HEARTS OF DARKNESS: Embrace of the Serpent and A War


First, a word from our sponsors: I am now offering a new service: so much emphasis has been given lately to the importance of the opening of your screenplay, I now offer coverage for the first twenty pages at the cost of $20.00.  For those who don’t want to have full coverage on their screenplay at this time, but want to know how well their script is working with the opening pages, this is perfect for you.  I’ll help you not lose the reader on page one. 

 

Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r

 

and check out my Script Consultation Services: http://ow.ly/HPxKE

 

Warning: SPOILERS

rev 2Two movies opened recently that allowed, in a rare instance, the ability for filmgoers (at least if you live in the LA area) to actually see all the foreign language films nominated for an Academy Award before the ceremony. However, taken together, Colombia’s Embrace of the Serpent and Denmark’s A War, are a mixed bag as far as I’m concerned.

Embrace of the Serpent, written by Jacques Toulemonde Vidal and the director Ciro Guerra, is based on the diaries of the two Europeans whose trips up the Amazon are dramatized here: Theodore Koch-Grunberg, who traveled the river at the turn of the 20th century, and Richard Evans Schultes, who did the same about fifty years later.

The conceit is that the same guide, Karamakate, led them both, and both explorers had the same goal, to find a sacred plant that is supposed to be some sort of wonder drug. Continue reading

My 2015 Oscar Predictions


BEST PICTURE:                                                                 The Revenant

BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE:                             Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE:                         Brie Larson, The Room

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE:                    Sylvester Stallone, Creed

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORRTING ROLE:             Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

BEST DIRECTING:                                                              The Revenant

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:                                      The Big Short

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:                                     Spotlight

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM:                                 Inside Out

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE:                                 Amy

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM:                              Son of Saul

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY:                                            The Revenant

BEST COSTUME DESIGN:                                             Mad Max: Fury Road

BEST FILM EDITING:                                                       Mad Max: Fury Road

BEST MAKE UP AND HAIR STYLING:                          Mad Max: Fury Road

BEST MUSIC ORIGINAL SCORE:                                  The Hateful Eight

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN:                                      Mad Max: Fury Road

BEST SOUND EDITING:                                                 Mad Max: Fury Road

BEST SOUND MIXING:                                                  Mad Max: Fury Road

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS:                                                 Mad Max: Fury Road

BEST ORIGINAL SONG:                                                 Til It Happens to You, The Hunting Ground

BEST SHORT FILM ANIMATED:                                   Sanjay’s Super Team

BEST SHORT FILM LIVE ACTION:                                Ave Maria

BEST SHORT FILM DOCUMENTARY:                          A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness

 

My recommendations for film watching this week in L.A. 2/26-3/4/16


First, a word from our sponsors: I am now offering a new service: so much emphasis has been given lately to the importance of the opening of your screenplay, I now offer coverage for the first twenty pages at the cost of $20.00.  For those who don’t want to have full coverage on their screenplay at this time, but want to know how well their script is working with the opening pages, this is perfect for you.  I’ll help you not lose the reader on page one. 
 
Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r,
 
And check out my script consultation services http://ow.ly/HPxKE
My recommendations for movie watching this week in L.A. 2/26-3/4/16
ff 1ON NETFLIX: Bus Stop, written by George Axelrod (from a play by William Inge) and directed by Joshua Logan, is one of Marilyn Monroe’s greatest performances. In it, she plays Cherie, an absolutely awful singer (her rendition of That Old Black Magic has to be seen to be believed) who finds she has earned the attraction of a somewhat naïve rancher who wants to marry her though he barely knows her. It all resolves itself at the title location. With an excellent supporting cast, Eileen Heckart, Arthur O’Connell, Hope Lange, Hans Conreid and Don Murray in the Oscar nominated role of the rancher.
ff 2ON HULU: Mommy is French Canadian Writer/Director, as well as wunderkind, Xavier Dolan’s best film since his first, I Killed My Mother (yeah, I know, kind of makes you think). A widowed mother has to decide what to do with her mentally troubled son. She sees hope when a neighbor seems to have a calming effect, but things do not quite go as she would like.
ff 4SPECIAL SHOWINGS: The Oscar nominated short subjects (live actions, documentaries and animation) will be shown in various locations and theaters up until the Academy Awards are held
ff 3FIRST RUN and OPENING: Eddie the Eagle, Only Yesterday, Deadpool, Where to Invade Next, A War Continue reading

THE UNWITCH HORROR: The Witch


First, a word from our sponsors: I am now offering a new service: so much emphasis has been given lately to the importance of the opening of your screenplay, I now offer coverage for the first twenty pages at the cost of $20.00.  For those who don’t want to have full coverage on their screenplay at this time, but want to know how well their script is working with the opening pages, this is perfect for you.  I’ll help you not lose the reader on page one. 
 
Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r
 
and check out my Script Consultation Services: http://ow.ly/HPxKE
Warning: SPOILERS
rev 2Well, The Crucible it ain’t.
The Witch, the new slow burn of a movie that was a hit at Sundance and is taking the art houses by storm, is a film where I feel I’m on the sidewalk looking through a window at a party that I can’t join. It just didn’t work for me.
There are several reasons as to why, but the simplest reason is that it didn’t remotely scare me and that slow burn of a build up never made me remotely tense or nervous. I found the story as a whole to be slow and tedious. Yes, there are a few jump and go boo moments, but in the end, even those didn’t do much to get my fears going.
So, basically, if the movie scared you, then you’ll probably like the movie. If you didn’t, as I didn’t, then you won’t. Continue reading

THERE WILL BE BLOOD: Deadpool


First, a word from our sponsors: I am now offering a new service: so much emphasis has been given lately to the importance of the opening of your screenplay, I now offer coverage for the first twenty pages at the cost of $20.00.  For those who don’t want to have full coverage on their screenplay at this time, but want to know how well their script is working with the opening pages, this is perfect for you.  I’ll help you not lose the reader on page one. 
 
Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r
 
and check out my Script Consultation Services: http://ow.ly/HPxKE
Warning: SPOILERS
rev 4I’m sure that Deadpool isn’t the first post-modern comic book movie, but I’m sure it has to be one of the most obvious ones, one that absolutely revels and glows in all its post-modernism glory. It not only feels as if it comments on such films, it feels as if it comments on comments on such films.
The style and tone is set by the opening credits which aren’t made up of the names of the people who actually did what the credits claim they do, but are more generically described. I don’t remember them exactly, but there was God’s Perfect Idiot as the star; The Obligatory Cameo; Asshats as the producers, and perhaps my favorites, the Screenplay is by the Real Heroes of the Movie, while the direction is by an Overpaid Tool. Continue reading

THE MOORE THE MERRIER: Where to Invade Next


First, a word from our sponsors: I am now offering a new service: so much emphasis has been given lately to the importance of the opening of your screenplay, I now offer coverage for the first twenty pages at the cost of $20.00.  For those who don’t want to have full coverage on their screenplay at this time, but want to know how well their script is working with the opening pages, this is perfect for you.  I’ll help you not lose the reader on page one. 
 
Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r
 
and check out my Script Consultation Services: http://ow.ly/HPxKE
Warning: SPOILERS
rev 2In Dan Ariely’s book The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Home and at Work, the author talks about how logic isn’t always the best way to go and that, at times, it makes much more sense to act in a counter-intuitive manner. One of his chapters is devoted to an age old fault that most people find difficult to ignore: that if someone else comes up with a solution to something, it’s not worth considering since you didn’t come up with it yourself. We, as humans, are more likely to ignore good advice simply because we didn’t think of it first.
This was something that happened to me while I was watching Michael Moore’s new documentary, Where to Invade Next. The basic premise of the film revolves around our intrepid and peripatetic hero Moore, traveling from nation to nation in Europe and studying how each has managed to resolve issues that are verily plaguing us, whereupon at the end, he plants an American flag whenever he takes that solution for the U.S.
His first stop is Italy, which has an incredibly large number of holiday and vacation days, as well as five months for pregnancy leave, shorter work days and two hour lunches. The workers are much happier and seem to enjoy life a lot more, since there’s more life to enjoy. With the result that Italy is just as, if not more, productive than the U.S.  
And this is where my defense mechanism kicked in. I said in my mind, yeah, maybe, but Italy has a lot of problems, which means I’m not so sure we should consider adopting such a work place attitude. Continue reading

My recommendations for film watching this week in L.A. 2/19-2/26/16


First, a word from our sponsors: I am now offering a new service: so much emphasis has been given lately to the importance of the opening of your screenplay, I now offer coverage for the first twenty pages at the cost of $20.00.  For those who don’t want to have full coverage on their screenplay at this time, but want to know how well their script is working with the opening pages, this is perfect for you.  I’ll help you not lose the reader on page one. 
 
Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r,
 
And check out my script consultation services http://ow.ly/HPxKE
My recommendations for movie watching this week in L.A. 2/19-2/26/16
ff 1ON NETFLIX: Writer/director Rick Famuyiwa’s comedy Dope is one of the best films of 2015. It revolves around three “nerds” trying to navigate high school who find themselves caught up in a drug conflict after they try to be cool. A fun film with sharp dialog and characterizations.
ff 2ON HULU: Blow Out is perhaps one of writer/director Brian de Palma’s best films. Starring John Travolta as a sound engineer for movies who one night accidentally records a gun shot that causes a car accident and the near death of a party girl, Nancy Allen. A tribute to both Alfred Hitchcock movies about an average man who finds himself caught up in something bigger than he is, as well as the movie Blow Up, about a photographer who accidentally takes of something he maybe shouldn’t have, it’s taught, fun movie.
ff 4SPECIAL SHOWINGS: The Oscar nominated short subjects (live actions, documentaries and animation) will be shown in various locations and theaters up until the Academy Awards are held
ff 3FIRST RUN and OPENING: The Witch, Embrace of the Serpent, Race, Risen, Deadpool, Where to Invade Next, A War Continue reading

My recommendations for film watching this week in L.A. 2/12-2/19/16


First, a word from our sponsors: I am now offering a new service: so much emphasis has been given lately to the importance of the opening of your screenplay, I now offer coverage for the first twenty pages at the cost of $20.00.  For those who don’t want to have full coverage on their screenplay at this time, but want to know how well their script is working with the opening pages, this is perfect for you.  I’ll help you not lose the reader on page one. 
 
Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r,
 
And check out my script consultation services http://ow.ly/HPxKE
My recommendations for movie watching this week in L.A. 2/12-2/19/16
ff 1ON NETFLIX: Une Nuit (or Paris at Night) written by Philippe Isard, Simon Michael and the director Philippe Lefbevre, is a slow burn of a movie about a vice officer (Roschdy Zem) who goes about his usual night trying to avoid a trap that has been laid for him with Internal Affairs and trying to keep a lid on Parisian nightlife. I found it a fascinating look at this aspect of Paris after hours, with an almost documentary feel to it.
ff 2ON HULU: Elevator to the Gallows, written by Roger Nimier and Louis Malle (from a book by Noel Calef) is Malle’s first feature, and quite a debut. It’s a film noir about a man who kills his mistress’ husband and then things start going a little wrong when an elevator doesn’t quite work as he might wish. With Jeanne Moreau and Maurice Ronet as the lovers.
ff 4SPECIAL SHOWINGS: The Oscar nominated short subjects (live actions, documentaries and animation) will be shown in various locations and theaters up until the Academy Awards are held
ff 3FIRST RUN and OPENING: Deadpool, Where to Invade Next, Boy and the World, Bad Hurt, Glassland, Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom, A War, Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong Continue reading

I’M READY FOR MY CLOSEUP, MR. DEMILLE: Hail, Caesar!


First, a word from our sponsors: I am now offering a new service: so much emphasis has been given lately to the importance of the opening of your screenplay, I now offer coverage for the first twenty pages at the cost of $20.00.  For those who don’t want to have full coverage on their screenplay at this time, but want to know how well their script is working with the opening pages, this is perfect for you.  I’ll help you not lose the reader on page one. 
 
Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r
 
and check out my Script Consultation Services: http://ow.ly/HPxKE
Warning: SPOILERS

 

rev 3Hail, Caesar!, the latest comic satire from Joel and Ethan Coen, is one of those films that has so much that is right with it, plus a bit more that is brilliant, that it makes it all the more disappointing that it doesn’t quite come together.
The basic premise has as its center piece one Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), head of production at the fictional Hollywood studio Capital Pictures (the same studio that the Brothers used in Barton Fink). Over the course of one or two days, he has a difficult decision to make: should he remain at Capitol where he’s constantly having to put out fires both large and small and is constantly confronted by the insane antics of his stars, or will he take a position as head of Lockheed, a safe position with a guaranteed future (this is the 1950’s after all, and TV is more than making its presence known), fewer hours and less stress on the nerves?
Well, so far so good. Continue reading

OUT OF GAS: The Lady in the Van and Aferim!


First, a word from our sponsors: I am now offering a new service: so much emphasis has been given lately to the importance of the opening of your screenplay, I now offer coverage for the first twenty pages at the cost of $20.00.  For those who don’t want to have full coverage on their screenplay at this time, but want to know how well their script is working with the opening pages, this is perfect for you.  I’ll help you not lose the reader on page one. 

 

Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r

 

and check out my Script Consultation Services: http://ow.ly/HPxKE

 

Warning: SPOILERS

rev 1 Forgive me if I start out with a pun to describe the new comedy The Lady in the Van. It’s basically little more than a vehicle for the legendary actress Maggie Smith. To add insult to injury, I’ll continue with another pun: it’s a pretty stalled vehicle when all is said and done.

The cental premise is based on something that sorta, kinda happened to the British playwright Alan Bennett (The History Boys, The Madness of King George). After striking up a conversation with the neighborhood bag lady who lives in her van, and after not being able to shake her off, the playwright acquiesces to her suggestion that she park her vehicle in his driveway. He agrees, more out of an inability (or cowardice as he describes it) to say no. It’s only supposed to be for a little while, but she stays there until she dies fifteen years later.

Even though this is a vehicle for Maggie Smith, she is only fitfully effective, and I think that this may be because her character is more a construct than a real person. I mean, Bennett’s bag lady here is not your run of the mill everyday type of bag lady. No, here she is a former concert pianist and ex-nun who has gone into hiding because she thinks she is responsible for the death of a motorcyclist (she’s not) and who is being blackmailed by a police officer. Continue reading