Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Valley Wire - July 2013

Hollywood and the Great Escape
By Mary Beth Gentle

Hard work.  Long hours.  Too many Saturday morning little league games.  Whatever the reason may be, there comes a time that we all need a little escape at the end of the day.  For some of us that escape may be a night out on the town but for most of us it means curling up on the couch and settling in for a night in front of the Flat Screen.  Whether it be an old movie found while channel surfing, a new release streaming into your living room or an episode of a TV Favorite on your DVR; Hollywood makes it their business to provide you with the great escape. 

It may be more enlightening to come home from a long day of work or family wrangling and settle in with a classic novel or de-stress our lives with a little yoga but sometimes we just need to tune in and tune out.  I am not opposed to a good read or a little meditation but there are times when only Hollywood can provide the escape I need to shake off the day.  This past week my DVR provided me with quite a few options to escape my weary workday; a Cary Grant classic on TMC, a release from last year on Showtime and a new episode of summer television on the Syfy Channel. 

First up for my week of ‘couch potato’ time was the Cary Grant screwball comedy, My Favorite Wife.  Missing for seven years and presumed dead, a woman returns home on the day of her husband’s second marriage.  Cary Grant and Irene Dunn are the leads in this farce of concealed identities that takes you on a fun ride as the befuddled Cary Grant tries to untangle himself from a second marriage so he can reunite with his long lost love.  This one may not have been on the top ten list for screwball comedy greatness, but it provided the escape I needed and was a fun watch.

Next up in my weeks line up was last year’s underrated and subtle comedy-drama, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, staring Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt.  The story centers on a fisheries expert (McGregor) who is approached by a consultant (Blunt) to help realize a sheik’s vision of bringing the sport of fly-fishing to the desert and embarks on an upstream journey of faith to achieve a seemingly impossible task.  I have to admit that the only thing that drew me to this one was Ewan McGregor, but I was pleasantly surprised by the charming and quirky if not low-key adventure.  The main characters are soon caught in political power struggles and complicated relationships as they take a leap of faith and discover a little romance on the way.

And finally, I took a little escape into a few new episodes of the summer Sci-fi Series, Warehouse 13.  This show is in its fifth season and if you haven’t caught any of it yet, it is worth adding to your viewing list.  The premise of the series focuses on a couple of US Secret Service agents assigned to retrieve lost supernatural objects and return them to a the highly secure warehouse at any cost.  It is Sci-fi at it’s best with likable characters in well crafted storylines involving supernatural artifacts that pose all kinds of disastrous threats to mankind.  Sounds a little far-fetched but trust me it’s worth the ride and is a great escape.

So, no matter how hard the week may seem or how impossible relaxing with good book feels, you can always pop some popcorn and settle in to enjoy a little bit of an escape that only Hollywood can provide.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Valley Wire - March 2013

Hollywood and the Awards Season Wrap Up
By Mary Beth Gentle

The envelopes have all been opened, the statues handed out and red carpets rolled back up until next year.  The Award Season is over.  There were the big winners and there were those that were happy to just have been nominated.  One of the big winners this year was Screenwriter Annie DeYoung, recipient of the WGA Award for Children’s Long Form TV Movie, Girl vs. Monster.  Annie is the writer of many Disney Channel hits such as the Princess Protection Program, 16 Wishes and Starstruck.  She is not new to the Awards circuit, having previously won the acclaimed Christopher Award for The Ron Clark Story starring Matthew Perry and the Humanitas Award and WGA Award for the Disney Channel hit, Johnny Kapahalai: Back on Board.

For the big Award day Annie left the cold of Chicago behind and headed to sunny Los Angeles for the ceremony at the beautiful J.W. Marriott Hotel at L.A. Live in Downtown.  She hit the red carpet at the Writer’s Guild Awards where she posed for the slew of photographers.  The one place and the one time of the year that the Writer’s are the stars!  After the Awards were over I asked Annie a few questions.

What is your highlight from the WGA Awards?  
Inside the hall where the ceremony was going to be held, there were 76 tables.  I found my name at table 72, in far back corner.  Nathan Fillion, the host, was a tiny speck on the faraway stage.  There were two handsome guys seated next to me and I soon discovered I was dining with Mikke and Emmet Pierson, son and grandson of Frank Pierson, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Cool Hand Luke and Dog Day Afternoon.  Frank passed away in July, so Mikke and Emmet were there to honor him.  They aren't writers or directors or producers -- Mikke owns a surf & skate shop in Malibu called ZJ Boarding House, and Emmet is a MVP on Malibu High's water polo team -- but their father & grandfather, Frank, had been the President of the WGA for several years, so I felt like I was dining with Hollywood royalty.  When it came time for me to go backstage to get my award, I looked at the long walk from table 72 to that distant stage, considered my pretty-but-ill-fitting shoes, and decided to ask Emmet to escort me.  The highlight of my night was introducing such a cool, poised young guy from that stage.

What did you say in your acceptance speech?
I was standing backstage with Emmet and Ron McGee (who had done a rewrite on Girl vs. Monster,) waiting for Nathan to announce our award.  We were in a tiny little “living room” the show producers had created for people like us who are pre-set to go onstage.  There were some cool retro sofas, a make-up chair where one of the award presenters was having his nose powdered, and a refreshment table.  We could only see and hear the show going on just a few feet away on a cameraman’s small monitor.  We were relaxed, joking around, when suddenly, the curtain parted and Steven Spielberg walked in.  I’ll admit – I was star-struck.  I didn’t introduce myself, but I did watch him drink a cup of coffee and edit the speech he was going to give. Then Nathan announced our award and off we went to the stage and the lights and the podium.  It’s all a blur now, so I can’t quite remember what I said.  I can tell you what I wish I’d said:  “Thank you, WGA, for this award -- I respect all of you so much, and when this is over, I’d like to get your autographs.  All of them.  If you happen to be a seven-to-eleven year old girl, you might want mine too.  Maybe you’ve never seen a Disney Channel Original Movie – or maybe you were forced to watch Girl vs. Monster with your nine-year-old niece.  I hope it wasn’t too excruciating for you.  I mean, if I knew you would be watching, I would have suggested having a cocktail or two… or three. The characters in Girl vs. Monster didn’t hunt for Osama Bin Laden or free hostages or abolish slavery.  They were normal kids – okay, with perfect skin and really great hair and awesome singing voices – who faced their greatest fears and inspired the trust of their parents.  Thank you for trusting me to entertain your children.”

Do you feel the WGA nomination and winners were a fair representation of the films of 2012?
There were so many terrific films this year, and there are always a few I think are unfairly bypassed when award nominations are announced.  The Avengers immediately comes to mind this year.  It was easily one of the best scripts of the year, but being in the super-hero/summer-blockbuster category didn't help its chances when it comes to award nominations.  Of all of the scripts and films that were nominated, Cloud Atlas was one I feel deserved more recognition than it received.  It's one of those polarizing films -- some love it, some hate it.  It was an ambitious project -- maybe impossible to do in a way that would please everyone -- but as a screenwriter, I admired it.  I felt the same way about Moonrise Kingdom.  I adored it for its originality.  

What does winning this award mean to you/for you?
Winning an award for writing -- any kind of writing -- is incredibly exciting, probably because writers work alone so much of the time. The WGA Award is a special honor because the people who vote are other screenwriters.  Peer recognition is always a good thing.

For Annie DeYoung and all the other writers nominated this past year – I would like to say thank you for making us laugh until our sides split, for making us cry through a box of tissues and for being the real stars of the wonderful world of entertainment.  

Friday, March 1, 2013

Bowie Wisdom

I don't know where I'm going from here, but I promise it won't be boring. - David Bowie

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Virginia Woolf on Writing

Every secret of a writer's soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind is written large in his works.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Valley Wire - January 2012

Hollywood Begins Again By Mary Beth Gentle
The Holidays have ended. The Decorations have all been crammed back into their boxes. And it’s time to draft our New Year’s Resolutions. A New Year brings with it the chance to begin again. It is the opportunity to change the direction of our lives and carve out a bright new future. With one piece of paper and a pen we can create a list to help us achieve our goals. It is a list of lofty goals that will allow us to soar to new heights and realize our dreams. Okay, maybe it’s not all that, but it is at the very least a chance to trick ourselves into exercise and diet improvements for a couple of months. For this Hollywood Cube Dweller it means dusting off last years resolution list and seeing where I succeeded and where I failed. Last year’s list contained the required three resolutions; go to the gym, eat healthy, spend time with family and friends. Okay, I made all of those attempts and did fairly well. The rest of the list may have well said scale Mount Everest and take a rocket ship to the moon. They were too grand and too lofty. I never stood a chance. This year I have decided to make a Resolution list that is attainable. It will be a list of realistic goals that I won’t bury somewhere in the sea of lists on my refrigerator. I will not list my goal to run a major motion picture studio by next Thursday nor will I list my goal to attend the Academy Awards with Brad Pitt. This year I will make a list that is based in reality. It will start with the standards: 1. Get myself to the gym at least three times a week. 1. Reality check. Get myself to the gym at least twice a week. 2. Stick to my diet and eat healthier. 3. Spend more time with my family and friends. Okay. Now that those are out of the way, I can get down to serious business for my other resolutions: 4. Write my Valley Wire articles in a timely manner (I throw this on every year for your editor – I like to give him a good laugh). 5. Watch things on my DVR in a timely manner to keep my available percentage rate higher than 10% - very important. 6. See a new movie at least once a week - so I can join in the movie talk around the cubicles. Those are all attainable goals. These are things I am already working on and having them on a list should help me stay focused. I’m ready; this is going to be the best New Year ever. All goals are on track and ready to be achieved. But, am I really using the list to it’s full potential? Will the things on my list push be to reach my full potential? Is there a happy medium between a list full of lofty unrealistic goals and a list that only covers the basics? 7. Finish my website – this feels like a goal worthy of my New Year’s list. 8. Get my Novel published – if you don’t put it on the list it will never happen, right? 9. Jet to Paris for a week – a girl has to dream! Now that feels like a list that is ready to take on the New Year! If you haven’t made your resolution list yet – it’s never too late! Happy 2012 everyone!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Life of a Writer

The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true.
John Steinbeck