Sunday 9 September 2012

The Bridge Scene & The Ending at Tracy's Door

This might just be the greatest scene from any movie, ever. It's two people sitting on a bench, with their backs to us, in a long shot, talking. And that's all! But it captures the moment perfectly.

And that's what you want from a movie, that's why we crave them: the moments. Of course you need a story and a plot and characters that excite you. But the way they do that, the way they really capture you, is with the magical moments. The best ones feel like an accident, like the crew accidentally kept rolling and magic was somehow captured.

That's why I love this scene in 'Manhattan'. It's the most perfect minute of cinema you could ever hope for. I could talk in a technical way about the Gershwin music, and the dialogue, and the shot composition, but it's not exciting to talk about the nuts and bolts, it's too scientific. The fun is in the moment itself, not in how it was constructed.

The scene feels like every magical moment I've ever had in New York City. It feels like every woman I've ever loved. It feels like life at its absolute best.

And then there's the ending, when Ike gets to Tracy's door, just as she's about to leave for London.

What's great about Woody Allen is how his endings are so open, so realistic. They feel like your life. They're not always happy endings, yet they make you feel good, because they're meaningful. And here, Ike doesn't want her to go, Tracy is the love of his life -- but he has enough wisdom, deep down, to know that she's got to go; she's young and she has the chance to travel and study in London. The whole film; Ike acted as if he was above her; but at the end, it's her that has the wisdom.

"Why couldn't you have brought this up last week?
six months isn't so long. Everyone gets corrupted.
You have to have a little faith in people."

And then the look in Ike's eyes. You see it, RIGHT THERE, in the moment. He gets a little faith. Life has meaning.

What more could you want from a movie? 

Care to share?


Early in the morning factory whistle blows 
Man rises from bed and puts on his clothes 
Man takes his lunch
 Walks out in the morning light
 It's the working, the working, just the working life
-Bruce Springsteen  'FACTORY' 

This film really sparks something in me. People can tell you a million times that you only live once, but you never know when it's actually going to HIT you. Luckily, we have films. Hundreds of them can flash by our eyes and leave little impact, but eventually one will -- and it'll strike you to your core. 

I just watched 'Cemetery Junction' for the third time. I loved it more on this viewing then the previous times. When you watch a film the first time, you find out what it's about, you follow the story. The subsequent times, you only watch when you're in the right mood for it. And something, somewhere in me, told me to watch it again tonight. I guess I needed it. 

I watched 'Annie Hall' earlier today - and it was okay. Don't get me wrong, I think it's one of the greatest films ever, but on this particularly viewing, I didn't love it. Your favourite films are like the bands you love -- sometimes they just don't nail it, they have off nights. 

We live within the confines that society constructs for us. Somewhere it's drummed into us that our dreams aren't possible --- that somehow the only thing to do is stay in our comfort zones and gradually try and improve things. It's like when people ask what your plans are, or where you see yourself in five years; we end up confined to climbing ladders in jobs we loath, or we get to an age where we think we should find someone, settle down, and the biggest decisions we face should be when to change the wallpaper. These attitudes get drummed into you from everyone around you -- because so many people have dreams that fell apart, opportunities they never followed up. It's like everyone is sitting around scared, waiting for the day a golden opportunity will land on their laps. 

The country you live in is so small, and the world out there, so big and eventful! This is a film about having your eyes opened to the things and people around you that are limiting your worldview. The small minded friends, the oppressive bosses; 'Cemetery Junction' reminds you that it's all a bunch of bullshit. The world is a giant place, filled with possibilities. When you open yourself up to that, you never know where it might take you, and who you'll meet along the way. 

This film seemed to slip under the radar when it was released. I guess it's not the kind of movie people expect from Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. Anyway, I think it's a great film and it might just have changed my life a little. 

Care to share?

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?