Thursday, March 31, 2011

Harper's Island

This fall (August-October 2011), I'm directing the play 10 Little Indians. The play revolves around a group of people invited to an island for a weekend by an unknown person. Each person has been invited by a different reason. As the plot progresses, the guests are murdered off one by one in a variety of ghastly ways and it becomes clear that the killer is on the island and is probably one of the people in the group.

I'm a sucker for research and as part of my research for the play, I looked into the latest "adaptation" of Agatha Christie's most famous story: the tv series Harper's Island.

Harper's Island was a 13 episode series that aired on CBS from April-July 2009. The show revolved around a group of people that came together at Harper's Island for a wedding. Even before the guests arrive on the island, murder is secretly committed. As the wedding approaches, the wedding party their island friends are murdered off one by one. As the show progresses, it's clear that the killer has to be one of the people involved with the wedding.

I remember when the series aired, but I never had an opportunity to actually watch much of it because it was summer and I was busy. I'm glad I took the chance to view the show now. I was really impressed. There are some cliches and typical horror cheesiness. However, there's also some really original stuff done on the show. The thing I found most impressive was the characterization. There are over 25 major characters in the show and other than one or two, they all become quite well developed. As a viewer, you come to really care for the characters. Most of them have some incredible and highly believable arcs. There are some disappointments, for instance the concluding episode was a bit of a let down and I don't think it was necessary to kill off almost the entire cast. Still, overall, the show was highly entertaining and it's made me more excited about the play I'll be directing.

The show's producers had wanted to do more seasons of the show, but each season would feature an entirely different cast, different location, and different story. It's a great idea, but because of the lackluster ratings (it ranked in the middle of the ratings for most of the time it aired), CBS canceled it. I think if the show had aired in the fall, it would have gotten the ratings the network wanted. I know it will probably never happen, but it would be nice to see this show resurrected. If I was a television executive, I'd give it the green light and make sure that it aired at a proper time. A show like this that is well done can be highly successful and it could be pitched as a kind of The Walking Dead meets Survivor (a combination that other tv execs are sure to drool over). If you like mysteries and don't mind a bit of blood, you should check out Harper's Island.

Perception Is Not Reality

One of the books I'm reading right now is A Million Miles In a Thousand Years by Donald Miller.
I've owned this book for over a year. I've looked at the cover several times a day for over a year. I was about 1/4th of the way through reading the book when I looked at the cover and realized what was actually pictured. If you look at the picture of the cover above, you can see that the picture is of the center of a bicycle wheel. Well, for over a year I thought the picture was of a water tower with a bunch of metaphorical spokes coming out of it. I'd seen the cover of this book hundreds of times and I never recognized the cover for what it actually is. This got me thinking.

A few years ago a friend of mine who I respect was leading a training class I was in. He made the comment, "Perception is reality." He later expanded upon that message and over the years I worked with him, it became one of his mantras. The thing is, when he first made that statement, my reaction was, "That's not true!" I didn't agree with him then and I still don't. My recent discovery illustrates this. For over a year I thought the picture on this book cover was a water tower when in reality it was a bicycle wheel. For over a year I perceived the book cover as something that it wasn't. The picture on the cover was what it was and it was my perception that was incorrect.

That's how life is, too. We might perceive things to be a certain way, but that doesn't mean that's the way things actually are. There is an ultimate reality and life is about us trying to either get into jive with that ultimate reality or us trying to avoid it. Perception is not reality.

Rob Bell Grilled In Interview

I used to like Rob Bell. However, in the past few years he's written and said things that have really made me question if he's really the "evangelistic Christian" he has proclaimed to be. His new book, Love Wins provides strong evidence that Bell isn't the person he has proclaimed to be. I can't say with certain, but it seems that Bell has become addicted to the small celebrity he has obtained in the past few years and addiction has now tainted the things he writes and preaches. Until recently, Bell was unaccustomed to being questioned about the things he preaches and writes. About two weeks ago, he appeared on MSNBC and was grilled by Martin Bashir. It's the first time I've ever seen Bell squirm. What do you think?


THE ADVENTURES OF SIR GAWAIN THE TRUE is a slightly updated retelling of the classic British fable of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Among the Knights of the Round Table, there is only one who is undefeated: Sir Gawain. His reputation has earned him the title of “the Undefeated.” However, like many of the King Arthur’s Knights, Sir Gawain isn’t the most polite person and after saving a young woman from a nasty dragon, he unintentionally disrespects her. Sir Gawain’s other fault is that he is rash to make an oath. This gets him into trouble when at a Christmas feast a Green Knight arrives and challenges to Sir Gawain to a contest of blows. He instructs Gawain to chop off his head. Gawain doesn’t know what to think, but the knight insists and Gawain has already made a promise to do it. So, Gawain does. The knight’s head rolls off, then his body picks it up and carries it under his arm. The knight then tells Gawain he will meet him a year from now at a specific place, the Green Chapel, to return the blow Gawain has given him. The Green Knight then rides away. Time ticks on and as the date that Gawain must meet his fate draws near, Arthur and his knights set on a quest to find a way to prevent Gawain from literally losing his head.

Morris telling of the story brings together just the right balance between humor and drama. The story is accompanied by illustration by Aaron Renier which parallel that balance. The story diverges from the original poem of “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”, but not in an offsetting way; instead of drastically altering the text, Morris just embellishes things here and there (such as with the dragon and the lady prologue).

I enjoyed reading THE ADVENTURES OF SIR GAWAIN THE TRUE. After reading the book, I have since learned that Gerald Morris has written other books about Arthur and his knights. I enjoyed this book so much that I look forward to finding those other tales by Morris and reading them for myself.

What Pi Sounds Like

I came across this video the day before March 14 (3/14) which in school rooms around the country has now become known as "Pi" day. I've seen other videos similar to this, but this one does the best job at explaining how the composition came about.

Media Consumed: February 2011

Books Read
O: A Presidential Novel by Anonymous
101 Sci-fi Movies You Must See Before You Die Ed. Steven Jay Schneider
*The Smurfette by Peyo
Shift 13: Exercises to Make You Who You Want to Be by Takumi Yamazaki

O was a horrible novel. The book is marketed as being similar to Primary Colors, but it's boring as it is to sit and watch a machine grind springs. It also has a definite pro-Obama slant, which colored some of the more interesting parts of the story.

I did enjoy 101 Sci-fi Movies You Must See Before You Die. It provided me a list of some movies I have never heard of before that I am really interested in seeing.

Movies Seen
I Am
The Fighter
Best In Show
Alien Raiders
Angel Heart
The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day
Training Day
The King's Speech
Close Encounters of the Third Kind

I saw some excellent movies in February. I was able to see The Fighter and before the Oscars and highly enjoyed both of them. You can tell that they were made with an incredible amount of love and they both have a positive look at life and a strong message about the power of family. Best in Show was hilarious. I've been meaning to see it for years, but just didn't have the chance to see it until now. Close Encounters of the Third Kind is the type of movie that if it's on tv, I'll stop and watch it, no matter where in the film they are. Monsters was an enjoyable movie that shares a theme about aliens populating Earth, ala District 9. It was made for a minimal budget, but you really can't tell. Solaris (the one with George Clooney in it) was a let down. I also enjoyed watching The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day and hope that a 2nd sequel is made.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Media Consumed: January 2011

Books Read
Girl Parts by John M. Cusick
Everybody Poops 410 Pounds a Year by Deuce Flanagan & David R. Dudley
Around the World in 45 Years by Charles Schulz
The Red Suit Diaries by Ed Butchart
Looking for Calvin and Hobbes by Nevin Martell

I enjoyed most of the books I read in January, but was disappointed by Girl Parts. The book has an interesting premise (teenage boys who are diagnosed with "disassociation disorder" because of their addiction to technology are given female robots that look like real people, but have no internal organs) but I felt the execution was lacking. It wasn't a bad read, just disappointing.

Movies Viewed
Black Swan
Wild in the Streets
The Lawnmower Man
Alien Trespass
The Green Hornet
The Losers
The Theory of Everything
The Last Man on Earth

Black Swan
was a horrible movie, in my opinion. It has some incredible acting, but the story really isn't much of anything.

The two movies I enjoyed most were Alien Trespass and The Green Hornet. Alien Trespass is a homage to all of those old aliens from space movies of the 1950s. It's funny, but there is a warmth there that typical spoofs of those movies lack. The Green Hornet was really entertaining, despite the presence of Seth Rogen. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it.
I watched Inception again, and as marvelous as that movie is, the ending ruins the entire picture for me.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Waldo Meets Carmen Sandiego

"Mother Goose and Grimm" strip from Sat. Mar. 12, 2011

What I'm Reading Right Now

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Bill Clinton and THE HANGOVER 2

I do not like the movie The Hangover. There are one or two funny parts in the movie, but my overall feeling of watching the movie was that I had sat and listened to dead baby jokes for ninety minutes. It is not a good movie; it might be popular but that doesn't make it good (see the tv show Two and a Half Men for further proof). However, I came across this tidbit about the upcoming sequel and thought I would pass it along.

In this week's edition of Entertainment Weekly (Mar. 18, 2011), it's reported that Todd Phillips, the director of The Hangover 2, told Entertainment Weekly that the widespread reports of Bill Clinton having a cameo in the movie are untrue. He says that Clinton, "stopped by the set because the Secret Service guys were like, 'Hey, that would be fun. But you can't control what somebody writes on the Internet."

That is such a lie. That's a bunch of crap. The Secret Service is an extremely disciplined group. If they had their way, former Presidents wouldn't travel around the world and would stay in one generalized location because it makes their job so much easier. Bill Clinton was on the set of The Hangover 2 and he was captured on film. If there's no cameo of him in the movie it's because either his acting sucked or his cameo just didn't fit in with the rest of the movie. I'm guessing it's the former (the President's acting sucked: if you listened to any of his speeches during Monica Lewinski and other difficult periods during Clinton's presidency you would already know that). Out of respect to the former President, the director didn't say that and came up with something that sounded reasonable. I can understand that, but I don't understand why the director just outright lied. He should have just said, "There's no cameo of the President in the movie because the cameo just didn't fit with the tone of the rest of the movie." If he had said that, he wouldn't have been lying and would have still been respectful to President Clinton.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The World's Most Typical Person

According to over a National Geographic analysis, the most typical person in the world is...

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Some Last Thoughts on the Oscars

Two days after the fact, here are just a few rambling thoughts about the Academy Awards.

I didn't watch the show. There were some decent movies nominated this year, but only a few were spectacular. About a week before the show, I finally had an opportunity to see The King's Speech. I have to say, I'm glad it won out over The Social Network. Personally, even The King's Speech and The Fighter, I think Toy Story 3 was the best movie. It was one of the most personal, heart-felt films of 2010. You don't have to have seen the previous two movies to understand or appreciate the movie on it's own because at the core the film isn't just about the characters, it's about family, about life, and about friendship. The movie's about growing up and moving on gracefully. It's a movie where good triumphs over evil. However, I realize it had three big things going against it: it's it's about toys, it's a sequel, and it's an animated film. I think the toy issue is really a non-issue, because the toys in the movie aren't just toys. Sequels have won Oscars before, so I don't think that's more than a minor hindrance. The big thing against Toy Story 3 is that it's an animated movie. An animated film has never won Best Picture. There have only been 3 animated films to be nominated for Best Picture and they've all come from Disney. I will make this prediction, one day a movie is going to win Best Picture and win it does I can guarantee it's going to be a film from Pixar (which Disney owns).

As for The King's Speech beating The Social Network, The King's Speech is just a better all around movie. Twenty years from now The Social Network will have no relevance. It'll be remembered as a decent movie with some good dialogue and a few technical gimmicks, but that's all. The King's Speech, meanwhile is a historical film that will hold up just as well fifty years from now as it does today; the movie is about friendship and a man overcoming a speech problem that many people can relate to. Other than fellow billionaires and other people who have Napoleon complexes, there are not many people who can relate to Jesse Eisenberg's portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg and the betrayal of his closest friend for money.

I'm glad that Melissa Leo won for Best Supporting Actress. She should have won the Best Actress award two years ago, but had to watch as Kate Winslet finally got her prize. As for Leo's acceptance speech, in the end it'll just add a footnote to her resume.

Randy Newman won another Oscar for Best Song. It took him forever to win his first one, so I'm glad to see he's won another.