A quick update this week. Two movies, both part two’s. A 2x2x2, if you will. Gremlins 2 is one of the greatest films of all time, don’t @ me. How I still manage to avoid reviewing Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan (1982) is completely beyond me.
Didn’t watch hardly any movies this week. Busy creating my own stuff. Did manage to catch the Fathom screening of Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979). And, it’s… Well, it’s still The Motion Picture. So, to offer you, dear reader, a far more complete movie update blog, to celebrate Star Trek day a week late, and to maybe give you a hint at some new stuff coming to this space in the near future, I offer my reviews of all the Star Trek movies, except Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) and Star Trek Nemesis (2002). So somehow, in the last year or so, I haven’t watched the best Trek film or the worst.
Seriously, how have I gone this long without watching The Wrath of Khan. That probably needs to be rectified.
More busy times have pulled me away from as many reviews as I would normally post, but you can’t keep a good writer down. You can, however, seem to keep an epic story about an inter-dimensional hellbeast/murderous clown down. Such is life.
As editing for season 2 of The Fourth Wall has kicked into high gear, I kinda figured the reviews would slow down. Instead, they’ve picked up a little bit. The need to take deliberate brakes during this kind of work is essential. So, some pixar movies and a dip into the deep end of the 80s was quickly in order.
My pledge to do a tour of time travel movies continues unabated. Although, fair warning my review of Back to the Future Part III is one of the longer reviews I’ve written on the site, and may have devolved into more of a love letter/mission statement regarding my love for all movies. What can I say? That early-90s Universal vanity card gets me every time. God knows what I’ll write about next week, as I’m becoming mildly manic in my preoccupation with making my own stuff at the moment.
A light week on updates, and they couldn’t be more different. On one hand, we have a film so deeply flawed that it’s virtues are hard to find, and on the other we have
Which one is which might surprise you!
No. It won’t surprise you.
Honestly, how could I have gone the year I’ve been writing these reviews and not watched Back to the Future (1985) this whole time…
For that matter, how could I have gone this long without having watched all of the Star Trek films, but I digress…
New week, same as the last week. Finished up my re-watch of the Mission: Impossible series, and continued my march through the more obscure titles in the Orson Welles catalog. With The Fourth Wall recording I’ve been doing this week as I wrap up season two, I’m thinking a deep-dive into time travel movies is in the immediate future…
Or is it the past?
Some big announcements will follow, but there is something I really need to get off my chest.
Yes, the President is racist. Even the people that still like him know this to be true, they just would rather we not talk about it. Or—if we do talk about it—we work ourselves into a stupor over it and forget to vote in a year.
That much is obvious. That is not what I need to get off my chest. But now that we’ve gotten that out of the way:
Robert Pattinson as Batman will be just fine.
Now, of course I would prefer the world to bring back Michael Keaton into the role in some kind of Batman Beyond situation, but I’ve been saying this for years, and there is still plenty of time to make that happen.
Every reaction to Pattinson taking over the role from Ben Affleck is blown out of proportion. Those that can only think of him via those silly vampire movies he did aren’t giving him a fair shake. Those abuzz about the possibility in light of his recent more interesting indie work think everything will work out.
But, please, consider this:
Everyone thought Michael Keaton would be a disaster. He was fantastic. People can complain about some of the merits of the two films he did and how they may have aged, but I’ve never heard an unkind word about his performance. Now, granted, if anyone ever did, they would suddenly sound like Charlie Brown’s parents, but I think the point that people liked it at the time and have fond memories of him as the Dark Knight even now.
Everyone was convinced that Christian Bale would be the perfect casting for the role. Ultimately, he probably ended up being the weakest part of the strongest Batman movies.
Everyone thought Ben Affleck would be terrible in the role, and well… He was fine in the role. The movies surrounding him were exercises in new and interesting ways to screw up a movie.
Do you want to know who—purely on spec—was the best casting of Batman, ever?
George Clooney in 1996.
The lesson? Nobody knows anything. Let them make their batmen. Everything (on that front) will be fine.
Whew, now that we have that out of the way, let’s get to the larger announcements in this entry.
Last week, I published “If You Enjoyed This Book,” the seventy-second flash fiction story I’ve written in the last year and a half. It will be the last story in that series.
The original notion was to produce these for two years, but that was also when I was trying to keep the entries under 500 words, a notion that also quickly evaporated. A byproduct of upping the word-count limit is that I now—even with omitting a few entries that I either wasn’t infatuated with or might work better in a different format—have enough stories to turn them into a book. The experiment is over.
I now begin the process of re-editing and organizing those stories into a volume, If Any Of These Story Goes Over 1000 Words, This Whole Book Will Explode. What happens to the blog entries in the meantime? All the links will remain live until the book goes to press, but the blog will be removed from the site’s masthead.
This may leave one wondering about what the site will look like in the future. You may have questions
1) Will I ever write another flash story?
Maybe. Over the course of the last 18 months I had a lot of ideas and almost-ideas, here’s just a few:
A story about a group of archeologists in the future uncovers the site of a laser tag arena, and can’t make heads or tails out of it.
The story of the participant in the famed Shelley/Byron writing commune (the one that gave the world Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus). Something tells me I might actually write that one up one day.
I tried several times to construct a story about the last person burned at the stake during the Salem Witch Trials. I wanted it to be funny, with the executioners past their peak enthusiasm for the mass murders, but it was always a story about being burned alive. C’est la vie.
Maybe other ideas will come to me, or maybe one of the above will light my imagination on fire again, and I’ll take to a pen to make things happen. If it does, it’s entirely possible that I will post it in this space, but I doubt I’ll ever get an itch to produce stories at this rate again.
Incidentally, one of the very first ideas I had when writing these stories dealt with a cabal of shadowy figures who make sure we forget that which brings us misery, but still feel miserable about it. I could never quite work the story out, until just a few weeks ago when I re-worked some elements and it became story #70, “The Misery Vampires.” Lesson? Hang in there, pals, some ideas just need time so you can work them out.
2) Will I still blog?
Simple answer: Yes.
3) What will I blog about?
I’m so glad you/I asked. I won’t do what I had done in the past and produce a new article/blog entry every week. That was just as grueling as the stories became. I’ll probably check back in here at least every other month to offer some thoughts. Like with the stories, if the mood strikes me, I may write other pieces as well.
I will still be posting regularly to a new, third blog on the site. Last year, after taking a deep dive with old Siskel and Ebert at the Movies clips on Youtube, being absolutely wrecked by both Ebert’s memoir Life Itself and the 2014 documentary that shares its subject and title, and reading a few of Ebert’s review collections, I wanted to take a stab at movie criticism myself.
I decided I would write a review (of no fewer than 300 words) of every movie I saw from that day forward. I would have to have seen all of the movie to write the review. If I had already reviewed it for this experiment, then I could take a pass.
Given the amount of time I spend watching movies, that may end up being a tall order…
All right. I lied. I made that decision about a year ago, and have been writing the reviews ever since.
So, now I have reviews of 144 films, encompassing over 70,000 words of material. It’s like a bonus book that I’m not even going to charge you for. There are a few Batman movies, to be sure*. A lot of newer horror releases I watched for Beyond the Cabin in the Woods, like Us (2019), Midsommar (2019), and beyond all comprehension The Nun (2018). Lora and I watched every Marvel movie that didn’t feature Edward Norton**, and those reviews are ready for your perusal. Oh, heck, just take a look at the list as of today, July 22nd:
The reviews are probably rougher than what I would normally post on the site, but this keeps me in regular writing and updating without having to come up with ideas from nothing every week. I’m okay with that if you all are.
For now, though, feel free to look around the space, and check back in often. Things will be changing around here pretty starkly and I can’t wait to show you what I’ve been working on. The final season of The Fourth Wall is just the beginning…
*In fact, I became very aware that I watched Batman (1989) three times in the last twelve months, which seems right about on average for me, even if one of the times was on the the big screen for the first time.
**No particular reason. We just skipped it in our marathon. I may circle back around to it soon.
~As I write this line it is 04/21/19 and the flash fiction blog has just edged out the movie review blog fro 50,000 words. As some of the stories may not make it into the book, and I have it in my mind (and will probably insist on it, unless my brain truly dries up with potential story ideas) pushing it at least past 60k, there is still some work to do.
~As a side note, I’m writing this line on 04/29/19, and it appears that the movie blog book is now at 49K and change. All of that written in just over six months. Imagine what I could do with my life if I didn’t feel the need to blog…
~So, Endgame happened. Obviously, the death of (REDACTED) left me a little underwhelmed, while the death of (ALSO REDACTED) may have me careening toward the beginnings of what will eventually be my mid-life crisis. The time travel doesn’t make sense when looked at it through a macro lens (especially when the fate of (REDACTED ONCE MORE) comes into play. And the unpacking of time travel tropes is probably objectively fun, it only served to send me careening into a full-blown panic attack, as it is trucking in the same lane of a project I currently have in development.
~Speaking of which, the scripts for all six episodes of The Fourth Wall, Season 2 are at a point where I can start showing them to some people. Weird that I’ve even made it this far on this, although there is still much to do. The script book looks to be hovering right around 96,000 words (before any other ancillary material might be added in), so that’s definitely the longest thing I ever wrote.
~With all of that above, I’m a little unmoored as far as writing projects are at the moment. Things will obviously speed up again as I get closer to being in production on the new season. Get back to getting The Once And Future Orson Welles ready for public eyes? Maybe, but I think I’d like a little more uninterrupted writing time runway before I truly, finally pivot in that direction. Keep writing flash and get that catalogue to a point where I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I’ll have enough to move forward on a volume of the stories? Seems more likely. Finally break down and just play some video games for once? Feels incredibly tempting.
~Aaaaaaaaaand the movie blog just—with my review of Thor (2011)—hit 50,000 words as well. Odds are it will lap the flash blog, and then only continue to grow. Means the average entry is 505 words. Also means that if the numbers hold up, I watch about 132 films per year (not counting several of the films that appear in the blog that I’ve watched on repeat). Not sure if I should be bummed or proud of that.
~Also on that note, I didn’t think my 100th movie review would be for Shazam (2019), but here we are.
~Speaking of movies I did a review of that I’ll probably watch a couple of times, I had the unique opportunity to see Batman (1989) in a theater. As many times I had seen the film, I had never seen it on the big screen. The theater was about a quarter-filled with people who looked exactly like me. I wondered quietly if all of our lives had gone along a similar path, only to bring us to this time and place. The film—as I had quietly suspected for a while—is a different experience in the theater, and was probably meant more for that venue. Danny Elfman’s score rattles the one when it isn’t coming out of the puny speakers of a television. I may be hearing things, but I think for the 4K release—for which these screenings were intended as a promotion—they’ve tinkered with the sound design. Films of the 70s and 80s had this wonderful sound when guns are shot. It had nothing to o with what I would imagine is the reality of bullets, but more akin to a bell ringing. This film was once filled with that strange twang. Now? The bullets sound like bullets. I’m not sure if I like that, but then again, I didn’t really expect to have them ask me about it. Might just need to isolate that sound and use it more in The Fourth Wall this season and keep the dream alive.
~I don’t know how much I should talk about this next bit, but sufficed it to say things are happening here at Party Now, Apocalypse Later Industries. This space and the things I’m involved in may look quite a bit different a year from now, or at least I hope it will. It’s nice to have that hope again. It feels like it’s been a while.Read More
~Last week I finished the rough drafts of The Fourth Wall Season 2. While there is quite a bit of work left to do—as a matter of fact, most of the work left to do—I’ve told myself the story, and that makes a lot of things much clearer. Now if only I can settle on a title for Episodes 3 and 6…
~If you’re reading this, you’re digging deeper into the site than most, I’d imagine. So, here’s a little update. As I write this, the movie review blog is already up to 84 entries. Even though it’s existed for almost half as long, it is already giving the flash blog a run for it’s money in word count. Who will reach 50,000 words first? Flash fiction is currently at 45,612. Movie reviews are at 42,830. Stay tuned, but the direction for the 3.0 version of this site is starting to shape up.
~An old friend passed away recently… I’m sorry, that should have read “a movie theater of which I had a lot of fond memories—but had fallen into disrepair—recently shut down all of a sudden. The Promenade Palace 12, once owned by Hollywood Theaters and then absorbed by Regal, hadn’t much as a single upgrade since 1998 when it opened, and it was starting to show. Frequently empty as a tomb, I guess it made sense that the theater would eventually collapse in on itself, much like the mall around it. I just get bummed out when these things happen, especially since I had just been there not more than a couple of weeks before to catch a last-minute matinee of Aquaman (2018). Had I known it was going to be the last time I would ever be in the theater, I might have made more of an event of the occurrence.
And then the news came that mall management insists that the theater will open again under new management. They said two weeks, but that was nearly two months ago. We’ll see. But maybe, just maybe, one thing in this world can turn back the clock.
~As I go about reorganizing the music I carry with me on my new phone, I am struck by a dilemma. I’ve cut out all Woody Allen movies from my watching diet, for reasons. Is it okay to re-adopt the music from those films for my listening diet? I mean, the soundtrack from Manhattan (1979) is one thing, but should I really punish the Marx Brothers for the crimes of another man, long after they were all dead? It’s a subject worth some consideration.
~As I write this particular sentence, it is 02/08/19. I am eating a pretzel, listening to AC/DC, and reading a biography of Eliza Hamilton. It occurs to me while I am doing this that I am likely the only person in the entire universe doing this exact same series of things at the same time.
~Although this will just miss Black History Month by a minute, a tweet (or, rather, a series of them) came across my radar that detailed what a an African American Batman would be like.
Now, of course some are going to be bent out of shape about such an idea, and really, seriously fuck them. This in inspired. You’re telling me that Batman can credibly be The World’s Greatest Detective, a manic depressive Tim Burton stand-in, an aging Dirty Harry type, a straight up murderer*, and—in the guise of Adam West—the greatest hipster doofus the world has ever known, but can’t be an educated, woke as hell black man?
Anybody that isn’t into this idea isn’t a fan of Batman at all. Fight me, America.
Now, that all being said, looking at a bat flying into a window and deciding that it is a symbol that will inspire fear in the cowardly and superstitious lot of criminals is kind of the biggest White Guy Leap Of Logic (™) in American culture, but I digress…
*Seriously, read some of those early Detective Comics stories from the 30s. That Batman loves two things, guns and pushing people to their deaths.
Whew. 2018, am I right? Can any of us remember the last year that was just normal sauce? Like 2012, maybe? But 2019 is going to be our year, right?
Despite a full six weeks dealing with Laryngitis From Planet X, I did manage to get ahead of the curve. In fact, at the time of this writing, this is the last non-appointment obligation* I have for 2018.
I’ve written and edited all of the flash fiction stories for this year. It was an interesting experiment, and at this point I’m pot committed, so I’ll definitely do it for another year. There’s a book there. Indeed, even without publishing a book this year, I managed to write (by my best estimates) 85,701 words, and even published most of them in one form or another. Not a bad haul for a year that quite frankly often asked why I was doing this all to begin with.
I’ve also completed the final mix on The Fourth Wall’s holiday special. I’d offer some more insight into its creation, but at this point I’m a little Christmas-ed out, and this year I actually think I’ve earned it. By the time you’re reading this, you can listen to the show your self, in case you missed it:
I have also finished my reading goal. 62 books, and we’ll aim for 64 next year. I’m relatively proud of the mix of trash and “real” books. Only a few books based on TV shows with the word “Star” in the title. All in all, part of this complete breakfast. Here’s the list. “(a)” denotes an audiobook (unabridged, naturally, I’m not some kind of animal).
1. George Lucas: A Life (a)
2. Along the way (a)
3. Easy Rider
4. All New Letters From A Nut
5. Fire and Fury
6. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (a)
7. Dennis Hopper: The Wild Ride of a Hollywood Rebel (a)
8. Gremlins 2: The New Batch
9. The Hunt for Red October (a)
10. Thanks For The Money (a)
11. Copper and Gold
12. Star Trek: Prey: Book One (a)
13. On Writing (a)
14. Nightmare of Ecstasy
15. The Day of the Doctor
16. Discovery: Drastic Measures (a)
17. The Soul of a new machine (a)
18. The Paradise Snare
19. The Seven Percent Solution (a)
20. Wonder Boys (a)
21. Dies Infaustus
22. Into the Void
23. Rogue Saucer
24. The West End Horror (a)
25. North by Northwest
26. The Canary Trainer (a)
27. Discovery: Fear Itself (a)
28. How to American (a)
29. The Great Gatsby (a)
30. The Two-Front War
31. The Hound of the Baskervilles (a)
32. A Brief History of Time (a)
33. Go Set a Watchman(a)
34. Console Wars
35. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (a)
36. The Accidental President (a)
37. I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie
38. Invisible Man (a)
39. From A Certain Point of View (a)
40. The Man With the Golden Typewriter
41. The Shining (a)
43. End Game
44. Minority Report and other stories (a)
45. Mindhunter (a)
46. The Buried Age
47. Space Odyssey (a)
48. A Study in Scarlett (a)
49. Agent to the Stars (a)
50. English History Made Brief, irreverent, and pleasurable (a)
51. The Everything Store (a)
52. Once Burned
53. The Sign of Four (a)
55. The Firm (a)
56. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (a)
57. What If (a)
58. The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (a)
59. Spider-man: Hostile Takeover
60. A Confederacy of Dunces (a)
61. Halloween '18
62. Life Itself
So, let’s make 2019 ours. I think there are some opportunities there. We may just have to learn to let go of the past a little bit. Yes, past, I’m looking in your direction. You know who you are. You know what you did.
* My therapist, my wife and I (at different points in time, mind you) are quick to point out that a full 90% of my “obligations” are self-inflicted. I’d say I’m working on it, but then I’d have to come up with a due date out of the ether, so let’s just skip that part.
A brief confession. There is now an entirely new, third blog (fourth, if you count the RSS feed for The Fourth Wall) on the site. It isn’t in the masthead options, but there is a link hidden somewhere on the site. I’m not sure if I’ll ever go fully-public with the new musings, but I might. In the mean time, if you’re interested, go seek it out! It’s not in the main site directory, but it’s also not hidden all that well.
I was not terribly hungry one day recently at lunch and decided to get a happy meal. I don’t know what’s happened with these things in the last twenty-five years, but I felt a little out of my depth. The toy was—essentially—a tiny plastic rolodex-y metal directory, with an entry each for each of the Justice League. Is this what qualifies as a toy these days? What was all the more bewildering, is that I received instructions to ask my parents permission to download a McPlay app so that I could somehow get more out of the trinket. Now I just need to make a call to my parents and get permission so I can figure out if there is something more to this thing.
What happened to all of the DVDs at Circuit City…? Of course, as I type that, I realize that Circuit City has been entirely closed for nearly ten years, and I really mean to ask why Best Buy has stopped carrying so many DVDs… I’m getting the sinking feeling that physical media is never coming back in the big bad way that it was before. Am I like the guy in 1979 who takes a good hard long look at his 8-track collection and realize things will never be the same? At least DVDs are alive and well at used stores and the flea market. Im not sure why that’s comforting.
So I’ve been playing the new PS4 Spider-Man game. I can’t honestly remember the last time I actually finished a game, but there is a better than even chance that I will play this all the way to 100% completion. It exists in a better world than the one we’re stuck with for the time being, and I like it a lot. At first, it does feel like a rip off of the Batman Arkham games, but layers upon layers keep getting added in, and I think it is reasonable to assume that it is far more fun to be Spider-Man than it is to be the Batman. Which feels like a sacreligious thing for me to say, but there it is.
I’d say more, but production for The Fourth Wall holiday special is in full swing, to say nothing of the need to finish the scripts for the second season, more flash fiction stories, a third blog (apparently), trying to be a functioning human being, and I’ve got a great responsibility to use my great power to save New York City.
- These stories are getting weirder and weirder, only 25% of the way through the goal. Nothing weirder that last week’s “You Ain’t Nothin’ But a Hellhound,” I’d imagine. But wait next week for part two. I’m heading somewhere with that, I swear.
- Birthday was a good one. Four movies, pretty much in a row. Ocean’s 8, which I liked, but felt that it’s fealty to the Clooney trilogy got to be a bit excessive, even though I liked those movies. Tag, which was funny enough, I suppose, but had an ending so deflating and at odds with the rest of the movie, that it may be one of the worst of all time. The Seven-Percent Solution (1976), which I naturally loved, and loved the first time I saw it. Meyer is Meyer and you can’t do much better than him. And finally (or at least, so far) California Typewriter (2016) which I still have a little less than an hour left on it and it’s fantastic. Then again, there was little chance of me not liking the film. I’m feeling a little guilty about typing this on my computer while I do so. Between this and Life Itself (2014), the best things I’m watching now are the documentaries.
- More movies I’ve seen over the summer:
- Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (wasn’t enthralled; needed more Goldblum)
- Ant-Man and the Wasp (liked it; let’s face it, could have used some Goldblum)
- And most recently Mission Impossible: Fallout (liked it, but fear that the glowing reviews over the last week might have left my expectations higher than they ought to have been).
- With my participation on “Beyond the Cabin in The Woods” I’ve seen (for the first time):
- Creepshow (1982) (liked it, but the experience of seeing it in a midnight showing in 35mm might have helped)
- Thr13en Ghosts (2001) (really hated it, worst editing of all time, even if Adrean Messmer rightly brought in Suicide Squad (2016) as a contender for that unique distinction)
- The Haunting (1963) (really didn’t like, don’t see what the big deal is for some people)
- The House on Haunted Hill (1959) (liked it more than the others in our haunted house run, but that’s not saying a whole lot)
- It’s only now occurring to me that I should invest in some kind of movie journal.
- Relenting to the cloying, dulcet tones of my past, I broke down and bought Christmas With Conniff (1959). If you’re unaware of the album, you clearly did not spend a lot of time with my of my relatives over the last 50 years. Without any sense of irony (mainly because irony wasn’t invented until 1973), my grandfather calls it the greatest album ever made. The Ray Conniff singers sound sort of like if someone went on The Lawrence Welk Show and proceeded to have a diabetic coma. What’s more, with my frequent listenings to the album, whenever my car communicates with my phone to start playing music, they assume I want to listen to it. 100-plus degree heat coupled with the sudden summoning of their rendition of “Sleigh Ride” might be a little too much for my primitive meat-based brain to handle.
- Had a dream a few days ago that Jeb Bush was President, and I was so happy. Well, not that happy… But happier, to be sure. I really look forward to the day that we can elect some completely boring person to run the country so we could just let them do it and not have to think about it all. the. time.
- Speaking of existential dread and the Ray Conniff singers, here’s a <little story> from the before-times of January 1972. The White House held a celebration for Reader’s Digest’s 50th anniversary. While America outside the walls was in a similar turmoil, the event inside was built out of pure safety for Nixon. Bob Hope? He’s on board with the War, sure. Billy Graham? No problem there. The President even celebrated the absolute square-ness of the evening before handing the dais over to Conniff and his singers. At that point, a Canadian (because of course she was Canadian) last-minute sub singer Carole Feraci took control of the whole show. Just watch**:
I don’t know why I keep thinking about that incident lately. Maybe I just want a few more squares to speak out. Feels like that’s the only way we’ll get out of this. Which, I think they will, eventually. I don’t think we have it in our collective spirit to become a authoritarian state. We’ll flirt with it, sure, but I think our fundamental character avoids it. This isn’t to say this has always been a virtue; I’m also of the mind that our current predicament is just as much a result of that character trait. But, when it comes right down to it, the founding of this nature wasn’t about taxes, or freedom, or the ability to take freedom from somebody else, it was most succinctly about a group of disaffected people—with agendas as numerous as the population of the country—screaming out with one voice, “You are not my Supervisor!” Maybe we’ll say it again.
** In case you didn’t watch to the end, after the crowd turned on the whole affair, Conniff asked her to leave, to which she replied, “Certainly.” Because she’s Canadian, and of course she was polite about it.
When I started my ambitious (at times nauseatingly so) experiment in blogging a new flash fiction story every week for a couple of years*, I promised I would come back to this space every couple of weeks to catch up with some old-school blogging, and maybe give my feeble, narratively exhausted brain a break for a week.
Four and a half months later, I still haven’t checked in, but you know what that means? I’ve got lots of thoughts to share about my various adventures—sure, they’re adventures, deal with it—in the past few months. Spoilers for Infinity War and Roseanne follow.
- I had a religious epiphany lately. I think I’m a converted Dan Connerist. Think about it. He rose from the dead. He (clearly) has infinite patience. His ire can be swift, matched only by his forgiveness. He is played by John Goodman. What could anyone else want from a deity?
- I re-watched all of Friends recently. Don’t look at me like that. I like to have things on in the background while I write. Also, don’t judge me! I used to like the show. I think I kind of hate it now. I definitely hate Ross. That feels like some kind of growth. Anyway, don’t judge me.
- I’ve also taken a sudden interest in coding, of all things. My python is about as good as my Spanish—that is to say, poquito or [let myKnowledgeOfCoding = ‘not very much.’; console.log(‘My coding knowledge is ‘ + myKnowledgeOfCoding);]—but it’s kind of nice trying to exercise some other party of my brain. One might say its distracting me from some of the work at hand. I think it’s letting the parts of my brain that feel tired work through some stuff while I try to make pig latin translators in BASIC.
- Oh, yes. Those other pesky projects. Life’s gotten in the way a bit. The Once and Future Orson Welles si proceeding. Just as I am out of the business of predicting Presidential elections as of late, I think I’ll refrain from predicting a publication date. Focusing a little more on the flash fiction stories mentioned above and the second season of The Fourth Wall. But ,it feels like life might get a little bit more time back here soon, so I am hopeful for the future.
- Speaking of hopeful for the future, Infinity War. I thought it was great, by and large, and rather miraculously balanced all of the Dickens-sized cast of characters. Every time I started to get impatient and wondered what some of the other characters are doing, the film seemed to sense my embryonic impatience and change tracks. Could’ve used more Hulk, but you could say that about every movie**. The one thing that does strike me as a misstep is the ultimate (or is it semi-ultimate?) fate of Black Panther. With any amount of scrutiny post-screening, it becomes pretty clear that Untitled Avengers Sequel (2019) will undo most (if not all) of the film’s brutal last real. They’re going to make more Guardians of the Galaxy. That’s pretty certain. They’re going to make more Spider-man movies with Tom Holland, although that may be more about my feeling that I’m too young for there to have been four Spider-men on the big screen in my lifetime. But Black Panther? Even as I watched the movie, I didn’t imagine that I lived in a world where the Walt Disney Company takes a look at the receipts from Black Panther and says to Marvel, “Fine. Kill him off. Forever. It’s totally fine.”
- I’ve just decided that, no matter what anyone says, no matter what Lucasfilm does to possibly make the film worse, I am going to be excited for Solo: A Star Wars Story. There. I’m going to be there opening weekend, and I’m really looking forward to it. So there. Deal with it.
So those are some thoughts I’ve had. Maybe I’ll check back in a few months with some more. But in the meantime, keep checking in with the new blog. Next week, we’ll be continuing the story of the man who’s afraid of balloons, and slowly turning into them.
It’s hard coming up with a new story every week, folks.
*Yes, years. I want to see if I can make a book out of it. I don’t know what the hell is wrong with me, either.
** Except, of course, Ang Lee’s Hulk (2003). Which, incidentally, after I wrote the first sentence in this footnote about a week ago and before posting this entry tonight, I went ahead and bought a copy of Ang Lee’s Hulk. I’m a complex lasagna of contradictions.
At the beginning of 2017, I took a moment to consider how much I had written in this space in 2016. It turns out I had written 45,000 words here, with topics ranging from how much I wanted Michael Keaton to play Batman again, all the way to how much I’m going to have to insist Michael Keaton plays Batman again.
While it seemed like the articles I’ve posted in the blog would never amount to any sort of actual printable volume, it made sense to continue typing away. It’s brought eyes to the site, and probably eyes to my other work. This is all to the good. We even managed to get Danny Elfman’s Batman theme into this year’s Justice League. It’s almost like I really made a difference…
But now, with 2017’s blog entries added into the equation, I’ve written nearly 80,000 words here. Like I noted above, it’s time well spent, but I can’t help but wonder:
All that time here could have been spent putting together another novel. Or maybe another season or two of The Fourth Wall. I could have learned how to play guitar, or speak Farsi.
So—the question remains—what do I do now?
I’ve blogged every week for two years. That’s no longer a challenge. Well, in truth, it’s becoming an increasingly bigger challenge, mainly because it’s something I’ve already done.
I need to be putting material out there on the regular, but I also need to try something new. If that something new makes me look just a little bit crazy in the attempt, then so much the better.
Which gave me an idea. It's probably a horrible idea, but those are my favorite kind.
I’m not terribly great at short fiction. I mean, I dabble, but I haven’t made it a big part of my work. So, what if, instead of blogging in the traditional sense, I tried to write one flash fiction story a week?
It’s manageable. It’s also liable to drive me crazy in the pursuit. And, if I write 500 words of fiction every week for two years, why… that would leave me with 52,000 words of material. Maybe I can make a book out of them!
I’ll admit, 104 individual stories will be a lot of feeding the beast. Some of them may be ho-hum. Many of them might be out-and-out dreadful. I’m okay with that, mainly because the law of averages dictates some of them—maybe even just a few—will be quite readable. The prospect of writing those stories excites me a great deal.
So, it’s happening. Starting this week, I’m beginning a whole new blog here on the site. Its title: “IF A STORY IN THIS BLOG GOES OVER FIVE-HUNDRED WORDS, THIS WHOLE WEBSITE WILL EXPLODE.”
It’s a little wordy, sure. A blog of flash fiction with an overly wordy title. It’s ironic. I’m okay with that.
Initially, I’ll burn through all of the flash fiction I’ve already written up until this point. When those two stories are run, I’ll move on to material I’ve created exclusively for the new blog. It’ll be fun. I think it’ll be fun.
I’ll still check in here, but far less frequently than I have since the dawn of 2016. I’m thinking once per month. It might be more frequently than that, but it may also be rarer. It’s going to sort of depend on my mood.
This week, we begin with one of the first flash fiction pieces I ever wrote. It’s a bit of a departure for me, if for no other reason than it doesn’t feature either Orson Welles or Time Travel, but it’s a nice little nugget of something. I'll also be making some other, more far reaching changes to the site. Be on the lookout for those.
Oh, and we’re going to run the new blog on Mondays, instead of Sundays.
So, starting tomorrow, click here for “Second Bananas.”
Okay. So, we can all agree 2016 was a cascade of free-flowing nonsense. And 2017 was… better?
No, I can’t imagine any reasonable person could define 2017 as objectively better than anything other than, perhaps, invasive surgery covering an intimate part of the anatomy. Even certain people who ascended to certain jobs don’t seem to be much happier than they were a year ago.
But enough about that. I may take a slightly different position about the year quickly fading in our rearview mirror.
It would seem that if only it weren’t for events completely beyond my control, the year 2017 might have been quite a bit better than its recent predecessors. No, I haven’t been reading the news in the last couple of days. Why do you ask?
I got a lot done. Between The Fourth Wall and other projects, my true career appears to continue its agreeable progress. I feel pretty good about the year, all things considered.
So here I offer my 2017 reading list along with some commentary, when appropriate (or I feel like it).
Audio books are indicated by “(A).” There are a lot of them. I count unabridged audiobooks because for me it takes the same amount of time. Your mileage may vary. Also, abridged audiobooks are hot garbage.
1 Amazing Fantastic Incredible by Stan Lee (A)
2 The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher (A)*
3 Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter (A)
4 Space and Beyond by R.A. Montgomery**
5 Journey Under The Sea by R.A. Montgomery**
6 The Lost Jewels of Nabooti by R.A. Montgomery**
7 The Abominable Snowman by R.A. Montgomery**
8 Distress Call by William Rostler**
9 The Daily Show: An Oral History
10 Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher (A)***
11 Book of Blasphemous Words, edited by CJ Miles IV
12 Adickted - Book 1 by Gio Lassater****
13 Adickted - Book 2 by Gio Lassater****
14 On Directing by John Badham (A)
15 Kiss Me Like A Stranger by Gene Wilder (A)
16 Red Dragon by Thomas Harris
17 Adickted - Book 3 by Gio Lassater****
18 Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow (A)
19 If at Birth You Don't Succeed by Zach Anner (A)
20 The Android's Dream by John Scalzi (A)
21 John Quincy Adams by Harlow Giles Unger (A)
22 Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari (A)
23 The Girl In the Spider's Web by David Lagercrantz (A)
24 The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
25 Hannibal by Thomas Harris (A)
26 The Five Doctors by by Terrance Dicks
27 Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler
28 The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell (A)*****
29 Nevertheless by Alec Baldwin (A)******
30 Will in the World by Stephen Greenblatt (A)
31 The Two Doctors by Robert Holmes
32 The Godfather by Mario Puzo (A)
33 You Might Remember Me by Mike Thomas (A)
34 Salinger by David Shields and Shane Salerno (A) *******
35 Food: A Love Story Jim Gaffigan
36 Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman (A)
37 Adventures in the Screen Trade by William Goldman
38 Ayoade on Ayoade by Richard Ayoade ********
39 The Serial Killer Files by Harold Schechter (A)
40 Make It So: Leadership Lessons from Star Trek: The Next Generation by Wess Roberts *********
41 The Disaster Artist by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell (A) **********
42 So anyway… by John Cleese (A)
43 It by Stephen King (A) ***********
44 Star Trek DSC: Desperate Hours by David Mack (A)
45 Have Time, Will Travel by Mac Boyle ************
46 The Misbehaving Dead, edited by Jack Burgos
47 The Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer (A)
48 Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks (A)
49 This Gray Spirit by Heather Jarman
50 Pale Shadows by Shannon Iwanski
51 The Force Doth Awaken by Ian Doescher
52 43* by Jeff Greenfield
53 A Life in Parts by Bryan Cranston (A)
54 A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain (A) *************
55 Vacationland by John Hodgman (A)
56 Star Trek NF: House of Cards by Peter David
57 The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson (A) **************
58 The West Wing Script Book - Volume One by Aaron Sorkin
59 A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
60 The West Wing Script Book - Volume Two by Aaron Sorkin.
*Weren’t we all aching to hear from the princess after last year?
**Short, choose-your-own-adventure books, all. But I was on to something, I assure you.
****My instinct is to explain these, but I don’t really have one that isn’t odd.
*****Dense. Way less about Star Wars than you might originally think.
******How else do you think I got to these high numbers without celebrity memoirs on Audible?
*******Dense. Also less about Star Wars than you might think.
********My favorite book from the year? Pretty perfect fusion of voice and subject matter to fit the wrinkles of my brain.
*********A lot of people could use this book right about now.
**********With Sestero doing a pretty good impression of Wiseau, audio may be the only appropriate way to take in this book.
***********Imagine the books that I could have read if I hadn’t gone through this one again. I kid, I kid. The book holds up, aside from the really weird stuff you already knew about.
************Available now! (and you’re damn right I read the thing)
*************Nick Offerman reads it on Audible. What was I supposed to do? Not listen to it?
**************A quick book, and very popular right now. My assessment, it was like a four hour conversation with someone at a party who has been everywhere, done everything, and is absolutely the worst. How’s that for not giving a fuck? Bring it on, 2018.
I was about 800 words into my views on the state of Star Wars, when it became clear that there really isn’t much left to say on the subject. I liked The Last Jedi very much. Stories are subjective, though. I think there is room for reasonable people to not care for the movie.
However, if you dismiss the movie because you think “Luke would never do that,” then I really believe you’re missing the point of these movies.
If you don’t like the movie because you don’t like black people or women (and you are out there...) then maybe fuck right the fuck off. You got a President, let us have our Laser Sword movies.
That felt surprisingly good to type...
At any rate, beyond the above thoughts, I’m pretty sure I would just be contributing to the noise on the subject.
Why not write about something else? I’m still tired. All year, I pointed to the winter holidays as a time I would slow down, take stock, and get ready for the new year. While I was objectively pretty productive this year, I still feel like I didn’t get enough done.
So I want to keep working on the other stuff. In the meantime, I’m watching Back to the Futures Part II and III...
Almost like a real vacation!
Talk to everybody next week!
I’ve always been old. Last week, I wrote about my undying love for the brothers Marx, but it doesn’t stop there. I remain less than convinced that adding sound to motion pictures (or flicker shows, if you prefer) was an entirely good idea.
But, folks, there is some truly great stuff back there in the past, and I’d like to continue sharing some of that stuff with you this week.
Because everybody loves spaceship movies this week, I think there is no better time to introduce you to the spaceship movie. The original, you might say.
I could write—and have, on occasion considered writing—an entire book about Gene Roddenberry. Twenty-five plus years after his death, his legacy as the semi-messianic, borderline Hubbard-esque figure at the center of the Star Trek phenomenon. The truth appears to paint a far different picture of the man. At best, he is the template for James Cromwell’s portrayal of Zefram Cochrane in Star Trek: First Contact (1996)*, at worst he was a credit-hogging charlatan, the worst parts of Trek are the parts for which he is most directly responsible**.
Nowhere is his status as “visionary” more in question, than when we realize that his precious vision of a semi-militarized, faster-than-light human race comes directly from the MGM science fiction classic, Forbidden Planet (1956).
Commander Adams checks in on a previously thought lost human expedition to the far-off planet Altair IV. There he finds remains of a super-advanced alien civilization, the humans left behind by early exploration to the region, and (because it’s a movie) a pretty girl***. Robots, spaceships, alien planets ensue. Everything you love about Trek (aside from the occasionally non-sensical utopia influences) appears in this movie first. While it’s electronic-synth score places the film firmly as a product of its time, it’s important once again to realize this film originated these tropes.
The movie transcends these tropes, and rises above the B-movie trappings not only through its innovation of a sub-genre that dominates the Sci-Fi world of today, but also its special effects. It would be hard to fathom that a movie now over 60 years old sports a mixture of model, miniature, process, and optical effects that still hold up today, but somehow they do. It’s almost as if the level of technology used in producing special effects is meaningless, and the real important matter is the care with which those tools are implemented. Miniature models can look great, like in this film, or they can dangle from a string in the works of someone like Ed Wood. I suppose CGI, as well, can be used to terrific effect by the like of…
All right, maybe practical effects work is always better. My bad.
At any rate, if you’re a fan of Star Trek or really any of what we now take for granted in the modern American science fiction film, and you haven’t seen Forbidden Planet, then you need to remember your roots. This might be the point in the article where I recommend various streaming services to find the movie… The thing is, it’s not on Netflix, it’s not on Amazon Prime, nor is it on Hulu. I guess you’ll have to just find it on DVD or Blu Ray, which come to think of it, might need to be a topic for another one of these “old things” blog posts.
Anyway, we may pick up this discussion again next week with some other items to consider. I may move on to some other topics as well. There’s probably some end-of-the-year things I want to ruminate on before 2018 begins, and with it, some changes to this space.
*The writers and producers insist that this isn’t the case, but I imagine that their denials are a bit of self-preservation, as the surviving Roddenberrys had and still have a significant influence over the fan base. I think they could probably admit the Cochrane-Roddenberry connection now, but people just aren’t asking the in-depth questions about movies from twenty years ago that I think should be asked.
**And I also have suspicion that, were he alive today, we’d be having a far different conversation about him.
***Sound familiar? It’s essentially the plot of The Cage, the first, embryonic trailer of The Original Series starring one-time-Jesus, Jeffery Hunter. I’m on to you, Roddenberry. Death will not protect you.
I’ve always been old. I started shaving in the fifth grade*. My artillery of typewriters speak to some sort of perpetual untimeliness. For a man (allegedly) under the age of 80, I have an unusually large amount of pre-war radio programs on my iTunes account. I have spent a near-career’s worth of time insisting on Orson Welles becoming cool again. My preternaturally old bona fides cannot be disputed.
But, folks, there is some truly great stuff back there in the past, and I’d like to share some of it with you now.
Comedy is a thing that doesn’t often age well. While he is undoubtedly human society’s premiere summoner for the turn of phrase, the comedies of Shakespeare are less “laugh out loud**” funny, than, per Byron, they merely end with a wedding***. For my money, the fact that the writing of Mark Twain is still funny over 100 years after the great man’s death is one of the great miracles in all of human culture.
The only ones who have any hope of re-creating that feat are Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Zeppo (sure), and (I guess) Gummo. The Marx Brothers are always funny. Forget The Three Stooges, move past Abbott and Costello****, and even Charlie Chaplin needs to take a back seat to the Marxes. They are congenitally unable to be unfunny. They’re so funny that Harpo—who doesn’t talk—still found a way to be funny on the radio*****. Even in the later years, after Gummo****** and Zeppo moved on, they were great. You Bet Your Life, the game show Groucho hosted in the later years? Great. A Night in Casablanca (1946), the last true Marx Brothers movie*******? Fantastic. Hell, the Vlasic pickle commercials reach for greatness simply because their corporate mascot is trying to be Groucho… Except, you know, he’s a stork… for reasons.
But for those looking to just dip their toe in the water, I have a primer to help guide you in your first steps. I might suggest The Vintage Radio Shows, currently available on iTunes. It has a lot of the great musical numbers from their best films, but outside of context, the best parts may not work as well as I think they do. In that case: watch the films themselves. If you’re not won over as a complete fan of the Brothers after viewing these movies, then I don’t know how to help you anymore.
The Cocoanuts (1929)
All right. This one is a bit of a challenge to get through for a newbie, but if you’re into it, then you’re a Marx Brothers fan for life. Shortly after the advent of the talking picture, Hollywood didn’t really know what to do with their brand new toy, and defaulted to doing not much more than taping a performance of stage plays. See The Jazz Singer (1927) and even Dracula (1931)******** for further examples of the stilted early history of the talkie. The Cocoanuts is not exempt from this phenomenon. The film isn’t at all cinematic, and there are long stretches where banter between the brothers (and the noises of Harpo) halt altogether in favor of song and dance numbers. Things were different before the Great Depression, I guess, but it’s still worth a look.
Animal Crackers (1930)
This entry in their oeuvre moves on from the limitations of early sound pictures, while still keeping the Brothers true to their theatrical roots. “Hooray for Captain Spaulding” can fairly be deemed Groucho’s theme song, following him to the later years of his career on the aforementioned You Bet Your Life. The film also sports the ultimate dangling modifier joke:
One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I’ll never know.
It’s a funny line, made all the funnier by the fact that Groucho is giving himself a hard time. It’s a peek into the appeal of the Brothers, in that as much as they introduce chaos into every movie they appear, they are committed to making their own lives just as difficult as everyone else’s.
As I read the above description of the film, I should probably mention that it is genuinely enjoyable as a whole. I felt like I needed to be a little clearer on that front.
Duck Soup (1933)
I’m going to go out on a limb and proclaim that this movie is the Marx Brothers movie. Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho) is the sudden leader of Freedonia, land of the “freeeeee and braaaaaaaaaaaave.” One might be tempted to call Firefly and his administration corrupt, but he is all too aware of his deficiency of scruples. The rich people of the country wanted him to run things, so what could be done? Sound familiar? It may just be the Marx Brothers movie we need right now.
Next week, I’ll continue our journey into the geriatric, although I’m not entirely sure where I’ll go next. The old Universal Monsters? Forbidden Planet? Maybe I’ll do both.
*It actually happened. It was traumatic. But, by all means, have a chuckle.
**Or LOL, as the kids are fond of using lately.
***As opposed to his other plays, that end with a funeral. If Johnny Carson were here, he’d say “What’s the difference?” For the record, I do not co-sign on that ad lib. While I enjoy marriage, weddings can be quite a chore.
****Unless they’re bumping into the Frankenstein’s monster, or any of his other pals, but I’m thinking we’ll get into that next week.
*****Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, eat your heart out.
******Who didn’t even stick around for the group’s film career. Thanks a lot, World War I.
*******Yes, I know Zeppo, Groucho, and Harpo all appear together in Love Happy (1949), but Groucho is not much more than a cameo. …Casablanca is the true last Marx Brothers movie.
********Seriously. Beyond Lugosi’s performance, the one vampire film that everyone can name off the top of their heads may legally qualify as a sedative.
Hey, Warner Bros. It’s been a long time. No, I still don’t think the name “Martha” is a sufficient plot development around which to build an entire screenplay, but I don’t want to talk about that. We’re friends; we’ve been friends for a long time. Let’s talk about something else.
So Justice League is a thing. You went waaaaay simpler on the title. That’s good.
You picked up Joss Whedon for some relief pitching. Tragic why it came to that point, but I think you hired the right guy to finish the job.
Wonder Woman (the film) and Wonder Woman (the character) are legit, and you doubled down on that. Good; very good.
Danny Elfman’s doing the score? Is he going to bring back his theme from Batman (1989)? He is? Well, you’ve got a hit on your hands if I’ve ever heard of one.
What’s that? Why wouldn’t you use the Flash you have set up on television? He’s even super dimension-hoppy… Fine, whatever. Flashpoint will sort this all out.
Who’s the villain? Steppenwolf? Like “Born to be Wild”/“Magic Carpet Ride” Steppenwolf? No, he’s a… with horns, you say…? Oh, a helmet. Like the dude at the beginning of Thor: Ragnarok? No, not like that… Why not use Darkseid? You’re wanting to tease that out. :sigh: That’s fine, we can’t blame you for aping a format that certainly has worked for the other guys. Actually, I can blame you for that, but we’ll get to that later.
Wait… What’s that about Henry Cavill’s mustache?
Oh, Warner Bros, you sweet, innocent, beautiful summer child. What have we learned?
All Newhart-esque riffs aside, Zack Snyder’s third film with Superman as a character* is out now, and is fine. While it certainly doesn’t have any of the bewilderingly bad choices that Martha v Martha: Dawn of Martha had**, it still isn’t nearly as thrilling as Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman, but plays it far safer than the interesting-in-concept, but uneven Man of Steel (2013). Is it a step in the right direction for the floundering DCEU? No. It actually moves the proceedings back to the gestalt of Mommy v Mommy: Mommy of Mommy; as it turns out, Wonder Woman was the step in the right direction. That right direction, as it turns out, would be to make a bunch (and not just one) really watchable movie, then try to bring those disparate elements into a huge crowd pleaser. If only there was somebody out there that had already done this. That would be marvelous.
And that’s where I come in with some thoughts about the future of the DCEU, especially in light of League’s anemic box office. The internet has already buzzed about the possibility, and several news items have indicated that Warner Bros. may be thinking in this direction, but it may be time to abandon the Marvel business model. DC might have had a chance at being the second person to the party, but too many missed opportunities, murky creative strategies, and well, let’s face it, Marthas mean that DC may never truly get it together. The massive superhero movie continuity may not be possible to replicate. Heck, any massive movie continuity is not likely to have the benefit of a Robert Downey Jr. opening salvo, and thus, falter. Just ask the poor, maligned Universal monsters, who—despite their proud tradition of creating the idea of a cinematic shared universe before 1950—have had to endure now two false starts in twice as many years at uniting their stable of characters.
So don’t try, DC. Be weird. Don’t worry about setting up the next movie. In fact, it might be better if you’re no 100% sure what the next movie will even be. That Scorcese-produced Joker movie? I’d rather you didn’t go back to that well, but as long as Jared Leto stays home, I’m in. Flashpoint could cleanse the palette, give Affleck a dignified*** exit, allow Gal Gadot to keep making Wonder Woman movies in perpetuity, and restore Henry Cavill’s upper lip to its once-humanoid glory…
But what do I really want you to do DC? What is the only Christmas wish this boy has on his list?
You know what I’m about to say.
Last year, I wrote here on the blog about how I would have preferred DC handle its shared universe. It didn’t involve Affleck, and it didn’t really involve Batman, per se. You didn’t take that course here, but if you are truly giving up the ghost on being Marvel-lite, can I ask for one movie to be included in your increasingly Elseworlds-esque slate…
Batman Beyond… with Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne. You can even bring back Danny Elfman to do the score.
Get that done, Warner Bros., and everything will be forgiven. Including any and all Marthas that may come up between now and then.
*Spoiler alert? Can something be a spoiler alert if the bit of info is built out of pure inevitability? These are the questions I ponder at night when sleep eludes me.
**Although it still did manage to include an irritating tag scene with profoundly miscast Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor.
***He wants a “cool” way out of the role, and presumably never have to talk about it again, but I think the “best Batman to never be in a good Batman movie” can be erased from existence via the Cosmic treadmill, right?