Gravity and Sunshine

A couple weeks back, Mrs. Nat’s TV and I had our anniversary. We chose to celebrate by taking in a couple of entertainments. We bought two tickets for The Sunshine Boys starring Danny Devito and Judd Hirsch. Now, I hadn’t seen the stage version before, but had seen both of the filmed versions (the excellent Walter Matthau/George Burns theatrical release, and the better-forgotten Peter Falk/Woody Allen telefilm); the Mrs. had not experienced it in any way. We had sprung for front-row tickets, which may seem like an indulgence, but once you’re paying for a babysitter for an extended evening of getting into the city, dining, and a show, the total cost difference between being barely able to make out the figures on stage (as we had done from the last row on an earlier anniversary, going to see The Producers) and being able to count Devito’s nostril hairs if one wished (we didn’t) is small.

The play is good and sharp, and works fine as a period piece (which it now is and wasn’t when it was written; due to being grounded in vaudeville, one cannot slide it in time.) It was well performed, even though the very talented Mr. Devito is not optimal for the lead role. The first half of the first act in particular seems written for someone whose delivery is more down and inward, a certain sort of grump, while Devito, even when playing nasty characters, has always been more of an outward glow sort of person. He still managed to make that material work.

The play runs on a basic Simon formula: take two people who don’t want to be together, and put them together. That’s the Sunshine Boys, the Odd Couple, the Goodbye Girl, Seems Like Old Times, Max Dugan Returns, and so forth. I’ll have to play with that myself as a formula; it’s an obviously workable engine.

The next day, we snuck out for a mid-day showing of Gravity. It was obvious from the way this film was being discussed as an immersive experience that we wanted to see it in 3-D, but we thought we’d skip the IMAX fee. As it turns out, the showing we showed up for was in XD, which is a competing format for IMAX but the same idea… and it was probably worth the extra bucks. Even though one can find quibbles with anything, and this is no exception, the entire ride was tense and well worth it, an impressive piece of filmmaking and something to hold up as an example of What We Can Now Do, on a technical level. It’s an action effects film that, should it be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, there will be many people who will think it doesn’t deserve it, but no one will be surprised it’s there. Do go see it while it is still on the big screen, preferably a high-tech one. (I’ve felt for a while that there should be some effort to keep really IMAXy films available in that format; if I owned a multiplex in a resort area and had two IMAX screens, I’d be tempted to see if I could keep hold of some of the releases; if three years from now, I was still showing Gravity twice a week and The Dark Knight once, and other films in there as well, I bet I could make some bucks out of people who missed them the first time around or who want that experience again.

Published in: on October 21, 2013 at 8:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

Maybe they should be married

Had an odd dream last night… often do, but this one is lingering for some reason. I was watching what I kept thinking was a remake of Neil Simon’s The Sunshine Boys (which I saw a stage version of the other day; more on that in another post), starring Walter Matthau and Woody Allen (who are actually the stars of the theatrical and telemovie versions of The Sunshine Boys, respectively), but I kept being bothered by the fact that in this version, they weren’t old vaudevillians who had to work together one more time, but old handymen. I was particularly distracted by a shot of Matthau’s character falling off the top of a third story roof, bouncing off the layers of roof below, as it was clearly not Matthau that was falling but a stunt man with a Matthau face badly pasted over his. My confusion about the remake was cleared up; this was not a remake of The Sunshine Boys, but of Neil Simon’s The Marrying Man (which makes little sense, as I’m pretty sure it is not about two old anythings getting together, but of two younger things of varying sexes getting together; I suspect both men were taking the slot played by Alec Baldwin in the film, rather than the chanteuse ill-played by Kim Bassinger, based on my memories of having seen that film when it was released.)

So I look up this new version of The Marrying Man, which is still being produced as I’m watching it (perhaps I’m watching dailies?), expecting that there is some superstar director being given the chance to revive it, and it turns out that it’s a guy who has never directed a film before, and his main background is being a burglar. And when I talk to him about my involvement in earlier versions of either Sunshine Boys or Marrying Man, I open a three ring binder to show some information, only to discover that I had hidden $1200 in the binder, and now I have to figure out where in my house I can put the binder, where the burglar/director cannot find it should he choose to come after it, but where I’ll remember I put it if I ever need it.

The brain dumps itself in very odd ways.

(Note to any burglars reading this: no, I do not actually keep $1200 in a binder in my house. Don’t bother.)

Published in: on October 21, 2013 at 1:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

Slashing back

Dear TV writers:
A backslash is never part of a webaddress. Never. Those things after the h, the two t’s, the p and the colon? Those are slashes. If you must, forward slashes. So’s the thing after the dot-com part.
Special note for the writers of The Michael J. Fox Show: this is not a mistake those under 25 would make. They’ve never worked in MS-DOS. If they’ve been working in the command prompt world, it’s because they’re tech-savvy enough not to make this mistake.

–Nat, of <-Note, no backslashes.

Published in: on October 21, 2013 at 4:34 am  Leave a Comment  

A superhero comics concept I can’t write

Usually, I stick new story concepts in my brain or in my files, with the idea that someday, I may have the opportunity to write them. However, this is one that if it is ever written, it should be by someone else, so I’m not afraid of displaying it publicly.

What I’m envisioning is someone in a superhero universe purposely putting together an all-female superhero team. Some would join out of female unity, some because they didn’t feel properly treated on other teams, some simply because they had trouble qualifying for most teams. The core of the book would be the internal group dynamics, the sort of thing one sees in any group where the defining characteristics are not tight enough to require a psychological conformity. You’ll have feminists in the mix, but very different sorts – the team will have the sex-positive I-own-the-effect-my-body-has gal, the equality-through-androgyny, sex-differences-are-a-myth woman, the mystical-essence-of-femininity-and-mother-earth womyn (who will want to solve all problems in a nurturing, non-masculine and thus non-violent manner), the female supremacist. And then you’ll have the woman who doesn’t cafe about the “issue”, she just wants to punch things, and the woman who believes that a woman’s role by default is in the home, but has specific reasons for being there. (None of the characters should be solely defined by these types, but starting with strong archetypes can make for good comics.) The internal disagreements of what they should get involved in (is stopping bank robbers merely supporting the status quo rather than being heroes? Is encouraging the education of girls in sub-Saharan Africa more important than stopping bank robbers in Manhattan, and even if so, is a team of superheroes equipped to make a difference there, or would trying to be involved just be a case of assuming the “white man’s burden” attitude? Are we the group most responsible for fighting women villains? Should we fight them at all?) as well as issues over their public image (Does the group exist to get things done, or do we exist to be role models? Are they going to assume we’re all lesbians?) should make for some good running internal conflict and banter and interesting targeted stories… although there is a real problem of an excessive didactic-to-punching ratio.

But I can’t be the one to write this, not at this point. I have no problem with writing female characters, but for me to take this on… well, I fear many would see it as Mainsplainin': the Musical (and maybe they’d be right.)

Published in: on October 16, 2013 at 4:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

The bitter end of Breaking Bad

HEAVY SPOILER WARNINGS: I am discussing the conclusion of BREAKING BAD; if you have not seen the final episode yet, skip this. If you have not seen the series at all, well, I recommend it, because it is overall a tough, well-made work, and you should watch it from the beginning and not read this about the ending.

The final episode of , and there seems to be nothing but paeans out there. And there is indeed much to be said for it, particularly in contrast to various other major series finales that one might cite. It is a tightly-made piece, it didn’t ignore or forget what went before, and it granted full closure. I appreciate it all, and I enjoy watching it. But…

But thematically it was wrong. Thematically it doesn’t fit the flow of the story.

The series Breaking Bad is a chronicling of bad decisions. Walter White, in due panic over his own mortality, made the bad decision to help cook meth, and support that with a series of increasingly bad decisions which wreaked havoc on his family and his world, even as they rewarded his ego. Many people died as a result, the corrupt and the innocent alike.

The final episode seems to be about justice on many levels, justice delivered as a body count to those in the drug trade, to those who have killed. They got what they deserved.

But what did Walt get? What did he get for his history of bad decisions, for his crimes, for his destruction?

Walter White got what he wanted.

Oh, he died, yes he died, but he was dying from the beginning. That was never a variable. He dies from an unintended shot from his own gun, perhaps, but he does in seeming contentment, in the comforting (to him) surroundings of a meth lab. He has just destroyed all those who would destroy him, going out as the man of power. And he has provided for his family through money earned from his deadly trade. Whether you accept the goal he always stated or what he claimed to his wife on his final day, he has achieved his goal.

Walter White has won. The victory is true and permanent. And it’s not just that this is not morally right, not at all justice, but that this seems out of step with what has come before.

Published in: on October 1, 2013 at 5:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Todd & The Book of Pure Evil

There is something odd about Canadian sitcoms, in that they can feel quite legitimate, like something made for a minor network in the US, but you don’t hear about them until suddenly, bam, there’s whole seasons of them. That was really the impact of Corner Gas, a show well worth watching. At the moment, I’m Netflixing through the couple dozen episodes of Todd & The Book Of Pure Evil, which is basically early-Buffy-as-a-sitcom. Not a dare-not-miss-this series, but if that sounds like a good idea to you, it’s watchable.

Published in: on September 23, 2013 at 10:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Goldbergs

I watched the pilot episode of The Goldbergs last night as my first venture into the upcoming 2013-2014 season (it’s available on; the series doesn’t launch on air until the 24th.) I can’t say that I was bowled over with its comedy. The series is built around a creator telling some version of his younger family life (a la Brooklyn Bridge) with an adult version of a child character narrating (a la Wonder Years) while they aggressively put on display the items that make the period it is set on So Different From Ours, with everyone making references to the aspects of fashion/culture/technology which can still be recognized today as being from a specific era (a la That ‘70s Show, etc.)

While this show did not inspire me to want to see a lot more of it, it did set me thinking that it would be fun to try to make an episode or two of this kind of show set very much in the present. No, I don’t just mean voiced-over-from-the-future-by-a-different-actor-who-is-supposed-to-be-one-of-the-guys-on-screen (obviously, we already have How I Met Your Mother); I mean the exaggerated focus on the items of the exact moment that it’s taking place. “Hi mom! I was just watching The Goldbergs,  bold new series that I’m sure will run forever! Got it on my iPhone 5.” “Sorry, Bryant, but it’s not as cool as my iPhone 5S I just stood in line for. Look, it knows my finger!” (Mom puts her index finger on the phone’s button. “Now it knows me!” (switches to the adjacent finger) “now it doesn’t” (switching back and forth) “Now it knows me, now it doesn’t, now it knows me, now it doesn’t.” “I would pretend not to know you, too, if you kept sticking that middle finger at me!” It would be fun trying to get it just right, so that if we watch it thirty years from now, it will feel just like The Goldbergs does now.

(And for the intense TV folks, no, there is no sign I saw that they’re trying to embrace the historical import that comes with the title they chose. As for what the show is, it doesn’t have the sense that it is intended to carry some dramatic overtones like Wonder Years or really meaningfully capture the moment and locale like Brooklyn Bridge. Of the batch mentioned before, it’s got more of The ’70s Show in its heart, but not that particular comedic texture – it’s still about a family, whereas ’70s w

Published in: on September 15, 2013 at 1:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

Yay, Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation

Anyone notice their marriage shattering apart last week? Me neither

Published in: on September 9, 2013 at 3:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

The world of tomorrow doesn’t look that much different

Today, same-sex marriage becomes legally available in New Zealand. Well, not today today; it’s already tomorrow in New Zealand, and tomorrow is the today I mean. And while there certainly is some grousing there, and church groups trying to figure out what they’re going to do, well, as I said, it’s already tomorrow there, so we know that the world doesn’t end today.

Earlier this month, two more US states started licensing same-sex marriages. Minnesota! Rhode Island! Did I forget to celebrate them on my blog? Prob’ly. Most people actually living in those states probably didn’t even blink about it on the day it happened. The oceans did not rise up and take them. Heterosexuality did not lose its appeal.

The U.S. military now recognizes that not only does it have gay men and women in their ranks, but that some of them have spouses, who need support just as any military spouse does. Our forces are no less at the ready for it.
The shrill voices that were warning what would happen if this sort of thing were to elbow its way into our lives, our churches, our classrooms… well, some of them are still the same shrill voices, now inaccurately predicting yesterday, but they are playing to ever more empty halls.
In the time of the way things have changed, historically, this is lightning. Those who got on this train got on a bullet train. And I cannot help to wonder: what change can we make next like this?

Published in: on August 18, 2013 at 2:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

Halloween Comics 2013

On Halloween, we give out comic books, and it goes over very well. Kids love picking them, parents love having them get something to read. We get a lot of happy faces here each year – and by a lot, I mean in the range of 100-200. “But comics are like $3-$4 each!” I hear you cry. “How can you possibly afford that.

Here’s our trick: we give out special Halloween minicomics that the publishers produce. Cost about twenty cents apiece, in the range of a mini candy bar. But if you want these, you really have to order them right about now. Few if any stores offer these for retail sale; they are really meant more for stores to give out to trick-or-treaters than for folks at home, so stores order them at the same time that they order the comics they’re going to be selling in October. If you go to your local comic shop now, they should be able to order them for you (they’re in the August “Previews” catalog, tell them that.) Or if you don’t have a handy shop that you trust, you can order them online. Here are the links for ordering them through Westfield Comics. Each title comes in a bundle of 20 copies, which lists for $4.99 (although Westfield charges $3.99… but then you’ll have to pay shipping.)

The titles include some famous characters that people will know from the TV and films, some things that have a running success in comics, and some new comics titles just being launched. As much as I would generally push comics-original titles, for Halloween I prefer to go with the known names, as it makes it easier for the kids to recognize the titles and get excited about it. Unfortunately, the two big superhero publishers don’t offer minicomics, so there’s no Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, or Iron Man in the mix. The comics are “mini” in all dimensions, with smaller covers and fewer pages than a standard US comic. In some cases in the past, the “minicomic” proved to be an incomplete tale from a full comic book, which is disappointing.

This year’s titles:

If you want everything, you can save a bit of money by ordering The Mega Bundle (that’s 20 copies apiece of the 11 books listed above).

Westfield has an extra shipping charge of $5.25 to ship the week that these come out (October 9), to be sure to have them on hand for Halloween. I am not sure that paying this is necessary if you’re only ordering the Halloween comics; I think it may be meant for people who are ordering other things as well, in which case Westfield will want to hold your books until your entire order is in… but my thinks on such things are often wrong.

My current plan is to order two packets each of Ben 10, My Little Pony, and Sesame Street, one packet apiece of Archie’s Pals&Gals, Super Dinosaur, Adventure Time, and Itty Bitty Hellboy… but I may switch that about a bit over teh next couple days.

Published in: on July 29, 2013 at 3:50 am  Leave a Comment  

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