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TMD's Creatively Named Blog



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Motivated Acceleration

Posted by Ta-metru_defender , in Essays, Not Rants! May 19 2018 · 3 views

Essays, Not Rants 321: Motivated Acceleration

I am endlessly fascinated by mediums. No, not people who claim to talk to ghosts; rather the forms that stories can take. Why does this story work better as a novel? Why this a video game? Why that a play?

It’s usually adaptations where you can see the cracks that are the chasms between mediums. Consider the recent comic adaptation of The Last Jedi, which is essentially a beat-for-beat retelling, it doesn’t quite capture all the visual splendor of the movie. BB-8 trying a variety of attempts to fix Poe’s X-Wing is far less interesting on the page. There are other additions that use the strength of comics, though. But point is, there are some things that would only really work on in one medium.

And Infinity War has a fantastic moment that could only have worked on film. Consider this a mild spoiler warning for someone who hasn’t seen any trailers and really doesn’t know what’s going on in that movie.

In the third act, a group of heroes prepare to defend Wakanda from the Black Order and their army. A gap is opened in the shield to funnel in the advancing bad guys, and the heroes prepare to attack. Black Panther gives an order to his soldiers, they ready their weapons, he yells “Wakanda Forever!” and leads the charge. He, Okoye, Captain America, Black Widow, Bucky, War Machine, and the others rush forward together. This is a terrifically epic moment in and of itself, but it’s what comes next that I wanna talk about. As the good guys run towards the advancing Outriders, two people pull ahead of the pack: Captain America and Black Panther. It makes perfect sense within the lore: they’re both extra fast because of the super-soldier serum and heart-shaped herb, respectively; and they’re also two of the bravest characters in the MCU. Seeing these two lead the charge is a delightful visual gag.

And it’s one that only works in film (we’re gonna ignore tv for now because budget constraints).

It wouldn’t work quite as well in prose, given that a strong part of what makes the beat work is the visual of it. Being able to see the scale of it all as well as seeing Cap and T'Challa pull ahead on film. The thrill of it would play out differently, and probably a little less viscerally. This you gotta see for it to work as it does.

So let’s go back to comics, y’know, where these characters came from. As dope a splash page as the beat would look, it doesn’t convey a key part of the gag: acceleration. Everyone starts out together, but it’s only those two who are absolutely racing towards the bad guys. They didn’t get a head start, they’re just that much faster. Ah, but the joy of comics is that they can be sequential panels. The first panel has them all together, second has Cap and T'Challa a little ahead, and in the third they’re attacking Outriders while the others lag behind. Classic three beat structure. But that’s three panels; panels take up space, and space implies importance. What was a quick moment in the film is now made more important than it was. Still cool, but no longer the quick gag.

Video games are visual and those visuals move, so maybe here we have a strong contender. Let’s not imagine this as a cutscene (because what are cutscenes other than short films?) but rather a playable segment. By virtue of games’ interactivity you’re immediately given a leg up on being a visceral thing. You’re part of the charge. But, if you’re playing as Steve Rogers or T'Challa will you notice that you’re ahead? If you’re a foot soldier or Bucky Barnes will you be too preoccupied with your assault to notice? The interactivity of games also means there’s an element of subjectivity. Playing Halo’s The Silent Cartographer on a difficult level is a solo affair, with most of the AI marines being picked off by the Covenant early on, but if you’re playing it on easy you’re part of a small army. Or it could be not getting a certain plot point in a Mass Effect game for not going on a certain sidequest. In essence, there’s no way to guarantee something lands, that the player experiences a certain thing a certain way (without taking control away from the player).

Which I guess is where film shines. Not only does it have visual storytelling, but the fact that the camera is motivated lets us see exactly what the storyteller wants us to see. Consider the shot in question again: we see everyone running forward, then the camera follows Captain America and Black Panther as the pull ahead and lead the way into the fray. The shot lasts barely a couple of seconds (if that), but it’s a fantastic little moment. We take it in and process it instantly. It’s a terrific beat, and one that would only spent the way it does in film.

You could have a similar gag in another medium, but it wouldn’t work quite the same way. A comic’s narration could draw attention to it in one panel, a game could use characters’ stats to similar effect. There are elements to media that really make them unique, and taking advantage of those elements will yield something really special.

Which is a really roundabout to say that guys, Infinity War is a lotta fun and an epic movie.


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Professional

Posted by Ta-metru_defender , in Life And Such May 16 2018 · 30 views

It's 1:30am and I have my day job in the morning, but I'm writing right now (and just finished another round of bourbon with bitters) and feel like rambling.

This weekend we wrapped production on THE INVINCIBLE OSIRIS JACKSON, a webseries about a gay, black nerd looking for love in all the wrong places.

A webseries that I was hired to direct.

As in direct a production for money.

I got paid to direct.

I emphasize these words because this is something I've wanted for years, heck, it's basically been the goal.

It's a terrific script and I got some really good performances out of it that were engrossing enough that I'd forget to yell cut on set. Which is always a good sign, because I've read the script countless times and we've done rehearsal after rehearsal. We're going into editing next week, and I got to hire a friend of mine (she was Script Sup and AD on THE CONDUITS, so, woo, getting the band back together!) and once that's all done I think the showrunner plans to release it on YouTube.

It's pretty dang dope to get to be involved in a project like this, and I really think I've done a good job with the material. Now it's a matter of bringing it home.

But yo, I got paid to direct a webseries. I've got money in my bank account from filmmaking. From directing.

It's a career I've pursued in one form or another for over a decade, since making old cartoons here on BZP way back when. And now I've made money doing this. It's surreal. And, with luck, it'll happen again soon.

And if being paid to do something makes you a professional, then I'm now a professional director.

Oh yes.


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Between a Wookie and a Hard Place

Posted by Ta-metru_defender , in Essays, Not Rants! May 12 2018 · 29 views

Essays, Not Rants! 320: Between a Wookie and a Hard Place

A recent trailer for Solo, that new Star Wars movie about, uh, Han Solo, ends with a bit of a cliffhanger. A (space) train hurtles along its tracks around a mountain as a battle rages atop it. It comes close to the cliff side and hanging out the train is none other then Chewbacca, and he is heading straight for an outcropping. The Wookie appears destined to certain doom as the trailer ends.

The question of whether Chewie survives became an ironic question in the wake of the trailer’s release. A particularly tongue-in-cheek theory was that the Chewbacca we meet in A New Hope is actually the son/clone of the Chewbacca in Solo. The meaning behind the joke was clear: why is this trailer trying to fake us out with these stakes when we know Chewbacca survives to the Original Trilogy?

So here I am, finding myself talking about stakes again, but it’s late and I’ve spent the whole day on set so I’m allowed to ramble.

Whether or not Chewbacca survives is a bit of a boring question, as there are only two answers and we already know which one is right. Hinging all the tension on something that simple isn’t terribly narratively interesting. But if we know that Chewbacca survives, we can then ask a more productive question: how does Chewie survive? Does Han tug him in? Does Lando grab him? Does a Stormtrooper’s heart grow three sizes? Does he pull himself in?

In some ways, it’s the relief of a spoiler. In a time when so many storytellers like to keep their audience on bated breath by making them ask if these characters will survive, it’s kinda nice to know that "hey, these guys make it out alright."

Prequels are movies that inherently have seemingly low tension. We know Obi-Wan and Anakin are gonna survive Episodes I-III because, duh. But the interesting question is how does Anakin become a Jedi and then betray them all. That such a loaded question is given such a weak answer may be one of the prequels greatest failings. Think of all the potential "how"s that were answered with, well, Anankin walking into Palpatine’s office at the wrong moment. Not a terribly satisfying answer.

For a better example, maybe look at Monsters University. We know, because of Monsters, Inc. that Sully and Mike are best buds. We know that Mike is not gonna end up as a scarer, but we also know that he’s okay with that. The start of University sees a very excited, hopeful Mike whose heart is set on becoming a scarer. How does he end up where he ends up? It’s a pretty meaty question, seeing as it involves a protagonist’s goal shifting so wildly. University answered it by letting us know that what Mike wants isn’t what he needs. Though where he ends up might be a foregone conclusion, the process of getting there is interesting. Again, if knowing how it ends spoils it, why would a movie be worth rewatching? Why hear a story again?

I realize I’ve spent an inane amount of words talking about a simple beat in the Solo trailer that exists just for that tension you want in a trailer. Chewie probably just pulls himself back in. Heck, the shot may be from another sequence and it’s just cut that way to look dangerous. Solo will probably still work even though we know Han, Chewbacca, and Lando are gonna make it out alright. I wanna know how they make it out — and what happens along the way.


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Top Nine Movies of 2017

Posted by Ta-metru_defender , in Essays, Not Rants! May 05 2018 · 59 views

Essays, Not Rants! 319: Top Nine Movies of 2017

So it’s almost halfway through the year and I’m finally putting together my year end list. For 2017. Yeah. Kinda forgot about it. And by forgot about I mean procrastinated.

Anyway! Here we go! Top Nine; leaving a space just in case there was something amazing I missed. And it was really hard to sort these!

9. Logan
This one edges out Thor Ragnarok just by virtue of how singular it is (though Ragnarok is also quite singular in a different way). Logan takes the idea of a dark and gritty superhero film but, rather than using this just to show how adult and grownup it is, it funnels it into a heavy atmosphere that evokes a Morricone western by way of The Last of Us. The result is a beautiful contradiction, the pulpy fun of a superhero story set in a harsh, unforgiving mood. That Logan has something to say and it’s not just “look how gritty and violent I can be with my R-rating” is the icing on its brutal cake.

8. Coco
Where do I begin. It’s no exaggeration when I say that Pixar is home to some of the best storytellers in the world, and Coco proves that point over and over again. It’s a fantasy, but one that draws on Mexican traditions rather than western ones. Not content with just being a fairy tale with a Latinx cast, Coco revels in its beauty and celebrates love and family.

7. Lady Bird
It’s so seldom that we see a movie about being a teenager that presents it as, well, just how it is. Lady Bird makes no attempt to overly romanticize or deglamorize turning eighteen and the result is a movie that feels beautifully, brutally honest. There’s no judgement of poor decisions, no moralizing, it’s just life.

6. The Big Sick
Like Lady Bird right above, The Big Sick tells a very specific, personal story (that of the co-writers’) and in doing so tells a story that feels very personal. Maybe I’m biased, given that I’ve spent my time in and around hospitals and am currently in an interracial relationship, but isn’t the point of art the way it affects you the viewer? Plus, the movie has heart to spare and I will never not be happy to see mixed race relationships on screen.

5. Get Out
Speaking of interracial relationships! It’s a horror movie where white people are the monster. If that’s not inventive enough to warrant Get Out a place on this list, than know that the movie operates with such craft and imagination that it never feels like a one trick pony getting by on that conceit. At times both funny and terrifyingly tragic, Get Out is a great movie that looks at race relations with a horror movie’s lens. And dang, it works.

4. Atomic Blonde
There is always a joy in finding a movie that knows exactly what sort of movie it is and then plays it to the hilt. Atomic Blonde is a stylish, sexy spy movie whose Cold War Berlin punk influences permeate every aspect of its design. Throw in some terrific action scenes and more style than half the movies released last year combined and you have the recipe for a great action movie.

3. Baby Driver
One of my favorite parts about driving is listening to music. Baby Driver makes that element of soundtrack vital to its slick, slick style. Technically excellent (that editing! that sound design! that driving!), it also tells a really fun story with some really fun characters. Edgar Wright is one of my favorite directors, and Baby Driver does not disappoint.

2. The Last Jedi
Where The Force Awakens was a celebration of what made the original movies so great, The Last Jedi forges a path into what Star Wars can be. I’ve written a bunch about it on this blog, and suffice to say, it finds ways to reinvent and play with the Star Wars mythos without losing the heart of the saga. Plus, the Throne Room fight is one of the best action sequences in a Star Wars film.

1. Your Name
It’s an anime where two teenagers, a boy living in the city and a girl in the countryside, wake up in each other’s bodies. And it will make you cry as it runs circles around whatever genre (rom-com, teenager comedy, etc) you try and pin it in.. It’s so hard for me to sum up why I love this movie so I’m just gonna make quick statements. It’s really funny. It does a lot with its fantastical elements. It’s uniquely Japanese. The music. The animation. The feels. Your Name is a movie that can somehow only exists within the innate magical realism of an anime. It’s really a wonderful, wonderful film.





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josh


grew up on a ship


lives in new york


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

May 2018

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Josh works for LEGO at the LEGO Store at Rockefeller Center. Despite this, any and every opinion expressed herewith is entirely his own and decidedly not that of The LEGO Group.

In addendum, any and all opinions expressed by The LEGO Group are entirely theirs and decidedly not that of Josh

Obviously.

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