Monday, December 29, 2014

Almost over - the movies I liked

Another year gone, another shot at making a movie. Hopefully. Whatever.

I've seen most of the films that are up there for awards, except for The Theory of Everything, which I hope to get this week. The only movie I saw at a theater was Nightcrawlers, which I liked a lot. 

Here's a few words about the films that will be in the game without the critics who really don't know much about anything, as far as I'm concerned. There's two kinds of people in the film business, those who make the films and those who criticize. 

And those who criticize often don't know what they're talking about. And besides, except for the Golden Globes where foreign critics suck up to studios and producers, the voting is done by "peers" as they say, and those are the true judges. 

I'm sure you know which group I belong to so here goes;

Birdman - is okay, I don't particularly like Ed Norton and to be honest ejected the dvd about thirty minutes in. Yes, it's a fancy looking movie and the cuts were hard to find but I just can't handle actors pushing over the top with "it's all about me."

Boyhood - is like watching paint dry. Boring at almost three hours. The hook is that the director filmed sequences of the movie over 12 years so you see the kid grow from the age of 7 and lasts until he's 18. American critics are really excited by this, but the British version of this called 7-UP over a period of 60 plus years is way better. The Brit version started a real life group of English kids at age 7 and interviewed them every 7 years.

Selma - is another movie about the black and white conflicts within America. Supposedly done on a low budget.

The Imitation Game - Another good Brit movie about a real-life character. I liked the movie a lot and the actor is great, but it's also more like a TV movie on HBO. Also, the movie Theory of Everything, based on Stephen Hawking are both similar life stories and this might cut them out from receiving an oscar.  

Nightcrawlers - isn't going to win but I predict that Jake Gyllenhaal might get a nomination for his portrayal of a sociopathic newscameraman. I really liked the movie and so did a lot of my filmmaker friends. It's a solid story with incredible tension at the end. 

And then there's Unbroken.

I have to say that I didn't read the book based on Lewis Zamporini and apparently there's a lot of the readers who objected to the "rest of the story." It seems that the second half of his life after the war was pretty difficult for him as well. However, I did like the movie and I think Angelina did a good job. It's the closest to good movies that I remember, not quite as good as Bridge On The River Kwai, but close in today's sensibilities.

What's missing?

Sniper - It's a Clint Eastwood movie and not bad, it's just that the story has been told too many times and Clint leaves out some of the bad parts about this true-life character who wasn't always a nice guy. It ends with what most people remember, the character takes a fellow military guy to a shooting range and gets shot and killed by that guy. 

So that's it for '14 and we can look ahead for whatever horror awaits for us ahead...

And maybe something good.

Remember this; writers outlive producers and actors in this business. 

We can still write but "they" are over once they're kicked out.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Yes, Christmas movies...

* Beware

I'm going to say something very scary... Christmas!! Those of you who can't handle it might as well leave now. Because I like Christmas and always will.

So what's the problem?

I got a "card" from some friends that read:

"Good wishes for a holiday and year filled with happiness." 

So what's the beef? 

A "holiday?" Any holiday? Have a great Veteran's Day or how about Arbour Day or Groundhog Day?"

But apparently some people are upset about Christmas Day, after all that's what the day is, Christmas Day. But some people don't like it.

You can say Hanukkah or kwanzaa.

Well, Christmas is for those two billion of us who call it Christmas. And we allow anyone to celebrate their religion or any religion.

Because we have the best movies. And everybody likes to watch them.

My favorites are:

White Christmas (1954) I grew up on this movie and will watch it again. Yes, its old and
corny (an expression from the 1960's) and very innocent, no curses or maniacs, except one movie whose title I forgot. And it's got Bing Crosby, who was a big deal in his day. 

A Christmas Story (1983) is another good movie and it plays on TBS TV 24 hours on Christmas Day (I think). It's a classic of it's own, you have to watch this.

It's A Wonderful Life (1946) I watched this a few times but prefer the above two instead. Still a classic Christmas story.

Black Christmas (1974 original) For the horror fans, this is much better than a 2006 remake, this horror movie is pretty good. Might be hard to find it but it must be somewhere around. 

The Polar Express (2004) is an animated version of the popular children's book and is always a good evening watch with really good animation including a Tom Hanks character.

Another oldie is Miracle on 34th Street (1947) wherein a guy says he's Santa Claus but nobody believes him and it goes to court. One of the features is a young Natalie Wood, who would later become a big star in the 50's and 60's.

Okay, I'm sorry but I had to add my own Christmas movie, written by yours truly. After all it is my blog.

There's a lot more Christmas movies and it all goes back to the classic Christmas Carole from Charles Dickens, of which there were at least a dozen versions. Still the best Christmas movie ever.

 Enough for now, I'll have a few more blogs before the end of the year. And be careful if you see me, I might say Merry Christmas!!!!


Friday, December 12, 2014

Golden Globes & Generations

The Golden Globes have made their choices. This organization is basically what's known as the Hollywood Foreign Press. In other words it's a bunch of people  from other countries who suck up to Hollywood.

Nobody really cared about them in the past but when they put Tina Fey and Amy Poehler showed up with some great hostess bits, the foreign critics got some notice. The awards don't really signify the Oscars nor the actors, writers and directors guilds, but the Globes will influence some of the people, mostly the ones who don't see all the movies.

Screeners (dvds) are usually sent out to actors, directors and writers although they don't send dvds to all the actors which number in the thousands. And the final awards at the Oscars are voted on only by those privileged actors, writers and directors and producers as well as a handful of camerapersons etc.

This year is the first one that I didn't really care for any of the movies. 

It's also a year with directors nobody's ever heard of. One could consider that the old Hollywood boys like Spielberg, Lucas, Coppola and others aren't in the mix anymore. Lucas even sold his Star Wars franchise to J.J. Abrams, who can do a suitable remake quite well, only by copying every frame.

I guess this is the beginning of the end of my generation's hold on movies, a lot of the big movies studios make are from people you really don't know. And those movies tend to be the likes of Spiderman 1, 2 and 3 and all those other superhero movies that seem to look all the same.

We (being my boomer generation) had directors and actors and writers who separated our generation from our parents by making distinctive movies specifically for us. Now that we're getting older, the new generation seems more intent on making remakes of our movies.

What's left is a group of Gen-X people who simply copy what we did. Most of their movies end up nowhere because they really don't have a history of anything except watching VHS and DVD copies of movies.

A better generation was probably the World War 11 soldiers, many of whom were actors, writers and directors. They came from a horrible war and having seen it close up, made movies that really stood up for something more than popcorn entertainment. People like Clint Eastwood, Sam Peckinpah, John Ford, William Wyler and dozens of others who told stories often based on their war experiences.

But getting back to the Globes. Here's some of the potential winners/losers:

Birdman - seems to be picking up a few awards already.
Boyhood - a movie very few people saw because it's quite long.
The Imitation Game - great acting but more of a TV movie.
Gone Girl - One award but nothing for Ben Affleck whom I don't like anyways.
Grand Budapest Hotel - A Wes Anderson film, I've never really liked his films.
Selma - Story based on Martin Luther King.
Theory of Everything - seems to be getting some good reviews.
Big Eyes - not out yet but in the running due to director Tim Burton.
St. Vincent - one of several Bill Murray movies out lately. 

Okay, now what about one of the biggest movies of the year?

Ever hear of Unbroken?

It's probably one of the biggest movies of the year, directed by Angelina Jolie.

Yes, that Angelina Jolie. 

Unbroken hasn't gotten one single vote from the foreign press and nobody knows why? Is it because she directed it, or because Brad's movie Fury, flopped? Who knows but there's been some emails around town that Angelina isn't all that talented as a director and that she gets whatever she wants. 

And some people don't like that.

But because the foreign press wants to be liked by the studios so they can go to press parties and hang around studio bosses. 

There's also a new version of Annie (which was a play and a musical movie before) and Into the Woods, also a musical play.

And then there's Jennifer Aniston in her continued effort to show us how brilliant she really is in Cake. Really?Look at those tears? Who knew she could cry?

Next are the Actors awards, the Writers awards, the Camera men/women awards and numerous other awards that the public really doesn't know exists. Things like casting awards, which are the jobs to find actors for movies. This group has been trying to get into the Oscars for a long time but haven't succeeded.

The problem is that the title for these people is "casting director". So what's the problem?

Well, directors don't like to think that the casting agents are responsible for casting the movie. And they have a point, casting directors "suggest" a lot of actors but the director casts only one for each role.

So there we are for now.

My choice is Angelina, I think she made a hell of a movie. So there. 

Okay, maybe I shouldn't be so hard on multi-millionaire Jennifer Aniston. What's that Beatle's song "Money can't buy you love?"

Right now the rain has stopped and blue sky suddenly is appearing at least for the moment. 


Monday, December 8, 2014

Christmas Stuff

Now that the Christmas stuff is starting off, it's almost impossible to get anyone to do anything so I'm just doing one more pass of the new book I wrote. This will be my third book,
the first one was Emperor of Mars, which is based on a true-life event set in my childhood in a small town in Canada.

The screenplay was written in 1989 and has been optioned six times and never made. It came the closest in 2011 with me attached as directed. But the financing fell through because one investor wanted a bigger return than anyone else. 

So, two years ago I wrote a novel based on the screenplay and it had a favorable response in Canada and is still selling a few books now and then.

The second book was The Working Writer's Screenplay, which is a beginner's guide to
screenwriting and based on my UCLA extension screenwriting classes. It does reasonably well on Amazon.

And finally the new book, to be published in 2015, and called How To Not Get Beat-Up In A Small-Town Bar. The title refers to one story in this collection of twenty short stories based on my travels in the western part of the U.S. and Canada.

And then there's the screenplays out there.

One producer is looking at a Christmas screenplay called Christmas Carole and another screenplay of mine called Chase, and which will be made in France in 2015.

Another deal of sorts is with a producer I've known for a long time and he asked for a handful of ideas for Hallmark who produce Christmas movies but now are branching out to other genres.

And of course, it can all fall through. I don't count a screenplay is made when I get the check and it passes at the bank.

I'm planning on writing at least two screenplays in 2015 and a series pilot about two women who inherited a failing private-eye business run by the husband of both, at different times.

So life goes on and who knows what 2015 will bring, besides climate change. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

When Hollywood closes...

Well, not exactly closing, but it's almost impossible to get calls returned unless you really know the person. And the only people worth calling are probably planning their holidays. 

It used to be that the "holidays" were a day or two but now it's a week on either side. Even after January 1, 2015, nobody really does business until after January 5th, whatever that is.

I'm slowing down myself, trying to come up with five good ideas for Hallmark, of which they might pass on all five. But at least it isn't a whole screenplay, just a page. And then I can turn it over to Lifetime, I've done one movie with Lifetime and they were very nice.

2015 has some promise, but as a writer, I never really expect anything. My usual possibilities come around the end of January and stretch till March, then drop dead. But this time I do have the French version of one of my screenplays, and that has a good chance of being filmed in 2015. It's translated into French, of which I know enough not to get into trouble.

So, what to do for the next month?

For me, the five Hallmark ideas to be done at year's end. Nothing will happen with them until the end of the first week of January.

I'm also hoping to publish another book, this one a collection of stories about the road, the people I've met on my travels in the western parts of USA and Canada.

So it's gonna be a slow month for the blog, I'll still blog every week but hopefully have something better than this sorry bit of blogging.