Friday, March 30, 2012

A Is For...


It's happened. I caved. Despite the fact that I'm already committed to Script Frenzy and the little time-mangement devil on my shoulder is shouting at me to be aware of my limits, I've signed up to do the A-To-Z blogging challenge for April. For those of you who aren't aware of what A To Z is, it goes something like this:

1. A large quantity of blogs of all kinds sign up on the A To Z Challenge site.
2. Once we're signed on, from April 1st until May 1st we're committed to write a post a day. 
3. Each day from the 1st to the 30s (except on Sundays) corresponds with a letter, running from A to Z. Your daily post should have something to do with the letter of the day. 
4. It's basically like Sesame Street. But must more stressful and on crack. 

And there you have it. Feed Me A Stray Cat! is officially participating, so if you're wondering what the hell is going on here while I explode in posts for the next month, there you have it. I'll be doing something relatively tame, simple putting up a movie review with a film title that corresponds to the letter of the day (ex: A is for American Psycho--isn't that tempting enough to stay tuned?). So consider this a heads up to anyone who checks this blog out, and a hiya to all the fellow A To Zers!

Monday, March 19, 2012

"Do You Speak American?"

This has got to be one of the strangest movies I'm ever going to review. Not because of the movie itself--Casa de mi Padre is a relatively straightforward telenovela parody--but rather because my ultimate feelings about the movie were hard to digest. The premise runs something like this: Armando Alvarez (Will Ferrell) is a cowardly ranchero who must toughen up in order to restore the dignity of his family that has been besmirched by his brother Raul's (Diego Luna) drug business. It also just so happens that Raul is getting married to the beautiful Sonia (Genesis Rodriguez), who is also the niece of the Mexico's rival drug lord, the merciless Onza (Gael Garcia Bernal). While there are a good couple gags, Casa de mi Padre is relatively straight-faced and falls back on cheap sets and unrealistic props to hold up the majority of its humor. We get poorly drawn sets, cheap driving backgrounds, and a stuffed, fake mountain lion.

In short, I didn't find myself laughing out loud very often, but here's the thing--I thoroughly enjoyed the story. While it might not have held up so well as a comedy, in the end, it was just a damn fun movie. It was as though, halfway through, the writers forgot they were writing a comedy and instead decided to have as much fun as they could in the telenovela genre. The action sequences were great, the dramatic, nefarious villains were great, heck, I even enjoyed the music. As for the actors, the main draw of the film for me was not Will Ferrell (even though my affection for him grows a little bit with every new comedy, I still have a snakeskin of unresolved bad movie issues to shrug off), but rather his two supporting players--Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal. I've been looking forward to a reunion of their chemistry since Y Tu Mama Tambien, and they certainly did not disappoint. Both brought hilarious performances to the table, especially the mighty Onza who stole the screen whenever he was in it. My only complaint was that there simply wasn't enough of them--though the one scene they share in a bar is excellent.

I will take the preemptive measure of saying one thing: I have the vague suspicion that this movie will get quite a bit of slack for its portrayal of Mexico. To which I have only one thing to say: it's called Casa de mi Padre and it stars the very America Will Ferrell as "Armando Alvarez". If you can't find anything amusing about that sentence, you might be offended. However, if you enjoyed the likes of Planet Terror (2007) and can stomach a little satire, I recommend checking this one out.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Versatile Blogger Award

And it's happened! Feed Me A Stray Cat! has received an award! And, funny enough, thanks to all that is awesome in the A to Z blogging challenge. So thank you, Sherry E of Mama Diaries for hand picking me for this one and passing on the award giving love!

I will be nominating 15 other fine bloggers for this award. Here are the instructions if you receive it:

1. Nominate 15 fellow bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award.

2. In the same post, add the Versatile Blogger Award.

3. In the same post, thank the blogger who nominated you in a post with a link back to their blog.

4. In the same post, share 7 completely random pieces of information about yourself.

5. In the same post, include this set of rules.

6. Inform each nominated blogger of their nomination by posting a comment on each of their blogs.

7 Random Things About Me:

1. I will eat anything so long as it's covered in hot sauce.

2. My girlfriend has a dog named after Roman heroine. If you can't tell by the name, we're both dreading/going-to-see-it-anyway Wrath Of The Titans.

3. I've written two feature length scripts and a handful of shorts. All sitting patiently on my desk.

4. Hopefully I'll get Script No. 3 this year after Script Frenzy. To any screenwriters, I highly encourage it.

5. Now that I've moved to Atlanta, I'm going to Dragon Con this year. I am more excited than Kristen Bell when she sees a sloth.

6. I'm addicted to Law & Order: SVU. Purely for UNSTABLER!

7. Now that it's on Netflix, I'm considering watching Dollhouse since I'm a big Whedon fan. But I've heard mixed things about it. Y/N?

And now for the 15 people. (I found most these bloggers from the list of people signed up for the A-Z challenge coming up this April. Spread the word!)

1. Film Sketchr

To post on your blog, save the award picture, go to your dashboard, click on your blog, go to your layout, add gadget, scroll down until you find the one that says, "picture," then just upload the picture, write a title, and a caption (maybe thank the person who gave you the award). And you're done. (Whew!)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Cut The Red Wire! (& Other Lessons)


After writing up a review for Y Tu Mamá También all those many moons ago, it occurred to me just how rare it is to find a movie with really spot on narration. Too often narration is used as a quick and easy cheap ploy to get some exposition out of the way so the real movie can begin. You know what I'm talking about. The Lord Of The Rings style kangaroo-pocket story that gives us a little prelude to understanding the rest of the film. We forgive it because it's Cate Blanchett and she can do no wrong, but this isn't really narration at its finest. A good narrator isn't thrown in there to save time with easy exposition--a good narrator sets the tone and the pace of the story. They keep us hooked, adding a degree of spice to an already delicious story. In honor of all that is great in narration, I've compiled a quick list of some of my top examples of narration done right. In no particular order...

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
Quote: "I tell him about destiny; he's shaking his head. About dreamgirls; he doesn't care. I mention the underwear thing? He has a fucking conniption. And you? How 'bout it, filmgoer? Have you solved the case of the - the dead people in L.A.? Times Square audiences, please don't shout at the screen, and stop picking at that, it'll just get worse."
Lesson: Robert Downey Jr. should narrate everything. Between his voice, his character, and the sharp, witty lines he pulls out effortlessly, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is really a lesson in good, engaging, colorful screenwriting.

Snatch (2000)
Quote: "If Gorgeous doesn't wake up in the next few minutes, Tommy knows he'll be buried with him. Why would the gypsies go through the trouble of explaining why a man died in their campsite when they can bury the pair of them and just move camp? It's not like they got social security numbers, is it? Tommy--the tit--is praying. And if he isn't, he fucking should be."
Lesson: Speaking of colorful screenwriting. It's really hard to get any more colorful than Guy Ritchie. His narration runs like his dialogue--with the fast bullet clip and the subtle near lyrical poetry. He's the "William Fuckin' Shakespeare" of London gutter talk.

Sunset Boulevard (1950)
Quote: "The whole place seemed to have been stricken with a kind of creeping paralysis...out of beat with the rest of the world, crumbling apart in slow motion."
Lesson: Now this is murder noir done right. End of story. Not only is the writing beautiful on its own, it keeps us rooting for the main character. We can't help but be entranced by Joe Gillis, even as his character descends in a steep downwards spiral.

Forrest Gump (1994)
Quote: "We was always taking long walks, and we was always looking for a guy named "Charlie"."
Lesson: Forrest Gump is, of course, the ultimate feel good movie. Why else is it on TV every other day? If you want to learn how to write a movie that will just make people feel good, watch this one a couple hundred times. But the real brilliance of the narration in Forrest Gump is not in its Hallmark "life is like a box of chocolates" bits. The talent is all in how well they manipulate dramatic irony, listening to Forrest tell his story while a very different vision of reality plays out on the screen. It's funny at times, moving at other times, and ultimately tells us everything we need to know about Forrest: "stupid is as stupid does."

Apocalypse Now (1979)
Quote: "If that's how Kilgore fought the war, I began to wonder what they really had against Kurtz. It wasn't just insanity and murder; there was enough of that to go around for everyone."
Lesson: Francis Ford Coppola is a cheater. He somehow manages to use narration as an expositional tool, which would normally grate on my nerves, yet he makes it work. It keeps the dark, noir style of the movie in line and never lets us go. Note to self: never try to be as good as Francis Ford Coppola, you will fail.

Honorable mentions:
Fight Club (1999)
Would've included it in the initial list, but it's based off a book and that somehow feels like cheating.
Adaptation (2002)
Also known as: every screenwriter's constant monologue.

Now I think I'm going to reward myself with a muffin. Anyone else have other great examples of movie narration they want to throw at me?