7.31.2004

Re: Secret Messages

Dear Everyone,

Ooh! That Dooley girl's really in trouble now...

Do you all know what I'm saying? Let's face it, gentle readers.

7.30.2004

Why Wes Anderson Is Good

Could we be clear on this? It's the writing. It's not like he is some whiz-bang camera nerd with super-fancy tracking shots. If it weren't for the amazingly well thought-out scenes and totally heartbreaking dialogue in "Rushmore," it would be kind of average, cinematically speaking. Even "The Royal Tennenbaums," which is not my favorite movie, is two thousand times better-written than 99% of the movies you can see in theaters these days.

And OK, he supports this writing with good filmmaking craft, of course, but the point of my rant here is that our appreciation of craft and visual style is fast supplanting our interest in story (probably 'cause reality is so much more crazy than fiction these days anyway) to the point where we praise Wes Anderson for the mystique of his technical filmmaking skill, when it's actually his writing skill that sets him apart from all the other filmmakers who take cool shots that become stupid movies.

Or maybe it just seems that way because I live in Los Angeles.

Shoeshiners

There's this subclass of gamblers within the casino called shoeshiners. Typically, they hang out behind the seated players and look for a handout. They appoint themselves the mascot of whomever seems to have money and hope that that person will give them a hundred dollars to go away. Shoeshining takes many different forms, from sexual flirtation to mindless cheerleading, but the most dedicated and aggressive of the shoeshiners are the Asians. The amazing thing about them is how, given that they already start from a position of panhandling, they manage to make themselves even more worthless by the things they do to play"host" to their victim/player, who is already being hosted quite nicely by the casino staff. A few common forms of shoeshining assistance:

- They handle the player's money and arrange their bet nicely for them. There's one guy who is always doing this, even when the bet is already placed correctly, sometimes stacking it wrong so the bet goes over the table limit. Trying to be helpful.
- Counting action on the table, advising the player to buy action (theoretically so he can win more and have more to give away). This is ALWAYS wrong. As bad as most of the players are at counting, somehow the shoeshiners are worse, yet they offer their misinformation repeatedly, again in the hopes of appearing helpful.
- Calling service people and attending to the player's food and drink. This is, you guessed it, useless, since the casino already has a full staff that is also eager to receive tips. The shoeshiner tries to intercept the tips before they get to the casino staff which is actually performing a service.
- Shouting out incorrect information about everything: the table limit, people's names, the collection amounts, everything.
- "Rooting" for their player. This is probably the most hilarious thing they do, because it amounts to a play-by-play commentary on the very very obvious. "If they hadn't pulled that six you wounda won." "You hot now you won three in a row." "You made the right decision." It's as if they can read their own minds.
- Where it gets personal is when they start trying to liason between me, the corporation player, and their player, by shouting out the price of prop bets and how much change I'm supposed to give them. "One thousand -- 25 dollars," they tell the player, who already knows this because he's been paying the same price for the past four hours. "Fifty dollars change," they'll tell me, because it is possible that in the half-minute elapsed since our last identical transaction, I have forgotten how to make change.

I'm not against panhandling altogether, but the shoeshiners lack even the dignity of a guy on the street with a cup, because they posture like they're playing in the big time.

7.24.2004

Positive Reinforcement.

It's a trap.  For a kid, probably good.  For an artist, like death.  For one thing, in LA, everyone tells you you're a genius, just in case you accidentally end up being the next big thing and want to hire a lot of yes-men to be around you.  You're always "brilliant," everyone "loves" everything you do.  Just in case showing that love will help them financially later.  So we have this big community of mutual admirers with no critical point of reference, and thus, all the junk that is made.
...My old friend said to me recently, "You have to shoot for perfection, because you probably won't make it, but maybe you'll at least be good."  This is very wise I think.  Just shooting for "good," or worse, "better than this specific awful movie," leads to mediocrity.  I'm not talking about spending more money.  Most people do their really great work in a private, low-tech way, then everyone tells them they're great, they start to believe their own hype, and thus, all the junk that is made (with lots of money).
...It's hard because you'd like to trust people who are saying nice things about your art.  But in a way you can't give it too much weight, because they might be wrong, or just being nice.  The important thing is not to take a compliment to mean "This is great; don't change it," because then you don't want to improve or learn anything.  After all, you can't believe everyone who tells you your art sucks, right?  They are often wrong.  So it's only logical that the people who praise you are mistaken in about the same proportion. 
...
...I mean, I'm not sure about the shooting for perfection thing, because that drives you insane as well.   But I suppose it's all right to shoot for better than you think you can be.

Strong Movie Opinions

Because everyone in Los Angeles should have them.

SPIDER MAN 2
Great action scenes.  Totally generic everything else.  Spider-Man way funnier in the comic book.  Other characters should talk less and be in peril more.

FARENHEIT 9/11
Going to see this movie doesn't mean dookie if you don't vote against Bush and all his cronies.  That's my not-having-seen-it opinion.  If I did see it, I'm sure I would be compelled to not change my already-definite vote for Kerry.

BEFORE SUNSET
Kind of deep in that where-did-my-youth-go sort of way.   Ethan Hawke leers in like, eighteen different ways, and Julie Delpy utterly convincing as woman who keeps the conversation going be discussing herself.

ZAITOICHI
Excellent if you don't mind excessive violence and digital blood.  The last dance sequence is comprable to the Ewok singalong party at the end of "Return of the Jedi," but more moving.

DONNIE DARKO (DIRECTOR'S CUT)
Still great, but the first version was more emotionally involving.  Either version is the best American movie so far this century. 

KILL BILL VOL. 2
Many people in this movie should have been slain earlier, before given the chance to launch into their five page monologues about gearing up to say something.

A DAY WITHOUT A MEXICAN
Yay, a DVX100 movie!  So cool, so indie.  Very original, in that has-the-same-plot-as-Douglas Turner-Ward's-"Day-of-Absence" sort of way.

HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN
Sort of cool, except for the parts involving Harry Potter and spoken dialogue.

ALIENS
Dang, watching this movie now I'm reminded of the time when movies with ribcage-mounted monsters and military fetishization really meant something.  Oh, to be 9.

NEON GENESIS EVANGELION
Still the best narrative piece of art ever in the history of everything.  The live-action movie version of this is going to be monolithically terrible.

7.21.2004

Thanks, brother...

...for reminding me that dammit, people should give me money.
...I may have gotten a little carried away with that last blog entry.  Let's be clear on the fact that I would like to quit my job and make movies/plays/rock musicals what-have-you full time, too.  It's not that I enjoy getting spit on, cursed at, and having my correct math corrected incorrectly by idiots.  However, I feel it is good to be in touch with something in the "real" world, because once you leave the world of regular jobs I think is when you start feeling that movies about struggling actors, artists, or screenwriters are a good idea.  Which they are not.
...like if you take all the music and the filmmaking craft and style out of "Mulholland Drive," it becomes just a story about some cracked-out actresses in Hollywood who are afraid of homeless people and the elderly.  I'm just saying.

7.14.2004

Job Satisfaction

I gotta say it's nice to have a regular gig that lets me be around people who work for a living. OK, our job is not exactly backbreaking, in fact it's by most standards cushy. But it does involve work. Customer service, constant attention, responsibility for large amounts of money....and you get screamed at constantly for no good reason and have to take it with a smile.
...If I'd stayed with my old dotcom jobs, assuming I hadn't been downsized by now, I'd be sitting in front of a PC workstation all day, doing something totally mindless that involves parsing user queries or somesuch BS, checking my email every 20 seconds and watching the cool new Quicktime movie that's going around the office. Also I'd probably be getting paid a lot more than I am now, and would occasionally receive bonuses or stock incentives or free beers that would have litle to do with my productivity but more to do with "corporate culture" and the fluctuating perceived value of whatever useless service my company claims to provide. I'd be around people who, like me, are nerds, generally middle-class slackers with ironic collegiate senses of humor, chasing that really nice apartment in San Francisco with the pretty rock garden and the really cool home entertainment center.
...The folks I work with now come from a lot of different backgrounds. They're first-generation immigrants, they're artists and ex-accountants, they've served in the military and worked at Disneyland. Ours isn't quite a working-class job, but my point is I don't think a single one of us is a graphic designer. And more than the other jobs I've had we work as a team to look out for each other, because we somehow have to stay sane in the face of the clientele. The gamblers are either thoughtless leisure-class princesses who can't count to ten because no one has ever corrected them when they get it wrong, or people with real jobs who have an unfortunate addiction to throwing away their hard-earned paychecks in a way that makes them crazy and mean. Again, not a lot of Final Cut Pro editors in the bunch.
...This is not to sound prejudiced, I mean a job is a job, but it must be said that a lot of people in LA, myself included, are in pursuit of that ultimate dream job, which is to be paid ridiculously for doing very little, or doing something very badly, or doing something that you love artistically anyway so how can it really be work? So a lot of us are actors and editors and screenwriters and forced to maintain a constant smiley-face as well as a discreet competitiveness and self-obsession, all in order to maintain the image of ourselves as a professional part of the dream factory. That in itself, just pursuing it, is a job, but it's not a very good one.
...So even though I get to see a lot of people at their worst, I guess sometimes it's better than seeing people at their most numb. And even though my job doesn't benefit the world in any way, it offers better stories and life experience than working for that godforsaken search engine.

7.10.2004

And then everything broke. (by Eminiem/D12)

These chicks don't even know the name of my blog
It is offline now because I am in a fog
But when it's up you know I'll be the Big Dog
'Cos I'll have fixed the template of my blog

My blog, my blog! My blog, my blog! My blogggggggggg.

Me Me Me.

Adding a link to a few of my poems on a site by my pal Damon Nomad. Also, should anyone who is NOT in Godspeed You Black Emperor be interested, my sort-of half-done director's reel.
...Wise and sad words from my friend the dealer/gambling addict: "No game is fun."

7.03.2004

In a possible sign of the world becoming a better place, there is now a Pink's Hot Dog stand in the casino. I take this to be a sign that Bush will be defeated.
...However, either from eating that chili dog, or getting coughed on at the table, or maybe it was the bad bowl of clam chowder, I now feel a head cold coming on. So I'm pretty sure that I'm cancelling plans to spend tomorrow in drunken revelry so that I'll be better rested to spend Sunday in drunken revelry. Ah, the leisure class lifestyle...it's all in the planning.
...Definitely cleaning house tomorrow, too. This place is a sty.
...Oh wait. It is tomorrow.