Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Vlog Star #4: Not Crying

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You might think it hypocritical to create a series that makes fun of a character for failing to produce successful internet videos when one's own videos, that series included, do not exactly set cyberspace afire. On the contrary! It is that very fact that allows me to fully sympathize with the character. I understand his struggle. No one can accuse me of not writing what I know.

Indeed, as we were filming one scene, David directed me, "You have to say it like someone who's had a hit video. You're saying it like someone who's never had a hit video. You're saying it like yourself." Indeed, Nate is basically me, except that his videos used to be successful, and he is seven years younger. (I like to think I can still get away with playing 21 by TV standards -- and internet standards ought to be even more lenient, right?) If I were to catalog all the similarities between myself and Nate, the show would just make you sad, if it doesn't already. For example, we also look and dress quite similarly.

This episode was written to address a question I got in the script stage, about why Alexa would continue to be friends with Nate. Hopefully it answers that question, or at least hints at the answer. Ironically, it also brings Nate to such heights of jackassery that it raises the question all over again.

Update: I decided that one of my last minute editing tweaks kinda screwed up the timing of one of the lines, so I uploaded a new version. That's why the video was out for a while. I apologize profusely for any panic I may have triggered.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Meme, Myself and AFI

I never do this, but Steve decided to start a meme where you categorize the AFI top 100 movie list according to your own tastes. I enjoy exercises in asserting subjective taste over critical consensus, so I couldn't resist. Partly I was just curious what my list would look like, so here it is. I have a hard time ranking any of these movies as "terrible." If they're on this list, they probably have some qualities to recommend them, so I probably enjoyed them at least a little. The stuff under "Not So Good" tends to be stuff that bored me, or turned out to be forgettable, or a let down, or for whatever reason just didn't click with me.

I'm pretty comfortable with being a LOTR hater, though.

10 Singin' in the Rain 1952
12 Sunset Boulevard 1950
18 Psycho 1960
20 One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest 1975
22 2001: A Space Odyssey 1968
26 Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb 1964
28 Apocalypse Now 1979
31 Annie Hall 1977
40 North by Northwest 1959
42 Rear Window 1954
50 Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid 1969
55 The Sound of Music 1965
66 Network 1976
67 The Manchurian Candidate 1962
74 The Gold Rush 1925
85 Duck Soup 1933
93 The Apartment 1960
18. The General (1927)
99. Toy Story (1995)

1 Citizen Kane 1941
2 Casablanca 1942
3 The Godfather 1972
6 The Wizard of Oz 1939
7 The Graduate 1967
8 On the Waterfront 1954
9 Schindler's List 1993
13 The Bridge on the River Kwai 1957
14 Some Like It Hot 1959
15 Star Wars 1977
17 The African Queen 1951
19 Chinatown 1974
23 The Maltese Falcon 1941
29 Mr. Smith Goes to Washington 1939
32 The Godfather Part II 1974
34 To Kill a Mockingbird 1962
35 It Happened One Night 1934
36 Midnight Cowboy 1969
38 Double Indemnity 1944
46 A Clockwork Orange 1971
49 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs 1937
57 The Third Man 1949
58 Fantasia 1940
59 Rebel Without a Cause 1955
60 Raiders of the Lost Ark 1981
61 Vertigo 1958
62 Tootsie 1982
71 Forrest Gump 1994
76 City Lights 1931
81 Modern Times 1936
87 Frankenstein 1931
92 A Place in the Sun 1951
97 Bringing Up Baby 1938
71. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
83. Titanic (1997)
89. The Sixth Sense (1999)
72. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

4 Gone with the Wind 1939
24 Raging Bull 1980
27 Bonnie and Clyde 1967
44 The Birth of a Nation 1915
45 A Streetcar Named Desire 1951
47 Taxi Driver 1976
51 The Philadelphia Story 1940
52 From Here to Eternity 1953
64 Close Encounters of the Third Kind 1977
70 The French Connection 1971
77 American Graffiti 1973
78 Rocky 1976
84 Fargo 1996
90 The Jazz Singer 1927
95 Pulp Fiction 1994
96 The Searchers 1956
61. Sullivan's Travels (1941)
77. All the President's Men (1976)
97. Blade Runner (1982)

25 E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial 1982
50. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Vlog Star #3: The Genius

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To answer your question, yes, this series is autobiographical.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Allison Wonderland

Many of you know I am a fan of John Allison's webcomic Scary Go Round, though I have been unable to convince many others of its charms. Something else I enjoy about John Allison is his gift for droll self-deprecation. He can be mercilessly negative about himself without making you feel like it's tiresome whining (or, since he's British, "whinging"). This comes across in his blog, but it's also on display in a pair of recent interviews, both of which have very amusing moments.

I like how his answers are implicitly mocking the interviewer here:

Will: First off, tell us about Scary Go Round. What’s it all about?

John Allison: Aren’t you meant to write two paragraphs of purple prose that answer this question before I come into the room? Scary Go Round is a series of stories about a group of characters. It’s a bit like the news in that way, except that the news is factual but Scary Go Round is made up. People have adventures, which sometimes end in an ambiguous way, leading to further stories at a later point. The characters talk to each other, there’s some dialogue, I put the words in balloons so they don’t get all jumbled up with the pictures. I try to keep things light and fun, but occasionally there’s a swear word or what the British Board of Film Certification might term “mild peril”. I’ve not answered your question very well, have I?

Will: You go through characters fairly frequently, bumping them off, sending them to Wales or some such other terrible fate. Do you find it easy to decide who gets the chop and when, or is there some sort of system in place that dictates the lifespan of a character?

John Allison: Every character has a set number of appearances before I get rid of them, it’s the same for every character. And I add 1 to that number every time there is a message board post about that character, and 5 every time I get an email about them, and 10 every time I get a fan art picture of them. My mum keeps count, she’s retired now so she has lots of time... So I have a big chart on the wall with a picture of the character and their current score, and I eke out their appearances until the number runs down to one. I often have to get rid of characters I really like because they ran out of appearances. It’s awkward working to a system like this but you have to have structure, even in art.

Will: Tom Siddel of Gunnerkrigg Court decree that you must choose one person you know by name to be put to death. What did they ever do to you?

John Allison: This is a hard one. I guess I’d kill Tom Siddel of Gunnerkrigg Court, who brought it on himself. How do you like that, Tom? You didn’t expect that, did you? You thought you were so clever, and now someone is coming round to your house to kill you.

This one is equally insulting to the questioner, but also makes an important point.

Who do you think would win in a fight and why - Zombie, Pirate, or Ninja?

ALLISON: Given the desperate exhaustion of those three pop-cultural tropes, I can only imagine that a three-way fight between them would end with all three flat on their backs, struggling to lift a flaccid limb in anger.

The fact that Allison is willing to go there despite having just wrapped up a pirate-related story arc (and being no stranger to zombie stories either), I think his answer can be considered evidence of his self-deprecation as well.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

A Story of Misanthropy

Writing at Coffee Bean some time ago, I met a young man who seemed friendly at first, but went on to engage me in endless conversations. This happened several times, to the point where I considered abandoning that Coffee Bean location. His pointless talks squandered my time in increments up to and exceeding half-hours, during which I would nod politely as he asked me vague writing-related questions. I would respond with basic statements about story structure. He would enthusiastically agree and cite a barely-related example that would take us down yet another path I had no interest in exploring.

Today, at another Coffee Bean, I was again accosted by this young man. He greeted me cheerily and reminded me that we knew each other. "Oh yes," I thought. "I remember you. You're that guy I can't stand." Sadly, I think if he had been pleasant I probably would have forgotten him by now.

He talked at me for ten minutes or so, as I reluctantly held court on the importance of outlining a story, but it felt like twenty. He hovered over me, sipping his cup of water, while I quietly worried that he might spill some on my computer, but I pointedly did not offer him a seat. Occasionally he edged toward the seat across from me, even resting a hand on it, and I tried not to betray my sense of panic that he might sit down. I found myself staring at his stray nose hairs through most of the conversation, wondering how it was that certain hairs remained obediently within the nostril while a patch of others made a beeline for daylight as if partners in an escape plan. He seemed to have shaved his face more recently than his neck; the stubble on his cheeks and the front of his chin was short. The stubble on his neck, notably longer. To what end? Did he fear his chin lacked definition? It seemed okay to me.

Finally he said, "Well, good to see you." This was welcome in the sense that he was leaving, but unwelcome in the sense that he offered a handshake. As I extended my hand, I briefly spied a discoloration on his palm--can you get bruises there?--and when I shook his hand I felt swollen lumps, like he was wearing a glove with rocks inside. Afterwards, I brushed my hands on my jeans but couldn't get comfortable. There is an episode of Scrubs in which a germ is depicted as a green glow that passes from person to person. I felt the tingle of this green glow upon my palm until I finally surrendered to my OCD and went to the restroom to wash my hands.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Vlog Star #1: Messing With People in the Park

Meet viral video star Nate Klugman in the premiere episode of Vlog Star. Maybe it's not as good as the trailer, but then, nothing ever is.

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In a World Without a Voice...

Don LaFontaine, the premiere movie trailer voiceover guy, has died. This is terrible news, as every movie trailer to use a different voice always sounds cheap and second-rate. Who will save us from a world where even the trailers for summer blockbusters sound like trailers for indie flops going direct-to-DVD?