Open a vein

“Writing is easy, you just open a vein.”

I always thought 20th century wit Dorothy Parker said that until I googled the phrase and came up with a selection of at least four other viable sources – all of whom were men. Though I still believe she might have said it, in all of that knowledgeable, computerized and obviously reliable information offered to us by The  Oracle  Google, there was never a mention of Mrs. Parker.

By the way, the Mrs. salutation was what DP’s writer “friends” at the Algonquin Round Table in NY famously called her, so it’s not retro, politically incorrect or even slightly lacerating of me to now refer to her this way.  As for her “friends” – who were some of the great minds of the 20th century and yes, all male — well, I’m sure they got as good as they gave.  Because as we all know, being friends with a biting wit can quite dangerous, especially when that person blogs  writes weekly with any frequency.  Or even at all.

But the “opening the vein” part is what’s interesting to me and got me thinking about how often I or any of us do this anymore in 2012 — or if it’s even advisable.  Certainly, if you’re a writer or any kind of artist – or just really even a human being – it is.  I mean, who are we at our cores if we’re not honest with the world and ourselves?  No – the correct answer is not “most of the entire human population.”  Or if it is, it shouldn’t be.

It stands to reason that being honest and open about who you are and urging others to be the same, shouldn’t even be a subject needing discussion.  It should just be a given — a fact.  Like the fact that I wouldn’t go skydiving for $10 million dollars or that movie studios would rather make a bad, financially successful tent pole movie rather than an Oscar-winning good one.  (Think of those last two statements as not only being open and honest but my gift of knowledge to you).   But it feels as if it happens all too seldom nowadays, which raises the bigger question – what the heck is everybody saying? Which then also raises the even bigger question of – how do you even know when someone IS being open and honest?

I'm looking at you, Transformers 2.

I try to teach openness and honesty to my film and TV students because not only does it get you to some version of what the world can perceive as universal truth but because one of my limitations as a person/writer/artist is that I don’t know how to do it any other way.  And as I discovered this week, that is a good thing because I passed it on to at least one of my former students, who this week passed it on to one of my present ones.

As I do more than a few times a semester I moderated a panel some days ago of “formers” who work in the industry for “presents” about to graduate and get launched into the industry.  The panel then forged some exchanges of emails and contacts among both sets of groups, resulting in, among other things, one of the “presents” being shown around the soundstage of a television show where one of my very talented “formers” now works.

This, in itself, makes me smile because it’s only through these kind of connections that any one of us can navigate a business as tricky as the one we call “show.”  But what made me happier is the advice the “former” gave the “present” about being a writer when the “present” one felt inferior.  “The most important thing to remember when you write anything is honesty,” said the former.  “If you can remember that, it’s not that hard.”

Listen to Jiminy.

Now, I have to admit the “former” was an honest scribe before ever meeting me and will continue to be forever because, well, some people just are.  But I do like to think that somewhere along the way it was encouraging to find that at least one other fellow writer/person/human being felt exactly the same way.

And that is the point.

In this age of non-reality/reality, 24/7 product placement/marketing, and political campaign rhetoric that feels like a loop of one big load of crazy, it’s more than reassuring to know that there others that feel exactly like you – especially when what “you” are (or are feeling inside) feels out of date, old-fashioned and not within the lightning speed space of our not soft but very hard-wired world.  I don’t know about you but the irony of my early life is that I always felt like “the cheese that stood alone” until one day Iooked around me and realized that I was really just a part of one big dairy farm but was operating in a way in which I was making certain that all of the other cheeses couldn’t see the real me and all my glorious cheezy–ness.  Obviously, that is not a problem any longer for me – being cheezy that is.

We're all in this together...

Working with younger people – the ones that Pres. Obama is now trying to ensure can not only afford to go to college but can live decent lives while they pay back the small to massive student loans many have been forced to take – I can assure you that one of their deep down primary issues and concerns is: how do I be the real open and honest me and still manage to be happy or even survive in the real world?  They don’t want to be vulnerable, but they are.  They don’t want to be nasty, but find that sometimes they have to be (and then it gets easier).  They mostly want to have money but are still idealistic enough to not desire it with the price being the total selling out of their souls.

One way to ease their minds – if any of us care to or care about the future of the world – is to do so by example.  No, this does not mean you can’t cheat a little bit on your taxes or make up an excuse to get out of a boring dinner with a friend or relative.  What it does mean is taking a little moment or two out of your day to lead by example.  Some people do this by being good parents. Others do it in everyday conversation.  Some people do this through their “art,” whatever that might be, and the practical application of creativity that they hope they can share with the world and the world will someday see.  Still others do it by using it as a credo from which to live their lives by and at regular intervals taking time out to speak to those coming up and share with them the best ways in which to navigate the world.

The best part of this is not how noble it is of you to take time out of your day to do something other than complain or even how nice it is that you might have saved some neurotic 21 year old a few more additional years of therapy (though that certainly is admirable).  The best part is what it will do for you.

All four of the “formers” I hosted this past week separately wrote to me or pulled me aside and told me how wonderful it was to be able to come and give back to younger version of themselves who were now in their old shoes.  Some of these “formers” were nervous about talking and sharing and some were afraid of being open and honest and being “themselves.”  Others were busy and weren’t sure if they would have the time, or perhaps knew enough to even come.  Still others were reticent that once they were there they could contribute nothing valuable enough to say.  But the honest truth is all left with smiles on their faces – smiles waaay bigger than the “currents” they were speaking to because most of the “currents” have not yet been out in the world long enough to appreciate how little honesty and openness there is in everyday life.  Just as the recent “formers” didn’t know prior to the panel how easy and, more importantly, how gratifying it would be to give a little of their real selves out.

Much easier, in fact, than opening a vein.

Not Dead Yet

still got a lot left to burn...

“When you’re dead, lie down,” said an old flame of mine about the performance of an older movie star of the sixties in a film several decades later.  I didn’t think the performance was good but neither was it particularly awful.  However, I did sort of chuckle (or perhaps belly laughed) at the comment because not only was it snide and amusing but it came from the lips of a person who at the time I thought could do no wrong.

Well, now that I’m decades older and much closer in age to the movie star (who it turns out wasn’t that old) – and now that the old flame has flickered out of my life and chronologically is what many of us consider old, or at the very least much OLDER than the sixties movie star (and certainly a lot less rich and famous) – I have to admit that on the subject of “lying down” both of us wiseacres were WRONG – DEAD WRONG.

There is really never a time to stop doing what you love to do simply because your hot streak is over and others think you have overstayed your welcome.  Just as it is never a great idea for the powers-that-be to blanketly ignore people who have mastered their craft solely on the basis of their age (be it young or old) for what is perceived to be the next LIVE thing.

A case in point is Oscar-winning screenwriter Frank Pierson, who turns 86 next month.  Mr. Pierson won his Academy Award for a movie starring Al Pacino that you might know, “Dog Day Afternoon” (1975). In addition, he was also nominated two other times for “Cat Ballou” (1965) and “Cool Hand Luke”(1967).  More recently, Mr. Pierson directed the acclaimed HBO TV movies “Citizen Cohn” (1995), “A Soldier’s Girl” (2001) and “Conspiracy” (2003), served as president of the Writers Guild of America from 1981-1983 and as president of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences from 2001-2005.  On a personal note, I can also tell you Mr. Pierson is an extremely smart and gracious man who extends himself to young writers but can also gloriously cut his cowardly peers down to the quick as I once witnessed at a very contentious open Writers Guild meeting in the nineties when he publicly challenged his fellow scribes to “grow a pair” (my words, his were a little more colorful) and stand up to the studios because “no one else will and, damn it, that’s what writers have always done” (again, cleaning it up for blog audiences).

Mr. Pierson tells it how it is.

This past week Mr. Pierson had another career triumph for his writing of the fifth episode of the current season of AMC’s “Mad Men” – a disturbing, gutsy, self-possessed hour entitled, “Signal 30.”  Though all of the episodes this season shine for various reasons, this particular one, penned by an 86 year old, has upped the game and officially made the 2012 version of “Mad Men” the BEST WRITTEN SHOW ON TELEVISION.

for Frank's a jolly good fellow!

Without getting too far into the plot elements for non-watchers, suffice it to say any hour-long episode of TV set in 1966 that dares to feature and pull off all of the following:

  • a real live fist fight between two of a company’s wimpiest executives
  • a thirtysomething married man lusting after a young girl in a driver’s ed class only to loser her to a teenage hunk literally named “Handsome”
  • a news report on the real life murderer of young women in Texas that scares the bejeesus out of most of the girls in NYC
  • a bunch of British soccer players winning the World Cup as watched by a group of bar cheering British expatriates
  • an Upper East Side brothel owner deciding on whether to buy a television set to liven up her place
  • And an account guy who moonlights as a science fiction writer of gem-like short stories about a working man who is a mere cog in the machine of the universe

Well, that’s is okay by me.

a real knockout

Actually, it’s more than okay.  It’s pretty terrific.  And not only because of what that episode says about American culture right before the social revolution of the late 1960s but for what it shows us about American culture five decades later.  More than the obvious fact/fiction of the past, the present day workings of the actual television show “Mad Men” prove to us that rather than being dead or basically put out to pasture, it actually is possible to be relevant as an artist in commercial Hollywood once you get past the age of ________ on a non comic-book, non-sequel, non-high concept, non-sitcom piece of material that isn’t based on the life and times of your children, or even grandchildren.

Matt Weiner, “Mad Men’s” creator and show runner, is responsible for Mr. Pierson’s hire and part of the brilliance of his work on the show is that he boldly takes chances not only on the creative direction of each season but on who he chooses to hire.  Given conventional TV wisdom, there is no reason in the world for Mr. Weiner to employ Mr. Pierson except that Mr. Weiner is smart enough to know

a. Mr. Pierson started his writing career in advertising near the time “Mad Men’s” world is set.

b. Mr. Pierson grew up in Chappaqua, N.Y., which is pretty close to the area where many of the series characters reside, and

c. Mr. Weiner is secure enough in his writing talent and stewardship of his show to not be threatened by the talent and reputation of an old war horse like Mr. Pierson (who, by the way, famously stood up to the then uberpowerful Barbra Streisand and her producer-boyfriend Jon Peters as the writer-director of their 1976 version of “A Star Is Born”)

Oh yes, there is also

d. Mr. Weiner always has the prerogative to rewrite any writer on his show.

the order says it all..

Of course, so do any other show runners on any other show and you don’t often see them digging in and doing much out of the ordinary. In full disclosure, Mr. Weiner did rewrite Mr. Pierson a bit (as he does with almost everyone on the program) and shares writing credit (as he also does with almost everyone).  But in Mr. Pierson’s case it was not more than 40% of the script (and probably less) since Mr. Pierson’s name is listed first before Mr. Weiner as the writer of that particular episode.  How do I know the percentages?  Mr. Weiner publicly announced it in more than one interview.

I’m not saying Matt Weiner deserves yet another award for hiring Mr. Pierson (who was also a consulting producer on “The Good Wife” sans writing credit in 2010), or for not rewriting him entirely.  But he does deserve high praise for keeping a terrific television show afloat by trying to do something different from the norm both onscreen and off.

It would be nice and perhaps even smart if others took note and followed his lead.

Prep Time

Focus Pocus

Among the many “straight to the trash” emails I received yesterday morning was one trying to sell me “an innovative way to channel and fine-tune the writing process” that would provide the “essential tools to write a best seller.”  No, it wasn’t personal ownership of JK Rowling or Suzanne Collins.  They are not mere items but cottage industries and those don’t usually go on sale, especially via internet communications (though their work is downloadable for an inflated fee.).   Anyway, as further evidence, my email implied that the purchase of this not inexpensive item would provide me with enough structure, knowledge and answered questions to really “get in the zone” of my project.  To use their words, and I quote:

“Ask any writer – once you get in the zone you can write forever.”

Is that supposed to be a selling point — writing forever?  That’s the very last thing I want to spend the rest of eternity doing.  Forever is quite a long time and if I’m going to spend it doing any one thing it’ll be eating pizza, participating in some sort of carnal pleasure, or at least receiving attention for all that I have already “written” in this lifetime and perhaps a few other incarnations before true eternity hits.

In case you’re wondering, the internet “item” in question being sold via this particular email was a computer program – and not even the original version.  In actuality, it’s the program’s 4.0 permutation, which begs the question of what happened to the poor schnooks who purchased versions 1.0,2.0, 3.0.  (No, the correct answer is NOT that they’re disgruntled iPhone users).  Were they rooked and can only hope to write for one-third of eternity?  Or half?  Certainly, for me, that deal would be even better.  And by this point undoubtedly cheaper given consumer demand for outdated software.

What would be even cheaper – way cheaper – would be to not buy the 4.0 or any other version at all.   Or any other snake oil that promises you the keys to the kingdom – the way to save you so much time that the road to success will become as smooth and easy as it was gliding down the sliding pond at your local playground when you were three years old.  Trust me, if there were a shortcut to these more adult “things creative,” all of us who came before you would have figured it out long ago, not to mention the generations before us and back through all of eternity.  My money is on the gang who built the Pyramids or the perhaps the author (or authors) who claim to be William Shakespeare.

Nope... not that pyramid.

The sad, honest and even dirty truth is that in order to be good at what you do you need to put in the time doing it.  In his new book on creativity, “Imagine,” the young author and former neuroscientist Jonah Lehrer (and he’s only 30!) spends time theorizing and positing on where creativity comes from and quotes people from all walks of life on their process.  Bob Dylan, for example, was ready to hang up his guitar and sometime rhyming ability until one day, when he sort of didn’t care, the song “Like A Rolling Stone” quickly came to him in a flash of anger.  Certainly Dylan is a songwriting genius and there is no program or book in the world that can teach you to write or sing exactly like him (some would say, Praise the Lord on the latter).  But Dylan also didn’t wake up one day with the ability to write “Like a Rolling Stone.”  It came after decades of writing and preparing for that moment where what he was feeling could be put to music so easily.  And even then, there is no promise that he’d be able to do it as well, or as quickly, again.  Yes, indeed, creativity is a harsh mistress, or gigolo, to be an equal opportunity offender.  But then again, just about anything worth having has some kind of downside.

Lately, it’s come to my attention that there are more than a few people unwilling to put in the time to “prepare” for what they aspire to do or achieve and more than a few others who have prepared inadequately, but act shocked, surprised or offended when the crown or throne or lottery check is not immediately handed over to them.  It might not seem like Kim Kardashian or her sisters ever paid their dues on the road to fame and fortune but if you google their images and Wikipedia page you will see the evolution of “the look,” reportage on sex tapes, and an obsession with fashion, fame and commerce that was inbred almost from birth.  Now, if this is your idea of a good time – start young or have your children start young.   Or even better yet use that prep time towards something else that appeals to you, because the position of young iconic reality show punching bag has already been done and will, no doubt, be done again by others much more obsessed with it than a reader of any notesfromachair blog could ever be.

Geeky in every shade

This past week I went to see MSNBC host (and one of my intellectual goddesses) Rachel Maddow being interviewed by Bill Maher in Los Angeles and was taken aback at just how staggering all of this preparation stuff can really be  (note: I have a crush on Rachel because, as she admits – she looks like a tall geeky man).    Rachel is meticulous in her research for her 5 day per week hour long MSNBC program and it certainly shows in her new book “Drift.”  Her look at how U.S. military intervention went from the Founding Fathers’ concept of checks and balances to modern day presidents from Ronald Reagan through and including Barak Obama taking it upon themselves to launch and/or continue wars without Congress approval and maintain them through private military contractors – takes a complicated, dry subject and, through penetrating research and thought, makes it read like a novel (It’s been #1 on the NY Times bestseller list for two weeks).    At the same time, unlike most novels, it will alternately also make you really angry at inarguable current event facts we’re living through in present day.

Coincidence?  Nah.  Rachel is also an Oxford PhD, former radio show host, comic book reader, out lesbian liberal activist, and likes to drink cocktails — proving you can be smart, prepared, rigorous and misbehave, or at least have fun.  This is why her work is both smart and yet approachably human.  Mr. Maher – curmudgeonly, insensitive atheist that he is, is quicker than he’s ever been interviewing her despite being an avowed pothead, misogynist and slightly dirty old/young man who is convinced marriage is the sure death of sex.  Still, he somehow manages to convincingly sell his brand of nihilism pretty convincingly and, he has noted, this is in part because he still spends a significant part of the year doing live standup routines all over the country – something he’s done consistently over the last 30 years.  Whether you like him or not, the sharp-tongued remarks he’s consistently so good at as an interviewer don’t happen without this or some other kind of ongoing practice.  That and being an obsessive reader of daily newspapers, magazines and books also helps, as he readily admits.

Every semester I always have a few students skating by while others work a lot and then don’t work and still others are work horses who break through.  Sometimes there are also those frozen with anxiety.  And sometimes, but not often enough, a small group don’t seem to have any trouble at all and came fully formed through dedication and love of what they do (or perhaps natural talent and desire so it doesn’t feel like work).  None are recipes for success or failure on their own but each can set you on the road to good, bad or indifferent.  But students have an excuse – they are mostly young and they’re learning.   You wonder about the last few years of people seeking high office who haven’t put in the prep time, or tried to cram the prep time in over a very short period of time (I’m not mentioning Sarah Palin by name because she’s doing just fine as a media gadfly).  Yet on the flip side, I’m also not mentioning those with perhaps limited experience for the highest office in the land who still took decades of prep time prior to that election to excel at one of the finest universities in the world, become a scholar of the law, work in trenches with the underprivileged, run for elected office and lose but then win, and win a seat in Congress again.  All the while, with his other spare hand, he wrote (all by himself) two best sellers, got married and had two kids.  The latter gave him the ability to empathize with the plight of families everywhere.  That and the fact he was raised by a single working mother who used to wake him at 5 or 6 in the morning to go over his studies or do homework he had put off and got him in the routine of responsibility for doing his work – and doing it overtime if he had to (or was ordered to do so).  I don’t want to mention names again but, okay fine, but this person’s rhymes with “Shamrock Yo Mama”

Ultimately, of course, this is about more than petty political endorsements or bitchy remarks in a self-published weekly snarkfest like my own.  It’s really about – the pride we take in what we do – the time we put in – and the quality of the final product.  What does it mean to you? Or us?  Or anyone?   What are our expectations from ourself and the world with it and without it?  Master improvisers practice to be so impromptu – ask any stylish person known for his or her “disheveled look” (I used to date someone like this – trust me – there’s a real art to the properly fashionable wrinkled shirt).    Conversely, most hard-working practitioners have an improvisational skill they can count on after years of hard work, or perhaps always had it but chose to work hard to put their innate skills over the top.  In any event, each were smart enough to not take a shortcut that, in the long run, they knew would only sentence them to spend the rest of eternity figuring out why they not only didn’t fit into a particular kind of 1, 2, 3 or 4.0 requirements of a particular program.  Instead, they led the way, writing an entirely new, more exciting one based on practice and, on what they had learned.


Norman's next victim

Most of us like a really good story in real life and in the movies.  So why is it so tough these days to find a really good story in the movies while we are surrounded by too many good stories in real life?

Before we go any further let’s be clear – by good we’re not necessarily talking about cheery, happy or life affirming.  A GOOD story is a story that grabs you and doesn’t let go; that affects you emotionally and perhaps makes you cry; that makes you bust a gut laughing (no small feat) or perhaps merely amuses you in ways that make you pleased.  For example, The Arab Spring contained many, many good emotional and affecting stories while the output of a filmmaker like Michael Bay (because he’s so easy to pick on and rich and famous) doesn’t.  A screening of Adam Sandler’s performance in “Jack and Jill” has negative 24 belly laughs and doesn’t help tell a good story while watching Jon Stewart (yes, I know he isn’t a film or filmmaker but tough) skewer Sarah Palin’s recent performance on “Today” has more than a few chuckles and tells a very good but certainly not life-affirming story.

Click for full video

I suppose any or all of the stories or sub-stories contained in these films or a Jon Stewart monologue could ultimately be life affirming, cheery or happy.  But if there are only one of those and no more it is more than likely that by our (my?) definition, it is not a good story.

Confused?  Me too.  And so are today’s story makers.  There is a lot of disagreement in the ranks about what constitutes good storytelling in 2012, especially in film.  For example, I have actually heard more than a few filmmakers say recently that story is just one of many tools to be used in narrative film (their words, not mine) and that many good movies these days don’t really need much plot or story to work at all.  Really?  Go back in time and tell that to Charlie Chaplin, Preston Sturges, Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder or Francois Truffaut, just to name a few.  Or perhaps stay on this plane of humanity and ring up Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino, Darren Aronofsky, Paul Thomas Anderson and Chris Nolan, and have a talk with them about it.  Better yet (and because I doubt any of them has a hell mouth into the past or any of their phone numbers) – perhaps it would be worth it to sit down and watch some of their work and tell us – is there not a good story at work there?  I mean, even “Tree of Life” has a story (Yeah, it does) whether you liked it or not.  (And no, I am not going to endorse it, explain it or intensely dislike it so you can easily categorize me as the old-fashioned artistic philistine that I know you may be dying to do).

The fact is too many would be hipsters, especially in movies (and in life) today are overly interested in breaking the rules or taking advantage of the changing faces of technology in the digital age and not interested enough in truly understanding the very, very simple tenets of drama.  In figuring out what, if anything, they actually have to say that’s worth watching, or even listening to and executing it in a way that tells a really good story.

Almost dry.... sigh.

As a writing teacher, if I have to try to interpret one more fractured narrative from students who don’t want to think a story through ,I’m going to scream.  On the other hand – I greatly admire those who actually take the time to develop a story and a reason for telling a story out of order and will run right towards that project quicker than I run away from phony morning show hosts from small Alaskan towns who work in NY one year and brand it as the home of “lamestream” media the next.  But I digress.

And that IS the point.  Digression, that is.   Let’s get it out there –

There is nothing wrong with beginnings, middle and endings.  That means out of order, in order or somewhere in between.  There is also nothing to be ashamed of if you are a writer who likes a story where there is a main character, conflict and an ending of some kind, or maybe a group of main characters who each make their way through 3 or 4 or 5 smaller somethings.  Only – please —  take me somewhere.  Although not to Sofia Coppola’s last movie “Somewhere” because that truly was a movie to nowhere and exactly the kind of film I’m talking about. (Yes, I liked “Lost In Translation” and “Virgin Suicides”).  Sofia (and you)-  don’t hold my hand through a film – I’m over 13 (at least chronologically).  But when you bring me into a candy store and ply me with samples don’t tell me when I want to buy a few boxes of something that you’re out of chocolates.  I get really, really upset and likely will search the web for the latest episode of my guilty pleasure TV, play a round of my favorite video game (well, not me – but someone else will) or even consider reading a book or tablet or….wait for it…simply start talking to a person live in real time rather than giving anything else you have to say in the future another chance.

A still from "Somewhere." Or a picture of me watching it.

The obviousness of “300” or “The Hunger Games” is one thing.  But watching a plethora of the out of order scenes that were “J Edgar” last year made me wonder how the story of one of the most compelling and aberrant figures of 20th century America could be rendered so deadly dull and muddled.  There are many good stories to be told about his life but in trying to “hip up” the overall storytelling the filmmakers forgot one thing – the overall story.

At this point most of us don’t expect technologically driven films to get too deep and complicated.  But isn’t that too easy?  Why can’t “Avatar” have real three-dimensional characters with subtext in addition to images highlighted with endless backgrounds and foregrounds?  I don’t need Errol Flynn, Bruce Willis or even Sigourney Weaver to kill aliens.  But don’t make me watch a lazy film story like “Martha Marcy May Marlene” and – when audience and critics bring up confusing plot holes or its lack of commitment to an ending or point of view – cop out by claiming that it’s all about what’s “not there” and that the story is open to interpretation.  Obviously, all good stories are open to interpretation – as is everything else in life.  That’s what we human beings (and chairs) do all day – interpret actions, reactions and as ourselves act accordingly.

Something's wrong with these glasses... I don't see anything.

If this feels like a diatribe, well – I suppose it is.  But as the modes of delivery of stories change so do the structure of the way most stories are told.  As they have through time.  Except, except — narrative stories are still about character and action and conflict.  There is nothing wrong with a story whose ending is open to interpretation (watch “Blow Up”) but there is something afoot when the entire story feels just as confusing as the ending and you finish it up not really knowing or caring about most anyone or anything you’ve just seen.   Yes, I’m talking to you “Hunger Games” and also to __________________  (fill in the blank with the disappointing films of your choice in the last few years).

A bit too in-sync.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m an indie film kind of chair.  When “Back to the Future” came out (and please don’t hate me for this) I was a young writer and unabashedly kept telling people that it just felt like “a bunch of scenes on index cards that were perfectly shuffled together.” (Needless to say, that didn’t win me many Hollywood friends in the eighties).  For me, it was “too perfect.”  But I do also want to occasionally be thrown a bone.  Film stories as diverse of Tarantino’s “Inglorious Bastards,” Charlie Kaufman’s “Adaptation” and Christopher Nolan’s “Memento” have really, really strong characters and stories and gut busting humor (well, to me anyway), as well as unforgettable images.

Certainly, it’s unrealistic to expect every film to hit those storytelling heights.  But it would be nice to think that the storytellers are at least trying to do so.  And that audiences are vocal enough, with both their words and dollars, to demand it.