Category: Dark Neighborhood (page 2 of 3)

Doctor Strange. A wild trip.

Yeah– remembering the days of black lights, Pink Floyd and the guys on the track team in the basement of an apartment building, smoking oregano. Cause, you know, a nickel bag in the Bronx, who knew what you were getting? Seriously. I assume there are no “nickel” bags any more? We also used to go to Woodlawn Cemetery and do keggers. Did you know that’s where the money drop for the Lindbergh baby was set? I digress, as I am wont to do.

Anyway. We watched Doctor Strange last night and it was pretty crazy. Definitely whoever did the effects in Inception had a lot of fun with CGI.

But that’s not what I liked about it. First, there was some good humor. The movie, and the characters, didn’t take themselves too seriously. Even the bad guy. I liked Benedict Cumberbatch. And seriously, that can’t be a screen name. Has to be his real name. He found that hard balance between being serious and not overdoing it.

Tilda Swinton? Seriously? That was an odd casting choice, but it worked. My favorite with her, though, was Michael Clayton which ranks up there as one of my favorite all time George Clooney movies. The bad guy, Mads Mikkelsen– is that a screen name, pretty cool– did a great job; oh yea, Hannibal on TV– knew I’d seen him. I was a bit disappointed in Chiwetel Ejiofor, but he worked with the part he was given– for me, he made Serenity work a long time ago as the bad guy.

More importantly, the core message of Doctor Strange was solid: “It’s not about you.” In this day and age, that something that we seem to have lost a lot. I know I have to be reminded almost every day by my wife. One of the by-products of my brain disorder is it comes off as narcissism at times– even was diagnosed by one shrink as “brittle narcissist” but that didn’t quite fit. So I have to ground myself in the real world and remember that it’s not about me. Maybe I need a magic cloak?

The way Strange solved the problem at the end was perfect for not only the plot, for who he was. I was wondering, as a writer, how they would “show” him changing. Since that’s a key rule in character arc. Loved what the writers came up with.

Overall— Cool Gus recommends it!



BTW– if you’re a writer and interested in what I mean by character arc, I’ve updated all my free writing writing slideshares recently and here’s the one on character. Also, we will have dates for Writing Scenic, our new writing workshop at our new place, up shortly.


Dark Neighborhood: Watching Your Life Play Out On Screen While Sitting in the Audience?

Ever feel like that? As if you’re just an observer in your own life? As if you’re not really engaged in the actual living?

I was outside power-washing the driveway today (I’m a lousy power-washer; lots of streaks etc. but hey, most of the dirt is gone) but my mind was all over the place and all over time—forward and back.

There are variations. Being the person on screen, but feeling like your real self is out there in the audience. Of course, there’s being both people at the same time, but let’s not go there now.

Some of it has to do with being able to be in the here and now. I have a hard time with that. My brain seems to jump around a lot. I remember being a kid in the Bronx and I used to just get on my Stingray bike with the purple banana seat and just go out riding around. Nowadays I imagine that would be frowned upon, but times were different then.

I’d bike all over the Bronx. But my mind would travel much further afield in space and time. I also spent a lot of time in the library. So much so that I felt like I’d exhausted the closest one and had to go further afield to another branch. Books were my world. BTW, there I am next to one of the two lions in front of the main branch of the NYPL in Manhattan. Did you know they have names? Patience and Fortitude. That one is Fortitude, when I probably could use more Patience.

One of the coolest moments was finding this hardcover with this weird image on the cover: the Hobbit! (anyone remember the cover to the left?) And then seeing three more books by the same dude! Of course, I didn’t know then that Tolkien had compressed 3 movies into that first book; such arrogance. And left out the elf-dwarf love story! That awareness would come later.

But back to watching life play out and not being engaged. It bothers me. Sometimes I really wish my brain wasn’t broken because it seems like people without broken brains are happier, but that could just be bluer grass. On the flip side, it has its plusses. I have no doubt that it’s an asset for being a writer. And really, what a cool job!

It helped in the military. I could do really hard things and it wasn’t that hard to me. I always found it weird when others would collapse or give up and just not be able to handle it. To me Special Forces was the norm, not special. Jump out of a perfectly good airplane at night off the ramp at 500 feet AGL, wearing over 150 pounds of gear? Sure. Why not? I wouldn’t do it for fun. But for pay and mission? Sure. Move through a blizzard at 12,000 feet altitude carrying a lot of gear with the temp well below zero? Sure, because part of me wasn’t really there. I was watching this other guy do it.

But engagement is hard. To be in the here and now. The brain in tune with the body and in tune with the environment.

There are things that are broken and there are things that are learned. The line between the two isn’t clear cut, because they intermingle as we grow up. So now, it’s focusing on what can be relearned. Or unlearned and relearned.

So that’s the Dark Neighborhood for this weekend.


Oh yeah—quick note—today only, Saturday, The Rock, one of my favorite books is free if you’d like.

Also, if you’re not on my newsletter, please sign up. I’m going to do an intense giveaway of audiobook giveaways in the next month via the newsletter only, especially now that Ides, D-Day and Independence Day are live in audiobook and Nine-Eleven will be done next week.

Nothing but good times ahead in the cinema!




Manchester By The Sea– sublime and powerful

Kudos to Kenneth Lonergan who wrote and directed it. And to Casey Affleck, who is superb as Lee Chandler. The rest of the cast is also great, with some playing roles you would not expect them to be in.

Just watched it last night and it is all and more that the raves have said it is.

It plays out slowly, without pretense, without shoving anything at you. Things are revealed exactly when they should be.

Grief is at the center of the story, but it doesn’t wallow in it. Nor does it give a Hollywood, irreverent ending. It stays true to the emotion and to the characters, especially Lee. The ending was fitting, appropriate for all that came before– and a lot came before.

The topic could be overwhelming, and having lost a child also, I am particularly sensitive to it. But I felt this was so on target it had a profound effect with so much subtlety. I need to watch it again, as a writer, to gain a better appreciation for what was done. There were some small, brief scenes, that were anything but small, that I need to rewatch to fully appreciate in the larger context. But as a viewer, all I can say it is one of the best films I’ve seen in a long time. It is a meditation on the long-term effect of trauma and grief, while also keeping in mind the daily mundane of life, something that is often over-looked.

There were no easy answers, no cop outs where things suddenly get better or a character has a burning-bush awareness and change.

It is a real movie about real people.

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