Sunday, September 27, 2009

Georgie T. Clooney, Will You Please Go Away?

Just returned from the Southern California Writers Conference in Irvine with two things essential to any writer’s life: a deepening knowledge and love of both the craft we ply and the people who work in and around it – and a hangover the size of the national debt.

So to entertain those who are tuning for the first time, I’m reposting this letter I felt compelled to write several years ago, after months of recurring dreams featuring the Clooney. For those who’ve read it already, tomorrow I’ll post a trashy, but fun, poem created back in February at the San Diego incarnation of this conference.

To all, I wish a hearty good laugh -- and plenty of Tylenol.

From the Desk of
Melanie Young
(Against Her Better Judgement)

Mr. G. Clooney
Beverly Hills, California

re: Recent Harrassment

June 4, 2007

Dear George,

Well, you won’t leave me alone, so I suppose I must break down and speak to you. Why you won’t let me sleep in peace I don’t know. What my offense has been remains a mystery to me, but since you will keep showing up in your dapper best and conversing with me over a cup of coffee deep in my REM cycle until all hours, I shall behave like the lady my mother tried (unsuccessfully) to raise, and grant you your interview.

I would like to point out here and now that I have no intention of this growing into a more intimate acquaintance. I am that kind of girl, but not with actors – in fact that’s number one on the list. This is no mere prejudice, but the informed voice of experience. High school drama club leaves its scars on us all. Of course dating didn’t stop there, and soon there were larger messes of mascara-stained tissues on the bureau.

After a summer split between the bohemian scenes of the University of Kansas and Disneyworld, I added poets and rock guitarists to the list – oh yes, and lead singers. Just one guy, but he was a doozy. And you know, a girl likely to date that kind of a beast seems to find herself quickly attracted to philosophers, marketing geniuses, social reformers, park rangers, carpenters, sculptors, chemists, swing dancers, cartoonists – well, the list is quite long now, suffice to say. Marriage had officially stopped the list from growing until our recent, unending chats. I hadn’t counted on you, George.

Regardless of the obvious temptations, I will not be throwing myself at you, so you can just forget about that now. Bill Clinton – leader of the free world eventually, but just in the running at the time – showed up in this same fuzzy, dreaming brain while you were no more than a fading, mulletted memory from “The Facts of Life.” Even in my most unguarded, unconscious dream state, Billy didn’t get anything but a warm smile, so you, the other Mr. C., can just keep your tuxedoed, perfect triangle-frame anchored.

Yes, I obviously have a thing for men in power, and no, it’s not going to get you anywhere. Whatever it is I find about you that’s erotic doesn’t seem to require us getting naked. Which is convenient, since I have a hard enough time facing the bathroom mirror at thirty-five, much less any ongoing nightmare visions of my bare, dimpled derrière in motion.

Now, on to the next order of business. My subconscious. What are you doing there? Do you intend to bring friends? Will I have to start considering caterers? What are we talking about? I can’t imagine anything that keeps you coming back at the rate you seem to consider appropriate. One dream would have been titillating. Two might have hinted at your continuing good taste. But month after month, night after night! Just when I think you’ve finally gone on to the starlets who love you so well…I innocently pass into Never Never Land – and must face you ONCE AGAIN – without make-up and before I’ve had a chance to clean the dishes.

What could we possibly have in common? After all, you have your millions, and I have my – dying potted plants. It really is just too damn hot to slog outside and water them all the time. I think the thyme committed suicide last week. Two days just doesn’t seem to be enough time to get as brown as it managed. You wouldn’t know, of course, since gardeners have been taking care of your lawns since you impersonated a lecherous doctor that women couldn’t resist on TV. (You know, they could be family men – the gardeners – who recoil at your wandering Romeo ways. Have you asked? Or better yet – have you noticed any suspicious decline in the health of your herbs?)

It certainly doesn’t leave us much to discuss. You get to have your fifty girlfriends at a time; I get one husband that I’m lucky to have fifty times a year. You wander the corridors of power with your buddies in the Democratic Party leadership; I’m beginning to recognize the homeless guys in Balboa Park by their preferred camping spots. You sparkle at your red carpet galas, receiving goodie bags stuffed with free digital cameras and personalized watches; I only seem to attend functions where earnest female friends try to sell me things I can’t afford or don’t need (I generally just cave and let them have another one at my house – for the swag. Should score the entire Anti-Cellulite Cream package at next week’s soiree).

Oh, George, where does all this leave us? You remain so silent on the subject of commitment, and yet you return faithfully to my dreams week after week, talking warmly of God-only-knows-what, allowing me to bask in the knowledge that it is I who truly stimulate your mind, your wit, your gleaming, white-toothed laugh. You even let me call you “Eyebrow.” Do you think I didn’t notice your recycled jokes as you dashed between reporter-ette bimbos at last year’s Oscars? They couldn’t know what I did – that “The Good German” was a good reason to sit in a theatre alone with my popcorn and you; black and white really does bring out your jawline something fierce. Did you feel you had to apologize for that? Did you stop believing that there really was intelligent life out there somewhere? Have you lost your faith that beauty and brains can still coexist? Is this why you haunt my make-believe kitchen table?

I suppose you’re like any man. We’ll continue to have these little chats, and then one day, you’ll expect me to read your mind, intuit your deepest dreams and drop everything to bask in your love – and needs. Well, George, I’m sorry. I can’t take the time. I’ve already got one man I have to worry about, and he’s fairly firm on his policy of No Visiting Sex Gods between the hours of one and five a.m. So unless you’re planning on divulging anything deeper than your secret to great skin (which really, I wouldn’t mind knowing), I think our relationship is at an impasse.

Still, a good coffee buddy shouldn’t be underrated – as long as you’re okay with decaf. I have got to get some sleep. Have I told you about these recurring dreams of mine?

Til the Restraining Order Comes Through,
Melanie (as if you didn’t know)

Friday, August 7, 2009

John Hughes - The Master of the High School Flick

Ever wonder what happened to John Hughes, the creator of Ferris Bueller and Molly Ringwald's career? Ever think he was a farmer? You never know what Hollywood will drive people to.

Excellent obit below - yes, obit. Sigh. Off to that "big lake" in the sky...

Monday, August 3, 2009

Some Battlestar Love from Television Critics

So, the Emmys officially stink. Not only have they refused to acknowledge the existence of "Battlestar Galactica" (BSG) for years, now they've also decided that writers receiving awards don't need airtime.

There were 4 categories awarded on-air last year; this year, that number will be down to 2. Interesting article on the protest from WGA & writers you might just happen to Seth McFarland, Ronald Moore, Shondra Rhimes, David Shore, and Damon Lindelof & Carlton Cuse aka "Family Guy," "Battlestar Galactica," "Grey's Anatomy," "House," and "Lost:"

Now, for the good news. The Television Critics Awards named "BSG" as "Program of the Year." Apparently the people who watch television for a living recognize greatness, as opposed to the people who produce television for a living (Academy, etc.) "So say we all!"

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

L'amour....or film 37

Yes, it’s been forever since I posted a film review, but in all fairness I’ve been writing my own movie. It took a little while – the better part of two years really – but who’s making excuses? It’s done now (well, as ‘done’ as any writing project gets, which means ‘never’), and the script is making the rounds of competitions, none of which I’ll hear about until September. So in the meantime, I’m outlining the next one – and a novel, because who doesn’t feel like that’s a good thing to do in their spare time? – and feeling the need to catch this blog up with where I am…which at the moment is deep in the heart of the French countryside – virtually speaking – with 150+ cyclists, 1000+ journalists, 6 daily “Versus” broadcasts and 1 bike-crazy husband.

Film 37: “Jet Lag” (2002)
So in honor of Le Tour, we watched a French romantic comedy last night. What? “The French don’t laugh,” you say. “Ah, mais oui.” Jerry Lewis, n’est pas? Well, okay, him – and the kind of complete psychological and physical breakdown that 24 hours of travel without sleep will bring you.

Well, not you you. Juliette Binoche and Jean Reno – probably the two French stars most recognizable to American audiences – thanks to Reno’s “The Professional” and Binoche’s turns in everything from the uber-arty ‘Colors’ films (“Blue,” “White,” and “Red”) to epic-smash “The English Patient” to frothy-sweet “Dan in Real Life.” I’ve enjoyed all these films, but was dubious that Binoche had left any original roles left to perform, being one of the busiest actresses of her time.

Then Nancy Fisk (yay, Nancy!) told me I’d missed a big one with this flick, and she was absolutely right. Turns out the French do know something about romance after all, even if Kelly Clarkson doesn’t sing the title track.

Now, to enjoy a French romantic comedy, you must remember a few important pointers:
1) Slapstick is out. Intense dialogue is in.
2) A happy ending is far, far from assured.
3) Romance itself is less assured – and much less obvious – than #2.
4) The food and wine will be taken as seriously as any of the other relationships.
5) Juliette Binoche will probably get naked somewhere along the line.

See? Something for everyone.

The real joy of this film for me wasn’t caused by any of the above (all of which were true). It was more about a relaxed happiness which settled over me from the beginning, as intelligent, modern dialogue and unobtrusive but thoughtful direction gave two great actors the space to engage my emotions and charm my pants off. I loved every moment of Binoche’s tacky, downtrodden hairdresser Rose, especially as she sparred with Reno’s prickly, corporate sell-out Felix.

Happiness is not something I readily associate with French film, so you can see how pleasantly surprised I was. Depth, yes. Greatness, on occasion. Depression – de rigueur. So when I tell you that one of the most uplifting moments involves Rose and Felix drowning their sorrows in great cuisine and crying over a father’s lost love, you won’t be surprised. But I think you will smile.

After all, the great charm of that strange but beautiful nation lies somewhere in the aphorism, “No one hates the French more than they do.” And in the end, no one else can unmask their cynicism and reveal their shaky, but enduring, faith in love better than they can.

Vive la France!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Little - no, large - Ration of Hope

Hello, all. Bet you've been wondering which cliff I've fallen off. Or at least, I hope a few have.

Rest assured, all is well. In fact, I've been busy trying to cross a major finish line. But more of that tomorrow.

For today, I'd just like to share what I can only describe as one of the best moments my life has had to offer so far. For the web savvy, this shall come as no surprise. I'm talking about Saturday night's "Britain's Got Talent" segment, which at this morning's count was well on the way to 15 million hits on YouTube.

Bear in mind, the contestant is the youngest of 9 siblings in a small Scottish village. She's spent her life singing at church and caring for her convalescent mother, who before she died recently, told her daughter to take a risk.

Here it is:

Watch it. I dare you to tell me you didn't care.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Lee Marvin - A Commie?

Hey all! If you're up for a mind-bender late tonight, check out "Shack Out on 101" - the Underground Classic over on Turner Classic Movies.

Lee Marvin, tough, true blue Amercian #2 (behind only John Wayne), stars in a 1950s "Commies in our Midst" comedy/thriller. Posing as a doofus slinging burgers on the southern California coast, Marvin's character - Slob - flirts with girls, complains about the nutheads at Muscle Beach and lays plans to overthrow the American government. Keenan Wynn, one of the funniest 50s men, co-stars in what's sure to be a surreal experience.

Barry Gifford, whose novel Wild at Heart was adapted to the screen in 1990 by David Lynch and who co-wrote the screenplay for Lost Highway (1997) with that same director, had this to say about Shack Out on 101: "It's as if William Inge were forced by the government to rewrite some Chekhov play, but set in McCarthy-era America, and he took twenty Valium, washed them down with Old Crow, and dashed it off as the drug grabbed his brain and put him in Palookaville."

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Day 60: Frolicking through Prehistoric Mindmelts with Garters

(Thought that might grab ya...)

Film 34: “Whirlpool” (1949)
Matinee Muse Unmasked
Written by Ben Hecht and Andrew Solt
Directed by Otto Preminger

Film 35: “10,000 B.C.” (2008)
B.C. Beefcake
Written by Roland Emmerich and Harald Koser
Directed by Roland Emmerich

Film 36: “The Young Visiters” (2003)
Victorian Class-Vaulting
Written by Patrick Varlow based on a story by Daisy Ashford
Directed by David Yates

Welcome to my first ever 3-for-1 movie review! I figure if I can watch them one after another, you can read about them together…faulty logic if ever I’ve heard it, but it’s my little reality here. Wilkommen!

Spend long enough in“Whirlpool” – between the claustrophobic Otto Preminger touch and Ben Hecht’s love of psychobabble and paranoia – and you’ll wonder why all the fuss over the simple deconstruction of the placid post-war housewife. Why all the fuss, when the job was done in the first few frames – the simple casting of the glamorous and alluring Gene Tierney (“Laura”) in the castrated lead role of Ann Sutton. Even her long tresses are clipped and pressed into mid-50s Lois Lane mold. I don’t need 45 minutes of bad noir rip-off detective work to tell me Tierney’s the victim here.

None of this keeps menacing astrologer/con-man David Korvo (Jose Ferrer) from digging into her brain with the same relish that the evil pseudo-Egyptian slave traders of “10,000 B.C.” whip their pyramid builders. And with the well-developed chests that all its main characters – male and female alike – possess, who can resent the lack of clothing? You want historical depth? Then why are you watching a movie about African mammoth hunters – oh yes, actual mammoth hunters – being enslaved by light-skinned crazy dudes in heavy black eyeliner? This is almost as fun as Jim Broadbent’s insanely insecure Victorian noble wannabe – for entirely different reasons.

Broadbent, one of English cinema’s consistent delights – stars as poor clerk Alfred who just wants to get laid – but not by just any girl…no, for him, it must be Ethel, a young fresh nobility-obsessed flower (Lyndsey Marshall). As if a film spurred by a story written by a 9 year-old – for real and for true – wasn’t dessert enough, onscreen walks (or mutters, more accurately) Hugh Laurie, as Alfred’s formidable rival, the Lord Bernard Clark. Yes, “House” fans. Laurie had a long, fruitful career – as an Englishman – before he faked a Midwestern hard ‘r’ and a limp for his strongest American ratings pull. I must admit, having discovered him in his native land first, that’s where I love him best, and he doesn’t disappoint here (does he ever?). Add in a little naughty Bill Nighy (the fading pop singer in “Love Actually”) for spice, and you’ve got a fast-paced, goofy class comedy.

What do you get when you combine all three?

Nothing normal.

Good times.