Thursday, February 20, 2020

Finally, Someone is Not Trying to Insult Us

A big issue I have with fiction is when a franchise 'kills off' a character, then goes through the whole 'are they really dead, it seems like they are' for a while, and then finally make a big (Oh so shocking) reveal that the character is not really dead. In comics, just about all your big heroes have been there at one time or another. So many shows have done this, some devoting seasons to the mystery, when all along you already know the character is not going to stay dead.

It is one over played, extremely cliche, story type that has stretched way past being enjoyable or shocking.

I knew that Superman, Spider-Man (regular Marvel, as they did keep the Ultimates Universe Peter Parker dead) and Wolverine would all be back from the dead after the big deal that was made about them dying. I had hoped Marvel was going to keep Captain America dead and make his perfectly done death in the after math of their Civil War event mean something. Nope, he was brought back a few years later.

And in all these cases they play out the big 'mystery' of if they are really dead and go through a whole insulting con job of a story trying to make us wonder and doubt what we already know, which is they are not dead. It is a real insult towards the fans to do that, especially with how often it is done.

It also trivializes the idea of death in fiction.

Either commit to a character's death, or don't play games with your audience.

So when the first trailer for Stranger Things season 4 came out a little bit ago, I was very much pleased to see that they were not going to insult us. One of major characters appeared to have died at the end of season 3, and they gave us a bit of a hint that he wasn't really dead at the very end, without out right saying he was alive.

Well the trailer was all about making it clear the character was not dead. I applaud them for being straight with us about this. It gives me hope that there are going to do this right. We can still get the drama of all the other characters believing him dead, while not being insulted as the story plays out. They don't need to waste time with the over done concept of trying to solve the mystery of if he is dead or not, and can instead focus on a bigger story.

And this works great, because we never saw a body, never got any kind of confirmation that he was dead, it was just his body was not there after an explosion took place. It appeared he died and it makes sense that everyone would assume he was dead, but they never tried to push this idea.

I've seen a few complain that the trailer was a spoiler, by showing he was alive.  I see it as them making it clear from the get go that they are not going to play that sad game. They are not going to insult us.

I love it and am looking all the more forward to season 4 now.

I hope other writers look at this as an example of the correct way to do a 'not really the death' of a character.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Who Would Win?

A standard challenge for the geek communities is to pit two characters from different franchises against each other and then debate who would win in such a battle. The Magazine 'Wizard' did this fairly regularly and there is a series of youtube videos called 'Death Battle' that do this. There is also a card game based off this concept, called 'Superfight'. These debates can get really intense and detailed, as we geeks have way too much knowledge of our characters at times. I have seen some people get way too passionate about, overwhelmed with certain biases that make it hard to have real debates with them.

Sometimes these can get really crazy.

At Denver Comic Con a few years ago Larry Hama was there. He is famous in the comic book world for basically creating G.I.JOE as we know it today, having written most of the original run of the Marvel Comic Book. He also wrote Wolverine for a time.  On his table he had a sign going over commonly asked questions, one was 'Who would win between Snake-Eyes and Wolverine'. His answer was 'The one with the metal claws and skeleton and healing factor'. It was fairly obvious he had been presented with the question many times and I would bet anything there were those who would defend Snake-Eyes being the victor in such a battle.

At another Denver Comic Con, my oldest son actually asked Weird Al Yankovic to settle a dispute between him and his friend over who would win, Captain America or Lara Croft. Al asked a few simple clarification questions and went with Cap. And somehow that settled it. We now know that Weird Al is the final say in all such disputes.

I have many times had to defend the idea that the Millennium Falcon could take out the majority of the various versions of the Enterprise. And having done my research, I know way more the working of those vehicles than one would think possible.

While these debates can be fun and all, one aspect that too often is ignored is the story. While the power levels and abilities are something to look at, as a writer it is much more important to make sure there is a story for such battles. Give me the two characters who are to fight and then tell me who is to win, and I will write a story that will make that happen.

Marvel comics has the series 'The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl'. In it Squirrel Girl is able to beat the biggest, baddest Marvel super villains. Dr. Doom, Thanos, and even Galactus have fallen to her. Yet the whole concept of her character is really silly. She is a human with squirrel like abilities as well as being able to talk to squirrels. She was created as a joke, but somehow has become a character with an odd cult following. I remember her first appearance, which was nothing special, just silly. It is a comic that should be in the dollar bins, but due to her being in it has become sought after. The writers have to figure out how she can beat villains who are undeniably more powerful than her and should be able to destroy her in a heartbeat. All the logic and reasoning used in the basic challenges are thrown out in order to make the story work for what it needs to be.

And that is what it all comes down to. The early mentioned Snake-Eyes vs Wolverine fight has already been shown in the comics to not be clean cut. Wolverine has lost several times to the Punisher, who has less fighting skills than Snake-Eyes. If the story requires Punisher to win, then he will find a way to win. The burden falls on the writer to figure out how to make that happen in a believable way.

If need be, I might be able to work out some really outrageous plot where Han Solo makes a mistake and somehow Captain Kirk is able to make the Enterprise function in a way we've never seen before that would allow it to win the fight. I think I am a good enough writer to put together a story for that.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

There Are No Words to Describe that Level of Bad

Just watched the first two-part adventure of the new Thundercats Roar... I seriously am unable to describe just how awful it is. From horrible dialogue, complete lack of plot, insanely stupid fight scenes and nothing in the way of  actual characters. It is pure crap with no real entertainment value to it.

I think it is supposed to be humorous, but there is not a single joke that is funny in it. The writers clearly believe they are being witty and clever with some of the self aware jokes, but it all falls flat with every scene.

When I saw a clip for it some time ago, I predicted it was going to be bad, but I was truly not ready for the awful, unamusing mess they put out there. It really lacked any spark of quality. I do not see this attracting anyone to the shows.

Old fans like me are going to check it out and find it lacking. Potential new fans are going to see it and be puzzled by how it ever got made. There might be those out there who will enjoy it (I've seen a lot of bad shows and movies get a following), but my money is on that not being a large crowd.

I am not a purist and can accept new takes on things I am a fan of.  The 2011 Thundercats show was brilliantly done and was a fully new take on the franchise, with a lot of changes that didn't upset me. Here we have them trying to go back and follow the original story, but in the dumbest way possible, that ends up being insulting.

We know that reboots of these old shows can be done well and done right. We've seen it.

I understand that they have two new Masters of the Universe shows in development for Netflix. The first is supposed to be continuing the original cartoon, being produced by Kevin Smith.  This is not a reboot from what I understand, but a continuation. I an interested in seeing what they are putting together and have faith it might be watching.  The second is going to be reboot, which I hope is a good as the Voltron reboot was.

The fact that Thundercats Roar is as bad as it is says a lot about what some companies are willing to put out just because there is a established fanbase out there. Something this poorly made would never attract the needed audience to make it.

It really sticks out that something I had already had low expectations of it going in, is actually noticeably worse than I was expecting. That is the best summery of my feeling for Thundercats Roar.

Friday, December 27, 2019

When Our Heroes Let Us Down

This great and wondrous digital age,  where all voices can be heard without any jet-lag, is really an amazing thing. It allows us to be an instant part of the world and be given access to so many events in real time.

But it also allows us to see those we might look up to in an unfiltered light that might not reflect to well on them.

J.K. Rowling recently made a simple comment in a tweet.

'But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real?'

It was a short sentence, as is needed for any tweets. A quick read out of context and it looks rather innocent, if a little confusing. However, in full context, it was an undeniable attack against transgender people.

Needless to say, in our present charged society, Rowling has come under attack from many who once praised her for her for her progressive views. There are comments out there from trans people who found Rowling's writings inspirational and helped them to come out and be themselves, who now feel betrayed.

How do you separate a person from the artist's works?

There was a lot of the same issues when Orson Scott Card, writer of the award winning Ender's Game books, which I have enjoyed, came out as anti-homosexual. Suddenly it became hard to enjoy his writings, knowing his views, which I very much regard as being ignorant and harmful.

There are several local writers, whom I shall not name here, who have shown certain views that have bothered me. 

One had posted a comic on Facebook that was truly insulting towards homosexuals regarding their rights to marriage and being given equal service and access as everyone else.  When I tried to have a mature discussion about it he started with 'I have many gay friends who I love, but...'. He basically said that homosexuals are fine, but should not be allowed the same rights and privileges of us straight people and it is wrong to 'force' anyone to treat them as human. He then went into being politely insulting towards me by saying I needed to deal with my anger issues. This was a man many told me I should befriend because he would good contact to have.

I am no longer in contact with him in any manner and avoid him as much as possible.

The other I shall not name, has a blog where she insults anything and everything liberal in a condescending manner. According to her words I am stupid and ignorant and a sheep and so much else, just because I share differing political views than she does. Her posts are not that well thought out, often just stating how wrong liberal ideas are without presenting anything of substance to back up her claims, much like what I have seen from the one time I tried to read an Ann Coulter book. The idea is you just insult the other side over and over again, making some really outrageous generalizations about them that, with nothing to defend those claims and then pretend you won your 'argument' because of course you're right.

So she is now another local writer I go out of my way to avoid now, even though we have been on panels together in the past.

As for their works, the first one I have yet to read anything he has written, but I have no desire to check any of it out. Some of it might interest me, but because I am unable to get past his beliefs, I am not willing to spend my money to support him.

The second one, I have read a few of her short stories and I was not impressed. She is known for her long fiction, but I have no interest in checking it out. I also know one person who has picked up a good deal of her work and will no longer support her because of her views.

As a writer myself, I have faced some of this. Although I am not at the level of anyone I have talked about so far in this post, I did get one interesting response to a mildly political post I once put up on Facebook, oddly enough it was far from being one of my heavily political posts. This man that I really did not know at all messaged me 'As a writer you should know better than to be political. You have lost a potential reader.' and then blocked me. I found it more amusing than anything else, but I can say I have had at least one person 'boycott' me over political views. I'm not going to go into how just about all artists put their political ideas into their work, but they do.

So here we have the dilemma. When an artist puts out there a view you dislike, where does the line between enjoying their work and not being able to support them get drawn? It is really hard to separate the artist as a person from their creative works. I no longer pick up any of Card's books, but I have a lot of them in my house and I did enjoy the Ender's Game movie. We have so many Harry Potter items in this house it is crazy and I very much want to see where the fantastic beasts movies go, yet all of that is supporting Rowling. I find it easier to ignore this one slip of hers those and keep on with supporting the Wizarding World she created, in part by hoping she will see the errors of her ways and apologize, as she does seem like the kind of person that might do that. The other three I have talked about here, I don't believe will do that.

I know that Walt Disney was racist and held strong sexist ideas, but I still am able to enjoy what he created. If we start to dissect all the artists whose work we have enjoyed, many of them will not be able to live up to our standards.

In the end, the whole ability to separate the artist from the art is a tricky thing and a lot of it comes in to just how much the art means to us. I am willing to forgive Rowling this time around, even if I really feel she holds some dangerous views on this subject. But it does bother me that I can do that so easily and I have to wonder how fair it is that I do.

In the end people are imperfect.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

It Was Always a No Win Situation

Here we are, one day away from the opening weekend for what is, at this time, being called the final part of the Skywalker Saga. Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker opens in theaters tomorrow.

So right now on Rotten Tomatoes it is at 58%. That counts as 'rotten' by their standards. I do not hold full faith in reviews on their own, as I have seen horrible movies rated 'fresh' there and truly enjoyable films get the 'rotten' label. When you see such a low score you do have to wonder what turned people off on it.

Of course with this film, that is actually easy to figure out.

In the end there was no way this movie was ever going to be highly rated. It has too much baggage attached and was never going to be able to live up to expectations. By the end of the weekend we will see a divide in not only the die-hard Star Wars fans, but the general movie going population as well, over this film.  That was going to happen no matter what. Even if 'Rise of Skywalker' were the most perfect movie ever made, it would still have its distractors. It had too much it had to live up to.

However, I do not believe it is a perfect movie. Yet I have faith it will be enjoyable and not fail as bad as Episodes 1 and 2 did. It would be hard for it to be as bad as those two were.

Now the reviews I've seen make sense with their complaints. Episode 9 was always going to be filled with too much filler to tie it all up. Due to there having been too much freedom given for The Last Jedi, there was just a lot of dangling plots that needed to be worked out. While I am one who will defend The Last Jedi, I very much can see how it messed up the over-all story and left a lot that needed to be repaired. I wish Rian Johnson would have worked with the idea that there was another movie to come, making sure the story fit with the over-all arc better. We already know from 'Lost' that Abrams is not the best at keeping a story arc on track as it is.

So the basic problem was going to be there no matter what. That is one that most likely will not take away form my enjoyment of the film. I've suffered through Batman Vs. Superman after all, and I have full faith the story telling will not fall to that level, or even close to it. I do expect it to drag some and get a little filled with exposition at times. My faith is that there will be enough good stuff there and that in the end the story will wrap up well and feel satisfying.

There is a good chance I will have issues with some of the choices made and feel that I could have come up with a better idea for that part of it (Seriously, Lucas Films, I could write you a brilliant movie if you just take the chance on me), but there are times you just over look such things if the rest of the film can pull off what it needs to do. Abrams did this with his two Star Trek films.  Both of them had a whole lot of mistakes in them, a lot, a there were parts that were just poorly written and thought out, yet somehow I enjoyed the films despite these great flaws. And while personally I am far more invested in the superior franchise that is Star Wars, I am willing to accept mistakes (After all I am still a fan of the films even after the prequels) as long as there is something of value to be found in the end.

Right now, despite the bad reviews, I am still looking forwards to seeing The Rise of Skywalker and learning how the saga ends, for now. Then when the new Skywalker Trilogy is announced, fifteen years from now (Most likely without me attached as a writer), the whole argument can resurface and a new generation of trolls will go and claim the new movies are ruining their childhood and destroying the franchise forever.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Hey Scorsese, We've Been Down This Road Before, And Your Side Was Proven Wrong

For those of you living in caves, Academy Award-Winning Director Martin Scorsese has recently started a odd war on super-hero movies that feels more about him being an outdated elitist who is upset that his work is being upstaged by films he calls 'theme park' movies.

I am all for people having their opinions and they don't all have to align with mine. But his words are reflective of outdated attitudes.

Here are his actual claims: "It isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.”

“It’s not cinema,” he said. “It’s something else. We shouldn’t be invaded by it. We need cinemas to step up and show films that are narrative films.”

Has he actual seen these films? A huge part of why the present Marvel movies are so popular, is because they do such a great job of conveying emotional, psychological experiences to another human being. Go and watch Captain America: The First Avenger and tell me the story of Steve Rodgers is not emotional. Just because there are super powers and fantasy/sci-fi elements added in does not mean the movie lacks the human elements that help tell a good story.

This attitude is one we have seen before. Back in the '80s there are those in the literary circles who held similar outdated elitist ideas about comic books not being 'real literature'. The Watchmen series was being heralded as a literary masterpiece and Neil Gaiman's Sandman stories were winning prestigious literary awards, and these old men clung to their notions that is was all garbage, without actually reading any of them. After all just because something is being called brilliant, doesn't mean you actually have to give it a chance in order to say otherwise.

I am not at all saying Scorsese is not a brilliant film maker. But his ideas are outdated and very much give off the feeling of someone who is jealous that he is not as popular as he wants to be. While his films have been successful, he has not really made any 'mega-blockbusters'. Theaters are going to show what makes money for them, and his films are not the money makers.

In a truly interesting show of support for Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola has come out calling the super hero films “despicable.” To understand the irony of that statement, it is Coppola's own prodigy, George Lucas, who you can say more or less created and fanned the flames that led to the modern blockbuster trend that has allowed super hero movies to become what they are. When Star Wars was breaking records and becoming the new face of motion pictures, Coppola was congratulating Lucas on his achievements. In essence, Star Wars is the same style of movie as the Marvel movies are.

Their remarks reflect a fear that they are outdated and irrelevant, and instead of working with the changes, they want things back they way they used to be. Scorsese even admits this if you read his attempt to backtrack and defend his remarks. He praises films and film makers from his childhood and earlier on career, but says nothing about the bigger films of the modern era. He outright says that if the films are not the style he thinks they should be, then they are not worth watching.

Makes me wonder about how he felt about those who criticized his movies for being too violent, because that kind of thing was not what real movies focused on. There is not doubt that as he left his mark on motion pictures, there were those who disliked the direction he and other directors of that time, were ruining the whole experience and taking attention away from the 'real cinema'.

'The times they are a changing', as they always are. Scorsese makes it clear he dislikes the current business climate in Hollywood, where his style of movies are not in high demand and so he has to find different ways to get his visions made and distributed. Yet even without the popularity of the super hero films, the business side of things would still have gone that direction. Netflix and the whole video on demand market really has had a much bigger influence on how movies get distributed than any one genre of films could.

Scorsese is coming off like a bitter old man who dislikes change and is confused and angry that the world is not how it was when he was younger. He is pointing his finger at super hero movies, but in truth the problems he is facing would have happened no matter what as technology and attitudes change. He needs to sit down with an open mind and watch the Marvel Movies and see that they are legitimate cinema, containing all the elements he claims are missing.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Happy Halloween, A Few Opinions and Then Time for Some Self Promotion

I hope everyone is having a enjoyable Halloween today.

I could blog about a lot today, there is just so much going on.

I loved the Star Wars Episode 9 trailer.  Really looking forward to the film and I believe it will be good.

I don't really like where they have gone with the X-Men in the comics. Not sure what they were thinking. Seems like the X-Men have now become Magneto's dream not Prof. X's.

Watched the first two episode's of HBO's Watchmen. Not a fan. Something about it feels off. I don't think it is lined up with the Graphic Novel myself. I think the story itself might work better for me if it was in its own universe and was its own thing, but I don't find it feels like the Watchmen universe. And so far I saw every 'twist' coming a mile away. What I have seen is way too predictable and I get the feeling the writing is not going to improve.

Instead of going into detail on any of that, I am going to promote myself and what I have been working on. One of the reasons I have not been blogging much lately is because I have been working hard of my actual writing projects.

I published A Day at Georgie and Armand's Place.
This is my first full completed novel.

A Day at Georgie and Armand's Place by [Brazee-Cannon, Ian]

Welcome to the famous Georgie and Armand’s place,
 an inter-dimensional hotel unlike any place you have ever seen before. 
Inside you will find doorways to a thousand-thousand worlds, 
with all manner of beingsinteracting and going about their lives.

The hotel is run by Georgie and Armand, dragons, 
life partners and Master Mages of the highest order.

Meet the guests and staff members from countless worlds, each with their own stories to tell. 
Follow their stories as a memorable day at the Hotel plays out around them, 
leading to their stories colliding as a mysterious adversary 
threatens the stability of the Hotel, putting at risk all those who call it home.

Come experience a true cross-genre adventure. 
At Georgie and Armand’s Place you get science fiction, fantasy, 
steampunk all overlapping with one another, 
with some mystery and romance sprinkled in the mix.

Then I put a short story in the same universe out,
 Georgie and Armand on Vacation: A Visit to Cripple Creek.

Right now it is at #60 for sci-fi/fantasy 45-minute short reads. Not a highly competitive category, but still cool that I have broken the top 100 in any category for Amazon.

After seeing that I decided to see how my other pieces are doing in the ratings and found that one of my Divided States of America stories, Where Do You Go From Here has been doing well.

It is right now at #55 in 30-Minute Sci-Fic/Fantasy Short Reads.
So I have two stories right now in the top 100 of different categories on Amazon.
I'd say that was cool.

Visit my Amazon Author's page to see the full selection of my projects there. 

So Happy Halloween everyone.