History’s Scariest Story

Last night I scared my wife telling her about the horror movie I’m outlining. She couldn’t sleep; I felt bad. But that’s not the scariest story I know. The scariest story I know starts like this:

Well-wrought this wall: Weirds broke it.
The stronghold burst…
Snapped rooftrees, towers fallen,
the work of the Giants, the stonesmiths, mouldereth.
Rime scoureth gatetowers
rime on mortar.
Shattered the showershield, roofs ruined,
age under-ate them.
And the wielders and wrights?
Earthgrip holds them—gone, long gone,
fast in gravesgrasp while fifty fathers
and sons have passed…. read more

Make This Journalism Adventure Flick?

I’m a fan of newspaper procedurals. There’s something obviously heroic about the search for truth.  I loved the way Lou Grant and The Hour would break a story every episode. I loved how the internal office dynamic was used in The Newsroom and All The President’s Men to add conflict, raise stakes, and build emotional investment. I even loved it in the somewhat maligned season 5 of The Wire where a new part of the scrivener’s drama was existential: the collapse of the industry around them. My friends who work at The Times are amazing human beings. My grandfather who worked at a paper was amazing. So I wonder: read more

Source Code to Pull a Stargate (Please)?

There’s two paths forward with a TV series based on  Source Code.

Tidy Procedural

One is to do a police procedural where everything that happened to Colter Stevens (Gyllenhaal) in the movie has no bearing on the show. Simply introduce some nearly dead federal agents who work for Project Source Code who are transported into the bodies of civilians killed in devastating events. The agents do quick police work and stop the perpetrators from committing future atrocities. It’s like Quantum Leap or, more closely, the time-traveling procedural Seven Days – which also saw government operatives traveling back in time to prevent disasters. read more

5 Pitfalls of John Cusack’s Rush Project

As in Rush Limbaugh.

Script not done – well see what it’s looks like – could be good hollywoodreporter.com/news/john-cusa…

— John Cusack (@johncusack) November 4, 2012

I can only hope this focus on Private Parts in leaks to press is a head fake designed to keep dittoheads interested. The model of Private Parts is problematic because that was a fully authorized underdog hagiography. And if Rush doesn’t endorse the project (which I doubt he’d do unless he’s EP and/or gets huge gross points) then no dittoheads will pay Cusack to see it. Neither do I see reality-based Americans going to see it unless to gloat in the schadenfreude were it a tragedy, or to boo at his villainy. read more

What’s New in Hollywood

Rarely is very much new.

Of the 45 films Warner Brothers released in 1940, 15 of them were remakes including Bette Davis’ The Letter and Errol Flynn’s The Sea Hawk. Remakes, reboots and sequels have always been a big part of what is produced.

Is Hollywood producing more reboots and remakes than before? Possibly, maybe, slightly.
Are large audiences as willing to spend their money on an unknown story? Apparently not.

What might be new are the “properties” that get spun-off into movies now. Battleship, for instance.  Have you heard my pitch for Hungry Hungry Hippos: The 3D Experience? read more

That Jeff Buckley Movie Thing

This one hurts. It’s not that they’re making a Jeff Buckley movie, nor that they’re making two – but it’s that one of them is the movie I always imagined.

In 2002, David Browne’s dual biography of Tim Buckley and Jeff Buckley “Dream Brother” was published and I’ve daydreamed about the dual biopic ever since. The book looks to be the inspiration of this:

I used to marvel at Jeff’s mom, Mary Guibert, repeatedly turning down life rights to producers, and rejecting scripts. I guessed that the reason was a mother’s protective instinct to erase the long shadow of drug abuse that haunted both Buckleys. read more

We’re On To Something

A few years ago I wrote a 10 minute play with Chris from my old improv group that The Dare Project in NYC was kind enough to produce. Our play was about a video game character who is sick of being the unappreciated villain, so she decides to go “game jumping” in order to become a hero. Because it was a 10 minute play, we set our play primarily in a group therapy session where she is talked back to her senses by other video game baddies.

While writing it, we explored about how fun it would be to bust her free, to expand her journey out into other game worlds, but the 10 minute limit kept us on target for a tidy finish. I bring this up because Disney is releasing this: read more

Miramax Should Flood Broadway

The recent Tony wins for the stage version of Once got me thinking again about my old musical TV programming ideas. I chatted about it with a music & movie aficionado J. Bolotsky who also had a bunch of great ideas — some of these could be pretty good as stand-alone stage plays:

Velvet Goldmine: the musical. Substitute some of the derivative works for the real songs by Iggy Pop, New York Dolls, and David Bowie (who are conspicuously missing from the soundtrack). Add more Marc Bolan.

Wonderful Tonight, a new musical based on the memoir by mod scene model Pattie Boyd about her MOST INSANE love triangle as the wife of best friends George Harrison and Eric Clapton, both of whom wrote #1 songs for Pattie. Rights would cost a bazillion dollars. read more

A Clinton-Gore Buddy Story

I saw a few news items…

New York Magazine:  “After the 2000 campaign, the Clinton-Gore relationship plummeted into a downward spiral. On Gore’s side, there was a bedrock belief that, as one of his friends puts it, “if Clinton hadn’t been impeached, Al Gore would be president and the world would be a different place.” And on Clinton’s side, there was certainty that had Gore been even a modestly competent campaigner, the impeachment wouldn’t have mattered—a view the Clinton people (and Clinton himself) liberally spread around. By the time Clinton and Gore left the White House, each was nurturing such grave resentments that they were no longer speaking.” read more

Jeffrey Wright as Crispus Attucks

It happened when I saw Jeffrey Wright in the play Topdog/Underdog. That night, in my head, I cast Wright as Crispus Attucks in the script I decided to start writing. My story became a “people’s history” of the inciting event in the American Revolution: “The Boston Massacre.” Great title.

When British troops opened fire on a crowd of Bostonians in 1770, a former slave-turned-whaler-turned political activist was the first man killed. His name: Crispus Attucks. Total badass. Our hero was part of the same terrorist caucus as Paul Revere. The two were buds in the North End. One was an outsider because his father was French (the universal enemy in the 1700s) the other was an outsider because he was part African American and part Native American. read more

“Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”

Time to turn back and descend the stair…

A nice image in that line. Which, since reading A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments by Roland Barthes, has made me think of Treppenwitz. Literally, ‘the wisdom of the stairs’. The striking reply that crosses one’s mind belatedly when already leaving, on the stairs.

Though, I’ve always preferred Cynthia Ozick’s version of the word: Treppenworte. The words one didn’t have the strength or ripeness to say when those words were necessary for one’s dignity or survival. read more

#OWS as a Judd Apatow Movie

What if Occupy Wall Street incorporated as an investment bank and an attached savings bank?  And what if at #Occupy demonstrations around the country, protestors could walk up to a little table and sign up as board members of the Occupy Corp investment bank – and then go over to a different table (crossing over what used to be that pesky regulation which Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act dissolved). And there, the poorz set up accounts on the customer-facing table: Occupy Trust. The “bank” would immediately issue a lien against the empty account, so that the bank would eat the future earning potential of these protestors.  In this way, the bank gobbles up a bunch of toxic assets. Then they bet against the value of the debt on the market. Of course, insolvency looms. Then they demand and get a giant bail-out. The bail-out is split up among the millions of “board members.”  The B-Story is about cops and a forbidden love affair between a protester and a cop. And there’s a bit with a dog. read more

Gian Francesco Poggio Bracciolini

When Rome fell and libraries were burned, all the works of Epicurean poet Lucretius nearly disappeared. It’s understandable that the Church would go after Lucretius, as he excoriated religion. His master work was called “On The Nature of Things.”

The Dark Ages snuffed out the book, and with it, most details of Epicuranism – the view that the universe is atomic, made of matter, and our behavior should be based on the idea that fear destroys, and that a balance of knowledge and humility is the key to happiness (though you can’t get enough of both). read more

The Heart of Catch-22

“And don’t tell me God works in mysterious ways,” Yossarian continued, hurtling over her objections. “There’s nothing so mysterious about it. He’s not working at all. He’s playing or else He’s forgotten all about us. That’s the kind of God you people talk about—a country bumpkin, a clumsy, bungling, brainless, conceited, uncouth hayseed. Good God, how much reverence can you have for a Supreme Being who finds it necessary to include such phenomena as phlegm and tooth decay in His divine system of creation? What in the world was running through that warped, evil, scatological mind of His when He robbed old people of the power to control their bowel movements? Why in the world did he ever create pain? … Oh, He was really being charitable to us when He gave us pain! [to warn us of danger] Why couldn’t He have used a doorbell instead to notify us, or one of His celestial choirs? Or a system of blue-and-red neon tubes right in the middle of each person’s forehead. Any jukebox manufacturer worth his salt could have done that. Why couldn’t He? … What a colossal, immortal blunderer! When you consider the opportunity and power He had to really do a job, and then look at the stupid, ugly little mess He made of it instead, His sheer incompetence is almost staggering. …” read more

All The Shah’s Men – The Movie

In 2006, I thought George Clooney should make an Iranian CIA movie, adapting the book All The Shah’s Men, but he did Argo instead.

After watching Syriana again, I poked around into the book All The Shah’s Men, and then I wrote a long blog post right here in this space all about how the rights to the book All The Shah’s Men really should be optioned and developed with Sam Rockwell in the lead as CIA agent Kermit Roosevelt, the badass Jamshid Hashempour as Mohammed Mossadeq, Danny Pudi as Mohammad-Rezā Shāh Pahlavi, and either George Clooney or Stephen Gaghan directing. read more

Tech and Self

Fun art installation idea about how technology can obfuscate one’s projection of self:

Cinemagram makes moving gifs of a few frames. There’s this feature where you can edit out a portion of the gif and overlay a static shot that “fills in” the deleted area. The right side of this window, for instance:

What if you can do the same thing but with a video feed? So instead of a gif of the guy walking, there could be a live video stream of a street corner?

Some artist hangs a smartphone-scannable QR code on telephone poles at street corners.

And that URL is a video feed of a nearby surveillance camera – a camera with a bird’s eye view of that corner. Live. Traffic visible in the street in the background. read more

Ira Glass and David Foster Wallace

I immediately thought of itsasickness when I read this:

“Almost anything you pay close, direct attention to becomes interesting”
– David Foster Wallace, ‘The Pale King’


– Ira Glass on the art of the interview:
“Most people aren’t great storytellers in general, but if you stumble on the thing that really means something to them, you’ll get a great story out of them. This is one of the insights of therapy, actually. If you read all the early Freud stuff—you know how when he stumbles onto the central issue with his patients, suddenly stories flood out of them in pure narrative, with these incredible poetic images? That’s what happens when you’re working out in your head something that isn’t totally resolved and then you speak about it. It comes out as narrative.” read more

Slavoj Žižek on WikiLeaks

Every lefty’s favorite Slovak philosopher looks into the WikiLeaks story and knocks it out of the park.

First he dissects The Dark Knight movie in a way that basically seconds the general thesis of my Wild West script about media and theatre:

The Joker wants to disclose the truth beneath the mask, convinced that this will destroy the social order. What shall we call him? A terrorist? The Dark Knight is effectively a new version of those classic westerns Fort Apache and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, which show that, in order to civilise the Wild West, the lie has to be elevated into truth: civilisation, in other words, must be grounded on a lie. The film [The Dark Knight] has been extraordinarily popular. The question is why, at this precise moment, is there this renewed need for a lie to maintain the social system? read more

Against Ambient Awareness

“Our suffering comes from the fact that we are attached to the outer form that something assumes in a given instant rather than the movable conversation that stands behind it. Keeping up with what is occurring rather than lagging and getting caught in things that no longer exist, is one of the the great disciplines of life.” ~David Whyte, The Three Marriages

“Litany” by Billy Collins

You are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.
You are the dew on the morning grass
and the burning wheel of the sun.
You are the white apron of the baker,
and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.

However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
the plums on the counter,
or the house of cards.
And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air.

It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
maybe even the pigeon on the general’s head,
but you are not even close
to being the field of cornflowers at dusk. read more