Sunday, September 16, 2007

WORK Got me a steady gig

I think I may have mentioned a possible job with a PBS TV show called Biz Kid$ a year ago (or less), but it didn't go anywhere. Since then, well, it has gone somewhere.

I am now, and have been for over a month, the Production Manager for Biz Kid$. In talking with Line-Producer (and friend-of-a-friend who is now more simply a friend) Norma Straw and Executive Producer Jamie Hammond, it sounded like a job I could acclimate to pretty quickly. Which turned out to be the case.

The sad part was that I had to turn down working as Script Supervisor on an indie feature called True Adolescents by Craig Johnson, and starring Mark Duplass (who I enjoyed watching in The Puffy Chair and Hannah Takes the Stairs). And it was a good script, too!

Oh well. I've got steady work, it's production work, and it'll be going on for quite some time (which is such a relief after six years of spotty freelance work). I like the people and I think the show's going to be good, too. Like I said, it's for kids and the aim is to teach them money management skills. Most of the people behind it helped create Bill Nye, the Science Guy.

Oh! And I have a new freelance job working for The Seattle Post-Intelligencer. I need to start posting links to those articles, but there's a couple of other things I'm working on that is taking my focus. I'll do that soon.

Monday, August 20, 2007

FILM Superbad is Super…boring

God bless everyone who loves the high school "quest to lose your virginity" movies. It's never really been my genre, despite the fact that I should identify with the nerd heroes of these films based on my own high school experience. But I don't. My gang didn't care about the parties where the jocks and the "popular kids" congregated because we were too busy making our own fun, while the nerds and geeks in the movies need to be recognized in the scope of the larger school environment.

That's all beside the point.

I came into Superbad hearing that it was both over-the-top and endearing, that it showed a lot of love to its nerd protagonists, and that it was maybe a little too long in the middle. I did really enjoy Judd Apatow's The 40 Year-Old Virgin (a high school movie played out with adults), and haven't yet seen Knocked Up but heard good things. Apatow's been doing a lot of press for this film, which he produced but didn't direct, and everybody says it has his stamp on it. Sounded good.

The thing I didn't expect out of Superbad was that it would be so boring.

Here's the plot: three high school nerds need to bring booze to a party where they hope to sleep with the drunken objects of their desires.

Here's the running time: Two hours!

Here's why it's boring: The characters. Namely, the main character of Seth, whose single-minded sex obsession is simply impossible to identify with. Then there's his friend Evan, who is sweet and nice and often fades into the background.

If Seth and Evan live in a world that skews close to the one we live in, their friend Fogell falls through the looking glass into a world that's as unrealistic as a Saturday Night Live skit. It's a pretty funny skit, and that's where most of the laughs come into play, but like on SNL the skit lasts way too long. The two cops who adopt Fogell and for some reason strive to gain his acceptance and have him look up to them, in the world of the other two main characters would be the worst, most corrupt cops in Los Angeles. And that's saying something. But their corruption is nothing but harmless fun.

When it comes right down to it the sweet reality of the boring best friends is diminished by the comedic cop story, while Fogell's funny storyline is diminished by the dull groundedness of the other plot which calls its corruption into question.

Whatever. It's a lowbrow movie of low ambition, and I think that because it exceeds that low ambition by becoming a harmless movie that pretends to offend it succeeds. The movie did really well on its opening weekend, and it'll play even better on video. I recommend that you wait and watch it there.

FILM The Shaky Ultimatum

David Bordwell takes on The Bourne Ultimatum and its overdependence on handheld camerawork in the movie.

Dang, it's a really nice article. If you've seen the movie you know that it's chock full of shaky camera moves and "smash cuts" and propels its story along with energetic filmmaking. I enjoyed the movie, but thought the camerawork was a little much. I thought that it'll work better on the small screen of home television, and that it probably looked fine on the small screens in the editing bay where he was cutting it.

But Bordwell notes how the handheld camera and crazy cutting can cover up a lot in terms of plot and even acting. And, come to think of it, there are some plot holes that just whizzed by (like being able to waltz into the HQ of our government's super-secret black-ops security beaurocracy).

That said, I did like the movie more than Mr. Bordwell, despite all the great points he makes in his article. And thanks to Anne Thompson for pointing me in his direction from her blog.

FILM The return of Harvey Scissorhands

When the Weinstein brothers announced that they were heading to Asia to pick up a new slate of movies, not to mention starting up production out east, I wrote this piece for praising the move.

Harvey Weinstein got the nickname "Harvey Scissorhands" because he would recut foreign films to make them play better in American markets. I think the nickname is a complement, though there are some people out there who think it isn't.

Ultimately, I think it's great that Harvey and Bob are getting back into the acquisitions game after years of floundering with film production (which they'll still attempt) over at Disney-owned Miramax.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

FILM Meeting Marsha Hunt

Here's the third in my San Francisco trilogy. This one is all about meeting the sprightly 89-year-old Marsha Hunt, who started as an actress during the Golden Age of Hollywood in the 1930s. She was the actress in Eddie Muller's short film, and she's still got it!

For, I wrote this piece about her.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

FILM "The Grand Inquisitor"

I was down in San Francisco (actually Alameda, just outside of Oakland) working as Script Supervisor, and then as the Assistant Director, on Eddie Muller's short film. Follow the link and see what I wrote about it for

You should know that Eddie Muller is known as the "Czar of Noir" and that the movie takes, as its starting point, some evidence about a different suspect in the Zodiac murder case and extrapolates from there. Very interesting.

FILM Abbas Kiarostami and the PFA

I was just down in San Francisco, and my friend Jonathan Marlow brought me to the Pacific Film Archives to see part of the Abbas Kiarostami retrospective. I sort of forgot how much I liked his early films, back when he shot on film and before he discovered video. I think there's something about the limitations of film, particularly the temporal limitations, that made his films both philosophical and accessible instead of the more purely philosophical movies he's been making on video since he discovered that medium. Plus, he started out making movies for and about kids, and there's something completely charming about that. His early features are reminiscent of Truffaut's The 400 Blows. Really.

I wrote about my trip HERE for the website

Friday, July 27, 2007

FILM Regional Filmmaking

Once again I did not post a link in a timely fashion, but here's a link to an article I wrote about regional filmmaking and the Mumblecore movement. In it, I mention Brady Hall's June and July, Lynn Shelton's We Go Way Back, Andy MacAllister's Urban Scarecrow, and Matt Wilkins' Buffalo Bill's Defunct.


Or not.

Monday, July 16, 2007

TV Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law

I used to watch and love the Cartoon Network's "Adult Swim" show HARVEY BIRDMAN: ATTORNEY AT LAW. He would ineptly try cases for other characters in the Hanna Barbera universe, like Shaggy and Scooby getting busted for possession of marijuana or Fred Flinstone up on charges as a Tony Soprano-like crime boss.

The new season just started... and it's a huge disappointment.

The following is from an email I just sent to my friends and fellow fans about the show.


"Speaking of things that have lost their step, I watched the first three new episodes of HARVEY BIRDMAN: ATTORNEY AT LAW and they sucked. Haven't watched last night's episode yet, but I'm not rushing to.

"In one sense they're reeling from the fact that Stephen Colbert left to do his TV show. It shouldn't have sent them reeling, because his boss was a fairly minor character in the scheme of things, but they devoted the first couple of episodes to the death of his character and who would take over the law firm. As though we cared about the law firm. Or the people who worked there.

"It used to be that the shows were all about the cases that Birdman would take, and the other characters in the Hanna Barbera universe. He didn't take one case in those first three episodes. Instead the writers think we care about the bad and poorly plotted soap opera that they're trying to craft. We don't.

"The new episodes of HARVEY BIRDMAN remind me of when SEALAB 2021 went into the toilet, and it's happening just as quickly and dramatically."

FILM Steve Buscemi's Interview

At this year's SIFF, I introduced Steve Buscemi when he presented his new film Interview, which he directed and stars in, and ran the Q&A afterward. It's about a news journalist assigned to interview a starlet (Sienna Miller), and because he thinks it's beneath him he comes in completely unprepared and contemptuous. Buscemi shot it in script order, in just nine days, using three cameras, and it works. To me it didn't feel like a stage play, but because it takes place almost entirely in just one location, those who don't take to it can level that criticism.

Another reason I like the movie is that it reminds me of the worst interview I ever did when I worked at The Stranger. I won't tell you who it was. To find out, you have to go to the above link.

Friday, July 13, 2007

FILM Michael Moore's Battle Royale

Michael Moore is a magnet for controversy, and that tends to be good for his movies. It keeps his name and the name of his movies in the news, and free publicity is almost always good publicity.

His latest flap was an argument with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, which I wrote about HERE. As I say in the piece, the topic of health care is important, and it's good that he's pushing it forward in an election year. No wait, next year is the true election year. Anyway, it's got all the politicians abuzz. You see, Moore is great at finding the problems in a system. Unfortunately, unlike Al Gore, he's not good at suggesting solutions. That's up to other people. Oh well. Hopefully there's somebody out there who believes our health care system can be fixed. Me? After seeing Sicko, I'm not so sure it's possible.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

FILM Oliver Stone's Lost Iranian Movie

When Oliver Stone made the news by trying to make a documentary about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, I wrote this piece for about his travails. You see, Iran turned down his request for access to Ahmadinejad, saying that even though Stone was critical of the Bush administration, he was still part of the Great White Satan. Instead of taking the rejection in stride, Stone fired back with an insult. It was all pretty funny. Go to the link for more of a play-by-play.

FILM Transformers

As you can tell from all the links I've been posting, I've been writing for More specifically, I was brought in to write for their "indie" section. Last week, after having seen Transformers, I wrote an entry that suggested five indie/art films that you could go see instead of the giant robot movie. What I didn't realize was that the powers that be over at were going to post my article on the main page (for a while) and in the mainstream movies link, along with being posted on the indie page. That was unexpected and cool, because it threw my writing to audiences that don't usually click the "indie" link.

As you can see from this link, many of the people who wrote in were critical of my being critical of Transformers. I tried not to be too negative about the movie, either, because the special effects truly are amazing to behold. You take for granted that the robots are giant and heavy and can cause massive destruction, and you forget that they are creations of a computer.

My criticism was that the story was unfocused. Sure, it was energetic and enthusiastic, but the military stuff seemed like it was added for no reason other than to have a couple more action set-pieces, and the romance was charming (thanks to the performances) but had little to do with the robot battle that ends the film. The commentors pointed out to me that I was looking too hard for a story, when this is really just supposed to be a big and fun action film. That's fine and dandy, but I was still often confused.

Most if not all of the people who commented on my article grew up watching Transformers. I remember them, but I was a little too old to get into the show. The story was made for the fans, with tons of references to the cartoon and the original animated film. Because I wasn't familiar, most of the in-jokes went over my head, which only added to my confusion.

But it was a relatively pleasant confusion. Like I said before, the performances were pleasant. I'm looking forward to Shia LaBouef in the new Indiana Jones movie because I'm sure he'll have more of a character to play off of, but he was charming in this film, especially when his performance (and, to an extent, the film) settled into a groove. John Turturro was also cinematically engaging with his over-the-top performance, even though it didn't really fit the tone of the rest of the movie. That didn't matter because it was fun. And the robots themselves were often goofy and charming.

So I liked the movie, but there's no way I could like it as much as the fanboys. My biggest criticism is that I wish it was about 20 or 30 minutes shorter, because I did start getting bored. But if it was shorter? I may have loved it.

TV On and Off the Lot

I've been watching the Steven Spielberg/Mark Burnett reality show On the Lot, though it's been harder and harder to get myself to watched the taped episodes that I have on my TiVo. What started out as a really fascinating show (marred by too many contestants in its early stages) has become a boring show that does on television what the Internet does better: show short films and have audiences vote on them.

I wrote about the show at

Friday, June 29, 2007

SCRIPTS Washington Screenplay Competition

I was recently a judge for the Washington State Screenplay Competition. I used that experience to write a little piece for about the common mistakes that inexperienced screenwriters make. I didn't name any names or quote from any of the scripts specifically, but all of the mistakes that I mention are ones that I ran across.