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Judgment Day, And Then Some…

In Film and Related, screenplays, writing on December 4, 2014 at 9:50 pm

Well, the scores for Round One of the screenwriting contest I’m in came back this morning.
Early this morning.
Apparently, my five pages weren’t good enough to place in the top fifteen entries, and earn points to be added to the second round scores.


I have read postings of others in my group (very few have uploaded their scripts for peer group review), and I thought I was at least as creative as they… but that might just be my ego talking.
Well, even though my chances are diminished of making it through to the third round, I will be focusing my attention on the second round, which will begin at approximately 11:59 PM (Eastern) tomorrow.

Illegitumi non carborundum!
(Otherwise, “Don’t let the bastards wear you down!”)

Endings, Beginnings, & All Points In Between…

In beginnings, film, Film and Related, writing on December 15, 2013 at 11:03 pm

I resist writing about the ever-increasing maw of consumerism that now has coopted Thanksgiving, and threatens Halloween next, in the mad dash for Christmas profits.
That’s something I see no need to add an opinion to.
Instead, something a bit more personal…
The middle of the month of December, from the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (all you Catholics, or recovering Catholics like me, know that’s the 8th of December) until the Solstice (usually the 21st), has never been a time of resounding joy for me… at least, since the year 1963.
Fifty years ago.
On the 13th, I was living with my grandmere and Uncle George, and Grandmere laid down for a nap before tea. In the early afternoon Uncle George sent me in to ask her if she wanted a cuppa… I found that she had passed on in her sleep.
Not exactly a pleasant memory for a boy three days shy of his seventh birthday…
The succeeding days, including my birthday, went by in a hazy blur, and I was brought to the funeral home to see her lying in repose. (She was not an official of any kind, other than being in the Altar Society at our parish, so she did not “lie in state”.) Her casket was driven to our parish church, a short distance, and she was brought in for the funeral Mass. (If I remember right, since this was pre-Vatican II, it was a Latin High Funeral Mass.) At the conclusion, her casket was taken out to the hearse, and I was brought to the cemetery along with the other mourners, to see the graveside service. (They still did those at that time.)
The sixteenth, of course, is the day of which I speak somewhat fondly, the anniversary of my arrival. 9:07 AM, Central Standard Time (10:07 Eastern Standard Time), in Chicago, Illinois. The hospital is no longer in existence, and I am given to understand the location is now part of the campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology, on the South Side. (Chicagoans know that particular locations in the city are Capitalized that way; Old Town, the Near North Side, et cetera.)
Within fifteen days from my birth my grandmere, of whom I spoke earlier, had taken the bus to Chicago and brought me back home to Detroit. (I was baptized at our parish church on the 31st of December.)
Three days after my birthday, the 19th, is the birthday of My Beautiful Wife Megan’s baby brother, Bobby. Bobby was the last of six children my mother-in-law had borne, and was therefore that much more precious to them all.
My wife’s family had a tradition… there was a gentleman in the American Legion who played Santa Claus for a few special people, and he showed up at my in-laws’s house for several years. This time, on Christmas Eve, when he showed up, he said he had a special present for my wife, who was then almost eleven years old. He handed her Bobby, bundled up like a doll. Well, she took that to heart, and was going to bed him down in the doll crib in her room (which he fit quite well); when her mother came in, she didn’t want to give him up, saying “Santa gave him to me! He’s mine!” {Or words to that effect.}
Needless to say, there was a special closeness between the two dating from that very day… and when Bobby was killed in an auto accident in 1977, there was a great deal of shock and trauma.
My being born nine days before Christmas (and Bobby being born six days before) had an influence on how we viewed the holidays; forming my perceptions more deeply was the fact that my Uncle George worked for the Post Office as a clerk, which meant from the day after Thanksgiving until Christmas Day, the P.O.D. (remember, until 1971, it was a part of the Department of the Interior) would have mandatory overtime… I still have an award Uncle George received for working twelve hours, coming home, getting an hour or two sleep, and going back in to work another twelve hour shift during the season. For six weeks or so, I barely saw him at all. There was no real time to be festive, to decorate everything, to be filled with the “holiday spirit”. Before Grandmere died, we had an early artificial tree; it had the aluminum tinsel branches on twisted wire, inserted into a wooden dowel for a trunk. After Grandmere died, that tradition pretty well faded out, too. Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners were at about two o’clock in the afternoon, so Uncle George could watch football befoe getting some sleep before his midnight tour.
I don’t have a lot of festive memories of the month of December; any traditions Megan and I have are agreed-upon between us, and have been honored more in the breach than the observance this year… It’s not been a great time.
Still and all, we have each other (for whatever that’s worth), we have our two cats, Gabrielle and Babe, and we have a small cadre of friends.
Sometimes I hope it’s enough…

Diversions, Distractions, and Detours… Oh, My!

In blogging, film, Film and Related, Just Because... on June 29, 2013 at 8:56 pm

It’s a bit of an understatement to say I’m not exactly timely with this post… especially since my last one was twenty-three days ago.
I could explain myself… but that may be as confusing as the actual events I’d be attempting to describe. So, then, let me say merely that I have had, over that twenty-three day span, more things to do than time to do them in.
Some short (and hopefully pithy) takes on various events…
With the amount of rain we’ve had here in the Detroit metropolitan area of late, it wouldn’t have surprised me to see Noah floating down my street with his ark.
Bill Cosby was more right than he knew in his old "Noah" routine… it wouldn’t take but forty days for the sewers to back up in Detroit.
Humidity and polyurethane adhesive for tub surrounds are not a good mix; when you can’t open windows because of air conditioning, the fumes make it hard to breathe.
Computers can be exceedingly subtle in how they screw with your data. And your programs. And your messages. And your lives.
Why is it that so-called "smartphones" make you feel less and less smart the newer they get?
And why does the Internet, in all its "glory", begin to look like a ragtag collection of one-sided political screeds, moronic human tricks, and cute cat videos? No intelligent discussion without the hate-slinging, no dispassionate analysis of current trends, no proposals for solving what problems can be solved without rancor, bitterness, or calumny…
If I didn’t have too much to do, still and always, I would probably be sinking into the gloomy muck of despair. As it is, my digestion (which is being helped by my almost-food-free diet – see that post for a bit more explanation) is sending signals of dislike, distrust, and "stay close to a bathroom" almost every day.
This much, at least, I can deal with.

The Universal Pantechnicon…

In arts, Film and Related, Just Because... on April 13, 2013 at 10:53 pm

This post promises nothing… it’s going to be a little bit of this, a little bit of that; sort of like potluck soup, or hobo stew.

Jonathan Winters died this past week… He was an inspiration to many of the comic performers of today, such as Robin Williams (who acknowledged this perceived debt loudly and often).  He was an unpredictable performer, letting his prodigious imagination lead him on comic flights of fancy that left us all the richer for having heard them.

He was also a cousin (to what degree I’d have to figure out) of my wife’s mother’s family.  His name was Jonathan Harshman Winters, and my mother-in-law (rest her soul) was a Harshman.  Another coincidental thing, it seems.

On the subject of comedy…

I was revisiting the Kevin Brownlow/David Gill profile of Harold Lloyd on YouTube the other day, after I had reblogged the post from swingstatevoter on silent comedy.  Brownlow and Gill produced, to my mind, some of the best profiles of silent film personalities extant; Brownlow’s book The Parade’s Gone By… was a textbook for my old history of silent film class, back in the mists of time.  I appreciated his bringing back to the fore the (up to that point) overlooked French director, Abel Gance, and his tour de force, 1927’s Napoleon.  Sometime in the 1980’s, if memory serves me, (and it didn’t… the first restoration by Brownlow was in 1979, I just found out) Francis Ford Coppola sponsored a series of viewings of the then-major restoration with a score by his father, composer Carmine Coppola.  There is a more complete restoration by Brownlow, with approximately thirty additional minutes of footage and the Polyvision (Gance’s predecessor of three-screen Cinerama) in full bloom, which was shown almost a year ago in Oakland, California.

Abel Gance’s Napoleon from SilentRobet on Vimeo.

This is the trailer.

Back to Harold Lloyd…

Lloyd’s character was the most “normal” of the three top comedians of the silents… Chaplin’s “Little Tramp” was a Victorian-era creation, full of pathos and bathos, trying to ensnare the audience in a struggle between the “little man” and the heartless, cruel well-to-do of society.  Keaton’s frozen-faced automaton was freed of the emotional baggage of the Chaplinesque view, the chilling whiff of nihilism wafting out from behind the slick mechanical façade of his gags, the unsmiling man against an uncaring universe.  Lloyd, on the third hand, was the smiling All-American Boy we thought typical of that time, bright enough, determined enough, but lacking something essential to win through to the final victory.

Lloyd was never a “comic”, doing jokes and gags for the sake of doing them, but had gag men spooling out things to do in the context of the story and the character.   (The parallel was drawn in the Brownlow/Gill profile to Bob Hope having a staff of gag writers providing him with jokes for his monologues; Lloyd’s gag men provided gag bits for the picture.)

Of the major silent film comedians, Harold Lloyd was the luckiest (or most foresighted, if you prefer); he bought real estate in Los Angeles when it was cheap, saved and invested his money wisely, and retired after 1947’s “The Sin of Harold Diddlebock”, also known as “Mad Wednesday”.  (The failure of the film at the box office probably hastened this decision.)He died in 1971, prosperous, away from the hurlyburly of  “the business”, and mostly forgotten by moviegoers of today.  Quite a change from Keaton’s death from cancer in 1966, Chaplin’s fading away in self-imposed exile in Switzerland in 1977, Harry Langdon’s death in 1944 (Langdon deserves an article to himself, and there are many out there), Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, who never really recovered from the scandal surrounding the death of bit player Virginia Rappé at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco in 1921, three trials, and the inability of the public at the time to accept his acquittal by the third jury and his death in 1933, or the lesser lights of silent comedy, such as Lloyd Hamilton, Lupino Lane, Raymond Griffith, Snub Pollard, Ben Turpin, or the ones who are nameless to us but still enjoyed when silents are played again.

[Whew!  LOONG paragraph!]

It seems a pity that, with the exception of 1976’s Silent Movie, from the fertile mind of Mel Brooks, and Michel Hazanavicius’s Oscar™-winning The Artist, silent film is a curiosity from a time gone by.

It seems to me that dialogue, while helpful, is not a necessity for a movie.  Besides, I think it’s a good way to flex some creative muscles making a film without relying on dialogue.

I think I’m going to try that myself.

Seth MacFarlane: Oscar Threat Or Menace?

In arts, film, Film and Related, Just Because..., screenplays, writing on February 25, 2013 at 4:39 pm

Well, Seth Mac Farlane had his turn at hosting the Academy Awards® ceremony last night.  The reviews were, to put it generously, mixed.

Personal opinion?  I didn’t much have a problem with him.  He did better than Letterman (remember “Uma… Oprah.  Oprah… Uma.”?)  did.

Critics are going to find fault with everybody… even if Bob Hope or Johnny Carson came back from the dead to host the awards, there would be people criticizing.

So be it.

The surprises of the night (for me, at least) were the wins for Anna Karenina and Life of Pi – and Argo winning Best Picture.

Jennifer Lawrence?  Christoph Waltz?  Anne Hathaway?  Okay… I can deal with that.  Searching for Sugar Man?  A happy time… since Rodriguez, the subject, actually lives here in the D.  Skyfall as Best Song?  Sure.

Argo winning Best Adapted Screenplay?  Tarantino winning Best Original Screenplay for Django Unchained?  I can deal.

Ben Affleck getting shut out of the Best Director nominations?  Spielberg losing to Ang Lee?  Hey, these things happen.

The Best Sound Editing tie between Zero Dark Thirty and Skyfall was a surprise… there usually aren’t ties in Oscar® voting.

It just goes to show you that award shows are funny (not in the sense of humorous, but in the sense of odd)… they don’t always listen to the same “conventional wisdom” that gets put out in the hype for these shows.

Discuss among yourselves.

The Oscars Are Coming! The Oscars Are Coming!

In activity, blogging, film, Film and Related, Just Because..., Roughly About Films, writing on February 22, 2013 at 3:35 pm

On Sunday evening, at about 4:00 PM Pacific Standard Time, which is about 7:00 PM here in Detroit, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will present the 85th Academy Awards® at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood.
Back in the mists of time, when I was just a youngster, the show was the ultimate in what I wanted to do, and where I wanted to be one day. Now, after several decades, and roadblocks galore, I find myself no closer to that goal than I ever was.
The only thing in my way now is myself; I have learned the technical tricks to get a film made, and some of the ways to promote it so it’s seen. I have the tools, I (supposedly) have the talent, but it remains to be seen if I have the WILL.
Could I win an Oscar®? Sure. Anything can happen; events have proven this over the years.
Will I? That will depend entirely on whether or not I can get the motivation together to get out and DO something.
To DO… or not to do…
THAT is the problem.
More later…

The Nuances of The Tentpole

In Film and Related, Just Because..., Roughly About Films on September 28, 2012 at 8:34 pm

This past Tuesday, Paramount and Marvel/Disney released The Avengers on DVD and Blu-Ray™.  We got it the first day… which we had not intended to do… because of a local supermarket’s advertised special.  We bought the DVD… because we don’t do Blu-Ray™.

Now I can get behind the concept of saving special features for the pricier release, but the dearth of additional things on the DVD release is disheartening.  If it would have necessitated an extra DVD for the extended features, I would have paid the additional cost.

But I didn’t have the chance to.

Be that as it may, that subject is not the main reason for this post…

In the debate between seeing a movie in a theater as opposed to at home, there are advantages and disadvantages to both alternatives… In a theater, the picture is bigger than even a bleeding-edge HDTV monitor, the sound is balanced to the theater space itself, and the volume can be set as high as necessary to get the full “surround-sound” effect… Disadvantages of the theater space is the lag between a funny line and the laugh that follows it can wipe out the reaction immediately after, especially with a really subtle follow-up.

Let us examine the follow-up in The Avengers to the confrontation between Loki and The Hulk… after the manhandling of Loki by Hulk, and Hulk walks off grumbling “Puny god,” the theater exploded in laughter.

The laughter drowned out the subtle “capper”… as the camera holds on Loki, laying there, having been smashed like a limp dishrag by Hulk, Loki quietly whimpers in pain.

Unobtrusive… underplayed… totally missed by the audience laughing uproariously at the big joke before it.  But when you hear the capper, the whimpering, it adds another layer to the mosaic.

You can get one level of experience at the theater… and an additional layer, more dimensions of experience, with the home viewing option.

I feel that the two synergistic, complementary levels, provide an additive experience.

But, then again, that’s just me…

A Shot In The Dark…

In Film and Related, It Bugs Me, Just Because..., Roughly About Films on September 1, 2012 at 11:42 pm

Let’s begin at the (putative) beginning…

Since getting out of university this past May, I have been trying to motivate myself to write something I think is worth shooting, and shoot something I think is worth showing.

As you may infer from the previous statement, those attempts have proven to be less than fruitful.  It’s been four months, and I’m not happy about this.

I have images of wonderful scenes flitting through my consciousness, but they aren’t really amenable to being knit together into a coherent whole.  I have characters developing in the “stewpot” on my mental “back burner”, but no situations they’re suitable for.  And I have situations that would fuel a gripping, suspenseful movie, but no characters other than one-and-a-half-dimensional placeholders to work with.

‘Tis a puzzlement, to be sure.

Did my time at university sap my creative “juice”?  Did being forced to write their way render me unable to write my way?  Or is there another explanation I’m just not seeing?

Stay tuned… the adventure continues.

The Sounds of Silence…

In Film and Related, Just Because..., Roughly About Films on July 11, 2012 at 5:57 pm

I cannot talk, I cannot sing, Nor screech, nor moan, nor anything. Possessing all these fatal strictures, What chance have I in talking pictures?

This was a bit of rhyme flitting about Hollywood and environs at the time of transition between silents and talkies.  It summed up many of the attitudes of established silent actors… their voices didn’t record properly on the primitive systems of the time, or someone in the “front office” sabotaged how someone sounded to kill their career (rumored of Louis B. Mayer doing to John Gilbert), or the actor had an accent that was either too thick to be readily understood or didn’t match their established “character” on-screen (Chaplin’s “everyman”, portrayed as a person in the lower class of America, had a distinct English accent – not a Cockney drawl (I’m still looking for an adequate word to describe the accent), but enough to dispel any “audience identification” with the Little Tramp, at least in the eyes of the releasing companies.  (Chaplin didn’t release a part-talking picture until Modern Times, and had to abandon the Tramp character entirely to talk on-screen in Monsieur Verdoux.)

This is a roundabout way of coming to a review of The Artist, the quintuple-Oscar®-winning film by Michel Hazanavicius that came out on DVD and blu-ray (I do NOT need another format to worry about) recently.  My Beautiful Wife and I sat spellbound through it, and as an aficionado of the days before Lee DeForest, Tobis Klangfilm, Western Electric, and Vitaphone, I have to say it was spectacular.

The acting was phenomenal – Jean Dujardin’s turn as George Valentin, dashing tuxedo-clad hero (with an admitted affectionate nod to Douglas Fairbanks Sr.) struck just the right notes with me, and Bérénice Bejo as Peppy Miller, a combination of Clara Bow and several others who were big in the just-new sound era, was phenomenal.
You know, I can’t really say enough in favor of this movie – buy it, see it, see it again, and again, and again.

Oh, yeah…{in my very bad Louis Armstrong imitation}

Another New Endeavor…

In Film and Related, Just Because..., Roughly About Films on July 4, 2012 at 12:05 pm

I usually wouldn’t use this forum to promote myself, but I’m going to use this forum to promote myself.

My Beautiful and Talented Wife and I are working on a documentary about the creative process of costumers… any kind of costumers.  Scifi, fantasy, horror, historical re-creation, living history interpreters, film costumers, theater costumers… the works.

We just need some more money to get our prime interviews in Chicago and St. Louis later this year.

The IndieGoGo Campaign page, with a listing of the neat swag we’re offering, is at this link:

The Costuming Mind Movie

Just to whet your appetite, I’m linking to the promo we put up on YouTube, also.

Understand, I’m not trying to strong-arm anybody… It’s more of a begging thing.

Please help.  I appreciate it.

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