Suck – Not!

Friday, I went to the premiere of Suck, written and directed by Rob Stefaniuk. How could I pass up a satire about rock ‘n’ roll vampires? This movie is full of little clins d’oeil to rock fans, while at the same time mocking vampire tropes. The fly-eating scene is straight-up Bram Stoker while the stare of the vampire lover mocks all those awkward glares in Twilight. The obvious metaphor of vampirism as addiction is done with originality and a light touch. I laughed out loud, often.

Stefaniuk’s previous film, Phil the Alien, about an extra-terrestrial alcoholic, was good but this is a much bigger production. For one thing, it features cameos by Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop, Moby and Carol Pope.

Stefaniuk plays the leader of a penniless bar band, doomed to perpetual failure until their bassist, Jessica Paré, goes off with a toothsome stranger…

The film also stars Malcolm McDowell, Dave Foley, Henry Rollins, Alex Lifeson and Dimitri Coates. Additional cast members include Paul Anthony, Mike Lobel, Chris Ratz, Barbara Mamabolo and Nicole DeBoer and Calico Cooper.

This film is a crowd-pleaser, judging by the audience reaction at the Toronto International Film Festival. Personally, I enjoyed sitting a metre behind Carole Pope as she was waiting with the other cast members to introduce the film.

I don’t know if it will win the People’s Choice Award at the Festival but they have my vote. For those about to rock, Suck salutes you!

Enchanted? (Spoilers ahead)

I recently watched Disney’s new fairy tale spoof, Enchanted. After Shrek my expectations were high. The preview looked funny. I was in the mood for a good time. I wanted to see Susan Sarandon as the evil queen. Sarandon did a pretty good job, by the way. The acting was good. This is a pretty, amusing trifle which reinforces Disney’s core values.

Disney mocks it’s franchise characters in a toothless way. When the princess, like Snow White, whistles for animals to help her clean a dirty aparment, the New York city wild life come to her call. Pigeons and rats swarm into the apartment to clean the toilet and wash the dishes. Cockroaches swarm out of the drain in formation and clean the bathtub to the the princess’s cheerful song. It’s the best scene in the film.

The fairy tale premise is simple and effective. The prince falls in love with the heroine but if he marries, his mother, the Queen, will lose her status. To prevent this, the evil queen banishes her potential daughter-in-law to New York City, a place with “no happy endings.” One is tempted to point out that in New York, you can pay for those… Ooops, sorry. This is a family film review!

There are some cute jokes. Prince Charming is vain and foolish. He tries to rescue “peasants,” (New York commuters) by plunging a sword into the roof of their bus. His encounter with the tough female bus driver is comic, but predictable. There are prat falls and the princess has a cute habit of cutting herself new outfits out of her rescuer’s window curtains.

What a rescueer he is. A rich, jaded New York divorce lawyer, he falls in love with the innocent Disney princess. He shows her his world and teaches her that it’s nice to date and talk and get to know your true love before you marry. In a parallel development, his long-standing, sensible girlfriend runs off with Prince Charming. She has finally met a man who won’t make her wait five years while he decides to commit.

What’s wrong with that? Nothing. It’s a fairy story with a fairy-tale ending. The heroes are young and pretty. The bad guys are old and ugly. The bus driver is black and the dancers at the ball are rich and pretty. The helpless heroine is sweet and innocent and looks up to her man. There is dancing and music. Why am I the only one bothered that this older man needs an innocent, child-woman to make him believe in love again. Complicated, real women; who needs them?

Could my brother really be right about Disney’s conservative anti-feminist agenda after all? I’ve always defended Disney because those animated musicals are just so darned watchable. Toddlers and kids in the primary grades will watch them over and over and over…

It’s a pink (and greenbacked) corporate world out there. Maybe ‘the medium really is the message.’

“The Revenge of Pocahantas”

I like the sound of the 7th annual ImagineNative Media Arts Festival. This year’s edition is called “The Revenge of Pocahantas” and features Maori filmmaker, activist and actor, Merata Mita.

The festival takes place from October 18-22. There will be international aboriginal films, concerts, art installations and workshops. Many of the seminars and workshops, which are free to the public, sound particularly interesting for working artists and performers.

On Saturday, October 21, for example, there will be a Harold Greenberg Screenwriting workshop on getting started in feature film and making the transition from shorts to features.

Other seminars and workshops deal with accessing international markets, pitching dramatic works and pitching documentaries.

Other activities and entertainments are aimed at a more general audience. For example, Zacharius Kunuk’s The Journals of Knud Rasmussen, will be screened. Kunuk will be in attendance to introduce and discuss his latest film. The Journals of Knud Rasmussen documents a time and place in the Far North that can never be recovered but should never be forgotten.

For more details, please consult the ImagineNative website.

For my own review of The Journals of Knud Rasmussen, look here.

Passionate and Personal

— If you make something passionate and personal enough, it can be somebody’s favorite movie.

(Christine Vachon, Producer: Infamous, Hedwid and the Angry Inch…)

This quote was made at a Q&A for Velvet Goldmine and it’s one of my favorites from the Film Festival. Vachon could have presented any of the arm-long list of films to her credit but chose this one because audiences enjoy it. Very sane, very rational. If an artist takes him or herself too seriously, it’s possible to forget the real reason for writing, painting, filming, sculpting…

If I ever get too pompous with this blog thing, wack me with rubber chicken, please.

Favorite Writing Books – For Screen

  • Telling It by Anne Frank (ed.)
  • Alternative Scriptwriting: Writing Beyond the Rules by Ken Dancyger & Jeff Rush
  • Feature Filmmaking at Used Car Prices by Rick Schmidt
  • Screenplay by Syd Field
  • Writing the Second Act by Michael Halperin
  • Lew Hunter’s Screenwriting 434 by (you guessed it) Lew Hunter
  • Television and Screen Writing by Richard Blum
  • The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler
  • From Script to Screen by Linda Seger, E.J. Whetmore
  • The Complete Book of Scriptwriting by J. Michael Straczynski
  • Comedy Writing Secrets by Melvin Helitzer

These sit on my bookshelf next to the reference books. They are all good, but reading them won’t reveal the biggest secret to completing a play or screenplay. The number one secret is “bum in chair,” and the runner-up is “having a deadline.”

To get a very sane and practical program for applying your seat to the chair seat without gimmicks, false guilt or schedules, my recommendation is Heather Seller’s new book: Page After Page: Discover the Confidence & Passion You Need to Start Writing & Keep Writing! I took it out from the library and speed-read it but if I ever get blocked I will buy it and try the exercises as well.

In 1999 I made one short film as part of the DAWC (Directing, Acting and Writing for Camera program) which was run by the late Maruska Stankova. It was a fantastic experience working with a professional story editor (Jill Golick), producer (Laura James), actors (Stormm Bradshaw, Rochelle Wilson and Deborah Woffenden) and director (Glenn Forbes). I also did kraft services (catering) during shooting which was more fun than I expected! Cramming all that writing and rewriting into a full-time teaching schedule was tough, but so much fun. In 2000 I had my son and decided that novel-writing was an easier fit with my new lifestyle.

Independently, I’ve written one feature length script but I haven’t sent it anywhere. I have a terrible habit of writing stuff and not sending it out. Instead, I’ve concentrated on writing kid’s musicals and plays (three to date) because they give me a chance to direct what I’ve written and get immediate feedback from a real audience. 300+ bored kid’s sitting cross-legged on a gym floor waiting for the show to start find ways of announcing their impatience! I can tell which parts of the show work by when they laugh and when they start to shift around.

I’ve written a couple of novels, without sending them out, and I’m currently working on a third. I hope my live-audience experience will help make it readable. On that note, why ramble on? It’s time to take my own advice and get to work.