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Archive for the ‘Roughly About Films’ Category

The Sincerest Form?

In activity, digital video, fault, film, It Bugs Me, Just Because..., Roughly About Films, Think About It on February 4, 2015 at 9:12 pm

Sometimes I wonder…

Television executives, whoever and whatever they are, keep throwing new series at us.  Something worked once, so they change it slightly, and put it up again.  Cop shows are popular?  See ten or twenty copies come up.  Doctor shows?  All TV is falling sick with exotic diseases.  Private eyes?  You’d think half the population had a license.

And the sad thing?  This is not new.  Sketch comedy shows were big from the late 40’s through the 70’s, with Your Show of Shows, Texaco Star Theater with Milton Berle, The Jack Benny Program, carrying over from radio, Burns and Allen, Garry Moore, Red Skelton, and Carol Burnett… Westerns, once a staple of Saturday matinees in movie theaters, dominated early TV, with shows like Gunsmoke, Have Gun, Will Travel, Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Wagon Train, Wanted: Dead or Alive, The Rebel, Branded, Rawhide, Bonanza, High Chapparal, The Big Valley, and so many more.  Dragnet, another transplant from radio, led the police parade starting in the 1950’s, along with other shows like The Naked City, M Squad, Burke’s Law, and their private eye kin like Hawaiian Eye, Surfside Six, 77 Sunset Strip, and Checkmate,ringing the changes.

For every show I’ve mentioned above, I’m sure there are probably six or seven I’ve missed.

As I said earlier, imitation is a way of life in television… network executives want it “the same, but different“.  Series are sold, premiered, and, if they don’t get traction with an audience immediately, cancelled.  A series getting picked up for a full season’s worth of shows these days is news because of the infrequency of its occurrence.  The trade papers are full of stories of a series getting “the ax” after three episodes aired… and one was even cancelled before its first episode premiered.

Market research, focus groups, “target demographics”, the “Q” rating (a measurement of a performer’s “likeability”), and other quantifications are attempting to objectify the highly subjective field of audience taste.  These methods have been moderately successful, at best, mostly in providing the broadcast and cable networks with a means to set their advertising rates.  The highly coveted “18 to 49 male” demographic, supposedly the group that spends the most money, is the group at which most of the programming is aimed.  (No surprise.)  So, there are action-filled shows, adventure, sports, scantily clad women, and things on the order of “X-Games”, “Wipe-Out”, and “American Ninja Warrior”.

Since research is now showing that females are becoming more of a desirable audience, based on “purchasing power”, we have shows like “The Real Housewives of Wherever”, “The Bachelor/Bachelorette”, and nighttime soap operas which show both men and women in various stages of undress.  This, too, is not new; witness the 70’s and 80’s phenomena of Dallas, Dynasty, and Falcon Crest.  Today it’s Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, Revenge, or True Blood.

This fractionating of the audience because of the proliferation of “new media” has also been going on since the beginning of our perceptions of media… The “legitimate theatre” begat vaudeville, which spun off burlesque… Movies arrived, silent at first, then gaining a voice and raiding theater, vaudeville, and burlesque for talent, as did its main competition, radio.  When television came into view in the 1940’s, the movies, reacting to losing some of their audience, came out with big gimmicks like stereophonic sound, Cinerama, CinemaScope, VistaVision, Techniscope, Technirama, Todd-AO, and other forms of wide-screen panorama projection… Sensurround, Dolby Stereo, THX from Lucasfilm, 5.1 and 7.1 stereo systems, and so much more became the buzzwords buzzing in our heads.

And all of this in the service of putting YOUR entertainment dollars into THEIR pockets.

And what are the net results of all this maneuvering, jockeying for position, and technical innovation?

I think one song sums it up… “500 Channels and Nothing’s On”.  In my opinion, there is precious little worth anyone’s time out there… and even with the growing trend of “rolling your own” with the now-ubiquitous portable video recording and editing equipment, which also started back at the beginning of movies with home cameras and projectors, is not a guarantee of anything worth watching.  (Think about it… the most popular things to see on the Internet are cat videos and pornography.)  The taste of audiences is a fickle thing; rapidly shifting, difficult to pin down.

It always was.

So, I still wonder…

Television (Or The Lack Thereof…)

In digital video, film, Just Because..., Roughly About Films on August 9, 2013 at 8:52 pm

Somewhere in the world, among the reputed two thousand channels of program material on broadcast television, cable networks, low-power TV, and net-based programs, there may well be a good, engaging, intelligent, well-written show that doesn’t insult your intelligence, use stereotypes for a cheap laugh, or act patronizingly toward any religious group, ethnic community, race, demographic, or geographic region.
There may be. But don’t hold your breath waiting for it.
The closest thing I’ve found to acceptable television so far is shown on PBS. The latest adaptation of The 39 Steps, the original book by John Buchan written in 1915, starring no one I’ve ever heard of, was almost 90 minutes of suspense, surprise, flashes of wit, romance, and strongly constructed story. Alfred Hitchcock’s film of the book in 1935 ventured farther afield, but this was taut, lean, and cut to the bone.
To date, the only series television that’s met that criterion in my opinion (and mine is the only one that counts, since it’s my blog) consists of these shows:

  • Elementary
  • Castle*
  • Inspector Lewis
  • Endeavour
  • Agatha Christie’s Poirot

Elementary, being an updating of Sherlock Holmes to New York in the current time, with a female Watson, is cerebral without being stultifying, quirky without being ridiculous, and constantly surprises me about the depths that Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu find in their characters. If it keeps up the way it has been, it is in line to become my new favorite.
Castle, which is coming back, much to the surprise of both of myself and my wife, since we’d heard that this would be the final season, has had a dynamic run, with Nathan Fillion showing his range and versatility in the role of Richard Castle, but there is always the problem of the possibility of the sexual tension developed over the previous seasons lessening since Castle and Beckett have been together. {If you haven’t heard this yet, I’m sorry for the spoiler.} I hope that they can find a way to keep things going. But I won’t hold my breath.
Inspector Lewis, an ongoing detective series set in and around Oxford, England, with characters carried over from the previous series Inspector Morse, has proven to be intelligent, gripping, and brutal at times, without being gory like any of the CSI shows. I wonder why it is that British TV has the ability to produce such gems, where we produce dreck like Two Broke Girls?
Endeavour (I give the title its British spelling, since that’s how it was billed) chronicles the early adventures of Inspector Morse when he was newly promoted to Detective Constable in the 1960’s. It was only four episodes, but these four were jam-packed with detail, rational ratiocination (in case you didn’t know, it means the process of logical reasoning from a beginning to a conclusion), and backstory of the character of Morse before the original series broadcasts.
Agatha Christie’s Poirot, starring David Suchet as the Belgian sleuth, has been around for thirteen seasons, including some just recently filmed and broadcast on the BBC. I find it to be a thoroughly enjoyable viewing experience.
Other than these shows, I don’t really see any “appointment television” out there. This may be a personal failing on my part, but so be it.
About all I can see to look forward to is Agents of SHIELD on Tuesday nights starting in September. If Joss Whedon’s touch is still magic, we just may have a shiny thing here. (Can you tell I’m a mighty Firefly fan?)
Until sometime again…

Motor City Comic Con ’13 – A View From the Peanut Gallery

In Just Because..., Roughly About Films, shoot, writing on May 23, 2013 at 10:20 pm

About a week ago, as I write this, at the dirigible hangar they call the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, Motor City Comic Con’s 2013 iteration went down. We were there to sell things at Megan’s artist table, and I was trying to get some footage for my documentary, The Costuming Mind. I got a fair bit of b-roll, and some good stills. (The footage is currently being edited.)
There were a goodly number of costumes out there, and some were really phenomenal.
100_0271

100_0259

I took a fair number of stills, shot a couple of interviews, and shot a good bit of B-roll footage. I think that I can help the footage I took already for the documentary plan.

We shall see what we shall see…100_0273

The Oscars Are Coming! The Oscars Are Coming!

In activity, blogging, film, Film and Related, Just Because..., Roughly About Films, writing on February 22, 2013 at 3:35 pm

On Sunday evening, at about 4:00 PM Pacific Standard Time, which is about 7:00 PM here in Detroit, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will present the 85th Academy Awards® at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood.
Back in the mists of time, when I was just a youngster, the show was the ultimate in what I wanted to do, and where I wanted to be one day. Now, after several decades, and roadblocks galore, I find myself no closer to that goal than I ever was.
The only thing in my way now is myself; I have learned the technical tricks to get a film made, and some of the ways to promote it so it’s seen. I have the tools, I (supposedly) have the talent, but it remains to be seen if I have the WILL.
Could I win an Oscar®? Sure. Anything can happen; events have proven this over the years.
Will I? That will depend entirely on whether or not I can get the motivation together to get out and DO something.
To DO… or not to do…
THAT is the problem.
*
More later…

Detroit FanFare 2012

In Just Because..., Roughly About Films on October 27, 2012 at 4:12 pm

Yesterday was the first day of Detroit FanFare 2012, one of the local comic book and toy conventions.  We went to see what it would be like, since it was at the New Name Coming Soon Hotel, formerly known as the Dearborn Hyatt Regency Hotel.

Megan and I compared how this was run compared to many of the science fiction conventions we’d been to, and it compared quite favorably.  It was well organized, seemed to be adequately staffed, and laid out well and thoughtfully.

I voted! Did you?

Many people we knew were there, and we circulated and had fun for as long as we stayed.

Megan patriotic

I glow, rotate, and vote, too!

There will be more, including videos, soon…

The Nuances of The Tentpole

In Film and Related, Just Because..., Roughly About Films on September 28, 2012 at 8:34 pm

This past Tuesday, Paramount and Marvel/Disney released The Avengers on DVD and Blu-Ray™.  We got it the first day… which we had not intended to do… because of a local supermarket’s advertised special.  We bought the DVD… because we don’t do Blu-Ray™.

Now I can get behind the concept of saving special features for the pricier release, but the dearth of additional things on the DVD release is disheartening.  If it would have necessitated an extra DVD for the extended features, I would have paid the additional cost.

But I didn’t have the chance to.

Be that as it may, that subject is not the main reason for this post…

In the debate between seeing a movie in a theater as opposed to at home, there are advantages and disadvantages to both alternatives… In a theater, the picture is bigger than even a bleeding-edge HDTV monitor, the sound is balanced to the theater space itself, and the volume can be set as high as necessary to get the full “surround-sound” effect… Disadvantages of the theater space is the lag between a funny line and the laugh that follows it can wipe out the reaction immediately after, especially with a really subtle follow-up.

Let us examine the follow-up in The Avengers to the confrontation between Loki and The Hulk… after the manhandling of Loki by Hulk, and Hulk walks off grumbling “Puny god,” the theater exploded in laughter.

The laughter drowned out the subtle “capper”… as the camera holds on Loki, laying there, having been smashed like a limp dishrag by Hulk, Loki quietly whimpers in pain.

Unobtrusive… underplayed… totally missed by the audience laughing uproariously at the big joke before it.  But when you hear the capper, the whimpering, it adds another layer to the mosaic.

You can get one level of experience at the theater… and an additional layer, more dimensions of experience, with the home viewing option.

I feel that the two synergistic, complementary levels, provide an additive experience.

But, then again, that’s just me…

They Don’t Know Jack…

In It Bugs Me, Just Because..., Roughly About Films on September 17, 2012 at 9:00 pm

The leader of Hezbollah has been crying that the United States should pass laws to quash the piece of trash video that some hack Coptic Christian made, making fun of the prophet Muhammad, calling him a womanizer and a pedophile.

This shows an absolute lack of knowledge of the American way of doing things.  The government has absolutely no input as to who can make a film, or write a book, or post to the Internet… they also have no jurisdiction over the Internet, except as to the violation of copyright.

The people in the Middle East who assume (a mistake) that nothing can be made or publicized without the consent of the government do not understand democracy or free speech.  They have NOTHING to say about it, unless it violates a law of the United States.  And no law can be passed by Congress that criminalizes something retroactively; this is the “ex post facto” clause.

These people seem to think that we operate under the same sort of restrictions as their authoritarian governments that disappeared in the dawning of the “Arab Spring”. They are completely surprised and disbelieving that we could live in such anarchy; they don’t seem to realize that we not only expect it, we glory in it.  The unrestricted nature of our creative society, the pride in the lack of controls, is a uniquely American thing… something we tend to take for granted, but is unique in the world.

We are free to speak as we will… we can disrespect officials of our own government, heads of religions, blaspheme against our own god, other people’s gods, or what those who profess atheism hold sacred.  We can ridicule our own beliefs, other people’s beliefs, or anything else that strikes our fancy.

We can tell the leader of Hezbollah to go take a long walk off a short pier… we can tell the people of Egypt, Lebanon, Yemen, and the other places having a cow to take a flying leap at a rolling donut.  Our government has no control over creative people… thank Ghu, Foo, Roscoe, and whoever else.

I am just sick and tired of it.

A Shot In The Dark…

In Film and Related, It Bugs Me, Just Because..., Roughly About Films on September 1, 2012 at 11:42 pm

Let’s begin at the (putative) beginning…

Since getting out of university this past May, I have been trying to motivate myself to write something I think is worth shooting, and shoot something I think is worth showing.

As you may infer from the previous statement, those attempts have proven to be less than fruitful.  It’s been four months, and I’m not happy about this.

I have images of wonderful scenes flitting through my consciousness, but they aren’t really amenable to being knit together into a coherent whole.  I have characters developing in the “stewpot” on my mental “back burner”, but no situations they’re suitable for.  And I have situations that would fuel a gripping, suspenseful movie, but no characters other than one-and-a-half-dimensional placeholders to work with.

‘Tis a puzzlement, to be sure.

Did my time at university sap my creative “juice”?  Did being forced to write their way render me unable to write my way?  Or is there another explanation I’m just not seeing?

Stay tuned… the adventure continues.

Is It Just Me?

In It Bugs Me, Just Because..., Roughly About Films on July 22, 2012 at 3:55 pm

This being Sunday, our normal routine is to read the paper, watch our favorite Sunday morning program (CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood), eat a leisurely breakfast, get the trash out of the house for Monday collection, and generally ruminate about the week gone by, and the plan for the week to come.

(Such plans, as you may have guessed, rarely survive first contact with reality.  Such is the way things go…)

Yesterday, we were one of a group of vendors at a comic, toy, and collectibles show not that far from us.  The sales were lackluster, but we made good contacts and had interesting conversations with people, and that makes up for quite a bit.  We all agreed that the events in Aurora on Friday cast us (as people “out of the mainstream”) in a bad light.

We wear costumes.  For the most part, we’re not interested in “real” things, like sports, cars, and girls/boys.  We aim for Man to reach the Moon once more, to move on to Mars, and perhaps then, to the stars themselves.

And they laugh at us, call us “geeks”, “nerds”, “losers”, and the like.  The mainstreamers, the “norms”, as My Beautiful Wife called them, hold someone who can throw or catch or hit a ball in higher esteem than most politicians.

Is it just me, or is the priority system of society bass-ackwards from how it should be? The intelligent, the imaginative, the ones who will, more often than not, formulate, or develop, or write the code for, or design what our future will look like, more than likely be the ones who were ostracized or laughed at as a “geek”, a “nerd”, a “loser”, or a “misfit”.  The jocks, or their toadies, the “jock-sniffers”, will quite often be the frustrated, helpless-feeling middle managers, mired in the muck of corporate life, hating where they are, but unable or unwilling to  strike out on their own to try something they want to do.

I feel sad, and angry, and helpless, and wanting to do something… anything… to bring this madness to an end.  I want to make someone see as I see… feel as I feel… so they can know at least a small part of what I know.

Words can be so inadequate… and moving pictures, the same.  But, absent telepathy, we have no better ways to do it.

So we just keep on muddling through…

Night of the Dark Knight

In It Bugs Me, Just Because..., Roughly About Films on July 21, 2012 at 10:23 pm

Yesterday, the 43rd anniversary of one of the most significant events of human history, the landing on the Moon by Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, was also the night some mentally ill person made his stab at immortality by gunning down seventy one people in a theater in Aurora, Colorado, outside Denver.

This person, whose name escapes me at the moment (so much for immortality), took an assault rifle, a shotgun, and two .40 caliber Glock pistols, and began shooting anything that moved.  He ensured that people would move by throwing tear gas grenades before beginning his fire pattern.

Apparently, from the news reports I heard before I went to bed last night, the shooter had been a student at the University of Colorado Medical School, going for a Ph.D. in neurosciences, and had flunked out.  This was apparently the first time he hadn’t been able to deal with coursework, being an intelligent young man.

This, in the opinion of people I respect, could have led to the dissociation with reality that allowed him to shoot men, women, and children with no consequences to his conscience, for they became not human beings to him, but “the enemy”, the faceless, nameless, numberless horde that was actively opposing and oppressing him.  It was also pointed out, and I agree with the assertion, that the Virginia Tech shooter was a similar case – a young male, intelligent, and used to breezing through, who ended up flunking out, and it pushed him over the edge.

In my opinion (and I will not assert that my opinion holds any special weight), any attempt to blame Warner Brothers Pictures, Christopher Nolan, or The Dark Knight Rises for the actions of this deranged individual is mistaken, ill-advised, and a tactic worthy of Joseph R. McCarthy at his most despicable.  If it had not been The Dark Knight Rises that set this individual off, it would have been something else.  We do not know, can not know, what was in this person’s psyche that made him susceptible to such a mindset, but we can see with blinding clarity the results.

To join Edward R. Murrow in quoting Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar… “The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars but in ourselves.”  We ourselves do not know if there are circumstances which would turn us into murderous animals, killing with a frozen rictus on our faces, the glint of madness in our eyes.  My conclusion?  I believe there is… but the exact trigger necessary to drive us past the point of no return varies with the twists and turns of each individual’s psyche.

If we never experience these stresses, these tipping points, then we are so much the better for not having had them.  I believe this wholeheartedly.

We are all too fragile, more so than we even suspect, and those stresses, those shocks to our systems, are better off remaining hypothetical.

Not the most enjoyable thing I’ve written… but, unfortunately, one of the more necessary.

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