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The Pay Off

Posted by Ta-metru_defender , in Essays, Not Rants! Nov 22 2014 · 0 views

Essays, Not Rants! 140: The Pay Off

I liked Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. when it first aired. Its potential was a big reason, as was, well, bits with characters. There was little else like it on tv and hey, I’m always on board for something science fiction, especially if it’s in the Marvel-verse.

Granted, the show meandered for quite a while, but I enjoyed it all the same for what it was. Monster-of-the-week and decent characters, so hey, I was in. Then the show got good. Really good.We’re a solid eight episodes into Season 2 and these episodes show how strong the show has gotten. It’s been a long time coming but following the show has finally paid off.

So what’s SHIELD been doing right? Or, more to the point, what’s the show doing that makes it successful? The biggest difference between where the show is now and where it was a year ago is the clear presence of a proper overarching villain: Hydra. Antagonists are driving forces in serial fiction, often creating tension and giving individual episodes weight. Chuck had an evil spy agency per year, season 1 of Buffy had The Master. Now, in the latest season, the heroes in SHIELD have to try to stay one step ahead of their antagonists, lending a sense of urgency to what they do.

Developed characters are vital too. In lieu of an active antagonist, early seasons of Lost forced the disparate survivors together, creating tension where personalities clashed. We even got to know them better through extensive flashbacks, fleshing out who they were and giving context to what they did. SHIELD’s characters had hints of depth early on, but not much was done with them. On occasion they were pushed a little further, like exploring Fitz and Simmons in “F.Z.Z.T.”, but for much of the first season they pretty much were who they were. Not so in Season 2. Introducing a handful of new agents adds the variety of characters and SHIELD now mixes them up in interesting ways. For example, pairing former lovers Bobbi and Lance is comedic but can also yield strong dramatic beats, especially when accompanied by the no-nonsense May to play intermediator. Giving Fitz a bromance with fellow engineer Mac lets us have some good character moments for everyone involved. We get to learn more about each one by changing the dynamics and relationships, giving us more compelling reasons to connect to and invest in the characters.

The villains too have been amped up. The end of the most recent episode (“The Things We Bury”) saw Ward, Whitehall, and Skye’s father entering into a sort of unholy alliance. It’s remarkable that these three characters, two of whom have only been around from the start of this season, are at the point where we as the audience are aware of their own motivations and goals: Whitehall wants to further Hydra’s goals, the doctor wants to reunite with his daughter, and Ward is a wildcard who could do anything. We know that they’re willing to backstab each other and cut deals with the heroes for their own ends, so seeing them together creates not just interpersonal tension, but an interesting foe for our protagonists to face off against. At this point, the villains are as interesting as the heroes, and their interactions are diabolically layered with veiled subtext.
SHIELD too is really getting its hands dirty with the general Marvel universe at large. It’s not just paying lip service to Extremis like it did early in the first season and it’s not just reacting to Hydra’s reveal like it did after The Winter Soldier. Rather it’s blazing its own trail, bringing in elements of the from the comics we haven’t seen on screen. With the show looking to introduce the hidden city of Attilan anytime now, Agents of SHIELD is probably going to feature the Inhumans a solid couple years before the movie about them is slated to be released. The show’s coming into its own, not just with characters but with its array of plot and elements of the Marvel mythos.

It may not have started out as strong as it could have, let alone one of the best shows on air, but watching it has really begun to pay off. And I’m really enjoying it ‘cuz we always need more good tv.


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Representation, Big Hero 6, and Me

Posted by Ta-metru_defender , in Essays, Not Rants! Nov 15 2014 · 0 views

Essays, Not Rants! 139: Representation, Big Hero 6, and Me

I saw Big Hero 6 last Saturday, a couple days after Interstellar. They’re very different movies, different beasts. I’m not sure yet which one I like more, but there’s one thing that makes Big Hero 6very special.

But first let’s talk about me.

I’m one of those weird people who can claim two races. No, not the mix of mayonnaise and sour cream that is the 1/4 Irish, 1/4 German, 1/8 Polish, 1/3 English, 1/24 Swedish mixes, I’m Asian andAmerican: my dad’s from Singapore, my mom’s from the US. My heritage is Chinese and Norwegian and I put “Other: Sino-Nordic” on those surveys I fill out for money. I get called white in Singapore and Asian in the States. Go figure.

So growing up I was a bit of an ethnic oddity. I, as is probably evident from this blog, consumed a lot of media. I read mountains of books, watched as many movies as my parents took me to (which was no small amount, thanks Mom and Dad!), and played as many video games as I could on the weekends when I was allowed. But no characters were like me. Sure, Power Rangers had the token Asian and white people are ubiquitous, but half-and-halfs were unheard of. The closest character in my media was Balto (Mom would later compare me to Spock, but that was after I’d graduated high school).

Fast-forward to now and Big Hero 6 is topping the box office. And the main character, Hiro Tamada, is mixed like me. Now, I’m basing this off the fact that he’s clearly East Asian and his aunt is white, because not only is Hiro biracial, but he’s biracial like me: his mother is white, his father not. As someone who’s spent most of the life as a racial rarity, it’s wonderfully heck, it’s exciting to see someone like me the star of a Disney movie.

But it’s not just Hiro. The titular 6 are surprisingly diverse. Besides Baymax the fluffy robot, there’s only one white guy: Fred the definitely-not-a-stoner-but-certainly-not-a-scientist comic relief guy. The other three? GoGo is an Asian woman, Honey Lemon is also a woman who seems cut out to be the cheerleader type except she’s an incredible chemist, and Wasabi is a black man. They are all scientists and engineers, students of a field notoriously underrepresented by minorities. Here’s a movie saying “Hey, you can be a scientist even if you’re not a white dude!”

Now, I think it’s easy to get hung up on representation. The Avengers isn’t a lesser movie because the majority of the characters are white men and Big Hero 6 has a solid story with plenty of heart to complement its diverse cast. Praising a movie simply because it’s diverse, or feminist, or ‘Christian’ is patronizing and doesn’t help. I don’t just want more movies with minorities, I want more good stories about everyone. That’s part of the reasons I’m so excited for Black Panther and Captain Marvel (that and, y’know, the fact that Captain Marvel is getting a movie); Marvel has a reputation for telling strong character driven stories.

I’m glad Big Hero 6 is doing so well and receiving such warm reviews. Because that means people will notice and, hopefully, means we’ll get more films like that. But more than all that, even more than the implications for the industry and the hope for growingly diverse casts, I’m excited that a character like Hiro Tamada is the main character of a movie. Because somewhere there’s an eight year old kid like me who got to see someone like him as a superhero.


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Where No One Has Gone Before

Posted by Ta-metru_defender , in Essays, Not Rants! Nov 08 2014 · 0 views

Essays, Not Rants! 138: Where No One Has Gone Before

Let’s talk about space, because of Interstellar. Now, it’s hard to discuss the film because so much of what makes it Interstellar is because its based so fundamentally on the curves and turns of the plot. So for the sake of avoiding spoilers and ruining everything, we’re not talking about Interstellar’s story.

Instead let’s talk about the set up; about the initial question asked by the film, the question of space travel. Many of the early parts of Interstellar can be read as a vindication of space programs. There’s a strong lament for the abandonment of space exploration.

Interstellar espouses the idea that we’re supposed to go beyond earth, what with the whole “humanity was never meant to die here” tagline and all. It’s a theme of science fiction that’s been preciously scarce as of late. Gone is 2001: A Space Odyssey and movies about going to Mars. Instead we’ve got films like District 9 and Godzilla which while great, are very terrestrial science fiction. Or Guardians of the Galaxy, which while fantastic, is a straight up space opera (and all the better for it). Think about Avatar, a fairly recent movie that had elements of exploration: The message was that humanity should stop screwing up ecosystems. Europa Report, Prometheus, and even Gravity were more horror inclined than about a desire for exploration.

The closest we’ve had in recent years is Into Darkness. Granted, it’s very space operatic (as was the old Star Trek TV show), but it (again, like the old TV show) has hints of the want of exploration. Of wanting to go where no one has gone before. If anything, Into Darkness, like Interstellar after it, is a defense of why space exploration is still relevant.

Into Darkness pits two ideas against each other. There’s the one argument that militarization is the route forward, that humanity’s presence in space is fundamentally a militaristic one. On the other hand there’s the argument that exploration is a reason and goal in and of itself. It’s not the tidiest of presentations of the themes, but the revived franchise has to prove that over half a century later the idea of exploring the final frontier is relevant and engaging. It shouldn’t have to.

I, like I’m sure many others, wanted to be an astronaut when I was a kid. Right up until I found out it would take over a dozen years of training which, to an eight-year-old, is a very long time. But fifteen years later there’s still that want to go to space, thanks to a steady diet of Star Wars, Firefly, and just about anything else involving spaceships. Even now a video of astronauts playing with water in zero-g is one of the coolest things. Because it’s space, it’s terrifying, it’s cool, and I want to go there.

Watching Interstellar conjures up images of today’s space program and how it’s almost become an afterthought. We’ve got a rover on Mars, probes exploring the far reaches of the solar system and beyond; but the classic image of a moon colony lies all but dormant. Where’s the luster gone? Where’s the want to go before.

Though there’s a massive amount of words to be said about Interstellar, one thing I liked was its commentary on it. Space travel is important and is arguably the next big step forward.

If only because I want a spaceship.


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Belated Halloween Picture

Posted by Ta-metru_defender , Nov 06 2014 · 0 views

We basically went as ourselves.


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THEY'RE MAKING A CAPTAIN MARVEL MOVIE

Posted by Ta-metru_defender , in Essays, Not Rants! Nov 02 2014 · 0 views

Essays, Not Rants! 137: THEY’RE MAKING A CAPTAIN MARVEL MOVIE

Marvel announced their upcoming slate of movies this week and I am very excited for one very important reason: Captain. Marvel.

Now, of course I’m pumped for the other announcements. Captain America 3 is officially Civil War, which bodes very interesting the MCU at large. Black Panther’s also showing up in Civil War and getting his own solo film a year later. We’re getting a second Guardians and another Thor, which is cool (especially the art for Guardians 2). The Inhumans are getting a movie so they’re definitely part of other MCU (five bucks say they show up in Agents of SHIELD). And the Avengers film(s) following Age of Ultron Is, based on being named Infinity War, hopefully going to be based on the fantastic Infinity event from last year. So of course there’s all that.

But Captain Marvel. Those of you who’ve been reading this should know that I’ve been clamoring for a Black Widow film, which part of me still is. I’m assuaged partially because there are plans to weave Black Widow into other films. But mostly because not only will Carol Danvers probably be showing up in some of the other films, there’s going to be a freaking Captain Marvel movie.

I’m gonna come right out and say it: Captain Marvel is my favorite comic in print right now (up there with Avengers and New Avengers. Black Widow probably comes after).There are a bunch of reasons, like the epic adventure nature of the comics and the sheer fun they’re filled with, but it’s mostly because Carol Danvers is such a great character, especially as Captain Marvel.

There’s the obvious fact that she wears pants, which is a welcome respite. More so than that, she’s interesting. She does all the usual superhero stuff, time traveling, fighting bad guys, saving New York and so on. Best of all, the comic is never condescending. We have a woman fighting crime who’s not presented as a special case or just a sex-object. She’s fleshed out and great in her own right. Writer Kelly Sue Deconnick has done a fantastic job creating a character who’s not just layered but likable and, most importantly, fun.

With that, Captain Marvel (like Black Panther) will bring something new to the Marvel ‘verse. Black Panther’s the first not-white guy headlining a Marvel film and also, as the king of Wakanda, has the potential to add additional political intrigue to the universe. Captain Marvel, on the other hand, will be the first female headliner and, based on comments by Kevin Feige and the most recent batch of comics, bridge the cosmic and earthbound sides of things. Besides getting her powers from the Kree (who showed up in Guardians of the Galaxy), Captain Marvel’s also been running with the Star Lord and crew as well as getting up to her own space adventures. It’s this variety that’ll help keep the superhero genre from getting stale.

But there’s also the sheer nerdy joy. In four years not only am I finally getting a movie starring a female superhero, but she’s Captain frickin’ Marvel, one of my favorites. That’s exciting and that’s something that’s making me really eager for 2018 to come already.


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CAPTAIN MARVEL MOVIE

Posted by Ta-metru_defender , Oct 28 2014 · 95 views

CAPTAIN MARVEL MOVIE!

CAPTAIN MARVEL MOVIE!

CAPTAIN MARVEL MOVIE!

CAPTAIN MARVEL MOVIE!

CAPTAIN MARVEL MOVIE!

CAPTAIN MARVEL MOVIE!

I DO NOT HAVE A GIF FOR HOW EXCITED THIS MAKES ME



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Funded!

Posted by Ta-metru_defender , Oct 27 2014 · 71 views

Ghosts That We Knew is officially funded! As in all production costs are covered!

I owe this to a couple of you for helping with the movie; expect to get a link to see it when it's done sometime in December.

Still want a chance to get in on this? Any additional funds will enable me to go bigger with post-work for a more polished finished product. There's one more day for it!

Again, thank you all.



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Let's Talk About My Movie

Posted by Ta-metru_defender , in Essays, Not Rants! Oct 25 2014 · 140 views

Essays, Not Rants! 136: Let’s Talk About My Movie

In case you haven’t heard, I’m making a movie. Not just that, but I need your help to make it happen. Here’s why.

Ghosts That We Knew” is a story about not being alright. Becca, the protagonist, isn’t where she thought she’d be in her life Things haven’t been going the way she’d hoped they would and she’s stuck. With all that comes the nagging doubts in the back of her head, voices that remind her of how life’s not working out.

I wanted to make a movie about that, about that insecurity and fear. With that, I wanted to keep it emotionally honest. There’s more to say about it, but I’d rather not give away plot points. Suffice to say, it’s not a story where life gets better overnight, but it’s also one about the beginning of a way out.

I can say more about production. My crew was amazing. I simply can’t stress this enough. Everyone did their jobs and did them very well. I owe the film to them. I could tell my Director of Photography, McKenzie Zuleger, what I wanted and she’d set it up and go. I’d worked with Richard Kim before on a few shoots and this time as my Assistant Director he took care of my crew and as Gaffer he got some incredible light setups. Meanwhile, my Producer, Natalia Rivas, was wonderfully helpful during preproduction and was indispensable on set, ensuring that everything behindbehind the scenes went smoothly. I could go on and on about them and everyone else too (wait till you see the costuming and dressings the art department did), but there’s more to write about and only so much essay space.

The cast made my script come to life. There’s this persistent fear I have as a writer that what I’m writing won’t quite work out. But hearing it said by these actors, wow, they nailed it. They dove right in and really took on the roles in a way I could only dream of. I owe an incredible wealth of gratitude to them, in no small part because four of them spent shooting in masks under hot lights and the other two had to carry some intensely emotional scenes. The results are stunning and I can’t wait to share it with you.

So why am I asking you for money? Like I said in the Kickstarter, movies cost money; I’ve got to pay for food, costumes, transport, and the like. Things as obvious as a meal for Becca to eat or as tiny as fashion tape all costs money. NYU gives me a small budget to start off with, but I needed more to cover it all.

An obvious point here is that I’ve already finished shooting; the movie’s in the can, why then do I still need money? I’ve put my own money to support the deficit, but I’m not in a financial position to pay for all of it myself. Furthermore, any additional funding will go to getting some professional post-production work, such as color correction and some visual effects touch ups. As a crew we’ve gone to lengths to keep the production’s budget as low as possible, making sure every dollar you give to us helps.

Ghosts That We Know is a project I believe in. Not only that, but I intend to shop the finished project around to short film festivals. Since some of these festivals rule that you can’t submit a movie that’s been screened online, the only way to see the finished film before (which could be almost a year down the line) is to give $5 to my campaign. There’s also some other cool things in there, like a credit and even a copy of the script signed by me (with or without notes, your choice) as well as a mini-poster a friend of mine’s working on. I’m $90 away from my goal and funding ends in a few days; if I don’t reach $222 by then I don’t get any of it.

Help me fund this project.


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Wrap on Day One

Posted by Ta-metru_defender , Oct 19 2014 · 86 views

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Help feed me and my crew (and get updates along the way)! Every dollar helps!


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Superhero Overdose

Posted by Ta-metru_defender , in Essays, Not Rants! Oct 17 2014 · 146 views

Essays, Not Rants! 135: Superhero Overdose

If you haven’t heard, DC recently announced their cinematic plans for the next six years. We’ve got a Justice League movie, a Wonder Woman movie, one with the Flash, one with Aquaman, a Green Lantern movie, and so on. It’s DC’s answer to Marvel’s Avengers. They’re looking to emulate Marvel’s formula, releasing two a year. Not only that, it looks like most of the Justice League roster from the cartoon is getting their own movie (except Martian Manhunter which is its own infuriating can of worms). Between Marvel and DC, we’re looking at four superhero movies a year — and that’s not even counting other studios with rights to Marvel characters, like Fox with X-Men and the Fantastic Four. That’s a lot of superhero movies, a lot of men in proverbial tights (and one woman, so far) running around doing superhero stuff.

Now, with so many superheroes flying around, it’s likely we’re looking to get a glut of that genre. Woohoo, there’s Age of Ultron, Ant Man, and Fantastic Four next year, but after that there’s gonna be Batman v Superman, a new Captain America, a new X-Men movie, and Suicide Squad. And then after that comes Wonder Woman, and Justice League (so far). Genres can become tired, look at how few Westerns there are as opposed to a few decades ago. With all these superhero films coming out, and with superhero movies usually following a specific pattern we could end up watching the same darn movie over and over again. If that happens, then people get tired, people stop watching these movies, and people stop making superhero movies.

Thing is, we’ve seen the superhero movie a hundred times. The hero gets powers, the hero figures out what to do with powers, the hero fights bad guys. Sequels have been playing with the follow up, but we’ve seen the super-powered-hero-fights-evil formula over and over again. Superhero movies as we know them has happened.

So how do we keep it interesting? So far the trick has been genre blending. The Dark Knight was a crime movie with Batman. It was different and it was big (though I’ve heard the argument that it wasn’t a Batman movie, but that’s another issue). More so now than ever, superhero movies have to stand out. The Avengers was a heroes-fighting-villains narrative, but did it better than anyone else and threw in some internal conflict and hints of a war movie for good measure. Unless a new movie surpasses it, doing the same thing will be repetitive.

Marvel Studios, and Joe Quesada, know this. Look at the most recent releases from Marvel. Iron Man 3 was as much Lethal Weapon-y as it was Iron Man, The Dark World was borderline pure fantasy, The Winter Soldier was a spy/espionage movie, and Guardians of the Galaxy was pure space opera. Looking ahead, Ant Man is planned to be a heist movie, which there are never enough of. Marvel’s keeping things varied. In fact, I think one of the reasons Winter Soldier and Guardians were so well received is that they were so unique. Both tapped genres relatively unheard of at the moment, and both executed them incredibly. If Marvel Studios can keep making movies that challenge the idea of a ‘superhero’ movie they’re in good shape.

So the onus is on DC to do the same thing. It’s hard to judge how they’ll do, especially given the kinda mostly alright Man of Steel, but if they can make Aquaman feel very different from The Flash and not just in subject material, then there’s hope. We don’t wanna keep watching the same movie with swapped out details.

But I cannot overstate how freaking excited I am about all of this. In the next two years I’m getting a second Avengers movie, a new Star Wars, a movie with Batman and Superman, and what’s reportedly a movie about Captain American and Iron Man. Heck, they just announced a movie featuring The Lego’s Movie glorious riff on Batman! All this is the twelve-year-old in me’s dream come true. I don’t like not liking things, it’s tiring and it’s not fun to hate everything you watch. I want these movies to happen, I want to like these movies. I just hope these movies are good.

Also, I'm making a movie! Help me get it funded!






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josh

twenty-three


grew up on a ship


studies Storytelling

at New York University


frequently found writing in a coffee shop, behind a camera, or mixing alcohol and video games

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