Archive | June, 2014

Social Awareness After 10:30 am : Webbed Prose – June 23, 2014

24 Jun

This extra long bit of prose is inspired from an extra special place in my heart.

Social Awareness After 10:30 am

There was a kid who graduated from a private college with a double major in political science and business. He wasn’t the most impressive student at the school, but knowing the education he was receiving was beyond the measure of monetary value he believed his education would thrust him into the earning elite. He took out the maximum amount of loans and refused to make any effort while enrolled to contribute toward his education costs. It was a great time in his life. He lived the life of luxury and leisure while pursuing his intellectual fancy. And while he publicly stated many times how much he enjoyed developing superior life skills while he was still enrolled in college, it wasn’t until after graduation and the completion of an unpaid internship that he truly realized how sweet he had it.

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The NBA Conspiracy Minute: 6-15-14 Game 2

15 Jun

I knew that there was going to be another conspiracy right around the corner. This one isn’t a huge one, but it is worth pointing out because it adds a whole new layer of genius to the San Antonio Spurs and the basketball omnipresence of Greg Popovich. But before I dive in to the conspiracy, I just want to give a little backstory on my relationship with the Spurs. I never really liked them, even when uber-Christian David Robinson was being jammed down my throat by every Sunday school teacher who noticed that I liked basketball I wasn’t a fan. As a kid there was more than one moral lesson revolving around how Christians were better at basketball allowing them to defeat the vile worldliness of crass hooligans like Charles Barkley. All I knew was Barkley beat Godzilla and in my elementary mind there was no amount of Christian magazine features on David Robinson that could take that away from me. So, not a huge fan to begin with. The 1996 season when David Robinson and Sean Elliot were out the majority of the season, thus allowing them to win the Timothy Duncan lottery, my favorite team the Denver Nuggets only had 2 more wins than the Spurs. WE COULD’VE HAD THE GREATEST CENTER/FORWARD IN THE WORLD!! So, for the next decade I held a grudge against the Spurs, so much so that I actively booed Avery Johnson when the Nuggets picked him up. I rooted against them in every playoffs series they played in, which broke my heart because that meant I had to root for the Lakers some years. I grew up thinking they were boring and outright villainous when they regularly beat the Suns. In summation, I’ll say the Spurs had a long way to go to earn my respect. And this is an old story, the stories of people hating the Spurs and coming around to respect them were in vogue two or three years ago after they changed their style to be more seven-second-Suns instead of their former grind-it-out selves, and it happened for me then also. I appreciated them the same time everyone else did, but now this years version of the Spurs are possibly the best basketball team I have ever seen in my life. And they are crushing the Miami Heat. And doing it in the most joyful, entertaining way.

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Having said that, there is a conspiracy theory tied to these Spurs. As I said before, it’s not a very deep one, they don’t need a Deep Throat to uncover it. My theory is that the Spurs knew they were going to crush the Heat, just down right embarrass them, like they’ve done the last two games. And because they were so confident they would win the title they lost game two on purpose so they could win the close out game back on their home court in front their fans who would appreciate it much more than faux-fans of Miami. Well, it didn’t look like they actively tried to lose, but in contrast to their dominating performances in game 3 and 4, it is a wonder how they could have ever lost a game to this Heat team. What I think happened was that Popovich implicated a game plan that didn’t focus as much on ball movement or elements of the game they knew the Heat could react to. It was the playing-everyone version of letting Duncan and crew skip the game in Miami during the regular season. I think it is a very unlikely scenario that any team, especially the Spurs, would willingly lose a NBA Finals game, but after the last two games it makes me wonder how they lost game two. What likely happened was that Pop made the proper adjustments which allowed the Spurs to let their super-dominate colors shine. He is such an amazing basketball mind that he could for two consecutive games anticipate every thing that the Heat were going to do to try to stop their attack and not just design something that Erik Spolstra won’t be excepting, but something that will exploit every hole he didn’t even realize existed. Spolstra is a good coach, but he relies on having the horses. I get the sneaking suspicion that Popovich would still get a team like the Bobcats (RIP) to fifty-plus wins just because he is a master at understanding the game and utilizing his personnel. This is why I think that there is a good chance that Pop willingly allowed his team to lose game two. If that isn’t the case then maybe LeBron is really as good as people say he is because this Spurs team looks flawless. They look invincible and play together so well, I’m a little shocked that they even lost one game the whole year. 

-C.Charles 

Edge of Tommorow, Reviewed Today

7 Jun

Edge of Tomorrow has an amazing trailer and lots of good press but it didn’t need those to convince me to see it. I’m not an avid Tom Cruise fan but I think he’s in his element doing sci-fi, maybe that’s because according to some people he’s actually an alien. I don’t believe he’s an alien but I do believe that if he’s in a sci-fi movie with Emily Blunt I’m seeing it. Edge of Tomorrow is based on a Japanese novel titled All You Need is Kill. Don’t worry I didn’t read the book so I won’t be griping about how the book was better. What I will say about All You Need Is Kill is that on a 1 to 10 scale measuring title awesomeness that’s an 11. Why didn’t they call the movie that? Any movie with the title “All You Need Is Kill” is automatically better.

Edge of Tomorrow

Due to how this movie was marketed everybody pretty much knows what to expect from The Edge of Tomorrow. Something the trailer leaves out made me go “Holy Cow, Bill Paxton is in this movie.” He was the best surprise in the movie, other than that, audiences already know the story. Basically Tom Cruise is a fish out of water who’s shoved into a military exoskeleton battle suit and dropped into an alien combat zone. The visuals start off great, it’s like the beginning of Saving Private Ryan where troops assault a beach while taking an onslaught of incoming fire. Its gritty, chaotic, loud, and brutal, only this time there’s slightly futuristic tech warfare involved. Witnessing crashing airships and soldiers twitch in malfunctioning battle armor we know Tom Cruise is a sitting duck. The movie is great at generating that feeling of being exposed, confused, and paranoid, just like Tom’s character. As for the aliens they’re called “Mimics” for reasons I can’t explain since they don’t mimic anything. They kind of look like mechanical cat o 9 tails with dreadlocks and just pop out of the ground randomly and kill you. They could be mimicking antlions I guess. Regardless we never learn what their intentions or motivations are, just that they’re here, they’re bad, get used to it.

It’s not long before a mimic sets its sights on Tom and pounces and they both exchange bodily fluids while dying in an explosion. Tom wakes up the day before he goes into battle remembering what happened / will happen and we get into the main concept of this movie “Live, Die, Repeat”. As Tom accumulates deaths he builds up skills, like outsmarting his commanding officer Bill Paxton who’s portrayal of a stubborn hard ass gets funnier and funnier with each iteration. Tom contacts Emily Blunt’s character Rita whose reputation “Full Metal Bitch” precedes her. She’s a highly decorated military hero who won a previous battle with the mimics inspiring hope for victory in the war. Emily Blunt was spot-on in the movie Looper so I know she can do sci-fi but in Edge of Tomorrow she’s even more impressive. She is a tough no nonsense soldier who kicks ass and never gives up. Emily Blunt makes it easy to sympathize with her character as someone who has lost so much because of this war she’s determined to win at all costs. She’s a merciless ally training Tom Cruise, every time he screws up she shoots him in the head to “reset”. That’s funny too, especially on repeat.

Mimick

This movie is getting compared to the comedy classic Groundhog Day. Okay. But I suggest that Groundhog day is more like Bill Murray living in a rerun of a TV show. While Edge of Tomorrow is Tom Cruise battling aliens until he dies then restarting, which makes it parallel a video game. This is what I find interesting, because I predict we’ll see a trend of video game type movies in the near future. Not movies based off specific video games but movies that use the aesthetics of video games as tools to tell their story. Tom starts with certain goals he has to achieve like learning how to turn off the gun’s safety then dies. Then he re-spawns turns the safety off and sets another goal to work for until he dies. Just like a video game there’s a specific pattern to be learned and once you learn it you repeat the same actions to get to a new situation or level. This replicates some of the fun of playing a video game while also allowing the movie to make fun of itself by having Tom Cruise in on the joke, he knows all the smart ass comments and beats everyone to the punchline. Another thing that makes this movie different from Groundhog Day and keeps it from being too much like a video game is that the ability to reset can be turned off if you’re not careful and can be subverted by the Mimics if they find out you have it. So the resets don’t get boring because this might be the last time it happens.

This movie had a fun concept, a great beginning, and a strong middle, where you learn about the characters and get to watch them grow and pursue different strategies for victory. This often involved lots of fighting between battle suits and aliens and guns and explosions and even a car chase scene. But toward the end of the movie I was very disappointed. Most of the movie looked fantastic except for some shaky-cam here and there. But the end of the movie is very dark so you already have a hard time seeing what’s happening, then it goes full out goddamn shaky-cam, just one long vertigo inducing motion blur. I can’t stand that shaky shit, its only purpose is causing headaches. But that’s what you get from the director of the Bourne movies. I can’t imagine how awful and painful it would’ve been to see the last 15 minutes of this movie in 3D, luckily I didn’t.

 

Carl Wells

A Stupid Opinion about The BFG Movie

3 Jun

Over the last 18 months I’ve read a lot of children’s literature while teaching English to Korean children. More often than not I’m bored to death with the Captain Underpants, the Arthurs and the Katie Kazoo Switcheroos to the point where I water down literary theory and writing techniques and watch a classroom of blank faces as I give the most rudimentary explanation of allegory or metaphor solely for my own amusement. But I get a little more interested every few months when I get to read a Roald Dahl book. It’s not just me though, the kids seem to perk up more too. The students try to understand the story more and one class even grasped the concept of similes while reading one of his books.  Thus, proving a universal truth that children everywhere love Roald Dahl. His imaginative stories tickle the children’s minds in ways much different from CGI films pieced together by slightly different sight gags and word play. Then combine Dahl’s stories with simplistic style of Quentin Blake’s illustrations and there is a nice uniform feel to his books that instantly puts children of any age, from any country at ease and piques their interest in creative fiction. As a teacher, I’m a fan of the books. Which is why I’m a little upset that Steven Spielberg is going to direct the feature version of The BFG.

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The BFG is a story of a Big Friendly Giant who takes an orphan, Sophie, to giant land after she accidentally sees him blowing dreams into the room of a kids on her street. It’s a fun little book that has some nice world building and plays with language in an especially whimsical way, even by Dahl standards. And being a fan of cinema I would usually love to see a beloved book come to the silver screen, but not a Dahl book and not by Spielberg. He’ll make a fine movie, but I don’t want to see his version of a Roald Dahl book. Well, at least not one as fantastical as The BFG. This book is going to require a lot of special effects and at this point of his career he’s just going to make The BFG into The CGI. And I don’t care how much Andy Serkis enjoys wearing spandex and ping-pong balls, but I don’t want to see more motion capture giants. Or anything thing from the mind of Spielberg or his team of creative mercenaries. 

I feel not every book needs to be turned into a film. The trend of seeking out properties that already have a built-in audience is miserable. By making movies and TV shows from books, comic books, articles and twitter feeds it is just a step toward discounting the original creations. There is the argument that adapting brings a new audience to the original, but for every one person inspired to read a the original because of the movie there will be a hundred who will come to think of the film as the only variant of that story. Which isn’t a bad thing, but without understanding the nuances of filmmaking, cinematic techniques and the same type of filmic grammar as there is taught about the written word the film versions will just be empty intellectual calories and delegated to the snack shelf in the pantry of pop culture. I’m glad there is going to be more of Roald Dahl in the world via Spielberg’s The BFG, but I’m sad that now the unlimited reach of children’s imaginations will be lassoed in to contain the CGI world portrayed on-screen. Every generation will produce its own great art, but this constant piggy backing, remaking and rebooting seems to be society saying “Everything’s been done. Nothing is original. Might as well not try.” Which could very well be a product of the unlimited access we have to information. Every good idea can be found before and therefore it’s just easier to draw TARDIS in a thousand and one different ways or relaunch Star Wars, Batman and everything that already has a loyal audience. It is a sad era. Can art change or are future generations just doomed to continue to paint Darth Vaders helmet and call it art? Jonathan Franzen is right when he says “It’s doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.” And without good fiction not only will there continue to be no new properties to adapt into movie trilogies, but it also means that I will have suck it up and find some new way to teach Korean children English.

-C.Charles