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Archive for February, 2013

Progress Report, in which I make more work for myself

Another 2K on that new scene for From Earth I Have Arisen brings Magic Meter here:

So that’s the most major part of this rewrite completed.  Hooray!

Now I have to address a host of smaller problems, including one that was not suggested by my editors.  Yes, I’m making more work for myself, but it was something that’s been bugging me, so I’m going to fix it.

One of these days, I’m gonna get this story right.

And hey, I neglected to include a snippet last week.  My apologies.  Here:

He was some fifteen miles out of Nowata when his grief overtook him.  He didn’t bother pulling over; the road was deserted but for him.  He just stopped the truck and gripped the steering wheel as violent shudders wracked him.  A flood of tears obliterated his vision.  Sounds came out of him that he could not recognize as human.  The pain in his chest squeezed so hard that his breath came only in gasps.  He tasted bitterness and salt.

An unknown time later, the storm receded.  His hands ached, hooked into stiff claws on the steering wheel.  Relaxing his grip took real effort.

He looked out his dusty windshield.  The sun hung low in the western sky, nearing the horizon.  For all he knew, his Kathleen was already gone, the last thing he cared about in the world, and he was alone.

He put the truck back into gear and headed home, to await whatever would come next.

Write Club update:  A personalized rejection from Waylines.  Response time, 11 days.

Right.  Time to finish this thing up.

Current Music: "Learning to Live"--Dream Theater

Rotundo’s Oscarology, 2013 Edition

Last year at this time, I proffered the opinion that 2011 was a crap year for movies.  I’m happy to report that 2012 provided us with a much better slate.  I haven’t seen all the nominated films, but I’ve seen a goodly percentage of them.  In particular, I found Argo, Silver Linings Playbook, and Lincoln to be the kinds of movies that give me hope for the future of cinema.  And tonight’s Oscar ceremony should also feature a bit of history being made (see Best Actor, below), which will be exciting.  Well, it will be for me, anyway.

Anyway, on with the picks.  As always, I never let my ignorance get in the way, as the following should make clear:

Best Picture

CNN is trying to convince people that this year’s Oscar race is wildly unpredictable.  CNN is obviously trolling for mouse clicks.  (You’re welcome, CNN.)  This category isn’t even close.  The top prize goes to Argo, in a walk.  Now, it’s true that when the nominations were first announced, the omission of Ben Affleck from the Best Director category made me immediately dismiss Argo’s chances of winning Best Picture.  But then the guild awards started coming in.  SAG.  PGA.  DGA.  WGA.  All of them gave their top nods to Argo.  And as I’ve said repeatedly in the past, these guilds’ memberships have a lot of overlap with the Academy.

Argo isn’t going to sweep the Oscars like, say, The Lord of the Rings:  The Return of the King did, but it will win this category.  And I’m OK with that.  Affleck and his crew did a fine job of making an historical event, of which we all knew the outcome, compelling and suspenseful.  Good on ya, Argo.

Best Director

The aforementioned omission of Ben Affleck from this category means that we will have one of those rare splits between Best Picture and Best Director.  This, too, I’m usually OK with, as I’ve never bought too heavily into auteur theory.  That said, I do think the Affleck snub is pretty damned inexcusable.

Anyway, the safe money is on Steven Speilberg, for Lincoln.  It did garner the most nominations this year, and it’s one of his best films.  Many have complained that it’s too talky, but hey, I’m a writer.  I like dialogue.

Ang Lee is a potential spoiler here, for Life of Pi.  The fact that Speilberg already has two directing Oscars could work against him.  But I don’t think so.  I’m sticking with Steve.

Best Actress

Jennifer Lawrence took the SAG award for Silver Linings Playbook, and I think she’ll do the same at the Oscars.  Here’s the part where I remind everyone that actors make up the biggest voting bloc in the Academy.  This year, we have both the youngest and oldest nominees ever in this category—Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild) and Emmanuelle Riva (Amour), respectively—but neither of them will win.

And just by the way, how great must it be to be Jennifer Lawrence these days?  Two Academy Award nominations to date, lead role in the Hunger Games franchise, and soon to have an Oscar on the mantelpiece.  Not bad for a 22-year-old.

Best Actor

Daniel Day-Lewis makes history tonight for his performance as our 16th president in Lincoln.  He will become the first person ever to win the Best Actor Oscar three times.  He’s currently tied with a host of others, including Tom Hanks, Spencer Tracy, Marlon Brando, and Dustin Hoffman.  Tonight, he outstrips them all.  The quiet, unassuming dignity he brings to the role is truly a joy to behold.  If you’re going to bet the farm on anything, bet on this one.

Best Supporting Actress

If Anne Hathaway is smart, she already has some shelf space cleared for her Oscar.  Her unforgettable performance of “I Dreamed a Dream” in Les Misérables simply blows away all other comers in this category.

Best Supporting Actor

Here’s the toughest of the acting categories to pick.  The SAG went to Tommy Lee Jones, for his portrayal of Thaddeus Stevens in Lincoln.  Now, I don’t know if it was really that strong of a performance, but it was certainly more memorable than his role in The Fugitive, for which he won his previous Oscar.  That said, SAG isn’t always a perfect predictor of the Oscars (e.g., Meryl Streep’s Oscar win last year), and Jones has some stiff competition this year.  Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook) could be a sentimental favorite, and Alan Arkin (Argo) has the advantage of starring in this year’s Best Picture winner.  So I wouldn’t be surprised to see an upset in this category.  But I’m sticking with Jones.

Best Original Screenplay

Zero Dark Thirty has been taking a pounding in the press lately, but it still managed to win the WGA award.  The Best Screenplay Oscar is often a kind of consolation prize for a film that misses in some of the higher-profile categories, and I think that’s what will happen here, which is good news for screenwriter Mark Boal.  Possible upsets:  Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola, for Moonrise Kingdom, or Quentin Tarantino, for Django Unchained.

Best Adapted Screenplay

This year’s Best Picture front-runner just won the WGA award for its script.  That tells me that Chris Terrio will win for Argo. Terrio does face some stiff competition in Tony Kushner, a well respected writer who turned in a dynamite script for Lincoln (have I mentioned my fondness for dialogue?).  But I have to figure that most Academy voters who are going to pick Argo for Best Picture will also pick it for Best Screenplay.  Certainly all the writers will.

Best Animated Feature

Brave.  Never pick against Pixar.

Best Foreign Language Film

This is usually the most unpredictable Oscar category, but this year, all signs point to Amour.  Historically, movies that are nominated for both Best Picture and Best Foreign Language Film lose the former and win the latter.

Best Costume Design

Period pieces dominate this category, and Anna Karenina took home the Costume Designers Guild award for period costumes.

Best Makeup & Hairstyling

Um . . . Les Misérables, I guess.

Best Original Song

Can you believe that in all the years of the James Bond franchise, not one Bond song has won an Oscar?  Not “Live and Let Die.”  Not “Nobody Does It Better.”  Not Shirley Bassey’s brilliant “Goldfinger.”  Well, that gets rectified tonight.  Adele adds to her already impressive trophy shelf with a win for “Skyfall,” and deservedly so.

Best Original Score

Here’s a pretty wide open category.  I’m going with Mychael Danna, for his work on Life of Pi.  John Williams (Lincoln) appears to be the strongest competitor, but the guy already has five Oscars.

Best Documentary

Remember all those guild awards that Argo has racked up?  Well, Searching for Sugar Man has picked up Best Documentary awards from the DGA, PGA, and WGA.  Add the Oscars to that list, and let’s move on.

Best Documentary (Short)

The trend in this category over the past few years has been toward uplifting stories of white people helping out less fortunate third world folks (Smile Pinki, Saving Face).  This year, Open Heart fits the bill, so that’s my pick.  Mondays at Racine could surprise, though.

Best Production Design

The Art Directors Guild gave its top awards to Anna Karenina and Life of Pi.  I’m going with the latter.

Best Film Editing

This one often goes to the Best Picture winner, and Argo did win the American Cinema Editors award.

Best Cinematography

As I did last year, I’m picking against the precursor guild award winner.  The American Society of Cinematographers honored Roger Deakins for his work on Skyfall.  True, Deakins is something of a rock star among cinematographers, and he has never won an Oscar.  But his fine work on Skyfall is nowhere near as flashy as Claudio Miranda’s breathtaking cinematography in Life of Pi.  Last year’s award went to a gorgeous 3-D film (Hugo), and I’m betting this year will follow suit.

Best Sound Editing

Another tough category.  The Motion Picture Sound Editors liked the ADR in Life of Pi, and the sound effect and Foley work Skyfall.  Loud movies tend to do well here, so I’ll go with Skyfall.

Best Sound Mixing

Gotta go with Les Misérables here.  All the singing was recorded live, on set.

Best Visual Effects

Life of Pi.  The tiger was entirely CGI.

Best Short Film (Animated)

Yes, Maggie Simpson in The Longest Daycare certainly has name recognition, but that rarely matters in this category.  Head over Heels, on the other hand, features the Aardman-like clay animation the Academy seems to love, so that’s the way I’m leaning.

Best Short Film (Live Action)

I’ve read that Curfew is amusing but kind of lightweight.  It occurs to me that 2010’s God of Love could be described the same way, and it won an Oscar.  Curfew it is, then.  What the hell.

And there you have it.  On with the show.

Current Music: "You Get What You Give"--New Radicals

Progress Report, in which I pat myself on the back

Tax guy has come and gone.  I was pretty well prepared this time around, though of course it was a mad scramble to get everything ready.  Still, I have to say that after doing this for <mumble> years, I have a pretty decent system for it.  Not perfect, by any means, but pretty decent.

Tax season is also the time when I appreciate anew the database I built lo these many years ago, which I use to track not only submissions, but also expenses and sales.  And damn, is it slick, able to retrieve the necessary data with just a few keystrokes, which can then be easily imported to Excel.

Not that tracking sales is normally a difficult task for me, you understand—especially last year.  But still . . . it’s a pretty slick database.  Y’all don’t mind if I pat myself on the back, do you?  Thanks.

Once I got taxes out of the way, I managed to bang out another thousand words of that new scene for From Earth I Have Arisen.  Again, my inability to multitask is apparent.  But hey, word count, is word count, so here’s Magic Meter:

It’s gonna be a bit longer than I had thought, looks like.  No surprise there.  And once I finish it, I have to figure out how to insert it into the body of the novella.  I might have to break it into a couple of pieces.

But those are concerns for later.  Taxes are done for another year, and I can get back to revising this thing, which I hope to have finished by the end of the month.

Write Club update:  Just over three months to a tier one reject from Night Terrors.

Nose, grindstone.  I believe you two are acquainted.

Current Music: "Close to the Edge"--Yes