J.R.R. Tolkien: The Crazy and Magical Grandfather

I remember the thought I had when I spied my first glimpse of a picture of J.R.R. Tolkien.

Grandfather?

There he was, the professor, a chubby old man, white balding hair and a pipe in what looked like an old and battered brown suit. Yes, he looked like a grandfather to be honest, but… there was this spark in his eye. I couldn’t put my finger on why I thought this, but there was power in that spark.

It’s hard sometimes when you consider the sheer mass of creativity to link the image of the man to the creation. The creator of Treebeard, Gandalf, and Bilbo looks like he could be at your local grocery store, waiting in line by you at the Pharmacy, complaining about the rising prices of bananas, just an average senior citizen. Yes, I am doing him in an injustice by talking about his image in this fashion, but you would expect that someone with that incredible amount of imagination would have something that would, well, make him stand out in a crowd.

Shouldn’t someone like that sparkle? Continue reading

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Recommending Woody Allen…

When I was 14, I wrote a letter to Woody Allen.

I’m pretty sure it was a long letter (I never skimped on words), detailing how I wanted to grow up and be just like him. It’s not like I really wanted to be him, per se; I just loved the idea of the freedom he had to make the stories he wanted to tell. See, even then I could tell this was a storyteller not only having the creativity in abundance, but the capability to let that creativity reach its heights.  As an adult, I am even more floored by his ability.

So my letter begged for advice. What did I expect from him? I couldn’t say, I was a kid trying to latch on to some kind of a future, like any typical young teen. Maybe I was hoping he would send me a plane ticket and take me in as an apprentice?  He didn’t write back, of course, but he did send an autographed picture, which I still have today.

There is a chance that Midnight in Paris, Woody’s most recent film will take home the Oscar for Best Screenplay (It is also nominated for Best Picture), and I think well deserved. Of course, Woody won’t show up for the award.  That is not Woody’s way, and I find that also very bad ass.  Simply put, he is too busy making his movies to stop and take an award for the past, he is already on the next story, the future.

These, as a Woody fan, I would recommend as first dips into his library. Continue reading

Are the Oscars Really Necessary?

The Oscars always make me feel a little queasy. Award shows in general around the arts make me feel that way.

Oh, I’ve won some writing awards (it’s the reason why my books MY PROBLEM WITH DOORS and MEGAN were published- they were both honored in a writing competition), and was very grateful, but it still feels odd to me. I have no problem telling someone that a story they have is great, for example, or another writer that their story needs work, but to say one is better than the other… there is that queasy feeling again. Continue reading

10 Works I Wish I Had Written

Sometimes I feel like December and January are the times all entertainment Web sites and writers set aside for creating lists.  We drown in them; from movies, to books, to important people, etc.  Lists after lists after lists.

Don’t worry, this is not one of those lists.  This is something a little more personal.

I’ve been, since starting this blog, trying to rethink my writing and my goals, and one thing I am trying to latch on to is what stimulates me, what means something to me.  What do I want to accomplish in my own writing?

This list is of ten creations that, at one time or another, touched me as a storyteller.  There is no particular order, no best to worst.

Are these choices the best in their mediums? No, not all of them. Are these things that I could have written? A few, I think with the initial spark I could have devised in a way. Are these works that inspire me? Most definitely. Continue reading

Does Art Need Truth? My Concerns With The Social Network

A new editorial on film is up at www.greenspotblue.com.  Here is an excerpt from the beginning:

In 2006, when Oprah attacked James Frey about his book, A Million Little Pieces, many of us in the arts stood behind her in the attack.  It was deserved. He was changing his life, not only to increase the drama, but to make something more of himself than was actually true. Oprah said she felt “really duped” and went on to talk about how he betrayed millions of readers.

That episode in literary history haunts me and begs the question when the subject of a story is still living, who owns that story? Who owns that life? And who is to say what changes can be made for the sake of a book or a movie?

In 2002, the Academy awarded A Beautiful Mind with an Oscar for Best Picture. A film based on the life of John Nash; and, like A Million Little Pieces, changes were made in the life of Nash for the sake of drama. At the time, I remember reading the book that the film was based on and being floored by the differences in the main character and his life. Yet, instead of questioning his writing integrity in an Oprah-attack fashion, the Academy decided to award Akiva Goldsman for these changes with a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar.

Now it is 2011, and we are still unclear about what is acceptable to do around a living person’s biography. This year, one of the frontrunners for the Best Picture Oscar is The Social Network, and again moments in living people’s lives were changed for the sake of drama.

You can read the rest of the editorial here.