Saturday, November 28, 2009

"And you ask me what I want this year"

I love Christmas.

I love all things Christmas. I'm only interested in Thanksgiving as far as it starts the Christmas season, really. I was watching Elf Thursday night. I'm that person who wants to make December seem as Christmasy as possible. I sometimes get very emotional at candlelight Christmas Eve services. Calling Christmas break "winter break" is sort of a hot button issue with me. And I think every year my appreciation of Christmas grows.

This weekend has been incredibly Christmasy, even for my family. We've been Christmas cookie baking up a storm over here! By the end of the weekend, I think we will have baked at least six or seven different kinds of cookies. One of our batches yesterday made over 11 dozen cookies. That was just one type of cookie. The Butler women are intense when it comes to baking.

Today we went Christmas tree shopping. When I was a kid we always drove two hours upstate to some place with acres and acres of trees and each year a different member of the family was supposed to pick the tree. We joke that Mom picks every year. The tradition of going upstate morphed a little over recent years as my family got busier and moved a couple of times. Sometimes we didn't even get to a Christmas tree farm. A few years back we bought a tree on the sidewalk of Amsterdam Avenue the night before Christmas Eve. One incredibly misfortune year my parents went behind my back when they knew I hated fake trees and bought a fake tree and set it up while I was at work. Needless to say - worst. Christmas. ever.

Just kidding, Dad.

But seriously. Fake trees are an affront to Christmas.

We did not go to the Christmas tree farm of my childhood this year. We haven't been there for several years. It's a bit of a drive and apparently the pickings were getting slim. This year we went to a completely new tree farm. My mom called ahead to make sure they were open and they had a good selection of trees, etc. etc.

We should have suspected something when they said they also had a large selection of "Charlie Brown" trees.

When they told us that they had "thousands" of trees, they neglected to mention that half of them were still under six inches tall. I lobbied for one of the beautiful 15-footers, but we didn't bring our flatbed truck with us. The trees between these extremes were pretty bedraggled. And our family needs a sturdy tree. We have A LOT of ornaments. In the end we found one, a little sparse, a little misshapen, but a thousand times better than any artificial tree because of its ingrown imperfections. Fake trees are so perfect they look stupid. And really, is it more fun to drag your fake tree out of the attic and snap the pieces together or go on a mini road trip and stop for breakfast on the way and run around a Christmas tree trying to find the perfect tall skinny tree to fit behind the couch and in front of the windows?

Now, I have to figure out if I can hang any twinkle lights in my room and if this is a good year to suspend paper snowflakes from the ceiling again. Because yes, I'm twenty-three years old and still find 2nd grade paper decorations to be charming for Christmas.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Billy Mernit has an excellent post from his interview with Shane Black, mostly about how our decisions (and so maybe our lives, hm?) are determined by our fears.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Women in Film: Bridget Jones

I've been puttering through "Reading Lolita in Tehran" by Azar Nafisi for a while now. It's a really interesting memoir on life in Iran and I'd recommend it to anyone, even though I'm not finished with it. However, what I have to say has nothing to do with life in Tehran.

Nafisi was commenting on one of her literature classes in which they discussed Washington Square's heroine Catherine Sloper. Nafisi writes that "She is the inverse of our ideas of what a heroine should be: hefty, healthy, plain, dull, literate and honest... James strips away from Catherine the qualities that make a heroine attractive; what he takes away from her he distributes among the other three characters." I have a lot to say on women in film, and this analysis brought to mind a question I've had for a while now -- Who is a heroine? What is she made of? What qualities does she have? What does she want? What makes her different than a hero?

The definition of a heroine in literature is difficult enough, but I would argue that film has a more difficult time not only in defining their heroines, but in having heroines. Female characters are often functions of the plot, created to entice audience demographics, or simply romantic distractions.

Which brings me to Bridget Jones.

Bridget Jones. I love Bridget Jones. And while Bridget Jones is a modern take on Pride and Prejudice, Bridget Jones and Elizabeth Bennett are quite different characters. When I read Nafisi's description of Catherine Sloper, hefty, plain, dull, honest, the "ugly" heroine, I thought of Bridget Jones. She is very similar to Catherine. She is plump, stuck in a frustrating job, alone with a destructive fixation on a complete jerk, awkward, bumbling, and very unspecial. Bridget Jones is not Kate Beckinsale or Angelina Jolie because she is not the male fantasy character. She is a real heroine who is accepted with all her mundane qualities. Darcy likes her, just as she is.

I find Bridget Jones to be a satisfying heroine not only because of her realistic protrayl and the refusal to Barbie-fy her but also because of the way she deals with her life situations, not the least of which is her mangled love life. Bridget learns she has to either accept her life situations or commit to improving them, that it's not use wallowing but it's not use pretending to be someone she's not, either. When Bridget is interviewing for a new job in television, she botches every interview where she tries to appear more informed or passionate than she really is. But when she is honest about the reason she's looking for a new job, she finally scores it.

How a character handles the ever present problem of love is a large indicator of whether or not she is a true heroine. "Women's pictures" have often been criticized or mocked because they focus so much on love. Well most of life does too, so I'm perfectly content with that. However, I am critical of characters who find their happiness in love, especially when finally getting together with that special someone sweeps away all other problems. Well, if that special someone was Colin Firth, maybe I would feel the same way. But I love the scene where skeezy Daniel Cleaver has come back and got into a terribly awesome street fight with Darcy and he tells Bridget he wants her back, that if he couldn't make it with her how could he make it with anyone. And Bridget, even though she's been mad about this guy for ages, has enough self respect and courage to tell him that's not good enough. Just because Bridget Jones is an average girl doesn't mean she settles for an average (below average, really) man. In the end, she's the one who stands up and in all her awkward glory chooses Darcy, right in the middle of his parents' ruby wedding anniversary and his engagement announcement. Like Shawna recently expounded on in her blog, the heroine calls the shots. Bridget Jones definitely learns to call all her shots in her story and she does it her own way.

I love Bridget Jones. It's one of my go-to movies. And it's a bit of wish fulfillment, I know that. Watching this movie will be the closest I ever get to Colin Firth. But it's realistic wish fulfillment, if there's any such thing. I can't be many of the women in film these days. But I can be Bridget Jones, the woman who takes on life and falls in love, just the way she is.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

My Words are Stuck

I haven't written anything in about six weeks. Nothing. Not a treatment or a scene or even a logline. I haven't even pulled the typewriter out to plunk on it. I'm not even interested in reading screenwriting blogs. That's like my main procrastination method of choice. I have hard copy grammar and punctuation corrections that I can't bring myself to transfer to the computer file.

It's pretty bad, boys and girls.

It becomes a vicious cycle. I don't want to write anything, and so I don't write anything because I'm sure it will be awful, and then I feel guilty about not wanting to write, and so I don't write anything because I'm sure if I were a real talented writer I'd have turrets from needing to write so nothing I write could be good and why am I such a poser? Nonwriters don't understand this paranoia. Just imagine how you would feel if you suddenly found your favourite food made you gag or participating in your favourite hobby made you want to gouge your eyes out. Something like that.

I thought about cutting myself off completely. No blogs, no books, no script pages floating around. I could carry a legal pad and a pen, and in complete isolation from the rest of the screenwriting world, in silence and seclusion, I could doodle with whatever words peeked out from whatever dark reaches they're hiding in. Perhaps it doesn't need to be that extreme. But, I am definitely not going to push it. Paranoia punctures joy. And if under the layers of hard work and drained veins and hours of word-smithing, all crusted with a shallow layer of self loathing, if there isn't a core of joy underneath all that, then what's the point?

I'm just biding my time, blank page. Words will come when you least expect it...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I Just Like the Music

I've run the gauntlet when it comes to romantic entanglements. I may not have the depth of experience, but boy do I have the breadth. I've got it covered. From serious long-term relationship to blind date. Years long crush that resulted in a relationship to years long crush that resulted in a relationship for one of my best friends. Secret out-of-state flings to in-state impulses and all our friends involved. UPS delivered flowers to awkward first date double dates on Valentine's day. I dare you to name a situation I haven't been in.

Everyone seems to be getting together or breaking up, this year more than any other. The romantic landscape is reshaped every couple of weeks. I was in Michigan this weekend and the topic inevitably came up with some friends. And while talking with a few of my friends, I felt very strongly convicted of some truth I stumbled upon while stumbling around in other people's lives, that during a storm, lightning really strikes very few times.

Honestly, I'm in continual awe about how many relationships there actually are. These people all really like each other that much? There have only ever been two people in my life that so radically shifted my life into silly irresponsibility and illogicality, and only one of those people liked me in return at the same time. Of all the people I've met, over my (relatively short) life, only two -- TWO -- have completely distracted me. I find those odds a little insane.

On the flip side, it doesn't really worry me during those times where it's just me. Not that anyone enjoys being alone, but how many times do I expect - or want - to fall in love? If it happened all the time, would it be so devastatingly wonderful? I may only ever trip delightfully into the life of one other person -- but one is all I need.

; )

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Coffee Shop Karma

Yesterday, I got lunch at my new favourite coffee shop, the one I hang out at every work day morning and afternoon, before and after work. And as the owner/manager handed me my food he said, "And here's a brownie for a hard day's work."

I know I've more than paid for that brownie with my twice-daily visits to their shop, but it was an indulgently wonderful surprise.

Monday, November 09, 2009

2 Hours

The length of time I stared at the guy sitting in front of me on my Sunday morning flight from Detroit to Philadelphia, trying to recognize Ed Helm. In the end I decided that yes, I spent two hours six feet away from Andy Bernard from the Office.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


I will see some of my favourite people in the world in one of my favourite places in America. I'm so excited I can't even focus to pack.

Well, that's not true. That's just because I'm a procrastinator. But I am very excited.