March 30, 2007
The Room

Here's a list of What Not to Do in the Writer's Room, and I think it pretty much sums up why I have no desire to be in one. I read it expecting a list of good but maybe obvious things to do to be a good member of a creative team, and instead it reads like a set of rules nailed to the clubhouse door.

I get how it's bad to constantly correct people's grammar or shoot down other ideas, but doing the NYT crossword in pen is so bad, it makes it into a top ten list? Being too enthusiastic, or not embracing the same junk food as everyone else, is on the list? Sounds like just keeping the right to be in the precious Room requires a ton of effort - I guess at some point you have to find time to write as well.

I'd love to make a living as a writer but this is not a clubhouse door I'm going to beat down.

Posted by Chris at 9:27 AM

It reads like a list of pet peeves the author found in other writers. Putting up with and overlooking the foibles of others seems like it might be a good team-player skill.

But then, this is an article about losing the plum job and not gaining the plum job.

Posted by: simon at March 31, 2007 11:08 AM

It occured to me that at some point in my career, I may deeply regret making such brazen statements about where I will and won't work. But for now, I remain defiant and principled.

Posted by: Chris at April 2, 2007 8:58 AM

Would you work on the script for a major motion picture version of Full House? With the TV to film generational recycling process we should be due one in about a decade. Come on, rule it out if you dare.

Posted by: simon at April 2, 2007 7:29 PM

I... I... I hereby rule it out. God help me.

ALTHOUGH! I have imagined that if the Olsen twins ever wanted to "come out" into the world of real, independent film, they should do a horror movie playing themselves... AND THE THIRD, EVIL, HIDDEN OLSEN TWIN WE NEVER KNEW ABOUT. The title would "There Were Three All Along."

Posted by: Chris at April 3, 2007 8:57 PM
March 29, 2007
Autobiographical Thursday

It is Autobiographical Thursday in the world of Mazinga. I also added a "comments" feature, in case you have one - no thanks to Movable Type.

Posted by Chris at 2:36 PM
March 26, 2007
Monday Mazinga

"A Reasonable Offer." Now that it is online I can see that two of the panels are not needed. I must have realized this at some point but in the worry of making things fit the shape, stretched out the dialogue*. Well - to my readership of four, if you catch Mazinga before tonight you will see these rare expurgated panels, but in eight hours or so they will be gone.

Note to Simon - the big scary image you sent of Mazinga haunts me - with his glowing eyes and his disregard for safety and public property. The Mazinga depicted there does not look like he would spend much time debating Congress or being offended when people ignore him. I always have to put this version out of my mind before making a strip.

I find it unfortunate how much publishing to the web has become a part of my writing process. I don't get clarity on a finished product until it is somewhat already "out there," then the flaws become much more pronounced. Maybe I should put the screenplay up here in serial form.

*It is sad how much this also relates to the previous post about screenwriting.

Posted by Chris at 9:54 AM

Regarding the big scary image, sometimes Mazinga just gets these terrible headaches...

Posted by: simon at March 27, 2007 12:49 PM

And it's not that he's destroying the city, the city was just... clumsy. Yeah, that's it. The city was clumsy. And if the city wasn't so clumsy, then it wouldn't make Mazinga so MAD. SO it's really the city's fault.

Posted by: Chris at March 27, 2007 3:37 PM
March 22, 2007
Screenplays 4 and 5

I am STILL writing these two screenplays. I went back and looked at the date I began #4, "The Q3 Numbers" and - WOW. It... was a long time ago.

It sounds strange to only be coming to this now after a lot of scripts - but I never paid attention to any of the story structure stuff I always read about, or at least never applied it much. I think partly it was out of some weird pride that it was all coming to me so intuitively, but mostly because I didn't care.

My method before was always "Don't try to start at the beginning - just start with the scenes you know and write as far from them as possible." That isn't working so much anymore, as evidenced by the long period of time it's taken me to write these two (and the fact that so MUCH of the writing then becomes convincing myself to get rid of these early scenes), and also that even if the earlier scripts were written more quickly, they were also pretty uneven. "Intervention" was bloated from the word GO and naturally everything downstream of that mistake was vastly, fundamentally, obviously affected.

Now I am finding myself asking what the Five Turning Points in the screenplay might be and using outlines - which of course means that I need to know little things like who exactly my protagonist is (not always easy for me to settle on for some reason) and other little details like what does he want? And what is keeping him from it?

I'm not saying I'm absolutely a three-act convert - although obviously if I'm talking about, uh, SELLING a screenplay, it might help - but forcing myself to think about these things has helped pull me out of a rut here a little bit. Oh boy, years of writing and I've arrived at Day 1 of Screenplay 101.

And I think I am still miles away from the lightbulb going off on exactly what a screenplay is. I'm finding it's not exactly a thing you'd read and enjoy for itself. At least not as I read.

I think I will still use the "Write as far as you can" exercise but only as a beginning step. I'm not sure I will fully embrace the outline, or the (shivers) character bio yet, but they are probably tools I'll pick up later as well.

Thursday Mazinga is up. Please take particular note of the Sword, as it took me about three days to make that for some reason. Also please do NOT take particular note of the math.

Pretty soon I'm going to have to start doing six-panel or even three / four-panels only, if I want to keep this up.

Posted by Chris at 4:29 PM

Chris, have you tried little putting yellow post-its on the wall or board? Apparently that helps with screenwriting, especially if you write words on them.

Posted by: simon at March 22, 2007 5:29 PM
March 20, 2007
300 + 16

300. Frank Miller, two for two. Now if only someone would go back and do "Dark Knight."

I guess there was a subtext about freedom in here but all I noticed was the fabulous gladiatorial action. Great Leonidas. GREAT Queen of Sparta. I'd say we've left the 1962 version behind. I note that the IMDB plot keywords for this film include "Trampled To Death," "Stabbed In The Eye," and "Stabbed To Death," "Massacre," "Beaten to Death" - but it was actually LESS gory than I thought. It didn't stay with me much past the viewing - I even saw it on the big screen at the Chinese - but you could do a LOT worse than this for a weekend film.

Postscript: My, how spoiled I've become with special effects lately. I just caught an ad for this film and was stunned again. They shouldn't go unmentioned.

Who Killed the Electric Car. Unfortunately this documentary focuses too much on a small inconsequential corner of the electric car battle - the fight by a handful of dedicated EV enthusiasts to keep GM from crushing the last thirty or so of their experimental vehicles. That might be an interesting subject for a dramatized version, but in a documentary it's a waste of time - it deserves little more than five minutes. This story is huge and covers decades - why not be the definitive record for this inevitable shift in the industry? Why not a call to action?

Also the movie is annoyingly based around finding the "culprit" of the latest "murder" of the car. Way too simplistic. To even list "Big Oil" or "The Auto Industry" in such a suspect line-up is beyond naive. Big Oil and Detroit killed the electric car, sure, in the same way that any industry is going to kill anything that cuts even slightly into their profit. To expect those entities at this late date to do anything for the good of humanity is ludicrous. Like mindless sharks they will eat everything in sight even to their own detriment - and any change in their practices will have to be forced on them. It was ever thus, and wasting time on outrage just becomes a part of the problem.

Metropolis. Seen it several times, but I have been lucky to see it on movie screens, not TV. Once at the Music Box in Chicago, and this time at the Silent Movie Theatre on Fairfax. Where, to our amazement, the entire film was accompanied by legendary organist Bob Mitchell, who accompanied this same film in... 1928. WOW. The man didn't miss a note. I even forgot someone was playing along live.

Three Times and Exterminating Angels. Enh. I ended up just scanning through for naked. (None in "Three Times," much in "Angels.")


(A small experiment here - I'm trying to keep track of every single thing I see this year -just to see how many there were, and try to remember what was the best.)

Around the World in 80 Days. The first movie I saw this year. I'm a big fan of Steve Coogan, probably past what others are willing to watch. (I even rented Knowing You Knowing Me.) Parents with small ones, this one could be added to your repertoire. It would be a great intro for the kids to the brilliance of Jackie Chan.

Rules of the Game. Uh. I saw this at the NuArt, hoping that this would be the time the revered classic struck me as the BEST EVER. As it has... so many others. Nope. Not this time either. That makes 0 and 3. Maybe next time.

Pan's Labyrinth. A bit more brutal than it needed to be. No, a lot more. I wish the fantasy segments were more emphasized. At some point the real political story seemed to dominate and the fantasy was totally disconnected. But, Del Toro's movies have always been worthwhile and this is no exception.

Night Listener. Good turn for Robin Williams, AND Toni Collette.

Children of Men. My vote for best of the year. STILL my favorite, maybe Zodiac is up there too. Even though I think it was actually an 06 film.

Notes on a Scandal. Not as creeped out as I might be by Judi Dench here. I was excited for a Dench - Blanchett pairing, and this felt slight.

Letters from Iwo Jima and Flags of our Fathers. We watched one after the other, which is definitely the way to do it. Otherwise "Flags" will feel like it's too much a second cousin to "Saving Private Ryan." And no surprise, the Japanese installment held the most surprises and was the better work. Excellent.

Volver. I prefer Almodovar's earlier, subversive, sexy comedies - "Matador," "Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!" or "High Heels" - to his later, Strong Spanish Women movies. BUT! I must admit that least favorite actress Penelope Cruz... was very good here.

Final Season of "Six Feet Under". We dropped off some time ago in the next to the last season, then something kicked us off again to finally finish the series. We watched these and I think have not mourned the passing of fictional characters so strongly since maybe M*A*S*H.

Half Nelson. Good show for Ryan Gosling. But if you're not a fan, you could skip it.

Lost Room (miniseries). Nice, simple, yet bizarre and abstract sci-fi mini-series. Got a rainy weekend? This is your show. It helped us through our "Six Feet" mourning to see that Peter Krausse was still out there. And, Laminated List Star Julianna Margulies - enough said. I'm glad they didn't try to make a whole series.

Posted by Chris at 4:22 PM

Does a character in 300 really say 'freedom isn't free'?

Because it turns out it is free.

Posted by: simon at March 22, 2007 5:37 PM
March 19, 2007
Today on Mazinga

"An Enemy Emboldened." SHOCKING stuff. You'll be asking yourself, JUST WHAT SIDE IS MAZINGA ON.

I'm going to try to to have new strips twice a week for a while, Monday and Thursday - but maybe I'm just optimistic because I have Thursday's ready to go.

Posted by Chris at 9:15 AM
March 15, 2007
Q: How progresses your film career?

A: In my efforts to work as an artisan in the world of "film," or "movies" of late I have made some interesting strides!

Specifically, I have managed to acquire my Basic Keelboat as well as my Coastal Navigation certification, and I am but one knot away (the BOWLINE) from getting my Bareboat Chartering cert. All that remains then, is six more hours as skipper on the 22' (or 25') boat, passing the written, and I will have the Basic Coastal Cruising cert as well.

So you can see, as a filmmaker, I am learning quite a bit about sailing boats lately. Thank you for asking!

Yes - learning to sail has taken up quite a lot of my time - nearly every weekend for months. Yes, I am enjoying the hell out of it. But whence comest the screenplays? Whence comest the movie hilarity? Where did my ability to multitask go?

Posted by Chris at 3:59 PM

I think it's really cool that you have a fun new hoby. And I'm jealous. That's really fantastic!

And I can teach you the bowline. I'm an Eagle Scout. Remember? I also had to learn how to do it one handed in case I ever fall in a well and break my left arm. If I break the right one... I'm screwed.

(Have you heard the healofu phrase? - "The Rabbit goes out of the hole, around the tree, and back in the hole again.")

Posted by: Big Fat Brian at March 16, 2007 6:39 AM

Of course, I meant "HELPFUL" phrase.

Posted by: Big Fat Brian at March 16, 2007 6:40 AM

I can get the bowline - but only if I orient the line in the same loop shown in the diagram! And using it on a boat or at the dock, it always seems to need to go the OTHER way. And for some reason that presents a challenge to me.

So sometimes the rabbit goes out of the hole first, but sometimes he seems to need to go IN first!

Posted by: Chris at March 16, 2007 10:24 AM
March 12, 2007
New Mazinga

Groizer X gives Mazinga some advice I think we can all use:

Posted by Chris at 11:08 PM
The Proposition and others

Here's what I saw this weekend:

The Proposition. Completely worthless. According to this film, outlaws in the late 19th century Australian outback were very brutal and also very grubby. No kidding. Also, sending one of the outlaws after his own brother will have predictable results. Avoid. Not sure what attracted Guy Pearce, Danny Huston and Ray Winstone to this, unless they are just big Nick Cave fans.

The Illusionist. I enjoyed our man Norton in this film, and Giamatti was quite entertaining as always. A better film might have fleshed out a more complex relationship between Rufus Sewell's Baron Von Meanie and the magician. Ultimately, though, this felt like a short story as opposed to a feature-length idea.

The Host. Here is the best monster movie since "Descent." If you enjoy such flicks, you must see this in a crowded theatre as soon as possible - there is no excuse not to.

It is very unusual in almost every way - there is no slow reveal of the creature, the protagonists are not a particularly handsome lot, and it also ventures into some sadness, and - DARE I SAY IT - poignancy. (Look for the simple scene when the family has a meal together, and the missing girl appears to share it - amazing.)

It made me realize how other horror films sometimes seem to have a basic plot checklist to follow. Even without the monster, this is an amazing movie to see for how Joon-ho Bong combines comedy, horror, tragedy sometimes right after one another, sometimes right in the same scene.

But don't get me wrong - the overriding impression of this was just FUN. I'll be watching it again to catch what I missed. And that creature - wow, I'm not sure when I've seen a better CGI creation in recent memory.

And Anthony Lane was right - it DOES look like Broderick Crawford!!!

Posted by Chris at 8:03 AM



Posted by: fattyfat at March 14, 2007 4:25 PM

I ADORED "The Host". Absolutely every way. It's nice to see a horror/monster movie w/ so much more. It just makes it harder to tolerate horror crap such as "Hostel" (that's just what came to mind); when we can see from "The Host" that it is possible to mix in some well-drawn sympathetic characters, political jabs, tearful tragedy; w/ super fun scares. Very good stuff.

Posted by: klugula at March 19, 2007 6:37 AM

AGREED, sir! I am kind of afraid to watch it again for fear of spotting any flaw; and not that I am saying it is perfect, but it is unique enough that I think it deserves another viewing!

Posted by: Chris at March 19, 2007 2:56 PM
March 9, 2007

Zodiac was long, and there was initial disappointment when I saw that it wasn't going to be a thriller in the mode of "Seven." But that disappointment faded quickly, as it was fascinating anyway, and a movie based on real events isn't necessarily going to end with a climactic, horrific revelation or with the killer caught in a dank moth-filled basement. Fincher deserves credit for not falling back into familiar and reliable patterns.

The story truly is a "procedural" where the police and reporters try to find a killer mainly by sifting through enormous piles of minutiae, and then have to endure the pain of following down leads that are promising and spooky and dramatic - but ultimately incorrect.

As in a lot of realistic crime films where *** SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT EVEN THOUGH THIS UH IS BASED ON A 40-YEAR OLD CASE BUT UH SPOILER ALERT ANYWAY *** the killer isn't necessarily caught, the story becomes instead about those that obsess on finding the guy, to the point of neglecting their own lives. You see this a lot in movies of this ilk - "Black Dahlia" comes to mind, as does "The Pledge" and even "JFK" for some reason - but whereas elsewhere Black Dahlia it feels as if the material was mainly filler Black Dahlia, here it felt like we were following the correct story.

This was an event that claimed the lives not only of victims but of several people that could not let the case go when it faded from most peoples' memory. The investigation and their obsession extends over decades. It's telling that the most amazing shot in the movie is watching the Transamerica building going up in special-effects time lapse.

Mark Ruffalo is a stand out, as is John Carroll Lynch - who makes a big impression in just three scenes. Now on to Robert Downey Jr.

Downey is one of those actors who is so very interesting and watchable and intelligent, that to even watch him at rest is to be entertained. But the problem is, he's never at rest.

I definitely believe he is one of the greats. But he strikes me as someone whose mind is so amazingly fast that he is unable to restrain himself. Restrain himself from being funny, restrain himself from spitting the lines out in a staccato, restrain himself from being entertaining - in short, from falling into patterns. I love him but I'm starting to see the same things.

I'd like his next part to be a BIG one, a Chaplin part, and I'd like for his director to tell him, "Be still."

Wow, it just occurred to me that this is the guy from "Weird Science." Yeah, but I guess Sean Penn is the guy from "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," so there you go.

Posted by Chris at 9:40 AM
March 8, 2007
"Lapsing Into French" with Anthony Lane

Because sometimes an intellect is so vast, just one language won't do.

FOREIGN PHRASE: soixante-huitard

CONTEXT: A review of the South Korean creature feature "The Host."

OTHER FAVORITE PHRASES FROM THE REVIEW: "[The creature] looks like Broderick Crawford crossed with a Venus flytrap"


Posted by Chris at 4:01 PM
March 7, 2007
Top 25 Music Videos of 06

What? A 2006 Best-Of list 3 months late? Who cares, I just thank God someone put together a list like THIS, because music videos are cool, and amongst the five channels I have that purport to show them, none seem to have time to between episodes of "Road Rules" and "Next." I guess the interweb with its youtubes and such must be taking the place of the MTVs, with the loud music and the surly kids and their disrespectful haircuts.

I like music videos not because I want to make them - GOD NO - or want my movies to have the Hip New Look, but because, once you get past the gangsta orgy ones, there can be some wild and great short films in there. The Michel Gondry and Spike Jonze compilation DVDs are amazing.

This is also why I generally LIKE to catch commercials, and don't mind ads in the movie theatre sometimes. Number one, ads are the Unstoppable Force, and B, if you disregard the ones where they are worshiping Car or Beer, there are some hilarious shorts.

P.S. I don't see on Pitchfork's list. It's an ad, not a music video, but it's pretty cool too.

Posted by Chris at 5:34 PM

What do you think of the Sony BRAVIA commercials? I am amazed by the fact that those are real bouncy balls and paint, not just CGI. Amazed, I tell you!

Posted by: Leigh at March 10, 2007 1:41 PM
March 4, 2007
Cowards Bend the Knee

A run down of the films I saw this weekend and last night:

The Covenant

Disposable post-Buffy teen fare. Twenty minutes in I said that they should have called the movie "The Hilfiger Witches" instead - lots of ripped abs at the swim meet, lots of perfect girls, lots of GREAT hair. So far no one has done teen witches better than "The Craft," although I'm not very up on the sub-sub genre. And I hate super hero fights where they shoot generic force beams of pure, uh, force at one another.


Not better than "Office Space" or "King of the Hill," but Mike Judge always seems to have his finger on the pulse. As I laughed I definitely had a knot in the pit of my stomach, because he was illustrating my worst fears. This might be the definitive movie of the past decade.


Yay for Chris Cooper, but this was just a notch too drab for me. I hate to say it, but Ryan Phillipe might have been too... vanilla in this. If I had to choose between recent spy flicks, this one is a rental to "Good Shepherd's" must-see-at-the-theatre.

Tears of the Black Tiger

It was as if the movie was assembled from vintage postcards from Thailand. I think. Everything was in pastels - even the blood. Pretty amazing, though sometimes the stylization distanced you a bit from getting involved with the characters.

Cowards Bend the Knee

Guy Maddin has moved up into my list of favorites. I didn't care for his "Dracula" but seeing "Careful" by accident (When "Fritz the Cat" was cancelled) at the Music Box one night was a happy revelation, like the night I randomly saw "Zentropa" in Wyoming. "Careful" has stayed with me, as has his "Saddest Music in the World."

Silent films are not the first thing I choose to go to but once I do I am always fascinated. And people doing silent films in the modern age are even better. (All I can think of now is Maddin and "Call of Cthulhu.") I can't describe "Cowards" any better than Zeitgeist Films' site: "Resembling a vintage melodrama from another planet" and an "antique hand-cranked skin flick." Yes, much like "Black Tiger." I also learn that it began as a ten-part peepshow installation at the Rotterdam Film Festival in January 2003 - a peephole into a strange Freudian dream. Boy, does that fit.

Posted by Chris at 12:11 AM

Upon opening today, I immediately thought of The Jabberwocky (with kindest regards to Randy Marsh in Heaven). "O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! He chortled in his joy." Welcome back, Chris. Welcome back.

Posted by: Leigh at March 7, 2007 9:28 AM

Ah, Randy. I can still hear his voice as clear as if I was in Mrs. Anderson's Algebra class.

Thanks for the welcome back!

Posted by: Chris at March 7, 2007 4:53 PM
March 2, 2007
New Mazinga. New blog.

It's a brand new day, a brand new blog. This one will hopefully be 90% less politics, 240% more movie production.

I closed the book on the old blog after three and a half years, and put it here: In My Defense.

I put Mazinga here:

Posted by Chris at 5:05 PM

Welcome back. I missed you.

Posted by: KLUGULA at March 8, 2007 7:32 PM