Check the headings above to begin your exploration. (It’s where you’ll find a lot of the professional samples.) The sporadic personal blogging / political commentary is below.

For a more informal take, check out Lillian Lemoning, Tumblr edition. For those who prefer their Lemoning in more bite sized, gif filled chunks. There’s also a lot more original writing there.

To New Graduates, Especially the Artists

[Warning: Bad Words, but hey, we’re talking to artists, aren’t we?]

Most graduation speeches are optimistic, painfully so, because graduation is terrifying. You are moving into another stage of your life. The next, precarious stage. That one that doesn’t end until you have kids. And a house. And life insurance. And cable. The order is up to you. I’d go with cable though. You’re going to need a distraction.

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On Writing

(There are some bad words here. Apologies for the language. *curtsies*)

There are times when writing is like trying to catch lightning bugs. It’s fun until it’s frustrating but it’s still a warm, beautiful night.

There are times when writing is like trying to catch a fish with your hands. There’s so much flowing through your fingers that all you can do is grasp and hope you got what you needed.

There are times when writing is like trying to dredge a pond. You find sludge and sludge and nothing and nothing and then suddenly you find treasure. Or a dead body. Whatever it is it’s fantastically interesting and it consumes you for days on end.

And there are times when writing is like trying to take a shit when you’re really, really constipated. It hurts and it’s not very dignified and your face is all scrunchy but you need to get this out NOW. NOW because it’s convenient and there’s a deadline and you should have thought to eat some prunes but you didn’t and now you need to shit before this meeting or you will have to shit during the whole meeting and you will lose your job because you’re focusing on your sphincter and not the task at hand.

And so you’ve forced this stuff out of your ass (because yes, you’re creatively constipated. That is what it is.) and you take a look at it.

And is it good?

You just shat it out. Why would it be?

This is why deadlines can be a pain in the butt. Literally. Err…figuratively. This is why setting several little deadlines for yourself can be much more useful than one big whomping spectre of a deadline that always looms in the distance and then pops up when you least expected it. (Despite you knowing exactly when it is.) That way you get into the habit of creating rather than the panic of “need to get this done.” Or just find a way to love yourself and your own work enough that you always want to sit down to write. Easier said than done, I know.

And remember, every single word you write adds to that stack of experience that makes you better in the long run. One of the speakers at my school, an acclaimed TV writer, said that he had an interview with a showrunner when he had just graduated film school. The showrunner asked him how high his pile was. The writer blinked. What? “Your pile. If all your finished work was in a pile, how tall would it be?” The writer shrugged, placed his hand perpendicular to his knee. “Come back when it’s above your waist.” the showrunner said. “We’ll talk.”

Feel free to substitute “creating art” for “writing.” Being a director, I tend to think of creating art as collaboration, so that has its own challenges and many, many joys, chief among them being that you can look to someone else to blame / inspire. They often overlap after all.

(Cross posted at the Lillian Lemoning Tumblr.)

“Girls” vs. “One Girl”: Moviefone, Tokenism, “The Avengers,” and the “Fake Geek Girl”

Yesterday around noon, something happened that happens every single day. A woman said something disparaging about other women* in order to ingratiate herself to men*. Or perhaps to convince herself that she is not as worthless as her lesser female* counterparts. Either way she saw fit to explain to us, her fellow penis enviers, how to talk about Joss Whedon’s The Avengers. The original title of the article was “Girls’ Guide to ‘The Avengers’.” It’s now been changed to “One Girl’s Guide To ‘The Avengers’: What You Need to Know If You Know Nothing,” but it’s still really, really marginalizing and offensive.

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Outsider’s Guide to Action Movies: Gamer

“The time has come” the Lemon said, “to talk of many things. Of men and games and high concept. Of Logan L and pings. And why Gerard Butler’s smoking hot. And what the future brings.”

Gamer is pretty high concept for an action movie. Not exactly Virtuosity high concept but we can’t all be virtual serial killer films can we?

Gamer tells the story of ex-soldier death row inmate John Tillman, alias Kable, who is forced to act as a living avatar in a Halo type death match. Controlled by a teenage gamer, Kable has to last 30 fights to earn his freedom. But rivals, society, and a very creepy Michael C. Hall stand in his way.

Let me first off say that Gamer has a dream cast. Butler plays the gruff Tillman and his controller is none other than Percy Jackson himself, Logan Lerman. Kyra Sedgwick takes a surprising turn as a talk show host who sides with the anti-cyberpunk revolutionaries (led by Ludacris) against Michael C. Hall’s creepy mind control technology.

Gamer‘s strongest element is its premise, a cyberpunk nightmare where Second Life and Halo avatars are flesh and blood people with special software in their brains that allows them to be controlled by their player. Tillman participates hoping to escape his death sentence, but his wife Angie rents out her body to a disgustingly voyeuristic gamer to earn enough money to get her daughter back. (One of the most upsetting parts of the film is the way that Angie’s player uses her with a lurid fascination and terrifying lack of empathy.)

Michael C. Hall has somehow found a character that’s scarier than Dexter Morgan in this system’s terrifying architect. As the creator of said mind control technology, Hall outfits all his guards with the software as well. With his Texas drawl and vocabulary borrowed from the most obnoxious multiplayer mockers, he is having much too much fun using people as playthings. (Did I neglect to mention that he can control everyone who has the software no matter where they are?) This all culminates in a creepy dance/fight sequence that has to be seen to be believed.

The social critique is powerful, and it’s a sobering prediction of where gamer culture could take us when the technology inevitably becomes more sophisticated. The privileged manboy voices of gaming can be heard in both Hall and Lerman’s dialogue, standing in sharp contrast with working class Butler and his family, pointing out the sad truth that gaming (and movies) are for the leisure class. With its class conscious approach, Gamer was part of the vanguard of vaguely Marxist sci-fi films like the more recent In Time. 

The sad thing is that the film never quite sizzles as wonderfully as the premise and the dance sequence suggests. The pacing’s always a bit off and it feels like an 80 meter dash with a trip at the end of the course. It also doesn’t help that no character’s through-line is very well maintained. They final boss is defeated and well, that’s the end.

How to Fake Having Seen It: “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” right dude? Say no more. Creeeeeepy.

Line That Sums the Film Up: 

Kable: What are you, twelve?
Simon: I’m seventeen, thank you.
Kable: This is unbelievable! Why am I not dead yet?
Simon: Because I am a bad-ass motherf*cker.

Verdict: See it if you’re a fan of the cast. Otherwise Skip It and read some cyberpunk fiction. (I heartily recommend Richard K. Morgan’s Takeshi Kovacs novels.)

Bonus Round: In the future Cable is spelled with a K. Also there is pistachio butter. PISTACHIO BUTTER. (Yes I know it exists now but PISTACHIO BUTTER.)

“I am the son of a glove maker.” or How I Nearly Punched a Stranger Over a Stupid Period Film

I have very few deal breakers in my life. Racism, homophobia, sexism, classism, all the usual ones. Also, anti-Stratfordians. Seriously. F*ck those guys.

Damn those ruffians.

If you’re a frequent reader, you know it’s not often that I drop the f bomb in a column. This is why I need you to fully understand how serious I am about hating anti-Stratfordians.

What is an anti-Strafordian, you say? Well, when a snooty, elitist academic and a conspiracy theorist love each other very much and really need tenure — You know what? Just watch this trailer for Anonymous.

The anti-Stratfordians believe that William Shakespeare, the son of a Catholic glove maker, wasn’t educated or rich enough to write what are pretty much the greatest works in the English canon. Continue reading

The Outsider’s Guide to Action Movies: Wanted

A Note About Spoilers and Outsider’s Guides: I have tried to avoid them at all costs but honestly, this movie is three years old. If you think finding out what weapons they use is going to ruin it for you, you’ve missed the point. If you’re jumping on now, feel free to check out the first Outsider’s Guide to understand the mission here.

So he wanted to see Wanted and you were all “You just want to see Angelina Jolie roll around on top of a car.” Boy were you wrong.

Wanted was advertised by focusing on the gifted and gorgeous Ms. Jolie, who can still can out action star pretty much everyone, but the film’s real focus is the journey of James McAvoy’s Wesley, an office drone even more impotent that Edward Norton’s Narrator from Fight Club. Dressed in ill-fitting shirts and chugging anti-anxiety medication, Wesley feels pretty worthless until a mysterious woman comes up to him in a grocery store and the next thing he knows, everyone is shooting. After being told that he’s important by Morgan Freeman (DON’T YOU WISH MORGAN FREEMAN THOUGHT YOU WERE IMPORTANT?), he is asked to join the secret Fraternity of Assassins. There are lots of plot twists and turns, many of which are genuinely surprising, so I will not discuss them here. Suffice it to say, this is not a rewarmed Fight Club remake, or a Harry Potter-style very special boy finds out he’s very special story. Sure it’s got lots of those obligatory training sequences and Jolie writhing in slow motion, but when Wesley flips a car in order to kill a mobster who’s listening to “Time to Say Goodbye,” flying over the man in slow motion, saying “I’m sorry” as he fires, or when rat bombs (as in bombs attached to rats) are a major plot device, how can you not crack a smile?

It’s McAvoy who really shines here, playing a neurotic American to the nines, avoiding the usual Brit monotone that comes with the change in dialect in favor of a willowy, wavering tremor that is both endearing and appropriately grating. (We have to want Wesley to change in order to buy into the bildungsroman, Wesley’s journey to find out who he is, to come into himself.) There’s eye candy for everyone here, and twists and turns for all. This is one movie that won’t break your relationship.

How To Fake Having Seen It: “Gorgeous fights, but so f*cking nihilist. And genuinely complex. How’re we supposed to feel about fate at the end?”

Line That Sums The Film Up: “Six weeks ago I was ordinary and pathetic. Just like you.”

Verdict: See It

Bonus Round: Ever want to hear Morgan Freeman drop the f bomb? Your wish is director Timur Bekmambetov’s command.

The Outsider’s Guide to Action Movies: Die Hard

Hey Lemoners, time to introduce you to a new feature I’m going to call “The Outsider’s Guide to Action Movies.” This is to fill a genuine need that I didn’t realize was actually an issue for a long time. We all knew that comedy and action films are a pretty conventionally male arena. Most action stars are men, and when women take the lead they are often fetishized for their “Super Girl” status. (Think Buffy, Ripley, etc.) The truth is, it’s hard to get into action movies when you’re not a member of their target demographic, but if you don’t watch them, you’re missing out on a whole chunk of pop culture. Not knowing that chunk of culture makes you an outsider, like a person who doesn’t know sports feels left out in an environment where success is indicated by being told you’re a “slam dunk” or that you landed that “Hail Mary Pass.” But guess what? Unlike sports, which can be an acquired taste, there are so many different action movies, and I promise there’s one out there for you. So let go, and get ready to find out why everyone keeps saying “Yippee-ki-yay mother–” That’s right. It’s Die Hard. Continue reading

Cowboys & Aliens First Thoughts

We interrupt our regularly scheduled moving and television coverage because a dear friend was kind enough to invite me to a pre-screening of Cowboys & Aliens at the nonprofit, ultra-classy American Cinematheque in Santa Monica, followed by a Q & A with director Jon Favreau. What a great way to start playing in LA!

Per Favreau’s request, I’m going to avoid talking about the film’s many twists, turns, and alien designs, but he also requested a spreading of the word, a contributing to the cloud, as it were.

I’m sure they’ll be a lot of comments about the gorgeous sound design and score, the myriad invocations of classic Westerns. (In many ways it’s The Searchers with aliens and a Man With No Name for good measure. This is not at all a bad thing. In fact, if you haven’t seen the films Favreau and his team are referencing, you may have your brain broken by the distinctly different pacing and composition of the filmmaking and storytelling, especially in comparison with more standard tentpole features like the pre-Avengers movies or Avatar.

Something I do want to point out is that in many ways Cowboys & Aliens is a story about who is allowed to have catharsis, who’s allowed to kill the monster. I don’t want to give anything away, but if you’re a regular reader of the blog, go to the cineplex and bring your dialectic mind. Keep asking yourself “Who’s the monster here?” I feel a paper coming on, don’t you? Also, ummmm EXPLOSIONS + ANTHROPOMORPHIC LENS + = WINNING. (Lowbrow fangirl enough?)

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