Category Archives:Writing Class

Script Segment: The Insurance Adjuster

Two men are sitting in a small mexican restaurant called “El Burro del Mar” outside

of a town called Globe, Arizona. A town just outside a reservation where the men are

investigating some routine car insurance dispute that’s kept them there for over 3 weeks

now. Scene starts mid conversation.

Jarred

If I knew any better Id think you were feeling sorry for yourself again… never gets you anywhere you know.

Jeremy

(annoyed)

Dude, I don’t wana hear that shit.. seriously… im just trying to talk

Jarred

(leans back in bench)

Evenyone goes through this crap. You just have to take it as it comes and keep your head up.

Jeremy

.. if you say one more cliché im gona puke..

(puts head on table then up again)

you don’t have to listen, you can go back to the hotel ya know.

Jared

Fine, after I finish this crap they call mexican food. Whats wrong with this place?

*Through small window between kitchen and seating a short dark man peers out at Jared with recognition.

Jeremy

(smirking)

They must’v fired all the Mexicans.

Jarred

I hate “americanized” mexican food.

(sees man looking at him through window, pause as Jarred contemplates something)

Lets go..

(stands up slowly)

Jeremy

(confused)

Your not gona pay?

Jarred

(starts walking towards the door)

Nah, fuckem, customer satisfaction

(visualy nervous)

We can go to Super Burrito Express on the way to the hotel.

The two exit the restaurant, Jeremy more worried about the consequences yet not willing to take a stand at all follows Jarred to the rental car several feet behind because of Jarred’s haste, to the drivers side. The two get in the car and Jarred turns the key.

Jeremy

You do that a lot?

Jarred

Nah, just wanted to leave.

Jeremy

(confused look)

Huh… [as in interesting]

There is a pause while they pull out of the very bumpy, pothole ridden dirt driveway visibly being bounced around the car a bit.

Jarred

So we were talking about some girl or some catastrophic life ruining event in your life ,right? … kindof a prelude to next weeks “talk” (smirks)

Jeremy

(also smiling but trying not to)

Yeah, I know, I have a lot of complaints these days.

Jarred

Who Doesn’t I guess…. Its not like I love my life so much.

Car starts to get a little speed as it comes completely out of huge parking lot.

Now you can faintly hear yelling outside over the low music of the radio in the car. It’s the man who was in the kitchen and you can see him out of focus in back window waving his arms around and going back in the restaurant. Car pulls onto road.

BOOM!

Back window of car shatters and car starts to veer.

Jeremy

(screaming)

What the fuck was that?!

Jarred

(very angry)

Shit, shit shit shit SHIT!!

Jarred floors car and speeds off. Jeremy looking backwards to see short man with a shotgun and running behind restaurant.

Jeremy

Now tell me that was worth it asshole?!

That guys trying to blow a hole in out heads because you didn’t pay for your stupid three dollar burrito!

(starts babbling)

Why do I even deal with this shit. They said I could come back to Phoenix and you could finish but I said.. noooo.. this is like a vacation compared to… (fades off)

*In Jared’s head. Camera narrows into eyes and rear view mirror where hes watching a truck tearing through the huge pothole parking lot. He can only hear the music on the radio, a song finishes and goes to a new one. He realizes Jarred is shaking his arm.

Jeremy

(had been looking back also)

Why are they following us!!?

Jarred

(noticeably irritated)

Lets just say ,I may or may not have caused that guy a little loss in the insurance world

Jeremy

What?!

A little loss? What the hell does that mean?

A lapse in coverage…you stole it?

That guy’s pretty pissed off man.

Jarred

(Still irritated and trying to keep far ahead of the truck behind him)

I was here about a year ago and… um…

(Slightly embarrassed)

I also got his daughter pregnant

(Pause)

aaaand…

Jeremy

(Visibly getting angry)

And what? As if that shit wasn’t enough….

Jarred

(Smirking a little)

And burned down his house to get his daughter away from him

Jeremy

(shocked and yelling)

What the hell..

Where was I? Where’s this girl?

Why are you making this shit up?

This isn’t fucking funny man

(truck in back window doesn’t seem to be gaining speed well

you can barely see someone on passenger side leaning out window)

Just tell me you stole a few grand from this guy

I don’t even care. …I’m just not gona die because you fucked up

BOOM!!

Man in passenger side shoots and grazes the side of Jeremy’s head

Jeremy is screaming and bleeding and holding his ear.

*In Jarred’s head again. Jeremy’s voice fades out. You can see him kicking the dash and Jared’s view of the road in front.

Jarred starts to remember how this all started and how its going to have to end.  Jarred comes to.
Jeremy Screaming and yelling at Jarred.

Jarred

She left me actually.

(laughs a little)

after all I did

(gets suddenly serious)

Jeremy

(still screaming)

What! What!

Fuck you! Fuck you!

Jeremy kicks at steering wheel and tries to kick Jarred. Car veers to the left and a fade into light brings in next scene.

The next scene is a flashback to a better explanation of the event.

The film is basically about two men sent to this small town in Arizona to deal with a life insurance claim dispute between the inheriting family. Its kind of a road trip for both of them. They just have to show up at court in the town till its over. Free hotel, free food, rental car, etc.  The focus of the film is not about the claim but about the men and this particular event that causes a flash back to several years ago when Jarred was in town for a similar reason and left a lot of dirty laundry behind. After the flash back that explains a little more clearly the two find they are dealing with a man (the father) that’s pretty serious about revenge, not because he loves his daughter but more so because a possession was taken from him (his daughter). It turns out that even though the girl left Jarred, she did not go back to her father either. The father didn’t know she had left him and Jarred doesn’t know she’s not in town.. Either way Jarred also stole the bonds that were part of his inheritance that he never planned to give to his Daughter, forged some insurance papers to cash in his life insurance claim (with a fake death certificate), and burned down his house to finish off the story, all while the father was out in Mexico visiting family.  The girl left Jarred, took all the money and her father had to reestablish that he wasn’t dead to the state.

Sleeping With the Dead

This is the first chapter of a story that I started in 2009 and since put aside. I hope to continue writing one chapter a month, maybe more often if I have time, since I always liked how it started and it just seemed like it needed to be told.
My goal is a raunchy zombie tale, to stay general, but you’ll just have to read it to see what really happens. 🙂

Sleeping With the Dead

“You stupid, ugly whore..” He paused, grimacing at her pock marked face and thighs. Lexi’s lips and eyes glistened from the night’s activities as she smirked and threw herself back on the bed. “Do you think you mean anything to me, or anyone? You’re barely worth the benny I paid you in the hall. You tell me I’m terrible? You lay there like a dead woman!”. He was nearly crying as he said this but she wasn’t listening – stretched on her back staring at the ceiling. “It doesn’t really matter what they say” she thought to herself. She was quite at peace with what she was and how she looked, in general; even though almost daily some jackass would come into her room and try hard to change her mind.

She stared off apathetically, looking at the cracks in the ceiling and humming Xanadu, much to his annoyance. There were only two cracks, but she pretended they were rivers, and they made her remember her childhood in Manitowok, Wisconsin. Manitowok was next to a town called Two Rivers – which she had only visited for parties as a teen – This was a fairly random and meaningless memory to daydream about while being lectured by a naked stranger, but that’s the way her mind worked most the time. After what seemed like minutes, she had gotten so lost in thought and Xanadu, she nearly forgot about the lecturer and his lecture. She rose quietly from the bed, him in the middle of the room – legs wide, tackle dangling, shaking fists, saying something about scruples. Having already got his money and no longer concerned about looking attractive, she sauntered almost grotesquely across the room to her vanity, slumped into her tiny vanity chair and looked back at him blankly through the mirror. He stopped ranting long enough to realize she was bored of him and it was time to go. “Stupid whore” he said again, mumbling as he fumbled with his pants, tottering on one of his excessively hairy, stumpy legs. She laughed to herself as he crossed the room to leave, his reflection a blur in the corner of her eye now as she redid her lipstick for no particular reason. He saw her smiling as he left the room and feeling disrespected, slammed the door so hard her favorite perfume fell off the vanity and broke. Besides the stench of Britney Spears Believe permeating the room, nothing remained of his having been there and that’s all she asked of the asshole types. She was never sure what motivated men like that to go on such tangents or why they let her get to them so easy. She figured it had to do with their mothers, or having been molested by an uncle – she was no psychologist.

This was her third year as a sex worker (as her friends liked to call themselves) and it hadn’t treated her too poorly – considering. Besides dealing with a constant stream of emotionally handicapped men and occasionally women, she had a pretty safe place to do her business. She had just turned 27 a week ago, a birthday that once again passed with just one particular customer taking notice, Cooper – a man due later that same evening in fact. She had a late start at the sex worker business compared to the other girls in the building. Some were on their 20th year, having started at disturbing ages like 16 and 19, and had come into the craft by force or necessity. She had chosen to be here; not a common attribute for women “like her”, but since the results are the same, it didn’t seem to matter.

Her decision had been a fairly methodical one, as all of her decisions are; she was obsessed with book or movie-worthyness in every aspect of her life – a secret little handicap of her own she’d developed after her mother’s feeble attempt at home-school turned into a 3 year movie festival from age 9 to 11. She had gotten so fed up with life as an upper middle class, Jewish, law student – living at home and getting fat on lattés, that she decided to try a life a little more cruel and unspoiled. It would give her character “like in the movies” she thought, and that is has. Her family never valued character and never cared much if she was happy. After her father’s fiftieth refusal to allow her to go to film school, she flunked out of UW Law (University of Wisconsin Law) and gladly told her father to, quote, “fuck himself”.

She always found it pretty odd that she never felt any emotional, cultural or religious ties to her family or small Wisconsin Jewish community, and to her disgust, every now and then when she looked at the cracks in the ceiling, she would think of her grandmother’s tales of Mesopotamia. “The (official) Land Between Two Rivers” Bubby would say, smoking a cigar and smelling like rotten potatoes. Bubby had escaped Iraq during WWII and had a million bullshit tales to tell, but overall Lexi just ended up indifferent and bored of the tales and wanted a way out even more. “Dinah” Bubbe would say (at the time that was her name) “Dinah, don’t you want to be a good woman and find a nice prince to make us some little ones?!”. If “Dinah” had to hear that again she was bound to kidnap a child just to throw it in her Bubby’s arms and scream “Here! Shutup!” – so she left. Her thoughts always get out of control looking at those cracks.

Lexi had realized young, from movies and visiting strip clubs after school, that looks had little to do with sex – and that was good because looks were not something she had. She couldn’t count the hours she’d spent waxing her upper lip or the thousands she’d paid for laser hair removal. She had spent the majority of her life, and to this day, with consistent acne on her back, face and ass, something she attempted to medicate but seemed a losing battle. On top of all her depilatory, acne cream, wax and laser related problems – she had her mother’s nose. From time to time she would convince herself she was a strong woman, made more attractive by her large nose like her hero Sandra Bernhard. Sandra refused to get a nose job even when she was rich and famous and had the money, and Lexi was doing the same right? Except she wasn’t – she couldn’t afford to fix it and the way men treated her, she’d come to no longer see a point.

She continued in the mirror, refreshing other cosmetics that would soon enough be rubbed off. She looked long and hard at herself, squinting and pushing out her upper lip to see if the light revealed any mustache she’d missed. It was time to get up and get dressed, and because it was Cooper’s night, she’d agreed to dress like a school mistress. The outfit he bought her didn’t fit, even a little, and her “large, but not in a good way” breasts were pushed up like water-balloons on the verge of exploding in their captors impatient face. She joked to herself that if she kept wearing outfits like this they would explode and imagined the mess on the walls. “God what a stench” she gagged, remembering the perfume and forgetting the splattered flesh. She bent down to pick up the glass, choking, retching and simultaneously sympathizing with the men who had to smell her neck up close.

Cooper’s night was always Monday and he hadn’t missed one in all her 3 years. She didn’t know his first name or where he lived and he wouldn’t tell her. Through all his adoration he still insisted on some sense of anonymity. She was sure that behind behind his priestly white collar he was a cop, spy or escape convict – or maybe it was just something about his eccentric personality that made him seem to be more than he put on. For the first year he visited her as a beacon of hope, trying to convince her that (the christian) God loved her and still would if she quit her dirty deeds. She’s pretty sure he chose her because she’s Jewish, some kind of a sick double challenge, though he wasn’t really like that. He was never too preachy or judgmental and would even laugh if she joked that the Old Testament speaks highly of whores and “where would Jesus be without his harem” in the New Testament. It wasn’t long before the fact that Cooper was a man overcame the fact that he was a man of God. She wasn’t sure why but she had never charged him for his visits and never told her boss (Madame Lucy as she liked to be called) that he visited for any other reason than to spread the gospel. She insisted on being incapable of favoritism but she surprised herself a lot.

She made the bed nicer than usual and sprayed it with Fabreeze in a feeble attempt to cover the stench of Mr. Ranting Hairy Leg man. She laid out on the bed again staring at the ceiling while she waited for his knock. She thought about the first time a man made her feel beautiful enough to sleep with – she’d gone to a club called Marcy’s as part of a radio show internship (she didn’t tell her father about that one). They broadcasted from the music booth, playing music for the girls to dance to while giving callers lap dance passes for guessing strippers’ tit size. A man walked up to her, looked right at her tits, smiling, and said “38 DD”, he was right and she was hooked. She returned often looking for that same disgusting leer and found she preferred it to her professor’s disappointment or father’s disgust. Minutes passed when she realized her eyes were drooping and Cooper was late. She looked at the clock next to her bed, “15 minutes late” she thought. She started to feel hurt. Something she had not felt since she was a little girl, not hurt like the time her mother slapped her for using a dildo in the family bathroom, hurt like when her dad told her she was a terrible, useless daughter because she wanted to go to film school. She started to hum Xanadu again to distract herself when Cooper finally knocked.

She smiled gleefully, but quickly pulled it back, gaining composure so he wouldn’t know she cared. “Come in…” she groaned grumpily. He entered slowly and nervously – as if he was waiting for a shoe to hit him in the head. “Sorry I’m late” he frowned and closed the door quietly, standing up against it with his hands behind his back. He looked worried. His forehead was more wrinkled than usual and eyes seemed lower on his face. He was pretty much the goofiest looking guy she hadn’t charged for sex, not including her second cousin when she was 12 (a Bat Mitzvah can make a girl do some strange things). He was extremely tall, 6’5” at least, his eyes were wide set, voice deep and teeth large. He had terrible posture and his clothes always fit too big, but he looked like a young Tom Waits and that made her hot. The best part about him was how unaware he was of his charm. That made him within her reach, something she couldn’t say for most good looking guys. She realized she was staring and remembered to look aloof again. He smiled a little and seemed to come out of a daze himself. “I can’t stay today Lexi, I just came by to say that, and ask …” stammering “…if you wanted to come with me for the night you could”. She was a mix of hurt and confused, feeling rejected from sex but flattered by the prospect of going anywhere with him outside the room. “I don’t know if I can” she said “I have a lot of things to do before tomorrow morning. You know the mayor comes by on Tuesdays”. She was lying, kind-of, and really did want to go, wherever it was. He smiled a little, speaking carefully “Lexi, you know I know that the Mayor comes to see Madame Lucy, not you, not that he shouldn’t see you… anyway, I’m sure she can wash the sheets without you. Besides I’ll have you back by early morning on my way to church”. She rolled her eyes, “church, whatever” she mumbled to herself, “Ok I’ll come, just give me a minute to change. Where are we going?”. He looked increasingly nervous and a little excited, “I want to show you something I think you’ll appreciate”.

tree-swing

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Oklahoma!

Oklahoma! and Maintaining the Social Standard

Oklahoma! is most often expressed as a light hearted, dark tinted ‘romp in the field’ American classic. It is exactly because of this that I chose to analyze this film and its idyllic fundamentals for society. The film is set in Oklahoma territory in 1906, just before the state was made the 46th in the union. Throughout the film, a general feeling of playfulness, carelessness and ignorance of the looming truths of reality weave the viewer into either a blissful sing-a-long or a teeth-clenching rage. Unfortunately for the sing song types, “it’s just a movie, lighten up” won´t take away the classist, sexist and minority absent elements of this film for me.

Firstly, to approach the film on a cultural note, Oklahoma got its film worthy start by thwarting the attempts to make an all-Indian state of the same name(Various, Wiki). The location offered the promise of oil and farming fortunes for ambitious white Americans, reason enough to leave American Indians with not even so much as a single reservation in the state to this day. Oklahoma at the time also had a fairly large population of black settlers as well as several black towns. There were even appeals made that Teddy Roosevelt should officially call Oklahoma a majority-black state(Various, Wiki). Although a majority white settlement at that time would have likely had a low population of black or American Indian residents, the film in its idyllic fantasy portrays the absence as a part of their perfect, conflict-free society, not as reality. The film showed an extremely one sided win for the “moral and upstanding” settler and complete avoidance of the topic of “the other”. Aside from the absence of minorities, the film was not completely without cultural variety. A Persian man, Ali Hakim, played the part of a sexually immoral traveling salesman. From the beginning of this characters development, the stereotype of both a charismatic gypsy and untrustworthy peddler were without doubt present. Contrary to this unjust representation, Ali was overall represented as a man of decent human character. He was given a major part in the ruin of Jed’s first attempt at murdering Curly and shared in the towns suspicious of Jed’s outcast characteristics. Ali was not a minority in the same right as black Americans and American Indians, he was an immigrant played by a white American actor. Perhaps Roger and Hammerstein’s roots played a part in this characters role or possibly it was an attempt at appeasing the overall lack of diversity.

The portrayal of women’s role in society did no one any favors in Oklahoma!. This film was made before women could vote in the United States but while Europe was making leaps and bounds in the suffragette movement and women’s rights. This is not to say that the film was not accurate on that note either, but that doesn´t make it any less offensive. What is most offensive about the way women are portrayed is how joyfully it’s done. There was not one character who was against the intensely patriarchal way of thinking, as was (to an extent) the well educated Marian in The Music Man. The female characters were flighty and giggling throughout the film; many were portrayed as poor speakers, under educated, materialistic and overall shared one main goal in life, marriage. The concept of female ownership is reinforced by the role of Ado Annie’s father who basically auctions his daughter off to the highest bidder. Ado Annie herself is a frightful stereotype of a mindless, flirty, cheating , untrustworthy girl. At one point in the film the girls are rated on their cooking abilities in a charity event. Throughout the film, no one mentions any other quality the girls may have that would put them of use anywhere but a kitchen. Releasing the film in 1955 was an ideal time for its success. With cold war, segregation and women’s traditional place in the home, it´s no wonder this film was a hit. Society in 50’s America was hooked on the ideal of its white picket fences, nuclear family and “outsider-free” society. Something I´m sure the studio was well aware of before its release. Sadly even after WWI, when many women replaced men in the workplace, and after 1920 when they were granted the ability to vote, the 1950’s held as true to the old song and dance as Oklahoma!.

Aunt Eller was the only female character who showed any independence from the hormone driven men and submissive women of Oklahoma!. As an older woman, she was not “attractive” anymore so she no longer bore the burden of a woman subject to man´s rule, sexually. She was still under the rule of a male driven society but had ownership over her own property, although depending on Jud for working the land. Her character brings up the issue of age discrimination in the film. Although a much less prominent issue than the gender, race and class issues it is none the less unfair. She has won the right to speak out and be “herself” only because of her age and growing uselessness to society, not because she is a human being. She is referred to as a “silly old woman” Although she is a different character than the other women in the film, she is no less committed to the importance of marriage and has fully accepted the role of women and men in her society.

Men are also subject to their own share of stereotyping in the film. They are portrayed as masculine, macho, dominating, poorly educated, sexually obsessed and inherently risk taking. Although many of these ideals are so accepted that people rarely questions them, they are no less fair than stereotypes about women. Jud is one character who falls victim to numerous gender stereotypes as well as stereotypes directed to the poor and/or working class. When Jud is first introduced to us, he is carrying a pile of wood with muscles abound, his shirt is open and he is covered in dirt and sweat. This does not necessarily mean he is a negative character but in the film that is what we are meant to feel when everyone else is picture perfect and clean. The film actually depends on us to discriminate against him based on nothing else but the way he looks. Curly brings his opinion of Jud to our attention by calling him a “bullord colored rally hire hand”. This is thwarted by Aunt Eller saying Jud is the “best hired hand I ever had…two woman couldn´t do it”. Although Aunt Eller is defending Jud and doesn´t judge him herself (to begin with) her opinion is likely dismissed because of her age and gender. Laury is also guilt of senseless judgment of Jud’s character in this first scene. When she changes her mind about going to the dance and attempts to tell him, her seemingly senseless fear of him makes her hold her tongue. His mannerisms and polite statement about picking her up for the dance reveal that he is completely unaware of her cruel intentions.

The entire character development of Jud and the surrounding plot refers to a critical social issue that this film unfortunately does not approach comprehensively. Jud is considered a “social misfit” and one that is lower class/working class at that. He is, from the beginning, “not one of the community” and therefore does not have the right to “its women” or even friendships within it. People who express any behavior that deviates from the group norm are easily singled out. Whether the person is shy, aggressive, has underdeveloped social skills or is only seemingly different because of class or culture, are all common reasons for rejection. People who are rejected usually withdraw; withdrawal causes more social rejection and a cycle continues. When Curly approaches Jud to talk about Laury and the dance, he chooses to take an approach of rejection and machismo by telling him to commit suicide. During the song “Jud is Daid”, Curly mocks Jud by saying he “Loved the beasts of the field, loves his fellow man, loved the little children” etc, while Jud appears to honestly believe this of himself. He slowly comes to realization that he will probably never fit in with the other characters. When Curly blatantly asks Jud, “how’d you get to be the way you are anyhow? sitting in here in this filthy hole”. Curly makes the classic assumption that the poor choose to be poor and the misfit, outcast. He has initiated the cycle, to no fault of Jud’s, and causes Jud to react with anger (Wever-Rabehl). Thus his sudden search for a weapon and an aggressive “she better not change her mind”, referring to Laury going to the dance. It’s heartbreaking to see his character and future in the film degrade so quickly at the joy of others, especially ones so hypocritical and unwelcoming.

Given the roll of Jud, his lines and aggravation to turning “misfit”, it seems at first confusing as to whether we are to pity or loathe Jud. It seems so harsh to assume the writer wants us to believe that Curly merely brought out the true personality of Jud, not the other way around. Curly, although fitting into society quite well, is the true misfit and a wholly horrible and unsavory character. Laury as well is hardly better than Curly by the end of the film. Her “vision” of Jud´s “true nature” cause her to act fearfully and reject Jud after agreeing to go to the dance. She never had a conversation with Jud as a person or got to know better his intentions, which as shown are good, as he tells her on the ride to the dance “I remember everything you´ve ever done”. Up to the point of the dance itself Jud never fully realized how different he was. He may have forgotten completely about ever killing anyone had he not got his heart so brutally stepped on. In many films a heartbroken man who tries to kill the girl’s “winner” is seen as a villain but the “winner” who kills the heartbroken man (even in an equal duel), is a hero. It seems that the winner of love is always the winner in life, and those who are rejected, just as in society, are losers, and sometimes losers who don´t deserve justice

Oklahoma! although colorful and comedic does not represent an ideal society we should be proud of. It contains numerous overtones and undertones of social injustice and even legal injustice. It’s movies like this that reinforce so many of the worst wrongs in society. After all is said, “it´s just a movie” still doesn´t ring true. A movie, a book, a sexist remark, are never just that, they are the reflections and models of our culture and should be approached critically as if our futures depended on it.

Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

I think Slumdog was an excellent film and I completely understand several arguments given in the NPR show and the articles. I have lived in South America before, and although I didn’t live in a slum, I definitely had my share of interactions with people who did on a daily basis, as well as seeing and reading about the direct effects and issues within, like slum children being kidnapped and sold to US orphanages and a rainy day for me being the wipeout of an entire neighborhood by mudslides. My perspective isn’t going to be the same as Divakaruni called the average “Pepsi-sipping, popcorn-munching, affluent Western audience”. I appreciated the opportunity of exposure so greatly that I made it a point to try to understand the whys,hows and who’s of the situation and I intend to move back when I finish school. I grew up very poor in small towns, foster homes, group homes and on my own at 15. I went to south America with $600 in my pocket and my dog, I spent the $600 in the first week to get a place to live (and no I didn’t have parents to call for money). Before I go into some long story, Ill divert back. Living in another country where essentially my net worth was as much or less as some of its poorest inhabitants was humbling and gave me a greater appreciation for life, friends, family and things that really matter, and I will honestly say in my opinion that one will never understand that fully without experiencing it. Any residual effects of growing up in a very capitalist society mostly drained from my system into the gutters of Argentina, and gladly (vivid?).

I do not agree with the voyeuristic “poverty porn” concept at all, and although I know the prospect of actually walking among and hanging out with people some may consider very different than themselves may be scary to some, I think its important to keep the human element and not peek through tinted glass windows with pity or superiority.

I definitely agree with Priya Rajsekar on her perspective of exploitation for several reasons, but maybe not in the same respects. Mainly I think that some “Pepsi-sipping, popcorn-munching, affluent Western audience” who have little to no idea what poverty is, tend to forget that people in slums are people, not characters on a screen or in a photo in the news. And that sounds extreme but to take away dignity from a person in life or in film is basically to lower them to that of a dog, and like Rajsekar said

Do the Right Thing (1989), Whatever That may be

The film Do the Right Thing is a moving, proactive and entertaining film made by an outspoken, proactive director. It was the third film by Spike Lee and what he considers his first real directing job (Logan,2). In his first two films he was still unsure of himself but in Do the Right Thing, his true capabilities as a director and a compelling screen writer became public knowledge. Created in controversy, the making of the film itself brought up some important stereotypes in society and forced not only the public – but producers, crews, studios, publicists and movie theatres alike to pay attention to what they were investing in, showing, promoting and helping to create. Do the Right Thing – like many Spike Lee films, has an important message to be told that many people are either uncomfortable with or threatened by. Racial issues are always a touchy subject for Americans and not many directors take on challenges with such collected cool. Lee approaches racial issues both between races and the inner battle of being black in a racist society like he eats if for breakfast ( and maybe he does).

To get the most from his films, it’s important to know where Lee himself comes from and what motivates his themes. It’s easy to be confused or threatened by a controversial messages likes those in Lee’s films if you don’t fully understand the intentions. Lee came from a very stable home life. His father Bill Lee, is a Jazz composer who composed music for many of his films, his sister Joie Lee has acted in several of his films and brother David did the still photography for his first three films. His mother, Jacqueline Shelton, a teacher of arts and black literature, passed away in 1977 – years before she would be able to see Lee’s vision come alive in film (Wiki). But her influence over his convictions, the benefit of having educated parents and a proud and encouraging family are all factors that likely gave Lee confidence and support in his endeavors. Ruby Dee, a noted actress in several of his films once stated, “Racism usually erodes self-confidence; it seems to have triggered his.”(Lynn,6). Early on he developed a reputation as a man who needs no approval, is self-assured in his causes and mindfully introverted and intelligent. On the negative end, “blacker-than-thou” has been used to describe his attitude due to his consistent outspokenness towards the black community and he’s been called a racist himself, because his films often point out specifically white and black culture clashes.

Although the racial clashes he portrays between whites and blacks are in reality the most prominent American racial tensions of our time (and all American time) – and being black, he speaks from his own black experience

Hedwig & Jarreth Forever

Hedwig & Jareth Forever

Throughout my film studies and 28 years watching films, good and bad, Labyrinth has remained one of my favorite films just as Bowie is one of my favorite musicians. This class has introduced me to a new and equally fascinating love, Hedwig and the Angry Inch and the musical performances of Hedwig herself. Both films are endlessly dynamic and star two very creative players in modern pop culture, for reasons similar and apart. The characters themselves also play equally dynamic roles, both with deep emotional issues, intentionally and symbolically. Although the films are in no way tied, for me, they represent meaningful aspects of emotional growth and represent elements of nontraditional cultures often overlooked or ignored by mainstream culture.

Labyrinth is a film created by a swarm of amazing and creative talent. Jim Henson thought up the film following his work on the Dark Crystal . Along with writer Dennis Lee (writer of the Fragle Rock theme), they drafted up a rough storyline and pitched the idea to George Lucas and Terry Jones. Terry Jones had been a writer and actor for Monty Python, and already had a very sucessful career prior to the film. Adding David Bowie to the equation only further motivated its unavoidable success (Scarlett). Over the course of the making of the film, the story line changed as each player in its creation wanted their say on different elements. Although the film was intended for children, the various opinions greatly shifted the film from its original intentions, creating a movie for people of all ages. Jim Henson, childern’s writer, puppeteer and creative genius, was the brain behind numerous children´s shows like The Fraggles, The Muppet Show and Sesame Street to name a few (IMDB). When he worked on the Dark Crystal (there is sadly a sequel coming out), he entered into a whole new world; A twisted, spooky, fantastical place for adults and children alike. It’s obvious by the characters and theme that his Dark Crystal experience left him wanting more, but was it his history with children´s material that limited his abilities to give the film true depth? Without Terry Jones and David Bowie, the film may have been without any depth at all.

Bowie had his own idea of who Jareth was, describing in the documentary that Jareth is, “a big kid”, who is “fed up” and “would rather be down in Soho” (Scarlett). Henson is traditionally a happy ending kind of guy, and admits in the documentary that he wanted the film to be about life and leave people with an up feeling. He saw Jareth as an all-powerful magic character that Sarah would somehow overcome, and also someone who only existed in her mind. Both Jones and Bowie wanted to give Jareth and the labyrinth a little more depth and complexity, both having far richer and more psychological explanations for Jareths position. Bowie’s Jareth was not only a confused man with inner battles, but also a man who was not fully in control of his world. He suggests in the documentary that against his will, the goblins steal yet another baby. Implying that not only does Jareth exist beyond Saras’ world, but is also at the mercy of the rules of the labyrinth. Each goblin in the labyrinth, to me, was always someones missing little brother or sister, especially since Jareth says in the film that Toby will turn into a goblin if Sara fails. Jones describes the result of Jareth’s odd existence as leaving him “a hollow man… [who] was using the labyrinth to protect himself to keep people away. He was trying to control the world but he was really empty in himself”(Scarlett). To Jones the film was about Jareth being representative of people who intend to manipulate the world without any real emotional investment, people who expect to get what they want while giving nothing in return. Like Bowie says “a big kid”, overall I think both statements imply he just has some growing up to do.

When I first saw this film I was nine and it was new. It became obvious to me upon watching it, that my family had never seen the film, and probably didn´t even know who David Bowie was. They never would have let me if they had. I immediately became obsessed with the film, its characters and of course, Jareth. Telling everyone that I was going to grow up and be the Goblin Queen, or in the least Mrs. David Bowie. I didn´t understand what it was that I loved about him at the time, but I knew I was in no way sympathetic with Sara and was greatly disappointed in her refusal to become the Goblin Queen. Although Sara does not end up with Jareth (a twisted intro to relationship doesn´t help), the entire film is loaded with bulges, gyrations, spandex, love triangles and comeons, but more than all that, a young girl turning into a woman. The wikipedia entry on the film states that the film may be seen as “a symbolic tale of a young girl´s acceptance of her sexuality”. Aside from the obvious intentions of Jared, Sara does indeed have some growing up to do in the sexuality department. Sara is basically a big girl living in a little girl’s world at the beginning of the film. She idolizes her mother, who abandoned the family for an acting career. She puts on lipstick while looking at a photo of her, who just happens to be standing next to, who else, David Bowie (This subtle element in the film greatly confuses the reality vs reality struggle in the film). The idolizing of her mother’s sexuality and dressing like a princess can be seen as hints that she wants to transition into womanhood, but so many other elements, and maybe the lack of her mother itself, imply that she is afraid to step out of childhood fantasy (Allen). She enters the labyrinth and uses the same lipstick as a tool to mark where she has been. When she discovers that where she has been is not as it seems, her metaphorical identity crashes down and she throws the lipstick aside. According to Jones intentions for the film “eventually the girl learned there was no answer, no solution. The only thing you could do was to go with it and enjoy it. When she did that she got to the centre of the labyrinth”(Scarlett). This intention can be said of a girls sexual development as well, she couldn´t force herself to be a woman, she just had to let it happen.

Jareth’s role as an antagonist/protagonist clad in spandex and chasing after a young girl, made it an especially interesting “coming of age” story. I think that unknown things about Jarreth’s past, as Bowie and Jones saw him, intended him to be at the same emotional age as Sara in many ways. To Bowie, Jones and countless fans, Jareth was himself brought into the world of goblins against his will. Hes poor socialization with humans caused him to behave certain ways, similar to a child who’s never played with a puppy and picks it up by its ears. He is not hateful or evil, you can see that in the song “Magic Dance” when he makes Toby laugh and when he looks sad and heartbroken at Saras rejection. He is an unhappy, lonely man with great power and access to unlimited knowledge, and he simply wants someone to share it with. Ultimately Sara gets to learn lessons, yet not the ones Jarreth intended for her. Jarreth in return gets disappointment, pain, rejection and possible the loss of his entire world. Had he learned any social skills, he may have learned that bribery, authentic or not, doesn´t go over well most the time. At the end of the film Jareth says, “Do as I say and I will be your slave”, encompassing in one statement his confusion on “how it works”. Even if he only wanted to be considered a friend, he doesn´t even have basic skills like fairness, consideration for others, sharing or anything else most people are taught before they´re 3, and it’s not his fault.

Still on the subject of sexuality, and very much in the realm of confusion, Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a great place to start. Hedwig was written by a man who himself had similar toils in life as the protagonist, both appropriately, John Cameron Mitchell. The story was originally written as a stage musical premiering in 1998 and quickly rising to popularity. Soon after, it was touring the world, donning a dedicated cult following, Styrofoam wigs and all. The theme and meaning of the film has different meanings for many people, and this is’nt due to the same pre-production disagreements that Labyrinth experienced. Because of the nature, plot and characters of the film, Mitchell reports hearing fans regard the film as anything from “a new and improved Rocky Horror Picture Show” to “moving and comforting”. The range of emotions persuading people’s opinions is to be expected from a story so modern, dynamic and intimate.

The persuader of our emotions is Hedwig, and the complicated story of his (to her) life. The film skillfully uses music and flashbacks in conjuncture to tell the story while we watch Hedwig’s emotional reaction in the form of singing. We learn early in the film of Hedwig’s background full of emotional and physical trauma. Even in all of Hedwigs strength and go-toitiveness, for the majority of the film she is hurt and hiding behind a fun attitude and a consistent humor about her own traumatic past. She is not without confidence and knows what she needs to do to deal with “what she has to work with”. Not only referring to her angry inch, but the lot in life that she was handed and a scarred emotional past. Throughout the film we see her sexual identity take on many forms, and although it’s clear he is gay (as it were), his orientation has little to nothing to do with the film itself. The writer himself is a gay man, and states that upon coming out of the closet he found he didn´t fit into “gay culture,” as identified by many gay people. He found that it was just as confining and rule stricken as straight culture was, finding that bisexual people, although perceived by many as “not able to make up their minds” may have somewhat of an advantage (Fuchs).. He portrays this idea of an orientation-less lifestyle in the film consistently. Early in the film, Hedwig (then Hansel) is proposed to by an American military man, Luther, at the condition of losing his genitalia. Hedwig was never portrayed as having the desire to do this unprovoked, but for the sake of love and the adventure of escaping his Aryan gummy bear world, he saw little reason not to. Not long after the complicated and sacrificial escape, he finds himself dumped and having lost his gender pointlessly. The Berlin wall falls at the same time his heart breaks. This is where the personal identity crisis begins. He was loved by Luther, unconditionally he thought, woman or man or neither. Now that he’s alone, having sacrificed so much (for such a small player in the film) should he be a woman or a man? He just as easily could have been a man again, but instead pulls down another “wig in a box”. This isn´t necessarily a conscious decision to be a woman over a man, since gender never really meant much to Hedwig in the first place, but it is a decision on how he chooses to deal with the pain and go on with her life. This is also a moment for Hedwig to reinvent herself as no one knows her (and finally drop the Hansel). After all, being known means being close and being close has only hurt. Mitchell explains this film wide topic much simpler: “She [begins thinking] of herself as neither man nor woman, or half a man, but she realizes that she´s both, by accident. And it´s better than being one. The way she got there is very painful.”

Mitchell chose communist Berlin as Hedwig’s home base for more than one reason, though not intentionally for metaphors. He was inspired by the documentary I Am My Own Woman (1992) about a man who lived as a woman through the Nazis and the Communists. “The story of the ultimate outsider” Mitchell states (Fuchs). Mitchell was also the son of a commander in the U.S. sector of Berlin. He had several times visited him, often hanging out in local gay bars. His experiences there and personal experiences as a gay man were a catalyst in creating the moving story of Hedwigs life. If only Jareth had received such intensive background and character development his sexuality may have taken on a similar direction. David Bowie is notoriously androgynous and has at times renounced the purpose of “picking sides” in orientation. Mithel explains a direct inspiration for the rock-androgyny theme from performers like Bowie saying “androgyny is traditional in rock…. From Little Richard through the British androgynous, Mick and Elton and Bowie”. Bowie cant help but show this in Jarreth, though only so much as big names like Lucas and Henson would be associated with harmlessly (to their family values career). It would be interesting to see Labyrinth directed by a person like Mitchell. Anyone who cared so much about a character as to have to play them himself in order to get it right. If Labyrinth had been an on stage musical first, like The Rocky Horror Picture Show (The Rocky Horror Show) and Hedwig and the Angry Inch, would it too have had a cult following? Maybe its not too late.

The Maltese Falcon (1941)

I watched “The Maltese Falcon” just before the class started and this week watched the other 2 versions and read the book. I found four different versions a little hard to sort out at first but overall I decided on The Maltese Falcon” and “Satan Met a Lady” for comparison.

I really enjoyed watching Bogart. It might be the first Bogart movie I´ve seen. I liked the way he (and that adaptation) gave Sam Spade some character and dignity, things I felt he didn´t have much of in the book or “Satan Met a Lady”. I am also becoming a big Lorie fan. His characters are always so humorous or eccentric and without being over the top or offensive.

Same Spade overall is a character I only really like in “The Maltese Falcon” over the book and “Satan Met a Lady” by far. As soon as I saw him in “Satan Met a Lady” I started to compare him to “The Music Man” ( I had the musicals class last term). He came across as a manipulative, disrespecting con artist. Though when things got real, he pulled himself together just enough to help himself to $100k, “solve a crime” and get himself a girl that didn´t challenge him. Although it should have been mentioned earlier in the film, Valerie Purvis yells that Spade”only likes women who aren’t as smart as him, and once he finally meets someone smarter, he’ll probably marry her” (in the last scene). Had this subject been a sub plot in the film, some sort of inner battle with his sleazy self, I may have liked that adaptation more. I did like the character of the old woman crime boss more than the old man in “The Maltese Falcon” but I equally appreciated the underrated crime boss sidekick in both films. He worked as sort of a catalyst for Spade´s inner bully, bringing out a side of him he couldn´t help but indulge.

Overall the characters in both films were great except for the inherit personality traits of Sam Spade via “Satan Met a Lady”. He may have more accurately matched the book but not everything is done right the first time. Not even in a book.

The Big Sleep (1946)

I really enjoyed the book and the film on this one, though I was amazed at how much the story and the presence of Mrs. Reagan differed. Both stories were surprisingly complicated compared to the other films so far, and it took reading the book after the film to understand the film better.

I really appreciated the writing style, very descriptive, though 3/4 through the book the conversations started to get longer and there were more cases of over describing unimportant scenes or features. I found that a little unnecessary as some of it was just repeating information I felt had been established. As if the characters in the book each needed their own in depth explanation for what we already knew, understandable in reality but slightly repetitive in the book.

In the film I did appreciate the relationship between Marlowe and Mrs. Reagan better than the book. The film made him seem a little more human and less like a cold untrusting – though defending his clients to the death type man, a very mysterious character from all angles. Also in the movie they included the concept of friends in his life, as the book made everyone into associates or clients and nothing more. There was no deep respect for a senior official, no devoted secretary, no father-like boss or brother-like partner; Marlowe was a very strange man. In the movie at least he seemed capable of forming a relationship, albeit one that had to be open, honest and free of illegal secrets. I think his mistrust of Mrs Reagan in the film made more sense because of how the original book played out. Compared to the book, the films used Mrs Reagan whenever possible to cover parts of the book that were missing, for positive reasons really, the inclusion of Mrs Reagan more often gave into the totally “necessary” Hollywood romance formula. It would have been a less popular film by far, good story or no, without the attractive protagonists romanticizing eachother.

I really liked how the reading pointed out that Marlowe was poetic in his metaphor’s and descriptions. Almost as though he lived an interesting life so as to narrate his experiences, people and places. He would describe his own death as if he were speaking aloud to a room full of theater actors, though completely satisfied with the fact that no one was listening. This also made his character more mysterious in the book more than the film. It’s as if here were such a loner, so personally departed from others, that he had learned to keep himself company and his mind nimble.

Sometimes I wish the characters in these films would carry over to other films just so I could see them throughout their lives and how they would handle different situations . But I also think it would ruin their mystery and cheapen their memory in the readers mind

Laura (1944)

This film, book and lecture gave me allot to think about this week. I was glad to find while reading the lecture that I wasn’t off in thinking that Waldo seemed as though he was intended to be gay, in many ways. I wasn’t sure if this was because of the writing style, the authors idea of an over-educated man or what it was until I saw the film and book in its intended light.

Just the night before I finished the book and film I watched the documentary “Celluloid Closet”. It’s an analysis of gay culture as represented through film, mostly during times when it was highly censored. Most directors and screenwriters eventually found ways around this censorship and used the censors ignorance against them. How would they know how an over-educated, spoiled old rich man acts? or an interior designer for that fact… or any other stereotypes many films not only reinforced but partially caused gay people everywhere to live up to. It was interesting to see this film in that light, with Waldo, a self denying gay man who, through his frustrations, convinced himself that his love and standards for Laura must be deeper than obsession, and more important than personal psychosis. I also found it interesting, just as “Celluloid Closet” showed, that many potentially or obviously gay characters were eventually killed off, in some sort of moral accomplishment. I felt this film was different in that sense but im not sure why, possibly because I read it as well, does that pattern repeat in books?

I also like how the lecture points out Laura’s transformation from what we know of her past and who she becomes over the course of the story. She seems to repeatedly wake up to realizations she never allowed herself before. Shedding her attitude about men for a more self respecting one, finally telling Waldo off (in the book mostly – saying that he’s always trying to shame men she likes) and finally allowing herself to fall for a guy like Mark – “a real man” as hes’ called. I did not like the development of the relationship in the film as much as in the book, especially the complication of the aunt who is trying to steal her fiance? unnecessary. I did however like the way Mark was so socially awkward in the film, never really giving off any emotion, playing with his toy when he was in a stressful or uncomfortable situation. The way he kept asking Laura about why she lied about the engagement, as sly as asking a friend to ask someone out for you but shy and endearing all the same.

The lecture also points out the missing aspect of Laura I found especially interesting in the film, the parts of Laura that tell Mark that shes a more down to earth and real woman than she seems to have been (she likes baseball, etc). By the end though, Laura ultimately is allowed to stop the self Waldo tried to hard to make her and allow herself to slow down and rethink her future and past and who shell turn into. Because of Laura’s overall character in the book, I saw it as fairly modern in regards to women’s roles and rights to non-generic personalities, something even movies today leave out sometimes.

Pulp Fiction (1994)

Like a few people have said, this is one of my favorite movies as well. When I first saw it I was 12 or 13 and immediately liked it based on the fact that so many other people didn´t (my usual reaction to anything to this say). I remember people feeling really frustrated by its order and although I would explain to them in what order things went – but that the point wasn´t to “mess with their heads”, many friends and family still felt very frustrated and confused by it. Eventually it was one of their favorite films as well but I think at the time it was about experimental of a film as you might see in the average small town movie theater.

When I was watching the film this time I noticed things I have no before, as usually happens when I take a class and read even more about film. I no longer pay attention to the order of events, since at this point I have seen the film so many time they just fall into place. What I did pay attention to was more specific stylistic elements and clues throughout the film. I first started to notice silence and inactivity. There are many moments of silence in the film, usually between characters. Marsellus and Butch have an interesting interaction early in the film. While Marsellus is talking the camera is at a point of view shot of Butch listening. For the entire conversation there is no action, only listening and a fairly blank expression on Butch. Throughout the film there are instance of the camera on the listener and not the speaker. I think this makes for a more personal interaction with the listener, not only do we know for a fact that he/she is important but we can almost feel like we are there. The volumes of the voices in the conversations between Fabienne and Butch from the bathroom to the bed make for a pretty realistic scene for me, as well as the cafe conversation between Yolanda and Ringo. Just hearing Ringo yell “garcon” after having a mid-volumed conversation about robbery, then later hearing him say it in the background while Vince and Jules are philosophizing about miracles (or not) make it a more intellectual film in the fact that it gives the viewers enough credit to be a part of their world rather than just a passive viewer.

Another thing that I noticed about the film this time was the number of scenes in the bathroom or where the bathroom comes up. There was an interesting reason mentioned by another student from Wikipedia where a relationship between pulp and shit comes into play but It made me think about all the films where actors don´t use the bathroom, don´t eat, don´t have realistic personalities or believable lives whatsoever. Can you even imagine Humphry Bogart on the can reading a magazine? I think it humanizes the characters and loosens the film up quite a bit.

The film is great regardless of genre or how much it cost to make, factors I dont think should matter when considering a films quality.

Double Indemnity (1944)

I really enjoyed this story, both in book in film and with different reasons for each. Something about the narrative element in the film was drawing, but not so much as the book. There was a much more personal relationship with Neff throughout. I, like others, got the impression that although a salesman, he was honest and personable, less of a stereotype. One thing that bothered me about the book in relevance to the characters, was the lack of descriptive words for people, places of situations. There was a minimal amount but I felt that (especially in the fist and second meeting of Phillis) the film far better portrayed the lust and development of a relationship between the two. The book also did not emphasize to me that he “did it for a woman”, I barely remember their scenes where they met in person in the book, let alone any sort of reverence to love. In the film I feel this was a little more clearly emphasized, through Phillis’s clothing, Neff’s comments on her looks, anklet, shameless passes at a married woman. These things didnt weaken his character or make him seem cheaper than in the book but it did put more emphasis on a motive for me. In the book the only driving factor for Neff helping her, since even the scene where she claims her husband is cruel is not there, is money. Yet he doesn’t seem to care much about money either. I dont think he knows why he did it, telling himself he had superficial reasons that didn’t pan out, over telling himself he was some sort of a monster, or worse, that he did it to prove that he could do it better than any slimy client of his could.

The murder or the motive wasnt the part of the book I ended up caring much about at all in the end. The relationship with Keyes, developing love of Lola, as the murderer of her father and conclusion of the book was the true grabber for me. The film did leave me with the impression that Neff had started to like Lola but unlike the book, it seemed more like guilt and self preservation. In the book, an awkward relationship began, one that Neff should have known early on was too sick to live with. Since the movie and book were narrative in nature, I think any self analysis of his own potential psychological problems was not even considered. His obsession and full blame were put on Phillis form the beginning, and he saw himself as a foolish pawn/victim. It was him who offered to do the killing, seemingly unmotivated, and like a child who steps on a beetle then realizes what hes done, wiping the guts off his shoe, he realized that fantasy about murder and how easy it can be, and taking a human life, are very different things.

I wasnt too excited about very the ending of either the book or film but everything leading up to the book ending was great. I understand Neff killing himself, even if only for the guilt over the pain he caused Lola, but I couldnt understand why Phillis, a woman who notoriously killed for money and property, would just stop there. No matter where she went, she could always start again as a black widow trophy wife in no time. It’s not as though guilt, after all she’s done, would suddenly make her human. Given the relationship between Keyes and Neff in the book and film, I thought the book ending was more apropriate. Even if Keyes was an upstanding, meticulous, lawful man, he was not naive to the world and all the circumstances that can arise. When he came to a situation where a good friend had done something horrendous and potentially harmful to the company he had worked so hard for, he was not without a reasoning of his own. Like a sheriff whos son steals and wrecks the family car, Keyes helps Neff to the best of his abilities, without risking his own neck. Keyes, admits “I dont often like somebody”, as much affection as Neff will hear in words from a man, who in book in film, is like an emotionally distant but big hearted father. Keyes knew there wasnt much point in prison, a mans guilt is his own prison.

I also really enjoyed this weeks reading, finding out about the stories ties with a true crime and vintage tabloid stylization. I dont and have never read a tabloid bum Im tempted now to find out more about older ones, with signed confessions form murdered and photos taken from cameras on ankles. There seems as much drama and excitement in that kind of work as there are in the stories they write about. The development of the character of Phillis, in tabloid, book and film, whether over dramatized or not, was essential to the the story in all cases. The fact that she wanted her husband murdered and for money, takes away any chance of pitying the woman. In the film, they emphasize how cruel Mr. Nerlinger is to Phillis, but only for a short while. She sees no other way out and Neff as well as the viewed get suckered into believing this as a viable excuse. The pity is soon lost the more money becomes a factor in the plot and Phillis shows everyone involved her true colors.