Posts Tagged ‘avatar

26
Mar
12

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 260: Superheroes Beyond Comics

Although comic books gave birth to the superhero as we know it, that doesn’t mean they’ve been restricted to the four-color pages all these years. This week, Blake and Kenny share their own top ten lists of superheroes who were born outside of comic books, then dive into some of your suggestions. In the picks, Kenny goes with Aquaman, and Blake chooses Wolverine and the X-Men and the final issue of Tiny Titans. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp.com!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 260: Superheroes Beyond Comics

18
Mar
12

Why writing stinks

I hate writing.

This confession will be astonishing to most people, as the sole overriding desire of my entire life, the one constant from about the time I was ten years old until today, is a burning desire to be a writer. This, of course, requires me to write. But as anybody who has ever tried to do it will tell you, writing isn’t easy. Many people (who have never written a complete paragraph and think it’s perfectly acceptable to use “U” when you mean “YOU”) assume that it’s a terribly simple process that any Tom, Dick, or Harriet could accomplish if only they had the time in their ever-so-busy schedules to sit down and do it, because really, you’re just making stuff up. How hard could that be?

The truth is, when someone says they want to be “a writer,” what we really mean is we want to have written something. Because that’s a great feeling. Looking down at a story that feels complete, that feels finished, that draws a little praise and (if you’re extremely lucky) a little money is a feeling that doesn’t compare to anything else I’ve ever experienced. And the act of coming up with an idea, similarly, is wonderful. When a good one hits you like a bolt from the blue, or when a thought that’s been mucking about in your head for a long time finally breaks free and takes a life of its own, it comes with an intense feeling of power. You’ve become a creator of worlds, and that’s awesome.

Everything in between those two stages sucks the big one.

Those moments when you stare at the blank page, trying to figure out where to go next (or even worse, where to go first). You don’t know this story well enough, you don’t know these characters, you don’t know this place. You’re not black/a woman/short/Methodist/a six-tentacled alien from Grimbullax XII… how can you possibly get across in your writing of what it’s like to be any of those people? You’re conjuring it all up and it’s all horribly inauthentic and nobody will ever want to read it and you wish you could just lie down behind the sofa and die before anybody calls you out on it.

Then there are those times when you begin to realize you’re a worthless hack. Okay, this sounds pretty good, but didn’t they do that same joke on an episode of Seinfeld once? This concept is brilliant, but c’mon, Isaac Asimov must have written virtually the same thing. These are the times when you’re certain, at any moment, the Literature Police are going to break down your door with a battering ram and someone will point at you and scream, “HIM! THAT’S HIM! EVERYTHING HE’S EVER WRITTEN WAS ALREADY DONE BY SHAKESPEARE AND EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS AND J.R.R. TOLKIEN AND THE SIMPSONS! GET HIM!” And you will calmly hold up your wrists and allow them to cart you away.

These feelings are awful, most of all, because you know on some level that they’re justified. Every creator in the world is influenced by their experiences — either by what they’ve lived through, which makes you question how you can convey the feeling of being marooned on a desert island since you’ve never done it yourself for any extended period of time, or what media they have consumed, which means that every book you have ever read and every movie you have ever watched is in your subconscious somewhere, and it may well crawl out onto the page without you even realizing it.

Several years ago, a friend of mine read an early draft of a story that eventually turned into Lost in Silver. Upon finishing, she asked me if I’d been reading a lot of C.S. Lewis lately. I had no idea what she was talking about, until she directed me to the penultimate book in the Chronicles of Narnia, The Magician’s Nephew, where Lewis described a “Woods Between Worlds” that sounded a hell of a lot like my description of Evertime. Not having read that book in about 15 years at that point, I rushed out and found a copy, read it, and immediately began bashing my head against the wall. Clearly, although virtually everything else about the story had leaked through my brain like a sieve, the Woods stayed there and, lacking context, my brain started to adapt it to the story I was trying to tell. T.S. Eliot once said that “mediocre writers borrow; great writers steal.” Eliot forgot to mention that theft is sometimes like robbing a bank in your sleep, waking up surrounded by piles of money, and deciding you must have won the lottery.

Ultimately, I kept most of that original Evertime concept, after doing what writers have been doing ever since there was a second one: I rationalized the hell out of it. It was, after all, only a small part of the grand Narnia mythos, while it was a vital part of the story I was trying to tell. And I couldn’t come up with a way to accomplish the same thing that I liked nearly as much. And it wasn’t exactly the same, it was my take on the idea. And part of the main theme of the Evertime stories is that there are enough worlds in creation for everything ever imagined to co-exist, so naturally there will be elements that seem derivative of classic creations. And they’re never going to get around to making that book into a movie anyway.

All writers do this. We have to. Because when the brain creates it needs building blocks, and it gets those blocks from every bit of information you’ve ever fed into it. Every writer is influenced by every other writer whose work they have ever experienced. And this is true whether you’re blatantly copying somebody else by moving Kevin Costner to another planet and turning the Indians blue or whether you’re intentionally throwing away every element that made vampires threatening, entertaining, or interesting to read about and replacing all that with sparkle paint. In both cases — and in every case in between — you’re still reacting to an earlier work. It’s impossible to escape.

So the hard thing about writing, you see, is trying to think of something to say that hasn’t been said before. And when you realize that’s impossible, trying to think of a way to say it that hasn’t been done.

It’s just not easy.

But if you honestly want to be a writer, you eventually shove all that crap out of your brain, sit down in front of the computer, and start hitting keys until you’ve got something that may be worth showing to someone.

Which, if you’ll excuse me, is really what I should be doing right now.

03
Oct
10

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 190: These Movies Suck!

It’s a different kind of discussion this week, as the boys each show up with a list of movies that they think suck — despite their inexplicable popularity. Did some of your favorites make any of the lists? Also, Blake extols the virtues of the Crappy Sequel Article Relocation Program! In the picks this week, Mike dug Time Masters: Vanishing Point #2, Kenny enjoyed volume seven of Black Lagoon, and Blake dug The Flash #5. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp!

Music provided by the Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 190: These Movies Suck
Inside This Episode:

05
Mar
10

The thing about 3-D

Anybody who knows me will not be surprised to hear that, out of the various superhero movie projects currently in the works, the one I’m most excited about is the in-production Green Lantern film. I think Ryan Reynolds will be strong Hal Jordan, I’m very happy with the screenwriters working on the project, and the concept art that has made its way to the internet has been fantastic.

But yesterday, the confirmation came out from Warner Bros. that, when the film is released next year, it will be released in 3-D. And I let out a resounding sigh. I wasn’t surprised, mind you, I more or less expected this. But my reaction was simply, “Another one?”

I’ve seen a few movies since Hollywood’s current infatuation with 3-D began, and I’ve been resoundingly unimpressed. It’s not that there haven’t been good 3-D movies. There have been a few great 3-D movies. But I’ve yet to see a movie that was better because it was in 3-D. Last year, for example, Disney re-released Toy Story and Toy Story 2, and I rushed out to see them. I wanted to see them on the big screen again, because I love those movies. But I loved those movies before anyone put 3-D glasses on my face, and the 3-D didn’t make me love them any more. A Christmas Carol followed up at the end of the year. That was okay – not great, but okay – but it would have been the same level of okay without the 3-D. I didn’t feel the process added anything to the story.

On the far end of the spectrum, there was Avatar – a film I publically hate. The 3-D was fine, it looked fine against the admittedly impressive special effects, but it didn’t do a single thing to fix the myriad problems with the script. The plot was still hopelessly derivative of a zillion other movies (Dances With Wolves and Pocahontas being the best examples). The characters were still cardboard cut-outs with no nuance or depth to them. And the science was still just plain stupid. (I’m still waiting for someone to give me a reason why a non-mammalian alien race that doesn’t give birth to live young needs breasts. Well, a reason that doesn’t involve giving the internet fodder for Rule 34.)

Avatar was the most extreme example of a film that loaded up the pretty and hoped it would excuse bad writing. But it’s by no means the only example. And as I see more and more of it, I become less and less tolerant. “Pretty” isn’t enough if I don’t like the story. On the flipside, I will forgive weaker visuals if I find the story and characters compelling enough.

Back in the 30s, The Wizard of Oz proved that color was a technology worth pursuing, because it was a story that simply didn’t work without color. It had been done without color, but how many of you remember – or even were aware of the existence of – the black-and-white Wizard of Oz from 1925? Exactly. Color made that story work. And speaking of the silent era, how about The Jazz Singer? Suddenly, audiences used to title cards and a piano player in the corner of the room understood the power of synching sound to the pictures. These movies proved the technology as a storytelling medium.

I’m waiting for a movie to prove 3-D to me.

It hasn’t happened yet.

23
Jan
10

Universal Rule of the Universe #63

63. Whether it’s a movie, video game, or potential mate, no amount of pretty can make up for an utter lack of substance.

Read the rest of my Universal Rules of the Universe right here!

09
Jan
10

Conversations With Dad: Avatar

DAD: Is Avatar worth seeing in IMAX 3-D?

ME: Eh… the visuals are worth seeing. I didn’t care for the story.

DAD: But you saw it in 3-D?

ME: Yeah.

DAD: Do you have to wear the glasses?

ME: Yeah.

DAD: The whole movie?

ME: All three hours of it.

DAD: THREE HOURS?

29
Dec
09

What I’m Watching: Avatar

It’s been 12 years since James Cameron last made a movie. After Titanic, I think he realized it would be impossible to top himself. Waiting until the furor died down was probably a good thing. But the film he’s returned with, Avatar, is closer to his older science fiction credits like Terminator or Aliens, at least in genre and audience expectations. At the same time, he’s attempting to put forth a more emotional story, like Titanic. The resulting film is very pretty to look at, but the story is such a muddled, overbearing mess it makes it almost impossible to recommend.

Set about 150 years in the future, the human race has found another planet — dubbed “Pandora” — with a sentient race of ten-foot-tall blue natives called the Na’vi. Sam Worthington plays a marine who has been paralyzed in the line of duty. His twin brother was part of the “Avatar” program, which allowed them to inhabit cloned bodies mingling human and Na’vi DNA in an attempt to gain the trust of the otherworldly creatures. Each Avatar is genetically coded to a single person, but Worthington’s character (being a twin) can use his brother’s Avatar. On Pandora, Worthington learns that the military and corporate presence on Pandora is hoping to drive a Na’vi settlement away from its homeland to reach rich stores of a mineral called Unobtanium, and he uses the Avatar to begin to seek a way to negotiate their departure before violence becomes necessary.

Much of the criticism I’ve heard of this film is that it’s a thinly veiled anti-United States allegory, with the  humans as the Evil White Settlers, the nature-loving Na’vi as the native Americans, and the Unobtanium (unequivocally the worst name for a fictional element I’ve ever heard) as their oil substitute. I disagree. I don’t think the allegory is veiled at all. Hell, I think Cameron could take lessons in subtlety from Kanye West. The first and biggest problem with the film is that it beats you over the head with the allegory for practically the entire running time. Humans (except for the scientists and one Marine) are uniformly evil. The Na’vi (except for one tribal leader who doesn’t trust Worthington, but comes around later) are uniformly angelic and good. Nature is power, technology is baaaaad. It’s so overdone that it saps the excitement. The script doesn’t help either, with heavy, overwritten lines from almost the first scene (where Worthington bemoans the fact that his brother was murdered by someone who wanted “the paper in his wallet”). Matt Gerald, as the Corporal in charge of the operation, is a walking stereotype, firing off terrible one-liners and chewing scenery like a goat going through a tin can.

Furthermore, the story is horribly predictable. Allegory aside, we get moments over and over again that practically scream, “wait, this is going to be important later.” So wait, there’s this tribal legend about a great leader who tames one of the big, red, dragon-things? Golly, why are we taking the time to learn how to fall onto giant leaves?  How long can a human last unprotected in the Na’vi atmosphere again? So, about this whole “connection to nature” thing…

Speaking of the connection to nature, a lot of the stuff in that regard reminded me of elements from Orson Scott Card‘s classic novel Speaker For the Dead. I’m not saying Cameron ripped Card off — I know full well how often different writers can come up with similar ideas. I’m just saying that when Card came up with his ideas, he got a much better story out of it.

Then there’s the one saving grace of the movie — the visuals. The visuals are very pretty. The colors are bright and vibrant, the action scenes (if you can make the total avoidance of logic many of those scenes require) are strong. But are the effects groundbreaking, as many of the movie’s proponents claim? Absolutely not. Sure, they look good, but they don’t look any better than other recent effects-driven films like Lord of the Rings or even TransFormers.

It’s not the worst movie of the year, but it isn’t one I enjoyed. If you want a movie that deals with some of the same issues in an intelligent, entertaining fashion, go rent District 9. Avatar just wasn’t worth the three hours I gave it.

08
Nov
09

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 144: Holiday Movie Preview

 

We’re heading into the second big movie season of the year, the time when the studios roll out all of the major Thanksgiving and Christmas releases, plus the Oscar contenders, treats for the kids in us all, and even the odd sci-fi epic. This week, Kenny and Blake sit down to discuss all of the major releases for November and December, from A Christmas Carol to Avatar and everything in between. In the picks, Kenny gets creative with the movie Hot Fuzz, and Blake stays quasi-traditional with the first issue of The Marvelous Land of Oz Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@comixtreme.com!

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 144: Holiday Movie Preview
Inside This Episode:




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