Thursday, April 18, 2013

Manufacturing A Cult

Evil Dead is a fun but not great studio remake of a fun but not great cult classic indie flick produced by some of the principals of said indie flick. In spite of a very verbose ad campaign that promised "the most terrifying film you will ever experience" it seems unlikely that anybody has walked of the theater particularly terrified. Grossed out, sure, but there is no primal fear getting tapped by Fede Alvarez. That's fine, as far as the film goes, but hardly lives up to advanced billing. Neither does it live down to the horrible advanced billing that SXSW viewers spouted off. Evil Dead is a bit of grotesquerie that likely does original series progenitor, Sam Raimi, proud. And it's entertaining in its own way. The Evil Dead by Sam Raimi is a beloved piece of pulp that was really outshone by its successors but is a fun way to spend a dark and stormy night. It edges on black comedy but a lot of the credit for that goes to star Bruce Campbell, as the bare bones edge more towards dark than comedy. In Fede Alvarez's hands and with a much bigger financial safety net underneath it, Evil Dead (no The this time for purposes of differentiation in case Raimi does go ahead and restart his version of the series) has a little bit of a CW look. The acting and the story are mercifully overshadowed by a splatterfest that ups the raunch and dials way back on the smirks. Mia (Jane Levy) is a junkie of some sort that is brought out unwittingly to the middle of a boggy forest for an intervention. Two of her friends, her brother and the brother's girlfriend are all there too ostensibly help but also to model jeans or something. The dialogue is forced and the story is forced and it starts out rather badly except for the mise en scene which never strays from dark and damp. We know the cabin in the woods that these youngsters are staying at has a bad history because the first scene of the movie takes place in the basement and it involves a witch being set ablaze. Also, Mia and her brother make obtuse references to their dead mother that was left alone to die by the brotherbot, and cared for by the podsister. It's a letdown when it's revealed that she was dying in a mental institute and the broeth only stayed away because he had packed up and found a job a few towns over. Oh, well, if you came to this film for a great story or interesting characters you aren't in the right place. Once intervening friend and, uh, intellectual character? Eric cuts open and reads an incantation from the charred and wire-bound book that was in the basement the gore starts to pile up. Mia trips in the woods, gets attacked by the erstwhile Rape Tree (not sure it has that name in the remake, I don't recall it being referenced as such) and is from then on possessed by a demon that needs to take 3 souls. There isn't a clear demonstration of the mystical logic at work but there doesn't really need to be. People bleed, limbs get cut off, a tongue is sliced down the middle, and it's all more gruesome than it sounds. That's the actual point of the movie, even if there is some semblance of an anti-drug message wrapped inside it all. The reality is that it's a post-Tarantino bigger budget excuse to pile on the blood as a means of transgressive humor. Thank god for that because, if that sounds like a reasonable entertainment, then there is an audience for this type of thing. The camp and humor of the original are mostly gone and they're missed but not catastrophically. I wouldn't go so far as to say I liked Evil Dead but I didn't hate it. If you can adjust your expectations following a recent rough patch for smaller studio budget horror then there's at least enough of a reason for a movie like this to exist. Maybe Alvarez will come out sharper in his second feature. Maybe there will be a second Evil Dead 2. Not hating Evil Dead counts as a success.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Bad Technology

I was listening to the Scriptnotes podcast tonight and the guys on there talked about the future of watching movies and how it is more or less inevitable that everything will be delivered digitally and it reminded me of something I'd been meaning to write about: copyright technology as it's seemingly going to be deployed in the next iteration of the Playstation (though maybe not). It's a big, controversial topic in the gaming world and it strikes me not so much for the disruption in the sales model now in existence for gamers (buy games you really want right when they come out, buy stuff you're less excited about used in a couple of months) but for the problematic implication of the game delivery systems themselves. We're getting an entire extra round of games being sold on plastic discs.

I get that the availability of the kind of fast and secure internet that would be sufficient to stream games at super high res with little to no distortion isn't there right now but a new system is going to be a flagship for at least 5 years, more likely 7-8 years. So the gaming companies are locking into this whole physical presentation for at least that much longer. That's kind of awful, isn't it? I, for one, like the future that is promised by DLC even if the pragmatic reality is much more cynical in nature. Sure, gaming companies are only putting out DLC to ring a few dollars more out of a gullible or, at least, prone public but the system is in place to download entire games straight to your system.

It makes my soul itch to think that I need to own discs. I really don't. Streaming/downloading games would actually help the bottom lines of the companies if you accept that gamers would pay the same price for their electronically conveyed entertainments that they are currently paying for physical delivery. I don't think that's much of a leap. There isn't the same sort of cult of display for games that there once was (thankfully since abandoned) for movies. The portability of downloaded content is as attractive for me, at least, as any silly special edition boxing could ever be. So I could buy a game to my system and then play it, or at least some pared down version of it, on any device that I might own. This could actually be the boon that Sony hoped for with PS Vita and Nintendo assumed with Wii U: games can be ported across platforms and carried into and out of the home but the system needs to be more sleek and attractive.

I have always held that DLC is poorly implemented in the first place and actually inhibits some growth in the sales of video games. EA Sports does itself some bit of disservice (obscured by already gargantuan sales) by forcing gamers to buy full versions of its sports titles on yearly basis when for the vast majority of consumers all that's really important are roster tweaks and stadium improvements. If you released Madden every other year or every couple of years when an entirely new game interface needs to be presented and made people pay for updates to rosters and such as DLC for a lower price point, my guess is that a floodgate would open in the sales. Charge $15 for an update at draft time, another $10 for an update at the start of preseason, $20 for an update at the start of the season that implements all jersey, stadium, firmware updates, and $90 for the hard copy of the software (with an activation key like you use for MS Office) and you will take out a lot of the worry about used copies eating sales while also getting casual repeaters (those who buy the game every couple of years or wait to find a cheap used copy) to repeat every year while also shoving the revenue that was going to Gamestop straight into the pockets of EA. It's easy, right? It also fends off a resurrected nemesis like 2K sports because the investment cost will make people think twice about jumping to the upstart. It's sinister and beautiful and slows down the overcrowded dev cycle for sports games in particular, but it can be of similar use to other games as product platforms (though a franchise like COD or Red Dead might need to stick with a software cost of closer to $60 to entice customers).

Not that anybody comments here but if you yell at me on twitter about my bloggering then tell me if what I'm saying here is organized enough to even make sense. I've got a clear idea in my head of where gaming needs to go but I don't know if I'm imparting a plan or a series of lines from a couple of unconnected sketches. So let me know, if you would be so kind.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

OUTRAGE!!! Te'o, Top Chef, and Twitter, Too!

First off, Happy New Year! Whoops. I didn't mean to take a vacation from blogging just like I didn't mean to stop exercising and didn't mean to slow down to writing only on the weekend. It just happened. Here I am, though, confused and feeling a little reckless. The Manti Te'o bomb that Deadspin set off this afternoon has been reverberating around the internet and around my head since about the time I finished my lunch. I really bought that hard luck story on Manti and was maybe even giving him some slack as a football player/pro prospect because of his tough times. No, not consciously but, come on! Of course it colored (minds out of the gutter) my perception of him. And then I watched Top Chef. And then I watched Argo. So today is a day filled with outrage in my media consumption.

Where should I start poking the outrage? The thing that bothers me the most out of those three topics is the Top Chef stupidity. It's going to be hard to take the show even half-seriously ever again. The product placements and corny challenges were tough enough but they just kicked off the chef that has won like 80% of their stupid challenges this year because annoying retread Josie was unable to cook her food properly. Which means they kept Josie because she isn't a high caliber chef. Which makes my head hurt. There are two (maybe 4) really hotshot chefs on this season and they got rid of one of them because she had ambition. Also, because she is tall and pretty and Padma campaigned really hard to the other judges to make sure the tall and pretty, super-talented chef, got sent home in favor of the middling slow asshole. What a dumb thing to do. Padma has grown on me negatively for the last year. I used to like her, at least as a TV personality, but now she makes me uncomfortable. I took a cursory glance at twitter and, from what I can tell, fans of the show are unanimous in their love of Kristen and their hatred of Josie. This is my high-water mark for personal outrage today.

Argo is a really good movie. I really liked it all the way from conception to execution. It looks great, sounds great, is populated by great acting, and it has a satisfying bit of tension-building followed by relief. It's one of my favorite movies of 2012. If it won Best Picture at the Oscars I would be entirely OK with that. In the same sense that I was and am OK with American Beauty winning in one of the most over-stuffed years in Hollywood history. I don't think that it breaks ground or that it will endure as one of my favorites but Argo was good all the way through and I can understand the fans reacting to the "snub" of Ben Affleck in the Best Director category. I don't feel any sort of outrage but I congenitally hate awards shows of any stripe. American Beauty was a fine movie and so is Argo.

Now we've got Te'o. Oh, Manti. Ohhhhh, Manti. I am not outraged by Manti's lies and coverups. He is a college kid and he's a dummy. It's OK. He just ended up on a massive platform. I can't wait for more news about Manti. I don't think I've ever been so wrapped up in a gossipy piece of shit story as I am with this one. It's fantastic!

Bonus OUTRAGE!!! Good bye, Henry's Tacos, I like your food OK. I liked being interviewed for the news. I am OUTRAGED!!! that some dude is going to tear the building down for lord knows what reason and it's a terrible plot of land.

My eyes are hurting from closing so much and so hard (Oh, yeah!!!) so I'll go to bed now. Goodnight, angry and innocent world.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Matt Millen & Drake

OK, 140 characters couldn't capture my disappointment in finding out the origin of this amazing picture

It made so much sense to me that Matt Millen would be a huge Drake fan. Alas, Maria Taylor's original tweet says that she taught him who Aubrey is.

(exhale) Matt Millen is exactly who should be buying Drake CDs and finding out that he doesn't even know who Drake is just moments after seeing this picture is a heart-rending discovery. It's like I was given a pot of gold and it was taken away from me. I had marshmallow extract bubbling away to create "real" marshmallows and I spilled it and had to replace it with stale store-brand marshmallows and that cup of hot chocolate was not only ruined because it wasn't as good as it might have been, it turned out that it was actually bad. If you had a blind taste test of my hot chocolate with store-brand marshmallows in it you would have guessed that it was a cup of mud. So, thank you, Maria Taylor, for this truly inspirational photograph but I wish you had kept the origin of it a secret.

A Day Of Football

Hopefully I don't slide into this tomorrow but I watched a lot of football today. That isn't the worst thing ever but I've got work to do and I've got a whole separate life to live. One where I get paid for writing instead of just writing as an escape from reality. This is a theme of my life. I'm sort of stuck dreaming instead of doing. How do you fuckers do it? I'm a better writer than lots of shitheads getting paid a livable amount to just pound on the keys. What is the entry point that I'm missing? That write for free shit is a poison. If the person not paying you to write is making money for what you wrote then you are a part-time (or worse) slave. This doesn't, of course, preclude spec writing. You need to have something to sell. A body of work. But... what? I don't get it. This whole selling myself thing has escaped me for 35 years or so. I just don't get it.

I was looking at the stats that The Black List put out today and I noticed that the second batch of scripts they rated got a little better aggregate score than the first batch. I've got to figure that has more to do with leniency than some mass jump in quality but here's the thing: I was in the second batch. And my scores were horrible. Below average no matter how they push it on me. I feel I've estimated myself too well for a long while now. It's a debilitating thing for me. I've been looking down on people that are objectively better at my craft than I am. I'd rather beat off all day than deliver anything of value. I meant that literally. Crap. I'm in a sinkhole. I've got to dedicate myself. 15 pages into the second draft tomorrow or I've failed. That's got to find it's way into a day of health and activity. Damn the world.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Spinning like a top

Back to the, back to the blog, y'all. What am I doing here? The same thing I always do: making excuses!

I haven't started my rewrite yet. I'm still pretty down about not getting a 10.0 review from The Black List. You see, I'm very realistic in my goals, so if I'm not universally and unanimously considered the absolute best of all time at anything I'm actually trying in, it's a crushing blow to my ego. That's at most a mild overstatement. But at the same time I'm pretty sure I've got the greatest idea ever even if I didn't pull it off 100% the first time around. So I'll head down that hole soon enough. Tomorrow night? Probably. I'll go ahead and turn on Lawless tonight and dream about how great it would be if John Hillcoat could see through the bad parts of my script and give me a call.

Yep. This blog drops panties. That's why it is so popular with spam commenters. Sell them dick pills, y'all!

Friday, December 21, 2012

The New Paradigm

In a couple of hours, the Mayan long count calendar will expire. This perhaps means nothing but it's the end of at least my lifetime's worth of speculation. I wrote yesterday about my own doomsday premonitions (well, maybe not quite doomsday) but I've never been one to put much stock in the Mayan calendar. Once I found out how closely my own private end day related to the Mayan calendar I pretty much lost interest in it all. I lost religion in it. It's just another piece of garbage jutting out from some collective stupidity.

So why do I feel compelled to keep going back to re-visit doomsday scenarios? This one about to pass has always been the monster of them all. I don't know what the next big one is after the Mayans. I love symbols of all stripes. I used to argue quite passionately in favor of the obvious symbolism in Tim Burton and Spike Lee's movies. They've both kind of gotten away from those styles that I loved so well but I'm thinking now that there, openly symbolic film language, is a field in dire need of exploitation. I'm working on it. Slowly, I'm working on it.

Hopefully the new paradigm is very sexual. I love sex and I'm addicted to porn. I hate prudishness. We should all be thankful for sex. It's the best thing in the world. Hopefully, more than anything, there actually is a new paradigm. I'm bailing on this post. I don't have a clear line of thinking and I'm sleepy. Good night and good luck sleeping through the apocalypse. If you see those ghostly riders, tip your cap to them for me.