Grinding Your Gears

In the past, each completed project gave me a morale boost to fuel the next.  If something goes off track or I’ve been given (and naively accepted) a false resource that collapses, it can be difficult to just transfer energy to something else.  I think people talking to themselves may be re-living conversations where they could have anticipated the worst and come away with dignity and saved some time.  I can grind my psychological gears in a quiet moment wasting energy on a “would-could-shoulda.”  Things may have gone the same way ultimately sooner or later.  Maybe sooner if you put a fine point on it.

If it feels like there is some Faustian embargo in the air, you might be making the wrong deal.  If someone wants to be the creative power behind the throne, they can get their own throne.  And as I’ve said before, if someone doesn’t have faith in you as a director or doesn’t like the script, you’ve got no leg to stand on with that person and why walk into that burning house?  If on the other hand they want to impose something on the film – random shtick, improvisation, ideology – it will negate or compromise your sense of authorship.  It is one thing to improve a script, kicking the tires, questioning logic or continuity. These are things the writer can answer and figure out without losing the sense of authentic authorship.  A full range of talents have clung to a credit even if it meant arbitration and even if it meant that everybody knew the best lines came from someone else.  But if what motivates you is the work itself and seeing your own ideas vindicated (or giving them every chance to be vindicated), it is worth remembering that Jim Jarmush claims that he writes a screenplay in longhand, one draft, and gives it to a typist and then just makes his movie. I suspect there are many critical darlings who do that and if something seems unclear in the movie it is taken as artistic ambiguity.  It is not unlikely that a first draft and final draft will have the same percentage of people who like or dislike the resulting movie.  Se7en famously had many drafts generated in the development phase, only to have its original shocking draft by Andrew Kevin Walker find its way to David Fincher’s attention so he could insist on reverting to that. The Verdict was adapted by David Mamet and then compromised by others until director Sidney Lumet insisted on discarding the development and reverting to Mamet.  Those seem like no-brainer choices, but it took a good cook insisted that not everybody had to piss in the soup.  Especially if you are a writer-director, you are gong to take the heat for a mediocre movie so you may as well be gambling on your own taste and your own work rather than someone else.

Discussion of movies from a fan perspective can generate some of the worst ideas for how it “could have been better.” One guy re-edited The Last Jedi just to make sure that in his version Admiral Ackbar is still alive. There are many things wrong with that movie, and that character should have had an on-screen death and one with nobility (maybe securing an oxygen mask onto Princess Leia before floating off dead in the vacuum of space). But even with a Lucasfilm Story Group and producers looking at the script, and hundreds of millions of dollars at stake, they went with Rian Johnson’s whims and took their chances.  Each writer has to take his or her own chances.  You might even be satisfied just writing character descriptions and an outline of scenes and letting others expand on that. But however long the process, you arrive at a point where you say THIS is the script I want to translate into storyboard drawings and finally stage for the camera.  Not a hundred other variations which you have considered and discarded.

The internet has accelerated the question, “Does this dress make me look fat?” and also the consequences of answering with honesty.   People can insist on being called something they are not. It may be personally vital to know that a writer-director credit reflects your actual writing and your direction. I would feel false if I did not plan my own shots and the progression of images. That is where my satisfaction comes from.  Simply gathering people together to shoot something is not in itself cathartic. It is kind of a necessary evil.  Most of the anxiety will come from just how the house of cards will fall. Some people thrive on chaos, but I don’t.  I wouldn’t invest in chaos.

There are people who push to destroy the auteur theory of direction, where “A film by” credits are seen as giving too much importance to the role of director. I don’t really come down on either side of those false binary options.  The designation of director – let alone writer – can be given to anyone from a fraud who shows up and takes credit for everyone else to someone coming from a Hitchcock perspective where film grammar and psychology motivate the shot choices and the audience is being directed by the person they have been told is doing so.  None of us has to be a genius or feel like one to achieve the latter description.  It might help to be obsessed with finding the best shot for a moment or an interesting and appropriate way to transition between scenes. I’ve done short films that people hated and written screenplays that some people did not get, but I honored my impulses in any case and that is a big part of it.

So many processes appear to be about stripping the finger prints from a work. The issue celebrated might be the subject matter or a sociopolitical bent and not the WAY something was written or the WAY it was directed.  Style may be stripped away, and for me style is a big part of what makes me love cinema.

Does this blog make me look fat?

 

 

 

 

Halloween Season Must Sees

They don’t all take place at Halloween time, or October, and they are not all horror. I am surprised that no Hitchcock films made the list.  Maybe Frenzy might have made it, but Psycho felt obligatory. The intention is to get people watching these films that enrich the viewing of anything that follows. The Babadook by Jennifer Kent didn’t make the list but it is very well done. Maybe that should be adjusted.

https://www.imdb.com/list/ls097576907/

 

Things to Do

What I call finding confidence, facing fear of rejection and risking my ego someone else today might call “straight white male entitlement.”  Each person has one degree or another of the still, quiet voice in the back of the mind urging on a nugget of an idea or something larger, a poem, a script, a joke, a short film, a longer story.  Ignoring it until it goes away or becomes just a thought or a memory of a vague dream just might be acceptable for some people.  If it won’t go away or you feel it nagging and wanting to live outside of your head, as custodian of that impulse or plan or whimsy it will be a challenge to wade through the noise and clutter of today’s outrage culture and the more amusing distractions of each day to keep an eye on that goal and keep on attempting the messy version of it or the interim version as it becomes more and more what you mean. It is the transition between the euphoric spark of an idea, which is perfect, and the execution of it which involves one or more stages of imperfection.

Right now I have some boring goals that might allow me to better get a handle on the work I have to do, even the work I have enjoyed and that is a part of me.  I have to 1. Lose weight, so that I can 2. reduce the medication I take, so that I can 3. better focus and hold a thought and think several stages down the line to complete creative works that had years before been my compulsion.  That’s a disclosure nobody needs to know, but maybe one with which others have to grapple.  I have to tie a lot of ideas together.  I have a considerable in-box of projects that have to be wound up and resolved into something entertaining to others.  But I also have to push past a sense of drifting and excessive relaxation.  It is deceptive.  And when I do drag my middle-aged butt to the gym early enough to avoid the crowd and get the right stationary bike that functions properly and then get into the pool while I can claim a lain for myself and feel like I have kick started my day in a responsible way maybe I’ll avoid foods that bog me down and make me sleepy and kill half my productive hours.

A blog or a comment on social media takes less energy, so it can be a lot of superficial remarks and half-baked thoughts that add up to nothing but make me feel as if I have done my duty as a citizen of the internet in correcting someone else’s information about whatever controversy or director or movie or politician.  And then I will still be left looking at that in-box of partially complete and existentially vital work to be done.

 

 

Who or What is It For ?

The question could be asked about this blog. or any blog.  Is it so that I can have more information coming out of my head than is going into it?  When the year began with my first few posts here on WordPress, I had a lot to unload for posterity.  You never know when you will keel over – and what a shame it would be to have not imparted anecdotes about having wallowed in your own short films and volunteering and bad judgement.

Instead, the question is about cinema in general.  What if it were possible to demonstrate in court that exposure to an interrupted narrative (a prematurely cancelled TV series) caused real psychological damage to the viewer and this opened up the possibility of class action suits against networks who failed to commit to a complete run or studios who fail to make the appropriate number of sequels to complete a story? What if creatives were legally bound to honor their core audience, and prevented from simply exploiting a known brand for the appeasement of investors only to alienate the built-in audience it was expected to attract?  What if studios had the sense of self-preservation to have each of its employees – especially writers or directors and actors – accept not only a non-disclosure agreement but also an injunction against abusive engagement with the public. especially those who claim to be fans and who are potentially the paying public?

Is this movie or content intended to appease the movie buffs or the statistic buffs?  Is it for people who enjoy movies or comics or any given art-form or is it for busybodies who just want to torpedo intellectual property that is associated with a “bro” audience or a politically uncommitted audience as a volley of preemptive attack in the culture war?

People are calling the latest female Terminator the LBGT-1000.  No matter what Tiki or Kevin Feige calls Natalie Portman’s character (they prefer simply Mighty Thor) the audience will call her Female Thor.  Will people complain that her costume (which according to the mythology of the comic book materializes without choice or design from the wearer) has a suggestion of breasts built into it?  Will they whine that there is anything gender specific about it?  Of course some will.  Not fans, but those who rarely pay to see a movie, let alone a pre-determined blockbuster muscling onto 4,000 screens. Filmmakers can alienate the most loyal fanbase once their own loyalty has been betrayed.  If there is pre-emptive shade thrown on anyone indifferent or outright rejecting a pending project, only a brave segment of the ex-patriot fandom will risk being falsely branded misogynist, racist, or homophobic by simply agreeing with Brie Larsen’s comment about A Wrinkle in Time, “It wasn’t made for you.”

In fairness, the argument has been made over and over – especially in the past ten years – that most movie fare has been male power fantasies aimed at the young, usually white, male heterosexual.  My response to this is to carefully keep my collection of physical media – mostly DVDs – in good condition, because re-watching them just might be the sole entertainment resource for me going forward. I can keep up with Stranger Things on Netflix as long as that platform exists, but even that has a fair helping of memberry content. I just have to tune out the busybodies on the internet, like Evan Rachel Wood (Westworld) complaining that David Harbour’s character Jim Hopper was a “toxic male” and women should not date a guy like that.  There is a great deal of humor and pathos in his character, as well as surprise.  Wood’s remark is typical of the out-of-touch and gun-jumping know-it-all volunteer den mother activist who feels compelled to put fictional characters and storytelling into a box that is either pretending to be a role model or twisting its collective mustache in service of the patriarchy. This disregards that the actor himself Harbour has been firmly anti-Trump and progressive in his appearances at award shows.

https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/a3e7/87c5162a1afca08227bdf27662b29fead8a8.pdf

The Philosophy of Composition by Poe is mentioned by Signourney Weaver’s character in the Walter Hill movie The Assignment.  She explains that it makes a case that art should exist independent of politics and for the sake of aesthetic or style itself.  Such an essay might be very relevant in today’s climate.  People will behave like lemmings and make their judgments.  Am I to be excited about a new agent 007 being a black woman, or do I accept that as a detail and reserve judgement until I have borrowed the DVD from the public library?  There is so much content bombarding us now, partly as a function of the digital revolution, that it is hard to keep up.  We can’t all be excited about the same things. If I like a director for his or her direction (as opposed to de facto co-direction of a cinematographer or a studio boss who throws out storyboards and says “just shoot this”), I will most likely rush out and see the lastest work of this person right away in the cinema and happily pay to do so.  Spielberg, Tarantino, and Zemeckis are among the few in that category now. Often Scorsese.

I did not pay to see Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters: Answer the Call or Captain Marvel, but I did enjoy Wonder Woman and Alita: Battle Angel.  Frankly, The Assignment was quite good and unusual with Michelle Rodriguez as a hit man. Judge away as you may.  More than ever, I think we have shrug off ignorant leaps people make.  Some will be upset that The Assignment has a actress pay a male who then is involuntarily put through sex reassignment for killing the doctor’s brother.  By representation standards, the male scenes would have to be played by a male and the post transition played by a performer who is trans first and foremost and likely not a marquee value name.  Whereas, I have no problem picking up a DVD with Michelle Rodriguez holding a gun on the cover.  Ghostbusters was played up as a mission to portray women as scientists.  For that I say look no further than 1982’s Poltergeist where Beatrice Straight was a credible scientist with a couple of laughs and Zelda Rubenstien supplied the more otherworldly approach. Some activists grumbled that Gal Godot was too fit and pretty to play Wonder Woman, which begs the question of whether they have ever seen the comic book or the Lynda Carter series.  Wonder Woman should look like Wonder Woman.

Keyboard warriors are not the audience to appease.  Filmmakers definitely should be working on material they actually like and understand, and by extension they will be simpatico with its fanbase.  Otherwise an IP is just looked at as a delivery device for false messaging and something to subvert and kill off – taking what your presumed adversary seems to enjoy and adding an ingredient which will irritate and cause an allergic reaction.  Maybe they are okay with fans being more choosy and waiting for home video or a few weeks after an opening so any box office goes to the exhibitor and not to the studio. That might be a good way to support theater owners and not reward studios for their tone deafness.

 

On a lighter note, I am enthused about Jason Reitman redeeming Ghostbusters and the original iteration continuity with his 2020 installment.  That I will see right away.  I am posting this days before Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which I will also see opening weekend.  I admit that even as a life-long (with a gap between 1999 and 2005) Star Wars fan, I am undecided about when I will see The Rise of Skywalker.  I still enjoy movies, but I think more than ever we have to seek out the shows that maybe don’t get so many screens and might actually introduce fresh voices and aesthetics from the independent end of the spectrum.  Not enough people under 25 have seen the kinds of character driven indie movies from which pretty much all of the Avengers cast came from.  It is time to till the soil and plant new seeds and not live entirely off of what South Park calls memberries.

 

scene-with-beatrice-straight-poltergeist-1982-BP6YPX.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

Shaft (2019) Is Better Than SJW Critics

If you want to see de-aging FX of Samuel L. Jackson, skip the over-rated and cloying Captain Marvel and just go see Shaft currently in theatres. The opening scenes set up the premise in 1989.

Just finished catching a matinee of the new Shaft film, which is either the second if you don’t recognize any movie before the year 2000 or it is number Five if you count the original Shaft, Shaft’s Big Score, and Shaft In Africa.  Richard Roundtree plays the same character in all of them, as well as a TV series indicated on imdb which few have heard about.  This time around, one throw-away line of dialogue corrects a bad call from the 2000 film in which Roundtree’s John Shaft was the uncle of Samuel L. Jackson’s iteration. There is a reference to him being a better father once he stopped, “pretending to be my uncle.”  I think they were being too logical when they did the 2000 reboot, factoring in Jackson’s age.  Now they place Jackson at age Sixty and presumably Roundtree is still a sharp-witted man of his Eighties.  The repository of all knowledge, rottentomatoes, has 89 critics giving it a green rotten splotch of 34% and yet it has a vetted, verified audience rating (3, 146 people who provided proof they have seen the movie) at 94%.  So who do you trust more?  89 critics who saw it for free and are focused on identity politics and whether Shaft adheres to the behaviour code and attitude of…. Twitter, Salon, and The MarySue or anyone who believes if you are not draped in a rainbow flag you are a Nazi? Or do you believe the three thousand, one hundred and forty-six people who rated and maybe commented for free? By now you know what kind of thing is your cup of tea, in any case.

Boxofficemojo today has it only ranking in #7 of the weekend’s movies with $9, 703, 744 domestic. So it has recouped at least what Netflix paid for it already.  Netflix will start showing it June 28, so it will have a short window to make whatever it can theatrically.  It was worth seeing with an audience, but partly for the reassurance that others are laughing at the same frank talk that some critics refer to as “dinosaur.”  The movie itself can feel like an episode and a procedural in that you get what you expect from a sequel. But the refreshing part is its willingness to embrace the point of view of the street wise elder Shafts and have fun with that somewhat at the expense of the more modern-thinking son.  The millennial does have his moments of dignity and the chance to kick ass, without the elders are not the butt of the joke.  They can humorously point out the absurdities and contradictions of modern sensibility.

Below, if you have the time, is an example of a sometimes entertaining pundit of fandom on the internet relishing the audience reception of this new Shaft and the fact that it is not politically correct which demonstrates perhaps that there is a demand for Hollywood to ditch its fake progressiveness and be more down to earth.

 

 

 

 

A Handy Guide to Hating Me

A Handy Guide for Hating Me

 

Why wait to dismiss all the things we agree on because you haven’t found the one issue or sub-issue that marks me as “the enemy” ? Here are some positions or observations I have that have been triggering or provocative in case you want to get the jump on dismissing my input out of hand due to my obvious “evil.”

 

Religion: Raised Roman Catholic and Star Wars fan. Worked in a Catholic parish a block from home approximately from age 13 to 18 as a sacristan opening and locking the church, folding bulletins and putting out the wine and wafers for mass. Rarely go to church but still retain Catholic hang-ups.

 

Trump: Used to be boring enough that I would zip past his interviews on Letterman, but now he has graduated to dangerous. He and his team are 100% garbage.

 

Doug Ford: Ontario’s Trump. Hate him.

 

Trudeau: I wish he followed through on his election reform to get rid of First Past the Post, and cracked down on environmental policy and renewable energy while getting away from pipeline projects. But while I voted NDP I otherwise like Justin and would like to see him continue even with room for improvement. After 11 years of Harper there needs to be a moratorium on conservative Prime Ministers and Trudeau may have more of a chance than the NDP option Nationally.

 

Mel Gibson: I like to see him acting in movies and most of all directing them. Total respect for his craft. On his personal issues, people need to get their facts straight first. Robyn Moore Gibson is the ex-wife of Mel who by all accounts is a wonderful person and who even testified in court on Mel’s behalf as a character witness to state that he had never been violent in all their years of marriage. This was the court case where his ex-girlfriend and baby mama (to Lucia) and composer of generic house music Oksana Grigorieva who recorded (and is responsible for allowing to be released to RadarOnline) Mel’s phone rants. When Joe Eszterhas (the Basic Instinct writer who looks like a biker) decided to take his little kid to Mel Gibson’s island and report that he had not done work on the screenplay he was hired for, did he expect that they were not going to hear some yelling and ranting from him? And is that why his innocent son brought a recording device? While, I enjoy some of he writing, Joe is a dick. As for what Mel said in his rants, I have no theory other than the one-person audience to whom he is talking and the likelihood that she uses derogatory terms herself. Whoopie Goldberg, Robert Downey Jr., Darlene Love, Danny Glover, George Miller, Robert De Nero, Jodie Foster and Richard Donner are those who defended Mel as a person and friend even if they can’t break down the actual words used and chalk it up to a function of his medication for bipolar disorder or lack thereof. It is also worth noting that when he announced The Passion of the Christ and nobody had even read the script he already had haters piling on. The film’s release resulted in zero anti-Semitic incidents and zero apology from the doomsayers. It also made a lot of money, which further annoyed those who had turned it down. While Mel’s next movie Apocalypto was in post production, a Rabi and others lobbied for Disney to shelve it because they were frustrated that The Passion had been a success. The pressure was the context under which Mel accepted a drink of tequila and fell off the wagon and got behind the wheel of a car. The drunk driving was the worst of it and thankfully nobody was hurt, but this record was expunged because arresting officers allowed the police report full of his rants about his current persecution get released to TMZ. This rightfully caused some blowback for the police involved, but nothing compared to the ammunition it gave to Mel’s haters. If he was noted as rambling, “Jews cause the wars of the world,” he might have meant, “Jews remade War of the Worlds.” I don’t know, but I remember playwright Brad Fraser unfriending me on Facebook for defending Mel. When I got through explaining how telling the story of The Passion is not inherently anti-Semitic any more than being Catholic is, he then revealed that his real opposition to Mel and enjoyment of his downfall was Mel’s irritation at a press conference where someone absurdly asked if he was gay. Some took issue with King Longshanks throwing his son’s gay lover out a window in Braveheart, and may fan the flames of the anti-Semitic angle because it is easier to enrage people. The fenestration scene from Braveheart got laughs. I liked the commemorative rant plates skit Billy Dee Williams did on Jimmy Kimmel Live, and some youtube videos using the rants in Ransom re-edits, but I was happy to see Mel nominated for Hacksaw Ridge and back in movies. As much as I liked Mad Max: Fury Road I admit I would have preferred elderly Mel to follow through. All he had to do was drive and be strapped to a mast for most of that movie.

 

Woody Allen: 27 features, a few shorts and a TV series have been directed by Woody since the break up with Mia Farrow in 1992 during Husbands and Wives over the affair with Soon Yi and Mia’s vengeful and vindictive manufacture of child abuse charges in which she used her daughter Dylan to lie for her – a strain that has caused real harm to Dylan well into her thirties. I believe Moses Farrow, and I come to this by fearlessly reading the accounts and the fact-checking articles by Robert B. Weide. Any serious broadcaster with reach, including Oprah Winfrey and her friend Gale King, should have read in full and contemplated the writings of Robert Weide on the matter before jumping onto the bandwaggon following the onset of the #MeToo movement. The Woody-Mia-Dylan conflict is not a case that should be held up as an example if your goal is to ensure that society listens to accusers. That case is bound to fall apart on scrutiny and hurt the benefit of the doubt that one wishes a serious abuse accusation to be greeted. Even those who engage on-line in casual debates need to read through the Weide articles, which are called open letters to Ronan Farrow (who himself as a serious journalist has also apparently ignored).

There is no doubt that Ronan has had a positive impact overall in many investigations but he has this one huge blind spot: his mother.

 

https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-woody-allen-allegations-not-so-fast

 

https://ronanfarrowletter.wordpress.com/2017/12/13/qa-with-dylan-farrow/

 

https://ronanfarrowletter.wordpress.com/2018/01/04/moses-farrow-speaks-out/

 

This link actually contains hotlinks to several other articles on the topic:

 

http://woodyallenmoblynching.com/2018/02/25/robert-weide-woody-allen-innocence/

 

In summary, the narrative I believe is that Mia Farrow messed up Dylan by drawing her into her separation with Woody and using her as a weapon by inventing an abuse the circumstances of which have been refuted point for point in terms of logistics and contradiction. To assert this is not “blaming the victim” or making any sweeping statements about abuse or victims. It is an assessment of one case, and a bizarre one at that. I don’t especially respect the lemmings who have come out and expressed regret for acting in Woody Allen movies. Ellen Page can regret To Rome with Love because it is one of Woody’s weaker movies. But she would be wrong to assume that Dylan and Mia are right and that Moses, Woody and Soon-Yi are wrong.

I respect Dianne Keaton and Alec Baldwin for defending Woody when so many actors have jumped onto the bandwagon of #believeher blanket judgement.

 

Alec Baldwin: The one good thing that came from the Trump era is that it gave Alec something to make a high profile splash after a brief period where he lost a talk show deal as a result of being videotaped calling a paparazzi who had stalked his family and picked through his trash a (paraphrased) “Fu*king British Cigarette!!” If anything, I have respected his outrage against paparazzi and ambush journalism and I reject the idea that there is a contract that says being a public figure or entertaining means unwanted attention must be accepted. There are plenty of common targets for gossip magazines who have not benefitted in their careers from such focus. I don’t have to agree with every opinion of Mr. Baldwin to enjoy many of the films and TV shows he has done (30 Rock, Mission: Impossible Fallout). Image rights and audio rights should have to be secured in a release waiver which would make paparazzi pests less common.

 

Star Wars: I prefer the Original Trilogy (1977-1983) before the 1997 special editions changes (for which 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back is the least compromised) and before the 2004 DVD version or the further changes on Blu Ray a few years later. I did not care for the Prequel Trilogy, which was not the same tone or balance of jeopardy and humor and which did not have a strong enough narrative overall. That trilogy starts off just for children with Jar Jar in The Phantom Menace and ends with a fire, lava and mutilation of its PG-13 Revenge of the Sith. I like the Disney era which some outspoken fans and former-fans are up in arms over because they see it as being too progressive and because producer Kathleen Kennedy had said some things in public like, “The force is female” and “I don’t owe anything to the original white male fans of Star Wars” which of course they found inflammatory. It is odd that some who are most critical of the current Disney era of Lucasfilm defend the objectively inferior cinema of the Prequel Trilogy. Padme should not have died in III, which contradicts adult Leia’s memory of her mother in Return of the Jedi. I agree with many complaints about the Disney era even if my conclusion (acceptance) is different. Why can’t Luke Force-push Rey when she aims the lightsaber at him?  And I have to thank the “Fandom Menace” activists who looked into exactly who comprised the “Lucasfilm story group” that Rian Johnson bounced ideas off of.  I had imagined maybe Timothy Zahn and other writers who know their Star Wars would have that distinction, or maybe the finest dramaturges. But it was quite loaded with SJW motivated people with thin resumes. Guidance in storytelling that comes from those sensibilities is bound to throw things out of whack and land with a thud as it did for so many.  I am curious to see how Lando Calrissian is used in IX and happy for Billy Dee Williams. Wonder how Luke is worked back into the story and I’m guarded about how footage of Princess Leia will be repurposed after the death of Carrie Fisher.  They will get my money but I understand the boycotters like Doomcock who say #WithoutRespectWeReject when it comes to Disney product.

Movie Directors: I have no concern whatsoever about the gender or ethnicity of a movie director, only that the person is actually conceiving the shots – the psychology of the frame itself and the displacement impact of a cut and how those are chosen. The director ideally directs the attention of the audience. If it is true that, “once the screenplay is ready and the casting is appropriate Ninety percent of the director’s job is done” then all discussion of direction should take those elements as read and only concentrate on that remaining ten percent which makes at least as much difference as an extra chromosome. If the director leaves the use of the frame to the cinematographer, the cinematographer is a de facto co-director and I don’t celebrate that kind of dynamic. I have infuriated people because I have utmost respect for Robert Zemeckis and I am critical or dismissive of Robert Altman. I don’t like an improvisational hodge-podge. I like a deliberate use of the camera.   I respect what might be called the storyboard sketch approach, so that thought is put into how shots follow each other or echo each other throughout a movie.

 

Abortion: There are people I care about who have had abortions and I have not rubbed their noses in my opinions but they know I am not the person to ask for a ride home from the clinic. I am against the criminalization of abortion because in pragmatic terms it can not be enforced evenly – rich people would still find access and poor would not. The promise of “stopping” abortions is a carrot used by conservative politicians to play on emotion of their base voters but there is little they can do to prevent it. They can only pull punk moves like closing a clinic because it does not meet physical specs of a hospital in terms of hallway width. But people are catching onto those sneaky moves as well. Having said that, as much as I do not want to be the person trying to police people and make sure they go full term with each pregnancy I don’t spin-doctor abortion itself to make it more palatable. To me it is “magical thinking” to say that a life only becomes human or “quick” when the umbilical cord is cut or when the baby breathes oxygen instead of amniotic fluid. It is not – in my view – magical at all to say that when that spark of zinc happens as the 23 chromosomes from the sperm is deposited into the 23 chromosomes of the ovum and the start of a 26 chromosomes life begins that this is the process of becoming and that the same process continues if it attaches to the uterus and grows into adulthood.   Giving birth is a brave action for a mother and some do not survive childbirth, so I can’t condone forcing anyone to go through this process but I admit that I admire it and I would be lying if I said that I admired abortion.

 

Alfred Hitchcock: I admire his process of visualizing a scene in advance, and this is the approach I most respect as “real” cinema direction. People may diminish his name because in the modern era his behavior with Tipi Hedron on The Birds and Marnie has more attention. A TV movie The Girl with Tobey Jones and Sienna Miller explored this dark side of his character during that period of his life. Hedron attended his funeral and continues to give him proper respect as a director despite his inexcusable and dangerous decisions. What he contributed to film language is essential and may be overlooked in the rush to dismiss those with character flaws.

 

 

Frank Capra: The Name Above the Title and The Catastrophe of Success are two books worth reading, in that order, about Capra. The latter is partly an evaluation of the former and speculates as to how much of Capra’s recollections were exaggerated. Regardless of his politics as a somewhat conservative populist with corny endings, his movies were well done. I do not know fully what his working relationship was with cinematographer Joe Walker but Capra’s earliest storyboarded short film The Ballad of Fisher’s Boarding House has a discriminating choice of shot. Although he came from writing, his visual sense was authentic. As for content, people might be critical of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and it was poorly received by certain insider press at the time but the idea of the “Taylor Machine” enforcing a rigged situation in Washington DC rings true today. But the key is how he used the frame and the cut with personality that punctuated scenes and kept his choices on point.

 

Roman Polanski: I can take or leave some of his movies, which tend to be slower paced. Ever since I was a child in elementary grades we knew the joke, “Roman Polanski cruises in a school bus.” I did not know he survived the holocaust when his parents did not. And it was a while before I learned that his pregnant spouse Sharon Tate was killed by the Manson family. But even learning the details of the rape he committed upon a 13 year old girl I see it in context as atrocity breeds atrocity in shaping and staining a human mind. His insight into evil and moral failing might inform some of his better works as a director. Carnage, Death and the Maiden, Chinatown, The Tennant, The Ninth Gate, The Ghost Writer, and to an extent Repulsion – various movies of his that I actually liked I will continue to enjoy regardless of his indefensible use of that girl who has since forgiven him even if legal activists have not. I thought Frantic was boring and slow back in the eighties and somehow have it on DVD but have not re-watched it as yet. Harrison Ford starred in it and had the dubious honor of accepting Polanski’s Oscar for the Piano years later, so an admirable person can appreciate the man as a director and not define him entirely by is personal failings.

 

Rape and Terrorism: These are two subjects often argued about on social media despite the fact that neither side in a debate will be in favor of either crime. One cannot condone rape or terrorism, and we hope to never have these horrors visited upon those we love or ourselves. And yet there are sub-issues in which people can argue to a point where they forget that the other person is also not in favor of these acts. People have an all-or-nothing sensibility sometimes which is not constructive to adult, sane discussion. I remember the term, “without passion or prejudice” as an advisory for jurists. People tend to throw that out. If I defend a parent saying that a daughter should dress warmly or conservatively, I will be accused of “slut shaming.” If I say here is a photo of Brock Turner, don’t go to the late night party with him or accept any drinks beside a dumpster because he is the Stanford rapist, again I might be accused of putting the responsibility on the prospective victim.   But I would then also argue that to say to the rapist, “don’t rape anyone” would be a joke. Nobody has to be told not to rape. And fear of being caught does not stop people with a behavior control disorder. People do have to practice defensive driving and defensive living. It is wrong for a terrorist to release a gas valve into a public area. It is also wrong for someone who has been advised of this to insist on lighting a match for a cigarette because it is his/her right. People do have to look out for each other. It is fine to say that yes the rapist or terrorist is the problem but are there ways to moderate behavior to reduce their success rate? Do you continue shopping, flying, dating in the same patterns because “otherwise the terrorist/rapist wins” or do you attempt to participate in keeping the odds of safety in your favor to an extent? These are reasonable questions I might ask if I want to get my head bitten off on social media.

 

Guns. I like the Australian ban solution and would like to see this in North America. At the same time I do not want guns banned from movies because the best movies usually have guns in one form or another. I also object to ambushing of Tom Selleck by Rosie O’Donnell or Charlton Heston by Michael Moore, even if their intentions for the right reasons or the big picture. It tends to diminish the seriousness of the matter and make it hypocritical. I could not scold Selleck for liking guns when I spent so much of my youth watching Magnum P.I. and celebrating when he shot that bad guy after asking, “Did you see the sunrise this morning?” (Because his friend Mack had said he was going to see the sunrise before the bad guy killed him.) Such is the complexity of the gun debate. No doubt that too many crazy and sad people have access to them and people are not held responsible enough who decide to keep or sell them when they end up being used for violence.

 

Why.  What if the reason so many white males have gone on shooting sprees is that simply any action creates an equal opposite reaction? What if progress itself agitates the unbalanced and alienated mind? December 6, 1989 14 young women, engineering students around my age, at Polytechnique wawere shot dead by a gunman whose manifesto or suicide note blamed women for his failure.   At Colmbine ten years later, two young men who felt alienated and insulted and called gay by classmates ordered some firearms and shot up the school. The internet and social media definitely accelerates this. As does the wave of outrage culture and ine infiltration of SJW language into the vernacular since 2014. Every action, however well intended, creates an equal opposite reaction. I remember a friend of a friend first using the “word” mansplain on me on Facebook around 2014 – among other shade throwing and insult – and I can fully understand the desire to kill because of it.

There are some reprehensible and abusive people who wrap themselves in white knight armor and virtue signal constantly without actually having ethics.

 

LBGTQ2S issues: In favor of allowing same sex marriage rights and the wedding cakes that they entail. Absolutely need to put a stop to policies in the world that allow formally or tacitly the execution or murder of LBGT people, including the concentration camp that was reported to exist in Chechnya. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-41645281 And at the same time, despite a strong stance against bullies in any form, I will laugh at humor that points out the adjustment and awkwardness of interaction between people who have an aversion to something in the other’s life. I don’t see a problem with language that is called “othering” because people do place themselves in their own categories. While I recognize that it would be upsetting for some people to hear an early Eighties routine from Eddie Murphy’s Delirious, I can still watch it for nostalgia and find it free of the caution and falseness of most modern entertainment. In my own writing, I do not see any group as being in a permanently critic-proofed victim category. A character who identifies as gay or LBGTQ should be allowed to be unsympathetic or a villain or errant in some other way and not bound to be the wise guru that straight people ask for advice. As reasonable as that sounds, there are some who consider any verbal argument lost by a gay character to be “punching down” and I am against this. I can understand writers avoiding diversity if they are going to have to inherit unwanted co-writers enforcing codes reminiscent of the Hays Code that was enforced from 1930 to 1968 – a shockingly long stretch. http://www.artsreformation.com/a001/hays-code.html

When you watch DVD extras for The Silence of the Lambs or Basic Instinct you learn of how GLAAD really went after those productions and tried to shut them down and protested the movies. Years later, no doubt the activists of today are embarrassed by those actions. People wanted the antihero Michael Douglas played in the noir thriller Basic Instinct to say the equivalent of, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that” upon discussing his girlfriend’s bisexual past. When Jerry Seinfeld had an episode using that line and running it into the ground, we should be able to assume that the enforced quote is now exposed as perfunctory virtue signaling.

 

Do the Right Thing: Although Mookie is later seen still delivering pizza for Sal in Spike Lee’s Red Hook Summer, I don’t think he is necessarily wrong. I blame Buggin’ Out for all of the disaster that happens, for Radio Raheem and the pizzaria. The right thing of the title, for me, is not putting black celebrities onto the wall to appease Buggin’ Out — who does a double take at the wall as if he has just noticed it after eating in the shop since he was a kid. I expect to see Chinese decor in a Chinese restaurant and Italian trappings in a Pizza shop. Sal should be allowed to put up whatever photos he wants. A store is like an embassy in whatever area it is set up.

Sal made a mistake in letting Buggin’ Out and Raheem into the shop after hours. He should not have bashed the radio but they also should not have been provoking the situation. As for the police brutality, nothing has changed since 1989. When the title is spoken in the movie, the “Mayor” tells Mookie, “Always do the right thing.” Mookie says, “That’s it? Got it.” and he moves on.

 

Dexter: I have read the comic books and all eight Jeff Lindsay novels. I like the Early Cuts animations and I have the complete series on DVD. It should be viewed in chronological order but I rate the seasons in quality as follows: Fourth Season, Second, First, Fifth, Sixth, Third, Seventh, Eighth. I’m critical of the Assistant D.A. being allowed to know so much when Dexter’s sister had been close to the Ice Truck Killer and a the Bay Harbor Butcher suspect had been working at the same precinct. I’m critical of Deb’s later belief that she had a romantic attachment to Dexter, something that rings false like a quip someone made in the writer’s room that someone else thought should pay off. It only undermined her character. If they do a follow up, I hope Dexter who is logging in Oregon will track a killer along the Oregon trail and that Deb will be his new conscience. I have no idea how Hannah and Harrison can be reunited with him without it seeming contrived. Unless Hannah has been following news about murders in Oregon and looking for a pattern and deciding to risk return to the States from Argentina where Harrison might have already begun building a life. Maybe Dexter hears about a former Nazi or rogue priest and other criminals being poisoned in Argentina and knows Hannah is still around and maybe he has a second goal on the Oregon trail of crossing the bridge at the end into Canada and taking a flight from there. I’d like Michael C. Hall to have a shot at playing Batman, but then I’d like him to give Dexter a satisfying wrap-up.

 

Controversial Movie Preferences:

 

2010: The Year We Make Contact is a better film than 2001: A Space Odyssey.

 

Genndy Tartakovsky is talented but Andrei Tarkovsky sucks.

 

Ghostbusters should have remained in continuity and not remade. The 2016 Paul Feig remake pats itself on the head for showing “women scientists” despite Beatrice Straight having played a credible academic and scientist in Poltergeist two years before the popular Ghostbusters came out. I’m happy and hopeful to learn that Jason Reitman is returning Ghostbusters to the original iteration and continuity with a 2020 movie. I actually like the fact that he is not especially committed politically, because knee-jerk ideology plays poorly in movies.

 

These are the issues that leap to mind at the moment.

 

Also:

 

I’m introverted

 

I like to avoid wading through crowds if I can.

 

I have Jawsphobia but continue buying the movie.

 

I think of myself as a writer-director but not a producer, which may turn off a

producer who prefers directors to take some of the producing burden.

Ironically, I end up often having to do things a producer should do, i the absence of one, and my movies are limited in resources because of that.

 

I don’t play games. Video or mind games. “I’m not your puzzle to solve,” says Sally Allbright in When Harry Met Sally. And that is a good stance. I don’t like solving puzzles when direct, clear, effective communication tells me how important a message is. I would not want to be so needy as to run around asking people if I have stepped on their toes. I’d rather say in advance what I hope to do and see it through.

 

I write this kind of blog to clear the clutter from my head and put it into someone else’s head.

Problematic, Triggering Tribes and Spin

Controversy doesn’t interest me much more than a blizzard unless I have to wade through it on the way to something I care about, be it movies or living life without a target on my back.

I thought about leaving this post for a different blog, maybe a dormant one, so it won’t contaminate the constructive spirit of this one.  But I’m here and I have the time and something to at least attempt to say.  Words can fall short of communicating the nuances of parallel concerns on a debate, so any time I weigh in on someone else’s thread I feel like it is less about pooling our perspectives in a search for truth and constructive solutions and more about someone extracting verbal DNA to reconstruct in their mind the whole person with whom they interact.

Even people I respect (otherwise they wouldn’t have been in my FB feel in the first place) will say, “Watch out for these phrases” as indicators of somebody’s political leanings and worthiness of deletion. Some are looking for the wolf in sheep’s clothing among their circle.  I have never worn sheep’s clothing.  I am not what you would call a whiteknight, nor an SJW (social justice warrior) as these terms are understood in web discourse. I may love many of the same things you do (Star Wars, and much of cinema in general) and hate the same politicians (Trump and his confederates, Doug Ford and his) but I will have feet of clay trying to – as they say – unpack the divides.

Within the same few days, there were two apparent controversies that split people.  I eventually saw the Gillette commercial ostensibly about toxic masculinity. Had I seen it without hearing that it was sparking a hubbub, I would not have thought anything about it considering that most advertising today has an element of virtue signalling. Having followed some of the discussion, be it from Joe Rogan or Ben Shapiro or more moderate voices, there seems to be a concern about using propaganda to soften men in general and steer them toward being more feminine, and the content about ridiculing “freaks” appears to be the driving force conceived and fueled by the “pink mafia” trying to reverse-bully men who feel okay with “punching down” jokes at their expense.  That seems to be the fuel of the blowback from some men.  I don’t know where I land on the matter.  I don’t feel any of the fashionable outrage for jokes about even the most sensitive subjects.  I am only annoyed by walking on eggshells.  There have been actual PSA’s not selling any product that have had the guys at the barbecue who shame a friend who boasts non-consensual conquest of a woman or some sort of domestic abuse.

The second apparent controversy is mostly artificially bolstered by Forbes magazine’s Scott Mendelson and The Hollywood Reporter’s Kyle Kizu who are upset with the fantastic and delightful news that the 2020 Ghostbusters 3 movie directed by Jason Reitman will ignore the presumptuous 2016 re-set by Paul Feig and instead it will be in-continuity with the Nineteen Eighties iteration Ghostbusters (1984) and Ghostbusters II (1989).  This choice by Reitman and ultimately Sony is a welcome corrective measure.  This is a subject upon which I have no problem offering an opinion.  Around 1999, there had been talk of Harold Ramis taking over as director of a new Ghostbusters movie, since Ramis had new heat as a director following Analyze This.  But Sony didn’t believe enough in it.  That would have been ten years after Ghostbusters II.  So ten more years were wasted by corporate dithering and lack of belief in that property.  Until 2009, Sony/Columbia had no enthusiasm about a third Ghostbusters.  They expected the back end for the main legacy cast to be too high so they thought the brand was dead.  But the video game of 2009 which involved voices and animation of the original cast sold very well and signaled to Sony that yes, duh, there was still potential interest in the brand.  The video game scenario was set only two years after Ghostbusters II.  Dan Aykroyd was most vocal about a planned third movie checking in on the original characters decades later in modern day.  Even the biggest hold-out Bill Murray in October of 2010 appeared in full Ghostbusters uniform at the Scream awards to support his appearance in Zombieland the previous year, which itself had him playing make-believe Ghostbusters with the younger cast of that film in a cameo.

Sigourney Weaver had spoken with optimism that a script in development would bring the team back together.  There was an appetite being stoked among fans for the return of Venkman and his iteration of Ghostbusters.  February 24, 2014, Harold Ramis died after months of illness.  As a co-writer and one of the core 4 Ghostbusters, his loss was enough for Ivan Reitman at the funeral to lose interest in directing the third movie.  Some of the fanbase felt you can’t get the whole band back together so maybe it was too late.  Bill Murray had been blamed for his reluctance to even read proposed script drafts during the vital four years while Sony had renewed its faith in the brand and Ramis was still alive.  This may be invalidated by Murray’s early references to the IP in Zombieland and at the awards show just as Sony’s interest had returned.  The jabs at Bill Murray are the only element I would dispute of the RedLetterMedia video Mr. Plinkett’s Ghostbusters 2016 Review, which otherwise is a vital and useful assessment of that misguided and wrongheaded remake. Feig was the flavor of the month after a few profitable moderate budget movies, and so he inherited the director’s chair and created an overly improv-laden, clueless, and self-congratulatory mess.  More proton pack blasts and cartwheels do not this kind of movie better, nor does coming up with new tech that can shred ghosts or “kill” them in a movie where they should be busted but where there is not even a containment facility until the end and the only trapped ghost is freed due to silly goading.  If you are only concerned about the excitement of seeing women as “scientists” or in “parapsychology” look back to 1982’s Poltergeist.  Beatrice Straight as Dr. Lesh is believable and also funny. (She won an Oscar for five minutes on screeen in Network (1976).) In the 2015 remake of Poltergeist, Jane Adams played an equivalent character called Dr. Brooke Powell – a year before Paul Feig would pat himself on the back for introducing the idea of female scientists in movies.  I mean, if you are willing to go further into make a full time job of it you can start with Kate Reid as Dr. Ruth Leavitt in The Andromeda Strain (1971) just for starters.  The point is that there are far better movies with far more engaging examples of women as scientists. Laura Dern as Dr. Ellie Sattler in a little movie called Jurassic Park, anyone? I’ll just leave this here:

The announcement that Ghostbusters 3 would ignore FeigBusters was a breath of fresh air to fans like myself.  And I’ll date myself.  I was 16 years old in 1984 when the classic Ghostbusters was released, and the year was so full of good movies that it wasn’t at the top of my list. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom came out that year.  Romancing the Stone was fun.  Beverly Hills Cop may have been the top earner at the box office. In 1989, Ghostbusters II would have to compete against Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, as well as Batman and Back to the Future II. That year I was well into adulthood and less easily absorbed by movies, but as the decades passed the Eighties pop upon second look.  Maybe it wasn’t just my age, because directing seems less delegated and more amusing in much of the Eighties films. There was also an element of mischief that is lacking in the less human approach of today.  But the idea of the director of Juno doing a Ghostbusters 3 is very reassuring.  Somebody with vision who can also present quirky characters.

It is a shame that a guy like Kevin Smith defends hard reboots like FeigBusters by saying, “The original isn’t going away.  It’s on DVD.  You can watch it any time.” Well, the same can be said about FeigBusters now.  You can watch the 2016 movie as many times as you like.  It hasn’t gone away.  But the truth is that the “fans” or FeigBusters are not so much supporting a movie but a movement and their only interest is taking imaginary ground in a make-believe war with The Man, specifically a character I did not hear about until 2016.  The DNC deflected Bernie Sanders supporters by calling them – among other vile things – BernieBros who must only be objecting to Hillary Clinton’s gender and couldn’t possibly be inspired by Bernie’s history and clarity on principles.  Sony marketers and trolls came up with the term GhostBros for anyone who rejects FeigBusters, because after all it must be an objection to “funny women.”  Even though many of us loved the same year’s release Bad Moms which was genuinely funny but didn’t appeal to SJW movie critics – it made about five times its production budget and spawned a profitable sequel. It wasn’t bloated by the expectation that all fans want is a logo, a familiar song, and a light-show. Paul Feig had said, “We made a list of things to keep, the car, the logo and the song — we didn’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater.” Therein lies the problem with Feig: He doesn’t know what is the baby and what is the bathwater. Feig and cast members Melissa McCarthy and Leslie Jones characterized the detractors of their film as “mother’s basement-dwelling man babies with neck beards and fedoras,”  not to mention the equivalent manufactured stigma that associates rejection of a mediocre movie with right wing or sexist sensibility.  Reprehensible tactics. This began somewhat with the well-documented case of Sony’s marketers or whoever curated the comments under the first trailer culling the posts that had reasonable and articulate responses and leaving only the most childish and racist or sexist posts to create the jumping off point of their narrative: if you don’t like FeigBusters, this is what is inside your soul.

I would stop short of saying that the same principle is at work with fallout from the Gillette public image upgrade.  Looking outside of my bubble or where my Venn diagram for movie discussion overlaps those on a Facebook page I check, there are indeed guys claiming to boycott Gillette or giving the link to order a batch of re-fill blades for the Vector 3 from China so it won’t financially profit the US end of it.  There are some who see it as the currency of being male, the benefit of the doubt coming through the door, to be devalued.  I would argue that having a President like Donald J. Trump has drawn a huge spotlight on the truth of the old boys’ club of Cryptkeepers who need to be disbanded and in some cases jailed. Among those with whom you can be candid, there will be rolling of eyes when something insane happens – like when you realize that indeed Matt Damon was removed from Ocean’s Eight because when asked about the PoundMeToo movement he said what everybody else was saying privately, that there must be a distinction between the gravity of sin in rape versus the slapping of someone’s behind.  Careers were taking hits that perhaps did not deserve that.  But it is like the history of revolution – it happens not in countries where there is a firm totalitarian system but in places where progress has begun and people are hungry for more. Hashtags that easily spread a message on twitter have helped radicalize people in a general sense at the expense of specifics.

Ocean’s Eight was in continuity with the George Clooney trilogy, so I was in full support of it until they cut Damon. Then I wanted for DVD.  In 2016, I refused invitations to see the supposedly re-titled Ghostbusters Answer the Call in cinemas but I did stream it illegally from a bootleg. Months later, I borrowed a DVD from the Toronto Public Library to listen to the commentary. That’s the one where Paul Feig can’t remember the title The Wizard of Oz and referred to it as, “some Disney movie.” I gave it a chance, but gave it no money.  On the other hand, it has taken a lot of my time and attention as all of these circular and imaginary tribe-driven arguments have played out.  I buy razors that are on sale, usually the cheapest. Gillette could put their money where their mouth is and charge the same for a lady shaver as they do for a men’s razor.  The co-writer of Ghostbusters 3 has on his imdb page the 2015 remake of Poltergeist, which is the only wrinkle. As with Ghostbusters, I prefer the “original” or at least the one that was well directed. But I know I’ll see it ASAP in the cinemas and happily fork over the admission.