Tag Archives: writer

Red carpet madness @ “The American Mall”

No film studies class I ever took at San Francisco State or AFI could ever have prepared me for how totally insane it is to walk down a red carpet at the premiere of your first movie. Not only is it totally intense and nerve-wracking, but it is also one of the weirdest things I’ve ever done.

Christine and I likened it to our wedding. You spend all day getting ready — and in Christine’s case, several days as we had just returned from a work trip/shoe shopping expedition in San Francisco — worrying that you might be late or that you might die on your way to the event (I’m not kidding, I actually worried about that on Monday) and then you get there and are forced to smile your ass off for the next couple of hours.

I’m not complaining, because it was totally fun, and, frankly, as glamorous as life as a grubby old screenwriter gets, but wow, that shit is just not normal. Crazy…

On our wedding day I remember my cheeks actually hurting at the end of the night from smiling so much, and to tell you the truth, smiling on that red carpet was pretty much the exact same way.

You never knew who was filming what and which picture or live interview you might be stumbling into, so smiling was the only safe way to walk.

And even though the folks from “Access Hollywood” and “Extra” never asked us who we were “wearing” — or asked us anything for that matter — Christine and I smiled like movie stars (or, you know, a screenwriter and his wife from Burbank) the whole way down the red carpet.

And only at the very end of our jaunt down the plushly-carpeted sidewalk, as I paused to snap a quick pic of Christine’s super cool new shoes (thank you, Michael Kors!) did I stop to think about how very cool it was to be there.

I mean, wow, strange as it all was, it was still some kind of thrill! So, rock on, “American Mall” red carpet!

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Morgan Spurlock’s “30 Days”

Ever since we first saw his Oscar-nominated documentary “Super Size Me”, Christine and I have been huge fans of writer/director Morgan Spurlock. So much so that when the third season of his kick-ass show “30 Days” premiered on FX two weeks back, we were kinda glued to the Tivo.

If you haven’t watched yet, the concept is deceptively simple, each week someone is chosen to live in another person’s shoes for 30 days.

Spurlock has appeared in several episodes himself — most recently in this season’s first episode which found him working in a Virginia coal mine for 30 days — but usually he picks someone whose lifestyle and belief systems are exactly opposite of the life they will be living for 30 days.

Previous seasons have seen a born-again Christian living in a Muslim household, a homophobic straight man living with gays in San Francisco, an outsourced American tech worker living in India and working in a call center, and a hard-core minuteman from Texas living with a family of illegal immigrants in Los Angeles. If you think that sounds like a juicy set-up for a show…you’re right!

But while most other networks would tart everything up for the sake of the drama, FX has pretty much given Spurlock free reign to make “30 Days” into something truly unique. Not so much a show as a series of insightful, funny, and sometimes enormously-moving one hour films, “30 Days” is not to be missed.

Some people have criticized Spurlock for injecting himself into the drama too much and becoming kind of a Michael Moore-lite, but I could not disagree more. I mean, sure, sometimes Moore’s presence in his own films is distracting and tends to turn the proceedings into the Michael Moore show, but Morgan Spurlock has the exact opposite effect onscreen.

Whether it’s his goofy, everyman quality, or the fact that he just seems more likable than Moore, Spurlock has way more soul as a “character” and lacks the obvious political agenda that drives Moore towards some of his more outlandish stunts. That’s not to say Spurlock doesn’t try to steer the proceedings a bit — which of course, he does — but the thing I like about “30 Days” is that it just feels more heartfelt and real than anything Moore has churned out in recent years.

And better yet, Spurlock never tells you what to think, but rather presents the information to you “as is” and lets you decide what you think, which, hello, is kind of what a documentary is supposed to do, right?

Future episodes this season tackle such hot-button issues as gay families, anti-gun activism, life on an Indian reservation and this Tuesday’s episode which finds a hard-core hunter from Chapel Hill, NC moving into a home of Peta-loving vegans for 30 days.

While those all sound kind of awesome, I have to say that last Tuesday’s episode — which featured retired pro-football great Ray Crockett confined to life in a wheelchair for 30 days — was probably one of the best hours of television we’ve seen in years. If you can find it in repeats, WATCH IT!

Crockett’s struggles adjusting to life in the chair are one thing, but the wheelchair-bound people he met and befriended during his 30 days were just amazing. The paraplegic counselor working with the recently paralyzed, the tough-as-nails wheelchair rugby team featured in the documentary “Murderball” and most poignantly, the young girl recently confined to a wheelchair after a horrible accident.

The look on Crockett’s face as he sits in on the girl’s rehabilitation sessions is heartbreaking, and I defy you not to cry when she pulls herself up in bed for the first time since her accident. I’m not kidding, folks, this is cable television at its finest…really beautiful stuff.

The first two seasons of the show — which I highly recommend — have recently been released on DVD and the third season of “30 Days” airs Tuesday nights at 10pm on FX. Spurlock was quoted recently in Entertainment Weekly as saying that this Tuesday’s episode (the hunter/vegan family) is the best one of the season, so…what better time to check out “30 Days” for yourself?

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Tarantino Master Class @ Cannes

I’m not sure what all Oscar-and-Palm d’or-winning director Quentin Tarantino had to say in his Cinema Master Class at Cannes yesterday, but, from the looks of the picture below, I’ll bet it was fun!

Always interesting, the Cannes Cinema Master Class has been a staple of the festival since 1991. And in that time, the event has been hosted by such kick-ass filmmakers as Sydney Pollack, Martin Scorcese, Oliver Stone, Nanni Moretti and even my boy from Hong Kong, Wong Kar Wai. Cool, huh?

Apparently totally free and open to the public, the Cannes Master Class is a chance for world-class directors to talk about their process, the films they’ve made and in the case of Tarantino, the fact that he thinks every serious director should take an acting class. Hmmm…a novel concept…

So, though I couldn’t be there to applaud Tarantino in person, I’m sure the French film fans — who love him almost as much as they do Woody Allen — ate it up! Rock on, QT!

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First Lady Laura Bush in L.A.

Even though I have some serious problems with the way her husband has run this country for the last eight years — or should I say NOT run as “President” Cheney has made most of the big decisions — I gotta say I was still kind of thrilled to meet Bushie’s wife, First Lady Laura Bush and daughter, Jenna Bush-Hager yesterday afternoon at an invite-only reading and booksigning of their best-selling children’s book “Read All About It!” at downtown’s Central Library.

With tickets snapped up almost as soon as the last-minute event was announced last week — Veronique Peck, widow of actor Gregory Peck is a huge supporter of the Library Foundation and the First Lady appeared as a favor to her — seats were pretty hard to come by for non-Foundation members, but luckily for me, I know someone on the inside!

For the new readers out there, my “connection” is my wife Christine, who runs the Library Foundation’s super cool Library Store.

But even Christine couldn’t manage to get me a seat at this event. So, seeing as I couldn’t get inside the old fashioned way, I decided to volunteer to help Christine sell books outside the Auditorium before the reading. Then, thanks to some awesomely-timed cancellations, Christine, her co-worker, Natalie, and I were able to score some primo seats at the reading for ourselves. Yeah!

Introduced by the crazy chic Veronique Peck — seriously, this chick has a French accent Catherine Deneuve would kill for! — the First Lady and Jenna Bush took the stage and read aloud from their charming, if a tad slight, book. And though both Bush ladies were gracious and sweet as Texas BBQ on the outside, there was a reserve there that made things seem a bit stilted at times.

And the Q & A that followed was even stranger. Since most of the pre-approved questions were from the scads of cuddly Esperanza Elementary School second graders in the front row, they were anything but hard-hitting. I didn’t think the kids would grill the First Lady on Guantanamo Bay or anything, but I guess I expected a little more from the whole thing than “Is the White House like a mansion inside?”.

I’m not saying they weren’t cute — because those kids are ready for commercials, baby…seriously, the cutest kids you ever saw! — but the simplicity of the questions, coupled with the almost rehearsed quality of the answers made for kind of a snoozy twenty minutes.

After the Q & A, the ever-present Secret Service — who were way nicer and funnier than you would expect them to be! — lined everyone up for the booksigning. Since Christine, Natalie, and I still had lots more books to sell, we headed back out front to man the booth, and when the lines finally died down, we made our way to the stage.

Now before you ask me why I didn’t get a picture of myself or Christine with either of the Bush beauties, l should tell you that cameras were totally forbidden onstage. But since strange, random questions were not, I picked a doozy!

Smiling as first mother, then daughter signed my three books, I asked the First Lady if she and the President were planning on seeing “Indiana Jones 4” this weekend. Chuckling, she replied that they just might as the President asked her the other day “What movies are we gonna watch this weekend?”. Hilarious! Good to know that despite his abysmal record as a Prez, he can still enjoy himself some good old Lucas/Speilberg hijinks!

But even more amusing than the First Lady’s response was the reaction of First Daughter Jenna. Shooting me kind of a confused look, she asked. “Is that coming out this weekend? Wow…I’m really behind the times!” And then, totally unprompted, Jenna announced that the summer flick she was most looking forward to seeing was the upcoming “Sex and the City” feature. Ha!

I just kind of nodded lamely and said something like: “Yeah, that looks pretty good too…” But by then, Natalie and Jenna had begun talking about Jenna’s necklace, which she said was a handmade gift from her twin sister, Barbara — I know…handmade? Who knew the Bush’s were artsy? — and as the line was backing up behind me, I left the stage with my books.

So, while it was brief, I must say that my personal audience the better half of the First Family was actually very cool, and both women were way warmer and down-to-earth than they had appeared during the reading and Q & A. But perhaps my favorite part of the day was yet to come…

While gathering up the receipts and heading back to the store, we checked the green room — which had been sealed off to everyone but the secret service and the First Lady’s handlers since earlier that morning — once more for anything we might have left behind and found a lovely, untouched fruit salad that had been intended for the First Lady and Jenna.

Now, I ask you, if you were in my shoes would you not eat that poor abandoned fruit salad? I mean, come on, how often is an opportunity like this gonna come along? Needless to say, quicker than you can mouth the words: “Tomás loves free food!” I grabbed that salad and headed for the exit.

And later, in the comfort and privacy of Christine’s office, the three of us enjoyed the hell out of that fruit salad. Sure the magoes were a bit hard, but hey, this was presidential grade fruit and we were not gonna miss out on a single bite!

And even sweeter than the oranges in that rocking good fruit salad was the perfectly-placed anti-Bush sign we spotted on the freeway overpass just a few exits from the Library on the way home.

Now, I don’t know who put that sign there or even if they knew the Bush’s would see it on their drive north to Burbank to appear on “The Tonight Show”, but I think it’s pretty telling that the “anti” slash is only through the “W”.

See, even crazy, freeway-sign-protesters love the First Lady…and now, after meeting the former Texas librarian and her recently-hitched, “Sex and the City”-loving daughter in person…I can see why!

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Woody Allen @ Cannes

Even though his last movie, “Cassandra’s Dream” totally sucked — this despite featuring a uniformly excellent cast, including Ewan “Obi Wan” McGregor, Colin Farrell and the scorchingly-hot newcomer, Hayley Atwell — I am still a die hard Woody Allen fan.

And the fact that every other movie he makes is horrible will not stop me from seeing just about everything he makes. The way I see it, Allen makes enough movies that he can make a real clunker every other time out. As long as someone keeps giving him money to write and direct and super cool actors keep on signing up to work for him for scale…I say rock on, Woody!

And though my favorite films of his are mostly from the 1980’s — “Hannah and her Sisters”, “Broadway Danny Rose” and “A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy” — there are at least three other movies of his from every recent decade that I love in a big way. And I’m just talking about his major works like “Bullets Over Broadway” and ” “Deconstructing Harry”, but I also love me some minor Woody Allen as well…”Manhattan Murder Mystery” anyone? Classic!

Non-fans may see Allen’s recent “Anglophile period” as just another tired (if accented) rehash of his usual shtick — and though “Match Point” ranks with his finest work ever, I’d have to agree with them on “Scoop” and the aforementioned “Cassandra’s Dream” — but despite the misfires, I actually found it kind of exciting that he was trying something new for a change.

So, you can imagine how excited I was to read that Allen’s next cinematic venture, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”, was shot entirely in Spain, featuring mostly Spanish actors. Even cooler than that is the fact that the movie received a ten-minute standing ovation after it’s premiere this weekend at Cannes! Ten minutes…man, those Frenchies rule!

Starring Oscar-winner Javier Bardem, Oscar nominees Penélope Cruz and Patricia Clarkson, newcomer Rebecca Hall (pictured on Allen’s left in the pic with Cruz, below) and Allen’s recent way-too-young-for-him muse, Scarlett Johansson, the movie revolves around the complicated love life of a Spanish painter (Bardem) juggling affairs with three different women.

Let me see…all-star cast, shot in Spain and it’s a comedy…gloria a Dios. Welcome back, funny Woody!

Always hugely popular in France, Allen worked the European press this weekend like a pro. And when asked if he himself had ever tackled a threesome — as Bardem apparently does with Cruz and Johansson in the film — he replied: “You know, it’s hard enough to get one person”. Ha…I think Mia Farrow would disagree on that one, but you gotta love the dude for trying.

And while “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” — which comes out on our shores on August 29th — is not eligible for any major awards action at Cannes (having screened out of competition) I’m still counting the days till I can give the movie a ten-minute standing ovation of my very own right here in Burbank.

Vive le Woody!

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Cannes gets a little Lynchian…

Though he’s not vying for another Palm d’or at this year’s Festival, Cannes favorite David Lynch — who won the Palm for “Wild at Heart” in 1990 — made quite a splash on the riviera yesterday with the debut of his super cool poster for this year’s fest.

Haunting, strange, and strikingly beautiful, the poster is the textbook definition of the term “Lynchian”…and apparently, film geeks everywhere are eating it up.

I thought about ordering a print for myself, but wall space being at a premium in my already cluttered office, there is just no more room for another cool poster. Plus, even though I love the print, those “man hands” carressing that woman’s face kind of give me shivers, so I’ll just post a copy of the poster here for now…

Though the Americans are said to be taking this year’s festival by storm, with “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” set to have it’s world premiere on Sunday, and a number of other highly-anticipated films from American directors lined up after that, the big news for me this year is the jury!

Always composed of some really cool, eclectic film folks — one of my all-time favorite directors, Wong Kar Wai served as Jury President a couple years back — this year’s panel is headed by perennial hot head Sean Penn. Even though I personally think he’s a humorless prick, I gotta say, “Into the Wild” was one of my favorite films last year…so, rock on, sourpuss!

The rest of the jury — pictured below with Penn at last night’s premiere of Fernando Meireilles’s all-star supernatural thriller “Blindness” — are, from left to right: Director Alfonso Cuarón, Actor Sergio Castellitto, Author/Director Marjane Satrapi, Actress Jeanne Balibar, Director Rachid Bouchareb, Director Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Actress and former Queen of Naboo, Natalie Portman and finally, Actress Alexandra Maria Lara.

I know…crazy, huh? The guy who wrote and directed “Children of Men”, the chick who literally lived “Persepolis”, Madonna’s first husband, and the mother of Luke and Leia Skywalker…all on one jury? Wow…it’s like, movie nerd nirvana!

So, as the 61st Festival de Cannes settles into it’s first full day of screenings today, here’s hoping this years films are as interesting and diverse as its rocking poster and jury! Vive le France!

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