My Take on the Nominees for Best Picture Oscar

My take on the Best Picture Nominees for the Academy Awards—Why not? I’m as opinionated as the next guy and I’m between free lance assignments (i.e., if you want me to stop writing about this stuff, find me work).

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: This is the one that went right over my head personally. I know how successful it is, a lot of which is due to the clever and unusual subject matter (a baby, born as an old man, grows younger as everyone else grows older) combined with some outstanding special effects. And to those who have found great meaning and emotional resonance with this movie, my hat is off to you (it should be said that I’m also one of those people who can never see the hidden ship or other object in those pictures no matter how long I stare at them). There are some marvelous scenes with Tilda Swinton (the only scenes that worked for me). But the intermittent gimmick of Daisy’s daughter reading the tale of Benjamin while Hurricane Katrina approaches seems not only unnecessary, but suggests that the director (David Fincher) and writer (Eric Roth) had so little faith in the audience that the whole thing had to be explained to them (these sections could have been removed with no damage to the telling, but with thankful damage to the viewing time). There’s nothing wrong with any of the acting, which is probably to everyone’s credit, especially Brad Pitt’s, since the characters aren’t always that interesting. In the end, it’s a story that seems to succeed almost solely on its logline.
Frost/Nixon: Was David Frost really this much of a moron? Was he really this incompetent an interviewer? Did he really make a muck up of everything and then accidentally, without any real action on his part, just happen to be at the right place at the right time when Richard Nixon screwed up and said something he shouldn’t have? According to Frost/Nixon he is. David Frost, as written by Peter Morgan, is one of the most unsympathetic and unlikeable good guys in films in recent memory. One almost hopes he blows the interviews because it’s hard to want someone who could win Monty Python’s upper class twit of the year competition to succeed. Thank god for Frank Langella as Richard Nixon. Though he probably won’t do what George C. Scott did for Patton (make us only see his face whenever we think of the real historical figure), it’s probably not his fault because the real Tricky Dick is just too familiar from his many TV appearances (Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In anyone?). But it’s a magnificent performance. Langella has long been an underrated actor (thank god for Broadway, the sanctuary of many an underrated actor) and this lack of recognition is almost as big a crime as Watergate.

Milk: The most satisfying of all the best picture nominees, mainly due to the strong performances (it’s one of those movies in which every part, no matter how minor, is filled with the perfect actor who gives it all they’ve got) and clever directing (the scenes at city hall often have an odd Escher-like feeling to them that’s quite unsettling). The script itself by Dustin Lance Black is well done, but it falls into the category of a typical Warner Brothers biopic (a description of such 1930’s movies as The Story of Louis Pasteur and The Life of Emile Zola—they get the job done, are entertaining and have their moments, but not much else). Its main flaw is that, like …Benjamin Button, it’s narrated to make sure the audience gets it all. Sean Penn, who at times is unrecognizable, will probably do what George C. Scott did for Patton: make us only see the actor’s face when one thinks of the historical figure. Josh Brolin is one of those villains who feels more villainous the more sympathy is shown him. James Franco plays the long suffering love interest who leaves the hero when the suffering becomes too long (and the role is just as annoying when played by women who don’t want their husbands to become a singing star or break the sound barrier). But Diego Luna is a standout as an emotionally desperate man who can’t help his desperation. Kudos to the use of archival footage; the art direction; and the amazing costumes that make many of us cringe as we remember we actually used to dress like that.

The Reader: The least satisfying of the best picture nominees with the idea, unintentional one hopes, that the evils of Nazism were caused by the inability to read (U.S. public school systems, take note). The author, David Hare, never really gets the audience to understand why someone would rather be thought a murderous Nazi instead of an illiterate; how one develops that sort of moral insanity doesn’t seem to interest anybody in the film. And there’s a moral quandary that the central character (and the author) gets wrong. The hero knows that his ex-lover can’t read, but won’t reveal it because he knows she doesn’t want him to, even if it would mitigate her guilt. But by not revealing it, he actually allows other defendants, some far worse than the one played by Kate Winslet, to receive far lighter sentences than their actions deserve; again, the injustice of this never seems to enter anybody’s thoughts. The strongest aspect of this script is the strongest aspect often of any film with Winslet in it; Winslet herself. She is quickly becoming the new Meryl Streep (anyone want to make a wager on her next accent?) and her work in Revolutionary Road was just as amazing. The hero, Michael, is played by two actors, Ralph Feinnes and David Kross, and both give good performances. But there is one hysterical moment when the movie jumps from 1962 (with Kross as Michael) to 1972 (with Feinnes in the role) and all one can think is, “my god this guy has gotten old in just ten years”. Though a lot of people are harping on the profound and unsettling messages here, when all is said and done, the real theme of The Reader is never count out Harvey Weinstein when it comes to Oscar nominations.

Slumdog Millionaire: There’s nothing really that wrong with Slumdog… It’s very entertaining and it has a clever gimmick, the answers to the questions on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire also reveal the history of the central character’s life. At the same time, this is the part where I’m asked to leave the party because I’ve just pooped on everybody’s good times. I didn’t dislike it, I just didn’t find it to be the great movie everyone else loves. In spite of the gimmick, the plotting is conventional and formulaic and the various plot twists are obvious and easy to guess (the very basic plot, that of two people who were close as children ending up on different sides of the moral divide with a woman between them, dates back at least to Manhattan Melodrama in the 1930’s and can be seen as a subplot in The Departed). And the gimmick does get a little tiring, which would be fine, but there’s not much else to take up the slack except the predictable plot. There’s also something a tad offensive about the theme. The hero and heroine end up together because it’s their destiny and everyone ends up dancing in joy at this happy ending. But if destiny brought them together, then destiny is equally responsible for all the violence, corruption, and horrifying poverty in life shown here (one can’t have it both ways), a view of the world that hardly justifies the joyous ending. The acting is first rate, with Dev Patel almost unrecognizable from his character on Skins. The music is exciting and beautiful. But in the end, the film’s a downer disguised as a feel good movie. Much has been written about the whole thing being “poverty porn”, some of it unjustified (what is Oliver Twist, after all), but it must be said that in spite of all the destiny talk, many in the audience might get the idea that the real theme here is never go to India as a tourist, it’s just too horrifying a place to visit.

Sample Coverage A

An sample of my written coverage. In addition to this, my coverage service also includes written notes on the script as well as a one hour in person consultation.

What works:

It’s important to have a hook when doing a reincarnation film and there is an interesting idea here of a person who has been killed in three past lives because of a murder he committed in one of his past lives against four people—that each person he killed was reincarnated and killed their murderer’s reincarnation.
The idea of * not wanting the baby born because it has no soul is arresting, especially when * says that * will die (pg. 7).
There is a good hook in that the baby in the coma comes out of the coma when * dies.
There is something infectious about * when he first appears. He has a certain tongue in cheek quality about him.
There are some good scary scenes, especially when * is being chased in the hospital (this is the strongest of the scenes).

What doesn’t work:

The central problem I have here is the focus of the plot. At this time it tends to sort of go all over the place without a central through line. It does sort of all come together at the end, but at this point, I really think the audience is going to be struggling to put it all together, spending more time trying to figure it out, rather than be into the drama.
There are several areas to look at. The first is how the theme of reincarnation and karma is used, especially for a film that is supposed to be commercial. The one general problem the audience may have is that they may feel that * is not deserving of the ending. She is a likeable person, an obstetrician, smart, together, nothing like * and she ends up committing suicide for something that she did in a past life, something she can’t even remember, something that is not reflected in her personality right now. The audience may be very unsatisfied with what happens to her. This doesn’t seem to be a fulfillment of *’s character or her character arc, but is rather a fulfillment of *. If this is a comment on karma, that’s fine, except that it’s such a negative idea (that someone, no matter how good their present life is, has to pay for sins in a past life), that to make it work for the audience, I believe it would have to be discussed and made more central to the story. Even so, for a commercial picture, this may still be problematical.
Also, the story seems to start out being about one thing, a really neat idea about a soul not ready to be born and how that affects *, but then becomes another. I believe the audience will so latch on to this first idea that they will think that the shadow following * has some immediate connection to the soul not being born and they will be waiting for that mystery to be answered (I never really understood what the shadow was that was trying to kill *). Then it suddenly seems to become about *’s past lives. It’s not until pg. 78 that the baby in the opening is brought back into things. I believe this is far too long to connect things up.
The character of * starts out being kind of interesting, but there’s something off about his motivations. He’s a lab technician that has taken up hypnosis—how did this come about? He looks up * in the hospital; does he just coincidentally happen to work at that hospital (is it the same hospital that * works at)? That may be problematical (of all the hospitals * ends up with she just happens to end up with one that just happens to have an old school mate that just happens to be into hypnosis and reincarnation even though he’s a lab technician). Then he seems to disappear for long periods of time. But since it’s his idea that * may be reincarnated, I would think that he would be with her every step of the way during the investigation. But he seems to be a character that’s there to do the bidding of the authors and disappears when the authors don’t need him. But he’s an important character and if he’s as interested in the truth as much, if not more, than *, then he’s going to be there all the way. Also, on pg. 106, * says they were brought together—but it may be unclear how they were brought together.
I believe there are some problems with the plot and that you might want to check with lawyers and psychiatrists and psychiatric hospitals. I believe that after * has made what may seem like a death threat (pg. 7), * would immediately report this to her superiors and the hospital’s lawyer (they would probably have an interview about what happened with the baby anyway).
I was unclear why the police searched the house for an intruder (* has attempted suicide, but hadn’t told anyone she thought there was an intruder).
After * attacks *, she’s immediately put in a special unit without a hearing (I believe, but the authors need to double check, that since a crime has been committed and * claims to have been attacked, they couldn’t just commit her, but would have to have a legal hearing).
One major scene is * doing experimental procedure. I don’t believe that * could use an experimental procedure on * without her signing off on it (if this is intentional, it needs to be dealt with). At this point it only seems a plot device to give * a reason to get her out of the hospital, which doesn’t work for me.
Once * escapes from the hospital, I didn’t understand why the police aren’t looking for her (she’s dangerous—she attacked an orderly).
I had problems with the transition on pg. 35. It still seems like a stretch that * thinks her problems may be due to a memory. Part of this is because there’s only been two scenes where he’s talked to Catherine. He doesn’t really have the information to come to this conclusion.
I didn’t understand why *’s parents were completely oblivious to her being put in the hospital (after all, * is not her next of kin and has no authority—they would need to call her nearest relative).


You need to develop * more.
I believe you first need to find an ending that will satisfy the audience when it comes to karma and reincarnation.
You need to link the baby in the coma with the events that follow it.
You need a more focused through line.
You need to justify the shadow following her or drop it.
You need to fully develop *’s character and make him more integral to the plot and make his appearance on the scene more satisfying.
You need to build up * and *’s relationship.

When it comes to *, don’t think of this as a movie about reincarnation, but about a woman who discovers that something is happening to her that leads her to believe she has been reincarnated and that that’s affecting her life. It’s about a woman who…, not a concept. I suggest you write 3-4 pages, whether you use all of them or not, that explores her before she goes into delivering the baby. I suggest these scenes be her getting ready for work, which will have her interact with * (thus developing their relationship more); her arrival at work and what she does when she first gets there; her first rounds; you might consider having her go to therapy that day; perhaps in therapy she gets the call for *; she calls * on her way to the hospital and tells him that she’ll be late for whatever they’re planning that night (which explores their relationship more).

When it comes to the shadows, I think you push it too fast. I like a slower build. I think the structure starts going off a little starting on pg. 8. The authors might consider a different build. Have the scene where * talks to the lawyer and her boss. She goes to get her car and she sees a shadow briefly. She calls * on the way home and he agrees to come over. She takes a shower. When she turns off the shower, she hears the breaking glass. She thinks it’s *, but then she sees the shadow coming to her.

I believe you need to write *’s story whether they use it or not. You need to dramatize (or at least summarize) what * is doing when he’s not on screen.

In addition, it is suggested that * say that if the soul doesn’t enter the baby by the 21st, the baby will die.

Though the location of * is good and works (I assume it’s based on a real place), you might consider placing it in a place closer to where * and * are (they are both drawn to the area), or have it take place in Alaska.

Movies to study are women in danger films, especially those with a supernatural element.

Reviews of Of Time and the City, The Secret of the Grain and Serbis

Of Time and the City: Terence Davies’ elegiac, bittersweet portrait of his hometown of Liverpool, England from the 1940’s to the present is nostalgic in the true sense of the word: every memory is filled with pain. It’s a lovely film made up of almost nothing but found footage, of a young boy delivering milk on his bicycle, of women gathered at a public place to wash their clothes while laughing and talking together, of empty streets—one eventually wonders just who shot some of this footage, who just happened to have a camera and thought, “I know, I’ll just film some kid delivering milk”, and then actually kept the stock all these years. As usual, Davies counterpoints his story with popular music, often highly sentimental, which doesn’t make the reality easier to live with, it actually makes the music more heartrending to listen to.

Other films of Davies highly recommend: The House of Mirth, The Neon Bible, The Long Day Closes and Distant Voices, Still Lives

The Secret of the Grain: An intense and painfully penetrating study of a dysfunctional family written and directed by Abdel Kechiche. There are moments of astounding power here as the members of a struggling family go after each with the focus of the Furies, employing dialog that seems both brilliantly improvised and honed into sharp knives. At the same time, many in the audience may find that the extended scenes tend to weaken the emotional stakes due to their length: the author has a habit of making his point and then remaking it, often for five and ten minutes. The ending gears up the suspense, but whether one finds it gripping or eventually annoying, especially since the story doesn’t have a resolution, will probably be the deciding factor as to whether one likes the film or not. Worth seeing, but at the same time, may not be as satisfying as many critics suggest.

Serbis: Another study of a dysfunctional family, this one in the Philippines and set in a once gorgeous movie palace that is now decaying and only showing pornographic films. The clientele is gay men who come to pay for sex (“serbis” translates as “service” and is used by rent boys looking to be hired). It’s not as homophobic as it sounds, but it’s not a happy picture either. The family, barely hanging on and none of them sure exactly how they ended up as they have (the main character who runs the theater is perplexed by the idea that she started out with a nursing degree), is beset by the same problems many families have: sibling rivalry; a son getting his girlfriend pregnant and not wanting to take responsibility; a woman seeking a divorce (this last does seem to have some peculiar Philippine aspects, the suggestion is that adultery can land a person in jail and the legal ramifications regarding offspring are more complex than in the U.S.). The only really happy person is the gay son who got married so he could be a father; he dotes on his pregnant wife who seems to be as happy as he is. The movie is not uninteresting and well worth seeing, but at the same time, it’s hard to say that it really connects emotionally to the audience as well as one might want. Directed by Brillante Mendoza, who apparently started making movies when he was 45, which should give hope to us all; written by Armando Lao and Boots Agbayani Pastor.

Patrick Goldstein on The Class and screenwriting

In the Tuesday, February 10, 2009 edition of the L.A. Times, Patrick Goldstein in his column The Big Picture referred to most American films on education in this manner:

Required to have a third act that reassures audiences that hope springs eternal, they are packed with idealistic teachers, feel-good nostrums and kids whose exterior brashness disguises a sweet-natured soul. This holds true from “Blackboard Jungle” through “Dead Poets Society,” “Stand and Deliver” and “Dangerous Minds.”

He describes the new movie from France, The Class, as:

Cantet’s film was…made independently, so the filmmaker wasn’t barraged with studio notes, asking him to insert inspirational moments or soften the insolence and anger of some of the key students.

There’s no three-act structure, no obstacles to overcome, simply the drama inherent in a situation that pits a doggedly focused teacher against a scrum of embattled teenagers, most from immigrant families, who take it as a challenge to see if they can provoke confrontation and undermine the teacher’s authority.

At least someone seems to understand what may be wrong with screenwriting in the U.S. today.

Coverage Sample B


What works: There is a potential here for an Alfred Hitchcock type thriller in which an innocent man gets involved in something way over his head and has to use his wits to get out of the mess he’s found himself in. One of the best scenes that demonstrates this is on pg. 49, where * pretends to be a customer in order to get away from *.
I liked * as a prophetess and thought she was an intriguing little personality. She’s mysterious, yet fun, and is effective in her little scene with *. Also, the idea that she purposely died to save * is intriguing. The use of * is also interesting and the ending of *’s death and the parallel to the story of Appointment in Samara holds potential and does contain a certain poignancy.
There were certain individual scenes that worked. The */* scene when the conversation turned and it became clear that * was giving * a personality test (pg. 19).
There were times when the contrast between the *’s philosophy and modern technology were effective, such as bikes able to get farther faster because they’re not hampered by traffic; * frustrated with the computer in the hospital (pg. 25—a good parallel to frustrations with calling customer service and only getting a recording).
The use of *’s Catholicism is a good idea.
The characters, though I had some reservations, do generally talk like people and have a basic personality.
Good scenes and lines:
Pg. 1
D-Clone Labs: We Bring Good Seeds to Life is very clever
Pg. 2
Appointment in Samara movie, a nice touch
Pg. 7
The Robot
Pg. 69
Don’t get Mad, Get Even

What doesn’t work:

The author should consider changing the date from 2020. 2020 is very close to now (or at least close to the year when the movie will get made, assuming it takes five years to get made and released from now). The author might consider making it 2050 (as a variation of 2005—re, 1984 was written in 1948) or something similar like 2500.
The first issue the author might consider is that he may not have found his story or conflict yet because there seems to be a lot of stories and conflicts and I’m not sure the author has found the way to tie it all together. There is the conflict between *s and * over technology. There is the serotonin deaths. There is the * preaching that there is a second coming. There is * being the chosen one. There is *’s story, giving birth to another chosen one, which may be slowing down the plot because it doesn’t interact with *s enough. There is * wanting * out in order to tear down the building his office is in. There is the parallel to the story of Appointment in Samara. I had a hard time pulling all these different strands together. And the author might consider that he may be over complicating the plot unnecessarily.
One of the problems here may be that the story right now is not really about people, but about an idea (or ideas, which may be an additional problem). The main difference between this and a Hitchcock film is that for Hitchcock the character came first and the idea (or maguffin) came second. Another difference is that here the maguffin is very important whereas for Hitchcock it was very unimportant and it could be anything. It’s fine for the maguffin to be as important as the characters, but the characters still need to come first.
I’m not really sure I got to know * all that well. There were moments (such as when he and * talk about the eviction; he and * have their scene; some of the * and * scene in the elevator), but the rest of the time, he seemed a bit nebulous and it also took a long time for me to get to know what I did about him. Even in some of these scenes, at times * seems to say things (like his comments against technology and comments against “Christian Punk”) that the author wanted him to say, not that he would say. This was also true for some of the other characters. In the end, I never knew why he was so opposed to technology, why he repaired watches (which is technology), why he was so isolated and kept to himself so much, why he didn’t want to take up the *’s generous offer and move. I also didn’t feel like I got to know * much better. I also didn’t know why she was so against technology. It may also be unclear why * works for the * if he believes in a different religion.
The author talks a lot about religion, especially Christian religion, but I had two difficulties with this. One, here religion permeates this society in such a way that it doesn’t now. Everything revolves around religion, from street preachers, to stores, to TV shows, etc. It may be unclear why the U.S. has undergone such an extreme religious “conversion”.
Second, like the plot, there seemed to be a lot of different strands of religion and this sometimes confused me. For example, there seemed to be three or four different beliefs in a second coming of a Messiah. There was a street preacher in the beginning (but I wasn’t totally sure what his Messiah was about). There was * trying to protect * because he’s the chosen one. There was the * belief in a second coming (I never really understood how a second coming worked into * or how it benefited them). There was * giving birth to a Messiah, but I wasn’t sure how he was going to be the Messiah.
People are going to assume that * is Scientology and that * is someone like Tom Cruise. But there seem to be important differences, as well, and the author may need to address this.
Also, when it came to *, by pg. 30 I didn’t really understand what was so awful about their beliefs. One: I was never quite sure what their beliefs were. The only mention of them is * who said their goal was to avoid suffering (as opposed to Catholicism, but it may be unclear what is so bad about this) and that * is trying to avoid paying taxes. But since the author hasn’t demonstrated that it isn’t really a religion, it may be unclear why they should have to pay taxes. The author seems to also want to draw a parallel to * and modern technology, i.e., * is bad because modern technology is bad, and I didn’t really see the parallel, why * supporting modern technology is bad (or that they particularly support modern technology any more than any other organization). At this point, the author may be depending too much on the audience drawing parallels to * and Scientology, but just drawing the parallel isn’t enough. The author really has to demonstrate there’s something wrong with *.
Also, the author might consider that at this point, the followers of * seem to be very happy, together people, while * and even * seem rather sad, isolated people. Is this a conscious choice?
* is a good character, but at this point she may come too much out of nowhere, and the author may want to do more with her introduction (pg. 13). She may work fine, but it’s something to consider. And it is suggested that the author dramatize her purposely walking in front of the *and *’s car. I was never quite sure how the watch fit in.
From a plot standpoint, for me the story doesn’t really start until pg. 47, when * has to flee for his life. Up til then, * didn’t seem to have a goal or do anything.
I was also unsure about the scene on pg. 53, that it quite works yet.
On pg. 95, * comments about the heifer being genetically engineered as if that would mean it doesn’t count as part of the prophecy of the second coming, but I’m not so sure.
The ending with *, though it has a poignancy, puzzled me. It may be unclear why * was surprised to see her in the hospital. The hospital is not so far away from where he was to meet her that he should be surprised. In Appointment in Samara, death saw the hero in a totally different city.

Other things to consider:
Pg. 1
Surveillance cameras: consider leaving off the ostensibly to enforce traffic regulations—there are cameras around and they are very clearly for surveillance
Pg. 3
It may be unclear why the billboard says The Messiah is Coming (who would pay for that ad) or what the payoff is
Pg. 3
Are we suppose to know this is * (on the earlier billboard, it doesn’t mention a picture of *)
Pg. 4
It may be unclear why the Talk Show Host only compares * to Catholicism; that would apply to most Christian religions and would also be in opposition to most Eastern religions, if not Islam
Pg. 4
I wasn’t sure what the robot meant by “One of you gentlemen not eating?”
Pg. 17
It is suggested that * call the police for *
Pg. 18
It may be unclear that * is being disingenuous when she seems to be against messing around with nature
Pg. 26
It may be unclear why *’s going to the hospital, or why would she go to a * hospital
Pg. 30
How did the doctor and nurse not see *
Pg. 31
Small detail—Immaculate conception refers to the birth of Mary, not Jesus
Pg. 32
I was unsure why the author continued to list specific ads in the elevator
Pg. 33
This reader didn’t understand the relationship between the experiment on the cats and *’s belief that SS is purposely given to people so that pills will be sold to combat it
Pg. 46/47
It may be unclear that the audience will recognize * as *; it may be unclear why * doesn’t ask why * brought up the accident
Pg. 63
Christ rose on the eighth day?
Pg. 68
The purpose of this scene may be unclear
Pg. 72
Why would it be hard to get a picture of *
Pg. 95
Why did the transmission go black
Pg. 98
It may be unclear why * couldn’t miss her just because she’s pregnant

Why is the baby black.

I can make certain suggestions, but first I need to understand what you are trying to do with the Second Coming.
The most important elements for me that you might consider focusing on:
The central maguffin here seems to be this Serotonin Syndrome and it is suggested that the plot revolve around that.
The watch having something important that the * needs.
The need to tear down the building.

This would mean consider dropping the conflict over technology between the *s and the *. The conflict might instead be over medication. It may also mean dropping the Appointment in Samara parallel and the focus on the Second Coming. Or finding ways to bring them into the picture.

Focus the plot by focusing on the character of *. I would first suggest he not be the Chosen One and never be referred to as that. *’s baby should be the chosen one. Then he’s a relaxed, rather happy go lucky guy who hates the rat race and has simplified his life. Maybe his father committed suicide because of pressure from modern times. Maybe he just got fed up. But he likes to ride his bike, read, visit art museums, walk along the beach.

It is suggested that that * not be a watch repairer, but he goes to a man who is a watch repairer. It’s this guy who doesn’t want to sell to *. Maybe he finds the man dying and the man gives him something before he dies that the * needs, or can implicate the * in something. Or the man dies, but leaves the building to *, asking him not to sell it to the *. * gives him the watch, which may have something important in it that the * wants. When * won’t sell, they set * up as the murderer of the old man and he must flee for his life.

It is suggested that * be *’s aunt, that that’s why * goes to the hospital and that * and * become more involved after *’s death (such as * takes * to the doctor’s office).

Have the Appointment in Samara refers to * not to *, but * will have to be a bigger character.

Think Alfred Hitchcock

10/29/2008 – Regent Acquires "The Blue Tooth Virgin"

I saw this movie at the Hollywood Film Festival and I highly recommend it. Though it almost seems as if it’s going to be a one joke movie, it is anything but. It takes all sorts of unexpected twists and turns by the end. You will get a kick out of it.

Award-winning Feature selected for Palm Spring International Film

LOS ANGELES — October 29, 2008 — Regent Releasing, a leading independent U.S. film istributor, announced today that it has acquired worldwide distribution rights to “The Blue Tooth Virgin,” the second film from writer/director Russell Brown. Regent acquired the film from The Simon LLC, and will distribute to select U.S. cities in early 2009.

“The Blue Tooth Virgin” made its premiere at the Seattle International Film Festival 2008 winning the Special Jury Award and was recently voted as a Top-Ten Audience Favorite at the Sao Paolo International Film Festival in Brazil. “The Blue Tooth Virgin” will also show as part of the official line up at the Palm Springs International Film Festival in January of 2009. The film stars Austin Peck (“As the World Turns”), Bryce Johnson (“Popular”), Tom Gilroy (“Spring Forward”, “Dont Let Me Drown”), Roma Maffia (“Nip/Tuck”), Lauran Stamile (“Grey’s Anatomy”), Amber Benson (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) and Karen Black (“Five Easy Pieces”).

“We’re thrilled to be working with Russell Brown on his second accomplished feature,” said Mark Reinhart, West Coast General Manager and Executive Vice President Distribution and Acquisitions. “Regent is committed to nurturing and showcasing artistic innovation and we are honored to work with such a talented filmmaker like Russell Brown.” Brown’s first feature, “Race You to the Bottom,” was released theatrically in the United States in March, 2007, by Regent Releasing.

In “The Blue Tooth Virgin,” two writers must face a dilemma that is common to anyone who has ever had an artistic friend: What happens when you have to give feedback, and the news isn’t good? Sam, an aspiring screenwriter, and David, a successful magazine editor, have been pals for years. When David doesn’t appreciate Sam’s latest attempt, it opens a fissure in their friendship, one that spreads through the rest of their lives. Ultimately, both men must reevaluate their motivations to write, their need for praise and validation, and what it means to see yourself as you actually are.

Russell Brown, writer and director of “The Blue Tooth Virgin,” said, “Regent recognized early on that ‘The Blue Tooth Virgin’ is an accessible comedy with universal themes. I couldn’t be happier about the collaboration.

“The acquisition deal for “The Blue Tooth Virgin” was negotiated between Mark Reinhart, West Coast General Manager and Executive Vice President Distribution and Acquisitions for Regent and Ronna Wallace, of Eastgate Pictures.

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Screenplay Winners Announced for 2009 Writers Guild Awards

Congratulations to Waltz with Bashir, one of the top ten movies of the year.

From the WGA website:

LOS ANGELES, NEW YORK — The Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW) and the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) tonight announced the winners of the 2009 Writers Guild Awards for outstanding achievement in writing for screen, television, radio, news, promotional, and videogame writing at simultaneous ceremonies at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles and the Hudson Theatre at the Millennium Broadway Hotel in New York City.

Milk, Written by Dustin Lance Black, Focus Features
Slumdog Millionaire, Screenplay by Simon Beaufoy, Based
on the Novel Q & A by Vikas Swarup, Fox Searchlight Pictures
Waltz with Bashir, Written by Ari Folman, Sony Pictures

Log Lines for Screenplays/Teleplays

Forest of the Night: A Sexual Odyssey:  When Uli’s best friend dies, he goes on an orgy of sex, drugs and violent behavior in order to rid himself of his anger and despair in a drama reminiscent of Charles Bukowski, Henry Miller and the films of Gregg Araki.


The Last Tree Standing Motel: after two hired killers murder someone at a remote motel, they receive a call from their boss telling them they can’t leave the motel until he gives them permission; so they find their lives intermingling with the regulars while they wait and they wait and they…wait.  It’s basically Waiting for Godot meets In Bruges.


Mel and the Adventures of Sad Man:  a comic book artist who finds he can’t maintain a relationship because of his depressive personality creates a comic book about a superhero, Sad Man, who defeats bad guys by filling them with existential anguish and despair, a power Sad Man can’t turn off in his alter ego guise of Slap Happy, preventing him from winning the heart of the woman he loves.


Revelation:  Megan Johnson is an ordinary woman forced to be witness to extraordinary times.  People are disappearing for no reason in her town of Revelation, Illinois.  When it is revealed to be an international phenomenon, the question becomes:  is it a plague, is it supernatural, or is this just the way the world ends, not with a bang, but a whimper.  If M. Night Shyamalan had done the Left Behind series.


Rough Trade:  On his way to audition for a porno film in L.A., a hustler spends the night with a john only to wake up the next morning to find he has switched identities with his one night stand and that two thugs are after the john and plan to kill him. A gay North by Northwest.


Welcome to LA:  In this black comedy, a screenwriter’s first few days in Los Angeles are greeted by a continual discovery of dead bodies in his building; an amorous police officer who wants to have sex with him then wants him to read his screenplay; and a mentor whose main advice is not to masturbate more than once a day.  Will things get worse or better?  A dark comedy in the vein of The Loved One and Swimming with the Sharks.


In addition, I have co-written two screenplays and a pilot:


Dog Eat Dog (co-writer):  In this updated version of Moby Dick in which the great white whale is a gigantic albino werewolf, a one armed hunter takes a group of financial investors/ponzi scheme artists on a character building weekend of hunting; in reality he is using them as bait to kill the werewolf that killed his family.


Shooting Starz (co-writer): Two successful Hollywood actors, who always made a promise never to compete against each other in the Biz, suddenly find themselves fighting for the control of a mega Hollywood movie remake and the championship of a celebrity teenage girls’ basketball recreation league. With the female Hollywood studio head throwing both of them for a hoop…uh, loop.


Rita’s World (co-writer): Hour TV comedy. When the owner of a long-time kids talent agency finds herself at a cross roads, her life finds an “unusual” way of showing her the path to take.