Just Make Media!


Wednesday, August 24, 2005


THE CONSTANT GARDENER Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles opens this weekend in Minneapolis. Meirelles was the director of the astonishing CITY OF GODS and I was able to attend an advanced screening with the director in attendance to take questions from the audience.

THE CONSTANT GARDNER is based on John le Carrés novel is set in Kenya and follows Justin Quayle (Ralph Fienes) as a British diplomat and his bold wife Tessie (Rachel Weisz) as they venture into Africa to expose a story of international political intrigue. Meirelles opens the film with its ending, so if you are a fan of the genre of pizzling thrillers with plot twists and turns you might find the revelation in the first few minutes that our romantic lead gets quelled a bit disappointing. This isn't to say there are not twists and turns, changes of fate and subplots yet to be unturned in the course of THE CONSTANT GARDNER.

My romantic sympathies went toward Rachel Weisz's portrayal of Tessie since I have known many courageous women who staked their lives for their belief in justice.

In the course, there was a few short moments when the film seem to steer close to being a contemporary study in perception as Justin attempts to unravel Tessie's voyage into the dark underside of medical experimentation in Kenya. Was she disorganized, reckless and flirtatious or was she brilliantly coy and covert in her attempts to expose an horrific cruelty toward humanity? And then, after death, do we romanticize and mourn disproportionally to satisfy our dream of a past that never was? Ultimately, Meirelles decides not to take this story there and sticks with the thriller for its moral impact.

What surprised me the most was finally meeting Meirelles as I expected the director of CITY OF GODS to be dark, brooding and deeply contemplative and instead found him to be almost pixie like in his expression and temperament. Meirelles spent many years in the commercial advertising world and then personally invested his own time and money making CITY OF GODS which became an international sensation and earned him an Oscar nomination.

Meirelles perspective being from Brazil gives THE CONSTANT GARDNER an added perpective and edge on the western influence in third world countries and economy.

Monday, August 01, 2005


Yo, who's harshing Diablo's buzz?

A number of people responded snidely or with contempt to the previous blog I wrote about Diablo Cody getting a deal with WB and her film JUNO that is scheduled to begin production this fall. They felt it was contemptible that a stripper recently emerged from the sex industry would be given a two or three picture deal for scripts written or yet to be written. I even received anonymous comment she wasn't getting paid to be vague, as she suggested in her City Pages interview, she was being paid to be a whore or get laid.

Hey, hey we're talking about a married woman here! Show some respect...

One thing I think Diablo Cody does have is a sense of the power of her allure. That's pretty valuable in the entertainment industry and, bluntly speaking, almost any industry. Do you think Steve Jobs is unaware of the powers of his persuasion? Diablo also has a sense that creating intrigue, even controversy, around her work or herself is valuable in selling said script or manuscript.

In many ways, people observing the Diablo Cody / WB deal have the most problem with this aspect of the rise she gives producers, agents, and production companies. Diablo understands a hook and how to mine it. But she's also, obviously, a writer who took an untraditional route to researching and writing a book "Candy Land" and screenplays inlcuding JUNO. The cynics see men experiencing sexual arousal rather than a well written script worthy of being put to screen.

But where people are wrong is to presume Diablo Cody is dumb, manipulative and has no ability to write a screenplay. I would suggest she has enough ability and probably sparkles with certain aspects of the magic of storytelling. And given that the master filmmaker Akira Kurosawa said that he still had much to learn at the age 68, I suspect Diablo in her twenties has much to learn about screenwriting and filmmaking also. But DON'T hold it against her! And JUNO could be a great script for all we know about it.

All those hardened screenwriters out there who I have known for the past 20 years have much to learn from this young brash pony of a chick. And I hope they learn it because they deserve a little spotlight and time to strut their stuff as Diablo learned from the skin trade.

The lesson: there is so much more to a picture deal than ARCO fasteners and MGM-style formatted pages.