Re-Boots Soon To Be Annual Thing

cylonkroponsetbsg2003So, remember when a movie re-imagining, or re-boot, was a really cool thing? Me neither, but I can remember when it was interesting, even a little exciting, when some legendary TV show from the past was being considered for the Big Screen, or for a TV imagining. Michael Keaton as Tim Burton’s interpretation of Batman comes to mind. It was cool to see comic book Batman, the tormented hero who was almost as much of a headcase as the various wacko villains he faced, after a childhood informed by the wacky, farcical Adam West version of the Caped Crusader. Burton’s film was a triumph, and its sequel nearly as good. It was unfortunate that the studio didn’t know when to stop milking that particular cow, leaving us with George Clooney, Val Kilmer, petulant Chris O’Donnell as Robin, and  the infamous nipple suit–but not everything that starts well ends well.

In the years since, I’ve seen my childhood, and those of the successive generations, mined for Hollywood Gold, most of which turned out to be more like Fool’s Gold: “Land of the mtvgeek_steedandmrspeel_1Lost”,  “The Avengers” (not those Avengers), The Flintstones, or Speed Racer come to mind. And then there are the insipid Transformers movies, and seemingly dozens of others. I’m sure there was some decent stuff thrown in there, but by and large the adaptations were pretty mediocre at their best, and downright unwatchable at their worst.

Then, about a decade ago–give or take–a wayward Star Trek veteran named Ron Moore got together with the SyFy channel and announced a new television series based on bsg.orig.castanother old chestnut called Battlestar Galactica. The statement was meant with more than a few furrowed brows, and a whole lot of snickering despite Moore’s stellar reputation among Trek fans. Galactica, for those that don’t know, was a quickly-concocted and laughably bad 1970s television that has been rushed into production in order to capitalize on the unexpectedly huge response to the original Star Wars movie. Many people my age were too young to realize just how bad it was, and the show held a warm place in our memories, but the idea of a reboot with a new cast was laughable. When word got out that disco-era hotshot space pilots Starbuck and Boomer would be reimagined as women, all we could do was shake our heads.

I didn’t watch it at first, but I started hearing things. Terrible and wonderful things. In short order I was describing the show to anyone who could hear me talk as the greatest TV fb2103c088521f3a47ebf88670341e49series of all time. I might walk that praise back a little today, but I’d still put it in the top 10. It was that well done. I felt lonely when it ended.

In the meantime, we got a new Captain Kirk (whom I seem to be the only old Trek Head to like), and a new James Bond–the fifth or sixth, who can keep track?–and, for some in explicable reason, a new Spiderman, seemingly in midstream–Toby McGuire waded, and some–kid–emerged dripping wet on the far riverbank. And not only that, it was the same origin story we’d had less than a decade ago–radioactive spider, Uncle Ben is dead, yada yada yada. Now, predictably, we hear word of yet another James Bond, when Daniel Craig is owning the role, and–even more stunning–yet another Spiderman, where we have to go through high school with Peter Parker yet again. And we have what seems to be 18 different incarnations of Sherlock Holmes solving mysteries even as I speak.

Is this some kind of twisted Groundhog Day thing, or what?

And now I read about a new Battlestar Galactica! While the body of the previous re-imagining is still warm!  I’m forced to wonder if we are now officially out of new stories? Should I give up writing original material and begin my television reboot of Law And Order?  Or “Friends: The Motion Picture” followed by its sequel, “Friends: The Wrath of Janice?”  I’ve pretty much reached my saturation point–not that, for whatever

Battlestar Galactica
Another Galactica? We’re not impressed.

demographic reasons–49-year old white guys with lots of free evenings and disposable income are not relevant to Hollywood. The new Spiderkid seemed charming in the latest Captain America, but I’m not interested in another interpretation of the origin story. Similarly, and speaking as a die-hard box-set owning Starbuck-fetishizing, guy who likes to yell “Whatta ya hear Starbuck?” in crowds of strangers, I have zero interest in somebody telling that story again. None–and certainly not while a utterly definitive version is still so fresh in my heart and mind–sometimes evolution reaches its perfect form.

I  wonder if I’m an outlier here, or a precursor, but I suspect that it is the latter. The age of speedy reboots is waning. Generations have a decreasing interest in hearing the same stories “re-interpreted again and again.” Or, at least, that’s what I think…but only time will tell.


Funny and/or Strange

Scratch and Sniff…

A while ago, I was reading through a blog post over at Arkenaten’s A Tale Unfolds that culminated with some nice photos, including one of a man on the street selling fish, and it ignited in me a memory of an old idea I’d get while reading the rare “scratch and sniff” book to my children.

Those smells were always so pleasant, in a sort of bathroom cleanser pine and floral chemical way, and I often entertained the idea of making a scratch and sniff book that, from the outside, looked traditional but was actually a parody not really meant for kids. Think of what was done with the epic “Go The Fuck To Sleep” retort to “Goodnight Moon.”

In the film adaptation, the role of Lester will played by Nick Nolte.

Ours could be an a adventure story of a hero named Lester exploring “the wharf” at night and relishing all his adventures. Think about it …Lester goes to the bar and eats deviled eggs.  Lester makes the moves on a transvestite hooker who ate two tins of anchovies and garlic bread for dinner. Lester gets shitfaced and pukes in the alley. Lester stumbles and falls into a corner where the homeless people piss…inevitably, Lester would get rolled by a couple of junkies and left for dead, stumble out of the alley in the early morning and get arrested and beat to hell while in custody by a couple of bored cops, but I’m not sure what that would smell like, yet.

Whatever, it would kill.

Steal this idea and I’ll sue, either before or after I kick your ass.  Smells the same either way.


Southpaw–My (hair)Brush with Celebrity

I worked the past week as an extra in a movie to be titled “Southpaw,” directed by Antwon Fuqua and, as I mentioned the other day, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Forrest Whittaker, and 50 Cent.  Arriving on set last night was another star, Rachel McAdams.  I have no designs on a career as an actor, but it seemed like a fun thing to do. While Pennsylvania’s fantastic Film Tax Credit brings a lot of Hollywood to western Pennsylvania, like The Fault In Our Stars, The Dark Knight Rises, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Jack Reacher, Promised Land, and The Road, to just name a few, it is not common for a major motion picture to be filmed ten blocks from my home.  So, I rearranged my life and signed up.

It was a lot of fun.  I met some cool people, and a lot of weird people–some the kind of weird you expect when folks are mass-hired for temporary, low-wage jobs.  Others just weird in the way that doesn’t necessarily show until we’re thrust together in close proximity, in a situation with lots of down time and a lot of external stimuli to react to.  You’re sitting shoulder to shoulder with people, waiting to watch millionaires play pretend, and it’s pretty natural to look to one side and say, “Hey.” Or “having fun?” Or “sandwiches again for lunch?” The next thing you know, you’ve got a fleeting friendship–you’ve got, um, maybe the best word for it is “buddies.”

There was the guy who sat down beside me and said “Explain String Theory to me real quickly….”  Uh yeh, right.  Or the pudgy bald guy who blurted out, “the last time I bedded an 18-year old I was 36,” as a non-sequitur, as if he’d been holding that line in reserve all week, waiting for a good moment to let if fly.  For his trouble he got awkward, nervous laughter and some wincing. Finally–and most famously, the haggard, 90 pound older woman with the unnaturally black dyed hair, homestyle tattoos, and witchy poo face who rasped in her cigarette-scathed voice about her career in musical theater and all the professional wrestlers she’s bedded. One of the extras told me later that she’d shown up at his yard sale last summer and loudly told similar stories until he gave her the stuff she wanted for free and begged her to leave because she was scaring off the other browsers.

But I’ll get back to the people.  The process–hundreds of us worked for a week to create what can’t end up being much more than 15 minutes of film, and even that feels long.  The costs are astounding.  Extras salaries alone, not counting overtime and the bounty of food they provided, cost somewhere around $60/minute for 14 hours or more a day (I worked 56 hours last week).  Scenes are filmed multiple times from multiple angles, with long waits for “reversals” when the cameras are flipped from one side of the shot to the other.  Yesterday, for example, this was my day:

  • Arrive
  • Stand In Line To Check In and Receive Pay Voucher
  • Stand In Line For Wardrobe Check (I looked “great”) after a cursory glance.
  • Stand In Line For Hair and Make-Up.  If nothing else, “Southpaw” has provided me with a lifetime first: hairspray.  I have worn hairspray 5 days straight.
  • Get a pass from Make-Up (I looked “perfect,” of course).
  • Have my somewhat undisciplined hair brushed and sprayed into a helmet suitable for the amphibious invasion of a hostile nation.
  • Browse the breakfast buffet (bagel, banana, donut holes and coffee)
  • Sit and wait…for the next 2.5 hours.  Talked a little, tried to read, mostly slept.
  • File onto set (along with 300 others–it’s a large scene), take seats, and wait.
  • Filming begins, 3.5 hours after arriving, lasts about 4 hours
  • Sent on break for about 40 minutes, told not to eat “lunch” (it’s 530 pm) because it’s not lunch time yet. It’s break time.
  • Told to eat “lunch”–it’s been sitting there on the tables all this time.
  • Told to wait.  Some people sent home.
  • Assembled in a group for my scene, stand around in that group for half an hour.
  • Costume change.  Predictibly, I look “great.”
  • Stand around in the same group of people, in a different place, for a breakdown of the scene.
  • Led inside for scene–it’s a really cool one, lots of conflict.  Jake Gyllenhaal is tremendous and Miguel Gomez brings tons of charisma–he’s almost a scene stealer. One of the extras, a guy I’ve talked to all week, gets a bump to a speaking role–just one line, but he’s building a film career so it’s a big deal.
  • Break.  We’re led off the set for a short break while the crew arranges things for the reversal–some people lose their places, but I just have to slouch so a camera can shoot over my head: this may be my big moment to get my face on the film in a way that I’m actually recognizable, and I’m slouching!  Ugh.  It’s karma for a lifetime of arrogance about my above-average height.
  • The scene is just fantastic–the best part of a long week–and we’re dismissed.  It’s 11:45 pm.
  • Stand in line to have pay voucher signed and verified.

More later….

Commentary Funny and/or Strange

Bonnie and Clyde….


Okay, I’m in.

Commentary Uncategorized

A Great Film Short…”Validation”

Hugh Newman

Commentary Uncategorized

Love Actually–10th Anniversary


Some good friends came over last night to join us in some delicious imperial stout (Thanks, Jarrod!) and our annual watching of Love Actually, the Christmas movie that most of us love and lots of us love to hate–a fairly successful situation for a movie that, while it uses Christmas as it’s framework is, as the title suggests, a movie about love in it’s myriad forms and configurations.  It’s clear why I enjoy this film: I’m a sentimental sap, a sucker for pulled heartstrings–and this movie yanks on them by the dozens. love-actually-21 I have to admit that I’m a bit surprised by the depths of antipathy that some other people project on this film, and even I have to admit that it’s more than the usual, toxic broth of cynicism, arrogance, ignorance and stupidity.  A lot of the critics seem relatively intelligent.  I’m not going to go too far into this, when it’s expressed so eloquently here:

Utter bullshit, of course.  The title’s hyperbole speaks for itself: I’m pretty sure Love Actually is NOT the least romantic film of all time.  “I Spit On Your Grave” and Mel Gibson’s Jesus Torture-fest come to mind.

After that, lets put on our Ad Hominem for a moment and wonder aloud what kind of moron confuses the convention of romance with the emotion of love.  Romance is a mood, love is a yDbKt3Cfeeling. Romance is an ideal.  Love is, well, often far less than ideal–which is far often the best kind of love.  Got it?  This movie is about Love, actually. (get it? couldn’t resist).  But I’m not the hero of this story.  Another writer at The Atlantic took up the sword/pen and defended our noble movie with a patience and depth I couldn’t be bothered to find.  Emma Green, you are the hero of the moment

I wrote this elsewhere, but it pales next to Ms. Green’s black belt defense:

tumblr_l0vlx6hPUZ1qbrf8eo1_500It was Mao who said “kill all the intellectuals, right?” I am relatively confident that Christopher Orr, were he to attempt an improvement, would pen the most absolutely boring film ever made. The sheer audacity of servicing nine “love” stories–and this story is about love, not romance–requires a certain level of imagination that most of what is happening with these people is happening between the cuts–while the camera is focused on the other couples. Laura Linney and her beau, for example, are shown at the end of a long evening date, so contrary to their relationship being purely physical they’ve had time alone together, plus five years of workiing together and a shared mutual attraction–but the kicker is that the love story isn’t theirs; Linney’s character’s story is the love for her brother, the sacrifices she makes in her own life for him.

I’d argue that Firth’s character doesn’t fall in love when he sees his crush in her underwear, it’s clearly been building over their time together and is only fully realized when they jump into the cold, eel-infested pond and separately realize neither ended up there for practical reasons, but out of their growing affection.

As for the PM and the foul-mouthed staffer–I’m sure I’m not the only one who met someone, out of the blue, who just stunned them like a cannon shot to the sternum from the very first moment. It happened to me some article-2277496-0073BC7300000258-625_634x416time ago, and I recognized it as something weird and cool and magical and the kind of thing that is best left alone. I met a woman some years ago and quite unexpectedly found myself in a stammering, ridiculous fit of adolescent awkwardness even though I was well ensconced in a relationship with a fine woman who happened to be standing about 4 feet away at the time; for days afterwards my thoughts turned constantly to this young woman–in my circumstance, it manifested as intense curiosity, but had I been single (she was) I know, with complete certainty, that I would have been punted ass-over-teacups into a full-blown drive-past-her-house-repeatedly crush. I pity the critic for never having experienced this, nor even having the capacity to imagine such a powerful feeling.

I proud  to admit that I’m one of the people who loves the crap out of this film–and yes, Bill Nighy is a major reason why. But I like it all. I like the stupid vanity/foolishness/delusions of the Alan Rickman character, the tone-perfect reaction to his selfishness from Emma Thompson’s character. I read this Christopher Orr article and what I realized was that’s it’s little more than a snobbish, verbose confession that the guy just didn’t get it. He’s virtually shouting it: “I missed the point completely! I just didn’t get it all! I’m obtuse as a moose! As dense as a dirty diaper! But boy can I show off my book-learnin’.” There’s also the possibility that Mr. Orr just never really felt or understood love, but that’s too sad to consider.

Photo I Like

A Photo I Like (for no good reason at all, except that I can) #1

I have saved hundreds of photos over the years–thank the sneaky gods for terrabites-wide external hard drives–because there are thousands, actually, even though I do occasionally do some house cleaning.  In these dark and busy days–all sorts of meetings this week, NaNoWriMo sucking time hungrily, and I’ve got a cold that manifests itself worst at night, keeping me awake coughing when I should be sleeping–the time seems right to share some.

In fact, here is one now:

john brown2

This photo is called “John Brown2”–if he’s the Sheriff, I’m wondering if, every time I plant a seed, he’ll say “kill if before it grows?”  Just a thought.