Already Gluten-Free, Eventually Yoga

I have now been in Los Angeles for eight years.  It hasn’t been easy, and it certainly hasn’t been smooth. But I’ve been out here eight years, man.  I guess that in and of itself is kind of an accomplishment.  I’ll take.

Let me tell you about yesterday, because I think it perfectly sums up the Los Angeles experience.  Higginbottom has just arrived back from a weeklong trip home to see her family.  The pilot had mentioned that a hurricane was just off the coast, so she wanted to go to the beach to go see the supposed fifteen foot waves.  I hate the beach.  I hate the Westside most of the time, but I hate it especially during the summer when tourists are still here and everything is crowded and costs $15 to park.  I hate sand and sunburn and everything.

But I love Higginbottom.  And I remember the first time I took her to the ocean.  Living all her life in Midwest, she had never seen the ocean.  So I took her.  And her face was just… it was seeing Santa that first time before you worry is he real.  Because he is real, and huge and everything.  And that was the magic of the ocean.  Higginbottom loves the beach, loves going whale watching, loves aquariums, loves zoos.  All of it.  So we were going.  That was happening.

I checked my phone.  A callback for a commercial I didn’t think I would get called in for suddenly appeared on my phone.  It was for 3:15 in Santa Monica.  I already had an audition for a different commercial in Hollywood at 4:40 PM.  This always happens.  Silence for months.  Then suddenly two auditions in one day.  And one is always in Santa Monica.  And one is always in Hollywood or the Valley.

So suddenly, we had to go.  We hopped in the car at noon and drove to the beach.  It took over an hour.  But we got there.  And Higginbottom got to enjoy the waves for a little bit.  Then we drove to the audition.  It was 2:15.  It’s best to show up early, but not too early.  So I said, let’s get lunch at the Third Street Promenade at Fatburger.  So we drove, finally found parking and got over there.  Fatburger had been replaced with a Chipotle.  We ate quickly, dashed back to the car and got over to where it was supposed to be.  Only the street was torn up.  The parking for this particular casting studio is already totally fucked.  This compounded it.  So Higginbottom parked in Joann’s Fabrics to browse while I ran off to my audition.  In sandy wet shoes and covered in sunscreen because I forgot that the beach stays with you forever.

The audition required me to be in my boxers posing in flagrante delicto with a beautiful Romanian supermodel-ish girl.  This is Hollywood.  We stripped down, did our bit, got some direction, and then headed off to our very different days.  I got back to the car, and Higginbottom clutched her clearance item spoils — including a $1.19 pair of flip-flops for me to wear because I needed shoes and we didn’t have time.

We didn’t have any time.  It was now 3:45 PM.  We needed to go from Santa Monica to another studio near The Grove.  This was not going to happen.  At any time of day, it’d be a pinch.  But at this time of day?  During rush hour?  Fuck that.

After weaving and wending and bitching and moaning (most on my part) we finally got to the venue at 5:00 PM.  Higginbottom waited in the car while I waited in the office for a half hour to dance to a Cypress Hill song on camera.  This time, fully clothed.  Then I bolted back to the car so we could stop at home.  We still had groceries and gas to purchase, plus, I had to make color copies for the trivia that I was going to host in — holy shit, less than an hour! in Pasadena.  I ran out of the house, gear in hand, drove to Pasadena to find one copy shop had a hand written sign that said, “back at 7even.”  And then ran to another one to pay too much for copies to finally make it to my venue where I barely had time to order whiskey and fries and get trivia started.  I stank of the beach, covered from the knees down in sand, my back sore because the Donkey was packed with people and I couldn’t get a seat to myself until the last five minutes.  I stumbled home at 10:15 PM, tired and buzzed and collapsed.  But I had to get up to drive Higginbottom to work in the morning, because I had a 3:30 PM audition tomorrow, where I’d have to go in a wool suit in 100 degree heat to a venue that also has shittier parking in downtown Hollywood.

I could bitch about all this.  In fact, I kind of just did.  But in reality, I thought about it today.  I have a life where I can afford to drive with my loved one to the beach in the middle of the week just to enjoy the crashing surf. We got to spend the day together, and she bought a bunch of Aida fabric for me to cross-stitch.  And she bought me flip-flops.  I may not be booking stuff, but I keep getting called back for auditions, which means there is something.  I’m not just showing up for the sake of filling space.  I’m making the cut.  I’m doing the right thing.  My only responsibility is to show up once a week to a really amazing bar, to see familiar friendly faces on my regular teams, to eat delicious french fries, swear into a microphone for laughs, and get paid to drink whiskey which occasionally gets bought for me by the various teams.

I wrote a book last year.  I wrote a novelette.  I’m writing even more.  I need more discipline, but I’m working on that.  There will be a new novelette coming out in October.  Half a book will be in (some of) your laps by next month.  The rest of the book will be on shelves in March.  I growing as a story development person — both in writing and critiquing.  I’m getting better.

I stopped eating wheat.  I’m going to start exercising more.  Because it’s gotten kind of ridiculous.  And because if I ever get the fortune to have kids, I’d like them to actually have a lap to sit on.  I drink smoothies.  I’m learning foreign languages.  I want to learn enough Spanish to figure out what in the fuck Bradley’s saying in the Sublime song “Caress Me Down.”  I have a dog.  I have a fiancee.  I’m thinking about yoga and meditation.

I’m getting in tune with myself.  I kept claiming I’ve been losing friends.  But they aren’t car keys or parking validation tickets.  I’ve been pushing them away.  And I’ve been doing a really shitty job of maintaining the friendships that I already have.  You got to cultivate that shit.  And I’ve been in my little cocoon, doing my thing, and then wondering why everyone went away.  Well, I fucked up.  A friend posted this hilariously idiot article about Allston, MA, and he tagged myself and a bunch of people from film school that I don’t talk to much anymore.  And it all but fucking broke my heart.  I’m creating the drama, but I don’t feel comfortable reaching out to people that I ran off with my bullshit behavior.

It has a lot to do with self-worth.  I don’t feel successful yet.  It’s a glass-half-empty view, and that I need to work on.  Not necessarily count my blessings, but at least give myself credit.  I don’t feel like a person worth knowing.  So when people blow me off, I don’t do much to get them back, because I don’t blame them.  I get down on myself.  I feel like shit.  But I’m working on that.  There’s gotta be something there.  Even if I can’t see it.

I’m feeling hopeful and crushed at the same time.  Los Angeles can be a lonely place.  Everyone’s busy all the time, and if you don’t have anything to offer, you can get brushed aside.  I don’t make time, so I can’t blame other folks for not making time.  I can’t just expect people to put their lives on hold just for me.

So like I said, it’s kind of all about moving forward.  I need to work on rebuilding the damage of my own depression.  I can put a face on it now, in the wake of all of what everyone else was saying.  I kept calling it everything else.  But it’s depression.  It’s a darkness that I think I need to make myself an artist or some bullshit like that.  I can be happy and I can still create.  Because the happiness can come from the creation.  Not from the resultant attention.  I’m a needy attention whore who craves constant validation and affection.  And this is not the fucking town to be that way in.  You can die shivering in the cold waiting on a hug that’s never coming.

So I’m going to work on me.  I’m going to find some discipline.  I crave routine.  I’m going to the fucking gym.  I’m going to start setting my fucking goals where I can’t reach them, so high that I gotta climb five mountains just to see the sixth where the flag is.  I’m going to shut the fuck up and write and then write some more and then rewrite that fucker and then tear it down until it’s not even particles and build it back up again and maybe wreck it some more until it’s where it needs to be.  I’m going to get out from under this motherfucking debt in a way that will dazzle and amuse.  I’m going to hablos some motherfucking Espanol.  I’m going to finish what I start and start something to finish.  I’m going to cross-stitch like a motherfucker.  I’m going to become someone worth knowing.  Someone worth your time.  Someone you want to have a beer with.  Only I’m probably going to drink cider or whiskey because wheat.  I’m going to learn motherfucking yoga.

If you’ve been on the ride this long with me, I seriously can’t begin to express in words how fucking incredible that is and how much you mean to me.  I’ve gone to some dark fucking places.  Hell, half this oververbose masturbatory blog post is about that.  But that you’re still here, listening to my nonsense fills me with love and joy.  And for those who have jumped off and had enough, if you want back on, there’s always room.  And if you’re out, via con dios, muchachos y muchachas.

I’ve got miles to go before I can touch my toes.

#1: “Come out to the coast, we’ll get together, have a few laughs.”

diehard

#1: Die Hard — dir. John McTiernan

I don’t think this comes as a surprise to anyone, if you’ve been reading this list.  Die Hard is the perfect film.  It is my favorite Christmas film.  It is flawlessly put together.  It has a brilliant hero, and a brilliant villain.  It has brilliant subvillains and subheroes.  It’s incredibly quotable.  Both on inside jokes and obvious quotes.  It has excellent twists.  Every character, from Holly, to Al, to even goddamn Argyle, gets a chance to have a shining moment.  It is the most perfectly assembled film.

It has forever changed Christmas music for me.  Like some sort of Pavlovian curse, whenever I hear “Let It Snow,” even if it isn’t the Nat King Cole version from the movie (I think it’s Nat King Cole. It could be Bing Crosby.  I’ve been wrong before.)  I see the guy crashing through the windshield, and I impulsively have to watch the movie.

I love Die Hard because it has a hero who gets fucking destroyed.  I like a movie or television show where the hero gets hurt because he isn’t indestructible.  He gets shot.  He gets his feet lacerated with glass.  He gets stabbed or burnt.   And then most importantly, that fucking damage stays with him.  It becomes part of the plot.  If John McClane spent the rest of the film kicking guys or running, it’d be lesser than.  But he doesn’t.  Even when he has to swing off the roof, adrenaline explains his ability to do it, and there bloodstains on the window.  And he suffers for it later.  He limps through half the film.

Hans Gruber may be the greatest villain of all time, definitely top five, probably definitely top three.  Alan Rickman’s portrayal is so damn smooth.  Because like the Joker, he smiles.  He gets angry.  He’s conniving.  He’s manipulative.  He’s brutal. And he’s up against quipmeister John McClane.

McTiernan has made some of my favorite movies ever: The Last Action Hero, Predator, The Hunt for Red October.  And the third sequel to this series, Die Hard: With a Vengeance.  Like Indiana Jones, the order goes 1, 3, 2.  And 2 is pretty rough, but still watchable for different reasons from 1 and 3.  And then there aren’t any more sequels because at that point, they aren’t just beating a dead horse, they’ve started to beat the guts that came out of the dead horse to see if any tiny dead horsemeat might be left hiding inside there.  Ah, I actually kind of liked Live Free or Die Hard.  Terrible villain — Timothy Olyphant looked like a Starbucks manager, and that it was PG-13 is fucking inexcusable.  When your hero’s catchphrase involves the word “motherfucker,” you have committed yourself to making R rated sequels.  But let us never speak of A Good Day to Hardly Die, Maybe Tomorrow, Check With Me Then.

Die Hard is a pretty great comedy fused perfectly with a great action film.  And that’s what makes it so good.  For years, I was convinced it was Shane Black, because of the wittiness of the character and because it was set at Christmas.  But that’s not true.  However, Shane Black has been hired to write/direct the possible sixth sequel, for which could possibly become the greatest damn film ever.

And that puts paid to my list of 50 Films in Fifty Days. Yippie-kay-yay-mothertrucker.

#2: “By Grabthar’s Hammer, what a savings.”

galaxyquest

#2: Galaxy Quest — dir. Dean Parisot

David Mamet once called this the most perfectly constructed film.  And who the hell am I to argue with David Mamet?  Who I didn’t even put on this list?

As I’ve said before, with things like Black Dynamite or Blazing Saddles, a perfect spoof film is a great film in and of itself.  One that clearly loves the material it’s lampooning.  And that’s the case with Galaxy Quest.  While it’s making fun of Star Trek, and fan conventions and all of that, there’s actually a genuine story going on.  The performances are hilarious.  The cast is kind of amazing when you really think about it — Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Tony Shaloub, Alan Rickman, Sam Rockwell, Justin Long, Missi Pyle, Enrico Colantoni, and on and on.

It’s something I can watch over and over.  It used to be my #1 for a while, but I’m sure this is going to take that Time Bandits slide over time.  Which I’m totally okay with.  Especially since I learned that my dreams of an R-rated version are just pipe dreams.  There’s no down and dirty swear filled script out there.  They terribly dubbed an F-bomb, the single F-bomb to get their PG rating.  Them’s the story.

It’s one of those films you can quote and you think you’re quoting something else.  It’s not as quotable as my last few, that’s for sure, but still, again, it’s just that it is such a solidly put together film.  It’s so well constructed.  All the ridiculous stuff that happens is perfectly motivated.  The world building is outstanding.  And I have to respect that.  At least in this incarnation of the list.

#3: “Just remember what ol’ Jack Burton does when the earth quakes, and the poison arrows fall from the sky, and the pillars of Heaven shake. Yeah, Jack Burton just looks that big ol’ storm right square in the eye and he says, ‘Give me your best shot, pal. I can take it.'”

bigtroublechina

#3: Big Trouble in Little China — dir. John Carpenter

Carpenter’s horror stuff is phenomenal.  I mean, Halloween and The Thing.  C’mon.  Amazing.

But this film, man.  This damn movie.  Cool villain.  Neat action.  But seriously.

Jack Burton.

You can take your Ash.  You can take your Eastwoods, and your John Waynes.  You can take your Schwarzeneggers, and your Stallones, and your Stathams.  You can even take John McClane.

Jack fucking Burton.

Pretty much everything out of his mouth is quotable.  And yet, he’s a ridiculous hero.  He’s a buffoon.  He’s an idiot.  And he swaggers like he’s the king shit.  It’s hilarious.  He’s so stupid.  He fucks up most of the film thinking he’s the hero.  And he ends up winning.  And still has the idiocy to sit there and act like he knew he’d win all along.  Goddamn.

I can watch this movie on repeat for an entire day like it was Christmas Eve and it was A Christmas Story.  It’s my feel good flick.  It’s so stupidly stupid good.  There are people who watch it, I’m sure, and probably just think it’s bullshit.  But this is basically Army of Darkness with a more concrete story, even when it gets way over the top, and there are Chinese gods flying around shooting light and lightning.

May the wings of liberty never lose a feather, motherfucker.

#4: “I saved Latin. What did you ever do?”

rushmore

#4: Rushmore — dir. Wes Anderson

Having Wes Anderson this high up on the list probably labels me some sort of hipster.  Some arthouse tart who sniffs his own farts in a wineglass.  I’m cool with that assessment.  That doesn’t faze me anymore.  If you find him too twee, too hoity-toity, too whitebread, that’s cool.  You never experienced his movies.  And I don’t mean like you never watched them.  I mean you never got into the marrow.

It’s easy to dismiss Wes Anderson.  His films got formulaic for a while — weird 70’s vibe with a nebbishy protagonist who does quirky shit and then falls in love with someone from a foreign, non WASP-y culture.   There’s variations to that theme, sure, but it’s at least there in the DNA.   But that’s not the point.

For the longest time, my favorite Wes Anderson was Bottle Rocket, his first.  It was the reason why I couldn’t stand watching Owen Wilson “act.”  Because I saw his manic potential, and everything else felt like he was putting on a charade, this sort of stoner persona, like a broke-nose McConaughey.

Most people favor Royal Tenenbaums or even Moonrise Kingdom or Fantastic Mr. Fox.  He’s gone ensemble in the later period, and I’m cool with that.  He almost always collaborates with another screenwriter/director.  And it’s hard to say, “Oh, I hate when he pairs with X.”  Roman Coppola.  I hated Darjeeling but I loved Moonrise Kingdom.  Noah Baumbach.  Life Aquatic was eh, but I fucking loved Fantastic Mr. Fox.  But I loved everything he did with Owen Wilson as he co-writer.

Rushmore spoke to me.  As someone who was in like eighteen clubs.  As someone who was writing plays all through college and some high school.  I felt a fake like Max Fischer.  A pretender who didn’t understand how love works and thought he was special.  Only without the maturation at the end.  I think every other line is quotable.  Not the entire film.  But at least every other line.  The opening quote for this writeup changed at least twelve times.  “With friends like you who needs friends?”  “Fischer! I always wanted to be in one of your fuckin’ plays!” “O R they?”  The line about quitting clubs and writing plays and focusing on scoring chicks.  So many.  SO MANY.

So if being a Wes Anderson fan pigeonholes me, put me in my cubby.  I’m totally cool here.

#5: “Life is pain, highness. Any who says differently is selling something.”

princessbride

#5: The Princess Bride — dir. Rob Reiner

Man.  You wouldn’t think Rob Reiner would have been a controversial and difficult struggle.  And yet FOUR.  Legitimately four films could have made this cut.  This is Spinal Tap. Stand by Me. When Harry Met Sally. And this one.

But it was always going to be Princess Bride.  I go on about quotable movies.  I probably quote this once a day.  And not like I’ve set out to do so.  William Goldman’s script is brilliant.  That’s what I aspire to as a write.  To write dialogue that one day people will quote at each other.  That some aspiring writer will cull from the pages or the screen and copy as a status or shout at their friends.  And it will bond people.

The framestory is so excellent, with Fred Savage and Peter Falk. The internal story is amazing.  It’s got a couple good swordfights.  But it’s also got a couple amazing NON-fights.  When the six-fingered man sees Inigo Montoya the first time.  And then he runs away. When Humperdinck and Westley face each other down and Westley gives the “to the pain” speech and Humperdinck drops his sword.  How do you get away with that?  It’s like something you’d see in a Mel Brooks film.

When they did the twenty year anniversary and all the actors were sitting around, older.  How are you not just touched by that?  How did that not fill your cockles with warmth and joy?  I could go on and on about this movie.  In fact I did.  One of the short stories in Side Quests is called “To The Pain.”  Hell, Twenty-Sided Die was pretty much all Stand by Me.  So Meathead had a way bigger impact on me that I thought.

#6: “No matter how many times you save the world, it always manages to get back in jeopardy again. Sometimes I just want it to stay saved! You know, for a little bit? I feel like the maid! I just cleaned up this mess! Can we keep it clean for… for ten minutes!”

incredibles

#6: The Incredibles — dir. Brad Bird

Everyone points to Toy Story as the point when Pixar blasted on the scene.  For me, it was The Incredibles that was the game changer.  This was not necessarily a film for kids.  This was a film for adults that kids could enjoy.  It got a PG rating.  It eviscerated the superhero formula while being totally honorable to it.  It covered not only adult angst but teen angst and childhood angst.  What good are these powers if I don’t use them?  Can I stop being a hero because of my family?  Why should I hold back when I’m great?

The action was remarkable, very fast and fun and exciting, but it was the family moments that got me.  Edna Mole and Frozone are funny and all, but it’s the dynamic between Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl, and Violet and Dash and Jack-Jack that were the most powerful.  The story is totally organic.  And Syndrome is such a wonderful villain.  Again, he just wanted to be a superhero, but he had no powers.  So he made his own powers.  And they laughed at him and told him to go away.  And so he became evil.  THAT’s an awesome origin story.

Pixar realized that kids love cartoons, so they’ll watch most anything, and then they turned out Wall-E, Ratatouille, and Up.  Those aren’t really kid movies.  Sure, there’s the cute robot and the little cartoon mouse and the dog Dug who shouts SQUIRREL, but honestly, those films speak to adults.  Even Toy Story 3 was more aimed at older kids who grew up on the first Toy Story.

And as much as I loathe sequels, as I feel like they’re just wringing a cash cow udder, I am super excited for The Incredibles 2.