Monday, May 30, 2011

Emails #49: Pretty Spry For Eighty, Mr. Rogers


"Order. Order. This hearing will come to order. Honorable chair member Abraham J. Stensdale presiding. Let it be noted that these proceedings are open to the public but may be closed at any time. We call our first witness to testify and in accordance with his wishes, no counsel has been retained. Please place your hand on the bible and before the committee and the American people state your name, age, place of birth and occupation for the record."

"My name is Steven Rogers. I am eighty years old," a collective gasp comes from the gallery. "I was born in Manhattan, New York City and I am a veteran."

"Very well Mr. Rogers. You may be seated. Chair member Stensdale will offer brief remarks and then we will open for questions. This inquiry is simply to ascertain the facts as presented in affidavits before this committee. This body does not have the authority to press criminal charges although all testimony is considered sworn under oath and is a matter of public record. "

Red Skull stands watching a
bank of huge televisions. "Oh how heart-warming. All your wonderful patriots lining the streets to show their devotion and appreciation for all you've done for them." Beaten and bloody, Cap hangs from massive chains in the dank dungeon.Two leather clad vixens pose with whips. On the television is the news, crowds hold anti-Cap signs, chant and shake their fists. "Look up now, this is my favorite part!" On the TV, Cap stands with his hands out, pleading for the crowd to calm themselves. The crowd surges forward. Some jump at him and hit him, others are simply forced forward, eventually overtaking and trampling Cap. "Ahh! In sixty years, I've not been able to do that!"

Sunday, May 29, 2011


The Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

Remember as you go about your day that people have fought and died for you. They have shed their blood protecting your freedoms and liberties. Do not forget the untold sacrifices made by those standing between us and those bent on destroying our ideals and way of life. The price for freedom is eternal vigilance and it is regretful that lives must be lost to preserve our basic rights.
Remember them and their gift to all of us. They died in service to the preservation of this country, wore our uniform, saluted our flag, honored our traditions. They signed on the line to protect this nation and by doing so put themselves in harm's way. Many, a great too many, were young and their deaths spark the question of what could have been had they lived. Those that serve and die want to be remembered.

Light a candle. Say a prayer. Share a story. Most of all remember our fallen for surely there are no greater heroes in this life than those who gave everything for us all.

May 30, 2011

The Soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.
-General Douglas MacArthur

History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid.
-Dwight D. Eisenhower

Friday, May 27, 2011

Emails #48: Bucky, Brooklyn and Beyond

RICK: Okay Alpi.

I see you.

I have a few minutes....

Nice conversation. Touched on several elements of Steve Roger's illnesses, why neither HULK movies hit the mark, Spider-man I, II & III. Iron Man I & II, Thor, Samuel L Jackson as Marvel savior, Cap & Red Skull in WWII and in modern times and what it will take for Cap to become a true leader... more soon.

BEN: Yes, it would seem we should probably multiply 10 minutes by 6 when we talk:) BTW, I agree that the iron lung isn't something I'd recommend for Stevie per se. With his history, he might not survive polio. To keep things concise, I think keeping him to bed is fine. For some STRANGE reason, doctors came to you back then... Might not be bad to include polio reports in the newspaper or some such.

One other note, I think what we have done is delve into the history and culture of the time. Other folks might rely on their production designer to just make things look right while they thumb through the comic book. For us though, it's not just the comic that we're interested in, it's the times that inspired it. Why did Kirby and Joe Simon create him? What is it about him that has kept his comic alive all these years? If we look at the roots of the story as well as the character, we'll create a superior film. How many long anthropological conversations and archeological digs must the Nolan boys done to get inside Batman? You know they didn't just say "This dude drives around Gotham and likes rubber nipples. Got it." They probably studied old Chicago. They studied why people like super heroes. They studied myth and symbolism. In a corrupt (Gotham) and technological world (our world), the Nolans made a super hero believable. Not to say every super hero should get that treatment, but it made sense for Bats. The point is getting inside the skin of the characters. Something I think writers do more often than directors or even actors, sadly. Guy Richie's Sherlock Holmes set out to knock that mythos on its head. He succeeded, but without really knowing the source material, he also kicked it down the stairs. Great concept, but lost it 1/2 the way through.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Emails #47: Idle Hands Make The Devil's Work

"You're gonna be sick and in bed for awhile son and I know it is hard on a boy your age. You're gonna miss more school and your chores will suffer. Doc says we gotta keep your mind occupied and I can't have you laying about without something useful to do."

Mr. Rogers exits and returns with a large heavy chest which he places next to the head of the bed of the sick Steve Rogers.

"Idle hands make the devil's work son. While you're in bed sick I want you to go through your uncle's things," he pauses for a second, choked up with emotion, "and make sense out of them for your aunt. It would mean a lot to her... And son, I'll get you to church every week if I have to carry you on my back. So don't worry."

Stevie, weakly, opens the chest to discover his uncle's belongings. A uniform from WWI. Medals. Maps, Letters and postcards bound in twine. Lining the bottom, dozens of books. Everything smells old. Steve's uncle was killed in The Great War and he never knew him. This trunk hadn't been opened in ten years...

Handed down from generation to generation, the love of this country must be preserved for those coming next. Also, continues with the letters motif and ties events backward to WWI as well. Plus, chest can contain anything so it is a useful story device.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Emails #46: Ways To Mangle A FIlm

BEN: I would say, if you want to work more by inspiration than linearly, chose a spot where you feel most interested at the moment. Like when I was feeling "Cap Goes Home" I wrote it. You're right that there is a evolution of Cap that is more intricate than most people might realize.
Maybe we have to view this as Cap's life story up-to-now instead of trying to make it fit a formula. If we establish a mythos, we can pull from it. Actually, a friend of mine who is a screenwriter recommends against writing without an outline and I agree to an extent, but if working another way is more comfortable or more fun, I say go with it. If you want to write it in prose, do so. If you want to write it in script form, here's some info for that. I've never used Celtx, but it comes recommended. It requires OSX 10.4 I'm thinking it should be pretty straight forward, but let me know if you run into trouble. So...

  • If you want to look into the crystal ball or magic mirror to see him as a child, go for it. Stevie at the theater watching newsreels with his dad before cartoons or Flash Gordon. Who is his father? How did his job or their relationship effect Stevie? His mom? Were his grandparents around? Part of me wonders what's been written about in the comics.
  • There are also his teen years where his idealism is born. Denied for service.
  • Then he gets juiced. Assuredly a frightening process. Was it just POOF or was there a period of pain or fear of the unknown?
  • WWII. The real formation of Cap. The fast-forward tempering of the steel all men go through in war. Instant adulthood. Blood, sweat and tears. Guilt. Fear. Must be strong for the men. They're the real heroes. I'd die for these guys. They don't realize how amazing they are.
  • Red Skull. Where did he come from? Do we need to see his childhood? Why is he so angry?
  • Battle of the Skulls.
  • Freezing.
  • Unfreezing.
  • Danger, battle, we need you Cap!
  • Reality. The 40's are long, long gone. Cap is an adult now. Is he cool with all that? Does he feel or is he numb? Culture shock. Retreat or over-indulge? Cap searches for his new self. Does the government use him? Over-use him?
  • Skull returns. Was he frozen? Was he trapped somewhere, but was able to survive? What's the opposite of what happened to Cap? He hatches his plans to once and for all take over the world.
  • Battle Skull agents. Cap finds out about Skull.
  • Has Skull infiltrated the gov? Was the president his Manchurian Candidate? Dirty bomb justifies a clamp-down?
  • Cap gets beaten. Bad. Turned into an Enemy of the State.
  • Cap must find himself. He realizes it's been inside him the whole time. Friends in the government remind us of the Constitution and the men who wrote it.
  • Cap returns as Skull engages his plan.
  • The final showdown.
  • Cap has learned something. America has learned something. Skull has learned that terror doesn't pay.

Or, of course any deviation of anything here :)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Emails #45: Almost Zero

RICK: Okay. This is not the Middle Ages. We have running water. Success has made us weak and flabby. Toughen up boy! Those chills you feel are the chemical rushes a fan boy feels. Perhaps in the end, the Cap project will turn into something else. Renamed. Reworked. Modern era. There is always room for a true hero on the stage of public opinion.

You are interested in throwing some of this out there? We will talk about it. I honestly don't feel we have enough material for a screenplay however which is our goal.

Despite meandering character development which has been useful, no plot has developed which could be fit into the Syd Mead (or any other) paradigm. I think the unconstrained exploration of the character has helped cement his major principles. Liberty. Justice. The Constitution. The need to stand against evil no matter what the odds. The path of Cap's development on these various sites is one of the freedom the explore, react, comment, research, delve, disagree...

Turning it into a blog reduces the chances of us making a screenplay to almost zero. I think you realize this. Also, unprotected by privacy, our Cap story becomes subject to the whimsical opinions of others even if only by the self consciousness of our own designs.

BEN: I hear ya and agree. Just was thinking that letters could bring out our feelings in a way that doesn't betray our story. It would probably be too much work taken away from what we already don't have time to do though :)

The only part I don't agree with is that the chills are fan boy in nature. I suppose that could be true in small part— my love for heroes— but what really gives me chills is the concept of this story. It's the part of it that's more than the sum of its parts. The spirit of America.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Emails #44: Nobody Does WWII Like The Guy From Jaws and E.T.

Letters to Captain America
Liberty and Hope During WWII

A special exhibit at the Smithsonian running from January 7th through July 4th.
Curated by Anne B. Hawthorne and Julia W. Gilbert.

Does Captain America exist? A single letter dated 1942 from a Pvt. Horace Garber to his family back in Memphis, TN seemed to answer the question definitively yes. While preparing an exhibit for Letters at War: Homefront to Frontline more of these curious references to a star spangled soldier cropped up. We knew right away the letters addressed to or mentioning Captain America were beacons of hope during one of the darkest periods in the history of the world. Does Captain America exist? Comb through nearly 2,000 letters and postcards from 1942 to 1945 on loan for this exhibit and decide for yourself.

Does Captain America exist?

We hope that you enjoy this collection.
Anne B. Hawthorne, Curator
Julia W. Gilbert, Curator

Monday, May 16, 2011

Emails #43: Wickedness Flourishes In The Darkness

"He was there for every battle even if we didn't see him."

"A feeling would come over me like he was in front of me deflecting bullets or behind me, backing me up."

"Sometimes it was like I could hear his booming voice on the battlefield urging me on."

"After we lost Joe, Cap was there. He reminded me that what we were doing was right. Yeah, I lost my best friend from high school, but I knew he died for something. Cap was right. Joe didn't just save the unit. He was saving the world."

BEN: Saying Cap is a manifestation of the American spirit is perhaps obvious, but I don't think Hollywood sees it that way. Any perfectly intelligent person might see Cap as an action figure, not a symbol. That's what makes the character a modern myth-- he is far more than the sum of his parts. Over the years, I think Marvel has had trouble keeping Cap's comics interesting. It would probably be because different writers and artists might see him more as a muscle-bound ass-kicker-- not the protector of freedom and liberty. Luckily, a film can most certainly bring out the reality.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Emails #42: Humbled By Their Sacrifice

Captain America
The Boy who loves his country

The Red Skull
The fiend who lusts for power

World War II
The war of good versus evil

"She's dead Cap. You can't save her."

"We weren't in time. How could we know? We couldn't protect them."

"War doesn't make sense, Cap."

"I might be just a hick farm boy but I know evil when I see it. These were people, all of them..."

"Don't snap on me now. We still need you."

"You shall be avenged. Evil will not triumph. So swears Captain America. May you all rest in peace."

Camera pulls back to reveal what Cap sees. A large pile of skeletal bodies heaped in a grey mass. The only color in frame is the red, white and blue of Cap's shield and uniform.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Emails #41: Soap Opera 101

Hurt Locker* and new Lady Hurt Locker opening soon at the mall... Great movie. Extra fine script and pretty concise. Well acted and suspenseful. *Referring to Emails #40. -Ben

Wow Mr. Hollywood. I think you are wrong. Dead Wrong™! Actually I think you are right. I take a different angle however to come to a similar conclusion. I have not spent time in Hollywood-- the land of broken dreams-- and yet certain facts remain. First, of all the material produced or waiting to be produced or trying to be produced or hoping to be produced, more than 99% of it is schlock, high school writing and unintelligible concepts. The other less-than one percent does not float to the top however. This tiny fraction does not triumph and prove its worthiness over all the rest. Since the overwhelming motive is profit and not content, the struggle for both is quickly supplanted by the quest for one. It is an accident that quality material is made. An accident. The really quality material is only arrived at by the painful process of sculpting the film. There is both the additive process of clay and wire structure combined with the careful chiseling and polishing of stone. Compound this with the fact that it is a group project. Many voices and opinions on the creative end combined with studios, marketing, sales, and demographic groups all chipping away or adding to a film.

Auteur film making only proves the point. The Hurt Locker proves the point. Clint Eastwood proves the point. Tarrantino proves the point. They don't get started until the concept is solid, clear. They are patient, deliberate and painstaking. They know what is important and they fight for it. They spend more of their time chiseling to reveal rather than forming to create. A good idea needs to come first. A strong story. A strong screenplay or outline. A patient studio and resilient producers. Clear minded and flexible director. Clever actors. A competent crew. Geniuses in post production who will sweat the details and make it fit in the edit. Spot on sound. Supportive music... Well you get the idea.

Monday, May 9, 2011

THOR Movie Review Double Feature!

We interput this broadcast to bring you a special THOR movie review!

This post is not part of the 'Emails' series regularly seen three days a week here on the Redefining Modern Myth blog. A little bit down the road, we'll have a full scale look at Thor and the other Avengers' films which actually precedes THOR's release in the same way that the casting of Chris Evans was actually discussed before and during the real casting. We'll return to the series on Wednesday.

My Mighty Thoughts on The Mighty Thor.
A few thoughts by Rick.

Thor is not part of Captain America's WWII origin. He will show up later with a few pals in a little movie called The Avengers.

Spoilers? I will try not to wreck the movie-going experience of those who have not yet seen THOR. I liked the THOR movie a lot. There is good meat on it's bones and I will try to keep my thoughts focused on what worked and what didn't. I won't go into the plot too much. Thor is arrogant. Loki is a trickster. Odin banishes Thor to Earth. Suffice to say Thor must kick ass before he can return from Earth and kick ass in Asgard. Lots of quality action and destruction. More fighting than I expected from director Kenneth Branagh.

The Clothes Make The God.

I am going to make my first observation an odd one. While the medium shot does not seem to be totally absent from this film, it must have had other commitments. It seems that THOR is filled with expansive vista shots, nosebleed swooshing overhead pan shots and ultra tight closeups. I mention this because I wanted to talk about the costumes first. They are impressive when you are able to catch a glimpse. Almost immediately, I found that the reimagined threads were not too jarring and the characters seemed to wear them as one wears clothing. Perhaps this is a trick of design or directing or acting but the whole cast from Thor, Sif, Hogun, Fandral, Volstagg, Odin, Loki, Heimdall and the humans on earth seem to be pretty comfortable, relaxed in their costumes. Their postures are natural and movements seem to be unencumbered. This might seem like a minor detail but period dramas featuring characters that don't seem comfortable in their own clothes rubs me the wrong way. They got it right here.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Emails #40: Evans Gravitas?

Reactions: Chris Evans Cast as Captain America

RICK: For all intents and purposes, Evans is an unknown. After looking at a few pics I can see why he could be okay. Young looking and cartoonish. Muscled but still limber looking. Experienced with action movies and Marvel. I am seeing too much humor and not enough gravitas however. Maybe this is just the shadow of his FF character talking. Rogers is a broken, sick, unhealthy kid who has suddenly been given the body of a Super Soldier and then is sent to fight in a war where the atrocities are stacked up high enough to blot out the sun. I suppose that in a Marvel universe movie where the only real concern is rushing Cap along so he can lead the Avengers, scripts might not include the rape, torture, mutilation, fear, pain, suffering and EVIL that actually existed in WWII. Hugo Weaving (The Matrix, Lord of the Rings trilogy and V for Vendetta) has been cast as the Red Skull. This is inspired. Hugo CAN do dark and evil. He has tremendous presence and carries something profoundly tortured and human in his portrayals.

Maybe Evans can learn some acting tips from Weaving who I am sure has had to claw for his roles and convince people that he can get the job done. No depending on the baby faced good looks and swagger of a wanna be star for him. Can you imagine Evans in the same universe as Iron Man (Downey Jr.)? Or a CGI Hulk? After one or two movies, Evans will be too old to play Cap anyway. I know they have a nine picture deal but that is standard with the super hero franchises. He will get replaced easily if he can't cut it. Unfortunately, these things are driven by the inexhaustible engine of release dates, already announced, bought and paid for before the first draft is written. It makes you wonder how anything successful can ever be produced and the answer is flatly that all the elements are gelling at once and only talented crews, directors, actors and screen writers can pull it off. It is a miracle.

BEN: I agree on all points. Evans would not be my pick. I liked him as Johnny, but that's because he was cocky, a funny punk. Cap is the leader of men. Evans is Bucky.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Emails #39: How Old To Cast Steve Rogers

Rare color footage released by the Pentagon...


Cap scrapes mud from his shield while a dark-haired US Army Signal Corps documentarian, Lt. Col. George Stevens, interviews him on camera.

What do you want the people back home to know about?

The men that are fighting and dying here today are true patriots. They ask only that you
remember them and never forget that they died fighting evil. They died protecting our
liberty and freedom. Their blood is the terrible price that they give to all of us.

RICK: What seems to be the essence of Captain America? Patriotism. The kind that adheres to the constitution. Leadership. Making hard choices on the battlefield, pressing ever onward and giving no ground.

Cap is 17. Maybe. Pearl Harbor is in December. School is about half way through for the year and crop planting is still a few months away. Maybe Steve Rogers is in the tenth grade. He has missed a lot of school due to illness and would normally be a senior. There are only forty kids in the grade anyway including Betsy, a curly haired angel who admires Steve's courage. With the world at war, will he really drop out of school to join the army?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Emails #38: Say Goodbye Amerikaner

Screenplay: 120 minutes or approx 120 pages.  

RICK: Working backwards...

Resolution:  The ending must be killer and reaffirm all the values that make Captain America great.  On the physical plane, Red Skull must be soundly if only temporarily defeated.

As Plot Point II: Cap must regain his fighting spirit and turn the tables on the Red Skull.

Midpoint:  Cap must become absolutely irrelevant and down in the dirt.

Plot Point I: Cap is found in a block of ice with the Super Soldier Serum keeping him alive.

Set-Up: Cap fights in WWII earning his reputation as a hero.

120 minutes or approx 120 pages.

Resolution:  The ending must be killer and reaffirm all the values that make Captain America great.  On the physical plane, Red Skull must be soundly if only temporarily defeated.

Cap tosses his shield away.  It is riddled with smoking holes.  He stands bloodied but confident in front of his foe the Red Skull who steadies his gun and has Cap dead to rights.

"All your talk of a master race Skull and I only see cruelty and weakness."

"The dream shall be realized Captain America.  I am the one true superman.  My blood is superior.  I alone will triumph.  Soon I will command an army of super soldiers.  The world will surrender to the one pure race.  I will lead them."

"You are wrong Skull.  There is nothing left of you but a gibbering husk, a blood junkie with delusions of power..."

Red Skull now has his gun pointed directly at Cap's head.

"You seem to miss the point.  I have the gun.  You have to die Say goodbye Amerikaner, goodbye to your whole pathetic way of life."

Pulls on trigger.