Wednesday, June 21, 2017

I'm going against popular opinion here and saying that M. Night Shyamalan's The Last Airbender is actually not terrible.

My friend Meg has a teenaged daughter that loves a Nickelodeon series called Avatar: The Last Airbender. I'd seen the movie, which mother and daughter both despised with vitriol that is seldom-seen unless talking about the atrocities of concentration camps in World War 2. Nevertheless, she and her mom convinced me that my life just wasn't complete until I saw the series (which is way better than the movie "The Last Airbender"). So I've been slowly making my way through it via Amazon, and to be honest, although it is enjoyable it's also really childish. And when I say childish...I mean it's really not all that good. Is it still watchable? Yes. But every episode clearly has a moral of the story to it, and because its Japanese animation the eyes and exaggerated emotions get kind of silly after a while.

So out of curiosity, I watched The Last Airbender again on television. This movie by M. Night Shyamalan almost killed his career. It is not a great movie by any means...but a career killer? I fail to see why people were so outraged that they literally spit on it. Sure, they cast a bunch of white people as Asian characters. However, this happens all of the time and has been happening for years. And for what the movie disregards in the form of silliness (for me) seems to streamline the story to make it more interesting...so that more things are happening faster. In the cartoon, it takes forever for Aang to reach the water bending people. In the movie, it happens within the breadth of a couple of episodes.

I think if people could get past the liberal outrage of having white people play Asian characters, they could actually see that the effects and the work that went into the film qualify it to be an average film. Sure, it had aspirations to be this amazing blockbuster, but it made too many mistakes to ever qualify for that. This, I gladly caveat to the eviscerating critics of the movie.

I'm a little disappointed that we'll never get to see sequels to the movie. There were supposedly three that had been planned, and perhaps there would have been opportunities to include more of the things that people loved about the cartoon into those movies. But there's a part of me that wonders if anyone even understood why people went nutso over Avatar: The Last Airbender. Again, it's plot doesn't strike me as all that original in the vein of fantasy, and the incessant "smacking one over the head" with a moral was kind of annoying. Maybe kids just liked the cartoon because 1) kung fu has always been "cool," and 2) anything Japanese like "Hello Kitty" is also cool, and 3) combining kung fu with magic is somehow the most amazing thing ever.

Or maybe I'm just too jaded to see the sorcery at work here. Yeah, maybe that's it.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Here are five assorted musings that I have regarding Cars 3 which is excellent by the way.

Last night's Cars 3 was a good movie in the Pixar line, easily on par with the original Cars and much better than Cars 2. I came away from the movie with several observations, and this review (of sorts) has spoilers in it. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

Assorted Musings:

1) The Pixar short (which is called "Lou") that runs in front of the movie is totally worth getting there early to see.

2) Cars somehow brought back Paul Newman's ghost for new lines in this movie. If you remember, Paul Newman had a HUGE role in the first movie as he was Doc Hudson, Lightning McQueen's teacher. If you haven't watched Cars in a while, I recommend watching it before you go to Cars 3, because it relies heavily on that source material. I also need to research how Pixar got the lines it used from Paul Newman (who died in 2008). So there is that mystery to solve.

3) The animation is the most spectacular I've ever seen come out of Pixar, and that's including even Finding Dory (which looked spectacular). If it weren't for the fact that the characters had a cartoony look, everything would be absolutely real down to the individual leaves on the trees.

4) I only spotted three Pixar easter eggs. The first was A113, which is on the door of the CEO of RustEze, Lightning McQueen's sponsor for the races. The second is a still for the Pixar movie CoCo which has been seen in the commercials for it (it's Pixar's next movie). Of course Dinoco was there, but Dinoco has been pretty prominent in the franchise, so I don't really count that as an Easter Egg since their CEO has plenty of speaking parts. The third easter egg that I spotted was "Lightyear," the brand name emblazoned on Lightning McQueen's tires. It's obviously a nod to "Buzz Lightyear" from Toy Story.

5) After much deliberation by my friend Brad Habegger, he has said that the homonculus theory of Cars doesn't hold up if we consider that there are no insects in this world. Rather, there are little flying cars with wings. I talked about the homonculus theory on this post. He also pointed out that the theory (if it were correct) actually makes the world less horrific. His point was that the way it stands now...that these cars are sentient beings...means that when they are getting their tires removed and other things replaced it's literally like stripping the skin and appendages off of a living thing. So I guess I agree with him. So maybe Cars (even with the Easter eggs) takes place in a universe that is separate from Toy Story and Finding Nemo.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

There are many days when I wish the trope of good versus evil was a real thing.

This is called "Chess Good vs Evil" and is by the artist WhySoSerious91 on DeviantART.
 Click HERE to see MORE.
I think that good versus evil makes for the best story lines because it gives meaning to everyone's existence. It's why video games work, it's why religions work, and it's why so many people in the world grapple with a lack of meaning in their lives. The real world doesn't provide clear cut villains. In reality, there's no cackling lich living inside a tomb of horrors ready to conquer the world, devoid of any redeeming virtues, and surrounded by magical minions. Human motivations are much more complex, nuanced, and speckled with all kinds of emotions.

It's tragic really that good versus evil is a construction of man. The tale is spun over and over again from Luke Skywalker to Darth Vader, from Superman to Lex Luthor, and from the Horde to the Alliance. In a world that has no evidence of any of these things, many of us (left to our own devices) start asking the question: why am I here? And for those that don't find a soothing thought in expressions like, "to love," or "to help others," or "to bear children," might soon become prone to depression and anxieties formulated over a hot greasy grill. The person might ask themselves, "What if this is as good as it gets?" Living without the hope of something better is a pretty awful thing, and most of us are better served not even contemplating that question.

Good versus evil doesn't actually exist, but we all want it to exist. Most of us want to think of having this greater purpose that allows us to become heroes in the face of atrocious villainy that is evil for evil's sake. We want to believe in situations where evil appears skull-faced and with tentacles dripping slime, where the horrific appearance of the monster exactly matches that of the hideous things the monster will do, and that it will be apparent to everyone that the one that is evil is in fact wearing black and has the moniker, "Dr. Evil." Life would be so much simpler if we had these things as a society to unite behind, and if it was clear cut to all what was right and what was wrong. Heroes (after all) would be strong with perfect physiques, and they would always get the girl. We want to live in a world where there are no Bill Cosby's...where no man has done many great things but has done equally bad things too. Bill Cosby isn't supposed to happen. We aren't supposed to laugh at the comedic genius of the rapist. What cruel joke is this?

If there are too many people who can't figure out a purpose in life, it's bad for society. People without purpose, who are unable to ascribe meaning to their day-to-day lives are lost. Some of them end up seeking out drugs to numb the emotional pain. This in turn fuels crime to get money for drugs, and you can see where this goes. People can end up hurting other people emotionally because they want to feel something...anything...as it is all better than feeling nothing. Or people can just "give up," and that's bad too for obvious reasons, the least of which might be an invitation for mental illness to set in.

I have few friends, but among the males I'm noticing growing despair, and I'm not quite sure what I can do about it. They are in their thirties and forties (no names will be given here), but I think my small slice of life may be indicative to something that's growing in this country. In other words, I'm saying that there are a lot of embittered, lonely, and poor (having failed to reach certain monetary goals at certain stages of life) men who are staring at a future that's looking bleaker every day. A lot of them drown themselves in video games, because they'd rather live in that alternate world where work equates instant accomplishment than face down the demons in this world (which are much harder to spot and slay). Others hang out on "Red Pill" reddit or post angry messages on Facebook.

If only good versus evil was real. Then maybe some of these men would snap out of it and start contributing to society. Maybe some of them would find value in themselves.

If only.

Monday, June 12, 2017

It's not Easter but that isn't going to stop me from loading up on all the Easter eggs for Cars 3.

I'm seeing Cars 3 on Thursday. That's a given. To make it even more fun, I'm going to be hunting for all the Easter eggs that I know to look for that are famously peppered in Pixar movies. An Easter egg (if you don't know) as an intentional inside visual joke slipped into the background by the animators. The term was first used to describe a hidden message in the Atari video game "Adventure." I'm betting a few of these will be visible:

A113: This pays homage to a classroom at CalArts, the alma mater of Pixar/Disney executive John Lasseter and director Brad Bird. You can bet it will be on a license plate or somewhere else in the film at some point. I've actually heard that it is on a press sticker this time around for a "Shannon Spokes."

Pizza Planet: This is a fictional pizza restaurant that appears in Toy Story.

Dinoco: This is a fictional oil company that first appeared in Toy Story. I actually wouldn't be surprised to see a not to The Good Dinosaur or Arlo.

Plays on words like "Buzz Lightyear" or other such characters: In Cars, the tires of all the Piston Cup racers are Lightyear Buzzard tires. I expect Pixar to make some kind of reference to its other films through a play on words.

Buy N Large (BnL): This is a mega corporation that first appeared in WALL-E that controlled all economic and government services on Earth.

Friday, June 9, 2017

I'm totally buying the homonculus theory about the Cars universe.

I rewatched Cars on Thursday night with my buddy Brad. We did that after I cooked dinner, which consisted of lamb chops in an anchovy and caper sauce and paired with saffron-infused carrots and potatoes (whipped together) with butter and cream. The sauce made an excellent gravy by the way. We also had corn on the cob and the wine was a red Berringer. I didn't take any pictures but trust me, it looked awesome.

The reason we watched Cars is because Cars 3 is coming out next week and Brad said he hadn't seen Cars, so it was hard to get excited about it. Cars really piqued my curiosity when I came across a guy online that was obsessed with figuring out what exactly is going on in the Cars world. To be honest, I've kind of gotten to be a believer of the whole "homonculus theory," which you can read about HERE.

I'll just summarize it for you quickly. Basically, everything about the Cars world can be explained by one thing: the humans in this human-less world are actually installed inside the Cars, kinda similar to a H.R. Giger Biomechanics nightmare.
See, something happened to all the humans. Otherwise there's no logical explanation as to why everything is designed for humans to use them. Why have handles, doors, mirrors? Why have languages that match up to human languages? It's all because the cars actually have people inside of them. Even the windshields that are eyes make sense because it would be a visor projecting the human eyes onto the glass.

Creepy, right?

There's plenty of evidence online (and Pixar has even admitted) that all of their movies share the same universe. Cars has to take place at some point in a strange future when all of the humans have achieved a kind of immortality by being bio-engineered into machines. Anyway, knowing and accepting the theory proposed on Jalopnik in no way lessens my enjoyment of the shows. But it does give a new perspective for me to consider when talking with parents about the movie. After all, I don't think many people realize that Cars is a post-apocalyptic dystopia where humans are forced to live inside machines forever.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The June question for the Insecure Writer's Support Group is all about quitting.

Well, another month has passed, and it's time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group post. If you've never heard of it, you can go HERE to sign-up.

This month's question is:

"Did you ever say 'I quit'? If so, what happened to make you come back to writing?"

At first I was going to answer "no" to this question, but I realized it wouldn't be true. In high school, I wrote a novella for a creative writing class on a typewriter of all things, and it was a pretty draining project. It also ended up being pretty poor. I pressed what few friends I had (back in the day I was not a popular kid) to read it, and I could tell it wasn't good from their reactions (although they tried to find positive things to say about it). Anyway, it was an exhausting thing to produce, and I was glad it was done. I pretty much quit after that for many years.

I'm not sure what brought me back to writing, or if it was any one thing. I remember the night I started tapping away at keys. I'd bought a new computer, and I'd been playing a lot of World of Warcraft on it. It was a warm summer night and I was sipping a cool drink by an open screen door. And I just wanted to write about something. I wanted to use this computer I'd bought for something more than video games. It doesn't sound very glamorous at all. There really wasn't any big revelation or anything like that. It was just more of a "want" to use some equipment that I'd invested a thousand bucks in for more than just entertainment.

I suppose that once a writer always a writer. We probably all share that bug in us, some obviously more than others.

Monday, June 5, 2017

These are my favorite poster posse tributes to Wonder Woman which slayed at the box office this weekend.

Poster Posse celebrated the Princess of Themyscira by releasing a bunch of really cool posters that were all about Wonder Woman. Below are my favorite, but you should totally peruse the collection.
This one's done by Chris Malbon, and it just looks awesome.
This one is done by artist Daniel Nash. I love how the ruins of war spell out the Wonder Woman logo.

Not bad for the 9th largest opening weekend for a movie that isn't a sequel or a spin-off, right? For those of you who've seen the movie and now want to get into reading Wonder Woman comics, may I recommend:
Wonder Woman by George Perez volume 1 (This is Diana's post-Crisis reboot and from which the movie borrowed quite a lot). 
The Legend of Wonder Woman (a retelling of her origin set during World War II).
Wonder Woman Rebirth Volume 1: The Lies and Volume 2: Year One.
All of these can be found on Amazon :) See you Wednesday for Insecure Writer's Support Group!