Wednesday, December 28, 2005

I'll see you after the new year.

I leave for Cincinnati early Thursday morning, partially to watch two friends be joined together in the sacrament of holy matrimony, but mostly for the free food. Also, I hear the 'Nati is lovely this time of year.

Since I don't know when I'll be near a computer for a while, and don't know when I'll get a chance to do this again, I thought I'd leave a few anecdotes from the past few days that've stuck out in my mind .

Last year, I'd just started my blog, and I did a short post expressing my discontent with Christmas. I thought I'd continue that with a short note about this year, just to let you know that I like it much better this year, it really was lovely, but... strange. Owing to the fact that it fell on a Sunday, we found it impossible to re-create the traditions of our previous years, and so we opened all our presents and stockings Christmas Eve, then went to bed. We roused ourselves at various times the next morning, and some of us went off, in separate cars, to church, though we didn't all actually end up going to the same church. We met up again at lunch, caravanned down to Massachusetts, had a great time visitng the family, and drove back. But we never actually opened any presents, which was sort of a first for Christmas day. The next day we went to visit other relatives, and had a lovely round of family dinner and gift-giving, and everything seemed normal again. So while Christmas was sandwiched between two days with perfectly appropriate levels of gift-giving (and therefore, appropriate gift-receiving), the actual day felt strangely blank - it's as if Super Bowl Sunday featured great pre-game build-up, a slightly scandalous half-time show, and a lot of beer commercials, but no actual game. Sure, you might be so interested in the party and the camaraderie that it barely matters, but there's no question that the whole event would just feel lacking.

I've decided that if you ever want to get an honest opinion about your films, show them to your little brothers. Or, barring that, my little brothers. No one is going to be less worried about hiding the fact that they aren't impressed. The following is a segment, essentially word-for-word, from an actual conversation I had with JA last night:
"Hey, do you want to finally watch my films tonight?"
"Yeah. Sure. But after that, can we watch something, um...."
"Yeah! That's what I was thinking, but I wasn't gonna say it if you weren't. Besides, I already saw your films."
"Really...? When'd.... when'd you see them?"
"Remember? You showed them to me last year."
"Oh, uh... I have new films now. I went to film school this semester. In Los Angeles."
"Oh. Yeah. Well, how long are they?"
"Three are five minutes, and one is eight minutes."
"Oh, okay! Well, I could do that. I mean, I thought they were gonna be like an hour each. That's only like a half hour, total. And then we can watch a real movie afterwards."

JA did manage to watch all four movies, but he only survived by teaching himself to juggle during all the boring parts, which apparently is every point after I explained which number film it was. He did make a number of helpful comments, though, such as "this is really slow," and "why isn't anyone talking?" which I think only adds to the viewing experience. He got more involved in the boxing film, and asked how I managed to get permission to film the fight. I told him that we'd hired the actors, rented the ring, and correographed the fight, but I don't think he really believed me.

Chris had it tougher because he watched the films with all the rest of the family, and so I also showed a couple other films that I acted in. My family loved those better than my actual films, I think, especially the part where I'm naked in the tub during Matt Boyd's film. Chris, though, finally ran out of patience after about forty-five minutes, and said, "so are we going to watch the boxing film or what?" Having finally gotten that out of the way, he went off and played on the computer for a while, and so never got to see Excerpts From A Michael Bay Interview, which is a shame, because everyone else enjoyed it, and wanted to know where I found the Michael Bay interview. So, where ever you are, Seth, apparently you do a one-hundred-percent completely believable impression of what a crappy self-absorbed director sounds like. Oh, and they loved Beauties in the Wilderness better than anything I made. But they just don't understand why the monks are wearing sneakers.

And finally, not that anyone could possibly care for an update, but I chose some ringtones. I discovered that hip-hop sounds much better than modern rock when translated into a crappy synthesizer, and a million times better than punk music. I ended up using Kanye and D12 as ringtones, but I assigned Death Cab to play when good friends call, while Keane's assigned to people I hate. So if you call me on my cell phone, and you're also standing right next to me, you'll know where you stand.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Today? Why, Christmas Day, Suh!

So I spent the past two hours since everyone went to bed exploring ring tones for the cell phone. My phone's pretty cheap (it was free), so the sound quality is tinny, so a lot of songs that you'd think would sound awesome really don't. However, with a little effort, I've narrowed it down to half a dozen excellent choices:

"The New Year" - Death Cab For Cutie
"New Slang" - The Shins
"I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" - Wilco
"Take It Easy (Love Nothing) - Bright Eyes
"Run" - Snow Patrol
"Santa Cruz" - The Thrills

It's a tough call. I think I'm leaning towards Bright Eyes, but Death Cab and Wilco are right up there. But maybe that'll change over the next couple of days. I'm not buying any yet, because these suckers are expensive, and I know that when I buy one, I'm not gonna change it for months, so I better choose carefully.

Merry Christmas! Enjoy it! Go down to the poulterer's and buy the big prize Turkey that's hanging in the window, the one that's as big as you are. Come back with it and I'll give you a shilling. Come back in less than five minutes and I'll give you half a crown!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

And I mean it.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Review: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe

Directed By: Andrew Adamson
Written By: Adamson and a bunch of other people adapted the beloved C.S. Lewis tale.
Starring: A bunch of appropriately ugly British children, Tilda Swinton, and Liam Neeson's voice.
Synopsis: A group of young siblings, while escaping from the WWII bombing of London at an old professor's house, find their way into a magical world where it's always winter and all the animals are computer-generated.

I didn't want the film to look like this. I wanted to go see Narnia and have it look like Lord of the Rings, only even more. I wanted accuracy, realism, and even the most nit-picking viewer to be unable to tell what's computer-generated and what's not. I wanted something huge, epic, and most of all, I didn't want it to be a (*flinch*) family-friendly Disney movie.

But then the news floated down that it was going to be... cutesy. Cartoonish, even. How baffling. This is a grand, huge story - why hand it off to Andrew Adamson, director of the Shrek films and a former visual effects supervisor? Why make an epic, spiritual film into a kid's movie? It should be more than that. But that's what it is.

And the truth of it is, it's a hell of a kid's movie.

For all the smack I was talking about Adamson in pre-production (and if you ever talked to me about it, you knew that I was sounding off on the subject), he honestly made a damn good film, and I've got five damn good reasons why his version of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe is worth seeing:

5. For someone making a kid's movie and not a huge epic, it's actually pretty grand. The final battle, in which Peter and his army take on the army of the White Witch takes place on a broad, sunlit battlefield that reminded me uncomfortably of the Gungan battle in The Phantom Menace, but Adamson proved awfully adept at giving the battle a lot of flash. Jamming as many various CGI creatures into the fight as he could find budget for, he throws in a lot of species that Lewis never really thought to involve (phoenixes? griffins? men crossed with pterodactyls? Why not?) around hundreds of intriguing specialized characters in blissfully outlandish outfits designed by the oh-so-dedicated WETA Workshop. So much is going on that on a viewer's third or fourth time through, they'll probably still be picking up new creatures floating on the wings (no pun intended. In fact, just to clear things up, puns are never intended at 10-4GB. Never). A few of the Lewis faithful might object, but without it, you just have a rehash of the craptastic Renaissance-fair world imagined for the BBC version. This makes the world a whole lot more interesting.

4. Speaking of interesting, the CGI creatures are awfully entertaining. Sure, they're cartoonish, and you never really buy that they really are a beaver/rhinoceros/lion/etc., but they're barrels of fun. Adamson wants to let all the characters fully interact with the characters, so the animals don't just talk; they're major characters in the story, giving all the good lines, bickering with each other, narrating parts of the story. Adamson doesn't hide his CGI, and he doesn't pull back from the animals so that they look more realistic. Instead, he shows them close up, lets you see that they aren't real beavers - and then goes ahead and lets them be real characters. It's kind of... gutsy. Not a lot of other filmmakers are willing to let the audience see the flaws in their special effects, I sure wouldn't. But Adamson knows it's more fun this way. Bravo.

3. For a bunch of kids working alongside blue screens and said computer generated animals, the acting's pretty impressive. Especial props go to Edmund (Skandar Keynes) and Lucy (Georgie Henley), the youngest Pevensie children and the best actors in the film. Keynes manages to give Edmund both arrogance and vulnerability, and gives his character a complete arc, which is impressive for someone who was 12, maybe 13 when this was filmed. I'll get to Henley in a minute, but I also wanted to mention (I guess I'm feeling magnanimous today) the excellent turns by relative unknown James McAvoy (a perfectly charming Mr. Tumnus) and Jim Broadbent (Professor Kirke), who both understood perfectly the winsome nature of the story and carried themselves accordingly.

2. Adamson tried, really tried, to give Aslan more than just lip service as a God metaphor. I understand, I really do, that it's hard to do. And I think Adamson kinda botched it, I don't think it worked at all, but I'm proud anyway, way to go. He tried to balance both ways, and so the Christian market is aggravated at how Aslan isn't established as the Lord of All Creation, and the media is angry at how Aslan is such an obvious God metaphor, and how dare Adamson try to sneak in religion while we weren't watching? Why, it's upsetting the children! But I really felt that Adamson understood who Aslan was, and he wanted to make him important without bogging down the story with religious symbolism, which is awfully tough when one of your characters is killed in payment for someone's sins, resurrected from the dead at daybreak, saves the world from evil, and then disappears into the horizon. Adamson always had the deck stacked against him. But he wasn't trying to piss anyone off. He just wanted to make a good movie.

1. Lucy. Allow me to spin you the tale of how, in 1988, BBC began making movie versions of the Narnia series that featured a charmless young actress named Sophie Wilcox starring as Lucy Pevensie. I haven't posted her picture here, partially because there don't seem to be any pictures of her anywhere on the web (everyone else apparently being of like mind), but mostly because the sight of her, to this day, unfailingly inspires me to retch. She giggled, whined, and flounced her tiresome little way through the first three films, slowly descending from merely aggravating into unconscionably vexatious, until the plot of the series mercifully removed her from the films. Researching for this post lead me to discover that Wilcox's career promptly stalled following these films, finally resurrecting ten years later, which hopefully allowed her enough time to grow out of being so impossibly insufferable.

I bring all this up because I was so worried that Adamson would somehow manage to find another little Sophie Wilcox, or worse, bring back the original. And instead he gave us the charming, surprisingly mature Georgie Henley, who scampers through Narnia with the infectious delight of an English child who's only known grey skies and bad dentistry. Since we discover Narnia through her eyes the reason this whole film gains such momentum throughout the first half is her engaging performance. And unless she follows the Sophie Wilcox method of acting, she's only going to get better. I'm already looking forward to Prince Caspian.

Breakdown: Narnia gets a full, and deserved, three stars for not having Wilcox anywhere in the film, another star for having Henley instead, and another star for the performances of Keynes, McAvoy, etc. all. It also gets a star for casting unknowns in almost all the roles not created in a computer lab, and another for casting LOTR fan fave Kiran Shah (Elijah Wood's eccentric body double throughout the films) as the aggressive Ginarrbrik. However, it loses two stars for having unrealistic CGI characters, but gets one back for having the wherewithal to actually make them more than furry Jar-Jars. And finally, it loses two stars for screwing up Aslan. I'm sorry, Adamson, I hate to do it, but it really is the whole point of the story. Maybe next time. Still, Four Stars Out of Five.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

New Bloggers Added

If you're having trouble loading the page, it's because something truly funky happened to Blogger during my last post, and I think that part of the page might have become corrupted. I'm working on fixing it, so everything should be set in a few days.

I added a number of fellow bloggers in the sidebar. Go ahead and click over to Van Grantham, Krazy Kate!, Bizzle's new site, Life: Take 2, and my dad's site, Assistant Village Idiot. I also moved the links bar to a visible location. So, you can see I'm making huge strides here at 10-4GB, proving that I'm capable of even the simplest HTML procedures.

By the way, if you haven't come up with any good ideas for the romantic comedy/heist movie, the best thing you could come up with would be this: a title. I'm terrible at naming movies, I've yet to make one movie, no matter how small or pointless the film was, where the name of the movie wasn't decided at the last possible second. Sometimes I name a film and can't even remember what I named it later, because I slapped the name on at the last possible second. I need to adapt a book or something so that I can finally take a title all the way from pre-production to completion without changing it. So if you can think of a good name for a movie that involves a guy whose friends hatch an elaborate plot to help him win the girl of his dreams, that would be extremely appreciated.

Rejected titles:
  • "The Heist"
  • "Friends Don't Let Friends Stay Single"
  • "Untitled Justin Ladd Romantic Comedy/Heist Movie"
  • "Ladd: Story of a Wuss"
  • "She's All That"
  • "Not Another Extremely Typical Student Movie"
  • "Casablanca II"
  • "Leaves II"
  • "You Gotta Have Balls to Conquer the World"
As you can see, the creative juices are flowing.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Review: Joseph Arthur - Our Shadows Will Remain

No one ever accused Joseph Arthur of not taking things seriously enough, but Our Shadows Will Remain is awfully dark, even for him. Growling with a mixture of depression and eternal cynicism that must have Trent Reznor writhing with jealousy, Arthur steers away from mere acoustic-based moping into a period of darker reflection, cranking the bass and adding a good deal of sythesized beats behind his characteristically solid songwriting. The end result is an intriguingly unique record, and surprisingly satisfying.

Arthur's always asked the spiritual questions no one wants to, but on Shadows, he seems to have found some answers, and doesn't seem happy with them. He debated his faith back and forth throughout 2002's Redemption Son, when he both pleaded "forgive us for what we've done, Lord," and sighed "it's so hard for me to believe, I'm still waiting for you to call." Shadows seems to fall mostly in the latter camp, and there's a good deal of rage in Arthur's tone. "Where are you? What did I do?" he begs in "Devil's Broom, "since you've gone, ain't nobody else gonna save me."

But the record is more than a study in bitterness, and Arthur counterpoints the more painful tracks with others that sparkle with passion and, buried under it all, hope. "I'd hold you in my arms until we came back down," he promises on "A Smile That Explodes." It's not a lot of confidence, but at the end of it all, you get the impression that maybe Arthur's hasn't stopped fighting with his demons after all.

Strongest Tracks: "Wasted," "A Smile That Explodes," "Leave Us Alone," and the eerie 46-second opening track, "In Ohio," in which Arthur's gorgeous falsetto promises over a thudding solo baseline, "I'm gonna wait up for you."

Weakest Tracks: The overly sentimental "Echo Park," and the repetitive, downright narcissistic "I Am."

Breakdown: Three and a Half Stars out of Five

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Romantic Comedy Update

A reader recently wanted to post a response to my long-distant plea for ideas on the Justin Ladd romantic comedy/heist flick* (due to start production in March), but was put off by the amount of time that's elapsed since I first posted the request. "Does he still need ideas?" she wondered, gazing perplexedly at her computer screen. At least, I assume that's how it went down. I wasn't there, and I don't know her too well, so I'm just hypothesizing.

The answer, my vaguelly interested inquirer, is a triumphant "yes!" 10-4GB is always looking for ideas from any devoted readers who want to chime in and let me know what a putz I am. Otherwise, I would have removed the "comments" section on all posts, and settled back comfortably into uninterrupted ignorance (which does sound nice, come to think of it).

I thought that, since a first draft has been completed, perhaps it might be time to give a full response to readers' suggestions, since this is essentially the only item 10-4GB has ever gotten much feedback on. Here's what made it into the first draft:
  • In response to outstanding reader solidarity, a baby was worked into the script. Because of the difficulties inherent to filming with extremely small children, the film references children more than it actually shows any. But I think fans of the idea will be fully satisfied, and will find the end result as up to their expectations. I also managed to reference the ferret.
  • Our hero will be wooing his love with a musical instrument at some point, yes.
  • Also involved in some way are cowboy hats, accents, sweeping the girl off her feet, roses, and Ty Pennington. The jury's still out on whether we'll get the actual Ty Pennington.
The script is now in Mary Lashbrook's possession, and I'm sure that she'll find time in the coming weeks to begin a new draft. She's very talented, you know.

In the meantime, I'm trying to pull together some fresh ideas for our first meeting together to chat about - so any help from anyone who reads this is always welcome. Nothing is too ridiculous to be considered. Trust me. If you read the current script, you'd believe that. So come. Nail your thesis to the door of my metaphorical church. I'm anxious to hear from you.

Monday, December 12, 2005

St. Lucia, our favorite dark-skinned Swede

Well, I'm home. I can finally sleep. I don't plan on doing much else.

But it's lovely to be home, of course. I travelled last night to see the St. Lucia Festival at my church, a charming traditional pagent our church puts on to celebrate our Swedish heritage - which I hadn't ever seen from the audience's perspective. The last time I'd been was as a senior in high school, fulfilling my duties in the choir, stumbling my way through "Now Shine a Thousand Candles Bright," and "In the Bleak Midwinter" in inaudible (though dulcet) bass tones. Before that, I'd worked my way through the roles as any child in a church-devoted family does - in the same way most go from young, rosy-cheeked angel to hyperactive shepherd to reluctant king, or if unlucky, to have to become Joseph and sit on the stage all night looking holy and supportive (this is all chronicled in The Best Christmas Pagent Ever, one of the finest short Christmas books around), I'd gone through the Lucia hierarchy. I went from young, rosy-cheeked Tomter (a sort of Swedish elf, that hangs around the farm and brings luck, much like a small Santa or Keebler elf) to hyperactive Starboy (imagine putting a bunch of fourth-grade boys into robes and funny hats and giving them extremely sturdy poles with wieldy and sharply pointed wooden stars about a foot in diameter on one end, then leaving said boys in a room together for an hour with nothing to do before the performance and... well, you can imagine) to reluctant shepherd/king/Joseph, as we jam the regular nativity into our somewhat haphazard traditonal play. In the meantime, the head of the ministry team arrives bearing the first and largest sheaf from the fields, which she raises above her head symbolically for the birds to eat and invites everyone to join in the feast. This information is relayed to a somewhat startled audience in both Swedish and English, not so much because there are members who only speak Swedish, but more because we always have, and we want to prove that we still can.

This is all a prelude to the main event, which features St. Lucia herself (who is actually Sicillian, ironically, and probably didn't look anything like any of our Lucias, who are always blong-haired, blue-eyed senior girls who can be trusted to look radiant on cue), walking down the aisle with a dozen lit candles perched in a crown on her head. It's a show-stopping moment, and there's not a Starboy in the world who wouldn't trade his hefty wooden WMD for a chance to wander around the church with lit candles on his head. The Swedish, fortunately, are wise enough not to bend tradition enough to allow any young male Sunday school student the opportunity to do more than maybe destroy a surprisingly fragile table in the Youth Room when the head of his star-headed battleaxe happened to make contact with one of the legs during the staging of a lively re-enactment of the Battle of Hastings.

In other news, 10-4GB has launched a separate page for film reviews! Film reviews will still appear both here and on the Xanga site, but will be corrected, archived, and updated on the new page. Anyone wishing to find an old review can find it there, relevant links to interesting reviews will be added as well, and most insider info will be posted there rather than here. You shouldn't need to check it particularly regularly, it'll just be an additional page in what will hopefully become a series of interconnected 10-4GB pages.

Updates should be fast and furious for the next few weeks, so keep checking in. I don't have much else to do, really, so this becomes my main hobby.

Friday, December 02, 2005


I don't want to talk about the movie. Let's just say that, since I last posted, everything fell apart again, and I haven't gotten a whole lot of sleep. When this all quiets down and I fly home, I'll tell the complete story then. I'm too involved in it all to talk about it now.

Fortunately, the internet's here to cheer me up. Someone became frustrated with girls and posted a list of "the rules" from the male point of view. By and
large, it's extremely clever. A sampling:
  • Yes and No are perfectly acceptable answers to almost every question.
  • If something we said can be interpreted two ways and one of the ways makes you sad or angry, we meant the other one.
  • All men see in only 16 colors, like Windows default settings. Peach, for example, is a fruit, not a color. Pumpkin is also a fruit. We have no idea what mauve is.
  • If we ask what is wrong and you say "nothing," we will act like nothing's wrong. We know you are lying, but it is just not worth the hassle.
  • If you think you're fat, you probably are. Don't ask us.
The rest of the list is available on Dana's blog, if you want to see it.