So, I, Robot is a “bad” movie? What Gives?

  • Project Paradise Word Count: 357
  • Project Skye Word Count: 1617
  • Project Independence Word Count: 2428 (+71)
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12

I managed to add 71 words yesterday, well below my 250 word goal.  In my defense, I only had about 40 minutes in-between assignments, but I probably could have gotten it done, but I had to eat dinner, and eating ribs and typing on a computer keyboard is a recipe for disaster.  I also had time on my breaks, but chose not to work on it.  Instead I skimmed YouTube for most of break time.  Today, I’m going to make a concerted effort to use my break times for writing and save YouTube for the weekend.  We’ll see tomorrow if I make it happen.

I, Robot = “bad”?

So, towards the end of the day at the Writing Center, a discussion emerged about the concept of Artificial Intelligence in video games and movies, and I brought up I, Robot as an example.  Now, I know I, Robot isn’t regarded fondly in the Sci-Fi community, but I was surprised to hear a MA (Master’s level) student pull a “Freshman Fiat.”  This is my term for when a freshman (or any other beginning level student) pronounces that something is “fact” and then provides no evidence for this pronouncement.  He categorically stated that I, Robot was a “bad” movie, but without giving any shred of evidence (such as characterization, plotting, setting, tone, etc) to back up his statement and I was supposed to just agree because that is the general consensus.

But I don’t agree.

Not only do I not agree, but as a student learning more and more about Afrofuturism, I would argue that the general consensus has less to do with the movie’s quality in terms of story construction than it does with the appearance of the hero and the formation of the hero’s identity.

But Looper = “good”?

As a counterpoint to the I, Robot narrative, I would offer the (as evidence, which the other participant in the debate never gave, I must repeatedly emphasize), the movie Looper.  Looper is a time travel story, one which (minor spoilers–skip down if you want to know nothing about the plot) sets the protagonist against an older version of himself.

Looper was hailed as a “great” movie and was critically acclaimed.  It also made its director Rian Johnson a powerhouse in the Sci-Fi movie community (which ultimately lead to The Last Jedi and the splintering of the Star Wars fandom).  However, I found Looper (and The Last Jedi to a lesser degree) to be one of the least inventive, least original, and a movie so lacking in character motivation that it made the main character seem flat and uninteresting.  And yet, this movie is hailed as what we should aspire to in Science Fiction filmmaking, while I, Robot, which tries to explore the idea what a soul is and where does it reside, and can it reside in a machine created by man (i.e, first explored by “high” literature such as Frankenstein, and explored in many different movies, including the highly successful Terminator films).

What Makes It So?

I would challenge viewers to watch (or rewatch) each film and focus on the protagonists–the main characters.  I would also encourage viewers to take a moment to look at the way each character is defined and acts within the context of his respective movie.  Although one is a darker shade in terms of skin tone and borrows from his cultural heritage, I would argue that it is Looper’s protagonist who acts in a more stereotypical way.  The protagonist in Looper doesn’t emote (characteristic of the “strong, silent” type), his actor has the classic “Hollywood” face (“square-jawed”), and the character acts out of a misplaced sense of “love” (the character himself isn’t faced with any overriding conviction), whereas the protagonist of I, Robot hates the robots in his world as a way of displacing his own “self-hate” at the way his circumstances turned out.

I would argue that I, Robot challenges the stereotypical narrative far more than Looper does, but that the casting of the protagonist in Looper conforms more to the expectations of the viewers and thus, allows Looper benefit from a story that is far less engaging and far less revolutionary than the story that I, Robot tells.

If you happen to disagree, that’s perfectly valid.  I just wanted to take a moment to highlight a few of the reasons why I think that I, Robot gets a bad “rap.”  At least, there’s no “Freshman Fiat” to deal with here–you have points that you can refute if you disagree.

And that was ultimately the point of today’s post: a little more reason and a little less fiat.  Thanks for reading!

Sidney




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Updated Marvel Universe Movies

marvel_cinematic_universe_wallpaper_by_theincrediblejake-d8lx9om

This is a super short post to let you know that I’ve updated my Ranking of Marvel Movies post with the addition of Thor Ragnarok. 

Sidney




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Thor Ragnarok: Mini-Review (No Spoilers)

Nope, no writing done over the 3 day weekend.  Tragic.  This is what I’ve got to get better at as a writer who wants to be “professional.”  Yes, I had another real-world “project” that I was working on (changing rooms in my house), but it doesn’t take that long to do 250 words.  I just didn’t want to go through the hassle of setting up the computer for just 20-30 mins of writing–but the cost to that was, no writing done at all.  250 * 6 days = 1,500 words.  I one week, I could, if I could get my act together, essentially finish a “section” of a short story, or the basic “outline” of a chapter.  So the word I used above is actually something I need to tell myself when I don’t get my 250 words in–tragic.

Finally Saw Thor Ragnarok

Okay, so over the Memorial Day Weekend here in the U.S., my family and I gathered together after the holiday dinner to watch Thor Ragnarok.  I have to say upfront that it was a fun experience–it isn’t the best Marvel movie that I ever seen, but it also isn’t the worst.  I guess that’s what, after having a night to sleep on it, I would say–it was a solidly fun experience.  Unlike Star Wars, which at the moment that I write this, is having a “moment” (and not in a good way as Kathleen Kennedy seems determined to remake the brand into something that she wants and not something that the fans want), Marvel movies know what they’re audiences want: quite a bit of action, some humor (quips and some physical comedy), characters having to some (light) soul-searching, an inventive and eventful ending, and (a bit) of moral relevance (theme) and they’re golden.  This is what Thor Ragnarok delivers to its audience.  Is it flashy, like say Civil War or Winter Soldier? No.  But is it good?  Yes, yes it is.

God of Humor

So, the comedic elements in this one are super strong.  Whether they be visual gags, banter and quips, or downright physical humors, a lot (but not all) of Thor Ragnarok is played for laughs.  I happened to have liked that, but if you’re looking for (or liked) the grim seriousness of Thor The Dark World, then you’ll need to look elsewhere because they play this strictly as an action-comedy.  When there’s action, there’s a lot of it, but when there’s no action on the screen, they’re either setting up a joke or actually paying off a joke.  There’s very little else here, although to be fair, there is quite a bit of light character development of ThorLokiHulk/Banner, and the new character, the Valkyrie, whose name wasn’t really used all that often in the movie, but who both Thor & Loki recognized as a Valkyrie, so that’s (at the moment) how I remembered her character.

Not the Worst, but Not the Best

Again, I have to say that I really liked this movie quite a bit, but based on the high praise that it was given by some of the reviews when it released, I’m a little surprised that it wasn’t a stronger movie.  I suppose when you get right down to it, this may have to do more with me and my expectations than the movie itself.  While I like comedies and like to laugh (who doesn’t), my favorite genre is action.  While there’s no denying that Thor Ragnarok does have action set-pieces, for the most part, this one lent itself to comedy (think the comedy sketch of Thor sitting out Civil War that made the rounds on YouTube last summer, and you’ll have an idea of what the creators of Thor Ragnarok were going for).

Having just re-watched this vignette, I just realized that they referenced the “email” joke in this vignette in Thor Ragnarok, so this is very much a “tone-piece” for the movie.  If you like this vignette, then you’ll probably like Thor Ragnarok very much.  I was mildly amused by this, so while I really liked the movie, it probably won’t make it into my Top 5 Marvel movies.  Not to say it isn’t good, but I feel there are other Marvel movies that are stronger.

Overall Grade: B (Above Average)

My take: Hey, it’s a Marvel movie.  They’d have to really misfire (Thor Dark World) to get much less (Marvel gets me as a fan in a way that Kathleen Kennedy and the “new” Star Wars doesn’t seem to anymore).  I love what they are doing right now.  Even the movies that I feel are perhaps “weaker” entries in the Universe are still above the quality of many other movies of competing franchises.  My mother said the movie was better than she expected it be based on the other Thor movies and my step-father laughed all the way through, and myself was at least amused through most of it, but sat up and took notice through the extended action sequences.  This was, while not my favorite Marvel movie, still one that I would gladly re-watch anytime.

Show Us The Gameplay!

Show-me-the-money_socialsuitenet

Tom Cruise with the dialogue caption: “Show me the money!”  Image Source: The Social C Suite (http://thesocialcsuite.net/show-me-the-money/)

  • Project Paradise Word Count: 357
  • Project Skye Word Count: 1617
  • Project Independence Word Count: 2357 
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12

I haven’t written anything as of yet–I wanted to do the blog post first and get it out before the long holiday weekend (U.S.).  Hopefully, if I don’t write today, I’ll be able to write at least 250 words over the 3 day weekend–that’s my goal, at least.  Let’s see on Tuesday if I can actually make it happen.

Games, Games, Games

Okay, so for the most part, my blog entries for the past two weeks have centered (mostly) around my writing endeavors as I try my best to find the best way to navigate the Work, Life, Writing Balance.  I’m actually going to veer a hard left today and move more into video games and gaming for the next two weeks.  Don’t worry, I’m still going to update the word counts and give a brief description of how the writing is going, but as E3 approaches, I want to shift focus just a bit for a while to cover some aspects of gaming that are intriguing.  Sometimes, like today, the writing and gaming will intersect (at least tangentially), but not always.  Just wanted to give you a head’s-up about where the blog is headed in the next couple of weeks.  Oh, I should mention that sometime in the near future, I’ll (hopefully, *fingers crossed*) be seeing Thor Raganarok in the near future & I’ll post here and update my Favorite Marvel Movies post when I do.

Gamplay is King

So, today I watch a trailer for a game called Earthfall (aha, tricked you, didn’t I.  Gamers are all up in arms about a “little” game called Battlefield V at the moment–I’ll actually cover that at a later date–maybe).  However, as you can see from the trailer below, the game looks to be a 4 person cooperative shooter against aliens.  The problem is that is all I can gather from the trailer.  As there is no actual “gameplay,” it is hard to decide if I should put it on my “radar” or not.  Is it a 1st person or 3rd person shooter, is it online only or is there a single player component (campaign), what does the moment-to-moment gameplay look like, etc.?   Yes, yes, I know that I simply google it and find out all of this information, but the point I’m trying to make is that I shouldn’t have to.  If you want me to purchase your game, show me (in gameplay) why I should do so.

We should be past creating a trailer, but not releasing any information about, especially since the game releases on July 13th, which is less than 2 months away (and knowing that a game goes “gold”–i.e., features “locked in” so that the discs can be pressed and shipped to retailers or downloaded for purchase doesn’t inspire confidence).   At most, show one trailer–the trailer below is the 2nd major one, and then start showing gameplay.  Even if they reveal gameplay at E3 in about two weeks time, I’m going to have to wait on reviews because, like movies, when companies aren’t confident that their product is good, they’ll often hold off releasing detailed information on the product until the last minute, hoping to “trick” consumers into seeing it/purchasing it before the initial waves of bad reviews start to flood in.

How to Do it Right!

So, last year, a racing game called The Crew 2 caught my eye.  It is the sequel to The Crew, a game I loved and sunk hours into over the past two years since its release.  The Crew 2 did have a trailer, but it has also consistently released gameplay elements, showing off the various parts of the game.  They’ve released so much that I’ve had to put it on media “blackout” so that I don’t see too much of the game and spoil the surprises of the new things that they’ve added.

As I know what The Crew 2 is and what its gameplay looks like, I’m all in and willing to invest my hard earned money “sight unseen” in it because I’ve seen enough gameplay of the new game and I’ve played enough of the old game to know that this new game will be right up my ally.  Also, as it comes out June 29th and my classes end on July 3, this will make the perfect “getting through your summer classes” gift to myself.  Earthfall might have also been included in this transaction had they shown more gameplay, but as it stands, I’ll probably pick up God of War instead and (if the reviews are good), pick up Earthfall on sale around Christmas time.

To any developers (or future developers) who may stumble across this blog post, please remember–“Gameplay is King!”

Have a great weekend, and for those in the U.S., have a great and safe Memorial Day Weekend!

Sidney




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Back to the Future (No, Not the Movie, My Writing Projects)

Future

Writing the Future: All For Nothing.  Image Source: YouTube

  • Project Paradise Word Count: 357
  • Project Skye Word Count: 1617
  • Project Independence Word Count: 2357 (+634 words)
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12

I’m back to writing again–I’m working primarily on Project Independence now that I have a complete idea of the story in my head.  I shattered my 250 word writing goal for today, but in doing so, didn’t have a whole lot of time left to craft this blog entry before my Writing Center shift begins.  

So, I’m Back to Writing

This one is a shorter blog as I have to be in the Writing Center in about 45 minutes.  Basically, I just wanted to let everyone know that I’m back to writing, specifically Project Independence.  While yesterday’s blog was a way to help me discover what time is optimal for me as a writer, today’s blog is to emphasize that sometimes you have to write at sub-optimal times.  Yesterday, I tried to write in the afternoon, but I ran out of time because I was reading outside and I didn’t have access to a wifi-enabled computer.  I would have had to go back inside into the air-conditioning which I had been in all morning and lunchtime, so I just enjoyed the sunlight outside reading.  Today, I just got up early and wrote before my shift in the Writing Center begins.

Writing Future Slang

So, one of the things that I’m really interested in is communication between the various characters.  While I want to tell a very cool and interesting story, I also want to emphasize how communication can help (or hinder) the characters in the story.  Today, for instance, I tried my hand at creating slang for a different planet.  I’m not sure how effective it is at this stage of the draft, but I really like the challenge of taking today’s slang and trying to extrapolate how it might work in the future.

Sorry this blog is so short–consider this a maxi-update for Project Independence.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to craft a longer blog entry tomorrow.  Right now, I’m just excited that I’m actually back to writing the story.

Have a great day!

Sidney




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Changing Paradigms

good afternoon

Good Afternoon written on a notebook beside a laptop.  Image Source: Depositphotos

  • Project Paradise Word Count: 357
  • Project Skye Word Count: 1617
  • Project Independence Word Count: 1723 
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12

So, again, no new writing done (boo!).  Read on to find out why.

Adjusting to a New Schedule

So, astute readers will notice that the Word Count section of the blog that I recently added has not changed in a couple of days.  There’s are reason for that–while Summer “Classes” have not officially started, my summer “responsibilities” for my Financial Aid started on Monday, the 21st.  I’m now working in the University Writing Center as a Writing Consultant over the summer.  This means my writing time has been severely restricted in terms of time to write.

Optimal Writing Time

Dr. Renfroe, in the very first class I took from her here at MTSU, encouraged us  (grad students) to experiment with writing times to find what worked for us so as to write consistently and regularly.  She advised us that, as students who would be writing theses and dissertations, this was the best and most consistent way to be able to craft these longer works with as little frustration as possible.  Later on, after reading Jesmyn Ward’s Interview on NPR (Persist.  Read, Write, and Improve), I realized that I really needed to produce 250 words a day and to find the time when I was at my best in terms of a writing time.

Early to Mid Afternoon

So, in this past year and half, I’ve discovered that I’m best as a writer during the early to mid-afternoon period.  Some time after lunch, but sometime before, say five o’clock.  Early morning writing (except for maybe the blog) doesn’t really work (for me) as I’m not usually awake enough to consistently put words on the page, even though I’m a fairly early riser.  Late night doesn’t work because my body and mind usually go into “shut down” mode and any energy/excitement for the piece is overcome by mental exhaustion from the day.  No, my preferred writing time is early to mid-afternoon.  My brain is awake and alert, but not tired and mentally exhausted.

This week, I’ll have a couple of hours in that optimal time, but next week, I’ll only have one hour.  Now that I know this, I’m going to have learn to be a little quicker in adapting myself to the changing paradigms that I find myself in to protect as much of that precious “golden time” in the early/mid-afternoons as possible based on the circumstances.

It is true: knowledge is power.  Have a good day!

Sidney




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Enjoy the Ride

  • Project Paradise Word Count: 357
  • Project Skye Word Count: 1617
  • Project Independence Word Count: 1723 
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12

So, I didn’t get any “mainline” writing done, but I did brainstorm a project and this brainstorming session, while unintentional, was very productive.  I’ve chosen which of the two projects that I will be working on to finish out the month.  To find out which one, read on:

Driving While Dreaming

So, as some of you may know that I have a fairly long commute from my house to school/class.  I usually listen to podcasts and (more rarely) play music.  The reception isn’t good enough to listen to anyone radio station the entire time, so these are my only two realistic options.  However, today, I found myself not really wanting to listen to a podcast after the first one finished playing and all of the stations had nothing but static and I didn’t want to hook up my bluetooth aftermarket connection for my phone to play music, so I just drove.  And what a drive it was.

Project Independent Comes into Focus

So as I was driving, there were long stretches with few cars and lots of quiet and my mind began to wander a bit, I must confess.  I kept my eyes on the road and had full road awareness, but I began to wonder what would happen next in the conversation I was in the middle of for Project Independence and boom, my mind was off to the races.  It was very much like reliving watching an enjoyable movie as scene after scene played out in my mind.  I knew what the main characters were going to do, what they were going to say, who would live and who would (possibly) die.  I had the setting, complications, and reversals all planned out.  This took place from about the base of Monteagle mountain, through the truck rest area and inspection station, and ended about at Manchester, TN (about a 20-25 minute Speed Limit drive).

Recapturing the Glory

When I finally got to school, I took a moment to jot down (in outline form) the key scenes and their importance from my brainstorming daydream.  I’m now super excited to write about it because I want to recapture that feeling and those emotions that i felt while brainstorming the story in my mind.  So, if you haven’t guessed already, Project Space Trucker (which should have a title that I really like now) is the one short story project that I’m working on for the rest of May (& a bit into June if I need to.  I will push Project Skye (which I’ve made good progress on) back to June.  I will work on the Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel on weekends (I owe my artist an email soon).

It was really amazing the way the subconscious took over and helped to fashion out a story that I’m itching to tell.  The moral of this story = if you’re stuck, go out for a drive (or a walk, or whatever), but just do something else for a while.  You’re subconscious is probably already working on a solution.

Talk to you later!

Sidney




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