Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Quote of the Week.

"There's only two places where the laws of the universe randomly change for no reason in the middle of a story, and that is a dream or a David Lynch movie, neither of which anyone really wants to watch."

- Christina H,

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Amazine Spider-man. A Review.

Let's get this out of the way: I was a huge fan of the original Spidey trilogy and truly felt Tobey Macguire captured the essense of the early Peter Parker. I felt a reboot was unecessary and a slap in the face, motivated more by Paramount's need to get another film released before they lost the licensing. I never planned to see the film, but my wife and a free ticket could not be denied.

I went into the theater fully expecting to hate the movie as much as I'd hated "The Dark Knight" four years previous. It had all the earmarks of the kind of film I hate: A too-soon reboot, a pretty boy teen dream as its star, and an attempt to darken the franchise because nobody seems to think any other kind of superhero film is valid anymore.

Thus we return once more to Spidey's origins, this time with a sub-plot involving his parents and their mysterious disappearance. That's one of a few storylines that fails to pay off in this movie, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

This Peter Parker grew up in the post-Grunge ear, so he's emo as all hell and, despite his looks and rock star build, is a social outcast. Also, unlike the Peter of early comics lore, he's not a "milksop." When he sees school bully Flash Thompson kicking the snot out of some kid, he leaps to his defense and refuses to photogaph it. One would think he'd want to get some evidence, but that would make sense and prevent Parker from also getting his ass handed to him.

This Spidey film follows the love story more closely to the comics. Gwen Stacey, she of the yellow bangs and short skirts, was Pete's first love, not Mary Jane. Not to spoil the future, but she's also the second person he's unable to save from a horrific death, but that doesn't happen in this movie. Gwen is also a genius science student who works for Curt Connors, the scientist all true Spidey fans know is the bad guy in the movie as soon as they hear his name or see he only has one arm.

The stage for intrigue is set when Pete finds his dad's old attache case and runs across some files with long equations. When he sneaks into the Oscorp building to meet with Connors, all the sets fall into place and we got us a Spiderman movie.


Part of the problem lies in inferior casting choices. Sally Field is a great actress, one of our finest, but she's more miscast here than ever as Aunt May. She and Martin sheen, whose Uncle Ben is excellent, also have zero on-screen chemistry. Then there's the husky-voiced Emma Stone as Gwen Stacey. She's not at all a bad actress but she often seems to be in a different movie until the final act.  The choice of Welsh actor Rhys Ifans as Connors is an odd once that has mixed results. As he changes from the good-natured humanist into the insane creature, his scenery chewing is sometimes painful to sit through.

That brings us to Andrew Garfield. How is he? Not bad, actually. His Peter Parker isn't the one from the previous films anymore than Christian Bale's growling Batman is the same as Michael Keaton's more refined version. As Parker, Garfield is effective, although it's obvious at times he's acting. As Spidey, he's a mixed bag of nuts.

Sam Raimi and MaGuire wisely chose not to have Sidey wisecrack too much while this film tries to show-horn in the one-liners. Garfield is not up to the challenge. His delivery is forced and the lines aren't very good. And perhaps that's the fault of the screenwriters. The dialogue in this installment is nowhere near the level of, for instance, Michael Chabon's in Spiderman 2.

That brings us to the visuals and effects. Frankly, they're lacking. The Spiderman suit...OY! I just became Yiddish to express how ugly it is. Then there are the webs. Whoever designed the effects for those should be backlisted. It's absolutely terrible. Not only do they look fake, but half the time they don't even seem to be coming from Spidey's web-shooters! They just appear on the screen.  And the Lizard looks as fake as the Scorpion King from ten years ago.

Director Mark Webb has nowhere near the action sensibilities of prevoius director Sam Raimi. The fight scenes are paint-by-numbers and uninspired and the webswining scenes, so effective in the other films, seems functional and serviceable in this one.

Bottom line, I didn't care as much what happened to anyone in this film as I did the originals. Dramatic misfires such as the way Uncle Ben dies like a bad-ass vigilante or the lack of closure on Pete's parents and the man who killed his uncle just make the movie feel incomplete. The epilogue during the credits backs that up.

All in all, it was a decent effort that would have been much better with the original creative team involved. I'd see a sequel, but much like Batman Begins, I might hate the second one to the point where the entire franchise is ruined permanently.

At least it was free~

Monday, July 16, 2012

Why a Writer’s Conference?

In this age of self-starters connected via social media to the entire industrialized world with the ability to self-publish through sites like Amazon and LuLu, many wonder why the older way of doing things, namely conferences, are even necessary. We’ll answer that question with another question:

Have you seen what the majority of writers who think they can go it alone produce?

At the risk of offending the self-publishing movement, (a.k.a. the “Indie writer” movement) there are no mythical “Gate-keepers” attempting to prevent new talent from thriving. On the contrary, the publishing industry thrives on new talent.

Are there close-minded publishers and editors out there? Absolutely. They’re human beings, not evil, inter-dimensional snobs bent on preventing the free flow of ideas. There’s often a legitimate reason your story or novel was rejected. The concept of letting work that isn’t up to snuff through the supposed “gates” so “the people can discover it” is just an endorsement of laziness.

This is not to say all self-published writers turn out an inferior product. Some well-known traditionally published writers have turned to self-publishing their more controversial work, such as award-winning science fiction author Norman Spinrad. However, without professional involvement and input, the likelihood of not reaching one’s potential is vastly increased.

If you chose to become a surgeon, you wouldn’t (we hope!) buy a bunch of books on the type of surgery you found most interesting, absorb them and start cutting into someone. Why should writing be any different?

The answer, of course, is it shouldn’t. Writer’s conferences are there to help you, to guide you, and to ultimately provide for you a venue in which you can thrive while learning. Sitting in your home office uploading files can never substitute for that experience!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Quick Thought on Audio Books.

Some people consider themselves having actually read a book if they listened to its unabridged audio adaptation. I don't, but I can see their point as a valid one even I don't think it qualifies as actually reading.

Much like what Roger Ebert said when digital film was first on the rise, I'm not sure the brain processes the information the same way. In fact, I don't believe it does. Still, that doesn't mean I don't enjoy the occasional audio book. I just tend to listen to the ones I've already read.

That brings me to quality. Too often the chosen reader is quite terrible. I remember back when my mom was still alive and experiencing difficulty holding books due to her advanced Diabetic Neuropathy. I bought her scores of audio Star Trek adventures, most of them abridged and read by some cast member or another. They were excellently done, but they were the exception.

Disqualifying dramatized audio books that have full casts in them, which my friend and colleague P.S. Ramsey absolutely despises and I happen to adore, a straight read-through of a novel is a precarious thing, especially when the reader is selected to read a famous, well-loved work. I submit the ridiculously awful selection of Ethan Hawke to read Vonnegut's Slaughter-House Five.

Don't get me wrong; I respect the hell out of Ethan Hawke. I like his politics, his acting and, while I've never had occasion to read it, I hear his writing is also quite good. But his reading of Vonnegut's seminal masterpiece is painfully dreadful.

Maybe it's me, but Vonnegut's work tends to havea certain up, clipped tonality to it, does it not? His sparse prose and blunt phrasing lend themselves to an almost gleeful celebration of the mundane and inhumane. Yet Hawke reads it as if he's auditoning for the narration of "Apocalypse Now." He sounds tired, withdrawn, sleepy, even hungover.

Naturally, if I'd never read the novel I'd have no idea what cadence to expect, and for those weirdoes who still haven't read Slaughter-House Five, I suppose that makes his reading just fine and dandy.

For a fan of the book, however, the entire appeal of the narrative is wrecked beyond all recognition. There are few really good readers of audio books in the business. Most of Stephen King's books are exceptionally well-read, including those read the by the author himself.

"Exceptionally" is the operative word, however.

I've been told I'll be reading my own "Dreamers at Infinity's Core" someday in the near future for downloadable audio. I will, of course, read it the way it's supposed to sound and nail ever nuance and stand-out moment.

Be kind~