March 29th, 2011

Kill It With Fire


Sweet baby Jesus in a smoking birchbark canoe!

I'm trying to do concept art for Safe Passage.  I'm using up those stupid Bic plastic mechanical pencils just because I didn't want to feel like I wasted my money.

I was told, "You only spent two bucks on them.  Just throw them out if you don't like them."

I just found out I wasn't going crazy.

Hold it at the right angle, and you can shove the led back into the barrel no matter how far out you extended it.

I was wondering what the problem was while doing my art lately.  Now, I tested it, and it takes very little pressure to do it.  If I was using pencil shading and such, they'd be fine.  But for my undersketches, they suck.


And if I ever find myself shopping and bored while waiting, I'll buy a proper drafter's mechanical pencil, thank you very much.  I only have two of them right now, anyway, one more won't hurt.

DERPing With The Stars

There are certain shows I studiously avoid.  One of them is American Idol.  The other is Dancing With The Stars.

Tonight, these two shows will collide in a train wreck of stupid.

I have no clue who Adam Lambert is other than being (I guess) the winner of one season of American Idol.  Lamber is gay.  How do I know this?  Because while I don't follow American Idol, I do follow blatantly stupid hypocrisy.  A year and a half ago, Lambert was banned from performing on any ABC program.  They claimed it was because they concerned he would behave "inappropriately" on camera.  What triggered this was an appearance during the ABC-broadcast American Music Awards.  Lambert was giving a sexually charged performance and apparently kissed his male bass player.  (IIRC, on MTV, Madonna kissed Britney Spears during a performance.  I may be straight, but if my choices are being kissed by Adam Lambert and being kissed by Madonna, then I'll gladly be gay for however long the kiss lasts.  I keep thinking kissing Madonna's face must be like kissing an old catcher's mitt.)

Despite the fact that straight performers have been doing far more blatant stuff on performances for years, Lambert got the boot.  ABC has standards.  ABC has morals.

ABC has bills to pay.

Tonight's Dancing With The Stars features world class douche bag Chris Brown.  Brown was arrested for beating up his then-girlfriend, the singer Rihanna.  Now, I know there are news and rumors that Rihanna may not have been completely innocent, but that doesn't matter.  No one deserves to be beaten by someone who claims to love them.  NO ONE.  He got nailed.  He claims to have finished anger management training, but last week, after appearing on ABC's Good Morning America, he was asked about Rihanna.  When the interview ended, he was supposed to wait until after the commercial break and sing a song.  Instead, he went to his dressing room and had a shit fit, trashing the place.  Despite that getting some pretty heavy ink from the national press, ABC hasn't bounced Brown's performance from Dancing With The Stars.

In fact, according to E! Online:

"Indeed, sources at ABC have confirmed to me that producers want to “milk this event [the ABC meltdown] for everything its worth,” high moral news standards (and, one assumes, laws, especially those involving convicted felons and their subsequent behavior) be damned. And not only was Brown’s upcoming Dancing With the Stars appearance next week not canceled, as we predicted, guess what other media deal ABC wants to build with bad-boy Brown?

"A reality show, perhaps?

“No, that would never happen here,” said a top-level ABC insider, who knows the current situation regarding Brown very well. “What’s far more likely is orchestrating Chris Brown talking to Rihanna for the first time.”

So, just to review -- gay kissing is bad (well, gay guys kissing.  We all know girls kissing is totally hot, whether or not they're gay, because maybe they are and they don't know it).  Straight guys who beat their girlfriends get TV offers.

Everybody puke on three!  One!  Two!  bleeeeeeeeh!
Woody Can't Take It

And, In Conclusion -- Sucker Punch

Dan Rather.  Vanna White.  Hello Kitty.  All of them have one thing in common.  Carefully refined neutrality.  You look at or listen to them and what you see in them depends on what you project onto them.  Dan Rather is just a newsman, but can be whatever your reaction to the news he's reporting is (at least, when he wasn't getting loopy during long election night coverage.  Those are some fun memories).  Vanna White was either a wholesome American girl or a sexpot, depending on how you wanted to view her.  Hello Kitty, with her carefully blanked expression, is simply there, and whatever the view projects on to her is what her personality is like.

The point of this is to draw in a bigger audience because whatever is featured isn't advancing an agenda, a point of view, or anything.  In this day of comedians wearing their political leanings on their sleeves and everyone not even pretending to be objective anymore, neutrality is a lot of work for too uncertain a payoff.  But every once in a while, you get someone who tries to create something that refuses to define itself and challenges viewers to define it.  And it gets even worse when, whatever the viewer defines it as, the creation assures them their interpretation is wrong.

Welcome to the world of Sucker Punch.

Sucker Punch comes from the fevered imagination of Zack Snyder.  Snyder got his start as director of the 2004 remake of Dawn Of The Dead.  He then directed 300 and Watchmen, two films long on visual style and weak on plot (sorry, I cut my teeth on the black and white comics boom, and among the books I loved was Rick Veitch's Brat Pack.  The deconstruction of the superhero was old hat to me by the time I got to Watchmen.  It was nothing I hadn't seen before and hadn't seen done better and I thought it blew ass.  Go ahead and argue, you will not change my mind on that).  He tried making a family film with last year's Legend Of The Guardians (which I really liked).  Now, instead of filming a pre-existing work, he creates an original, Sucker Punch, a film he storied, wrote, directed, and produced.  In other words, this is all his fault.

The plot is something like a rejected Russ Meyer film.  I half suspect Snyder wrote and shot this movie with one hand, if you know what I mean, and I think you do.  Baby Doll (Emily Browning) has been institutionalized for being psychotic.  Seems her stepfather was attempting to molest her sister and Baby Doll accidentally shot the wrong person.  The stepfather pulls a scam to get Baby Doll lobotomized so that 1) she can't tell anyone what really happened and 2) she can't claim her deceased mother's money.  So Baby Doll pulls a Ralph Snart (told ya I love indie comics) and retreats into her dream world to escape everyday life.  In five days, the doctor will be there to rewire her.  In her dream world, she's a hooker in a brothel who's virginity has been sold to "the High Roller", who will be there in five days.  From there, the movie skips around different realities as Baby Doll and four friends go on an epic quest to escape the High Roller (in actuality, to escape being lobotomized).

The movie flies off the rails because the whole thing is a big stiff middle finger to audience expectations.  The movie is chock full of the kinds of female sexuality stereotypes that Quentin Tarantino did in Kill Bill.  The names, the costumes, the action pieces, everything is presented to the audience without any context of its own.  And because of this, any interpretation you can come up with is easily reversed.  It's a piece of pop culture trash with hot chicks being bad ass?  No, it's actually an intelligent subversion of all those cliches and tropes.  It's an art house examination of men's fascination with women who aren't actually empowered because they still function as objects for men's entertainment?  No, you're taking it too seriously, it's just a dopey action flick.  Is it even a movie?  No, it's a video game you are watching someone else play.  It's just a video game instead of a movie?  No, it's a movie using video game conventions against your expectations.  No matter what you think about the movie, there is some attitude or design element or something that flips it on its head.  It's a celluloid tease -- everything you know is wrong.

The film's production and design has me reflecting on my idea that the art we create is a reflection of us.  If I'm right about that, Snyder is one kinky little puppy.  As if it was bad enough his id being projected on the screen for everyone to gasp at, it gets combined with all his bad directing instincts.  There is no denying that, when it comes to directorial style, Snyder is all cliche.  As much as I dump on Tim Burton for being stuck in a rut and not moving the camera for shit, he at least tries to do things original and with his own touch.  Snyder is all slow motion for coolness but not emphasis and panty shots, titilation through destruction, both through the physical (all the fight scenes) and the metaphorical (all the female characters reduced to fap fodder).

I hate Quentin Tarantino.  I think he's a bullshit filmmaker.  I will give Tarantino credit for one thing, though -- he knows when to not take what he's doing that seriously.  Admittedly, the smirk gets annoying because he revels in the outlandish that only appeals to those who groove to it.  But it does come through that he's aware how preposterous what he's creating is.  Not so with Snyder.  There isn't a hint of irony or humor or wonder or anything here.  Most of the film takes place in the brothel, and the movie only becomes interesting and borderline entertaining when it moves outside of it.  Those pieces are sidebars.  This is a serious film, and a sense of humor would have helped.  Of course, that would also destroy the "keep the audience guessing" neutrality of the piece, and without its lack of definition to define it, the film has no identity whatsoever.

I would like to ban Zack Snyder from ever buying another song ever again.  His incorporation of music does nothing to underscore the action (once again, much as I hate Tarantino, he does know how to use pre-existing songs to enhance the scenes of his movies.  It was one of the few things I liked about Pulp Fiction).  The mix becomes way too loud, making me watch part of the movie with my fingers in my ears.

In short, Sucker Punch is Snyder given free reign to do whatever he wants.  And what he wants is to prove how much above his viewers he is.  He thinks they won't understand what the movie really is.  Well, I know what it really is.  It's self-aggrandizement.  It's artistic wank.  It's him turning loose masturbatory fantasies knowing enough people share his tastes to make the movie a hit.  Andy Worhol was an expert at using the viewer's expectations against them, but he did it to wake up the bright ones and prank the slow ones.  Snyder is just pranking everybody with a movie that makes you feel like you've been kicked in the head.  Pick a movie that actually tells you something instead of being something that impresses its creator with himself.  Skip Sucker Punch.