Friday, December 21, 2012

Top 10 Episodes of 2012 - Part 5

This is part 5 of 5. I asked 20 friends to write about their favorite TV episodes of 2012 and this is the exciting results. At the bottom you'll see the tabulated results from everyone's lists. You can find Part 1 here and Part 2 here and Part 3 here and Part 4 here.

The Thick of It – “Episode Three” (Season Four, Episode 3)
By Aaron Wittwer

Back from a three year hiatus, Series 4 of The Thick of It wastes no time, throwing us right back into the everyday, mundane chaos at work behind the scenes of the (fictional) British “Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship” aka DoSAC.
With this (and the funny, yet slightly redundant, Veep), show runner Armando Iannucci satirizes the trivial power-struggles and day-to-day inanities that one imagines must overtake lesser government positions in the off-seasons. Not satisfied to simply “humanize” government authority figures, The Thick of It turns them into a bunch of children going to war over the last piece of candy.

Top 10 Episodes of 2012 - Part 4

This is part 4 of 5. I asked 20 friends to write about their favorite TV episodes of 2012 and this is the exciting results. You can find Part 1 here and Part 2 here and Part 3 here.

Peep Show – “Jeremy Therapised” (Season Eight, Episode 1)
By Joshua Carroll

[This episode contains major plot spoilers for the season premiere only in the marked paragraph.]
Flying by the seat of one’s pants for nothing more than personal gain is perhaps the driving force behind many of Peep Shows, a British television series (which, by the way, is what this rambling will cover) characters.  Mark and Jez, roomies, ‘El-Dude Brothers’, and perpetual assholes (can I say assholes?), exist in an ever-constant battle with each other and their individual dreams.  The show’s ‘gimmick’ is allowing us to hear Jez and Mark’s individual thoughts to a revealing extent; so we are right there with the two of them through everything.  And the result is some very layered and uncomfortable comedy.

Top 10 Episodes of 2012 - Part 3

This is part 3 of 5. I asked 20 friends to write about their favorite TV episodes of 2012 and this is the exciting results. You can find Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Justified – “Guy Walks Into a Bar” (Season Three, Episode 10)

[Plot spoilers for what happens in this episode of Justified.]
It has been awhile since I have seen Season Three and since they don't release the DVD until a week before the new season, it doesn't give me much time to refresh my memory. But one episode stands out. The episode consists of a stand off between Raylan and Querles, the Emmy-winning Jeremy Davies as Dickie, the monster that is Limehouse and also my favorite Supernatural guy, Jim Beaver.

Top 10 Episodes of 2012 - Part 2

This is part 2 of 5. I asked 20 friends to write about their favorite TV episodes of 2012 and this is the exciting results. You can find Part 1 here.

Game of Thrones – “Blackwater” (Season Two, Episode 9)
By Eric Martindale

 “Those are brave men knocking at our door, lets go kill them.” – Tyrion Lannister

Top 10 Episodes of 2012 - Part 1

One of the reasons why I like television so much is that it feels more communal than any other form of entertainment. Usually walking out of a movie, my friends don’t like to talk about it as much but if they finished a season of a show they need someone to talk to NOW. So once again, I have recruited 20 of my friends to talk about their favorite episodes of 2012. Below you will see a wide range of opinions and writing styles which makes it all the more fun.
If you see their name has a hyperlink, I strongly recommend you look into more places where you can see and read about these fun and intelligent TV enthusiasts.
Small warning, there is occasional foul language and in one circumstance a lot of foul language. Most of the time, the author is vague about what happens in the episode or season, but in cases where that is not true, a spoiler warning is attached.
At the very end of this very long article, check out what episodes occurred the most Top 10 lists as I formulated the results of everyone’s picks.

Archer – “The Man From Jupiter” (Season Three, Episode 4)
By Ryan Lugar

Burt and Ernie.  Buzz and Woody.  Cheech and Chong.  These are some of the most dynamic duos over the course of history, but they all fall second to one last duo.  A duo that can do no wrong, in all the wrong ways.  I am of course referring to Sterling Archer and Burt Reynolds.  The combination of Archer’s black turtleneck and Burt Reynolds’ amazing moustache cannot fail.  

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Top Ten TV Shows of 2012

Man, TV was awesome this year. That’s such a strange thing to type when we had a pretty lousy fall premiere season for the networks. Reality shows continue to plague existence and they only seem to be getting lazier. Did you know the CW aired a game show that is a mix between musical chairs and Wipeout hosted by Jamie Kennedy? That’s the world we’re living in.
Yet we’re also living in a world where there is an excellent show on every week of the year. By the time Breaking Bad concludes, Homeland is about to start and then Justified is on and then Game of Thrones begins and then Mad Men starts up and as that concludes it’s time for Breaking Bad again.That’s perfect if you only watch those five shows, but the truth is the calendar is jam packed with amazing programming. I juggle a lot of shows and there are still plenty that I am missing. (See at the bottom).
All of the dramas and comedies that I watch only seem to begetting better. As a show enters its fifth or sixth year it used to be time to worry, but those are the shows that seem the freshest. This makes each upcoming season more exciting.
Next year marks the conclusion of 30 Rock, Breaking Bad, Fringe, Spartacus, Treme and almost definitely Community. We have the 50thAnniversary of Doctor Who, an adaptation of the most popular book of A Song of Ice and Fire, the revival of Arrested Development, a new Bryan Fuller show, a new Christopher Guest show, a new Joss Whedon show, a David Fincher show, a Boy Meets World sequel, Michael J. Fox has a new sitcom and maybe even more Sherlock. (Filming doesn’t start until March and they have to break again for more Hobbit shoots…Maybe late 2013!)
As I look back at all of the excellent seasons of TV from this year, it only makes me more excited that there are many more hours of these programs to come. This year was especially tough to narrow down to a Top 10 and plenty of my honorable mentions almost entered the elite. TV is insanely good right now.
10) Louie Season Three

Louie makes me think about its scenes longer than any show on the air. They are ideas that he has and I don’t think he knows what to do with them either. They are curious ponderings that may not make a coherent episode, but always make something special. Louie staying up all night preparing his daughter’s Christmas is now one of my favorite holiday episodes despite the scene just being five minutes. Louie going to a funeral, but only really learning how much the man meant when he goes to a strip club with Robin Williams. Louie learning a horrifying lesson in the fairness in oral sex from Melissa Leo. Louie refusing to go to the edge of the roof on a date. Then there was the incredible arc where he tries to replace David Letterman culminating in one of the most uplifting moments of television this year. I’m not sure if the overall episodes were as strong as Season Two, but this was still a special unique season.

9) Parks and Recreation Seasons Four/Five

Near the end of Season Four as the election of Leslie Knope was coming to an end, I was further reminded how much I care about these characters. I genuinely didn’t want her to lose. Obviously I would prefer her to win because that would move the story forward, but I didn’t want this fictional character’s dreams to be crushed. Leslie Knope really is one of TV’s best characters because she’s who we wish to be. She’s never cynical, caring to all of her friends and determined to do the best thing for her city without wanting personal gain. Despite her not being real, I would vote for her for President.

8) Misfits Season Four

In the pilot there was a mysterious and unexplained storm that gave majority of the world superpowers. Misfits followed a group of twentysomethings stuck in communityservice who don’t become superheroes. They are the same mess-ups who now have powers. It was a show that dared to be weird and was happy breaking the rules of narrative structure.
In Season Four, only one original cast member remains. No one was sure that it could be the same with so many new characters. It took that challenge and created eight really fun and emotional episodes. Every week moved its insane plot forward just enough because the show was always better at episode stories instead of longer arcs. The show has never been this tight or funny as our anti-heroes face off against an obsessive heist, killer bunny in a suit, the apocalypse on bicycles and ZOMBIE NOIR. I’ve been waiting for the show to be this good.

7) Community Season Three

When a show knows it’s doomed, that’s when it usually goes crazy. Community has always been crazy so this season it amped up its craziness in two ways. In the easy fashion, it just went nuts. Abed created a Dreamatorium where he feels more comfortable in than reality. Chang hired child soldiers to start his uprising at the college. In an alternate reality, Evil Abed wants to kill his way out of the darkest timeline. A psychiatrist tries to convince the group that Greendale doesn’t exist. The restaurant Subway becomes a student.
Yet this season also revealed what the show really wants to do. The madness of the school always surrounds its characters who remain the soul of the show. It tested the friendship between Abed and Troy. They let characters start to succeed in their goals like Shirley and her sandwich shop and Pierce coming to terms with his father. The montage at the end of Jeff truly coming to terms how much he loves his makeshift family and chooses them over his career is especially poignant knowing this was the final scene of creator Dan Harmon’s legacy on the weirdest and most personal show on network TV.

6) Doctor Who Season Seven 

This season is only partly over and the more I reflect upon it…I’m not sure that it has started. Five episodes aired in 2012. The next episode shall air on Christmas and that will introduce a new companion, a new TARDIS interior, a new title sequence, new musical theme, and a new wardrobe for The Doctor. Really it feels that the next episode is the season premiere and the previous five were a transitional miniseries.
Companions are as important to the show as The Doctor. During the Classic series they came and went with little fanfare. Sometimes a sweet final scene and sometimes they left off screen unceremoniously. In the new series, there was one really impressive companion departure that brought tears to many. Then it was undercut by having her return with little to do.
For the first time, a companion’s departure wasn’t just about their final scene. These five episodes were all about the final days ofthe Ponds. The adventures dealt with their marriage troubles and reconnection, bravery and independence inspired by their travels, the warnings of why The Doctor can’t be alone, the quiet moments of love, and then…the end. They were a collection of tales designed to say goodbye to two of the best companions the show has ever had and it was effective.

5) The Hour Season Two

Last year people complained that the spy storyline was too separate from the formation of a new BBC news program in the 1950s. I liked it because we needed to see how these characters were able to find and report astory. This year the story they are covering is more personal and directly affects them more than having a friend of a friend who is involved. Yet the story isn’t why I watch. It’s because these are some of the best characters onTV with the best writing to back them up. The premiere made me gasp, every single news scene made my eyes widen and the finale almost made me tear up several times. I know it concluded last week, but is this on Blu-Ray yet? I want to watch it again.

4) Game of Thrones Season Two

I hate origin stories. They always overstay their welcomeand rely on the repetitive structure to introduce its heroes. The first season of Game of Thrones didn’t have that problem, but it did have to bring us into a complicated world with a long conflicting history. Now we’re into it. With more houses willing to fight for the Iron Throne, there is no time to bring in new viewers. Every episode brings a strong amount of respect to its viewers, trusting they are smart enough tounderstand all of the character nuances in the ever-shifting landscape where the stakes only appear to get worse.

With so much ground to cover, it would be easy to make this a montage-esque show where they quickly jump from one part of the map to the other. Instead every scene is long and dense as characters are allowed time to really show who they are and what they believe. All of the scenes with Aria and Tywin were outstanding, as were Jamie and a page in a cage and Tyrion Lannister with anybody. There are plenty of awesome action scenes, but everyone is really watching for these incredible scenes of dialog.

3) Sherlock Season Two

Like Season One, Season Two had three episodes. Two of them are masterpieces and one is still pretty darn good. While last season had plenty of nods to the Arthur Conan Doyle stories, this one took on the three biggest stories in his canon: Irene Adler, the Hound of the Baskerville and The Reichenbach Fall. As if that wasn’t bold enough, they stopped hinting at the infamous Moriartiy and put him right up front. They dared to create stories where the smartest detective ever created had intellectual equals and they never once dumbed anything down. Their ambition paid off with masterful and rewatchable stories that pains us that we have to wait almost two years…especially since they left us with, arguably, the greatest cliffhanger intelevision history.

2) Mad Men Season Five

I don’t watch TV for what I’ve already seen. I can’t watch most episodic shows because even though the characters are fun I don’t want tosee the same format every week. Mad Men ventured into new territory. Last time we saw the breakdown of Don Draper as his Norman Rockwell home life collapsed. At the end, he made the steps to start anew. In a film, this would be the end where the music will play, credits will roll and we hope things work out. Here we learn what it means for his life and his job if the cold Don Draper gets to be happy in a world that is even quickly evolving past what he knows.  This was the show’s most inventive and effective season to date.

1) Breaking Bad Season Five

Every season had a clear antagonist. Some powerful force stopping Walt from achieving all he wanted in the meth market. In Season Five,there’s no one left. Nobody could be higher up than Gus except for the man who bested Gus. In the first half of its final season, Breaking Bad examines exactly what Walt wants without any more excuses in his way. His morality, loyalties, and commitments are all tested to the point where he is no longer the danger…but the villain. If this show lands the ending with its last eight episodes, this will be forever seen as one ofthe greatest televisions shows of all time.

Honorable Mentions (in Alphabetical Order)
30 Rock Season Eight
Archer Season Three
The Booth at the End Season Two
Burning Love Season One
Childrens Hospital Season Four
Cougar Town Season Three
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
Downton Abbey Season Three
Eastbound and Down Season Three
Fringe Seasons Four/Five
Girls Season One
Happy Endings Seasons Two/Three
Homeland Season Two
The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret Season Two
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia Season Eight
Justified Season Three
The Life and Times of Tim Season Three
Peep Show Season Eight
Spartacus: Vengeance
Treme Season Three
Veep Season One
Wilfred Season Two

Shows That I Haven’t Caught Up On Yet But Really Ought ToBut Let’s See If It’ll Ever Happen. (Short British Shows Have the Best Chance.)
Awkward. Season Two
Being Human Season Four
Damages Season Five (Three episodes left to watch)
The Good Wife (Only seen the first season)
The Legend of Korra
Luck Season One (Insanely good pilot; need to see the rest of the set)
The Thick of It
Twenty Twelve

Tomorrow will be an epic article of the Top 10 Episodes of 2012 with 21 contributors providing an episode review and their own Top 10 list. Get excited...

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Confessions of an Exhausted Fictional Character Part I

Confessions of an Exhausted Fictional Character

Part I – May I Have the Attention of the Class

Today the teacher wrote the word “Hamlet” on the chalkboard. That was it. In a sea of green nothingness, he alleviated the blandness with…”Hamlet.” Then I looked around me and everybody was taking notes. They all wrote down “Hamlet.” Last month we got our syllabus where we knew we were going to read Hamlet this month. For the past week he told us to bring our copy of Hamlet on Tuesday. If anybody was confused that we were going to talk about Hamlet today, thank God there was the written realization for us.
Then all he said was “To be or not to be. But what really is the question?” before the bell rang. How was that even possible? We were in class for a total of ten minutes after he took attendance. Then he told us to read chapters one through five as people ran bustled out the door, but that doesn’t even make sense because it’s a play...They have acts and scenes….
On the way out Mr. Gregson asked Miranda Clover if she could stay after for a second. I swear to God, all of the commotion silenced. I was packing stuff into my bag and even that became quieter. I have binder on binder action and that is muted. Why the fuck do I even bring binders to this class? We never discuss anything! Every once in awhile, a teacher goes off on a monologue that doesn’t really apply to today’s lesson. But then a really attractive person stands up and says “I…I have to go.” Then the teacher is okay with it. In fact, they usually nod with a goddamn smile. You know what happens for the rest of the class? Nothing. The bell rings again.
I don’t even know what the bell means anymore. I thought it meant that was when class started and ended. Yet I’ve never made it into a classroom before it rang. Usually it rings right when I’m a few feet from the door. Sometimes I get distracted and I end up talking to my friend in the hallway. We talk for awhile until one of us asks the other a personal question. Then the bell rings! The question is never answered because we always say “I have to make it to class…” Shouldn’t we be tardy already?
The only thing that doesn’t suck about this school is the locker setup. You know who is to the locker to my left? My best friend. You know who is the locker to my right? My other best friend. You know who has the locker 10 down from me? My crush. It’s not just me. Every single nerdy outcast I know at this school has the exact same situation. I honestly don’t know how this happened. It’s not like we picked our lockers or filled out a form. At least it’s nice that our lunch period seems to be endless and the school set up a ton of tables outside. Even though most people just seem to stand around. Aren’t they hungry the rest of the day?
This school is nuts. Honestly it feels like I just have one class most of the time. Every year it’s a different focus. Right now it’s English class where we write down the title of the most famous play of all time, but last year it was history. Every other class seems to just be there just for a short anecdote each week; I have no idea what my GPA is.
I’m scared that I’m going to fail out of school, but I already got into the state’s college. In fact so did everybody I know. I figured all of the smartest kids in the class would go out of state to a really good private school, but everybody seems to be going to the same college. Even the juvenile delinquents who misspelled Hamlet in their notes seem to be going to the state college.
I’m pretty sure I haven’t learned a damn thing. Yet Miranda seems to learn an obvious life lesson every single Friday. Is the school only trying to teach three people? The only people who get called on in class are Miranda, her quirky best friend, the guy she has a crush on, the bitch who hates her and the bitch’s braindead best friend. I know all of the answers! I raise my hand! I haven’t been called on once in my entire academic career. Even in Kindergarten, Miranda was the one who read the book aloud to the class.
Why am I always in the same classes with all of these people?! It’s a big school! I think! All my classes are in the same looking hallway. I keep thinking I will have a class in a different part of the school, but I’m a senior and I’ve never used the second floor.
I won’t be shocked at all if this is some government conspiracy or a scientific experiment posing as a high school. Until someone figures out, I have to figure out where chapter five ends for my reading assignment.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Why We Vote

We do not live in a democracy. This isn’t bullshit pseudo-anarchy “I’m going to remember the 5th of November because Natalie Portman was so good in Black Swan” kind of statement. It’s fact. If we lived in a true democracy that means we would vote for everything. Everything. All of the countless bills and laws and roundabout legislation that goes through the political process. Sure, the first month or whatever of having that power would be great. Everyone would be reading tax reform and pretending they know what it means. There will be elitist tweets about how many times you’ve voted this week. Then it would get tiring. We don’t even reply to all of our Facebook invites anymore. If a survey takes longer than a few minutes, we quit in the middle. We should not vote on laws.
So we have a democratic republic. A bunch of poor saps decide to do this terrible job for us. We elect them to represent us and to serve our needs. Now that means you have a couple of guys trying to speak for an entire state of millions of people and one more fool who will to speak for over 300 million people. They do it because they want to make a difference or they want to help America or they’re just on a power trip.
Either way, they don’t make us void of responsibility. In fact, we may have more. We choose those men and women. No they are not perfect people because there is no such thing. There is not a candidate that has 100% of your views because you are not running. You do your research, you understand their positions and you pick the one who you think will do the best job.
Today isn’t about polls that say they have already predicted the outcome or voting because then you are “allowed” to complain for the next four years. It’s about taking part in what allows our country to function. We have a civic duty to vote and that is what makes us part of the country. The president and the 100 senators and the 435 voting members of the House of Representatives aren’t all of America. We are America.
So Google the candidates for a bit. Read their views. Find your polling station. Vote. Wear your little sticker with pride and forever mock everybody who was too lazy/”busy”/dumb to vote.

You've got this.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

What I'm Up To...

Hello everyone,

This has been quite the exciting summer for me. I drove to Texas to see family, I drove back and then I drove to Montana for a vacation with friends. I've been having a blast interning at the Heartland Film Festival working with the shorts programming. Now the exciting news is that I've accepted a seasonal position at Heartland doing more of the same thing. Now they're paying me to do something I was already doing for free. Hey, I didn't say they were geniuses at business, but I very much appreciate it.

This position lasts until the beginning of November. During this time I shall be figuring out what I can do to move to London at the end of the year. The dream has always been to work in television and I can't help but notice but they make really great shows over there. Any help and advice will be greatly appreciated!

Meanwhile there is still plenty I will be doing here. I still will be writing articles for The Film Yap. I shall be going to GenCon and will write about that for the Yap. I'll be attending BoucherCon in October with The Crum Creek Press where we'll sell a bunch of new books (none I made) and old books (ones I made!). Also we're trying to revive the podcast And the Nominees Are...

I'm also going to try and write more fiction. I'm working on a bunch of short films and television pilots offline, but I will try to post some sketches and other humorous stuff on the blog.

I was going to repost all of my Film Yap articles today, but that's too much hassle. If you are curious about what I've written in the past two months here you go:

Last thing because I obviously have way too much free time, I've developed a Doctor Who marathon/contest that is currently going on. Visit for all the information. It's not too late to start!

Thank you everyone for your support and for reading this thing! I shall be updating more frequently again, I promise.

And for reading this far, here's an awesome picture of a Dalek cosplaying as The Doctor:

--Austin Lugar

Saturday, June 16, 2012

In Which Brandon and Austin Attend a Rap Concert

Despite my affect for silly cons, I am not what you would call a music man. I like plenty of bands but most of the time my iPod is playing podcasts. So I have never been to a concert because it’s never been something that’s interested me. Yet my brother Brandon has grown into a really big Childish Gambino fan so for his birthday I got us tickets for when he came to Indianapolis.
We have both followed Donald Glover’s career for years. In high school I adored his Derrick Comedy sketch videos. Then he wrote for 30 Rock, performed stand-up and then became one of the lead actors for one of my favorite comedies Community. During all of that, Glover decided he also wants to be a rap star. Although there are some funny lyrics in his songs, it’s not a comedy act. His alter ego, Childish Gambino, is a legitimate artist that easily filled a room full of Hoosiers eager to hear him.
When people look at me they don’t automatically think “Yeah, he’s going to a rap concert tonight.” It probably didn’t help that I was wearing a nerdy t-shirt and jeans. I was quickly called out for my attire, but oddly not by anyone in the audience but by the ticket guy. I talked to him right after being patted down. (They didn't think my pocket watch can be used as a weapon. Idiots...)
Ticket Guy: (Reading my shirt) Lords of Time? What’s that?
Me: Doctor Who.
Ticket Guy: What?
Me: It’s from Doctor Who.
Ticket Guy: Oh I get it. Yeah, yeah. You would like that. I can see it in your eyes.
Me: Uh oh. What does that mean?
Ticket Guy: You like Star Trek?
Me: Nah.
Ticket Guy: Harry Potter?
Me: Eh.
Ticket Guy: Good, very good.

I still have no idea if that guy liked or disliked Doctor Who or if I answered the rest of his questions properly. He let me in so that was a plus.
Now this concert was at the Egyptian Room, which is a nice big place with an open floor. I used to have a problem with crowds and loud music, but then I started drinking. I ordered one unreasonably priced but strong drink and I was ready to go.
There was an opening act that started right at eight, which I appreciated. I would tell you who he was, but I have no idea. He probably said his name several times, but I could never understand him. The sound was great, all the equipment was working. He just couldn’t enunciate anything. For 40 minutes, I only heard a few phrases per song like “Ned Flander’s son” or him asking the crowd to suck his dick. I politely said no.
During this time, I bounced my head up and down to the beat and drank my drink. Then I had a new focus. I had to get my drink to a trash can. I couldn’t just leave the crowd and go to the back. I would never find Brandon again. My parents are lovely people, but they would not be happy if I didn’t bring him home. Luckily there was a can just a few feet from me. Unluckily, it was being surrounded by these two sets of couples who were sensually swaying to every song. I am awful at understanding any sort of beat or rhythm, but I can’t help any wonder if they were deaf. Every song, same sway. Even between songs when Nameless Rapper was taking a quick drink of water, same sway. Their vibe was that they were annoyed they had to be there because they couldn’t be having sex right now. So I held onto my cup until we were able to scooch forward when people moved after the opening act.
Not surprising considering this is Indiana, but the crowd was mostly white. What was surprising was that I felt older than most of them. I felt like I was having flashbacks of high school football games, but unlike then I didn’t leave at halftime to do anything better with my time.
When Childish Gambino arrived, everything changed. The crowd was nice to Nameless Rapper, but they were there to see Gambino. First song—“Outside”—made everybody pumped not only because he was feet away from them, but he was encouraging everyone to sing the chorus. These weren’t fans; these were super fans.
Early on he did my favorite song of his, the incredibly popular “Freaks and Geeks.” The crowd went nuts. The screen was blasting all the lyrics. The energy was insane mostly because of how much Gambino brings to every performance. Somehow everything kept escalating to its epic encore finale. He freestyled, he kept losing articles of clothing, he’s rapping at exhausting speeds. I really don’t know how he does this at every venue. It’s a sight to be seen.
Once again, the crowd loved him. When Gambino asked for everyone to bounce, we obliged. Some went a little too far and thought that crowd surfing was a good idea. No. Those people are assholes. I saw one person who left holding her face because when you’re crowd surfing, you’re basically just kicking everybody in the head. The crowd reacted properly by getting them far away from their friends, taking off their shoes and throwing them. All was deserved.
The crowd always encouraged me because I know there’s no way they are all getting what he’s saying. I have this problem with referencing things all the time. Like I made a video in college that ended with a couple of jokes about Yasujiro Ozu because of course I did. If you didn’t get what I was talking about you feel isolated. That’s part of the problem with Community because people become conscious that they should be getting a reference. Childish Gambino magically gets past that and I think it’s due to his speed and how rap works.
In one of his songs (“That Power”) he raps, “Uncool, but lyrically I’m a stone cold killer/So it’s 400 blows to these Truffaut ni**as/Yeah, now that’s the line of the century/Ni**as missed it, too busy, they lyin’ ‘bout penitentiary.”
He’s talking about the film The 400 Blows by Francois Truffaut that started the birth of the French New Wave. All of that goes by so quickly and he’s already onto a new topic that is better understood like how other rappers lie to help their thug presence. Nobody ever feels left out because the meaning is made while everything sounding cool. He’s reaching a different audience by rapping about Things Fall Apart and e.e. cummings. His wit shines through even with the silliest topics like “Took the G out your waffle, all you got left is your ego.” I’m sure there are refernces to other rappers that I’m not getting and I have no idea. Somehow Gambino is able to be secretly obscure while having this badass delivery.
By the end, everyone was tired from jumping and bouncing so much but could have easily stayed for another hour. Brandon was overjoyed not just because he was tall enough to see all of the show. I have a friend who says this may not have been the best concert to see first because none other may able to match up to it. Perhaps that’s true. Still, I defied expectations and had a blast at a rap concert even if my eyes suggest I’m more comfortable at a Doctor Who convention.

Monday, June 4, 2012

In Which Pedro Creates a Happy Ending for Game of Thrones

The following text messages took place between 2:25AM and 3:30AM on June 4th. Spoilers from Season Two.

Austin: Finished Game of Thrones. Very awesome. Great last scene.
Pedro: That’s what I was talking about, we had seen the white walkers before, but now we saw the true king beyond the wall.
Pedro: Speaking of…
Pedro: I think Jon Snow will end up true King Beyond the Wall, whatever that brings.
Pedro: And the dragons were awesome. When it was done I was thought wow, how easy.
Pedro: And Arya’s wolf still lives presumably, and she should definitely have joined the Faceless Men.
Pedro: And I mean not white walker for Jon Snow, but new/final king beyond the wall.
Pedro: And then the north will be tamed and Dany and Bran will wed and their daughter/son will be lord of dragon and wolf and Dany’s child will still be the Station who mounts the world and there will be peace and happiness for all til the end of time.
Pedro: And Ayra will have her wolf back and become Bad Ass Assassin No. 1, and rule the world.
Pedro: And kill Joffrey and Cersei and all the bad people.
Pedro: Except the good ones.
Austin: And Robb’s army kills all of them.
Pedro: Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.
Pedro: He lives happily ever after with his new wife on a farm raising turnips.
Pedro: And little cows and horses and sheep.
Pedro: And little carrots and children and little direwolves and dragons and little assassins and little mages.
Pedro: And be foster family to the world and its little critters.
Pedro: all on a super quaint, cozy little farmhouse
Pedro: on their own little island.
Pedro: NO MORE!
Austin: No more giants waging war. Can’t we just pursue our lives with our children and our wives ‘ til that happy day arrives? How can we ignore… [Editor’s note: Austin decided to quote the musical Into the Woods out of his own amusement, to mess with Pedro and because this is now 3AM.]
Pedro: Phew.
Austin: You okay?
Pedro: …and they lived happily ever after.
Pedro: Oh, and Tyrion will be president.
Austin: Tyrion sides with the Lannisters. He is a bad person. He would be killed.
Austin: He fought for Joffrey and defends his throne. His a bad guy. He wants to kill the Starks.
Austin: And you are my friend. YOU’RE A BAD PERSON
Austin: You play the game of thrones, you win or you die. No ties.
Pedro: DIE
Pedro: SO HE
Pedro: WINS
Austin: Nope. Dany wins. He can’t win too. He dies.
Pedro: No, he’s not playing anymore. Daddy said so.
Austin: He won’t leave the city. He’s still playing.
Pedro: SO
Austin: He will die. Bran and Dany and Robb don’t like him. Dead.
Pedro: He can play all day and it won’t mean anything.
Pedro: he have Bran a seat,  and helped Robb’s crippled little brother.
Pedro: And Dany only hates the Usurper and maybe Tywin for killing the king’s childr…Oh.
Pedro: HE LIVES!
Austin: Dead.
Pedro: LIVES
Austin: Until Joffrey’s new fiancĂ© stabs him before Dany can return to Westeros.
Pedro: Don’t call George yet.

End of Transmission

Sunday, May 27, 2012

In Which Pedro and Austin Go to a Mad Men Burleseque Show Beacuse Why Not

When I went to work last week my eye caught a small poster that was advertising an event near by. Now the note-worthy thing was that this small poster was promoting a Mad Men style burlesque show and that this was placed outside the office for the Heartland Film Festival, an festival known for warm and inspirational films, and yet this placement worked because it got me to go.
I’ve never seen a burlesque show before. My only interaction with the spectacle was actively ignoring the Cher movie and watching this video on College Humor about the rise of nerdy burlesque. I brought along my friend Pedro because he tends to have no free will and he’s under the illusion that he owes me five years worth of rides.
I’m not going to say what bar the event was held at in case they happened to Google search themselves. Let’s just say that when we arrived Pedro immediately said, rather loudly, “We’re going to get murdered here.” Upon entering, I recognized the interior as the locale from every movie where a bar fight occurred. Pedro, once again, said loudly “This isn’t what I thought it would be. (Pause). Meaning the girls may not be as attractive as I thought.” I replied, “Pedro, you know when you speak people can hear you.” “Not here!”
In that regard, he was right. There was a band still playing when we arrived. I’m not a music critic but I feel safe in labeling them as not good. Most of the time, I believed one of the guitar players was peacefully asleep. Except when they were really “rocking out” then it was like he was having a particularly bad nightmare.
Pedro and I really felt that we stood out in the bar. I wore a button down shirt that wasn’t tucked in and Pedro wore a collared shirt. Now a few were dressed for the occasion wearing a suit like Don Draper. One girl was wearing a get-up that seemed more fitting for a Great Gatsby Burlesque show, equipped with the peacock feather in her hair. One girl was wearing a corset for a top and that distracted Pedro way too much. “I’ve never seen them pushed up that high!” But most of the place were wearing shirts and shorts that haven’t been washed this decade except for that time it rained last fall. It was like nobody really knew how to dress for a thing like this, which makes sense considering this was an event devoted to ignoring clothing.
Beyond this, it felt that this was a group of regulars and we were not regular. Honestly, this made everything a little more entertaining.
So we sat on a couple of bar stools against the wall ready for the show to begin. The hosts were very entertaining and were able to adjust quickly to the faulty audio equipment. Yet I quickly caught on that I might be the only one in the bar who has seen Mad Men. It’s one of my favorite shows; it’s a show that has plenty of ways to be sexy considering it’s about attractive people having secret lives outside of their well-mannered exterior.
The show takes place during the 1960s so obviously the first number was “These Boots Are Made for Walking.” Immediately I felt that my critical mind and my heterosexual mind in conflict. I was a biased Olympic judge. “Well, none of the five girls were in sync when they were dancing together but they took off their clothes. 10!”
That’s what it was like the whole night! I was so confused. Like the next number was a solo dance and I felt that I recognized the song. When she revealed that she was wearing a pink wig, I knew exactly what this was. It was “Beauty School Dropout” from Grease. The audience to enjoy this number would be Baby Boomer women and gay men. Also Grease takes place in the 1950s, not 60s. Whatever, she took off her clothes. 10!
Now, in case you don’t know, burlesque is a type of dance. Technically this is a dancing performance so if anyone complains that you aren’t cultured enough I have a recommendation for you. With this genre of dance, it’s structured towards flaunting all that’s worth flaunting. That means using the music and owning the stage. The ones who are the best aren’t always the ones who are the most attractive because confidence reigns. There was one male dancer who got down to his underpants with the song “It’s a Man’s World.” (Also not in Mad Men.) He wasn’t the fittest man at the bar, but the crowd still genuinely whoo-ed and hollered. Confidence can be the most attractive thing and to do a thing like this on stage reaches a new level of impressiveness.
So how was this actually related to Mad Men? I have no idea. Elvis was featured but again, that’s the wrong decade. One performer said she was Joan Halloway-Harris, which I kinda got? The hosts decided to have a trivia contest between some of the numbers when they needed to stall for setup. One of the questions asked was what publication in the first episode said that smoking was harmful. Pedro asked me what it was and I told him. So he jumped up and raised his hand as high as he can.
Host: “Yes, who are you and what’s the answer?”
Pedro: “Pedro and Reader’s Digest!”
Host: “That’s incredible. Great job!”
Pedro sat down and said to me, “Wait, I don’t get anything?”
Don’t feel too bad for Pedro. For Pedro made a friend at the bar. No it’s not a woman although he got a hug from one of the performers…
Pedro: “I can’t believe you didn’t congratulate her for her dance.”
Austin: “I’m sorry, I didn’t recognize her with the clothes on.”
Pedro: “That’s the dress she put on at the end of her bit.”
Austin: “Then I have no excuse.”
The friend Pedro made is a confirmation that the world doesn’t make any sense. At the table next to us, there was a man in a brown suit. Pedro became convinced that this man was dressed like the tenth Doctor from Doctor Who. Pedro swore that he hasn’t seen those pair of sneakers on anyone else but David Tennant. I didn’t think that’s what he was doing but Pedro kept screaming “Doctor!” from our seats. (No response) You know, I like to think that Doctor Who isn’t following me wherever I go, but when this man pulled out his sonic screwdriver—Not a euphuism!—and aimed it to the stage I couldn’t deny it any longer. I went to an Indianapolis Bar to see a Mad Men Burlesque show and someone in the audience was dressed as The Doctor.
When we left, Pedro said we had to say goodbye to The Doctor (the only name we knew him by) and refused to acknowledge that was a weird thing to do. I was tempted to ask him why he wasn’t dressed up as William Hartnell or Patrick Troughton since those were the actors in the role during the 1960s, but I guess he fit with the theme of “Nothing From the Era When Mad Men Takes Place”.
Will we go back here? Probably not. Did we have fun? Absolutely. All of the girls were great and the bar was odd but still was a place that served alcohol. But seriously, if they need someone to write/direct numbers that actually have to do with the pop culture theme, I’m available for hire. Actually, either way I’m giving you guys a 10.

Film Yap: Interview with Whit Stillman, writer/director of Damsels in Distress

In the 1990s, Whit Stillman was one of the leading voices of independent cinema with his three comedies “Metropolitan”, “Barcelona” and “The Last Days of Disco”. They were films filled with wit and sophistication while covering the confusion of being a twenty-something. Then Stillman had an unfortunate hiatus from the world of cinema. He has now returned with a fantastic new film called “Damsels in Distress” staring Greta Gerwig, which is a shift in style, while maintaining his previous excellence.
We were thrilled to have Whit Stillman chat with The Film Yap about the similarities and differences between his characters, what an actor can bring to a role and how Bloomington helped inspire his new film.

Austin: Now what was it about The Last Days of Disco that made you want to adapt it into a novel?
Whit: Well, I always wanted to write a novel and the idea of turning a story of a film into a novel came up with Metropolitan and it used to a be a “phantom book” at Amazon just hanging around the internet. It was announced in a catalog for Soho Press. They were people that really wanted to do it, but they were pressing me to do it in a hurry and I was in Barcelona trying to write that script on a limited time basis. So the clash between trying to do the Metropolitan novel in a hurry and have this other script responsibility meant I had to drop out of the Metropolitan idea.
So I kept it in mind and felt that the Disco material was rich for a novel. A very good literary editor, Jonathan Galassi from Farrar Straus and Giroux, like the idea of a novel that would not be tied to the film’s release. So it could come out years afterward and I would have time to work on it. I really liked the experience. It got a pretty good reaction. I think there’s one part of it that I should have done something different. About 3/5th the way through, it loses momentum. I slavishly thought I had to include all the lines of dialog from the film in the novel and that was a mistaken; I should have restructured some of it.
Austin: Do you have any wish to return to prose?
Whit: I do, I really want to. It’s very very tempting. You can achieve things with film that you can’t at all in fiction; it’s more social and gregarious and has all sorts of good things about it. But I think with writing fiction, you get the pure creative play under your own control. I don’t want to use a strong word to describe the world of cinema but….there are a lot of annoyances, tension, and industrial processes with film. You don’t feel that you’re doing creative work, but industrial work which has its good side, I guess, too.
It may be economical too. I’m not sure if you get paid more for unprofitable films or unprofitable novels. (Laughs) No, our films are profitable. The reason they’re profitable is because they’re profitable for the investors and not profitable for me.
Austin: Then how has the independent film market changed from when you started out to now?
Whit: It’s been a radical change. We’re in a very tough period for independent film. I think there are good things too, but you have to keep your cost level low. [Damsels in Distress] will be profitable, but we made it very inexpensively.
Austin: And yet, your new film has a lot of visual style that I haven’t seen previously in your films. Including a musical number.
Whit: We were so lucky that we got that off the ground. I was very happy with it.
Austin: What was it like filming that?
Whit: It was really fun. (Laughs). It all came together with this beautiful weather. The cinematographer had a lot of really great ideas for how to do it. We got a crane to shoot against the backlights; we waited for the “magic hour” moment for Greta and Adam to dance in the fountain. We were lucky with our location that we had things like the Staten Island Botanical Gardens on our set and we had a young choreographer who knew how to adapt things to the spaces we had to occupy.
Austin: Well, it looked great.
Whit: I really liked it.
Austin: Now I wanted to ask you about your characters—
Whit: As well you might!
Austin: (Laughs) I know, shocking! In your first three films, it seems that your characters are almost burdened by their education. They have this rich vocabulary and know so much about literature, but they don’t know how to apply it well to their lives.
Whit: Well, I think they’re all pretty superficial in the nice way that everyone is. I think at that age and really at most ages you spend a lot of time talking about things you don’t know that well.
Austin: But then in Damsels, your characters don’t seem as superficial.
Whit: Oh cool.
Austin: They’re not as educated and they seem happier. Do you think that’s fair to say?
Whit: That’s really interesting. You’re probably right about that, but I never thought about it that way.
Austin: Do you have fun writing one style more than the other?
Whit: You know, I had a lot of fun writing Damsels in Distress. I really had a gas writing this one; I like this kind of comedy.
Austin: It’s more absurdist than your others.
Whit: It’s stylized, absurdist, broad. It’s a more out-and-out comedy than the comedy of manners.
Austin: Do you find there’s much of a difference between writing characters who are surreally dumb to those who are trying to be witty all the time?
Whit: No. I think the effect is witty sometimes from the characters in the other films, but I don’t think they’re trying to be witty. I noticed in the first screening of Metropolitan, that people were laughing more at the reaction shots. It’s not what’s being said, but the reactions to it. So they are saying absurdities. There is a commonality between the supposed “smart humor” and the supposed “dumb humor” of the two groups of films. I consider Damsels in a group of stupid films; now that I’ve gone stupid I don’t want to go back.
Austin: From that first screening, did you shape your films while thinking about that kind of reaction?
Whit: We had that in mind. The editor kept thinking about that when we were editing Barcelona together. That’s one of the great things about making a film, as opposed to writing a novel or another endeavor: you have a lot of other people thinking about it at the same time. So I like to think that every actor is like a research institute on their character. Sometimes you change things for production reasons, but then the actor comes up to you and says, “Don’t you know what you’ve done hurts the arc of my character?” Then you do what they suggest because they are the people keeping the integrity of that character going.
Austin: Do you have any examples of how Greta Gerwig changed the character of Violet?
Whit: First she did something that I love, which was she embodied the character. She created the character that was intended, which is the thing you really want. She did a lot of little things, most of which I didn’t find out until afterwards when we did interviews together. She did all of these physical things like she had a way of walking rapidly with small steps that conveyed this determination and specialness of her character. If someone spoke to her and she wanted to pay attention to them, she wouldn’t turn her head, she would turn her whole body.
These were the little and big things she worked on to get the character there. I think that’s the hardest part of the film so there had to be a lot of modulation in the first four days of the shoot. “Is it this way or is it that way?” So she had to do a number of different versions and we had quite a few takes to start with. Then once she voiced the right version we stuck with that.
Austin: The balance seems so difficult. How do you maintain respect for the character while also focusing on the absurdity that she found an epiphany through a bar of soap? How do you focus on the comedy while focused on the characters’ true thoughts?
Whit: Well, I believe a lot of this stuff. I think a lot of people can grab onto things to have their epiphany on like a special rare scent. I don’t think neither Violet nor I particularly like a lot of perfumes or a lot of scents. So you can have the idea of something transcending. It’s something that sounds absurd or laughable, but it can be something very helpful to people.
Austin: I understand. I was in the audience when you spoke at Indiana University a few months ago. I loved how someone asked you about Scrooge McDuck because I love that dialog scene from Disco and then you surprised me by reacting very enthusiastically about that character.
Whit: Uncle Scrooge? Yeah I love that character.
Austin: So you find that through the absurdity you can be really genuine?
Whit: I tend to have to work with stuff I like. For instance, I was chastised by several reviewers because they thought the film should have been about the conflict between Violet and Rick DeWolfe from “The Complainer”. That was a missed opportunity, blah blah blah. That was one of the big changes I made in the script because at a certain point it was going to be conflict between those two or Depressed Debby, Aubrey Plaza’s character. Then I thought that was such a boring prospect and it depressed me so much for being so unoriginal that I couldn’t write the script. I was stuck. My intention was to write it that way but then I had a writer friend who said that when you get stuck, you’re stopping for a reason. You have to think something through.
I didn’t want to make a boring formulaic film where there’s a conflict between two people and that’s the whole film and then it’s resolved. So I decided not to do the Rick DeWolfe story; he’s disappeared from the story. His effect is still there, that influence becomes the killjoy for the whole campus.
Austin: So what inspired you to switch the conflict to what it is in the film now?
Whit: I think it was that I was going in that direction, but it wasn’t the true direction of the film. When I started the film I didn’t want to do any political dispute between two people. I wanted to keep the zany Violet identity quest and romance story going so it was avoiding the trap of the other plan and staying with the ethos of the material.
Austin: I found all of the characters in the film to be really funny, but I felt there were more characters you wanted us to emotionally connect to and then there were characters who were just there for humor, like the guy who doesn’t know what colors are.
Whit: He was kinda touching too.
Austin: Oh absolutely. I was wondering, in a comedy, how much do you want us to respect your characters? Is that a weird question?
Whit: I always like it to leave it open to how the audience should feel about the characters. Sometimes I fear I leave it too open. People really like the Lily character because they think she’s the identification character but she really wasn’t. It’s hard for them to get back on track and recognize it as Violet’s film. They tend to be the ones more negative about the movie. That’s the problem with people being too preprogrammed to a certain film formulas. Like the one where the outsider character chastises the snobbish insiders, but Damsels ends up not being that.
Austin: I think then the movie would work better on a second viewing because I started off identifying with the Lily character until I realized how often she would change her opinions with whoever she was around.
Whit: I think improves a lot on a second viewing because they learn it’s not a film about where the journey ends up but what’s happening on the journey. You stop worrying about when it’s going to end and you get into more of the characters.
Austin: Now I know you were at Indiana University for a year or so?
Whit: I was in Bloomington for a foundation for a year but while I was there I had an Indiana drivers license so I could use the IU library. So I was in the IU library working at nights and on the weekends quite a bit.
Austin: Were you affected by that type of college town for this film?
Whit: I really was. My two college times were Harvard, my own experience, and the year I spent near the IU campus. I was there when the movie Animal House came out and I remember the toga parties at the time. And I had a tiny tiny roll of the production of the lovely movie Breaking Away. The director and the screenwriter, Peter Yates and Steve Tesich, were in Bloomington to location scout and they to be introduced to Mayor McCloskey. We were at a party and I was picked to introduce them to the mayor. I met Mayor McCloskey once so it was very incongruous me introducing them. He was such a live wire about seeing what a good opportunity for the town so he was like “Yes, we’ll do anything you need!”
Austin: Now I have to ask, are you working on another project right now?
Whit: I do have another project. I said in another interview that we’ll have to keep it under wraps. Then they posted the article saying I’m working on a project called “Under Wraps”, putting it in capitals. I loved that. So now people will say he never made his film “Under Wraps”, another film he didn’t make.
Austin: I just wanted to hear that you were working on something next because the gap was a long time for fans.
Whit: There’s the feeling that I will be able to make them faster now because I have the scripts pretty well written. I have several I want to make, but I still want to work on them. I want to make them even sillier.

“Damsels in Distress” is still playing in theatres across the country.