Saturday, December 29 2007

Saturday, December 29, 2007
Waning Moon
Mars Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Cloudy and cold

Finished the work for Confidential Job #2. Now I have to type it up. Phew! Over 20 pages of notes on this one! I got about 12 pages typed yesterday; will try to get the rest done today.

Cat Muldoon, whom I hosted on A Biblio Paradise, has a question about what readers want from a writer’s blog in the comments from yesterday’s post. If you can leave a comment in response, that would be a big help for her. Thank you!

Okay, if you haven’t seen National Treasure: Book of Secrets, skip the next nine or ten paragraphs, because there are spoilers. If you have, or don’t care, here’s my opinion.

There were too many writers and no coherent vision. It started okay, the stuff with the Resolute desks and the Book of Secrets was all clever and fun and in the spirit of what made the first one great. But, first of all – the house that Abby and Ben lived in – different house. What happened to the historical house Ben bought at the end of the last movie? Completely different architecture. You think we wouldn’t notice? Second, although I liked the part of Riley writing a book and the scenes at the signings, etc., were something to which every writer can relate – I don’t believe for one second that Ben would not have read the book. Not only would Ben have read it, he and Riley would have gone out to dinner and debated it point by point. It diminishes Ben’s character to have him ignore Riley’s book. Their friendship was established too strongly for him to do that, and Riley is willing to drop everything to help Ben again, and Ben knows enough to go to Riley for help.

In general, I felt Riley was short-changed in this script. In the first NT, Riley Poole as sidekick broke fresh ground. And it wasn’t necessarily the script – it was Justin Bartha’s performance. He gave it a spirit and a sense of fun and intelligence that transcended both script and genre. In this film, Riley’s lost ground. Instead of gaining confidence and self-esteem from his previous experience, he’s lost it. He’s gone backwards. I understand that he’s always afraid he’s not good enough. But to constantly keep throwing himself on the sword, metaphorically speaking, because he’s hoping they’ll let him know they value him – didn’t work for me. Ben would have let him know he valued him, especially after everything they went through last time. I understand the mirror relationships of Abby/Ben and Patrick/Emily, but Riley’s character was left in the cold, and not in a good way. He didn’t necessarily need a love interest, but it was out of character for them to treat him the way they did. He’s too important to the team.

Ed Harris was wasted. His character was inconsistent, unbelievable, and not at all threatening. Ed Harris can pin you to the wall with a look – he wasn’t utilized properly. His opening scene was terrific, and the rest lost ground from there. Also, in the last one, all of Ian’s team was strongly, swiftly characterized. In this one – Wilkinson’s henchmen were unmemorable and largely ignored. There was never a THREAT, and the chase scenes were lame – except where Ben stopped in time not to hit the dog and the dog licked the camera.

Again – if Ben’s going to be that careful of a dog in the midst of a chase, he’s not going to abuse Riley the way he does. There was never a sense of tension in the chase scenes, either from the bad guys or the cops. It was frustrating.

Now, getting to the mystery/treasure. This lost city of gold was in Florida. So how did it get to underneath Mt. Rushmore? Did somebody move it when the mountain was carved? Wouldn’t someone have noticed it? And, if the city HAD been moved, then the engineering devices, wheels, etc. used to hide it would have had symbols native to the Black Hills area, or, at the very least, to the time that Rushmore was carved (since it was supposedly carved to hide the city), NOT to Central and South America carved on them. Or, if that’s where the city was all the time, again, it wouldn’t be all a mishmash of Central and South American symbolism – it would have been native to the region – Arikara, at the time of the city, and later Cheynne, Kiowa, Pawnee, Crow, and Sioux. The art would have resembled the work coming across the Bering Strait from Russia through Alaska and Canada and down, not up from Central and South America. And, supposedly, Helen Mirren’s character is fluent in Olmec. The Olmec were Mesoamerican, situated west of the Mayan. They were NOT in the Black Hills near Mt. Rushmore. I’d have to take a closer look at the glyphs on the two panels, but, from what I could see on screen, they were NOT Olmec (yes, I’ve done research on the Mesoamerican glyphs). There might have been one or two, but it was not straight-up Olmec. It looked to me like a mishmash of Toltec and maybe some Mayan or Aztec in there.

And yes, I care. The movie wasn’t tight enough or clever enough to make me suspend my disbelief by this point. They’d already pissed me off enough so I was ready to nitpick.

I also felt cheated because it started as a Civil War caper and then turned pre-Columbian. I understand the throwaway explanation that the Confederates wanted the gold from the Lost City to defeat the Union, but still . . .again, if Wilkinson’s character had been better developed, the segueway might have worked, and I would have bought it.

Then, again, you have the oil that’s been there for years, ready to light up; the fact that no one is smart enough to check the electronics when Patrick is knocked out in his own house and nothing is stolen, and treating Riley like a stray dog who happens to be following them around, instead of the integral part of the team that he is. Helen Mirren, was, of course, wonderful. Nic Cage was good most of the time, but was a bit too mellow (lost the edge of the character) at other times, and sometimes even bordered on smugness, which doesn’t become the character. Justin Bartha did the best he could with the material handed to him. Diane Kruger was underused. I would have loved scenes of her and Riley actually DOING things, DISCOVERING things, instead of just running around. There was too much focus on Nicolas Cage instead of being an ensemble piece. It’s not that Cage can’t carry a movie –of course he can. But part of the appeal in this context is the sense of teamwork, and that was lost. They took a great ensemble piece and tried to turn it into a star vehicle. They equated BIGGER with better, instead of simply making it better. And actually doing research. It’s fine to create a different mythology, but it has to be rooted in the believable before it can fly. And this had no roots.

Now, the first film wasn’t perfection – it was lively and clever and fun up until they got to the treasure room, but I figured most of my trouble with that was because I have such strong opinions on Templar Treasure based on my own research. But I started disagreeing with so much in this movie so early on, and by the time the glyphs showed up, well, if I’d been watching at home, I would have been shouting at the screen.

So, yes, I was disappointed. Deeply, deeply disappointed, because I’ve been looking forward to this film since I heard it was in production.

But then again, they made $65 million dollars in the opening weekend, so it’s not like any of them CARE what I think! 😉

And then, last night, I saw, finally Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. More spoilers ahead, although I suspect most of you have seen it.

I was very disappointed. I felt they short-changed both Lupin and Snape’s characters, which hurts the rest of the cycle. Lupin’s gentle understanding and insight was so important in book 5. He needed to be there when they got Harry out of the house at the beginning, along with Tonks. The attack on the trip to Sirius’s didn’t happen, and that’s vital to the story. The fact that young Lily defended Snape from James in the flashback is also vital to the story, and that was cut. The gold statues never came to life in the fight in the Ministry of Magic, which was also important to the story. The fact that Hermione and Ron flew on threstrals they couldn’t see was never dealt with, and needed to be. Another important occurrence in the book is how badly injured each of Harry’s friends is during the fight in the Ministry – it’s part of what hurts Harry so much. And here, they just all sort of wandered out and watched him writhe on the floor. It’s as though the filmmakers got tired by the time they got to the end.

They handled the passage of time well, to show things escalating throughout the year, but none of the action sequences had enough action in them.

Phoenix was my favorite book, and they diluted it so much for the movie that I was disappointed, and I’m also concerned for the next two. They sanitized it too much.

Two disappointments, movie-wise in two days. Sigh.

Great morning’s work on Hex Breaker. Over 5K, and now I’m exactly where I want to be. I’d like to keep going, but I’m spending the day at a friend’s, and I need to get going.

So, let’s hope I can keep the HB momentum going. I’m delighted with the way it’s taking shape, and I’ll hit the 25K exactly when I should. Then I can do another revision and get it off before I leave for Philly.

Devon

Hex Breaker – 17,151 words out of est. 25,000

Of course, it’s too much to ask that the Zokutu Word Meter actually WORK when I could really use the morale boost!

January 31, 2007

Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Waxing Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Sunny and snowy

I can’t believe January is over. I need another two weeks, please. Not quite ready for February.

“Blue” by Brenda Braene is up on Circadian.

A new essay on supporting living writers is up on the Dog Blog.

The train was late, big surprise, but frustrating because I had three errands that HAD to be run on the way to the theatre. First two, knocked right off. Third was all the way across on the West Side, almost to the river, and, of course, took longer than I wanted, but I still made it to the theatre just a hair late. Amazing how quickly you can walk if you have to.

Work was fine. Not too many sewing repairs, but I had to re-glue some bits of the tin man that were peeling away from the frame.

I heard some of the music from the new musical version of Legally Blonde, which is coming to Broadway sometime soon. It’s REALLY good. I was pleasantly surprised. The kind of music that sticks with you and that you can walk out of the theatre still humming.

I’m writing an article on Barbaro that needs to go out the end of this week, and I need to clear off my desk some more. I don’t know why I’m so sore – I’m going to try to work out some kinks later today with an extra yoga session.

So many of the performers have dashed to Target to get those humidifiers meant for kids in the shape of animals. They’re all over the place. They’re so damn cute, I might have to get one for my apartment.

My first check arrived for the anthology – woo-hoo! It’s always nice when someone pays on time.

The computer decided to upload the newest version of IE (don’t I get a say in these things?) and I had a bit of a fit when everything was rearranged. I found where it hid most of the stuff and put it back where I want it, but I’m not sure.

And this new Microsoft Vista? For which some people paid over $600? That only runs on computers less than two years old, only they don’t bother to tell you BEFORE you plunk down the money?

Typical effing Microsoft.

Chaz’s package returned from the UK, with all sorts of paperwork. Nothing seems too major – maybe I’ll rewrap the toys with bells so they won’t ring and upset postal workers – and then I’m going to try sending it again. At least it wasn’t stolen.

People need to back off from the jawing about Daniel Radcliffe doing Equus. Especially since most of these idiotic gossipy bastards haven’t bothered to learn about the play.

Equus is a modern classic, written by the astounding good playwright, Peter Shaffer. It’s extremely disturbing. However, the young man is not the main character —the psychiatrist treating him is. I saw the play on Broadway years ago, when it first became a phenomenon. It’s dark. It’s disturbing. You leave the theatre viewing the world differently than you viewed it when you entered it, which is what a good play is supposed to do. Although the kid was shirtless for a good portion of it, I only remember one full frontal scene. It was completely organic to the piece and necessary, brief, and not a big deal at all. It didn’t feel shocking or out of place. Plus, you’re in a big darned theatre, so, except for the voyeurs with the opera glasses, you’re not seeing a whole lot.

And believe me, there are plenty of plays that put nudity on stage just to sell tickets. I attended a production at a well-known off-Broadway company a few years back. Can’t remember if I knew one of the actors or one of the crew or why the heck I went. Maybe we just got on the list for one of the previews or something. At any rate, it was a tiny theatre. I was in the third row, and if I’d stretched, I could have touched the bed on the stage.

In the second act, one of the actors is completely naked, sprawled backwards, doing a monologue as part of a 12 minute scene. There was no organic reason in the text for him to be nude in that scene. He had the body, and the company knew it would sell tickets. Good thing he HAD the body, because he sure couldn’t act.

That was exploitation. And, believe me, I know what they pay off-Broadway, and he should have demanded a much higher salary.

Equus is different. The publicity photos that are being blasted around the world are pushing the nudity angle to sell tickets, which annoys me. There’s a shot of Radcliffe and the actress nude together. Now, I don’t remember, in the production I saw, the actress ever actually getting naked with the boy, but maybe that’s something they decided to do for this production. And the house staff will have its hands full taking away cameras.

Photographs are not allowed in ANY professional theatre – it’s a violation of the performers’ right to their image. You purchase a ticket, which is the right to see the live performance IN THE MOMENT, something that can never be exactly replicated again – not to photograph it and sell it or show it to others. Also, using a flash can disorient the actor and cause serious injury onstage. Especially if the actor is trying to maneuver on or off stage, is disoriented by a flash and is run over by a two ton piece of scenery. By being a selfish bastard and taking a photograph, you could maim or kill someone involved with the production. And let’s face it, people are going to try to sell photos of Radcliffe’s genitalia on eBay. I used to work front of house and remove film from cameras – it’s in the program, on the ticket, announced before the show, so if you’re going to violate it, you deserve to get your camera taken away. Personally, I think there should be a list, and if someone violates the no-photograph rule in one theatre, they should be banned for three years or more from all of them.

Regarding Radcliffe and Equus, I’m curious as to how a 17-year-old young man can handle this role. Working on it is bound to change his view of the world not just as an actor, but as a person. It’s an awfully young age to work on the material.

With the whole Harry Potter thing – look, Radcliffe is an actor. His job and responsibility to the audience is to show up on the HP set when he’s contracted and do a terrific job. Which he does. When he’s not on contract, it’s his job to make me believe in any character he plays. That’s what he’s trying to do.

I’d much rather see him doing Equus than go around drinking and doing drugs because the pressure of being HP has become uncomfortable.

I came to the HP movies as a fan of the books. When Rowling writes other books, I plan to read her work, because she’s a damn good writer. With the movies, I was a fan of the body of work of several actors whose work I’d known for years (Rickman, Thewlis, Smith, Shaw, etc.). And I’m interested to see what Radcliffe, Watson, Grint, et al do away from the HP movies.

I’m much more interested in a body of work than seeing someone do the same thing over and over and over again. Part of that is because theatre/film/television is my profession in tandem with the writing. But part of it is because I’m not an ignoramus. There’s enough information on the inner workings of the industry now that only a moron isn’t going to allow growth and change in the performers of which they claim to be “fans”.

As I said in the Dog Blog essay about writers, which makes sense in this situation, too: Decide if you’re a fan of the actor or of the character; own it, and take responsibility for it. If you’re a fan of Harry and only Harry – don’t go see anything else. If you’re a fan of Radcliffe, go with an open mind and give him a chance.

He’s 17. With any luck, he’ll be around for a long time, with a large body of work. Look over Johnny Depp’s body of work. He started young, had early success with Jump Street, made his own way in unusual (to say the least) work, and now he’s got the over-the-top success as Jack Sparrow. Why can’t Daniel Radcliffe find his way, too?

Okay, here’s the January wrap-up for the GDRS:

January 2007 Wrap-Up

Done:
Devon’s Random Newsletter
Finished 1st draft of Token and Affection
Plum essay revisions completed and essay accepted for anthology
Started Chasing the Changeling
Quarterly Newsletter
Occasional (but more frequent than last year) entries on Biblio Paradise and Wordish Wanderings.
Circadian Poems
SDR blog every Wednesday
Kemmyrk Mondays and Thursdays
Devon Ellington temporary site up

In Progress:
Typing Token and Affections
Working to finish 1st draft of Real
Pitches
13-in-Play
Reading research books for the Assumption of Right rewrite
Requested revision for Tumble
3 short stories – I’m going for quality over speed

Postponed/Dropped:
Work on Fix-It Girl
Dixie Dust Rumors queries out
Typing Shallid
Next SDR column begun

Additional:
Unknown Journey outlined
Knockabout Kingdom outlined
Marching Band stories outlined
“New Year’s Resolutions for Sports Fans” article (pub. By Femme Fan)
“Submission Log and Pitch Tracker” article written and submitted
Two interlinked paranormal comedy stories outlined
“Ink in My Coffee” moved to WordPress
“A Biblio Paradise” moved to WordPress
“Kemmyrk” moved to WordPress
“13 Traveling Journals” moved to WordPress
“Place and Space” moved to WordPress
Joined Kristen King’s Query Challenge 2007
Novel idea: Turn of 20th Century
Novel idea: Contemporary action/psychological
Designed and put up Fearless Ink site
Designed and put up Cerridwen’s Cottage site
Joined a blog chain
Devon’s Random Newsletter for February

Disappointments:
Rejection of The Merry’s Dalliance
The death of Barbaro

Successes:
First article of the year published on Jan. 4 (by FemmeFan)
Plum essay accepted
Token and Affections first draft done
Negotiations for possible regular writing gig (not signed, sealed and delivered, but I’m hopeful)

Reading:
Carpe Demon by Julie Kenner. Very good; lots of fun.
Death by Station Wagon by Jon Katz. Excellent. (Actually, I read this in December and forgot to list it).
Hell’s Belles by Jackie Kessler. Wonderful! Excellent!
Dorothy and Agatha by Gaylord Larsen. Liked the plot; struggled with characterizations. Okay.
Diaries by Lavinia Riker Davis. Lovely.
The Ragman’s Memory by Archie Mayor. Excellent.
Off Season by Philip R. Craig. Very good.
Death on a Vineyard Beach by Philip R. Craig. Very good.
Seeing Red by Jill Shalvis. Very good.

Devon

Chasing the Changeling — 20,842 words out of est. 45,000

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
20 / 45
(44.4%)