Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Seems Like A Good Day For A Car Chase

It just seems like a good day for a couple of car chases, so here are some you may never have seen before. THE MASTER'S TOUCH is an Italian crime film with Kirk Douglas, and one of the wildest car chases ever put on film. A destruction derby! Several flights of stairs, cement, car-on-car action...

THE MASTER'S TOUCH (1972 - Italy)

Luc Besson produced a series of movies called TAXI, and in the USA they cast Jimmy Fallon in the remake. Um, no. Here's one of the car chases from the original (yes, the people speak French and you won't know what they are saying - so what?).

TAXI (1998 - France)

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Premise Promise - and HANCOCK - if your film is aboujt a drunken superhero, it is about a drunken superhero.
Dinner: Popeyes Chicken in NoHo.
Bicycle: Bike ride to get that chicken!
Pages: Well, plan was to blast out this article for Script and then work on the spec. Ended up goofing off. Did some writing on each, though.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Eddie Presley plays The Egyptian

Wednesday, March 31st, 7:30, Egyptian Theater, Hollywood. My friend Duane has a double bill at American Cinematheque. EDDIE PRESLEY (directed by my friend Jeff) - and with a cameo by some dude named Quentin Tarantino. Followed by TOGETHER & ALONE, a film about people on the fringes of Hollywood trying to break in... but knowing they never will, which has a scene that breaks my heart every time I see it.

This may be the only time TOGETHER & ALONE has ever been shown on the big screen (I don't know).

I'll be there.

- Bill

Dinner: El Torito - the #3 combo plate.
Bicycle: Epic ride on Saturday... thought my legs would be rubbery on Sunday, but they were fine.
Movies: Two Bogart Films.

So, a week ago I went to the Billy Wilder Theater in Westwood to see a couple of Humphrey Bogart films which were part of a program presented by Hugh Heffner, who loves Bogart movies. Who knew? Heffner was actually going to be at a couple of showings, but not this one - he probably had a date. Much like the Egyptian screening I had gone to, the cinema was not packed. Hey, walking distance from UCLA, where they have film classes, and no one seems to be taking the walk. Lots of old people, though. And the young people who sat behind us split after the first film.

Oh, what were the films?

DARK PASSAGE and DEAD RECKONING. I have seen both before (I think I’ve seen every Bogart movie on the big screen at least once) but not in a long time. I have posted on this very blog about DARK PASSAGE before - it’s a great film, even though I did not own it on DVD a week ago (do now). I remembered it as being a good one. DEAD RECKONING was a fuzzy memory - but it was the one with Lizabeth Scott, and gets a mention in Woody Allen’s PLAY IT AGAIN SAM... can’t be bad, right?

First - the cinema. Beautiful, new cinema in Westwood... but was the cinema designed for dwarves? The seats are too close together! I had to sit cross legged to get my legs to fit. Just because it's the Billy Wilder Theater doesn't mean there should only be enough legroom for Billy Wilder sized people. What if Wilder had wanted to see a movie with his pal William Holden? This is a fairly new cinema, and the seats are too close together for a normal sized person in this century. I already have enough trouble sitting in airplanes, shuttle buses, etc - why make a movie theater that rejects me? So, I am watching the movie with my legs diagonal and still touching the seat in front of me for the next 4 hours!

Second - the cinema only half full. Do people in the film biz just not like seeing films? What's up with that? Had a meeting before the holidays, mentioned a couple of recent films I'd seen, and the Devo accused me of being a film addict. One of the films was from his studio... shouldn't he at least be seeing his own studio's films?

Yeah, Devo's busy... but whatever he is doing is not as important as understanding what he's selling and buying. I see a couple of movies in the cinema every week - it's part of my job. You gotta see movies with warm bodies - real people - to see how they react... and to see how the movie works (or does not). Guess what - that film you made that flopped was not due to poor marketing. It sucked. It's part your fault.

Anyway, like I said last week - there are great films at the Egyptian, at the New Beverly, the Silent Movies, and other places in Los Angeles... and, of course, the stuff your studio made that is playing in the multiplex. If you're in the film biz, see some movies!


The house lights go down, and some great Franz Waxman music begins (it is a week later, and I still can not get that music out of my head!) And the WB shield appears on the screen. I love Warner Bros movies - they were gritty when other films were glossy. Even their big Busby Berkeley musicals were about some broke composer and some out of work chorus girl who team up and put on a hit show that saves some theater.

DARK PASSAGE - based on a novel by the amazing Dave Goodis, produced by Jerry Wald (ex-screenwriter - back then they promoted *writers* to producer jobs and studio head of production), written and directed by Delmer Daves (DESTINATION TOKYO), starring Bogart & Bacall and Agnes Moorehead and lots of Warner Bros bit players.

The film opens with escape from San Quentin that is shot POV from the lead character (Bogart) - we never see him... just what he sees. Though the first 65 minutes of the film are from the lead character’‘s POV, and we don’t see Bogart’s face for that entire time, it isn’t 100% POV - it’s a combo of shots of POV and wide and long shots. So the film actually opens with a shot of a garbage truck filled with garbage cans leaving San Quentin Prison... then a pair of hands come out of the garbage can, and they rock it off the back of the truck. POV from inside the can as it rolls down the hill, then a great shot from *inside* the can as the prisoner crawls out, gets his footing, and escapes... From there on it’s POV from the prisoner - as he ditches his prison shirt, hides from a dozen police on motorcycles looking for him, etc. He *hops a fence* to the road to hitch a ride - amazing stuff. Can you imagine trying to hoist one of those huge olkd 35mm cameras over the fence with some actor’s arms in your way (as the prisoner’s arms). He gets picked up by a grifter... and they hear the radio report about the escaped convict! Great POV shot from our convict hero Vince Parry (voiced by Bogart) as the grifter hears the convict’s description and looks up and down at *us* - type of shoes, color of eyes, hair, etc. *We* punch the grifter and escape... and then we are picked up by Bacall, who has some connection to the convict but what?

Bacall lets him hide out at her place, furnishes him with new clothes, and takes care of him... why? She won’t tell him. Vince was convicted of murdering his wife, has always claimed he was innocent, was convicted to life in prison, and now the only way to have a normal life is to find the real killer before the police catch up with him for escaping San Quentin. But how can he do that with his face on the cover of every newspaper?

Vince gets some back alley plastic surgery in some really dirty tenement where the doctor had his license yanked years ago... very similar to the scene in MINORITY REPORT. The doctor is this crazy guy, who tells him that a botched surgery could make him look like a bulldog... or worse. Does Vince have a place to stay? He’s not supposed to move for a while after the surgery, and needs someone who will take care of him. Well, Vince has already contacted his oldest friend who always believed he was innocent, who will take care of him after the surgery. But when Vince is dropped off there after the surgery he finds his friend murdered - whoever actually killed Vince’s wife is getting rid of anyone who Vince can go to for help. So Vince has no choice but to *walk* across San Francisco right after surgery - climbing endless flights of stairs (those ones under Coit Tower) to Bacall’s apartment building. She takes him in again....

Okay - 65 minutes into the film, the bandages come off and we see the movie star's face for the very first time. Imagine doing that in a modern film. For half the film we do not see the star's face! While Bacall is slowly taking off the bandages there is this fear that he will look like a bulldog... or worse. But he looks just like Humphrey Bogart! After he looks in the mirror, we ditch the POV stuff and the last half of the movie is a Bogart & Bacall crime film.

I had mis-remembered the film (or maybe this is what happened in the book, which I read about a decade ago) - but I thought after he got the plastic surgery he re-enters his old life with his new face and gets to question all of his old friends about himself and see himself from their POV... and gets to hear what people really think about him. Though that’s touched on in a scene of the film, it really isn’t explored much because the last half of the story picks up speed and is action-action-twist-action! Relentless pacing, and some *savage* plot twists!

Bogart finds the one guy who can prove he's innocent, the guy fights him, the guy goes off a cliff and splats. No way to prove himself innocent! I'm not going to spoil the film with all of the other characters who die - but some *shocking* unexpected deaths in this film. Everyone who can help him prove that he didn’t kill his wife ends up dead. So not only do we not see the movie star’s face for the first 65 minutes, the film manages to kill off people that usually do not get killed off in a film like this. Lots of “you can’t do that in a movie!” scenes.

The film still works - is clever and has shocking twists and a great Franz Waxman score and really well done suspense scenes (one is almost a French Farce - with everyone wanting to go into the room where Bogart is hiding) - and fantastic San Francisco location work. Though San Francisco stuff was probably 2nd unit - the film feels like it was all shot there. You get a real feel for the city, and the film uses some interesting locations that you wouldn’t see in a film that just used the tourist locations.

A little side note on the novelist, David Goodis - in print he was the king of downer noir. A few months ago I read his “lost” novel THE WOUNDED AND THE SLAIN about a drunk and his wife on holiday in some Caribbean country... and while the husband is drinking and whoring, his wife starts screwing some other dude... and then everybody dies. He’s best known for DARK PASSAGE and SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER (filmed by Truffaut) and NIGHTFALL (made into another great noir film) and STREET OF NO RETURN and MOON IN THE GUTTER and CASSIDY’S GIRL and THE BURGLAR (which was made into the film THE BURGLARS which I featured some great stunt clips from in the blog entry “I Do My Own Stunts”). As a writer, he was famous for his crazy practical jokes - he would fall down stairs at movie studios and fake nose bleeds and do all kinds of things that seemed to upset studio folks. He was a loose canon in a fun way.

He also is famous for probably being the creator of THE FUGITIVE TV series... After the show aired, he sued that the show was swiped from DARK PASSAGE - the escaped man sentenced for murder who is searching for the real killer. By the time the lawsuit got to court, Goodis was dead and so were all of his relatives... and they settled with the lawyer for the estate for $12k! Stall long enough and everyone is dead and the people left standing don’t really care!

DARK PASSAGE is a darned good film, and if you have ever walked with me through an underground parking garage with one of those overhead signs that tells you the head clearance, you know Goodis is a major influence on my practical joking. Whack! Ouch, my head!


After the intermission, half the audience was gone... and they lowered the lights and began the second film. Columbia Pictures - not a good omen. Where Warner Bros was gritty and real, Columbia was glossy and trying their damnedest to look like MGM, just without the money or stars that MGM had. This could be a good thing when you had a noir film like GILDA which is about exotic night club singers and has a Gay subtext - the glossy look fit that story. It could also work when you had some crazy maverick like Orson Welles making a wacked out noir film like LADY FROM SHANGHAI, but your standard crime film? Um, the style didn’t always match the subject matter.

And DEAD RECKONING seemed like a soap opera with some shoot outs. Where DARK PASSAGE was gritty and real, DEAD RECKONING was glossy and had way too much kissing. Also, seemed to be made of parts of much better movies. There's a scene from THE MALTESE FALCON, and a scene from OUT OF THE PAST and a scene from...

DEAD RECKONING was directed by James Cromwell (PRISONER OF ZENDA, SINCE YOU WENT AWAY) and is glossy and pretty to look at. Script by Oliver Garrett (DEUL IN THE SUN, MANHATTAN MELODRAMA) and the great Steve Fisher (I WAKE UP SCREAMING and that other great POV movie LADY IN THE LAKE). But the script is a mess - all over the place and making no sense at times.

Story starts with a beaten up Bogart confessing to a Priest - and flashback to the story... but we come out of flashback at end act 2... and Bogart goes to kick ass in present time. Except - not much ass-kicking. Lots of kissing though - as if someone thought people went to Bogart movies to watch him kiss Liz Scott.

He's paratrooper Rip Murdock on his way with best bud Johnny Drake to pick up Congressional Medals of Honor, when Drake splits. He jumps off the train and disappears. Why? Bogart tracks him down to Miami type city, where Drake is wanted for murdering his girlfriend's husband. But just when he catches up with Drake, Drake is murdered, too. Burned to a crisp in a suspicious single car accident. Bogart decides to investigate and get revenge for Drake’s murder... which requires him to kiss Liz Scott a lot. A lot. I mean, a lot. A whole lot. Take the number of kissing scenes you would expect in a revenge movie and multiply by ten. Okay, now add two more.

Here’s the thing about all of these kissing scenes - there may actually have been just as many kissing scenes in DARK PASSAGE (though I doubt it) but *those* kissing scenes were part of the story, part of what the characters would naturally do. In RECKONING they just kiss whenever they are in the same room with each other. It’s like they were trying to make this into a love story by adding more kissing instead of actually having a love story subplot. So it’s probably not so much that they kiss a lot as much as they just kiss for no real reason and kind of unexpectedly and without motivation.

Imagine a whole bunch of kissing scenes in a Steven Seagal film...

Lis Scott was the woman whose husband Bogart’s buddy Drake may have killed to hook up with... but there are also these mobsters who seemed to wander in from THE BIG SLEEP and some MALTESE FALCON femme-fatale scenes and other scenes from other movies and a story that goes all over the place... eventually coming to an end involving napalm used indoors. Not a good idea, by the way.

Strange problem with DEAD RECKONING is the dialogue - something might be set up in one scene, and then the dialogue doesn't pay it back - when it seems obvious that that's what was supposed to happen in this scene. I suspect the two screenwriters may have been working at cross-purposes - maybe one writing a crime film and the other writing a big soapy romance. It has big time tone problems - with some soap opera stuff and then some violent action scene. And the cute nicknames aren't cute in this film, and many of the gags fall flat - with lots of glossy photography of kissing.

Now, when I was a little kid, I thought that kissing girls was for sissys. But the problem with the kissing in DEAD RECKONING is that it all seems so forced. Oh, and Scott's singing is so poorly dubbed you don't believe it for a second - unlike the Andy Williams (minus the bear) singing for Bacall in BIG SLEEP. Originally Rita Hayworth was to play the female lead in this flick, but she split to play the femme fatale in her husband’s movie LADY FROM SHANGHAI and they got stuck with Lizabeth Scott who looks *older* than Bogart and has no lip syncing abilities.

Anyway, DEAD RECKONING seems like a mis-fire - a movie trying to be Noir but also trying to be some glossy soap opera thing. Not an unwatchable movie - but not very good. Fine for a Saturday afternoon on TCM, not fine on Saturday night on the big screen with your legs scrunched up under your neck because there is no legroom in the Billy Wilder Theater. I think the gloss worked against it - makes it seem like a big budget A movie with a sleazy B movie revenge action plot.

Okay, since I gave a quick bio of David Goodis, here’s some info on the co-screenwriter of DEAD RECKONING, Steve Fisher. I’m sure they brought in Fisher for the noir stuff, since he was one of those great noir writers you’ve probably never heard of. Like Goodis he was a novelist who worked on and off as a screenwriter on B movies. His novel I WAKE UP SCREAMING was made into a great noir film with Victor Mature, and that probably put Fisher on the map. SCREAMING is about a hot starlet whose best friend is murdered by a maniac, and she thinks the maniac is now stalking her. She goes to the cops, and the detective in charge of the case is... the man stalking her! And he’s trying to frame Mature for the murder... and now Mature and the hot starlet have to get the proof that the detective is the killer. Um, no one wants to believe them about that. Great concept - what if you went to the police, but a policeman was the killer? Fisher’s crime novels ended up getting him back into screenwriting, where he wrote a bunch of crime films like the all POV film LADY IN THE LAKE and one of the THIN MAN series. Many of his novels have been reprinted recently by Hard Case Press. There was this period in time when Pulp Novels and Pulp Movies intersected and the guy who wrote some throw away crime novel might also write some throw away crime movie.

- Bill

Friday, March 26, 2010

NOTORIOUS... is coming soon!

Got a bit behind, but it will probably go up sometimes today.

NOTORIOUS - Ben Hecht - a heartbreaker of a thriller about a shy CIA agent (Cary Grant) whose job is to train a party girl (Ingrid Bergman) to infultrate a group of Nazis in South America... and falls in love with her in the process. Only he's too shy to say so. Nice story if it ends there, but the mission is for her to sleep with one of the Nazis (Claude Raines) and discover what they're up to. Grant is sure she'll refuse, Bergman is sure he'll stop her - neither does anything and she's screwing a Nazi for the CIA. They end up hating each other... then the Nazis find out she's an agent, and try to kill her. Will Grant realize what's happening and save her? Does he *want* to save her after she's been doing it with a Nazi every night? Romantic, heart breaking, and it's a Hitchcock suspense film.

- Bill

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Lance Henrickson stays in character

Here, Lance Henrickson does a scene with a cat who does not want to be in the movie... but Lance just keeps going with the scene. That's an actor!

The film is Leigh Scott's THE WITCHES OF OZ (in 3D) and here's the IMDB plot summary: "The Witches of Oz follows the exploits of the grown Dorothy Gale, now a successful children's book author, as she moves from Kansas to present day New York City. Dorothy quickly learns that her popular books are based on repressed childhood memories, and that the wonders of Oz are very, very real. When the Wicked Witch of the West shows up in Times Square, Dorothy must find the inner courage to stop her."

Sounds cool, huh?

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: SHOULD I WORRY ABOUT RATINGS? - nudity and sex and violence and language and...
Dinner: Fish Tacos at Islands.
Bicycle: Beautiful day, had to ride.
Pages: Over the weekend I finished a step on the assignment (10 pages), Monday it was back to work on the spec that has been stalled in act 3 for a couple of weeks while I did other things... 4 pages on that.

Oh, yeah: UK's Movies For Men Channel: 3-24 19:10 - Steel Sharks - When a United States submarine is seized by terrorists, a rescue attempt by Elite Navy Seals goes awry. The submarine crew wages a silent war beneath the waves in this tense undersea thriller.

I am sorry.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Based On A True Story...

At least once a week, someone on a messageboard asks about what they legally need to do in order to tell a true story. Something they read in the newspaper or the story of a famous person or sometimes just something that may have happened to them.

My answer is always - you need a lawyer before you write anything to make sure you don't get sued. A bunch of screenwriters on a messageboard do not know all of the legal issues you're going to run into - a lawyer will probably know most of them.

Well, here's an article about the the film THE RUNAWAYS and some of the interesting issues they ran into when they did not by life rights from all band members... and one of them went from punk rocker to entertainment lawyer:

** Runaway Law **

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: LOCATION IS CHARACTER - a new tip about one of the specs I wrote last year.
Dinner: Del Taco Soft Chicken Tacos... I rode my bike to get them.
Bicycle: Taco ride to Burbank.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


I was awake, working - walking around at 4:04 - and did not feel a thing.

Found the Government Earthquake Site, and was fascinated that the quake would effect two places right next to each other differently. In some parts of NoHo it's level 3, in Burbank it's level 3, in Studio City it's level 2. Pasadena is level 4, South Pasadena (closer to the quake) is level 3. Camarillo - level 2, Thousand Oaks (right next door and closer to the quake) - level 1. Lucern Valley, way out near Barstow, level 3... almost every place between there and right next to the quake, level 2. I don't know why Lucern Valley would get it worse than I did, or worse than people closer to the quake. The earth moves in strange ways.

My head cold is pretty much over - basically lost almost a week to having my head feel like it was made of wood and my nose running all over town. Now it's back to work.

Oh, you may be wondering about that script that everyone's been reading... well, some new places are now reading it (a month later) and a few of the original places have deemed it "too dark" and asked what else have I got? and are now reading some other script. Still lots of reading going on.

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Should I Worry About Budget? - and whether a new writer has a better chance with a low budget spec... or not.
Dinner: Subway - the spicy Italian.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Bill’s Live Oscar Tweets

Okay, not exactly tweets, because I was on FaceBook instead of twitter, but these were my live comments during the Oscar Awards....

William Martell Okay... time to turn on the TV and see who got robbed. at 4:44pm

William Martell Oscar upsets! Okay, so far all has been really predictable. at 6:04pm

William Martell Best Original Screenplay - Mark Boal, HURT LOCKER.... over UP. Start of a sweep, or consolation prize? at 6:17pm

William Martell Matthew Broderick looks just like FERRIS... who is that weird looking woman with him? at 6:18pm

William Martell Wow - who had the job of finding Judd Nelson, cleaning him up, sobering him up, putting on that false nose where his real nose used to be, and getting him up on stage? at 6:24pm

William Martell I once had a pair of animated shorts. at 6:32pm

William Martell I once made a documentary about shorts (for real!) - MONDO SHORTS - UNDERWEAR OF THE WORLD. at 6:35pm

William Martell Okay, where's the orchestra... ah, there! at 6:35pm

William Martell Congratulations Barney! at 6:42pm
William Martell Best Make Up Oscar went to a FB friend - and earlier today he had pictures of him and family getting into their limo on FB. Cool. at 6:45pm

William Martell Adapted screenplay... they forgot to mention board games and laundry lint. Why the worst bits of these scripts as example? Geoffrey Fletcher - PRECIOUS (etc).at 6:50pm

William Martell Congratulations to Roger Corman for the honorary Oscar! But someone needs to fire the director who missed that shot - Corman and Bacall. at 6:55pm

William Martell "One of many balls being held..." at 6:56pm

William Martell You know how the Acad only allows 3 producers per film nominated, no matter how many actually producers were involved? They should do the same thing with film titles - you get 3 words, which ones do you want? Okay, we'll just call it PRECIOUS. at 7:01pm

William Martell What does it mean when the Oscars parodies your $15k movie? at 7:21pm
William Martell Yes - that was the theme to YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN... at 7:22pm
William Martell Hey, MARATHON MAN wasn't horror! at 7:24pm

William Martell Kristen Stewart must be really really good in bed.

William Martell HURT LOCKER sweep begins? at 7:25pm

William Martell I wanted to see clips with Sci Tech Guys having to cover their laps (and boners) when they had to get up and accept their awards from Elizabeth Banks. at 7:31pm

William Martell Now the AVATAR sweep begins... at 7:36pm

William Martell Not since the dancers performed the theme to THE OMEN when I was just a kid watching the Oscars has a dance number been so... well, 7:51pm

William Martell Are they dating?

William Martell Has there ever been a year when a film and its sequel were both nominated for Best Picture Oscar? UP and UP IN THE AIR... Stories of men trapped in dead end lives who get partnered with idealistic kids and fly around and... at 7:58pm

William Martell Fisher Stevens and Michelle Pfiefer were an item for many years... during those Number 5 Is Alive years. at 8:11pm

William Martell Rota's theme from AMARCORD - distributed in the USA by Roger Corman when it was released. at 8:16pm

William Martell So, why is the guy from the USA announcing the movie with the Spanish title? At least the guy who speaks Spanish gets to announce it as winner. at 8:17pm

William Martell All of those AVATAR clips and none of them had Dileep! What a rip! at 8:21pm

William Martell Speaking of Michelle Pfeifer... She looks a million times better than Molly Ringworm. at 8:27pm

William Martell I was hoping due to a mistake, Marisa Tomei would win Best Actor this year. at 8:36pm

William Martell Do you think Sean Penn is strapped? at 8:47pm

William Martell Sandra Bullock's husband was previously married to a porn star. at 8:49pm

William Martell Hey - That's John Lee Hancock! at 8:50pm

William Martell Oh... so that's why Streisand is giving out the award. at 8:53pm

William Martell Cool - she deserves it. at 8:56pm

William Martell Wow! She didn't even have time to set down the Director Oscar! I think it's great - now maybe people will see it. Bigelow is what, 6' tall? She's a step down and as tall as the guys. at 9:00pm

William Martell I know this is Barbara Walter's last Oscar Special... but I wish last year was the last one. I'm turning off the TV now. at 9:13pm

- Bill

Saturday, March 06, 2010

And The Winner Is....

The Oscars are Sunday, but at Sex In A Submarine we are ahead of the curve, and offer a list of **actual** award winners on Saturday night.

30th Annual Golden Raspberry (Razzie©) Award “Winners”

Worst Picture of 2009:
(Aka Trannies, Too)

Worst Actress of 2009:
Sandra Bullock for ALL ABOUT STEVE

Worst Actor(s) of 2009:

Worst Screen Couple:
Sandra Bullock & Bradley Cooper for ALL ABOUT STEVE

Worst Supporting Actress:
Sienna Miller for G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA

Worst Supporting Actor:

Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-off or Sequel
(Combined Category for 2009):
(Universal PIctures)

Worst Director:

Worst Screenplay:
Written by Ehren Kruger & Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman,
Based on Hasbro’s Transformers Action Figures

Special 30th RAZZIE®-versary Awardz

Worst Picture of the Decade:
Nominated for 10 RAZZIES® / "Winner" of 8
(Including Worst Drama of Our First 25 Yrs)

Worst Actor of the Decade:
Eddie Murphy
Nominated for 12 "Achievements" / "Winner" of 3 RAZZIES®

Worst Actress of the Decade:
Paris Hilton
Nominated for 5 "Achievements," "Winner" of 4 RAZZIES®


It should be noted that Sandra Bullock actually showed up to receive her award and gave everyone in the audience their own copy of ALL ABOUT STEVE on DVD and even offered to go drinking with them after *next year's* awards... provided they took her award from this year back as a mistake. No one *ever* shows up to pick up their award at the Razzies (last one was Halle Berry for CATWOMAN), so having Sandra show up was really cool - she's a good sport. Hope she wins tomorrow night, too.

- Bill

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Just A Little Behind

I often see myself as that novelty act performer I watched on the Ed Sullivan show when I was a little kid, who use to keep plates spinning on the tips of pool cues. He was always running around the stage trying to keep all of the plates moving so that they wouldn’t fall on the floor and break. I have a zillion things to do - and every once in a while a bunch of plates break.

This blog is a responsibility. Most people with blogs ditch them after a year. There are some dead blogs over there in that right hand column that I probably should remove, but if you read the old entries they may be new to you. I have decided to do the opposite of what most people do - and actually have *more* blog entries in 2009 than I did in the first year. But I’m always stretched thin (you’d think I’d lose weight being stretched thin... but no) and sometimes throw together a blog entry the night before. Like this one.

I also like to do series - and tomorrow there should be a new Hitchcock entry here... finally. Originally there were going to be 53 Hitchcock entries - one a week for just over a year. Then I was going to do an old TV show the next year - as an episode guide for a series that was not available on DVD but every once in a while sold to some cable or syndication channel. I taped them on VHS, thought it would be fun to have an episode guide for them - and there were around 48 episodes - enough for a year of Fridays more or less. Um, maybe I’ll still do that after I finish with the Hitchcock movies, but they are planning to release that old TV series on DVD and I’ll bet someone else is doing the episode guide already.

Well, over the holidays back in 2007, probably when I first began thinking of the Hitchcock series, I came up with a nice revamp for my Script Secrets website: I would have a section for each one of my produced scripts, with the backstory on writing it, any funny behind the scenes stories, maybe a screenwriting lesson from the film, a link to the screenplay so that you could read it, and anything else that might be of interest about the film - including the trailer. I collected links to all of the trailers, and thought - why not run that on the blog first, then “retire” it to the Script Secrets website. Kill two birds with one stone. Well, all of the trailers got a work page on the blog with the format for the rest... and then those pages were mostly forgotten. They exist unpublished way back in the blog history - and I never see them. The blog has moved forward.

Over the holidays in 2008, I realized I was often searching for some stupid YouTube clip to post as a filler when I didn’t have anything for the blog, and came up with a cool idea: why not go on YouTube and find clips and trailers for some of my favorite movies, and some movies that are just wacky but I love them anyway, and create work pages on the blog for them, then write screenwriting lessons from the film or an appreciation or a review or maybe a personal story of the first time I saw the film and what it means to me. Those would be great “fillers” for times when I was too busy writing something else to come up with a new blog entry. I did outlines for what I might write about a couple of the clips... and now those work pages are over a year back there on my blog pages - I never see them anymore.

Over the holidays a couple of months ago, I watched every single episode of the old TV show... but didn’t write notes.

I was looking for some old blog entry today, stumbled on the workpages with the film clips, and realized I had all of these potential blog entries that I forget about because they are buried back there where I can’t see them anymore... and moved them up. Oh, yeah, along with all of the clips for another series on Screenwriters On Screen. Now that I have to look at them every time I play around with the blog, maybe I’ll get some of them written up and ready to go... and maybe I’ll watch those TV episodes again and take some notes this time.

By the way - someone in comments said I ought to take Brad Pitt Guy entries and write a book... well, this blog was originally going to be called All The Losers In Hollywood - and some of the past entries have been about those losers, and a few more loser entries are on the horizon... and maybe all of those will be collected into a book someday. Until then, thanks for reading this thing, and I’m not going to quit writing it.

Only took me a year and a half to get halfway through the Hitchcock series.

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Dilemmas - and kissing Jennifer Garner.
Dinner: Subway - the spicy Italian.
Bicycle: Short one. And after my long bike ride a couple of days ago, right after my bike wreck, my leg hurt and I didn't know if it was from over-working the muscle or that huge purple bruise taking up 35% of my skin.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

2012 - Screwball Disaster Comedy!

Movies: 2012 - On DVD today - but I wrote all of the notes after seeing it months ago...

Roland Emmerich is the Irwin Allen of the new millennium... even though there may be only a couple years left in it if his new film is correct. If you don’t know who Irwin Allen was, he produced all of those cheesy 1970s all-star disaster movies from POSEIDON ADVENTURE to the killer bee movie THE SWARM... but he started making science fiction movies like VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA which spun off into a cool TV show (if you are a little kid and your parents let you stay up late enough to watch it). Emmerich has followed the same path, from STARGATE to THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW, with one very major difference...

He is a great comic director.

He knows his films are silly cheese, and isn’t afraid to make fun of them and include enough funny stuff to make the cheese not just tolerable but enjoyable. It’s hard to hate a movie that knows it’s silly.

In THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW he has a whole subplot about Americans sneaking across the border into Mexico to find work and warmth when the US climate becomes frigid. There were a couple of critics who made fun of that - proving that they are idiots. If you thought that subplot was serious, you probably shouldn’t be a film critic. His films all have a silly-fun factor and usually deal with crazy ideas with enough science to make them “What if that were true?” material. Hey, what if that Eric Von Dannekken guy was right and Ancient Astronauts helped build the Pyramids of Egypt? Hey, what if aliens actually invaded Earth and the survivors had to fight back? In 2012 we get JFK (the aircraft carrier) returning to the White House - had me laughing out loud! He doesn't take any of this seriously, which makes his films easy to watch. You know he's just kidding around. His films are screwball comedy disaster movies - and make about as much sense as a dog running off with a rare dinosaur bone as a plot. (I *know* I’ll get hate mail from that comparison.)

2012 seems to have begun with Emmerich and the screenwriter sitting around joking about how the heroes in Michael Bay movies always manage to outrun explosions and fireballs... and wondering how they can top that. Alcohol may have been involved. They already had Jake Gyllenhall outrunning a cold snap in THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW...

“What if the guy had to out run an earthquake fissure?”
“Hey, what if they had to out drive California breaking off and falling into the Pacific?”
“Good one! What if they were in a plane and had to out-fly all of the buildings in Los Angeles falling over like dominoes?”
“Cool - how about out-running lava blasting out of a volcano in an RV?”

I can just see these two guys trying to top each other with the strangest, maybe even funniest things the characters can out run. No puny Michael Bay fireballs in this film! These people are going to outrun the end of the world!

First - his films are crazy. 2012 is like every joke every comic ever made about characters out-running fireballs taken to the extreme. They outrun *earthquakes*! They outrun buildings crashing down! They outrun a volcano! It's funny stuff! And you know, all of those scenes are fun and often even funny - and I mean funny *on purpose*. An early scene has a husband and wife shopping at a grocery store when an earthquake hits, fault seemingly directly between them, and a fissure opens up that breaks the grocery store in half with each of a different side! How could anyone think that scene was supposed to be serious? The serious version might have had them on the same side having to save each other... but the 2012 version is like the BRINGING UP BABY version of the scene. It’s just wacky! Not serious and not trying to be serious.

Adding to the fun, Emmerich’s movies have big dramatic scenes that allow actors to ham it up and make some great speeches. Just as the situations are over the top, the acting manages to be larger than life and yet matches the rest of the movie. It’s never *too big*. We want our President to make one of those great speeches like in INDEPENDENCE DAY - if there was ever a place for big hammy speeches, it’s when the aliens have invaded and kicked our butts and now we need to rally the troops and kick some alien butt. In 2012 we get a great speech by Chiwetel Ejiofor about how poor people are people, too. And we get some great scenes with John Cusack and Danny Glover (as the President) and Thomas McCarthy (as the new husband) and even some crazy-ass stuff from Woody Harrelson as a pot smoking version of Art Bell. There are some nice big dramatic scenes about the importance of family - but it’s really just more cheese. There is a real skill in keeping the drama at the same level as the over-blown situations - in having there be just enough ham to compliment the cheese without overpowering it.

And he’s intelligent enough to realize we need someone to identify with in these larger than life situations. His films have human characters dealing with human problems... along with those great speeches for actors. In the center of all of his films is a story about people - the drunk father who becomes a hero to his children in INDEPENDENCE DAY, the absent father who risks his life to save his son in DAY AFTER, and look at all of the character relationships in 2012. President Danny Glover has some nice scenes with his estranged daughter Thandie Newton, and even some nice scenes with a bunch of extras in a MASH-style tent hospital set up on the White House lawn. Actors get a chance to act in these movies. Sure, this is schlocky stuff and no one is getting an Oscar for any of this stuff... but it's there and it works. These are real people dealing with real problems while outrunning the end of the world. GI GOE had crap. TRANSFORMERS had crap.

One of the film’s secret weapons is John Cusack. I like the guy. I think most people like the guy. He’s like Tom Hanks with an edge - which makes him seem more human to me and more interesting. I’ve seen a bunch of films that Cusack has saved from being complete crap... and it’s hard to imagine 2012 without him. He makes the most absurd scene seem possible, and he’s one of those actors who knows how to play a character who is in on the joke. You believe him, but there’s that look in his eyes that says, “Are you effing kidding me?” This helps when *we* are thinking, Are you effing kidding me? The guy is a national treasure, and is one of the major factors in making 2012 a fun movie.

Theme? Not here, folks - this is all-junk junk food. We get some talk about self sacrifice from Cusack early on, and characters do sacrifice themselves along the way... but that’s what characters *do* in Disaster Movies, and none of the self sacrifice seems like anything other than a plot device. Some of the character deaths are downright silly - one major character dies badly. No drama, no feeling that the character did sacrifice themselves for the greater good, more of a “Wow, what a stupid way to die!” And a supporting character who pops up to save the day in one scene and sacrifices themselves for the greater good - well, it’s stupid and happens off screen. There are about four undignified deaths that almost sink the film...

If it were a serious movie. But this is a comedy - at least one of the undignified deaths is played for laughs!

No one does FX as good as Emmerich does. If you remember, the reason why he landed the GODZILLA gig was that he had a plan on how to make it for half the budget as DeBont. We look back on INDEPENDENCE DAY and think it was some sort of slam-dunk summer tentpole movie, but that film cost much much less that all of the other summer tentpole movies. It was a cheapo film! Emmerich and Dean Devlin knew how to do quality special effects on a budget. They storyboarded everything and found the angles that would give them the most bang for their buck. While ARMAGEDDON was breaking the bank, ID4 was reasonably priced. And no one in the audience knew any different.

The special effects in 2012 were amazing. Compare it to some of this year’s big summer films where people and FX looked like cartoons sometimes (GI JOE). 2012 was one amazing scene after another, a piece of CGI that is topped in the very next shot and just keeps getting more and more amazing as the film goes on. By the time we get to the end - which I will not reveal - it tops everything we have seen so far. The concept is cool and the effects are so amazing and realistic that we just believe these things exist... even though they are silly cheese. There are scenes with characters caught in machinery, and at no time do you ever think: That’s not real. Hey, probably at least half of what we saw on screen in every shot in that end sequence was CGI. The peril the characters were in was CGI. But you were so caught in the scene you never noticed the CGI, and the CGI was so good it didn’t show. It never pulled you out of the scene, never called attention to itself. Um, TRANSFORMERS can not claim this.

Obviously, he also knows what people want to see. Not just the destruction, but the type of story. A conquered America fighting back, a father/son survival story, the end of society and its rebirth. He can figure out what the audience wants to see - two years before he makes the film.

But he also know what kind of destruction we want to see - all of those drunken “What if they had to outrun an erupting volcano and a river of lava?” ideas are imaginative and silly fun. That’s a skill - figuring out what kind of destruction is fun and what kind is tragic, so we want to avoid it. We’ve just had two real earthquakes in a row, and the images of that destruction are not fun. But Emmerich seems to know *exactly* where the line is and never crosses it. At no time do you think any of this is serious or that any of the other people in the world are really dead. The film manages to keep it light and stay in fantasy land. Now, many screenwriters would see that as a flaw - the film is completely unrealistic! - but he was never going for any sort of realism. If he had been going for realism, that earthquake fissure wouldn’t have split up the couple as if they were in a Warner Bros cartoon.

Hey, I’m not saying that 2012 is a great film... but it’s an *enjoyable* film. Check your brain at the door, maybe have a few cocktails, but bring along your sense of humor. Though you aren’t going to cry at 2012, you’ll probably get caught up in the story enough to actually care whether John Cusack and his family live or die. Other than that, hey, it’s a fun schlockfest. Grab a big tub of popcorn and have a good time. Don’t forget to laugh at the funny parts.

Real Film Critics Discuss Foreign Films.

- Bill

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly - and why 2012 is Best Picture of 2009!
Dinner: Burger King.
Bicycle: Accidental massive bike ride! I ended up riding all over the valley - not planned.
Pages: After working so hard while feeling like crap yesterday, I did half a page on the spec... but did rewrite the tip and wrote this review. Main problem was that I got sidetracked trying to get details of this interview I seem to be doing Tuesday morning with the writers of A-TEAM... which seemed to be finalized at the very last minute.

Monday, March 01, 2010

New Issue Of Script!


Man of the Moment: Noah Baumbach
Over the years, Noah Baumbach's films have, consciously or not, chronicled the ups and downs of Generation X. His newest movie, Greenberg, tackles a difficult character who is faced with recovering from a breakdown and making himself a better person ... in spite of himself.

Alice in Wonderland
Scribe Linda Woolverton leads us down the rabbit hole as she discusses her personal take on Alice's return to Wonderland, working with director Tim Burton, and how a dark time in her own life helped her write a film audiences won't soon forget.

Writers on Writing: A Nightmare on Elm Street
A general meeting surprisingly landed writer Eric Heisserer the job of bringing back one of the most frightening villains of the 80s. He takes us into the franchise reboot of A Nightmare on Elm Street and the many challenges he faced—including the origins of Freddy Krueger and the role of sleep patterns—in ratcheting up the fear factor.

A Kick-Ass Interview
Kick-Ass is not your typical comic book. The super-violent series follows an ordinary kid who puts on a costume and fights crime as a real-life superhero. Filmmaker Matthew Vaughn read the comic and decided to adapt it—before the series was even completed. Script talks to Vaughn, scribe Jane Goldman, creator Mark Millar, and illustrator John Romita Jr. about how the project came to life.

The Rebels of Writing
It's not often that two independently successful screenwriters work on the same film without one rewriting the other. And, with the current economy, selling a pitch for $2 million doesn't happen very often either. But, somehow, Simon Kinberg and Aline Brosh McKenna have recently managed to accomplish both.

The 10 Biggest Unproduced Specs of the 90s
In the 90s, studios were buying specs for big money, and bidding wars were in the trades almost every week. Some of those scripts went on to become movies that de- fined the decade. But what about those other high-dollar specs that went unproduced? Script decided to find out.

How to Sell a Pitch in Only 10 Years!
While working the front desk at Miramax, Dave Pullano created the fictional exec Jay Flannick to field unwanted and overly persistent pitches. Ironically enough, through a series of ad- ventures, Pullano found himself in Hong Kong, sitting on an old mattress ... and pitching his own script to Jackie Chan.

Navigating 2010's Staffing Season
Television is a cold business, and no time is colder than the beginning of summer for TV writers hoping to land a staff job. To avoid the freeze, learn how staffing works, how it's changed in the recent years, and how to prepare yourself for the new season.

Two "Unbrandable" Hollywood Scribes Reflect on the Writer's Life
Eric Johnson and Paul Tamasy are living the life that aspiring scribes daydream about. Sure, they sometimes hit the beach while working and visit The Polo Lounge for an occasional martini, but what is the writer's life really like for one of Hollywood's busiest writing teams?

The Paradox of Success
With spending habits changing in Hollywood, the question to writers becomes: Do you want to sell a script, or do you want to make a movie?

What You Really Want to Do is Direct
You're ready to become a hyphenate and get behind a camera. But before you start bud- geting that feature spec, consider walking before you run and make a few shorts first.

Perception Management
A Hollywood executive for 15 years, Carole Kirschner has had more than 5,000 meetings and helped to hire more than 400 writers ... and some decisions ultimately came down to how the writers presented themselves. Read the advice she gives scribes on how to manage their images and influence the way decision-makers perceive them.

Script Secrets: Read My Script!
After listening to around 75 pitches at the Raindance Film Festival, professional screenwriter Bill Martell tells you where some went wrong and others went right.

- Bill


Dinner: Sandwich at Starbucks.
Bicycle: Yes - and got into a single bike accident at a vacant lot in NoHo and am all scraped up and ugly today. There was blood. I'm fine - just bruised and scraped. Pisser. If it isn't one thing, it's another.
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