war

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STEPHEN KING: The desk

by Gav

Think about this: Stephen King has been releasing one, sometimes two books a year pretty much every year since his first novel, Carrie, was published in 1974. That’s 43 freakin’ years of consistent output! He’s become such a mainstay of our culture that it’s easy to take his genius for granted.


King’s been writing since he was 7 years-old, when he would copy and rearrange the stories out of his favourite comic books. Impressed by her son’s talent, King’s mother urged him to write an original story. He began submitting short stories to horror and sci-fi magazines at age 12 and would use a nail hammered into the wall above his typewriter to hold all his rejection letters. By the time he was 14, the nail wouldn’t hold the weight of the letters anymore and King had to replace it with a larger spike. By the time he was 16, King was still getting rejection letters, although at least now there were hand-written notes of encouragement from editors scribbled on them. By his mid 20s, King was selling the occasional short story to pulp and mens magazines but not nearly enough to make a living. He was working in an industrial laundry, cleaning maggot-infested restaurant and hospital sheets, while his wife Tabitha, also a writer, worked at Dunkin’ Donuts. They had two young children, were living in a trailer and although King managed to find better work as an English teacher, he was starting to despair that his writing career would never take off.


“Good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognise them when they show up.”


King chanced upon the idea for Carrie when he recalled working as a high school janitor. While he was cleaning the female locker room he paid special attention to the shower curtains since he knew the boys lockers didn’t have them. He imagined an opening scene (NSFW) in which a girls locker room didn’t have the curtains and students were forced to shower in front of each other. What if a girl had her period in the shower but didn’t know what it was, and all the other girls laughed and threw tampons at her? How would that girl retaliate? Then King remembered reading an article about telekenisis and how there was evidence that it was prevalent in young girls, especially around the time of their first period. Boom, that’s when two unrelated ideas came together to create something new. King knew he had found an idea for a book and wrote three pages of a first draft while working his teaching job. He hated it and threw it in the trash. It was King’s wife Tabitha who found the pages while emptying the bin and encouraged her husband to finish it. Carrie was published in 1974 and was King’s breakthrough novel. King finished off the decade with a string of bestsellers including ‘Salem’s Lot and The Shining.


By the ’80s King and his family were living in a beautiful house in Bangor, Maine, and King was writing at his dream, massive oak desk. However, he was also an alcoholic and a drug addict. He would write all hours of the day strung out on cocaine and medicate at night with a whole case of 16-ounce beers. In 1985 and at risk of losing his family, Tabitha held an intervention and gave King an ultimatum: get help or get out of the house. Thankfully, King managed to get clean and put his family life back together. And thankfully for us, through it all, he never stopped writing.


I tried to find a picture of the actual massive oak desk King mentions. The best I could do was this brief glimpse into King’s office in an interview from the mid ’80s. You can see it at the 2.40min mark. The newer, smaller desk I’m guessing is this one. I could be wrong about both.

Dunkirk: Teaser Trailer

Notes on watching “Aliens” for the first time again, with a bunch of kids   For his 11th birthday, my son asked if he could have a slumber party. He invited seven other fifth-grade boys. They played video games for a 
couple of hours, ate pizza, then said they wanted to watch a movie. 
They’d seen every comic book movie multiple times. Seen all the Indiana 
Jones films. Star Wars. Anything with a hobbit in it. The usual 11-year 
old boy options, circa 2015, weren’t going to work.   So I suggested “ Aliens ,”
 thinking, “Well, it’s exciting, and even if they haven’t see the first 
one, the movie tells the story well enough that you won’t be confused 
about who Ripley is and what’s at stake for her.”   They agreed 
(some of them had seen the first one anyway, and nearly all had seen at 
least one film with a xenomorph in it) and so we watched it together. 
And as we watched, I realized again that while unfortunately you can’t 
see a great movie again for the first time, the next-best thing is to 
show it to people who’ve never seen it.  My first time with James 
Cameron’s sci-fi war movie was a great filmgoing experience. I saw 
“Aliens” at the NorthPark 1 and 2 theater at NorthPark Mall in my 
hometown of Dallas, with a high school classmate who was, at that time, 
my regular action movie-watching buddy: Gabe Michaels. We drove to 
NorthPark to catch the 11 a.m. show on opening day and got in line a 
couple of hours early. We’d already drunk a bit of soda beforehand and I
 think we might have downed some more while standing in line. When we 
got into the theater, they seated us immediately and there was only one 
preview, for “The Fly,” and then wham, they started the movie. Neither 
Gabe nor I nor anyone else who’d been standing in that line wanted to 
get up from our seats and answer nature’s call, even though we all 
pretty desperately had to; there was a lot of muttering and shifting in 
seats, quite a few “grin and bear it” expressions.   If you’ve seen
 the film, you know there are no aliens to speak of for the first hour, 
then suddenly there are aliens all over the place, coming out of the 
walls and ceiling, drooling and shrieking and dragging Marines off into 
the darkness to be cocooned. It’s one of the greatest releases of 
built-up tension in action film history. Throughout
 this sequence the audience was enthralled, screaming as the xenomorphs 
attacked, cheering as Ripley took control of the all-terrain vehicle to 
rescue the imperiled Colonial Marines. Then when the ATV crashed through
 the wall, the music stopped, and Hicks told her she’d blown the 
trans-axle and need to “ease down, Ripley, ease down,” everyone 
collectively seemed to realize they were being given a breather, so at 
that point Gabe and I and probably a fifth of the audience rose from our
 seats and headed for the bathrooms: fast-walking, some running.  Guys
 at the urinals were peeing as fast as they could because they didn’t 
want to miss another minute of “Aliens.” You’d have thought somebody was
 timing them. Like this was the Olympic qualifying round for the bladder
 evacuation team. But they weren’t going fast enough to suit a guy 
standing near the front door of men’s room. He yelled,  "Goddammit! All of you, piss faster!“   And that’s when I knew "Aliens” was going to be a hit.  Anyway, the slumber party…

Notes on watching “Aliens” for the first time again, with a bunch of kids

For his 11th birthday, my son asked if he could have a slumber party. He invited seven other fifth-grade boys. They played video games for a couple of hours, ate pizza, then said they wanted to watch a movie. They’d seen every comic book movie multiple times. Seen all the Indiana Jones films. Star Wars. Anything with a hobbit in it. The usual 11-year old boy options, circa 2015, weren’t going to work.

So I suggested “Aliens,” thinking, “Well, it’s exciting, and even if they haven’t see the first one, the movie tells the story well enough that you won’t be confused about who Ripley is and what’s at stake for her.”

They agreed (some of them had seen the first one anyway, and nearly all had seen at least one film with a xenomorph in it) and so we watched it together. And as we watched, I realized again that while unfortunately you can’t see a great movie again for the first time, the next-best thing is to show it to people who’ve never seen it.

My first time with James Cameron’s sci-fi war movie was a great filmgoing experience. I saw “Aliens” at the NorthPark 1 and 2 theater at NorthPark Mall in my hometown of Dallas, with a high school classmate who was, at that time, my regular action movie-watching buddy: Gabe Michaels. We drove to NorthPark to catch the 11 a.m. show on opening day and got in line a couple of hours early. We’d already drunk a bit of soda beforehand and I think we might have downed some more while standing in line. When we got into the theater, they seated us immediately and there was only one preview, for “The Fly,” and then wham, they started the movie. Neither Gabe nor I nor anyone else who’d been standing in that line wanted to get up from our seats and answer nature’s call, even though we all pretty desperately had to; there was a lot of muttering and shifting in seats, quite a few “grin and bear it” expressions.

If you’ve seen the film, you know there are no aliens to speak of for the first hour, then suddenly there are aliens all over the place, coming out of the walls and ceiling, drooling and shrieking and dragging Marines off into the darkness to be cocooned. It’s one of the greatest releases of built-up tension in action film history. Throughout this sequence the audience was enthralled, screaming as the xenomorphs attacked, cheering as Ripley took control of the all-terrain vehicle to rescue the imperiled Colonial Marines. Then when the ATV crashed through the wall, the music stopped, and Hicks told her she’d blown the trans-axle and need to “ease down, Ripley, ease down,” everyone collectively seemed to realize they were being given a breather, so at that point Gabe and I and probably a fifth of the audience rose from our seats and headed for the bathrooms: fast-walking, some running.

Guys at the urinals were peeing as fast as they could because they didn’t want to miss another minute of “Aliens.” You’d have thought somebody was timing them. Like this was the Olympic qualifying round for the bladder evacuation team. But they weren’t going fast enough to suit a guy standing near the front door of men’s room. He yelled,  "Goddammit! All of you, piss faster!“

And that’s when I knew "Aliens” was going to be a hit.

Anyway, the slumber party…

Damien Chazelle on what is and isn’t ambiguous about Whiplash     The Dissolve:  The film seems more ambiguous as it’s in progress—it feels like it could become a Full Metal Jacket situation, with revenge on a destructive bully, or an inspirational-teacher movie, or something else entirely. Were you thinking in terms of keeping people guessing about the ending?    Chazelle:  Yeah, one thing I definitely wanted people to wonder is whether Andrew is going to basically kill himself drumming, like the old fairy tale of the dancer who dances herself to death, or [Edgar Allan Poe’s] “The Oval Portrait,” where the painter kills his subject by painting her. The idea of art being something that kills is weirdly fascinating to me. Especially toward the end, I definitely wanted to film Andrew in a way that looks like he’s this close to literally having a heart attack and keeling over. I wanted people to worry not just for his sanity, but for his physical well-being. There’s a physical side to this instrument, and a brutality that’s not just emotional, but corporeal.  At the same time, I like genre movies, and this fits pretty squarely into the sports-film genre. You’re building up to the big fight, or the big game. In this case, it’s the big performance. There are certain kinds of narrative rules in terms of how you do that, where you have to bring the character really low before you bring them high, and you have to do another microcosm of that within the big fight. Even if they’ve had their low point, you can’t just have them show up to the climax and immediately knock the guy out. You still need to have another mini low point. There are narrative rules that you don’t have to follow, but I actually thought since this is not a sports movie, they would be fun to follow. It gave me the leverage to wholeheartedly embrace some of those tropes.

Damien Chazelle on what is and isn’t ambiguous about Whiplash

The Dissolve: The film seems more ambiguous as it’s in progress—it feels like it could become a Full Metal Jacket situation, with revenge on a destructive bully, or an inspirational-teacher movie, or something else entirely. Were you thinking in terms of keeping people guessing about the ending?

Chazelle: Yeah, one thing I definitely wanted people to wonder is whether Andrew is going to basically kill himself drumming, like the old fairy tale of the dancer who dances herself to death, or [Edgar Allan Poe’s] “The Oval Portrait,” where the painter kills his subject by painting her. The idea of art being something that kills is weirdly fascinating to me. Especially toward the end, I definitely wanted to film Andrew in a way that looks like he’s this close to literally having a heart attack and keeling over. I wanted people to worry not just for his sanity, but for his physical well-being. There’s a physical side to this instrument, and a brutality that’s not just emotional, but corporeal.

At the same time, I like genre movies, and this fits pretty squarely into the sports-film genre. You’re building up to the big fight, or the big game. In this case, it’s the big performance. There are certain kinds of narrative rules in terms of how you do that, where you have to bring the character really low before you bring them high, and you have to do another microcosm of that within the big fight. Even if they’ve had their low point, you can’t just have them show up to the climax and immediately knock the guy out. You still need to have another mini low point. There are narrative rules that you don’t have to follow, but I actually thought since this is not a sports movie, they would be fun to follow. It gave me the leverage to wholeheartedly embrace some of those tropes.

The Directors Series - Stanley Kubrick [1.5] THE FINAL FEATURES

The concluding installment of THE DIRECTORS SERIES’ examination into the films and career of director Stanley Kubrick, covering his final two features and the legacy he leaves behind.
-FULL METAL JACKET (1987)
-EYES WIDE SHUT (1999)