Archive | March, 2013

Bisque Rage and the Futility in Creating

26 Mar

Apple really got its computer domination ball rolling by pitching the idea that everyone with a MacBook could consider themselves an artist. Once YouTube was sterilized and legalized enough to be worth protecting by Google, everyone could share videos with ease. All the while the proto-pseudo-celebrity, patient zero in the epidemic of being-famous-for-being-famous, Paris Hilton, was cashing in on her . . . well, we still don’t know what, but whatever it was it made this dumb, rich woman even richer. This perfect storm baited a naive and disillusioned version of myself into think that maybe I didn’t just have to appreciate films, but I could also make them.

Welp, that being said, another self-produced wake-up call has shown once again that making films is much harder than expected. A few weekends back, I and a few like-minded individuals decided to enter a film challenge called Bisque Rage. The spirit of the event was to get drunk and make movies that exude enthusiasm, excitement and any 101 of the other movie making adjectives that are related to the excitement of making movies. The event curators came out and filmed 90 seconds worth of a movie complete with broken eggs, ski masks, bullhorn rap (very under appreciated sub-genre), spray painting and smashing a TV set from the late 80s. Pretty much everything short of putting a safety-pin in their ear. Fired up and inspired, we went out to the world where I proceeded to film a dude for 20 minutes while he tried to put a concrete guard pole back in the ground after he hit it with his Staples truck. Clearly, I didn’t quite grab on to the spirit of the presentation.

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By the time I simultaneously realized that this man wasn’t going to get the parking stump back and that this was the most boring footage ever committed to the ones and zeros of digital cinema, the group had a plan to troll the Bisque Rage big shots by producing an ironic Harlem Shake video, where instead of the bass kicking it, it would just be one of us chiding everyone for being so stupid to like the derivative pile of dongs.

However, since we still had six hours before we had to turn in our video we decided to go ahead and film another idea as well. Make no mistake, I’m not showing this video out of pride, or even an obligation to the team members, I’m showing this to prove once again that I have no business making films or having aspirations of making films. From my drunken recollection, someone drunken Bisque Rager called this film the most offensive film of the group, and not because it is in any way offensive, just because it is so poorly made that it offended even the drunken-anything-goes spirit of Bisque Rage. Enjoy:

This video was so poorly received that not even all the members of the group have completed even a single viewing of the film. At 82 seconds, it is still too much of a commitment for the people who made it to finish.

Our plan was to troll the party with an ironic-poorly-made-chastising Harlem Shake video, but instead did it with our real entry. The Harlem Shake video, unfortunately turned very earnest when we added the base line and caught the Harlem Shake fever a little bit, but don’t worry, in a continual sense of universal irony, our blatant attempt at view baiting, failed miserably. The clip was a hit at the viewing party, but in its online posting has yet to reach triple digit views.

At least I can still post poorly written stupid opinions in complete anonymity from anyone other than the Google algorithm. And knowing that I at least have a complicated math problem reading, and possibly watching my stuff makes all the difference in the world.

-C.Charles

THC – The Hypocrite Channel

20 Mar

Being way too cynical and jaded, I never expect truth in advertising. But it still really bugs me when cable channels bulk up their schedules with programming that goes against their own branding. For example, A&E (Arts and Entertainment) airs Hoarding and Intervention, and Cartoon Network started rerunning Saved by the Bell late at night. It is way beyond me to stop this hypocrisy so I’m going to take the next step. Here are some suggestions to lead cable channels further astray from what they say they’re about.

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MTV – Did you know the “M” in MTV actually stands for Music? It is one of those obscure things most people don’t know about TV, like how CBS actually stands for the “Columbia Broadcasting System.” Obviously CBS has more Columbian content than MTV has musical content, so it is easy to mistake the M for Malignant or Masturbatory (I’d wager CBS airs more and better music than MTV too). So the next show I pitch for MTV is based on their sophisticated hit 16 And Pregnant. It is called 32 And Grandma, portraying women who got pregnant at 16 and still failed to prevent their own daughters from ruining their lives in the exact same way.  I went to high school with someone in the 90’s who got pregnant sophomore year and her mom was 32, if I can find someone that surely leaves the door open for 48 And Great Grandma. Of course, that would have to air on VH1.
History – The History channel has done to history what MTV has done to music. Producing a drama called The Bible is on the margin of being called history, but shows like Alien Architects and Prehistoric Astronauts defiantly cross the line. If they’ve already broken the definition of history, then anything qualifies as content for them. Keep an eye out for the following shows: America’s First Cotton Gin, The Untold Story of The Super Mario Brothers, and How My Balls Won World War IV.
TLC – The fact that the show Here Comes Honey Boo Boo is on The LEARNING Channel confirms that our species has no hope for long-term survival. All I can say is this: make a show about a young mammal of the Laporidae family who goes around beating smaller rodents until a fairy makes her stop. It’s called Little Bunny Foo Foo and will kill less brain cells than “sketti and butter” while the title still sounds the same.
The Science Channel – I really enjoyed the original programming that used to educate viewers about actual science. But The Science Channel has started airing Firefly and Fringe. A lot of people love these shows but they don’t belong on The Science Channel. And their sitcom Stuff You Should Know doesn’t belong anywhere but the incinerator. If they want to acquire old shows from other networks, how about Sliders, Quantum Leap, and MacGyver? Honestly, a dramatic show with actual science in it like Breaking Bad would fit in best.
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Travel Channel – This channel originally had a variety of infotainment pertaining to journeying around the globe. Now, it is only about food: No Reservations, Bizarre Food, Man Vs. Food, Bacon Paradise, and the menu goes on and on. TV is already bloated with food– PBS’s daytime cooking shows, prime time’s Hell’s Kitchen, and the 24-hr programming on the Food Network and the Cooking Channel. No wonder everyone is so fat. TV is saturated with food porn and now the Travel Channel has to serve up copious portions of foodie fantasies too? How about a show where people knowingly eat tainted food and have to reach some exclusive bathroom before they get sick. Success is when the person gets violently ill in a luxurious lavatory. They could tell us how great it was to projectile vomit in the women’s room of five star restaurants–or how the bar at Aspen’s ski lodge is the best place to have explosive diarrhea.   
All these channels have the right to air whatever they want but they should change their names accordingly. American Movie Classics, which makes Mad Men and Walking Dead, is now AMC. Discovery ID used to be Discovery Times which used to be Discovery Civilization. Or, Cable Stations, why don’t you do this? Just stop trying to be something you’re not, especially when we have to pay extra just for the option of watching you.

Drinking in Movies

14 Mar

  One thing you gotta like about older movies is that they were fortified with alcohol. Before M.A.D.D., Al-anon, rehab, and political correctness run amok, characters use to drink all the time, for all types of reasons and for no reason in particular. Recently for the most part consuming on camera falls into two categories. Either it is the alcoholic whose “life was ruined by drinking” (Flight) or the “we got way too wasted last night and it ruined everything” comedy (The Hangover franchise). Even if liquor is given just a sip of screen time it is either a sin, weakness, or a hazard (even in the context of comedy). But back in the old days booze was just generally there with no comment. It’s not an element of “character development” (whatever that means), but is simply there. People drank in movies for all the reasons we drink in our personal lives. There were no alcoholics in their universe. Contrary to many modern movie worlds, they were populated with men and women who could hold their liquor. Intoxication was presented as a simple fact of life, which it is. Here are  a few films that really show the varied ways movies pulled the bottle out of their bag of tricks to make the viewer their drinking buddy. These movies are full on 100 proof drinking movies but also reflect how on the whole older movies always splashed a little alcohol into their story telling cocktails.

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Comedies have been using inebriation to make the funny happen since the silent era. Charlie Chaplin’s One A.M. (1916): Is a very early example of how physically funny drunk people are. After “The fastest round of drinks I ever saw.” The rummy attempts to stagger into bed and every prop becomes an obstacle in his way.

In The Bank Dick (1941): W.C. Fields is a soused security guard, this movie is still funny today. He’s often in The Black Pussy, yup that’s the name of the bar. But also is drunk at work and goes drinking and driving. You’d never see a light hearted DWI car chase in a contemporary movie.

Can’t leave out Animal House (1978): This film makes drinking so much you can’t remember college seem like a good thing. Bluto is what John Belushi will be remembered for until the end of time. There’s been a couple rip offs like Old School, Van Wilder, and 21 and over that just didn’t measure up.

The recent 2011 remake of another soggy film also underwhelmed. Arthur (1981): Dudley Moore is living a life we’d all be jealous of, a millionaire who is never sober. He’s always giggling and joking, and who can blame him. A great line is when someone tells Arthur a real woman could stop you from drinking. He replies “It would have to be a real big woman”.

Alcohol was also a character’s motivation to get whatever had to be done in the movie accomplished. Gangsters fought over bootleg booze, Private eyes swallowed glasses of rotgut whiskey, and Cowboys needed a shot before they fired shots. Alcohol took care of business. Jackie Chan’s Drunken Master (1978): kicked ass and forgot the names the next morning. The action hero was renowned for his tolerance to 100 proof wine and for standing up to assassins. I’m on board with any training regimen that requires alcohol intake. The Legend of Drunken Master (1994) was a heavier poured second round, nothing wrong with that.

Barfly (1987): was penned by Charles Bukowski (previously discussed on Stupid Opinions Written Poorly). The heavy drinking writer kind of wrote his own biopic and is played by Mickey Rourke. He doesn’t just need to drink to write, he needs to drink with lowlifes in a dive bar to write (one of those lowlifes is Bukowski himself in a cameo). I love his philosophy “Anybody can be a non-drunk. It takes a special talent to be a drunk.” Maybe that same special talent to drink is the same talent it takes to be a great writer…Hasn’t worked for me though.

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Sam Peckinpah’s, entire filmography is in the language of alcohol, the man was a genius, and if you’ve never seen one of his westerns for shame. It is so hard to pick just one of the movies he directed so I’ll go with his most famous one Wild Bunch (1969). Everyone drinks in this movie all the time, the outlaws gulp whisky and tequila, and swim with prostitutes in a vat of wine because, well, they’re a wild bunch. During a deep psychological moment William Holden the leader of The Wild Bunch is conflicted. He can take his loot and have a great life, or risk his neck to go back and rescue his comrade. He stares into that bottle looking deep into the liquid and his soul. Makes the hard choice, chugs the entire bottle and tosses it aside, now set on saving his friend. There’s no dialog or music just that bottle, nuff said. Sam Peckinpah was the embodiment of drinking to take care of business. On the set of one of his movies his bar tab alone was $40,000! But the man was ahead of his time. Movies back then averaged about 600 cuts, Wild Bunch has 3200+ it took decade for movies to catch up to his style.

So where are we now? Well drinking to take care of business almost doesn’t exist. I mean James Bond didn’t get one martini in Skyfall. There are a few great drinking comedies in the 21st century. Bad Santa (2003): is such a supreme combination of raunchy humor and emotional impact. As a tradition I watch it every Christmas, it makes my alcoholism seem less raging.
Beerfest (2006): is exactly what it promises, but you can’t watch it by yourself and you have to be drinking. Of coarse my opinion is based on the first time I saw it. When the warning at the beginning of the movie comes up that says “If you drink this much beer you will DIE!” My friends shouted “Come on guys we can do it!”
SuperBad (2007): was a much more realistic portrayal of high school than American Pie was. Before Micheal Cera and Jonah Hill were overexposed and annoying, this movie made me laugh so much my face hurt. I guess it bridges the gap between a drinking comedy and drinking to take care of business since the whole premise is underage minors getting alcohol in an attempt to get laid.

So if you’re looking for a movie to get you psyched up for celebrating on St. Patrick’s Day maybe these will help.

Cheers,
Carl Wells

A Couple Different Points of View About the Beach House Video for Wishes

12 Mar

The documentary Room 237 is a feature-length film indulging theories about Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. The documentary and the film theories about the film are a good example of how searching for satisfaction provides answers that fit the question shaped holes in our mind, even if those answers need to be jammed into the holes. The “experts” in this film forced a lot information into their question shaped holes in their head under the guise that Kubrick was a meticulous and borderline infallible director.  Everything has to have meaning if it’s in a Kubrick film. I guess that’s what post-modern film criticism looks like. It sparks the imagination, and if you’re creative outlet is writing scholarly papers or making video essays, then post-modern film criticism is directly for you.

Here’s a wonderful video on Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited that is very much unlike the film criticism in Room 237. The video essay is not jamming answers into the question shape holes, it is studying and observing and with carefully crafting those observations into a coherent focused essay. In the video, he takes all the information in the film as well as surrounding the film, information gleaned from the press tour and general lore of Wes Anderson, to examine the film as a whole. Ideally, this is what everyone with a creative bone in their body wants to happen to their work; for someone to give it the same amount of attention to appreciating it as they did in creating it.

So, that was the set-up. Here’s the pitch: I’m going to examine the Eric Wareheim’s video for Beach House’s Wishes twice. Once in the post-modern-Room-237 way and once in the style of the video essay. The goal is to keep it under a thousand words, so feel free to stop reading after you’ve read the 1000th word in the this post.

The video for Wishes shows great progression in Eric Wareheim’s artistic sensibilities. The video starts with shot of flaring stadium lights burning a horizontal line across screen. The line of the lens flares across the screen symbolize the dividing line between the crowd of observers and willing participants on the field. He takes special care to show this difference between the audience and the performers. Ray Wise is the perfect choice to for this role, he carries that faux-authority-figure cockiness that permeates from high school coaches, as well as having a thematic connection to Beach House by playing Leland Palmer on David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. The band has always had a Lynchian-Badalamenti vibe to it, and casting of Ray Wise to play coach/main attraction fits perfectly with Wareheim’s sensibilities for casting interesting and unique actors instead of aiming at names with the most “star power.” The thematic connection adds to the viewer’s experience of the video and further puts them inline with the audience in the bleachers of the stadium. Wise will play the role of the coach, leader of the team of the fictional and unidentifiable sport and the leader of the performance. This role will be Wareheim’s surrogate throughout the video and the on field performance.

The lens flares that opened the video consistently appear in relation to the coach and the performers on the field. The prior is made to appear as if he’s glowing throughout the video. At first the audience calmly watches as the coach, a figure that is presumably a familiar individual in their lives, begins to sing to the audience. Their attention is rapt, but subdued. As the performance continues and expands in scope the crowed and their admiration of the coach increases. When both the male and female dancers begin to use weapons in the routine, the crowd escalates to near euphoria status. It is at this point in the video where there is an important Eric Wareheim cameo. The camera dollys across the cheering crowd and Wareheim stands unresponsive to the performance he’s observing. He is the literal creator of the pageantry on the field, yet he is sitting with the audience. His lack of response shows the inability to appreciate his own work while in the middle of it, and more specifically right before the performance takes a step toward the grand finale. He is unable, as the director and creator of the project, to feel the same satisfaction as the observing audience.

The performance that began with the lyrics “The roses on the lawn/Don’t know which side you’re on/In a daze it will change.” This is the same question that Wareheim is asking about himself and his creative work. The work being the “roses”; is he a gardener cultivating the beauty of the rose or his he an admirer of the roses? After his cameo, the performance on the field continues to increase in beauty, scope and aesthetic pleasure. The performance causes the audience to have a spiritual experience on par with any Pentecostal worship service. At this point the coach is elevated to royalty, his vision of the performance succeeded and he’s allowed to bask in the satisfaction of the “roses.” It is worth noting that the opening lines of the final verse of the song, “The roses on the lawn/Won’t know which side you’re on” are not (1000th word) sung by the coach, and are the only lines in the song where the coach doesn’t have a microphone. This implies that even Wareheim isn’t sure which side he’s on. Is he on the side of creating beauty or is he an admirer? He, and all artists, have the progression from one side of the lens flare to the other, and this video shows that while in the middle of creating beauty it is impossible to appreciate and admire it with the same passion as the audience.

Now, for the Room 237 take:

The video for the Beach House song Wishes directed by Eric Wareheim mirrors the current  gay rights movement in America. Through the used of color in production design and the recurring gender swapping you can see the Wareheim shows exactly what is happening in the fight for Gay Rights and the struggles of a homosexual individual in the USA.  The first two things I noticed when I watched this film was that there was a lot of very shiny brightly colored fabrics that aren’t traditionally used in athletic competitions because of their inability to breath and keep the athletes cool, and I also noticed that the coach figure was a male, but the lyrics he sang were from a female performer. And that is what really got me thinking that there is something else going on here.

The the beginning of the video he walks through a hung sheet, that has to be pulled back. This is really like his birth and the pulling back of the sheets by the two men with horses masks is a really obvious metaphor for exiting from his mother’s vaginal canal. From birth, society has forced the coach into this masculine role of coach, when all he wants to do is perform and dance, a traditionally homosexual activity. So, as soon he begins singing we realize that this isn’t your typical high school coach; this is a man who wants to be free with his sexual choices. When he takes on the female vocals of this song, it shows that he’s actively trying to become more feminine while staying in his socially acceptable masculine role.

The theme makes itself more obvious when the two waterboys symbolically blast the traditional masculine athletes with the metaphorical semen when the spray their faces with water. Only one of the players is able to hold a mouthful of the metaphorical semen showing a fine example of the closeted gay male in high school athletics. The female cheerleaders then break through a similar banner as the coach walked through showing that they females are forcing their nature instead of embracing it like the coach. Their mission is to seduce the coach and keep him living the heterosexual lifestyle. They dance erotically in front of him, tempting him to return to them. It is no accident that the close-up slow motion shot of the woman shaking her bottom is followed up by the coach shaking his head “no.” He wants nothing to do women. He is clearly a gay man. The cheerleaders conclude their dance by symbolically offering to allow the man to beat them while the remain quite, as seen in the dance move of faux-hitting themselves then covering their mouths.

At this point in the video, the two homosexual waterboys realize that the coach isn’t responding to the female advances and decide to jump into action. With a knowing nod, the two jump at the chance to impress the coach with their offerings. The waterboy’s dance includes faux-pissing contest as well as ripping the clothes from each other’s bodies. This drives the crowd wild. Where before The Gay Rights Movement people would have scoffed at this kind of behavior from men, they are now applauding how gay men are following their nature.

The video then progresses into a battle between the men and the women for the coach’s favor. The cheerleaders break out large phallic weapons, but the waterboy’s show more agility with that as well. Which is when the cheerleaders call in for back up. A new wave a cheerleaders, wrapped in the symbolic vaginal curtains and spin for his pleasure. This causes the fireworks to explode in the background of the screen. This shows that while society, the people in charge of putting on the sporting event and launching the fireworks and attending the event, wants to provide support for the plight of homosexual individual it still prefers the heterosexual pairing, and will support that by adding extra flair, here seen in the form of fireworks, to those relationship.

In the end though, the coach is lead down back behind the curtain, blocking him from the gazing eye of society where he can not be seen mounting the horse and striking the pose similar to the one the curtain. And notice how the horse is exactly out of view from the other side of the curtain. Even if an audience member could see through the slit in the middle of it, the horse and the coach would not be visible. This just shows that The Gay Rights Movement still has a long ways to go and many of the supporters are still fearful of showing their support, as seen by the many members of the crowd wearing horse heads.

Eric Wareheim undeniably meant for this video to be a metaphor for gay rights and the plight of the homosexual individual in society.


C. Charles

Review and Re Enactions Related to Stoker

7 Mar

I was excited for Park Chan-wook’s Stoker before I knew who was directing, I was sold when Nicole Kidman waxed on the mother-daughter relationship in a vengeful fashion. Then when I found out it was the first English language movie from the South Korean film titan behind the Vengeance Trilogy I was more excited than when I get a re-tweet from a stranger. My calendar was marked and I let the anticipation build, while trying to keep myself in the dark with anything else regarding the film. 

Re Enactment of what happened after watching this Stoker Clip:
“What could make a mother actively wish for her child’s demise? Oh, and it’s directed by the same guy who was fearless enough to make an action revenge movie where one of the character fucked his own daughter. This is going to be psychological torture on celluloid. What kind of effed up story will this film be about? What action provokes that amount of venom from a mother?  My imagination is running wild. I wish I had place on the internet where I could poorly write my stupid opinion about this. ”

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Last weekend the film opened with a limited release in the states. I was in front of the line to get my Stoker on. My excitement was not rewarded. The film spent the first thirty minutes building suspense, then the next forty minutes stretching my goodwill toward the film, then there was some blood to season the otherwise bland last thirty minutes. There was about eighteen minutes worth of interesting ideas that could be stretched to fill a broadcast hour, but the 98 minute running time was too much. It was a dull film, with interesting monologues and beautiful shots. There was no payoff, or hint of payoff.

This film had so much potential and it squandered it on setting up this tedious mood that is forgotten, at best, and more likely abandoned at some point in post production. Park seems like he’s saving for his child’s college education, and then when he graduates from high school he forgets he has the money to buy his kid a spot Harvard and instead tells him he’ll have to work at a gas station while he pays for his own community college.The aforementioned Nicole Kidman monologue was so good and she nailed as she wont to do in tear-soaked close-ups.  And that scene was great, but it wasn’t interesting why she said it, actually it seemed fairly petty all in all. It could have been that the mother knew more than she was letting on, but her character was pretty aloof.

In fact a large part of my disappointment stemmed from the lack of depth in any of these characters. Nicole Kidman brought the goods to her role, but even her character was developed about as much as a guest star on a broad sitcom. Matthew Goode’s character was inconsistent, and he was too good looking for India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) to hate just because she didn’t know he existed. He rarely had any menace on-screen, whenever he entered a scene it seemed like there was going to modeling competition to see who could wear a tennis sweater better. He looks good and, how shall I put it, his other January Jones-esque traits worked against him in this film.  Goode is not a very intimidating villain, which worked nicely in Watchmen, but fell very flat here.

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Re Enactment of creating the paint-by-numbers characters of Stoker:
Writer #1 “This character needs to feel like an outsider, let’s make her get made fun of by some cool boys.”

Writer #2 “Yeah, they’ll say really mean things to her.”

Writer #3 “Why are they making fun of her?”

Writer #2 “Because she needs to be an outsider.”

Writer #3 “But, why is she being made fun of? What makes her an outsider?”

Writer #1 “The audience needs to be on her side. People can relate to outsiders.”

Writer #3 “But why is she an outsider?”

Writer #1 “Oh, I see the confusion here. We’re writing this script so we can make her whatever we want. And we want her to be an outsider.”

Writer #3 “I get it, but did she do anything to become an outsider?”

Writer #2 “You don’t get it. We’re her god and we can do whatever want to her. It’s like God made us writers. We didn’t have to do anything. We’re just writers.”

Writer #3 “but-”

Writer #1 “Fine. She’s wearing saddle shoes. They make fun of her for wearing saddle shoes. Happy?”

Writer #3 “Gold!”

This film was a disappointment in every way. I walked out of theater realizing why it was released March and wondering what kind of black magic the marketing director had to conjure up to get people to see this movie. I hope that re-watching the Vengeance Trilogy will act as a time machine to take me to a time when I didn’t know this film existed.

Re Enactment of what I hope will happen after watching Oldboy:                                          “Wow, that’s great. Quality filmmaking. I really hope this guy makes an English language film some time in the future. Wait, I’m being greedy. I think he should just keep pounding out Korean masterpieces and never has to deal with the Hollywood creative process. That’s my dream.”

C.Charles

IT IS NEVER JUST LIKE THE BOOK, GET OVER IT!

6 Mar
We’ve all heard it, we’ve all said it, “The book was better.” I used to think this was a valid movie criticism, and just accepted that since I had never read the book, that person was better and smarter than me. Now, I have heard it so many times it sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher speaking “I didn’t like it. The book wonk wahwan wahwan wonk wahwan.” An early recognition in the fallacy of criticizing a movie based on its differentiations from the book occurred after seeing the first Harry Potter movie. The instant the credits rolled the person I saw it with said “The book was much more detailed.”
It was a three-hour kids movie! How much more God Damn detail do you want!?
The problem has gotten worse, since Hollywood has run so low on ideas they’ll make any crappy comic book into a crappy comic book movie. Now people who liked the comic say the movie sucked because it didn’t follow the comic. Television shows are now stemming from comic books and novels so people can play source material vs. television too. (Going off on a tangent, coining the term Graphic Novel to try to make comics seem like acceptable literature for an adult to read isn’t fooling me. You can’t call something a novel if it has a ratio of one drawing for every four words. It is a COMIC book, it differs from a REAL book in that I might respect someone for reading a real book.)
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NERD ALERT: I love Lord of the Rings! After seeing the The Fellowship of the Ring, I was hooked and needed to know the ending. I had an epiphany… I can read the books!  I got The Hobbit and LOTR on paperback and for the first time read a book before seeing the movie. There were parts that I loved and parts that were, eh, alright. When the other sequels came out I didn’t miss any of the stuff that was cut or changed from the text. To this day I consider LOTR the best movie trilogy ever. Most people who read the books don’t criticize the film versions based solely on their differences from the text. Which is not what to expect from the cult like obsession Tolkien fans are known for. This makes LOTR an anomaly and a testimony to how great the films are .
With Game of Thrones starting again at the end of the month I’m already hearing the complaints. The best example being that a friend of mine watched the show when it started and convinced me and a few others to check it out. We all were on the King’s Road band wagon pretty quick, so naturally, we read all the books too. Then season two varied even more from the books than season one. By the third episode my friend was so upset with the changes he stopped watching the show altogether. I find it funny, because of the show he read the books and because of the books now he’s missing some good tv. Spoiler Alert: season three is going to be different too, get over it.
Brace
A few years ago I decided to start reading a lot more. One of the reasons is I wanted to understand why people always cited the differences in the book as their only reason to not like a movie. I’ve come to believe it is because of 2 major factors; First it is easier and more fun to knock something down than to build it up. And if I’ve read the book and you haven’t, I know more and can form a better argument as to why it sucked than you can as to why it was good. Second is that most people don’t recognize how very different the printed medium is from a screen medium. They utilize completely different standards to tell a good story. I’m not going into how, just trust me, print and screen are so different that you can’t expect a movie to be successful based on the storytelling abilities of a book. It would be like expecting someone who’d baked the best made-from-scratch bread ever also being able to use the same grains and yeast to brew a great beer.
Judge tv shows and movies as compared against other tv and movies. Because if you want to see the story with all the details told in the exact same way and nothing cut out, stay home and reread the book.

The Happy Ending Conundrum

4 Mar

Don Roos’s film Happy Endings is an unseen masterpiece. The film is one of my favorite films, but this isn’t about that film. Well, not really; it’s about TV versus movies, again, as well as examining the new landscape of creativity, kind of.

Diptic

I’ve been urged for over a year to watch the television show Happy Endings. I gave it a chance, and watched an episode where Rob Riggle played a very loud, very Rob Riggle character who died at the end of the episode. To borrow a phrase from Dowager Countess of Grantham, I didn’t dislike it, I just didn’t like it. Which is quite different.  There were some alright jokes in, but I didn’t think the situations were all that interesting or explored in a unique way. I gave it a chance, albeit not a very good one, but Happy Endings (the TV show) wasn’t going to replace Happy Endings (the movie.)

However, I was called out about not giving it enough of a chance to grow on me. The situation was compared to my viewing of The Wire, and if I’d given up on that show after one episode or even one season. I have no illusions that The Wire and Happy Endings (the television show) are in the same league, but I do see the point. There’s something appealing about the comfort of familiarity.  Getting used to characters on a show makes the show more enjoyable for sure, but I wonder if it isn’t cheating a bit. I remember back when buying music wasn’t as easy as a click of a mouse, and was much more expensive too, when I bought a new CD I was determined to like it. Even if that meant building false admiration out of familiarity.  I listened to post-grunge (my stomach turned a little typing that) band Oleander on repeat long enough to trick my brain into thinking that knowing all of the lyrics meant that I liked it. It was a cruel trick to play on my brain.

And now I’m being asked to do the same thing with Happy Endings, a show that was pitched to me as “a good nineties fun, like Friends.” The characters in Happy Endings (the TV show) or The Wire or any premium cable television show are better than the characters in the any of this years Best picture nominations simply because they’ve had more time to develop. The idea of putting an important character in the background of a gay bar and then never mentioning that again, only works on TV shows. That would be laughably stupid for any movie to do something like that.  For a television show it’s brilliant because it’s a similar method to finding out information in real life. Things that seem important may be, or they may have nothing  to do with anything. I love watching character driven dramas, and television excels there because it allows a real familiarity with the characters to develop. Quality TV shows feel more like life, or the relationships we want to have in life, because of their structure and their scope.

If TV shows mirror real life, movies mirror listening to a friend tell a story. Movies are better suited to telling specific stories. They are the perfect way to tell  what happened. That is why it is so special when a film like Happy Endings comes along where not only is the story an interesting story, but it’s jammed packed with memorable characters. That’s why filmmakers like Roos are so special. It’s harder to make a feature film do all the things that a TV show can do, than it is to make a TV show do all the things that a movie can do. So, even if the episode I watched of Happy Endings wasn’t the best, it was enough for me. Sorry.

C. Charles