Monday, July 31, 2006

Stupid brilliant Frenchies

I can't remember why I had Jean de Florette on my list, but I recognised the music instantly. It's used as the themetune for those wonderful Stella Artois adverts which almost made me want to drink the stuff, except it tastes awful.

Why I say it's stupid and brilliant is that French thing (some Indian films do this as well) of setting up a classic insurmountable obstacle for our hero, which our hero then completely fails to surmount. For ones like me weaned on Hollywood, it's very surprising!

Apparently there's a sequel; I don't know if I'll watch it. It took a bit long to get to the denouement and I don't think I can bear another two hours to see if the sequel sets things right.

Interestingly done though. Our main character - Gerard Depardieu as Jean (is there a French film he's not in?) - isn't introduced until half an hour in, so as a viewer we're tempted to think the bad guys are actually "our guys" - ie we're meant to identify with the crooked pair plotting how to take over the farm.

An interesting, tragic tale. And the only reason I say it's stupid is because they so got me with the surprise at the end!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The inexplicable behaviour of TV programmers

Check out the editorial in the latest Write Up magazine - it's all about TVNZ's ridiculous decision to "pause" the undercover cop drama Orange Roughies and "reschedule it later".

That kind of behaviour just puzzles me. If not many people are watching a show, how will rescheduling it help? If they're infrequent TV viewers like me, they'll expect to tune in the same time next week, only to find a different show on. What then? How are we to find out where the powers that be have rescheduled it to?

It just doesn't make good sense.

Thankfully, TVNZ is listening and thinking about the future of broadcast, where timeslots won't really matter that much. Already their website has lots of video on demand, but no RSS feeds. It's a puzzle. Apparently I can also watch different TV feeds on my 3G capable phone, but I haven't had the time, inclination or multiple dollars to try it.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

"The Swingers" NZ Film at its... um..

Funny. Awful.

Awfully funny!


For no reason at all, here is...


1. Two vultures board an airplane, each carrying two dead raccoons. The stewardess looks at them and says, "I'm sorry, gentlemen, only one carrion allowed per passenger."

2. Did you hear that NASA recently put a bunch of Holsteins into low earth orbit? They called it the herd shot 'round the world.

3. Two boll weevils grew up in South Carolina. One went to Hollywood and became a famous actor. The other stayed behind in the cotton fields and never amounted to much. The second one, naturally, became known as the lesser of two weevils.

4. Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, but when they lit a fire in the craft, it sank proving once again that you can't have your kayak and heat it, too.

5. A three legged dog walks into a saloon in the Old West. He slides up to the bar and announces: "I'm looking for the man who shot my paw."

6. Did you hear about the Buddhist who refused Novocain during a root canal? He wanted to transcend dental medication.

7. A group of chess enthusiasts checked into a hotel and were standing in the lobby discussing their recent tournament victories. After about an hour, the manager came out of the office and asked them to disperse. "But why?" they asked, as they moved off. "Because," he said, "I can't stand chess nuts boasting in an open foyer."

8. A woman has twins, and gives them up for adoption. One of them goes to a family in Egypt and is named "Amal." The other goes to a family in Spain; they name him "Juan." Years later, Juan sends a picture of himself to his birth mother. Upon receiving the picture, she tells her husband that she wishes she also had a picture of Amal. Her husband responds, "They're twins! If you've seen Juan, you've seen Amal."

9. These friars were behind on their belfry payments, so they opened up a small florist shop to raise funds. Since everyone liked to buy flowers from the men of God, a rival florist across town thought the competition was unfair. He asked the good fathers to close down, but they would not. He went back and begged the friars to close. They ignored him. So, the rival florist hired Hugh MacTaggart, the roughest and most vicious thug in town to "persuade" them to close. Hugh beat up the friars and trashed their store, saying he'd be back if they didn't close up shop. Terrified, they did so, thereby proving that: Hugh, and only Hugh, can prevent florist friars.

10. And finally, there was a man who sent ten different puns to friends, in the hope that at least one of the puns would make them laugh. Unfortunately, no pun in ten did.


The only substitute for good manners is fast reflexes.


Yeah, you can send this Funny to anybody you want. And, if you're REAL nice, you'll tell them where you got it!


Sunday, July 16, 2006

Guess Who?

Guess Who is a nice light comedy for a peaceful Sunday afternoon. Bernie Mac and Ashton Kutcher are funny, very funny. However this isn't a comedy that lasts in your memory.

Special features were interesting for what they left out. I didn't know until I looked at IMDb that this was a remake of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, or that the story and script weren't actually written as filming progressed.

As a viewer I enjoyed the behind-the-scenes information about which parts were improvised, etc. But as a future screenwriting professional I'm puzzled why there was nothing about how the original story came about, nor about how it was adapted for the 21st century. Why?

Friday, July 14, 2006

National Business Review (NBR) - Business, News, Arts, Media, Share Market & More

Film companies interested in NZ!


Wasn't sure how it would be seeing Remington Steele play a Kramer-like character in this heartfelt tale. But he was very good!

Really nice tale - well-crafted, but perhaps more importantly well-acted. Perhaps it's just something about the Irish, but all the main characters were very watchable as they plotted and planned their legal case, which otherwise would have been very expository.

Incredibly scarce internet information about this one. IMDb doesn't even have a trivia link. Rotten Tomatoes gives it 67%. BoxOfficeMojo says about 4 million at the BO worldwide, but no info on production budget.

Interestingly, lawyers liked this movie.

So, I guess it did okay. A very nice fillum.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Man Who Cried

(Loving my Mac, by the way!)

Saw The Man Who Cried last night, not because it was a romantic comedy (it wasn't) but because I had it on my list of Epiphany Award winners that I was going to check out.

Mixed feelings on this one. Really good cast, really great story, but somehow it left me untouched. Except for the music - the music is what saves this story. And my head was telling me what a great story, but my soul was saying something was missing.

Not sure whether it was that the story needed to start some other place. It starts with Susan (Christina Ricci) flailing around in an ocean set ablaze, then cuts back to her childhood. I felt the story would have been more effective with us meeting her as an English girl, then discovering her Russian-Jewish heritage. For me, that would've made me much more interested in what ensued.

Also, I hate to criticise actors, but I felt that Cate Blanchett's supporting role was actually more powerfully acted than Ricci's main character.

Johnny Depp, on the other hand, just filled the screen with his brooding presence. It seemed a very long time before he even spoke, but he was definitely noticeable.

As I learn more about directing in coming years, maybe I'll discover what it is about films like this that *almost* get me. (And writing, of course.)

Another thing... what's the title about? I don't get it. Who cried? The father? Cesar (Depp)? The main character is a girl. She cries, sometimes, but it doesn't seem to be a vital plot point. It's a kind of misleading title, which goes further to make this movie not really a success. How's that for bad english.

(Actually, my latest Leadership post is more in keeping with the title!)

Checking out the numbers, this film only saw release in 28 cinemas!! Critics mostly panned it, but a few were touched by the romanticism and the music.

Another thing I noticed, the end resolved too neatly. It didn't feel real or dramatic enough. Something I need to watch with my script!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Blooming Lions on a flipping bus!

Jack Yan comments on the hilarity that's ensuing over Snakes on a Plane publicity.

It just shows that the right movie title can really capture people's imagination!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Naked Samoans speak out

After several weeks out of the movie scene (except for watching them!) I got to jump back into the industry at the Script-to-Screen Writer's Room.

Being interviewed were Oscar Kightley and David Fane of the Naked Samoans, famous for their involvement in Bro'Town and Sione's Wedding.

Some really good lessons, which can be summed up as:
  • Collaboration is where it all comes from
  • You know fairly early on whether you'll work well with someone
  • Good scripts don't write themselves - you need to lock yourself in the room until it's finished
  • Get to the punchline sooner than later
  • Funny just comes from observing the world around you. If you're willing to laugh at anything, chances are others will find it funny too!
What they didn't say, but what was apparent from their demeanour, was how organic and non-competitive their work was. I'm sure that doesn't just happen - in fact they did mention some pretty unusual conflict resolution tactics involving a knife... ! ... but they're really committed to themselves as a group I think.

Really good to be at this thing. Looking forward to the next one in July.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Pete & Dud Come Again

Marie did a fantastic thing for my birthday (June 22nd; I turned 31, and yes I will accept late gifts). She booked us tickets to a West End play, and kept the whole thing a surprise until the last minute!

That's really something for either of us; we're not good at keeping our mouths shut!

The play was Pete & Dud Come Again, based on the tortured relationship between Peter Cook and Dudley Moore.

Wow. Wow. Wow.


It was that good.

Admittedly, I haven't seen much of the original TV programmes with Cook & Moore, but I have seen Moore in his film roles, and Kevin Bishop did an amazing likeness (I know; I was sitting in the front row!!) Tom Goodman-Hill was stunning as Peter Cook, carrying off a dizzying array of accents.

The story was both very, very funny and extremely sad. Funny, because hello, these are comedians ... well, actors portraying some of the funniest comedians ever. The wordplay, the accents, the physical comedy was all there.

Sad, because ... well, what a dysfunctional relationship. Cook comes off looking like the bad guy, putting Moore down in their early relationship, and unable to handle Moore's later success in view of his own ... well, career failure.

But they're not good-guy bad-guy... this story had the feel of real life to it, of grey areas, of imperfect human beings trying to make their way in the world.

The structure of the story was very cinematic, with a TV interview providing opportunities for flashbacks (using clever lighting and sound effects). The TV studio environment blended in perfectly with the fact we were there to see a play ... it made it feel all the more real. We weren't in Takapuna on Auckland's North Shore in June 2006, we were in London in 1982.

It was so good to be back in the theatre. There's something very special about it, not to deprive movies of any of their amazingness. A good time had by all.


Not what I expected, but very worth watching, Spanglish is written and directed by James L Brooks, the man behind As Good as it Gets and producer of The Simpsons.

A very funny guy, and obviously someone who's very confident in his own style and humour.

I say that because there were some things in Spanglish that just didn't make sense to me, and yet they were funny. For example: "Stop talking to me or I'm going to set my hair on fire and punch myself in the face!"

Why is Spanglish not what I expected? Because it's a romantic comedy that goes against romance... Adam Sandler's character is married, which makes you uncomfortable right from the get-go. This is not Bridges of Madison County.

In the special features Brooks says he wanted to "make decency sexy" and it works. You feel just how hard it is for two people who are attracted to each other, but cannot "go there" because he's married, they both have kids, etc. Wonderful to see that from Hollywood!

Starring Adam Sandler, I was expecting belly laughs. Instead I got several crisscrossing personal stories with a real sense of reality about them. I'd categorise it more of a dramedy than a comedy, but then it had more laugh-out-loud moments the second time around (listening to the commentary).

I think this would be a hard first film to pitch, because it's very hard to pin down what the film's actually about. There are lots of characters, all with their own issues and story arcs, and I was confused that the narrator was Cristina (the Mexican daughter) but the main characters were actually Flor (Paz Vega) and John (Adam Sandler).

Shelbie Bruce as Cristina was simply amazing. So was Sarah Steele as Bernice - amazing that she gained weight for this role, a very dicey thing for a young actress to do, but her father's a nutritionist, so you do what you can.

The numbers... hmmm, seems this didn't do so well at the BO... $80 million budget, only $54 million in takings! Yikes that's nasty!

Oh! And only 52% on the tomatometer... tragic, it really is. It's the kind of story that either gets you, or it doesn't. What got me was not really the main story, but the mother-daughter dynamic between Flor and Cristina, probably because I see it in Marie and her mum (the child translates for the parent, and therefore enters the adult world too early).

Still, if you read the reviews on Rotten Tomatoes they're not quiet opinions. This was a film that people either really liked or really didn't. I recommend checking it out for yourself if any of this has caught your attention.

And if all else fails, there is a scene with a beautiful sandwich which, if anything, will make you incredibly hungry.

Gotta go get some lunch now...

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Long time, no...!

Sorry folks for the long delay ... I've been working like a dog (kind of) and adjusting to becoming a Mac user.

That's right! I'm a true creative professional now, and to prove it I've grown a goatee.


It was Marie's idea, but it's growing on me.


Since my last post, I've:
  • Registered my script, The Last Gribblehickey, with WGA
  • Sent it out to several other writers
  • Got some really, really great feedback!
The feedback has been overwhelmingly good. Sure, people have made suggestions of where the story seems too rushed or too slow, but the premise - that crucially important part of a selling story - is unanimously praised by the half-dozen or so people who I've run it past.

Needless to say, I'm very happy about that.

If you're reading this and you're a screenwriter, I really encourage you to get onto Skip Press' Hollywood Writers YahooGroup. It's a priceless resource where writers share tales, mull over ideas and yes - critique each other's scripts! Much recommended.

I've also been watching a lot of movies in between working and getting this great feedback. More on those in separate posts later.