Monday, August 18, 2008

And the summer is almost over (and my wallet rejoices)...


Okay, so I pretty much swore off the summer movies after Dark Knight - I mean, it's like eating a steak and then being offered processed cheese slices - just can't compare.

But, my movie obsessed nerd inside couldn't stay aware for too long. Enter: Pineapple Express.

Now, let me preface this by saying I was a Judd Apatow fan long before it was cool to be a Judd Apatow fan (screw you catcher-on-ers!). Back in the day, my family would gather around the telly and scramble every damn week to try and find a little program we loved called "Freaks and Geeks." If you've yet to see this gem, stop what you're doing... I mean it... Put it down... And go buy it. And watch it.

The way I liked to describe it back in the day was "The Wonder Years in the 80s" but that doesn't do it justice. It's an honest, funny, painful look at finding yourself during your teenage years - set during the 80s. The Pilot is still one of my all-time favorite television episodes ever (I can't hear "Come Sail Away" by Styx without getting all warm and fuzzy inside).

Well, this little gem introduced the world to Seth Rogen, James Franco, and Jason Segal (as well as Linda Cardelinni and a whole cast of Apatow faces you'll know). It was the best.

Well, flash forward a few years and I'm rolling on the floor laughing while watching Knocked Up. By myself. Yes, I saw it by myself. Then I manipulated my wife into seeing it (who doesn't like vulgar movies, and this was the king of them). And she loved it. LOVED it. Apatow manages to take real life circumstances and pull every bit of excruciating, uncomfortable humor out of it in a college frat boy way, that doesn't manage to alienate the audience.

Okay, so Summer Movies were pretty much over, but Pineapple Express, the stoner action movie came out. I was skeptical, but on recommendation from a colleague, I venture out to see it.

And laughed my ass off the whole time.

Pure genius - two potheads get embroiled in a drug gang war. Basic plot. But, in Apatow/Rogen (who is a fantastic writer on his own), the undercurrent of the story is about friendship and growing up. Maybe I love all these movies because I'm close to the same age as Rogen - and can identify with the things he loves to write about (now, granted, if I smoked as much weed as his characters do, I'd never get anything done - semi-annual blog entries included).

James Franco is hilarious, the slapstick to Rogen's straight-lace, and it would be criminally remiss to not mention Danny McBride - my favorite part of the movie. Best lines and situations. I died when he was on the screen.

Is it perfect? No, not exactly, but if this is your style, you'll love it. I did. I was laughing so hard at points, I missed the second barrage of jokes that always followed the first.

See it. Then buy Freaks and Geeks. You'll not regret it. Grade: A-


Next...

Mamma Mia.

Okay, so, I'll admit, I love musicals. If there's a musical, I'll see it. They just make me smile. I even sat through the dreg of Moulin Rouge (which had it's high points, the least of which was NOT the story) for the music (which, when you've got top-hat'ed old men singing Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit", how can you not).

Anyways, Mamma Mia is a chick-flick. More so than that, a middle-aged chick flick. It's about a group of 50 something women who rediscover themselves (so to speak). My wife surmised it the best with "I'm tired of 50 year olds acting like their 20."

But, part of that is the charm of the movie. The actors/resses are great - and all but Pierce Brosnan (bless his heart) are surprisingly good singers. The story is cute - there are laughs enough. The music is FANTASTIC (I'm not an ABBA fan, but I loved all the songs), the location is gorgeous. Basically, if you're a woman (middle aged preferred), you'll like it.

I'll give it a B-.


SIDE RAMBLINGS:

Okay, first off I love Amanda Seyfried! She plays Meryll Streep's daughter. If you've never seen Mean Girls - you're missing out on one of the funniest teen movies (and performances from Amanda) you can get. Second off, if you've not seen Veronica Mars - do yourself a favor and throw the first two seasons into your shopping cart when you buy Freaks and Geeks. It's amazing! I doubted the premise, but bought it on word of mouth - and DEVOURED it. Such an amazing, short-lived show. And she's prominent in the first season.

Second rambling aside - what struck me the most about Mamma Mia when the crowd that was there. Like I said, the movie was targeted to a demographic that is always overlooked. When you go look at the summer movies, how many are marketed to middle-aged women? Almost none. But, when they do - what happens? The movies actually makes MONEY. Look at Devil Wears Prada, Sex and the City - these things made bank - 100MM + (so has Mamma Mia). So, it'll be interesting to see if more movies are made like this. Time will tell, and I think nothing will change, but every so often when someone pushes a movie through targeted this way, everyone will be "shocked" to learn that there are other people who see movies that males, aged 16-24.

Rambling done.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Case of the Modest Coverage


Okay, so, back a long time ago (read: last post), I told you that I had submitted my script (A God-Fearing Man*) to Slamdance Feature competition. In addition to doing, I also requested "Coverage." For those of our readers (hi mom!) who don't know what that is, coverage is defined as:

"Wearing clothes that blanket an area of the body deemed inappropriate to a modest degree."

Wait, what the hell? Damn wikipedia, wrong entry. Oh well, anyways, coverage is industry-speak for having a professional reader read your script and write up a basic "What's good, what's not." So, I had a Slamdancer read it and she (I believe it was) wrote up a three page doc.

In my imaginary "I'm famous and have blog readers" world, I'll post it (someday, I promise, when people care and it actually matters) so you can compare the draft sent in with the coverage and see if you agree.

Basically, they gave me thumbs up for the first two acts - saying they were "nearly great." So, for a second real script, I'll take it. They said that the third act seemed somewhat forced and disconnected a bit. They gave a few suggestions to make things connect better (all of which were formulaic, but I can't understand the idea that they're suggesting).

So, we'll see if that influences the outcome of my placement in their competition, but I'm very happy about the positives I received. The negatives (though, surprisingly polite and nice about it - didn't really even seem like that big of a deal) were helpful too. The script, to me and a few others, is very sublime about the way it goes about, and if you don't catch the subtle touches, you miss why it moves a certain way. Those who really examined it, got it instantly.

That aside, I'm not perfect at all, nor do I believe the script was perfect. Perhaps too much stuff was unsaid/unseen - so it did disconnect. Not everyone will be able to read into it and read into my brain. So, I'll pull it out and start to rewrite it at some point and try to make it more apparent (without ruining the cerebral quality I was going for). Tough balancing act, no doubt.

Well, so, we'll see how it fares at the competitions (I'm hoping it'll do well and people will "get" what I'm trying to say and do). Slamdance did push back their announcements for finalists two weeks - so it won't be until September 5th that I hear how I'm doing with it all. Sad. Tear.

Onward and upward. Any readers of the blog interested to read the script, let me know, and I'll see if I can get it to you.

* to previous post

* - I just thought I'd give you a quick recap of what the script was about, because, as evidence, I love to hear myself talk.

A God-Fearing Man is a domestic drama that takes place in a small town, anywhere USA. Elijah and his wife Karen are a middle-aged couple with three kids. They're the ideal for the town. Elijah grew up there and is a pillar in the community. But everything is not as it seems. Karen is unhappy and wary of the possible affair her husband is having with the town's sweetheart - 17 year-old Shelly - and Elijah's strength isn't rooted in the community, but a fragile sense of self-worth.

Elijah and Karen are forced to examine their lives, sense of balance, and everything they hold dear after a town tragedy rocks them to the very core - as individuals and as a couple.

End blurb.

Friday, August 1, 2008

A Post Without Movies is like TheSuperficial.com without Topless Pics (or: Kelly Kapowski's Quest)


Luckily, neither, today, are without.


(and, btw, become a regular visitor to http://www.thesuperficial.com/ - if you love trash celebrity gossip, biting/witty commentary, or topless pictures - you'll LOVE the SF (as we cool people refer to it as) - and don't worry, the nips are "starred" out, so it's safe for the kiddies (read: not really))


Endorsements aside, let's talk about life. Tony's life, for that matter...


Okay, so foolish dreaming has been a long-standing facet of Tony's life. In order to compensate for the normal order of his life, thus far, he's spent an instituitional amount of time imagining all sorts of delusions of granduer.




At some point a few months ago, during an experiemental period with mushrooms picked from my backyard, Neil Patrick Harris came to me on a pony - wait, no, that was Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay - no, it was David Bowie, circa 1986 Labyrinth - nope, that was Flight of the Conchords (man, are there any good celebrity hallunications left?)...


Okay, I've got it - motherf@%3C$ing Tiffani Theisen (Kelly Kapowski, baby) appeared me to, clad in clingy, dripping wet celophane and revealed to me that I was to embark on a quest. A quest unlike one I'd embarked - but one I had been preparing for my whole life. Well... parts of it. The dreaming parts... That specifically related to the quest.


Okay, the quest...



Move to LA.



It's not secret that I want to write (well, to the people who know me), I mean, hell, I spend my spare time rattling away at a blog that no one reads just for the sheer pleasure of writing. So, it's been my dream for almost ten years now to write screenplays. Well, okay, so more than just write (cause I have been doing that), but to actually sell them - to have a career in "the biz."



About 18 months ago, I decided that instead of telling people "I've got a degree in finance, but I really want to get into writing" and do nothing about it, I'd actually start writing. Cause, well, you can't be a writer unless you start writing. I mean, I had folders and folders of anything from a basic idea for scripts, to dense outlines (my largest one reached nearly 40 pages, and I still have no actual script to show for it (but about four years of work)), but I hadn't finished a feature length script since I wrote an adaptation of the short story "Horror Weekend" when I was 15 (and, boy, let me tell you - if you want script writing at its best, check that baby out. You'll enjoy endless pages of me, droning on about whatever I felt like (my personal favorite is probably a ten minute scene where two characters discuss Jeph Loeb's "The Witching Hour" and Kevin Smith movies - which, by the way, has nothing to do with the plot or characters)).



It took me a bit to get going, but around the time I graduated (with a business degree - I know, I know, wtf for sure), I was watching "The Faculty" (which didn't age well for me), and I noticed that I had never seen a Teenage Zombie movie. You know, "Breakfast Club" meets "Dawn of the Dead." So, I started writing some teenage stereotypes and tweaking them - the old "The is the perception, this is the reality" and coming up with a situation that would stick them all together for a zombie invasion (perhaps, epidemic is a better term, zombies don't really invade, they spread like herpes - which, by the way, is no fun, so children beware).



I won't get into it (though, someday, when I'm coherent and famous, I'll post it for the mocking pleasure of all those frustrated unpublished/unpaid writers), but it took me about 11 months to write from first word to "final" draft. I say "final" cause I might go back to it and fix it up - it's not perfect by any means, but I enjoyed the hell out of it.



Well, in an effort to do something with my work, I entered it into the Slamdance Horror script competition. There were over 700 entries, and after an agonizing few weeks, I learned that I didn't even place in the top 100. What added insult to injury was the fact that my script ("Graduation Day") placed below such stellar flicks as "Porn Star Zombies" "The Bum, the Witch, and the Whore" and my personal favorite (which I will always remember as a reminder that people thought this was better than mine) "Yact Zombie Christmas: A Lesbian's Worst Nightmare" (swear to dog, that was the full title - and, yes, it beat me).



But, life wouldn't get me down. I was inspired by local events and the effect they had on me, to write my next script "A God-Fearing Man" - a complete departure from "Graduation Day" in every way. I wrote "God-Fearing" out of an emotional reaction and dilemma - and was really close to the material. It wasn't a plot movie, it was a character movie that didn't come with answers, just questions. The script was extremely difficult to write - partly cause it was so different than what I had written, that I didn't know if it was good or awful, I was entirely uncertain of myself. It was exciting and fun and scary all at the same time.



In under six months, I had gone from idea to the draft I submitted to competitions. In the process of rewriting, I got really good reviews from some of my readers - people who had tore everything I'd written up to that point apart. I was astonished, but realized, unless you have an emotional connection and feel for what you're writing, it won't be good. I loved "Graduation Day" but I wrote it for fun, not because it meant something to me.



Well, it was during this process that Tiffani came to visit me. It was a scary visit because it meant I needed to do something more than just sit around (in Utah, not even LA) and wait for my career to find me. It meant I needed to give up what I had (in many ways) and move to where it could happen.



So, faithful, noble reader, here's my plan (and I will update as things don't work out, er, I mean, progress). I took "A God-Fearing Man" and entered it into three competitions:



Austin Film Festival Screenwriting Competition



Slamdance Feature Writing Contest



Creative Screenwriting AAA Contest



The first announcements for these competitions will be this month, so stay tuned to hear about my crushing defeat (If I get beat by that damn "Yacht Zombie Christmas" again, I'm pulling out the straight razor).



This is my first line. My hopes - highest, will be to win any or all of them, secure representation, get my name out, sell my script, and get an assignment. That's a lot to hope for (almost too much, but where are we, as a race, if we can't dream), so, at the very least - to get recognition. I'd love to just secure representation - or have my script looked at. Living (right now) from a distance, the most I'm hoping is to give me something to jump into when I shortly move to the area.



Onto my second line. During the rewriting phase of "God-Fearing," I, of course, started working on my next script. Inspired by my current job, and the current idiots I have to occasionally work with (don't worry, they're not reading this), I started writing a corporate thriller comedy (I've had multiple titles, but I can't find one I like, I'll let you know).



I'm in the final stages of rewriting it because I'm entering it this week as a writing sample for my application to the Disney Features Writing Fellowship. This bad boy is the beez kneez if I can pull it off (enter: loud, doubting laugh). Disney will hire you as an employee for a year and teach you, network you, and have you develop content for them. I won't hear back until December(ish), but I'll let you know when I do.



So, there are my main plans - as they fall away and crash and burn, I'll fill you in on other ideas. But, basically, we're looking to move in January down to LA. We've looked (online) at Beverly Hills, West Hollywood area, but we're open to wherever is good.



So, that's the quest. I've reported it now, so I'm held accountable to you, faithful reader. Wish me luck and I'll let you know if you're luck has worked for me (or against me). And if I fail, it's all your fault!