Thursday, March 31, 2011

USC Moment #5 - Jon Favreau is So Money, Baby

Ya know, in my years at USC I've had a couple of pretty worthless professors (some of the "those that can't do, teach" variety), countless Red Tape Wars on everything from class schedules to copyrights, and have spent enough money to save between 10-12 starving villages in Africa (I did the math. Sorry Kymabai, Kenya! Got movies to make!). But, despite those problems (and many, many more), overall I have felt incredibly fortunate and thrilled to have spent my last three years in at the over-groomed outpost of excess that sits in a sea of urban blight known as USC.

Now, as I mentioned a little while back, I'm taking (Brokaw voice here-->) "a look back, at the top five moments I've had at USC's illustrious and overpriced School of Cinematic Arts." 

My #5 top moment of these past years of USC film school is when Jon Favreau came to campus to talk about IRON MAN and me and a few friends were lucky enough to be clued into it.

Now, there's been a LOT of celebrity filmmaker types who've slummed it into USC's stuck-in-the-1970s iron gates all these past few years. LEGENDARY types. Plus, plenty of really famous alumni. So, with all due respect, why put this guy in the Top 5?

Taking a Matt Dillon-esque tone....




What the Hell is Jon Favreau doing here?




Well, to begin, I want to set the mood a little bit. This was back in the 508 semester (Fall '08) and my friend Jose was assisting for a class that was studying the film IRON MAN and had invited a select few (Smug Alert) friends to the "Favreau class" that night. Now this class was held in a cramped little room in the old, crappy community college-esque Lucas Building, with probably a capacity closer to 25-30 versus the usual 300 that would pack regular big speaker events in the cavernous Norris Theater.

The quarters were so tight you could almost smell the Downey Jr. on him. With such a small setup, Favreau didn't just speak to us, he spoke with us--it was a conversation as close and casual as chatting with a friend at a movie or that annoying guy in the edit lab.

Maybe because of this much more informal setting (more likely irregardless of it) I found it incredibly easy to relate to Favreau and think that "as brilliant as this guy is, he's also a lot like me. Maybe I could be him someday!...not in a creepy 'Mr. Ripley' sort of way or a wacky 'Being John Malkovich' thing, but I could be like him...I could end up making entertainment for a living...maybe".

Why exactly did this relate-ability come across? 

Mostly, because Favreau could not hide how much of a total fanboy he was. Granted, anyone who makes movies is a movie fan, but Favreau wore his obsessive, nerdy fan-ness like a badge of honor: quoting the Simpsons, geeking out over visiting Skywalker ranch, and talking about how surreal it was for him to helm a giant action picture like "Iron Man".

"It's like this big machine, with all these moving parts..." he said about directing Iron Man. "its an unstoppable force--the release date is set: MAY 2ND---and you just have to try and guide it as best you can."

He talked about how different the epic scale of Iron Man was vs. the run-and-gun scrappiness of making an indie film like "Swingers"...at which point I'm thinking..."I'm scrappy! I have guns in my movies...and I run".

He told stories from his early days about being cramped in tiny locations and making split decisions when everything seemed to be falling apart, while also joking around with actors and having a general blast on set. "Now", he said "things are a bit more organized and professional. You can't be making all kinds of on-the-fly decisions when the scene you're shooting that day has been in pre-viz by the VFX people for the past 10 months".


That was what really did it for me: to think that Jon Favreau - who was now an audience-tested, studio-approved A-list director - was once running around, doing shit on the fly, creating and owning his own material, and generally making movies as a guy who's a total nerd for movies.

It was really inspiring, to put not-to-corny spin on it all.

Plus, he was just so f$#*ing C O O L. Favreau was laid back, funny, happy to be there, talked to people after, and just came off as an all-around nice guy. This was also good news, because you often get the idea that evreryone who works in movies is a complete and total dick who like to throw hot coffee on underlings or send Native Americans to pick up awards for them....geez, talk about LAZY.

So just seeing that he was outwardly a pretty regular guy (but still a BRILLIANT storyteller inside) and that he had certain experiences that had, in some ways, mirrored my own - made his visit really stand out to this day...obviously.

BUT, all that "inspiration" and "he's a nice guy" stuff still may not be enough to get to Top 5 range, and the cherry on top came after he spoke.

I split cuz I was incredibly stressed that night (week, month, semester) with 508 and didn't stick around to bend his ear any more. While I was walking back to my car I passed the USC "special guest" parking spots and there it was - a beautiful, silver, straight-off-the-showroom floor Maserati. Parking pass on the dash - "JON FAVREAU"....

Hell yeah!

It was so choice. If you have the means I highly recommend picking one up.

So yeah - he's cool, he makes awesome movies, he's a fanboy, he used to be a run-and-gun filmmaker and he now he drives a kick-ass Mas.

TOP. FIVE.

Then, after standing in admiration for while - and mentally debating "hanging around" the car for an extended amount of time....eventually realizing that'd be both creepy and a little bit threatening...even though Favreau was in "ripped" mode by then...still....I could have had a knife on me....- finally deciding to continue walking, after a while he drove past in his "fuck-you!-in-a-good-way" Maserati down 34th street and made a u-turn by the fountain to head back out the entrance.

I attempted my best casual wave thing....it must have looked like I was flicking some gum off my wrist...I doubt he saw me or let alone remembered me from the class...and I watched him drive away.

I don't know what his music choice was for that ride home to whatever palatial pad he so richly deserves that night, but in my head he got on the 10 at Hoover, looked at that L.A. skyline and busted out the Sabbath.

Or SOME kick-ass -"My Life Rules" song. Some song that would be really....."money".


Yeaaaahhh, didn't think I'd go there, didja?


Well, I did, cause that's what its all about. Iron Man to Elf to mansions and the Mas, all came from one tiny movie he wrote that told a story about a guy who couldn't get over a girl.

Now THAT'S money.

Thanks USC! #TopFive!


-MK

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

CHItropolis

Just a bit o' Chicago filming news - looks like SUPERMAN is going to be shooting in the Land o' Lincoln this summer -


'Superman: Man of Steel' Flying Into Chicago

http://chicagoist.com/2011/03/27/superman_man_of_steel_chicago.php

This news should make most Chicagoans pretty happy as another big Hollywood project with all its fun is coming to town this summer, and other Chicagoans with a Superman-crush *COUGH*NICKDELPRIORE*COUGH* will have difficulty hiding their erections once the Man of Steel starts flying around our beloved skyline.

Pretty good news. Pret-tay....pret-tay....pret-tay.........good.

Course, we'll see if they'll do anything as cool as BLOW UP WACKER DRIVE like 'Transformers' or EXLODE A METRA in 'Source Code' or FLIP A SEMI-TRUCK just like 'The Dark Knight'....

As long as they don't MAKE A SHITTY MOVIE like they did when 'The Dilemma' shot here, I'll be happy.

okay, that might be uncalled for. i didn't actually SEE 'The Dilemma'. It might not have been shitty. I actually wanted to see it! It just seemed like a better target than 'Eagle Eye', which really WAS shitty but also that no one remembers.

BUT speaking of films in Chicago - a not unfamiliar topic for me to cover (See SEP25 and FEB7) - I recently came across a Windy City-riffic video made by the CHI Film Office that showcases almost the past three decades in one surprisingly well-edited video. I mean, wow....this is actually great stuff...its going to take my "Chicagobating" to a whole new level. Get your tissues ready!....




Don't let the cheesy opening fool you...the real opening comes in at 1:10...and its worth watching until the end.....all your favorites are there....


KUDOS TO ...um, ...."LaSalle Bank Facets Multi-Media"...yeah, ....YOU DID GOOD.

Even got some "Stranger than Fiction" in there, one of my favorites that uses the city beautifully but, ironically enough, isn't actually set in Chi-town. Really cool, unique flick with one of the best Will Ferrel acting performances you'll ever see.

But....wow. We got some GREAT flicks. Obviously...so, so many. I don't even know where to begin.

So I won't.

I'll just say that I don't even think we've even scratched the surface of how cool this city can look onscreen.

Don't worry, though - I've got a few ideas.

Sure, most of them involve a ludicrous suspension of belief that a certain North Side baseball team could win the World Series, but hey- do a good enough job and people will believe anything!

Cubs in '11!
 

-MK

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

AARON FUCKING SORKIN

Probably not the most eloquent title for this post, considering its subject matter, but the words above perfectly encapsulates my feelings last night when I spent sixty minutes in a classroom with thirty-three students, florescent lights, and Aaron fucking Sorkin.

The "how" is barely important - just a friend tipped off a friend who tipped off me about this class that was having him as a guest and I went... making myself ninety minutes late to my actual class that night in the process. I regret nothing.

I have made no secret about my strange love and fascination with "The Social Network". But my Sorkin-worship goes back to 'The West Wing'. That show made me interetsed in writing for television- hell, it made me interested in AMERICA.

The man, in short, has been nothing less than an inspiration.

And though I found myself strangely calm as we waited and the professor went on about other issues of the class, the second that Sorkin walked in I zeroed in and was hooked. Hooked on every word, every joke, every quote that I had read in a previous interview and was listening to again but didn't care because Aaron Sorkin had actually said it in person.

I don't think I want to try to recount all of what he said last night.... the hurried scribblings in my Moleskine and my own inadequate memory wouldn't do justice to the wonderful stories he told or the hilarious quips he made or the impact of having him in the room.

Actually, I will say something about him in the room. He takes the room and makes it his love-bride for the evening - like it or not. And its not in a showy way either. He just commands attention, not just because he's an Oscar winner, but because he is so passionate about writing and loves talking about it and loved that we were asking him questions about it. He's so certain about himself and what he does when he talks, even though he is wonderfully self-deprecating and an admitted outsider, that is was just a joy to have him there.

And once he left he was so gracious, even as a group of slightly over-enthused students followed him at a slightly threatening distance to the elevator (myself included), and there was a ravaging of quick hellos and handshakes that took place before he stepped in and I made damn sure to get there and at least shake the man's hand.

"Thank you so much Mr. Sorkin, you're an inspiration."

At first I wished I was funnier, or more brash [READ MY SCRIPT!], or did something to stand out more but that's all I really wanted to communicate...THIS TIME.

I feel like somewhere down the line I will address Mr. Sorkin in a less hurried setting and introduce myself properly. Maybe we'll be colleagues or MAYBE even working together. Cheesy and probably over-idealistic? Sure.

But so is his writing.

Okay, so I do want to share just one word from the evening that I hurriedly write down - the first word I wrote down, actually - as I bookishly recorded what nuggets of genius that stood out to me. I saw it written today and realized it was the most important thing to me, right now in my life. Though I didn't get it at first -

ready?


"moose"


Yep. Aaron Sorkin came to town and opened up his brilliance basket and threw a bunch of knowledge candies our way and I wrote down the word "moose". All the rest of my notes are quotes or sentences but at the top - underlined, actually - the word "moose". What the hell does that mean?

Then I remembered.


It was at the top, when Sorkin was asked when he knew he wanted to be (or when he became) a writer. He told a story about living in New York and staying in on a Friday night - "the kind of night you only get in New York where you feel like everybody else in the city is out with plans except you" - and he had thought of an idea that might make a good play and he just started writing .... "for fun".

See, he had written before, but since he always wanted to be an actor, writing was simply this thing you did in classes and to have lines to read but he'd never write for the sake of writing - until this Friday night. He wrote all through the night and had some actor friends over in the morning and they read it and said "This is pretty good" - and from that point on, Sorkin said "I haven't done anything else".

Now, he preceded that story by describing his life in New York at that time, which was out of school and working a series of temporary jobs - bartending jobs, waiter jobs, service jobs, dressing up like a moose and handing out flyers to people...."all the jobs that you guys are right about to do once you're out of here".

Ahhhh - "moose."

It gave me so much joy that Aaron Sorkin, brilliant scribe of theater, film and television, once had a crappy job dressed as a moose handing out shit to people on the corner. Mostly, because I am on the cusp of an uncertain future and - though I don't see any costumed employment once I graduate from USC - its comforting to know that if things end up with me dressed as a gorilla handing out coupons for MONSTER TACOS at Tito's Tacos for that Tuesday, I'll be in decent company.


- MK

Friday, March 11, 2011

Eyewitness Report: TSUNAMI in Tsanta Monica!

(for best effect, read report in loud, British accent with intermittent static)

Santa Monica, CA - 8:15 AM

As I made my way to the cliffs near the Santa Monica Pier the sense of panic and casual interest was thick in the air. I had traveled to this precarious spot with nothing but myself, my mobile reporting unit (aka my iPhone) a large, black coffee, and La Grand Orange's "Muffin of the Day" - Apple Cinnamon Raisin.

The crowds: gathering. The anticipation: building. The muffin: absolutely delicious.


As I delicately picked at the muffin, taking delight in the fact that it was still warm from the oven, I could not help but notice the anarchy and chaos that was escalating around me. People, driven from their homes by a faint level of interest and an inexplicable lack of a real job that necessitated being in the office on a Friday morning, had gathered along the cliffs - staying a safe distance from what I like to call "THE KILL ZONE".


As more and more presumably unemployed refugees made their way to fence-line that separated safety from certain death, the situation turned from life-threatening to extremely life-threatening. The air became a cacophonous symphony, a veritable violent assault on the ears made up of distant news helicopters, quiet conversation, and the incessant iPhone ringtone "Marimba" as those along the fence received calls from loved ones and friends who actually worked for a living.

As I finished my delectable breakfast treat, I could not help but take stock of the picture perfect day - 70 degrees, sunshine, and a ever so gentle breeze - that made me question how God could bring such an unstoppable wall of water racing towards this idyllic and overwhelmingly white community. Suddenly, a helicopter raced overhead causing some people to briefly look up from their conversations.

I snapped into action and recorded the incident on my mobile reporting unit - 

video


As the copter sped away, I was briefly distracted by a palm tree, and then overcome with fear and a faint dryness in my mouth from finishing the muffin, I quickly took a sip of coffee. It was still warm, and I was still alive. It was well past 8:30 and the tsunami's effects had begun. A slightly-larger-than-average wave began to crash against the defenseless shore. Our nightmare was becoming real.

Realizing that potentially dozens of uninformed individuals back in the smug safety of the Midwest may be depending on me for a window to the destruction, I made a decision that took unbelievable courage and unspeakable selflessness and headed down..... into "the KILL ZONE".

As I strolled down the hill, each "fwap fwap" of my sandals made me realize I was taking another casual step towards the shore and, perhaps, journalistic immortality.

I staked out a spot beyond the edge of Pico Boulevard, where a drainage ditch emptied into the Pacific, and decided that there would be no better spot to bare witness to "the Rape of California", as I was now calling it. 


Before me, the tranquil waters far from the ocean's edge offered absolutely no insight into anything that could possibly be happening. At this point, I began to question my own abilities as a journalist, or, farther still, as a normal human being with the very basest level of common sense. The quiet pool, most likely calming to anyone else who had looked at it, became a humiliating monument to my own lack of rational intelligence. I decided I need to act fast to save face.

I quickly accessed the 'Hipstamatic' Application on my iPhone and took TWO MORE PICTURES, this time, using the digital effects of the app to make the images look more interesting than they had been with just the regular camera.

THE RESULTS WERE SHOCKING


On the second photo, I even managed to capture a lifeguard's truck driving slowly across the small bridge - known by me as "SATAN'S DEATH BRIDGE".

These two images with their manufactured "look" replicating the work of an actual professional photographer gave me an inflated sense of superiority over other, less artistically curious individuals,  who used "regular" camera phones. It seemed my reputation and ego were safely rescued from the metaphorical tsunami wave of self-doubt, self-pity, and humiliation.

At this time, I realized I had strayed from my original mission and - worse still - the fast drinking of coffee and light walking had given my feeble stomach a slight cramp. Time was running out. I made what was no doubt the bravest, most heroic and sexiest decision yet - I would face "the Rape of California" head on and go between 20 to 30 ft from the water's edge. I was going so far into the KILL ZONE that I was now entering the REALLY EXTREME AND DANGEROUS AND VERY ATTRACTIVE TO THE OPPOSITE SEX IF YOU GO ZONE.

I wept briefly, overcome by my own selfless heroism.

As I inched closer and closer to the waves, crashing with nearly five to ten....MILLION times the force of regular waves, I willed my body to press on, despite the threat to life and limb and my still present coffee-guzzling induced cramp, which had not abated as I continued to sip it because it was kind of expensive.

As I reached the area where the quiet pool almost met the crashing waves - HELL'S SATAN'S DEATH ZONE OF ANGELS - I almost felt the awesome power of the moment, and then realized that the actual change in water level would be barely noticeable along the wide beach and that I, like the other sixty or so irresponsible onlookers, was probably just wasting my time.

This moment required documentation, and so I snapped another iconic picture.




The picture gave no in insight at all and I immediately regretted it.

Ashamed, I felt a need to to relate to the common people who had witnessed the possibly-still-ongoing-but-difficult-to-see event. I struck up a conversation with two guys and a girl nearby who were visiting L.A., which went fine until I realized that the girl, who was kinda cute, was probably with one of the other two guys. Plus, she wasn't really that cute. I said my goodbyes to them and wished them well in their attempt to pick up the pieces from this tragedy, which they implied they would do by "probably checking out the boardwalk later".

So, having stared Death in the face, then flicking it off, then having sex with Death's mother right in front of Death, I decided my epic journey had finally come to its completely fulfilling and not in any way faked climax. It was getting late, my coffee was empty, and I was kinda bored.

I trudged back to the cliffs of safety, now referred to as "THE TSUNAMI-PUSSY ZONE", and looked out at the skyline of downtown Santa Monica and wondered if the people in those buildings knew how close they came to absolute and total annihilation, which is to say, not very close at all. 

I snapped a picture to commemorate another of my brilliant insights.


Upon reaching the sweet relief of the cliffs, I realized my brush with danger was not yet finished, as I saw a member of the Santa Monica Police Department Traffic Services Team about to ticket my car for being at an expired meter, the mindless enforcer not knowing of the valiant crusade that had stolen my attention. I had to use my great skills of reasoning and oratory but was finally able to convince the man that, since I had gotten there before he wrote me the ticket, that he should not actually write me a ticket.

He understood and was moved.

Again, I wept.

And so I left the scene, knowing that there may be more to cover and that all the real insight would be available at home, where actual reporters using helicopters and "experts" would break down the effect of the tsunami on the California coast, mostly not noticeable to the average person standing along the shore line.

Looking back, I am blown away by the tremendous ordeal I went through. What really shakes me to the core, however, is the ever growing realization than the past few hours have been little more than an incredible self-aggrandizing, uninformed, and ultimately unfunny waste of time.

And so...I weep,

This is Mark Kosin, Santa Monica, California.....reporting.

-MK

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

ASH'D UP

Maybe its the Catholic guilt of leaving friends and family or just because today's a day where I really do feel the sense of distance between LA and Chicago, but for some reason I like writing on the annual Lent kick off "party" known as Ash Wednesday.

It may also be because I like sharing my Lenten fasting....thing, because if I tell people about it, there's a better chance I'll see it through.

Though, admittedly, my track record is not exactly stellar (remember the 40 for 40 promise?) but it still makes me feel worse when I fail, if that helps.

I always have struggled in the 'What to Give Up" department because, honestly, I like what I like and I don't want to stop liking what I like and not like it anymore. Make sense? Of course not.

But, actually, this year, I took a good look and didn't see many options as to what my fasting sacrifice could be for two reasons, both stemming from the same issue - I'm in film school, graduating in less than 70 days and I need to figure shit out like T-Pain needs auto-tuning.

Desperately.

So here's the rub - 2 of my biggest "vices" - TV and Facebook - are directly tied to my attempt to make a career happen: I need the 'Book to promote The Sin Bin over the next few weeks and I need to watch TV because, well, I want to write for TV. Doesn't do a painter much good to give up looking at things for Lent, does it?

And, in all honesty, I've said "so long" to a couple of vices in Lent years past that arent a big part of my life anymore, most notably - smoking and fast food. I'm not chomping enough Big Macs or puffing enough Padrons to justify anything - giving either of those up would be like Charlie Sheen giving up reality - that waved bye-bye a loooooong time ago.

So, that brings us to the NCAA powerhouse of beverages in my life - the ACC

or: Alcohol, Coffee, and Coca-Cola.

In addition to explaining last year why I don't want to give up Coke, the rational is trumped by the whole "career" thing in that I need those two "C" word beverages to keep me going on these sleepless nights and early mornings. Sure, I could try and go all "tea and Mountain Dew" the next 40 days, but I see that doing more harm than good.

And then there's the big "A"....well....

how the hell am I supposed to RELAX at the end of the day after guzzling Coke and coffee for every other meal?

Usually, I'm so jittery by 11pm that if I try to handwrite anything it looks like Michael J Fox was composing a letter on the Batman ride at Six Flags.

Plus, "A" is another big part of LA industry life....part of the big shmooze. Have a few casual meetings and whatevers coming up, so the lifestyle and the liquid courage come in mighty handy.

So, I'd like to make all these things part of my fasting eventually...like when I have a JOB or whatever, but it'd be just too much unnecessary stress right now.

So, my total puss-out of a Lent plan is start with baby steps and not be such a dumb$*%# when it comes to the whole "Meat on Fridays" thing. In years past I usually forget about "No Meat Fridays" until after I've already started the day with a Sausage McMuffin and a bacon shake.

THEN, I get so paranoid about cutting the meat that I order three times as much non-meat food so I don't feel hungry, and I'm pretty sure that devouring 3 cheese quesadillas with a garbage bag of nacho chips isn't exactly how this thing is supposed to work.

Also going to try and actually get to church on a more regular basis. That seems more important than what soft drink I guzzle while watching my favorite shows about sin written by a bunch of atheists.

Ahhh, hypocrisy - where would I be without you?

So, yeah, that's my plan for Lent this year - stay focused on the basics. Shouldn't be too hard, I think LA is the vegetarian capitol of something, right?

It is an interesting mix we face, the L.A. Catholic - can an exquisitely delicious sushi plate that costs $21.99 be considered "fasting"?

I dunno, is Charlie Sheen #winning?


Well, whatever. I'm doing it anyway!

Makes me think - WWJO? .......What Would Jesus Order?

hmmm.......there it is....

One Red Dragon Roll, please!

No Miso soup, though - I'm fasting!


MK