Wednesday 26 August 2015

Harvey Pekar - "Ordinary life is pretty complex stuff."

Just the fact that he was buried alongside Eliot Ness (the real one, who was played by Kevin Costner in The Untouchables), would probably be enough to get him noticed; but, without that, Harvey Pekar attracted plenty of attention during his lifetime. When I heard he'd died eighteen months ago, I felt as though I'd lost a dear friend, even though we'd never had any first-hand contact.

I discovered Harvey in the movie about his life, American Splendor.      If you haven't seen it, do yourself a favour and buy the DVD. It features Paul Giamatti as Pekar, as well as appearances by Harvey Pekar, as himself, and animated versions of him, based on his comic book series, which is also called American Splendor.  

Harvey Pekar won't appeal to the beautiful people. He was the quintessential outsider; a very ordinary looking man, who lived all his life in Cleveland. Anyone who has ever glanced in a mirror, and been disappointed with the reflection looking back, will relate to Harvey. 

Paul Giamatti plays Harvey, here visiting a doctor, where he learns he has a problem with his vocal chords, while a kangaroo looks on. (Australians like to see kangaroos in American movies. Makes some of us think of kangaroo steak and chips. Yum.) 

Harvey's next visit to the doctor didn't turn out quite so well. He was diagnosed with lymphoma and underwent a course of chemotherapy. I bonded with him at that time, probably because I was going through chemotherapy myself. I had chronic lymphocytic leukemia and endured six months of treatment. It was an educational experience.

What prompted me to write this post was an interview I came across with Alan Moore, a long-time friend of Harvey, published in Fast Company. Alan Moore is sometimes described as "the best comic writer in history." His graphic novels have provided the basis for a number of Hollywood films, including From Hell (2001), The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003), V for Vendetta (2005) and Watchmen (2009). 

It's an interesting interview. Part of it said this:
What Pekar represented to Moore were the small heroics of making one's way in life, of stealing quiet victories against a backdrop of disappointment and disadvantage. "Harvey came from Cleveland, where the creators of Superman came from," says Moore. "But Harvey represented a very different kind of hero that exists in real life.
"What I really admired about Harvey was, he was a resolutely blue collar artist, and one of only working class voices that I'd come across in comics with a level of political commitment, especially a left-wing one," he adds. "I mean, this man had a spectacular meltdown on the Letterman show about a strike going on at the network that it was not publicizing. He never tried to rise above that class."
Anyway, here's Harvey Pekar meeting with David Letterman.

And here's a classic Harvey Pekar story which tends to prove that "Ordinary life is pretty complex stuff."

First posted:  15 December 2011

The great irony here is that I'm now out of remission from the Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia and had my first meeting with my oncologist today. Tests (CT scan, bone marrow biopsy) to follow. Then he's talking about more chemotherapy as the only way forward. Some hard decisions ahead!

Friday 21 August 2015

Wednesday 19 August 2015

Free Screenplays - 2014

Here we are again, at the start of the Awards Season. The studios have begun releasing copies of screenplays—For Your Consideration.
    The process will continue in dribs and drabs well into December. I'll update this post as more details come to hand. Collect your copy of each straight away, as screenplays have been known to disappear from their original sites without notice.

A Most Violent Year
Big Eyes
Dear White People
Get On Up
Gone Girl
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Into the Woods
Kill the Messenger
Love is Strange
Mr. Turner
St. Vincent
Still Alice
The BoxTrolls
The Fault In Our Stars
The Gambler
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything
Wild Tales
First posted:  13 November 2014

Wednesday 12 August 2015

Free Screenplays - 2013

It's November and the studios have begun the process whereby they release copies of screenplays ahead of the Awards Season - For Your Consideration.

This will continue in dribs and drabs well into December, and I'll update this post as more details come to hand. Collect your copy of each straight away, as screenplays have been known to disappear from their original sites without notice.

12 Years a Slave
All Is Lost
August: Osage County
Before Midnight
Dallas Buyers Club
Despicable Me 2
Enough Said
Fruitvale Statio
Inside Llewyn Davis
Kill Your Darlings
Labor Day
Lee Daniel's The Butler
Lone Survivor
Monsters University
One Chance
Saving Mr. Banks
Short Term 12
Spring Breakers
The Armstrong Lie
The Bling Ring
The Croods
The Fifth Estate
The Great Gatsby
The Invisible Woman
The Past
The Place Beyond the Pines
The Spectacular Now
The Way Way Back
The Wolf of Wall Street
First posted:  4 November 2013

Wednesday 5 August 2015

Free Screenplays - 2012

It's that time of the year again. The Melbourne Cup is over, so now we start the long slow climb toward the Academy Awards on February 24. Good luck, Seth McFarlane!

As part of the process, the studios are making copies of screenplays available to members of the Academy ('for your consideration'), except the rest of us get to download them legally as well. The catch is that they can disappear from the studio web pages at any time. If you go back and check the list for last year, you'll see that of the 26 on offer, 9 have disappeared. During the last twelve months, my favorite screenplay site, myPDFscripts, closed down, following repeated legal threats by studios.

The lesson is, Make the hay while the sun, she shines. And while we are in agricultural reference mode, here is the crop of available screenplays for 2012.

First posted:  12 November 2012