A level of disorientation settles in when you start shifting your waking hours so that you're doing things when everyone else is not. Taking the train, going to the gym, having lunch, writing into the wee hours and the witching hours and the godless hours. ("Godless" indicating all hours, of course.) The constant idea being to avoid other people. Avoid, as best I can, the every day traffic.
So much writing and yet so little of it ever seems to get leaked to the public.
There is a feeling of frustration when the things you'd hoped would get out there get delayed. And the only way to move forward is to shake off that frustration, keep your head down and keep going.
Learn from the past. Brace for the future. And try to stay in the moment when you can. Which is probably the most difficult part because the future keeps coming at you, relentlessly.
Revisited the 1983 Stephen King adaptation CUJO over the weekend. I remember watching this on cable with my family as a child and it scared the living shit out of me.
Of course, it's a very different film to watch as an adult. As a child, I identified with the terrorized child. As an adult, I see a marriage torn apart by casual adultery; a newly alone mother trying to protect her child from the horror battering against her car door. Dee Wallace from E.T., once again playing the single mother archetype. The 1980s was such a great decade for divorce movies.
Lewis Teague's direction is refreshingly clean and simple, in hindsight. While most movies today seem to buckle under the burden of trying to be visually innovative, CUJO is more straight-forward.
The script... could use some tweaking. The adultery elements don't quite ring true enough. There's a larger problem with the underlying premise because most people do NOT want to see a dog get killed. Even a monstrous dog with bat-rabies who's mauling people. And if you're making CUJO, you have to kill that fucking dog by the end. He's more than a dog, he's a force of nature that this woman has to wage war with. A force of nature she has to defeat in order to earn her son.
In any case, I made this animated GIF for the internet.
Confession. I've a weakness for ANNIE. I saw the movie version as a child and there's something that resonated for me. It's a musical about abandonment, so you do the math.
I'd only ever seen the movie version. I have a memory of my parents going to see the original Broadway production when I was a young child. When I asked them if WE were going to see it, I remember they told me, "It's for adults only." (Which meant they didn't want to pay to take us kids.) I remember them bringing the Playbill back and it *looked* like an adult thing.
So, I was walking through Times Square last week (because as an adult, I now live near Times Square), and I see the new production of ANNIE is up on the TKTS board with 50% discounted tickets. Curiosity got the better of me.
It is... peculiar... being a thirty-something heterosexual male going to see a production of ANNIE alone. There were a fair number of parents bringing their children to the show. And I'm sitting there cloaked in tattoos.
It was pretty surprising seeing how much the movie version deviated from the stage version (assuming this new production hews pretty close to the original Broadway show). It's odd because I remain a defender of the movie. And while I understand that nostalgia can influence, seeing the stage version makes me admire the movie even more for how it grounded the narrative.
Still, it's quite a show. There's a reason why shows like this get revived.
That time of the year again, combing through the previous year's receipts as I get my documents in order for taxes. Reducing a year to an assemblage of receipts. Remembering a year through its collection of receipts.
Memories, inevitably, come back as I weed through all these little pieces of paper.
"This was the year and this is what it cost me."
But putting things in order can help to put them to rest.
Back in high school, I discovered LES MISERABLES on Broadway. And for an extended spell, I was apeshit over it. Heterosexual teenage male, admittedly perhaps a little too sensitive for his own good. At 17, I loved Guns N' Roses and Les Misérables. This is a confession, not bragging.
I saw it a few times on Broadway back in the day. Featuring Lea Salonga or Debbie Gibson or whoever the latest stunt-casting of Eponine happened to be. Listened to the official cast album of the show an unconscionable amount of times.
And yes. Through a natural course of time, I grew apart from this.
Which made me all the more curious to revisit it with the long-awaited film adaptation of the musical.
Went to see it at the Zeigfeld, just to make it seem a little more special. I hadn't seen a production of this musical in a small lifetime. In fact, in the time since I was last passionate about this musical, I'd gone through college, been married and divorced, and had weathered many more horrors than I could have ever imagined for myself. And what I found -- revisiting this Old Friend through this movie adaptation -- was how surprisingly tween-friendly LES MISERABLES: THE MUSICAL has always been.
Seeing it again -- after I've gone through college for dramatic writing and spent years on the fringes of Hollywood-breakthrough -- it's startling that such a tween-friendly piece could be made from such dense source material.
One of my obsessions, as a writer, is the idea of the TEENAGE ANTHEM. In movie-form, it might be THE BREAKFAST CLUB. In song-form, it might be "We Are The Champions" or "On My Own". In the best case scenario -- the situation I am always fighting for -- it is this point wherein something that might be deemed cheesy transcends into the sublime. Through timing or juxtaposition or whatever the case may be, something switches from corny to FUCKING PROFOUND.
Yes, this is a tricky feat. And seeing LES MIZ again after all these years, in movie form, I don't know if it entirely succeeds in converting the non-converted. But I can better appreciate how it has always been a masterful work of teenage anthem.
Most horror films rely on jump scares. Something appearing out of nowhere, almost invariably accompanied by a striker chord that further signals you to flinch. There are different kinds of jump-scares, some a lot cheaper than others. Almost all horror films rely on a healthy number of fake-outs. SOMETHING JUMPS OUT FROM OFF-SCREEN -- but "oh, it's just my daughter", or "oh, it's just the cat..." (Always cats, never really dogs. Dogs -- non-ghost dogs -- telegraph their approach too much. Cats are just assholes.)
The stronger jump-scares occur a little further on. SOMETHING JUMPS OUT FROM OFF-SCREEN -- AND IT'S A REAL THREAT!!! You still get the same striker chord but then the volume is sustained to inform the viewer that the danger is real and continuing.
More elevated kinds of scares, IMHO, are ones that involve sustained tension. Voyeur scares: the protagonist hides under a bed (or in a closet, or some other poor hiding place) as the killer enters the room and stomps around. The camera covers the scene from the protagonist's pov and the audience shares in the fear of being discovered, while also surreptitiously getting a glimpse of the killer in his/her element. But even sustained tension sequences are usually punctuated with a jump scare.
Modern horror movies, I think, are over-dependent on the jump scare. There are far fewer horror films that deal in more sustained tension, the way THE SHINING did. A movie like SINISTER does rely on a lot of jump-scares throughout, but the use of the 8mm films creates a different kind of tension. It's a movie about found footage that doesn't restrict itself to the modern parameters of that genre, because the movie you're watching isn't itself supposed to be the found footage.
There's something almost mathematical about how a horror film can be effective. But beyond the equations that make up a traditional horror flick, there is the question about what it's really about.
Why are we scared and what is the significance of this fear...?
November is always the end. Thanksgiving. If we hit Thanksgiving and we don't have a deal on the table, then all hope gets pushed to the new year. So, yes, I always tend to regard these months with a certain degree of dread.
This year has been a relentless, dragged-out, tooth-and-nail fight.
Labor Day Weekend. It's that time of year again. The point of no return where you know it's the beginning of the end. Scant time left to make this year worth something. To see if this whole thing can turn.
So, where are we...?
Head down. Working away on the new projects while we can only wait to hear on news of the old ones.
This is how it's been for years now.
I wish I could enjoy a Labor Day weekend. It's like I'm perennially in a bunker waiting to get some optimistic news from the outside world.