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Green is Good

wind turbines by nualabugeye on flickr

Wind Turbines by nualabugeye on Flickr

Ok, so this isn’t so much in the news right now as it was in the news a few weeks ago, but there’s too much news. It’s hard to keep up. So I’m only having an opinion right now. And my opinion is on this article on IMDB (originally on TVfanatic but the permalink is broken) about Ian Somerhalder (you know, that guy who plays Damon on the Vampire Diaries) and how he’s trying to get the show to go green.

And my opinion is this: good for you Ian Somerhalder. It’s tempting, when you get famous (I’m guessing – obviously I’ve never been famous), to spend all your time going to partings, boning attractive hangers-on, stuffing things up your nose, and just generally enjoying your fame. It’s good to see people using their public image to actually improve something, even if it’s become sort of a cool person fad to do so (telethons, plugging charities, etc).

I hadn’t really thought about how much power a movie set must use up (I actually try not to think about them filming, it ruins the immersion), but it must be a lot. All the lights and cameras and cranes and rain machines and coffee makers and trucks putting out carbon dioxide. So green-izing one would actually make quite a bit of difference to the environment.

Maybe he’s only doing it because reducing oil dependency is the hot topic now that there’s a highly publicized oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter. The end result is that fuel dependency is reduced. I want this to happen not so much to prevent oil spills (though they are very bad) but to stave off climate change (I read Gwynne Dyer’s Climate Wars and now I’m kind of freaking out) from the carbon dioxide caused by burning fossil fuels.

So please continue your efforts, Mr. Somerhalder, as I would like to avoid baking to death on a mountaintop eating dead grass and trying to escape the rising sea levels.

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This Just In: A**holes Exist

I have lots of opinions. That’s what having a blog is all about. So I thought I would start a new series, to run every Saturday, where I do nothing but have opinions about stuff in the news. (The entertainment news, obviously. Who pays attention to real life? [not me])

The subject of today’s opinion is this article about Mel Gibson from People.com.

In it, the “reporters” (I put reporters in quotation marks because they’re probably closer to paparazzi than anything else) are appropriately scandalized that Mel Gibson has said nasty things about his girlfriend. They are less scandalized by the fact that someone has managed to record said (supposedly private) nasty things and posted them on the internet. HE’S USING THE N-WORD!!!! Half of the internet gossipers screech at the other half, who go: OMG!!! I KNOW!!!! In return, like they’ve never heard of anybody ever using the n-word before.

Don’t get me wrong, the n-word is a bad word. Do not use the n-word. And while we’re at it, don’t yell mean things at people either. The thing I find strange is that everyone is acting like they’re just discovering that jerkwads who call their girlfriends derogatory names exist, just because it’s someone famous doing it. Hello, haven’t any of you ever seen an episode of Cops before?

So let’s not just make a big deal out of this because it’s MEL GIBSON using the n-word. Let’s make a big deal because it’s the N-WORD. And then we can make a big deal out of everyone who uses it. And then they’ll stop…. unless they’re just doing it for the attention, in which case making a big deal out of it is making things worse.

What sort of situation would this be do you think?

Next week I’m having opinions on REAL news. Like movies and stuff.

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Hollywood Actors and Their Types

I’ve seen a lot of movies and television shows. All of them have actors in them (this is a sad but necessary fact of life, if you ask a writer) and are probably most easily remembered as “that movie with that actor in it” because the actor is the one who gets to have a face to go with the name. This makes actors the easiest path to follow if you’re looking for more movies. Like that movie? Watch another from the actor’s filmography. In my many years of movie surfing using this method, I’ve noticed that actors (Hollywood actors, that is) almost always fall into one of five categories based on their role choices.

BOUNCERS

Definition: Bouncers are actors who crop up all over the place in different supporting roles, especially in one-episode stints on television shows that all play on the same network. This is the category that almost all beginning actors fall under. Some move on to another category and others stay forever.

Examples:
Michaela McManus (One Tree Hill, CSI:NY, Law & Order: SVU, Castle, etc.)
Omid Abtahi (Over There, CSI, Ghost Whisperer, NCIS, etc)

Michaela McManus as Linday on One Tree Hill

RANGERS

Definition: A ranger is an actor who purposefully chooses widely different roles, either because they are driven to explore the full range of human emotion or because they don’t want to get bored. These are the so-called “career” actors and (fairly or not) they’re more likely to be British, Australian, or Canadian than American.

Examples:
Ewan McGregor (Trainspotting, Star Wars Episodes I, II, II, Black Hawk Down, Down With Love, etc.)
Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth, Lord of the Rings, The Aviator, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, etc.)

Ewan McGregor as Renton in Trainspotting

CLONES

Definition: Clones are actors who tend to chose roles where they play the same type of person over and over again (usually themselves, but with different names and outfits), creating the impression that in the parallel movieverse there are dozens of copies of the same person walking around claiming to be different people.

Examples:
Anna Faris (Scary Movie, Just Friends, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, House Bunny, etc.)
Paul Walker (The Fast and the Furious, Joy Ride, Running Scared, Into the Blue, etc.)

Anna Faris as Cindy in Scary Movie

NESPOTS

Definition: Nespots are actors who are into nepotism. They seem to work with the same director over and over and over again. This usually leads to some similarity in the projects if the director isn’t a ranger. More often than not this happens with men, perhaps because most directors are men.

Examples:
Johnny Depp with Tim Burton ( Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow, Corpse Bride etc.)
Leonardo DiCaprio with Martin Scorsese (The Departed, The Aviator, Shutter Island, etc.)

Johnny Depp as Edward Scissorhands in Edward Scissorhands

CARDBOARD CUTOUTS

Definition: Cardboard cutouts are actors who tend to take roles where they have to display all the emotional range of a block of wood and instead carry the role by virtue of a their enormous biceps, giant boobs, attractive faces, or popularity in other mediums. Some move up out of this category through surprising displays of talent. Most never do.

Examples:
Paris Hilton – popular from being rich and making a homemade porno (House of Wax, Pledge This, The Hottie and the Nottie, etc.)
Arnold Schwarzenegger – giant biceps from being “Mr. Universe” (Conan the Barbarian, Terminator, Red Sonja, etc.)

Paris Hilton as Cristabel in The Hottie and the Nottie

BBC Canada Shop - $10 OFF

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New Summer Episodes: Why They’re Bad

I have a love/hate relationship with television. I love to watch the shows. I hate that I HAVE to watch them. I hate being tortured by cliffhangers and “to be continued”s and “will they/won’t they” relationship arcs. Does that make me a masochist?

Anyway the summer months usually gave me a break from being jerked around by fictitious characters and a LOT of extra time in which to accomplish things, like reading books and writing stories and hiking hikes.

Now there’s this (relatively) new thing where some shows are continuing to show new episodes all summer long. I guess it was only a matter of time until this happened. After all, the reality TV shows have been doing new seasons in the summertime for years. I wondered how long scripted TV showrunners would stand for the summer usurping of their fan base.

No longer. This summer, some of my favorite shows will have summer episodes. And yet I am not happy. Because this is bad. Both for me and my free time and for showrunners. To illustrate why, I will use one of my favorite shows as an example: Cougar Town:

I think I’m the only one in my generation who likes this show. Everyone I know under 40 hates it.

I love Cougar Town. I have to make a special effort just to watch it because it’s on on my busiest day at the same time as a show I’ve been watching for much longer (Criminal Minds). But I make the effort. I do it because of ditzy Laurie (Busy Phillips) and sarcastic Travis (Dan Byrd) and quick-tongued Jules (Courtney Cox). But most of all, I do it for Grayson (Josh Hopkins), because he is cute and he plays funny songs on a tiny ridiculous guitar.

I lament episodes that pass without the appearance of the guitar.

However, Cougar Town was nestled into my TV watching schedule like a house of cards. You take away all the other cards, and you tend to forget there’s any left at all. With no other new shows to remind me that TV even exists (I don’t think I’ve turned on the television in over a month) I keep forgetting to actually tune in to Cougar Town. Hell, I keep forgetting when it’s Wednesday! And I’m sure I’m not the only one. Even if people do remember when it’s on, they’ve got vacations to go on and barbecues to host and campouts to have in the yard. They don’t have time for TV.

The result: ratings will plummet. Executives will start looking at the money it’s making vs the money they’re paying Courtney Cox to be in the show and find a disparity. And then Cougar Town will get cancelled. And I will have a tiny funeral for the tiny guitar. Reality TV doesn’t have this problem, because it’s extremely cheap to make. I’d rather Cougar Town didn’t get cancelled, which is why I think it’s better if scripted TV continued to take a summer hiatus.

So take the characters of Cougar Town and freeze them in place until September. Just like this:


Au revoir, mon amis.



If you start to miss them too much, try buying a Cougar Town: 2011 Wall Calendar to stare at or getting Cougar Town: The Complete First Season – 3 DISC DVD and watching the old episodes over again.

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Trailer Spoilers

I have a brilliant idea, and it goes something like this: when movie trailer makers put the entire plot of a film into the preview, they should be required to slap it with spoiler warnings. The MPAA could look after this. After all, they already make filmmakers post warnings if there’s going to be sex or drugs or bad language.

Spoliers are a danger to youth as well, because it teaches them to have short attention spans. Why would they spend two whole hours sitting still and paying attention to a film when there’s a two minute version available? Some companies aren’t making trailers anymore, they’re making movie Cliff’s Notes.

To illustrate my point, I will pick on one of my favorite targets: Leap Year. Note that I will warn you now, before you press play, that watching this trailer will make it unnecessary for you to see the entire film.



As you can see, this trailer covers the entire plot structure:

– main character’s life before (Anna expects to get married)
– the problem (Jeremy doesn’t propose to Anna)
– inciting incident (Dad suggests she follow him to Dublin and propose on Leap Day)
– refusing the call to adventure (“I’m not going to Dublin!”)
– accepting the call (going to Dublin)
– trials and obstacles standing in her way (weather, diversions, bad shoes)
– meeting love interest (Irish guy… Declan I think he was called)
– road trip (“I need to get to Dublin”)
– fighting with love interest (over sandwiches and cows)
– road trip obstacles (car in a pond… how original)
– pretending to be married to fool innkeepers (again, so original)
– discovering their attraction (kissing for the innkeepers)
– getting along (shower, jokes)
– confusion over choice of man (lying in the same bed)
– forced to choose between men (Jeremy proposes)

The only part they don’t show is who she chooses, but from the type of movie that it is (romantic comedy) and the type of endings these movies have (happy ones) and the fact that she’s spent the entire movie with Irish guy (Declan), it doesn’t exactly require a degree in rocket science to fill in the blank.

This isn’t a promotional trailer. Promotional trailers are supposed to give audiences a taste so they pay for the whole thing. This is a pitch, like you would make to a producer or a studio to get them to give you money to make the film. They need to know the whole story to figure out if it’s worth making… but it’s a video pitch… because they already made the film… so we’re supposed to, what? Admire its (totally unoriginal) structure? Be spoiled on the full length film, more like.

But in a perverse way, they’re actually doing you a favor by ruining the movie for you. They’re keeping you from wasting two hours and ten bucks (five now, it’s on DVD) on a piece of crap.

Buy Leap Year on DVD

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Chain Yourself to Your Cell Phone

Helium Digital cell phone chain
If you’re not familiar with Empire Theaters, they do this little pre-show (that I think they buy from a theater chain in Ontario) before the movie so you don’t get bored. One of the sections is called “Gear Guide with Mark Saltzman” and is nothing more than a series of ads for whatever’s new in electronics. This month they’ve been pimping this thing called the “Helium Wristband Communicator”. It sounds like they’ve finally perfected Penny’s communicator watch from Inspector Gadget but really all it is is a wireless headset that you can wear on your arm so you can pretend you’re in the secret service or something. Lame.

The really hilarious part is that it vibrates whenever you get more than a few feet from your phone. The tech reviews describe is as a “godsend for businessmen” but really all it’s doing is chaining you to your cell phone by an invisible wire. I dunno about you, but I though the whole point of cell phone was that they didn’t have any wires.

chained to your cell phone

Get More Useful Electronic Gadgets

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Brilliant Ideas in Digital Camera Design

I was looking through the flyers this week (or as I like to call it: “perusing the retail news”) when I came across this brilliant design for a digital camera.

Olympus Stylus Tough 600 - camouflage version

the Olympus Stylus Tough 6000, aka the world’s most losable camera



I say “brilliant” because it’s a great idea for the Olympus company. They’ve latched onto the “customization” idea the luggage people had a few years ago when they realized everyone had the same silver digital camera and it was easy to get them mixed up at parties. Then they pushed the envelope to a place where they can force you to buy a replacement model every time you accidentally drop your camera in a pile of leaves. Genius.

From the consumer’s point of view, however, this is the dumbest idea ever. Like you really needed MORE help losing your camera. Maybe next year they’ll come out with a series of models that are patterned like your sofa cushions so you can lose your camera INSIDE too.

Check out some non-crappy digital cameras

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How to Make a Hollywood Action Movie

I have money (sometimes). I like to spend that money on tickets to action movies. GOOD action movies. Action movies that make me go “Yessss! That is so AWESOME!” not “Guuuugh, that is sooo LAME!” I have seen a disturbing number of the latter type films in theaters lately so I thought current and future Hollywood producer types might appreciate (okay, more NEED than appreciate) this guide on how to get my money from me.

You could be forgiven for looking at the less-than-stellar repertoire of action stars like Steven Segal or Jean Claude Van Damme and extrapolating the formula for making a successful Hollywood action film as follows:

The Hollywood Action Equation: Boobs + Bombs = Money

Roughly translated as: boobs plus bombs equals massive pile of money

But if all you want is successful, go back to Underachievers Anonymous, because you’re obviously not getting the message. Film is an art form as well as an entertainment medium. Contribute, dammit! You should be aiming for maximum entertainment value: and that means making a GOOD action movie.
Read More

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Soles to the Soul

There’s a trend among filmmakers to open films with shots of their characters’ feet, ususally getting out of cars. I don’t know where the trend came from (I’m both too lazy to do the research and enjoying making up my own theories too much to ruin it) but I would guess that it was invented by a woman.

Why a woman, you ask, when most film directors are men? Because men are too practical. To them, shoes are something you wear to keep rocks from cutting your feet. To women, they are windows to the soul.

Women know that everything you need to know about a person you can tell from their shoes (bad news guys: your dirty Nikes are calling you an uncultured slob), so why bother spending twenty minutes of screen time establishing how rich and cultured and stylish your villain is when you can just show his expensive Italian loafers and be done with it?

A man waching the opening scene from MacGruber where we see the bad guy’s feet getting out of his SUV in the desert:

image copyright El Deseo S.A.

I couldn’t find one from MacGruber so we’ll look at this one from Volver instead

 

Thinks: la la la la la… when do things blow up?

While a woman watching would think: hm… expensive shoes…. Italian… he’s European… definately has money… understated yet elegant…. it’s an inheritance or a trust fund, he’s not a self-made man…. he’s going into a sandy/bloody situation with them on… he thinks he’s invincible and the dirt can’t touch him… facscinating. I bet he’s played by Val Kilmer.

Don’t believe me? Do a test. Next time you’re watching a movie with your girlfriend/female friend/mother/random woman in the theater, ask her what she’s reading from the shoes. She’ll peg the character right on… or tell you to shut up, because you really shouldn’t be talking during the movie, callous male!

 

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iPod Stereo

The folks at Apple have spend millions (billions?) of dollars convincing us that we’re not cool unless we buy their products. Toward that end, they’re constantly coming out with newer, shinier, more unnecessary objects that suddenly everyone can’t live without (example: iPod). Why do they do all this? Because they want our money, of course!

Well Apple, if you want money, what’s better than having every teenager in the world buy an iPod to watch teensy tiny movies on? That’s right: having every teenager in the world buy TWO iPods to watch teensy tiny movies on!

How will we accomplish this, you ask? Simple. Modify the new iPods so that when two iPods are placed next to one another, they are able to simultaneously play the same video. If the viewer places one iPod in front of each eyeball: voila!

I call it: iPod Stereo. Like a pair of binoculars, it creates a 3-D like effect in your brain – the illusion of depth!  This is doubly appropriate because Apple likes to create the illusion that their products have depth (i.e. usefulness) when in reality they’re only meeting a demand that they themselves created through marketing the product (though there are possible exceptions for arty pursuits). And what’s more, you can even charge them extra for a little pair of plastic glasses to mount their two iPods in.

So I say to you, Apple, scheming money out of magpie teenagers: there’s an app for that!

Buy an iPod… or two

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