Thursday, October 27, 2005

Scripting in 1st Person: Who Would Play You?

Heroes grasp to life wired through gaming consoles - plugged into television sets, locked behind entertainment center glass, clouded over by bong smoke. The 1st person spectacle, a real-life-saving scenario on a dark, foggy night. Maybe it's Halo or Quake. Maybe the room is full of observers, comrades or enemies. Maybe it's XBox or Playstation. The only fact that remains, the player is simultaneously on the sofa and on the television; his attention on the action.

When Hollywood directors give these gamers their 2 hours of "fame" on the big screen, they rob the gamer of everything - the controller. The gamer is no longer in control. His tongue does not stick out the side of his mouth. His hands are not sweaty. His heartrate steady. He's not a hero, he's a movie-goer and is stripped of his dignity. His life, scripted in contracts, belongs to someone else.

While I do often imagine being a superstar like The Rock, nothing is more American grain than being a hero. I want to be a hero more than I want to be The Rock. So is the gaming culture. Only by removing the "hero", can Hollywood invent video game blockbusters. Followers will follow, but they will always be critically saying "That's not me."

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

For the Love of God!...and SPORTS

Why was I up at the god-awful hour between sanity and sunrise? Because the Astros took more than 5 hours to lose last night's, World Series game 3.

I've seen my heart broken three times this week and it's only Wednesday. Sunday was the worst. I saw the Cowboys lose to Seattle in the game's last 40 seconds. I watched the Astros lose game two on a 2-out, bottom of the 9th homerun. Nail-biters, the lot of them, if only I bit my nails. Damn my lungs are sore.

The one bright spot of the week - Supernatural. I missed it last Tuesday, but was fortunate to catch an encore episode Sunday night/Monday morning at 1am after Charmed. (yes, I watch Charmed, if only for camp and cleavage).

Tuesday's episode ended half an hour to 4am. Not having enough unread e-mails to compliment an unopened Coke, I decided it was time to write. When all else fails, I return to this empty screen and these randomly placed, labeled keyboard buttons.

Read an article Tuesday about the successful and failing shows this Fall. Supernatural, like a few others, is not necessarily the next LOST, but after the World Series ends, it will remain in the Fox primetime line-up. I was reassured.

Watching the Astros lose is going to be a first for me. Not only is this their first World Series invite, but it also marks the first time, that I can remember, a professional, Texas sports team has made it to a championship game and not one - and my memory on the subject dates back to the late 1980s/early '90s.

I've seen the Cowboys win three NFL championships, the Houston Rockets win two, the San Antonio Spurs three, and the Dallas Stars one. When/(if) the Astros lose game 4 tonight, my undefeated run will end.

My saving grace/silver lining/glass is half full perspective: Supernatural will run another encore episode Sunday night and an all-new episode next Tuesday. Supernatural isn't a GREAT show, but at least the good guys win at the end of each episode. This could likewise be the silver bullet that keeps it from returned next season, but for now, it gives me hope. While Texan sports teams may not forever dominate every championship game, there will be another day for good to prevail over evil and, let's face it, all sports outside of Texas is Evil.

Friday, October 14, 2005

What the Critics Aren't Seeing in "Elizabethtown"; But, They've Seen More Than Me

"A convincing happy ending - true love, fresh dreams, the open road - offers a secular vision of grace. But in this glib, sloppy movie, which recoils from authentic expressions of loss, sorrow or frustration, happiness seems more like an entitlement, taken for granted rather than longed for or earned."
- By A.O. Scott, New York Times, 10/14/05

How I disagree, let me count the ways. BUT, I have yet to see "Elizabethtown." It is Cameron Crowe's concept of re-imagining the chick-flick and it has all the makings of another cult classic, Romantic Comedy.

Happiness is a deserved, entitlement. "Longed for" happiness can be found down the Disney isle; "earned" happiness across the way in the children's religious programming. Anything with a moral is a fairy-tale told to make children behave while parents watch television dramas. A movie's theme is much different than a chldhood moral story. And, from what I've read about "Elizabethtown," the major conflict among critics is perspective.

To a Katrina evacuee, first-month's free rent and a job is happiness. To an NYC exec, happiness is watching a low-expectation stock quadruple in a week. Happiness is surreal and, often, vice versa. While I pre-judge this movie to be a lot like "Garden State" the Romantic Comedy genre isn't so much first-date roses thrown across the room as stolen gravesite memorial wreaths. There is nothing "earned" or "longed for" in the morbid. The entitlement comes on the other side of the bell-curve - the side opposite pain and suffering.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

From the Big Screens into your Primetime Network Programming

Against my better judgment, I wached Freddy tonight. My bestfriend/roommate is gay and has a thing for both Freddy Prinze, Jr. and Brian Austin Green, so I did what every "friend" does and compromised my heterosexual integrity. But, just as he has no "quantifiable proof" that he is gay, I enjoy Gilmore Girls and still my own straight orientation despite being involuntarily celebate for the last three months. I stick to my pants, and catalog every low-cut cleavage shot of both Gilmore Girls in my Spank Bank. Anyway, I watched Freddy tonight and watching him pull of the sincere-playboy character he so often plays in Hollywood, chick-flicks, I wonder if this is the first identifiable sign that I am, in reality, aging.

I've heard rumors of how Hollywood actors/actresses jump from big screen to small screen until finally settling into the lower-income network television programming because their blockbuster-appearances are easily replaced by newer, younger faces that will, eventually, replace them again on television. It's a process, I've been told. This season, the truth is out there and it's not hidden at all. It's completely blatantly disrespectful.

Freddy Prinze, Jr. starts in She's All That and ends up in Freddy. Jennifer Love Hewitt from Can't Hardly Wait to Angel Whisperer. Gabrielle Union, Bad Boys 2, to Night Stalker. Michelle Rodriguez from The Fast and The Furious to Lost. What's happening here? These were supposed to be the actors/actresses that replaced Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. To my knowledge, those icons only entered our living rooms on DVD or as Special Appearances. I understand there is a hierarchy in Hollywood that "teenage sensations" coming of age fall into, but what about the Bruce Willis affect?

I grew-up watching Bruce Willis play David Addison, Jr. on Moonlighting. When he finally turned himself to silver-screen icon, John McClane, in the Die Hard series, I thought that was the norm: one starts in television (commercial, then sit-com) and then finally becomes a "movie star." Obviously, I was as wrong, then, as I am "old" now. This is what I call the Silver Spoons affect.

Rick Schroder. Need I say more? But, there is a Doogie Howser, silver-lining. Doogie represented the over-achieving definition of Generation X. Even now, many bloggers trace their technological lineage to Doogie's signature, show-ending, computer diary. Given the time, idols can be re-made. As a supporting actor for the new sit-com, How I Met Your Mother, Neil Patrick Harris is carrying the show. The show, quite possibly, could be as "Legendary" as Friends or Seinfeld; television for the 30-minute, ADD0time-span generation. This, I believe, is the renaissance of Doogie Howser.

If Doogie does as well as I predict, then The Rock also proves to be a fallacy in my argument. He was the WWF headliner when it was still the WWF. Primetime wrestling dropped 30% of its ratings when he left to film The Mummy Returns and The Scorpian King. After the release of The Scorpian King, he was being labelled as the next American Action Hero. Still, it hasn't happened, but Doom could be the next generation action flick just as Terminator and Die Hard reminded us all of a everyday superheroes. With the apparant great direction of Andrzej Bartkowiak, the movie is filmed much like the video game is coded and with a happy, gaming audience, The Rock could finally claim ownership of the much-coveted American Action Hero title. But, what does this have to say about Freddy and company? Nothing realy except that Hollywood stars-turned network television attractions are doomed.

It's obvious Freddy Prinze, Jr. and Jennifer Love Hewitt will have to rely on their all-American good looks for the rest of their youthful lives because their acting careers are just awaiting television garbage pick-up. Gabrielle Union and Michelle Rodriguez still slightly shimmer in the spotlight, now, because they were only supporting actresses in Hollywood and remain that still on network programming. They have no where to go but up (cliche) because they are not yet identifiable personalities. They are still trying on different sizes of Hollywood's glamorous shoes. Freddy and Jennifer, well, they had their nights at the ball, and the clock is forever striking midnight.

"I Still Want us to Be Friends" - Who am I Kidding? No, I Don't

Time can never fly fast enough during a break-up. Nor is there enough of it between the break-up and the ex-es e-mail months later wanting to take you up on your offer to still be friends. That butter knife line rusts and buttered feelings harden over time.

But, I did say it. I just didn't really mean it. In relationship-ending times, vague, subjective words only serve as flotation devices to get me the hell out of the quick-sand situations. Concrete words such as "never" and "not going to happen" only sink the boat. Honesty should never be an option.

I've been spending countless hours of my waking life curled-up on my loveseat watching dramatic, fictional lives unfold as my own drifts further into the fog. My weekends are sucked into these lives, my nights are spent alone with my computer. Still, anything is better than communicating with the ex again. Life isn't that bad.

This week's episode of How I Met Your Mother takes on this theme. No matter how much growing up we do between relationships, we never need nor want to revisit relationships if a bedroom is, instead, available. That's where my own friends-after-relationship always end before I toss the girl back into the closet to collect dust alongside our pictures together and love-letters that I'll re-read when it's time to move and grow again. I'll wonder "what if" and remember that 30-year time-lapse it took me to break-up the first time. I'm too young to do it all over again.

Leave the merry-go-round in that box and don't revisit the playground. It's depressingly humbling to see for yourself that you've out-grown what you used to enjoy. Now, imagine how she would feel when she sees this realization in your eyes. Let her go play with someone she can outgrow.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Who Wants to be President?

"The president of what? The United States. Of what? Of America!"

Chris Rock, in Head of State, makes the American political system as simple as an ethical dilemma in a Lifetime after-school special. But, we all know this simplicity is all an illusion. In politics, ethics only get you elected; after that, they have no sustaining value like the American dollar. We know this because of recent history, cable news talking heads, and The West Wing.

When The West Wing first aired, the political life was the smog we all knew was killing us, but it was also a sign of a familiarity, home, and a healthy economy. We expect our politicians to be corrupt - that's our failsafe excuse for a bad day. And, as much as we complain about the seperation between politicians and their constituents, we all know so little about the "industry" that the ideal, working-class President will never be able to run this country. Being the President is "hard work." But, the President is a person as well as an institution, and seeing fictitious dramas unfold on network television may show us exactly what President Bush meant by "hard work" during the 2004 debates.

I've seen a small handful of West Wing episodes, but do to a rebellious fear of scheduling my social life around primetime television, I didn't get sucked-in to that show, but I fear my left foot is sinking into its progeny: Commander in Chief. When Bones and House return to Fox in November, a recording VCR will have to be the living room's silent, third viewer. I hate saying that after only seeing the show a single time.

Ronald Reagan brought a Hollywood glitter with him into the White House. Bill Clinton created his own Presidential soap opera. The Bush's, well, not so much individual charisma as wrought iron tradition, like dad saying "my house, my rules" - rule by fear (of God) rather than lead by example.

In 1999, the first West Wing episode provided real-life drama when the American Presidency was obviously shifting away from entertainment with the close of the Clinton administration. Maybe the producers saw the 2000 presidential candidates as anything but entertaining. If the new president wasn't going to have family drama or a Hollywood smile, then they could be written into a script.

I think about the reality-television-like feel shows like The West Wing and Commander in Chief have. I think maybe everyone is quick to point shaking fingers at the current administration when things aren't looking to end with a series finale, happy ending. And, I think what if the government is exactly how it appears in these television dramas? I know the difference between television-life and real-life, but I don't have so much experience with politics to know the real-life isn't like that scripted on television. Maybe I've been too hard on the President as a man, an institution, an ideal.

His recent Supreme Court nomination isn't getting too many approving nods from either side of the partisan privacy fence. It's the first sign of individuality outside of his signature mis-speak. I almost want to believe he's nominated Harriet Miers because he believes she's good for the Court and good for the future of this country's Constitutional integrity. But, then again, the word "crony" is working its way into everyone's conversations these last few days. I want to believe him, but I'm still wary of any unpredictable moves by a politician, especially one we've known for as long. Maybe he should've let Commander in Chief air just before his official nomination.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Halo Intentions

Five times I slapt the snooze button on my alarm clock Saturday morning; once for each hour that I'd been asleep. At 12:52pm afternoon, it wasn't my alarm clock's knuckle-cracking pops that woke me up, it was brother fucking with the volume so that it sounded like a pinto radio on a hilly insterstate...loud. soft. Loud, soft. Had my blanket been more of a blanket and less of a flour tortilla, I would've jumped up swinging.

Thrity minutes later, I stood between my neighbor and her 10 year-old daughter pulling on a white, nylon rope outfitted with 4 stick handlebars attached to a 15-foot, upright cedar tree. It was too early for that shit. A half hour of that, the sawed carnage sat by the curb and I finally sat down to my first cup of coffee.

We bought Halo last Friday night and played for 8 hours, starting at 10pm. Sometime between then and now, I thought I could be either the perfect soldier or the perfect example of a discharged soldier. I'm walking around this game, see my gun-sights flicker red and I'm off following bullets like the tail of a comet (yeah, I know a comet tail actually leads the comet itself, but pretend for a minute that the simile works). Sometimes, that strategy even works, but tick-marking deaths, I've sacrificed myself probably twice as many times as my roommate.

Friday afternoon, I actually got bored enough that I wanted to write this post. I've been thinking about the dwindling number of new military recruits. No branch of the military has met its monthly recruiting goals. In my PATRIOT-Act-conspiracy-theoried-mind, it's only a matter of time before the FBI starts hacking into the Internet gaming world to look for gun-toting possibilities, not unlike the aliens seek out The Last Starfighter.

There are 13 and 14 year-old kids that can multi-task weapon re-loading, strategy, fingertip aim, and lateral thinking abilities. These kids have higher IQs than the average American adult, better hand-eye coordination than most world-renowned surgeons, and have fun doing it than surfing for Internet porn. Sending these kids into Iraq would be like a weekend of no parents and binge-gaming for them.

I wrote all that Friday afternoon from the perspective a recruiter talking to the gamer. And, it was good despite being written in the middle of the afternoon rather than the middle of the night. Then, the computer locked-up just before i hit the "post" button. Can you fucking believe it? I damn near lost it and I'm talking "well, Bob, i wouldn't really say i've missed work" lost it.

Maybe I have some anger issues. Maybe I'm having some sort of frustrated-writing meltdown. Maybe I'm having committment issues with my laptop.

I don't know, but it can't be any so serious that a few more hours of Halo couldn't remedy. I'm unemployed, what could it hurt to give it another aggressive twirl?

Thursday, September 15, 2005

TVs Supernatural Evolution

Salon.com actually "scooped" me on this one...Sort of.

For the past few weeks, I've been contemplating the obvious shift in reality by networks for their fall season line-ups. With shows like Supernatural, Invasion, Angel Whisperer, Night Stalker, etc. there are elements being televised in primetime slots that haven't been explored since the days of the X-Files; that is "forces beyond our control" as Salon puts it. But, the coincidence and scoop end there.

Salon proposes that this programming is the entertainment industry's attempt to capitalize on the new terrorism threat. Aliens, ghosts, spirits are all instinctively feared because they are out of the realm of our understanding; anything we cannot explain should be feared. Maybe I'm optimistic, but I don't see the threat of terrorism in this new programming at all. In fact, I say these shows are not tied together by fear at all, but, rather, by hope and curiosity.

I think back on the X-Files era and see a society oblivious to serious threats of terrorism. But, it was also a society of hot-lamps and nuggets of doubt. X-Files was geared for the primetime conspiracy theorist, but for anyone outside that cult, it solidified a thought that maybe the government hasn't and isn't completely honest with the American public. From its era, a new generation of "trekkies" evolved.

We idolized the anti-James Bond "Mulder" for his intelligence and mainstream fascination with the sexy, intelligent "Scully." The show was for adults who had grown-up watching the original Star Trek starring William Shatner and Leornard Nemoy. Geeks could be "normal" - whetever the hell that is.

The public didn't question the government because we didn't know, or didn't want to appear to know, enough about how the political system worked. We felt safer not questioning what we were being told. Mulder and Scully walked into our living rooms flashing their FBI badges as everyday citizens. They showed how there were silenced by their top-secret jobs and questioned the "why" themselves. All of a sudden, it's okay to vocally question what you do not know, hence, "the truth is out there."

It was a subtle exaggeration of the truth - at least from hindsight. When the terrorists attacked on 9/11, we could only trust our local and federal governments. The terrorists may not have been American-born, but they were American citizens; they were a part of our "melting pot" culture. America was an anorexic supermodel forcing herself to throwup when no one was looking.

Out of this came reality television. The true heroes of 9/11 were people with mortgages and car payments. They rushed in and out of the burning buildings and got out as many people as they could reach. Who would've thought an investment broker could also be a hero? What other, superhuman-talent did Americans posses? After the shock and the surreality, there was this undying love for the American spirit: perserverance, heroism, humility, love. And that spirit is something that everyone hides beneath their ties and nametags.

The reality of that day has been left to settle at the bottom our glasses along with our lives before that event. The 9/11 Commission reported the government knew an attack on American soil was being planned. Most Americans, myself included, saw these reports as political "chatter." It's no secret that America isn't the most popular country in the world, so it's easy to see how we could have numerous threats stepped up to us everyday. How do you know which ones are sincere? The memories from that day are no less painful, but they are now 4 years removed. 9/11 has been reduced to a political talking-point a silenced feeling of humility.

After watching the first episode of Supernatural Tuesday night, there was an X-Files presence; the feeling that the unknown can be understood. And seeing the previews for the other shows, I see them to be much the same. I don't see the networks preying on our fears of terrorist attacks, but rather a quest to understand the unexplainable.

Understanding is a long road. This latest fall season is trying remind us all of that, and series-long format is the perfect subtle point for that. From the first episode of any new series, there is a central question that is asked that will only be answered at the very end, no matter how much the audience wants the answer to be revealed immediately. And it doesn't matter if you're tracking angels, haunting spirits or global terrorists, there is always going to be a twist in the road that keeps us from sprinting straight into the tunnel vision of light.