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Charlie Sheen’s Self-Conscious Breakdown

Charlie Sheen’s breakdown is unique because he’s self-conscious enough to generate memes and exploit them. We’re used to groggy celebrities issuing terse statements or brief rants, but the full court media press by someone who’s completely nuts is new. Combined with new media exploitation and monetizing. Mel Gibson and Tom Cruise at least knew to get enough of the spotlight and stay there. Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan were silently deteriorating messed up people.

But Sheen is riding a high. Going cold turkey has kicked off a manic state. He thinks he’s invulnerable and he’s playing the joke, but he’s not in on the joke. He thinks that the joke is a Chuck Norris awesome thing, when it’s actually that he’s the joke because he’s mental. It’s like the way Shatner plays off his image, without really understanding his image.

But despite all that, Sheen looks less the villain, than ABC and every other network that has given his breakdown tons of coverage with no legit reason for it except that people will watch. Sheen is crazy, violent and a bigot… but he’s also nuts. And TV executives don’t have that excuse. Unlike him they know exactly what they’re doing and the moral compromises they’re making for the sake of ratings.

Kevin Smith Should Play Kevin Smith

Kevin Smith’s marketing plan for Red State is to use his own appearances to promote the movie. That’s not a bad plan, except that it’s promoting the wrong product. No one really wants to see Red State. If they did, Smith could have just taken it through the usual distribution route. As a horror movie without the Kevin Smith brand, it would be a non-event.

But what does Red State have to do with Kevin Smith? I don’t mean Kevin Smith the writer and director, but KEVIN SMITH the character. Kevin Smith is the guy behind Jersey Girl and Cop Out. KEVIN SMITH is the guy people pay money to watch. Red State seems a lot like Michael Moore’s own movie Canadian Bacon. And then Michael Moore realized that people wanted to pay money to see him. Not Michael Moore, the wealthy guy who has a crew film him yelling at banks, but MICHAEL MOORE, the character. And that’s what he’s been doing ever since.

Kevin Smith’s best career plan isn’t to make movies like Red State, but to make KEVIN SMITH movies. He already turned himself into a character in his more successful movies. Time to go all the way. Blur the lines between movies and reality. Documentary style footage. A character named Kevin Smith who’s also a director. What about a movie about making a movie and then having to distribute it yourself. I wouldn’t go see it, but it would be a lot more popular and entertaining than Red State.

The Return of Kevin Smith

It’s Kevin Smith and he’s back. Not that he ever really left. He’s back at Sundance with a new strategy that’s really old. He tried to go straight with mainstream movies like Jersey Girl and Cop Out. He even tried to be Judd Apatow with Zack and Miri. Red State is still mainstream, but as movies go it’s styled closer to Canadian Bacon.

But Smith knows it’s not about the movie anymore. It’s about him. Red State is nothing special, but Kevin Smith has been best at playing the character he’s created over these years. And Red State’s promotional program is not about the movie, but about him. Come see Kevin Smith. It’s the next best thing to giving up directing and just cutting to the chase and booking straight up appearances for himself.

Kevin Smith’s career, the successful part, was all about making movies that were him. Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, it was all about making a movie you could identify as a Kevin Smith movie. But you can only do that so often. So now the movies will be generic, but they’ll be more about interacting with him than the movie.

And you’ve gotta give him points for figuring out how to harness the publicity whoring Westoboro gang to promote his movie. Is he promoting them. Are they promoting him? It’s both.

No Nod for Christopher Nolan

I’m not sure Nolan should have really been nominated for Inception, but when somehow David O. Russell did get nominated for The Fighter and Darren Aronofsky for The Swan, both movies that were made and existed only to be nominated for Oscars, then yes something is wrong. I could go on and say that The King’s Speech wasn’t really all that well directed. The Coen Brothers may deserve their nod. But Fincher is being nominated for doing much less than Nolan did in Inception.

So why was Nolan shut out.

1. Science Fiction. SF is a ghetto and Inception can’t break out of it. Just like Dark Knight couldn’t break out of comic book movies. Or Lord of the Rings out of fantasy epics.

2. Lots of special effects. That raises questions about what the director is doing and what he isn’t. It’s a pointless question today. But we can blame George Lucas for turning in movies that looked like CG cartoons.

3. It doesn’t feel like an Oscar. Oscars are not about rewarding good work, but granting prestige. And prestige is supposed to go to things that feel prestigious. That’s why King’s Speech is doing so well. The King’s Speech is royal. The Social Network acts like it’s important. Inception is easily dismissed as just escapism.

Is Zack Snyder the First Video Game Director?

It used to be that to direct a movie you had to want to tell a story. Post MTV, you had to direct a few music videos first to prove that you could connect with the kids. This approach wasn’t a complete dead loss and we did get some actual filmmakers out of it. But we also got a lot of directors who had no idea what a story was and thought that if they just kept moving the camera around enough, no one would notice. Movies began to be made that way even by directors who had never done music videos. Toss together some filters, mess with the sound and frame rate, use a steadicam and you’re a brilliant director. Not.

Zack Snyder doesn’t belong in that category, he might belong in an entirely new one. The video game director. 300 was a movie that came as close as possible to capturing the feel of playing a video game. He may not have known he was doing it, but it’s what he did. 300’s story came down to video game cut scenes and its action to the same aim that video games have, to let you kill enemies in cooler ways. Unlike George Lucas’ prequels, 300 didn’t look like a CG cartoon, it looked like a CG game. Which threw a lot of reviewers who didn’t understand what they were dealing with.

But then Snyder tackled Watchmen, a project that required a story. That made no sense without the story. And the 300 approach of throwing together some cool things and pushing you forward through the world he had built to the ending didn’t work. Sucker Punch is the closest Snyder has come so far to making a video game movie. And Sucker Punch is up front about what it is. It’s roleplaying. It’s a game projected on life. And that’s what video games are.

After Sucker Punch, Snyder tackles Superman. And what kind of Superman movie will he make? Probably a Superman movie that captures the feel of playing Superman in a video game.

To Shakespeare or Not to Shakespeare

Some of Britain’s most distinguished Shakespearean actors have reopened the debate over whether William Shakespeare, a 16th century commoner raised in an illiterate household in Stratford-upon-Avon, wrote the plays that bear his name.

Acclaimed actor Derek Jacobi and Mark Rylance, the former artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater in London, unveiled a “Declaration of Reasonable Doubt” on the authorship of Shakespeare’s work Saturday, following the final matinee of “I am Shakespeare,” a play investigating the bard’s identity, in Chichester, southern England.

“I subscribe to the group theory. I don’t think anybody could do it on their own,” Jacobi said. “I think the leading light was probably de Vere, as I agree that an author writes about his own experiences, his own life and personalities.”

No offense to any actors out there but it would really take an actor to make a statement that phenomenally stupid. If a writer, writes about his own life and personalities, then no writer today could ever produce a book about international politics, the civil war or being a person or another gender. That same kind of ludricious stupidity is motivating the attacks on Shakespeare’s authorship. Why argue that Marlowe could write the plays he did while Shakespeare could not? Volume is certainly not the issue. Nor quality. If Shakespeare’s plays must have been written by more than one author because of their quality and extraordinary talent, then isn’t that an argument for Shakespeare rather than against him?

It also points to his detailed will, in which Shakespeare famously left his wife “my second best bed with the furniture,” as containing no clearly Shakespearean turn of phrase and mentioning no books, plays or poems.

For goodness sake, was Shakespeare’s will really supposed to contain “turns of phrase” and does it really need to mention his works, which in any case he had no rights to as copyright did not yet exist? If Stephen King’s will doesn’t contain any monsters eating someone’s faces or long digressive reminisces of life in new england, does it clearly mean that he is not the author of his own novels?

Children of Hurin and Tolkien’s Writing

Children of Hurin, the so-called new JRR Tolkien novel is going on sale now. While I tremendously loved Lord of the Rings, I haven’t felt anything nearly as strong for the rest of the saga of Tolkien’s world in The Simmarillion or Unfinished Tales. What sets Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit apart from the mythic sagas of the rest of Tolkien’s work are the characters, Bilbo, Frodo, Sam, Gandalf. Nothing of that warmth and humanity is present in the rest of his tales, epic as they may be. They are merely myth and legend, sparse and cold. I have yet to read or obtain Children of Hurin, I of course did not stand around all night and day in a London bookshop waiting to get a copy. In time I will see if The Children of Hurin holds the kind of characters who can bring the novel alive, or if it is merely an expanded myth populated by alternately rendered stiff characters plodding off to their doom like a modernized version of Beowulf.

What is obvious to most readers is that Tolkien’s strength never lay in depicting noble humans or elves. His human and elven characters like Aragorn or Elrond, Eowyn and Legolas make for bland reading and bland personalities. One of the grave mistakes of the movies lay in their focus on these, the weakest of Tolkien’s characters.

Tolkien’s writing only truly lives when writing about the seemingly plain and ordinary characters like Frodo and Sam, the lives of the Hobbits, which he truly loved and those characters who were part of larger mystic forces, Gandalf and Saruman and Tom Bombadil. And even the fallen characters like Gollum and Grima Wormtongue. I love the Allen illustrations for Children of Hurin, but I have my doubts that the book, an early work of Tolkien and reworked and likely created by his son Christopher Tolkien can live up to that.

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