Monday, January 28, 2013

Now your treasure... is a debate!

The Reward from The Animation Workshop.

     Man this was so cool. I mean, geez. The entire genre of RPG and fantasy-adventure wrapped in a veil of bromance and viking tropes. I mean... DUDE. All my testosterone!

   Before I go any further, please take a moment out of your day and watch this story. I'll wait. Go on! I don't wanna spoil anything for yo-Alright, you had your chance! NOPE! HERE WE GOOOO!
     Now, I LOVE cartoons. Contrary to the common societal thought, cartoons/animations are a legit realm of film-making. And The Reward, is a great example of such.
It's emotional, it's awesome to look at (DID YOU SEE THAT HIGH-FIVE??), and most importantly, it SPEAKS (as any good film should). 

   How many of you know the Taoist saying "The Journey is the reward"? The guys at the Animation Workshop have obviously done their homework and the gang there must have had a blast coming up with the concepts of these two characters, their world, their battles and their triumphs. These characters are not cool at the beginning, in fact they can barely put up with one another. But the one thing I love to see is character development or rather the trials that will later make up a character, even if they choose NOT to grow in the end. These two youngsters make the choices to stick together through thick and thin, overcoming one obstacle over another, growing with one another when either one could've made the choice to abandon the other (and trust me, they come pretty close to leaving the other in the wind).

   But as much as I love this feature (JESUS, DO I LOVE IT) I've seen a few comments floating around The Reward saying how sexist it is and how stupidly it depicts women throughout it's animation. Well, let me clearly state that although the females shown in The Reward are bikini-wearing vixens who're merely prizes to be won and trophies to show off (essentially sexism), I don't believe the film is outright trying to offend, even if it did. Seriously, even though that dude just stabbed a lady, in his defense she did cut off his fingers while trying to basically murder him; that shit was totally uncalled for! No, The Reward is not progressive by any means but rather a throwback to the days of cartoons (and hell, even live-action films) when men were the primary protagonists and were charged to conquer, overcome and yes, become badasses (basically a large quantity of Hollywood output).

    To be honest, many films STILL USE THIS VERY SAME TROPE. Is it fair? No. Is it a good thing? Not really. Yet it is that kind of formula that CONTINUES to sell ticket prices at a theatre. The film industry has gotten somewhat better over the last few years in that respect however. Brave, while far from my favorite film (yikes, don't get me started on that story) was heavily hyped touted with having the year's breakout heroine and even won a Golden Globe apparently. I've never been too keen on it, but one thing I have to give the film, it definitely puts women in the right direction of being anything that isn't just a notch under a man's belt or his rise to purpose and achievement (though it instead depicts a rebellious redhead who turns her mom into a bear and for awhile, doesn't give a crap about her actions). But, I remember a few breakout heroines LONG before Brave. Powerpuff Girls? Atomic Betty? Pepperann? Mulan anyone? Sailor Moo-well, alright, that's not fair. Sailor Moon IS AWESOME. All these things I loved because they often showed a girl's right to come of age, especially when dealing with the opposite sex (also Misty from Pokemon).

  Anyway, while I personally believe the women depicted in The Reward are crazy exaggerated (why is she wearing a bikini during a battle??), the sexism is pretty tongue-in-cheek. Besides, Ive seen a few of recent films (more sitcoms and late-night dramas than film however) where the sexism-pendulum swings to the other extreme and men are the prizes, sexual objects and trophies to be shown off and women are the conquerors.

    Phew, all this from an animated short? Well, I honestly didn't think about the whole "women are being degraded" argument until I began reading comments about it. On one hand, I wanna say "it's just a movie. Ligthen up and enjoy it". On the other hand, when a women is happily flung into the air by a brutish and muscular stranger (with her panties coming straight towards the camera no less), I do wonder if this still how we want to view our heroes in real life? Mark Twain once said that "We admire heroes for the qualities that we ourselves lack". Aside from the prestige, this is the mark that sets the two main characters apart from the hero they meet at the beginning of the film as is done in many coming-of-age stories. The fact that these guys cannot "get a girl" is a very realistic dilemma for the male unbaptized in the way of achievement and purpose. This is a very common (and often useful) plot-device for male characters in film because it is oh so common in real life. Yes, it's humorously done but somehow, I can't help but wonder if this is a step backward, even if for the enjoyable laughs it yields. Thoughts?

   Anyhow, Ill be working on my nightly reading on Peter & Company as I gear up for the animated pilot. Later days!

-- Christopher Wade

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Reward!


The Reward from The Animation Workshop!


I'll be updating this post tomorrow evening with my geek-asms as well as some updates on the upcoming Peter & Company animated pilot! Catch ya soon!

-- Christopher Wade

Friday, January 25, 2013

What am I even watching??

     You ever get that feeling when you're watching something that you cannot quite describe and you really wanna hate it? I mean, you really wanna hate this... "thing" you're seeing, something that can only be described as WTF... or Video Game High School

Unfortunately you (or more specifically I) could not hate this web-series turned straight-to-...Netflix movie. In fact, dammit, it's pretty entertaining. Video Game High School is strange; it seems to try too hard to be cool, suffers vastly by overacting, and yet the movie manages to be legitimately fun, quirky and holy balls, a teeny bit charming. There are points that when I try my hardest to ignore this "thing", I wind up hearing an actual good line and I end up busting a gut in laughter.... 

WHAT. THE. F--K. Yeah, I shall call it WTF for now. Its the only way I can emote at the moment.

    I then realized that Video Game High School, as predictable as it is (and it's pretty damn predictable), draws it's strengths from how fun and formulaic it is. Who hasn't been the kid who has been terrible at games and set out to prove that they can hold their own. Hello? Super Smash Bros. anybody? And then, surprise, all those nights practicing in front of a CRT TV pays off, right? I digress, WTF is an easy setup. It appeals to the modern gaming masses (with a cast I've never heard of with exception to Freddie Wong but is nonetheless likeable) and with a story that's incredibly easy to follow while simply being as fun as it wants with no apology. How? Because it follows the basic rules of a hero's journey. 

So I tried using Joseph Campbell's straight-forward definition of a Hero's Journey to follow this WTF and it's no surprise that it works. We have our classic gamer (a title I hate by the way) who is bullied (by, I sh-t you not, two dummies with a flying bicycle), but is nonetheless propelled into adventure by sheer dumb luck. He defeats the best gamer (UGH) at Video Game High School and is whisked off into this new world of HIGH SCHOOL... but with VIDEO GAMES THEMES and gratuitous amounts of Monster Energy Drink (clearly it's been awhile since I've been to any high school). 

Now I've seen video game parody shows before. Hell, Spark-Flow even made one, so you should check it out! Legit, enjoyable game parodies are few in number and the majority are ripe with yelling, trolling, jokes you've seen on Family Guy, and stupidness (Google Level Up). There are some really good ones out there though, really. I mean that. And as proud as I am of Button Mashers, (damn proud mind you) it's not immune to critique like anything else. But, Video Game High School does a lot things right. Humor for one. It's not always funny (to me anyway) but it caught me by surprise MANY TIMES ("I will never love you..."). Great editing for another. I dont care what anyone says, YouTube is a great way to train to be a professional filmmaker and editor and Freddie Wong proves just that. Camera moves and audio cues are on point throughout this whole WTF.

But honestly, there'd be no movie without Brian (the hero)'s journey into herohood: (1) Brian receives his invitation into a strangely genre-specific high school as he (2) garners assistance from his new but clearly half-assed, but experienced friends. (3) He departs from lucky-wimp-world to celebrity-world showing his peers he has some resourcefulness through (4) his trials and slow triumphs against his obvious betters. (5) Brian slowly approaches the strength and confidence of simply being himself through his consistent conflict with his ultimate rival, (6) but finds crisis when his dumb luck finally fizzles out. However, Brian discovers solace in the (7) treasure of a growing relationship, truly accepting himself and his skills and earning the respect as a true (dammit) gamer, (8) which results in a few of his greatest victories. (9) Brian finally returns to the world of of being the school's worst gamer but is happy knowing he has earned the admiration of the entire school, thus embracing a (10) new life of gaming fun and a hot new girlfriend. Yeaaah, it's simple. Sometimes simple is good and it doesn't pretend to be anything else. I mean, crap it has 80's music people!

That is how Video Game High School pulls off being an enjoyable piece of filmmaking. It follows the basics while being whatever the f--k it wants to be. And it just so happens to be kinda fun.

So. Check it out on Netflix when you can or just check out the YouTube link on the Hero's Journey presented by TedTalk. 

I now leave you all the greatest DUMB SONIC RUNNING animation I have ever seent. 
Later Days!

-- Christopher Wade

Ive Got Some Explaining To Do

This is a long one so please buckle in. Its been four years since my last blog post and four years since Ive assigned any serious freelance ...