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Movie Night: A Movie About Writing

Alright, this is for my audience of 1-5 ish...is that about where I stand now...I think that sounds about right.

Before I go any further. Has, I will watch Kill Bill with you soon ish, I just need a break from all the action. Set up the thread whenever, I'll bump it up on my list of things to do because you are so loyal to the jam session, but probably not for at least another week or so. Feel free to join me in here though.

It's from 2002. Directed by Spike Jonez. Starring Nicolas Cage and Meryl Streep.

It's a story about telling stories. It's a story within a story. It's a riddle. But most importantly; it's about rare orchids.
 Orchids Orchids_by_mfmarsphoto.jpg

It's good for the writers, the story tellers, the future novelists.

Ahem, duly noted. Marketing is not my strong point. I just assume everyone wants to hang out with me, and I have no idea how to market outside of that little train of thought I have in my head.

Bring me back more than a tacky pink straw hat ok?

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jrd3820's picture

Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

I never know where to put these...
A Room of One’s Own.

This is an extended essay based on a series of lectures Virginia Woolf gave at some female only colleges. This all came about after she started realizing the different opportunities available to men in the world of writing and education versus the opportunities available to women. While she was trying to gather information for her essays on this topic she realized that most history on women had been written about by men. Just as a lot of history on various ethnic minorities has been written about by Caucasians. Anyways, she says that “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”

The idea is not so much that she has her own room (although that certainly helps) but that she is in a situation where she has financial control enough to have her own space if she so chooses. The money isn’t so much about material items; it is about being put in the same class as men and given the same opportunities.


To be honest, her writing kind of bores me. Its Brit lit. I always thought Brit lit was more boring because it was written in a mold. Mid 19th century-current American lit always seemed more creative to me. Authors were trying new things and at that point in American history individualism was embraced so people were not trying to fit a specific mold. That being said, I had to take 2 Brit lit classes and I did find Virginia Woolf to be an interesting character even if her writing bored me a little. She lived a tormented life and definitely had some mental issues.

Then there is the movie The Hours with Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, and Julianne Moore (aka the pretty redhead). The movie touches Woolf’s story Mrs. Dalloway which I as a horrible lit major never finished even though it is relatively short. Like I said, I think Woolf herself is a more interesting character and has a more interesting story than the stories she tells and the characters she creates.


Michael Nystrom's picture

I like the pretty redhead

She made a particular impression in the 1992 movie Short Cuts.

She reminds me of my friend Rachael, who's name also, like mine, ends in ~ael. Rachael went on to write a book called Mommy Doesn't Drink Here Anymore. It is a memoir of her becoming an alcoholic, and then recovering. Rachael is a lifer. I haven't talked to her in a couple of years, but she is still a lifer.

The Hours is based on a book by Michael Cunningham. Samantha really likes that movie, and we watched it again recently. Sam an oddball for a woman, so she really identifies with Ms. Woolf, and how women can be trapped by society's roles and expectations. I'm an oddball too, so we make a good team. Most of the people I like are oddballs.

I think Virginia Woolf had it harder in her day. Women these days can be freer, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they are. All people - men and women - still have to make that choice to be free. It isn't always easy.

But, America is still a great place to exercise freedom. It is also easier to be free in a liberal foreign culture as long as you remain an outsider. For example, it is easy for me to be an eccentric in Japan or Taiwan, as long as I remain outside the system. Once you're in the system though, forget it. "The nail that stands out will be hammered down." That is what they say in Japan. The expectation of conformity for locals is stifling. I'm glad I was born in America.

I have never read any Virginia Woolf myself. That is an interesting observation about Brit Lit being written in a mold. Expectations and conformity shape it. Not to be repetitive, but that is what I liked about Grab onto me tightly as if I knew the way. It broke all molds. There was no mold. That's what made it exhilarating for me to read.

In order to write something like that, you really have to free your mind from convention. Some rules can be bent. Others can be broken.


To be mean is never excusable, but there is some merit in knowing that one is; the most irreparable of vices is to do evil out of stupidity. - C.B.

has, jrd, all... Watching a movie w/me tonight? (It's on line.)

NOBODY LOVES ME. It's German, w/subtitles. I've seen it listed as comedy/drama or referred to as a romantic comedy. In any event, much as I love some of them, this is no "Meg Ryan romantic comedy.") http://images.moviepostershop.com/nobody-loves-me-movie-post...

*All* the reviews and trailers give away the plot. So here are a couple *abbreviated* reviews:

"The characters in this German romantic comedy that follows a 30-year old single woman searching for love, have a distinctly Felliniesque quality to them..."

On the brink of her 30th birthday, Fanny feels the door to marital happiness closing up on her. She is obsessed with death..."

If Winona Ryder in BEETLEJUICE were German and 30 years old, she'd be Maria Schrader in Doris Dorrie's NOBODY LOVES ME. Bored with her mundane job and looking for love -- but not too hard, because then she'd have to own up to her desperation -- black-clad Fanny Fink (Schrader) returns to emotional life after receiving a wake-up call...

It's on line (free). Here's the link. Foreign films aren't rated, but surely it would be R. http://viooz.co/movies/23014-nobody-loves-me-keiner-liebt-mi...

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.
~ John Muir

Michael Nystrom's picture

The movie begins with Charlie, engrossed,

ENGROSSED in negative self talk. "What am I doing here? Why'd I bother to come here today? No one seems to know my name. I've been on this planet for 40 years, and I'm no closer to understanding anything..."

He's lost in his head.

I like Has's observation about the same story being told in two different ways: Charlie is Susan, and Donald is Laroche. That helped me see some things:

Charlie and Susan are both lost in their heads. Everything is intellectualized. Charlie is so far in his head he can barely function. Susan has the same problem: "I want to know what it feels like to care about something passionately." Neither of them really feel anything.

Laroche isn't in his head at all. He just does what he does. He's got no front teeth, drives that crappy white van, and still lives at home with his dad. He lays on the couch and scratches his balls and watches TV with his dad, and focuses on his passion like a laser. Before orchids, it was fish. Then one day, fish are over. Just like that.

Laroche: Then one morning, I woke up and said, "Fuck fish." I renounce fish, I will never set foot in that ocean again. That's how much "fuck fish." That was 17 years ago and I have never stuck so much as a toe in that ocean. And I love the ocean.

Susan: But why?

Laroche: Done with fish.

On to the next thing. No intellectualizing, no over analyzing. He is unapologetically himself.

"When you spot your flower, you can't let anything get in your way," he says. That sums up Laroche.

Then he starts getting into something new. The internet. He starts a porn site without a second thought!

Meanwhile, Susan and all the New York intellectuals are making fun of him at her dinner party. But she knows he has something she doesn't. No matter what, she doesn't get him. She can't. She's using her brain, and he's using a different function. He's in touch with his balls. "It's intoxicating to be around someone so ... alive," she says.

When she heard he just gave up fish she asks him, "How can you detach from something you love so deeply?" Whatever it is that she needs to detach from, she feels guilty about it. "Plants have no memory. For humans, moving on is almost... criminal."

Then she thinks she gets it, but it is only in her head: "One reason to care about something is that it whittles the world into a more manageable size." Ok, good. There's a tip for her. A strategy. But like jrd said, when she finally saw the ghost orchid, it didn't do anything for her, because it wasn't her passion.

In the end, Laroche sees that too: "You're just like everyone else. A leach attaching yourself to me. Get your own life!" And while it isn't apparent on the outside, you can see why people want to hang around with him. He's up to something - always.

Likewise for Charlie. He can hardly ever get out of his head. The only times he can are his productive times. He's manic and talking his ideas into the tape recorder, and then we see the fruits of his labor in the film (like the opening montage from the dawn of time). Donald is like Laroche, living through his balls: "I'll go interview Susan, and pretend I'm you!" LOL.

What a study in contrasts.

Great movie. I learned a lot. Thank you.

- - - -

Bonus #1: "You are what you love, not what loves you." I have this in my notes, and I think it must be Laroche. Sounds like Laroche, but I'm not completely sure.

Bonus #2: "You can't have a protagonist without desire." -- The Screenwriting seminar.

To be mean is never excusable, but there is some merit in knowing that one is; the most irreparable of vices is to do evil out of stupidity. - C.B.
jrd3820's picture

Laroche stands by his bold statements much better than I

'I will never set foot in that ocean again...that was 17 yrs ago and I have never stuck so much as a toe in that ocean'

I make those statements all the time and usually only last a couple months at best.

Laroche was my favorite character also.

Thanks for watching it with us. I'm glad you liked it, I wasn't sure what the reception would be on it.

jrd3820's picture

I've writen myself into my screenplay

That's weird right? When people write themselves into their own screenplays/stories?

First of all, I loved the evolution scene and just some of the cinematography in general.

Larouche….He is information smart. I love his character. He is weird but he doesn’t care, he is probably part genius or something. I would love to hang out with him.

This is what I took away.

In the beginning of the movie Charlie is telling his agent all the things he doesn’t want the screenplay to become. He doesn’t want it to be a love story filled with car crashes and chase scenes. He doesn’t want it to be an orchid heist themed movie with drug running. He just wants it to be simple.

And it should be simple right? It is, after all a story about flowers.

But no story is that simple.

Even the simple ones about flowers.

All stories are about life and people, and life and people are not simple, and you cannot force a story to be something it is not.

I also found it interesting how Susan (Meryl’s character) had what most would consider a decent thing going in her life. She had a job she seemed to like, and what would appear to be a comfortable living situation. But no one’s life is complete without passion. She also seemed to think she could just take someone else’s passion and apply it to her own life, but she had to find her own. When she finally saw the ghost orchid there was no thematic enlightening of her world like she was expecting. It’s because it wasn’t her passion. She just didn’t have one so she borrowed Larouche’s

Lessons about writing. Again, you can’t force a story too much. Life happens how it happens. There is no need to sensationalize most stories too much because if you look hard enough most stories are already sensational.

I think it is important to live your life how you want the story told for two reasons. First, because if you are going to tell your own story it’s easier if you just live it how you want it told to the best of your ability. But also….think about Larouche. He really wasn’t anyone that stuck out in the world. Just some guy who was interested in horticulture. Somehow, someone along the way stumbled upon his story and decided it was worth telling. You never know who will stumble upon your story and decide it is worth telling. Make sure to leave behind a story you want people to remember you by.

Also, the importance of research. To tell the story of John Larouche and his great orchid heist, Orlean had to know her character and subject. She didn’t just say ‘orchids are pretty,’ she researched orchids and John.

Then there is Donald, Charlie’s brother. He wants an easy script and sometimes the easy way pays bigger. Charlie could have sold that script himself, but he wanted to be true to his own writing. It’s easy to write what people want to hear or read, it’s harder to write what you want to write how you want to write it. That being said, there is room for the script that Donald created in the world, but there is also room to try new things.

The movie isn’t about flowers or writing. It’s about pain, and loss, and love, and passion, and addiction, and depression, and adventure, and curiosity and frustration. It’s about life.

It’s about everything.

And it had beautiful pictures of flowers and nature.

Some things I picked up

Good writing is true. Good writers write about the truth. Charlie was trying not to write the truth through most of the movie.

Charlie and Donald are foils for each other and Susan and Laroche are foils for each other. It's kind of like the same story being told in two different ways in the same movie. Charlie is Susan, Donald is Laroche. Charlie and Susan are both searching for their passions. Donald and Laroche have already found them, the question is how did they find them. By being true to themselves.

It seems like Susan was trying to live vicariously through Laroche, to the point that she was using his words ("I'm done with orchids"), and Charlie was trying to do the same through Susan and her writing. Neither of them were being true to themselves.

jrd3820's picture


I didn't catch it like that until you pointed it out, but it is very true isn't it?

Donald and Laroche had their passions and Susan and Charlie did not. Some people thought Laroche's obsession with his passion was odd and some people thought Donald's writing was lazy, but both were happy. Charlie and Susan were clearly not very happy, they were searching for something, somehing Laroche and Donald had already found.

I loved this scene.


And this one.


Pretty rich, isn't it?

4 billion plus years of evolution resulting in a guy sitting in a restraunt sweating and worrying about his hairline.

Michael Nystrom's picture

I learned a lot from you two.

And hope to post some of my observations sometime this century.


To be mean is never excusable, but there is some merit in knowing that one is; the most irreparable of vices is to do evil out of stupidity. - C.B.

I take that as a great compliment

or maybe a typo; You didn't mean in spite of did you?

A very good choice, I thoroughly enjoyed it

I got the gist of the movie, about seeking out your passion, the first time through but I feel like I may have missed some things. I'll end up watching it again, probably pick up the book too. Just my first impressions here but the ideas are still in bloom.

In any case, I'm starting to feel like it's time for one of these:

The movie Adaptation

is not an adaptation of the book, The Orchid Thief. Just wanted to clarify that. The book is the real non-fiction book written by the real New Yorker magazine writer, Susan Orlean, a more in-depth version of an article she'd written on the subject of orchids and Laroche. The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession http://www.amazon.com/The-Orchid-Thief-Obsession-Ballantine/...

Apparently the idea for the movie came about when screenwriter Charlie Kaufman did try to adapt the book to film and... ran across the kinds of problems depicted in Adaptation. Supposedly what he turned in, *instead of* a screenplay adapting the book to film, was a screenplay about a screenwriter (based on himself) trying unsuccessfully to do that. Um, he wasn't supposed to do that!

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.
~ John Muir

Right, I understand

I think what I'm getting at is that it would be helpful to read the book that way I could separate the bok from the movie in my mind, break them down to constituent parts, and then put them back together. That'll have to wait until later though.

For now I'm sticking with my first impression, that the moral of the story is: if you love something it will chase you through the swamp trying to kill you lol.

jrd3820's picture

Ha. The moral of the story.....lol

If you love something it will chase you through the swamp trying to kill you lol.

Great observation has. You crack me up. I'll be back around soon with my observations, but I had to comment on this.

Just wait.

Let me know when you're ready for Kill Bill, I just about have it put together.

Are you still planning on doing the writing prompt thing you mentioned?

jrd3820's picture

Go ahead and post the Kill Bill thread whenever

I won't be able to get to the movie until late this week possibly weekend, but the earlier you put up the thread, the more people might join in.

I am going to look for some good writing prompts this week. They are a dime a dozen online, but I want to find some that will challenge me and maybe interest some others.

You and I both chose writing as our skill so we might as well practice together.

So, yes... this week post the Kill Bill thread, I'll post the writing prompt thread. I'll put them both up in the main post at the jam session and we will get the parties started.

The Orchid Thief is a good book.

I only pointed out what I did because I loved the movie and so got the book - then confused thinking it was "the book version" of the movie. (As it turned out, though I was expecting something else, I liked it anyway.)

As for a "moral of the story"... there was this one line where, the first time I saw the movie, I practically said out loud: Thank you! You see, there's a line in the closing scene of The Wizard of Oz that has bothered me for years. As a Christian - or regardless, it goes against my beliefs. It's when the wizard tells the tin man, "A heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others." What?! :(

Whereas, at the end of Adaptation, Donald explains about LOVE (emphasis mine):
I loved Sarah, Charles. It was mine, that love. I owned it. Even Sarah didn't have the right to take it away. I can love whoever I want.

She thought you were pathetic.

That was her business, not mine. You are what you love, not what loves you. That's what I decided a long time ago.

Me, too!

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.
~ John Muir

You are what you love not what loves you.

Very profound.

Tinman was a machine, an inanimate object, not a man. Maybe that makes a difference. A machine is only loved if it is useful for something. I'm sure you know about the monetary allegory in the Wizard of Oz, there were a lot of societal factions represented in it. If I remeber correctly Tinman was representative of industrial concerns at the time the book was written. Industry isn't loved unless it is useful.

Yes, if only in recent years,

I did hear that the movie was an allegory re our monetary system. Still, the advice given was (at least in theory) universal in nature. Well, so it appeared, but I'll have to think about it specifically re "industrial concerns." Well, thank you for your insight here. Though, it still wouldn't matter to me in terms of my chagrin, as (impressionable) children take these things at face value. And it's a bad moral! :)

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.
~ John Muir

Michael Nystrom's picture

This movie is insane!

I love it.

A movie about flowers.
A movie about writing.
A movie about life.

Lots of insights.

To be mean is never excusable, but there is some merit in knowing that one is; the most irreparable of vices is to do evil out of stupidity. - C.B.


Anything written by Charlie Kaufman is probably going to be a hoot. Being John Malcovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind are also great. I have not seen his other one.

SPOILER ALERT. The movie is not an adaptation of The Orchid Thief. It is the story of Kaufman and his pragmatic anti-conscience struggling unsuccessfully to write an adaptation of The Orchid Thief. It's a two-tailed snake eating its ears.

Ĵīɣȩ Ɖåđşŏń

"Fully half the quotations found on the internet are either mis-attributed, or outright fabrications." - Abraham Lincoln

Michael Nystrom's picture

Jive, you should go see "Her" if you haven't seen it already

That's how this all got started, kind of.


To be mean is never excusable, but there is some merit in knowing that one is; the most irreparable of vices is to do evil out of stupidity. - C.B.

Starting it right now

so here's a bump

Me, too...

Me, too...

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.
~ John Muir

Michael Nystrom's picture

Will be shortly


To be mean is never excusable, but there is some merit in knowing that one is; the most irreparable of vices is to do evil out of stupidity. - C.B.
Michael Nystrom's picture

The most essential gift for a good writer...

The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shockproof, shit detector. This is the writer's radar and all great writers have had it.

- Ernest Hemingway, as quoted by George Plimton,
"An Interview with Ernest Hemingway"
The Paris Review 18, Spring 1958
as found in the book Ernest Hemingway on Writing

A writer without a sense of justice and of injustice would be better off editing the year book of a school for exceptional children than writing novels.

- Ibid.

What a boss.

To be mean is never excusable, but there is some merit in knowing that one is; the most irreparable of vices is to do evil out of stupidity. - C.B.

Robert Frost — ‘No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.

No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.’

The Writer's Quotation Book

Don't feed the pandas. Ever.

Well. I guess I could muster tears.

I mean, if I had to. What, like this?

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.
~ John Muir

Hemingway is one author I've

Hemingway is one author I've still never read. I developed an early bias against the 'classics' purveyed in public schools. I figured anything they celebrated had to be poison. Was a long time before I even read Steinbeck, who I loved. I still think there's a grain of truth to that, the establishment only celebrates a classic if it has some aspect they can spin to poison (Steinbeck's socialism). So the instinct was sound I think, to protect myself when younger. But once I felt intellectually secure I could read these authors and take what good they have without learning the wrong lessons. They usually have value and some genius, and now it's a treat to read classics I excluded. I guess I'll give old Hemingway his due next. I have the old man and the sea.