Create!!

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One of my favorite bloggers is a TV and comic-book writer named Mark Evanier. A regular feature of his blog (named News from ME — see what he did there?) is an ongoing series titled “Rejection: A Wilderness Guide for Writers,” in which he offers various tips to encourage writers to keep plugging away at their craft, even during periods when they’re making little or no money from their writing.

One particular “Rejection” entry has always stuck with me. It concerns two writer/acquaintances of Evanier’s, whom he refers to as “Wanda” and “Eugene.” Click here to read the entry, and then come back here (to my blog) to read further commentary below.

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Are you back? Good! I wanted you to read that because “Wanda’s” situation is similar to what mine used to be. When I was younger, I let a lot of people (who didn’t know any better) talk me out of doing anything with my writing, because I couldn’t possibly be a big success or make any money from it. Years later, I realized that what they were really saying was: Our dreams have been thwarted for our entire lives, so your dreams should be thwarted as well.

In the past 20 years, I have:

  • written movie reviews for a local newspaper, for which I received two back-to-back first-place awards for “Best Reviewing” in the Florida Press Association’s annual Better Newspaper Contest;
  • written, directed, and starred in three local plays, which people actually paid admission to see;
  • gotten the best job of my life, creating and writing posts for a social media-based company;
  • gotten hundreds of followers from this blog.

I tell you all of this not to brag (although thank you very much), but to point out that there will always be a “Eugene” in your life who wants to build himself up by making your inner “Wanda” feel small. If you have a creative bug, indulge it to the fullest. Even if it’s just a blog, you’ll get followers who regularly want to read your work. That’s pretty flattering to me. And if you can make money from your creative bug, so much the better.

So don’t let naysayers drag you down. If you’ve got a creative urge that’ll drive you crazy if you don’t let it out, indulge it, on any level. The delightful author Kurt Vonnegut Jr. said it best:

“Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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THE HAPPY NEW YEAR BLOGATHON – Day 1 Recap

Our blogathon is already chock-full of bloggers who take New Year’s Eve seriously! Time to get spiffed up for

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Click on the name of each individual blog to read their entry.

IlPosto

An initially disappointing New Year’s Eve party turns out to have revelations for a young worker, as Cinematic Scribblings informs us in her blog about the Italian film Il Posto.

TheApartment

SeanMunger.com chronicles how New Year’s Eve turns cynicism into hope for Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine, in the Billy Wilder comedy The Apartment.

TheThinMan

The loving and mystery-solving Nick and Nora Charles in The Thin Man and After the Thin Man inspire a Top 10 New Year’s Eve list from Once Upon a Screen.

Mermaids

Another Top 10 list (this one from Open Letters to Film) results from the flighty antics of Cher in Mermaids.

Rent

And finally, yours truly details how New Year’s Eve affects a group of free-thinking and -loving New York bohemians in the musical Rent.

We still have two days left to go in our blogathon, so keep us bookmarked for more great entries to come!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RENT (2005) – A pleasant surprise, in spite (or because?) of its outre themes

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The following is my entry in the Happy New Year Blogathon, being hosted at this blog from Dec. 29-31, 2017. Click on the above banner, and read bloggers’ tributes to a variety of movies with a secondary or central theme of New Year’s Eve!

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In his review of Rent, Roger Ebert claimed that the famed Broadway musical does not work as a movie because it needs, and is lacking, a live audience. Having come to the movie of Rent with no emotional stake (haven’t seen the B’way show, barely wanted to see the movie), I found it one of the most satisfying movies of 2005.

Yes, it is unquestionably melodramatic. I am told that Rent is the opera “La Boheme” (another cultural touchstone to which I claim ignorance) updated for the AIDS generation, and there are definite moments where the movie is doing little but pulling your strings. By the same token, one could claim that Goeth, the Nazi commandant in the fact-based Schindler’s List, is played by Ralph Fiennes as too conventionally evil. Doesn’t matter, though – his character gives you a chill. And Rent‘s characters are so heartfelt, and the movie so on-target (did Harry Potter‘s Chris Columbus really direct this?), that even the sappier moments are effective.

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The setting is New York City in 1989, when America finally started to come to terms with AIDS. The characters are close-knit friends holing up in a tenement run by their former friend Benny (Taye Diggs), who now wants to kiss up to his wealthy father-in-law by evicting his former pals. They include Mark (Anthony Rapp), an aspiring film-maker; Roger (Adam Pascal), a musician who has grown distant since becoming HIV-positive; Tom (Jesse L. Martin), who falls in love with the drag queen (Wilson Jermaine Heredia) who aids him after he is mugged; and a stripper/heroin addict named Mimi (Rosario Dawson, in the first movie where the filmmakers seemed to know how to use her fiery talent).

If anything, the movie’s primary point is to show these people existing on their own terms, and the movie shows this admirably. When, in this movie, we see same-sex people sharing a kiss or a hug, it’s presented matter-of-factly; and because the characters actually have some dimension to them, it feels earned.

Chris Columbus, after laboring for many years in Home Alone-type movies, finally seems to know where to put his camera. Musicals, in particular, have trouble striking a balance between looking static and frantic; here, the camerawork really soars, moving gracefully and closing in just enough to let the actors finish the soaring. And unlike most modern-day Broadway musicals, Jonathan Larsen’s score is one that you can hum and that hums on its own, nicely elucidating its characters and doing so with genuinely catchy songs.

Besides the actors listed above, who are all splendid, there’s a fresh-faced powerhouse named Idina Menzel, who plays Maureen, a self-styled, unapologetic lesbian. When caught in a flirt by her Significant Other (Tracie Toms), who tries to chastize her, the two of them spar in a great number, “Take Me As I Am.” And a viewer just knows that, however flighty Maureen is, her lover will just have to come back to her, because she’s darned well worth it.

That’s the treasure of this movie – genuine, heartfelt characterization. Rent is, on all levels, emotionally devastating.

 

 

The HAPPY NEW YEAR BLOGATHON is here!

Happy Early New Year! The ball hasn’t dropped yet, but plenty of opinions will, as we present

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Keep us bookmarked over the next three days, as bloggers post their opinions on New Year’s Eve-themed movies. If you are one of said bloggers, please go to the “Comments” section below, and post the URL of your blogathon entry; I’ll link to it as soon as possible. Faithful blog readers, keep checking back, and click on the names of the highlighted blog entries to read their reviews.

And everyone, have fun with this! Here is the list of blogathon entries:

Charlene’s (Mostly) Classic Movie Reviews – The Phantom Carriage (1921)

Once Upon a Screen – The Thin Man (1934) and After the Thin Man (1936)

Noirish – Repeat Performance (1947)

Silver Screen Classics – Sunset Boulevard (1950)

SeanMunger.com – The Apartment (1960)

Cinematic Scribblings – Il Posto (1961)

Moon in Gemini – Trading Places (1983)

Movierob – Ghostbusters II (1989) and End of Days (1999)

Open Letters to Film – Mermaids (1990)

Moody Moppet – Four Rooms (1995)

The Midnite Drive-in – 200 Cigarettes (1999)

Movie Movie Blog Blog – Rent (2005)

Thoughts All Sorts – A Long Way Down (2014)

 

ROCKY BALBOA (2006) – Welcome back, Rocky

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The following is my contribution to the Inspirational Heroes Blogathon, being co-hosted by Quiggy and Rachel at, respectively, the blogs The Midnite Drive-In and Hamlette’s Soliloquy from Dec. 29, 2017 through Jan. 1, 2018. Click on the above banner to read bloggers’ accounts of their favorite cinematic men and women of courage!

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I swallow deeply as I write that Rocky Balboa is the Rocky sequel Sylvester Stallone should have made 25 years previously. It truly has everything the original had — wit, heart, and a genuinely engrossing climactic fight.

The first Rocky (1976) was a fine, touching movie about a likable Everyman who got a long-wished-for shot at being a champ. Though Stallone had been doing minor movie roles for years, Rocky opened people’s eyes to him, and his own rags-to-riches story paralleled that of his creation. But each successive sequel seemed a bit more removed from reality. (The only one I haven’t seen is Rocky V, which even Stallone now disowns.)

Now, both Stallone and Balboa have come full circle, and the new movie is actually about something in which the audience can have a stake. The premise is that Rocky and heavyweight champ Mason “The Line” Dixon (Antonio Tarver) have their stats fed into a computer and are put into a simulated match. The computer’s results show that Rocky would still come out a winner.

Naturally, the real, trash-talking Dixon doesn’t buy it, and he reluctantly agrees to an exhibition match with Balboa. At this point, you’re probably rolling your eyes and guessing that Dixon doesn’t have — wait for it — the eye of the tiger, and you’d be right. But for a change, the movie is showing us that rather than telling us. As with Rocky I, the movie shows that everyone involved in the match really needs it — old, resigned Rocky, his resentful son, and his bitter brother-in-law Paulie (Burt Young, back to being a likable doofus instead of an embarrassing caricature).

(The only emotional tug that seems forced on us is the long-past death of Rocky’s beloved wife Adrian. This is the movie’s one instance where Stallone rather too obviously stacked the deck.)

After 30 years, the first Rocky‘s blatantly tearjerking formula is shown to still have some real power. RB even shamelessly re-does the original’s training montage, and it and most of the other heart-tugging moments had the audience cheering. And for the first time in a long time, the cheers were earned.

Stallone was 60 years old when he made this movie, and like an aging boxer, he must have felt he wanted Rocky to go out with some dignity. Happily he, and the audience, all got what we wanted.

A cold, hard analysis of SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS (1937)

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FINAL

(WARNING: Major spoilers abound!)

Even though certain movies might have been made decades ago, usually I can enjoy them in the age I’m in, in the here and now. But for me to fully appreciate Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, I think I’d have to have been part of one of its original audiences in 1937. I first saw the movie during its 50th-anniversary re-release, and I’m afraid that the — forgive me — sexual politics of 1987 sort of laid the movie bare for me.

Yes, I can easily appreciate its technical aspects. The fluid, hand-drawn animation — an element that seems to drift further away in modern movies — is truly something to behold. And the rich and funny characterizations of the Seven Dwarfs — something that was thought impossible for a feature-length cartoon (of which, of course, this was the first) — remain distinct and enjoyable.

But then there’s the little matter of…Snow White.

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She is the movie’s heroine, the groundwork upon which Disney laid the foundation for the movie’s premise, its reason for being — and I’m afraid she comes off as too much of a simp for me. I can understand her being frightened in given situations. (Who couldn’t get chills from the scene where Snow White scampers nervously through the dark forest and is seemingly menaced by every tree?)

But at some point through all of these adventures which Snow White proves worthy to survive, couldn’t she have developed just a bit of a spine? At no point in the movie is she not entirely dependent on someone else for her well-being — the Wicked Queen, the woodsman who spares her life, and those damn dwarfs. And of course, the prince who awakens her with “love’s first kiss.”

And what about those dwarfs, and the shortchanging they get? After tending to her every need for Disney knows how long, she gets swept off her feet by that one-kiss prince, after which Snow White is perfectly content to abandon her wards, and they her. As the Wicked Queen would say, “Bah!”

We all have particular movies where we can appreciate the skill and talent that went into them, and yet we’re still left baffled as to their wide popularity. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, it appears, is my cross to bear.