The OA Pitch Meeting

createdby

If you’ve watched The OA, then you know there are moments of genius and there are also plot holes so gaping they inspired a new category of porn.

There’s no way this was planned.  Some of the scenes are absolute magic, simultaneously raising questions, completing thoughts, advancing plot, studying characters, and being original.  There are others plot points – like where it’s a big deal that everyone leave their front doors open and then it’s never brought up again – that must’ve been part of a different story and just got lost in the rewrite.

So, being a writer, I thought this is probably how the pitch to Netflix went:


Paul and Gary from Netflix start their Skype call to Brit Marling and Zal Banmanglij in order to hear their pitch of a new sci-fi series that they’ve been told is akin to their upcoming mega-hit Stranger Things:

Paul from Netflix: Hey guys.  Can you see us ok?  We’re big fans of your work.  Loved Another Earth.

Brit Marling: Thanks.

Paul: Who’s this?

Brit: This is my creative partner, Zal Batmanglij.

Gary from Netflix: Heh.  Yeah.  Barney GreenLanternBlip says he’s running late.  So let’s hear this idea; you said it’s a lot like Stranger Things?

Zal Bamanglij: That’s my real name.

Gary: Sure it is, slugger.  We think Stranger Things is going to be huge, so we’d love to have something that gives the public the ole one-two punch.  “Bap!”   “Kapow!”  Am I right BatmanGlee?

Zal: That’s what we’re going for, yes. Please stop mocking my name.

Gary: You got it, champ.  So give us the broad “Catwoman”-like strokes.  Make us purr.

Zal: This is a common name in –

Brit interrupts: It’s called The OA...

Paul: Ok.  I like it so far.  A weird name, but not too weird…

Brit continues: It’s about a woman, played by me, who gets kidnapped and is held prisoner in a basement for years.  She’s basically slave.

Gary: Anything gratuitous?  Is she forced to do something against her will but in the end finds that she’s actually into it?  And then she lets her husband know and they can finally get Colleen into that threeway I’ve always wanted?

Brit: No.  Nothing like that.  I’m not sure I’d be comfortable with anything like that.  Like I said, it’s closer to Stranger Things.

Paul: Sorry.  Continue.

Brit: The guy who kidnapped her keeps her in his basement – but it’s not a basement, it’s more like an underground lair; not just bricks everywhere with a pingpong table in the background.  It’s more like a cave…

Gary: The Bat Cave?

Zal to Brit: I’m just going to wait outside while –

Brit continues: …And the twist is that this kidnapper kills her over and over again.  She continually dies and goes to heaven.

Paul: Oh.  Nice.  Different.  So are there others with her?  One of the best things about Stranger Things is the dynamic between the characters.

Zal: Totally.  There are four other people with her down there.  They’re all killed over and over again and they’re all brought back to life.

Paul: I like it.  It’ll take a little work in casting, but it sounds good so far.  One of the best parts of Stranger Things is this nostalgic thing because it all happens in the 80’s.  Does this happen in the past too?

Brit: Part of it, yes.  The 90’s.  Maybe early 2000’s?

Gary: Not bad.  The Goldbergs is doing gangbusters.

Paul whispers to Gary: “Gangbusters”?  You sound like a Conan O’Brien character.

Brit continues: She escapes and convinces other people to help rescue the other prisoners.  But it happens in parallel narratives: one is in the past, one is in the present; that way, the audience experiences this nostalgia with the characters.

Paul: OK.  Now we’re getting somewhere.  So when they die and come back, does anything special happen to them?  Special insight or super-powers or something?

Brit: Oh yeah.  My character, Prairie, was blind but after she dies, not only can she see, but she can see into your soul.  Renata is able to seduce anyone when she activates her aura. There’s a kid who can heal instantly, Homer can send rays of light…

Paul: Homer?

Zal: That’s the love interest.

Paul: Homer, the blind poet, is the blind lady’s boyfriend?

Brit: Yeah.  Clever, huh?

Gary: A little too on-the-nose.  I take it Carmel BatMan here is going to play him?

Zal: For the last time.  The name is a common surname in many parts –

Brit: No.  He knows the vision, so we’re here to see if we can get him to direct a few episodes.

Paul: That’s ballsy.  Um.  Before you continue, I just want to say I like what I’ve heard so far, but it sounds really expensive.  From a production perspective, if you want to be like Stranger Things, you need to have an interesting/mysterious story…

Brit: Check.

Paul: …Nostalgic…

Zal: We already talked about that.  Check.

Paul: …Terrific actors…

Brit: Wait ’til you hear who we have lined up…

Gary: …and cheap.  There are almost no computer effects in Stranger Things.  The most famous person we had is Winona Rider and all she asked for was a chance to be on camera and as many cigarettes as she could fit into her Honda Civic.

Paul to Gary: Did I tell you that I found her here dressed up as Eleven last week trying to seduce one of the interns?

Brit whispers to Zal: Should I tell them Brad Pitt is willing to do this?

Zal to Brit: He’s not willing to do it for free.  I wonder if he can recommend anyone from Fury.

Paul: So.  Can we still do the story on the cheap?

Brit: Well, I guess we can do some old-school special effects.  Instead of using CGI when Scott regenerates, we can just play the film backwards.  Or when Rachel sings we can…

Gary: I mean cheap-cheap.  Netflix is almost three billion dollars in debt.  We can’t afford another Marco Polo.  I think we’re in agreement here that we like the idea, we like other projects you’ve done.  We even like your pitch: you’re making your own little Justice League-type series and you bring in BatManDoobie, here…

Zal: This is getting offensive…

Paul: We’re willing to give you eight episodes.  But you have to scale back on everything.  If we can make it on the cheap, we can make it.

Brit: Hold on…

Brit mutes the call and talks to Zal: I only wrote two hours of material!  I thought you said this was a movie pitch!

Zal to Brit: Well, you kept saying Stranger Things

Brit to Zal: How the hell are we going to make this into an eight-hour story?

Zal to Brit: You’re a good writer.  Just take the scenes you really like and expand them out.

Brit to Zal: But half these characters aren’t even characters.  They’re throwaways.  Look at their names: Prairie, Homer, Hab, Renata… and Scott?

Zal to Brit: That’s how you make it longer: add some backstory to Steve and Jesse.

Brit to Zal: I guess, but how do we make a two-hour story about superhero origins into a cheaper eight-hour story?

Zal to Brit: How about instead of the dual narrative of a plot in the present paralleled with a plot in the past, the audience hears the story along with the kids in the present?

Brit to Zal: Oh!  A frame narrative!  I like it!  It’ll be like the “story” is trapping her!

Zal to Brit: And what about instead of filming in Moscow, London, New York, and Paris like we planned, we do it in Michigan?

Brit to Zal: Or someplace in Canada that looks like Michigan!

Zal to Brit: Nice!  Detroit or Flint!  Lots of nice houses surrounded by lots of abandoned buildings! Now we’re thinking!

Brit to Zal: Yeah!  It’ll show the dichotomy of Prairie/OA!

Zal to Brit: I guess…

Brit to Zal: And when they die, instead of going to some CGI heaven, we can just put them in a mirrored room full of christmas lights!

Zal to Brit: I suppose if we do it tastefully, that would probably…

Brit to Zal: And we can cut out the super-expensive sub-plots, like why Hab wants to keep his tomato-allergy secret or why the angel takes Prairie’s eyes…

Zal to Brit: Aw, those are my favorite…

Brit to Zal: And what about, instead of expensive superpowers, they all just dance creatively!

Zal to Brit: I’m not sure how that’ll…

Brit turns off mute: WE’LL DO IT!

 

 

 

Dexter Review

mv5bmtm5mjkwmti0mv5bml5banbnxkftztcwodqwmtc0oq-_v1_uy268_cr70182268_al_I’m not a fan of binge-anything.  I don’t overeat at Thanksgiving, I’ll have about one drink per hour at the bar; I could go through an entire calculus textbook in a day, but I don’t know how much I’d really learn.  I honestly think that we’re built to discover something, let that something sink in, and then move on to the next thing.

But, Netflix…

Because I’ve been up to my nipples in kids and houses, I’ve missed out on a couple of cultural milestones over the past half-decade (did you know there is a woman who has a very popular iPhone app about shopping and who was able to accomplish making the app popular because she got famous by having sex with a football player and she was able to do that because she was already sort-of famous because her mom used to be married to OJ’s lawyer, then later married a Wheaties decathlete who then became a woman?).  Case in point: Dexter.

I watched all eight seasons this summer.  I can see what all the hype’s about.  It’s very good.  Unless you watch all eight seasons in one summer.

It looked to me like the writers had an entire season outlined before they started writing anything.  If you look at season one, everything is perfectly timed, perfectly scripted, and perfectly executed (puns are hilarious).  The writers don’t start it off by giving us a Dexter on his first kill; he’s been at it pretty steadily for about 15 years.  Instead, they start off by giving us his fascination with another killer who kills better and cleaner than he can.  We then see flashbacks of him as a kid where his dad is showing Dexter how (and who) to kill without getting caught.  We also have a voiceover where Dexter is constantly talking about how he has no emotions and how he doesn’t understand how people deal with them and about how killing is the one thing that might fill this void that others seem to fill with emotions (by the way, I’m not a big fan of voice-overs, but it’s really the only way that we could see that Dexter is constantly second-guessing himself as he’s interacting with normal people in everyday situations).  We discover who the Ice Truck Killer is along with the other characters; we discover more about Dexter’s past along with Dexter.  It feels like it’s happening in real time – like a novel told in present tense.  But then, I think, because the show got so popular, it turned more and more into a police-procedural show.

blue_bloods_2010_intertitle

Every retiree’s favorite show

If you’ve ever seen Law and Order or any show with a the word “Blue” in the title, you’ll immediately see that all people are interchangeable and they react to things based on what’s convenient for the writers, not what’s true to the characters.

For instance:

  • In season one, Batista gives Dexter some advice that basically amounts to, “Don’t bother with emotions.  That’s a woman’s territory.  You should deal with the sex.”  It might be crude, but if that’s how Batista thinks, we now have a character trait.  In the next season, his M.O. for dating is to be as caring as possible.
  • In season 1, Dexter describes Rita as someone who is just as damaged as he is because of her abusive ex-husband.  After an unsuccessful hump-attempt later on, Rita basically says, “I’m just being silly.  You would never hurt me like my ex-husband did.  Let’s screw” and shrugs it off.
  • In season six there’s a character named Louis who is so scared because of an implied threat that he breaks up with his girlfriend.  In the very next season, Dexter breaks into Louis’ apartment with a knife and Louis responds with, “No one messes with me.”
  • At the end of season six, Debra is seeing a psychologist to talk about the stress she’s been under.  It comes to light that she might be in love with her adopted brother.  Season seven picks up that night: the psychologist never comes up again and this love revelation is mentioned twice more, once in a hackneyed dream-sequence and the other where Dexter replies with, “Oh.  What do you want me to say?”

When the series started, it was pretty clear that the writers were just going, “What if Dexter never had a code” and then we get a season about the Ice Truck Killer.  Or “What if Dexter had a wife and kids” and then we get the Trinity Killer.  As the series progresses, it’s almost like they change their philosophy to, “Well.  We haven’t done a split-personality yet” and we get the Doomsday Killer.  Or “Maybe this season, we could have a female serial killer” and we get Lumen.

Eventually, as we get to the end of the series, all the bad actors are killed off (which I love.  They pretty much die in order of how bad they act) and all the good actors are trapped saying lines like “We’ll canvas the neighborhood.  Get a couple unis to tail that bastard.”  Instead of discovering things with Dexter, we watch a crime and then watch the detectives figure out whodunit.  Instead of flashbacks that inform us how it is Dexter came to be, we watch as Dexter bounces ideas off his imaginary father. Even the series-wide focus of Dexter learning to understand feelings is torpedoed by the series finale.

Here’s the breakdown: season 1-3: five-stars

Lose a half-star for every season after that.

A Quick Review of Suicide Squad (that points out something other reviews glossed over)

suicide-squad-movie-2016-poster

It looks like it’d be fun.  Look at all those colors.

After watching Suicide Squad (I didn’t plan on seeing it – I pride myself on identifying bad movies by their commercials – a friend of mine had a few hours away from the family and he likes anything Batman-related), I read a bunch of reviews to see if I was the only one who hated everything about it.  I was not.  The majority of the reviews talked about how the acting is bad, the dialogue is bad, the bad guys don’t seem to be all that bad, there are inexplicable music videos scattered throughout, Jared Leto as an awful Joker (I also read a lot of tangents about how Heath Ledger ruined any future Joker and how Leto should’ve been much better considering all the rumors about him being “in character” and using that as an excuse to be an asshole to his castmates), and the obvious attempts to “lighten it up” after the reviews of the history-will-show-that-it-is-preposterously-named Batman vs. Superman.  No one mentioned, though, the individual story arcs.

Good movies have a resolution of plot and a resolution of character: “we stopped the aliens and I regained my lost faith.”  OK movies have only a resolution of plot: “the aliens were going to invade, but we stopped them!”  Bad movies try to do both but accomplish neither.  That is Suicide Squad.

alien4

Here’s the plot: a witch is trying to destroy … something … with dancing and green lighting.  The dancing is stopped and the green lighting is stopped, but things are still destroyed (the plot is like Married Sex: the beginning is a little too quick and a little too awkward, the middle’s not as fun as it could be, and the ending is totally expected yet somehow disappointing).  I wasn’t surprised by lack of plot.  I was, however, surprised by each character’s “story” arc.

  • Deadshot: He gets caught by Batman at the beginning because he doesn’t want to kill someone in front of his daughter.  By the end, he finds the courage to do so.
  • Harley Quinn: At the beginning, she’s likes to swing on a bedsheet in a cage and antagonize the guards.  By the end, she likes to drink cappuccinos in a cage and antagonize the guards.
  • Rick Flag: He has a stupid name at the beginning and not one other character says so.  By the end, he is patriotic.
  • Captain Boomerang: He’s angry and in captivity at the beginning (presumably because he’s an expert at the world’s most useless weapon).  By the end, he’s angry and in captivity.
  • Killer Croc: When we first meet him, his only defining characteristic is that he’s ugly.  By the end we see that he finally understands the depths of the human heart.  I’m kidding; he continues to be ugly and that is all.
  • Diablo: At the beginning, he swears never to use his power after what he did to his own family.  By the end, he finds the courage to kill again.
flash

From this episode description, I can see why they’d want to replicate this magical elixir.  

It’s almost like before production started, someone in power said, “This has to be like a TV show.  Everything is wrapped up by the time the credits roll and nothing can change.”  I’m thinking maybe the incomprehensible popularity of The Flash has somehow tainted DC’s movie outings.

 

The Angry Birds Movie


“Behind Blue Eyes” by Limp Bizkit is featured prominently in this 2016 release. 

End of review

If I Were You

getty_cell_phone_kids_large_jgi-jamie-grill

Everyone I talk to envies this current generation of teens . They say, “Can you imagine being 16 nowadays?  You’re never bored because of the phone.  There’s a hookup culture where anyone humps anyone.  Everyone’s fat now, so the hottest hottie will get with the fattest fattie.  There’s good TV.  You have access to every song ever made for free.  Everyone is accepting of everyone else.  Plus the porn!  Porn everywhere!”  On the surface, I agree.  But that’s from my point of view, growing up in the 90s.  I can’t imagine growing up with that now.  I can’t imagine how that would change me.

I can’t imagine how I’d be affected believing that on-line life is just as (or more) important than actual life.

I can’t imagine how I’d be affected going through the hormones of adolescence with a masturbation machine in my pocket.

I can’t imagine how I’d be affected having 24-hour access to an unlimited number of friends, only to have no one get a hold of me.

I can’t imagine how I’d be affected knowing I could listen to any song at any time, but never listening to an entire album by anyone.

I can’t imagine how I’d be affected knowing that everyone I know eats fast food on a daily basis.

I can’t imagine how I’d be affected knowing that if I made fun of anyone, it’d be considered a hate crime.

I can’t imagine how I’d be affected knowing that I could learn anything I wanted without going to a class.

I can’t imagine how I’d be affected having 24-hour access to an unlimited number of girls, only to have no one get a hold of me.

I can’t imagine how I’d be affected having never known a “normal” winter or a “normal” summer.

I can’t imagine how I’d be affects by having a continual and constant distraction in my life.

 

 

 

 

I Finally Read Preacher

sex_criminals_cover

14-year-old me: “What if you only had a superpower when you humped a girl?”

I quit comics around the time the now-famous writers started working: Mark Waid, Brian Azzarello, Ed Brubaker, Brian Vaughn, Matt Fraction… People say I should read this guy’s Batman or this other guy’s Superman is something I’ve never seen before.  I’m not interested.  Even when my Assistant to the Traveling Secretary (we have the same taste) recommended an X-Men arc (who I normally love) written by Joss Whedon (who is – by all accounts – a terrific writer), I didn’t spend more than about 10 seconds before I said, “They really needed an ‘Astonishing X-Men’?”

I then heard that Garth Ennis has the same viewpoint. The best of the genre (practically-naked men looking angry) has been written.  So I decided to give Preacher a shot.

09-pgtt_gallery_573e8fbb2f87b8-41982912

I gotta say, I think if I had read this when it came out, I might have stuck with comics a little longer. It’s a fun amalgamation of comic genres – western, sci-fi, horror, humor, romance – without being too much noir (I’ve never understood how “noir” is a genre; it’s code for a writer bad enough to use clichés but good enough to know they’re clichés).  I like the good guys, I like the bad guys, I like how there’s a history to the characters and I like how there’s a history to the mythology; when the reader stumbles across them, they didn’t suddenly come into existence.

However, with all the hype it’s gotten over the years, I think I expected a bit more from Preacher. All the characters speak with exactly the same cadence – black, white, gay, straight, men, women, good guys, bay guys, southerner, mid-westerner, New Yorker, German, Irish, guys from the 19th century, angels in heaven – they all say “Shite” and “Arshole” and “Boyo”.

Also, almost every situation the main characters find themselves in is because of circumstance. Tulip just happens to run into Cassidy, Jesse just happens to run into Tulip, they all just happen to run into DeSade… I know it’s part of the western genre as a “troubled town of the week”, but it gets pretty old pretty fast.

There’s also a few character flaws:

  • preacher-jesse-h_2016

    Not quite as good as Spiderman’s black costume, but close.

    Why is Jesse able to kick everyone’s ass? Yes, he had a shitty childhood, but he’s shown literally throwing people through walls.  Doesn’t this just make a low-grade superhero (with a preacher costume)?

  • Why is Tulip able to shoot everyone? Yes, her dad took her hunting when she was little but she botched her first paying gig as a hitman and she’s shown literally killing an entire platoon.  Doesn’t this just make her a low-grade superhero?
  • Why is Cassidy a vampire? Yes, I know he was bitten by one 100 years ago, but what purpose does it serve to the story that he can only be killed by prolonged exposure to sunlight?  Doesn’t this just make him a low-grade superhero?

Finally, one major plot hole in the conclusion of the series: God takes the baby/ghost/more-powerful-than-God-and-therefore-the-only-thing-God-is-afraid-of thing away from Jesse at the end of the series somehow and returns to heaven only to find the Saint of Killers ready to shoot Him, even though the Saint’s powers do not rival God’s.

Overall, a terrific series. I love Steve Dillon’s art – a classic UK style with a little mix of Art Adams and Barry Windsor-Smith thrown in.

Hopefully the TV show can fix some of the drawbacks of the comic (maybe Tulip is a successful hitman, Jesse has a long history of ass-kickin and Cassidy’s vampirism somehow fits into the plans of The Grail).

House Complete Final

In January I made a bunch of posts about my brand-new kick-ass house.  I had a post about the bedrooms and another about the kitchen and even one about closets and storage spaces.

Then I forgot to show the outside of it.

img_1101

The deck is where bees fight spiders

img_1103

I put a double-sliding door in the basement because I’m under the delusion that someone will come over, we’ll head out back to “get away from the wives” and they’ll say, “Hey!  a double-sliding door!”

img_1102

It looks like a tall house, but that’s just because you’re so short.

img_1098

Yes, that’s beige.  I always wanted a house that reminds me of a Tandy computer.

img_1099

The garage door has windows so people can see that my garage is full of tools from other people’s garage sales. 

img_1100