Comic Con

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I have a confession to make.  I’ve always hated comic books.  Actually, that’s not true.  What I really never liked were superhero comic books.  I do love a good Peanuts or Archie.  To all the young people I know and have taught:  Please don’t hate me for telling the truth.

This would put me at a horrible disadvantage if the sole way I still supported myself these days was as a screenwriter.  As I tried to explain to a student recently, at one time the majority of projects in the biz that people really wanted to work on ranked this way:

  1. Movie dramas with characters
  2. Subtle and broad movie comedies.
  3. Television
  4. Geek-related ventures on either of the above that involved explosions, computers, cartoon people or anything from Marvel, DC or that ilk.

If you were in the last group you had peers and an audience but not much street cred (Note:  Walt Disney accepted, though somehow it was he rather than any of his employees that got credit for anything Disneyesque.  Plus, he never did superheroes.  He was the superhero).

What do you mean.. was?

What do you mean.. was?

Well, what a difference a handful of decades make.  Comics have taken over the industry – if not the world – and not the kind you see at the Laugh Factory or on a cheap cable special.   Which seems sort of apt since more and more we’re living a comic book existence.  This is apparent every time you turn on your television or surf the web and see the surgically altered faces on almost all of your favorite actors.

Though here in Los Angeles it’s obvious every time you step into a store that isn’t located in a shopping mall in Sunland.

This is not meant to be a putdown of comics or superheroes or even cartoons but merely an observation of where we are.  This week it was announced that the Emmy award-winning Mad Men writing team of Andre and Maria Jacquemetton would next be tackling the DC Comic book series DMZ for the Syfy Channel.

Dynamic Duo (far right)

Dynamic Duo (far right)

It doesn’t get more prestigious for most writers than Mad Men, though it is certainly more financially lucrative to be on any number of television series and movies.  So it certainly says something about us and them that after all of the choices open to this dynamic duo after six years of riding the MM crest that they have decided to devote themselves to a pulp tale centered on a young man in the near future, Matty Roth, who lives in the demilitarized zone of Manhattan after a second American Civil War.  He might not dress like a superhero but certainly, in post apocalyptic red and blue state America, he will at some point have to emerge as one.

If you think I am pushing the metaphor or overreacting in even the slightest we can look at all of this another way.  Here are the top 10 grossing movies worldwide in 2013:

  1. Iron Man: 3
  2. Despicable Me 2
  3. Frozen
  4. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
  5. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
  6. Fast & Furious 6
  7. Monsters University
  8. Gravity
  9. Man of Steel
  10. Thor: The Dark World

If we were to look at this list for the U.S. and Canada only the rankings might shift around one or two places but the films themselves would remain exactly the same.  Oh wait, there would be one change – Oz the Great and Powerful would replace Thor, which would drop down two notches to #12. Do you see where I’m going now?

What are you trying to say Chairy??

What are you trying to say Chairy??

Okay, fine, I’ll be a little bit more blunt.

Anyone arguing that Fast and Furious, Hunger Games and even Gravity aren’t super hero movies in a cartoon world, well…uh….I suggest you watch some footage of Russia’s President Putin at this week’s Opening Ceremonies of the Olympic Games in Sochi and tell me whether you believe the flesh and blood star of a current worldwide spectacle isn’t simply our 2014 version of The Terminator.

No, I’m not going to say I told you so.  But like Matty Roth in post apocalyptic Manhattan, we’d all better get on board with this kind of thinking in order to survive the inevitable global warming-over meltdown of everything we’ve ever known.  To this end, I propose some new lenses and labels for how we look at and categorize all current and future newsmakers in the world and the events that surround them.  (Note:  This will also save a lot of creative time if any of the above rights are purchased or even thought of as the subject of a new Hollywood movie).

The Incredible Sinking Man

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In a live, near two-hour television press conference, Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) announced that he fired some of his top staff people for causing the largest four-day traffic jam in the history of the world.  This was due to their choice several months ago to close down multiple lanes in Fort Lee, New Jersey leading into the George Washington Bridge (Note: the world’s busiest bridge) behind his back.  However, now the governor’s former people are seeking plea deals through high-priced lawyers while he and his present people are countering this disloyalty by calling them idiots and releasing accounts of their misdeeds as 16 year old high school students.  All of this while Gov. Christie, previously the most popularly touted choice among Republicans to run for president in 2016, couldn’t even get Texas Gov. Rick (“oops”) Perry to pose for a photo op with him on a recent trip to the Longhorn state.  How much lower will he go?  If anyone thinks they can predict, well, I have a bridge I can sell you…..

Puff The Magic Drag, Man

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When I was 20 years old I was too afraid of getting less than an A minus in college in any one subject.  So I can’t imagine how I’d be if I had the adulation of half of the young people my age around the world, were loathed by the other half and possessed $130 million to both play with and use to ease the pain.  I do know that I would be thrilled that I could make my living as a singer – a talent that not all the marijuana in the world could convince me to believe I had.  Still, you can’t smoke up foot long doobies on a private plane with your soul-patched father or allow friends to egg the mansion next door to your mansion without getting some sort of….blow back (Note:  See what I did there?).

Dude, Where’s Our Woodstock?

A future action comedy about a group of baby boomers who hold the twenty-something owners of a string of pot dispensaries hostage because they are sick of all the legalized marijuana/nee commercial appropriation of their drug of choice for the masses.  Soundtrack by: Emerson, Lake & Palmer, The New Riders of the Purple Sage and anyone who’s left alive from the original Grateful Dead.

Captain Douchebag

It's all going according to plan....

It’s all going according to plan….

There is no other name for Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly.  Yes, he’s a foot taller than me, has a million times more money and certainly can sue – but I don’t care.  This moment of writing it publicly just made it all worth it.  You can’t have the child of a man who died during 9-11 on your TV show, yell and berate him for his anti-war views and top it all off by saying “your Dad would be ashamed of you if he were alive” and then get off without periodic bitch slapping for the rest of your national (or unnatural?)  lifetime.  At least not by me.  I’m nothing if not Captain IDontForgetAnAHole.

Queen of the Hills

hilary v rand 3

Hillary Clinton’s moniker might have to one day be retitled The Bionic President because we all know that in order to have survived this long she must have some special sort of armor that the rest of us mere humans were born without.   We also know the latter title will probably be the one to last because eventually Mrs. Clinton pretty much gets everything she sets her mind to.  Unless she’s simply content with where she is now – writing the best tweets and texts the world has ever known.  I know the latter would be my choice.  But then again, I’m not that kind of queen.

The Salacious Sex Six

Woody Allen & Mia Farrow & Dylan Farrow & Moses Farrow & Ronan Farrow & Soon-Yi Previn.  It’s horrible.  All of it.  From every side.  Which means that someone will make it into a film at some point.  Or a web series.  Or a comic something or other in the second new millennium.  What is Alan Alda’s line about funny in WA’s Crimes and Misdemeanors  — Comedy is tragedy plus time?  This is why everything in this paragraph will eventually be deemed offensive, inoffensive, moot or in need of a rewrite.  Which one is it now?  That’s not for me, or you, to decide.

The Inhuman Thing

The new name for Oscar if movies keep going down the too narrowing road they are now on.

The Straight Arrow

Will it be a strike?

Will it be a strike?

What everyone fears will be Jimmy Fallon’s upcoming super hero tag once he starts steering the ship of The Tonight Show in the next few weeks.  Though perhaps he will surprise us all and be The Not So Straight Arrow.  No, we don’t mean it THAT way.  Although in a comic book world, unlike television, anything is possible.

The Fifth Ring

Ruh-Roh

Ruh-Roh

This will be Hollywood’s take on the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.  It all started when that snowflake stayed intact and didn’t light up as the fifth ring. Question:  Doesn’t Putin know that there is ALWAYS a gay on the light board???  #Homohubris.

Some of you might not agree with our take on the inevitable comic book/cartoon world of the movies and in life. This is your prerogative.  So for all of you doubters I have just one last thing to say:  The #1 film this weekend – by a lot – with an estimated $69.1 million at the box-office in just three days – is:

THE LEGO MOVIE

Your future has arrived.  And it is our present.  Though not necessarily the one we all asked for.  Or,  is it?

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The Big Yawn

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You’ll have plenty of time to sleep when you’re dead!”  — Aunt Nan.

Broadway legend Patti LuPone played a character based on my Aunt Nan in the 1993 movie I wrote called Family Prayers, so my thinking is this – any advice given by a person who readers, executives and audiences (okay, it was a small audience, but still…) uniformly embraced as a film character should be taken seriously.  And if you knew Nanie (my nickname for her), sort of a cross between a real life Auntie Mame and a white Pearl Bailey (younger people might want to substitute a more grounded, earthy version of Jessica Walter on Arrested Development or in Archer) you’d be scared not to.

Two sassy bitches

Aunt Nan and Lucille Bluth: two sassy bitches

Still, I wouldn’t be her nephew if from time to time I didn’t take a moment to, like her – sit back perched on my sofa, drink in hand, and totally disobey an authority figure (even if it is her) as I utter exactly what I think in the moment.  In this case, it boils down these four words:

I AM SOOOOOOOOOO EXHAUSTED!!!!

Stop complaining, you say.  It’s not like you’re working down in the coal mines or, to use a more contemporary reference, are in danger of being subjected to another season of Smash.  To this I answer (as Nanie would) – go to hell or, to use a more contemporary analogy, go bury yourself in a sea of Justin Bieber tweets.  Someone has to speak the truth and I’m the ingrate to do it.  At least today.  Tomorrow might bring out a nicer, more constructive me – the kind some of you (but not all) have grown used to.  But that’s only if I get a good four nights of sleep and I am able to time travel to my favorite moments in 1968 and 1973 and 1984 with all the knowledge and empowerment I have right now and take care of a few people and things as I wave a magic wand and wipe out laser disks, 8 tracks and any trace of Michael Bay movies for all of eternity.  So don’t dress.

This current wave of vitriol-spewing sloth was brought on by too much work, too little exercise, too many personal and professional mini-crises to handle in the last few months and a profound lack of sleep that we all suffer from time to time.  In other words, everyday life.   It might also have to do with the anticipation of the next weeks, which are renowned to be a trying time for college professors worldwide as they settle down to read tens of thousands of papers, screenplays and other written material, attempting to  constructively critique and objectively rate (translation – give a grade to) work that is totally subjective and un-rateable in less time than it takes to turn out a very bad episode of the worst and most offensive reality show on television.  Fill in your title of choice on this one – mine is Keeping up with the Kardashians.  Sorry (not really) Kim.

In an effort to be fair to both students and readers given these circumstances, I thought it was only good form to get some of this out of my system.  After all, experts tell us the best way to revitalize is to unload your burdens either through physical activity or mental excavation as you relax and unwind via one or several of the many millions of methods available.   Though I know the former is better in the long run I much prefer the latter – especially when I can subject others to it and get it out of my house of cards and into  yours uh – theirs.  And since we know misery loves company, perhaps some of this will help re-invigorate a few of you to add to the list — or simply re-appropriate stuff from mine and allow me some additional extra relief.

(Cautionary Note: Obviously I’m too tired to care what happens once these thoughts leave what’s left of my brain, so — beware.)

REASONS FOR CONTEMPORARY EXHAUSTION IN THIS ONE PARTICULAR WEEK IN 2013 AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT:

ZACH BRAFF KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN BACKLASH

That's over 2 million, haters.

That’s over 2 million, haters.

Zach Braff has raised more than $2 million in three days to finance an independent movie ten years after he was nominated for an Oscar for writing and directing the film Garden State.  Question: Why does this bother ANYONE?  How does this take away money from poor filmmakers?  Don’t you know that studios don’t even want to make movies with live action people anymore, much less small quirky stories that have no sequel or Happy Meal/App potential?  Garden State was a cool film.  I wish I had done it and want to see more like it.  So – wait for it – I gave him money.  As I regularly do to projects from former students and other poor people.  If you’re spending time hating on ZB, you’re not working at your own stuff.  Get. Over. Yourself.  Meanwhile I’ll see you (not!) at the rough-cut screening I’m invited to next year.  Wearing my free T-shirt.  And carrying my autographed copy of the script.  So there.

RYAN MURPHY PONTIFICATING FROM THE MOUNT

You know how we feel, Ryan.

You know how we feel, Ryan.

I admire Ryan Murphy and love that he’s a creative force in the industry.  American Horror Story is one of my favorite shows on TV.  Glee helped so many kids with self-esteem issues and was a lot of fun (well, at least during the first two seasons).  But if I read one more article telling me Ryan has been known to tell his writing staffs things like “I’m obsessed with the color orange right now.  Figure out a way we can do a tribute to orange”; hear one more anecdote about him and his husband and their perfect son who was born through a surrogate; or click on one more video where Ryan is showing off the overpriced personal artifacts he had flown from all over the world into his heavy handedly-designed sprawling L.A. house, I’m going to pull what little hair is remaining in my scalp out and will be as bald as he is. (And I don’t have the budget for his cool hats).  Ryan – you’re wonderful. Please, please, please – for the love of God (or whoever you believe Her to be) – STOP.  Less is the new….More.

AMANDA BYNES-BASHERS

Yeesh. Turn the cameras off.

Yeesh. Turn the cameras off.

There is nothing funny or even newsworthy about young, formerly hot actresses roaming the city streets as they tweet inappropriate words and thoughts about their private body parts and looking confused after they shave off half of their hair.  I don’t know this young woman.  I wasn’t ever a fan or a foe.  And I have a pretty sick sense of humor and a fairly devout passion against censorship.  But contrary to what some comedians claim, some jokes about some people are just not right in that moment.  Lindsay Lohan being trailed across the world by the paparazzi day in and day out as she slowly implodes and explodes is no more entertaining than the photos of the late, great crack-addicted sad story Amy Winehouse wandering the streets of London or falling down onstage as she warbled off key with barely a vestige of her unique, once-in-a-lifetime voice.  Last week I saw the brilliant British actress Tracie Bennett sing and act the part of Judy Garland at the end of her life onstage in The End of the Rainbow.  It was amazing work and captured a woman who was funny, sad and, even at her drug-addled end, still able to pull together her amazing talent.  Many of these young women today are not as fortunate.  And it’s far from amusing.

VEGAN-ESE

I think you know what this looks like to me..

I think you know what this looks like to me..

I love my vegan friends, eat no red meat myself and very much enjoy salads and vegetables.  But tempeh and tofu are not chicken and burgers.  They are perfectly acceptable proteins on their own if one so chooses.  So why, why, why are they constantly being referred to as such in vegan restaurants and by food writers and the mass media?  Also, full confession:  I willingly eat a little cheese.  It’s not the end of the world.  As Ava Gardner says in an attempt to calm Howard Hughes at the height of his OCD in Martin Scorcese’s very underrated The Aviator – “Nothing’s clean, Howard.  But we do our best, right?”

BRANDING

Pick your own cattle prod!

Pick your own cattle prod!

Can’t anything just be what it is anymore?  Why does it have to be a part of or spawn countless subsets?  Granted, we are all a bit of something else – our parents, our families, mankind, people who survived George W. Bush.  But do we have to constantly be reminded of it?  I remember watching the original Bonanza as a kid in the 1960s (look it up) and it often featured cattle and fire branding.  Does everyone need to have a prime Grade A logo of a commodity burnt into their unique flesh, or in this day and age tattooed, onto their arm, behinds or latest piece of work in order to be deemed worthy?  As a gay, Jewish, intellectual, brown-haired (sort of), writer, teacher, one who lives in a domestic partnership, and someone who is part of the group that is on the very end cusp of the baby boomer generation, and even larger and more notable group, I say — NOT!

 

WORST ALLERGY SEASON EVER

My best chance of survival this spring..

My best chance of survival this spring..

You don’t want to know how many pills, inhalers and shots I do daily and monthly in order to maintain my current state of precarious health.  I don’t need to constantly be reminded about how bad the air is in comparison to what it was 25 years ago or warned that the next month, year or decade will be even worse.  Logic, headaches, a cloudy state of mind, sight and my mood tell me this.  And if you write in and tell me it’s because I am not vegan I will personally brand you a non-Belieber and let you know my worst allergy of all is to nuts – a staple of the majority of vegan foods.  Incidentally, this was discovered when, as a 3-year-old, my parents tried to shut me up in the back seat of a car with a can of Planters mixed nuts and instead had to rush me to the hospital.  It didn’t work for them then.  It won’t work for you now.

SPEAKING OF BELIEBERS…

In lieu of a pic of Beiber, here's Jon Hamm walking his dog.

In lieu of a pic of Beiber, here’s Jon Hamm walking his dog.

Stop saying Justin Bieber looks like a lesbian.  Lesbians are much cooler and hipper.  He’s an adolescent with a gabillion dollars who can sing and dance well in a very mainstream, non-threatening sort of way.  He didn’t have much schooling (you sooo don’t want to tell me about the school of life) — of course he doesn’t understand the ramifications of publicly asking in writing via the guest book at the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam whether Anne Frank would have been a Belieber?  What is wearying is how much more time was spent on that rather than on the contents of Anne’s diary during this or any other month of the year and/or decade.

DUBYA REDUX

On display at the Bush Library... where to start?

Maybe I should have posted another Jon Hamm pic?

By any objective intellectual or polling standard, George W. Bush was THE worst American president in modern times and perhaps of all times.  I can’t blame him for wanting to open a library and reinvent his legacy but I can blame the media and his paid consultants and friends for playing fast and loose with the facts during his time in office.   To wit: 1.  The attacks of 9/11 spearheaded by the master terrorist he was warned about over and over again in writing — Osama Bin Laden. 2. The worst crash of the American economy since the great Depression. 3. Record deficits from record inherited financial surpluses left to him by impeached president Bill (@PrezBillyJeff for those in the Colbert Nation) Clinton. 3. The debacle of Hurricane Katrina. 4. Trumped up evidence to finance the costliest and perhaps most pre-determined war in American history – The Iraq War.

Fact:  It’s all a matter of public record.  Creating an interactive presidential videogame at the Bush 43 library doesn’t change anything, especially since it doesn’t include all of the top secret, classified information any American president is privy to at the time they make their decisions, to play with.

Lesson:  When your game is rigged, you can’t ever look really bad – that is, unless people refuse to play the game you’re offering.  Reality:  Despite the touted polls, most of us are not playing and Bush was not and never will be a really good play-ah.

 

SHORT TAKES:

SNACKS1

  • Matt Lauer and Ann Curry have broken up.  Everyone: Let. It. Go.
  •  A change in your routine – any change at all – can be exhausting at first but WILL provide a spark of life and a tad of energy after a few seconds.
  •  James Franco is in too many places at once.  I simply get weary thinking of him.
  •  Writing anything in a journal for 15 minutes first thing in the morning can do wonders for your mood the rest of the day (This advice is appropriated from Julia Cameron’s wonderful book, The Artists’ Way).
  •  Any students or people who use the word its instead of it’s (it’s = it is) or there instead of their (there = over there) should be forced to watch a full season of Keeping Up with theKardashians, culminating with Kim’s wedding.  On a loop.  For a year. (Or perhaps they already have and this is the reason for their misusage).
  • Exercise of any kind (use your imagination) makes you less tired in the long run.  The question is, how do you make yourself do it. (Branding? Cattle prod?)
  •  High art fans who think highly of themselves:  Stop pretending you’ve never seen a sitcom, soap opera or reality show.  Ever.  And get a TV if you don’t have one.  You can join the world and still be brilliant.  (You might even feel less exhausted). 
  •  Low art fans who think highly of themselves: Turn off the TV, go to a museum, watch a film that is not in English, and read a book that is not part of a brand, preferably one in paper and not on a screen.  It feels different.  And it just might be energizing.
  • Everyone Else:  Try. Something. (Or Someone). New. 

As for me, I’m planning to do at least one of these things and report back next week.

Hopefully, I’ll be up to it.

After my nap.