Since breaking into Hollywood as a screenwriter can be a long journey, it’s not uncommon to see people post about their breaking-in story after they’ve finally got their shot. They usually have a quasi-inspirational tone to them, urging others not to give up or feel bad that they haven’t achieved success yet.
Unfortunately, most of them sound something like this:
“The movie I wrote comes out this week. People are calling me an overnight success, but let me tell you a little bit about my ‘overnight’ success, because my 15 year journey has been anything but.
15 years ago I moved to Los Angeles and got the only job I could. An office assistant at a real estate company.
14 years ago I finished writing my first script and got my agent.
12 years ago I quit my office assistant job because I was making a living off screenwriting, rewriting studio films and making a solid living.
10 years ago I was EPing my first TV show while a script I wrote got produced in Germany.
3 years ago I wrote a spec script with my good friend and we were lucky enough to get Chris Evans attached to the lead role.
1 year ago that movie was greenlit.
Next week it comes out in theaters. Don’t let anyone tell you that success happens overnight. It took me 15 years.”
It’s like those old Hollywood writers whose stories are always like, “I moved to Hollywood in 1932. My first day there I went into a grocery store to buy a ham sandwich for a nickel, and a producer started talking to me and asked ‘do you want to write pictures?’ I said OK and the rest was history.”
‘The Art of Racing in the Rain’ would be a tremendous title for a movie about drifting, and I’m sure if you hadn’t seen the trailer/a movie poster/been familiar with the book, you’d think that it was.
Unfortunately, it is not a movie about drifting. If you’re looking for a movie about drifting, you’re stuck with Tokyo Drift or the live action Initial D movie. Slim pickings. The Art of Racing in the Rain is actually a movie about a dog.
If you, like many others, are a person who loves dog movies, then The Art of Racing in the Rain is for you. Or is it?
I don’t know anything about the book, and I haven’t seen the movie to judge, but I have seen the trailer, and I must say, it is a work of art (of racing in the rain). A horrible and confusing work of art.
Watching the trailer is a baffling experience, and I highly suggest doing so before you read any further, or before you live another second of your life.
See what I mean?
What exactly is going on here? Aside from the simple fact that you don’t know what the hell you’re going to be walking into when you see this movie, there are some odd pieces of this trailer I just have to talk about.
The IMDB Synopsis reads:
A dog named Enzo recalls the life lessons he has learned from his race car driving owner, Denny.
Great. Exactly what I want to hear from a dog: lessons about racing. Have you seen a dog in a car? Because I’ve seen a dog shit and puke in a car. That’s kind of what they do. The Art of Racing Home in the Rain because your dog shit in the car and it stinks so bad you’re going to puke and you still have to clean up the mess.
Old Man Voice on the Baby Dog
Kevin Costner is admittedly doing some real work here with that narration. It’s somber, reverent, and full of pathos – you know, exactly how you want an adorable golden retriever to sound.
The first line and I’m already feeling the crushing weight of my mortality. Kind of a steep departure from Josh Gad (A Dog’s Purpose/Journey) and his lessons of love and companionship, you know, something we’d actually be excited to hear the insights of from dog. The timbre of Costner’s voice alone assures me that this dog is going to die, and that the owner will probably die as well. Great.
That’s not even what bothers me most. It’s the disturbingly poetic lines like:
“He picked me out of a pile of pups. A tangled mass of paws and tails.”
Kevin Costner’s gravely voice saying “tangled mass of paws and tails” will disturb me forever. It belongs in a horror film.
INT. MURDER HOUSE – NIGHT
He picks the dog out of a pile of pups. A tangled mass of paws and tails.
Speaking of horror film, there’s this gem as Enzo (that’s the dog) gazes at pregnant Amanda Seyfriend:
“It must be amazing having a body that can carry an entire creature inside….
…I just hoped it would look like me.”
What the fuck is going on here? Does Enzo want to impregnate Amanda Seyfriend? Or is he alluding to having already fucked her, hoping that his dog sperm had won dominance over his owner’s human sperm?
Through the lips of Josh Gad, that line might sound like innocent naivete. But through Kevin Costner’s lips, it sounds like the exact moment the horror music should cue in and it’s revealed as a horror movie about a dog who is jealous of his owner’s life. I’ve never seen a movie more primed for a horror-edit parody.
Which sounds like a pretty awesome movie. How about this:
A dog named Enzo recalls the life lessons he has learned from his race car driving owner, Denny, as he attempts to steal his life away from him.
Now that’s a movie fit for Costner’s growl.
And of course there’s the line…
“Faster, Denny. Faster.”
I’m not going to be gentle with my words here. It sounds like Danny is giving Enzo the red rocket treatment.
While I might talk a lot of shit, this is one of the top five trailers I’ve seen this year, even if its own efficacy makes me doubt the movie it’s trying to promote.
I’ll still be there opening weekend out of morbid curiosity with a full flask at my hip and 32 gallons of Pib Xtra, but what else is new?
First off, let me tell you that I love these kinds of movies. They remind me of moiveds from my childhood like ‘Star Kid.’
That being said, they are usually horrible, paint-by-numbers films. That’s why when I saw the trailer for ‘AXL’ it immediately reminded me of the movie ‘Monster Trucks.’
That made me want to edit the two side by side to see just how similar they are. There are some eerie similarities, even if the comparison doesn’t necessarily work scene by scene. In fact, I showed this video to my girlfriend without telling her what it was, and she thought I was showing her two different trailers for the same movie.
There’s something about the two movies playing together that works. You can freely look up or down while they play and it always makes sense. Or maybe I’m just crazy. You tell me.
I wanted to share a quick video showing my writing and producing reel. I don’t even know if that’s really a thing, but who wouldn’t want to watch a bunch of funny videos smooshed into one video? Let me know what you think, and if you want to see any of the full clips. The final clip is from an anime I’m recutting/redubbing.
I’m working on an article about the best movie trailers I’ve ever seen. I hope to have that up soon!
Shownozawhat: REDUX Pronounced SHOW-NO-ZUH-WHAT, this is an original anime using footage from the ’80s anime, Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs. It tells the story of three disenchanted millennials who are chosen by a universe-wide organization to destroy the universe.
Astro-not, an Audio Sitcom
Astro-not is just like your favorite sitcom that you watch on TV or Netflix, except it’s only audio, available as a podcast.
Beat It: Breaking Down Movies, Beat by Beat
A screenwriting podcast where each episode breaks down a movie’s main 15 story beats (as per ‘Save the Cat’). A resource for aspiring screenwriters, storytellers, and people who just love movies.
A 30 minute podcast hosted by Joe Cabello (writer, Five @ 305) and Brenden Leigh (BrendenLeigh.com) where we talk about all things movies, video games, and pop culture, and get real on topics like race and gender.
We’re taking a hiatus until after Astro-not is released, but we currently have more than 15 episodes you can go back and enjoy. I highly suggest episode 10 if you’re not sure where to start.
A guy and his girlfriend had just moved in together, so they were still getting comfortable with each other’s boundaries. One day the girlfriend asked if she could use his computer, nervously adding, “I’m not going to find any porn on it, am I?”
The guy scoffed and said, “Honey, you will ne’re find a pornographic video nor picture anywhere on my computer.”
She nodded and said, “ok.”
“But,” he added, “don’t go looking through my flash drive.”
She nodded and said, “ok.”
“Because on my flash drive,” he continued, “is my pornography.”
She nodded and said, “ok.”
“And not just any pornography. This is real sick, twisted pornography. The kind of pornography that casts a permanent shadow on a man’s soul. The kind of pornography that could only be described as the Devil incarnate. Some of it is so vile, it’ll leave you doubting if you were ever even capable of turning me on at all, or if our love was all just some charade to hide my true sick, demented desires.”
She nodded and said, “ok.”
He kissed her on the forehead, then left for work. When he came home hours later, his stuff was on the lawn. He was completely taken off guard.
“Why?” he asked.
She told him that she has seen what was on his flash drive, and she’d never be able to look at him the same again.
He felt betrayed because she looked through his private stuff, and she felt betrayed by what she saw. Finally, after a heated argument, he discovered the problem. She had looked in the wrong flash drive. She had looked in the flash drive with pictures of his nephew on it.
Now, he was angry. “How could you even think that I would pleasure myself to pictures of my nephew, my own flesh and blood? You’re sick, lady. Real sick.” he shouted.
Realizing her mistake, she apologized profusely, and after things calmed down, and they regained their senses, they were laughing and smiling together once again.
As they laid together, pillow-talking, she asked, “What was on your flash drive anyway?”
There was this foodie who was utterly obsessed with finding the spiciest curry in all the world. He had traveled to literally every single restaurant and hobby-chef’s kitchen, yet couldn’t find a single curry worthy of his tongue. He had one last hope though. The final restaurant he had yet to try. The one known for a curry of legendary spiciness.
The owner, a small old woman, came out to greet him. Not wanting to waste a minute delaying his goal, he demanded she serve him her spiciest curry, so she did. It was certainly a delicious and spicy curry, but still it didn’t satisfy his desires. Supremely frustrated after years of disappointment, he started to scream and yell at the woman for serving him such a pathetically benign dish. Filled with rage, he laid into the woman, making fun of how she looked, smelled, and most devastatingly, how she cooked.
Her eye twitched with anger, but she remained calm and told him that there was one more dish she could cook for him that might satisfy his craving for spiciness. He asked her why she didn’t serve him this curry on first request, so she explained that she promised herself she would never make it again, because it was simply too hot and dangerous. It was a spicy curry made from the corns on her feet.
Intrigued, he demanded she make it for him, so she did. With the first bite, his eyes instantly watered. Not just from the intense heat, but from tears of sheer happiness. This was truly the spiciest curry in the world. He had found it. Before he could even swallow the first bite, his heart stopped. It had killed him.
The man opened his eyes and he was in hell – the Devil towering over him. You see, the man wasn’t a good man. He deserved his place, doomed to the underworld. The Devil, curious about the details of the man’s demise, asked him how he could have possible died from eating curry. The man explained that this was no ordinary curry. It was a curry spicier than the devil could ever even imagine. The Devil laughed, “it is I who cook the spiciest curry.”
Once again intrigued, the man requested to try the Devil’s curry, so the Devil obliged. Surprisingly, the Devil’s curry didn’t even come close to matching the woman’s corn curry’s deadly spiciness. The Devil tried again and again, but every time he failed at impressing the man. “How is this possible? What kind of curry was this?”
“I can tell you this. She didn’t make it with love. She made it with anger in her heart. If that’s not enough, the main ingredients were the corns on her feet.”
This is a hard movie for me to accurately assess. I bet it’ll be that way for a lot of people. Mostly the fans. Not just fans of Ready Player One, the book. I mean fans of literally everything .
Let me be clear. I’ve never read Ready Player One, although I have almost bought it every single time I’ve been in an airport bookstore. I just could never bring myself to do it. I have no idea what stopped me. Maybe the premise felt too good to be true, despite good reviews and friend recommendations. It promised too much to execute, like when your grandma tells you that she bought you a bunch of new video games, but it just ends up being one of those 100-games-in-one games for PC that you can get for $5 at Staples. Or maybe the premise felt like it was barraging my senses the same way a strip club does. We know you like titties, so here they are. Here they are in such high abundance and so gratuitously that you must question whether you ever even liked titties. I’m sorry to say titties so much, but whether you’re a fan or hater of RPO, I think you can understand how this is the movie equivalent of a bunch of titties (that’s the last time I’ll say it. I promise.)
Now, I have yet to say whether I liked the movie or not .Let me make this clear:
I loved this movie.
I knew I’d love this movie once I saw this in the trailer:
That being said, I don’t care to defend this movie, because I can’t. If you asked me why I liked it, all I could really muster is a caveman-like response of, “I liked seeing the stuff.” The stuff being the Terminator 2 reference, the Gears of War gun, the Akira bike – you know, the titties (sorry). Plot-wise and relationship wise, this movie should have left me as baffled as Wrinkle in Time, though Wrinkle in Time is a lot more garbage of a film. No, I’m not just taking an opportunity to knock Wrinkle in Time for no reason. I think they are both worth discussing together as male and female-centric hero stories respectively. This movie won’t land for everyone because of that. Not to say it’s a clear cut male/female issue, but at the risk of being hetero-normative, this is what you would call a “boy movie.” If you don’t like “boy movies” and “boy stuff,” I think the flaws will be much more apparent and unforgivable to you. Let me again be clear, I’m using terms like “boy stuff” as shorthand, not to say that girls can’t or shouldn’t like this type of movie. Nor am I saying “boy stuff” to mean penis and balls, but I digress.
Regardless of the fanboy-ism of it all, no one can knock the expert pacing in this movie. I had zero time to question plot elements in the moment. As a screenwriter I’m constantly watching movies aware of time, what page in the script we’re at, and which story beat we’re on. There was simply no time to do that under this movie’s blistering pace.
I’m not going to tell you if you should see this movie or not. I don’t need to do that. You’ve most likely already made your decision weeks ago (on that token, I highly suggest you go see Thoroughbreds starring Anya Taylor-Joy and Olivia Cooke. Support great movies), but here two final points, one of which is the films most condemning moment.
It’s a Gundam!
Slight spoiler: As I stated before, I knew Gundam (RX-78 specifically) would be in the movie, but I never expected more than a cameo shot. That’s not the case here. What we get is a demo for a CGI Gundam movie. I’m talking about the fact that Gundam full on fights Mecha-Godzilla. Not just a punch or two. They have a battle. Now, it’s no Obi Won versus Anakin – it’s not 15 minutes – but its a big moment. I practically broke my girlfriend’s hand squeezing it from the excitement.
The only issue is that I don’t recall anyone screaming, “It’s a Gundam!” Shame. Shame.
Steven Spielberg Almost Got Away with It
It’s no doubt this is a male-fantasy story. That’s, in a nutshell, the big controversy over the book. Especially as women fight for better representation in film, these types of stories stick out as continuing the status quo. Now, I don’t have a problem with male-centric stories. I love them. The issue to me is that we need more female-centric stories so that we all get our jams. I could write a whole blog post on that alone, so forgive my very simplistic breakdown, especially on the RPO controvery. End of the day, let more female filmmakers into he fray and let’s see what we get, but please don’t stop making movies for 30-year-old boys like me.
Enter Steven Spielberg.
For the most part, this movie isn’t problematic in its handling of gender or its female characters UNTIL what I call the birthmark scene. If you’re someone who thinks all of this gender bologna is, well, bologna, don’t tune out just yet. The moment in question assaults everyone’s intelligence.
Let me set this scene up as quickly as possible. Parsival (Tye Sheridan AKA beat up Nick Jonas), our main character, meets Art3mis (Olivia Cooke) in the form of their avatars in the game. They have no idea what each other look like in the real life. As the movie progresses, they grow closer. Parsival’s friends bring up the fact that Art3mis could be anyone. She could be a fat, old guy. Parsival is understandably worried.
Then they finally meet and Art3mis is non other than Olivia Cooke. Jackpot, obvi. Right?
Well, no. Because Art3mis has a birthmark on her eye, so she thinks she’s hideous. A birthmark that, if anything, adds a unique sparkle to her already beautiful features. It’s essentially the same as putting glasses on the hot girl and calling her ugly. With one fell swoop of a birthmark, the character is weakened. The birthmark is irrelevant other than in that moment, so what does it do? Just makes Art3mis ugly, thus weaker? It’s a moment that, for me, is just plain stupid, but also brings up a lot of problematic qualities we see in female love interests. Worse of all, it could have easily been avoided.
A stronger decision would be to give Art3mis as much agency as Parsival. Wouldn’t she be just as worried that he could be a fat, old guy? I’d rather see them both have fun with the realization that they are both two attractive people. What luck! Or maybe she isn’t happy with how he looks. What a twist!
I assume the birthmark scene in the book, where it may play better since we can imagine the character as ugly without having to cast and look at an ugly person the entire time. After all, in Hunger Games Katniss is described as plain and unremarkable, not Jennifer Lawrence. We just don’t want to watch plain and unremarkable on the screen for 90 minutes so we put a slight birthmark on a an actress who is arguably one of the most stunning young women working today.
These problematic moments are worth thinking about, not just for societal implications, but for the story as well. Art3mis is a great characters outside of this one moment, so I don’t want to take away from the character as a whole, but I think pointing this out brings to light the bigger point outside of this film: Weak female characters make weak stories.
Forgive any typos, grammatical errors, or nonsensical things. Had to bang this one out quickly. Would love to hear your thoughts. Don’t be shy to comment or tweet at me.
Follow me on Twitter @joecabello
My podcast, The Joe Cabello Show comes out Wednesday on Itunes and Soundcloud.
Episode 4 we had our special guest, Anye Elite. He’s an amazing rapper who debuts a song on this very episode! You can check out the link to that song below. We cover A LOT but highlights include Brenden interviewing us about cannabis, Mariah Carey gets everyone heated, and we come down hard on a body shaming verdict.
Remember to leave a review on iTunes. Once we hit 30 reviews we’ll do a raffle contest for some cool prizes for anyone who wrote a review.
Note: I’l be talking a lot about the first Pacific Rim. I will clearly notate Pacific Rim 2 if talking about 2.
I’m a fanboy of a lot of the ingredients in the stew that is Pacific Rim – Mech, monsters, campy sci-fi action-adventure – but the first movie has always left a bad taste in my mouth (to keep the stew analogy). For a movie designed for my tastes, Pacific Rim is barely fun for me. The uninspired mech design and bad casting set it back for me (they had to cast only the boring white people?). Guillermo Del Toro can do monster design like nobody else, but his lack of imagination with the robots was apparent.
I can’t say that I don’t leave it on whenever I scroll past it on TV (Hell, I was watching it before I watched Pacific Rim 2). Still, it’s a movie that, in some ways, I wish didn’t exist. I love movies with mech, monsters, and all the aforementioned, but it has to be good or else you just wasted one of our bullets. I think a lot about the diminishing appeal of failed properties, like I had talked about in my Tomb Raider movie review. How many Spider Man (or any other property) movies until we give up and stop showing up? And how many failures until the studios simply stop making them? If you’re gong to give us a mech movie, make it count. I don’t feel Pacific Rim was what it needed to be to make it count. (note: on an artistic level. The movie obviously did well enough to warrant a sequel).
Pacific Rim 2 is a better movie in every way, and I’d even go as far as to say it’s a very good movie, but only because of its predecessor. Certainly that’s true of any sequel to a degree, and it’s not as if you can’t watch this without having seen the first, but what makes the meaningful moments of the film actually feel meaningful has less to do with what we’ve seen on screen, and more to do with knowing the history of the first film. The first movie never felt especially emotionally resonant, for example when Charlie Hunnam’s Raleigh Becket loses his father (brother?), we know this is, and should be, sad, but do we actually feel it? No. Pacific Rim 2 keys into emotion in a much more effective way, but I think a lot of that does come from the relationships from the first.I can’t say that’s a bad thing, or a knock on the movie, and I’d be interested to see the opinion of someone who had never seen the first.
I dipped my toe into calling it a “very good movie,” which I hesitate to completely dive into. There are issues, personal taste aside (I thought the mech design was even less inspired, but its’ amazing how much good story and acting counteracts that, though they are unrelated qualities). The movie is spread a little thin across its main characters. I actually think it could use an additional 20 or 30 minutes, but even in saying that, it doesn’t need it. That extra 20 minutes might add some welcome depth to some of the characters, but it’s not as if that would put the movie in the Oscar running. Ultimately, I think the genre/style of the movie allows for some rushed elements. We just want to see the fights with enough emotional backup to care about the outcome.
This one is an easy movie to decipher. If you liked the first one, you’re going to like this one. I don’t see how you couldn’t.
If you’ve never seen either movie, and this seems like your kind of thing, start with the first and move up from there.
If you’ve never seen either movie, and you’re in any way hesitant, I’d start with Pacific Rim 2 or I fear you may never give it a chance after seeing the first.
I also wanted to mention that this has been a great year for women in film. Cailee Spaeny who plays Amara Namani (awesome name) and Tian Jing who plays Liwen Shao will have little girls wanting to jump in a mech and pilot one themselves. So take your daughters, step daughters, cousins – whoever – to see this movie! I’m glad we’re slowly getting past strong female characters whose main obstacle is their womanhood. Both Spaeny and Jing play strong women whose judgement is never questioned (at least not for their gender). Stories that deal specifically with gender are important, but equally as important is seeing women in robust roles traditionally held for men without questioning it. I’m excited to see Cailee Spaeny’s next projects, as she was surprisingly great (only because I hadn’t heard of her prior to this).
I have a lot more thoughts about this movie, but honestly, no one’s paying me for this so 800 words sounds about good lol. Thanks for reading!
Follow me on Twitter @joecabello
My podcast, The Joe Cabello Show comes out Wednesday on Itunes and Soundcloud.
Joe Cabello (Five @ 305) and Brenden Leigh (BrendenLeigh.com) are joined by Julian Vargas where Brenden tricks us into revealing that we’re gay, Julian brings his heated hip-hop opinions, and Brenden lays down the law on a certain word that I won’t dare type.