Movie snacks, socks and stories to tell

Last week, I managed to find some time to watch four feature films. I didn’t watch them in the theatre, although, there is one I plan on grabbing some hot buttered popcorn for.

Watching movies at home is great. You don’t have to buy overpriced drinks and popcorn or nachos. Settling in with a gin and tonic or a tumbler of whiskey sounds like a good idea. But I do think having whiskey during movie night depends on what movie you’re planning on watching. I have yet to figure out kind of movie would be appropriate with the hard stuff.

However, I can think of a couple of actors who would go well with a shot or two of Lagavulin or Macallan. My mouth waters at the thought. Considering I haven’t found the right movie that goes with a good whiskey, I defaulted to a good herbal tea for the four films. Yes, that’s boring. No, I don’t care. Just know that when I bring out the whiskey, it will be for something special, something unique.

As for in-home movie snacks, I guess I could make my own popcorn. Unfortunately, I don’t have a popcorn popper. I could use one of my stainless steel pots to make the popcorn but then, I’d set off the smoke alarm and ruin a perfectly good pot. Not really interested in a hot air popcorn popper even though it’s considered the healthy alternative to using hot oil. And I’m ambivalent about microwaved popcorn.

Since I refuse to put in the work to make good theatre-worthy popcorn, snacks of choice would be mixed nuts or rice cakes with almond butter. That might be a little too healthy for some folks but that’s how my tastebuds roll. I had the rice cakes.

Screenwriting is always about what people say
or do, whereas good writing is about
a thought process or an abstract image
or an internal monologue, none of which
works on screen
— David Nicholls

Now that the discussion of in-home movie snacks has been dealt with, I’d like to say watching the four films was the first time I was consciously aware I was viewing the films as more than just as a person looking to be entertained by what was on the screen.

To be more specific, I was looking at lighting, the choice of camera angles and the type of camera shot. I practiced figuring out within the three-act story arc where act two and act three started. Not sure if I was all the successful. Yeah, I was getting nerdy.

Call it research. Call it learning. Call it absorbing everything like a sponge and reflecting on it.

And before I started watching the third film, I came up with another idea for another novel. Let’s just say the idea was inspired by one of the first two films I watched. A re-imagining, perhaps. Maybe more like a deconstruction? Anyway, it probably won’t look anything like the source of the inspiration after I’m done figuring out the characters and fine-tuning the storyline.

Considering I have two writing projects I need to focus on, coming up with another future project seems a little ambitious and is begging for trouble when it comes to time management. It’s probably safe to say that for a lot of writers, coming up with several story ideas that have enough traction to become novels or screenplays is something to relish and be grateful for. It offers the choice to work on a couple of ideas simultaneously or one by one — finish one project and start on the next.

When I started writing, I didn’t know if I had a story worthy of becoming a book inside me. Then, after I wrote The Raven Sonata, I didn’t know if there was another story tucked inside me that I could sink my teeth into. To continue to hone, to stretch and push, and to get more ambitious with my storytelling skillset.

It turns out I have more than one story to tell. It’s not like I have a ton of stories dying to be told. I have no idea how many stories I have and how many of them will end up on paper. And I don’t think I’m too concerned about that right now. Nevertheless, I’m surprised. Surprised that I like being a storyteller. Surprised that I’ve found the one thing that allows me to express myself in a way where I simply couldn’t give a fuck what anyone else says. And I’ll never stop being surprised by the tiny pile of story ideas I’ve acquired, all with not-fully developed characters, waiting to play with me.

I know I’m becoming more ambitious with the stories I want to tell. Being more ambitious requires figuring out how to execute those lofty goals a person has set for oneself. That’s where I am now. Complexity and simplicity have been ubiquitous qualities that have shaped all aspects of my life. So, why wouldn’t I have that enter my writing. It’s a matter of allowing the complexity and simplicity to flow and express itself in the written word. It’s not an easy process but the journey has been rewarding, so far.

Although my focus is on the second novel and the short film screenplay, it doesn’t stop me from thinking about the most recent idea. It will remain an idea that will incubate and grow on its own. I estimate working on the story arc for this new idea won’t happen until late summer/early fall unless something changes and I find myself scratching notes on file cards sooner than later.

It’s always exciting to come up with new story ideas that immediately grab hold of your imagination. All fun and games until you realize you have to prioritize. Either I reel in my imagination or pull up my socks and manage my time so I can get this pile of stuff done…

I guess I’ll pull up my socks.

Playtime desired

The fact of storytelling hints at a fundamental human unease, hints at human imperfection. Where there is perfection, there is no story to tell — Ben Okri

Because I accepted the challenge of writing my first screenplay, I’ve been slightly obsessed, for the last few weeks, with finding movies — feature and short — to watch. Or at least add them to my ever-growing ‘to-watch’ film list.

I have four feature films I’d like to watch, hopefully, this week, assuming I can find the time. The four films in question are Milk, American Gigolo, Neruda and Lust, Caution. It’s a diverse list. I threw in American Gigolo just because I needed to see what I was missing out on when the film hit theatres and I was only 12 years old. All four films are rentals. If I like them enough, I just might want to own a copy of them.

And then, there is Wong Kar-Wai’s classic In the Mood for Love. From the snippets I’ve seen of the film, it is visually sumptuous and I’m in the mood to be seduced by what the director has to offer and to discover his deftness as a storyteller. I managed to find a copy of the film and I’m looking forward to watching it.

Because of the diversity of the viewpoints of these directors, I’m excited to discover how they spin and weave a story on screen. I’ve already viewed a number of short films online at a site called shortoftheweek.com. There are some beautiful gems on that site. So much to absorb and to think about. The art of storytelling is endless fascinating to me.

And I desperately need to play with my characters. It’s annoying that I’m still so busy. Maybe I can finally start shifting focus onto my boys and girls. I’m somewhat surprised they’re not harassing me every waking moment.

I suppose a reason for this could be I’m already engaged in the silly nonsense of looking longingly at my playmates while I’m doing something I don’t want to do. It’s not one of those hideous lovelorn looks two people give each other. It’s more like ‘You know I’d prefer to spend time with you, getting into all sorts of trouble, rather than doing whatever responsible adult thing I’m doing right now, right?’

All work and no play make for lack of writing bliss. Boo. Yeah, I want regular playtime with my characters. If you met them, you would want to play with them, too. However, it’s an exclusive relationship. We’re all mutually possessive of each other and we’re not particularly concerned with how dysfunctional that sounds.

Gotta make this short. I need to put in my playtime.

Eating and laughing don’t mix

Really, sex and laughter do go together very well, and I wondered — and I still do — which is more important — Hermione Gingold 

It’s not often that someone can time the telling of a funny story to coincide with the moment you find yourself spitting out your drink or choking on your food because what was said made you laugh.

That doesn’t happen to me all that often. In fact, I can count on one hand, the number of times someone made me spit out my drink or choke on a piece of food because I lacked the ability to laugh and consume liquids or solid food at the same time. I have yet to meet anyone that talented to share his/her secret.

I have a funny feeling it’s akin to the gag reflex — either you don’t have it or you do.

I think the last time I had liquid exit my mouth via my nasal passages was years ago during a dinner on an Alaskan cruise. Someone made a funny and I didn’t exactly swallow my tea in time to properly start laughing. Classy, I know.

My latest graceless episode occurred Saturday afternoon during a late lunch with a friend. I can only describe this person as a friend because the story involves another mutual friend and I really need to protect the not-so-innocent. It’s one of those where you mention one person and the other (aka partner-in-crime) is immediately implicated. That’s how it goes.

I was busy digging into a menu item called the Farmhouse salad. Chicken and crumbled bacon was part of the salad with Dijon dressing on the side. Any time bacon is thrown into a salad is a win in my books.

A conversation was being had. My friend and I talked about everything under the sun and that included the topic of sex and the crazy things uttered in the throes of passion.

I can’t remember how we moved onto the topic of sex, but between the two of us, the topic unfailingly pops up frequently. We can segue into sex from any topic at the drop of a hat and without batting an eyelash.

So, we were discussing how some folks had a bad habit of making certain assumptions about other folks and how that inevitably led to awkward situations and/or embarrassing the shit out of themselves and the other person. We swapped cringe-worthy stories of people we knew who did exactly that. Then that led to a story about how quirky and inappropriate our mutual friend could be.

I really should have finished eating my salad before she started talking about the quirk. I was three bites away. I really should have stopped eating once I knew the story was headed down the rabbit hole that lead to the world of the outrageously tacky and uproariously funny. But I didn’t stop eating. The salad was delicious and I was so close finishing. But of course, I almost stopped breathing because of it.

I can assure you the story was funny as fuck. It was one of those stories where you start shaking your head because you’re surprised yet not surprised by the words that came of said mutual friend. Then you start giggling with food in your mouth. Then you think ‘I can giggle and I can stop at any time so I can swallow my food. This is manageable.’ Then you make the mistake of realizing how insanely funny the mutual friend’s words really were given the context in which they were uttered.

Now, you find yourself laughing closed-mouth, not really caring that you still have food in your mouth but trying not to lose it completely. Your shoulders start shaking from laughing. Your eyes tear up because you’ve decided the story is truly rolling-on-the-floor-laughing-your-ass-off funny.

That’s when you discover the piece of dice red onion that’s being jostled around in your mouth, is looking to make an ill-timed trip down your esophagus. And the coughing and gasping kicks in. It’s all about survival at this point, baby. You’re trying to survive and your friend is in tears from laughing so hard about the mutual friend’s proclivity and at your current situation.

Yeah, that happened to me. Yeah, the whole thing was bananas. Yeah, I survived the dice red onion. No, I don’t regret how it all went down.