Full of It



I am thankful for the tree that stands outside my Westwood apartment complex.

It's a reminder of the authentic autumns I left behind on the East Coast. Its orange leaves have fallen onto our driveway like rose petals carefully strewn across the pathway, welcoming us home every night and sending us off into the unknowns of every smog-tinged morning.

It gives me hope that Los Angeles is capable of a real autumn during which layers can be worn, actual foliage can be enjoyed, and pumpkin scones can be eaten during morning commutes.

My first Thanksgiving in Los Angeles had been a depressing one. During the November of 2002 I had been a barista at Starbucks. It was around the corner from my Spanish-tiled one-bedroom on 7th Avenue in Venice. It was the first time in my 22 years that I had woken up in an empty house, to no delicious smells coming from the kitchen, no turkey roasting in the oven. I had to go to work. Scarfing down a bowl of Cheerios, I had caught ten minutes of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC (my usual tradition up until then had involved a more lavish breakfast and sitting through the corny production in its entirety). Katie Couric and Matt Lauer's chatter and comments on the damp weather, no longer broadcast live for me, reminded me of what I had left behind. Had this been one of the first signs of homesickness?

The remainder of the day was spent brewing Venti decaf, non-fat, soy lattes for the mirthless few who walked in and drove through on their day off. However, the holiday wasn't as hopeless as it had started. I ended my day with a few college acquaintances in a Burbank apartment, sitting at a fold-out table, eating off of Dixie plates and enjoying our first post-collegiate Orphans Thanksgiving.

My second Thanksgiving in Los Angeles was an improvement. I dined with some co-workers and their respective friends in the Los Feliz home of a production assistant who had worked on That 70s Show. I brought my signature candied yam dish for all to share; unfortunately, Atkins was the diet du jour that year, and my potluck contribution barely made it to everyone's plate.

Thanksgiving 2004 saw me return to New York and to the homey goodness of my family's recipes. I realized how much I had missed our signature stuffing...and a good rainstorm. I welcomed the cold and damp weather as my parents and I trekked to my aunt's house for a sinful smorgasboard of sweets after dinner.

One year later, when I had worked for the wonderful Jack Kenny on The Book of Daniel, I temporarily lived in his beautiful home in the hills, looking after his Great Dane, the lovable, snuggable Razzie, and his two cats. It was my first time playing host for the holiday, and it was my most lavish one. Ten of us had gathered in the dining room, noshing on garlic mashed potatoes, rosemary-garnished hen and sauteed vegetables while Razzie slept in the corner, perhaps waiting for a rogue piece of turkey to land on the hardwood floor.

Last year had been the first time I held the dinner in my small townhouse apartment on Bedford. I became a half-Asian Emeril Lagasse and marinated a 10-pound turkey in a beer brine for 24 hours in my fridge. Dessert later followed during a screening of Mean Girls and an attempt to play a round of Trivial Pursuit.

T-Day 2007 was possibly my most fabulous one to date. The always welcoming Michael and Corey hosted their own dinner and invited the members of their L.A. family who chose to avoid the chaotic airports and clogged freeways. Bottles of wine waited for us on the candlelit table, our names written on leaf nametags. Pumpkintinis were served shortly before the turkey made its debut among the horseradish-garlic potatoes, noodle kugel, and string bean casserole on the serving table which was draped in golds and reds. Cups of whipped pumpkin butter were planted next to trays of salt and pepper and jugs of unsweetened iced tea and apple cider. In the background, the soft sounds of John Legend and Jason Mraz contributed to the casual-chic ambience. I found myself dining inside a Crate and Barrel catalog.



"This is how we rock Thanksgiving in the City of Angels," I noted during a teary-eyed toast from our host.

Within a half hour all twelve of us were in food comas, shifting in our seats, rubbing our stomachs, asking why do we do this to ourselves year after year. Yet we still sought after the apple and pecan pies, fulfilling our basic human need to get our dessert on.

The night ended shortly after eight, and I didn't know if my exhaustion was due to the overeating or the lack of sleep from earlier in the week (Tryptophan, my fellow Thanksgivers concluded, is just a myth). I drove home with the defroster on (it be chilly) and crashed on my couch while watching a TiVoed Pushing Daisies. I was in bed by ten, the alarm set for an early start on Black Friday. For those of you wondering, I did manage to finish half of my Christmas shopping the next morning. God bless Target and its express lanes; the checkout lines and parking lots weren't as painful as predicted. My helpful tip: read the ads beforehand to see what is exactly on sale, make the necessary adjustments on your list, and go alone (I was back home by 8am).

And so it begins, the hectic holiday season, a time when parties are planned, gifts are purchased, and schedules overflow with shit to do. I am mentally bracing myself as needed.

And through it all, I'll still have that tree standing outside my Westwood apartment, its orange leaves still reminding me of what I have left behind on the East Coast. But, at the same time, it will also remind me of what I have gained over the past several years during the past several holidays - a second family.

Happy Shopping (If I can brave Best Buy at 6am, anyone can).

H.P.M.


Southland Tales

It seems like I am the only person I know who had been heavily anticipating Richard Kelly's ambitious, apocalyptic follow-up to one of my favorite movies of all-time, Donnie Darko. This all-star epic has been so under-the-radar, I assume that a good number of you who read this are probably hearing about it now for the first time.

Blame the publicity nightmare of a reaction (the questionable casting!) that came out of Cannes...in 2006. Blame the writers strike; there's no sign of a press junket, and there are hardly any talk shows on which its stars can promote it. Blame the delay due to the constant retooling the young writer-director had to endure (remember, this was supposed to be in theaters over a year ago).

Whatever the obstacles, however many warning flags were raised to hail this as one cinematic hot mess, it's out now...and I frickin' loved it.

The nutshell: Dwayne Johnson plays a movie star with amnesia who teams up with a porn star (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and an anxious cop (Seann William Scott) to expose a government conspiracy that eventually causes the end of the world during the 2008 presidential election. Oh, and then there's Justin Timberlake who plays a drugged-out and disfigured Iraq veteran (and Bible-quoting narrator), Mandy Moore at her bitchiest and Miranda Richardson who plays the duplicitous wife of a senator looking to get inside the Oval Office with the help of a corrupt corporation run by Wallace "Inconceivable" Shawn. Next, throw in some time-travel, a Kevin Smith cameo, and bizarro turns from Bai Ling, John Larroquette and Cheri Oteri (as a Marxist-like revolutionist), and you have yourself a satirical smorgasboard of dystopian delights accompanied by a hypnotic score from Moby.


The mind of Richard Kelly is an awe-inspiring thing. To create a world filled with out-there characters and a dozen storylines to track is one thing, but to pepper it all with unorthodox ideas and themes takes brass balls. To call this a Gen-Y-friendly version of Brazil would be trite and do a disservice to the insane amount of effort and imagination that went into what will surely be a cult classic (tsk-tsk to Beowulf for hogging all of the box office receipts this weekend). And I call it that because what is a movie that frustrates the mind with its chaotic acts and demands repeated viewings? I already await the director's cut on DVD since I noticed one its many random co-stars, Janeane Garafolo, was cut from the final print. The deleted scenes are just screaming to be watched someday (mind you, it now clocks in at a heavy 2 hours and 25 minutes). Watching this movie, I got the sense that there was a whole lot more we weren't getting, plenty of layers we barely scratched.

May I also suggest breezing through the graphic novel trilogy-prequel (the movie opens with Part IV). I was lucky enough to get my hands on the advance copies through a friend of the director's, and the film was still a giant pill to swallow. Granted, it's a pill some won't want to take.

www.southlandtales.com

Invasion of the 80s Remakes

They're here.



Apparently Hollywood has moved on from Japanese ghosts and torture porn.

The next subgenre du jour? 80s horror remakes. Or as I like to call it, The Neverending Rape of My Childhood Memories.

New Line is about sign the guy who did the Texas Chainsaw redo to direct the re-imagining of Friday the 13th (Jason's back, and Camp Crystal Lake is open for business again). MGM has lined up a new Poltergeist (sans Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams, but bet on that same crazy-scary clown doll). And the guys who wrote 2008's Prom Night (starring Brittany Snow) got chosen to pen the 21st-century version of The Stepfather starring Dylan Walsh (Nip/Tuck), Sela Ward and Gossip Girl's Penn Badgely.

Why won't I be surprised if I see a new Scream hitting theaters in 2010?

I don't think my eyes can roll back far enough.

H.P.M.

Writing the Wrong

Today is Day 5. Right now hundreds of picketers are clogging up Pico Boulevard at Fox Studios near my old neighborhood, making it the biggest gathering during the strike so far.

The drama (or lack thereof) continues.



Okay, we get it. Y'all hope it doesn't last too long either:



'Tis an interesting yet frustrating time. As the days go by, the more dire this looks. As one who wishes to someday be a part of this very union, I can't help but imagine myself lining up with the rest of them had I randomly sold a pilot a year ago and become another one of those "promising, new" showrunners for network television. But that is not the case, and already I have friends and acquaintances whose jobs have been compromised by the whole mess. I sympathize with my industry brethren, especially those in the production arena, and wish them well. I realize I am fortunate to still be able to function in this cocoon of an office. I just hope the fallout doesn't reach us too soon.

I'd like to stay in my bubble as long as I can.

H.P.M.

Quarterlife



"A sad truth about my generation is that we were all geniuses in elementary school, but apparently the people who deal with us never got our transcripts because they don't seem to be aware of it."

So opens what promises to be a poignant new series coming soon - not to TV or cable - but to MySpace.

Premiering on November 11, quarterlife (that lowercased title just screams with irreverence and woe) follows the lives of several twentysomethings learning how to come to terms with a world that has no clear terms. Our cyber-savvy protaganist is Dylan, a vlogger who vents about those closest to her and stirs up drama among her circle of friends. Produced by the wonderteam of Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick (poetic angstfest My So-Called Life), this new made-for-the-Web show features a refreshingly non-flashy cast (no CW model-actors here) and painfully real dialogue that manages to avoid being too whiny.

And who knows? With the current writers strike threatening to shut down all of network and cable television (no new Ugly Betty! Or Heroes!), this may just be a hit...and the future of scripted drama.



Quarterlife on MySpaceTV

Christmas Comes Early



Another red carpet to walk...Corey and I attended the Fred Claus premiere in Hollywood over the weekend.

Check it out.