Sunday, October 9, 2011


The prospect of attending a full-on geek fest devoted to all things SHE was exciting to ponder.  The reality has gone so far beyond the expectations, that it all feels a tad surreal.  Seattle is a perfect setting for GeekGirlCon2011.  It already has that indie, no-pretense, cool-to-be-smart vibe going on.  Add to it a bunch of chicks who are here to talk, and challenge, and game, and cosplay, and just generally shake things up, and you pretty much have full-on anarchy.  I kinda half expected to be one of a hundred people sitting in a room.  Soooo not the case.  They sold out yesterday, and expected to do the same today.  Walking around the Seattle Center campus, the feeling of attending your first day of training at an alternative universe-ity left me feeling like a little Doogiela Howser.

First panel I attended was "The Heroine: Journey, Culture & Narrative." If that sounds kinda like a women's studies class, it was.  In the best way.  Four different women presented their take on women in film and television within male-dominated genres:

*Claudette Colbert's defiantly rich career in Hollywood, including gender-bending roles in war films such as "So Proudly We Hail", "Since You Were Away", and "Three Came Home".

*Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Zena Warrior Princess and the eschewing of binary thinking that you must be EITHER action hero OR female, and how they both show that aggression is actually a human trait to behold when necessary.

*How slamming Charlie's Angels and the like because they are physically attractive is reductive thinking, and that using the traditional Hero's Journey is problematic because it is so inherently male-centric.

*Looking at how Wonder Woman's Amazon background, devoid of men, shaped her as a woman/character.


I then attended a ticketed special event: "Oral History Live! With Jane Espenson." To say that she is a pioneer in the writing world of television is an understatement.  Plain and simple, she just f'ing rocks!  She is geek writer extraordinaire, and shared her rise up the writing ranks starting with getting a call to pitch Star Trek episode stories after sending in spec scripts, and up to her time on Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Gilmore Girls and Battlestar Galactica.  So cool to hear how even established vets get so excited about creating content.  She shared her experiences in the trenches of doing BG webisodes as the sets were literally being torn down as they shot.  Jane gave a great scoop on "Once Upon A Time" that has Lotusfilmgirl doing a furious re-write for submission....

Saw a rough cut of "History of the Universe As Told by Wonder Woman" that made me beyond proud to have jumped aboard their Kickstarter campaign several months ago.  People should be VERY excited about this one.  The kickass panel included Gail Simone (comic author rockstar!), and Trina Robbins (comic book author high priestess!!!).  They both talked about how GeekGirlCon felt like being at Woodstock, seeing the start of a revolution evolving before your very eyes.

I had hoped that by coming here to Seattle, I would get some fuel to go back and attack the storylines of the projects I'm working on.  It has truly given me so much more.  Total game changer.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Film geek that I am, the only thing better than seeing a great movie, is re-visiting one you'd forgotten was such fun to watch.  Tequila Sunrise (1988), about a morally wavering cop and drug dealer and their unlikely friendship, soooo rises to that standard.  You've got Robert Towne (Chinatown) writing and directing, and Conrad Hall on the camera.  On screen, I was reminded why Mel Gibson and Kurt Russell used to make women (and probably many guys) swoon.  If they'd lit both sets of baby blues any better, no one would have heard dialogue. And Michelle Pfeiffer was pitch perfect as the rope in this game of love tug-o-war. I would have liked to have seen her be a little more "Did you just call me Slick?" and a little less "I love you!" but I refuse to let that dampen things.  What this all means for the viewer is dialogue is written as it should be in a multi-layered thriller, 1980s rapid-fire.  We're given just enough to let us know who each character is at heart, but still keeping us thinking to read between the lines.  Let's sit with that concept a moment...the viewer is not only expected to think, it is assumed they are capable in doing so in order to keep up and figure out the plot twists and turns. And how could I have forgotten Raul Julia's role???  Talk about brilliant.  I did have to laugh, though, because there was an over-the-top drunken/high singing bit that he did that seemed a spoof on the WB singing frog. Watching Julia and Gibson in scenes together, really makes me wish Mel would just go back to the days where he kept the best crazy for on screen.  And the cinematography?  The steamy, literally and figuratively, hot tub scene alone is reason enough for the Oscar nod; this was in spite of the non-chlorinated water in an un-sanded tub vessel that left both stars with rashes, splinters and scrapes that caused production delays.  There's another scene that encompasses a moment that any picture lover will appreciate.  The two friends, Gibson's and Russell's characters, sit on a sunset lit swingset against the ocean backdrop. It is as vital to who these men are to one another's lives as any of the dialogue.

Although the film got mixed reviews at the time it was released, I still say it's worth a re-visit.  There is much to be learned about the truly collaborative nature of making a film when the writing, acting, directing, and shooting are all working together...and are brilliantly topped off with an über-80s Nancy Wilson (Heart) and Robin Zander (Cheap Trick) theme song to boot.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Great NYT article on writer Jenny Lumet

So nice to see her coming into her own.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

I Am Love

I'm late to the party, I admit.  But, man oh man, was it worth circling back for.  I Am Love is so beautiful and lush in it's cinematography, that I had to step back and separate the feast for the eyes from the story, just to make sure I wasn't being falsely seduced by the pretty.  What I found was an operatic story, that in the hands of someone other than Director Luca Guadagnino, it would have turned into melodramatic mush.  But, along with the pitch-perfect reserve of Tilda Swinton, it truly delves into an inside look at the life of quiet desperation of a woman with everything and nothing.  She has wealth, a beautiful home in Milan, a house full of servants, three lovely children, and a successful husband.  But, again and again, she muses upon the fact that she traded in her identity and her passion for this privileged life.  She poignantly says to her lover that she doesn't even remember her Russian name, having lived so long with the name (and identity) that her husband christened her with when he chose her so long ago.

Many critics (especially those in the US) slammed the movie as melodramatic, and this was not meant as a compliment.  They noted the obvious wealth of the family as reason enough to dismiss the film as some fairytale having no meaning for the average soul, along with the super lush score and quasi-gothic coda.  I disagree with this take.  I think it hearkens back to the universal human quest for meaning in our lives, the concept of true love, and the costs of compromise and secrets.  While the setting of this film in Milan, Nice, and London may be well beyond the financial and socio-economic realities of most viewers, the emotions and conflicts can be found in any social stratum. The film is really old fashioned in this sense.  In fact, Guadagnino and Swinton co-produced the film together, and purposefully set out to make a film that would "modernize the old-fashioned melodrama," and somehow "rejuvenate the filmmaking style made famous in the 1940s and 1950s by the likes of Alfred Hitchcock ('Rebecca') and Douglas Sirk ('Magnificent Obsession')."  There were only a few moments where their efforts took me out of the moment of the story.  For most of the film, the John Adams score was amazing in lending the proper tone.  But, at other times it was a bit heavy-handed, such as the whole chase scene where Swinton's character is following her soon-to-be lover through the streets of Nice.  Similarly, the camera work was almost always beautiful and elegant, but when it wasn't, it was hugely distracting.  At one point, the two lovers are driving into the countryside, and oddly the POV is from the actual front bumper of the car, not the occupants.

It's interesting, story wise, that instead of the punitive cause and effect that is often the case in films where women follow their passions in lieu of duty, this piece deftly moves beyond that rut.  When tragedy comes after Swinton's character has found love outside of the stifling confines of her societal and familial ranks, she actually uses the pain of the loss of her son to launch her own freedom.  Likewise, when she discovers her daughter's secret love of a woman in lieu of the chosen young man she'd been with, she seems giddy at the thought that some spirit of individuality and passion that she instilled in her child has flourished.

Much has been made of the food porn nature of the cuisine, and of the beyond beautiful wardrobe.  Once again, Swinton and Guadagnino were deliberate in their choices in making these elements an integral part of the storytelling.  They brought in Carlo Cracco, the Milanese chef as an advisor to the director so that the food became "a tool to express the utter giving that a lover can display to the other without words."  The fashion was designed by Fendi and Jil Sander specifically for the film, and the red dress Swinton wears in the scene when her character falls in love is classic costume design success at it's best.  

Much has also been made of the explicit sex scenes in the film. Different than most American films, though, is the fact that it never feels gratuitous.  It is spot-on, and right in the moment, utilizing the characters' passion for one another, the nature surrounding them, and the music that fits perfectly.  It is a reminder of how un-real so many Hollywood "love scenes" are written and shot.  It is also a reminder of how the American "male gaze" has formed the norm for the depiction of sex in film.
A fun aside that, for me, ties together all of this ode to classic film, fashion, and la dolce vita was the addition of 70s fashion model/icon Marisa Berenson as the matriarch of the family.  Every time her character was onscreen, I was struck by the fact that her fabulosity seemed to allude to her character having lived in a previous life the real life of the actress playing her.  I've included a few shots from her from her heyday:

Sunday, March 27, 2011


After a week of film viewing, I sat this morning mulling over what had worked, and what had not, in each film.  I never go to a movie with the expectation of it being a masterpiece.  Instead, I go into it with my mind open to seeing what creative collaboration was birthed from the efforts of the writer, director, and all of the other talents who placed their imprint upon the production.  That's not to say I don't see and call a shitty production when I see one.  I so do.  But a shitty movie can be hugely instructive, so I appreciate those as well.

Here's the roundup (Spoiler Alerts):

Yes, we pretty much knew where the sci-fi plot was going to take us, and what ethical dilemmas that may raise.  But the premise and acting was still interesting, and visually, it was a fun ride.  Director Neil Burger actually gave the lighting in the film it's own story arc with the shifts when Bradley Cooper's character was taking the pill, and when he wasn't.  Also, the use of graphics/effects with the stock ticker on his apartment tin ceiling tiles, letters raining down while he whizzes through writing a book in four days' time, or the glitch in his character's time sequencing all lend to an uptick on the straight narrative form.  Some proactive camera work also lent to the film's message of being off kilter, playing with speed, POV, and time.  They used Fuji camera stock for the off-drug gritty life scenes, which always lends well to greens and reds, and gives a "photographic" and grittier feel.  For the on-drug, polished too-perfect scenes, they used Kodak to give a more luminous feel.  The RED camera was used for the über fast street-tracking scenes, that lend to the feel of a brain on amphetamines.  There's even some questioning on the internet boards of whether the color of Cooper's eyes were enhanced to feed into the different modes of his body off and on the drug. In the final scenes, is it possible that they also had him in a wig to subtly suggest that the drug use is still in effect?  Overall, a interesting mix of the fun toys and tools of the storytelling and filmmaking trade. Once you have your story, dive into the filmmaking sandbox and 
see what toys can be used to take the premise to a new level, to build a new layer of the story.

Next up, Adjustment Bureau.


I had every intention of writing a dissection of Sucker Punch after seeing it this weekend.  But when I read this one, I figured, "Why re-invent the wheel?"  Read on: