A comfortably watchable movie can be a good thing. There are times, many, many of them, when all you want to do is sit down and watch something that entertains without forcing you to fire up much, if any, of the old gray matter. Sink into the comfort of familiarity, fun, and relaxation. When that’s what you’re looking for, do not choose The Fault In Our Stars.

I started watching it pretty much only knowing that it’s a weeper and that I loved the soundtrack I’d already bought. Early on I was, like, oh, poor Hazel. This is going to be a sad, sad, story about the plucky but doomed girl trying to get through what’s left of her life. Well, yes. But. And a big, big but, at that. Lots of them, actually.

All those “buts” herald twists.

Twists in fiction have become something of a taboo. I’ve always loved them when they’re well done. In books, movies…even life…a well placed twist can be a wonderful thing. They usually come at the end and leave the reader or watcher at least a little stunned. In a good way, if it’s a good twist. In screenplays, though, scenes need a “button” at their ends. Something to keep those pages turning. Some of them can be mini twists. Not too many or it gets too twisty. The ends of acts, though tend by nature to be twists of some sort. Perhaps they’re subtle, but they are called turning points for a reason.

The very nature of The Fault In Our Stars turns on twists. Every time I thought I knew where it was going, it went somewhere else entirely. Instead of becoming annoyed or impatient, I was thrilled to see what happened next. Those mental buttons kept me turning mental pages.

This movie is at its heart a tale of the strength of the human spirit. Survival and loss live side by side with love and grasping to cherish joy. Hazel and Gus take us on an unexpected journey, literally and metaphorically. They also share with many viewers a love of books. A particular book informs their lives and its author teaches them a cynicism that their bittersweetly tragic lives could
not. Lovers of books don’t really want to be confronted with such emotional sacrilege, but these characters’ experience with their favorite author changes all of their lives in profound and lasting ways. It’s worth the discomfort watching it causes.

So this is a movie about many things that bleed onto and into each other, and twist from one to the other, until the whole is like a bent and gnarled tree that is so fascinating to look at that it becomes unforgettable. The Fault In Our Stars is not easy to watch and it’s hard to forget.

The Fault In Our Stars Official Trailer

Here’s a really cool interview with Sean Bean from Entertainment Weekly. He talks about being Ned Stark, fun with Ned’s dead head, and muses about what might have been.

It’s intriguing that he’s never read any of the books. Funny, I thought I was the only person on the planet who could say that.

He’s such a prolific actor that it’s telling that he still thinks of Game of Thrones, especially to the extent he speaks of here. Powerful storytelling will do that to a person. It must be even more impactful when you’ve lived in a character and been deeply immersed in a fictional world in order to portray him.

I keep hoping for a dream sequence or something, someday, but it sounds like any Ned appearances are as elusive as his hopes and dreams for the family he left behind. What’s left of it….

I’m afraid we have a logical explanation now for the tantalizing picture of Anthony Hopkins in suspiciously Downtonesque atire, with a beaming Mrs. Patmore outside Lesley Nicol’s dressing room. And it doesn’t lead where all Hopkins and Downton fans hoped.

Ian McKellen recently tweeted a still from The Dresser, and said they were filming next door to Downton Abbey. Most likely scenario: A–Anthony Hopkins was visiting the Downton set, in his The Dresser costume + B–It would be beyond wonderful if he were to guest star on everyone’s favorite period drama = media conclusion jumping + fan frenzy = widespread disappointment.

Ah, well. It was a lovely what if while it lasted. Now I just really want to see The Dresser….

It’s that time of year again. After putting all my screenwriting competition eggs in the Nicholl basket last year and expecting to do better than I did, I had to think hard about this year. I’m usually able to roll disappointments off my back, but having done so well in competitions for years (see my Blog Page: Written for Screen and Page ), then having only one positive read each for my three 2014 entries really threw me. Honestly, it took me a few months to get over it.

For all that I know the capricious nature of competition results and the way individual opinions are completely unpredictable, I was still mired in the perceived mud of “only” one positive read each. I’m being frank about this because I know there are others out there struggling with the same thing. Even though you know you can do really well one year and not advance at all the next, it still comes down to feeling as if you’ve been hit in the face with a pie when it happens to you. And that’s the most pleasant of the reactions.

Eventually I realized that I had to stop with the negativity of “only” and focus on the fact that three of my screenplays had received a positive read in the most prestigious of the competitions among more than 7,000 entries. Two of which had flat bombed out when I’d entered them before. Before I learned how to rewrite. So I accomplished quite a bit last year, even if not what I’d hoped for. Encouraging, actually, if humbling.

So what’s on the agenda for this year? Why, three in the Nicholl again, of course. Right back and into that one unpredictable basket! I’d half-intended
to spread them out a little more this time, but the early deadline loomed, the usual formatting disasters ensued, I got inundated with two ice/sleet/snow storms, heat trouble, car trouble, and a leaking roof, and time crunched. Circumstances pushed me to do what I really wanted to anyway…aim as high as possible. Again.

I hope I’m better prepared to do the roll off the back thing now, if I must. The very best way to handle disappointment is to shrug, dig deep, and keep writing. And to not disappoint yourself by aiming lower because you’re afraid. Fear can be a great motivator. So is hope. And faith in yourself.

Nicholl 2015 entries:

2 dramas from last year
1 science fiction


And a long, long wait.

This article goes into plot and character details of the TV movie The Dresser. It will be the the first time the stars have worked together on film.

I’ve been looking forward to this movie since first learning about it. Anthony Hopkins and Ian McKellen are two of the finest actors of their, and any, generation. One way I look at the pairing is each actor’s legendary history on stage in Shakespeare’s plays and many others. The other cause for fangirlish excitement is that we’re talking Odin and Gandalf together onscreen. What’s not to look forward to from both angles?

The bottom line of course is the sheer thrill of enjoying the work of two such amazingly talented actors. Since my cable doesn’t have Starz, I’ll also “enjoy” the thrill of waiting for the DVD. 

I’m not going to get too excited about this. Yet. There’s too much mystery that leaves it still in the realm of rumordom. Even articles like this feel like something that’s too good to be true at this point. There could be other explanations for the photo of Anthony Hopkins and Lesley Nichol together…by her dressing room…with him in what looks intriguingly like a costume…though it’s impossible not to believe just a little. If it happens, it will be the best TV thing ever.

Anthony Hopkins on Downton Abbey….

The wish for that has been in the back of my mind ever since I fell in love with the series. A casting dream come true.

The term “snowed in” is technically correct, considering the persistent coating of white blanketing what I can see of my surroundings through windows. Snow, however, can provide some traction, under some circumstance. It’s the ice under the snow that’s dragged normal life to a standstill.

Ice storm is a weather catch phrase that strikes fear into the hearts of those who know to look beneath the sparkling beauty of dangling icicles and frozen over tree branches. What lies beneath the superficial wonderland one can’t help but pause over to enjoy for the eye feast buffet is danger from several angles.

The biggest worry is snapping tree branches, or in worst case scenarios snapping whole trees, that in turn cause snapping power lines or snapping whole poles. Sometimes the weather remains fairly warm during and after an ice storm due to vagaries of the weather system at large. That kind of ice storm is mostly inconvenient.  Stuff like losing anything you were foolish enough to stock the fridge and freezer with (melted icecream for dinner, anyone?), the loss of TVability, Kindle withdrawal, and a total disconnect from that 21st century essential…the smart phone.

It’s when it’s very cold and the power goes out that true danger potential becomes something to worry about until the great thaw arrives. Temperatures in the teens and single digits, often accompanied by subzero wind chills, not only ramp up the risks of power failure complications, but also keep the ice on roads like slippery, slidery glass. Once rain has frozen solid, with or without an insulating layer of snow, it’s there for the duration. Where it melts in the sun even with low, low temps, the residual moisture refreezes into ever more dangerous black ice.

When you’re caring for an elderly parent, it’s impossible not to worry about all the what ifs being surrounded by a beautiful, treacherous iceland outside brings to mind. The stresses of being frozen in place move beyond trying to figure out the timing for your next grocery  expedition or remembering to charge those all important devices. Things like will an ambulance be able to come, if you need it? If it does, will it take you too, since you can’t drive to meet it, and then how will you get the car to where you end up? What if you run out of a crucial medicine, though you’re sure you got it all before the winter storm turned the world into a Doctor Zhivago landscape, sans sleighs and romantic interludes in icebound rooms? What if, what if, what if…until you just try to let it go. Time to curl up under a blanket with a supply of chocolate, listen to the new band you’ve just fallen in love with (San Fermin, at the moment), and turn your what iffing machine to writing.

The kind of quiet when you’re living under a blanket of snow is unique. Little traffic. Little hubub of normal life. That certain kind of silence that invites introspection also invites a writer to plot.

As I’ve just finished my new fantasy novella, my thoughts turn to what’s next. I’m ready for a genre switch. Maybe a bit of hard SF would be a good mental palate cleanser. That possibility has led me to ponder the intriguing possibilities of string theory. I found that involves too much research for a snow bound interlude, which frees my brain to move on to meta materials, graphene, and holographic projectors…not necessarily in that order. And not necessarily all in the same story.

It’s started snowing again. Freezing rain expected later. Again.

If this keeps up, expect me to start babbling about a new story. One about weather machines and an entrepreneurial koala who turned a perpetual blizzard into a giant purple snow cone business….


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