Subtitle Blitz #20: The City of Ember

I loved this book, about a weird clutch of human’s scratching out a steampunk living, deep in a forgotten cave, surrounded by failing technology and a constant, nagging fear that one day their power will fail outright and the world will be plunged into darkness. They subsist, day to day, on flagging supplies and meager gardens, while rumors of an outside world–and open skies–float around them like mist. The movie adaptation is pale by comparison, as they so often are. Saoirse Ronan is terrific, of course. Tim Robbins seems out of place, and Bill Murray is astoundingly miscast as the mayor of Ember. He looks as if he wandered in from a neighboring set and thought it would be fun to settle in for a few weeks.

Ember is Los Angeles. The past few weeks, we’ve been living in a dark, wet cave. The rain kept coming and it kept coming. Jinx and I would just sit at the window and stare at the rain. Secretly, I began pondering the logistics of building an ark. And then… it finally stopped raining.

I am Lina Mayfleet. Jinx is Doon. And we’ve finally made it to the surface. There’s a sky up there. And it is huge.

The sun is back and we’re overjoyed.

Subtitle Blitz #19: Chasing Papi (2003)

Everyone in this movie is beautiful. And everyone is loud. Just an onslaught of loud, beautiful women who find themselves teaming up in Los Angeles to outwit some witless criminals while trying to decide how to come to terms with the fact that they’re all in love with the same man, who also happens to be beautiful.

I dunno. I guess it’s harmless.

All I know is that 300 inches of snow have fallen up at Mammoth since I’ve started this subtitle blitz. I’m starting to go batshit crazy, staring out the window at the constant drizzle. The other day, my friend Kirk called me a rainmaker, reasoning that the drought began in earnest in 2009 when I moved away and now that I’m back– endless, endless rain.

Jinx blames me, too.

She’s a hundred percent convinced I’m making it rain so I don’t have to take her out on a walk.

Subtitle Blitz #18: The Clearing (2004)

I love working on these kinds of movies. Mellow, thoughtful, contemplative, and full of long, silent bits and actors enunciating properly. Easy. Uncomplicated.

Kinda boring.

That said, it’s Robert Redford, and Helen Mirren, and Willem Dafoe, and Matt Craven, and I could think of a far worse way to spend 90 minutes (and it involves a hammer and each of my fingers.) Anyway, it’s about a modestly successful exec (Redford) who’s kidnapped one morning in his driveway by a disgruntled ex-employee (Dafoe) and marched through the woods towards some mysterious cabin, where his fate awaits. Meanwhile, his wife (Mirren) and her grown kids hole up at home with a couple of FBI guys (headed by Matt Craven) and deal with the other end of the equation–the ransom demands and the hand-wringing (of which there’s surprisingly little.) But the movie is awkwardly plotted, and it’s written in an oblique style that somehow led me to guess the big twist– that Matt Craven and his FBI helpers were actually the accomplices in the kidnapping plot, and that they somehow intercepted the 911 call. Man, how brilliant. So Very clever.

But so very wrong. That’s not how it plays out at all. In fact, it’s rather mundane. But I held onto that twist idea and tacked it to my creative wall fo future use. Don’t steal it, or I’m coming over with my hammer.

Subtitle Blitz #09: The Devil Wears Prada

I once had to create subtitles for the documentary, Mademoiselle C, which turned out to be one of the most brutal jobs I’ve ever taken. Just a non-stop onslaught of researching high fashion insanity and deciphering Carine Roitfeld’s girthy French accent. This project was like that in many ways. But easier, because it’s Hollywood. Also, Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep (channeling Anna Wintour) are so watchable.

A lot of effort is made to hammer home the point that despite its entrenched weirdness, the fashion industry is utterly indispensable. But I can’t help feeling that when society collapses, it’ll be one of the first to go.

Much like subtitling.

The More Things Change…

I was digging through some old books and crap in an effort to keep the simplification going when I stopped to leaf through some old issues of Comic Relief. One of them is from May 1990 and the other, December 1994. Immediately, I was struck by how the exact same things were on our minds then. Guns, arms, crime, Republicans, Democrats, Castro… Take this on, for starters:

Drumpf - Doug Marlette, 1990

We were obsessed about him back then, too. And this one, which seems a bit prescient now:

Don Wright, 1990

Continue reading “The More Things Change…”

Subtitle Blitz #07: Bus Stop

When I was in my late teens I went on a Marylin Monroe bender. I saw a lot of her flicks. For whatever reason, Bus Stop wasn’t one of them, I must’ve thought it was a musical. Now I really wonder how my teenaged self would have reacted to it. As I worked on it today I was surprised to find myself cringing in horror. Don Murray’s Bo Decker is a monster–a knuckle-dragging domineering horror show of a man who’s convinced he should be married to Monroe’s Cherie, even though they’ve known each other all of twenty minutes. George Axelrod (adapting William Inge’s play) tries his level best to pull a rabbit out of a hat at the end and give us Bo’s redemption. But man, that’s a big pill to swallow. I don’t know if that has to do with my own changing morals or the changing of the times, but I suspect back in the day I would have bought it.

Today, not so much.

It’s interesting to note that Axelrod fought to keep Murray in the picture because the studio brass felt like I did, that he was too extreme. But Axelrod said he wanted “Attila the Hun.”

And that by God, is what he got.

Subtitle Blitz #03: The Snows of Kilimanjaro

“A man should never lose his hand at hunting.”

This one comes from a weird time–the era of the great, white hunter, when shooting rhinos was brave and the corridas of Spain left bulls bleeding and dead by the thousands. I haven’t yet read the Hemingway short story, but I bet it was better written.

And it’s clearly make-believe because everyone keeps saying to Gregory Peck, “Aren’t you Mr. Harry Street, the writer?” Like anyone knows what writers look like. Except for Stephen King. And Stephen Hawking.

Took a break in the middle of it to have a bite to eat with Sara at Communal on El Centro and make Jinx wear her Santa hat, which Jinx did NOT like.

Talking Heads – Life During Wartime

DJ Yon dropped this track at the Violet Crown VIP party the other night, and as soon as I had a chance I pestered him for a track ID. I misidentified it as “Burning Down the House,” and then he corrected me with “Life During Wartime.” Of course we both got it wrong, but settled eventually on “Once in a Lifetime.” It’s a smooth edit, with a terrific use of that rolling bass line.

And appropriate, in a way, since my strongest association of the song goes way back to the days at Movies Twin when Down and Out in Beverly Hills was released. This song played over the end credits, so after every show, I’d crank the monitor in the projection booth. It’s more than 25 years later now. The song still rules.

Violet Crown VIP Party – George R. R. Martin

George R. R. Martin

Thursday Night, April 30, 2015, Violet Crown Cinema opens to a select group of invited party folks. Included among the many speakers is the big man himself, who owns the Jean Cocteau theater just down the street, a marvelous cinema showcase in its own right. As Steve and I are pulling pints of lager to hand to party attendees, Steve says, “He must have a case of theater envy.” Then the first thing Martin says as he takes the microphone is “I think I have a case of theater envy.” Steve is pretty proud of himself.

The Seats Are Here


The seats are starting to arrive in the theater. I’ve only been working here for two days, but I’m starting to get this feeling of being home again. I haven’t worked in a movie theater since 1993, when I ran the Granada in Santa Barbara for the summer of The Firm, The Fugitive, The Last Action Hero and Like Water for Chocolate. And this theater promises to be something special. Believe me, I wouldn’t have applied if I didn’t think it could approximate the awesomeness of, say, the Arclight. Santa Fe has some good independent theaters. The mainstream venues, however, are garbage. Regal has sold its soul to the advertising devil. In almost every case, I’d rather wait to see the mainstream stuff on Netflix or Vudu than wade through the garbage they heap upon you before every show. Violet Crown seems to get this. I’ll be curious to see how it plays out.