This is for me, Grammar Nazi!

19 08 2010

Concerning comma’s:

When a sentence begins with an adverbial clause, put a comma after it.

  • Although we had reviewed the film twice before, we never noticed these details about the shooting.
  • As the day drew to a smoky end, the firefighters put out the last of the embers.

It is permissible, even commonplace, to omit a comma after most brief introductory elements — a prepositional phrase, an adverb, or a noun phrase:

  • Yesterday afternoon we sat around waiting for Bill to arrive.
  • By evening we had become impatient.
  • Jauntily he walked into the hall.

When a prepositional phrase expands to more than three words, say, or becomes connected to yet another prepositional phrase, the use of a comma will depend on the writer’s sense of the rhythm and flow of the sentence.

  • After his nap Figueroa felt better.
  • After his long nap in the backyard hammock, Figueroa felt better.

When an introductory adverbial element seems to modify the entire sentence and not just the verb or some single element in the rest of the sentence, put a comma after it.

  • Fortunately, no one in the bridal party was in that car.
  • Sadly, the old church was completely destroyed.
  • On the other hand, someone obviously was badly injured.

Don’t allow a brief introductory element to merge with something following it in a way that can confuse your reader. Try reading the following sentences without their commas:

  • Until the spring course lists will not be published.
       Until the spring, course lists will not be published.
  • Inside the gym was brightly lighted and clean.
       Inside, the gym was brightly lighted and clean.

When a sentence begins with an Absolute Phrase or an adverbial Infinitive Phrase, put a comma after it. (If the infinitive phrase is acting as a noun and is the subject of the sentence, be careful not to put a comma between the subject and its verb: “To believe in one’s self is a good thing.”)

  • Their headpieces flapping wildly about their ears, the priestesses began their eerie chant.
  • To escape with our lives, we would have to run for the exits.

Church sign slideshow

16 08 2010

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Excerpt from Dogville

12 08 2010


The next day, the cars arrived. Grace was unchained, led outside, and placed into an automobile she was very familiar with.

Grace: You need to justify your actions before you shoot us… Daddy.

Father: I’m not gonna shoot anybody!

Grace: lf you didn’t come to kill me, then why did you come?

Father: You shouldn’t have run away. I’d like you to return home so l could begin to share my power and responsibility with you, not that you care. You never have.

Grace: I’m not the one passing judgment, Daddy, you are.

Father: No, you don’t pass judgment because you sympathize with them! I call them dogs.

Grace: But dogs only obey their nature. Why shouldn’t we forgive them?

Father: Dogs can be taught many useful things, but not if they are always forgiven. Grace, you must understand that the penalty you have deserved for your transgressions, they deserve for their transgressions as well. Listen, power is not so bad… l am sure that you can find a way to make use of it in your own fashion.

Narrarator: (N) Grace thought for a long time. How could she ever hate them? Would she not, in all honesty have done the same as Vera, Ben, Tom, and the others?
Grace paused
(J) And while she did, Dogville underwent a change of light. The light, previously so merciful finally refused to cover up for the town any longer. It now penetrated every unevenness and flaw in the buildings… And… in the people!

Grace: If l went back, when would l be given this power you’re talking about?

Father: At once.

Grace: l want to use it to make this world a little better. If there is any town this world would be better without, this is it. Shoot them… all, and burn down the town. There is also a family with kids… Kill the kids first and make the mother watch. Tell her you will stop if she can hold back her tears. l owe her that. I’m afraid she cries a little too easily.

Narrarator: (J) Once it was all done, there was a noise that pierced the silence as it had done on one rainy night in spring, loud enough to work its way through the final sighs of the timber that was rapidly burning out. Grace was the first to recognize it.

Grace: That’s Moses!

Bandit: Do you want me to put him out, miss?

Grace: No. Leave him be. He’s just angry… because l once took his bone.

Have You Seen This Documentary? I am going to order it today…

6 08 2010

Interesting Article on Offensive Religous Movies (Top Ten)

6 08 2010

Movies don’t try to please everyone. Tailor-made for certain demographics, some filmmakers try to entertain or provoke discussion, knowing full well their movie will offend a particular group. The most inflammatory of these movies attempt to question taboos, rituals and customs of many of the world’s most popular religions.

Some films bolster the beliefs of certain religions either intentionally or unintentionally through offending its audience. For instance, the first “Exorcist” film which took advantage of the big “Satanism” movie genre of the 1970’s literally scared churchgoers back into the pews. Those aren’t the movies I’m talking about here.

The movies in this list fully expected and possibly depended upon offending certain religions in order to succeed. Sometimes the film in question preys upon longstanding fears and prejudices in order to make a point. Here are 10 movies designed to offend your (or someone else’s) religious beliefs (Note: The Small Town Critic does not endorse or defend any of the viewpoints these films present)…

10. TEARS OF KALI (2004)
• Whom does it offend? – Hindus, Eastern Indians, New Age practitioners

The German horror effort “Tears of Kali” relies on xenophobia to achieve its scares. The influx of Indian immigration into the country has apparently lead to concerns by indigenous Germans that the Indian cultural “new age” influence will lead to an increase in cultish activity, mysticism and worship of unsavory deities. While any country with a healthy Indian population would quickly dispel this as a nonsensical fear, the wily German creators of this film seem intent on capitalizing on this knee-jerk reaction to cultural exchange.

9. HELLRAISER (1987)
• Whom does it offend? – All faiths who believe in heaven and hell

While it might seem like a simple tale of good vs. evil, “Hellraiser” has a more subversive underlying message. It appears to suggest no clear heaven or hell exists and that pleasure and pain are indivisible. While you might suffer at first at the hands of the frightening “Cenobites,” over time the torture – which is your only source of stimulation – will eventually become your pleasure and therefore your heaven. While most devotees would probably concern themselves more with the gore and blasphemous imagery, few would notice the more controversial concept of this tale.

8. STIGMATA (1999)
• Whom does it offend? – Catholicism

At the time of its release, “Stigmata” did not draw near as much controversy as its box-office competitor “Dogma.” While many criticized the comedic satire of Kevin Smith’s “Dogma” (a strangely pro-Catholic movie), few even questioned the potentially destructive message of “Stigmata.” The film concerns a woman (Patricia Arquette) who, afflicted by the gift/curse of stigmata, uncovers a lost chapter of the Bible in which Jesus discourages his followers from buying into organized religion and churches, stating that they are not needed to achieve a place in heaven, only belief is necessary. This of course enrages the (fictional) Vatican who attempts to destroy this damaging epistle; however, the real Vatican felt ignoring this movie was its best strategy.

7. FRAILTY (2001)
• Whom does it offend? – Fundamental Protestants


When a loving single father (Bill Paxton) in rural Texas suddenly informs his two pre-teen sons of a divine vision in which an angel instructs him to “slay demons,” the older son must find a way to stop his father from killing seemingly harmless members of the community. This film addresses the idea of “blind faith” as a frightening and dangerous concept. While the creepy, Twilight Zone-like ending of the film sends mixed messages about its intentions, the film does encourage viewers to question religious cannon rather than obeying without argument… An idea that’s sure to offend the most fundamental of Christian religions.

• Whom does it offend? – Practitioners of primal-indiginous Caribbean/African religions (including Voodoo and Santeria)

While many might be quick to condemn these religions as pagan and possibly even Satanic, few realize their deep cultural roots and relationship to Christianity which the practitioners often worship simultaneously. The story involves a widowed father (Martin Sheen) who falls into a dangerous cult of white collar businessmen who gain power and wealth from pagan African gods by sacrificing their firstborn children. Another film that relies on xenophobia and racial (black) fears, the film suggests that religious immigrant influence will corrupt the social and religious fabric of America. It punctuates this point in the chilling final scene where the heroine (Helen Shaver) casually sacrifices an entire barnyard full of animals to ensure the future well being of her family.

• Whom does it offend? – Buddhists

This award-winner was slammed for its content that portrays Buddhists in Sri Lanka as a genocidal society who engaged in ethnic warfare with the (Muslim/Christian) Tamils. While the winning side of such battles usually draws the ire of the international community for committing war crimes, demonizing a largely peaceful religion can be considered a low blow. While there are no clear villains or heroes to Westerners in this very real and tragic chapter in Sri Lanka history, Buddhists consider this film one-sided and unfairly misrepresentative of their ways.

• Whom does it offend? – Catholicism and some aspects of Christianity

This one-two punch from author Dan Brown prompted the Vatican to declare its sovereign grounds off limits to director Ron Howard while shooting these films. “The DaVinci Code” suggests that the Holy Roman Church has suppressed information about Jesus that would undermine their control and would willingly murder to keep it a secret. “Angels and Demons” further suggests the Church is also politically corrupt, needlessly dogmatic and defunct due to internal power struggles. Add a bit of sci-fi and mysticism and there’s no wonder why the Catholic Church is vexed by this franchise.

3. MARTYRS (2008)
• Whom does it offend? – Christians

This shocking French horror film (review here) starts as a bloody revenge flick then suddenly surprises viewers by turning into a philosophical thriller with a controversial religious message. The change happens halfway through and ventures into similar territory as “Frailty.” It presents the idea that the search for divinity can be paved with justifiable atrocities… that others can be sacrificed in order to obtain proof that not only does God exists, but that he rewards abominable behavior as long as it’s in his name. This very dangerous concept results in a haunting ending that’s both infuriating and thought provoking.

• Whom does it offend? – Judaism

Mel Gibson’s pro-Christian masterpiece of the last days of Jesus Christ did not emerge from the box office unscathed by critics. Allegations that the film portrayed Jews as villainous stereotypes prompted protests from the Jewish community far and wide. Drunken anti-Semitic remarks made by Gibson himself added additional fuel to the media firestorm. The graphic brutality inflicted upon Jesus (Jim Caviezel) at the hand of the Jews and the Roman soldiers, as portrayed in the film, elicited disgust and outrage from Christian audiences. Activists in support of Judaism say the film has ignited a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Christians across the world, a claim that some (but not all) Christians and fans of the film deny.

• Whom does it offend? – Christians

This Martin Scorsese picture (adapted from the famously-banned book by Kikos Kazantzakis) drew fire from Christian activists long before it appeared in the theaters. The story shows Jesus’ last days from his perspective. The crux of the controversy stemmed from the idea that Jesus was subject to human emotions and felt tempted to sin on numerous occasions, but never did despite a dream sequence which depicts him having sex with Mary Magdaline. While critics lavished the film with awards, enraged devotees still universally condemn it despite its otherwise painting the religion in a positive light. Other films have sense eclipsed it in terms of supposed “blasphemous” content, but none have equaled its unprecedented level of public outrage.


I know you hate this “how to write a..” stuff, but this is from the creator of BUFFY:

4 08 2010


Actually finishing it is what I’m gonna put in as step one. You may laugh at this, but it’s true. I have so many friends who have written two-thirds of a screenplay, and then re-written it for about three years. Finishing a screenplay is first of all truly difficult, and secondly really liberating. Even if it’s not perfect, even if you know you’re gonna have to go back into it, type to the end. You have to have a little closure.

Structure means knowing where you’re going; making sure you don’t meander about. Some great films have been made by meandering people, like Terrence Malick and Robert Altman, but it’s not as well done today and I don’t recommend it. I’m a structure nut. I actually make charts. Where are the jokes? The thrills? The romance? Who knows what, and when? You need these things to happen at the right times, and that’s what you build your structure around: the way you want your audience to feel. Charts, graphs, coloured pens, anything that means you don’t go in blind is useful.

This really should be number one. Even if you’re writing a Die Hard rip-off, have something to say about Die Hard rip-offs. The number of movies that are not about what they purport to be about is staggering. It’s rare, especially in genres, to find a movie with an idea and not just, ‘This’ll lead to many fine set-pieces’. The Island evolves into a car-chase movie, and the moments of joy are when they have clone moments and you say, ‘What does it feel like to be those guys?’

Everybody has a perspective. Everybody in your scene, including the thug flanking your bad guy, has a reason. They have their own voice, their own identity, their own history. If anyone speaks in such a way that they’re just setting up the next person’s lines, then you don’t get dialogue: you get soundbites. Not everybody has to be funny; not everybody has to be cute; not everybody has to be delightful, and not everybody has to speak, but if you don’t know who everybody is and why they’re there, why they’re feeling what they’re feeling and why they’re doing what they’re doing, then you’re in trouble.

Here’s one trick that I learned early on. If something isn’t working, if you have a story that you’ve built and it’s blocked and you can’t figure it out, take your favourite scene, or your very best idea or set-piece, and cut it. It’s brutal, but sometimes inevitable. That thing may find its way back in, but cutting it is usually an enormously freeing exercise.

When I’ve been hired as a script doctor, it’s usually because someone else can’t get it through to the next level. It’s true that writers are replaced when executives don’t know what else to do, and that’s terrible, but the fact of the matter is that for most of the screenplays I’ve worked on, I’ve been needed, whether or not I’ve been allowed to do anything good. Often someone’s just got locked, they’ve ossified, they’re so stuck in their heads that they can’t see the people around them. It’s very important to know when to stick to your guns, but it’s also very important to listen to absolutely everybody. The stupidest person in the room might have the best idea.

You have one goal: to connect with your audience. Therefore, you must track what your audience is feeling at all times. One of the biggest problems I face when watching other people’s movies is I’ll say, ‘This part confuses me’, or whatever, and they’ll say, ‘What I’m intending to say is this’, and they’ll go on about their intentions. None of this has anything to do with my experience as an audience member. Think in terms of what audiences think. They go to the theatre, and they either notice that their butts are numb, or they don’t. If you’re doing your job right, they don’t. People think of studio test screenings as terrible, and that’s because a lot of studios are pretty stupid about it. They panic and re-shoot, or they go, ‘Gee, Brazil can’t have an unhappy ending,’ and that’s the horror story. But it can make a lot of sense.

Write the movie as much as you can. If something is lush and extensive, you can describe it glowingly; if something isn’t that important, just get past it tersely. Let the read feel like the movie; it does a lot of the work for you, for the director, and for the executives who go, ‘What will this be like when we put it on its feet?’

Having given the advice about listening, I have to give the opposite advice, because ultimately the best work comes when somebody’s fucked the system; done the unexpected and let their own personal voice into the machine that is moviemaking. Choose your battles. You wouldn’t get Paul Thomas Anderson, or Wes Anderson, or any of these guys if all moviemaking was completely cookie-cutter. But the process drives you in that direction; it’s a homogenising process, and you have to fight that a bit. There was a point while we were making Firefly when I asked the network not to pick it up: they’d started talking about a different show.

The first penny I ever earned, I saved. Then I made sure that I never had to take a job just because I needed to. I still needed jobs of course, but I was able to take ones that I loved. When I say that includes Waterworld, people scratch their heads, but it’s a wonderful idea for a movie. Anything can be good. Even Last Action Hero could’ve been good. There’s an idea somewhere in almost any movie: if you can find something that you love, then you can do it. If you can’t, it doesn’t matter how skilful you are: that’s called whoring.”

Cash, Coochie or Cock: A List of Fallen Evangelists

3 08 2010

All of these are listed on Wikipedia, if you want the skinny … but it really does come down to cash, coochie or cock.  “Offerings” will be unique in that it’s an excess of faith that ends up doing in some of the characters.  These folks are worth a gander anyway:

Aimee Semple McPherson, 20’s-40′s.  Lonnie Frisbee, 70’s-80’s.  Billy James Hargis, early 70’s.  Jim & Tammy Bakker, ’86.  Jimmy Swaggart, ’91.  Peter Popoff, ’87.  Morris Cerullo, 90’s.  Mike Warnke, ’91.  Robert Tilton, ’91.  WV Grant, ’96 & ’03.  Roy Clements, ’99.  John Paulk, ’00.  Paul Crouch, ’04.  Douglas Goodman, ’04.  Kent Hovind, ’06.  Ted Haggard, ’06.  Paul Barnes, ’06.  Lonnie Latham, ’06.  Gilbert Deya, ’06.  Richard Roberts, ’07.  Earl Paulk, ’07.  Coy Privette, ’07.  Thomas Wesley Weeks III, ’07.  Michael Reid, ’08.  Joe Barron, ’08.  Todd Bentley, ’08.  Tony Alamo, ’08.  George Alan Rekers, ’10…

And you know this has got to be a partial list, only those evangelists who had a somewhat national reputation.  Take a minute to imagine all the little churches dotting the American landscape from shore to shore.  Can you imagine how many skeletons have been unearthed  over the decades.  In my small hometown — population around 6500 at the time I was grew up there — I can remember two pretty massive scandals.  A youth pastor with a predilection for 15 year old girls and an Episcopal minister with a taste for other men’s wives.  True, these aren’t stories that make the papers, but everybody can remember these sorts of things.

How do people keep their faith, I wonder, when it’s so blatantly obvious that the “transformative” power of Christ does nothing to change our basic human natures?  Generation after generation being let down by their clergy and lining up at the pulpit to get yet one more serving of crackers and juice! … At the very least you’d expect them to demand a faith that incorporates true human characteristics into its theology.  But then what would become of the magical pixie dust that is the Holy Spirit?