Tag Archives: Videoed Games

The Media 10 of 2016

This is a time to reflect on the year that came before, and even though 2016 in world news was troubling to say the least it’s also a year where plenty of good things were accomplished.

Before I get into personal accomplishments, though, let’s take a look at The 10 movies, television shows, and books that I remember most from the year 2016.  This does not mean that they were the best or the worst, or that they even came out during this year.  These are only 10 things that I remember seeing/reading this year, not necessarily in any order:

The 10 Movies

  • I’m a Cyborg, but That’s Okay:  Yes, I remember this show mostly because I just saw it about a week ago.  But I also remember it because it’s a surprisingly thoughtful love story between two people who have significant flaws but, rather than try to change each other , embrace these flaws as what makes the other unique.  Is it Park Chan-Wook’s best work? Well, no, but that’s because he’s one of the masters of cinema whose best work is also the best of the past few decades.
  • Jodorovsky’s Dune: The content of this documentary takes over the tact of making the documentary itself with me for this one, because for anyone who is looking for a radical change in how documentaries are presented, then I’m not sure if Jodorovsky’s Dune does that.  But Jodorovsky’s Dune has quickly made it into my list of favorite documentaries, because Holy Monkey Balls that would have been a revolutionary film.  Genre-defining work that we would still be looking back on today with genre nerds like me praising it and other film nerds deciding to be different and saying “Guys, it’s just not that well thought out”.  Basically, if Jodorovsky’s had completed this project, it would have been 2001: A Space Odyssey times a thousand.  As it stands, this documentary is the only window into that universe we have.
  • My Winnipeg: Another of my new favorite movies, and at this point Guy Maddin is the filmmaker who I most want to be (Sorry Coen-berg, although you live on in my dreams).  A brilliant exploration. Of memory and place, “My Winnipeg” removes itself from genre definition to become a true piece of Cinema which exists on its own and as a window into the thoughts and experiences of Maddin himself.
  • Spider Baby: This is an early dark Comedy, but in most ways it serves as a reminder of “Arsenic and Old Lace”, another early Dark comedy which came out 23 years earlier, had stronger characterization, and has a closer spot to my heart (the stage version was one of the first plays I saw as a child. It was put on by the CSU Theater department. Later on my sister took on the role of Jonathan in a Poudre High School production of it).  Spider Baby on its own is okay.  Not great. But okay.
  • Sweet Land: This is one of those movies that has been long recommended to me, but I haven’t wanted to watch because I figured I would just be disappointed by the result (a phenomenon I dub “The Napoleon Dynamite Effect”).  This fear was unwarranted, because Sweet Land is a very good movie and another one that has been put on my list of favorites.  For anyone who is a fan of the work of filmmaking comrade Andrew Gingerich, definitely watch Sweet Land.
  • The Lobster: A Perfect Dystopia.  “The Lobster” presents itself as a glowing example of the dystopian genre, following a central character as they travel from locale to locale exploring all parts of this new and terrible society.  However it’s central character is a thoughtless schlub who just wants to be told what to do, wants a romantic interaction with someone, but is far too terrified of honesty and actual humanity.  In the end, this is the beauty of “The Lobster”: It’s about humanity, and how much we fail to understand one another.
  • High-Rise: I enjoyed this Dystopia less.  It was still a nice ride, and certainly it’s always fun to see a society collapse (ALWAYS. Even in real life, it is great. This is a call to arms, brothers and sisters).  However I found myself wanting to see a more gradual descent into chaos.  As it stand everyone is fine and going to work, and then the next day they exist in a tribal community slowly crawling their way to the top floor where a string quartet plays ABBA’s immortal hit “S.O.S”.  It’s worth a rent if you’re in the mood for it, but I’d certainly put “The Lobster” and plenty of other dystopian works ahead.
  • Phantasm: I liken “Phantasm” with “Hellraiser”.  Hear me out: Both are entry films to an increasingly complex horror franchise, both franchises are generally lower in budget and more independent than others, and both are followed feverishly in cults but unknown amongst big horror audiences.  I enjoyed Phantasm, and because I live in Chicago I was able to see the restored 4K cut in a theater surrounded with fans of the series.  That contributed greatly to my enjoyment, but there’s also a homespun charm to Phantasm.  In terms of representation and giving it a modern read- It doesn’t offer much.  In terms of viewing it within cinema history- It’s a launch point of a strange genre series.  But it’s a fun movie, and I liked seeing it.
  • Weiner-Dog: “Weiner-Dog” is an anthology film, and like every other anthology film there are good parts and bad parts.  I really enjoyed the first half, and I thought it had a great flow and nicely thought-out characters worth a glimpse.  The second half was interesting as well, and the characters were still fun, but it was lacking the through-line of the first which just made the whole piece feel disjointed.  It’s on Amazon Prime now, and go ahead and watch it.  But it’s not perfect, and it’s not among my favorites.
  • This Must be the Place: So a washed up rocker who caused some kids to commit suicide a few years ago finds out that his estranged father died, travels to New York, and picks up his father search for the Nazi who tortured him during the Holocaust.  Whenever I describe this film (as I just did) it sounds like an immeasurably depressing film.  But it’s not. Not in the slightest.  From the strange, disconnected eyes of Cheyenne (the rocker, played by Sean Penn) who is significantly more human than one would expect, this whole experience becomes a look at the beauty of the world, and certainly shows himself as a character worth spending a chunk of time with.  Episodic, but still feeling complete, “This Must be the Place” is a delight.

The 10 New Television Shows

I watch a lot of television shows.  So many, that I’ve split up my “10 List” into “new” and “continuing”.  New shows are shows that I began this year (not necessarily that began their first season this year), whereas continuing shows are shows that I was already watching, and that I have continued to watch.  Now, we go on to TV:

  • Ash vs. The Evil Dead: For fans of the Evil Dead film franchise, the television show “Ash vs. The Evil Dead” is worth the price of admission alone for the pilot episode, which thoroughly exists in the Evil Dead universe and is a fantastic next chapter.  The rest of Season 1 takes a moment to get back into the feverish delight of that pilot episode, but certainly finds itself by Seasons end.  The second season which just concluded continues this brilliant streak of expanding the Evil Dead universe while holding onto the slapstick energy vital to it (and missing from the 2013 reboot).  Also, Season 2 has some very scatological moments, which I thought were a bit too gross but fans of that style of humor applauded.
  • Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is one of the greatest and most groundbreaking series on television right now.  Forget Westworld, forget A Night Of, Forget The Wire (okay, maybe not those last two as I still haven’t seen them. I know, I know I need to see The Wire.  See my earlier talk about “The Napoleon Dynamite Effect”).  Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is an examination of a thoroughly broken individual who- two seasons in- continues to sabotage herself and her pursuit of happiness and despite being named after a sexist archetype, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is sure to show every side of its characters whether they are good, bad, or ugly.  It’s a show that’s never preachy or “special episode”-y despite covering bisexuality, the Male Gaze, abortion, mental health, and societal expectations (with some good water-themed conspiracy thrown in).  Oh, also it’s a musical.  It’s a fantastic musical.  I wasn’t sure about it at first, but it is legitimately fantastic (I call this “The Buffy the Vampire Slayer Effect”).

  • The Good Place: Myself and other critics who I follow were worried about “The Good Place”: “A plucky female protagonist finds herself in ‘heaven’, but- surprise!- she’s not supposed to be there! Hilarity ensues”.  Looking back, we had absolutely nothing to worry about.  Come on, it’s from the same team that brought us Parks and Recreation (among my favorite series of all time, and go-to feel good place) and Brooklyn Nine-Nine (another go-to feel good place).  “The Good Place” has consistently given us a strange world and has built up its roster of wonderfully flawed people and supernatural entities to populate it, headed by an always delightful Kristin Bell and ted Dawson as “Michael” the supernatural force who takes both wonder and delight in the peculiarities of humanity (of note: He hates saltines and doesn’t understand the human fascination with frozen yoghurt).  To close out, here some things that define a person as “Good” on this show: Carefully put a spider outside, helped a hermit crab find a new shell, end slavery, hosted a refugee family, hug sad friend).  And some things that define a person as “Bad”: use “Facebook” as a verb, attend a concert by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Poison a river, Fail to disclose camel illness when selling a camel, and Tell a woman to “smile”.

  • Powerpuff Girls:  I really wanted to like this.  I’ve given it a pretty good chance.  And the reboot isn’t bad, it’s mostly just middling.  Relying too much on whacky randomness and hyperactivity which plague the world of children’s animation (despite the many cases where this is not the point listed below), the reboot’s missing the truth and feminism that defined the original (and I don’t think that’s just nostalgia.  Mostly because I didn’t watch The Powerpuff Girls a lot as a kid, but more so as an adult).  Instead what we get is a show that I’m sure is doing fine with ratings, and kids are going to enjoy, but that takes away from plenty of other excellent Cartoon Network programs.  So it won’t have the same revisitability as the Original does, but it’ll be an inoffensive show for kids to enjoy that’s not as loud and annoying as others.
  • Hell on Wheels: This show falls into the box of “Shows that I would be really into if it were about five years ago and I wasn’t already saturated with TV”.  It’s a fine show, and it would have garnered a lot respect a few years ago.  Unfortunately with all of the programming out there, “Hell on Wheels” sort of got lost.  Also, I wasn’t able to find a good stream of it.  So that’s mostly why I haven’t finished it.  But Hell on Wheels is a nice historical drama about the Transcontinental Railroad, and it stars Colm Meaney of Star Trek fame!  And Common of Rap fame!  It’s a fine show, but one that was sort of lost in the shuffle.
  • Westworld: Did you like Hell on Wheels?  If so, then “Westworld” is also a show about cowboys!  Except these cowboys are robots.  Or tourists who want to act like cowboys.  Or tourists who wanted to act like a cowboy but then decided he liked being a robot-killing cowboy more than living in future-world (SPOILER ALERT).  So, the amount of murder and nudity will probably be really distracting for people.  And it certainly does go with the Game of Thrones technique of “We’re HBO, we can have naked people killing each other, so we will”.  But, underneath the fleshy penises and through the blood-like fluid, you get to the cold, hard robotic skeleton of Westworld: A Skeleton that treats its robot protagonists with as much tender regard as its human protagonists, and series that has its share of Twists! but ones that feel true to the show and not a mad grab for viewership.  Would I say that Westworld has as much a complicated understanding of its characters as a show like Breaking Bad did, which constantly questioned its own morality?  Not yet.  But it is a show that is- above all else- concerned with Humanity.  Also, for being a series based on a middle-grade Michael Crichton movie that experienced massive cast overhauls and rewrites during production which caused it to be several months behind, Westworld comes out like a robot horse having its silicon sinews being mad eon the spot by robot-arms. Robot Cowboys!
  • Penny Dreadful: Did you like the Robot Cowboys of Westworld? Then Penny Dreadful this year was a show that had werewolf cowboys!  So I watched through all of Penny Dreadful this year, and was really enthralled by it only to have it end this year after a rather disappointing third season.  But: Right off the bat, it shows that it’s much more than a “League of Extraordinary Gentleman” TV show, and by the second episode of the series every single viewer should realize that Eva Green is the single greatest part of the show.  This is certainly an idea that the showrunners realized by Episode 2, and throughout the series’ run there are entire hours that are just showcases for Eva Green.  Those are some of the greatest hours of television out there.  The Eva Green showcase this year was among the best singular episodes of the season, of the show, and of television this year (also, a huge extension of that goes to fellow episode partner- because “A Blade of Grass” is basically a two-person play- goes to Rory Kinnear as John Clare AKA Frankenstein’s Monster).  After an always-improving first season, Penny Dreadful rocketed back with Season 2 and brought out more of Ferdinand Lyle which is always a plus. Unfortunately Season 3- despite some good moments- was never quite able to get over its framing narrative.  Meaning that the biggest problem with Season 3 of Penny Dreadful was the isolation of all of the characters, but that isolation was warranted by the narrative and allowed for (SPOILER ALERT) Vanessa to be taken in by Dracula himself.  Also missing greatly from Season 3: Sembene, RIP.  I refuse to believe that Season 3 was always meant to be the end of the series, as well.  Mostly because I want to think of a hypothetical Season 4 that has to do with Dr. Moreau or Captain Nemo.  Or ghosts!  We got vampires, witches, werewolves, but no spooky victorian ghosts.  That is a missed opportunity.
  • 12 Monkeys: Did you like the werewolf cowboys of Penny Dreadful Season 3?  Well too bad.  In 12 Monkeys there are neither Werewolves nor Cowboys.  Just an ongoing time-travel plot about paradoxes and viral apocalypses and husbands who never existed before.  This is another series that I got all caught up on during the Great Mid-Year Television Slump, and I’m happy that I did.  Is it one of the best series of this or last year? No.  Is it above and beyond either of its source materials? No (and it is by far the most removed from La Jetee, just in case you were excited about the 1962 Chris Marker Photomontage getting it’s own stylized television series). But it’s a nice science fiction show that’s really found its place in  the later part of Season 1 and throughout Season 2, and I enjoy it enough.  It’s a nice time-travel show, and I deserve a nice time travel show.  So stop judging me, DAD.
  • Star vs. The Forces of Evil: I was apprehensive about this series at first, and I wasn’t planning on following it.  Mostly, because I had written it off as another whacky and hyperactive kids show that its targeted audience will like, but their target audience also likes ice cream for dinner (and just like ice cream for dinner, whacky hyperactivity isn’t all that healthy for a young mind. Or so says I).  Then I saw that it had a bit of a following among some of the commentators of shows like Steven Universe and Gravity Falls, so I decided to give it a chance.  I’m glad I did.  There is certainly whacky hyperactivity, and that seems to be the house style for Disney’s animated shows (see also “Gravity Falls” and “Wander over Yonder”), but much like the other disney shows on here “Star vs. The Forces of Evil” does what Powerpuff Girls does not: Overcome it’s silliness by actually developing characters and developing thoughts about them.  Has Star vs. The Forces of Evil become a stellar show like some of the other pillars that have risen over the years (I’m looking at you, Adventure Time!). Not yet, but it’s building itself up and making some really good strides.  And in the Disney Animated TV show landscape, it’s really important to have a show like Star vs. The Forces of Evil both in terms of how it allows for its male and female protagonists to stand outside of specified gender roles but also in the increasingly grey line between good and evil that is rising on the show.
  • Mr. Robot: Let’s be honest: A few episodes into Mr. Robot we knew that Elliot and Mr. Robot were the same person (SPOILER ALERT).  But let’s continue being honest: That didn’t change the reveal one bit.  I’d like to attribute this to the word that’s been repeated over and over here: character.  That the Mr. Robot reveal wasn’t grounded Lost-like in a “What a twist!” finger-gun to the audience, but rather in a personal collapse of identity for Elliot, whom we had really started to like.  Now, I do have to be honest: I haven’t seen Season 2 yet.  I’m probably going to wait for it to get onto Amazon Prime, so I can’t say whether season 2 is any better or worse navigating Elliot and his weird family dynamic.  What I can say is that Mr. Robot gave us a creeping paranoid world and immersed us wholly in the mind of its creepy paranoid not-all-healthy protagonist.  It does, however, continue an ongoing misconception about schizophrenia and mental health.  So that’s a ding.  But it’s still a good series, and one worth checking out.  Season 1, on Amazon Prime.

The 10 Continued Television Shows

  • American Horror Story: Yes, I watch American Horror Story.  It’s like watching a train wreck, most of the time: It goes out of the station full steam and you think “Wow, that’s a nice looking train, we’ll see how it goes”, and soon it’s off the rails and on fire and there’s so many bodies and you’re trying to get a handle on the disaster when another train comes in and crashes and throws a whole new mound of disaster on top of what was already there, and then a voice comes from the woods “I planned this. This is meant to be.  See my design, and know that within this madness there is method”.  It’s not that I begrudge AHS this, as it kept me masochistically interested in Season 1 and got me back for it’s best season to date Season 2.  Well in 2016, we got My Roanoke Nightmare.  And you know what?  It was surprisingly coherent.  Murphy and Falchuk didn’t try to pile on character after character, storyline after storyline, they kept their heads down and told one singular story.  Well, okay, two singular stories, but it was sort of one continuous one.  The fake documentary style was actually used to a pretty good effect, and (unlike other found-footage horror pieces) it explains away the central question I always have: WHO IS EDITING THIS?  So, yes: I was really surprised and really pleased with My Roanoke Nightmare.  2016 also saw the end of AHS: Hotel, which is more of general AHS fare.  Hotel was simultaneously more stylish and more grimy than any other season, which is altogether fitting with a story about Vampires.  This is definitely a season that got away from Murphy and Falchuk, and one that sort of stalled out and lost its way by the end.  However, Dennis O’Hare KILLED IT in Season 5. He was absolutely stunning, and I hope to God the man got an Emmy for it (UPDATE: He did not. He was nominated for a “Golden Derby” for it, though).  Anyways, Season 5 was good but fell into the AHS trap, Season 6 was probably the second-best season so far (Maybe Third, I think Freak Show had a much stronger start, but it also fell the greatest distance.  In fact, definitive ranking of AHS Seasons for me: 2,6,4,5, and 3 with Season 1 popping in and out at an irregular orbit because there is absolutely no way anyone can define what the hell Season 1 is).
  • The CW’s Superhero Bloc: These four shows should be assessed on their own, but I don’t want to take up that much space.  So we’ll go through the week, starting with my new CW Superhero show of Supergirl.  All cards on the table: I hate Superman.  I think he’s a square-jawed copout who really has no defining characteristic aside from “Good Guy”.  But Supergirl the series has given us a Kryptonian that I can believe in, and it has also given us a show bursting at the seams with optimism.  It’s first season, which I watched during the TV Drought of the Summer, was a strange experience.  It was both good and bad, often within the same episode.  But we got “Falling” where Supergirl turns evil when she’s exposed to Red Kryptonite!  And now, in Season 2, Supergirl has continued being a CW Superhero show that oozes charm and (sorry to use the same descriptor twice) optimism, all in a nice network-feminist package.  Oh, also Supergirl is not at all shy about talking about immigration, xenophobia, and prejudice in America.  Next, on Tuesdays we get The Flash.  The End of Season 2 came in 2016, which had lost a bit of it’s zippy energy from Season 1, but it also had parallel universe which I will always love (Seriously, I will always love a show with parallel universes.  There’s a part of me that still thinks “Sliders” was at least strong in theory.  WARNING: Sliders isn’t really a good show, watch Fringe instead). Oh, and we also got Barry wandering around the Speed Force in Season 2.  Now in Season 3 Barry is a dope again and changes time which sort of ruins everything.  Fortunately, though, Tom Cavanagh has become the greatest and most surprising source for comedy as H.R Wells, AKA The Goofy Wells.  And Danielle Panabaker is starting to get something to do other than walk around inside S.T.A.R Labs now that she is technically Killer Frost.  Wednesday, the one that started the CW’s reign of Superherodom: Arrow.  First: Neal McDonough is great.  Absolutely great.  But Arrow Season 4 still struggled a bit to find itself, and a lot of that was because of the Oliver-Felicity relationship.  I was fine with the two being together- comic book fate be damned- but as the season went on Oliver’s general dourness rubbed off on Felicity which got rid of one of the most dynamic players of Arrow.  Now in Season 5, we’re in another okay spot.  First: It’s great to see the flashbacks again being something to look forward to (something that has been missing since Season 2), and it’s nice to get a bit more continuity in the series as well.  However, now Felicity doesn’t have much to do and is back to being in somewhat two dimensional territory, and for God’s sake Curtis needs to either quit Team Arrow or get his T Spheres up and running because I’m sick of him getting shot and being generally worthless but Oliver being surprisingly Okay with sending him out into danger.  Before moving on, it’s also worth noting that Willa Holland and Paul Blackthorne continue to be excellent, whether they are fighting vigilantes or alcoholism.  Finally: DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.  Season 1 was a bit of a let down. With Legends being a time-travelling grab-bag, I had hoped for something a bit more interesting than what a lot of Season 1 had to offer.  But it had its moments.  Captain Cold and Heatwave are always welcome, and Ray Palmer- despite a middling love story with Hawkgirl and the repetition of his insecurity- was a nice foil to Heatwave.  Also, Caity Lotz has always been great as White Canary.  The final problem with Season 1 was how Vandall Savage and the Time Masters were never quite made into the Big Bads they should have been.  Season 2 has taken the strengths of Season 1 and improved upon the rest.  Firstly, I’ve liked Eobard Thawne (the real Eobard Thawne) since his first appearance in Season 1 of The Flash, and I think he’s building to being a formidable foe for the Legends.  The only problem- which we’re going to be solving soon by the looks of it- is that Arthur Darvill as Rip Hunter is sorely missed.  Darvill was one of the highlights of Season 1 and his manic energy is missed.  Also, I just like seeing Darvill get work. I like seeing any Doctor Who Alum get work.  Legends of Tomorrow continues to be the weakest of the CW Superhero Bloc, but it’s beginning to find its footing and it’s starting to live up to its potential.  So Hooray.
    One final note, is that the CW has really made the DC Comic Book universe a strong part of the television landscape, and one that can be counted on to provide consistently engaging superhero antics.  Whereas Marvel has excelled in film but been hit and miss on Television, DC now has a consistent home in Television despite its continued lackluster performance in cinema (Batman notwithstanding).
  • Steven Universe: Steven Universe continues to be one of the greatest and most human shows on television.  It also continues to be one of the most frustratingly scheduled, with most of the episodes this year coming one-right-after-another over the course of three months in the Summer.  This wackiness notwithstanding, 2016 saw a huge jump in Crystal Gem mythology and characterization beginning with our first glimpse of the Diamond Authority, ending with a nice episode of Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl coming to terms wise Rose’s death and Steven’s life.  Along the way we got a musical episode featuring Pearl and Greg making nice with one another, Steven being confronted with some extremely uncomfortable truths about his mother and the Gem War, an arch about Amethyst and her self-esteem issues, the introduction of Smoky Quartz, a quick episode about baseball, the continued growth of Peridot into series mainstay and MVP, and the growth of The Barn into a semi-aquarium full of meep-morps and a pumpkin-dog.  However throughout this year Steven Universe continues to be a show with an amazing amount of heart that truly believes that no one is purely evil and that anyone can be changed with Love.  It is challenging this idea at every turn, and by the looks of it this will continue in 2017, but despite revealing more grey areas the central heart and love of this show still remains.

  • Adventure Time: Another Cartoon Network show that has suffered from an odd schedule, much to its detriment, Adventure Time had an odd year.  I’m going to be honest, it hasn’t been my favorite season even though it has produced some truly odd pieces (Angel Face, Lady Rainicorn in the Crystal Dimension, Beyond the Grotto), some good character-centric episodes (Normal Man, Broke His Crown, The Hall of Egress), and some game-changing mythology episodes (Preeboot and Reboot, Crossover, and Elemental). Somehow I just find it hard to remember much Adventure Time from 2016 besides the miniseries “Stakes”, which I enjoyed (and I look forward to 2017’s “Islands”). I attribute it to the fact that there were month-long gaps separating episodes this year, which hopefully will be fixed in 2017 because Adventure Time is still a stellar show and one that deserves every bit of its acclaim.
  • The Americans: The Americans is still one of my Summer treats, for when the previous season goes onto streaming. This means that this year I saw Elizabeth and Phillip dealing with the Mujahideen, so two seasons behind. The Americans falls into a category of tense and well-made shows that I always enjoy when watching but haven’t yet added to my current season watching list, and I don’t have a good reason for this.  Season 3 made some amazing advances in the lives of the Jennings, and I’m really looking forward to Season 4, and the performances and characterization is spot-on as always.  Overall The Americans is a series that has been nominated and won awards for the past three or so years, and I understand why it is winning these awards.  So I suppose some of the surprise is taken away for me, which might be why it’s not in my ongoing stable.
  • iZombie: This is a terrible name for a great series. Rob Thomas (the show runner for cult favorite Veronica Mars) has created a new show with just as many anti heroes and tragivillains and nuance as his previous series did, only this one is in the overcast, secret zombie-laden streets of Seattle. 2016 saw a rise in villains Zombie and Human alike, the continuing reflection Liv has over her new set of circumstances, and a twisting plot that weaves throughout the show that never becomes overly complicated.  Added to this are wonderful portrayals by David Anders, Rahul Khoi, Steven Weber, and pretty much every other actor on the show, and you have another great addition to the CW (which just a few years ago I wouldn’t have thought would be the center for great television, but what do you know).
  • Orphan Black: About two years ago what was one of the most thrilling and enthralling television series produced an episode that nearly destroyed it. This series was Orphan Black, and in 2016 it continued its climb back into good graces that it started in June 14 2014, the episode following the introduction of Tony (for anyone who didn’t watch any Orphan Black after this episode, I understand. But rest assured in the knowledge that to this day he has neither returned nor been mentioned). 2016 was a good year for Clone Club, with further development of Beth, the introduction of a free-agent clone, and finally having Felix realize that Sarah has been taking advantage of him for about three years (the whole series, in other words). Even the reintroduction of Kira into the narrative was natural and lacked the magic-child feeling that some of Kira’s previous seasons have had, and we got a more developed Art this year which is greatly appreciated.  This is also assuming that anyone who has watched even one episode of the series knows that Tatiana Maslany as “Everyone” is absolutely amazing and never ceases to impress in her versatility as a performer. However I can’t help but not be as excited about this show as I was after Season 1, and thinking through it I realize that a big reason is the episode-that-shall-not-be-named.  Were it not for that one hour of TV, I would feel much better about this whole series, and I think many other viewers feel the same.
  • Better Call Saul: The Prequel series to Breaking Bad is no longer the Prequel Series to Breaking Bad. It is now its own series with its own characters and its own tragic ending only made more tragic because anyone who has watched the previous series knows how this will end.  This year we saw Jimmy McGill (the future Saul Goodman) get everything he ever wanted, throw it away, still get something he wanted, and then have his manipulative brother ruin everything. We also saw the growth of the loving relationship between Jimmy and Kim (which only makes the fact that Kim was no where to be found in Breaking Bad all the more heartbreaking), and Mike continues his steady walk to his own fate (though, it must be said, in a much more dignified and controlled way than Jimmy).  I remain as eager to start up again in this version of New Mexico (which isn’t too far off from real New Mexico) next year as ever, if for nothing else for another glimpse into the bleak and terrible black-and-White future of Saul Goodman: Cinnabon Manager.
  • Black Mirror: Most of my discussion of Television Series has been an affirmation of critics thoughts on series. This will be the exception: I didn’t think this season of Black Mirror was very good.  Rather, this is the first season of Charlie Booker’s dystopian critiques on technology that I need to go by episode-by-episode instead of giving the blanket “It was chilling and depressing and amazing and depressing. A+” that I’ve been able to give to previous seasons.  For one: I didn’t think “Nosedive” was as impressive as other critics thought, and to me it seemed like Blsck Mirror fan fiction. Good fan fiction, but still mostly interested in hitting the necessary beats of a Black Mirror outing and not actually going through the steps necessary to fully engage us with this mirror universe. “Playtest” is interesting but ultimately forgettable (though a good examination of fear, but still not as engaging as other Black Mirror outings). “Men Against Fire” also fits into this.  “Shut up and Dance” is OK, and just OK. “San Junipero” is perhaps the one chapter in this season that has truly impressed me and lived up to and exceeded the Black Mirror name, and does this by doing the impossible: telling a story that belongs in Black Mirror, but embraces technology and has a wonderful feeling of optimism and hope. Again, every bit of the future where people can have their consciousness uploaded into a computer server to live in the past forever is a classic Black Mirror Dystopia, and perhaps there are characters in San Junipero the city who are as trapped and unhappy as, say, the main character from Season 2’s “White Bear”, but the two main characters we see in San Junipero find love and happiness. More than that, they find love and happiness without having to destroy themselves or get rid of their central humanity.  “Hated in the Nation” is a fun crime movie, and I like it as a pilot for a BBC series following detectives who investigate sci-fi crimes, like killer robot bees, but as an episode of Black Mirror? It didn’t have quite the same sinking dread that we’ve all come to know and love the series for. The Netflix series of Black Mirror is still worth a watch, but I would tell you to watch the BBC seasons first, because they are streets ahead.

The 10 Books

  • Young Animal’s Doom Patrol: Holy Frijoles, everyone, Doom Patrol is back!  For those of you unaware, The Doom Patrol is a group of outcasted super-powered individuals in the DC Universe whose job it is to protect the fabric of reality itself.  It reached its apex under the penmanship of Grant Morrison who introduced such villains as The Scissormen of the Fictional City of Orqwith, The Brotherhood of Dada and their Painting the Eats Paris, and the Cult of the Unwritten Book.  There have been a few reboots of Doom Patrol in the past, but few have captured what draws me to the series: It’s inherent strangeness and it’s  existence as being a group of “others”.  The Doom Patrol that came directly before this new version, for example, mostly treats Robotman, Negativeman, and Elastiwoman as just another superhero team (also, they don’t explain how Rita came back from being the Lodestone which bothers the part of me that needs a coherent timeline).  But I’m glad to say that this new version of The Doom Patrol, so far, is looking like it’s living up to it’s name and it’s predecessors.  So far the series has been working at introducing readers to the world of the Doom Patrol again,a  world populated by people who may not exist and people who feed off of negative energy.  It’s keeping in continuity so far, which again is something I greatly appreciate, while also taking the time to have these “heroes” stuck in their existential issues as they usually are.  Here’s hoping Young Animal sticks the landing, because boy do I love Doom Patrol.
  • 1000 Years of Solitude: A brilliant look into the depths of memory, family, and the lore that permeates through both.  Marquez’ writing style is always a delight, describing even the most ridiculous of events with absolute certainty and grace.  This book is also very purposely cyclical and weaving and often difficult to follow, and I’m very glad that my copy came with a print-out of the Buendia family tree because otherwise I would have been lost. I was a little lost anyways, but it was the right kind of lost.  Worthy of its praise, though personally I enjoyed Chronicle of a Death Foretold more, but that’s personal preference and not a judgement on either work as a whole.
  • The Handmaiden’s Tale: Falling into the category of “Soon-to-be-reality”, The handmaiden’s Tale is tragic, heartfelt, and chilling.  Another book worthy of every instance of praise it has received, and a book worthy of a read for anyone.  Literally anyone.  If you have not read this book, read it now. NOW.
  • Saga: This past year I’ve been wanting to go through the American Library Association’s list of Banned Books. I’ve also wanted to read more comic books (or Graphic Novels? I think this one is technically a “Graphic Novel”. I use these two terms interchangeably, and for someone to whom this is greatly important please inform me of the distinction in clear terms).  Saga falls into the category of both.  And, OK, I’ve only read the first two volumes.  But I’m enjoying it.  As with much of the Banned Books, I see little reason for it to be banned, with all the violence depicted in it only going to serving its point and not crossing the threshold into gratuitous and there being little else to ban it for (unless pacifism is cause for banishment).  The series does a good job portraying the grey line in a longstanding conflict and just how messy and pointless and self-serving it is.
  • Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency: I have been heretofore unfamiliar with Douglas Adams’ other longstanding series, but fortunately I’ve seen the light.  As with most of Adams’ work, the tongue-in-cheek humor and the understated observances of just how outlandish and incredible world is are greatly appreciated.  In terms of making long lasting characters and crafting moving stories, that’s never been Adams’ strong suit, but that’s just fine as Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency does give us one heck of a detective in the bizarre name-changing Gently.  I look foreword to The Long, Dark, Teatime of the Soul.
  • Neuromancer: This was a fun book.  From what I can tell it’s the beginning of the Cyberpunk movement, and the beginning of a trilogy set within the same universe.  This is entirely understandable, as the world set up Gibson is a wonderfully expansive one and is the greatest asset to the book.  It is a world that seamlessly combines the pulp sensibilities of Detective and Science Fiction into a nicely woven heist story.  Also: I love heist stories. For anyone who is not a fan of Science Fiction, and is looking for a story of deeply felt characters this isn’t so much the book for you.  But it does deserve a place in the Science Fiction novel pantheon, and I’m happy I’ve read it.
  • The Foundation Trilogy: Yes, I’ve only read the Trilogy (Foundation, Foundation and Empire, Second Foundation).  Will I read the rest of the series?  Perhaps at some point, though I may stop by some of Asimov’s other works first as well as some other Science Fiction mainstays.  There is always a problem when viewing older media in terms of how to interpret it, either through the lens of myself as a modern reader or through the lens of a reader in the historical time period that the piece was made.  I bring this up, because there were certainly parts of The Foundation Trilogy that hurt myself as a feminist.  The first book had no female characters, the second one might as well have not had a female character.  Second Foundation makes up for this in a slight way, but still… not entirely.  This wouldn’t be such an issue were it not for the fact that this series is focused on the creation of Utopia.  And the scope of this series is great, spanning thousands of years, and the way that the timeline is set up is well done.  Asimov himself was a scientist and was a pioneer in Hard Science Fiction, and that is evident in these works.  Even better is its acknowledgement of psychology and psychiatry as a distinct and useful Science, which is also a bit of a great step of thinking.  Asimov’s style is direct and whereas other novels can and have floundered under such a sweeping scope with so many characters who may or may not be related, The Foundation Trilogy never feels confusing or arcane.  So again we come to the central problem: There is a lot to like about this series, that it only makes the icky problems with it a bit more pronounced.
  • The Farm: Apparently there’s a whole subgenre of Swedish crime thrillers now. Also apparently this is part of the larger umbrella of “Airport Fiction” (books that you pick up at the airport to read over a longish plane ride).  This is the category “The Farm” lands into.  It’s fine.  Would I recommend it? If you have a longish plane ride and want to read a book, sure why not?  Though there are a lot of better books out there.  Even better Airport fiction out there.
  • The Tinderbox: This was my favorite fairy tale as a child because it had three giant dogs in it.  So I reread it this year, along with a lot of other Hans Christian Andersen works.  What I was surprised at first to read- but certainly changed the entire way the story comes out- was that Andersen basically took ideas from 1001 Arabian Nights and directly translated them into a different setting.  So right down to the tinderbox itself- the stand in for The Magic Lamp anyone who has seen Aladdin knows about- this really is just a re-telling.  More so- and this is something I’ve discovered going back and re-reading fairy tales and folklore- there isn’t really a good message at the end.  Not reading that much into it, the Lesson seems to be “Money!” (Though there is a nice part about how the protagonist’s rich friends disown him once he’s no longer rich. That’s fun), but the deeper you go into it the more the overarching lesson becomes “Lie, Murder, and cheat your way into riches and never let it go because Money will get you everything in life. EVERYTHING. Also having a giant dog with eyes the size of saucer plates to slaughter everyone helps”.  Do I think this is the message Andersen was going for? No. But it definitely adds a wrinkle to my favorite story (and, yes, I’d still like to adapt it at some point because I really, really, really like those three giant dogs).
  • More Information Than You Require: I listened to this as an Audio Book on the drive to Minnesota to shoot “Results 2016”.  It is a charming book of completely false facts, and made me feel a bit more productive in my obsessive list-writing and Encyclopeding.  This is by no means meant to compare myself to John Hodgman: he is a professional and I am but an amateur not meant to lick the dust on his boots. Adding to the affair was that the Audio Book included some nice touches that I don’t think the book itself has or could manage, like having multiple narrators who are (presumably) all hanging out in the same audio booth and getting really bored by John Hodgman’s false-history.  Also, Jonathan Coulton sings songs!  Also also, it ends with a list of 400 Moleman names and occupations!  What fun!

Honorable Mentions

  • Cryptonomicon: This goes into my “Honorable Mentions” category because I haven’t actually finished this book yet, so there’s a good chance that the entire book could fall apart and not be very good.  However, a little over half of the way through, Cryptonomicon is a fascinating and masterfully webbed tale of World War II, Cryptography, the dot-com internet boom, and treasure hunting.  Throughout all this and more, including chapters describe complex mathematical formulae for chaotic statistics and a long part of a book describing organ repair, Neal Stephenson manages to infuse everything with wit and an underlying fascination with every inch of the absurd world he’s created.  Again, I’m yet to finish, but I have been enjoying Cryptonomicon and would recommend it to anyone who has a lot of time to spend reading (This is a 1200 page book, and you can’t just  gloss over it either).
  • Gravity Falls: There was one episode of Gravity Falls that aired in 2016, so I can write about it.  Firstly: I do not know if I’m missing the logic behind the sporadic scheduling of a lot of my favorite animated shows, or if this is how all animated show are scheduled, or if the people at cartoon network or Nickelodeon throw darts at a calendar to decide when something is airing.  But throughout its run “Gravity Falls” had the most sporadic schedule of any other show.  Case in point: There were only two seasons, but it ran for four years. But I digress: Gravity Falls was an impressive and heartfelt series.  It had Disney’s signature wackiness inside of its DNA, but it also had two sets of wonderfully thought out sibling relationships in Dipper and Mabel and Stan and Ford.  The wrinkles and disappointment and love and respect shown between all of them- and very much shown, not just read in by an older viewer- all functioned to make these characters feel more real and less zany than the very first episode had you believe.  Add to that the fact that this series gave work Matt Chapman of Homestar Runner fame, so that’s a plus!  Also a huge plus: Gravity Falls was never afraid to be truly terrifying.  Existence-shatteringly terrifying. The final super-antagonist of Bill Cypher in Weirdmageddon story arch was case-in-point (as were any episodes starring Bill from the get-go) as he was a lovecraftian nightmare demon who wore a tiny top hat as he manipulated the show’s reality to be a grotesque terror-show.

  • Wander Over Yonder: Wander Over Yonder was another Disney program that rose above Disney’s general silly style, only it did this by swerving directly into it and embracing madcap silliness and optimism and hope.  Not every show can do this.  Some shows try, and they fail miserably.  Wander Over Yonder did not.  A lot of this was because of the character work: The Orange Furball Wander voiced by Jack McBrayer acts exactly as you’d expect him to only Wander has actual crises of conscious and his obsessive desire to help people is shown both as a help and a hinderance; Wander’s best friend Sylvia acts as the balancing force to Wander with an underlying tenderness and love for this Orange nutcase, the general villain of the series Lord Hater is equal parts threatening and pathetic with the few moments when he reaches his full power (achieved by believing in himself, which sounds cheesy when written but the turn of phrase of “Hate’s Great, best villain” from ridiculous esteem-building villain-chant to legitimately inspiring cheer is one of the greatest achievements of the show) showing that Lord Hater is actually a very powerful and destructive force that didn’t get to be the Greatest Villain of the Galaxy just because of Commander Peepers (voiced by the always amazing Tom Kenny).  In the end, Wander Over Yonder was a story about reaching your full potential with the help of your friends (and it did this so much better than My Little Pony ever has) with Lord Dominator being the diametric opposite to Wander’s belief that everyone has good in them and being ultimately undone when the only planet left in the galaxy that hasn’t had it’s core drained all rises up to cheer on their former enemy.  I’m not sure I’ve really communicated the charm of the series, or the honest belief in Good that it has but I can end by letting you know that you should check it out. It’s just wonderful.
  • Regular Show: Look, I’ve really enjoyed Regular Show in the past too but the series needs to end.  I don’t think Cartoon Network deciding to end it after this season is a mistake, and I’m honestly surprised that it’s taken them this long to cancel.  I think even the show itself knows this, which is why we have the thoroughly ridiculous Regular Show in Space season we have now.  It’s not very good, it knows its not very good, it has a lot of fun not being very good, I respect the fact that it’s just throwing itself into this deeply stupid concept, but it doesn’t really solve the underlying problem of it just not being very good.  Even the season before this, I enjoyed Rigby’s arch to finally finish High School and the general “Year of Rigby” (although I’m still surprised we never got to see Rigby using the toilet-time-machine on the other end.  I guess we could by Series-end, but they are really sticking to this space conflict-thing so probably not).  In the end, I guess what’s turned me off of Regular Show was that it seems like the Slacker energy has completely suffused the entire show.  Whereas before the character accepting each other made for some of the best episodes, now they all just seem stuck and happy to be there, with no greater ambitions otherwise.  And this bothers me, and I don’t think “Find a job where you play video games and stay there” is a good message for kids (because let’s also remember another reason why I’m surprised Regular Show has lasted this long: I see no reason why a child would like it, and it’s on Cartoon Network’s non-adult swim programming list.  If Regular Show were Adult Swim, then I think it would have excelled and it probably wouldn’t be getting cancelled).  Now I’m still going to watch Regular Show in Space until the end, and like I said I greatly admire how much the show has committed to the tropes, settings, and overall dumbness of a space opera.  I’m also really glad that Eileen has joined the park cast, because she is great.  I only wish she had done so a few seasons back when she would have actually gotten developed instead of being stuck in this deeply stupid space opera.  Again, I love how the show acknowledges that this is deeply stupid, but it doesn’t solve the fact that this whole in Space thing is deeply, deeply stupid.
  • The Good Dinosaur: When reading reviews for this film it was brought up how strange it is, and that about sums up my experience: I was not prepared for how much of a Western this was.  Because it’s a Dinosaur Cowboy movie! And that’s great! The two genres (although is “Dinosaur” a genre?) are blended well together, I think the voice work was fine, the central conflict really being between Argo and the Elements (with the storm-worshipping Pterodons thrown in for good measure, which I thought was effective) lent to a much more meditative film than we’re used to, and did give the viewer the sense that Argo truly accomplished something at the end.  I then wonder why it is that I’m not really excited about this movie.  In fact, the best comparison I can come up with is A Bug’s Life.  Both are Disney Pixar movies that are perfectly serviceable and well done but when going through the Disney-Pixar line you won’t pick them out.  In fact, I’m more likely to think about Cars 2 than either because it stands out for being bad.  The only reason- also strangely enough for both The Good Dinosaur and A Bug’s Life– that I can think of that I wasn’t deeply enthralled by this movie is the style: For already being a genre fusing high-concept dinosaur movie, everything was just a bit too cartoony.  Although I’m not exactly sure if I’d want it to look like Dinosaur.  Rather, it just stays in a place where it’s simultaneously too cartoony and not cartoony enough.  But we did get a bizarre dinosaur drug trip, so that’s nice.  Like I said, this is just a weird movie.
  • Zootopia: I don’t think a lot of people were expecting much from this film.  In fact, I think most of us were expecting the Disney Animation Studios bubble to have popped and for it to start making generally OK things.  However Zootopia surprised us all, because it’s a timely story about corruption, prejudice, and just how delicate communities are when the two are so deeply ingrained in a society.  The best thing of all?  Zootopia uses some prejudices and assumptions the viewer themselves have to its benefit.  We as a viewer join the rest of Zootopia the city in thinking that a rabbit (not a bunny) can be a police officer, we believe that a fox would of course be a conniving con artist, and is that a fat cheetah? Ha ha.  Well, as Zootopia goes on and develops this world you as a viewer come to realize you’re wrong, that these ideas you had weren’t based in any reality whatsoever and only existed because at some point you were told them (and not even by anyone with any authority, it’s just something mentioned in passing or something you assumed).  But you’re wrong: This rabbit is dedicated police officer who truly wants to make her community a better place, this fox is actually a greatly talented individual who was just crushed by others assumptions about him, and so what if the cheetah likes to eat donuts?  He’s a great guy and he likes being himself!  That’s fantastic!  Then add a villain who uses a community’s mistrust of one another against itself, and you have a film that’s deeply moving and very powerful.  So way to go, Disney Animation Studios, you proved us all wrong.  Oh, last note: “Try Everything” is a really inspiring message to have.
  • Over the Garden Wall: I rewatched this miniseries twice this year, once to make sure it was a good gift for my mother and another time when I actually watched it with my mother. Yes, it’s still great and fantastic the second and third time around.  Although it really does need to be viewed as a series as a whole and not as a collection of episodes (like, say, “Stakes” which all revolved around the same event and was its own whole, but you can view each episode as an individual), because every episode informs the piece as a whole.  This is especially true for some of the early episodes that are just plain stupid.  Take the third Episode: Schooltown Follies.  It’s a silly tale about a runaway Gorilla who’s actually a person in a gorilla suit.  Did anyone think to check that? Nope, they were all scared of the gorilla!  Also, Greg sings a little song about Potatoes and Molasses while cute animals dance to it.  I love this series, but this episode is so deeply stupid.  But that’s what makes it great.  Because later on, having experienced these small moments of silliness and dumb parts of life, we feel so much more for Greg when he’s taken by The Beast and nearly dies and becomes an Edelwood tree.  It also allows us to see Greg through Wirt’s eyes and see his childlike innocence and optimism and enthusiasm, which is exactly what is preyed upon in “Babes in the Woods” and exactly how The Beast takes Greg.  The thing is, though, that when just watching this miniseries for the first time, one-after-another, you don’t see everything being interconnected and dependent on one another until the moment arrives and everything clicks into place.  This doesn’t make each individual episode a slog, or a confusing mess, though, but rather just a piece in a really lovely puzzle.  Added to all of this is the style of the Miniseries, which is seeped in turn-of-last-century Americana and folk art but uses these as informants and never feels overly sentimental or nostalgic or sappy.  Instead, it just bathes everything in a fairy-tale like sepia tone, like jumping out of the yellowed pages of an old folklore book.
  • Inside Out: Just in case we were worried, Inside Out showed us that Pixar is still a leader of cinematic animation. From the incredibly realized world of the inner thoughts of all things (including cats in one of my favorite scenes), to the beautiful story of coming to terms with both who you are and a new place, to the amazing message of why sadness is essential to our lives.  Even better, after quickly dispensing of some world-building at the start every other realization is presented in a wonderfully visual and digestible way again making it clear to the audience without becoming preachy: Sadness is what helps us heal, and that sadness isn’t something we should ignore or throw away, but embrace when the time comes.  Even beyond the end result is the great way that all Emotions have their own jobs and their own purposes in head: Anger leads to the single worst decision in the movie, but Anger is also what informs passion and opinions and belief.  All of this is also ignoring what can always be expected of a Pixar film (even in the Cars series): Beautiful animation, well-directed voice casts, and (okay maybe this one is missing from Cars. Spoiler alert: I haven’t seen any of the Cars nor will I out of principle)a brilliant sense of humor.  For anyone who hasn’t seen this film yet, every bit of praise you’ve heard about it is true and it’s a fantastic piece.  For everyone who has seen this film: you know that it’s great.
  • Once Upon a Time: Yes, I watch the Fairy Tale soap opera.  It remains a fairy tale Soap Opera.  In 2016 Greg German had a whole lot of fun being the smarmy ruler of the Underworld Hades, and boy was that a blast.  Unfortunately a lot of other things in the Underworld weren’t.  We did get to see some old faces return, and we solved that whole “Captain Hook is dead” problem, but the big pull of the second half of Season 5 was Greg Germann’s Hades.  I suppose we also got a bit more characterization of the Wicked Witch of the West too, but it was really just the Hades smart show.  Which is OK.  The first half of Season 6 has also been OK, although both of these have suffered from having an episodic structure that just sort of becomes boring after a while.  In Underbrooke it was the “Unfinished business” of all of the souls trapped in the Underworld.  In Season 6’s Storybrooke it’s been finishing the stories from everyone from the Land of Unfinished stories (even though that whole thread was dropped as soon as Mr. Hyde was killed, which sort of just adds to the feeling of pointlessness these plot threads had).  I’ve heard some critics pan Sam Witwer’s Mr. Hyde, but I enjoyed him.  He oozed with a barely restrained aggression that helped to define him beyond “Sort of unkillable antagonist”, and certainly made him a continued threat even when imprisoned.   Now, let’s go into the next main plot thread of Season 6 and the real Antagonist of the first half: The Evil Queen.  Not Regina, because she separated herself using Dr. Jekyll’s serum, but The Evil Queen.  This has furthered the bizarre costuming choices of the series, as well as further shown how Regina is one of the few developed characters on the show.  One side effect that I don’t think the show was going for, though, is that it shows how underwhelming Emma’s turn as The Dark One ended up being.  I’m still deeply upset that Emma never really became Dark, and that even when possessed by one of the most evil forces in the show Emma was still The Savior and committed to good.  The idea of redemption and all of that is fine, that’s part of the show.  What bothers me is that the show backpedalled on a promise.  It had a season where Emma’s desires to help those around her and destroy herself in the process were being viewed from a very self-destructive angle which would have made her a much better character.  What’s more, the show has already looked into Emma and started to develop the flip side of her “Savior” behavior with the Ice Queen arch (because the show has always leaned on Emma’s negative aspect being “I don’t trust people”).  In the end, I wanted Dark Swan to actually be dark like the show promised.  Or I would have liked her to have been a bit more a Dark One, even if she was playing the Darkness the whole time.  She was still The Dark One, but the only evil thing she did (which was admittedly pretty evil, and I wanted more moments like this) was when she stole the heart of her son’s girlfriend to steal the tears of her son for a secret potion.  Also, while we’re talking about The Dark One, I’m happy that Belle has had it with Rumplestiltskin’s bullshit, but I’m also really tired of their whole “I love you, I hate you” relationship.  That doesn’t appear to be ending any time soon with the appearance of their freshly kidnapped and suddenly an adult baby boy Orpheus King of Dreams.  But that’s Once Upon a Time, and in the end it’s not going to change but I’m still going to be watching the Fairy Tale Soap Opera (with still one of the biggest reasons being I want to see Giancarlo Esposito- Gus from Breaking bad for those of you who don’t know actor’s names- be the genie from Aladdin and the Magic Mirror from Snow White again).  For those of you who have never seen a single episode of Once Upon a Time, you now know just how deeply ridiculous this Fairy Tale Soap Opera is.  I didn’t even get to the parts with Aladdin, Jasmine, and Captain Nemo because this show doesn’t care what story it takes its characters from, it’s just going to throw them all into Maine.
  • Infinity Train: For anyone who actually is worried about the end of Regular Show, take a look at Infinity Train.  It’s the pilot from Owen Dennis, one of the writers on Regular Show, and it’s very promising.  You should also take a look at it if you’re worried about the ending of Adventure Time, and the shaky ground of Steven Universe.  In fact, you should just take a look at it.  In about 8 minutes Dennis sets up an intriguing world with opportunities for a large mythology (which I’m a sucker for in my shows), while also having an opportunity for some really great single episodes. Also, despite being 8 minutes long, the central trio of characters get a surprising amount of development and show themselves as being worthy of spending a whole eleven minutes with every week (think of it! THREE MORE MINUTES! Anyone who has tried to write an animated show in this format knows that you can create an entire other subplot that is at times funny and heartbreaking with three extra minutes).  Also, if you tend to agree with me on Regular Show, don’t be discouraged by Infinity Train.  Dennis has written for Regular Show, and has written some of the more “Regular Show”-y episodes of Regular show (like both episodes regarding The Last Laserdisc), but Infinity Train has its own distinct feel and its own distinct style.  None of the slacker attitude that is Regular Show’s big draw exists in Infinity Train, and none of Regular Show’s fascination with 80’s video game culture exists in Infinity Train.  Instead, at least in its current form, it exists as a fusion of drawing room mystery, Miyazakian world of villains-who-may-not-be-villains, with little bits of Portal and Werner Herzegovina fan service thrown in for good measure.  Please, watch Infinity Train below as it’s one surefire way to show Cartoon Network that you’d want this to be a series.

I Don’t Talk About Music: The Musical

Let’s have a conversation!

Okay!

YOU.

No, YOU.

Okay… me.

For those of you who are following the journey of The Tape, the above was Andrew’s summation of what this “conversation” has been.  For those who have followed my analyses of the past entries, you know that for the most part I’ve been seeing them as a way of visualizing the internet itself.  Well, that is until “Missing“.  With Missing we started a new conversation, marked both by the overwhelming honesty of it and how deeply personal the film was to Andrew.  This was also marked because the old tape, the one with “I Got the Poops” to “Powerful Magics” on it that was inscribed with wacky magical runes and everything was destroyed.

This new conversation took me by surprise.  I had planned for a lot of thing in between Powerful Magics and Missing, but I hadn’t planned on that.  I hadn’t planned on something personal.  How would I respond?  Clearly a lot of the more wacky ideas I had come up with wouldn’t work, clearly I couldn’t just mirror and refract like I did before.  So then how?  By making something personal.

Before you watch the video below, I must warn you that it’s deeply personal and explicit.  For those of you who wish to watch my films and be interested in my genre explorations and digital experimentation that’s perfect and wonderful, but this is not a video for you.  This is a video for anyone who wants to truly know more about me as a human. You may continue at your own choosing and your own risk.


I Don’t Talk About Music: The Musical from Vvinni Gagnepain on Vimeo.

I don’t like talking about myself, and the very idea that you’ve just watched half an hour that’s all about me is something that a part of me finds disgusting.  However to respond any other way but personally would be to disregard Missing, and it would be to disregard Andrew.  That was something I didn’t want.  But IDTAM:TM is more than a simple need to reply to a video that one person will see.  This correspondence, though presumably just between Andrew and I, has always been open and these videos are always available for anyone to see.  So why make a video that I find deeply uncomfortable and whose subject matter deeply bothers me if I know it will be seen?  1) I’m not 100% sure this will be seen; and 2) Because I need to say this.  I needed to make this video.  Now that it’s released I’m not going to lie and say that I’m Okay, but I feel like I can start moving forward.

So now, let’s move into looking at what this film is.  And it’s a bit of a mess.  I have hours and hours of footage related to this project on my computer, enough to probably make an entirely different movie about an entirely different subject matter.  Going into the reply I knew that I’d answer Andrew’s plea for “The Truth”, but for me there’s a reason I don’t like telling the whole truth: It’s painful.  It’s painful because the Truth, so much as it exists (and one of the things I’ve been coming to realize is that truth is something very ill-defined), is that as difficult as these past years have been for Andrew they’ve also been difficult for me.  Going back to CSF, graduating, working several minimum-wage jobs, getting shouted at and demeaned by 12 year-olds — things haven’t been going my way.  I don’t know if this is “true” or “false”, or rather I’m not sure how much of this is out of my control and how much of this is my own attitude towards events that have happened.   So life is messy. Life is complicated. Life is sad,  Life is something I haven’t really ever been prepared for.

So naturally I’ve been thinking about ending life.  This was the truth.  This was what I would look at. This would be my Self-Portrait.

So why the mess?  Part of this is the problem presented in the film itself: I’m tasked with replying to a film, so if I throw out everything about the previous entries and the means of communication that we’ve set up then I wouldn’t be replying to it.  But If I were to just copy the structure of Missing then I wouldn’t be staying true and I would lose the point.  It was a damned if I do, Damned if I don’t scenario, and as always when I come the clearing with two paths I decided to take the road never traveled and make my own.  I decided to do both.  After all, this is a Self-Portrait, and one of the things I can tell you about me, the true me, is that I’m a self-contradictory mess.  There are plenty of nods to “Missing” in this piece, from the very opening mirror (I had a better sync up where my face was exactly half of Andrew’s, but I think it came at the wrong part of the song? Maybe the camera ran out of batteries?), to the shot of Andrew walking around alone with headphones in, to the cinematic montage of exploration, to the very idea of having personal log entries scattered throughout.  This was a reply to Missing.  It’s also a companion piece to Powerful Magics.  Look at it this way: If Powerful Magics is the Great and Powerful Oz, then IDTAM:TM is the Man Behind the Curtain.  Powerful Magics was about, among other things, putting on a show and showing off expertise and- perhaps one of the main things- magic.  IDTAM:TM Mirrors a lot of the segmented nature and jumping around that Powerful Magics did, hell it even has a musical breakdown in the middle of it and an experimental deconstruction.  You can even go all the way back to the first pair of videos in this correspondence for references in IDTAM:TM with the reintroduction of Pokemon and Disney films into the discussion.  There are plenty of cosmetic and structural references to the prior pieces all over IDTAM:TM, to the point where it can very well be argued that I did nothing but remix and regurgitate everything that came before.  Gimmicks abound in this piece.

It’s also one of the most outwardly honest and open pieces I’ve made and probably ever will make.  It’s a half-hour straight of a straightforward discussion of my insecurities as a filmmaker and a person and how those insecurities came to be.  It’s a discussion of the idea of friendship and connection and how it has been a topic of pain for me, especially in these past few years.  This film is where we finally confront the 800 pound gorilla that has always been looming around this discussion (at least for me), which is the closing of CSF and how exactly that effected me, in the short and long term.  The Closing of CSF is something I’m still working through, and it’s not because of the loss of the school.  It’s the loss of friendship I experienced as a side-effect of it.  It’s the painful reality that we all have to face sooner or later: People move on; and for me it seems like people move on a lot more often.  The point of this film is also to explore why this betrayal hit me so hard: because I’ve never felt like I belong in this world, even though by all accounts I should.  To tell the story of my isolation, the school closing, it’s reverberations to this day I had to skip over a few decades worth of explanations as to my actions.  But again, this is meant to be a portrait, not a biography.  But in terms of leading to the climax: my thoughts of suicide and finally going on mood stabilizing medication, the story is very linear and paced out rather well.

But this is also a self-portrait, shaped by individual style and how I see the world.  It’s a world of chaos.  A world where dominoes are carefully set up then stomped on and destroyed, falling in ever more complex patterns.  Mine is a world where I am the video game villain, the mastermind who has little motivation for wanting to ruin everything except for “Thing just didn’t work out”.  Mine is a world where reality can be ripped apart, and throughout the piece the moments of data bending, of sync errors, of dead pixels and duplicating images, they all come together in these moments of stylistic flourish.  They’re also all very deliberate.  True, the sync errors were a constant problem I ran into when exporting this project, but it was something that I could and did fix if needed.  But the dissonance between sound and picture and the removal experienced by the blinks to grey are there to communicate the delicate chaos of our world: One error and we blink to grey.  One blip of code and suddenly what you see as life and what you experience (hear) as life are out of sync, and you do what you can to fix it.  Every moment of pixellation and of bending also serve this point: peeling away layers and exposing these images for the conglomeration of RGB that they are.

Finally, we come to the Jellyfish.  This was come of the most beautiful footage I ever shot, and there’s always an otherworldly elegance to the Jellyfish.  Elegance, danger, and mystery all combine in the nature of the jellyfish in their movement, their sting, and their biology.  They are an ancient creature which has survived through millennia lacking the one organ that I feel defines life: The brain.  So do the jellyfish here represent stupidity, mystery, timelessness, beauty, reaction, survival, or danger?  It’s all that and more depending on where the footage is used and how it’s used, and yes this openness is very much planned.So with all this conflicting structure and conflicting ideas it’s no wonder that the final piece is a mess, and that’s okay.  It’s okay because I think in the end it accomplished all I wanted it to, mainly showing what these six years or so have been like for me in between Powerful Magics and IDTAM:TM.  Because these past few years have been messy.  But I’m starting to be okay with that, and putting this together was a big part in getting here.


So that’s that.  Look forward to a bit of a write-up on how exactly I went about crafting a package for this piece, and I promise that will be a bit closer to my usual analysis of form and how to incorporate references to prior packages and pieces in a meaningful way.  I may also do one final write-up on the state of The Journey of the Tape up until this point.

If you’re interested in Andrew’s thoughts on this piece, I will link to it HERE when it goes live.

As a closing remark, though, I can’t help but feel Andrew got his summation of our conversation wrong.  He’s been ignoring context and a lot of space around the pieces.  Here’s how it’s felt to me:

Are You Okay? (I Got the Poops)

Yeah, Sure! (In Fridge)

Well, Good. Things looked a bit bleak there. (Happy Birthday, Murderer!)

Of Course I’m Okay.  Maybe you’re not Okay! (Powerful Magics)

You’re right. I don’t think I am. (Missing)

Well neither am I.  Sorry. (I Don’t Talk About Music: The Musical)

 

The Computer’s Test

In preparing for my upcoming film “Superb Fire Space Laser Blasters” I had to do some per-visualization for what a panicky computer would look like.  Here’s what I have so far:

Computer Test on Henceforth’s YouTube

This project is very much informed by 16-bit arcade shooters and by classical sci-fi from the 1960’s, and I wanted a computerized face that’d reflect that.  I also need a computer that can reflect the panicky nature of it (Within this world, the ship’s computer lives in constant fear of being yelled at. The computer is doing everything it can, but it’s just one computer and it could REALLY USE A BREAK).   I think I still need to make a few tweaks here and there, but It’s still fun to see the process, don’t you think?  Anyhoo, keep at least one eye open to this space, because Superb Fire Space Laser Blasters should be releasing by mid-November, and it’s going to be wacky fun.

About Film, Time, and Pumas

I keep a log of my dreams. Most of them, anyways.  Well, okay, fine, a hefty handful of them.  The number’s not important, what is important is that my obsessive logging proved to be useful for once when I was given the assignment during my time at CU Boulder in 2009 to make a film exploring the dreamscape.  There are so many different styles and types of dreams, and I do think everyone dreams different as dreams are merely firings of electrical synapses (This doesn’t mean they’re meaningless, it just means that they’re not as nice and relevant as sometimes we’re led to believe), so I decided to focus on the filmmaker’s anxiety dream as well as my own experiences in semi-lucid dreams.  The result is below. Let’s watch, and stick with it because it gets pretty great:

About Film, Time, and Pumas from Vvinni Gagnepain on Vimeo.

What to say about this film?  I still greatly enjoy it, even some three or four years and a lot of technical honing later.  I think it not only provides a good cap to my Basement and Colorado film years, but it also features some of my favorite quotes (“The Key is inside the Puma, here take my knife!” , “Candy Town Forest!”, and “Heidegger fails to incorporate cube time which makes him stupid and false and wrong” all spring to mind. I’d love to hear some of your favorites) and it encapsulates a lot of the vividness and mundanity of our dreams: Both with the candy colored lighting schemes, the strange and often sluggish editing, and especially the minute straight of watching an egg white drip down a sign.

In spite of all of this, there a few issues.  Although the pacing at times works, a lot of the line delivery can fall flat and there are some gaps where actors are searching for lines that could have been edited over.  Some of the filmic gags didn’t come through in part because of my own color correcting and in part because of the lack of light (Mostly I’m speaking about the Greeking gag with the coconut, which no one will ever be able to understand or see), and in general the demeanor of Mike never quite gets through (I blame myself and my directing of Mikhail for this, mostly because Mikhail’s performance as Milk is spot on).

However, in spite of all of the flaws, I do deserve a bit of a break.  After all, this is the movie that ends with a person fighting a puma that’s also themselves that’s also a goat. Oh, and the camera is falling asleep at that point. So, I think that at least helps cover for the lackluster beginning, doesn’t it? DOESN’T IT?!

Without the T’s: Star Trek Into Darkness

“Without the T’s” is my film review for both current theatrical releases and any release on home video that I may see.  I treat these as a way to discuss and understand a film for it’s merits and demerits, but unfortunately since it’s a review I hindered by two main points: A grade and a gimmick.  Therefore, the more I enjoy a film the more of the letter “T” will be included in the write-up of the film, with “lesser” film reviews becoming more and more incomprehensible.

Star Trek Into Darkness is a lot of fun.  Does it further the pursui of cinema as an art form, and does it push narrative boundaries? Oh my, no.  This is a popcorn movie, and it has litle if any cultural message or truths about humanity. However, it serves to further what Abrams’ first film in the reboo franchise set out: Spaceships, explosions, and two Spocks.  The questions of humanity and society hat have been present in most iterations of Star Trek have been removed, but in it’s place is a sense of advenure and exploration, which I feel still serves the Star Trek universe well.

Star Trek Ino Darkness follows James Tiberius Kirk and the crew of the USS Enterprise as they hunt down a fugitive into Klingon Space and back to Earth (SPOILER ALER: The fugitive is KHAAAAAAAN).  Along the way we find out about tha the head of Star Flee was behind the resuscitaion of this fugitive from cryostasis (again, SPOILER ALERT, this is KHAAAAAAAAAN) and now he’s trying to right his wrong by blowing up him and his entire genetically modified clone clan and stranding the Enerprise in Klingon space, placing the blame on Kirk and sarting a full on galactic war (SPOILER ALERT: Galactic wars never end well. Also Benedict Cumberbatch is KHAAAAAAAN). Also along the way Scotty gets fired and has a trip to Jupiter, we have the closest thing the film comes to a philosophical or cultural message abou the military industrial complex, and then a whole bunch of things explode and people get sucked into space and lens flares are so present hat I wouldn’t be surprised if the next movie revolves around lens flares asking for a seat in the galactic council (they’re home planet, Baybrahms 9, then gets atacked by the mysterious Chiaroscuro. It turns out to be V-Ger). Also, along the way both Kirk and Spock get to yell “KHAAAAAAAAAN”, alhough Spock gets the beter moment.

There aren’t many surprises, it’s general Blockbuster fare, and it doesn’t quite have the same core of Sci-Fi as the series and to a lesser exten the first Abrams film did.  But it still has a few merits: Firstly, this is a very prety movie (although you may have to take out a lens flare or five).  The art direction, the design of the future, even the softer lighting inside of the starships make for a light, enjoyable piece.

However, the true redeeming factor of Sar Trek Into Darkness is the acting.  In Abrams’ first film he gave us a wonderfully dynamic Enterprise crew, one much more fleshed out than they were throughou much of the original series.  Although many of the crew members don’t get nearly the spotlight they had in the first film, and Bones mostly exists as a vessel for one-liners, the core group of the Enterprise is still enjoyable to watch.  Anton Yelchin’s Chekov, in particular, gives every line he has such enthusiasm and gusto hat even when he’s info-dumping about how spaceships fly he fills you with glee.  Yelchin also gets the fine distinction of helping flesh out Chekov’s characer a bit more form the original series.  Finally, the tour-de-force of Star Trek Into Darkness, is Benedict Cumberbatch as the arch-villain KHAAAAAAAAN.  Cumberbatch gives the warlord an animalisic harshness hat wasn’t present in Ricardo Montalbon’s previous incarnation but help cement KHAAAAAN as a cunning and worthy adversary to the indestrucible Jim Kirk. It isn’t any surprise hat Cumberbatch is the highlight of the film, but it’s wonderful to see him geting work and playing a different type of anti-social behavior than Sherlock Holmes.

So, although it’s certainly not groundbreaking, Star Trek Into Darkness serves its purpose as a blockbuser and has a handful of performances hat tip it just over the average mark. Thus, for the arbitrary grade, we’ll give it:A "B" Grade

 

An Unhelpful Guide to the Summer Blockbusters of 2013

As the weather begins to get hotter everywhere else except for Colorado (which has been banished to the land of ice), and as all the young kids and adults taking community college classes begin to get out of school our thoughts turn to lemonade, swimming pools, and what movies we can duck into to forget about how the lemonade is too sweet, the pool is too crowded, and it’s too hot outside.  Thankfully, Hollywood has heard our call and answered it, like a certain superhero group, to give us these fine summer entertainments.  Thank you, Hollywood, because without you we’d only have Parcheesi to take our mind off of the skin-melting heat and inevitable wildfires. Aside from a brief synopsis of each story, we also have how many explosions are promised to be in each movie.

Iron Man 3 (Released May 3rd)

America’s favorite Vitamin-themed superhero is back after last summers excursion with The Avenglings, and he’s back telling America about the benefits of a diet high in iron.  This health crusade is interrupted, however, by Sir Ben Kingsley’s Vitamin-C themed super villain The Mandarin Orange.  The Mandarin Orange begins a one-man assault against Iron Man, doing his best to convince the superhero that iron isn’t a necessary supplement. Kingsley gives one of the most menacing performance ever to be captured on screen, and the scene where he leans in close to whisper in Iron Man’s ear “As we go on, we remember, all the time we, spent together” will give viewers nightmares for decades to come.  Though ostensibly a movie about health it will still have a few explosions thrown in (and not just the metaphorical explosion of flavor that the omnipresent mango The Mandarin is eating oozes).

The Great Gatsby (Released May 10th)

Dircetor Baz Luhrmann took a few liberties in the adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.  Firstly, this film doesn’t take place in the roaring twenties, but rather in 1984.  It still features Jay Gatsby (played by Leonardo DiCaprio doing his best New York accent, because real actors do accents) who falls in love with a light bulb at the end of a dock, and Tom Buchanan, now related to Pat (played by Joel Edgerton).  Gatsby decides that enough is enough, I’m going to get that light bulb, and so he hops on a raft and sails down the Mississippi with a former slave named Jim.  Along the way, Gatsby angers Poseidon who send him way off course and he and his crew crash onto a deserted island.  Gatsby tries to build a functional society, but everything eventually devolves into chaos with Nick Carraway (played with spunk by Tobye Maguire) ends up talking to a severd pigs’ head.  Gastby and George Wilson (who is more a mostly-harmless man-child with a love of rabbits in this story) are able to find a way off of the island to a farm in California where they work.  There Gatsby falls in love with a woman from another rival farm, and in trying to woo her heart ends up killing her and going on trial.  Luckily, Gatsby has Atticus Finch as a lawyer (with Gregory Peck reprising his role, they edit around the fact that he’s dead).  Gatsby is released, or rather he runs away from the jail holding him, and tries to find his way home again, running into a former teacher who tries to come on to Gatsby.  This is when Gatsby realizes that life is bullshit and everyone’s a phony. He lives the rest of his life on a farm. An Animal Farm.  Though it’s mostly a coming-of-age story that thinly masks truths about the American Dream, there will still be some scattered explosions (after all, it’s every American’s dream to see an explosion).

Star Trek Into Darkness (Releases May 17th)

Footsteps echo through the halls of Starfleet; it’s Future Spock and he has terrible news for Commander Pike.  Future Spock’s adventures through time have caused a tear in the very fabric of reality itself, causing Starfleet’s #1 Most Wanted, the insane eugenics-obsessed clone Khan, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s master detective Sherlock Holmes, and Leonid Brezhnev (history’s greatest monster) to merge into one unstoppable killer who uses spaceships as weapons.  It’s up to Captain Kirk, the crew of the enterprise, and Future Commander Sulu who Future Spock has pulled from his magic time bag to go on a deadly trek to stop this crazed madman before he can wipe out the galaxy with a Death Star.  Fan favorite Edward James Olmos stars in a side plot as a Starfleet agent who has to makes sure Future Sulu’s allegiance is with the men of Starfleet and not the Machines of Skynet. This movie will only have around twelve explosions, but one of them will be the sun going into Supernova, so it’ll still be worth the ticket price.

The Hangover, Part 3 (Releases May 23rd)

The Hangover, Part 3, From Russia with Beer finds the Wolfpack Gang (a notoriously drunk gang of ne’er-do-wells) back in Las Vegas. Only there’s something wrong: Russia has taken over Las Vegas and turned it into basically the same thing only with a Kremlin-themed casino. Still, the Wolfgang Pack won’t let Socialism take over that easily. So they come up with a plan: everyone knows Las Vegas runs on alcohol, so if they drink all of the alcohol in Las Vegas they’ll successfully defeat the Russians! Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, Ken Jeong, and John Goodman star as Wolf Blitzer’s Pals, with Jeff Tambor stepping into the role of Premier Vadislav Niet, the head KGB agent of Las Vegas who is tasked to find and destroy the Wolfblood Wanderers.  The third part promises to be darkest of all the Hangover movies, with a long scene of Galifianakis crying into a bottle of whiskey and talking about how he killed his wife (rumor on the street is that Galifianakis wasn’t acting during this scene), and Ken Jeong walking out of the movie halfway through by saying “Guys, this isn’t funny anymore. I need to leave this circle of self-destruction”.  There will be somewhere around 25 explosions in this movie, but they’re all hidden and the first person to find all 25 will win a trip to Las Vegas to visit the tombs of the Wolf-woof Wiffleballs.

Epic (Releases May 24th)

This movie will surprisingly be about the Edora Pool and Ice Center in Fort Collins, Colorado where I grew up.  I find it as hard to believe as most people that the story of a Northern Coloradoan indoor pool and ice rink would be the subject of a hit summer blockbuster, but it does look like Hollywood will spruce it up a bit.  Firstly, Maxwell P. Edora (played with gravitas by Mark Wahlberg) creates the pool and ice center as a way of covering up a massive Colorado state conspiracy, and every night when the ice rink closes Edora goes to his underground laboratory to try and get to the bottom of it alongside his talking dog (voiced by Parks and Recreation‘s Aziz Ansari).  The conspiracy is as follows: The river that runs through Fort Collins (The Cache le Poudre) was a hiding ground for gun powder for French fur trappers, and it seems as though a group of trappers happened upon not only the motherload of all gunpowder, but also on a hidden cache of gold (This part is told in flashback by Tom Hanks, doing a french accent of course).  In order to make sure no one would find their gunpowder and gold, they set up a series of trap-ridden catacombs in the area surrounding the river.  But wouldn’t you know it, Colonel William O. Collins (Played by Alan Rickman) purposefully set up his military fort near where the trappers were rumored to have their catacombs built.  Collins did this, because he wanted the gold and he was going to use the gunpowder to blow up the fort after he had found the gold so he could retire from the military in peace and not have to fight in the Civil War.  Edora finds out that the city counsel led by Collins’ descendant Anton E. Collins (played by Vince Vaughn in a surprisingly effective performance) are still searching for the underground french catacombs, and more still he finds out that he may have only five days to save the town from complete annihilation.  Based on a true story, and featuring a special appearance of Donald Sutherland as local activist/hero Thomas Sutherland.  As you can imagine, this movie feature plenty of explosions thanks to the heavily feature gunpowder.

Fast & Furious 6 (Releases May 24th)

Fast & Furious 6: Several Tickets and an Anger Management Class Later picks up the ball right where the fifth installment left it: Vin Diesel is tied to a chair, wondering why in God’s name was he cursed to only appear in Car movies (Your last name is “Diesel” and you went into acting, Vin. Don’t worry, I’m only going to appear in bread-based movies).  Suddenly, a grenade is thrown in: EXPLOSION. Dwayne Johnson walks through the smoke and flames and extends an arm to Vin: “Wassup, I’m Dwayne. I’m busting you out of here”. “But Dwayne, we’re surrounded by lasers and dinosaurs and Nazis probably”, “Yeah, well it’s a good thing I brought my helicopter”. Chuck, Chuck, Chuck, goes the helicopter as Dwayne and Vin fly out of Alcatraz in 2068, but that’s not the end, oh no it’s only the beginning.  Gina Carano stars as an FBI agent with a chip on her shoulder and a badass attitude, and Cristoph Waltz plays a Nazi sent by Hitler into the Future to re-grow Hitler’s brain… IN THE BODY OF A T-BIRD.  Vin and Dwayne will have to race against both the HiT-Bird and Time, as a comet is also going to be crashing into Earth that will awaken a Dark Dragon and bring forth 1000 years of terror.  Can they make it? Their muscles say “Yes”.  This movie will be at least 66% explosions, although my money is on 95% (The other 5% will be driving while talking about cars and how they blow up).

After Earth (Releases May 31st)

The shadow of last summers “The Anvenglings” hangs heavy over the newest film by M. Night Shyamalan.  Why? Because After Earth combines EVERY SINGLE SHYAMALAN MOVIE INTO ONE.  Will Smith plays Captain Hobarth Gondola, a man who doesn’t get sick, and real-life son Jada Pinkett Smith plays movie the movie son Cowabunga Gondola, who can see dead people. That part’s obvious from the trailers.  What the trailers don’t tell us is that the Smiths come from a secluded Village in the woods that is the only place that hasn’t been taken over by baseball-hating plant aliens (in order keep people from leaving the Village, the adults tell the children stories about how great baseball used to be. It’s all a lie, though, all a fear-mongering lie).  The first twist comes about a third of the way through the movie when we find out that the aliens have struck up a truce with the Aqua-wolves who are actually what are left of the water-benders.  It seems that the aqua-wolves (formerly grass wolves, but the Lady in the Water drove them to the sea, this is explained in a flashback) are trying to completely destroy the fire-benders who now control a sizable portion of the world (there’s twist number two).  Things get really crazy after that, but I can’t give away any of the other five twists.  Needless to say, Captain Hobarth and Cowabunga are going to have to fight a bear voiced in unison by Steve Buscemi and Chris Tucker. As this movie takes place “After Earth” it’s a part of the movie-world that 33% of the Earth’s atmosphere is now explosions, so I think we all know that there will be plenty of fireballs and water balls and, most important of all, BASEballs.

Now You See Me (Releases May 31st)

Though billed as a magician movie, this is actually going to be the last film of a highly prolific experimental filmmaker known as “The Terrier”.  Terrier has an impressive oeuvre, but unfortunately he has always been plagued by the fact that he’s never gotten a wide theatrical release (though he’s won a number of experimental awards, and was even congratulated on his dedication to the cinematic art by former president Jimmy Carter).  Somehow he managed to get Now You See Me released ans shot in wonderful Hollywood, California.  Fans of Terrier’s past works will be very fond of the floating color forms and the way he uses photographic anomalies as a means of exploring identity and sexuality, however what I found very jarring (and certainly indicative of why Terrie is retiring after this film) is the fact that the entire soundtrack is Terrier saying “Oh, so now you see me? Now? You didn’t see anything I made when I had a festival in Berlin, but now you’re interested that I have Jesse Eisenberg and Common in it? Well thanks. Thanks a lot” and so forth.  Eisenberg and Common are featured, however only briefly and it’s more like a macro shot of these men’s teeth as they eat a carrot.  There aren’t any explosions in the traditional sense, but it’s certainly a worthy experience. Although I suggest turning off the sound (I hear that it synchs up well to “Dark Side of the Moon”, though).

The Purge (Releases June 7th)

In the second of this summer’s Vitamin-themed movies, the Purge follows the rivalry between two dieticians: One who claims that high fiber is the key to eliminating excess chemicals and fats, the other who claims that it’s a diet rich in anti-oxidants. The rivalry grows, much like the one in “The Prestige”, and eventually the two dieticians take the rivalry too far. The Fiber Dietician asks help from Dr. Atkins in order to create a machine that will measure diet effectiveness.  While the ending is being kept a secret for now (as it should, it’s quite a doozy. Or should I say “Juice-y”?), needless to say David Bowie’s cameo as Dr. Atkins will be nominated for at least three Oscars.  The movie promises to have two, possibly four explosions.  Don’t worry, though, because they’re going to be good explosions.

Man of Steel (Releases June 14th)

This movie will be about the 1952 Steel Strike, as told from the perspective of Sen. Joseph McCarthy, President Harry Truman, and of course the group of dedicated and underpaid steel workers.  As the story goes, the United Steelworkers of America wanted to go on strike against U.S Steel for a wage increase (as they thought that their wages were help intentionally low during World War II in an attempt for their employers to make more money).  President Truman quickly tried to nationalize the steel industry (which would mean that the workers wouldn’t be able to go on strike), however the steelworkers sued the government and took the case to the Supreme court. Surprisingly enough, the steelworkers won and were allowed to go on strike and get their wage increase (much to the chagrin of Sen. McCarthy, as this was early in the era of McCarthyism and we were only ankle-deep in the next Red Scare).  For those of you who may fear that this movie will get too political, though, don’t worry because Director Zack Snyder has made a few changes to the historical account: President Truman is now a muscle-bound pro wrestler, Sen. McCarthy is a giant robot, and the Steelworkers are a group of sexy teens with a devil-may-care attitude.  Also, instead of working in a steel mill, everyone works at an Explosion factory.  It’s still history, just sexier and more exciting.

Monsters University (Releases June 21st)

In this sequel to the hit 2001 film “Monster’s Ball” starring Billy Bob Thornton and Halle Berry, we find Leticia Musgrove alive and kicking and teaching at Yale (she’s teaching French literature, of course).  Things get complicated when Hank Grotowski shows up with a devastating bit of news: The affair they had some twelve years ago resulted in a child (Musgrove was pretty out of it, because she was in a bullet-wound induced coma for all those nine months), and that this child was a genius and is now ready to enroll in college.  Grotowski wants only whats best for his son, as he wants you Hank Jr. to become a doctor and not be stuck in the horrible family tradition of prison guarding. Musgrove is shocked: Does she really want this terrible part of her past walking into her life again, but at the same time can she say no to her own genius son?  While Musgrove and Grotowski go through their personal drama and sort out their pasts and prejudices, Hank Jr. gets involved in some whacky college hijinks (it’s obviously comedic relief, and the performance of Burn Gorman as Hank Jr. who just doesn’t have the presence for slapstick college humor, plus he pronounces “Frat” wrong).  To just make matter all sort of worse, Mos Def’s Ryrus Cooper shows up in the last third of the movie demanding “The Money”. Who is Cooper talking to? What money? Is Hank Jr. really who he says he is, or is actually an escaped convict? These are all questions that Grotowski and Musgrove will have to answer in Monsters University.  There will be no explosions in this movie, though, and I think we’re all a bit disappointed in that.

World War Z (Releases June 21st)

ZOMBIES! Oh No! And this time they’re like ants and they can climb on top of each other and there’s SO MANY ZOMBIES! Who’s going to kill these zombies? Brad Pitt, that’s who! “Wait a second, doesn’t Brad Pitt have a family?” I hear you ask. YES. Yes he does, but he has to leave his family behind because of zombies.  Meanwhile the zombies are EVERYWHERE and they’re eating EVERYTHING and turning it into MORE ZOMBIES. Lucky for Brad Pitt, zombies are allergic to explosions. So Brad Pitt kills the zombies by exploding them. THE END. Oh, and Brad Pitt looses a wife but gains a daughter or… something like that.

White House Down (Releases June 28th)

In this HILARIOUS Stoner comedy, an Aide to President Obama tries to get the President to loosen up a bit with a wild night on the town.  “Come on, Prezy-O, this is your last night of freedom before the next filibuster from Congress. Let’s go KAH-RAZY!” says the Aide (played by an always-welcome James Franco).  President Obama (who will be playing himself) shrugs and says “Yeah, okay. The White House is Down with that”.  What follows it a mix of “Dude Where’s My Car?” and “An American President” as Obama learns the true meaning of America (Parties) and why exactly he loves his wife Michelle (Because of parties).  Anheiser-Busch has made a beer specifically for this film called the “Bar-Hop O’Bama” which will be sold in super markets for as long as the film is in theaters. Also, the release date will be a national holiday, because Obama is a socialist dictator akin to Kim-Jong Il.  Unlike Kim Jong-Il’s hundreds of thousands of movies about him, though, this one promises to have the White House blow up at least eight times, only two of which will be in dream sequences (directed by David Lynch, of course).

The Lone Ranger (Releases July 3rd)

The year is 1949. People are happy that World War II is over, unhappy that the Korean War is about to begin, and generally scared of everything.  Also: Televisions are starting to be a thing.  This proves to be vital in uniting our troubled nation, as one television producer hears a radio show and decides to turn it into a television show: The Lone Ranger.  We follow the ups and downs of the shows near-decade on air as the producer, Jack Chertok (played by Mark Ruffalo), struggles to cast a horse for Silver (They ended up going through thirteen different horses during the shows run, prompting the television industry to call such a show plagued by horse death as having “Silver’s Curse”), fend off rabid Lone Ranger fans (there was a sizable group of fans who were actually rabid, it was in the California newspapers), and has to put up with Jay Silverheels (played by Johnny Depp) who had the ridiculous idea to have Tonto wear a crazy hat.  The casting of Johnny Depp in the role of Silverheels is proving to bring up quite the discussion of race and native culture in cinema, but the choice is sound because Depp is 1/16th Cherokee.  Oh, and I almost forgot: Chernok also had to deal with lead actor Clayton Moore’s obsession with dynamite and blowing up any hotel he stayed in (Eventually Chernok had to replace Moore’s dynamite collection with chocolate, leading to Moore gaining a great deal of weight).

Pacific Rim (Releases July 12th)

In Pacific Rim a crazed AI has broken out of it’s computoral prison in Black Mesa and taken over an army of gigantic robots.  These robots begin destroying all of civilization, and there’s nothing we can do to stop them or the crazed AI, when suddenly a rumble comes from the ground: It’s Godzilla! Godzilla does his best to fight the robots, and he almost succeeds with the help of Ghidora and even King Ceasar (It’s a huge step for Godzilla lore, I know, but it’s a dire circumstance)! Then the AI laughs: You didn’t think I’d let you win that easily, did you Godzilla? Mechagodzilla, controlled by the AI, rears its ugly head. Things look bad, really bad. Then a robot steps on Monster Island, and that can only mean that it’s incurred the wrath of its winged insect-like protector.  As the Mothra, Godzilla, Ghidora, etc. fight the evil robots the humans below scream and get crushed.  One team of scientists tries to figure out a way to stop the robo-threat, but they kind of figure Godzilla has it covered. Also, they get crushed by a falling building.  This movie actually won’t have many explosions (it’s by Guillermo del Toro, after all, so it does have a touch of class), instead it focuses mainly on knock-out brawling between giants.  Plus, when you’re the size of a skyscraper there is no difference between an explosion and a firefly.

Grown Ups 2 (Releases July 12th)

Grown Ups 2: Sorry Guys We Weren’t Actually Grown Up the First Time, Adam Sandler (played by golf legend Happy Gilmore) hangs out with three of his friends (one of whom is black, because Adam Sandler isn’t racist).  He might go to a pool, mostly they just hang out and drink beer. Fart? They fart too. Honestly, this movie is mostly just padding for Gilmore’s Oscar reel.  It still promises to have one explosion. One poop-Explosion.  Also, despite evidence to the contrary, Rob Schneider will show up playing a Dutch Midget. It’s going to be HILARIOUS.

The Wolverine (Releases July 26th)

This wonderful nature documentary follows one little wolverine pup as it grows up in Alaskan wilderness.  It faces a particularly difficult winter, hot-headed hunters (Spoiler Alert, the wolverine’s mother dies early, but it is able to find it’s father again. Which is nice), and a riveting section where our little wolverine gets trapped in an ice drift.  The documentary will be narrated by Hugh Jackman. Fun Fact: Jackman had no idea he was narrating a documentary when he entered the studio for every day of recording.  Even more fun fact: Jackman has never actually seen a wolverine, and spends most of the documentary talking about wolves and tangerines (as you can imagine, Jackman gets incredibly excited when the Wolverine sneezes at a Tangerine while being chased by a wolf).  This movie has one explosion at an oil factory, but most of the focus is on the wolverine scavenging for food in the snow. It’s adorable, and will certainly take your mind off of the hellish inferno outside.

Elysium (Releases August 9th)

So, something like 10,000 years ago there was a race of alien super-beings called the “Forerunners” who destroyed all of the life in the universe by using a series of gigantic space halos. These halos continued to exist, and many centuries later humanity happens upon one of these halos and colonizes it.  This Halo becomes home to the wealthy upper-class who live a life of excess that crosses a dimensional barrier and angers a race of beings known as Vortigaunts.  The Vortigaunts escape through a dimensional rift into our world and begin to go on a killing spree, destroying life on the halo and moving outwards to other human colonies.  The films hero, Samus Shepard (played by Matt Damon), sets forth on his starship Ishimura to get to the center of Vortigaunt “Hive-Brain”, which controls all of the Vortigaunts and is rumored to be a centuries-old Forerunner who now wishes to destroy humanity (which it sees as a heretical parasite) by turning all of mankind into it’s undead necromorphic slaves.  Shepard blasts through asteroid fields, Vortigaunt battle fleets, and former Forerunner defense drones to get to the center of all this madness: The Penal colony on Mars.  It seems as though this is all tied to the opening of a portal to hell that was all fostered by a rogue AI and a fleet of centuries old machine-beings who also want to destroy humanity and saw the Covenant of the Vortigaunt as a prime way to do it.  It’s very complicated, and the movie decides that it would be better to have Damon shoot things instead of trying to let us understand what’s happening.  This generally works, and there are plenty of cool outer-space explosions, and zombies, and robots, and there’s even a bit with Mars-Nazi’s who are trying to capture the essence of hell and put it into a an Ark. Plus, Damon’s spaceship is populated by sexy women and sexier androids.

Kick Ass 2 (Releases August 16th)

Kick Ass 2: Ass Harder, based off of the novel “Push” by Sapphire will be surprisingly divergent from both the first movie and the novel it’s based off of, as it will primarily follow Jim Carrey, not as the character of Sargent Stars and Stripes, mind you, but as himself.  The film promises to be a combination of Being John Malkovich and JCVD, following Carrey as he lives a tormented life doomed to constantly make funny faces while in his heart he feels only darkness and sorrow.  Carrey’s struggle with manic depression and his own thoughts on the devolution of comedic form all inter-mingle in one of the most fascinating films of the summer, and needless to say Carrey gives a tour-de-force performance.  Also, Hit Girl has been replaced with a fat black girl from the ghetto who can’t read because they needed something to cut to in between Carrey’s personality breakdowns.  There will be no explosions in this movie, which is certainly a downside and will limit its theatrical showings, but this may be the closest thing we’ll ever get to a sequel of The Mask (and that includes Son of the Mask).

The World’s End (Releases August 23rd)

Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Edgar Wright return for another delightful romp through the English pub scene.  There’s only one problem: They’re in Detroit!  Desperate to find at least on good pub in Detroit, Pegg, Frost, and newcomers Martin Freeman (fresh off his role as famed short person and sexual pun Bilbo Baggins) and Rosamund Pike (fresh off of her role in Wrath of the Titans) travel for weeks, searching for the perfect pub. “I swear to bloody God if I don’t find some good Bangers and Mash soon I’m going to sodding flip a bilke!” yells Pegg in the middle of Robocop stadium (there’s only a Robocop-themed bar there, it’s terrible) with Frost and Freeman being too scared to tell him that they have no idea what a “bilke” is.  As the movie goes on the situation becomes more and more desperate, the characters pushed to their pub limits. Before the last scene, most of the characters will die in delightfully English ways (Freeman gets suffocated with a bowler hat by a man in a gorilla suit, before dying he utters “Oh bother”).  Wright tried his best to keep to the English “No explosions, guv’na” policy, but it’s difficult to avoid them in the lawless city of Detroit. So keep your eyes on the background and I’m sure you’ll see plenty.

100 Science Fictions

  1. Space Crisis on Planet Helmar

  2. Greygax the Horrible

  3. It Came from 5 Places

  4. Don’t Look at It!

  5. I Have Space-Sickies

  6. Robot with Mallet

  7. The Monster from Pluto’s Moon

  8. Urion

  9. Capricia

  10. The Lowest Point

  11. Stanley Spaceman: Man in SPACE!

  12. Mars is Puce

  13. Hyraxi!

  14. Uh-Oh, Asteroid

  15. The Stock Crash of Fortuna

  16. Planet Without a Face

  17. The Saddest Belt

  18. Mantis!

  19. Remus V: Planet of Wretch

  20. KRAAG

  21. C.C.C.X

  22. Stanley Spaceman in Jungle Trouble… IN SPACE!

  23. His Eyes Were Gone

  24. Lof the Greedy

  25. Zzzzzappp

  26. Zapf: Dingbat from Space

  27. The Tromper of Delubina

  28. Justise

  29. Tortoise of Terror

  30. GIF, GIF, GIF!

  31. The Incredible Moron

  32. Death Isn’t on the Moon

  33. Stanely Spaceman and the Case of the Martian Mirror

  34. Ghosts of Yesterday’s Past

  35. A City of Unrest

  36. The Jewel of Forever

  37. Not This Time

  38. Fear of Stars

  39. A.R.C.S and L.E.A.D

  40. The Forgotten Workday

  41. If the Moon Could Dance

  42. Hitler was a Space Robot from Saturn’s Past

  43. #ROBOTOHNOOHPLEASE

  44. Stanely Spaceman Can’t Find It.

  45. Cybermonday

  46. “The Goo”, It Said

  47. Martian Ragweed

  48. Tyler is Gone

  49. IT DOESN’T WORK

  50. The Giant Reef Monster

  51. Nibbles the Unrelenting

  52. Iron Cast

  53. The Looming Cloud

  54. The Twin of Janus

  55. A Bead of Six: A Stanley Spaceman Tale

  56. Error of Infinity

  57. Not Again This Time

  58. *See Appendix

  59. The Fire of 1000 Suns

  60. “I Can See the Future, Captain”

  61. I FORGOT THE KEYS!

  62. Curiosity’s Folly

  63. It Was Right There

  64. You Won’t Like It

  65. The Longest 10

  66. Stanley Spaceman has a Problem

  67. Steam-Powered Monster Brains Attack the Pentagon!

  68. The Creeping Time

  69. But, Why?

  70. The Look of Galf

  71. The Year of Ice

  72. There’s too Many!

  73. Yesterday’s Tomorrow

  74. It Sneezes

  75. The Cats of Forever

  76. Green Gooses!

  77. Stanley Spaceman Makes a Friend

  78. Crazy Enough

  79. Lorem: The Always Planet

  80. Lights of Mars

  81. Samuel?

  82.  /ERROR/

  83. The Monster Needs to Eat

  84. Unidentified but See-Through

  85. Zeron: Element of the Void

  86. Woman of Sad Eternities

  87. Horrible Things

  88. Stanley Spaceman’s Space-Egg from Outer Space!

  89. I Can’t Hear It

  90. Don’t Look Now, But It’s Here

  91. Robot Needs an Outlet

  92. Anger of Deos

  93. Beige and Marooned: Lisa in Space

  94. Helmets of Crius VI

  95. Steel Heart, Living Lungs

  96. The Green Also Grows

  97. K.O.R.P.S.Es

  98. The Gears of the Martian Revolution

  99. The Death of Stanley Spaceman: An Earthling’s Tale

  100. “It Can’t Be”, Said the Moon.

Accessories to Cake

As mentioned in the previous post about my thesis film Delicious Pound Cake, there were plenty of pieces leading up to the final release.  The first of which are these short videos featured on my Indiegogo fundraising campaign called Cakelogs:

Cakelog 12/27/10 from Vvinni Gagnepain on Vimeo.

Cakelog 1/10/11 from Vvinni Gagnepain on Vimeo.

Cakelog: MLK Jr. Day 2011 from Vvinni Gagnepain on Vimeo.

 

Cakelog: 1/24/11 from Vvinni Gagnepain on Vimeo.

 

Cakelog: 2/7/11 from Vvinni Gagnepain on Vimeo.

 

Cakel♥g: Vawuntines Day 2♥11 from Vvinni Gagnepain on Vimeo.

The Cakelogs were an interesting idea. Mainly, I was trying to fix what I saw as a growing problem with my other video series, Vvinni’s Adventure’s Through Art School, wherein many time they became so long and meandering that I feel it became a daunting task to watch them. So, for every Cakelog I tried to keep them around one minute and have it be quick and to the point. This eventually became a major flaw in them, as I feel with only facts and information the Cakelogs became rather boring and procedural, and this eventually hurt my funding campaign rather than help it.  But, oh well.

Next up is, of course, the “Delicious Pound Cake” Teaser trailer, which I’m fond of. I think it give an accurate idea of the movie (it doesn’t answer the valid question of why a 12 1/2 minute film needs a trailer, but this does: I was hoping to have this out on the festival circuit for some time, and I wanted to give the cast and crew a chance to see the footage and get as excited about the film as I was).

Delicious Pound Cake Teaser Trailer from Vvinni Gagnepain on Vimeo.

Finally, once funding and festival publicity was over, it was time to begin looking at the Delicious Pound Cake DVD.  This is still in the works (needless to say, I have some major issues with DVD Studio Pro, but that’s the only advanced DVD authoring software out there), but in the meantime here are a few extras to hold you off: A commercial from the Sugar Council of America, and gameplay footage from Salvador’s Chronicles of the Fourth Kind, described as being made by “one of the most visionary humans ever”.  Enjoy, have your cake, eat it, and explode into a miniature sun too.

A Message from the Sugar Council of America from Vvinni Gagnepain on Vimeo.