Bad Moon Rising

August 8, 2010

The title of this blog is a song from Creedence Clearwater Revival, which I just happen to be listening to now.

I had planned to write a regular, ordinary blog post but, once again, I’m rushing about trying to get all I need to get done this weekend before heading back to work tomorrow.

Argh!

I have to add 3,000 words to my manuscript which my and editor and I are working on, and I have to have the edits done by next weekend.

Actually, I’m not doing anything that exciting. Just working, writing, watching movies. I’ve watched some really bad movies lately. Movies I did not go to the theater to see but decided to check out on DVDs from the library. Meaning they were free. And, man, am I glad I did not waste my money on these movies at the theater!

Anyway, I gotta run. I still got some errands to do this Sunday before I hit those edits.

At least I have Mad Men to look forward to this evening! And I think, to wash the bad taste of that bad movie out of my brain, I’ll watch a good movie before Mad Men. I plan on writing all day and I know I’m going to need to cool my overheated synapses by then. ๐Ÿ™‚

Ciao!

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Hayao Miyazaki

May 23, 2010

Wiscon is next weekend and I’m going to be on a few panels, in addition to doing my tarot and writing workshop. One of the panels is about Hayao Miyasaki, the director of movies such as Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle.

In preparation for the panel, I’ve been watching a number of movies from Studio Ghibli, Miyazaki’s’s animation studio. I started out with Lupin III; The Castle of Cagliostro and will end with Howl’s Moving Castle. I saw Ponyo earlier this year so I won’t need to rewatch that one. But it’s been quite the experience watching all of the movies in a row.

I love Miyasaki’s movies. The first Miyasaki movie I saw was Princess Mononoke. I was blown away by it and have become a huge fan as a result. The panel description asked if there was anything problematic about Miyasaki’s movies. I’ve had to think long and hard about that. Nope, sorry, can’t think of anything.

I only wish Miyasaki had been making these movies when I was a young girl. I can’t even imagine what it would have been like as a kid to have seen a movie like My Neighbor Totoro . The heroines in Miyasaki’s movies are strong, courageous and determined, but they have not lost the compassion, empathy and gentleness that I am finding disturbingly lacking in many of the portrayals of women protagonists being offered today.

Seriously, why does it appear nowadays that the only way a female character is taken seriously is measured either by how cold and unfeeling she is or the body count she leaves behind. The very qualities we used to chastise male characters for having. The rate of violence among young girls and teenagers is increasing and no one seems to care.

Strength should not only be measured by how “kick-ass” you are, how many people you can maim or kill, or how distant you are from your feelings. Strength, IMHO, should also be measured by one’s capacity to be strong but also compassionate and forgiving.

I’m not saying let people walk all over you. The heroines in Miyasaki’s movies are not doormats. To speak rather colloquially, they don’t take no smack from nobody. And they can get angry and cross and irritated, which gives them a three-dimensionality often missing even in live-action movies, but they are also kind and compassionate. Two qualities that also appear to be sadly lacking in our culture today.

So, if problems with Miyasaki’s films are what some people are expecting from the panel next weekend, I’m afraid I won’t have much to offer. I won’t say Miyasaki’s movies are perfect. Nothing is. But they are about as close to perfection as I have come across. Every time I watch a Miyasaki movie, I want to start writing something. He provides much-needed sustenance for the creative part of my soul.

As an example, here is a clip from the movie Whisper of the Heart. It was not directed by Miyasaki (the director was Yoshifumi Kondo, who unfortunately passed away at the age of 47) but Miyasaki wrote and storyboarded the movie.

The movie is about Shizuku Tsukishima, a middle-schooler who spends her most of her time reading books of fairy tales rather than her chores or schoolwork. She discovers that the same person, someone named Seiji Amasawa, appears to have checked out all the books she’s reading.

Seji is also a middle-schooler, who wants to become a master violin maker, something his parents are trying to discourage him from pursuing. After a series of sweet misunderstandings, Seji and Shizuku finally meet. The following clip is one of my favorite parts in the movie, as Seji and Shizuku engage in a charming, impromptu duet.


Checking In Again

March 28, 2010

Hadn’t realized a week has gone by since my last post. Been very busy with both writing and day-to-day living stuff.

I started drafting my cowboy mรฉnage ร  trois. I should be finished with it by the end of April if not sooner. It’s proving quite interesting to write as it’s the emotional dynamics of the two men and the woman that I’m finding fascinating.

I’m still prepping for Script Frenzy, which is only four days away! Which means, also, it will be April 1st in just four days. Which means time is flying again! The first quarter of 2010 is nearly over!

I’m going to Wiscon. I’ve signed up for some panels and I’ll be doing my Tarot for Writers workshop. I’m looking forward to that.

I watched Vicky Christina Barcelona the other day.

It was a gorgeous movie with a gorgeous backdrop—Barcelona—and gorgeous actors, such as Penรฉlope Cruz, Javier Bardem and Scarlett Johansson. It was enjoyable, although I have to admit, I was enjoying the breathtaking scenery, the beautiful Spanish architecture and the haunting strains of the Spanish guitar more than the actual plot. It was strangely narrated, too, as if someone was doing a reading of the story at a bookstore or something.

I thought it was going to be a lot sexier than it was. It has a mรฉnage ร  trois which involves Cruz, Bardem and Johansson, but their threesome is pretty tame, IMHO. It’s a Woody Allen movie so there are plenty of neuroses to go around among all its characters.

I really thought that with such a sensual, sexy cast and being set in Spain—in summer no less—there would have been a lot more heat. You know? ๐Ÿ™‚

Anywho, I have to get back to my edits, my drafting, my prepping, my worldbuilding and, of course, my sundry non-writing activities that make up day-to-day life in 21st century America.

Ciao for now!


The Finish Line

March 14, 2010

I’m near to the finish line on my edits. I managed to move my flashback scene to the beginning of the novella, add a new scene to transit that new scene to the rest of the novella and go through and make the necessary changes to the story to reflect the changes. Whew!

What I discovered was, just like what happens when you throw a stone into a pool of water, the further I got in the story from the new scenes, the less changes I had to make. Like ripples dissipating in the water as they they move out from the center of the disturbance.

Well, at least I found it interesting. ๐Ÿ™‚

I have to work on it some more today and tomorrow and then I will send it back to my editor. I did, however, take a break in order to watch a rather delightful movie. It was called The More, the Merrier.

Made in 1943 it starred Jean Arthur, Joel McCrea and Charles Coburn. It’s a romantic comedy that deals with the housing shortage during World War II. Particularly in Washington DC. Jean Arthur is a young career girl who winds up sharing her apartment with two men. A retired millionaire played by Coburn and an army sergeant played by McCrea, who has no place to stay while he waits to be shipped overseas.

It has all the stock elements of a romantic comedy (the cute meet, the misunderstandings, the wrong guy, the busybody “Cupid”, etc) and one of the sexiest seduction scenes I’ve ever seen. Which took place on the front steps of the apartment building and involved nothing more than a nervous Jean Arthur running her mouth, trying to resist her attraction to McCrea, who does nothing more than kiss her hands and her neck while she babbles.

It also had one of the cutest cars I’ve ever seen. That’s Jean Arthur being car-pooled to her job. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. While watching it I imagined it being redone and found out that it had been remade. In 1966.

Walk, Don’t, Run takes place in Tokyo during the Olympic Games being held there. Apparently there was a housing shortage during the Games, which I can well imagine.
The movie starred Cary Grant, Samantha Eggar and Jim Hutton (the father of actor Timothy Hutton).

The premise of Walk, Don’t Run is the same. Two men and a women share an apartment in Tokyo instead of Washington, D.C.

What is interesting about this is that I’m currently reading Writing Movies and I’m in the chapter that talks about “originality”. The idea being that it’s pretty darn hard to be “original” when just about every story that’s ever been told has been told over and over and over. “Originality”, therefore, must come not from what story is told but how the story is told.

And I’m not necessarily thinking of remakes as in the case of these two movies. Although I could imagine someone somewhere thinking it may be time to do a 21st century remake of The More, the Merrier. Get a well-known older actor with a flair for comedy to pay the busybody “cupid”, and two young up and coming actors with a flare for romantic sizzle and comedy to play the young couple.

And, please, if someone is going to write this, I personally don’t want to see some man-child actor playing the romantic male lead. And no fart jokes or drunk jokes or bodily fluid jokes, thank you very much!

Sorry about that. Didn’t mean to go out on a rant. ๐Ÿ™‚

Hmmm, perhaps I’d better get back to my edits.

Ciao for now!


Script Frenzy

March 11, 2010


Chris Batty over at NaNoWrimo sent out an email announcing the April 1st start of Script Frenzy.

I’d heard about Script Frenzy but I’d usually hear about it after it was all over and the dust had settled. So it was nice to get a heads up this time around.

Am I doing it? I’m thinking about it. But not necessarily because someday I want to walk up on the stage at the Oscars and pick up my gold statuette for winning Best Screenplay.

Although, that would be nice. Oh yeah, very nice! ๐Ÿ˜‰

I have gone on ahead and signed up at the Script Frenzy website, but I’m still debating as whether or not to participate this year.

I do remember reading an article sometime back that suggested writing a novel first as a screenplay. The reason that appeals to me is because I tend to write my first drafts like screenplays anyway. My drafts tend to be very skimpy on interior monologue, description and all those elements that distinguish novels from screenplays.

And I have read a number of books on screenplay writing as a way of learning about dramatic structure so I do have the knowledge of screenplay writing if nothing else. Just actually haven’t written one yet.

And, on top of that, it might be fun to boot! ๐Ÿ™‚

I do have an idea for a novel that I think would make an interesting screenplay. But once I was done with it, I’d more than likely turn it into a novel as originally planned.

Oh, and it doesn’t have to be a screenplay. It can be a stage play, a short film, a graphic novel, a teleplay. You just have to write 100 pages in 30 days. Which comes out to 3.3 pages a day!

So, if you’re interested run, don’t walk (as time is flying before the start) and sign up. Oh, and if you already have an account at NaNoWriMo you don’t have to register for Script Frenzy. Just sign in under your NaNoWriMo account info.

See you at the movies! And who knows? Maybe someone out there might just write a script this April that will give them a chance to not only thank the Academy and a horde of other people before getting cut off by the orchestra (or some woman who jumps in and steals your Oscar thunder!) but also get a chance to flirt with Gerard Butler on the Red Carpet. Yum!

You go Gabourey Sidibe! If I had seen Gerard Butler in the flesh and in a tuxedo I probably wouldn’t have said out loud what Gabourey said but, good golly Miss Molly, I sure would have been thinking it! ๐Ÿ˜€


CUT TO

February 21, 2010


I love this time of year because this is when Turner Classic Movies (TCM) does it 31 Days of Oscar as a prelude to the Oscars. It’s a veritable cornucopia of classic movies.

Honestly, I get so spoiled during this month that when TCM goes back to its regular programming schedule it takes a bit of an adjustment.

Saturday, TCM did a triple header of sci-fi movies: 2001, A Space Odyssey, 2010 and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

I have seen all three of those movies many times but they are also three movies I can pretty much watch again and again. My son came in while I was watching 2001. He’s never really seen it, except for clips here and there, but he happened to come in at the point in the movie where astronaut Dave Bowman, in orbit around Jupiter, has left his ship and is about to take the ultimate journey beyond the infinite.

He asked me some questions about what was going on. I did my best to answer them. ๐Ÿ™‚

If you’ve never seen 2001: A Space Odyssey, warning, Will Robinson, it’s a definite head trip. And it’s definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. On the surface it’s frustrating, boring in some spots and downright incomprehensible in others. And I love it! And it’s a movie, shall I say, that’s not afraid to take some major risks.

One of the biggest risks it takes is near the beginning. Kubrick structured 2001 into what you can see as either a prologue and three acts or a four act movie.

The first act, or prologue, is called “Dawn of Man.” That’s right. The movie literally starts at the beginning, millions of years in our past, when man is nothing more than an ape-like creature struggling to survive. A strange black monolith suddenly appears among the man-apes. Kubrick does not explain where the monolith came from or who left it there. But there it is. Black, rectangular and somewhat ominous.

However, as a result of the monolith’s enigmatic appearance, one of the man-apes, while scrounging for food, picks up a bone and discovers that he can use it as a tool. And more than just a tool. He uses it as a weapon to kill one of the members of an encroaching band of other man-apes.

Now, what happens next is one of those penultimate moments in movie-making history. As the man ape, having defeated his foe, triumphantly tosses the bone into the air, Kubrick cuts to an orbiting nuclear weapon.

Yep, we make a leap of millions of years from a prehistoric African savanna to the far reaches of outer space. We have, in an instant, traversed millions of years of human evolution and civilization. Why does Kubrick do this?

Because all that happened in between doesn’t matter. At least not in the context of the movie. All the terrible wars, scientific advancements, horrible tragedies, literary and artistic achievements, etc, etc, etc, that humanity has experienced is reduced to a single jump cut.

What happens next is what’s important. Not what came before. Man has traveled into space although he still makes war upon his neighbor. He has moved beyond the primitive struggle for survival on earth and out into the stars. The final frontier, so to speak.

And what does humanity find? You got it. Another monolith. Just like the one the primitive man-apes encountered millions of years ago. But this one is on the Moon. Where it had been deliberately buried. And why was it buried deliberately on the Moon?

Because it was a test. The aliens, or whoever it was, who put that first monolith on the Earth buried this one on the Moon as a signal to them that humans had evolved far enough to be able to travel into space. And when that monolith on the Moon is discovered, it sends out a signal directing humans to Jupiter.

Now, as a writer, what I find fascinating about that famous jump cut (or match cut, if you want to get technical) is that writers have to ask themselves constantly what should or should not be included in a piece of writing. Writing is about making choices. Do I show this about the heroine? Do I include that about the hero?

The part of human history that Kubrick left out in his cut has been the subject of countless books, movies, operas, paintings, etc. But in the context of the movie, it didn’t matter. It wasn’t important.

What was important was what was coming next. Humans had found that monolith on the Moon and everything that had happened prior to that event, although important as backstory, was not important for the story itself.

So, when I write, I tend to ask myself, does the reader need to know such and such, especially in the context of what I’m writing about? If not, I cut it.

Now, it’s possible that I may have spent a considerable amount of time thinking about why it is that my heroine can’t stand the smell of spaghetti. But if it doesn’t have anything to do with the plot or her character arc, I don’t include it.

It’s like an iceberg, the majority of which lies below the water line.

Writing is a lot like that. So much lies beneath the surface, whether it’s subtext or backstory. The trick is knowing what to put in and what to leave out.

In the movie 2001, Kubrick made a bold choice to encapsulate the whole of human history into a single cut. It blew people’s mind when the movie came out in 1968 and it’s still, after over 40 years, an incredible cinematic moment.


Argh!

February 9, 2010

Suddenly, I have lots of stuff I want to blog about (mostly a bunch of movies I’ve seen the past few weeks) but I’m struggling to get some submissions out this month.

Unfortunately, I didn’t make my 2/1 deadline for my novella. So I’ll just set that particular novella aside and expand it for another market. Real Life intruded before I could finish it and well, them’s the breaks, sometimes.

I’m determined not to have a repeat of that as I have two other submissions I want to get out this month.

However, I watched some really interesting movies the past week and I hope to blog about them at some point. My brain is just sorta wrapped around the stories I’m currently working on and I can’t seem to shift it from a fiction mode into a non-fiction mode.

Or, perhaps, that’s just an excuse on my part to justify laziness. I tend to berate myself a lot when I don’t do everything I want to do. Stupid, really, for me to do so. I’m only human. ๐Ÿ™‚