A Complete Slap to the Face

Don’t you just love being stripped of humanity? Being denied a voice because you belong to a certain group? Being called a burden to everyone around you? I sure don’t.

So a few days ago, an op-ed piece was published on a certain organization’s website on how autism and people on the spectrum, in short, make everyone else’s lives a living hell (article here) and that should be stopped.

Last I checked, my brother and I are not burdens. Sure, we haven’t been able to do as many things like other regular families but it’s not like we haven’t managed. We have made mistakes but everyone else does; to err is human after all. Why exactly does our placement on the spectrum, let alone being on it, label us as burdens to society?

Yes, I am on the spectrum. It’s the only life I’ve known and will ever know. If given the chance, I wouldn’t want a cure. I’ve made progress and had experiences that most people wouldn’t have. I’ve gone so far on my own hero’s journey that hitting the big history eraser button would be a grave mistake.

I ask you to look at the name and byline of my site. I use movies as a learning tool for navigating life. Of course I take each movie with a grain of salt and don’t imitate anything in the movies in real life. All the same, I would say that movies are my guide for the world.

As to the whole representation in media, that’s an issue for another day. All I’ll say now is that there are ways to go.

My reaction to this slop-ed is a quote from The Elephant Man that really sums it up: “I am not an animal! I am a human being!” Let me speak for myself, thank you very much.

Experimental Film and Life

Being a film major, I get asked what kind of films I like. I’ve said I liked the experimental and avant garde. For a while, I was able to just say what I liked but never really why. After some reflection, I now know why.

I’ve never really processed life like everybody else. If you actually spent time with me, my behavior and mannerisms may seem a bit odd. I don’t always catch every single clue when communicating and what that may mean in the current situation. When it’s my turn to talk, I have difficulty putting thoughts together and have to make a conscious effort as to what I want to say, intonation and all. I guess you could say I’m on the spectrum (where exactly will come later).

Looking back as a kid, there was always some kind of clue I missed in terms of what was going on. I didn’t formally start school until the second grade; first real time I would be with a class from the beginning would be high school. I’d try to mimic the attitudes of some friends but that lead to trouble. Always on the outside of in-jokes, never getting the full story. There was something missing, something I could never really understand through either seeing or listening.

It wasn’t until college that I found experimental film. At first, my mind was on the side of “how is this Art?” But after willingly exposing myself to some more work (even then some experiences aren’t positive) I developed a better appreication for them. I like watching other people’s reactions to an experimental film and asking them why they felt the way they did. Most of the time, it was because they weren’t sure what exactly they saw or heard. It’s a metaphor as to how I live day to day; missing the key to unlock the meaning.

I’ve tried my hand at experimental film. Looking at Frequencies, one of the themes is that processing sensory information can be overwhelming. With the looping instructions on radio frequencies surrounding your ears, overlapping forwards and backwards, it’s hard to pinpoint what set to listen to. The static superimposed on the images obscures the visuals. While you can get a general idea of what you see, the full picture isn’t there.

It’s not the first thing that comes to mind when people ask what I like but after I do my best to explain why, it begins to makes sense.

A Return to Reality?

In a world (voice-over optional) where virtual worlds and special effects are done in a computer and filmed on a green screen and/or motion-tracking suits, fantasy can become reality. That’s all well and good but do we actually believe that the world exists or do we pay more attention by looking for the tell-tale halo of green that breaks our suspension of disbelief? I’m not knocking those who do this for a living. After all, without them we wouldn’t have The Lord of the Rings, Avatar, Life of Pi, Gravity, or any of the movies from the past decade or so that required digital assistance. Each of them are essential in the telling of the story that needs to be told. BUT, the story comes first before the spectacle.

The thing is, very few films made today entrance me through the combination of story and visuals. Already, my mind tells me “it’s virtual, it’s not real”. Part of me accepts that fact and wants to move on but another part tells me I should see how well the virtual visuals work within the story. Too often I read about the bomb that had a lot of razzle-dazzle invested in it but had a flimsy storyline. There are even moments where it can be the other way around. While all of that is part of the content of the film, it is up to the viewer as to whether or not it succeeds in suspending disbelief. Even for a film like Hugo, not making it’s money back in the box office by a small margin, I was able to immerse myself in the world of the film and be entranced by the visuals, even if at moments they were a bit too polished.

Going through the 1001, I find myself more impressed with films like A Trip to the Moon and The General because of the use of physical special effects. With those films and when they were made, there was no green screen, no After Effects and compositing plug-ins. What you see was what you got. When the bridge in The General collapses, that’s a real bridge, not a model. Knowing that, my mind comes to the realization that there were some nifty things done with practical effects in the early days of cinema.

In terms of spectacle or appearance, I find that things are becoming more and more smooth. Curves and soft faces are the way of the future, apparently. As such, everything needs to be practically perfect in every way in terms of compositing; one frame of sloppiness can kill the illusion. But when you look at some work where the point is to be messy and go outside the lines (like the title sequence for Se7en or works by Norman McClaren and Stan Brakhage), there’s a sense of child-like wonder. The imagination can run wild and free and neatness goes right out the window, like fingerpainting or doing any kind of art when you were a kid; anything is possible.

I feel, along with some others, that there will be a return of this kind of film within a few years. On a computer, things can be so precise at times that the spectacle loses its power and just becomes a perfunctory moving image. With doing things physically, chance comes into play through execution. No scratch, color splatter, or imperfections can be replicated; such is life. By physically doing things yourself, it becomes more personal because you had a hand (literally) in making the art. The initial result is that you have made something; whether or not it can reach an audience and produce a reaction is another thing. Watching it, we know that it has imperfections but that was intentional.

What do you think?

How Much is Too Much?

So, the news broke out today that another Harry Potter film is in the works. That’s great but my question is: how many films, either theatrical or direct-to-video/DVD can you make for a franchise before everyone becomes sick of it or the story line derails?

When I hear the news of a sequel in the works, most of the time it’s for a movie that I never saw. By that time, I would have already read the reactions and seen the box office results. If I did see the movie, I may be excited if I thought that story left enough room for more situations or complain that it will be continued because I didn’t like it. Even if I did like the movie and a sequel is in the works, I make the assumption that it won’t be good because I felt the story was complete. Case in point: Toy Story.

The trilogy is a strong story with a fair ending. The shorts that they do now involving the characters are great because even though there is no overreaching plot, we see the characters become involved in scenarios that work within a six or seven minute time frame. A Halloween special will be released next month. The problem? A fourth movie. True, this is a rumor but I hope that the idea of a fourth thing means the Halloween special. There is nothing more that can be done on a large scale for the Toy Story universe. As a kid, I didn’t care about the story, I just wanted more things with the characters I liked. Now, I can tell when I’ve had enough of something and will leave it be, even if it means it was something I liked.

Then there’s the joke that a franchise just won’t die. I’ve seen jokes made when Rocky was popular that it would continue for many, many years. I actually have an ad for a VCR that said in 2007 A.D. (that’s how it was printed) I would watch Rocky XVI or something like that. Underneath, it showed the VCR I would watch it on. Of course, the Rocky franchise has stopped since then with less installments than what was theorized. But even then, the idea for an exhaustive franchise still stays with us today. It’s not a bad thing necessarily; look at James Bond and Star Trek. The number of films reaches into the double digits and for the most part are still successful in telling a story that people want to see continue. On the other hand (let’s see how I can say this), the horror genre seems to do quite well with creating new ways to “end” the terror. Or, if you look at direct-to-video, how long is it until time begins in The Land Before Time? Wait, I can’t measure that in time if it doesn’t exist yet.

How many movies do you consider to be enough for a solid franchise? For me, it’s two or three at most before it starts to become a real commitment. What about you?

Failing to Finish a Franchise




I feel like I’m a bad moviegoer because I usually do not finish watching all of the entries in a series. The only one I can recall that I’ve seen all the way would be the Toy Story trilogy. I can’t claim Star Wars since they’re still making more. The question I ask myself is how come?

The first thing that comes to mind is how invested I was in the previous entries. Most of the time, I cringe upon hearing that a sequel is in the works for a movie that I didn’t care for. Problem is, I usually haven’t seen the movie in the first place and make my judgement based on reviews. But when it’s a movie that I did see and liked, I wonder how well it will do once it is released and when it does, I’ll see it, like Pixar’s latest outing (not Planes). That way, I will have walked the walk and can talk the talk.

The second reason is that when I ask people how far I should watch in a series, they’ll tell me to stop at a certain point, usually before the end of the series. I’m sure they have good judgement but how do I know that I should stop at that point and not continue? I don’t. It would seem fair to at least watch all of the entries before I can make an informed judgement, even if one of the entries is widely hated.

The third reason is the number of entries and how long they last. I’ve only seen the first LOTR movie and that took some time to get through. Same with The Godfather, The Terminator, and Alien. The Bond series will take maybe a month or two depending on my schedule. What do all of these have in common? They have a sequel as an entry in the 1001 Movies book, meaning I need to continue the series. I’ve seen at least the first entry in all of the aforementioned series but I had a hard time staying invested in the movie. Because of that, I’m worried that I’ll have the same problem in the later entries.

What exactly am I supposed to do about it? I could try to force myself to watch even if I stop caring halfway though but that’s the worst thing I can do and have done. I don’t want to stop or walk out of the movie because I feel like that’s giving up. I try to make each viewing a learning experience whether through how it was filmed or how it could have been fixed or why it won so many awards. This applies to movies that I have disliked, even some Best Picture winners.

It’s a vicious cycle that I am trying to resolve but haven’t had much success. Any suggestions on how to fix it? Or do you have a series that for some reason you can’t finish?