Long time, no see

So ... what's new with you?

Things have been kind of hectic the past couple weeks, hence the severe lack of posts. The semester has been winding down and I've been fighting some kinda cold or something. I haven't been feeling the best, and it's difficult to concentrate on school work when your head's all fuzzy, let alone writing babbling blogs.

I have a take-home final due Tuesday in my media ethics class, and then an in-class final on Thursday in Interviewing. And that's it. That's the list. The semester will be nothing but a not-so-pleasant memory.

I don't know what it's been these past few months, but I've really been out of it. I think maybe it was all the medical stuff back in February. All the tests and the time spent in the hospital, it really threw me off my game. I never got really comfortable in my classes, even though I think I've done fairly well in them, well enough for A's or B's, but I've felt like I've been walking around in something of a daze.

I dunno. Maybe I just need a break, to get out of Omaha for a little while before the home stretch. I should only have two semesters of school left, Fall 2007 and Spring 2008, with graduation next May. Since I came back to Omaha, I've been going to school pretty much nonstop, including Summer classes, and I fear that I've become burnt out.

I'm going to see Social Distortion at Sokol Tuesday night, and then next weekend is Spider-Man 3 and Free Comic Book Day, and maybe a quick jaunt down to Kansas City on Sunday for a small comic book convention (Jim Lee's gonna be there!). And then I've given myself a week to get organized around the house before heading out to L.A. for my internship.

I'm planning on leaving the day after Mother's Day. Figure I'll take my time, crash for a night in Denver with my brother and his family, as I make my way out west. I've done this drive a couple times before, so I know what to expect, and if I can do it again in three days, cool, and if it takes me longer, that's fine, too. I'm in no particular hurry. I'm not expected at the office until the 21st, so I have a week to just kinda chill and enjoy the drive.

And speaking of driving, Fox already canceled the great new show, Drive, after, what, three weeks? Fox does nothing but piss me off, and it's got to piss off the show's producer, Tim Minear, too. Fox keeps shitcanning his shows. Firefly, Wonderfalls, The Inside and now Drive. (Angel was on the WB, right?) That's got to get pretty annoying after a while.

They say it's all about ratings, which equal advertising dollars, but they always seem to forget a little show called The X-Files, which started off with crappy ratings on Friday nights on Fox before becoming a cultural touchstone and a Top 10-rated show for the majority of its run. Networks need to remember this and to realize that these serialized shows need some time to gain an audience. Three weeks simply isn't enough time.

But I digress.

The Cards and Cubs are about to get under way, so I'm gonna watch me some baseball. Then maybe I'll work on that take-home final.



So it goes

Kurt Vonnegut died yesterday, so that's a bummer. He's been one of my favorite writers since we first read Cat's Cradle in high school. I'm not sure I fully understood any of his work the first time I would read it, but that was part of the fun, you know? Going back and rereading his novels, sometimes years later, and suddenly getting that "Ah-ha!" moment.

Vonnegut hadn't written a novel in years, not since Timequake in 1997, but he wrote essays and articles and he was, you know, around. His presence always felt reassuring, grandfatherly, like he was looking over our collective shoulder, smiling and nodding, or, more likely, grimacing and cursing us all under his breath. His work was bleak, but always fascinating. He had a love/hate relationship with life. He didn't much care for humanity as a whole, but he was always pushing us to be better than we were. Better than we are.

He will be missed.

It might be a lie to say that I've been busy lately, and that's why I haven't been blogging much, save for the various movie reviews I've done over the past few weeks. I should be busy. I have three papers to write between now and the end of the semester, plus I'll have two tests during finals week. But my heart really hasn't been in it. At least in regards to this one paper, for my Media Research class. It's been kind of a pain, though a pain of my own making, I'm sure.

It'll get done, as will the other assignments. I just need to find me some of that motivation stuff. The good news is that I have all the research for the paper done. I just have to, y'know, read the research now, and then start that whole writing thing.

I admit, I've been a bit distracted lately. Y'know how, back on that To-Do List, I mentioned the bit about finding an internship for the summer. Well, I sort of did. And I don't think I could've lucked out any more than I seem to have.

My internship will be with Boom! Studios, a very small comic book company located in, wait for it ... Los Angeles. Yes, two years after my not-so-triumphant return to Omaha, I will be heading back to the Left Coast, this time with a job (albeit a non-paying job) at one of the coolest new publishers in the business. A publisher that, incidentally, has numerous ties to both the TV and film industries to boot.

Comics, television and movies, all rolled into one? It's almost like a dream come true, y'know? I mean, that pretty much covers the wide spectrum of my addictions, does it not? I mean, I think the only thing that could make this job more appealing was if I got to do play-by-play with Vin Scully at Dodger Stadium, too. (Maybe I should look into that ...)

The dates haven't been finalized yet, but I told them I'm free after finals week and don't have to be back in Omaha 'til toward the end of August, so that's a good three months, give or take a week.

As far as my duties go, well, right now it looks like I'll be going to both the San Diego and Chicago comic conventions this summer, and maybe a couple others. I suppose I get to be the Boom! booth babe. (I see you shuddering out there.) There will be the usually office-type work, too. Phones, emails, Web site, etc. Since the company is so small, it'll basically be me and one other guy in the office, not counting "the Boss," publisher Ross Richie.

I'm hoping to get to do some more creative stuff, too. Maybe some editing, some proofing, that sort of thing. Since it's a small company, all the writers and artists are freelance, so they work from home, wherever home is. Some do live in L.A., though, so I'm hoping to get to meet a few of them, including everyone's favorite Monkey.

If you can't tell, I'm excited about this internship. Super-excited. Uber-excited, even. But I need to stop thinking about it and focus on the work in front of me. It's just, you know, kinda difficult to concentrate.

My grandmother was just in town for a week. She left Tuesday morning. She's finally agreed that she shouldn't be living by herself in a city where practically no one would notice if she fell and couldn't get up. So she'll be moving to Omaha in August, when her lease is up. At least here, if (more like when - at this point, it's become an eventuality) she falls, she'll have more family around to help her up.

I'm a wee bit sick, too. Some kinda craptastic infection. The usual stuff, sore throat, coughing up blech. I've felt pretty tired the past couple days, too. The stuffed nose has made it difficult to sleep the last two nights. I saw my doctor yesterday and got some meds, so hopefully this'll clear up by the weekend.

Other than all that, I guess there's really nothing else goin' on. I should work on this Powerpoint that I'm presenting to my Media Ethics class this afternoon. It's basically finished. I just need to touch it up a little, change a slide or two. Then I get to start working on the paper to accompany the case study I'm presenting, which is due next week.

I also need to prepare for my second interview in my Interviewing class, which I'll be doing on Tuesday. Then the paper for that is due the following week. As is the survey interview I need to work on.

So it goes.


Kurt Vonnegut Dead at 84

Kurt Vonnegut, whose dark comic talent and urgent moral vision in novels like “Slaughterhouse-Five,” “Cat’s Cradle” and “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater” caught the temper of his times and the imagination of a generation, died last night in Manhattan. He was 84 and had homes in Manhattan and in Sagaponack on Long Island.




In true grindhouse fashion, right as the film was about to begin, a reel broke. At first we all thought it was part of the gag, but after about 10 minutes, we began to think that, no, it might very well have simply been a coincidence. I got a free pass for the inconvenience.

Grindhouse, if you're unaware, is Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez's love letter to the trashy exploitation flicks of the 1970s. It's a double feature, two for the price of one, with Rodriguez's zombirific Planet Terror preceding Tarantino's psychotic car chase thriller, Death Proof.

Terror is really nothing more than a live-action cartoon, with gratuitous explosions and gore galore. The plot, such as it is, involves a stripper who wants to be a stand-up comic, her ex-boyfriend with a mysterious past, biochemical weapons, Bruce Willis, and oodles of violence and blood, with the occasional titty shot thrown in for good measure. It's frantic, frenetic, and absolutely, wonderfully insane. All sense and logic gets thrown out the window (how does Rose McGowan fire that rifle-leg of hers, anyway?) almost immediately, and you really don't care. It's just too damn fun. Rodriguez is like a kid in a candy store, throwing every conceivable idea against the screen and not even noticing if it sticks. He's already moved on to the next sight gag.

Tarantino's Death Proof is a more methodical film, with long stretches of Quentin's famous dialogue between bursts of manic activity, mainly in the form of intricately-filmed car chases. And crashes. Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell in his best performance since ... I don't know what) likes to hurt women with his souped-up muscle car, but can he take it as well as he dishes it out? Has he met his match in the form of three tough stuntwomen in town to make a movie? Has he finally bit off more than he can chew?

These two films are so much fun, and I haven't even mentioned the fake trailers by Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead), Rob Zombie (duh), Eli Roth (Hostel) and Rodriguez. The most bizarre, awful movies you'll never see, like Machete, starring Danny Trejo (which I just read will actually be made into a real film to be released direct-to-DVD when Grindhouse comes out on DVD), and Werewolf Women of the S.S., with Nicholas Cage hilariously as Fu Manchu.

If you enjoy Tarantino and/or Rodriguez flicks, and have a healthy appetite for splatter and gore, you'll absolutely love going to the Grindhouse.

(And did I mention that Rosario Dawson is just amazingly gorgeous and funny? Sin City, Clerks II, Grindhouse and she even co-created a comic book - she is the dreamgirl for thousands of fanboys everywhere.)

Perfect Stranger

Alissa had a free pass to Thursday night's sneak peek of this new Halle Berry/Bruce Willis flick, which opens next Friday, I believe. Based on the trailers I'd seen, it didn't strike me as a movie I'd care to pay to see in the theatre, but for free? Sure, I'll check out almost any movie if it's free.

For the most part, it was a pretty good film. I was really into it, didn't check my watch to see what time it was throughout the entire movie, right up until the last five minutes or so. They totally lost me with the ending. They were doing so good, and then, complete meh.

I won't say too much about the plot other than it's a fairly involved and complex murder mystery that, even if you completely pay attention to it for the whole thing, you'll still scratch your head at the end. Because it's just so bogus, completely out of no where and unbelievable.

Since it was a free movie, it was certainly a fine way to spend a couple hours. I am, however, quite glad that I didn't have to shell out any cash to see it. (It was even Alissa's turn to buy dinner, so I made out pretty well tonight, all things considered.)


To-Do List (Updated)

  • Create a PowerPoint presentation about the case study I was assigned to present for my Media Ethics class.

  • Begin a paper about the case study, to be handed in a week after I give the PowerPoint presentation.

  • Decide on a topic to research for my Media Research class.

  • Prepare a "persuasive" interview situation to act out for my Interviewing class.

  • Write more of my script for my Screenwriting class.

  • Apply for summer internships at various media companies, preferably not in Omaha.

  • Find a UNO student to interview about one of four topics for my Interviewing class.

  • Create a survey interview based on the answers received from the above journalistic interview.

  • Finish Buffy season 6.

  • Start Buffy season 7.

  • Stop writing this blog entry and continue working on PowerPoint presentation.

  • Start research for, and writing of, the Media Research paper.


The Lookout

Scott Frank has written some of my favorite movies, namely the adaptations of two of my favorite Elmore Leonard novels, Get Shorty (directed by Barry Sonnenfeld) and Out of Sight (directed by Steven Soderbergh), for which he received a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar nomination. (He also wrote the screenplay for Steven Spielberg's adaptation of the Philip K. Dick short story, Minority Report, which, while I wouldn't call it a favorite, is a pretty good movie in its own right, despite its notable differences from the source material.)

Frank's latest movie is The Lookout, with which he chose to make his directorial debut after both Sam Mendes and Dave Fincher dropped out to make Road to Perdition and Zodiac, respectively.

As you can tell, the script for The Lookout had been around for a while before Frank finally decided that he wanted to be the guy to finally make this movie. He'd lived with it for years, doing rewrite after rewrite for directors who would eventually move on to other projects, and he realized, after Fincher left, that he didn't want to do any more rewrites.

The Lookout is the story of a former hot shot high school hockey star with his entire life in front of him. Unfortunately for him and his three passengers, one night while speeding down a remote, rural highway in Missouri with the headlights off, a combine is also in front of him. He swerves to avoid the huge piece of farm equipment, but is going way too fast. There's an accident. Two of his friends are killed and he's left with moderate brain damage.

When we catch up with Chris Pratt four years later, he's working as the night janitor at small-town bank and going to rehab classes during the day. He has trouble with his memory and carries around a small notebook in which he scribbles reminders to himself. One of his hands shakes and he walks with a limp. He doesn't remember the accident, but is constantly reminded of it every day.

Lewis is Chris's roommate, blind from working in a meth lab "before it was fashionable." Though blind, Lewis can navigate their apartment better than Chris can, and is quite impressive in the kitchen. The two talk about opening a restaurant some day. Chris's family never seemed to learn how to handle his new disability, with his mother wanting to coddle him and his father treating him like a child. They mean well, of course, but they reinforce the idea that because of his condition, Chris can't take care of himself, that he can't be independent, which is sort of the crux of the story.

Soon, Chris meets Gary, and the two quickly become friends. Gary doesn't treat Chris like an invalid. He talks to him like a man, supplying Chris with both self-confidence and a woman, an ex-stripper named Luvlee. For the first time since the accident, Chris is living his life instead of simply being alive.

Gary, however, is not all he appears to be. His friendship with Chris is merely a ruse. Gary and his friends intend to rob the bank Chris works at and they need an inside man. They need Chris to be their lookout.

Frank, as both writer and director, takes his time getting to the heist. He allows the film plenty of room to breath. We have ample time in which to meet our characters and get to know them before Frank pulls the rug out from under them, and therein lies the film's main strength: its characters.

Each person is fully-fleshed out and realistic, from our protagonist Chris to the deputy who stops by the bank each night bearing a box of donuts and tales of his pregnant wife. Frank's deft dialogue and directorial cues help create this world, and by the time the action starts we feel as though we have a stake in their lives.

The characters are brought to such realistic life by a great group of actors, including Jeff Daniels as Lewis and Matthew Goode as Gary, but the most impressive performance is that of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who plays Chris with a haunting sensitivity, as a guy who can be raging against the kitchen because he can't find the can opener one moment and devastated by the pain the accident caused the next.

I was ridiculously impressed with Gordon-Levitt in the high school neo-noir, Brick. I was stunned, actually. This was the kid who co-starred in that dumb aliens-come-to-Earth sitcom? I mean, I thought he was really good in Brick, but after The Lookout, I honestly believe he's one of the best young actors in the business today.

The Lookout might have a relatively simplistic plot, that of "the heist movie," but it's the characters Scott Frank created who make this story new and fresh and worth seeing. Frank already had an established career as a top-notch screenwriter, but after this picture, he can add up-and-coming director to his list of accolades.