Full Frontal Frat Party

I did not see Robert Redford at Sundance. I saw Saturday Night Live's Rachel Dratch, on a bus. I tried to listen to her conversation, but she didn’t seem to have much to say. Something about going to Swag Village to nab herself a free cell phone. I wanted to remind the original "Debbie Downer" that only the A-listers get the good ones with the Harry Winston diamond-encrusted cases. Mwah, mwah, mwah.

The only other “stars” I saw were unknown actors from the films, who would get up during the Q&A’s afterwards and go on about how much fun it was to work without food or pay. I imagine most walked off with a new agent promising to land them a real movie role with a nice green screen to co-star against, a trainer, and a private catering truck serving meals from The Zone.

Though Jake Gyllenhaal was nowhere in sight, I did see Maggie Gyllenhaal in a junkie movie. Every film I saw had at least one junkie in it. The junkie doesn’t have to be the hero, but it is important that you learn some new bit of junkie business in each moviegoing experience so you know for sure this is art you’re watching, folks. I feel quite confident, for example, that I could find a good vein in my thigh if ever I got tired of snorting my heroin, or smoking it like a common crack whore.

Full frontal nudity is another hallmark of filmic excellence, especially among ugly people. The very first film I saw opened with a young girl fellating a fat Mexican guy. The “disturbing images” the programming guy mentioned in his giddy introduction turned out to mean uncut wee-wees shot in extreme close-up. Though I didn’t keep a tally at subsequent screenings, I’m certain I haven’t seen so much male genitalia since my time in the Marines. Hot lesbian sex was also very in this year, since the only romantic comedy I saw might have been written by Woody Allen if not for all the girl-on-girl action.

Cute, but hardly worth waiting in the ticket line for two pre-dawn hours in the snow. Judging from the crowds standing knee deep in slush outside the theaters, day and night, it was as though Jesus himself was rumored to make his memorable screen debut here at Sundance.  Either him or Justin Timberlake, who did in fact appear in his first movie role as, you guessed it, a junkie.

When I told my manager I was going to Sundance, she warned me it was a big frat party in the snow. She urged me to buy some serious rubber boots and gave me my lawyer’s cell phone number. He was going, of course, and I might need to make a deal right there on Main Street. I didn’t. Nor did I bring home a free cell phone, just a high fever and a case of bronchitis.

There was one movie I liked so much I could have written it, about a dysfunctional family that enters their overweight daughter in a beauty contest. It sold for ten million bucks. I ran into the producer outside, whose name I recgonized as someone who recently passed on my script. "Hey, big guy, don't you want to come back next year?" I wanted to flag him down and inquire, fluttering my lashes against the falling snow. He'd then invite me for hot chocolate back at the chalet, where he'd quickly admit the error of his ways and propose we make movie magic together at once. We'd recount this story over and over for a future Sundance audience. But I didn't want anyone to cut in front of me in line for the next junkie movie, so I just stared straight ahead and, like my old friend Debbie Downer, pretended I was nobody. It really wasn't so hard. Mwah, mwah, mwah.

The Redford Rule and Its Soderbergh Exception

I always said I wouldn’t go to the Sundance Film Festival unless Robert Redford invited me as his date. By some miracle of nature—one well beyond further teeth bleaching and a touch-up on the eye job—he would still be as hot as he was during the Jeremiah Johnson years. In our private hours, he’d remove the hand-trapped pelts, set down the black powder rifle and shave the beard as we settled into the clawfoot tub at his slopeslide chalet. Late at night, just for me, he’d put on the dress whites from The Way We Were. I'd remove them tenderly after he nodded off, just as Barbra Streisand did after he blacked out and slept with her by accident. The next day she’s used all her ration coupons to buy steak and cherry pie so he stays for dinner and they fall in love forever.

Attending the opening night ceremony, Bob would get all misty-eyed when crediting me for being his lifelong rock and muse, despite my tender years. Suddenly slender and doe-eyed again myself, I’d be wearing the tiny Jordache jeans that fit me in high school. Or the Calvins every teenage girl bought after our leader Brooke Shields claimed to be running around in them without panties. A pair of slim-fitting Levi’s 501s I wore in college the year I threw up a lot would work very nicely for public outings, when Bob and I would frolic in the snow among fellow film legends to amuse the paparazzi.

The only other inspiration for my appearing at Sundance would be the premier of some sizzling hot film I wrote, made for a hundred and twenty-five bucks in some guy's backyard and widely expected to win Audience Favorite. After Sony Classics picked up distribution rights for a cool ten mill, I’d become known as this year's “brand new thing,” a Sundance "discovery" of Soderberghian proportions. This according to my newfound "people,” who elect to erase the nightmarish details of the ten years it took me to become an overnight sensation.

Yesterday, a third scenario presented itself when my friend invited me out of the blue. She has a timeshare and two all-event passes. She’s deathly afraid of flying, so she offered me a lift in her mammoth black Escalade. Rather than explaining the Redford Rule and its Soderbergh Exception, I told her I needed to work on my spec script. She said to bring my laptop and she’d look over my pages. This was a rather attractive offer coming from a former network showrunner who’s got a new pilot in the works. The only note of hers I remember on my last script was a hand-scribbled one saying I’d always be welcome at her table.

What could I say besides yes? Hell yes. If we run into Bob somewhere, I naturally added, show me the way to some steak and cherry pie and don’t wait up.

A Very Brady Julie

Last night Mad TV aired a sketch in which Snow White wakes up so set on whistling her happy tune she has no idea she lives in a crack house. Taking to the streets, she directs her clueless euphoria to the he-she hookers and menacing dope pushers of the neighborhood, which I immediately recognize as my neighborhood. My 7-11 overrun by warring street gangs, my Subway cordoned off as a murder scene.

I was comforted by the realization that Mad TV’s soundstages are conveniently located just around the corner, at the Hollywood Center Studios—former home of the Desilu Playhouse, where they shot the first two seasons of I Love Lucy. The Burns & Allen Show also taped there, as well as The Beverly Hillbillies, The Adams Family, Green Acres and Petticoat Junction. Still, I couldn’t help remark upon what a seedy-looking place I call home.

I grew up in Woodland Hills, in a house that might have belonged to the Brady Bunch. I even knew one of the Bradys, Peter, an older boy who could be stalked onto the playground, near the handball courts. I figured I’d have a Brady kind of life, some day—only not married to a dad who turned out to be gay while dating my oldest stepson behind the scenes, later forced to shill for Wesson Oil.

In eighth grade, my very pretty best friend Debbie went out with one of the WaltonsBen, I think. He wasn’t much to look at but he had a job and a car. After we grew up, Debbie went into real estate and bought her own Brady Bunch house only blocks away from her parents. I refused to settle down, since I was busy traveling the world before concluding it wasn’t all that interesting. It was Hollywood that fascinated me. When I finally made my way back to pursue screenwriting, I set up residence on the weird side of the hill.

Though mystified by this choice, Debbie might have made the scary journey into the hood more often if my attack dog, Bunny, hadn’t bit her the night before she was to compete on the quiz show Debt. After we’d spent the night in the emergency room, when Wink Martindale appeared on-stage, Debbie had to mime the act of clapping so as not to re-open her bandaged wound. I will always blame myself for her losing after failing to make the correlation between a brass brad and Brad Pitt on some obtuse final question. No matter, Debbie said, as thrilled as I to be standing on Lucy's soundstage, somewhere in the middle of her kitchen, we deduced.

Debbie died a couple of years later, after a long battle with lupus. I heard her parents held onto her house, which remains empty. I have fantasies about heading out to the Valley and buying it from them—although by now it’s probably worth about a million more bucks than I have. Something about it would feel tacky, anyway, as though I were bragging about still having a life, such as it is. Maybe just the fact of being alive should be reason enough to wake up singing—even if I do have to fight off another self-entitled trannie for the last jelly doughnut in the corner shop.

Confessions of a Hollywood Misanthrope

I have a public confession to make and hopefully it’s more interesting than the rest of my public confessions. I don’t go to the movies very often.

Summer's out completely, since I don’t care for comic books, computer games or natural disasters. Though I am a fan of classic sitcoms, they don’t seem to translate well to features even after Jessica Simpson has worked so very hard on her big screenworthy ass.

I don’t enjoy cartoons, no matter how “inspired” and “life-like.”

I’ve never seen a film with the word “man,” in the title, whether Bat, Super or Spider.
Re-makes of gritty foreign films and timeless classics range between rather superfluous and downright insulting, even with that lame "improved technology" argument.

I haven't seen a horror movie since they showed The Shining one Halloween in college. Since then I've seen those blasted twins every time I walk down a hotel corridor.

I couldn’t really follow Gladiator; and didn’t get the one with all those gay English guys on the 18th century boat. I neither saw Armageddon, Men in Black nor Independence Day—nor any of the Harry Potters, Mission Impossibles, or Jurassic Parks. Though Titanic is an all-time favorite, I’d definitely skip Titanic 2: The Revenge. The last Star Wars I went to was the first one. And God help me, I believe the first Godfather says it all.

You’re probably asking yourself why it is I want to be a screenwriter. The obvious answer is the poor bastards need me. Before they started making movies for kids grown-ups might be able to stomach, the good movies were the ones your parents wouldn’t let you watch. When I was little you could keep your Bugsy Malone, I had to see Annie Hall—which my mother decided was a drug movie after reviewing the famous cocaine sneeze. American Graffiti was about gangs and The Sting glorified a couple of petty criminals. Hot damn, I was in—even if it meant sneaking through the side door after being dropped off to see Jodie Foster in the original Freaky Friday.

I’ve been equally inspired by only a handful of movies made after I grew up. Thelma & Louise, Muriel’s Wedding, Cinema Paradiso, Billy Elliott, and Sideways come immediately to mind. I like stories about people—girls, even—and yeah, I’m prepared to read the subtitles. Hardly an art house junkie, I freely admit to enjoying fun but forgettable fare like The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Wedding Crashers and Elf—all original scripts rather than re-makes, sequels or adaptations, it’s worth noting—as much as Mad Hot Ballroom and Whale Rider.

It's mostly getting to the theater that presents such a problem. Since I have less interest in long lines, subterranean parking lots and shopping malls than I do in interplanetary warfare, it’s a real strain come wintertime to see the big Oscar contenders they insist on releasing over a three-day period. My theater of choice is the Arclight, where there aren’t a whole lot of people around—worth the fourteen-dollar ticket in and of itself.

Maybe the real reason I want to write movies is I actually prefer my humanity at a safe distance, up there on the big screen where it belongs. Where everybody seems so much larger than the rest of us, more important, more Robert Redford in his prime. Speaking of my original imaginary boyfriend, the day they re-make Jeremiah Johnson starring Ashton Kutcher, so help me, I’ll give it all up to go to work at the Umatilla Home Depot.

Julie's Big Hollywood New Year's Resolutions

  1. Meet and marry Jake Gyllenhaal despite the media's mean-spirited Demi/Ashton comparisons.

  2. Legally change name to Julie Gyllenhaal, Ph. D. because I damn well like the sound of it.

  3. Go on double dates with Maggie Gyllenhaal and Peter Saarsgard. Remark on all those cool double As in our names. Consider acessorizing with umlauts.

  4. Divorce Jake Gyllenhaal, whom I publicly accuse of fraud after one too many mountain weekends away with "an old fishing buddy."

  5. Surrender double A and any and all future claims to umlaut.

  6. Write the great American screenplay; sell in bidding war between The Baron and The Doctor for fifteen thousand yen.

  7. Publish juicy Hollywood tell all.

  8. Guest star on Oprah, stand on couch, punch air.

  9. Despite daily gorging on bacon and chalupas, suffer spontaneous weight loss, like Star Jones-Reynolds.
  10. Walk wiener dogs on Harry Winston leashes along the red carpet to the Oscars. Win in a surprise upset over Woody Allen. Thank Mom, Dad, Jesus, my newfound friends at CAA, the unsung heroes of Hurricane Katrina and the troops in Iraq.

  11. Finally introduce myself to longtime Imaginary Boyfriend.

  12. Dump the big dork, who suddenly expects me to like his friends and his protein shakes while happily washing his undershorts.

  13. Suffer bizarre mid-life growth spurt, becoming inexplicably leggy and coltish.

  14. Skip naked down Hollywood Boulevard.

  15. Ride Tom Cruise’s motorcycle, become mysteriously impregnated, join Scientology, enjoy delightful home sonograms.

  16. Publicly heckle that crazy bitch Brooke Shields and Matt "You Are Glib" Lauer.

  17. Screw the manual labor already and return to the geisha way of life.

  18. Invite many a studly eel to visit the old love cave.