Friday, August 23, 2013

Why I Hate Christopher Nolan

Everyone loves Christopher Nolan. He has directing credits, and writing credits for some of the most popular movies in the last ten years. Geeks and nerds around the world are building shrines in his name. I want to point this out, because I don't believe anything I say here will cause him to weep in a corner on a big pile of money. He is also from London, so at best, he might give me a hearty “Cheers, mate”, if he took time to read my rant.
I should also explain, he's not a horrible director. I will give credit where credit is due of course, but we need to take a moment and examine his popularity. Today, I plan to finally expose how this man has somehow brainwashed the world into accepting him as a hero. Once again, our core nerd values are at stake, and yet, he continues to gain accolades, where none are due!

Blasphemy you say??? Don't believe me? Let's take a moment to dissect the movies that people have been shoving down my throat telling me how good they are.

Memento (2000)

Here's a trailer:

If you're curious, he has no super powers, so the intro with the gun flying into his hand, is what the kids call trick photography. Guy Pearce plays Leonard, a guy who suffers from a very real mental illness (called anterograde amnesia, for future psychiatric students reading). While trying to keep track of people he met, and things that happen, he's constantly writing notes, and taking pictures. But since we live in America, people love to play cruel jokes on someone like this, so he's never sure what to believe.

But Mr. Nolan wasn't content to just tell a story. He had to tell a confusing story! I can only assume he watched too much Pulp Fiction, or episodes of Lost, where the story jumps around through time. Memento tells the story mostly in reverse, backing up roughly 10 minutes at a time. Since I'm not one of those “smart” people, a very straightforward story, suddenly became a big mess.

Whatever happened to linear story telling??? Maybe I can sort of understand why he did this, because it does build a bit of a mystery. But when you put things in order, it's a pretty good movie, so why screw with it?? And if you're curious to see it in the proper sequence, youtube has versions of the entire movie, re-edited in the proper sequence for your listening and dancing pleasure.

RottenTomatoes gave Memento a 92%. Maybe I'm just a clueless idiot?

Personally, I thought it was done right the first time in 1994, when it starred Dana Carvey and was called Clean Slate. Here's another trailer:

Although, the real credit should go to Saturday Night Live, and Tom Hanks for creating Mr. Short-Term Memory in 1988:

This brings us to the movie that made Nolan “legendary” (note the quotes):

Batman Begins (2005)

Here's an important life lesson: You don't have to work too hard to impress anyone, if everyone else screwed it up. Case in point, 1997's Batman and Robin *cringe*. I sincerely hope you know how bad Joel Schumacher's version of Batman was (starring George Clooney). If however, you enjoyed it, please stop reading now and seek professional help.

So in 2005, nerds everywhere rejoiced! Someone took the character of Batman seriously, and made a believable movie about this epic franchise! There were a lot of things to like about this movie. Christian Bale made a very good Bruce Wayne (although questionable Batman with his painfully gravely voice). Gary Oldman made a great Jim Gordon. You also had Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Cillian Murphy, and Morgan Freeman. Very impressive! Well, on a personal note, Katie Holmes just did the job and never overly impressed me.

And with a surprisingly decent script by David Goyer and Christopher Nolan, this was a very good Batman movie. But, I can hear you shouting, “But Deeesher, why didn't you looooove this movie???” I said I enjoyed it. But looooove is a very strong word. The main reason, is because I couldn't find any “moments” in this movie.

When I watch a movie, I look for something artistic and memorable. Think back on movies you love, and there are always scenes and dialogue that stick out very clearly in your mind. Whether it's Kirk screaming “KHAAAAAAAAAAN!!”, or Charlton Heston pounding his fist on the sand in front of the busted up Statue of Liberty, or Superman catching a helicopter in 1978, or King Leonidas shouting “This.. is.. Sparta!” before kicking the dude into the bottomless pit. These moments have power, and impact. A movie isn't required to have these moments to be enjoyable (or successful), but it really does help in this particular genre.

How often did Batman Begins slap you in the face and make you realize you were watching something epic? Was there a “Snakes... why'd it have to be snakes...” moment? Was there even a “Luke, I am your father” moment? How about a “There is no spoon” moment? I got none of that. To me, this is the difference between like, and loooove. Batman Begins was just a wash of mud. An enjoyable wash, but still just mud. And isn't the job of a director, to make something memorable for moviegoers? Maybe you will tell me that was the fault of the scriptwriter (just as a reminder, Nolan co-wrote the screenplay). Or maybe it was the fault of the actors.

But one thing I can blame Nolan for, is the look. Movies are meant to tell a story, and possibly also be be artistic. The more epic your movie, the more artistic I will expect it to be. If your name is Rob Schneider, I'm not expecting to see anything cinematically beautiful on the screen. If you name your movie Sharknado, I can lower my expectations exponentially. However, if you are spending millions of dollars to create something, that you expect to make billions of dollars for, I will anticipate something to really wow me.

Technicolor was invented in 1916. Why isn't he using it??? Movies have colors like, red, green, blue, yellow. I'm pretty sure there are a few other colors, but overall, when used properly, they tend to give a movie a bit of life. All I see from Nolan, is brown, black, and white. Memento added some light blue and occasional black and white scenes, but that's it. Is Nolan colorblind? Have I finally exposed his deepest secret perhaps?

And now you shout to me, “But Deeesher, this is Batman, The Dark Knight! Of course it's supposed to be dark and gritty in Gotham!”. Now I must remind you of a movie from 1994, called The Crow, starring Brandon Lee. This was also based on a comic book. But not just any comic book... a black and white comic book! The Crow somehow managed to use color, but still created the same feel as the comic book. I always said, it was one of the best black and white color movies ever made. But whatever happened to director Alex Proyas? Well, please just remember how good The Crow was.

But let's move on shall we...

The Prestige (2006)

A movie filled with superheroes! Okay, maybe not. Two magicians from London in the 1890's hate each other. Starring Hugh Jackman (formerly known as Wolverine), Christian Bale (formerly known as Batman), Scarlett Johansson (formerly known as Black Widow), and David Bowie (formerly known as Ziggy Stardust... look it up kids!).

For the most part, I enjoyed this movie. Although, I did figure out 'the twist' half way through. But it was still a good story, maybe cause I like magic, and Tesla. I will even go so far, to give Nolan a pass for the browns, blacks and white look of this film, because remember, nobody invented color until 1916.

However, once again, Nolan seems to enjoy this non-linear storytelling. Maybe I could accept it, if there was a very obvious change in the look of the scene, showing you it's six months earlier, or one year later etc. Maybe you could even put text at the bottom of the screen, saying “Six months earlier”. But with my tiny brain, I had to really pay attention to the scene to figure out when in the story it takes place, causing me a bit more confusion than I am accustomed to.

The Dark Knight (2008)

Heath Ledger, Heath Ledger, Heath Ledger. I can't say enough about his performance. Remember those 'moments' I talked about earlier? Here they are! His performance as Joker really helps you ignore some of the flaws in this movie. And sadly, there are still plenty of flaws.

Again, keeping consistent, we have the drab browns, blacks, whites and greys. The exception being the Joker. The only bit of life in this entire dull looking franchise. Otherwise, once again, I felt this was more like CSI: Gotham City, than a theatrical movie.

The story was decent, but I will always say Harvey Dent's story, (played by Aaron Eckhart) needed to end after Joker visited him in the hospital. Instead, suddenly we have two villains to contend with at the end of the movie. Two-Face should have been saved for the third movie in the trilogy.

Inception (2010)

Well this was interesting. Dreams, within dreams, within dreams etc. It was unique (if you ignore Dreamscape starring Dennis Quaid and Max Von Sydow from 1984). I can say I mostly enjoyed this. Although, Nolan's use of browns, blacks, and greys are getting very old very quickly. There was some pretty things visually, which was a nice change of pace for Nolan.

Dark Knight Rises (2012)

*sigh* So much potential. So much crap. I did give this movie a fairly decent review, if you shut off your brain and stop thinking. If you don't examine the story too closely, it was fun-ish. Tom Hardy as Bane made it mostly enjoyable as another memorable bad guy (although still drastically different from the comic book... why???). Anne Hathaway as Selina (aka Catwoman) also made it enjoyable for other reasons.

This movie could have been helped with a better story, and of course a bit of color. It could also have used some decent fight choreography, and maybe a bit of lighting, less quick edits and pull your camera back so we can see what's going on, but... maybe I'm silly.

Man of Steel (2013)

The more I think about this movie, the more it makes me angry. But I'm not sure who to be angry at. Everything inside me, is eager to blame Nolan, because I've always loved director Zack Snyder. But how much influence did Nolan as producer have over the project? Nolan co-wrote the story with David Goyer, but who's decision was it to take away the core values of what makes Superman a hero?

And again you shout to me, “But Deeesher, Superman really needed a 2013 reboot, and he's learning to become a hero!” And I say to you, stop yelling at me. And I very strongly agree, Superman needed a 2013 reboot... but this wasn't it. It is possible to keep the important small town philosophy of Clark Kent, and still have him be the hero we know for today.

Man of Steel had a lot of potential, and after they spent millions of dollars making it, they really fell short in my mind. There were a couple of nice scenes, but they were heavily overshadowed by bad writing. I have a couple of great ideas on how to make the Clark/Superman/Lois love triangle work... but nobody asked me!

And again the look... between the fast quick camera edits, the extremely annoying shaky cam making it difficult to see, to the washed out uniforms and drab backgrounds, I just feel cold and empty inside.

So there ya go. Nolan's not a bad director, but maybe he's more suited for television than taking our nerdly birthrights away from us. This rant has been slowly building over the last few years, but the final breaking point was after hearing the announcement of Man of Steel 2, with special guest star, Batman. The roar of nerd-cheer was heard around the world... as I cringed in terror. Are nerds and geeks so blinded by this epic event, that none of them take a moment to really study what they are giving us??

Of course I will keep an open mind, but given what I've seen so far, I am extremely apprehensive.

And this just in: Remember how painful it was to hear about Nicholas Cage playing Ghost Rider? Ben Affleck has been signed to play the new Batman! At what point can I start shouting, “I told you so!!” It seems Christopher Nolan hates us, so it's okay for us to hate him back.

Oh Joss Whedon, you've never hurt me. Please keep me safe with your big strong Buffy/Angel/Firefly/Avengers arms! Make my dreams come true by writing and directing Wonder Woman pleeeeeease!!


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Sensitivity Training aka Bullying Rant

I'm not perfect. I know, as difficult as it is to believe, it's true! But honestly, I'm okay with that. Sure I strive for perfection, (mostly because I am very OCD), but most times, I fall short. Over the years, I hope I have improved, sometimes through helpful suggestions of others, and sometimes noticing my own issues I needed to address. But I have learned that nobody is in fact perfect.

Sadly, it seems some people still expect perfection. Some people have this vision of how you should behave and how you should look. And if you don't fit into their ideal cookie cutter mold, then it becomes obvious (to them), you're a loser, and they are eager to point out all your flaws.

I would like to think, that in these 'enlightened' days, people are more tolerant of others, or at the very least accept differences in others. But there are apparently still bullies in the world. A bully likes to think he is better than you. A bully is very quick to explain all the reasons you are inferior, and will find every one of your imperfections and focus on them to make you look as small as possible.

I think most of us have experienced bullying in some form or other, but it seems nerds/geeks are the most obvious common target for them. I recently read an article about someone dressing as a Star Wars Stormtrooper at a charity event. Some kids came up behind him and pushed him. Why??? This type of bullying seems stupid, hurtful and a very obvious waste of time.

But what about verbal bullying? It tends to be a bit more vague, however, it is still just as real, and just as disgusting and I will never understand it.

When I was young and maybe extra nerdy, I was always a bit different. I don't mean I had three arms, or two heads or anything like that, but I didn't fit into the cookie cutter mold.

Ironically, in grade school, I was considered one of the 'cool kids' *gasp!*. Partly because there were only about twenty kids in my class, and partly because I was one of the few that weren't Amish. This was a pretty big deal in my very small Indiana town.

Then I moved on to middle school, and suddenly realized my place in life. This isn't something I thought of, but it seemed everyone was eager to point it out to me. You see, I had some very nerdy interests. I liked science fiction. And as any of the cool kids in school will tell you, having an imagination is the worst thing you can do with your life (apparently).

But having an imagination was only the tip of the outcast iceberg. I was a little guy, and I hated sports. And as most kids in a small town will tell you... that means I was obviously gay.

Let me state for the record, I am not gay. I've never been gay, and personally, I can't understand how any man (or woman) could ever be attracted to another man, cause I find men sort of yucky and gross. Especially when women are so hot!!

But let me also say that if you're reading this, and you are gay, I have the utmost respect and empathy for any abuse you dealt with growing up (or even as adults). Cause I was right there with you, hearing every one of the taunts and all the harsh name calling.

There were days I hated the idea of going to school, or riding on the bus. There were days I dreaded eating in the cafeteria and there were just some classes that I really wanted to avoid. Even subjects that I was sort of interested in, suddenly became pointless and a drudgery to study, because it all had to do with that disgusting place of abuse, called Middle School.

Before you start thinking everything was all bad, I was very fortunate to have great parents and really cool friends. But there are just some things you can't talk to your parents about. What will they do? Fight your battles for you? Yea, that should clear up all your problems *cough cough* And even my friends couldn't be there all the time. So what's the solution?

For me, the solution was writing. It was a fantastic outlet for me! Whether I wrote science fiction, or poetry, or even a free writing prose, it was cathartic to get all those feelings out, and for a short time, drift to another world mentally. For the record, I did study self defense books. But the type of bullies I dealt with, didn't beat me up (although there were maybe three fights I can recall). For the most part, they used words. So I needed better words. My writing became my own personal sword and shield. Or more to the point, they became my own personal band-aid.

When I got to high school, my frustration and maybe even confidence started to reach capacity. I remember being in math class, and the jock football player was sitting behind me and flicking my ear (cause that's apparently what dumb jocks do). When the teacher turned to write something on the board, I turned around and hit him in the face (the jock, not the teacher). The entire class gasped loudly. The teacher turned to ask what happened, and nobody said anything. During the remainder of the class, I got all these death threat notes explaining how he was going to kill me (or whatever it is jocks do to threaten little guys like me). I ignored them. As we walked out of the class, everyone followed us. I didn't care. He made more threats that I ignored and nothing ever happened. Was I foolish, or lucky? Maybe apathy saved me.

Eventually, I graduated from high school and things got much better. I moved away from my small town and lived happily ever after.

The end.

But wait... a few years later, something interesting happened that brought all those frustrations crashing around me again. Someone invented the internet!

I was one of the regular writers for a fairly small MSN group. There were maybe a hundred or two hundred members in the group total, but only a handful of us posted anything regularly. I usually did movie or music reviews. I generally tried to be nonsensical, but overall, I hoped I could entertain everyone.

But one day, something dark and disgusting happened. Someone anonymous started to post some very hurtful things about me. They posted personal information about my past, and tried very hard to discredit me. It seems in these 'enlightened' days, the internet allows bullies to abuse you anonymously.

Why??? At first, I tried to ignore it and sort of play along with this cruel joke at my expense. But the attacks got deeper, and not one person came to my side to defend me. Suddenly I was all alone. Suddenly, I was back in middle school again. I carried these painful attacks with me to work, and they kept me awake at night when I wanted to sleep.

I convinced MSN to delete the abusive posts, but the damage was done. I seriously wondered why I bothered writing. Writing was what I loved, and was proud of, but someone chose to shatter my shield and wound me all over again. I was ready to never write anything publicly again.

But, just like leaving high school, things got better. The dust settled and I finally started writing again fairly regularly, and some people seem to appreciate what I have to say.

But looking back, I have to ask... was I too sensitive? Do I have scars that are too deep, that are easy to tear open again?

An artist friend of mine had a very similar experience on his website. Someone targeted him and started sending some very abusive comments about his work. Is there really a point to this? I have always said, one way to improve is through criticism. Remember, I'm not perfect, so I am always open to criticism to help me improve. But there is a big difference between a critique, and an attack. And nobody wants to feel attacked and hurt.

The moral to these stories, are that nobody should have to put up with abuse of any kind. It is a horrible and painful way to live. It creates doubt and distrust in your heart and distracts you from who you should be. But yet, as Americans, we often play a bit roughly with each other, because it is sort of part of our culture.

I have a friend living in Japan who doesn't understand our American way of playfully jabbing at our friends. She doesn't get most of our sarcasm. But I sometimes feel like, the Japanese culture may be right. Where is that line of playful fun, and outright abuse?

The trademark ploy for most bullies is to say, they were only joking. But where is the line? Am I too familiar with verbal abuse as a child, that I can't take a joke as an adult?

Words can be weapons. When I write, I never want to hurt anyone with anything I say, so I choose my words very carefully. If someone asks my opinion on their work, I will always try to be sensitive to their feelings. I never want anyone to come back to me, and say, “Look how cruel you were to me when you said this!”. I don't want to hurt anyone, like I've been hurt, so I try very hard to type gently. But am I, at times, unintentionally abusive without even realizing it, because I live in the United States of Sarcasm?

Maybe the key word here is tolerance, but how do you make anyone tolerate someone who is different? Good parenting is a start. But how do you make someone be a good parent?

Another important key word is empathy. When you take a moment to put your brain inside someone's head for a bit, you might be able to understand how they feel.

Maybe we will never have clear answers to any of these questions. But for myself, years of therapy might be a good start.

And for bullies in schools today... shock collars.