Saturday, February 10, 2018

Is 'Up' Pixar's worst animated film?

When it comes to animated films, it's not exactly a secret that I prefer watching animations over live action films. I prefer watching animations because watching them puts me on a better mood and makes me feel better about life in general.

Especially when it comes to films made by Pixar studios, I have almost always enjoyed their animations. Whether we're talking about Ratatouille, Toy Story, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles or Wall-E, I have found their films to be well made and entertaining.

Still, that doesn't mean that Pixar has always managed to entertain me and make me happy. Especially when it comes to their animation 'Up', I have found the film to be really disappointing and lacking when it comes to its overall quality.

The biggest reason that I haven't been able to enjoy 'Up', is that unlike in almost every other Pixar film, the story in this film is entirely too inconsistent. There are too many problems with the story and how it's put together.

Probably the biggest problem with the film is that its main story is told during its first twelve minutes. After the first part - that includes the main character being a child, growing up, getting married, getting old and losing his wife - the movie runs out of story.

Yet, instead of this 'short film' about Carl and his wife Ellie wrapping itself after those solid twelve minutes, the film goes on for another seventy-five minutes. The movie goes on, even though there's basically no story left to tell and nothing for the characters to do.

What is especially awful about this extended part of the movie is that it forgets what the first part was about. During the second part of the movie, the 'laws' of the first part's universe get thrown out and the animation becomes more or less a different film.

For example, in the second part of the film, the story 'restarts' when our main character Carl decides to fly away with his house that has thousands of helium filled balloons tied to it. He flies away after he receives a court order to move into a retirement home.

This 'balloon house' itself might not be too much to swallow - but when you add things like a 110 year old villain and talking dogs that fly airplanes into the mix, the story falls apart. The movie just gets completely ridiculous and implausible.

Especially when it comes to us getting introduced to those talking dogs in South America, the complete lack of direction and continuity in the film becomes obvious. You can't help but to shake your head in disbelief when this happens.

What is really unfortunate about all these problems with the story is that when you consider all those other aspects of the film, there aren't really any problems here. Everything else except the story is really well made in 'Up'.

After all, it's obvious that the director of the film, the animation department, the voice actors, the composer and the rest of the crew worked really hard on the movie. They did everything they could to make film as good as it could only be.

Still, when it comes to the film as a whole, the story in 'Up' does not work well enough. There are too many problems with the screenplay that cannot be overlooked and be forgiven just because this happens to be a Pixar film.

In that sense, when you think of 'Up' as a movie and compare it to those other animations that the studio has produced, it's pretty clear that 'Up' is not one of their best films. This Pixar film is not even close to being one of their better animations.

After all, even though the production values in the movie are very high, that's not good enough. It's not enough to come up with an 'interesting' premise and think that one good idea is all that it takes to write a great screenplay.

On the contrary, it takes a lot more than a good idea for a short film to turn it into a full length movie. It takes a lot more work and effort to be able to come up with characters and storylines that make sense from start finish.

In that sense, it's unfortunate that the writers weren't able to come up with good stuff here. They weren't able come up with a screenplay that had the potential to entertain and to keep us happy throughout the movie.

As unfortunate as it is, instead of paying attention to the basics, they gave up and took the easy way out. They took the easy way out and settled with ideas that didn't make sense and that didn't have enough potential to turn into a great story.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

I've enjoyed watching 'Hunting Hitler'.

Over the last couple of years, I have tried to become more informed and more aware of things that have happened in our past. I have tried to learn more about world history and things that happened before I was born. 

Especially when it comes to the second World War and the Nazis, I felt that I didn't know enough. I felt that I had to learn more about these events, so that I could feel more comfortable discussing history and the 'Third Reich' with others.

So when it comes to me getting more informed, over the last year there has been one source of information that has inspired me more than the others. History Channel's 'Hunting Hitler' is the series that has made me study WW2 and the Nazis the most.

In a nutshell, the premise of 'Hunting Hitler' is whether Adolf Hitler could have survived the war. Is there evidence that Hitler escaped from Berlin during the last days of the war and that he could have fled from his capturers?

What makes this premise so interesting is that even though there's strong evidence that Hitler died in his bunker, there's no irrefutable proof. In theory it's possible that he could have escaped and made it out alive during the final days of the war.

The series follows leads that suggest that it would have been possible for Hitler to flee undetected. It follows leads like the recently discovered tunnel systems in the underground Berlin that we hadn't been fully aware of before. 

The theory of Hitler fleeing the country is also at least somewhat plausible based on a crucial eyewitness testimony. His pilot swore during the Nuremberg trials that he managed to fly Hitler out of Germany during the last days of April in 1945. 

When it comes to where he might have escaped, it's obvious that had 'Der F├╝hrer' escaped from his bunker before the fall of the 'Third Reich', he couldn't have stayed in Germany. He would have had to flee his country and leave Europe.

The series theorizes that like so many other high ranking Nazis, Hitler could have escaped to Argentina after the war. This is where he could have found his safe haven without being in constant fear of being caught by the allied forces.

In order to find out more, the series sends its investigators to South America and starts looking for clues for Nazi activities post World War Two. They search for any clues that might give us new information about Hitler's postwar whereabouts.

During the first season of the series, it becomes clear that even though the Nazis were defeated in Europe, their ideology wasn't. Especially in Argentina and Chile it's evident that the military juntas sympathized with the nazis and provided them protection.

What makes these 'revelations' on the show so fascinating is that for the first time we're shown places where Hitler could have either resided or was spotted. No stone is left unturned when it comes to his possible locations and hideouts.

We're shown places like the city of Bariloche where there have been sightings of Hitler with his wife Eva Braun. This is the place where Hitler allegedly was hiding before he allegedly settled at his lake side farm in Inalco, Argentina.

We also visit places like Teyu Cuare Park, the nazi jungle hideout and the infamous Colonia Dignidad in Chile. This was the Nazi colony where Josef Mengele, the notorious doctor from Auschwitz allegedly continued his experiments on humans.

Especially when it comes to the recently discovered Nazi fortress at Teyu Cuare Park, it can't be denied how fascinating the ruins of the place are. Hitler's followers clearly spent a lot of effort preparing for the worst in case they would lose the war.

As the series progresses and we get past season one, 'Hunting Hitler' tends to concentrate a bit less on Adolf Hitler specifically. Instead of being all about Hitler's fate, it spends more time on other Nazi activities after the world war 2 and their secret networks.

Among other things, there's fascinating stuff like the Nazis running a nuclear program in Argentina (season 2), the search for Hitler's number two man Martin Bormann in Paraguay, and the infamous Nazi ratlines in Europe that were used after the war (season 3).

Especially when it comes to its current season and the escape routes that Nazis like Adolf Eichmann used, I found the stuff to be really interesting. It's incredible how organizations like the international Red Cross and the Vatican were helping Nazis after the war.

In that sense, when it comes to judging this ongoing series as a whole, even though the series clearly is speculative, there's a lot of good stuff going on in here. There's something for almost everyone who's interested in history and how things might have happened.

Even though it's admittedly true that a lot of the things on the show are indeed conjecture and speculation, that's not all there is to it. One shouldn't concentrate only on Hitler's unlikely escape and disregard every other aspect on the show.

Especially considering that most documentaries don't challenge you in any way, 'Hunting Hitler' is a clear exception. This one actually makes you fact check for yourself whether certain claims are plausible and whether they make sense.

So in the end, even though Hitler almost certainly did die in his bunker on April 30th in 1945, that doesn't mean that we shouldn't raise questions about this moment in history. We shouldn't eat up every claim that the mainstream historians are making.

After all, even though mainstream historians usually get things right, that's not always the case. There have been too many important historical events and cases over the years that they have gotten completely wrong.

In that sense, even if you don't subscribe to 'Hunting Hitler's' premise, you should still give the show a chance. You should give it a chance because the series does make you question things and because it doesn't take everything about our history for granted.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The most important standards in writing.

When it comes to writing, one of the most important things about the craft has to do with standards. As a writer, you should always make sure that your standards are high and that you're committed to following them.

After all, the more you demand from yourself, the more likely it is that you'll be able come up with quality stuff. The higher your requirements for yourself are, the more likely it becomes that you'll be able to be write good material.

So below I managed to come up with standards that probably count the most when it comes to writing. These are the requirements that are the most important when it comes to creating quality stuff that has a chance of keeping people entertained.

1) You need to really care about writing as a craft.

If talent is the most important part of being a writer, very likely the second most important part has to do with being motivated. You have to be someone who cares about the craft and who doesn't give up no matter what.

After all, writing isn't about being instantly perfect or about getting things work right away. It's a demanding craft in which you have to be patient and resilient, no matter who you are and no matter how good you are as a writer.

In my case, as a relatively talented writer, whenever I'm writing anything, as long as there's any chance that I'm going to succeed with my task, I'll keep going. I won't give up and will keep pushing until I get the job done.

2) Trust yourself and your judgement about what's good and what's not.

It cannot be stressed how important it is that you trust yourself and your judgement. It's your job as a writer to figure out what are the good - and the not so good  - writers, television shows, movies, directors etc. in the business.

Just because others are saying that something or someone is really 'good' or 'bad' doesn't make it so. It's your job to figure out whether a movie or a television show has value or whether it as a whole is overrated.

In my case, it's almost impossible for me to watch most of the stuff that is out there. Most of the television shows and movies are horrible, even though most of the critics say that just about every movie or a tv show is totally awesome.

3) Be informed / know what you're writing about.

In many cases, you should strive to know as much as possible about the society that we live in. Whether we're talking about movies, sports, art, politics, history or anything else, it's always a good thing to be informed.

After all, the more you know about these topics, the easier it is to write about things that people care about. The more informed you are about life in general, the easier it becomes to write screenplays or articles that people can relate to.

In my case, I try to be a curious person and knowledgeable about all kinds of topics that range from politics to history to sports. I try to make sure that I know enough about the things that I'm writing about, so that I wouldn't be caught making up stuff.

4) Learn the correct storytelling structure / formula.

If there's one thing that every single writer should learn about the craft. it's the standard storytelling structure. This 'Blake Snyder' beat sheet is the storytelling 'formula' that almost every single well told movie follows.

In short, there's absolutely no downside to being aware of how the basic story structure works. Knowing how most of the movie screenplays are constructed helps you as a writer, even if you wouldn't write movie scripts yourself.

In my case, it took years before I finally understood the story structure and was able to transition to movies. It took a lot of failed attempts before I came up with a solid story idea that had potential to turn into a full length movie screenplay.
 
5) Standardize your writing / rewriting process.

When it comes to writing and rewriting your material, it cannot be emphasized enough how important these processes are. Especially when it comes to rewriting, you have to be aware of how important this part happens to be.

By that I mean that if you're not willing to spend enough time rewriting your scripts, there's almost no chance that your scripts are going to work. It's absolutely crucial that you are willing to rewrite your own stuff over and over again.

In my case for example, I will always reserve at least two days for every article that I write. I will never publish anything during the first day, because I've learned the hard way that it's impossible to get everything to work right away.

6) Learn from your mistakes / continuous improvement.

Finally, when it comes to getting better as writer, one of the best ways to improve is to look back and read your older stuff. There's almost no better way to improve than learning from your earlier mistakes and errors that you have made as a writer.

After all, even though it might not be easy to look at your earlier writings, checking your older material really helps. Especially when it comes to writing articles, you'll see how much your craft has developed over the years.

At least in my case, I've learned to spend much more time writing these articles over the last few years. I've learned that writing quality posts takes a lot more time and effort than I had thought at first and that I should never take them for granted.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Recapping last year and things to do this year.

When it comes to my activities as a writer last year, I think it's pretty safe to say that 2017 was a pretty good year for me. I managed to exceed my expectations when it comes to getting things done and not giving up.

Especially when it comes to finishing my first movie screenplay, I managed to surpass my expectations. I didn't expect that I would be able to complete a movie script after having not been able to finish one before.

So when it comes to this year, since I wrote my movie script, my priorities as a writer are probably going to be a bit different. I don't have to stress about writing another full length screenplay or that I'm not good enough as a writer.

When it comes to doing stuff this year, the biggest priority is to get something done with my story. I'm trying to get my animated script 'Valerie and The Girl' sold at least in some form - book or a movie - over the course of the year.

The easiest way to achieve this is likely by contacting all the publishing companies in my country. I'll contact them and figure out whether these major publishes would be willing to buy the rights to the story in print form.

After all, when it comes to the script, it's a story that should be adaptable fairly easily. It should be pretty easy to take the premise, the characters and the storylines in the screenplay and adapt it to a children's book.

Especially considering that there is a huge demand for children's stories, it shouldn't be an unrealistic goal to make something out of the script. There's no reason why it couldn't be sold and why it couldn't become popular in a book form.

Of course, just because I'm offering the screenplay to different publishing companies doesn't mean that I've given up on trying to get the story produced as an animated film. I'm not saying that I'm giving up on that goal.

After all, the screenplay almost certainly works best as an animated stop-motion film. It's written in a way that utilizes things that cannot be used in literature, like visuals, music, sounds and other forms of artistic expression.

Still, even though I'm hoping to get it produced as a movie, I shouldn't forget that offering the script to publishers is likely the easiest way to go. It's the fastest way to get things done and to get some 'name recognition'.

In that sense, when it comes to things to do this year and to my project, I can only hope that I'm going to be able to stay persistent. I hope that I'll have the courage and the stamina to keep going and to keep contacting people.

After all, if I want to get results this year as a writer, I have to get out of my bubble and try to market myself at least a bit. I have to find a way to not be afraid of getting rejected and stop being happy with things as they are.

In the end, it's not enough to write a good movie screenplay and leave it at that. It's not enough to think that as long as you managed to write a great script, that's all that it takes and you don't have to do anything else.

On the contrary, becoming a success takes more than just being happy with things as they are. It takes more than thinking that if things don't work out for you right away, you can stop trying, give up and call it quits.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Why is structure so important in storytelling?

A couple of days ago I was thinking about storytelling in the games that I have played. I was thinking about how important it is that the storylines in these games are well written and that the structure in them makes sense.

After all, when you manage to make the structure work and seem plausible, it's going to be so much easier to create a good story. It's so much easier to come up with a game that people are going to find enjoyable and worth playing.

So when it comes to good storytelling games, in most cases people probably like to refer to the 'Uncharted' series on Playstation 3 & 4. These games have managed to entertain us over the years and have kept us satisfied as players.

One of the biggest reasons that the series has managed to be so entertaining is that it has managed to respect the story structure. In most cases the series has managed to pay attention to this important aspect of storytelling.

When it comes to having a good structure, it's about having elements in your story that keep you entertained and immersed. A well structured story means that the story sucks you in and you can't take your eyes off the screen.

The best way to achieve this immersion is by coming up with a story that is well thought out and balanced. You need to have a solid premise, relatable characters and an overarching storyline, so that your story beats could make sense throughout the length of the game.

In the case of 'Uncharted', the game has been so entertaining, because we get to play a likable, 'Indiana Jones' type character in the game. We get to play Nathan Drake, a likable and relatable character who's always ready for another adventure.

Whether we're talking about him trying to follow Marco Polo's foot steps and trying to find the lost city of Shambhala, or him trying to find pirate Henry Avery's lost treasure and his hidden pirate colony, he's the guy that we want to spend our time with.

The series has worked in most of its installments so well, because the story manages to stay on point. The game pushes our characters to the right direction and most of the sequences in the game are well thought out and balanced.

Still, this is not to say that 'Uncharted' hasn't had any problems as a game series and that it has always gotten everything right. I'm not saying that all the installments in the franchise have been flawless and that the story has always been great.

On the contrary, especially when it comes to the third installment in the series, 'Drake's Deception', it has to be said that there were really big problems with the story. The structure was lacking and it was difficult to enjoy the game in certain places.

By that I mean that even though the main characters were still as likable as we've used to seeing them and even though the main storyline was still okay, that wasn't enough. The game had an awful pacing and the structure was simply not there.

As unfortunate as it is, especially in the second half of 'Drake's Deception', the game went on a such lengthy and unnecessary tangent that the structure of the story fell apart. The game, more or less never got to recover from that storytelling mistake.

In that sense, when you think about the 'Uncharted' series and storytelling in general, we shouldn't forget how important it is to make sure that all the aspects in the story work. We shouldn't forget those crucial things that matter and take them for granted.

After all, even though it's true that characters and storylines count the most, they are not the only things that matter. It's not enough to think that as long as your characters are likable and your storylines have potential, you have everything figured out.

In the end, the truth is that you still have to figure out things like story beats, pacing and the overall story structure. They are going to count too, so you have to make sure that you come up with stuff that fits in with the rest of the elements in the story.

In that sense, even though Uncharted 3: 'Drake's Deception' clearly was a big success saleswise - like those other 'Uncharted' installments - that doesn't mean that it was much of a success when it came to its story and how the story beats were executed.

On the contrary, the game managed to become a hit despite its unfortunate storytelling mistakes. It was a massive hit, even though it was clear that there were a of lot of problems with the structure and that the story as a whole didn't work that well.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Things to consider if you want to become a blogger.

As I reached my 300th blog post on this site last week, I was thinking that perhaps I could write something about being a blogger. I thought that I could give some advice, so that one could know a little bit more about the craft.

Below are some specific things that you should consider if you're thinking about becoming a blogger yourself. Even though the advice is pretty basic, it's still useful when it comes to blogging and being productive as a writer.

1) Choose a topic that you know of and that you're interested in. 

When you start blogging, you should choose a topic that you know a lot about and that you're interested in. Whether we're talking about fashion, music, food, television, movies, sports or something else, it's good to know what you're talking about.

After all, the better you know your stuff as a blogger, the more your writings will be based on facts and reality. This way you won't run out of things to say that easily and people have a reason to visit your blog more often.

In my case, as a tv spec writer, since I knew quite a bit about the craft and since I was also interested in sharing my thoughts, I thought that coming up with a blog would make sense and would be the way to go as a writer.

2) Have a consistent writing routine and publish regularly. 

When it comes to writing and publishing stuff, the best way to get things done is to have a steady writing routine. By having a solid writing routine, you'll find it easier to write and publishing articles becomes a second nature for you.

At the same time, you shouldn't write so often that you'll get burned out. There's no reason to write so often that you'll get so stressed and so tired of the whole process that you'll simply give up and stop posting stuff.

In my case, when I started writing this blog, at first I tried to write every single day. Not surprisingly, it didn't take more than a couple of weeks before I got so tired that I went for like a two month break from publishing anything.

3) Pay attention to the quality of your articles.

As a writer, you should make sure that you always value quality over quantity. You should understand that quality comes first and that there's no value in publishing stuff when you don't have anything meaningful to say.

Instead of forcing yourself to publish something that has little to no value, you should understand that less is usually more. You should spend enough time writing and rewriting your posts, so that they would be worth publishing.

In my case, over the last four years or so, I've been writing one article per week (4 every month). This way I don't have to rush things and I have enough time to make sure that my articles are readable, informative and entertaining.

4) Try to be as truthful and fair as possible.

It's important that as a writer you're always honest and that you don't worry too much about what others might think of you. Your advice and critique should be truthful, even though you might be stepping on other people's toes sometimes.

At the same time, there's really no point in being negative just for the sake of being negative. There's no value in being too cynical, so you should find ways to be constructive in your criticism, as long as it's only possible.

In my case, I try to make sure that I don't write about television shows and movies that much. I try not to critique and review them that often, because I know that in most cases I wouldn't have much, if anything good to say about them.

5) Be respectful towards others. 

Finally, when it comes to interacting with others and receiving feedback, pretty much everyone is going to get negative feedback from time to time. There's really no way around this and you just have to be able to deal with this fact.

So when you get negative feedback, don't let yourself get too worked up over other people's comments. As long as it's only possible, try to reason with the commenters and try to explain where you're coming from as a writer.

In the end, the truth is that when it's all said and done, you should treat people with respect. You should treat them with respect, because the more friendly and the more helpful you are towards others, the better things are going to be for everyone.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Writing helps take care of your mental health.

Over the last couple of days or so, it has to be said that I haven't felt good about myself. I have more or less felt that something is missing from my life and that I should do things that would make me feel better inside.

After all, over the last ten days or so, I haven't actually managed to do anything meaningful. Even though I have thought about writing something almost every day, I haven't spent time doing the actual writing at all.

The biggest reason that it's so important for me or anyone to write is that writing - at least in my opinion - helps you feel better about yourself. It helps you take care of your mental health and helps you in having a more positive outlook on life.

After all, when it comes to writing, one of the best things about the process is that when I'm writing an article or a screenplay, I feel that I'm doing something that makes sense. I feel like I'm doing something that has value and meaning.

The writing process is beneficial for me, because when I'm writing, I have to pay attention and concentrate on my task. I have to come up with ideas that have the potential to make sense and that are worth exploring and going through.

It simply cannot be overestimated how important it is to be able to concentrate on this process. It helps me find my inner self and the 'flow effect' makes me forget my worries, my fears and those other things that might make me depressed.

Instead of being overly worried and feeling confused about things, I get to use my energy on something constructive. I'll notice that I have certain abilities and tools that help me in processing those frustrating feelings that bother me.

So in most cases, by using these tools and by working on my writing project, I'll manage to come up with ideas and solutions for my task. I'll manage to produce solid stuff on my computer screen that makes me feel better.

Still, even though writing is good for you, this is not to say that writing is also something that is always easy to do. I'm not saying that writing stuff is always going to be easy and that it doesn't require effort or hard work. 

In reality, writing as a craft is most of the time genuinely challenging. Most of the time you tend to have problems and you struggle when you're trying to come up with something that might be worth your time and worth reading.

Nevertheless, when it comes to this process as a whole, it can't be denied how important and beneficial it can be for you. At least in my case, writing has been so good for my mental health and has given my life purpose and meaning over the years.

In that sense, if you're thinking about becoming a writer or simply thinking about writing as a hobby, you shouldn't be afraid of giving it a go. You shouldn't be afraid of giving yourself a chance to see what you're capable of as a writer.

After all, if you manage to give yourself a chance, you'll notice that writing is not about being perfect and about not making mistakes. It's not about thinking that you're not allowed to make errors and that you're a bad person if you screw up.
 
On the contrary, writing really is about giving yourself a chance to make mistakes. It's about trying things, making mistakes, learning from those mistakes and knowing that you can fix things later and that you don't have to be 'perfect' right away.