Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Shocking moment

I'm watching a Friends rerun.


I've never seen this episode before.

I'm literally floored.

I knew there were some episodes in the last few seasons that I had only seen once or twice. I didn't realize I HAD ACTUALLY MISSED ONE. Of all the TV shows I've watched in my ENTIRE life, I thought Friends was the one I had seen in its entirety.

Seriously. Am stunned.

Signs You're A Bad Parent: Halloween Edition

You threaten to take Halloween away from your disruptive child. Or you actually do it.
Your child will remember this as an adult and loathe you for it. It's a sign you're stressed and not thinking of your child. I don't care if he or she just murdered a small animal. You can deal with the kid's incipient serial killerness later. Now, just let them trick or treat.

dream, and Hosseini's successful second book

Read A Thousand Splendid Suns for my (gasp!) book club. I'm glad, too, because I don't think I would have had I not been forced to, and it's quite good if predictable in places and very much a part of the war-survivor genre (it would rest comfortably in a shelf full of Holocaust survival novels). But, despite the fact that I cried like a little girl for the last 100 pages, it could have ended far sadder. If it had been a European book, no one would have managed a happy ending and at least two more protagonists would have died.

I'm glad it's not a European novel.

I had a dream last night that my family visited me in LA and wanted to make tuna casserole at their hotel and I suggested going to Beverly Hills or bowling instead. And then I had to stop my car in front of these train tracks, and I crossed to the other side (I think I'm forgetting the most important part of this dream, by the way, which was most definitely horror-related) and was talking to someone when I realized it was night and my car lights might not be on. So I called back to my stepdad and heard a crunch at the same time, so I ran back over the tracks (and wouldn't let the little girl who was wandering around cross the tracks in case there was another train), but this other car had actually hit the car behind us, which was parked sideways in the middle of the street and was a really nice Adidas-looking car and had my coaches in it. What sport these coaches were in charge of is beyond me, but they were from another part of the dream (the important part), and I was mighty relieved. Also, at some point, I saw an ad where Jessica Simpson had not only dyed her hair dark brown, but had adopted an intelligent, sophisticated new voice. That's all I remember right now.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Red Sox sweep -- World Series 2007

Why do good things feel like signs of the Apocalypse? Because they're so unlikely? Well, if the Red Sox can win the World Series twice, then maybe there is hope for the 21st century. And maybe a girl from Boston can make it in the City of Angels.

If you found Nightwatch, the movie, bewildering, please read the book. It will all make sense, and you'll enjoy it quite alot. I'm actually probably going to watch the movie again soon.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

sick, sick, sick

I went up to the Mann Plant Theatres in Van Nuys to see Dan in Real Life (the chemistry between Juliette Binoche and Steve Carell is surprisingly wonderful) and I saw the most horrific thing.

A young woman, an older woman, and an 8 year-old girl (at the oldest), holding a stuffed animal and a baby doll, were in line in front of me. The older woman bought three tickets. For Saw IV.

What kind of hideously awful adult brings their child (and/or grandchild) to see a film in one of the most disturbing horror film franchises in existence. Get a babysitter or wait til it comes out on DVD. Don't bring the kid.
The theater had a policy about not admitting children under 5. But you're telling me a 6 year-old should be allowed to see Saw IV?? Kids under 13 should not be allowed to see rated-R films even with an adult, but an age limit of 10 would be, at least, better.

Reading the Russian novel, Nightwatch. Enjoying it immensely (I'm reading about 10 books at the same time, must finish one).

Slept until very, very late today (I was tired). It felt good. I'll probably do it again tomorrow. Mmm. Bed.

Friday, October 26, 2007

between day and white

This grayish white fog and smoke hovering over the Palisades today completely blocked the view to Malibu and only barely revealed some gnarly waves, unloved due to the weather. More importantly, it pressed downwards, and driving down Chautauqua, the pale tendrils of "smog" swept over my car. Fogs have fingers. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

one-way window

There's a little suction cup in my soul, and attached to that suction cup is a green-tinted window. Everything seen through this window looks wildly better than it is, and anyone (re: me) who looks through the window immediately wants everything they see and nothing they have. This window is my envy, and I feel like - since I've been in LA - the window has become even bigger and more distorted. And the more I look, the more I desire, the more I despise everyone who has what I want and doesn't deserve it half as much, the more that suction cup sucks all that's good from my soul and feeds it through some strange enzyme process into the window. Window grows, soul turns into brush.

I'm trying. Really I am. I don't want to be that person. I just need to be watered (metaphorically, I think). Then the suction cup's attachment will weaken and I can look away. If that makes any sense.

Whilst trawling the List of Craig, I often come across pleas from "ideamen" who claim to be writers in need of partners. Except, they can't write. The posts are filled with grammatical atrocities and offer little by way of compensation for bringing "their" story to life.
It's abominable. It ought to stop.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Three day headache, no end in sight

Most of the fires outside of San Diego are under control. Unfortunately, the air quality is viciously awful. I feel like hell, and supposedly, it's not going to get better until the humidity rises. Which it won't. For the foreseeable future.


Rom-coms, then to bed

I went to a writers' panel tonight for networking/educational purposes, and it got me thinking about structure, maybe writing a TV movie or a mini-series.

And then I started thinking about romantic comedies, and what the best ones have in common.

Here's what I've come up with so far:

The best romantic comedies keep the lead lovers apart for most of the film
Sleepless in Seattle
Bridget Jones' Diary
Sixteen Candles

or, when they are together, they're not "together," as in

While You Were Sleeping
When Harry Met Sally
You've Got Mail

because they either hate each other or they're in love with someone else (or at least one of them is) or a combo of the two (i.e. Drive Me Crazy).

I think keeping two people apart is the most successful because then you get the audience to yearn for them to come together. Hatred is harder -- it can be too convincing -- though it works well in The Cutting Edge.

Of course there are other themes, just not, usually, as successful.

OK, more on this later. G'night.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Music, quickly

Anyone notice that "Everywhere" by Michelle Branch and "Stranded" by Plumb sound viciously similar?

I recently discovered Alice Russell's "Hurry On Now" and am a total convert. It's -- words can't express how satisfying.

Here's the video. Just listen/watch. And be prepared to be blown away.

Monday, October 22, 2007

burn notice

I'm trying to work out what these wildfires are, trying to explain them in terms recognizable to people who aren't here, who aren't driving to work with the flesh of the sky torn out, the horizon replaced with oily garbage bags and tar. It's not that smooth though, or that black, it's more diseased. The sky looks infected, to the south, to the northwest, and far to the east. All over the Southland the earth is being scorched because it's too dry and too windy and, in parts, because someone struck a match, but it's not just the trees that are shriveling and twisting like paper worms, it's as if the sky were an arm, and someone put their cigarette butt out here and there, all over. Domestic abuse is what it looks like.

I can't stress how stunning and quick the destruction is. In Ventura three major fires will converge before morning into one massive 80,000 acre fire. In all likelihood it will get worse before it gets better.

When it blows out to sea, the plumes are white. But the smoke doesn't rise, the winds spread it over the hills like a butter knife. It's eating the little vegetation we have right up. Topanga Canyon, which I'm very fond of, is going to be a graveyard of black and white skeleton, pretzel tree corpses. Like Halloween, but not scary. More like an ice cream headache.

Apocalypse-wise, eventually, the wildfires will win. This is early in the season for fires, and that it's stretching from Malibu to Mexico is frightening. Already, and quickly, resources are stretched thin. The winds are stronger than fire retardant. They double back on unsuspecting firefighters. They hop freeways like mutant jackrabbits. LA, the OC, San Diego, this whole area, is full of brush, free of water, averse to humidity. It's a firetease. And sometimes, LA gets raped. One of these days, it's not going to get back up, brush off its miniskirt, and go about its business. One of these days, it's going to stay down and we're all going to have to leave or lie down with it.

I've often wondered why people live in places that aren't made for humans, that are clearly natural disaster prone: Lousiana, Venice, Bangladesh, heck, the whole Middle East... And now look at me, I'm living in a place where natural disasters and constant drought are run-of-the-mill, celebrated, and turned into blockbusters. It can't last forever. Buy a 50 million dollar house here at your own peril. Best to build in the mountains. The Telluride guys are far more sensible.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Woot, woot, Red Sox give Indians the boot!

I'd say something vaguely threatening to the Rockies, but I'm afraid of jinxing it. So instead, let's watch a video to celebrate.

Malibu burning

Why would you live in Paradise, if Paradise were made of matches and God was constantly snapping his sparking, frictious fingers over it?

It's not so close as all that, but if you stand on Ventura Boulevard and look West, as I did today at the Sherman Oaks street fair, you'll see the sky is black and brown, like a volcano had erupted or a dragon was blowing its dark breath all over the coast. It makes me nervous. Damn Santa Anas. Moreover, my work's in the Palisades just south of the Malibu inferno. Tomorrow's going to be interesting.

I bought some lovely soft cookies from the Isabella's Cookie Company booth at the fair: Paddy Cookies and Isabella's Originals. The shop's in Redondo Beach, which is bloody far, so it was nice to pick some up close to home.

I am having some Act Two problems. Act Two is always the longest act, and it's always the hardest to handle. The beginning is easy. Just start. The ending is even easier. Just ask yourself, how'd you like to leave the story. But what happens in the middle, oh, that's horribly difficult.
What's true in structure is true in life. Or v.v.

Saturday, October 20, 2007


Just watched Once, which my roommate got from a friend of a friend. The music's pretty damn good, if you like Damien Rice, which is probably the closest kinsman to Glen Hansard. If you haven't spent a great deal of time in Ireland, you may wish it had subtitles, as the accents are quite heavy.

Now if only you didn't have to buy the whole album off iTunes. Blast.

Friday, October 19, 2007

WB Studios

I'm in a bit of a mood. Not like you care. If you cared, you'd be hanging out with me, wouldn't you?

Went to a taping of Two and a Half Men tonight. The show had more vulgar insinuations than usual, and thankfully the kid wasn't really in it at all. The real problem I had was a runner in Robert Wagner's dialogue with Holland Taylor about Jon Cryer. It's crap the first time, crap the second.

Also, it's pretty obvious from the beginning where the episode is going.

But I went to see it to watch the beats, just to figure out how the writing plays live... and it's highly dependent on constant jokes. Nearly every line is played for a laugh. Which, I think, can be kind of forced and painful.

But I gotta say, Jon Cryer is awesome. And it was much better than The f-ing Singing Bee.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Eastern Promises, Things We Lost in the Fire

I didn't plan on seeing either of these movies 72 hours ago, and look it's Wednesday night, and I've seen both -- one that's pretty much out of theaters, and one that doesn't even premiere until... Friday? But I wanted to hang out with a friend (hence, EP), and I got a free ticket to see Things We Lost...

Let's start with Eastern Promises. You've read reviews by now and probably decided against seeing it because either a) it didn't release in your town, b) the trailer didn't grip you, c) you hate Russians, or d) you think Viggo Mortensen looks like your stepfather.
If it's d, dude! Me, too!
Anyhow, my take on the movie, which stars a French guy and an American guy as Russians, and an Australian girl as a British-Russian girl, is that it's trying too hard. It's too "Russian." Not that quite a bit of it doesn't ring true, but most of that is Anna (Naomi Watts)'s uncle, not the Russian mafia guys. OK, they kind of ring true, too, but so what? As much as I liked the movie, it just felt like it fit too well into a certain kind of group, like it should be partnered up with Mystic River or something for a double-feature.
And also, why film really brutal graphic violence when you know no healthy human being is going to be able to watch it? What's the point of forcing someone to throw up their hands? I get pushing the envelope, I get cinema verite really I do, but if the point of making a film is to make a story visible, why would you put something on film that people can't watch? It's like selling someone pre-dried-out markers. I don't think the climactic scene is terribly climactic. No heart-racing really, maybe because it comes so late in the movie (very end, actually), so I think really "what's at stake" is never thrust in the viewer's face. Could never run a successful TV series like that. This isn't exactly a gushing review, but you know what? I think you should watch it. It's a well-told story, gripping, so on and so forth. It's just not as stunning as A History of Violence.

OK, now onto Things We Lost in the Fire, in which Halle Berry loses her husband, and Benicio Del Toro plays the husband's best friend who, following the funeral, tries to help Halle and get sober. It's a rough time for all, but you can see that this is a good guy and this is a good family, and they're not going to just say, Oh, marry each other and make it all better. That's not quite how it works.

But does the film work? Well, sure. And, man, have I missed Benicio Del Toro. His face is so expressive, his eyes, his eyeBROWS - hell, his hair. He's just brilliant. Where has he been? He hasn't had a major role in anything since 2003! What the frick? Well, at least, that trend seems to be over.
The editing's a bit strange, the movie isn't going to win any Oscars, but I do feel it's probably the most honest film I've seen about how people in a family treat each other since, maybe, Ordinary People? Halle Berry's character is a real mother and wife, who has an idyllic sort of family life, but then is occasionally bitchy to her husband, and gets upset at her kids. And, boy, does she let Benicio have it, for things that are clearly more her problem than his. The children are equally well-drawn, and I think the way they treat any chemistry between the adults is really smart and faithful to what the story itself would want. Basically, the film manages to maintain that troublesome balance between being funny and poignant nearly all the time. I think the only flat part is David Duchovny, as the dead father. He's a bit one-note. You'd never know he had Californication in him, to be quite honest. Also, the obligatory breakdown scene for Halle near the end doesn't feel like the purging and facing of facts that it's supposed to be. It feels like Halle had a maniacal sob fest written into her contract, so she could remind people she won an Oscar for being all emotive and distraught in Monster's Ball. The film didn't need that, or the fluorescent runner AND the "accept the good" runner. One or the other would have been nice. Both made it a bit schlocky.

But yeah, Things We Lost. Good date film, and it's a pleasure and a joy to have Benicio back. The kid actors, especially the little boy, are pretty damn awesome. More likable than most kid actors that's for sure.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Oh, Current's new Web site is up, and everything that was on TV is now available online. It's the coolest site, bar none. Enjoy!

I wonder who's more distressed by this...
I'm guessing it's a toss-up.

TV stuff

Thanks, Shell, for letting me work out some plot stuff. I do my best work when walking (can't do much in LA), in the shower, or talking to my sister. It's so useful to think out loud.

The last pilot of the autumn (as far as I'm concerned) was Samantha Who?, and it didn't suck as much as I expected it would. There were quite a few offnotes, but I was neither offended, nor bored, which is pretty much the case with every other show, except for Dirty Sexy Money (which is spotty, but is promising to deliver Blair Underwood) and The Big Bang Theory, which I am watching, honestly, only because it's in-between Two and a Half Men and HIMYM. Last night's episode with Sheldon's mom played by the really friggin awesome Laurie Metcalf was my favorite so far, though. I was never that into Chuck, and since there seems to be absolutely nothing at stake over the long haul, I have no more interest. Someone needs to kidnap Chuck's mom or something. Then I'll watch.

Good news for the WGA. The producers' guild took back a demand to renegotiate residuals (i.e., slaughter'em). However, nothing's changed on the home video front either.

I may be alone in this, but I like Heroes more this year. Granted, I'm not feeling the triple M segs (Mohinder-Molly-Matt), and I wish the casting for West had been a bit more creative (he looks just like the cheerleader's friend they kicked off last year), but I dig the hero whose power is the ability to emulate anything she sees on TV (see, the telly is educational!) and am pretty into it. Last year I had it on in the background and never paid much attention. Just a Lost wannabe, I thought, and a poor one at that.

Final TV note: I sort of lost interest in Nip/Tuck last year, in part because of grad school, in part because there's only so much suspension of disbelief you can ask of a person, but enough time has passed, and I am fairly fond of Bradley Cooper, who should be appearing. The guys in LA and over their heads? Sounds good to me.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

riveting Sunday

Is this a disease?
I keep smelling things that I shouldn't be able to. Like bleach and cinnamon. If this is some kind of aphasia, well, I guess there are worse things.

I cooked rice for the first time tonight. As a child I hated rice because my mom always overcooked it, and overcooked minute rice tastes like DEATH. But rice at most Asian restaurants tastes far better. Anyway, my roommate has a rice cooker, so I took the plunge. It's not as good as the local Chinese restaurant, but certainly edible.

Went to LACMA today. I am determined to experience LA -- the whole shebang. So I went to the SoCal exhibit of the 60s and 70s and snatched a ticket to the LACMA showing of No Country for Old Men, which was pretty cool, and LACMA is free after 5. I also bypassed the La Brea tar pits which would have been boring if I didn't have Volcano permanently embedded in my brain. I can't look at the tar burping methane without imagining downtown LA heaving up and spewing lava.

Seriously? with Kati

Ahem, ahem, let me clear my throat.
Before SNL popped on tonight, I asked myself, "What's SNL going to do if the WGA strikes?"
Seems the question is moot, and not just because the strike was the subject of an unfunny and fairly offensive sketch during Weekend Update but because it's clear that SNL is officially irrelevant. Even the Andy Samberg digital short was phoned in (as they sometimes are). The only remotely humorous moments were courtesy of Jason Sudeikis' Dane Cook impression and Kristen Wiig's... crap, I don't even remember. I know she did something funny, but all I can think of is that horrific sketch where she's the captain of a spaceship and is preoccupied with losing her purse. I mean, seriously?
And what's with all the non-actor hosts? I love Jon Bon Jovi, really I do, he's charming, a genuinely good guy, handsome as hell, but he didn't elicit a single laugh the whole night. And that can't be ENTIRELY the writers' fault (can it?). I didn't see the LeBron James episode, but the long list of non-actors is starting to feel fishy. Come on, SNL talent booker. Try booking someone worthwhile. Like Ryan Gosling! (I'm not obsessed; he'd be a good host!)Or Reese Witherspoon. Or... Jason Schwartzman? They all have films coming out or just came out. Come on, man. Heck, you could do Steve Colbert. His book just came out. His show isn't on Saturday nights. And he lives in NYC. How hard could that be???

Maybe, I'm just angry at how little writing I've done lately. G'night.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Coldwater Canyon

I'd just like to give Tree People and the Coldwater Canyon park trails a big 2 thumbs' up. When I went up there this morning, Tree People volunteers were spreading mulch on the trails (v. muddy from last night's rain), so not only were the wide paths well-maintained, they smelled good, too. A popular but not over-crowded trail with great vistas of the Valley and Laurel Canyon (I'd upload photos of LA, but my sister took my camera to CT), it's a great hike, and you can do it a couple of different ways. Moreover, you'll get cooler, low-key celebs, like Jon Heder, who I think may have been one of the Tree People.

Then on my way home I saw Harold Ramis driving out of Ralph's in Studio City.


Lars and the Real Girl redux, thoughts on awards season

I've enjoyed reading the review of Lars and the Real Girl, which have been decidedly mixed. All of them are fair. I almost feel that this is a movie you make a decision about before you go in. If the film does x, y, and z, I'll like it, you tell yourself. If it does a, b, and c, I'll despise it. When the film does half of x, b, z, and c, once, but not the way you expected, then you have to ask yourself two questions, did I like the movie, and how is that connected to the film's quality? Because liking a movie and thinking it's good are not the same thing. Far from it, really. I knew, going into Lars, that as long as Lars didn't do anything crude to the sex doll, I'd love it because Ryan Gosling has got skills that go on for miles and the script isn't based on a Nicholas Sparks book. The movie lived up to its end of the bargain. Was it awfully contrived? Sure! Was I waiting for Ryan Gosling to crack out of the strange and tenuous shell of this deeply off character at every moment, so much so that it was distracting? Absolutely. Did I still think it was a fine movie and that the main cast did a superb job? You better believe it. Emily Mortimer and Paul Schneider really shine, if I didn't say so before, and while this isn't Ryan's best performance (still The Believer), he owns every scene. I can't imagine anyone else pulling it off. Joseph Gordon-Levitt could probably come close. No one else. Do you know how hard it is to pull off a lovable tenderness that is both mentally-disturbed and enduringly goofy at the same time, heartbreaking and yet far from maudlin? No one can do it! Tom Hanks can't do it (though I guess people think he did in Forrest Gump -- whatev). Jim Carrey can't do it. Bill Murray can't do it. Jimmy Stewart was the last guy, as far as I can tell, and while he was genius, he wasn't as subtle.

Judging from the trailers, I have some thoughts on nominations. I get the feeling No Country for Old Men is going to get nods for Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem. Michael Clayton will for George Clooney and Tom Wilkinson (probably Tilda Swinton, too). Charlie Wilson's War for picture. Ryan maybe for Lars (I'd love Paul Schneider, too, but Best Supporting Actor is always a tough category), definitely a Globe. Maybe something for Eastern Promises and Viggo. Once for the Globes (musical category).

I have a really good feeling about John Cusack for Grace is Gone. Keri Russell will definitely get a Globe nod for Waitress (comedy, musical). I can't make guesses about 3:10 to Yuma and The Assassination of.... I'm sure there's a nomination in there between the two. I just don't know what it is. Probably Denzel for American Gangster. Cate Blanchett, supporting for I'm Not There. Juno, Atonement, and plenty of other films will probably be on those lists, but right now, having seen only Waitress, Lars, and Michael Clayton, these are the ones I feel pretty confident about.

As much as I enjoyed Darjeeling and the performances, I doubt it will get any cast nods (if I had to champion any, I'd push Adrien, but not too hard), but it could get a Globe nod for musical/comedy (probably the easiest category -- what would the others be? Lars, Waitress, Juno, Once, maybe I'm Not There -- if it's musical, maybe Hairspray??).

Friday, October 12, 2007

Easy Riders, Raging Bulls

When Biskind's book was published, Altman had not yet made Gosford Park, Scorsese hadn't directed The Departed, The Aviator, or Gangs of New York (though I'm not convinced the latter two are films that will go down in history as "great"), and Coppola hadn't become the Godfather of one of the most prominent families in Hollywood (Sofia and Roman, Jason and Robert Schwartzman (the latter of Rooney), Nicolas Cage) not to mention a major producer in his own right. So the book feels a little dated.

Still, it's quite the ride, and by ride, I mean, it's amazing most of these directors are still alive, let alone working. Improv-ers with great luck, lots of swagger, enough blow to kill Mr. Ed, and a total disregard for their screenwriters, every director but Spielberg spat in the face of the studio system and mostly got away with it (for awhile). It's truly amazing. If you want to be a screenwriter, I urge you to read this book because, if today is anything like the '70s (and hopefully, it isn't), all directors will hate screenwriters (because they're nor producing their own material) and rewrite and take credit for the writers' work. The industry appears to be savage and unpleasant, and while I know it's changed, I think the savagery and unpleasantness still exists, just in an evolved form.

Dear American English/ Typing Teachers and World At Large,

I'm copy-editing something right now, and I am coming across a problem I saw in college when I edited for the YDN.

Two spaces between sentences.

Stop it. Stop it right now. Don't teach kids to do this. Don't do it yourself. It is wrong. No one publishes articles, stories, or books with two spaces in between sentences.

SO PLEASE, PLEASE STOP IT. I am feeling particularly frustrated right now. I could kill whatever teacher taught this writer to do such a viciously incorrect thing.


Al Gore!

Yeehaw, Nobel Peace Prize!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

to telly and back

I know I should give them a bit more time, but at this point I've seen the second episode of all the new shows that have premiered that I actually cared about seeing a second time around. Life, Bionic Woman, and Journeyman just didn't seduce me. I watched Private Practice, but everything about it, particularly the camera work, is just atrocious. I feel bad for most of the actors on that show.

Shows I'll Watch a Third and Fourth Time:
Pushing Daisies -- surprisingly, the second ep lived up to the pilot (maybe dial down the narration a bit though); I'm in it for the time being
Dirty Sexy Money -- it won't go down in history as being an iconic series, but Blair Underwood's coming, and he's the richest man in the world; damn right, I'll watch that
Chuck -- there's an expiration date, and it may be the next episode... but since I can watch it online, and it's not crappy, I'll continue with it
The Big Bang Theory -- it's on in between How I Met Your Mother and Two and a Half Men, and while it's not winning any points for subtlety or sensitivity, it's not so bad that I'd change the station... Two and a Half Men, however, feels like its declining in quality.

Returning Shows I'm Into:
Bones is great. Weird, but I dig it.
House -- I'm still unsure about this season; proceed with caution, but I'll keep watching
Brothers and Sisters -- nothing major happening, but I did like how Rob Lowe took that pundit to task for his hate-mongering in last week's episode -- Pushing Daisies isn't half the fairy tale Brothers and Sisters is
Desperate Housewives -- I am concerned Nathan Fillion isn't doing much, and the Gabby-Carlos-Edie fiasco is just so drawn-out, but I'm still watching... for now
Ugly Betty -- I'm not the world's biggest fan, but I like this season so far
30 Rock -- the second season premiere was wildly underwhelming; hope it goes back to form soon
The Office -- love, love, love how they're dealing with Jim and Pam; show's great, supersized episodes can't last forever though
Heroes -- I watch the next day online, waiting for things to hurry up; Monday's episode wasn't bad
Grey's Anatomy -- if tonight's episode is as trite as the last two, I'm done
Damages -- almost over, sadly, but I do forget to watch it some weeks... which doesn't seem to be that big of a deal
Mad Men -- starting to lag, still damn good
Friday Night Lights -- we'll see how the Tyra-Landry debacle goes down in Ep 2. Like Alex Epstein over at Complications Ensue, I think both this story and the Coach Taylor-TMU story could have been handled better, but I'm not saying goodbye anytime soon.

I think that's everything.

to whom it may con

For almost everyone I talked to yesterday, October 10th turned out rotten. One of my friends totaled his car, another friend's car broke down, and I forgot my cell phone at home yesterday (and ended up spending half the day driving around the city, trying to rendez-vous with my boss). I didn't have time to eat until after 6pm. At which point I grabbed something small, and then I didn't get to eat actual food until after 8pm.

After I got home I went for a walk because, despite being a crap day, it was also really beautiful, and if I hadn't been so stressed, I would have enjoyed seeing Venice, Mar Vista, and Marina Del Rey yesterday. Culver City left no discernible impression.
Someone had a fire going last night -- I love that smell of burning wood. It smelled like autumn, which is the only way you'd know it was October around here (that and the vast array of Halloween items at every store).

I'm a bit psychologically frail as of late. As soon as I get medical insurance (hopefully, before I'm 25), I'm going to go to every kind of doctor there is to make sure I'm OK. I've only realized recently that my life is not directed by Tim Kring, so I'm probably not indestructible.

West Coat Bialys suck.

Monday, October 8, 2007

In my dreams I'm kind of a freak

So, in large part a result of watching Fellini and Current and feeling lonesome and reading too many articles on stupid things and the fact that my mattress is too short for my body (thanks alot, IKEA), I had this dream last night in which I learned that children who got more sleep, grew up to be taller and, thus, better. But in the study, they also said that one girl grew to be 8 feet tall (she was a lumberjack) and had been in a logging accident in which she got hit in the eye with a log and blinded. "So come on, let up on her," the article said, meaning "She's experienced a tragic loss due indirectly to her height and so, let's not talk about it anymore, it's not nice but also -- don't worry about sleeping too much, because then you could go blind, too."

Doesn't that make a world of sense? I don't know why my subconscious thinks I'm afraid I'll be forced into becoming a lumberjack. Or, would it be lumberjill?

Sunday, October 7, 2007

The Year of Magical Thinking

After purchasing some books from Skylight on Vermont (nice little bookstore if you live in Hollywood/Los Feliz), I decided to read neither and instead borrowed The Year of Magical Thinking because I've never read any Didion and the book's popularity has sufficiently waned that two copies were lounging on the shelf at the Studio City Library.

There's nothing particularly stunning about this book, except the circumstances. The writing isn't particularly great: she repeats, as if a chant or a prayer, quotes from classic literature and catch phrases her family uses and transformative moments in every chapter to reiterate that Death does what it wants and did not take in time to ask her what she thought about losing her husband and nearly losing her daughter at the same time. But here is an enormously successful woman, writing about grief and mourning, but also about her success and how it isn't enough. How nothing is enough when you lose the love of your life. No, I can't imagine anyone in their 20s liking this book. It's maudlin, and while I feel for her and believe what she says is right, I honestly can't help but be a bit irritated. She had so much, and now this book about the loss, has elevated her star even higher. It seems wrong somehow.

Of course, she isn't whining or moaning or implying that no one has ever lost the love of their life before (though his death is, in its suddenness, would be a blessing and be less tragic if her daughter weren't having serious and strange health problems at the same time), so in part my problems with the book are MY problems. For instance: what disturbs me most is that the ways in which Didion defines herself as "crazy" during the year after her husband's death is, in no small part, how I act on a daily basis. Having lost no one. Losing one's sense of self as you walk down the street, generalized anxiety, the inability to have fun and function well at parties or large functions. I think this is not craziness, but an inability to be alone well combined with a compulsion to remove oneself hastily from crowds of strangers.

In any event I'm satisfied I didn't purchase the book, and I'm sure I'll come back to it in fifty (or sixty or seventy) years when the love of my life drops dead in the middle of dinner, but now, for this reader at this stage of life, it's not the right book.

Lars review

When a loved one loses touch with reality, the people around him often have to make a difficult choice: pack him off to the nearest mental institution, or embrace the crazy. Assuming, of course, the crazy doesn’t mind being touched.
The first film (unless you count Mr. Woodcock) from veteran commercial director Craig Gillespie, Lars and the Real Girl is the tender, albeit twisted, story of a young man who falls in love with a sex doll and his hometown, which doesn’t burn him (or her) at the stake because of it.
Lars charms, even as it dips into the rather depressing reasons why young Lars (Ryan Gosling, who surely as the Golden Globe wrapped up) believes the sex doll he buys over the Internet is not only his girlfriend but a real, if conveniently wheelchair-bound, human being with whom he carries on conversations. Conversations, which, thanks to the smart ear of Six Feet Under scribe Nancy Oliver, are far more believable than Jimmy Stewart’s one-sided dialogue in Harvey.
To be sure Lars – don’t you just love that name? – has a lot to get off his Paul Bunyan-sized chest. Despite the fact that he is clearly uncomfortable in his own skin (he wears about four layers of clothing, which not only protects him from physical contact with others, but makes him look like a giant compared to everyone else), his co-workers at the crummy office he works at won’t leave him alone. Of particular nuisance is the new girl, Margo, who wants him something fierce. But Lars has to be pummeled by his pregnant sister-in-law, Karin (Emily Mortimer), in order to eat a meal with his own family, so Margo’s chances don’t seem very good.
A quick cut from an office colleague’s sex doll site to the delivery of a giant UPS box, however, lets us know Lars doesn’t want to be alone, after all. Oh no, he definitely yearns for companionship company – just the kind that isn’t going to die giving childbirth (like his mother) or abandon him (like his brother). Bianca arrives, much to the shock of Karin and Lars’ brother Gus (played winningly by Paul Schneider). Gus is ready to ship him off to the loony bin, but Karin suggests following the advice of Patricia Clarkson. I don’t know about you, but I’ll do whatever Patricia Clarkson tells me. She just seems to be the wisest person in any room. Anyhow, it’s not long before everyone in town has overcome their initial wonder and turned Bianca into the town’s most popular gal.
While Bianca is the toast of the town, Lars still has problems. His social awkwardness remains at stratospheric levels, he’s obviously worried about Karin’s impending delivery, and he’s slowly finding himself attracted to Margo. Doesn’t matter. He loves Bianca, despite the fact that she refuses to marry him (I know, right?) and is apparently a religious prude. Lars isn’t even getting any, but then again, with her busy volunteer and work schedule, Bianca doesn’t have much time for Lars anymore.
If the premise sounds absurd, I assure you it’s not. I think. Delivered with such tenderness, the small details of the story are at once mortifying, touching, hilarious. Lars needs a first relationship, and just as many of us have confided our darkest secrets and fearful nightmares to journals, childhood dolls, imaginary friends, and finally to God in the act of prayer, Lars too needs someone with whom he can talk at his pace and have a primer relationship that is, pun intended, made-to-order.
Like most first loves and all movies, Lars and Bianca cannot last forever. The arc of the relationship between Lars and his lady love, Lars and his family, Lars and the town, Lars himself, this is a story which is no more quirky than any of trying to become a man.
At one point, Lars asks Gus when he knew he was a man. If it was sex. Gus responds yes, then wavers, no, that being a man is a process, not an end destination, and involves doing the right thing for others, not necessarily for yourself. At this point, Gus apologizes for leaving Lars with his still-grieving widower father. Lars immediately forgives him. It’s a small moment and seems to have little consequence, and yet the conversation appears to be between two people who’ve never really spoken to each other. It’s like an ‘80s laundry commercial, but without the big hug at the end.
Later, the way Lars and Bianca part allows him to say goodbye and mourn the end of that first relationship, an act of release the audience feels he was not allowed as a child. Stunningly, Ms. Clarkson had it right all along. The delusion must serve some purpose, and when its purpose was served, it would vanish with the winter snows. It’s like she read the script beforehand.
All kidding aside, Lars is the most satisfying and sensitive film (and no gross-out parts, thank you very much) to question what makes a boy a man. And of course you might be charmed by the ease with which the town adopts Bianca, unless you see it as the softer side of mob hysteria. Then again, everything is a matter of perspective.

Note: The cut I saw of the film, which I presumed was a final cut (and was never told otherwise) and was seen after its premiere in Toronto, did have a troubling production problem as the sound boom appeared in maybe a third of the shots. Hopefully that distracting problem is fixed before wide release. If ever there was a film where suspension of disbelief hung on a thread, and a vital thread at that, it’s Lars.

Friday, October 5, 2007

This can't be true

I hate posting on a rumor, but since something like this will never be confirmed one way or another, I'd like to address the situation.

According to this, Warner Brothers has put the kibosh on all films with female leads because Jodie Foster and Nicole Kidman's recent vehicles underperformed.

If that's true, and I honestly wouldn't be shocked if it was, I'll be the first one to boycott WB movies. Most writers in Hollywood are men, and most men write films with male leads. So most pictures have male leads. Which means few pictures have female leads. Which means when one of them bombs, it's a bit more high profile. Which means, if a bunch of them bomb, the easiest answer is to blame it on the female actresses.

Which is bullshit.

Here's the thing: no one didn't see those films because they were anti-Kidman, Foster, or female lead -- I promise you, the day Penelope and Juno (all with female leads) comes out, everyone I know is going to see them -- people didn't go see those movies because the movies looked stupid, unoriginal, and genre-confused . Which is as much the fault of the studios and the producers, directors, and writers they hired to create those crap movies as anything else.

Also The Brave One (sounds like it should star Daniel Day-Lewis with shoulder-length hair and a mohawk) and The Invasion (B-movie coming out of the gate) are lame titles. This isn't 1950. You give a movie a crap name, it's your own damn fault when no one comes.


I took some stupid quizzes, and this is the only result with which I'm pleased.

You're the Indian Pacific!

When people talk about following the straight and narrow,
they have you in mind. You have long-ranging vision that covers more
territory than most people can fathom, but still have time to stop and
take in an opera or just hang out back. You've never had trouble walking
in a perfectly straight line, despite a bit of a taste for beer. Your
favorite A.A. Milne characters are Kanga and Roo.

Take the Trains and Railroads Quiz
at RMI Miniature Railroads.

New ideas may be illegal, but new jokes are still protected by the fourth amendment...

I don't know what the fourth amendment is off the top of my head. Sorry.

If you haven't already watched the second season premiere of Friday Night Lights at because you feel "computers try to murder you with a lake" or you forgot, tonight you can watch it on TV. Hoorah!

Do not forget. Especially if you have a Nielsen box.

I chose to watch Ugly Betty and Grey's last night instead of The Office and 30 Rock, which I watched this morning online. Of all of them, the only episode that was genuinely awesome was The Office. If you saw it, you understood my quote up above. If you didn't, well, go watch it now. You'll laugh, you'll snort, boogers will shoot from your nostrils, you'll wipe it off your keyboard, and then you'll laugh again.

I'm not sure what's going on with Mad Men. I'm still into it -- I just don't get the trajectory...

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Go see The Darjeeling Limited

Wes Anderson presented his film tonight in Santa Monica, and I was the happy owner of a ticket. Elation fest. What Wes has finally graced us with is a genuinely genuine film, a laugh out-loud funny movie (that I-love-you-but-I'm-going-to-mace-you scene isn't ruined by the clip in the trailer at all), a road trip/brothers movie, a beautifully shot movie, and a sweet/sad film. Adrien Brody, who I've never obsessed over, knocks it out of the park, and everything on the train is great, it's so natural it seems choreographed (if that makes any sense), all these lovely moments in a small confined space. The colors swell, the music is perfect (especially if you see the short, which, overall, I could take or leave, but does inform the film in an important way), and I want the Louis Vuitton luggage something fierce.
Fierce, I say.

OK, it's not the perfect film: the wide-panning, a la his AmEx commercial, combined with the tendency to shoot someone looking at something, then swing around, once they've left, to see what they were looking at (I heard someone call it the dialphone shot), and the wide-view, sudden closeup shot, are all used a bit too much. The film is slowed and everything about it feels very cultivated.
But that's okay. Because it's a really, really good movie. I think Owen Wilson should be appreciated for the comic genius he is (I think he's sort of sluffed off by serious comic connoiseurs as a surfer dude, but he's not Matthew McConaughey; he is GOOD), and Jason Schwartzman, whose stardom has always pissed me off a bit (I felt it was more of a Hollywood family sort of thing than actual talent), shows just how much laughter he can elicit from the smallest looks or wryest comments. When the brothers are in the dining car, and Jason turns around, looks at the woman who served them sweet lime, and says, "I want the stewardess," everyone in the theater laughs loudly. It's friggin great.

So, yeah, highly recommended.


Oh, and Radiohead are pretty stand-up awesome.

NBC how I snore

The voice-over guy for NBC (or at least for NBC online, who introduces the shows) is so yawn-worthy that he makes "Heroes" more boring. If anyone's going to make "Heroes" boring, that should be Mohinder! Come on, NBC. Hire someone else. Hell, I'd be better.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


"House" just totally ripped off 2001: A Space Odyssey in its teaser. You say allusion, I say bullshit.

I know what the show's trying to do, but there were way too many cast members.

And, on another network, I really hope Ted Danson gets a Golden Globe nod for "Damages." He's nuancing the hell out of this character. Love to hate him. Maybe v.v.

The British Empire Strikes Back...

Lonely Planet's dead. Long live Lonely Planet.

This is not unfair. I do think his comment on people mistaking "sincerity for authenticity" is fair, though I think even sincerity is fine, when it's not overtly precious, doe-eyed, as such. One character can be sincere, but they can't ALL be. To put it gently: happy endings are for losers, as are soft deaths.

Any book where a person loves where they come from is no book at all. Half of what drives the world is despising where you come from. I don't care if Brooklyn is heaven (and it's not). The first conflict should be the internal nurturing kind. That's why so many great novels are about journeys and family conflicts. Drama incipient at birth.
To be fair, I did enjoy Kavalier and Clay (though far too long and caricature-ish), A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (which you hate-love like a really great marketing campaign) and Motherless Brooklyn. Also, I've read Bee Season, The Secret Life of Bees, and Lovely Bones with varying degrees of indifference. Everything is Illuminated plain old sucked.
Maybe, that's why I left NY. NYers are so into themselves. You can't trust someone who doesn't know how to stumble, to hustle. LA people, stunningly enough, lack any self-esteem. Anything that looks like egoism is just a coverup for terror. Plagued with self-doubt. It's comforting. Characters in these books are always gifted, they don't learn or grow so much, or if they do, you feel it's contrived. More things have to be at stake, more things have to be broken, more things have to be honest.

And maybe set in Delaware or Nevada. For a change.

SNL Iran music video garners two thumbs up.

Monday, October 1, 2007


That's, like, October and Nobel mashed together. Considering that's the lexical phenomenon of our time, I thought I'd grab the bull by its testes like everyone else (i.e., do something stupid).

Mr. James has relayed his well-stated opinion on who's going to grab the Lit prize. I'm all for (and would not be shocked by) Atwood or Murakami, heck, even Kundera. But Roth? I know everyone thinks he's overdue, but he's SO overrated. Especially since The Plot Against America. McCarthy would be a far better choice, if we're going to hand it to an American, and I think a much more likely candidate for the Swedes to hand it to... but we'll see. I think, look for Atwood to grab it.

Actually, I have no clue. But what the hell.
In summing up, I wish I had some kind of affirmative message to leave you with. I don't. Would you take two negative messages?
-- Woody Allen