26 November 2012


Earlier today, in a forum on Done Deal Pro, I posted in a thread where the discussion had turned into theories as to why some movies that come out of Hollywood are so bad. A few aspiring writers postulated that (and I'm not only paraphrasing here, but including musings I've heard many times in the past) it's at least in part due to all the hack writers floating around out there writing shit material.

I can't stress this enough: most of the writers working professionally in Hollywood are on a scale from very solid to fucking amazing. Sure, there are some hacks, and sure, we all wonder how they got there; you'll have that in any profession, creative or not. Hell, I'm probably one of them.
But for the most part, when you go to see a movie that just absolutely blows, you can bet good money on the fact that it didn't start out as a piece of shit. Is this always true? Of course not. Generally? I certainly believe so.

In that, I'm already repeating myself; The Bitter Script Reader asked me to post what I'd said about the process from script to screen, and so I shall. I've gotten a couple nice emails/messages about it already, so hopefully that means it was helpful.

Here it is:

"Most terrible movies start off as really, really, really good scripts.

Obviously, some do not. But most do. And it's ESSENTIAL to remember that. As a crash course, here's what generally happens at studios with a given project:

--Writer(s) writes a great script/takes an assignment/adapts a book.
--Studio/production company buys it or has already paid writer(s) to write it.
--After everyone reads the first draft, the Studio, producers and writer(s) go into rewrites, because even great scripts can be improved. Studio execs, studio heads, studio lawyers, producers and producers' juniors all have notes.
--Writer(s) writes a new draft. Studio Gang (all of the mentioned above) has more notes.
--Writer(s) either writes a new draft and/or a new writer(s) come on to write another draft. Those writers have notes on top of the Studio Gang's notes, as do their agents and managers.
--If the process doesn't stall out here, talent is attached. Talent has notes. Talent's management, agents and lawyers have notes. These are on top of the notes of all of the above mentioned. "Talent", in this case, concerns both directors and actors.
--The same writers write another draft, or a new writer(s) comes in, or the original writer (infrequently, but sometimes) is brought back. If talent doesn't stick, these or new writers write another draft based on talent's departure/the need to draw in new talent. If new talent comes in, another draft is written based on the notes of said talent, their managers, agents and lawyers. This can happen any number of times.
(NOTE: Pursuant to the above, keep in mind that, at any time, studio execs/heads and producers/PJ's may leave the project as well. If they do, they will be replaced...triggering more notes.)
--If the process doesn't stall here, a greenlight is issued. Another draft is written by the current writer(s) and/or a new writer(s) to get the film into production.
--If the process doesn't stall here, the film is rewritten up to and through production by the new writer(s) and/or an even NEWER writer(s) based on the continuing notes of studio execs, studio heads, studio lawyers, producers, producers' juniors, talent, talent's agents, managers and lawyers (remember, this is for both the director and actors), any sponsors and/or "corporate partners" (read: the people providing the products for placement in the film), and probably a few others I've even forgotten.
--This is on top of all the things the writer(s) would like to accomplish with something he/she/they had originally written/rewritten.
--This does not cover ad-libbing or last-second disasters or reshoots. Or anything else I haven't mentioned.

I want to stress this point: with a studio film, THIS IS TYPICAL. The longer you work in the industry, the more and more amazed you find yourself whenever a studio film WORKS. When you're going through it, it seems impossible that it will all be OK. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it's not.

But the main MAIN point is this: rarely do bad movies start off as bad scripts. Sure, there are bad professional writers out there, but honestly, they're the exception, at least in my estimation. Generally, the best draft of a script is the second or third one before too many people try to have their input and "put their stamp" on the project. The more people you involve who are determined to have a voice so that there's something they can point to that they did so they can keep their jobs, the more the property careens towards total disaster. Multiply this exponentially for sequels and franchises.

Why go into this diatribe? If you aspire to be a screenwriter, you need to get this idea out of your head that Hollywood is buying terrible scripts, and you're this great writer with your nose pressed up against the glass, and you just can't get a shot. It's not the case. Most writers are churning out really good-to-terrific scripts that end up getting developed into the ground. And you're not in competition with them, per se, but you have to do something really special to get the attention of the People With the Money and convince them that they'd should pay you to write instead of an established professional. Why? Because an established professional is a safer bet, and people like safe bets, because usually they help them keep their jobs. Complicating things? Even pros aren't sure bets, and people lose their jobs all the time.
So yeah, there's a wall, and you have to leap over it.

You know what's never going to help? A s*** attitude. So get off your balls/ovaries, write something incredible, and get it out there in the best way you see fit. Not in LA? You're at a disadvantage, and you're going to have to work harder. Rules of the game; I didn't set them, I just know they exist. If you have a problem with ANY of the above, give up. This is not for you and your talents will be more valuable elsewhere.

End rant. Again, I hope this has been helpful, even if protracted and brusque. I simply don't think it serves anyone well to candy-coat what we're all up against. That said, there are many of us trolling about who want to help you break in if you've got the talent. Hell, if you take a job from us, we might even buy you a congratulatory beer.

Now stop whining and go write something awesome. If you want to use the Black List, do so. If you don't, don't. Write something awesome and, eventually, you won't have to worry about it."


16 October 2012


QUICK UPDATE: Have been informed by Franklin that, while he worked with Overbrook through the development of this project, he left his post about a week ago. So please take that into consideration when you get to that point of the piece. Does not change my opinions on the matter. Thanks.


First of all, before you attempt to dive into this wordy diatribe, go to the following manifesto by Franklin Leonard (@franklinleonard), founder of The Black List and http://blcklst.com/:


As many of you know, I have been steadfastly against for-profit script-reading services in the past. I continue to be in the present and almost certainly will continue to be in the future. So when a new one pops up, my default position is to be suspicious and dismissive - generally, these services exist for one reason and one reason only: to separate naive and/or desperate aspiring writers from the money in their wallets. Period. I advise aspiring writers to stay away from them at all costs.

So the Blacklist should be no different, correct? Well...not so fast.

I think Mr. Leonard's service has the chance to be significantly different, and I'm cautiously optimistic about their prospects.

Allow me to explain.


First, let me recap why most script coverage services are a scam (I say "most" only because there may be a legitimate service out there I don't know about; however, that's highly unlikely, and all the ones I AM aware of are not worth it). To do this, let's start by looking at what a reader does. I have the unique ability to speak on this having been in the industry for 8+ years and a studio reader for 4.5 of those. 

A Reader is a gatekeeper for a studio, production company, management company or agency (and sometimes working for several at the same time). Execs, Producers and Agents are getting material submitted to them CONSTANTLY, and most of it is absolute shit. If they just read everything they were sent, they'd never get anything else done. Thus, the company they work for employs a force of Readers to filter out the good scripts from the bad.

A typical reader will get anywhere from 3-10 scripts per week depending on their workload. Readers consist of aspiring writers, producers, directors, etc - people active on the creative spectrum. They have a working knowledge of the art of screenwriting and what separates a good script from a bad script and, more importantly, a good script from a GREAT script. They know what their employers are buying, what their interests are, what works for them and what doesn't. Many of them have read THOUSANDS of scripts in their career. They are, in every sense of the word, professionals.

When they pick up a script, they read it from cover to cover, something that takes anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half, depending on the speed at which one can read. They then prepare coverage on the script, which consists of the following:

1) A cover page listing the details of the script and what their overall reaction is (Pass/Reluctant Pass/Mild Consider/Consider/Recommend) to both the script and the writer.

2) Two to three pages of plot summary; this gives the Exec/Producer/Agent a chance to decide, past the flash recommendation, whether or not they want to read the whole script. Obviously, the better the recommendation, them more likely he/she is to read.

3) One to three pages of notes - a detailed reaction to the script and its elements, an explanation of its strengths and weaknesses.

This process takes the Reader, each time, a couple of hours per script. In other words: it's real work. And it's time consuming. And you have to be VERY good at it for an industry company to continue to pay you to do it for them. The lines of people waiting for these jobs, as you might imagine, are long.

When I was working as a reader, you could make decent money at the studio level if you worked a lot. At my top rates, I got $65 for two-day coverage, $75 for overnight coverage, and 50 cents per page to read a book. However, I've asked around, and recently those rates have decreased. A quick poll I did shows readers make  between $40-60 per script on average.

It's important that you understand all of that so that I can explain why script coverage services are such scams.

Almost across the board, online script coverage services are started and run by FORMER Readers and/or industry professionals. I stress the word "former" because...well, it needs emphasis. Again, almost across the board, Readers become Readers because they want to advance in the industry. If they're good at what they do AND they have talent AND they network, they do. If they don't, they either read for the entirety of their time in the industry or they leave.

Many who leave start script coverage services. So that's your first red flag - why would you want to pay someone who never advanced in Hollywood to read your script and give you notes? What could those notes be worth? How could they help you get your script sold?

The answers: not much and they can't. Bottom line: if these people were good at what they did, they'd still be working in the industry.

And then there is the cost to you, the writer, which is EXORBITANT universally. I won't link to any of the major sites, but you know what they are. Check out their rates. In every case, they charge HUNDREDS of dollars to perform the same tasks as a professional Reader...and sometimes OVER A THOUSAND. It's unconscionable to see that kind of practice, especially when their service has no inherent value.

Again...if these Faux Readers had any kind of legitimacy, they'd be writers and producers and directors and executives. But they don't, and they're not. Don't be fooled by the occasional testimonial - these people have no standing and no impact in Hollywood. They're people who have lost their industry credibility, and now they want to charge you potentially thousands of dollars for something that the people who used to employ them don't even want to pay them less than a hundred dollars for anymore. Just let that sink in for a second.

Still with me? Good. Let me explain why I think the Blacklist COULD be different.

First of all, it's not a script coverage site. That's not what they're offering. For $25 a month, you can host your script on the site; that gives agents, managers, producers and execs access to the core details of your script (title, logline, genre, etc) and the ability to download and read it if they like. They then have the opportunity to rate it and contact you if they wish. Your script then builds a rating, which is only visible to industry professionals if you CHOOSE to make it available. There is no contract with the site - you can pull it off anytime you like and no longer pay the $25 monthly fee. Pretty simple.

You can also pay $50 for a one-time read by a CURRENT PROFESSIONAL READER. This is perhaps the biggest difference between the Blacklist and other sites - the Blacklist is employing people who are CURRENT gatekeepers. These are the same people whose advice current industry pros are trusting. For the $50, you get a quick reaction and some details on the Reader's opinion of the scripts strengths and weaknesses. They will also rate the script. Again, you can choose to keep the results of this reaction private or make it public for the industry professionals who are part of the site. If you don't want this service, you never have to pay the $50.

Mr. Leonard has been very adamant, both in our communications personally and those with the public, that this isn't a site for coverage and notes, for continued work and feedback - it's essentially a database that cuts out the middleman. You upload your script and, if it's chosen based on the information YOU provide, it goes DIRECTLY to a person who gets movies made for a living. What happens after they receive it is exactly what happens to professional screenwriters: the future of your script comes down to talent and taste. Plain and simple. Mr. Leonard has also been expressly adamant that the Blacklist will take no ownership of your material and will not attempt to "attach" themselves to it in any way. At the end of the day, you owe them the cost of hosting the script on the site and nothing more, a key difference between what many script coverage sites bind you to, including Amazon.

These facts leave me excited about the possibility for The Blacklist. Mr. Leonard and I discussed the fact that we always wish we had better advice or prospects for an aspiring writer who asks, "How to I break into the system?" For the most part, the example is simple but discouraging: Move to Los Angeles, get an entry-level job in the industry, work your ass off, network like a crazy person, and hope that you have enough talent to make a difference. People do break in through other means, but again, they are extremely rare examples.

Thus, it appears this service MIGHT give you a better chance of breaking in if you are currently 100% unable to move to Los Angeles. If you are able or already live here, it might provide a faster track to compliment your networking - as Mr. Leonard referred to it in his piece, "running shoes".

Now, are there some concerns? Of course.

First and foremost, there is a sobering reality: 99.9999% of people who write a script will never become professional screenwriters. They just aren't talented enough; even those who ARE often struggle to break in for various reasons. I get a lot of negativity for being blunt about that, but it's not a personal vendetta against aspiring writers - it's math. Brutal, simple, understandable math.

Therein, the Blacklist is going to cater to, far more often than not, writers who have no chance of ever selling a script. Unfortunately, this is the nature of the beast. There's no way to avoid it on any level. Worse, the Catch-22 of writing applies here - the average writer will never sell a script, but they have no idea if they have what it takes until they put their work out there. But how can you put your work out there if you have no contacts? It's a balance you accept when you get into any kind of art. Additionally, there ARE great, undiscovered writers out there. That's ALSO math. And if the Blacklist works, it will provide them with a direct path to the industry that they might not otherwise have. 

In this case, one has to believe that the greater good of connecting talented writers with industry pros outweighs the fact that most participants will not succeed. Remember, the Blacklist is not roping writers into a contract of excessively costly coverage that will get them nowhere. If writers find that their script is getting negative ratings and the notes are not positive, they can redact their script and negate their fees. Writers have the CHOICE to participate and to cut their losses early, save their money, and try again later if it doesn't work out. 

Also, there is the question of profit. As I've said, I've spent some time talking with Mr. Leonard about his project, and in my opinion, he is very sincere about this being a "mission over money" venture. However, yes, he will profit off the site. Along with his take, profits will go towards site maintenance, staff salary, and reader compensation.

I understand those that cling to the maxim of "Real Professionals Don't Pay For Reads". It's a maxim that I ALSO cling to and I agree with - if you're paying someone to read your script, they're probably not worth your time. However, what you have to realize here is that you are paying for a SERVICE, not a read. The $25 goes to keeping your script on the site. You do not pay whoever chooses to read it - you pay for the connection to them, the interface. Is that splitting hairs? Possibly, and I can understand why some rankle at the notion. However, this is an enterprise that IS going to take a considerable amount of effort and work for all involved OUTSIDE of their professional positions; for instance, Mr. Leonard is going to be keeping his "day job" as a producer. When it comes down to it, Mr. Leonard's position is that, though this project is a personal passion for him, he's also putting a lot of time and effort into it, and he deserves to be compensated (as well as his staff). It's equally hard to argue that.

Perhaps the most important question is this: who are the professionals who have signed up and will be reading your scripts? To this end, I have no answers, and this is the ultimate measure of how well the site will work. Mr. Leonard has as many contacts in the industry as anyone, and he says they are vetting who they let through the doors on the industry professional side. I have no doubt this is the case. But will those approved be active? Will the site ultimately result in sales? This is something only time will tell, and this is where you should invest the bulk of your caution if you're thinking about signing up.

So, bottom line: what should you do? I am going to stop short of recommending the site to you, but that's not because I'm worried it's a scam; in fact, I'm rather positive it's not. Rather, I'm taking a wait-and-see approach myself. Having been an aspiring, dirt-poor writer myself for many years, I'm painfully aware of how much $25 a month can hurt, and even more so of another $50 added to that at resulting intervals. It's no small matter.

That's why I suggest a cautious optimism with this project. You need to understand how this is different from the various scams out there first and foremost, and I hope I've helped in that regard. But past that you need to make the decision for yourself: if you're going to get in on the ground floor and this DOESN'T work, are you going to be OK losing money finding out? Is the initial risk worth it? Do you dive in head-first or wait to see how it works out for others?

I can tell you that this is legitimately unlike anything I've seen attempted before, and that's a good thing. I can tell you that I'm impressed with Mr. Leonard's push for transparency and willingness to answer any and all questions about what he's attempting. I can tell you that he has a very good standing in the industry and is well-respected.

What I cannot tell you is whether or not this will work. I sincerely hope it does, however. Again, I'm taking the stance of cautious optimism. Whatever you decide as a writer, I wish you good luck and good fortune. And I hope you don't get the jobs I want :)

If you have any questions you'd like to ask me, please do so at @DrGMLaTulippe.


29 July 2012


Do you need some stuff? Like a new computer, or an awesome TV, or boner-inducing barstools? Holy shit, are you in luck then. Because I'm selling those things!

If you see anything you like and know me, or want to ask questions, you know how to get a hold of me. If not, email me at goosetown (at)gmail(dot)com.

The first thing up on the block is the 2008 version of the MacBook Air. It's the 13.3"/80GB SSD version. It kicks ass. It's used, obviously, but it's in terrific condition, has been returned to factory settings (so it starts up like new without any of my porn on it), and comes with the box and includes everything that came along with it. It weighs like as much as two paperclips (science fact) and is a MacBook in Ultrabook form in every way. It was close to $2,100.00 new, but I'm only asking $650.00 for it. I am an extremely nice fellow. Here are pictures:

I'm willing to ship this one anywhere within the US or Canada for free including insurance.

Next two are only for local (Los Angeles area) pickup:

First off, this lovely Vizio 50" LED TV. I know what you're thinking - "Ew, Vizio." And you know what? You're an asshole for thinking that. This TV has one hell of a picture. Plus it's got WiFi and Vizio Apps, which include Netflix and Amazon Streaming and Hulu and a bunch of other shit. It comes with its remote, which has a full, slide-out Qwerty keyboard. This was bought just a couple of years ago for about $1500. I am asking a mere $400 for it because, like I said before, I'm one hell of a swell guy. Here's a picture of the TV showing THE ILLUSIONIST:

Like I've been forced to tell every female in my life...trust me, it's bigger than it looks. And no, I am not including the soundbar, you greedy prick.

Lastly, a set of three really nice barstools that have barely been used and don't really have a place in my new apartment. They're made of...some kind of brushed metal. They're extremely comfortable and are 30" from floor to seat. They look heavy, and they kind of are, but they're more sturdy than anything. These were bought just about two years ago for $75-80 apiece. I'll sell you one for $50 or all three for $100. Your ass will thank the shit out of you. Though not literally - that would not only be gross and unfortunate but would likely ruin the stool. A picture:

Those are the things I have to sell. Come at me.


08 May 2012

My Top Twenty Movies of All-Time


Very recently, I was flattered to receive an email from Cole Abaius of Film School Rejects, and he spoke to me of a great need. "Mr. LaTulippe," he said to me in words that I am in no way completely making up, "You are a gifted near-cleric on the ways and means of not only filmmaking, but film criticism. Sight and Sound just completed their once-every-ten-years list of the Best Movies Ever Made, and they chose not to include you in their discussion because, I assume, your talents and opinions would have just overwhelmed them. But I'd like to compile a similar list based on the opinions of you and some of your contemporaries - who are CLEARLY beneath you, I might add, but still within a modest sphere of commonality - so that we might discover what 'We' think and love about film."

And besides the kind and, again, in no way fabricated compliments he offered, I thought this sounded like a lovely idea. Even though Cole is terribly misguided.

I'm a fan of movies, of that there is no doubt - I feel like you HAVE to be, to some extent, to work within this industry with any vitality or purpose. But I'm not nearly the all-encompassing film fan that many of my friends and colleagues are, encyclopedic in their knowledge and love of the medium. I'm...commercially-nuanced. I didn't start really digging into film until my early 20s. I'm not well-versed in the classics or the "foreign stuff". I'm bored by most silent film. I loathe musicals. Against these titans of film criticism and theory, I'm a peony peon.

However, there's this one thing, and this is what made me want to participate more than anything else - I know what I like. I know what I love. And most importantly, I know WHY I like and love things. Also, I'm not afraid to be thought a fool (especially since, you know, the people who think such a thing are kind of, you know, correct), and for a few films on the list, I'm sure I shall be thought on - you'll probably get an unhealthy fucking kick out of my #2.

But fuck it - this is for fun and science, right?

To call it a "Best Of" is a little misleading, and I like the trend recently that's moved towards more of a Here's What I Like the Most than Here's What I Consider to Be the Paragons of Film Despite My Preferences. I'm not sure what the latter accomplishes anymore, unless POPULAR MECHANICS starts putting together one of these lists. Therefore, these are the movies I love the most, plain and simple. It's a fluid list - what's here today might not be here tomorrow - but it's generally pretty accurate. It was both easy to put together (I think about this kind of thing all the time) and tough to fill out in a way that made me happy. It doesn't include the OLDBOYs and the GREAT ESCAPEs and the DAZED AND CONFUSEDs, all of which might be there on any given day. But this is the way things are today, and so for the greater good, I take a stance.

Thanks once again to Cole for thinking of including me with so many true luminaries.


20. OLD YELLER - Made me cry when I was little. Makes me cry now that I'm "big". Will make me cry when I'm little once more. Learning about loss is a huge part of life, and this movie made it easier to accept the world in that way for me.

19. ROYAL TENENBAUMS - If you asked me what it is I love so much about this movie, I couldn't point to one thing or another. It's just imbued with funny loveliness from top to bottom. Wes Anderson shouldn't be my style, but this movie somehow is.

18. CONTACT - It's a magic trick, that movie about aliens with absolutely no aliens in it. I know Jodie Foster is pretty much lights-out in everything, but this is my favorite performance of hers.

17. CHINATOWN - The first time I watched this and fully understood the script - not just the incest thing, but the all-encompassingnessosity of it - I recall being knocked the fuck over. If I ever even APPROACH writing this spectacular one day, I'll pee myself.

16. A FEW GOOD MEN - Speaking of that writing thing, Aaron Sorkin can do it. And when someone asks you to point to the best writer's best work, I point to this. It ticks all of the boxes and every single actor in the film is square on top of their game.

15. AMERICAN PSYCHO - Listen, don't ever be friends with someone who doesn't like AMERICAN PSYCHO or thinks there's something wrong with you for loving it. There is something wrong with THEM, and it's probably something dangerous and vile. These are the things I have to teach you.

14. SWINGERS - Even before I knew I wanted to work in "the movies", this movie made me want to move to LA and just hang out. It was the DVD I'd throw in every time my waking days on the East Coast sucked and I knew I wanted to strive for more. Still the movie I most often watch when I need a push of some sort.

13. A CHRISTMAS STORY - I have copies of this on VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, a special Blu-ray gift set, and sitting on my DVR. And yet the only time I watch it every year is on Xmas Eve/Day. Believe me: this is the highest praise I think I could ever give anything.

12. THE GRADUATE - Somehow, this will define for CENTURIES what those first few months of post-college feel like for people who don't have anything lined up and/or bang their father's best friend's wife and then their daughter. Kicks you in the balls with love and then manages to sneak depression into a fake happy ending by letting you know: this shit almost never works out.

11. SE7EN - Remember the first time you saw this, and all you could say was, "FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK, man?" A full 17 years later, that's still how I discuss this movie with people.

10. LOVE, ACTUALLY - Let me put it to you this way: my JMU roommate played college football, can pretty much beat the shit out of anyone on the planet, and has dated hotter girls than you've ever seen. And every year this movie makes him so giddy that he throws a wine and cheese Xmas party, watches this, and cries. And I respect him for it. Because I love it that much too.

9. BOOGIE NIGHTS - The most perfect interweaving of multiple characters and storylines ever, in my estimation. Probably my prototypical If This Is On TV I'm Watching It No Matter What's Happening Film. Still floored by the huge prosthetic dick at the end, and I watch a ton of porn, so that should tell you something.

8. ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND - Almost every film that deals with love - including the one that I wrote - really doesn't have anything new to SAY about love. You just try to preach in a way that's funnier or more relateable or more interesting. But this film goes above and beyond that by exploring the mind of someone who's trying to ERASE love from their mind, as we've all wished we could at times. Getting inside that is brilliant, and it's one of the last true original films I've seen.

7. CINEMA PARADISO - I like to think that, in his later years, Frank Capra got a chance to see this movie and then just humped the film canister until he died. This is the reason they put "heartwarming" into the dictionary. And as good as the entirety of the movie is, the ending is so note-perfect on every level that it should have its own course of study in some advanced chain of mathematics.

6. A CLOCKWORK ORANGE - Hey, it's the highest-ranking movie on my list that prominently involves multiple rapes! If someone said that sentence to you on the street, you'd punch them in the mouth. But think about how layered and confident and absolutely chilling this film is - can a leopard ever actually change its spots? Call me crazy, but in real-world terms, this is a more visionary film that Kubrick's 2001.

5. PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES - My favorite film from my favorite director and the first ever R-rated movie that I was allowed to rent on my own. I have a MASSIVE soft-spot for this film, as my father was a traveling salesman while I was growing up and was often away from home. This helped me understand not only that life and the ways it can grind you down, but how to not only WRITE with compassion but actually HAVE it for other people. Well...most of the time. Also taught me a comedy staple: sugar is nice, but it'll never be a sweet as you'd like if you don't take a bite of dirt every now and then.

4. FIGHT CLUB - On one level, this is a masterpiece not only of filmmaking but of adaptation and bringing to life the idea that you've got to hit rock bottom before you can ever truly see clearly. That means wildly different things to different people, but there's something eerily similar about the way most of us choose to fight back against mediocrity when we feel suffocated by it,and this movie NAILS that, albeit in the cleverly abstract. Also, yes, hitting people is just cathartic sometimes.

3. THE PRINCESS BRIDE - Likely what I would consider the most perfect film on my list in that it can be watched and enjoyed by literally anyone, anywhere at any time. In industryspeak, we call this Four Quadrant filmmaking, but in reality, this is so much more than could ever be encompassed by a term or an idea. It's a beautiful, funny, wit-crammed love letter to filmmaking, to imagination, to love, to life. There's not a moment of it that I dislike, which I don't know that I can say about much of anything.

2. TOP GUN - Fuck you. It's fucking awesome and it always will be. The End.

1. THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION - If there's one piece of writing/filmmaking that I put above all others (and likely always will), it's this. It's everything - beautifully shot, brilliantly acted, written without a single discordant note, and somehow full of life and spirit even though its encased in the four walls of a gray, dark, ominous prison. It's able to channel its message into one simple line - "Get busy livin', or get busy dyin'." - and, just when it's knocked you down, it picks you up and carries you home. It is, in no uncertain terms, the movie that unquestionably made me fall in love with movies. It's why I'm here and it's why I do what I do. What else is there?


29 December 2011



It’s safe to say that 2011 was a terrible year for movies.

Wait, no, that’s not right. I mean…2011 was a terrible year for me to get out to SEE movies. Between work, allergies that might as well have raped me in prison and watching my brother’s toddler for the bulk of the Spring/Summer, I was and still am way behind on my typical viewing schedule.

By my count, I saw fewer than 75 of 2011’s movies. That is so God-awful that I can’t even begin to explain to you the feeling of my testicles retracting into my pelvis at seeing such a number. It’s revolting. It’s repugnant. It is WRONG. Usually I see double that, and perhaps even a few more. That in mind, you should take this list as the musing of a compromised, sad little cinematic. Among movies that I desperately wanted to see this year but didn’t (though a few I will get to in the next couple weeks): JANE EYRE, SUBMARINE, A BETTER LIFE, PROJECT NIM, WINNIE THE POOH, ATTACK THE BLOCK (attempted the other day but only got 20 minutes in), BELLFLOWER, TAKE SHELTER, BEING ELMO, THE ARTIST, SHAME, TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY, CORMAN’S WORLD, PARIAH, GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (which I’m seeing tonight). And then a whole bunch of others. Upon seeing them, this list could obviously change.

Onto the bullshit. As per normal, this is ranked not by movies I necessarily think are “best”, but by which ones I like the most/resonate with me. Also, I’m going to cheat ruthlessly:




Flat-out, MI:GP was the most fun I had at the movies this year. No question. Probably the most entertaining action film that I’ve seen in a while. It seems almost stupid to say that this was a coming-out party for Brad Bird, but for a lot of people who never recognized his work with Pixar, it will be. And I don’t care what anyone says – I love and will always love Tom Cruise. The man is a hero.

XM:FC might have ended up as my favorite comic book movie ever. It managed to combine a couple legitimately thrilling set pieces with a ton of heart, a particularly smart origin story and some cleverly-bent history to create a fantastically great time at the movies. Also, Zoe Kravitz. Purrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr…

You don’t get many political thrillers that are spent on the campaign trail, where the real seeds of corruption are filmy planted…if they’re not flowering out of control already. Long a much-loved unproduced script, this is the first entry on my list out of THREE that includes a performance by Ryan Gosling, who had as successful a year for an actor in terms of performance as I can ever remember. Special kudos go to Clooney for directing this twisty, turny affair with crisp grace, managing to leave us wondering still at the end – are there ANY good guys in this story?

Special mention: Clooney provided my favorite performance by a male actor this year in THE DESCENDENTS. Even though the film itself was strong, I had my issues with it. But Clooney was terrific as a subtly broken man who’d lost his way but managed to be a leader and role model anyway.

Most post-apocalyptic films work for me just because I’m fascinated by the concept – the deserted, crumbling landscape, the emaciated walking corpses, the loss of hope. And CONTAGION isn’t quite apocalyptic, but it’s a movie that shows you just how close you can brush up against it, which it turns out is just as (if not somehow more) terrifying. This was the scariest film of the year in my estimation, and I don’t think there’s any doubt that Soderbergh is one of the modern masters at setting mood.

7. 50/50
My favorite Original Screenplay of the year and a movie that really worked on me because even if you had no idea that the script was based on the writer’s actual experiences, you would know that it was based on the writer’s actual experiences. It’s incredibly personal and unique in that it’s not JUST the writer laying bare everything – it’s the director, the actors, everyone involved as well. In a dramedy it’s almost impossible to not hit a false note somewhere, and this never does. Major props to JGL for pulling off a ridiculous performance after coming onto the film just weeks before it started shooting.

A lot of people liked this movie, but I found that most who did still had a lot of caveats. I suppose I understand that to some degree, but what I heard most was some form of, “It couldn’t decide what KIND of movie it wanted to be.” And though I disagree, there’s an element of truth to that – it’s alternately, slapsticky, observational, dramatic, sentimental, winsome, melancholy, etc. Well guess what? So is life. And I thought this film captured that perfectly, right down to the improbable-yet-entirely-possible set of coincidences that grace the third act. Loved every minute of this one, including the first act which moved a little more deliberately than the rest of the film.

My favorite Adapted Screenplay of the year – I mean, I know, a real fucking stretch considering it was Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin contributing. What really impressed me about this one was both how funny it was and the fact that it was built around a premise that is both somewhat of a failure and also open-ended, not to mention based on a work of staggering nonfiction…and yet it worked beautifully as a complete, three-act story. It’s one of those rare sports films that non-sports fans can appreciate and understand as well as hardcore sports fans, and it is so appreciable because it never tries talking down (or using copious amounts of exposition in explaining its intricacies) to the audience.

I’m a big fan of the anti-hero, but I was NOT prepared for how far Charlize Theron (in my favorite performance of the year by ANYONE) was about to beat that archetype into my skull with unrelenting fervency. I love, love, love, love, love love love love love that Reitman, Cody and company NEVER let up in the assault on the audience of this one terrible woman, who starts awful and finishes awful. Even better: this is not someone who is a broken person and is made bad by the world around her. This is someone who CHOOSES to be terrible. All the time. With no reluctance. And the result is a disturbing, dark, insanely painful and funny ride.

(FULL DISCLOSURE #1: Diablo is producing one of my films.)
(FULL DISCLOSURE #2: Go fuck yourself. This is still brilliant.)

The third movie featuring Ryan Gosling. A ton has already been said in praise of this one, from the directing to the acting to the writing to the score, and it’s all correct. I don’t want to add anything unnecessary, so I’ll just say this: this film pulled off a nigh-impossible task in simply being unabashedly, effortlessly cool. Many have tried. This one came through.

Here’s how much the second half of this movie knocked me off my feet: I could take or leave the bulk of the first half of the movie. I didn’t dislike it, per se, but after a few minutes I just didn’t care. She’s a manic-depressive; we get it. In fact, I spent the near-entirety of it (outside of the first ten minutes, which is peerless in its sheer visual beauty) convinced that I was going to be writing this off as a pretty, pretentious pile of shit.

Man, was I wrong. When we kick into the second half and the film’s vision of the perhaps-approaching apocalypse, I was RIVETED. This is the quietest film I’ve ever seen about the potential end of the world and also the loveliest in so many ways. In particular, the human struggle to fear the end of life as we know it while trying to balance the logic of those in a position of expertise to tell you that it’s not going to happen was fascinating. Trying to make the most of your time with your loved ones just in case while attempting to do perhaps the most human of things – pretend that nothing’s wrong. By the end, this movie had rocked me to my core and left me – legitimately – nearly breathless. If you haven’t yet, seek it out.

I’m splitting up my #1 film into two films because there’s no other way to do it – they’re so impossibly different that I have no choice.

The first, to me, isn’t really a film so much as it’s a memory – the way it’s shot, the way it’s acted, the story it tells. An examination of what we as people share universally with the forces of nature and the very construction of our planet itself…I mean, look. If you hated this movie, I totally get it. This is one of those films that either locks into you on an extremely personal level or shuts you out with a heavy steel door. I will argue certain points about what the film does or says, but I can’t imagine a film that calls more to be personally absorbed or rejected outright.
And so there’s almost no constructive way to discuss it other than in personal terms. For me, it posed questions (with very few answers, which I found refreshing) that I have about life and the vastness that surrounds me while reminding me almost wholesale what it was like to be a burgeoning adolescent trying to find my place within my family, friends, and the world at large. Maybe the best compliment I can give it: I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch it again quite yet. All things considered, the “best” movie I saw this year.

Again, a seminally different film from co-#1 TREE OF LIFE, this is the film that hit me on all levels this year, the film that I saw the most times in a theater this year (4), and the film that I’ll probably rewatch the most in the future.
I’m a big-time MMA fan, and curiously, I think that might have actually been a slight detriment to my enjoyment of the film. If there was one problem I had with it, it’s that portions of the MMA action were overstaged, which converged on the realism for me to a degree. Still, it wasn’t anywhere near the transgression of the depiction of sport seen in the likes of the ROCKY series; it was enhanced properly to give a general audience a sense of the scale of what can or could happen in MMA, so it’s understandable.

But for me, this was first and foremost a movie about family. It played on familiar tropes and maladies and covered ground that many have charted previously. But you know what? It got it so, so, SO right. It’s all heart, the quintessential underdog story that sucks you in and smacks you around in all the right ways. I clapped at the end. Oh man, did I clap. Yes, you know from the very beginning of this thing that Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy, playing estranged brothers, are going to be fighting for a title at the end. That’s never in question. What is in question is whether or not they’re ever going to heal from that fight – and that has nothing to do with broken bones or deep bruises. It’s exhilarating and moving and poignant and wonderful. And it’s my favorite movie of the year.


09 November 2011



As is the case with much of life, I didn't see the events of this week coming, wasn't even remotely prepared to deal with them, and have no clue exactly how I'm going to feel going forward. All I really do know is that I sat up all night thinking about this, and woke up this morning asking myself, "How the hell are you going to lose sleep over a football team?"

And of course, it's far more than just a football team. While many of you actually attended PSU, I didn't. However, I grew up with and at Penn State. It's kind of hard to avoid when your family has been season ticket holders since the 1960s and watching the games is part of a bonding experience that's indelibly burned into the very fiber of your being. It stopped being "just football" on more or less the day I was born 32 years ago and officially became "part of my life".

And as every event in the history of Penn State football, so are the events of this week a chapter in my life. Naturally, it's one chapter I'd just as soon rip out of the book and bury in the backyard as if it never happened. Sadly, there are no real pages, and there is no backyard.

To paraphrase Robert Frost, we have many, many miles to travel before the scandal that befell us this week is over and we can finally put it to rest. But there are a few things that I wanted - and need - to say, and no matter the outcome.

With Joe Paterno's own admission that he, in hindsight, wishes he would have done more about the Sandusky situation, I'm forced to change my tune in the way I've defended him this week. While we still don't know a significant portion of the details of what occurred between 2002 and this past week, Joe's own admission was that he failed the victims in this case. In that, he also failed the University, a concept that's almost impossible for me to reconcile considering how much he loved and gave to it his entire life. And as angry and upset as I am, there are parts of me that can understand - not condone, not forgive, not excuse, but UNDERSTAND - how it could have happened.

An infinitesimal few of us, thank God, can actually put ourselves in McQueary's or Joe's shoes. Oh sure, we can sit here, protected by the relative anonymity of message board avatars, and project from our own moral high ground. But if we're being honest with ourselves...what WOULD we really have done? If you're McQueary, maybe some of you run and tackle Sandusky and beat him to a pulp; we sure would all like to do that retroactively, no doubt. Maybe some of you run right and call the police. Maybe some of us are so shocked that we don't know HOW to act - having seen a mentor that we've known and respected for more than a decade commit one of the most abhorrent atrocities one could imagine. For myself...I have no clue. I'd like to think I'd be the hero of the situation, running in and separating this vile scumbag from his teeth. But I think there's just as good a chance I'd break down and call someone I trusted before I flat-out lost my mind. I don't excuse what Mike did. But I understand how he could have done it.

If you're Joe...how do you react to hearing THAT kind of news about one of your closest friends and colleagues of DECADES? How many of us could sit here and say that they'd immediately call the police on one of their best friends if they'd heard secondhand that he'd molested a child? Could you snap into action, or would you need some time to process the bomb that's been dropped on you and wrestle with doing the right thing...and even not being able to decide, on the snap of a finger, what the right thing really IS? Again, the answers seem so clear and easy when it's not you, when you weren't there, when you DIDN'T have to make that decision. I don't excuse what Joe did. But I understand how he could have done it.

I wrote a post a couple days ago detailing how it was the wrong move to thrust Joe into the center of this debate, and much of that I stand by. As Joe was, it seems, the ONLY one who fulfilled his legal obligation to the matter, I knew that pushing him to the forefront - making him the face of this tragedy just a he is the face of the University - was only going to cause more trouble than it had already. Sadly, I was right. Now the focus is squarely on Joe, and we're almost to the point of letting the REAL villains - Curley, Schultz, Spanier and, most importantly, Sandusky - get through the brunt of this unscathed. To me, that's the biggest shame in all of this. Paterno COULD and SHOULD have done more, but in the huge machine that is this travesty, he's a smaller cog. And he's essentially being sacrificed so the more nefarious players can continue hiding in the shadows for just a while longer. No one will ever remember most of those other names, but Joe? Sixty years of high character and impeccable graduation rates and accountability...to many, all gone. Now HE'S the target. And that is shameful.

And yet...you wonder how, for years, Paterno (again, we're assuming some information here, though it seems all too likely) could allow this monster to stay, for all intents and purposes, a part of the program. You wonder how any of them could. That's something I can't disengage from, and for whatever mistakes Joe has made in his life, I think it'd be safe to say this was the biggest. However, I'm also forced to recognize that he was NOT the only one, and the onus doesn't lie solely on him. Maybe not even mostly on him. And yet...he didn't do enough.

Where does this leave me now? I don't know. There's still too much to play out, too much to absorb, too much to consider. That said, I do know one thing:

This University is not any of these men. This University is the students, the athletes, the alumni, and the fans. And as sad and angry as I am at some of those who represented us, I will never turn my back on Penn State.

I am going to continue to be proud. I am going to continue to be proud of an idea, a place and a team, and no pathetic little cadre of corrupt deviants are going to change that.

I will continue to support PSU, win or lose against Nebraska this weekend. I will continue to support PSU for their two games following, and the potential Big Ten Championship, and the bowl game. I will continue to support them if they lose every single contest. Because that's not only what the players and the coaches and the program deserves - it's what I deserve as well.

I will continue to support PSU no matter who they hire as the new Head Coach. I will continue to support PSU if they clean house. I will continue to support PSU in a resurgence or a rebuilding. I will continue to support it no matter how good or bad the next ten, twenty, thirty years are.

Because The Pennsylvania State University stands for something to me. It is not this scandal. It is not this sadness. It is not Sandusky, or Curley, or Schultz or Spanier. It is not Joe Paterno.

Penn State is us. It is a wonderful, prideful, goodhearted community that can never and will never be broken. It is our friends and our family. It is our tradition.

The physical embodiment of that will not only be around televisions and in the stands on Saturday, but on the field.

I will be rooting for them then. I will be rooting for them always.


23 December 2010



Typical Cliched Disclaimer: This is a list of MY FAVORITE movies of the year; that does not necessarily include the “best” movies of the year. That’s a different thing. If this was that list, stuff like BLACK SWAN would be on it, because the second hour of that movie was the best thing anyone on the planet has produced in probably fifteen years. But since I found the first hour of the movie listless and marginally uninteresting, it’s not one of my favorites.

Also, hey…maybe there were some films I didn’t get to see this year (“yet” or “because I just didn’t want to” – take your pick). But everyone says that. And what the hell do you know? Maybe I did see everything. So don’t be such a judger.


So here we go:

10. (tie) KICK-ASS/SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD – I think a lot of people are going to lump these two movies in together thematically/stylistically, and I think that’s a big mistake. I’m not doing that here. I simply couldn’t decide which one I enjoyed more, having seen both in the theater twice and multiple times on Blu-ray at home. Hey, both were also criminally overlooked by audiences! See, I only lump movies together non-artistically, which I think is much cleaner.

9. HOT TUB TIME MACHINE – True, this movie was produced by a good friend of mine and written by a good friend of mine. That just means I have awesome friends. And I got to go on set for a day and meet Diora Baird and Billy Zabka, and the movie is fucking hilarious, so I’m now kind of surprised this isn’t higher on my list.

8. WAKING SLEEPING BEAUTY – Though I’m still not recovered from the sight of Tim Burton animating Disney films, this is one of the few movies this year that I walked into with high expectations (thanks to a truly dazzling trailer) and found them immediately exceeded. There’s been a rush to vilify Disney in the past couple decades – a lot in life which they have, largely, brought upon themselves – and even if the film was shot through a bit of an emotional vasoline lens, it was heartwarming to see this group of people that cared about quality and creativity above all else and were so unbelievably talented to boot. Also think it was a fantastic decision not to make this into a film with just talking heads; worked so well thematically in this instance.

7. THE TOWN – I know some people still vehemently hate Ben Affleck, but I don’t get it and I never have. OK, the guy took some questionable roles or whatever, but who hasn’t? Fact of the matter is that he’s a fine actor and he’s turning into a better-than-solid director. And as I said at the time…where the HELL did Blake Lively come from in this movie? As far as I’m concerned, she kind of stole the show, which is hard to do when you’re playing the Certified Everyday Boston Whore role that I’m pretty sure they stamp into your brain in most acting classes.

6. A-TEAM – I don’t care. I don’t care what you think. It was loud and dumb and ridiculous (because that’s what they specialize in) and I laughed and clapped and cheered and it was the best time I had at the movies in 2010.

5. INCEPTION – I don’t know that there’s a whole lot left to be said about this one. For the record, I think the top fell. And for the record, I don’t think that’s the point of the movie at all.

4. TRUE GRIT – Hailee Steinfeld deserves an Oscar, plain and simple. This is the first Coen movie in a long time that lacked their particular brand of quirky flourish – which, like just about everyone else, I’m in love with – and I think that fit perfectly within the context of the Western. This movie was also the scene of my greatest Unaided Actor Call-Out of the year; the prosecuting lawyer that grills The Dude in the courtroom scene plays a police officer in VARSITY BLUES. Boom.

3. EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP – I think too many people have pointed it out already, but what’s one more: this is the best long-con in feature filmmaking in decades. I don’t think it’s a documentary any more than I think the History Channel isn’t run by freaks who masturbate to quatrains and old Nazi footage. And it’s STILL an amazing chronicle of street art, and it’s so effective that it just made me pissed off that I’m not a street artist. I don’t want to get in shape or be healthy or anything like that, but all I want for myself in my 30s is to get chased by the cops for creating vandal art and then miraculously Parkour my way right out of their grasp. Also, the fact that Banksy has $1 million in fake British currency in cardboard boxes in his loft blows my goddamned mind.

2. THE SOCIAL NETWORK – Again, what is left to be said? Aaron Sorkin is a God. David Fincher is a God. I can immediately understand why a person WOULDN’T like this film. But I hope that person can also immediately understand why I would have no interest in anything about them. Side note, as I want this in print: I’m picking Armie Hammer in the Superman derby. If it’s not him, I think they’ve made a mistake.

1. I LOVE YOU, PHILLIP MORRIS – Yes, I realize this film was technically released last year, but the screener came THIS year, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s a film of 2010. And it’s the best film of 2010. I know the Academy and most “relevant” awards circuits have been ignoring the enormous talent of Jim Carrey for nigh on twenty years now, but he and Ewan McGregor do hero-level work in this movie. The film is funny and clever and dirty and sweet and heartbreaking and just full of unrelenting goodness and I was drawn into every scene of it. As a writer, I think the finest compliment you can give another writer(s) is to say that you wish YOU’D written their piece of material. Here, I’d take that a step further: I saw THE SOCIAL NETWORK this year, generally regarded as the academic height of screenwriting…and I’m jealous that I didn’t write I LOVE YOU, PHILLIP MORRIS.

As always, your slings and arrows are appreciated and considered, especially when you start attacking my inclusion of A-TEAM.