelines:

Lassie – Start with a 21-year-old collie with mange and an animatronic mouth. “When I was a puppy, I played with my littermates and pooped out behind the well in the farmyard.”

Rin Tin Tin – Start with a brigade of German Shepherds, standing in formation wearing Nazi dog uniforms. If the movie is to be light-hearted, give them all Hitler mustaches.

Orca – Start with Orca’s mother. She’s either killed by the giant octopus from that other movie or she’s having sex with Sharktopus.

Cheeta – Go David Lynch. The young Cheeta meets this crazy old chimp who enslaves his mistress monkey and does jungle drugs to the extreme. It’s all like a primate dream, but Cheeta can’t wake up.

Note: No bugs, no sheep, no animated animals, no snakes or worms, no subtitles, no blood or viscera, no “messages,” limit of three generations even for rabbits, no dinosaurs, no birds unless they can perch long enough to hold a reasonable conversation, no religious nuts mammal or otherwise, no alligators, crocodiles, hippos, or rhinoceroses, no shills like that chihuahua, no dark glasses on dogs. No dog poker. Pet cemeteries are fine.

Greenlit! Success with your disaster movie.

I’ve just got off the phone with three Hollywood moguls and they’re all in agreement that the following guidelines will be in effect for disaster movies for at least a fortnight. Use them to pitch the studios.

1. Disaster vs disaster

Competing disasters are hot now. Examples:

– Volcano threatens coastal city. Throw in some soap. Start the eruption. But then, a tsunami happens. Which of the two wipes out more people? Can the big wave put out the volcano? Movie’s characters are caught between the lava and the water. How do they survive?

– Volcano threatens midwest city. Throw in some soap. Start the eruption. But then, a meteor happens. Does it wipe out even more people than the volcano? Does it plug the volcano by landing right in that middle part where the virgins get thrown if you go South American and where the lava comes out?

– Volcano threatens L.A., like in that other volcano movie. Soap. Eruption. But then, an earthquake happens, like in that other L.A. earthquake movie. They try to figure out which is causing the greater total devastation. The volcano menaces the dad and son, the earthquake menaces the mom and daughter and the dog. The dad and son have a dog too. Does the earthquake open a big crack and the volcano falls in? Does the earthquake just shake all the lava out of the volcano through that top hole?

2. Return of the disaster

Popular disasters of yesteryear, which come back today, could work.

– That volcano in L.A., with Tommy Lee Jones? Well, now it’s later and they’ve used bulldozers to tear it down and cart it away as landfill for the new suburbs out around Needles. The whole area where it erupted, at the La Brea tar pits, is back to normal with fake tar pits now but otherwise just L.A. sprawl. But now the volcano comes back. Just use the same plot as before, only Tommy Lee is more philosophical this time. Although he was pretty darned philosophical the last time, too.

– That earthquake in L.A., with Charlton Heston and Eva Gardner? Well, now it’s later and they’ve used bulldozers to fill in the cracks and rebuild everything just like before. The San Fernando Valley? Just begging to be flattened again. Now the earthquake comes back. Use the same plot as before, only Heston is dead now, so get Tommy Lee Jones to do it.

– Those meteor movies, with Bruce Willis and, and that guy in the other one who always plays the President? Well, now the meteor comes back but this time to L.A. It’s so big we can show Reagan’s library in Simi Valley getting blown up, and Disneyland, and, and Mulholland Drive, and all the darned Valley, and pretty much anything else you want to get rid of. The dad’s been playing around, so you can kill him off or not, your call, but the mom and son and daughter and the dogs all get saved by Tommy Lee Jones.

3. Go small, not big

Have you noticed how in the movies the twisters and ice storms and solar flares and so forth just keep getting bigger? Nick Cage signs up for Knowing and spoiler the whole world gets destroyed by something relating to solar energy. That movie 2012? I don’t even remember what caused that. Some voodoo American Indian tribe? Whatever. The point is, you want to sell now, go small. For example:

– Guy is fooling around on his wife. He goes out in the backyard, a small volcano erupts, maybe just enough to teach him a lesson.

– Woman is fooling around on her husband, played by Tommy Lee Jones. She goes out in the backyard and a little meteor kills her.

– Guy and his wife are both fooling around. Now they’re in the backyard with their family having a BBQ. The guy’s girlfriend is there, it’s his secretary, and the neighbor guy is there who works at home and that’s how he can fool around with the wife while the kids are in school. I don’t know how the dogs handle this; figure it out. A small earthquake hits. You can’t blame the dad for fooling around; his wife doesn’t understand him. So, say, his girlfriend gets swallowed up and he’s sadder but wiser. The woman, it’s not right what she’s been up to, right under the noses of her pets, so she and the neighbor and the neighbor’s house all have to get swallowed up. Tommy Lee Jones plays the dad, in a philosophical mood. His wife can be Lindsay Lohan if she’s out of jail, or Paris Hilton. Somebody like that.

Final Thoughts

I almost forgot. Try to work quicksand into any of those plots above.

Inappropriate Viewing!

I was about to watch some silly movie last night when it struck me that millions are now suffering from the Japan catastrophes and war in the Middle East. This gave me pause. No man is an island, even though at the time I was sitting alone on the couch with nothing but a bottle and a bong to keep me company. I felt a sudden jolt of energy as I realized that my caring and concern could make a difference to others! Instead of that silly movie, I rewatched Earthquake (1974) and Hell is for Heroes (1962).

Elizabeth Taylor

As the Baby Boomer icons die off, I prefer to ignore their passing and the slow recession of the 50s and 60s in memory’s rear-view mirror, as I ignore the living icons themselves in their variously decrepit states. Why would I have anything to say about Liz now? I tuned her out back when Burton died. Say, are they together again, up in heaven? Is he drunk and are they already raging at each other? I hope so.

Anyway, there are three items, factoids, memories that do pop up in my brain regarding Ms Taylor:

1. The rich guy she married, who got killed in a plane crash? He was supposed to have the circumference of a beer can. It was presumed at the time that this was Taylor’s main reason for marrying him. Mind you, this was back when crushing a beer can with one hand meant something, because the cans were still made of tin.

2. Roddy McDowell shot a lot of nude pictures of Taylor at the height of her powers and got some of them posted in a Playboy article. By this time, McDowell was best known as an intelligent ape with a suspiciously high voice. This new window into the relationship between Taylor and McDowell seemed somehow revelatory to me, although no further nude pictures eventuated.

3. Christmas of ’63 I was visiting my girlfriend’s family in Salt Lake City. One night we went out to eat and then on to Cleopatra (1963). It was playing in one of those old movie palaces that are long gone now. We sat up rather near the front in a packed house. As I waited for the movie to start, I was reminded of my excitement when I went to see Ben-Hur (1959). I was in the front row for that one, and it didn’t disappoint. But I think we already knew that Cleopatra, famously the most expensive movie ever made, mostly because of Ms Taylor’s salary, was something of a stinker. Still, one can hope. You had to go see it, and by “you,” I mean everybody. I was disappointed. Instead of a chariot race, we got Ms Taylor visiting Rome on a float.

Watching Vivien Leigh act up in Caesar and Cleopatra (1945) the other night, I thought that it might be fun to watch the Taylor Cleo again, just to compare the two screen queens. Checking Netflix, I see that it’s available. Somehow over the years, I don’t remember noticing it on the library shelves. Maybe I’ve just been ignoring it. Roddy McDowell as Caesar Augustus. Another reason that he got to take the nude photos.

P.S. The nation learned a lot about tracheotomies – I mean, what they are, so forth – when Elizabeth got plugged up that time. Her scar photos ruled the magazines for a while.

P.S.S. I haven’t been looking closely, but I would have expected more National Velvet shots.

Why I don’t review, or even comment on, Woody Allen movies

I was reading a review of a Woody Allen comedy from the early 2000s the other night. There were some comments in it about his proclivity for starring opposite young and beautiful women. Like a lot of aging actors, he had a terrible run with this; let’s hope it’s over with. Also in the review and the comments that came with it appeared the words “pervert,”  “perverse,” and “creepy,” presumably because he’s been married to Soon-Yi Previn for the past 14 years and has had two children with her.  He was doing ok with his marriages and relationships, public-relations-wise, first married to  Harlene Susan Rosen and then to Louise Lasser (Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman (1976), if you can remember back that far), then “dating”  Diane Keaton, and then married  to Mia Farrow, with their three children. The public image started to go bad with the custody battles. Then the marrige to Soon-Yi saddled Allen with the P and C words. Oh well. I myself am not ready to handle an eighteen-year-old girl eager to have children with me, that’s for sure. But hey, as a sister wife, in training, helping out She Who Must Be Obeyed, now that could work.

Anyway, the thing is, Allen is eight years older than me. This means that when I was in college, he was doing standup and writing for TV comedy shows. He showed up in his first movie just as I got out of school. Over the next ten years, his comic movies just kept getting better. I was 25 – 35 during that period, ready to appreciate sixties humor.

The ten years after that, he made all the great ones, as my cohort moved into its 40s. By then we were all grown up and ready for his masterpieces. They were part of the cultural landscape. Something to watch and appreciate, Fine Art. Part of the Baby Boom inheritance.

The next 25 years? Some good stuff, some not so good. My part of his audience, like him, is showing some road wear.  We’re mostly philosophical about his career at this point.

The thing about Allen: a movie a year, done his way. Scheduled nights out playing jazz clarinet (does he still do that?). Years and years, and then some more years, on the couch (does he still do that?). Still the occasional New Yorker piece. Every major actor hopeful of working with him and him just always working, his favoirite camera shots, his favorite tropes, whatever.

So one of the blog comments I was reading said, “Oh, I didn’t like [whatever], which Allen made in [some year], but I did sort of like [whatever], which he made is some other decade.” And I had the thought, what if someone were commenting on some work by my father, for example, and said, “Oh, I liked this thing that he did in 1991, but not this other thing that he did in 1960” and I’ve got this heavy memory-load associated with my father and his works – how we were getting along in 1960 and in 1991, his health, the family, and I’m thinking that somehow, a simple liking of one thing and not of another out of his life’s work becomes so unbelievably trivial to any person who was there living it all the way through, that it isn’t worth noticing or responding to, beyond a polite “that’s nice.” Woody Allen isn’t my father, but there are sufficient connections between my life and his movies, that the effect of casual pronouncements about him cause me to begin dredging up memories of the time, his career, my life. Sort of as if a stranger were shuffling through a basket of your old family photos and plucked out a shot of everyone at a beach party in 1957, when so much happened to you for the first time, and casually said, “I don’t care for this shot. I don’t know why, but I just don’t.”

Allen’s great period was about being in your 30s and 40s, full bloom. It was about all the things you’re up to before you start slowing down. He had a public persona of one type before he became one of the best, and now he’s way out at the other end. He’d be ready to slip into Eric Rohmer sainthood, if it weren’t for his young family. He’s always been afraid of death; maybe this is one of his startegies to hold it off.

Drafts I’ve been meaning to post

I’ve got a whole slew of half-finished drafts. I’ve got to get done with the damn things. Meantime, here’s the start of some of them.
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My dad liked to dress up as a woman. Where we lived in the Ozarks, this could get you killed. I never saw him in women clothes. I never talked to him about it. I never talked to my mother about it. She wasn’t normal either. I was the oldest child, so I never talked to any of my brothers or sisters about it. I would never have known anything about this habit of my dad’s, this proclivity of his, if it hadn’t been for a little thing that happened to me one Thursday at school. Just by chance I wore purple and green that day and had to suffer what you’d call well what they used to call “queer rape.” We had a school nurse at the time named Miss Hatchling. She wasn’t quite right either and the students would not go anywhere near her, but as I was bleeding a little bit, I slipped into her office for one of those circular fingertip bandaids.
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I can tell you how to make a million dollars in three days, but you can only do it once. It’s legal. I don’t happen to think a million is all that much, not after the taxes that I’d have to pay on it, so I haven’t done it myself. First, locate yourself in a town with a population of less then 10,000, preferably in the Midwest. Join a church and attend regularly. Make a lot of friends. Always dress well (or what they consider well in the Midwest). There is stuff that people will give you for free that you can sell. In this case, the government limits the amount of this stuff that you can pile up to a million dollars worth, which explains the limit on your earnings. After you deliver it once, you won’t ever want to do it again, which explains the one-time-only aspect of it.
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Have you ever been high on heroin? If so, then you know how fantastic the feeling can be. Well, I can tell you how to achieve that rush in a natural and healthy way. You will believe totally that you are flying Air H, the trip is that identical. First, stop cleaning your house, especially the bathroom and kitchen. Especially under and behind the fridge and the toilet. Do this for a year. Now, there are many different shades of green when you’re looking at molds. Some of my friends tell me that I’m nuts with this, that it wasn’t the not cleaning for a year, it was the keeping myself high all that time but wouldn’t I recognize a double bump instead of an extra hit even if I was only semi-conscious? Is that what I even mean? Give me a second to clear my head here.
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I can promise you glorious sex. Forget the little blue pill. The Indians in the Ozarks, before they got wiped out or opened casinos, knew about a little green weed. How did I find out? I know a guy who knows a guy. This weed, you make a tea. It’s organic. It’s healthy, full of oxidents or anti-oxidents, whichever is healthier. Or maybe it’s full of both of them. Warning: Do not drink this tea until you are for sure sitting next to a partner who is ready to go.
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One for the ladies: I can explain to you how you can get your teenage daughter to believe that you are an actual diety. You can make your daughter think that you are God. No drugs. No electrical devices. No hypnotism. This won’t work if you actually believe in God.
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You know how things are “too good to be true”? Well, I went out and found a couple of things that are too good to be true, but are true!