Category Archives: Uncategorized

Chinese Burns On The Dancefloor

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It’s a short one tonight as I’m 750 words deep into a post about hair, both head-based and facial.

Yeah, I know. Well worth the wait.

So what’s the picture all about? Well, it’s an example of the kind of mindsplitting news that comes through my hometown. You don’t like it? Tough. That’s how it is.

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The playlist for that last post

was as follows, if that kinda thing interests you:

(In particular, The State I Am In & I Don’t Love Anyone, obv)

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A list of things that happened to me since last time (or) WANTED: Copywriter To Come Up With Better Titles

– I broke up with my co-writer. But that’s okay. I’ll probably write a post on the experience at some point, because I think it was pretty healthy and it was definitely educational.

– I attended a party for my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary, which is a concept I can barely even wrap my head around but I’m very happy for them because they’re a couple of sweet, hilarious people (I don’t know if you’re ever meant to mature beyond finding your grandpa’s false teeth antics hysterical, but I hope I never do) and I’m sure making it this far isn’t exactly a cake walk.

It did, however, mean being around extended family, half of whom I didn’t know the names of and thus was completely terrified of. I’m no good at talking to strangers at the best of times – mostly because I think they’ll either a) be incredibly bored and my self-esteem will wither, b) get the wrong impression, think I’m a creep and my self-esteem will wither or c) have absolutely no interest in a conversation with someone as lowly as I (and my self esteem will…yeah). But family members are a more daunting affair because if I embarrass myself or bore the other party to death (an uncomfortable likelihood in some crustier relatives) I don’t have the luxury of the possibility of never seeing them again, because there’s always some christening or funeral around the corner,* and there’s always the chance the ones that are genetically connected to me might exemplify the very worst of my own qualities. Which is never fun.

And that’s why I don’t drink at these things.

– I wrote something for I Am Tim for the first time in an age – probably around 9 months – which felt like flexing a muscle  I’d almost, almost forgotten I had. It felt good. And also a little weird, because the episode I worked on will actually be coming out way sooner than any of those we developed and started writing this time last year.

Web series don’t make a whole lot of sense. Or money. But they are an outlet for ridiculous dialogue, outlandish hair and extreme cartoon violence. Peaks and troughs.

– And, uh, that’s kind of it, if you don’t count the dozens of scrap prose segments and nonsensical scripted gibberish that’ve been pouring out of my brain the last couple of days. On a related note, the not-exactly-megabucks career choice of Lazy Creative isn’t really paying dividends at the moment and so I’m chasing after retail jobs so I can catch that fabled MUNNI I hear so many nice things about.

Until next time, then.

[Unless the local council figure out a way to extract coins from my bone marrow in the next 24 hours. In which case I’ve set up an auto-post system which will alternate between pictures of Koala Bears and clips from Prince songs. Don’t tell me which you’d prefer.]

*Because obviously the worst part of a funeral is the awkward conversation.

MARK ALLEN PROCRASTINATES

I just hit SEND on either the dumbest or the smartest email I’ve written this year, in terms of writing. Dumb because it could lose me a lot; smart because I could gain a lot. I won’t really know until I get a response. Hell, I hope I do get a response. That’d probably be the worst outcome.

Anyway, it probably won’t shake out until tomorrow. By then I’ll have either wriggled out from a self-made drama or been crushed like a worm underneath it. I’ll let you know which.

[So yes, this means the short is still on hold. Don’t give me that look…yeah, I know. I should change the name of this blog to MARK ALLEN PROCRASTINATES.]

Up in arms about speech balloons

I often lament bad dialogue to anyone who’ll listen, be it uncomfortably placed exposition or language that character – or anyone else – would ever use. It’s bad enough in Hollywood, where cheesy one-liners and saccharine romance are king (and these are scripts that are usually scrutinised and revised by at least four or five different people, regardless of the final credits), but it can be even more dreadful in comics.

It’s not something that tends to get noticed a great deal, probably because no-one’s actually reading the words out loud. But go ahead, pick up a modern comic from Marvel or DC, read a couple of pages out loud and you’re guaranteed a couple of clunkers; nobody talks anything like that in real life, or even in movies.

Part of the problem is that in superhero comics you get characters tossed around by a lot of different writers, and depending on the status of both them and the writers, the chances are they’re not going to sound a lot like themselves. If the character has had a unique, established voice for a long time, that’s great: a small-time writer can be kept in line by a stringent editor on what they would and wouldn’t say. But it you get a superstar writer like, say, Brian Michael Bendis – who has a brilliant line in teenage soap opera with Ultimate Spider-Man – along to write, let’s see, the X-Men, then they’re just going to write the way they’re used to writing, and in this case you end up with a group of grown adults fighting for the rights of an endangered species who sound like a bunch of stammering, angsty teenagers.

While I think that is a problem – with both the unchallenged egos* and highly stylised dialogue of certain creators, along with wishy-washy editorial policies that are easy to pinpoint in the yearly retcons and relaunches of the Big Two – I don’t think that’s all there is to it.

In a recent Q&A, new X-Men writer Brian Wood spoke about his relationship with the editor of that book:

“And she (Jeanine Shaefer) doesn’t let me slack; she’ll send me back for a third draft if the story needs it.”

And it hit me: most comic scripts only have two drafts? If you know anything about screenwriting, you’ll know that getting a film right in two drafts is no mean feat, and it certainly explains a lot about the levels of quality in mainstream comics…

(That said, I actually think Brian Wood is one of the good writers, which makes that quote all the more perplexing.)

*For the record, I’m not suggesting BMB has an overblown ego. I don’t know the guy, but I’m pretty well aware that the comics industry isn’t without its divas. He was more an example of a personal style creating a problem.

Ugh.

So apparently somehow the only thing I achieved today was losing at Monopoly. Badly.

Never could get the hang of Saturdays.

Draft 2: Electric Boogaloo

So Scars version 2.0 is now officially done, dusted, and out of my brain. Well, it had to happen sooner or later, right?

I put it to bed around the wee hours last night after deciding to stop farting around editing a page here and a page there and just get the last twenty pages (pretty much the climax and denouement) done in a late-night session, which ended up being very cathartic – like finally pinching off a loaf that’s been um-ing and ah-ing about for days on end.

Yes, screenwriting is a lot like shitting. Or maybe I’m just doing it wrong.

[I bet most other writers spend a lot of time on the toilet, though.]

So yeah, it’s done. What now, you cry?

Well, I’ll answer you, strangely enthusiastic reader: now I send the thing away and don’t spend a thought on it for bloody ages. Screenwriting guru and author of Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting Syd Field recommends putting each new draft in a drawer and leaving it to simmer for 6 weeks or so. Seeing as I’ve been following his three-act structure method for my first feature-length, I figure I’ll stick at it since I’ve gotten this far.

I’m also planning to send Scars 2.0 to a few friends, both in and out of the trade, to give me their take on the script and whether it should be locked in a lead chest and dumped in the middle of the Atlantic. I only got notes from one person on the first draft, largely because it was an embarrassing mess and they told me so, ergo the humiliation was reduced. I’m giving this one to six people, I think. Stephen Kings says you should give your work to an even number of readers, because it’s easier to reach a consensus that way and you can cast the tie-breaking vote in the event thereof.

So yeah. Kind of a milestone. I’m hoping for a lot of those this year.

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Skythoughts

Skyfall killed Bond.

I mean that in the best possible way: Sam Mendes’s (almost) absolute deconstruction of a movie franchise so encumbered with cliches and unflattering baggage sheds many of the elements that had been holding back Bond movies from being actual films for a long time. Don’t get me wrong, there are a bunch of them I like, but there’s a fundamental naffness to them pre-Casino Royale. Even that didn’t last for more than one movie, and it still feels like it didn’t really acknowledge just how broken the series was.

And boy, are there acknowledgements in Skyfall. The first hour has everything an audience usually expects from Bond: thrilling chases, exotic locations and horrifically damaged but terrifically beautiful women. Once that’s out of the way, we find out what the movie is really about, and that’s 007 taking a long look at his past and blowing it sky high.

Seriously. He blows up the house he grew up in. In Scotland. And an Aston Martin DB5. I’m not saying it’s subtle about these particular moments, but I appreciate that it’s not treating its legacy as a sacred cow.

Javier Bardem’s villain Silva is a much more interesting element. As a former agent himself, he’s the mirror of what the series had become: deformed and ridiculous, living in the ruins of the past and plotting against M, the unfeeling parent who’s responsible for his sorry state. Thus it makes perfect sense that M has to die for the transition to fully take hold, although I’m not certain replacing her with Ralph Fiennes is a particularly progressive move (not to mention turning Naomie Harris’ field agent into a secretary).

And yet, tropes of the old movies still crop up now and again. The cringeworthy one-liners aren’t completely excised from the body (“Health & safety”, anyone?) and don’t hold up as well as usual in light of the taut approach to the rest of the (often very fine) script, and few tears are shed by our hero when the girl Bond’s just slept with and exploited is shot dead. Seriously, she never even gets mentioned again. I understand staying cool under pressure, but still! That shit’s ice cold.

Then again, I suppose you need to know your sins before you can repent. Trial by fire and all that. Again, not subtle. But really fucking good. And hopefully, from now on, something new.

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Down with fake Jeff Bridges

I just watched The Castle of Cagliostro, Hayao Miyazaki’s first feature-length animation as director and obvious forerunner to his Studio Ghibli stuff. Here’s a scene demonstrating why it’s worth a watch:

My heart aches when I watch sequences like this (mostly in Ghibli or Pixar movies, who each seem to constantly one-up each other for ambition and emotional devastation – which is fine by me) because I’m not an animator and I doubt I ever will be – short of figuring out how to co-ordinate my hands and a pencil in a way that seems like competent drawing – but the thing I love about these films is that they’re full of joy and invention; you’re constrained to the technical ability of the people working on the film, sure, but aside from financing that’s really your only constraint.

Animation be much bolder than live-action in what it believably portrays because it’s (usually) presented in a consistent way with what else we’ve seen of the world. Dragons quite often look rubbish in movies and TV (I’m looking at you, Game of Thrones), but when I watch Spirited Away I really believe that’s a dragon being papercut to death, and I hold my breath because I need to know what’s going to happen to him.

It’s something ‘real’ movies still haven’t mastered: how to make us care for an animated character. The exception of course being Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, in which the cartoons are much more overtly unreal than in, say, Tron: Legacy. Maybe it’s because we subconsciously know Roger Rabbit isn’t trying to fool us that we accept it so easily (and why so many guys feel it’s perfectly acceptable to mention getting a stiffy over Jessica Rabbit – she’s pure fantasy). It’s the middle ground that’s tougher, because your brain doesn’t want you to be tricked, even in the cinema.

I don’t really think the ultimate goal of CGI should be verisimilitude anyway. Why would I want to see something I’ve already know but slightly wrong (*coughyoungjeffbridgescough*) when I could see something I never have before? World-building. Unique, memorable characters and storytelling. Unbelievable stunts (like the one above) made believable. Breathtaking cinema. That’s what animation – all kinds – is to me.

Come to think of it, that’s what films are to me in general. But you know what I mean.

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Passing out during bad movies is the new yawning loudly at the cinema during bad movies

I started my day watching a movie called The Day Time Ended. How could anything possibly live up to that quantum quandary, I hear you scream in anticipatory agony?

[Okay, I’ll cool it with the alliteration for a while.]

Answer: It doesn’t. By quite a long way, as a matter of fact.

I hated it so much I fell asleep and couldn’t care less that when I woke up the entire cast had travelled thousands of years into the future and landed in some wanky painted utopia (seriously, it’s just a shit painted backdrop), somehow leaving behind the epilepsy-inducing flying blobs that were standing for UFOs.

Some of that might sound vaguely interesting, but it’s all sandwiched in between horrifically acted family bonding scenes and little girls hugging pyramids.

Looks like I picked the wrong day to quit sniffing glue.

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