Archive for the ‘Rants’ Category

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A request

September 18, 2016

It is not about driving hither and fro

It is about idling the car

Waiting

Or looking at your phone

For minutes

Or tens of minutes

Two hundred horses

Jumping up and down

Endlessly

Doing nothing

Farting continuously

Please

Turn off your car while you sit

I promise

The car will still start when it is time to go

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Movie Thursday

July 28, 2016

The Nerdwriter just posted a video that’s a great continuation/compliment of my post last Thursday about the lack of good storytelling in many films today.  He uses moments vs scenes as his breakdown, and I think its a good one:

“Pictures hung on a clothesline” is how I describe the feeling of disjointed and gratuitous (usually action) sequences that are strung together in the most threadbare of manners.  Nerdwriter’s focus on moments really puts it down to a point, and is similar to what the HULK spoke about where the director’s sole aim and focus is on affectation.

It’s not that the visuals, or that the moments, aren’t necessarily good as they are meaningless.

Without the scenes, without the narrative, without good storytelling, there’s nothing to engage with, to be a part of, and to embody.

And that is what I find most unfortunate.

And that is why I strike this rallying cry for recapturing the skill of storytelling.

The term “motion picture” doesn’t have to just mean that the image onscreen is changing. With good storytelling, the motion is what happens inside of us, both inside, and outside, of the theatre.

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Movie Thursday

July 21, 2016

Storytelling.  Or, rather, the lack thereof.

I’ve been bemoaning the lack of good storytelling in most new movies for a number of years.  I’ve even taken to calling it a lost or threatened art.  There’s a lot I pile under the general umbrella of storytelling, including characterization, narrative flow, meaningful development and impact, engagement, depth and levels and layers… but it can also be boiled down to “the way a story grips you and engages you.”  Good storytelling can take the most simplest of plots and have you so hooked you’re enthralled the whole way through.  On the other end, however, it kills me when I watch a movie that has a very interesting premise, interesting ideas, and even interesting sequences and moments, a plot rich with potential… and it falls flat by a lack of good storytelling and leaves me feeling hollow in the end.

And sometimes there’s that really weird feeling where I leave the theatre having been entertained, but every step away from the theatre and the enjoyment fades.  The movie ends up being poor (or worse, abysmal), and I’m not left with a sense of anything.  Of intensity, of character, of growth, of engagement.  Or even of a good narrative.   And definitively no desire to see it again.  And yet… in the moment… it was kinda… fine?  Like sugar water;  sweet, but no substance.

It seemed like a dichotomy… could a poorly told story really be so ok in the moment?

Well, HULK to the rescue to help clarify those odd feelings.  And to write absolutely brilliantly in deconstructing what seems to be the trend in Hollywood these days, of how many of the big name directors and the big studios have, either inadvertently or advertently, misdirected themselves and have actually lost the thread that makes great stories, well, GREAT.

It’s a long read, and it’s all in CAPS since it’s written by the HULK, and it’s actually his review of The Force Awakens (a movie that also made me somewhat insane).  And it’s written with dexterity and carefulness and consideration and a wonderful depth that you might not expect from the HULK.  It’s completely worth the read:

http://birthmoviesdeath.com/2016/06/28/star-wars-the-force-alluded-to

There’s so much good stuff in there .  Very much aligns with my own thoughts, and great for teasing them out in a way and in ways I hadn’t yet noticed or been able to pinpoint.

I don’t think it is an accidental choice of words when we say a good story is “spinning a yarn”.  Because, like yarn, there are many threads that are beautifully woven together.  Really well told stories are full of characters versus just a bunch of caricatures, and characters who act, consistently, in line with who they are.  They can be rich, they interact authentically, and they grow.  A really well told story has a solid narrative (not plot, but the actual narrative) that has connective tissue that engages and flows, rather than a series of moments or action moments hung up on a clothesline.   A really well told story says something.

And it’s not a matter of whether it’s an “action” movie or a “comedy” movie versus a “serious” movie.  That’s just an excuse to justify a badly made story/movie.  Because you can absolutely, 100%, have great action movies that are also strong in the storytelling department.  You can have tense action in a sci-fi movie, as this poster on Ars Techica put it:

“The [recent Star Trek reboot] movies haven’t been sci-fi. They’ve been action movies in space. That’s not what Trek is about. Wrath of Khan managed to get some exciting space battles in while still getting at the morality of not one or two but THREE dilemmas brought about by science: Khan’s genetically modified superhuman abilities, the potential for abuse of the Genesis Project, and not keeping an eye on the madman you left behind in an uninhabited star system. Separate from that, it dealt with the concepts of sacrifice and friendship and where they cross.”

This is just one more thing that has me loving Zootopia all that much more.  At its basic level, it has an interesting plot (bunny cop trying to prove herself has to team up with a con fox while a conspiracy brews underneath).  But it’s the storytelling that truly elevate the movie sky high.  A narrative about hidden bias.  Two rich, flawed, complex characters who interact authentically, consistent with their characters, along an arc, and who, very importantly, by the end, grow as individuals and together.  The scenes progress seamlessly, are interwoven well, and rarely devolve into being used solely for action/excitement/scare/laughs.  It’s a tight package.

And best of all, it’s in that category that most often gets so easily excused for poor storytelling:  “Oh, it’s just a kids movie.”

There is no reason a movie that appeals to kids cannot also be an amazing story told amazingly.  Miyazaki, Pixar and, when they do movies like Zootopia, Disney has shown us it can be done.   And very well.

I know to some I may seem harsh or snobbish when it comes to movies, but I am not willing to excuse a lack of good storytelling when it’s demonstratively possible.  I don’t say it’s easy – not by a long shot!  I’ve written fiction and it takes time and practice to develop the skill.  And even the best studios and directors and writers stumble.  But it is developable.  Also, not every story has to be or will be the most amazing story ever.  A solid fair is still really darn good.

This is really a long winded post to just invite you to read that article by the HULK.  It hones in on what makes so many movies disappointing and hollow, and I hope we can aim the movie producers back towards a sensitivity and understanding of good storytelling, so that they re-aim their efforts towards that rich and fertile land.

Storytelling is one of the most ingrained and human of our qualities.  We need to honour it.

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#elxn42

October 10, 2015

“I don’t vote because my vote doesn’t matter.”

It seems like that sometimes, doesn’t it?

But you know what? There are some powerful influences that are trying very hard to create that feeling.

They like it when you don’t vote. They know how to play the game as it is, the game where few people vote. They can control that. They get to win every time.

And so they do all they can to keep the feeling that the everyday person’s vote doesn’t really make any difference.

But here’s the thing.

They wouldn’t know how to deal with a lot of voters.

Sure, one of these current parties will still win. And they may not be all we want them to be.*

But when the voices have grown loud, they will listen.

And through that voice, we can have them turn to be who we want them to be.

I’ve seen it in California, where well heeled and well backed and very moneyed campaigns and referenda have fallen to the power of the pencil.

If you want to scare the living crap out of those in power, there’s one thing to do. Go to the polls in droves, and vote.

If you are a young voter, maybe a first time voter, I (and Rick Mercer!) invite you especially to vote.

It may seem intimidating, but the process of voting is very easy, secure, and empowering.

You will want to be informed, and there is a bit of a ramp-up to get familiar with the parties and the candidates, and to learn about what policies they have implemented, and they are proposing. And some time to think about what effects those policies have.

But it isn’t as long or daunting as those who enjoy their control make it out to be.

Even this late in the campaign, it’s still very doable.

That you’ll examine what they’re doing, and then speak up about it, is what keeps the powers that be up at night.

So let’s claim our voice.

 

* – Sure, sometimes it can feel like voting for the lesser of three evils, yet, remember that if you don’t vote, and evil wins, then that means you essentially voted for evil.

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Drought 4: The Droughtening

March 6, 2015

With the recent snowpack measurements reporting that the Sierra snowpack is now at 19% of multi-decade averages – some areas are down as low as 5% of average – it’s pretty clear we here in California are headed for our fourth year of severe drought. Which, while nasty sounding on its own, doesn’t actually tell the whole picture of how 11 of the past 15 years have been abnormally dry. If you look at a drought map of California, it’s almost funny with the map pretty much covered in its entirety in colours representing “holy crap dry” to “oh gods the abyss has invaded.”

I can’t help think about Australia here, and how they ended their decade of droughts: they legislated an end to them. With a stroke of a pen, they ceased having a drought. No water fell from the sky, of course; a drought is just a drought based on some past average. They realized, this isn’t an anomaly – this is the new normal.

Welcome to the new normal.

I think we’ve been hiding and hoping and praying that this will shift, this will change, as though all the signs are somehow wrong and we’re just fine, thankyouverymuch. But we have made our bed, and now we need to lie in it. Or, rather, stand up and face it. We can take steps to aid in removing that which is propelling this climate shift forward, and, moreso, we need to re-visit our water use policies in this state. I’m talking about more than just not watering lawns, I’m talking about the byzantinian gaggle of water “rights” that bleed rivers dry to flood irrigate fields (where it happily evaporates mostly away) amongst other things, the irresponsible drilling that is depleting aquifers faster than a soda at a diner, and the fouling of water through poor industrial use and other runoff.

I invite everyone to this new challenge. We’re all needed to get behind this, push for altering the “normal/conventional” way of doing things (from our stores to our manufacturers to our habits to beyond) and make a dent now. Look, choose, and talk.

There’s possibility in them thar hills, if we take the actions to seize it.

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Supreme Error

December 8, 2013

Late Friday afternoon, likely trying to slip it under the radar (it is the prime time any administration tries to bury something it doesn’t want known), the Canadian Environment Minister (a misnomer, I would say in this case) approved a huge expansion to one of Shell’s tarsands operations in Alberta – approved it despite even admitting it would “cause significant adverse environmental effects.”

The ministry’s report concluded the project would result in severe and irreversible damage, including the permanent loss of thousands of hectares of wetlands, harming migratory birds, multiple wildlife species, and wiping out “traditional plants used for generations.”  Continuing, it expressed doubt at any potential for mitigation, and that impacts would likely approach levels that the environment couldn’t support.

For an administration that has sought to discredit science in any form and muzzle its scientists, this is a pretty surprising disclosure.

However, the expansion was labeled “justified in the circumstances.”

Pardon me, but I am baffled?  “Justified”?  By what measure?  By what circumstances?  Note that this report may only be noting the destruction of the immediate area of the expansion, I’m not sure if it even takes into consideration the huge depletion of freshwater resources, the impact and danger of long-term tailings ponds and runoff, and the immense energy and emissions required to access and process the tar, and the dangers of shipping it across yet more of the rapidly dwindling lungs of the planet in the form of our wilderness areas… and even without that consideration I’m at a loss for a justification to strip mine and poison an area that approaches the size of the City of San Francisco.  And this is just one project.

Equally galling to me is that beyond this bizarre logic the minister is acting without even keeping her own agreements.  The ministry promised to give a 35-day stay to approval to the local population (out of a request for 90) to work through the concerns of safety and long term impact.  They didn’t even wait until the 35 days were up.  They just said, “Tough luck, we’re doing it.”

I strongly assert this is a wrongheaded move in so many ways.  Please join me in taking action.  Additionally, consider supporting:  National Resources Defence Council –  Earthjustice –  Sierra Club of Canada.

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Movie Pontifications

July 21, 2013

Several weeks ago I saw one sequel, one reboot, and a sequel to a reboot – Iron Man 3, Man of Steel, and ST: Into Darkness.  Quick thoughts about each and an overall discourse to follow…

Spoilers! Read the rest of this entry ?