Thursday 6 September 2012

Something Good Comin', I Know It Will

It was two years ago when I discovered and got obsessed with 'Something Good Coming' by Tom Petty. I could tell you I'm over it, but I'd be lying. I listen to this song every day. It's still fresh to me.

In some ways, I feel like I know even less about the song now. It's more mysterious to me than it was two years ago. How weird is that?

It's a song about hope, about holding on. Yet it's not like your average pop song; there's a lot of pain in 'Something Good Coming'. Pain and wisdom. It's a guy in his 60's who's been through it, he's seen what life does to you -- but he still believes, through gritted teeth; that something good is coming.

I'm in for the long run
Wherever it goes
Riding the river
Wherever it goes

I blogged about this song on the day I discovered it. I wrote:

"In the hands of a lesser singer, or perhaps even Petty earlier in his career - the song would have been something different. It might have been more obvious; more anthemic, more ballad-like. But that's what gets me about this song; it has so much restraint. It has a voice of experience, a voice of maturity, a voice of pain and a voice of love. And it's all rolled into one."

Two years later, I totally stand by what I said. That's why I love Tom Petty --- this song isn't trying to be a hit, it isn't trying to recreate glory years --- it's an honest statement from where he is in life now. It's simple, quiet, haunting.

Yeah, haunting is the word. It really is.  

I know that look that's on your face
There's something lucky about this place
There's something good coming for you and me
There's something good coming
It has to be.

And the instrumental bit from 2.25-2.44 kills me, absolutely blows me away. Why? I can't explain! Don't you love it when you can't explain something? I'm so sick of everyone always having an explanation for everything. Everyone has an answer, everyone has a commentary. Even me, on this blog -- always turning junk into words (even this post, you could argue). But I love that so much of this song has me stumped.

I'm not pretending I really know what this song is about, and I can't explain what it means to me -- I can only state the facts, which are: this song means everything to me.

There’s somethin’ good comin’
For you and me
Somethin’ good comin’
There has to be

Care to share?


People don't become writers or directors or actors to get paid. Sure, most of us see the end result as being one where we're paid handsomely for our talents. But it's not the driving force behind our choices. If it was, we'd be bankers. We're here because we want to do something that satisfies our souls. And I don't even know what a soul is or whether it exists; but there is definitely this place inside of you, or just outside of you, that soars to the skies when things goes well and empties you out cold when things go bad. It's a place you can't tangibly touch or feel, and you only ever feel it when your dreams get closer to you or further away. 

And it's not just about rejection and being accepted. It's not as simple as that. There are a million different places in between, and you never quite know where you're going to land. 

The rejection story of, 'you were their second choice!" sounds like a great achievement when you hear it, but when you're actually in that second place, the unchosen one, it's so painful. Because you're so so close to your dream, the thing you've worked throughout your whole life to get to, and they snatch it right away from you. After that, you're no longer in second place, you're back with everyone else, sitting at home wondering what you have to do to get back in the game. 

It's hard. It's really hard. It's not just about employment. It's about more than that. You can be happily employed and earning money when another opportunity comes along -- maybe an audition for a Broadway play, or a chance to get your movie made in LA--- and you can get so close to it. Somebody is reading your script, somebody is watching your audition tape---- you get closer and closer. 

And then they don't want you. 

If you get cast in the big Hollywood movie, or you get hired to write the BBC drama; you're set. At least for a while, you've nailed it, you've landed. Sometimes it's a drawn out process--- you're under consideration. They want you, but the producers might go with a known name, or the production company are considering another project instead --- they just keep you hanging there and hanging there. 

And then they take it away. It's just like that. 

There are no prizes for not being selected. You were second choice to write that movie? You would've been cast in that flick if Jude Law wasn't available? This stuff means nothing when it comes down to it. 

Of course, it does mean something. Ten years ago you'd never have dreamed of getting this close. It's like that famous quote about people quitting right around the time they're about to succeed. 

It's just that most people don't understand how hard it is to work in this industry; because every time: it's a risk. It never gets easier for an actor to walk into that audition room to impress strangers. And it's always terrifying when you hand your script over. You are putting your dreams into the hands of other people. You're saying "I'm an artist!" and they have the power to say "ummm, maybe, but we're gonna go with the other guy."

Often the job is perfect for you. The job was made specifically for YOU. But you don't get it. 

That's life. That's the movies. 

This is a common thing in the life of the actor. And this year I've discovered that it's pretty common for writers as well. I'm writing this blog post today because I think many of you who work in the industry will relate to it. And it's good to not feel alone right? It's good to remember that these heartbreaking rejections are a result of AIMING HIGH. You are doing everything you can to follow your dreams, and that's amazing. That's living!

Today; I didn't get the writing gig I was, I thought, destined for. And one of my best friends fucked up an audition that he was really keen on. I sent him a text a bit earlier tonight, saying that we're lucky. Because some people never experience these excruciating lows, because they're not even trying! They're not risking it! 

So we're going to sit around and mope for the rest of today. Maybe we can drag it out over the weekend. 

But by the time Monday arrives, we'll be chasing the dream again. 

Care to share?

Wednesday 5 September 2012

Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too

1. As The Guardian and New York Times have been writing about recently; most book reviews on Amazon are duffs. Paid for by the authors to drum up interest. You can't trust the reviews.

2. Film Trailers are meaningless. They're not cut by the people who create the movies. They're thrown together by marketing people who'll do anything to get you into a cinema.

3. We've been sold the paradigm that release dates are important, that a new movie is an event. But a movie is just a movie, and a new release is not indicative of quality, despite what the press would have you believe. It's like with music; is the new Rihanna track likely to be better than a Beatles classic? No, it's just newer. But newer means nothing in art.

4. Hollywood movies have giant marketing budgets. The awards buzz, the break-up stories, the praise; it's all fabricated. Forced upon us. They spend as much marketing the movies as they do making them. The movie might suck, but they can send the star to sit on the couch at Letterman or Jonathan Ross to charm you. You think because Denzel Washington is a good TV guest that the movie must be good, but of course this is ridiculous.

5. They want us to believe that a movie is good simply because we hear everyone talking about it. But again, that's just the marketing team doing their work. That's the $50million marketing budget. A great indie flick doesn't have the resources. The best movie you could ever see may have been made in Ohio in 2004 but you'll never hear about it because it can't gain a foothold. And word of mouth from zero is hard.

6. The modern myth is that great quality always goes viral, but it's not the case, at least not with movies. Sure, a 30 second comedy clip goes viral based on quality, but not a two hour movie. It needs recognition from higher up the food chain -- but getting to these people is hard.

7. 'Once' only went crazy-insane after Spielberg endorsed it.

8. The cinema is the only place where you choose to repeat bad experiences. They've got it into our heads that the NEXT movie will be the great one we've been longing for, but how often is that the case?

9. It's about finding voices you trust, people that are in for for the right reasons. For me that's: The Duplass Brothers, Aaron Sorkin, Ricky Gervais, Lena Dunham, Spike Lee, Martin Scorcese, Greta Gerwig. Who is it for you?

10. This stuff is relevant to people new to the industry and it's relevant to the ones who have been in it for years: let's not lose sight of why we love movies, there is always the possibility of achieving greatness, if only we have the audacity to TRY!

Care to share?

Tuesday 4 September 2012

Thoughts on MOVIES

I only want to see greatness! Movies that say something! Rare, I know, but that's what I'm after.

Feel free to recommend stuff. There's so much I miss, probably because I'm in a cinema watching 'Ted'.

A Hollywood director said to me recently,"it's impossible to make good movies here", that's how dire it is. He's part of a system that sucks the life out of creativity. Whenever Hollywood makes a good movie, it's a fluke. Most movies are shockingly bad.

I'm not one of those guys who reviews every movie that comes out. Credit to those bloggers who watch everything and write lengthy reviews of them, and often for tiny readerships. I'm in awe of your patience and hard work, but I can't do it!

Life is short. I know a guy who died a few weeks back suddenly, he was 26. Same thing happened a week before to a guy who was 29. That's how it goes; life is fast and it ends. I choose movies, they're my love, but not the bad ones. We don't have enough time to be watching the studio dross.

I want to see magic. I want to see genuine connections between characters, and endings that are earned, that honour the rest of the story; I've had enough of hacked together bullshit. It's like those recent Sandler and Stiller films, even the kids think they're a bag of shit. These guys were once comedic geniuses, now their job is just to turn up.

It's like all of Hollywood thinks the job is just turning up. They turn great screenwriters into studio hacks. Their ideas quickly quashed by executives who think they know better. And they do know better -- they know how to make money.

The films are awful. The ticket prices high. The popcorn extortionate. The screens in disrepair.

The problem isn't technology, it's that the product they're peddling sucks. And sure, people eat up the superhero movies, and lucky they do, because the studios have squeezed out the in-betweens. Their indie-divisions shut down, their $80million dollar movies lacking in imagination and relying on names to get them ticket sales.

It really is an assembly line. We sit there and get duped by the trailers, we think we'll see something original.

Great films still happen, I know they're out there, but there are precious few coming out of Hollywood. We've become so content that we claim films are great when really we've been swayed by the hype. It's unlikely anything you saw in the last few years really stuck.

The King's Speech anyone? The Artist wasn't even that great, it just reminded us of what a story is. And they told us Cabin in the Woods was the greatest horror in years, but that's because there's hardly any competition!

Films are not always an art form. Often, they're just a turd on a screen.

I'm after greatness. The stuff that makes you so excited you have to tell EVERYONE. It happens to me maybe once a year. If you've had that feeling recently, please tell me about it, tell me why you loved the film -- we need those stories.

Care to share?

Sunday 2 September 2012

Most Movies Are Made Just To Give People Something To Do

Ben Stiller has a nice house. And probably a nice pool. Same goes for Vince Vaughn and everyone involved in 'THE WATCH'. They all have to keep working, so they can keep affording their lifestyles. And also, as grown men, it's important to have a reason to get up in the morning. Their going to the film-set is just like a guy going to work at the store, or the office; it's a place to go and do some work, earn some money, and find distractions from their problems.

Occasionally a film can be art. Maybe 1 in every 2000 movies, but most stink. I saw 'THE WATCH' and I saw 'TED' today, and both are extremely lazy movies, which were made purely so a bunch of people could have something to do and earn some money. 

You can't tell me there was much that was good about either movie. 'Ted' had a few laughs. But the teddy bear concept was worn out after 10 minutes. It didn't matter that it was a bear after that. Instead of the bear, you could have cast Jeremy Piven or Jon Favreau, it really didn't matter. The bear was just a novelty which made the trailer appealing, which made the guys in the pitch meeting say "I love it, let's make it!"

Throughout 'Ted', Mila Kunis' character wants Mark Wahlberg to grow up and get over the bear. He doesn't, so they break up; and then the bear comes back and tells Mila that it'll all work out and that she'll never have to see him (the bear) again, and that way Mila and Mark can live happily ever after. So Mila goes to see Wahlberg, at which point the bear gets kidnapped. 

So then the bear calls Wahlberg, and says he needs help. And suddenly, for no reason at all, Mila lets go of the issue she's been carrying for the whole movie (that Wahlberg needs to grow up and let go of the bear), and helps him go and save the bear from the evil person. They race through some streets, climb up a sports stadium, and of course: save the bear. 

And then Mila is happy, and says she 'just wants things the way they were'. Meaning that all along what she wanted was Mark Wahlberg and his stupid dumb bear, even though beforehand she didn't. It was like Seth MacFarlane (the writer/director) was given a note by an executive during filming, which said, "I have a greattttt idea! How about she actually LIKES the bear in the last scene, for no reason? She doesn't care that Wahlberg is a loser stoner and instead is happy at the end! AHAHAH I'd love that, so original lol". 

Movies don't have to make sense any more. Why? The audience don't give a shit! I've been in cinemas where the projection is so messed up that half of the movie is being projected onto the ceiling, and no-one gives a monkeys! People just want a place to go and sit in peace for two hours with their Blackberries. 

'The Watch' is an atrocious film. Utterly lazy and completely unfunny. It was written by very talented people (including Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg), and it stars comedy heavyweights Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill, but it is completely unfunny. There's barely a laugh in the whole thing. 

And with this much talent, it's just LAZY.

I can't work out if it got killed through studio notes; or whether it was the complete opposite, and these guys were given too much freedom; because nothing works

Back to my original point - most films are made simply because films get made. There's a whole industry that has to work. And there are millions of people around the world who are hopeful of greatness whenever they go to the cinema. We get fooled by the trailers, every single time. 

There are people who think 'Ted' is great. But I must say to them, 'REALLY?!'. I'm not being a snob, you can like any film you want. But I highly doubt people love these movies half as much as they think they do. Think about the first time you saw 'Star Wars' or 'Forrest Gump' or whatever your favourite and most watched flicks are. 

The issue is not that the movies we see these days in the cinema aren't as good, I mean --- making great cinema is hard. Very hard. The issue is that, most of the time, these guys aren't even trying. 'Ted' was just dick-and-fart jokes, and not even GOOD dick-and-fart jokes. As for 'The Watch', I'd be surprised if anyone working on the movie cared about the quality. Nobody on that set thought they were making the best film of the month, let alone the year. 

I need to lower my expectations. I go to the cinema hopeful of finding characters that intrigue me, jokes that surprise me, and stories that pull me in and won't let go. The reality is that the cinema so rarely provides these things, especially when we pin our hopes on the mainstream. I'm not one of these people that can happily sit through shit movies every time I go to the cinema. Life is too short to sit still for two hours watching Ben Stiller walk around streets with Vince Vaughn being completely unfunny. 

I like movies that attempt to say something. That have the balls to take a risk, or have some class. I'm not talking about high-brow/low-brow, I'm talking about quality. About putting in some effort. 

Care to share?