Archive for June, 2007

Where to begin a script

Saturday, June 30th, 2007

When you start writing, or right before you start writing, what do you know? What do you know about the story and characters before you start putting words on paper?

–Dustin Tash

Although I don’t do it on every project, I’m a big fan of writing off-the-page, which means creating character bios, alternate scenes and sequence chronologies to help me figure out the story and the characters. For example, I’ll write out the whole story from the villain’s point of view, both to track that the logic works, and also to gain insight on why they’re doing what they’re doing.

You don’t have to stop doing this once you begin writing the screenplay, either. If I’m getting frustrated with the script, sometimes it’s much more helpful to write up related pieces than to bang out another scene I don’t think is working.

Just make sure this prep-work doesn’t keep you from actually starting your script. You don’t have to know everything about your story and characters before you begin. Discovery is the best part of the writing process.

(Originally posted September 10, 2003.)

Critic Joel Siegel Dead at 63

Saturday, June 30th, 2007

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Sad news kicking off the weekend, that ABC film critic Joel Siegel has passed away from colon cancer at the age of 63. Siegel, known for his quips and puns, especially about movies he didn't like, also published a book a few years ago called Lessons for Dylan: From Father to Son, after he found out that he was going to be a first-time father at the age of 57 -- and that he might not live long enough to see his son be born.

Siegel's colleague at ABC, Bill Blakemore, writes in a piece paying homage to Siegel that the critic battled his cancer with "astonishing courage and humor," making Blakemore and other colleagues laugh in an elevator just two weeks ago by quipping that the number of penguin movies being made would soon "outnumber the penguins themselves."

Siegel made waves almost a year ago when he walked out of Kevin Smith's film Clerks 2, loudly complaining about the film -- and sparking a raving feud between himself and Smith that started when Smith posted about the walkout on his blog. The two famously ended up debating each other about Siegel's walkout live on CBS radio's "Opie and Anthony Show," when Siegel told Smith, "If you'd like an apology, I'm glad to apologize. This was indeed the first movie I've walked out on in 30 years. If there's a second movie I walk out on, I'll be much quieter."

Courtesy of The Reeler (with a hat tip to Movie City News for the pointer there), here's Siegel reviewing a stage version of Stephen King's horror novel Carrie -- Carrie: The Musical (has there ever been a worse idea for an adaptation?) -- which features Siegel deadpanning a dreadful song from the play ("It's a simple little gig, you help me kill a pig, and I've got some uses for the blood -- Pig, pig! Blood, blood!"). Hard to believe he sat through that play from start to finish (the costumes and choreography are as bad as the lyrics), but found Clerks 2 too much to stomach -- but it's an entertaining review nonetheless, and typical of Siegel's style.

We at Cinematical send our condolences to Siegel's wife and young son, and all the friends and colleagues who knew him well and loved him for his humor and grace.
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Milos Forman Tells Cinematical He’s Not Directing ‘Amarillo Slim’

Friday, June 29th, 2007

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Here's one project you can probably put to bed for good -- the supposed biopic of poker legend Amarillo Slim, starring Nic Cage and directed by Milos Forman. I brought it up during a conversation with Forman at this week's Goya's Ghosts junket in New York, and he looked at me like I'd insulted his mother when I did. Forman said he never had any serious attachment to the project in the first place. "That's typical Hollywood," he said. "About three years ago somebody from Los Angeles called me if I'd be interested to make film about Amarillo Slim with Nicolas Cage. Amarillo Slim is interesting character, love Nicolas Cage as an actor ... I said 'Sure, I would be interested, but I'll tell you after you send me the script. It depends on the script.' So they put it in the press that I'm doing it. Till today, I haven't seen the script."

The chances of a big-budget Hollywood biopic happening are further reduced when you consider that in 2003, the notorious proposition gambler was, as Wikipedia puts it, "indicted on three charges of indecency with his 12-year-old granddaughter," and ended up copping a plea. Oscar voters tend to frown on that kind of thing, don't they? Another interesting tidbit from my conversation with Forman: he claims to have had absolutely no idea who Natalie Portman was before she came to his attention during the casting process of Goya's Ghosts. I'll be posting a full report from the junket as soon as I have time to type it up.

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Ty’s movie picks for Friday, June 29

Friday, June 29th, 2007


The big releases this weekend are Disney/Pixar's "Ratatouille" and Michael Moore's "Sicko," both top-drawer examples of, respectively, digitally animated family films and Michael Moore provocations. You can't really go wrong with either.

That said, if you actually care about movies as a medium of people and stories and ways of seeing the world -- as opposed to megabits and box office and blowing things up -- the newly refurbished Harvard Film Archive is where you want to be this weekend, and it's the only place you want to be.

The Archive's second annual "Independents Week" series kicks off tomorrow, offering a chance to see a handful of truly independent American movies -- none remotely resembling "Little Miss Sunshine" -- that have mostly fallen through the cracks of the festival circuit and the distribution rinse cycle. By and large they replicate a reality most movies swerve to avoid, so leave expectations and sugar-heavy snacks at the door. Tonight at 9 is "In Between Days" (in photo above), So Yong Kim's pellucid account of a Korean-American teenage girl coping with friendship and love, and one of the few films in the series to have made much of a splash. (I.e., it was well-received at Sundance.)

On July 7th, the series gets to "Hannah Takes the Stairs," from the gifted Joe Swanberg ("LOL") and including in the cast such filmmakers as Mark Duplass ("The Puffy Chair" co-writer and star) and Andrew Bujalski ("Funny Ha Ha"), fine young Cassavetes-wannabes all. Other films I'm less familiar with, but that's part of what makes "Independents Week" special -- discovering vibrant work that's truly out of the loop. Welcome back, HFA.

For fans of the studiously weird, there's a new Guy Maddin movie in town: "Brand Upon the Brain!" at the Brattle. No live roadshow like they got in New York and San Francisco -- boo -- but it's still a startling fusion of old-timey Hollywood tropes and subterranean surrealist psycho-vomit. I mean that as a good thing.

"The Wedding Director" at the MFA, because the appearance of a new Marco Bellocchio film on these shores is a rare and usually wonderful thing. The museum's holding over "Manufactured Landscapes," too, because audiences and a few critics seem to like it.

Interview: Elisha Cuthbert Talks to Cinematical About the ‘Captivity’ Controversy, the ’24’ Movie, and Why She’s Not ‘Looking for Lois Lane’

Friday, June 29th, 2007

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Earlier this week, I got a call from Elisha Cuthbert to discuss what has to be the most talked-about movie of the year so far, Captivity. If I actually tried to give you a rundown all the digital ink we've spilled on this little horror film since the beginning of 2007, I'd never get around to actually typing out this interview, so I'll just choose a few highlights, like the original outbreak of controversy over the film's graphic billboard advertising back in March, the harsh response by the MPAA, the arrival of the first trailer, the release-date musical chairs, and our exclusive interview with After Dark Films about the whole project and the fuss it had caused. As you can probably imagine, the first question I asked Elisha when I spoke with her was, inevitably, 'Do you get asked your opinion about Captivity every single day?'

Elisha is, of course, known for her starring roles in such films as The Girl Next Door, where she played a mercurial porn star called Danielle, House of Wax, the 2005 horror remake in which she starred alongside a pre-incarceration Paris Hilton and famously allowed the stunt people to glue her lips together for a crucial scene, and the Will Ferrell comedy Old School. She's also widely recognized for her work on the small screen, appearing for several seasons as Jack Bauer's daughter on the hit show 24. Those two worlds are expected to collide sometime in late 2008 or 2009 as a movie adaptation of 24 ramps up production, but until that happens, if it happens at all, Cuthbert has a number of projects on the runway to keep her busy. Here is the interview, and fair warning -- it does contain some spoilers about Captivity.

RS: What's it like being at the center of this film's controversy-fueled marketing campaign for the past few months? Do you get asked your opinion about Captivity every single day?

EC: Not every day, but I definitely get a lot of questions about it. To be perfectly honest with you, a lot of it baffles me, and a lot of it is intriguing at the same time, because I had no idea that, in the world of the Saws and the Hostels ... somehow our film has sort of stuck out. I'm grateful for that, but at the same time, I'm a little confused. I know that we had some controversy with the womens' groups, and I just feel like I wanted them to see the film before making any judgments on it. I set out to make a film about a woman who fights for her life and comes out in the end sort of strong and learns something from her experience. But 30 million people chatting about it online? I couldn't ask for anything more!

RS: Did you find the billboards personally offensive?

EC: I personally didn't, but then again that doesn't mean it's not going to affect someone in a negative way, and we're here to sort of appease the people who go see the films. The only thing I can say about it is that I thought that they were interesting enough to be up. I hope people see the film and give it a chance. We're not here to sort of ... this isn't a documentary about, you know, women getting kidnapped. This is a horror film.

RS: Where do you come down on the whole recent issue of R-rated horror films like Hostel II seeming to give ground to films like 1408, which are PG-13 and clearly less gruesome?

EC: I don't know, you know, it's hard to judge. I think that, back in the day, there used to be a lot of horror films that kind of had a checklist of what went into making the 'perfect horror film', and I think now people are raising the bar in the industry, as far as the types of horror films that are being made. There's a sort of psychological undertone to films. 1408 -- I think we're also in the same realm as that, just as the Hostels and the Saws, because there is that sort of psychological fear and we're basing something on reality. I don't know -- it's tough to say, I just think the industry in general and the genre in general has changed and modified -- people want to see more.

Continue reading Interview: Elisha Cuthbert Talks to Cinematical About the 'Captivity' Controversy, the '24' Movie, and Why She's Not 'Looking for Lois Lane'

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The Bourne Ultimatum – Trailer 2

Friday, June 29th, 2007
  The Bourne Ultimatum - Trailer 2
Matt Damon returns as the trained assassin Jason Bourne for the latest showdown in The Bourne Ultimatum. In the follow-up to 2002’s The Bourne Identity and 2004’s The Bourne Supremacy—the smash hits that have earned over $500 million at the global box office—acclaimed director Paul Greengrass (United 93, The Bourne Supremacy) joins returning cast members Julia Stiles and Joan Allen and new additions David Strathairn, Paddy Considine and Edgar Ramirez.
Directed by: Paul Greengrass
Starring: Matt Damon, Julia Stiles, David Strathairn, Scott Glenn, Paddy Considine

Sunshine – Extended Trailer

Friday, June 29th, 2007
  Sunshine - Extended Trailer
Fifty years from now, the sun is dying, and mankind is dying with it. Our last hope: a spaceship and a crew of eight men and women. They carry a device which will breathe new life into the star. But deep into their voyage, out of radio contact with Earth, their mission is starting to unravel.
Directed by: Danny Boyle
Starring: Rose Byrne, Cliff Curtis, Chris Evans, Troy Garity, Cillian Murphy

Summer Reruns

Thursday, June 28th, 2007

Over the next two weeks, you’ll notice a bit of deja vu at this site: old articles suddenly popping up on the front page, with new dates and old comments. It’s not a technical glitch. I’m putting the site into reruns while I’m out of the country and off the grid.

Malawi MapI’m going to Africa — specifically, Malawi. I’ll be working with an organization called FOMO, which runs programs to help the orphans of Mulanje, a district in the southern portion of the country. U.S. Doctors for Africa is one of their partners, and the trip is somewhat under their auspices. While there, I’ll be teaching English and helping repaint a school.

“Why?” is a fair question. A few months ago, I was talking with a student who was just graduating from college. When I asked her about her summer plans, she enthusiastically described an upcoming trip to Uganda. I said something like, “Wow, I wish I could do that.”

Not more than 10 minutes later, I realized there was absolutely nothing stopping me from doing that — other than a bit of fear and inertia.

This isn’t research for any particular project, but it’s homework just the same. Part of a writer’s job is to imagine. I can imagine giant chocolate factories, conjoined chanteuses, and epic sky battles. But I honestly can’t imagine what it’s like to be an orphan in a landlocked country that’s lost a generation to HIV/AIDS. So I’m going to see what that’s like. I’ll end up writing about it here and in other publications, but the main reason I’m getting on the plane is to get some grasp on a situation that is, to me, unfathomable.

While I’m gone, Matt will be minding the store. Please be nice.

Making the Rounds at General Hospital – Jason Granted Bail

Thursday, June 28th, 2007

On Wednesday’s General Hospital:

Carly sure has a way of making things all about her. She showed up at the jail to talk to Jason, who was waiting for yet another bail hearing, to go on and on about her one-month-old doomed marriage to Jax. Of course, Jason was able to set his personal problems aside to tell her she doesn’t need him to know what the right thing to do is. Jason was granted bail and arrived at home to direct Spinelli in the search for his son, confiding Sam and Amelia are his top two suspects.

Alexis stopped by to warn Sam about Amelia and get her daughter’s take on her illicit past. Sam spilled it all, confirming Amelia’s story and making no apologies to Alexis for doing what she felt she had to at the time to take care of her and Danny. The whole ordeal awoke guilt in Alexis for ever giving her up in the first place, but Sam stood up and took responsibility for the choices she made. Determined to hold on to everything she had left in life, she went toe to toe with Amelia telling the woman she believed was her friend to think twice before messing with her.

Lulu went to Shadybrook, this time to visit her step-mother instead of her mom. She offered the woman her support and help, even though she witnessed her still talking to “Alan’s Ghost.” While meeting with a PI for her, Lulu had a heart-to-heart with Logan. Though he would say it was another step in his master plan to seduce the girl, it’s more than obvious this unlikely pair is being drawn to each other. Back at Shadybrook, while going over the file on Scott Baldwin Lulu and Tracy learned he has a son.

Maxie and Logan got together to discuss their deal. She surprised Logan when she insisted she would need proof Logan had bedded Lulu before she would hold up her end of the bargain. “What proof, like you want to watch?” Logan teased. Bingo! Wow, Maxie, an all new low.

At episode’s end, Amelia phoned Maureen, the Everyday Heroes guest who had lost her infant daughter in a fire to inform her she needed some releases signed. To her shock, the woman said she no longer wanted to be featured on the show, but even more surprising was the sound of an infant crying in the background.

Warning! News and Spoilers Ahead!

  • Don’t forget to watch ABC Friday during The View‘s timeslot for a sneak peak at ABC soaps sizzling story lines, included will be a first look at the Soapnet original series and GH spinoff, Nightshift.
Wife, mother, aspiring novelist, and music editor at BC Magazine, Connie Phillips spends most of her time in a fantasy land of her own creating. In reality, she writes about music, television, and the process of writing, when she’s not cheering on her kids at equestrian events. Contact:

New York Film Fest slate announced

Thursday, June 28th, 2007


Indiewire relays the news that Wes Anderson's new film, "The Darjeeling Limited," will kick off the 45th New York Film Festival on September 28. "Darjeeling" stars Anderson rep company members Jason Schwartzman and Owen Wilson plus new conscript Adrien Brody as three estranged brothers traveling across India after the death of their father. David Poland read the script last year and says it's all a big metaphor for three '70s Hollywood honchos: Francis Ford Coppola, Peter Bogdanovich, and Jack Nicholson. Which sounds sort of silly until you learn the three brothers in the movie are named Francis, Peter, and Jack. And that Roman Coppola co-wrote the script. That makes Roger Corman dad. Anyway, Anjelica Huston and Natalie Portman co-star; the film goes to theaters Christmas day.

Even more exciting (for my money) is the news that the NYFF will also screen the Coen brothers' latest, "No Country for Old Men," adapted from a Cormac McCarthy novel and featuring by all accounts a hellacious performance by Javier Bardem as a killer stalking the modern West. The movie tore up Cannes recently; you can see some clips from the film (with French subtitles) here.