Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Victory for an Aussie Breakfast

Since this past April, I've been developing a writing exercise to help aspiring writers. Anyone who knows me knows that I don't believe in the bullshit of "writer's block," and part of the intent of this exercise is to help prove that writer's block does not exist. Basically, I wanted to shove that proof down the throats of creative writers who keep trying to hide behind that arbitrary, self-inflicted, totally craptacular notion.

And, what can I say, it's worked. I haven't formally asked any of the participants in the exercise yet, but I'm certain they will now agree that there's no such thing as writer's block, if they didn't already.

Anyway, the exercise is called "Aussie breakfast writing," so-named because the first piece written using the method was titled An Australian Breakfast (believe me, I wanted to call the method something else, but the name sorta stuck...). The exercise itself is nothing special, but I'm not going to discuss how it works as of yet, since I'm still testing it out with writers and am in the process of analyzing and comparing the works they've created.

Which brings us to the question: Why the Hell am I mentioning it?

Well, I admit, I was going to wait before I wrote about Aussie breakfasts, but something pretty friggin' awesome happened this past week...

One of them got published.

Yes, that's right... an Aussie breakfast piece, "Fakie," written by a university student in New Zealand, got picked up in a magazine that sent out a call for creative writing for one of their September issues. What's amazing is that the writer (check out her blog here) has no formal creative writing training, and beat out several entries written by people who do.

Now's probably the time I should mention that another goal of Aussie breakfast writing is to obviate creative writing courses... cough, cough.

I guess we're on our way.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Irreviews, 2011: Issue IV

The Descent: Part 2 (2009)
Director: Jon Harris
Writer(s): James McCarthy, J Blakeson, James Watkins, Neil Marshall (characters)
Starring: Shauna Macdonald, Krysten Cummings, Gavan O'Herlihy, Anna Skellern
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It's a generalization that movie sequels aren't as good as the films they follow (and, likely, not entirely true). It's another generalization that horror movie sequels are despicably bad (and, likely, true). That stated, The Descent: Part 2 isn't a bad movie... it's just not good, either. A horribly contrived setup and throwaway characters (something the first movie avoided) just make this another run-of-the-mill move from the horror-movie-mill of the motion picture industry. Not to mention an ending that, well... didn't make a whole lot of sense.
Verdict: Uber-fans of the original, sure. Otherwise, SKIP it.

The Expendables (2010)
Director: Sylvester Stallone
Writer(s): Dave Callaham, Sylverster Stallone
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Eric Roberts, Randy Couture, Steve Austin, Giselle Itié, Terry Crews, Mickey Rourke
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A throwback to the action movies of the 80s in every way, shape, and form. Plot? 80s. Hell, Reagan could've written it. Characters? 80s. Total "badass" archetypes. Actors? Heh... mostly 80s action stars who are well over the hill. But, it's this last point that makes the movie kinda fun. Stallone knew what he was doing when he put this spectacularly spectacle-filled garbage together. It did its job.
Verdict: Did I enjoy it? Yes. Can I recommend it? No. SKIP it.

Horror Express (1972)
Director: Gene Martin
Writer(s): Arnaud d'Usseau, Julian Zimet
Starring: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Alberto de Mendoza, Silvia Tortosa
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What's this? Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee on the same side??? That alone makes this B-movie nod to both Hammer films and The Thing From Another World worth seeing. Yes, the plot is ridiculous, the monster/alien/zombie/whatever-the-fuck is ridiculous. But, damn... Cushing and Lee! On the same side! And Telly Savalas as a Russian sort-of-villain, to boot. This is guilty pleasure at its best.
Verdict: Yeah, well, why not? SEE it.

Iron Man 2 (2010)
Director: Jon Favreau
Writer(s): Justin Theroux, Stan Lee (comic), Jack Kirby (comic)
Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Mickey Rourke
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It's a generalization that movie sequels aren't as good as the films they follow (that sounds familiar...). And while Iron Man 2 is not as good as Iron Man, it's an awesome movie. The recast of Rhodes from Terrence Howard to Don Cheadle had me worried, at first, but it's now clear to me that Cheadle's a good fit. Sure, he lacks Howard's somberness, but he more than makes up for it with Cheadle-ness (that's a good thing). And, anyway, who cares? This film's all about the suit and the man who plays it. Robert Downey, Jr. keeps the fun going, and even Scarlett Johansson isn't as annoying as she can often be (I state this for no apparent reason, since I typically enjoy her films).
Verdict: SEE it.

Shiver (2007)
Director: Isidro Ortiz
Writer(s): Hernán Migoya, José Gamo, Alejandro Hernández, Isidro Ortiz
Starring: Junio Valverde, Francesc Orella, Mar Sodupe, Jimmy Barnatán, Blanca Suárez
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Shiver marks yet another Spanish horror film that is... well... good. I can't be sure if it's because the Spanish are just good at horror at the moment, or because of the "foreign film effect" in which only good foreign films are imported to the US (probably the latter), but Shiver is a good movie. It plays upon vampire and werewolf themes without (egad) being about either of those two creatures. That's probably giving too much away, so I'll shut up now.
Verdict: SEE it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Irreviews, 2011: Issue III

Animal Farm (1954)
Director: Joy Batchelor, John Halas
Writer(s): George Orwell (novel), Lothar Wolff, Borden Mace, Philip Stapp
Starring: Gordon Heath, Maurice Denham
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George Orwell comes to the screen in this animated classic. Though slightly more pro-Western than the source material (keeping its anti-communist bent, but muting its anti-capitalist bent a tad), it's nevertheless an excellent cinematic political satire. I've never been so pissed off at the mistreatment of a horse in my life. Death to Pigs!
Verdict: SEE it.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010)
Director: Michael Apted
Writer(s): Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, Michael Petroni, C.S. Lewis (novel)
Starring: Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, Ben Barnes, Will Poulter
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The first entry in The Chronicles of Narnia from new distributor Fox, the story continues to be told competently, even if it's losing some of its charm. I'll admit, I had high hopes for this one, since Voyage of the Dawn Treader is (along with The Horse and His Boy) one of my two favorite books in the series. I wasn't disappointed, but neither was I overly impressed.
Verdict: Er... SEE it, if you're already a fan.

The Social Network (2010)
Director: David Fincher
Writer(s): Aaron Sorkin, Ben Mezrich (book)
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield
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Facebook rules the world. Pretty much. And this movie purports to be the (highly fictionalized) true story of how Facebook began to the rule the world. Say what you will, it's a damned good movie. Jesse Eisenberg is fantastic as the screen Mark Zuckerberg, and even Justin Timberlake (who's yet to show he can act) didn't suck things up. David Fincher continues to show he's one of the best directors out there, capable of handling any genre with relative ease.
Verdict: SEE it.

The Tree of Life (2011)
Director: Terrence Malick
Writer(s): Terrence Malick
Starring: Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain
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Terrence Malick makes good movies. Terrence Malick makes beautiful movies. The Tree of Life is a beautiful movie. But, boy, is it boring. While the slices of "real life" are convincing and the plot is easily believable, the movie's "little train that could" determination to be considered an art film derails it... big time. Clearly, Terrence Malick wanted to share his personal beliefs and perspectives with the rest of the world, yelling "look how perceptive and omniscient I am" at the audience. If you want good Malick, skip this one and rent The Thin Red Line instead.
Verdict: SKIP it. Full of pretense, satisfying only to the pretentious.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008)
Director: Kevin Smith
Writer(s): Kevin Smith
Starring: Elizabeth Banks, Seth Rogen, Craig Robinson
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Yes, the title caused a hubbub. But the movie is cute, romantic, and Kevin Smith's best directorial effort since Dogma (even though I liked Clerks II, but more for nostalgic reasons). Seth Rogen isn't annoying, and Elizabeth Banks sells her role with ease. Who knew porn could inspire true love to reveal itself?
Verdict: SEE it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Irreviews: British Television, Issue II

More British shows for you to check out (or not):

Misfits (2009-present, 2 series, 17 episodes)
Starring: Robert Sheehan, Iwan Rheon, Lauren Socha, Antonia Thomas, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett
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For those of you who still have a bad taste in their mouths from Heroes, look no further. Misfits takes the accidental superheroes theme and runs full-sprint with it. Deep, layered characterizations combined with top-notch writing, and you'll never bother with "save the cheerleader" again. As implied, the series isn't entirely original, but its execution earns its kudos (although the series 2 finale left something to be desired...).
Verdict: SEE it. Quite simply one of the best sci-fi series ever.

Smack the Pony (1999-2003, 3 series, 21 episodes + 2 specials)
Starring: Fiona Allen, Doon Mackichan, Sally Phillips, Sarah Alexander, Darren Boyd
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Not only decidedly British, but decidedly British woman, Smack the Pony is a skit show that takes some time to find its footing (almost losing this viewer in the process), but ultimately turns into a solid source of laughs.
Verdict: SEE it, but you might want to skim the first series.

That Mitchell and Webb Look (2006-present, 4 series, 24 episodes)
Starring: David Mitchell, Robert Webb, James Bachman
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Ridiculous, inane, irreverent... and all from the guys who bring you Peep Show. Another skit show from the land of awesome skit shows, That Mitchell and Webb Look is top-notch, top-tier, and a laugh riot.
Verdict: SEE it.

Ultimate Force (2002-2006, 4 series, 21 episodes)
Starring: Ross Kemp, Jamie Draven, Miles Anderson, Alex Reid, Danny Sapani, Jamie Bamber, Tony Curran
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This show is, no doubt, one of the inspirations for the American series, The Unit. However, where The Unit never really found balance between action and character, the first two series' of Ultimate Force hit the nail on the proverbial head. Quite possibly the best special operations-oriented television show in history... for its first two series, that is. A ghastly decision by the showrunners to reformat into a more action-oriented spectacle resulted in one of the worst special operations-oriented television shows in history. It's no wonder a huge portion of the cast quit after series two (seriously... four of the six regulars took off).
Verdict: The first two series... SEE it. SKIP the rest.

Ultraviolet (1998, 1 series, 6 episodes)
Starring: Jack Davenport, Susannah Harker, Idris Elba, Philip Quast, Colette Brown, Fiona Dolman
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An interesting take on vampires, it's one part police procedural and one part conspiracy theory. It's clear there was an attempt to be scientific/forensic concerning vampirism, but there are far too many "magical explanations" that keep the wall of disbelief up. Still, it's different enough to be worth a look, and the appearance of Stephen Moyer as a vampire (nearly a decade before True Blood) will probably garner interest among True Blood fans.
Verdict: If you need a vampire fix, SEE it.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Eulogies


For Omer, for Dave, for Glen, and for countless others I don't have the ability to properly write for.

De oppresso liber, essayons, and this we'll defend...

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

12,300


And there you are, alone in the dark, alone with your thoughts. A glass of Merlot recalls what it once was to be grapes on a vine, underfoot, barefoot, the sand between your toes and saltwater for sex. The Sun rises anywhere, but it looks different everywhere. Have you seen the Southern Cross? Experience the world upside down and realize Dorothy had it right all along. All roads lead to Rome, all roads to home. Welcome back and au revoir.

"Are you happy?"

Answer a question with a question. Revel in your rhetoric, but know it won't change a thing.

"Are you?"

Seals on the beach stare for moment, curious. It doesn't take long for them to become disinterested. They've learned the meaning of it all... we just are. It's reason enough for them to live, why isn't it enough for you? Nothing's behind the curtain because there is no curtain. It's all there to see, all there to touch, and when you see her, when you touch her, well... it's all you'll need to know. Good enough is good enough, because the pursuit of perfection takes you where everything else will take you, and you already know you can't take it with you.

Speak of disgusting things in French, it'll sound better. Play the piano, even if you can't play the piano. Touch a wild horse. Ride a horse. Watch a sport you don't know the rules to, and enjoy it. Fly across an ocean to look at a beautiful woman. See the stars under a different sky. Drive to Belize. Scream at the top of your lungs until it becomes a song. And dance. Never forget to dance. Never stop moving. Be confident; never comfortable. Sharks rule the oceans because they don't know what it is to be complacent. The kings of the jungle don't even live in jungles. It's easy to rule when your empire is far away. A far off place. We are all monarchs of our memories.

Laugh more often. The joke's on you. Cry more often. Woe is me. Ignore what everyone else wears, what everyone else drives. The road doesn't care. The landscape doesn't mind. Just go... While you're sitting down, thankful that you have a job, someone else has learned to live. No longer the race, but the rat. Nature provides. It's all so fucking hysterical, this irony. This belief that intelligence is responsible for intelligence. What, then, is learning? You are you who want to be... it's not anyone else's fault that your aspirations are so banal.

"What is it you do?"

"Nothing."

Smile as they try to figure out whether to be jealous or to feel sorry for you.

"What do you want to do?"

"Don't really know. Don't really care."

In their confusion, they'll think you're confused.

Eat, sleep, fuck. Have another glass of wine. Play in the rain. Learn to cook. Want to know everything, knowing you're too small. Take everything at face value as long as it's not two-faced. Realize that the moral are only so because they fuck around. Know your enemies. They're probably friends. As long as you're willing to lie on any level, white or black, you're not to be trusted. Fiction only entertains. The truth will, as it's said, set you free. Break your God damned chains and accept that God is worthy of being damned. Who you listen to is up to you. Avoid indoctrination. Find North on your own, be it by star or by gravity. Fall from a plane, at least once. Breathe underwater. Humanity is unnatural. Live it.

What can I do and what have I done are the two most important things to ask. We are weak, we are frail. Imagination and memory are what sets us apart. A true church relishes instinct, it doesn't suppress it. You want to walk on water? Then spread the legs of the one you love and wake them up with an orgasm. You want a kingdom? Love her. You want power? Tell her you love her. You want glory? Show her. The rules of life change, and rules from yesterday no longer apply. Everything moves in one direction. It's called time. Accept it, and join in the progression. Grow old gracefully. Someone will remember you for the way you were, even if it's all a lie.

"Where do you see yourself in five years?"

"Five years from now."

"Yes, where do you see yourself?"

"That was my answer."

Talk of everything and nothing. Worry only about what you can change. Tell the children of dead friends how good their fathers and mothers were. Forget that you weren't there to help. Screw the guilt before it screws you. You can't be everywhere at once. Omnipresence is a myth, as is omnipotence. Omniscience? The world is more than you'll ever know. It's more than anyone can ever know.

And there you are, alone in the dark, alone with your thoughts. A cup of coffee recalls what it once was to be beans on a tree, underhand, barehanded, the wind in your hair and blood for lust. The Moon disappears, but it'll be back. Have you seen the North Star? Stand on your own two feet and remember that wherever you've gone, you've been. The path not taken wasn't worth taking. Bonjour. Find what you're looking for.

Irreview, Book Review: The Nutshell Technique

I have, to date, read well over two dozen books on screenwriting and its related mediums (theatre, specifically).  While most - if not all -...