Saturday, November 15, 2008

Will James Bond Return?

"James Bond will return." The words scroll up the screen as the last end credits song slowly fades out and the movie is over. I, along with millions of other people around the world had gone to see 'The Quantum of Solace' on opening day yesterday, and the experience left me with a mixture of joy and sadness. I have seen 'Casino Royale', and now 'Quantum of Solace', but I haven't seen James Bond since 'Die Another Day.' All I've seen in these last two films are a man that might some day be James Bond. He has high James Bond potential, but he is not James Bond.

When I was in high school, the cool thing to do was to listen to grunge rock. The point of such 'rock' (and I am using the term very loosely here) was to sound as depressed as possible, sing about how much life sucks, and make the music sound as gritty and dirty as possible. And all the high schoolers in the 90s heard it and said, "Woah, I identify with this because I feel depressed and life is hard!" And the music consequently became very popular. Epitomized by such bands as Nirvana, grunge music proved un-selfsustainable when all of it's contributors commited suicide and there was no one left to play the music.

So the Grunge fad faded from the scene and was replaced by other 'rock' movements, some with a bit more emotional range, some without (see: Emo) but the sole consolation to me was that Rock could become fun again. 'Rock' would never be that uniting force it was in the 70s and 80s, in fact you couldn't even call it 'Rock' anymore, but at least it was more fun to listen to.

Now we arrive at the early 2000s. Just when I thought we had finally seen the end of 'Grunge', the fad suddenly moves to the film world. In 2002, a movie called 'The Bourne Identity' comes out, a film that told an old and cliched story in a new way. It was dirty, it was gritty, and it focused on how much it's hero's life sucked. Hmm, sound familiar to you? Me too. I like to call this style of filmmaking 'Docu-Grunge,' as it seems to utilize the documentary style of filmmaking while applying a grunge ethos to it's visuals and content. Now, I want to pause here and say that I have nothing against this style on principle. I am not trying to make blanket statements and be a 'hater'. But I can't help but cringe when all of a sudden the word 'realistic' is commonly associated with this style, and it is implied that all other styles lack realism. Is it realistic to be depressed ALL the time? I'm not depressed all the time, does that make me unreal, or fake? The trend seems to be that in order for something to be good, it has to be uber-dramatic, dirty, and depressing. But in the long run, I'd rather watch Speed Racer than The Dark Knight.

But back to James Bond. Casino Royale was a 'reboot' of the James Bond franchise, which seems to mean that the producers looked around and said, "what's cool these days?" They found the Bourne films, and decided that in order for James Bond to be cool, he had to be presented in the all new 'Docu-Grunge' style. Gritty. Dirty. Depressed. At least when Martin Campbell directed Casino Royale, he preserved some of the visual flair that is characteristic of James Bond films with his sweeping camera movies and allowing the action scenes (though few and far between) to play out in longer shots and impress the audience with their excellence in execution. But now in Quantum of Solace, the camera has to be shaking and zoomed in as far as it will go and any one shot can't last longer than 1.5 seconds, reducing the film to a series of energetic bursts that force an intensity onto the situation instead of more subtle methods and allowing us to enjoy the scope of the visuals and appreciate the action. In trying so hard to copy the Bourne films, Bond has inherited the problems of the bourne films, and reduced itself to a bunch of camera tricks and gimmicky action scenarios. Ian Flemming intended his books to be a form of escapism, something more fun than realism, and the apple has seemingly fallen far from the tree.

Now, I don't want to sound too pessimistic here. The Quantum of Solace had a lot of things to like about it as a Bond film. Exotic locales, hints of the James Bond theme, plenty of action, and they finally re-introduced the silhouetted dancing ladies during the opening credits. But those things are only part of the combination that made Bond films awesome. Bond has always been different from other action heroes. Characteristically smooth and suave, while still calculating and precise, the way the films have been presented has always reflected this, and Bond has never had to 'compete' with other action heroes, and I don't feel like he should. Now, there are hints here and there that these last two films, since they are prequels about Bond becoming Bond, that they are slowly transitioning back into Bond being the awesomely suave and the coolest action star ever, and I dearly hope that they do, because I want my James bond back. I want the real James Bond. And I am hopeful that someday he WILL return.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A dream of mine...

(click on image for high resolution version)
Space Mountain: the movie... This is pretty much my dream movie right now, and some day I'm going to pitch it to Walt Disney Studios and make it into an awesome film that kids and adults can enjoy!

Josh and I came up with this idea while at Disneyland, and it would be a retro-futuristic sci-fi adventure with all the cool stuff in it, like space heroes, scientists, rocket trains, black holes, orbiting hotels, and Gantry 44! Pretty much all the coolest things in the universe.

Someday I'll make this movie... someday.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lost Highway

The following is an account of what happened to me on November 6th, 2008. And while memory is a fleeting and abstract thing, I have tried to remain as true to the fact as possible, not adding any details for dramatic effect. The goal here is to merely relay my experience for those who have not had the chance to hear me tell it yet.

6 PM, Northeastern Arizona. I was 9 hours into my trip to Canyon de Chelly (pron. 'shay') and half an hour from the hotel where I was to stay for a week and film the canyon and ancient Native American ruins for my employer, Finley Holiday Films. My rental SUV was loaded with my camera equipment and supplies for the trip. I had hoped to reach my destination before it got dark, but unfortunately because of daylight savings, the shorter November days, and the time zone change, the sun had gone down half an hour ago and the last rays of light had just disappeared behind the black hills.

Now it's rather difficult to fully explain my thought process as everything happened in the space of about 5 milliseconds, but I recall glimpsing in the corner of my eye the ghostly figure of a horse bolting across the road, illuminated only at the last split-second by the edge of my headlights, immediately followed by a snapping and smashing sound, and a waterfall of glass pouring over me. As soon as I had realized something had just hit me, I hit the brakes and pulled off to the side of the road. I was rather stunned, but the first thing I noticed was that a section of the windshield had wrapped itself back and was a few inches from my face, so I pushed it forward roughly back into place. In a shocking moment, suddenly all memories of what had just happened came flooding back into my head. I must have been going 60 MPH, actually 5 below the speed limit due to the darkness, but the horse had run out at full speed and collided with the front left side of the hood, it's head snapping forward and shattering the windshield before being thrown upwards by the curve of the vehicle's roof.

Sitting on the side of the road, I opened the door of the SUV with some difficulty as it had been dented in, and spit glass dust out of my mouth. As I did so, I noticed something dripping from my forehead. I was bleeding, and I hadn't even noticed. The coolness of realizing that this was what being in shock feels like was quickly replaced by the terror of not knowing how badly I was injured. I grabbed my duffel bag and snatched a t-shirt from inside and held it to my face and applied pressure to try and stop the bleeding. When the section of windshield in front of me had wrapped back upon itself, it had cut me on the left side of my face and right hand. Not to mention that the shower of glass beads had given me hundreds of tiny cuts all over my face. Fortunately the near-freezing night temperature of the high desert sped up the cauterizing process for my smaller cuts, leaving only the big ones to deal with.

At this point a family drove by and saw my condition, and told me they would drive up to the gas station nearby and call the police. Being in the middle of nowhere, it took 15 minutes for the fire department to arrive, followed shortly by an ambulance and the police. The fire department busied themselves with blocking off the road where the dead horse lay (I must have killed it instantly), and the paramedics took me into the ambulance and checked me out. No major injuries, miraculously, and other than my forehead, everything had stopped bleeding already.

So, despite the long story involved in getting home with no car (not totaled, but completely undrivable) and no cell phone reception, I realize that I was extremely fortunate that the horse had not gotten further out in the road, where a direct hit could have almost certainly been fatal for me, and I was most likely lucky that I didn't see the horse in time to try to avoid it, as a sudden swerve at that speed could have rolled the vehicle, or I could have driven into a ditch or something on the side of the road. The way the windshield had broken was in a way that I could have received serious damage to my eyes, but those had somehow remained safe as well. A kind Native American police officer drove me back to the hotel where I was going, and assured me that they had had problems with the family who owned the corral leaving gates open on their property, and that there would be no danger of them asking for compensation. Yeah, thanks. Still, that's good news, considering I wasn't technically in America at the time. The park I was going to was on a reservation and politically, the entire area is Navajo Nation.

So, after spending a night with no cell reception by myself in the middle of nowhere (the nearest town was an hour and a half away), I finally got home Friday around midnight (much thanks to the help of my employers for getting me another rental car), and was at last able to relax and rest, a much needed exercise as being in a car wreck is a very nerve-wracking experience. I never realized how much I enjoyed being around people I knew, friends of mine and familiar faces have never been so comforting. I am also anticipating even more my return home for Thanksgiving to see my family and relatives. It's not that I've taken them for granted until now or anything, but I guess near-death experiences have a way of making you enjoy the good things in life even more than you did before. Funny how that works, isn't it?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Quote and a Story

I've got nicotine stains on my fingers
I've got a silver spoon on a chain
I've got a grand piano to prop up my mortal remains
I've got wild staring eyes
I've got a strong urge to fly
But I've got nowhere to fly to
. -Pink Floyd

There was a man who lived for years in agony because his memories felt more real than his present life. His impressions of the past were so immediate that to him his life seemed dull and murky in comparison. He slipped into depression because he spent his life wishing for those moments when he would pass into the other realm, recalling those impressions of his past life. Then one day he walked to the edge of a cliff, pondering the abyss before him. As he was about to slip silently into his memory, the ground crumbled and gave way beneath his feet. Suddenly he was falling, and the rock tumbled around him, plummeting with him a thousand feet toward the ground below. He was weightless, and the wind turned into colors and stung at his face. He could hear every piece of rock crumble as they broke apart in midair around him, his heart raced and his spine tingled as he sensed the sensation of complete freedom combined with sheer terror. At the same moment that he saw the ground rushing up at him, he realized that this was the most alive he had ever felt, more than any memory in his near or distant past. He shouted gleefully in the impossible energy that he felt, and then...

He woke up.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The 10th Kingdom

"My name is Virginia, and I live on the edge of a forest. Well, sort of."

Alright. I recently re-watched the epic 7-hour miniseries "The 10th Kingdom", and I realized a few things about myself, and about the things that I love. But first, about the show:

"The 10th Kingdom" is about a girl named Virginia from New York who lives with her father in an apartment on the edge of Central Park, completely unaware that a magic mirror from a parallel world of fairy tales has opened up in the park. While Virginia is on her way to work, the portal opens up and she is greeted headlong by a number of characters from the other world. Through a series of unfortunate events, so to speak, she and her father end up in this fairytale world, but most unfortunately of all, it lands them right in the middle of the Snow White Memorial Prison.

This other world is essentially the world of Grimm's fairy tales, only 200 years have passed since the 'Golden Age' of Cinderella, Snow White, Red Riding Hood, etc, etc. Snow White's great grandson, Prince Wendell, has been turned into a dog so that his evil step-mother, the wicked witch, can destroy the 9 kingdoms of that land and declare herself queen. Virginia must discover her destiny and try to make it back safely to her home in the '10th kingdom' Along the way they meet a half-wolf played by the amazing Scott Cohen, Acorn the Dwarf played by my favorite little person, Warrick Davis, and a myriad of other fantastical characters.

It is a tale of epic proportions, but possibly the most amazing thing is that it maintains a humorous tone throughout, and strikes a perfect balance between dramatic character development and very funny and witty comedy. From magic mushrooms to tooth fairies to barbaric trolls to a town full of Little Bo Peep's descendents, and my personal favorite, the witch's Huntsman played by Rutger Hauer, the story has many twists and turns, and no matter where you stop it for a break, it always leaves you wanting to watch more.

But now that I've written my little review, I want to talk about what it means to me personally. I first watched this miniseries when I was in high-school. I borrowed it from a friend who had it on VHS because it looked intriguing, and as soon as I popped in the first tape, I was spellbound. But it wasn't till I recently re-watched it (my third complete viewing) that I realized it's impact on me. I usually cite George Lucas' masterful Star Wars films for inspiring me to want to create fun, enjoyable entertainment with psychological undertones and epic character development. But the 10th Kingdom, while slightly more jocular, accomplished this in a completely different world, yet in many ways, just as amazing as watching Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia, and just as magical (only now in the literal sense). As a movie maker, These type of movies are what I live for, and someday hope to create myself.

I could go on forever, but suffice to say I hold this miniseries in the highest regards, and recommend it for anyone interested in entertaining, brilliant and epic stories. I hope someday I get the chance to tell a story like the 10th Kingdom, and inspire others in the same way.

That is all.

"You're cold. You're cold, Virginia. How did you become so cold? You are still lost in the forest. But lonely, lost girls like us can rescue themselves. You are standing on the edge of greatness."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Poem for the 20th Century Man Stuck in the 21st Century

When you're stuck in a hole
and you've no where to stay
and the light isn't on
to show you the way

when there's no more to try
and there's none left to kiss
on the road that's less traveled
there is no more than this

to be left all alone
with a pen in your hand
and the flag on the mailbox
has no place to stand

so it glides through the mirror
with a triumphant cry
and you beg to escape
from the screams and the sighs

but the bog keeps on lickin'
the rope keeps on slippin'
the mist is a-blowin'
the water is drippin

from the cup of your mind
too broken to fill
and if you cannot fill it
insanity will

so your consciousness slumps
and your eyesight implodes
into eight burrowed tunnels
where your confidence froze

so you drift into vapor
and sink into sand
where your breath disappears
in the palm of your hand.

If there's one thing to take away from life it's the socks they give out on airlines, because it's the one thing they won't ask for back.

by Kevin Christensen

Sunday, October 12, 2008

I had a Pony, her name was Lucifer...

I have decided to change the name of my blog.

Mainly I think this is because I despise stagnation, but I think a little of this may be a result of my scrambled brain due to my recent trip to Bryce Canyon (awesome as it was, It was still more than a little brain-scrambling). Indeed, I have only been back an hour, and I think the 9000 foot elevation change has really gone to my head.

But if one thing is clear, it's that I had a pony, and her name was Lucifer. So, without a moment's hesitation, I renamed my blog and have set forth with a resolution to post more frequently than before. Which shan't be difficult, admittedly.

This new blog will be more open for me to talk about whatever I want to, and thus create more chaos amongst all my two readers, and cause them to mubble and gander through the wabe. For that I apalogilolicize.

But I digress. As you may have guessed, the thing that's on my mind right now is a song called "New Pony" from Bob Dylan's 'Street Legal' album. It is a fantastically awesome rockin' tune and all two of you readers should check it out here immediately.

"She broke her leg and she needed shooting
I swear it hurt me more than it could ever have hurted her."

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Mad as a hatter.

A little something for the fans...

Friday, February 29, 2008

Quarterlife: A Slave to 2 Masters

"Someone told me long ago theres a calm before the storm,
I know; its been comin' for some time.
When its over, so they say, it'll rain a sunny day,
I know; shinin' down like water.
I want to know,
Have you ever seen the rain coming down on a sunny day?"

-John Fogerty

Internet entertainment isn't going away. I'd wager that in less than five years no one will watch television any more, at least not as we know it now. Everything we watch, everything we do will be ported through our internet cables and delivered directly and instantaneously to our fingertips.

But right now no one seems to get it. Writers are afraid because they like the old way of telling stories and filmmakers are afraid because they don't understand the audience and studios are afraid because they don't know how to make money off of it, and they squirm at the idea of their shows being in the hands of 'internet hackers' and 'pirates.'

So light of all that, it is actually quite admirable for someone like Marshall Herskovitz, creator of "My So Called Life" and "Thirtysomething," two successful shows on network television, to leave the comfort of his old stomping grounds and blaze his own trail in the jungle of internet entertainment. It was called 'Quarterlife.' It was a show about 25 year-olds trying to figure out their lives after college.

Quarterlife was made with a television budget (albeit a small budget compared to other TV shows) and was made with the purpose of gathering an audience online, with the hopes of being picked up by a TV network. It did considerably well online, and sure enough, NBC decided to air in on primetime and 'give it a chance.'

Two days ago, it premieres on NBC, and when the ratings came in, it didn't just get poor ratings. it was the worst rated show in the last 10 YEARS. So, after one episode, the execs pulled the plug, and ushered the show over to Cable television. Looks like it internet and TV just don't mix.

That is, if anyone still believes in the Nielsen Rating System anymore... Basically if you aren't familiar with how TV ratings work, they take a 'representative sample' of 5,000 people and monitor what they watch to determine what is being watched on the other 99 million televisions in the country.

But let's look at what it's problems were. I think first of all, the show is structured like a soap opera. But unlike television soaps it only had 8 minutes to get you to care for the characters, and then it stopped again. Herskovitz' answer to this dilemma seemed to be to increase the emotional levels of all the characters to make up for lack of time. As a result, the characters are crying about their problems before you even care about them.

Then there's the whole video blogging aspect of the show. the main character has a video blog, but the show only used that blog cam perspective for less than a quarter of it's running time, so the web audience can never truly buy that they are real people actually blogging. Then bring this show to TV, and everyone who isn't an avid internet user (see: older age range) does not identify with what they are doing, and they just shut it off.

So it's alienation on both fronts. instead of spanning the gap, the show just seemed like it was made for neither audience. That combined with the fact that anyone who DID love the show had already seen it by the time it premiered on NBC, so they didn't watch it, depriving it of any hope of good ratings.

Let this be a lesson to anyone making entertainment: know your audience. Especially if you are creating something that is specific for your audience, you need to know who you are dealing with. Especially if you are going to produce content for the web. And pretty soon, the web will be the only place to get entertainment. There's a storm coming, are you ready for the rain?


Thursday, February 28, 2008


I was listening to the radio on the way home from work today, and Billy Idol reminded me that it was a good day to start again. I have had a blog before, but I am not exactly the journaling type, so I found it hard to keep up, not having much to talk about.

But recently I have been getting into making entertainment for people around the world via the web, and I figured I really aught to follow Billy Idol's advice and write about what I've been dealing with and what I've been finding.

So this blog is what it says it is. Ruminations. I am in the process of finishing up my first serialized feature film, "Cataclysmo and the Time Boys," and in the very early stages of developing my next project, so I am at a stage of transition. I figure this can only be the best time to learn and study. Once I get the ball rolling on my next project, this will also be a place for thoughts on that as well.

2008 will likely be known in internet history as the year where all the major studios realize the potential opportunities on the internet and all try to make their own web content, or steal artists who have already proven themselves with successful content and slap their names on it. I hope to chronicle some of their exploits, and provide some thoughts about why their web series are succeeding or failing.

I am open to input from anyone, especially if this is something of interest to you, and I hope what you find here will be interesting. But I make no promises. If it's not, I guess it's always I nice day to... start again.