Archive for January, 2009

2009 Reading List

Who watches The Watchmen?

Who watches The Watchmen?


1. Twilight, by Stephanie Meyer (finished on 1.20.09) – ** (look for a little blog about the book coming soon)

2. Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell

3. Watchmen, by Alan Moore

4. The 27th City, by Jonathan Franzen

Welcome to your life

Welcome to your life

5. Purple America, by Rick Moody

6. Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides

7. Strong Motion, by Jonathan Franzen

8. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, by Laurence Sterne

9. Making Movies, by Sidney Lumet

10. The Corrections, by Jonathan Franzen

11. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, by James Joyce

12. Yellow Dog, by Martin Amis

13. Don Quixote, by Miguel De Cervantes

14. Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace


There is No Escape

There is No Escape

I am not reading nearly as many books this year. I often try to jam pack my life with as many as possible, just so I can get through them. And maybe it’s maturity, and maybe it’s laziness, but I came to feel when making my list that I have the rest of my life to read books. They’re not going anywhere. Yes, as each day passes, the list grows larger. But where’s the good in reading too fast to enjoy and really take in one book? Also, in exchange for sheer numbers, i have picked some behemoths – Tristam Shandy, Don Quixote, and Infinite Jest, most of all. The final of which is at least two books, maybe three books, wrapped in one. 

But there is a sense, with books, movies, and most things, that I have to do them now now now. No. I’ve seen the first 4 Seasons of “LOST” and the 5th is on right now. But I do not have time for it. I TiVo’d the season premiere and thought “Okay, here we go, I have NO idea how this will work.” And then I decided I’ll just wait. It’s a very good show, but does it require immediate attention? Not really.

I’m also forcing myself to do something I rarely do: re-read books. Jonathan Franzen is my favorite novelist, and after only one read, I decided The Corrections was my favorite novel. I haven’t read it in six years. It’s not old enough to be conisdered nostalgia, but I’ve done a lot of reading since then, and it will be interesting to see what it effect is this go around. Please feel free to comment on what you are reading, I would love to know.


Oscar Nominations…

Worth noting up front is that these are neither the official nominations (those are on Thursday, January 22nd) nor MY personal preferences. This is a list of who I think the Academy will nominate in the major categories, regardless of what I may think of the film or performance or achievement itself. Please feel free to comment on who you think will be nominated, or who you think will NOT be, or really anything else. As with every year, this Awards Season is filled with over-hyped mediocrity and overlooked greatness. And a solid batch of nominations that are completely deserving. And that’s the way it has been since time began. No longer do I look for the films that I wanted most, I just want good quality to be nominated. For my preferences, check back over the weeks leading up to the Oscars. First I’m going to present my own Top 10 Films of 2008 (1 per day, starting… sometime), as well as my Top 25 of the year (all at once) and then who I think will win and who should win, once the nominations are announced. Here goes: 


The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Dark Knight


Revolutionary Road

Slumdog Millionaire



Danny Boyle – Slumdog Millionaire

Jonathan Demme – Rachel Getting Married

David Fincher – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Christopher Nolan – The Dark Knight

Steven Soderbergh – CHE



Benicio Del Toro – CHE

Frank Langella – Frost/Nixon

Sean Penn – Milk

Brad Pitt – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Mickey Rourke – The Wrestler



Meryl Streep – Doubt

Anne Hathaway – Rachel Getting Married

Kate Winslet – Revolutionary Road

Sally Hawkins – Happy-Go-Lucky

Anjelina Jolie – Changeling



Josh Brolin – Milk

Robert Downey, Jr. – Tropic Thunder

Heath Ledger – The Dark Knight

Dev Patel – Slumdog Millionaire

Philip Seymour Hoffman – Doubt



Amy Adams – Doubt

Penelope Cruz – Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Viola Davis – Doubt

Rosemarie Dewitt – Rachel Getting Married

Kate Winslet – The Reader



Woody Allen – Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Dustin Lance Black – Milk

Jenny Lumet – Rachel Getting Married

Tom McCarthy – The Visitor

Andrew Stanton and Jim Reardon – Wall*E



Simon Beaufoy – Slumdog Millionaire

Justin Haythe – Revolutionary Road

Peter Morgan – Frost/Nixon

Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan – The Dark Knight

John Patrick Shanley – Doubt




Kung-Fu Panda

Waltz With Bashir

Trailer: The Movie

preliminary poster for upcoming movie

preliminary poster for upcoming movie

Here is the teaser poster for a movie that I have co-written and am working on. The idea is deceptively simple. 2 actors, one an up-and-coming new star, the other a quickly fading has-been. The film chronicles their competition through 9 films, over the course of 3 yrs or so. The trailers for all 9 fake movies (4 from both actors plus a bonus trailer) comprise the body of the film, and there are interviews with the actors, directors, producers, agents, etc. in between each trailer, giving the details of the story as it unfolds. We follow them through thrillers, romantic comedies, action movies, art-house types, and Oscar-bait pictures.


The film was written by myself and Adam Rebottaro, and we are currently assembling a production team (it’s sortof a big project), after which we’ll cast, and shoot. How will it turn out, and will it turn out at all? Well, who can know these things? How many millions of good ideas never got off the ground? How many terrible ideas did? (Let’s ask the writers of “Beverly Hills Chihuahua,”  they should have a perspective on that) Point is there is no success or failure without first doing. That’s the important thing, I think. I won’t know it’s not possible until I find out it’s not possible. I’ll be honest, too. I had no idea a week ago that any of this was even really plausible to try. But why not? Who says? If we fall, we fall, but we fall for a good joke. A lot of them, too.

And it is funny. It’s a damn funny script. It has potential. I often think of the line from “Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story,” in which the makers of the adaptation of the novel and film within the film are discussing if the project is even worth continuing:

Production Crew: Why do we want to spend a year of our lives making this movie?

Director: Because it’s funny.

Production Crew: Is that all?

Director: Is that not enough?

I’ve always found a lot of comfort and truth in that little exchange. I don’t know why I’m talking about comfort and truth right now, though. Really, I was just trying to show off the poster.  We’re on Facebook, we’ve got an email – – we’re meeting with people this weekend. Things are clipping right along. Who knows where all this might lead?

Best of 2008

If you are like me, you make lists. Lists of lists even. If I want to know who are my favorite film directors of all time, I know I’ve made a list of them, which I can forever amend and edit. If I want to compile my top 20 books of all time, I am in luck that I have kept track of every book I’ve read since 2001, and have a star rating attached to each of them. I use a 4 star system, which does not function as a translatable percentage, though it would seem easy to apply. 3 stars does not mean 75%. Art is not judged like a pop quiz. I have been looking over my list of books read and CDs heard and DVDs watched, and I am thinking of them in terms of when they came throughout the year. I bought The Raconteurs’ sophomore album “Consolers of the Lonely,” because I liked their first CD okay, and hoped they’d grown (they had). That CD is listed first on my list of purchases for the year, but it wasn’t released until the end of March. And for me, it feels most like summer for all I listened to it. The three Tom Waits albums I bought have no frame of reference, though, because they feel like forever (same goes with The Decemberists. Once I listen to them enough, it’s like they’ve always been there. They are absorbed). I don’t recall if I had them when I saw him in concert, because I have so much of his stuff, the albums blend in to each other. This fall I got on a Jay-Z kick, so they feel like running and falling leaves and sweat and motion. But I’ve just been talking music. And I haven’t gotten to my awards yet.


The Collective Experience

The Collective Experience

For the finale of my podcast, my co-host and I have chosen to discuss not simply our favorite this-or-that’s of 2008. That would be too simple. Our podcast has been rigorously, ridiculously overly expansive, and in that name, we have decided to discuss our Top 10 Artistic Experiences… of ALL TIME. That is to say, if there were only 10 artistic moments you could have, if all else were to be locked away and discarded – no, forsaken   what would you choose? What moments did you witness or have that really stick out? 



The Solitary Experience

The Solitary Experience

It is an impossible game to play at. How do you compare, say, a live concert with the reading of a book? Or going to a Broadway play that you thought was just okay to watching your favorite movie of all time alone in your room one night with your girlfriend? Can the two be reconciled? Yes, of course, the answers will be carefully selected, but I don’t yet know what big:small moment ratio I’ll have. How much does the subjective experience of a thing compare with its objective importance to you? When I saw “Tropic Thunder” the first time, I laughed more than at any other movie this year. I was with good friends, we were all in hysterics. Second viewing? Different city, early evening, second movie that day, and a lame-ass crowd. Most of the movie fell flat. The jokes took forever to get from the screen to me, they seemed completely un-spontaneous, and  instead the movie’s glaring pacing issues and Ben Stiller’s badness came shining through. But I still remember the first viewing fondly. I take the few things from the movie I really did like, and let the rest be fun had with friends. 


So…2008. Let’s give out some awards.

Best DVD Discovery – “The Public Enemy” from 1931, with one of my all-time favorite performances by James Cagney that makes you beam with angry pride. He is the origin and Godfather of all portrayals of gangsters, criminals, and low-lives. Below is my favorite scene, which is also the most iconic. Think of film noir. Think of “The Matrix.” Think of Daniel Day Lewis in “Gangs of New York” and think of Heath Ledger’s Joker.

Best Album Bought – The Mountain Goats’ 2002 album “Tallahassee” because it is simple and dreadful and lovely and tells me the story of my life. 

Best Literary FindWuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte. My senior year of college, I took a class on Jane Austen. This book is what I had hoped to find. It is deeper, wiser, more emotional, more stirring, more painful, and more gloriously written than anything Ms. Austen ever did or could hope to do (God rest her soul). Austen is the Salieri to Ms. Bronte’s Mozart.

Best Back-to-Back Experience – In the span of 10 days, I saw Colin Meloy’s solo concert – he of my beloved Decemberists – and my heart’s most recent favorite, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova in concert – they of the breakout 2007 film, “Once” (Runner-up: I saw “Into the Wild” and “There Will Be Blood” in theaters on the same day, with loads of friends. Good day.)

Best Artistic Personal Milestone – This is not the milestone itself, but the means to that milestone. I purchased a Panasonic Digital Film camera (see it here), and have been writing and making movies since the summer. It was the catalyst to make me break out and get to work. So far – 6 minute film that I am going to reshoot, 33 minute film that I moderately like, and 3 more projects to get to in the next few months. We will see.

It Has Come to This

January 2009
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