Notes from New Sodom

... rantings, ravings and ramblings of strange fiction writer, THE.... Sodomite Hal Duncan!!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Whatever the Fuck You Want

So, yeah, a while back I had a couple of posts on some teen movies that I really dug -- 1) The Curiosity of Chance, and 2) Were the World Mine. Both are kinda awesome, far as I'm concerned. I'm not going to repeat what I said there about why, or even bother linking to the posts, cause they're easy enough to find, it seems, simply by Googling the string "gay kid" together with the string "high school movie". (Go on! Try it, kids!) That little fact turned up when I was writing a response to a commenter who was kinda "meh" about the whole teen musical idiom of Were the World Mine, expecting basically the Gay High School Musical. Last thing we need is trite pabulum, says he, to paraphrase wildly. We need quality stuff, like The History Boys.

My response was along the lines of "No, that's exactly what we need!" Cause it's all fine and dandy for teh Gayz to get to be centre-stage in Big Serious Movies, but Brokeback Mountain, say, is Johnny Come Lately here. My Beautiful Launderette came out fucking decades ago. And The History Boys is great, but it's not aimed at the heart of the most mainstream of mainstream audiences. And it's certainly not aimed at popcorn-munching teens who might well be good people to try and render offay with teh gay by giving em fun stuff that just happens to have big dollops of that in it. Isn't it time to take another step forward rather than repeat the same one over and over agian.

No, we can make Serious Cinema about Teh Serious Gayz. The ones that have all the misery and heartache and human condition malarky. But having gay protags in a good ole popcorn flick? Like a teen movie firmly in the John Hughes idiom or a teen musical aiming to give the homokidz something to sing along to? Something that a gay teen might rather prefer to see than some miserabilist tale aimed at middle-class post-college hipsters and chin-strokers? Something fucking fun? The two movies I posted about are both fucking important because they exist in a vacuum. They're also pretty damn cool as movies, with TCoC being, I reckon, just plain outstanding, but that's not the point here. Point is, there's virtually nothing else out there like them, far as I know.

Course, "far as I know" is the operative term, so I decided to do some fact-checking. Maybe I was just ignorant of all the non-token gay characters. Maybe there were movies out there that I'd just forgotten about. Certainly there'd be plenty with at least subsidiary gay characters to be judged as to token status versus actual narrative import. Hence the Google search. Which brought up my own post on TCoC as the top hit. I logged out of Google in case it was doing some personalising jiggery pokery. Same result. Still seems to be true today, except the post on WtWM has taken the lead. Woot! (Not.) On all the interwebs, there's no movie with a high enough profile, with a crucial enough gay character that it gets reviews or IMDB entries or whatevers which use the phrases "gay kid" and "high school movie," none with such interweb commentary that has a higher profile than my blog.

Sorry. That's fucking pathetic.

Anyways, that's why I decided to write one. A proper bona fide high school movie, montages and all. I kinda looked at that Google search result and thought, well, if it ain't there someone has to do something about it, and I seem to have nominated myself. Besides, all my focus on high school movies had already fired off other connections - 10 Things I Hate About You, Luhrman's Romeo & Juliet, Shakespeare in Love -- and having studied As You Like It in uni, I couldn't help thinking if that might not be a perfect candidate. There's a queer subtext wide enough to drive a Mardi Gras float through in that play. Seriously. Go read it. And bear in mind that Rosalind would have been played by a boy on the Elizabethan stage. Hell, I'm almost convinced Shakespeare wrote it for the gays, maybe for the gays in the audience, but maybe even more for the gays on the stage. I can quite imagine some queer actor treading the boards, a boy pretending to be a girl pretending to be a boy, in the midst of all the declarations of love, saying that line, "And I for no woman," with a whole nother meaning in his heart.

So, yeah, the notion was planted, I re-read the play, pretty much saw the whole story unfold immediately and battered out some notes, a synopsis. Gave it a while then went back to it over the last week and found myself completely sucked into it. Proper 24 hr writing marathons and such. But now tis done. I have no fucking idea what to do with it, of course, coming from the entirely separate domain of written fiction with its whole separate sphere of agents and such. Still, I'm going to give meself the weekend to chill and think about that on Monday. In the meantime, I thought I'd give yez a wee taster, seeing as this has kept me too busy to do much content-wise other than the mp3 readings post. To that end, here's the opening few scenes from my latest madcap project:

There are some questions you can’t answer with a date, a time. What answer do I give?
Five-year-old Orlando is shoved off a ride by another kid. He runs crying to the swing where his nine-year-old brother Oliver sits. He points at the bully and Oliver punches him in the arm.
June 12th, 1997, when I was five, and found out that boys weren’t supposed to cry?
Twelve-year-old Orlando stands with his elder brother at the grave of their parents, the names Roland and Sarah DeBoyes on the stone. Tears stream down Orlando's face.
April 23rd, 2004, when I was twelve, and found out that was bullshit?
A textbook on intelligent design is slammed shut. A book on evolution is slapped down on top of it.
September 3rd, 2009, when I was seventeen, and found out bullshit was all I’d been learning for the last five years?

ORLANDO sits at a kitchen table, books spread in front of him, studying. Orlando is seventeen and handsome, but dressed in plain white tee and jeans that have seen better days. The kitchen itself is small and functional, that of a low income household.
OLIVER reaches over his shoulder to grab the book from his hand. At twenty-one, Oliver looks like a rougher, hardened version of his brother. He's dressed in mechanic’s coveralls, the screen door behind him ajar.
Dang it, Orlando. That evolution garbage again? Where d'you get this?
It's called a library. And that garbage is science, Oliver. And this?
(holds up the intelligent design textbook)
This is Bible studies. This is the garbage. Home-schooling’s meant to involve learning, not bedtime stories.
Oliver rifles through the other books on the desk, picks up one, flicks through it.
Walt Whitman, Allen Ginsberg... Shoot, what is this? Poetry?!
It’s literature. English literature. You know, like they teach in school.
This is bullshine. You’re meant to be studying... maths... and chemistry. And... stuff like that. Not pretty words for the pretty ladies. You’re taking this garbage back tomorrow, you hear?
(picks up another book)
Basic Anatomy. See, this is useful.
(rising from his seat)
I’ve studied that. I know it inside out and back to front. But half of it is...
(throwing the intelligent design book away)
... like this crap. You give me a whole load of nothing, Ollie, and what little I've got you want to take away. Jesus -
Don't you take the Lord's name -
- you keep your car better than me... engine tuned, body polished. Me, I’m less important than... some wreck sitting up on the blocks while you suck your gums and tell the customer it’s gonna cost them.
I’m working my tail off to keep a roof over our heads. You mind who you’re talking to, brat!
Here it comes -
I’m the man of this house now.
- the dead dad card again. Yeah, well, that doesn’t mean you fill his shoes.
Oliver checks his fury for a second, then loses it and goes for Orlando. They struggle. Orlando grabs him by the throat, shoves him back against the fridge.
I swear to God, if you weren’t my brother I’d rip your tongue out, cause every time you say “I’m the man of this house,” it’s an insult to his memory.
Orlando slams Oliver back against the fridge, storms out.
Some memory.
Orlando stalks round from the back door to the driveway of the house, a two-storey family home in disrepair. The road it sits on is lined by similar houses, a blue-collar neighbourhood. The density and type of trees separating the houses suggests the edge of a small town in rural/suburban North Carolina.
Oliver comes after him.
Where do you think you’re going?
I’m going to get a goddamn education.
Go on then, you ungrateful SOB! Go on, and don’t come back! You do whatever the... eff you see kay you want!
"Fuck," Oliver! As in, "Fuck you, you fucking fucker of a fuck!" It's "whatever the fuck you want!"
He turns and strides away.
Yeah, September 3rd, 2009, is probably a good place to start.
Orlando walks through the front gates of a typical small-town high school, into its grounds, which include a parking lot and an area with picnic tables. A sign reads "Arden High." He approaches the front doors.
The day I decided to enroll in high school.
Orlando walks in the doors, which swing shut, then open again as ROSS walks in, a high school junior in a pink tux jacket, with paint-guns. The doors swing shut behind him.
Ross tosses a gun to CELIA and a gun to TOUCHSTONE. Celia is the same age as Ross, his rebel sister with dyed hair and appropriately punk togs. Touchstone is their joker friend, also a junior, dressed with a similarly alternative look, but slicker in an indie/emo/hipster way.
The three walk down the corridors, shooting the place up in slo-mo to appropriate MUSIC (e.g. Pretty in Pink.) Students and teachers freeze, dive for cover, run away, or stand there to get splatted with pink paint.
Ross approaches Orlando, who stands at the door to a class. Orlando turns, looking straight to camera.
At the sound of a KNOCK, Ross, sat at a desk towards the back of the class, snaps out of his daydream. Rather than the pink tux jacket of his reverie he wears a tight red vintage tee faded to pink, with designer jeans and fashionable accessories, clearly someone who styles himself.
Orlando stands at the door, gazing round the room but not noticing Ross.
MS. DUKE, at the blackboard, beckons him in. In her full-length flowing dress and equally flowing hair, she looks very much the free-spirited hippy / New Ager.
Come in. Come in.
Orlando enters, hands her a note. She reads it, gives him a textbook, and points him to a vacant seat near the front of the class.
Orlando DeBoyes? That's a terribly romantic name. Well, take this and have a seat.
Orlando glances round but doesn’t notice Ross, who slouches down in his seat.
Today it’s Shakespeare’s As You Like It. Act II, Scene 1. What say we hear how our new arrival reads? Mr DeBoyes? Just the opening speech, please.
(with sensitivity)
Now, my co-mates and brothers in exile, hath not old custom made this life more sweet than that of painted pomp? Are not these woods more free from peril than the envious court? Here feel we but the penalty of Adam, the seasons' difference, as the icy fang and churlish chiding of the winter's wind, which, when it bites and blows upon my body, even till I shrink with cold, I smile and say this is no flattery: these are counsellors that feelingly persuade me what I am. Sweet are the uses of adversity, which, like the toad, ugly and venomous, wears yet a precious jewel in his head; and this our life exempt from public haunt finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones and good in every thing. I would not change it.
"And good in every thing." Not least your reading, young man. A most sensitive performance. Now, who can tell me what Duke Senior is saying here?
A student puts their hand up. Ross's attention is on Orlando though, studying him. The student's response and subsequent discussion is MUTED, Ross fixated on Orlando through a series of shots of the class dissolving into one another until...
The bell RINGS, breaking Ross's reverie. Orlando rises to leave with the other students.
Mr DeBoyes. Orlando. Your reading really was quite proficient. If you feel inclined to unleash that inner actor, I run the drama club - every Monday after school. You'd be a most welcome addition.
I... don't know. Thanks, but... I kinda signed up for the football tryouts already.
Really? Well, if you have a change of heart... Just keep an open mind about it. An open mind gives the soul air to breath.
Sure. I will, Ms. Duke.
He leaves. Ross is one of the last students to exit the class. As he reaches the door, Ms. Duke calls him.
Pumpkin! Ross, sweety, are we still expecting the two of you over this weekend?
Mom, please. Not...
He waves his hand to encompass the other pupils she’s embarassing him in front of. She smiles blithely.
Oh, Ross, I didn’t raise you to fuss about the leaden chains of convention and how other people see us.
Yes, we’ll be over. Why? The sisterhood of the tree spirits aren’t all making their monthly libation to the moon-god, are they? You know how I feel about the mass menstru-ewwwww!

"Menstruation," Ross. It’s a blessed thing.
Menstru-ewww. Menstru… ewwww. Nope, can’t get past the “ewwww”. Oh, and I won’t make the drama club today. Sorry. Celia and I have a project.
Oh, that's fine. You know I believe in projects.
Ross leaves.
A wide hallway or open area sits just inside the front doors of the school. To one side there is a notice-board for students and, beyond it, a door into the cafeteria. To the other are reception and administration offices and, slightly further up, the office of the school counsellor, which has a wide picture window looking out onto the hallway. Students pass in and out of the entrance, the cafeteria, etc..
CHUCK and WILL, two football jocks in their letter jackets, stand at the notice-board, with AUDREY, a cheerleader. On the notice-board a poster for the school "Talent Show and Gala Dance" is visible. Chuck, who is built like a tank, scans a sign-up sheet for the football team tryouts while Will and Audrey stand there looking pretty and proud of it.
In the background, Ross greets Celia and Touchstone, and their mutual friends CORY, a stoner in baggy clothes, and SYLVIA, a grungy dyke who sports dreads and an army shirt. As the five go off together, Touchstone rubbernecks to eye up Audrey just before they go out of frame.
Orlando Deboyes? Doesn't Denny work with a DeBoyes?
Yeah -- Ollie. He's got a kid brother, I think.
Hope they're not close, cause I'm looking forward to some noobie smackdown.
Chuck the Truck! Mashin em up!
The two jump and slam their chests together. Audrey scowls.
Will looks chastened.
Mind you, I think they could be kinda tight. Ollie's been looking after the guy since their folks kicked it, so... ah, shoot. Lemme check if it's him. Hold on.
Will takes a cellphone from his pocket and calls.
Oliver and DENNIS are working on a car when the phone, which hangs on one wall beside a fridge, starts RINGING. Dennis, a twenty-something mechanic dressed in the same greasy coveralls as Oliver, answers it.
Yeah, hey, bro. What’s up? He’s here. Yo, Ollie! Did your kid brother sign up for high school?
Yeah, why?
(to Will)
Yeah. And?
(to Oliver)
Seems he’s trying out for the football team. Chuck the Truck wants to know if he should go easy on him, not break too many bones?
Tell him he can break his neck for all I care. That ungrateful SOB don’t know he’s born.
Yeah, you heard? From the horse's mouth. Sure, see ya.
He hangs up the phone, goes back to the car. Oliver works at something, using a rag to get a better grip. He pulls his hand away suddenly, shakes it in pain, and throws the rag down.
(he cuts off the "God")
Dang it!
Dennis shakes his head. Oliver picks the rag back up, goes back to the job.
You know, it can’t have been too easy on the boy either. No, don’t get your panties in a twist. I’m just saying, he doesn’t seem like such a bad kid to me. Can't have been easy on him either, what happened.
He was twelve. He wasn't old enough to even know what it meant. Didn't have to sit and listen as everyone talked about "those poor boys" and "what a terrible tragedy," and all the while whispering how their dear daddy shouldn't have been driving.
He goes to the fridge, takes out a beer and cracks it open, swigs.
Shoot, I don’t know why he gets me so dang riled. But I will not have him disrespect my authority. You know he don't go to church? I put myself on the straight and narrow to raise him right and he... he's one pig-headed...
He ain't the only one.



Blogger Unknown said...

Brilliant! I especially loved the paintgun raid daydream scene, it's somehow very reminiscent of the screenplay in Luhrman's Romeo and Juliet.

Reading this post, I was reminded of a Norweigan movie, Mannen Som Elsket Yngve (The Man who Loved Yngve) I'd like to recommend. It is admittedly more on the tragic side, but an amazing film nonetheless.

That said, I hope your take on As You Like it will one day be published fully in one form or another.

6:51 pm  
Blogger Hal Duncan said...

Cheers. :D The dream sequence is totally meant as the opening credits. The "BEGIN OPENING CREDITS" slugline is only missing because everything I see on screenplays says that specifying that sort of shit in a spec script just pisses off directors. I may end up making the full screenplay available for download, if it seems constructive.

And Mannen Som Elsket Yngve looks pretty cool actually. I'll have to see if I can track it down.

11:22 pm  
Blogger Colin Meier said...

Hal, that was excellent. Adding in the voiceover to time-montage in the beginning is great - you're infodumping, but it works seamlessly with that VO.

One suggestion - and I know you're going to hate it - what about changing one of Orlando or Oliver's names? It's very easy to confuse names that are that similar (particularly when *reading* a screenplay).

Actually, forget I even suggested it.

Great work, can't wait to read more of this!

8:08 pm  
Blogger Hal Duncan said...

Heh, no worries. I actually considered changing Oliver's name, having slipped up meself a few times while writing the script, typing Oliver in place of Orlando or vice versa. Annoyingly, having gone with the originals or ever-so-slight tweaks (like Sylvius and Corin become Sylvia and Cory,) I wanna be consistent, but I just can't think of a tweak for Oliver. (Orlando has to stay, cause it's just got the pedigree -- Orlando Furioso, Woolf, the Tilda Swinton movie; he's gotta be Orlando.) Shortening it to Ollie doesn't make much difference, and there's no other abbreviations I can think of. Tis a bugger.

8:38 pm  
Blogger Colin Meier said...

How about Liver?

heh he he heh heh. Sorry.

8:54 pm  
Blogger Hal Duncan said...

Heh. Known to his friends as Chop, perhaps.

But see? That's how rubbish "Oliver" is for abbreviations! That was actually part of my thought process: OK, what can I call him that riffs of Oliver but isn't Oliver? Ollie, Ol, Liv, Liver -- ah, bollocks!

9:07 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From the Online Etymology Dictionary:

masc. personal name, from Fr. Olivier, from M.L.G. Alfihar, lit. "elf-host," from alf "elf" + hari "host, army." Cognate with O.E. name Ælfhere, lit. "elf-army." Form infl. in O.Fr. by olivier "olive tree."

So Alf might work?

9:03 am  
Blogger Hal Duncan said...

I can't dissociate that name from the aging Cockney bigot, Alf Garnett, I'm afraid. Or the cat-eating alien. I see wikipedia links it to "Alvaro" though, which might be more in the right direction.

5:20 pm  

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