Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween


This post is dedicated to the memory of James Moran, brutally cut down in his prime by a carelessly wielded copy of Adobe Photoshop. Clickyclicky for biggybiggy.

We have our pumpkin, about to carve it up, got loads of scary movies to watch, and will be ignoring the door buzzer in case any deranged killers are on the loose. It's common sense, really. Have a spooky Halloween - and don't search Google Images for 'crime scene photos' when looking for pics to edit yourself into, because there are bad, bad things on there.

Monday, October 30, 2006

We like short shorts

Could you tell a story in just 6 words? Apparently, the most famous example is Hemingway's "For sale: baby shoes, never worn". Wired asked several writers to come up with a 6 word short story, and you can see the results here. So that's today's challenge to all you scribo-bloggo-bastards out there - are you up to it? 6 words or less, no exceptions, Arthur C. Clarke went over and they disqualified him, so you're not allowed to either. Here are mine so far:
  • This won't hurt a bit - oops...

  • "Let's play 'Chicken'", thought the pilot.

  • Things changed after adopting the Tyrannosaur.

  • Slowly, Jeffrey ate himself.

For further fun with brevity, check out Four Word Film Reviews, and Phil's regular movie haikus, of which my favourite one is still The Constant Gardener.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Black Book, and the Space Virus

Fucking space virus. Again, to clarify for new readers, it's not a cold/flu/whatever - it's a mutated alien space virus, which roams the galaxy seeking out unsuspecting folk like me. Every time I get it, I actually die and am reborn, it's the only way to shake it off. Bastard thing. I wish I could be shrunk down, somehow injected into myself, so I could find it and beat it the fuck up. It was fast this time, too. Monday morning, felt fine. 11.30am, thought "hmm, I think I might be coming down with something". Five hours later, I was in the midst of a full on attack of Spacius Virusesius (Latin for Space Virus), bunged up nose, streaming eyes, sore throat, cough, shakes, and mild madness (that last one is normal though).

Tuesday I stayed in bed, until the evening, when I dragged myself out to see Paul Verhoeven's new masterpiece, Black Book. No way I was missing seeing the man himself in person. It's a fantastic piece of work, layered, complex, no easy answers, and devastatingly harsh. All the actors excel themselves, the script is superb, and Verhoeven seems to have found himself again after getting slightly lost in the past few years. The Q+A was great fun, Mr V was in very good form as usual. They opened it up for questions from the audience, which were all good, except for some fucking idiot who decided to deliver a long speech about the movie that wasn't a question, but ended with a slightly upraised tone...? So that it sounded like a question...? But wasn't really one...? The audience were clearly annoyed with the guy, waiting for him to just ask a bloody question, but he wouldn't shut up for ages. People like him just enjoy the sound of their own voice, and all they want to hear from the filmmaker is "wow, you're absolutely right, what a fascinating insight, come and work with me in Hollywood, here's millions of dollars". Listen: it's a Q+A, they never last long, it might be the one chance we'll all get to hear the guy speak, we are NOT here to hear you talk about yourself, so shut. The fuck. Up. Also (while I'm on the subject of idiots at Q+A's), don't ask questions that would require a 20 minute answer, like "what do you think of the post 9/11 themes in Asian horror as it pertains to their culture?", and don't ask a "quick question" that is actually a multipart question with 78 questions jammed in.

I'm ill, I can rant if I want. Anyway, masterpiece, Verhoeven back on form, fun Q+A, apart from Film Theory Twat. And everyone was great at my Severance Q+A's, they asked cool, fun questions that I could answer, thankfully. So I'm not talking about you. But you, there, at the back - yes, you. You're naughty.

Thoroughly enjoyed Torchwood, was worried that the curse of Spin Off-itis might have struck it, but it works really well. I like the setup, I like the cast, the characters, the writing, the direction, very happy and relieved. Very interested to see where it goes from here. Everyone else is pitching their oar in about Robin Hood, so I don't need to, and I'm sure you've all made your own minds up. What I will say though, is that nothing could ever beat one of my favourite movies, Errol Flynn in "The Adventures of Robin Hood". Made in 1938, it's massively good fun - it's got tights, grown men slapping their thighs, hearty laughing, hissable villains (Claude Rains! Basil Rathbone!), non stop action (stunt men wearing padding were paid to take arrow hits in the chest, in the archery tournament a championship archer splits the 2nd arrow FOR REAL, with no trick camera shots), witty dialogue (-"You speak treason" -"Fluently!"), and probably the best final showdown between hero and villain ever committed to celluloid. All that, and it's in Technicolour, too. Historical accuracy is one of the first casualties of the evil Prince John, but if you haven't seen it, you're really missing out.

Monday, October 23, 2006

iWrong

The iPod is five years old as of today. Happy birthday, iPod! The original one was 5GB, bigger, had a mechanical scroll wheel, and was Mac only. Now they're all, like, magic and stuff.

This has been floating around the place, but I can't resist - the MacRumours forum thread from the day the iPod was originally announced. Filled with outraged shrieks of "it'll never catch on" and "why oh why" and "nobody will buy this", it's hilarious. Check it out, and smile to yourself, smugly, from your lofty position here in The Future.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Bluey freshness

Behold, the new layout! Are you beholding it? I don't know if you are. Behold a bit harder. I spent a few hours playing around with the new layout stuff, using a test blog, because I'm not stupid (well, not that stupid), and decided to go for it. I could have kept the old template, but I had customised it so much, it would have taken bloody ages to sort out, so I swept all the old stuff away, and started fresh. Which meant losing my fancy header image that took so long to make. But don't worry, look - over there, on the right, it's a new image - behold, the PenSpork!

So now my labels are in the right place under each post, I have a fancy new archive system, the labels are all listed in the sidebar too, and it all looks clean and simple. And blue. Very, very blue. But blue means clean, if you've ever looked at cleaning fluids and powders, they're all either blue or have blue bits in. Fact.

Anyway. A moment of silence for my old template, please. No flowers necessary, just cash.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Possible upcoming changes

Switched over to the new Blogger beta last week, which is why you're now seeing fancy labels at the end of posts. Haven't yet gone the final step of switching my template to the new Layouts thing - I'm using a standard template, but tweaked for different colours, header image, and sidebar stuff. But I really, really want to switch over, because it looks so much better. If I switch, I'll either spend ages making it look the same as it does now, or I'll just pick a brand new template, and abandon the current design with my fancy header image. There are some nice, minimal templates available, that will save me a lot of trouble. So what do you think? Clean and minimal, or the current design? I'll probably still put a picture of the pen and spork in the sidebar, even if I go for the minimal one. It'll also be nice to be able to switch templates without having to spend ages fiddling, then I can just copy a chunk of stuff into the sidebar when I switch around. Okay, I think I'm in favour of changing. If you have strong opinions either way, speak now, or forever hold your piss.

Done the redraft of the spec comedy. Still too scared to show it to anyone. Right now, it's mine, I don't have to listen to anyone's advice, notes, suggestions, thoughts, or whatever. It's exactly what I want it to be. As soon as anyone reads it, then that part ends. But then, you have to do that at some stage, and I may as well do it sooner rather than later, otherwise it's just a file sitting on my Mac. It was a lot better than I imagined, and funnier. I thought it'd be a huge mess, but was surprised at how clean it was. My scripts are a lot tighter and leaner these days, after seeing what can be cut before filming, during filming, during editing, and so on. It's been an education.

Still trying to come up with a TV thing, apart from the secret thing that a few of us writer colleagues are working on. The time is right for me to get something on telly, and yet I'm completely devoid of inspiration. Same goes for movie stuff, everything I come up with falls apart once it's subjected to any serious thought. If it's an existing idea, I'm fine, can work away, but new stuff is impossible. I should have had loads of things ready for the post-Severance period, to take advantage of my briefly "hot" status, but just feel like I've done absolutely nothing. I get this occasionally, dry spells where I can't think of anything decent, I suppose everyone does. Probably because I *should* be coming up with stuff, right now, that's why my brain just won't co-operate. Then I get worried, and think I'll never have another original idea ever again, and start thinking about how useless and talentless I really am. I'm going to switch off, stop trying to force it, and do some general research. And watch some TV and movies. Seeing A Scanner Darkly tomorrow (hello BAFTA screenings), and Verhoeven's new one Black Book on Tuesday (another special screening, with Verhoeven doing a Q+A afterwards). Hoping to cram in Children of Men and The Departed between them. And need to make a start watching season 1 of Veronica Mars, which just arrived, something I've been dying to watch ever since I caught the first episode.

And finally... usually, when us bloggers say "the scribosphere" we're semi-pretentiously referring to all the scribo-blogs out there. Now, we can say it without fear, because it's a real website, the Scribosphere, collecting all the useful posts from a wide selection of writing blogs. Very handy, all in one place, and brand new, so check it out. I know I'm about a week late with this, and you've probably seen it reported everywhere else, but I don't care, this is my town, and we do things my way round here.

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Toilet Man Washeth

Went to a poncey meeja party the other night, which was good fun. Met Arabella Weir, who is lovely, and chatted to her for a while. Celeb-spotted Paul Whitehouse, two girls from Man Stroke Woman, Peter Capaldi, and that bloke from The Office who is always at these parties. Spent most of the evening drunkenly talking to Mat, who I'm working with on Curfew, and Paul, the writer of the upcoming movie Bad Meat, who is a fan of the blog. Hello Paul! Look, now you're on here, the whole thing has gone full circle in a bizarre and incestuous way. Doesn't it feel deliciously cheap and dirty?? Start a blog yourself, then you can post your own version, and we can comment back and forth outrageously.

Party was cool, saucy ladies in hotpants serving up free booze including some excellent cocktails, but the whole thing was slightly spoiled by Trendy Club deciding that a chatty get together would benefit from INCREDIBLY FUCKING LOUD MUSIC, so that we all had to shout into people's ears. Honestly, you're meeting new people and trying to get to know them, and every time you try to make a witty comment, it's ruined by having to scream a shorter, simpler version of it several times, directly into their ear canal. I'm only 34, I still like loud music, but not when everyone's trying to talk. Nobody was dancing, wasn't that sort of party. Sort it out, Trendy Club.

The other thing that caused awkwardness was the Toilet Man. You know exactly what I mean. Trendy Club thinks, hmm, how can we make the place look trendier? Saucy ladies in hotpants, check. Low lighting, check. And then, presumably, an Ideas Man appears.

Ideas Man: Hey! Why don't we put some black guy in the toilets!
Trendy Club: Why's that?
IM: So he can turn the tap on for you, and hand you a square of paper towel. And maybe spray you with aftershave.
TC: Can't people wash their hands unaided?
IM: We're going for celebs here, aren't we? They need EVERYTHING done for them.
TC: Good point. Won't it be horribly demeaning for him and us, though?
IM: No, no, it's cool and trendy.
TC: Right. Why does it have to be a black guy?
IM: Doesn't have to be. Could be an Eastern European. As long as they don't speak much English, and are new to the country, that way we can take advantage of them and pay them shit wages. Then we can put a tip tray next to them, and guilt-trip people into tipping.
TC: Paying? To have an exploited man help them wash their hands?
IM: Tipping, not paying. It's cool.
TC: Oh.
IM: Yeah, and make sure that he's got haunted eyes, and an air of quiet dignity, like he's been forced into doing something way, way beneath him. Which he will have been.
TC: Yeah! So we can feel superior! Career's not going well, but hey, at least I'm not the Toilet Man!
IM: Now you're getting it.
TC: Thanks, Ideas Man!
IM: You're welcome. That'll be twenty five thousand pounds, please.

It drives me fucking mad. It's awkward and demeaning for everyone, and feels like a weird throwback to the fucking colonial days or something. But anyway, back to the mildly amusing story. So I walk in, and think, shit, there's a Toilet Man. I stand at the urinal, and he's fussing around behind me, doing his Toilet Man stuff for the previous bloke. The sinks are just to my left, so him and the bloke are having their whole interaction, inches away from me, while I'm trying to piss. And then, obviously, I can't piss. Bladder shy. Because of the man standing right next to me. Another pisser comes in, goes, is helped wash his hands, clink clink in the tip tray, small talk small talk, goodbye. I stand there, silently screaming at my bladder. Eventually, I give up. But I'll only have to come back if I don't go - so I zip up, walk straight into the cubicle, shut the door, and am able to piss. Compounding the awkwardness, because I've been at both the urinal and the cubicle, making it look like I'm a poncey media cokehead or something. Anyway, I come out, he "helps" to wash my hands, and then I realise my bag is in the cloakroom, with my money. I explain this, and Toilet Man says, with quiet dignity, "it's okay". As if to say, I know you're lying, but I have come to accept my lot in life, at least you did not kill me as well, I must be thankful for that. And then I leave. And do not go to the toilet for the rest of the night. Seriously. When I left, I went outside to the public toilets in Leicester Square. Couldn't face the guy again.

Yesterday my agent took me to lunch, which either means I'm highly favoured, or about to be dumped by PFD. He keeps finding more embarrassing mentions of him on the blog, but it's all enhancing his vicious reputation, so he's okay with it. He needs suggestions for a name for his new dog, a golden retriever puppy, so any ideas, send them in, apparently there's a crisp five pound note for the winner. And yes, he's already nixed my "Cujo" suggestion, for some reason. If your suggestion wins, then I'll pretend I came up with it, and pocket the cash. That's Hollywood, baby.

Did a fun interview for Zone Horror, which used to be called the Horror Channel, and now sponsors the FrightFest. There's a great review for Severance over on Weebl and Bob's website, the animated egg people who have pie-related adventures - the review is great because it is the only one that gives the proper respect to Laura Harris' wonderful hair, or "textbook hair", as the review says. It's a testament to the sorry state of movie reviewing these days that no other reviews even mentioned her hair. The bastards. Anyway, it's a cool review, even if the reviewer is sadly incorrect in his dislike for Jason Statham - I love the Stathe, me. Go to the site and watch Weebl and Bob read out emails, and find out what the "e" stands for in email.

And finally, Severance is released in France this week, so all you French people, please go and see it. The full French poster is very cool:

And no, Laura didn't actually wear anything like that saucy outfit in the movie itself, but hey, the French are two things: (1) French, and (2) not stupid. The French website for the movie is great, (click here to see a roughly translated version), with lots more content than the UK one, and a clever, fake Palisade Defence front end that I'm amazed nobody thought of doing before. Obviously "nobody" includes me, I'm not saying "hey I thought of it but everyone ignored me". Because I didn't. Nobody did. Except for those crafty French.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Still spaced out

Okay, I've just had a week of stumbling around like a zombie and not getting enough sleep. USA-UK jetlag is a bastard, it really is. Seeing as we were getting 3, 4 or 5 hours of sleep most nights, I'm surprised I'm still alive. So what have I been up to? Facing the usual post-adventure anticlimax, feeling tired, sleeping a lot, and feeling uninspired and exhausted. Sometimes the ideas just spring forth from the magical writing well, other times, like last week, I just can't get my head around anything at all. Feeling better today, but still have the nagging feeling that maybe I'll never have another good idea ever again, and will end up a penniless, bitter old drunk accosting passers by and asking if they've seen Severance, then trying to flog them a piss-stained DVD-R copy that won't play, before eventually selling my arse for a tuppenny bottle of gin. You know, the same feeling all writers get now and again. I've got stuff to work on, but just need to get back in the swing of things.

Couple of Austin wrap-up links and stuff for Severance while I'm here:

Severance is the 2nd highest rated movie of the entire Fantastic Fest - we came 2nd to Pan's Labyrinth, which is a fucking masterpiece, so it's a total honour even to be anywhere near it in the ratings. Update: As of yesterday, it was the top rated, which is madness. Madness!

Some AICN reviews from people who were at the Fest, first one here, second one here, and third one here.

Feeling ill? Injured? Call Chris DeBurgh. He's got healing hands. Lady in reeeeeeeeed, is healing your pain, etc etc. What he doesn't tell you is that his evil monobrow causes the pain in the first place. Apparently he "healed" some guy's sore leg, and the next day the leg - get this - WASN'T QUITE AS PAINFUL. Wow! Because as we all know, pain never ebbs away over a period of time, but rather remains constant until you die. Or get healed. By Chris DeBurgh.

Oh, and my agent has found this blog. My extremely handsome, intelligent, well-dressed agent. Who never beats me with a stick, not even when I really deserve it. No, I, er, walked into a door. Several times, over a period of years.