The Best Kind of Overwhelmed

Dude, it was amazing to see you this weekend! I already miss you like crazy, but I’m glad you made it home safe. And I’m serious when I say I literally miss you like crazy. This morning, I woke up at 2 a.m. and thought I heard your voice out in the living room. That’s the level of crazy, and exhausted, I am.

Before you left on Monday, you bought me a copy of Norse Gods by Neil Gaiman, which is a book I’ve had my eye on. I was so excited to start reading it, so I took it home and…put it on the huge pile of other books I’m excited to read.

Like the title of this post says, I am the best kind of overwhelmed right now. I have SO many books to read and podcasts to listen to and movies to watch, it’s a little intimidating. However, after spending a few months in a media rut, I am ecstatic to be in this position.

At the end of 2016, I was having a really hard time finding a book series that I could get into. I was craving the full immersion I experienced with series like Harry Potter and The Dresden Files, but just couldn’t find anything I really liked. I also just finished watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix and was dealing with the void that left, so I couldn’t really turn to TV. And, to top off my media rut, I had listened all of my favorite albums into the ground so even music felt boring.

Well, at the beginning of 2017, I decided to re-read The Dresden Files. It had been a while since I had read the whole series and I knew that I liked the series. It wasn’t something new, but hey, at least I knew it would keep my attention. The only copies of The Dresden Files we have are signed hardcovers. Not only are hardcovers difficult to fit into a purse, I didn’t want to risk banging up a SIGNED copy.

Thankfully, the local library had the series. How did Arthur put it? Having fun isn’t hard when you’ve got a library card!

I walked down to the public library and found Storm Front, the first of the Dresden Files books. I grabbed it, but then kept poking around, looking for other books that might look interesting. Long story short, I ended up walking away with five books, four of which I had never heard of.

I read all of them in a month. Seriously. I hadn’t felt that excited about reading since high school.

That is definitely where this reading frenzy really started. By walking into the public library, I caught the reading bug and it has been fantastic! I’m currently finishing the Hannibal Lecter book series and have Norse Gods, two Jack Ketchum novels, the Exorcist, Apt Pupil, a Michael Crichton novel, and the third Dresden Files book to read. I’ve also had to physically resist picking up a copy of Lazarus Rising and The Magicians. I have way too many books to read as is.

Oh, I also have 1984 to read for my book club. Woe is me, I have too many books to read.

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This podcast is literally my aesthetic.

When you were in town, you also showed me this podcast phone app and sent me a few podcasts to check out. Well, I’m happy to report, I have fallen directly down the hole that is podcasts. I’m currently ten episodes into Nightvale and have seven other podcasts I’m dying to listen to. To try and get through Nightvale, I’ve started spending my lunches at work coloring and listening to podcasts. Adulthood at its finest.

And, too top off this media influx I’m experiencing, I have a growing list of movies I want to watch. I’ve been reading a ton of horror novels and have felt very inspired to go out and check out some of the classic horror films I have missed. I want to watch all of the Freddy Krueger, Jason Vorhees, Michael Myers, and Hellraiser films as well as go out and find other classics like Poltergeist, The Exorcist, and Suspiria.

tumblr_oivjh6wp9h1s1v3r1o1_500The problem with this is I only have to many hours in the day and eight of them are taken by work and another six to eight are taken by sleeping. I also have other things I need to accomplish, like exercising, cleaning, and other adult responsibilities. It’s been a hard week for me because I literally just want to sit at home in my PJs and binge everything. I don’t want to work or exercise or do ANYTHING but read and listen and watch.

I went from being in a rut to having WAY TOO MUCH to do. When it rains, it really fucking pours.

-EMS

Stranded in the Snow

So, it’s official. Michael and I are stranded in Pullman for Christmas.

In the last few weeks, Pullman has been absolutely covered in snow. I’m not sure how many inches we’ve had, but I know it’s enough to keep us and our cars grounded for fear of spinning out and ending up in a ditch.

To be honest, I’m a little bummed. For me, Christmas has never been anything but time with family. As you know Dan, we don’t exactly have a lot of family Christmas traditions, but even just hanging out at the parents’, eating pumpkin pie and playing board, games is enough of a tradition to make me feel nostalgic and homesick.

As I’ve been coming to terms with the fact we WON’T be getting out of Pullman for Christmas, I’ve realized that it might be time to start creating memories and traditions of my own. Right now we’re all still close enough to get together for the holidays, but that might not always be the case. If I move across the country I’ll be away from the family for most of the holidays and I can’t be moping around for the rest of my life. And what happens if one day Michael and I decide to have children? We’ll need some traditions to pass on to them.

So this week I’ve been thinking a lot about what Michael and I can do to make this Christmas seem festive and homey. I’ve come up with some ideas that I’m very excited about and I want to share them with you.

I’ve been calling my first idea the $30 Christmas Challenge. One of my favorite parts of Christmas is sitting around, drinking coffee, and watching everyone open their gifts. Well, as you probably know no one can afford the number of gifts mom and dad can. They would spoil us rotten and, as a woman with credit card debt and student loans, I can’t do that for myself or Michael. So I came up with a fun compromise for Michael and I. For this challenge, Michael and I will go to Walmart or the mall and we’ll each have $30 to spend on the other person. The idea is to get as many legitimate presents for the other person as you can. When I say legitimate, I mean no buying 30 bottles of travel deodorant or something like that. Think stocking stuffers, something the person would actually want. Whoever wins the game gets to pick the Christmas movie we watch on Christmas day.

My second idea is pretty straight forward: a Christmas Eve date day. During the holidays, Michael and I are always so busy and incredibly broke trying to get presents for everyone else. We rarely spend money on ourselves so we want to make Christmas Eve, the very last day of the holiday shopping season, a day to spoil each other. This year we’re going out for breakfast at our favorite cafe and then going to see Moana. Yes, Daniel. I will be seeing Moana tomorrow and I’m so excited!

My third idea is baking cookies for each other. Another memory I love from our childhood is making cookies with mom. I especially loved the shortbread cookies dipped in chocolate and walnuts. So good! Well, I want to continue that tradition and so Michael and I will be baking each other cookies on Christmas Day. I think I’ll be making snickerdoodles, which he loves.

My fourth idea is to find a video game we can play together. In my last post I talked about our N64 and that is still one of my favorite Christmas memories. I loved playing Mario and Legend of Zelda with you, Daniel, and I want to keep playing video games.

So what are you and Pretzel going to do for Christmas?

-EMS

 

DC Cinematic Universe

I really want Wonderwoman to be good.  And I don’t mean that the other DC movies have been necessarily bad.  I loved Suicide Squad and I Batman v. Superman has its moments.  There is a lot I’d change, but overall I liked ’em.

What I mean for Wonderwoman is I hope they find a groove with their directors and writers.  A strong, well liked commercial success.  The DC Cinematic Universe (DCU henceforth) isn’t going so well.  Man of Steel was mixed overall, Batman v. Superman wasn’t liked, and Suicide Squad was hated by most critics (although I can’t find a single person who didn’t like it).

What I think troubles most writers and directors is that the DC universe has stronger, more memorable characters while the Marvel Universe has better, easier events.

Civil War was an amazing Marvel Universe event that effected super-heroes the world over.  Secret Invasion was an amazing surprise event.  The Infinity Gauntlet that linked an entire universe worth of heroes.  House of M shook up the X-men in an awesome way.  World War Hulk was just complete bananas.

Those events translate better because they were meant to involve a handful of characters with a massive supporting cast.

In my opinion its harder for the the DCU to do the same.  Big universe spanning events are tough because they’re events deal with the abstract, parallel universes, keeping track of different teams, and knowing your superheroes all the way back from the Silver Age.

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This’ll translate well to a 2 hour movie.

I love a lot of those DCU events, but reading the comic volumes takes longer than watching a movie. So what hope do they have of condensing it?  They usually revert to taking the themes from famous comic books and trying to convert that to the big screen.

That sounds great in theory.  We get some really cool bits like this:

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Wait… wait… yup I peed myself.

The image on the left is the cover from the Dark Knight Returns.  And Batman v. Superman took a lot of ideas and scenes from it.  But its too much to pump into a live action movie so they adapted ideas.  But if you want to adapt these ideas to the screen just make the movie as laid out by the source.  You want to have some cool Dark Knight Returns scenes?  Just make that a movie!  Why adapt it to something else?  Especially when you are writing a different story and are hamfisting these tropes into it?

The directors and writers have this idea that comic book movies need to be crazy action thrillers.  But as I said before- Marvel has great events while DC has great characters.

So you need to play into those characters.  Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy was well panned because he took inspiration from famous comics instead of borrowing tropes and scenes.  He wasn’t adapting a comic as much as he was respecting the source materials.

The writers and directors for Batman v. Superman did this instead:

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When people think of Batman, most people know a couple of his rules.  He doesn’t kill and he doesn’t use guns.

Lets re-evaluate:

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Hmm

Batman is not meant to be an action hero.  He’s not meant to always just go in guns blazing.  Batman is slow, methodical, cunning, and quiet.  Yes, he does beat the shit out of people in the comics but usually in a rescue or an interrogation.  His martial prowess is a product of his need to find evidence.

So how do we fix it?  Lets make a formula for a great Batman movie.

When writing a Batman story you need to start with a mystery.  He’s a detective.  Batman solves crimes when no one else can.  Don’t even worry about picking a villain.  Pick the one that fits the crime.  He has such varied cast of villains to pull from.

Equally important- it doesn’t need to be some world ending challenge.  Batman defends Gotham.  He doesn’t always jump out to defend the world.  He’s part of the justice league but Batman focuses on the city that birthed his identities.

The city is a character in itself, and without proper dues to that you aren’t writing a Batman story.  Batman knows the city like he might know a child.  The trends, the people, the criminals, and the mysteries.

Would you people believe me if I already told you we already have a perfect Batman movie?  That isn’t The Dark Knight?

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Did I blow your mind?

Guy Ritchie took a famous crime fighter, wrote an amazing mystery he has to solve, and had the movie revolve around the act of solving it.  The action makes sense when its needed, the visuals are focused more on the characters, and everything feels justified.  The action isn’t about Sherlock being the strongest man alive- he evaluates his situations.  He doesn’t come to epiphanies, he has to figure it out with his supporting cast.

And don’t even tell me that Irene Adler isn’t the Catwoman.

You could literally change the characters to Batman and Robin and the Penguin and it would be a dead ringer for a Batman movie.  Instead most people think about the broad strokes of what it means to be a super hero movie and they apply those tropes in their minds eye.

The DCU needs the writers and directors to be passionate about the stories and characters.  The characters need more respect long before they write a plot.

So please.  Ben Affleck.  Do it for he crowd.  Do it for Batman.  But most of all, do it for me.

An Open Letter to Critics

Everyone is entitled to their opinion.  The whole point of an opinion is that it can’t inherently be wrong.  Your opinion is correct to you.  My opinion is correct to me.

The greatest part is that we can disagree and be civil and have awesome discussions.

That being said- the recent ratings with Suicide Squad have made me realize something: people have their expectations way too high.  I know that systems like Rotton Tomatoes are kinda biased and I shouldn’t treat them as the final grade on my term paper, but it is a good frame of reference.

I want to bring it up because I feel like its a good example of critics being- well uh- too critical.

It’s their job to critique things, and even though I don’t have a prevalent voice on the web, I understand that it is easy to write about things that are bad and its more difficult to write about things that are good.

This, I feel, causes critics to slant everything in a bad way.

Read this:

Suicide Squad is bad. Not fun bad. Not redeemable bad. Not the kind of bad that is the unfortunate result of artists honorably striving for something ambitious and falling short. Suicide Squad is just bad. It’s ugly and boring, a toxic combination that means the film’s highly fetishized violence doesn’t even have the exciting tingle of the wicked or the taboo. (Oh, how the movie wants to be both of those things.) It’s simply a dull chore steeped in flaccid machismo, a shapeless, poorly edited trudge that adds some mildly appalling sexism and even a soupçon of racism to its abundant, hideously timed gun worship. But, perhaps worst of all,Suicide Squad is ultimately too shoddy and forgettable to even register as revolting. At least revolting would have been something.

-Vanity Fair

That’s a single paragraph from Vanity Fair.  Now, if you haven’t seen Suicide Squad, that’s gonna sound fucking vicious.  Vanity Fair just pimp slapped that movie while it was sleeping.  The reason, I believe, that they released this review August 2nd (3 days before the movie was out to the public) was because the movie wasn’t terrible at all.  The movie was pretty good.

This isn’t going to end up being a review of Suicide Squad but for those are curious on my opinoin: the movie was perfectly fine, had a few good moments, had a few things that I probably would change.  It was a great, middle of the road, enjoyable movie.  I’ll probably buy it when it comes out!

The reason I personally give it that rating is because I don’t think the movie was trying to be anything more.  It knew what it was aiming for.  It knew it was going to be a summer blockbuster with some recognizable DC characters, and wasn’t trying to change the game.

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Some people take games way too seriously.

And that’s what I wanna clumsily segue into: it’s fine for movies to aim for a passing grade.  Think back to the 90’s.  Think of those fun movies you remember that weren’t trying to get Oscars, Emmys, Academy Awards, Goldon Globes, Graham Crackers, or whatever other arbitrary awards we give to stuff.

Think about movies like Rush Hour, Liar Liar, Fifth Element, Hook, and Shanghai Noon;  there are tons more.  Those movies are pretty fucking awesome, but I believe we can all agree that they definitely aren’t going to win awards.  We had fun watching them.  They told their story and that’s about that.

Starting in the mid 2000’s we had a very important thing happen: the Harry Potter movies started coming out.  They were a crazy grand slam that made their studio a ton of money.  And it fucking brought in money for years after the first one because there were seven fucking books.

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The Boy Who Lived Large.

This set a precedent for having long sagas of movies and also for having a money making formula.  If a movie couldn’t cash fucking checks was a failure, even if it made its money back.  The hype had to be real.  More and more trailers were being released for stuff and they were trying to make sure that movies were highly anticipated.

This changed the formula.  Movies had to be carefully planned hits.  Carefully planned media presence and rushed trailers.  Everyone was trying to be the next huge series.  Which was bad for many reasons.  Everyone started holding everything to a really high standard.  And we lost sight of the middle ground movies that didn’t want to try and be a huge blockbuster hit.

But, but- movies have to make their money goddammit.  Wait- we aren’t sure it will?  Cut the finale into two parts.

When we grade everything on some crazy gold standard we become unfair to anything not competing for the gold.  Critics grade even harsher because they can use fancy words.

It’s simply a dull chore steeped in flaccid machismo, a shapeless, poorly edited trudge that adds some mildly appalling sexism and even a soupçon of racism to its abundant, hideously timed gun worship.

The fuck is a soupçon?

 

The movies that want to continue having film be a storytelling device get low scores because they didn’t want to kill themselves building space mansions out of money. Think about movies like The Boondock Saints, A Night at the Roxbury, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013), and Waiting.  These movies were telling simple stories with a handful of characters.  They didn’t have massive effects budgets and weren’t trying to blow minds.  They were aiming for their target, not the moon.

So why do they grade them like they were trying to?

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Waiting

Notice the audience scores.

 

So, to any critics who are reading this for some absurd reason: when you take the time to write your review, I implore you to think about what the movie is trying to do.  We separate our Olympics by gender, size, style, and difficulty- but we hold all movies to the same standard?

I’m not trying to say that those movies deserve A+ for aiming for the middle, but the gap between what critics think and what audiences think seem to be weirdly far apart.  Yes, you may be grading it against a guide that you learned about in Critic School (the comment section on Youtube) but they all can’t be the greatest.

Small studios can do amazing things, but its hard for all of them to trying to be the best like no one ever was.  We are able to appreciate the grandeur that some movies go for because we have middle ground movies to base it against.  I love the Rush Hour movies, but they can’t be held up against Mad Max.  Waiting is a pretty funny movie, but I can’t possibly say its on the same level as Tropic Thunder.

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I just had the greatest idea.

-DTM