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Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Kid In The Wrong Row

It's funny how everyone fits in at school apart from all the ones who don't. How do you know you're a misfit, is it gradual, or do you know from day one?

When you're 12 and not cool, it's kind of painful. Cause everyone is laughing at jokes you don't find funny and everyone is talking to the girl but she just won't talk to you.

And for a while you're just nowhere, until you find out you're you. It's like a bolt at 15 when you realise you don't just like the movies you like but you think they're important. You'd die for them. Because when you're a kid in the wrong row you find what you love at 13 and you know it holds the secrets of the universe, and everyone else is just passing the time, but you're falling into your passions. I don't know why you're this way but you are.

And pretty soon you're 22 or 36 and you're still certain of who you are even though the world around you doesn't get it. But you live for it because it's what you believe in, it's why you get up in the morning.

You're a movie star or a painter or a writer and the world doesn't know it yet. You turn 46 or 28 and you're just being who you became at 13; because you are who you are and you love what you love. It's something you know that you can't quite explain and any day now you're going to capture it in a character or turn it into a lyric and finally you'll nail it. And everyone who never got you will find something out about themselves all because back when you were a kid you found out who you were and went a different way.

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CINEWORLD UNLIMITED PASS - Is It Worth It?

Here in the UK, one of our major cinema chains is Cineworld. They offer a pass, for £13.50 a month (or the one I have, £16.50 a month, which includes Central London cinemas) and in return for paying a monthly fee you get to see as many films as you want. Unlimited. You could go four times a day. Any Cineworld cinema.


Is it worth it? Well, the simple answer is: of course! It's fantastic! Unlimited movies for £16.50 a month! I'm in heaven!

But, it's not heaven. I mean, it's still the best deal in town. Especially in London town, when a trip to see a shit movie costs £15 (Odeon WEST END, peak time price: £15.65).

So, it is the best deal in town, and we should be thankful we have it. But it does have its limitations. Cineworld are a chain who put on the same films everywhere. Of course, they have to cater to everyone's needs -- and, unfortunately, most people want to see films like "Battle: Los Angeles", so it's everywhere. But so are all the others. Right now, "Lincoln Lawyer," "Hall Pass", "A Turtle's Tale" etc are showing in pretty much all of them. And as I look at all the Cineworld cinemas in the London area, and there are a lot of them, there are no surprises. Even with cinemas that are geographically pretty close -- they all mirror each other.

Once you've seen a couple of movies that you want to see and dodged a few that you don't, you have no choice. I admit, by this time, you've already "got your money's worth" as Cineworld Unlimited members like to say. But have you?

Before the passes; we used to go see movies we wanted to see. Maybe we'd go to the Apollo to see an indie flick, then we'd go see a documentary on the Screen On The Green, then we'd see a big blockbuster at an Odeon or a Cineworld. But now, after the slim-Cineworld-pickings are done; you're left wanting more. You're left wanting a good movie. A life altering movie.

But they're never shown at Cineworld.

£16.50 a month. It seems cheap. A great deal. And it is. But that's £198 a year ($318). That's a lot of money to give to a cinema chain, especially when you're essentially only getting access to the studio products and the well-marketed-indiewood flicks.

So you're down £200, and you still want to see good movies.

Of course it's still good value if you love movies and want to go see all the new releases every week. But how many people REALLY have viewing habits like that? Not many. Most people with these passes see two or three films a month just to feel they "got their money back".

You could see eighteen films a month at Cineworld and It'd only cost you £16.50 (or £13.50 outside Central London..). Now that's great. But if you saw eighteen films, it means you had to sit through "Faster" and "Furry Vengeance". But you're missing out on the incredible variety of films in London because you're beholden to your Unlimited card.

In summary; it's a great deal, and in so many ways, totally worth it. But most people buy it on the assumption that you're buying access to everything, but you're not. You're buying access to a part of it. And if you love films, like me, you'll find that you still go to a variety of cinemas, yet Cineworld own a piece of your bank account every single month. 

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I Need That Record!

I just watched the documentary I Need That Record! The Death (Or Possible Survival) Of The Independent Record Store. The film was full of great insight into the music industry, and art in general. Definitely worth checking out if you're into the things I'm into. Here are a few quotes that stuck out to me.

"In the space of the time we talked today, there'll be so much music made in the world, it'd be enough for us to listen to for the rest of our lives. So, if you have such a vast pool-- if you think about the history of music, how much music has been made-- you have such a vast pool of music to select from, to listen to, why leave it to people who have only their own profits at heart, to decide what you hear. So I just turn that shit right off."
-Ian Mackaye
Dischord Records

"Art has never been about mass culture - ever!"
-Glen Branca
Composer/Guitarist

"To me, when you're dealing with art, you have to remember that some of the things that run the deepest in the human psyche are the ones that take the longest to nurture."
-Lenny Kaye

Patti Smith Group
Guitarist

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Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Stages Of My Creativity

The 'Thinking' Stage

It's the one I'm in at the moment. I tend to be at my most prolific when I'm like this--- there's a constant stream of ideas bustling forth impatiently. I don't sleep very much and I can't really relax. I'm not really entering my imagination much-- the ideas just seem to be there, popping into my brain. It's as if my subconscious has been working on some ideas and proposals and now it's just printing them out, one after the other, and I have plenty of things to choose from.

The things I write/create in this state tend to be pretty good quality, but not my best; and often just a rehash of something I've done previously.

'The Dreaming Stage'

This is wonderful, when I can access it. When it's turned on I can just drift off into thought and imagine a new world. It can be a dream where I let go and am taken on a surprising journey by my mind, or it can be a purposeful journey I take; but I see it so vividly. When I imagine something in this state, I can see and feel everything and everyone in it. I write at my best in this state-- whether it's a screenplay or story or blog. But I have to be quick to capture it, because it soon fades.

'The Instant Flash Stage'

I'll just be walking down the road, and it's like a voice suddenly goes BOOM and says "Film idea! A murderer is proven innocent due to clocks going back an hour, meaning he was arrested thirty minutes before he committed the crime," or whatever, and I'll just KNOW I have to write it.

It might seem similar to the thinking stage-- but the thinking stage is more of a stream of so-so ideas. This stage, it's just a flash of something distinct and certain, and it is always something I find to be appealing to write. I think it's normally random and comedic when this happens, too. I'm not totally sure where the flashes come from but, I don't need to know. But they NEVER come when I'm thinking of writing or of ideas.

---There are other stages, I'll try and capture them and explain them when I experience them, if you find this interesting? Let me know!

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SUBMARINE With My Friend PETE


So, we sat in our seats. Okay, they're not our seats, they belong to the cinema. I knew this because, when I own a seat, it doesn't smell of piss and popcorn. Anyway;

The trailers are on. We're watching. But the projection is awful. Look at the diagram. Not good right? At least, I didn't think so. Look at the blue rectangle in my image; awful. What the hell?

So I go outside to talk to the helpful cinema dude.

THE KID
The projection is fucked up. It's all kind of pushed to the right, it's a mess. 

HELPFUL DUDE
Huh?

THE KID 
It don't look right. 

HELPFUL DUDE
Okay. 

At this point he just kind of stares.

THE KID
Can you do something? 

HELPFUL DUDE
I'll have a look.

He comes in, he takes a look. He sees it sucks. 

HELPFUL DUDE
Okay, I'll let them know.

THE KID
Thanks.

So the movie starts. And it's still messed up. But everyone else is munching on popcorn, sitting in their piss seats, and texting their mistresses. Nobody gives a damn. Even my friend Pete is sitting there happily. I stormed out into the place where the helpful dude was standing around waiting to tear small pieces of paper in half.

THE KID 
What's happening with the thing? 

HELPFUL DUDE
Is it not fixed?

THE KID 
No. 

HELPFUL DUDE
I told them.

THE KID 
Great, but could something be done? 

HELPFUL DUDE
I'll have another look.

He comes into the screen again. He looks at it. He has a weird, bland, spaced out look that I can't fully describe.

HELPFUL DUDE
Is it not meant to be like that?

THE KID
Maybe. It is an arthouse flick.

HELPFUL DUDE
Oh okay. 

THE KID 
I'm joking; look--- can't you just get the projectionist to move the image or something?

HELPFUL DUDE
Apparently this film isn't full screen so it's okay. 

THE KID 
(defeated)
Okay, whatever. 

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Your Big Break In The Industry

"There's people around who tell you that they know
The places where they send you, and it's easy to go
They'll zip you up and dress you down
Stand you in a row
But you know you don't have to
You can just say no"
-Big Star

The minute you have talent, they tell you what to do with it, where to go. They say "you could make a living directing commercials," they tell you "you should get your breasts out on screen, that's how you make it", they tell you "you have to give us your script because we're the only people who will make it."

But you get to choose. When you're starting out, you're at your strongest, because you're you. You're doing your thing. And the minute you have something they can strip down and turn into profit, they'll be onto you. And they'll call it your big break.

The big break isn't what you think it is. You shouldn't try to skip the journey you're on. It's like blogging. You guys come here because you like what I do. But the minute I have a sponsored article saying that I love 7-Up, you'll know I've lost that one thing I have going for me. Right now, this blog could end up being anything. Five years from now it could be the best film blog out there, or it could be a specialist blog focusing only on The Apartment, who knows! It's exciting. But if I did a deal with Suite101.com to post their content in exchange for $0.06 per word, you'd all see me differently. And I'd lose the unique thing this blog has, just like yours does. We have ourselves, and who we are, and it's the strongest thing we own. But when you give it away, it's gone.

I'm not talking about taking jobs for the pay cheque. I'm realistic enough to realise that none of us have any money and we need to get paid. But I'm saying, don't give up your dreams, don't sell your babies, just because you're worried about dying. Some idiot producer who wants to give you $50 to buy your screenplay because "it'll get you recognized" is not your journey, neither is starring in some softcore porn film because the director says he has "contacts." You all know this, it's obvious, but I think sometimes we need to remind each other. Commit to doing the work that you're proud of; the work that made you want to do this in the first place. It's hard -- and fifteen years after starting acting you're still playing to tiny theaters in front of nobody and you're still getting rejection letters from production companies. But that's the price your pay for staying true to yourself. A 'big break' lasts for fifteen minutes and a sex tape, but if you create art, it'll live forever.

"We don't know what it can be, we don't know what it will be, we just know that it is cool."
-Mark Zuckerberg in 'The Social Network'

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AARON SORKIN + GREG MOTTOLA = HEAVEN

Aaron Sorkin, my favourite working TV/Film writer, who penned The West Wing, which is the greatest show of all time, as well as the superb film The Social Network; is teaming up with director Greg Mottola, who wrote and directed Adventureland, which most of you know I am completely obsessed with - for the new TV series "More As The Story Develops".


Plus they're on HBO. The one network that stands up for good content.

And it stars Jeff Daniels.

This is going to be perfect.

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AARON SORKIN On 30 ROCK Video

For Sorkin/West Wing fans, this'll be the most enjoyable minute you've had in ages. For everyone else, I'll post something else soon!

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Sunday, 27 March 2011

new york gone

the first time i visited, she was waiting for me at jfk. it's not like i knew her that well but i knew her well enough to know she was one of the special ones. she was opening my world to new york, my home away from home even though i'd never been. and i was only visiting for a week, and i hurt my knee on the first day because i walked too much; and the rest of the week i could barely walk but i walked and walked. and i didn't get along with her that well, because she was busy, and i was a tourist.

and i hung out with this guy i'd met on the plane, we went to hooters and i bought a beer and he bought a coke and we switched so he could drink the beer and then they kicked us out.

and in another year i arrived with a sickness, and my first days were just me hiding in a rented room in brooklyn, waiting to feel better and not knowing that it'd be the best of times before long.

but the first time i visited nyc, the girl who waited for me at jfk waited for me just at the end of the block between where she was studying and where the bar was. and it was my last night in new york and i was late and it was cold and i ran and ran. but that night was a great night, because sitting in the bar on the corner of the block we had that feeling. sometimes you just feel it; just feel the breeze of life and you realize there's good to be got. and outside we hugged and then the yellow taxi came and off i went and off i flew and i was back gone from america.

in some other year i got lost in queens at the weekend with an actor who was showing me around and we must've stayed lost in nowhere for hours because before long we just gave up and went for another coffee. in new york you go for a coffee and everything is okay and you get to know amazing people just drinking coffee.

and i stayed in a room somewhere in brooklyn, and the girl in the room next to me was an artist. we stayed up all night talking. we had such different lives, different worlds, but similar ideas; even though she painted with a brush and i painted with a camera. and we got close for a week or two and then i got gone again and a yellow taxi took me away.

but the girl who waited for me at jfk was always part of nyc. we'd go to cafe lalo and caffe reggio and the yaffa cafe some other cafe where she lived in brooklyn. and we'd talk about what we wanted to write, and we'd stop that so we could eat cake, and we'd talk about new york and talk about her stuff and my stuff and just at that moment when you think someone is cool you get in the taxi and go.

and i remember sitting in my rented room, with the laptop on the bed and me writing and writing because in new york somehow it's loud and obnoxious but totally silent and yours. i was listening to my favourite soundtrack which is so subtle and delicate and it just felt like home, i felt like home, and i'd write and write and the artist was a wall away and i wanted to talk but also wanted to write and tried to balance both but rarely succeeded.

in new york you find that one cafe that speaks your language and you find that one part of town where everyone wants in on your conversation and you want in on theirs. and you can talk to your friend or a street artist or some homeless guy or some woman who's yelling at herself and somehow you see life right in front of you. it's like everywhere else in the world people have barriers and they have their comforts but in new york everyone is just going for it and attacking it and failing and living and anything else.
and the last time i left new york i left all my favourite people. and the guy who showed me around queens moved to la and the guy from the plane could be anywhere now and me and the artist kinda fell out and the girl who waited for me that time in jfk packed up her bags and got gone across the world and now i could go back, and i will go back, but so much is gone.

you capture new york in a particular way. and you have to feel it and capture it and keep your eyes open, because one minute it's there and the next minute it's gone, and it'll never be the same.

more another time

Care to share?

message in a bottle

There are only a few films that I truly, truly love. But that's enough. Enough for me to know this is what I need to be doing with my life.

Because you know a film can have that impact.

You want to make something like that.

When someone says "what's your film about?", that's never what your film is about. 

It's that feeling in your stomach, your head, your heart, and everywhere in between.

It's that thing that only you feel.

That you've felt since you were a kid.

That feeling unique to you, that makes the days managable and the nights meaningful.

And it's your job to grab it and get it on the page, and find it in actors, and clinch it in the edit.

You write it down, bottle it up, and send your message out into the world. And you hope it floats.

Care to share?

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Four Movies On A Saturday - Just Like Heaven!


"Just Like Heaven" by The Cure was in two of the movies I watched today. I wish it was in all movies but that's probably unrealistic, especially as a lot of movies have already been made.

"Going The Distance" is a pretty standard rom-com flick. But it has a good heart and is very watchable for a Saturday morning. When you want a lazy Saturday morning rom-com all you're really asking for is interesting lead characters, New York City, and a good romantic connection with a few semi-hiccups along the way. That's exactly what this movie does.

"Cyrus" is not as good as "The Puffy Chair" but it still shows the immense talents of the Duplass Brothers. There's some great moments in this film --- I love that these guys love the subtle. Laughs don't have to be big. Observations don't have to be in your face. When they're great, they're unbelievably great, and when they're only very very good, they give you "Cyrus" - which is better than most of what's out there. There's some great moments in this film.

"Jungle Fever" is great. Spike Lee is one of my favorite directors. He really takes subjects by the balls. What I love about this movie is its complexity. When white people make films about race, it's condescending liberal-we're-all-the-same bullshit like "Crash". But Spike Lee is different. This is a film about the diversity within diversity. How the hard part isn't a white guy realising he's attracted to a black girl; the hard part is the white guy following through when all his white friends and family are racist. That's just one example. And what a lot of people don't realize about Spike is that he really looks closely at what it is to be black, at what black culture is and how black people treat each other. It's one thing to be angry about how it's a white world, but what Spike acknowledges time and time again in his films is how the same hierarchical bullshit goes on within the black community. Like it does any community. You can be male, or white, or straight, or whatever -- but it's just not A or B, YES or NO. There's always someone telling you to 'man up!' or "stop being gay" or "stop acting black!" Not enough films delve into this stuff. But Spike does, with race. And it's refreshing. This is still refreshing even though it was made in the nineties. Diversity within diversity. That's something to think about. Even when we're labelled as one thing we're all still so different. Try putting five screenwriters in a room together. It's hell.

"Adventureland" is a movie I love. I just sink right into it. I love every character, every piece of music, every shot, every little moment. That's what a movie does when it sits in your top 10 list. The best films seep into who you are. You're a little bit more interested in an upcoming movie when it features someone who worked on one of your favorites. That's what "Adventureland" has become for me. I feel like I wrote it. Or it was written for me. I relate to all of it even though so much of it has nothing to do with who I am. Movies are fucking magic.

Care to share?

Friday, 25 March 2011

Things I Hate

Enough of the positive malarkey. Let's get down to the negative.

1. Cinema Staff During A Screening..

..who come in halfway through a movie and sit in front of you and start texting their friends. Not good.

2. Eat Pray Love

Fuckawful film which is like one big advert for white privilege. A rich, married, white American woman decides to do some 'soul-searching' after realising she doesn't love her husband anymore. She pisses off to a bunch of different countries where people are seemingly waiting around ready to be stereotypical of their nationalities.. i.e food loving Italians and Eastern spiritual gurus. Julia Roberts prances around the world picking up bits of wisdom that make her dull yet perfect American lifestyle more meaningful and profound (to her). Never has a film been so condescending, misled and, in many ways, offensive. Absolutely soulless.

3. The 'How can you not have seen...?' shitheads.

You know the ones I mean. The guys who love their piece of Romanian zombie bullshit from 1976 and try to make out you're a lesser person because you haven't seen it. "Oh come on, how can you not have seen it?" Like I give a shit.

4. Actors Who Leave Your Script On The Train.

Unbelievable. The actress gets to the audition and asks for another copy. "I'm sorry I left your script on the train," she says. That's great! Nothing I love more than giving away my passion project to a stranger on a train.

5. People who believe their own hype.

Because hype dies. One minute the newspaper says you're the next big star -or- you get a lead role in a TV show, the next minute you're tending bar. That's the reality. But there's nothing worse than someone who's only just put down the empty glasses who won't return calls or won't be polite because they think they've 'surpassed it.' These people suffer when the hype dies, because everyone remembers. It happens all the time. Don't believe your hype. It's meaningless.

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I'm giving you all a HALL PASS

If a friend, family member,  colleague, or cute member of the opposite sex (or same sex, dependent on your orientation, or mood that day) and asks you to go and see the film "HALL PASS" --- please use the following sentence:

 "The Kid In The Front Row has given me a Hall Pass for HALL PASS, which means I don't have to go."

Immediately after this sentence, turn towards the nearest exit and walk, fast. It'll be okay.

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Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Jack Lemmon - Spread A Little Sunshine

Some people you just love. They represent everything you value. You want a bit of what they've got, even just 5% of that magic. 

Jack was something special. Everyone knew it. When we look up at the screen now - we rarely see what he gave us. And that's very sad.

My favorite fact about Jack: Before making it as an actor, he worked as a restaurant quality checker, but was fired because he kept rating everybody "excellent." 

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REBECCA BLACK

"De do do do, de da da da
Is all I want to say to you
De do do do, de da da da
They're meaningless and all that's true"
-Rebecca Black

"Oo-ooh-ooh, hoo yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah
Yeah-ah-ah
Yeah-ah-ah
Yeah-ah-ah"
-Sting

Rebecca Black is a 13 year old girl somewhere in America who, for whatever reason, made a pop song and a video. If it had only been witnessed by seven people - would it still signal the end of music as we know it? At the time of writing, close to five hundred thousand people have hit the 'dislike' button on her YouTube video. These aren't 13 year old girls disliking it, they're angry forty year old men who are pissed that nobody's listening to Metallica anymore.

I don't see how Rebecca Black is relevant to me. Her video is fun. I remember being fourteen - it was similar to the video. You talk shit, you see your friends, you look forward to the weekend. Great, I hope the kids enjoy the song. It wasn't made for me. I only saw it because of the media storm.


So 500,000 hit 'dislike.' That's a lot of hate. Couldn't we do something more productive? The comments are mostly people bitching about how awful the music industry is, how this is the worst thing ever. But how many of them are creating the alternatives? Like it or not, the talentless can get famous in five minutes, but for the talented it takes years. The forty year old singer/songwriter might have more talent than Rebecca Black, but none of his songs are as good as Bruce Springsteen's. That's not Rebecca Black's fault. The guy just needs to keep making music. Whether Rebecca Black exists or not; everything is still the same.

But Black actually has some talent. She performed it acoustic. I've heard worse. There's a bunch of young girls in the audience. They seem to dig it. Should we force them to listen to Bob Dylan records?

Good music, good films, good art, whatever --- they don't exist in a vacuum. You can't get the good stuff without the bad. We enjoy Tom Petty because he isn't Rebecca Black. But the Petty's don't exist without the Black's and the Britney's. If the mainstream loved what we love on a personal level, it wouldn't mean anything. When Springsteen sings about bustin' outta town, or when Aretha Franklin sings about freedom - they're powerful because they come from outside, they come from a place that hurts. That matters. The mainstream frames this perfectly, it's what makes it meaningful. That's why the greatest hits are never your favorites, they mean too much to too many.

But we don't need to be so angry every time a teenager sings about the weekend. She's just a kid.

What's the meanest thing you've read, that hurt you the most? -Interviewer.
I hope you cut yourself and I hope you get an eating disorder so you'll look pretty. And I hope you go cut and die. -Rebecca Black, 13.

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Tuesday, 22 March 2011

McNuggets

1. I started a blog post about fifteen times last night. Desperately had something to say, I just couldn't figure out what it was.

2. I saw "You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger" today. The cinema was empty - it was just me. Me and a Woody Allen movie. Perfect. I loved it. I know most people don't - but it was pure joy for me. I walked home completely satisfied.

3. You just want actors to be truthful. That's all. Actors should just walk into auditions and be a light of truth.

4. I listen to Tom Petty a lot. I put his name on YouTube and then click 'playlists' and 'shuffle' and listen to all his live music magic.

5. They're bombing Libya. What does it all mean? I go to the shop to buy a can of coke and I don't get bombed, but if you're in Libya you can't be so sure. Is Gaddafi killing someone worse than one of our guys killing someone, just because our guy didn't mean to hurt a civilian? How are we meant to watch the news without wanting to scream, or puke? Why are bombings the answer? How does this end?

6. "Helvetica" is a great documentary. It's about a bunch of guys who are passionate about fonts. Their faces light up when they talk about typography. Sounds boring but it gets you--- because they're passionate. Passion is so interesting. By the end of the documentary you realize that fonts shape everything - and you immediately want to redesign your blog and change the fonts you use in emails.

7. Adam Duritz' interpretation of this song is haunting.



8. Everyone is out to get at your integrity. Like, five minutes after starting your blog, someone will offer you $9 to do a sponsored post. It's so you can link to their site, to improve their google rankings. That's how all writing is, it's how all art is. But there has to be someone, somewhere, who cares about what they're doing and doesn't sell out straight away. Is it you? Or, I guess, if you're going to sell it, do it the way they did in 'The Social Network.' "We don't know what it is yet," --- don't sell out for $9. Wait till you're so unique and amazing that it's $9million. Because if you sell up who you are for a couple of dollars, you'll peak too soon.

9. Sometimes people recommend me films or TV shows, and I tell them I won't be watching them within a second of seeing a trailer or whatever. It can come across as pretentiousness; but really; it's about authenticity. There's a very narrow window of material that I like, and I can always spot it. People who like similar stuff to me will probably know what I mean. But look how pretentious that sounds.

10. I'm tired.

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Saturday, 19 March 2011

The Meaning Of Life (I figured it out)

How many of us are stuck behind walls? Can't write that script because something makes us blurry? Can't commit to that relationship because something makes us numb? Can't go out at the weekend because we just can't find that energy anymore?

Life becomes a series of things you need to do and appointments you need to keep. And the company you keep is just a repeat episode where you bitch about the same people and come up with new plans which are just a way of travelling around a circle in a slightly different way.

If you're religious, you know this is all a trap, a test, a thing to pass on the way to something better. If you don't believe in the Gods, it's just a meaningless ride and you gotta be at work at 9.


This is your life. These are our lives and everything stays the same and we argue with the neighbour and demand things from our families and judge our friend's relationships.

But man went to the moon. And Shakespeare had ideas. And Martin Luther King liked humanity. And Chaplin smiled. It's the dreams and the ideas and the art that make the ride worth it.

The girl from your past is more beautiful to the sound of a song you both loved. The people you lost along the way are more vivid when you remember their love for old war movies. Your relationship with your kids is strongest when you build things together or invent storylines about aliens from mars.

Keep believing in the aliens. Keep creating them. Don't ever let anyone make you think the aliens aren't the most important thing in the world.

Your creativity, your art, your mad mind, they're what makes life worth living. You've always known this, so don't ever shy away from it. Don't ever pretend it's not what life is about.

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Friday, 18 March 2011

the days got busy

The only chance I'm getting to blog at the moment is late at night when I should be sleeping, but of course I'm not sleeping, because I don't really do that.

Last night I did a Skype audio interview with a college class in Milwaukee, about my blog. They wanted to know what makes a successful blog? What inspires you? All those kinds of questions. They sounded like a great and enthusiastic class-- and I felt bad because I was beyond exhausted and my answers veered off into a world of rambling and nonsense that I fear would have made them hang up if they weren't enchanted by the English accent.

So I finished the call and didn't go to sleep because my mind was still running around.

I got up at 6am to go and film an audition tape for an actress I know who's up for a great part. The casting director needed the tape by 2.30pm without fail. So we were gonna shoot it in the 'normal' morning time which is 9am for normal people but 11am for actors and directors. But we decided to start at 8am because that's the type of people we are. I left home at 6.30 and when I got to Liverpool Street station I walked to her place in the morning sun except that it was grey and miserable, but at least I got there on time or at least would have done if I had planned properly.

I got lost. London is confusing. Especially when you're on foot at 7.30am without caffeine.

We filmed the scenes and she was awesome. Totally rocked it. She is more of a theatre girl and was worried about her screen acting but she nailed it. I got some credit for helping her be natural, but it's bullshit; it was all her. She'll get the role, she has to.

She had a housemate, another actress. And it was like fate. I'm not talking about love. But casting-fate. I'm casting my movie and she could be right. So I did an impromptu screentest. She was awesome.

And I got done and gone by 4.03pm where I went to the Cineworld in Shaftsbury Avenue to see about forty minutes of "No Strings Attached" and I loved it! It had some truth, it had some laughs; and people criticise Kutcher, but he has heart. And Portman I want to marry. And she can act good.

And I left the cinema somewhere around 4.52pm and headed to the cafe near Covent Garden to meet with an actress friend and before you get the impression I just go around meeting up with actresses you should know that isn't true except for on weekdays. And I'm joking of course; but the actress in the coffee place somewhere in Covent Garden just has that air of authenticity about her. Like you just knows she's about the truth. I go after that because so few actors have truth and honesty, they're too busy trying to be successful. And unless you're a well-tanned self-help junk 'coach' from California, then your job isn't to be successful it's just to be yourself, which I'd actually harder.

And I headed home and responded to a ton of emails and watched the end of 'The Town' which is an amazing film, and then I edited four videos that I needed to complete for a project. And tomorrow I'm up at 7, and in the early afternoon I have to be on camera for something somewhere in London.

And it's hard for me and my film's producer to see eye to eye. It always is. Because money and art never agree, there's always disagreements and defensiveness and confusion and righteousness--- on both sides.

And everything is busy and I'm not sleeping. But today was the good kind of busy--- interesting work and wonderful actresses. But most days you're up crazy early and it's a slog.

And the interviews say "What inspired you?" and "what do you love about...." but most of the time you're part of the long and stressful slog, and thats what most of it is.

But it's all great. It's a blast. But nobody earns anything really and everyone is learning how to get back to being who they are. And the actresses today were great examples of that. They used to chase opportunities and be hopeful. But now they're experienced and they just focus on being themselves and doing their own thing.

And it creeps towards 1am and I'm up at 7. I've averaged three hours a night this week.

Care to share?

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Is my creativity the result of a bad habit?

I've been exhausted for days. It keeps getting to 3am and I'm still awake. And the days keep getting busier.

Today was meant to be an early night. But I lay down and the tiredness of the day forgets itself and instead I think about ideas and projects and the world and whatever else comes along. It surprises me every time, but it really shouldn't, because it's so common for me.

I was never a sleeper. It's just a whole lot of lying down in the dark waiting for the day to start. But why am I like this? Is it linked to my creativity? Definitely. But why dont I sleep? Is it just a bad habit from childhood?

Is my creativity the result of a bad habit? Writers and artists of all disciplines like the ego boost of thinking they have a higher purpose or a gift from God, but maybe it is the result of a bad habit, or a knock to the head, or something equally mundane. Why do some people have a bad day and want to write a poem, whereas others have a bad day and want to buy a chocolate bar? We always have meaningful answers but why should it be meaningful?

As a kid I hated the dark. Didn't trust it. Even now I pull myself out of falling to sleep. But what if I dealt with my sleep issues when I was seven and became an avid sleeper. Would all the scripts and articles and blogs I've written at 2am still exist? Sometimes I conceive of entire projects in a night.

Was it written in the stars that I'd create my work while everyone is busy sleeping, or is it just a fluke?

But I'm tired, I wish I was asleep now. So often I can be so certain I need sleep, and then I almost feel anger as an idea appears in my mind at 4.09am, because I know the chance for rest is slipping away.

---- I've re-read everything above, and an ending to this post isn't coming. It's my late night muse shutting up shop, It's done for the night. The part of my brain that knows when I've done a good job knows that the work isn't done, but the part of my brain that fed me the 'blog about sleep' idea has gone silent. And that's creativity, a semi-formed idea at 1.28am on a Thursday morning.

Care to share?

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Artistic Maturity

You start out knowing who you are and what you want. And then you realise it's more complicated than that so you start adapting yourself and changing your plans and figuring out how to 'market' yourself.

Artistic maturity is when you go back to how you started: you become yourself.

I had lunch with three friends today. We're all still young but we've been at this a long time. One of the group always had the crazy unrealistic dream of acting on the West End stage. Now she does. She never allowed herself another choice.

One of the other friends used to worry about what his 'type' was, and what genre suits him. But today at lunch, in a short break from a show he's touring, he told me about a one man play he wants to produce, about a politician who fascinates him. There were no worries about whether it was a good career move or whether it was a logical thing to do -- he just followed his instincts. And it was great. We sat and brainstormed ideas for an hour and we could well be co-writing something.

The third friend, she had those battles with her agent that all actors have. It's the one where an agent tries to shove you down a certain path because that's where the roles are. Or more truthfully, that's where the agent's comfort zones are. But my friend said no. The agent wanted her to do some play that paid well but wasn't interesting. My friend said no, stayed in London, and landed a role on prime time TV.

And as we had lunch today; it was great to have that feeling; that we're all doing what we want to be doing. And it's not that difficult, you just decide to do it.

Because when someone says 'you have to write horror, it's the only thing I can sell' -- if you don't love horror, then you're strangling yourself as a writer. And if you want to be acting on screen in London and your agent tries to make you do a play in Ireland for six months -- you have to weigh up what counts, figure out who you really are.

Because most people I've met are bending to try and fit into the industry. But they all fail and they're smashing their head against the walls and complaining about how nothing is happening.

People forget to be themselves. Sure, you can try reinvent yourself and be something you're not, but how real is it? Is it a part of your true personality or are you trying desperately to be noticed? You don't wanna be like Meg Ryan in that boxing movie.

So, my friends are doing good. They're focusing on what they want to do. It's better than thumping your head against a wall.

Care to share?

"MY DREAMS" Review

For many nights, over much of my life, I have watched numerous dreams, of my own, mostly whilst sleeping. I am growing increasingly unhappy with the quality of my dreams, and much prefer the earlier, funnier ones. It is also troubling to me that my dreams are becoming increasingly unrealistic, with some terrible acting. The dream about the banjo playing dancer, starring my best friend Doug --- whilst interesting at first, lost all credibility when Doug's feet stopped moving and he ended up shouting "I have no elbows!" at Natalie Portman repeatedly. What was Natalie Portman even doing in this dream? After her recent movies, I'm surprised she would star in something so unprofessional.

Care to share?

A Guide To Video Rendering

I have been hired to write an instruction manual for the industry's leading editing software company. Here it is, in full:

Regardless of the speed of the system and the length of your project, rendering will take precisely somewhere between two minutes and/or nineteen hours. This is true even if you render the same thing twice.

We cannot give you an exact time for rendering as then you may end up doing something productive like going for a run, doing a painting, or finding a moment to pee. But we can promise that your edit will take no longer than nineteen hours to render (except when up against a deadline, when rendering may take three days, even when it says "35 Minutes Remaining.")

Editing uncompressed video takes a long time to render because the files are so big, therefore this takes the longest. Unless of course you are rendering a very small, lo-res file, in which case it takes the longest because we need a very long time to make everything so small. The best thing to do is to make a medium size file; but bear in mind this takes the longest of all because we need to turn uncompressed files into medium files without accidentally turning them tiny.

When the rendering is complete, you will find that your video is unplayable because the format you chose does not exist. This is your fault. You will need to render again for somewhere in the region of nineteen hours, and at the end of it your film will be complete but unfortunately there will be no audio and possibly no video. This is because you tried to format an mpeg into a mov whilst the mp4's were arguing with the avi's. Luckily, in order to help you meet your deadline, we have arranged for the producer to visit for a stern chat. You only need 47 hours to render your video.

Care to share?

Marriage

Joe Fox
Tweaking? A project that needs "tweaking"?

Kathleen Kelly
Yes.

Joe Fox
T-w-e-a-k-i-n-g.

Kathleen Kelly
-i-n-g. That's what he said.

Joe Fox 
I think he's married. Married, three kids.

It's tell me what to write week. TB asked "Have you ever been married or been close to marriage?"

And the answer is no and no. 

I never planned it to be that way. But there it is. I always thought, by now, I'd have all that stuff figured out -- but I really don't. It's weird because, when you write a blog post, everyone 'gets' you. In relationships, it's never that easy. 

And I'm no good at all the nonsense, the drama. I like forward motion. I need to fly to New York on a whim so I can write a screenplay, I need to disappear on my own for five days when I'm a grumpy idiot. I'm an awkward-writer-fool who always reads too much into the women that don't like me and too little into those that do.

And I never get it right.

And starting things is hard. Too much drama and confusion. I just want a woman who'll happily watch 'The Apartment' and then we both go off and get on with our dreams. But there aren't too many women like that.

And everything I'm writing is about my needs. You can see how I'm selfish.

Care to share?

Monday, 14 March 2011

Two Comments Today That Made My Week Already

From Krista: "I'm not sure if I've commented on your blog before, but now I just have to! You are such an inspiring person! Thanks to your writings I am beginning to find who I am and, more importantly, who I want to be, and not live life the way others think I should! I am gonna be me :)

Thanks for being awesome!"

From Happy Frog and I: "Since I read your interview with MLS and the great advice you gave there I have felt different. I have felt like a writer who happens to have an office job at the moment. All the procrastination has vanished. When I have free time I write or read blogs or think about how to move forward with creating.

I am glad I am feeling this way now but not when I was a teenager. I am glad I am following my dream now rather then when I wouldn't have been able to handle the pressure and the rejection. "

Thank you! It is wonderful to recieve encouragement!

Care to share?

Thirteen

I was in the bakery near where I live today, buying some lunch - and got talking to the lady about film. I was asking if they'd consider catering for my next movie, because even when you're buying bread, you never stop thinking with your film hat on. So of course, I explained who I am and what I do - and she told me about her thirteen year old boy, and how he's been auditioning for acting jobs, and creating music; and doing all sorts of wonderful things.

And within two minutes and the buttering of a baguette -- she told me about how one minute she was young and wanted to see the world and the next minute she was working in a bakery for twenty years. And the boy is only thirteen but you can see she's hoping he's her ticket to see the world. She told me, quite touchingly, how more than anything she wants to make some money so she can take him to America. Because for her, that's where people like him will succeed.

But right now he's thirteen and he's got to figure out what he wants to do, without a heap of pressure on his shoulders. She said his music and acting could be terrible, what does she know, she's just his Mother. I said that his stuff probably is terrible but it's not what matters. Right now, he's thirteen. At sixteen he'll be better. I told her the thing I always tell Mother's of young talented people; I tell them how long it takes. I explain that "The X Factor" and "American Idol" are bullshit. They make it look like fame and success come after two minutes of talent and an audition. But that's not talent, that's a TV show and a bit of marketing. Real talent is spending your last penny on some bread and crying your eyes out because the nineteenth person in a row rejected you.

"The girl doesn't, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the 'curiosity' level." -Rejection Slip for 'The Diary Of Anne Frank'

Talent takes a long time. Nobody cared about John Wayne's early films. Nobody turned up to Steve Martin's stand-up gigs for eight years.

But you're not thirteen anymore. You're twenty two or twenty nine or fifty six and nobody is watching or reading or buying your stuff. Or six people are when you need fifty thousand to break even. It's stressful, right? And one side of your brain is telling you to give up and the other side is telling you to get an office job for two months even though you know you will probably kill all the staff there. Everyone is trying to work it out. And right now your best friend has a role on Broadway, and you're struggling. But next year you sell a screenplay and get interviewed on TV, and that friend who was on Broadway is back on Broadway but he's selling tickets at the discount booth.


Your talent, your ideas, your voice; they're in constant development. Take my blog for example --- sometimes I nail it, sometimes I send you to sleep. Sometimes you're inspired, sometimes you wish I'd shut up. But hopefully, I get better at it. And it keeps growing. One minute you have one follower, the next you have two hundred, and it keeps going. You start out with no followers partly because you've not written anything yet, and partly because you're not the best you'll be yet. It's a lifetime commitment. We're not getting rich, but that was never the dream. The dream was to be artists. And that shitty feeling you get when you fuck up an audition or when a producer laughs you out of the room or you post your new film on Youtube and only get 9 views--------- that's the journey. You get stronger each time you fail.

But the thirteen year old just plays and experiments; and we need to hold on to that essence. We need to be kids in the front row.

Won't you let me walk you home from school?
Won't you let me meet you at the pool?
Maybe Friday I can
Get tickets for the dance
And I'll take you.
-Big Star - Thirteen

Care to share?

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Tell Me What To Blog About

Most of my blogging opportunities this week will come from finding small bits of downtime to type away on my iPhone. But for this week I'm interested in doing something different.

Maybe there's something you'd like me to talk about, or like my angle on. Maybe I explored something important to you once and never returned to the topic. Anyways, for this week - I'm taking requests. Tell me what you want to see me writing about.

Care to share?

CATFISH

You have to see this film. It's a documentary. It's it's hilarious, it's sad, it's poignant, it's moving. The film begins with a bunch of unappealing twentysomething guys making a documentary, and by the end they bring together a film full of compassion and heart. I couldn't glance away from this for a second, absolutely riveting -- at times funny, at times bizarre, at times deeply upsetting. Please see it!


Care to share?

Saturday, 12 March 2011

THE OTHER GUYS Are The Same Guys You See In Every Film

I'm writing this as I watch 'The Other Guys.' I wouldn't normally write or in fact do anything whilst watching a movie - but this film is nothing new, I've seen this stuff 500 times before and this film gets released three times a year.

Big-budget comedies strangle themselves. The characters are built on stereotypes; good guys and bad guys, mad guys and sensible guys, black guys and white guys, good choices and bad choices.


This is what the big movies often are; because they're trying to cater for everyone. If you make a movie for 80 million and only seventeen people understand it, you have a problem. The shortcut to everyone 'getting it' is street-wise black men, awkward white men, billion dollar problems and gorgeous woman. I'm 24 minutes into the movie and the beautiful women aren't here yet, but I know Eva Mendes is in it and I'm expecting her soon. The comedy is established, so the romance needs to be plugged in as a device to keep people interested.

The problem with making these movies in this way; is that the jokes have to be amazing and the actors have to be compelling. Wahlberg and Farrell are great at what they do - but the comedy thus far is Wahlberg accusing Farrell of being feminine, and that's about it, and it's old already.

So the film is about 'being a man.' But who relates to that premise? I like rom-coms and I think shooting guns is dumb and stupid. So the story isn't about me, but then who is it about? Who can relate to this stuff?

So we know what's coming. Two desk jockey cops need to prove themselves, overcome their limitations and probably get the girls. We know this story already. So we need something more. If we're not laughing hysterically or desperately concerned about the plight of those involved, then we're detached; we're back thinking about our personal problems and writing blogs instead of focusing on the movie.

They keep doing the joke about Will Farrell being a geek. He loves computers, he loves Photoshop, he loves bad movies, etc-- the joke keeps coming. If this was Billy Wilder he would only have made the joke once, and it would have been funnier.

So Eva Mendes is here now and she's talking about her breasts.

I'm bored, and there's over an hour left.

So I skipped to the end. And the two guys are holding their guns up to the bad guys, Wahlberg is being bad ass and Will Farrell is stepping out of his comfort zones. Don't worry about me giving away the ending, you've seen this film before.

The bad guys are in jail, and Farrell's geekery pays off, and Wahlberg gets the girl.

Care to share?

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Following Your Own Path

Becoming the artist you are, getting to the you that is really the best you can be, is a really bizarre thing. Because you find yourself inspired in the weirdest places -- like a Dylan bootleg from '83, or a rom-com flop starring Jennifer Aniston; and it's strange because --- how can you build a career based on influences that no-one cares about?

But of course you can. In the extended cut of "Almost Famous" there's a great scene, I think between William and Russell, where they talk about loving a moment in Marvin Gaye's "What's Happenin' Brother", it's a small 'woo', one of those accidents that got left in--- but it's the best thing on the record.

Those are the little things that inspire us, the little things that make us who we are. If you don't like "Casablanca" but you do like "Just Friends", so be it -- that's you. Some people spend years denying they like "Just Friends" and as a result deny they love mainstream rom-Coms and therefore never let their creativity explore rom-coms and thus never reach their potential. I'm sure you all have examples where you've fought against your natural skills/instincts/interests.

I know quite a few actors who turn away from their strong points-- it's very self-destructive.

Embrace it. I'm not into "Star Wars" and I'm not into "The Matrix" so I don't really go there, it's not my ticket. Having a wide range of influences and knowledge is of course great and important; but you just gotta make sure you take care of what you love. If your skill as an actor is being a scary gangster, or being a quirky girlfriend-- you could shy away from it or you could become the best quirky girlfriend that ever was by constantly working on it. It's like right now, this theory I'm exploring of "doing stuff for the 1%" -- it might be nonsense, or it might be worthwhile; either way I'm battering away at it until I exhaust it. I'll be the authority on being creative for the 1%. That's how we all need to be about our niche things, about the things we love.

You can be pretty good, maybe even great; at doing things well like many others--- or you can absolutely nail and own the one area you're personally drawn to. There's room for a master of suspense like Hitchcock, or for a powerful woman to give Streep some competition at awards time, or for a screenwriter who can make a script read like poetry. Whatever it is you're good at or want to be good at, that's where it's at; even if no-one around you gets it yet, even if everyone says "I'm telling you there's no market for transgender thriller rom-coms!" they're right. But they're right because you're not great yet, you're still pandering to the 99%. When you nail the thing you really want to say, after years of learning, writing and redrafting, then they'll get it--- you'll have mastered your work, mastered you, and when you show everyone else who you are, they'll see themselves.

Care to share?

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Be Supportive, Not Critical

It's easy to be critical. We all have opinions. When we criticise writing, or directing or even acting -- we do it with such authority. But where do we get this authority from?

Spielberg has authority. Meryl Streep has authority. The rest of us don't. Scripts are bad not because rules aren't followed, but because the scripts aren't good. So you need encouragement.

THE ENCOURAGER should be your name, and mine. Creative people don't succeed because of critical people, they succeed in spite of them. It's the positive, encouraging people who truly listen and care and inspire-- they remind us that it's an art form, that within us we have unique ideas and stories.

As an actor -- you need teachers who teach you skills and encourage you to reach far into the depths of who you are; they need to bring that out in you. Actors who get too criticised, too often, stop acting; because they try to please everyone and when they're acting they're trying to do good by the 500 critics who've told them they're awful, rather than the two people that matter: themselves and The Encourager.

We're at our best when we're connecting with something within us. When we turn our curiosity and energy and heartaches into words or performances or beautiful photography. We only get there by believing in the truth of our own ideas and feelings and intuitions.

Critical people wreck that. But they don't GET it, we have to remember that. Create work for the 1% who get you. That's when you entertain people, that's when you touch their hearts.

Care to share?

Sunday, 6 March 2011

1%

"I'm writing about 'The Apartment' all week. problem is, it bores 99% of readers. The good thing? 1% love it. Never forget the 1%."

That was me, on Twitter two days ago. I'd never thought about that until I wrote it, but it's been playing on my side ever since. Blogging is like making a movie; you have an idea and then try and shape it into something that everyone will like.

But when you go chasing everyone, you don't truly grab anyone. But when you do what you truly want to do, even if it's for one person, that's when it means something. The problem is, when you do it for the 1%, there's not going to be a lot of support because it doesn't make a lot of business sense.

Film is about business. Every artist suffers. Even most great indie films have a rewritten beginning or a re-cut ending. We're always changing and adapting things to appeal to a bigger percentage. But when the percentage gets bigger, the true satisfaction gets smaller.

The stuff we truly and madly love is rarely the stuff that was made for everyone. You can cook yourself a perfect pie but if you're going to sell a lot of them, you need to package them differently; and you need a recipe that will appeal to everyone.



But that's the reality. That's the business. And we all cave. We take out the violent scene to get a lower rating, we hire the famous actor over the right actor to get the funding. By doing it-- we make a living. But we rarely make magic.

Magic is made when you do things for the 1%. It's just hard, is all.

Care to share?

Saturday, 5 March 2011

The Old Apartment - This Is Where We Used To Live

For one week I will be focusing on the film "The Apartment." This is the third in a series of articles. 

In the history of humankind, the film camera is a pretty new invention. For whatever its original purpose was -- the main reason soon became: to shut us up and entertain us for two hours (or educate, or brainwash.) But of course, the effects are much longer lasting. In the past, people would die and they would be gone. Now they're living on our giant TV screens. Billy Wilder movies still get new reviews, and people debate who is more natural; Lemmon or Stewart. It's as if they're still here. There's something so strange about that, when you really think about it -- these people still shape and form parts of our lives long after they've exited.  Was it meant to be this way? Did nature intend for us to be able to press rewind and bring back the dead?

A motion picture is a snapshot; something created by a bunch of people some time in the past for reasons we'll never fully know. People make movies because they're inspired, or because they want to impress a girl, or because they had three-pictures left on their contracts. There are all sorts of reasons. But these movies last for life and they take on new meanings which had nothing to do with the intentions of the creator's. 'The Social Network' means something now, in 2011, because we're all spending our time on Facebook. But what will it mean in fifty years? What does 'The Great Dictator' mean now and what did it mean when Chaplin made it? 'The Apartment' captured my heart, mind, soul and all-round-attention in a way so few films ever have done. And it leaves me longing--- longing for more Wilder dialogue, for more people like C.C. Baxter. I live my life like a guy who constantly gives back the executive washroom key, and instead holds on to his integrity --- but what does that mean? Is who I am based on the real world or based on a fantasy of 1960? Can I live in this way or will I just wind up with egg foo yong on my face?


Would C.C. Baxter survive in 2011? Would Fran Kubelik go running after him? These questions are stupid, perhaps; as they were the work of fantasy in 1960, just as they are now. But films do hold resonance in the years they are made. They have meaning, they reflect society. But when people like me and you still find meaning in them long after the fact, we're in a minority. On our worst days, we act like we're in on a secret; like we 'get it' -- but holding on to the romance of old is always accompanied by disappointment and a lack of comprehension of so much of what happens in the world around us. Do we watch these movies just for comfort, to console us in some way; or are they useful and meaningful in today's world?

Care to share?