Joss Whedon: Our Outsider Makes Good

I became a fan of Joss Whedon around the sixth season of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. I’m sure that honest admission at the start might already turn off some readers, but let me add that after getting hooked I bought all of the boxsets of the other seasons and used them to help draw in others, while using all of my skills at peer pressure and bribery (and sometimes even blackmail).

I was living in LA at the time, studying writing at the University of Southern California, and I was startled by the news story that his show was able to jump stations. Now, I remembered the movie and couldn’t believe that this was the same thing we were talking about. That idea? Really? All I remembered about the film was that it starred PeeWee Herman. Yet, the idea, and the accomplishment of such a TV production feat impressed me and led to me turning on the show and giving it a shot.

That old blind Scott feels like a very different person from the Scott writing this. I want to shake my head in annoyance at him, throw something at him or even bitch slap him. In the least, there should be some ridicule and taunts. Continue reading

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Film Review: The Pirates!

I have a new film review up at Green Spot Blue for the children’s comedy, The Pirates! Band of Misfits (here).  Here is the beginning of the review:

I want to begin this review with my only little complaint; which could really be considered by some a tangent. Did you know in England and Europe that this film is called The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! and yet here in the USA it is called The Pirates! Band of Misfits.

Is anyone else insulted by this change like I am?

It reminds me like how they changed the first Harry Potter book from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to a Sorcerer’s Stone (and let’s note the philosopher’s stone is an actual item from mythology, as compared to the made up and—lets say it—obvious and easily named “sorcerer’s stone”). Should we as a culture be annoyed by what this says about us? (Yes, is my initial response.) Are our kids really that anti-education/school/science that entertainment power players don’t even want to try and go down this road?

Have they actually tested to see if they would lose money with the original title here in our country? Is there focus group material out there with kids that I can see showing why they made the change? Or did some ordinary dude in a powerful position who didn’t like science in school, and thought he could speak for all Americans everywhere, simply do this?

Whatever the case, as you can tell, this change bothers me. Personally, I don’t they think the original title would drive kids away. And isn’t the idea of having an adventure with scientists kind of funny a concept by itself?

OK, I got that out of my system; let’s get to the review of the film. And let me state I am not going to talk like a pirate in this review or do any bad pirate puns.

You can read the rest of my review (and why I recommend taking your child to see it) here.

My Six Favorite Comedies

I am a comedy snob.

I don’t laugh at fart jokes or burps, and most sitcoms bore me to pieces. Some of this elitism is because I studied comedy writing and seeing behind the curtain can take the surprise away (and much of comedy is about delivery), my upbringing since my dad introduced me to Monty Python at a young again, but most of it is just, frankly, because I am a comedy snob. And because of that, I have never laughed at a single scene in a single American Pie movie…

Not a single scene.

I expect more.

I expect more than stereotypes, pratfalls, sarcasm, easy parodies, and physical body humor. You can keep your Three Scrooges (even though I do like some of the Curly episodes), I’ll take the Marx Brothers any day of the week.

Here, in all my snobbery, are my six favorite comedies:

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

When the American Film Institute (AFI) did their list of 100 laughs, they did not include a single Monty Python movie.

Not a one.

Their justification is that the films chosen had to have significant financial or creative production elements from the USA. Fine, whatever (even though, I would argue that the films were distributed and produced by a few Americans and American companies), but yet, they included A Fish Called Wanda on the list. Is it because two of the main cast members were American? Should I point out that Terry Gilliam of Monty Python (director, actor and writer) is American?

No, this doesn’t make sense to me either. Continue reading

The Mistakes of the Newbie Novelist

Sometimes when I work with new novelists or self-published writers, I wonder (and this is awful to say) if they even really like books.

Why is it that people are drawn to wanting to be writers?  Is the image too glamorized in books, TV, and movies? Is it for the bragging right, so they can say “Yes, I have written a book? It is right there.” Is it because it seems simple to do since we all know how to form a sentence thanks to public education? Has self-publishing companies done too good a job ruining the myth that writing is a skilled craft? What is it that draws people to take on this art, resulting in a congested market and thousands of badly written books finding their way onto amazon each year with badly made covers on photoshop?

I wish I had an answer to all of my questions, because sometimes I want to give new novelists interventions. In other words, sit them down and ask at the beginning of the process, “Do you really want to do this? Really? Why?”

The thing I am the most surprised about when working with a first-time novelist is how many rookie mistakes get made. Yet, they still come up again, and again, and, over time, I have begun to sound like a broken record. Here are four obvious errors that drive me crazy with some helpful recommendations for the newbies out there: Continue reading

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

Five Things I Am Into Right Now, February 2012

When I originally decided to write more on the blog as my New Year’s Resolution, one of my initial ideas was to capture each month what I was into… and then I skipped doing it in January.

So I guess in January I was into NOT writing about five things I am into.

It’s a snapshot into my life at a given time. A diary, if you will, of consumerism, as compared to creation and original observations…. Boy, that sounded much better in my head than it reads.

Looking over this list, I think you can tell it is February and cold out and I am looking for some extra sunlight someplace. February is never a good time for moody or dark stories or music. We have enough of that in the crisp air and short days.

The Artist

What I love about The Artist the most is how much it loves films. It is riddled with references to classic black-and-white stories, including a few great homages to Citizen Kane. Would I like this film as much if I didn’t love the movies that inspired it? I can’t say. It is light on plot, but most films like this were and are.

For me, I couldn’t stop smiling during my watching of it. And while I wrote before about how I think the idea of giving awards for films is kind of silly…  I really want it to win the Oscar for Best Picture.

Does this make me a hypocrite? Yeah, probably. A terrible, terrible hypocrite… Continue reading

Episode 2 of The Dante Experience

I’ve decided to move forward with sharing the rest of The Dante Experience, on a week-by-week basis. There is also a page now above (The Dante 3) that links to the episodes that have already been shared so you can catch up on Episode 1.

Episode 2 is called “Our Time in Limbo” and can be heard here:

-Radio and Me-

There are two moments I remember clearly that started me down the path of wanting to write comedy for radio. The first was when I was in fourth grade. I was in the car with my dad going to visit my grandparents and I first heard The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Continue reading