you gotta have style, baby, style!

Last week E and I were invited to a gathering at Mike’s house. Because Mike (pseudonym. or not. you be the judge) is a friend of a friend — more specifically, a friend of Octavius — I had a suspicion he’d be highly Google-able. So by the time we showed up on his doorstep I at least knew which studio he co-founded and used to lead and which studio he heads up now. He came out with a memoir a few years ago, lamenting about how Hollywood went from being run by a few cool guys in the ’70s to the massive corporate entity of today. But I wouldn’t learn this until the end of the evening when I found the hardcover with his name on the spine in his floor-to-ceiling, impressively filled bookcase.

E and I arrived in the Tesla Roadster, which incited a lot of interest from the group and had people trooping out of the living room through the hall and foyer into the cool dark air to take a look. During dinner I had an animated conversation with the woman on my right, who turned out to be a screenwriter. She had just finished a script about a popular and controversial female literary figure. The script, she told me, “wasn’t even supposed to go out* yet” when a copy passed through the hands of someone who knows this other someone who slipped it to a certain young A-list actress who had her agent call up and yell, “This is fantastic and perfect for her and we love it and why the hell didn’t you immediately give this to us, why didn’t we already have this????

After dinner we returned to the living room, except the place had changed. A movie screen took up the far wall and I finally noticed how the arrangement of couches and divans — which had struck me as slightly odd before — were for our viewing pleasure. “This is really cool,” commented E, looking around, and I could see through his skull into his brain: note to self: one day have awesome transformer movie room like this one.

The movie we watched was Vantage Point (“It made sixty million,” someone called out as the lights dimmed, “Sony’s happy”) which left the room nonplussed (“That made sixty million?”). Granted, it was a tough, jaded crowd, so deeply steeped in movies spanning the decades that people not only recognized the ideas taken from other movies but specific shots as well, yelling out the original sources (“Blow-Up!“) to chuckles and mutters of agreement. “Ah, style over substance,” one guy kept snorting, “style over substance. Who directed this?” I started out bored but got drawn-in towards the end** — maybe it is a one-trick story, but it’s a damn good trick (which is partly why the original movie with this kind of premise, Rashomon,*** is such a classic ) and I found myself thinking maybe I’d like to try something like it. There was one lone admirer in the group, a guy in his late teens/early twenties — a few guests had brought along their offspring — who hunched his shoulders forward with an apologetic and slightly sheepish, “I liked it. I found it entertaining.”

* ‘go out’ is the term used, as you no doubt have guessed, when a script makes the rounds of desirable actors, directors and potential investors, hoping to accumulate enough money from however many sources to turn from a blueprint into an actual movie. since a circulating screenplay with A-list starpower attached to it is so much more likely to attract funding, savvy screenwriters make sure their movie is highly castable with parts that actors would kill for.

** despite the whole thing with the little girl. I mean, c’mon. Besides, kids don’t die in these genres except in Stephen King movies, so I wish writers would figure out other ways of generating suspense.

*** I first learned about Rashomon through a Rashomon-styled episode of the tv series Fame when I was ten or eleven. God, how I loved Fame. (“You want fame?” Thwack with the stick. “Well, right here is where you start paying!” Thwack thwack. “In SWEAT!”) Nicole was my hero, and when they killed her off in a listen-here-children-drunk-driving-is-evil kind of episode, I was shattered, I tell you. Shattered. TV would never plumb such sublime dramatic depths for me again. Not even the epic saga of Dylan and Brenda.

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