Wednesday, January 28, 2009

You Only Get What You Give, Except When I'm Doing a Meme

My friend Matt stumbled across an interesting meme, and I decided to join in the fun. I've been toying with doing some sort of blog give-away anyway because I think they're fun. This seems like a good opportunity, so here it is.
The first five people to respond to this post will get something made by me!

My choice. For you.

This offer does have some restrictions and limitations:
  • I make no guarantees that you will like what I make!
  • What I create will be with you in mind.
  • It'll be done sometime this year (2009)
  • You have no clue what it's going to be. It may be something written, some physical thing made, could be anything at all, but I will make it myself. It's entirely my choice what it is. No quibbles, no refunds--because you never paid me in the first place. :p
Most of these things will probably be IRL items, but I won't ask for addresses until later--if I need them at all.

The catch?

Oh, the catch is that you put this in your journal as well. If you don't, you don't get anything.
And that last part about the catch? You can ignore it. Feel free to join in if you like, but I'm not holding you to that requirement. First five commenters get something. Plain and simple. Ready, set, GO!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Recap: 25 January 2009

Where did January go? I'm barely able to comprehend that it's 2009, let alone almost February 2009. Sheesh.

What I Watched
  • Revolutionary Road (3½ stars): Any movie that makes you think is probably worth seeing, and this one certainly falls into that category. That being said, I didn't think this film was as effectively put together as, say, American Beauty (also directed by Sam Mendes). That being said, I'm astounded that it got Oscar-snubbed and am suspicious that perhaps they got The Reader and Revolutionary Road mixed up.
  • Inkheart (3 stars): This one just barely eked out a third star. The more of them I see, the more I believe that epic fantasies need to be at least two hours long*, and this one falls 14 minutes short. My reasoning here is that it's integral to give your audience both a footing in the fantasy world and an understanding of the characters (who they are, what they want, why they're doing things the way they are). And that's where Inkheart falls short. It becomes a movie where you witness a bunch of events without ever really connecting with any of the characters. It has some strong elements: Paul Bettany as Dustfinger is especially great, and his banter with Farid (who fell out of Arabian Nights) is amusing. Still, as one of my most anticipated movies of 2009, I was pretty disappointed.
  • Like Water for Chocolate (3½ stars): This wasn't quite as good as I wanted it to be, but it was still solid. It tells the story of a woman who is forbidden to marry her true love because it is family tradition for the youngest daughter to care for the mother until her death. This particular woman finds that she can transfer emotions into the food she cooks. I was hoping for a bit more overt magic or at least whimsy, à la Chocolat, to be honest, but it was still a romantic and moving little story worth seeing.
  • Holiday (4 stars): While I wouldn't call this 1938 film "heavy" by any means, the Katharine Hepburn-Cary Grant rom-com certainly carried a little more weight than I was expecting. In some ways, it tackled some of the same themes as Revolutionary Road but with a lighter, more hopeful touch. I'd put it in the rare category of classic films that hold up over the years.

What I Read

Well, I finished Eclipse (the third book in the Twilight series). I hate Bella now more than ever. I hate Jacob. I'm annoyed by Edward. Everyone else is kind of a non-issue, since Aro (very sadly) wasn't in the third book. He is literally the only character I like, and, admittedly, I absolutely adore him. I will say this: I suppose it's better to have a reaction to a character (even if it's an extremely negative one toward the ones who are supposed to be protagonists) than to have no reaction at all. Right?

What I Wrote

Remember how my goal was to hit 25 pages in EARNEST? Well, I did. And then I promptly deleted 23 pages and started over. It occurred to me that I was having to try way too hard to make the setting work, so I adjusted it, and now it's working much better. I'm back up to 13 pages total, and I might even try to scrounge up a couple more before the night's done. Either way, I'm pleased despite the drop in page count. Sadly, I have made zero progress on Fairytale Redux this week.

Quick Oscar Thoughts

I'm going to do a more thorough post on this pre-ceremony, but I was more or less unsurprised by the nominations. I was happy that Frost/Nixon got a best pic nod, but The Reader? There are some films that get Oscar buzz that I don't like but can at least understand (I'm looking at you, There Will Be Blood). The Reader is not one of them. I also think Michael Sheen deserved a best actor nod far and above over Brad Pitt (who was perfectly fine in Benjamin Button, but didn't exactly have to really do much beyond the expected).

Also, the nominations have confirmed my status as a movie junkie. Excepting documentaries, foreign films, and shorts, I've seen or will see everything except Milk, Rachel Getting Married, Frozen River, Happy-Go-Lucky, and Defiance before the ceremony on Feb. 22. And you know what? I'm OK with that.

* What I consider the best epic fantasy films of the past five-ish years have all come in at two-plus hours: Stardust (2 hours, 7 minutes); Prince Caspian (2 hours, 30 minutes); and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2 hours, 23 minutes). Another epic fantasy novel adaptation with great potential that turned out pretty dismally, Eragon, clocked in at just 1 hour, 44 minutes.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Some News + Recap: 19 January 2009

So, back in October 2008, I entered a screenplay called MUTE in the British Feature Screenplay Competition. I found out last week that I've made it through the first round of judging. I'm one of 412 who made it through. I have no idea how many total entrants there were, and I'm pretty convinced at this point that it must have been the equivalent of getting a point for remembering to put your name on a test in school. But I'm still ridiculously happy.

I'd been having a rather unfortunate day when I sat down at my computer to write and decided to pull up the Web site on a whim. When I saw the heading that they'd announced their first round qualifiers, I actually said to myself, "Great, one more disappointment for today." So, all depressed and frowny-faced, I scrolled down, saw my name, and proceeded to scream, cry, laugh and pretty much behave like a maniac. One of my dogs actually went and hid in her kennel.

Even though I'm obviously quite excited by this turn of events, there are still five or six more rounds of judging, and I have zero expectations of making it through the second round. However, I'm still thrilled. This is only the second script I've entered in a competition, and it's nice to know I'm heading in the right direction after a year of toiling away. I worked very hard on this script, including a complete rewrite of the last 20 or 30 pages and a number of other changes in the 62 pages prior in the last 10 days before I submitted it. So, even if I did only get through the first round because I managed to mail my script to the correct address overseas, I'm OK with that.

So, now that I've gotten that off my chest, here's...

What I Watched
  • The Reader (2½ stars): I'm a fan of character-driven dramas. But the key to character-driven stories is that I, as an audience member, must connect with at least one of the characters. For me personally, I wasn't able to do that as fully as I would have liked with this movie. It's an interesting story, but I just wasn't as moved as I felt I should have been.
  • The Age of Innocence (2½ stars): Again, I had a lot of trouble feeling for any of the characters in this film. I haven't read the novel, but I have read Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth, which is one of the only books that's ever made me cry, so I doubt it's a problem with the source material. It seemed there was a lot of focus on the (admittedly beautiful) sets rather than on the characters and their motivations. I didn't find anyone all that likeable. So, yeah. I was disappointed.
  • Valkyrie (3 stars): Again with the character development. Less time could have been spent on the nuts and bolts of the plot in order to give us better insight into why these people were willing to make such a sacrifice. A character can say he's willing, but unless we understand the circumstances of that specific character's life that have led to that stance, it doesn't feel authentic. That being said, this film didn't deserve a lot of the ridiculously harsh criticism it received. It was a solid effort that could have used another half hour to really delve into the characters, I thought.
  • Man on Wire (4 stars): A pretty fantastic documentary about a man and his obsession with completing a tightrope performance between the two World Trade Center towers in 1974. Seeing his single-minded determination, his artistry, and the people who believed him and helped him was quite moving. The film ends on a bittersweet note that left me wanting to know more about what happened to the people post-performance, but, all in all, it's a wonderful story.

Last Week's Goals
  1. Hit 94,000 words on Fairytale Redux: Passed 93k, but didn't quite hit 94. This is OK, though, because of Goal No. 3.
  2. Finish Earnest outline: Done.
  3. Write 5 pages of Earnest: Actually wrote about 15 pages, thus excusing my bare-miss of Goal No. 1.

This Week's Goals
  1. Get through the three Netflix rentals I have at home. (Yes, this counts as a goal!)
  2. Break into Act Two with Earnest, which will put me at about 25 pages in.
  3. Hit 96,000 words in Fairytale Redux.
  4. Finish reading Eclipse.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Recap: 12 January 2009

So, my shows are coming back from the holiday hiatus, which makes me both happy and sad. Happy because they're back obviously, but sad because it means less time for movies. I only managed to catch a few last week. Rough life I have, huh?

What I Watched
  • It Happened One Night (4 stars): The precursor to the modern American romantic comedy. Clark Gable is as charming as I've ever seen him, and this little movie that almost wasn't ended up winning the five major Oscars. Definitely worth checking out.
  • The Graduate (3½ stars): I'm still kind of confused about this one to be honest. It gets the extra ½ star because of the performances given by Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft. I think it's definitely worth seeing (it did win an Oscar and five BAFTAs), but I'm not sure I could concretely tell you why.
  • Bride Wars (3 stars): This movie survives on the sheer charisma of Anne Hathaway. If you're in the mood for a typical rom-com, it's not a bad choice.

What I Read

I finished reading New Moon yesterday. I thought the prose improved slightly over Twilight, but I still find myself very frustrated at my failure to connect with any of the main characters. And Bella drives me up a freakin' wall. That being said, I did very much enjoy Aro, one of the Volturi. He was suave verging on flamboyant, and I'd really prefer to read a book about him instead.

What I'm Writing

I'm just about ready to start the actual writing of my Importance of Being Earnest update. I basically finished my outline, but I'd like to go over it again since I've still got some threads sticking out. I'm splitting time between that and Fairytale Redux, depending on what my brain feels like doing. I've also got a short story I'm working on when the gray matter rebels against either of my two main projects. Heaven forbid I focus on one thing at a time these days.

This week's goals:
  1. Hit 94,000 words on Fairytale Redux
  2. Finish Earnest outline
  3. Write 5 pages of Earnest

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Post Golden Globes Stream of Consciousness

Is David Duchovny getting hotter? I think so. Lots of love for John Adams. Haven't seen it, but no surprise as everyone involved rocks (Hanks, Giamatti, Linney, Wilkinson, etc.). I used to think Colin Farrell was kind of a douchebag, but now I'm finding him really quite charming. Wish Brendan Gleeson had gotten some recognition, too. Kate Winslet = very cute. Tina Fey = very awesome. Steven Spielberg = wow. Sacha Baron Cohen = ouch! Sad that Frost/Nixon didn't get any love, but can't blame people for loving Slumdog Millionaire. Hollywood loves an underdog story, and so do I. And Hollywood really loves a comeback (see: RDJ, Colin Farrell, and Mickey Rourke). Oh, and Ricky Gervais? Fabulous. Well done, Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Goodnight.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

12 Movies I'm Looking Forward to in 2009

I haven't read the books, and, while Brendan Fraser tends to be hit and miss for me, this one looks like a really fun, well-done fantasy film.

Nice to see Disney returning to it roots this year with this nature film and also my No. 2 pick down below. The trailers look gorgeous, and I'm a sucker for cute animals.

This will be the first Gaiman adaptation I've seen in theatres since I became a fan. The stop motion animation looks quite impressive.

I totally didn't get the hype for this movie until I read the graphic novel. Fantastic. Hope the media congloms don't screw over the fans with their lawsuits.

Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince
HP5 was the most successful of the adaptations in my opinion, and we've got the same people helming this version. So I'm hopeful. The trailers just get better and better, too.

The Soloist
Like HP6, this film was supposed to come out last year and was mysteriously pushed to 2008. Writer Susannah Grant is one of my favorites, and can you really go wrong with Robert Downey, Jr.? Also has Joe Wright, who directed Atonement, at the helm.

New York, I Love You
I adored Paris, Je T'aime, and, while I've never been to NYC myself, I like to think there's a little New Yorker in all of us. Even if I'm off-base there, the list of talent attached is plenty motivation to seek this one out.

Julie & Julia
The casting of Amy Adams pretty much guarantees I'll see a movie these days. Additionally, I loved the memoir, and I'm really looking forward to seeing what they'll do with it on screen. Bonus: Meryl Streep as Julia Child and Stanley Tucci as her husband.

Easy Virtue
Screwball British comedy. Fabulous soundtrack. Colin Firth. Ben Barnes. Need I say more?

Sunshine Cleaning
Two down-and-out sisters start a crime scene clean-up business. Just the premise sounds great. Add Amy Adams and Emily Blunt as the sisters? Gold.

The Princess & the Frog
Disney's return to hand-drawn animation. Finally!

Dorian Gray
Ben Barnes and Colin Firth team up to make all my dreams come true. OK, maybe not all of them, but this is like my Sweeney Todd of 2009 anticipation-wise, except it's even worse because I love the novel so, so, so much. From the little bit I've heard in interviews, it sounds like they're really delving into the character of Dorian with this adaptation, which is exactly what I was hoping for. The 1945 version feels dry because they never get inside Dorian's head, which is such a shame because that's the most heartbreaking and poignant part of the novel. I cannot wait to see how this turns out.

How about you guys? What movies are you looking forward to in 2009?

Monday, January 05, 2009

Recap: 5 January 2009

That's right! 2009! Crazy! I'm suffering from the procrastination bug tonight regarding the writing of my novel, so I thought I'd at least procrastinate productively by writing a blog post. So, here I am. And here's...

What I Watched
  • Gidget (3 stars): My sister insisted I watch this Sandra Dee flick on New Year's, and, while it's no masterpiece, I will admit it was very cute and I enjoyed it. There, I said it.
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (3½ stars): At a running time of 2 hours and 48 minutes, you're certainly getting your money's worth out of your theatre ticket with this one. Honestly, I would have been perfectly happy with a run time of about 2 hours and 15 minutes, which would have forced the cutting of a few sequences that were unnecessary and, in my opinion, muddled up the narrative and the theme, which in turn lessened the potential emotional impact of the story. That being said, I did enjoy the movie. The make-up and special effects were very well done, and there were parts of the movie that were really touching.
  • Ever After (3½ stars): This retelling of Cinderella has had a huge impact on me over the years. I blame it for starting my obsession with dark, longish, wavy/curly hair on men, and it definitely had an impact on my philosophical views as well as dooming me to life as a hopeless romantic. It's not as clever as The Princess Bride, but, as far as reimaginings of fairytales go, this one's pretty charming.
  • Doubt (4 stars): I was pleasantly surprised by this film. The transition from stage to screen wasn't as smooth as the one for Frost/Nixon, but the powerhouse performances by Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman, as well as the grounding character played by Amy Adams, had me glued to my seat.
  • Death at a Funeral (3 stars): An amusing but slightly uneven dark comedy. With a little more heart, it could have been great.
  • In Bruges (4 stars): This had all the potential to be a five-star rating, but it seemed like the film was never able to decide whether it was a comedy or a drama. It was great at both, but it really jerked my emotions around so much that I just didn't know how to feel when it was done. Great story, great performances. Just puzzling.

What I'm Writing

I'm still toiling away at Fairytale Redux, but I've also started planning an adaptation/update of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest. After reading it and seeing the 2002 film version last year, I started toying with the idea of reimagining the story set in today's world. And, since it's in the public domain, I've really got no excuse not to do it. I'm almost done with my beat sheet, and I hope to get a 40-scene outline done in the next couple of weeks.

That's all for now. Hope the New Year's off to a good start for everyone!