Choosing To Fail

I think the idea that we live in a meritocracy where you can bootstrap yourself into any role you like and thrive (e.g. the rugged American individualist cowboy trope) does us more harm than good. It reframes hard working people who are failing due to forces beyond their control as not working hard enough. As opposed to, they need the help that we’ve all received at one time or another to get to our relative successes and now it’s our turn to be the helper… but they should be able to help themselves, right?
I’ve been pondering this after watching a heart rending documentary short on people in North Carolina who are totally willing to work but live in an area where there are literally no jobs. They hang on like the dream’s going to come back. This was a few weeks prior to the election. If I can find a link to it I’ll add it here. Well afterwards I wondered why they didn’t relocate (choices: eat OR stay in ancestral home) and what we could be doing to help them… but tellingly one of the interviewees said this, and with great pride, “I’ve never accepted welfare or anything!” – it’s not explained why he feels that way but in other statements he’s expecting the government to “invest in infrastructure” so he can have meaningful work and support himself in the future… yet he’s declining the financial support that he’s paid into via his taxes that would allow him to either survive long enough to see that or to relocate to get work right now? How do you help someone like that?

REVIEW Color Me Obsessed: A Film About The Replacements (2011)

Color Me Obsessed: A Film About The Replacements (2011)

Sigh. Oh, heavy sigh.
The original movie concept was to include lots of music and this production has absolutely zero. Although I really like the interviews as a means of comprehensively relating the band’s history it would’ve been nice to have integrated song clips when songs are called out. Also, interviews with The Replacements would’ve been awesome.

From IMDB:

While Hansi Oppenheimer came up with the original idea to do a fan-based film about The Replacements, her film included the band’s music, photos and video clips. Once director Gorman Bechard took over the production, he used none of Oppenheimer’s footage and completely started over from scratch, keeping only the film’s name and the concept of interviewing fans. And in pure Replacements fashion, he also tossed aside the idea of using any music, photos or clips of the band and decided that the film would now be a serious look at the band’s history from start to finish, as well as a study of how the right band can change one’s life, as seen solely through the eyes of not only fans, but critics, contemporaries, and those influenced by The Replacements. There is no music in the film, nor are there any interviews with the band members, or any clips of live performances, solely because Bechard wanted none in the film. That a music doc without music had never been made is what truly excited the director about the project.

Clearly this was on track to be as great as the recent Bob Marley doc but the expectation that Answering Machine, Bastards of Young (with real official music video!), or I Will Dare is going to kick in never gets fulfilled. Should I be glad that a documentary got made at all? Will this band ever get justice?

Hollywood – Do You Owe The Fans Or The People Who Haven’t Read The Book?

I don’t work in Hollywood. I doubt I ever could because I don’t deal well with the reality of compromising your “artistic vision” or having to cater to the lowest common denominator as a trade to make your bones to get the project you really want. I do get that it’s a money game first and foremost and more and more the big revenue market is overseas.

I watched The Hunger Games a few nights ago. I haven’t read the books but a friend whose a fan of them and saw it at the theater said it met his expectations. This friend and I have since learned we’re kinda at opposite ends of the spectrum on expectations. His may be far more realistic… but here we go anyway! 🙂

I repeat, I haven’t read the book but I knew vaguely what it was about and was expecting the controversial kid-on-kid violence. I find rape scenes (try Irreversible) a lot tougher to handle then human-on-human fight-violence. In any case it’s fictional. From a clean moviegoer perspective here’s the first wrong turn… one hour of buildup to the actual start of The Hunger Games. One F’ng hour. Fortunately I was home and had a crossword book handy. Yes, I did crosswords while the director didn’t even try to build any sense of tension or emotional attachment to any of the characters. AT ALL. The only thing worse was that my crossword was way harder than the word “Easy” in the title suggested. Like WAY hard! Don’t get me wrong, I loved Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone (it’s film-noir set in the Ozarks and the IMDB description doesn’t do it justice), and I like Sci-Fi generally especially the near-future variety that asks, “What If?” and runs away with the idea. Screenplay by Gary Ross (who also directed), Suzann Collins, (the novel author), and Bill Ray (who seems to be a working man’s writer). Three story tellers who apparently think we need to pay a 1 hour boredom tax.

In the era of any number of great action movies with some thinky-think conscience… ok, The Bourne Trilogy, Chris Nolan’s Batman to name some… you can still start with some action. ACTION! I had this same problem with Dragon Tattoo – actually I had a lot of character logic problems with Dragon Tattoo – for some reason the director/producers feel compelled to stick with the linear flow of the book like it’s a classic by Jane Austen. It’s freaking popular fiction and it’s, apparently, an action story according to the posters and trailers so make with the action! This movie could’ve begun with the 24 kids rising out of the earth, the clock ticking down, and then mayhem. The whole wasted first hour could’ve been told in flashback after that point and it would’ve been great. Cut back to the action (Katniss sitting in a tree) more back story with Woody Harrelson (they never explained what was so great about his character and what about the other 70 winners?) and some other city folks, whatever. They did that a little bit but not nearly enough.  It’s a MOVIE not a heavily diluted book being shown page by page on a big white rectangle.

Second wrong turn. The effects were godawful. Like Syfy channel series at 1am awful. Of the $78 million for a movie shot largely out in the woods I think they spent 90% of it on author royalties and movie posters. Nothing they did looked remotely real AND they committed the cheap CGI cheat of cheats – when there were actual CGI creatures they were shown as really teeny-tiny or only seen at night. You can reduce the budget of your CGI by not having to show the realistic shading and textures that day lighting requires. And don’t get me started on the clothes on fire!MY CLOTHES ARE ON FIRE!!!

Or the false look of the chariots scene:CHARIOTS!!

And does the future really look this douchey?!?The Face

Now go back to the top and look at all these again. Do it!

Now look at this city, it’s from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis:

And this one:

Hunger Games Ville

Even with the color, sky, and mountains in the second one they’re about equally as real looking.  And in The Hunger Games we only see long views of the city like this twice. From the same train view point.  In Metropolis the city is part of the story and as rinky dink looking as it seems now we get to see it from many different angles and with a variety of interiors.  What’s my point? I like Metropolis.  It was ahead of it’s time.  The CGI in Hunger Games was last put to good use in Myst:
Myst which was a PC game released in 2002.
I’d have preferred to be getting my hoochy-coochy on with the creepy robotic Brigitte Helm in gritty ol’ Metropolis circa 1927 then watch what passed for effects in The Hunger Games. But I digress.

I could go on, I really could, but this is bringing me down. As far as the movie trilogy goes I suspect the fans will happily buy tickets to have Hollywood shovel them what they already expect at some minimum level of movie quality and that Katniss will topple the oppressive regime. Like this lady here:
Pull the lever!

The next Hunger Games movie (“Catching Fire”) has a different director and two new writers. If they’re talented and get a clear road it won’t be hard to improve the experience for the rest of us.

Small Talk

So… so, how’s it going there? Pretty good? That’s fantastic, some great fall weather we’re having here, huh? Kinda’ wet on the wrong days, right?

Sorry ‘bout that. Trying out my small talk.

Anyway, it’s autumn and the weather is fine enough with today being the first really cool day. I started a new permanent job a few months ago after wrapping up a contract that was the equivalent of a tooth extraction without Novocain. Fortunately it’s over and the hurdles of my new job don’t come close. It’s nice to take a break from contracting and the anxiety of sporadic employment in these here troubled times. I guess I can’t make fun of permies for a while since I’m now one too…

Generally I have a lot to be thankful for. By choice I’m surrounded by some mighty fine people and I haven’t had any random bad stuff come at me lately. Which doesn’t mean it won’t or that I won’t deal with it when it arrives. Just enjoying the lull. I’m working on a couple of creative projects in a slow burn sort of way, one of which involves assembling a team and relying on other folks to deliver but we’ll see how that goes. Most days I can take my pleasure from the process as much as the end result and this should be a really interesting ride. If it amounts to anything, you’ll know all about it. For now, I need to practice clearly elucidating an idea (elevator pitch) and figuring out what other people’s motivators are. It’s gotta’ be a win-win all around if I’m going to wring the best out of everyone involved. Future everyone’s anyway.

The second project is photographic and requires research and some amount of new tool learning. Could be quite neat.

I guess I could say something about Occupy Wall Street since I work so close by but what’s left to be said? Who doesn’t feel helpless and unheard in these tough times… although I am waiting to see what happens with the other protest groups that are now courting them for side protests like the Verizon workers. That could cause them more credibility damage than not having a message and being arrested for mass ignorance. It would look a bit mercenary. But that trivial matter of image pales compared to the fact that more people have been arrested for these protests in the first week than have ever been arrested for this financial disaster in the last 4 years. Hell, I’m sure a good case could probably be made that it’s treason for creating and allowing a collapse that jeopardized the countries economy… Ok, I’m done. Feeling helpless sucks and the bad guys often get away. That’s life.

One of my Flickr contacts shot some really nice portraits of OWS folks here.

Random – here’s a photo I took on PCH-1 on my inaugural trip to California with my awesome gf back in April. Man, what a great trip that was! 🙂