Wednesday, August 23, 2006

2 Reviews You DIDN’T See

As soon as I posted these reviews on TriggerStreet, the scripts were immediately removed from the site, and of course, the reviews disappeared with them.

Burn it. Walk away. Don't look back.

I will admit that, apart from the bad grammar, even worse formatting, flowery novel-like action lines, half-dimensional characters, overly talky on-the-nose crude & tasteless dialogue, embarrassingly disparaging treatment of women (by both the protagonist and the antagonist), and a story that panders blatantly to the worst most basest impulses in human beings, this wasn't completely wretched. It goes without saying, of course, that this story has no depth, no credibility, and no artistic value of any kind beyond it's ability to briefly divert one's attention, which lasts about thirty pages and for me, ended around the time Dr. Ballz Smooth started pulling crabs out of Harry Sherry's crotch. After that precious moment (and mental image I will spend years trying to forget) reading this spec became an exercise of mental endurance of Olympic proportions to get to the end. But hey, with a name like "Squeegee Pimp King," it was silly of me to expect something more than what I got.

The very first sentence of this spec was so bad (it involves Martha Stewart and "panty soup") that I believe the good folks at Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest would create a special Screenplay Category just for the "Squeegee Pimp King." Folks, this is the "Brown Bunny" of TriggerStreet. This is the kind of movie that if, miracle of miracles, it actually got made, would be lambasted so viciously in the media and through word of mouth that a few people might go just to see how bad it really is. And then the awards would start pouring in, the kinds of awards you want to avoid, like the Moldy Tomato Award at or worse, this could sweep the Golden Razzies at Oscar time. As a writer, you would be a marked target for the rest of your career, forever known as "the guy who wrote the Squeegee Pimp King," and no, I'd argue that's not a good thing. A few years from now when you've matured as an artist and you're ready to do something serious, something challenging, something your heart really wants to explore because you're tired of wallowing in the muck of childish potty humor, you'll pitch an important story to producers and that's when people will really laugh, because hey, you're the guy who wrote the "Squeegee Pimp King."

And yet and yet and yet, this could be a great writer…

As I read this crazy thing, I kept getting the feeling that there's a very smart, very creative mind behind this work that's capable of doing so much more than this, something great even, but is in fact being lazy here and worse, throwing away time and great opportunities to really develop his craft instead of conjuring this frivolous piece of forgettable, immature, mysogonistic, pop-culture-referencing dud of a story.

Okay, Mystery Man, explain how you can say one comedy is good and another is bad? Who are you to judge? Or to put it another way, if you're saying that the "Squeegee Pimp King" is the lowest form of comedy, what's the highest? Easy. Satire. Satire is the highest form of comedy, no question about it. Anybody, and I mean anybody, can come up with stomach-churning shock material and that is absolutely the laziest form of comedy writing. The best example of satire comedy that I can think of right now is Richard Pryor. He was "profane but profound." He stepped onto the world stage with both guns blazing shooting barrel after barrel of gut-busting-laugh-until-you're-in-pain-brand-of-comedy that sugar coated his own razor sharp political & social observations. By making fun of our differences, he showed us that we are all fundamentally and universally human. They were difficult pills for many at the time, but you laughed your way toward appreciating not just blacks but anyone who is different from you, which he admitted was hard even for him to do. But we laughed trying. That's the beauty of satire. No one is safe, no one is exempt, and every race, sex, and creed may be lampooned, which actually serves a greater good. By poking fun at everyone, our ballooning egos are collectively burst and we are humbled into acknowledging that yes, we're all human, we're all flawed, and we're all part of the same crazy race. At the same time, it must be said that Richard Pryor was also intensely personal, which is so important to comedy. He shared himself with us. He had us laughing together with him at his own pain, his drug problems, his sexual dysfunctions, and even the time he accidentally set himself on fire. Can you imagine turning something that horrible into comedy? Richard Pryor did it and he did it unforgettably, the only way he could do it. And you know what? By doing that, he helped others. Comedy is the most beautiful, the most underappreciated, the most therapeutic, and the most necessary of all art forms. It's downright essential to a healthy life. And I believe those are the highest ideals we can aspire to in our comedies. How I wish there was a Richard Pryor for the middle east…

Is this writer a madman, a drug addict, or a genius?

You know you're in for a rough time when you're staring at a 121-page spec and the first two pages are almost indecipherable. Doubt me, fellow readers? Let's indulge together, shall we? Below is the opening of Ronald Mendrick's "Molecular:"



"FLOAT QUICKLY, carried by the wind. Heavier now, move FASTER, in a more straightforward pattern. A scream pierces the night, and a TRANSITION SOUND occurs OVER, chime-like. Suddenly, ALTITUDE decreases, as though suddenly changed from a feather to a grape."

Uh huh.

It gets better:

"Move faster and faster and faster and faster, toward a now totally black expanse.


"The TRANSITION SOUND occurs again, but of a slightly DEEPER TONE, and suddenly IMMENSE BLUE TRANSLUCENT SPHERES crowd around, omnidirectionally."

[Dude, "omnidirectionally" is not a word. "Omnidirectional" is a word. It's an adjective, and it has nothing to do with the movement of objects. It has to do with the sending and receiving of radio waves from any direction. "Omnidirectional" may only be used as an adjective, nothing else.]

Then I come across some descriptions about enormous and grotesque giants. We are zipped around various parts of their bodies from their feet to their clothes, which have plaid patterns (kilts, maybe?), then up to the ear of the giant woman and over to her "enormous wedge of cartilage." I think to myself, "Oh, I get it. We must be a fly." BUT WAIT! Flies aren't tiny enough to enter a "microcosmic universe" and I still have no clue as to what the "blue translucent spheres" were all about. So a re-read of the first two pages is in order. I discover that certain sentences I wrote off as incomprehensible gibberish now contain subtle clues:

"RUN toward the shoe. TRANSITION SOUND chimes and rise again into the wind. The huge shoe, centered ahead, shifts out of view as the wind shears whimsically. Thus moves a mote of dust."

And later:

"Back into the sky again. RIDE the air currents. FLOAT high above the two gargantuan forms. Be a mote again, a mote that weighs A HUNDRED POUNDS. FLY straight downwards. Compensate with a TRANSITION SOUND and STRIKE the giant plaid man again. This time, the giant SCREAMS."

So apparently we are NOT a fly. We must be a mote, a speck of dust. And when the speck of dust strikes the giant, it screams, and I think that was supposed to be a joke. Or maybe the mote literally expanded (for some mysterious reason) into a 100-pound boulder of dust that actually hurt the giant. I don't know. My head is spinning, and I'm already worn out by the first two pages.

[As it turns out, I was wrong. We were not a fly, nor a speck of dust, but in fact, we were (gulp) "Molecular Man" and that sequence must've been from his POV. I think.]

Oy vey...

Needless to say, most of this spec was almost unintelligable and unfilmmable. There were a few bright spots where I really wondered what it would look like on the big screen like this sequence:

"When the teeth reach the SIZE OF A MAILBOX, they settle to the ground and hop, soundlessly, toward The Cheese. The Cheese stumbles, turns, and falls. ANOTHER SET of the dentures which appear behind him. FOUR SETS of teeth surround The Cheese. The teeth SNAP, making sharp CLACKING SOUNDS. The teeth FLY, circling The Cheese. The Cheese SCREAMS, and then, the teeth BITE The Cheese. Blood flies as they chomp small pieces of him away. The Cheese SCREAMS again and again, and the CHOMPING increases tempo, nearly flatulent in its pace, and soon, The Cheese screams no longer. The teeth FLOW into one another, becoming one LARGE SET of teeth."

Poor Cheese...

Poor, helpless, defenseless, little... Cheese.

So here's my dilemma - how should I handle this review? Should I articulate honestly just how bad this thing really is? Or should I give a generous pity review with a few high marks because it'll be obvious to anyone who tries to read this crazy thing that it will never see the light of day? Hmmm... Maybe I should consider the writer first. Who is this guy? Wow, that's an interesting picture. He's in his 50s, has a BA from San Francisco State and a long history with acting. Great! But why is this story so FUBAR? What the hell is going on inside the head of this writer? Is he on drugs? Is he a madman who has maybe, God forbid, an illness that prevents him from composing coherent sentences? Or maybe he's an inarticulate genius who lacks the discipline to organize his very deep thoughts?

I'm betting it's the drugs.

[Yes, yes, I know. "That was mean, Mystery Man, although it was kinda funny because... it's true."]

You know what? I'm going to assume this man's a genius. That's right. I'm going to assume he's brilliant simply because he peppered his story with very big words, like "ectomorphs," "endomorphs," and "mesomorphs." You may also recall that when the rock was broken and later flattened, it wasn't just flattened to a pancake, it was flattened to the shape of an "ovoid obsidian pancake." I looked up more words reading this crazy thing than I have any other TriggerStreet story. And because I'm assuming you're brilliant, I'm going to give you across the board average ratings, because, despite your great intelligence, you seriously need to get help organizing your deep thoughts. You need to simplify those big ideas and big words so that the rest of us mere mortals can understand your stories and play along with you. Instead of trying to impress us with how much you know and how deep your thoughts can be and how many wild concepts you can throw into your story, try to impress us by how well you can illustrate beautiful simplicity with your own personal visual style of storytelling.

No comments: