Travel the Road Less Taken

Critics. What's the saying about critics? If you can't do, critique? That's not it, but something like that.

When I began writing, one of the things I had done was read Roger Ebert's movie reviews. There were times I agreed, and others when I disagreed, like when he gave four stars to PROMETHEUS and one to KICK ASS. Either way, I always learned something about story and film. With Ebert's passing, I'm left with no critic that I really trust.

That's a monstrous woman

I read a favorable review on for the movie GODZILLA. I saw the film and was smiling because the monsters destroyed Honolulu and San Francisco; two of my favorite places in which I'm very familiar with. They got some details wrong, but who cares?

One of the commenters of the review stated Hollywood can't come up with an original idea, therefore the remakes. How many Superman, Batman and Spiderman movies have been made? How many gawd dayem Paranormal Activity movies will there be? The fifth will be released late 2014 per IMDb.

Another commenter responded more profoundly: Would the market support original movies (indies)?

And this is the crux of the issue. Will the market—dat be us, folks—support it?

I've spent endless hours researching literary agents. Their initial acceptance is whether they like your writing. They'll say talent, voice, original idea, perfection are what they look for. But it comes down to do they connect with what you've pored your heart into?

From reading hundreds of agent interviews and blogs, I know that they ponder who they can pitch your book to. Because you can have all the talent in the ten dimensions of multiple universes, but if they don't think they can sell your book, then they'll reject it.

It's not you, it's the passion that is your book. Ouch.

Who's behind me?

People think Hollywood has a very narrow view of what can make money, and they wouldn't be wrong. There are several indie movies that have made it big (please don't say the Paranormal Activity franchise), but the likelihood of that happening is small. And there have been many blockbusters who've failed as well, which is why the suits in Holly's wood (sounds kinda dirty but I can't picture why) are hard pressed to greenlight projects unless there's a market for it—dat be money, folks.

Worse, is that the suits in the publishing world are even tighter. So tight that if you stick a lump of coal up their asses you wouldn't be able to take it back out. Plus, that would be painful. And smelly.

So why write? Some passionately declare it's their passion. Others call it their calling. Me? It's just what I do. I love to storytell. So sue me. Wait! Don't. Seriously. Don't.

In spewing the end of the world, I suggest that we all try new things. Watch indie movies. Read mid-list authors. Take the road less traveled, unless you get lost easily. Then maybe carry a GPS device. 

Roger Ebert

Those who can’t, criticize 4/4/13

In Asian numerology, this is a bad sign. In Chinese, the number four is a homophone of die, words that sound the same but spelled differently. Well you ain’t spellin’ in Chinese, but those two characters sound eerily alike. So Asians tend to think da numbah foh is bad ruck. And at the same time, they love the number eight because it sounds like prosperity and fortune. So when house hunting, we slanty eye folks tend not to buy a home with a number four in the address.

Now, of course, if I wrote the date as 4/4/2013, then there’s really no importance to that date except a death of an icon, Robert Ebert.

I’ve been a fan of Siskel and Ebert since my childhood days. And I’ve always been a huge fan of movies. As a storyteller, I’ve always read critiques from people who I’ve grown to trust. Mick LaSalle is one. His use of the little man in a chair is sorta like the four star rating that Ebert used.

Little Man

Little Man

But a lot has been written about Ebert, his genius, giving, and kind nature. For me to add to it since I’ve never met the man would be useless. However, finding critics of anything in your field of art is always a good idea.

Two thumbs up to Jimmy Ng and this site

Two thumbs up to Jimmy Ng and this site

There were reviews of Ebert’s that I totally agreed with, both good and bad films. Then there were ones that I completely and vehemently disagreed with. His assertion that KICK ASS was just too violent and ludicrous I thought missed the point of the movie. And his four star review of PROMETHIUS was missing the issue of the vast plot holes it presented. Even if the plot holes were on purpose to make a statement, it was a bad statement lost in the sea of holes.

Open yoh mind, be fohmless, shapeless like watah...

Open yoh mind, be fohmless, shapeless like watah...

So what’s the importance of reading critical reviews, especially if I’ve expressed in other articles not to listen to reviews good or bad because they can blind you to your works’ truth? Reading others’ view of a story outside of our own works, for example, can open your eyes to different aspects and opinions on storytelling.

In his review of PROMETHIUS, he talks a lot about the strong women in the movie and that made me think about the women in my books. Are they strong? Or do I move them into the position of supporting wife, daughter, background fodder?

My point: Well written reviews can open your minds. On slow days at work (ahem), I often find myself reading Ebert’s reviews, including old ones, and the has done an incredible job of importing reviews from the days before the Internet. My quest was often to learn and expand my definition of what a good story was—is, a never-ending journey.

And that leads us to his legacy. His reviews will remain in the blogosphere, and his ability to open minds will be far reaching.

Two Ways to Kick Ass

Oops. Did I do that?

Oops. Did I do that?

There's only two ways to Kick Ass, the movie.  The high road.  Or the low road.

Let's take the high road since that's gonna be short and not so sweet.  Having an 11 year-old girl kill endless mob men like a red-hot knife through butter is horrific, gruesome, grotesque, highly unnecessary, and just freakin' stupid.  Something like this would never happen in real life.  Her acrobatics makes Jackie Chan look like a first grader.

Well...that wasn't all that fun.

When I see a movie with the word "Kick Ass" as its title, I have a slight feeling, an inkling that this movie isn't going to delve into the meaning of life.  That's what my woman's intuition is telling me.  This movie is about escaping the real world, whatever that may be for you, and having fun.  It's pure fun.  It's entertaining.  And the writing is pretty damn good.

Jane Goldman is one of the screenwriters, and she took the screenwriting class David Freeman teaches. And one of the main things he emphasizes is surprises, to not write cliches.  So I expected Kick-Ass, played by Aaron Johnson, to literally kick ass.  Any real person who has no fighting skill, no athletic ability of any kind will get their ass kicked when they try and fight bad guys.  And that surprised me.  No super powers here.

I also didn't expect an 11 year-old girl, aptly named Hit Girl, to literally kick ass.  And it was nice to see that she wasn't written to have any kind of remorse.  Nor did the movie explain why.  It didn't need to.  It would have taken away from the comedic carnage that she commits.  She's a highly trained killer who could probably take on many Jackie Chans.  Chloe Moretz's presence dripped off the screen.  I think she made the part and even stole the show.

Nicholas Cage played the role of Big Daddy.  His whole thing is vengeance.  But he teaches his daughter how to kill through love and adoration as if he was teaching her how to paint a Monet.  He doesn't teach her with anger, to punish those who took away his love.  And that's different.

I had seen several critics take the high road.  And I'm thinking, "Are you serious?"  Apparently, yes.

When the main character is named Kick-Ass, aided by Hit Girl and Big Daddy, and the kid who made McLovin from Hawaii famous (SUPERBAD) play one of the bad guys called Red Mist, you can't take this movie too serious.  Or else you won't have fun.