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Archive for the ‘For to Be a Geek’ Category

Gearing up for Prince Caspian

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Scanning through Evangelical Outpost, I came across this little gem over at BeliefNet highlighting 12 Spiritual Lessons from Prince Caspian, the novel as opposed to the film. 

I think I had started to feel a little lethargic in regard to Narnia lately.  After going through the list and getting a little refresher on the story, I’ve gotten amped again to see it.

The latest trailer did not really impress me – the film looks a little too much like a riff on The Lord of the Rings, something I think Tolkien and Lewis would be the first to agree that Narnia is most definitely not. 

Fans have nearly driven themselves ape over images from the trailers, most of which are merely quibbles.  Film is a different medium than a novel – an adaptation will sometimes involve embellishments, subtractions or additions, to make a literary story work visually.  Since Lewis left so much to the imagination in his narratives, such development is almost required. 

I make no predictions about this one.  The previous film hit more beats than it missed, but the ones it missed flew wide of the mark.  I would hate to see similar results this time around.  The strength of Caspian rests on the story.  The closer the filmmakers stick, the better the film will be. 


Written by taj

May 6, 2008 at 10:58 am

59 days and counting…

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I’m falling behind.  Some of the scenes I’m working on set up later pay-offs that the first draft didn’t really nail.  Actually, keeping with the metaphor, the hammer missed the nail completely, and splintered the wood quite badly. 

All of the easier scenes are done and just waiting to be pasted in with the whole.  But after two days, I’m about two pages short of the daily goal.  Not that the writing has been the only challenge; there was a trip to the ER last night (mother and baby are fine – no worries), and the overtime I had to work the day before. 

The trip to the ER turned out to be nothing.  Pregnancy is just strange, and the things that can signal danger can also be just as benign.  Thankfully, this was the latter. 

The overtime was a different matter, somewhat similar to that moment in ScroogedRose! You have to work late!  If you can’t work late, I can’t work late.  If I can’t work late…I CAN’T WORK LATE!  So said the fellow with whom I usually carpool.  Kind of.  He doesn’t normally call me Rose.  And I needed the money, so I wasn’t going to complain. 

Anyway, enough with the excuses.  Gotta try and hammer out six pages tonight.  And Lost is on.  (sigh) Choices. 

Written by taj

May 1, 2008 at 8:54 am

Time to do the math…

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OK.  As of today, there are 61 days to deadline to finish the screenplay.  In order to complete the second draft and get it into the hands of the people we’ve selected to give us feedback in time to complete the third draft, I’m looking at pumping out four pages a day until the current draft is complete. 

While this would normally mean I’m stepping back from the blog, I’ve decided to update my progress here as a kind of accountability.  A way to “put up or shut up” so to speak. 

So, as of this writing, two of the allotted four are complete.  Two more to go before sunset. 

As the work progresses, I’ll start to reveal details of the plot — something I’ve avoided doing thus far with some degree of intention.  So here’s the basic premise:

A dual adventure that touches two continents — A reporter searches for a lost treasure as he investigates incidents of murder and intrigue that took place in an Australian mining town in the early 20th century.  A surprise tip leads him to the untold story of an oft-ignored legend. 

That oft-ignored legend may change before submission, so for the time being, I have to keep mum.  When the second draft is completed, I’ll try to post the first ten pages, just so everyone can have a look at the work. 


Written by taj

April 29, 2008 at 2:12 pm

Indiana Jones and the Cutting Room Floor

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Hollywood Elsewhere reports Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is locked and ready to roll (HT: Looking Closer Journal) with a running time of 140 minutes plus. That makes this the longest Indy adventure of the four.

Fan chatter likes to go back and forth over issues like this, but the running time indicates little except for, well, the length.

There was an interview Steven Spielberg gave some time ago where he said his cut of Raiders ran a little over two hours. Lucas trimmed it down to 115 minutes. The trims, Spielberg had said, covered mainly the opening approach to the Hovito idol, and the climax involving Belloq open the Ark. Spielberg had envisioned a grand operatic/special effects blowout. Lucas made it leaner, he said, and the film was better for it.

140 minutes might feel a long way from lean. But some stories require more time to develop, and the magic of making a longer film work sometimes depends what ends up on the cutting room floor.

The perception of time when watching a film is very elastic. Theater houses and studios prefer shorter running times for their films to allow them to play more times in a day, and thus, earn more dollars. Or so the thinking goes. Dances with Wolves, however, upset that paradigm for the first time in decades with its release in 1990.

Its theatrical cut runs about three hours, though a recent DVD release of an extended cut of the film allows audiences a look at what dir. Kevin Costner originally left out. The new cut pushes four hours, involving minor, more character defining subplots. And it’s a bloated mess.

James Cameron obliterated the paradigm with the success of Titanic, a film he previewed for test audiences three times before settling on the final cut. Among the first complaints he received about the film involved its length — 202 minutes. Only two of the 20 people pulled aside at the final preview said it was too long. His final cut lands only seven-and-a-half minutes shorter than the first one he screened.

While less is usually more, sometimes the opposite is true. The theatrical cut of The Abyss – another Cameron epic – runs about 140 minutes. It’s a decent cut, awkward in places, particularly the ending. The story itself doesn’t really fit into one mold. It’s an undersea adventure that’s part sci-fi, part love story, part Journey to the Center of the Earth.

Cameron only previewed the film once. His audience had come indoors from a 110 degree heat wave to sit in a theater with a broken air conditioner and watch a film that pushed three hours. Feedback wasn’t exactly positive; as a result, Cameron cut 45 minutes out of the film.

In1992, Cameron went back and restored those 45 minutes on a laserdisc release. And the result is a far superior film. The middle and third acts find much greater context, especially the climactic moments involving one man’s selfless love standing in the gap for all humanity – a theme the original cut had excised completely.

A 140 minute running time takes Crystal Skull out of the typical Indiana Jones mold (the previous three installments have all kept to roughly the same length), but doesn’t bear any significance on the perceived strength of the film. Spielberg can handle a 140 minute picture. Take a gander at the trivia list over at IMDB – this film’s in good hands. I doubt it’ll disappoint.

(Quick note: many of the facts involving Titanic and The Abyss were pulled from Paula Parisi’s excellent book, Titanic and the Making of James Cameron, New York: Newmarket Press, 1998 )

Written by taj

April 17, 2008 at 8:05 pm

A question for you scholars, lay or otherwise…

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Back when I went to school in Missouri, I remember attending a lecture given by a calvinist theologian who equated the first eleven chapters of Genesis with mythology, and generally held the belief that evolution was God’s means of creation. 

That’s a terribly written generalization of the lecture, but I’m writing this on the fly.  Since I started reading up on C.S. Lewis’s understanding of myth (as in story, not mythology itself), I’ve been curious to delve a little more into those first eleven chapters, and wanted to know if anyone knew of some good books to start with. 

Andrew, I feel like I remember you tried to tackle this issue before.  Any ideas?  All other readers, you’re welcome to voice your views/suggestions too. 

Written by taj

April 16, 2008 at 1:00 pm

After the read-thru

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Just finished my first re-read of the screenplay’s first draft after leaving it on the shelf for two and a half weeks.  And it is worse than I thought.  As I said to friend earlier, it’s filled with so many holes, Clint Eastwood could take a shot at it and miss.

Over the last several weeks, I’ve read lots of screenplay material — workbooks, blogs, and screenplays I could find floating around out there on the ‘net.   Actually sitting down to hammer one of these things out, though, has made the whole thing so much more real.

I started making a detailed chart of the plot, aiming to fix the weakness the first draft highlights.  I still have some pay-offs in desperate need of a set-up.  I’ve even started playing around with changing the MacGuffin.  And, the whole thing still needs a title.

A word about the MacGuffin — coming up with something compelling, without making it look silly, is a real talent.  The perfect MacGuffin — to me, at least — was the Ark of the Covenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark.    

Three months to deadline, folks.  So, blogging’s gonna be light for a while.  I’ll pop in here and there, but I can’t promise anything really substantial.  I, and the rest of the volunteer staff that used to contribute to Infuze are all waiting for this site to take off.  When it does, I’ll hopefully be returning to movie reviews.  Till then…

Written by taj

April 3, 2008 at 10:26 pm

I have a habit of opening doors all by myself

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You’ve heard the phrase — Boy, I walked right in to that one. And one of the better retorts I’ve heard runs something like, well I left the door wide open for you. I have a habit of opening doors all by myself. Just ask the guy I carpool with.

Or this guy I know named Andrew.

I left an off-the-cuff comment on Andrew’s blog* comparing the liberal / conservative tension with the tension between Wesleyanism and Calvinism. And Andrew, well, called me out and asked me to elaborate. So here goes… 😉

While there are certain things on which Wesleyans and Calvinists do not agree, the basic precept at the heart of the matter is a love for God and Jesus Christ and the desire to live according to His will. I can see a basic similarity between Democrats and Republicans — members of both are driven by a desire to do some good.

Unfortunately, when a member of one engages a member of the other in conversation, you tend to end up with something resembling Congress — lots of talk and little progress. When the time comes to interact, both behave like something more akin to the asinus side of the Equidae family.

But there are some, like another friend I know who happens to be a Calvinist, with whom I can dialog about our differences, and we can still part as friends.

There’s a moment in an old TV show called M*A*S*H that played near the end of the show’s run. The members of the 4077 are placing items into a time capsule. Father Mulcahy, the troop’s devout and constant padre, contributes a pair of boxing gloves. Here’s hoping future wars can be settled with these, he says.

It’s one of those gestures that almost reeks with cheery, naïve sentimentality, but I always liked it. Because I really don’t think there’s anything wrong with believing that John Wesley and John Calvin, had they known each other, could have sat down at a pub, had a beer, and walked out speaking of only the best about each other.

Congress has few people of such character, though I am sure they exist. They exist in church as well, though they are difficult to find. But, such is the extent of my intended metaphor; I leave to you, reader, to draw any other underlying connections.

*Typically, I would provide a link, but won’t in this case. His site is more of a personal network blog, and I do not want to infringe on his space.

Written by taj

March 31, 2008 at 12:23 am