Thursday, December 25, 2008

Morbo Says...


Monday, December 22, 2008

A Five Year Old Me Picks His Top Five Movies

This handsome young 5-year-old lad is named Derek, I have picked him out from the far-flung past of 1990.

“Wow, I have cool glasses in the future! Is it the Jetson’s yet?”

Give it a few years, 5-year-old Derek.

“Do I have a pet robot?”

No, but we all have phones in our pockets.

“Radical, dude!”

So, I have brought you here to talk about your five favorite movies of all time. Are you okay with that?

“Will you help me spell stuff?”

Of course.

The Top Five Movies of All Time
By Derek Domike (Age 5)

5. The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh (Lounsbery and Reitherman, 1977)

“Pooh is a silly old bear. I love this part where Rabbit is redecorating his hole and he…” laughing “…he puts sticks on Pooh’s butt like antlers! And he draws a face on it and everything! How silly is that?!”

4. Batman (Hefti, 1966)

“Batman doesn’t let the bad guys get away with anything. He helps out people in trouble even though he doesn’t have superpowers or anything. And he’s friends with Robin. In this one Batman and Robin have to fight The Joker, The Penguin, The Riddler, and Catwoman. In one part Catwoman disguises herself as a reporter and Batman can’t tell its her. And there’s this submarine shaped like a penguin. And the Batcopter, and the Batboat, and the Bat-Motorcycle. It’s pretty much the best movie ever, except for the other movies here.”

3. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Barron, 1990)

“Donatello’s my favorite. He does machines. Also, he likes pizza.”

2. Gremlins 2: The New Batch (Dante, 1990)

“I like the one who talks funny. He says ‘Ah the apple, the city so nice they named it twice. Check it out von time von’t you.’ And there’s all kinds of monster gremlins, like one made out of vegetables (scary,) and one that are bats or spiders or made of electricity. They’re scary, but Gizmo’s nice.”

1. The Adventures of Milo and Otis (Hata, 1986)

“I have watched this movie over 100 times I bet. My favorite part is when they’re on the farm and having a good time. It gets kind of scary after that, though. This might not be for little little kids, like my brothers.”


“They don’t like it very much.”

“Is that good, old Derek?”

I’m not that old.

“Yes you are.”

Okay, maybe I am.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Top 11 11 Word Movie Reviews

I write the 11 Word Movie Reviews blog; speaks for itself.

With 100 posts written daily since I first started, I wanted to cap off this event with my 11 favorite reviews I’ve done so far. A lot of them are historic firsts, at least in terms of that blog.

11. September 1st, 2008
To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar (Kidron, 1995)

This one speaks for itself. I don’t know why I decided to use this cult drag movie as my first review, other than the self-contained fact of John Leguizamo’s ability to work it. I immediately followed with reviews of Gremlins 2 (one of my favorite movies) and Disturbia (closer to the “least favorite” end of the spectrum.)

10. September 14th, 2008
Norbit (Robbins, 2007)

I saw Norbit for a dollar and still wanted my money back. This is my first “Alternate” review.

9.September 5th and September 6th, 2008
Flintstones (Levant,1994) and The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas! (Levant, 2000)

My first multi-part review, referencing a previous review.

8.October 7th, 2008
Batman (Burton, 1988)

Arguably the review I’ve had the hardest time with getting in 11 words, but I am very pleased with the results.

7.October 28th, 2008
Air Force One (Petersen 1997)

My first link to a youtube video in a post. And it’s true. He wants you off his plane.

6.November 16th, 2008
The Pacifier (Shankman, 2005)

If only for the Suburban Commando reference.

5.October 13th, 2008

Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace (Lucas, 1999)

My first link to a Son of Double Feature article, my Bizarro-review of Episode I.

4. November 15th, 2008
Willow (Howard, 1988)

Mixes both alternative reviews, a variation of Morbo, and also, an awesome movie.

3.October 5th, 2008
Austin Powers in Goldmember (Roach 2002)

Take that, John Travolta.

2.September 27th, 2008
Juno (Reitman, 2007)

My feelings for Juno are well documented. But also the first appearance of my favorite reoccurring device: the frame of Morbo of Futurama, yelling whatever I can’t. Thanks Morbo, for screaming when I can’t.

1.December 8th, 2008
Planet of the Apes (Schafnerr, 1968)

My 100th post in the blog, and, actually, my favorite. Are the best yet to come, or have I jumped the proverbial shark?


Thank you Morbo.


Morbo means he loves you.

I love you too, Morbo.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Son of Double Feature’s No on Prop 8! Homoerot-athon

I apologize to those California readers who might have seen ads on this blog (and its sister blog 11 Word Movie Reviews) advocating a Yes vote on Proposition 8. For those unaware, Proposition 8 is a measure here advocating the elimination of gay couples’ right to marry in California.

I don’t typically want to make this blog a soapbox for my political ideals, but I’ll make an exception here. I’m requesting the ads be removed. This is not just because I support gay marriage (in the context of a civil union, primarily, I don’t think it’s the state’s obligation to tell churches what they can and can’t do, but that’s hardly the point,) but because I believe this proposition is extremely discriminatory. Even if it does pass, however, I fully expect the State Supreme Court to overturn it. These same people want to defend their personal rights (like gun ownership,) while trampling on the rights of others (like abortion and gay marriage.)

Furthermore, to pretty much mock and defy the Yes on Prop 8 ads, and in solidarity of those LGBT folks out there to show I do not personally support this anti-gay marriage position (which is what Prop 8 boils down to,) I have here a list of four of my favorite gay and lesbian (or, at the very least, same sex) kisses.

4. Gandhi and Abe Lincoln
Clone High USA, Episode 3, “A.D.D.: The Third D stands for ‘Disorder.’”

Clone High USA was one of my favorite shows on MTV for its brief tenure in 2003, before being cancelled for Punk’d. The premise follows a Dawson’s Creek-esque high school populated by the clones of famous historical figures (the core cast was Abe Lincoln, Gandhi, Joan of Arc, Cleopatra, and JFK.) In this episode, Gandhi has been diagnosed with A.D.D., which the student body assumes is AIDS, and thus, shun Gandhi, fearing him to be contagious. After a message from special guest and ADD sufferer Tom Green (“Look a Ferris Wheel! I can make a muscle! Plastic bag, plastic bag! Plastic bag, plastic bag!”) Abe shows Gandhi is not contagious by kissing him. Which, of course, this being high school, makes him shunned more than Gandhi for his homoerotic gesture.

3. Naomi Watts and Laura Harring
Mullholland Dr (Lynch, 2001)

I don’t get much out of David Lynch movies, other than wondering what exactly I was supposed to get out of them. But, what I primarily remember from this movie (other than the bizarre cowboy interlude near the end) was this scene. This is probably because I’m a heterosexual male (I’m apologizing in advance for my #1 choice, as well.)

2. Gabriel Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna
Y Tu Mama Tambien (Cuarón, 2001)

Which is Spanish for “and your mother, also.”

Alfonso Cuarón is one of the great new Spanish-language filmmakers (although I wracked my brain to try to find some same-sex pairings in a Guillermo Del Toro picture.) This movie has some really intense love scenes in it, but, it’s the film’s climatic same-sex kiss that made its way on to the countdown.

1. Sarah Michelle Gellar and Selma Blair
Cruel Intentions (1997)

I apologize for being a male. If you ask any guy who came of age (especially who hit puberty right around this time) they will not only have fond memories of this scene but, likely, wore out the tape or scratched the DVD with repeated rewatchings (I did not own it on tape or DVD, but I have friends who definitely did.) It’s relatively tame by our contemporary semi-acceptance of female bisexuality (what with Ant-headed Tila Tequila’s “A Shot at Love” dating show on MTV, and future one-hit wonder Katie Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl.” Not to mention the seeming ancient history of Madonna and Britney Spears locking lips at the MTV Video music awards.) And, although lesbian kissing not exactly being a new thing, this was the scene that many people my age will likely remember.

In short, I doubt any google ads will sway you, and I also doubt I’ve done little to help either. But, for those of you in California who want to preserve the right for everyone to get married, vote NO on Prop 8!

Sorry for that, this blog is more about movies less about ideology; I swear this will (hopefully) never happen again.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Extra Lives: Five Video Games That Should Never Be Movies


Most of these games are awesome, but none of them would make good movies. In no particular order:

The “Sonic the Hedgehog” series

Sonic the Hedgehog is a game that went from exciting 2D platforming to awkward 3D adventure games faster than you can say Sonic Adventures. This is not the primary reason why the Sonic games would make a bad movie property.

My primary concern is that it would be animated (likely CGI), and if any of the recent Sonic cartoons are any indication, Sega has no interest in really putting out a consistent quality product.

In fact, the only good Sonic cartoon was the Saturday Morning animated series that ran on ABC in the early 90s.

He is the fasting thing alive, and has a rocking Early 90’s intro song, but probably not going to get a movie anytime soon.

The “Legend of Zelda” series

I am a huge Legend of Zelda fanboy, and I’d love to see a good movie made about the series. But I don’t think it’s possible. Link is a character who doesn’t speak and acts as an audience-surrogate in the game. Making him talk would raise the question as to what Link’s character is. Which, if the 1980s is to be believed, recalls the catchphrase “Excuse me, Princess.”

In fact, any time Link has opened his mouth has led to bad times all around.

But, leaving Link mute would probably make the movie extremely difficult, if not impossible, to properly execute. This, on top of the what would likely be a live-action budget in the $50 million area, this has the potential for disaster written all over it.

Chrono Trigger


Again, we have a mute protagonist. Discounting that, although the game is one of the best RPGs (possibly ever) and has some real depth of character and designs it would be long. I’ve seriously spent many many hours playing through Chrono Trigger, with New Game + and seeing all the endings it could take probably upwards of 40. I’d be concerned with what would have to be cut to preserve the epic story, with all its labyrinthine twists and turns.

And also, Magus would get a huge fanboy boost and probably be in way too much of the movie than he realistically deserves.

No offense to the Magus fanboys, but if there’s somebody who should get limited screentime in a Chrono Trigger movie, it would be this pale son-of-a-gun over here.

Mass Effect


Mass Effect was one of my favorite games of recent memory. But it would make an awful movie, because part of the fun is investing in the Commander Shepherd you create (be s/he a badass spacer with a haunted past or a noble war hero,) and, as anyone who watched me play through the game knows, it’s really boring to watch somebody else’s vision of this character go through without any of that investment.

The Sims

The Sims is fun to play, but, unless done right, it would be just be…people. Doing stuff. And maybe some aliens, zombies, vampires, werewolfs, robots, sasquatches, and witches (thank you expansion packs.) But even with that stuff, it can be a tad dreary unless you are micromanaging your own Sims.

But that doesn’t mean Sims machinima aren’t occasionally awesome:

So, these games are very fun, in general, but they should perhaps avoid making the jump to the big screen anytime soon.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Extra Lives: Five Video Games That Should Be Movies


I’ve said what was good and what was bad, but what do I think should be used from this rich medium? Here are my five choices below.

5. Bioshock

Bioshock would be the easiest transition because it is already so cinematic. This First-Person Shooter sets you down in the corrupted underwater utopia of Rapture, the dream of Rayndian Objectivist Andrew Ryan. A dream that has become a nightmare. It is a creepy, creepy, game, and I think it would translate great as a kind of unique horror film.

4. Battletoads

Battletoads is probably one of the hardest beat ‘em up games ever. It also has anthropomorphic frogs (Rash, Zitz, and Pimple) who fight the evil Dark Queen. I think this would make a good movie because: 1) I honestly just want to see a movie with asskicking CGI frogs, and 2) you’ll get at least some cache by linking it to a rather hilarious internet meme.

3. Earthworm Jim

The first of the two extremely more overtly comedic examples, Earthworm Jim could be a great CGI action-comedy: he’s already PG-friendly, he’s got a lot of great characters and ideas to work with (like Evil the Cat and Planet Heck, or Professor Monkey-for-a-Head, or so on.) Earthworm Jim also had an awesome Pythonesque cartoon show in the mid-90s.

2. Sam and Max

If you have an afternoon free, go and watch all the episodes of the painfully briefly lived Sam and Max Freelance Police series, or play the games, and give me a legitimate reason why this hasn’t already gotten picked up by some animation studio or another.

1. Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?

The first to put the Miss in Misdemeanor, before Missy Elliot, was Carmen Sandiego. Besides putting the Seoul in South Korea and making Leningrad cry uncle, Carmen Sandiego would make a great movie primarily because it has aspects of a spy-thriller, espionage, and mystery genres. Again, if done correctly, I think the Carmen Sandiego character would be a more-than-adequate character to base a film (and maybe a franchise) on.

‘Nuff said.

Next up, Five Video Games That Should Never Be Movies. Tune in!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Extra Lives: Top Three Video Game Adaptations


After writing such mean things about video game movies, here are three that I thought actually worked (or almost worked). In fact, with the exception of one of these, I actually kind of mildly dislike these movies as well.

3. Street Fighter (de Souza, 1994)

This film makes me sad primarily because it was Raul Julia’s last film, and an unfitting way to remember Gomez Addams.

That being said, despite the presence of Jean Claude Van Damme (who I generally dislike) and some nonsense about my favorite Street Fighter character (Blanka,) this is actually not a bad movie per se. Not especially good. Were I to rate it, it would be a solid C.

You can also spot in that trailer a brief cameo of singer Kylie Minogue as Cammy, in-between doing the locomotion and being unable to get you out of her head. (Apologies to any Australian readers, but this is about all I know her for.)

2. Pokémon: The First Movie (Haigney and Yuyama, 1999)

The Pokémon games are really addictive RPGs if you actually ignore all of the media produced outside the video games. Forget about the media blitz itself; the games are not bad.

That being said...I don’t hate this movie very much either. The plot is convoluted with cloned pokémon fighting regular pokémon, and the voice acting’s kind of insufferable. But on the other hand, it did not make me actively upset the way any of the Bottom 5 did.

Although the title did give me issue at the time. It is somewhat presumptuous to assume your movie is the first movie of multiple sequels (a problem some big budget films, like the recent Golden Compass and even Bottom #2 Super Mario Bros. are guilty of.) But, again, all I can do here is damn with faint praise.

Way to get #2 with lowered expectation, Pokémon movie.

1. Mortal Kombat (Anderson, 1994)

As I mentioned last time, I like this movie, and I like it primarily because it stays true to the spirit of the game without trying too hard to explain the nonsense that is going on. Even though the special effects are early CGI that did not hold up, which is generally true of special effects from around this time (watch Spawn and try to remember how cool the effects looked, for example.)

Also, it has Christopher Lambert in it, and that’s almost enough for me.

Can you think of two more? Seriously, I could only come up with three. I haven’t seen Hitman, but have heard it was passable, but still don’t want to extol it without having seen it. The upcoming Max Payne looks like it might not suck. Any others?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Extra Lives: Bottom Five Worst Video Game Adaptations


For whatever reason, many video games have not made the transition to movies very well. In video game’s defense, many movies have not either.


I’m looking at you, E.T.

Anyway, here are the five movies I think of when I think of as particularly egregious examples.

5. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (West, 2001)
Game Premise: Platform Adventure game. Female Indiana Jones with proportions Russ Meyer can only dream of looks for treasure in various ruins, most likely battles crippling back pain.
Movie Premise: Lara Croft, British socialite, goes seeking relics that, somehow, allow her a through time confrontation of her father, played by Jon Voight. Most shocking of all, Voight doesn’t seem the least bit bothered by this.
What Went Wrong: I want you to go to the imdb page and see how many people were involved with writing this movie?

Don’t worry, I’ll be here.

If you don’t didn’t go check, there are 8 writer’s credited on Tomb Raider. And it shows. There are easily six movies in there struggling to get out, and you can almost tell where one stops and the other starts.

Many of the examples here are guilty of having way to much story for their own good.
4. Double Dragon (Yukich, 1994)
No, not this:

But this:

Somehow, unlike many of the other concepts here, in staying true to the original game, this is somehow worse. Having Scott Wolf in it doesn’t help. .

3. BloodRayne (Boll, 2005)

Uwe Boll has a reputation as a hack. And, I mean, to his credit, it’s difficult to make something about a pseudo-bisexual leather-clad vampire-killing-vampire work as a legitimate piece of story. But, really, as easy as it is to screw up such an idea, Uwe Boll manages to screw it up in a way so fantastic it boggles the very mind.

This movie also has Ben Kingsley in it. Ben. Kingsley. Gandhi. One of the best actors of his generation. Thankfully, his presence in the film is minor (in fact, the only villain role given less time in a movie is John Malkovich in the equally godawful Eragon.)

I tried to find a video on youtube, but most of them were Goth-y AMV’s that kind of made me throw up in my mouth a little bit each time I looked. You’ve been warned.

2. Super Mario Bros. (Jankel and Morton, 1993)

This would be #1 if my choice for #1 wasn’t so godawful. The problem here for Super Mario Bros., like Tomb Raider above, is the sense to make sense of out of what is essentially a senseless premise. Instead of going with “there’s this other world full of dragons and walking Goombahs” (whatever Goombahs actually are…are they mushrooms?) there was a lot of attempts to allegorize characters, rationalize saving the Princess, and all other manner of business that the film’s target audience (boys under 10) not only will not appreciate, but will be downright antagonistic towards.

Also, Dennis Hopper, in the midst of his villains phase (including movies like Water World) gives arguably one of the worst performances in his career as King Koopa.

Everything in this movie, besides being too much story, has a feeble attempt to allegorize Mario monsters into people. So instead of “Big Bertha”:


We get Big Bertha:


...Which is in and of itself symbolic about the problems with the movie.

1. Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (Leonetti, 1997)


Now, I actually quite like the first Mortal Kombat. That is because, primarily, it’s essentially Enter the Dragon with name changes and a sideplot where Johnny Cage beats up a four-armed demon prince to prove himself as a real fighter. I’ll talk more about it when listing my top three video game adaptations.

But MK:A is stilted, it’s bogged down in character mythology and too much of the story from the game which, at that point, had been so saturated with characters (I believe they even managed to work in the Animality combos from the third Mortal Kombat game, as well as characters from that game like Sektor and Cyrax [who as Robot Ninjas are almost awesome].)

They also couldn’t get Christopher Lambert to reprise his role (the best one in the movie) as Raiden. Clearly, there could be only one. (/highlander-joke.)

Tune in next time, same Son of Double Feature Channel, when I talk about the other side of the coin, my three favorite video game adaptations.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

October is “Extra Lives” Month on Son of Double Feature

This month on Son of Double Feature I’m going to tackle a set of articles around a theme. The theme in question is video games and movies, either adaptations of one or the other. Video games are one of the most profitable new forms of media out there, and, as such, movies have utilized games, both as cross-marketing tools, and also as a way to adapt properties to the big screen.

That isn’t to say video games aren’t, of themselves, a rich and interactive medium that has its own strengths. There is a lot of innovation in video games in terms of interactive mechanics and storytelling, from the sandbox-style of a Grand Theft Auto or the massive immersion of a Sims or Spore (or Mass Effect), video games aren’t just about collecting coins anymore.

And Hollywood has taken notice, from as early as Tron to the latest big budget attempt (Jake Gyllenhaal is currently filming an adaptation of the Prince of Persia series.) This week I want to look at some of the best (and the worst) of the video game to film transition. Join me, won’t you?


Friday, October 3, 2008

Nothing Says Class Like a Glass Skull Full of Diamond-Filtered Vodka

For those unaware, according to Variety, Columbia is planning a third Ghostbusters movie, after years of prodding by co-writer and principal Dan Aykroyd, with script written by two co-executive producers of the American version of The Office.

Of course, I’m genuinely excited (see my now-epic The Greatest Movie Ever Made.) That being said, I think the only guy who might be more excited would be Dan Aykroyd himself. Aykroyd genuinely believes in the paranormal. As a matter of fact, according to the DVD commentary for the special edition of Ghostbusters (with Harold Ramis, Ivan Reitman, and I believe Joe Medjuck providing commentary,) the original draft of the script was much less comedic and much more focused on these kinds of paranormal activity.

Here is an infomercial I found on the internet for his brand of vodka (filtered three times through carbon, then through diamonds before being bottled in an intricate skull shaped bottle) marketed by Dan Aykroyd himself.

Aykroyd, of course, knows a lot about the world of higher energies we do not understand. After all, he did once witness a mass sponge migration, and knows the ins and outs of an ectocontainment system (notice how he says ectoplasm around 1:03.)

Don’t believe me? Watch for yourself.

“I didn’t know Dan Aykroyd was in this picture!”

I’m going to put up a poll, feel free to participate. The question is:

Dan Aykroyd’s Crystal Head Vodka: Viral Video Hoax or Genuine Madness?

Vote now! And comment and discuss if you feel so inclined!

Also, expect an update about an exciting theme this month for Son of Double Feature.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Irony is No Longer Ironic

“It’s like rain on your wedding day…”

“How can you be nostalgic for something that happened a little while ago.”
- George Carlin

This is more of a cultural studies concept, but it has, tangentially, to do with media.

Earlier, while passing by a local Hot Topic, I came across the following shirt.


Now, my feelings on Juno are well documented. However, my feelings for the movie are nothing compared to this faux faded shirt with a catch phrase from a movie from last year.

This is clearly my fault for actually looking inside a Hot Topic, which is pretty much where my childhood went to fester and die. But this particular store is the nexus of where the ironic t-shirt seems its most strong in our culture.

The ironic t-shirt is something that is not new, and are in fact quite common, especially amongst arrogant “alternative” kids who want to make a statement without actually having to speak or formulate it themselves.

The irony, theoretically anyway, is that others would not expect the shirt-wearer, a hip, edgy, person who likes to self-identify as part of a fringe culture, as a fan of Rainbow Brite, or to call attention to the nostalgia inherent in the shirt. However, something so contemporary as a movie released so recently deconstructs both of these ironic arguments, because, firstly, Juno is supposed to be a “hip” “indie” movie that is devoid of any kind of ironic cache of childishness, and is too recent to be nostalgic. This shirt is faded for no reason other than for the sake of itself, which actually, in and of itself isn’t exactly as much ironic as it is stupid.

This kind of forced irony is something that’s become a little to prevalent, but the real irony lies here: that these supposedly hip looking people would not be buying shirts with these characters on them unless they actually liked them. So the irony is not that they seem to be cool wearing a lame t-shirt, but that they’re lame people pretending to be cool by wearing a lame t-shirt. This, actually, is some kind of meta-irony, where the irony itself is ironic.

Perhaps, in order to further increase the edge, and irony, the t-shirt companies will begin printing faded ironic shirts for things that haven’t even happened yet. I will comb the mall and see t-shirts with Jake Gyllenhaal for The Prince of Persia (Projected for a 2010 release) or the new faded shirt for the latest children’s cartoon show, like The Brave and the Bold:

Once this becomes passé, we will have t-shirts that will make us nostalgic for things that never were, like Superman Lives or a tour t-shirt for Doctor Teeth and the Electric Mayhem. And then, after that, ironic t-shirts will be ones that don’t show anything at all on them. And, finally, every t-shirt will be ironic, whether it is intentionally worn as such or not. And then, when all t-shirts are equally ironic, then and only then will people forget about all this nonsense and get on with their lives.

I will not even address the idea of owning an actual hamburger phone yourself:

That is just plain stupid, and nobody has any excuse to do that. Ever.

A french fry phone of the other hand:


Well, that speaks for itself, doesn't it?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Screenwriting 101: Don’t Sweat the Dry Spells

Remember my screenwriting articles?

Well, the problem with any sort of creative work (screenwriting included) is you can’t force yourself to produce, despite how much you might want or need to. Sometimes you just don’t know what to do next, or how to do what you want to do something, and inspiration is being fickly silent.

Do not sweat it. This does not mean you’re a bad writer. This happens to everybody at times, and you can’t expect to produce material constantly or even eternally. Ideally, I’d write a page of a screenplay a day. And that would be a good habit for anyone to keep. But, in truth, it’s more erratic. You might write five pages in one day, ten the next, rewriting cuts that down to maybe 10, and then a few weeks of stubborn refusal to finish.

The invention of the internet makes this much more difficult. You can just sit on your computer and suddenly waste hours. And, of course, none of us are just screenwriting machines: there’s work (especially for those of us who remain unsigned,) school, family and friends and other loved ones. And, of course, there are the worries related to those things on top of that.

Acknowledge those feelings but don’t dwell on them. Here’s what I do when the creative juices stop flowing:

1) Work on another project

I try to keep busy, which possibly means working on other projects. I might revisit an old project that I had not thought about in a while, or start a new one. Given time and distance you can gain a different perspective on the work you’ve been staring in the face for the past few weeks.

The result doesn’t even have to be a screenplay. Right now, for example, I’ve started work on a children’s fantasy novel. And when I start having trouble on that I can move to another project.

The problem with this is you can just end up with a bunch of unfinished projects, so try to return to an old project more often than you start a new one.

2) Get off the computer

Every once in a while, it might be good to do something totally unrelated and fun, but not something that is an “obligation” or a “requirement.” Watch your favorite movie, read something totally unrelated to work or school, or go for a walk in the park. As much as I love wasting time on the internet (as many do,) it’s better for your creative functions sometimes to get away from it for just an hour or two to recalibrate your mind.

3) Skip Ahead and Fill in the Blanks

If all else fails, what I do is just drop wherever I am in the script and write a scene way ahead of what’s going on (a scene I knew was coming and wanted to write,) and then start working my way backwards and forwards to that event. Sometimes its easier to fill in the gap between A-Z instead of trying to figure out what happens after a problematic step.

Writer’s block happens to everybody. Just relax, don’t stress it, and it’ll come to you.

In fact, even after I finished this article, I’ve started reconsidering a page 1 rewrite of a project I finished last year. I might use this space as a free form discussion of that idea. More details, as they develop.

Good luck, and good writing!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Gary Oldman: Superstar

If I were to have a villain in a movie, any movie, it would be Gary Oldman. Gary Oldman is a remarkable actor, not just for his ability to play a wide range of characters, but because he can bring genuineness. Despite myself, I sometimes find myself forgetting they’re characters, and also, sympathizing with them at times, which is the hallmark of a great actor. Oldman’s done some great supporting work though (like the rhythm section of a jazz band, he gives the soloists [like Heath Ledger and Aaron Eckhart] spots to shine in the Dark Knight, or the vaguely menacing yet always affable Sirius Black in the Harry Potter series.)  And yes, he is a great lead in films like Sid and Nancy or Rosencranz and Guildenstern are Dead.  But his villainous roles are where, in my opinion, he really shines.

Here are my five favorite Gary Oldman villain roles.

5. Ivan Korshunivov (Air Force One)

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Ivan is the one President Harrison Ford wants off his plane. Menacing, cold, calculating, and unlike many of the others on this list, surprisingly macho, Ivan is more of a traditional contemporary movie villain. Also, his Russian accent is quite good, as opposed to the awful drawl Ford adopts in K-19: The Widowmaker.

Moment of Awesome: As mentioned before:

4. Mason Verger (Hannibal)

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First off, look at the makeup job there.

I’ll admit that, like Thomas Harris clearly is, I’m a fan of the Hannibal Lecter character (the way he admonishes him in this film and book, and the later Hannibal Rising, however, is almost bizarrely fawning.) But, if you want to make a sympathetic, or at least a protagonistic, Hannibal, you need an antagonist to oppose him, so Gary Oldman puts on a good old boy accent to play Mason Verger. Like some of the later villains on the countdown, he’s effeminate (openly gay here,) and also menacing and threatening.

Moment of Awesome: If the whole plan to feed a man to giant inbred pigs wasn’t awesome enough, we have such a great intro. The way he emphasizes certain words (“the Ris”) and the way he slurs through the whole story is so mesmerizing and creepily compelling you can’t turn away, even if his face is terrifying.

3. Doctor Smith (Lost in Space)

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When I first saw Lost in Space I didn’t care much for it, but it grew on me after watching it again on cable. There are some awful parts (the black hole of talent that is Matt LeBlanc,) and it tries way too hard to be a franchise film. But Gary Oldman is able to take the mincing creep that is the camp 60s Doctor Smith and turn him into something genuinely menacing. Besides his repeated attempts to kill the Robinson family, Smith’s just so sarcastic and likeable of a character in that he’s very human. That kind of falls apart when they make him the “creepy spider-monster thing” near the end, which I’d argue was some (conscious or not) attempt to enhance the abberance of this rather effeminate man raising a boy on his own (making a character who could possibly be viewed as LGBT markedly nonhuman.)

Moment of Awesome: Reviving the injured Robinson daughter (played by #2 talent vortex Heather Graham) Smith chides Penny (played by a mid-Party of Five Lacey Chabert) as “Precious” to get him his medical supplies. She resists being called Precious but the way he forces the nickname on her is absolutely great in context.

Alternatively, near the end, muttering his catchphrase “We’re doomed!” and being subsequently punched in the face.

2. Dracula (Dracula [Coppola, 1992])

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Here is another example of a role that’s awesome despite the presence of another awful actor and another awful accent (both possessed by Keanu Reeves.) And again, we get the mince, and we get the menace, but Dracula here has two facets, not including the more creature feature makeup-y ones: the revivified young man, and the creepy old man so expertly lampooned on the Simpsons. We also get the same kind of excellent accent as in the previous projects; he has a great talent with using his voice and mimicking accents.

Moment of Awesome: I would count many little parts of Gary Oldman’s performance here. The shadows dancing on the wall independent of his body, the accent, the intonation, all awesome.

But the best moment comes early on, when Harker is almost seduced by some of Dracula’s vampiric minions, he comes out, takes them off him, and to appease them, gives them a baby to rip apart. Harker recoils in terror screaming, and Dracula just smiles and laughs, and raises his hand in a strange little way. I always was intrigued by Dracula's little hand motion.

Also, his dying monologue is pretty cool too.

1. Jean-Baptiste Emmanuel Zorg (The Fifth Element)

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The Fifth Element is one of the great, oft-overlooked, Science Fiction films of the 90s. And part of the reason, besides delving into the kind of epic space opera that George Lucas seemed to forget sometime in the late 80s post Return of the Jedi, is in the villain. As the ruthless merchant of death Zorg, Gary Oldman limps around with a southern accent of a Mason Verger, has the cruel sibilance of Dracula or Doctor Smith, and the coldness of Ivan Korshunivov, all rolled into one plastic-headed package.

Moment of Awesome: In my favorite scene, Zorg enters the plot, threatens his hired guns, and kills them in a very manipulative way. I also like the use of the Kulsehov Effect in this scene: “Empty. The opposite of full.” The best part, however, is the last 30 seconds or so:

It's for roles like these that when I think of bad guys in movies, I generally think of Gary Oldman. He is great in supporting roles, but its in playing real villains that he gets his chance to shine.