Sunday, May 26, 2013

Honeymoon: Day 7 <> OR <> This IS the End

Sad, but its nearly over. If only I wasn't a cheap bastard, if only I had a real job, if only I could've given my beautiful wife the honeymoon she deserves. Hopefully, I'll be able to give her something better when I grow up.

So, Dublin.. pretty feckin' cool.  We stayed in this vodka themed hotel one night in the last city.
Absolute Hotel & Spa--I think it was called.  A cool city. Nice people. Everywhere we went they were excited to meet Americans and talk about America.  We pretty much got the same question:

"Where are you from?"
Kansas City.
"Kansas.. what is Kansas famous for?"
"OH YEA! Dorothy!"

We were on our way to see the Book of Kells at Trinity College, a pretty cool place. Dublin mixes in the new with the old well. It is a city I could die in.
This is the library after viewing the book. There were a bunch of fat assholy french people with sharp elbows filling the space beyond this frame. That douche on the left just had to get in the shot as well.
The library was full of busts, Locke and Demosthenese among them.
We set out to accomplish one final task, to have a pint in the oldest known pub in Dublin.
Ireland is pretty much over, for now. There just wasn't enough time so, to be continued. I didn't even get to see the North, where my people are from and DUH, G.O.T. is filmed!

Onward to tiny planes and sleepless nights!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Honeymoon: Day 6 <> OR <> The EMO Post

So, we went to The Cliffs of Moher.  This place was amazingly beautiful, expansive, and crowded--but luckily it was so expansive, wet, and cold that we were able to hike along the cliff and find some solitude.

This location was factored in for more than just its beauty. After my brother died I decided that I was going to take a small thimble size portion of his ashes with me to amazing locations and scatter them until I had scattered all the ashes I have--which isn't very much to begin with--hence, the thimble size portion.
Here is a shot of me being cool in our rental. This was what the coast was like leading up to the cliffs. We stopped several times to check out the landscape. We called this area Dragonstone.

When we got to the cliffs we hiked a ways, I didn't want anyone to bother us, PLUS, I didn't know if I would get in trouble, PLUS, I didn't really know what to do or say.

Along the way I thought up some real deep words to say about scattering through the fog and resting deep below, returned to our ancestors, blah blah--I said it, and meant it all--but it was for me and my brother. It was a moving moment, for a moment. The fog rolled in and enveloped Lydia and I. Once it cleared, the fear of death was upon me when I could see how dead I would be if I slipped.
I miss my brother. I can't stop missing him. These scattering ceremonies are a cheap substitution or his company. I can't fill the hole inside.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Honeymoon: Day 5 <> OR <> Drinking, Castles, & Stuff

So we've hit up like 3 castles and some fancy houses. You pass so many old towers along the highways its crazy. Stuff in Ireland is old. Everything is beautiful, even their highways. There aren't obnoxious powerlines, fences, or billboards everywhere. There are stone or hedgewalls lining the property lines and roads.

We stopped in this little fishing village on a whim--more like, we were sick of driving and wanted a beer.  The place was pretty dull, really, but they had a pub and the place was simply beautiful.  The houses and businesses were the same as any old town we passed through, but the difference was the buildings weren't torn down to make way for cheap looking strip malls.

The town spiraled down the side of a cliff. We parked up by this old catholic church and went inside. There was a LONNNG traditional ceremony going on inside.  We walked down the roads, alleyways, and sidewalks until we reached the shore. There were a bunch of old fishermen standing around pointing and gossiping at the few tourists passing by. We didn't know it but we had stumbled onto a landmark, one of the last stops where The Titanic picked up all those Irish people that were locked in the lower decks and left to die like dogs--yea, this was where most of them folks jumped on board.
Here is a cool pic from Bunratty Castle. This place had a badass hall. I really wanted to film a scene with natural light there.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Honeymoon: Day 3 <> OR <> Finally Sum Fuckin' Fun

Kickin' off the first REAL day of the 'moon with a kick ass Irish breakfast--they loaded us with delicious meat and pastries--and stoppin' off at the first friggin' place that comes to mind besides Leprechauns and green when most of us 'muricans think Ireland--BLARNEY CASTLE.

The first thing I learned about the castle that I didn't know is that it rests on HUGE grounds. They're beautiful and fun for the whole family.

But if you're lookin' to kiss the stone, you've gotta hit up the castle itself. It was my first real castle and pretty fuckin' cool. You can check it out from head to toe.

And, of course, once you climb all the way to the top you can kiss the disgusting stone of a thousand lips. There are two old guys there who feel you up and charge you $1.50 for it too--its optional, but, you better PAY or they look at you sideways.
It was pretty cool. There are a lot of other places on the grounds which I wont go into here as we're in a hurry to hit up our first pub in town.

Honeymoon: Day 2 <> OR <> Packt Like Sardines Ina Tin Can

So, things worked out--I guess. As all things in life, honeymoons never seem to work out quite as planned. We spent a whole friggin' day flying around the world. Our first plane was great--spaciously sitting together and what-not. But when we stepped onto the plane for Ireland it became painfully clear that the voyage was going to be miserable.

We were separated, first of all, with no chance of shuffling seats. I was packed in with a couple GIANT bros--apparently we were traveling with a college group--but at least I had a window seat, or so I THOUGHT.  The seats were right up against each other, narrow isles, ZERO leg room. My knees were touching the seat in front of me and so the two GIANTS to my left had to spread their legs and hang over into my narrowing space in order to fit. Lydia was sitting with a much smaller young gentleman and sleeping middle aged woman.. I'm sure she has complaints, but I didn't want to hear them much after my OMFG I CAN"T SLEEP and THIS GUY STINKS horror.

They served us a frozen TV dinner and mediocre snacks in just the proper increments to prevent sleep if you were somehow able. I mostly played the shit movies they had On Demand and did my best to find a happy place. I didn't get up at all during the flight. It was too difficult. The GIANTS would have to get up and make everyone else around us uncomfortable so I just sat there and watched Quartet. It was pretty obvious but attempting to redirect the film and think up better lines and plot points kept me going. Next I watched Skyfall, again--but it was good. Started A Good Day to Die Hard, but couldn't finish it--it was during this film that I almost fell asleep but was interrupted by peanuts and ginger ale. I spent the remainder of the trip watching The Life of Pi, a great film. I was so delirious at this point that I could really identify with the main character.

We landed, exhausted. Rented a car. Drove down the coast line with low tolerance and luckily no other-side-of-the-road mishaps. Our first night was at a golf resort in Blarney. The beds were AWESOME. Lydia slept in "late". I slept until about 4am, got out of bed at about 5am--when their shitty 4 channels no longer amused me--and I walked around on the golf course until sunrise. It was windy and chilly but well worth it. There were beautiful blue greens fading to innumerable hues all around me as the sun crept in.

I got back to the room before the sun was  up proper and jumped back into bed for a  bit. I held my wife for  a minute before waking her for our first Irish breakfast and trek back into town to kiss the stone.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Honeymoon: Day 1 <> OR <> Never Trust A Travel Agent

We spent the day gathering all the last minute items and wrapping up loose ends. Dropped off the dog, picked up cat food and outlet adapters. We read and reread our itinerary and airline rules. My biggest concern was whether they'd let me through with a thimble of my brother's ashes to scatter at the Cliffs of Moher.

When we arrived two hours before our flight at 5pm we were informed that the itinerary, updated 4 days ago on the 16th, was incorrect and our plane left the gate as we approached the check-in counter. After a long argument over the phone with a lady from Jersey, our travel agency scheduled a flight for tomorrow at 10:58am. They refunded us a whopping $300 because we're "only missing our first night's stay" in Kilkenny. I wanted to choke the bitch for that one.

So, we returned home and tried to pretend we were still on vacation.. we ordered Minsky's Pizza and watched The Guard. It was one of the only Irish films that didn't seem too depressing. I mean, really--take a look--it is hard to find an Irish film that isn't about the IRA, prison, political upheaval, Leprechauns, or Selkies. Also, I had seen most of those films anyway. I really liked The Guard, it had a muted personality filled with wit and a dry plot. It was character driven and the actors did a great job.

The plan now is to arrive in Dublin on Wednesday at 10am and immediately drive through Kilkenny in a rounda-outta-the-fuckin-way route to Blarney. We have tickets we paid for to tour the castle--so hopefully we'll have enough time to make it there and still hit up the sights we intended to see in Blarney.

I have started reading James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. I haven't really read past the bio and introduction but I am already excited to get started. I know Joseph Campbell loves Joyce. He quotes from him a lot and refers to him as the most important modern writer. Others have told me that they've liked his later works but still have no idea what A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is about. They talk about it like a reading marathon or endurance test. I am intrigued.

Already, in the introduction by Seamus Deane, I identify with the main character through the writer's descriptions--as I'm sure most people might be. This line in particular related:  Stephen, as a child, as boy and as young man, is seduced time and again by siren voice -- parental, political, religious, sexual, literary -- but concedes ultimately only to his own voice, or to the ventriloquial versions of his own voice that he assigns to his 'soul'.  The writer also quotes from the text. One line I appreciated:  The exercise of authority might be sometimes (rarely) questionable, its intentions, never.

I just got a copy of the 1967 film adaptation of his later book Ulysses. I really want to read the novel, I feel like I already have since Truby's screenwriting book The Anatomy of Story breaks it down for examples of good storytelling--I used Truby's book as the guide to my first full length screenplay. I think I'm going to take a break and watch that now as I doubt it would be something my beautiful new wife would be interested in. Will follow up with thoughts and more adventures of Honeymooning.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Wedding Bells

I married the beautiful woman who changed my life today.  It was a lovely day.  Evening spent dancing in the moonlight.  Photo by Cory Hinesley

Lots of great wedding photos by Brandon Forrest Frederick

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Belmondo and Seberg Birth Beatty

          In the nineteen forties, the American dream suffered a traumatic blow due to war and psychological trauma.  The eternal optimism of yesterday became the limping daydream of barbaric human animals.  We were able to fathom beautiful delusions, but our instinctual drives would always prevent their fulfillment.  The Set-Up, in 1949, opens on a series of signs which reflect this fractured psyche.  The bold lettering of Paradise City, a boxing arena, dominates the frame.  Below it, the sign of a nightclub, Dreamland, glows in the darkness of night.  Beneath these two, the much smaller sign of a restaurant flashes Chop Suey.  The combination of these play like an equation: Paradise City + Dreamland = Chop Suey.  Chop Suey, an American rendition of Chinese cuisine, is an outdated term for all things inauthentic (think, what a bunch of hooey, Chop Suey).  This equation seems to put its own words to the state of the American psyche.  Dreams wrapped in delusions equaling an inauthentic way of life.  A flavor made in America; a flavor we all love.  With this bitter taste on our tongues we made authenticity a criminal, romanticism a fugitive, and put lovers on the run.
The Set-Up is a boxing Noir. Scorsese talks at length about boxing movies being the perfect metaphor for life.  The fight is in the ring, the ring of life.  The bell dings and you start to fight, round, after round, after round until someone is knocked out.  This boxing film involves an organized racket fixing the fight.  The fight is the one last chance at victory for the hero.  His wife wants him to quit but he is a fighter and a fighter’s gotta fight—even though this may be his last.  His wife can’t stand to see him take the beatings any longer.  She thinks she knows he is going to lose again, so she takes a bet out against him, hoping to retire with the money.  From the very beginning this film has no sympathy for the weak.  A paper boy tells a fight card peddler complaining about fairness to “take a hike”.  We watch the truth of struggle and survival take place in and out of the ring.  In the alley behind the arena the gangsters bust the hero’s hand because he fights honest and fair.  He won, but he and his wife are left with nothing but his honor.  In the world of Noir, you can fight fair to the end, but it always ends with disaster.
The same is true in The Asphalt Jungle, made in 1950 by John Huston.  This heist movie embodies the phrase, whatever can go wrong, will.  Mr. Emmerich, a wealthy lawyer, cheats; on his wife and a gang of jewel thieves.  The main theme in this film seems to tell us beware our passions as they eventually become our downfall.  Dix loves horses; no matter how much money he steals, it all ends up at the track.  He is never able to buy back his family farm, but at least he is able to bleed out there while horses sniff his corpse.  Mr. Emmerich gets found out by the thieves and fingered by the cops; but in the end he blows his brains out—a fitting death for the worst kind of double-crosser.  Mr. Emmerich was blinded by pride and greed, but Doc is smart until the end; that is, until his love of young girls distracts him long enough to be caught.  I find it eerie that Marilyn Monroe got her start in this Film Noir.  The period saw Freudian narratives and analysis popularized.  The narratives made Marilyn a star while the analysis destroyed her life.
Though 1950 is a pivotal year for Noir, as they became harder and more realistic, it was still the height of the production code era.  A script still had to be approved before production, which meant inserting moral scenes.  In one such scene, the Police Commissioner demonstrates dramatically to the press what the world might be like without the Order of the Police.  Though, I think Houston shows the mark of a great filmmaker as this scene is well done and less jarring to the narrative than other examples.  A classic Noir sense of loss and longing to return runs through the film via Dix.  The first thing he wants to do when he gets that money is to bath in a creek and wash off the city dirt.  We can see Doll cry a little inside as she realizes she is part of that city dirt.  For the most part, Film Noir has two motivations, passion and greed.  This one has a touch of both.
            Sunset Boulevard, made in 1950 by Billy Wilder, only really includes the first motivation through the fear of abandonment designation.  There is a sub-genre of Film Noir, however, which discusses love.  It attempts to embody the reality of love within the bounds of the Noir story world.  It is called, lovers on the run.  In a world where people live false lives manageable only through shared deluded constructs, anything outside the construct is an attack.  Being barbaric animals, these people will then counter-attack in defense of their way of life.  In the world of Noir, any authentic or unique experience is such an attack on the society at large.  This climate of the Noir story world creates the perfect storm for lovers on the run.  One of the characters, usually the male lead, is made a criminal due to misunderstanding or being forced to act in defense against society.  He attempts to escape, becomes a fugitive, and is pursued by some representation of authority, i.g. Police or crime boss.  Early in his escape he encounters a woman who understands him; after all, women have been persecuted by male dominated society for generations.  She helps him escape, even if it is only through her understanding, and typically joins him on the road—becoming a lovers on the run flick.
            TheyLive by Night; made in 1949 by Nicholas Ray, is a great example of this type of lovers on the run story.  Bowie is a young man, imprisoned unlawfully as a minor, convinced by two career criminals to escape from prison.  While on the run, he and the gang kill a Police Officer and lose all hope of turning back.  Except for Bowie.  Bowie is somehow freed through his love of Keechie, the neglected daughter of a poor drunken filling station operator.  They attempt to hide out in a cabin and Bowie is then pursued not only by authorities, but the gang as well.  When Bowie tries one final escape to save Keechie and his unborn child, a vengeful and selfish woman sets them up to be nabbed by the authorities.  Bowie dies in a hail of gunfire while Keechie is left to raise his unborn child alone.  Their fatal flaw wasn’t robbing banks or running from the law, but falling in love.  Love, in the world of Noir, dooms one to a life on the run and premature death.
            This romantic plot, where the man finds salvation through the woman, is not typical in Film Noir. Gun Crazy, made in 1950 by Joseph Lewis, is the more classic structure for Noir.  In this case, the man is more psychologically stable in the beginning, though neutered.  Then, one day, he meets a woman lusting for power, though unable to achieve said power without a fallace.  So she is forced into the role of the black widow, to lay in wait for the perfect man, one made erect only through her intervention.  The two become interdependent and whole in the presence of the other.  Gun Crazy makes these themes even more evident through its fetishism of guns.
            Bart is a sharp shooter obsessed with guns because of the power and purpose he feels while wielding a gun.  However, he cannot fulfill the true nature of his talents—to kill.  He trains others to shoot and kill but isn’t whole shooting targets.  Bart meets Annie.  Annie is a sharp shooter who shoots with flare.  She lusts for more power and material wealth but is only limited by the man she uses.  Upon their meeting, that man is a carnival boss.  But with Bart in the picture it quickly becomes obvious that she can have more.  Together, they are made whole.  Bart is complete through her ability to kill and she through his fallace.  They do stick-up jobs until there is nowhere else to turn but Bart’s past.  There he is confronted by his impotence through his family and friends.  In the final moments, Bart chooses to kill Annie rather than let her kill.  They die in each other’s arms when the posse opens fire.  Here a man corrupted by a woman, though, fulfilled through her, loves her, is again punished by society for his reluctance to fall in line.
            These films are more sentimental than other Noirs.  They’re almost responding to the traumatic times as a Neorealist might, had they been American instead of Italian.  They Live by Night opens with text on the screen telling us the story is about two kids who haven’t been introduced to the world.  This is supposed to express their innocence and set the audience up to empathize.  This Noir takes the view of the sick barbaric individual and flips it on its head, depicting society as the sick one.  It denounces original sin, highlights the innocence of youth untouched, of love when allowed to flourish and grow.  I think the scene with the Justice of the Peace also says this.  He knows the world is harsh and so he refuses to sell them false hope.  He basically tells them that the only hope at salvation is in love itself.  That love will be given no quarter, always on the run under the scrutiny of society.  Love will either save you outright or you’re doomed to the same imprisonment of the system like everyone else.  Gun Crazy has similar thoughts.  The two eventually realize there is no way to rationalize their love or their behavior.  They know they must run or die, though Annie chooses to fight against the power and Bart’s past, he would rather die in each other’s arms as martyrs.
            These ideas don’t die with Bowie or Bart, but are carried on into New American Cinema by Beatty and Altman.  The Neo-Noir pictures produced during this new era had become more intentional and self-aware thanks to the French NewWave.  Critics like Godard coined the term Film Noir in Cahiers du Cinema, where they raved about the dark American films that had been totally overlooked and undervalued by American audiences.  Godard said that Nicholas Ray is cinema and had it not already been invented he would have done so.  Warren Beatty was influenced by the New Wave and decided to bring it to America.  He made a film with Arthur Penn kick-starting “New American Cinema”.  The term was coined by Pauline Kale when writing about their film, Bonnie &Clyde, made in 1967.  In this film we see the male body as the vehicle of power to be manipulated through feminine intent more obviously than in Gun Crazy. Gun Crazy was one of Bonnie & Clyde’s major influences along with Breathless.  These films depict a silent feminist revolution via the neutered male ego and his sex.
Bonnie & Clyde also shows us a sick society full of docile bankrupt people and business.  Though I don’t think its intent is sympathy for the individual, but merely for us to see them.  We are to be informed through them as Beatty is through Belmondo and the New Wave.  Clyde overcompensates for his impotence with cocky confidence.  We know he is aware of his impotence through his desperate need for approval from Bonnie.  In Gun Crazy, Bart was totally unaware of, or at the very least cognitively dissonant of, his impotence.  I suspect that Clyde was informed through his parents, Michel and Patricia, yet doomed to repeat the sins of his forefathers until freed finally at breath’s end.
Another leading figure of New American Cinema is the director of Thieves Like Us, made in 1974 by Robert Altman.  He also plays homage to his Noir roots in this film, a remake of They Live by Night.  Altman claims he didn’t know, until signing on to produce and direct Thieves Like Us, that it was a remake as he wasn’t aware They Live by Night was based on the book.  Neo-Noirs are more naturalistic than expressionistic Noirs of Classic Hollywood Cinema.  In Thieves Like Us, for example, we see Bowie and Keechie have sex.  In fact, we see them in bed together for quite some time.  While in They Live by Night, our only hint that they’ve consummated their marriage is through her pregnancy.  The dialogue of Neo-Noir is more naturalistic, at times seemingly improved, but somehow doesn’t feel any more realistic to me.  It lacks the subtlety of Film Noir.  Though this is intentional because these filmmakers were free to produce their films however they wanted.  And, of course, the film is in color—though full of shadows and texture, not a high-key Technicolor picture.
Though I love all of the films discussed so far, the film which I liked the most is In a Lonely Place, made in 1950 by Nicholas Ray.  Dixon Steele is a man without hope.  A writer in a world where those who employ him do not value his creative work, but merely use it as a commodity to be bought, carved up, and sold to the masses.  He is driven to violence around those who disrespect the professionals victimized through the slaughter of creativity.  Dixon attacks a studio executive after he slights the drunken actor.  So, it is established early on though there are appealing attributes to Dixon, he is unpredictable and dangerous.  It is here where the perspective begins to shift from the typical to the feminine.  His love interest slowly becomes more and more paranoid as she believes Dixon has the capacity for murder.  She thinks of leaving him and he tries to stop her only to realize himself that he has again raised his hand to a woman, and this time one he loves.  He cannot control the world that continually misunderstands and rejects him.  This traumatized soldier can no longer soldier on.  He glances back once more from the darkness to the woman he loves, simultaneously convicted and vindicated.
This narrative plays on multiple levels.  To anyone struggling with a demon, to the artist who struggles alone, and to the lonely place of love.  It embodies the essence of a man; vulnerable, ugly, and needy.  It starts off about a murder but the murder almost becomes secondary.  It acts as a catalyst for the female lead to manipulate the audience psychologically as she struggles to decide whether she or society are right about Dixon.  It depicts us as fearful creatures, so concerned with betrayal we cannot truly trust, or love.  It shows us how violence and emotional extremes are inextricably linked to creation.  If one looks at the explosion of a star, sex, or in this case, the writing of a story.  Noir lives in us all.  We are inextricably linked to darkness.  Without it we would never know the light.  Film Noir’s influence continues on in our society, pop culture, and my own appreciations.