Latest Articles From MoviePilot

As someone who is deeply passionate about narrative fiction, film has always been something that deeply fascinates me. As such, one always wants to share their thoughts on movies and what they meant to them. Recently I was finally given a platform to try that out on, and it has been quite the adventure.

Working for MoviePilot has been a real treat, though it has taken some of my resources away from the novel. But no matter. Life as a paid writer has been extraordinarily fun and has given me a platform to speak about film. I have thus far earned 38 dollars. Not a lot, mind you. I still very much need to figure out a good formula to get my articles maximum hits. My last three didn’t exactly break a thousand.

Still, working on all of these has been a real joy, and I would like to share them with all of you.

My first article is a list of 10 Black and White horror films that in spite of their age, still scare the audience pretty good. The next is a retrospective on the original Westworld, the movie that inspired the hit HBO tv series. After that is a brief list of top 10 underrated sequels. After that is a little quickie on top 10 greatest movie taglines.

Hopefully soon these will be getting more hits. We shall see. In the meantime, please enjoy these pieces as I’m very proud of all of them. Please feel free to share as every little bit helps.

10 Black And White Horror Films That Are Still Very Scary

While Waiting For Season 2 Of ‘Westworld’, Watch The Original Classic

10 Sequels That Deserve a Second Chance

10 Taglines That Sell Their Movies Perfectly

Thanks for reading and I will be checking back with all of you soon.

 

Extreme Fandom Hurts Art

Various types of art, usually books, films and video games, are heavily influential in the lives of those they touch. They can inspire hope and change, offer new outlooks on the journey of life, and offer comfort or contemplation whenever called upon. That being said, nobody likes an extreme fan, save those in the same clan. Having a conversation with an overly devoted fan is an exercise in monotony, for a very ironic reason. Taking a fandom too far doesn’t elevate the object of their love, but sows the seeds of its destruction.

One of the earliest examples I can think of is the Star Wars vs. Star Trek Argument, one of the longest running, most hotly debated topic in Geekdom. As a modest fan of both franchises, it’s difficult for me to understand just why as the two couldn’t be more different.

Star Trek is an optimistic view of humanity’s future, discussing issues of race, economic inequality, technological responsibility, even the very definition of what life is. Star Wars is about a conflict between tradition and taking risks, focusing less on more personal stories of family, spirituality, and finding one’s purpose.

Apart from both having two word titles starting with Star, taking place in space, boasting a wide variety of cultures and creatures, and having ships that possess warp capabilities, there is not enough to justify a comparison between the two. So why is there this conflict? The only reason I can think of is both have had a large impact on culture, and each side insists they take the throne. This has had the unfortunate effect of turning many on the opposite spectrum off to the other.

In the most extreme cases of Trekkies and Warsies, many refuse to give the other property a chance on the simple basis of its title. This is done for no other reason than to spite the opposite fanbase. Not only is this childish, but its in effect robbing themselves of an opportunity to expand their own horizons. Extreme fandom in this and many other cases, has driven away some of its audience, killing whatever discussion and fellowship may have been.

This is just one way extreme fandom can hurt art. The worst comes when it actively influences it.

 

Predator is one of my favorite movies, because it’s a lot smarter than many give it credit for. Predator showcases 7 hyper macho movie stars, and destroys the 80s action hero myth by showing just how vulnerable they would be against a physically stronger and intellectually superior enemy. His weapons and physical prowess useless, the hero must rely on his wits and cunning to defeat the monster, only destroying the creature when he’s at his most vulnerable. Predator shows just how little the genre tropes really mattered, and using arguably the most recognizable action star of all time to do that was a stroke of creative genius.

This was unfortunately misunderstood by many fans, a few of whom took the Predator and destroyed it.

The Alien vs. Predator crossover franchise was for a time a pillar of science fiction, in part because it treated both its title characters with love. A screen adaptation of the property was one of the most anticipated films of its day. When it finally came, it they made the crossover series into a punchline. Amongst its crimes was the treatment of the Predator, heavily favorited by the filmmakers. Favored far too much.

In both cases, the Predator seldom faces a genuine threat, even from the Aliens it plays opposite. This is a massive contradiction as the Predator’s culture is shown to be one of challenges, and anything that doesn’t run a risk of death is not worth pursuing. It’s this risk that compels them to hunt humans and Aliens both, and it is their respect and understanding of their enemy that grants them victory. Underestimating its enemy, as in the case of Predator, is what eventually gets it killed.

But that’s not the creature we see in the AvP films. The Predator shows little caution or tact, shows no respect for its enemies, runs into situations with minimal forethought or planning, but still comes out of every tumble with only the most trivial of wounds. Sound familiar? The Predator has been changed into one of the very invincible, hyper macho action heroes it was made to critique in the first place. It is as much a contradiction as To Kill a Mockingbird endorsing racism.

In the case of Predator, it was the fault of fans who got behind the camera. Fans who were too enamored with how cool their favorite monster was to understand what made the original film, and even its underrated sequel, so special. This lack of understanding took what could have been two great movies and turned them both into nothing more than shameless fan service, and it has honestly affected my enjoyment of it. When I was younger, I couldn’t decide which species I wanted to win in a fight due to my unending affection for both. Now, I always find myself rooting for the Alien, if only to see the Predator broken down back to what it was always meant to be.

If you get too close to something, you’ll drive it mad and strip away the very things that captured your imagination in the first place. You can drive other people away from it so it can’t be shared or worse still, bury it. My advice to all of you fans out there is don’t get too close. As Predator shows, the damage can be most severe.

A Movie Guy Who Wants to Discover Books

I’ve always been fascinated with films. The language of cinema is one of the most profound of any art form, because it is not just one language. Rather, it is a melody of every art form, photography, acting, writing, music, and whenever a new art form is introduced, cinema inevitably absorbs it into its collective, altering and enhancing its storytelling methods forever.

It was for this reason that I didn’t read nearly as much as I should have. Many books have graced me from The Color Purple to All Quiet on the Western Front, and all were met with the respect they deserved, but they never compelled me to read more. The language of cinema was of just greater personal interest.

Of course there was something I missed. Movies don’t really change when you re-watch them. Sure, you may view them with a different perspective, but the sounds and images remain the same. Books do change. The words stay the same, but nothing else about them does. The images that dance in your head grow and evolve with you, making each reading a fresh experience.

There are so many books I want to read. Slaughterhouse Five, 1984, The Great Gatsby, 20000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Wizard of Oz, and I want to at long last finish the Harry Potter series. because it is a language I want to learn. I look at someone with a book in their lap and it fills me with a sense of envy. How lucky that person is to have access to something so profound as a bound collection of loose parchment pieces that transports them to another world.

Carl Sagan was right when he called books magic.

Plus, as someone who is working on their first book, reading may have been a good idea. In recent months I feel as though I was trying to translate the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs without the Rosetta Stone. I worked under the assumption that the main difference between writing and film was film deals with what you see and hear, and writing tries to not only convey that, but also what a character thinks, feels and even remembers at any given moment.

In short hand, film is to be an observer, while writing lets you know a character in a much more intimate level. You’re inside their head.

I also worked under the false assumption that writing a book is not nearly as hard as making a film. Granted, making a film is a serious financial and physical undertaking that requires hundreds if not thousands of people to complete. With a book, no matter how big it is, no matter how great the scale is. All you need to do is sit down and start typing and anything you dream, anything you want, will be there.

Easy, right? What could possibly be more liberating than not having to worry about money, interference or even the weather ruining a shooting day? If you want sun, you’ve got sun. If you want rain, you ask how heavy. If you want a tornado to roar through a specific spot, it will obey your every command. A million extras? No problem. An entire city burning? Where are the matches. The power is yours.

Only it isn’t really easy all the time. External stresses do certainly pale when compared to making a film, the mental stresses can match, and perhaps even exceed time on a set. On a set, you can always write up errors to a bad job by the crew, weather, studio interference and any number of external forces. If the book comes out flawed, you have no one to blame but yourself. It is a heavy burden.

It creates a much greater sense of responsibility that I could not have anticipated. Enough to leave you physically exhausted as you get ready for another draft after two years of trying to will the words alive.

I still hold out hope that I’ll learn the language and the method of books, and the craft will improve as my understanding of it does. I hope it will be enough to make this manuscript finally take a breath, an accomplishment that would make anyone proud.

Sometimes the Movie is Better than the Book

Adapting a book to screen is a very tricky business. Films are a medium of visuals, whereas books are a medium of the reader’s own thoughts and interpretations of words they read. A film (mostly) does all the work for you, while books are a far greater effort for the experiencer. Now this is not an insult against films, an art form that has a proud legacy of masterworks, but merely to display the two are very different in how each delivers their message. Since books rely heavily on the reader, often when they’re adapted to film it can be a very disappointing experience for a longtime fan.

This need not always be the case however. Sometimes the film can be better than the book on which it is based. Much better. This can happen a number of ways. For one, books are very rarely adapted by their original authors, so sometimes you can hand a book from a less skilled author to a more skilled director. This was the case with Psycho.

Many people don’t remember that Psycho, the classic thriller from Hitchcock, was adapted from a novel by Robert Bloch. There are a number of differences from the eventual film. For example, Norman Bates is a short fat balding man with thick glasses, far from the innocent and sad boy next door brought to us by Anthony Perkins. Hitch didn’t want Bates to be all monster, but show that he was a victim at one time in his life as well, a victimization that eventually drove him mad. Bloch’s Bates was an unsympathetic straight up villain, and couldn’t possibly nab the audience’s sympathies like Hitch’s Bates. This conflicted sympathy was an element not present in the book, and one example of how the film tops its parent manuscript.

Also important is the famous shower scene, which Hitchcock improved substantially in his film. In the book, Marion Crane is decapitated in the shower. Not only was this too gory for Hitch, it was not horrifying enough. The shower scene in the original 1960 film is one of the most iconic ever put to film, creating gore without few more than a few onscreen frames. The visceral and frightening sequence doesn’t focus on the blood, but rather on the fear and agony experiences by Marion Crane, making the audience squirm in their seats far more than Bloch made people squirm in their recliners. This displays how sometimes a skilled director can see something even the original author missed.

Another thing that can elevate a book is when a director has a desire to bring an adaptation further away from an author’s original intention and truly make it their own. Stanley Kubrick was such a director.

Red Alert tells the story of a bomber receiving false orders t drop a nuclear payload on Russia, threatening to start a full scale nuclear exchange. It was a straight and frightening thriller, and one of the more chilling examples of cold war fiction. Stanley Kubrick, being the character he was, saw an untapped potential in the novel. The potential for comedy.

Dr. Strangelove took Red Alert and turned it into one of the funniest movies ever made. In changing the genre of Red Alert, Kubrick gave himself an opportunity to invent, and along with his writers created a film that dwarfs the novel in every regard delivering many iconic lines, surreal and hilarious images, and quite possibly the definitive art piece on the horrors of nuclear conflict. The very threat of nuclear war is so simultaneously horrifying and laughable, Kubrick could think of no other way to make the film apart from a satire.

This was common of Kubrick to take books and make them his own in film form. Both The Shining and A Clockwork Orange aren’t good adaptations of their source material, but they are great Kubrick films, and Dr. Strangelove is no exception. But both of the above examples are of books changing out of some creative desire. Sometimes a change is just a necessity, but that too can have some advantages.

Roderick Thorpe’s novel Nothing Lasts Forever is a sequel to his 1966 novel The Detective, previously adapted to film starring Frank Sinatra. The titular Detective Joe Leland becomes caught in a terrorist siege of an oil company in a 40 story sky scraper and proceeds to pick the terrorists off one by one. Wanting to do a sequel to the original, Fox offered Sinatra the opportunity to reprise his role, but the aging star turned down the highly physical part. Now with their star off the job and still wanting to adapt the film, Fox had to find a new actor and create a totally new character. They took Joe Leland and turned him into John McClane.

Out of the pure inconvenience of not having Sinatra available, Fox reluctantly cast TV personality Bruce Willis in the lead of the drastically re-written script. John McClane is a much different character than Joe Leland, basically the whiniest action hero of all time. As a result, Fox created a tight, exciting, and suspenseful action masterpiece, all set in the confines of a single building.

Die Hard was a rousing success and set a new standard for action films. This spinoff of The Detective spawned its own lucrative franchise, spawning a series of sequels centered around the McClane character. Like Dr. Strangelove, its most iconic elements came not from the book, but from the ensuing re-writes that truly did outshine the original novel as a work of art. All because Sinatra turned down the job.

There are many other examples of books that arguably top the book, The Shawshank Redemption, Cape Fear, To Kill a Mockingbird, Forrest Gump to name a few. I’m in love with both films and books, and one thing that everyone must learn is the mediums are very different, requiring different sets of skills and ingredients to be a success. More often than not, those of us who love a good book can never have anything put onscreen compare to the images we conjure up in our imaginations.

But sometimes, if a book is flawed but given to a skilled director, if someone wants to make their adaptation their own, if inconvenience necessitates a change, or for any number of reasons, an adaptation can come out on top. Most of the books we love are solid houses that need nothing further to help them stand.  Occasionally though you’ll find a book that on its own may not stand too tall, but may provide a solid foundation for something greater.

Happy Alien Day

Sixteen years ago, I saw my first R Rated film. That experience began my love affair with horror and science fiction, and it remains one of my absolute favorite film series of all, surpassing Star Wars, Star Trek, and James Bond.

That film was Aliens. Both this film and the original 1979 thriller Alien remain two of my favorite movies, standing the test of time as among the most perfectly conceived horror and science fiction films ever made.

Which is why today is a special day. It is the first Alien Day.

Like Star Wars Day (May the 4th), Alien has been given its own day as well, named after the planet on which much of the first two films are based, LV 426. Today is April 26, or 4/26 on the calendar.

When I was young, I didn’t like horror. I could barely get through the original 50s versions of Creature From the Black Lagoon or The Thing, and was most nervous about seeing these at the tender age of 11. Unbelievably though, more than fear, I was excited, thrilled, and engaged in the story from start to finish. This series taught me that sometimes going after that thing that creeps in the dark can be the most fun you’ll ever have.

Please join me in wishing everyone a Happy Alien Day. This series remains a benchmark in science fiction horror, and hopefully its future will be just as bright and bloody.

Alien Day Chestburster

Script Updates and Other News

Hello everyone. First post of the month, so let me give you all some updates.

We had by far our most successful month ever since this blog was created in August of 2014. 351 views, 158 visitors, and 102 likes. So, on behalf of me, David Spada, Joseph Buehrer and Cullen McCurdy, thank you all.

The edit of the book is coming along great. Will be getting more updates from my editor in a day or two.

The job at the film distribution office has been great. It is, funnily enough, much more relaxing than my previous job in retail. I suppose it’s true what they say. If you do what you love, you never work a day in your life. Got started organizing a sales book for them to advertise some of their recent titles. It is about halfway finished, and the reactions from my bosses were quite enthusiastic.

Looks like I’ll be working with someone on another short film soon. A met a talented young woman while at a Women in Film meeting and she is eager to do a short. I read her script, and it is terrific. She wants me to come on board so we will be having a meeting tomorrow.

I also did some edits to my script section where the first acts of my three feature scripts are up for viewing. Added some short blurbs that give a set up to the stories as well as the contact information should anyone desire to read the full script. I do apologize for that taking so long, but hopefully this material will be worth the wait. Once again, don’t hesitate to put whatever constructive criticism you see fit in the comments. I’m always eager to improve.

SCRIPT – Abyssus Act 1

SCRIPT – City of Wolves Act 1

SCRIPT – Distant Horizon Act 1

Thanks again for a most successful month, and we will be talking with you all soon.

My First Industry Job

A brief bit of news from me. This week has been a big week, because this week I got my first paying job in the film industry.

I have been interning at a distribution company since September, and just got picked up as a part time employee, where I will be assisting around the office. It is a great place with a great bunch of people.

Today the paperwork was signed, so I will be getting that first industry check at long last.

Forgive me for being more than a little psyched about this. I am happy about this for a number of reasons.

Firstly, my retail job is getting cut way back. Now instead of working there four days a week, I will only be working two, and it will no longer be my primary source of income.

Secondly, this will make me look very attractive to other employers in the industry. All of my positions up to now have been unpaid internships. Now that I will be having a steady income from work in film, that is going to look very nice.

Thirdly, this will be my primary job. No longer retail. I am an employee in the world of the movies.

Hopefully this will be the first of many achievements to be had this year.