Tuesday, May 23, 2017

CANON OF FILM: "CLERKS"

CLERKS (1994)

Director/Screenplay: Kevin Smith




Believe it or not, if I’m truly being completely genuine and honest, one of the biggest personal influences in my writing career, both in terms of the story of his success as well as his personal style, is Kevin Smith. Yet, despite having watched is approximately 30 times over the years, I’ve been reluctant to add “Clerks” to my canon, for various reasons, all of them, dumb trivial reasons.  

Smith has now made (INSERT NUMBER) feature films, the best of his films being “Clerks,” “Chasing Amy,” “Dogma,” and “Zack and Miri Make a Porno”. He doesn’t always make a good film, and with “Cop Out,” he made the mistake of not writing the picture himself and just directing. It’s not that Smith isn’t a capable or even a talented director, in fact, with most of his recent films, which has seen him almost violently switch from comedy to horror, he’s actually proven that he can be quite the skilled and fascinating auteur, particularly with “Red State” and “Tusk”. Still though, I don’t watch Smith’s work for the directing. He’s never needed it before since he’s always been such as astute and talented writer, that you didn’t need much more than what was necessary visually to get a great film from here. That’s not a knock, in fact, I think that’s something that’s missing from film these days; as great as every other aspect of film can be, it should really work well on the page before anything else, and what’s better on the page than just great dialogue spoken by actors. Hell, great Smith dialogue can make some great actors out of some friends of his who literally weren’t actors at all.    

Still though, despite some evidence to the contrary, particularly when he decides to get his family involved, Smith is probably best when he doesn’t stray too far home. Home being the Asbury Park, NJ area where most of his films either are made or are close to taking place to some extent. The kind of place where everybody owns a hockey jersey, and everything goes back to, something that happened in high school, usually involving a party and something sexual. When connecting some of his films together, they create the Viewaskewniverse, an entire world of Kevin Smith films that each take place in the same universe as the other movies, such as the recurring characters of Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Smith).  So, I don’t know why the fuck we’re credited Marvel and the MCU for this idea….- Ahem…. Alright, sure Smith is a comic book fan and geekdom is definitely a part of his aesthetic, but still…. The great thing though, is that you don’t need to have seen any of his films to understand the other one, although it doesn’t hurt. (Something the MCU and DCU can learn from)

It’s a misnomer to say that nothing much happens in “Clerks,” a lot happens, but the protagonists don’t have much interest in forward momentum of any kind. Dante (Brian O’Halloran) is a college dropout who’s dating Veronica (Marilyn Ghigliotti) but is still obsessed with his old high school girlfriend Caitlin (Lisa Spoonhauer). In the meantime, he’s a clerk at a local convenient store. He isn’t supposed to work today, and his day begins with drinking coffee out of a cookie jar lid, writing a sign out of shoe polish to make sure everyone knows they’re open, and getting cigarettes thrown towards him by an angry crowd, riled up by some gum salesman. Randal (Jeff Anderson) works at the shitty video store across the street, both stores have the same owner, so it’s not uncommon for each of them to cover for the other. Randal’s basically your typical smartass laze instigator. He’s wants to do as little work as possible, and he works hard at it, and is able to justifiably argue his position, to basically everybody. I think most writers would’ve centered the film around his character, but Smith’s a better writer than that. There’s an unusual combination of typical daily lives coexisting alongside outrageous comedic events in “Clerks”. Some scenes are more famous than others. The hockey game on the roof, the intimate scene of Dante painting Veronica’s fingernails behind the counter, the unseen events that apparently occurred at a funeral,… then there’s an unseen sex scene in a bathroom involving Dante’s ex-girlfriend, that could almost surely only occur through a bizarre combination of events orchestrated by a Kevin Smith screenplay. The famous story of the making of “Clerks,” and the battle with the MPAA (The movie originally got an NC-17 rating for language) are too well-known and infamous to really bother recounting. It’s now the prime example of cheap, brilliant independent filmmaking. Kevin Smith has personally admitted to being the worst director in Hollywood. He might be the laziest, but he’s not the worst. Considering nearly every scene in “Clerks” is based around two locations, it’s amazing he keeps the film so fresh looking but he does.

“Clerks” is about the everyday bullshit of life. Whether that’s losing a girlfriend because of one’s own stupid obsessions with your ex, or whether it’s dealing with the same annoying customers that come in everyday. There’s a rhythm to it that’s both musical and comedic, and can only be as uniquely observed by Kevin Smith. Possibly Mark Twain, well a New Jersey version anyway. Famously, the film was made for less than $30,000 total and basically went into debt on his credit card to make the film. Amazingly the movie got into a couple film festivals and later won awards at Cannes and Sundance, allowing it to get distribution from the Weinsteins. Don’t think he isn’t aware of just how lucky his career is, ‘cause there’s definitely another universe where this film never caught on and he’d still be working at that convenient store, probably just now finally getting his debts paid off.

I think the thing is that distinguishes his best work, no matter the genre, especially when he’s writing it, is that you can tell he truly cares about the content. Whatever it is, he dives into the same amount of thought and complex over a discussion about whether independent contractors were killed when the incomplete death star was blown up in “Return of the Jedi,” as he does in “Dogma” over whether plenenary indulgences would allow fallen angels back into heaven hence proving God fallible thus negating existence.

Doesn’t sound like the same artist at work, but it is, it’s the same approach. Take a subject of interest, analyze it to death and write about people who talk about such things. Write what you know, and do it well, the fastest path to success, and Kevin Smith might be exhibit A for that. 

NOTE: I was in the process of posting this when news broke that Lisa Spoonhour had passed away. If I had time to change I would've put some other film up, but since I didn't consider this a coincidental tribute to her. :( RIP 

Monday, May 15, 2017

GENDER-BLIND ACTING AWARDS: SOME RANDOM THOUGHTS IN LIGHT OF THE MTV MOVIE & TV AWARDS UNIQUE DECISION!



So, I'll be honest, until I looked it up, a few seconds ago, I hadn't actually seen or heard Emma Watson's speech. It's a good speech, and appropriate for the situation and, eh-um, people were talking about it, apparently? And people were annoyed at it, um, for some reason.  I'll be honest, I wasn't really listening to everything being discussed about it, 'cause who cares? It's the MTV Movie Awards,- oh, excuse me, Movie & TV Awards, 'cause like the Broadcast Film Critics have done in recent years, they're trying to combine both of these mediums and make them seem equally important and I get why, does it really work, and,... well,  that's a discussion for another time.

The discussion that others seem to be having is about, the fact that, the MTV Awards, did do something unusual with their acting awards, they combined, the genders. There wasn't a Best Actor and a Best Actress, there was a Best Lead Acting and Supporting Acting award for each medium, and Emma Watson, went down in history for winning the first such award, and she made note of it, and the significance of that. For instance, it's pretty amazing that such an award was indeed won by a woman. And not one named Meryl Streep for that matter, although to be fair I don't think Streep ever done particularly well at the MTV's but I don't think she loses sleep over it. But seriously, I'm a skeptic, and no particular enthralled with the way popular votes seem to go these days; I would've thought a guy would've won.

Anyway, the reason that MTV is doing this, is two-fold and it's about including who don't necessarily identify themselves as one gender or another and since there are more examples of such successful performers and actors out there in general in the world, MTV, always on the more progressive side, decided to make notice of that first, to start a conversation about it. And, yeah, you know what, I have in the trans community, and have close friends all up and down the LGBTTQQIAAP rainbow, and, while the MTV Movie Awards are hardly the most legitimate thing around, change doesn't happen in a vacuum and start at the biggest and most popular part of the pop culture populace; it always starts at the fringes before it inevitably takes effect elsewhere as more and more people start becoming receptive to the idea, so if this is, the future, we should talk about it, and discuss it.

Should acting awards, be genderless?

(Takes a breath, looks around. Checks time on computer. Sighs loudly Takes another deep breath. Take a sip from big gulp.)

Oh, did you want me to start? Why don't you start? What, why do I have to do all the talking on this? I don't know what to think about this? You think I have an answer to everything? I don't know what to talk about here? I mean, I can make a joke or two, but, I don't know the right answer to this?

I mean, I can look some stuff up, and give some facts or whatever, and I probably will, but, (Shrugs) I mean, I can see every side of this and I don't know of any good answer. I mean, the idea of a genderless-, well, that's not really the right word either-, eh, gender-bling acting awards, doesn't sound awful. And, marketing-wise, I gotta admit I'm not exactly thrilled about how things are marketed towards one gender or the other. I mean, one of my favorite film critics, Manohla Dargis put up a Facebook post about a month ago, about having to pick a gender in order to sign up for Hulu, and talked about how insensitive it is, and you know, she's not wrong. Especially for those who don't fit into either gender easily. I mean, if you check out my Hulu or youtube or Netflix or anything, you probably won't be able to pick out my gender particularly easily. I'm a sports fan that binges on "Project Runway', what sex does that make me?

Look, that's what really at stake, is how this is about society's perception, and not really so much about whether an awards show separates by gender or not, And in terms of how society looks at, and treats women, much less any other sex other than males, this is so far on the bottom of the problems with society that, it's almost literally the last thing there is to fight for. But, I picked the entertainment business, so what exactly is the big deal? Well, who won the Oscar for Best Female Director last year?

Yeah, it is only acting awards, and-, well, there's good reasons and bad reasons for that. For one thing, it is sexist. I mean, just the fact that we have the word, "Actress" is a bit odd. Actor, means, a person who's profession is acting, but "actress" means, a woman whose profession is acting. And I'm not being obnoxious grammar person, and nor am I making that up, that's literally the meanings of those words. Actor is not gender-specific, actress is, and that even goes back to the words origins, 'cause, keep in mind, in many parts of the world at some point, women weren't allowed to be actors. The term came about when that trend started dissipating. and there have been efforts to eliminate that stigma. The Screen Actors Guild for instance, if you check their website; they don't give out Actress awards, they give out Female Actor in a Leading Role or Supporting Role awards. They still separate by gender, but they don't use the word "actress". There are some who I've heard go further and really claim that actress is particularly derogatory because it implies that actresses can only play roles that are female, and that's not true at all. Linda Hunt famously won an Oscar for playing a male character in "The Year of Living Dangerously" and some female actors, most notably Whoopi Goldberg are known for seeking out and taking roles that defy their gender and their "types". Whoopi for instance, once played the role of the slave on Broadway in "A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum", a role made famous, and originally written for, Zero Mostel. And if you're familiar with that play, that's a pretty big jump in casting.  But she's an actor, and as she claims, she can play any role, not just female roles, so why not?

That's the thing, casting. I know, there's always talk about how we can never really know who the best actor is unless we get them all to play the same part, but if you're a producer or a Director, do  you always have to cast the best person for the part? I mean, I doubt "Moonlight" would've been as good as it was if Mahershala Ali's part was played by Rosie O'Donnell. (Not to pick on Rosie, I actually think she's an underrated actress) It might be a great performance and a good movie, but yeah, it clearly a miscast part. I mean, for all the talk about whitewashing roles that goes on, mainly under the somewhat legitimate notion that you need stars in lead roles to make money on a film and most major stars, for one reason or another are mainly white, the fact remains, most of the time, you're trying to cast the best person for the best part, not just talent, but aesthetics-wise. You have a 30-year-old white male lead character, why not cast a 30-year-old white male for the part, and there's nothing inherently wrong with that, if that's the kind of actor you most need for the role. Same goes, for 100-year-old Black grandmother, to teenage Asian chick, to, 40-year-old Latino lawyer, to, overweight again male cop and every part in-between, That's part of my main reason, I'm not so, sold on gender-blind awards for acting, 'cause it's not necessarily the actors fault that they get the parts they get. But then again, there's nothing wrong, with it the other way, having a set character type in mind, and then casting outside of that, either. The real problem comes when it's presumed or assumed that certain roles or parts have their features built into their roles, as apart of the character's identity they're sex, ethnicity, etc., and then, there's a presumed casting choice that goes against that. That's one of the reasons I'm not as prone as others to thinking that Idris Elba should play James Bond, but then again, the first time anybody played James Bond that remotely resembled the character from the novels was Daniel Craig, so I guess there's 40 years or so of casting against part of precedent, then sure, why not a Brit of African descent?

I keep saying, "but then again..." in this article, and I have a feeling I'm gonna say it a 100 times more just thinking about this issue. For instance, then again, one of the reasons I'm not crazy about gender-blind awards, is that, I like seeing awards given out, and I think there's enough of a compelling argument above to claim that there's a good enough reason to give out male and female awards separately. Even besides that, I like seeing people honored for their craft, across all fields, and you do too. I know there's morons out there, who want to be hip and cool, and shit on all awards and award shows, but at the end of the day, if something you like wins, you're happy they won. Even if the recipient doesn't give a shit. Hell, I give out my own awards every year; we like doing it, we like seeing it.

And there is another option here, we could also give out acting awards separately for every other gender's performance? I mean, there's not necessarily enough to break trans and others into their own category every year for every awards show, but one day there will be. That would be great!

No, it won't that's just dumb. Yeah, nevermind, separating genders into more groups to give out more awards, no, I'd rather have gender-blind, it actually is fairer, and it's not separating people more. And, to go back to one other point I made, why only acting?

I mean, sure the obvious reason is because, we know the actors more than most of the behind the scenes people, and the above listed reasons why actors should be listed separately since, you can argue that they're not up for the same parts, for legitimate reasons outside their control, but, is isn't the same for behind-the-scenes roles, right?

(Sigh)

Well, let's consider. Only four women have ever gotten an Oscar nomination for Directing, only one has won, which is a considerably better record than Cinematography, which has never seen a female nominee, much less a winner in the category. I can think of a few categories where there's a more even distribution of female winners to male winners, Costume Design, Editing, probably, since the early days of cinema actually had quite a few female editors and that tradition has carried on, Casting is often a female-driven field and they don't even get an Oscar category for reasons that make zero sense. Here's two names you don't know, but should. Lora Hirschberg and Anna Behlmer. They're the only two women ever nominated for Sound Mixing Oscars. Behlem has ten career nominations, while Lora has two, and one win. (Yeah, Behlmer is winless she's up there with Greg P. Russell and until last year Kevin O'Connell) That's a category where there's usually three or four people nominated per nomination. Sound Editing has one female nominees, one winner is Cecelia Hall, and half the people in the industry couldn't tell you the different between Sound Editing and Sound Mixing!

(And if you consult this Variety article below on the difference, it makes you realize that they probably need more categories to differentiate the different art form just in Sound alone. )
http://variety.com/2016/artisans/production/oscars-sound-editing-mixing-explained-1201682457/

And you can insert the other examples yourself, across every awards you can think of, and across the whole industry in general if you really want to check the statistics. Now separate all these categories into and male and female and perhaps every other genre, and worst than any of problem of conceding that there's a difference in genders in performing certain tasks and giving into whatever PC bullshit we're giving into for trying to promote women in film or in the name of equality, blah, blah, blah, worst than all that, we'd end with like a nine-hour Oscar broadcast.  And that's just the Oscars, god help all the Emmys. So, if you thought award shows were just Hollywood kissing it's own ass before....-, Yeah. I mean, it'd be nice, to see an award for a Female Director, when there's great movies made by female director every year and more of them should be honored, but-eh, no, not like this. Despite all the Hollywood problems with the lack of diversity in general, across the fields and crafts of filmmaking you can imagine, this is probably not the solution either.

But I'd hate to see, in a future, where something like Charlize Theron's performance in "Monster" isn't honored, because she's up against Sean Penn for "Mystic River", or, Nicolas Cage not win for "Leaving Las Vegas" because they really want to give it to Susan Sarandon for "Dead Man Walking". Oh, shit, she'd be up against Sean Penn too in that category, 'cause they both deserved nominations that year. And insert your other favorite retroactive hypotheticals here. I've looked at longform Emmy ballots in the past, and the long, long, long, long, long, lists of actors that submit their names and in what categories they put them in, and doubling that, especially Supporting characters, there'd be 500 or so names total, and only seven nominees? Hell, I'm already annoyed the Emmys insisted on seven series nominees for Comedy and Drama Series, and yet they insist the actors only get six, when there's way more potential acting nominees than series nominees. Hell, maybe that's is, we should just start increasing the nominees numbers, if we do this? Or have multiple winners? Who says we only need one winner every year. There's precedent for that too btw with the Academy; there was an ancient rule where anybody who loss by three votes or less would be a winner too, so, why not bring that back. Or, just have the two top vote-getters win and increase it to ten nominees, gender-neutral?

Or fifteen or twenty, or, hell, do that with every category.

(Shrugs)

I don't know, what the award shows or the future will look like, nor do I know how long it'll take the rest of society to, become as gender-blind, for all genders everywhere, across all fields of society. And part of me wants to say, that, like George Carlin once brought up, that maybe this is going too far, like how, Businessperson and spokesperson are okay, but personhole cover for manhole cover is a bit too far,... but then again, English is an inherently sexist language to begin, and most of the words of the language come from inherently sexist language, where literally every object is either male or female. (Seriously most western language are very sexist in nature; they just are. I didn't learn much failing four years of French, but conjugate a couple dozen male and female nouns and you'll learn that quickly) And, that's apart of the perception and changes like these are positive.

Look, it's probably in a step in the right direction somehow and Emma Watson's speech, did a pretty damn good job trying to explain the importance of the moment and for the most part, as far as I can tell, while a small factor in the grand scheme of everything, MTV's heart's in the right place and they're trying something, and who knows, what it will lead to in the future. I remember when people laughed at Bill Clinton for doing an MTV Town Hall during the '92 Election, now they host multiple debates every year; they're trend is to be a little ahead of the time for everyone else, so there's that.

As for my awards, I'm not ready to separate yet. Although, lord know what'll happen when I think Laverne Cox deserves a nominations, or some other trans actors. Hell, Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Talylor, came damn close just a couple years ago.  But that's my insignificant made-up awards, what happens the real, important and culturally significant made-up awards start thinking about this and doing things, who knows? Whatever changes are gonna happen, it's gonna be painful for everyone involved, and that includes the film industry, because change is painful, for everybody, whether it's happening too fast for some, or too slow to those who need it the most.

In the meantime, it's just an award show. They're here to honor and celebrate those who's work we admire, and like the rest of the industry, yes, they're here to entertain us, and dammit we can use as much things to entertain us as possible these days. So let's enjoy them.

Oh, and fuck Piers Morgan! (Mocking) "Oh, when I think gender-neutral, I think Emma Watson", shut up, you tried to hack celebrity cell phones, for your stupid gossip newspaper, go screw yourself! Yeah, and you're the kind of person who I think of to comment on gender-neutrality as well, aren't you? (Eye roll)




Wednesday, May 10, 2017

MOVIE REVIEWS #135: "MOONLIGHT", "FIRE AT SEA", "CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE", "MORRIS FROM AMERICA", "THE CHILDHOOD OF A LEADER", "WE COME AS FRIENDS", "GUEROS", and "UNBRANDED"!

Another day, another set of Movie Reviews.... (Sigh) I'm not gonna lie, for the most part, this batch of reviews was more chore than preference. Honestly, I'm hoping to mostly start diving into television for awhile so I can catch up on some Emmy shows, but honestly, even too many of those series feel like the general audience isn't just accepting less, but naval-gazing too many of the shows until they talk themselves into thinking they're great. Not always though, but when you do see greatness, suddenly the mediocre doesn't cut it. Really, though, with one eye on whatever insane news story going on today, and one eye on a relatively stagnant entertainment world, at least in terms of compelling things to really write about, At least, write about in a way that's interesting to me. I'm sure I'll think of something, of course, and probably try to do another Top Ten just to make and/or do something interesting.

In the meantime, between films, I've actually been seeking out way to turn off my brain off when I can. Or at least give it a rest. Constructively, of course.

(LAST WEEK)
David sits in chair, searching through Roku channels. 

DAVID
Oh, wait, the original "American Gladiators" is on Hulu now?! Oh, I know what I'm falling asleep to at night for a while now.... 
(Singing)
Dub, de-be-dub-de-da, de-duh-de-da! Dub, bub-a-dub-be-da, ba-dup ba-baa!"

So, to go through some of the older movies that I didn't get to review, I saw a couple classic French movies. First, Claude Berri's "The Two of Us" which I quite like a lot. Berri, I don't think gets enough credit in general and this is an autobiographical movie of his that's quite emotional and powerful. I also finally got around to Francois Truffaut' The Man Who Loved Women", his comedy, I guess about a guy who's obsession with women leads to several misadventures as he looks back upon his life, while analyzing them scientifically, supposedly for study, although it's quite possible he's just bragging. This one was remade in America with the same; it's an old Burt Reynolds movie, and by most accounts, not a particularly special one, the remake. I'm not sure this is one of Truffaut's best either; I keep feeling like this is more of his attempt to make an Eric Rohmer film, it's not bad or anything either. What was bad was, "The Machine", this was a British sci-fi film from a few years ago, that's basically "Ex Machina" only stupid. Fangoria kept saying it was "cool", (Shrugs) whatever that meant. I found it lacking. It was judge a bad low-budget sci-fi film that tried to seem deeper and better than it was.

Alright, let's get to it. Time for this latest edition of our MOVIE REVIEWS! Starting with the Oscar-Winning, "Moonlight' and the Oscar-Nominated, "Fire at Sea'!


MOONLIGHT (2016) Director: Barry Jenkins

★★★★★




The last six words spoken in "Moonlight" left me in tears. They're spoken by the main character, a man who's already gone by several names during the course of his young life, his birth name Chiron (Ashton Sanders) his first nickname as a kid, Little (Alex Hibbert) and finally, and most symbolically by Black (Trevante Rhodes) which is not simply a reference to his skin color, it's also representative of how he ultimate treats the world at large, including those he knows best and may even care for most. If he ever decides to allow himself to care for somebody again. I'm certain that, being a straight white male that certain details will go over my head or not be immediately relatable to me, but that doesn't matter. "Moonlight" emotionally has as much if not more resonance than nearly any other movie I can think of.

I've stared at that last paragraph now for several minutes trying to figure out what direction to take this review next. No matter which way I go, I feel like it isn't satisfactory. Explaining in detail some of the events that occur is not gonna help you understand why they're important (and besides revealing some of them would basically just be giving away the film) and besides that, the movie isn't about the events themselves, as it is, the environment that surrounds Chiron. No, scratch that, it's not the environment, it's how he reacts to the environment that surrounds him. Or in some cases, doesn't act. In some ways he's an observer, others a willing participant, many times unwilling...- Mostly, Chiron is just, a troubled young man who's trying to figure out his way in the world. A world that in several ways, dealt him a bad hand. For one thing, he grows up small, which leads to other kids picking on him most days. For another, he's gay, which leads to more picking and even worse, a more complex layer of confusing emotions. For yet another, his mother, (Oscar-nominee Naomie Harris) is a crack addict. It's Miami in the '80s, and if you know anything about the history of cocaine, then the time period and world will be instantly familiar to you. Well, that's not quite true actually; I can't think of any media offhand that depicting the Miami drug culture of that time period, from, for lack-of-a-better-term, the ghetto. (Usually, I associate Miami drug culture with flash, and Phil Collins music and money and riches, even the cops would dress with style, and not even the corrupt ones) During one time being chased on his way home, he befriends a local dealer named Juan (Oscar-winner Mahershala Ali) who instantly recognizes he's scared and takes him home, hoping his wife Teresa (Janelle Monae) can get him to talk. As a child of a single mother, (Although admittedly Italian single mother, so I was raised by my entire family) I've ever heard those in the African-American community speak about the importance of having a father to teach kids how to be a man, and all that jazz and stuff, but I'll be honest, I simply don't understand that need. Whatever "Being a man" entails, has never usually appealed to me, and frankly, I take some offense to the notion that that's essential in growing up, or, I don't know bad things will happen to you, or you'll do stupid things...- I don't know, I'm not gonna pretend I understand, but if more father figures were like Juan, I think I would understand it more. When he suddenly dies, offscreen, with no mention of how, we only gradually realize how much we miss him, and in turn, how much Chiron needs him. If there is a real through line in the movie, it's basically a three-act play about a relationship between two young boys, Chiron and Kevin. When he first befriend Kevin (Jaden Piner) they get into a faux fight to make Chiron look tougher than he is, to protect. The second time, in high school is when Kevin (Jharrel Jerome) is a bit of a local player who's still able to be manipulated by the local bullies, when they share a tender, emotional, sexual moment, The third, is practically the entirety of act three, when he's now married with a kid, and has started working at a Cuban restaurant. He's contacted Chiron for the first time in years and they share a night of, just talking. Of course, it isn't just talking. I read Kevin's character not simply as Chiron's childhood crush, but as a character who's real objective is to provide the emotional support of all those around him. This is why he does well with both women and men sexually, but is also prone to getting into trouble when what the other person might want emotionally, is not in his best interest. He reminds me of Colin Farrell's character in one of the most underrated movies this century, "A Home at the End of the World" which was another movie that saw characters grow apart and on their own and then reconnect with each other at three separate points in their lives. (That film, also dealt with a character who had his own struggles that came with his sexuality.) Instinctively, Kevin knows what everyone around him needs, and it's his duty to provide that.

There's so much that makes "Moonlight" a masterpiece. The writing, based on Tarell Alvin McCraney's original story, "In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue" is some of the best I've ever seen, but the acting is even more impressive. It's one of those movies like "Shine" where it's somewhat difficult to determine who exactly is the Lead Actor, since the characters age over time and only peripheral characters are played by the same actors the entire time and even they don't have much screen time, but the casting and the performances are amazingly top notch. This might've as well have been shot over years like "Boyhood" with how well they cast some of these parts, especially over time. It's also one of the best directed movies I've seen in awhile. One of the most difficult things to get over in terms of directing is emotional resonance; the last time I saw a film and filmmaker do it this well was Sofia Coppola with "Lost in Translation". It's not always enough with film to get over what the characters are saying between the lines (Or what they want to say but don't) and that's not simply great acting, that's spectacular directing.

Look, I haven't seen everything so far this year, and I might change my mind after some time has passed and on multiple viewing, but "Moonlight" might be the best movie made this decade so far. It's, up there. "Moonlight" is everything good about what a personal film should be.



FIRE AT SEA (2016) Director: Gianfranco Rosi

★★★★



So, along with "A Bigger Splash", this is the second time this year, a movie has stumped my, what-I-used-to-think-of as my extensive geography knowledge, with an Italian island I've never heard of. (Man, I gotta update my atlases and globes before I work on that ...Carmen San Diego? spec script. [Oh yeah, don't think I didn't hear about that. I'm aware.]) Lampedusa. is the largest of the Pelagie Islands, three small islands in the Straight of Sicily, which is between Sicily and Tunisia in the Mediterranean Sea. Specifically, the island is about seventy miles from Tunisia, that's about half the distance between Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.  That's worth keeping in mind, since Lampedusa is ground zero for the migrant crisis. You see, while the main one we tend to think about in regards to America migrant crisis, (Although, I don't really get how it's a "crisis") is about immigrants coming in through Mexico, especially now that the Embargo on Cuba has been lifted, there's not much concern over boats and what we might charitably call rafts with future refugees coming into the country anymore. But, in other parts of the world, a continuing migrant population has changed places quite a bit. And one of the big ones is the journey from Tunisia to Italy, or possibly from, literally the Shores of Tripoli, as Libya's coastline is little further distance by sea, but not far enough for people to risk their lives. On the radio and news, there's daily reports of ships calling out for help and only occasionally is their position found in time. Purportedly, the number of deaths of those who have just died in travel in recent years is approximated at 15,000, and those who survive. The documentary, "Fire at Sea" which earned an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary on top of being Italy's submission for the Foreign Language Film category, and no, I can't recall the last time they submitted a documentary for that category either, is a stoic look, basically at life with some of the people, refugees and others on the island. There's no narration, and the film's approached is quite reminiscent to other slice-of-life pieces of cinema verite; I've seen comparisons of it to Frederick Wiseman and yeah, I can understand that. Actallly the approach reminded me more of Bill and Turner Ross's documentary, "45365", titled after the zip code of the area they filmed. The movie has some continuing characters and a few through lines, most notably a little kid called Samuele. I was more intrigued by many of the adults, especially those who work and jobs often revolve around the ever-growing migrant population. I'm going a bit back-and-forth on the quality of the film myself. I think it's effective in it's approach and some of the footage is quite intriguing. Not exactly, lively, it's pretty depressing most of it, and this isn't exactly a luxury resort island to begin with mind you, The best way to really judge the quality of documentaries like these is to determine exactly how much you get sucked into the film, and to me, there's just better movies like that lately. Hell, I think I actually preferred "Mediterranea" the feature film from a couple years ago about an African refugee making the daring trip to Europe to survive, but "Fire at Sea" is still quite powerful, and I do get, what I believe is the feeling and environment of people who live here. It's still powerful and gives us an up-close look at one of the world's biggest societal problems at the moment. "Fire at Sea" is admirable if nothing else, and transcends even that at times.



CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE (2016) Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber

★1/2




So the first thing I had to do when watching "Central Intelligence" was to lower the television volume, since for some reason they decided to blast a horrible En Vogue song right at the beginning. So, already I'm not liking this movie. And then, there's a young man who's name I decided to look up after realizing that it wasn't Dwayne Johnson in some horrible fat person makeup, named Sione Kelepi. He has exactly two IMDB credits, this movie, and Meghan Trainor music video for "All About That Bass". (So, now I've had to sit through two shitty songs) Apparently, he's a star on Vine, (Sigh), and from everything else I can tell, he seems like a nice guy who's quite a good and actually skilled dancer, who happens to be overweight. Anyway, they do, some special effects stuff, to make him look more similar to Dwayne Johnson, facially, and the next scene is of him, singing and dancing naked in the shower and then getting embarrassingly thrown, naked into the auditorium, where a young Calvin Joyner (Kevin Hart) is being congratulated by the school for being, awesome. The school laugh, 'cause bullying and public naked fat shaming is apparently funny. (Sigh)

You know, I haven't thought about this kid in years, but there was a kid I knew in elementary school, I'm not gonna mention his name, who was- I don't know what the event was, but all the fourth and fifth graders, (Well, not me, but those who participated) were doing this reading event to the younger kids at the school during lunch, and they got all dressed up in their favorite storybook characters for the thing. I remember for instance, that my teacher was Ms. Jewekl from the Wayside School books for the day, Anyway, well, this kid, wanted to come dressed up as this character who's outfit was just, a towel. I don't know the book offhand, but there's some kid's book where the main protagonist is trying to take a bath and gets interrupted or-, I honestly don't know, it's from an illustrated kids' book; the kind you to see on "Reading Rainbow", and it was apparently funny in the book, and he was trying to get into the spirit of the event, and I wasn't there so I didn't see what happened, and apparently his towel fell off. He left the school, and I don't know whatever happened to him, and other than a letter that he sent to the class one day, I never heard from him again. He was quite embarrassed and ashamed and, it was very unfortunate that he accidentally, flashed a bunch of kindergartners, all because he wanted to have fun reading his favorite book to them, so...- I mean, yes, it's played that it's horrible and embarrassing to the poor kid in the movie too, but,- there's a way to do this, that's not over-the-top and actually gains real empathy for the characters, and this movie doesn't do that. It's just, piling on, what's the most humiliated this person can be, 'cause we need this guy to turn into this ultra-muscle-y CIA super-spy in the future, for some reason.

Anyway, it's Bob (Dwayne Johnson) and Calvin's 20th high school reunion in a few days and Bob wants to reconnect with him, partly because, Calvin was such a good person that he was the only one nice to him in high school, and willing to give him his jacket when he needed it. This has led to a particularly twisted infatuation by Bob, even though he's still a relatively dorky fat kid at heart. He's dorky because he likes the Spice Girls and his favorite movie is "Sixteen Candles", which is again, apparently because it's The Rock, and it's funny that he would like such a movie. (Shrugs) Why, is that weird or funny? Anyway, Calvin is an international accountant, banker now, who married his school sweetheart, Maggie (Daniele Nicolet) and anyway, these two stories collide, for some reason, in this action-comedy buddy film, with a plot so confusing I'm not even gonna pretend to bother to explain it, not that anybody could or would pay attention enough to care...- basically, Bob may or may not have turned heel on the CIA and now they're out to get him, the CIA represented by Agent Harris (Amy Ryan) and at some point they have to go to the old high school bully, Trevor (Jason Bateman, 'cause of course it fucking is) for help, and he's still an asshole. (Annoyed sigh)  Okay, I am officially so sick of seeing Jason Bateman playing this kind of bully role that I am now officially begging for a Justine Bateman comeback. What the hell's she been up to anyway? I'm sick of her brother now. No more Michael Bluth, I want more Mallory Keaton in movies! Hell, why is Jason Bateman always cast as the asshole, anyway; I'm tired of it now.

"Central Intelligence" is the kind of movie that you watch, you get entertained and then you never think about it again, which is the best thing that can happen for it 'cause the more I think about it, the worst it gets. I like Kevin Hart, I like Dwayne Johnson, I really like Amy Ryan, but this movie is vapor at it's best. At it's worst, It's shoving together two different movies when there's no actual reason to. I mean, in another universe, this movie could've been an interesting gender-reversed "Single White Female", if you just downplay or completely dump the action plot altogether.and actually explore these two characters who's changed so much since high school, and have one's obsession with the other actually be scary and maybe even creepy, instead of just using that as an excuse to get Kevin Hart into the kind of funny violent situations that weren't funny when we trying to shove Chris Tucker and Chris Rock into them fifteen years ago. Or, just make them CIA agents, and have them be a modern-day Riggs and Murdoch or Cates and Hammond. Have them know each other from high school, and reconnect, that's fine, "21 Jump Street" did that and it worked. I don't know what happened here, but this was a disaster and these actors deserve a better movie.



MORRIS FROM AMERICA (2016) Director: Chad Hartigan

★★★★



Near the end of "Morris from America", Craig Robinson, gives a touching, well-written and emotional speech to his young son that surely is the reason that his name showed up on some Oscar ballots, as well as earned him an Independent Spirit Award nomination. "Morris from America" is Director Chad Hartigan's third feature and second I've seen; he previously got on my radar after "This is Martin Bonner" won the John Cassavettes Award at the aforementioned Spirits. Looking back on that review of that film, I panned it, but made several mentions that there was skill and talent and inherently nothing wrong with the film; my major complaint is that it wasn't enough of a story. I guess I could make the same argument for "Morris from America", but the storytelling is much stronger here. It's an interesting motif though, it's the second film of his that's based around character who came from one country and then went to build a home in another. I think that's probably why this film works so much better, it's about the characters trying to build that home, while "This is Martin Bonner" was an interesting story about two good characters struggling with their own demons, but that aspect of "home" and what that meant, just did not travel through. He is from Cyprus originally, but apparently graduated high school in Virginia, so there might be something personal about this story for him."Morris from America" is about a young teenage boy, Morris (Markees Christmas) who has moved to Germany along with his father, Curtis (Robinson). Curtis originally left to Germany because he fell in love with Morris's mother. She's since passed, but they moved back for work, Curtis believing it's the best thing for them. Morris is not adjusting greatly. He's learning German well enough from his tutor, Inka (Carla Juri, yes, the girl from "Wetlands" but don't think about that) but he's mostly lonely and bored. And, apparently most all the other kids are, kinda dicks. He does befriend one friend, Katrin (Lina Keller) who I think is intended to be a-eh, what's the term I just learned from Anita Sarkesian, a-eh, manic-pixie-dream girl character, but she's actually more of a femme fatale. She's surrounded by the kind of idiot male friends who you know one day after a fight with Kevin she's gonna run off with them and then Paul's gonna tell him she was in an accident and he's gonna run off and see her at home outside her window, 'cause her parents won't let him in, and Kevin will tell Winnie, "I Love You" and she'll look at him back, "I Love You", knowing that she screwed, but they're still nowhere close to getting back together, but she knows just how much Kevin means to her and ergo how much she means to him now. Yeah, those kind of friends, they're the worst. Anyway, she befriends him, and he reluctantly goes along, 'cause femme fatale, and naturally, she shoots him in the balls, with a water pistol. It's not as funny as she thinks, and it's only 'til the end, when she takes him to a party and leaves him there, in another city that, she sorta realizes how big an asshole she is. Morris also deals with his love of hip hop and his desire to be a rapper, something that he and his father shared, since he also was a rapper and musician in his younger days. The multiple stories of a father-son story trying to work out their lives with Morris's story of trying to make out on his own in a strange world are quite comparable. Most effective though,is how the world feels natural, and we get sucked in and care about these character, credit to both the writing, directing and the great acting. "Morris from American" is a wonderfully strong independent film, the kind that we used to hope and recall that foreign films seemed like and how we think of them. A great character-based coming-of-age story that's filled with rich characters of several ages who need each other, yet much also go out by themselves. Sure, there's a bunch of them out there, but this is a good, strong one that's worth seeking out.



THE CHILDHOOD OF A LEADER (2016) Director: Brady Corbet

★★★1/2



In so far as I can tell, the main message of "The Childhood of a Leader" is, "Don't be shitty parents or your kid will turn into a fascist shithead Nazi?" Well, I don't think it's ever quite that simple..., but then again, I can't exactly believe that there are fascist shithead Nazis out there, who didn't have shitty parents. I mean, I'm sure there are, right? 


I can definitely see how some might view this film through a modern tragic lens and judge it as prophetic as much as anything else, but avoiding those obvious parallels, "The Childhood of a Leader", takes places, purportedly during World War I, although I don't think it's a World War I exactly in our timeline. The main characters is Prescott (Tom Sweet) a young eight-year-old American who is currently in France with his parents (Liam Cunningham and Berenice Bejo). The Father, is there because he is some kind of representative/assistant to President Woodrow Wilson, and he's there to help draw up the Treaty of Versailles. They're well-off and well-to-do, and belong to a more classical idea of parenting where children are seen and not heard most of the time, and generally relatively unemotional. Prescott gets some more emotional guidance from his teacher, (Stacy Martin) who comes everyday, or is supposed to come every day and teach Prescott. Unfortunately, he sometimes doesn't want to be taught that day, and apparently this is acceptable. I've seen some of the reviews on this film refer to Prescott's more obnoxious and bratty behavior, but yeah, it's hard to separate the actions of the kids with the actions of the parents themselves, and he himself is basically reacting to them, often in order to get a reaction. Of course, he's naturally rejected for this time and time again, no matter how much he acts out, especially when there are important guests around. The whole is movie is told in flashback, I guess, as we see in the future that young Prescott is a Leader, (Robert Pattinson as an adult) but, spoilers, if you haven't figured it out already, he's a leader of a fascist regime, or a leader in one.

I've seen some movies in recent years, especially foreign films, Michel Haneke's "The White Ribbon" comes to mine that tries to look at the youth of around this period of time and try to postulate on how these behaviors and other events culminated in the Nazi regime. I'm not quite sure I've really liked any of these films, including this one; I've definitely admired one or two, but I think they ultimately simplify a few too many things. Yes, clearly this film is influenced from some people's lives in particular, as well as some other films I can think of. It's the feature directorial debut from Brady Corbet, who I know mostly as an actor, and it is a bit odd that this is an American making this, as I said before this feel like a more European film idea, and basically, the entire movie feels like it's a buildup to a reveal that's not exactly that revealing to me. It does take an interesting look at the nature vs.  nurture debate, although I don't know how many of those questions it answers either. It observes and examines and it's ultimately a film worth recommending although I can't help but think I got left empty-handed from the movie.



WE COME AS FRIENDS (2015) Director: Hubert Sauper

★★★1/2



This was a tough one to sit through. They've all seemed tough for me to get through lately, but here's a documentary on the South Sudan. South Sudan is one of the world's youngest countries, carved out of the Southern Sudan after many years of war, and was immediately followed by Civil War in the country, between, somewhere between five and nine tribes, I guess. Africa, is very difficult to entirely explain historically; for one thing, there's like fifty-three goddamn countries there and they all formed in different ways. There's tribal aspects to the intricacies of the country; there's Colonial histories and influence, involved...- I mean, it's basically take the Middle East, and complicate by ten, and then, by 20 because as Westerners we know even less about Africa than we know the Middle East. I know, Sudan used to the largest country in the continent, at least in area, but that's no longer the case. The official national language is English, but there's over 60 indigenous languages and several tribes in the country, and even taking the top three major ethnic groups combined, the Dinka, the Bari and the Azande, they don't equal 50% of the country's population. On top of all that, there's a Christianity and Muslim divide too, so, yeah, no wonder this country is basically in a perennial state of Civil War. Oh, and they have oil reserves, so, bring in China influence, (And America) and who knows whether or not the government that's standing there today are pawns for some other country or not. "We Come as Friends" is an interesting title, 'cause there is this double-sided nature to what we'll call modern colonialism, which is more business based, than the traditional, well, occupy-and-conquer approach, that we got for most of, eh, history, but that's the thing, yes, there is this, we're using them for our own gain part of it, but we also do recognize the horrid state the place is in and truly do want to help. And no sooner did I think  that, did the movie focus in on some of the Christian missionaries that are trying to influence the natives. (Sigh)

You know, regardless of whatever religion you may or may not believe in, if there's one thing that's fairly despicable among almost every major religion, especially with the all the major and primary Christianity denomination there are, it's not that they're beliefs may or may not be misguided, or at least, not self-critically analyze, or the fact that they're preaching their word and actively trying to convert others, no, it's-, it's the fact that too many of them do this, with such a predatory nature. The biggest example at the moment is how several fairly despicable and often wrong-headed, almost cult-like renegade churches have done this in Central Africa. If you haven't "God Loves Uganda", and looked up some of the wretched brainwashing that's gone on there in recent years, it's pretty evil. I don't know if these missionaries populating the newly-formed, Christian nation of South Sudan is, or will end up being that bad, but ugh. Of course, this is only one real aspect of the new look at the young country, one of many side effects of colonialism, only now, in it's modern-day form. The movie looks at several others and actually does go out of it's way to see as many sides of the situation, some of them under penalty of perhaps, death. The film was directed by Hubert Sauper, his first feature since the Oscar-nominated "Darwin's Nightmare" over a decade ago. I haven't seen that one, which is also based on the changing condition in Africa, although that one's more environmental-focused than this is. I wish it was a little more clear on what's happening and who we're talking to; but that might be me. I feel like I've seen way too many Cinema Verite docs lately and trying to make sense of them can be a hassle, but I do like "We Come as Friends" as it documents a painful country's earliest beginnings.



GUEROS (2015) Director: Alonso Ruizpalacios

★1/2



Alonso Ruiz Palacios's debut feature, "Gueros", won five Ariel Awards, the Mexican equivalent of the Oscar, and several other awards throughout the world. I hate to be the one to bash something that everyone seems to really admire, but, I don't get it. At all. I think there might be something that connects with a Mexican audience here, but the thought I keep feeling while watching the movie was how utterly aimless the film was. I see this movie getting compared to Pawel Pawlikowska's Oscar-winning "Ida", for some reason, another movie which I thought was more stylistic meandering than it was, intriguing storytelling. As far as I can tell, the only thing the films have in common is that they're shot in black and white, and I guess, has decent cinematography; I wasn't overly impressed but..., (Shrugs) Anyway, the movie begins with a kid accidentally dropping on a water balloon off a building and onto a baby.  (sigh)

Okay, maybe this is just me, but I remember a lot being somewhat stupid as a kid; I certainly did one or two things I regret, but between this and the tossing the naked fat kid into the crowded gym in "Central Intelligence," I don't remember being this stupid, and this big of an asshole. Is this just me, or do other kids do this, and- I mean, I would come up with some things, but no, not water-balloons off of a roof, just for fun, and I certainly wouldn't have thrown one anywhere near a crying baby! I-I-, I just,- Anyway, the kid is Tomas, (Sebastian Aguirre) and because of this, his mother, decides to send him away for a little while to his brother Sombra's (Tenoch Huerta) apartment for a little while. Tenoch is a college student, on strike at the moment. Huh.

(Google search)

Okay, this movie takes place in 1999, during the UNAM Strike, UNAM is the National Autonomous University of Mexico, the largest university in Latin America, and this involved a rector who was raising tuition rates, which was and still is a hot-button issue in Mexico..., anyway, it gleams on this, but basically, everybody's poor already, and now the college students are striking, and Sombra has no electricity, although gets some from a downstairs neighbor with Down's Syndrome. Anyway, that's only sorta important, because the main journey of the movie is when Sombra, his slacker friend Santos (Leonardo Ortizgris) and Tomas begin searching for Epigmenio (Alfonso Charpener) a famous Mexican folk musician who is apparently near-death. Tomas is a fan and legend has it that Epigmenio once made Bob Dylan cry from his music. As far as I can tell, this is a made up name, and not a famous musician, but there's been other indy films I can think of about people searching out some mythic famous musician who was once famous and suddenly left. (Why is that a popular subgenre; not counting documentaries. I can't think of one film with that arc that's great.) On the way, on the way, (Sigh), on the way.... There's a lot of episodic subplots in the movie, and I don't necessary think any of them were awful, but I couldn't really care about any of them either. I guess the movie that's probably most interesting to compare this too is "Y Tu Mama Tambien", which is also a road trip that had metaphorical significance, but the point of that movie, was in how the characters themselves acted or changed, and that's the reason why I'm being far harsher on "Gueros" than others, 'cause I don't see character change here. It's just a fun journey, that's kinda random, and because they're stuck with the kid who wants to do, they might as well do it too. At one point when Sombra is asked why he isn't at the demonstrations, he says, "I'm on strike from the strike," and that's what this movie feels like. It's supposed to be about something important and historical and significant, but it's not. It's not even about a search for a real musician. The movie's title, is apparently a slang for lighter-skinner, Mexicans, eh, they did explain it, but I'm a little ignorant on the nuance still. It comes up, once, at a nightclub, when they run into, a-eh, who I'm gonna call a Jules et Jim, and have a little too much fun with her. I guess you can argue, that this is a comedy, and not to be so serious; in fact the movie I want to compare it to most is "Duck Season," a wonderful Mexican comedy, about kids trying to keep themselves entertained, which also took place in an apartment building without electricity at one point. I enjoyed that movie a lot; in fact I underrate it in general, 'cause of how funny and witty it is, even though the young kids do some stupid things in the movie from time to time. It's just as aimless and pointless, but that's the joke; they're in a situation where they can't do anything else so that's all they got. These characters can and should be doing more interesting things, and, I'm not saying they should, but the movie makes it seem like they're revolutionaries, or at least, some fringe members of a modern-day revolution, but...- I mean, I guess the other that comes to mind is Bernardo Bertolucci's "The Dreamers", about a disturbing three-way sexual relationship between college-aged kids home alone, which is also about, or supposedly the late 60's time period, but I hated that movie for similar reasons, 'cause of it basically being, "Movies, Sex, Movies, Sex, Sex, Sex, Sex, Movies, Incest Almost, Ewww, Sex, Movies, three supposed adults with no parents too incompetent to do dishes or anything else that doesn't involve sex of movies, and then, Revolution in the streets" But at least that movie had characters having sex and talking about movies. These characters don't do anything that interesting, or worst then that, they barely seem like they want to do anything; they feel like it's a bother and a chore to do anything at all.

There's a decent movie, somewhere in this mess, and maybe Palacios will someday make it; he's clearly talented enough, but I-eh, I don't know what to tell you. I don't how this one is considered so great and special.



UNBRANDED (2015) Director: Phillip Baribeau

★★★★1/2



As impressive as it is to see a horse outrace a dozen and a half other horse for a mile and a quarter every first Sunday in May, and it is impressive, sure, but long distance horse travel, is both something of a rarity today, and also something that is far more difficult for bred horses to accomplish. Now, mustangs on the other hand....-

You might have heard the mustangs now-and-then without technically looking up the definition, but essentially it's a catch-all terms for wild horses. Those that aren't tamed and essentially run free through the land. You don't typically think about them, if you think about horses at all, but you might be surprised to learn exactly how big a problem they are in America. I'm not one of those people surprised, 'cause I live in Nevada, and while the Southern part of the state where I'm at certainly doesn't suffer from this problem the way others up North do, wild horses are, a bit of a nightmare here. Oh, they're amazing to look at, and you can find many locations up north to go and see them roaming free, and there's some places down here too; I've seen some riding out on, thankfully the other side of Lake Mead than the one I was at. There's some who are out there arguing that they might be an endangered species, which, (Laughs) eh, no. No, we're actually quite overpopulated with them. We have too many in fact, and especially in Northern Nevada which is ground zero for the overpopulation nightmare. Especially for ranchers, since the wild horses often eat up all the graze for the cows, so.... Yeah, they're a problem and it's gonna take a while to come up with a complete solution. However, one idea that Ben Masters among others has, is to, ride them. Cowboys still roam free here too, and Ben was impressed with the ride of mustangs when he had to get one on the cheap for a long cross-state ride and found out that they actually perform much better than other horses. "Unbranded" is a documentary about that presumption of his that they can be better-suited and cheaper for use, with a little training and taming of course. He decided to travel up the country, from Mexico to Canada, him and his three friends, and sixteen mustangs. It's a long trip, but quite an amazing one, going through New Mexico, Arizona, where we realize how treacherous travelling through the Grand Canyon trail is on horseback, which by all accounts, they're the first people in modern time to do it successfully, as well as Utah, Wyoming, and Montana, before reaching the Canadian border. It's a Summer journey by horseback, and quite a dangerous one. And not without it's problems and pitfalls and delays, and naturally, the weather ain't necessarily kind. If you remember for the Jean-Marc Vallee film, "Wild" how vast the weather and elevation can be for somebody hiking the entire distance from the U.S. to Canada, along a marked-out trail, then you'll know how drastic the weather can change here. "Unbranded" is a love letter to the West, to cowboys, to mustangs to horse-back riding, to friendship as well, although interestingly that ended up more tenuous at best, and also works as a mosaic of parts of the American West that frankly, most people don't get to see. There's so much more vast open land here, deserts, mountain, National Parks if they're lucky, much of which we just, at best, flyover when traveling. And to be fair, I'm not exactly one who's prone to making such a trek or a journey through some of the more dangerous terrains but I'm glad some are. I don't know how long all this land will last, and to be honest, I'm usually one of the ones in favor of building more large cities and towns around some of the lesser populated areas to compete with the East Coast Megalopolis-, 'cause seriously, why isn't Winnemucca like ten times as populated as it is? (It would really be helpful if it was, for several reasons) but there is a romance to the American West, and while it's not a pretty romance, and some of it is, quite dangerous and worrisome, this is the kind of movie that makes me remember why such a romance exists. Even if, sometimes the cacti and tumbleweeds, can really, really be annoying pains.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

CANON OF FILM: "THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION"

THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1994)

Director: Frank Darabount
Screenplay: Frank Darabount based on the short story “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption” by Stephen King



Checking IMDB.com's Top 250 list of their most highly-ranked movies, and to no surprise to me, "The Shawshank Redemption" comes in at number one. I say that now, because I've obviously checked the list more than once and just am aware of it's popularity but it is actually a surprise when you really think about it. You can talk to nearly everybody what they most like to see in movies, and "The Shawskank Redemption" has almost none of them. It’s a prison movie, with almost no female roles, it's 2 ½ hours long, and not fast-paced, there's very little action, if any at all, and is of all things, is about “redemption,” which is often a code word for boring. People like movies about revenge, not redemption. They want to get their comeuppance, not the good guy overcome his own issues. Although, that's not to say that the bad guy doesn't get his comeuppance, but that's not what people remember.

The movie was a box-office failure, only earning $54million at the box office, despite 7 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, which was only about half the film’s budget. Yet, the movie has become one of the most beloved of all American movies through video, DVD, and TV Airings of the film. It’s now, ironically, been “redeemed” from the brink of being forgotten to become a must-see classic.

And yet, I'm not exactly sure what it is that people romanticized about this little film that could. If I'm being honest, I actually prefer Frank Darabount's follow-up feature, "The Green Mile" a lot more, even with all the problems of that film, basically being about the man godlike Black man and the crazy ending, that, yeah, if I think about it too deeply, I'll probably start losing my head, but it's actually more inspiring for me, personally.

Darabount's an interesting story himself, he actually got his break from Stephen King, whose short story the film is based on. For those, young film school students, if you don't know, Stephen King has a rule where if you send him $1, he'll allow you to adapt a short story of his into a short film, as long as it follows certain guidelines King has, which you can read about, here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dollar_Baby

Darabount's the most successful of King's "Dollar Babies" and a frequent adapter of King's work, having directed "...Shawshawnk...", "The Green Mile" and "The Mist.

I think most people who watch the movie remember the movie’s climax, but the key is that the movie is not from the hero’s point of view. Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), has been sentenced to two back-to-back life sentences for the murder of his wife and her boyfriend, but the movie is shown from his Red’s narration (Morgan Freeman). A man who’s spent 20 years behind bars at the prison, and who doesn’t think much of Andy upon first look, betting he wouldn’t last a night. If this movie was from Andy’s P.O.V., it wouldn’t be interesting, but because we see Red’s we get the confused, unsure aspects of his perspective, and he and we, just wonder what this guy’s about. Why he strolls so casually in the yard, for instance. He remains quiet, despite everything he goes through, but will suddenly burst a grand gesture, like blaring opera over the loud speaker after locking himself in the guard’s office. He always seems to be hiding something, like a secret he knows that he won’t reveal, but whose actions could be confused for more snob-like behavior. He's a mystery to Red, and that's why he and we are fascinated.

I guess, that's part of why the movie's so intriguing, the film’s secret is that the redemption is not Andy’s, but in fact Red’s. The focus is Andy, but Red is the main character. Through Andy, he finds hope in a place where one shouldn’t be able to find it, in ways that one might not expect. The movie is bridged by Red’s parole hearings that come 10 years apart, and after 40 years, he finally tells the board he doesn’t give a damn if he ever gets out. He is then finally considered rehabilitated and released to the same half-way house another prisoner went to before hanging himself.  Through Andy though, he finds redemption, and a way to find hope again. A way to finally break from the walls of Shawshank forever.

Still though, I'm not sure why so many people love and admire this film so much. Darabount's directing and storytelling probably helps. It's subtle and yet confident; it literally sneaks up on you how well the story's been told over time. It sucks you into the world of the prison, and makes you comfortable there. Most prison movies, I can think, they don't do that. They're either, completely exploitative, that's especially true of female prison movies, or they're usually more combative and go for the more obvious and explicit fight-the-establishment narrative. The only other prison movie I can think of that doesn't focus on that is "Birdman of Alcatraz" and even that film divulges into that eventually."The Shawshank Redemption", partially does too, but it's little twist is that, it's a minor subplot at best. It is ultimately a film, not about surviving prison physically, but about surviving prison mentally, and I think that's really the key to understanding it's popularity. It's inspiring, but not in the cliched way that most movies supposedly are. The most famous line from the film, is "Get busy living or get busy dying," although the context of the line, is strange too. It's spoken by Andy while him and Red are talking about what they're gonna do, if they ever get out, on the outside. And it's a perplexing line and scene, at the moment it happens, we're not sure what choice Andy's about to make. I've seen that example used as an inspirational tool several times; I can understand why, but I don't quite know how many people were actually capable of what Andy pulls off. I guess some like to think they could, but it's more likely if they ever break free and start living, more like the way Red does at the end.




Tuesday, May 2, 2017

IS IT FAIR TO ANALYZE TELEVISION SEASONS WHEN LOOKING AT A SERIES AS A WHOLE?

Maybe it's just me, and I never really paid much attention before, but, there's something off with the way that we analyze television, seasonally. Growing up, I never looked at a show that way, and I never really thought anybody else did either. I guess, just by the logic that, well, had the Emmys, so somebody must've been looking at it that way, for that at least, but other than that, generally I don't look at most series like that. Basically the only show that I would naturally do that for would be reality shows, and it's pretty easy to see why in that case, because each season of a show would be very distinct and in most cases would have it's own new cast of characters. The yearly anthology series like "American Horror Story" or "Fargo" or "True Detective" is a very new invention that didn't exist back fifteen years ago, but everything else....- 

I know, I will occasionally say that I like/preferred or didn't a particular season of a show moreso now, but that's partially because we are more prone to compacting and considering television shows, as a season. Hell, streaming services like Netflix and Amazon, they present new series a season at a time; we basically have no other option but to consider a show like that nowadays and I don't think that's fair or adequate. In many cases, I think a lot of good shows are getting hurt because of how closely we've begun analyzing series by the quality of it's season as a whole. Now, it's 100% true that television shows, even since the beginning of television have arcs to their series and characters, and if you do go back and watch some of them, that includes seasonal character arcs, that are specific and continuing, but did people really notice them back then? I mean, sure, a week of time between episodes helped to hide certain longer-running storylines and only on reruns do things like, a random cut to Laurie Metcalf fidgeting with a piece of her clothes  as she walked into The Lunch Box for work, reveal itself as foreshadowing for when we realize Fisher was physically abusing her, which we don't learn officially until several episodes later, but....-

Quick, don't look it up, what season did Fonzi jump the shark? Yeah, this moment: 



Purportedly the iconic and notorious moment that everybody references whenever a television show supposedly has, gone from good-to-bad in such a way, in such an instant that the show is doomed to never recover from the incident, what season did it happen in? I posted that question in a few film groups, to see how many people would know the answer, and not a lot of people answered, and no joke, none of the ones who did got it right. In case you're wondering, it's the fifth season, the fifth season of "Happy Days" is when Fonzie jumped the shark. "Happy Days" lasted eleven seasons. Oh, and it was the third episode of "Happy Days", that season, when it happened. But it went downhill afterwards, and scurried along until it was finally canceled, right, like the legend says, once you jump the shark then the show loses it's cultural importance and people stop watching forever, right? Actually, no, "Happy Days" did fall in the ratings, from #1 to #2, but it only loss a single ratings point, from 31.5 to 31.4, and even the next year, it loss more, but it was still the 3rd most watched show that season, tied with "Mork & Mindy", a show, that was a spinoff of "Happy Days". A spinoff of "Happy Days", based on an episode that happened, after Fonzie jumped the shark. 20 EPISODES AFTER! Yeah, you know what other character got introduced after Fonzie jumped the shark, Leather Tuscadero. No, better yet, you know who else didn't show up 'til season five after this moment, CHACHI! Yes, CHACHI, Scott Baio, who also, got a spinoff series for a year, not to mention two other successful series afterwards, and no I'm not talking his stupid reality show. (That, actually wasn't that stupid if I'm being honest. [Sigh] It actually wasn't bad, sorry.) And btw, hell, it's not like there wasn't stupid stuff before and after Fonzie jumped the shark, or afterwards, why aren't those moments singled out more and are looked upon as the jumping the shark moment? Hell, how isn't it, "Bring In the Alien!" Seriously, an alien on fucking "Happy Days"! My god!?!?! Can you believe how lucky this show is that they found a Robin Williams for that?! Any other show, that would've been the jump the shark moment. It should be called, "Bring in the Alien"! Seriously think about that some days.

But yeah, season five. Not even the halfway point of the show's run, and the evidence actually doesn't indicate that it's the moment the audience tuned out for. And I'm not gonna claim that isn't a bad or stupid moment, although, for my money, I think the footage is actually more seamless than people would like to believe, but it begs another question, just how relevant are the seasons of a series, when analyzing a series? This feels like a prime example of why it's actually a really misleading way of analysis, obviously every show has ways of indicating just, when and where they're being made, whether that's something simple like, extra or fewer characters or actors or differing locations or certain status quos of the series that have evolved or changed over time, or hell, just, by the shear fact that characters, especially children get older during the run of the series. (Animation exception) but it still nags at me that we're so ingrained in analyzing a series, season-by-season, and many series, make particular notes about how distinctive the seasons are. I saw somebody else put a poll up on a Facebook post recently, 13 episodes of 22 episodes, which do you prefer for a series to have, and all I could think is that if the show were any good then it wouldn't and shouldn't matter. And seasons, I often look at the same way, a series not only should be just as good in the ninth as it is in the first, if not better, but in my mind, the best series; it doesn't occur to me to think, "What season is this?" or "How long into the series is this?" cause the series would still be just as good and overall, there'd actually be quite little basic change over the time period.

Don't just think, "Happy Days", but think "All in the Family", until Rob Reiner and Sally Struthers left the series, I'd be hard-pressed to figure out, when and where in the timeline of a random episode of that series is. (Hell, I'll be honest, until I looked it up, I didn't know the "Happy Days" question either off-the-top-of-my-head) Not that they've just remained static as a series and nothing happens changes, a lot actually did occur, but the core show didn't.

Trying to figure out when did seasons actually, start mattering is tricky, I guess there's some television points of reference, most notably, the season-finale cliffhangers like "Who Shot JR?" after "Dallas"'s 3rd season, but that was a serial soap opera on top of everything else. It's weirder to me, to think about a show like, hmm, what's a good example here, eh, how about "Seinfeld"? Now, I think to layman, this might be the example of a series everybody would go to when they say a television show doesn't change over time, and the changes don't matter. They do, first of all, characters go through several relationships and there's more recurring themes than you realize and blah, blah, blah, but there are notable differences that indicate that a series is in it's later years than it's first seasons, that might go over peoples' head. For instance, at a certain point, the show became more about the outlandish laughs and not so much, the continued narrative. There's reports all the time that, the show became more like "SNL" behind-the-scenes where the writers were writing more for the laughs then for the quality of the series overall. Now the show is still great and many of those episodes are still funny, and they don't seem out-of-place if you don't look closely enough, but the more you watch a show, the more obvious it would become. This is notable for being around the time when Larry David left the series as a producer and Seinfeld himself took over more duties behind-the-scenes, so you end up with people, trying to imitate more than continue.

I often hear that the loss or change of a showrunner can often be real determining factor, since often a showrunner is a creator or main voice behind a show and while I can definitely think of examples where that is the case; I can think of just as many where that's not true at all. Sure, there are some distinctive voices in television, like when Aaron Sorkin left "The West Wing" it was clear that those who had to take over were not necessarily as up to his unique status and standard, and that show has a quote-unquote "bad season", season five, but I'd still argue that a bad season for "The West Wing" is a great season for most other series and eventually, while not the show it once was, it recovered. There's other shows like "Smash" I can think of where the creator was fighting with the network the entire time, and then when she left, they put in charge somebody who was from so outside Theresa Rebeck's talents, abilities and mindset, not-to-mention just not qualified for the job of showrunner in general, much less for the kind of show he was producing, that it's no wonder that series second season was an unmitigated disaster. (Hell, I consider Rebeck's original base for the series that she created to be, essentially the reason that that 2nd season was as watchable as it was.) However, some shows switch showrunners every season it seems, like "The Big Bang Theory" for instance, has had a few and while it's starting to get tired now, I don't blame that on that show's showrunner, moreso than I blame the fact that they've basically evolved the characters so much that this new status quo they've achieved leaves less room for the series to be as appealing as it once was. That's not necessarily a negative, but...- yeah, I think that's sort of my point. Rarely do I think shows, change in quality so drastically from season-to-season that it really merits such discussions. Hell, even most of the ones that supposedly do, are usually shows that, I was in the minority on and didn't regard that highly to begin with. (I'm looking at you, "Homeland", and you "Mr. Robot", and you "True Detective," purportedly, I actually haven't seen the second season of that one yet,)

Still though, how did we get to this focus on season analysis of a series so much then? (Sigh) Well, I guess the obvious answer is, DVDs, since that was the first time that television was widely available to be taken home and naturally it was more easily able to be separated into individual seasons than ever before. I think it actually has more to do however, with the more erratic scheduling. Not just the fact that, we have a more scattered scheduling with series especially on cable, but also, similar to British series, there's often years now between seasons of shows. That's the thing, even when shows evolved and took years between series, they usually made efforts to make sure that shows from one seasons to another were as seamless as one episode to another.

What this leads to, is making a series more able to be compared season-by-season, since they're often too distinctive to not be considered in such a way. (Sigh) I can see both sides of this argument as to why that's good and bad, but I do look at television series through a long lens, even streaming ones. Eventually, one them's gonna make a enough episodes and will eventually start airing on whatever the future version of Nick at Nite is, which I guess is MeTV or AntennaTV now, and compete with each currently-running series, and so far, these series don't have much of a run on syndication and reruns. Even ones like "Sex and the City", which seem seamless enough between seasons, they don't survive too long in syndication. They survive in binge-watching sure and on streaming, but there isn't that much success in reruns. The only series like this I can think of like that that's currently pretty big in reruns is "The Walking Dead", and I think that's partially 'cause the show's still on the air, (And part of that's because too many people like zombies more than they probably should.) and I seriously doubt that's gonna continue for much longer.

It's apart of how too much of television seems specialized to me that makes me concerned honestly. It's one problem that these shows have, not just the bad ones, which there are way more of then people realize, but the good ones being so distinctive between seasons are probably also gonna get lost in the shuffle. And instead of remember, a bad moment, from a show, in the future, we're gonna remember too many more, supposed, "bad seasons" instead. And, a bad season can kill a show much moreso than just a supposed "bad episode". At least if there's just a bad episode, you can wait 'til next week for a new one that's good.




Thursday, April 27, 2017

INTERNET PERSONAS: THOUGHTS ON THE PERSONAS THAT MODERN INTERNET ARTISTS BUILD AND THE PERCEPTION OF THEIR WORK AND PERFORMANCE IN THE DIGITAL AGE! (Ironically NOT, I repeat NOT, in light of the recent Alex Jones revelations.)

(Frustrated sigh)

So, this asshole!



Okay, this is gonna be hard to believe, but I actually had this blog planned out, before all this Alex Jones shit happened. But, since it coincides,... (Sigh) So if you don't know Alex Jones, lucky you; I feel envious. He's a prick through and through and his and he right-wing hate-filled bullshit and conspiracies on his program, "Info Wars", 'cause apparently he's at war, with info, which should be a clue that he's full of shit...- Anyway, he's in a domestic battle with his wife over custody of his kids and in court, his lawyer argued that his radio "character" wasn't the "real Alex Jones", but that he is a "performance artist". He's performing a character, of piece of shit conspiracy nutjob that real piece of shit conspiracy nutjobs listen to.

(Sighs)

Look, I'm, not gonna spend my time here focusing on this guy, 'cause he's not worth it, but from what I can gather, there's nothing listed on his website and nothing on his radio and streaming broadcasts that indicates that he's performing an act, which would make him a fake, so "The Daily Show" is correct about that. If he, in fact, is a performance artist, fine, but I don't care, 'cause either way, many members of his audience thinks it's real, and have been directly inspired by him to believe things that are outright lies and even commit gross acts of violence against innocent people based on his inflammatory claims. He doesn't present himself as entertainment, which is why him suddenly calling himself that, while no surprise to anyone, doesn't excuse the actions he's inflamed and inspired, nor does it make his behavior excusable. As an artist, I can't say how talented he is, although he's pretty good in the three minutes of screen time he has in Richard Linklater's "Waking Life" and "A Scanner Darkly". (Shrugs) Basically as the previous holder of the chair at "The Daily Show" once put it when talking with Jim Cramer, "I get it, we're both snake oil salesman, but we label our bottle, "Snake Oil"...."

But, this is actually a good way to segue into the conversation of "persona". No, not the video game that I have no interest in covering and have no knowledge of anyway. And, no, not the Bergman film although I wouldn't mind talking at length about that. No, I mean, persona in the sense of what, well, the perception of the person that others see you as. Especially an exaggerated one that might be manufactured and shown to the public. You see, I was actually influence to discuss this because of a Youtube livestream that Lindsay Ellis hosted a couple weeks ago on her Youtube page, Chez Lindsay:



Now, I'm not entirely familiar with every one of the Youtube personalities that are brought up or even the ones involved in the conversation itself, but as someone who, technically is also an internet personality, (I mean, this is a blog, you're not reading it in the New York Times, yet) who does try to generate a persona, this itself is something that intrigues me.

Now keep in mind, this isn't something that's internet exclusive. Everybody has a persona, in particular every famous person and celebrity. They go out of their way to portray themselves and give people the perception that they want, whether this comes in the form of an actor picking particular roles or when somebody puts themselves out there politically as either a liberal, conservative or something in-between, or whatever. Every aspect of them, is apart of what makes up a persona (Or one aspect can be a persona itself too). Some might be close to their real-life personalities, some aren't, but either way, it's a persona, and I've been thinking a lot about it lately, 'cause I do think that there are, (sigh) issues out there, when it comes to understanding the differences between one's "persona" and the "person" themselves, and in particular with celebrity. Internet celebrity, particularly female internet celebrities have been dealing with this for awhile, but I see it all around in mainstream. That's one of the reasons I so vehemently defend Lena Dunham several times on this blog, because anyone that actually looks up all the crap that she's accused up thoroughly and understands her perspective and persona, and those are two different things by the way, will see that she most of the time she's getting crapped on unfairly and incorrectly, mainly by people who are fucking idiots who don't know and don't give a shit, because they don't realize her perspective and confuse it with her persona. They take things literally that are clearly satirical and wit, mainly 'cause they're insistent in seeing negative because the persona she gives, at least in the main acting and writing performances is one that upsets them for one reason or another, not realizing, well, A. half the time it's supposed to upset you, and B. it's not relative to the actual person, and she has never claimed that it does.

I have a Facebook friend who bashes Amy Schumer every chance he gets for similar reasons as well, and frankly I don't understand why, and most of that is the same thing, confusing persona for the actual  person. Stand-up comedy is of course a genre renowned for having a difficult line of distinction, because while, yeah, they're performing an act, their performance is still, usually based on certain aspects of the person themselves. Not always, Robin Williams was hard to pin down based on his stand-up, but you took say, George Carlin more genuinely, maybe 'cause of subject matter, maybe because of approach to stand-up, but it's not a bad comparison, what's happened with female comics from Leslie Jones being bullied off twitter to Amy Schumer and Lena Dunham getting crap, for, um, I don't know, not being thin enough to be naked and unashamed, basically. (Or as Schumer put it in her latest Netflix special, the last thing you want to be called when you put an underwear photo up, is, "brave") it's rough out there, and frankly, I have made myself known about it, 'cause as a creator, a writer an artist who knows and occasionally works with other artists, I know the process of branding and creating a persona and what that entails, and a backlash against a perceived image of somebody, against a real image of somebody shouldn't be something we stay quiet about. If everybody started calling Snoopy a cat for some reason, it's our responsibility to go, "No, he's a dog!" and not just go along with the crowd, 'cause it's popular. It's one thing to go after Bill Cosby for drugging a raping a bunch of women, because it's pretty damn obvious that he drugged and raped a bunch of women, and not that Casey Affleck is excused because he did his indiscretions while essentially being apart of an actual performance by an actual performance artist, but Cosby doesn't have that in his background as an artist to defend him, in fact quite the opposite, considering the persona he spent decades building up.

So, the stream is pretty interesting in of itself, with a good cast of Youtube personalities who have intriguing perspective, although they do, get there although they bounce around the basic conflict, but basically, it's a discussion about that conflict between making the points you want to make and having to create a persona or in some cases a complete separate character in order to express those points and get noticed and the benefits and drawbacks of that.

Lindsay Ellis, in particular, probably has one of the more unique perspectives on this than any other of the Youtube critics or creators, 'cause she had a persona that she did not choose herself. She was originally "Nostalgia Chick", a character that was created by Doug Walker, better known as Nostalgia Critic to be a female counterpart to take on subjects that were nostalgia but had more of a female bent or marketing towards them, since he was getting a lot of requests for them, but he didn't really have the knowledge or background on the subjects to cover them. Lindsay Ellis won the contest that That Guy With the Glasses, now known as Channel Awesome set up.

She's brought this up a few times in her reviews, and if you go back, and I'm not gonna pretend that I know the exact order, but her earliest Nostalgia Chick reviews are similar to Nostalgia Critic's reviews in format and structure, but eventually she started deviating from that, not only in structure but also in content, and at one point she eventually left Channel Awesome and started her own website of critics, Chez Apocalypse, which had a similar base in Nostalgia Critic's aesthetic but had more of an intellectual bent to their reviewing and were necessary as comedically-based, and now she herself with her "Loose Canon" series in particular isn't so much a reviewer or critic, although she is, but she fits more in the realm of an media analyst or theorists through her video essays. Which makes sense for several reasons, for instance she has a documentary background to begin with, so this is more in her vein of work, but also, think about it, she had a persona, essentially thrown upon her, that wasn't entirely her own. Doug Walker created Nostalgia Critic himself and at the point where he was at at the time he held this contest, he had years of developing and establishing this persona of his, but she had to take a character and essentially meld and twist it until it fit something that more resembled the kind of analytical work that she wanted to do, and even then, she eventually abandoned the Nostalgia Chick persona entirely to formulate this other persona. That's fairly unique in general, and while it's not entirely impossible to start one persona and abandon it entirely to create another in this medium, she doesn't quite have that option, 'cause essentially, the fact that she used to be Nostalgia Chick is also what informs her present work and iteration of her persona. How she presents her perspective, through this persona that she's built up.

She's a perfect example of how one adapts when a persona, essentially becomes too limiting. That's the thing, a persona, ideally, isn't necessarily an exact representation of the person behind the one creating, but it's taking aspects of one's personality and perspective and basically exaggerating them to full effect. And that's often played for comedic effect, but it can played the other way too. The most notable example of this, in the celebrity culture, is the star system in Hollywood. It's not as prevalent today, but you think of somebody like John Wayne, and you don't necessarily think of the actor or the person even, but you think the image. The persona that he generated, in many ways for himself over several decades. A good example today might be, Will Smith. For two decades he's been the biggest star in Hollywood essentially, but think about the majority of the roles he's taken. "Suicide Squad" is the closest he's ever been to playing a bad guy and even then, that character shares many similar traits and values of the characters he's played in the past, almost all of which are relatively good guys, honest people, smart, at times funny, usually honorable family men or people who you can imagine being. He's the guy you wish your daughter would marry and have kids with. There's exceptions to that and that's not a negative but it's indicative of somebody who's had complete control over his persona for most of his careers and while it doesn't necessarily indicate every aspect of Will Smith, it certainly indicative of the aspects about himself that he wants to project and emphasize to the public at large. This is why Lindsay Ellis is a particularly useful example here, for all-intensive purposes most of the Youtube reviewers and creators out there, essentially chose their own persona(s), now it's definitely that some have regretted it over time, but she's had two, one that was thrust upon her and another one that's had to form out of that original persona.

Now that's a common thing, now, in most entertainment media, actors, musicians, especially young ones, often progress and change from their original persona all the time and nobody blinks an eye, but it's a little more unusual to see this happen for an internet personality, especially one who's famous, essentially as a critic or theorist or something of that nature. There's this implicit indication that, even the critics who are as over-the-top in their persona as possible, that there's a sense of truth and realism for lack of a better term to their thoughts and opinions when in reality, that can often be very different. I think some people don't understand entirely. I had one troll for instance, argue that John Oliver or Jon Stewart are not credible news sources because they're comedians. (This guy was an idiot who also once sent me a video of a right-wing commentator who used a supposedly comedic sketch in his work as well, to explain his point, so, I don't know why he thought that was more legitimate than the guys that win Emmys and Peabodys for doing it, but oh well.) That's the thing they do, is they take a persona and use that as a way to filter and extrapolate their opinion. Basically, they're acting. I know Lindsay Ellis often discusses how she's somebody who doesn't like acting, but she's acting. That's not a criticism, it's just a fact, and even if she wasn't filtering an easy and performing it in front of a camera, that's positions in a particular way to frame her essay or anybody else's for that matter, you don't talk like that in real life. It's scripted, it's formulated, it's structured. Even if it's free-form and stream-of-consciousness there's still an aspect of presentation involved.

Hell, there's an aspect of that in every blogpost I write, including this one. I think about how I'm projecting myself and considering the kinds of perspectives and personas I write with and determine which one works best to explain the point(s) that I'm making. I've pointed it out many times, some of my blogs are more satirical others are more serious, other have a combination of both, and other have different voices and influences within them. And even outside of this blog, I'm a brand. Not only here, but online and hopefully within the industry someday. I do have writing gigs and the like occasionally, and all three of these personas are different and they help me approach the different jobs and works differently. Writers do this the same ways actors work, especially people who work with voices, who name each voice and approach a cold read of a part by trying to select the voice closest to the part they're auditioning for. It's an acting performance, where I take and borrow from some sources, but collage it along with my own stuff and create my own point and my own voice and perspective filtered through my persona.

I know, I'm bordering on naval-gazing with my ranting here, but I do think about this, and the possibilities and dangers I run into with these worlds possibly one day colliding. I've said some tough and sometimes means things about people here, who I, in the future might have a possibility of working with, but you know, one or two Google searches and I might not get that job for Michael Bay or Rex Reed or whomever. Now, I suspect, that, most of those people, who professionals, moreso than my personal perspective or understand that I'm in the role of a critic and commentator and that most of the time I'm not talking about them as people and persons but them in terms of their work. That's a bit like saying, "I love you Mr. Picasso, it's just your paintings I can't stand," but in general, they're professional, they know the artistic and critic process as well as anybody, so I think most of them will ultimately understand that I'm not being personal. And I think most will, and I think most members of the audience do get that, for both the mainstream and the internet celebrities, but not everyone does.

That's why such discussions are important to have and important to have and consider, and while perhaps the days of when have the country thought their soap operas were as real as their pro wrestling was are long gone, but on the internet, this idea of persona and branding oneself and how best to do it, is not only going on, it's just starting. We're already seeing people who have been doing this for almost a decade now just on Youtube or some other streaming service, and longer for much of print media on the internet and both definitely have influenced each other and now there's several new subgenre of media that's been invented through this, and these genres are still seeking out their personas much less the creators themselves trying to figure out how to mold and brand,- I mean, hell, this is a medium that's only barely figured out how to make money doing these things. I've barely figured out how to make money doing this and I get criticism on my persona and perspective that itself, and if you go back to my early, earliest blogs, which I don't recommend you do, 'cause they're not that good, but I didn't necessarily come into this venture with an assured persona(s) either, it evolved and was formulated over time, and while I guess I could delete certain older pieces, in the spirit of the internet age, I leave them up for posterity's sake as most others do, 'cause it does reflect how much I've evolved and changed over the years doing this...-, and yeah, the people might not realize or understand where I come from occasionally, they're just gonna be disappointed or left in the dark at times. And I'm not under nearly the scrutiny that these people are, imagining what it is for them to be forming and evolving persona, all the while realizing that some aren't gonna contemplate or understand the perspectives which have formed these personas,

I wonder how it's going their personas are going to evolve in the future as the medium continues to grow. Hmm, I wonder how mine might change in the future.... Oh well, let's just hope we get more performance artists and less, fakes in the future.