Thoughts Abound! First Rant of New Blog

I have a lot of stuff on my mind, but it’s all amounting to a swirling tornado of pseudo thoughts that are incomplete or malformed or largely predicated on nerd rage. In we go!

I have the firmly held belief that a live-action Star Wars TV series would be fantastic if set between Episodes III and IV following a band of plucky space criminals as they try to integrate the newly formed and expansive empire into their lives and I would totally watch it because oh wait I already did and it was called Firefly.

Which is absolutely true when you think about it. For fuck sake, look at that:

Seriously, look at that

This leads me to a startling conclusion that’s been a long time coming: I might be about done with Star Wars.

Those of you who know me, soak it in. Scoff. Bicker amongst yourselves. But seriously, that’s where I am at this point. I think better stories are out there than the ones the Great Bearded Money Dragon is choosing to tell so he can sell more toys. And I’m not a person who’s against commercialism as a rule. I’m a person who buys dumb shit, ergo I like commercialism. I’m not even saying that I wouldn’t look when new Star Wars stuff comes out – I’ll glance curiously. But I’m really at a point of saturation with it. I like what I have of Star Wars. I can do without the rest whatever it is he does.

Including, but not limited, to the dumbass 3d version. Won’t see it. Refuse. The End.

On 3d:

I hate it. It’s stupid. The end.

3D is to filmic entertainment (I use that to describe all narrative-based visual entertainments that might employ the technology) as motion capture is to real animation. It’s anathema. It’s technology for technology’s sake.

You see, I have a particular hard spot in my heart about Motion Captured animation. It looks bad. The end. Examples:

Toy Story 3 – incredibly well-animated. The pinnacle of computer animation achievement at this point.
Mars Needs Moms – come on. Seriously. The animation is horrendous. Someone take away Robert Zemeckis’ filmmaking privileges and let’s just be done with it.

This isn’t the snobby traditional animator training poking its head through and its not un-research’d bias. This is a real thing that really happen.

The comparison I’m making is that 3D in movies is tawdry and cheap and we’re doing it because we can. We’ve actually been able to for a long time, but now it’s cheap enough with digital filming and editing suites that even bad directors can (and will) do it. I haven’t seen a 3D movie that doesn’t include a ridiculously cheap shot seemingly thrown in to showcase the 3D. And when that’s not there, I forget I’m watching something in 3D because the effect has no significance on the story and movies that are counting on “wow”-some visuals are doing cool shit besides having it in 3D. TRON Legacy is a perfect example. Even though it was subtle and cautiously placed throughout, I frequently found myself wishing I could watch it in 2D for a number of reason, not the least among which is I could take off those retarded glasses and not have a headahce instantaneously when looking at the screen.

I like the film Tangled, but within 40 minutes, she’s twirling in a field, signing (Disney movie, after all), and what has to happen? A flock of song birds whirls around her and out toward the audience! Oooh! Aaaah!

It’s so patently boring, in fact, that, over a decade ago, theme parks began to realize, “You know, unless we’re selling them that shit is truly coming to life with other sensory stimuli, no one’s gonna give a shit,” so they started doing “4D” (I hate that term) interactive attractions with air guns, vibration motors, and water cannons position in and around the seats to make the audience feel things. They wanted to engage other senses because they knew that the base product is actually pretty boring and arbitrary and there’s only so many times even in 40 minutes a giant [INSERT NECESSARY GIMMICKY  THING HERE, I.E. GONZO’S NOSE, SHREK’S BUTT, OR WHATEVER] can fly out of screen at you.

I cannot wait until 3D reaches its saturation point and people become collectively fed up with it. The arc is inevitably that  by the close of 2011, I will have to work my ass off to find a movie screening not presented in 3D (and I will). Then by about midway through 2012, it’ll start to die off. The gimmick will be reserved for where it belongs – crap slasher pictures and substance-less kids movies (and probably, unfortunately, PIXAR films that Disney shareholders mandate have the given gimmick.)

I’ll also believe it’s a failure of the filmmakers in part too. I don’t think they understand something that Werner Herzog has said he realized on a recent “Fresh Air” interview: you can’t edit 3D like you would edit 2D. 3D requires a lot more of our brains. We work to see it. Our sense of vision is being deceived by this trickery, and our brain is endlessly trying to resolve the mystery of why it’s getting partial images from our two eyes. That’s, in fact, why it assembles into a 3D object. That’s a lot of work. And it’s not like your brain can opt  not to – I heard a great quote by Amy Ellis Nutt, where she referred to the idea that, if what Aristotle said in regard to nature abhorring a vacuum is true, then the brain abhors a mystery. A million neuropsychologists would absolutely agree. Our brains are compelled to solve the mystery of the visual paradox 3D films present to us. When they’re working that hard to “solve” each frame, creating a meta-solution each scene in turn is even more difficult. And when editors forget that they’re asking a lot more of us biologically, we wind up with quick, action-heavy editing that isn’t designed or paced at all to allow our brains to really revel in the mystery the film is presenting for them, which can be frustrating and even painful. I think that’s what really gives me the headache.

And I have zero hope that the average 3D filmmaker is gonna figure this out any time soon. None of them are even probably going to hear of Cave of Forgotten dreams, let alone see it and learn from his example, so I’ll just have to deal with the pain for another couple of years. And by deal with it, I mean complain. And by complain, I mean whine – a lot.

By contrast, it’ll take very nearly till 2014 before it’s dead in Televisions, and that’s because there’s some technological advantages of it. A TV can actually give you a 3D experience without requiring you to put on those stupid glasses, just like the Nintendo 3DS can (another thing I make every effort to find a way to give a damn about), so I have suffer through it even more.

I just want that whole phase in film-making to be over.

Equally – enough with the Stoner movies. Pineapple Express is a  rare gem, but Your Highness proves the that it’s the exception to validate the rule. Danny McBride can’t carry a stoner movie on his own, and neither can James Franco or Natalie Portman. Sorry, folks, I hate admitting it as much as you do: Seth Rogen brings something unique to that particular stew of idiocy and his absence is sorely felt throughout that movie.

I have a bunch of other swirly thoughts that I’m having trouble elucidating.

On Entertainment:

I just watched my first episode ever of Veronica Mars, Bones, and Lie To Me. Each one has an actor I like, which is the only reason I opted to watch these (some of them ancient) shows at all. Veronica Mars had a very cool feeling to me. I liked the premise, and it seemed fairly well written in that first episode. Maybe a little too Teen Drama for my tastes, but that’s the show’s job and target audience, so far be it for me to gripe. Bones seems to play up a stereotypical pairing we’re seeing a lot more in the modern day – we have two characters powerfully at odds, often one extremely emotional and the other brazenly logical. The latter has a tendency not to even understand the former’s concept of social norms. Big Bang Theory does this too, where they seem to be drawing on some of the things that make life difficult for people on the Autism spectrum but don’t actually assign any of the harder to cope with symptoms or deficiencies to the characters. And even then it’s a romanticized depiction of it, where the emotionally well-developed, earnest character can get through that layer of hardened understanding the logical one has developed and elicit an emotional response that allows the audience to identify with them. Plenty of kids dealing with being Autistic don’t even get that Eureka moment of understanding, either on their side or the sides of their friends and family, and I sometimes wonder if this depiction is somewhat damaging for America’s understanding of that population. It seems to suggest that with the right love and tenderness, we can undo Autism and unlock the human within!

Which is marginally deplorable as a notion (to suggest that the condition deprives one of humanity) and flat-out dangerous as a suggestion. It’s like that McCarthy woman touting her nonsense as  “cure,” when it’s just the best services and training money can buy coupled with what is, ostensibly, a depth of compassion and love that seems without end. That’s the way the tabloids and magazines prefer it, anyway, and I’m not particularly interested in the truth. It’s hard to give a damn about her life in any way, let alone how she intends to mislead Americans and Westerners with what’s essentially Faith healing where science is desperately needed.

Wow, that got off track. I’m sensitive about that sort of thing, I guess. I have the same worry about The Parenthood, because I’m not sure they’ve come out and identified the conditions they’re asking that young man to portray, but it’s definitely some kind of PDDNOS thing (that was for Danielle) and they seem to be treating it like “well, he’s just weird. Sometimes kids are weird. No reason to see a professional.” And I think that’s crazy dangerous. It could be the drastic rise in kid diagnosed as falling on the Autism spectrum in the past decade or so (it’s up to 1 in 100, which, I mean, that’s a lot) and now our entertainment is trying to find ways of contextualizing it that make it seem “not so bad,” but I do worry if it’s delivering the wrong message.

On Politics:

Broken.

On Lybia:

Same.

On NPR:

Really liking it. You may have noticed a “Fresh Air” reference earlier – RadioLab.org is also very fantastic.

On Video Games:

Portal 2 is in the bag, and I have mixed feelings about it. It could be that once I get through the co-op campaign, I will feel differently, but the single player started to get a bit thin near the end. Wheatley’s inevitable betrayal was easily telegraphed and I didn’t really like that the first 5 minutes of the game involve a lot of standing around and watching stuff. But then I suppose that’s just part of the territory with Valve games. This one is somehow darker and more narratively focused than the first, but the puzzles didn’t seem anywhere near so complicated. It could be that now that I’m used to “Thinking With Portals,” I don’t have the same struggles with it that I once did.

I did a fun exercise, though: I tried to play the first hour like a designer, writing down the parts where I became bored or confused or trying my best to note when I felt particularly engaged, the moments that made me feel connected to Wheatley, the contrivances (both technical and otherwise) that I noticed most readily, the ones I had to search out a bit. I kept writing the word “Linearity” with question marks, and I wasn’t sure why I was writing the question marks or the word. Portal is, by necessity, a linear game, but I think I kept feeling like I was ready to branch off. In an effort to make the facility and the world of Portal grander, I think they made it more apparent to me how limited my track is. As I thought about this, I wondered if that was part of the plan: if showing you this huge world and keeping you confined to this portion of path was a way of reinforcing the overall joke of you being a science lab rat in a maze run by dastardly omnipotent AI beings.

I noticed that I found what I think was a secret room because it hearkened back to the “The Cake Is A Lie” rooms from the first one, but I wasn’t able to narrow in on their primary message. It seemed to be almost religious depictions of the player character in a very shamanic, cave-painting sort of way.

On The Kinect:

I can’t give a shit about the product as it stands. I’ve tried, but I don’t really get it, and I’m not sure anything is going to come along that’s going to make me really figure it out. Now, the stuff that people who have bought Kinects are doing? That stuff’s incredible.

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