Transformers: Just Prime

Making humorous image captions is the right of all sentient beings…not just the people on TFWiki.

I’ve been trying to write this blog post for some time now, but every time I tried to get at it something came up. Well, come hell, high water, or a rent check, I’m going to pen a few words here about how I think Transformers: Prime is one of the better shows on TV, and why I think it should be the model for most children television. Or why, maybe, I just haven’t watched cartoons in so long.

Because it’s just prime.

Continue reading Transformers: Just Prime

Battlestar Galactica, Eternal Return, and Life Out There

I’ve been watching the reimagined Battlestar Galactica lately, after I bought the first two seasons on Amazon’s Instant Video. It is really a stunning example of American television, what can happen when we focus on telling a compelling story and stop trying the “Hit Every Cliche To Get Every Demographic” game. There are a couple of things that bother me with the show, but quite frankly I think Galactica is one of the most intriguing TV shows we’ve had on air in the past, oh, 10-12 years?

To be honest, I like both versions of Battlestar Galactica. I like both of them for different reasons. The original was a fun, out of your mind space fantasy that almost was sort of a creation tale. Bad acting, bad writing, atrocious special effects, but fun–sort of like an archaic Michael Bay, though I think it did a better job at getting the point across. It was also fairly bright for a people who just had their homeworlds destroyed. The reimagined series had amazing special effects, amazing writing (well, initially, at least), fascinating philosophical questions, and a dark, edgy vibe that did turn me off at one point, but paradoxically also kept me orbiting nearby, intoxicated by its ragged edge that drew oh so much blood. And both had great music: the original Colonial Theme and prologue music (plus that short riff when the Vipers take off from Carillion to aid the fleet, I cannot get that out of my head right now); the reimagined theme and, well, just about anything by Bear McCreary. That man is a god. (But not the jealous god. I don’t know what he could be jealous about.) In all fairness, while both are good, the reimagined series–for all its faults–is superior.

And let’s be honest, only the reimagined series has the frakking hotness that is Katie Sackoff in a jumpsuit.

As I watch the reimagined series again, I’ve been thinking a bit about Galactica–and like a worm, two memes buried its way into my head and stayed there.

Continue reading Battlestar Galactica, Eternal Return, and Life Out There

This Month in Success & Failure

The good news is, I submitted my entry for the DC shorts screenwriting competition yesterday. It was probably not the best I could do, though I had been fiddling with it off and on for the past month, and I decided that it was time to submit. Supposedly, Leonardo da Vinci once said “Art is never finished, merely abandoned,” and I feel that is quite accurate. However, part of the competition is getting feedback, and since that’s all I really want to obtain, I already consider myself a winner.

The bad news is that I failed to finish the ScriptFrenzy script I was working on. I had to have 100 pages by today, but I think I have somewhere between 20-25 pages. Why? Why did I fail? I think the sole reason was because I did not work on it constantly. I got myself into a position where if I wrote six pages one day, I felt I could take off the next day and not feel bad, but that was a mistake. Seemingly every day I got home from work I would feel wiped and unable to write. On the weekends when I would shoot for big gains, whatever I produced was marginal due to multiple reasons (which I won’t really dig into here.)

Ultimately, the lesson I learned is that you must write every single day. Any pause and there will be major issues.

I will continue writing it, however, because the idea that I’ve had for this has been in my head for years, ever since middle school. And I think that, as long as I put my butt in the chair and write–even if its only 3-5 pages a day, or less than that–it will work. It’s all about routine. It’s Jerry Seinfeld’s “Don’t Break The Chain” concept. And while to me it seems like a cheap cop-out, I think, after looking back on this, that its the truth.

So I will continue to write and finish this thing, hopefully over the next couple of months. There are already big changes in my life that should help me with that–I’m changing day jobs soon (my current gig is having me bring work home with me and keep it stuffed into my head, which is not fun), and since I recently reinstalled Windows on my home computer (bringing it from the ancient age of XP to the relative modernity of 7) all of my games are gone.

Except for Avernum. Just let me solve that one and I’ll be good, I promise…

#ScriptFrenzy: Day 1

So Script Frenzy–the screenwriting equivalent of National Novel Writing Month–has begun. 100 pages in 30 days. That’s roughly 3 1/3 pages a day. Fortunately, for day one, I wrote six, meaning I am 6% completed.

Yes, yes, I know that you probably can do the math better than I can. I’m just reveling in it, because I know this success probably won’t last much longer. But for now…bed.

Oh, and if you’re wondering, I’m working on the screenplay equivalent of a novella I had been thinking about and sort of worked on since junior high school. Originally, my idea was to write the novella first, get that published, and then try to sell the screenplay so I could then base it off of that (I heard it helped to sell screenplays based on already existing written works), but I’m not sure any more. I can certainly still do that, though, but once I finish this first.

Annoyed by Competitions

So the D.C. Shorts screenplay competition page says the following:

Want to save money on the entry fees?  Enter early to pay the lower fee — then send the materials as late as the material deadline below.

Yet, when you try to do that, there is no option to do so–their submission software, “Withoutabox,” forces you to upload your script immediately, even if its not ready.

It doesn’t seem like there’s an ability to contact them about this either; they just say if you ask them about submission issues they’ll send you a form letter.

Utterly bizarre. Part of it is my fault–I should have been ready earlier–but I was figuring that I could just send in the online application and pay now, then send the script later, thus save about $30. Not so, which makes me think there’s something sleazy about it. I’m sure that’s just my inner paranoid, but still, it bothers me.

Of course I will still submit, though. It’s just I’m going to be paying a bit more.

I Has Competition

I haven’t been posting much here (though I have two or three posts to go through and put up) because I have been very busy with work lately. (I also moved across the river into Virginia, which, by the way, is a really cool place.)

I have been writing, working on my novel, which is completely counter to my predictions for 2012 (in which I published a short story, not a novel. Apparently, my left brain and my right brain are not communicating again. Bummer.) But I have also just joined in the 2012 DC Shorts Screenplay Competition, the capitol’s annual short screenplay, er…competition.

15 pages. Due in about two months and a half months. I think that’s a great deadline, a great goal setter. And the best part is, even if I don’t succeed, I will get great feedback.

The question of course is now, what exactly am I going to be writing. I have the general outlines of an idea (or three), but I’m not sure how to condense that (or them) into a 15 page (which comes to about 15 minutes) short screenplay. This is why I’m terrible at short stories, too–I’m always way too expansive. (Although, from what I’ve been hearing, a lot of new writers aren’t bothering with short stories either, jumping straight into the novelist pool. This may work in my favor. Or not.)

If you’re also interested in the competition, check it out at http://www.dcshorts.com/the-scripts/. Honestly, I’m not worried about extra competition. I’m competing against myself.

If You’re Gonna Do Product Placement, Make It Believable

There’s nothing I hate more than arrogance and people trying to make me feel stupid. Well, actually, I could probably list a dozen more things I hate (procrastination, Republicans, Democrats, crony capitalism, socialism, the lack of giant robots, the high price of…everything…etc.) but those seem a bit more personal to me than other things. Aside from the giant robots. That one is all me.

Increasingly common in TV and film productions these days are product placement, when you see objects that very clearly are a company’s mark in a show. Eureka started doing this in–I think–season three when they had a bunch of extras working at the top-secret research facility wear Degree Mens’ logos on their jumpsuits. That was explained away by the new manager, who argued that they had to have product placement in order to help pay the bills (since their federal funding was cut.) That’s great; although it may seem questionable to have corporate branding and corporate advertising inside a top-secret Area 51 type place, that part was explained away by Eureka‘s tone as a comedy that didn’t take itself too seriously all the time. Secondly, the in-universe explanation tied it into the show, hung a lamp on it (to use some movemaking slang), and really made it feel like it fit and belonged there. It made the show’s universe feel more real.

Then let’s get to my favorite, Fringe. One bit of product placement that turned up a lot last year were Sprint’s new smartphones and their video chat technology (ha, take that, Apple FaceTime! Yeah! Or something like that.) That also wasn’t a problem, because it was quite subtle–just a smartphone with the Sprint logo, and then sometimes they used the video chat. The worst part about it was that the video quality was a bazillion times better than what you will ever get in a billion years (because it was all pre-filmed and then added into the scene in post-production.) Nothing wrong there. Very believable and made the world seem more accurate and deep.

I particularly like this literary technique; I’ve seen it described as “K-mart realism,” where authors will use everyday, mundane objects, products, branding, etc., to make the world they are creating more round and rich and deep and just something that you can believe actually exist. Now, if you work in film or TV, there a multitude of other concerns–namely, corporations can get upset if you use a product in a way that looks badly on the product–but sometimes it works out.

Sometimes, however, it’s just dumb.

In the current season, the Fringe protagonists have been using a Nissan Leaf to get around. Now, I don’t know any current or former FBI agents, but I would be very, very surprised to learn that an FBI agent had a Nissan Leaf as a personal car, let alone using it while on duty to investigate crimes.

(For those who don’t know what a Nissan Leaf is, it is basically a tiny egg-shaped contraption that is powered by an electric motor. It is not a hybrid–it is a completely, 100%, electric vehicle. Top Gear reviewed it and a competitor from Renault, and found it…well, wanting sounds kind of wanting, but it’s also pretty accurate. Basically, they drove it maybe fifty miles, and then had to wait approximately a day before it would charge up to be usable again. Not exactly something an FBI would want to use on the job. Or any human being, for that matter.)

Think about it. What if you had to engage in a car chase? Sure, you might get up to 80…for all of about twenty seconds, before the car’s battery died. And what is up with the journeys between Boston and the Hudson Valley (in New York)? Viewers sort of tolerated the magical two hour journeys between the Big Apple and the Big Dig because it was part of the tradition of dramatic time–that is, time moves as fast or as slow as the narrative demands–but come on, there is no way a Nissan Leaf is going to make it to Boston to Connecticut to some area just south of Albany New York (where the show’s fictional “Reiden Lake” is located) and back again on the casual charging they seem to do. You might be able to travel between universes, create bubbles in time, develop advanced cloning and precognition, and maybe even make chicken parmesean ice cream, but an electric car going that sort of distance? Give. Me. A. Break.

I otherwise have no problems with either Fringe or the Leaf; I will continue to watch and enjoy the show (though this “Alt-SuperTimeline” thing is getting a bit exhausting) and if I end up staying in the DC metro area and not go on any long-distance excursions, I might end up buying a Leaf to avoid emission taxation (which I am sure is coming down the pipeline) and high gas prices, but together, in that way? Oh come on. It just doesn’t mix.

I understand there may be other considerations–maybe they really really need the money–but please, if you’re going place a product, make it at least somewhat believable. We’re not that dumb.

Except the people watching Jersey Shore.

#Breaking: George Lucas Retiring, Pretends he’s Hayden Christensen

Parallel Universe on MSN: George Lucas Blames ‘Star Wars’ Critics for Killing Series.

Sure, George, sure.

Don’t get me wrong. Star Wars is by far the greatest movie/fiction franchise ever created. I am still a Star Wars fan at the end of the day, even if I’m not the nut I used to be. It is absolutely expert blend of science fiction and fantasy, of wonder and excitement, of characters and plot. The mind-boggling simplicity of the original 1977 Star Wars still blows me away (and constantly tells me that I think way too damn much about these things.) It has completely transformed the way we look at the world. Even forty years later, we’re still using its phrases such as “The Force is strong with this one” and making new stormtrooper costumes and reading comic books and making Yoda Soda and on and on ad infinitum. George Lucas created something that redefined not just a generation, but an entire culture. He made a classic–nay, a legend–on par with Camelot, Atlantis, Sherlock Holmes, and Gulliver Travels. He created an entirely new genre for his work.

That still doesn’t excuse the fact that the prequels kinda…sucked.

The two big things for me is the dialogue and some of the acting. The majority of the writing is sound, and while fans can be a little depressed that the Clone Wars weren’t more grand and impressive (basically, they last for two years, kill some Jedi, and that’s about it, and they’re even about clones, they just use ’em) the stories themselves are not bad. The problem is that some of the dialogue is just unbelievably atrocious. Most of that comes from the romantic scenes involving Anakin and Padme (who, by the way, was dating someone 10-15 years younger than her) which, let’s face it, had none of the power of the Leia & Han scenes. And the acting in general was just poor. I don’t know who Lucas hired to be chief of casting, but he should shoot that guy with a Zarnok Butt Blaster and give him a short stint in the spice mines of Kessel. Natalie Portman was decent, and Ewan MacGregor and Liam Neeson were very good, but Hayden Christensen? Maybe he was directed to act that way–in which case, blame comes back around to Lucas–but I didn’t find his acting very good at all. Even the scenes in which he was being a whiner seemed shallow, artificial, and wooden.

That’s definitely not to say that they were the worse movies ever. Far from it. (I think either Manos: The Hands of Fate or Human Centipede have that title.) But they definitely didn’t capture the magic of the original trilogy either, and while I also agree that many times, lightning doesn’t strike twice, I think you could have pulled it off. At least you could have had better actors.

Also, I do think that many of the prequel critics went too far. Episode I: The Phantom Menace, was actually pretty good, even if the funniest character was CGI. Episode II and Episode III were the difficult ones for me, again because of the lousy dialogue and poor acting. Some of the critics I’ve read think these movies belonged in the junk heap in the middle of Mos Eisley. Their rage and animosity reached Coruscanti proportions (have you ever seen the bottom of one of those towers? Didn’t think so) in how George Lucas ruined Star Wars. None of this was really necessary nor warranted. George Lucas is Star Wars, if you haven’t noticed, and that’s just the way its going to be. Deal with it.

But seriously, George, none of that makes up for the fact that the prequels still kinda sucked. And then you made The Clone Wars. And that’s terrible. I don’t care if its being aimed at children, it’s terrible. Thank goodness your staff made it its own canon-level below the movies. I mean, Anakin having his own whiny Padawan? The Mandalorians–you know, Boba Fett’s people*–are all a bunch of pacifists? Why? Yes, yes, it is totally your work–but why?

Oh, and then there was the whole thing where you, like, took the old movies and made them nicer, and we were all like “yay! CGI!” and then you were like “Let’s make Han shoot second” and we were all like “Buh?” and then he replaces the older Anakin Skywalker ghost in Return of the Jedi with Hayden Christensen and we all went “Dude, lame,” and now he’s coming out with all six again in 3-D! and we’re just like “Laugh it up, fuzzball.” Enough is enough, you need to know when to stop tinkering.

I remember an interview George gave several years ago where he claimed that the prequels were supposed to be “the backstory.” Well, Orson Scott Card, writing in The Writer’s Digest Guide to Science Fiction & Fantasy said you don’t write the flippin` backstory, because that’s just background stuff and its not the story! In that case George, you should have never written the prequels. I don’t think that’s actually true, I think George was trying to cover himself in that interview, but if it was…that’s just a bad excuse.

Please, George, for all of our sakes, you could have just retired and that would have been it. You could have just said “I’m tired of making commercial films, I want to make art films now,” and that would be fine. Instead, you say the reason you’re retiring is because the fans complained. Waah, waah, waah. Let me call the waaaaaaaaaahmbulance. See this violin I’m playing (of course you can’t, it’s too small.) Come on, George. Sure, they complained, and maybe it was way over the top, but you opened the freaking blast doors for them.

And besides, you made out at least $4.4 billion on the prequels and merchandising, so don’t tell me that they hate your guts. They paid for it.

Retire if you wish, Mr. Lucas. You have certainly earned the right to do so. You have transformed our society and our culture and given us something to enjoy and cherish for generations. You deserve a salute from all of us, and you also deserve for the majority your critics to shut the hell up for once. You deserve all that and more.

But to say you’re retiring because some fanboys complained about your work–that’s about as bad as being Hayden Christensen in a Jedi robe being schooled by Old Ben. And that’s just lame.

Read the entire interview from the New York Times. It is quite interesting.

*Granted, that wasn’t determined in the movies, that was largely determined by the fandom and later brought into canon, with Mandalorian culture being mostly created by a writer named Karen Traviss. Now there’s a piece of work who deserves some scorn.

EDIT: Actually, if you ever thought the prequels were bad, there’s this new thing out called Star Wars Uncut. Yeaaaaahhhhhh……