Friday, December 14, 2007

Where in the world in Ronnie Pudding?

Hey there. I suppose some of you must be wondering whatever happened to old Ronnie. Did he OD on expired pain-killers and Sterno? Did he go back to the pokie for something sodomy related? Did he just get too damn lazy to update his blog anymore? The short answer to all those questions is YES. However I must add few "howevers" in there, 1) being the fact that Bioshock's been taking up a bit more of my time than I'd like to admit (yet just did), 2) being the fact that I've been working on a script for DEEP VENGEANCE III: THE HARVESTING which will be found in lesser-known video stores everywhere sometime in 2008, and 3) being the fact that I've been posting a screenwriting advice column over at BOX OFFICE PSYCHICS, a web site run by some Hollywood types I know.

Check it out, it's a pretty cool site and they seem to update more than once a year.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Ronnie Pudding's Year End Movies-in-Review: 2006

I get a lot of email from would-be wordsmiths asking me how to go about learning the craft of screenwriting. The first thing I tell them is to mail me a cashier's check for 200 dollars. Then I tell them that the best way to LEARN how to WRITE movies is to WATCH movies. That's right. You'll glean more from a stack of DVD's than you'll ever get from 100 semesters at some fancy-assed rich-kid school like Wesleyan or USC. Which is why old Ronnie makes it a point to watch AT LEAST 3 or 4 movies a month, whether by sneaking into the 2 dollar theater or by stealing the Netflix envelopes from his neighbor's mail.

There were a lot of movies released in 2006. Some were hits. Most were shit. But I was able to learn a little something from even the worst of them. Below is a list of the ones I was sober enough to remember along with my thoughts. Hope you enjoy. And if you're at the Tit Pit in Van Nuys on December 25th just ask the bartender which drunken sod is Ronnie Pudding, and be sure to buy him a drink.

LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE – Fox Searchlight is Rupert Murdoch’s “arthouse” division. What they do there is pretty much genius: Take 80’s sex comedies, put a bunch of dysfunctional middle-aged folks in ‘em, and wait for the Oscar buzz. Now why didn’t I think of that? LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE was fine for what it was; however, I liked it better when it was called National Lampoon’s “Vacation.” Greg Kinnear: Chevy Chase you are not. And there will never be a Rusty as good as Anthony Michael Hall.

DEVIL WEARS PRADA – Anne Hathaway made her career playing the quirky waifish klutz who can’t walk in heels and probably drools milk from her nose. She’s like Ugly Betty, only hot. And a princess or something. This time the princess goes to Manhattan and gets a job as the assistant for a power-mad fashion-mag cooze (a character who embodies every reason why women should not be allowed to hold positions of authority) who is played capably by either Glenn Close or Meryl Streep. Of course there’s a gay friend, and a boyfriend who just doesn’t get her. Anyway, instead of stabbing her whack-job boss in the eye with a letter opener like I would’ve done, the princess discovers the vile old gash has a human side and learns a little something about herself in the process. This is the kind of movie Hollywood used to squirt out like Tequila shits. It’s serviceable, well-made, well-written, but unexceptional. Which in 2006 means it was one of the best films of the year.

YOU, ME AND DUPREE – Someone please kill all parties involved immediately.

THE DEPARTED – What a piece of shit. Like the rest of his Easy Riding-Raging Bull brethren, Marty Scorsese’s talent dried up with his coke drips. It’s ironic that Scorsese can no longer direct and Robert DeNiro can no longer act. Yet now DeNiro can now suddenly direct like a motherfucker, and Sorsese’s acting in various bit parts has been better than anything Bob’s done since CASINO. Maybe they switched bodies like in some wacky Whoopie Goldberg movie.

BORAT – For many filmgoers, Borat was their first experience of man-on-man tea-bagging in cinema. But as former lead jizz-mopper at the TomKat Theater I thought it was old hat. Still there were plenty of other laughs to be had, especially of the making-fun-of-foreigners variety. Just don’t let anyone fool you into thinking there was some sort of social commentary going on here. Inventing imaginary subtext is a great way to get over the guilt of laughing at Jew jokes, but it’s also 100% pure bullshit.

THE FOUNTAIN – Oh, okay that was… huh? So he was… wait. You mean -- huh? Yeah… okay, so but… what? Huh? HUH?

CLERKS II – With the exception of the original CLERKS, Kevin Smith’s films have the staying power of left-over Kung Pao Shrimp. Though this belated sequel doesn’t come close to reaching the same comedic heights of its predecessor, on my original viewing I LOL’ed several times. However, a recent screening of the DVD left me wondering was what the fuck I’d laughed at the first time through. It’s common knowledge that Kevin Smith is the worst working director since Ed Wood. Even Uwe Boll’s cinematic abortions come closer to hitting the mark. Watching a Kevin Smith film is like watching your brother’s now-middle-aged grunge band attempt a reunion show. It’s embarrassing as fuck, but the nostalgia keeps the forced grin from falling off your face during their butchered rendition of Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy.”

JUST MY LUCK – Just my tax-shelter. The reason Lindsay Lohan hasn’t been run out of town with a bag of rats over her head a la Chuck Norris in Missing In Action is obvious: Her tabloid coke-whore antics give her enough star-power to justify the huge padded budgets of her films -- enough so the Wall Street hedge funds won’t question all the zeros on the end of the bottom-line – yet she also packs enough box office poison to guarantee her films never enter the black. One off-shore account and a few invoices from ficticious CGI firms later, you’ve got a producer with enough cash to arm a small nation. Say in the Middle East someplace.

APOCALYPTO – Great fucking name for a metal band. Didn’t see the movie but I’m stealing that name. “Hello Reseda! We are… APOCALYPTO!” (crowd screams). “This song is called… “LYVYNN…YNN… SYNN!!!” (more screams followed by a salvo of soiled groupie-panties).

HOSTEL – Eli Roth is the like the former math-club dork trying to reinvent himself as a beat writer by putting on a beret, going down to the local Peet’s Coffee poetry slam and spouting 5 minutes of obscenity-laden word-salad about the drugs and deviant sex he’s never actually indulged in. I didn’t even make it far enough through Hostel to witness any of the supposedly graphic torture scenes. After 15 minutes I’d decided whatever fates Roth’s unbearable characters faced weren’t nearly as sadistic as what I was inventing for them (and Roth for that matter) in my head.

SUPERMAN RETURNS OR BEGINS OR WHATEVER – The latest Hollywood trend is the “reboot.” A young, hip director is given the task of reinventing a long-standing franchise so it appeals to the more “sophisticated” modern audience. The end-result is usually a boring, unwatchable, dreary piece of shit with dour heroes that have been made more “human” because they have AIDS or something. Such was the case with Bryan Singer’s “reboot” of Superman. Basically it was a remake of Richard Donner’s Superman without any of the pesky fun. Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane was perhaps the worst performance in modern cinema. She should stick to vomiting her lunches and leave the real acting to actors. And frankly Brandon Routh’s spin as Superman was so forgettable that I’m still not even sure Superman was actually IN the movie. I hope this franchise goes down like a 747 full of box-cutter-armed Arabs.

CASINO ROYALE – Yet another “reboot.” This one was a little better than the rest mainly due to the French hop-fu action care of Sebastien Foucan. But if you’re expecting a 007 armed to the teeth with Sharper Image on Viagra gadgets, saving the world from effeminate mad-scientists while railing a parade of hot sluts with names like “IVANA SUKAYACOCK” and “PLEEZ SHITONMYFACE” you’ll be SORELY disappointed. Worth a view, but it’s no VIEW TO A KILL.

FLYBOYS – Just kidding, I didn’t see it either.

HAPPY FEET – I’ve heard it’s great, but I hate penguins. FUCKING HATE THEM. I will never see a movie with penguins in it.

SLITHER – It’s a fucking SHAME that SLITHER slipped under the radar of, well… pretty much every one on Earth. Universal’s marketing team should be executed for sweeping this gem under the rug (and thus ensuring there will never be a laugh in any of the pointless, irony-free horror remakes Hollywood keeps spewing out like candida cheese). Full of subtle nods to 80’s classics like NIGHT OF THE CREEPS, STUFF, BRAINDEAD and RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, James Gunn’s SLITHER is easily one of the best horror films since the genre’s break-dancing era heyday. It’s also one of the best films of the year.

CRANK – Imagine eating three boxes of Sour Patch Kids, washing it down with a 10-gallon drum of Red Bull, snorting a WWII Nazi helmet full of pure Colombian booger-batter then shooting a crank case full of biker-meth straight into your eyeball. I have no idea what the fuck this movie was about, but I left the theater with my teeth ground down to stubs and a nest of imaginary tweak-bugs borrowed under my epidermis. Best movie of the year.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Adventure Camp

Drugs can do strange things to a person. My buddy Rodney, for instance, once got so dusted on PCP that he was convinced he could jump his wheelchair to the moon. He spent the night building a ramp out of particleboard he’d pinched from the site of a partially constructed strip mall. Lord knows how he was able to drag all that wood down to the ravine in such a short span of time. PCP super-strength I guess. Unfortunately, the super powers did not extend to his wheelchair jumping abilities. He managed to get a good 15 feet in the air – impressive – but not enough to convince gravity to let him reach the moon. He fell down into the ravine and ended up breaking his spine in three places, paralyzing the parts of him that hadn’t already been paralyzed. On the bright side, Medicare gave him one of those Stephen Hawking computers that let you talk like a robot. We've killed many a post-NFL Sunday afternoon making crank calls on the voiceputer, telling people we're terminators from the future (and you'd be surprised how many people out there actually BELIEVE in terminators from the future – kudos to James Cameron for stealing an idea from Harlan Ellison which years later still resonates with the general public). Crank calls are like finger-banging 10th graders; you never quite grow out of it. Even Rodney admits, it almost makes the whole quadriplegic deal worth it.

My sister’s another matter. Evelyn took some acid at a Grateful Dead show and saw Jesus. Nothing so unusual about that; hell, I once did 13 whip-its in a row and saw Jesus, Mohammed and Michael McDonald riding on a tandem bike, singing a barbershop rendition of Starship's "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now." Unfortunately Evelyn took her heavenly hallucinating to heart. Even after an evening of running through the Crisco Dome parking lot naked screaming, "Christ is the answer," to the hippies whom she thought were giant mechanical flying beavers, even after gulping OJ in the back of a VW camper with Bob Weir's personal trip guide until she came down enough to comprehend time as both linear and perpetually in motion, even after a 30-day stint in the County psyche ward where they pumped her full of anti-psychotics until she finally stopped smearing crucifixes on the walls in her own poop, Evelyn remained steadfast in her conviction that she'd been hand-picked by J.C. to carry out his work. Evelyn swore off the drugs, swore off the hooking and accepted Jesus in her heart as her personal savior in front of the entire First Church of Christ's Good News congregation. I didn't hear from Evelyn for a few years after that. She'd joined her church's ministry and was traveling the world doing missionary work (ironic, since Evelyn's previous job required a lot of missionary work, as well as some doggie-style and reverse cowgirl). When I finally got her call I thought for sure Rodney had figured out how to change the voice patch on his Hawking box and was giving me a taste of my own delicious medicine. But nope, it was Evelyn alright, asking me to teach a screenwriting course at Adventure Camp.

Adventure Camp was the First Church of Christ's Good News' way of reaching out to troubled youth and schooling them about the power of Jesus. They held it every summer on some land that had been graciously donated to them by a neo-Nazi militia group out in South Dakota. The camp's activities were pretty standard: arts and crafts, canoeing, tee-pee making, and of course fire bombing local abortion clinics. But this year the First Church wanted to add something different to their agenda. After the rampant success of religious films like The Omega Code and Mad Max's Passion of the Jesus the ministry realized that anti-Semitic tracts and Molotov cocktails weren't the only ways to spread the Loving Message of the Holy Savior. Sure, those standards were tried and true, but in the age of internets and DVD's nothing spread the Good Word faster than moving pictures. And seeing as I was an actual screenwriter who'd taken four actual meetings with four actual studio executives, I was the first person on their list to teach those little Jehovah-lovin' juveniles the nuts and guts of Showbiz. Right behind the guy who directed Ice Pirates anyway, and he'd already said no.

I was initially hesitant. I never cared much for Bible-thumpers, but more importantly I was a firm believer in that old adage: "Those who can do; those who can't teach screenwriting at religious camps." But soon after Evelyn told me about the $1000 stipend, I had a change of heart. Who was I to keep all this knowledge to myself? Shouldn't I do for these kids what I wished someone had done for me, and pass along the wisdom I'd gleaned from those 2 long years of Hollywood hard knocks? At worst my mentoring might save them the trouble of orally servicing every lit agent who frequents the Boys Cellar glory hole; or at least the ones who work at Gersh. What the hell, I thought. I quickly checked South Dakota's age of consent laws and called Evelyn back to tell her I'd take the gig.

I did question my judgment on the long ride from the airport to the campgrounds. My driver Elmer was a swastika-tattooed skinhead who hated Hollywood types more than he hated people with skin pigment. I was sweating bullets when he told me I had "Jew eyes" and asked repeatedly if I associated with "chicken-loving moon crickets, like in the rap videos." But I was instantly reassured once introduced to the largely female, largely breasted teens who comprised my class. My first order of business was assigning the job of teacher's aide to the two most largely-breasted of the lot – Tiffany and Sharlene – and issuing them their mandatory teacher's aide thong bikinis. Then I smoked a little pot – just enough to take the edge off my coke hangover – put on some mood-music (Loggins and Messina of course), and proceeded to dazzle the class with a few Tinsel Town anecdotes:

I told them about the time I saved Eric Roberts from Albanian terrorists who wanted to use his testosterone to fuel an ICBM missile they were going to shoot at the moon. I told them about the time I helped Craig T. Nelson and Joel Silver bury the hooker they'd accidentally decapitated at the Action Jackson premiere after-orgy. I told them about the time I jury-rigged a heart fibulator using a Tiffany's desk lamp and roll of pennies and pulled Elisabeth Shue back from the arms of the reaper after she'd OD'ed on biker meth in Courtney Thorne-Smith's hot tub. Then, once the God Squad had been sufficiently seduced by my tales of Hollywood Adventure, I rolled up my sleeves and proceeded to teach them the adages to which I owe it all: MY TEN RULES OF SUCCESFUL SCREENWRITING.

Rule # 1: Your Protagonist Must Always Be A Heterosexual Male (Preferably With a Scar)

This should go without saying, but you’d be surprised how many aspiring screenwriters are out there trying to write the next Thelma and Louise or Brokeback Mountin.’ Empowered rape victims and cock-gobbling cowboys are great characters if you want to get a feature piece written about you in Harper’s or Out Magazine, but if you’re trying to write a movie people will actually watch you’d better make your hero believable, i.e. male and straight as the day is long. You think some skirt’s gonna battle to the death with a slimy, carnivorous space ALIEN? You think some quiche-eating, poncy fu-fu is gonna save the Earth from a nefarious race of pod-creatures bent on waging a WAR OF THE WORLDS? Yeah right. The scar, while technically optional, should only be left out if the main character is a cyborg and/or has super-skin that is impervious to damage. Because any real man capable of delivering the goods will have SOME sort of visible scar. You think you get to the point of your life where you’re a down-and-out cop fed up with the system who decides to take the law into his own hands without getting slashed with a straight-razor at least ONCE? Fuck no. Scars are what separate the men from the boys.

Rule # 2: Your Female Love Interest Must Have Large Breasts

Your protagonist is about take on a battalion of robot ninjas in order to save the senator’s daughter who’s strapped to a thermo-nuclear warhead which is five minutes away from detonating. Do you honestly think he’d be doing this if said damsel were flat-chested?

Rule # 3: Give Your Characters Names

Simply referring to your main characters as DUDE WITH SCAR and CHICK WITH BIG TITS is not enough. In order for the audience to make an emotional investment in your characters, they should have names like actual human beings (and this holds true even for cyborgs). When naming characters I usually take someone I know and give them a clever spin. For instance Dennis Mattingly was the name of my old foreman at the shoe factory, the one who fired me for allegedly sniffing the adhesive we used to attach the soles to our knock-off Pumas. So when I needed a name for the villain in my spec script Angry Heat, I thought of that old drunk bastard and Satan-worshipping bio-terrorist DENNIS FAGGOTLY was born. You’ll note that I changed the spelling just enough so the asshole can’t sue me. Fuck you, Dennis! I win!

Rule # 4: Make A Cool Drawing For the Cover Sheet

You think the creative execs reading your script want to see the same old boring white piece of paper with the title and contact information printed legibly in 12-point courier? Fuck no. Which is why for Deep Vengeance I spent two whole days drawing up a scimitar-wielding centaur disemboweling a dragon on top of an exploding volcano. Were there any centaurs or dragons or volcanoes in Deep Vengeance? Fuck no. But it was the most bitching drawing I’d done since the sketch of Iron Maiden’s Eddie on the back of my 8th grade science book. The script didn’t sell, but I got many compliments vis-à-vis the detailed line-work on the dragon’s leathery wings.

Rule # 5 – Rule # 10

I don’t have any hard and fast rules for 5 through 10. I generally just make it up as I go along. I couldn’t tell you what I made up for the kids at Adventure Camp. After rule #4 I blacked out and woke up six weeks later in a dumpster behind the Van Nuys Denny’s. But I did manage to leave quite the impression on the youngsters in my class. In fact, I scared the living shit out of them. As it turns out, the joint I’d smoked before the lecture had been one of Rodney’s “illies” soaked in embalming fluid and PCP. According to Evelyn, after attempting (and thankfully failing) to cut off my own cock with a protractor, I set fire to a stack of Jack Chick anti-evolution tracts and ran out of the room screaming “monkey fire hydrant” at the top of my lungs. Drugs can do strange things to a person. But at least I made an easy thousand bucks and -- more importantly -- was able to touch the hearts and minds of some of today's youth. Well, not JUST their hearts and minds. Which, thanks to South Dakota's lax age of consent law, is PERFECTLY legal. Huzzah!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Now we’re fucked

Darwin’s laughing from the grave, that beardy old bastard.

Yes it seems sharks have finally mastered flight. Time to give back the keys to the food chain's executive washroom, we’ve just been handed our evolutionary pink slip.

Reality TV could be blamed. Or the Bush Administration. Or low-carb beer, or MySpace, or iPods, or Paris Hilton, or M. Night Shyamalan, or Matt Lauer, or Chingy, or that fucking “My Humps” song, or the appetizer menu at TFI Friday’s, or the Illuminati, or midgets, or space-zombies, or electric-invisible-robot space-zombies. But alas these are mere symptoms of the greater malady, the tell-tale cancer-cough of a species that’s been on a de-evolutionary trajectory since ‘round 'bout the Industrial Revolution.

Yeah, stupid people are breeding faster than the smart people, and yeah our first-world cultures have become anti-intellectualized to the point that doctoral dissertations are now littered with smileys and text message truncations. Like the dinosaurs and the sasquatches before us, we've become as anachronistic as leg warmers to a quadruple amputee. But unlike the dinosaurs and sasquatches, it won't be a moon-sized meteor or vengeful blow-torch-wielding Santa Claus that will be blamed for our demise; our extinction will be chalked up to our own damned apathy. Oh, and the flying sharks.

Our plunge into the chum-bucket of obsolescence should come as a shock to no one; the fat lady's been riffing that final refrain of our requiem for nearly a century. But did we ever once attempt to right our path? Did we rally together as a species to make a concentrated effort to wipe the Cheet-o dust off our temporal lobes and get back to the business of mastering space-time so we could finally build the starfleet that would allow us to visit distant galaxies -- populated by benevolent aliens living in peaceful, utopian societies -- and crush them? Of course not. We were too busy playing Date Rape Mario on our Nintendo DS. And while we were all complacently slipping back into the primordial ooze, too tied up with our XBOX360’s and celebrity gossip blogs to even notice or care, guess what was happening?

The sharks were plotting.

The sharks were scheming. The sharks were biding their time. Our existence was but a blip on their evolutionary time-line -- a heredity dating back 450 million years. They knew all too well we'd eventually get too damn fat and lazy to serve any ecological purpose but feed for their trough. They knew they'd eventually reclaim their rightful place at the top of the Natural Selection Pyramid. All they had to do was sit. And wait. And learn to fly.

The sharks are coming, people. And there's nothing we can do to stop them.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Delirium Tremens

The best part about binge drinking is obvious; the drinking. The worst part’s a little harder to put a finger on, but I’d have to say it’s when you wake up after a six-day blackout locked in the walk-in freezer of a Chuck E. Cheese, chained to a pallet of mozzarella sticks with nothing but an anthropomorphic rat suit for warmth and nary a drop of liquor in sight.

Which pretty much describes my Sunday night. The details of how I’d ended up there probably aren’t important; I’ll have to assume that’s the case since the part of my brain hosting those memories has been closed for repairs. All I know is I woke with a chill, thinking I’d left the A/C on high again, only to find myself in that icy -- yet delicious -- cavern of death. My first instinct was to check my back for sutures. The last time I woke up with nipples this hard I’d been left in a bathtub full of Otter Freezer Pops short one set of kidneys (thankfully the organ thieves -- on discovering the kidneys’ state of disrepair -- decided to return my vital organs. They did make me give back the Otter Pops, though). From what my frost-bit fingers could feel through the fake rodent fur, everything was in place. So I shook the sandman-spunk out of my eyes and set out in search of a solution for what was now my most pressing concern: Finding a drink, and fast.

See, the DT shakes had already set in. For those of you unfamiliar with delirium tremens, think of it as nature’s way of telling you "it’s Miller time." The boozy-jigglies usually aren’t much of a problem since I’m rarely without a can of giggle-juice in spitting distance, and it only takes a Tall Boy or two to steady my hand so I can get back to operating the drill press. But there in that freezer I was pretty sure I was shit out of luck. Still, I figured I’d honor my alma mater and give it the old Harvard try (I refer of course to the Harvard Lewis School for Wayward Boys). I tore that freezer apart looking for something, anything, containing alcohol.

Unfortunately my initial hunch was correct. There were frozen sundries a-plenty but not even a bag of daiquiri mix I could suck on. I tried licking the sauce off a carton’s worth of tequila-mango buffalo wings for a buzz with no success. In a panic I even tried fermenting beer using pizza dough yeast and my own urine. Alas, my name was failure. So I sat down and prepared myself for the inevitable hallucinatory hell-ride I knew was only moments away.

Don’t think the irony escapes me that the most harrowing part of delirium tremens is something I’d been known to pay good money for; namely, hallucinations. But the DT-variety trip is not the consciousness-expanding talking rainbows we’ve come to expect from a hit of windowpane at the Pink Floyd laser show. The DT’s namesake delirium is more like experiencing one’s own death via every means Earthly possible for 6 straight hours. It was not a journey for the faint of heart or weak of spirit. Still, it hadn’t been the first time and probably wouldn’t be the last, and if a 40% mortality rate (as is associated with alcohol withdrawal) was going to faze me I’d have never tried snorting drain cleaner (an experiment I considered mostly a success). “Come on, you bastards!” I screamed at the vampire-fanged spiders that were now materializing from the freezer walls, “I’m ready for ya!”

There’s no describing the sheer horror I experienced next; but as a writer, I’ll do my best to try. Frozen Chicken Dippers transformed into miniature demons that poked my eyes with pitch-forks. Cheez-N-Bacon Potato Peelin's morphed into wolverines that tore my flesh with razor-sharp teeth. Spicy Garlic Breadstix Bites grew ten-inch spikes and launched themselves at me with the velocity of a Randy Johnson fastball. I screamed, I gnashed my teeth, I tore out clumps of my own hair in panic, not knowing if the next terrifying second would be my last. And then, just when I’d about given up on life and was ready to let the fiendish fire-breathing jalapeño poppers finish me off, an angel appeared. My guardian angel. Hooch.

That’s right. The lovable French mastiff from American cinema’s Turner & Hooch.

"Hello Ronnie," Hooch said, sounding a bit like Scoobie Doo only with a French accent.

"Hi there, old friend," I replied. "Looks like Mr. Pudding's gone and done it again. So is this it? Am I gonna die?"

"Ruff-ruff-ruff!" he laughed. "We're all gonna die someday. But you've still got a lot of work to do spreading the Good Lord's message. The message of the power of dance."

"The power of dance?" I queried in inner-dialog. Because before I could get the words out of my mouth, Hooch had disappeared in a puff of vanilla-scented smoke as the freezer door burst open and an army of police, firemen and EMT's poured in. In a matter of moments I was on a gurney and on my way to the Cedar-Sinai detox wing.

Seems my blood-curdling screams had alerted a security guard to my presence. But were it not for Hooch and his cryptic message about the power of dance, I surely would have died convulsing in a slush-puddle of my own bloody vomit, bile and piss there on the cold Chuck E. Cheese freezer floor. And just what did Hooch mean with all that business about the power of dance? I'm not sure, but I'm guessing it has something to do with my newest spec script (it used to be about zombie ninjas but after a quick rewrite it's now about DANCING zombie ninjas). All I know for certain's that if my writing can affect someone the way Dennis Shryack, Michael Blodgett, Daniel Petrie Jr., Jim Cash and Jack Epps Jr. affected me with their script for Turner & Hooch, maybe I can save a life the way they saved mine. And at the end of the day, isn't that WHY we write? To save lives?

I know it's why I do it. Well, that and the 7-figure paydays. And the cocaine. And the banging Asian hookers four at a time in a Chateau Marmont bungalow. But mostly, it's about saving lives.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Scientology Warning! OT Level 7 may turn your sperm Chinese!

“Hello, Mr. Cruise? This is Dr. Rolando from the sperm bank. Seems there’s been a bit of a mix-up.”

“What do you mean ’mix-up’?”

“You said you wanted a donor with exceptional intelligence, good health, and all that, right? Well you can rest assured our donor holds a PhD from MIT and is in perfect physical condition. But the thing is… “

“Will you get to the point? I’ve got Thetan auditing in 10 minutes. Crazy Xenu demons are killing me.”

“The thing is, when you said you wanted a Caucasian donor, well… we sort of skipped over that first part."

"Which part?"

The ‘c-a-u-c’ part. Simple clerical error, really.”

“Just what are you trying to say?”

Don't let the blue-gray eyes foool you. I’ve seen kids less Asian-looking pulling rickshaws through Tiananmen Square. Apparently the Cruises patronize the same “children who look nothing like their adoptive parents” black market baby ring where Michael Jackson gets all his golden-haired technical incest victims. I guess growing up in the lap of luxury is a better way to spend one’s childhood than stitching together knock-off Gucci bags in some Chinese government-run sweatshop, but considering poor Suri’s going to have to listen to round-eye daddy drooling out non-sequiturs about how modern psychiatry invites infestation by invisible space squids I’d say just barely.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Apparently “pitching” has a completely different meaning than the one I learned in prison

This is unfortunate. I never had to do hard time like my manager Murray, but the stint I served for stealing lawn-mowers in the early 90’s did teach me the value of a good forced buggering for the purpose of establishing social hierarchy. A “pecking order” if you will.

At McLean-Stevenson Correctional Center we had “pitchers” and “catchers.” The fuckers and the fucked. What side of the fence you sat on was decided your first day in. There’d be orientation in the morning, lunch followed sport activities in the yard such as tether ball, then some light rape. McLean-Stevenson being a medium security facility, we didn’t resort to wanton shanking like at your harder calabooses. This was a kinder, gentler penitentiary with a focus on reform over retribution. Toothbrush shivs were reserved for only the direst of situations. Thus gang-bangs were enforced with mere rough name-calling and a cudgel made from a tin of Spam stuffed in an old sweat sock. Nobody took one up the digestive tract unless they really wanted it. If you stood your ground and fought like a man you’d earn instant cell-block cred and were generally given first crack at the next piece of sweet-meat rolling in for a six month stretch.

So you can imagine my surprise when Murray (no stranger to prison love) explained to me the do’s-and-don’ts of “pitching” as it pertains to the outside. Because it sounded a lot more like “catching” to me. After 3 re-schedules I’d go in and dance like a hambone minstrel for some sub-Ivy League pedigreed executive, practically offering up my baboon-red posterior for his ill-formed abortion maker to vandalize? Then, after withdrawing his spent unit and dripping syphilis-tainted DNA matter down the front of his Armani sport slacks he’d say to me “so what else you got?” I hadn’t felt this much like a whore since, well, since I was a whore. And in my tenure as a sexual service provider I never once wore the tell-tale knee pads and face mask of the bottom bitch. As a matter of fact, the few same-sex customers I took on during a financial dry-spell were only allowed to blow me through a hole in the wall of a Chevron toilet stall. I’m a lot of things, but I ain’t no fag.

Murray did his best to reassure me en route to my first pitch meeting at XYZ Productions (not the real name), the vanity imprint of a VERY IMPORTANT leading man who -- despite having recently joined a cult that worships a giant fire-breathing arthropod -- carried green-light heft at the studio where his office was situated. This was all part of the game, Murray explained, and the game is what it is. I trusted Murray. He’d been in the B.I.Z. since I was knee-high to a dung beetle and knew the in’s and out’s better than anyone. I arrived at XYZ’s bungalow lubed and ready for six inches of whatever they had to offer.

After a pat-down from security I informed the receptionist that I was to meet with Steve (his real name), VP of Production and the man directly beneath the man who mattered. I was handed a bottle of courtesy spring water then escorted to the conference room by Steve’s large-breasted assistant. Steve bounded into the room with the energy of a man operating on an exclusive diet of low-carb Red Bull and high-grade cocaine. He also exuded that false self-confidence so common to those in his position, the kind they beat into you at prep schools and those private colleges for kids with net worths far greater than their SAT scores. Even though I was the kind of guy who made him lock the doors of his Volvo SUV when he saw me on the median strip selling oranges, Steve’s body language let me know that here in THIS domain HE was king.

After making the compulsory small-talk I gave him my pitch for Giant Robot Jesus. I explained that in the wake of the monumental success of Passion of the Christ -- and what with all the buzz surrounding the forthcoming Transformers live-actioner -- it was the perfect time for a robot/religious hybrid. This was a film that answered the question: What would happen if the Son of Man was a giant robot, with shoulder-mounted rockets, who could transform into a Volkswagon micro-bus? Steve soaked it in. Or maybe he was soaking in his own piss. I couldn’t tell if his quivering was due to the large quantity of stimulants coursing through bloodstream or because he suspected he’d been left in the room alone with a madman. Steve cleared his throat and asked me, “So what else you got?”

I then launched into my pitch du resistance, the best I’d been saving for last: Die Hard With Monkeys.

“See, it’s Die Hard, right? Only with monkeys.”

“Okay… and what’s it about?”

“Die Hard. With monkeys.”

“But what happens?”

“Die Hard. With monkeys.”

“I mean what’s the story?”

“Die Hard. With monkeys.”

“No. The plot.”

“Oh, that! You’ve seen Die Hard, right?”

“Of course.”

“Replace all the terrorists with monkeys. But not just any monkeys. Super-monkeys. Experimental government monkeys.”

There was a silence. A long, awkward-as-Michael-J-Fox-on-roller-skates silence. Then Steve, mustering every ounce of his prep school instilled courage, muttered the following phrase:

“That’s the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard in my life.”

I'm still not quite sure why I reacted as I did. All I know is before he could speak the period at the end of that sentence I’d pulled the shiv out of my boot (guard missed it during the pat-down, natch) and installed a picture window in Steve’s personal-trainer-sculpted abs. I don’t remember kicking the receptionist in the tits or bludgeoning the security guard with the Oscar I’d pulled from the glass display case (Murray relayed all this to me later with much amusement). I just remember a blur of activity and waking up the next day in a safe house belonging to some of Murray’s Mexican Mafia friends.

Murray stopped by later with a bottle of tequila and filled in the blanks for me. This wasn’t the first time I’d blacked out in a violent rage and certainly wouldn’t be the last, and Murray having a legendary explosive temper himself understood that I’d merely done what I had to do. Of course there’d be repercussions. I’d have to lie low for a few months until things cooled off. I’d have to change my name, the titles of my scripts, and I’d probably have to wear a fake moustache to future meetings. But my career was far from over. In fact, it was just beginning. Hey, I didn’t get into this business thinking things would be easy. I knew there’d be a lot of hard work and occasional stabbings. But I know, in my heart of hearts, that I have the tenacity, the guts, and the TALENT to make it in this town. I’m not just some shady drifter with bad jailhouse tats and a rap sheet longer than his leg; I’m all that, AND a writer.