I apologize for the lack of interaction here. I’ve been swamped with work and school, as usual. I was able to shift a few due dates to appease my inner procrastinator, so I’m able to blog now!
Cinemark had a winter classic movie series that played every week for the past month: Blade Runner: The Final Cut (which I missed but I’ve seen before and love), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) presented by TCM, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), Blazing Saddles (1974), To Catch A Thief (1955), Pretty in Pink 30th Anniversary, and The Maltese Falcon 75th Anniversary (1941) presented by TCM. Thankfully they coincided with my 1 day off a week, whaddya know. I’ve seen them all except for Butch Cassidy, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and The Maltese Falcon. I was able to see them all for $30. I couldn’t pass it up.
I’ve seen the light, and his name is John Huston. He’s now been officially added to my list of directors I admire. Anjelica – his daughter – is my queen, and the Huston name is practically dynastic in Hollywood, but I never really did research on my own. Now I’ve seen 2 of her dad’s pictures and I’m loving it. I can’t wait to watch more.
Speaking as a student of film seeing these for the first time, I am blown away by how films were made back in the day. Speaking as a student of writing, if none of these had the stories to build on, they’d be the crap we have today. Which isn’t fair, to be fair. There are a lot of talented scribes and actors and directors whose films may never be seen in the mainstream because that’s just the way the world works. I think back then – as well as now – there was so much riding on a picture and studios are hesitant to invest if they don’t get their money back, Hollywood accounting notwithstanding.
The trivia for The Maltese Falcon is great. This one is my particular favorite:
Warner hated to see actors smoking on the screen, fearing it would prompt smokers in the movie audience to step out into the lobby for a cigarette. During filming, Warner told director John Huston that smoking in the film should be kept to a minimum. Bogart and Lorre thought it would be fun to annoy Warner by smoking as often as possible, and got their co-stars, Mary Astor and Sydney Greenstreet, to go along with the joke. During the initial filming of the climactic confrontation, all four actors smoked heavily. After seeing the rushes, Warner furiously called Huston to his office and threatened to fire him from the picture if he didn’t tell Bogart and Lorre to knock it off. Realizing their prank had backfired, Bogart and Lorre agreed to stop smoking on camera.
I think that’s hilarious because you’d think because it was the Motion Picture Production Code (Hays Code) era, they would’ve had something to say about it. But no, it was the studio head!
As you know – and even if you don’t – movies have had a heavy influence on my writing career thus far. One genre that I have picked liberally from is film noir, mostly Sunset Boulevard on 1 of the stories in my thesis, When You Were Young. But seeing The Maltese Falcon – the apex of the genre, so much so that no one has dared remake it since – was like being born again, and I’d love to delve deeper into adding its spirit to my work. If that sounds weird, I don’t even care. There are some movies that simply touch you so deeply, it’s like, “why did I wait so long?”
One genre that I’d love to steal from (because that’s all art is, stealing from everyone before you) is German Expressionism. Metropolis is arguably the first science fiction picture ever made. Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari is another brilliant film from that genre. Ideas, ideas.
I’m not afraid to say that movies have had a bigger impact on me than books. Come at me bro. Books absolutely opened the door and reassured me that I can tell a great story. Movies encouraged me to tell a great story in a very small amount of space. There’s something magical about shaping a story to be as cinematic as possible.
Publishing a story is much easier than trying to get a film made. You can write it, revise it, and throw it out into the world without involving this, that and the other person. You are in complete control of the story without having people be dependent on you – or you on them – to get your story into someone’s eyeballs. If it does well or if it fails, it’s all on you as the author. It’s a very independent way of looking at the creative process overall.
Well, that’s the sidewalk theory behind the genre I represent if people ask me what my genre is: cinematic absurdism. I’ll have a manifesto for that eventually because I’m about that life.