November 20, 2016
Welcome to Metaphor City
A few years ago, I took a day trip to Hollywood. Much like many young people from across the country who come to this town looking to make it big, I traveled a mere 10 miles up the road and cruised the boulevards, walked the streets, and talked to people, to see about breaking into "Entertainment."
I lived in this area all my life, but never truly pursued something in this field. That day, I donned my wide-eyed, midwestern facade and headed out.
Hollywood, from afar, is like one big beacon; a lighthouse, if you will. Drawing in those who seek its safe harbor. From a distance, Hollywood is a singular draw, like some faceless monolith of an industry.
However, as you really get close, and look deeper, you see that there is no actual lighthouse. What greets you, is a massive amount of people, holding, in essence, small flashlights, huddled together causing their collective lights to shine as one. But instead of one clear way from a single light source offering that guidance, you have countless people, with their tiny flashlight, screaming, "Look over here. Look at my light. Look at me!" Upon closer inspection, these individuals are desperately trying to draw attention to themselves.
There are so many players in that town, and all of them have something to say and want desperately to be heard. Oftentimes, their message is unimportant, but it's important to them, or bonus, they truly think it's important to us all. This could come from those offering "opportunities," or those desperately seeking them.
So many little flashes of light screaming, "LOOK AT ME. HEAR ME. I AM IMPORTANT!"
Navigating that town is not impossible. It simply requires determination, and more importantly, vigilance against less-than-savory entities pushing their own agenda, oftentimes over yours.
I guess it was unsurprising that in the last 10 months, I witnessed this same phenomenon unfold on the whole of the internet. We, the general populace, go online to seek information and guidance, and instead, we find countless little specks of lights screaming out, "Listen to what I have to say, for I am important."
In Hollywood, you hear people caution against those who will tell you want you want to hear, as they are only after your money or your connections, and are just looking out for their own best interests. There are shady characters in Tinseltown so that is sound advice.
On the internet, that caution would go unheeded as people desperately seek out what they want to hear, facts and truth be damned.
Why is this?
Simply put, those holding the flashlights and those seeking out the light, are trying to feel important. Like they matter in some fashion. If the one holding the lantern can bring people to his glow, he will have felt the power of the draw, and have felt important. Those going to that lantern, are seeking validation of their own opinions, and if they are able to surround themselves with like-minded people who believe they are all on the right path, they will feel a sense of importance, or better yet, a quantum of self-worth.
As I let the days since the election go by, I struggle to formulate a proper opinion on the matter. It's not that I lack, what would obviously be, a well-crafted, enlightened, and witty opinion. If anything, I lack the desire to have that opinion get washed out in the surrounding lights. I really don't want to be out there, holding my flashlight high and screaming, "Look at me. My opinion matters. It could help you re-examine the world." I don't want to be one of the things that I don't like, and I don't like them because it feels phony and just feels like it doesn't work.
The fact of the matter is that my opinion is mine alone. I can't make you change your opinion based on what I say (though if we're being honest, the world might be a little less messy if people listened to me).
I could sit here and drop beautiful quips like, "This was an election where you had a easily beatable candidate versus a wholly unelectable one... and the fact that you're not entirely sure which is which is a huge part of the problem." While a fun observation, what does that actually do? Besides highlighting my brilliance, is the reader better off than before they read it?
Maybe the path I must take is not to spout my personal feelings on the matter. Despite my recent ordination, my words are not gospel. Though, if you've gotten this far into this stream of consciousness, you may have some interest in what I have to say.
So what should I do, and why should you care?
If everyone is holding a flashlight up, maybe the way to get noticed is to not turn my light on. Besides, the lighthouse isn't providing the shelter in the storm. The harbor is where you find supplies, safety, and respite. And maybe, instead of an opinion, that's what I should offer up. No screaming, no "look at me," no one forcing you to think or be anything other that what you are. What I offer is more important than an opinion. What I offer is to be a friend.
This is more than just wearing a safety pin (which I do love the idea of). In stormy seas, sometimes you need to seek refuge in a harbor. I will be that harbor for you. No matter how you voted, no matter who or what you are, you have a friend here that you can always come to. In a world that has never been so connected, yet paradoxically so fractured, we have to start small. For me, that small start is saying I am here, if you want me... if you need me.
In the grand scheme of things, maybe that doesn't matter. Nobody may care that I'm being all soft and saying I'll be your friend if you need one. But hearing reports of boycotts and attacks and harassment, from both sides of the spectrum, maybe this is the approach we need to take.
I'm slowly getting into rambling territory, so I'll wrap this up.
At the end of each podcast (heard at solidcatdojo.com), I always say, "Choose love." It's not just a good sound bite; it is a call to action. You can choose to be hateful, or combative, or aggressive, or just a troll. I dare you to choose love. That's the choice that takes real courage. That's the choice that has the real impact. And that's the hardest choice of all. Love. I've made that choice, and will continue to do so.
Being an friend is an extension of that choice. You may not need me all the time. You may not even think about me for eons. Yet, in this uncertain world, I will be here. Always welcoming, always happy to see you. Even if we don't agree on everything. If you need an opinion or advice on something (my fashion advise is Tim Gunn-esque), I will give it to you, but only when you ask for it. If you need to vent, I'm easy to find. If you need a suggestion on a Thai restaurant... well, um... ok, you're on your own on that one, but we can go try it together.
You may have come for an opinion, but I think, you ended up with something far better.
September 16, 2016
The Definitive Word on...
March 7, 2016
Love... the Pontipee Way
Long time readers know that I would occasionally take various Facebook and Twitter musings of mine, repost them here and then add bonus commentary (long time readers also know I have NOT done that in forever... why do I even have this website... oh, right, people love those classic D-mo ramblings... moving-on). Today, I'm going to revisit that old goldmine of page-clicks, but in a first, feature something from my Pinterest page.
Well, to be fair, it's really the Pinterest page for the podcast, but no need to split atoms on this. Whether it's DMOunited or SolidCatDojo, it's all me.
I posted this on Facebook, and it got minimal traction. When I posted this on Pinterest, it exploded. The following meme, which I created from scratch I might add, was posted back in February 2015, and to this day, continues to accrue likes and re-pins week after week. Who knew so many people were fans of singing backwoodsmen?
Without further ado, allow me to present my piece titled "How Adam Pontipee does Valentine's Day."
And when you really think about, though he got married at the 12 minute mark, he spent the first 6 minutes singing and shopping. So really, it was only a 6 minute courtship. #likeaBIGboss See fellas, a little confidence goes a long way.
So why this movie? Well, it's the favorite of my lovely bride, who introduced it to the Danger Diva, and we watched it pretty regularly (where other parents just keep Disney movies in the DVD player, we go with musicals. [man, Into the Woods was a swing and a miss]). After a while, and repeat viewings, you notice the ridiculousness of the whole premise. Don't get me wrong, it's a delightful romp, has catchy tunes, splendid dance numbers, and is a rip-roaring good time; but if you thought Beauty & the Beast was a story of Stockholm Syndrome, multiply that by 6 and you have this story.
But hey, it inspired a funny meme so everyone wins!
Until next time, keep an eye out here, and on my social media. You never know when I might pull some super random comedy from another unlikely source. It is kinda my jam.
April 3, 2015
From the Way Too Late Files, I'm going to talk about TRON: Legacy, the sequel to the seminal, if flawed, Disney movie from the 80's, TRON.
After pulling some images off my copy of TRON: Legacy for kicks and giggles, I mused to myself, "I'm going to write a blog post on how the movie could have been better, while simultaneously espousing how it's couldn't have been any more than what we got, and that's pretty darn good." Who doesn't like a little paradox around midnight with work in the morning.
Let's come out and say it. Was TRON: Legacy a great movie? No. Was it a good movie? Yes. At least I think so. Could it have been better? Maybe.
The biggest obstacle to overcome was the fact the first movie came out in 1982, and the decision was to make a sequel, not a reboot. So 27 years later, in 2010, we get that sequel.
Those that love the original TRON, LOVE the original TRON, so to tap into that built-in audience, a reboot would have been out of the question. People love Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner (seriously, so much so that when Bruce wasn't in the first finished version, fan pressure got him into the movie). It had to be a sequel.
I could go into a whole backstory on the development of a sequel and how it wasn't even greenlit until after the crowd at Comic-Con went totally apeshit over the concept teaser, but that story has already been told, and is available all over the internet if you need a primer. But let's into the movie itself.
I have three improvements that could have, and should have, been made to really lift this movie up, and I have three reasons explaining why we actually get a better than hoped for movie. Be advised, it will appear that I'm constantly contradicting myself. It's what I to. (WARNING: Spoilers ahead)
First, let highlight what went wrong and should have been fixed.
1) Flat characters than Stanley.
The primary concern that critics had with the movie was the lack of character development. No one in the theatre cared about the characters. And frankly, it's because in the movie, most of the characters hardly emote. If they're not engaging, why should we be engaged? Given the talent of the actors in previous works, I'm going to blame the director (and he was a first-time director).
Quorra, played by Olivia Wilde, has a child-like quality to her. However it's played very subtly. You see brief flashes of it: being amazed by the world around her, the playfulness, the naivete. But these flashes are very brief, and you only really start to see them on repeat viewings. At quick blush, her character is just Kevin Flynn's muscle. There's no depth. She's an ISO, but I'm not made to care too much about it.
CLU, played by a "younger" Jeff Bridges, doesn't flex any emotional muscle until the very end, almost too late in the move. You might argue that as with any fanatical tyrant, they will come across as cool and collected, but in a movie where everyone is cool and collected, show me something else. The CGI used to de-age Jeff did a really good job, but it can't pick up on the finer nuisances that could have really delivered in this performance.
Then take our protagonist, Sam Flynn played by Garrett Hedlund. Perhaps the worst offender. Show me some shock, some awe. You just got transported to this amazing new world, and you seem entirely nonplussed by this. Sam showed more life in the real world, than his did in the Grid. Again, you see small flashes of something more here and there, but not enough, especially for the lead. I don't blame Garrett, though. I felt he was best in scenes opposite Jeff Bridges, but outside of that, Sam came across as flat. Again, I think the direction undercut the actors a bit.
The one beacon of hope was Michael Sheen as Castor, the Ziggy Stardust-inspired owner of the End of Line Club. He looked like the only one having fun in the movie. Just when you think he'll go over the top, he pulls it back. Sheen owned his character more than anyone else in the movie. He was going to chew on the scenery, everyone else be damned. Sadly, his screen time was very limited, but enough to wonder what if everyone else had a little more "character" to their character.
If the main characters showed some depth (any really), the movie becomes significantly more enjoyable. You had an audience that wanted to buy in, but weren't being sold anything. The seeds were there; they just weren't nurtured enough.
2) The story (and backstory) surrounding Kevin Flynn.
You have Kevin Flynn, a early version of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs rolled into one. Dynamic, charismatic, and full of vigor. A titan of industry commanding a room full of thousands. And then, 20 years after being stranded in the Grid, Kevin Flynn turns, literally, into modern-day Jeff Bridges, all zen and whatnot.
Sadly, I think the length of time between TRON: Legacy and the original TRON does the most damage here. I found it hard to believe that in all that time, a vibrant Kevin Flynn would turn into a bitter old man. From being the hero of the first movie, he's now someone I'm not entirely invested in one way or the other (see item #1 above).
You might countered that CLU forced him into hiding, and ultimately, to be trapped in the Grid. But let's not forget, Flynn is the god of this world. He created it, demonstrated the ability to do amazing things simply by touch, and can really do as he pleases, even after the betrayal of CLU. But he just goes into hiding. It's one thing to be a prisoner, it's another to be an omnipotent one.
Again, it really is the amount of time that passed between movies. For us to have a second movie with Flynn in it, Flynn had to go Howard Hughes on us. Not impossible, but I just don't buy it. Plot holes abound with this one.
3) It was too busy being a love letter to the original TRON.
I think the story, at certain points, took a back seat to the impressive technological display, just to show off a fresh visual take on the classics from the old movie. Recognizers, disc wars, lightcycles, and de-resolution are all showcased in the new movie in new and fun ways. The re-imagined recognizer is very cool looking, but appears oddly shoehorned into a role of an inefficient prisoner transport.
Some will argue that any TRON movie needs to have this things, but I disagree. Seriously, if CLU is building an army, why subject, and lose, potential soldiers in the disc wars? The movie makers were modernizing old concepts for the theatre-going audience just because they could.
You could have had a few, but not all, of these things, just to give it the right flavor, and maybe the pacing and character development wouldn't have suffered as much.
And we can all agree that Dillinger Junior's presence was gratuitous, a "wink and a nod" too many? Ok, good.
Those are pretty legit gripes. But let's focus on how actually awesome this movie was.
1) Oh my goodness, it is beautiful.
A TRON: Legacy Blu-Ray on an HDTV is an absolutely treat. A veritable feast for the eyes. The world of the Grid is breathtaking. And while you're busy admiring the CGI handiwork, the movie staged, framed, and filmed some wonderful shots. Yes, praise the CGI, but also praise the cinematography which was spot-on.
The best part is that while the original TRON feels horribly dated, the worlds created for TRON: Legacy will hold up over time. I really could go on and on about it, but if you've seen it, you know what I'm talking about. The visuals may have single-handedly saved the franchise.
2) Successfully tying the old with the new.
Let's look at Star Trek for a moment. Twenty years after the Original Series went off the air, Star Trek: The Next Generation hit the airwaves. Everything was different; the only thing that was the same was the ship was named Enterprise. It was able to pull it off because you had, in-universe, a Federation that existed before the Original Series and would continue onwards. For us, as an audience, to just somehow pick up the action 70 years in the future was not far-fetched.
But the world of TRON was, literally, a finite system. With computer systems coming and going through obsolescence, we couldn't just pick up the action later. They had to be a one-off somewhere (in this story, a secluded server in the basement of an arcade), where the story could continue to unfold without reality derailing it. Jeff Bridges' character had to pass to the torch to someone else, like his son.
Yes, an attempt could have been made to create a story that didn't include any of the old cast, but their specter would have cast a large show over the production. Having them there, and appropriately cast, allows us to move on with the world of TRON.
A new Grid, the betrayal by CLU, and CLU's attempt to enter the real world was the best possible story in this scenario. You have a believable antagonist and a conflict you could reasonably resolve in 2 hours of movie time, which simultaneously bringing everyone up to speed while paving the way to the future.
Sure, this does seem to contradict my earlier beef with Kevin Flynn's storyline, but I still believe that Flynn's 20 years in the Grid backstory could have been improved significantly, while keeping the CLU maniacal perfection angle in play.
2.5) Not including Ram or Yori in the movie, but including them in the project.
This ties in neatly with item #2. Though fans really wanted Cindy Morgan to reprise her roles as Lora in the real world, and Yori on Grid, I'm glad they didn't. It would have fallen into the "love letter" concern from earlier.
However, she did appear with Bruce Boxleitner, in his Alan Bradley character, at WonderCon as Alan's wife. That was a very pleasant surprise, as it connected her to the whole experience. Dan Shor, who played Ram in the original TRON, features in a DVD extra that was also well done, without needing to actually be in the movie proper. Using the old cast in these peripheral projects is the best way to help connect the old movie with the new, without forced cameos.
3) Daft Punk
Believe it or not, Daft Punk existed before TRON: Legacy, but their work on the soundtrack really caused their star to skyrocket. In my eyes, it's not a coincidence that they took home a truckload of Grammys for Random Access Memories after doing this movie's soundtrack. Just sayin'.
Daft Punk did an amazing job scoring this movie. Purposely avoiding their standard synth and drum machine routine, they brought in an orchestra to really bring the movie to life (when they do go synth and drum, it's for the club scene so it totally works).
Dare I say, the music for this film added more depth to the characters than the director did. When Kevin Flynn appears on screen in the End of Line Club, and touches the floor, and "Fall" starts playing (OST track 14) you know shit is about to get real. Suddenly, Kevin Flynn had an air about him that was missing up until that point, and it was believable. It was because of Jeff Bridges, it was because of a pair of robots from France. That, my friends, is good music making.
In the end, what are we left with? TRON: Legacy could have been so much more, and all it needed was some fine tuning. It's not like it needed wholesale changes. The scenery did have more depth than the characters, but again, the seeds were there, they just need more cultivation.
Personally, I like TRON: Legacy a lot. It's an entertaining film, and I'm glad I own it on Blu-Ray. Though it was a commercial success with over $400 million made, it had its detractors and gave Disney pause as they were looking towards pursuing an whole series of franchise films. The world of TRON is beautiful and rich. It just needs the right storyteller to flesh out the right tale to tell. It can be done, and I hope they do it.
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