28 April 2009

I Watched It So You Don't Have To: The Man Who Laughs

I'm a sucker for a good melodrama. Give me a couple of sympathetic characters, do awful shitty things to them for an hour and a half, let them get a brief, fleeting taste of the sweet life, and then cruelly wrench it away in an apoplectic fit of tragedy, and you'll have broken me. I will collapse into a ball and weep delicious tears of beautiful sadness, and I will thank you for it.

I expected that from The Man Who Laughs. I wanted it to piss on my brain and punch me in the solar plexus with extreme horrorshow moments that send its pathetically tormented protagonists through the emotional grinder. I did not get that. Visually, yes, it was excellent: moody, dark, and alive, the film was one of the final gasps of German Expressionism, which ranks alongside Italian Neorealism as one of the top Film Eras That Make You Want To Slit Your Wrists Because It's All So Fucking Depressing.

Storywise, though, The Man Who Laughs is a let down. I first heard of it as one of the visual inspirations for The Joker, and I became even further interested in it when it figured into the plot of The Black Dahlia, which is otherwise about as enjoyable as bathing in a Port-A-Potty. The setup sounded like my idea of a bleak good time, and the film's opening did not disappoint in that regard.

It begins with King James II being awoken by the film's villain, the court jester who has a name I don't want to spell out repeatedly, so I'll just call him Dickhole. Turns out that James' enemy, Lord Clancharlie (which is an awesome fucking name) has just been captured after returning to see his son. Unfortunately, Dickhole and James sold the son to that old reliable ethnic-other bad guy group, the Gypsies, who disfigured him by cutting up his face into a permanent smile-rictus. Lord Clancharlie is then put into the Iron Maiden (excellent!) and executed (bogus). (Yes, I went there.)

We then join Clancharlie's little son, Gwynplaine, as the Gypsies leave him behind as they board a ship in the middle of a snowstorm. As the ship sails away from England, Gwynplaine trudges off seeking shelter, passing beneath hung, decaying bodies and encountering a dead woman who still clutches a bawling infant in her frozen arms. Gwynplaine rescues the child and is taken in by a wandering philosopher, Ursus, and his pet wolf (with the now-unfortunate name of Homo; apparently it was a little jibe at man's inhumanity to man, but today only comes off as unintentional comedy, especially when one title card reads "Where are you taking me, Homo?" Reader, I cannot deny that I laughed). As Ursus cooks up a stew, he discovers Gwynplaine's perma-smile face and realizes that the baby is not only an orphan, it's also blind. Whammy!

How's that for a great fucking beginning? You've got Gwynplaine with a tragic defigurement that will forever mark him as a monstrous clown to the rest of humanity, unable to do anything but smile no matter what heartbreak befalls him. And then the blind girl, Dea, who naturally grows up to be beautiful and in love with Gwynplaine, who loves her back but is hesitant to make a move because how can she really love him when she doesn't know the true hideousness of his condition and etc.? And their loving father figure, who is not above making a buck by peddling his adopted son in a traveling freak show. Bring on the pathos!

Then the movie spends about an hour not doing much of anything. The protagonists end up at a fair where they begin staging a play with a troupe of clowns. Gwynplaine is popular because, you know, people are assholes and like laughing at things that are different from them. He hates it, and is sad a lot, but performs for them nonetheless, and pines for Dea, who pines right back. And for the longest time, nothing outside of general shittiness happens to them.

Meanwhile, we keep jumping into court to watch the latest machinations of Dickhole against the vivacious and wonderfully slutty duchess who inherited Gwynplaine's rightful place in the aristocracy. When Dickhole finds out that Gwynplaine is still alive and could usurp the duchess, he puts a plan into play to make it happen, because...well, he's not really given any motivation. I think he's just bored, and likes to be dick. Which is fine and all, but later on it kind of falls through. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Anyway, we spend some time with the Slutty Duchess and her Idiot Fiancee (a stereotype we continue to enjoy today, but wonderfully played here by Stuart Holmes), and she gets entangled with Gwynplaine because she's attracted to his differentness, and it gives him the motivation to finally make a move on Dea.

All this takes up way more time than it should. I kept yelling "Separate these fucking lovers already and get them pining!" But the movie took its sweet time. Eventually, with about twenty minutes to go, Gwynplaine gets made a Lord and the Queen orders him to marry the Slutty Duchess. The theater people, meanwhile, are told that he's dead, and they have a mildly affecting/amusing scene where they try to convince Dea that Gwynplaine is still alive by staging the play as if there was an audience there cheering on the leading man. Then Dickhole comes along and banishes them from England.

While they're on their way to the docks, Gwynplaine gets laughed at in the House of Lords. He refuses the Queen's order to marry the Slutty Duchess, yells at the assembled Peers, and decides Fuck it, I'm buggin' out. He makes his escape, but for some reason, the Dickhole and a collection of soldiers chase after him. I wasn't clear on why the Dickhole would continue to care about Gwynplaine. His little trick has been pulled, and he's unaffected by the fall out. So Gwynplaine tells the Queen to eat shit. What does the Dickhole care? Why doesn't he just hang back and let the soldiers do their thing?

As he's making his escape, Gwynplaine inadvertantly puts on one final show for a horde of people who recognize him and chase after him because Hey! It's that guy! From that show! and it briefly turns into A Hard Day's Night. The crowd tangles with the soldiers, Gwynplaine swordfights a guy, leaps off a roof, and runs around, eventually making it to the docks. Dea and Ursus are on a boat, sailing away, and Homo manages to alert Gwynplaine to their presence. He jumps into a boat and rows out to them, while Homo swims to the dock bites out Dickhole's throat and drowns him, and swims back to the boat.

And then the movie has the gall, the fucking gall, to give us a happy ending. What the fuck, movie? Don't you even know how tragic melodramas are supposed to end, especially those based on Victor Hugo novels? Were I watching this in a theater in 1928, I would have stood up and shouted, "Bushwa! This flick is a real flat tire! I'm gonna go get an edge on at a blind tiger and make whoopee with a jake tomato."

While watching it, I started to wonder if there have been any good melodramas released lately. The first two films that sprang to mind were Crash (which is an abomination to everything mankind holds dear) and The Departed. There are some who may dismiss The Departed as glorified pulp fiction, but that's why I love it so much. It's big and tragic, imbued with enough naturalism to make it seem real but not afraid to go for the surreal touches that tap into the underlying emotions, like the Chinatown chase and everyone's favorite Boston rat at the end. It's my favorite of genres, the Blend, with three parts drama to one part thriller and one part gangster. It's true: If you don't like The Departed, you can go fuck yourself.

18 April 2009

Songs That Need To Die

Over the years, I have been compiling a list of the songs I never want to hear again. But wait - there's a catch.

These aren't your normal, run of the mill shitty songs. You won't find any Creed, Matchbox Fucking Twenty, or Nickelback on this list (although, if all copies of "Photograph" were incinerated in a nuclear explosion, I would still wander through the post-apocalyptic landscape and mutter "Not enough gun"). The crucial difference is this: I consider these good songs. Some of them are even great, and I love them with all my heart. But every single one has been played ad nauseum since the beginning of time, curdling the pure essence that lies at their heart, and someone needs to put a stop to it and end their misery.

1. "Santeria" (and its known associates, "Wrong Way" and "What I Got") - I have to say it: These songs are overrated. They're good songs, yes, but they do not deserve the monstrous airtime they've received since their debut. I can't walk into a bar and walk out without having heard one of these fucking tracks. And what makes them so popular? The lead singer ate it before they hit the big time. I think that might be the only reason. People saw tragedy in his story and latched onto a trio of fun-timey tunes as if they summed up all of human existence. When our generation is gone, will these songs continue to be played as much? No. People will begin to appreciate (or non-appreciate) them for what they are, and gradually lose interest in the sad story that contextualizes them.

2. "Sweet Home Alabama" - If I cut off my balls and moved into a monastery tomorrow, and lived in utter silence and celibacy for the rest of my days, I would consider my life a success provided I never heard this fucking song ever again. It's the most overplayed song on this list, perhaps the most overplayed in history. The opening notes alone make me want to dropkick puppies by the barrelful.

3. "Hey Ya" - Even OutKast is sick of this song. Stop making them play it.

4. "American Pie" - I have joyous youthful memories of dancing to this song at an event at a conference/lecturing thingamajig I went to in Wisconsin as a high school junior. I hope other generations have a similar experience without subjecting me to it, and at the same time, I hope to never meet Don McLean, because if I do, I will smash him in his withered old fucking face.

5. "Piano Man" - There are a lot of Billy Joel songs I could have chosen. I went with this one, because it's the only one that makes me turn to the jukebox/karaoke singer/radio when I hear it and glare.

6. "Hallelujah" - This is the saddest one to include, but I must. Movies have ruined this song for us. They've used it time and time again, sapping it of its power and strength, and generally neutering it until it has become some shitty track for the obligatory "Everyone's sad" montage. Or, worse yet, an actual love scene, like the execrable one in Watchmen. It made the scene awkward and painful in a way entirely different from the awkward and painful scene in the comic. Some argued that Zack Synder was just trying to recreate the same vibe. I would argue that he entirely missed the vibe, and created a new kind of creepy all his own. (Here's a similar take on it.)

Deep down, it's not the songs that really trouble me. They are, after all, only songs. What is profoundly disturbing, however, is the rabid fervor with which they continue to be embraced and treasured, as if these and only these are worth preserving. I'm not even what might be called a "music person," but even I still know that there's a rich, inviting world of songs I have not heard just waiting for me to discover them.

That's why I've been a big fan of The A.V. Club's ongoing "Nashville or Bust" feature by Nathan Rabin, which has introduced me to so many great songs I would have never encountered otherwise (and with witty-yet-informative prose, as Mr. Rabin is known for). Why continue to wear down the imaginary grooves on your "Sweet Home Alabama"s and your "Piano Man"s when you can leap into Gram Parson's world and become obsessed with "Hot Burrito #1" (a beautifully melancholy song despite its title) or explore the many iterations of "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down"?

And that's just covering country and some of its variations. You also have chanson waiting for you, and movie soundtracks, and classical music, and Europop and Kpop, and enka, and who knows how many other genres I'm missing because I'm dumb. GET OFF YOUR ASS, PEOPLE. DISCOVER SOMETHING NEW.

That is your mission for today, and everyday.

17 April 2009

"It's not within the realm of conventional cinema...but what if?"

Writing is hard, but one of the fucking hard parts is figuring out the perfect opening for your masterpiece. "It was the best times, it was the worst of times," is usually cited as a pretty good opening, and it is; but I tend to prefer a more direct approach like "He always shot up by TV light." As far as screenplays are concerned, yours should begin with a scene that will immediately capture the audience's attention while also introducing them to the soulful personalities of the characters, the careful intricacies of the plot, and the abyssal depth of the themes in your heartfelt, emotional story about, I don't know, hitmen who fuck each other and stuff.

Too often, movies forget about introducing the audience to your achingly deep bullshit and go right to the flash and bang. But what happens when your story begins with a bunch of people sitting around and talking? What if nothing really exciting happens in the beginning because the story dictates that all the cool shit will happen later? Then they rely on the flashforward. I've been thinking about that particular tactic recently, and I've concluded that opening with a flashforward is lazy as hell.

By now, it's become a film trope: The movie opens with a dynamic scene (Swordfish's explosion, Maverick's possible hanging, Mission: Impossible III's maybe shooting someone in the face), and then flashes back to show how the characters ended up in that situation. The problem is that all too often, that scene ends up being the best one in the movie, and is only at the beginning to let the audience know "Hey, some really cool shit's about to go down if you can just bear with us and wade through some expository business for, like, an hour, hour and a half. But we'll get there! And you'll get to see Halle Berry's tits along the way!" Yes, yes, when it's done well, it can be effective (Fight Club, umm...Red Seven?). But that still doesn't mean you should do it.

So how do you capture the audience's attention if your story naturally starts off kind of slow? You can either grow a pair and say "Fuck it, I'll treat the audience like an adult," and let them put up with the characters talking or living or whatever it is they have to do (it helps when you can write dialogue that's any fucking good). Or you can do the James Bond, where you introduce a character or characters by having them do something badass and/or interesting unrelated to the plot.

It doesn't even have to be an action script for this to work. A lot of comedies do this pretty well, and for some reason, the first one that comes to my mind is American Pie. The very first scene is Jim beating off to scrambled cable porn and having his parents walk in on him. In its way, it's perfect: we know all we need to know about Jim (he's young and horny) and we know we're watching a sex comedy. We don't know anything about him making a pact with his friends to get laid yet, we just know that his parents saw his cock wrapped in a tube sock, and that it was funny.

See how easy it can be? Now all you need are some good ideas. Or if you're short in that department, just "homage" another artist while adding your own "flair" to it, and you should be good to go. After all, nothing's really original, is it?

11 April 2009

"It took Linda. Then it came after me."

The A.V. Club, as usual, posted a pretty intriguing article as part of its AVQ&A series, this one asking the writers to digress about the pop cultural touchstones that scared the living hell out of them when they were kids. Naturally, this brought back a flood of memories for me, ones that I wish to indulgently share with all of you reading this. Just because I can.

Three memories immediately come to mind, and only two of them I consider as part of my formative film experiences. The first one...well, I just a big wuss as a kid. See, one Halloween, my brother went out as Freddy Krueger. He bought a rubber Krueger mask as part of the costume, one that went completely over the head and left only small holes for the eyes and nose. We had company over our home one night, and everyone was interested in my brother's costume. My mother put on the mask and the Freddy glove, and looked at me and slashed the razors through the air.

I freaked the fuck out.

I have no idea how old I was. Old enough to know who Freddy Krueger was, but not old enough to have seen any of the movies. Between six and nine, I suppose, young enough to think, "Oh fuck, my mother has somehow turned into Freddy Krueger." I screamed and tried to run away, but only ended up in the place we call The Bar, an alcove in the living room where we stored old tax files and aging liquor bottles. I peeked my head out and my mother was still Freddy fucking Krueger come to ungodly life, and I shrieked and tried to hide from the raging face of death. But she took off the mask, and everyone had a good laugh, and I discovered that my mother would not, in fact, haunt my dreams. At least, not in the same way as Freddy Krueger does.


I'm eleven or twelve, in sixth grade. My parents still won't let me watch R-rated movies, but I've begun hanging out with "bad kids." And they keep talking about this film called Reservoir Dogs. And they happen to have it on video.

Just their descriptions of the film blow my mind: "They're all criminals? And they torture a cop? Does he get away?...What? Oh, Jesus...But...but he's a cop..." It was probably the first time I was exposed to artistic moral ambiguity, and I'm not sure what warped me more - that ambiguity, or the stark violence, which seemed pretty goddamn brutal to me. Hanging out with those friends, I managed to watch about half of the film, at least until the cop's ear is cut off and Mr. Blonde gets it, but we were interrupted by, I assume, someone's parents coming home and demanding we be wholesome and whitebread, and I never got to find out how it ended. At least, not until high school, when I was finally able to rent it with another group of friends (these ones weren't "bad kids"...dickholes, maybe, but so was/am I).

But before then, when I was just watching it as a young, impressionable kid, the film somehow entranced me. It introduced me to concepts I couldn't even name, let alone describe, and while the violence made me sick to my stomach, I couldn't look away from its gruesome implications and results. I could not stop watching.

When Pulp Fiction came out on video a couple of years later, I remember wanting to watch it, because by then I was more in tune with the general goings-on in the film world, and because it was by the same director as Reservoir Dogs. And yet I was still not able to rent it. By that time, my parents had started letting me watch more adult movies (I remember Speed and Die Hard with a Vengeance as being two of the earliest), but this one was still up in the air. My mother rented it one night and watched it with my brother, and I was hotly anticipating their response because I wanted to watch it so, so badly, and it was up to my mother to tell me whether I could or not. The next day, I queried them. My mother said, more or less, "It was...weird." And then the coversation was somehow dropped. I felt like I was prevented from watching the movie not because of the content, but because its very format and subject matter were too outre for normal suburban tastes. Once again, I was stymied until high school.


Later in middle school. Probably eight grade. Maybe even ninth (which was early high school). One of my daily habits is to read the movie listings in the local newspaper's television guide, the one given out in the Sunday edition. My eye comes across a film whose description inflames my imagination. During a particular weekend, this film is on late at night on a channel we don't get, but that comes in blurred and with sound (you know, like the porno at the beginning of American Pie). Clicking around, I happen upon this film, and hear what sounds like some horrific maulings and deaths.

As you might have guessed from my previous anecdotes, I was then, and continue to be, a pussy. But this film demanded I watch it, and the television guide (which was not TV Guide) clued me into an upcoming showing that would occur when I would be home alone. I made a resolution: I would watch this film all by myself, with the lights turned off, and I would somehow prove that I was a man, and a courageous person, and someone who could face down his fears.

When the time came, I made a bowl of popcorn, turned off the lights, plopped down in front of the television, and watched the film.

It was Army of Darkness.

If you've seen the film, as you should have by now, you know how ridiculous I was being, and around the point where Ash professes that he has not, in fact, even seen any of these assholes before, I first got the inkling that I was not in store for the horror marathon I had anticipated. This was further confirmed when he was pushed down into the hole (scary) and fought the monster down there (also scary) but in a very slapsticky, chainsaw-magically-landing-on-stump way (not so scary). It finally dawned on me: This is a comedy, isn't it?

It was, and it is. I enjoyed the motherfuck out of that film, and it remains one of my favorites of all time, and one of my greatest viewing experiences. Yeah, Spider-man 2 was good and all, but for me, nothing will ever match Sam Rami's fifth feature-length film.

06 April 2009

"You can't play music if you don't know nothin' to play."

I promise that I will not devote every blog post to the Robotard 8000 and its delightful screenplay, "Balls Out," and I will soon move on to other topics.


Tonight I saw I Love You, Man. Early in the film, I realized that the characters have what some call "movie jobs" - ones that provide them with a steady source of income despite them rarely ever working - and for some reason, this caused various elements wandering around in my mind to click together. "Holy shit," I thought, "I'm watching the same screenplay formula 'Balls Out' ripped apart." I suppose that should have been obvious from the commercials, but sometimes I am very dumb, and it just never occurred to me until I was in that darkened theater.

Sure enough, as the plot of I Love You, Man ground along its predictable path, I kept thinking of similar scenes in "Balls Out," particularly toward the end, which is replete with the usual mundane third act arguments that later lead to (deep) lessons, easy apologies, and convenient forgivenesses. I had to fight the urge to shout "Yeah! Fucking yeah!" at the screen during the Everyone's-Happy-Again! resolution.

I don't mean to completely knock the film. For what it is, it's an agreeable way to pass two hours, made palatable by Paul Rudd and Jason Segel's performances. Even the heckler sitting in the very front seemed to enjoy himself, until a kind gentlemen in the back told him to "Shut up, dickhead!" But experiencing I Love You, Man so soon after "Balls Out" is like a crash course in Formulas 101. Hell, I'll even use the word "illuminating" to describe it. Just like I can't watch sitcoms without thinking of "That's My Bush!", I won't be able to watch these types of films without fondly remembering "Balls Out."

On an unrelated note, here's the greatest trailer ever:

(Thanks to Videogum and Lorin for pointing this out to me. Why can't I ever come up with genius high-concepts like this?)

04 April 2009

Meet My Best New Abusive Friend...

...the Robotard 8000.

I first heard word of this amazing machine from the mad filmmaking genius A.E. Griffin. And now I am forever indebted to him, to the extent that I must obey his every whim, no matter how maniacal or nonsensical.

You can find out more about the Robotard 8000 from its website here. But all you really need to know is that the Robotard 8000 has spontaneously generated a fantastic screenplay (cough cough) entitled "Balls Out," and its reasons for doing so are this:
We thought it was time someone reset the clock. As it stands, young writers come into this thing of ours with watered down ideas based on watered down ideas which were first distilled from crap. And at some point, for the sake of everyone from filmmakers to the bean counters to the stupid fucking audience, the clock demanded to be reset. Because ultimately, the art of film is a precious and beautiful thing and if it isn’t, it makes it very difficult for us to make that cash money.
And so, to combat the formulas of Hollywood, they created this script. Perhaps they did not consciously intend to combat the formulas, but that is what they ended up with (according to me).

I have read the script twice now, and I have conjured up my own interpretation of it. If you haven't heeded my advice and read it yet, I encourage you to do so before you continue to my analyzation. Not because of spoilers, but because my thoughts probably won't make a lick of sense otherwise.

To continue:

The way I see it, "Balls Out" is a satire of all that is wrong with Hollywood comedy. It follows the traditional screenwriting rules, but cranks the elements way the fuck up to 11 to better highlight the absurdity of following any of these rules and cliches to begin with. As some observers have put it, the script is yet another "overprivileged white guys writing movies about the exquisite sorrow of being overprivileged white guys" screenplay, but it is so much more than that. It is a usurpation of the genre.

Allow me to explain:

"Balls Out" feels like the creation of bitter, bitter writers tired of receiving the same shitty notes from the same shitty executives. It's as if they banded together and said "You want a fucking traditional white-collar comedy screenplay? We'll give you a fucking traditional white-collar comedy screenplay." And so they created a main character, Jim Simmers, whose entire personality and reason to be is to suffer, die (literally), then rebel. Surrounding him is the traditional cast of characters: the best friend girl who is perfect for him but he doesn't notice (even though her name is virtually identical to his and she goes to absurd lengths to be perfect, such as playing an electric guitar, buying him Cuban cigars, and patching his wounds), the horndog best friend (who is now a gigolo who screws women of indeterminable ages), and the family man friend (who is so devoted he is willing to do nightly battle with his severely retarded and combative son).

These characters all conform to their standard, traditional arcs, and it makes them pretty shallow and obnoxious, humorously so. Jim undergoes a Hero's Journey of sorts, surviving death, battling a beast, receiving mundane advice from a magical Negro, and finding salvation in the arms of Thomas Douglas Cruise. Of course he has to alienate his friends and his girl on the course of his journey - that's what all of these overprivileged white men comedies are about. But naturally he makes amends, and when he does, there's a random voice to highlight the stupidity of it all, exclaiming "Yeah! Fucking Yeah!"

Part of what makes the screenplay so absolutely fucking hilarious is also what makes it so difficult to film: the voice. The very first line is "FADE THE FUCK IN:" You can't quite film that, and yet it sets the tone perfectly for what is to follow. Similarly, the following genius descriptions and action lines conjured up by the Robotard 8000 somewhat defy filming:
Jim pulls up to a nondescript, multi-story, “God
please kill me” office building.
Junior charges out backwards slamming Rob into a wall
until further rewrites.

He looks like shit hit with a brick...wiped
on a curb...and stepped on by a bum.
And yet they are perfect.

At a certain point, I think "Balls Out" loses momentum, and yet I question why I feel that way. If you've read the screenplay, the part that lags for me comes after the battle with the dog and ends when Mr. Tom Cruise is introduced. But I know why that lag is there. It's because it needs to be there for the script to continue to conform to the standard rules whilst simultaneously usurping them. At the same time, some of those seemingly superfluous scenes feel like satires of other filmmakers. The scene where Jim convinces Larry to train him in the supermarket seems like it's a take-off of Kevin Smith. An earlier scene with the insurance customers running around Mr. and Mrs. Mr. Whiteman's yard could easily come from a Farrelly Brothers movie. It even includes a character explaining what is wrong with someone while wringing laughs from their problem - something of a Farrelly Brothers specialty.

If you haven't done so yet, I encourage you to read "Balls Out." You'll either laugh, or you'll be offended, and that, at least is a reaction.

01 April 2009



This is my first official blog post. And who the hell am I? Just another screenwriter struggling to scrape out a living for himself in a world filled with big mouths and meager talents. I will use this space to vent on films, rant about ongoing projects, analyze things that don't need analyzing, trash talk everyone, and, of course, pimp myself.

Slowly, over time, as my half-formed primitive brain begins to grasp the surrounding components of this blog space, I will build up the surrounding areas to feature trailers and short films I've worked on, other blogs I wish to endorse, the many wonderful and diverse things I want you to know about, and all that other jazz that will give first time visitors a glimpse of my madness. I intend to stick to a schedule of at least one blog post per week in order to keep this space jumping, and if I do not stick to it, then I encourage people to send me threatening e-mails and engage me in physical altercations on the street.

For now, lets just stick to some of my hates, for they are enlightening. I hate the so-called "rules" of screenwriting and anyone who slavishly adheres to them. My only rule is "Don't bore me." Yes, the three act, or five act, or whatever act structure can help you with that, but it can also hinder and cause your script to become just another factory-produced plot delivery system lacking soul and spirit.

Listen: People invented these rules to give everyone an easy out. Can't write a good screenplay? Follow these simple rules and your script will be excellent by all scientific measures!

You see the flaw here, yes?

If you want to go off on a tangent and follow some tertiary character on a subplot that has no relation to the main action, then just friggin' do it. If it doesn't work, you can always fix it in rewrites. But if it does, my God, you've done something new, haven't you? Have a cookie.

I hate the Hero's Journey. In fact, I hate heroes. I hate nostalgic views of the past, the eternal battle between good and evil, black and white cowboy hats, unearned redemption, Manic Pixie Dream Girls, and almost all forms of shallowness. I hate purposely sympathetic characters - if your characters are interesting, they will be relatable, and therefore, on some level, sympathetic. I hate people who talk but don't do. I hate people who claim to be writers but don't read. I hate people who want everything explained to them and don't bother to examine a script beyond the words on the page. If you cannot see a subtext that is not even subtext (example from Raymond Carver: "He looked at me and he kept looking."), then you are not qualified to read scripts. Go back to the basics - Hemingway, Wharton, Chandler, Leonard, Vonnegut, Shakespeare, Salinger, Mishima, Remarque. Many others.

I hate double spacing after a period.

What do I love? I love complex, three-dimensional characters that act in a fashion somewhat resembling the people I know in real life. I love people who hold passionate opinions - why bother with life if you're going to be indifferent about everything? I love swearing. I love people who are bawdy but not obnoxious. I love moral grayness and ambiguity. I love raw emotion and I love snark. I love montages and long takes equally. I love deep focus and racking focus. I love '60s still frames and '70s zooms.

I love Henry Fonda in Once Upon a Time in the West, the greatest Western ever made. I love the way Kinji Fukasaku stages and shoots a yakuza raid. I love Charles Bronson saying "You're damn right" when he dies in The Magnificent Seven. I love every note Ennio Morricone ever wrote. I love Burt Young in everything he's in. I love all the characters in "The Wire," even Brother Mouzone. I love the endings of "The Sopranos," No Country for Old Men, Mulholland Drive, and Takashi Miike's Dead or Alive. I love "Mr. Show," "The Kids in the Hall," "The Simpsons" (Seasons 3 through 9), and the BBC version of "The Office." I love the versatility of Tatsuya Nakadai. I love the opening logos for any Asian film made between 1950 and 1995. I love the two minute, forty-two second long take in Hard Boiled. I love silent films. I love the Mummy Complex. I love Gloria Swanson and Erich von Stroheim watching their old film in Sunset Boulevard. I love the way I always yell at Faye Dunaway to "Get the fuck out of there!" at the end of Chinatown, and I love the way I feel awful when she never does. I love the way Harakiri causes me to switch allegiances and viewpoints halfway through the movie. I love glorious, glorious black and white film. I love the sexual metaphor at the end of North by Northwest. I love both halves of Full Metal Jacket. I love Audrey Hepburn, Rosalind Russell, Claudia Cardinale, and Vivien Leigh, who manages to outact Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire. I love Margaret Yang, Amelie Poulain, Lady Kaede, and Cabiria Ceccarelli. I love how much I hate Hitch, The Last Samurai, and that no-talent pretty boy Gary Cooper.

I love Seven Samurai. Every fucking minute.

You get the idea.

I love movies and television shows, but more to the point, I love stories. The cinema is my chapel, the DVD my Bible, the act of creation my prayer. Like any religious person, I do not practice enough, but when I do, I am at peace.

My name is Justin Muschong, and I own this place.

Now get the fuck off my lawn.