Sunday, February 24, 2008

My 7 Favorite Films of 2007

Okay, it's time for a not-so-shocking confession: I'm BIG on movies. What a surprise, right? Haha... Anyway, movies have always been a big part of my life. I guess you can say they inspire me, even to the point where I'm trying to write my own. Anyway, I thought I might share a list of my favorite films, and although this is not exclusively writing-related (although writing is clearly a fundamental part of any film, as the current writers' strike is making abundantly clear), I felt that you all might be somewhat interested to check out my picks.... and if not.... well, it's my blog, and I'll do what I damn well please...thankyouverymuch. ;)

I saw a bit over 50 movies in 2007, and while that's not nearly as much as most critics, I feel like I have a good grasp on the year in films. However, I have yet to see several of the year's most-touted movies, such as Michael Clayton, Gone Baby Gone, and The Bourne Ultimatum, so the list is by no means complete. All I'm saying is that these are my favorites of the ones I've seen.
Also, just to put my eclectic cinematic taste in perspective, here's a peek at my Top 6 of 2006 list (in order): 6) Blood Diamond, 5) Dreamgirls, 4) V for Vendetta, 3) Pan's Labyrinth, 2) Stranger than Fiction, 1) The Departed

So, without further delay, here's this year's model, my top 7 of 2007:

7. Hot Fuzz

From the director, writers, and stars of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz is a parody of American action films, but unlike recent spoofs like Meet the Spartans and Scary Movie 4, the film is more than a mishmash of skits. Rather, the story follows big city policeman Nick Angel (Simon Pegg) as he is located to a small village where nothing is as it seems. Hot Fuzz takes a while to build, but it's totally worth it, as every single moment is paid off later in the film. Hilarious!

6. Knocked Up

Like pretty much every guy my age, I absolutely LOVE The 40-Year-Old Virgin. So as soon as I found out that writer/director Judd Apatow was releasing Knocked Up, I couldn't wait to see it. A mismatch between career girl Alison (Katherine Heigl) and slacker Ben (Apatow regular Seth Rogen) is prime material for laughs, but as usual, Apatow manages to extract an equal amount of heart from his characters, making some sweet observations about love, marriage, and parenthood along the way. Although I still prefer Apatow's earlier work, his films tend to get better on repeat viewings. So, in time, I'll probably come to love Knocked Up even more.

5. 1408
Films based on Stephen King stories are a decidely mixed bag. For every classic, such as Misery and It, there's a clunker like Dreamcatcher. 1408 is definitely the former. The film - which feels very much in the vein of The Shining - features an outstanding performance by John Cusack as writer Mike Enslin. Working on his latest book about "haunted" hotels, he checks into the Dolphin Hotel's cursed 1408...and let's just say, he gets WAY more than he bargains for. Rather than copping out with cheap scares or outlandish gore, the film - and the room itself - delves into Enslin's tortured past, using his psychological demons against him. Brilliant - and highly underrated thriller that will definitely stick with you!

4. Atonement
An old-fashioned romantic tragedy, Atonement has more in common with films like Casablanca and Titanic than any recent releases. Robbie (James McAvoy) and Cecilia (Keira Knightley) fall in love despite differing backgrounds, but a terrible lie from the lips of Cecilia's own sister, Briony (Saoirse Ronan) threatens to tear them apart. While the story is not wholly original, it is told in such a masterful way - with fabulous performances all around and a truly mesmerizing Academy Award-winning musical score - that it's hard not to get swept up in the film. Besides, it features the most unexpected and haunting endings of any film in recent memory.

3. Ratatouille
Okay, a rat wants to be a chef. Whoa, hold up. A rat wants to be a chef?!? Ratatouille - from the writer/director of Pixar's equally brilliant The Incredibles - takes that somewhat ridiculous premise and totally runs with it. Paris sewer rat Remy teams with the bumbling Linguini to become the city's culinary genius, and this Oscar winner for Best Animated Feature romanticizes both the City of Lights and its cuisine. The rollicking score by Michael Giacchino and the movie's heartwarming message about being true to yourself help Pixar add another entry to their growing oeuvre of animated masterpieces.

2. Grindhouse
Some of you may question why I placed Grindhouse, directors Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez's ode to the exploitation double features of the 1970s, so high on this list. Well, aside from being a monster fan of both filmmakers (they're among my favorite directors), the theatrical experience of viewing this melange of Rodriguez's zombie flick Planet Terror and Tarantino's Death Proof, intercut with faux-trailers from Eli Roth (Hostel), Edgar Wright (#7, Hot Fuzz), and Rob Zombie (the Halloween remake) was an absolute blast, and really, that's all it's supposed to be. It's not high art, but it's definitely a damn good time...

1. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Director Tim Burton and Johnny Depp team up for their sixth collaboration in this adaptation of the 1979 Stephen Sondheim musical. While the prospect of Burton and Depp re-teaming is sure to incite high expectations, the film is far better than I had anticipated. The music is memorable, the eerie, ghostly Oscar-winning art direction is outstanding, and the supporting cast (including Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, and, Sacha Baron Cohen) is incredibly effective. A former barber who returns to London to seek revenge against the man who ruined his life, Sweeney Todd himself a complex and fascinating anti-hero, and the film's intricate blend of horror, tragedy, and dark comedy is like nothing I've ever seen. Sweeney Todd is both badass and heart-breaking, ingenious... and twisted. In other words, classic Tim Burton!

Honorable Mentions: The Simpsons Movie, Zodiac, Enchanted, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, Beowulf, Superbad, Once

So, what do you guys think? Are my choices way off-base? Did I miss one of your fave flicks of last year? Hit me up in the comments. Thanks!


Sunday, February 17, 2008

Writers Put Down The Strike Signs And Pick Up The Pencil

Hello fellow writers, I'm Freddy Yaniz, Robert's brother. After months of constant nagging and persistance, I have finally decided to post a message on The Crooked Table. In doing so, I've decided to write about the lastest piece of news in writing history: The Writer's Strike. I'm sure you've all heard about it, since it's such a big deal. The consequences to the Writer's Strike were disastrous. Television shows and movies were stopped in their tracks and were not progressing until the writers got what they deserved. Some people may ask how the writer's strike started. Well, for you people who have been stuck in a hole somewhere, I'll tell you.
The writer's strike started when the Writers Guild of America woke up one morning and decided that they weren't being treated the way they should be. In result of this sudden thought, more than 12,ooo television and movie writers, who are in legal contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, had been forced to go out on strike on November 5, 2007.

After about three months of strike and holding up signs, the writers finally got the money they deserved from the studios. The sooner the strike ended, the better for everyone because the last strike ended up being five months. Not only were television and movie viewers disappointed, but it cost the entertainment industry an estimated 500 million dollars. If it was less than three months, viewers would have had the Golden Globes with actors presenting awards, writers would have gotten their money sooner, and the studios wouldn't have had to look like such cheap bastards.

So, what will be the after-effects of the writer's strike? Well, some television shows are either ending shorter this year, not airing at all until next year, or even being considered for cancellation. So, as I said, everything would've been better if the strike ended sooner. Better late than never (or much later), so I'm going to enjoy the fact that they're writing at all. Thank you television and movie writers for picking up your pencils; it's been hell without you.

June 30: SAG-AFTRA contract expires
July 31: DGA contract expires

Writer's Strike Timelines:

Picture Timeline:

Regular Timeline:

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

V Day Boycott

Keeping up with my annual tradition I am once again boycotting V Day this year. Why, oh why? How much do I hate this dude, Valentine? Let me count the ways:
People should try to be nice and even romantic without a special date attached to it. Granted, reserving one day a year for this occasion may increase everyone's chance to eat more chocolate or get some flowers which will be dead within three days. But tell me something, what exactly is the point of this stupid behavior? Ahhhhh, someone made up this day to give people yet another reason to spend some hard earned cash on things no one really needs. Smart move. Wanna jump on the commercialized band wagon? Be my guest!
The other side of the coin, however, is that some people may expect to get something--just because it is V Day--and then end up disappointed because no one thought of them, or the date for that matter. Poor schmucks.
Have you ever worked in sales? No? Well, imagine this: every nocive learns in Sales 101 that V Day is THE biggest sales occasion of the year, right before or after Xmas (depending on where you stand.). The Easter Bunny turns green with envy!!!

On a more personal note, I have to admit that V day has ALWAYS sucked for me. Something bad always happened right around that day. It's cursed, if you ask me.

So, Valentine, you better run, because your ass is mine!!!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Artists Should Support Other Artists

So give this cd a try:

Paul J. Watkins
By: Jennifer Neal

Rarely does a cd come across your path that’s just too unique to put into any one category. However, Paul J. Watkins’ fourth recorded album Drive has placed itself ever so gracefully into that bin. With lyrics written by Watkins himself and music by Mark J. Dye this cd is for poetry and spoken word lovers everywhere.

The music behind Watkins’ words of truth and “a mission” is the most eclectic mix ever placed onto one cd. Some tracks give you an old school metal vibe while others remind you of the old school punk days. Then Watkins’ throws a jazzy track or two in and you’re set to have your friends ask you “What the hell is this man?”

And what it is is in the eye of the artist. “I’ve never been one of the crowd/God as my witness I won’t start now,” croons Paul on the album’s second track “On a Mission.” And by this cd listeners can tell. The lyrics are cutthroat, raw, and laced with emotion that some of us can only begin to understand.

So if you’re down for something new and different (and change is always good!) definitely give this album a listen. Behind the madness there is a message and if you’re awake enough to understand it, then it’s for you. And if not, then “stay cool with your drool” as Paul J. Watkins would say.

You can learn more about Paul and Drive by checking out

Unasked-Advice to New Writers About Money

When reading another blog ( that I often check in on, I found this link about advice for writers. It relates to running a freelance photography career also, which I do. But since you guys are the writers and I want each and every one of you to be successful at it, I felt compelled to send along this link:

On his blog, writer John Scalzi, gives career and financial advice on how to be successful. I recommend checking it out!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Interesting Links

I thought I'd post a few links in case anyone is interested in the magazine world of writing or a discussion about business skills needed by journalism students.

There appears to be a Tampa chapter too for the Ed2010 blog.

I didn't spend too much time on the site, but it looked as if the advice page had some interesting posts.

Also, here is the link to MediaShift, a blog I check daily, if not hourly. Mark Glaser, the host, has written a post about business skills needed by journalism students.

Just a FYI.