Return of the Jedi and the Phantom Mess

I was seven years old when Star Wars was released. I don't think I would be going too far out on a limb to say that Star Wars was a huge part of my childhood. From 1977 to 1983 me and my brother Andrew were obsessed. 'Battlestar Galactica' tried to fill the void but we knew it was a cheap knock off (it didn't stop us from stealing a few BG toys anyway). The blu-ray release of Star Wars has been a way to reconnect to those childhood memories. I avoided the dvd's as I already had all the originals on Laserdisc (yes, Originals) but couldn't help myself to see it all in high definition, even if they are slightly bastardized.

As a filmmaker and a teacher of film writing I do find another layer of enjoyment to the craft of the original films. It gives me a perspective as to why the prequels were disappointing. It also makes me reflect on some of the shortcomings of the original films.

I would say that Return of the Jedi is the least successful of the first three films. It goes between cartoony Ewok action and some very dark moments between Vader, Luke and the Emperor. The tone is uneven. Still, it's an enjoyable film. What stuck out to me on the last viewing was the wonderful Speeder Bike chase. Watching the film again after seeing the prequels I noticed that the Speeder Bike scenes are very similar to Pod Racer scenes in Phantom Menace. It made me understand why I found the Pod Racer scenes monotonous and the Speeder scenes riveting.

In Return of the Jedi the Speeder Bike scene has so much weight to it. Our heroes have landed on the moon to put out the shield generator and if they are caught, all is lost. The consequence of failing is catastrophic. This means that the audience has much more anxiety watching the action unfold and they are desperate to see Luke and Leia succeed.

Compare this to the Pod Race scene. What is at stake here? A part for their broken ship. Sure, they need to get the ship fixed but does this really justify an immense action sequence? If they don't win the Pod Race will all be lost? It seems to me a couple of Jedi's could find a way out of this problem. The consequence of this scene isn't powerful. If the kid loses they'll come up with plan B. If Luke and Leia lose the whole rebel fleet will be destroyed and the war will be won by the Empire.

I'm not sure if they redid the sound on these scenes but they sound very much like the Pod Racing scene.


Happy Halloween.

I love 'The Changeling'. A great 'spooky' flick.

Sexy Beast.

One of the great films you've never heard of.

Sunset Boulevard

Sylvia and I caught Sunset Boulevard the other night on Turner Classic Movies. Sylvia hadn't seen the film before (which surprised me) and we came in a little late as William Holden turns into Norma Desmond's garage to escape the repo men. Since Sylvia hadn't seen it we sat back and enjoyed the rest of the film.

What was interesting to me as a writer and filmmaker is that Sylvia didn't know that Holden (Joe) was dead in the pool at the beginning of the film and the he was narrating from the grave. I didn't really think of the device much before and it seemed fairly clever that a dead man was narrating the story of how he got to be that way. That is until we finished the film and I told Sylvia what had happened in the beginning of the film. She much preferred that she didn't know what happened to him and found the film to be quite suspenseful and engaging. The fact that Joe was killed was quite a shock to her.

It's a concept that the writer always has to grapple with, the audience. How much to they know? How much to they need to know? What is the best time to reveal information and when are you going to get the greatest impact? Do you kill the suspense of the ending, knowing that he is going to die? Or do you enhance the experience by letting the audience in on it? Are they on the edge of their seats pleading with Joe?

At the end of the day you need to make a choice and that was the choice Wilder made. Is it wrong? No. It's just a choice. A great film whatever way you slice it.


Coppola's Notes on Godfather

I always liked Minghella's opposite method to adaptation. He would read the book and then begin his adaptation without looking at the original material. He felt that you would include the best parts from memory. His adaptions would take on a form of a dream. As Woody Allen says, 'whatever works'.


Haunting Cavner

Here is one of my student films. As a filmmaker it's fun to remember the things going on behind the scenes.

There is an improv by Jeremiah where he grabs the pizza and asks Cavner if he can eat it.  I am on the stairs off camera blowing take after take because I am laughing so hard. Or when Jeremiah (Jason) was in the shower, and being the excellent acting student he was, told me that he left his underwear on the floor for the sake of continuity and me telling him that the floor wasn't going to be in the shot (actors love to get naked for some reason). It was very hard finding a 'Bully' that could act so I opted for an actor that could act like a bully. Jeremiah was a really sweet guy and nothing like the neanderthal I wanted him to play.

Brad (Cavner) was great for letting us use his town house for the shoot after we couldn't get a location. His speech at the end is what got him the part... so sad and perfectly melancholy. I think Brad had a day job working for revenue Canada. It must have been odd going between one job and the other. Brad and Mark were true champions for my concept of the 'end credits'. I thought that it would be very Canadian to have them golfing in the middle of winter. Being ghosts they wouldn't be subject to drastic temperatures. In truth, it was freezing cold and Brad and Mark embraced their parts and went hunting for the golf ball with bravado. If they don't seem to be that cold... that's acting. They froze their asses off.

Mark Piper (Wally) disappeared after the shoot and didn't make the premiere (or see the film as far as I knew). He emailed me for a copy which I sent recently - I hope he got it. I stole Mark from my friend Vince's student film 'Notes on the Apocalypse'. He took the cigar very seriously in the film. My regret was that I should have had him in an old tweed suit. Made him a throwback to the old days. He is great in the last scene when Cavner gives his maudlin speech about what he 'could have done.'. He is all reaction and the reaction is caring and cynical at the same time. He knows Cavner needs to 'get over it'. The good laugh in the early part of the film where they exchange 'That's it? That's it? That's all.' was improvised by Brad and Mark.

Carol showed up and acted in a goofy Gillette commercial for us. I thought she was great and a good sport so I cast her as Jason's level headed girlfriend. I always thought it was funny that everything Cavner did in his attempts to haunt just got blamed on her. A girl can only take so much.

The Ouija board was made for me by my cousin Dave and the scene took hours to shoot. Poor Jeremiah had to perform the whole thing three ways from three different angles. One angle with Brad in the shot and the other without (and just between you and me, I don't think he learned his lines). He had to act the overhead with Brad guiding the piece and without.  He also had to hit all the marks to spell the letters. It was important that the audience was ahead of him in spelling out the words.

I was also a big fan of 'Wrath of Khan' so I snuck it into the film for some inside fun.

I stole the composer Chad Desrochers from Vince's film 'Notes on the Apocalypse' as well. We listened to a few variations of themes he came up with and I really liked the quirky bit he came up with that became the score. It's playful and fun and riffs well on horror conventions when it needs to. I think tone is key to a film and I thought Chad did a great job juggling it. His sad piano cue near the end worked perfectly. I also asked him to come up with an arrangement for the end credits that encompassed all the themes and he pulled it off effortlessly.

On the whole we shot all the Wally and Cavner scenes over two days in February of '98.  We only had six hours in the hockey arena on day 2. It was a crew of three, Laureen, Vince and I. Vince lit the scenes, Laureen shot it and Vince worked the boom. I directed and the actors acted.

We shot three more days at Brad's house. We had a bigger crew with Lee and Derek doing the sound. Josy wore a producer hat with a smattering of set dressing on the side. I think the entire twenty minute film cost me $1500 dollars.


Haunting Cavner from M Achtenberg on Vimeo.

Things do get lost in the world of 'independent' productions. At the beginning of the film I wrote that a very large woman and a very small boy are watching as Cavner lays dead under the car. The boy was going to tug on her coat and say 'He should have looked both ways'. The large woman is impressed by the boy's reading of the situation and is delighted that he had learned something from Cavner's unfortunate situation. Cavner protests. I couldn't get a large woman and a little boy so I settled for myself and Vince. Not quite Laurel and Hardy but what can you do? I'm not sure you can see it but the entire crowd was the crew and a few friends. Josy is the one walking by in the background. Laureen is the only one not in the initial shot as she's working the jib and camera.

I also wrote a scene where Cavner 'wanders' back home to find his mother packing away his belongings. It's a touching scene until she discovers his stash of porn and condoms. He is mortified - she just laughs. His father joins in the sad laughter. Cavner flees and it confronted by Wally who says that he doesn't need to be ashamed or embarassed, he's dead after all. 'Live a little'.

By the way Vince, they fired up those colliders and nothing catastrophic happened.


I am always excited at the prospect of a Coppola film. This isn't some kind of hope that he will execute another masterpiece but a curiosity to see what he is dreaming up (literally in this case as it's based on a dream). So many people react with expectations from a film giant like Coppola.  I expect the unexpected.  I want the unexpected.  There are few filmmakers with as diverse filmography as Coppola and I welcome less of the same.


Writing with Light

Great Hitchcock Trailers

Hitchcock was not only a great filmmaker but a great marketer and pitchman as well.

More Slogans...

Screenplays come in three sizes: Long, Too Long and Much Too Long.

Exposition is BORING unless it is in the context of some present dramatic tension or crisis.  So start with an action that creates tension, then provide the exposition in terms of the present developments.

PASSIVITY is a capital crime in drama.

'Comedy is hard' (last words of Edmund Kean).  Comedy plays out best in the master-shot.  Comic structure is simply dramatic structure but MORE SO: neater, shorter, faster.  Don't attempt comedy until you are really expert in structuring dramatic material.


More From Mackendrick...

PROPS are the director's key to the design of 'incidental business':  unspoken suggestions for behaviour that can prevent 'Theatricality'.

The writer should consider this as well.

A character in isolation is hard to make dramatic.  Drama usually involves CONFLICT.  If the conflict is internal, then the dramatist needs to personify it though the clash with other individuals.

Self-pity in a character does not evoke sympathy.

BEWARE OF SYMPATHY between characters.  That is the end of drama.

excerpts from 'On Film-making' by Alexander Mackendrick.  Edited by Paul Cronin.


Great advice from Mackendrick

It's time for another viewing of 'Sweet Smell of Success' and 'The Lady Killers'.  Here is some great advice from Alexander Mackendrick.


The Director's Cut

I recently watched the expanded edition of James Cameron's 'Avatar'. Despite the dismissive criticism I've heard about the film I find it to be a well crafted piece of entertainment.  It's impressive in so many ways and I've always championed Cameron's ability to work with story.  For him the visual effects are icing on the cake of a good story and strong characters. A snob might say that these elements are weak compared to 'high drama' but I won't buy into an argument like that. Cameron makes action adventure films and he does an excellent job in that genre.

This post isn't intended to promote Cameron or Avatar but present a discussion of Director's Cuts so I will follow that thought. The blu-ray of Avatar had a great 'making of' documentary and a lot of deleted scenes. I watched the entire documentary and was impressed at the scale of the accomplishment of the film. The deleted scenes got me thinking about how rarely I like deleted scenes. There is usually a degree of curiosity about elements of story or character that didn't make it into the final cut but in the end I find that I'm nodding in agreement that the scene was cut. Most often these scenes are digressions that don't advance the story.  Remember that the audience wants to know what is going to happen next and if the scene doesn't advance the plot then they start to become restless.  I have tried many times to watch deleted scenes on dvd and I have found that I lose interest very quickly. There is a reason why they were deleted.

This leads me to thinking about director's cuts that worked well and others that were a waste of time.  Here are some...

Blood Simple:  The Coen brothers revisited their first film and removed three minutes. The Coen's tightened up the film. The theatrical release featured a fake film historian who introduces the film to the audience.  The Coen't sense of humour is at work here as the segment took as much time as they removed so the running time of the director's cut and the original were the same.  Unfortunately the introduction is not on the current dvd edition (although it's on an earlier release).

The Abyss:  The theatrical version of this film featured a 'what the f*#k?' ending.  A well crafted action adventure film that didn't make any sense in the end. Cameron released a director's cut that reinstated an entire subplot about the world on the brink of nuclear war. The aliens of the deep were going to annihilate the human race if it wasn't for Ed Harris. This missing piece makes the film make a lot more sense. Cameron said that when the film was released no one was making an audience sit through a two and a half hour film. In 1989 it was thought that long films were death at the box office. 'Dances with Wolves' came out a year later proving them wrong -  a three hour box office hit. Some might say this is ironic as Cameron's own 'Avatar' has been called a version of 'Dances with Wolves' which is itself a version of the Pocahontas story.  Apparently there is a director's version of 'Dances with Wolves' but I have not seen it so will not comment.

Blade Runner:  Ridley Scott has released many versions of this film and most people would say that the last version is the best version of the film. The big cuts were the original gumshoe voice-over and a much more ambiguous ending. There is a definitive blu-ray/dvd set with all versions of the film so you can watch the one you like the most (nudge, nudge Mr. Lucas).

Close Encounters of the Third Kind:  Steven Spielberg didn't feel the film was complete when it was originally released.  He negotiated to make a theatrical director's cut to finish the film and the studio agreed so long as he showed the inside of the alien spaceship. Spielberg agreed and tried to finish the film the way he wanted it. In the end the interior of the spaceship was a big mistake and Spielberg went back to the editing room to finally make the film he envisioned in the first place. The current edition is the 'definitive' edition and a great blu-ray to buy.  Those night skies really needed high definition to look good.

Touch of Evil:  Technically not a director's cut, 'Touch of Evil' was recut to the notes that Welles had given the studio about their cut of his film. Originally all the notes were ignored. Walter Murch was hired to make Welles' changes to both sound and picture. The film is now much closer to what Welles had envisioned when making it.

Mr. Arkadin:  The criterion people put together a definitive edition of Welles' film 'Mr. Arkadin' (also known as 'Confidential Report'.  There were many versions of the film around the world so Criterion put together all of these films and tried to reconstruct the film in a way that Welles had suggest to friend and confidant Peter Bogdanovich.  Again, not technically a director's cut but a vast improvement on the hacked versions that were floating around.  God bless those criterion folks!

Lawrence of Arabia:  From Imdb - 


 216 min  | UK: 228 min (director's cut)  | UK: 187 min (1970 re-release)  | UK: 210 min (original version)  | UK: 222 min (premiere version)  | USA: 227 min (restored roadshow version) - initially shortened for audiences, Lean eventually worked on restoring elements to his remarkable film.

Das Boot:  Originally shot for television and then re-imagined as a feature film for American audiences, Das Boot featured a more comprehensive story line and a really amazing 5.1 surround treatment. This is one of my favourite experiences in a movie theatre. My good friend Vince and I hit a matinee of this film when it was rereleased and we were exhausted by the end of the film. We literally felt like we were in a submarine, being hunted down, for three hours.  Sublime.

So what about those film that didn't need any tampering?

E.T. - Digitally removing guns lessens our tension.  The original was perfect - no need for tampering.

Star Wars - Greedo shoots first? Why kill Han Solo's entire character arc? Some of the improved effects were nice to see but the story worked fine originally.

Empire Strikes Back:  Again, Cloud City looked a lot better than it did in the original but other than that nothing is added that improves the original.

Return of the Jedi:  Ditto.

Apocalypse Now Redux:  By calling it redux Coppola tries to sidestep the idea of 'Director's Cut'. It is a restoration of his original cut of the film.  Although I do find Redux to be worthy of interest I do prefer the original.  In particular the French Plantation scene, although interesting, happens so late on the journey that it's too much of a digression - we want to get to Kurtz.  Spending a half an hour on the political dialogue of these French ghosts happens much too late and doesn't advance the story. I did see this film in the theatre and I found it much more trippy and bizarre than the original and I applaud that. That said, I prefer the original film.

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy: I'm sure the fans of the series love the director's editions of the films.  I'm indifferent.  I've seen both and like both but I can't really remember what the director's cut added to the film other than time. I'm sure the fans would tear me a new one on this comment but there you go.

I'm sure I've missed many films here but most of these are on the high end of the spectrum. I can't really speak to the '40 Year Old Virgin' or 'Pearl Harbor'.

One film that might be of interest to some readers is the television version of 'The Godfather' called 'The Godfather Saga'.  They combined 'The Godfather' and 'The Godfather Part II' into one film for television. They created a linear timeline where you first meet Vito Corleone in Sicily and play out the flashback sequences from part II, then move to 'The Godfather' and then to the storyline of Michael as head of the family and his dealings with Fredo and Hyman Roth. There were other versions released as well.  There is a good wikipedia entry on the topic.  There were also new scenes added that didn't appear in the original films. The big change here is taking away the juxtaposition of Michael and his father in part II.  The juxtaposition of story makes the audience think about the differences between Vito and his son and how they wielded power and for what reason. Does this affect the richness of Part II?  If you can find the Saga you can tell me (it's very rare).


Sidney Lumet

One of the first books I ever read on the art of filmmaking was Sidney Lumet's 'Making Movies".  It was the perfect introduction to a world that I wanted to be a part of.  It was level-headed and even-keeled and didn't veer away from a life spent in the craft of telling stories in pictures.  Sidney Lumet was a writer's director - a true story teller.  Unlike many directors that want to create a style that leads the audience to wonder about the 'auteur' behind the camera, Lumet always put story and performance first.  As a director he was always transparent and unseen.  The only way you could know you were seeing a Lumet picture was that it was so good.

There are many great films to rhyme off - Serpico, 12 Angry Men, Fail-Safe, The Verdict, Dog Day Afternoon, The Pawnbroker and Network.  Every one of these films enunciate Lumet's great contribution to filmmaking - all were great stories and all featured memorable performances.  Lumet had an ear for great material and he made those scripts into great films.  Network is the only film I know of that credits the writer with the title card 'by Paddy Chayefsky''.  Even if this was a stipulation from Chayefsky, you always get the sense that Lumet was a true collaborator.  He respected the talent of those he worked with and he got the most out of it.  He was the greatest journey-man director of his time.  He will certainly be missed and our only consolation is that he left us so many great films to revisit.  For this he will live on for a very long time.


The Courtroom Drama Part II

I was thinking more about John Patterson's criticism of the courtroom drama.  In particular I was thinking about the third act problem that he identified in his article.  He called it a crime against cinema and I do think he has a point.  You might call it a cinematic crime to lessen the issue but here it is.

In a good movie, action drives the story.  I don't mean action in terms of shooting guns or wrecking cars, I mean action in terms of the decisions that characters make.  One active decision leads the character to the next beat of the story.  For example, a character decides to 'leave home to save the princess'.  He makes a decision that leads to more action on his part.  It doesn't matter what he says in the dialogue, he is showing us his character by making decisions that lead to actions.  The actions are where the story is told, especially in film.  As a visual medium we watch our protagonist move from one decision to another, each one moving us closer to the resolution of the story.

The third act of the courtroom drama takes away the active decisions of the protagonist and the visual narrative stops.  A courtroom drama ends up cutting from one lawyer to another to a reaction shot to a judges gavel to the agitated crowd and back again.  The film story becomes a play.  The thrust of the drama is now in legal arguments.  There is no more action to be taken and we sit and contemplate and hope our hero wins.

What usually saves the third act is the new information that comes to light.  A witness that we couldn't find, a legal precedent, or evidence that has been missed.  The audience is still compelled to find out the truth.  In a lot of ways they become a part of the jury even though they have been heavily biased by the writer who to root for.

So it's true that the third act of a legal thriller commits the cinematic crime of abandoning visual story telling.  Yet, if you've done a good job of building a compelling story and more importantly, compelling characters, the audience will forgive and will be drawn into the climax of the picture.

As a post script, I couldn't help but think of another excellent courtroom drama - JFK.

The Courtroom Drama

Today I read the article deriding the courtroom drama where the author John Patterson says that courtroom dramas are a 'crime against cinema'.  He says:

The arrival of handsome-super-lawyer flick The Lincoln Lawyer reminds me of an old bugbear: we need to crack down on courtroom movies and legal thrillers, and especially courtroom-showdown climaxes in otherwise non-legal movies. Getting the law involved just kills a movie stone dead every time.

In that last category alone there are dozens of movies that simply throw in the storytelling towel in the last act and allow their narratives to become enmeshed in the courtroom Sargasso of legal back-and-forth, declamatory utterances by the attorneys and whatever character-acting old geezer is today manning the bench. Films as diverse as Eureka, They Drive By Night and White Squall were all roaring along nicely until they screeched to a halt in courtrooms 20 minutes before their actual running-times expired.

I've often said that court room dramas and sports films are successful because they have a built in drama - one side must oppose the others and there is always a winner.  In drama we try to find conflict and opposing goals and both of these genres of storytelling have this naturally.  We know the Superbowl is going to produce a winner and a loser.  We know that OJ is going to be found guilty or innocent and the glory will go to the winner.

Both genres also produce a tough problem for the writer.  How do you combat the cliche that comes with the genre?  This is what Patterson is reacting to.  Since we already know that there will be a winner and a loser in the black and white game of court, how do you keep it fresh?  How do you write a Judge that isn't a prickly antagonist?  The genre is very tired and I'm not sure that fixing the plot or structure is what's needed.  What the writer needs to do is involve the audience in the characters.  It is not important what the outcome of the drama is (we know the underdog will win) but the journey of the characters in that drama.  I remember when Titanic came out I was skeptical of the film as I knew how it was going to end.  The trick is to get the audience to care about your characters.  Titanic worked for audiences as they didn't know how it was going to end for Jack.  More important than that, Cameron make the audience care what was going to happen to Jack.

The great Orson Welles opened two films with the death of the protagonists - Citizen Kane and Othello. In the case of Othello, this was Welles invention for the Shakespeare play.  He shows you how the film will end and then backtracks to make you care about the characters and go on their journey with them.  The audience may say 'how did you get there?' but they know where the story ends before it begins.  This is what the sport film and court drama have to deal with.  We know the outcome but we don't know how we get there exactly.  What is the twist in the story?  What does the protagonist go through to get there.  What is their individual need?

I will depart from John Patterson on this.  There are great courtroom dramas and the genre is difficult to be original in but with good characters a good film is produced.  I love 'Witness for the Prosecution'.  I love it because I like love 'Sir Wilfred' played with zest by Charles Laughton.  I love 'To Kill a Mockingbird' because I love Atticus, Scout and Jem.  I love 'The Verdict' and Paul Newman's search for redemption.  I agree with Patterson's choices of great courtroom dramas - Anatomy of a Murder and Paths of Glory, both films with great protagonists.  I like 'A Few Good Men' and 'Compulsion' but I don't love them.

One film I keep going back to is Pakula's 'Presumed Innocent'.  The story's twist is that the prosecution becomes the defence.  A good turn of plot but carried by a flawed protagonist who has cheated on his wife with the victim of the murder.  The characters carry film and the film is populated with top notch actors - Ford, Brian Dennehy, Raul Julia and John Spencer.  The Judge role is of the cliched type but works fine with a little bit of street atitude and a good performance by Paul Winfield.

I will also stand in defence of 'The Rainmaker'.  I don't know why this film gets beaten up so often.  It's a great ensemble piece starring Danny Devito, Matt Damon, Mickey Rourke, Dean Stockwell, Roy Scheider, Danny Glover, Jon Voight and the beautiful Virginia Madsen.  If the criticism of this film is 'it's not the Godfather' then it's not criticism.  I really enjoy 'The Rainmaker' as a great character piece.  I think the Matt Damon/Clare Danes relationship is pushing the melodramatic but as a courtroom thriller the film is excellent.  It's got a great score and a plethora of unique characters.   What more can you ask for?  Oh right, 'The Godfather' and 'Apocalypse Now'.

If I might sidetrack for a moment, I remember watching a tv review of Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway' and the reviewer said that the film was good but 'no Annie Hall'.  What the fuck is that?  I guess this is why we call it a review and not proper criticism.  'Bullets Over Broadway' was an excellent comedy and 'The Rainmaker' is a good courtroom drama.  We don't need to hang an albatross over the neck of great filmmakers to say that their work always needs to be universal and spectacular.  'Touch of Evil' is no Citizen Kane.  'Burn Before Reading' is no Fargo.  'A Prairie Home Companion' is no Nashville.  'Witness for the Prosecution' is no Some Like it Hot.  But their all fine films.

A good film is a good film.  Courtroom dramas have a legacy and they also have a lot of cliche.  Often it's hard to pull away from the plot conventions but the trick is in the characters.  Make it compelling and make original characters.  It can rise above the convention.  The third act is usually a verbal argument where the two sides verbally joust and the unexpected twists of plot are revealed.  It is the crutch of the genre.  Great characters will make it worth it and should forgive the mechanics of the plot.

For the sports movie?  How about another screening of 'Slap Shot'?  We miss you Paul Newman.



I discovered dropbox through Gizmodo and Lifehacker and I have to say that it's a great tool for a writer who is working on several systems.

What is dropbox?  It's a program that allows you to share a folder no matter where you are.  I've been working on some writing projects where I usually put my files on a USB key and lug them around from my desktop to my laptop.  I try to back everything up locally which is fine except sometimes you edit something locally and forget to replace the file on the usb key.  I'm sure a more organized writer would say that it isn't a problem to do this but I have been known to confuse myself as to what draft I'm working on.

Enter dropbox.  I install dropbox and get an account and I put my files in there.  I install dropbox on my mac laptop and it automatically synchronizes to the dropbox on my pc and vice versa.  Forgot my usb key?  No problem.  The only thing I need is a wifi connection and these are publicly available in the places I go to write (coffee shop or pub).  Those without free wifi don't have my business.

In full disclosure, I am no way affiliated with dropbox.  I love that it's free and it's been a great addition to my workflow.  I recommend it.



I highly recommend this film and Soderbergh's book written around the same time.  All of this is before his meteoric rise (I've always wanted to use that phrase) to the top of the film world.  I'm not sure where he is now but he's one smart and creative cookie.

'Getting Away With It'

Brilliant stuff.



A great homage to 'The Lady from Shanghai' by Woody Allen.  Great fun.


Christine Fellows!

Christine Fellows is releasing a new album February 1st, 2011 and I thought I'd introduce her on the blog.  Her music is eclectic and strange, wonderful and melodic.  The best compliment is that she is a true original.  I've often derided her hometown Winnipeg over the years.  I went through the city year after year as a teenager and could only remember the extreme cold, the extreme humidity and the goddamn mosquitoes.  What could possibly come out of such a wretched place?

Christine Fellows!

Her wikepedia entry has her born in Windsor and living in other wonderful places so maybe Winnipeg is still wretched, but blessed with immigration.

Of course, she isn't the only talent beating from the 'heart of the continent'.  The Weakerthans and Guy Maddin are providing more than enough creativity to put the rest of the country to rest.  Unique. Great.