Me And Joss: The Legend Continues

26 04 2008

Are you a fan of Joss Whedon? If you are, then you’ll understand why I’m about to tell the non-fans to become fans, and if you’re not a fan, become one.

So, for a very long time (about ten years now), I’ve thought that the man was a genius. If you don’t really know who the heck he is, he created Buffy, Angel, and Firefly, as well as the upcoming Dollhouse, and he wrote and directed Serenity, the spin-off feature film set in the Firefly world. He wrote and directed most of the absolute best episodes of those shows, and really many of the best episodes of television I’ve evr seen. In case you’re wondering, yes, I pretty much have a man crush on the guy. I would have his babies.

Anyway, probably about a year and a half ago, I was walking along the 3rd Street Promenade here in LA, and who should I see but a schlubby guy in sneakers and a loose-fitting shirt. This guy was, you guessed it( you guessed it, right?), Joss Whedon. I couldn’t bring myself to approach him, so I just kind of stalked him up and down the Promenade for about fifteen minutes until he rounded a corner and exited my life.

Cut to a few months ago when, during the writers’ strike, there was an event called Mutant Enemy Day. Mutant Enemy is Joss Whedon’s production company, so I’m sure you can guess what the event was like. Buffy, Angel, and Firefly alum (actors, writers, producers, etc.) were out that day, striking in support of the writers. Now, I had been striking with the Battlestar Galactica writers when I was able since the strike had begun, so the striking wasn’t particularly exhilerating, except that, once again, Joss and I crossed paths. And, once again, I couldn’t bring myself to approach him. It just felt like we were all there for a cause, and to treat it like essentially a convention seemed inappropriate.

Cut to this past Tuesday, three days ago. I’m at work at the bookstore, when who should come up the escalator, but Mr. Whedon himself. I know! I just couldn’t let this go. “Hi. Are you Joss Whedon?” My voice was stuck in my throat, and also was doing octaves I’d never heard it do. “Yes, I am.” “Hi, Joss Whedon. I am a huge fan of yours.” So far, so good. Seriously, what is up with my voice? “Oh. Well, thank you.” “I’m so sorry. I’m all nervous.” Okay. That was okay. Kind of a lame thing to say, but you’ll redeem yourself. Just say something cool right now. Talk about that time on the Promenade. No, he might not appreciate having been stalked. Tell him about how you’re sorta-friends with a former Buffy writer, Jane Espenson. Yeah, that could… no! Tell him about how you supported the writers, and struck with them. Yeah. Or just tell him that he’s your hero, and that he changed your view of television forever. Say something! You’ve been quiet too long. Something cool, something relevant, something now! “Jane Espenson comes in here!” “Oh.” Crap! That’s what you said? You really said that? It’s like that time you met Kevin Sorbo and you told him that last week you had met Lucy Lawless, and then he just politely walked away. Stupid, stupid! “I don’t know if you’d care about that.” No, I care.” He cares! You said something and Joss Whedon cares! “All right. Well, have a nice day.”

And he was gone.

Telling my fiancee about it later, she said that I totally redeemed myself for the Promenade, when I couldn’t even talk to him. I told her, “Yeah, and next time I see him, I’ll redeem myself for this interaction.”

So, here’s what I’ve decided. I don’t know if coincidences exist. But I’m deciding that Joss and I crossing paths so often is not coincidence. I’ve decided that it means we’re fated to work together sometime in the future. I’ve also decided though, that just because fate says “Yes,” doesn’t mean you don’t have to work for it. So, I’m writing this script, right? And some days, I don’t want to write, and I think, “What does it matter? It gets done or it doesn’t, what’s the difference?” Well, the difference is this: if I write it, and it gets made, and I’m in it, then I’m one step closer to being somebody who other people recognize. People like Joss. If I don’t write it, who knows? So, I write. And I let fate take its course, but I do my part, too.

— ldi





Some Late Night Thoughts About Some Actors

6 04 2008

I decided a while ago to try to write at least three posts per week. Well, I think I’ve only done two so far this week, and since it’s already technically Sunday, I thought I’d do one right now. Now, keep in mind that “right now” is about two in the morning, so I really, really don’t expect to remember this in the morning, and when I re-read it, I’ll probably a) think that elves must have written it, and b) think it’s crap. My apologies.

I just wanted to talk a little about some actors. I just finished watching SNL, with Chris Walken as the host. What’s up, Chris? I mean, seriously, folks, why is he a star? I genuinely don’t get it. Well, that’s not true. I mean, he’s a star because he’s unique and weird, right? I guess I mean, how’d he get to the point where he the right kind of unique and weird to make us decide to make him a star?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m right there with you. I dig the guy. I think he’s great. I just don’t understand. I mean, he doesn’t seem to put any real meaning into what he says, you know? I mean, that’s why he’s so much fun to imitate, because it’s tough to get the rhythm wrong, because it doesn’t matter how you twist the pauses and breaks, as long as you say the right words. Like, the line might be, “I love you. I think I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I can’t see myself with anyone else, ever,” and he’ll say, “I love you, I think. I wanna spend the rest of my life… with you; I can’t. See, myself, with anyone else. Ever.” First, why does he do this? It’s wacky, and that’s why we dig him, but why did he start doing this? And secondly, why is it that if anyone — anyone — else did it that way, they’d be called the worst actor ever?

On a similar note, I don’t really get Shatner, either.

Moving on, I just watched the Ebert and Roeper (though really, at this point shouldn’t it be called, officially, Roeper and the Other Guy?) review of Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Can I just say how pleased I am that they loved it? Very pleased. See, I sort of came to Jason Segel from behind… I’m gonna re-word that. I was introduced to Jason Segel late. I recently discovered the delightful Freaks and Geeks, and was stunned to learn that Jason Segel was a regular on it. Then I came to find out that other people had actually discovered Freaks and Geeks before I did, and they’ve been fans of his ever since. As far as I was concerned, he came into existence when he first entered my life, with the premiere episode of How I Met Your Mother. The great thing is that, even though I wasn’t already part of his fan base, and he was competing with my soft spot for Alyson Hannigan and my excitement over Neil Patrick Harris’ return, I ended up loving his character, Marshall.

All this to say, let’s make Jason Segel a star. He’s proven himself time and time again, so when Forgetting Sarah Marshall comes out, let’s just all go see it. Then, because we like him so much, let’s watch the hell out of How I Met Your Mother, and make it not get cancelled. Thanks.

Another actor I’m proud of these days: Benjamin Mackenzie. Yeah, the guy from The O.C. I watched the show when it was on, but then I stopped after about two seasons. Right now, I actually can’t remember what it was that made me compelled to watch it even for that long. I don’t think it was ever “good” in a conventional way, but I could be wrong. Anyway, I just saw the trailer of 88 Minuets — which I’m interested in premise only, and probably will never see — and there’s Ben Mackenzie, frickin’ right next to Al Pacino! Good for you, O.C. guy!

I really like appreciating things like this, because one day, I hope to be an actor who is suddenly on the verge of a big career move. And when I am, maybe somebody will write a blog at two in the morning that no one will ever read about me. That’s, all kidding aside, the dream.

— ldi





The King Has Entered The Small Building

28 03 2008

I just finished watching the movie The Mist, based on the Stephen King novella of the same name. For what it’s worth, I enjoyed it. I remember hearing some complaints about the ending, and now that I’ve seen in, I sorta get it, but really, how would you have ended it? The world is saved, everyone lives prosperous lives, the dead are revived, the disgruntled are settled, and the two arguing groups find common ground? I say there’s a place for a swell, happy ending, but it just wouldn’t have fit here. I’m not sure the ending they decided on fit here either, but like Frank Darabont or Stephen King mention, “There was like, two hours of movie before the ending.” Well put, Frank Darabont or Stephen King.

But this is not a movie review.

No, today we talk about something that’s been bothering me of late. The subject of violence in movies. Note, please, that it’s not the violence itself that bothers me. Recently, a work friend of mine invited me to a table read of a script written by a kinda-friend of his. Afterwards, this work friend of mine and I talked about the script. Without giving too much of the story away, I’ll just tell you that most of the script is a relatively dark comedy. However, about halfway into the script, a couple of guys discuss some killings which included some pretty gruesome torture. Later still, a main character himself is tortured to within an inch of his life.

I don’t mind violence in movies. I don’t even mind torture in movies. I’ve seen all the SAW movies, and as long as they keep having interesting twists that I don’t expect at the end, I’ll probably continue seeing them. No, I don’t mind violence in movies; I do mind violence in movies where the violence just doesn’t fit. If you include a graphically violent scene in a movie, you better either be making a movie where the violence is the reason for the movie, or a movie that has earned that violent scene.

This kinda-friend of a work friend of mine’s movie neither had non-stop violence, nor earned the violence it did have. When I mentioned this to that work friend, he disagreed, which is cool. However, his main point seemed to be that these days, you need to have the violence in order to sell the movie.

So I guess what I’d like to do is to clarify what I mean by earning your violence. Because I refuse to believe that mindless violence is really what people want these days, and if you haven’t earned your violence, then your violence is, indeed, mindless. So, how do you earn it? I say two ways: character and story.

Yeah, I know. You’ve heard all this before. But that’s because it’s true. Why do I care that somebody just got decapitated? Or impaled? Or eaten? I don’t. Unless, that is, you’ve made me care. Let me know who these people are. I don’t need their whole life history, but I’d like to know a bit more than, “This guy is scared because someone is chasing them. And the someone chasing them is angry because the script told them to be.”

I used to be a fan of horror movies. But recently, I saw a billboard for some movie. Maybe it was The Ruins, I’m not sure. That was so weird to me. Even as I was looking at the billboard, I wasn’t sure what it was. As far as I’m concerned, so many of these recent “horror” movies are interchangeable. P2, The Ruins, Captivity… I don’t know what these are anymore. I really have no interest in seeing them, and that leads me to believe that that’s because they aren’t being advertised well, and that leads me to believe that that’s because the studios just don’t care anymore. As long as people are flocking, why change? Of course, it’s really just a cyclical practice, right? At first, when SAW came out, people flocked because it was something kind of new. Then the studios started making more and more, and eventually that’s all there was, so people had no real choice but to see the movies. Remember when The Real Cancun came out, and everyone was freaked because if this was popular enough, it might have meant the end of scripted movies? So, when it bombed, everyone breathed a sigh of relief? Remember that? Well, the truth is that if the studios had kept at it, kept making “reality movies,” eventually they would have become successful. People won’t stop going to the movies, so if they give us fewer options, we’ll just have to take it.

So I had all but lost my faith in horror movies.

I just finished watching The Mist. Thank you. Thank you for making a movie about, get this, people. There’s the dad who wants to keep his son safe (and thankfully, it never gets into cheesy Tom-Cruise-War-Of-The-Worlds territory, where danger makes him realize that he should be a better father), the woman convinced this danger is the wrath of a vengeful god, the man who rather be smart and dead than foolish and alive, the soldier in love. So, what did all this character building and backstory and history accomplish? It made the deaths matter. When one person died, or killed another, it impacted us. It wasn’t just another death to get the killer closer to another death to get the killer closer to the eventual showdown with the hero.

And these character building moments, combined with keeping the monsters shrouded in mystery for a while, made the violent images stronger, because we a) cared about the people, and b) knew that the movie had accomplished so much with so little, so that when they finally did show us stuff, it stood out.

So thank you, The Mist, for letting me enjoy a horror movie again. And really, thank you Stephen King. You’ve given us worldwide horrors, nightmares personified, and literal battles between Good and Evil. But I’d say some of your best stuff comes from throwing a small group of people into a cramped building or room, tossing in a threat, and seeing how they react.

— ldi