Holiday Movies

Do you have favorites?

I grew up watching The Bishop’s Wife and A Christmas Story pretty much every year. Yet I find when I’m thinking “Christmas movie,” I really want Die Hard and Lethal Weapon.

That isn’t to say I don’t love those others. I do try to watch The Bishop’s Wife every year (I adore Cary Grant), and I also still enjoy A Christmas Story, though I’ll admit I’ve reached that point where it’s no longer as funny as it used to be. Still, it’s a source of great quotes.

I also try to watch the musical Scrooge, and also the film version of A Christmas Carol with George C. Scott. Those are great, even for someone like me who doesn’t much enjoy Dickens.

But for some reason, when it comes right down to it, the movies I first think of when it’s that time of year are Die Hard and Lethal Weapon.

It probably says more about the decade in which I grew up. Stuff like Miami Vice was on TV and these movies made a big impression on me. I didn’t see them in the cinema, of course. But we always had at least one movie channel in our cable package, and my parents considered me pretty mature. They were of that school where they figured so long as I watched with them, so that I could ask any questions and/or they were there to shepherd me through the traumatic experience of an R-rated film, it was probably okay. (Lethal Weapon 2 was the first R movie I saw in the cinema; my dad took me. I was 13.)

I know It’s a Wonderful Life is considered the ultimate Christmas classic by many, but I actually really dislike that film. I can’t even say why, exactly. And yet years later Robert Carradine did this TV movie called Clarence and I loved it. No idea why, can’t remember a thing about it now, but I distinctly recall enjoying it. Again, maybe it’s a sensibility issue. A movie made in 1946 can’t win an 80s kid over the way a TV movie from 1990 can.

But this wouldn’t explain my love for The Bishop’s Wife. Except that I grew up loving Cary Grant and only later, in film school, would I develop a healthy respect for Jimmy Stewart. That must be it because Cary Grant is really the only movie star of that era that I enjoy. I don’t particularly like Bogart, or Cooper, or Burton, or Peck, or any of those. I mean, I liked To Kill a Mockingbird and Gone with the Wind, but I wouldn’t hunt for more movies just because of those actors. When it comes to Grant, though, if his name is in the billing, I’ll watch it. There are very few actors I can say that about.

Anyway, tonight we’ll be watching Die Hard. I haven’t yet watched any holiday movies this season (just the Charlie Brown cartoon), and I’m thinking I’d still like to get in Bishop’s Wife at some point too. But if I can only squeeze in one Christmas movie, I guess it’s going to be Bruce Willis vs. Alan Rickman. Yippee-ki-yay.

30-Day Writing Challenge: Day 4

4. Ten interesting facts about yourself

I don’t know if they’re “interesting” or not—that’s sort of subjective—but here are ten facts about me:

  1. I won’t eat meat off a bone. That’s something that runs in my family, actually.
  2. I won’t eat poultry unless it’s so covered in something else (sauce, seasoning) I can’t actually taste the meat. That also runs in my family.
  3. I’m allergic to berries and oranges.
  4. Maybe a non-food item? Um . . . I grew up speaking both French Creole and English.
  5. My favorite movie ever is Young Sherlock Holmes, which I used to watch every day (not even exaggerating) after school while doing my homework. Marcus in Changers is modeled a bit after Nicholas Rowe from that movie.
  6. I’ve both performed and taught Shakespeare, and an essay I wrote on Hamlet exempted me from any required English courses as an undergrad. (But I took a bunch of English Lit anyway because I like it.)
  7. The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller started loosely as an idea for a Sherlock Holmes story but ended up going in a very different direction. As made obvious by the final product.
  8. My “M” necklace from Style Newport shows up in The K-Pro (except Andra wears a “C” for “Cassandra”).
  9. I love to dress up. Either in costumes or in fancy clothes.
  10. I chose the University of Texas at Austin because I’d visited the campus when I was eight years old and fell in love with the Harry Ransom Center. In particular, I loved that they had a plaster cast of the Nike of Samothrace, which is my favorite of the Ancient Greek sculptures. When I visited the Louvre, I didn’t give a fig about Mona Lisa, I just had to see Nike.

I don’t know if #7 actually counts as being “about me” but I figure it is by proxy since it’s about my book, my idea.

Adverse Possession

So in 2011, as I was getting back into writing, one of my friends suggested I try a short stage play. The result was “Warm Bodies,” which premiered in February 2012 as part Valley Rep’s (now Exit 7) play contest. “Warm Bodies” then went on to be featured in Source Festival’s theatre program that June. And was then picked up by a production company in San Diego and made into a short film they retitled Adverse Possession (because Warm Bodies was already taken).

I say “a production company” because it seems their name is in flux at the moment.

But in any case, they’ve given me permission to share the final result, which you can see here.

The film has been submitted to a couple festivals; we’re waiting to hear if it gets in anywhere. I wasn’t involved at all in the production itself (most screenwriters aren’t, I don’t believe). I did get periodic updates, which I very much appreciated.

The big difference, I think, between having your play staged and having it made into a movie—and if you read this site with any regularity, you may have heard me say this before—is that plays are fluid. They change from production to production, and sometimes from one night to the next in the same production. But once it’s committed to film, it’s static. I don’t have a preference, mind. I just find it an interesting distinction.

In any case, I’m very grateful for the beginner’s luck that landed me all these marvelous opportunities. I hope to continue to be lucky! I do have another script optioned, and two more in the oven. Plus that book of mine coming out in January. So I guess I can’t complain. (Well, okay, but I’ve yet to get another play staged. Humph. Still, I prefer to count my blessings.)

Do You Want to Build a Snowman?

Cross posted from spooklights.

Quick, can Tom Hiddleston and Chris Hemsworth sing?

I was watching Thor this evening (because nothing else was on) and it occurred to me—given my daughter’s infatuation with Frozen—that one could adapt the live-action film to the animated feature’s plot pretty neatly.

I mean, Loki is actually some kind of Frost Giant (really kind of a runt, though), right? And Elsa has these weird ice powers . . .

We could start with Loki and Thor doing “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” and go from there.

And can’t you totally picture Loki building an ice palace somewhere and going off to sulk? Not because he’s afraid he’ll hurt anybody, though. More that he’s feeling left out or something. And it will take the Asgardian warriors, or maybe the Avengers, to haul his ass down to save Thor with some kind of act of true brotherly love.

The big question being: Will it work?


See, this is fun.

Seriously, though, one thing about Thor: How did Loki not know he was adopted? I mean, did he look around and honestly believe he belonged with all these hulking warriors? Even his mom is more manly and courageous than he is. Didn’t that tell him something? It really shouldn’t have been that much of a surprise. If anything, Loki should have been relieved there was a reason for him being so different. But I guess he was too busy worrying that his being adopted meant he had even less of a chance at the throne.

Loki, sweetie, “Let It Go.”

My Little Pony

I watched the documentary Bronies last night, and that prompted me to take a couple online quizzes to see if I could figure out which of the Friendship Is Magic ponies I’m most like. One had me as Fluttershy, another split me pretty evenly between Twilight Sparkle and Rarity. So I really have no idea.

I am shy. And I am bookish. And I’m maybe just a tiny bit overly aware of my appearance. (Plus, I love to shop for clothes.)

Since I’m not really any existing pony—and really, I don’t want to be—I’m instead forced to consider what kind of pony I would be if I were, say, my own “original pony character.” My hair would definitely be indigo, since that’s my favorite color. Maybe with a stripe of peacock blue. But since I’m not really into pastels, I don’t know what color body I would have.

I’m also not really sure about my cutie mark. A quill, I think, for writing (and to also hearken back to my Shakespeare roots). Should there be a scroll of parchment too? A candle because I really like candles? Hmm.

And I think I’d be a unicorn. I like unicorns.

This is kind of a fun exercise.

Then I started thinking about pony versions of some of my characters. Like, Peter would be a dusky blue-grey color and have a briefcase cutie mark.

I wish I could draw. Maybe I could steal one of my daughter’s coloring books and trace? Or surely there is some online thing that allows you to create pony characters?

But really, I can’t afford to waste so much time and energy on this. I have so much work to do . . .

Rough Cut

An interruption in my conference coverage to squee over the fact that I just got to see the rough cut of the short film made from my play “Warm Bodies.” It’s a for real thing now! They’ve got some sound fixes to make and a couple other things to touch up, but then they’ll be ready to submit the short to film festivals. Waaaa!

Sorry I can’t share it with you, but the film has to be kept private else festivals won’t accept the submission. But I hope you will all get a chance to see it at some point in the future!

A 5-Year-Old Girl’s Take on Smaug

My daughter is five, and she loves dragons. This is partly because her older brother has convinced her I (their mother) am a dragon in human form, and that when I get angry I can transform into a fire-breathing beast. My daughter loves me, ergo she now loves dragons as well.

She only knows two dragons specifically. Me and Smaug. She hasn’t read The Hobbit, of course, but her brother has read it a number of times (he’s ahead of the curve for an 8-year-old). So my daughter has heard all the stories about Smaug in second-hand fashion.

IMG_4565And then, too, she has seen all the Lord of the Rings movies because we usually do a marathon viewing during the holidays. And she’s seen the ads for the new movie, too. She is desperate to see it.

When her younger brother got a toy castle and dragon for his birthday, my daughter appropriated the dragon and named him Smaug. And this is her ultimate take on him: “Mom, he just needs a friend! If he would come here, we could build him a big house in the back yard (because he would be too big to come in the house) and we could feed him and maybe give him giant ice cream cones! If he had a friend, he wouldn’t be mean any more.”

This is a 5-year-old’s faith in friendship as savior to mankind. And dragons.

I don’t know what she’s gonna do when that dragon dies in the movie . . .

Please Stop Telling Me to Make My Own Movie

The latest hot advice to would-be screenwriters is: Go make your own movie.

I understand why. I really do. The chances of getting your script read, much less noticed by anyone with any clout in the industry is nearly nil. It’s even less than it used to be, if that’s possible. Studios have become increasingly risk adverse, unwilling to take chances on new writers or unproven ideas. They want known quantities: Writers who have a track record and/or properties that have built-in fan bases (like all those comic book superheroes).

So what is a writer to do? Go indie, naturally, and prove him- or herself by getting noticed on the smaller circuit. And this should be easy, right? Since there are so many would-be directors and acting hopefuls just looking for the right content? Except . . . Not really. A lot of those would-be directors, and some of the actors too, are also writing their own stuff and have little interest in yours. OR, alternatively, what you write is not what they want to film. So as a writer you are back where you started: Nobody wants your script.

And here’s where the DIY advice comes in. “So film your script yourself!” And we’re told it’s easy, or that there are resources to help us or whatever. But for those of us who aren’t prepared to take on that kind of project, surely there must be another option? What I’m saying is, even if producing your own film isn’t a bad idea, surely it can’t be the only one.

I, for one, am not ready to wade into the Kickstarter waters, nor am I able to put up a bunch of my own money to make a movie. While I’m sure I could find willing crew and other help, and while I’m quite capable of managing large projects (I have a project management background), going and making a movie is no small, quick, or simple process—at least, not if you’re hoping the movie will be a good one. You want it to look a certain way, namely professional. You need equipment, good sound and lighting, and later editing and music. You need locations, which may involve permits. Making a movie takes time, and it takes money, and it takes people who know what they’re doing.

fortunesAnd when all that is done and you have a finished product that you are hopefully proud enough of to share with the world? You then have to try and get people to notice it. Maybe you put it on YouTube and beg people to watch it. Maybe you submit it to festivals and hope for acceptance. But the bottom line is: Even if you go through all the trouble of making your own movie, there’s no guarantee it will launch your career. You continue to swim upstream and against the odds.

Yes, it’s easier to sell something that is finished than something that is not. People still prefer to watch movies rather than read them. The arguments are all valid, but that’s not really the issue for me. Telling a writer to produce/direct/film his or her own movie is like telling a nurse to do brain surgery—she may or may not have an idea of how to do it, and she’ll still need a surgeon, an anesthesiologist, and all the rest. And maybe she’s eager to have a chance to try brain surgery. If so, good for her. But for those who are not so eager . . . Can’t you just refer us to a good doctor?

I write all this knowing full well I am very fortunate to have a script of mine in post-production. A short film that I did not have to make myself. Admittedly, I have no idea how it turned out; as a writer, I labor under the knowledge and understanding that once the script leaves my hands, my control over it is diminished if nonexistent (depending on the circumstances). And that’s fine. I am not one of those writers who insists on it being just as I envisioned it. Because if I were . . . I’d make the movie myself.

This Is Me (Part X: 1989)

I could write about entering the American public school system, this time without benefit of a pilot program to catch me, but there isn’t much to say. I’m a highly adaptable person, so while change can make me anxious on the inside, I seldom fight it. I more or less suck it up and say, Well, nothing I can do about it, so here goes . . .

But 1989 holds a kind of special glow in my memory, mostly due to the media of that year. Two albums and one movie from that year had a huge impact on me: Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever, Don Henley’s The End of the Innocence, and of course Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

I spent the summer of 1989 back in Georgetown, staying two weeks with my friend Emily and then another two weeks with my best friend Tara, and in each of those weeks we went to see Last Crusade, making a grand total of four times for me—to that date, the most I’d ever gone to see any one film at the cinema. Considering my limited resources (that is, my weekly allowance), that I would spend it repeatedly on seeing this movie was quite a statement. What’s funny, though, is that I also associate seeing Last Crusade with eating dill pickles and hot dogs . . . I think we must have eaten a lot of cinema food while watching the film. That’s the only reason I can imagine for this particular connection.

The music was thanks to the influence of Tara’s mother Lynn (I’ve written about her before, how she also got me started on Shakespeare). Years before, she’d also turned me on to Genesis, and later I’d have her to thank for introducing me to Collective Soul, so . . . Yeah.

Really, though, 1989 did feel like the end of something. The decade, certainly, and that fall I entered eighth grade as well, which felt like a tangible shift in my world. I’m not sure why, since I’d spent seventh grade at the same school (Delay Middle School). But in eighth grade, at least, I knew how things worked going in. In seventh grade, coming from a private school, I hadn’t had that luxury.

Eighth grade involved teachers noticing me, in good ways: Mrs. Atkins encouraged my creative writing, Coach Roberts (who was also the Earth Science teacher) actually called my parents to congratulate them on raising such a fine young lady. My phys ed coach, too, used to let me duck class and go up with a friend to play ping pong rather than having to do whatever the rest of the class was doing. I don’t know why. Maybe because I was so hopeless at pretty much anything (except soccer and, later, weight lifting of all things)—one of the boys in phys ed used to have to stand behind me and help me swing the bat when we played softball. Was I faking just to get the boy’s attention? No. But did I like it anyway? Oh yes. The joy of having a boy that close way outweighed any embarrassment at my lack of skill. And that’s probably exactly why I was then sent off to play ping pong with my friend Marnissa instead. Huh. I only just figured that out.

Marnissa had a crush on me, and I think it’s really funny (by which I mean interesting as opposed to humorous) that girls used to crush on me and were always willing to admit it. In grade school a girl named Jamie fessed up to it, and then it was Mars (as I called her and—totally unrelated—she used to braid my hair in these amazing, elaborate ways), and in college a girl named Gabrielle . . . I’ve been hit on by more women than men, I think. I don’t mind. I’m not picky, at least not in terms of gender. Just a bit oblivious unless someone stands right in front of me and says something, and maybe women are more wont to do that than men, or maybe I’m just more attractive to women for whatever reason. I don’t know.

In any case, 1989 was certainly a tipping point. At having become a teenager, I felt prompted suddenly to “grow up,” only I wasn’t sure how to do that. It was confusing. Things were the same, but changing. Friends I had only just made moved away that year, leaving me exposed and alone on the brink of high school. But just as with moving from private to public school, I simply took a deep breath and then the plunge.