I'll update on this in the next post, as it's a subject that I've learned a lot about recently.
But in the meantime, last week was my last full week in Hollywood. And it kicked off in style when I got to see Rust and Bone, Marion Cotillard's new movie - with the lady herself in attendance.
This was an AFI gala screening, so while it was free, I had to queue up for an hour in advance with my friend Sarah and the two ladies we were bringing with us. But this was a pretty small price to pay for excellent seats at a screening at the Chinese Theater and a chance to see an interview with the leading lady.
It has to be said, the interviewer - an L.A. Times journalist - was not a natural at drawing people out. He kept asking Marion Cotillard inane questions and repeating himself. She even looked at him several times as if to say, "Really?!"
The interview was so terrible that I zoned out several times, but I did glean from it that Cotillard considered giving up acting at one point due to the poor roles she was getting. She had one more audition - for Tim Burton's Big Fish - and decided to throw in the towel if this one fell through. Of course, she got the part and the rest is history.
The director Jacques Audiard and Cotillard's co-star Matthias Schoenaerts were also there in person and Audiard gave an interview through a French interpreter, which was quite funny. The Americans LOVED it.
Anyway, the movie. Rust and Bone is about Schoenaerts's character Ali, who's left in charge of his young son and travels from Belgium to Antibes to live with his sister and her husband. There he meets Stephanie (Cotillard), a killer whale trainer at a water park, and they form a bond after Stephanie suffers a terrible accident.
To say any more would spoil the movie. But what I can say is that while the film is brilliantly acted, looks beautiful and boasts totally amazing performances, I couldn't help feeling that there was something missing. It nagged at me for days after I'd seen it, what this "missing" thing was, the crack in the diamond.
And finally I worked it out - I didn't know what Ali's goal was. What he wanted in the story was never made clear. Stephanie's goal - while never made explicit - was easier to understand, but Ali's remained unresolved. And as a result, it was hard to care as much about his journey - and bear in mind, he is at very least a co-protagonist, so understanding his motivation was kind of crucial. I'd love to hear from anyone else who's seen the movie and has any thoughts on this! Maybe it was just me - I'm willing to be proved wrong.
Tuesday night was, of course, election night, and I ended up watching Obama win in a bar on Melrose with a bunch of ex-pats, a group of American gay guys, two very unhappy Republicans from Tennessee and a guy from Cuba. It was actually really exciting to see it all happen in real time, and amazing how fast the results come in (I'm from a country with PR voting, so getting a concrete election result can take days. In individual constituencies, even weeks).
LACMA has an incredible retrospective on Stanley Kubrick at the moment - I also went to see it this week and there are some pics of the exhibits here. There are movie posters, clips from his films, scripts, development notes and of course, props and costumes. But the autobiographical stuff is the most fascinating. For example, I didn't know that he had been a press photographer at one point. There were dozens of pictures that he had taken for Look Magazine, many of which betray a very cinematic eye (especially his pictures of boxers).
Kubrick was also obsessed with chess and was an avid player. And the game features in many of his films. When asked about chess playing once, he said, "If chess has any relationship to filmmaking, it would be in the way it helps you develop patience and discipline in choosing between alternatives at a time when an impulsive decision seems very attractive".
Saturday morning, I had my last comedy sketch writing class. I'm going to miss it - it was a a fun class apart from anything else - but I've learned a ton in six weeks about writing sketches. Don't get me wrong, I'm still a newbie. I'm just a much better-informed newbie.
Here are a few of the things I've learned - the basics were covered in this post:
- Most sketches have an A, B and C. A is the normal situation, for example: a vampire is about to bite a lady. Well, that's not NORMAL, but we've seen it a lot. B is the twist on the normal situation - the vampire's teeth keep falling out. C is the comedic result - he is unable to "perform" successfully as a vampire because of his teeth problems.
- Keep your sketches simple, broad, clear and relatable. They must have universal appeal. Don't over-complicate things or try to have too many premises. There should be one, clear premise.
- Figure out which sentence should result in a laugh. Then take any extraneous words out of that sentence and make sure the funniest word is at the end. In fact, use as many funny words as possible. Don't say heroin, make it crack. Don't say juice, say Snapple. It's shocking how basic this sounds, but also how effective it is.
- Record yourself reading the script. Does it sound like you imagined? With the perspective gained from listening to a recording, is it still funny? If not, keep going until it is!
The great thing about doing something funny like this is that you want to do more and more of it. So from here on, I'll still be writing film scripts but also the odd comedy sketch - even if it's just to give myself a laugh.
Later on Saturday, I went to a play at The Actors Studio theater, which is off Sunset Boulevard behind The Hart House. This building used to belong to William S. Hart, a silent movie cowboy. Inside, there's a picture on the wall of Lee Strasberg and a cast of actors from the Fifties, including one strangely glamorous-looking blonde. Marilyn Monroe.
The theater is a tiny 60-seater and all the seats have someone's name engraved on the side. The one in front of me said Al Pacino. Anyway, the play was one by Ronald Harwood called The Dresser and it was excellent. Obviously a great script, but the performances were just amazing. It's set in London during the Second World War and I assumed the cast was all British. But my Brit friend who worked on it told me afterwards that the actors are all American. Their accents were top-notch - I'd never have guessed!
On Sunday night, I went to the opening of The Grove's Christmas tree. It being L.A., instead of having some soap actor flick the switch, they had a lineup of seven performers, including Michael Bolton and The Backstreet Boys. And Mario Lopez unsuccessfully trying to interview small kids about what they want for Christmas....
And that's it, apart from sorting out some loose ends and going out for one last drink. I've had a great 3 months, but I'm not going to miss L.A. too much, because like Arnie, I'll be back. Soon. In the meantime, I'll miss my lovely gay neighbourhood, the nice weather, the crazy fit people, the endless optimism and of course, all the great people I've met and become friends with. See you in 2013...