You’re either going to love this movie, or loathe it. It definitely takes a certain type of humor to get this movie. Luckily, I have said sense of humor, so I didn’t leave disappointed, but I can’t claim the same for everyone.
This story starts with Osbourne Cox (John Malkovich) as he gets fired from his job at the CIA for being an alcoholic. He’s in a rocky marriage with uptight Katie Cox (Tilda Swinton), who is having an affair with Harry Pfarrer (George Clooney). She wants to divorce Osbourne and marry Harry, though she doesn’t realize that Harry is a sex addict—and slightly neurotic!—and their relationship doesn’t mean as much to him as it does to her. With me so far? In the meantime, Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand) wants to get plastic surgery to improve her looks and hook a man. She works at a gym with happy-go-lucky Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt), where they find a CD containing information about CIA agent Osbourne Cox. They decide to try and blackmail Cox into paying to get the information back, and it basically blows up in their faces.
And that’s really only the half of it! Basically, this is the Coen Brothers’ idea of a Soap Opera, though much more entertaining, and with MUCH better acting!
There are a lot of big names in this movie (most of whom are listed above), and it’s nice to see most of them taking themselves not so seriously. One of the biggest scene stealers in this flick is Brad Pitt, whose blond streaked coif and tight gym shorts only add to the slightly dimwitted character. He is able to portray this almost childlike enthusiasm and innocence that gets caught up in something more dangerous than he could have ever imagined.
Some of the most hilarious scenes in the movie were between J.K. Simmons (as the CIA Supervisor) and another CIA officer, as they try to understand the situation from their end. The story is so ridiculous that the Coen’s brought in these characters just point that fact out to us and make sure we knew THEY knew the movie’s ridiculous.
Now, this movie isn’t all sunshine and dildos (you’ll get that if you’ve seen the movie). Some people actually die, and in some not so nice ways. BUT, they were shown in such a way that they’re actually kind of funny (or, at least I think so!). Just be prepared for it when you sit down with your garbage bag of popcorn and three liters of soda.
I didn’t see There Will Be Blood, but I’m guessing this isn’t the kind of movies the Coen’s are expecting to get Oscar noms for, and they certainly won’t. It was entertaining, it was funny, and I didn’t feel like I had wasted $10. That’s a big plus!
Like I said, not everyone is going to like this movie, but some of you will. I’d recommend it to friends of mine who share my sense of humor. For me: 7/10.
Kyle W. Kerr
09/18/08 | On Writing | 8 Comments
My world got all kinds of busted up the other day. Well, the one in my head, that is. You all know which one I’m talking about, right? The little world all of us writers live in? Yeah, that one!
Here I’ve been, bitching and moaning that I haven’t written anything in months, that I just don’t have the urge. Apparently, all I needed to do was go FUCK THE URGE, I’m writing anyway. And you know what? I did just that. Two days ago, for the first time in over four months, I sat down and just wrote. For about an hour and a half. And spat out over 1,100 words. Not bad, I say!
I found that writing without inspiration is very much like writing WITH it… except I don’t have that doofy grin on my face. The voice of my main character was still there, ready to talk. I just had to let him. What came as the biggest shock was that it was up to my usual standard of writing. Its quality wasn’t diminished because I lacked the usual inspiration. Granted, it may have been a little harder to get the words out, but they still came. So, apparently, inspiration can suck it.
There, I said it!
At the height of my productivity, I can write a 10,000 word story in three days, so about 3,300 words a day is the best I’ve done (to memory… could have been more without me realizing it). In theory, I should be able to write a decently sized first draft (100-120k words) in about 30-36 days. BUT, considering that pace is RIDICULOUS for the long term, I’d say something like three months would be far more likely, if I wrote between 1-1.5k words per day. Which is an extremely doable pace for me! Then take the next three months for revisions and editing. At which rate I could potentially write two books a year, which I think is INSANE (though it is a slightly exciting revelation!).
What I’ve got to do is work on my discipline. I’m a very lazy writer, and I’m the first to admit to that. I’ve mostly been relying on “inspiration” for the past few years, writing in bursts when the urge hits me, but I know now that I can’t do that if I ever want to realize my dreams of becoming a fulltime writer. Writing is work, and if all anyone ever did was rely on inspiration, then there wouldn’t be so many books out there now.
I never wanted writing to become work, because I thought I wouldn’t want to do it then. Kind of like when I was younger and discovered the pleasures of cooking for the first time. I really enjoyed it at first, but then my parents turned it into a chore for me, and it lost its appeal. Surely the same would happen with writing, no? But then another realization struck: there are people all over the world who LOVE their jobs. They’re still doing work, technically, but they’re enjoying doing it. Who says that writing would be any less fun if I had to do it to make a living?
A friend pointed something out to me after reading my last blog post… in the same entry, I basically declare how brilliant I am and simultaneously knock myself down by saying I suck and haven’t written in four months. Now, I never meant for that bit about Steve saying I was a good writer to sound narcissistic, but to note my shock that he would say so (and there was a little pride in there as well, I admit). She then said something that really got me thinking: “If Steve knew you weren’t writing, he’d lose all respect for you.”
And she’s absolutely right.
I’m unemployed at the moment, as I’ve noted. Yes, I have a few stresses, but no real excuse about why I can’t write. Did Stephen King stop writing after being hit by a car? Did Anne Rice stop writing after her daughter died at a young age? Did Jo Rowling stop writing when she was so close to being homeless? No. And look what’s happened for all of them! (I’m not comparing myself to them at all, but they are the most tragic writer scenarios I could think of to prove my point! And yes, I know SK got hit AFTER he was already über successful… but he’s bounced back almost tenfold!)
A new declaration: Writing is now my job. Regardless of what happens in the near future as a means to make money, any other “job” I get will be part-time in comparison to my writing. I’m not setting any goals right now as far as daily productivity, though I still have a personal deadline of finishing all revisions on my novel by October 31. I’m going to need everyone’s help to remind me of this deadline, and make me feel guilty if I’m not doing my job. Local friends and family: if you see me watching TV or a movie I’ve seen a bajillion times, ask me why I’m not writing. Distant friends and family: occasional reminders that I should be writing or inquiries into how it’s all going would be appreciated!
As soon as this entry is posted, I’m packing up my laptop and going back to the local diner where I managed my last successful writing day. No internet, no TV, no couch/bed to nap on… just my computer and my imagination!
Kyle W. Kerr
09/12/08 | Genius Mode, Idiot Mode, Maui, My Writings, Procrastination | 3 Comments
[Please note that there is ANOTHER new post under this one as well!]
I suck. Honestly, I’m not kidding. I don’t know how I’m supposed to get published if I don’t write, and I haven’t been. Not for months now. I could talk about all of the stresses I’ve been having in my life lately, but they’d all sound oddly like excuses, which is exactly what they’d be. There have been many writers before who have kept going through tough times (*cough*Jo Rowling*cough*), so what do I have to say for myself? I suck.
Three weeks ago I made the 12 hour trip from Philadelphia to Honolulu for the Maui Writers Conference and Retreat (which was obviously on hiatus from Maui!). It was my second time attending the conference and retreat, and I just have to say… it was weird. I didn’t like having it in Honolulu. It’s hard to explain to anyone who hasn’t experienced the retreat in Maui, but there’s this sort of spiritual ambiance about that island, not to mention the fact that you are so secluded and are almost forced to interact with all of the other retreaters (which is a DEFINITE plus!). But that didn’t happen this year. Yes, I walked away with new friends (hi Edna, Kim, Ryan, Tracy and Linda!), but I don’t think we were around each other enough. Last year, I ate with someone new almost every meal, and had drinks every night. This year (as much as I love them!), I spent most of my time with my roommates, who I’d met last year. It was just off…
Besides that, the retreat itself was amazing. I studied alongside five other hand-picked students in a Masters Class with NYT bestselling author Steve Berry, who is a master craftsman himself. I had heard horror stories about him teaching a previous retreat in Fiji—something about half the class winding up in tears?—but I have to say that I welcomed the criticism. As he likes to put it, you don’t become a better writer by people telling you how amazing you are all the time. And Steve was nothing but honest, definitely giving compliments when necessary, but always keeping it real. Surprisingly, there were no tears (at least not IN class, anyway!), and I believe that we have all walked away better writers.
I was sort of shocked that Steve was fairly complimentary of my work. Keep in mind my abovementioned statement of him being a hard-ass when I say… I was the only writer in the class that he complimented TO THE CLASS. We were sitting there, going over my writing sample, when he actually said “This boy can write.” (I almost added an exclamation mark there, but Steve doesn’t really talk in exclamation marks and he would probably die if I ever used one in my writing, anyway… and yes, I can see the four I’ve already used! Five… Damn.) His biggest criticism of my writing was that I need to work on structure, something I wholeheartedly agree with. He even wrote a special dedication in the book of his I had him sign: “You’re going to make it.”
I hope so!
The thing is, I need to get back into the swing of things. I still need to rewrite the entire second half of my book (about 40 pages worth… it’s a short second half), and add three or four new chapters to the first half, which will help with pacing and character development. Plus, the general editing that needs to be done for tightening and strengthening my prose. I’ve got a bit of work to do, obviously, and it needs to be done soon. I’ve even given myself a deadline to finish all rewrites and edits by the end of October, which is 49 days from now. Now, I’ve just got to sit down and DO IT!
It was nice being able to see so many amazing writers. Not only did I get to sit in the presence of Steve Berry for hours a day, but I got to be around David Morrell (the father of RAMBO), John Lescroart, William Broadbent, William Martin, Ann Hood, and my retreat teacher from last year and personal friend, Gary Braver. I was hoping to get to see James Rollins again, who I met last year in Maui and actually had drinks with at ThrillerFest in July, but he had to pull out at the last minute because of an unfortunate family emergency. He and his family are on my mind every day.
Now, for any of you who know me, this next bit may come as a shock: I WENT SURFING. Yes, me, in the ocean, on a little board. I’ll let you get the laughs out before we proceed.
Not only did I go surfing, but I went surfing with THREE BESTSELLING AUTHORS! Steve, John Lescroart and Bill Broadbent joined me with Steve’s wife, Liz, a friend of hers and the woman’s husband, and another member of my retreat class, Kim, who organized our little expedition. That’s a pretty cool story to be able to tell, right?
(I’ll save the embarrassing pictures for myself!
From far left: Liz, her friend, me, Liz’s friend’s husband, Bill, John, Steve, and Kim… muscle guy with no shirt is our instructor, obviously)
Okay, let’s just say that having long hair does not help in the slightest. And, being a rather bigger boy (*sigh*), I got tired REAL fast. I didn’t realize how much energy it would take just to paddle out to the surfing point! I don’t think I’ve ever sweated so much in such a short period of time. Did it help that I was in cold water? Not really. While all of the skinny people were having a blast, I was ready to just die. I fell off the board a couple of times (five), and it’s very hard to get back onto it when you’re not allowed to put your feet on the ocean floor. Why weren’t we, you ask? Because it was covered with such wonderful things as coral, broken shells, sea urchins, and all manner of lovely things that you can cut your feet on and attract our little friends, the sharks. There was one instance when I was having a particularly difficult time getting back on the board, when the instructor pulled up beside me for encouragement. I had my arms stretched across the board and the top of my chest on, but couldn’t manage more than that. “One chest at a time!” was his helpful tip. I could only look at him with an expression I’m sure would have killed puppies. Then he said, “One tit at a time!” Ah, now I got you, thanks.
By the time we were heading into shore, I was so exhausted that I could hardly move, let alone paddle. So, our instructor pulled up next to me, put his foot on my board, and literally “toe’d” me into shore.
Let’s just say that it will be a while until I get back on a surfboard again. Maybe next year, if I’ve lost 100 pounds and can bench-press a small whale.
Kyle W. Kerr
Apologies in advance for how LONG this post is going to be. I haven’t updated in a while, so this is going to be a bit of a ramble. But, considering the title of this blog is A Writer’s Ramblings, I guess I’m allowed.
It appears that I am unemployable. I got a job sometime in June, but that basically ended in flames and I was forced to quit. Of course, that was two weeks before I headed to Honolulu, so let’s just say I’m a bit strapped for cash at the moment. (I had to sell my soul to three people in order to even GET to the conference and retreat! Thank God I have such great friends!) I’ve currently got my resume out to a number of places, and am even applying to some less-than-ideal jobs in the area (the dreaded retail). Please, pray for me.
I’ve seen a few new ones, three of which I saw on the two 8 hour trips between Minnesota and Honolulu. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: Okay, I’ll admit that I haven’t seen the first three Indy movies in their entirety yet, but I just have to say that this movie was REALLY hokey. I mean, I love Cate Blanchett, and I’ve recently come to appreciate Shia LaBeouf, but the acting was just BAD. And that ending. Really? I’m usually really good with my suspension of disbelief (I AM a writer, after all!), but that ending was just completely ridiculous. Good lord! Kung Fu Panda: Not much to say about this one. Cute, cuddly, adorable. Jack Black is awesome as usual. I’d watch it again. Skadoosh! Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day: I have to say that I really LOVE Focus Features lately. Atonement. In Bruges. And now, Miss Pettigrew. I really, really liked this movie. It’s about a nanny who’s hard on her luck and having trouble finding a job (maybe THAT’S why I connected with her so well! She’s ME!), and ends up stealing a lead from her placement agency after they deem her unemployable. The movie follows her through one day, and it was simply amazing. Plus, I love Amy Adams, too! The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor: Awful. It was nowhere near as good as the first two. The amazingness of Rachel Weisz was noticeably absent, the portrayal of the once adorable son (who is magically in his mid-twenties after only a 7 year time gap between films) is that of an arrogant jackass, and the storyline was just WAY too out there! What, you couldn’t find a way to bring back Imhotep for a third round? Whatever. The Dark Knight: Anyone who has seen this movie already knows how amazing it was, so I don’t need to add to everything that has already been said about it. I will say that I believe director Chris Nolan, and actors Heath Ledger and Aaron Eckhart all deserve Oscars.
I’m currently obsessed with the following three songs (note my seemingly erratic choices! Blame the stress…):
Le Disko by Shiny Toy Guns
I am apparently not allowed to embed the music video for this song (WHY?!), so you can listen to it HERE. This song was offered as a “Single of the Week” through iTunes, so I was able to get it for free. It has such a catchy tune that I haven’t been able to stop listening to it!
Creator by Santagold
I first heard this song on episode 2x02 of Gossip Girl (I LOVE that show!), and instantly downloaded it. It’s been less than a week, but I must have listened to it over 50 times!
An Angel by Declan
This song came to my attention while I was searching for someone else on YouTube (which I talk about below). I don’t know how old this kid is, but I can’t get enough of this song! Just ignore some of the bad lyrics (rhyming “hives” with “hives”, for instance… and using “eyes” at the end of two consecutive lines!) and concentrate on his voice and the music. He reminds me of Billy Gilman, though obviously not singing Country. He has two albums out in the US right now (I think there’s one import available in the UK that isn’t available here), and has such an adorable voice! It’s funny though, because it drops about THREE OCTAVES between this album and his next one.
I’m currently reading The Venetian Betrayal by my new favorite person, Steve Berry! I hadn’t read any of his books prior to having him as a teacher in Honolulu, so I thought it might be a good idea to check him out. I’m just beginning part four of five parts, and I’m really enjoying it so far! He’s definitely a talented writer, and it’s good to know the lessons he taught us can actually be put to good use! I’ll definitely be buying more of his books in the future.
Some books that I’m really looking forward to their releases are Christopher Paolini’s Brisingr and JK Rowling’s The Tales of Beedle the Bard...! Brisingr is the third book in Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle, formerly the Inheritance Trilogy because he decided to make the series four books instead of three (which I’m not complaining about!). I absolutely loved the first book in the series, Eragon. The second book, Eldest, I didn’t think was as good as the first, but was still very good (enough to get me to want the rest of the series!). That book comes out in about a week, which I’m really excited about. The Tales of Beedle the Bard was mentioned in Jo’s last Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It was a present from the recently deceased Dumbledore to Hermione as a clue for Harry on how to defeat Voldemort. Only one story from the book was mentioned in Hallows, but Jo created a set of seven copies of this book, each handwritten by herself and bound in beautiful leather and encrusted with precious stones. Six of them were given away to people who were intricate to the success of Potter (I’m guessing her agent, editors, etc), and one was auctioned for charity. Amazon.com bought the book for a reported $4 million, and teased us with pictures of the book and reviews of all the stories within. We thought we’d never get to see inside, when they announced that they were going to publish the book and give all the proceeds to charity! They have a standard paperback of the book available, but I’m interested in THIS one! A replica of the one Amazon won, which is selling for a mere $100. Well worth it, I say!
There are a bunch of things I’m watching nowadays. We’re halfway through the fifth season of Project Runway. I have to say I’m really disappointed with this season. I don’t care for any of the designers. Every time someone gets voted off the show, I’m not particularly bothered. And there’s no one I’m really rooting for to win, either. In fact, most of the contestants annoy me. Suede, with his referring to himself in third person; Blayne, who can only think about tanning; Keith, who’s only capable of sewing together strips of fabric and calling it fashion forward… the list goes on. Gossip Girl season two just started recently, and I’m happy to report that it’s as scandalicous as last year, and hopefully the ante gets upped even more! The Sarah Connor Chronicles had its season two premiere on Monday, and it was amazing. You all know how much of a Terminator fan I am (I’m named after Kyle Reese from the first movie, after all!), and this show has not disappointed (too much). John Connor finally has some of his balls back, Cameron could have been bad but ended the episode on the side of good, and they’ve brought in a female version of the T-1000 (the guy from T-2 who was basically liquid metal)!!! It’s going to be an amazing year. Now, I just have to wait for the premiere’s of Grey’s Anatomy and Heroes…!!! TV JOYGASM!
Some NEW shows that I’ve been watching include Skins and Fringe. Skins is basically Dawson’s Creek on CRACK! It centers on a group of 7 British teen friends, and involves a whole bunch of drugs, sex, swearing, eating disorders, manipulation, fights, suicide attempts, a possible sexual relationship between one of the friends and a teacher, parental abandonment, and that’s only in the FIRST FIVE EPISODES! It airs on the BBC America channel on Sundays at 10PM, but an unedited/uncensored version of the show is available on iTunes. I don’t know what it is about this show, but it is completely addicting. The kids are really great actors, and the storylines are simply explosive! Love it. The other show, Fringe, just premiered on Fox the other day, and stars Dawson’s Creek alum Joshua Jackson. It’s an X-Files-like show that centers on the unnatural, but doesn’t involve aliens (at least, I don’t think it does) and actually revolves around science. The first episode started a little slow, but I was completely hooked by the end of it! Now I’ve got another show to set up on my DVR!
I’m only going to put two on here, and it’s a complete coincidence that the main actors for each movie are schtupping one another.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
I first heard about this movie about a year ago, and it’s been on my mind ever since. When I finally got to see the teaser trailer above, my first reaction was HOLY FUCKING GOD! It looks really incredible! And, it brings together a number of my favorite actors, including Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett and Tilda Swinton. This movie is definitely on my list to see this winter.
After seeing what he could do with Million Dollar Baby, I can’t pass up the chance to see another Clint Eastwood drama. Not only is the concept completely horrifying, but it’s actually a TRUE STORY. Besides, it doesn’t hurt that Angelina Jolie is in it.
The following video I first saw on an episode of Oprah. This is the video I mentioned earlier, the one I was searching for on YouTube when I came across Declan’s song. This is of a boy named Andrew Johnston trying out for Britain’s Got Talent, which is exactly like its American counterpart. You MUST watch the entire video, from the start, or else the song and his voice won’t be AS powerful (though, they’re powerful on their own as well!). I would suggest turning up the volume as loud as you can, preferably using a set of good headphones if you’ve got them around. I swear on all that is good and holy that I actually teared up listening to his voice, and he hits a note right in the middle of the song that sent a jolt right through my body.
I would also highly suggest listening to this in hi-def, which you can see HERE. The faces on the judges say it all. Absolutely stunning, and I can imagine him singing for movie soundtracks in the very near future (they have used boys choirs in recordings for The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, etc… LOTS of work for these kids!)…!
And the last thing I want to talk about is the lawsuit of JK Rowling and Warner Bros. vs. RDR Books, a company who wanted to publish a Harry Potter Encyclopedia based on the website The Harry Potter Lexicon. I’m not going to go into the reasons behind the lawsuit—you can read about it HERE—but just comment on the outcome. Thank GOD the judge sided with Jo and WB, or else we might not have seen the comprehensive Harry Potter Encyclopedia that Jo herself is writing. We’ve been hearing about this book ever since the publication of Deathly Hallows last summer, and it would have been a real travesty had she felt forced to give it up. Justice sides with good once more, and hopefully we get our hands on that book sometime soon!
I’ve made a vow to keep up with my blogging from now on, so you won’t have these ridiculously long posts to sort through anymore. Thanks for listening, though!
Kyle W. Kerr