Tuesday, June 27, 2017

'Life is Strange' is a fairly solid interactive game.

A couple of weeks ago I noticed that there was an interesting story driven game available on Playstation Plus. Anyone who had an active subscription on the network, was able to download a PS4 version of 'Life is Strange' for free.

Naturally, since the game had received pretty good reviews, it wasn't a difficult decision to give the game a chance. I had to check how good it was and whether it was worth the praise that it had gotten from most of the critics.

Having now completed the game, I have to say that I was mostly positively surprised by how well it was made. In most aspects, 'Life is Strange' is really engaging and makes you care about its characters and what happens to them.

One of the best things about this interactive game is that it pays attention to the basics and things that matter. Its storylines revolve around themes and issues that most of us can relate to and can empathize with.

When it comes to its characters, its main protagonist is an art student called Max. She, as a female protagonist is a likable person, who tries to help others and tries to save them from getting into trouble in their lives.

What makes the story and the game so interesting and engaging, is that our main protagonist has an ability to go back in time. She has an ability that allows her to go back in time when something bad and unfortunate happens.

Over the course of the game, she finds herself in numerous situations where she tries to change things for the better. She not only tries to change people's lives and save them, but she also has to deal with something bigger too.

Trying to do all of things at once, of course, is much easier said than actually done. As we as players of the game eventually notice, for every action that she makes, there's a reaction and a consequence that has to be dealt with.

At least when it comes to me, I enjoyed playing 'Life is Strange' the most during its first three chapters. This is when the story and the characters are at their best and when the storylines feel really plausible and relatable.

Especially when it comes to what happens at the end of the second episode, I have to admit that scene is likely the most touching that I've experienced in a game. The ending to this chapter is genuinely that moving and touching.

However, when it comes to the last two chapters in the game, it has to be said that the story starts to drag a bit and doesn't always make sense. There are certain problems with the characters and their motivations that cannot be ignored.

This is especially true in the last chapter in the game, where it becomes obvious that the main story arc isn't strong enough. It becomes a bit too muddled and the 'choices' that you can make aren't that plausible or interesting.

Still, despite these somewhat obvious flaws in the game and despite the game having some tonal and 'choice' problems, I mostly enjoyed playing it. It manages to engage you and is also surprisingly moving in certain places.

In that sense, if you're like me and enjoy playing story and character driven games that manage to be down to earth, maybe you should give it a chance. You should give the game a chance and see how much you'll like it.

After all, 'Life is Strange' - at least in my case - managed to surprise with its sincerity and honesty. It surprised me and showed that you don't always need explosions, action and gun fights to keep you entertained and immersed in the experience.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Oliver Stone's Putin Interviews on Showtime.

I don't know about you, but when I heard that Oliver Stone was going to make a four part interview with Russia's president Vladimir Putin, I was pretty excited. I was looking forward to learning more about what was going on in Moscow under Putin's leadership.

After all, Russia and its president have been all over the news lately. It's hard to imagine anyone not having heard about Russia's alleged election 'hack' in the United States, their involvement in Syria or their recent annexation of Krimea.

Having now seen all four parts of the documentary, I have to say that as a whole, this series about Oliver Stone talking with president Putin is pretty well made. It manages to keep you interested surprisingly well and is fairly entertaining too.

When it comes to the documentary, very likely the most interesting aspect of it has to do with its access and openness. At least seemingly, president Putin gives Stone an access to see a lot of things that are currently going on inside Kremlin.

In the film, probably thanks to Stone's reputation as a curious and an honest person, Putin gives a tour inside the executive office building. This complex, that is situated in Kremlin, has been strictly off limits for most westerners for decades.

During the visit inside the offices, Putin seems like a jovial and an every day person. He even apologizes to Stone and the crew for not having cleared the place for visitors, which gives an impression of openness and spontaneity.

Later on - while Putin and Stone discuss Edward Snowden - he himself drives Stone to his summer house, 'dacha'. This beautiful and historic place is where they continue their discussion about history and Russia's current policies.

Over the course of the documentary, Putin also invites Stone to watch himself play ice-hockey with legendary russian hockey players in an annual gala game. This is where Putin gets to show his skills, even though he isn't much of a player himself.

In order to show how trustworthy Russia is as a 'partner', Putin even lets Stone and the filming crew watch a live feed of an on going air strike in Syria (picture above). This, if anything should convince that Russia is open and can be trusted.

When it comes to this film's substance and things that matter, I guess a case can be made that the documentary isn't that hard hitting. It's fairly obvious that the purpose of the series isn't to be too hostile or confrontational towards Russia.

In fact, Stone's documentary is so Putin friendly, that it has been purchased by one of the state controlled networks in Russia. This clearly indicates that people in Kremlin are fairly happy with how the the series turned out.

Still, Stone being mostly cordial towards Putin in these discussions doesn't change the fact that the documentary has merit. At least in my view, Putin manages to make a lot of good points over the course of the film that are hard to argue against.

For example, when it comes to Ukraine and the annexation of Krimea, Putin has a relatively good explanation for it. The annexation - at least in his view - was more or less a consequence of a neocon/CIA-backed coup attempt that didn't work as planned.

When it comes to Nato, it's not a secret that the defense organization has been aggressively expanding towards Russian borders over the last 10+ years. Almost all the countries that were part of the Warsaw pact have switched sides and are now against Russia.

When it comes to Russia battling Isis in Syria, it's true that Russians are doing most of the air strikes. Even though they're also responsible for most of the collateral damage, they're the only country operating there at the behest of the Syrian government.

Naturally, the most currently 'important' aspect of the documentary has to do with the U.S presidential election and how Russia supposedly 'hacked' the election. This is what might probably interest the U.S. audiences the most.

Even though it's apparent that Putin doesn't seem convincing when he talks about the Russians not spying on the U.S. government, these hacking claims still seem far fetched. They don't seem likely considering all those other things that we know.

After all, as Putin keeps pointing, the biggest reason for the hacking claim is to distract us from what happened during the democratic primary last year. Hillary's victory against Bernie was a result of cheating and unfair electioneering.

According to Putin, even if Russia was responsible for the DNC hack, everything that was leaked was factual and correct. These leaks were truthful and showed how the fix was in for neoconservative Hillary Clinton.

Putin argues that this is one of the main reasons that the neocons and the so called mainstream media in the U.S. are so firmly against Russia. These exposes of corruption are the reason why the U.S. corporate media is all about blaming them 24/7.

At least in my opinion, these arguments that Putin makes, are mostly fairly logical and make sense. Even though one might not agree with everything that he says, I think it's safe to say that he makes at least some good points.

In that sense, if nothing else, this documentary about president Putin serves as a reminder of how little in general we know about current world affairs. It serves as counter propaganda against what we see on the news and read from the mainstream press.

As a whole, even though it's true that Stone doesn't always follow up with his questions, that doesn't mean that the documentary as a whole doesn't have value. It doesn't mean that it doesn't inform its audience or challenge our view points.

On the contrary, one of the best things about the series is that it shows how incredibly knowledgeable and informed both Stone and Putin are about history. Both clearly know what they're talking about and put us in the audience to a test.

In the end, the series leaves it up to us to decide what is true and what is not. It's up to us to decide as arm chair historians how much of it we're willing to believe and what are the views that we might and might not agree with.

In that sense, if you feel like spending time with a respected film maker and the leader of the Russia, you should probably give the film a chance. You should give it a chance and check how good the series is and how much you'll like it.

As a whole, Oliver Stone's interviews with president Putin not only is an informative documentary, but in my opinion, it's also a documentary that keeps you entertained and makes you want to learn more about history and current world affairs.

Monday, June 12, 2017

There are no shortcuts in interactive storytelling.

Anyone who knows anything about storytelling and writing, knows that it's not an easy craft. It's not easy to come up with a story and characters that your audience is going to find relatable and worth following.

This is especially true when it comes to storytelling that has to do with gaming. It's not easy to come up with a story based pc or a console game that has the ability to keep you entertained throughout its 10 hour plus length. 

So knowing that creating a story driven game isn't easy, it shouldn't come as a surprise that there have been attempts at finding new solutions to the craft. There have been attempts at finding new ways to tell a story in games.

Very likely the most 'ambitious' new approach to storytelling has had to do with 'choices' and how we as gamers are supposed to be more in charge of the story. We are supposed to be able to make decisions that affect how the game turns out.

What this basically means is that when we're playing the game, at some point we'll face situations where we get to choose what happens next. We get to choose between a couple of options that have to do with what our protagonist does.

This means that during the game, perhaps our main character wants to make a decision where he saves another character's life. Or perhaps he simply decides to take another route to a destination, thinking that it would be the best way to solve the problem.
  
When it comes to this kind of approach to gaming, it needs to be said that it hasn't been met with universal praise. Lots of gamers have pointed out how this 'let the gamers choose' doesn't work nearly as well as one might hope.
 
For example, gaming companies tend to exaggerate how much players can actually affect the storylines in their games. In most cases the important parts in the story can't be changed at all, no matter how we choose over the course the game.

Yet, a much bigger problem with this concept has to do with how the writers and the producers might get too preoccupied with the concept. They might get too invested in it and forget the basics of the game and how storytelling really works.

For example, when I played 'Quantum Break' last year, it was obvious that the producers had forgotten the basics of storytelling. They didn't pay enough attention to their story and their premise so that the characters and the storylines would have worked.

Instead of making sure that the story as a whole was coherent, the writers were too obsessed with how 'precious' their idea and concept was. They kept micromanaging their story threads and 'choices' that we as gamers would be making.

Not surprisingly, Quantum Break tanked when it came to both its critical reviews and its sales. Despite a massive push by Microsoft, the game didn't manage to sell even 10% of the copies that Uncharted managed to sell on Ps4.

In that sense, when it comes to writing and producing games that have to do with interactive 'choice' storytelling, we should be cautious about how we approach the concept. It's a challenging idea that requires a lot of effort and talent in order to work.

As far as I'm concerned, letting gamers 'choose' what happens too easily leads to writers cutting corners. It too easily leads to muddled storylines that feel derivative and contrived instead of feeling organic and natural.

Even though it's true that the concept might require a lot of effort and planning from writers, that by itself doesn't mean that much. It doesn't automatically mean that the end product is going to be any good or that it's going to make sense. 

On the contrary, we shouldn't forget that quality storytelling always has to do with simplicity and making things as easy and as enjoyable as possible. It's about coming up with storylines and characters that are clear, well motivated and relatable.

In that sense, if you're not willing to take these aspects of the craft into consideration, things aren't going to work out for you. Your 'ambitious' project won't work, no matter how hard and no matter how much you're willing to work.

Instead of creating a solid product that almost everyone can enjoy, you'll create a disappointing and a lackluster game. You'll create a game that lacks quality, because you didn't pay attention to the basics and because you didn't pay attention to things that matter.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Cursing doesn't make your show 'cool' or 'edgy'.

Even though I'm someone who's a proponent of free speech, I'm not someone who likes to read stuff that contains unnecessary bad language. I don't like when people use profanities without having a good reason for it.

This standard also applies when it comes to watching television shows and movies. Even though I do enjoy watching current shows like South Park, when it comes to entertainment, in general I'm not a fan of obscenities.

In that sense, it shouldn't really surprise anyone that I don't like watching HBO's 'Veep' at all. I have huge problems watching this series that tends to derive all of its hipness from its excessive use of bad language.

By that I mean is that whenever I try to give 'Veep' a chance, watching it more or less makes me feel physically ill. It makes me sick in my stomach to watch all those characters using foul language for no reason at all.

For example, the latest episode that aired a week ago was so full of profanities and ugly language that I had to stop watching it. I had to go for a short break before I managed to continue and finished the episode.

As a whole, this season 6 episode 6, 'Qatar' was so obscene, that I managed to count no less than 50 instances where inappropriate language was used. All those things happened during this episode that lasted 27 minutes.

Over the course of it, there were so many cases where an f-bomb was dropped for no reason at all. Curse words like f*** and s**** were used by almost all of the characters more than three dozen times during the length of the episode.

Even worse than the frequent f-bombs were the sexual references that were used to describe characters and their actions. It was simply shocking to watch Julia-Louise Dreyfus spout stuff like 'Do I need to pull out my c**t and cut it in half?'.

Needless to say, not once during the episode did I feel that the use of foul language was justified or made sense. There wasn't a single case where I felt that using these obscenities made the script or the episode better.

On the contrary, in every single instance it was blatantly obvious that the writers had absolutely no clue what they were doing. They used foul language as a crutch to fool those in the audience who didn't know any better.

As far as I'm concerned, there were no storylines or characters in the episode that held your interest. There were no redeeming qualities that would have made you think that this series and its actors were creating something that was worth your time.

As a whole, it's super embarrassing to note that Veep actually has managed to win the best comedy series Emmy two times in a row. It's so incredibly embarrassing that the academy has fallen for a show like this.

I mean, do these Emmy voters seriously think that it's awesome and cool that characters behave like they do here? Does anyone actually believe that this kind of stuff makes things better when it comes to getting quality shows and getting people to watch tv?

At least when it comes to me, there's nothing cool about using obscene language like it's used here. There's nothing funny about constantly making fun of others, cursing and humiliating them using words that would make any reasonable person blush.

In that sense, the fact that the writers and the producers on 'Veep' so willingly resort to awful stuff speaks volumes about them. It's so sad that they think that using foul language and obscenities would make them look good.

Unfortunately for them, the excessive swearing and the use of obscenities doesn't work. It doesn't work and makes it even more obvious that the series is so hopelessly toothless and that it doesn't have anything meaningful to say.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The revival of Twin Peaks doesn't work at all.


Even though I'm someone that likes to watch tv shows and movies, I've always had problems watching stuff that is a bit out there. I've never been that big of a fan of shows or films that try to be weird for the sake of being weird.

As a writer, whenever I have my television on, I tend to watch shows that are fairly simple and that have a relatively straightforward premise. I expect that the stuff that makes enough sense and that it can keep me entertained.  

Nevertheless, a couple of days ago I noticed that a somewhat 'weird' series was being revived on television. David Lynch's 'Twin Peaks' was coming back after its 25 year break, so I thought that I should give it a chance and see if it's any good.

Having now seen the first three episodes that have aired, I have to say that the relaunch for 'Twin Peaks' hasn't been worth the wait. The new series hasn't been good and the positive reviews for it seem to be based more or less on hype.

When it comes this new season, the biggest problem with it has to do with how it's written. The screenplays for the first three episodes have been incredibly lacking and haven't had almost anything interesting going on in them.

As fortunate as it is, this new Twin Peaks simply doesn't have coherent storylines that you could follow. The murder storyline and our main character (Kyle MacLachlan) being in some kind of existential limbo doesn't work at all.

As weird as it is, every episode so far has mostly consisted of scenes where almost nothing happens. There's very little dialogue, sounds, action, music or anything in any of these scenes that tend to go on forever.

For example, when it came to the latest episode that aired, the third episode had like fifty-five minutes of static nonsense and only like four minutes of actual story. This is completely ridiculous and totally unacceptable even for a weird show like this.

In comparison, the original series that aired during the early nineties wasn't this much about being weird for the sake of being weird. It wasn't this empty and so utterly lacking in content compared to the revived series.

As far as I can still remember, the original Twin Peaks was about actually having interesting characters and a solid storyline. It was about a murder mystery and about who had murdered Laura Palmer in cold blood.

When it came to the original series, those fascinating things like the haunting music, the  atmosphere, the weird settings, characters and mysteries were just the icing on the cake. They were not the only things that mattered.

In any case, when it comes to this new season, I don't see how I could go much further with it. I don't see how I could see myself watching through all the fifteen remaining episodes of Twin Peaks that are still going to air and that haven't been shown on tv.

As far as I'm concerned, this revival is pretty big failure based on the first three episodes that have aired. It's hard to imagine how the show could start to get better and how it could start to magically make sense again.

In that sense, if you haven't seen this new season of Twin Peaks yet, you have been warned. As unfortunate as it is, this new season isn't any good and is something that can't be recommended for almost anyone.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Hollywood's so called 'liberals' still don't get it.

Like many others, I wasn't happy at all about last year's presidential election in the U.S. There's almost nothing good or positive to say about what happened during the 2016 election cycle and how things eventually turned out.

I was especially disappointed when it came to the primaries and how Bernie Sanders got cheated out of the nomination for the democrats. It was absolutely pathetic how the 'elites' in the party and the so called 'liberal media' treated him.

Nevertheless, now that Donald Trump has been our new commander in chief for about four months, things have changed at least a bit. There are certain things that have given me hope and that make me feel optimistic about the future.

For example, senator Sanders who got cheated during the democratic primaries, hasn't given up and hasn't taken a step back. He hasn't given up his fight for a better and a more fair America for the poor and for the middle class.

On the contrary, Bernie, who has been touring the country, now has actually become the most popular politician in the country. He has a +24 favorability rating, which is huge compared to president Trump (-15) and Hillary Clinton (-20).

Not only has Sanders become even more popular, his ideas and his platform have become more popular too. His fight for single payer health care system has become so popular that even the majority of republicans are now for it.

Yet, it seems that there's one faction in the U.S. that hasn't learned anything about the election and its aftermath. The elites of the democratic party and the liberal media still don't have a clue about what's going on.

Instead of taking a good look in the mirror and trying to change the party's direction, all the democratic establishment now talks about is Russia. Whether we're talking about Bill Maher, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah or Rachel Maddow, it's all Russia 24/7.

According to them, Russia 'hacked' the election and made Clinton lose against Trump in swing states. It was the Russian influence that cost her the presidency and that Hillary's own scandals had absolutely nothing to do with how things turned out.

The only problem with this kind of rhetoric and propaganda is that it's simply not true. Whether we're talking about wikileaks or internet trolling, there's no evidence that Russia itself managed to have any kind of influence on the election.

I mean, when it comes to Trump's connections to Russia, it's probably true that he has some shady business dealings with them. These dealings that might have to do with money laundering, are probably why he fired FBI's director Comey last week.

Still, these 'connections' have likely nothing to do with how the presidential election turned out. These murky Russian deals don't explain why the electorate decided that it was time for an outsider and why the swing states voters rejected Hillary Clinton.

In reality, the real reason that Trump won the election against secretary Clinton was that she stood for absolutely nothing. Her campaign was simply based on protecting the establishment and not changing the status quo at all.

As unfortunate as it is, Hillary and the rest of the elites lost because they didn't pay attention to the problems of the poor and the middle class. They didn't have any kind of respect for the ordinary people who are not well off and are suffering.

For her and her establishment supporters, the election was more or less a vanity run and an attempt to show how precious and wonderful the establishment is. It was about showing how they are better than the rest of us peasants.

In that sense, everytime that I turn on shows like Real Time with Bill Maher or Rachel Maddow's program on MSNBC, I can only roll my eyes. I can only laugh and feel pity when I look at their condescension for us 'purists' that didn't support their Queen.

For them, the problems with the country don't have to do with the democractic party or how deeply corrupt and bought the politicians are. None of their problems are the kinds of things that would make people actually vote in the elections.

For them, the only 'real' problems that exist have to do with Trump, third party voters and Russia. None of the problems that they acknowledge have to do with healthcare, education, Wall Street cronies, fracking, jobs or minimum wage increases.

In that sense, when it comes changing direction in the country, most of these media elites and career politicians don't have a clue about what the problems in the country are. They don't care because they aren't connected to reality anymore.

In the end, when it comes to this whole thing, we can only hope that honest politicians like Bernie Sanders and his progressive supporters manage to bring some change in the system. We can only hope their efforts start to pay dividends at some point.

After all, the truth is that there are so many major problems with the political system and how policies are being implemented. These are the issues that need to be addressed, before things can finally start to get better.

Unfortunately for us, as long as these liberal sellouts stay in denial, the country and its citizens will continue to suffer. Things in congress won't get any better and progressive legislation has no chance of getting passed in the house and the senate.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

How good has Prison Break's 5th season been?

Like many others, I was a pretty big fan of the series 'Prison Break' when it aired ten or so years ago. I used to love watching Wentworth Miller's main protagonist doing his best to get himself and his brother out of the prison.

During the show's later seasons, it's true that the series started to run out of organic ideas and started to get implausible. Especially when it came to its 4th season, it was a bit hard to get interested in our characters anymore. 

So in that sense, I was a bit surprised when I noticed that Prison Break was being revived as a limited series. I was a bit puzzled about getting the show back, especially knowing what had originally happened in the series finale.

In any case, having now seen the first six episodes of 'Prison Break: Resurrection' that have aired, I have to say that the relaunch has been a bit of a mixed bag. The series definitely hasn't been as good it was during its first, or its first two seasons.

By that I mean that there have been quite a few moments that haven't made enough sense or that haven't been well made. Many of the moments during the first episodes have felt forced and have felt like the writers didn't think things through first.

For example, when it comes to stuff not making sense, there's no way that Dominic Purcell's character and his companions would have been able to fly to Jemen to help Michael Scofield (Miller). There's no way this would actually be possible in real life.  

Moments like Theodore Bagwell getting a new mechanical arm have felt too convenient too. It's a bit too much to ask that our favorite anti-hero would magically get rid of his handicap that he got from the initial series.

Also, like probably many others, I haven't been a big fan of the Dr. Sara stuff. The twists and turns where we have been guessing whether Dr. Tancredi's new husband is one of the villains haven't been interesting.

Still, having said all these things, it can't be denied that the best part of the series has had to do with Wentworth Miller's character. He, as a man with a plan - who always finds ways to get himself out of trouble, is why we watch the show

At least in my opinion, Miller's protagonist is the most likable character on television. He is what makes 'Prison Break' so inherently watchable and what makes millions of us root for him and for his plight every week.

His incredible likability is why the latest episode that aired this week was so watchable. It was so utterly entertaining to watch Scofield being alone in the middle of the desert trying to come up with solutions to his problems.

Situations and moments like these - at least in my case - make me forget that this new season hasn't exactly been that well written or that plausible. All those moments where his character gets to use his genius mind make me overlook the show's flaws.

In that sense, knowing that there are still three more episodes that are about to air, we can only hope that there's going to be as much stuff as possible about Miller's character and that the series is going to keep its focus on him.

As far as I'm concerned, the more the show focuses on him, the better 'Prison Break: Resurrection' works. The more we get plotlines about Scofield figuring how to get out of harm's way, the better that is for all of us in the audience.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Don't end scenes with jokes that don't fit in.

One of the things that bothers me about comedy shows is that too many of them try way too hard to be funny. Too many of them try to make you laugh even when there's no need for that and when the situation doesn't warrant comedy.

As unfortunate as it is, a lot of producers seem to think that no matter what the situation is, you always need to have jokes. Regardless of whether they make sense or fit in, these jokes have to be in there anyway.

For example, yesterday I watched an episode of HBO's comedy series 'Silicon Valley'. This episode S4E02, 'Terms of Service', had a lot of things in it that made me scratch my head and made me wonder what the writers were thinking.

By that I mean that the episode had moments in it, where it was clear that the scenes and how they were wrapped didn't make sense. It was clear that the writers were cramming in 'funny' stuff just for the sake of it and without thinking things through first.

For instance, when Stephen Tobolowsky's character started to get serious about what to do with the company, it felt like the episode was going somewhere and had a purpose. We in the audience started to get interested in what was going on.

After all, 'Silicon Valley's' problem as a series has been that it has felt too much like a sketch show instead of a series that you could believe in. In too many cases it has been difficult to believe in the characters and the storylines on the show.

So for once we had a scene and a moment where it felt like something might actually happen and that the stuff would make sense. It was exciting to see Tobolowsky's character start talking about the 'middle-out' idea and how it would help the company.

Yet, when the scene reached its conclusion, the attention was diverted from the idea to a weird joke about Matt Ross's character wearing a wig. The writers simply moved on to stuff that made no sense, which took the energy out of the scene.

Later on in the episode, things didn't really get any better when it came to these jokes. At least in my opinion, things got even worse when it came to 'buttoning' scenes with stuff that didn't fit in and that came out of nowhere.

Especially when it came to the Indian looking guy making a fool of himself and dropping those sauces in the cafeteria, you just had to facepalm in embarrassment. It was so obvious that the writers had no clue what they were doing.

As a whole, all these things happened because the writers either didn't believe in their characters and storylines enough, or because they were too confident about their ideas and thought that it wasn't possible to make mistakes with these scenes.

Unfortunately for them, these scenes stuck out like a sore thumb to the audience. They were so easy to spot, that any reasonable person who was paying attention to the episode was probably able to pick them up without any effort.

In the end, when it comes to unnecessary jokes like these, I'm not saying that this is just a problem for a show like Silicon Valley. Having scenes that end with horrible jokes is not something that only this series does all the time.

On the contrary, this kind of writing can frequently be found on other shows too. Popular sitcoms like Modern Family and The Big Bang Theory have also been guilty of making these kinds of amateurish mistakes lately.

In that sense, I just wish that writers for comedy shows in general would take their jobs a little bit more seriously. I just wish that they would respect us in the audience a little bit more than they're currently doing.

As far as I'm concerned, all these needless jokes only hurt these sitcoms. These awful 'jokes' make these shows worse and make us in the audience feel that our needs aren't being met when it comes to getting quality entertainment.

Friday, April 28, 2017

How much do you need to 'practice' writing?


When it comes to writing, one of the most important things about being a scribe has to do with practicing. Anyone who wants to become a competent writer has to be willing to practice and has to work on his craft on a regular basis.

No matter who you are, it never hurts to spend some time writing and trying to create something worthwhile. There's no downside to practicing with your keyboard and trying to come up with something that others might want to read.

At the same time, when it comes to becoming a better writer, we shouldn't forget that 'writing' is not the only way that you can get better at your craft. There are other ways too that can help you to become a better scribe.

For example, when it comes to myself, I try to spend at least some time every day reading what others have managed to write. I try to find stuff that could be worth my time and that I could perhaps recommend for others to read too.

When I keep reading what others have written, I can always evaluate their work. Whenever I read news pieces and articles, I get to evaluate whether the stuff is well written and whether I would have written it the same way.  

When it comes to other forms of entertainment, like watching scripted shows on television, I also pay attention to how well they are made. I try to pay attention to whether these shows make sense and whether they have any value as a whole. 

In these cases, it's certainly true that I tend not to have that much patience as I have with printed stuff. I tend to give up on most of the television shows pretty easily and go do something else when I get frustrated. 

Still, whenever I'm either reading or watching anything, I almost always learn something. I learn something, even though I might not consciously realize that my brain just got more information to process and to learn from.

In that sense, it's difficult to say how much each of us have actually practiced the craft. Since the process is so intertwined with reading and following all these sources of entertainment, it's hard to say how much we have practiced over the years.

At least in my case, the fact is that I have learned a lot about writing when I watched all those tv shows and films. It's safe to say that I would never have become a writer, had I not watched quality shows like The Simpsons and Ally Mcbeal.

These are the shows that taught me about the importance of characters and the importance of plausible storylines in writing. These are the shows that taught me how important it is to be real in order to be funny.

In the end, when it comes to writing, none of us who decide to 'start' practicing are going to start from scratch. We all have read, watched and paid attention to things that have helped us to become better with the craft.

At least in my opinion, if you think that you should start writing, but don't feel that you know enough about the craft, you probably shouldn't be too worried. You shouldn't think that you're not good enough and that you don't have it in you.

On the contrary, the fact is that you have already learned a lot in your life. The fact that you have read so many books, watched so many movies and watched so many television shows counts a lot more than you might think.

In that sense, if you feel like writing, you should just give it a go. You should give it a go, because at least in my opinion, there's a pretty good chance that you'll become a solid writer and that it's going to happen a lot faster than you had thought at first.

Friday, April 21, 2017

There are so many (bad) shows on television.

When it comes to my television and film watching habits, there's only so much 'entertainment' that I can stomach every day. I can watch only a certain amount of stuff, before I start to feel sick inside and have to turn off my television.

As a person who spends a lot of time writing about tv shows and movies, I'm not someone who likes to watch that much tv. I don't think that spending too much time watching movies or television is a good thing at all.
 
I thought about this whole thing especially after I stumbled on a site that listed all those current tv shows on networks and cable. This site listed all the shows that had either been renewed or that still had a chance of being renewed.

When I kept clicking and browsing the site, I was more or less shocked to find out that there were actually so many television shows on different channels. I didn't know that there were hundreds of scripted programs that were airing or that had aired this season. 

For example, I had absolutely no idea that there was a drama series called The Blacklist: Redemption. I had never heard about this particular show and was pretty dumbfounded that a series like that was actually out there.

When I went further with my search, I noticed that were tons of other shows too that I hadn't heard about before. These shows even had similar sounding names, like Chicago P.D, Chicago Justice and Chicago Med. 

Altogether, there were about 60+ scripted television programs that were still to be renewed and were waiting for their fates to be decided. Only the biggest hits - like Modern Family and The Amazing Race were locks to return.

When it comes to me not having ever watched any of those drama shows, I can't say that I have that much of an incentive to give them a chance. There's nothing about any of these shows that would make me think that I should watch them.

After all, when you have programs like Chicago PD, Chicago Justice and Chicago Med, you know that they're going to be mass produced junk. There's no way that they would have any real quality to them and that they would have value as entertainment.

In that sense, I shouldn't be that disappointed that I haven't heard about these shows before. I shouldn't feel bad that in my country these programs are prescreened and those in charge have decided against acquiring them.

At the same time, as a writer and a supposed entertainment critic, I really got caught by a surprise here. How on earth does Hollywood find all these writers, actors and directors that are willing to produce all these tv shows?

In the end, none of this changes the fact that we in the audience shouldn't watch that much television. Just because there's an endless supply of tv channels and shows doesn't mean that they're actually worth watching.

On the contrary, the more we watch these uncreative and unimaginative programs that have no value, the worse it is for us. The more we're exposed to bad shows, the worse that is for our mental health and for our well-being.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

'Trial & Error' gets everything wrong in its pilot.


Almost certainly the worst thing about a sitcom pilot is that it doesn't make you laugh. It's hard to imagine anything more annoying than watching an episode of a comedy series that doesn't have anything funny in it.

A bad sitcom pilot doesn't work because it doesn't have a plausible or a believable premise. A bad pilot episode doesn't hold our attention and lacks interesting or relatable characters that could entertain and that could make us laugh.

Below I'll try to list most of the reasons why NBC's latest comedy series, 'Trial & Error', doesn't work at all. I'll try to point out why the series is so unwatchable and why you probably shouldn't give the show a chance.

1) It's very difficult to make homicide look funny.

Who came up with the idea that a premise where a lawyer defends a murder suspect could be a source of laughs? Who thought that this concept could possibly lead to a show that people could find entertaining and worth watching?

Historically speaking, it's true that there have been quality comedies that have been about lawyers, like Ally Mcbeal and Night Court. There have also been comedy shows that have been about murder cases, like the legendary Police Squad.  

At the same time, this sitcom is pretty much all about the murder and things that revolve around it. I don't see that anyone - regardless of who the writer is - could make the show even remotely plausible, interesting or enjoyable.

2) The 'star' of the show is unlikable and unrelatable.

In the very first scene of the pilot, our murder suspect calls 911. In this 'funny' phone call, the suspect is actually more interested in talking about his cable company than talking about how he found his wife dead on the floor.

Not long after that, when the press arrives and the murder suspect gets arrested, he 'accidentally' kills his dog for the 'laughs'. I found this to be an extremely offensive scene and have no idea what the writers were thinking.

Othan than that, this character, played by the usually wonderful John Lithgow, is incredibly unbearable. I don't see how anyone could be rooting for him or how anyone could care about what was going to happen to the guy.

3) Most of the characters are super incompetent.

How does our defense lawyer. played by Nicholas D'agosto, get things done when you take into account how incompetent his supporting team is? I got triggered by how stupid and utterly inept the rest of the cast is.

I mean, it's not like our main protagonist is the sharpest knife in the drawer, but the rest are beyond hopeless. The secretary can't even write and her 'dyslexia' is played for the stupidest laughs that you could imagine.

In contrast, when it came to characters on a supposedly 'dumb' show like Police Squad, even Frank Drebin was a relatively smart guy. His sillyness was always unintentional and was based on clever dead-pan humor that made you laugh.

4) The pilot has no momentum and the jokes are awful.

It's hard to believe how stupid the pilot was and how it didn't seem to have any direction whatsoever. This was apparent especially when the defense team kept brainstorming about who the real killer could have been.

As you might have guessed, they weren't concerned about the fate of their client and were doing other things instead. Playing hangman on a chalkboard was supposed to be funny and was supposed to make us in the audience laugh.

If that wasn't bad enough, making jokes about how the real culprit was a mexican (food) or a chinese (food) was even more pathetic. It was obvious that the writers of the series had no clue what they were doing.

5) The mockumentary approach is super tired.

Like many others, I've never been a big fan of the 'talking heads' style mockumentary approach to sitcoms. In most cases, it's a fairly cheap stunt to get away with exposition and to make you look hip and cool as a writer.

In reality, any time that you use these talking head 'interviews', you're pulling your audience out of the the story. This mockumentary style disrupts the flow of the episode and makes you uninterested in what's going on.

To make it even worse, this series also uses random 'break the fourth wall' scenes. There's almost nothing that spells desperation more than those moments where the characters look into the camera for no reason at all.

6) The series just doesn't have anything to offer to us.

In the end, it shouldn't come as a surprise that I couldn't stomach watching 'Trial & Error' for more than one episode. I gave up on it, because the sitcom had nothing to offer and because it made me so frustrated and angry.

At least in my opinion, a 'comedy' series about a lawyer defending a murder suspect can't really work. It can't work because the concept goes too much against the fundamentals of comedy and what we can find funny as human beings.

In that sense, I can't recommend 'Trial & Error' for anyone that enjoys watching quality tv. I can't recommend it, because the pilot gets everything wrong and because the series doesn't have any idea what it's supposed to be about.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Why are most remakes of television shows so bad?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how much I liked watching old television shows like The Love Boat. I wrote about how these classic shows made me feel better about life and managed to put me on a better mood. 

Like so many others, I liked these tv shows because the writers and the producers behind them didn't take their audience for granted. I like that they took their jobs seriously and tried to make sure that we in the audience were entertained.

So when you look at how popular shows like The Love Boat were, it shouldn't surprise anyone that there have been attempts to remake them over the years. There have been multiple attemps to revive many of these popular shows.

Unfortunately, in pretty much every case,  these attempts have been pretty massive failures. Instead of being able to capture the magic of the originals, these new remakes and reboots have been extremely disappointing.

Probably the biggest reason that they have been such big failures is that the producers behind them didn't understood what made the original shows so popular. They didn't pay enough attention to what made these old ones so good in the first place.

Instead of making sure that the remakes respected the premise of the original shows, the producers thought that those things didn't really matter anymore. They thought that anything would go, as long as the title of the series remained the same.

One of the best examples of a bad remake is the attempted reboot of the classic series The Love Boat. This was the revival that happened almost 20 years ago, when networks and producers were starting to run out of original ideas.

When it came to this Love Boat 2.0, it's obvious even based on the opening credits that it didn't work at all. Everything about it felt wrong and made you wonder what on earth the producers and the writers were thinking.

When it comes to the characters on the show, none of them felt friendly or likable compared to the original series. Pretty much all of them were unlikable and had that 'douchy' 90s look, which made you want to punch them in the face.

The way these characters behaved on the ship was simply atrocious. The characters drank on duty, the captain's kid kept telling everyone that he's above the law and nobody seemed to have any sort of integrity on board of the ship.

When it came to the storylines in this remake, that wonderful upbeat feeling that you got from watching the original show was missing too. Everything that you saw on your tv screen felt superficial and pointless.

There was no clear idea of what the storylines and the story arcs were supposed to be about on this new version. There was no humor, romance or uplifting comedy that made it so easy to keep watching the original series.

As a whole, when it came to this new Love Boat, it's safe to say that the producers were simply coasting on the old show's reputation. They were oblivious to what had made the original series so watchable and popular.

In the end, that is the biggest problem with almost all of these remakes and reboots. Those in charge of making them think that they don't have to try that hard and that they don't have to respect the spirit of the original series.

They think that no matter what they are going to do, the new show is likely going to be as solid as the old one was. They assume that everything that they're going to do is going to work and that there is no risk of failure.

Unfortunately for them, that is not how you remake or reboot an entertaining tv show today. You don't recreate a quality series by forgetting what the original was about and what made it work in the first place.

On the contrary, remaking a good series is all about respecting the original premise and its characters. It's about respecting what made the original work and making sure that you understand what the new series should be about.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

I already miss visiting IMDb's message boards.

When it comes to getting  information about movies and television, there used to be no better source than the internet movie database.  This site, also known as Imdb.com, was the place to go if you wanted to know more about your favorite films and tv shows.

As most of us know, the site was especially useful when it came to its message boards. This is where users gave their opinions, shared thoughts and gave links to stuff that would make it easy for us to get more information about our favorite shows and stars.

The reason I'm writing about this, is because a bit more than a month ago, boards for the site were closed. For some reason the owners of the site decided that these forums weren't needed anymore and that they would get rid of them.

The official reason for this decision was that the message boards 'no longer provided a positive experience for the users' and that 'the decision was made only after careful consideration and was based on data and traffic.'

As one might have guessed, these explanations weren't really based on facts and reality. It was pretty obvious that the available data didn't match with the conclusions and that the management team was  simply making excuses to justify their decision.

After all, almost everyone who visited the site thought that the boards were full of useful content. The forums helped us to make decisions about whether to check a movie or whether we should give a certain tv show a chance.

When it comes to the real reason that the boards were shut down, it's fairly obvious that there was outside influence and pressure to get rid of the forums. It's a safe bet that IMDb's management - owned by Amazon - didn't even make the call.

By that I mean that film studios obviously didn't like the idea that there would be honest discussions about films and tv shows. They didn't like the idea that users would be able to give honest and easily accessible feedback about their products.

For big film studios, it's much better if we just visit official pages and sites that are full of fluff. It's much easier for them if they get to control the narrative and direct us to sites where negative opinions don't get any visibility at all.

After all, that's exactly what IMDb's management suggested we should do, if we wanted to discuss films in the future. They stated that we should go to facebook or join specific 'fan' sites, where our specific 'needs' would be better met.

Of course, when it comes to this whole thing, I'm not saying that there weren't any problems with IMDb's message boards. I'm not saying that everything was great and that these discussion forums couldn't have been any better.
 
On the contrary, when it came to these boards, almost every discussion forum had their specific posters and trolls that didn't add anything to the discussion. These users were either too fanatical, ignorant or just trying to get a rise out of others. 

At the same time, when it came to the site as a whole, clearly the positives outweighed the negatives. It's super obvious that the boards served a real purpose and added to the experience like no other site has been able to do.

In that sense, I genuinely miss visiting Imdb's boards and getting information about my favorite tv shows on a daily basis. I miss these forums and just wish that someone would be able to come up with a  replacement for the boards soon.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Character reactions in Modern Family's S8E17.

One of the most important things about being a writer is that you have the ability to write stuff that makes sense. As a writer, it's crucial that you know how to write characters and storylines that are plausible and feel real.

The reason for this is that the more your characters and your situations make sense, the easier it is for us to relate to what's going on. Making these storylines plausible makes us care and in most cases, makes us come back for more.

I was thinking about this thing especially when I watched Modern Family's episode S8E17. This episode, 'Pig Moon Rising' had a lot of problems with it when it came to the characters reacting in their storylines. 

The first big problem I had with the episode had to do with the storyline that involved Mitchell and Cam. This storyline felt genuinely contrived and the character reactions to the so called 'problem' was completely over the top.

In essence, this story was about how Mitchell was exercising in their garage where he accidentally manages to drop an old vase. This old vase happened to cointain someone's ashes, which in turn created our problem.

This could have been plausible and relatable storyline, had the ashes in the vase actually belonged to another human being. In that case things could have felt real and you could have felt why Mitchell got so upset about it.

In reality though, the vase didn't contain the ashes of a relative, but the ashes of Cam's favorite pig instead. This made the whole story pointless, especially knowing that Mitchell was fully aware of what was in the vase.

This overreaction wouldn't perhaps been that bad, had there not been a huge underreaction in the second storyline. This one had to do with Phil, Claire and Luke, and was something where things made even less sense than in the first one.

In this story Phil tried to Help Luke, who had been rejected from every college that he had applied to. Since None of the universities that he tried to get in had accepted him, Phil wanted to use his connections to get Luke in to his alma mater.

When it came to this story in the episode, I was pretty much okay with it up until when it came to Phil and Claire and going to the university. This is when things started to get really weird and you just had to shake your head.

So what happened was that the person who was in charge of letting Luke in that college was willing to make an exception. He was willing to make an exception - as long as his old buddy Phil was willing to return the favor too.

What really bothered me was not that the person was asking Phil for a favor, but how Phil actually reacted to it. He didn't want to return the favor - that only involved revealing the secret to his decades old magic trick.

I mean, we were talking about the future of Phil's son versus some stupid trick that he had performed twenty five years ago. He should have said yes without any hesitation and should have been the happiest person on the planet.

It made absolutely no sense that he would actually consider not returning the favor. It was completely unbelievable how he reacted - just like it was totally implausible how wildly Mitchell reacted to his own 'problem' that involved those ashes.

In the end, when it comes to learning from this episode, it's pretty clear that there was a huge mismatch between the reactions of the characters and how they should have reacted. Especially when it came to the latter storyline, things made no sense at all.

At least in my opinion, the writers should have made sure that there was a balance between the situations and how the characters reacted. There should have been a certain amount of harmony so that the storylines could have worked.

Had they managed to balance the characters and the situations, there would have been a good chance that the script would have worked. In that case, the episode would have been plausible, relatable and entertaining to watch.

Unfortunately, since none of the characters in these situations made sense, and since there was no harmony in these storylines, 'Pig Moon Rising' as an episode turned out to be implausible, unrelatable and at least in my opinion, pretty painful to watch too.

Monday, March 13, 2017

I like watching shows like 'The Love Boat'.

One of the worst things about today's television shows is that most of them are not entertaining to watch. Most of the shows that currently air on tv networks are fairly uninteresting and tend to be pretty depressing to watch.

As unfortunate as it is, if you want to watch uplifting and entertaining stuff, you have to go back in time. You have to go back in time almost 30 years, before you can find shows that are about making people happy and making you feel better about life.

When it comes to these uplifting shows, one of these was of course 'The Love Boat'. This series that took place on a luxurious cruise ship, entertained us for nine whole seasons during the late seventies and the early eighties.

Very likely the biggest reason that the show was such a big hit, is that it managed to take us out of our everyday lives. It managed to break our routines and took us to a place where most of us could only dream of going.

When it came to the premise of the show, 'The Love Boat' was something different than what we were used to. Unlike every other series out there, it was more about its guest characters than it was about its main characters.

I mean, even though the show was about captain Stubbing and his loyal crew members, the storylines always revolved around its guest passengers. They and the beautiful setting - the cruise ship - were the real stars of the show.

So every week on the show we would have different kinds of storylines that would take place. There was the 'funny' storyline, there was the 'romantic' storyline and there was also the 'dramatic' storyline that had to be resolved.

What made this episode structure work, is that there was something for everyone. You had laughs for those enjoyed comedy, you had dating for those who enjoyed romance, and you had drama for those who wanted to be emotionally moved.

In hindsight, when it came to these storylines, it's true that sometimes the story threads tended to be a bit too predictable. In many cases you were able to predict too easily all the twists and turns that would happen during the episode.

After all, no matter what happened, you always knew that things would be resolved at the end. No matter how bad or hopeless things were at some point during the episode, the show always found a way to give us happy endings.

Still, despite this admittedly safe and predictable approach, 'The Love Boat' managed to be entertaining and uplifting as a whole. It managed to be lighthearted fun without offending anyone or without being mean towards anyone.

In the end, that is something that is super rare when you look at today's television. 'The Love Boat's' uplifting and idealistic approach is something that shouldn't be overlooked when it comes to us trying to find quality shows on tv.

All in all, when it comes to me watching television, if there's nothing good on any of the channels to cheer me up, there's a good chance that I'll go online and try to find one of the classic episodes of 'The Love Boat' to watch.

I'll watch these episodes, not only because they help me to forget my worries and make me a bit happier - but also because they remind me that as a writer, I don't always have to take everything in life too seriously.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

HBO's 'Big Little Lies' is a solid drama series.

Lately I have tried to pay a bit more attention to watching television again. Over the last few days I've tried to find out whether there might be anything decent out there that might be worth my time and worth watching.

Naturally, I wasn't having my hopes up, since we're not that close from reaching the end of current tv season. It was probably a bit unrealistic to expect that there would be anything even remotely enjoyable for me to watch.

So knowing this all, I was more than surprised when I noticed that HBO had just started airing a new series on their network. A much anticipated drama series 'Big Little Lies' had just started airing two weeks ago. 

Very likely the biggest reason that the series - based on a best selling novel - was so anticipated is because it has so many famous actors on it. With A-listers like Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon and Shailene Woodley, the expectations were bound to be high.

The other big reason that the show had so much potential is that it's written and produced by my favorite scribe David Kelley. He, as a ten time Emmy winner, is the guy who would likely be able to do the best selling novel justice.

So after having seen the first two episodes that have aired, I have to say that like most critics, I have mostly enjoyed watching the series. In most aspects, 'Big Little Lies' has been well made and is pretty entertaining. 

By that I mean that the series has a solid, relatable premise that it can easily build on. All these three main female characters have their 'big, little' secrets that keep unfolding as the series and the story progresses. 

Among other things, in the first two episodes there's stuff that many of us can relate to. Feelings of inadequacy, problems with kids, being left outside of the group and domestic violence are issues that most of us can identify with.

Later on in the series - as is apparent based on the very first scene of the pilot episode - things are going to get more dramatic. Someone's going to be murdered and the show is going to be about the homicide and why this murder happened.

When it comes to acting on the show, it shouldn't surprise anyone that 'Big Little Lies' is a well acted series. These three A-list Hollywood actresses are giving their everything and making sure that you find their characters believable.

When it comes to how the drama series is written, I also don't have that much to complain about. The storylines written by Kelley have been fairly interesting so far, and the scenes haven't had a forced feel to them.

The only real problem I've had with the show is that those constant jump forwards and those 'talking head' interviews don't really work. They just pull you out of the story and disrupt the flow of the episodes a bit too much.

Still, despite this minor issue with the show, I've been mostly positively surprised by the quality of the series so far. As someone who isn't exactly the biggest fan of relationship dramas, things seem to look relatively good here.

All in all, we can only hope that HBO's 'Big Little Lies' is able to keep its quality high throughout its seven episode run. We can only hope that the show is as good as the hype and the expectations would make us believe.

After all, there simply aren't that many good quality shows on tv at the moment. There aren't enough  shows on television that could inform us, that could entertain us and that could make us care about what's going on.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Having a short attention span can be a good thing.

Even though I'm a somewhat patient and a persistent person, I have to admit that there are times when I tend to get frustrated. Sometimes it's just really difficult to pay attention to things that aren't interesting or that don't make enough sense.

Whether we're talking about writing something, reading an article or a book,  listening to a podcast or watching an episode of a tv series, I tend to lose my focus fairly easily. If there's no reason to continue and to keep paying attention, I'll move on to something else.

The reason I'm writing about this is because even though everyone talks about the importance of being able to focus and about the ability to concentrate on things, sometimes having a short attention span can actually be a good thing.

For example, when it comes to writing, a very big part of it has to do with rewriting and trying to make your script better. This rewriting process is about having the ability to take a fresh new look at what you've managed to write - over and over again.

In essense, being good at rewriting is almost all about clearing your mind and about you getting a new pair of eyes. It's almost all about getting that new perspective and being able to look objectively at what you've written before.

Once you start rewriting and once you take that fresh look at your material, you should have the ability to see where you went wrong. You should be able to figure out what are the things that don't work and what you could do better.
  
The truth is that the faster you're able to reset your mind, the faster you'll also be able to make corrections and adjustments to your material. This way you'll be able to notice that you're not making sense and that you have to change things.

If you're not able to see the forest for the trees and if you're not able to get out of your bubble, things aren't going to work out. It's not good if you get too focused and don't notice that you took the wrong route and lost the plot hours ago.

Of course, when it comes to having a short attention span, I'm not saying that it's okay to not pay attention to things and that you don't have to be focused. I'm not saying that you don't have to put in the effort and that writing good stuff is easy.

On the contrary, all of us who care about writing quality material have to be willing to work hard and to be able to concentrate on our tasks. We all have to be willing to spend a lot of time writing before things are going to work.

At the same time, there are clearly times when you just wish that you had figured earlier that you were wrong. You just wish that you would have noticed earlier that you spent most of the day writing stuff that didn't make enough sense.

In these cases, it probably would have helped if you had gotten some fresh new perspective earlier. A shorter attention span and doing something else might have gotten you on the correct path earlier and would have made your task at least a little bit easier.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

You need to have a curious mind as a writer.

One of the most important aspects of being a writer is that you are as truthful as possible. No matter what you're writing about and what your views are, it always helps that your points and opinions are based on facts and reality.

Naturally, being able to be truthful is a lot more difficult than one might think at first. If you want to be able to figure out how things are, you need to have an open mind so that you could find out how the world works.

The reason I'm writing about this is because I don't think most of us are that interested in figuring out how things are. Most of us 'normal' human beings are a bit too willing to look for safe, easy answers and don't care enough about the truth.

For example, when it comes to things that matter, like politics, too many of us don't know what's good for us. We either don't read enough and get good information from quality sources, or we're victims of all kinds of propaganda.

This lack of knowledge and sophistication is a lot more understandable for those who are busy with their lives. It's easier to symphatize with people who are exhausted after a hard day's work and who just want to get relaxed.

After all, what's better than taking it easy after spending your day fixing other people's problems. It's easy to understand why you wouldn't be that interested in knowing what kind of awful things had happened to others that day.

However, when it comes to us writers, it's not okay to not pay attention to things that matter and that are important. It's not okay to think that it's someone else's responsibility to investigate and to figure out how things are.

For us writers, when something interesting and controversial happens, it's our responsibility to start digging. Whether we're talking about things like Trump's cabinet picks or stuff like pizzagate, it's our job to find out what the truth is.

After all, when it comes to writing, usually the only way that you can come up with anything meaningful is to be aware of reality. We can only go so far when it comes to coming up with our own stuff and when it comes to using our imagination.

In the end, if you're someone who wants to be a writer, it's super important that you don't take reality and truth for granted. You need to be curious about how the world works and be aware of what we as people are capable of doing, in good and bad.

As far as I'm concerned, if you're willing to work hard and devote yourself to following human behavior, there's a chance that you could come up with something good. If you have a real talent, there's a chance that you could make a difference.

On the other hand, if you aren't curious about reality, you shouldn't become a writer. You shouldn't become one, because at least in my opinion, there's already enough noise out there that  doesn't make sense and that makes us confused.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

'Snowden' is a genuinely important movie.

Even though I have watched a lot of movies lately,  I wasn't that enthusiastic about watching Oliver Stone's drama film 'Snowden'. I didn't feel that the movie would be able to entertain me and keep me that interested.

Even though the film had gotten a fresh rating at rottentomatoes (62%  positive), I thought that the critics had simply been kind to the movie. It was a bit hard to believe that the film would eventually be worth my time.

Nevertheless, after I finally managed to watch the film last week, it turned out that my expectations had been wrong. 'Snowden' not only is a really well made movie, but it's also a genuinely important film that is full of substance.

When it comes to the film, it's a dramatized version of recent real life events. It's about a fugitive Edward Snowden, who in 2013 disclosed to wikileaks and British newspaper Guardian details about the illegal spying activities that the U.S government was involved in.

The movie begins when we see our idealist main character at a boot camp. Our protagonist, a high school drop-out is trying to become part of United States marine corps, where he could fulfill his duties and responsibilites as a U.S citizen.

When it turns out that he suffers from multiple stress fractures and is physically unfit for service, he has to try something else. Snowden tries to recruit himself to the services of U.S intelligence, where he could use his amateur computer programming skills.

At the admittance tests, it turns out that he manages to pass the programming test faster than anyone else - and gets hired despite lacking formal education. He quickly rises up in the ranks and becomes a system administrator for the CIA.

While working for the 'company', he starts to notice that not everything that occurs seems to be legal or justified. He witnesses cases where it's clear that laws are being broken when it comes to our privacy and our constitutional rights.

Later, when he resigns and starts working for the NSA and its contractors, things don't seem to be any better. He becomes increasingly bothered by the arbitrary drone strikes, the invasion of people's privacy, and the framing of innocent people. 

Eventually, he decides that enough is enough and that something has to be done. He decides that it's his responsibility to become a 'whistleblower', who is willing to risk his own life in order to serve and inform the public.

So when it comes to this film as a whole, in my opinion 'Snowden' does a really good job at keeping us in the audience entertained. At least in my case, I didn't have any problems in following the movie during its two hour plus length.

Very likely the biggest reason that the film works so well is because of its main protagonist Edward Snowden. The film and its expertly written screenplay manages to pay attention to this interesting and courageous character.

The screenplay works because of its structure, which allows the scenes to go back and forth in time between Snowden's career. This storytelling device manages to add to the film, especially when it comes to the meeting with the reporters in Hong Kong.

When it comes to the acting in the film, I was impressed with Joseph Gordon Levitt as Snowden. He not only looks the part and sounds like his real life counterpart, but he also manages to bring understated dignity to his character.

I was also impressed with the supporting characters. Shailene Woodley as Snowden's girlfriend, Rhys Ifans as the high ranking official, Zachary Quinto as Glenn Greenwald and Nicolas Cage as a disillusioned NSA employee were all super solid.

I think it also has to be mentioned that unlike in some other films directed by Oliver Stone, 'Snowden' feels balanced and doesn't try to be too gimmicky or too flashy. It's one of the most low key approaches that the veteran writer-director has managed to take.

As a whole, even though the film looks good and is stylistically shot, there's no sign of JFK's quick cuts or experimentation with different camera lenses. The film has almost a relaxed feel even though it's categorized as a suspense movie.

All in all, when it comes to judging 'Snowden' as a film, I have to admit that I was more than surprised by its quality. Even though I had my doubts about watching it at first, it turned out that I was wrong about how entertaining the movie would be.

As far as I'm concerned, 'Snowden' is a surprisingly well written, well acted and a well directed movie. It's a film that not only manages to thoroughly entertain us, but it also makes us think and inspires us to become better as human beings.

So if you want to see a film about a modern day hero, I couldn't recommend Oliver Stone's 'Snowden' more. It's easily one of the most important films in recent years and it's a film that we all should see at some point.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Less is usually more when it comes to writing.

One of the things that really bothers me as a writer is watching episodes of tv shows that don't make enough sense. Watching these episodes might make you think that you didn't pay enough attention and that there's something wrong with you.

In most cases though, it's not your fault that you didn't 'understand' what happened on your tv screen. Most of the time the blame is on the writers, who for some reason weren't able to deliver coherent and entertaining scripts.

To give you an example, let's look at an episode of Modern Family that aired a couple of weeks ago. This episode, 'Ringmaster Keifth' (S8e10), managed to make very little sense, even though it was packed full of content.

One of the biggest problems with the episode was that it didn't know what it was supposed to be about. The episode had so many things going on and went into so many different directions that it made my head hurt.

The episode basically had three different premises in it:  Phil and Claire were at an amusement park waiting to get on a scary ride, Jay & Gloria were celebrating the new year's day in their backyard, and  Cam & Mitchell were about to roast a full-sized pig. 

These premises by themselves weren't that bad and could have lead to a decent Modern Family episode. Had the writers used their imagination and expanded from these premises organically, we could have seen something entertaining.

Instead, it didn't take more than a couple of minutes before everything fell apart and all the story openings were ditched. Each and every one of these couples got an additional storyline that made it impossible to pay attention to what was going on.

For example, Phil and Claire's storyline about being at the amusement park switched to them coming back to their home. They arrived at their home, where they met Phil's dad with his new girlfriend, who was revealed to be Phil's first crush.

The story thread about Jay and Gloria spending time with their mischievous bulldog switched quickly to them talking about Gloria's past in their attic. This 'new' stuff came from nowhere and I couldn't understand it at all.

Still, by far the worst storyline was the one with Cam and Mitchell preparing that pig. This storyline very quickly switched to them bizarrely ordering another already roasted pig through a phone service - ran by Cam's former boyfriend (Kelsey Grammer).

It made absolutely no sense that - only five minutes in - they would fail at roasting the pig in the ground. Even if they did screw up with the fire, they still had six more hours to get it done - and the pointless melodrama with Frasier could have been avoided.

Needless to say, after the episode ended, all I could think was that the writers had completely dropped the ball when it came to the script. None of the storylines made sense and I don't think I managed to smile even once during the episode.

In the end, I guess what we should learn from the whole thing is that you aren't supposed to mess with your storylines too much. It's not okay to think that just because your original storylines and premise weren't strong enough, you can forget that they even existed.

On the contrary, when it comes to writing, you should always follow your premise and keep things as simple as possible with your storylines. You should make sure that your characters and your situations are going to be as plausible as possible.

If you're not willing to do this, there's almost no chance that your script as a whole is going to work. There's no way that you're going to write a good script based on ideas that aren't coherent and that go in every possible direction.

All in all, in the case of Modern Family's episode S8e10, the writers simply forgot the basics when it came to writing quality stuff. Their script made no sense, the story was impossible to follow and watching the episode made most of us in the audience unhappy.