Archive for the ‘projects’ Category
Posted on August 13, 2014 - by writerman
This week, we lost our Captain.
It’s just heartbreaking that someone who brought such joy to millions struggled so much with depression in his private life. I didn’t know him, so I won’t try to add to the wonderful remembrances coming from the people who loved him and were lucky enough to work with him. But I still miss him. And the world is definitely a little darker today, without his incandescent light. I can only imagine how hard this is on his family.
As we mourn his passing, let’s not forget to celebrate the great things he did while he was here, and everything he left behind.
Robin Williams is gone too soon, but Mrs. Doubtfire and Mr. Keating and Mork and the Genie will stay with us, forever.
10. The World According to Garp (1982)
Thanks to director George Roy Hill for giving Robin his first chance to show that he could do more than be the funniest guy in the room.
9. Mork & Mindy (1978 – 1982)
I suppose this is cheating a little – including a TV show in this list of movies, but how could I leave out our favorite Orkan? I still remember seeing him burst on to the screen on Happy Days for the first time.
8. Moscow on the Hudson (1984)
A love letter to America from Paul Mazursky. One of the best movies about New York City, ever.
7. Good Will Hunting (1997)
I wish Robin Williams was my therapist.
6. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988)
He’s only on screen in this wonderfully messy Terry Gilliam movie for five minutes, but it’s a pretty amazing five minutes.
5. Aladdin (1992)
I took a girl to this movie on our first date. She thought it was kind of boring. We didn’t have a second date.1
4. Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
On paper, this looks a terrible idea for a movie. I wonder how they pitched it – as a Tootsie remake with the mime from Shakes the Clown in a fat suit? But Robin Williams brings so much charm and fun to his part that he carries the rest of the movie right along with him.
3. Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)
I love this movie, but I was seriously obsessed with the soundtrack. I played the shit out of that thing, until I knew every word and every song. And, thanks to the magic of the Internet, you can listen to the whole thing just like I did in my parent’s house in 1987 – on the original vinyl.
2. Dead Poets Society (1989)
“…the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”
1. The Fisher King (1991)
Robin Williams is best known for his hyper-kinetic stage persona and his incredible ability to riff and jump from one tangent to another, but one of the great things about this movie is that it shows how good he can be in quiet moments like the waltz in Grand Central or this weird little double date. Watch it again. I dare you not to love it.
- Full disclosure – the real reason we didn’t make it to date number two is that she thought I was kind of boring, but sometimes the fiction sounds better (and stings less) than the truth, right? [↩]
Posted on July 3, 2014 - by writerman
On Friday, April 25, I became a dad for the first time.
One of the things no one tells you about being a new dad (probably because it’s tremendously unimportant in the grand scheme of things) is that you can’t take a newborn baby to the movies. The thing is, I really love going to the movies. I love everything about it. The huge screen. The surround sound. The trailers. Sitting in a sea of strangers as we all watch the story together. Stuffing my face with popcorn and m&m’s.1 Going to the movies is one of my favorite things in life.
I don’t know if it’s The Grass is Always Greener Syndrome™, but it seems like a lot of high-quality popcorn flicks full of monsters, superheroes, dragons, witches, monkeys, undercover cops, next-door neighbors and even Tom Cruise are hitting the screens this summer. And because I won’t be back in a theatre until the meatball is a little bigger, here are my Top 10 movies that absolutely, positively need to be seen on the Big Screen.2
Go to the movies, people. Go.
10. Brazil (1985)
Terry Gilliam had to be on this list, because everything he does is meant to be seen on a 70-foot screen.
9. Spellbound (2002)
Not an obvious choice, but seeing this little documentary about the Scripps National Spelling Bee was one of the best in-theatre experiences I’ve ever had. Watching these kids try and spell words you’ve never even heard of was surprisingly gripping and had the entire audience on the edge of our seats and cheering for the winners (and losers) right up until the final minute.
8. Unforgiven (1992)
Sorry John Ford, but for me the Western that plays the best on the big screen is a bleak, unromantic take on the genre from Clint Eastwood. Props to unsung screenwriter David Webb Peoples , who not only wrote this fantastic movie, but also two sci-fi epics that almost made this list – Blade Runner and Twelve Monkeys.
7. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Once in a while you get blown away by a really smart, well-written movie, and it inspires you to race home to your desk and get to work on your latest script. Rarer still are the ones that make you want to go home and burn everything you’ve ever written, because none of it can ever measure up to the picture you just saw. Well played, Charlie Kaufman.
6. Fargo (1996)
The Coen brothers are best known for their little movies with big stories, but a few of their movies are fantastically cinematic. Oh Brother Where Art Thou is gorgeous to see and hear, but the way Fargo made the landscape and the weather into characters in the movie makes it their best big screen effort for me.
5. Alien (1979)
I love this movie for the performances and Ridley Scott’s vision of a broken-down filthy future, but that’s not why it needs to be seen on the big screen. The next time the Arclight or another cinema near you has a special screening of the original Alien, I dare you to sit in a dark theater and watch it again. It will scare the living shit out of you.
4. The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
The first Star Wars will always be my favorite, but waiting in line for Empire on opening weekend was probably the most excited I will ever be at a movie theater. And it did not disappoint. The effects, space battles and father and son moments blew my 8-year-old mind almost as much as this behind the scenes photo of Chewie and Leia is blowing yours right now.
3. Lord of the Rings: Part One (2001)
Come back with me, to a simpler time. A time before the interminable sequels and the neverending story of The Hobbit movies. A time when a wingnut director from New Zealand turned my favorite book ever into a really, really great adventure movie. About twenty minutes in, I turned to the person next to me and whispered excitedly, “This is so good!” #boromirforever
2. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
When I was in college in Vancouver, there was an old second-run theater downtown that used to play Indiana Jones marathons on slow nights. Three movies for the price of one! We used to go early to catch all of Raiders and the opening sequence of Temple of Doom. Then, we’d head out to grab something eat and get back in time to watch the end of the second movie and settle in for Last Crusade. Good times.
1. The Matrix (1999)
I did not expect to like this movie. All I remember about the ad campaign is hearing Johnny Utah say “Whoa” again and again. And yet, when the lights went down at the Capitol 6 and Trinity and the Wachowskis reinvented the fight scene, I was converted. Fifteen years later, it still holds up remarkably well. I know they play it on cable TV all the time now, but if you are watching bullet time at home, you’re doing it wrong.
- Seriously – my mother-in-law taught me this trick (she may have even invented it). Pour m&m’s into your popcorn bag and eat them together, in big handfuls. It will change your life. [↩]
- Fully aware that 2001 is missing from this list, but that’s only because I’m saving it for Top 10 Movies to Watch Stoned [↩]
Posted on November 6, 2012 - by writerman
There’s a great bit in Adaptation where a fictional version of the real-life screenwriting guru Robert McKee interrupts Charlie Kaufman’s internal monologue with this line:
“…and God help you if you use voice-over in your work, my friends. God help you. That’s flaccid, sloppy writing. Any idiot can write a voice-over narration to explain the thoughts of a character.”
For a long time, I never used VO in any of my scripts either. Until a couple of years ago when I was writing something new. As I worked my way through the first draft, I kept hearing this narrator’s voice in my head. And I kept ignoring it and ignoring it, and it kept getting louder and more insistent and I finally put it down on the page. Suddenly the story really started working and the script landed on just the tone I was hoping for. Sometimes, we just need someone to tell us a story.
10. The Big Lebowski (1998)
“Sometimes, there’s a man. I won’t say a hero. Cause, what’s a hee-ro? But, sometimes there’s a man. And I’m talkin’ about the Dude here. Sometimes there’s a man who, well, he’s the man for his time ‘n place. He fits right in there. And that’s the Dude, in Los Angeles.”
Thank you, Sam Elliott.
9. Pulp (1972)
Not a great movie, but a fantastic use of voice-over. Michael Caine’s detective novelist narrator Mickey King speaks in the clipped, hard-boiled tones we expect from the genre, while the action shows us the counter-point of the mundane truth. At one point, after being shot, King tells us that he “removed his shirt to use as a tourniquet,” while on screen we watch him pass out at the sight of his own blood.
Plus, you had to know Michael Caine would appear on this list somewhere.
8. Trainspotting (1996)
I’ll confess that I can’t remember a ton of Ewan McGregor’s narration from this one, but the opening monologue is so perfect, I had to include it on the list.
7. Double Indemnity (1944)
Damn, I love this movie. So much style. So much snappy dialogue. Such a great story. And, if you’re really paying attention, you’ll spot a short, uncredited cameo by the grandfather of hard-boiled fiction himself.
6. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
The first half of this film is so much depraved fun. This is one of those movies I can’t even imagine without voice-over. The novel is so quotable, we really needed someone to read it to us, even as we watch.
“The only thing that really worried me was the ether. There is nothing in the world more helpless and irresponsible and depraved than a man in the depths of an ether binge, and I knew we’d get into that rotten stuff pretty soon”
5. Goodfellas (1990)
“As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.”
Ray Liotta’s voice carries us all the way through this crazy story and makes his mad, violent world seem almost enviable. Sure, it ends poorly, but who didn’t want to be a gangster after watching the scene at the Copacabana? I also have to give a shout out to the greatest cooking scene in movie history.
4. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
The movie that, once and for all, established Morgan Freeman as the Voice Over Master. Case closed.
3. Amélie (2001)
Funny that a movie where I have to read the VO is in my top 3. But the narration is so good that it really makes the movie. Shit, someone liked it so much they even made an American adaptation.
“Nino is late. Amelie can only see two explanations. 1 – he didn’t get the photo. 2 – before he could assemble it, a gang of bank robbers took him hostage. The cops gave chase. They got away… but he caused a crash. When he came to, he’d lost his memory. An ex-con picked him up, mistook him for a fugitive, and shipped him to Istanbul. There he met some Afghan raiders who too him to steal some Russian warheads. But their truck hit a mine in Tajikistan. He survived, took to the hills, and became a Mujaheddin. Amelie refuses to get upset for a guy who’ll eat borscht all his life in a hat like a tea cozy.”
2. Fight Club (1999)
“I am Jack’s smirking revenge.”
Tyler Durden’s Rules of Fight Club speech gets all the glory, but Edward Norton’s nameless narrator’s rambling thoughts are really the heart and soul of this movie.
1. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
He doesn’t ever appear on screen, but Alec Baldwin gives the best performance in this movie, by far. Which is pretty amazing, when you think about the rest of the cast in Wes Anderson’s second-best picture.
- I should clarify that this is not intended to be a list of the best movies that used voice-over, but rather, a list of the best uses of voice-over in movies. [↩]
- Also – this list doesn’t include Ferris and Alvy and John Cusack because, while I love those guys, speaking to the camera during a scene feels like something different than voice-over. Who knows, maybe I’ll make a list for breaking the 4th wall some day… [↩]
Posted on January 12, 2012 - by writerman
The hardest thing about putting this top 10 list together was narrowing it down to less than eleven movies. Chalk it up to my protracted adolescence or perpetual immaturity, but I just frickin’ love movies about high school. That said, this is a Top 10 list. So there will be no “honorable mentions” and no ties for 10th place. Ten movies – no more and no less.
I am, as they say, a stickler for the rules. And so, in spite of my enthusiasm for so many movies that did not make the list, I will not mention the one that set the template, or any movies involving pies, football, selling your underpants, remarkably articulate pregnant girls, the Ramones, Charlie Sheen, buckets of pig’s blood, and definitely not that one with the time machine.1
10. Clueless (1995)
This movie gets a lot of props for being a Jane Austen remake and for giving us all the 411 on how the cool kids talk, but the reason it landed in my top 10 is because of Alicia Silverstone’s amazing performance as everyone’s favorite spoiled, selfish, rich, shallow, vapid, vain, self-centered, clueless and yet somehow still loveable high school girl.
9. Superbad (2007)
The most outrageously profane movie on this list, Superbad makes the top 10 for bringing simplicity, sweetness and an endless parade of dick jokes back to the high school comedy. And, for introducing “cockblock” into the common vernacular.
8. Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
Nearly 30 years later, Fast Times is largely remembered for the iconic scene where the white guy from Beverly Hills Cop fantasizes about a half-naked, underage Phoebe Cates and her red bikini. That moment has been imitated countless times since then, but the rest of the movie still holds up for it’s hilarious but unflinching look at real high school issues like drug use, abortion and ordering pizza to history class.
7. Heathers (1988)
The fashions are so 80’s, but the themes are timeless:
I mean, who hasn’t fantasized about murdering that evil bitch and the asshole jocks who terrorized their high school? Right?
6. Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
The Internet tells me that this movie inspired the term “The Napoleon Dynamite Problem”, the phenomenon whereby “quirky” films such as Napoleon Dynamite, Lost in Translation, and I Heart Huckabees prove difficult for researchers to create algorithms that are able to predict whether or not a particular viewer will like the film based on their ratings of previously viewed films.
Also: your mom goes to college.
5. Dazed and Confused (1993)
Richard Linklater’s best movie, Matthew McConaughey’s finest performance, and the greatest use of Foghat in the history of cinema, Dazed is one of those rare movies that gets more and more fun the more times you watch it.
4. Election (1999)
Sure, she was pretty good in that movie about Johnny Cash, but for my money this is the performance that should have earned Reese Witherspoon her first Oscar. Pick Flick!
3. The Breakfast Club (1985)
Oh John Hughes, how could we possibly ever forget about you?
2. Rushmore (1998)
When I scribbled down a first crack at my top 10 high school movies, I left Rushmore off the list altogether. Which is odd, because it’s actually one of my favorite movies of all time. I guess that’s because it doesn’t really feel like a high school movie, even though the main character wishes he could spend the rest of his life in high school. Still, it gets the #2 spot here for giving Bill Murray a second act, but mainly because it’s the funniest movie about love, hate, jealousy, rivalry and revenge I’ve ever seen.
1. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
This movie is the shit.
Seriously, anytime there’s a midnight screening of Ferris in town just give me a call and you’ll get to hear me say:
- Or the other one with the time machine. [↩]
- On a personal note, it was Ferris Bueller himself who inspired me to start cutting class back in the day. Of course, I got busted a lot more than Ferris and I sure as hell never got to drive a convertible Ferrari. [↩]
- Just last month, I picked up the menu at a pizza joint and ordered the “Abe Froman.” [↩]
Posted on December 28, 2011 - by writerman
The mall is a madhouse, the house smells like pine needles, the fridge is packed with leftovers and I’m full of turkey and pie, so it must be time to count down the Top 10 Christmas Movies of All Time…
10. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1993)
9. We’re No Angels (1955)
No, not the shitty remake with De Niro, Sean Penn and that girl from Blame it on Rio. Number nine on my list goes to the original, featuring Bogie and Peter Ustinov as a couple of escaped cons from Devil’s Island who may or may not be angelic.
8. A Christmas Story (1983)
Because you gotta respect a kid who knows exactly what he wants for Christmas:
“A Red Ryder carbine-action, two hundred shot Range Model air rifle with a compass in the stock and a thing which tells time.”
7. Die Hard (1988)
You probably forgot that this 80’s gem takes place on Christmas Eve, what with all the gun fights and explosions and Alan Rickman’s groovy accent. But if John McClane’s dirty undershirt is good enough for the Smithsonian, then this movie is good enough for the Top 10 Project.
6. Catch Me If You Can (2002)
Certainly not Spielberg’s finest work, but definitely one of his most fun. Though only marginally related to Christmas, this based-on-a-true story caper has loads of style and charm to burn, making it a perfect holiday treat.
Plus, Tom Hanks tells the greatest knock-knock joke in history:
5. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
The first time I saw this classic was the first year I brought a girl home to spend the holidays with my family. In honor of her family’s tradition, we sat down and watched It’s a Wonderful Life (her very favorite movie) all together. By the time George Bailey stood on the bridge, my mom was banging around in the kitchen, my dad was snoring, two of my brothers had left to do something “less boring” and I had perfected my Jimmy Stewart impersonation. She didn’t speak to me for two days.
In that girl’s defense, since our awkward holiday screening, I’ve become a real fan of the movie. Sure, it gets a little syrupy now and then, but Jimmy Stewart is fantastic, Mr. Potter exudes pure evil as a classic movie villain, and between you and me, Donna Reed is a fox.
4. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
This one beats you over the head with the Bible a little harder than I usually enjoy, but the righteous dance party, the little tree that could, and Vince Guaraldi’s Second Greatest Christmas Soundtrack of All Time2 more than make up for the Sunday School flashbacks.
3. Elf (2003)
Fifty years from now, when everyone has forgotten about Ricky Bobby and Ron Burgundy, this is the role Will Ferrell will be remembered for. And I don’t mean that as a dig – he is magically naive and innocent and hilarious in this movie. Also, high fives to Jon Favreau for casting James Caan as his dad and writing a scene where my girlfriend gets to sing in the shower.
2. Bad Santa (2003)
This movie is full of a hundred fucking genius moments, but this one has a special place in my heart:
WILLIE (mumble) What the fuck is it? KID A wooden pickle. Willie stares at it. WILLIE Why'd you paint it brown? KID Not paint. It's blood from when I cut my hand when I was making it for you.
1. How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966)3
Technically a TV special, for my money this is the best Christmas movie ever made.
Thanks Dr. Seuss!
- The woman in my life may never forgive me for excluding Emmet Otter from this list, but I had to go with Gonzo and Fozzy. [↩]
- Listen to Mr. Presley sing Number One right here. [↩]
- We don’t talk about the Jim Carrey remake. [↩]
Posted on July 4, 2009 - by writerman
In the tangled jungle that is Los Angeles, people love to ask this one:
“So, what are your favorite movies?”
In the real world, this is a perfectly legitimate question that perfectly legitimate people ask one another all the time. But in the Hollywood World, this is a very loaded question. Depending on the location, time of day, and which one of you is expected to pay for that 15-dollar salad you’re picking at, the subtext of that question could be…
Do I want to work with you? Do you have taste? Do I really want to read the script you just handed me? Should I trust your opinion on the script I just handed you? Should I give you my cell number? Will 10% of your salary cover the payments on my new Lexus? Should I invite you to join my writer’s group? Should I sleep with you?
Whenever I am confronted with that question, I find myself ill prepared and I end up stumbling and rambling and naming at least one picture that I haven’t even seen. But no more! Today, I start the official Writerman “Top 10 Project” – where I put down my favorite movies right here on the Internet for all to see. Of course, I reserve the right to flip-flop1, change my mind, edit or revise this and any other Top 10 lists anytime I please. That’s what makes it a “project.”
So, without further preamble, here it is: the inaugural list of the Writerman Top 10 Project.
My Top 10 Favorite Movies of All Time
In alphabetical order2
- Bull Durham
- Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
- Finding Nemo
- Pulp Fiction
- Raiders of the Lost Ark
- Stand by Me
- Star Wars3
- The Princess Bride
- In fact, after reading the list over, I’ll probably change it tomorrow. I mean, not a single Coen brothers, Hitchcock or Bogart movie? What jackass made this list? [↩]
- Picking 10 was hard enough, surely I can’t be expected to rank them. [↩]
- If you have to ask which one, we can never be friends. [↩]