Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The 80th Academy Awards

When are they going to let me produce the Oscars? I try to give the world so much and in return, I have frustrated ambition.

It’s a sad, sad world.

I would never have let the Oscars be so boring. It’s criminal. Hollywood can put on huge blockbusters with dazzling special effects and yet the night they celebrate ART, they fall to pieces. Maybe that’s the point. Art and Hollywood don’t mix. In the end though, they are congratulating themselves and you think they would do a better job at THAT.

Of course, there were some parts that I enjoyed. Amy Adams bubbling over (as usual) while singing “Happy Working Song”. The incredibly beautiful Marion Cotillard from La Vie en Rose (and the obviously well deserved movie’s award for makeup). The speech about hope for all the struggling artists made by Marketa Irglova from Once. The gospel choir singing Raise It Up from August Rush. Javier Bardem’s passionate thank you to his mother in Spanish. Thankfully, there were enough of these moments throughout the evening to make it bearable.

But this is how it could have been better …

*More nudity. Robert Opel had the right idea when he streaked past David Niven during the 1974 Academy Awards. People are STILL talking about this quick flash and it’s probably the only reason why we remember the 1974 Oscars. Most people want to see Jennifer Garner or Will Smith run bare-ass across the stage but I think seeing a naked Jonah Hill from Superbad would be more of a jolt to those sleepy tv audiences. It would also make people feel better about their own bodies (and who doesn't need that?) so it could double as a public service.

*More eccentric characters. Is this the night when the public actually finds out how BORING the actors and actresses are in real life? They have one chance to really make an impression on millions of people and all these winners can do is a list of thankyous? The public wants outrageousness, something indelible, something theatrical. Well timed tears just aren’t enough. Roberto Benigni didn’t really deserve an oscar for Life is Beautiful but you had to love his breathless speech about making love to everyone in the firmament (or some such thing). Cuba Gooding Jr. should have had his oscar taken away after Boatrip but his excitement after his win for Jerry Maguire made us want to stand up and cheer. Even Jack Palance knew a thing or two about thinking outside the box when he got down and did his one-handed pushups after his win for City Slickers. I suggest that the next best actress should do cartwheels across the stage. In high heels. Wearing a wig. In a low-cut gown. This might require a lot of double-sided tape to keep everything in place but the spectacle would be worth it.

*Use different methods to cut off the long-winded speeches. Why use the nice polite orchestra? People can talk over that anyway. (We’re talking about you, Miss Julia Roberts.) I think feral dogs would be a good substitute. Yes, I know they might make a little mess with the blood and all, but it would certainly bring those laundry list of thankyous to nobody-we-should-care-about to an abrupt end. Best Actors and Actresses should get the most time, probably ten seconds before the dogs come out. Sound Editing people, well, we all know that they have absolutely nothing to say and they aren’t even good looking so the dogs should be let out as soon as they approach the stage.

*More humor. I loved it when Matt Stone and Trey Parker walked down the red carpet in 1999 wearing famous dresses. Bjork obviously had a sense of humor when she sang her nominated song dressed up like a dead muppet swan. Gwenneth Paltrow was damn hysterical in her see-through saggy boob goth dress the year after she looked so serious in her Ralph Lauren number. Yes, we all like the crazy wardrobe choices but I say we should bring back the disastrously funny musical extravaganzas; Rob Lowe and Snow White singing Proud Mary during the 61st Academy Awards was freakin’ hilarious and should be imitated if not recreated entirely. With midgets. Short of that, falling sets and tripping dancers could elevate any musical number, even a ho-hum song from Enchanted NOT sung by Amy Adams. And while we’re on the subject of injecting humor, we need to get rid of Jon Stewart as a host. Yes, he had a lot of good lines (I especially liked the line about Hollywood needing a hug after all the nominated movies being about psychopathic killers) but he seemed way too smug. The best host is funny without “realizing” it. Paging Billy Crystal. Billy, we need you back. Or Whoopi. She did seem aware of how funny she was but I liked the sex jokes. Hmmmm, Billy AND sex jokes. Now there’s a combination.

You see, there ARE ways to improve the show. Make it more entertaining without it being just a way to make a fast buck at the office party oscar pool. (I made a whopping $25 this year). Hollywood just needs to call me. I could make the Oscars bigger than the Superbowl with better commercials.

Get me while I’m cheap. As you can tell, I won’t be for long.

Monday, February 11, 2008

I'm ready for travellin'

This is my suitcase when I go on overnight trips.
I know it's big but I like to be prepared.


This past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the Sherwood Oaks Experimental College ALL ACCESS WEEKEND at the majestic Beverly Garland Hotel in beautiful North Hollywood. Okay, okay, it wasn’t all access, the hotel wasn’t majestic and NoHo ain’t pretty, but the weekend didn’t disappoint and at less than $200, it was also a bargain.

Sherwood Oaks College has been run by Gary Shusett for over thirty years and I have never met a person so committed to helping aspiring writers. He presides over the events like some grouchy caffeinated uncle trying to keep everyone in line at a drunken family reunion. Everyone does what he says because, deep down, you know he loves you and wants the best for you, even if he doesn’t always show it.

The events started on Friday although I was unable to attend until Saturday because of work commitments. There were probably less than a hundred writers present which made for a very intimate environment and low “student” to “teacher” ratio. There were three panels per day, each made up of different people and roughly grouped according to their profession in Hollywood i.e. the Manager’s panel, the Producer’s panel etc. At the beginning of each panel, the guests introduced themselves, made some brief comments and then for the best part, they were split up and were thrown to a small table of hungry writers. We were able to pick their brains for about ten minutes and then the guests rotated to the next table. Each guest had a large manilla envelope into which you could deposit a business card, synopsis, love letter etc.

It was fascinating to meet such diverse people. There were guests who took ten minutes to answer one question, rambling on like college professors. There were guests who inspired (Mark Skelly, I am in awe of your energy) and guests who wanted to give us a “reality check”. There were two guests whom I thought were drunk (could they possibly be like that all the time?) and one guest talked about his experiences with Native American sexual magic; I believe he had a point, although I forget what it was. Unfortunately, there were a couple of guests who wanted to sell us their book or their course, a problem which has permeated the annual screenwriter’s expo. I believe that, at these events, writers should pitch and not be pitched to.

We were also treated to a visit by the Job Factory, a bunch of six guys who write comedy screenplays as a team. I still don’t know how they do this. C’mon guys, do you REALLY get along? I am a big fan of Rob McKittrick, who wrote and directed Waiting …, his low budget but highly profitable film of the restaurant industry and I caught him after the panel. We chatted about his screenplays and I mentioned that I was a veterinarian. I also mentioned that I knew that he had two Chihuahuas. (Thank you myspace!) This freaked him out (temporarily); I guess it’s a fine line between doing your homework on a person and coming across as a crazed stalker.

On Sunday, we were treated to two excellent speakers. You never know what will come out of Shane Black’s mouth and this time, he asked the audience how many men had prostate problems and then came up with the analogy of …oh, never mind, I think you had to be there. I also enjoyed listening to James Manos, a highly entertaining New Yorker who is the creator of the serial killer series Dexter and said that he gets his writing inspiration from his own life. Uh huh. He also advised us to do drugs. His point did make sense at the time.

The weekend concluded on a strange note. We were treated to a large number of actors at our tables. A few of the actors were well known (in their day) but others had very few credits. Mike Farrell from MASH was there as well as (gasp!) Richard Anderson, the boss from the Six Million Dollar Man. Although it was cool to see them and hear about their experiences, they were more entertaining than educational. (Maybe I was just being greedy after being treated to all the insights from the writers, managers and producers). I was thrilled, however, to meet Beth Grant, a character actress who is such a BITCH in all the films I have seen her in. I told her my opinion of her roles and she assured me that she will be playing a nice mother in her next film. I also told her that she said one of my favorite movie lines of all time which is “I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion!”. If you don’t know, it’s from Donnie Darko and yeah, well, I can’t really explain why I like that line so much. But I do.

All in all, it was a great weekend. I feel inspired and energized. For anyone who is considering going to one of the Sherwood Oaks events, I strongly encourage you to go. The fees are usually quite reasonable and I guarantee that you will make some great contacts, either with a manager or a producer or even a fellow writer. I don’t know how many business cards I collected (there are a lot stuffed in my wallet) but maybe in that stack, there is someone who could change my life. The next event is at the end of April but you can check out other dates at the website http://www.sherwoodoakscollege.com/.

Thanks Gary and good luck to the other people who attended!