The Nineties Blogfest

For this blogfest, hosted by Dave, we are supposed to list one favorite thing for each year of the 90s decade: film, television show, song/album, book, whatever. So without further ado, here are some of mine:

1990

To put it in perspective, this is the year I finished junior high (May) and started high school (August). I’d say the book Good Omens is a favorite from this year, but I didn’t discover that book until years later. I can tell you in all nerdiness, however, that Star Trek: The Next Generation was my favorite television show at the time, with MacGyver a close second.

1991

I was still watching ST:TNG and MacGyver. In fact, I was that utterly uncool kid who brought in a VHS tape of “Good Knight MacGyver” for my Honors English Lit class to watch during our unit on King Arthur. Yes, you can thank me for the fact that you got two “free” days of no work. I am equally sorry to admit I really liked Richard Marx’s Rush Street. Balance that against the fact that I also enjoyed the Spin Doctors, and Genesis’ I Can’t Dance album.

1992

It was my “annus horribilis” as much as Queen Elizabeth II’s. For personal reasons. Meanwhile, I do recall sneaking into Dracula . . . And suffering a giggle fit in the middle of it that irritated my friends. But come on, when Anthony Hopkins looks up and says, “Dracule,” it’s just silly. School Ties was more my thing. And New Miserable Experience by Gin Blossoms. Because I was having a miserable experience.

1993

My bad year continued until the spring, when I finished my junior year of high school. Meanwhile, my reading continued to be largely defined by curriculum. However, Jurassic Park burst onto screens that summer, prompting me to read the book as well as repeatedly view the film. (JP holds my personal record for number of times I’ve seen a movie in the cinema: 10). I went to see Sting in concert—second-row seats for the Ten Summoner’s Tales tour. I was as much a nerd as ever, and the same Spielberg-loving girl I’d been all my life, but I’d also broken through some kind of invisible barrier, making 1993 a banner year for me.

1994

The year I graduated from high school and went away to uni. The year of Stargate and Interview with the Vampire. A good year.

1995

I met a lot of my best friends this year. We bonded over Highlander: The Series and The X-Files and Jeremy Brett’s portrayal of Sherlock Holmes (even though it was older). I had the best job I’ve ever had. I loved the show American Gothic with Gary Cole as a pseudo-Satan. I was introduced to Neil Gaiman’s work, so 1995 counts as the year I discovered Sandman. It was also the year I started watching some anime like Fushigi Yuugi and reading things like Tokyo Babylon. I was going dark but in a good way.

1996

The Pretender aired on NBC. I remember my dorm mate’s boyfriend calling and asking (much to both our surprise) to speak with me instead of her. He said, “Turn on this show, I think you’ll like it.” And he was right. I was also late to the Babylon 5 party but a friend clued me in and I was able to catch up in reruns and friends’ recordings. Meanwhile, film school meant I wasn’t seeing many first-run movies at the time. But I was loving Matchbox Twenty’s Yourself or Someone Like You and Sting’s Mercury Falling. And I enjoyed Anne Rice’s Servant of the Bones.

1997

The summer I interned on the set of Hope Floats. The year of living in just about the worst place I’ve ever lived (it’s at least on par with a basement apartment I once inhabited in Boston). I had crazy Evangelical roommates that were angry when I went out with friends instead of having a group dinner with them. I almost lost that awesome job I’d held since 1995 due to budget cuts, but they found a way to keep me (though I was making next to nothing and almost couldn’t live on my income). Were there any bright spots to all this? Anastasia, which remains one of my favorite animated feature films of all time. And I got to attend the premiere of Contact. Also, Anne Rice’s novel Violin really spoke to me. And Shoujo Kakumei Utena was awesome, as was the manga Cardcaptor Sakura.

1998

I graduated from university as a Bachelor of Science in Radio-Television-Film studies. I traveled to Europe for the first time. I had the luxury of moving to a brand new apartment. I held on to that great job. But had no idea what to do with the rest of my life. In the meantime, though, I was devouring quantities of Cartoon Planet reruns and reading more Anne Rice (Pandora, The Vampire Armand).

1999

The year I changed my life by moving to Boston for graduate school. I met the man I would marry. He introduced me to bands like Marillion and The Refreshments. Our first date was to see Princess Mononoke, followed shortly by a viewing of Being John Malkovich. But of course the big movie of that year was The Matrix, which holds the second-place record for movies I’ve seen most in a cinema (7x). That one remains a favorite of mine, the two terrible sequels notwithstanding.

That was my 90s. I’m sure I’ve missed or forgotten a lot of stuff here, but it was a big time in my life, a coming-of-age era with many ups and downs and ins and outs. Life now is boring in comparison. (Some days that’s a good thing.)

Two Weeks to AFF

I’m two weeks away from the Austin Film Festival, looking over the schedule of panels and films and trying to figure out where to be and when. There are a couple panels I signed up for in advance, but other things remain up in the air. Certainly I’d like to learn more about independent filmmaking, since that seems like the most likely and possible route for St. Peter to get made as a short. And anything about breaking in would be good. Funny how after all this time, I’m still “breaking in.” How do you know when you’re finally in? (I guess when they’re calling you instead of you calling them.)

And then there are the “conversation” panels with lots of great speakers. Marti Noxon. Damon Lindelof. Chris Carter. And I have a ticket to the awards luncheon. And I’m hoping to get in on a roundtable, though I’m not sure which one.

On top of all this conference stuff are the films. It is a film festival, after all. I need to look through the list and go read the descriptions and figure out which I have the time to see, and which of those I actually want to see. Because I also have friends in Austin I’m planning to visit. And there’s all that food, too. Gotta make time for that.

By the end of all this, I expect to be an exhausted heap. In a good way. I hope to make a lot of connections and learn a lot while I’m out there. Look out, Austin. M is coming back to play.

Thank You, Readers

I want to thank everyone who made the “St. Peter in Chains” promo this past weekend such a huge success. I do think it’s interesting that I have almost twice as many readers in the UK as the US; I love you, too, Britannia!

I am considering a sequel. I’ve had a few requests for one; people seem to want to know what happens to Peter and Charles. Right now I’m mulling over the possibilities.

My big dream, of course, is to fashion “St. Peter” into a short, independent film. It wouldn’t be difficult, nor do I think it would be very expensive (as far as filming goes) because it is a quiet story and there are no big chase scenes or any of the kind of thing that would require the big money. And one can find good, solid dramatic actors in all tiers of the profession. Though I think the character of Peter might be a draw for a name, since it is the kind of role that demands a lot and thus could be very rewarding.

Well, one can dream. And if I do write a sequel, I might even be able to put both novellas together into a full-length feature script. How fun would that be?

Genre Favorites Blogfest

As hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh.

Favorite Movie Genre—Romantic comedy, I think. I watch plenty of other kinds of movies; in fact, I probably watch more other kinds of movies, but rom-coms are my favorite.

Favorite Music Genre—Pop/rock. Yeah, I’m not edgy. I’m mainstream and pretty boring. I grew up with Jimmy Buffett and The Eagles and Paul McCartney & Wings . . . And now I listen to stuff like Matchbox Twenty, Maroon 5, Train, and The Script.

Favorite Book Genre—This is actually really difficult because I like to read a lot of different kinds of books. It mostly depends on my mood. But if I have to pick just one? Historical fiction, probably.

A Guilty Pleasure—(can be from any of the three categories) . . . My Best Friend’s Wedding. I love that movie. Its soundtrack, too, holds a special place in my heart for very specific reasons that I won’t go into here. (As a secondary guilty pleasure, I’ll admit I read a fair number of biographies, which is rather voyeuristic of me, I feel. Also: self-help/psychology books.)

Now go get your free Amazon Kindle version of “Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of Ichabod Reed”!

Freeman . . . s (or, A Post About Old Guys)

I suppose I’ll start by saying Happy Birthday to Martin Freeman. He was already old, but now he’s, you know, even older. (Good for you for still being alive! Have some cake!)

And speaking of people named Freeman, last night I went and saw Raiders of the Lost Ark on IMAX. First movie I can ever remember seeing in a cinema (at age 5, there, now who’s old?) and last night I had the treat of getting to see it even bigger than before. It’s a classic, after all. And my favorite scene is the one between Paul Freeman’s Belloq and Ford’s iconic Indiana Jones at the bar in Cairo. Freeman holds that scene. He owns it. In fact, when it comes to Raiders, Freeman holds pretty much every scene he’s in. There’s a sort of center of gravity to him, a cohesion. It’s pretty cool to watch, really.

I also always get a kick out of seeing young Anthony Higgins as Gobler. He cuts such a dashing figure for a Nazi. Of course, Tony Higgins is older than my dad, so . . . You know, if we’re going with the “old guys” theme today. Which we seem to be.

Speaking of which, my dad’s birthday is in a couple more days, too. Gotta get on that . . .

Judges, Gatekeepers & Independence

I entered one last screenwriting competition. I don’t even know why, what I hope to prove or accomplish. I just really feel like this script was a good one, and I can usually trust my instincts, but . . . Anyway, I e-mailed the competition to ask about the judges. The site says that key industry people (agents, producers) do the judging. But I’ve learned, after so many competitions, that this kind of statement can be misleading. So I asked whether the industry people read ALL the rounds or just pick the winners. And of course the answer is that the industry people only read the finalists. The competition’s “staff” does all the initial reading.

One has to wonder, then, who these staff members are and what qualifications they have. I don’t necessarily want to antagonize the competition’s organizers by e-mailing back and demanding to know. But to think whether I get my script in front of a major industry insider rests pretty much on whether one little underling likes what I wrote . . . But then again, it’s the same in any agency office: interns and assistants reading scripts and tossing aside the stuff they don’t like or don’t think (in what? their great experience and understanding of the market?) will sell. It’s all pretty stupid. And it’s one of the reasons a lot of bad movies, and a lot of the same kinds of movies, keep getting made.

I suppose gatekeeping is a problem in any creative industry where there is more material than money to publish or produce it all. Just as Hollywood producers and agencies haphazardly sort scripts, so do literary agents and publishers sort manuscripts. There’s this sort of arbitrariness to “worthy” versus “not worthy.” A crappy book by a bestselling author can get published, but a really great book by a no-name gets the boot. And so it goes.

I’m glad to have an outlet for my books. Indie publishing has certainly allowed me to find a kind of niche, an audience. If I had the money, I’d go make my little indie movie, too. But movies are still too expensive and labor intensive for me to do by myself. A writer can work alone, but a movie requires a crew. And even “cheap” ones cost tens of thousands of dollars to produce.

Still, it would be awesome to see my mental vision come to life. That’s why one writes plays and screenplays, after all. It’s like getting to play pretend with real people.

But I can’t say I hold out much hope for this competition. Given my past performance in such, the odds of finding a reader who likes and “gets” the stuff I write seems pretty small. And I could pay for “notes” but from whom? Some underling? It’s not worth the cost. I’m not above rewriting, learning, developing, but I’d like to know the teacher is someone who can honestly help me.

Meanwhile, I have two big projects facing me: a full-length play due at the beginning of October, plus I need to finish The K-Pro because I have a publisher waiting to read it. No promises in either case; I was “invited” to submit the play, but that doesn’t mean it will be selected for production, and just because someone wants to read my manuscript doesn’t mean they’ll want to publish it. I gotta stay realistic. But I also gotta keep moving.

Here Be Dragons (or, My Mother the Dragon)

Each night at bedtime, I have been reading The Hobbit to my son. Last Christmas, just after his sixth birthday, I allowed him to watch The Lord of the Rings trilogy on DVD, and he became very invested in the story. So I thought we would read The Hobbit before the movies came out, and he has quite enjoyed it. We have finally, after much questing, come to Smaug, and this has been the part my son has most anticipated. He has long been drawn to—and simultaneously terrified of—dragons. He has wanted to know the differences in Eastern (Asian, Oriental, Chinese) dragons and Western ones. Which ones have wings? Which ones breathe fire? Five claws or four? What colors do they come in?

This is in large (and unwitting) part my own fault. When he was not quite four, I let my son see the Disney Sleeping Beauty. It has always been one of my favorites; as a child, I used to waltz around singing “Once Upon a Dream” to the great irritation of my parents. I had, alas, forgotten how truly frightening Maleficent could be—particularly at the point in which she transforms into a dragon. Not long after having seen the movie, one day as I became upset with him for something, my son yelled, “Don’t let your dragon come out, Mommy!” I was momentarily baffled and attempted to assure him there was no dragon. Still, periodically, whenever I began to be angry about something my son would say, “Is your dragon coming out? Don’t let your dragon come out!”

I thought we had put it behind us at last, but recently my son (the oldest) informed his two younger siblings that Mommy is, in fact, a dragon. They have gone on to tell their nanny and teachers this in turn. Without context or prompting, they will announce, “Sometimes my mommy turns into a dragon.”

Well then.

My six-year-old, meanwhile, has decided he too is a dragon. He has asked me to teach him to fly and breathe fire and transform. Sometimes he tells me that he does transform when no one is looking. He has also told me that his “personal god” is a dragon. (He has been trying to wrap his decidedly advanced mind around theology lately, asking to hear stories of gods and to know what various religions believe.)

I have to say, as far as dragons go Smaug has always been one of my favorites. He has such personality. Reading about him with my son has been fun, though I suspect my son is blueprinting his idea of what dragons say and do based on Smaug. Well, there could be worse examples.

If nothing else, this idea of dragons as creatures to be both feared, and perhaps slightly revered, has given my son a sense of respect for something. Here is something he stands in awe of, something of which he wants to be part . . . And I take it as a tangential compliment that he counts me among their number. And that, more or less, his desire to be a dragon, just as he thinks I am a dragon, means in some way he’s striving to be like me.

Alexander’s First Movie

My son Alexander has made his first movie. He’s six, so cut him some slack here; he at least had the idea of using a green screen for part of it. I’d tell you to grab some popcorn, but the movie is only 1.32 minutes long. Here it is. And no, I don’t know why he chose to call his production company CPS. He’s been telling me for over a year now he plans to have a company called CPS. When I asked him what it stood for, he said, “Well, what can it stand for?” I have yet to convince him that usually the name comes first, then the acronym. (Not a hard and fast rule, I know, but . . .)

Mister Frost

There was, many years ago, a Jeff Goldblum movie titled Mister Frost. It was an understated little flick, something I’m pretty sure only I, my best friend, and my father ever saw. And we didn’t see it in the cinema, no, it was something we found as a rental, back in the day.

Jeff Goldblum plays the title character, a serial murderer who might or might not actually be Satan. The bulk of the film (as I recall it; it’s been so many years since I’ve seen it) takes place in a mental institution where Frost terrorizes a psychiatrist played by Kathy Baker. The movie had lots of those terrible lines that are fun to quote. One of them came early on when Frost is found working in his yard. I can’t remember the exact context, but a visitor (he’s still at home at this point) asks him about something, and he answers in that offhanded, Jeff Goldblum kind of way: “Oh, the bodies. I was just burying them as you were walking up.”

That may not be the exact quote, but you get the gist. Later on Frost tells Baker’s character: “. . . But soon . . . Soon you’ll be on my side of the mirror.” It’s a dumb line, yeah, but Goldblum has made a career of delivering dumb lines quite well.

Like The Prophecy (which I talk a bit about here), Mister Frost is no great film, but I still like it. In both cases they got the right actors, which is key. Both Goldblum here and Walken in The Prophecy are spot on. Playing to type, sure, but a lot of actors build decent careers that way. They do the kinds of things they (a) know they’re good at (i.e., their strengths), and (b) know their fans, such as they are, will want to see.

Then again, sometimes actors take roles because the part is not a challenge and therefore an easy paycheck. And/or they have holes in their schedules to fill. Or nothing else in the offing. Or the movie sounded better on paper. Or it’s a director or co-star they’ve wanted to work with. Or they’re just bored.

And sometimes actors get offered roles not because they’re the best fit but because no one else would touch it.

Ah, Hollywood. Every movie tells a story—even if some of those stories are not very good or are not told very well—and behind every movie is another long story of how it got made.

The Prophecy

Anyone remember this movie? I loved it. That’s not to say it was a good movie—it wasn’t. But then, neither was Highlander (sorry, folks, but really), and yet Gregory Widen still managed to capture a huge cult following for that one. Less with The Prophecy, but what interesting ideas Widen has. I like the way he thinks.

And of course I adore Christopher Walken.

I’m trying to remember the first time I saw Walken, and though it seems like the kind of thing you should clearly remember, I can’t. Saturday Night Live maybe? (That sketch with Tim Meadows as the census taker is classic.) But I’d seen Walken well before that. I remember catching part of an old movie set in Italy (Venice?) . . . The Comfort of Strangers. Now that was a strange movie. But again, I already knew who Walken was when I saw it (on television, at about age 15—I’d stopped flipping channels specifically because I saw Walken and wondered what the movie was).

Ah, well. Some people and things in your life just seem to be from forever, I guess. Like there’s no point of origin; they are omnipresent.

Then again, the idea of an omnipresent Christopher Walken is slightly disturbing.

But that’s what he’s great at as an actor, too. It’s what made him so great as Gabriel in The Prophecy. Angels are amazing creatures, and can be very good, but like anything holy and supernatural there is also something terrible about them. Walken managed that fine line very well in his role as Gabriel.

Did I see the other Prophecy movies? I think I saw the second one but I’m not convinced I saw the third.

Oh, and by the way, I can absolutely tell you the first time I ever saw Viggo Mortensen, and that was as Lucifer. Fucking creepy.