Mainstream

I’ve spent more words blogging about why I didn’t/haven’t/don’t blog than I have writing blogs. The excuses can all be found in previous blogs, and still work.

However, we’re in the final weeks of prep before we begin shooting Diminuendo, and I’ve been asked by the producers to begin blogging again so there’s something to hang early PR on.

“Diminuendo,” you say. “What’s that?” It’s a feature film I’m directing which I co-wrote with Sarah Goldberger. It’s stars Richard Hatch, Chloe Dykstra, Leah Cairns, James Deen, Gigi Edgley, Dia Frampton and Walter Koenig. It’s a science-fiction romance that starts shooting on August 14 and it’s gonna be awesome.

It’s also the only thing I’ll be able to talk about soon, so I’m going to leave it for another day. It’s the middle of Comic-Con, so let’s talk pop culture. Here’s a very brief update since my last blog…

  • Zero Theorem. Was super-excited for this, but missed it. Still haven’t watched the disc.
  • Men, Women & Children. Fantastic, which bears some relevance later.
  • Gone Girl. Fine. Not Fincher’s best.
  • Whiplash. Script-by-rote with one standout performance.
  • Fury. So very ALMOST a good and interesting film, but… not.
  • Birdman. Fucking AMAZING, and, yes, if you missed it, he’s dead.
  • Nightcrawler. Interesting take on the creep-as-photographer.
  • Horns. Stop. Don’t. You’ll regret it.
  • Interstellar. I really should have done a full review on this guy, but overall, I loved it.
  • Big Hero 6. Some Disney tropes I didn’t care for, but overall, a blast.
  • Theory of Everything. Difficult and wonderful.
  • Rosewater. Meh.
  • The Imitation Game. An even more impressive and heartbreaking Breaking the Code.
  • Exodus. The final plague was this film.
  • Inherent Vice. Wait. Maybe the final plague was THIS film. Ugh.
  • American Sniper. Absented from its various propaganda, this is a mostly entertaining film about a basket case with good aim.
  • Blackhat. I’m one of the ten people who saw it, and I still don’t care.
  • Jupiter Ascending. WTF did I just watch? Is this movie a joke? Makes Fifth Element seems gritty and real.
  • SpongeBob: Sponge Out of Water. Don’t ask why, just know that seeing this movie while not on drugs is apparently a mistake.
  • Kingsman. Hated it. Thought the action sequences were over-the-top and silly. Cared about no one.
  • Chappie. Neil Blomkamp is now 1 for 3.
  • Ex Machina. The Unicorn & I seem to be the only people on Earth who thought this film was obvious and dull.
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron. Liked it better than the first Avengers, but needed to be half an hour longer.
  • Mad Max: Fury Road. The. Best. Movie. Of. The. Year.
  • Tomorrowland. Not the worst, but close. Damn, Brad Bird, really?
  • Inside Out. Stunning. The first Pixar movie in years that feels like Pixar.
  • The Overnight. This was way better when it was Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice.
  • Tangerine. I hate this movie so goddamned much. If I could drag this into an alley and kick it until it died from internal bleeding, I would do it.
  • Ant-Man. Thank Bob not every Marvel movie has to be about saving the world. Friggin’ awesome, and also, Giant Thomas!!!
  • Mr. Holmes. A little too saccharine around the edges, but still a fine performance.
  • The Fantastic Four. Every bit as bad as you heard. Every. Bit.
  • The Diary of a Teenage Girl. This movie is fantastic. Tiny and warm-hearted and real.
  • The Man From UNCLE. The Kingsman in the 60s. All style, ZERO substance.
  • A Walk in the Woods. I love this book so much I almost made myself like the film. Almost.
  • Black Mass. Between Johnny Depp’s hairpiece and his teeth, I forgot to watch the movie. Totally underwhelmed.
  • Sicario. Well, it’s gorgeous to look at.
  • The Martian. Loved it. This generation’s Apollo 13. Best Ridley Scott film in decades.
  • Steve Jobs. Seriously, was there a story here and I missed it? I know nothing about Jobs at the end I didn’t know going in. He starts and ends as an aesthetics-obsessed difficult dick. That’s not a movie.
  • Bridge of Spies. Feels like one of Frank Capra’s lesser efforts. This movie needed to be made in the 60s.
  • Rock the Kasbah. God, I wanted to like this… but, alas.
  • Brooklyn. Beatiful, simple, and delicate.
  • Spectre. This movie proves that even people you respect can make a monumental, expensive turd when they just don’t care.
  • The Big Short. Good overall, but feels a bit gimmicky.
  • Where to Invade Next. It’s a shame this got such lousy distribution because I think a lot of the Michael Moore-averse would have liked it. Really more about solutions to problems than pointing out the massive bullshit we put up with in this country.
  • The Revenant. Fucking gorgeous, but utterly without story. Two-plus hours of lovingly-photographed torture porn and a stunning achievement, but not a movie.
  • The Hateful Eight. Saw the roadshow engagement and loved it. Classic Tarantino. Not sure what the hate was about.
  • Hail, Caesar! The Coens doing golden age Hollywood and it was magical.
  • Deadpool. Dumb as a box of rocks, but what a blast. Should put the nail in the coffin of all other superhero movies at Fox, since they seem clueless.
  • Batman v Superman. Calling this giant disaster out as the pile of shit it is kind of feels like gut-punching a toddler with progeria at this point, but holy fuck is this a bad film.
  • Captain America: Civil War. Epic. Amazing. The best superhero film ever made. More than a great Marvel universe installment, this is just a great film.
  • X-Men: Apocalypse. Mentioning this because normally I would have been there opening night. Instead, I just couldn’t muster the interest to go. Still haven’t seen it, and have heard nothing compelling to make me want to fix that.
  • Finding Dory. Yeah, it’s pretty goddamned great.

There. We’re all caught up. Let me wrap up by listing the big summer blockbusters I have skipped or plan to skip. Once upon a time, I would have been at every one of these. Now…? Movies have become such a shitshow I just don’t have the patience. Not seeing: The Nice Guys, WarCraft, Independence Day Resurgence, Legend of Tarzan, Ghostbusters or Star Trek Beyond.

Must be getting old.

I’m going to try to blog four times a week, even if it’s a short blast. For next time, it’s no secret I’m a big fan of Jason Reitman. I love his films, and think he’s a gifted director, so I want to talk about his Hulu series Casual, and how it made me want to put my fist through the screen.

In a bad way.

In a sense, there can be a real benefit to being a day player. Today through Wednesday, I’m shooting second camera on a Wicked feature.  Unlike other projects where I’m the writer or DP, I didn’t have any discussions with the director, I didn’t scout, I didn’t prep. When the shoot is over, I go home and (assuming what I shot doesn’t suck) never hear about it again.

With everything going on in my life, everything I’m involved in, I find this very attractive. I have a strong impulse lately to sharpen my focus on what’s really important personally and professionally, and not sweat the rest.

This is a huge change for me. Normally, I take everything way too seriously. The trick is judging correctly what is and isn’t important. That’s why I make lists.

LL makes lists as well. She has her list of reasons we won’t work, I have mine. She has her list of guys she distracts herself (some more serious than others), I have my hookers, (far fewer than normal, none of whom are serious at all). And all of it is simply the two of us dancing as fast as we can to avoid the issue of “us.”

Because it is an issue. And where it’s concerned, LL & I are… confused… she is terrified of investing in me because I’m a bitter, dissolute, emotionally fucked up disaster. And who could blame her?

For my part, I vacillate between continued belief that we’re incompatible in the long run, and absolute certainty that we’re perfect for each other.

So, yeah. It’s a mess.

To complicate matters, we’ve had a shake-up in the Cowboys & Engines casting, and LL is now my female lead. So no matter what happens, we’re stuck with each other for a while. I imagine she’ll fall madly in love with one of her boy toys just when I decide I really want to get her. Such is my life.

Poduction on C&E has been pushed back to late February. This lets us end the Kickstarter campaign in late January when James Deen will be in Park City doing press for The Canyons at Sundance. I feel a lot better about this than ending the campaign near Christmas.

Overall, I’m thrilled. It’s just more prep time, and I’ll take all of that I can get.

I’m learning that it’s a dangerous thing to have a blog people actually read. You begin editing your comments based on who might stop by to see what you’ve said about them. It’s inevitable. Of course, then you run the risk of posting something so bland and vague no one will want to read it… which, granted, eliminates the problem.

LL is a perfect example; she’s living with me temporarily until she can get a place with her friend Amanda. It’s been about six weeks now, and there’s a lot I’d like to say about her, but she reads my blog (hi!). By writing about her, I run the risk of revealing something she considers private, saying something unintentionally hurtful, or, worst of all, posting something that reads as if I’m trying to manipulate her in a passive-aggressive fashion knowing she’ll read it.

Oy. Lemme just say it’s been interesting. We get along great, and despite the fact that we spend a fair amount of time discussing why we could never work as a couple, it kinda feels like dating. Well, dating with a lot less sex (we’ve fooled around three times since she moved in, which is about %7 or what I would expect from a relationship). Except for the times when it makes me feel infinitely more alone (because when I pierce the illusion and analyze what we’re really doing, I am), it’s been nice. It felt all warm and fuzzy to come home from Moscow knowing I wasn’t sleeping alone.

Speaking of, I know I still haven’t posted my Moscow pix, but I’ve been working almost non-stop since I got back. I’ve done re-shoots for the horror film I’m not yet allowed to name (I’m calling it REDACTED, not to be confused with the shitty Brian DePalma movie of the same name), done callbacks for Cowboys & Engines (that will be it’s own blog post to announce the Kickstarter campaign going up), I’ve plotted two scripts for Axel, shot for x3sixty and worked as the DP on Paul Thomas’ reboot of Behind the Green Door for Vivid.

The latter was enough to keep me occupied all on its own. PT likes to “deconstruct,” as he calls it, which amounts to not deciding anything until we’re on set, and then almost certainly doing anything other than what’s on the page. Having been down that road on his New Sensations movie, I was actually the calmest person on the production, but there were moments when Shylar and/or K (who was doing production design) wanted to kill him. I think if John Cassavetes had directed porn, this is very much what it would have been like.

A few days ago, against my better judgement, I went to see Vega. I would like to say it was motivated by something more than a need for butt sex and the desire to beat the crap out of someone… but I would be lying. If we had any chemistry outside the bedroom (or bathroom in this case), it would be a different story. But we don’t.

Today (if United ever stops cancelling our flights) I’m off to San Francisco to finish up Green Door. I even managed to set up a really interesting date for Saturday night with a hot redhead (can’t say I go for a type…).

I’ve got two more days of x3sixty when I get back, then it’s all C&E all the time. Which is how it should be.

Today, I feel like a badly-cooked steak; hard, tasteless & unappetizing on the outside, cold and raw in the middle.”

Let’s put the amount of time and logistics spent traveling to and from Moscow in perspective; in order to get all the gear through Russian customs and baggage check, we left for Sheremetyevo airport at 6:45 pm (Los Angeles time), with a scheduled arrival in L.A. at 8:50 pm the next day. We had 25 checked pieces of gear, and 4 carry-ons, all of which weighed close to a ton. Hollywood and I packed, loaded, and moved all this shit by ourselves because the other two members of the crew were useless as goose shit on a pump handle and couldn’t be bothered to get out of bed at 5:45 am to go with us to the airport, or help in any way once they arrived.

The process was as follows: we loaded the van at the hotel in Moscow; unloaded the van at SVO airport; collected luggage carts and loaded onto those; unloaded the carts to put everything through the x-ray machines at the door to the fucking terminal; loaded it all back onto the carts to get it to the counter; unloaded it to check it in; loaded the oversize stuff back onto the carts when we discovered it had to go somewhere else to get x-rayed again; unloaded it there; loaded it onto the baggage trailer because the fucking Russian manning the thing couldn’t be bothered to lift such heavy shit by himself; loaded it all onto carts again at JFK to clear US customs; put it all back onto the plane to LAX; loaded 7 small luggage carts at LAX; unloaded those carts into a GMC Yukon that was packed to the gills by the end; then unloaded all of it again at my house.

Did it mention it all weighs around 2,000 pounds? Between that and the bi-polar producer/director turning into a bit of a haradin near the end, it cast a bit of a pall on what was otherwise and awesome trip. I hate to say goodbye to Moscow on that note, however, so here are a few tidbits of information about the weird, amazing Russian capitol to ponder.

  • Most Russian men look like Mr. Whipple.
  • Women in Moscow wear either flats, or five-inch heels. There is no middle ground.
  • A “parking space” in Moscow is anywhere you can stop your car, including (frequently) sidewalks, driveways, and even (seriously) the center of intersections.
  • Russians don’t eat Russian food. Their diet consists mainly of pasta, lamb, and chocolate.
  • There are three bicycles in all of Moscow.
  • All conversations between two Russians encompass at least one argument accompanied by shouting, and end in humorless laughter.
  • No one has ever smiled in Moscow. Apparently, this is both illegal and sinful. Russians must have utterly hateful sex. I find this very exciting.
  • Moscow has far too much American capitalism for its own good. Alongside the assload of Subways and McDonald’s in Moscow, we encountered Баскин Роббинс (Baskin Robbins), Пизза Хит (Pizza Hut), Старбуцкс (Starbucks), Синнабон (Cinnabon), Венды’с (Wendy’s), Дункин Донутс (Dunkin Donuts), TGI Friday’s (they just call it that), and others. And, yes, I had to teach myself to read Cyrillic while we were there.
  • The Moscow metro has some of the most ornate, elaborate, beautiful stations I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been on subways all over the world.
  • Muscovites are elitists and consider the people from countries in the former Union to be third-class beings. Mongolians and Siberians seem to get the worst treatment of all.
  • There are miles of secret Metro tracks that were once used by various arms of the Politburo and KGB. These tracks are still an official secret, no one outside the GRU knows where they actually run, or if they are still in use today.
  • Moscow street vendors haggle badly. Vendor: “2,000 Rubles.” Hollywood: “What? No. 500.” Vendor: “No, my friend, very best. 1,800.” Hollywood: “550.” Vendor: “Okay, 600.”
  • The smog in Moscow is thicker than it was in L.A. in 1980, except for weekends when everyone leaves the city.
  • The Soviet Cosmonauts Memorial Museum is a stunning disappointment.
  • Your average two-week trip to Moscow is likely to include the following kinds of vehicular shenanigans: driving up one-way streets, on train tracks, on trolley tracks, over medians, on sidewalks and on bike paths; parking on the sidewalk in front of a bus station and waiting for the bus to leave; turning right from the far left lane; turning left from the far right lane; making U-turns across 7-lane high streets; getting blocked by gridlocked trolleys; merging with the fifth lane of traffic crammed into a two-lane road; swerving to avoid city buses which turn randomly in front of you; getting stopped by the police for turning left… from a left turn lane; etc., etc., ad infinitum.
  • It is necessary when making the above-mentioned U-turn to announce it as a Crazy Ivan in honor of the submarine maneuver from Hunt for Red October.
  • Russian tea is stronger than American coffee.
  • Somewhere, there is a central storehouse that supplies every single tourist shop in Moscow with the exact same 17 shitty T-shirts. This is not hyperbole. Every. Single. Store. Every stall. Every vendor. The same 17 shirts, most of which are horrible. This is an area ripe for aggressive expansion.
  • Like Spanish, the Russian language seems to now grow largely by transliterating words from other languages. For example, “supermarket” is “supermarket” (супермаркет), and though the Russian word for chicken is kuritsah, it’s being supplanted now by “чицкен” (chicken).
  • Night Flight, the world-renowned strip club in Moscow, apparently has no strippers. We went, had a world-class dinner, then sat baffled in the bar for ten minutes while 25 very attractive, but fully-clothed women, asked us if we “vanted company.” I’m still trying to figure out what the hell was going on.

I could go on and on. It’s a fascinating place and a fascinating city. I’d love to go back someday and really take the time to dig around. Maybe on that mythical vacation I keep planning…

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