Loss of Subtlety

Belieive it or not I'm walking on air...

Belieive it or not I'm walking on air...

Subtlety has escaped Hollywood. Hollywood, however, is a representation of what the market will bear. Market being the peeps. Us. What we’re likely to pay a whopping twelve bucks to watch.

To be more homogenous, movies must have:

• Action • Suspense • Romance • Mystery • Redemption • Revenge • Comic relief • Strong female lead • Coupled by a backward-thinking male lead who learns to love the strong female lead finally realizing that she’s his everlasting soul mate for all time and beyond • A chase scene either by foot, car, truck, or air, with shoot outs that lead to a climactic battle between God and Satan, where armies of orcs, elves, muggles, wizards, witches, followed by mere men and women, and a child who was born with a butterfly tattoo preordaining her to cure the virus that has threatened life as we know it and must complete a special training that will make him (wasn’t it a her?) nearly invincible (nearly because we have to have tension in our epic fog of a story) • And a Hollywood ending where the child cures Satan of his issues, and both God and Satan float off into the sunset • The End

Ebert and Scorsese

Ebert and Scorsese

One of the things I do is read reviews of movies, Roger Ebert being my favorite. They don’t have any bearing on what I watch. But I can learn a lot about story telling by people’s likes and dislikes, and they’re fairly common. As a story teller, the market is important to a certain point. But as J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyers has proven, good content creates the market. We see this in the explosion of wizardry and horromance in the media today.

I see you

I see you

When reviews are either good or bad cohesively, there may be some merit. On Fandango, I had looked up the times for Hereafter, directed by Clint Eastwood, starring Matt Damon. Part of the movie was filmed in San Francisco in an apartment building my friend lives in. So it was cool hearing stories of how filming went.

Fandango had a rating of yellow, meaning most of the people who saw the movie thought it was “so-so”. That’s the middle rating. But Jackass in 3D got a bright green rating, the top, a “must go”. A red means “oh no”, stay away or lose two hours of life you can never get back.

Most people complained Hereafter was slow and uneventful. But you can’t have a good story with substance based purely on the afterlife. You may point out Paranormal Activity, but it’s just cheap thrills. Would you stay in a house that haunted you for any length of time? I’m brave. But I ain’t that brave. And none of the Paranomal movies explored why they stayed or what issues being haunted brought up. It represents nothing. It's like going to a strip club, paying to get a hard-on, then walking home with with no relief.

Not that I know of those kinds of naughty, naughty things.

A good story with substance uses something as the backdrop, like the afterlife, to show case interpersonal issues. Hereafter does that from three different perspectives: a psychic who can communicate with the dead, a journalist who had a near death experience, and a boy who yearns for his dead twin.

Work it, work it

Work it, work it

A good example of backdrop is Casino Royale. I'm not a huge Bond fan. I never knew why until I started to study story. James Bond is a classic character. He's suave. He likes all women. He sleeps with all women he desires. He likes his drinks to be shaken, not stirred. He can get out of any situation. He's a master fighter, can wield any weapon made available, and is witty.

But as a character, he never changes.  He doesn't go from having no confidence to being confident. He doesn't realize the error of his ways. He doesn't learn to be loyal because he already is. He doesn't have any bad qualities.  Qualities that a writer can hang his hat on to change.

Except for one. He's emotionally detached to the women he's intimate with. He never falls in love. Then Vesper Lynd, played by Eva Green, shows up in Royale. She's confident, brash, reads Bond for who he is, and just as every bit competitive. Through their competitiveness, Bond falls in love with her. A huge change in both character and in the movie. When Vesper dies, he must struggle with the pain, something all humans go through. As a result, Casino Royale is one of the best reviewed Bond movies.

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Rebel In Action

About a year ago after a long writing session at Borders, I was about to leave. I walked by the magazine rack and saw an article onWIREDabout how the iPhone blew up. I began to read because my brother had given me one for Christmas when it first came out. Very generous of him. The cool thing about it was how Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, challenged the wireless carriers. Something that none of the cell phone makers were able to do.

According to the article, the carriers dictated what features could go on a handset, how it should operate and such. But Jobs probably had a dream: phone calls from an iPod.

I also think there were several carriers and industry experts that scoffed at the idea, thinking the market for that would be small. And the Blackberry was king of smartphones at the time.

Jobs went ahead with his idea, basing the iPhone on a concept model Apple made before.

When the iPhone first came out, it was met with great fanfare. The reviews were mixed and several features were missing that were found on more mediocre cell phones. But it became a hit.

On June 19th, this past Friday, I stood in line for the newest iteration, the iPhone 3GS. News reporters, Mac fans, and Apple store employees gathered to what looked like a small scaled Star Trek convention. People came in costume, others carried old Macs while in line, customers were interviewed, employees handed out water or juice bottles for those in line. It was really cool.

So what's the point of this on a website that focuses on fantasy and individuality?

The iPhone was fantasy before it became real, and Jobs took on giants, namely the wireless carriers, and won. No one, not even RIM, makers of Crackberry (Blackberry), had changed the field as Apple did. Apple may be big, but in the scheme of things they're tiny in comparison to those they took on.

Dream big, don't listen to anyone who says you can't, and go forth with action. Isn't that what all great strories depict?

Does Wolverine Need Depth?

The Hugh Jackman movie, X-Men Origins: Wolverine delivered on what it was supposed to deliver.  At the start of the story, there was a bit of action.  The next five minutes or so during the billing, when the names of the actors roll through, is filled with action.  After that more action.  But then a third of the way through there was a lull in action for about a minute, then more action.  A lot of action in the middle, the climax was action-filled, then the movie ended with a bit more action. In reading reviews, both fans and columns, there are two schools of thought when it comes to the new X-Men movie.  One claims there's too much action and not enough depth.  The other claims there was too much effort in creating depth, especially in the beginning.

In any story, be it written, film, TV, folk lore, rumor, a connection to the hero has to be made.  Or else the reader/audience won't care what happens to the hero or supporting characters.  Suspension and conflict won't matter anymore.  Who would care?  If you've watched the documentary Spielberg On Spielberg, he said his main job is to connect the audience to his film.

Let's not get into how to do that, but David Freeman who teaches techniques in writing covers it well.  Check his website out at www.beyondstructure.com.

The question is, do action movies like X-Men Origins:  Woverine need depth?  Don't we go to movies to escape?  Isn't action enough?

The Secret and The Action Thought

I've read a lot of books regarding success and personal growth.  There are three main things they focus on.  The way you think, the way you feel, and the way you act. One of the biggest publishing successes for personal growth was The Secret.  I have a copy of it.  It's main focus is thought.  Think it, dream it, and voila, it appears.

One  main thing it skims over is action.  The book refers to Jack Canfield.  It's actually my favorite part of the book.  One of the things he did was write a check out for $100,000 dollars and every morning he looked at it.  Then he got an idea, an inspiration to write a book.  He sold the book for .25 cents each.  He followed the golden nuggets of inspiration, advertised in the National Inquirer, and sold close to 400,000 copies.  Not only did he basically reach his envisioned goal, he celebrated.  Then he got another idea to write something called Chicken Soup for the Soul.  It was a bit successful.  If you call a major hit a bit.

What's the moral of the story?  Know where you are.  Know where you want to be.  Act on it.  Do something about it.  Just do it.  Sound familiar?  A small shoe company uses that slogan.

Years ago, my best friend and I were debating about what was more important.  Positive thought or Action thought.  What do you think?

You can wish to win the lottery, but until you buy a ticket, it's unlikely you're going to win.

Personally, positive thought is overrated.  Progressive thought, on the other hand, is awesome.  You want something?  Go for it.  Take the first step toward it.  Too many people want the success without putting the work behind it.  Think what you need to do to get what it is you want.

My friend coined the term progressive thought.  Thought that moves you toward your goal.  You want to be a great sprinter?  Sprint.  Want to be a great snowboarder?  Snowboard.  Want to write the great American novel?  Write.

And a small word on positive thinking.  It's not about thinking positively, but ignoring the crap that doesn't help you.  If a friend came up to you and said, "I wanna be an actor."  Most people would be like, "Good luck, dude.  It's like totally hard, man, and it's so not practical."  DON'T LISTEN TO THAT CRAP!  Let it roll off your back, have a progressive thought like, "I'm going to take acting classes."  You are now one step closer toward your dream.  Isn't that what Tom Hanks did?  Read his story.  It's amazing.

Just do it.

Do we need loyalty?

What do you think? Is loyalty something we need? If you ask most guys who are in a monogomous relationship, they'll say yup. Then why in both life and fiction we see cheating as an explored theme? Look at the show Desperate Housewives. What if you're commanding an army? Is loyalty needed? That would be a hell yeah! Without it the commander's army would fall into chaos.

In friendships loyalty is important. My best friend and I are both writers, and when we read each others work we're also honest. We're honest because our friendship is strong enough to withstand honesty. Because if your friendship is built on niceties, then that house of cards is easily destroyed.

I can tell a lot by reading a person's level of loyalty. Do people invite you to things for their own reasons, or do they leave you out to fend for yourself? Do people call you if they need you or just because. Seeing the differences can tell you a lot about a person's character. And when I write, I do everything that I can to infuse physical and conversational elements to communicate their level of loyalty. I think this technique can be called foreshadowing because I am foreshadowing what the character might do when put between a rock and a hard place.

Stories like Braveheart and Bridge on the River Kwai explore the theme of loyalty well.

Loyalty to yourself, your passion is the most important. For example, are you at a job where you have passion? If not, then admit it. Take the time to ask what you'd love to do if money were no object. A truth in life I see repeated over and over is when one follows their passion with great commitment, everything else like money falls in place. I've experienced that many times in my life. True success comes from living a life of passion and purpose.

So I ask you to answer this question. Do you wish for something more in life right now? If you do, then you've taken the first step to change your life. The realization you want more. Find what it is, dream big, and take the next step to do it.

Want to be a bestselling author? Then you must first write a book. Want to be a great actor? Learn how to act, then go out and act. You must start somewhere. Inaction is a sure way to failure.