Do or Do Not.

Archive for February, 2008

Retooling

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March arrives on Saturday, and with it arrives the beginning of Stage Two of my 3×5 Project. What’s that? You didn’t know this thing would be split up into discrete stages? You thought it was going to be one big continuous year-long project? Yeah, well, so did I. I was wrong.

This is the thing: During the process of working through the first month of the project, my brain underwent some shifts as a result of the project itself. One of those shifts involved the realization that I didn’t want to draw 365 consecutive cards. I want to draw some — and the process of doing so during the month of January honestly helped me figure out both some technical bits and some bits about my relationship with art in general — but I just don’t want to do it every day. What I do want to do every day, however, is something creative and/or educational.

To that end, I’m doing some tooling around with the concept of my little 3×5 Project. I want to try to split these things out into one-month projects, usually centered on a common form or theme. They won’t all be art-related, either; I think what I did with the project in January was good for my brain, and I want to expand that good-for-my-brain-ness into new directions. The first couple of ideas I’ve had — and I’m not yet sure which one I want to do for March — include:

  • Using the 3×5 cards to develop a screenplay. Not to actually write the screenplay, mind you, as I sincerely doubt agents or studio readers would be inclined to read a screenplay hand-written on a batch of index cards. But I can develop character sketches, scene ideas, bits of dialogue, ideas, outlines… if I can do 31 days worth of index cards dedicated to one particular screenplay idea, I’d be a long way toward actually being able to put a draft together at the end of the process. One of my biggest problems with creative endeavors is a somewhat serious case of ADD (see: the fact that I started changing project parameters before January was even up), but I’m pretty sure I can put somewhere between fifteen minutes and an hour per day into a project for one month. And even effort that little would put me in much better shape than I’ve ever been in regards to actually getting a screenplay written. (This same technique could obviously be applied to any other form of writing, I think, but for now, it’s just post-Oscars and I want to think about a screenplay.)
  • Using the 3×5 cards to learn a foreign language. I clearly couldn’t get the same level of language learnin’ I could in other ways, but I think I could get a good functional foundation laid this way. Using the cards to conjugate verbs, to record vocabulary, to take notes on grammatical rules and concepts, to practice constructing sentences — I do believe I could either get a good start going on a language I don’t yet know but want to learn (French or German, f’r instance) or to enhance and expand my knowledge and understanding of a language I already feel fairly comfortable with (Spanish, most likely). I think this would be more effective with a language I already have some facility with as hearing the words wouldn’t be as necessary, but I think it could work to some degree regardless, especially if I can find a way to supplement the cards.
  • Using the 3×5 cards to “storyboard” a comics story. These cards would be almost perfect for doing small-level sketches of pages for some sort of comic project, with notes about what I’m thinking on the other side.

I like this month-by-month project idea for several reasons, one of the biggest being that it’s working with my particular bland of short-attention-span flakiness rather than flying in the face of it. Knowing that at the beginning of the next month I can move on to a different project (even if it’s a variation on the same project) should help keep me focused. I also like that these projects could easily build on each other — I could work on, say, learning basic French one month, take a month or two on something else, and then come back for some intermediate-level French (with my stack of cards from the first time to use as refresher notes if necessary). Or I could do nothing but work on characters for a potential novel or comic series or screenplay, work on something else, then come back a month or two later and focus on plot. I like the fact that for creative works, choosing to work on a particular project for a month removes one of my biggest obstacles: the “what to write” hangup. I’ll know what I need to work on every day, at least in the macro sense.

Most of all I like the fact that it’s a way to move forward on something, to prod and poke my brain into working on the stuff I keep saying I want to work on but never do. If I can’t manage fifteen minutes or half an hour a day to work on one of these creative endeavors, to write some notes on an index card, I must not really want to work on it all that much, huh?

I’m open to suggestions, too, for other projects in the same vein. And as always, anyone who wants to appropriate this thing and try it for themselves, please do! I’d love to hear what some of you guys come up with, and I’d love even more to heard how it worked out for you after trying it.

Written by Allen

February 28th, 2008 at 4:22 pm

Posted in 3x5Project

Oscar Wrapup ’08: Genius or Idiot?

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(Please pretend like I’m not lame and you’re reading this sometime Monday instead of sometime Wednesday or whenever you’re actually reading it.  I meant to write it Monday, I swear. But Guitar Hero demanded more of my attention that I had anticipated.)

This year, there was no doubt: I’m a genius, me. Last year, I went 6-for-9, but felt particularly idiotic for missing Best Picture; this year, of the nine categories for which I provided predictions, I nailed seven of them, including the “stunning upset” in the Best Actress race. It should’ve been eight-of-nine, but I talked myself out of what would have been a right call. The details:

Best Picture: What I said: No Country for Old Men. What won: No Country. Once the Coen Brothers picked up their Best Adapted Screenplay award, it became pretty clear it was going to be a big night for them. Now the Academy can safely ignore them again until 2020. Genius.

Best Actor: What I said: Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood. Who won: Lewis. As I noted with Helen Mirren’s win last year, it’s not particularly genius of me to go with the mortal lock. However, it’s also certainly not idiotic of me, so genius it is.

Best Actress: What I said: Marion Cotillard, La vie en rose. Who won: Cotillard. Here’s where my astounding genius truly shone most brightly. No other actress had as much near-universal praise for their performance this year as did Cotillard, so I was having trouble understanding why no one thought she would win. It’s rare, yes, but not unprecedented, to bestow one of the acting awards on a foreign-language performance, and I figured that if the Academy had done it before they’d do it again for a performance that acclaimed. And they did. Genius.

Best Supporting Actor: What I said: Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men. Who won: Bardem. Yay me, going with the prohibitive favorite. Genius.

Best Supporting Actress: What I said: Ruby Dee, American Gangster. Who won: Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton. Yup, I blew this one, though I’m glad to have been wrong — Swinton’s a deserving winner both for what was supposed to be a fantastic performance in Clayton and for years’ worth of quality work. Plus, she seems to be my kind of weird, and anyone who mentions nipple-suited Batman in their acceptance speech gets a big thumbs up from me. I like her now even more than I did before she won. Idiot, but happily so.

Best Director: What I said: Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, No Country for Old Men. Who won: The Coens. It was fun watching Paul Thomas Anderson’s head almost explode as the Coens took all these prizes, wasn’t it? Genius.

Best Original Screenplay: What I said: Diablo Cody, Juno. Who won: Cody. This one was, to me, almost a lock since I knew Juno wasn’t going to get any of the other major awards. (Don’t worry, those of you who feel Ellen Page got shafted — she didn’t; winning lead acting awards for comedies might be even more rare than winning them for foreign-language films. And Page will have, I feel quite sure, many, many more opportunities to win one of these in the years to come.) Anyway: Genius.

Best Adapted Screenplay: What I said: Sarah Polley, Away From Her. Who won: Ethan and Joel Coen, No Country for Old Men. Here’s where my astounding genius was most obscured by the clouds of my idiocy. This one was the one I talked myself out of and shouldn’t have: the Academy’s fondness for gifting Oscars to actors who branch out into other areas was trumped this year by their fondness for gifting Oscars to the Coen Brothers, and really I can’t much blame them for that. Idiot.

Best Animated Feature: What I said: Ratatouille. What won: Ratatouille. Yay me for predicting that one of the best-reviewed movies of the year — animated or not — would win the Best Animated flick. Genius.

So there you have it… 7-2. Pretty damn genius of me, overall. Please tune in next year when I follow up this year’s genius outing by idiotically missing three of the four acting awards and Best Picture!

Written by Allen

February 27th, 2008 at 5:46 am

Posted in Movies

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Oscar Predictions ’08

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When I wrote up my predictions for the Oscars last year, I noted that I’d seen very, very few of the films nominated for any of the major awards. This year has proven to be even lamer for me, movie-wise: I’ve seen none of the movies nominated for any of the major prizes. That’s right… none. The only nominated movies I’ve seen even for the mid-level awards are Ratatouille and Enchanted. (Hmm, I’m noticing a little bit of a commonality there.)

What’s worse, this year I really, really want to see four out of the five movies nominated for Best Picture. I want to watch Juno for the tremendous cast and screenplay — any comedy that well respected by Oscar should be just fantastic; No Country for Old Men is by the Coen Brothers, which is all the recommendation I need, even without all of the critical buzz; There Will Be Blood was written and directed by one of my favorite directors, Paul Thomas Anderson (the brains behind Magnolia, one of my top ten flicks); and Michael Clayton was named after one of the wide receivers on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, so that’s a must-see for me, too. Only Atonement leaves me cold at the thought of watching it.

My regular Oscar-predicting disclaimer applies: what follows are not the movies or performances I think should win, but rather those I think will win. Given the fact that I ain’t seen nuthin’ this year, I clearly have no basis to say what I think should win. Away we go…

Best Picture: No Country for Old Men. It’s been more than a decade since the Coen Brothers have gotten major Oscar love and Sunday night will be the night for righting that wrong, culminating in No Country‘s Best Picture win. Though I’ll admit that I won’t be totally shocked if There Will Be Blood takes it — I’ve heard much more talk about Blood being a “modern masterpiece” than No Country.

Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood. This one’s the no-chance-for-an-upset category this year. I hope Day-Lewis has been rehearsing his acceptance speech.

Best Actress: Marion Cotillard, La vie en rose. The presumptive favorite for this award is Julie Christie, but I haven’t heard as much praise for Christie’s performance as I have for Cotillard’s, whose only knock against her seems to be that the movie is from France. But Roberto Begnini won the Best Actor award in 1999 for the Italian Life Is Beautiful, so I don’t think that’s as big a stumbling block as many may think — if her performance truly is the best, she should win regardless of where the movie comes from. I’m going with the upset here.

Best Supporting Actor: Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men. See the notes for Daniel Day-Lewis above; Bardem’s only slightly less of a lock for this prize. I’m sure there will be some sentimental vote for 82-year-old first-time nominee Hal Holbrook, but Ruby Dee will be taking home the Geezer Memorial Award this year (see next category).

Best Supporting Actress: Ruby Dee, American Gangster. This category seems to be the most wide-open. I’m not sure there even is a favorite here. But I’m going with Dee because she’s really, really old and this might be the last time Academy voters can honor her.

Best Director: Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, No Country for Old Men. I’m glad that the Director’s Guild amended their “movies can only have one director” rule so that the Coens could give up the credit trick of pretending that one of them (Joel) directs their films and the other (Ethan) produces them when it’s long been known that they split both duties (as well as the screenwriting). How awkward would it have been for Joel to win the Best Director Oscar for Fargo when they both acted as director? Anyway, that’s no longer an issue and the two of them will be able to share this award just like they did the Best Original Screenplay award for Fargo in 1996.

Best Original Screenplay: Diablo Cody, Juno. Last year, I said the following about Little Miss Sunshine: “I believe this will be the only major award Sunshine gets; it seems like when the Academy falls in love with a little indie of this sort and lavishes it with bunches of nominations, they usually wind up giving it one award as a pat on the head, and frequently that award is for its screenplay. (Lost In Translation, anyone?)” So this award will just have to do.” Substitute “Juno” for “Little Miss Sunshine” and it still applies. (Not to imply that Cody’s screenplay wouldn’t be deserving; it is, from just about everything I’ve heard, an absolutely fantastic piece of writing.)

Best Adapted Screenplay: Sarah Polley, Away From Her. Since I’m predicting Julie Christie doesn’t win Best Actress for this movie, I’m giving the Adapted Screenplay award to Polley to make up for it. The Academy loves to bestow honors on actors who branch out into other fields and do it well — hell, Ben Affleck has an Oscar, remember?

Best Animated Feature: Rataouille. I mean, c’mon.

Coming Monday: The Second Annual Oscar Prediction “Genius or Idiot?” Wrapup!

Written by Allen

February 23rd, 2008 at 3:28 pm

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Pimpin’: Allison Crowe

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It has been known to happen that I fall in completely love based entirely on a voice. Not often, but it does happen. When I saw a performance of Les Miserables in Orlando way way way back in ’92, f’r instance, I completely fell for the girl playing Eponine… even though I was so far back in the auditorium that I have no idea whatsoever what she looked like. Her voice was powerful enough and gorgoeus enough that it truly didn’t matter — the voice was enough to hook me. And one of the events which cemented my falling for my wife was watching her play guitar and sing. (I’m sure my girlfriend at the time wasn’t quite as enthusiastic about my enthusiasm for Terry’s voice, though.)

Anyway, turns out it happened again yesterday.

This is Allison Crowe, a singer-songwriter from Canada I’d never heard of before twenty-four hours ago:

Up until yesterday afternoon, Jeff Buckley’s version of “Hallelujah” was the definitive one for me, the one to which I had the strongest emotional attachment. I don’t think that’s true anymore. Crowe’s version — which has something of an automatic leg up on Buckley’s because of my Thing For Women Playing Piano — immediately moved me in a way that even Buckley’s doesn’t, and that’s not an unimpressive feat. And not only do I love listening to Crowe’s passionate, beautiful voice, but I enjoy watching her sing: I like the movements of her face as she sings, her smile, her eyes, the fact that she looks so much like she’s into what she’s doing. That combination of talent and passion is awfully damn sexy.

Thanks to Kitty for getting me thinking more about this song and thanks to Ben F. for sending me Crowe’s version. Any of you interested in hearing more of Allison Crowe’s amazing voice can check out her MySpace page or this collection of videos from her on YouTube. She’s also got a bunch of tracks available at eMusic for any of you with accounts there.

Written by Allen

February 22nd, 2008 at 7:34 am

Posted in Music

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3×5: Venn

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2-15

Written by Allen

February 15th, 2008 at 10:50 pm

Posted in 3x5Project