Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Dr. Peter Whybrow in conversation with David Milch

Published on Jul 1, 2015

Dr. Peter Peter Whybrow in conversation with David Milch at Live Talks Los Angeles discussing his book, "The Well Tuned Brain: Neuroscience and the Life Well Lived." For more about Live Talks Los Angeles, visit:

Peter C. Whybrow, MD, is director of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is the author of, among other books, A Mood Apart and the award-winning American Mania: When More Is Not Enough. David Milch is an Emmy-Award-winning writer and producer (Deadwood, NYPD Blue, Hill Street Blues). Milch, who won the Tinker Prize for highest achievement in English at Yale University and earned an M.F.A.from the Writers’ Workshop at The University of Iowa, left a teaching career at Yale to write for Hill Street Blues.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

American Psycho - Analysis

American Psycho (2000), screenplay by Mary Harron & Guinevere Turner, novel by Bret Easton Ellis
OWEN: Call me. (Hands him a business card)
PRICE: How about Friday?
OWEN: No can do. Got a res at eight-thirty at Dorsia. Great sea urchin ceviche.
There is a stunned silence as he walks away and sits in a corner of the room, ostentatiously studying papers.
CLOSE-UP on Bateman’s face, cold with hatred.
PRICE: (Whispering) Jesus. Dorsia? On a Friday night? How’d he swing that?
McDERMOTT: (Whispering) I think he’s lying.
Bateman takes out his wallet and pulls out a card.
PRICE: (Suddenly enthused) What’s that, a gram?
BATEMAN: New card. What do you think?
McDermott lifts it up and examines the lettering carefully.
McDERMOTT: Whoa. Very nice. Take a look.
He hands it to Van Patten.
BATEMAN: Picked them up from the printers yesterday
VAN PATTEN: Good coloring.
BATEMAN: That’s bone. And the lettering is something called Silian Rail.
McDERMOTT: (Envious) Silian Rail?
VAN PATTEN: It is very cool, Bateman. But that’s nothing.
He pulls a card out of his wallet and slaps it on the table.
VAN PATTEN: Look at this.
They all lean forward to inspect it.
PRICE: That’s really nice.
Bateman clenches his fists beneath the table, trying to control his anxiety.
VAN PATTEN: Eggshell with Romalian type. (Turning to Bateman) What do you think?
BATEMAN: (Barely able to breath, his voice a croak) Nice.
PRICE: (Holding the card up to the light) Jesus. This is really super. How’d a nitwit like you get so tasteful?
Bateman stares at his own card and then enviously at McDermott’s.
BATEMAN: (V.O.) I can’t believe that Price prefers McDermott’s card to mine.
PRICE: But wait. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
He holds up his own card.
PRICE: Raised lettering, pale nimbus white…
BATEMAN: (Choking with anxiety) Impressive. Very nice. Let’s see Paul Owen’s card.
Price pulls a card from an inside coat pocket and holds it up for their inspection: “PAUL OWEN, PIERCE & PIERCE, MERGERS AND ACQUISITIONS.” Bateman swallows, speechless. The sound in the room dies down and all we hear is a faint heartbeat as Bateman stares at the magnificent card.
BATEMAN: (V.O.) Look at that subtle off-white coloring. The tasteful thickness of it. Oh my God, it even has a watermark…
His hand shaking, Bateman lifts up the card and stares at it until it fills the screen.
He lets it fall. The SOUND RETURNS TO NORMAL.
CARRUTHERS: Is something wrong? Patrick…you’re sweating.
Bateman (Christian Bale) has a hateful rivalry with Paul Owen (Jared Leto), who outplays him at every turn, even though it’s only ever about appearances (He’s not too fond of anyone else who outplays him as well). The rivalry is prevalent among all these guys. But none can touch Owen with his reservation at Dorsia or his unrivaled business card, especially not Bateman who had to lie about a Dorsia reservation, and whose card is second rate to at least a few others.
This is a classic pivotal scene and inciting incident, which reveals Bateman’s deep inner conflict, torment, personal anxiety, and hatred toward Owen, and serves as the premise of the story (Bateman’s psychosis). This incident sets Bateman off on a killing spree, starting later with taking an axe to Owen to Huey Lewis’ ‘Hip to be Square'”.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Happy Endings are Depressing

People sometimes complain about movies with sad or depressed endings. They want upbeat, feel good, inspiring. They want the fairy tales. But do happy endings actually make you happy? Do down endings make you sad? I don't think so.

When you've seen a a movie with a happy ending and then have to face reality, you inevitably come to the realization that you don't have a happy ending. You don't have any kind of ending. Even when you die, you won't experience the ending of your life, because it will be over before you can experience it.

When you've seen a movie with a sad ending, you may think about how the characters went wrong. You may think about how lucky you are not to have experienced something so depressing. Even if you had experienced it, you can feel consolation with characters that share your experience.  The outcome of a sad ending is to make you feel better.

When I got out of college times were tough, as they probably are for most kids just out of college. I could barely find enough work to survive. It was depressing as hell. So what did I do to feel better? No. I didn't go watch movies with happy endings. I couldn't afford movies with any kind of ending. I simply went out for walks in the city. And what did I see? Homeless people of course. People living depressing lives, too poor to have a car, taking buses. Waiting at bus stops like zombies. I would walk down the street and see all the lonely people, just like the Beatles song. Then I'd feel better. I'd feel sorry for them. But I'd feel better about myself, because even though I didn't have much, I had enough to feel like I had more than a lot of other people had.

You might have expected me to say that I least I had friends. But I didn't really. They'd all left college. They weren't around. My parents were staunch conservatives. They didn't want me around the house. So I can't say I had family either. I had nothing but myself. But I was comfortable with that. I had my films that I was working on. I had ideas. There was always the future. If there's a future there's hope. You have the opportunity to continue to live and make something happen.

Happy endings will depress you. But sad endings give you hope in what you have. Now try explaining that to the genius Hollywood MBA studio heads.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Leaving Las Vegas: Analysis

Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
John O’Brien (novel)
Mike Figgis (screenplay and director)
with Nicolas Cage and Elizabeth Shue


Ben and Sera are eating. He plays with his food, eating very little of it. Finally he pushes it away and orders another drink.

SERA: I’m from the East. I went to college, did an arts course. I now live in Vegas. I think of it as home. I came here deliberately to carve out a life. I was in LA before, but I’ll come back to that later. (pause) The tough times are behind me now. I can deal with the bad things that happen. There will always be dark characters. But my life is good. It is as I would want it to be. So, why are you a drunk?

BEN: Is that really what you want to ask me?

SERA: Yes.

BEN: (worried) Well, then I guess this is our first date… or our last. Until now, I wasn’t sure it was either.

SERA: Very clever.

Sera thinks for a while and decides to give in to him on this.

SERA: First. It’s our first. I’m just concerned. So… why are you killing yourself?

BEN: Interesting choice of words. I don’t remember. I just know that I want to.

SERA: Want to kill yourself? Are you saying that you’re drinking as a way to kill yourself?

And she leans across the table to be close to him, listening intently. Ben becomes uncomfortable and tries to joke it off.

BEN: Or killing myself as a way to drink.

Sera continues to stare at him, wanting to know the real answer. He takes a slug from his drink. She sits back.

BEN: We’ll talk about it some other time maybe. OK?

Sera relaxes and continues with her food. We hear her thoughts for a moment.

SERA (v.o): It wasn’t so important to me. I mean, he never asked me why I was a hooker, and that was impressive. I really liked him. So I decided to just play my part. I mean… it’s good to help someone once in a while., it’s a bonus to being alive, and that was my plan… to stay alive. I suddenly came to a decision.


I love this movie. Cage got an Oscar. Shue was nominated, along with Figgis for screenplay and direction. It’s a classic great with a wonderful bluesy jazz track. It’s one of those rare films where everything comes together.

This scene sticks in my mind, especially the line about how killing himself is a way to drink. That line is very representative of his character. He is always jovial and light about everything, with a few exceptions of rage. But this indicates how he rationalizes and accepts his depression. He’s OK with killing himself. And it seems he doesn’t even know he’s depressed. Or doesn’t admit it. That way he can carry on life as if it’s all very acceptable.

In fact numerous great writers seem to fall into depression and even suicide. And the novel is semi-autobiographical. In writing, if you put your soul into it, it can be reflective and can bring up certain thoughts such as the general futility of life (everything ends). In Hollywood this kind of demise seems even more a rule than an exception. Success is usually short lived. It’s wonderful to face these things through this character.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance (analysis)

**** SPOILERS ****
Here is my take on “The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance”. It is explained and owned by Dickinson (the theatre reviewer character). It’s the title of her review that was so feared by Riggan before she ever wrote it. And it explains Riggan’s dichotomy.

Dickinson defines Riggan as a personification of Hollywood:

….I hate you. And everyone you represent. Entitled. Spoiled. Selfish. Children. Blissfully untrained, unversed and unprepared to even attempt real art. Handing each other awards for cartoons and pornography. Measuring your worth in weekends. Well, this is the theater, and you don’t get to come in here and pretend you can write, direct and act in your own propaganda piece without going through me first.
She’s telling him he is ignorant and she’s thinking he doesn’t even know it (he’s an untrained child). Ignorance becomes a “virtue of ignorance”, but it’s only virtuous when she sees he is actually honest in his performance and direction of the play.

Honesty is a virtue in acting. I think it is the thing that most divides Hollywood/film from theatre. The simplest thing can be honesty. It is possible to transcend both film and theatre as some great actors do. You might not expect that of an untrained, Hollywood comic book character player with no theatre background.

Riggin’s ‘virtue of ignorance’ is his ‘innocence’ (as a beginner on the stage), an unexpected innocence. I would add that the dichotomy between film and theatre is another strong recurring theme and mirrors Riggin’s own inner conflict of Divided Self and Disunity.

As Mike also eludes to it:

Do you have any idea who walked these boards before you? Geraldine Page, Marlon Brando, Helen Hayes, Jason Robards… And now you. Riggan Thomson.
And again later:

….Your stage? This stage belonged to a lot of great actor’s, pal. But you are not one of them.
Perhaps it is the explicit reflection of the implicit film/theatre disunity subtext that we also see personified in Riggan’s conversations with the Hollywood Birdman. If Riggin were to embrace and understand Dickinson’s meanings, he might come to terms with, and conquer his internal disunity. Perhaps her review was a letter to him.

As an aside, the film/theatre theme is carried out in the execution of the film itself. We watch Birdman, a movie shot in the style of theatre, where actors play out scenes in one uncut take as they would on the stage. This is the greatest advantage of the fluid Steadicam, no-cut, no-coverage, continuous take style. I think it should be the norm and not the exception when actors are involved.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Who are you?


Is this Larry?

Who's calling?

I'm Wendy Ferguson, with Mutual Applied Assistance Care. We show you listed at 458 Temple Boulevard in Akron Ohio. Is that correct?

I don't know you and I never heard of mutual whatever.

Yes. Well we show that you have a balance of 35,886.51 on you college loan. Can we make some kind of arrangement to get this paid off?

I never made any loans with Mutual anyone.

Well, trust me sir. You do have an outstanding balance.

Trust you? Can I see your ID?

Well we're on the phone here.

OK, well email it to me.

Sir, I can't email you my ID.

Why not?

Look that's not the way we do business. I can't send you my personal information.

But you have my personal information, don't you?


And I never heard of you.

Sir Mutual is a well respect agency accredited by the federal government as a loan collection agency.

So what? How do I know you're not lying? How do I know you really are Wendy whatever? How do I know your company even exists?

Well I assure you, any information you give me is kept in strict confidence. Our company does exist, and I am Wendy.

Really? Tell you what. How about you send me a copy of the loan agreement with my signature between me and Mutual.

Sir, I don't have that readily available. I can send you a copy of the information I do have in front of me.

Does it contain my signature?


Well there you go. Any legal agreement for a loan requires signatures of both parties, does it not?

Sir this is not a legal call. I simply wish to make payment arrangements.

Tell you what. Tell me what you're wearing.


Yeah, you heard me.

Sir this is inappropriate. I will have to report you if you continue.

Go ahead. report me. What color is your underwear?

I'm sorry I will have to terminate this call. Good-bye.

Have a nice day.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Mad Men Ending

Of course Don forsakes human interaction and love for fellow man by selling out to a Coke ad. That is completely in his character and certainly to be expected. No doubt, you along with most everyone was holding out for hope that Don comes to an epiphany, even to the point of suicide, because killing off the proverbial ad man, in his own realization that what he does has no substance except to subvert human growth into tooth decay and obesity (Coke by products), would be the most humane thing we could do for society.

And I liked Don. But he was never better than after he dumped his ad man life. Going back to it is a fate worse than death.

Of course he will ultimately fittingly die of cancer, just as he suffers for his wife at the hands of ad men like himself (they sold and still sell nicotine, yo). No ad men. No smoking. No cancer. And that's what Hollywood is all about. Happy endings at any cost. It makes the execs happy.

But ironically in this case, it exposes the reality of 70's hype that killed what the sixties stood for. And that is why it’s a great ending. It is truth. It is exactly what happens and what did happen. And you call that upbeat? Get cancer and see how upbeat it is.

Blog Archive

Popular Posts

Mistress City

Cinephilia and Beyond

Keyframe - Explore the world of film.