Friday, March 30, 2007

Eli Roth: Oh, it's ON.

We interrupt this blog for a rant.

Ever since I paid good American money to see Cabin Fever, I've loathed the crap out of self-proclaimed Master of Horror Eli Roth. I hate his movies, I hate his attitude, I hate his smug face. I don't understand what Tarantino and Rodriguez see in this guy. Yeah, I know, it's not like their tastes are particularly discerning, but STILL. When Bernard Rose and Iain Softley are making movies, how can you even mention Roth, unless it's with derision? Seriously. What the hell fuck is going on??????

Cabin Fever is without a doubt one of the biggest steaming piles of shit I've ever sat through. It's misconceived from the start. Clearly, this stupid bacteria isn't airborne. So why is everyone freaking the fuck out? WHAT IS THIS GODDAM MOVIE ABOUT? Why am I supposed to be scared? Well, okay, I was scared. By incompetence. But that's it. And by how it's clear from the film that Roth thinks he's an ever-lovin' genius GOD. And then, of course, people liked the friggin' thing. He made another shitty horror movie and now he's the Goddam Master of Horror. How does that happen? How does one hack so sucker people that they think he's great? Do I really want to see Grindhouse and sit through even a MINUTE of an Eli Roth trailer? I don't think I do.

I didn't think I could loathe this asshat more but now he's decided to remake The Bad Seed. Yes, the Bad Seed, the Mervyn LeRoy directed, Oscar-nominated film based on a play by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Maxwell Anderson, who based the play on a National Book Award-winning novel by William March. Hmm. Mervyn LeRoy, Maxwell Anderson, William March, Eli Roth. What's wrong with that list??? But wait. IT GETS WORSE. Here's what Roth had to say about The Bad Seed:

"The original was a great psychological thriller, and we are going to bastardize and exploit it, ramping up the body counts and killings. This is going to be scary, bloody fun, and we're going to create the next horror icon, a la Freddy, Jason and Chucky. She's this cunning, adorable kid who loves to kill but also loves 'N Sync."

Yes, it WAS a great psychological thriller. FOR A FUCKING REASON. It's not a slasher film. You wanna make another slasher film about a killer non-airborne bacteria, be my guest. But leave little Rhoda Penmark alone. I guess I should applaud him having the temerity to say that he's going to bastardize and exploit it, but the only road that leads to is the road of unbelievably crappy movies. So terrific. He's going to take this mesmerizing story about a complex and evil little girl and have her hacking off peoples' fingers. Wow. How frightening. It's going to be "scary, bloody fun." Which means that all the subtlety will be yanked out of the story. And Roth, in all his hackiness, considers Chucky a horror icon? We're in trouble, Gentle Readers. But here's the piece de resistance: She's going to listen to 'N Sync? WHAT FUCKING YEAR IS THIS?? Can the idiot not even get his ironic musical benchmarks correct??? Rhoda was about three when the LAST 'N Sync record came out. Little Rhoda Penmark, chewing off Claude Daigle's index finger to get at the penmanship medal as Timberlake warbles "I Want You Back." Oh, yeah, you're an original, Eli. And if he thinks that all Rhoda's about is that she loves to kill, well... this just proves that the only thing the film industry cares about is whether or not they've heard of you. Quality is an accident.

We could shit out a better first draft than Roth could ever dream of over the fucking weekend.

But whatevs. We're not Masters of Horror.

np - The Morning Stars - You Can't Change the World (how appropriate!)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Moving BLOWS

Sorry for the short hiatus, but I was moving. And seriously, it took forever. And the movers were awful. But enough about that...

The biggest entertainment news is that the new season of Buffy has arrived! It's in comic book form, but it's here nonetheless. And BOY, does the world miss Joss Whedon. Nobody has his nimble touch with story and character. Even when Joss isn't great (and nobody is all the time), he's always inspired. And he seems to be happy to be back in his world. No matter what else Joss creates, Buffy will always be untouchable. I wish we had a show like this on the air now. Of course, you can't expect a Buffy every year. Genius doesn't punch a time clock. But the stuff that's supposed to be great -- shows like Heroes and Lost -- just can't touch Buffy. And it's actually unfair to expect them to. But what seems to happen in TeeVee is that if it's gone, it's forgotten. None of the TeeVee reporters has a sense of TeeVee history, which is really and truly sad. They just don't know anything. All they know is what's shoved in their faces, what they're told to love, what's supposed to dazzle because somebody said it was supposed to. I know people adore Heroes and really, honestly, more power to it, but... do you really believe it's one of the best shows ever? Really?

As for Lost, obviously the bandwagon has completely broken down. But something weird is happening -- Lost is getting interesting again. It's not arresting TeeVee like it was the first season, but it doesn't deserve to get slapped around like it is. Sure, it's like an anthology show now, but the last couple of episodes have been REALLY fun. I feel like they've settled down a bit and have stopped worrying so much. They've turned back to what made the show interesting -- the characters and the juxtaposition of expectations. The shot of Jack in the last episode is exactly what I mean. Lost does that VERY well and it's nice to see them getting that. I've found myself more interested in what's happening when I watch the show than in the Big Question. If the writers could just realize that staying away from the Big Question isn't that important, the show could get even better. This week is the big Locke episode. Yum!

Most of my friends watch more TeeVee than I do. I'll watch the pilot and second episode of shows but mostly, if we're not up for a job on it, I don't tune in. It just feels like work sometimes. But apparently, I was the only person on the entire fucking planet who watched The Riches. And this is my question -- WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU PEOPLE WANT??? Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver playing Irish travellers who steal the identity of a rich family and move into their mansion? Jesus effing CHRIST, people! Why isn't anyone watching this show? You can bleat about Rome and The Sopranos and Rescue Me and Nip Tuck all that other shit but it doesn't mean a thing to me if you aren't at least curious about this show. In meetings, we're frequently asked what shows we're watching. I usually draw a blank. "Um... Battlestar Galactica and... um..." It's hard to point to shows that I would want to do. Galactica, obviously, is not a show you can point to. It's considered nerd fiction, even though it isn't. Now, though, I'll say The Riches and I'm sure execs will go, "Oh, right... I meant to watch that, but it's not a hit." It doesn't matter what something IS. All that matters is how people perceive it. So they always want you to say Grey's Anatomy or CSI or whatever's hot.

I wish I could do that. We've been thinking about what's not clicking for us, and I think it has to do with ambition. There's a certain type of ambition that you have to have to work in TeeVee. At first, being smart and esoteric worked for us, but that was because we were on Millennium. But now, smart and esoteric only works for certain people -- Ron Moore, Tim Kring, JJ Abrams, Damon Lindelof. You simply cannot use your esoteric script to point to those guys and go, "But THEY'RE doing it." Because "they" will always be the exception. The rule is, make sure every word in your script can be understood by someone who's reading it and surfing Defamer at the same time. Subtlety has no friend in TeeVee. It's the exception, never the rule. If you're lucky enough to manage a hit that's smart and esoteric, they'll let you keep doing that. But if not... just know that you need to fit into a box to work in TeeVee. We struggle with that every day. And I don't say that so that you guys will go, "Wow... you're so smart, but nobody gets it. TeeVee sucks." Because that's not it. There's really no rulebook for TeeVee. The individual has to figure out how to navigate it. And right now, we're in a similar position to people trying to break in. There's a certain hive mind in TeeVee and if you're not constantly working in it, it's hard to figure out. The TeeVee community has a certain perception of shows and genres. And right now, I don't know what that is.

So staffing should be interesting.

We did decide to shelve our pilot for the time being, realizing that we need more time away from it. So we wrote another pilot in the meantime, something that (hopefully) will fit into what we'll need this season. I'm really proud of it but I have no idea if it will work or not, because we're not part of the hive mind. I hope it's an edgy family drama. But I will have no idea until someone in the hive reads it.

Awhile back, AJ asked if I knew what Chris Carter was up to. I have no idea! I'd heard several months ago that he was considering a return to TeeVee but as far as I know, nothing has come of it. I sort of admire him for walking away. X-Files really did change the face of TeeVee. Unfortunately, in TeeVee terms it resides in the Pleistocene era. Nobody references the show anymore. People don't even remember it. Which is sad. Although David Duchovny is making his return to TeeVee. He'll be doing a new Showtime pilot. It's a comedy. It sounds fun and fucked-up. He's also got a movie coming out where he plays a TeeVee writer shepherding his pilot through the process. Fun, or maybe painful reality.

We're supposed to have a meeting on Thursday, but it's been pushed so I don't know if we'll have it or not. It's for a new USA show that's really fun. We'll see. Until next time, Gentle Readers. It won't be so long!

np - The Fratellis, "Costello Music"
They're the hot new band for a reason. I recently heard the new Black Rebel Motorcycle Club record, which is fan-freaking-tastic. I hate them live but MAN, their records are good! And the new Voxtrot is equally impressive.

Friday, March 02, 2007


I've been working on feature and pilot loglines all day, and reading pilots. It ain't gonna get more clever than "Friday." Our feature script went out this week, so we're preparing for feature meetings. I'm still not sure about feature meetings. There's an unpoken rule that unless you sell a feature, you don't exist. But still people want to meet you when they've read your script. We haven't done much in features -- okay, we've done nothing aside from writing about five billion of them that didn't sell -- so we're still trying to navigate it, to get everything we possibly can out of the meetings. It's actually a little tough switching gears from TeeVee to features because in TeeVee, there is a job at the end of the meetings. Not so, features. But we had a pretty good meeting this week and we're going to follow up and hopefully find something to work on.

We haven't gotten any word about what's happening with our feature but just about the most you can hope for, unless you write really commercial stuff (we don't), is to get good feedback on the writing. So we're hoping for good feedback on the writing.

The TeeVee meetings are still in the future but a network or a studio meeting will trickle in every now and then. We've got one this week, so I'm reading that network's pilots. And you know what? Sort of enjoying them! That's always preferable to loathing every pilot you read. There's been a lot of pilot casting news of late, and the most exciting is Anna Paquin in the Alan Ball show at HBO. The show's based on the Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlaine Harris. I'm way looking forward to it. Speaking of vampires, the Canadian content version of Tanya Huff's Blood series is starting on Lifetime in a few weeks. The casting looks... okay. I like that they're trying a genre show like this. I hope they try more.

In Comments, Steve said he writes radio adverts. And Steve, you CAN get moer whorish than that! TeeVee can be horrifyingly whorish. But you know what? Just leave the money on the dresser, pal. I might be a whore, but I'm a high-priced whore. Just think of it like that. And Edouard longs for the days of Morgan & Wong, who didn't do pointless rewrites. As a showrunner you have to do your share of rewrites to keep the tone and the characters consistent. But like M&W, I would want to give the writer as many drafts as possible. We've gone through both extremes, being left to do the rewrites ourselves and being rewritten before the script even goes to the studio. Sometimes they even change character names. This, by the way, is absolutely appalling and a disgusting practice. Given a choice, I would never work for someone who rewrote just for the sake of it, and didn't make anything better. But remember -- I am a whore. I would take that job if there was nothing else available. There's been an awful lot of this going on lately, and it's sad. I think it's about insecurity. A showrunner who puts his pen through every line will never turn in a script that's better than his script.

And that's the truth.

Lastly (it's been a long day and I still have to pack!), this quote from novelist Lydia Millett, who's written two books I've liked a lot, "George Bush, Dark Prince of Love" and "Oh Pure and Radiant Heart:"

Millet tends to resist the ideology of novel-writing that believes all fiction should be about some aspect of the writer's personal experience or self, she said. "I'm more interested in the social angle, the existential angle," Millet said. "Not that the self isn't always firmly situated in the middle of our world view, no matter how abstract we want to be; but one reason I like sci fi is that it understands that ideas of otherness, visions of the strange, are more exciting than the familiar details of selfhood and self-examination that wallpaper our days."

I like that quote. Too often, you're told to write about yourself but I think an absolute rule like that can stifle someone's creativity. And recently, I've been really thinking about the opposite of that because you can get really stuck writing for hire, and not even realize it. And Millett sure manages to create lovely characters, so thinking socially isn't an obstacle.

One more thing: the Swiss invaded Liechtenstein today. The Swiss didn't mean to invade a country that doesn't even have an army. They just wandered over the border. But if you're going to invade a country, invading one without an army is a good way to go.