The YouTuber vs The Director: Why Hollywood Needs to Stop Being a "Closed" System

Gameplay capture from a “modded” version of Empire at War (Star Wars Fleet Battle Strategy Game)

Hi Everyone,

So sorry for taking an extended break from the blog. There are reasons, which I will articulate, but probably in a post sometime in the New Year. Right now, I just want to say thank you to those who have stuck with the blog by reading older (and liking) many of the older posts here. I will be posting more regularly here (I haven’t gone away from blogging; I just needed to take a break–again, I’ll go into those reasons later). Again, a big thank you for sticking with the blog!

Right now, however, I really want to talk about Star Wars for a moment, now that the newest movie has released. Now, I’ve NOT seen Rise of Skywalker as of yet. Will I see it (at the theaters)? I’m not sure–so far, the reviews that I’ve seen have been mixed. I think I will probably email a professor that I know who is an ardent Star Wars fan to see what their reaction is and, if the professor likes it, I’ll probably attend a matinee showing in January before the new semester starts again. However, while watching a YouTube video, I discovered another reason why the previous movie (w/Rian Johnson at the helm) didn’t work for me and that has to do with an “amateur” (as Hollywood would see them) seeming to know and care more about the Star Wars universe than the director (and “professional” as Hollywood would brand them) does based on the content that both have “created.”

The Case Against Rian Johnson (and the script of The Last Jedi)

So, I’m probably “blacklisting” myself as I have designs of writing screenplays in the future, but in watching the YouTube video that I linked to above (don’t worry–at over 50 minutes I don’t expect anyone to watch the whole thing, but watching 10 mins or so, especially in the middle, should make it clear to readers why I chose to include the video). Now, before I lay out my major argument, let me be clear: while I respect Rian Johnson as both a person and director (I’ve never met the guy, so I have no opinion on him outside of his work–for me, it is the “content of one’s character”) in ALL situations), I’m not a fan of his science fiction efforts. Looper was something thing I couldn’t even finish, while The Last Jedi was disappointing to me as a lifelong Star Wars fan. While I understand the need to distance the old characters and invite the new characters, I felt that there were so many better ways that this could have been accomplished. Going against conventions just to be “radical and new” doesn’t necessarily mean that it is good. And that’s the main problem that I saw with The Last Jedi: its desire to show the main protagonists in the story in a different light that had already been explored. I won’t go into a long diatribe about it, but will ask all those who liked Knives Out–his currently critically acclaimed movie–a question: what if I took the characters in that movie and wrote a sequel in which none of them acted liked they had in the first movie and rewrote the ending so that none of it happened the way the first movie made it appear? (Don’t worry, there’s no spoilers as I’ve yet to see the movie) .Would you then think that this new movie was “cool and unique?” Chances are good that you would hate my script because neither the characters nor the world had anything that made them who they were–just changing them “to subvert expectations” would likely appear arbitrary, capricious, and dare I say, stupid (for an exercise, I may just write that script whenever I do see Knives Out just to show how subverting expectations isn’t really “clever” when it is done to something that someone else likes–when the person doing that subverting doesn’t really like it themselves–assuming, of course that I don’t like Knives Out).

Why Does a YouTuber Display More Reverence for Star Wars Than a Director (or Producer)?

Yet, for all my whinging on about Rian Johnson (and by extension, the producers of the newest trilogy), there are many people who are passionate about the series–but more importantly, who are knowledgeable about the Star Wars universe. In some ways, it seems like there are fans who know (and care) more about the property than the creators of that series. Now, there is a YouTuber who goes by the handle of TheXPGamers who produces quite a bit of Star Wars content. In this particular case (for the video that I linked above), he is playing a Star Wars game published by Lucasarts Games before the Disney buyout that deals with giant spaceship fleet battles between the forces of the Empire and the Rebels. Even though he is playing a “modded” copy (meaning that another software author has created a patch that changes the look, feel, and gameplay elements) of the original/base game, just from viewing a short portion of the video, one can see two things are evident: 1) his passion and 2) his knowledge about the SW universe. First, his passion is clear–he loves this series and learning more about it and he’s clearly invested in the lore. Second, he has both knowledge of the lore, but also strategy and how it applies to the SW universe. He is clearly a master of the game and of the tactics used to win.

And here’s my ultimate point: Rian Johnson got criticized for many things, but one of the major things that people called “BS” on was his fleet interactions. Now look, I know how hard writing is, but this where being a “closed” system hurts Hollywood. How hard would it have been to call in TheXPGamers as a “consultant” or even as a reader to help “punch up” the scenes dealing with the fleet? And if he did a good job there, then perhaps touch on characterization and other things in order to improve the script? Oh, but that’s not the way Hollywood does things–they don’t want to be sued for “stealing ideas.” Granted, that is a thing, but Hollywood wants a hit, but isn’t always sure what will deliver one. In dealing with art, the only time they seem to want to take risks is when they already have an established property (a la SW) that has a built in fanbase–but to actually open themselves up to 1) original properties/screenplays or 2) allow outsiders to come in and help shape there projects–no, that is NOT allowed. Yes, I’m aware of the “guild” structure and the like, but my point remains: if you have resources at your disposal to help you and you chose not to use them, then you cannot very well become upset when the fans call “BS” on a story/story elements. The “chase” in The Last Jedi was central to the storyline, but based on what was written in the script and presented onscreen, the director knew little-to-nothing about the “boring” ship-to-ship battles in the SW universe, so let’s make it “exciting” with a “chase” sequence (because “chase” scenes = tension, see Bullitt). However, as linked in the video, TheXPGamers knows how large fleet warfare works in SW, can describe it effectively, and can illustrate the reasons and rationales for certain decisions to be made, so why not use him as a resource as well, not to mention Lucas and any other SW alumns who are still working with (Filoni, Chow, or even other SW directors/artists/conceptual designers, even actors) come quickly to mind. And that doesn’t even count the legion of fans who have produced content (via the internet or in other forms) who have massive amounts of knowledge as well (but because they aren’t “professional”–i.e., known in Hollywood industry circles–their opinions and knowledge doesn’t count). Look, I get it, we all have to “pay our dues” if we want something, but not all “dues paying” looks exactly the same. If some pay there dues through YouTube videos, some through extensive reading and writing, and some by directing, shouldn’t that count for the same? Why does directing a moderately successful Sci-Fi movie give you access to the reins of the biggest, most important Sci-Fi franchise out there, but producing content (in the form of YouTube videos) on that very same large, successful franchise earn you nothing but contempt and being ignored by the very movie studio/entity producing that franchise?

Until Hollywood realizes that not everyone who isn’t “in” the industry is not the enemy, I predict there will be more fan/community backlash to Hollywood’s seemingly increasing arbitrary decisions to their franchises. Instead of more control, it might be better in the long run to relinquish the tight grip on their franchises and bring in fans (especially fan-based experts) to help craft the stories and shape the ultimate direction of the narratives. Otherwise, like Princess Leia predicted to Grand Moff Tarkin: “The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.”

P. S. Alien 3 and Me

And lest I be called a Rian Johnson hater (as I am pretty harsh about him in this entry), I’ve already had my moment with “fandom” with the release of Alien 3 and that is when I learned how horribly wrong a sci-fi movie can go in the hands of an “avant garde” director. Alien and Aliens were my favorite films outside of the SW universe and I was ecstatic when A3 was announced. I went to a showing at U.T. Knoxville, where I was a sophomore at the time. Words cannot express my disappointment in the film. As there was no internet at the time (not in the way there is now–AOL was just beginning to be a thing . . . I think, but it may have been a couple of years before even that if I remember correctly), there was no “fan outrage” that happened. However, I never saw another David Fincher film (I made sure to note the director of that travesty) and after the lukewarm Alien Ressurection, I’ve basically sworn off the Aliens franchise until the reviews indicate that they (the filmmakers) truly intend to make good movies again (so, no I’ve not seen Prometheus, nor Alien Covenant, nor the AvP films, nor do I intend to). So you see, I don’t hate on directors or franchises when they disappoint–I just deny them my business. That’s why Leia’s quote is so appropriate–a closed system means that you (the filmmakers) have no margin for error, so the director/writer/producer had better love the franchise as much as the fans because, like The Last Jedi (and Alien 3) shows, it is painfully obvious when they don’t.

Sidney


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Mini-Movie Review: Se7en (Seven)

Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt as detectives stare out at the viewer.
Image Source: https://theamericanmag.com/se7ven/

So, I watched this movie before my preliminary exam, so this mini-movie review might a bit vague as I try to remember what I was feeling about the movie. Did I like it? This is a complicated question (for a complicated movie). This will be a shorter entry, but I’ll try to put my feelings about the movie into words (& hopefully those words make sense).

Seven Deadly Sins

So, as I’m sure I’m going to be told, the concept of a serial killer enacting the the Seven Deadly Sins was probably unique at the time, but I found it a bit trite. Now, again, I must remind readers that I am interested in Sci-Fi and Fantasy and had little interest and patience for movies outside of those two genres. However, with TV series like Law and Order, NCIS, and a myriad of television shows on stations like Crime TV have probably blunted the shock value that the movie might have had on me.

Good Characters, But They Don’t Always Do Smart Things

Without getting into spoilers, the resolution of the movie is set up because the characters, while smart and determined, don’t always do the smartest things. I guessed the ending (partially) about 20 minutes before it happened. While I wasn’t able to guess one of the character’s reactions, I did guess the lead-up to his final choice in the movie. The characters, however, are more realistic in that they have real desires and goals outside of the main plot. This, I’m finding, is crucial to helping characters seem real. They need to have goals and interests that have nothing to do with the main plot–and these characters do have them. What I didn’t like, especially with Brad Pitt’s performance, was the “twitchiness” of his character. Much like his character in 12 Monkeys, Pitt jerks and twitches quite frequently (but not as much as the 12 Monkeys character), and I (personally) found it distracting.

Nihilistic Storytelling

It also has a nihilism that I find quite annoying. Sometimes the world seems to mirror the emotions/actions going on in the story. Rain seems to come down at times to help aid the depressing air of the story. While not Grimdark, but it still isn’t a “pleasant” movie to watch. There is a grit and grunge to the world that accentuates the gruesome atrocities of the serial killer.

Overall Rating: B-

While I recognize the significance of the film in terms of cinematic quality, I found it a bit tedious (and as I said above, a bit trite). Looking at it with 2019 eyes, it seemed to be trying to make a statement that has been made over and over: life sucks and people can be cruel and perpetuate that cruelty. No matter how critically acclaimed those films are in culture or cinematic history, it doesn’t make me like the film any more. I can appreciate it, but I think that, for me, films that are full of nihilism simply turn me off, no matter how well they are made or present their ideas.

Sidney


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Unlocked: Mini-Movie Review

So its been a while since I’ve written a blog, but I’ve still been progressing on many fronts. A couple of weeks of go I was in the mood for a spy action film. I’d seen this trailer, but I didn’t actually go to see Unlocked. When I saw that it was on streaming, I immediately put it on my list to see. I watched it a couple of weekends ago and thought that it was good. Not horrible and not great, but good.

The Action is What Makes This Movie

So, it is the action and action sequences that really make this movie. I really like the action sequences (reminiscent of the Bodyguard BBC TV show that I didn’t really care for except for the action sequences). There’s a lot of hand-to-hand combat, gunplay, and spycraft that makes up this movie. Even in the action sequences, one can still see the characters and the interplay between the characters and that is also very good.

The Script Really Lets the Movie Down

So, it is the script that really hampers the movie, particularly the plot. Good characters and good action, weighed down by seeming reversals that can be seen a mile away. I don’t want to spoil anything, but the events play out EXACTLY as one expects they will. This is one of those times where film critics (which I have a love/hate relationship with) are right: being derivative really hurt this film. The film makes (or wants to make) a statement about terrorism and peace and warmonger/warprofiteering, but wants to have everything fall into place in such a way as to “hide” the identity of the ultimate bad guy, but (slight spoiler here, so skip two paragraphs if you don’t want ANY spoilers):

. . . if you’ve seen The Fugitive, then you know exactly what’s going to happen. Same essential structure. And that’s just for starters. I can’t recall their names, but I can think of two more movies (oh, just remembered one: Broken Arrow) that do much the same as this one does.

Overall Rating: B

So this is probably overly generous (it should probably be a B-/C+), but I found the lead character played by Noomi Rapace and the male character played by Orlando Bloom to be a strong presence. I also liked many of the other actors (& their characters) in the movie and thought that the set-up to the movie was the strongest I’d seen in a while and with the action it seemed poised to be a good one, but ultimately, the derivative script let it down and I didn’t like the last 2/3rds of the movie nearly as much as I did the first 1/3rd.

Anyway, I hope that everyone’s week is an awesome one!

Sidney


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12 Monkeys (Mini-Review) — Some spoilers

Bruce Willis with a bald head and a red light shining from one eye.
Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/12_Monkeys

So, I watched 12 Monkeys over the weekend (the movie, not the TV show–although I will take a look at it one of these days now that I’ve seen the movie). I will do a mini-review, but there will be some spoilers that I simply can’t avoid–you can’t talk about the movie without talking about it in terms of its ultimate narrative structure (which, once presented, is a “spoiler”). I will leave the major spoiler points to the end, so if you don’t want to be spoiled be sure not to read to the end of the post. Unfortunately, I can’t guard against a search engines picking up the words in the spoiler section, so you have been warned.

Party Like Its 1995

So, Twelve Monkeys is a movie that I’ve wanted to watch for a while. I’ve heard about it spoken in reverence in the sci-fi community as some sort of harbinger of where sci-fi was heading. And in some ways that was true–this is an older movie after all. However, this is one that never came to streaming and when it originally released, I remember it being just as DVD was hitting and the prices were fairly high.

Not What I Was Expecting

This movie wasn’t quite was I expecting. I was expecting a sci-fi neo-noir futuristic thriller/mystery about the finding of a plague. While there are elements of this in the movie, it isn’t the primary focus. This one has a “concept” (more below) that it adheres to and a narrative structure that was fairly unique (for the time). I have to say that, honestly, I was a little disappointed by it as there have been many, many imitators that I’ve seen over the years, and that has blunted my enjoyment of the movie, as well.

Spoiler Warning–The End

Okay, so this is your final warning, STOP READING NOW if you want to stay unspoiled on the movie.

—————————————————————————————————————

Okay, here goes: this is the movie that popularized a certain type of time travel story, “the bootstrap paradox” story. Okay, what is a bootstrap paradox–literally, it is a time travel story that is both self-fulfilling and has no antecedent. When we enter the story, the plague has already happened, and then we see the way the plague happens when we go back in time with the protagonists. However, the idea of the plague was brought back to the past and that’s how the it gets started (this is simplified). So the plague is started by going back into the past (don’t go back to the past, no plague–no antecedent) and as it plays out, it happens just as the protagonist “remembers” it (self-fulfilling). Why am I spoiling this movie to talk about the end? Because it set the stage for the multitude of “time travel” stories and “boot strap” stories that permeated the landscape for (at least) 10 years after this movie released. Now I understand why there were so many movies that featured this time travel arc. This movie is influential in the genre, that only “ended” with Bruce Willis in another time travel film, Looper. However, in between 12 Monkeys and Looper, there were a ton of time travel/psuedo time travel films released (you can find me talking about them in a post from a few years ago: https://sidneyblaylockjr.wordpress.com/2015/03/22/where-you-end-is-not-where-you-begin-time-travel-in-movies/

12 Monkeys is where all these movies got their ideas/start, so it is a “referential” movie in the field of science fiction (time travel films) and has influenced films for over a decade.

Overall Grade: C

I might have rated this higher had I seen it earlier. However, so many later movies that I watched “stole” (paid homage/or more kindly, thought they could do the idea even better) that much of the movie’s uniqueness had already been worn through. It also doesn’t help that I’d already read many of the concepts in Sci-Fi novels even before the movie originally released. Generally speaking, its Short-stories–>Novels/Graphic Novels–>Film in terms of progression for Sci-Fi ideas. Want to be on the cutting edge, read sci-fi mags and anthologies, want to see the idea propagated to a mass audience, wait for the film. This is one that, at its time, might have made more of an impression (as it did to the countless filmmakers of successive time travel stories, but now, if you seen any of the recent time stories of the last 10 years, Source Code, Deja Vu, etc., then you have a pretty good idea of where the story is headed.

Robin Hood (2018) Mini Review (No Spoilers)

Robin Hood and Azeem stare out into the distance as arrows fall around them on cloudy black night with orange fire at their backs.
Image Source: https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/film/blame-game-of-thrones-for-the-useless-new-robin-hood-movie-1.3705686

I hate to do negative reviews for movies. Yes, yes, I know there are lot of people, both in print and in video (YouTube and where ever else) who love to savage a movie (I assume because it shows how “elite” they are in film and their eruditeness), but I’m not one of them. I recognize that a film is the result of a lot of hard work by individuals coming together to collaborate on a creative endeavor. Robin Hood (2018), was one of those movies, however, that simply did not come together based on the quality of the writing and choices made by the director.

The Scripting “Steals” All the Fun

So, it looks like Robin Hood (2018) was trying to go for an anachronistic tale in the vein of A Knight’s Tale, starring the late Heath Ledger. Now, for as fondly as that film is received currently, there are still a lot of problems with it that I will discuss in the next section. For this section, the quality of writing of the script simply was not there (for me) and really worked against the story. Yes, the second major area that I’m studying while working on my PhD is film, but I will say this: I’m still learning about film (probably will be for the rest of my life, but that’s okay). I don’t know every film nor do I have ALL of the historical movements down (yet–though I’ve bought a book that should help–more on this in a future post). However, even I could see quite a few reference points for the script. Telling your audience that this “isn’t the Robin Hood you know” still doesn’t alleviate the need for you as a writer to craft a believable tale. Credibility went out the window when there’s a “machine gun” like ballista/crossbow that pins down Locksley’s “squad” at the beginning of the movie (well, honestly it was gone with the anachronistic “draft notice” that Locksley was sent within the first 5 minutes of the movie, but that’s just piling on). This beginning part has shades of any recent war movie that’s come out in the last few years. One review referenced The Hurt Locker, while I saw shades of Black Hawk Down as well. Once Robin is back and becomes “The Hood,” I saw (way too many) parallels with The Mask of Zorro (especially in terms of story construction) down to the concept of a “mine.” One of the “carriage chase scenes,” even seemed shot like the motorcycle chase scene from Skyfall. I looked up the writer, while there are two listed in for the screenplay, I chose the one who was also listed for the “story” as that one is the one who has usually come up with the story and “pitched” it to Hollywood (usually through an agent, but possibly himself or through some 3rd party). However, I could find very little for this writer online, so I”ll be very dubious should I see his name listed on a future film.

Anachronism “Robs” the Movie’s Realism

So, in addition to the poor screenwriting of Robin Hood (2018), the choice to lean into it through anachronism pretty much sealed its fate. Anachronism rarely works well except in a comedic sense, such as Robin Hood: Men in Tights. Since that movie is a comedy, we know we’re supposed to laugh when we see an anachronistic element. The problem with anachronism (especially in Robin Hood 2018) is it ignores realism and tries to be “relevant” and “edgy” by telling a contemporary story in a contemporary way with contemporary elements mixed in with historical elements. I would argue that the only reason it worked in A Knight’s Tale is that the technique hadn’t been used in so long outside of comedy and it had a fairly likable protagonist in Heath Ledger. Also, it’s source material wasn’t as obvious as it pulled a bit from The Canterbury Tales and it did not (pay “homage”) to scenes/plots from other movies. However, as I recall, the original reviews weren’t always great. Even now, the Rotten Tomatoes score for it is 58% (79% for audience) and that’s with time coming to “mellow out” some of the film’s detractors. Robin Hood (2018)’s Rotten Tomato score is (as of this writing) if 15% (41% for the audience). Simply put–if you’re going to be anachronistic–it would probably be better just to create a “contemporary” version of the story, however contrived. At least, this way you’d get to tell the “contemporary” story you wanted without all the “historical” bits getting in the way.

Overall Score: F (59 or below)

This is the first movie on the blog that I’ve ever given this score. The only other movie I would have scored this low (for strictly artistic reasons–and not for political reasons) would have been Happy Feet. “Political reasons” just means my own personal ethos in life–there are films that I don’t agree with in message, content, and whatnot, but I’m cognizant to realize that my ethos works for me and not for everyone else, so even though I didn’t enjoy the movie, I’m mature enough to see the “qualities” of those movies.) Unfortunately, this isn’t the case with Robin Hood (2018). I was taken out of the story from the very beginning and even the set pieces seemed derivative. Again, I hate to throw this movie “under the bus” as it were, as many people worked on it and the actors do a fine job. However, the script was simply too derivative and the anachronisms too pervasive for me to enjoy and get invested in the movie’s world or story.

Sidney

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Sunsetting Star Wars

Sunsetting Star Wars Two characters from Star Wars watch the twin suns set.
Image Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2W5YPQJqUs

Okay, I know, a provactive title. And yes, The Last Jedi features into the discussion, but not nearly as much as one would think. I’ve known for a while now that the Disney version of Star Wars (at least for the last of the 3 Skywalker films) would be “sunsetting” the original characters and creating a whole new set of characters that we would follow through new movies for a “new” generation. My problem (at the time) wasn’t the sunsetting of the older characters–it was, would I like the new characters? Now, however, I have to say that it is isn’t the new characters that bother me (except the “grumpy Darklord”–Daisy Ridley’s term for Kylo Ren). What I really have a problem with is the way in which the old characters are being “retired.”

Be Fair to Your Audience

Yes, I know we live in an 18-35 year old world. I get it. This is where marketers focus their efforts on, this is where people really want to target their appeals to, but one of the things that I really dislike about the way Star Wars has treated its audience is that they haven’t honored the original actors/roles as much as they could have.

So, unless I get really heavily into spoilers, I can’t actually do a “deep dive” into the ways Disney has “disrespected” fans of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia from the original trilogy. Suffice to say, the resolution of the two men have not ended well. Carrie Fisher unfortunately, passed away, so I suspect we will see footage of her in the new movie, but I feel that they will be far more respectful to her character because she (sadly) is no longer with us (the Paul Walker effect, essentially).

As a long time fan of the films, I don’t understand why we can’t get a resolution of the old characters that doesn’t feature them going out in the way they do. I feel that both of the characters who’ve we’ve “resolved” so far from the original trilogy do not end in a way that is either consistent or satisfying to what we as fans were presented onscreen during Lucas’ original run.

Be Consistent

And this the cry that every fan asks every creator whether or not they originally created a character or not. Let me be absolutely clear–I don’t like The Last Jedi. One of the main reasons is that I don’t feel that the Disney Star Wars films are playing fair with audience expectations is that the characterizations are not even close to what the characters have exhibited in the past, nor do they honor the struggles that they originally had. For example, Luke struggled with redeeming his father from evil, yet his nephew “supposedly” (we see this off-screen) displays tendencies of “evil” and Luke most definitely (again, vague to avoid spoilers) does NOT try to even talk to the kid, let alone redeem him. That is antithetical to Luke’s characterization and doesn’t fit with what I know about the character. However, for plot reasons, we need Luke to ignore 20 years of history (his own history, btw) and act in a manner counter to what he has done previously.

The same is true for Han Solo’s character. While I can somewhat see what befalls him, he still has to act in a “dumb” fashion for his ending to occur. In the original trilogy, Han and Chewbacca rarely split up–it does happen, but it was in Jedi and close to the end. However, in Force Awakens, the split-up happens at just the right time for the “surprise” to happen and to allow Han to be “Solo” at just the right time.

Again, I have to be super-vague to keep from spoilers (& this may be hurting my argument), but I feel that a grave disservice has been done to the old school characters. Leia will probably get a “hero’s sendoff,” but why does she get to be the only one? And why after she’s passed away? My grandmother subscribed to the idea that we should give “people their flowers while they are living,” meaning that one should honor people while they are alive and not wait until they are dead. The actors in the original Star Wars did a wonderful job and their characters are well loved by millions of fans. Is it really so bad to ask the creators of the new series to honor that idea and to give the characters a “sunset” that is consistent with their characters and honors their actors in an appropriate way (which I don’t think is what has actually occurred).

Sidney

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    Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2019
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    Pre-Production Phase (Planning)
    Pre-Writing on Rough Draft & Character Sketch
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
  • Current Longer Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    (Sci-Fi) Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32
    Personal Deadline = September 30, 2019
  • HawkeMoon (upcoming) = Edits turned in to editor 5/31/19

Back in (Summer) School

Image Source: https://www.reddit.com/r/disney/comments/41hgay/all_disney_movies_that_have_been_covered_in/

Sorry for not blogging over the past couple of days. I have to sign up for at least one class every summer in order to keep my Graduate Assistantship for my program. While we had a greater selection of classes during the Summer session, I chose the Children’s Film class which runs from July 8th to August 8th. However, I forgot to check over the long July 4th holiday to see if we had readings/viewings posted for the class (we did), so I’ve been working really hard to play catch-up with the readings for the movies. Luckily, we’re watching (& discussing) movies in class, so I’m only having to read scholarship outside of class, but still that takes time.

Disney and the Disney Formula

Since this is a Children’s Film course, Disney is a titan in the industry and we are devoting a week to Disney films. We started with the original film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and we have moved up into the Disney Renaissance with their more modern classics, such as The Little Mermaid, Frozen, and The Lion King. Next week we will be moving away from Disney, but right now, we’re investigating Disney and the Disney Formula, and we’re looking at how the movies’ messages and characterizations are changing, and have changed, over the years.

Deep Dive

As this is a graduate course, we are doing a “deep dive” into many facets of the movie and, so far, I’m really enjoying the class. I missed most of the “Disney Renaissance” movies, although I managed to see a great majority of Disney’s older movies (Disney Channel) and their newer movies (Pixar) through DVDs/BluRays. So, for me, this class is a great chance to catch-up on a segment of movies that is very much the foundation of the current generation.

Anyway, I have quite a few blog entries that I want to write (I’m in the middle of one now that I really need to finish), so even though it will be sporadic, I still to plan post as regularly as I can. Talk to you all later.

Sidney

Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts 
    Drafting Section 1 (of 3)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2019
  • I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
    Pre-Production Phase (Planning)
    Pre-Writing on Rough Draft & Character Sketch
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
  • Current Longer Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    (Sci-Fi) Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32
    Personal Deadline = September 30, 2019
  • HawkeMoon (upcoming) = Edits turned in to editor 5/31/19

Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse (Mini-Movie Review–No Spoilers)

Spider-Man (Miles Morales) Movie Poster with him swinging in his iconic black and red Spider costume across Brooklyn New York.
Image Source: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4633694/

Wow! Just wow! So I told a GTA collegue who works in the Writing Center on Friday that I was trying to expand my Film knowledge by watching films that were outside of my normal Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Superhero genres and that I was going to try to find a nice, innocuous Romantic Comedy (Rom-Com) to watch–I actually had one in mind–the one with Sandra Bullock & Ryan Reynolds (The Proposal–sorry, had to Google the name) which I’ve watched some, but not all before. However, I forgot that Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse (Spiderverse) released this weekend on Netflix, so I watched that instead (sorry for the unintentional lie there!). This movie is SO good.

Maybe My New Favorite Spider-Man Movie?

So, it is liable to be a while before I get to see the latest Spider-Man movie (Spider-Man Far From Home), but so far, I have to say that I think Spiderverse is my new favorite Spider-Man movie. There was a level of spark, creativity, and pluckiness to the new movie that won me over quite a bit. I really liked the way that Miles Morales was portrayed in the movie as a character first and as a character of color secondly. The writers manage to capture the angst of not fitting in the school setting for me in a way that (mostly) eliminated the things that I dislike about the school setting (which are the cringe-worthy awkwardness that usually happens there–although there were two “cringy” scenes still). Like Spider-Man 2, Spiderverse is a reflection on how to be a hero in everyday life. Spider-Man stories are best when one gets a sense that no matter what life throws at our main hero, he’s going to find a way to rise just a little higher to meet the challenge, even if it looks like he’s broken and down for the count.

This Movie is a Love-Letter to Spider-Man Fans!

Seriously, if you have any interest at all in the Spider-Man mythos, lore, and Rogues Gallery of the character’s various incarnations over the years, then this movie is a definite treat! There are little nods and references to all things Spidey all over the place. I saw “toy” Spider-Man motorcycle in the movie (I had the “Spidey-copter” and I need to go back and see if that was referenced — it would blow my mind if it was) and that’s just the beginning. I won’t go into spoilers, but just know that other versions of Spidey’s iconic self and suits do make an appearance in the movie. They even reference some of the classic scenes from the previous Sony movies at the beginning to help set the scene (in a fun way that is almost a referential self-parody). This movie is, while not quite perfect, is still one of the best representations of the Spider-Man mythos that I’ve seen in (and I’ve seen a lot of them starting with Spider-Man from the Electric Company TV series from the 1970s all the way through present). If there has been a representation of Spidey in the past 40 years or so, then I’ve probably seen it (or heard about it) somewhere and this one is fantastic!

Overall Grade: A+

If I was giving it a score, it would easily earn a 97-98 as I feel that it hits pretty much that I want in a Spider-man movie while minimizing the usual crap-tacular school awkwardness that is inherent in the adolescence version of the character. There are a couple of “cringe-inducing” moments still (having to relate to the school — again, without spoiling it, Miles’ early interactions with Gwen, while funny, do still exhibit that cringyness that I don’t enjoy–but it was so brief and so well done that it really didn’t hamper the movie or my enjoyment of the overall movie significantly, which is the reason for such a high rating. If you have Netflix (or even if you don’t but like the character), I would HIGHLY recommend checking this one out. Spiderverse is something special!

Sidney

Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts 
    Drafting Section 1 (of 3)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2019
  • I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
    Pre-Production Phase (Planning)
    Pre-Writing on Rough Draft & Character Sketch
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
  • Current Longer Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    (Sci-Fi) Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32
    Personal Deadline = September 30, 2019
  • HawkeMoon (upcoming) = Edits turned in to editor 5/31/19

Afrofuturism Canon

Women in futuristic African Attire in the middle with characters from the movie Black Panther on the right and left of the women.  There is a blue background behind the characters with transparent futuristic faces in the background.
Image Source: https://revolt.tv/stories/2018/02/27/octavia-butler-black-panther-afrofuturism-tomorrow-0700aed4c1

I’ve noted before that this summer I’m doing a lot of reading for both Rhetoric & Composition theory as well as Afrofuturism (I’m also reading the new textbook for my English 1010 class coming up for Fall 2019 to try to lay out how I’m going to teach it). I’m noticing quite a few things. One of the things that I want to talk about today is the fact that because Afrofuturism is just now going “mainstream” due to the success of Black Panther, its “canon” (the works that define it) are still being written/formulated/expressed. There’s still a quite a bit of debate as to what exactly constitutes an Afrofuturistic text (heck, my spellcheck even now is underlining Afrofuturism in red, highlighting that the term is still one that is not widely disseminated).

What is (currently) considered Afrofuturism?

So, the one of the most current definitions of Afrofuturism that I’ve seen is that Afrofuturism is a future (futuristic future or future that has futuristic elements) that deals in some way with the African diaspora. That is, the contintent of Africa in some way or the forced migration of African citizens to other continents (mainly for slave labor) and the effects (future) that has had on the culture. While I personally feel that this definition is too narrow (for reasons I’ll explain shortly), this means that the “canon” is generally forming around authors and filmic representations of this idea. So far the major authors are Delany, Butler, Hopkinson, and Okorafor (a fairly recent addition). I’ve attempted and abandoned Hopkinson’s seminal work Brown Girl in the Ring, but at some point before my dissertation, I know that I’ll have to hold my nose and read a representative work by each of these authors. Again, while I have no particular animus towards these authors in particular, I don’t really like their brand of sci-fi, which in the days before the Afrofuturism term began to be used in the 1990s, there work would have been label Social Sci-Fi and this is a sub-genre that doesn’t really interest me as much. The filmic representation for Afrofuturism is even bleaker. Basically, the only “mainstream” examples are Black Panther (seminal, in my opinion) and maybe Space is the Place (formative). If you google Afrofuturism films, you will find others listed, but again, none of them could be considered mainstream.

What is (currently) Excluded from Afrofuturism

Quite a lot, actually–too much in my opinion. A specific example from one the articles that I’ve read is Hancock because it doesn’t explicitly deal with the African Diaspora. If that’s the case, then it stands to reason that other predominately African American/African Descent movies in the Sci-Fi genre would also be excluded, even if there is a valid for including them. I, Robot would be out (even though it talks about robots as an underclass/servant class like People of Color used to be), most of Will Smith’s other work, pretty much any of the Denzel Washington Sci-Fi movies, the (poorly reviewed) adaptation of the Dark Tower which “race-bends” the main character and most certainly should be discussed–in terms of controversy to Idris Elba’s casting and what that means for those of African Descent in Fantasy/Sci-Fi, and even the recent Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse, which I would argue is probably the most important Afrofuturistic film to be released since Black Panther because it argues for “self determination” and not letting your past define your future–yet, it doesn’t do so from an African Diaspora context, so it will probably be excluded–and I don’t think that right. In the book space, both Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due are working in the Sci-Fi genre, but while I’ve seen them on the list for one forumulation for the canon, they are often left off of others for the “Big Four” listed above.

Why We Need ALL Our Authors of Color

So, this one is running longer than I intended, so I’ll end by saying: we NEED ALL our African American/Descent authors who are working in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy space for Afrofuturism. Too often, Sci-Fi and Fantasy have been genres that have been the province of writers outside the African American/Descent culture and as such, our voices have been marginalized and hindered through lack of representation. Without voices inside the field, we risk letting others define who we are and more importantly, without different ideas flowing throughout the “canon,” we risk others labeling our contributions as “one-note” and lacking the diversity we find in ourselves and wish to bring to the greater writing community at large. “Canon” formation is a good thing, but limiting a canon too much can create a homogeneity that can rob us of our voices just as surely as no recognition at all.

Sidney

Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts 
    Drafting Section 1 (of 3)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2019
  • I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
    Pre-Production Phase (Planning)
    Pre-Writing on Rough Draft & Character Sketch
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
  • Current Longer Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel 
    (Sci-Fi) Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32
    Personal Deadline = September 30, 2019
  • HawkeMoon (upcoming) = Edits turned in to editor 5/31/19

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