'Plaint of the Playwright

'Plaint of the Playwright

[ Tuesday, August 20, 2002 ]

Believe it or not, the internet is not just about porn and bitching about movies.

It can actually be about good reading material.

To continue my "counting down" phase, here are...

Ten Cool Essays.

1. Why We're Sarcastic.
This was the essay that made me want to do this list.

From SeanBaby.com comes this very funny, very true essay on the need for sarcasm in today's culture--is it because we're stupid, or because we're so insecure we need to prove we aren't?

2. The View From Smalltown, USA.
Okay, so there's no small amount of writing on 9/11.

But this, Chuck Palahniuk's chilling essay on how 9/11 affected everyone in his immediate area, is brilliant.

All of his observations, each one by themself is curious...but all of them together are madness.

It's not political, just human.

And thank you, Dennis and Amy at chuckpalahniuk.net.

3. A Hot Script.
Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio, the screenwriters who wrote, among other things, Shrek and Aladdin, have a terrific site dedicated to screenwriting called Wordplay.

All of the columns they have are great--any one of them would do for this list, really. I highly suggest reading all of them--it's like a screenwriting school all by itself. (Also recommended is " Mental Real Estate," and "Hacking Through the Underbrush.")

This essay, by Rossio, is all about how to write a sex scene--and it brings up such good points about how to do one it's just amazing how often you don't see great sex in the movies any more. (Read the column to see what I'm talking about.)

There are forums to check out, too, by the way, and Ted and Terry visit there a lot.

I have to admit, one of the main reasons I stopped going there was for stupid, pointless reasons; during the Oscar competion between Monsters, Inc. and Shrek, a lot of people kept posting (in a supremely ass-kissing way) that Monsters, Inc. was a total style-over-substance movie, with no real story, and how they "preferred Shrek, because it had a story."

That pissed me off. I love both movies.

But saying Monsters, Inc. had no story is just a bunch of crap--and I'd bet anything Ted and Terry think so, too.

Who says that both movies can't be good? When GoodFellas came out, I didn't stop liking The Godfather.

4. Wesley Crusher, MIB, Part One, Two, and Three.
The thing that always amazes me about Wil Wheaton is how open and honest he is about how he feels about Star Trek and his role on it.

To give this some perspective, my mom once told me of a Tonight Show interview with William Shatner during the 70's, in which not one singular Trek-related question was asked. She said it was almost funny that the main reason why Shatner's famous is Star Trek and he won't talk about it.

Wil will often be the first one to bring it up--mainly because he's a fan, too.

I can't know for sure, but I think Wil is just trying to be the type of celebrity that he'd want to meet as a fan, if that makes sense.

As the writer of his weblog, Wil has a tendency to make two types of posts: Heartfelt or humorous.

In the cases of "Mirror, Mirror," "Turnaround," and "The Big Goodbye," it's both.

5. Elia Kazan and The Case for Silence
From Victor Navasky's Naming Names, this covers the controversy about Elia Kazan's testimony to the House on Un-American Activities Committee.

I remember when Kazan got his Lifetime Achievement Oscar, and this subject was still pretty hot.

The protest during the Oscars was a sit-down protest--everyone's supposed to stand to pay tribute.

Those who were protesting stayed seated.

The presenters were Martin Scorsese and Robert DeNiro (which may have been a message on someone's part, considering that night Chris Rock made a joked: "And we know how DeNiro feels about rats"), both of whom looked like they'd rather be just about anywhere else. Scorsese, I also noticed, got directly behind Kazan, not unlike the way Tommy gets behind Morry in the car before stabbing him in the brain with an icepick in GoodFellas.

I remember Amy Madigan looking like she was going to jump up and charge the stage. (Strangely, I don't think she's ever looked more beautiful. Boy, do I have issues.)

Side note: While looking up additionial info on this subject, I ran across the following Tomato Nation piece by Sarah Bunting about that year's Oscars, where she commented on this, saying:

... Now, I don’t agree with Kazan’s actions, but he did what he had to do, and as others have pointed out, the Lifetime Achievement Oscar rewards great film-making, not humanitarian efforts. But when denizens of Hollywood, the world capital of compromised integrity, not only sit and glower at an old man but also pretend that not clapping constitutes some form of radical protest, I start launching things at the TV set. Ooooh, Amy Madigan DIDN’T CLAP! Boy, she really PUT HERSELF OUT THERE with that one - seldom have I seen such a courageous STATEMENT, such a DEVASTATING COMMENT in defense of HONOR! Way to equate RUDENESS with A BRAVE POLITICAL STANCE, Amy! I can see you felt REALLY STRONGLY about this, which would explain why you didn’t just STAY HOME. You know, it really surprises me that, with a firm moral compass like yours, you haven’t managed to GET A FREAKIN’ JOB. I mean, Jesus - like Elia Kazan cried himself to sleep because Nick Nolte sulked in his general direction. Grow up, you big babies.

Well, in theory, I agree with the first part, that the award is supposed to be representative of the art, not the man.

At the same time, the key word is "supposed." I mean, we're not talking about the Pulitizer or the Nobel prize, for God's sake--it's an Oscar. Are we going to start pretending now that it's not a popularity contest? Hitchcock never got an Oscar, and he didn't even rat anyone out.

As far as the "he was in a tough place and did what he had to do" arguement, well, I see it and I don't see it. Let's face it, there were plenty of people--some of whom were in the audience that night--who didn't name names and suffered for it.

As for why Madigan didn't stay home--well, why should she? It's the OSCARS, for Christ's sake. What should they do instead? Boo? Throw whale sperm? Let Whoopi host again?

It's weird to think that people can say, "oh, just get over it." This reminds of that Robert Klein joke about teenager's reactions to the 1987 trial of the Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie: "Oh, he's so old--they should just let him go. What's the big deal?"

Okay, okay, maybe that's a bit harsh.

This is not to pick on Sarah Bunting, who is awesome as all get-out. More on her later.

6. 20 Things We've Learned Nearly a Year After 9/11
My friend and fellow Unrealistic Expectations writer Buck Hakes, aka Pope Buck I sends me (and many others) politically-charged forwards every day--at least ten a day, by my count.

This is my current favorite--an essay by Bernard Weiner, of CommonDreams.

And please don't email me telling me I'm un-American by posting this; I'll tell you when I'm being un-American.

7. Popular.
Before I became a writer over there at Unrealistic Expectations, I was a fan of it, and Roughy's essay about Popularity is one of the reasons why.

I was also a huge fan of this essay that he did on the movie Say Anything.

And please don't email me telling me I'm a kiss-ass by posting this; I'll tell you when I'm being a kiss-ass.

8. The Trix Conspiracy.
This short essay, by Robert Berry of Retrocrush, covers one of those subjects that it's funny to think more than one person thinks about.

But we do.

We all do.

This essay is about The Trix Rabbit and his persecution for his love of Trix. I remember this series of commercials (which I believe still continues to this day) and I remember the election, too.

There's other great stuff on Retrocrush, too--check out the archives.

9. We Won't Deny Our Consciences.
This was another one sent to me by Buck, but Wil Wheaton also put this on his site, getting all sorts of responses:

"Why should the american press cover a letter posted by a small group of people? The Guardian post its because they are Anti-USA. In there minds we are the cause of all evil in the world. I mean I realize Casey Casem is pissed because they didn't let him do the voice of Shaggy for the movie, and Leo Estrada wishes he had been on CHiPs with his Brother, but that doesn't mean we have to listen to their opinions. If I got 100 people to sign a letter that all Arabs should be expelled from the country should the US media publish that trash too?"

"Wil, I love you, man. But, who the hell cares what a bunch of left-wing, bleeding heart liberal, Hollywood 'elite' and clueless celeberties think? We are Americans and no one has the right to attack (physically) us. If you mess with us, we will and should destroy you. Plain and simple. You can not negotiate with terrorist and Islamists. Its in their blood and religion to kill every American in the world and die for Allah. I'm more than happy to allcoate resources to allow the meeting."

"THANK YOU. Let us pray that those motivated by revenge, to whom that feels like justice, are led by some gentle miracle to see the futility of that path. Let us pray that the truths about freedom upon which this country was founded will prevail."

"I'm puzzled why so many people want to bend over backwards to be fair to these members of Al-Qaeda. It's mind-boggling to me. I think it's that these people feel good about themselves when they say, 'Well, I was open-minded and fair, Myrtle. I'm very concerned about the rights of this man.' Anybody can say that, but they're not charged with any responsibility whatsoever. They're not dealing directly with the threat posed by these guys and to every innocent American. These Guardian idiots aren't the ones the people will hold accountable if the next 9-11 happens because we worried about foolish things like this. We're at war, folks. Face that cold, hard fact."

"It is worth pointing out that the United States is the only country convicted in world court of State Terrorism. Not a popular thing to express, but true none the less. Remember than the next time someone mentions the 'Axis of Evil.'"

"Ignorance is the bliss of small minds. The first question to ask is: 'Why did they do this?' I have no love for terrorists, but we live blinded by the local media and political allegiance. The next time you're oppressed by someone or something, imagine a lifetime of this and see how much you love it. The next time someone steals, or hurts someone from your family and you threaten to sue; imagine if you were told you cannot sue, you cannot do anything, and in fact you'll be punished for even thinking about sueing. Imagine this and you'll come closer to an understanding of why they are acting as terrorists - it's the only voice they have available. And all this doesn't make it acceptable, but we have to accept our role and fight to correct ourselves before we deign to correct someone else."

"good job posting that. it makes me ache when i see someone characterize such sentiments as anti-american. guess what, critics: the signatories are americans!"

"Wil, Shut the fuck up."

"Hmmm ... from reading a lot of the comments posted here, I've come to the conclusion that a lot of Americans are quite clearly insane and suffering from a massive superiority complex. I can't wait for the next round of attacks on some of your cities, because with your current attitude, it's surely going to happen."

"One word says it all,crap."

Check it out.

10. What Women Want.
Granted, this doesn't totally fit the "essay" format, but, hey, my list, my rules.

This is another one that Buck sent to me--this is from the aforementioned site Tomato Nation.

The hard part was just picking one, so I went with the first one I ever read. This is one of a series of dialogues between Regina and Sarah, usually, but not always about men. The serpentine nature of their conservations, their well-chosen phrasing (you gotta love a woman who says things like "Sittin' around, readin' Marx and eatin' brown bread with the uncircumcised."), and their obvious kinship make them a terrific read about any subject.

If I knew them in real life, I wouldn't need cable.

posted by Rob on 1:59 AM | link



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