Thursday, 18 March 2010

Wading Through The Ocean Of Mediocrity

Who doesn't love YouTube?
An infinite store of endless entertainment.
Of course, that's not quite the case is it? Because YouTube is on the internet. And the internet, as a rule, is diametrically apposed to the notion of quality control.
So while some very talented people and quality entertainment does exist on YouTube, I think it's safe to say there is an ocean of mediocrity and garbage to wade through before you can find it. So I figured I would search through the sea of shit that is YouTube so you don't have too, here are a couple of videos I like.

First up, as a little warm up, a video that shows a douche pretty much being a douche and getting exactly what he deserves.

Now, maybe I'm just a miserable shut in/hermit but I really don't see the fascination with chat-roulette. For those of you who are blissfully unaware and have managed to take a single step into the internet recently without stumbling upon chat-roulette. It's basically a skype type chat service where you hit a button and are randomly connected with a complete stranger, who presumably just did the exact same thing.

Now forgetting the unnerving potential to connect to someone to find the screen filled with a 40 year old mans genitals, there is something about this service which is completely beyond me.
Isn't this exactly the kind of thing your parents warned you about when you first got an internet connection?

But in truth, as much as I don't particularly like or have any use for this service, millions of people do, and some people are already using it to show off their talents, or fuck with people.
This next video is an example of someone using chat-roulette to showcase their piano and impov skills.

This person on the other hand used it to fuck with people, I warn you, this video is a little harsh.

I have a friend who's first reaction to that video was "Why didn't I think of that".
Which in truth, was my second thought after "that's pretty cruel."

Now, to lighten the mood, here is a video that proves that toy companies don't really think things through.

Poor Simba, although I'm pretty sure that wasn't in the movie, unless there is an unrated version I haven't seen yet.

Anyway, now I'm going to show you some people that are incredibly talented. Six drummers to be precise. This staged film shows them breaking into a house and using it to make some amazing sounds. And let me tell you, they put stomp to shame.
It does take a sec to get going though, so the impatient amongst you should just skip to about 1 minute and ten seconds.

Another thing that has become popular on YouTube lately (Apart from the annoying trend of Emo kids filming themselves mouthing along to their favorite depressing songs.) are remixes of already existing songs made by some other very talented people. Some of these are really truly brilliant. But here is my personal favorite, it's called "Office Musik" and is a mash-up of the theme to the American Office and Lil' Wayne's "Hustler Musik"

And I want to leave you with this clip, but trust me when I say it's best I don't introduce it, just have a look. But remember, no matter what your expecting, it won't be this.

Thanks for reading and watching.
-- Dan

PS: If I ever do a blog like this again, I might go for a horror theme and show you some of the scariest videos on youtube. There are plenty of really well made ones.

Monday, 8 March 2010

And the winner is...

Some of you may already know how I feel about award ceremonies, firstly, quality is subjective and therefore to get a true gauge of something’s quality, you must find consensus. Everyone should be able to vote for these awards, not a panel of judges. Secondly, the Academy's own prestige, credibility and existence, makes things more than a little political. For example, the Oscars have pretty much snubbed science fiction since the dawn of man, it seems they feel giving science fiction major awards will somehow diminish their credibility. Last years snub of the Dark Knight in the best picture category was an absolute joke. I’m not saying it needed to win, but at least give the highest grossing movie of year a damn nomination.

But this year, or at least I hope. Things will be a different. Two seminal science fiction films had some major success this year, and they have already been recognised in the form nominations in several categories (Including Best Picture). Let’s see how it goes, now as I write these words I haven’t yet seen the ceremony, so I have no idea who won what, and my plan is to write down my reactions and thoughts on the show as I watch it. I won’t mention everything, but I hope to cover as much of it as possible without boring people.

So here we go.

They have opened by dragging all of the “Best Actor/Actress” nominees onto the stage, I’m absolutely behind George Clooney getting the Best Actor award this year; he was utterly brilliant in “Up In The Air”. And of the Actresses this year I’m really hoping Carey Mulligan will get it, she deserves it.

Neil Patrick Harris has just hit the stage singing the words “I know what you’re thinking, what am I doing here?”. Neil I think you’re great, but seriously… that’s exactly what I’m thinking. Isn’t it traditional to have the host do the first musical number? His song appears to be a number designed to introduce the hosts, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, nice idea but some of the jokes in the song are falling a little flat, not a patch on last years recession based opening with Hugh Jackman.

Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin are on now, it's a simple stand up segment making jokes at the expensive of all the nominated actors and directors. What I love about this section is how beautifully tame and polite all the jokes are, they could of done as Ricky Gervais did at the Golden Globes and make some quite harsh jokes at the expense of the people involved, but Martin and Baldwin are from a different era of comedy and have a subtle but brilliant air of respect about their jibes. No jokes about Mel Gibson’s Alcoholism in sight, and while I don’t have a problem with that type of thing, I like that older comedians have a tendency to show more respect, and it made the routine a rather pleasant experience, I hope they keep it up throughout the show as it really separates them as hosts. George Clooney didn’t seem to appreciate any of the jokes aimed at him, he looked seriously annoyed at the second one, but it's entirely possible he was either simply caught off guard or simply playing along, either way it entertained.

Best supporting actor up first, I’m really behind Christoph Waltz on this one, he was an amazing villain in Inglorious Basterds. And the winner is… Christoph Waltz. Great news, and a nice very complementary and humble acceptance speech.

Animation up next, Steve Carell and Cameron Diaz are doing quite a clever introduction to this award, if you haven't seen it, I recommend you youtube it. The animation award absolutely HAS to go to Up. That film was wonderful in a way that none of the other movies in this category were. What’s really nice is that instead of showing clips from the movies they have animated the central characters of each talking about what the Oscar means to them, it’s really quite cool. Particularly the Fantastic Mr. Fox one “Best Animation? I thought we got nominated like a real movie?”. And the winner is… predictably but deservingly… Up. Pixar’s award cabinet must be getting pretty full right now. Toy Story 3 will probably get this award next year, and "Newt" will probably get it in 2012.

Original Screenplay up next. I sort of want this to go to Inglorious Basterds for it’s dialogue, but the story of Up was just so wonderful. And both were so funny (Admittedly in very different ways). And the winner is… The Hurt Locker. Not entirely surprising considering it won the same award at the BAFTA’s. It definitely deserves the award for it’s authenticity and for the efforts the writer went through to bring that truth to his movie.

A section dedicated to John Hughes who died late last year. A great little video package dedicated to him and some very kind works spoken from some of the cast of his movies.

Ben Stiller just hit the stage in full blue makeup as a Navi and started making an absurd attempt to speak Navi. As this started I thought, the only way this will be funny is if it somehow upsets James Cameron. But he seemed to be smiling, and I really didn’t think Ben Stiller was going to do well with such a silly idea, but then he uttered the words “This seemed like a better idea in rehearsal”. I thought that was very funny, then he said he was there to present the award for best make up, which he then admitted Avatar wasn’t nominated for. And just before he announced who won (I’m routing for Star Trek on the basis it isn't likely to win much else this year, which is a shame) he said he would be sure to stand as far away from the winner as possible when they come to collect the award “so as not to demean their moment of triumph”. I also thought that was pretty damn funny. So far I genuinely think Ben Stiller has stolen the show yet again, after his brilliant Joaquin Phoenix impression last year. And the winner is… Star Trek.

Best Adapted Screenplay up next, I want either Up In The Air or District 9 to win this. District 9 because it genuinely deserves the award and also, it would be a big step in the right direction in terms of the Oscars snubbing Science Fiction. But if it doesn’t win, Up In The Air was a great movie, and is thoroughly deserving of it. I’ll be a whole less upset about District 9 not getting the award if it goes to the equally deserving Up In The Air. And the winner is… Precious. Well, it’s all obviously subjective and opinion, but I really don’t feel that was the best screenplay there. A great movie it was, and it certainly deserves several awards but I’m not entirely sure best screenplay is something it should of won, particularly over the movies I mentioned above.

Best Art Direction now… I’m barely going to discuss this award. It’s quite simply, going to Avatar. No matter what. Sigourney Weaver is presenting, and the winner is… Avatar. Of course it is. Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin are now showing a video parody they made of Paranormal Activity. It’s quite funny, hopefully this will be on youtube later on for those who missed it.

A special and well deserved nod to Horror Films this year, ironically introduced as the genre that doesn’t seem to command the respect it did 33 years ago when The Exorcist won two awards. Especially ironic considering there isn’t a single Horror film up for an award on this show. Not to mention that most of the movies in the montage are about 20+ years old. Let me just make this clear, the reason Horror films don’t get the respect they used to, is partly BECAUSE the Academy doesn’t honour them anymore, and in all honestly, this made the montage feel hollow and token. Particularly when there have been some absolutely incredible Horror movies in recent years that were completely ignored come Oscar time. The Strangers, Saw, REC, Let The Right One In, The Decent, The Hills Have Eyes, 28 Days Later and Dawn of the Dead. Just to name a few. So yeah, nice try, but pointing it out and doing a montage does nothing but bring attention to the lack of credit this genre gets and doesn’t actually do anything to fix the problem.

I barely heard a word Elizabeth Banks said when she came out, but she did look great.

Now a fantastic montage in honour of those the industry lost this year; set to a cover of the Beatles Classic “In My Life” by James Taylor.

Although on a less serious note, the audience clapped at every name that came up until “Michael Jackson” appeared on the screen. You could literally hear the audience’s applause falter while people tried to remember his contributions to the film industry, which let’s be honest, are negligible. Then you could almost feel the audience think “Yeah, alright then, I guess, he did that one thing” and some applause rose. Now, don’t get me wrong, Michael Jackson is a genius in his field and should be respected, I just found him an odd choice for recognition here in this setting.

Next up, best original score. I genuinely loved this part of the show, they went to a lot of trouble and presented each nominee with an extraordinary and very well choreographed dance routine from the Legion of Extraordinary Dancers. Who did a great job and really did justice to the music involved and brought it to life as well as being damn entertaining. And the winner is… Up. Which had an utterly brilliant soundtrack and deserved it.

Next up, outstanding visual effects... lets be honest here, is going to Avatar. Even bothering to say the nominations is a waste of our time. Not to diminish the efforts of District 9 and Star Trek, which both looked great, but we all know where this is going. And the winner is… Avatar.

Best Actor/Actress now, in my opinion they always drag this particular award out to the point of nausea. But I guess it’s nice to spend a few minute talking up each actor/actress before handing out the award, it just bores the hell out of me personally, they did it last year as well. First up are the Actors, as I stated earlier I’m hoping Clooney gets this as I really felt he has the superior performance from Up In The Air. And the winner is… Jeff Bridges. Well, not at all surprising, and certainly deserved. Not who I personally wanted to walk away with it, but no complaints from me. Next up the Actresses, I’m pulling for Carey Mulligan in this category as I mentioned near the start. And the winner is… Sandra Bullock. I have the same reaction to this as I have to Jeff Bridges, not my favorite choice for it, but no complaints here.

Best Director now, I’d really like to see Kathryn Bigelow get this award because the Hurt Locker is such a well shot and directed piece of film. But if I'm honest, also a little because she would be the first woman to ever receive this award. But the reality is, she is up against Cameron and Tarrentino, so unfortunately I can’t see that happening. And the winner is… Kathryn Bigelow. Quite happy and a little surprised with that result, definitely deserved and she seemed absolutely ecstatic about it as well.

Next up, best picture. This is a big one for me, it’s time to see if the Academy will acknowledge science fiction in this all important category or not, Avatar and District 9 both deserve this, but they are up against some stiff competition, particularly in the form of An Education, Inglorious Basterds and The Hurt Locker. So here we go, Tom Hanks is out to announce it, no bells and no whistles this time, not even a need to read out the nominees since they have been going through them one by one over the course of the entire evening with introductions from supporting actors and showing short trailers. So it's just the announcement…

And the winner is… The Hurt Locker.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t saddened by this. But at the same time The Hurt Locker was an incredibly deserving movie. So it’s hard to really be upset about the award not going to a science fiction movie when the movie that did win was just so damn good. And in all honesty I think we took a step in the right direction this year, Avatar got the Visual Effects, Art Direction and Cinematography awards and Star Trek got Make Up award; that’s four awards for Science Fiction. Double what science fiction received last year when the only wins were The Dark Knight for Sound Editing and Supporting actor. (And lets be honest for a second, as much as Heath Ledger deserved that award, he wouldn't of got it if he hadn't died.) I also want to add that it is a crime that District 9 didn’t walk away with any awards this year, it was an extraordinary film that made it's science fiction seem so real that it often didn't even feel like science fiction.

So, after all of that maybe the Academy Awards are still not entirely free of their prejudice towards Science Fiction, but we certainly took a step in the right direction this year.

Maybe next year we can take a step forward in acknowledging the Horror genre.

So, to quote Steve Martin from the end of the awards.
“This has gone on so long that Avatar now takes place in the past”

So it's time for me to sign off.
Thanks for reading
-- Dan

PS: Here are the awards I didn’t mention because I honestly had nothing particular to say about them. Either because they weren’t at all surprising or because all parties involved were equally deserving.

Best Supporting Actress: Mo'Nique
Best Song: The Weary Kind from The Crazy Heart
Short Film: The New Tenants
Short Doc: Music By Prudence
Short Animated: Logorama
Best Costume Design: Young Victoria
Best Sound Editing: The Hurt Locker
Best Sound Mixing: The Hurt Locker
Cinematography: Avatar
Best Doc Feature: The Cove
Best Film Editing: The Hurt Locker
Best Foreign Language Film: The Secret In Their Eyes (El Secreto De Sus Ojos)

PPS: Sorry if my past and present tense's got mixed up alot during this piece, I'm watching the ceremony the morning after it aired, so it's in the past, but I was writing as I watched it making my writing style sometimes use present tense. So yeah, sorry if that means this was hard to read.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Bloglettes 3: Rise of the Blogage

That's right, it's time for the third edition of Bloglettes. It's been almost exactly a year since my last one. And for the benefit of those of you reading this and wondering "What the hell is a Bloglette?". Whenever I have a few different things I want to talk about, but none of them interesting enough to sustain a whole blog on their own merit I write a post combining them all under the "Bloglettes" title. And it goes something like this...

The Mailman's Ruse.
A couple of days ago a mailman knocked on our door, as they occasionally do, with a special delivery that required someone to sign for it. I opened the door and the postman extended his clipboard and pointed at the place I should sign. As I'm signing he says...

"It's for Daniel Do...."

And proceeded to trail off in the most unnatural way you can imagine. Honestly, it made him sound as if he were mentally ill. I, without thinking, glanced at him in a way that clearly showed my confusion and concern for his sanity. He quickly explained that he couldn't pronounce the name, to which I responded... "It's Doolan."

He smiles, nods and then explains that he didn't really have trouble pronouncing it. He just wanted to make sure I was who I was supposed to be. Now, honestly, in the moment I didn't see anything wrong with that statement. In the moment it seemed to be a perfectly logical thing to do. But a little later it dawns on me... did my postman just try to trick me? He did... he tried to catch me out... what an utterly pointless ruse.

Of course the package was going where it was supposed to... he was at my door... which is conveniantly located at the address on the package. And of course it was going to the right person... I live there, I answered the door. What did he honestly think I was, the worlds most idiotic criminal? Like I've broken into someones house and thought...

"Hang on, forget the TV and the Laptop... I'm gonna wait for the postman."

I realise I have clearly over-thought this... but I really do hope that one day he does catch someone out. Just because otherwise he has wasted alot of his own, and other peoples time.

Just a Thought 1
The other day I walked past a man who looked JUST like Captain Birdseye from the old Birdseye adverts. It was actually a little scary and I did genuinely consider asking him about the suspicious nature of that island full of children he used to have. But thought better of it once I remembered Captain Birdseye is fictional, and that accusing a stranger of potentially being a pedophile probably isn't the best idea. Especially someone with such a harrowing physical appearance.

Twitter Impaired.
Just a little advice to anyone with the ability to mobile tweet, if your phone has wifi or you have set up the twitter text service... don't ever take your phone on a night out. You are pretty much just going to come out of it looking like a fool.
A couple of weeks back I went out with some friends to Orange Rooms, a bar/club here in Bournemouth. Of course the night didn't start in Orange Rooms (Far from it) so I'm sure you can imagine that by the time I reached Orange Rooms I was pretty wasted. And all I remember thinking was that the DJ was a bit shit, I was having fun, but I wasn't particularly a fan of the music choices.

The next morning I awoke to discover I had tweeted my displeasure... multiple times and in alot stronger terms than I thought I did. To the point that it looked like I was having a pretty miserable night, and had some kind of problem with Orange Rooms, which just wasn't the case. I wasn't that bothered, but you wouldn't know that from the tweets, here they are in reverse order...

Not like you needed it, but here it is, more evidence to prove that mobile phones and alcohol are not a great combination. Weather it's drunken texts accidentally insulting or annoying friends or tweeting thoughts that make you look like some particularly pathetic creature who goes to clubs and stands in the middle of the dance floor determinedly not dancing in protest of the music. Of course the fact that I made a complete tit out of myself was embarrassing enough, but the next morning I was faced with this tweet... from Orange Rooms.

I have no intention of responding but I did feel quite bad about telling the world they had the shittest music in Bournemouth. Then I remembered that I only have a hundred followers and decided I didn't care.

Just a Thought 2
I think I buy FAR too many iPod/iPhone games. I realised I'd gone too far once I downloaded a game titled "Harry Potter: Spells". Of course I felt even more pathetic once the game sorted me into Hufflepuff house.

Creativity Is A Bitch.
Not so long ago I was trying to come up with an idea for a comedy sketch. And I will be completely honest with you here... it was torture. On this particular occasion I suddenly found myself completely idea-less, I literally spent hours and hours simply staring at a blank word document.

Eventually I decided that I just needed something to provoke my mind into action, get the ideas flowing. So I decided it would be a good idea to use a random word generator to help start the thought process. So I went to google, typed in "Random Word Generator" clicked on the first page and hit "Generate".

This is what it came back with...

(Click to make this larger.)

See? Even the internet had nothing. In the end I just gave up and waited for the idea to come naturally instead of trying to force it, the very thing I should of done from the beginning.

Just a Thought 3
Is it just me, or is the fact that
some words now have two meanings becoming a problem. I was on a train the other day and I witnessed a fantastic exchange between a Chav and whoever was on the other end of his phone, presumably another Chav. He seemed to be trying to explain to the person on the other end of the phone that he wasn't feeling well. Obviously I couldn't hear the other half of the conversation but here is what I heard.

"Man, I'm well sick... No, No, No, not like that. I mean I'm proper Ill... Nah mate, not like that, I mean I'm poorly."

What I love about this is that he had to explain himself twice. It took him three goes to finally a work to describe how he felt that wasn't also a slang term. Isn't that hilarious?

Maybe you had to be there. Anywho, I think it's time I put an end to this round of Bloglettes.

Thanks for reading.
-- Dan

PS: Yeah, I know I said the blog was going to be focusing on TV and Screenwriting now, but I couldn't resist.

PPS: And don't worry, the bloglettes will return in BLOGLETTES 4!

Monday, 1 March 2010

A Facelift And The Future

No guilt ridden opening paragraph about my lack of updates this week. It's unfortunate but I'm in my third year of university and that's keeping me plenty busy thank you very much. I really don't need any excuse beyond that while I'm working on three essays and the script for a feature film.

I have managed to give the blog a small face lift today after some constructive criticism about the colour scheme. Mainly, the purple text on the black black background which has become a small trademark of sorts that I was fond of. But realistically the criticism was valid, as nice as it was to have something that was marginally unique and consistent with my old blogs and sites, it was very difficult to read the text and after a few minutes could force the reader to strain their eyes and give them a headache. So here it is, slightly more dull but at least readable, white text on a black background with purple bits here and there. I also stretched out the width of the page itself as it wasn't filling the screen and was wasting space on either side. And with climate change and all that, I really didn't want to seem wasteful of anything.

In regards to questions of why this blog is even running anymore when I haven't been updating it regularly since early 2009. Well, in truth I do have plans to use this thing alot more regularly once I finish university, but there will be a refocus in the blogs content, which will no be more geared towards Television, Movies, Screenwriting and more specifically, the projects I'm working on. There will be regular updates and post about my work, weather it be the short film I'm contemplating shooting this summer or the audio drama I'm toying with producing as a podcast in the future. So hopefully that answers the question of why this blog is still running. Although to be hones, one of the main reasons I kept it was because I quite like having a email address. Make's me feel all professional.

So watch this space.
Thanks for reading.
-- Dan

PS: Everything regarding the future in the above post is highly dependent on weather I survive the process of writing my dissertation or not.