Movies That Have Meant Something Really Important To Me

Movie: The Boy with Green Hair (1948)
Experience: Boredom
Life Lesson: Don’t let your parents take you to clunky old movies or movie life will seem worse than real life. What were they thinking?

Movie: Alice in Wonderland (1951)
Experience: Wonder.
Life Lesson: Now that’s what I’m talking about. Movie life is better than real life.

Movie: Ben Hur (1959)
Experience: Excitement
Life Lesson: See “Alice in Wonderland”

Movies: The Road Warrior (1981), Conan the Barbarian (1982)
Experience: Slipped out of work; sat in a small theater with maybe four others for the double feature; drank coke and ate popcorn.
Life Lesson: Work sucks.

Movie: Good Morning… and Goodbye! (1967)
Experience: Bright colors. Women with large natural hooters.
Life Lesson: Real sex is not movie sex; forget the green hair and go for Alice, Heston, Gibson, Schwarzenegger, and the hooters.

My Favorite Short Films

Listen, you can’t make any money writing for short films in Hollywood. If you find yourself involved in short-film projects, pack your bags and move back to Omaha.

Those short films down at the tail of a Scorcese or Spielberg or Coppola resume? Switch over to writing term papers for college students. You can make a pretty penny. The Burton and Pixar efforts? Just well-funded filmmaker juggernauts sewing a few seeds.

When’s the last time you went to the movies and a short film ran before the feature? You want involvement in short films? Become a YouTube troll. Writing for short films is like writing for Wikipedia.

Now if you’re in it for the art, that’s another thing. Your spouse brings home the bacon and you’re searching for meaning in your life. You know what? You need a hobby. Art. Art is basically a hobby these days, unless you tap into a market, but that’s not about art. Making short films – that’s a type of art. Take it up. Make some. With the technology these days, you can make a movie like Monsters or Skyline mostly sitting in your kitchen, if that’s where you use your computer.

If you’re thinking about the past, well, I remember going to the movies in the 60s and seeing Skater Dater before the feature. Nominated for an Oscar. The memorable thing about Skater Dater was that it was the first time I’d ever seen a skateboard, on film or otherwise.

If this is about watching good short films, they are profuse. Too many to name. Use torrents or RapidShare or Netflix or Amazon or YouTube. What does it tell you that many of the best films are available for free? Check out the Oscar list for best live action short films. Before that category, there were several short-subject Oscars handed out. Mubi has a topic on favorite short films – you’ll find all sort of picks there, from Kenneth Anger’s classic, Scorpio Rising, to the short film that is probably the only one many could name, Hotel Chevilier. Turn over any rock and you’ll find a short film. This is a golden age for short films. All those unemployed individuals out there? Many are filling their empty hours making short films. Varda, Jarmusch, infinite animation. Go crazy.

Most of the short films I watch run 6 to 8 minutes, but I don’t think you’re talking about those.

What of the future? Short films, feature films, documentaries, newspapers, magazines, books, songs – we may end up like the Balinese, who live in a country where everyone does some art and nobody makes a living at it. Except that in the U.S., a few megacorps will always be there to squeeze the entertainment dollars out of you somehow.

Screenwriters Who Should’ve Known Better

I can’t dis Hollywood screenwriters. I’ve got to work here.

Of course, there are the famous flubs, like Joe Eszterhas and Jade, or Towne fighting to keep Dunaway alive at the end of Chinatown, but mostly it’s writers brought down by substance abuse or bad marriages or, mostly commonly, an inability to make their living with a pen.

However, I am put in mind of one friend who should’ve know better, I guess. I’ll just call him Richard. He wrote a string of hits that you’d know, all genres. He could write anything. I was surviving, and not badly, just off scraps from his projects.

He married an actress and began spending more time in New York. He attended her rehearsals, mostly off off broadway, and O’Neill and Williams revivals. If you follow Broadway, you might get the impression that it’s all musicals anymore, but Richard found a lot to watch and think about theatrically.

His wife secured the role of Hesione Hushabye in Shaw’s Heartbreak House and he sat through the play innumerable times, and began tracking down other Shaw plays to watch as well. Then Hollywood called with a project, Cinderella meets Ugly Betty, and when he turned in his script, which is storied in the industry and which I read and which is probably mounted over in the flop Hall of Fame, he had Cinderella marrying the old and corrupt head of the world’s largest cosmetic company, killing him with kindness, as it were, and then converting the company to produce fertilizer, spending the rest of her life increasing crop yields in sub-Saharan Africa.

After a number of scripts like this, Richard left L.A. permanently. He became the resident writer and creative-writing chair at St. Felix of the Fields in update New York, and lived simply there.

Movies that make sex look good. Movies that don’t.

Good sex

1. Shortbus (2006) – I have yet to see Shortbus, but someone tells me that the sex, in many variations, is portrayed as fun.

2. Good Morning… and Goodbye! (1967) – For Russ Meyer, and thus for this viewer, sex and big hooters are good, by definition.

3. The Mother (2003) – Older woman scores with Daniel Craig. Good news for those past middle age. This stands in for a movie the title of which I can’t remember. Swedish? “Innocents” in the title? An elderly man and woman connect. They were in love in their youth but each married another. Now, a bit embarrassed, they keep it under the sheets.

4. The Devil’s Rejects (2005) – Good or bad sex? Tough call. The Rejects have a good time, except maybe Sheri Moon Zombie, who’s got a lot of attitude, but nobody else survives.

5. The Reader (2008) – Teen scores with Kate Winslet, in heavily romantic mode. That’s got to go in the “Good” column.

Bad sex

1. Angel Heart (1987) – When you’re doing it and you look up and the ceiling is bleeding, that can’t be good. Can it?

2. Yours, Mine and Ours (1968) / Cheaper by the Dozen (1950, 2003) – Too much of a good thing.

3. Secretary (2002) – Wait. Is kinky good or bad, in the workplace?

4. Nine 1/2 Weeks (1986) – At once a day, that’s a lot of sex.

5. Precious (2009) – The worst, but flowers can grow on the pile of dung.

Movies that make drinking look good. Movies that don’t.

First of all, a tip of the cap to the masters of playing sober while drunk: Burton, Hopkins, O’Toole, Reed, and Taylor.


Drinking is fun, and funny

Arthur (1981) – No happy drunks in the remake. We’re a sober generation.

Road House (1989) – Drinkin and fightin.

My Favorite Year (1982) – O’Toole keeling over in the bathroom, that was funny.

Animal House (1978) – John Belushi, R.I.P. See, that’s what happens to happy drunks, even if it was a speedball that actually killed him.

Strange Brew (1983) – Doodle ee oop ee doodle de doo (if I remember the McKenzie brother’s theme song correctly).

Hooper (1978) – I’m thinking of the scene in which stunt man Reynolds and his buddies are driving backwards down the coast highway at high speed and come up next to a Highway Patrol car.


Drink Coke

Thieves Like Us (1974) – If you like to drink Coke out of a 6-ounce bottle on a hot day in the South, this is the movie for you.


Drinking turns you into a drama queen, or a corpse (movies that make drinkers want to drink)

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) – Brick, honey, put down that bottle and come to bed.

Who’s Afraid of Virgina Woolfe (1966) – Drunks playing drunks.

Long Day’s Journey into Night (1962) – Compare and contrast alcohol addiction, drug addiction, money addiction, and TB.

The Lost Weekend (1945) – He hides his bottle up in the light fixture and hangs it out the window on a rope. The movie influenced thousands of drinkers. Look at any picture of an apartment house taken in the 1940s and you’ll see bottles hanging out of windows on ropes.

Leaving Las Vegas (1995) – I like Cage better sober yet crazy.

Under the Volcano (1984) – A day in the life (the last one). Read Lowry’s book, one of the great novels of the 20th century.

What are your favorite topics to write about? Do you get to write about them very much in your work?

As a creative screenwriter, I’d like to answer these questions by coming up with some oh-so-clever, East-Coast-Elite, nuanced topics, but given the seriousness of the subject, I’ve got to shoot straight.

Novices: Always write about subjects that you like, not about subjects that you hate. Writing about subjects that you hate will make your work a lot more interesting and will make you more money, but what will it do to your soul?

My favorite topics:

1. Jesus – Jesus wants us to write about Him. WWJD? He’d start His own blog! Plus, there are a lot of pictures of Him around, so folks don’t have to imagine what He looks like. And because He’s all about the Bible, you can make up stories about Him any way you like.

2. God – God is harder to write about than Jesus. Sure, He loves me, but my great-aunt Agnes loved me and that didn’t stop her from thwacking me on the head with her darning egg every day that she raised me.

3. Satan – According to Drive Angry, he’s an old guy who serves as the warden of a prison. He’s quiet and well-read. You can see Harvey Keitel do him in “Little Nicky.”

4. The Pope – 1.147 billion Catholics. That’s a lot of seats in the seats. Plus, if you write your script right, you can get some anti-Catholics to watch as well.

5. That guy who predicts which day the world will end on – Every time he names a date, I write another script. He’s getting old. I just pray he can hang on for a few more.

Most of my work on these topics is vectored at training films paid for by the Go to Heaven or just Go to Hell Church on Hollywood Blvd.

Five Favorite TV Shows 2011

I don’t have a television set that is hooked up to anything and don’t use streaming much, so anything that I know about TV shows comes from seasons boxed on DVD.

Ruling out all the canceled and concluded shows and miniseries that I’ve liked, my current favorites:

Top 5

5. Sons of Anarchy

4. Breaking Bad

3. Curb Your Enthusiasm

2. Big Love – I haven’t seen the final season. I’ll be sad to see it go.

1. In Treatment

Five more, some of which could be in my top five

5. Entourage

4. Fringe – Always entertaining but frustrating because the through story is so slow to emerge.

3. Spartacus: Blood and Sand – Poor Spartacus got sick. Hope the show comes back.

2. Community- So far I’ve only seen Season 1.

1. I’m probably forgetting one.

Honorable mention

True Blood – Liked Season 1. Started Season 2 but bailed.

Haven’t seen

Parenting

Glee

Boardwalk Empire

Treme

Modern Family, Parks and Recreation, The Killing, The Walking Dead, Nurse Jackie, etc., etc.,…

Haven’t engaged me

Dexter

30 Rock

The Office

All animation

Bored to Death – Almost. If it had more through story.

Weeds

Chuck

Name some movies that most people haven’t seen and should see because YOU love them, not because they’re good for you.

Bright Leaves (2003) – Many know Ross McElwee from Sherman’s March (1986). Bright Leaves is another installment in his autobiographical series of documentaries. Here he returns home to North Carolina, to take a look at the tobacco industry and its connections to his family.

The Band’s Visit (2007) – An Egyptian band spends some time in an Israeli village.

Teacher’s Pet (1958) – Aging, chain-smoking newspaperman Clark Gable takes a journalism class taught by perky Doris Day. When they finally clinch at the end, it’s kind of creepy.

Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death (1989) – Shannon Tweed and Adrienne Barbeau remain modestly clothed at all times, so there. Bill Maher at the pinnacle of his acting career. J. F. Lawton wrote and directed this curiosity just before writing Pretty Woman (1990).

Madeinusa (2006) – Peruvian parable in which God takes a nap from Good Friday to Easter Sunday and the villagers behave badly, as anything goes till God wakes up again.

Mona Lisa (1986) – Cathy Tyson is hard to find on film, but she sure got my attention in this one.

Is this really a golden age of television — and a Silly Putty age for film?

I want to do this real scientific.

First, I pick three random viewers out of my mom’s colander: 12-year-old boy, 14-year-old boy, 16-year-old boy.

Ok.

No, wait. To be scientifc, I’ve got to have a fleamale, haha.

Ok. And a 94-year-old lady, Esther Goldstein from next door.

Ok, guys. Hi, Mrs. Goldstein, would you please sit over there between Aaron and Isaac? Abe, move please.

Now I’m gonna name three movies and you tell me if they’re like gold or like Silly Putty.

It’s this stuff you take out of a can and you can squeeze it and if you press it on the paper, it’ll pick up the comics.

It’s a toy.

Ok, forget it. Let’s just say, are movies gold or are they stupid?

Now, I pick three movies. Say, “Sucker Punch,” “Battle: Los Angeles,” and “I Am Number Four.” How do you vote, gold or stupid?

Gold, gold, gold. Mrs. Goldstein? Mrs. Goldstein?

She’s ok. She just gets like that sometimes. Aaron, prop her up.

Ok, now I’m going to name three TV shows: “Mad Men,” “In Treatment,” “The Good Wife.”

Gold or stupid?

I can’t say that.

No, forget about “True Blood,” “Breaking Bad,” and “The Walking Dead.” I didn’t pick those.

I’m not stupid. You’re stupid.

Ok, ok. Let’s just say TV is stupid if it’s like the ones I named or gold if it’s like the ones you named, with vampires, meth, and zombies.

Thank you, Lily, for the topic. I think you have your answer.

Top 5 Movies Begging to Be Remade

As a screenwriter in Hollywood, I am constantly confronted with producers begging me to rewrite this movie or that. But will they front some money for my efforts, or are they just crying into their apple martinis as we have a few drinks at some local Hollywood watering hole of an evening?

Then, there are the actors who importune me, seeing themselves in this classic role or that, sure that a remake will vault them into the pantheon of greatness.

Finally come the fans I meet, those folks who watch movies every day, blog about movies, tweet about movies. Zombies walk among us. They are alive, but have no life. Many crave remakes.

Note that I’ve never had a movie itself actually beg me for a remake script. When mixing drinks with various drugs, I’ve had movies talk to me. Also trees, animals, and hookers. But no begging. Well, except for some of the less assertive hookers, who will beg instead of demanding to be paid.

Top movies begged for:

5. The Hangover (2009) – I started working on a remake script of this one the moment it hit big. Unfortunately, Jon Lucas and Scott Moore beat me to greenlight, labeling their version a “sequel” and setting it in Thailand. That’s ok. Mine’s just like the first one and theirs, but set in Honolulu. I’ll label it “The Hangover 3.”

4. Toy Story 3 (2010) – Top grosser of 2010. The producer’s obvious favorite for a remake.

3. Dumbo (1941) – This is the top fan pick. Avatar-like 3D. Flying fracking elephants! Dumbo is a Judd Apatow/Seth Rogen teenage elephant with full-frontal raunchy humor. Female teen elephant voiced by Miley Cyrus. Songs. Elephant dung falling from the heavens onto an irate James Cromwell.

2. Swimming to Cambodia (1987) – My friend, the actor Richard (not his name), wants this one. “It’s a one-man show,” I say. “Spalding Grey’s personal experiences. How is a remake going to work?” “Replace some of his experiences with some of mine,” Richard says. “We’re kindred spirits.” Knowing that Spalding Grey committed suicide and that Richard has tried to do so twice, I’m not touching this one without significant $$$ up front.

1. Cujo (1983) – My personal choice for a remake. I’m working on it now. In my version, the original Cujo is replaced by that Beverly Hills talking chihuahua, but with really, really bad rabies. Angelina Jolie plays Donna Trenton. Instead of a damned Pinto, she’s driving an Escalade, which, it turns out, is no match for the crazy chihuahua.

Thanks to Klaus for the topic.