The Ghetto of Genre

December 28, 2009

So here I am, avoiding going to bed as I often do in the hours approaching midnight.  As usual, I am surfing the ‘net, this time looking at newsarama.com, a great site that I haven’t visited in a long while.  There’s an article ( http://www.newsarama.com/film/091203-academy-awards-oscar-geek.html ) about the widening of the Academy Awards’ Best Picture field from five films to ten, and what that does to the chances of a movie in the SF/Fantasy/Horror genres gaining a nomination….or even a win.

Look at some of the movies that have failed to get a nomination for Best Picture: The Empire Strikes BackAlienThe Dark Knight2001: A Space Odyssey.  The original King Kong

Now, I love all of the above films.  (Don’t get me started on the ghettoization of animation.  Finding Nemo and Wall*E are arguably 2 of the 10 finest films of the last decade. )  So my rantings here will smack of bias, no doubt.  But you cannot tell me that the above movies were unworthy of nomination. 

The Dark Knight made more money than any film EVER…except for TitanicTitanic won Best Picture, and I don’t know anyone who touts it as one of the great films of all time.  It was admittedly a spectacular production, a directorial achievement from a visual standpoint that was at that point unparalleled.  But it was a saccharine, predictable, and ultimately forgettable story, with a screenplay that failed to get a nomination.  Meanwhile, The Dark Knight was the first truly epic superhero film, and I say this with all apologies to Superman, which I adore, but is ultimately too simple a story to be called “epic”.  The Dark Knight deals with one massive theme: “What choices would you make on your very worst day?”  It uses this theme to define the nature of humanity, to demark heroes from villains from people who just want to do the decent thing and go on with their lives.  This theme permeates the arc of every major character in the film, and it is accomplished with such intensity that you remain riveted, almost uncomfortably so, through every moment of the film’s two-and-a-half hours.  (Wait, you say.  The Joker doesn’t have HIS very worst day!  Well, he’s already had it…and it was so bad, he refuses to remember it correctly.  He has become everyone else’s worst day.)  The effects were spot on.  (Who knew the ferries were CGI?) The acting was, with the possible uncharacteristic exception of Christian Bale, superlative.  The film will be remembered forever.

So why no nomination?  Because it’s a Batman movie, plain and simple.  Hollywood thinks it’s too cool to reward cartoons and comic books.  There’s also the little matter of politics…gotta nominate Milk, it was made by one of Hollywood’s auteurs, and it’s about a gay guy…which always muddy the waters at the Oscars. (Nothing against Milk, by the way.  In the interest of full disclosure, I haven’t seen it, and would very much like to.  It just illustrates my point about politics especially well.)

As far as I’m concerned, great story is great story regardless of genre or medium.  I have no love for chick flicks.  Never cared much for Westerns (why, I have no idea).  But Love, Actually and Unforgiven are two of my very favorite films.  And I’ll give any film a chance.

This is the same sort of fearful, conservative short-sightedness that caused the rules of the World Fantasy Awards to be changed after Neil Gaiman won for an issue of Sandman.  (Gotta give it up to the Pulitzers, who have awarded both Maus and The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.)  And I can’t stand it, because it’s a form of prejudice.

Gah.  This gets my goat.  I’m off of my soapbox.

Boy…

October 3, 2009

…do I feel better today.

I am lonely tonight

October 2, 2009

I am rarely regretful, of late anyway, for the dissolution of my marriage.  I have come to believe that my former wife did me a bigger favor than she did herself in leaving me.  Perhaps that sounds conceited…I don’t mean it to.  I only mean that I gave up much more than she did for us to be together.  She asked me to give things up…and I asked very little of her.  Very little that I actually got, anyway.

But tonight, and most nights, I miss having someone in this room, in my bed.  The void I feel is not a carnal one.  It is one of a more personal intimacy.  It is a feeling of security and of providing security.  Of needing and feeling needed.  It is a need for closeness.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m doing okay, and this will pass.  But I feel as though a big part of the reason why I was willing to stick it out in my marriage was to avoid this feeling, this loneliness that I have now.

It’s not like me to share these feelings as I’m feeling them.  I tend to talk about them in the past tense, when I am detached from the moment and from the emotion.  I only write this here because my feelings are such that I must connect with SOMEONE…even if very few people actually read this blog.  So I connect to my computer.  I try to find the intimacy in my fingertips stroking the keys and listening to a singer who knows how to define loneliness with an aching note.

Anyway.  I’ll feel better tomorrow.

The Write Reasons

September 15, 2009

There aren’t a lot of things better than rediscovering some good shit from back in the day.  I just reread most of Frank Miller’s first run on Daredevil from back in the 80’s.  I can’t adequately express how exciting those books were.  Without this comic, there likely would never have been the seminal game-changing works of 1986, Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns (also Frank Miller, as we all well know).  The writing was complex, but it never lost sight  of the importance of entertainment, of being fun.  The art was raw and hyperkinetic.  More than almost any other comic before or since, you smelled the spilled blood, and felt the knuckles against your jaw.

Both as a reader and as a creator, I can see how these qualities are taken for granted now, and how comics have become less about the unbridled fun, and more about a certain…self-expression.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a creative person (I balk at the appellation artist, because there are qualitative overtones in that word that I cannot bring myself to accept), and I understand the importance of telling stories that resonate with me, stories that I want to tell.

But I also want to tell stories that the audience wants to read.  I want to make people feel things, I want my readers to emote.  I want to create that sense of excitement that I felt today as I reread Daredevil’s incredible battles with Bullseye, and I want to make my readers (or viewers) ache with the kind of loss that Matt Murdock made me feel as he accepted that his first love was dead.

I’m not sure that Frank Miller, who I absolutely idolize, sees his work this same way now.  I think his stuff has become much more personally driven.  All-Star Batman and Robin almost satirizes his own earlier works, and I know that his upcoming Holy Terror, Batman! is a direct byproduct of the fact that he lived in New York when 9/11 happened.  There is no shame in this man’s game.  He’s a legend in the industry and he has earned the right to create his art as he sees fit.  And he will deservedly have an audience for it.

I just miss the days when he was the baddest-ass in mainstream comics.  Byrne’s FF, Simonson’s Thor, Wolfman and Perez on Teen Titans, Levitz and Giffen on Legion of Superheroes, Miller’s Daredevil…these were the books I grew up with…comics in the 80s.  Creatively, this is where I come from.  This is my home.  And I guess you can’t go home again.  Dang it.

Back On The Table

September 15, 2009

Immediately after my wedding, but before the pictures and the reception, my former wife and I raised a glass in toast to the gathered guests.  I delivered the toast, and the essence of it was that she and I were…and this is a word I use only in this context…blessed to have such good people in our lives.  I can’t and shouldn’t speak for my former wife anymore, but this is a sentiment I’ve always had, and is one that I continue to have now.  I have always been fortunate to attract good people to myself.  My friends are the best people in the world.

In my experience, one of the sad but unavoidable byproducts of settling into monogamous bliss is the inevitable increase in separation between one and one’s friends.  The more serious you get, the more marked this separation becomes.  It’s not that you love your friends any the less, it’s simply that your life has changed…it is no longer exclusively yours.  (And if you don’t believe this, you should not get married.)  And in some cases, you have to make a choice.  Sometimes your friends have needs that you cannot meet if you are to meet the needs of your significant other.  And hands down, your significant other comes first.  I still believe that, because your significant other is your premier friend, your most important person.

But my former wife and I are no longer together, obviously.  As sad as that is, I’m a glass half-full kinda guy.  The dissolution of my marriage has made me realize there were things…and people…that I took off of the table for my wife’s sake.  There’s no reason those things, and those people, can’t be put back into play.

Truth is, I’ve always wanted to live in New York City and I’ve always wanted to live in London.  Those were absolutely not options in Natalie’s world, so they stopped being options in mine when we took the vows.  But as a single man, those balls are put back into play.  Maybe I’ll make those moves some day.  I don’t want them as badly as I once did…my roots in Los Angeles run pretty deep now…but they still intrigue me.  Those moves are back on the table.

Far more importantly, though, I have reconnected with and spent time with so many of my friends in the wake of my separation and impending divorce.  For me, many of my friends are more than friends.  I have one friend with three children, three daughters, and those little (and not-so-little) girls are family to me.  This friend and I had been separated for years, in part her doing, and in part mine, because of my marriage.  And now we are close once more.  As I get older, I realize that the circumstances of my life have possibly put children out of the picture for me.  I hope not, but you never know.  And those little girls, who call me Uncle Justin or Uncle J…they mean the world to me.  Because they are good people born of a good person, one of my best friends.

But my nieces are hardly the only reconnections I’ve made.  A lot of great people have reentered my life.  One friend is walking my path of separation and divorce, and in similar fashion.  Like me, that guy grew more distant from his friends while in his marital family, but now he is able to grab his friendships once more, and with both hands.

Very few people understand what it is to have friends like mine, or to be a friend like me.  I feel bad for those people.  My friends make me feel loved when I am alone.  They lend me strength when I feel weak.  And they fill the time we spend together with joy and laughter.  I am truly…and I do not use this word lightly or by accident…blessed.

Gatorade for my Soul

September 9, 2009

Twice this summer, I’ve been to the beach.  Not just any beach, either, but the dog beach at Huntington.  Now, I’m not really an animal person.  I had some dogs as a kid, and the families had some cats.  I had a few fish at one point.  But I don’t need to own pets.  However, the dog beach is enough to make me reconsider this.

Look, everybody loves the beach.  The sun, the sand, the water…it doesn’t take a saint for these things to touch you in a very real way.  If you’re not a Scrooge, you probably really enjoy the sights and sounds of children as they frolic in the water.  It’s hard not to be affected by this in some way.  But Huntington is a DOG BEACH, where people can bring their dogs and have them off the leash.

It’s the most joyous pandemonium you have ever seen.  These dogs, which probably mostly live indoors, only enjoying the outdoors at the whim of their owners, and then all too often on a leash…these dogs go APE-SHIT.  It is pure joy, undistilled delight.  They bark at one another, they jump in the water, the shy away from the water, they protect their towels and blankets and umbrellas…and they basically get to be dogs.  It’s awesome.

It was made all the better because I was there with some of the people I love best in the world, one of whom is my little niece/goddaughter/good friend’s kid.  She’s eight, and if she were any cuter, she’d be a puppy herself.  She’s afraid of the water, but she can’t stay away from it.  She jumps over the smallest of waves, and rages and kicks at the water, daring it to get her…which of course it  does.  And I fret about undertow and her fears…and I can feel myself becoming a better man, a healthier man, through my love for her and her sisters and her mom and her aunt(s).

In a year of disappointment and pain, a year where I have walked a road in the long desert of recovery and rediscovery…days like Monday, true holidays…days like that are Gatorade for my soul.

A Sense of Community

August 28, 2009

The last few months have been prolific ones.  Since the beginning of summer, I’ve written a spec teleplay for an hour-long action-drama, developed and written a one-page pitch and an eight-page proposal for a comic book miniseries, written eight episodes of an online webseries (three of which had to be REwritten), and written a comic script.  (For which, a substantial rewrite is forthcoming.)  Now I’m working on the development stages of a feature-length screenplay…although I’ll return to the webseries and the comic script rewrite before I get too far into the screenplay.  It feels really good.

Moreover, and in some ways just as importantly, I am reconnecting with my creative friends.  I’m not really talking about collaborators now.  While I have collaborators that I treasure, they are almost always artists rather than writers, and them telling me my business is as annoying as I’m sure they find me telling them theirs. (That sounds snottier than it ought to.  I think that Matt, my most frequent collaborator would understand what I’m trying to say…and it’s not that I don’t welcome criticism.)

But there are writers in my life again.  Two are some of my closest friends, and we’ve danced this particular waltz before, although there is a different quality to it now…a better one.  On some level, at least, we’ve recaptured that need to one-up each other, that need to impress one another.  It drives us to be better in the healthiest way.  I can express a healthy envy when my friend writes something that I wish I had.  It pleases him and motivates me to knock the next thing I write out of the fucking park.  It’s awesome.

But I have other writing relationships as well.  I have friends who are behind me on the path rather than neck and neck, and reading their work thrills me and in helping them to get better, I am learning how to improve my own writing, how to make sure I do intentionally the things that I occasionally do intuitively.  I have friends that are farther along the path than I am, that make a living in an industry to which I am still struggling to gain entry.

I have been experimenting with media, with planning, with format, with tone.  I have chosen new themes to explore, escaping from the shackles of my childhood to explore the fullness of my life.  I hope that I am writing things that will thrill and move, that will inspire and motivate.

I seek to write for an audience of readers, but I am ecstatic to be writing for an audience of my peers.

The Hard Things…

August 14, 2009

…are the things most worth doing.

I think of this often.  In many ways, it is my personal mantra.  “Nothing worth doing is ever easy.”  I say that a lot.  It’s a reminder to myself, and to others, that “No one ever appreciated anything they got too easily.”  How we approach the hard things is the measure of a person.

I’m thinking of this for two reasons.  First, I need to get off of my ass and go exercise.  I haven’t been as diligent about exercise as I should be, though I’m trying.

Second, I recently received a communication from someone I don’t want to hear from or talk to very much.  The easy choices were to ignore the communication or to respond in a faux friendly way…or to be really mean.  The tough choice was to be firm but polite, to be honest about my feelings without crossing over into anger or rancor.  I hope I accomplished that…certainly that was my intent and I took care to make sure that was the message.

Now I need to go and get some exercise…damn it.

The thing about fans…

August 12, 2009

So, I don’t have what I would call fans, at least not yet.

I have plenty of friends who dig my writing and who dig the craziness that tends to come out of my brain.  One of my favorite people told me today that she wished she had my brain, so she could think of these ideas that she loves so much.  Awesome compliment.

But there is a part of me that dreads the idea of really having fans.  I just read some guy’s blog, and he posts these videos he shot of him being a real douchebag to Rob Liefeld.  Now, I’m not a big Liefeld fan by any means, but the guy did make it possible for comic book creators to be superstars.  I mean, he was a Hollywood darling before most of the suits out here had ever heard of Frank Miller or Alan Moore.

Anyway, this fan just treats him like crap over Heroes Reborn, which I avoided, because I knew I was gonna hate it, and what I read of it…I hated.  The whole theme of his thing is demanding an apology, and his friends are egging him on, and it’s just rude.  And bless him, Liefeld handles the whole thing with poise and grace.  Irritated poise and grace, but poise and grace nonetheless.

And I just don’t know if I could handle myself as well as Rob Liefeld did.  Now…I have my size working for me.  It takes a certain foolish bravery to walk up to a 350+ pound man and insult him and his work in public.  But still and all, “foolish bravery” might very well be the definition of certain kinds of rudeness.  Anyway, I don’t imagine it would do good things for my career if I lost it and pounded some little geek into jelly for voicing his opinion in a way I didn’t like.

So…feeling as I do, like my career is on the verge of taking off, I’m a little scared of what comes as a result.  I hope I can handle it as well as Rob Liefeld did; that guy has the patience of a saint!

You know what feels good?

August 10, 2009

Besides the obvious bawdy response, I mean.

Having and executing good plans.  Spending time with good friends.  Knowing what you want and going after it.

I guess there is something really good about getting older.  I was never this confident, this aware, this on top of things, 10 or 15 years ago.  Hell, even when my former wife (a smart woman reminded me that Natalie was my wife, and no matter what has changed, that status should accord her a certain respect…I still use “ex”, especially when cracking wise, but it’s true…besides she has troubles enough without me being disrespectful) and I were still together, I don’t think I was this focused or this clear.

Even this simple act of keeping this blog, which is really just an exercise in keeping my writer’s juices flowing, is a part of a plan, an expression of my will.  This isn’t haphazard.  I DON’T FEEL LIKE WRITING THIS.  Not at all, and I’ll be surprised if this thing makes it to 300 words, which is nothing for a verbose MF like myself.

There have been temptations for sure.  There’s a gorgeous girl at the Rock who would like me to have drinks with her…more than one, really.  I’m incredibly tired right now, and the last thing I want to take the time to do is floss.  I went to IKEA today and really wanted to buy some shit just because there was money in my pocket.  And never has a beer seemed more appealing than after work today.

But I’m sticking to my guns.  My next test is the baseball game.  I’ve given myself permission to have a few drinks that night…but I don’t want that to become an excuse to start up bad habits all over again.  There’s a part of me that just wants to skip the drinking that night.  We’ll see.

Anyway, that’s enough for tonight.  I’m tired as hell, and I’m setting my alarm so I can get in some exercise along with my writing tomorrow.  Because that’s all a part of the plan.

Almost 350 words, too.  Suck it, Trebek!