Monday, June 17, 2002

Tra La La La-La-Land

Hey everybody! Welcome once again to my adventures in L.A.! Roll camera and... Action!

6/4 - A while back, Marie introduced me to a friend of hers named Joe Grisaffi. She had been telling me how well we would get along, which of course made me want to prove her wrong. Alas, she was right and we've become fairly good friends. It's sometimes spooky how many things we have in common. He made a film while he was in Houston, and he is in the process of moving out here to "break in" just like the rest of us. Anyway, what's the point of this? On this night we were all going out to a screening he had arranged for his film at a local cafe. It was kind of a strange set up. The cafe itself was rather tiny, with almost all the seating outside. On one side of the cafe was the large blank white wall of the neighboring building. This is where the movie was to be projected. So, we all settled into our lawn chairs outside in the cool air for his movie. It was very bohemian; I felt so chic. They turned on the video projector, and started with Joe's short student film first. I can't remember the title of it, but I do remember it being stuffed to the gills with bad puns and student film clichés. It was only 10 minutes, but it was very long. And Joe was sitting right next to me! What do I say? We had been talking casually before, and now that the short film has played, I'm afraid to say a word. Fortunately, he was called away to the back of the walk-in theater to greet more guests. I closed my eyes and did my best to prepare myself for whatever may happen in the Main Feature.

The main feature (written, directed, and starring Joe Grisaffi) was Laughing Boy. It's actually listed in the IMDb if you're interested. Well, what can I say? It wasn't terrible. In fact, it was much better than the preceding student film had led me to expect. It was basically about a guy and his trouble fitting into the normal world expected of him, all of which taking place in the course of a single party one evening. There were some clever moments and some wit, but it didn't work (for me at least) in part because the main character you're supposed to be identifying with is an asshole, by his own admission as well. Also there seemed to be a feeling of trying too hard. Sure, not every one-liner is going to be a classic, but there ought to be a better ratio than one out of ten. And there were dozens of tens. The acting was more sporadic. Those that were good were excellent, but sadly they were outnumbered by those who were bad, who were terrible. I couldn't help but be reminded of a line from one of my favorite movies, The Rocketeer: "Act, but don't *act* like you're acting." An additional uncomfortableness I must inject here-- remember the screenwriter I met in the beginning? The one who sold the idea for $40,000? Well, he too is from Houston, and he appeared as an "actor" in Laughing Boy. Let's just say he wasn't part of the minority. So now I have two people I can't talk to about the film! So what did I do with Joe? Simple. I just talked about pinball. Works every time. To be fair, the movie was very well produced. It was well directed, looked very professional (for the most part). It just wasn't very good, and that's not bad, really. It just needed a better script! ;)

Now I know a lot of you are probably thinking, "Who the heck does he think he is criticizing this guy's work? What has he ever done?" Well, first of all, I have just as much right to criticize as anyone else who ever sees a movie. Second, I've taken plenty of barbs over the comic book over the years, which I actually find helpful. Personally, I prefer criticisms because no one ever lies when they're being negative.

Speaking of the comic book, here's a weird anecdote. Joe Grisaffi used to live in Houston and do any film work he could get. He's actually working in Austin now as a casting director (no, I can't get you into the movie so don't ask). Anyway, long before he and I ever met, he knew a guy who knew Flynn who gave him some of our early issues to be set dressing in one of the movies! Sadly, they were stolen from the set, so our big screen premier has been delayed. But hey, at least someone thought they were worth stealing!

6/9 - Marie and I went out with Adele, our friend the Director of Photography from the Politics of Fur movie a while back. She's much more interested in documentary film making, so she invited us to a screening of some experimental documentary shorts by a guy named Alfred Gazetti. Yikes. Experimental was right, although he may have been experimenting with something other than film at the time. They introduced them as being sort of like "travelogues" in that they didn't have the traditional narrative. That's one way of putting it. There were about a dozen films, all about 10 minutes long. Whew, I thought Joe's student film was long? That was a piece of cake. These had some interesting shots of clouds, and light shining through trees, and then sunlight reflecting off water, and maybe a person in the water, and them some other random stuff. Then they had some less interesting shots of clouds, and light shining through trees, and sunlight reflecting off water, a person in water, and other stuff. And then they had some quite boring shots of clouds, and light shining through trees, and sunlight reflecting off water, a person in water, and other stuff. Has anyone ever seen Koyaanisqatsi? If you have, imagine that with less interesting music, less interesting visuals, and less variety. He also seemed to have recently come across some of the nifty video editing tools that came with his computer program, which allowed him to have split screens, and boxes of clouds within clouds, and totally irrelevant text running across the bottom. In the end I decided it was like being in an art gallery, except instead of being able to choose which works you like and which you would just glance at, you are forced to stare at every single painting. For ten minutes. Each.

6/10-12 - What a fantastic series of days! Monday, I received a package I had been waiting for for quite some time. Anyone remember the sign-in book from my party at St. Arnold? Yes, I finally got it. Woo hoo! Thank you, David Good. Then on Tuesday, I received my first-ever care package! And what a package it was, too. Thanks to the enormously gracious hearts of Kelly and Toni Wittrock, I was able to experience a six-pack of St. Arnold Summer Pils. And boy did I experience it too. I read through the book and drank beer and listened to the Beatles and came very near nirvana. Then on Wednesday, I got yet another package, this time a Hawaiian shirt from my Parents in Hawaii (rubbing it in I guess) and tons of snacks procured by my sister from Southwest Airlines. Peanuts for everyone!

6/15 - The Silent Movie Theater was playing a Chaplin classic, The Kid, so of course I went to see it. The opening card of the film calls it "A picture with a smile, and perhaps-- a tear." I thought about using that as one of the trivia quotes, but decided that would be too hard. And of course somebody would be a stickler and say that it didn't count since nobody actually *said* it. Anyway, why mention the Silent Movie Theater again? Well, apparently a show on a Saturday night is a much different event than on a Sunday matinée. The owner and proprietor of the theater, who appeared about my age, got up on stage and performed a little song and dance number to welcome us to the theater. His love of the silents was very apparent. He talked about every film to be shown before the break, and introduced the piano accompaniment, Mr. Bob Mitchell. This man was nearly 90 years old, and had been playing to the silents since he was about 10, having seen many of them in their first run. There were a lot more people in attendance this time than before, and they all were really enjoying themselves. Some maybe too much. I can't describe it really, but the guy next to me seemed to be laughing a little *too* hard. It was almost as if he wanted people to know how smart he was by laughing at all the right parts or something. Anyway, during intermission everyone went out back, or out to the lobby, or wherever. I was surprised that no one even approached the piano player. So after a few minutes, I went up to talk to this incredibly unique person. He was amazing, and had great stories to tell. He was so old and frail looking, yet he was incredibly dynamic and fun to talk to. We talked for the entire intermission, and I couldn't believe no one else had any interest. Especially the forceful laughing guy.

After the intermission but before the feature started, the owner again came up on stage. This time he was offering prizes for answering trivia. I don't know enough to be in serious competition, but it was fun anyway. What I found truly incredible was one guy who stood up and was able to name all fourteen stars whose head shots went around the theater. I could have gotten six, maybe eight with luck, and this guy just rattled through them. This is definitely a town with movie fans.

Recent good VR mistranslations:

Polly Anna-ish = polymide fish

Herd of elephants = her developments (wow, now that's developed!)

This one is weak, but made funny by the context. In an interview with O-Town, some made-for-tv boy band like N'Sync, one of the guys said, "We're just here to be a band." What the computer wrote was, "We're just here to be abandoned."

That's all for now. See you next time!

Movie Quote Challenge:

Number 1: "Little surprises around every corner, but nothing dangerous. Don't be alarmed."

Number 2: "The horror. The horror."

Movie Quote Answers:

Today's quotes were correctly identified by KELLY TICE! Congratulations and super accolades!

Number 1: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl

Number 2: Apocalypse Now, by John Milius and Francis Ford Coppola

Thanks for playing, better luck next time!


Monday, June 3, 2002

To Live and Try in L.A.

Hey Gang-

Not much happening this time around, so this should be short.

5/22 - Interesting day at The Transcription Company. I got to transcribe an interview about the history of Hawaii. The VR program definitely had a problem with names like Queen Liliuokalani, Princess Kaahumanu, and Kalanemoku. Unfortunately, there was no discussion of the history of Hawaiian shirts, but it was still very entertaining. I learn a lot of interesting things at this job. For example, American missionaries actually created the written Hawaiian language for the Hawaiians so they could translate the Bible. It seems like it would have been easier to just teach them English, but what do I know. Also, when you're watching your Special Edition DVD of Footloose (as I'm sure all of you will whenever it's released), the interview with Kenny Loggins (you know, the guy who just does soundtracks?) is rigged. They told him to do Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon with Laurence Olivier, and then fed him the answers! How cheap! (In case you're interested, it's Olivier to Dustin Hoffman in Marathon Man, Hoffman to Tom Cruise in Rain Man, Cruise to Bacon in A Few Good Men.) I've definitely also learned to keep track of my speech. If ever I'm interviewed, I will be very careful of my "ums" and "uhs," "you knows" and "I means," and sentences that run on for about the length of paragraphs, just for the sake of the transcribers. Lastly, and most importantly, I've learned that the worst possible interview to conduct for transcribers is two college cheerleaders with similar voices, constant giggling, overlapping dialogue, talking about N'Sync. How I made it through that day I'll never know.

Speaking of which, I'm starting to work really hard at getting out of this job. It's interesting, sure, but boring. And hard. I'm not very good at it. Plus, I have to call in every day to see if there's work, and often there's not. So, being flushed with my recent exposure to PA work, I'm pursuing that (more on that in a moment). If I'm going to work as hard as I did those weekends with that small crew, I might as well get paid for it. Wish me luck, I'm sure I'll have much more exciting tales to tell about that.

5/26 - There's a small movie theater here that shows only silent movies. It's really a thrill, as I've always been a big fan of Chaplin, Keaton, and Lloyd. This weekend they were showing Safety Last, the Harold Lloyd comedy that includes the now-famous scene of him hanging off the clock hands at the top of a building. It's a small place, of course, and much more like a big room with seats than an actual theater, but great nonetheless. They had a pianist providing live musical accompaniment, who was just amazing. They opened with three other short films (including a cartoon!) before an intermission and the feature. It was incredible. One of the great things about L.A. is that it is such a movie town. I know that seems rather obvious, but it shows in so many ways. There are about a billion movie theaters; there is always something classic playing somewhere; the theaters brag about their sound systems and digital projection when they can. Best of all, where else can you talk to so many people who are fans and buffs? I was at a party and somehow just randomly got in a conversation about Bergman films. Another guy I know is a big Kurosawa fan. Almost everybody is into the movies, which is just cool I think. Well, everybody except the people who work in Marketing for the studios. There's some law that the people with power over a product can't know or care anything about it I think.

5/29 - Signed up for the Production Assistant's Association to get work. It's probably just a scam, but they did have a lot of good information and contacts. The "training" meeting I went to was very interesting. Of course the second half of it was just promotion for various other classes you can take (for a fee), but the audience is what I was impressed by. I expected it to be almost all college-age kids or recent grads looking jobs, but they made up only about a third. The rest was a group so scattered and varied you wouldn't believe it. There were all ages and all careers, including a registered nurse, civil engineer, and paralegal. All of us with that foolish dream of making it in the movie biz. The instructor even did the old bit about looking at the person left and right of you, and one of them will be gone in two years. Hopefully, that will only be me if I've made it so big I can live in Spain.

Okay, well that's about it for me. Not a very long or entertaining update this time, I'm afraid. I've really been off the ball lately and need to get back on it and work my tail off. There are too many distractions for sure.

Recent good VR mistranslations:

this goes back = discotheque

since he dumped her = simply don't care (spookily relevant)

L.A. Survival Tips: Entertainment

- As I may have mentioned once before, almost everything to do around here involves shopping. I expected that to some extent with Rodeo Drive and the like, but it's everywhere. I have never seen so many malls in my life. Up further north from where I am there's what has to be the world's largest strip center. It stretches for at least a mile. Every store you can think of is located there. I wouldn't be surprised if they have a shuttle within the parking lot. I've also been down to the area with all the resale shops. Vintage clothing is very big right now, with lots and lots of resources. One very weird shop I saw was nothing but old T-shirts. What a scam! They go to any Goodwill or Salvation Army, pick up about a dozen for ten bucks, then sell them there for $10 a piece! Sure, you can get that elusive Barry Manilow concert tee from the 70s, but come on. How many monster truck rally shirts does one person need? I wonder if they'd want any BindView tee's?

- Concerts. Wow. In Houston, you could get pretty excited when a band you wanted to see came to town. Here, every band, comedian, classical musician, you name it, plays here. Everybody. Of course Paul McCartney and The Who, but also Ravi Shankar. And there are always stars on the radio promoting things. Every morning, every radio show has at least one guest that would be considered a big deal in Houston. Not here. They all live here and have nothing better to do on weekday mornings apparently. Memorial Day weekend one station played all 80s music and had musicians from the bands as guest dj's all weekend. Very strange.

Movie Quote Challenge:

Number 1: "I'll be taking these Huggies, and uh, whatever cash you got."

Number 2: "Oh wake up Norma, you'd be killing yourself to an empty house. The audience left twenty years ago."

That's it. Sorry again it wasn't as entertaining as some others, but I'll work on it for next time. Take care.


Movie Quote Answers:

Congratulations Henry Smith for being the first to correctly identify:

Number 1: Raising Arizona, by Joel and Ethan Coen

Number 2: Sunset Boulevard, by Charles Brackett

Way to go! He's been trying really hard from the beginning and finally got in fast enough!


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