Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Split is here!

Exciting night. I just finished doling out copies of "Split" that finally came in. We ordered these about two weeks ago (112 copies) and it took a while for it get printed I guess. Regardless, it's finally here.

We met at Panera Bread to pass the copies out and spread them all out on a table (well, most of them, anyway). I'll post pictures later. I'm guessing that this is the mid-point of "Split's" life cycle. We still have to have a massive group signing where we all sign each others' books. Then we have to figure out if and how we want to actively market this book. I imagine we'll send a copy to the newspaper that ran a story on us a few weeks ago. Theresa has already said she wants to send a copy to Oprah. We can probably see if Barnes and Noble can do a signing or something for us. And we might get a Split website where we can post links to the Lulu or Amazon pages, and make it available for download if we so choose.

But bottom line, it's tangible proof that we CAN and should continue to write and if nothing else, this is our inspiration to be bigger and better things.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

100% Online Experiment

A week ago or so, I rescued what looked like a broken laptop from a trash pile, intending to maybe use it for a prop for a commercial or film or something. It was a Dell Inspiron, about five years old. It had no power supply and was missing three keys on the keyboard. On a whim, I took the laptop to a Circuit City to see if they had something that could power it up, just to see if it worked at all. My intention was to perhaps hack it into a digital photo frame using one of the many cool tutorials available online.

I was pleasantly surprised when the laptop powered right up. I bought a universal power supply and brought my new toy home. All I had to do was bypass the password (easier than I thought it would be) and I was up and running. A wireless mouse/keyboard combo, and the missing keys problem was solved. It took me about an hour to completely wipe out all traces of the previous owners and I was ready to make this computer my own.

I was about to start installing MS Office, Adobe's Suite of products, Final Draft, etc, when an idea occurred to me. What if I didn't install ANY software on the computer and just used the the free online equivalents? Was it possible? Could I operate 100% online?

So far, the answer is YES. Granted, I can't do advanced video editing, vector drawing or really advanced photo editing (yet), but I can do everything else I'd want a typical computer to do. Here's what I'm using so far, and I'll update this list as I discover new products.

Google Docs
- This is Google's online version of MS Office. It's not yet nearly as robust as MS Office, but it does a really good job of functioning as a sturdy word processor, spreadsheet and presentation program. Better yet, all of these Google Docs are sharable and embeddable and able to be worked on in a collaborative fashion. Plus, it saves all your work online and you can access from any computer that has internet access.

Gmail - A great web-only email solution. Gmail's been around for a few years now, but it's been over the last year or so that I've migrated from Outlook and Yahoo Mail as my primary mail sources over to Gmail. Gmail has added tons of great features lately, such as chat directly inside of Gmail, and there are a bunch of really useful add-ons.

Google Reader - This doesn't really have a good desktop equivalent, but it's something you should be aware of and using if you're not already. It's the best RSS newsreader I've come across. I love it.

Google Notebook - Great notebook/clippings service. Allows you to collect and organize anything you find on the net, specifically for doing research.

And lest you think it's all Google... Screenwriting - Great online screenwriting program. It's still in its basic form, but I can see this becoming a serious challenger to Final Draft or Movie Magic, especially with it's online collaboration features and ability to store your documents online.

- A basic imagine editing website. Connects directly to your Flikr, Facebook, Picassa, and a host of other places where you might have photos hanging out. It lets you do interesting effects, and sort of layers. But it's really only a placeholder program until Photoshop Express debuts sometime later this year (hopefully).

Adobe also has a simple video editing program called Premiere Express, but at the moment, it's really only useful for mashing up youtube videos. But I can see the potential for doing very basic editing down the line.

Those are the biggies at the moment. As I come across new problems, I'll be sure to catalog my trials and errors and solutions. We'll see if I can operate on a computer 100% online!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Academy Awards 2008: The Picks (Updated with Results!)

Honestly, this year's Oscars are the ones I've least been anticipating in a long time. Maybe ever. I guess it's because it's been a really blah year for movies. And for the first time in a few years, I've actually seen all the Best Picture nominees prior to the awards. Also, I guess I have no rooting interest this year, except maybe "Juno", but even that has me a bit burned out with all the Diablo Cody hype (and due to the fact that I've read her next script and found it to be pretty bad and that she's likely to become the female Quentin Tarrantino, and I don't mean that in a good way).

So here are the nominees and my predictions, along with any alternate choices I would have made.

Performance by an actor in a leading role
George Clooney in "Michael Clayton" (Warner Bros.)
Daniel Day-Lewis in "There Will Be Blood" (Paramount Vantage and Miramax)
Johnny Depp in "Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" (DreamWorks and Warner Bros., Distributed by DreamWorks/Paramount)
Tommy Lee Jones in "In the Valley of Elah" (Warner Independent)
Viggo Mortensen in "Eastern Promises" (Focus Features)

DDL will win because his performance was very showy. I thought it was a bit over-the-top.

Ding! ding! ding! We have a winner! (1 for 1)

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Casey Affleck in "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" (Warner Bros.)
Javier Bardem in "No Country for Old Men" (Miramax and Paramount Vantage)
Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Charlie Wilson's War" (Universal)
Hal Holbrook in "Into the Wild" (Paramount Vantage and River Road Entertainment)
Tom Wilkinson in "Michael Clayton" (Warner Bros.)

Of these, Bardem stands out. The film itself had lots of problems at the end, but he wasn't one of them.

(2 for 2)

Performance by an actress in a leading role
Cate Blanchett in "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" (Universal)
Julie Christie in "Away from Her" (Lionsgate)
Marion Cotillard in "La Vie en Rose" (Picturehouse)
Laura Linney in "The Savages" (Fox Searchlight)
Ellen Page in "Juno" (A Mandate Pictures/Mr. Mudd Production)

I haven't seen this film, but all indications point to her winning. I thought Cate Blanchett was too over-the-top as Elizabeth, and while Ellen Page gave the most enjoyable performance of this group, I think it's too early in her career to win.

Whaa???? Marion Cotillard? Well, that only shows how weak a year this was.

(2 for 3)

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Cate Blanchett in "I'm Not There" (The Weinstein Company)
Ruby Dee in "American Gangster" (Universal)
Saoirse Ronan in "Atonement" (Focus Features)
Amy Ryan in "Gone Baby Gone" (Miramax)
Tilda Swinton in "Michael Clayton" (Warner Bros.)

This one is easy. Amy Ryan was as authentic and disturbing as any of the real-life Bostonians that were used in this film.

This was the shocker of the night. Tilda Swinton?????? Whatever...

(2 for 4)

Best animated feature film of the year
"Persepolis" (Sony Pictures Classics): Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud
"Ratatouille" (Walt Disney): Brad Bird
"Surf's Up" (Sony Pictures Releasing): Ash Brannon and Chris Buck

Haven't seen the other two yet, but Ratatouille was too solid of a film to not win this year.

All too easy...

(3 for 5)

Achievement in art direction
"Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"

Haven't seen it, but it sure does look nice.

(4 for 6)

Achievement in cinematography
"The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" (Warner Bros.): Roger Deakins
"Atonement" (Focus Features): Seamus McGarvey
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" (Miramax/Pathé Renn): Janusz Kaminski
"No Country for Old Men" (Miramax and Paramount Vantage): Roger Deakins
"There Will Be Blood" (Paramount Vantage and Miramax): Robert Elswit

This one's a real toughie, but I think this one will take it.

Baamp! Wrong answer. There Will Be Blood looked pretty, I guess. Until Daniel Day Lewis started chewing the scenery...

(4 for 7)

Achievement in costume design
"Atonement" (Focus Features) Jacqueline Durran

This film looked really good.

Elizabeth: The Golden Age looked pretty good... I'll give it that.

(4 for 8)

Achievement in directing
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" (Miramax/Pathé Renn), Julian Schnabel
"Juno" (A Mandate Pictures/Mr. Mudd Production), Jason Reitman
"Michael Clayton" (Warner Bros.), Tony Gilroy
"No Country for Old Men" (Miramax and Paramount Vantage), Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
"There Will Be Blood" (Paramount Vantage and Miramax), Paul Thomas Anderson

Despite it's head-scratching ending, this was still the best film of this bunch. Personally, I enjoyed "3:10 to Yuma" more than just about any other film this year. "Gone Baby Gone" was a close second. And I'm surprised that "Zodiac" didn't get more play.

Out of this Group, No Country was the best directed, so this was no surprise.

(5 for 9)

Best documentary feature
"No End in Sight" (Magnolia Pictures) A Representational Pictures Production: Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs
"Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience" (The Documentary Group) A Documentary Group Production: Richard E. Robbins
"Sicko" (Lionsgate and The Weinstein Company) A Dog Eat Dog Films Production: Michael Moore and Meghan O'Hara
"Taxi to the Dark Side" (THINKFilm) An X-Ray Production: Alex Gibney and Eva Orner
"War/Dance" (THINKFilm) A Shine Global and Fine Films Production: Andrea Nix Fine and Sean Fine

Haven't seen any of these, but "No End in Sight seems to have lots of buzz. The one I WANT to see is "King of Kong".

Guessed wrong. Taxi to the Dark Side?

(5 for 10)

Best documentary short subject
"Freeheld" A Lieutenant Films Production: Cynthia Wade and Vanessa Roth
"La Corona (The Crown)" A Runaway Films and Vega Films Production: Amanda Micheli and Isabel Vega
"Salim Baba" A Ropa Vieja Films and Paradox Smoke Production: Tim Sternberg and Francisco Bello
"Sari's Mother" (Cinema Guild) A Daylight Factory Production: James Longley

Purely a guess.

And purely a wrong guess. Freeheld was the winner.

(5 for 11)

Achievement in film editing
"The Bourne Ultimatum" (Universal): Christopher Rouse
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" (Miramax/Pathé Renn): Juliette Welfling
"Into the Wild" (Paramount Vantage and River Road Entertainment): Jay Cassidy
"No Country for Old Men" (Miramax and Paramount Vantage) Roderick Jaynes
"There Will Be Blood" (Paramount Vantage and Miramax): Dylan Tichenor

Didn't see it, but from all indications, Bourne Ultimatum set the bar for 21st century action films.

Woo hoo! Back on the horse!

(6 for 12)

Best foreign language film of the year
"Beaufort" Israel
"The Counterfeiters" Austria
"Katyn" Poland
"Mongol" Kazakhstan
"12" Russia

A pure guess, but from all I've heard about it, I'm interested in seeing "Mongol"

Another good guess.

(7 for 13)

Achievement in makeup
"La Vie en Rose" (Picturehouse) Didier Lavergne and Jan Archibald
"Norbit" (DreamWorks, Distributed by Paramount): Rick Baker and Kazuhiro Tsuji
"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" (Walt Disney): Ve Neill and Martin Samuel

Just because I despise the other two films in this category.

My bias paid off.

(8 for 14)

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)
"Atonement" (Focus Features) Dario Marianelli
"The Kite Runner" (DreamWorks, Sidney Kimmel Entertainment and Participant Productions, Distributed by Paramount Classics): Alberto Iglesias
"Michael Clayton" (Warner Bros.) James Newton Howard
"Ratatouille" (Walt Disney) Michael Giacchino
"3:10 to Yuma" (Lionsgate) Marco Beltrami

Fantastic score and one of our rising film composer talents.

But not this year... Atonement won.

(8 for 15)

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
"Falling Slowly" from "Once" (Fox Searchlight) Music and Lyric by Glen Hansard and: Marketa Irglova
"Happy Working Song" from "Enchanted" (Walt Disney): Music by Alan Menken; Lyric by Stephen Schwartz
"Raise It Up" from "August Rush" (Warner Bros.): Music and Lyric by Jamal Joseph, Charles Mack and Tevin Thomas
"So Close" from "Enchanted" (Walt Disney): Music by Alan Menken; Lyric by Stephen Schwartz
"That's How You Know" from "Enchanted" (Walt Disney): Music by Alan Menken; Lyric by Stephen Schwartz

One of my favorite films of the year, and a great song from that film. I downloaded it from Itunes right after I finished watching the film. My only real rooting interest among all the films this year.

Yay! And they let Marketa come back out and give her acceptance speech after they cut her off before the commercial break. Classy, whoever's decision that was.

(9 for 16)

Best motion picture of the year
"Atonement" (Focus Features) A Working Title Production: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner and Paul Webster, Producers
"Juno" (A Mandate Pictures/Mr. Mudd Production) A Mandate Pictures/Mr. Mudd Production: Lianne Halfon, Mason Novick and Russell Smith, Producers
"Michael Clayton" (Warner Bros.) A Clayton Productions, LLC Production: Sydney Pollack, Jennifer Fox and Kerry Orent, Producers
"No Country for Old Men" (Miramax and Paramount Vantage) A Scott Rudin/Mike Zoss Production: Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, Producers
"There Will Be Blood" (Paramount Vantage and Miramax) A JoAnne Sellar/Ghoulardi Film Company Production: JoAnne Sellar, Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Lupi, Producers

A bunch of really flawed films to choose from. I enjoyed "Juno" the most out of all these films, but I think it's ultimately too lightweight to win. I still don't see what all the fuss is about "There Will Be Blood". It was ultimately just a character study of a very bad man, and we got to see him do bad things. Whoopee... "Michael Clayton" was okay, but it felt like a warmed-over episode of a TV show. Nothing groundbreaking in this, but good acting all around. When I finished watching "Atonement", I said to myself "Is that all there is?" It was pretty and well-acted, but just barely okay. So by default, it goes to "No Country For Old Men". It had a really damaged ending, but it was pretty enjoyable up until that point.

See above

(10 for 17)

Best animated short film
"I Met the Walrus" A Kids & Explosions Production: Josh Raskin
"Madame Tutli-Putli" (National Film Board of Canada) A National Film Board of Canada Production Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski
"Même les Pigeons Vont au Paradis (Even Pigeons Go to Heaven)" (Premium Films) A BUF Compagnie Production Samuel Tourneux and Simon Vanesse
"My Love (Moya Lyubov)" (Channel One Russia) A Dago-Film Studio, Channel One Russia and Dentsu Tec Production Alexander Petrov
"Peter & the Wolf" (BreakThru Films) A BreakThru Films/Se-ma-for Studios Production Suzie Templeton and Hugh Welchman

Pure guess.

Wrong guess. I almost went for Peter and the Wolf, but changed my mind. Oh well.

(10 for 18)

Best live action short film
"At Night" A Zentropa Entertainments 10 Production: Christian E. Christiansen and Louise Vesth
"Il Supplente (The Substitute)" (Sky Cinema Italia) A Frame by Frame Italia Production: Andrea Jublin
"Le Mozart des Pickpockets (The Mozart of Pickpockets)" (Premium Films) A Karé Production: Philippe Pollet-Villard
"Tanghi Argentini" (Premium Films) An Another Dimension of an Idea Production: Guido Thys and Anja Daelemans
"The Tonto Woman" A Knucklehead, Little Mo and Rose Hackney Barber Production: Daniel Barber and Matthew Brown

More guesswork

And wrong yet again. Pickpocket thing won.

(10 of 19)

Achievement in sound editing
"The Bourne Ultimatum" (Universal): Karen Baker Landers and Per Hallberg
"No Country for Old Men" (Miramax and Paramount Vantage): Skip Lievsay
"Ratatouille" (Walt Disney): Randy Thom and Michael Silvers
"There Will Be Blood" (Paramount Vantage and Miramax): Christopher Scarabosio and Matthew Wood
"Transformers" (DreamWorks and Paramount in association with Hasbro): Ethan Van der Ryn and Mike Hopkins

Just a guess. But I figure they'll honor this film with technical awards since it didn't earn any other type of nomination.

My assumption about Bourne Ultimatum was, ehem, Bourne out.

(11 for 20)

Achievement in sound mixing
"The Bourne Ultimatum" (Universal) Scott Millan, David Parker and Kirk Francis
"No Country for Old Men" (Miramax and Paramount Vantage): Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff and Peter Kurland
"Ratatouille" (Walt Disney): Randy Thom, Michael Semanick and Doc Kane
"3:10 to Yuma" (Lionsgate): Paul Massey, David Giammarco and Jim Stuebe
"Transformers" (DreamWorks and Paramount in association with Hasbro): Kevin O'Connell, Greg P. Russell and Peter J. Devlin

Just a guess. But with an animated film, sound is half the battle in making it seem real, and this film felt more alive than any other film this year.

Rats! Should have stuck with my Bourne Assumption.

(11 for 21)

Achievement in visual effects
"The Golden Compass" (New Line in association with Ingenious Film Partners): Michael Fink, Bill Westenhofer, Ben Morris and Trevor Wood
"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" (Walt Disney): John Knoll, Hal Hickel, Charles Gibson and John Frazier
"Transformers" (DreamWorks and Paramount in association with Hasbro): Scott Farrar, Scott Benza, Russell Earl and John Frazier

Hated these films. But "Pirates" sure did have a LOT of effects.

Enh... Golden Compass won, but I think they gave it to that as a backlash against the other guys. Oh well.

(11 for 22)

Adapted screenplay
"Atonement" (Focus Features), Screenplay by Christopher Hampton
"Away from Her" (Lionsgate), Written by Sarah Polley
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" (Miramax/Pathé Renn), Screenplay by Ronald Harwood
"No Country for Old Men" (Miramax and Paramount Vantage), Written for the screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
"There Will Be Blood" (Paramount Vantage and Miramax), Written for the screen by Paul Thomas Anderson

Tough category. But I think this film pulled it off the best of all these contenders.

Wasn't worried..

(12 for 23)

Original screenplay
"Juno" (A Mandate Pictures/Mr. Mudd Production), Written by Diablo Cody
"Lars and the Real Girl" (MGM), Written by Nancy Oliver
"Michael Clayton" (Warner Bros.), Written by Tony Gilroy
"Ratatouille" (Walt Disney), Screenplay by Brad Bird; Story by Jan Pinkava, Jim Capobianco, Brad Bird
"The Savages" (Fox Searchlight), Written by Tamara Jenkins

"Juno" will win just because it's easily gotten the most hype this year.

No brainer...

(13 for 24)

And that wraps it up! I'll come back tomorrow night and update this post with a tally of how many I got right.

Not bad... 13 right. Especially for a year where there were no clear front-runners across the board. I can't imagine anyone got the actress categories right, except maybe the mothers of both of those actresses... Great (free) online Scriptwriting website

I found out about a few days ago from The Unknown Screenwriter's blog. As I'd just recently learned about from Alex Epstein's Complications Ensue blog and found it lacking, I was very curious to see if any version of an online scriptwriting software program could be viable.

Happily, I really like, and I'm planning on giving it a complete test-drive with a sitcom script I'm going to write with my brother (who's not a screenwriter and doesn't ever plan on buying or using Final Draft or Movie Magic). We've been tossing around this idea for a sitcom for about a year now, and, with it's great collaboration capabilities, will allow us to work on together (without having to involve exporting of pdfs and emailing notes).

So far, the technical people have been fantastic, responding to my suggestions and the glitches I've noticed. I look forward to seeing what they do with this.

They are competing with, which has since addressed some of the complaints users have had, such as auto-complete and typical tab/enter functions you find in most screenwriting programs. However, it still lags behind in features and ease of use. It'll be interesting to follow this battle. It'll be even more interesting to see what Final Draft and Movie Magic do to address these two challengers.

Okay.. time to put something new here

And suddenly it's seven months since my last blog post. Oh well.. Here's hoping I keep up better this time.