Category Archives: independent film

“Angel’s Brother” (i)FAQ

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I’m opening a new page to pose some “infrequently asked questions” about the plot and concept of my novel “Angel’s Brother”.

(1)  Is the character Bill Ldzett “you”, and exactly what happens in the physical transformations that he undergoes in the latter chapters of the novel?

Yes (or “yeth”) Bill is based on “me”.  Bill is a pivot point character, someone not self-qualified for angelhood, but almost, a kind of shaman, with a touch of arsenic, both metal and non-metal.  Perhaps his physical transformations are a generalization of trans-genderism.  Bill’s writings guide the fibbies in their understanding of the coming “alien” invasion which has set up shop in a station on Titan (moon of Saturn).

After Sal (who has become an angel but doesn’t quite know it for sure yet) shaves Bill down in a motel room near the Academy (in West Texas), Bill’s body undergoes further spontaneous change.  The “moon-face” is something that could happen from steroids. He looks like a younger man for a while, and enjoys rejuvenation.  He inadvertently steals some sundries from a nearby convenience store, and suddenly finds the sheriff is after him.  Apparently, the appearance didn’t fool the cops.

He is out on bond, and goes to the “immolation” in Wisconsin, where he meets up with (finally) an arranged girl friend. Tovina.  But during the ceremony, he learns to tumble (like learning to swim and “arch his back”, he thinks), and seems to fly over the ceremony, with his “beady, roving eye” (referring to the 50s horror film “The Crawling Eye” — Bill seems obscured by a cloud at times, and although there are no decapitations, other people are affected by the rituals — maybe a taste of “Invasion of the Animal People“, too).

Back at his trial in Texas, he goes bonkers again after conviction, and escapes, winding up in a sanctuary in the Davis Mountains in West Texas before being brought back for the UFO departure from West Virginia (over a scalped mountaintop) at the end.

(2) What causes the EMP effects?

Because the virus that transmits identities embeds a micro black hole, which can evaporate, there are effects on surrounding areas sometimes.  The convenience store has a breakdown when Bill visits it the second time (a factor in the testimony).  Sal reports that newer computers have become unstable and a couple of power glitches have happened at Academy when he visits.  But after the immolation, there is widespread damage to power systems and electronics in western Wisconsin to Minneapolis, and then sporadically town to Texas.  Repairs for people take some weeks.

Then the outages get larger, about the time the first “flight” leaves to take the candidates to Titan,

(3) Doesn’t the novel show the “strong” (young adults able to become angels) escaping while the “weak” perish?  Isn’t this a socially hostile message for a novel?

You could raise that question about the NBC series “Revolution“.  In the world that follows (where the country breaks down into separate republics) some people do well, others don’t, in a new order, that is low-tech, some new leaders emerge.  But I don’t show that here.  In the longer version of the novel, many of the characters join a public trek from high altitudes East, and stop at recovery or aid centers.  I don’t show that in the current version, but do refer to it.

But it’s true that many people infected by the “virus”, which first surfaces in the Colorado high country, deteriorate and perish.  But this is what happens with epidemics.  What’s different is that this virus seems to discriminate on who it likes.

It does seem, though, that the “angels” are losing interest in reproduction, and are more concerned with developing supernatural virue in young adults who already exist.  That is indeed a bias.

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(4) Most of the evidence that attracts the CIA and other intelligence services seems to be obtained by hacking Bill’s unpublished writings (first by Sal, then Randy after he learns how).  Is this supported by any real evidence?

Randy is sent on the trip to meet Sal in Poland (as the book starts), and then go to St. Petersburg, Russia, and then the Finnish border area, both sides, near sites where the former Soviet Union kept unusual nuclear waste.  (This idea has appeared in other films, like The Return (2003)). Randy is given an artifact by a kind of double agent, and the artifact is sent to the US nuclear waste facility. Bill is given the clandestine task of transporting a tiny sample to the Academy in Texas.  That sample seems to confer “powers” to Bill later, and possibly Sal.

There is some concern in some intelligence circles that Putin could become aggressive against Finland.  The only hack on one of my sites in 2002 left jibberish on my file about this area of the world, and it has never been explained.

(5) What would happen to “ordinary people” in the US after the UFO landing and takeoff at the end?

Various areas of the country are put out of function by the loss of electricity, but some areas are OK.  The government had already started evacuating some mountain areas because of the “virus” before the EMP’s hit near the end.  Randy encounters one of these evacuation centers near the Academy briefly in Chapter 26.

In such a world, the US could dissolve (as it does in the NBC “Revolution”) or there might be efforts to resettle people and have others “host” them.  As with Chekhov, people would have to go on living.

People would tend to believe in the “angels” as a source of religious authority, and tend to believe that their lives were no longer in their own hands, much as was the case in ancient times.

 

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(6) What’s the overall strategy for hacking into Bill’s manuscripts and putting together the pieces?

Sal, as an undergraduate, has been hired by the “CIA” to hack them. Later Randy (actually an agent, post-military) learns to hack, partly from Sal, and finds more.  Later a lot of backstories emerge from conversations with Amos, Frankie (head of the Academy), Ali, and the Toby and Shelia (supposedly “parents” of Matt, the one proven ET angel at the time of the novel).

(Published: Friday, May 29, 2015, 4 PM EDT)

(Major update: June 5, 2015, 8:30 PM EDT)

 

I do have copies of the screenplays “Adaptation”, “Good Will Hunting” and “Storm of the Century”

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As I prepare to revamp my major screenplay (“Do Ask, Do Tell: Conscripted”) and tidy-up at least three other works, I took a look at the printed screenplays I had purchased from Amazon years ago, probably when I was living in Minnesota. These appear to be “shooting scripts”.

The most important of these is “Adaptation” (2002) directed by Spike Jonze and written by Charlie Kaufman, from Columbia.  I saw this film in a large complex in suburban Edina, MN.  As printed, the script runs just 100 pages, but there is a lot of commentary in the appendix.

This film is remarkable in that it is a “meta-film” — that is, a movie about writing a screenplay to adapt a book to film.  The book is “The Orchid Thief”  by Susan Orlean.   The main screenwriter (and actual writer for “Adaptation”) is Charlie Kaufman.  Now Kaufman has developed writer’s block and hates formulaic screenwriting. So do I!  He finds out that his twin brother (a doppelganger invented for the movie) has sold a horror movie screenplay “The 3”.  Both brothers are played by Nicholas Cage, but the effect in the film is more like that of other doppelganger movies like “Enemy” (Jake Gyllenhaal) and “The Double” (Jesse Eisenberg).  Gradually the film shifts from being about the screenwriting (and ideas in the industry like “spec script”) and the actual events in the novel, leading to a chase in the Florida Everglades and to murder, almost as in a Hitchcock film.  This movie was well liked by critics,

The screenplay draft follows all the industry standards, and doesn’t show the layering.  I have that issue in my own work, and find I need to set up a relational database and number the scenes on the database, and tie them to the draft.

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This film is sometimes said to be a sequel of “Being John Malkovich” (Jan. 8, 2015).

The second film to discuss here is the uplifting “Good Will Hunting” (1996, Miramax), directed by Gus Van Sant. Matt Damon (then 26) plays the undiscovered math prodigy Will Hunting, Ben Affleck is his best friend in South Boston, and Robin Williams plays Will’s therapist. Will is very determined that his talents won’t be misused by the government (most of all, the NSA).  This was a very inspiring film when I saw it.  Remember the line, “It’s not your fault.”  This script is longer, 156 pages.

The third is Stephen King’s “Storm of the Century“, a six-hour miniseries on ABC in 1999.  King did not publish this as a novel, just as the screenplay, 376 pages for the equivalent of 3 films.  A monstrous visitor Linoges (Colm Feore) takes over Little Tall Island off the coast of Maine as a record-setting President’s Day weekend blizzard shuts down the town.  It is true that February is the most likely time of year for this kind of Noreaster. Remember the line “Give me what I want and I’ll go away”.  But what he wants is mysterious, and has a lot to do with the lost colony off Roanoke Island, NC back in the 15th Century.

(Published,  Monday,   March 9, 2015, about 12:15 PM EDT)

 

Why does “The Duke of Burgundy” stick out in my mind?

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Another recent film, “The Duke of Burgundy” (directed by Peter Strickland), which I saw at the West End Cinema in Washington DC last week, brings up a “juvenile” writing effort from my own past. The title of the film refers to a butterfly with whom the dominant lesbian in the film works.  (Yes, that’s Tiny Tim’s “O Gay Way Butterfly” in my Army days at Fort Eustis.) Some how the title reminds me of David Cronenberg’s “Spider” about a metally ill man living in a halfway house.  I saw a special premier in Minneapolis at the Landmark Lagoon in Uptown with the director present for QA.

In ninth grade (spring 1958) “General Education” class in junior high school (these were in the days that formal high school started in tenth grade), we had read some Dumas novels for book reports (I was taking French I, and I think we read some excerpts in that class, too)  — particularly “The Three Musketeers”.  Then we had some creative writing.  I wrote a story called “Who Stole the Mona Lisa?” which, as I recall, got pretty gory (as to what happened to the bad guys when caught), and got pretty graphic as to descriptions of what is manly.  Then I wrote (in English) a two-act play “The Duke of Burgundy“, about which I recall relatively little now.  I think it was about how Philip the Good (Philip III) contributed to the capture of Joan of Arc.  Maybe the handwritten manuscript is lying around in the attic somewhere.  I would see the Columbia-Gaumont film “The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc“, directed by Luc Beeson, with Milla Jolovich, on a cold night on Thanksgiving weekend of 1999 on a road trip, in Aberdeen, SD.

The BBC film on the life of Joan of Arc appears above.

There was a film in 1977 “The Message“, a biography of Mohammed (as inspired by the Angel Gabriel), directed by Moustapha Akkad, which I remember seeing at the Uptown in Washington.  Mohammed was (is) the messenger from the one God, Allah.

I also wrote a short story in Ninth Grade French Class called “La vielle maison“, or “The Old House“.  A teenager walks into a house with a false front (like on an “Amos ‘n’ Andy” episode from the 1950s) and finds himself on Mars.  When it gets hard to breathe, he has to struggle to get back through the door in a dust storm.

But in Tenth Grade English, in high school, when we had a writing assignment for the short story unit, I wrote a story “The Lifeguard“, where a teen is confronted with whether to save a drowning victim when there is an air raid, for real, warning of impending nuclear attack — that is, “duck and cover”.  I got a “B” ion the story, but an A in the course.

 

“Being John Malkovich”: the idea of becoming someone else has been tried before (and not just during Advent)

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On November 30, 2014 Rev. Judith Fulp-Eichstaedt at the Trinity Presbyterian Church in Arlington VA started an advent series about getting into the mind of some of the characters leading to the Christmas story, with a sermon titled “Being Isaiah”. And she started out by a mini-review of the 1999 independent satire film “Being John Malkovich“, directed by Spike Jonze, from Gramercy Pictures

Here’s a short clip:

The story concerns a puppeteer, Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) who takes a job as a file clerk (a job about to become extinct) on a hidden floor, 7-1/2, in an office building, only 4 feet high, working with Lotte Scwartz (Cameron Diaz),  Craig finds a hidden door, and when sliding down the chute, he finds himself living inside the mind of actor John Malkovich (who plays himself, of course).  After a 15-minute simulation of being another person, the puppeteer gets ejected near the (divided) New Jersey Turnpike, in the days before Chris Christie’s deliberate traffic jams (and accidental overzealous gun control).

Needless to say, a story like this can explore “what it would be like” to have a relationship — if you really could be another person. Craig gets several tries at this experience, before it plays the usual games what we expect from the theory of relativity (he goes beyond the “Schwarzchild Radius”).

It’s one thing to wonder what it would be like to wake up on the morning of a critical day in your life years before, and “play the game” differently — like choosing a different subvariation in a critical chess game.  (Maybe stepping up to some kind of existential challenge to work with others on their terms when you really have to, as with a particular substitute teaching assignment in early 2005, link .)  But what I would relish, as an “old man”, is the chance to wake up and experience my body as it was at, maybe 24 (when I was in my best physical shape ever, after mandatory Army Basic Combat Training), and notice the things I’ve lost to “time” (as a fourth dimension), like leg and “pate” hair.

But waking up in someone else’s body, it he was an 18 year old Clark Kent (for perfection, try the market on another planet, like Gliese 581 G, thank you), would be cool.  Actually, though, this movie is about being inside someone’s mind.  So imagine waking up as “Clark” and knowing all his memories (from Krypton, or maybe a tidally locked perpetual-twilight Gliese planet), for maybe fifteen minutes or so — and then  — poof!  You vanish until the next session (or maybe wake up from a great dream and go back to being “you”).  One thing, about being Clark Kent, is that losing his “powers” even temporarily isn’t cool (see this blog Jan. 7, 2014).

Actually, in my novel “Angel’s Brother” something like this happens to some people, because of bizarre virus that encapsulates a micro black hole  (see this blog June 9, 2014).

One irony is that, of practically all the A-listers  Hollywood (March 4, 2014), John Malkovitch could best play ME as I am now.  And I am working on just the right script for “moi” (July 17. 2014).

And don’t forget, Mark Zuckerberg is an alien.

But he is too young for John Malkovich to play.

 

(Published: Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015 at 3 PM EST.)

 

Past films titled “The Substitute” (about substitute teachers)

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I’ve talked here before about my screenplay short “The Sub”,  which I have embedded in a feature sci-fi script “Do Ask, Do Tell: Conscripted”.

There does exist a series of feature films titled something like “The Substitute”, about substitute teachers, some of them disturbing,

In 1993, Paramount released “The Substitute“, directed by Martin Donovan, written by Cynthia Verlaine.  This drama presents a femme fatale Laura Ellington (Amanda Donohoe) who takes a long term sub job.  Soon she is in an inappropriate situation with a teen male student and, with his efforts later, her long and dark past and fake identity unravel.

Lionsgate has a “franchise” called “Substitute 4” with Treat Williams (from “Everwood”).  The most important of the films is the last one, “Failure Is Not an Option”, where Treat plays a black-ops guy (for the CIA?) in South America and works as a history teacher in a military academy.  Will be recruit as a “stumper”?

What gets touchy is that the school itself becomes a front for a right wing plot to re-educate people for some kind of “revolution”, whether or not the power stays on.

AFI Docs: QA’s from “Silenced” and “The Internet’s Own Boy”

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I saw four films at AFI Docs (formerly called SilverDocs) this weekend.

Two of the films dealt with the government, surveillance, leaks, overreaching prosecutions, and the like.  While reviews are on Blogger, I have many other videos from the QA to share.

On Thursday, June 19, “Silenced” played at the Naval Archive, directed by James Spione, told the story of CIA operative John Kiriakou, NSA official Thomas Drake, and US attorney Jesselyn Radack.

On Saturday, June 21, 2014, I saw “The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz“, directed by Brian Knappenberger, at the AFI Silver in Silver Spring MD.  The film will be in general release June 27.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

This was an answer to my question, which involved the DMCA Safe Harbor, Section 230, and downstream liability protection, especially in connection with the SOPA bill in 2011, which Aaron’s protest help defeat in early 2012.

Jack Andraka, the teen who discovered a promising test for Pancreatic Cancer, discusses the problem of paywalls for scientific journals at about the 15:00 mark in the YouTube video of his Stanford speech in late 2013, youtube link here.

(Published Sunday June 22, 2014 at 11:45 PM)

“Judas Kiss” and “The Tree of Life” (and a few other surreal films)

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In another post about scrambled-egg identities and maybe time travel, before I get back to my own work again, I wanted to talk about a few LGBT films, and maybe a couple more mainstream independent films.

The main source of inspiration right now seems to be the 2011 film “Judas Kiss”, directed by J.P. Tepnapa, written with Carlos Pedraza.  I saw the movie at the Reading Cinema on the Minneapolis East Bank at the LGBT film festival in 2011 and the director was at the QA. The film is now distributed by Wolfe.

The basic concept is that a flailing screenwriter and director Zachary Wells, now supposed to be about 35, played by Charlie David, returns to his alma mater Keystone University (depicted as being in the Seattle area) to participate as a judge in a college filmmaking contest.  Soon, in a nearby disco, he meets Danny Reyes (Richard Harmon), who suddenly seduces him.  Quickly, Zach finds out that Danny is trying to enter the same short film (“Judas Kiss”) about family child abuse into the contest, and begins to suspect he has time-traveled and that Danny is another incarnation of him.  One critics on Rotten Tomatoes called this the “The movie about the man who had sex with himself” (“and it’s never mentioned again”), link (and plot details) here.

What makes this movie work for me is the trio of three young gay male college students: Danny, then Chris (Sean Paul Lockhart, generally known from “adult cinema”) and Shane (Timo Descamps, a rising star in both the music and film world from Belgium and the Netherlands).  All three are athletic, clean-cut, role model type gays (too young for chest hair, in comparison to Zach), including “bad boy” music student Shane Lyons, the alpha male of the group, who can have anything (and anybody) he wants because he is the biggest and strongest, and the richest.  Yes, Danny “fears” Shane the way one should fear God (the “back rub” scene between them is one of the most gently erotic in all of cinema).  There is a youtube video where Timo Descamps and Richard Harmon run a race, and Harmon actually wins.

But does the premise make sense?  Is Zach-Danny the same person in two bodies?  Who owns the chain of consciousness?  Will Danny get a second chance for a “better life” and change history?

There is something about the male student atmosphere here.  It seems like a world where homosexuality is the norm, and where heterosexuality need not exist (except for Ronald Reagan, especially when took his pants off in “John Loves Mary” – showing, as “Christopher Street” pointed out in 1985, that Ronnie had gone downhill fast) because, well, the stork will bring you babies, collect on delivery.  No need for the caring intimacy of a husband for the entire childbirth process (as filmmaker Morgan Spurlock shows for his wife at tend of his own “Where in the World Is Osama bin Laden?”)  Different strokes for different folks.

There are a few other films to dispatch here.  One is “The House of Adam” by Jorge Ameer.  In the Tahoe area, a business owner hires a gay man (Jared Cadwell) to run his café. When the business is taunted by homophobic visitors, the owner hires his son to check up on things.  This was a first a short film in the set “Straight Men and the Gay Men who Love Them”.  You wonder after twenty minutes where Ameer is going with this material.   The story gets messy.  Pretty soon, Cadwell is murdered in a home invasion, and then some time after, a new couple moves in, and starts to encounter an angelic ghost or reincarnation of Adam.

One idea that works in films with this kind of material is to go on the road, and see what’s “out there” to change your view of the universe, even as Jack Kerouac (“On the Road”, “Big Sur”) would see it. One of these is a notorious short film, “Bugcrush” (2006) by Carter Smith.  A high school “bad boy” Grant (Donald Cumming) takes a naïve but nerdy Ben (Josh Caras) on a road trip to a (a la Stephen King) Maine “cabin in the woods” to show him his bug collection, and then seduce him.  The last five minutes are riveting, as you wonder if Ben (after being undressed) is being prepared to become bug food.  The film runs 36 minutes, too long for most shorts  festivals but seems very spare; it could well have been a feature, with a little more explanation of the ambiguous ending.  The film is released by Strand as a set “Boys Life 6”

Another road film, without supernatural ideas but stylistically related, is “Old Joy” (2006), by Kelly Reichardt.  People may compare it to Ang Lee’s “Brokeback Mountain” but it is a much simpler narrative.  From Portland, OR, a young heterosexually married man Mark (Daniel Landon with a pregnant wife goes on a weekend road trip into the Cascades with a drifting old buddy Kurt (Will Oldham). After an appropriate buildup and arrival at a lean-to near a natural hot sbring, the men enter a hot tub, and Kurt, in gentle fashion, brings on the intimacies.  Dan seems to need this one last time in his life.

The “time travel” component of “Judas Kiss” comports with that of a much larger film, “The Tree of Life”, by Terrence Malick, which I had seen at the Uptown Theater in Minneapolis the night before (when a couple of celebrities appeared).  The theater management actually offered refunds to people disoriented by the unusual effects in the film.  The main backstory of the film concerns a family in Texas, with the senior Mr. Obrien (Brad Pitt) and then the son Jack (Sean Penn as an adult).  The elder regrets has not having become a musician (a theme in my own life).  His son may become what dad should have been, but the adult son, after a setback of his own (seems to be shot in downtown Minneapolis) suddenly has a vision of the end of the world, all the way until the Sun becomes a red giant.  I’m not sure what is said by the collapse of time at the beginning and then the end of the movie.


Perhaps I should have been a composer and pianist myself, as I have written elsewhere.  If I meet someone a few decades younger who writes the way I do and expresses the same attitude, and succeeds professionally as a musician, and if I can anticipate his new music in dreams, have I experienced some of “Judas Kiss” or “Tree of Life” (which seems curiously parallel to the gay film).

“Lost Highway” and other David Lynch films; “Body Snatchers”: can people ever trade bodies?

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One of the most controversial films of David Lynch is “Lost Highway” (1997).  In the plot, a troubled saxophone player Fred Madison (Bill Pullman) is taunted by a “Mystery Man” and intrusive video tapes left at his home.  He winds up accused of killing his wife and in prison, even on death row. Suddenly he seems to switch bodies with a young auto mechanic named Pete Dayton (Balthazar Getty).  Eventually, he switches back.

One can read the entire plot synopsis on Wikipedia, with all its twists and connections between the two protagonists’ narratives. But does it really make sense to “trade bodies”?  Would the composite person have recollection of both lives?  Would he bear the consequences of his actions in both lives?  Of course, we could pose the questions for “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and its remakes.  And remember that in Season 3 of Smallville, Clark Kent and Lex Luthor switch bodies for one episode?

Some commentators say that the Dayton part of the (“Lost Highway”) film is a  “fiction fantasy” where Fred has to come to terms with his own inherent evil. Others say he is an impotent “incomplete character”, like J. Afred Prurock.

Other films have this aspect of strangeness.  “Blue Velvet” (with its famous song) presents Kyle MacLachlan as a college student, returning home to Lumberton, NC “where woodchucks chuck.”  His finding of a severed ear and his curiosity leads him on an odyssey, hiding in a nightclub singer’s apartment, as her child has been kidnapped.

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Maybe one of the most layered is “Inland Empire” (2006), where an actress’s life starts to mimic the film she is making, and which was a remake of a project that had failed before because of a tragedy.

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Another odyssey was “Wild at Heart”, a cockroach and vomit-laced road trip from North Carolina.

“Eraserhead”, one of the earliest films, gave us a monster born fetus for the forlorn couple to raise.  “In Heaven, everything is fine” according to the Radiator Lady” (link).  Lynch talks about this film on “The City of Absurdity” here; a wiki explains this odd lady character here.

Of course, we all remember the famous CBS series “Twin Peaks” in the early 1990s.  The mystery kept building up, with echoes of aliens and wood spirits in the background.  I remember the episode that ended with the line “Warm Milk”.

“Jerome’s Razor”, “Slices of Life”, “Five Lines”: some enigmatic examples of local independent filmmaking

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have to build up an account of my own online presence in around 2005, when a major incident happened as I was substitute teaching. I’ll be getting to accounting for my own screenplay scripts that I put online.

When I lived in Minneapolis (1997-2003), I started to network with the Independent Film Project in Minneapolis-St. Paul  (link ), going to festivals, screenings and events. 

Shortly after my end-of-2001 layoff, (in January 2002) as I started to live on “severance”, I went to a particular function near the University of Minnesota, and saw the film “Jerome’s Razor”.  That evening, I met one of the leading players, Mark Parrish, in the reception in the bar afterward.

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The film, by Jon Swon, is bifurcated, starting with an office romance by the protagonist Jerome (Marcus Edwards) in Minneapolis.  Marcus journeys to New Mexico and goes on an adventure with some people in a commune, where Parrish plays the ring leader, Thomas.  The film was shot in digital video and at the time seemed very “on location”, everywhere.  The New Mexico scenes look like the country around the Lama Foundation, which I had visited twice while living in Dallas, in 1980 and 1984 (the second time was for a “spring work camp”).  The film does not have a happy ending.

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There were a few other films then with this structure, which some people compared to Roman Polanski’s “Knife in the Water” (1962).  One of these was “Kaaterskill Falls” by Josh Apter and Peter Olson, a suspense film set in the Catskills.

During my substitute teaching experience at the Career Center in Arlington, there was a film class.  I had a chance to show the teacher the website for “Jerome’s Razor” in late 2004, and he and some of the students were impressed.  At the time, it was not on imdb yet, but much of the film could be watched at its own site.  I don’t recall what the “razor” in the title refers to.  In the Army, we used to say that a razor is a great equalizer.

The Arlington Career Center produced a couple of student films, called “Slices of Life: The House Party” and “Slices of Life II: The 50-50 Club”.  The films merge separate story lines about teens facing various levels of responsibility.  In the second film, the issue of homophobic slurs comes up, as does the idea that one character has to take a part-time job to help support his siblings and parents instead of pursue his music.

The school systems and local churches did some other noteworthy short film work.  In 20605, at West Potomac High School near Alexandria, VA, a well-equipped school with a separate building for media technology (and an “Academy”) the AP chemistry students produced a short to teach chemistry to middle school students, called “Reltonium.”  The students dressed up as clowns and atoms, to demonstrate how radioactive elements can decay.  A local church produced two spoof “horror” shorts, “Friday’s Aliens” and then a sequel. “Sunday’s Aliens”.

The idea of converging characters inspired a suspenseful film set in the DC Metro, “Five Lines” (or “5 Lines”), by Nocholas Pangopalus, Brainbox Pictures (a studio in Silver Spring MD which seems to have disappeared) with characters riding different color-coded lines in the Metro.  One of the characters is an Army soldier who beats up a gay man near the Arlington Cemetery station as part of an initiation, and his commander tries to cover it up. The film was shown at the AFI Silver in Filmfest DC and got local media coverage.  A similar Hungarian film was “Kontroll”, set in the Budapest Metro.

Let me get back to Mark for a moment.  I came back to DC from Minneapolis for a ten day visit and arranged to drive my rent car up to Boston to meet Mark for lunch (in Legal Seafoods in the Prudential Center), in a cool spell in early May.  I remember staying at a Comfort Inn in northern Connecticut and watching “Smallville”.  I got to Boston around 11, and reached Mark on my Qwest cell phone as he was getting close to the “Big Dig”.  I don’t know Boston’s tunnels.  Anyway, we did talk about movie ideas for my first book, and in subsequent postings I’ll be showing what ideas I’ve come up with.  Yes, it’s been a lot of years, but movies take a long time.  I remember the drive home, thinking of the possibilities as I approached the Maryland Bay Bridge.

Mark Parrish shows some other films on imdb.  One of the larger ones is “Mustang Sally” (Iren Koster), where again he plays ring-leader to some college boys as the visit a “house of ill repute” outside LA in the mountains.  The film opens with Mark’s character telling the story from a hospital bed, as had escaped with a broken leg.  His companions did not fare so well in what was a takeoff from “House of Wax”, so to speak.  I’ve seen the baseball film “The Pitcher and the Pin-Up” (aka “The Road Home”) where he makes a brief appearance as a teammate.

There’s a couple other films to mention here, preparing for a later posting on a critical incident when I was substitute teaching.

One of these is “The Most Dangerous Game” (1932), based on a short story by Richard Connell, often read in high school with the movie often shown.  A madman owning an island arranges a shipwreck so he can hunt down the travelers for sport after lodging them.  Real youth fare?  It’s about “brains v. brawn”, when that’s a good message.

The other is the curious British satire “A Canterbury Tale” (1944) by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.  where a “land girl” and two soldiers delve into a mystery related to Chaucer’s destination after the girl suffers a “glue attack”.  The film, after various philosophical musings, ends with an enormous musical triumph invoking “Onward Christian Soldiers”, as war descends on Britain.  The entire play, based on six of Chaucer’s tales, was presented at the Kennedy Center around 2006.  It’s common reading in high school senior English.