Tag: Character

Day 999: Buh-Bye, So Long and Hallelujah

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It’s a completely valid question.

For the past 50 or so days I have been fielding one question more often than most: what am I going to do for Day 1000? Will the final kilograph reflect upon the 999 that came before, like some extended clip show of my greatest guffaws and most aww-rending moments? Will I spend my final entry in closing-credits mode, thanking those who have made this all possible and put up with my considerable dearth of free time over the last 2 years and almost 9 months?

In short… no. While my original intent was to meander down that self-serving footpath for my final article, I decided that I would only do so if I could cite the Wikipedia page that had been created about me – as it turns out, that doesn’t exist yet.

In order to figure out my final missive, I felt I should turn to the moulder of my wisdom, the sage oracle who has helped to shape my morality, my perception, and even my understanding of the world: television. I have experienced the highs and lows of series finales – certainly at least one of them could illuminate the road to a poignant, entertaining, and (most of all) worthy coda to this monstrous undertaking.

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My first option is the beloved trope of bringing back a classic character for the finale. In my case I could introduce a surprise cameo by Yoko Ono, Craig David, Mary Nissenson, or if I really want to stretch to my roots, Phineas Gage. I could style the entire piece in a blend of haiku, musical theatre and secret code (did anyone ever figure that one out?). It sounds trite and cliché, but that’s always a place to start, isn’t it? Read more…

Day 990: The Wonderful Wizard Of Political Allegory

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When digging one’s mental spoon into the lumpy broth of film studies, there are three things one must remember:

  • A disturbing number of gender-based analyses will reveal that most cinematic conflict is based upon the male fear of castration.
  • With a little imagination, you can build a political or social allegory out of almost anything.
  • No, seriously, it’s all about castration. Whether it’s Woody from Toy Story, Andy Dufresne or Han Solo, it’s all about castration.

Turning our attention to point #2, it should come as no surprise that a humongous heap of thread-pulling has been devoted to perhaps the most widely-revered and universally beloved of 20th century fairy tales, The Wizard of Oz. Everyone knows it, and the characters within are so bold and unprecedented, drawing a line from them to some aspect of modern society is a natural academic pursuit.

It helps that the heart of the movie can be found in a series of books, written by a man who was very much aware and engaged with the politics of his era. This adds a measure of validity to any political dissections of the literary world of Oz – though it should be restated that, like most conjecture and analysis, this is a wide portal of interpretation. This isn’t fact, but it’s a friendly maybe.

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Frank Baum has gone on the record as describing his Oz books as modern fairy tales in the style of the Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Andersen, only without the romance and heavy-handed moralism. He was also seen as a political activist in his day. So who’s to say L. Frank wasn’t looking to poke a few of his own ideas about 1890’s politics into the flesh of his story? Read more…

Day 969: Pound-For-Pound Performances

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If anyone asks, I’m currently beefing up for the lead role in the upcoming biopic about Orson Welles’ final days. I haven’t been cast yet, and to my knowledge no such movie exists, but when Hollywood finally comes around to making it, I’ll be ready. So yes, I will have that second bag of deep-fried Oreos.

Screen actors – and perhaps stage actors as well, but that information is trickier to find – must occasionally alter their physical weight to slip into a part. Sure, they can cheat like Chris Evans in Captain America, whose 220-pound bulk was deflated to a scrawny pre-Atlas sand-faced wimp through the magic of CGI, but outside of the superhero genre, you’re not likely to see that. These self-abusatory body-wallops are a good reminder that some of the faces speckled across movie screens are actual artists who are willing to endure physical torture for their craft.

In tracking down some of the wonkier stories for this piece, I tried to uncover an actress who has made a similar transformation, but there aren’t many. Renée Zellweger snarfed back some pastries to gain twenty pounds for Bridget Jones’ Diary, but her final appearance was hardly extreme. I’m more impressed with Anne Hathaway’s 25-pound drop for Les Miserables, much of which occurred throughout the filming process. If anyone knows of any other actresses who pulled off feats like these, please tell me in the comments section. It’s quite the sausage-fest on this page.

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Considered to be one of the greatest actors of the last 50 years, Robert De Niro has yet to win an Academy Award since 1981. While I’ll withhold judgment on some of the scripts he has chosen in the last 20 years (I still can’t scrub The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle from the part of my brain upon which it splattered back in 2000), watching him perform usually justifies the cost of admission. If you have somehow deprived yourself of seeing 1980’s Raging Bull (for which he won his most recent Oscar), then you must immediately stop calling yourself a film fan until you do so – particularly if you have seen even one Tyler Perry movie. Read more…

Day 798: Macbeth — Umm, Sorry – The Scottish Article

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I live in a house with two theatre people. And just as they have learned to live with the eccentricities of a writer (it’s normal to scream obscenities at one’s fingertips, right?), I have come to adapt to the weirdness of their world. For example, during an exhibition of my daughter’s upcoming musical this week, a boy tripped over an expensive prop, hurling it to the ground, while another kid thwacked his head on a metal bar. Yet another accidentally face-butted a piece of scaffolding. Why did all this happen?

The Scottish Play.

We later learned that the director had to furiously scold one of the kids prior to the performance because he’d had the audacity to speak the title of Shakespeare’s Macbeth within the walls of the theatre. Just minutes later, things began to go wrong.

I’m not one to buy into superstitions, any more than I’ll plan my day according to my horoscope or buy a new car only when my tea-leaf reader tells me it’s a good time. But the Macbeth phenomenon is too juicy not to dig into, if only out of ravenous curiosity.

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Some believe the curse’s origins lie in a stolen cauldron used in the play’s first performance. Another thought is that the dialogue  William Shakespeare concocted for his witches, that the spells they utter are real, and that actual witches were ticked off at this accuracy. In order to believe that you’d first have to believe that the witches of Olde Englande spoke in iambic pentameter, and also that witch curses are a real thing outside of Hogwarts School. It’s said that during the premiere of the play, an actor died when a real dagger was used instead of the prop dagger – the curse’s first victim. Read more…

Day 793: Curious Bond-ities

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After three years of film studies classes, I have yet to find any university prof who will bestow more than a grunt upon the phenomenon of James Bond. I understand that – if ever there was a formula film genre, Bond takes the golden crown of convention. But they are fun conventions, and despite the volumes upon volumes of cinematic history and analysis I have devoured in search of my degree, none of it really matters when a movie aspires to nothing more than fun.

The more recent run of Bond-age has explored love and loss in James’ life, dipped into his childhood origins for a sprinkling of character depth, and of course the guy has had his balls whipped. But the consistent thrills within the 23 films are the babes, the beverages and the bevy of bodacious techy-trinkets. Twenty-three films is an impressive feat, despite the lack of temporal congruity or a unifying sense of narrative continuity. But so what?

We don’t need to know how the psychological damage of the laser beam scene in Goldfinger is going to impact Bond’s battle technique atop the Golden Gate Bridge in A View To A Kill. Sure, the Daniel Craig trilogy (destined to be a quadrilogy in 2015) has given us a few consistent arcs within the characters, but we all know that they’ll get tossed aside when Craig moves on and the next Bond takes over.

I’m voting for Idris Elba in that role, by the way. If Remington Steele can be a Bond, why not Stringer Bell?

Look, he's already practicing!

Look, he’s already practicing!

As I mentioned, there are 23 Bond films in the official canon. If you want to be a completist, you’ll have to grab three additional films for your library. These ones won’t be found in the box set.

There’s the first James Bond film, released eight years prior to Dr. No. CBS paid Ian Fleming a whopping $1000 to adapt his first Bond novel, Casino Royale, into a one-hour television broadcast as part of their Climax! anthology series. The show aired on October 21, 1954. Remember two years ago when people were talking about the 50th anniversary of James Bond on film? Well, if we want to get really accurate, we’re actually at 60 years now. Read more…

Day 743: Make Way For Madman Muntz!

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While the world heaps its historical praise upon the Thomas Edisons, the Henry Fords, and the Giordi Lobzhanidzes (he invented the modern garlic press), we forget that for each titan of invention who helped to shape our twisted, wicked world, there are many who remain practically anonymous. I’m not talking about the utterly unsung individuals whose names are forever scrubbed from their legacy and lost to the ages. No, these are names that get heralded on some small scale in their time, but are likely to vanish into the fog of obscurity only one generation later.

I’d wager a flask of Ovaltine and my old Donald Fagen 8-track that no one from my generation is going to pipe up and claim that they remember Earl William “Madman” Muntz.

Blank and unimpressed as your face may presently be upon reading this, the topic of today’s probing kilograph, I would argue that, strange as it may seem, Muntz’s life’s work did have some sort of effect on the world around you. Perhaps it’s a tiny ripple, but isn’t that enough? Wouldn’t we all be tickled to know that the fabric of time continues to quiver from our impact some 24 years after we’ve scooted into oblivion?

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Earl Muntz spent most of his life one or two steps ahead of his time. He spent his youth disassembling electronics and learning how they work. He might have followed this passion down an academic freeway, but the Great Depression booted him to the curb and forced him to quit school to work in his parents’ hardware store in Elgin, Illinois. A few short years later, a 20-year-old Muntz was ready to open his first business: a car dealership. He relocated to California once observing that used cars sold there for much more than they’d fetch in Elgin. Then Muntz single-handedly changed the industry. Read more…

Day 650: There Once Was A Law About Naming…

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There once was a thought for a game:

To write about laws about names.

And just for a gimmick,

To write it in lim’rick

Though some will turn out rather lame.

 

It’s been quite a while since I tried

A full kilograph longer than wide.

I could do so much worse

Than a column of verse

Though I’ll come off as mocking and snide.

 

But why not indulge in a caper?

I fear my strong output might taper.

You’d best read up soon, you’re

Expecting a junior,

And with it a blank birthing paper.

 

A birthing paper is a birth certificate. I don't know, someone might use that term.

A birthing paper is a birth certificate. I don’t know, someone might use that term.

Some countries will let you go nuts,

And name your kid “Boner” or “Putz”.

But check out the law

Or get smacked in the jaw

When the government kicks both your butts.

 

In Denmark they’ll humbly insist

That your baby’s name’s on their big list;

With just seven grand

That the Danes understand;

If you pick something else they’ll be pissed.

Read more…

Day 631: Slash With Panache

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I’m not going to lie, today’s topic passed the border between odd and skull-thwackingly screwy about a mile and a half ago, didn’t pay the toll and stomped on the gas without losing a beat. As a writer who has often struggled in the snowy scavenger hunt for inspiration, I understand that stomping out a wholly new and fresh path can be daunting. This is why I don’t have a problem with fan-fiction, at least as an exercise.

Frowning at a blank screen, refusing to plunk a single consonant onto the page until you’re certain your characters will be afforded the appropriate amount of depth and intrigue is not going to make you a writer. If it helps to grease your gears by penning a fresh adventure starring Ferris Bueller and his buddy Cameron, go for it.

Just don’t ask me to read it. And if your fresh adventure involves the two characters having sweaty sex in the passenger seat of that 1961 Ferrari GT California, then… well, now you’re riding down the crazed highway of today’s topic. Yes, this is a real thing and they call it slash fiction.

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Slash fiction is not, as some may believe, just another bi-product of the twisted collective brain-squirts known as the internet. Its origins date back to the late 1970’s, when people (often young female fans) began penning fan-fiction involving Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock in a relationship that stretches its toes a little beyond the implied bromance of the show. These stories were usually differentiated from the standard fan-fic entries via punctuation; a Kirk & Spock story was simply a tale of the two characters, but a Kirk/Spock story could include hand-holding, kissing, or some full-on Vulcan wang-melding. Read more…

Day 410: Charles Fourier – Prototype Hippie

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You know what really bothers me? The present-day career opportunities for philosophers are remarkably few. Nowadays if you come up with the ideal means for crafting a likely unattainable utopian society, the closest you’ll get to seeing it realized is when you sell the idea to a reality show. But it wasn’t always so.

In 1808, Charles Fourier, the French son of a small businessman (not clear on whether he owned a small business or was simply rather diminutive), published his first book. Fourier was a pioneer of utopian socialism, devising a vision for the future that was bold, humanist, and ultimately completely unrealistic.

But it was interesting.

Cooperation

According to Fourier, the secret to a society’s success was cooperation. Workers should be compensated according to their contribution to the society, and everybody needs to put in their share. Fourier wasn’t about class elimination; there would still be rich and poor folk. But the higher pay should go to the people who did jobs others might not enjoy. So in Fourier’s world, the guy who cleans up the hardened vomit off the carpet after New Year’s Eve should make more money than the lucky schmuck who sits around a government office on the taxpayer’s dime, writing articles about 200-year-old philosophers for the internet.

Not sure I’m on board, but let’s keep going. Read more…

Day 379: Spun Off And Spun Out

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Everyone loves a spinoff. It’s a bankable bet for a TV network: guide viewers of a successful franchise into a new world, either featuring a character from the original or some people who are – they swear – friends of someone from the original (usually aired in what they call a ‘backdoor pilot’ episode of the parent show). Sometimes spinoffs become hits themselves, but it’s more common for viewers to see them for what they are – a money-grab.

George Jefferson was a popular supporting character on All In The Family before he moved on up to his own successful sitcom. On the other hand, Horatio Caine and his sunglasses were shoehorned into an episode of CSI with the obvious intent of establishing him as the lead in the upcoming Miami branch of the show. Me, I’m going with the former’s tactic when I launch my own spinoff site this fall, “1000 Vowels, 1000 Days”.

I found a list of TV’s mutant-children, and felt I would be shirking my obligation as a student of popular culture (meaning a guy who was raised by television) if I didn’t give it a look. Most of these shows I can’t even remember.

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The Brady Bunch wrapped up its network run in 1974, the year I was born. As such, I never really got into the show, though I have always had a tremendous amount of respect for Florence Henderson’s dynamic she-mullet. I wonder if anyone out there remembers the four spinoffs that oozed from the Brady household: Read more…