Friday, July 18, 2014

Meetings Meetings Meetings

The initial meeting is always the most interesting.

Everyone has an agenda, even if it's to get the hell out of the meeting and on to the real work. The fun meetings (an all too rare occasion) are the ones that go on the longest and thus can actually do some real damage in one's day if the attendees are not paying attention to the clock. Meetings are not bad things. Most aren't. It can take longer some days to schedule a meeting than it can to actually get the information disseminated and then listen for feedback.

Or I could just play "I Feel Fine" and move on with the day.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Thoughts on Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes

I saw this yesterday and it's sticking with me. Going in, I had heard that Andy Serkis is to movies these days what Lon Chaney, Sr. was to movies in the early 20th century. With that I heartily agree. There's a great deal of excellent acting going on in the film by the motion capture actors and the CGI was not something that I even really noticed.

The humans were good and I like Jason Clarke a lot, ever since I saw him in Zero Dark Thirty. He's interesting.

But all this aside, it's the story that holds the viewer's attention. Parallel stories of ape and human both wanting the same thing: peaceful existence. Of course that's impossible because one side wants more than the other and that's the conflict.

There's a lot of frowning, a tremendous amount of anger in the film which is reflected in the posters and promotional materials. Any viewer shouldn't get too caught up in that, though. There are real emotional moments that flit past quickly but which give the film a great deal of depth if one pays attention. While the characters are all fairly under drawn with the exception of Caesar, the story works and works well.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes isn't just a strong science fiction film, it's a strong film. It's laced with a deep theme of trust and leadership and the costs of both. Caesar is troubled, Jason Clarke's Malcolm is troubled, too, and neither makes very good decisions in the beginning of the film. Yet they both try hard to be good people. Very hard.

And that's why it's a very good film. It's imbued with a sense of honor, and a reality check of the times it was created in. Coming away having seen it as an incredible, tense, anti-war statement may not be the popular view. There are other views embedded there: anti-gun is one that's permeating the Internet as of this writing but a sense of family and what one does to protect it is there, too. The aforementioned trust is central to the conflict between human and ape.

Within the 2 hours and 10 minutes are a great deal of things to think about. It's a worthy investment to spend the time in the theater now and think about it on the way home. It's a worthy investment to talk about the themes with friends over drinks, too.

As a matter of fact, it's worth your time to go see it again, too. Don't miss this one.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Bundle of Nerves

...the relatively insecure writer is just a mass of raw nerve ends. Unfavorable criticism, to be of any use to him at all, must be couched in thoughtful language, temperate tones, and so phrased that he can use it to do better next time. If he is simply lashed, ridiculed, held up to scorn, it does him no good at all -- on the contrary it is likely to make it impossible for him to write for days on end.
I suggest that it never helps anyone to tell a mother that her baby is ugly.

--- Robert A. Heinlein in a letter to Lester Del Rey 04/15/57

This is true on a number of levels but at the same time, we writers have to develop that thick skin that makes it so that we can endure the  slings and arrows aimed at us when we write something out of our comfort zone. It would be so easy to simply sink our heads in the metaphorical sand when we are criticized, or rather that our writing is criticized so meanly that it becomes personal.

When I played in a local band, we got one such review and the group never really recovered from it, disbanding shortly afterwards despite all our desires to continue.

I've abandoned projects because someone has said something disparaging about them. Upon further examination it wasn't the seemingly harsh words but my own doubts about the projects themselves that caused my abandonment. So I think I'm okay hearing that as a creator my baby, my writing, may be not quite as up to snuff as I want it to be. But continual improvement is quite a good tonic in such cases. So I have a thick skin most days and I keep writing though I may not go back to a project for a time.

All that matters is the writing. That's how one gets better. Critique, criticism - harsh or otherwise - should be taken as cues to improve. Of course, this is my view. Your mileage may vary.

And it should. But if you see beauty where others see none, hang onto that image. It'll get you through.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Answering the Question

I watched the first episode of HBO's The Leftovers and I'm intrigued. A friend commented that it has 'a train wreck quality' to it and that's pretty accurate but it also has some fascinating character building going on.

The situation is that 2% of the world's population is just gone in some sort of 'departure' event that may or may not be a biblical rapture depending on how one looks at it. The show focuses on the 'leftovers' in one small town. Life carries on in the new normal of loved ones just being gone. Very different kinds of thinking are evident in the pilot from a group of white-clad, silent smokers who watch select people in the town to the tortured chief of police to the man who shoots dogs to the high school kids at parties.

And because I'm a glutton for punishment, I went to the show's IMDB entry to read up a little on it. Message boards there listed complaints about the ending of LOST, the current Under The Dome and just general bitching. You'd think I'd know better. Still, I got a nice piece of information about the book there, and that's inspired the writing of this post.

It may be that the cause of the 'departure' could never be known either to the characters on the show or to the audience.

I like that!

That's life, you know? Everything is not always wrapped up nice and neat to be presented even when one takes the time to ask the right questions. In my case I will never know (or at least it's beyond unlikely) what caused the blood clots that gathered in my lungs like the Woodstock crowd crashing the gates. I don't know why my thyroid is weak and failing. I've been told "sometimes the body just fails" by doctors who I respect.

If there is something I can do to prevent more parts of my body failing I will do it but if science doesn't know then the lack of an answer is something I'll have to live with.

As far as stories go, I like wondering what happens to characters when the screen fades to (or cuts to) black. Inception is a great example and so is Blue Jasmine. I don't require an in-depth explanation of the whys and wherefores as long as I've been entertained. I'm comfortable, though scared, about not knowing everything in life, too. I can't control everything. I've tried that and it drove me crazy.


So I'm definitely part of the target audience for a smart show like The Leftovers appears to be. HBO and the producers have to be thinking that their target audience has to be relatively small, too, because the prevailing opinion of the majority of television watchers is that they want things nice and neat. They want the explanation.

And HBO should have learned that from the ending of The Sopranos.