Got a little busy preparing for a meeting on a show that has been on for four years. Lotsa episodes to watch and forums to read. But thank Christ for the internets. It used to be impossible to fully prepare for a meeting before you could find episode guides and, well, episodes. And Bittorrent? You and me, buddy. All the way.
I wanted to dive into some comments first because pisher, in the way only he can, posted something silly. He goes:
>I'd certainly call Death Proof the least accomplished (and least ambitious) Tarantino movie to date, but I thought it was damned entertaining--the talky parts as much as the vroom-vroomy/crashy parts. Your primary complaint, I take it, other than the lack of sufficient action (everybody says that) is that the female characters didn't talk like real women?
You mean the way the Travellers in The Riches don't talk like real Travellers, as you know damned well they don't?<
That's vintage pisher, folks!! One has nothing to do with the other. But before we go there, let me just say how remarkable it is that SO MANY PEOPLE know EXACTLY how travellers talk and act. That's truly amazing! I always love when people get cranky because the research isn't precise and exact. Um. It's easy to get bogged down in reality and research. I've done it myself. But it can also get stifling and you have to know when to stop or it will ruin your show. I mean, a dude can't really squeeze into an air-conditioning vent but I didn't hear you yelling about THAT. The FBI doesn't actually investigate this sort of thing, but you remained quiet. Because it was engrossing and well written. Get it? Whether or not the traveller culture is properly represented is irrelevant in this discussion. Because on The Riches, the characters DO talk like people -- well drawn, fleshed out, unique people.
In Death Proof, the characters do NOT talk like people. But primarily, the female characters in Death Proof don't talk like women. At all. And it's not the tough talk, or the movie references. There are little subtleties that Quentin just blows past because God forbid he should actually listen to a woman TALK, right?The scene in the car, when Rosario Dawson is talking about the director who cheated on her -- her friends totally defend the guy for sleeping with someone else because Rosario didn't sleep with him. That's a GUY conversation. Girlfriends would NEVER do that. And then when she wants to go with them in the car and Zoe tells her that she can't because she's got a kid -- that's what a GUY would say, just before he got smacked upside the head.
This may not seem like a big deal to you, which doesn't surprise me. And there are moments in well-written pieces that you can shine a bit because the writing is so good. But it isn't in Death Proof. Look, I'm a HUGE Reservoir Dogs fan. I adore it. And he managed to write a strong female character in Jackie Brown. But there's a reason for that -- Jackie Brown was a person first, and a woman second. In Death Proof, Quentin wanted to write gurls. He forgot to create PEOPLE. And I fucking HATE that kind of writing. Also, Death Proof isn't a grindhouse movie. At all. So there's that.
>Anyway, granting all this, how true to life then do you have to be when you're doing an homage to exploitation films running on a double bill with a zombie horror film about women with machine gun legs, that features a guy deliberately running a tricked-out car head-on into another car at high speed as a means of getting away with murder, that same guy then running afoul of two stuntwomen and a hairdresser who are playing a game called "Ship's Mast" that involves hanging by two belts from the hood of a vintage automobile travelling at high velocity?<
You'd better create characters, my friend. And cutting something that sort of slack because it's exploitation anyway is stupid. Why shouldn't everything be well written? Why would you make a decision to set the bar lower? It is NOT easier to just shit something out on the page. Bad writing takes as long as good writing -- sometimes even longer.
>I don't blame you for finding the dialogue inauthentic. There are no women who talk like that. There are no MEN who talk like that. It's only meant to be 'authentic' to the Quentin-verse. Mr. Tarantino and neorealism have never been on the best of terms. He's always preferred Leone and Argento to DeSica and Rossellini. <
Okay. So what you're saying is, there are no authentic characters in Once Upon A Time In The West? Seriously?
>You have probably read his comments about Kill Bill--that he has this vision that all the movies he loves (including his own) take place in some kind of wacked out dimension where all exploitation films really happen, and a character can find herself in a martial arts film one moment, and a spaghetti western the next. <
Sure. Which is great. But ironically, what you're saying is the opposite of the truth. If you create a "wacked out dimension" then you had better populate it with believable, dimensional characters. Your fallacy is completely wrong here. And speaking of Kill Bill, which I mostly like, it has some of the same issues with female characters. I don't understand why writers -- and women do this with female characters, too, although it's mostly men -- can't just create CHARACTERS. PEOPLE. How's about we start with that?
>So while I don't blame anyone for saying they don't like Death Proof, I must chide you for expecting realism from it. I mean, have you ever heard two hitmen talking about what a Big Mac is called in The Netherlands? You either dig it or you don't. I dug it. <
I explained above what realism I expect. And you giving it a free pass for its flaws is sloppy. But once again, you have this weird ability to use as an example, the completely wrong thing. While I haven't heard hitmen talking about Big Macs or TeeVee pilots, those discussions both illuminate character. WHICH IS THE POINT OF DIALOGUE. Sloppy, pisher. Very sloppy.
Man, I LOVE having my own blog!
The title of today's post refers to Diary Of A Mad Housewife. Most of you probably haven't seen it because for some retarded reason, it isn't on DVD. But it's playing at the Egyptian next Thursday, along with Play It As It Lays, which is ALSO not on video. I haven't seen it but it sounds GREAT. Both movies are directed and co-written by Frank Perry, who also directed The Swimmer (which IS on DVD -- see it. It's wonderful, and the transfer is gorgeous).
I was reminded of Diary Of A Mad Housewife last night, when I watched Family Portraits: A Trilogy Of America. Not since Cabin Fever have I wanted so much to strangle a filmmaker. This is supposed to be a shocking and meaningful film about how people can't connect unless it's through violence. Essentially, it's a trilogy of -- wait for it -- TERROR. Three stories of the American suburban nightmare. In the first film, the dude's a pedophile. His wife makes colorless food that she silently serves, pedophile dude stares at her, she goes whacko and cuts off her lips (don't ask), they have sex (because FINALLY, she's interesting to him), he goes at her (and himself) with the garden shears. And, scene. The second film is about a dude whose dad is a controlling psychopath. His wife makes colorless food that she silently serves, abused dude stares at her, then he ties up his wife and daughter and hacks them to bits with what is apparently the world's sharpest knife. And, scene. The third film is about an artist dude. His wife silently serves him colorless food. He stares at her. A girl who's lost her hands in apparently some violent fashion comes home to a silent, staring house. Then she goes to the artist dude, where she's all, "Buddy, I KNOW you cut off my hands" but in a silent, staring way. Then the artist dude goes out to the Midwestern equivalent of the moors and tries to dig up the bodies of all the women he's killed. Q.E.D. Somehow.
Here's where I have trouble with filmmaker Douglas Buck's premise. What we're seeing is NOT American suburbia, and to pretend otherwise is unfair to the audience. A film like this has no impact because the setting isn't grounded enough. The guy can't even create REAL suburbia! So the extremes don't resonate. But let's look at Mad Housewife. There are REAL extremes in this film, particularly with Richard Benjamin's character (you have to see him to believe him). But he can go all freaky because he begins in reality. We've all known a version of this guy. The movie is an exquisite portrayal of its time (the early 70s), when women were awakening from their housewife comas and their husbands were trying desperately to hold onto the status quo. The reason the movie still works, though, it because of the characters. The Swimmer, while slightly less successful because it builds to a surprise ending that you see coming for the entire film, nonetheless presents a surreal suburbia that grounds itself in reality through the main character (a superb Burt Lancaster). Buck can only dream of recreating this kind of magic. It's all about being able to IDENTIFY with a character, setting or situation. If the filmmaker is too interested in being taken seriously, he isn't going to be able to tell a story. And Buck is NOT capable of telling a story. Like Eli Roth, all he wants to do is shock because deep down, he knows he's a big old hack. And the fact that Peter Straub did the liner notes for the DVD makes me wonder about his sanity.
Let's face it -- it isn't hard to have a point of view on suburban American life. It's certainly something that can be shorthanded, which is great for storytelling. Little Children is a great modern example of that, and Strangers When We Meet, from the 60s, portrays characters we can still identify with. It's not fucking brain surgery, people! But when you get something like Family Portraits, or In The Bedroom, you know you're in the presence of pretension. And pretension doesn't make for entertaining, thought-provoking storytelling.
Anyway. Blech. Avoid Family Portraits, or don't come crying to me.
Dave talks about his myriad rewrites for the Lifetime movie. Yeah, notes can be helpful. But the execs seem to think that means that ALL notes can be helpful, until the end of time. Which we all know isn't true. It's probably the biggest stumbling block facing writers. How do you know when to put your foot down? And can you even do that? Because writers have ceded all power to the networks and studios. I'd sure love to get some of that back. And unfortunately, no Comic Con for me THIS year either. Until they fix the lodging situation, I'm not going to kill myself over it.
I know someone who will be breathing easier knowing I won't be there.
np -- Every Move A Picture, Heart=Weapon. Sorta 80s, and it's growing on me. The first track, Mission Bell, is freaky -- it sounds JUST LIKE Stories For Boys. And that can't be an accident. Speaking of music, we wrote a new spec pilot that's about a rock star and her daughter and we did an iMix! So if you search the iMixes on iTunes for Eliza and Ruefrex, you should be able to find it.
Until next time, Gentle Readers.