Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Juxtaposition Comedy...(Or The In-Between Scene)

Remember these?


Once staples of screenwriting, these two 'transitions' have more or less fallen by the wayside. And it makes sense. Even as a young gun I remember wondering..."why do I have to put 'Cut To' at the end of every scene when that's what is going to happen anyway?" It's the medium - it's how you tell a cinematic story...you 'cut to' the next shot/scene. Now I can see you can putting in DISSOLVE TO or FADE TO BLACK or FADE TO WHITE if you want to convey a desired feeling or style or pace to the reader...but otherwise, to cut to is the norm, so there's no need to write it.

There are, however, instances where I still think it can be sparingly and judiciously utilized for some extra punch...especially when you want to point a big finger at the juxtaposition (there's that word again) of the final image/moment of one scene, and the first image/moment of the next scene. In horror, action, sci-fi, even drama...

But today, I was thinking about comedy.

I admit I'm stepping a little outside my comfort zone, but hey...it's just a friggin' blog (still dwelling in the cellar of blog world according to Technorati).

So a quick study in the 3 parts of the SMASH CUT TO: for laughs.

The movie 'Parenthood' was about the intertwining lives of several parents and their families living in the U.S.. It starred Steve Martin as Gil and Mary Steenbergen as his wife Karen...and the movie had a sequence that always stood out for me.

First off, Gil and Karen and kids are at a large family gathering, and Karen gets the kitchen pep talk from the womenfolk on ways to spice up the marriage/sexlife with the hubby - like to do something you wouldn't normally do...to 'surprise him' etc. That was the set up scene. The next scene has Gil and Karen in the van driving home on the freeway. It's now night, kids are asleep in the back. And he's babbling on about the day and she's looking kinda sly and sultry. Then she starts to get cuddly...and then leans over and begins to go down on him while he's still driving. I call this the in-between scene. And the last image we see in this scene is Steve Martin's wild bug-eyes as her head disappears beneath the steering wheel, and we... SMASH CUT TO:

A tow truck, lights flashing, drives off - pulling away the cracked up family van and revealing Gil sitting on the curb with his head in his hands while Karen talks to a police officer.

It was a laugh out loud moment. The setup of the prude wife getting a little tipsy and some encouragement to be nasty from the girlfriends was in and of itself a funny scene. Then the surprise bj whilst driving - on its own, a funny scene. But the payoff or big punchline was the 'cut to' the sad 'climax' of the totaled van. In a millisecond we filled in the blanks of everything that had happened between those two cuts, and we laughed.

The other scene that came to mind is from Woody Allen's 'Annie Hall'. Allen's Alvy Singer is visiting the parents of his girlfriend Annie, played by Diane Keaton, and he meets her strange brother Duane (played by a young Christopher Walken).

In a memorable set up scene, Duane asks Alvy into his room to 'confess' something -and proceeds to describe that when he's driving at night, he likes to stare at the approaching headlights and then imagine swerving into the oncoming traffic...hearing the crunch of metal, the burning flesh, etc. Alvy politely excuses himself saying he's due back on planet earth. This scene on its own is damn funny - meeting the strange relatives...someone you don't really know wants to 'confess' something to you...and the confession is just plain bizarre.

Then the scene in between. The parent's are debating over who will take Alvy and Annie back to the airport when Pop's says, "this is stupid, Duane can take them." And we SMASH CUT TO: ...

Duane behind the wheel, blankly staring straight ahead. Pan slowly to see Annie sitting beside him, smiling and oblivious. Pan continues to find Alvy glancing nervously over at Duane - you can practically smell the pee running down Alvy's leg...

Watch and revel...

Three part juxtaposition comedy gold.

Now you could've cut to Allen reacting right there in the living room...and you would've got a laugh for sure. Or you could have cut right from the bedroom scene to the driving scene and probably got a guffaw. But it was the scene in between that gives the sequence the appropriate beats and necessary rhythm to pay it off in the most effective way. And I'd wager writing CUT TO: or SMASH CUT TO: would've enhanced the reading of the script.

And as we all know, they have to enjoy the 'read' in order to want to 'make the movie'.

I'm sure there's dozens of better examples out there (what do you say, Ken Levine) - these were just two I really liked. And I had a tougher time coming up with samples from television - it seemed to be more of a movie thing.

So I throw it to the room - your fav moments of juxtaposition... comedy?

SONG & ARTIST? - "Seems like old times, dinner dates and flowers,
Seems like old times, staying up for hours
Making dreams come true,
Doing things we used to do,
Seems like old times, being here with you."

I Just Figured It Out!


...is Latka...

...meets Tom Green!

Whether you think he's funny or not, Sacha Baron Cohen is a monster marketing machine. It is nice.

"This suit is not black."
"This suit is black .........................................not."

Monday, October 30, 2006

It Don't Look Good...

...for 'Studio 60'. Even though it received an order for more scripts, this more recent Fox News story paints a bleaker picture.

Sunday , October 29, 2006

Studio 60’ Cancellation Imminent

Despite receiving an order for three more episodes on Friday, the Aaron Sorkin NBC drama “Studio 60 on Sunset Strip” is about to be put out of its misery. Cast members are already confiding in friends that the end is near. Its likely NBC will pull the plug shortly I am told by insiders. Last week, Studio 60 had 7.7 million viewers. Compare that with competing "CSI: Miami," with 17.5 million. That gap cannot be closed. But ‘Studio 60’ has trouble internally at NBC, forget its intramural rivals. According to ratings stats, the “Saturday Night Live” behind the scenes soap opera loses almost half the viewers delivered to it a few minutes earlier by another new show, “Heroes,” which has become a surprise cult hit.
On Monday, ‘Heroes’ had 14.3 million viewers. The substantial drop off with 'Studio 60' is probably the last nail in its coffin. The order of the three extra episodes is considered by insiders to be a contractual move, and not one based on faith that they will ever be made or aired. The all important demo situation didn’t help: 'Heroes' had 15 percent of viewers aged 18-49. Studio 60 had 8 percent. The notion that 'Studio 60' is a big draw for NBC among desirables is, sadly, blown on those stats.
Sorkin and friends will argue that NBC has done something wrong, or that the audience isn’t smart enough. Alas, in this case, neither is true. 'Studio 60'—as I wrote on August 7th after viewing the pilot—is just a bad show. There’s nothing wrong with the acting, directing, or dialogue writing. But the premise is faulty. No one cares whether a bunch of over caffeinated, well off yuppies, some with expensive drug habits, put on a weekly comedy sketch show from Los Angeles. Even worse: no one cares whether or not the people from the Bartlett White House puts on a comedy show. That’s what 'Studio 60' is, essentially: the "West Wing" annual talent show. There’s so much earnestness involved in this endeavor, you start to think that nuclear war will be declared if the 'Studio 60' staff doesn’t air some joke—usually one we don’t hear anyway. The whole thing just feels weighted down and frankly, not entertaining.

NBC will probably fill the lost 'Studio 60' timeslot with 'Deal-No Deal: The Next Generation,' or some such thing. So the losers here will be the audience, which is about to be pummeled by more reality and game shows.

I think they should try it out on another night - pair it up with something more complimentary and leave 'Friday Night Lights' to follow 'Heroes' as is happening tonight. Couldn't hurt.

Come Gather 'Round People...

...wherever you roam - and please welcome The Legion Of Decency to the scribosphere. It's just a baby blog learning to crawl but I'm willing to bet it will grow up fast and be one to watch. Hosted by Jim Henshaw, bigtime TV writer/producer and longtime friend and mentor...and already a contributor here at Uninflected - the Riding The Bull monster post from earlier this summer.

Jim gave me (and I'm sure many others) my first freelance tv script hire. I had a few credits but nothing notable and certainly nothing on CBS. It was his word and assurance that made it happen, nothing else. We all need friends like that when we're starting out. But as much as I appreciate the guidance and advice and breaks - it's the too many evenings spent at Shoeless Joe's overanalyzing the Leafs and Blue Jays that I still remember most fondly.
The important things...ya know?

That said, I must be allowed some silent smirking at the handful of industry colleagues who not so long ago were questioning what I was doing blogging and wondering the point of it all...and now many of whom are trying it out for themselves...emailing me and asking how to set one up, do links, embed video, or post pictures.

Ha! Who'd a thunk it...

SONG&ARTIST? - "Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon
For the wheel's still in spin
And there's no tellin' who that it's namin'
For the loser now will be later to win..."

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Deal? No Deal!

Global Television in Canada had a BIG news announcement the other day...perhaps they were producing and airing a whack of new Canadian drama or comedy series...no, they were bringing the U.S. via Europe hit show 'Deal Or No Deal' to Toronto for a week long 'Canadian version' of the show.

Now I know Howie Mandell is Canadian (though he hasn't lived here in over twenty years), and I know this isn't really any different than country/region specific versions of 'American Idol' (Canadian Idol) et al, but still...

Global TV has come under such attack and criticism over the past several years for unenthusiastically developing Canadian programming, or when developing material - rarely taking anything to production or to air...

So I wonder, will DOND qualify as CanCon (Canadian content)?

I keep picturing a stage full of attractive network execs holding metal briefcases containing license fee contracts of varying amounts...except unless you have a US partner or network in your corner, Howie will shout 'No Deal' before any player can tap the Deal button. And the Banker would be played by...the CRTC?

Friday, October 27, 2006

I Need You To Hold My Ears Back...

...sorry about the abundance of link-filled posts lately - just too busy. But can't go without some Friday Fun and the Griffins take on 'The Contest'.

Because it makes me smile...(there, there my little showrunner).

SONG&ARTIST? - "What The Hell Am I?
Leper From Inside
Inside Wall Of Peace
Dirty And Diseased..."

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Any Way The Wind Blows...

...it's another timewaster - a link to a cool list of most excellent song use in movies .

Forty in total, plus some great ones just outside the winners circle...here's the top ten according to the site:

10) "Try A Little Tenderness", Otis Redding - Pretty In Pink

9) "The End", The Doors – Apocalypse Now

8) "Moving in Stereo", The Cars – Fast Times at Ridgemont High

7) “Shout”, Otis Day & the Knights - Animal House

6) “Stuck in the Middle with You”, Stealer’s Wheel – Reservoir Dogs

5) “Tiny Dancer”, Elton John – Almost Famous

4) “Damn It Feels Good 2 Be A Gangsta”, The Geto Boys – Office Space

3) “Twist and Shout”, The Beatles – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

2) “In Your Eyes”, Peter Gabriel – Say Anything

1) “Bohemian Rhapsody”, Queen – Wayne’s World

Cameron Crowe does it up right with three in the top ten (I did dig that scene in Almost Famous as much as I dug the movie). And Say Anything? Say no more.

I like lists like this. But I did miss seeing any scenes from High Fidelity..like the Beta Band buyers sequence; or Motorhead's 'Ace of Spades' screeching in the background as John Cusack battles the hitman in the convenience store they built on top of his childhood home in Grosse Point Blank; or 'Black In Black' shaking the speakers as Jack Black names the bandmembers in School of Rock; or Jason Swartzman sending bees to Bill Murray and starting 'the war' in Rushmore set to The Who's 'A Quick One'.....or in Election, when ....yo, somebody stop me!

Seems like a good topic for Portnoy to weigh in on...maybe he even made some of these happen?

And McGrath keeps his monster post ball rolling with his readers report. We really need to find a destination for all this.

Rock on.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Heroes...And All Them Anti-Heroes

'Heroes' is still working for me...and it's something I can sort of watch with the kids, so that's a bonus (though they got a little freaked out by the episode that ended with the Cheerleader girl opened right up on the autopsy table). That one took a lot of explaining..."What was that? What were they doing to her? Why would they be doing that? But why if she wasn't dead? Even if she was dead why do that?"

I believe the last words from my son that night as he headed to bed was that he was 'scarred for life'. Wheeee!

But in a way, heroes are the minority these days - according to this great article on the plethera of tortured anti-heroes gracing the airwaves of late. And they don't even mention Tommy Gavin (Denis Leary) in 'Rescue Me'.

Horace Newcomb, a director of the Peabody Awards, says it's because of: "The agony of their choices and all the deep moral ambiguity." He goes on to say:
"TV is so much better than movies these days. What's making this possible is the new direction in the medium at large. You've got a segmented audience and fragmented distribution systems, and that enables creators to be more like novelists and filmmakers."

Hear hear..heroes.

Not much gas in the tank these days, or tank in the gas for that matter...that's all I got.

SONG&ARTIST? - "I, I will be king...
And you, you will be queen.
Though nothing, nothing will drive them away...
We can beat them, just for one day."

Monday, October 23, 2006

Missing Me Magazines...

...I've always loved my rags, as far back as I can remember. So often, my day was made (which doesn't say much about my days) by the arrival of a subscription issue in the mail, or the trip to the local newstand when I knew when the favs were showing up.

But I was in the 'library' yesterday and realized that the most recent issues I had of anything was a Premiere mag from July...an Entertainment Weekly from June...and a Q Magazine from May. Hmmmm....

At some point recently, the necessity to have the mag 'in my hands' disappeared. I read so much on-line now, and can find pretty much anything I want quicker and faster and more up to date - the impetus to buy the issue whenever it gets to town has disappeared.

Anyway, here is a brief snapshot of my magazine staples...

Mad Magazine - my first subscription...Alfred E. Neuman, Don Martin, Spy vs. Spy...loved it

Rolling Stone - have read this forever, since the mid-70's...

Spin - went through a phase where I read it religiously, but that was quite a while ago...

Q Magazine - British music monthly - my rock n' roll bible for oh so long...

Entertainment Weekly - I bought the first issue of this and hadn't missed one since until recently...

Premiere - I also bought the first issue of this way back in the late 80's...

Creative Screenwriting - I have almost every copy of this...including the old old days when it came out as a small blue journal about 3-4 times a year...

And then there was Playback - the Canadian industry paper (except it comes out every two weeks and when you add the week for shipping what you'd read was so often yesterday's news) - and of course Variety, which I subscribed to (the weekly version) for a long time but again, as the ability to read what's happening as it happens on-line...bye bye.

That would be about it - and it's really too bad. Much like poring over the album jacket (or cd sleeve) of your most recent music purchase has gone by the wayside with the ability now to download our 'tunes', that physicality of holding the mag has also more or less disappeared. These days it seems to be about 'want it all and want it now'...and it's tough to go back once you've converted.

So I stopped in at the convenience store last night and got the 'Hot List' issue of Rolling Stone...something new for the library, for old times sake.

What were some of your favourite mags and where are they now?

SONG & ARTIST? - "I've got a freaky old lady name o' Cocaine Katy
Who embroiders on my jeans
I've got my poor old gray-haired Daddy
Drivin' my limousine
Now it's all designed to blow our minds
But our minds won't really be blown
Like the blow that'll get ya when you get your picture..."

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Blog of the Year?

"Ladies and gentlemen...let me remind you - this is an exhibition, not a competition... please, no wagering." David Letterman

...I realize this is a little pointless because anyone who stops by Uninflected usually starts their day here - but I'm going to be the first to nominate DeadThingsOnSticks for blog of the year (they do have awards for these things, right?). Denis McGrath's voice, style, smarts, and insight into television and tv writing - especially about the Canadian scene - has been a consistent pleasure and joy to read for the past year and a bit.

I can honestly say his blog inspired me to leap into the pond, and though I always feel like a paler poorer cousin of someone who really knows what he's doing...I still love just trying to keep up.

And today DMc smacks down another monster writeup about the Canadian television industry and his top ten list of ways to try to fix it. Post of the year. Why? Because instead of just whining and bitching about the system as many of us have been want to do, he's offering up a lot of good smart suggestions on how to try to change it.

Enjoy that omelette, D. You deserve it.

EDIT: It must be in the air, Diane Kristine over at Unified Theory of Nothing Much weighed in today as well on the topic of making hit Canadian tv. I do so hope people out there who can actually impliment change are reading...and taking notes.

Saturday, October 21, 2006


When you work on a tv series that is set primarily in a high school, you generally don't shoot Monday to Friday, but Wednesday to Sunday. Why you ask? So you have two days a week to film in a real high school when it's not in use... i.e. the weekend. Combine that with the all consuming nature of series tv when you're in production and it's very easy to lose track of what day it is (it's Thurday, right?).

So as I head into the office and back to writing another outline, here's some stuff out there that's worth digesting...

English Dave is wrestling with a brilliant idea, and thinks Antagonist + Goal = Story. Me thinks so too...

McGrath is busy writing but his casual query about Canadian tastes vs. U.S. tastes in television exploded in a whack of interesting comments...

Good Dog wants to know why the UK keeps remaking Sherlock Holmes...I struggled to come up with a North American staple we keep redoing, and came up empty...

The Film Diva has updated her excellent post on script coverage at the studios. I dig this because it really is the reality of what you are up against if you are even so fortunate to get your screenplay into the hands of a reader...a point system...checkmarks in little boxes...looking for that all important 'Recommend'...

Jutratest wants Sunday Night Canuck tv - wants it all night, all the time...

"Return To Cookie Mountain" is a great frakin' cd from TV On The Radio. Even Rolling Stone magazine agrees...

And Diane is concerned about kicking puppies, Canadian tv show puppies...I know exactly what she's talking about. I've received some seriously bad reviews for some of my work, but it was the ones that said things like: "It wasn't bad for a Canadian production..." that always bugged me more.

Enjoy your days off if you've got 'em.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Looking Forward And Back... (And Technorati Connects)...

...as this fall's new shows find an audience (or not), it's already time to start speculating about the next crop. This article in Mediaweek gives an overview of some series in development for next years tv season.

Personally, I'll be keeping tabs on 'Swingtown', having been involved in pitching a very similar concept set in present day (title even similar) to Canuck nets earlier this year (to little interest unfortunately - this was one of those 'depends on the execution' ones).

Deadsville out there in Blogland today.

So I'll try to generate some action and pass on this entertaining article from the Chicago Tribune on Best (and Worst) new characters from this fall's tv season. I'm liking Michael C Hall as Dexter...

EDIT: after too much talk about it and much roundy roundy, Uninflected has finally arrived to the Land of Technorati! I'm sure we can all sleep now. And somehow, I feel Portnoy at Reel Hollywood was responsible...he gave this bum a dollar in his own way.

Oooo Trippy...

....White Stripes vs. Bart Simpson = Friday Fun.

Because it makes me smile...

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Gemini Awards nod...

Congrats to all those recepients of Gemini Awards (you know who you are) thus far (yes, four nights to distribute the awards is really spreading it out...but hey, what can you do) - including the Earle Grey Award to actor Donnelly Rhodes who I had pleasure of working with many many years ago.

The final Gala Awards night will be held November 4, 2006 in Vancouver.

Kudo's and good luck 'till then.

Also a tip of the hat to recent winners at the DGC Awards (that's Director's Guild of Canada to those outside the country, and the industry I suppose) held last weekend.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Art of Adapting (And...Roll Sound!)


Pronunciation: "ad-"ap-'tA-sh&n"
Function: noun

1 : adjustment to environmental conditions: as a) modification of an organism or its parts that makes it more fit for existence under the conditions of its environment —

2 : the act or process of adapting : a written work (as a novel) that has been recast in a new form; "the film is an adaptation of a short novel"

Well, I guess I'm due for an update from the trenches. The teen drama series went to camera today, and no matter how far you want to be ahead of the train, it seems you never are. Shit happens and fate conspires...like the network changing their mind on an arc they had approved but then read and decided it wasn't working for them (and that can be a legitimate reaction or request - hell, they're paying). And it can also be as sadly simple as unexpected actor unavailability.

Anyway, there are six scripts in the hopper, three more at outline...they need twelve overall so it will be somewhat of a race to the finish. Always is. This half hour series shoots in cyles of two episodes at a time, seven days per cycle...do the math - in three weeks there needs to be two more shooting scripts. And there will be. Always is.

I think I've found my place in the room. Bouncing around the bottom of the writer/producer totem pole - generally included and appreciated. And thats been cool. I've mostly been 'idea' or 'what if' guy (in the devil's advocate kind of way since they've seen the show from one side for so long and I can offer a newbie's perspective for what its worth). Or I've tried to be the 'solver' or 'fixer' guy when some story has gotten jammed up --- or when a logic issue in the 2nd episode came to light and it needed a quick simple solve since it was already deep in prep.

You have to adapt when you join the staff of an existing series. And not like the second definition above, but the first definition. You have to change the way you work and way you think so you can fit into an already moving machine. And you have to pitch ideas that fit the model, because if you don't it's only going cause headaches. I'm still figuring that one out. Remember - it's their show. Not your show. Their show. And if the producers and the network are happy, than accept it and let it be so.

Note to self: no matter how many times you try to pitch a story in the vein of a 'Veronica Mars', this show just ain't 'Veronica Mars'...doesn't want to be, never will be. So shut up already Will.
Other than writing my couple of scripts, I've been called upon to do some coloured page revisions during the first prep period, and help on guiding a freelancer through their story/beatsheet/outline (mostly because the two lead writers got hooped having to rewrite the first four episodes because of a BIG network note). It's about 'the show', so it doesn't really matter how it gets there as long as it gets done.

It's all been good. No complaints. Happy to be here.

So as annoying as some of my 'Hollywoody' suggestions may be, it's all just writers room stuff. And you duck, bob, weave, and adapt...adapting, that's the key.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A Series of YouTubes...

Great article in today's LA times about the power of YouTube and its enormous impact already on media and television and viewing audiences. Loved the line about "the old days...way, way back in 2004."

I'm trying to keep on top of this because I'm writing a episode about a similar video posting/dumping ground website and its impact on the lives of our teenage heroes...but the shit all keeps changing so fast. There's always a danger in trying to write a script hinging on a current cultural phenomenon because by the time it airs, it may already be dated and seem so yesterday - especially in Canada when it could possibly be a year before it is even broadcast...at least a year.

But for now, it's still a cool idea. For now.

BTW, maybe Senator Ted Stevens heard about YouTube and got confused and that's why he described 'the internet' this way.

Just sayin'...

Monday, October 16, 2006

W T F?

I just gave away an hour (okay, more like 45 minutes) of my life tonight to try to support Canuck tv and give two CBC shows a chance to shine.

'Rumours' - Sigh. What's with Canadian 'comedies?' needing to fill the soundtrack with wacky sound effects and 'kooky' music to tell us its supposed to be funny? Not that it would've been any better without the 'help'. Same goes for 'Smart Woman's Survival Guide' over on W Channel...more wacky sounds and funny score - in Smart's case, the 'help' was annoying, but overall the show was a notch above Rumours at least, for a tenth of the budget I'm sure. 'Rumours'..."head shake"...Big sigh.

But then...I start to watch the CBC real crime reinactment whatever show '72 Hours: True Crime' - AND THEY BROADCAST IT WITHOUT THE FRIGGIN' DIALOGUE AUDIO TRACK!!!

No talking, just music...for half an hour...and that's all those shows are is talking heads and narration. Maybe it just aired that way here in the west, but it was shockingly sad and inept. Never seen anything like it actually.

Sorry to rant, but geez...

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Regarding Technorati...

...and inspired by my brother's 'joke' page in previous post - I'm pulling an Epstein/August and 'asking the hive' for help. For whatever reason, Technorati isn't feeling the Uninflected love. If you click the 'blogs that link here' button in the sidebar, you get this:

uninflected images juxtaposed
Rank: 1,834,991 (No blogs link here)

Updated: 147 days ago

It's the (No blogs link here) part that makes no sense, because directly underneath it shows there are a bunch of links. I've updated and pinged, I've claimed and reclaimed, I've pinged again - not to mention a half a dozen emails to the help desk (zero response)....still no change - I languish in last place of all blogs in the world.

Is there a switch that just needs to be turned on? Or someone that needs to be paid off? Ideas anyone?

Update: I actually received word back from the Technorati Help Desk, and they have fixed something so my stats show I've been updated - but still No Blogs Link Here...sigh - I better start reading that book.

Friday, October 13, 2006

The 18,075 Link Question....

...just killing time waiting for meetings to finish and to see if there are any more notes for next set of coloured revisions before shooting starts next week. And get an email from my crafty bro' in NY, with the screen capture below (click it to enlarge) and the only message being: Number 3 - not bad.

WTF...double take...spit take...click...check...awwww...slap down, I've been sooo had...taken in by the secret silly desire to be famously wildly popular - even if just blogging.

But it also made me smile. So a new profile pic goes up!

You Jackin' It?

...noticing a bit of a recurring theme this week, hmmm.... nevertheless, some Friday Fun with the Daily Show's Jason Jones in a trenchcoat with a stick mic...

...because it makes me smile.

SONG & ARTIST? - "She gave me the queen
she gave me the king
she was wheelin' and dealin'
just doin' her thing
she was holdin' a pair, but I had to try
her deuce was wild, but my ace was high
but how was I to know that she'd been dealt with before...?"

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Sea Was Angry That Day My Friends...

...like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli.

Callaghan over at Creatively Progressing threw down the challenge: 'What's Your All-time Favourite Scene from a TV Show'? Against better judgement, as in work beckons, I succumbed.

Man, what a hard question! There are so many...the scene when Angel goes evil and breaks Ms. Calendar's neck midway through Season 2 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer - I sat up in my bed in shock..."He didn't just...did he? Shit!"
Only that scene was topped by the Season 2 finale scene when Angel becomes good again at the exact time Buffy has to choose between letting him live or killing him to save the world. And she says she's sorry, and kills him! Holy shit!!

Or in 'Judging Amy' when Tyne Daly has to attend an anger management class, and after hearing people's petty complaints about being cut off in traffic or losing their keys - she launches into a riff about what makes her angry is seeing children being hurt or abused or abandoned by their own parents...so sue me! One of the funniest yet most heart-wrenching scenes I've ever watched...

Or in 'The Cosby Show' when the Huxtable family lip syncs to Ray Charles 'Night Time Is The Right Time'...

Or in the 'X Files' at the end of season 2 when Mulder finds a train car buried in the desert filled with alien skeletons, and then the men in black appear and seal him inside (or so we think)...WTF? :0

I could go on and on...

But I'm going to go with a scene from 'The Contest' - yes, Seinfeld...probably because I've thought about it, referenced it, marveled at it more than any other tv moment. After George is caught 'pleasuring himself', a competition is devised to see who can go the longest without...well, you know. And then...

KRAMER: Hey, look at this, c'mere. There's a naked woman across the street.
George and Jerry quickly join him at the window.
JERRY: Where?
KRAMER: Second floor from the top. (Pointing) See the window on the left?
GEORGE: (In awe) Wow!
JERRY: (Also amazed) Who walks around the house like that?!
GEORGE: (Suggesting) Maybe she's a nudist. You know, those nudist colony people..
KRAMER: ..Yeah.. (Pause) yeah..
Kramer slowly stands up, and walks out of Jerry's apartment.
JERRY: Hey George, let me ask you a question. In these nudist colonies, do they eat naked in the dining room?
GEORGE: I would imagine it's all naked.
JERRY: What about the chamber maids? Are they naked, too?
GEORGE: (Still focused on the nudist) They're naked, the gardeners naked.. the bellhops. One big nude-a-rama.
Elaine enters.
ELAINE: Well, Where's my money? Who caved?
JERRY: Not me.
GEORGE: Not me.
ELAINE: What're you looking at?
JERRY: There's a naked woman across the street.
ELAINE: (Chuckling) This is gonna be the easiest money I've ever made in my life. (beat) So, my friend, Joyce, is teaching an aerobics class. I'm gonna go tonight.
JERRY: (distracted) Yeah.. the - the waitress should've taken it back.
ELAINE: (Realizes Jerry and George aren't paying attention) So then, I got a call this morning. You know, I was, uh, chosen to go on the space shuttle. We're goin' to Mars.
JERRY: (Still staring at the woman) Uh-huh.
GEORGE: Have a good time.
Kramer casually enters, takes a few step toward the kitchen, and slaps a wad of bills onto the counter.
KRAMER: I'm out!
Everyone stares at him shock.
ELAINE: What?!
KRAMER: Yeah, I'm out - I'm out of the contest.
GEORGE: You're out?!
KRAMER: Yeah, yeah.. (off their reactions) what?
ELAINE: Well, that was fast!
JERRY: Well, it was that woman across the street. (To Jerry) You know, you better be careful, buddy. She's gonna get you next.
He walks out, shutting the door behind him. Jerry, Elaine, and George all look at each other, reflecting.
ELAINE: ..And then there were three.

"I'm out!" Wow. The fact that Kramer went back to his apartment and off camera, essentially rubbed one out, and then admitted as much on national TV --- I am still amazed today they pulled it off. And don't know if I've ever laughed so hard. The genius of the episode and the scene is that the restrictions of network television forced them to write a story/scene about 'jacking it'...without ever saying the words.

My all-time fav...what's yours? Better yet, tell Callaghan.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Marty's Talkin' To Me Again...But I'm Not Listening

Da man.

My love affair with Martin Scorcese goes back to my late teens when I snuck into the Loop Film Series at the University of Regina and saw a 'Taxi Driver' and 'Raging Bull' double bill. Wow. Were my eyes opened. I had a new hero...though it was difficult to determine whether the hero was DeNiro or Scorcese - the two seemed almost intertwined into one entity - but I was starting to think about being a filmmaker, so Scorcese became one of 'da men'.

"All the animals come out at night - whores, skunk pussies, buggers, queens, fairies, dopers, junkies, sick, venal. Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets. I go all over. I take people to the Bronx, Brooklyn, I take 'em to Harlem. I don't care. Don't make no difference to me. It does to some. Some won't even take spooks. Don't make no difference to me." - Travis Bickle

Swoon. It was a time when us filmmaking types were split into two camps...the adorers of Lucas/Speilberg and the 'Stars Wars' and 'Raiders' films, and the devotees to the alienated solitary man films of Coppola/Scorcese/Cimino and even DePalma. I belonged to the latter camp.

Then Scorcese moved to the top of my list with his early 80's efforts 'King of Comedy' and 'Afterhours'. I absolutely loved those movies. I wanted to be Marty Scorcese, and set about to do so.

I wrote a short film called 'For Whom The Bell Rings'...a dark tale of a substitute teacher and his worst nightmare - a classroom full of teenage students. How much of his anguish was real or in his head remained ambiguous. And it was to be all Scorcese...solitary, tormented hero, flashy camera moves, quick cuts, time manipulation, etc. - and style style style! I remember that being part of my proposal for funding - I actually said I wanted it to be style over substance.

The film got made - and was invited to a few festivals, but was generally a disappointment. It just didn't quite 'pop'. The intent or effort was there, but in the end it was exactly what it was...an imitation, and a pale imitation at that.

"Scorsese, arguably the most cinematically eloquent American director of modern times, is best characterized as an expressionist and cinephile...His exhilaratingly long, complex camera movements, his often staccato editing, and his carefully controlled use of colour, props, decor and music are all designed not only to take us inside the minds of his often paranoid, volatile or disturbed protagonists, but to pay tribute, in passing, to movies he loves." - Geoff Andrew (The Director's Vision, 1999)

Scorcese is an artist and a filmmaker through and through - a master of vision and technique...a visual genius. I tried, and didn't even come close. But at least I learned something.

What I learned was that I am no Scorcese.

One of the most important things you can discover about your filmmaking or writing is what you cannot do. So many go through their creative life thinking they can write anything or make any kind of film...and end up doing nothing well. I loved 'The Departed' this weekend, but I will not set about trying to write/make a film like it.

That isn't to say you shouldn't have inspirational heroes in your chosen craft. You will and should, but don't necessarily try to 'be' them.

Same goes for television - specs, etc. I love shows like 'House' or 'Bones' or 'Studio 60', but I don't fool myself anymore into thinking I can write them well. Sorkin, Hanson, Shore...heroes of mine, but I can't be them. I tried writing an 'Ally McBeal' spec once - it turned out okay, but it was a reasonable facsimile at best. However I also wrote an 'X Files' spec and co-wrote an 'Angel' spec which turned out really well, helping land an LA agent. I knew the shows and could write them naturally. And it showed. And though I acknowledge that part of the gig of TV writing is to show your range and that can write for different types of series...sometimes you can cast the net too wide.

Know your strengths...accept your weaknesses and limitations.

Thats why I have a love/hate relationship with the CSI franchise and especially 'CSI Miami'...however it might frustrate me with its pedestrian plots and cardboard characters, I know I could write it - write it pretty well actually. Accepting that fact was difficult, but necessary.

"And though I'm no Olivier / If he fought Sugar Ray / He would say / That the thing ain't the ring, it's the play. / So give me a... stage / Where this bull here can rage / And though I could fight / I'd much rather recite /... that's entertainment." - Jake La Motta

There are shows you love to watch, and shows you love to write. They will not necessarily be the same show. I love to watch Scorcese movies. I cannot make Scorcese movies.

And that's okay.

SONG & ARTIST? - "We'll be happy together, unhappy together
Now won't that be just fine
The days may be cloudy or sunny
We're in or out of the money
But I'm with you always
I'm with you rain or shine"

Dearly Departed...

...we are gathered here today to pay our respects to Martin Scorcese, not because he's passed away, but because he has risen from the dead and blown our brains away with his latest effort.

It is a dazzling energetic attack on our senses told at a relentless pace - all standard Scorcese - the shit is edited out of this film. But the best part is that it's a gripping gritty really cool story.

I'll have more on Marty this weekend. But in the meantime, RUN don't walk...

Friday, October 06, 2006

Connect The Dots..La La La La...

Going to go see 'The Departed" tonight - first movie I've looked forward to seeing since 'Miami Vice', which didn't meet expectations - hopefully Scorcese won't disappoint.

But first some Friday Fun from Pee Wee's Playhouse and Paul Reubens getting some 'chicks' at the farm...

...followed up by 'El Hombre'!

Because it makes me smile....

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving all...

And a happy birthday JP.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Winks, Blinks, And Familar Links...

Slugging it out - fighting a cold while cringing from looming deadlines - but as for tips, I ain't really got one on the tip of the tired tongue...how about: Writing isn't about writing, it's about rewriting..?

"Tell us something we don't know!" I can hear Callaghan and Jutratest and Dmc exclaim....in unison even.

Well what about all that new tv...(though one of my telly's went on the blink last night)

CSI Miami continues to amaze me with its cardboard characters and pedestrian storytelling and yet was ranked as the most popular show in the world recently...'Watcha got?'

Heroes - ep 2 held up for me - big money going into that show

Veronica Mars premiere - still lovin' it (Rob Thomas is today's Joss Whedon)

Studio 60 - ep 3 kind of layed there for me...too much of the actual show in my opin - but it made Alex happier, so that's got to count for something

Friday Night Lights - slick and solid - but not sure if its my kind of show

Dexter - creepy yet kooky in a what I imagine to be a Martell sort of way...thanks to Bill Cunningham for pointing it out

Rent A Goalie - according to 101 it should be Rent a Foley (artist)? I found that one of the most original criticisms of a show I've ever heard....

Diane is probably suffering 'House' withdrawals already - send a medic

And Josh and John and John still have no idea who I am. What else is new.

But a nod is as good as a wink... to a blind horse.

SONG & ARTIST? -"In the mornin' don't say you love me
'Cause I'll only kick you outta the door
I know your name is Rita,
'cause your perfume's smellin' sweeter
Since when I saw you down on the floor."
"I'm so tired, I haven't slept a wink
I'm so tired, my mind is on the blink
I wonder should I get up and fix myself a drink...?"