Thursday, February 27, 2014

Nebraska - a mini-review

Finally saw Nebraska, which is an austere, though surprisingly funny, road trip about fathers and sons. Not much happens and what happens is ridiculously low-stakes, and every character looks like they stepped out of a lost Grant Wood painting, (American Gothic). It all actually works though without much catharsis. Bruce Dern has his one-note stubborn old-guy shtick down pat, but Will Forte plays it straight and graduates from sketch comedy--even in the scenes that are almost sketch comedy as filmed by Fellini. In the end, there's less here than meets the eye but it entertained me far more than Payne's past movies, ("About Schmidt" - god help me) have. Could be because someone else wrote the screenplay.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

I'm giving a seminar at the ACTRA winter conference

Late notice, but ACTRA members can attend the winter conference Wednesday through Friday of this week.  Wednesday at 1:30, I'm giving a session on writing for TV 101, hosted by Ryan Fisher.  Check out the link for the conference for more info.

Monday, February 3, 2014

I started at the top

I'm so proud to have begun my career writing every word of every draft of ten episodes of this show. Jim even directed one of my episodes.

Rush - 1 of the best of 2013

Finally saw Rush, Ron Howard's film of Peter Morgan's script of the real life Niki Lauda-James Hunt formula 1 rivalry in 1976. Fantastic, though admittedly I'm a race movie nut, (I own Le Mans and Grand Prix.) For a film filled with racing, there's only enough to understand the sport and the stakes. The real story is a clash of values.

Wolf of Wall Street re-review

Saw Wolf of Wall Street again, given the number of people who lambasted me for not liking it the first time. I liked it more, though it was more admiration for the bravura film making. Interestingly, I was less enamoured of Jonah Hill's performance, having seen Jared Leto's similarly transformational performance in Dallas Buyer's Club, which felt much more honest than Jonah Hill.

But I still think the film celebrates more than castigates the lead character. Still bothers me. I also felt that it could have been an hour shorter with no loss.

A review of Dallas Buyers Club

Dallas Buyers Club is quite remarkable as an indictment against the US Food and drug administration and their complicity with big Pharma. No soft pedalling, McConnaghey gives a terrific performance but it's Jared Leto who really deserves a nom.


Her is a touching and heartbreaking meditation on the impossibility of intimacy in a modern world. The premise sounds comical but it's far from funny. Achingly scripted and acted. Haunting.

12 Years A Slave is 2 Hours of Sadism

12 Years A Slave
is, well, dull. 

Exquisitely photographed and acted, it just has no story, beyond guy gets kidnapped and is made a slave and eventually gets free. (Before you accuse me of spoiling it, the title gives that away.) 

The script lifts much of the unspeakable dialogue from the original memoir whole. (Which some scholars speculate is courtesy the ghost writer apolitician hired to help write Solomon Northrup's memoir, and who was prone to complexifying his dialogue to impress the Reconstruction era reader.) The ridiculously one dimensional characters (evil white guys except for Brad Pitt, and noble black characters, with the exception of the tantalizingly interesting Alfre Woodard's mistress to a white man character) make Gone With The Wind look positively Shavian. And the long, clinical wide shots actually reduced my emotional involvement. Very odd directing choices, verging on the pretentious. And because the lead character is by circumstance essentially a passive victim, his freedom falls flat.

The film is worth seeing for the acting and photography, both excellent.

True Detective

I've seen the first two episodes of True Detective, which are slow as molasses and utterly gripping.

Philomena - a review

Philomena is a note-perfect little movie that gets everything right. Tone, performance, script, mise en scene all work in harmony to tell a remarkably compelling story where not a lot happens after the heart wrenching beginning. Not sure if it's in the top echelon of this year's award nominees, but it may be due to lack of reach, rather than grasp. Well worth seeing. And whoever the little kids were, they look like they were cast out of a fresco by Michelangelo.