LEAVE is live on Amazon Prime!

Well, after a long, sometimes arduous, journey beginning way back in the summer of 2015, my vessel of a short film LEAVE – based upon my short story of the same name – has found its homeport at Amazon Prime and is now available to be viewed for free by all… provided you are either a U.S. or U.K. Prime subscriber. If not, then it will cost you a mere buck/pound or two to watch it.

Continue reading “LEAVE is live on Amazon Prime!”

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The Long Road to Cali


 

#believeinleave >> PLEASE DONATE

 
 

LEAVE IS LIVE! | PLEASE DONATE & SHARE

This is it, my friends. The moment I’ve been waiting for where things finally begin to get real for me.

And by real I mean from now until the end of the filming of LEAVE at the end of October, it looks like it’s going to be one mad rush of new and exciting experiences.

Awesome.

I would like to introduce you to the cast and crew of LEAVE. For now, you may see them and everything LEAVE is about here >> LEAVE: A Short Film.

After things slow down, I will introduce them to you personally here.

I would also like to thank all the good folks who donated to my website campaign here. Please check out the list and try to support them as awesomely as you support me. That campaign has officially ended and all donations will now be managed through IndieGoGo. I will use the funds raised here to get me across the country. I’m so grateful for the support.

I will introduce my final website donor to you, Author Anna Kopp, on Friday, October 14, 2016. Her work looks amazing. Stay tuned!

Today, I am heading on an anniversary getaway to New England with my lovely and loving wife. Shortly after I return I will get on the road again with my sons and drive cross-country to LA for the filming LEAVE.

I’ve decided to fire up my barely-used Instagram account and, beginning today as I head to the hood of some of my favorite authors, I will be photo-blogging my journey along the way and during the filming. Please follow along if you’d like (icon on the sidebar). I would love to have your company.

Cool?

Ice cold!

LEAVE: A Short Film

 
 
LEAVE, A Short Film

#OscarsSoWha??

What a night at the Oscars, eh?

Big night for diversity and sexual assault awareness.

While it’s no longer cool for us to say “boys will be boys”… I believe it’s still within the legal PC bounds of good taste to say “Chris will be Chris.”

He did a pretty good job of calling out all the major inequality themes re: Hollywood that’s been on everyone’s minds and tongues for the past few months. Though he did go a little easier on the Establishment and a lot harder on Jada than I expected.

I thought his most pointed call-out wasn’t a race issue but a gender equality issue when discussing the absurdity of having both a Best Actor and a Best Actress category. “It’s not as if they are running a track and field event and Robert De Niro has to say, ‘Whoa, I better slow down my acting so Meryl Streep can catch up…” It’s worth your time to search for and watch Rock’s opening monologue. It should be easy enough to find.

I was pretty bummed when Lady Gaga didn’t win the award for Best Song (or whatever the official nomenclature is) after her highly emotional and powerful performance of “Till It Happens To You.” But when Sam Smith gave his amazing acceptance speech calling on for equality and encouragement for the LGBT community I was like, okay… he’s cool.

But to me, Lady Gaga’s performance was definitely the highlight of the night and one of the most moving performances I’ve seen in a while. At least since her performance of the US National Anthem at the Super Bowl… which was also quite impressive. She’s quite the talent, that’s for sure.

As far as the movie stuff goes, I can’t really comment much because until I see the Oscars I never realize how many movies I haven’t seen throughout the year.

I’m happy and unsurprised that Leo won for Best Actor. Pretty impressive speech he gave re: The Environment. Of course it was a given he would speak about environmental issues knowing how passionate he is about the subject. And it also makes sense to discuss it seeing how critical Nature was to the success of his film. [See: The Revenent: It’s Really Good (for a laugh)]

I’m less happy that Tom Hardy did not win Best Supporting Actor and very surprised that, if Tom didn’t win it, they didn’t just give it to Sly Stallone for sentimental reasons (it certainly wouldn’t be for any acting reasons). As a former Intelligence Community (oxymoron, I know…) guy, I have been meaning to see The Bridge of Spies so I cannot judge the dude who did win. I cannot even judge him based on his past performances because I don’t even have clue who he is (although there is a tinge of familiarity so I’m sure I’ve seen him in this or that).

As for Best Actress… didn’t see “The Room” or is it just “Room,” but just based on the clips shown Brie Larson looks like a worthy winner. As for Best Supporting Actress… didn’t see “The Danish Girl” but Alicia Vikander is definitely the “It Gal” of the moment so I assumed she would win.

While Mad Max swept all the technical and nitnoid whatnot awards, I thought for sure The Revenent would sweep the Big Three. It got two with Alejandro González Iñárritu winning Best Director (two years running now), and Leo’s win, but missed on the biggest of all.

Haven’t seen Spotlight, the winner, yet. I’m still waiting on it to hit Redbox and then I’ll have to wait until Redbox texts me a free movie night before I do. Yeah, I’m cheap like that.

As far as the presenters go… it seems that there is a budding bromance between Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling. They were quite funny together and could make a pretty good living as a comedic duo.

And did anyone else get confused between Kate Winslet and Patricia Arquette? Did they look like copies of each other because they were sharing the same pair of glasses? Or are they secretly Pond Crossing Twins?

Speaking of Patty Arquette, you should check her out on twitter and see the work she’s doing with the #EqualMeansEqual documentary that is in the works. As you probably know she’s a major, outspoken proponent for Women’s and Gender Equality Issues. She believes because she called out Hollywood last year in its poor record of equality in pay between men and women that she has lost several potential acting gigs from it. Check out the good stuff she has going on at @PattyArquette at the tweet machine.

As typical, Sasha Baron Cohen provided the most cringe-worthy moment. His “Ali G” skit is no longer fun(ny), as it now comes off to me only as being stale and rather desperate.

Still, all in all I thought The Oscars overall was a great show. One of the most entertaining in a long while.

I’m really looking forward to seeing what impact all the awareness to diversity this year will have on next year’s nominees.

Aaand… that’s a wrap.

 
 

THE REVENANT: It’s Really Good (for a laugh)

THE REVENANT
FILM | MOVIE | STUDIO | DRAMA
RATING: ★ ★ ★ ★

Since I didn’t know off the top of my head what the word “revenant” meant, I had thought, in the spirit of Shakespeare, it was a word created specifically for Art’s sake by combining the words revenge and covenant. Seeing the movie (and the squiggly red idiot line under the word when I type it) only reinforced this belief, because “The Revenant” is a grand, intense, soul-searching, cinematographic dream-scape of movie “inspired” by a book of the same name that was “inspired” by a legend which was more than likely “inspired” by a kernel of truth of the life of a mountain man named Hugh Glass, a contemporary of Grizzly Adams, may he rest in peace (both the real one who died long ago and, more importantly to those of my generation, to Dan Haggerty, the actor who portrayed him and who died recently) and Jedediah Smith (no, Robert Redford played Jeremiah Johnson, not Smith), which is about a father committed to his last breath regardless the odds or obstacles to exact revenge for the murder of his son.
 


 

In simplistic terms, it’s really, really good. It deserves all the Oscars nominations it has received, especially for Best Picture, Best Director (Iñárritu), Best Supporting Actor (Hardy), and Best Actor (DiCaprio).

As is typical with any film he is in, Tom Hardy stole the show. In my view, he just may be the best working actor there is right now. He out-acted DiCaprio, who is a pretty good actor in his own right – not great, but pretty good. But it doesn’t really matter as far as awards go seeing that they are up for different ones. But even if they were up for Best Actor, DiCaprio should still win it over Hardy, and all the others I’ve seen, for the overwhelming effort he invested and physical hardship and pain he endured for this role. His performance and commitment to his trade are remarkable.

As far as the logistics and filming of the movie, I do not know how Iñárritu did it. The movie is so big and so remote with so many moving parts – Mother Nature notwithstanding – I simply don’t know how they put it all together so seamlessly and beautifully, and breathtakingly so. I’m sure it will win for Best Cinematography.

I already said the movie is about a father’s commitment to exacting revenge for his son’s murder. And it is. But, unfortunately for Glass, the father, he has to fulfill this sad covenant that he makes with himself, his dead son, and his impartial god, after having just about the worst day, week, and however long his revenge exacting takes that one man can ever have.

I mean, this dude just gets keep getting creamed.

I mean, there are bears and “savages” and broken bones and infection and starvation and the frigid, merciless elements…

It’s like… Dude!

I mean, Death just keeps so relentlessly and rabidly on his ass that it finally became comical to me… and the guy sitting next to me.

Remember the movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail?” Each time another near-death tragedy happened to Glass and his near-death tragic soul, I couldn’t help repeating in my mind that famous and funny line from the movie:

It’s just a flesh wound.

I whispered this to the guy next to me and we ended up giggling like two kids each successive time Death pick Glass up and pile-drived his head back into the mat.

Which brings me back to the word “revenant” and its meaning. Come to find out it isn’t a made-up word after all. It means, “a person who has returned, especially from the dead.”

There couldn’t be a more fitting word for this movie. In fact, it could be called The Revenant To The Nth Power, Glass returns from the dead so many times.

There are more things about the movie I could make fun with… like pointing out a cliché or two – yes, of course Glass gets all Luke Skywalker on us when he guts his horse (that had recently just fallen over a cliff with him – he survives; the horse doesn’t) and crawls inside it to stay warm during the night – but I’ll stop with the merrymaking.

But it doesn’t matter, the movie is good enough, and grand enough, that it can handle a bit of criticism from yours truly.

Out of all the movies nominated for Best Picture, I’ve only seen this, “Mad Max,” and “The Martian.” Out of those three, all of which I like very much, “The Revenant” is my pick to win.

If you haven’t seen it, you should.
 


Based upon the novel by Michael Punke

 
~~~~

Rating System:
★ = Unwatchable
★ ★ = Poor Movie
★ ★ ★ = Average Movie
★ ★ ★ ★ = Outstanding Movie
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ = Exceptional Movie

 
 

My Uncolorful* Character(s)

I don’t know about you, but as for me – unless it is absolutely critical to the movement of a story – I don’t need to always know every item in each room, or the style and brand of every shoe in the protagonist’s closet… and I especially do not need to know about the mole on the back of the least minor character’s left ear.

pexels-photo-316681.jpeg

Now, the genius of authors such as Balzac, Dickens, and Twain cannot be denied by me; however, I often find their attention to detail excessive and rather tedious for my overly sensitive reading sensibilities.

Especially Balzac.

I know, I know… It’s me not them.

But I’m the kind of reader dude** who enjoys employing as much as possible of my own personal image making machine, aka, my imagination, along with my thought processing gyrator, against a story’s plot, or lack thereof; and when it comes to a character and his or her physical appearance and personality traits, I prefer for them, through the details found in the story’s showing, to slowly emerge within that enveloping zen-like midst of verisimilitude (that I hopefully find myself in) until he or she can be seen standing clearly before my mind’s unblinking eye, fully developed and fleshed out.

So it should come as no surprise then when I tell all you other reader dudes*** that I try to write my stories in the way that I prefer to read them: with limited and only absolutely necessary descriptive telling.

The Sea Trials of an Unfortunate Sailore

For example, you will find that the book description for The Sea Trials of an Unfortunate Sailor reads in part:

Written with a narrative starkness, it leaves us with only our own prejudices and stereotypes to draw from and forces us to make assumptions about character and identity, and, in the end, determine not just who did it but if it was even done at all.

Admittedly, this book was written intentionally with a “narrative starkness,” not so much because starkly written books are the kind I like to read most, but because its starkness is used as a device to make a sad but painful point about the military’s failed and former Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy.

I was navy Equal Opportunity Advisor during DADT’s salad days and the crux of my job at the time was to travel around the Western Pacific to facilitate training seminars and focus groups in an effort to educate sailors on how to legally administer and execute the confusing and harmful policy.

As you probably already know, prior to the implementation of DADT, homosexuals were prohibited from serving in the military. With DADT – which was a compromise between Bill Clinton, who wanted to allow homosexuals to serve with no restrictions, and the military’s top brass, who wanted to continue barring homosexuals from service – homosexuals were allowed to serve in the military… provided they did not discuss their sexual orientation with anyone nor have any homosexual relations whatsoever. Additionally, no service member was allowed to ask any other service member what his or her sexual orientation was… hence the infamous moniker don’t ask, don’t tell.

A pretty cruel policy, to say the least. However, it was rather cut and dry. Not so much confusion with it on the surface.

The problems that came about with the policy was a result of when service members started taking action based on their homophobic perceptions and stereotypes.

For instance, some sailors were harassed, abused, and, sadly, even killed because they were perceived to be a homosexual based on the way he or she talked, or walked, or, while in civilian attire, dressed.

And while that’s tragic in and of itself, additional problems were often caused when these illegally and harmfully harassed sailors attempted to tell their chains-of-command about the harassment and the COC, instead of seeing these attempts as pleas for help, saw them instead as admissions of homosexuality. As a result, many sailors were wrongfully kicked out of the navy because of the ignorance and bigotry of those who were supposed to protect them.

It was very distressing to me whenever I heard of any instance of it happening. However, it was highly rewarding for me whenever I had the opportunity to get in front of a group of senior leaders and help/make them see the light as to how to effectively execute and administer DADT and to warn them about the problems they could get into for wrongly processing a sailor out of the service.

While I am very happy that DADT was finally axed and homosexuals are now allowed serve without any restrictions to their being, it was all of that nasty DADT stuff that became the impetus for me writing my novel.

And my goal in writing it was to force the reader to have to apply his or her own values, via perceptions and stereotypes, upon the characters in and events of the story. Consequently, it was important for me as a writer to not tell the reader what I wanted them to think by way of character description, but to allow them to draw their own conclusions.

I hope the story does this effectively. I guess the results can be found in the book’s reviews.

Anyway…

I was reminded about all this the other day when I read an article by The Atlantic entitled “The Case Against Colorblind Casting.” It is a very well-written and informative piece about the challenges Hollywood has casting non-white actors and how “colorblind casting,” while admirable in its goals, is not a sustainable means to diversify the films we watch. The article highlights as an example, the recent success of Oscar Isaac, Hollywood’s current It and Everywhere Man, who, just so he would have a better chance at not being type-cast and at being able to land “ethnically flexible” roles, chose to drop his last name of Hernández.

Sure, performers have and probably always will “alter” their names to one that they feel is best received by their fans; however, having to do it just to appear “less ethnic,” reminds me of the movie “La Bamba,” where it shows how the singer Richard Valenzuela was compelled to assume the less ethnic-sounding stage name of Ritchie Valens so that he could better appeal to his white audience.

That was sixty years ago and I’m sad to report, as is evidenced by our latest Hollywood star Oscar Isaac, that it’s still happening.

Man, oh man***…

This equality stuff sure is a difficult nut to crack – witness the all-white Oscar nominees for this year’s Best and Supporting Actors/Actresses – and I’m not about to attempt to try and crack it here.

Except to say that screenwriters can certainly have a hand in keeping an open playing field for actors of all races and ethnicity by – you guessed it – laying off the descriptive details in their screenplays and leaving it up to the director to cast the best actor for the role based on the story’s content and need and not on the screenwriter’s biases.

Of course, a more diverse field of screenwriters would be most beneficial to making a crack in that nut…

You may not have noticed, but I am a very white dude**… pasty even. Even still, for what it’s worth, when I adapted my short story “Leave” into a screenplay, I wrote it so the only true limitations in casting should be because of gender – and there’s just no getting around it – there are distinct male and female roles that are critical to the story’s telling, as it is a story about the bigotry faced by the first women allowed to serve on navy combatant ships.

But as far as casting for the roles for the screenplay’s mostly bigoted and sexist male characters and a few exemplary female characters… race nor any other physical trait, apart from one that would prevent someone from being accepted into the military, should not matter to the director who will be doing the casting.

Now, I doubt my starkly written, diminutive screenplay will go far in the effort to crack Hollywood’s White Nut problem… but that’s all I got for now.

Still, I’m really looking forward to beginning the process of creating this film. And, while things are a long way from definite right now, you may just be surprised by the talented actors who already have expressed an interest in being part of the production.

I can’t wait until we reach the point where I can share it all with you.

Until then, as we say in the business…

Stay tuned!


*Yeah, I know “uncolorful” is not a real word, whatever a real word may be, but I it sounds less negative to me than “colorless” so, for what it’s worth, I’m going with it.

**gender specific

***non-gender specific

Blame it on Netflix

You’ve more than likely noticed a significant drop-off of interesting and relevant content (and by interesting and relevant content I mean posts other than this one and all the uninteresting and irrelevant others like it) lately…

Well, if Netflix would slow down on all the awesomeness it has been allowing for, then I could actually focus on some interesting and relevant writing.

You see, I’m a strong proponent for that “all things in moderation” maxim…

Except when it comes to Netflix because, baby, I be doing dome serious binging (or is it bingeing – my guess is that’s how the Brits would spell it… you know, with their love for extraneous letters and odd “proper” pronunciations, and all) for the past couple month, or so.

But hopefully things will get back on track soon as I’m just about caught up on most of my favorites such as…

Sherlock
Dexter
(lame ending)
Supernatural
(all 5000 or so episodes)
Sons of Anarchy
(yes, like everyone else I, too, have a man-crush on Jax)
Hell on Wheels
Copper
Peaky Blinders
(masterful. award-worthy)
Magic City
(bad acting but still fun)
Spartacus
(never fully recovered after Andy Whitfield, Spartacus I, died from cancer)
And many others I’m too embarrassed to admit I watched

Though, I still have some work to do on these favorites…

Foyle’s War
Ripper Street
The Walking Dead
Marco Polo

I’ve started these but probably won’t finish for lack of interest…

Breaking Bad
Orange is the New Black
Dr Who
Mad Men
House of Cards
(boring original version)

But all things have come to a halt as the binge has begun on the crack-daddy of them all

House of Cards (awesome new version)

Oh yeah…

On second thought, it appears interesting and relevant may be lacking around here for quite some time to come…

Binge on?

Binge on!

 
 

Is it just me or…

Do others get excited for a flash of a second when they think they are reading a splashy headline about the literary giant Milan Kundera and then feel all bummed out when they realize it’s actually about the actor Mila Kunis and then feel even more bummed out when they realize they couldn’t stop themselves from reading the entire vapid article?