Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Hey Guys!

So I've officially joined the team over at 303 Magazine! There resident film critic was generous enough to give me the xmas present of allowing me to review the Coen Brothers' new movie "True Grit", and because it's the Coen's you know this is an awesome gift!

So here it is:

When No Country for Old Men came out in 2007, the Coen Brothers hearkened back to a pacing that took its time to find its own path, like a gentle stream, instead of the broken dam style that plagues modern cinema. It wouldn’t be fair to disregard the book’s author, Cormic McCarthy for this modern western’s ability to be retrospective, but it was a tool the Coen Brothers seemed very comfortable playing with. The final moments of No Country demonstrate this brilliantly with a scene that takes place after the major resolution of what viewers, trained by modern cinema’s ways, would consider the key event. Instead, the Coens gave us a quiet resolution to the real story; an eloquent and moving monologue by Tommy Lee Jones at the breakfast table. No guns, no comebacks, no explosions, just a man reflecting on death after going through the events of the film. It’s part of what earned them an Oscar for “Best Picture” and, with two more motion pictures under their belt, Burn After Reading (2008) and A Serious Man (2009), the Coen Brothers set their attention, once again, to a pacing that’s less interested in keeping the attention of an ADD-addled audience expecting character growth and tidy resolution. Instead, we find a quiet film peppered with moments of intense and swift violence, and the balanced, well-placed quirky humor they’re already well known for...

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Oh and comment on the 303 post if you feel like it.



Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Exporting Your Demons (Short Fiction)

Hey Guys!

So, 303  Magazine recently published a short story by yours truly. The piece is my attempt to pay homage to what Charles Dickens achieved with A Christmas Carol, and the message he had for England at that time. As an import from his land, to America, I've observed this country from inside and out and felt it was time for America to hear the same message (of course not quite as eloquently put as Mr. Dickens). So this is my message to America. Enjoy!

Also this piece had an added bonus, it afforded me the excuse to work with friend, collaborator, artist  Nick Runge again. Nick's comic work has been a source of inspiration to me for quite sometime (, especially when he's interpreting my crazed mess of panels. Once again Nick has out done himself with an amazing painting that captures the feel of the piece, hitting the right tone without trampling all over the events in the story. He is a true talent and I'm proud to have worked with him again. What's next buddy?

Here's an excerpt from the piece (P.S. my blog formats it all weird):

They say it never rains in LA.

As I trudged through the unseasonable Californian downpour, my groceries didn’t appreciate the irony of this statement anymore than I did. I cursed my bleeding-heart liberal sensibilities for choosing the paper sacks as they began to dissolve in my arms. Then I realized, plastic would be worse still. Not only would I have to carry the guilt, but the water would just pool around the pack of Oreo’s at the bottom of the bag, symbolizing Al Gore’s tears.

Pulling my jacket tight over my mouth, I hunkered down for the last block, trying to hold onto my collection of brand name food-items. At least they wouldn’t get wet, what with their cleverly designed packages, doubling as an advertising billboard and fortified frontline from those of other companies.

Closing the door of my apartment with my heel, I fumbled up and down the wall with my shoulder, like a bear scratching his back, as I searched for the light-switch. Blind in the darkness my other senses heightened, and that’s when I heard it, a brittle snapping; dry scratching like someone shelling peanuts.

Abandoning the wall and groceries, I stepped across the room, searching with outstretched hands for the lamp on a small table against the opposite wall. Not yet two thirds of the way across, my destination clicked and illuminated much of the space.

“It’s a disaster, my boy, just a disaster!”

A figure sat in the chair next to the lamp.  He crossed his thin, black-clad legs, deftly maneuvering his cane to adjust to their new position.

“The answers aren’t clear anymore, you understand?” The figure continued. “Evolving has never been our strong suit.”

My mind began to reel for any sane explanation. I had obviously caught some nasty strain of virus either from that Goth Girl supermarket clerk who had handed me my change, or on the soggy walk home.

The figure sat slightly forward, the light from the lamp catching his monocle. “I’m sorry, I have been ever so rude. You know who I am, yes?”

I nodded and fell back into the chair opposite. If I had believed what I was seeing I would have brought up the fact that he never talked in the commercials, but of course hallucinations don’t have to follow protocol, just as dreams need not follow reason.

His top-hat, I noticed, sat perched on the table next to the lamp. It made sense, which scared me even more, even if I hadn’t heard him speak before he had always seemed a gentleman holding to the old traditions of polite society.

“We don’t know what to do. Everyone is in a state over the situation.”

I couldn’t believe I was about to give into my delirium, but his words struck me as odd… as odd as a fictional character strikes someone, I suppose.

“What situation?” I asked.

“America is dying, my boy,” he stated as bluntly as if it were as plain as the sharp “S” of a nose on his face.

 “And, if it does, then what happens to us?”

He talked and I listened. I listened as he explained his fears, but fears that he always framed as “theirs”. Fears of the changing landscape of the American Dream.

 I listened as a river of melted strawberry ice-cream wound its way from the neglected grocery sacks and around my feet.

I listened as he wound his own way down through their “predicament”, a description he favored, until he reached a natural conclusion, the way a good one-way debate should.

“We fear change. We fear doubt. Above all we fear uncertainty. It is not something America sells, sir,” he said, almost rising from his seat.

“More will come,” he continued. “They are afraid and look for someone to pay attention. Show them as kind courtesy as you have shown me and you may provide a portion of the comfort they seek,” he finished.

I would have put up some sort of protest but he stood, replacing the top-hat on his head and said, “Give them comfort.” And with that he turned off the lamp on the table and was lost in it...

Want to read more? Read the whole piece in the digital version of the magazine at the link below:

Friday, May 7, 2010

It’s Complicated – An Interview with Meryl Streep’s Stylist, Amanda Ross – For 303 Magazine

Interview by Ben Simkins

When you get Nancy Meyers (Something’s Gotta Give) and Meryl Streep, to female powerhouses of the silver screen together in one project, you can count on three things: award noms, sharp dialogue and meticulously orchestrated fashion. As It’s Complicated finds its way to DVD this week and we watch Alec Baldwin fall over himself as the older…newer Streep, 303 asks the question, “Who’s responsible for making Streep look so darn good?”

That would be the incomparable Amanda Ross. This fashion mogul has been setting trends for more than two decades. Starting her career at Conde Nast, Ross has added her voice to Harper’s Bazaar, add her style expertise to the cast of NBC’s Lipstick Jungle and was recently named W Hotel’s Global Fashion Director. Ben Simkins talked to Ross about styling Streep for the film and about style tips for Denver.

Ben Simkins: Meryl Streep embodies the chameleon actress, and her wardrobe obviously plays a large part in this process. While styling her in the film, It’s Complicated, can you tell me the process that you went through to create the look? Was it a collaborative effort with her?

Amanda Ross: Absolutely, it was a collaborative effort. Meryl has great taste and she knows what looks good on her, but she was very open to trying new things. I consulted with the costume designer who was brilliant, Sonia Grande, as well as Nancy Meyers–it was a big collaboration. Everyone brings their own ideas about the character and you run around the city trying to find it, calling showrooms. You know, this was about a working woman with a Californian lifestyle sensibility. It was fun to dress Meryl in a contemporary look that wasn’t part of a character look, like how she wore a nun’s habit in Doubt… We wanted to dress a woman who, at sixty, had sex appeal. That was the foremost in Nancy’s, and everyone who worked on the movie’s mind, and not make it look like a man’s version of a sixty year old woman. It’s a love story, and Jane Adler character [played by Streep] had style. She wore jeans, belts and accessories and she didn’t look like she was trying to look like a twenty year old. She looked like herself: contemporary, relaxed, effortless and part of the background on her character was that she had lived in Paris when she was younger, so she definitely had that sort of flair and sensibility. You notice she wears a lot of Hermes scarves. Hermes has gotten a ton of calls and people coming into the shop wanting to know what exactly, what print of which scarf. She wore three in the movie. So, it’s really fun, exciting to get that kind of feedback and it’s so much fun to read a script, visualize the character, run around the world trying to execute it and funnel it down into the fitting… It’s such a fascinating process! And to then execute it, have it go to film, and see it on print is just enormously rewarding and exciting to be part of...

Enjoying this? Then read the whole interview @