Monday, January 30, 2012

Hell. YEAHHHHH!!!!!

I usually don't jump and down over news events....

After the disappointment of not seeing Bryan Singer be able to unleash his Superman Returns sequel, nor his version of X-men 3---

And after the suprising delight of X-men First Class with Singer producing and Vaughn directing...and LOVING most of that film-

Finally, some good news-

Sunday, January 29, 2012


Eventually I'll create a post to detail why and how I got into this mess of how I blew my own deadlines (repeatedly) over the "Faith" comic. But.... some of the pages I wasn't too happy about, in the midst of re-drawing/touching up & laying out the rest of the pages--- anyhow, looks to be about 50 pages total. Yikes. But, an end looks to be in sight, now!

Black Canary? Don't ask me yet. It ain't dead, though. (At least, not quite yet)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Jim Shooter's side of Marvel Comics...

Yesterday, had lunch with my cousin who had graduated with a bachelor's in animation, and we talked about portfolios (I have none to speak of, it's on the list of 'things to do eventually but hopefully before I die') and best ways to tackle the issue of not enough time to do what you want /etc. etc. and trying to think of smart ways to work faster in developing skills that could atrophy easily. (Especially if- in my case- they're not close to what I want)

In the meantime, on the web, came across Jim Shooter's blog detailing his experiences working as Marvel's editor-in-chief and then president of Marvel & Valiant, as well as other experiences.

Now, anyone who knows me knows I'm a nut about the Bronze age of comics & would have loved nothing better than to have had a career in comics (much like, to my suprise, a ton of other folks as well growing up)- and kept an ear to the ground on the happenings behind the scenes pre-Internet about the Marvel/DC battles, and Shooter was often listed as the villain who destroyed careers of many of the old-timers at Marvel....

But... in reading the rather uncensored version of events from Shooter's blog, while nothing is completely unbiased- it brang up quite a few interesting stories about many of the individuals working there- and arguments and fights that might have stayed behind Marvel's closed doors, but rang of the truth. (Though, again, taking everything with a grain of salt).

Shooter, to his credit, kept most of the documents that he talks about his blogs over fights over ownership of original artwork (I had no idea that at one point, writers got to have a pages of original artwork--- a fight that would erupt between pencillers, inkers, and writers).... over camps loyal to this/that editor, down the line.

Fascinating reading. It asks for a donation, and I'll swing something over, I think I got enough out of it to make it worthwhile.

Anyhow..... I know that working for Marvel or DC in the bronze age doesn't (and hasn't) exist/existed for a long time, according to Bronze age artists and writers who aren't able to get work from them today, who describe its current environment.

But...even reading some of the ugliness hinted at those companies, it's still a childhood dream. Considering a lot of the ugliness to face up and around in 'real' life though, it's nice that both companies are still in existence in some form*, like some oddball twisted version of Camelot that continues to create things that tug at imaginations and can be shared. (*I'm skeptical how long comic book companies will last- competing with videogames and the internet can't help).

Neat to get a 'virtual' glimpse of what that life might have been like, via Shooter's journal.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

If Lucas can be! :O

Read this article from the New York Times-

Was shocked that the creator of Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and ILM (among other things) could be rejected so badly at this stage of his career. I know that I have some criticisms of his work, but... damn! Hearing that he had to pay for EVERYTHING on his new feature "Red Tails"- including prints, is incredibly shocking to me.

I'm not sure how to take this... that even the biggest of us can be forgotten and dismissed- either can be encouraging or depressing to those who want to see something they've created get picked up.

I wouldn't feel too sorry for George. I think he'll be ok. And better off than 99% of us, for sure...

He could always make another Star Wars movie, if he's hard up for cash....

Monday, January 16, 2012

Kirby's messages in a bottle....

From a great article in "Back Issue" speculating what Jack Kirby would have done with his incomplete "New Gods" series (Grant Morrison sums his series in one line:"Jack Kirby doing the bible in comics form")--- The article plants a great idea: that even though Kirby's ambitious (and still long-remembered) "New Gods" series got cancelled by DC in rather short time, Kirby's move back to Marvel with "The Eternals" and later on to Pacific Comics with "Captain Victory"--- show bits and pieces of what Kirby might have done with the New Gods--- only with different names and costumes.

It's not a ridiculous idea...but a fascinating one. It's a pity that even though there's nothing new that can be said that hasn't already been said about Kirby, as a personal exploration, I'm currently pursuing the other 'god-like' stories by Kirby (thank goodness almost all of them are in collected editions) and trying to extract what I feel might have been his 'true' ending for the New Gods series.

In doing some minor research on Kirby's work, I'm reminded of his sad endings.... although he's immortalized in comics- boy, it's a horrible reading of how minimized his contributions were during his employment at the companies. Makes being aware of Stan Lee's success a bit bittersweet in viewing.... the question remains: 'why didn't Lee work harder to share the wealth with his co-creators?'

What's great is that, even as unrecognized and underappreciated as Kirby may have felt, hopefully his work filled a spot in his heart and spirit when he was alive, even if he never truly got the financial success he deserved.

Hopefully, it's an idea that can fill others who do work that never get recognized, hopefully it's an idea that can inspire others who may constantly self-doubt their own efforts. It's amazing to think how many dismissed his work in his heyday..... but, I take some joy in knowing that (as cliched as it sounds) remembering the man and his work is something. I don't know if it ends up curing cancer of the body, but who knows how art can cure cancer of the spirit. Anything that inspires to do work outside of themselves can only be a positive, and hopefully something we do can add to that.

At least we gotta try.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Golden Globes opinions

A little ashamed to admit that my primary interest in checking out the Golden Globes this year was solely from the news of Ricky Gervais punching out egos with his sharp tongue, from all the buzz from last year's Globes.

What is it about Simon Cowells of the world that draw attention? I generally hate critics who sit back and comfortably bash, but maybe it's the excessive self-congratulatory nature of the Academy Awards over the last couple of years that have drawn my ire.

Other trivial opinion bytes:
* Why don't Amy Poehler and Tina Fey host this thing? Female commediennes rock.
* Boy, Jessica Lange seems a bit bitter. Guess I can't blame her with her husband leaving, after a zillion years...
* Kate Winslet seems a bit bitter. Guess I can't blame her with her husband leaving, after a zillion years...
* Madonna seems a bit bitter. Guess I can't blame her with her husband leaving, after a zillion years...
* Ashton Kutcher, on the other hand, looks incredibly young and happy. Huh. Go figure.
* Marty Scorcese rocks. He, for some reason, always seems to be enjoying where he's at.
* Angelina and Brad look a little uptight. Maybe Jennifer threatened to be there tonight.
* Nicole Kidman. I wonder if she can do comedy?
* Like the last passive-aggressive zinger from Gervais about the luxurious freebies and the recession. It seems doubtful that any attendees are hurting as much as others from it.

So, that's my golden globes bit.

In any case, progress on writing is happening at a nice pace....
The realization that, as adults, (and as things get posted on the internet), there's this giant fear of failure and amateurism, when everything's under a microscope on the internet..... and I've been sucked up in that for too long. Paralysis via internet awareness.

The thing is:
What about the joy of just creating? So, anyhow, I've recently reminded myself that the world is NOT the internet, contrary to popular belief. If you don't give yourself permission to make many wrong moves, how will you ever make the right ones?

So, beware, world. I now no longer fear the internet. Nor failure.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

And so, it begins...

Well...hopefully I'm not as maniacal as Heath Ledger's Joker in The Dark Knight, but who wouldn't want to have his/her act together as much as that guy in making plans, multitasking, and actually getting things done?

Anyhow- mixed news.

Good news- (for me) I'm finally getting parts of my creative train moving.

Finished a rough draft of a new script for a short film on Thursday, am touching base with multiple members of those who like to write, and am prepping some more edits to "The Claim" to bring to the Apple store in a few days, to get some fresh help on new ideas to upgrade the edit as much as I can.

Although I'm FAR from caught up, it feels good to start checking things off the list...

Monday, January 09, 2012

Time vs. Cam....

There seems to be two truths in life (ok, maybe more than that, but it sounds better if only two)---

One, everything takes a hell of a lot longer than you expect in life.

Two, that you always have a lot less time than you think.

Bah. Humbug.
One week of January has already passed.

The most likely thing to get finished in January is either:
#1: Edit 'The Claim' (a 40 minute video/film I did years ago that I've sat on forever)
#2: Pencils complete for Faith (the comic book that should have been done in a month, yet has taken almost three years to finish)

Where's that DeLorean to zip me back in time so I can catch up and be where I wanna be?

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Well, that's a real bummer.... Creative Screenwriting RIP

I was greatly looking forward to attending the Creative Screenwriting Expo this upcoming year, only to find out that the place seems to be closing shop.

That's an extreme bummer....
Years ago, resigned myself to the fact (due to personal stuff and different factors) that the day job would be, well, a day job. But on the sidelines, I could pour my energies into projects that I enjoyed, audiences be damned.

I actually have completed a few screenplays- but they're pretty much- well, 'first' screenplays. One made it through the rounds of the Walt Disney Fellowship (I remember talking to the person on the phone about why I hadn't received my response yet), but it didn't quite place.

The third one did much better...I think. But in any case, it didn't make it to the final round, and it's only the final round that counted. Sorta. Kinda.

One screenplay every couple of years isn't exactly dedication.

(There's a similar story I have for my comics, "The Preacher" and "Angels"- where I got a personal letter back from Tom DeFalco of Marvel comics at the time that said some complimentary things about the material that may have been just him being a nice guy, but ultimately- it got rejected. Rejection is rejection.)

In any case...

INTELLECTUALLY, everyone knows the ideal is just to bounce back, learn, and jump back on the horse.

In reality, the portfolio reviews and rejection slips can do a number on you.... but it also gets you to take a step back and see if there are also other areas in life that you have been neglecting beyond your creative dreams.

I did what most seem to do, keep the day job, and try to improve upon the creative stuff-- but, it is easy to get dispirited when the waiting takes so long (years) for any positive return.... Whether it's writing or drawing.

Even though I've just got done listening to an interesting podcast by John August about whether or not screenwriting books help, or whether or not the screenwriting conferences/events help...

For my part-
I don't know if it helps actually make a dream come true- it's highly possible that what the job actually requires may or may not be beyond what I can provide. (One professional in an interview said that tv writing/screenwriting is where you can make a 'killing', but not a 'living'.)

Just keeping it real.

Just like Comicon (when it WAS comicon, and not the overpopulated circus that I disdain now in attending, but continue to submit scribbles to the book, because it's still fun)....

Attending the Screenwriting Expo was a thrilling event for me, because it was like attending Comicon when it was smaller. It was far more personal.

Not being in an artistic day job, it was thrilling to be surrounded by other folks who knew the isolation of writing something that may or may not be completely ridiculous- and similarly had the crazy hope of actually seeing one of what they came up with actually get accepted and transformed into a film. Or be validated with a big wad of dollar bills thrown in their face in exchange for it. ;)

But, all kidding aside, I really dug being surrounded by people of all ages & sizes who hadn't 'made the sale' yet- (possibly never)- but were able to cheer one another on, in sharing their 'day job' stories and doing 40-50 drafts of their screenplays with the reality that it may all be in vain.

There were the professionals who were invited and always had one of three stories to tell that I found fascinating: (1) what life was for them before they 'got in' (not everyone was born/connected to Hollywood), (2) what the reality of the life is once they did get into that field, and/or (3) the mental frustrations and frustrations of trying to solve story and character problems.

I dug it all (and maybe too much, who's to say?).... but moreso the closing affair, where I was pleased to see a roomful of wannabe writers (I am, too, though part-time- but that's why I feel ok using that term) not be competitive and bitter towards one another, but cheer on smaller awards to the normal joes who had families to feed, no easy paths to get what they wanted, but still took the time and discipline to do the crazy and nurture that creative spark that could so easily get snuffed out by time, age, and life in general.

I hope that Creative Screenwriter & the Expo overcomes its hurdles and continues on.
If it doesn't, though, I'll remember that one year I was able to attend. It was nice.*

(*Although I'm leaving out the part about preparing my parody of Angel/"Vangelis" to give in person to the head writer of the actual "Angel" tv series, Tim Minear--- only to find out that God burned down his house at the time, so he couldn't attend at the last minute....EXTREMELY SUCKED-- but, hey, at least the rest of the trip was nice.)

Saturday, January 07, 2012

My Master Plan to Improve the Oscars - 2012

I could care less about the superbowl. I could care less about the Olympics. I could care less about the Barbara Walters' specials...

I do dig (when I can) watching the Academy Awards year after year, when I can- (the one where Michael Moore starts mouthing off at the president was a personal favorite one... although why did Sean Penn keep quiet that same year when he won an award? *sigh*)- and it's one of the few events during the year where I can get excited about who's going to win for this or that, in the hopes that he/she will get more clout to make more films that I actually like. (And maybe have more clout to do better movies in the future).

Oddly, I usually don't mind the excitement that surrounds the show for a bit. The world could use a distraction from all its real problems once a year--- but...

But, as we all know, the 'event' aspect of the Academy Awards keeps diminishing year after year--- and I do give credit for the producers to try to do something to shake things up and rethink some of the things that they've done in the past to alienate new viewers on their own anyways. (The omission of "The Dark Knight" was a crime against humanity. At least when the omitted 'Robocop' for best picture the year that came out, they had the decency to have Robo come out on stage at one point. Would it have killed them to have gotten Christian Bale to come on stage in full costume or zip by with the Batpod?).

(And I'm loving the chance to actually use that word)
Not that Hollywood has asked me, but here are my top ten suggestions to fix the Academy Awards and make it once again an event worth viewing:

#10: Get rid of recently new 'actors' self-contratulatory tribute to one another' kissing the ass of every actor who's nominated on the stage. Isn't it an honor just to be nominated? Do we really need to sit through a few minutes of having your overpaid co-star blather on about your contribution to mankind, just in case you lose? (*Angelina Jolie, Susan Sarandon, Sandra Bullock, Nick Cage, and a few other celebs who DO actually use their fortunes to aid mankind as an exception.)

Alternatively.... add a similiar five-minute tribute by other screenwriters, art directors, costumers, makeup crew, sound technicians by their colleagues or best friends from high school. If stars say that every person is equally important on a set, why doesn't the Academy put their money where their mouth is? Eh? Eh?

#9: Use a real stopwatch to time every Oscar winner who goes to the stage to thank his or her agent and everyone else on the planet (though of course the screenwriter usually is left out- go figure)....(*unless, of course, they're thanking me personally for their success, in case I demand that they add another hour and a headshot on stage for that situation). Also, rather than have the orchestra be the security guard when they go past time, actually use one of the security guards. A taser is far more effective than a guy with a tuba for silencing someone that needs to be silenced at the appropriate time.

#8: Speaking of Oscar speeches, no mention ever of your winning the Oscar as a defining moment of history. (Looking at you, Halle!) It may well be, but it's bad form.

#7: If you must have musical numbers, use Steve Martin, Billy Crystal, or Cirque Du Soleil. (But then again, Cirque Du Soleil can make a show about the AT&T Telephone book seem dangerous and exciting.)

#6: Where's the wheelchair ramp to the stage? Eh? Eh? For shame.

#5: Live animals on stage throughout the entire show to remind us all that entertainment is important, but so is humility. If they're not potty trained, the better. (Personally, I wouldn't mind the son or great grandson of the monkey in that old Clint Eastwood movie back when he was a young guy that you were intimidated by, as opposed to being an old guy that intimidates.)

#4: Steve Martin. As much as possible.

#3: Occupy tents on the red carpet for the Oscar pre-show. Hey, if these Occupy folks are REALLY serious about getting the attention of the 1%....

#2: Each Oscar statuette is worth far more than most families' income in these hard economic times. I say reduce the gold content by 80%, sell that portion of the gold to help the 99%, and keep 10% of the original Oscar statuette- (See my brilliant photoshopped concept below for how they can execute this)

#1: Change the name of the 'Oscars' to the 'Harv's'.

'nuff said.

(Warning: self-indulgent post) Zen and the art of filmmaking....YEAH, RIGHT! ;p

Late last night re-watched the directors' cut of "Amadeus" (ironically I think the theatrical cut is better, the director's one is just longer) - a brilliant film adaptation that I need to remind myself to rewatch now and then more often.

(For those who missed it, "Amadeus" is based on the play about the rivalry between two composers- the brilliant and childlike Wolfgang Amadeus- who is a 'failed artist' within his lifetime, but legendary after his lifetime - and Salieri - who is a 'successful artist' within his lifetime, but also lives to see people forget him and his work- and is tortured by always feeling that he had the ability to recognize creative genius in music, but never able to achieve it himself. The Academy Award winning movie is about a lot more than just that, but I'm simplifying & you can always look it up Wikipedia anyhow.)

But- anyhow - reason I bring it up, is that I have a good number of actor and writer friends who have not 'made it' nor are 'living the dream'--- and are doing the 'non-creative job' thing to pay the bills, and may do so until their death. It's a reality... but life can be far worse, for sure. (Been there, done that)

Still, I love and admire that they still keep their creative flame alive-

I know there's the saying: "If a tree falls in a forest, and there's no one around to hear it, is there sound?"

Similarly, if someone does work that can never make them a Mozart NOR a Salieri, should they pack up their bags and call it quits? Or after a year? Two years? Two decades? Two centuries?

Currently, I'm reading a buddhism/philosophy book that talks about life and broadening your acceptance of whatever life does and doesn't give you.... and it's very calming, but at the same time: it's COMPLETELY contrary (or seems that way) to the idea of trying to create your own film/video.... or meeting a deadline.

Buddhism seems to be about accepting all as is, and teaching oneself not to be judgemental. Making a video or a perfect illustration seems to be about TOTALLY being judgemental and not accepting things until they're 'right' and torturing oneself to action until they are. It's about clinging onto a dream of perfection (even if your head calmly tells you that's never possible even in the most ideal situations) and constantly erasing and starting over again until it is- despite all odds.... whereas Buddhism is about NOT clinging onto anything to release your own suffering.

So, zen and the art of filmmaking? Not so much, unless you're making a David Lynch film, where the process IS the film. (And you've already earned an Academy Award nomination for directing for credibility or have incredible charm and perfect hair. I have none of those....just the clingy part.)

In any case---
I know that when I've given up on creative pursuits, when spirits are down & there's no positive ending to vindicate time/effort spent.... and one only sees the obstacles (internal and external)- it makes me wonder about an older screenwriter who I had the honor to know- who had struggled with alcoholism and finances (he won minor screenwriter awards, met 'c'-list actors for his screenplays, and for years 'almost' made it but never did, as he was forced to work on odd jobs and live with his family)... nice guy who ended up at the bottom of a river- if not suicide for his years of failure at something he wanted to succeed in, he certainly had a bit of a death wish on him.

I think about that now and then- as a good warning sign, but also how the creative muse that gives you personal joy can also transform into what I call the 'creative lottery ticket muse' that teases financial wealth and rewards and everything to make you popular and happy- but somehow disappears and spits in your face and on your work.

(Other forms of it may be 'the Rock Star dream' for those who are musicians, or 'the Football star dream' for high school athletes, etc.)

Nobody wants to be considered a joke, even less so, their babies (the work that they put out). In this day/age of the bullynet (yeah, there are pluses, but essentially the bullynet gives more power to those with bully and mob mentalities than those on the other end in one way or the other), those babies are even more open to being attacked, crucified, and mutilated for a 'virtual' eternity on the bullynet.

Failure is not only considered not an option for those who are mediocre (or trying) in their art- it's something that can never be forgiven nor forgotten on the bullynet as well.

If Mozart and Salieri were alive today, and not way back when, perhaps Mozart would end up a youtube hit for his compositions and Salieri would be torn down by public opinion for not looking as handsome or charming as Tom Hulce. Perhaps Salieri would be the one drinking himself to death, and Mozart would be incredibly successful and punking Ashton Kutcher and partying out with Justin Beiber. (Or not. Who knows.)

I don't know what would happen with Amadeus and Salieri if they were alive today. I don't know if my writer and actor friends will ever be in the situations that would maximize their own gifts so that they don't have to do the 'other job thing' to squeeze out most of the hours of their day.

I do know one thing. No matter what, everything ends, everything gets forgotten. When mankind dies and the machines eventually take over, and there will be eventually a rift between superior robots and inferior ones- that there'll be Mozart-bots and Salieri-bots and misery with that as well, and competitions as to which bots make better youtube vids which other bots will like/dislike and friend/disfriend on Facebot.... and eventually batteries will run out, even the sun will eventually go supernova and no one will be around to really give a crap or remember if they got an Academy Award or 10 thousand hits on their youtube video.

So the lesson to be learned from this post is (beside patience for longwinded bloggers who can't get to the point)...forget the bullynet, forget Facebot, forget the audience and just remember to close your eyes and ears to the negativity inside and out there (I guess that's why some use drugs, but that's a direction I don't want to take this blog to)- and create the best you can, regardless of the outcome.

Or you can let the bullynet and Facebot win. Your choice.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Underworld and vampire overload....

Today,one of the creators of Comic-con apparently died, and I was going to do a post of good and blah memories of Comicon- but it'll take too long and I'm pretty under-the-weather today.

Instead, a quickee on news of a new "Underworld" movie with the beautiful but charmisa-challenged Kate Beckinsale, and meanderings on the giant explosion of vampires on tv, movies, etc. etc. etc.

As you know (or figured out), I REALLY dug the 'Angel' tv series (though, in looking back, it's not quite as solid or as good as other shows that have evolved since then. It's still in the top twenty, but maybe not top ten of personally beloved tv shows... mainly because genre television has gotten so much better in the last ten years)and originally held a bit of resentment towards other 'serious' (quote unquote) box office successes with broody moody vampires that didn't aim to have as much social comment nor wit as "Angel".

But- time moves on, and I didn't want to be stuck on not giving new things a chance.
So--- ended up seeing most of what's out there, if only to keep up.

It is a bit nuts how many 'vampire' films/tv shows are out there. Suprisingly, some are not all that bad.

The UNDERWORLD series:
I give a tip of the hat to Len Wiseman for being a comic fan first & hearing that his drawings and sketches for this movie helped get his project made....

Aside from the look, there's just no real heart or interest in any of the characters... and we're not really given any real reasons why we should care on a personal level.

Len Wiseman directed a (suprisingly) great "Die Hard" film, with some really inventive action set pieces. But, with all the projects that never get made, it's hard to feel good about this series of rather drab films getting a greenlight for sequels.

The TWILIGHT series:
Once one gets past the idea that the primary audience for this are love-hungry teens that love the book series, the movies are definitely a hop and a skip past the Underworld series as far as watchability goes. The first has more than a few over-the-top moments that have been easy targets for parody- (and there are a number of them as well in the sequels as well- the prime one being a laughable one when the 17 year old heroine talks about 'knowing what suffering is like in life')- but, the sequels have been engaging enough and more consistent than a good number of other genre films I've followed. (*It's not Lord of the Rings, mind you, but what is?)

Haven't read the books (a well-read relative has who LOVES the books but HATES what the movies have done with them), but the movies have had the luck of attracting directors with some great movies on their resume (Chris Weitz, David Slade, Bill Condon)- and it is kind of neat to see a series of genre movies set in a specific universe with the same cast and a continuity that progresses.

One thing I'll give the series credit for, is giving the characters a dark twist in the fourth one- where all the illusions of 'romantic love with a vampire' takes a pretty perverse (but welcome) twist where actual negative consequences come with that illusion. If real life turns many romances sour with consequences, why shouldn't genre films? If anything, it grounds the movie experience with a bit more gravity.

Speaking of vampire shows with more gravity...

I haven't read the books that these are based on either,(Have I mentioned that aside from "Angel" I'm not a big horror/vampire fan yet?) but the main attraction to this show is the person who developed the show (and showrunner) Alan Ball, who won the best screenplay Academy Award for his "American Beauty" and is responsible for the brilliant ultimate show about death, HBO's "Six Feet Under".

The thing about Alan Ball's work is that it always has a great intelligence behind it, not to mention a snarky DARK sense of humor as well that's often tough and often vulgar--- which is strong enough to balance and puncture any pretentiousness or silliness that could come with a 'vampire in love' scenario. (*In fact, a perfect scenario would have had Alan Ball write/direct the 'Twilight' series)

I can totally understand why this show gets the attention it does, if only for its magnificent cast. There isn't a weak link among any of the actors, and (at least for the first season- the second season had some funky issues) there actually seemed to be things that wanted to be said with substance in the subtext about the world, beyond just telling a 'human in love with a vampire' story. The quality was equally as good as, if not better than, most movies I see at the theatres.

With season two, things got a bit dull and freaky with a storyline about a witch that takes over the city- and season three seems to be a bit directionless.... but even if it's suffering from 'series-itis' (a condition I made up where storylines get very static in no small part because we see the characters in fabricated situations JUST to see the characters on screen, and not much else)- I still find it good enough to watch and admire for the solid ensemble acting.

Whereas Underworld feels false, and Twilight seems too pretty and at times a bit infantile, True Blood has a bad attitude, but in an entertaining way most of the time.

I wonder at times if we'll ever get back to 'classic' Dracula- where sex was more of a metaphor for the situation, rather than dripped in it, with love themes accompanying theme available for sale on itunes, but... for now, it'll be interesting to see how many more variations spin out before the current series all disappear (Twilight's books are on their last, Underworld's Kate Beckinsale isn't going to stay 30 forever, and there's only a limited number of books that True Blood can adapt before the series ends)...until then-

So long as Hollywood doesn't recast and reboot "Angel" without Joss Whedon, I'm happy.
Carry on.
((*Footnote: Hollywood does, however, totally have my permission to do anything they wish with "Vangelis".)) ;)

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Mission Impossible: Believing Top Gun as a secret agent

I actually don't have a problem with Tom Cruise. I could care less if he's the type of guy who bounces on couches, has a non-Christian religion, and has an interesting tendency to marry women three times taller than him (though that may actually earn him some points in my book)... but, he's known for working WITH the writers and directors (from what I can tell) to make a good film. No wonder people still want to work with him.

BUT.... I always have difficulties seeing him as a secret agent in "Mission Impossible". Dunno why. Is it the script? The direction? The perfect hair and grooming while dodging bullets?

In any case, last night I saw Brad Bird's "Mission Impossible 4" (I refuse to cave in to the trend of NOT numbering sequels. If it's a sequel, be proud of it, dammit! Give it the dignity of a Roman numeral!)--- mainly because I've heard it's the best of the bunch, by far, and many exalt Brad Bird's name.

(I tip my hat to Brad Bird, being an animation director first, but I admit I'm the only human being on the planet that was underwhelmed by "Iron Giant" and "The Incredibles".)

IS it the best of the bunch? And--- can this post tie into why I have issues with Cruise as a secret agent?

Well....cut to the chase- YES, I think it's far better than JJ Abrams'(the guy who did an extremely enjoyable brainless and philosophy-free reboot of Star Trek) Mission Impossible 3- which knew how to grab your interest and keep a film moving....but I'll be damned if I can remember half of the sequences in the film.

The film is a bit longer (and a little more convoluted) than it needed to be, but there are some extremely memorable (and clever) set pieces that feel very fresh. The Russian prison break sequence at the beginning and the dual setups/face-offs at the top of the Dubai building were especially 'fresh' for a rather jaded action moviegoer like myself.

So, there are bits that made me go: "hmm...I've never seen that before done in that way- AND entertaining!" So, kudos for that.


But, it was a distraction from the Tom Cruise/Ethan Hunt* (Speaking of Ethan Hunt- it's a character last name I've never been crazy about. Roddenberry's "Andromeda" had Dylan Hunt as a character name for its lead, and it bugged me there, too. Maybe it sounds too close to an obscenity for my comfort. But maybe that's just me) storyline.

So long as the action moved and some fresh situation was introduced, I was engaged- but pretty much on a superficial level. Abrams' MI:3 got you engaged by having a great villain in the character played by the fantastic Phillip Seymour Hoffman (a character actor who actually would be far more interesting as the secret agent hero imo and Cruise as the villain).... but Brad Bird's version gives you fresh set pieces, even as Tom is just a good looking chess piece that moves around the board in an interesting fashion.

When he stops moving, though, and it's about the human drama--- and I'm asked to REALLY believe he's a secret agent with a Tom Cruise face....then my interest goes more to who's burning the popcorn in the lobby, as opposed to what's onscreen.

Not necessarily Tom's fault. Or maybe it is. Maybe he should have adopted a different look, like he did in the magnificent "Tropic Thunder" film:

Still, I have to admit that of all four Mission Impossible films, the Brad Bird and the John Woo-directed one I enjoyed the most. (MI:2)

Now, I know that a number of die-hard "Mission Impossible" fans hated the second one and felt that slow-motion pigeons and physics-defying motorcycles had no place in a "Mission Impossible" film--- but to me, John Woo was flavoring a Mission Impossible film HIS way--- unrealistic, dreamlike, ridiculous, and yet oddly beautiful at the same time.

While his version may have lacked the dark edge of some of his better films (His Hong Kong films, "A Better Tommorrow", "The Killer", and "Hard-Boiled"--- and in the US: "Face-Off" and I'll argue even the Van-Damme one whose name I forget)--- I found it highly entertaining--- and I bought Cruise as a secret agent in the Woo version, because EVERYTHING was hyper-stylized there. Even the pigeons look handsome in a John Woo film., what's my point creatively?

My point is (I suppose).... if you make a secret agent film- if you're going for realism, then let your star actor look a little scruffy. Tell him he can stop clipping his nose hairs and eat a few extra fries now and then before filming.... like real secret agents do. (Yes, we're assuming that I actually have inside knowledge about the grooming habits and digestive tracts of genuine secret agents)

If you're NOT going for realism--- go for broke. Gimme the cool secret agent cars that can transform into flying robots, evil demonic pigeons that can fire lazers out of their eye sockets, fembots that have multiple interchangeable eyebrows that can cut diamonds....well, you get the picture.

I'm NOT going to be on the edge of my seat worried about fake nuclear bombs that may destroy a fake United States. Give me a real threat like wiping out a beloved supporting character you made me care about on screen and make me feel like the villain HAS to be stopped. Or, evil demonic pigeons. Colorful ones with big, terrifying feet the size of Arizona.

Otherwise, you're going to bore me with your fake threats and I'm just going to sit in my theatre seat thinking about the bad economy and the burning popcorn in the lobby.

Now, THAT's scary.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Retrospective: Looking back at Logan's Run....what IS it about that film?

Recently, I've been revisiting movies that I've caught in my youth- and trying to gain some perspective and insight from viewing them.... and it's always odd to see which ones make you go, "Wow, I forgot how great this film really was- I never noticed how well done this/that was done. I truly appreciate it being older and knowing some of the ins and outs of how difficult it might have been to achieve that." - or - "WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING???? I MUST HAVE BEEN INSANE!!! THIS IS (fill in your own endearing term for excrement)!!!"

Well....most of the time, I find most of the films I returned to, it's a bit of both.

Case in point: LOGAN'S RUN, starring Michael York (who was the original "Luke Skywalker" of the classic Richard Lester "The Three Musketeers") as Logan-5 and Jessica Agutter (who I'll talk about more in a minute) as Jessica-6.

For those unfamiliar, LOGAN'S RUN was a 1976 pre-Star Wars (read: not-so great special effects) science fiction epic, based on a science fiction novel of the same name by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson. (More information can be found here:

But, in a nutshell, Logan's Run- the book- was based on a society where everything is perfect, but with one cost: No one was allowed to live past 21. If so, you were hunted down by a police force known as the Sandmen. (Pretty clever, eh?)

I knew about the movie (but wasn't nearly old enough to drive yet) but caught onto the comics by David Kraft and George Perez--- and LOVED the artwork by Perez (whose comic work was in his highest gear imo at this time). (*Sidenote: In an interview with Perez years later, he HATED the movie, but was determined to prove himself to Marvel Comics by giving this comic book adaption his all--- and it shows. It's easily the best drawn and designed comic adaptation of a movie- ever.)

I could go on and on about how inventive George Perez was in comic book storytelling early on- (*Sadly, much like other artists during the bronze age, like Barry Windsor-Smith and Dave Cockrum, his style changed and became more detailed but somehow a lot less interesting. But that's another post.) If you look at the above example, I still marvel at how interesting he's made what's basically a pretty static conversation between two characters.

In another great example, Perez does something that even film can't do--- it crosscuts between two lines of action (The android named Box creating a sculpture out of the two characters while Logan and Jessica discover the secret of "Sanctuary")- but in a way that allows the reader to choose the pacing of what to follow first simultaneously.

It's one of many examples that Perez has done that really illustrates how comics CAN be a superior form of communication to film in many ways. (Mastering a way to translate that to the computer is the next stage imo, but that's also another post).

Anyhow, the comic got me interested in the movie, and seeing the movie as a kid--- one thing about seeing the movie as a kid is the ability to overlook a lot of things that, as an adult, would be easy to poke holes at critically.

The movie definitely looks dated- that's a given- with the stuntwork and effects taking the biggest hit (it's a bit funky to see stuntmen STAND and WAIT for lazer explosions to go off before moving).... but the oddest thing is that it still works, from the cheesiness of the costuming (everyone wears a different colored toga, depending on what stage of life you're at, unless you're a sandman, then you get a cool black turtleneck with blue striping and a lazertag gun)to the use of a megasize dressed up shopping mall as paradise, to the giant (but fake looking) domed city miniatures.

I think it still works, because it's a dark fairy tail whose theme resonates. It's a concept that is hauntingly attractive and repulsive at the same time. The idea of staying youthful and energetic, without limits--- and hunting down and destroying the weak and dying parts about oneself and society will always strike a nerve of sorts. (This aspect was the most interesting thing about the Leo DeCaprio film, "The Island"-- where everything was shaped to be paradise... but the cost of it was the tribe abandoning you if you happened to weaken or get sick.)

For sure, one thing that doesn't age are performances and musical scores (well, there are exceptions, but I don't wanna go there). Jerry Goldsmith is a legend (for good reason), but it was striking how much his music helped carry the tone of what was supposed to be conveyed. (*Much like Vangelis did for Blade Runner- the workprint for that film REALLY shows just how much was lacking without it, despite brilliant visuals)

The first 'hunt' by Logan-5 and his best cop/Sandman buddy (played by the excellent Richard Jordan) Francis-5 shows them to have the time of their life hunting down a 'runner' (The name given by people who turn 30- as opposed to 21 in the book- who want to keep on living, but run away, versus subject themselves to a process called "Carousel"--- where supposedly they may have a chance to 'Renew' and live again- though this is never fully explained in the film) - but the psychosis behind it is magnificently underlined by Jerry Goldsmith's score. It's exciting for these Sandmen to feel like they're justified in killing these 'bad' runners, as it's the law, but it's extremely perverse as well, and the score takes that idea home.

Eventually, the tables turn when the central computer prematurely ages Logan-5, and takes away a few of his years, with the idea that he must go undercover as a 'runner'- and discovers that Jessica-6 (A gal who Logan has a blind internet/transporter date with, who is a link to an underground movement for people who want to live past 30 and defy the law) and the movie works as well as it can for most of it- but for me, both the movie and the book fall apart with the last act.

(Do I really need to say,'spoiler alert'? Vomit.) The last act of the book, in order to escape, Logan and Jessica (I'm not kidding) get on a rocket and fly to the moon.

In the movie, Logan and Jessica escape outside of the domed paradise city/shopping mall, and find a happy senior citizen who hangs out with a million cats- who everyone adores, once Logan and Jessica destroy the city (and its food and water supply presumably) as well.

Still--- up until then, what keeps one going with the movie is the premise (unthough unfilled) and incredibly strong acting by York and Jessica Agutter for what's going on around them. There's a lot to like in the cinematography (Did I mention how picky I am on compositions of shots?), and the director seems smart by the commentary, but the staging of some of the sequences definitely seem pretty bad- fine for the stage, but fairly unconvincing (i.e.- in one scene, a runner basically throws her arms at Logan so that she can grab them- to make the transition work where she is 'struggling' to get away.) Anyhow, nitpicking for an old movie.... but Agutter in particular is our entry point- and I was suprised in dissecting the film just how much she's the anchor for believing in the film. (Not that York is anything less- but York is the one going through changes, questioning himself, whereas Agutter's character is pretty solid in her convictions throughout)

Anyhow--- It's a film that I'm not suprised that has stuck in people's minds over the years... it has a visual concept married to a premise that strikes a chord and a question mark behind it: how long do we really want to live? How long should we live?

It's a question that I'm sad that Bryan Singer (who was going to direct a remake) didn't get a chance to address in an updated movie. Whoever remakes it.... hopefully they grab the premise and really take the unanswered question home to some fulfilling answer (or resolution- I'm not picky)--- the books, the comic books, the movie, and the tv show never got to.

If not, maybe I should do a fan comic and do it myself.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

My Tim Burton Planet of the Apes, Discovering Community in 2011 & creating the League of Extraordinary Writers in 2012

Had a GREAT (when I say 'great'- of course it means I think it's great, which, since it's my blog, it's good enough)idea for a Tim Burton version of "Planet of the Apes" this morning...

Now, I'm talking about that confusion 'what the hell is THIS?' movie that Tim Burton directed years back with the Rick Baker makeup and a megamillion budget (Is Hollywood part of the 1%? Who knows? I just know that I will be pissed off if the Occupy movement occupies my favorite movie theatres).

Anyhow- thinking about that wonderful Tim Burton spirited version of Planet of the Apes I'd write for Tim led to me realize how much I was missing MAKING time to write as a priority, much as missing MAKING time to draw fell off the map several times in the past when I stupidly brought portfolios to comic conventions and let my spirit get decimated by reviewers, give up drawing & writing altogether and focus on being practical by being a miserable accountant for the rest of my life. (Which didn't quite work itself, how sad is that?)

Anyhow- that thought led to thinking about the writing groups that I'd gather together now and then- that had short life spans, but during those life spans- they were pretty successful in getting people out of their creative closets and getting back to that dream screenplay or novel or comic that they were always were dreaming of completing in their youth.

Anyhow- that thought led to me thinking about "Community"- a wonderful show reccomended to me by a good friend - that has evolved into a sort of "Mel Brooks meets College Drama" show, where now just about every movie or tv genre is the basis for an episode. While extremely enjoyable, the one serious thought brought about in an episode was the idea that a person is shown to live longer being IN a community than not.

Anyhow- that leads me to my goal to getting free of a lot of junk that has bogged my creative life down--- internally and externally- and reforming a local "League of Extraordinary Writers".

And, unlike other posts talking about creative goals and deadlines in 2009-2011--- this year, the idea is to actually catchup and achieve them. *sigh*

Monday, January 02, 2012

A break with Mel Brooks and Ludicrous Speed

This week is unfortunately/fortunately stuck with taking care of life biz, as I prep my schedule to finish up Faith and BC and possibly commentary on "Vangelis" later on.

In the meantime, during my break, I saw Mel Brooks' "Spaceballs"- a rather goofy (and dated) parody of the Star Wars films. I think Mel's earlier films (Producers, 12 Chairs, then Young Frankenstein) were his best--- maybe not coincidentally because he was paired up with the brilliant comedian Gene Wilder.

I always get SOMETHING out of commentaries... aside from being reminded of joys that can come from trying to make a film- Was interesting to hear Mel Brooks talk about how much he HATES directing, that he loves writing and acting, but directing as the biggest pain because of having to communicate to actors often about how their interpretation may not be the right one.

Also interesting that Mel Brooks first choice was not to act in his films, but have Gene Wilder take his place.

It's interesting also to view this, shortly after the Woody Allen documentary--- would have been interesting to hear each of these movie comedians' views of one another's work, but o well...

Anyhow- I don't know how great "Spaceballs" is.... there are a few laughs here and there, but even as a kid, I thought it was a little lame. (Much preferred Young Frankenstein) But (just like the awful "Howard the Duck")- apparently there are audiences that LOVE the film.

Would be nice to feel that decades later, the same kind of love would go to stuff that anyone puts their passion into that bombs, but that's wishful thinking.

I'm realizing that waiting for applause (even a virtual kind) for work is a fool's errand. It's easy to get sucked into wanting a pat on the back. It's harder to tune out the rest of the world and just listen to your inner muse, whatever your art is- but at the end of your life, if you make it to old age, and all your friends and family dies before you, what else have you got?

One argument is that all art is pointless. But, if it is even the slightest bit important, I think you've got to give all you got.

Even if you can't go at ludicrous speed to get it done.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Starting Fresh with 2012....(sorta/kinda/maybe)

It's a New Year!
Much like Xmas or Boxing Day, even though a cynic would say that it's just another day--- I prefer to embrace the opportunity to feel that dates are symbolic, and that symbols can have importance and power-

So, given that---
And trying to take what I hope I've learned about juggling finances/time/family with creative pursuits (as well as what I can and can't complete on time)....

Neil Gaiman once said at comicon that there were two secrets to writing (and I take it as the same formula for creating comics and amateur films)---

#1: You must write.
#2: You must finish what you write.

Anyhow, with a new year, comes crazy asian new year's resolutions.... one of which will be getting past procrastination and other bad habits which derail me from getting things done-

So- anyhow....
Will be reporting on the sitch with Black Canary soon-
Will be putting up more inked (and re-drawn) Faith pages soon-
Will be writing more regularly on this blog on creative discoveries that I find/come across --- why?

Because stories and the process of creating them is/are the only sane thing that makes sense to me in a crazy world, and... why not? It's my blog, after all...

Happy New Year's to all!*

(*Well, except for a chosen few who I hope get run over by a truck and struck by lightning while eating bugs, but that's only a chosen few...)