Fame!

A lot is going on here!  What do I look at?

A lot is going on here!  What do I look at?

I just saw Fame, the 2009 version.  I never saw Fame, the 1980 version.  I should since it won two Oscars.  And I'm not one of those people who watches only Oscar winners, but the 2009 version got bad reviews.  And I know why.

Get outta my way

Get outta my way

In the 2009 version, we have a cross section of characters that are admitted to Performance Arts High School.  Clever name.  In this cross section, we have freshmen who deal with issues with shyness, self worth, preconceived ideas from parental figures, grades that lead to being expelled, and people in the industry who've scammed money.

This seems like a lot but a lot of stories have this many sub plots that help drive the main story line.  Problem here is I'm not sure what the main story line is, and these play like sub plots with no main plot.  You could also say they are all main plots but that would be too many.

The second problem is we move from admission to graduation in a period of 107 minutes.  I'm not saying this can't be done, but when you have many sub plots with no main plot, or a whole bouquet of main plots, it's going to be difficult to develop these characters.  Hell!  It'd be difficult with just a single character.  Again, it can be done, but you better be one helluva screenwriter.  The issue here is no character development.  Here's an example:

Whoo!

Whoo!

There's a character named Malik who runs into the problem of parental limitation.  His mom says he ain't all that.  Not in those exact words, but it's a good problem.  We've all at some level--friends or family--have been told we ain't all dat.  Is any of it true?  Of course not.  But the movie doesn't show Malik overcoming that issue, finding that he's special, then realizing he is truly talented.

What if he wasn't?  The movie doesn't show that either.

So is the message of the movie saying that none of us are special (not in the yellow bus way)?  No because the movie is called Fame.

So what's the message?  Not quite sure.

Throughout the whole movie we get performances that are well choreographed.  There must have been a dozen.  To take up 107 minutes with that many performances ruins the pacing and doesn't spend enough moments on what is truly important, the story.  It's like having a ton of special effects with no substance.

We go from admission to graduation, and, in doing so, the characters who are faced with character arc problems either don't solve them, or we don't see them solved, or are not solved.  One ballet dancer is told he won't make it by his teacher, told that he might be a decent teacher.  He believes her, submitting to becoming a ballet teacher.  So does the teacher see herself as a failure?  Then why is she teaching?  As the term character arc states, there's an arc.  We basically go from beginning, miss the keystone moment and BAM!  We've arrive at the end.  And we're not sure why.

Wolfman Devoured the Story

Anthony Hopkins is an Academy Award winner. Benicio Del Toro is an Academy Award winner. Emily Blunt is a Golden Globe winner. Hugo Weaving is an AFI Award winner. Director Joe Johnson is an Academy Award winner.

When they were brought together to make The Wolfman, given the technology today, it should have been one great remake.

Somehow the story was devoured. Put in place was a lot of shock value. Hey, here's a really fast werewolf. Ooh, captivating. A damsel in distress.  Holy cow crap, Batman!  How about some gruesome murders. Ah, can't call it a remake without reusing blood gushing murders. How unexpected. Needed? Yes. But it wasn't done creatively. It's one thing to be predictable. It's another thing to know what'll happen at the beginning of the movie.

The special effects were not over used.  A positive.

Netflix. Man do I love Neflix. Want to get rid of your cable bill? Get Netflix. It has TV shows, movies, DVDs, Bluray, and a lot of the content can be streamed online.

As I was browsing, I'd run across Dexter. The hero is a serial killer who kills serial killers.  And he's likable.  You'll find yourself rooting for him. I haven't read the novel it's based on, but once I watched the first show, I was hooked. I don't like horror much but watch it on occasion.

One thing Dexter has very little of is shock value. But the tension and conflict is high in each episode. And it's not predictable. For the most part anyway. The episodic stories and the overall story of Dex was amazing. There were story lines that ran the length of the season, and, more importantly, story lines that ran the length of each episode. Amazingly, it all coalesced together nicely, fitting together like puzzle pieces.

Each character is wondefully flushed out. Each one has their own goals, strengths, and issues. The backstory for each character is spread over each episode, and the season. And the growth, or deterioation, was well done.

Then, when I found out the first season was based on the book, Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay, I was ecstatic.  Somehow, within me, I was hoping it was based on the book.  The storyline just worked so well for me.  Every plot element circled on itself, playing an essential part to the story.  Shouldn't that be the case?  Or else why not just eliminate it since it doesn't serve the story or plot?

But The Wolfman was missing the essential element of story.  And the plot, though obvious, tried to circle back, but it just wasn't done well.  I wasn't rooting for any of the characters, nor did I care for any of them.  In fact, if the damsel was the werewolf who caused the initial murders, it might have been a better movie.

Maybe Dexter should go after the Wolfman.

Avatar

Dead eye.  One of the biggest things I notice about all CGI movies are theeyes. They're dead. dead eye

James Cameron has solved that by using motion capture to specifically record the actors' emotions from the eyes.

Neytiri eyes

But I'm not here to talk about how he made it.  Mostly because it's beyond me.  I only understand the reasoning behind it like solving dead eye.  Sounds like a disease.

So here's a list of what I truly loved about the movie as a whole:

  • No over usage of CGI as a replacement for story.
  • No over usage of 3-D.  In acting there's a fourth wall, the wall removed so the audience can watch.  Rule is to never break the fourth wall.  But many 3-D movies do because it's 3-D.
  • All of the actors did an incredible job.
  • It didn't feel very heavily directed.
  • Clear plot, clear themes, clear characters types.
  • And most important of all, there was a good story.

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I don't know if it's because I've been so obsessed with story and writing for the past few years, but there were some parts that were predictable, only because the story required it.  Certain key supporting characters died, certain story elements had to happen to drive the plot, the theme and climax. The ending was definitely predictable, and I mean the ending after the climax.  But what was strange was I wanted that ending.  I desired it myself.  And I know why.  Cameron made it important, subtly.

Spoiler alert:

Jake Sully is a paralyzed war veteran.  Without saying it or making such a big deal about it, he wants his legs back.  When he takes over his avatar, he runs out into the open with pure joy.  He's laughing, yelling, and sprinting, then he takes a moment and digs his toes into the dirt.  That tiny scene was aforever moment.

At that point I was certain Sully was going to be permanently place in his avatar body.  I knew it before I watched the movie.  When it happened it was wholly satisfying like eating a warm chocolate cookie.  There were little things like the digging toes in that emphasized the need for that ending. It really speaks to how Cameron doesn't over do things like using the technology both given to him, and invented by him.  He's a storyteller at heart, knowing how to use little things to make certain story elements big.

I've experimented with that in writing myepisodes.

ENT HOLIDAY FILMS

Trying to make something big by making it a big deal is a big big mistake.  In one of the writing seminars the teacher made fun of beginner writers when they write about the first serendipitous moment between two lovers.  Paraphrasing here:

"The world stopped as I gazed into her eyes. The ticking of my watch slowed and the flakes of the first snowfall hung in the air.  The hustle of the streets silenced and I felt my heartbeat yearn to feel hers."

I must admit, when I first heard that I wanted to rush to my manuscript and make sure I didn't do something similar.

The whole point here is that James Cameron played it well when he told his story.  I didn't feel overwhelmed by the technology.  I didn't feel overwhelmed by the directing.  Another words, I didn't feel his hands in the movie (an example would be the first three episodes of Star Wars).  The actors were awesome. For example, Sigourney Weaver's character as the dedicated scientist didn't play up to stereotype.  Sam Worthington's performance as Jake Sully felt relaxed, which contrasted well to his avatar character (nicely done, communicating a message).  There was a scene where he watched his brother's cremation, which felt false.  But at least it wasn't forced like having flashbacks.  And it was OK being false, since it was a small scene, despite requiring to be emotionally heavy.

Avatar is what storytelling should be like, whether computer imaging is involved or not.  I left the theater totally uplifted and inspired and still feel the same as I type these words.  I can't wait for the sequels.

Lovely Bones - Child's Play?

There's a certain satisfaction when I see Hollywood going to books for inspiration for studio production.  Lord of the Rings brings a certain beauty and grit to the silver screen.  The same director, Peter Jackson, did a remake of King Kong, a movie I have on DVD.  I don't buy DVD's on the fly, only the ones that I connect to. untitled

His next movie to be released is Lovely Bones, based on the book of the same name by Alice Sebold.

I have the book.  After reading several chapters, I had to stop.  Not because it wasn't good because it was.  As I read I could tell I was nearing the infamous part where the girl meets her violent death.  It's something very difficult for me to read through.  So I stopped.

OnYahoo.comthere was a post that talked about Jackson's production and how the reviews were not good.  The main complaint it seems was the emotion and the cruel reality of the murder was missing:

"Gone is the dismembered body part that alerts the family to Susie's fate. Gone is her anguished mother's adulterous affair with the detective who leads the case. Gone is all mention of what really transpired in that lonely 1970s cornfield."

According to the article, Jackson was tyring to get a PG-13 rating.  If this is true, why?

I'm not saying kids shouldn't see this.  They should, if they want.  But this subject matter deserves an R rating.  Again, not from a prohibition standpoint.  But from a subject matter standpoint.  I know the movie industry is a business.  It's also an artistic medium.

Look at the Matrix movies.  All of them carries an R rating.  From a subject point of view, it's a war.  And yes, I know Star Wars has a PG rating, but clearly that was child's play.  Matrix and Lovely Bones are not.  There's a certain level of grit that exists in the way those stories are told that Star Wars is missing.  A good indication are the stormtroopers in the white clad armor.

There's little that I would prohibit a child to see or learn.  That is not my standpoint here.  But Lovely Bones the movie deserves an R rating out of respect for its art and subject.