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Thursday, July 22, 2004

Good review exerpt of Catwoman 

"Most of the movie has the cruddy lighting and generic, death-by-franchise atmosphere of a third-rate spectacle that's been worked over by too many hacks."-- Owen Gleiberman, ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY

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Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Spiderman 2 

Sucked. Sucked sucked sucked sucked sucked! Have to repeat it in order to convince all you who go by so many other critics who are somehow okay with superhero movies being supershallow (Unbreakable, Darkman, Blind Fury examples of when they’re not).

Toby McGuire smirked through more scenes than G.W.Bush does; the actions scenes were based way more on a Hollywood screenwriters fantasy than any kind of realistic idea ("Why are they fighting on a train again?" "It'll look cool, we'll make it work!"); the close-ups were way too mucusy, and the subplots were disjointed and repetitive. Suckered again by the pack of idiots...

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Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Hey hey hey 

For those of you out a tha loop, I've been waiting for a long time for blogger to let me put comments on this blog - and they have. (Now if they only can put a counter on.)

So, I'm back watching it and if I hear just a peep I'll be all over this Movies that Motivate stuff. I'm still a demanding prick, who also goes nuts (well...) for films I like - so let me know that you exist, and which film you want me to dissect... and I'll be your blog-slave for an hour.

Bye for now.

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Thursday, September 04, 2003

Whale Rider / American Splendor / Capturing the Friedmans 

Okay, if I get just one, one goddamn request, I'll blog any or all of these great flicks. The choice is yours. Email me here.

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Monday, August 04, 2003

The *real* HULK : Punch-Drunk Love! 

Rented Punch-Drunk Love two nights ago - again drawn in by the reference on the back of the box to rage. Not just uncontrolled rage either, but a steely semi-controlled one. Saw this movie and absolutely loved it. Deals quite maturely with the violence of humiliation, the violence of loneliness, and the way that love - unlike the inverted and stereotypical manner it represses action in The HULK - actually releases rage and motivates action. Yeah!

A friend of mine recently held a radio talk show discussing Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”. which is about how lazy parasitic people use all kinds of rackets to chip away at ambitious and independent inventors/builders/entrepreneurs. Sandler's Barry Egan is that hard-working person; who eventually discovers, through love, how rage can be channeled so very nicely to fight back against all those people. So so so nicely. It turns out that Barry is as cool as chocolate pudding.

"Despite its title, Punch-Drunk Love is never heavy-handed. The jabs it employs are short, carefully placed and dead-center." ~ Mike Clark, USA TODAY.

It feels good to watch this movie, and it reveals to the way that love motivates in a much more interesting light than The HULK did.

YEAH!

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Friday, August 01, 2003

stalling... 

Just a small boring unrelated blog to let you all (?) know that I've holding out for the blogspot*plus version for [comments] features before I exhaust myself. Don't worry, soon I'll be back at it soon...

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Tuesday, July 22, 2003

The Real Responsibilities of a Really Respectable Writer. (Part 1 of ?) 

A little bit about myself: I'm in the Vancouver Film School for advanced writing for film and television. I struggle through it, struggle around it, and struggle trying to find anyone to do justice to the words. Often, in the VFS, it's hard to even find someone to appreciate it as art and not opinion. Once they got you by your opinion, it's game over.

What I don't struggle with is my writing. I'm able to stay far ahead of the curve and very on top in regards to content. Yes, I'm boasting here. If you think I'm full of shit then log on to KickAssScripts.com, read some of my work, and tell me just how wrong you think I am.

Either way, this is a blog about what I think writers need to focus on. First, let's find some motivation for the things we do. Simply put, a writer, or any kind of artist, is looking for an audience. The money and fame and snorting coke with groupies in the hot tub rate a close second; but I think most of us would continue to do what we do so long as we thought there'd be an audience.

Essentially writing is the overlap between performance and structure. We make the moment last, well, for as long as possible. The story that begins in our head, plays itself out eventually in a larger scale for an audience. Am I boring you yet?

Okay, so what's the difference between good and bad writers? It's not the audience, nor their reaction; it's the ability of the storyteller to get their story out and on paper in as honestly a way as possible. Again, we're going to be talking about honesty.

(to be continued)

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Saturday, July 12, 2003

Jackass 

In my sitcom writing class, I have been arguing with the teacher about the value of the movie Jackass. His stand, as far as I understand, is that there's no motivation or goals in the movie (except to shock?), and therefore uninteresting. I, on the other hand, loved Jackass (and some other reality television like the 5th Wheel, and The Osbournes), but haven't thought it through as much and have a tough time defending my view. For the sake of having something to blog (I'm completely exhausted from the demands that the school has been putting on me) I'll try to figure it out now.

I loved Jackass, there are so many absurd, yet layered scenes; to chuckle, chew over, and almost piss my pants laughing at.

If it were only about shock, then yeah, I'd probably hate it even more than my teacher. In fact, a lot of the problems that I have with the sitcom writing, and the cheesy reality shows (Fear Factor, American Idol, Survivor... and others that I've never even watched: Big Brother, The Bachelor, The Mole, Extreme Makeover, The Bachelor, Real World, etc.) is that they are overwritten and shticky... One can say that the motivation for the characters is too defined and controlled.

When people are controlled, and their motivation determined by outside forces, then what you end up with is aggressive manipulation and humiliation. Humiliation, by the way, is very in nowadays; and accounts for the success of many of the shows mentioned above. Many sitcoms resort to humiliation (Sex in the City, Friends, The Drew Carey Show, etc.) and almost nothing else. The levity is contrived, the laughs nervous and artificial. Without consent - and I don't mean just the desire to get rich or famous - humiliation is just ugly and unnecessary. Lazy degrading and dull sitcoms and reality shows humiliate and shock. It's also shocking to watch people make asses out of themselves on Jerry Springer and the Six O'Clock News. Most of the shit out there tries and succeeds at shocking.

I guess the difference is, like everything else I blog here, motivation. When humiliation is directly faced off with either humor or sorrow, it becomes much more, and less. It becomes the obstacle to the persons objective - completeness and integrity. It becomes something to overcome, and transcend.

It's just like the respect that I have for my favorite radio personality Howard Stern. He's been called a shock jock, but it's wrong to do that. Howard, Jackass, and other forms of great reality entertainment don't just shock us, they do more; they surprise us. I think that that's its motivation and why I like it so much. There is method in their madness, the adventures that they put themselves through build and evolve. They actually transcend pain by making it interesting. Enough, I'm going to go see how long I can stand it rolling down a hill in the "doggie duty" bin in the park ;b

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Sunday, July 06, 2003

Terminator 3 & other simulations. 

Went to see Terminator 3, in hopes of sneaking in after to The Italian Job, and blogging both. (I think that we're entitled to go from film to film until we get our money's worth). Screwed up big time, and unless I wanted to stalk around the theatre for almost two hours, The Italian Job would have to wait. So I ended up only seeing T3.

Which really sucked. How do the critics actually find anything of interest in these crappy movies? The only reason why I caved in and dragged my lazy ass there was because it got a decent rating with Rotten Tomatoes. If anyone cares, the movie is all about how we can't cheat our destiny; and that our destiny in terms of movies are dumb plot devices, shallow characters, lots of destruction, constant use of special effects, gimmicky dialog, super-hot chicks, hype, and overanxious critics - truly a rise of the machines.

So with the little money I had gone, the day only half over, and a huge hole in my soul; I finally went back to my other passion - books. In the bookstore I picked up a copy of Simulations by Jean Baudrillard. Don't feed dumb, I had never heard of him either before today. Well, holy G.Orwell brainf*ck, this French guy has taken existentialism right into our technology worshipping society with a vengeance. Here is an excerpt for ya, hold on tight:

“It is no longer a question of imitation, nor of reduplication, nor even of parody. It is rather a question of substituting signs of the real for the real itself, that is, an operation to deter every real process by its operational double, a metastable, programmatic, perfect descriptive machine which provides all the signs of the real and short-circuits all its vicissitudes. Never again will the real have to be produced – this is the vital function of the model in a system of death, or rather of anticipated resurrection which no longer leaves any chance even in the event of death. A hyperreal henceforth sheltered from the imaginary, and from any distinction between the real and the imaginary, leaving room only for the orbital recurrence of models and the simulated generation of difference.”
- Jean Baudrillard, Simulations


Exactly my point about all the sloppy writing I see – like cancer, it kills the truth that everything only resembles truth; by fetishizing and iconizing without any respect to its own function. It has no soul, only a superficial shell highly efficient at redirecting while appearing involved. (Like receiving long lists of internet sites when it's actually interpersonal relationships which are sought.) Everything, especially here inside the entertainment industry, is deferred to other events and situations in hopes of finding meaning, there’s no motivation except to look elsewhere. It's constantly referring to action externally; in other places, in the past, or in the future... can you say b-o-g-u-s?

This "creativity" wears a mask that proclaims *it* is the mask, and it *is* interesting; meanwhile hiding behind and protecting us from nothing. I have previously labeled this as dull, shallow, and self-indulgent; but it actually is much more menacing and important - because from first hand experience I know that it has no respect for the imagination, passion, or humor; leaves no room for new ideas; and has displaced our ability to honestly engage and appreciate each other.

Enough, I’ve got a book to read.

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Saturday, July 05, 2003

The HULK, revisited. 

I went back to see The Hulk again, and am glad I did. It really is a lot of fun, and there's so much good stuff to watch. I'm a really really angry person, and often find myself wishing I could turn green, grow, and SMASH. Oh well, I'm just going to have to settle for blogging; and talking about people behind their backs.

Anyway, this time through I made notes and tried to keep track of the myriad of themes this movie probes. It's actually a good example of too many writers, too many ideas, and being just too damn ambitious a feat for one film to pull off. Here, in point form, are some of the many issues brought up in the two hours:

Spoilers included, so I've set the font to white. If you want to read this post, just select the text by running the mouse along it with it's button down:

\/ Start here \/

- Is repression a sign of strength? Or weakness?
- What happens to repressed emotions? Is it good, or bad, to show self control?
- Does our instinct, when provoked, hate or love women? Men?
- Are forgiveness and responsibility linked in any way to strength?
- Does rage bring about power and freedom?
- Should we fear the protection that our parents offer? Does it just lead to betrayal?
- Does the military promote warfare, or limit it?
- Is it inevitable that we follow in our parent’s footsteps? Can science help us to evolve past this if it is true?
- Does uniqueness lead to alienation and separation? How does society deal with people who are different?
- What is the difference between physical and emotional wounds? Is the healing process different?
- How do we listen to the inner child?
- What is our tolerance for collateral damage?
- How much conscious control do we have over our emotional state?
- Does knowledge, caring, and curiosity about ourselves lead to our downfall? Is there a cure?
- Is the Hulk really just a big super-frog?
- How strong is the power of love? Is this different than the desire of parents to smother?
- Is it possible to kill imperfection? Should we want to? Does imperfection belong? Does it even want to live?
- Do we all live in a superficial shell? What is the interaction between the lies we tell each other and the lies we tell ourselves?
- Are we ruled by petty people? Is there anything we should do about this?
- Are bad dreams/feelings an accurate prediction of what will come?
- Is learning to say sorry the best cure?

Eventually, I can only really focus on two dynamics: the father smothers the son in his own beliefs ("The more you fight, the more of you I take") and refuses to recognize that there's a difference between them: The son is not selfish, not part of the military, and doesn't wish to impose his views on others. The son, however, has not learnt to disown his father and escape, and continues to feed what is essentially his father’s rage ("I wish you had killed me").

Unfortunately, although the "B" plot with the love interest and her father work out their issues, there is no real resolution to the main dilemma - just a random act of violence that Hollywood often uses to wrap up two hours of drawing us in. The father learns nothing, the son neither, and I just want to smash everything (except the film). AAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRGH! GGGGRRRRR! ... lookout :-o

/\ End here./\

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Friday, July 04, 2003

Porn 

(sarcastically) Hey, about time we used the web for what is was designed for.

A fellow student is writing a blog on Courting and Cavorting Forever, which got me thinking about the difference between romantic scenes and pornographic scenes. It's going to have to be motivation, no? What do people want from love? And what from lust?

Let's use some love stories first: Swept From the Sea is about finding the beauty in everything, Bound about trusting your lover, BackBeat about getting over grievances, The Velocity of Gary (who, oddly enough, is a porn star) is about our need to touch each other, What Dreams May Come about accepting imperfection. In all these themes, there is both a power struggle and a power surrender; amplified to the limit just like obstacles and objectives should be. By sharing power, there is a net gain of power. In a love scene, people get more than just "off", they get an understanding of each other, an education.

Which brings us to porn. Porn scenes are the flipside to love scenes; with neither partner interacting very deeply with the other. Instead what we have is mutual masturbation, and power being neither ceded nor gained. What do we learn from porn? Not much, it seems. Often we learn that sex feels good, that it's not imperative to know your partner in order to achieve orgasm, that it's okay to degrade women/men, and that money will get people to do almost anything to themselves. Why do we watch the stuff? Perhaps for the same reasons. Also, many romantic scenes just don't have the ability to go all the way into humiliation (which inhabits the core of intercourse) for fear of having the actors/writers drop out of the scene. It's actually quite hard to be honest with someone when you're busy pumping.

So pornography often treads heavily on dishonesty? Yup. Sure. Hey, we all need a break sometimes. Yet, as a writer, I feel an obligation to avoid it. I don't know who said "Truth at any cost" first, but I think it's worth repeating quite often in our f*cked up society. Much of what I see being produced around me resembles pornography - self-indulgent, self-satisfying garbage that has little relevance, little universal appeal, little exploration, little merit, and little to offer the viewer except an invitation to worship the artist. Brittany Spears *is* a porn star.

The whole idea of everyone telling each other what to do (exemplified by directing the actor) attracts people to this industry who have no understanding of themselves, yet a complete need to control - usually increasing alongside a firmly held belief in their own version of "independence" and "freedom". So which way do you think the motivation is going to be directed? And what will they produce? From my 15 months of experience, almost everything I’ve seen resembles a big circle jerk; without imagination or an ability to motivate. Ask yourself the next time you're being entertained, do I love all my fellow humans more now, or only those that will satisfy me?

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Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Heroes and Heroines 

A real quick plug for one of my favorite guides for creating interesting, motivated, and conflicted characters: The Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes and Heroines
by Tami D. Cowden, Caro LaFever, Sue Viders. It's a lot better than that lame-ass Story crap by McKee; which is all hype and little actual content.

“Those who know they are profound strive for clarity. Those who would like to seem profound to the crowd strive for obscurity."
- Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science

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Monday, June 30, 2003

Matrix Reloaded 

Just a real quick one - to keep Matt happy.

Matrix Reloaded, what the hell is this movie about? I dunno. Watching it I felt like I was back in calculus class, about three weeks behind, and facing exams. I usually have no problem with movies talking down to me, so long as it's reasonable; but the Matrix Reloaded (when was it unloaded?) really really really places itself as super-duper self-important.... except, of course, for the real stupid fight/chase scenes. Well, anyway, who cares? Not me so much, so now I'll blast away blogging the film in my mind which was probably a lot better than the real deal.

I'm a gonna guess that the theme was set up with the only good line early in the whole two hours, when Morpheus says something like "the reason why we're here is not because we always obey the rules" or something like that (it wasn't that good anyway.) In the climax, the television room scene shows that there are probably at least a thousand different outcomes for every decision we make. If five or six of these outcomes will be horrible, then we need to accept the odds and continue on. If we remain paralyzed waiting for the perfect alignment of everything; we'll never get anything done. So go ahead, and try, something, anything; for without the freedom to screw up, what do you got to loose that's so scary great anyway?

So that's the motivation behind the Matrix Reloaded, I'm guessing. Who knows, maybe I'm wrong - but at least I tried.

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Sunday, June 29, 2003

Charlie's Angles & 28 Days. 

I recently got an invitation to submit a movie review to one of the local weekly newspapers - Terminal City; so yesterday I went to see both Charlie’s Angles and 28 Days in hopes of having something interesting to say about one of them. Well, sorry, neither offers much except for an uncanny ability to be uncontroversial, slick, and shallow... so I'm going to just lump them together here.

Charlie’s Angles is kinda fun to watch, but the characters seem to find each other a lot cuter/funnier/more interesting than the action suggests. Also, the rules of their world don't hold true, and I was constantly dropping out of the story to try to figure out the changing virtual landscape. Sometimes a person can cheat gravity, or death; and other times not. All in all, I did what most are supposed to do - picked my favorite angel (Lucy), ignored everything but her posing sexy for the camera, and wasted money.

After the angles, I snuck into 28 Days, which I hoped would be more my style. It's directed by the same guy who made Trainspotting – yay - but involves his partner in crime from that horribly wrong "The Beach" disaster. Well, it seems that they've grown up a little, but not yet all the way. Again, the rules of the world shift, and the themes were vague. I think it has something to do with everything must pass, even evil; and the best course of action is to be patient. Perhaps. But overall what I felt after it ended was more like wanting to kill every single panhandler between the theater and my home.

These are the kinds of movies that don't really say anything, but instead scream: "Look at Me!" Well, okay, I did; so what? Why bother? Trying to take them seriously makes being a film critic seem quite idiotic.

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Thursday, June 26, 2003

Drama terms. 

Before we get too deep into scene and character analysis; let’s go over some terms. Characters have objectives and obstacles. What I really like is when they're ramped right up in competition with each other. Jim Carey is excellent in bringing them both out strong (had the same drama teacher as I did, see previous blog); example: Liar Liar. Jim wants to lie, Jim cannot lie. Eventually one side must win; but by then the battle itself has become the show. A more complex version of this effect: Memento. The main character cannot remember the past. The catch is; he doesn't want to remember it either. (By the way, how Buddhist a message is that in Memento in regards to clinging to the past. How much was his, and our, life made up of an endless series of minute deaths?)

Two more words for today: substitution and subtext. These are common terms for actors and good writers. Substitution is when something (or someone) is endowed with meaning by a character, and a relationship is formed. "Money loves me, it really does". "Blogging is my life". "I hid with uncomfortable hunk of metal up my ass for two years". In a good scene, the characters have attitude about everything - the bartender, the drunks, the ex-wife, the best buddy, the neighbors, the goddamn xyx's. Even apathy is an attitude, so long as it motivates the characters - just look around, yeah you! Or if you prefer, use that guy in Scorsese's After Hours. The other sub-, subtext, is similar but it works in speech. All characters practice subtext. All people practice subtext. I have conversations with people thousands of miles away, all day. Only the bus driver, and I, think it's about having the right change.

So there ya go: Objectives, obstacles, substitutions, and subtext. Look for these, and use them in storytelling and you're on your way to making movies that motivate. You'll see them come up in future blogs, why not send me some terms or examples of your own?

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Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Shyamalan  

I've been getting a little feedback about my ability to condense a film into just one or two words describing its motivation. This skill was taught to me by Ivana Chubbuck when she used to run a branch of her acting school here in Vancouver. Every scene, every story, every action has motivation. Discovering that motivation is the goal of the audience. Instilling motivation is the duty of the filmmakers, crew, and actors.

To quickly run through one or two: M. Night Shyamalan stunned me with The Sixth Sense. Why? Because it tapped so deeply into the roots of Tibetan Buddhism - to let go, to accept death and loss, to transcend fear. The young boy sees the world as populated with dead people. Real dead people? Yes. But also it suggests the living dead, and how all of us have died along the way. Everyone takes parts of us, with their selfishness; and there is no way around it. It's hard to watch, because we all want to do something to make it not true. The child suffers, the child grows, the child struggles to hold on to his innocence. The motivation is to look inwards, find the child, and console.

In a fantastic turn, Shyamalan went on to write/direct the exact opposite motivation in his next film UnBreakable (Great website, by the way!). Here we have a character who doesn't know he's alive, but believes that he's dead. The message here is of ability, strength, possibility. Even the evil villain seethes with affirmation. These two films (Signs really sucked) combine to make a remarkable series in understanding how movies that motivate work.

On the note of strength, I'd like to recommend The Perfect Storm. As with WindTalkers, it's one of the many movies I recommend over the critics, The Perfect Storm was completely about trying; and facing adversary. There's a line at the end, spoken by Mark Wahlberg, that completely *BAM* hits home and completes an otherwise floundering movie (I'm not going to spoil it for you.) Here is an example of a theme brought so strong to the forefront that even an otherwise sloppy movie can really shine.

It's also a good example how the same motivation can be expressed in quite different ways. In UnBreakable it's subtle, in The Perfect Storm over the top. Both films energize and inspire us to try, with all our might, to rise up - at least physically. Anyways, I've got to run, ya'll let me know if you want a blog on anything specific, k?

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Monday, June 23, 2003

WindTalkers 

Has anyone seen WindTalkers? I did, even though most of the critics warned against it. Well once again they were quite wrong. I'm not going to go into detail over the plot, the execution (puns intended), or the acting - only that I was completely stunned by the reverence that it showed to what I'm going to guess is the real issue facing soldiers in duty. I bought an actual copy from the video store and saw it for the second time a little while ago; and noticed that although it was obvious and upfront about the story and subplots, the first time through I was lost in the emotion and didn't notice all the subtle mirroring and character developement in such a small space as a battlefield. I really don't want to ruin it for you (actually, I'd like to I'm just too damn tired) so I'm just going to say that it is a very rare movie indeed - for who would expect that in such a dark, heavy, dreary environment (fatigued soldiers "watching" each others backs ominously) would you find a movie that actually motivates us to care?

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The HULK 

I was very excited to see The HULK. I heard them discuss it on the Howard Stern show a day before the release. They got to see an advance special screening. In my opinion, his crew lives in a state of heightened awareness; so their experience watching movies is usually more on an emotional level than intellectual. Of course, they are also highly opinionated and sometimes that gets in the way.

The Stern show that day was great - all of them wound up nicely; and the direction took a very dark and dangerous turn. Not before long, Howard had everyone voting on who should be fired (even if they were absent), voting on who was/n’t liked, and yelling at people who called in even though they were just pushing his buttons. Howard’s anger is often the most fascinating and creative kind, a cold and logical one.

During the screening, once the lights went off, a strange person snuck-in and managed to sit beside Howard. No one knew who he was, but due to the security and exclusivity of the event they all assumed that someone else invited him. Howard couldn’t stop thinking about him, and SARS; and began his old OCD by washing his hands with his little bottle of antibiotic fluid; wanting to break out of the theatre but not being able. Robin & Mister "X" sat behind Howard and fumed for much of the show – not liking the slow pace and restrained tangents – so much so that Howard was afraid to turn around.

This experience is a familiar feature for this film and I can tell you it was repeated and amplified again when I went with my friend. The motivation of The HULK is pretty clear, and people all over the theatre were angry and blurting out comments, while other's ssshhh'ing them, some laughing at it, and the remainder tensing up. There is no doubt that The HULK motivates towards frustration and wanting to smash. I was especially drawn to the story by the fact that The HULK’s father was directly responsible for making his son both hostile to the world and unable to express himself. This is the combination that produces rage, and intrigued me. Unfortunately, The HULK doesn’t follow this logic throughout the movie and ends up leaving the audience unsatisfied. Anger must resolve itself, both the hot and cold aspects of it united and smoothed out, and transcended; in order to be interesting. There are quite a few short-cuts taken by the movie, after opening up the topic for analysis - and as I’ve said before, the movie that I made up in my head to fill in the blanks was much better than the movie I saw.

All that said, it is a tremendous feeling to watch a green, raging, disfigured giant take on the world and feed on violence. I’m going back, this time with lowered expectations, and a big cynical smile on my face.

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Friday, June 20, 2003

Who am I? 

I'm a 38 year old Canadian struggling writer. If you want some links, you can also find my scriptwriting stuff here, my poetry here, and my political theory here. Here is my bio (spun) and here is what I'm really like.

Right now I'm in the Vancouver Film School's writing program, so I'm getting a shit's eye view of the birds. I'm dark, cynical, depressed; and probably should be doing anything but trying to break into the entertainment business (the worst people at giving advise are those who desperately want to). I guess that it's anger that propels me down this sick path. Much of the work I see appeals to the audience to like the writer; I'm not too sure that I give a damn anymore what most people think of me. As I've learnt from Ivana Chubbuck's class years ago; there are thousands of ways to "drop out of a scene". One of the most effective ways - and what annoys me more than anything else - is dishonesty: when people are afraid to express or understand themselves courageously. This whole media thing seems to attract that kind of energy nowadays in our artificial society. Spielberg (Minority Report), Shyamalan (Signs), Raimi (Spider-Man), Scorsese (Gangs of New York), Jonze (Adaptation) seem to be leading the charge in making movies that really have more to do with showing us all the reasons that *they* love them rather than showing us ourselves. It's an arrogance that seems to work well for the industry to make money and keep us coming back for more. Granted it's a fine line trying to divorce ourselves from our work, but in the end this mentality of "falling in love" with the artist over the art is short-term and unproductive.

I recently took a course from Stephen Simon about, what he calls, Spiritual Cinema. I thought that it would be something along the lines of Movies that Motivate, in that in order to appeal to the soul (spirit) it would need to penetrate the clinging and fetishizing that is so obvious and destructive. Stephen produced the movie "What Dreams May Come"; a long time favorite of mine, so I thought that the theme of letting go would surface in his workshop. It did, yes, but along with a ton of other new-age icons, idol worshipping, fear, and misplaced beliefs. I posted some of my comments to their discussion board. You can read them here.

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Thursday, June 19, 2003

Here goes... 

While it's true that over the years news programming has moved more and more towards entertainment, how much has the entertainment taken the initiative (and opportunity) do lean itself towards more "real" plotlines in their stories? The reason that the news has become so much faster, so much snazzier and energetic, is because that's what's effective in reaching their audience. Why? Because it's simply mirroring the way that we think - not so much live, as think we live. Ideas connect, and disconnect faster and faster in our times; what used to be cool is quickly obsolete. Conflicts rise and fall at an alarming rate. Heroes become villains, and villains heroes between the morning paper and the late edition. Decisions need to... well, you get the idea.

So where does that leave the film and television industry? It leaves them puzzling over special effects, hype, status, clichés, and shock value. All kinds of words apply here - self-indulgence, myopic, pornographic, shallow, dull, dreadful, idiotic, simple, formulaic - the list goes on and on. We all know it, have all accepted it, and all support it with our hard-earned dollars. Why? Because in our minds is a fantastic newsreel of interesting twists and turns, chivalry, altruism, epic battles, and subtle defiance in the face of overwhelming odds. This is our life, the way each of us sees it. And when we watch a movie we put all these themes into it. We feel for the characters, and essentially, we enjoy most the movies that make our own struggles resonate; so we don’t feel so alone as we trek our way through life. (This is an interesting rant on my idea of Buddhism - one that suffering is not so unbearable as the idea that we suffer alone – which I may pursue in future blogs if there is any request to do so.)

Yet what usually happens? How many of the time, after the movie is over and the lights come on, do we kinda shrug our shoulders and head back into the world without an ounce of motivation? How long can we spin the television dial without any signal at all trying to get us off our asses and do something energetic with our time?

That’s what this blog is not going to be about. I’ll try to avoid going on for too long about the misery that is most of the entertainment coming at us. Instead, I’ll be highlighting those movies that actually make a difference in our lives; those times when after the lights come on we actually feel different about ourselves, and some part of us screams to be let out. These movies come in all different flavors; from highly stylized (Memento, Koyaanisqatsi, Fight Club, Pleasantville, Matinee, Bound, Hair, 6th Sense, Manufacturing Consent, Breaking the Spell, You are a Target Market) to special effects (Crouching Tiger / Hidden Dragon, What Dreams May Come, Matrix, Forest Gump, Walking with Dinosaurs) to traditional (BackBeat, Swept From the Sea, The Velocity of Gary, Mississippi Masala, Jerry McGuire, Fluke, American Beauty, Fearless, A Long Nights Journey Into Day, Thin Red Line, Casualties of War, Indochine, Kippur, Liar Liar, My Fellow Americans, Ed Wood, Permanent Midnight, Max). Please let me know if you’d like me to blog any of these, or suggest your own.

What unites all these motivational movies is that they are able to stir something up in us and leave us with a desire to take a message into the world. I remember sitting in a run-down bar on Khao San Road in Bangkok, along with many other tourists, expats, staff, and local Thais; all watching a pirate copy of Fight Club on a busted cdrom player; all of us slowly inflating our balls and posing and sizing each other up as the film went along. It’s no wonder that actual Fight Clubs started because of the film. Who after didn’t feel the desire to smack our head into someone’s fist as hard as it’ll go? The message in that movie is that physical pain is nothing compared to mental pain; so why be so afraid? And The Matrix: In a world where the only difference between real humans and robots (or zombies) is that living beings can actually die; who doesn’t feel like seeing how a bullet “tastes” after watching that movie? After watching Liar Liar; I wanted to try just telling the truth. Forest Gump... running. All these different desires coming straight from the movies.

So good or bad, motivational movies leave us with something, the courage to be real; and a feeling like it’s okay to do something most people are terrible afraid to even consider – let alone ever try. In these difficult times when most of the information coming at us is to blame and disconnect, motivational movies serve a very important role in inspiring, suggesting, reinforcing, and encouraging us to look forward; and in keeping the industry alive.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Very first blog! 

Worked too hard today, too damn exhausted to blog; going to watch tv instead. What are the odds that I'll find anything on that motivates me, or even helps me feel like I've got a place in the world?

I'll hopefuly be catching the HULK this friday and will blog it.

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