Monday, June 29, 2020

Time Travel and Screenplays—Life in the Days of COVID-19

The Best Time Travel Movie

The Lake House is on Netflix. It's the one with Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock. I like to rewatch time travel movies. Trying to keep the story straight is like doing a Sudoku puzzle. It shouldn't be that hard, but neither should daylight savings time.

Usually we're only talking about two timelines. In The Lake House I have trouble following. Wait, she's from the future. Follow. Kate's from the future. *ten minutes later* Hold up! If Kate is from the future by two years and Alex is from two years ago and they share the same dog how does that work? And why are Kate's doctor co-worker friend with the Dutch accent, and her mother with the Israeli accent so easy for me to mix up? The first time I saw it I thought it was the same person and I was so confused.

The thing about time travel movies is some focus on the how and some like The Lake House go for a cause and effect situation. This happened. Is it the mailbox or the magic dog? Don't ask questions. Focus. The doctor friend has great hair, the mom has great lines. Pay attention. After The Lake House I had to watch About Time for the umpteenth time. The time travel isn't fancy. It's dark closet, close eyes, clench fists and voila. That movie is about what you DO with the ability, not HOW it works, or even whatever The Lake House is about. Plant more trees?

My favorite time travel movie is the Terminator. All that action totally wins time travel movies. T2 and Arnold's whole, "Come with me if you want to live," in the psychiatric hospital with Sarah Connor and young John Connor, is stellar. I never have trouble following those time changes and updates but throw in the dog paw prints in The Lake House and I'm all, okay so her dog from the future goes to the past and walks through the paint. No, her dog from the past goes to the future and his paw prints match the old paint ones? 

Is the mailbox a wormhole?

It must be. They never get any mail other than from each other and people still sent mail in 2004 and 2006. I know. I was there. I pay more attention to movie screenplays now that I've been writing them. Screenplays are mostly action and dialogue. They're fun to write but you have to plan them carefully. By nature I'm a pantser. A story idea hits me and I open a new document and start writing. It unfolds in some ways for me as if I'm reading it. I love first drafting a novel.

A few drafts in I want to set fire to it but I'm stubborn enough to keep at it and change things that aren't working. Many writers write a plot outline first. I've done that. The problem is I don't follow them. I like to be surprised and there's a school of thought that if the writer knows what's going to happen as she writes that the reader will know too.

Let's not get into that argument. I figure write the way it works for you. It's your baby.

Screenplays are different 

Screenplays are much shorter than a book. Pretty much every action and word is forwarding the story in some way. Books are supposed to be like that mostly. The difference being they're fluffier. There's juxtaposition. Thoughts. Philosophies. Description. You can have some of those things in a screenplay but they must be lean and purposeful right out of the gate and there isn't enough ROOM to show everything the book says.

I don't get the same meeting of the minds in a movie like I do in a book. There's a voice in a book that's absent in a movie. An author cozies up with you. When it's done right you don't even notice the voice in your ear. That meeting of minds is absent in a movie. It's possible I am missing it. I do get stuck contemplating the dog, the mailbox, and occasionally mixing up actors. I still like The Lake House. I'll bet that screenplay was written by a pantser. I see vast creativity weaving through it that an outline would abhor.

We're talking films here not books

If we were to talk favorite time travel books, I'd lean toward Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife. NOT the movie. The book. There's a huge difference. The only thing they didn't change was the title. The book is gritty and punk rock. The movie is practically Hallmark. I say that but I've watched it and enjoyed it several times. It's simply not in the same league or category as the book.

I get why books change when they're made into movies now that I'm writing screenplays. They're being translated and things are lost in translation. Readers go to movies and whine about what is different and missing in the book to screen adaptation. I see why that's inevitable. You're showing showing showing in a movie. In a book you are transmitting feelings with far more words and abstract thoughts than you can use in a movie. Inner monologue is completely gone.

In a movie or television show someone is putting out vast amounts of money that has to be recouped on. Financiers expect a return on their investment. There are more cooks in the kitchen tasked with making that happen. As I see it movies are made for market. Books are secrets, whispers, and revelations. There's older, deeper magic there.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Diversity in Reading—and Black Lives Matter

Keep Going by Austin Kleon: I've read this several times and now keep it on my read pile.

We're Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union: Because it caught my eye in a bookstore months ago.

when they call you a terrorist a black lives matter memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele: This too caught my eye in a bookstore a few months ago. Also, diversity in reading helps make sense of the world.

A Journal of the Welsh Experience by Bailey Karfelt: This is a privately published little gem and not available for purchase. It's about wild outdoor adventures during a study abroad in Wales. 

I Will Teach You to be Rich by Ramit Sethi: This year I promised myself I'd read books on finances and economics. I don't want to be rich, just not financially stupid.

Dark Energy Poems by Feirstein: A few months ago I went to a bookstore in Cambridge, MA and this little gem insisted on going home with me. 

War with the Newts by Karel Capek: Twice now I've read this book halfway through. It was given to me by a Czech friend (she said it's a good translation). Karel Capek is the writer who coined the word robot. It's absolutely my thing which is why I have to start over every time I put it down and don't pick it up again. A sea captain finds a group of underwater humanoid creatures to help him in an economic endeavor. Circa 1936.

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan: A fictional story about an eleven-year-old field slave on a Barbados sugar plantation. He's given to his master's brother who is a naturalist and abolitionist. 

Written in History letters that changed the world by Simon Sebag Montefiore: This book though! I picked it up at the Harvard bookstore in Cambridge, MA. It contains letters of people throughout history. Alexander Hamilton to Augustus. Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn. Frida Kahlo to Diego Rivera. Hitler to Mussolini. Roosevelt to Churchhill. GANDHI to HITLER. And on and on. It is brilliant. I read it a couple letters at a time. 

Boundaries by Cloud/Townsend: I've reread this book at least twenty times. It's time for another go. It's all marked up and full of bookmarks. Highly recommend. 

The Miracle Game by Josef Skvorecky: It's heralded as an energetic and hilarious novel made more important by the final thawing of the long Communist winter in the country once known as Czechoslovakia (Czech Republic). It came highly recommended, a gift from a friend.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates: Let's use Toni Morrison's description, "The language of BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME, like Coate's journey, is visceral, eloquent and beautifully redemptive. And its examination of the hazards and hopes of black male life is as profound as it is revelatory. This is required reading."

Becoming by Michelle Obama: I read most of this book when it was STOLEN by a friend and I recently had the opportunity to steal it back. As you can see from this list and photo, I like to read physical books. 

Leonardo Da Vinci by Walter Isaacson: I love this book about Da Vinci. We all know of him but the details really grab me. He finished almost nothing and had such enthusiasm for everything. I find him fascinating and I read half of this months ago. It fell behind the shelf and I just found it again.

White Fragility by Robin Diangelo: "Why it's so hard for white people to talk about racism." This book was recommended in a screenwriting class I was taking. I couldn't get a hard copy so I put it on my kindle app. 

The Library of the Unwritten by A.J. Hackwith: A Novel from Hell's Library. A friend wanted me to read this so we could talk about it. The tagline is "Join the Library. Raise Hell." It's on my kindle app. My friend wanted me to read it so much she sent it to me. I love having friends who book. 

As you can see, I love to read. My TBR list is much larger than this, but these are on my immediate read pile. I don't know how long until I finish them because I'm also second drafting a novel I'm writing and I put my writing first. Soon. I'll review some here. 

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Keening Under the Strawberry Moon—Life in the Time of COVID-19

COVID 19, travel, travel cancellation,
Nina's Pansion Alonissos, Greece

Today I won't be leaving The Shire here in New York to fly to Detroit to then fly to a different airport in New York and on to Athens, Greece

Tomorrow I won't be sleeping at the Sofitel Hotel that's only a quick walk from baggage claim. I won't be grabbing a taxi into downtown Athens to walk up to the Acropolis. I won't be darting into the Acropolis Museum to see the Caryatids or to pick up a notebook from the gift shop.

Tomorrow night I won't have a Greek Salad for dinner in my favorite taverna in Plaka. I won't have a glass of retsina and see the Strawberry Moon—the full moon in June—rising over the Acropolis. I won't meander back to the Sofitel across from the Athens Airport and sleep the deep untroubled, pre-COVID 19, sleep of a woman heading for her favorite writing retreat.

The day after tomorrow I won't wake up early and hurry back to the Athens Airport. I won't greet the barista behind the counter of Starbucks with Kalimera and enjoy a chai latte and banana before boarding my flight on Olympic Air to the island of Skiathos. 

The day after tomorrow I won't crowd into a taxi with four strangers and race to the port to catch my ferry to Alonissos. I won't sit outside on the deck in the sun and wind and watch the ice blue ferry wake, hoping to see dolphins in it.

The day after tomorrow I won't arrive in Patitiri, the Port of Alonissos, that quiet magical island that I dream of all year long. I won't drag my suitcase down the ramp dodging trucks and cars and hurrying to hug some of my favorite people in the world. I won't be greeted by Chrisoula. I won't see Julie's white hat. I won't haul my suitcase up four or five flights of stairs to my favorite room in the pansion overlooking the port. 

I won't walk up the steep hill to the shops for vegetables, olive oil, olives, and feta. I won't buy a pot of fresh lavender to put on my balcony where I won't write every night. I won't sit with the women writers I call my kula every day and write, or listen to them read their writing out loud. 

There will be no carrying bottles of water up all those flights of stairs every day. There will be no greeting familiar faces with Yassos. There will be no hiring a taxi to take me to Leftos Gialos, my favorite beach on the island, no welcome dinner at Elenas with tables scattered inside an olive grove while the Aegean touches the shore. I won't greet Yaya who makes the spinach pies and sits beneath a giant olive tree in her scarf and wishes a friendly kalisperra to every guest.

There will be no donkeys, no hikes up the donkey trail to Kali Thea, no massages or yoga with Bibi and Lee. There will be no sunsets in Old Town. No writing tucked in chairs beneath cascades of bougainvillea. No losing track of time and staying so late I have to call my favorite taxi driver and ask please, parakalo, don't make me walk the donkey trail in the dark.

Billy the Seal may very well slide up onto the port beach and steal someone's lounge chair but it won't be mine. There will be no thundering music at The Drunk Seal, no gathering with friends at Carolis for olives and sparkling water, no midnight gelatto. 

Yet, I've had that, because despite COVID-19, I am the luckiest writer you never heard of. Next year maybe I'll go back and I will once more wallow in my perfect paradise. Only not this year and for today, tomorrow, and maybe the day after tomorrow, I'm going to allow myself to miss that.