Two years ago I walked into a theater – skeptical, yet optimistic. There was a new Vacation movie. I had seen every single Vacation movie multiple times, including Vegas Vacation (Hey! It’s funnier than you remember!). And this one stars one of my favorite actors (Ed Helms). Still – the idea of a new Vacation movie just sat wrong with me. It was a reboot – or so I thought. It was also rehashing the plot of the original, again, or so I thought. Still, my curiosity outweighed my skepticism, so into the theater I went. And I am so glad I did. Despite the reviews, this turned out to be a very funny movie and true to the spirit of the “original” series. Ed Helms Rusty might be my favorite (sorry Johnny Galecci – you’ve been dethroned). And while absurdist humor is not en vouge anymore, this movie was not afraid to take an absurdist route. Sadly, absurdism is probably why Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 26 percent (I will note that IMDB was a little kinder, giving it a 61 percent). Vacation 2015 was so much fun, and as I sat through this film again recently, one thought came through my mind: I want another Vacation movie, dangit! While I can’t find any hints of a new movie in the works, I can only hope the producers take a chance and go for it. And Hey! If they’re looking for some suggestions, I just happen to have some!
Firstly, let’s not rehash one of the first four movies. It would be really tempting to do another Griswold family Christmas, but I’m not quite sure we’re ready for that yet. A new European Vacation might make sense, as the last scene of Vacation (2015) shows Rusty and Debbie flying to Paris, but we need the kids. And Vegas? Eh….not interested. No, what we need is a fresh destination. I’m thinking Hawaii or Mexico. Somewhere sunny and tropical. And yes, Christmas Vacation 2 went to Hawaii, but no one really counts that movie. Another fun idea: we could see that cabin in Michigan they kept talking about at the begining of the film. Heck, Vacation 2015 was trying to go for a Trains, Planes, and Automobiles vibe – the next movie could go for a Great Outdoors vibe! OK – maybe not.
Secondly, either Get Chevy Chase and Beverly Diangelo to matter or don’t use them at all. I really appreciate the fact that the original couple had a cameo in Vacation. It worked well to establish the film’s place in the canon. Having said that, now that the new series of movies has been placed, maybe we should just steer away from Grandpa and Grandma. Or – maybe we should make them a major part of the movie. Let’s look at Clark’s parents in Christmas Vacation. Would the movie be the same without them? Of course not, their presence mattered. In the same breath – if Clark and Ellen are used, they need to be side characters, again, just like their parents (both sets) in Christmas Vacation. They can come along for the ride if they enrich the movie – but the movie should be about Rusty’s family.
Thirdly, don’t forget the things that worked in the original movies. There should be some absurdist comedy. There should be some stupidity. There should also be a man just trying to do right by his family. There should be some inconsistencies with the kids – different actors, maybe different ages. There should even be a cousin Eddie Shenanigans. Why not?
Fourthly, there should be things that are new to this movie and series. Yes – every movie has had a different Rusty, but replacing Ed Helms would be a crime. For one thing, I like him too much. He’s a funny man and fits the part well. He’s also the main character in this series of movies, and not just a smart alec kid that can be replaced. Another different thing, we could perhaps see; some of the Cousin Eddie clan as not just a bunch of hillbillies – but as people who’ve matured and actually have made something of themselves. So yes, do something different. Especially since in Vacation 2015, the tone was actually set by a conversation during the begining sequence of the film where they recognized they couldn’t just redo the old movie.
Finally, while this and all the Vacation movies are, as I’ve stated earlier, about a man trying to do right by his family by giving them a decent vacation, we need to realize this is not the 80s anymore. Female characters should be a bit more independent. Christina Applegate’s character, Debbie, should not be a housewife, but rather a working mother herself. We should also see (or at least mention) that Audrey gave up on her sham of a marriage. And hey, if Ellen and Clark are in the movie, we should see that Ellen works just as hard (well, most likely harder) as Clark to keep their bed and breakfast Afloat. Seriously, Ellen must be super woman, considering her husband’s zany schemes.
I know the last movie was kind of a flop; I know doing another movie might be a big risk – and let’s be honest – the critics won’t like it no matter how good they make this movie. Still, there’s a lot of good content just waiting to be explored in a future movie (or two…..or three). Dammit! I want another Vacation movie!
I’m usually not very harsh when it comes to movies. If I’ve plopped my 10 or 12 bucks down, I’m most likely going to enjoy myself. My degree in English helps – as it arms me with the ability to find subtext where others might not find it. So I often times find significance and enjoyment in films in which others tend to view as a waste of time and energy. Having said that – there are some movies that simply have no redemption as far as I’m concerned. Come join me will you, as I give a big fat raspberry to what I view as the worst of the worst. These are movies that are absolute abortions, or rather should have been aborted. Seriously Hollywood, why did you make these films?
Small soldiers – Ok, so my view of this film might be tainted. I went to see it for two reasons. 1) I thought it was going to be a spin off of Toy Story staring the army men. I was stoked to see it and very disappointed when I found out (in the theater) this was not at all related to Toy Story. 2) I was in college and had a crush on a girl who liked to go see the latest films – so I was stoked to be able to talk to her about this one come Monday afternoon in History 101. Sigh….she didn’t even see the damned movie. Ok, ok, so maybe I’m being unfair – maybe this shouldn’t have, as I stated in my opening paragraph, been aborted. And maybe, just maybe, an early 20’s college student just wasn’t the target audience. Still…it was not a good experience for me, and thus it is on my naughty list.
Battleship – After this movie came out, Gail Simone wrote on her twitter feed “I saw Battleship…” The tone, if you can’t tell, was “why the hell did I see Battleship? And that’s pretty much my reaction. Seriously….what kind of idiot decides “Hey, here’s a popular board game, let’s make it into a movie. But let’s not make it like the game at all – let’s add aliens!!! But all that could be forgiven if they had actually given the lead role, Alex Hopper, a freaking personality. He was basically a piece of wood. Seriously – this is the idiot that saves the world? No…just no. This battleship deserves to be sunk.
Napoleon Dynamite – Ok, I realize this is going to be polarizing – I don’t care because I’m right and anyone who disagrees is wrong! Did that sound harsh? Well…..that’s basically the reason I hated the movie. Almost every character was an absolute jerk. It wasn’t just the mean high school teenagers, Napoleon’s uncle, grandma, and brother….the titular character was an absolute jerk. In fact….there were two characters, and only two out of a pretty large cast that weren’t absolut jerks. There was Deb, who probably should run away from that town as soon as she turns 18, and there was Pedro. Oooo, and let’s talk about Pedro. The character himself is fine, but his cousins were nothing but a Hispanic stereotype. Kids who dress in the Vato style and drive around in low-riders. Oh, but that isn’t the only racist stereotype. Napoleon’s eventual sister-in-law, Lafawnduh is a walking stereotype. Even her name – I just spent five minutes googling said name, and all I found was references to this movie, thus I feel safe in saying this: Lafawnduh sounds like a name a bunch of white people would make up trying to make fun of African Americans. Napoleon dynamite is a racist turd of a movie and a study in how not to treat people. Naopolean Bonaparte was exciled to Malba; Napolean Dynamite should be exciled down the toilet and into the sewers!
San Andreas – Hey, let’s make a movie based on the fallacy that the entire state of California is going to fall into the ocean! Ok, ok, I actually enjoy movies like this, but I have to care about the characters. In San Andreas, I found myself just wishing Dwayne Johnson’s role would just freaking die already. Oh, and let’s talk about the fact that he goes to save his daughter. Sure, this is noble, yadda yadda yadda, but in doing so he abandons his post and therefore condemns others to die. Seriously – he’s a helicopter rescue pilot – he is needed right now, and yet he decides he doesn’t need to fulfill his duties. I can’t blame him mind you, but I hope when the dust settles, he’s severely reprimanded by his superiors. Actually, 90 percent of the movie could have been rescued if this one character was maybe rehashed a bit. You hear that Dwayne Johnson, San Andreas is all your….fault.
Skyline – This is, undeniably, the worse movie I’ve ever seen. Seriously, I felt this movie was written by a committee. I can hear them in their board rooms: “Ok, this worked in the Matrix, so let’s use it. This worked in Star Wars, so let’s use it. This works in…” you get the idea. The main character was the biggest douche nozzle ever. OK, so he’s going to break up with his girlfriend, then he finds out she’s pregnant, and then at the very end when the aliens have sucked up their brains, they still find each other because true love? Huh? So….we go from “I’m done with this girl,” to “I won’t let anything, even our disembodiment, stand in the way of true love!!!” Right. And by the way, they’re the only couple, out of the billions of couples on Earth, who are able to find each other because of the power of love…riiiiight. Some other notes – every time I started to actually like a character, they got killed or brain sucked by the aliens. And let’s not forget that while the entire planet was being invaded, this movie focuses on just a handful of people. I guess their lives are more important than anyone else’s…. By the way, for added torture, there was also Battle LA. Basically the same movie, only it was military people instead of civilians. I heard the two movies were supposed to actually be one, but someone got mad or something. So instead of one pile of crap, we got two! What a deal! What a brain sucking turd of a deal. I’m so glad this movie flopped at the theater.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen – Oh Micheal Bay, how you spit upon my childhood. Is that a bit harsh? Yeah…probably. Still, as someone who was the target age of the first wave of Transformers, I feel justified in saying this. Yeah, the first movie kind of sucked, but the second movie – well that was just more than awful. From the two streetwise, jive-talking autobots, to Devistator’s testicles, this movie just…no. Just no. Bad Micheal Bay, why does he keep making movies? Well – at least the third movie wasn’t as bad. In fact it kind of gave me what I wanted in the first two installments, that is Big Giant Robots Killing Each other. Added note: #5 just came out and while it’s not as bad as 2, it certainly is close! (bleep) you, Micheal Bay. (Bleep ) you in the (bleep) until you (bleep) and (bleep) like a red hot (bleep) and a I (vleep) you in the (bleep) like bongo!
I’ve loved science fiction my entire life. The idea of blasting off into space and landing on a distant planet, or maybe slipping into an alternative dimension where all the apes are purple and all the barnacles are made of gold? Yes please! I was two years old when Star Wars came into theaters, I grew up watching Star Trek re-runs, and even went to see the Black Hole in theaters (quite possibly the first time at a theater where I didn’t fall asleep during the movie).I love Sci-Fi so much that I almost feel like I can claim a deep love for the genre is in my genetics……and while I’m on the subject, I’ve got to say – I’ve never understood the stereotype of only nerds liking Sci-Fi. But then again, I am a nerd, so there’s that. Hell, I’m even wearing a t-shirt referencing Stargate (there’s no place like ). But I digress – there’s a war in science fiction – there’s those who care more about the fiction and less about the science, and there’s those who care more about the science and less about the fiction. Whose right? In my opinion, it depends on the piece of Science Fiction. There’s some simple rules one must follow when writing science fiction.
1) One must know their audience: This is such a 101ism that it hurts to include this in this list. I know my readers enough to know that they know this already – but yet for the sake of completionism I feel I must say this. Knowing one’s audience is a basic part of writing, but this is especially important in this discussion, as science fiction fans are a diverse group of individuals. There’s physicists who study things that, quite frankly, I’ll never be able to understand. There’s people who can barely grasp the concept of warp speed. There’s the ten year old kid who saw Anakin Skywalker in the Phantom Menace as character they can relate to, there’s the disgruntled gen Xers who scoff at the prequels and swear by the original three. One has to know what kind of science fiction fan one is writing for, or else you’ll get something that no one likes. To add to this, knowing which audience you’re writing for means knowing which opinions can (and should) be ignored, and which opinions should be taken seriously. Are you writing the next 2001? Then don’t listen to the ten year old kids when they say it’s boring. Don’t listen to those who prefer Micheal Bay explosion type movies. Listen to someone you might find as a character on the Big Bang theory, because they’re the ones who are more likely to understand your creation. Likewise, don’t listen to the hard science crowd if you’re trying to write the next Skyline – though I will say that if you’re trying to do this, maybe you should just chop off your hands because Skyline was the worst movie ever.
2) One must have likable characters: I just said that Skyline was the worse movie ever written. That was not just a cheap jab – Skyline is seriously the worse movie I’ve ever seen. I hold it as the bottom measure of how bad a movie can be. There’s two things that made it bad: a) it felt like it was written by a board of directors and b) I just didn’t give a damn about the characters. Seriously – the main guy didn’t give a damn about his girlfriend until her life was threatened. He was going to leave because he knocked her up, but then he decided he needed her I guess. It was such a badly written character that I expected him to die pretty quickly, but he didn’t. He was harder to wipe out than a piece of crap stuck to a strand of butt hair and twice as disgusting. Now, maybe there was a small percentage of people who really liked him, but considering that movie was hated by so many people, I highly doubt it. I could go on, and on, and on….about how bad of a movie Skyline is – because seriously, I’ve found things more pleasant in my kitty’s litter box, but my point is if the audience doesn’t like your characters, you’ve failed! Look at Walking Dead. Look at Lost. Look at Star Trek (TOS and TNG). Heck, look at pretty much all of the Marvel Movies! Why are they so loved? Because you don’t want the main characters to get swallowed by black alien goo or zombified or just die. When they do, be it Tasha Yar or Lori Grimes or John Locke or (spoilers) Quicksilver, it’s a tragic thing. You’ve invested yourself into those characters, and even though they’re fictional people, you feel a sense of loss. This is how it always should be. You should be wanting your audience to care about your people enough that if you do choose to go all George RR Martin on them, your audience is going to be a bit pissed off.
3) One must define what Science fiction is to them: In the last section, I mentioned The Walking Dead, Lost, Star Trek (TOS and TNG), and the marvel universe as examples of Science fiction. I chose these examples, because in a broad sense, they’re all science fiction. In truth however, I see The Walking Dead as horror, Lost as mystical fantasy, and the Marvel Movie Universe is mostly superheros. Again, they all have something involving science fiction, but if I’m writing Sci-Fi, I’m thinking about traveling to other worlds, or the implications of technology in the future or maybe life in an alternative universe. It should deal with issues, though it doesn’t have to be dystopic. It should be a world which we don’t live in now, though this world could be part of it’s history. This is by far no ironclad definition of science fiction, as I am only one voice amongst many – but if you write science fiction you better have at least some definition and focus. Again, The Walking Dead clearly has some science fiction involved – the virus is man made. However, the focus on the series isn’t really how to cure the virus – the focus is surviving a zombie apocalypse, which therefore puts it into a more horror category. The island on Lost has many mysteries, however they’re not scientific in nature. They’re mystical. The Marvel Universe? Well, science has been a huge part of creating most of those guys, but really the focus is a super hero focus. Star Trek however – that’s about exploring the galaxy. That’s about “boldy going where no one has gone before!” That to me is the heart of Science Fiction.
4) Be it science or fiction, a sense of wonder and imagination is key: This almost needs no explanation but it still needs to be said. I tend to lean towards the fiction part of science, and therefore a sense of wonder and imagination really is key as I don’t really have the science to back up my writings. Sure, I’ll BS my way through some rudimentary physics or what have you, but the science part of the equation really is nothing more to me than a plot device. Honestly, my audience is not the physicist – but that means that I have to work extra hard to present the reader of anything I write with a sense of “wow! I wish that would really happen!” But while it’s not as important for a “hard science” piece to rely on a sense of wonder and imagination, it is important to provide a little. Hard science is, to be frank, boring as hell. It’s fascinating what it can do, but it’s still science fiction – not science. It’s taking a concept and theorizing (and I use the literary definition, not the scientific definition) what it’s implications might be in, say, 100 years. It’s about exploration of things beyond this world, and how it will effect humanity. Most hard science buffs I know really like Stargate, and I do too. I like it because they really do put me in a different place. I like it because it explores the morality scientific endeavors. It’s got action and adventure and big explosions, it’s got relationships and people being people (be it good or bad), it asks the basic “we can, but should we” questions when it comes to some technology (Asgardians singularity anyone?). It really is the balance between the two universes – and that’s why it was such a great series(s) and movie.
5) Don’t be afraid to use an alternative universe: Look, not everything in sci-fi can be explained with modern science. The sooner you learn to accept this, the happier you will be. This concept is not just limited to science fiction by the way – pick a discipline, fictionalized it, and I guarantee they’ll get things wrong. Be it construction, be it medicine, be it the police, be it computer programming. I work in television – this is something TV shows should get right because they know how things work – but Television shows about television get things sooo wrong on so many levels. The reason being is that most things are boring without a little fictionalization added. They don’t make sense, or maybe they just look stale. This is why hard science fans gripe about movies such as independence day or Pacific Rim. But guess what? Science fiction, be it soft or hard or any firmness in between, likes to use Alternative dimensions. This is a great tool to explain why maybe your physics don’t work in this world, because maybe they’re not supposed to work in this world – they work in a different universe that has a different set of rules. I know hard science fans are going to hate this – but like I said, I’m not a hard science person.
6) Your universe should be consistent: Don’t take that last point as an excuse to make your universe a place where any random thing might happen (unless there’s maybe an infinite improbability drive or something). Set your rules and use them. Do not stray too far. If they don’t work for you, then change them – but make the changes consistent or at least find a way to explain why all of a sudden you can travel three times the speed of light, when in chapter 4 you couldn’t even travel half that speed. It is fiction – but it’s science fiction. And even if it’s a different genre of fiction, any fiction worth their salt cares about consistency and continuity.
May the Force be with you. May the Klingons and the Borg not attack on this day. May the Cylons leave you be. And may there be no Volgan Poetry in your future. Have fun, and write like the wind. Oh wait – that’s not Sci-Fi!
When Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope came out – I was two years old. There’s some possibility that my parents went to see it for the first time, and dropped me on my head. I mean, it might have been a different movie, I really don’t remember, but I do know I was dropped on my head at about that time at a drive-in theater and they said it was a distinct possibility. Just to be fair, it was a total accident – I had heavy casts and one of my parents sat me on the counter – I swiveled my legs over the edge, and down I went. But I digress.
Growing up in the eventual class of 1993, Star Wars was a HUGE deal. We grew up playing with the Kenner toys, we got hyped up when the new movies came out, and we talked – oh we talked and talked and talked about Star Wars. We knew of the eventual 6 movies that would come later. We knew that one had to do with the Clone Wars Obi-wan and Leia mentioned – we knew one had to do with Anakin falling to the dark side. We had no idea what the third trilogy was about, and frankly we didn’t care. We just knew we couldn’t wait till it was released! Star Wars was a huge part of growing up in the 80s – one might argue it was bigger than Transformers, and certainly bigger than GI Joe.I even remember staying over at my friend Isaac’s (who seemed to be a little more into Star Wars than the rest of us, if that was even possible). He wanted to do a reenactment of Star Wars. I was to play Darth Vader, he was supposed to Play Luke Skywalker, and his little brother, dressed in white pajamas and a pair of tighty whities over to simulate the Armor, was to play a Storm Trooper. My dad simply looked at us – the younger brother in his skivvies, and said “no” and I went home. Even the girls liked to play star wars, despite a severe lack of female characters. Star Wars was equally loved by both genders: Be you a wearer of Princess Leia or of Luke Skywalker underoos.
In my early twenties – Star wars mania was still alive and well. A couple good friends of mine were obsessed with all things Star Wars, and it was pretty common for us to spend hours in the Borders Bookstore cafe, looking through books showing technical specs, artists concepts, and little bits of trivia. To be certain, Star Wars fandom among gen xers was far from isolated to us. I went to a music fest and saw a band called “Bobba Fett” (later renamed “Twin Sister” for what I understand to be legal reasons). The band was a side project of several other bands, but the point is Generation X and Star Wars went together hand in hand – not just when we were children, but also into our adult years. It was part of our lore, part of our story. We all knew we were secretly Luke Skywalker or Chewie or Han or Leia.
And then the dark times began….
George Lucas did a remix of the original movies….the special edition. The internet was young and didn’t hold as much power to share opinions as it does now. Most people were not online, and therefore most of what we heard was either word of mouth or read in a magazine or a newspaper. I’m dangerously close to going off topic here, but the reception of the zeitgeist of the special edition is not the reception we have now – and I think it’s because the internet has changed the way we discuss these things. But back to the topic at hand: I personally had an opinion on computer graphics – and that was pretty much “use them only if you need them.” I feel like everyone I knew was ok with Lucas over using computer graphics. Even people who now preach that the special editions were an abomination against creation itself seemed to be ok with them in the mid 90s. To be fair, while I mocked the special effects, I actually liked some of the special edition scenes – the scene with Jabba the Hutt in IV, the ending of Jedi, and while the used too many computer effects in Empire Strikes Back, at least they didn’t fiddle with the story too much (Empire has always been my favorite). Again, it seems like most people I talked with felt the same about the Special editions. I really never heard much talk against them until after Episode 1 came out four years later…
Episode 1…..two years later. I saw the damned thing in theaters several times. Sometimes I would go to the movie theater, flip a coin, and say heads I’ll watch the Matrix again, tails, I’ll watch Episode 1 again. I’m pretty sure I saw each four times in the theater, which is a record. We had been waiting sixteen years for this film. We waited from childhood, through puberty, through our college years, and into our early career phases. Some friends were already married with children when Episode 1 finally decided to flush itself out of the rectum of Lucas like so many other turds before it. But I was in denial – it was Star Wars. It was the movie I had been anticipating for what felt like forever. Surely, this was not a piece of crap. It wasn’t until I saw a commercial showing 9 year old Anakin leaving his mommy – I realized that this was a kid’s movie. I hated Jar Jar before that mind you – a friend told me to look at him as the comic relief, much as C3PO served in the original trilogy (this friend was most likely in the same denial I was in). But I realized this movie was not meant for Generation X. This was meant for the next generation. It had it’s good points mind you: It set a tone. Episdoe 1 was about showing what the galaxy was like before the Dark times. It was a time when a 14 year old could address the senate and demand that her planet’s senator be elevated to Supreme Chancellor. It was a time when the invasion of a planet could bet thwarted by a 9 year old kid who got lucky and an army of Gun Guns. It was a simple time, where things just worked out because the dark side wasn’t really a factor. The Phantom Menace was a story that needed to be told to set up the next two movies – and to even put the original trilogy into perspective.
My reaction, both immediate and delayed, to The Phantom Menace probably helped me process the next two movies. Yeah, they had bad acting, and yes, they still rely on bad CGI, but really they were the stories we knew were coming. They were the stories of the clone wars, they were the stories of Anakin and Obiwan, going from master and apprentice to brothers to eventually nemesis. They showed the death star under construction. They showed Darth Vader reborn. They told us the clones in the war eventually became the Storm troopers. They weren’t the original trilogy, but could anything ever live up to that hype of sixteen years? No, of course not. And more and more people seem to be forgiving their shortcomings because the story really is important and the really are fun at times.
We’re looking into the future again. We’re looking to a new trilogy that may or may not disappoint us. All signs say no, it won’t. It might even be the trilogy we’ve been waiting for…or it might not. But regardless, I will be there for every movie. I will be in denial if the films suck, and elated if they don’t. I cannot look at a new Star Wars movie objectively, because like so many other Generation Xers, Star Wars is part of who I am. It’s a link throughout my lifetime. When they finish the six movies coming in the next few years, I will be wanting more.
I have no doubt these will not be the last movies we see either. Star Wars is a cash cow that Disney plans on milking for all it is worth. We’ll reach a point where the zeitgeist will say: Another Star Wars movie, why? But myself? I’ll be saying Another Star Wars movie….Why not?
EDIT FROM THE FUTURE: The Force Awakens freaking killed! The trailers for Rouge One look amazing! Let’s hope it stays on this way. On a sadder note – RIP Kenny Baker.
Spend as much time on the Internet as I do, and you’ll notice that the planet has a bunch of bored people pretending they’re Caesar. They sit on their thrones stoically. They look down at their art and/or entertainment choices as though said choices were Gladiator matches. After they’re done with said A&E choices, these quasi-Roman emperors either give a thumbs up, or a thumbs down.
Before I get too far into this metaphor, I will say that everyone is certainly entitled to their opinions. However, in the information age (do we still use that phrase?) our opinions, especially shared on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, et al, can make or break our A&E choices. Our friends and acquaintances who share similar tastes to ours, might very well base their choices on our opinions. More so, the professional critics – those who are paid to rip apart every inconsistency, every terrible acting job, and every joke have this power to make or break a piece of A&E. Again, I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but with great power comes great responsibility. If Augustus or Nero gives the Gladiator a thumbs down, that Gladiator is destroyed. If the critics hated say, The Office or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, those series ratings probably would have dropped and the networks would have canceled them before their time.
Perhaps you’re saying big deal. Critics have the power of Caesar over movies, television etcetera. Big deal, some terribly made movie or a rushed and clichéd show get canceled because the critics are telling it as it is. This wouldn’t bother me so much, except I often wonder if said critics, both professional and amateur, are actually looking for an excuse to hate whatever they happen to be reviewing. If this is truly happening, this has to change. There is a time to be snarky, sure, but there’s a time to just be entertained already!
Let’s look at a couple of movies the critics hated. On Rotten Tomatoes, Skyline earned a 15%; The Starvation Game got a 0%. I’ll admit, Skyline sucked. Skyline might very well be the worst movie I’ve ever seen, and is certainly the worst movie I’ve seen in the last five years. The Starving Games, however, was seriously funny. It might not have been the funniest movie I’ve seen even in the last two years, but I enjoyed it nonetheless and at the very least, it was better than Skyline! Skyline was painful to watch, while The Starving Games was, if you let yourself be entertained, very funny. While both movies were admittedly about making money first and foremost, one actually tried to make people happy for 70 minutes. One actually tried to make the world a little better. But Caesar was not entertained. Why? Because Caesar is a snob! Caesar wants absolute perfection or else the chopping block! Caesar will not allow him or herself to laugh at something so banal as a spoof.
Take Joe Leydon’s (of Variety) review of The Starving games:
“The Starving Games” might inspire punny put-downs like “malnourished script” or “unappetizing gags.” But, really, a movie as lame as this one doesn’t merit the expenditure of snark.”
I don’t know what Leydon looks like, but by that comment alone, I’m going to assume he runs a comic book shop frequented by Bart Simpson. One wonders if he’s ever laughed in his life. One must wonder if he’s actually learned to laugh or even if he is even qualified to critique humor. I will point out that during Leydon’s review, he didn’t once mention WHY The Starving Games wasn’t funny – he just said it wasn’t funny. ALL HAIL THE WORD OF Caesar!
Again, why does this matter? Because laughter is fun. Period. I realize there are those who are really serious, but there are also those of us really like to laugh and view laughter as an extremely important part of life. If I sit down and watch a comedy, I’m going to try my best to laugh. I do realize everyone has a different view of what humor might be, but I for one believe our standards for humor should be pretty low. Again, laughing is fun! Laughing makes life a little better. Laughing may even have medicinal value!
So…what about those of us who are intelligent and educated? Are we not entitled to demand smarter comedy? I’m going to admit that I love smart comedy more than “low” comedy. I will even admit that sometimes I’m in the mood for comedy that’s of a higher standard than say, The Starvation Games. I’ve also learned that if I’m going to survive this world, I need to laugh at things which I would normally consider below my otherwise high standards. In fact, to NOT laugh at things makes my life a little more miserable. Say I write about how “stupid” a comedy is because the humor was a lower caliber than I would prefer. If people care about my opinion on the matter, I’m actually depriving people a bit of happiness! They’re passing up on said comedy because of my snark, and therefore my snark is denying them the chance to laugh. My snark, in this situation, makes the world a little worse. Sure, I get a bit of smug satisfaction for ripping apart someone’s jokes, but is that really worth the cost? Is my smug satisfaction going to bring joy to my readers?
I’m not saying laugh at everything. We’ve all got our different filters of what is funny. Some things are totally offensive. Some things are gross. Some things probably shouldn’t be laughed about. Some jokes are stale, and some jokes just don’t work. Heck, sometimes snark in itself is funny! I will also recognize that lowering humor standards too far will spread stupidity – that’s not the results I’m after here and I encourage you to guard yourself from this very thing. But for the sake of humanity! Of all mankind! Try to keep an open mind when it comes to comedy. Your life will be richer and happier, and so will the lives of those around you.
CHRISTMAS! FREAKING CHRISTMAS! And what good is Christmas without cool Christmas specials? So here’s some you should be watching. If you’re not watching them, YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG!!!
1) A Christmas Story – Watch this. Watch it twice. Watch it three times! JUST FREAKING WATCH IT!!! Seriously – what is not to like about this movie? There are maybe five movies I can quote from memory, and this is one of them! You’ll shoot your eye out! So help me God he had yellow eyes!
2) The Grinch that stole Christmas – No, no, no – not the one staring Jim Carrey – gosh! Are you even listening to me? Seriously! I mean, that one was ok – but by Golly Gee Whiz! WATCH THE ANIMATED VERSION THAT ACTUALLY QUOTES DR. SEUSS! Why? Because reasons! That’s why!!!
3) Christmas Vacation – Of course this one would be on the list! I mean, seriously! I don’t have to explain why! YOU SHOULD KNOW WHY!!! Just watch it! And if you haven’t seen it, YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG!!!
4) A Charlie Brown Christmas – Yes, of course this one is on the list. When I was a kid, I had a book and a record of it and every-time they rang a bell on the record you were supposed to turn the page. It never was a bad little tree!
5) Elf – THIS IS THE ONLY WILL FERREL MOVIE THAT MATTERS! Ok, maybe the Anchorman. And I may have enjoyed A Night at the Roxburry. And oh yeah, he’s got a lot of cool parts in other movies where he’s not the star, but other than that! WATCH ELF BECAUSE IT’S THE ONLY WILL FERREL MOVIE THAT MATTERS!!! SO MUCH ROOM FOR ACTIVITIES!!!
6) Scooged – BILL MURRAY DID A CHRISTMAS MOVIE! That should be all you need to know! Because freaking Bill Murray is the bomb! In fact! I’m gonna watch it tonight!!! Bill Murray is a national hero!
7) 8 Crazy Nights – Wait – what is this doing here, it’s not a Christmas movie! YES IT IS! JUST BECAUSE IT ALSO MENTIONS HANUKKAH!!!! Besides! Poopcicle! That’s a technical foul! NOW GIVE ME ALL YOUR PATCHES!!!
8) Mr Hankey’s Christmas Special – THE CAST OF SOUTHPARK SING CHRISTMAS SONGS! WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT?!?!?!
9 A Muppet Christmas Carrol – HEY HEY, LIGHT THE LAMP, NOT THE RAT!!! I for one am sick of sticking to the Dickens version – I want puppets! Heck, they need to do a version of Oliver Twist with the muppets. And why stop there! Muppet Moby Dick! Muppet Atlas Shrugged! Muppet Scarlett Letter!
10) Rudolph – BECAUSE RUDOLPH!!!
11) Frosty – BECAUSE FROSTY!!!
12) All the Doctor Who Christmas Specials – Seriously are you not paying attention! Doctor Who! BECAUSE FREAKING DOCTOR WHO!!!
13) The Simpsons Christmas Special – This is THE FIRST episode of the Simpsons! Before this, the Simpsons were just a sketch on the Tracey Ullman show! Without this we wouldn’t have 25 hilarious years of the best family on TV!!!
14) KISS saves Christmas – Why they stopped airing this every year, I’ll never know! But you should still watch it! Even if you can only find it in that episode of Family Guy, you should still watch it!!!
15) It’s a wonderful life – Merry Christmas Movie House! I….wait! I don’t like this movie! I get bored by this movie! It’s only a classic because it fell into public domain! Why would you watch this c….Ladies and gentleman, due to being off his meds, Aaron J Edwards has been dismissed from the staff of aaronjedwards.com. Aaronjedwards.com would like to apologize for the ranting of Aaron J Edwards, and hopes that this article does not discourage you from further enjoying the diverse articles found on aaronjedwards.com. Furthermore, Aaronjedwards.com would like to acknowledge that all these Holiday specials are indeed special (including It’s a wonderful life), everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Please note – if you are not watching these, you are not doing anything wrong (although you just might be a scrooge).
On all my social networking sites, I’ve mentioned I was going to go watch Micheal Bay spit on my childhood for the third time. Regardless of Bay’s past indiscretions (and there are many), I still slapped down my ten bucks to go see Transformers 3. Call it an overblown sense of nostalgia, call it a sadomasochist tendency, or call it just plain curiosity. Well, I’ll get this out of the way: Transformers 3 is not going to win any Oscars, nor should it. However, for me, Transformers 3 did not suck.
Transformers 3: The Dark of the Moon had a thin plot-line to say the least. The characters were so-so, and the effects were par for course. This was a movie made to make money and I doubt Micheal Bay cared the art of film. However, I loved almost every minute of it. OK, so the first few minutes I hated. The actor that played JFK did the worst impersonation of JFK I’ve ever seen. It was so bad, it was like a bad impersonation of someone doing an impersonation of JFK. There’s also the effects in the beginning of the film: while I appreciate the fact that Bay tried to insert graininess into the some of the shots from the 1960s, it felt a little forced, and did not mesh well at all with the non grainy shots. Of course, then there’s the up-skirt shots of Carly climbing the stairs. That was the point of the movie I rolled my eyes, and braced for impact. Anytime some streetwise jive talking autobots would bust into a rap, and some huge robot made of constructions would be tea bagging the audience. Thankfully, those scenes never came. Instead Micheal Bay focused his testosterone on giant robots blowing each other up. My inner 9 year old breathed a sigh of relief.
Again, I say that Transformers 3 will not be winning any Oscars, but at the end of the day, I spent ten bucks to be entertained for 2.5 hours. I saw massive amounts of explosions and icons of my childhood in a massive war in the middle of Chicago. I give Transformers 3: The Dark of the Moon a solid B. You might not enjoy the film if you weren’t a 9 year old boy in 1984, but if you are of my age and gender, go see the movie. Now. You’ll love it!
One final thought. Now that we’ve gotten through the trilogy, can we get alive action Transformers movie with Unicron? Pleeaaasee?
Its that time again! Time to settle back with a bag of popcorn, mock celebrities and their hideous clothes, and boo because (insert piece of trash movie here) won (insert undeserved award here). Its almost time to roll the dice – hoping your favorite movies, actors, directors, editors, sound people, camera people key grips and caterers get the credit they deserve! So, without any further delay, without any further adieu, without any further…..uh, I lost my place! Oh, here it is (schadenfreude) – I give you my picks for the 2010 academy awards!
Best Picture: An Education
I almost missed this film entirely, and it would have been my loss. My favorite thing about “An Education” is the fact that the writers sincerely put up both sides of the argument facing the film’s protagonist, Jenny. The film shows Jenny’s struggles with both the pros and cons of going to Oxford after she graduates, or marrying Jack. The audience is left guessing which the best choice is for Jenny, and hoping she makes the right choice. Will it win? No. Avatar will most likely sweep the Oscars this year. Even though its plot is paper-thin.
Actor in a leading roll: George Clooney – Up in the Air
I will be honest: I choose George Clooney as my best actor pick not because he did such a wonderful job, but because I had no real opinions of the other actors and their performances. However, I must comment that George Clooney did a wonderful job as Ryan Bingham, the man with no goods. I hated him, pitied him, and even loved him at times. George Clooney brought to life a character that could have been very two-dimensional. Will he win? Hard to say actually, I heard Morgan Freeman did a wonderful job in Invictus.
Actress in a leading roll: Carey Mulligan – An Education
I if it were up to me, I would give “An Education” almost every award it is up for! Carey Mulligan really was convincing as Jenny, and deserves the Oscar. I don’t believe I have cared so much about a character since Amélie. Will she win? Perhaps, though from what I hear, Gabourey Sidibe did a great job in “Precious.”
Animated Film: Up
The choice for best animated film was probably the hardest choice I had to make this Oscar season. I thoroughly enjoyed Coraline, and in truth, if there could be a tie, I would not be opposed to giving the Oscar to both films. Oh, alas, the Oscar cannot be split, so I really had to go with Up. Up was simply written and animated a little better than Coraline. Will it win? I’m guessing yes. Critics seem to love it, and it’s the only animated film nominated for Best Picture.
Art Direction: Avatar
Avatar is just an amazingly beautiful film. I don’t believe I have ever seen a film as captivating and beautiful. Sure, the plot was formulaic, but even the harshest critics have to give James Cameron a nod for creating such a beautiful world. Will it win? Most likely. Avatar is supposed to be the golden child of the Oscars this year.
Directing: Inglorious Basterds
This is another category where I had a hard time choosing just one film. Both James Cameron and Quentin Tarantino deserve the Oscar. It is kind of a pity both films came out the same year. Both directors worked for YEARS on their respected films. Both films are supposedly the magnum opus of each director. In the end, I choose Inglorious Basterds because, quite frankly, I enjoyed the film more than Avatar. Inglorious Basterds is well written, well produced, well acted, well filmed, and well edited. Tarantino simply did a better job than Cameron. Besides, Avatar will get enough Oscars. We can spare to give Quentin the nod he deserves for this film. Will it win? Probably not. As I said earlier, Avatar is supposed to be the golden child of the Oscars this year.
Writing (adaptive screenplay): District 9
Yet another hard choice, this time between District 9, Up in the Air, and An Education (my pick for best picture). In the end, I must say that District 9 is the most challenging script. District 9 could have easily become a shoot ‘em up, aliens invade the Earth type of film. Instead, we get humans acting as humans would act if an alien ship finds itself stranded. We have humans treating the aliens like second-class citizens, not as honored guests who might be able to help us with our own problems. We have aliens acting like any other oppressed culture who want nothing more than to be left alone – a culture that just wants to go home. Will it win? Maybe. I’m guessing either District 9 or Precious wins.
I already said how much I love the writing of this movie. Tarantino’s humor, sense of poetic justice, and just plain bizarre and even warped mind all make an appearance in his writing. Several separate plot lines that seem to have no relevance intertwine flawlessly. And what about that ending? Asides from Hitler and his men getting slaughtered by several separate plots against their lives, the one Nazi escapes to what appears to be a storybook ending. Well, almost….almost. I really hope he likes hats. Will it win? Perhaps. Up might give it a good run though.
So what about the rest of the Oscars? Originally I had picks for almost every category, but sadly friends, I don’t have any more time to spend on this article. So I leave you with a solemn apology. There’s always next year!
It is Oscar season once more; in just over a week, the anticipation will be over. Later this week, I’ll release my own picks. But before I start talking about best supporting actress best director, I want to pay head to those movies released this year that seem to have been left out of the Oscar party; movies that did so well in conveying their message through direction, writing, acting, and effects. So, without further adieu, I give you the five most overlooked movies of the 2010 Oscars:
Watchmen: I won’t say that Watchmen deserves a nomination for best picture, or even best adaptive screenplay, but to deny this film of any nominations in technical categories shows a lack of respect to those who worked so hard to make this film look and sound amazing. The special effects alone were amazing, and well worth the price of admission. The film editing did leave a little to be desired, yes, but the sound effects and mixing were among the best I have seen all year.
Where the Wild Things Are: My two favorite contenders for best picture (An Education, Up in the Air) are also up for best adaptive screenplay. As much as I love both movies, I would gladly see one of the two give up their spot for adaptive screenplay if it meant giving “Where the Wild Things Are” a shot at this Oscar. The movie takes a ten sentence book and turns it into a full 101 minute script with complex characters that appeal to both children and adults. In addition to best adaptive screenplay, Where the Wild Things Are should also be up for Music (original song). Karen O is a gifted songwriter, and talented vocalist. The song “All is Love” is beautiful and hopeful. The very fact that “All is Love” was not nominated, while the latest Disney movie had two songs nominated, makes me wonder about some bias on the nomination committee’s part.
The Invention of Lying: The critics hated this film, but I don’t think they gave it a fair shot. This film is pretty ambitious and strived to answer so many questions. Questions about God, religion, what is right, what is wrong (by the standards of those who consider themselves religious and those who do not): all tackled by this script. The scriptwriters knew what they were doing; at the very least, the film should have a nomination for best original screenplay.
Adventureland: Another film that deserves a nomination for best original screenplay (maybe best picture), Adventureland is smart, funny, and interesting. The characters are real people that you both love and hate, depending on the situation and the character. In addition, the characters themselves are a mixture of rich, and poor – jock and geek. Adventureland is a great tale of teenagers entering real life, and learning all they used to know in high school does not apply in the real world.
Sunshine Cleaning: A third movie that deserves a nomination for best original screenplay. Even aside from the writing, Sunshine Cleaning should at least have a nomination for best supporting actress. Emily Blunt was a show stealer and gave one of the best performances of ANY actress this year. I seriously do not know if I would have liked this movie as much as I did if it were not for Emily Blunt’s acting ability.
I was not going to do this list, but its pretty much writing itself in my head anyways. Besides, there were so many great soundtracks this decade, I almost HAD to write this list. So without further Adieu, I give you the top five soundtracks of the ohs!
5. Team America: World Police (Film – 2004) : OK. This film is rude, crude, and at the very least, NSFW. But it is also funny as heck. And the soundtrack was done so well! Who could forget classics like “Freedom isn’t Free” and “Montage?” Not to mention the anthem of patriotism that is the song, “America! —- Yeah!” But as funny as the soundtrack is, what made this soundtrack great was the fact that when it (and the movie) was made, we were (and are still) in the midst of a war that doesn’t seem to have an end. It was a time of extreme patriotism at the expense of those of us who dared question why. Team America: World Police dared lampoon these political zealots, as well as those who stood blindly to oppose them (ie the Film Actor’s Guild). This soundtrack and movie was an expression in free speech. I dare say the creators have indeed, with the making of this great piece of art, put in their buck oh five (cause freedom costs a buck oh five).
4. Spamalot (Stage – 2004): As I type this, I have the song “Run away!” going through my head. Spamalot was based on the classic movie, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I dare say, the producers found the one thing missing from the film: MUSIC! “The Song that Goes Like This” lampoons the cheesy hit song that is inevitably in every serious Broadway production. “Find Your Grail,” while comedic in nature, has a good point – one should indeed search for their “Grail.” And who could forget (ahem – sings in my best voice), all for one, two for all, four for some, and three for all. So bring out your dead and always look on the bright side of life! Even if you’re not yet dead – or wed.
3. Avenue Q (Stage – 2003): One of these days I might actually get to see this show live (as opposed to the crappy video floating around on youtube), but for now, I have this marvelous soundtrack. And what a soundtrack! I’ve often asked myself “What Do you do with a BA in English?” I’ve often wished I could go back to college, and I find myself singing “It Sucks to be Me” on a regular basis. I’m pretty impressed the writers of Avenue Q throw political correctness out the window with “Every One’s a Little Bit Racist.” And “Schadenfreude?” Well, that just makes me laugh. The Avenue Q soundtrack is not safe for work by any means, but I find myself playing it at work on a regular basis anyways. Avenue Q may not be the best for those who are offended easily, but it has more than its fair share of valid points. One has to wonder what the Avenue Q soundtrack would have been like if it had been a television series – somehow I don’t think it would be the same.
2. Dr Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog (Internet / DVD – 2008): If you haven’t seen this yet, go to Hulu right now and watch it. OK? Watch it? Good. Wasn’t that amazing? And what about the music? A high point on the album (and the video itself), is the song “A Man’s gotta do,” which outlines a pivotal scene in song. The scatting in the second chorus between Penny, Dr Horrible, and Captain Hammer is probably my favorite part of the entire video (the remote control is in my hands! Balls!). That’s what makes this soundtrack so great – the music is not there for the music’s sake – the music is part of the plot. If you took the music out of the production, there would be no storyline. If this is what happens when writer’s go on strike, maybe writers should go on strike more often!
1. A Mighty Wind (Film – 2003): The soundtrack for “A Mighty Wind” did something different than any other soundtrack mentioned on this list: A Mighty Wind’s soundtrack included songs not in the movie. One notable instance is the Folksmen covering “Start Me Up” by the Rolling Stones. They take a traditional sex, drugs, and rock and roll song, and make it a folk song. Quite intriguing actually. And while the soundtrack features other instances of songs not mentioned in the movie, one can also judge between the “toothpaste commercial” New Main Street Singers version of “Never Did No Wandering,” or the Folksmen version which is musically truer to the lyrics. On a side note, if you have not seen this film, you should! The soundtrack is the best of the Ohs, but the movie itself is the best mocumentary of the ohs. I could think of far worst things to do with an hour and a half.