In 2004, I found out completely third-hand that my horror thriller Claustrophobia was being released under the title "Serial Slayer" by Lionsgate. I felt like a character in a movie: the poor indie filmmaker who finally lands a deal and is then told by the studio, "We love your movie, baby. That's why we're giving it the most embarrassing title… read more!
I continue to slack on the List of 9 – as mentioned before, the "trivia space" of my brain has been absorbed with my upcoming website/app L.A. Street Names, while pop culture lists are now so pervasive that it's nearly impossible to think of a theme that hasn't already been done to death – so personal lists are all I… read more!
Digital visual effects are here to stay. Not just in terms of rendering entire characters and environments from scratch, but also in all those things you're not meant to notice: color and lighting correction, live action compositing, erasing wires and other detritus, etc. As such, there may be no filmmakers working today – certainly no mainstream filmmakers – who are… read more!
Here we are in the final third of 2021, which I think has given us enough time to gain some perspective on the previous decade. Of course our understanding of a "decade" as a distinct collection of fashions, fads, and cultural mores may have ended with the 20th century. In other words, while the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s remain very… read more!
As movies and TV came around long after Alexander Graham Bell made his mark, the telephone has been an inherent part of screen storytelling from the beginning (unless, of course, your story is set in the pre-telephonic era). Thus dramatic tropes – or clichés, if you prefer – were quickly developed around it, at least around the ways we had… read more!
This list was conceived shortly after my December 2019 trip to England, when I spotted some peculiarities about British life that had escaped my notice in earlier visits. I intended to post it after returning to the UK in late March 2020; that holiday never happened, thanks to the pandemic, but I've been ignoring the List of 9 for so… read more!
Years ago, when I was still on Twitter, I saw someone rhetorically ask, "Since when did children of celebrities think they could be pop stars?" He was referring to Miley Cyrus, I guess, but I replied to him and said, "Since Ricky Nelson." We've come a long way from Ozzie and Harriet and their son's teen idol days; now the… read more!
My big project for the past 8 months – and very well for the next 8 years – is something I'm calling L.A. Street Names. It's a forthcoming website and app about the name origins of streets throughout Los Angeles County. Naturally, some of these streets' namesakes are celebrities, but not nearly as many as one might think. (Someone recently… read more!
There's no need to reiterate how bad 2020 was. It was arguably harder on me than on your average person, due to a death in my immediate family (not to Covid). But aside from that, as I've put it to friends, I didn't have a good year but I had a good 2020. So in the spirit of optimism, and… read more!
With so much fun stuff shut down in Los Angeles this year, thanks to the pandemic, my wife and I have been trying to make the most of what's available. That means hiking – lots of it – two or three times a week. We're quite fortunate to have so many trails at our disposal: some popular, some hidden, each… read more!
Philip who? No, I haven't joined a cult. Here's the story: In the early 1990s, I would leaf through the LA Weekly and Los Angeles Reader and find large ads filled with colorful quotes by a local character named Philip Ashamallah (1923-2004). An immigrant of apparent Arab extraction, Ashamallah was a structural engineering contractor (i.e. a concrete guy) with hilariously… read more!
My wife and I are not hoarders. We're very good at using up what we have and getting rid of what we don't need. Our house is small – 750 square feet, give or take – which means if we acquire something new, we usually need to eliminate something else to make room for it. Even down to my short… read more!
It's been a while since I wrote a List of 9; my research & writing interests have been focused on a new, non-film-related project called L.A. Street Names. You'll be hearing more about that later. Anyway, for decades, TV was seen as the artistic inferior to theatrical motion pictures. Lately, of course, the tables have turned. Yet TV creators remained… read more!
This is the most random of lists, I know. My mind has been preoccupied with a big, non-film-related project lately, and I've been neglecting my Lists of 9. At any rate, Oscar-winning actress Juliette Binoche is renowned for her European elegance and charm. As such, it's no surprise to see her cast opposite elegant and charming Europeans like Daniel Day-Lewis… read more!
Here's another variation on a theme I've explored off and on: the confluence of song and movie titles. It's no secret that Hollywood studios will steal the title of a beloved pop hit to make a movie more palatable – the famous example is Disney/Touchstone taking a dark drama called 3000 and turning it into a romantic comedy called Pretty… read more!
Some movies age like wine; others like milk. Often it can't be helped. As a filmmaker, you don't always have all the facts about your subject matter, not to mention your collaborators; those facts might only surface later, when it's too late. If the following nine films had allowed a little more time for the truth to come to light,… read more!
The entertainment world is filled with stage names, from Joan Crawford (née Lucille LeSueur) to Lady Gaga (née Stefani Germanotta). For this list, I chose those actors who, unlike Maurice Micklewhite (a.k.a. Michael Caine) and Frances Gumm (a.k.a. Judy Garland), could have easily worked under their birth names – if only it weren't for other actors already having those names,… read more!
Although I took German in high school, I decided to study Spanish, as an adult, from 2006 until 2008, and again from 2017 until the present day. I am still far from fluent, but I have increased my vocabulary somewhat, and along the way I've found a few irresistible words that I'd like to share with you. Some are handy.… read more!
The epistolary novel is the literary equivalent of the found footage film, abandoning a traditional narrative for one cobbled together from fictitious diary entries, personal letters, and so on. Loads of novels have been written in this style, but how many films based on these works manage to capture their epistolary – which, after extensive research, I've concluded is a… read more!
Every single manmade thing in the world was once just an idea. It didn't exist until someone put said idea to paper, gathered the necessary raw materials, assembled a prototype, tested it, and deemed it functional: a vehicle, an appliance, a textile pattern, a form of government, a book, a song, a vaccine, and so on. Most of us have… read more!