Fund This!

Here we are, at the end of another month, with nothing but a pathetic token blog entry to show for it.

It turns out my much-delayed downtime hasn’t been all that down for me after all. It’s funding season here in Canada (when isn’t it funding season?) and I’ve been running around helping various productions and production companies try to get their projects off the ground with everybody’s hard-lost taxpayer dollars. Considering their projects amount to three different feature films I wrote or will write, I have a certain personal interest in seeing these applications succeed.

Ah, there’s so much more happening, so much news to report or comment on. I guess it will have to wait, since I’ll be spending tonight writing more funding-support material to tell bureaucrats what’s in a screenplay they would rather read about than actually read.

I’ll just keep it simple and sign off saying, “Boy, I regret getting into that gunfight with Gary Coleman the last time I played Postal. Somehow, I feel responsible.

Eat hot lead, Willis!

Suppose They Gave A Press Conference And Nobody Came?

So many big announcements in the last couple of weeks, so little time to make snide comments about them.

In an act of pure optimism (or pure marketing, depending on which side of the film-buff/film-industry-cog line of demarcation you lie on) the Academy has decided to give us ten nominees for best picture this year. While most of us may be hard-pressed to even name ten decent movies that came out last year, Hollywood tells us they had to double the number of nominees just to squeeze in all that high-quality entertainment they’ve been milling.

In no particular order, we have…

District 9 // I hate it when movie critics complain about plots holes. When they do, it’s usually a sure sign that they don’t even know what a plot is, let alone what a hole in one might look like. I won’t try to claim there are all sorts of plot holes in District 9, but there are gaps in logic you can drive a truck (or, indeed, a convoy of eighteen wheelers) through. While everyone was being dazzled by seamless special effects that gave the film a documentary level of realism, no one seemed to notice all the questions about the basic premise of the story that went flying by unanswered. Maybe a sequel can spend an hour or so of its running time explaining all the stuff that didn’t make any goddamn sense in the first movie.

Precious // Haven’t seen it, and it doesn’t seem like such a fun night out at the movies. My main concern is that it’s been endorsed by Oprah Winfrey. In my experience, anything endorsed by Oprah has turned out to be awful or fraudulent. On a side note, I’d like to address Oprah personally: O, I know you’ve recently announced the date you’ll be retiring from your talk show. Please, for everybody’s sake, don’t promise to hand it over to Conan O’Brien and then change your mind. We can’t live through that again.

Avatar // Proving, once again, that in Hollywood you don’t have to tell an original or engaging story, or even have any interesting thematic points to make, in order to receive all sorts of critical praise and awards. You just need to make boatloads of money. I mean, how can the biggest money-maker of all time not be the greatest movie ever? It’s simple math, people.

The Blind Side // Sandra Bullock plus football. I can’t imagine why I haven’t already seen this. Oh wait. Right. Sandra Bullock plus football.

An Education // Wow. We haven’t had a good Oscar-bait jailbait movie since Lolita. Except maybe The Reader. But it doesn’t count when hot chicks do it to underage boys.

Inglourious Basterds // Spoiler alert! Every Jew on Earth owes it to themselves to go see Hitler get machine-gunned in the face.

The Hurt Locker // The year’s most over-praised movie. It’s still quite a good movie, and I’ve been a long-time Kathryn Bigelow advocate. But honestly, I don’t even think this is her best film. Or her second best film. Maybe not even her third.

A Serious Man // If there’s one thing racists have taught me, it’s that Hollywood is run by Jews. So I guess it’s no surprise that the latest Coen Brothers movie, the Jewiest film since Yentl, got a nomination. It also happens to be the densest and most impenetrable movie of the brothers’ career, so that must mean it’s profound — although I have yet to meet anyone who can explain all of its nuances, let alone sit through it enough times to determine where all those nuances may lie.

Up // You mothercusser Pixar cusses. Isn’t it enough you’re already nominated for Best Animated Feature Film and will probably end up stealing an Oscar from Fantastic Mr. Fox (not to mention Coraline)? Seriously. Cuss!

Up in the Air // If I had to pick one to win from this batch, this would be my choice. What can I say? I just like movies about sad people in depressing jobs. George Clooney living in planes and airports and hotels while he flies around the country firing people? That is such a cooler job than, I don’t know, being a space marine and going hunting with a bunch of giant blue people on a pretty planet.

*

And yeah, I know I’m totally behind the Twitter world media on this, but I just have to mention the big iPad announcement that rocked the world to sleep a couple of weeks back. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely respect Steve Jobs’ Rasputin-like ability to survive his own body’s frequent attempts to murder him. But really? An iPhone you can’t put in your pocket, take a picture with, or use to make a phone call? That’s the announcement all you Apple fanboys were on tenterhooks waiting to hear?

Maybe I just don’t understand the phenomenon of Apple worship. I’ll readily admit, as a long-time PC user, that PCs suck. It’s just that Macs suck even more. True, we’re utterly beholden to Microsoft who, when it’s time to release a new operating system, apparently flips a coin to decide if it will be a good and useful operating system, or the worst thing since smallpox. But the trials and tribulations of PC use, particularly back in the day when I got my first one — a 286 that was a big upgrade from my Commodore 64 — have taught me to troubleshoot against the odds, and bring a finicky machine back from the blue-screen-of-death. Learning to rewrite batch files every ten minutes so you could squeeze out that extra byte of memory to play Jumpman was good training in computer maintenance. Unfortunately for Mac users, they live by the credo that you should just be able to plug-and-play anything. As a result, when anything goes wrong, they flop around like a fish on land, gasping for air and begging tech support to toss them back into the ocean. It’s sad to watch, really. As is their zombie-devotion to anything that rolls off the Apple assembly line. To quote one friend from a few short days before the iPad was announced, “I don’t know what they’re coming out with, but I’m getting one.”

As for me, iDontcare.

Payne Suppression

In these troubled times, there’s a lot to get outraged about. Like McCain/Palin supporters for example. But I won’t get into what irritates me about people like the “He’s an Arab” lady or the “I’m mad, I’m really mad” stripes-aren’t-a-good-look-for-me guy or the Backwards-B cutter girl or even “Joe-the-fucking-plumber who isn’t actually a plumber, or even a guy named Joe.”

No, I’m suffering from electionitis, and can’t muster the energy to bitch about politics today. Instead, I have to rant about the kind of thing that really gets my tits in a knot. Movie stuff.

Here’s a quote from the recent daily-news over at the Internet Movie Database:

The head of the company that produces the Max Payne video games has joined the criticism of the movie based on the game. 3D Realms CEO Scott Miller told the video-game magazine Edge, “There are several fundamental story flaws … in the film that have me shaking my head in bewilderment.” Among them, he said, is the fact that Payne is seen in a flashback scene half way through the movie learning that his family has been murdered. Said Miller, “In the game, we put this scene right at the front of the story for a reason! Saving this scene until mid-film is a narrative blunder, because the audience needs to empathize with Max in order to like him and understand what drives him.” In any case, the video-game-turned-movie led the box office over the weekend, earning $17.6 million.

Sure, I know the craft of translating video games to the big screen appears to be a lost art since the classical period of the early ’90s when the form peaked with the superlative Super Mario Brothers. Now it just seems to be one Uwe Boll film after another, with little hope for a thoughtful, masterful adaptation of Tetris since the untimely death of Stanley Kubrick who, I’m sure, had it at the top of his development list. Still, I have to take issue with the quote above.

I’ve played the Max Payne games and, in defense of whatever poor screenwriter got stuck with the job of adapting it, I must go on record and say that the last person on Earth he should be taking narrative storytelling advice from is some software CEO douchebag responsible (in whole or in part) for the crappy emo-film-noir plotlines of a Max Payne video game.

Every time I played one of the Max Payne games, I couldn’t wait for the cut scenes to stop brooding and pissing seedy atmosphere so I could kill lots of baddies in bullet time. And then toss a Molotov cocktail on them to seal the deal. The sheer tediousness of the plotlines, which would interrupt the otherwise fun and excessively violent game play, was the single most egregious example of annoying and intrusive storytelling in a video game I’ve ever witnessed.

I haven’t seen the movie yet, but whatever original plot the writer chose to jettison or bury in a mid-film flashback, I applaud. Yeah, I’m willing to bet the flick sucks anyway. It was kind of destined to. But the last thing an unfortunate Hollywood hack needs to hear is structure advice from the people who hamstrung their own shoot-em-up with a pile of clichéd pseudo-crimestory snoozefest gobbledegook.

Solidarity, my brother. Solidarity!

Okay, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, I can go back to obsessing about what’s really important. Namely November 4th. Yes, 04/11/2008, that pivotal day which may well prove to be the most significant in contemporary western history.

Because, my dear friends, as we all well know, that’s the day the extended cut of Waterworld comes out on DVD. Now there’s an awesome flick that didn’t need any damn video game source material.

The Transportation Hub Of The Universe

On my recent trip to Vancouver, I also took the time to infiltrate Bridge Studios for various business and stalker-related purposes. Bridge Studios is home to three ongoing projects of paramount importance to world pop culture. Both Stargates, SG1 and Atlantis, shoot there. And although I’ve never seen a complete episode of either, that didn’t stop me from taking an extended tour of the set during everybody’s lunch hour. I snapped off a bunch of behind-the-scenes photos of anything and everything that struck my fancy.

“They let you do that?” I was later asked.

No. But no one was there to stop me. And in the end, isn’t that what’s really important in life?

Fun fact: Bridge Studios is thusly named because it used to be owned and operated by Dominion Bridge, Canada’s predominant bridge-building company originally founded in my home town of Lachine, Quebec.

For all you Stargate fans, I’ll just say: yes. Of course I crossed through both stargates. And they really do work. However it seems at the time of my visit they were both configured to send travelers to Burnaby B.C., so my tour of the known universe was somewhat limited.

The third pop-culture event Bridge Studios houses is the meteoric career of Uwe Boll. Celebrated far and wide as the worst filmmaker working today, he shoots all his videogame-based box-office atrocities on the premises. Right now, he’s working on Postal, which promises to be an even bigger shitstorm than previous outings like House of the Dead, Alone in the Dark, and BloodRayne.

Fun fact: The original Lachine branch of Dominion Bridge operated for many decades and, aside from constructing many famous spans, worked my grandfather to death in 1942.

Some years ago, my name was bandied about as a writer who might be able to do a quickie post-production rewrite on Alone in the Dark to help it make sense…any sense at all. It never happened and the film went out as-is, disappointing video game fans far and wide and helping bury Christian Slater’s career once and for all. A special supplemental movie-night screening of Alone in the Dark was arranged at Eric’s one evening, and I was astounded to see the relatively short running time of 96 minutes put the entire room to sleep before the first hour was up. I’m not claiming any sort of voice-over exposition I might have been able to provide could have saved the movie. But perhaps, just perhaps, it might have made audiences ask “What’s going on?” one or two times less.

I was hoping to run into “Dr. Boll” on the studio lot or at the nearby production offices so I could rub shoulders with film history, but he wasn’t around that day. He was probably down at the gym training hard for his Uwe Boll versus His Critics promotional boxing match that was scheduled for a future date. That future date has come and gone, and you can watch former semi-pro boxer Uwe kick the crap out of several rank amateur, out-of-shape internet hacks on Youtube. There’s also an interesting account of the wondrous experience that was getting the crap kicked out of you by Ed Wood Jr.‘s heir apparent on Ain’t-It-Cool-News (scroll down the talkback to “Lowtax’s comments on fight.”) Don’t worry, Uwe didn’t beat up Harry. It was some other internet hack who took the thrashing.

My disappointment in failing to meet Herr Boll was alleviated only a day later when, to my delight, I watched him mount the stage at the Elan Awards to present one of the categories. I didn’t hear much of what he had to say. My table was too busy making sarcastic remarks about all the presenters to listen. But I did note that he took pains to plug the hell out of his boxing match before reading off the nominees.

You go Uwe! If more filmmakers out there admitted their whole career was a bad joke it would be a better industry all around.

Why go anywhere but Burnaby?

Damn, still stuck in this galaxy.

Hey, it looks just like that village we visited last week.

If you watch the show, you’ve seen this generic village set redressed a thousand times and shot from every conceivable angle.

Uwe was the real winner at the awards.

Uwe (left) presents some video game category or other at the Elans. No, he didn’t exchange fisticuffs with his co-presenter.

Defeat Is Mine!

I know you’re in terrible suspense, so I’ll tell you what you’ve all been dying to know right off the top:

Yes. Watching The Shatner read off a teleprompter was every bit the transcendent experience I always knew it would be.

My name is Giamatti. Paul Giamatti.The evening began with me putting on a tuxedo for the first time in my life. I think most guys who put on a tuxedo for the first time get just a little excited thinking, “I’m totally going to look like James Bond.” And it’s true. When I looked in the mirror, I totally looked like Paul Giamatti as James Bond. Which, I’ll admit, is a poor piece of casting, only slightly less disappointing than Daniel Craig as James Bond.

The official Studio B group left from the production offices in two stretch-limo SUVs, thirteen to a car. The disco lighting inside added enormously to the feeling of luxuriant high-class, and for a moment I knew just what it felt like to be a hip-hop producer on my way to an east-coast/west-coast nightclub shooting with all my bitches and hoes in tow.

Of course, if you’re going to travel in a stretch-limo SUV that gets three blocks per gallon and sports lighting effects that make it look like the last Pink Floyd concert, there’s only one appropriate destination to be heading to – a big-ass casino. That’s where they were giving out the Elans, and the venue did not disappoint. To show solidarity with the film community, the place had numerous movie-related props and signed posters on display. Thematically, most of them tied in with the whole casino motif by having movies like…well…Casino in evidence. Oh, and Reindeer Games. You gotta have at least one Santa suit with a gaping shotgun wound from Reindeer Games. But they didn’t limit the movie tie-ins to simply gambling-related productions. The entire spectrum of organized crime was celebrated, so no one, not even the loan sharks or the kneecappers, felt left out.

Mood lighting in case you want to get your freak on in transit.The Shatner made an early appearance at the pre-party, talking to television reporters about important issues like the 40th anniversary of Star Trek and the fact that he’s been stuck talking about goddamn Star Trek for 40 years now. Being the host, he was dressed for the occasion. The official word from the awards organizers had been, “dress for a black-tie Oscar-calibre event.” Being an awards show for animation and video game production, I had expressed concern that writers and animators and game designers could barely be trusted to not eat with their feet, let alone hose themselves off and dress up for a capital-E Event. Most of them managed it, though. But there were a few notable exceptions, including the first winner of the evening who opted to come dressed as an unemployed lumberjack.

The greatest dead-Santa movie ever.This was the sort of awards ceremony where they seat you at big round tables and serve you a meal while the show is underway. And let me tell you, nothing helps your appetite along like knowing you might have to get up in mid-bite to stand on stage and address seven hundred people, about as many digital cameras, and a couple of videographers taping for TV filler.

I knew the moment of truth had arrived when I saw a clip from my nominated cartoon for the first time. I hadn’t seen any of it yet. The fact that the clip got a laugh from the audience was encouraging. And then the celebrity presenters – either Ginger from Ginger Snaps or Smoking Man from X-Files, I was too out of it to notice which – announced that the winner was…someone other than me.

In the space of one second, two distinct thoughts pass through your head at a moment like that. The first is, “Thank God I don’t have to get up and speak in front of all these people.” The second is, “Fuck! I lost!”

Always. Speak. With. Pregnant. Pauses.Thankfully, even though all the nominees were Studio B people, I wasn’t seated at the same table as the winner. So I didn’t have to make that “Congratulations” face you see about five thousand times every Oscar night. Which is good because I’m just not as skilled at faking sincerity as, say, Martin Scorsese.

Amidst the celebrity presenters, there was one celebrity recipient. Marv Newland was given the first lifetime achievement Elan. If you don’t know the name, you know his work. He was responsible for the immortal short, Bambi Meets Godzilla, back in 1969. And I’m sure, of every film he’s ever worked on, he’s most sick of talking about that one. The fact that not a frame of it was cut into the career retrospective that played for the audience seems to back me up on this. I’ll bet you a decent sum of money that he made it a condition to his accepting the award.

It's been 37 years since Bambi met Godzilla? Holy shit!“Sure I’ll come down, but if you even mention I had anything to do with that fucking film, you’ll be presenting your trophy to an empty chair.”

In the end, we must all end up hating the work we’re best known for. Marv never returned to his seat at our table after making his speech. He was probably backstage with The Shatner, polishing off a bottle, and commiserating about Bambi, Godzilla and Captain Kirk.

The after party capped the evening with more desserts and booze to top off all the other booze and food and booze we’d had so far. It was around 1:00 am by the time we all piled back into our block-long pimpmobiles and drove home. Although I had a splendid time, the evening was officially deemed a non-event by The Shatner Homepage. If you look, you’ll notice Thursday, September 14, 2006 is a big blank space on his official calendar. It’s like it never even happened. Oh well, at least he beamed down to Earth to hang with the little people for a couple of hours.
Winin' and dinin'.

Pucca was shut out at the 2006 awards, but the P-Team plots to kick ass next year.
Left to right: Your humble blogger, Kirsten Newlands (producer), Greg Sullivan (director), and Dallas Parker (assistant director).