Friday, February 24, 2012

New Industry Insider logline has been released!

The latest Industry Insider Screenwriting Contest logline has been released:

A soldier returns from an 18 month deployment and finds that the family home is missing - even the address no longer exists.

This logline comes from WGA-winning and Oscar-nominated screenwriter Randall Wallace (Braveheart).  The contest is sponsored by the Writers Store.  Early deadline is March 31 and final deadline is May 15.

The way the contest works is that you submit the first fifteen pages of a script based on the logline provided.  Genre is up to you - you can write it as comedy, drama, sci-fi, horror or anything else that floats your boat.  Prizes are pretty sweet - the top ten finalists go into a twelve week mentoring program to finish their scripts, then a winner is chosen to take meetings with Wallace and Benderspink.  I can't think of any other program that rewards its winners with that level of face-to-face access.

So get writing!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Trendy = Douchey, at least for L.A. bars

Some of L.A.'s trendiest and most well-known bars made this hilarious list: The 25 Douchiest Bars in Los Angeles.  I have a feeling if I met the list's writer I'd really like him/her.  Someone who loves their booze, loathes pretentious douchebag types and can make me laugh like a hyena?  You are awesome.

Some of my favorite snarky comments from the list:
24. Renee's Courtyard Cafe (Santa Monica) (Patrons) take shots right from the bottle because no one taught them how to drink in public.
22. O'Brien's (Santa Monica) O'Brien's is living proof that if you combine an Irish pub with a beachside sports bar you will create hell on earth.
20. Baja Cantina (Marina del Rey) Baja is overrun with very pretty people with very little substance. You'll find men in tight t-shirts who have trickled down from Muscle Beach alongside actresses/models/singers who forgot to pursue their career because they were wasting their time at Baja on terrible margaritas and said men in tight t-shirts.
19. Dillon's Irish Pub (Hollywood) The all-female staff dresses in slutty Catholic schoolgirl outfits, making it a great place for douchebags of all ages to come get their creep on. Dillon's is not an Irish pub. It's a poor man's Hooters.
17. The Rooftop Bar at The Standard (DTLA) Admittedly, The Rooftop Bar at The Standard has one of the most incredible views you can find in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, someone went and told every pretentious Hollywood asshole in town.
16. SkyBar at The Mondrian (West Hollywood) When SkyBar opened, it was the place to go for anyone in the entertainment business. Although its time in the spotlight has passed, the sleaze lingers. The ladies here are either waiting to be “discovered” or looking for a sugar daddy. There's more L.A. cliché here than even a season of Entourage could contain.
14. The Hudson (West Hollywood) (re: The "straight frat bros" that populate the bar): They're loud.  And they're high-fiving like roofies just became legal.
12. Brennan's Pub (Marina del Rey) You'll leave here feeling so dirty you were even in the same room with these douchebags that the IHOP across the street starts looking like the Four Seasons. 
9. South (Santa Monica) The bros at this Southern themed bar offer the best in vapid conversation and man jewelry. Stay late enough and you can watch these charmers turn into desperate drunken shitshows. The patrons at a real Southern bar handle their liquor with class.
3. Baja Sharkeez (Hermosa Beach) Los Angeles locals have been fleeing Sharkeez over the last few years. This bar has become a haven for naïve L.A. transplants and the South Bay's broiest bros. Frat guys and newly-legal girls love this place for the cheap booze and party-type atmosphere. Everyone else loves this place for rounding up the worst people on Hermosa Pier and keeping them there for the night.
1. Saddle Ranch (West Hollywood) Step aside, every other bar on this list, we've come to the very definition of douchey: Saddle Ranch. This is the bar of the douchebag, by the douchebag, for the douchebag. With the watered-down cocktails, overflowing toilets, and abundance of bedazzled clothing, you have to constantly remind yourself that you're a patron at a bar and not an extra on Jersey Shore. 
Do read the whole thing.  Seriously, as a writer, it made me insanely jealous.  There's nothing like hilariously sarcastic reviews of people, places and things that take themselves sooooo seriously.  I enjoyed this one immensely.

Hat tip to my friend Liz for putting this up on Facebook.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

This is what people in the industry call a "publicity stunt"...

...that the industry actually thinks you unsophisticated suburban gossip rag-gobbling rubes who are only useful when you're lining their pockets with cold, hard cash will just lap up:

Jennifer Aniston pulls bare breasts from new movie for true soulmate not named Brad Pitt blah blah blah...

Sure she did.  You know, because actors and actresses are so anti-getting naked for stardom.

Hollywood will just not stop trying to force-feed Aniston on the world as a movie star, despite the failure of God knows how many countless failed movies she's been in.  Including probably this one, the name of which totally escapes me right now, although I could easily page back and look it up, but as a potential movie-goer I just can't be bothered to care.  Like I said before, what this woman is really suited to as an actress is Lifetime MOW type stuff.  Or maybe another sitcom.  Either one of those would probably work a lot better for her.

On the other hand, she is a big celebrity, so the tourists will really go for taking pictures of her star, and they probably don't really care what category it's for.  So there's that.  Welcome to Hollywood!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Not a portrait of the young man as an artist

As an Angeleno, let me assure you that the sound of car horns honking during rush hour isn't musical or artistic.  It's annoying when they have a good reason to be honking.  Think monster-sized nails on a chalkboard annoying. 

Like these nails.  Screeching down a chalkboard.

To have a thousand of them honking at nothing for five solid minutes?  REALLY. FUCKING. ANNOYING. 

That didn't stop self-described (and no doubt, self-absorbed) "artist" and "professional troublemaker" Zefrey Throwell from doing just that.  Showing a total lack of regard for the millions of Southern Californians who are actually stuck with the unpleasant reality of this stressful environment five days a week and sometimes more, Throwell took it upon himself to "stage" a "symphony" that was anything but musical.

"Sitting in your car, in traffic, is generally an isolating experience,"says Throwell.  No really, genius?  You think?

Let me repeat: REALLY. FUCKING. ANNOYING.  Like justifiable homicide annoying, and given Southern Californians propensity for road rage, I feel like we're pretty fortunate that didn't happen.

Here's how unnecessary this was: The director of the group that sponsored it flaked out at the last minute because even she understood it was rude and irritating.
Shamim Monim directs Los Angeles Nomadic Division, the group that sponsored the symphony.  She came down with a case of honker’s guilt in stop-and-go traffic in Atwater Village.

"I’m missing it," she says, anxiously, sitting in the middle of rush hour.  "I’ve got to pause it.  I can’t honk at these people in front of me the whole time."
So much for supporting the "arts".

Throwell is in the throes of a grandiose world symphony tour (he says).  And for as pointless as it all was, Los Angeles may have actually gotten off easy, considering some of the earlier aspects of this work:
In the first movement, Throwell and about 75 friends descended on the Whitney Museum in New York to play on the anxieties of security guards.  The musicians wrestled in galleries, stripped naked in stairwells and swiped a painting.
That's not art.  Immature jackassery, yes.  The pitch for a crappy, self-indulgent reality show on MTV, perhaps.  A desperate cry for attention from Mommy and Daddy, sure.  Art, no. 

I'm gonna let you in on a little secret: Just because you fancy yourself an "artist", that doesn't make you one, nor does using lofty, pretentious language to discuss your work elevate it to an art form.  When you can bring something to the world that improves it, makes it more beautiful, provokes thought in others, or even just entertains, then yes, you are probably artistic.  Making Southern California traffic more miserable than it already is?  You're these guys

If this is the best you can do, maybe it's time to get over your precious self, accept reality and start studying accounting.  Making a racket and calling it a symphony (or art) doesn't change the fact that it's just good old-fashioned noise pollution.  It doesn't make you an artist, although it does make it abundantly clear that deep down inside, you know it but you really desperately wish you were one.   No wonder they call it "performance" art.  It's like an actor playing a role.  It's not real.

Since I'm in Hollywood, I may or may not have had these "performers" in the vicinity.  I wouldn't know because city traffic is already loud and irritating.  I hear car horns all day and night.  Hell, there's a really obnoxious horn honking as I type this and it's not even rush hour yet.  I can vouch that it doesn't sound very creative or artistic, nor does it cause me to reflect on how being in my car in traffic isolates me from my fellow man.  I figured that out years ago on my own, and you know how I did that?  By sitting in my car in traffic while some ragey idiot impotently laid on the horn and just made a crappy situation bug that much more.

This might have succeeded to a certain degree if he'd done it flash mob style, instead of with random cars spread out all over the Southland.  People in the vicinity would have at least known there was some sort of performance going on.  But instead it's a great example of the difference between people who really are creatively and artistically gifted and...Zefrey Throwell.

One last thing - I know it looks like I ran wild with the quote marks in this post.  I could have used a lot more.  That's how ridiculous I think this stuff is.  I actually used a lot of restraint with the quotey marks.  "Artist" my ass.

Hat tip to LAist.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

And yet another writing contest: "Red"

WriteOnOnline.com has issued the following challenge:
Enter the February Challenge: “Red” Submit your 200 to 400-word story or essay, using the writing prompt “Red,“ in the body of an email to Debra@WriteOnOnline.com by Thursday, March 1. Please also include your name, the type of writing you do, and prize preference, along with your submission. Winners will be announced on Tuesday, March 20, on Write On! Online, and in the March Newsletter. Read the complete contest details.
Get. On. It.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

DVD/Film Review: Detour

Detour poster
Detour (1945) (PRC Pictures)
Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer
Written by Martin Goldsmith (based on his novel)
Starring Tom Neal, Ann Savage, Edmund MacDonald and Claudia Drake

As described by Netflix (which has the film available on both DVD and streaming):
Classic film noir rules when down-in-the-dumps musician Al Roberts decides to hitchhike cross-country to be with his chanteuse girlfriend.  He accepts a lift from high-roller Charles Haskell Jr., who promptly suffers a fatal coronary.  Afraid the cops will finger him as a killer, Al ditches the body and assumes Haskell's identity.  But Al's trip quickly goes downhill when he picks up a scheming hitchhiker.
As usually happens in film noir, things start off lousy and go downhill fast, eventually ending very, very badly for everyone involved.  Detour doesn't disappoint in this respect.  No one comes out unscathed.

Al Roberts (Neal) is a small-time musician whose small-time singer girlfriend (Drake) decides to blow dark, dead-end NYC for sunny Hollywood in the hopes of boosting her career.  Missing her, Al hits the road, hitchhiking west.  Eventually he gets a ride from high-rolling, skirt-chasing Charles Haskell (MacDonald), who is sporting scratches from a dame who didn't appreciate his recent advances and who is also ominously popping pills.  While Al is taking his turn behind the wheel, Haskell dies in his sleep, the victim of a bad ticker.  When Al tries to revive him, Haskell falls from the car, bashing his lifeless head on a rock.  Convinced that the cops will think he murdered the rich man, Al ditches the body and takes off with Haskell's clothes, car and identity.

The next day Al makes the mistake of picking up a bedraggled young female hitchhiker who accepts the ride despite a clear aversion to him.  And wouldn't you know it, Vera (Savage) is the aforementioned dame who left her marks on Haskell.  When Al introduces himself as the dead man, Vera knows something is up and she immediately starts blackmailing Al with this knowledge.


Terrified of being turned into the police, Al has no choice but to reluctantly comply with Vera's demands that he play along, literally becoming her prisoner in the process.  Al's predicament - and his inability to escape it - becomes even worse when Vera discovers that Haskell's wealthy and long-estranged father is on his deathbed and she hatches a scheme to claim the Haskell family fortune by passing Al off as the long-lost son and heir.

To add to the film's dire pedigree, star Tom Neal's offscreen life was itself the stuff of film noir.  From imdb:
In 1951, in a dispute over the on-again/off-again affections and the wavering allegiance of notorious actress/party girl Barbara Payton, he mixed it up with Payton's paramour, the aristocratic actor Franchot Tone.  The former college boxer Neal inflicted upon Tone a smashed cheekbone, a broken nose and a brain concussion.  Hollywood essentially blackballed Neal thereafter, but he would come to find a livelihood in gardening and landscaping.
He was brought to trial in 1965 for the murder of his wife Gale, who had been shot to death with a .45-caliber bullet to the back of her head.  Prosecutors sought the death penalty for Neal, which at the time meant a trip to the cyanide-gas chamber.  The trial jury, however, convicted him only of "involuntary manslaughter",  for which he was sentenced to 10 years in jail.

On 7 December 1971 he was released on parole, having served exactly six years to the day.  Eight months later, Tom Neal was dead of heart failure.
Some people just attract trouble and Neal was one of them.  But his femme fatale costar, Ann Savage, was no lightweight herself.  Although her noir image didn't follow her offscreen, her frenetic, constantly scheming work in Detour proved to be the role she would be best remembered for.  From imdb:
In May of 2007, Time called her walking nightmare portrayal of Vera in Detour (1945) one of the "Top 10 All-Time Best Villains", included alongside James Cagney in White Heat (1949), Robert Mitchum in Cape Fear (1962) and Arnold Schwarzeneggar in The Terminator.
"Walking nightmare portrayal" is right, and Savage's inclusion in such lofty company is well deserved.  Detour was a low-budget, quickly shot B-film, but I'm still amazed it wasn't more of a star-making performance for Savage.  Vera is a ruthless and angry force of nature, malevolently wreaking havoc and destruction every step of the way, and Savage spits her vicious lines and holds nothing back as she lays Vera's wretched, base ugliness bare for the world to see.  Al Roberts, who has already made a very bad judgement call even before Vera shows up to ruin his life, is absolutely no match for her.


By the time Vera and Al reap their Hays Code-mandated punishments, everyone involved - including the audience - has already been overwhelmed by the sheer determination of Vera's venomous, relentless scheming.  She is repellent and devoid of humanity, yet as an audience we can't take our eyes off her.  Ann Savage manages that most magical of Hollywood tricks: She is compellingly watchable, no matter how much we loathe her and are dreading her next move.  And that is the mark of a star, even one who only briefly shines.


More Detour screencaps are here.

Links/sources:
Detour on imdb - Tom Neal on imdb - Ann Savage on imdbEdgar G. Ulmer on imdb - Martin Goldsmith on imdb - Savage Detours (Ann's biography) on Amazon - Detour (novel) on Amazon

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Another short story contest

The Writer Magazine, in collaboration with Gotham Writers' Workshop, presents its 2012 Short Story Contest.  Entry fee is only $10 per story, deadline is 4/30/12 and first prize is pretty sweet for less than 2,000 words:

First prize: $1,000; a free 10-week creative writing workshop offered online by Gotham Writers' Workshop ($420 value); publication in The Writer and on WriterMag.com; and a one-year subscription to The Writer

Get on it.

Monday, February 13, 2012

9th place, and I don't even know what I'm doing

I continue to do quite well with the L.A. Kings Fantasy Hockey.  After yesterday's win at Dallas, I somehow managed to crack the top ten for the first time ever (previous high was 14th).

Click to see the full-size version of my fantasy hockey awesomeness.

Not bad, considering the first week I finished in 99th place.  Although apparently I am a total fail in the user name department, having not received the memo not to use my actual name.  Next time I'll know.

I'm still not sure exactly how I'm doing this well.  Maybe I'm just a natural.  And after the miserable road trip the team just completed, I'd gladly trade my success to them.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Back in the writing saddle, plus some upcoming writing competitions

I've spent the last month and a half clearing out my late Uncle's apartment and taking care of loose ends brought on by his death.  There's still a few things left to do (plus I'm still dealing with my Dad's estate), but after a period of feeling like my life had been taken over, I'm trying to get back into somewhat of a normal routine.  And that means getting back to writing.

It feels like forever that I've done any significant writing.  I did pull out the White Collar spec from last year and got an unexpected visit from the Reality Fairy.  The script starts out fine, then heads non-stop for the toilet as it goes on.  This actually makes sense, since I wrote it start to finish (usually I'm all over the place before tying everything together) which means that the beginning and middle of the script got a lot more rewriting than the latter part of it.  This happened because I was desperate to get it into the Screenwriting Expo competition last year and just made it by the skin of my teeth.  At the time I was just happy to get it done, but in looking it over with fresh eyes, I can see it clearly wasn't ready to go out.  So rewriting that baby is first up on my writing to-do list so it can be my entry for TV writing competitions this year.  Which reminds me, the next deadline for the semi-annual Scriptapalooza TV Competition is 4/16/12.  Get on it.

Some upcoming competitions from Writers Digest include their Self-Published Book Awards (deadline 4/20/12) and Annual Writing Competition (deadline 5/1/12), which includes categories for scripts, short stories and magazine articles.

Also, it looks the Industry Insider Screenwriting Contest should be releasing their next logline any day now.

The folks at Scripped.com have come up with an interesting new contest:
Write a short (ten pages or less) one-person STAGE PLAY that tells the story of an artist.  It could be a day-in-the-life, a truncated history, or a particular event that gives us a window into the artist's world, anything.  The artist character could be based on a real-life artist or could be completely original …or even auto-biographical if you think you are interesting enough. This play can be classically styled or it could be utterly abstract and stream-of-consciousness -- style is entirely up to you.
More details here.  Deadline is 2/29/12 and winner scores $250.  Get on it.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A controversial win is still a win. Also a win: Our seats last night.

The Brother scored tickets to last night's Kings game vs. Columbus and the seats were beyond awesome.  As much as I liked being center ice, we were in the third row behind goal (just a bit to the left of the goalie), right by the glass, and it was an amazing view.  Add to that a thrilling and controversial finish that saw the Kings finally win a game we were at this season (5th time charm!) and we had a great night at Staples Center!  Final score was 3-2; the recap is here.

We were in the end the Kings defend twice, so The Brother and I spent a large chunk of the evening ooohing and aaahing over Jonathan Quick.  For you non-hockey types who don't know who Quick is, you know that expression, "And on the eighth day, God created ___________"?  Well, Quick is what God created on the eighth day, at least for the Kings and their fans.  He wasn't really challenged by Columbus but as squealing fangirls of Quick and his jedi mind-control goaltending it was enough for us just to be near him.

For reasons I cannot fathom, Dustin Penner was not only in the starting lineup, but also took up space  on the power play.  He probably heard me tossing out words like "pylon" and "useless" to describe his play, because he scored a goal right in front of us during the second period, just to be obnoxious.  The appearance of a Penner goal, a rare, almost extinct creature, kind of freaked us out.  We just couldn't wrap our heads around the idea that that just happened.  I don't care if he has a great sense of humor about hurting his back while wolfing down pancakes, the guy has done virtually nothing since we got him from Edmonton last year and I can't wait until he's gone.  Total waste of a spot in the lineup.

Another highlight of the evening was a kid in the row behind us.  He was just a little slip of a thing, but he had a big voice and an even bigger attitude and provided us with non-stop entertainment as he bellowed increasingly vindictive orders at the players like a miniature Mike Keenan.  "Shoot the puck!" and "Fight, fight, fight!" were his favorites (he really, really wanted to see some punches thrown) but my favorite moment was when he singled out Anze Kopitar for abuse.  Kopi had the puck and Future Keenan commanded him (LOUDLY) to shoot it.  Anze disappointed him greatly by passing it instead, prompting the Little Dictator to mockingly wail, "REEEEALLY KOPI????" at him, like Kopitar is some sort of complete moron when it comes to the sport compared to the kid.  Hilarious.

And then there was the "clock controversy".  As regulation was winding down, the game was tied 2-2 and it looked like yet another OT game and possible shootout.  We've had way too many of these this season.  Even if you win in OT, the losing team still gets a point, and the Kings have been giving away a lot of OT points and losing regulation win points, something which could bite us in the ass in terms of making the playoffs if the standings are tight when the season winds down, which is probably exactly what is going to happen.  Luckily this was not to be, as Drew Doughty dramatically scored with .04 seconds left in regulation.  The place went wild.

Then the play was reviewed.  And it stood, which was awesome because the Kings are notorious for getting screwed on reviews.  The replay bore this out.  At least on the clip we saw, which started with something like 1.6 seconds left.

But then there's this, which shows the clock from six seconds out and sure enough, it sticks at 1.8 seconds before resuming the countdown.

video

The league is investigating, but bottom line is it sucks to be you, Columbus Blue Jackets.  We win.

All I have to say about that is that like any fan of any team, I know my team has been victimized by officiating and circumstance, therefore this is payback.  Earlier in the game, one of the zebras blew play dead because he lost track of the puck at the CBJ goal.  Turns out the puck was still in play and Brad Richardson popped it into the net, but we lost that goal due to the early whistle.  So pick one or the other, either way it's a 3-2 victory for the Kings.

Now back to our awesome seats.  One of the best things about them was that I was able to actually get some decent pictures.  We don't usually show for the warmups, but if we get these seats again I'm going early.  The players are moving almost constantly during the game, which made it hard for me to get clear shots of them, but they do stand around during warmup drills and I think I could have gotten a lot more shots of a lot more players.

Most of my pictures are of Quick.  Big surprise there.

This one is now my wallpaper.  Best shot of the night.

At one point something required Quick's helmet-less attention.  Needless to say, The Brother and I were riveted.


We were also pathetically fascinated by the sight of him hitting the water bottle.

Stay thirsty, my friend!

In going over my pics, I noticed a peculiar trend - I got some really good shots of the guys from the back, nice shots of the names and numbers.  Their faces not so much.  Not sure why, but enjoy.


Tried to get a good shot of The Brother's latest favorite, but Kyle Clifford was camera-shy.  Or possibly avoiding us like the plague.


The third star was some random Columbus Blue Jackets player we didn't care about.  Williams was second star and Doughty was first.


The Brother and I are scoping out the schedule for the rest of the season for more games and we're definitely spoiled by the great seats we've had, so it's not going to be cheap.  But it will be worth every penny someday when our boys hoist the Stanley Cup.  Until then, GO KINGS GO!!!