How Beau Willimon writes House of Cards

‘Don’t write. Instead, go do something that will make you happy.’

‘You’re still here? Congratulations, you’re a writer. You’d crawl through the desert to tell a story’.

Beau Willimon wrote for theatre for twenty years. Four years ago he had his big break when Netflix purchased two seasons of House of Cards. At SxSW 2015, he gave us some insight on how he writes the episodes. Moreover, he encouraged everyone to keep writing, even though your work isn’t recognized yet. “The important dramatists from a hundred years ago are forgotten. So will you, hundred years from now. But remember, we’re standing on their shoulders. Future writers will be standing on yours.” Continue reading “How Beau Willimon writes House of Cards”

Richard Linklater’s films are like therapy

This weekend, I watched three films in a row: Before Sunrise (1995), Before Sunset (2004) & Before Midnight (2013). I had heard about this trilogy, but never got around watching it. Then I found out director Richard Linklater also directed Boyhood (2014). I wanted to see whether these three movies would also captured ‘love’ in the way Boyhood captured the ‘start of our adult lives’.

The Before-trilogy revolves around Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) who meet each other on a train to Vienna. They fall in love right away and Jesse invites Celine to hop off the train in Vienna, even though she’s headed to Paris. She does. What happens in the next eighteen years, is something you should find out yourself.

Part 1 made me feel old, part 2 made me feel glad for the choices I have made in own life and part 3 prepared me for what’s next.

Linklater’s films are like therapy. They help you reflect on your own life and make you realize some of the best things are already behind you, and that you should have enjoyed them more. I don’t regret this, it will just help me appreciating the current beautiful things in life more.

I guess all art helps you reflect on your own life, it’s just that Linklater isn’t very subtle about it. He doesn’t ask a lot from his audience, and I could really appreciate that on a binge-watch Saturday night.

Some thoughts after 3.5 years of watching The West Wing

‘Did it make you a better person?’

That’s what a friend asked me when I had just finished watching The West Wing. It took me 3.5 years to watch all seven seasons (and I was already late to the party).

A couple of years ago, he told me he occasionally watched episodes before going to work. It gave him energy.

Before answering his question, this is what I learned from The West Wing:

  • Governing is hard. It’s easy to judge a president’s decision based on just one side of the story, as we all do on Twitter. But The West Wing made me realize how complex governing is.
  • Know and test your values. They will be challenged in ways you can’t imagine as soon as you gain influence.
  • Turn off your ego.
  • Campaigning is math.

I could go on for a while. These are just the first things that come to mind.

Then there’s the matter of working harder because of The West Wing.

I recognize this. I too want to make a difference after seeing Josh, Toby, Will, Charlie and CJ serving their fellow citizens. I too am determined to do everything in my power to use my talents to the best of my ability.

At the same time, there’s a danger in getting energy from The West Wing. It’s not hard to get motivated when you have to report to the Oval Office. When lives are at stake.

The West Wing can make your own work look futile. Especially when you’re the same age as Donna and Charlie. The trick is to get past this. To believe your work is already helping people too (and it probably does). And that you’re already giving almost everything you have. You can use The West Wing as an inspiration to give even more.

Journalists have recently wrote op eds that The West Wing is outdated. That we’ve seen our liberal dreams shattered to pieces with the Obama presidency (which I don’t agree with). House of Cards does a better job in showing how the world works, they say.

I think it’s hard to get more cynical than that.

The West Wing is a series about using your talents and making close to impossible decisions for the greater good. If I’ll try to live up to that, then yes, The West Wing made me a better person.

What’s next?

Frank Underwood is an optimist, says his creator

The show’s creator, for his part, has claimed he doesn’t have a cynical view of politics: Dead bodies and callous plots aside, Frank Underwood is an “optimist at heart,” Willimon insists. “He says, ‘Forward progress. Momentum. Do something instead of nothing.’”

Says House of Cards-creator Beau Willimon in an interview with Politico. I didn’t see that coming (I thought House of Cards served more as a cynical response to The West Wing – proving how politics has changed).

But as Politico says: the gridlock American politics is in, makes you wish for a getting-things-done-guy like Underwood.

Even when he’s surrounded by dead bodies?

Here’s the legendary La Grande Bellezza dance scene

So this is on YouTube! I can now watch the dance scene from La Grande Bellezza over and over again. Especially the part where Jep Gambardella turns around, cigarette hanging from his mouth, tantalizing smile on his face – which, for studying reasons, I have captured in a GIF:

La Grande Bellezza dance gif

And here’s the scene:

The cool guys become insurance agents

I remember reading an interview with the two creators of Southpark, where they discussed how the losers of their high schools went on and lead great lives, while the cool kids all became insurance agents. I’ve always remembered that line, but by now I’m in doubt whether I’ve actually read it, since I can’t find the article online.

When I watched the Swedish movie The Reunion (2013) yesterday, I thought about this hopeful anecdote again.

In The Reunion, a succesful artists confronts her old bullies at a highschool reunion. When the artists discusses her old class with friends, they tell her she is on top of the food chain now.

To which she replies: ‘I’m not, because in their eyes, I’m still a loser’.

I urge you to go see this uncomfortable and thought-provoking movie.

Had no idea the Sagrada Familia was going to be this big

Had no idea the Sagrada Familia was going to be this big.

When I first went to Barcelona two years ago, I was determined not to like this ‘hyped up’ church.

I ended up spending a whole afternoon in Gaudi’s masterpiece and have returned both in 2012 and 2013 to admire the promise it resembles.

The vastness of the church ship and the organic sculptures make you forget the crowds armed with SLR camera’s surrounding you.

Why Richard Gere’s Arbitrage is worth your time

Yesterday, around 5:45pm, Tim and I realized we wanted to see The Master that very evening. Unfortunately, a couple of hundred New Yorkers had the same plan and were bright enough to book in advance. So we opted for Arbitrage, a movie about power starring Richard Gere as a sleek, successful, relentlessly ambitious and desperate business man: Robert Miller. He lives in Gramercy Park, unwillingly stars on the cover of Forbes Magazine, is about to sell his family firm to a bigger player and then accidentally kills his sensuous mistress (ooh, miss Casta). What follows next is a thrilling battle between a detective and Miller.

I love this movie for two reasons:

  1. It’s fascinating to see the life of the inconceivably rich power brokers. When Miller flies 2.000 miles, the only times he steps foot on a public street is the short walk between the limo and his front door.
  2. Miller is ok with all the bad stuff he does, because he ‘has responsibilities’. When he deceives his daughter, it’s for ‘her own good’. He’s the fucking patriarch, after all. This makes him a bad guy, who comes up with lame excuses for his greed. At the same time, he gives millions to charity and society profits from his wealth. The moral tension between these two extremes is some good fodder for discussion.

Ok, I’m off reading some reviews. Go see Arbitrage for yourself, here’s the trailer: