Monday, July 21, 2014

Dynamite Warrior

In the comments section of the article before last I got my first request and I have followed through as I said I would. I have watched, and now I am writing about, Dynamite Warrior.
Hand over the buffalo!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Anti-Heroes

The term “anti-hero” can be used to mean at least two things. One is as a simple synonym for a phrase like “central character of a story who is evil”, such as Tony Montana from Scarface. The meaning unique to the term, however, is something like “a central character with a worthy goal who does wrong to attempt to achieve it”.
He's unstable, miserable, and highly dangerous to those around him.
But he gets 'er done.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Action and Actions

I’ve watched the movie Prometheus twice in as many days. I did something the second time around which I’ve noticed doing before while watching movies, and it struck me that the implications are pretty interesting.

There is a scene in Prometheus in which the characters attempt to outrun a giant sandstorm on an alien world. Toward the end of this high-octane race against a lot of dust moving really fast (outrunning walls of stuff moving fast is a staple of recent action movies), one of the central characters drops a very important, probably fragile, specimen off the back of the buggy she is riding (and since she had not been established as an incredible klutz, I suppose it was simply a plot device to put her in more danger). So, she jumps off the buggy, grabs the bag with the specimen in it, and gets hit full on by the sandstorm. In the midst of people yelling and wind howling, they rush to save her and get her inside the ship.
Wow; creepy, mysterious, provocative. If only we were scientists
engaged in important research spanning several years and hundreds of
 millions of miles who proceeded with caution and care. But, apparently not.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Genre

There has been a theme, a fundamental assumption, running through this whole blog, about which I was pretty explicit in some of the first posts and, with the recent mention of the concept of genre, I think it’s a good time to go a little bit deeper and take a look at this principle. Then maybe we can lighten up and review a couple movies or comics or something.
Yep, I've met people with opinions like this.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Novelty (2 of 2)

Same genre? Maybe. Same premise?
on occasion. But not necessarily the same
 story.
So, last week, I contrasted the desire for novelty with the penchant for classification and pigeon-holing, and I suggested one thing that can explain both impulses: the desire for an emotional fix. We want things that are the same (in general outline) as what made us feel good before, but we want them to be different (in particulars) because the same old concoction doesn't do it for us anymore.


Is there anything more elevated to say about novelty? Because, if we leave it at that, we leave ourselves looking like some ridiculous cartoon donkey, chasing a carrot dangled in front of our nose that’s hung from a pole tied to our back. ‘Worse than that donkey really, because we’re smart enough to see what’s going on, but we continue the futile chase anyway.


Well, fear not, I’m not going to leave anyone looking like an ass. I think there’s definitely more to novelty than that.


When I asked a friend of mine whether doing the same thing again (in film for instance) could be worthwhile, she gave an insightful answer which was also unintentionally amusing. She said that someone else making a movie over again might be worthwhile because they would do something new and different with it. She was shocked when I pointed out that she’d just said doing the same thing again could be good, because it might be doing something different for the first time.


But, like I said, it is an insightful answer to the question, because she wasn't talking about changing superficial things (actors, setting, etc.) so we'd recapture our buzz. Her answer had to do with the way we apprehend and appreciate ideas. A particular artistic subject, a particular idea, isn't always (or even often) exhausted by a single treatment. Consider that, to spite the fact that different works are critiqued for being too much like each other, we do watch and read some works over and over again and, more importantly, we understand more about them and find more to see in them when we do (at least in the good ones).


Well, in a similar way, a writer or filmmaker revisiting an idea (or even a set of ideas, even a plot-line) can throw different things into relief and help us consider and appreciate new facets of the same ideas. Just as seeing something for the second time enables you to focus on the subtleties you missed before, and watching something again ten years later brings to bear all that experience you've gained, so having someone else think about the ideas and consider how to present them will contribute something to your consideration.


This is the value of novelty in general, whether it’s a novel approach to previously told stories, or something that has actually not been done before; to the extent that it helps us know the truth and appreciate the beautiful, its a good thing. Even if we have to get over initial disappointment at the lack of buzz, we might find something worth while on the other side of withdrawal


Now, whether movie-makers do this at all frequently, or it justifies throwing hundred million dollar budgets at the same ideas again and again, is another matter.



© 2014 John Hiner III



Monday, June 16, 2014

Novelty (1 of 2)

So, how important is novelty? A common criticism of things called bad in pop-culture (movies, TV shows, games, music, and everything else) is that it is derivative, that it’s been done before, that it’s too similar to something else.

On the other hand, we classify all these things by their similarities and then judge them within those classifications. We go damn crazy about it actually.
I work in a used movie store and people ask me where to find things.
But, when "The Sound of Music" and "Tron" are in the kid's section,
how should I know?

Monday, June 9, 2014

Dagon (Gothic literature) 2 of 2

Of the three things mentioned in part 1, the Unknown seems to be the most fundamental. Things being alien is a two way street (aliens are only alien to things that are alien to them. You get me?) And unnatural things are deviations from what is right and healthy, which is another kind of borrowed existence. Things being unknown, however, is an unavoidable part of being a human being (i.e. a being that is both conscious and limited). This makes it more fundamental than the other two categories, even though it is also a relative reality (it only exists because other things do).

But, it’s more than that. Not only is it