Thursday, April 9, 2009

News as Big as the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man

I should write soon about what I did on my 25th birthday (I'd place it among the few flawless days I've had in the little over five years I've lived in Southern California), but the changes that have come are far more important right now.

I ran for re-election to the Governing Committee of the Online Film Critics Society, which would have made it my fourth year had I won. I think it might have been my fourth year. I don't know, and towards the end of the campaigning and the start of the voting, I felt like I wouldn't be broken up if I lost. I sent out my campaign e-mails individually, never as one e-mail to all the members, as I'd done it in past years. But there was all that fiery vitriol and what I sensed was a bit of hatred, even though those who gave it tried to play it down. And that was from two of the candidates and what appeared to be their supporters. It was a vicious forum fight and I didn't participate in it because it's not in my nature and not good for my gut. If I did, I would have spent hours online waiting for replies, worried that I sullied my reputation, and wondering how the targets would react. I don't have the time for that.

So I lost with 33 votes. I like that because I could just slip out quietly, find where my private trench was before I went a little bit public, crack it open again, throw out the dirt that landed on the floor, and dig a little bit deeper. There, I could write again, uninterrupted and at peace. If there had been another year on the Governing Committee, I think I would have done it. But having lost, well, why think about it anymore?

This led to something huge in my life, something that came up after good friend and fellow film critic Phil Hall also lost re-election with 44 votes, the second-lowest total. He asked if I wanted to be co-author of his book "What If They Lived?" The core of it is speculation on what various actors might have done in their careers had they not died. Publication is guaranteed since it's the second book in his contract with a company called BearManor Media, which specializes in Hollywood biographies and other books about movies and television. I thought about it for a day, and then accepted, because it would have been royally stupid for me not to, because the opportunity is right there. My first book. A dry run in research for the biographies I hope to write in the coming years. And the opportunity to dig into the lives of Fatty Arbuckle, Marilyn Monroe, Montgomery Clift, and 17 others, since Phil and I split the list he made. My gut felt troubled over the past few days because I could easily handle the biographical/career overview that begins each essay, but how was I supposed to write the speculation aspect? On my own, based on what I had found out in my research? Fortunately, no. Phil said it would be ok for me to contact experts and historians about their opinions on what these actors might have done. And many authors have accepted my request, which is a relief. I feel a lot better about this project than I did before. But being that this is my first book, I want to make it a decent debut. Plus, it gives me an excuse to see a few Marilyn Monroe movies, a few from generally-forgotten actress Carole Landis, and some others as well. Always good for me.

For the past two days, I've been diligently gathering research material, making lists of websites, articles, and books from which glean information, and it's been a slog. I never thought I could loathe, even with having a folder of 400 links to a varied collection of books, but I do, at least until I'm done with this part of the research. And my local library had better be prepared. If they thought I was obsessed with reserving books before, they don't know what's coming when I get back on the 26th. It's closed on the 12th for Easter, and on the 19th I'm going to the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood for the Paley Center screening of the final three episodes of "Pushing Daisies," introduced by creator Bryan Fuller, whose return to "Heroes" has been loudly cheered. I just hope he stays long enough for me to ask him to autograph my copy of the season 1 DVDs of "Pushing Daisies." But after that, my library had better just construct a chute and aim it where my box is. Yes, they have a box at the check-out desk under the far-right counter with my name written in black marker on a sheet of paper, taped to the box. I'm that revered.

Earlier last night, my dad was wondering what my name would look like on the book. I already know how I want to be credited, but I need to write it all first. I've got 20 essays ahead. It's daunting, but I'm where I want to be in my life right now. Screenwriter Steve Kloves, known for his adaptations of the Harry Potter books, wrote "The Fabulous Baker Boys" at 24, my sixth favorite film in that ranked list, and I think he directed it at 28. Roger Ebert began reviewing movies at 28. I'm right where I want to be. I'm still a bit nervous about this project, but I'm happy because of all that I get to do with it.

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