Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Death in the snow brings life to a movie

So a student of mine informed me that a script concept I had been developing was adapted to the feature film KUMIKO, THE TREASURE HUNTER starring Rinko Kikuchi which premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. The story is of a young Japanese woman that was convinced that the buried money in the Coen Bros film FARGO was somehow still buried in the snows of Minnesota since the film was "based on a true story" (the Coen Bros later admitted it was not). As the urban legend goes this woman (her actual name was Takako Konishi) traveled to the US and encountered the local police while wandering in the cold. Having difficulty communicating with the authorities, she was left to go on her way but then was later found dead - supposedly she froze to death while looking for the FARGO money. But later it was discovered that, as reported by Paul Berczeller in his article "Death in the Snow," Takako was actually searching for an estranged American lover she had met in Japan and that her death was actually a suicide - a letter mailed to her parents in Japan was later discovered. It's a truly fascinating and tragic legend/story with such great dramatic possibilities. My version was not a direct adaptation and I'm focusing less on the treasure hunting aspect and more on the love story. So despite this other film beating me to adapting the story, my version is still viable as it doesn't even involve Minnesota/North Dakota or the snow or FARGO for that matter. But I am curious as to how these filmmaker interpreted the subject matter. I highly recommend reading Paul Berczeller's article in the Guardian - his presentation of fact and fiction is what makes the story film-worthy. #gnetx #sse
A body is found in the frozen North Dakota woods. The cops say the dead Japanese woman was looking for the $1m she saw buried in the film Fargo. But the story didn't end there. By Paul Berczeller.

'Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter' at Sundance 2014
A chat with the star and writer/director/producers of 'Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter'.

You're... Stupid

I really don't understand the praise for the horror film YOU'RE NEXT - I just thought it was flat out stupid as hell. Granted I had expectations so with every "off" performance I thought, oh that character's suspicious - nope, it was just bad acting and writing. With every oddly pre-rigged method of killing I thought, oh these killers are either super smart or this is some preordained death game - nope, in fact the killers reveal themselves to be a bunch of pretards and the eventual plot twist is so mundane and is ultimately so predictable. I've heard comparisons to CABIN IN THE WOODS and "turning the genre on its head" - what in the hell are these people smoking? It's more like this film deliberately throws up random acts of violence to confuse and then devolves horror expectations (in a mundane and ordinary direction - not a clever or even amusingly ridiculous direction) and then is smug with calling itself original.

I hate to bash this film too much because some of the cinematography, practical effects, and lead actress performance are noteworthy. But the film as it reveals itself is so aggravatingly... stupid. Maybe you'll like this film if you're truly fatigued by contemporary horror films that require a lot anticipatory brain work with clever misdirection and a satisfying realization. This film ain't any of that.

Again, if you want to see a good contemporary home-invasion horror film check out THE STRANGERS. Well executed, so much more in-the-moment and dramatic, so much more creepy and chilling - you feel the emotional torture of the characters without the filmmaker desperately trying to hinge everything on a face-smack plot twist. #gnetx #sse


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Writing rituals and habits

So I was listening to an interview with writer/director Peter Berg and he mentioned a writing habit where he writes in the morning as soon as he wakes up. He just wakes up and jumps into writing before doing anything else like checking e-mails or checking day's news or anything that might distract him. And it dawned on me that that's usually when I'm the most productive. After a good night's sleep and waking up before the kid or the wife, if I go straight into writing without looking at Facebook or Twitter I tend to be quite productive. So I tried it this morning and bam! I was on a roll. I only afforded myself maybe 1.5 hours but it was still a pretty decent session of pounding the keys.

Writers are notoriously ritualistic and even superstitious when it comes to writing and how they approach writing, but it's really no different than an athlete that has a lucky jersey or number or method. It's all about being in the right state of mind in the moment - triggering your "A" game on a consistent basis. Just like when I watch a movie, if I'm not in the mood to watch a certain genre, that film just may not appeal to me regardless of how good it actually is. But if all the right conditions align, even a crappy movie can be the time of my life. It's all about replicating those right conditions for weeks and months while I write a feature script. It's not easy but there is a method to the madness and that method is about being ritualistic. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Investigator vs the Op

The inherent problem with Sherlock is that you can't really relate to him in all his intellect and prowess. 

But the Hammett detective is the every-man with an ugly mug and bad disposition to match. He is solitary but dedicated to his code with the Continental Op. He's smart but not by education - he's earned his intuition to duck after being hit in the head one too many times.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Action and Dialog

Sometimes I have to separate the writing of action and dialog in order to find my flow. Action is all visual to me, as if I'm blocking a scene on set and replacing dialog with "blah, blah, blah" so that I'm not hung up on words. But when I write dialog it's ALL about the word choices. I'm constantly reevaluating which words work best for a given situation, or how many times I've used a word in a scene, or what words a specific character would use based on his/her background. So my drafts can sometimes be long paragraphs of action descriptions with very little dialog or long exchanges of dialog with little to no descriptions. I then go back and insert the missing component whether it's action or dialog. This method helps me identify the right tone and pace, and sometimes allows me to vomit words onto a page then sort things out later.


Separation of studio and critic

Critic Armond White mentions how many critics feel they are part of the movie industry when they are/should not - they are journalists. 

I should add that when I am critical of a film there is some notion that I am broadcasting a report to friends but that is secondary to my examination of what I personally like/dislike as both an audience member and a filmmaker. It is all in developing my own personal taste and style so that I can direct my own creative decisions with conviction. #blog

Lone Wolf

It's tough going from the kinetic excitement of production to the solitary quiet of writing. One can be a physical challenge: waking up early, chasing a schedule, creatively trouble shooting. The other can be a mental challenge: blocking out distractions, motivating yourself to sit and write, organizing hundreds of thoughts.  #blog

Saturday, January 11, 2014


NINJA 2 is ONLY GOD FORGIVES in an alt universe where the Thai police chief (same actor) is a p***y and the American is a Karate god. And just  like the 1st one this movie feels like it belongs in the 80's where the revenge plot is so simple (and attempts an equally simple plot twist), the drama is so over played, and the action goes on and on but feels the same throughout. Even as the character fights through Japan (which doesn't look much like Japan), to Thailand, to Myanmar the action all feels homogeneous and conventional (though some of the choreography looked cool). There's no Muay Thai, there's no Lethwei, there's not even much "Ninja" - everyone just seems to know Karate or some derivation of it. It was nice to recognize Kane Kosugi - I remember him as a boy in PRAY FOR DEATH. #sse #gnetx

Friday, January 10, 2014

Cloud Writing

Ugh, 3rd day of sick kid, house cleaning, and general sluggishness. The actual script writing is taking a hit but I'm seeing the scenes play out in my head, in my dreams, and on my toilet. #gnetx

Tuesday, January 07, 2014


I liked ARGO. I can see how people think it's overrated but I think it does well to contrast the absurd of Hollywood with the drama of Middle East tensions. And in the end it decidedly remains true to the drama and without falling into WAG THE DOG territory.

*sky *gnet-x *sse

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Getting back into it

Talk about out of shape, I'm averaging about a page a day in script writing. Of course I'm also spending countless hours replaying scenes in my head and I tend to embellish on details which is just how I write.