Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Pendulum of My Mood

I've been feeling manic/depressive.

At a time when a LOT of good things are happening for me, I can't quite stop worrying. I worry about my current gig, I worry about the gig that starts Sunday, I worry about another, pending gig, that is a big deal, and may, or may not happen. A lot of it is out of my hands, which is the worst part. I cannot abide feeling at the mercy of fate.

I do hit highs, I took yesterday off, to try to recharge a bit, and it a point. I'm happy to say drums and bass are laid down for the first track of Hayoth, Volume 3, tentatively titled Hello Blisters. I also managed to play Arkham Knight to 92% finished...I love that game, BTW.

But I didn't leave the house for a full 24 hours, and I did work out, but it was lackadaisical and perfunctory. I just feel kinda gross, fat and spent.

Of course, then I do the show, or start looking at my stuff for the next show, and I get excited. Or I pick up the guitar, and it's invigorating.

But everything else feels like such a slog, right now. so much feels like it's just happening to me, rather than feeling some control over my life. I am in the rapids, and I'm hanging on, long can it last? I want some solid footing.

I need to do better for myself, I need to make myself better. I need to find the confidence and the best parts of me, to be the best person I can. Which I don't always succeed at.

I wish I could just Crtl+Alt+Del and reboot.

Worth Remembering

 "Life works in such contradictions, you know? Don’t get me wrong, I really want everything I do to be appreciated, to find an audience, I want people to think I’m good at what I do, I want to feel good at what I do. We all have a self-worth in our lives that unfortunately and by virtue of being part of human existence we look outside ourselves and see how we’re doing with our peers. So, I’m there very much. But at the same time, I don’t relate to the importance of it all with the depth that I used to—when I used to say I didn’t care about it. When I used to go, “I don’t care about any of it.” I really cared then. I just didn’t know how to acknowledge it or express my caring. I didn’t understand it. Now, I still care, but I care less really. And it’s freed me up. That’s the irony, it’s freed me up." - Colin Farrell

I've always like Colin Farrell. Yeah, he had a string of bad choices, a lot of actors do, and some problems with addiction, which I certainly know about.

But, man...In Bruges alone is a huge thing. And I encourage you to watch Phone Booth if you haven't. That movie destroyed me when I first saw it. It has so much to say about our insular society, and who we are as people, right now, all within the framework of a pretty entertaining thriller.

Stuck In My Head 7.29.2015 - WITCH HUNT

Welcome to the United States, circa 2015.

Witch Hunt (Part III of the Fear Song Series)
by Rush

The night is black
Without a moon
The air is thick and still
The vigilantes gather on
The lonely torch lit hill

Features distorted in the flickering light
The faces are twisted and grotesque
Silent and stern in the sweltering night
The mob moves like demons possessed
Quiet in conscience, calm in their right
Confident their ways are best

The righteous rise
With burning eyes
Of hatred and ill-will
Madmen fed on fear and lies
To beat and burn and kill

They say there are strangers who threaten us
In our immigrants and infidels
They say there is strangeness too dangerous
In our theaters and bookstore shelves
That those who know what's best for us
Must rise and save us from ourselves

Quick to judge
Quick to anger
Slow to understand
Ignorance and prejudice
And fear walk hand in hand...

Monday, July 20, 2015

Marvel Films to Date, Revisited

Revising my list of  Marvel films I made in October of last year. In order from worst to best, based on having seen the class of 2015.

12 - Thor: The Dark World 
11- Iron Man 3 
10- Avengers: Age of Ultron
9 - Thor 
8 - Iron Man 2 
7- The Incredible Hulk
6- Guardians of the Galaxy 
5- Ant-Man
4 - The Avengers
3 - Captain America: The First Avenger 
2 - Iron Man 
1 - Captain America: The Winter Soldier

As we move on to Phase 3, or whatever....I have to admit, I am having a hard time getting excited for either Civil War, which looks like Age of Ultron - More of the Same on paper, and Doctor Strange, because I am simply Cumberbatched out.

ANT-MAN (2015)

Still my favorite poster of the year
Thank God for Ant-Man.

Let me say that again....

THANK GOD for Ant-Man.

Just when Marvel's The Avengers: Age of Ultron made me despair for both the Marvel Cinematic Universe AND Joss Whedon, somehow the Kevin Feige-led company has managed to snatch a victory out of the jaws of impending backlash. Ant-Man had long been developed by Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Shawn of the Dead, Hot Fuzz), who unceremoniously left the project weeks before filming, after having cast the film, presumably due to Marvel's corporate-synergy mindset and insistence that every Marvel film should be able to be readily bolted into the unfolding continuity of the series.

So, Wright and his partner Joe Cornish pulled the ejector seat, and now-committed leading man Paul Rudd and Adam McKay (Anchorman) jumped in to try to re-format the story into something that would appease Fiege's need to insert Ant-Man (along with virtually every other character who's ever appeared anywhere in the MCU) into Captain America: Civil War. Meanwhile, Peyton Reed (a personal favorite for no reason other than Down With Love) stepped into the director's chair and proceeded to wrestle the visual challenges into line.

When a filmmaker with such a committed following as Wright leaves a project that he's been shepherding for so long (this project has been in development since BEFORE Iron Man) so dramatically, there is always calls of doom. I've been hearing that Ant-Man would be Marvel's first disaster for over a year.

Well, it's not.

In fact, it's probably the best template on how to proceed with the MCU from this point on. The connections to the rest of the franchise are obvious and clear, but never bog down the story, or get so lost in setting up crap for 2-3 movies down the line as to become annoying. This is streamlined, concise storytelling within a shared universe, and it works. The only point it doesn't is an ill-considered, rather perfunctory trip to Avengers HQ and a fight with The Falcon (Anthonny Mackie). A sequence glaringly not written by Wright, Cornish, Rudd or McKay, but by Civil War scribes Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, and directed not by Reed, but by the Civil War directing team of Joe and Anthony Russo.

Now, I actually like that creative team, but the sheer mercenary nature of that choice is kind of gross. It's not that the visuals don't line up, Marvel has perfected "bland" for the visual palate of their shared stories, but just that it's so vastly removed from the story being told, and the connective tissue so weak, you just know you're watching a trailer for the NEXT film, rather than a organic part of this story. The one you're invested in RIGHT NOW.

That's a goddamn shame, because this film is worth focusing on. Paul Rudd has provided Marvel with a charming leading man to match Robert Downey Jr, and without all the smugness and smarm. I confess, I have had more than enough of RDJ's Stark at this point. Rudd gives the audience a ultra-appealing lead, and while he doesn't reach the perfection of Chris Evans' Steve Rogers/Captain America, he's the kind of lead an audience can build a long-term connection with.

The film is simply a lot of fun to watch, funny, clever and exciting. Michael Douglas hits the perfect flinty tone for Hank Pym, Scott's mentor and the original Ant-Man. Evangeline Lilly finally makes an impression with me as Pym's daughter, Hope Van Dyne, and Cory Stoll provides a fun, if undercooked villain (which is the case more often than not with Marvel films).

The macro-photography that allows us to see the world from Ant-Man's perspective is never less than visually arresting, and the effects pretty seamless. It's really odd to even talk about because what it does is allows the film to function as a story. I never doubted what I was seeing, and so I could focus on Scott's story.

The story is straightforward and pretty basic. A heist film, and a fairly decent one. All with the underpinning of two fathers trying to re-connect with their daughters, and it makes the story matter. I don't want to harp on it, but, at no point during Age of Ultron, save the side trip to the Barton farm, where the film suddenly came alive for a few minutes before rushing headlong back into dullness, did I really feel like what I was watching matters. It was a cog in a machine. A part of a multi-billion dollar investment that needs to be fed.

By keeping small (no pun intended), Ant-Man made me care. I cared what was happening, and how it would affect the characters I had grown to care about. There was no need to have endless scenes of Avengers putting people on buses out of the combat zone to create a false sense of danger, because the people in danger were right in front of me. The story was immediate, fun, exciting, and worth your money.

Even in 3-D.

Post-Credits: There are two post-credits scenes, and, like the film, the successful one is tied to the story just told rather than the one coming next year.