Category Archives: Film

Today the US Senate is considering legislation that would destroy the free and open Internet.

“Why is it that when Republicans and Democrats need to solve the budget and the deficit, there’s deadlock, but when Hollywood lobbyists pay them $94 million dollars to write legislation, people from both sides of the aisle line up to co-sponsor it?”

        –Reddit Founder Alexis Ohanian on CNBC.

I put this on my Tumblr thing earlier today, but I'm reposting it here, because it's important to me. If you don't know what SOPA and ProtectIP are, read this technical examination of SOPA and ProtectIP from the Reddit blog and come back when you're done.

SOPA Lives — and MPAA calls protests an "abuse of power."

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has looked at tomorrow’s “Internet blackout” in opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)—and it sees only a “gimmick,” a “stunt,” “hyperbole,” “a dangerous and troubling development,” an “irresponsible response,” and an “abuse of power.”

“Wikipedia, reddit, and others are going dark to protest the legislation, while sites like Scribd and Google will also protest. In response, MPAA chief Chris Dodd wheeled out the big guns and started firing the rhetoric machine-gun style. 

“Only days after the White House and chief sponsors of the legislation responded to the major concern expressed by opponents and then called for all parties to work cooperatively together, some technology business interests are resorting to stunts that punish their users or turn them into their corporate pawns, rather than coming to the table to find solutions to a problem that all now seem to agree is very real and damaging.”

Can I interrupt for a moment? Thanks. When you complain that opponents didn’t “come to the table to find solutions”, do you mean that we didn’t give NINETY-FOUR MILLION DOLLARS to congress like the MPAA? Or do you mean that we didn’t come to the one hearing that Lamar Smith held, where opponents of SOPA were refused an opportunity to comment? Help me out, here, Chris Dodd, because I’m really trying hard to understand you.

“It is an irresponsible response and a disservice to people who rely on them for information and use their services. It is also an abuse of power given the freedoms these companies enjoy in the marketplace today. It’s a dangerous and troubling development when the platforms that serve as gateways to information intentionally skew the facts to incite their users in order to further their corporate interests.”

Oh ha ha. Ho. Ho. The MPAA talking about “skewing the facts to incite” anyone is just too much. 

“A so-called “blackout” is yet another gimmick, albeit a dangerous one, designed to punish elected and administration officials who are working diligently to protect American jobs from foreign criminals.”

Except for the part where this is completely false, it’s a valid point.

“It is our hope that the White House and the Congress will call on those who intend to stage this “blackout” to stop the hyperbole and PR stunts and engage in meaningful efforts to combat piracy.”

Riiiiiiight. Protesting to raise awareness of terrible legislation that will destroy the free and open Internet is an abuse of power, but buying NINETY-FOUR MILLION DOLLARS worth of congressional votes is just fine.

I’m so disappointed in Chris Dodd. He was a pretty good senator, wrote some bills (like Dodd/Frank) that are genuinely helping people, and is going to be on the wrong side of every argument as the head of the MPAA. What a wasted legacy.

===

I am 100% opposed to SOPA and PIPA, even though I'm one of the artists they were allegedly written to protect. I've probably lost a few hundred dollars in my life to what the MPAA and RIAA define as piracy, and that sucks, but that doesn't come close to how much money I've lost from a certain studio's creative accounting.

The RIAA and MPAA are, again, on the wrong side of history. Attempting to tear apart one of the single greatest communications achievements in human history in a misguided attempt to cling to an outdated business model instead of adapting to the changing world is a fucking crime.

A free and open Internet is as important to me as the bill of rights. I don't want the government of one country — especially the corporate-controlled United States government — to exert unilateral control over the Internet for any reason, especially not because media corporations want to buy legislation that won't do anything to actually stop online piracy, but will expand the American police state, and destroy the Internet as we know it.

Please contact your Senators and US Representatives, and tell them to vote NO on SOPA and ProtectIP. The future of the Internet — and the present we take for granted — depend on it.

Just in time for Halloween: the animated Dark Dungeons

If you're of a certain age, you may remember the infamous Jack Chick tract Dark Dungeons. For those of you who don't, here's the tl;dr from the Escapist:

Dark Dungeons is possibly the most widely distributed piece of anti-game propaganda in the history of gaming. It was first produced by Chick Publications in 1984, during the heyday of anti-RPG paranoia, and print copies were available on request from Chick as recently as the mid-90s. Chick Publications, headed by reclusive comic author Jack T. Chick, also brings us booklets on the evils of everything from Catholicism and Buddhism to Halloween and reincarnation.  Chick takes no prisoners, and isn't interested in playing nicely; they'd much rather convert you to their narrow world view, and possibly get you to sprinkle the world liberally with more of their pamphlets. 

Dark Dungeons touches many of the bases of mid-80s anti-RPG paranoia. Most of the cliches and urban legends are here; the dark, seductive lady who acts as DM for a group of younger players, the gamers who identify far too much with their characters and become deeply troubled when a character dies, the "real spells" contained in the books, the obsessive playing at the cost of a healthy social or spiritual life, the eventual induction into a witches coven, and of course, the inevitable suicide. About the only legends they miss are drugs, rape, murder, and lead figures that scream when you throw them into the fire. But to be fair, you can only give so much story in 21 pages.

Now, for all of us… an animated adaptation from the mad geniuses at Boolean Union Studios that will amuse and delight you!

Part one:

Part two:

(via my friend Ariana, who has a fantastic story about how Dark Dungeons affected her life on her G+ thingy.)

The Thing is really great, is not about Ben Grimm

Anne and I saw The Thing last night. tl;dr: I thought it was great.

It's a prequel to the 1982 John Carpenter movie, which is one of my favorite movies of all time, and easily the best Sci-Fi/Horror film ever made. Normally, I would flat out refuse to see it, because I thought it was a remake/reboot, and I'm sick to death of those things. However, I'd heard that they gotten a lot of the practical effects guys together for it, and that was intriguing to me. When a bunch of friends were getting together to see it last night, that was all I needed to go ahead and give it a chance.

So, full disclosure: it turns out that my friend Eric wrote it. How I didn't remember this until I saw his name in the credits is a mystery, especially considering that the whole reason we all got together last night was specifically to watch it with him.

(This is what happens when I have Writer's Brain, and all I can think about is the story I'm working on. My mental CPU is usually at 180% and there's no virtual memory available for other tasks.)

Anyway, I really liked the movie. It's a prequel to the 1982 film, and it tells the story of the discovery of The Thing by the Norwegians, and what it does to them. It's scary, it's gory, and it does an absolutely fantastic job of respecting Carpenter's film, both in tone and story.

My only complaint is that one of the actors makes a really bad choice to play essentially the same note through the whole movie, which robs his character of what could have been a very satisfying arc.

When I mentioned on Twitter last night that I gave it 4.5/5 (the .5 being taken away for the aforementioned complaint), a bunch of people replied to me with various versions of "I hated it and you're stupid for liking it," which sort of baffles me. Now, as an unabashed fan of the 1982 film, maybe I have a connection to the story and the mythos that the average 20-something doesn't, but I don't think you need to be a fan of Carpenter's movie to enjoy this one.

I was twelve going on thirteen when I made the movie that changed my life

Twenty-five years ago today, on my future wife's 17th birthday, a movie I did called Stand By Me was released. I didn't know it at the time, but it would define my childhood and change my life.

Here are a few things I wanted to share, to mark the occasion.

I talked to NPR last week about Stand By Me. They ran it on Weekend Edition, and All Things Considered. The interview, and the story they wrote to go with it, is online at NPR.

The quintessential coming-of-age film Stand by Me celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. The movie tells the story of four 12-year-old boys in a small town in Oregon and the Labor Day weekend that changed their lives forever.

The film was a hit almost immediately after it was released in the summer of 1986 and has gone on to become a beloved classic. Writer and actor Wil Wheaton, who played Gordie Lachance, Stand by Me's star, tells weekends on All Things Considered guest host David Greene that he credits the cast and director Rob Reiner for the film's success.

Here is a picture of the four of us waiting to go on Good Morning America to promote the movie in 1986.

Waiting to promote Stand By Me on Good Morning America in 1986

Here's a blog post I wrote in 2009 about it.

This photo captures our personalities perfectly: River and Corey are focused and serious (Corey is even wearing a tie and drinking coffee!) I am listening to the same person they are, but I'm not even trying to contain how excited I am to be going on a television show that I had been watching with my Aunt Val since I could remember, in front of the whole country, no less.

My favorite part of this picture, though, is Jerry. It's almost like he caught my mom or dad taking this picture of us, and decided to strike a pose, just to be silly. I just love that he isn't taking the thing too seriously, and that he's just having fun and enjoying the whole thing. As I got older and began to feel like the teen magazine publicity stuff was taking over my life, it stopped being fun, and it started to feel like a chore. I always envied that Jerry seemed to take it all in stride, keep it in perspective, and just have fun with it.

I've always said that Stand By Me was so successful because Rob cast four young actors who were so much like their characters, but I think it's spooky how the four of us ended up being so much like our characters: River died too young, Corey struggled like crazy to get his personal demons under control, Jerry found success and happiness, and I'm a writer.

Finally, in March of this year, I got together with the surviving cast members, Rob Reiner, and Richard Dreyfuss to talk about the movie, as well as the special 25th anniversary edition Blu Ray disc that's been released. I imagine that a non-zero number of first time readers are coming here from NPR or Google, so I'm going to reprint the story I wrote about that day in its entirety for you, because it's special to me.

I stood in the lobby of the Falcon Theater in Toluca Lake, and looked at Twitter while I waited for the rest of the guys to arrive. The walls were covered with posters from productions like CHiPs: The Musical and It's A Stevie Wonderful Life. Being in a theater during the day, when it's just a building with a stage, instead of the performance space it becomes when an audience fills the seats makes me feel like I'm getting to see The Haunted Mansion with all the lights on, like I'm in a secret place that few people get to see, and I felt an almost imperceptible longing to perform in a play tug gently but insistently at that thing in my being that makes me an actor.

Someone came over and started talking to me. I made polite conversation, but I don't remember what or who we talked about. This was an emotional day for me (though I didn’t know precisely how emotional it would be until later), and while I didn’t want to be rude, I wasn’t in a particularly chatty mood. It was the first time Corey Feldman, Jerry O’Connell and I would be in the same place since 1986 or 1987. We were technically there to give some interviews to promote Stand By Me’s blu-ray release, but  — for me at least — it was much more than that. It was a reunion.

We made Stand By Me twenty-five years ago. To commemorate the anniversary, a special blu-ray disc has been produced. Among the obligatory special features is a feature-length commentary that Rob Reiner, Corey, and I did together while watching the movie a couple months ago. On that day, I was apprehensive: what would they think of me? Would our memories match up? Would the commentary be entertaining and informative? …who would be the first to talk about River, and how would we all react to it?

It turns out that I had nothing to worry about then. It was a joy to watch the movie with them, and I was especially happy to discover that, after a very troubled life, Corey seems to be doing really well. Rob made me feel like he was a proud father and we were his kids, and when we talked about River, it was … well, private. I’ll leave it at that.

So as I stood there in the lobby, waiting for a familiar face to come through the door, I was happy and looking forward to our reunion without nervousness or apprehension. This stood in marked contrast to all the times I reunited with my friends from TNG when I was younger (my problem, not theirs), and I was grateful for that.

A few minutes later, the door opened, and an incredibly tall, handsome, well-dressed man walked through it.

“Holy crap,” I thought, “Jerry grew up.”

It was such a stupid thought, but there it was. I see Jerry on television all the time, and I knew that he was tall and handsome and only two years younger than me, but I had that strange disconnect in my mind that can only come from not seeing someone for about twenty years and I simultaneously did and did not recognize him.

I was standing near some food on a table, and Jerry walked up to grab a sandwich. As he reached toward the table, we made eye contact.

“Hi,” I said.

“Hi, I’m Jerry,” he said, with a friendly smile.

“I’m Wil,” I said, “We worked on this movie together twenty-five years ago.”

In a few seconds that seemed to go on for minutes, I saw him look at me in disbelief, surprise, recognition, and joy. He flashed a smile that lit up the room and wrapped me in a hug.

“Oh my God, dude,” he said, “I can’t believe it’s … wow! You’re — I — Jesus, look at you!”

I smiled back, and strangely noted that my son is taller than him. “Look at you!” I said.

We talked as much as we could, trying to compress two decades into ten minutes, before he had to go to the make-up chair. As he walked away, my brain tapped me on the shoulder and said, “You know, he’s married to Rebecca Romijn. When he’s talking about his wife, that’s who he means.” “I know, brain. I know,” I thought back, “don’t be weird. Be cool, man.” A moment later, Richard Dreyfuss walked into the lobby, followed fairly quickly by Rob and then Corey.

Before I had time to do more than Twitter about how surreal it felt to see them all, we were all gathered together and directed from the lobby into the theater for our first interview. On the way in, I said to Corey, “I feel like there are all these famous, successful people here … and me.”

He laughed and said, “I was thinking exactly the same thing!”

Before I could make a witty zinger, he clarified, “about myself, I mean. Famous people and me, not, like, famous people and you.”

I laughed. “I knew what you meant, man,” I said.

It was the kind of friendly, enjoyable, effortless conversation we couldn’t have when we were younger, and I was glad for it.

There were five chairs set up for us in a semi circle. Our names were on pieces of paper so we knew where to sit. I was between Rob and Corey, and Jerry and Richard sat to Corey’s left. When we all sat down, Rob looked down the row of seats and softly said to me, “it feels like there should be an empty seat here for River.”

People ask me about River all the time. He and I were close during filming, and for about a year or so after filming, but the sad truth is that he got sucked into a lifestyle that I just don’t have room in my life for, and we drifted apart. When he died, I was shocked and horrified, but I wasn’t completely surprised. I didn’t feel a real sense of loss at the time — the River I knew and loved had been gone for a long time at that point — but I felt sad for his family, and angry at the people around him who didn’t do more to help him help himself. Since he died, when I've talked about him, I've felt like I’m talking about the idea of him, instead of the person I knew, if that makes sense.

But when Rob said that to me, with such sadness in his eyes, it was like I’d been punched in the stomach by eighteen years of suppressed grief. I knew that if I tried to say anything, all I would do was cry, and I didn’t know if I’d be able to stop. I took a deep breath, swallowed hard, and nodded. “Yeah,” I whispered.

Later that day, when I’d had time to think about it and was recounting the whole thing to my wife, Anne, I said, “I think that having all of us together — the surviving members of the cast — made me feel like he really wasn’t there for the first time since he died. I don’t mean to be callous or anything like that, but that’s what it took to make his death and his absence a real thing that I could feel, instead of an event that I wasn’t part of but am forced to talk about more often than I’d like.”

I spent much of the next few days remembering all the things we did together during production, thinking about how much I looked up to him and how much I loved his entire family. I don’t know what would have happened to us if he hadn’t overdosed, if he ever would have come back from the edge, or if we would even have had anything in common … but when he was fifteen and I was thirteen, he was my friend. That’s the person I knew, and that’s the person I miss.

We talked about River in the interview, of course, and I think Richard put it best when he said that there is this monster in Hollywood that everyone knows about. It lurks just out of view, and occasionally it reaches up and snatches someone … and it got River.

Richard also talked about why we are actors, and what it means to him to be creative. It was so poetic and inspiring, that almost imperceptible longing to perform in a play I felt in the lobby turned into an overwhelming compulsion. Distracted by the responsibilities of every day life, it’s easy for me to forget why I love and need to perform. It’s easy to forget how satisfying it is to create a character, to discover something magnificent in a script or a scene, and then bring those things to life with other actors in front of an audience.

The entire interview lasted for close to an hour, I guess, and will be edited down to something between three and six minutes. I hope that the producers will cut together something longer, or even run the entire thing online somewhere, because it was one of the rare conversations that I think a lot of people, especially artists, would enjoy listening to.

When all of our interviews were done, I asked Jerry if he’d like to get together when he was on hiatus to have a proper conversation and really catch up on stuff. He said he’d like that, so we traded e-mail addresses. I didn’t expect him to actually want to see me once the glow of seeing each other for the first time in two decades faded, but we’re actually planning it, which delights me. Rob hugged me and made me feel like he was proud of me, and Richard blew me away with the work he’s doing for The Dreyfuss Initiative. 

As I drove home from the theater I was overwhelmed by conflicting emotions. It was wonderful to see those guys again, and especially to reconnect with Jerry, but it was also tremendously sad to truly feel River’s loss for the first time. That turbulent mix of joy and sorrow stayed with me for several days, which is why I haven’t been able to write about it for almost a week.

Most actors will go their entire careers without doing a movie like Stand By Me, or working with a director like Rob Reiner. I got to do both when I was 12. For a long, long time, I felt like I needed to top or equal that, and it wasn’t until I was in my early 30s that I accepted that it’s unlikely to happen — movies like Stand By Me come along once in a generation. 

But getting to spend a few hours remembering the experience with Rob, Jerry, Corey and Richard, free of the burden to prove to them that I was worthy of Stand By Me’s legacy, was something I will cherish for years. I just wish that River was here to enjoy it with us.

Happy anniversary, Stand By Me. You're finally old enough to officially be the classic people have told me you are since the 80s. Thank you to Rob, Andy, Ray and Bruce, and everyone in the cast and crew that made it possible for me to be part of a movie that I can look back on, twenty-five years later, with overwhelming pride.

Is this something you can share with the rest of us Amazing Larry?!

Anne went to bed before I was tired last night. Being a good husband who doesn't want to get The Wrath, I opted to head into my office on the other side of the house to watch a little TV before I went to sleep, instead of sitting in our bed and watching TV there. (Yes, we live in a house that is filled with televisions; it's part of the new cruelty.)

As I scrolled through the channel guide, I wondered, as I so often do, how it's possible to fill up almost 800 channels with nothing but absolute dogshit … and then I saw it, on HDNet: Pee Wee's Big Adventure.

I love this movie so much, I wish I could marry it (and then go into the other room to watch The Three Amigos when it goes to sleep before I'm tired.) It is one of the very rare perfect movies. The score is perfect. The cinematography is perfect. The script is perfect. The acting, editing, and directing are all perfect. I can't think of many movies from 1985 (holy shit, 1985) that hold up at all today, let alone hold up as perfectly as this one, that, we have established, is perfect.

While I watched the movie, I Twittered about it a little bit, because that's the way we do things here in the year 2525. When I woke up this morning and checked my e-mail, I saw that my friend Joel had seen my Twittering, and was inspired — nay, compelled — to create this:

 

I told him that the Internet needed to see this right away … and he responded that, while I was sleeping, it had already become today's comic, as if by magic.

The kids seem to enjoy the Fighting Time Lords T-shirt we made, so I told Joel that I thought it should be a T-shirt. What do you think?

[14 hours later...]

Okay, Internet! You asked for it, so Joel and I made it. BEHOLD WESLEY'S BIG ADVENTURE!

drag your blanket blindly and fill your heart with smoke

Letters of Note is one of my favorite websites.

Yesterday, LoN shared this note from James Dean, which he wrote shortly after moving to New York to pursue an acting career, and before he became James Dean™:

Being an actor is the loneliest thing in the world. The stage is like a religion you dedicate yourself to and then suddenly you find that you don’t have time to see friends and it’s not for them to understand you don’t have anybody. You’re all alone with your concentration and your imagination and that’s all you have. You’re an actor.

He wrote that note in 1952. During the next three years, he would star in East of Eden, Giant, and Rebel Without A Cause … then his life was over. I can see him, sitting alone in New York — a city that can make the most gregarious, confident person in thw world feel tiny and insignificant — writing that down, staring at an uncertain future that stared right back at him. It's hard to separate the actor and his work from the legend, but when I read this yesterday, I wondered if he was able to enjoy the success that he eventually had, or if he was just one of those artists who need the pain and anguish to create.

But this stuff that he thought made being an actor feel so lonely? I think it’s what makes being an actor awesome. I love being left alone with my concentration and imagination. I love making something where something wasn't before, using my imagination and that weird thing in my artists' brain that makes me weird. (Come to think of it, that’s what I love about being a writer, too.) One of my favorite acting teachers, who helped me level up quite a bit, once told us that when we're performing, whether it's for an audience of thirty or an audience of three thousand, we have to be committed to our character, completely consumed by the scene, and intimately connected to the other actors. She said that acting was "quiet, public solitude," and for some reason I never bothered to examine too closely, I grokked that, and it's stayed with me ever since.

I always feel sad when I think about or watch James Dean, knowing that he died so young, before he really had a chance to figure things out the way we do when we get into our thirties. I hope that, if he had, the lonely kid who wrote that note would have once day found comfort in quiet, public solitude.