Pride Cometh.

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 10, 2016 by dakofman

The Carolina Panthers lost Superbowl 50. I had favored them to win by twenty points. On paper, it looked like the great defense and anemic offense of the Denver Broncos would fall to Carolina’s good defense and dynamic offense. But the pressure got to Cam figuratively and literally.

The Panthers were the villains of this game going in. Everyone in The United States except for people in Massachusetts and North Carolina were rooting for the humble Peyton Manning to ride off into the sunset. All season long Cam Newton had danced and dabbed. His celebrations were called excessive and rubbed people the wrong way. He was said to be arrogant and self-absorbed.

I did not dislike Cam for his excessive dancing. I was in the camp that other teams should stop him so he has no reason to dance. The Broncos did in astounding fashion. They made the league MVP look like a frightened child playing football for the first time. I do find the backlash to Cam Newton’s dancing to be worthy of discussion.

There were people who believed it was that Cam Newton was being criticized because he was black. A proud black man celebrating and having fun was too much for some of the NFL’s fanbase.

When Richard Sherman had his rant about being the best corner in the game on live television two years ago, people went nuts. On twitter, he was insulted and called a thug by many people. He did not curse. He did not throw up any gang signs. He was caught up in the heat of the moment and spoke with passion. There was not a thing thuggish about his behavior that night. People characterized him as a thug because of the color of his skin.

Cam Newton is not the same as Sherman. There are those who do criticize him because he is black, but it’s mostly people seeing his confidence as arrogance. I’m a believer that a person can only be arrogant after they have failed. Confidence before the fact is okay with me. If you say you’re going to be the best at something and you do it, that’s confidence. If you say you’re going to be the best at something and you fail, then you were arrogant.

If what you said matches up with what you’ve accomplished, then it can’t be arrogance. People want the humble person who thanks his mom and kisses babies, but not everyone has to be like that. The world would be boring if everyone was the same. Peyton isn’t right and Cam is wrong. If you want to shout to the world that you are awesome, that’s cool with me. So long as you aren’t swearing or trying to hurt someone, say you what want. If that’s what fires you up to succeed, then it shouldn’t be frowned upon. It’s just you will have to deal with the consequences of what you say if you don’t live up to it.

Here’s a video of Tom Brady and Plaxico Burress from before Super Bowl 42. 18-1.

In this interview, Plaxico Burress predicts that the Giants would win 23-17. Tom Brady  laughs at the absurdity of the 2007 Patriots only scoring 17 points. The Patriots scored only 14 points in Super Bowl 42. Tom Brady was arrogant.

When Lebron James joined the Miami Heat, he predicted they would win countless championships. He promised more than seven championships to the Miami Heat fans.

This was really arrogant in retrospect because they only won two.

Football being a team sport contributes to the hate on Newton. His dancing puts a lot of focus on him so to some people he comes off as caring more about himself and not the team. His play in the Super Bowl gave his haters more fire.

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Cam Newton debates diving for ball in Super Bowl

Being prideful is not a reason to be worthy of scorn or dislike. If you can back up what you say, you can talk and dance all you want. But if you can’t, then you have to eat crow. Cam is learning that lesson the hard way right now.

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True Horror

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 3, 2016 by dakofman

David Fincher’s Zodiac is at its best when it uses the power of the screen to dramatize the horror and brutality of the Zodiac Killer’s killing spree in the 1970s.

I consider the depiction of the Lake Berrysea attack to be the film’s strongest scene. The scene where Robert Graysmith flees from the cellar as he hears steps above is a close second.

The horror in the scene is in the powerlessness of the two victims. Held at gunpoint, they have no choice but to listen to the demands of a hooded man. Horror films rely on excessive gore and creative murders to engage the audience. Unconventional deaths and weapons are used to shock the audience into jumping or grimacing at the violence on the screen.

In this scene, all we have is a pistol. It gives the Zodiac Killer all the power he needs to impose his twisted fantasies on this innocent couple. He does not need to shoot it. The threat of violence is enough to subdue them.

Fincher could have chosen to show us the backs of the the victims being pierced by the giant knife of the Zodiac Killer.  We could have seen blood splattering all over the place. Instead Fincher keeps us on the faces of the couple. They do not lose their humanity as the attack occurs. And that is why this scene works so well.

In your traditional horror film, humanity is stripped from the victims. We want to see them smashed, bashed, sliced, and crushed in crazy new ways. The killer becomes the hero. We root for them. How are they going to dish out the pain? Much like how we turn our heads as we drive to see the aftermath of car crashes, we watch horror films to see blood and gore. We want those stupid people to get what is coming to them.

Take this scene from Jason X.

Does anyone care about this blonde as her face is frozen and then smashed to pieces? We aren’t supposed to. She’s attractive but the lure and appeal of this franchise is the murder of attractive young teenagers. She is killed and then thrown away unceremoniously. She becomes an object for the audience’s blood lust.

These two films are wildly different in execution and concept but that is why I am comparing and contrasting them. They do both have the same job of trying to engage the audience using horror.

To go back to scene from Zodiac, Fincher does not give the audience a chance to turn the Zodiac Killer into a hero. The sound of the knife entering and exiting their bodies is terrifying. It’s unnerving to watch the couple’s reactions to the attack. No score is played underneath the attacks. The events play out like they did on September 27th, 1969. All we hear are the sounds of nature, the knife stabs, and the screams of the victims.

If one is to succeed at horrifying the audience, they must allow the victims of violence to retain their humanity.

 

When’s It’s Over, It’s Over.

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , on January 29, 2016 by dakofman

The ending to The Matrix is so freaking awesome.

We go full circle from the beginning. Call backs to the opening scene can be a cheap narrative device but not here.  Neo completes his character arc, but the conflict of the story is not fully resolved. The war isn’t won yet. The human race is still enslaved by the robots. But as he takes off in the air, we know that he’s going to do it. He’ll save everyone because anything is possible if Neo can fly.

Here’s what it looked like on paper.

 

matrix ending

It’s executed more effectively on the screen. The decision to cut the dialogue of the boy and his mom is a perfect example of less  meaning more.  “Men don’t fly.” was a good final line, but the music is a better fit.  I wonder if this scene was filmed and then changed later because it didn’t work.

I love this ending because the concept of The Matrix is fully realized. Neo can do anything. He’s gone from another guy trapped in the Matrix to the One. I love this ending so much I wish that there weren’t sequels to The Matrix.

The sequels have some intriguing concepts, but do not live up to the original. Seeing Neo flying around and fighting was not a thing I needed to see. I wouldn’t say the two other films were flat out garbage, but they leave a lot to be desired. Sometimes it’s best for films to stand alone.

The Academy Responds to #OscarsSoPretty

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , on January 23, 2016 by dakofman

In a move that shocked the cinematic world, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced today that they will make an effort to nominate more miserable ugly people for Oscars in the future.

Marty Feldman

This comes on the heels of the #OscarsSoPretty movement. After the Academy released their annual list of Oscar nominees, people took to social media to criticize the beauty of those nominated. In the past week, Steve Buscemi, Quentin Tarantino, Will Sasso, and Tommy Wiseau have announced they are boycotting the show to show their displeasure with the Academy.

In a blog post on their website, the Academy addressed the concerns about their biases and promised to do better in the future.

“Eighty percent of Americans are fat, ugly and on anti-depressants. The Academy has committed an injustice by nominating only beautiful people. Our nominations should be reflective of the current make-up of American society. We will take the lead here and hope the rest of industry will follow by creating more roles for the ugly, the obese, and the self-loathing.”

Celebrities and rat-faced people on social media have come out to praise the Academy for the progress they’ve made on attractive/unattractive people relations.

“It’s a good start. Ugly people deserve to recognized. We can act as well as anyone. ” posted Steve Buscemi on his personal Tumblr.

“The Academy is making the right steps and becoming more inclusive,” wrote Billy Bob Thorton on the back of a dirty car window.

The Academy has yet to comment on the other Oscar controversy, #PleaseGodIneedAnOscarI’llDoAnything which was started by Leonardo DiCaprio last night.

It remains to be seen if they ever will respond to it.

The Anti-Climax

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , on January 22, 2016 by dakofman

sop

The Sopranos is arguably the greatest television show of all time and has arguably the most controversial final scene of any television series.

At the core of The Sopranos’s final scene is the anti-climax.

The audience comes into the scene at Holsten’s expecting that something must happen to Tony. This is the last scene of a long-running mob show. Someone has to get shot or arrested.  But if look at the scene with no such expectation, you see it is a scene of a man sitting down to have a meal with his family. His daughter is late and some unknown man continues to stare at him before heading into the bathroom. Then the scene is over as he looks up. Fade to black.

What we have here is Act One of a story with no Act Two or Three. The normal world of Tony Soprano eating with his family and then a stranger appears. What does he have in store for Tony? Why does he continue to stare at him? Does he shoot Tony after leaving the bathroom? We will never get those answers. I do not have much interest in the answers to those questions. But I do have a very vested interest in the power of the Fade to Black and the lack of finite resolution.

David Chase could have given us three other endings here. He could have had the stranger in the Member’s Only jacket blow Tony’s brains out in front of his family for the shocking ending. He could have had the cops burst in and arrest Tony. He could have had Tony’s daughter park her car neatly, join her family and send the show off on a warm message.

But he chose none of those paths. Instead, Fade to Black as a door opens. The abruptness of the ending is what gives it its lasting appeal. The audience’s expectations are shattered and it is for the better of the show. Would anyone discuss the ending to this day if Tony were shot in the head? Or arrested? I know of people who dislike the ending and thought it was a middle finger to the fans.

But it was anything but that. David Chase rewarded his audience’s intelligence with an enriching ending. I found the ending to be reflective of how events pan out in life. Often times in life, we do not get the answers that we seek. Yet we can still be satisfied with what happened.

I do not think every story should have an ambiguous ending like The Sopranos. It requires a certain build-up. Those who paid attention to The Sopranos can see why it had to end the way it did. The abruptness of death is referenced throughout the final season.

There are lazy writers who write ambiguous endings because they don’t want to spend the time to figure out what the best ending for their story. They hide behind ambiguity and use it as a shield from criticism.

The anti-climatic ending can be a powerful story-telling tool in the right hands.

Star Wars Episode 7: A New Hope (Spoilers)

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 2, 2016 by dakofman

I got around to seeing the new Star Wars. Thoughts and feelings below.

THE LIGHT SIDE

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The new design of the storm troopers was sleek. The opening shot with the First Order’s ship eclipsing Jakku was neat. John Boyega’s Finn stole this movie and gives me some hope for the future of this franchise. There were complaints about having a black storm trooper before this movie came out. I never thought storm troopers were one race. I’d assume there were black people in that universe. Eventually, one of them would want to be a storm trooper or be forced into being one.

I know for a fact that J.J. Abrams wanted these new Star Wars films to be more diverse. He mentioned it in interviews before Episode 7 came out. John Boyega as Finn is the good kind of diversity. They made a new character, cast a good actor, and wrote him well. There’s the other kind of diversity where they change old character’s races. An example of this would be Michael B. Jordan cast as Johnny Storm. I prefer making new characters over changing old ones to reflect our current feelings on diversity. I don’t want black Peter Parker, but I’m fine with Miles Morales.

Finn is the real bright spot of this movie. He has lots of flaws. He’s a liar. He’s self-interested. He thinks with his dick. He had several opportunities to leave the story, but he decides to stick around because he thinks Rey is hot. That’s a good flaw. I don’t think he won one fight in this movie. Some random stormtrooper kicked the shit out of him. Kylo Ren slashed him up too. He struggles unlike some other people in this movie. But I’ll get to her later.

I liked the humanization of the storm troopers in this film. There’s a sadness to them now. In the original Star Wars movies, they were faceless mooks. Now they were kidnapped as children and then brainwashed to fight for the Empire. Every storm trooper is a victim now. It’s a shame none of the heroes give a damn about this new backstory. Finn tells his story of being reprogrammed to fight for the Empire. No one hesitates to blow these guys away. Even Finn who hesitates from killing early on in the movie is fine with killing the stormtroopers. This was a contradiction.

I will continue to call the bad guys from this movie, the Empire, through out this post because I don’t know why they decided to rebrand themselves as the First Order. Did Supreme Master Snoke think The Empire was old hat? Did he take a marketing course at Sith Academy? Maybe they were forced to rebrand because all the Empire imagery was banned like how after World War 2 all the Nazi imagery and symbols were banned in Germany.

Luke Skywalker looked cool for the minute we saw of him. Mark Hamill looks great for his age now.

I felt like Harrison Ford cared about his role as Han Solo and put forth some effort. BB-8 had a cool memorable design. I liked the acting by Daisy Ridley as Rey.

THE DARK SIDE

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Episode 7 is a bad movie.

It’s not prequel bad, but it’s still bad. The prequels are what happens when you give an idea guy complete control of a movie. Lucas wanted to play around with computer graphics and make money. The story and dialogue came second to that. That becomes very apparent once you analyze the prequels. Here’s one example of that. Count Dooku. He’s an all-powerful Jedi who joins the Sith. His betrayal of Jedi is the backbone to the plot of Episode 1: Attack of the Clones. Yet he is nowhere to be found in the predecessor, The Phantom Menace. Not one mention of Count Dooku. It would have helped to see him be good before he was bad. Lucas made the story up as he went. I still have no idea who the Phantom Menace was. Darth Maul? Sidious? The Sith? Nute Gunray?

You can’t fault Lucas too much because of all the money he made off of the prequels. Congrats to him on his success.

Episode 7 is Spider-man 3 bad. It’s bad like Ghostbusters 2. Iron Man 2. Blade Trinity. The Dark Knight Rises. Avengers: Age of Ultron. Thor 2. Matrix:Reloaded.

Do you know what all those movies have in common? There’s no heart in these movies. They don’t do anything new. They are boring. They have story structure and characters. But they fail to innovate or challenge the audience. They are made to not offend lovers of the originals.

The first rule of story-telling is to ask yourself one question; Is this a story worth telling? The answer to that for the prequels was no. It doesn’t matter how Anakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vader. We don’t need to see that. But we were given it. It ruins the impact of Luke rejecting the Emperor’s offer at the end of Return of the Jedi.

He says he’s a Jedi like his father before him. But then we see his father was a child-murdering lunatic in the prequels. Even when he was a Jedi, he was a crappy one. This is not a person who deserves to be redeemed. The prequels take all the weight out of the words that Luke speaks here.

But to get back to this new Star Wars, I wanted to be okay with these new movies. J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek was a good popcorn flick, but no depth lied beneath all the lens flare and action. So I set my expectations low for this film. When I watch a movie like The Transporter, all I expect is a fun time at the theater. I turn my brain off and sit back for an hour and a half. But this movie was putting me to sleep. I wanted to check my phone to see how long was left in the film because it felt like a waste of my time.

This is a retread of A New Hope that we didn’t need. I’m surprised nobody in the movie pointed this out. Old General Leia should have been pissed that all her work in the original trilogy has been undone. Here she is thirty years later still fighting the Empire and a masked guy wielding a lightsaber. It’s like they accomplished nothing in the original trilogy.

Why did this need to be a New Hope again? We have a vibrant universe with thirty years worth of stories to rip off. The Expanded Star Wars Universe had to have something more worthy of the screen than this film. When the movie started off with a guy giving his droid important information that the Empire wanted, I rolled my eyes in the theater. Couldn’t they think of anything else? You can do anything with Star Wars but instead, you rehash the old.

Why do we have to be on a desert planet in the start of this film? Can’t we start in a place we’ve never seen before? With characters, stakes, and situations that are new to Star Wars? Do we need to see the 2015 version of Darth Vader entering the Rebel ship and capturing Leia?

After this opening scene, we are introduced to our main “character”, Rey. I put the word, character, in quotations because Rey is not a character. Characters have flaws. They learn and they change. Someone needs to get in contact with Rian Johnson, the director of Episode 8. We need to get Rey a flaw, just one flaw. So the next one won’t be boring too.

Rey is good at everything. She won a light saber fight with a guy trained by Luke Skywalker and Supreme Master Leader Snoke. She can fly the Millennium Falcon without ever flying it before. She knows more about it than Han Solo. She does not need help when she is attacked by thieves. Luke got attacked by Sand People in A New Hope and needed Ben Kenobi to save his dumb ass. Rey does not need help from anybody. She kicks ass! She’s so cool that Han Solo offers her job on the Millennium Falcon. Chewbacca likes her. Finn falls instantly in love with her because she’s so beautiful.

You can’t be intelligent, hot, a great fighter, a great pilot, a great Force User and loved by everyone. That’s a not a person. Finn is a liar and somewhat of a coward. He fears the Empire. Po, a great pilot like Rey, shows mental weakness when he gives up the location of BB-8. Luke was whiny. Han Solo was selfish. Leia was mean and bossy. Rey is better than everyone at everything.

Rey has one moment of vulnerability in this movie. She runs away after touching Luke’s lightsaber. She wants no part of her destiny. Then she is captured. I thought at this point a flaw was about to show up. She stayed on Jakku because she feared her destiny. But then she with no help from anyone resists same torture that Po succumbed to and then uses a Jedi Mind Trick to escape. Han Solo, Chewie, and Finn are their way to rescue her but she didn’t need their help. She escaped herself because she’s awesome.

Remember how in A New Hope Luke was screaming for C3PO to save them from the trash compactor? If Rey was there, she would have climbed those walls, and then beat Darth Vader in a light saber fight. And then blew up the Death Star with no one’s help. What she accomplishes in this movie took Luke three movies to accomplish. When Luke fights Darth Vader for the first time, Vader is toying with him. He dominates Luke. Luke gets in a few lucky hits but that only pisses Vader off. Luke loses his hand and then decides to jump to his death than join Vader. Only through sheer luck does he survive the events of Empire.

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Compare that man to Rey at the end of her first fight. She stands over the injured Kylo Ren, with not a mark on her.

Why should I care about this character? In the end, she finds Luke. It’s implied she is going to be trained by him. But what is there left to teach Rey? I bet in episode 8 she will be teaching him about the force. I hope Rian Johnson will rectify this situation with Rey and make her shitty at one thing. Just one.

Luke exiling himself is a rather strange story development. It leads to us having the teaser ending, but why would he do that? His nephew murdered children so Luke decides to go look for the first Jedi Temple. Why don’t you stop him? Don’t you care about the people being murdered? What’s going to be at the first Jedi Temple that could help? A secret Jedi technique? Do you need that against Kylo Ren? He lost to Rey and she was a Jedi for like two minutes. Surely you, a Jedi Master, can whup his ass and end this conflict? Is the secret Jedi technique for Super Master Commander Snoke?

I don’t even want to get into Supreme Kam Chancellor Snoke. His name is Snoke. I think that says enough.

Why did Luke’s lightsaber call out to Rey? How come when she touched it, it showed her visions? Didn’t do that to Luke. He would have seen visions of the prequels and probably decided the Jedi life was not for him. Where did that orange alien thing get Luke’s lightsaber? I know it will be a story later on, but I want to know now. That’s a more interesting story than the events of this movie. Was the hand still attached? Was it in the back of that chest?

Why did Han Solo and Leia name their kid after Obi-Won’s fake name? I had no idea Ben meant that much to them. Han Solo didn’t seem all that sad when Ben died. Now he names his kid after him. This is not a big deal. It was just something I was wondering. Why not name his kid after his good buddy, Chewbacca? Chewbacca Solo has a nice ring to it.

The Starkiller is bad fanfiction. A bigger badder Death Star that can destroy five planets at once. This was the best they could do? They were writing this script for over a year. I expect better than Death Star except bigger. My five-year-old cousin could have come up with that.

I hate being so down on this film. I wish I could have taken it for the ride it was trying to take me on. But this was a ride I’d been on before.

Episode 7 is going to make lots and lots of money for Disney. It does not matter if it is a good movie or not. It does sadden me because I felt this was a squandered opportunity to do something new with Star Wars after the disappointment of the prequels.

Maybe the next one will be good. Rian Johnson is a good writer. His work on Breaking Bad’s Ozymandias shows that he’s a competent director. Maybe he’ll turn this whole ship around and set us on a course for good storytelling.

Hopefully.

If not, oh well. We’ll always have the originals.
—-

Tis the Season

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , on November 27, 2015 by dakofman

Seven years ago a Walmart employee was sent to the front doors of the store  to help take control of a crowd of Black Friday shoppers. He was known as a gentle giant to his loved ones. That size was what put him in harm’s way.  The store needed big strong men like him to keep the frenzied crowd in check. The front doors would be smashed off their hinges before anyone knew what to do. The human chain set up to stop the rush failed. His co-workers jumped on top of vending machines to escape the hundreds of people flooding into the store. Some were injured including a pregnant woman. A few fought for their lives and managed to get to safety. But this oneemployee did not have their luck. His life came to an end underneath the soles of a crowd of people who felt that fifty percent off electronics was worth more than a human life. He was 34 years old.

Paramedics who came on to the scene to try and help were stepped-on. The shoppers were told to leave the store after the employee’s death was discovered. They refused. They had waited on line for hours. Why did they have to leave because one person had died? They continued to shop as if nothing had happened.

Walmart paid the employee’s family $400,000 to compensate for the loss of life.

In the seven years since the employee’s unfortunate passing,  the pain hasn’t subsided for his family. They remember that fateful Black Friday. Every year they stay at home to honor the memory of their fallen giant. They will forever know what people are willing to disregard for the sake of a good sale.

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