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A celebration of the bizarre, live from Los Angeles.
ZEITGEIST IN TURBAN: No one else seems excited, but I can't wait to see this movie. New-age spiritualism sendup + Bollywood style musicical + Grease reprisals + that hot guy from East is East? Sold!
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Funnies from the Greenpeace "Green Sex Guide," via Sam Smith's Progressive Review:
9. Role playing games can be fun as long as both partners are consenting and comfortable with the boundaries. So if you and your partner want to dress up and play "George Bush and Corporate America at the Earth Summit" or other S&M style games, agree on what's permissible and what's not up front. And remember that games - like fantasies - are not real life.
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Last night I met the guy whom I'm going to be teaching reading and writing to. He seemed pretty cool--low-key but very enthusiastic about picking up the English. I think we'll get along well. He's 29, moved to the states at age 11, so his spoken English is very good. He told me that he does upscale carpentry and refinishing for a company in the valley. At home in Michoacan he started working at carpentry at age 6, but not making fancy cabinets, needless to say, and more for barter than for cash.
But it was his friend, we'll call him Pablo, that was really the trip. He's a fast talker with big, big plans. When he finishes this damn literacy program, he's going to learn Aztec, Mayan, and Terrusco, the Indian language that still survives in his region of Michoacan, and create an online dictionary of them for the world. He's also going to go to UCLA, and be an actor and a rap star. I made him rap for me, but he didn't get farther than, "My name is Pablo, oh yeah, oh yeah." Big talker for sure, but likely to be very successful at whatever it is he does do.
Michoacan was the state where the migrants chronicled in Ruben Martinez' terrific Crossing Over came from. Cool random coincidence. Or not. Michoacan, Jalisco, Oaxaca, and Guadalajara seem to be where most of L.A.'s immigrants come from, at least to judge by their commercial presence (restaurants, carnecerias, panaderias, and whatnot).
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Hi all! After 25 hours of loading, unloading, setting up, shooting, setting up, shooting, loading, unloading, shooting, etc, the short is all captured on DV. We never got the grocery store, damnit. So I rewrote the thing, in a way that's more visually satisfying but (I think) less satisfying as far as the story goes. Who knows. We'll see.
Even though I was a zonked out loon most of the time, the shoot was great. I didn't realize how much I missed working with people and working with my hands. There's also just something special, so very human, about getting together with people to work on a creative endeavor. Sitting around this tiny apartment, surrounded by hundreds of pounds of equipment, sofa turned on its side, actors rehearsing lines, techies talkin' shop....
Whoa, have to go to lunch. More later.
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25TH HOUR suffers from too much directorial ego.
Here we have a fine script about three childhood friends, one of whom has one more night to kill before doing 7 years hard time for dealing. Writer David Benioff, working from his novel, opens up that night to us, offering up an experience that's fascinating, horrible, confusing, pained. Friendship, guilt, doubt, fear, cynnicism, grief, envy, regret.... how does it feel to be locked out of one life, one idenity, and locked into another, as skinny friendless Blue Eyes in an overcrowded prison? Who will you be when you get out?
This was a story that deserved a cinematic space gentle enough to let the characters breathe. A Spike Lee (actually SPIKE LEE!) Joint--always a celuloid sledgehammer--wasn't that space.
In my book, the best kind of director knows how to be an auteur, but also lets the material direct him.
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Don't ask me why that post is fucking up. I just work here.
UPDATE: Answer: Because I'm an idiot. It's fixed now. Thanks, Julian.
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THE LAWN JOCKEY: Watching Joe Millionaire the other night, for the first and last time, my roommate and I noticed something curious. In the scene where Joe and one of the toothy blondes are getting tango lessons in Paris, there was something fuzzed out of the background. What, what, what was it?? Was it a.... black lawn jockey?! Nah, couldn't have been, but for a minute there...and would they have fuzzed it out? (Probably.) Did anyone see what was really there?
In any case, in trying to explain to my roommate what the hell a lawn jockey was, I suddenly realized I knew almost nothing about them, other than that they're the ornamental artifact of some pernicious stereotype...but what? or?
So I present to you with several varied lawn-jockey histories, here, here, and here. The third link has a photo, but I could swear I've seen black lawn jockeys without the obviously offensive red lips .
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SQUEEZED: Los Angeles is not a happy home for a low-budget filmmaker. Just try booking a 5 a.m. shoot at a hole in the wall corner grocery--or any grocery. They demand insurance. They demand money--and not small change. Says one clerk, "I was once paid $9K for 20 minutes!" We explain we don't have that kind of money. "Of course you do! You make movie! How you make movie with no money!"
As my director said, "Even the shop owners have agents in this town!"
Complicating negotiations is the fact that the independent grocery business in L.A. is run by mostly non-English speakers, which gives you some insight into the hardiness of the entreprenurial soul (or the degree to which L.A. is a multilingual city). But I have high hopes that my own corner liquor store, run by two Indian brothers, one who speaks perfect English, the other one who's learning, will support its best customer and let us do the shoot for cheap. Heh. "Everybody's got a dream. What's your dream?"
I know there's an Apu-Simpson's plot in here somewhere. (Apu visits LA, where the Indian grocery owners drive swanky Mercedes and take cocktails poolside, renting their shops out nearly full-time. They don't even have to cashier; an actor does it. Moves to L.A. but then back to Springfield when the octuplets dye their hair blonde (or when the family orApu gets corrupted in some lalaland fashion. In the meantime, the Simpson's visit them. Hilarity ensues.)
SITCOM IDEA: An agent whose full-time job is representing two blonde beer commercial twins is the envy of all his male friends--but in fact, he can't STAND them. Every episode is a comedy of their errors, with him left to clean up the mess.
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WHOIS MARY ROSH: Julian Sanchez is my new favorite badass gumshoe detective.
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CRUSHED: I finally watched Blue Crush this weekend. I love dumb surf movies, epitomized by Point Break, and expected this to be my new favorite. It wasn't. It was basically the topsy-turvy version of North Shore: Instead of haole boy surfer meets island hula girl, trains and almost wins surf competition, it was white Island girl surfer meets haole boy, trains and almost wins surf competition, despite near-drowning incident 3 years previous. Fair enough, but North Shore, which is not a very good movie, was a tiny bit better. Why? I was too distracted to analyze it (maybe that itself was the problem), but I think it was a)better surf photography, and b) more and better training montages. There was a lot of talk about Anne Marie being in training, but not a whole lotta training goin on. (Blue Crush takes place over the course of a week; North Shore over a summer.) I did like Kate Bosworth--she gave a very likable performance.
Next up: Big Wednesday, the reputed king of surf movies.
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COPYRIGHT AND CREATIVE FREEDOM: Jesse Walker's interview with Mickey Mouse is the best kind of persuasion.
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William Gibson, author of a couple of my favorite books, on drugs and creativity here. I'm enjoying his blog, but really hope it doesn't slow him down from writing another book. I should probably quit my own blog and use the extra time to read Idoru...
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Well, here I am. I'm going to make an effort to start posting again. Trying to blog lately has been like trying to clean up my bedroom when it's really, shockingly messy: I just don't know where to start. Also, work has been crazy, and I've been busy doing some outside writing projects and getting ready to shoot my second short, a black romantic comedy called The Interloper, at the end of the month. Factor my new Kavelier and Clay obsession into the mix, and there's really not a whole lot of time left over.
I played reluctant social butterfly this weekend and went to three parties (yes, this is going to be a "what I did this weekend" post. i'm too tired to come up with anything else.): a 40th birthday party, a mah jong party where I not only learned to play (badly) but got lessons in Cantonese, and finally, a birthday party for the dear Moxie (check out her own write-up of the event). Awesome hosts, awesome guests. One party also had an oddly high ratio of naked people as the night wore on, but who would want to hear about *that*?
(OK you pervs, one small, guaranteed unsatisfying detail: That party was in the former home of Orson Welles, as I was told about 12 times by various people making chit-chat. When the current host of the manor stripped down and joined many naked others the pool, I suddenly imagined Welles himself paddling around, bare and big like a manatee, and was both amused and a little frightened by the image.)
Onwards and upwards. Here's the story of my most recent (fortunately, oblique) brush with police. I left Friday's party around 2 or 3, to stay at my friend Michael's house in Hollywood rather than drive my "spirited" self all the way back to the Westside. We played ditties (mostly Heart and Soul) on the piano for about an hour before falling into the deep, dull sleep of the blitzed.
But the phone, which doesn't give a shit how much we had to drink, rings shrilly at 5 a.m. Michael answers and a girl launches into a barrage of questions: Do you have a friend over? do you know Anita? do you know where Anita is? Are you Michael? All of these questions, particularly the last, are deeply confusing to Michael. "I don't know any Anita," he tells the girl.
Strange enough. But then....
A knock at the door, half an hour later. Again, Michael answers. He discovers who but a friendly neighborhood policeman on the other side of the peephole. Greetings, ociffer!
Seems that a magazine with Michael's name and address on it was found in the apartment of a girl, Anita, who lives above him. Anita is missing. For some reason, the cops think that knocking on Michael's door at 5 a.m. will help find her.
Needless to say, they were incorrect. I personally checked his closets and the most incriminating thing in them is a sack of golf clubs.
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WHOA NELLY: I'm back in LA and am bursting at the seams with bloggable tidbits. But for now I have to catch up with work life and life life, so check in later this week. For the time being, there's a post below that I wrote over the break but forgot to publish...
In the meantime, I saw Catch Me If You Can, an enjoyable, stylish film that's about 20 minutes overlong. I'm warming up to Leonardo, I think.
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