Wednesday, November 4, 2020

The IWSG asks why do I write and I answer in my last post for 2020. Happy Holidays and all that.


It is November 2020, and it's time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group. This is a welcome distraction to an election season that I haven't liked one bit. So here is the purpose of this particular blog fest:

"To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through he fire can offer assistance and guidance. It's a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds."

If that sounds like something you'd like to participate in, you should go and sign-up at this blog located HERE. 

The November 4th question (that is optional) is as follows:

"Albert Camus once said, 'The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.' Flannery O'Conner said, 'I write to discover what I know.' Authors across time and distance have had many reasons to write. Why do you write what you write?"

This is such a good question. I think that I write so that I can take a dream or a figment or an idea and make it into a movie that plays in my head. Writing is the cheap process by which I can hire all the best actors, where I can imagine a scene playing out, and I can laugh or simply enjoy the possibilities. It is a place where I can enjoy myself without spending any money and where I can explore vistas without a sense of danger to me. Instead, all of that danger is borne by the protagonists of my stories.

Now I'm off to take a look at how all of you answered. If you are participating in NanoWrimo this year, good luck on your progress.

As for me, I'm going to shut the blog down until the first Wednesday of January (which is the first IWSG post for 2021). Happy Holidays. May your Christmas and New Years be bright.

Monday, November 2, 2020

The season two premiere of the Mandalorian answered two questions I had from my childhood.


So, The Mandalorian is back on Disney Plus. I knew about a couple months ago that it was going to start up again on October 30th. However, between then and now I kind of forgot that the premiere was going to be last week. So, it was a surprise on Friday evening when I was looking for something to watch besides the latest episode of Star Trek: Discovery and episode one of season two of The Mandalorian popped onto my radar. That was serendipitous, and it made my evening of watching at home a nice one.

If you haven't watched that episode yet, then this is your spoiler warning, because I want to unpack the episode because a lot happened in it that was really quite cool.

First off, the episode took us back to Tattooine. I was wondering why we were going back to that old sand ball, as I thought that most of the stories anyone had to tell about Tattooine were already done. However, I obviously had forgotten my Star Wars history. But the kid in me remembered as soon as the director started taking me down this path of unanswered questions that I had as a child. One of the unanswered questions was about a Krayt Dragon. I mean...you see a skeleton of one in the Dune Sea in the first Star Wars movie called "A New Hope." Threepio and R2 walk right past one, and the thing is enormous. I remember wondering, "What is that thing?" but it was just window dressing. You saw the skeleton and that's it. You never went back to it.

And then later in that same movie, Ben Kenobi uses the sound of a Krayt Dragon to scare off the Sand People who are menacing Luke Skywalker. Okay then, but you never see this dragon, and to a kid who is seven years old, a Krayt Dragon just sounds unbelievably awesome, especially given that I was obsessed with dinosaurs at that age (I hear this is a common thing among children). Anyway, lo and behold, the episode is about a community of people way out on the edge of the Dune Sea who are being menaced by a Krayt Dragon, and it's about how they deal with it, forging an alliance with the Sand People. It's a great episode, but if that wasn't everything, there's another payoff.

This one came from another question I had (when I was a kid) about Boba Fett. He always looked really mysterious in his armor (you didn't get to see his face until you saw him in The Clone Wars). So, to a teenager, he was pretty much irresistible to not like. The world-building for Star Wars is pretty great, right? But Boba Fett fell into the Sarlacc Pit and that was pretty much it for that guy (referencing The Return of the Jedi). Or so we thought. It turns out that I think he got out of the Sarlacc. That's why the armor shown in the movie was so familiar...it was Boba Fett's armor. One of the colonists at the mining village being menaced by the Krayt Dragon was wearing it and acting as the sheriff (essentially). However, it absolutely was Boba Fett's armor. His story...that he got it in trade from some Jawas...is a great tale. And if you think about Boba Fett being inside that giant monster in the Dune Sea, it makes sense that it was so corroded and beat up.

So, the guy you see standing on the bluff at the end of the episode watching The Mandalorian leave is (in fact) Boba Fett. I wonder what this means for the trajectory of the story. With only one episode, the show has got me completely hooked for another season. It's just brilliant.

Anyone else excited that The Mandalorian is back?

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

In a year we all get to watch another Godzilla animated movie on Netflix.


I really like Toho animation. It's escapism at some of its best, and it tends to have that classic nostalgic feel that some of the 1960's (is that the Showa era?) Godzilla movies evoke within me when I see them on tv. So, you can imagine my excitement when Netflix announced (this week) an exclusive called Godzilla: Singular Point. It is directed by Atsushi Takahashi, which actually means nothing to me. However, it's a Godzilla movie. So if it has other kaiju bashing it out--and the trailer does feature the giant transforming robot Jet Jaguar--well then...I'm sold.

That being said, there is one name I do recognize in this project. There is a brand new Godzilla design from Eiji Yamamori who (I think) is in charge of kaiju design. He is a rather legendary Studio Ghibli animator, with about 17 films to his credit, including being the "key animator" in Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, House-Hunting, Ponyo, The Secret World of Arrietty, The Wind Rises, When Marnie Was There, Mary and the Witch's Flower, and Doraemon the Movie. It's obvious that the guy is an expert and a renowned artist in his particular field.

The movie isn't due out for another year, so this is way ahead of its November 2021 release. In the trailer (which I have included below), there is no dialogue. It's just music. The two-horned pteranadon creature is probably Rodan, and the spikey dinosaur/anklyosaurus thing is probably Anguirus. There are two other kaiju either shown or hinted at, but I have no idea what they are. So your guess is as good as mine.  

Monday, October 26, 2020

Now that the Meg 2 has been greenlit I've got questions.


The Meg
, which is a show about prehistoric giant sharks unleashed into a modern ecosystem, is getting a sequel. I really enjoyed the movie, mostly because I like shark movies, and I tend to watch all shark movies. In the rankings of shark movies overall, it is in my top ten. And honestly, that's not saying much as Jaws will always be a masterpiece, and the rest are just hot garbage. But I do like hot garbage from time to time.

That said, I'm curious to see if the sequel will bring back Li Bingbing and continue the interesting romance between her and action superstar, Jason Statham. I like Jason Statham. And by "interesting," I like that there was one in the first place. Most made with/for China movies never features any romance between the Chinese female lead and the American male lead. Sometimes one character will note how they think the Chinese woman is good looking, but it's always a one-way street that never goes anywhere. There are probably a number of sociopolitical reasons to explain this. And in today's world, there's a lot of China hate coming from America (being broadcast with a megaphone) even as we continue to purchase and use their products because things made in America are too expensive, i.e,. wages are too low in America to afford to buy American.

I was actually surprised by The Meg. It was immediately different, with one scene of Li Bingbing ogling a naked-but-for-a-towel Jason Statham. It qualifies as very thirsty on screen stuff. Do you like the word "thirsty" used in this context? I do love the ever evolving English language. Anyway, Li Bingbing did make it clear that she liked what she was seeing, and then there was lots of reinforcement from other cast members in the film saying things like, "You two should really be a couple." I think it would be awesome if we saw more of that headed toward something in a sequel.

It was also a movie that dared to kill a dog. Or at least sort of...we all thought the dog "Pippin" got eaten by the shark, but we do see it later in the movie alive and well. It was still goofy fun. The Meg never took itself seriously, which made it an awesome popcorn film.

And here's another musing: I wonder how a megalodon with actually "real world" physics would fare against a pod of modern adult Orcas. I think (despite the size of the shark) that the Orcas would kill it. They seem to have incredible intelligence and capability to coordinate attacks for killing things in the ocean.


Friday, October 23, 2020

Zack Snyder's cut of Justice League is redefining what a director's cut for a movie actually is.


Just when exactly did getting a cut of some previously released film mean that you could shoot new footage and somehow rework an entire story? Was it George Lucas that started this? In asking this question of myself (and before I posed it to you) I started to think...yeah...I bet it was George. But at the time when I watched the Star Wars movies re-released and with updated new footage, I didn't think it was any kind of "cut." I thought it was just a guy who may have had a vision that technology of the time couldn't produce. So, it seemed to make sense that for a work of passion (which Star Wars obviously is) that we should cut the guy a break.

Fast forward to 2020, and all the news I read about the Zack Snyder cut of Justice League makes me think of the many re-releases of the original trilogy of Star Wars, and I'm finding myself in this weird boat where I was okay in cutting George Lucas some slack, but I think Snyder should just shoot a whole new movie? I don't know...it's just so weird as to what's going on with his Justice League cut that it doesn't even sound like it will be the same movie. Like...how is that a cut?

A cut is when you have to take things out of a movie to make a film fit within a certain time limit. It can also be something that you take out of a film in order to meet a certain standard for reviewing, or to meet a rating requirement for a wider theatrical audience, right? But what Snyder is doing is bringing back actors to film more footage. For example, Jared Leto is reprising his role as the Joker from Suicide Squad (his performance wasn't all that great and I guess his antics on set included sending used condoms to his castmates). Then there is Ben Affleck, Ray Fisher, and Amber Heard who are also reprising their DC roles for new footage in Zack's cut. We already know that there's going to be at least one appearance of Darkseid, but in what capacity, I don't think anyone (but Zack Snyder) is sure. Am I interested in seeing the Snyder cut of Justice League? Absolutely. Is it the same Justice League that I saw a few years ago? It doesn't sound like it will be at all.

Look, this seems to be a situation where it's kind of a matter of perspective. A Justice League film was released in theaters, so the movie's done as far as specific values of "done" are concerned. This new Snyder-cut that people have been clamoring for years to see (I think) never existed. But clearly Snyder wanted to make a certain kind of movie, and now he's been given a budget and enthusiastic actors who are ready to splice and dice this thing into whatever version of Justice League that Snyder wants. So he gets to decide that if he wants to write and shoot something brand new...well that's what's going to happen.

Just to be clear...there was no Snyder cut until there was. This seems oddly like some kind of philosophical argument like figuring out through a time loop that the reason trees have fallen in a forest is because you actually had to cut them down and just never got around to time traveling yet to make that happen. I guess we call this platform evangelism, which can bring us things like the sixth season of Community.

I have no idea what type of story this movie is trying to tell. I guess I'll find out next year. What about you? Do any of you out there have opinions on the Snyder cut of Justice League?

Monday, October 19, 2020

Star Trek: Discovery is back for season 3 and the first episode gave us a lot to love about the far future.


Yay! As the third season of Star Trek: Discovery got underway last week, we all got news from CBS that they've already officially granted a fourth season to this incredible series. Discovery and the new wave of shows that have popped up in its wake like Lower Decks and Picard have been a real treat in these troubled Covid times. Not only are they exciting to watch, but the overall message of hope and wonder and people just being nice to one another is the kind of comfort food that I need right now. And this is especially true with an election going on. I can just tune out all the noise and watch Michael Burnham overcome the struggles she's dealing with in her world. As an aside, Discovery taught me that the name "Michael" could be gender neutral. At first, I had a bit of trouble with it as my own name is Michael. However, it grew on me, and now I can easily see naming a girl, Michael.

I'm sure my sentiments on Discovery would enrage the Trekker Proud Boy conspiracy theorists on YouTube, if it were to catch their attention (which it won't as my blog is small). These are the guys that pound taking the "red pill" and how Discovery, because of its diverse cast which includes strong women and queer characters are ruining Trek. But those people are just dinosaurs marching off to their tar pits. Additionally, season 3 is expanding into the exploration side that resulted from a spectacular season two, which had a really clever mystery that unfolded with epic universe-ending consequences.

And the opener to season 3 was a pretty wild ride, which is typical for this show. We got wormholes, shootouts, drugs, new aliens, and new worlds. I did have a few observations that I'm going to write down, and they are spoilers, so if you haven't watched the season 3 premiere, you should probably stop reading now.

Now...my observations of season 3 episode 1:

1) The character Book is very interesting, and he pretty quickly intuited that Michael (Sonequa) was a time traveler.

2) Seeing Burman get high from the truth drug was very entertaining. Sonequa is a wonderful actress.

3) Where is Discovery? This is a mystery that has me sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for an answer.

4) What are they going to do to update Discovery? What kind of new starship tech is there going to be? And is there going to be a big bad for this season?

5) It was really moving to see Burnam make the guy holding down the fort in the deserted Federation station into a Starfleet officer. And then they hung up the United Federation of Planets flag. I really liked that.

And that's it for my observations. Did anyone else watch the premiere? Anyone else want to weigh in?


Friday, October 16, 2020

David Attenborough's A Life On Our Planet will probably win the Oscar for Best Documentary simply because it has to.


Have you watched David Attenborough's A Life on Our Planet? The documentary, which he calls his witness statement, is about how human caused climate change is wrecking our planet in a startling short time, and what we can do about it. There are moments where he is obviously vexed by the disastrous course humanity is taking, and how it will ultimately lead to our extinction if we don't take drastic steps. It's all backed up by science of course, and I one hundred percent believe everything he is saying.

But we live in a world where a lot of selfish people can steer the course of our civilization. And it is so very difficult to understand the kind of self-fulfilling idiocy that humans seem to own in spades. For example, these troublemakers in our society can hold up a glass and say, "Hey, this is shattered!" If you disagree, they smack it against something and shatter it and then say, "Told you so! It was broken all along. It just didn't know it was broken!" Well...how do you argue with that? It's like a textbook example of someone declaring the election a fraud and then doing everything in their power to make the election a fraud. I've never seen anything like it. But more to the point, this childishness isn't the kind of thing that is going to solve the very frightening reality of climate change. Everyone is going to need to be on the same page, and that doesn't seem possible. I don't know if humanity can actually right this train. It seems we might just go right off the cliff and into whatever awaits us.

We may have once walked on the moon, but I think the great issues of our time will prove our undoing. That being said, I do have a useless prediction about David Attenborough's documentary: it will win the Academy Award for Best Documentary. And it isn't that it will win this honor because it is an extremely well-done documentary. It's just an old man in his nineties, having lived an ultra-privileged life that is exceptional even for white males, standing in the ruins of a town near Chernobyl and talking about the death of biodiversity, and then suggesting a course of how we can turn it all around. It will win, because it must win. It will win, because...like Obama with the Nobel Peace Prize...it is the issue and the spotlight that matter, and not so much that the documentary is better than anything else for which a documentary is made. And that is my prediction. David Attenborough's documentary will stand alone, because it must stand alone. And everyone who watches it will see that for themselves.

So if you haven't watched A Life on Our Planet, I do recommend that you do so. In his own words, the world no longer needs intelligence. It needs wisdom, and that is going to start with all of us, or at least, all of us that give a damn. Whether that is enough, only time will tell.