Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Best films of 2015 and 1985

Composing a top ten films of the year list has been a tradition for me since 1985. So to commemorate the 30th anniversary of me making such lists, below are my top ten films of both this past year, and 1985, taken from a chicken-scratch entry in a musty old notebook/journal I still possess to this day.

Of course, as always, the new 2015 list is subject to change since many of the prestige Oscar bait pictures have not been released outside of NY or LA yet. This has always and still does piss me off. It is an exercise in elitism; a practice of institutionalized snobbery that assumes anyone living outside of NY or LA must be an ignorant, toothless, drooling, half-wit, derelict, moron who could not possibly comprehend artistic cinema or have the slightest interest in any films aimed at an audience above the age of five with an I.Q. above 70.

At any rate, my top ten films from 1985 and 2015 with the director in parenthesis.



Top ten films of 1985




The Color Purple (Steven Spielberg)

The Journey of Natty Gann (Jeremy Paul Kagan)

To Live and Die in LA (William Friedkin)

Back to the Future (Robert Zemeckis)

Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (Tim Burton)

Witness (Peter Wier)

The Legend of Billy Jean (Matthew Robbins)

Explorers (Joe Dante)

Pale Rider (Clint Eastwood)

Young Sherlock Holmes (Barry Levinson)




Top ten films of 2015 



The Age of Adaline (Lee Toland Krieger)

It Follows (David Robert Mitchell)

Ex Machina (Alex Garland)

Creed (Ryan Coogler)

Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller)

Inside Out (Pete Docter, Ronnie del Carmen)

Chappie (Neill Blomkamp)

The Force Awakens (J.J. Abrams)

The Hateful Eight (Quentin Tarantino)

Jurassic World (Colin Trevorrow)

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Sketchbook: 'Star Wars', Echosmith, 'Caitlin Star', and so much more




Sketch of Caitlin Star from the action pulp post-apocalyptic masterwork, "Caitlin Star and the Rise of the Barbarians".




Quick 10 minute sketch of Katie Cassidy as the Black Canary in "Arrow".






Steampunk-ish/S&M version of  the Huntress from the 2002 WB "Birds of Prey" series staring Ashley Scott as the character.






Daisy Ridley as Rey from "Star Wars": "The Force Awakens".






Super quickie sketch of Kylo Ren from "Star Wars": "The Force Awakens".






Color study sketch inspired by Sydney Sierotta, lead singer of Echosmith.






More Sydney Sierota of Echosmith.






CharliCXC. 





Actress Helen Slater, the original 1984 Supergirl. 






Toby from "Caitlin Star and the Rise of the Barbarians". 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Spoiler free “Star Wars” and other cool stuff

The final quarter of 2015 has been one of intense method writing as I hit the home stretch on several writing projects. I am savagely psyched about this stuff, and dying to unleash this riveting new material to the world. More on that after the 1st of the New Year.  

When I am focused—I am focused.

I don’t do the multi-task thing. Multi-tasking is for bartenders, or air-traffic controllers, or middle manager white collar executives. It is not for creative people, and certainly not for storytellers.

When I am in the midst of writing a story, I am living in that story, and that world becomes very real for me. It is an exhilarating experience to be in that creative sweet spot—when you know you are just nailing it.

Now the downside of being so intense is that when this process is underway, it can be ultra-consuming. So I don’t have any creative energy (or time) left over for reviews, columns, and other such ramblings you see posted here in this blog.

So, let me update you on a few things I have been reading, watching, listening too, etc, starting with…




“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

I won’t play games with wordy intro paragraphs.

“The Force Awakens” is thrilling, beautifully acted, gorgeously shot and scored, funny, riveting, intense, and just plain fun.

This is the “Star Wars” movie you’ve been looking for.

Co-writer/Director J.J. Abrams and Producer Kathleen Kennedy use the same aesthetic approach here as they did with the underrated “Super 8” in 2011. Create a satisfying reverential experience for long-time loyal fans, while bringing a fresh, new creative voice to the table. While “Super 8” was a beautiful homage to vintage Spielberg, that was Abram’s own personal childhood in the film, and it really resonated. For “The Force Awakens” Abrams shows us new angles, both camera and character wise, allowing us to experience the George Lucas created universe in an exciting, new way.

Daisy Ridley is fantastic. I really love her Rey, and all of the new characters. But for me, Han and Chewie stole the show. Harrison Ford gives his second knockout supporting performance of the year. Which leads me to…




“The Age of Adeline”

Now that it is available on Blu Ray, I had a chance to catch my third viewing of this criminally neglected gem, (I saw it twice in the theater). The new viewing has only strengthened my opinion of this beautiful, heartfelt, emotionally affecting masterpiece.

“The Age of Adeline” is the best film of 2015 and Blake Lively is the Best Actress.






Harlan Ellison

One of my projects I have underway is a collection of short stories. I used to write short stories all the time, starting at the age of 12, up through college. But then I shifted into screenplays and novels, and as the short story itch returned, I found out it is a very different discipline than either of those. And in a lot of ways, much harder.

I needed to shake off the rust and revisit the format, so I began reading someone who is arguably the greatest American short story writer of the past 60 years, Harlan Ellison.

Man this guy can write. I mean he can write!

And not just short stories. I have been binging on his original (presented as he typed them on his typewriter before turning them in) television scripts. They have been published in book form spread out over six volumes. (so far), and they are wickedly addictive.






Carly Rae Jepsen

Hey, I like pop music. Yeah, that’s right. You heard me tough guy. And you wanna know why? Because it feels so damn good!

There was a ton of great pop music in 2015. For me, Carly Rae Jepsen’s slinky, seductive, catchy “Emotion” gets the top spot, barely edging out Ellie Goulding’s addictive “Delirium” and Lana Del Rey’s somber “Honeymoon”.





Soundtracks

Of course, I have been listening to “The Force Awakens”.

It is absolutely astounding how at 83 years of age, John Williams is not only as great as ever, he is arguably composing some of the best music of his storied and legendary career.

My sweetly (and smartly) packaged CD just arrived yesterday so I am still absorbing this musical treasure trove. A full review will follow sometime in the near future but for now me just say two words—action music.

“The Force Awakens” contains some of the most aggressive, complex, propulsive action music I have ever heard from John Williams, or any other composer for that matter. There is also a wonderful new theme for the Rey character.






Best TV of the year

I make no secret in these pages of my intense crush for “Supergirl”.


I have been loving the living hell out of the new CBS series. Kudos to Ali Adler, Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg for getting this right and hitting the sweet spot between action, dramatic intensity, and humor. The effervescent and charming Melissa Benoist is fantastic as Kara Zor-El and her red-caped alter ego.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

New sketchbook stuff (a.k.a. Inside the author's sketchbook part 7)




Actress Elle Fanning.






Katie Cassidy as the Black Canary from "Arrow".




Lauren Mayberry, lead singer of the  alternative/techno band "Chvrches".





One of my many obsessions, CharliXCX.




Carly Rae Jepsen.





 A Supergirl sketch, of course :-)!





Willa Holland, a.k.a. Speedy from "Arrow".





Color sketch of Elle Fanning





And quick sketch of Caitlin Star from "Caitlin Star and the Rise of the Barbarians".