Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Waxing Moon
Mars Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Sunny and cold

How much do I hate fucking Microsoft? Let me count the ways. The newest is that my home computer won’t accept my flash drive. It was fine when I loaded it. It worked fine in Philly. But it’s “exceeded the power of the hub port” or some dumbass excuse here and the computer won’t recognize it.

It’s all bullshit, to make me buy yet something else from the company that refuses to create machines that actually work.

So much for all my work in Philly.

The only thing this computer is good for is to be hacked into pieces and left as landfill. Because, frankly, polluting the planet is as close to positive as this piece of junk can accomplish.

Needless to say, there went this morning’s work on both BALTHAZAAR TREASURE and WYATT. Now I have to rekey everything onto hard drive or floppy and start over. AND I’M NOT IN THE FREAKIN’ MOOD.

I got the assignment out for Confidential Job #1, and I can start on the next assignment for them today.

My eyes are tired from all the hours in archives and on computers, so I had to spend some time giving them a good soak. A Chamomile compress is a wonderful thing.

Finished Class Dis-mythed. I was a big fan of this series several years ago, but haven’t kept up with the way the series developed, and I kind of felt like I was out of the loop for some of it. Then, it descended into, I guess spoofing, reality television and it lost me. I LOATHE reality television, I just can’t even articulate how revolting I find ALL of it, so this trend for novels to use it in plots turns me off entirely.

Are you prepared for Mercury to go retrograde on the 28th? There are two days when Mercury, Mars, AND Saturn are all in retrograde before Mars goes direct, so batten down the hatches!

Hey, I was REALLY good in Philly – I didn’t even walk into a shoe store!

I realized something, over the past few days: That the work I find on my own pays a darned bit better than the bulk of what’s on the job boards. Part of it was sparked by a woman defending one of those places that list low-paying jobs and charges WRITERS a monthly fee for access to them. This woman defended her position by saying she could make “$100 in a day if she wanted.” Honey, I can make that in an HOUR.

But not from most of the crap listed on the job boards. The prices are just too low.

And let’s face it, how many sites do you visit that have poorly written content? In the majority of cases, one gets what one pays for. Pay a couple of dollars, and the quality will be low. Pay a fair wage, and you’ll get decent content. The writers who consistently go after and land the low-paying gigs just aren’t that good. Before readers get all huffy about that judgment, think about it – the GOOD writers move on to higher-paying gigs after a job or two. The lousy ones can’t land the jobs that pay fairly, and keep churning out low quality content for low pay.

Yet, when I hustle on my own, I land much higher-paying jobs, through direct contact with companies, where I create a position for myself or find it through something like Media Bistro, although the bulk of work posted there is full-time, and I only want freelance.

Also, this b.s. about job board listings who demand that one write a “test” piece FOR NO PAY – uh, uh. No way. Especially since I know several instances where the work has appeared on the clients’ sites after the writer was told they didn’t get the gig. That’s one reason I don’t do them – my time is worth $$. If you want to see my style, read my damned clips. If you can’t tell from the clips whether my type of writing is what you want, you don’t know what you’re looking for.

On my part, I guess it’s another case of growing pains. I’m moving to the next level in my business writing. That’s a good thing, but like all transitions, it’s not easy.

And yes, I’m getting back to work on doing a brochure and business cards. I can’t use clip art for it, so I’ll have to design something on my own. And I’m slower at visual design than word-smithing.

It’s hard to describe the difference between relying on writing as THE full-time career and having it as part of a dual career with theatre, or having it on the side, as it was a few years ago. It’s a whole different perspective. You don’t have the luxury of not writing. You don’t have the luxury of not following protocols. Because let’s fact it – it doesn’t matter how frigging brilliant you are if you can’t get past the gatekeepers. And, having BEEN a gatekeeper – there’s a good reason why they’re in place. Charm the gatekeepers with both your talent AND your professionalism and you get the gig. That means appropriate pitch letters, loglines, single paragraph summaries, synopsis, outlines, following submissions guidelines, being able to turn on a dime without excuses.

Because there are a thousand lined up behind you just as talented and more professional, and they’ll get the gig before you will even if they’re not as good.

Job offers are coming in for February and March, which is a good thing. Glad I have a flash drive – a lot of the gigs are out of town. Now, if I could just USE it on my home computer again . . . Hopefully, in between them, the weather will be good enough to go back to house-hunting. There are more problems in the building, and I need to get back on track with that, too.

Another email asked why I broke down the projects I’ve read/watched lately so thoroughly. Well, I’m trying to learn what I believe does and does not work in each of them and then apply it to my own work. I want to build strong character arcs – that doesn’t mean that a character should be predictable, but that the character’s behaviour needs to be believable within context. And I want to plug the holes in the logical lapses in plot and construction. Even the most imaginative fantasy is grounded in its own internal logic. And everything, no matter how bizarre that happens, has to somehow be supported by that logic. The internal logic strengthens the imaginative values, not decreases it. For some people, world-building is writing notes and drawing maps. For me, the less I write down, but the more I KNOW, deep within, the better it all works.

And, if you’re going to base something in history, at least do the frigging research. Make your choices to move away from what’s proven CHOICES and logical, not just sloppiness, because you think no one will notice.

The dissections of Tin Man, the National Treasure movies, Timeline, etc., have been more about me trying to learn what I believe works and doesn’t work and apply it to my own work and my own visions than simply publicly “reviewing” the work for no reason other than to criticize. And because I’ve spent so many years working backstage in theatre, film, and television, I have knowledge as to how productions are put together and how a creative team’s excellent vision is often diluted by producers, mid-level and talent-free executives, and those who hold the purse strings.

Far too much pacing and muttering yesterday, with far too little discernible result. I can feel things percolating, but I can’t quite figure out what they are yet, and it’s frustrating. I don’t mind pacing and muttering when I arrive somewhere at the end – creatively, I feel the same way about it as I do about treadmills. I don’t use treadmills, because if I’m going to put that much effort into walking or running, I want to ARRIVE in a different place at the end of it, not run in place. So yesterday, although it was a day off, still felt like I was running in place. It’s a sensation I hate.

Tried a new weight-training workout last night. Hated it. Still have to find the right one. I’ve been faithful to the morning yoga practice – did it Philly, do it on the road, wherever – but I’m having trouble with the weights/core work that I do later in the day, and I need to find good, reliable workouts, because that’s where I’m currently weak. The yoga’s not enough. I wish I didn’t hate running. That would make sense. When I get the house, I want to buy a rowing machine.

Pondered the time travel novella. Once it’s ready to write, it shouldn’t be too bad – 15K is no big deal. And I want to get it in two months early, in case this set of editors gets any fancy ideas about moving deadlines, like the last batch did. Different publisher, so maybe I won’t run into the same problems. I have the characters, I have the basic situation. I even picked a time where I have quite a few research books – isn’t that a shock? – so I can get the ambiance. I need to work out some plot holes. And I’ll have to look up a few things in the law library, to see what the laws were at that time. Somebody will know if I screw it up, especially since I’ve harped on research so much these last few months!

I have to get a proposal out today. Good thing I didn’t start it on the flash drive.

Devon

Published in: on January 15, 2008 at 9:13 am  Comments (5)  

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Sunday, January 13, 2008
Waxing Moon
Mars Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Sunny and cold

Yesterday was an intense day. I spent most of it at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. What an amazing place! I got plenty of detailed research done for all three of the Gwen/Justin books, and found details to incorporate into the revisions of TRACKING MEDUSA, so that when I deviate from established myths/stories/history, it’s grounded firmly enough in fact so the imaginative aspects can fly.

The Egyptian exhibits were astonishing, as were those from Japan, China, etc. The Qiin dragons were my favorite, and I learned how to distinguish between the male and the female. The energy around the unwrapped mummies was particularlly intense — you can see how all the legends rose up around the findings in the tombs.

They also have an excellent Mesoamerican exhibit, which merely strengthened my belief that, in NATIONAL TREASURE 2, it was NOT Olmec used on those plaques. The Olmec glyphs I studied here are quite different in style, shape, and content. It’s more likely they used Mayan glyphs and figured nobody would notice or care. Wrong! I think it would have made more sense to create a fictional culture, toss in a line saying it was a little-known society between Olmec and Mayan, and then let their imaginations fly free, instead of calling it something that actually exists, but not bothering to do the research.

I took lots and lots of notes and nearly a hundred photographs, mostly for my own research. Well, all of them have to be for my own research — I was only given permission to photograph if I promised not to publish them, and that includes on the blog. Sorry.

Finished the last few chapters of the read-through of TRACKING MEDUSA. I’ve written about 20-30 new pages of material in the past few days, and fixed quite a few lapses of logic and streamlined that story of what they’re actually tracking so it makes sense. I’m having some mathematical difficulties, since I’m mathematically challenged, but when I get home, I’ll sit down with a calendar of the early 20th century and a calculator and figure out if I’m dealing with two generations or three. I still have about another 30 pages of new material, and then I can start the actual line edits. I’ve done a bit of it, but I need to focus on the language as much as the structure, once I’ve smoothed out structural problems.

Also, several other stories are perocolating. HORSEMEN RIDING, the apocalypse story, is pulling at me, but when I try to write it, it’s not formed enough yet for me to do so. I’m still at the pacing and muttering stage with it.

I tried to watch TIMELINE yesterday, which came highly recommended. Spoilers ahead, so skip down a bit if you don’t want it spoiled for you, although it’s old enough now that you might not care. It was a decent movie that just missed being great, and that made it more frustrating than it if was just bad. Based on a Crichton novel, directed by Richard Donner, with a kick-ass cast including Gerard Butler, Billy Connolly, Anna Friel, Neal McDonough, David Thewlis, and it had some beautiful visuals. But again, there were holes in plot and character that annoyed me. I’m not sure how much of that was due to script problems, or choices made in the editing room which just didn’t work. Some of it may have been my fault — I was pacing and muttering and trying to sort out HORSEMEN RIDING with this on in the background. Thewlis was underutilized. Connolly was game, but again, his role was underwritten. Butler was given the best and most interesting arc. Once McDonough’s character was killed, the piece couldn’t hold me, and I only paid attention to the last fifteen minutes. I was annoyed because of his character’s inconsistency — the duplicity was not developed in a believable way. At the start, he was the go-to, take charge guy, which makes sense if he’d been there before and concealed it. But by the time of his death scene, when the script had him beg and plead for his life in a way that didn’t make sense with the way his character arced to that point — I was angry at the script. One of the pleasures of McDonough’s work is that he makes it look easy, but when you break down the performance, there are layers. There’s a lot going on, but without visible pyrotechnics. The actors who work so hard so their performances scream, “Look at how hard I’m working!” — those are the ones to watch out for and not trust. They can be a flash in the pan in the right role, but can rarely sustain a varied career. There were a couple of those in this movie. The ones you don’t see sweat, like McDonough — those are the ones with the widest range, usually. They also tend to be the most fun to work with. Butler was good, and given the best material. It had the feeling of something that started as an ensemble piece but was rewritten on set due to certain charismatic qualities of certain actors. And that can really bite one in the butt, because it becomes unbalanced. The two actors who, I think, were initially considered the leads were underwritten, although they tried to overcome the odds. Oh, and maybe I missed it, but why did Billy Connolly’s son sound like a California surfer dude? Now I’m curious to look at the novel and see how that’s balanced.

Started work on the material for Confidential Job #1, which is much more complicated than I expected, and it’s due tomorrow, so I better get my act together.

I worked on THE BALTHAZAAR TREASURE this morning, and got some done on the next story with the HEX BREAKER characters. It’s as yet untitled, although, for working purposes, it’s currently called WYATT because it’s through Wyatt’s point of view.

Better finish packing and do what I’m paid to do here. I’m on the demon bus from hell back to NY this afternoon, trying to outrun the storm which is supposed to dump 5-7 inches of snow tonight.

Wish me luck!

Devon

THE BALTHAZAAR TREASURE — 2,356 words out of est. 90,000

WYATT — 1,157 words out of est. 20,000

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Saturday, January 12, 2008
Waxing Moon
Mars Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Sunny and cool

Yesterday was a very productive, although exhausting day. For some reason, I have trouble getting out of the place here and getting down to work, but once I’m out the door, it’s pretty good.

I spent the day at the Historical Society. I read several diaires, looked up various records, etc., etc., until I couldn’t see straight any more. I can’t tell you what a thrill it was to hold a handwritten diary in my hands and read it from a man who was a lawyer in Philadelphia in the 1770’s. He talks about the growing anger at England; he talks about the reading and the adoption of the Declaration of Independence; he talks about Franklin and Washington and all these figures we idolize in the present moment. He describes being in the local militia, moving his family outside of Philly when he fears it is too dangerous. He talks about Washington crossing the Delaware at Trenton, and what it was like when Howe and his men were in Philadelphia. We all know how it came out, but he was writing (and writing well) in the moment. I can’t even begin to describe the emotional impact it had. This was his actual diary, not a typescript or a photocopy. He was extremely intelligent and funny and insightful. What an amazing experience!

To answer some questions: No, Krissy, no one involved was rich, so if there were murders, it wasn’t for money. I don’t think there was much premeditation involved. I think, if they were, in fact, murders, that they were of opportunity. All these people knew each other for a long time and were romantic rivals for this particular woman. Husband Number 3 simply made use of difficult circumstances to eventually get her. Yes, I am writing letters to all three historical sites stating my displeasure. And, I’m at such an early research stage, that I’m not yet sure what I’m writing. I’m feeling my way along, in an era that is of particular interest to me, pursuing some interests and ideas I’ve had for more than a decade. Diane, there is no blog about my personal life, because that’s what it is — personal. I talk about some issues here when they affect my writing, but other than that, it’s no one’s business except mine and the person who it directly affects. It’s not open for discussion. Plus, in my work, I often deal with recognizable names. I rarely mention them here by name because of a respect for confidentiality (unless I’m congratulating them for work well done) or if they’ve given me permission to mention them by name. I don’t read or watch gossip — why would I write it?

Oh, and for all you NATIONAL TREASURE fans out there: One of George Washington’s most important colleagues was General Horatio Gates. You know naming Ben Gates “Benjamin Franklin” was deliberate, but I wonder if the last name was from research or coincidence?

I came back to base camp in the late afternoon and fell asleep, exhaused from the sheer concentration and exhileration of it all. And then I had to stumble around and make coffee, because I was rather incoherent.

I spent the evening working on the first twenty two chapters of TRACKING MEDUSA. You can tell every point where I put it down to work on something else for a few weeks, because of the lapses in logic. I added information, I’m rearranging some stuff, I made notes on where I need to do more research, what I need to tighten, what I need to cut. Then I’ll look at the notes again from a Trusted Reader and see what I can incorporate. This next draft will be substantiallly different from the first one.

I haven’t even looked at the work from Confidential Job #1 while I’ve been here, and I need to do that, since it’s due on Monday.

I also did some work on THE BALTHAZAAR TREASURE this morning. While I have strong ideas of its purpose and structure, I’m kind of feeling my way in. SANDOVAL’S SECRET is actually stronger in my head, but I need TREASURE to get to SECRET.

I need to jump in the shower, eat something, and go do some more research. I wanted to skip today, but I need it for the three Gwen/Justin books. So, off I go.

The Olympic Table Tennis trials are happening here, only a few blocks away. I’m tempted to stop in, but I don’t have my press credentials with me. They’re hanging on the corner of a bookcase at home.

Sigh.

Hey, the History Boys managed to get a stay of construction while archaelogists and the Lenape Tribe check out the site. They were in court, not at the HS yesterday, but I’m sending them some tips for dealing with Evil Developers via the HS.

Devon

The Balthazaar Treasure — 1,119 words out of est. 90,000

Published in: on January 12, 2008 at 9:51 am  Comments (6)  

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Sunday, December 30, 2007
Waning Moon
Mars Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Cloudy and cold
3-5 inches of snow predicted

I’ve been trying to figure out how to articulate my feelings about the assassination of Bhutto, and I can’t get it down properly. Saddened, angry, concerned – just don’t express the gamut of emotion that I feel. But I did want to acknowledge it, and not act like I’m ignoring it.

The year-end GDR Wrap-Up for 2007 is in the post below this one. I kept in what I stated last January and then updated where I am now, for comparison/contrast. I’m frustrated because the only thing I seem to have done is the career transition. Which is huge, but I wanted to get more done.

I’m going to ramble on about the National Treasure movies a bit more, since the first one was on again last night and I checked a few things, and then I’ll shut up and go back to my life and MY characters. Geez, between yesterday and today, it sounds like my existence is revolving around two darned movies, for crying out loud, and it’s not.

The next paragraph may have character spoilers for the second film, but if you skip it and go to the paragraph beyond, there aren’t spoilers, just character studies.

They changed houses between 1 and 2 and never dealt with it, thinking we (the audience) are too stupid to notice. In the first film, Riley is smart and resourceful and funny and inventive. He’s a great foil for Ben, and a great balance to the Ben/Abby teamwork. In the second, he’s treated like a joke, he’s miserable, has no sense of self-esteem, and keeps trying to prove he’s valuable. It might make sense at the beginning, that he hit a rough patch since the end of the last film, but as 2 moves on, he should regain his confidence, thanks to Ben’s confidence in him. Instead, Ben is dismissive. That hurts Ben’s character as much as Riley’s. And, in the first, Riley’s always the gentleman. Ben rushes forward; Riley’s the one who turns and gives Abby a hand when she needs it. That dynamic set up between the three of them, subtle, but there, worked beautifully, and is missing in the second film. In the first film, Riley actually saves Abby’s life, when she’s so focused on the Declaration that she nearly gets run over by a truck. It would have been a good touch to see her do something helpful for Riley in this one. Or get to see them do anything except run through the basement of the Library of Congress. The fun of the first film is you get to figure things out WITH them; in this one, they already have the answers and simply reveal them to each other. The sequence in Buckingham Palace, as ridiculous as some of it is (hey, buddy, no backpacks get through security after 9/11), is the only one where that sense of fun and discovery is retained. I missed it in the rest of the movie. I got more and more frustrated, because I felt characters were sacrificed for badly constructed machinations. And, as someone whose own work is character-driven, and who is drawn to character-driven material (the best action/adventure movies are all character driven), I got more and more frustrated.

A reader emailed me a question yesterday about why I think Riley Poole is such a good character. A big part of it is how perfectly Justin Bartha portrays him. It’s a case of the actor finding the details in the character and communicating them in a way that connects to the audience. Riley’s a smart, resourceful guy, especially in the first film. He’s not just the sidekick who gets killed off two thirds of the way through the movie. Yeah, it’s Disney, they can’t kill him off. You root for him, for a good portion of the film, you ARE him, He embodies the regular guy in the audience in many ways, but smarter, which is what you want for fiction. You don’t necessarily want to be as obsessed as Ben, although you’d want to be friends with Ben and want to help him on his quest. Ben and Abigail fit so well together, especially in the first film, because they’re both obsessed. Riley is their counterpoint, their reality check.

Ben is smart enough to know that history is written by the victors until somebody comes along to make more discoveries and rewrite it. A prime example in our time is Aaron Burr, back in Revolutionary Times and into the early 1800’s. In his time, he was tarnished as traitor, and Hamilton as hero, especially after the duel. As the centuries have gone by, and more information comes to light, it looks more and more like Burr was original and committed and on the verge of crazy in the right way, while Hamilton was the control freak and the asshole. Actually, in my opinion, based on my research over the years, both men could be brilliant and both could be assholes at times. They were too complex and interesting to be just one thing – as all truly brilliant people are.

To get back to Riley: You’d want to be Riley. He might not have the background in history, but he knows how to find things out, and he’s got a great learning curve. He makes himself irreplaceable in the team, even though he doesn’t realize it. He’s just totally who he is, and totally up for doing whatever it takes to support those to whom he’s loyal, and in whom he believes. We’d all like to be that good a friend as well as have that good a friend.

You believe he doesn’t get the girl and he has trouble finding dates, because, in life, that kind of guy, smart, but with self-esteem issues, ALWAYS goes for the girl who’s going to treat him like crap. He’ll go for the pretty, shallow young thing with lots of money, or the ambitious, manipulative young thing who wants a lot of money and expects the guy to pay for everything. He’ll never fall for a woman of substance, because it would never occur to him. He’ll always be hurt and, eventually, alone because these twinkies keep using him and dumping him. And the women who used to regularly fall for HIM (because they recognized he’s smart, funny, and a good guy), but whom he always ignored because he’s off busy chasing the shallow things, eventually outgrow his kind of guy and fall for guys who appreciate them. That’s how it happens in life, anyway. In fiction, there’s always the possibility that Riley will actually gain enough self-respect to fall for a woman who’s smart and resourceful. And that gives the people who relate to the character hope, and the people who tend to fall for that kind of character hope. Riley’s all about hope. To me, he’s the lynchpin of the movies, which is why I got so frustrated in NT2. In other words, he’s interesting and important to me for what he represents in the mythology of the stories. If I was to compare him to a tarot card, he’d be The Fool in the Major Aracana – standing on the precipice, ready for his hero’s journey, with infinite possibilities in front of him. The Fool isn’t a weak or foolish character; he’s a symbol of hope and joy – despite his cynical and sometimes sarcastic repartee. Riley is the every day guy embarking on the wonderful journey. The original NT set that up for him, and then didn’t fulfill it in the second movie. Now, if there’s a good character arc in a next movie, I might accept this arc within context of a trilogy, but if they just keep making him a joke because twenty-three useless, talent-free middle executives thought it was funny . . .you’ve lost a viewer.

And I’m not even going to discuss the poor research done by the writers in the second film. In the first were delightful historical tidbits then blown into unique mythologies that served the vision for the movie. Even when it stretched credibility, there was enough cleverness involved that you forgave it. In the second, it was sloppy – whether on the writers’ parts, or because some stupid mid-level executive made “changes” and figured the audience was too stupid to notice. And it lost me.

And now, back to my life.

I actually had to turn down hockey tickets tonight between the Rangers and the Canadiens – that was hard. But I can’t rearrange my schedule to go, so I had to say no.

And I’m thrilled that the Patriots won last night! I’m not a football fan, but I do like the Pats, and I used to have family in Foxboro, so the tiny percentage of football loyalty I’ve got goes to them. I’m thrilled that they had a perfect regular season.

I had a FANTASTIC morning on Hex Breaker. I’m almost at the climactic scene and then we wrap it up. I’m exactly where I want to be. With any luck, I can finish it on retreat the next few days and then have nearly a week to polish it before I send it off. I love this piece.

And more adventures with these characters are swirling around in my head. And the ideas for two short stories that have nothing to do with anything else that I’m writing, but could be kind of fun.

I’m off to my friend’s place (to do more laundry) and then off to my retreat. If I don’t check in for a few days, I hope everyone has a fantastic New Year!

Devon

Hex Breaker – 19,975 words out of est. 25,000

PS Diane, thanks for the Writertopia info. It NEVER works for me — the bar will NOT appear in here, no matter how many times I follow the exact coding it says to put in. I have never, ever, ever been able to get Writertopia to work.

I need to create my own word bar. Because relying on these other people’s crap just doesn’t work.

Published in: on December 30, 2007 at 11:09 am  Comments (5)  

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!