This is what we get after remakes have run their course

I listened to this great podcast Never Seen It. Guests come on and write a scene script for a film they’ve never seen. I’m not trying to ape that. There are neat games, and I’ve really taken a liking to one in particular. I’m pretty sure they’ve mostly lifted it from Wheel of Fortune, but it’s a Before and After game. It’s simple enough. They give a synopsis for a hypothetical film that’s a mash up of two pre-existing films. These films have titles linked by a word. Let’s give it a try.

So maybe the hypothetical title would be “Boss Baby Driver”. A combo of Boss Baby and Baby Driver. the synopsis might be something like: A business oriented infant with a penchant for music moonlights as a getaway driver for Kevin Spacey.

Is that clear enough? Let’s give it a crack. Scroll to the end for answers.

  1. Emma Stone stars as a clean cut student, who takes advantage of the school rumour mill to survive in a world where sound can be deadly.
  2. Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston learn valuable life lessons from their incorrigble dog with dissociative identity disorder, played by Jim Carrey.
  3. Jennifer Aniston pretends to be Adam Sandler’s soon-to-be-divorced wife in order to help him evade a much younger woman who stalks him across the world.
  4. A billionaire weapons merchant creates a mechanised suit to free Leonardo DiCaprio from the clutches of his evil twin brother, King Louis XIV.
  5. Two hapless losers are forced by the mob to deliver $50,000 to Australia, but must scramble to reclaim the money after it’s stolen by a Kangaroo, who happens to be Adam Sandler’s nerdy, passive aggressive sister.
  6. An alcoholic musician fosters a fresh rising talent, after his Vietnam War injuries leave him questioning the country he fought for.
  7. A couple navigates the frought nature of their multi-decade spanning relationship, after they’re magically transported to 1920s Paris everyday at midnight.
  8. After a car crash leaves a woman in an amnesiac state, she searches for truth in reality, with the aid of Nicolas Cage, a vengeful father who escaped from Hell to avenge his daughter’s death.
  9. Set in the 80s, a group of college baseball players navigate their way through the freedoms of adulthood, as they disguise themselves as part of an all-female band to hide from the mob.
  10. After a troubled youth is sentenced to community service, he falls in love with Mandy Moore and they solve racism through football. Mandy gets cancer.

That was fun and silly. Everyone ready for the answers?

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  1. Easy A Quiet Place
  2. Marley and Me, Myself and Irene
  3. Just Go with It Follows
  4. Iron Man in the Iron Mask (this one might be cheating, but I couldn’t resist)
  5. Kangaroo Jack & Jill
  6. A Star Is Born on the Fourth of July
  7. Before Midnight in Paris
  8. Mullholland Drive Angry
  9. Everybody Wants Some Like it Hot
  10. A Walk to Remember the Titans

I’m pretty sure Nic Cage would star in any of these, given the chance. Dude just loves making movies.

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Take it, leave

Happy Friday, at least to me.

Work let us leave an hour and a half early to enjoy the unusually sunny afternoon. It was a wonderful gesture that I took full advantage of. I’d already finished by the time the message went out, so I turned off my computer, grabbed my bag and walked out the door. I have a big wide open weekend full of opportunity. Do you remember back at school, the bell ringing before summer holiday? You were free and uninhibited, with possibility around every corner. That’s how it felt to leave the office and get my stride on. The sun *was* shining bright and my heart lifted reach it. I’ve got a date tonight. I’m taking a road trip to a Stag and Doe event in Simcoe tomorrow with a friend and some of her other mates. Who knows what kind of adventure awaits? It’s like riding the crest of a wave yet unbroken. Hell, I might even find time to do a load of washing. I’ll have fun tonight, come home and have a good sleep, make sandwiches in the morning and head down to the train station. Ideal.

I’m sure there’s stuff I should be pissed about at the moment, but I don’t really care to dig into it. I’d rather just ignore it and try to recapture that school holiday sensation. I don’t need to be back at work for days. A vacation of sorts from inflexible schedules. If I was ten again, I’d probably rewatch the same film day by day. I’m not sure how many times I’ve seen The Mask, but I am surprised I don’t know it off by heart by now. Maybe I’ll get an ice cream cone on my way home. It’s been a while since it was warm enough for outdoor ice cream. I realised I have the ingredients to make an Old Fashioned at home, so I might fix up one of them.

I’ve been listening to this podcast All Fantasy Everything lately. It’s one I’ve peripherally heard of for some years, but hadn’t actually reached out to try. The idea is simple enough. They get four people in a room, they have a prepared subject and they “draft” that subject. Ostensibly the game is to try and have the best pick list by the end, but really it’s all an excuse for a group of funny people to shoot the shit about stuff they love. The conversations feel like hang outs. The structure is super loose and open to interpretation. Everyone is “on”, but it also doesn’t seem like they’re hamming it up to look good. They let their guard down and stay present. It’s awesome. You know those nights where you sit around with friends and the conversation meanders all over existence? It’s like that, but these friends are wittier than most people you know. It’s a very easy podcast to listen to in the background and tune in at your leisure. It’s left me with not only belly laughs, but those full body sweats and shortness of breath from mirth. I’m equally disappointed that I just discovered it, and thankful that I’ve got a huge archive to churn through. If you want to try out a neat episode, check out “Dating”. It’s good, honest, dirty fun.

And with that, I’m home. I’ve got the house to myself and a whole weekend ahead of me. What could be better than this?

Would a Shakespearean time travelling farce be a comedy of eras?

I’m half-cheating. Technically I started writing the first part of this yesterday, but y’know, I finished after midnight, so I’m claiming it. There were a lot of commas in that sentence. Today’s been “whack”. I went along to my scheduled therapy appointment only to find it was scheduled for the same time the following week instead. My bad. Today’s been a clusterfuck at work AND I had an internal job interview in the eye of the storm. So here’s stuff that I put together over the course of the day (technically).

Here are some reasons I like Spider Man: Homecoming A Lot:

It manages to do Spider Man without falling into the trappings of the previous films. Everyone knows the origin story and it doesn’t tarry with any of that With Great Power carry on. Already it’s treating its audience with some respect.

Peter is a teenager. He looks like a teenager. He acts like a teenager. Tom Holland was actually a fucking teenager when they filmed. This Spider Man stuff is crazy out there, but he’s still extremely excited to be able to play with lego and do kid stuff. Also Tom Holland is the spitting image of 90s Peter Parker from the comics.

Peter being a teenager also pays off with the stakes. He makes mistakes while he’s trying his hardest because he’s still a teenager. There are a number of times when he’s actually goddamn terrified, because he’s just a kid. All of this is so overwhelming and magnitudes bigger than anything he should have to face. It’s such a nice break from stoic heroes to see actual vulnerability in a lead male character.

Having Stark as a father figure also builds out more necessary humanity in his character. It’s a nice element to add to the overall MCU, to give him something else to fear losing.

The Vulture could have been a terrible, boring part of Spider Man’s rogue’s gallery. He’s an old man with a dumb suit. However, Keaton acts the shit out of the role. His motivations and frustrations make sense and, like Killmonger, you can see things from his side. There’s a moment in the film that I’m pretty sure took the breath out of everyone in the cinema. That was one hell of a well set up moment.

Sexy Young Aunt May had every single chance to phone it in and fuck up an important aspect of the Spider Man universe, but the character works so well. She’s funny, loveable and extremely caring. She’s not a boring one-note character, she has depth. It makes so much sense why Peter is so attached and sets up a strong bond for future films.

The supporting characters are great. Ned is awesome. He’s a big ol’ dork who dials the enthusiasm up to 11. Also, he’s actually competent instead of just being comic relief. Having Disney starlet Zendaya being a weirdo instead of bland love interest is a refreshing turn. Turning Flash into a smug rich kid instead of a jock bully was neat. The interaction with Happy and the rest of the Iron Man crew really sold Peter as being an excitable kid out of his league.

The script was funny as fuck. I mean, with a team involving Community alum Chris McKenna (who wrote ALL the best episodes including my fave, Paradigms of Human Memory), I couldn’t see it going otherwise. The cast was all built out with legit comic actors who didn’t overstay their welcome: Martin Starr, Hannibal Buress and Donald Glover. Jennifer Fucking Connelly was the voice of Karen (the suit) and formed the basis of a really lovely relationship with Peter.

The big thing is, this movie didn’t need to happen, yet it did and knocked it out of the park. The script is excellent and none of it resorts to grandiose stakes that would make no sense for a street level hero like Spider Man. Somehow it managed to become a wonderful, hilarious coming of age film with a ton of heart.

On another note…

Laser Time is a podcast I’ve adored for years, and I’ve never successfully gotten anyone else into it.

It tackles pop-culture of all variety, but really has a soft spot for 80s/90s nostalgia, cartoons, video games, comedy, prestige television and classic cinema. The hosts are all insanely knowledgeable and quick witted. They’re good friends and it really comes out in the recording.

The research is deep and fantastic, tons of niche audio artifacts and totally compelling content that’ll open your eyes to what was going on behind the scenes while we were all growing up. They really commit to whatever interesting weekly theme they choose, and they’ve given me a renewed appreciation for so many of the texts that’ve made me march to my own particular rhythm.

There are so many episodes I could recommend, and will happily do so if anyone wants. An easy starting point could be this episode I’m currently listening to, which has had me involuntarily shouting at my computer multiple times.

So if this page has nothing to offer you, hopefully the aforementioned pop-culture products will.

I had no idea if I had to hold or fold, so I rolled

When we last met our hero, he was borderline hungover and half delirious with exhaustion.

Look. I’d had four hours sleep and was very excited about guesting on the Terrible Warriors podcast, but I was in no proper shape to do so. My incredibly dubious solution was to smoke a bowl before braving brunch alone. Did it work? I’m still not sure. Instead of being bolstered full of energy, I developed a constant dull nausea and just got kind of confused. I found myself a corner seat, ordered the pulled pork benny my stomach heart desired, and waited. It arrived with a cup of coffee, heaping of pulled pork and corona of Hollandaise. Wait, did I say corona? I meant to say they drowned the poor thing. It was great. I started almost shovelling it into my desperate body, awaiting the surge of strength from fats and proteins. It tasted good and I think I felt better, but also kind of ill and off balance? I was too warm, I started fretting about the podcast and character ideas. Did I have enough? Was I too stoned to play? What if everyone was incredibly prepped and I dragged the team down? Would I grow insular and forget to talk? Would I miss my cues and waste everyone else’s time? Or would I have a great time getting into character and commit fully? I had no earthly idea.

By the time I arrived at the condo, I’d had some fresh air and felt a little better. Then I saw the set up and got nervous again. I couldn’t tell what my body wanted. Was I too full? Was this nausea going to abate? Did I need to poop? I oscillated between drinking water and trying to go to the bathroom as other guests arrived. I looked at the set up and felt faintly overwhelmed. There was a big table with five mics set up around it. On one side was the producer/GM’s (game master) computer and sound desk. Behind the table was a large flatscreen hooked up to the same computer. It displayed the backup recording, showing mic levels and Patreon subscriber comments. With prep completed, I took one last attempt to clear myself out, then took my seat at the table. I looked down at the character sheets in front of me. There was so much information. How was I gonna come up with anything worthwhile if I didn’t know the rules. I had every faith in our GM to steer us right and every doubt in my ability to follow. I ran through the character ideas in my head, could I adapt any of them into the archetypes in front of me? I panicked as I came to a definite conclusion: No. I was on my own with nothing but my absent wits to guide me. This was not gonna go well.

We started rolling and the host began his intros. Going around the table he introduced the other players. They’d all guested on the podcast before. Some of them had even played Masks: The New Generation before. Some had even played Masks: The New Generation on the podcast before. What was I doing there? I started freaking out a little. The host introduced me and I stumbled through my words. It felt awkward. The attention moved away from me and I felt briefly relieved. I looked down at the character archetypes in front of me and got absorbed. I tried thinking of ideas but I was drawing blanks. I was too tired, I felt ill and more than a little stoned. This was gonna be a disaster. We went around the table reading from the sheets in front of us, introducing the character archetypes for listeners. It was going okay, I wasn’t screwing this up, I went with the flow and breathed a little easier. After we’d described each archetype, the host turned to me and asked, what archetype was I going to be?

Time stopped. I thought about all the archetypes at the table. I thought about who I was and which archetypes were similar. I immediately discounted all of them. For some reason I knew if I was gonna commit, I had to be someone wholly different from myself. I looked down at the archetype sitting on top of my pile: The Delinquent. A trickster and troublemaker by nature. They served to sow chaos and mess with authority. They were emotionally fickle and potentially standoffish. An all around shit stirrer. Their powers could be any two of teleportation, psychic weapons, gadgets/hacking, emotional manipulation, illusions or power negation. The Delinquent would be a complicated character to play and a pretty terrible choice for my current mental state. Without any good reasons to do so, I chose the Delinquent, with teleportation and emotional manipulation up my sleeves.

I flashed back to the improv class I took and decided to shoot from the hip. I just had to trust in First Thought Best Thought and hope I didn’t mess up too much. We moved onto creating a backstory and the GM asked me several questions to clarify who my Delinquent was.

  • How did you get your powers? My parents were human rights lawyers representing indigenous people. One day I was with my mother and she saw a bunch of policemen aiming guns at a young black kid on the street. She ran in front to protect the child and the policemen took fire. She died saving the child’s life and in my shock, I teleported away. I grew to hate how the law prosecuted the vulnerable. I stopped caring about most things and used my powers to take advantage of people. I could get my way easily, so life had no stakes.
  • What do you do for fun? Mess with people, play pranks and play by my own rules. Things were too easy, so I became an adrenaline junkie acting out to feel challenged.
  • Who, outside the team, thinks better of you than you do? My father. He’s the only one I really care about and I can’t bring myself to use my powers on him. He still thinks there’s good in me.
  • Why do you try to be a hero? Because despite everything I do, I still feel this nagging pull that stops me from going full villain. I don’t understand it, but I so desperately want to.
  • Why do you care about the team? They’re an outlet for my adrenaline seeking behaviour. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll help me discover why it is I’m pulled back to doing the right thing despite my best wishes.

I blinked. Where had that all come from? I had a character with motivations and emotional stakes. I had the potential to cause conflict and maybe even develop a redemptive arc. Maybe I could do this after all. The other guests fleshed out their characters and the pieces started to come together. I could threads of connection ran through my head. I internalised interactions, potential outcomes and narrative opportunities. The GM introduced us to Halcyon City: The city of heroes. It all made sense.

Over the next eight and a half hours, it all rolled together perfectly. The GM weaved a story, asked us questions and worked with our answers. I didn’t think too hard, I just put myself in the character and acted. It worked. Through twists and turns of the plot, we worked together to save the day and create a compelling narrative. We all had strong character moments and my delinquent had heavy emotional stakes. We all cracked jokes and alley ooped one another. It was fucking great. By 11pm, it was done. We had a complete story and four potential episodes in the can. I had a total blast and can’t wait to see how it all comes together. Against all odds, everything worked out.

And I still have no idea how.

I guess a perfect Sunday would’ve had even more cheese

Let’s begin. I think I was drunk earlier today and I’m hoping I’ve sobered up enough to put coherent word to digital paper.

I’m not sure how much I’ve spend on food/drink/entertainment this weekend. My guess is close to $200. That might be an extravagant guess, but I’m mildly concerned it isn’t. My belly is very happy. I’ll be even happier once the food has moved its way out of my body. This morning my girlfriend and I went off for brunch with our Toronto family. It was amazing. I don’t wanna use that word lightly, but I feel like it fits here. We brought Prosecco and made mimosas. They were the least decadent thing on the table. There was cheese and crackers. They’d set out both bagels and challah loaf for all of our bread-y needs. There was a wonderful salmon and cheese bake, vegan hashbrown casserole thing, coleslaw with apple and cranberries and a pseudo caprese salad thing. If we’d gone to a restaurant, we’d have been astounded by the meal. This was much better, since we got to share conversation with beloved family we hadn’t seen in maybe six months or so. It’s Toronto, “busy” is everyone’s neutral state.

Next up was the live Doug Loves Movies show. Remember yesterday when I talked about the cool The Leon Demon name tag I made? Well it didn’t get chosen by any of the guests. Poop. I was so psyched too. I spent ages spitballing with my girlfriend over who my “shithead” should be. I joked that Hitler would be a fun choice on a meta level. Like, isn’t he the poster child for shitheads? Isn’t it an answer so obvious that nobody would ever pick it, thus making it kind of funny and unexpected? I wasn’t sure, so I went for Jordan Peterson. I’d say he could go fuck himself, but I don’t want him having any pleasure, self-directed or otherwise.

The show was a fucking sweaty riot. Mark Forward, Kayla Lorette and [some random knowledgeable audience member]. It was a fun mishmash with endless riffing. The audience member was getting a little ranty and Forward was reciprocally antagonistic. It was a fun dynamic. At one point Kayla turned to the audience member and asked “how does it feel becoming the villain in your home city?” The mood was less aggressive than I made it sound. The audience member did a great job on the games, but Kayla came out ahead. Mark mostly cracked wise the whole time. There was a ton of great creativity with audience name tags (and a fair number of candy based bribes) and the two hours went past in a breeze. Everyone also sweat their balls off on a day Toronto turned the heat up to 11. Wait, that’s not particularly high in Celsius. Maybe 30 degrees is more accurate. I had maybe three beers, which weren’t helping with the sweat-age.

After the show, I got a burrito with friends then we headed off to the park to meet up with some others. We spun hula hoop (and at the age of 31, I finally learned how. I was just putting too much force into it), poi and staff. We did some handstands, cartwheels and round offs. We basically just goofed around a bunch in good company.

Honestly, I don’t think I have the imagination to conceive of a more ideal Sunday.

If looks could skill

How did you spend your Saturday morning? If you answered “mildly hungover I half-assedly taught myself super basic photoshop” then we’re probably twins and we should go out into the world and play twin pranks.

Because my body told me five hours was ample sleep for a weekend (they don’t call ’em “sleepends”), I woke up with purpose. I was gonna try to learn how to make my Doug Loves Movies poster goddammit. I had my idea, I had paint.net (basically a freeware low-rent photoshop. I can’t recommend it enough) and I had nothing else valuable to do with my time. The perfect recipe for creativity. I started by finding a high res image of the original film poster. Then to get it out of the way, removed the “N” from the title and copied the “E” to make an “L”. I fine tuned the edges by alternating between the dropper tool and small tipped paintbrush. This was some serious pixel shit. I trawled Facebook for a useable photo of me (the only one where I’m not copping a big dumb smile) and got to work. I added my face as a layer and sized it with her normal face. I drew corresponding white lines to those of the poster and trimmed off the sides of my face that would otherwise be out of bounds. For far too long I did this using the “overwrite” function on the paintbrush, before remembering that the best way to erase was just using the “erase” tool like any non-insane person. With my head sized right, I trimmed right around the edges to keep it as flush as possible with her face.

Then came the interesting part, with the face layer completed, I wanted to try and recreate the key lighting effect from the poster. I made a new layer to create a gradient of red/purple from the top left (getting the specific colours with the dropper tool). It took a bit of tooling around with hues, but eventually I had it figured out. I made yet another gradient layer to get light on my face from the bottom right. It wasn’t nearly the same as the gorgeous saturated light effect, but it was something. Then came the pedantic bit. I got the eraser tool out and went all the way around my face on the first gradient layer, basically separating the gradient that was on my face to that outside of it. I did the same on the next gradient layer, so I had my facial gradients and all the wasted stuff on the outline. Then came the fun part, where I got to increase the eraser footprint to the size of a fucking tree and clear off all the unnecessary gradients, so I just had the light on my face. I then went into the layer options for each gradient and put them to “glow”.

Voila, I was done!

Now if I had any standards, I’d put more work in. I feel like I didn’t really understand the layer opacity functions until after I’d done all the incredibly finicky outlining. By that point I flat out couldn’t be bothered going back to set a new gradient, because I’d have to do all the outlining again. If I’d done it I would’ve cranked the colour saturation right to the brink and softened the layer opacity to compensate. Maybe I’d use the lasso select to give myself purple eyeliner and make my features pop a little more instead of blandly sitting under the layer. Maybe I’d even do work on my lips to make them stand out. I dunno, as someone who knows nothing, the concept of digitally giving myself makeup is a little intimidating. I’ve got so many plans in the next 24 hours, I barely have time to print it. Still, for two or so hours of my life, I’m happy enough with the outcome. It’s a lot better than the cut/paste job I was planning on doing initially.

I certainly didn’t expect to end today with a whole new skill.

Definitely lower case on that whole “skill” word.

I would preemptively crack and I have no shame about that

I wrote a Facebook status today that went:

Me being tortured:
“I’ll tell you whatever you want. Just don’t call me late to dinner!!!

I swear I’ve spent 30 minutes laughing at it. Not one 30 minute period where I thought about it from time to time. 30 minutes of total laughter spread across the past five hours. 30 minutes is a lot of chuckling, considering each time may have been for about 10-15 seconds or so. Hell, 10-15 seconds laughing at a single joke is a buttload of time in itself. With strangely little exaggeration, I’ve thought of this joke and giggled to myself roughly every five minutes. For fact checkers out there, I did zero math on this, so my calculations may be one or two decimal points off. To be clear, I don’t think it’s a good joke. Even filtered through a myriad of meta layers it still barely makes sense. More so, that’s why it tickles me so. This whole preamble isn’t to highlight my scintillating wit. All’s I’m saying is that if I end up alone and destitute, at least I’ll be in good company.

I’m tired as all heck today, but for good reason. I got to work mega early for a clandestine meeting. Half right. I’ve been trying to track down this dude in our company about an something. It’s not super secret, but I also don’t feel like going into it. Suffice to say, it may lead to a new job directly or far more indirectly. Thing is, this bloke lives in Vancouver and commutes to Toronto every once in a while. I’ve missed him the last couple of times and he never felt super jazzed about setting a time to meet in person. Considering it’s leading towards something tied directly to my interests, I’ve been tenacious. Like a slavering bloodhound with prosthetic wheels in need of oiling. I also figure it’s easy to be dismissive of someone you’ve only interacted with over email or the phone, but once you’ve actually met it engenders them to you. Like naming a stray and getting separation anxiety when it comes time to say goodbye. Turns out he was friendly and the meeting will be helpful one way or another. Almost worth getting to work an hour and 45 minutes early.

I’ve got Doug Loves Movies on Sunday and I’m excited. The thing I don’t have is a name tag or the graphic design skills to put one together. I guess I should probably take a step back and explain how it all works first. So Doug Loves Movies is a live podcast taping with comedian Doug Benson (who, as you guessed, loves movies. Here’s an episode where Captain America gets drunk and bro-y, but in a charming fashion). He invites a bunch of special guests (usually comics, actors, etc) on stage to play movie trivia based games. The guests all bring gifts for a communal prize bag. Here’s where the name tags come in. Audience members make posters of a chosen movie that combines with a pun on their name. I’m planning on The Leon Demon, for instance. Some people get incredibly creative. Guests go out into the audience and pick a name tag, playing on behalf of that audience member. Whichever guest wins the games, their audience member gets the entire prize bag. But wait, there are no losers! Everyone gets to write a “shithead” in an envelope on the back of their name tag. If their champion doesn’t win, Doug reads out their “shithead” to the crowd. You might write “Harvey Weinstein” is a shithead or something.

So how long does it take to learn basic photoshop?