Tuesday, April 28, 2020

COVID-19 STOPS THE WORLD FOR AWHILE: 
Contamination Nation 2020
by Janet J. Lawler
Los Angeles, CA
April 28, 2020

Burbank, CA at rush hour during the Coronavirus Pandemic 2020
A lot sure has happened since my last post.

Who cares about screenwriting or movies?  The world has ended.  Well, almost.

It's as if someone put a finger on a spinning globe.  Just stopped us all cold.  Life, as we know, seems over from coast to coast, continent to continent.

Just back in February, I attended an Oprah Winfrey live event here in Los Angeles with 14,000 in attendance at the Forum!  The year was young and optimism was in the air!  A new decade had begun. It was an all-day event of celebrating life and hope for 2020!

But then, the coronavirus invaded America.  The crowds went away overnight.  Events postponed, canceled, schools shut down, March Madness became a reality.

Now today, six weeks later, the US economy is still closed for business.  Movie theaters in LA and around the world are dark.  Film projectors are collecting dust. Box-office grosses no longer matter.  Nobody is going to the movies anymore.

Except at home.

Disneyland is closed, for heaven's sake.  Tomorrowland, folks, remains truly uncertain. 

Sports arenas are empty.  No crowds.  No fans. The streets and freeways show nothing but empty lanes.  No smog and wild animals are roaming freely where humans once roamed (I saw two coyotes in my residential neighborhood the other night!).

For once in LA, there is plenty of parking, everywhere! except there is nowhere to go as all the shops, clubs and restaurants are closed.

We can get fast food at the drive-thru or order in.  Delivery men and women come to your door looking like they've scrubbed up for surgery -- mask, gloves, goggles.  What in the world?  They still didn't remember to put my salad dressing on the side... but I'm not complaining... ever again about take-out orders being messed up!  Nowadays, we're just thankful to eat something besides tuna out of a can or pasta again!

Thank goodness for all the essential workers -- bless YOU all -- the doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers, school teachers, store clerks, package carriers, postal carriers, truck drivers, store clerks and stockers, moms and dads balancing child care and work duties at home,  and to the news media (yes, it's still where we get updated information on this monster virus.)

And forgive me while I go a little Alanis Morissette on you, but isn't it ironic?  We are now appreciating and seeing blue-collar, hourly workers (who may have been invisible before this pandemic) now being celebrated as everyday heroes.  Those men and women who labor in the agriculture field to pick our fresh produce?  Those undocumented human beings who work for pennies?  They matter.  Supermarket customers are suddenly being quite respectful to the local checkout cashier instead of berating her over some incidental mistake (like missing those savings of .10 cents on my Greek yogurt!).  And the RAINBOW -- most identified with pride in the LGBTQ community for decades -- is now the UNIVERAL symbol for strength in numbers and hope.  That was the point all along.


Is there a bright spot in all this craziness?  Yes, the Internet.  We can stream movies galore, download TV shows and series, watch vintage sports events, and Zoom each other silly.  Social and video conferencing sites are keeping us connected with our families and reuniting TV and movie casts (the latest this week, The Goonies!)

Our screens are keeping us closer to each other.  Again, ironic, huh?  Weren't we all aiming for less screen time just a few months ago?  And now kids are talking to their teachers on them.

We can't volunteer outside our homes to help society but we can donate.  We can make a contribution to food pantries or small businesses.  

Isn't it wonderful and inspiring also to see all these kick-ass, amazing artists (rock stars, Broadway divas, philharmonic superstars) offering free performances from their homes!).  Hats off to Lady Gaga, Melissa Etheridge, Bruce Springsteen, and others.

It's so intimate and inspiring to see mega"stars" in their natural habitats (at home) with bed head and in casual clothes like the rest of us.  It's Sunday every day of the week now. No need for dressing up, makeup or even showering if you don't want.  Everybody is keeping it REAL -- including late-night comedians and theater folks.  I'm grateful.

I'm wearing a mask at work, driving around LA, and running quick errands.  It's hard to breathe as the Southern California temps rise.  And it's hard to eat a snack, chew gum or take a sip of water without touching or lifting my mask.  And there is something mysterious about having on a mask.  Fashion statements (fancy scarves, sports logos, flags)... others wearing bandanas like Western bank robbers.

What about creativity during Coronavirus times?  Do we abandon our ideas and just vegetate in front of our laptop or TV?  Read for pleasure?  Not write a word until it's all over?

I can't.  I still feel the need to write, create, and hope.

I managed to bang out a new screenplay.  It's a comedy (don't we need more laughs).  It's called RITA RPM.  It's about a middle-aged woman who takes up competitive cycling to overcome her empty nest syndrome.  It's a Rocky-like story for those facing loneliness.  Talk about perfect timing!  We're all feeling lonely, disconnected, scared, angry, confined, and trapped nowadays. 

But we will make it through together, we WILL.  That's not just a slogan for the times.

This too shall pass, God-willing.  It's a horrific time with mass deaths caused by this virus.  My heart goes out to all those who have lost loved ones during the Covid-19 crisis.  So deeply sorry, especially for those in my beloved hometown of New York City.

How can this happen in modern times with our modern-day medicine?  How can the United States be the richest country in the world and yet so unprepared to fight this monster?  What is this virus here to teach us?  What is the ah-ha moment? That may sound like an Oprah-ism to you, but it's true.  What will we learn from this unprecedented shutdown, shut-in, global crisis, and human tragedy?   Will it force us to take inventory of our lives, reconnect with friends and family, let go of grudges and ill-will, create more, not take life, and leadership for granted?  Will it teach us anything about ourselves?  You and me? Are we better out in the world or being at home?  Where are we making a bigger difference?
Help on its way in NYC
Yes, it's a dark, very bleak time in human history.  For each of us.  But one thing we can count on is the human spirit loves to thrive and rise over adversity -- we did it after WWII, we did it after 9/11, we will do it after this epic battle.

Meanwhile, let your VOICE be heard, whatever you have to say or need to say, do it now!  Pick up the pen, the phone, a musical instrument or device and create like your life depends on it.  Because maybe it does.  Keep a journal (your grandkids will thank you, maybe history too).  Take photos of the good and bad.  Document living through this historic time of human struggle and economic devastation.  Others will learn from your experience.

Before long, the world will once again spin again at full speed, and these isolating days with time on our hands will be over.  What will we have to show for it?  What will we have learned?

STAY SAFE and HEALTHY. 

Until next time -- good health!






Thursday, February 13, 2020

THE BIG GOODBYE:  CHINATOWN and the Last Years of Hollywood

"Forget it, Jake, it's Chinatown."

That's one of the most memorable ending lines in Hollywood film history.

If you're a devotee of this classic movie CHINATOWN (Paramount Pictures, 1974), be sure to pick up this new book THE BIG GOODBYE: CHINATOWN and the Last Years of Hollywood by Sam Wasson.

The book has amazing details about Jack Nicholson, as private detective Jake Gittes, insights about 70s movies and insider stories about Hollywood's top directors, producers, and stars from that era of moviemaking.

I bought my copy already and had it signed by Sam Wasson at his recent talk at the Burbank Public Library in Burbank, CA.
Author Sam Wasson and AD/Producer Howard "Hawk" Koch, Jr.
The Big Goodbye focuses on the production and legend of the Los Angeles iconic film.  The screenplay for Chinatown was written by Robert Towne.  Wasson refers to it as the "the Tora of screenwriting".  He explained why this came to be.  When screenwriting guru Syd Field wrote his first book about the writing craft titled SCREENPLAY (1979) he chose Chinatown as the best example on how to professionally craft a script. The movie and the screenplay are still today referred to for its stellar storytelling on screen and on the page.


First assistant director on Chinatown, Howard "Hawk" Koch, Jr. joined Wasson to offer inside tales about Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, Roman Polanski, and others.  I met Koch at the book signing for his recent memoir "Magic Time: My Life in Hollywood."  Kock was the AD and producer of over sixty films.  He produced some of my favorite films of all-time including "The Way We Were", "This Property is Condemned" (script by Francis Ford Coppola), and "Barefoot in the Park".  He's worked with the best in the film industry and also served as former president of the Motion Picture Academy and the Producer's Guild.

In closing, I'll leave you with another well-known movie line from Chinatown spoked by the film's director Roman Polanski in his cameo as Man with a Knife:

"You're a nosy fella, kitty cat, huh?"

And then, Man with a Knife slices Jake Gittes' nose open with a knife. 

Koch said that famous scene took twelve takes, with Polanski pretending again and again to slice Nickolson's nose open.  Finally, after the twelfth take, Nicholson said: "That's enough." Koch noted the director used the first take in the movie. 

Hollywood power games.

Until next time. 

 





Monday, September 23, 2019

LARRY EDMUNDS BOOKSHOP IN HOLLYWOOD
Any good screenwriting books?
The Larry Edmunds Bookshop is well-known and one of the oldest bookshops around.  It's been in business for over 70 years. When you enter the place, it looks like a used book store with shelves of old and new Hollywood-themed books, movie posters on the walls and other Hollywood artifacts.  They have a great collection of movie scripts, everything from The Godfather to Forest Gump selling for $15.  We can get most now online for free, but if you're into collecting film scripts in pristine condition, this is your place.

I, of course, had to find the screenwriting shelf and they had many of the well-known screenwriting paperbacks from Syd Field and other popular writing gurus.  The store is rather small and some of it looked used more for storage.  I expected it to have a more impressive screenwriting collection/display -- but it's still a cool place to visit when on Hollywood Blvd. in L.A.

Hopefully, this old-time bookshop will stick around in the digital world.   Stop in if you're in town and pick up a book --  support the locals.  You can browse and feel like you're stepping back in time in Hollywood.
Here is some info about the place and the link to its website is below.

LARRY EDMUNDS BOOKSHOP 

Location:
6644 Hollywood Boulevard Los Angeles, CA, 90028
Phone: 323)463-3273
https://larryedmunds.com/about-us/
Mon : 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
Sat: 10:00 am – 7:00 pm
Sun: 12:00 pm – 7:00 pm

If you're looking for larger bookshops with a moe current stock and a more inviting place to hang out for hours, I'd suggest The Last Bookstore in DTLA or Book Soup on Sunset Blvd.
Either way, go buy a book and read.

Until next time.


Tuesday, July 23, 2019

DRINKS AT THE FORMOSA CAFE, ANYONE?
by Janet J. Lawler 
July 23, 2019
Los Angeles, CA
Located on Santa Monica Blvd.
The newly remodeled and recently reopened Formosa Cafe is legendary in West Hollywood.  And for good reason.

In its heyday, the place served drinks to the best of old Hollywood -- Elvis, Frank Sinatra, Humphrey Bogart, and John "The Duke" Wayne.

When you bellied up to this bar, you always knew who was sitting next to you.  Movie stars. Famous singers.  They came here to hide out from the movie studio execs down the block.

Just stepping into The Formosa Cafe you feel the presence of movie history (celeb photos line the walls), the allure of fame (and its demons) tempt you as you listen to bartenders mixing and shaking drinks.  I had the popular Mai Tai that could knock your socks off... except people don't wear socks in L.A.

The 1933 Group did a great job in bringing The Formosa back to life.  They poured $2.5 million dollars into its renovation.  Thankfully they did, it's keeping the haunt going that first opened in the 1930s.

The bars (there are two) are huge, one in the front room and one in the back.  There are gorgeous, red booths where you can enjoy Asian eats.  David Kuo oversees the Chinese-American menu.  We enjoyed the pot stickers and the beef and broccoli.

You can sit in the dining room, bar area, or in the remodeled Pacific Trolley car.  It's an authentic trolley car now lined with celeb photos and newspaper clippings about the movie industry from days gone by.  Bogart and Bacall often came here.

During the recent July L.A. earthquakes, a waiter said customers eating inside the trolley got a little impromptu ride.  Fortunately, no damage or injuries, but it sure gave patrons a reason to order another drink.

I love The Formosa Cafe.  It's not a tourist trap but instead is a cool, hideaway vibe.  If you want to wow someone, meet them here for drinks and appetizers.

It's said that actor John Wayne once got so plastered at The Formosa that he passed out overnight in one of the red booths.  They found him in the morning cooking eggs in the kitchen with a hangover.  And, crooner Frank Sinatra is remembered as having a broken heart.  He'd down drinks at The Formosa while pining over Ava Garner.

Ah, Hollywood.

Speaking of, last night was the premiere of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.  Quentin Tarantino's ninth stand-alone film.  I hope to see it this week.

Until next time.
===========

website link to The Formosa Cafe https://theformosacafe.com/about


Wednesday, July 17, 2019

QUENTIN TARANTINO'S  THE NEW BEVERLY CINEMA -- PURE MAGIC
by Janet J. Lawler
Los Angeles, CA
July 17, 2019
The other night I took in a very young Jane Fonda double-feature ("Cat Ballou" and "The Chase") at The New Beverly Cinema in L.A.  It's not like summertime at a classic Drive-In, but pretty close.

The New Bev is a wonderful, cozy movie haven located on Beverly Blvd.

Filmmaker Quentin Tarantino owns this establishment and selects many of the films projected.  You can tell, his fingerprints are everywhere you look from European movie posters in the lobby to the great cinema selects each month.

All prints are shown in glorious 35mm (unless noted in 16mm), no digital projectors allowed.  The famous writer/director wants you to experience movies the way they were meant to be seen.  Many of these flicks are directly from Tarantino's private collection.  I love it.

From the moment you get in line, (best to order your tix online),  you know this experience is for movie geeks. No apologies made. If you come to The New Bev, you love cinema, pure and simple, all kinds of cinema.   But, you can enjoy the place even if you only see a movie once in a while.  But,  chances are you are obsessed with cinema just like me.  You can feed your celluloid addiction at The New Bev any day of the week, at all times of the day -- with kiddie matinees on weekends to midnight screenings.
Get your seat early at The New Bev
The theater itself was recently remodeled and is clean, with a great screen and sound system, comfy seats and cheap snacks (even vegan hot dogs).  Hey, it's L.A.  They could easily price gouge theatergoers here, but they don't.  Admission prices are reasonable as are the cheap snack prices (visit the theater's link for specifics http://thenewbev.com).
Concessions
In the lobby, they sell T-shirts and you can see Tarantino's soon-to-be-released "Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood" movie poster on full display.  The staff is friendly, welcoming and efficient.  The place has a relaxed, cool vibe but expects reverence for all its showings (that means no texting or looking at your phone during the movie.)

Before each show, the film is introduced by a staff member offering inside tidbits about the making of the film.  The night I attended manager Charlie introduced the Jane Fonda double-feature.  (We also got to watch a grainy 70s trailer for Fonda's Academy Award-winning role in Klute).

Thanks, Quentin Tarantino, for making a personal investment in cinema, for putting your money where your mouth is.  I'm hooked and will be back.

Cinema is about great directors, writers, actors, cinemaphotographers and music scores... but it's also about the theater experience itself.  When that's done right, it's pure magic.

You can also listen to The New Bev's podcast The Pure Cinema.  It has an interview with Tarantino all about his ninth film and programming for summertime at the movie house.  It's a hoot!

Until next time.

====================================
#TheNewBev   #QuentinTarantino #OnceUponATimeinHollywood
The New Beverly website:  http://thenewbev.com/
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Wednesday, June 26, 2019

IT'S NATIONAL WRITING DAY!

Stay true to your voice and don't be afraid to share it with the world. 

We need to hear your story and learn about your unique worldview.

Never stop picking up the pen or pounding the keyboard.  Just keep writing!

Happy National Writing Day to all you writers out there!


Wednesday, May 22, 2019

TOP 25 SAVE THE CAT! SCREENPLAY CHALLENGE SEMI-FINALISTS ANNOUNCED

My feature drama screenplay ABSOLUTION made the Top 25 Semifinalist in its first ever Top 25 Save the Cat! Screenplay Challenge.   So grateful!

Placing in the Save the Cat! Challenge holds special meaning for me.  

I had the pleasure of meeting Save the Cat! creator Blake Snyder in New York City many years ago.  He was teaching a writing workshop in Manhattan.  I was quick to sign up. It was a great one-day workshop focusing on various movie genres, themes and dialogue. 

Blake Snyder was a super kind, insightful and inspirational screenwriting instructor and consultant.  A class act.  I was deeply saddened when he passed away in 2009.  

But his instruction and brand continues at the Save the Cat! website http://www.savethecat.com/ , along with videos on YouTube and other media outlets.
Blake Snyder
Blake, thanks for all you taught me through your Save the Cat! series and your workshop.

My script ABSOLUTION falls into the genre of Rites of Passage and is a redemption story.  Here's to getting it into the right hands and produced for the big (or little screen).  And hey,  I'm just putting this out into the universe, but this script would be ideal for actor Chris Pine
Actor Chris Pine
Congratulations to ALL the writers who entered the Save the Cat! Screenplay Challenge... and especially to the Finalists!  

See the complete list below.  

Until next time.


Here is the complete list of Finalists and Semifinalist.
http://www.savethecat.com/success-stories/announcing-our-screenplay-challenge-finalists/comment-page-1#comment-439749

Blake Snyder's Bio
http://www.savethecat.com/bio
#SavetheCat!