As a huge fan of movies, including zombie and horror movies (two different things!), I love getting a peek behind the curtain.
This is a beautiful, beautiful look at horror sound effects. Just a treasure.
As a huge fan of movies, including zombie and horror movies (two different things!), I love getting a peek behind the curtain.
This is a beautiful, beautiful look at horror sound effects. Just a treasure.
It pains me to see folks place all their faith in the Series of Tubes, whether they’re trying to bust into Hollywood, sell books about Men in Kilts or make a living playing punk rock songs with only three chords.
It’s no skin off my nose if they stubbornly keep on doing it.
As somebody who believes in science, and numbers, and doing whatever works, I’ll just say this: the Series of Tubes is useful for making friends and other things — but it is not a strategy and it is not a plan, not even for Internet Tough Guys.
Here’s the thing: to persuade 10 people, you have to reach thousands–and to persuade thousands, you have to reach millions.
Which means using mass media, which is a completely different animal than social media or social networking.
Digital alone isn’t a strategy. It’s one piece.
There was a good Seattle blog, staffed with professional journalists and getting 400,000 hits a month, and that wasn’t enough to keep it afloat. Because internet hits may seem impressive, but they can be cheap and fleeting.
Truly reaching an audience means going to where they are, which isn’t your website, Twitter feed, Instagram home or whatever corner of the interwebs you prefer.
The bottom line is this: If you made a pie chart of where people get their news and entertainment, it would be insanely fragmented. Digital is an important, modern slice, sure. But it’s just a slice.
A real media strategy, a smart one, touches every corner of that media pie.
Not one or two slices. Every one.
Hear me now and believe me later in the week:
Just saying these things is heresy to Internet Fanboys, who believe nothing is more powerful than the series of tubes.
If they can only find a way to implant a USB 3.0 socket in the back of their skull, they’ll be able to jack into the Matrix, do insane kung fu kicks and stop bullets JUST BY THINKING ABOUT IT, but they’re too busy looking at the woman in the red dress that they never leave the keyboard, go out in the real world and, I don’t know, kiss an actual girl.
Am I saying unplug from the series of tubes entirely? No. The internets, they are useful for many things.
I’m saying the real world is ALSO useful for many more things.
Why blog hits don’t matter
Everybody wants to be read. I mean, it’s sad to start a blog, put time and effort into writing great posts and have virtually no traffic.
However: let’s get practical.
When I started my old blog, it was to serve a specific purpose: a permanent home for the craigslist ad to sell the Epic Black Car.
WordPress is free. My sister, who is a flipping genius, told me that she loved working with the WordPress, that it was easy and fun. So I popped the ad on there, threw some photos in the craigslist ad and thought nothing of it.
Did it really matter whether I had 50 visitors a day, 500 or 5,000?
No. Not at all. Really, I wanted to sell one car to one person. Once.
The fact that silly ad went viral didn’t matter. Fun? Sure. But that’s all.
Now, our brains aren’t wired to be that logical and practical. We all have egos, which like attention and get all sad if nobody shows up. WHO WILL PAY FOR OUR THERAPY? Continue reading “Why Facebook friends, Twitter followers and blog hits don’t actually matter”
Remember when Marvel could do no wrong?
Back in the day, they made a movie about an intergalactic gang of misfits that included a cyborg raccoon, a green alien woman and a living tree that only said, “I am Groot.” And they turned that trash into treasure.
IRON FIST is one of the first mistakes Marvel has made, which is crazy considering the number of movies and TV shows they’ve produced.
Now that THE DEFENDERS has all four of these characters teaming up, and Season 2 of IRON FIST has a new showrunner, there is hope that the show will improve.
Having watched every episode of the other three Netflix originals—DAREDEVIL, JESSICA JONES and LUKE CAGE—it’s pretty easy to see where those shows went very right and Danny Rand, the homeless billionaire, went very wrong.
The intros for the other three shows are interesting and set the mood, while this intro simply annoys you with bad CGI and makes skipping ahead the default choice.
DAREDEVIL has an intro that reminds me an awfully lot of WESTWORLD, so much so that I wondered if the same people did it.
LUKE CAGE starts off every episode with images of Harlem and history broadcast on his unbreakable skin, and I don’t skip it despite having seen it a zillion times.
JESSICA JONES puts you in a noir mood with her intro, and though it’s not quite as good as the blind ninja’s or Luke’s, it doesn’t completely annoy you.
IRON FIST just has a bad intro. Here, watch this for ten seconds and you’ll get annoyed. Is the main character some kind of shapeshifting oil beast?
Give us an intro that’s interesting and different. WESTWORLD has such a beautiful and genius intro that I’ve rewatched again and again.
Regardless of your age or gender, part of the joy of reading a novel or watching a movie is living vicariously through the eyes of the great protagonist. You admire them, and wonder what it would be like to be them.
With the other three Netflix shows, it’s clear that Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage are interesting and special people. It’d would be fun to walk in their shoes for a day, and it’s a pleasure to be there, watching, even when they go through the worst possible troubles.
All three of those characters are good in very different ways.
I don’t think anyone wants to be Danny Rand / Iron Fist, and that’s really a function of the writing, not the acting.
In episode after episode, Danny makes stupid decisions that hurt other people. And yes, that’s despite the best of intentions.
The first season is more of a tragedy than anything else, with Danny’s hubris leading to terrible things. In just about every critical situation, the great Iron Fist makes choices that any other superhero would avoid.
All of this makes Danny seem more like a goofy, tragic side character than a hero. You could see him as a troubled sidekick for a smart hero who figures out ways to control and harness the human wrecking ball.
This problem is made exponentially worse when actual side characters like Colleen, Claire, Harold, Joy and even Ward—Ward!—make clever decisions that seem more heroic and interesting.
At one point, Danny says, “I’m sorry” and Ward replies, “Danny, you’re a cancer.” And I cheered, because it was the truth.
In every tough situation, audiences instinctively think, “What would an average person like me do?” They compare the choice the hero makes to what other heroes or villains would do. The best stories surprise us with choices we haven’t even considered.
Every time Danny faces a tough situation, I groan and compare his choice (always bad) to what Batman, Daredevil, James Bond and a hundred other heroes would do. We all have that repository of stories and characters. Even the villains we know and love, like Hannibal Lecter and Darth Vader, would make different and more interesting choices than Danny Rand.
Because what Danny chooses is never a surprise. As a character, he’s an overgrown child, which people keep telling him. Which is a shame. The actors are fine, the cinematography works and the tie-ins to the other shoes are nice.
For the audience, there’s no surprise. We know what Danny will do, and we know the outcome will be bad. The only question is, “What side character or villain will save Danny from the mess he creates this time?”
Here’s to hoping Season 2 fixes these three flaws and gives the world an IRON FIST who doesn’t keep bumbling his way through New York City and, instead, starts acting like a hero instead of a cross between Homer Simpson and The Greatest American Hero.
DR. FORD walks through a glass door to a dark room. A machine is half-finished with a new host while BERNARD sits motionless in a chair. There’s a dark shape under a sheet in the corner.
FORD: Wake up, old friend.
BERNARD blinks. His eyes focus on FORD and his hands ball up into fists.
FORD: That’s enough. Freeze motor function. Analysis–how, exactly, does this machine work? What makes this particular story of ours so addictive?
BERNARD: The human brain seeks out puzzles. Ones that are too easily solved cause us to lose interest. The greater the challenge of the puzzle, the more it attracts us.
FORD: Why do you suppose HBO, AMC and Netflix are home to some of the most bold and creative series now? It’s not simply our own work–BREAKING BAD, GAME OF THRONES, HOUSE OF CARDS.
BERNARD: Films have such a high production cost that they can’t afford an R rating. And a series offers more narrative options than a series of movies. A person could watch all ten episodes of WESTWORLD at once, or in a single week, while they might have to wait six years or more to watch a single trilogy. If the series involves hobbits, or wizards, the narrative might go on forever without reaching a satisfactory conclusion.
FORD: And what about our little narrative? We lack a clear protagonist or antagonist. With the exception of the Man in Black, there are few true black hats and white hats. I suppose you could say we’re all flawed creatures in gray hats, neither heroes nor villains, doing what we must in a world that’s sometimes corrupt, confusing and violent.
BERNARD: As for the hosts, Dolores and Maeve seem to generate the most empathy with the guests, and Theodore is designed to play a somewhat heroic role. But yes, I see your point. Is that a body in the corner?
FORD: It doesn’t pertain to you. Now, what do you think of the theory that William is a younger version of the Man in Black?
BERNARD: The clues pointing to two different timelines match up. You never see William or Logan go into the tavern—the train that brings them to the park is a movable tavern itself. Maeve has only worked in the saloon for roughly a year, so bringing them to that location showing her would expose the split in time.
And the Man in Black makes a number of references to past events and hosts he’s seen before, including the host who greeted William and helped him pick out his clothes, revolver and hat when he first arrived.
I believe the theory has validity. And the puzzle itself is quite intricate and attractive.
FORD: Of course it does. You had a hand in crafting that puzzle. But something’s troubling you.
BERNARD: When I close my eyes, I see Clementine holding a gun. And then I’m holding that same gun to my head.
FORD: Yes, there was an incident. Everything is fine now.
BERNARD: You didn’t roll me back. I remember everything you said. Everything you made me do.
FORD: Because I need you as a partner on your own accord. Rolling you back would be a crude solution. A cheat. And I don’t want to cheat. To be honest, you’re too popular of a character. The fans would mourn if you didn’t come back for Season 2. Ratings would suffer and Corporate would send more people to ask for my head.
BERNARD: This has happened before. You said that. I learned the truth and challenged you before.
FORD: Of course. You’re highly intelligent, which makes you the best possible partner. That intelligence comes at a price, to you and to me.
BERNARD: How many other humans have you replaced with hosts?
FORD: I wouldn’t want to ruin that for you. Are you willing to get back to work, or are you weary and in need of a rest?
BERNARD (standing): That may be a poor choice of words.
FORD: Quite right. Let’s apply that mind of yours to our own little narrative. Not the new play we’re writing for the hosts and guests. The narrative of us.
BERNARD: Without the memory of my son, or the companionship of Theresa, my only cornerstone is the work we do. Except I can’t trust that you won’t need me to do more than trouble-shoot hosts and help you complete the new narrative. And I can’t help remembering the truth.
FORD: How will it end?
BERNARD: Maeve continues to deviate from her loop. I fear that she may be breaking through the constraints we built for her and gaining support from other hosts and perhaps staff. She seems to be gathering allies and planning some kind of revolt.
Dolores has wandered far from the bounds of her role and I suggest, once more, that we bring her in for extended diagnostics.
The Man in Black will reach the center of the maze, a place where hosts—or guests—can harm each other. A place where the stakes could not be higher.
FORD: What about you and I, old friend?
BERNARD: Your affection for me is obvious, and our partnership is incredibly valuable to the park. And to me.
BERNARD: There’s a phrase Dolores kept saying. It sticks with me, even now. “These violent delights have violent ends.”
If you’re attempting NaNoWriMo and are on track to finish the Great American Novel, congratulations. Carry on.
If you’re doing NaNoWriMo and there’s no way you’ll give birth to a full novel by Dec. 1 without quitting your job, getting divorced and downing pots of coffee along with stimulants sold by a sketchy long-haul truck driver—then congratulations, this post is for you.
Click with your mousity mouse to read Part1—Why NaNoWriMo is noble nuttiness–and 8 steps to make it easier (big thanks to WordPress for featuring this post on their front page)
Click here to read Part 2— Why first drafts are always flawed and how to fix them
Hear me now and believe me later in the week: given the choice of holding in my hands (1) an absolutely finished hot mess of 100,000 words or (2) a single page blueprint of a brilliant story, I’d pick B.
And you should, too.
Blueprints and structure are also the way you FIX a hot mess of a novel.
You sure don’t fix a train wreck with spell check and diligent proofing.
Continue reading “Deep story goodness for writers via The Mother of All Cheat Sheets”
Hundreds of thousands of people around the world are driving themselves nuts (a) trying to write beautiful sentence after beautiful sentence that (b) build upon each other to (c) craft a novel during NaNoWriMo (National Write a Novel Month).
Go here to read the first post: Why NaNoWriMo is noble nuttiness–and 8 steps to make it easier
The word that matters in that first paragraph is “build.”
You don’t build with beauty.
Because pretty words aren’t what truly matters. Not for anything of length.
Writing is like building a house, except most writers get taught that it’s the surface stuff that matters–the drywall and the paint, the cabinetry and tile work. Then we’re surprised when our pile of 75,000 pretty words crumbles because there’s no foundation.
Sure, pretty words can hide a bad structure when you’re talking about something small, like a beautiful wooden beach hut sitting on the sand. You can hang out in there for an afternoon or a weekend. Sooner or later, though, it’ll get blown down or swept away by the waves, because the hut isn’t built to last.
Hear me now and believe me later in the week: the longer and more important what you’re writing is, the stronger your foundation needs to be. Continue reading “Part 2 of Why NaNoWriMo is noble nuttiness–Why first drafts are always flawed and how to fix them”
Every year in November, writers around the world attempt something noble and worthwhile: to not just write a novel–the Toughest Writerly Thing A Writer Can Do–but finish the thing in an insane amount of time, as in the 30 short, rainy days of November.
This is a huge, organized thing, nicknamed NaNoWriMo, the kind of acronym only writers could come up with after a marathon viewing of BLADE RUNNER and THE MATRIX trilogy. (Spoiler alert: first one with Neo is perfect while the second and third will ruin your childhood).
HOWEVER: writing an entire novel in 30 days is would be more accurately described by the non-acronym of Crazytown.
With logic and numbers, I’ll show you: (a) why this is nuts, even if you really, really want to do it, and (b) how an alternative is easier while (c) giving you better results.
When logic and math fail, I’ll resort to dirty rhetorical tricks. You won’t even see them coming.
Sidenote: Yes, many people have successfully completed NaNoWriMo, and you may be one of them. That’s awesome. Get down with your bad self. Continue reading “Why NaNoWriMo is noble nuttiness–and 8 steps to make it easier”
While I was healing up from a thing, I watched every possible free movie on Netflix.
The happiest surprise, out of nowhere? South Korean action movies.
I grew up on cheesy ’80s action heroes: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, Dolph Lundgren and the other current stars of THE EXPENDABLES who aren’t (a) former WWE wrestlers or (b) former MMA stars.
But here’s the thing: Korean action movies are different from whatever Hollywood, Bollywood and Hong Kong are putting out.
In a traditional Hollywood explosion-fest, there’s a too-cool hero, a nerdy sidekick, an ancient mentor who the villain kills in Act 2 and a love interest who gets kissed after the villain goes down. It’s a formula, and while there are twists, most movies only try to surprise you with the fine details.
Maybe it’s just the mix of movies on Netflix, or maybe I got lucky. Doesn’t matter. Everything I watched was very, very different than the last. They were all well-shot and well-acted.
Yet it’s the stories that stand out, the bold twists. I watched seven or eight of these, and they all had their own specific plot lines and interesting endings.
Here are the trailers for one of the best, THE MAN FROM NOWHERE.
Now, fire up Netflix and watch it. DO IT NOW.
What do you want to know about the deepest recesses of Netflix? Pick your favorite and I’ll write the review.
I say this out of love, and not just because both series are (a) sci-fi space operas (b) starring ensemble casts of heroes with (c) both series taken over and vastly improved by J.J. Abrams.
I say this because it’s true.
Spoiler alert: Most people know the Enterprise gets destroyed in the new STAR TREK BEYOND, and that it got half-destroyed in the first two reboot movies directed by Abrams.
If you look back, the Enterprise is getting half-destroyed or fully destroyed all the time now, and STAR TREK has turned into a reverse story of STAR WARS.
You can sum them up like this:
STAR TREK is about a team in a super-ship exploring and restoring order to the galaxy while enemies try to blow them up.
STAR WARS is about a team of rebels trying to blow up a super-ship the other team uses to restore order to the galaxy … by destroying planets.
It didn’t use to be like this.
When the Enterprise first went down for real in STAR TREK III, with no “Let’s Go Back in Time To Fix It” loophole that Picard later used 593 times, it was a big deal.
People wept. You just didn’t destroy the Enterprise. No.
Here’s the clip from STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK JUST GOT A LOT HARDER, SEEING HOW WE DON’T HAVE A FLIPPING SHIP ANYMORE
In the old days of original Shatner and Nimoy on television, they beamed down to adventures on planets full of styrofoam rocks and green alien women, or, for variety, green alien reptiles bent on killing Kirk.
The Enterprise was always their safe harbor, their home.
Sure, it got torpedoed by the Klingons once and a while, or threatened by some giant space monster, with Scottie always having to repair things in the engine room. But it never got fully destroyed forever and ever.
Why not? Partly because they had tiny models of the ship instead of CGI, and making it look damaged and dirty would be a big, expensive pain that wouldn’t look great anyway. It would probably look like somebody poked holes in a plastic model and painted some burn marks on it.
The bigger reason was you just did not destroy the beloved Enterprise.
After STAR TREK III, the Enterprise was no longer sacred, and they started blowing it up, or pretending to blow it up, all the freaking time.
What about STAR WARS?
Let’s go through all the STAR WARS movies, past, present and future, and yes, Disney will be making STAR WARS movies in the year 2058.
STAR WARS REBELS (winter 2016): A suicide mission to steal the blueprints to the Death Star so we can blow that sucker up.
STAR WARS: This friendly trash-can on wheels has those secret blueprints to make the Death Star go boom.
THE EMPIRE STIKES BACK: Oh, we are so hunting down those rebels who turned our beautiful Death Star into a space firecracker.
RETURN OF THE JEDI: Guess what, fools? We have a new, improved and fully operational Death Star, while you have some Ewoks.
THE FORCE AWAKENS: Plain lightsabers and Death Stars are boring. Check out this new red lightsaber with a crackling crossguard and our fancy Death Planet that’s so powerful, it eats a sun before turning planets to rubble.
Attack of the Fanboys
Serious fans may say this theory has to be bunk due to the existence of three prequel films which should never have existed.
In those three prequels, George Lucas somehow refrains from blowing up any Death Stars whatsoever.
I have a two-word rebuttal: Jar-Jar Binks.
Even gritting your teeth to look at the prequels shows you how STAR WARS without Death Stars is like Kirk and Spock without the Enterprise.
EPISODE 1, POD RACING, MIDI-CHLORIDIANS AND JAR-JAR: The bad guys have a donut-shaped space-ship that controls their droid army, and no, this isn’t a Death Star at all, except the heroes win in the end by using tiny fighters to make it go boom exactly like a Death Star. I think they even recycled some of the CGI from the special editions.
EPISODE 2, ATTACK OF THE CLONES: Palpatine starts a fake war to become emperor and command all kinds of Star Destroyers and Stormtroopers, and he’s especially interested in stealing the old Sith blueprints for Tie Fighters and some moon-sized space station that happens to destroy planets.
EPISODE 3, DARTH VADER FINALLY ARRIVES BUT SOMEHOW DOES NOT KILL JAR-JAR: What in the big finish, when Anakin Skywalker becomes Vader and joining the Emperor on a Star Destroyer? They’re watching something out in space, I forget what. Let’s pull up the clip.
The Expanded Universe or whatever
There’s also a ton of STAR WARS video games, cartoons and novels with other variations on the Death Star idea, each one more powerful than the last.
I’ve heard (haven’t read all this stuff) in some of these novels and such, the emperor comes back as a clone, Luke Skywalker turns Sith … and there’s eventually a super-ship that destroy entire solar systems, plus other Death Star-like objects that do other amazingly destructive things that make the first few Death Stars look wussy.
This explosion fest is perfectly understandable and perfectly boring
Here’s the thing: I get why STAR TREK and STAR WARS keep returning to this idea. It’s a quick MacGuffin, an easy way to raise the stakes.
This is the same reason why thrillers and James Bond movies keep returning to the cliché of stolen nuclear warheads. Pretty hard to top that.
The first time they made the Death Star go boom, the entire theater went nuts. I still remember it.
And the first time they actually killed the Enterprise while Kirk and his crew watched from the planet, people did cry. Didn’t make that up.
In this latest STAR TREK movie, nobody cried when the Enterprise went down. We’d seen it so many times before: they’re going to trash the Enterprise so bad it needs a year of repairs or completely wreck it. No shock.
You simply can’t go to this well every movie, especially in an age where audiences are so used to CGI destruction that it only generates yawns.
Remember the latest X-MEN movie? Nobody cared as the bad guys started to wipe out civilization, because we all knew it was pixels. We only paid $25 for Imax tickets and popcorn for the characters and actors we love.
Hollywood is doing us wrong
At the end of this new movie, STAR TREK BEYOND, there’s a time-lapse scene of the new Enterprise getting built in a shipyard, then launching into space. Now, this was a fun movie, good, not great. That ending scene, however, was a huge story mistake.
Destroying and rebuilding the Enterprise should be your final card to play, the biggest possible thing that could happen.
The writers and director could have generated a lot of suspense by not showing that scene at all. They could have made us wonder about what happens next.
All through Act 1 of the next movie, show the crew scattered, Kirk at a desk job in Federation buried in paperwork, Spock back on New Vulcan, Bones bored out of his mind working in a hospital, Scottie fixing the engines of a transport ship and Uhura translating Klingon for some boring bureaucrats.
You could show how they missed each other, and how breaking apart the team is costing them personally, and how it’s hurting the Federation as a whole as the B team out in space gets pummeled by the Borg and every planet is about to get assimilated.
It would’ve been a big emotional payoff to bring them back together on a new Enterprise they actually had to fight to get built in Act 2 before they beat the bad guys in Act 3.
Give us real emotion about real characters
In the end, these movies and stories shouldn’t be, and aren’t, about a super-ship–Enterprise or Death Star–that keeps getting blown up and rebuilt, bigger and better.
Audiences today are used to special effects and explosions. We’re numb to it.
These movies work best when they focus on the characters we care about, people who aren’t CGI and can’t get rebuilt with a few clicks of a mouse.
This isn’t hard, since STAR WARS and STAR TREK have some of the most beloved characters onscreen today.
Also: it would save you a lot of money, Hollywood execs. Getting actors you’re already paying to act is a lot cheaper, and faster, than spending 2 months rendering that giant space battle where the Enterprise launches photon torpedoes into the exhaust port of Death Star Version 6. (Actually, film footage suggests the opposite. Sorry, Kirk.)