Sunday, November 24, 2013

City of Nouns

I finally got to watch the movie version of The City of Bones this weekend. I would have seen the thing when it came out, but I couldn’t get anyone to go with me. Some of my friends are fellow readers/fans of the books, but the stinky reviews scared everyone away.

But I was undaunted. Some of my favorite movies are loathed by critics. Of course, I was a little worried about Jamie Campbell Bowers, whom I’d only seen as a glowering Volturi vampire who wore too much makeup.

It was clear in the first few minutes, though, that the filmmakers for some reason decided to ignore the plot of the book in favor of just pulling out the nouns:

Shadowhunters! Mortal Cup! Angels! Demons! Silent brothers! Portals! Magic coffee!

I’m pretty curious whether this business made any sort of sense to someone who hadn’t read the book. I’m guessing not so much.

This list could be longer, but these are, for me, the standout moments:

       1.  PanDEMONium

This film showed a lot of faith in its audience right out of the gate. For example, the sign for the club Pandemonium breaks the word into three parts so that it’s really super clear that the name contains the word DEMON.

Uh, folks, most of the people buying tickets for this movie like to read. Entire books. Pretty sure most of us don’t need the Hooked on Phonics treatment. A lot of us probably even know that Clare is referencing Milton’s Paradise Lost.

      2. Jace wasn’t funny anymore

He was, however, extremely concerned about his hair. And also, if there is another outing, please make sure he keeps his shirt on. That, or feed the kid a whole bunch of sandwiches or something.

      3. Simon doesn’t get turned into a rat.

What’s that about? 

4. Blech

There was surprisingly little romance, but the one big scene we did get?
 Glowy CG flowers, possibly leftover from Avatar, and a Demi Lovato song. 
 I just can't even. 

       5.   Abandon all logic, ye who enter here 

In keeping with the nouns from the book, Jace takes Clary to see the Silent Brothers, whose masks seem to have been purchased at Party City. Clary remembers a whole bunch of stuff, then passes out for the fourteenth time. At which point Jace announces that the spell blocking her memory is too strong! It must be broken by the warlock who put it there!

Wha-huh? Yes, the girl just had four minutes of flashbacks, so clearly the memory block is still working great.  

6.   Listen all y’all, it’s a sabotage

In the final few minutes of this carnival ride, Hodge says to Valentine “If you lie to them and tell them they’re both your children...”

...thus effectively destroying the entire plot of book 2. So the good news seems to be, they aren’t going to even bother making another one of these.

Perhaps somewhere in Hollywood right now they’re on the hunt for another book filled with lots of cool-sounding nouns. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Unsolved Mysteries

          1. The “Capitol Collection” by CoverGirl

Okay, I like makeup as much as the next girly-girl. I’ve invested way too much of my paycheck in Urban Decay eyeshadow and Too-Faced mascara. But, I also read books. I read the Hunger Games series, for example. And I have to say, I think the folks at CoverGirl are really sort of missing the point. First off, their “Capitol Collection” upholds the beauty ideals of the Capitol—presented in the book as a selfish, dysfunctional dystopia with values that are completely out of whack—and inhumane. So, by all means, let’s encourage our young girls to dress up and do their makeup like those folks. But the ads also offer a range of looks “inspired by” the various districts.
Yeah, I'm sure that's a great look for a day of planting and hoeing in Rue's hometown. 

Um, hey...CoverGirl? The folks in those districts you’re so inspired by? They’re not wearing any makeup.  They’re too busy trying to survive. These folks are pretty busy trying to eat without having to use tesserae that exponentially up the odds that their children will have to go fight and die in a gladiator-style arena. So that look inspired by the agriculture of District 11? That makes absolutely no sense.

TVD: the nation's number one employer of stand-ins. 
      2. Why Can’t They Hire Some New Actors on The Vampire Diaries?

Nina Dobrev is great. She really is. I get the whole doppelganger thing. It’s pretty out-there, but, hey, this is a show about vampires who go to high school, so it’s not like I signed up expecting logic or realism. But, come on. This week’s ep featured not one Nina character—not two—but THREE. She was playing three characters! And what’s-his-face who plays crybaby Stefan was playing two (both of whom kept having Gollum-type moments, so at times it seemed like four). TVD writers, these folks do a great job handling all the crazy you throw at them. But surely you could invent some new characters, and hire other actors to play them? I guarantee Hollywood is full of attractive young actors who could manage to say words like “the cure for vampirism” and “she’s the anchor for the spell that created 'The Other Side'” with a straight face.

3. On the Seventy-first day of Christmas, a migraine came to me...

Again this year, as though someone flipped a switch, on November first, the holiday ads, music, offers, etc. began to come flooding in. Actually, they crept in around the edges even during my beloved Halloween season. I was catching up on a DVR’d series the other day, and saw an ad for Party City for Halloween costumes directly followed by a Macy’s “holiday season” ad. Macys actually seems to have decided that as of September 1, their “season of giving” has officially started. Soon Black Friday will be August 31. Seriously, though, has anyone else done the math here and realized that if the holidays kick off on November 1, given that they tend to hang around for at least a good week to ten days after the new year, we are now looking at over seventy days of holiday madness? Yep, that’s right, the holidays are now twenty percent of the year. For all you folks who’ve already starting snapping Instagrams of elves on shelves—better pace yourself. 
Someone has a lot of time on their hands. 
4. Oddities

Has anyone ever watched this show? It’s on Netflix (which is ruining my life, by the way—or at least my word count). If you haven’t don’t start. It’s weirdly addictive. The show is about a tiny antique store in Manhattan that sells weird stuff—except I’m pretty sure the show’s title refers to the people who walk in the door.

The other day a guy paid hundreds of dollars for a giant kidney stone. I guess technically it was an antique? But: whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?

Also: ew.

5.  How will I ever finish NaNoWriMo that I have Netflix?

I’d write more about this one, but season four of Sons of Anarchy is calling.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Brand Experience

An item in my morning Twitter feed caught my attention today: a book offered through Writer’s Digest that helps authors find their one “thing” that they are known for, that sets them apart from the pack. Because I’m doing a huge media unit with my AP class now I immediately realized that this book was really about creating a brand.

The concept of branding isn’t new, of course, but what is new is the fact that each and every individual person (at least the ones with something to sell) now needs to invent a brand. Last week I showed my class The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, in which documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock makes a movie about selling and marketing a movie. In the film, Spurlock visits a fancy company that helps people identify their brand identities. They asked him nine thousand questions, pseudo-scientifically compiled and analyzed the data, and came up the idea that Spurlock’s brand was a Mindful/Playful brand. Some brands, the expert guy said, are just one thing, but a lot of brands are combo-brands, which certainly sounds better to me—double fan base?! Although when I think about it, I feel like having watched all of his movies, I could have come up with two adjectives to describe the guy’s work, and I would only have charged like twenty bucks. I shudder to think how much the “official” analysis cost.

So I say to myself, self, what’s our brand? (apparently I turn into Gollum when the topic of brands comes up). I’d certainly like to be a combo brand, so what are my two defining traits? Wait, that’s not going to work. No one’s going to sign up be part of a brand experience of:


Or, on a bad day:


(This is starting to sound like the list of Dwarves Rejected by Disney).

This mystical branding process seemed to work in the movie: the company identified several other Mindful/Playful brands, like Mini Cooper, and when Spurlock went after these companies, several of them actually signed on as sponsors of his movie. Maybe I really do need to figure out how to blurb my brand. (If I had any hope of being given a promotional Mini Cooper, I assure you, I’d be highly motivated to crack the brand code of me).

For most of my day, the brand identity I’m striving for is “favorite teacher”—while still not being the one who always lets them turn in late work or have class outside. As a writer, I think I’m still figuring it out. If I were to go for a combo brand, like Morgan got, I might say: Funny/Tragic. But, in addition to being a great example of oxymoron I can use in class, it’s also really just life.

I think I’ll stick to pretending it’s still 1995 and making playlists for every occasion, and if anyone needs a Halloween or Summer or Please Let the Holidays Be Over Already song list, I’m your gal.

Now if only I could get sponsored by iTunes...those $1.29 fees really add up. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Vampire Book Club

Last night I attempted a NaNo word sprint. I ended up with more of a brisk walk...900 or so words later, my brain began to shut down. It was 8:30, after all, and by that point I’d been teaching and grading papers for going on twelve hours. 

So I turned, as I so often do, to the sparkly box with the pretty pictures that’s insidiously plugged into the wall of the same room where I try to write. And I was psyched to find that the CW was playing The Originals. Now, my love/hate for The Vampire Diaries is well documented on this blog, but I must say, for me the spinoff is much more fun these days. Perhaps because it’s not crushed under the weight of a five-year old love triangle. I mean, seriously, how long can these things go on—until something happens, like one of the guys falls in love with the girl’s infant daughter, for example.

Anyway, back to the delightful romp that is The Originals: wow, that’s a fun show. It has everything: cool setting (New Orleans), great soundtrack, attractive leads. These actors may not find themselves in the running for an Emmy next year, but they are certainly less wooden than some film actors, so there’s that.

Last night’s episode opened with a scene that was very popular among my bookish Tweeps: sexy vampires Elijah and Klaus were having some quiet reading time, and their sister Rebekah walked in and asked what was up with “vampire book club.”  But Rebekah was soon distracted from making fun of reading when she spotted Klaus’s “snack”—the poor girl bleeding out on Rebekah’s fancy carpet.

So far, I’m in, but the thing about this show—and pretty much every other stupid thing I currently watch—is that they started to lose me with a lot of Ridiculous Made Up Magic Crap.

I know, there’s loads of R.M.U.M.C in Harry Potter, and those books are pretty darn terrific. Even the movie versions are pretty good, although if Harry uttered just one more “Expelliarmus” or “Stupefy!”...I just can’t even. Learn a new spell, Harry.

Learning a new spell is not a problem on The Originals, or its parent show. It’s pretty much deus ex machina magic all day on both shows. Need to keep two characters apart for no actual reason? Invent a “sire bond”! That’s not inconsistent at all. Only fifty percent of the population of Mystic Falls is a vampire, so it’s not weird that no one’s ever heard of this nonsense before.

Last night’s episode featured such a pileup of made up crap, that even though I was watching it for a fun escape from my boring life, a part of me had to wonder at what point I’d stop buying in. Forget suspending disbelief: at a certain point, it’s just about how much crazy you can process.

The first layer, the main characters are the first vampires, which their mom sort of invented with some kind of spell. They also have every power you can think of, including being able to brain-warp other vamps. AND one of them is half werewolf. AND AND he magically impregnated a werewolf girl.

So far, I’m hanging on...but then there’s this whole witch-war, and a witch who’s magically linked to the pregnant werewolf, and a witch from the other army or whatever kidnaps the other witch and shoots her up with a MAGICAL NEEDLE that will kill the werewolf/vampire baby.
Dressy vs. Casual Witches+ Magical Needles
There was also magical rope at one point, but I digress. Essentially, I’m just wondering how much crazy CAN a show pile on, before the story collapses beneath the weight of the R.M.U.M.C?

I have no idea, but I’m dying to find out. I’m just rooting for the magical hybrid miracle baby. That little monster’s going to really complicate matters, if you ask me.