12.31.2011

NYT: Tilda Swinton

The New York Times has a nice interview with Oscar-winner Tilda Swinton. Here's a sample:

“Starting to imagine or to notice how inscrutable we all are to one another, that’s where my interest in wanting to be a performer came from,” she says. Referring to the central incident in “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” and perhaps to many another contemporary horror, she continues: “People perpetrate atrocities and other people say, ‘We didn’t see it coming.’ The idea that people actually wear themselves on their faces seems to me to be less real than what life actually is, which is a series of concealments and containments.

“These surfaces and veils exist,” she continues, warming to her theme. “We take off one for one person, and several for another. But there is always a difference between what you show to others and what you show to yourself in the mirror.”

12.22.2011

Three Christmas Movies

I recently watched the 1988 cult classic Christmas movie Scrooged. I had been wanting to see it for many years, but simply never had the chance to actually sit down and watch it fully. Everyone I spoke to told me it was one of the funniest Christmas movies and one of Bill Murray's best films. I agree on both counts. The plot is basically the same plot as A Christmas Carol with a bit of a twist. The story follows the protagonist, Frank Cross, through his past, present, and future. Bill Murray was quite funny though I felt that Carol Kane stole the show in the comedy department. Her portrayal of an abusive Ghost of Christmas Present really made the film. In the end Bill Murray continues to deliver as the lovable jerk. This one will certainly be going on my list of favorite Christmas classics.

When it comes to my generation's idea of Christmas classics, nothing compares to 1990's Home Alone. Macaulay Culkin lived out every child's dream as the rambunctious Kevin McCallister, who is left behind when his family leaves for a family Christmas vacation. Kevin gets into every sort of mischievous thing that an 8 year old boy left to his own devices could get into. Of course the plot thickens when two house robbers stake out his house as their next conquest. Leave it to Kevin McCalliser to make those guys wish they had never set foot on his doorstep. In traditional John Hughes fashion this film is both funny and heartfelt. I can't think of a better movie to watch at Christmas or on any other day of the year.

2003's Love Actually was the perfect homage to classic Christmas romances. It follows eight completely different people through their last month before Christmas in London, England. When it comes to ensemble casts, this one is perfection. There isn't s single actor that I would recast in this film. Alan Rickman gives one of his best performances as the confused husband of Emma Thompson. For Colin Firth, this was the best possible career decision as his follow up romantic comedy to Bridget Jone's Diary. No romantic comedy set in England would be complete without the illustrious Hugh Grant. Hugh did what Hugh does best and he delivered it with spectacular charm. I can't say enough good things about this movie and of course it is a film that graces my personal collection.

This post was written by Teresa Skibinski.

12.20.2011

Review: The Family Stone

The Family Stone (2005) explores the complicated relationships of family members during a Christmas week when Everett (Dermot Mulroney) brings his girlfriend Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker) home to meet his eccentric and opinionated family with the intention of proposing. Meredith, who seems confident in the opening sequence in New York, loses any semblance of self-assuredness in the presence of Everett’s family. She calls her sister Julie (Claire Danes) to help her get through the holiday.


The family is headed by Kelly (Craig T. Nelson) and Sibyl (Diane Keaton). Sibyl has promised her mother’s wedding ring to the woman Everett marries, but she disapproves of his choice and reneges on the promise. Youngest sister Amy (Rachel McAdams) also disapproves and makes no attempt to hide her antipathy for Meredith. Thad, the deaf gay son, and his partner Patrick seem willing to give the newcomer a chance, if only because of the hard time Amy had initially given Patrick. Luke Wilson plays Ben, the brother who seems to appreciate and understand Meredith in ways that elude Everett.


The characters make astute observations about each other that suggest a level of insight not usually allowed characters in ensembles in romantic comedies. Ben instantly recognizes that Everett doesn’t love Meredith. Kelly realizes that Meredith’s insecurity suggests that Everett lacks self-awareness.

There are some nice visual parallels in the movie. Ben sees Meredith at the top of the stairs and is instantly smitten; later, Everett sees Julie at the top of the (much shorter) stairs in the bus and is similarly smitten.


When The Family Stone was originally released, a number of reviews expressed the opinion that the Stones were awful people while Meredith was the only well-behaved one. Kelly makes a similar observation about Meredith’s manners in a private scene with Sibyl, who shoots back that anyone can have manners if adequately trained (the actual line is funnier... and crude).


But Meredith’s manners are far from perfect. She justifies Amy’s complaint that she talks incessantly, giving no one else a chance to speak. During a dinner conversation, she makes comments that would be considered politically incorrect under normal circumstances, but which wander into the realm of rudeness with Thad and Patrick at the table. It’s left to Ben to humanize her, and Wilson is perfect in this role. He is nowhere near the best actor in the cast, but he has the right brand of charm to make the character perfectly imperfect.


The main nod to tired movie tropes in The Family Stone is Meredith’s hair, tightly wound into a bun in the beginning of the film and remaining that way until after Ben gets her to drink a few beers. Her hair is let down, and she loosens up. Perhaps it’s expected, but most of the rest of the movie seems to expect the audience to be smarter than that.


This is not a movie for young children, and even some older children may be bored by some of the scenes. Teenagers and adults who like movies about complicated relationships may find this a welcome addition to their Christmas movie traditions.



This post was written by L.R. Simon.

12.15.2011

Lists and Awards, 2011

The end of the year marks the beginning of Year's Best Films lists and Awards Season. Roger Ebert lists what he thinks were the year's 20 best films here.

Ebert's old reviewing partner, Richard Roeper, lists his top 11 films.

Peter Travers compiles Rolling Stone's list of the 10 best films here.

David Denby's list for The New Yorker is here.

The A.V. Club's list is here.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

For a different kind of list, The Atlantic has a slide show of its own idiosyncratic categories for the year in movies. A few examples:

Best Political Film: The Muppets
Most Unnecessary Literary Adaptation: The Three Musketeers in 3D
Best Foreign Film That You Can't See Yet: A Separation

There are many other entries on this fun list, with plenty to discuss and argue about with friends.

12.14.2011

SAG Award Nominations

The nominations for the Screen Actors Guild Awards were announced today. Here is the complete list, with CoyoteMoon Films' Howard Allen's preferences listed first (and sometimes second). Do you agree? Disagree? Leave a comment!

18th ANNUAL SCREEN ACTORS GUILD AWARDS® NOMINATIONS

THEATRICAL MOTION PICTURES

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role

BRAD PITT / Billy Beane - "MONEYBALL" (Columbia Pictures)

JEAN DUJARDIN / George - "THE ARTIST" (The Weinstein Company)

DEMIÁN BICHIR / Carlos Galindo - “A BETTER LIFE” (Summit Entertainment)

GEORGE CLOONEY / Matt King - "THE DESCENDANTS” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

LEONARDO DiCAPRIO / J. Edgar Hoover - "J. EDGAR" (Warner Bros. Pictures)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role

VIOLA DAVIS / Aibileen Clark - “THE HELP” (DreamWorks Pictures / Touchstone Pictures)

MICHELLE WILLIAMS / Marilyn Monroe - “MY WEEK WITH MARILYN” (The Weinstein Company)

GLENN CLOSE / Albert Nobbs - "ALBERT NOBBS” (Roadside Attractions)

MERYL STREEP / Margaret Thatcher - “THE IRON LADY” (The Weinstein Company)

TILDA SWINTON / Eva - “WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN” (Oscilloscope Laboratories)

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role

KENNETH BRANAGH / Sir Laurence Olivier - “MY WEEK WITH MARILYN” (The Weinstein Company)

ARMIE HAMMER / Clyde Tolson - "J. EDGAR" (Warner Bros. Pictures)

JONAH HILL / Peter Brand - "MONEYBALL" (Columbia Pictures)

NICK NOLTE / Paddy Conlon - “WARRIOR” (Lionsgate)

CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER / Hal - “BEGINNERS” (Focus Features)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role

OCTAVIA SPENCER / Minny Jackson - “THE HELP” (DreamWorks Pictures / Touchstone Pictures)

JANET McTEER / Hubert Page - "ALBERT NOBBS” (Roadside Attractions)

BÉRÉNICE BEJO / Peppy - "THE ARTIST" (The Weinstein Company)

JESSICA CHASTAIN / Celia Foote - “THE HELP” (DreamWorks Pictures / Touchstone Pictures)

MELISSA McCARTHY / Megan - “BRIDESMAIDS” (Universal Pictures)

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture

THE HELP (DreamWorks Pictures / Touchstone Pictures)

JESSICA CHASTAIN / Celia Foote ; VIOLA DAVIS / Aibileen Clark ; BRYCE DALLAS HOWARD / Hilly Holbrook ; ALLISON JANNEY / Charlotte Phelan ; CHRIS LOWELL / Stuart Whitworth ; AHNA O’REILLY / Elizabeth Leefolt ; SISSY SPACEK / Missus Walters ; OCTAVIA SPENCER / Minny Jackson ; MARY STEENBURGEN / Elaine Stein ; EMMA STONE / Skeeter Phelan ; CICELY TYSON / Constantine Jefferson ; MIKE VOGEL / Johnny Foote

THE ARTIST (The Weinstein Company)

BÉRÉNICE BEJO / Peppy : JAMES CROMWELL / Clifton ; JEAN DUJARDIN / George ; JOHN GOODMAN / Al Zimmer ; PENELOPE ANN MILLER / Doris

BRIDESMAIDS (Universal Pictures)

ROSE BYRNE / Helen ; JILL CLAYBURGH / Annie’s Mom ; ELLIE KEMPER / Becca ; MATT LUCAS / Gil ; MELISSA McCARTHY / Megan ; WENDI McLENDON-COVEY / Rita ; CHRIS O’DOWD / Rhodes ; MAYA RUDOLPH / Lillian ; KRISTEN WIIG / Annie

THE DESCENDANTS (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

BEAU BRIDGES / Cousin Hugh ; GEORGE CLOONEY / Matt King ; ROBERT FORSTER / Scott Thorson ; JUDY GREER / Julie Speer ; MATTHEW LILLARD / Brian Speer ; SHAILENE WOODLEY / Alexandra King

MIDNIGHT IN PARIS (Sony Pictures Classics)

KATHY BATES / Gertrude Stein ; ADRIEN BRODY / Salvador Dali ; CARLA BRUNI / Museum Guide ; MARION COTILLARD / Adriana ; RACHEL McADAMS / Inez ; MICHAEL SHEEN / Paul ; OWEN WILSON / Gil

PRIMETIME TELEVISION

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries

JAMES WOODS / Richard Fuld - “TOO BIG TO FAIL” (HBO)

LAURENCE FISHBURNE / Thurgood Marshall - “THURGOOD” (HBO)

PAUL GIAMATTI / Ben Bernanke - “TOO BIG TO FAIL” (HBO)

GREG KINNEAR / Jack Kennedy - “THE KENNEDYS” (REELZ CHANNEL)

GUY PEARCE / Monty Beragon - “MILDRED PIERCE“ (HBO)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries

KATE WINSLET / Mildred Pierce - “MILDRED PIERCE” (HBO)

MAGGIE SMITH / Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham - “DOWNTON ABBEY” (PBS)

DIANE LANE / Pat Loud - “CINEMA VERITE” (HBO)

EMILY WATSON / Janet Leach - “APPROPRIATE ADULT” (Sundance Channel)

BETTY WHITE / Caroline Thomas - “HALLMARK HALL OF FAME: THE LOST VALENTINE” (CBS)

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series

STEVE BUSCEMI / Enoch “Nucky” Thompson - “BOARDWALK EMPIRE” (HBO)

MICHAEL C. HALL / Dexter Morgan - “DEXTER” (Showtime)

PATRICK J. ADAMS / Mike Ross - “SUITS” (USA)

KYLE CHANDLER / Eric Taylor - “FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS” (DirecTV)

BRYAN CRANSTON / Walter White - “BREAKING BAD” (AMC)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series

JESSICA LANGE / Constance - “AMERICAN HORROR STORY” (FX)

JULIANNA MARGULIES / Alicia Florrick - “THE GOOD WIFE” (CBS)

KATHY BATES / Harriet Korn - “HARRY’S LAW” (NBC)

GLENN CLOSE / Patty Hewes - “DAMAGES” (DirecTV)

KYRA SEDGWICK / Dept. Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson - “THE CLOSER” (TNT)

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series

TY BURRELL / Phil Dunphy - “MODERN FAMILY” (ABC)

ERIC STONESTREET / Cameron Tucker - “MODERN FAMILY” (ABC)

ALEC BALDWIN / Jack Donaghy - “30 ROCK” (NBC)

STEVE CARELL / Michael Scott - “THE OFFICE” (NBC)

JON CRYER / Alan Harper - “TWO AND A HALF MEN” (CBS)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series

TINA FEY / Liz Lemon - “30 ROCK” (NBC)

SOFIA VERGARA / Gloria Delgado-Pritchett - “MODERN FAMILY” (ABC)

JULIE BOWEN / Claire Dunphy - “MODERN FAMILY” (ABC)

EDIE FALCO / Jackie Peyton - “NURSE JACKIE” (Showtime)

BETTY WHITE / Elka Ostrovsky - “HOT IN CLEVELAND” (TV Land)

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series

BOARDWALK EMPIRE (HBO)

STEVE BUSCEMI / Enoch “Nucky” Thompson ; DOMINIC CHIANESE / Leander Cephas Whitlock ; ROBERT CLOHESSY / Ward Boss Jim Neary ; DABNEY COLEMAN / Commodore Louis Kaestner ; CHARLIE COX / Owen Sleater ; JOSIE & LUCY GALLINA / Emily Schroeder ; STEPHEN GRAHAM / Al Capone ; JACK HUSTON / Richard Harrow ; ANTHONY LACIURA / Eddie Kessler ; HEATHER LIND / Katy ; KELLY MACDONALD / Margaret Schroeder ; RORY & DECLAN McTIGUE / Teddy Schroeder ; GRETCHEN MOL / Gillian Darmody ; BRADY & CONNOR NOON/ Tommy Darmody ; KEVIN O’ROURKE / Mayor Edward Bader ; ALEKSA PALLADINO / Angela Darmody ; JACQUELINE PENNEWILL / Lilian ; VINCENT PIAZZA / Lucky Luciano ; MICHAEL PITT / Jimmy Darmody ; MICHAEL SHANNON / Agent Nelson Van Alden ; PAUL SPARKS / Mickey Doyle ; MICHAEL STUHLBARG / Arnold Rothstein ; PETER VAN WAGNER / Isaac “Icky” Ginsburg ; SHEA WHIGHAM / Sheriff Elias Thompson ; MICHAEL KENNETH WILLIAMS / Chalky White ; ANATOL YUSEF / Meyer Lansky

BREAKING BAD (AMC)

JONATHAN BANKS / Mike ; BETSY BRANDT / Marie Schrader ; RAY CAMPBELL / Tyrus Kitt ; BRYAN CRANSTON / Walter White ; GIANCARLO ESPOSITO / Gus Fring ; ANNA GUNN / Skyler White ; RJ MITTE / Walter White, Jr. ; DEAN NORRIS / Hank Schrader ; BOB ODENKIRK / Saul Goodman ; AARON PAUL / Jesse Pinkman

DEXTER (Showtime)

BILLY BROWN / Chicago Mike ; JENNIFER CARPENTER / Debra Morgan ; JOSH COOKE / Louis ; AIMEE GARCIA / Jamie Batista ; MICHAEL C. HALL / Dexter Morgan ; COLIN HANKS / Travis Marshall ; DESMOND HARRINGTON / Joey Quinn ; RYA KIHLSTEDT / Michelle ; C.S. LEE / Vince Masuka ; EDWARD JAMES OLMOS / Professor Gellar ; JAMES REMAR / Harry Morgan ; LAUREN VELEZ / Lt. Maria LaGuerta ; DAVID ZAYAS / Sgt. Angel Batista

GAME OF THRONES (HBO)

AMRITA ACHARIA / Irri ; MARK ADDY / King Robert Baratheon ; ALFIE ALLEN / Theon Greyjoy ; JOSEF ALTIN / Pypar ; SEAN BEAN / Lord Eddard “Ned” Stark ; SUSAN BROWN / Septa Mordane ; EMILIA CLARKE / Daenerys Targaryen ; NIKOLAJ COSTER-WALDAU / Ser Jaime Lannister ; PETER DINKLAGE / Tyrion Lannister ; RON DONACHIE / Ser Rodrik Cassel ; MICHELLE FAIRLEY / Lady Catelyn Stark ; JEROME FLYNN / Bronn ; ELYES GABEL / Rakharo ; AIDAN GILLEN / “Littlefinger” Petyr Baelish ; JACK GLEESON / Joffrey Baratheon ; IAIN GLEN / Ser Jorah Mormont ; JULIAN GLOVER / Grand Maester Pycelle ; KIT HARINGTON / Jon Snow ; LENA HEADEY / Queen Cersei Lannister ; ISAAC HEMPSTEAD WRIGHT / Bran Stark ; CONLETH HILL / Lord Varys ; RICHARD MADDEN / Robb Stark ; JASON MOMOA / Khal Drogo ; RORY McCANN / Sandor Clegane ; IAN McELHINNEY / Barristan Selmy ; LUKE McEWAN / Rast ; ROXANNE McKEE / Doreah ; DAR SALIM / Qotho ; MARK STANLEY / Grenn ; DONALD SUMPTER / Maester Luwin ; SOPHIE TURNER / Sansa Stark ; MAISIE WILLIAMS / Arya Stark

THE GOOD WIFE (CBS)

CHRISTINE BARANSKI / Diane Lockhart ; JOSH CHARLES / Will Gardner ; ALAN CUMMING / Eli Gold ; MATT CZUCHRY / Cary Agos ; JULIANNA MARGULIES / Alicia Florrick ; CHRIS NOTH / Peter Florrick ; ARCHIE PANJABI / Kalinda Sharma ; GRAHAM PHILLIPS / Zach Florrick ; MAKENZIE VEGA / Grace Florrick

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series

MODERN FAMILY (ABC)

AUBREY ANDERSON-EMMONS / Lily ; JULIE BOWEN / Claire ; TY BURRELL / Phil ; JESSE TYLER FERGUSON / Mitchell ; NOLAN GOULD / Luke ; SARAH HYLAND / Haley ; ED O’NEILL / Jay ; RICO RODRIGUEZ / Manny ; ERIC STONESTREET / Cameron ; SOFIA VERGARA / Gloria ; ARIEL WINTER / Alex

30 ROCK (NBC)

SCOTT ADSIT / Pete Hornberger ; ALEC BALDWIN / Jack Donaghy ; KATRINA BOWDEN / Cerie ; KEVIN BROWN / Dotcom ; GRIZZ CHAPMAN / Grizz ; TINA FEY / Liz Lemon ; JUDAH FRIEDLANDER / Frank Rossitano ; JANE KRAKOWSKI / Jenna Maroney ; JOHN LUTZ / Lutz ; JACK MCBRAYER / Kenneth Parcell ; TRACY MORGAN / Tracy Jordan ; MAULIK PANCHOLY / Jonathan ; KEITH POWELL / Toofer

THE BIG BANG THEORY (CBS)

MAYIM BIALIK / Amy Farrah Fowler ; KALEY CUOCO / Penny ; JOHNNY GALECKI / Leonard Hofstadter ; SIMON HELBERG / Howard Wolowitz ; KUNAL NAYYAR / Rajesh Koothrappali ; JIM PARSONS / Sheldon Cooper ; MELISSA RAUCH / Bernadette Rostenkowski

GLEE (FOX)

DIANNA AGRON / Quinn Fabray ; CHRIS COLFER / Kurt Hummel ; DARREN CRISS / Blaine Anderson ; ASHLEY FINK / Lauren Zizes ; DOT MARIE JONES / Coach Beiste ; JANE LYNCH / Sue Sylvester ; JAYMA MAYS / Emma Pillsbury ; KEVIN McHALE / Artie Abrams ; LEA MICHELE / Rachel Berry ; CORY MONTEITH / Finn Hudson ; HEATHER MORRIS / Brittany Pierce ; MATTHEW MORRISON / Will Schuester ; MIKE O’MALLEY / Burt Hummel ; CHORD OVERSTREET / Sam Evans ; LAUREN POTTER / Becky Johnson ; AMBER RILEY / Mercedes Jones ; NAYA RIVERA / Santana Lopez ; MARK SALLING / Noah ‘Puck’ Puckerman ; HARRY SHUM, JR. / Mike Chang ; IQBAL THEBA / Principal Figgins ; JENNA USHKOWITZ / Tina Cohen-Chang

THE OFFICE (NBC)

LESLIE DAVID BAKER / Stanley Hudson ; BRIAN BAUMGARTNER / Kevin Malone ; CREED BRATTON / Creed Bratton ; STEVE CARELL / Michael Scott ; JENNA FISCHER / Pam Beesly Halpert ; KATE FLANNERY / Meredith Palmer ; ED HELMS / Andy Bernard ; MINDY KALING / Kelly Kapoor ; ELLIE KEMPER / Erin Hannon ; ANGELA KINSEY / Angela Martin ; JOHN KRASINSKI / Jim Halpert ; PAUL LIEBERSTEIN / Toby Flenderson ; B.J. NOVAK / Ryan Howard ; OSCAR NUÑEZ / Oscar Martinez ; CRAIG ROBINSON / Daryll Philbin ; JAMES SPADER / Robert California ; PHYLLIS SMITH / Phyllis Lapin-Vance ; RAINN WILSON / Dwight Schrute ; ZACH WOODS / Gabe Lewis

SAG HONORS FOR STUNT ENSEMBLES

Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 2 (WARNER BROS. PICTURES)

THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU (UNIVERSAL PICTURES)

COWBOYS & ALIENS (UNIVERSAL PICTURES)

TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON (PARAMOUNT PICTURES)

X-MEN: FIRST CLASS (20TH CENTURY FOX)

Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Television Series

GAME OF THRONES (HBO)

DEXTER (SHOWTIME)

SOUTHLAND (TNT)

SPARTACUS: GODS OF THE ARENA (STARZ)

TRUE BLOOD (HBO)

LIFE ACHIEVEMENT AWARD

Screen Actors Guild Awards 48th Annual Life Achievement Award

MARY TYLER MOORE

12.13.2011

Review: Bad Santa

NOTE: This post is a review of the “Badder Santa” version of Bad Santa available on DVD.

We’re in the midst of the Christmas special season on television. For weeks now, Charlie Brown, Rudolph, Frosty, Virginia, and others have been spreading cheer designed for small children. If you’re an adult looking for a different kind of cheer, Bad Santa may have enough bitter and sour to balance the sweet that’s currently permeating the airwaves.

Billy Bob Thornton plays Willie, a professional safecracker and unprofessional mall Santa who swears, drinks, swears, has sex with any woman who’s willing, swears, drinks, and swears. He’s a wreck. His partner in crime, Marcus (Tony Cox), is the brains behind the operation. After the job that opens the movie, Willie thinks he’s got enough money to retire to Miami. Marcus predicts that Willie will drink his share and need to do another job next year. Obviously Marcus is correct, or there wouldn’t be a movie.

At the next job, Willie encounters a shy 8-year-old boy (Brett Kelly) who’s the object of bullying. The scenes with the kid avoid the saccharine sweetness and unearned redemption that might be expected from lesser films depicting this kind of relationship. Willie’s too far gone to be redeemed completely, and “Bad Santa” leaves the audience somewhat concerned for the kid’s future with Willie as an important influence in his life.

Bad Santa features John Ritter and Bernie Mac in pivotal supporting roles. Despite the underwritten dialogue, the prickly relationship between Ritter’s prudish mall executive and Mac’s corrupt security chief provide both actors with ample opportunities to squeeze laughs out of lines that easily could have fallen flat. Ritter, in one of his last roles, steals nearly every scene he’s in.

The characters that populate Bad Santa don’t find the joy of Christmas that saved Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol and George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life. They find a different kind of joy, and they elicit laughs by engaging in behaviors not usually associated with the holiday season. If the usual Christmas movie is a mug of hot cocoa, Bad Santa is a fifth of gin.

This review was written by L.R. Simon

12.05.2011

Announcement

December 18

Society of Southwestern Authors Forum
The Tucson Sheraton Four Points on Speedway and Campbell in the conference center (south of the hotel). Program begins at 10 am.

Howard Allen will do his Presentation on the Storytelling Secrets of the Christmas Classic: It's A Wonderful Life

11.10.2011

Loft Film Fest

If you're in Tucson this week, the Loft Cinema is hosting its Film Festival today through the 17th. Featured films include Melancholia, Into the Abyss, Mozart's Sister, and the 10th anniversary of Donnie Darko, among many others. This is an excellent time to take advantage of the Loft's eclectic selection of films.

Quick update

Our Executive Producer, Nathan Shelton, is very busy with his production business (Desert Penguin Media) and will give us details soon.

Also look for updates from other CoyoteMoon Films people. We have much to look forward to.

11.04.2011

Faith-based films; The Mighty Macs

This post was written by our friends and colleagues, Mick and Vicki McCarville.

Faith-based, Christian-themed, inspirational. Whatever you call them, these movies are becoming very popular. The most influential movie that comes to mind is The Blind Side which grossed $256 million.

If you haven’t seen Soul Surfer with Anna Sophia Robb, Helen Hunt, and Dennis Quaid, go rent it. You will be awed.

Now The Mighty Macs is in the news and gaining momentum. Writer/director Tim Chambers said in a recent interview with Joseph Airdo of the Phoenix Movie Examiner:

As a filmmaker – and as a father – what I wanted to do in making this movie was give us a choice to say, “This is what we can go see this weekend as a family,” Chambers explains. Whether you are 8 or 88 years old, this is a movie that you can go see. I feel like the industry needs to give families more choices when it comes to the big screen.

I saw The Mighty Macs with my wife and another couple. We all agreed that we liked it. It is hard to explain why these movies keep working. Maybe it is just the good feeling one has walking out of the theater. Maybe it is the underdog factor or the simplicity.

Are these types of movies becoming popular because stories of character, honesty, integrity, perseverance and inspiration have been missing from our theaters?

10.30.2011

Shaun of the Dead

I shiver at the thought of ghosts in the hallway. I jump at an eerie howl coming from the distance. Blood, gore, goblins, and ghouls all make me weak at the knees. I refuse to watch horror films. I refuse to put myself through that kind of torture. So why is it that "Shaun of the Dead" is one of my all time favorite movies?

The story, my friends, the story is the answer. It’s not just about blood and zombies and blowing their heads to bits. I mean it is and it isn’t. The story is about living, in both senses of the word. I mean obviously they have to survive the zombie invasion but the main character, Shaun, also has to learn how to grow up and master the world around him; go out and get what he wants out of life instead of waiting for it to happen to him. Shaun (Simon Pegg) and Ed (Nick Frost) have such a natural relationship that it’s easy to join their world and share in their adventures. Pegg and Frost used to live together as flat mates so the dynamics you see between them are never forced. They are friends through and through but like all friends, their relationship isn’t perfect. Keeping reality in check, Shaun and Ed disagree and argue on several points throughout the film. Add in their roommate, Pete, Shaun’s love interest, Liz, and you’ve got all sorts of juicy conflict and witty dialogue.

The script, together with Edgar Wright’s direction and Chris Dickens’ editing makes for a visually stimulating goldmine. If you have the pleasure of watching “Hot Fuzz” you’ll notice the same editing techniques with fast action cuts and long uninterrupted shots. The romantic zombie comedy (rom zom com) also pays homage to several other zombie films of the past including but not limited to "Night of the Living Dead" (1968), "Dawn of the Dead" (1978), and "The Evil Dead" (1981). You can check out the references and some other cool trivia at http://www.neatorama.com/2009/01/18/movie-trivia-shaun-of-the-dead/. And don’t forget to follow the awesome Brit himself on Twitter http://twitter.com/#!/simonpegg. Pegg, Frost, and Wright have something brewing for their next project together so it’s best to stay in touch.

10.25.2011

Once Upon a Time

The ads for Once Upon a Time ran for months, touting the show’s pedigree (“From the writers of Lost”), and giving glimpses of Vancouver doubling for both the land of fairy tales and Storybrooke, Maine, a slightly off-looking small town that serves as the characters’ prison.

I loved Lost—I watched every episode and marveled at how the production designers made Hawaii look like any place in the world they needed it to be. However, the writing was uneven. At times wonderful, at times good, it too often relied too much on the actors to raise the dialogue above mediocrity. Some of that carries over to Once Upon a Time, but the cast is largely up to the task. However, I hesitate to judge the writing solely on the basis of the pilot because of the extensive amount of exposition this series seems to require. Also, Jane Espenson’s (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Gilmore Girls, Battlestar Galactica, Game of Thrones) presence as co-executive producer should help. (Read an interview with Espenson here.)

The production values are as high as anything you’ll see on television, and surpass those of some feature films. Vancouver was absolutely the right choice of location for this series. When we’re watching the fairy tale scenes, it looks like a richly illustrated book of children’s stories, and when we’re watching the Storybrooke scenes, it looks like a fairy tale character’s slightly off impression of our world. This is a beautiful show.

This brings us to the cast. When I initially saw the line-up, I couldn’t wait for the show to start. Ginnifer Goodwin (Big Love, Something Borrowed) makes a good Snow White, but she seems more effective in her Storybrooke role. Jennifer Morrison (House M.D., How I Met Your Mother, Star Trek) is very good as Emma Swan, and her character looks to have some interesting things to do in the coming weeks. Jared Gilmore (The Back-Up Plan, Mad Men), who plays Henry, had some awkward exposition in the premiere and did pretty well with it, but exposition is difficult and a few lines seemed a bit much for him. He has great promise, though.

Lana Parrilla (24, Boomtown, and two episodes of Lost) looks like she’s relishing every line and every scene. Her problem, though, is that her villainy is less menacing than that of another character, Rumpelstiltskin/Mr. Gold, played by Robert Carlyle (Trainspotting, The Full Monty, 28 Weeks Later). When Parrilla threatens first Snow White and then Emma Swan with “I will destroy you if it’s the last thing I do,” you believe she will die trying, but she’s so close to the evil queens in the Disney princess movies that you know eventually she will die trying and fail. Carlyle, on the other hand, can make your skin crawl by saying something trivial like “Enjoy your stay.” His portrayal of Rumpelstiltskin is the most physical performance on the show so far, and his scenes in both worlds give the show all of its edge and any uncertainty as to its eventual outcome. His presence on the show is great news for the audience.

While I think the pilot episode had some issues, it also had enough going for it to give the series a few more weeks before deciding whether to keep watching.

This post was written by LR Simon as part of an ongoing series of posts on horror/fantasy films and television series.

10.23.2011

Zombieland

Zombieland is a road picture. It’s a buddy picture (two buddy pictures, actually). It’s a romantic comedy (sort of). It’s a chase film. It’s a horror flick. It’s a post-apocalyptic survivor story.

The film is narrated by Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), who begins by setting up some of the future action with his rules of survival (cardio, beware of bathrooms, double tap). Columbus is leaving Austin, Texas to find his parents when he encounters Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), another survivor. Tallahassee’s approach to survival differs from (and sometimes complements) Columbus’.

Their humorously prickly friendship would not have been sufficient to carry the film. The writers wisely introduce Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), who provide a lot of the twists and turns of the story. They complicate matters for Columbus and Tallahassee several times, and the actresses both hold their own comedically with their co-stars.

The other stars of the film are the script and the sets. The script attempts to hit a lot of different notes and make them sound good together. Zombieland is not the only film to attempt a complicated mix of genres, but it is one of the few films that tries to be many things and succeeds. It never feels like it doesn’t know what kind of movie it wants to be.

Future set designers are advised to watch the special feature on the DVD that includes interviews with Zombieland’s production designer, Maher Ahmad. He discussed the challenges in making scenes look abandoned. He also talks about decisions he had to make in all the main locations, and some of the tricks he used to make it look like there were more props than there actually were.

There are scarier zombie movies than Zombieland, but this movie is more about establishing characters and relationships than scaring the audience. The zombie make-up, however, is very realistic and… unappetizing to look at, so viewers with especially weak stomachs should keep that in mind when deciding to watch. Still, Zombieland may be a good movie for people who think they don’t like zombie films. And if Contagion scared you, Zombieland might take the edge off.

This post was written by LR Simon as part of a series on horror films and television series.

10.22.2011

American Horror Story

FX has a new original series called American Horror Story that shows on Wednesday nights. It appears that Ryan Murphy has done it again as he is the creator of two other successful prime time shows, Nip/Tuck and Glee. American Horror Story stars Dylan McDermott (The Practice), Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights) and Jessica Lange. A husband and wife move with their daughter from Boston to Los Angeles for a fresh start. They had hoped to leave their evils behind simply to be introduced to a life that is far more ominous than they could have ever expected.

Out of the gate the show grabbed me. They get away with things on this show that I never would have thought possible on basic cable. The characters are some of the richest and most complex characters I've seen on TV in I don't know how long. One of the most interesting elements to the first two shows was that they used popular Bernard Herrmann scores as the basic score for the show. In the Pilot they used the suite from Vertigo and in the second episode ("Home Invasion") they used the suite from Psycho. Both scores were used in popular Alfred Hitchcock films. Using this technique seemed positively seamless like the scores were written for the scenes in American Horror Story. Each episode is like a mini movie and the audience completely forgets that they're watching a television show. At the end of each episode you're utterly confused, but dying for more.

FX premiered the show on October 4th, so if you aren't watching American Horror Story yet it's not too late to catch up. I can't say enough good things about this show and I highly recommend it to anyone that's a true horror far or just in the mood for something different.

This post was written by Teresa Skibinski.

This is the first in a series of posts about new fantasy/horror television series and movies, both current and classic.

10.17.2011

Lyrical Lifestyle

This post was written by CoyoteMoon Films' Megan Guthrie, producer and actor in "The 3 O'Clock," as well as host and producer of Lyrical Lifestyle on YouTube.

I am proud to announce that Holston United Methodist Home for Children has partnered with Lyrical Lifestyle to promote our interview with platinum recording artist, Rodney Atkins!

Links:
Rodney's Video
Rodney's Article
Holston United Methodist Home for Children Link

Also, please see our latest video and article link with Republic Nashville recording artist, Sunny Sweeney and Hunter Hayes (little known fact, Hunter was just six years old when he received his first guitar... And it was given to him by Academy Award-winning actor Robert Duvall).

Music fans, have you heard Blake Shelton's single, "God Gave Me You?" The hit is featured in Lyrical Lifestyle's latest section: Top Music Video Pick of the Week.

For more information on the story behind the music video where Blake discusses his wife Miranda Lambert visit The Boot. If you are interested in reading more of Rodney's adoption story check out the USA Today article.

Stay tuned for upcoming Lyrical Lifestyle interviews with Tracy Lawrence and top selling country artist of 2011, Jason Aldean!

Thank you for your support!

9.07.2011

Book or Film? - Samantha Christensen

This post was written by CoyoteMoon Films' Samantha Christensen as part of our ongoing discussion about watching movies based on novels.

When watching a movie based on a book do you prefer to watch the film first or read the book? Why?

In my younger days, I would always prefer to read the book first then see the movie that was made from it. However, my viewpoint has shifted I recent years. I have found that if I read the book first I will sit through the entire movie commenting to myself about inaccuracies, missing scenes, etc. That is not a good way to enjoy a movie. Now, when I watch a movie first, if I feel I got everything I needed from the story there is a good chance that I will not read the book at all. And if I do end up reading the book, it just adds to the story and fills in any informational gaps.

8.23.2011

Actor Moments

Note: This post is written by Howard Allen, founder of CoyoteMoon Films and ScriptDoctor.

=====

When I teach Screenwriting and work with my clients at ScriptDoctor, I tell them:

"With me you are getting a professional actor and director who is also a script analyst. Unlike any other script analyst I’ve met or read, my approach to writing and revision is inside out rather than outside in. Why? Because that’s what a good actor or director will look for in your script. This is not just the text, it’s the structures and the landscape you create in the Subtext that finally make a script pop, make it fly and make it sell to actors and directors. They look at how dynamic and exciting your story is in the Subtext -- not in how well you have applied some formulaic template for story to your script from the outside in."

In every action line, in every dialogue exchange, how much more is going on there than you see on the page? Directors and actors create the moment-by-moment reality of your screenplay and they are looking to see if you use Subtext. What are the characters trying to do that's not obviously being said? I recommend screenwriters take an acting class just to see how much is possible.

Aaron Sorkin was asked about writing The Social Network last year in Script Magazine. He liked the 14-page book proposal from Ben Mezrich’s publishers that he had a chance to read. He wanted in.

"Sorkin goes on to admit, “I didn’t know anything about Facebook any more than I know about a carburetor: I’ve heard the term, but I couldn’t open the hood of my car and point to it or tell you what it does.”

What drew him to the tale was its universal qualities. “The irony of it is, you could tell pretty much the same story about the invention of a really great toaster.

The story is as old as storytelling itself: friendship and loyalty. Jealousy and power. [emphasis added] Things Aeschylus or Shakespeare would have written about, or Paddy Chayefsky would have written about just a generation ago. Fortunately, none of them was available, so I got the job.”


I think his script did pretty well, don't you? It's because he works in the boldface areas above, in the Subtext: where directors and actors can make great Actor Moments out of the spaces he's given them in the script.

8.20.2011

Book or Film? - LR Simon

This post is the third in a series of CoyoteMoon Films people answering the question:


If a movie is being made from a book, do you make a point of reading the book first, or do you avoid reading the book before seeing the film?


I used to make sure to read books before seeing the movies based on them. I thought that reading the book would give me insight into the story and characters that I might not get just from the movie. Unfortunately, this also meant that I was unable to judge the movie on its own terms—there was always the book, informing me of subtle points that didn’t make it to the screen, or coloring my opinion of an actor’s performance.


I also thought that the movie would show me what someone else thought was important in the book. Watch the many adaptations of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and you’ll see several similar but different stories, some of which exclude important details. The Laurence Olivier version (from 1940), for example, omits Wickham’s attempt to elope with Darcy’s sister, a decision that probably is due to the Production Code; this omission, however, renders Wickham an almost decent fellow, and eliminates any reason Elizabeth has for changing her opinion of him or of Darcy.


Another reason I waited until after reading the book to see the movie is that I didn’t want the movie to spoil the ending of the book. I always thought it was worse to spoil the book. As I’ve matured, both as a filmgoer and as a novel reader, I’ve learned that a good story told well can stand up not only to multiple retellings, but also to having its secrets spilled. Return of the Jedi was spoiled for me just days before I saw it, but I don’t think my knowledge of the nature of Luke and Leia’s relationship diminished my opinion of the film (after all, that had nothing to do with the Ewoks). The Sixth Sense was spoiled for me within an hour of my seeing it, but I don’t think that my prior knowledge of that film’s big twist affected my ability to judge the film’s quality. I suppose I should finally get around to seeing The Crying Game.


Lately I’ve stopped trying to make sure to read the book first, in part because I have a to-read list that’s several miles long, but also because some books seem to be written with the eventual film adaptation in mind. Some writers seem able to combine cinematic elements with internal monologue, allowing filmmakers to see how the book can be made into film, while still giving the reader a satisfying experience. Dennis Lehane’s Mystic River featured scenes that seemed to have been written from a camera’s perspective, and these cinematic scenes play in the film essentially as they read on the page. But Lehane gives his book enough literary meat to keep it from reading like an early draft of a novelized screenplay. Some other writers don’t seem to possess that skill.


I’ve also found that reading a book can affect my decision to see any film based on it. For example, I found reading The Da Vinci Code to be a sufficient reason not to read other books by Dan Brown nor to see any film based on one of his books. He is no Umberto Eco. I find it doubtful that any of the wonderful film people associated with the films based on Brown’s books (and I have nothing by admiration for Ron Howard and Tom Hanks) could elevate that material without changing it wholesale, but if they made such drastic changes to the source, they’d lose the films’ built-in audience.

Book or Film? - Csenge Molnar

This is the second in an ongoing series of posts written by CoyoteMoon Films people answering the question:

If a movie is being made from a book, do you make a point of reading the book first, or do you avoid reading the book before seeing the film?

I typically see the movie before reading the book. I don't have a particular reason why, just mostly because before the movie comes out, all copies of the book it is based on are usually checked out. So it's better to wait until the 'hype' has died down. Another reason is that if the movie is interesting enough, I like to see/read what it was based off of.

--Csenge Molnar

8.16.2011

Book or Film?

Note: This is the first in a series of posts from CoyoteMoon Films people about how they approach the movie-going experience.

If a movie is being made from a book, do you make a point of reading the book first, or do you avoid reading the book before seeing the film? Why?

I do tend to try to read the book first. In the instance of the Hunger Games books I really want to finish the series before the movies come out. I generally do this because I feel that movies have a tendency to leave out important elements. They might not seem important at the time, but they make the story better in the long run. An example of this is in the movie Watchmen. The character Rorschach is a crucial character to the comic and he is written so clearly that he is undeniably the POV character. In the comic they go much more into his childhood, his life as an outsider and the reason his costume is so important to him. All that description might have seem unnecessary in the filmmaking process, but it was actually needed to complete the character. It was unclear at times who the POV character was in the film version and that made the movie long and confusing. Don't get me wrong, I think that the movie was good in its own right, but the characters just felt empty.

This is however not always the case. Very occasionally you run across a movie that is exponentially better than the book. Examples of this would be Dolores Claiborne, Stand By Me (The Body) and The Shawshank Redemption. Had I only read the books I don't think I would have run right out to see the movies. This just proves that if you can get the right people behind a movie they can make cinematic magic out of a mediocre script/novel.

Teresa Skibinski

8.06.2011

Meet the Crew

This is the first in a series of posts introducing members of the crew on CoyoteMoon Films' latest production, the short film The Three O'Clock, written by Michael Grady and directed by Howard Allen.



L R Simon, Still Photographer and Craft Services
Photograph by Kathleen Gradillas

I worked previously as a Production Assistant on CoyoteMoon Films' first short, Se Habla Español, so many of the lessons I learned on that film were reinforced or expanded on with The Three O'Clock. Some of those lessons apply to businesses other than film or art, such as: there is no job description--if something needs to be done and you're available to do it, then do it, and take pride in doing it. You build your reputation with every job and every task.

Because I documented both pre- and post-production on The Three O'Clock, I became much more aware of how important pre-production is than I was before. Watch the end credits roll on any film and you know that film-making requires teamwork and organization. The director needs to visit the set several times, and it helps to have producers and cinematographers and sound supervisors and other crew visit the set before production, especially if the director is relatively new to filmmaking. If everyone is aware of the issues with the set (for example, surfaces that might reflect equipment in the shot or ambient sounds from the air conditioner), then it's easier to prepare for those issues ahead of time. Time taken in pre-production is time saved on the set.

Working in Craft Services, I also saw first-hand that good food can make for a happy set, and happy sets seem to function better than gloomy or grumpy sets. After good story and good people who want to tell the story to the best of their abilities, good food may be one of the most important factors in ensuring a happy set. We saw to it that fresh fruit was available all day every day, along with breads, yogurt, snacks and drinks, and we made substantive and healthful lunches. We had regular traffic in the kitchen, despite the fact that the kitchen and the set were on different floors, and sound considerations made it inconvenient to leave the set for a snack.

I look forward to working on CoyoteMoon Films' next production.

8.03.2011

Howard Allen at IFP Phoenix

On August 18, Howard Allen will be speaking at IFP Phoenix's Screenwriters Group. The event will be held at the IFP Offices in Phoenix at 1700 North 7th Avenue (Suite 250) and is free of charge.

Howard will discuss several major screenwriting tools, including Dramatic Irony, Dramatic Action, Triangularity, and of course, Subtext, using the movie Juno for examples of each. He will also take questions about writing screenplays that are good and can be sold.

Be sure to check out IFP Phoenix's site on the event for more details.

7.18.2011

3D Movies: Three Specific Issues

Yesterday I saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 in 3D, and while I didn't think the third dimension added anything to the movie, it wasn't particularly distracting, either (except for one scene, which I'll discuss below). I did have a couple of issues with two of the trailers (for Glee and John Carter). I cannot say with certainty the degree to which these issues can be attributed to the fact that I sat much closer to the screen than usual, but if the viewer's location in the theater is a factor in the technology's watchability, then the technology still requires improvement.

I'll start with Glee 3D. The sequences on stage were difficult to watch, possibly because there was too much action and too much camera movement at the same time, or possibly because there were too many pieces of confetti. There were a couple of moments I had to cover my eyes. If there is a reason to shoot what amounts to a concert film in 3D, I don't know what it is. If concert films are supposed to be about the music, then please make sure that the sound is outstanding. Everything else should be a bonus, but the makers of this film seem to want the 3D to be the star of the show.

The trailer for John Carter works perfectly well in 2D. It has a couple of moments that don't work so well in 3D. At least once and probably twice, the trailer dissolves between clips. Dissolves are perfectly effective transitions in 2D, but I found them weird and distracting in 3D.

Early in HP7:pt2, there is a scene in which Harry talks with Ollivander. Harry is close to the camera and Hermione and Ron are in the background. The scene is shot with a narrow field of focus: Harry is sharp and clear, while Hermione and Ron are blurry. In 2D, this implies depth of field while forcing the audience to focus on Harry. In 3D, this narrow field of focus makes Hermione and Ron look like they're under some horrible spell that obliterates every feature of their faces. I can't speak for anyone else in the audience, but I had to force myself to look at Harry. Narrow field of focus may be one of the 2D camera effects that doesn't translate to 3D.

There were a few special effects that I thought didn't work quite as well as they ought (mostly clouds and smoke), but at the rate CGI technology advances, I expect it won't be long before those issues are worked out.

This post was written by LR Simon.

This is the first in a series of posts about 3D movie technology. Watch this blog for more discussion.

7.13.2011

Teaser

The Three o'Clock: More Photos


Howard Allen (Director), Cynthia Jeffrey (Actor), Jake Sutton (Sound),
Jim Scott (Cinematographer), and Mike Yarema (Actor)

Photo by LR Simon




Steve Bayless (Sound, Editor), Megan Guthrie (Producer, Actor), Howard Allen (Director), Jim Scott (Cinematographer), Lara Erman (Assistant Director), and Nathan Shelton (Line Producer)
Photo by Kathleen Gradillas



William F. Hubbard (Actor), Mike Yarema (Actor), Betsy Kruse Craig (Actor)
Photo by Kathleen Gradillas




Michael Grady (Writer)
Photo by LR Simon

(Photos Copyright 2011 by CoyoteMoon Films and the photographers. All applicable rights reserved. Use by permission.)

7.08.2011

Postproduction: The Three o'Clock













Howard Allen; photo by Kathleen Gradillas


Production is complete on CoyoteMoon Films' second short, The Three o'Clock, directed by Howard Allen and written by Michael Grady. Here are a few photographs from the set.




Lara Erman, Assistant Director
Photo by LR Simon






Megan Guthrie, Producer, Actor
Photo by LR Simon





Howard Allen, Nathan Shelton (Line Producer), and Michael Grady
Photo by LR Simon



(Photos Copyright 2011 by CoyoteMoon Films and the photographers. All applicable rights reserved. Use by permission.)

6.01.2011

ScriptDoctor's Contest of Contest Winners

FOR RELEASE:
April 15, 2011
ScriptDoctor.com
CONTACT: Howard Allen, thedoc@ScriptDoctor.com

The WINNERS of the CONTEST OF CONTEST WINNERS ™


There are dozens of screenwriting competitions held annually across the country. But which screenplay from among the winners of all of these quality competitions is the best of the best?

All of us at ScriptDoctor.com are amazed at the response – more than 50 entrants -- in this the sixth year of our Contest. To show our gratitude, we took the extra time and expense of getting two Writer Judge’s coverage-style evaluations sent to every single entrant in the Contest.

Who is the best of the best? The Contest of Contest Winners ™ hopes to answer that question and shine the spotlight on these accomplished, award-winning screenplays. A good showing in this contest proves your script stands out among the toughest competition. What a priceless marketing tool for your screenplay!

Our top ten Finalists also receive free Final Draft software.

Also as promised, we are directly contacting more than 200 publications, agencies and production companies with the names and screenplays of our 10 Finalists.

Our access to major studios and production companies is aided by the fact that many of our judges are working professionals. This includes ScriptDoctor (rated No. 1 in a national survey), Howard Allen. And Chris Haughom, who has been in the film business for over 25 years, starting out in the biz as Executive Assistant to the President of Filmways Pictures, Inc. Over the years, Chris evaluated scripts for AFI, CAA and many production companies, and also wrote many script novelizations. For the past 16 years, Chris has been a Judge for the Academy’s Nicholl Fellowships, reading over 250 scripts in a 4-month period each year. And Victoria Lucas with almost 20 years of experience as a development and production executive at both major studios and independent film companies.

Our First Place Winner receives the cash prize, storyboard software from FrameForge 3D, a free set of Story Notes from ScriptDoctor.com (valued at $700), as well as the prize given to the top ten Finalists.

We would like to thank our sponsors and the great response we got from all of the contest winners who entered. We remind everyone that some Entrants qualified just being Quarter-Finalists or Semi-Finalists in certain contests like the Nicholl Competition (see our web site for details).











And now our winner:

JENNA'S GONE
by Russ Meyer

When the waitress they both love goes missing, an untried deputy and an exceptional hunting guide strain their friendship tracking the kidnapper across the desert--each suspecting the other of playing a role in her disappearance.

Contact: tortoise@att.net


And our Finalist Winners in alphabetical order:

FINDING YOUR INNER DOG by Erna Mueller

Can a surly cop enter the gates of heaven? You bet: The Jerk Redemption Program. He just has to become his K-9 Partner dog first.

Contact: images9@comcast.net


JUST KILL ME ALREADY by Sundae Jahant-Osborn

A desperate down'n'out actor takes extreme and temporarily insane measures to make sure he wins the role of a lifetime. How? He hires a hitman to "eliminate" his competition.

Contact: wysiwygprod@compuserve.com


KING'S HEART by Svilen Kamburov

An extraordinary true story: a King risks everything to defy Hitler's Nazi Germany and make his small country the only nation in Europe to save its entire Jewish population.

Contact: svilenpk@yahoo.com


NEW MOMMY by Hamilton Mitchell

A boy falls for his baby sitter, and 12 years later--moving home from college--he discovers she’s going to marry his step-dad.

Contact: ham9875@aol.com


NORTH 40 by Timothy Jay Smith

A Special Ops soldier, whose grief over the loss of a son has torn his family apart, takes them on vacation hoping to relive happier times, when a perilous situation forces them to pull together to survive. Straw Dogs meets Ordinary People in this Hitchcockian suspense thriller.

Contact: timothysmith.paris@gmail.com


RED STAR by Ruth Johnson

She survived the un-survivable. The inspiring true story of Margaret Werner, the only American woman to endure the Gulag death camps in Stalinist Russia.

Contact: ruthiejohnsonofhb@gmail.com


TAKU'S QUEST by Michael Pallotta

An orphaned Japanese boy is chosen to thwart a diabolical scheme by the Lord of the UnderWorld ten years in his future.

Contact: pallotta_m@yahoo.ca


UNDERWOOD by Theresa Giese

While a teenage farm boy fights to save his family’s farm, a young squirrel battles his own fears to follow in his famous father’s footsteps. When their paths cross, both lives change in ways even they don’t truly understand.

Contact: bgiese@centurytel.net


WHEN TIGERS SLEEP by James Walker

In 2009, a Tamil boy arrives in London from Sri Lanka, having escaped the brutal civil war, but becomes embroiled in a violent Tamil gang instead.

Contact: jamesjmwalker@gmail.com


THE VOYEUR by John Bengel

An ethicist and college dean with a voyeurism obsession sees something that creates his ultimate ethical dilemma.

Contact: rbengel@ca.rr.com


And our Honorable Mention:

THE YUAN WIDE MOVIE by Wayne Diu

A fat kid unintentionally wreaks havoc in his hometown after a suspiciously not-so-random draw seals his fate: He will become the unfortunate student chosen to interview candidates in the upcoming election.

Contact: wayne@readmyscreenplay.com

5.31.2011

The Three O'Clock

Over the past two weekends, CoyoteMoon Films completed production on its second short film, "The Three O'Clock," written by Michael Grady and directed by Howard Allen.

CoyoteMoon Films would like to thank the production team, the cast, and everyone who made the film possible. We would also like to thank Madden Media for allowing us the use of their offices.

More updates about "The Three O'Clock" are forthcoming on this blog.

Howard Allen Q&A

Here's an excerpt from Howard Allen's Q&A from Script Magazine:

What is your core message or advice with regard to screenwriting?
I use a concept called Dramatic Action to insure writers (plays and novels too) make their POV character pro-active in an organic way. Passive Protagonists of all kinds are the biggest problem I see in client’s scripts. Even non-linear storytelling works best when the audience knows why the ending the movie is the ending of the story.


Watch this blog for more news from ScriptDoctor and CoyoteMoon Films.

5.18.2011

Quick update

CoyoteMoon Films begins production on its second short film, "The Three O'Clock," this Saturday. Production will take place over the two remaining weekends of this month. Watch this space for information regarding the release of this timely comedy.

5.02.2011

Howard Allen Q&A

CoyoteMoon Films' own Howard Allen is featured in a new Q&A at scriptmag.com. In it, he talks about the challenges of working in the film industry while not living and working in LA, how producing and directing films has given him new insights about writing for film, and marketing in the new economy, among other subjects.

3.29.2011

Elizabeth Taylor

With all the talk about Elizabeth Taylor lately, one thing might have been lost. And it's something we screenwriters appreciate even when we don't know why we do.

Look beyond her celebrity, which is something related to movie-making in only the most sideways fashion. She understood celebrity, and in later years used it to help the fight against AIDS for example. She came from a generation that married their boyfriends which led to far too many marriages and More celebrity. Also, her emotion-driven lifestyle related to her skills in making movies in a sideways manner.

Look at her performances: from National Velvet through The Mirror Crack'd. Both amazing for completely different reasons. In the first, she became a Movie Star in her first role as a child. In the last, she became a self-parody in the role of a "movie star." The first one has more to do with the art of acting and the last to do with the art of celebrity.

But I want you to look at a later movie where she was neither brilliant/amazing nor amazing/horrifying. I want you to look at a movie where she had a role that should have been boring in a script that was boring by filmmakers who depended on a great music score and pretty pictures of the beach to fill the screen.

As a professional director and actor before I was a writer and script analyst, I want you to look at her abilities as an actor. Audiences of actors first noticed from National Velvet on that here was an artist whose commitment to her character was so complete and intense that it seemed effortless. All the intensity was there but none of the "work" was showing. Critics said, "Well the character of Velvet Brown was just ever so close to the personality of young Elizabeth Taylor." Critics are famous for this mistake.

Now look at The Sandpiper, the movie with the beach scenes and the great music score. Elizabeth Taylor gives the same commitment to a character here. Playing the home-wrecker girlfriend to the married preacher Richard Burton (her husband at the time), Taylor keeps you involved in a story that suffered from a melodramatic premise and a potful of writers (including Dalton Trumbo)--always a dangerous sign. Director Vincente Minnelli knew enough to let Elizabeth do her thing.

Her one-to-one connection with character leaps off the screen. Always. Every role. There's a fascination in this that goes beyond the strength and weakness of the material. Every writer whose work she interpreted on film--including William Shakespeare--owes her a couple thank-yous. She made unforgettable yet totally honest choices for her character that make the script eminently involving. She made a big difference in The Comedians too.

Try watching someone else do Martha in Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? and you'll know why writers--including Edward Albee--should thank Elizabeth and actors knew they were doing well just to keep up with her.



This post was written by Howard Allen.
Edited 3/31/11

3.22.2011

Links

CoyoteMoon Films' Megan Guthrie has a new interview with Steve Holy at Lyrical Lifestyle. The interview can also be viewed on YouTube.

Anyone who has taken a screenwriting class from Howard Allen knows that the main character of a film is not necessarily the protagonist. John August explains in his blog here, with Ferris Bueller's Day Off as the example.

3.18.2011

New project

CoyoteMoon Films is working on a new short film, "The Three O'Clock," and we've started work on preproduction. Last week, we held a meeting about the storyboarding of the film.



In attendance were Csenge Molnar (CoyoteMoon Films' storyboard artist), Howard Allen (CMF founder and director of the film), Jim Scott (cinematographer), and Megan Guthrie (storyboard artist and producer).



Howard Allen discusses some of the finer points of the script.














Csenge Molnar listens for ideas on storyboarding a scene.






























Megan Guthrie goes over the script.




Photographs by LR Simon.

3.10.2011

Independent Spirit Awards

The recipients of the Independent Spirit Awards were announced on February 26, 2011. Here are some of the nominees and winners of the major categories:

BEST FEATURE
127 Hours
Black Swan (winner)
Greenberg
The Kids Are All Right
Winter’s Bone

BEST DIRECTOR
Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan (winner)
Danny Boyle, 127 Hours
Lisa Cholodenko, The Kids Are All Right
Debra Granik, Winter’s Bone
John Cameron Mitchell, Rabbit Hole

BEST FIRST FEATURE
Everything Strange and New
Get Low (winner)
The Last Exorcism
Night Catches Us
Tiny Furniture

JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD
Daddy Longlegs (winner)
The Exploding Girl
LBS.
Lovers of Hate
Obselidia

BEST SCREENPLAY
Lisa Cholodenko, Stuart Blumberg (The Kids Are All Right) (winner)
Debra Granik, Anne Rosselini (Winter’s Bone)
Nicole Holofcener (Please Give)
David Lindsay-Abair (Rabbit Hole)
Todd Solondz (Life During Wartime)

BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY
Diane Bell (Obselidia)
Lena Dunham (Tiny Furniture) (winner)
Nik Fakler (Lovely, Still)
Robert Glaudini (Jack Goes Boating)
Dana Adam Shapiro, Evan M. Wiener (Monogamy)

BEST FEMALE LEAD
Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
Greta Gerwig, Greenberg
Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone
Natalie Portman, Black Swan (winner)
Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine

BEST MALE LEAD
Ronald Bronstein, Daddy Longlegs
Aaron Eckhart, Rabbit Hole
James Franco, 127 Hours (winner)
John C. Reilly, Cyrus
Ben Stiller, Greenberg

BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE
Ashley Bell, The Last Exorcism
Dale Dickey, Winter’s Bone (winner)
Allison Janney, Life During Wartime
Daphne Rubin-Vega, Jack Goes Boating
Naomi Watts, Mother and Child

BEST SUPPORTING MALE
Bill Murray, Get Low
John Hawkes, Winter’s Bone (winner)
Samuel L. Jackson, Mother and Child
John Ortiz, Jack Goes Boating
Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right

BEST FOREIGN FILM
The King’s Speech (winner)
Kisses
Mademoiselle Chambon
Of Gods and Men
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

ACURA SOMEONE TO WATCH AWARD
Mike Ott, Littlerock (winner)
Laurel Nakadate, The Wolf Knife
Hossein Keshavarz, Dog Sweat

The Academy Awards get most of the attention each year, but the films nominated for Spirit Awards will usually tell you stories that you might find more challenging, more interesting, and more satisfying. The complete list of nominees and winners of the Spirit Awards can be found here.

2.21.2011

Alan Rickman

Alan Rickman turned 65 today, February 21. To today's film audiences, he is probably best known as Snape in the Harry Potter franchise. While one of his earliest big breaks was as Hans Gruber in Die Hard, not long after, he starred in Truly Madly Deeply, a sweet romantic story about loss and life. If you've only ever seen him play villains or other sorts of dodgy or unlikeable characters, this film will introduce you to a kinder, gentler, and no less interesting Alan Rickman.

2.18.2011

Recommendation

CoyoteMoon Films recommends Pilar Alessandra. She is well known as a screenwriting instructor and script consultant. She has a writing program called On the Page and she has a series of podcasts as well.

2.15.2011

Free Film Screening at the Crossroads

From Victoria Westover at the University of Arizona:

Free Film Screening: Sci-Fi Meets Immigration Debate in Award Winning Sleep Dealer

University of Arizona Department of Spanish and Portuguese presents

FREE SCREENING: Sci-Fi Meets Immigration Debate in award winning film

This screening is part of the 21st Annual Graduate and Professional Symposium on Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian Literature, Language, and Culture

SLEEP DEALER, 2008, USA/Mexico, 90 mins.
In Spanish with English subtitles
IN PERSON: DIRECTOR ALEX RIVERA (Q&A and post screening reception)

Friday, February 18th, 7PM
Grand Cinemas Crossroads
4811 East Grant Road (Grant & Swan)

Adventurous, ambitious and ingeniously futuristic, "Sleep Dealer" is a welcome surprise. It combines visually arresting science fiction done on a budget with a strong sense of social commentary in a way that few films attempt, let alone achieve... - Kenneth Turan, The Los Angeles Times

Gorgeous, intelligent, and intensely imaginative, Alex Rivera’s stunning first feature, Sleep Dealer, is set in a near future marked by airtight international borders, militarized corporate warriors, and an underground class of node workers who plug their nervous systems into a global computer network that commodifies memory.

Memo Cruz is a young campesino who lives with his family in a town fighting for its life, the small, dusty farm village of Santa Ana del Rio, Oaxaca. A private company has hijacked control of the area’s water supply and is selling it back to the village at outrageous prices, provoking the mobilization of aqua-terrorist cells. But Memo couldn’t care less about Santa Ana. He loves technology and dreams of leaving his small pueblo to find work in the hi-tech factories of the big cities in the north. He dreams of becoming a node worker and learns how to build his own transmitter, which he uses to hack into the lives of others and live vicariously. One night, he stumbles across a transmission destined to pave the way to the city of the future, but in a way Memo could never have expected.

Burning with visual energy and originality, Sleep Dealer is a fascinating and prescient work of science fiction that is as politically engaged as enjoyable to watch.
— Shari Frilot, Sundance Film Festival

ALEX RIVERA is a New York based digital media artist and filmmaker. His first feature film, SLEEP DEALER premiered at Sundance 2008, and won two awards, including the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award. Rivera is a Sundance Fellow and a Rockefeller Fellow. His work, which addresses concerns of the Latino community through a language of humor, satire, and metaphor, has also been screened at The Berlin International Film Festival, New Directors/New Films, The Guggenheim Museum, PBS, Telluride, and other international venues.

www.sleepdealer.com

This event is made possible with support from Confluence A Center for Creative Inquiry; Hanson Film Institute; Center for Latin American Studies; The Second Language Acquisition and Teaching Program;and the Department of Gender and Women's Studies


If you're in Tucson on Friday, make time for a free screening and meet the filmmakers.

ScriptDoctor has a Blog

ScriptDoctor has a new blog located here: scriptdoctorcom.blogspot.com/

We hope writers and anyone interested in film will find it helpful and informative.

For Your Inspiration

Howard Allen recommends reading this article in The New York Times to learn about writer Peter Morgan's process as well as how films get made. The last couple of paragraphs (included below), says Allen, should inspire writers to find filmmakers like Clint Eastwood and Ron Howard.

“Clint is incredibly instinctive,” Mr. Morgan said, “and he’s anti-neurosis. It’s like antimatter. He’s totally without neurosis. The set of ‘Hereafter’ was one of happiest places I’ve ever been. It comes from trusting yourself and eliminating fear.”

Referring to Ron Howard, who directed the film version of “Frost/Nixon,” he continued: “Ron is the same way. He’s completely at home on a movie set, and I think it comes from practically growing up there. He and Clint are rather like sailors from a bygone century. They come into port every now and then, but really they live on the ship. They’re seafarers.”


But really, go read the whole thing.

1.30.2011

In the works

CoyoteMoon Films is gearing up for its second short film, The Three O'Clock, written by Michael Grady and to be directed by Howard Allen. We will update as we have more information.

Also, our sister organization, ScriptDoctor, will soon have its own blog focusing on topics related to writing, scripts, and turning scripts into motion pictures, as well as updating information related specifically to ScriptDoctor. (This blog will still carry some of that information, but will now focus more on the production side of the film industry and small films.) We will let you know as soon as the ScriptDoctor blog goes live.