Category Archives: Movies

The writer’s crush-and-crash technique

Artists are creative, but they’ve got to work it. The creative part of the brain needs challenge. Painters should take pottery classes. Potters should make jewelry. Jewelers should take yoga.

Writers should abandon their notebooks and live the craziness they put on paper. Sure, people will say things like, “that’s not safe,” “can you get in trouble for that?”, “what if it’s not funny?” and “jeez, Shelley, aren’t you embarrassed?”

When you hear those statements, you know you’re properly challenging your brain. As a teen writer, I challenged my brain once or twice or 3,000 times. And a brain-challenger is how I met 1980s acting hunk Emilio Estevez, who’s still acting, writing and directing.

Let’s tell this story journalism style with our friends, the inverted pyramid and the objective viewpoint. Otherwise, I’d go creative nonfiction and make myself look like a whiz kid, which I was, but nobody likes a bragger.

A very old-school press pass creator.

A very old-school press pass creator.


Teens crash their crush

MINNEAPOLIS–Five teenage girls with forged press passes crashed a Twin Cities movie set to meet their favorite heartthrob, actor Emilio Estevez.

The girls, ages 13 to 15, learned Estevez was filming a scene at a metro hospital for his upcoming movie, That Was Then, This Is Now. Estevez adapted the S.E. Hinton novel for the film’s script.

“We’re used to fans spotting Emilio when he’s socializing, but fans rarely crash a set, even when it’s accessible like a hospital. We thought we had this lobby shut down,” said director Probably-Now-Shooting-Toilet-Paper-Commericals.

The girls, all from River Falls, Wis., left school early and convinced an uncle to drive them to Minneapolis. He left them near the hospital, where they wandered until they found the lobby with the actors and crew.

Each girl was carrying a forged press pass claiming they worked for the River Falls Journal. The press passes consisted of an index card pasted with their school portraits. The passes contained this line: The Press Pass entitles the reporter to access any scene for news coverage.

“These were not exactly professional documents. Did they think I was born yesterday?” said producer Born-Not-Yesterday-But-Three-Days-Before-Yesterday.

In an interview after the episode, Estevez provided the following account:

The girls appeared to be hiding behind plants in the lobby’s entrance. When Estevez waved, they used the moment and rushed to his side. None of them spoke.

“I thought they were from a school for deaf children,” Estevez said. “That’s why I didn’t call security immediately.”

Finally, one girl began speaking. Estevez said, “She told me they’ve watched The Outsiders on VHS at least 30 times, including once in the rewind mode, just to see what it looked like playing fast and backwards,” Estevez said. “They also kept telling me how short I am, which, honestly, I already knew.”

He gave each girl an autograph and agreed to some pictures. One of the girls, who went by the name Shelley, refused to leave his side. In dozens of pictures, this Shelley person is seen almost glued to Estevez, apparently refusing to let her friends switch spots with her.

Estevez then retreated to the bathroom. When he opened the door a few minutes later, the girls were standing in a sort of barricade.

“Going to the bathroom usually signals fans to move along. But not them. Now they wanted hugs. I didn’t have a choice. I was trapped next to the bathroom. There were five of them and one me and, like I said, I’m really short,” Estevez said. “When I escape in my movies, that’s a stunt double.”

After multiple hugs, the girls left. They were either late for meeting their driver, or they’d finally picked up on the subtle cues that it was time to leave.

“I was about to toss them out,” said security officer Too-Stupid-For-Words. “Thankfully, left peacefully and no SWAT team was needed.”


And that’s how Emilio’s DNA remained in my closet for years. Those wonderful hugs left splotches of makeup on my “professional reporter shirt.” (Please, don’t ruin the memory with quips about Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinski‘s dress.)

I know I didn’t give the shirt to a thrift store. They probably would have tossed it because of the make-up stain.

Honestly, I’m not sure what happened to the shirt. Maybe Mom threw it away. Maybe my accomplice-sister stole it. I like to think I took it to a bonfire, cherished the memory and then tossed the shirt into the fire, letting go of the past. Letting go of Emilio and freeing myself to love another, like Matt Dillon or Tom Cruise.


The Life of Zi, aka the zombie flick

Turns out, a zombie apocalypse might be the only way to end the Israel-Palestine conflict. That’s one lesson learned from Brad Pitt’s fantastic World War Z. But can Pitt save the zombie genre from audience fatigue? I doubt it — not while he’s saving the world and raising all those kids. So the job falls to me. Today’s blog: Shelley’s zombie movies. (No WWZ spoilers.)

This weekend brought a movie duo: World War Z and The Life of Pi. Seeing both in a 48-hour period is a bit like eating a hotdog basted in curry. There’s something odd about the combination, and it sparked a long, confusing, and circular conversation. (The more my stomach thinks about curried hotdogs, the more I think about planning a dinner party. Yum.)

So I wanted to write about The Life of Pi. Remember, English majors, Pi is the famous math number that never ends. Pi is the protagonist’s nickname.

My deep thoughts … (long breath) … The use of the name Pi reflects the story’s religious thread in which God and the universe, like Pi, the number, not the person, are never ending; and the story illustrates Pi’s question about why God would dump into His own son into a life with miracles but also tremendous suffering, and somehow the answer is related to suffering bringing beauty and peace; and then there’s the modern day Noah’s Ark; and choosing faith without proof; and the link between man and beast; and subtext about the Garden of Eden; all told within the framework of magical realism and–

Then my head exploded.

Instead, I chose Brad Pitt’s World War Z for today’s blog. No spoilers. If you can’t trust a childrens book writer, who can you trust?

Here’s why WWZ is a great film. There’s more movie, less zombie. You’ll still get your fix of flesh-eating terror. But WWZ is the big picture zombie movie. Instead of focusing on a couple of strangers trapped in a mall, fighting the walking dead, WWZ uses wide-angle lenses. How would society fall? How would our institutions respond? How quickly would scientists become top dogs, bumping football players and the Kardashians into a boiling vat of meaninglessness?

(Yes, the Walking Dead has its own big-picture view. Yes, WWZ the movie throws WWZ the book out the window. Just work with me here, ok?)

So then I wondered just how much ghoulish entertainment we can take. Are zombies destined to be the next vampire craze, where the only remaining plot twist involves a handsome family of vegetarian zombies, one of whom falls in love with a frail virgin named … (copyright?) … Nell.

Someone, some noble and brave artist, has to break the zombie rules and reinvent the genre. That someone is probably not me, but let me get the conversation started.

“Shelley’s Zombie Movies”

1. In my zombie movie, the beasts can only be killed if they’re shot in the ring finger on the right hand. (Am I the only fan bored with the blow-to-the-head rule?)

John: Face down the zombie, Roger. Nail him in the ring finger! Right hand! Hurry, Roger, hurry!

Roger: uh … my right or his right?

John: Just do it or you’ll die!

Roger:  uh … see, we’re facing each other so I’m unclear whether you mean I shoot his right hand, which is my left, or shoot his left hand, which is my AAAAAAHHHHHHH. HE GOT ME. DON’T LET ME BECOME ONE OF THEM!!!!

2. In my other zombie movie, zombies can be cured only if they eat the people they love most in the world. When they return to human state and realize they ate loved ones, the former zombies are so heartbroken and flat, they turn into figurative zombies. The movie’s really an exploration of love and relationships, like Beaches or The Bodyguard.

3. In my other zombie movie, a young boy stumbles upon a crazy solution: zombies freeze when they hear the Chicken Dance. The boy spends the whole movie trying to convince Our Nation’s Leaders that his idea works. Then world is free, the boy’s a hero, and  the Chicken Dance becomes our national anthem, an anthem with no words, just arm flapping and clapping. Polka displaces hip hop on Top 40 radio.

4. In my other zombie movie, the infestation is a real-life pandemic. Pharmaceutical companies get government contracts for zombie vaccines and cures. Execs charge a fortune for the drugs. The rich, who own shares and control the market through stock derivatives, are immediately saved, but the poor will die unless they apply for huge bank loans they’ll never be able to pay. Congress launches an investigation into banking and investing practices to appease the public. Then, one-percent of the surviving population will develop Guillain-Barré syndrome from the vaccine, leading to the world’s largest class action lawsuit in which lawyers get 90 percent of the settlement.

Oh, then Michael Moore will make a documentary about the whole mess, Capitalism 911: Bowling for Zombies. Bill O’Reilly will accuse Moore of “hating America.” Life will be normal, at least on FOX TV.

5. My other zombie movie is a sequel comedy. The Center for Disease Control hires Shawn (of Shawn of the Dead) to manage the U.S. zombie outbreak after his success in Great Britain. Trust me, it’s very, very funny and very, very British, because all the moms are called “mums.”

See why Brad Pitt needs me?

And did I mention WWZ’s twist ending is nuclear war with only the zombies surviving? Just kidding, and I’m sorry. It’s tasteless to joke about movie spoilers.