Archive for February, 2007|Monthly archive page

Fade in

A brief summation of my writing projects:

The Auteur, a feature comedy written in Hebrew, based on the 50 minute graduation project I wrote in screenwriting school, was submitted in July 2006 to the Israeli Film Fund and was rejected. Although the lectors said the script has a neat idea and funny scenes, they also thought that many of the characters are poorly developed or are basically cliches, and that the narrative doesn’t justify a feature length film.

I have yet to find the energy to rewrite this script again (it went through four rewrites already), and basically, I figured that in order to rewrite that script and make it eligible for a re-submission, I’ll need a writing partner. Because frankly, and It makes me quite sad to say that, I’m out of ideas for this one, at least for the time being.

As a side note, a good writing partner is something I’d very much like to find. I don’t particularly like writing alone. It gets very difficult sometimes. But that’s a topic for another post.

My two TV series (also in Hebrew), Trained Professionals and Stage Fright, have been sent to production companies long ago and will probably stay there until hell freezes over. I tried with all my might to market them and get people interested in them, but nothing came out of that. Yep, It’s pretty depressing.

As for English projects, there’s Palace (title is not final), a five minute short scheduled to film in New York City sometimes soon, I hope. Palace was originally submitted in Hebrew for a screenplay contest. It didn’t win, but it caught the eye of an Israeli Acting student living in NYC, and she expressed her interest in filming it. After deliberating the matter for 0.0003 seconds I agreed to let her do that.

Palace stemmed originally from a screenwriting exercise which concerned a character doing something creative. I wrote a short scene about a young boy building a sand castle on the beach, and received a very positive review on it. Later, I decided to turn it into a short. 

The second English script is Room 601, a 30 minute drama also based on a 15 page script submitted at the end of the first semester back in school. There is almost no resemblance between that script and the 35 pages version, except for the fact that the story concerns a business man and a call girl meeting in a hotel room. A secret wish of mine is to direct that one, as I visualized it in a very detailed manner, but hey, I’ll realize it any which way I can, even if it means letting someone else do it.

Here’s a scene  from Room 601:

INT. HOTEL ROOM

Jack puts the bottle in the Mini-Bar. We follow him back to the balcony.

EXT. BALCONY

He enters the balcony and freezes.

Linda is sitting on the ledge, looking down.

Her feet are dangling in the air.

JACK

What are you doing? Get down from there.

LINDA

(Obviously intoxicated)

It’s so beautiful. Look at all those little lights.

He approaches her, carefully.

JACK

Come on, Linda. Give me your hand. You’re drunk.

LINDA

Stop it. I’m fine.

She half turns to him, almost slipping down.

JACK

Linda, for chrissakes! Get down from there!

She looks at him with a sad, almost sorrowful expression. Then she laughs.

LINDA

It’s so nice up here. So peaceful.

(leans down)

Woooo! I’m flying!

JACK

What the hell are you doing?! Do you want to die?!

Beat.

She turns to him again. Her smile fades. All of a sudden she looks sober, and dead serious.

LINDA

(calmly)

Yes.

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Reality blogging

Is the blogging phenomenon actually an offshoot of the reality craze that has swept popular culture in recent years? I basically abhor reality TV, as it’s just a big fat lie. There’s nothing real in reality television, no genuine reality can exist where there’s a camera. The presence of the camera changes reality. People don’t act around a camera the way they would have acted if it wasn’t there. Reality TV is a manufactured reality built to satisfy our voyeuristic needs. Survivor is manufactured drama using real people instead of actors. The Bachelor and the likes trivializes love and deep human emotions. American Idol is just an excuse to see sad wannabes make a fool of themselves.

Granted, there is something very addictive and entertaining in Reality TV. The voyeuristic impulse is very strong. Come and watch other people, who are presuambly like us, try and become famous singers, or join their quest to find the love of their lives (and plenty of cash along the way), or just get a not-to-sneak-peek into their lives in a big house riddled with cameras. Naturally, if it was real reality, it would be boring. No one wants to watch other people’s lives without some… well, editing.

Hitchcock said that drama is life without the boring parts. It is true for storytelling, and it is true for Reality TV. Reality TV is just drama, but it involves non-actors. That’s all there is to it. Reality shows DOES have writers, who come up with possible scenarios and conflicts. Why does Reality shows considered “real” while scripted drama is considered “make believe”? Do people actually think of Reality TV as real life? Bullshit. It’s as phony as is gets. I’d always prefer scripted drama, with great storytelling and acting, over the cheap sensationalism of the reality shows. Reality TV was basically created so that people like you and I could have our 15 minutes of fame. The allure of such a possibility can cause even has-been stars like Silvester Stallone and Paula Abdul to get in the game. Hey, maybe it can be the beginning of a beautiful comeback.

And that brings me back to blogging. Isn’t sharing your life with other people you don’t even know is no better than those pseudo “reality” shows? Are blogs just another way to satisfy voyeuristic needs? Is the person represented in the blog is actually the same person in real life? Or is it just a mask, another persona? Is a blog just another way to achieve those 15 minutes of fame?

I think not. While I’m far from being an exhibitionist, I think that sharing  your thoughts, ideas, and your life with the whole wide world is a viable way for self expression. Some bloggers tell more about themselves, some tell less, and some tell nothing, creating a “topic” blog about wine, cars, computers, or whatever. I think the need to write a Weblog is first and foremost a personal need, the need to “get your stuff out there”, to be heard. while the need to share your life on TV is based on the desire for quick fame and fortune, and possibly stems from of low self esteem.

Writing a blog, even one that concentrates solely on your personal life, is far from being an easy task. It takes time and effort, and at the end you’re not even sure you’ll be read at all. So basically, you do it first and foremost for YOURSELF, and I think therein lies the big difference between these two popular forms of self exposure.  

In conclusion, I want to address the issue of possible generalization on this topic. Sometimes there’s a fine line between Reality TV and documentaries. I want to stress out that by Reality TV I primarily refer to shows like the ones mentioned above. For example, although labeled sometimes as a reality show, I consider HBO’s Project Greenlight as more of a documentary series. So what’s the difference between Documentaries and reality shows, you might ask? Well, docs usually don’t have panels of judges and fancy chateaus as backdrop for forlorn lovers. There are much bigger differences, naturally, but that, as they say, is another story…

Film Report #1

 Movies watched this week:

Constantine (2005)

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This flick actually improves in second viewing. First time I saw it, I thought is was just a hodgepodge of recycled ideas about demons, angels, heaven, hell, and all that jazz. Second time around I still found it a hodgepodge, but at least it was an entertaining, well paced hodgepodge. Mind you, I’ve never read Hellblazer, the comic book series this movie is based upon, so I can’t say if it does justice to the literary source, but on it’s own, it’s a pretty entertaining film in the Dark Fantasy sub-genre. 

Keanu Reeves is basically fine, although a bit muted, but Rachel Weisz is fantastic. She imbues her character with the right amount of warmth and skepticism, as the lady cop who asks Keanu (as exorcist tough guy John Constantine) to help her find out what made her twin sister commit suicide.  Lots of great special effects and creepy imagery in that one. It doesn’t really make sense, not even within the boundaries of it’s own world, but the movie zips fast enough (except for a lull in the second act) that you just don’t care. By the way, the movie was supposed to be titled Hellblazer, as the comic, but was changed so that people won’t confuse it with Hellboy, another comic book adaptation that came out that same year.

The Eye (2002)

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I’m a fan of Asian cinema, and of Asian horror cinema in particular, and this film, while not the best in the genre (try Audition for some nerve racking shockfest), is far from being the worst. The Eye, an import from Hong Kong, directed by the Pang Brothers, is the tale of a young woman, who’s been blind since she was two years old, and gets a cornea transplant which lets her see the world basically for the first time. But that’s not all she sees. Just like Hailey Joel Osmont, Mun starts seeing dead people. She sees all kinds of ghosts and apparitions around her, until she feels she is losing her mind. She enlists the help of her psychologist in order to help her find out what’s going on (and he of course has to believe her first). The film is slow moving and even a little boring at times, but it also has great atmosphere, a very good performance by Angelica Lee as Mun, and some truly creepy, frightening moments.

Many Asian horror flicks deal with ghosts and demons, and The Eye is no exception (the spiritual world is an integral part of Asian culture), and although Asian horror enthusiasts has already seen a movie or two similar to this (I can’t say for sure, but it seems Ringu was a big influence on The Eye), this flick is a well made, subtle horror tale.

The Eye has a sequel (which has nothing to do with the original) and an American remake is in the works (naturally!)

Flight of Fury (2007)

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Ok, first of all, this is a bad movie. But I don’t really want to talk about this tale of a retired army colonel (or something) who is sent to Afghanistan to retrieve a State-of-the-art stealth fighter stolen by terrorists, but about the career of one of action cinema’s formidable action movie stars.

I’m talking about Steven Seagal.

Steven Seagal, Ikido master and a retired CIA operative (or something) started his film career with some great action/crime entries like Above the Law and Out For Justice, directed by some top action names such as Andrew Davis (The Fugitive, and who also directed Seagal later in Under Siege). He starred alongside great actors like Pam Grier and Tommy Lee Jones, and basically made good, clean, efficient, brutal and kick ass action pictures which were distributed theatrically.

But then Seagal suffered the same fate as fellow action has-beens Jean-Cleaude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgern (and to a lesser degree, Wesley Snipes), and was relegated to the Land That Time Forgot, or in other words – the land of direct-to-video movies.

For the past six or seven years, Seagal has been making them fast, cheap and furious. His movies never reach the cinemaplexes, but stop at the video stores, and quality has suffered as a result. Why did that happen? I honestly can’t tell. Did Seagal stop being a bankable star? I guess so. (I think Exit Wounds was his last theatrical release, but don’t hold me to that).

It’s always a shame when action stars deteriorate to crap like Flight of Fury. Seagal is maybe older and chubbier, but he still has charisma and the moves, but he must find better scripts and directors, and fast. We want another Executive Decision. Come on, Steven!  

Insomnia

There’s a great Stephen King book called Insomnia. It tells of an elderly man who just can’t sleep, and his insomnia gets worse and worse, until he starts seeing all kinds of strange things around him.

I’m a night person.  Always have been. But lately, my sleeping hours have become more and more outrageous. It’s not uncommon for me to go to sleep at 3 am, or even later than that. As a result, I get up late too. The cat is to blame in part, no doubt, because she wakes me up at six so I can let her out. But I can’t help the fact that sometimes I feel like Ralph Roberts from Insomnia, although to be quite frank, with me it’s not exactly insomnia. It’s more like un-tiredness (is that a word?)

Some months ago I used to suffer from real Insomnia. I used to go to bed at around 1 AM and fall asleep at about 3, and the last few months… hell, the last year or so, has been tough. You see, I have a problem. I think too much. I just can’t help it. I’m a fucking mega-thinker. So I used to lie in bed and think, and think, and think… And I tell you, thinking can be tiring and exhusting. But not exhusting enough to lull you to sleep, as it seemed.

So I guess I got tired of lying in bed and thinking. Instead of going to bed at 1 and fall asleep at 3, I go to bed at 3 and that’s that. I’ve become a certifiable night owl. Batman has nothing on me.

I like the night. It’s peaceful. No cars honking, no busses making noise, no people yelling (usually). It’s a great time for reading, writing, watching horror films. The best Radio shows air at night, and the best music too.

Oh, but look at the time. Good night!

A Valentine’s Day special

Rejoice, lovers! Valentine’s Day is upon us, and I decided to celebrate it here at “As blog as it gets” with a heartbreaking, beautiful love song. So grab your Kleenex, and enjoy!

Oh, here’s the original.

Rage

Sometimes I feel like smashing the damn computer. I try to do something simple, nothing too fancy. I dunno, open a web page, download a program,  watch a video… and it gets too slow, or shows a message which says: “fatal error, you have fucked up with something and now you’ve ruined everything”. AHHHHHH!

Well, as it happens, there’s something called computer rage. I mean, people get mad on their computers, sometimes hitting them in the process. Well, I can’t say I blame them(although I think it’s more prevalent at work places).

Oh, and another thing: people who talk all the time on their cell phones. People who SHOUT into their cell phones so the whole world could hear their fucking problems (maybe they should open a blog). Sometimes I feel like smacking them. It’s almost as if they stopped talking on their little cell phones, they would have to be with themselves and think about stuff. And those stupid ring-tones. Countless songs are murdered each day on the cellular battlefield. People are concerned with cellular antennas, that maybe they’re polluting our air with electromagnetism, causing who the hell knows what. But what about the cultural pollution of our environment? On the street, on the bus, in the coffee house, in the line to the doctor, people gibbering endlessly about this and that, or text messaging in the middle of a movie, in a dark theatre. I could choke those bastards. Don’t get me wrong, I think the cell phone is a great invention, but it has turned some of us into environmental hazards. It makes people feel they need to talk even when they don’t have anything to say.

And those damn commercials everywhere. Cluttering your mind with nonsense. sometimes there’s a funny one, a clever one, but most of the time it’s just annoying. Especially those that invade your house. Your phone rings. You’re outside your apartment, holding a bag of groceries. You fumble with your keys, trying to get in quickly and answer the phone. You come in, trip, the groceries are on the floor. You pick up the phone and say, panting: “Hello?!” and a recorded voice says: “Hello there, this is David from David Electronics inviting you this weekend for a special sale…”

I mean, how dare they? and really, who came up with this brilliant advertising idea? who thought that people are going to be real susceptive after someone made them feel like fools? Who was that idiot? that’s what I’d like to know.

We all have rage pent up inside of us. Some of us more than others. We all would like to hit that stupid salesman who came to bother us when we were just leaving, or that driver who took our parking space, or that lady who cut us in line at the supermarket. Humans are savages. We had to learn to repress our urges and build a civilized society, or else we would have destroyed ourselves long ago. It was a survival instinct. But deep inside, we are still what we’ve always been (especially men). We are programmed this way. Even the most mild mannered man can become a savage under the right circumstances.

The civilized, western man is actually a repressed man. And yet, after all this time, after all we’ve been through, after all we’ve accomplished, one stupid ring-tone, one error window in our computer, one annoying automated commercial, can topple it all down in a matter of seconds.

What a shame.

Got yourself a gun

In the beginning, there was Martin Scorsese.

With films such as Mean Streets and Taxi Driver, Scorsese brought to the screen a new kind of crime drama: tough, realistic, unflinching. You could see it all: All the misery, all the human pettiness, all the violence, in all their horrible glory. That wasn’t done for shock value, but to serve as an honest portrayal of time and space. Scorsese grew up in a tough neighborhood in New York and knew violence and crime from first hand. Scorsese doesn’t lie. He tells it like it is.

And then came Goodfellas.

Scorsese’s masterpiece from 1990 about a rising star in the ranks of the Irish mob in New York had a very big influence on one David Chase, a TV writer and producer for shows like the Rockford Files and Northern Exposure, who wanted to create a series of his own which will tell the story of a New Jersey crime boss in the Italian mafia. At first, Chase tried to sell the idea to the networks, but failed. Then he tried it with the the premium cable network HBO, which was interested in developing more original content of its own.

I’m quite certain that if The Sopranos would’ve ended up in one of the networks, it wouldn’t be what it is today. The cable venue allowed Chase to create his series as realistic as possible, and was given creative carte blanche by HBO to develop his vision as he sees fit.

And so, on january 10th, 1999, The Sopranos appeared for the first time on HBO subscribers TV screens. And the rest, as thay say, is history.

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Even those who don’t watch The Sopranos (but aren’t clueless when it comes to television) know the general premise: Tony Soprano, mob boss and family man, struggles to balance his business life with his family life. He is a working man who happens to be a criminal, and when he suffers a panic attack, he starts seeing a female shrink. But The Sopranos is so much more then a blurb or a logline.

Thanks to James Gandolfini’s masterful portarail and the sharp, exquisite writing of David Chase and his team of gifted scribes, Tony Soprano is not only one of the greatest characters on TV, but one of the greates characters in filmed entertainment. 

A man of startling contradictions. He can be soft and gentle one minute, and violent and furious the next. His inner struggles with his demons – his domineering mother, the influence of his occupation on his children- among many others, are dealt with honesty and realism almost unparalleled on TV.  Surrounded by a great host of supporting characters, each one of them rounded, each one of them with its own set of dilemmas, conflicts and quirks, The Sopranos boasts some of the greatest characters on TV, with fabulous actors to portray them. The acting on this show is so natural, so unobtrusive, you quickly forget these are actors and not real people.

Some have trouble with the violence. That’s a valid claim, but one must consider a very important thing: The Sopranos is not a show about tough mafia guys who enjoy killing. Murder Is all just part of the business. It’s nothing special, nobody particularly likes it. With the exception of maybe Ralph Cifarretto, there are no sociopath hoodlums on The Sopranos. (Although Christopher Moltisanti sometimes teeters on the brink).

The extremley violent scenes on this show are few and far between, but like in scorcese’s case (who basically did very few violent films throughout his carrer, but these are the films everyone remembers), their reputation far exceeds them. In actuality, much of the violence in The Sopranos is done off camera, although that doesn’t make it any less disturbing.

The story arcs are weaved through each season meticulously and ingeniously, creating a rich tapestry of Shakespearean proportions about the most basic human emotions and staples: love, honor, revenge, friendship and loyalty, to name a just a few.

It is a show about family, about doing the right thing for your family. One of the most interesting subjects of the show is Tony’s continuous effort to shield his children from his world, which is quite a herculean task. Tony’s wife, Carmela (an amazing Edie Falco) loves and hates her husband at the same time. Her role alone could merit a whole lengthy post of its own.

In terms of visual and style, The Sopranos is far from run-of-the-mill TV fodder. It is shot and directed in a highly cinematic way. It utilizes the best of both worlds: The ability to develop stories and characters in a series format, and the cinematic style of films like Goodfellas. Again, This is not the romanticized mafia family of The Godfather (a movie which Tony and his friends love, naturally, and even quote from extensively, especially in the first two seasons), but the gritty, realistic world of the Scorcese crime drama.

The last season of The Sopranos (or the second half of the sixth) will air on April, putting the cap on this marvelous journey. In a world where FBI informers are the lowest life form there is, where people can order a hit because of an insulting joke, where a mafia boss goes to a shrink but can never really tell her everything about him, where mistresses (or goomas) are part of the norm, and murder is part of the business, The sopranos live in a parralel universe which we find facsinating to look at, but would never want to be a part of.

                                          

Best poster of the year

Oh, this is so goddamn funny.

 walken2.jpg

And there’s more where that came from.

Why I blog in English

I’ve been asked several times why I blog in English, instead of Hebrew. Well, that’s a damn good question, so I’ll try and answer it the best way I can.

It all started with Myspace. I opened a page there, and a blog. But I didn’t like the fact that the blog was practically hidden inside the page. A lot of people didn’t even see it was there. So after a short while I decided to move to a place where the blog is the main thing, in contrary to your friends list or what music you like.

And then I thought: Why not keep blogging in English?

There are several Israely blogging sites, some of them aren’t bad at all, and I did consider that for a while, but the thought of keep blogging in English, even outside of Myspace, was very tempting. As mentioned in a previous post, I may be an Israely, but as far as the Internet is concerned, and as far as my writing is concerned, I see my self as a citizen of the world, and would like my writing to reach as many people as possible, without any language barriers. Almost all of my Hebrew speaking friends  have no trouble reading in English, while on the other hand, most people in the world can’t read Hebrew, but most of them (especially those who surf the web regularly), do read in English. So for me, the logical thing was to write in English.

And if there is anyone out there who find it difficult or annoying or just troublesome, I apologize. Hey, maybe it’ll change one day and I’ll start blogging in Hebrew, but for now I’m doing my baby steps in the blogging business, so we’ll see. 

This blog is supposed to have an international appeal, so I’m not going to talk about things only Israely people will understand. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to ever mention things on the news that concern Israel, but for the most part, This is not a political blog. I truly believe that the things which interest me are universal.

One other thing is that I fell in love with the WordPress blog layouts. Most of them are quite beautiful, and because I see my blog not only as a place to write my thoughts, but also as my little personal corner on cyberspace, that was important for me. (despite some maddening technical issues. I tell you, it took a LOT of time to figure out all the features and gyzmos, and I’m not through with it yet…)

So there you have it. I want to write a blog with an international appeal (and also, I admit, practise my English at the same time. It takes me much more time to write in English, but I think it’s worth it), and I liked this layout enought so stay here. (it wasn’t really planned).

So the blog in Myspace won’t be updated anytime soon. I’m here at WordPress for now, blogging in english.

Early impressions

My life is dotted with many moments when I remember watching a picture at a certain age, at a certain time, and how this picture influencd me, fascinated me, tantalized me.

When it comes to movies, Sometimes I miss the past. I know it’s great to to hear them in Dolby Digital and see those great special effects, but I miss something. We live in a cynical world, and much of the films (and people, and children) have lost their innocence. The internet and DVD special features hoard gigabits of information. If you want, you can now know exactly how’s everything been done. But where’s the magic? It’s hard, because I love to read about movies and watch those special features, but I also don’t want to know EVERYTHING, I want the magic to last, because that’s the first feeling I had when I went to the movies. I felt a sense of wonder. 

They say the most powerful memories are your childhood memories. I don’t know what was the very first picture I saw in the theatre (a little research in that matter didn’t turn much), but I distinctly remember what are probably the first movies I ever saw in a theatre, or ever saw, period.

I was about 5 or 6, it was the late seventies, and it was in movie houses in Tel Aviv that no longer exist in out multiplex era. And I was thrilled, overjoyed, and awe-struck.

So here they are, my earliest impressions of cinema:

The Sleeping Beauty (1959)

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I particularly remember this gem from Walt Disney Studios because of the witch. The witch scared the hell out of me. She turned into a dragon and attacked the fair prince, who in turn, in a spectacular scene, hurled his sword at her chest and slayed her then and there. The animation was gorgeous, the music great. This is probably not only one of the first movies I’ve ever seen, but the first animated one as well.

The Big Store (1941)                    

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The Marx Brothers were at the end of their run by the 1940’s. In 1941 came out one of their lesser pictures, The Big store. Like most later movies they did for MGM, it lacked the anarchy, zaniness and mayhem which marked their early features for Paramount, but it nevertheless has a warm place in my heart. Definitley the first Marx Brothers movie I’ve ever seen, it told of the brothers doing some shenanigans in a big department store, with a thin plot about killers and singers. But the most memorable sequence for me, and probably my No. 1 Movie Childhood Memory, was the great chase in the store which involved roller scates among many other paraphernalia.

 The Muppet Movie (1979)

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The only movie I saw in real time (the others were holiday screenings or something). First of all, I can’t for the love of me understand why Jim Henson died so young. This is such a crime. The man was a genious, he brought so much joy and laughter to people everywhere. I miss him. This was the first of a series, and told basically about the gang going to Hollywood. I especially remember some shenanigans with an airbaloon, but the thing most people remember from this movie is the great opening song, The Rainbow Connection, which was nominated for an Academy Award that same year.