The screenplay for Heaven and Sea has made it to the second round of the Slamdance screenplay competition. You can find out more by visiting the link below:
Review of Letters From Iwo Jima directed by Clint Eastwood, written by Iris Yamshita and Paul Haggis
As a companion piece for Flags of Our Fathers, this film succeeds on all levels. Unlike other reviews, I give the edge to Flags as the better of the two. Mostly because of the starkness of this film. I felt Flags of Our Fathers was richer.
The majority of this film takes place on Iwo Jima, which is the main reason this film seems so stark. The island is no paradise. The only opportunity to film off the island is during flashbacks. Sometimes they work and sometimes they feel forced and artificial. Additionally, a good portion of the film takes place inside the caves dug into the island by the Japanese soldiers, adding to the sense of claustrophobia.
The film does a good job of balancing the battle between the American and Japanese perspectives. American soldiers are portrayed as both heroic, frightened, and barbaric. These same qualities are shown in the Japanese soldiers. The film shows us that there are more similarities than differences between the two sides. The one cultural difference is the Japanese dictum to fight until death. This resulted in the needless deaths of some 20,000 Japanese soldiers.
Ken Watanabe’s performance as General Tadamichi stands out. He conveys much with only his body language and expressions. Had this film been shot twenty years ago, the characters would have spoken in English. The film doesn’t lose anything with the use of subtitles.
The one major omission is not showing the flag raising from the Japanese perspective. That would have tied the two films together better. The bonus DVD has a very good Making of documentary, but there is nothing on the actual people or the battle. Also on the bonus DVD are two premieres, a casting short, and an image collection.
First the book. I am pleased to announce that the book Heaven and Sea has been accepted into the small press trade distribution program at IPG. The book will appear in the spring 2008 catalog and will be available for purchase sometime between Jan and Apr of 2008. Acceptance into this program is contingent on me changing the tile and cover design. I am in the process of making those changes now. Some sample title ideas are listed at the end of this post. You can voice your opinion by commenting to this post.
While I awaited for the panel to assemble and make their selections for inclusion into this distribution program, I decided to write a screenplay based on the book. I have written two other screenplays. One was very bad. The other was very good but was lost when I accidentally deleted it when I bought a new computer. I have also taken a few classes and belonged to some online screenwriting groups. So I’m not a complete novice. Forced by the constraints of screenplays where every word and every scene must have a purpose, I was able to really focus on the drama of this story. The end result was a screenplay that has attracted the attention of an agency in Hollywood. I have signed with this agency and they are now in the process of submitting the screenplay to production companies.
The odds of having the screenplay actually produced are not favorable. But they are zero without the effort. Stay tuned here to see how things progress.
Here are some title ideas for the book. Let me know what you think.
The Rescue of ALM Flight 980
The Rescue of Flight 980
Rescue at Sea
Rescue in the Caribbean
Ditched at Sea
Thirty-Five Miles From Shore
Last Flight of The Carib Queen
The only open-water ditching of a commercial jet
The true story of the only open-water ditching of a commercial jet and the efforts to rescue those who survived
The true story of the 1970 ditching of ALM flight 980 and the efforts to rescue those who survived
A true story of heroism and survival
Review of "Zodiac" directed by David Fincher, written by James Vanderbilt
Officially the murders in the late 60s and early 70s attributed to the Zodiac killer are unsolved. This film, based on the book by the same name by Robert Graysmith, puts forth a good case for identifying the best suspect.
From an entertainment standpoint, this film does an excellent job of keeping the suspense going from start to finish. The murders are gruesome but shot with restraint. The killings are portrayed in chronological order with factual information regarding time and place superimposed on the screen. This gives the film some level of authenticity.
There are basically three storylines: the official police investigation, the newspaper’s reporting of the crimes and subsequent printing of letters from the killer, and Robert Graysmith fascination with the case. Since the film is based on Graysmith’s book, his viewpoint is the predominant one.
All leads seem to point to one suspect. When the police finally gather enough circumstantial evidence to get a search warrant, the suspect is cleared, mostly on the basis of a hand writing analysis and a lack of physical evidence. The trail runs cold. The case is kept alive through the efforts of Robert Graysmith.
The last thirty minutes of the movie are a little confusing as several additional suspects are introduced and then forgotten, without fully explaining why. The most convincing scene is when Robert Graysmith puts forth a time line of the prime suspect’s whereabouts in connection with the killings, phone calls, and letters.
Despite the the evidence, in the end there is nothing to tie the prime suspect to the killings. DNA evidence done on a letter from the actual Zodiac killer does not match the suspect.
Little effort was put into giving much historical context. The soundtrack is almost non existent, as if they decided to use imitation music rather than pay royalties for popular songs of the time period. The DVD is sorely lacking: no commentary, nothing on the real Zodiac case.
Review of Alpha Dog written and directed by Nick Cassavetes
The underlying story of a kidnapping that may or may not have been a kidnapping that turned into a murder is an interesting one. But the end result here is a missed opportunity.
The writer/director uses two different methods to tell the story. He uses interviews with key individuals documentary style. And he tells the story directly through the characters. He could have completely cut out the documentary scenes and would have made an improvement right there.
Everything about this film feels excessive. The language is excessive. There couldn’t have been a single page of script that didn’t have at least twenty cuss words. Sure kids this age use foul language, but every other word? Much of the acting was excessive. There’s having an argument, having a loud argument, being really mad, then there’s this movie where everyone screams at each other.
The majority of the women are portrayed as sex objects and nothing more. The parents are portrayed as unfit to parent, but they are written over the top so that they become caricatures of bad parenting and not real people, which they were.
The best performances for me were the understated ones. Justin Timberlake was one of the few characters who didn’t scream every line. Emile Hirsch who portrayed Johnny Truelove gave a great performance. Anton Yelchin who played fiftee-year old Zach also gave a good performance.
The best scenes were the ones where there were only two or three characters on screen. Unfortunately, there weren’t very many of those.
I saw the movie on DVD. There is a weak making of documentary but no audio commentary and nothing on the real people who were involved.
The book Heaven and Sea was actually ready to be released early this year. I had several options for distribution. I decided to go for what I thought was the best option, which was IPG. I should be hearing something from them in the next few weeks.
If I get accepted by IPG, there is still a possibility that I may have to delay things a bit longer. Before I take the plunge and expense of publishing the book myself, I need to make sure that all other options have been exhausted. There have been some recent developments that could take things in a different direction. That is partly why I started this blog. I didn’t want those waiting for the book to think that nothing was going on. There is.
If you want to know exactly what’s going on, I suggest that you subscribe to the blog feed. You may receive some irrelevant posts. But then again you might find something of interest.