Purple, directed by Michael Kamel

In October, Michael Kamel, a young filmmaker, asked if he could use the script of my short play, “Purple,” for a short film.

I said sure, go for it. Michael is a freshman at George Mason University.

I get a fair number of requests such as this. They ALL warm my heart — and I mostly never hear about the project again.

Michael emailed me today, saying he’s been busy with “school, school, and more school.”

Yet, lo and behold, he actually made the film.

Today, sent me a link.

I’ve gotta say, I’m impressed. A lot of people make a lot of videos. And a lot of people talk about making films. Michael made a film. And he took care to do it well. He got more out of that script than I would have imagined.

The script…well, it’s fun and strange to look back and think what weird things were going on inside my head in 2007, when I wrote this.

The film… great work, Michael! I love it. You really know how to work with your actors. Thanks also to Jacob and Bri. I don’t know them, but I love them for breathing life into these characters. 🙂


some micro reviews (really micro)

I’ve been in going-to-The Manor-movie-mode lately and have seen some good ones. Here are the micro reviews:

Mud:  Odd story. A bit of suspense and the ending delivers. It works.

Frances Ha: Loved the way it was shot. Very inventive, pleasing sense of place. Cool characters. The premise was a bit weak for my taste. Not enough at stake.

Much Ada About Nothing:  A total treat. Shot in black and white. Beautiful people speaking beautiful language in beautiful surroundings. No big stars. It’s all shot at director Joss Wheden’s house in 12 days — amazing.

Les Mis — go see it

I love musicals and I love this movie. Go see it.

There are lots of reviews, plenty of conversations, tons of buzz. It just opened today — so there’s a lot more of that to come.

But just go. Leave the urge to critique at the door. Leave your head at the door.

Take your heart, a bit of sentimentality, the desire to be flat-out entertained.

Anne Hathaway’s performance of ‘Dreamed a Dream’ drew audible gasps from those sitting around me.

We have such need to analyze movies this good (the casting, the closeness with which it was shot, the incredibly long takes) but why not leave the analysis aside and enjoy it?

I saw the stage production, years ago. It was great — and it cost a lot of money to sit way the heck back and take turns using binoculars to see the actors’ faces. Plus the cost of parking (and possibly a babysitter).

I saw this film on row five and enjoyed an incredibly intimate, moving, musical experience.

It’s spectacular. For less than $10.


’til the season

Just saw two great moves about people overcoming enormous obstacles to create a whole new world (which is what all great movies are)…

What an awesome, inspiring experience, to walk into a dark room, sit for two hours, and witness a vivid tale of the best that the human spirit has to offer.

Now I’m waiting for Les Mis.

The Untouchables (the French one, 2011) my kind of movie

If you Google the movie, “The Untouchables,” you will get lots of links for the Robert De Niro, Kevin Costner film about about Eliot Ness.

But if you Google “The Untouchables French Film 2011,” (or “Intouchables,” the French title) you’ll get to read about the  film staring François Cluzet and Omar Sy — now playing at The Manor in Charlotte.

I didn’t do either one before I went, tonight, and saw it. I had read a couple of blurbs that said it was moving, funny, and the second most successful French film of all time. I had no idea what it was about, and I’m not going to reduce it to that here.

Just know that it’s an exquisite movie — poignant and exhilaratingly funny — about human beings connecting with each other rather than their circumstances.

If you’ve ever doubted the power of context, check out the opening sequence (a car chase) and notice how your view of that scene gets turned inside out later in the film.

That’s all I’m gonna say. It’s a great movie. Not everyday or every year great. Rare great. If you go, you’ll be glad you did. I promise.

P.S. There’s another movie playing at The Manor now that I’ve also seen: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. It’s a pure delight and full of great stars, but don’t be detoured; it’s not as powerful as Intouchables.

Movies that make you think (sometimes for the wrong reason)

I saw Inception the first day it was out.  There were very few people in the audience.  Since then, I hear it’s doing really well.  Everybody loves it.

I got really bored and really wanted to leave the theater (but I was there with two other people).

It seems like the kind of film that lets you think you’re thinking, so you can pat yourself on the back for being a real thinker.

It’s like a jigsaw puzzle.  It takes some thinking to put it together.  But if it won’t go together because there’s really no solution and never was — so it takes even more thinking.  This movie didn’t make much sense and I don’t think the filmmaker had the story completely pieced together either.

When I hear the word “film” and the word “think” together, a red flag goes up.  Nobody wants to think during a movie, and we’re not inclined to do it.

The point was to dazzle — and distract us into the details — since the basic story wasn’t compelling.  Sure, the guy desperately wanted to go home and see his kids.  But he wasn’t a real likable guy, and he wasn’t a real sympathetic character — so I didn’t care if he got home or not.

If we had had a scene of him with his kids, early on, letting us know that this was a loving family that needed repair — then I might have cared.  It might have been worth a little effort to figure out how he was going to get there.

But I just saw a bunch of great actors with great, techie action, and lousy, trite dialogue.  And no real desire for them to win.

What I really thought about during Inception was how much longer the movie would last.

I also saw The Kids Are All Right.  Granted, this is a different genre, different budget, different altogether in every way.

Funny funny funny.


Because the story was so simple and clear, I didn’t have to think in order to follow it.  The acting was natural.  They looked natural.  Not a lot of make-up.  Not much glamor.  It was real enough that I was therefore able to think about the meaning of the story:  What constitutes a family?

So I guess my point is that a movie can provoke thought, but only if you don’t have to think in order to understand what’s going on in the first place.

I’d much rather not think about what‘s going on, so my little brain cells are free to think about why it’s going on.

Want an iPad, but I do have an Eye Pad

I do have some new Eye Pads, but not an iPad.

I’d like to get an iPad and certainly will, eventually.

my iphone
my iphone

When the iPhone came out, it was too expensive. A few months after release, they lowered the price $200 and I got one then. Since then, the price is still lower, although the fee for data is higher. I’ve still got the original 2g (over 2 and half years). The 2g data costs less, and it works too well to upgrade — although I probably will get a new one if this one breaks, or, most likely, when the next generation is released, probably this summer.

Apple iPad

This is just to say that I think what we hear is true, that the iPad, and similar devices, will enjoy exploding popularity just as smartphones did — and will soon be the first choice for reading textbooks, books, magazines, and newspapers.

And I want one too.

Is it vulgar to love a company and the hyped-up products that company makes? Perhaps.  Perhaps not. Life is short. I’ve used and enjoyed Apple products since my first Apple IIe in 1982.

But money is tight these days, so I’ll have settle for a lesser but still awesome eye pad:   Visine Total Eye Soothing Wipes.

I just discovered the eye pads a few weeks ago. I don’t know if they’re selling as fast as iPhones and iPads, but the last time I checked, Walgreens was out. I had to go to Walmart, where I bought the last three they had on their shelves.

I badly strained my eyes in 2006, while editing my feature indie film, Coffee Therapy.

Since 1982, I’ve spent many hours a day staring at computer monitors, but I think that film is what really did it. Editing video is a little different from writing. The stuff is small, the changes minute, and one has a tendency to work for hours at a time without looking up, and forgetting to blink. (BTW, Coffee Therapy is, of course, available on DVD).

I also spend much of my time handling paper and ink. I often do this while using a computer — going back and forth from printing to writing — and I’ve got a bad habit of rubbing my eyes. Not a good combination.

I guess I should not have ignored my grandmother’s stern commands.  She told me, many many times, “Stop rubbing your eyes!”

Thus, I’ve got a little problem with blepharitis, and the best treatment for this is scrubbing the eyelids with a warm washcloth several times a day.

I find the eye pads more convenient than washcloths, and I can take them into my office and into my car.

But I still want an iPad.

Netflix instant download + Projector = awesome!

So far this year, I’ve been in vacation mode. Much needed.

I’ve continued 10k steps per day. Done yoga each day.

And, I’ve watched three movies.

The Shift
La Vie En Rose
I’ve always gone to movies and theatre on a regular basis.

Thanks to the economic downturn, I think I only went to two movies all last year.

And we canceled our Netflix membership.

And I’ve worked quite a bit.

My entertainment, along with a bit of local theatre, was basic cable — and of course all the stuff online. I’ve spent much of my free time, since that amazing Iowa primary in January of ’08 — watching political squabbles on cable.

But I got inspired the other day, listening to Here and Now on NPR while delivering Coffee News.

Ty Burr shared his list of 10 best films of the decade. I’ve seen a few of them, but there are a lot on the list I want to see. On his website, his list includes 33 of the best films of the decade.

So I rejoined Netflix and filled the queues (the DVD and instant play)

Now, with the instant play feature, it’s awesome. I hooked my laptop to my projector and speakers and voila — movies on the big screen with big sound — and the supply is unlimited.

Will I have to ignore the fascinating political squabbles in order to use that time to watch a few good films?

Not really. It only takes a car radio and few minutes of reading a day — not two hours of repetition on cable — to keep with the news.

The Ava Gardner Film Festival

I really enjoyed a brief visit, yesterday, to The Ava Gardner Film Festival in Smithfield, NC.

I also enjoyed visiting with Kirk Adam for a few minutes.  Kirk is an artist who created this festival and works steadily on it throughout the year (and he was exhausted, as one would expect).  The Ava Gardner Film Festival is growing, and maturing, and getting better.  Kirk suggested I start a film festival here in Salisbury.  Darn good idea.  Right now I don’t have the time.

Everything about it was pleasant except for the 80 minutes I spent watching my film, Dodo of the Year (the reason I went there).  For some reason, this was agonizing, and I’m not sure why.  Here are some of the possible reasons:

1. Quality of the film.  As a film, it’s far from being a masterpiece.  It’s embarrassing (even though others seem to like it well enough; it won runner-up in the narrative features category).  But, I knew this when I made it, five years ago.  The goal was to get the experience making a feature length film.
2. Because I wrote it, shot it, and edited it, and have seen each clip thousands of times, the repetition and predictability may be where the torture lies.
3. The script was originally a stage play — obviously a comedy — that got more laughs than the film.  I think some people take this story seriously, which makes it not too funny.
4. We had little equipment and virtually no crew, and it shows.
5. We had so much fun making it. (July 4 week, 2005).  I spent the following month editing.  The cast member are not only great actors but great friends, and it was wonderful spending that time working together.  I’m too busy for such projects now, and I miss those days.

Whatever — besides the agony of watching my film, Smithfield was nice.  I visited a few workshops, other films, walked the downtown, and toured the Ava Gardner Museum.

It’s a quaint, extremely friendly town, and I can’t believe I didn’t take a single picture!

I did have my picture taken, though.  At one point, as I walked down the street, a bunch of kids on a church group scavenger hunt asked me if they could take my picture.  I obliged.  One of them stood behind me and made “bunny ears” behind my head as they snapped the photo.  That got a big laugh. I wonder why.

I had been to Smithfield before, two years ago when they screened Coffee Therapy — but this time I spent a little more time learning about Ava.  Wow, she was something else.

Ava Gardner
Ava Gardner

Such a beauty.  Married to Mickey Rooney, Artie Shaw, and Frank Sinatra.  Rejected many marriage proposals from Howard Hughes, who wanted her bad.

When she married Mickey Rooney, in 1942, they were both under contract with MGM and, according to their contract, had to get permission from Louis B. Mayer.  She was a head taller than Mickey.

Although her marriage with Frankie was brief and filled with jealousy, on both parts, her studio connections helped him get the role in From Here to Eternity, which turned his career around (he won the Oscar).  They remained close until death did them part.

I enjoyed reading the letter Governor Jim Hunt wrote her, in 1978.  They both graduated from Rock Ridge High School, a rather small building for a high school.  Hunt’s elegant letter invited her to a reunion that marked the closing of the school.  This was her last public appearance in North Carolina.

According to the extremely knowledgeable and helpful docent at the Ava Gardner museum (a woman who, incidentally, was kind enough to say — and I think she meant it — that she liked my film) the Ava Gardner Museum has a shelf life.  Her biggest fans are people my age and above, so eventually the demand for the museum could diminish (see Jessica’s comment below).

Friday night, the folks at the film festival partied late and made a pilgrimage to Ava’s grave.  It’s a short walk from the film festival activities in downtown Smithfield.  Everything in downtown Smtihfield is a short walk from everything else in downtown Smithfield.  Sorry I missed the party.

Alas, I also had to miss the 6pm screening of Kiwi Child, my other film in the festival.

Because my daughter missed her flight on Thursday, I wanted to get home and then to the Charlotte airport to pick her up.