I saw some initial trailers for this upcoming film, and thought it looked okay, but wasn’t particularly amazed. However, Harry at AICN has now seen the finished product and is raving about it. He writes,

It is here, where it is time to witness legend unleashed, heroism, sacrifice and the sort of greatness we are blessed to see envisioned from the imagination of the Dark Ages and trumpeted upon the whiz-bangery of 3D High Tech 21st century spectacle.

I have to admit that there is a primal quality to the ancient legends like Beowulf. The reason that Lord of the Rings was such a success was because it sought to tap into that primal source, and creating the depth to replace centuries of lore took JRR Tolkien decades. If the Beowulf movie truly brings the ancient legend – without any Hollywood tropes, but with its integrity intact – to the modern screen, then it really will be a spectacular epic.

more strike links

Interesting article in Forbes about the WGA strike. Coming from a conservative business publication like Forbes, this kind of rhetoric is surprising:

“When 12,000 Hollywood writers traded pencils for picket signs this week, they took a huge risk. Even riskier: not striking. Losing to the studios now could doom their union as television gives way to the Internet.”

The Wall Street Journal also chimes in, in one of their blogs devoted to digital media, noting that the dispute is more akin to splitting a tip jar at Starbucks rather than a big bag of money:

Writers, quite reasonably, want to be paid more as their work moves online–to the Web, cellphones and anywhere else that gadgets send content in the future.

It’s an especially pointed desire, given that they were essentially shafted in the last digital transformation when DVDs and videocassettes appeared.

As John Aboud, who is a strike captain for WGA, noted in a comment to my post last week on the strike, that even with all the money Hollywood has made, most writers are not well paid (although those at the tippy-top are copiously compensated).

“Median earnings of all members of the Writers Guild is only $5,000,” he wrote.”“How can that be? About 48% of members do not earn any money from writing in a given year. Of those writers who do make some money, one quarter earn less than $37,700 a year.”

That means that being a writer is far, far less lucrative than grad school. This blows my mind.

Somewhat more tongue in cheek, here’s a vision of what TV might look like without the writer’s Guild:

Is it wrong to admit that I’m also a sucker for the word, “Guild” ? I blame the 3 Ds (Dune, Dungeons, and Dragons)

Ron Moore walks the picket line

Battlestar Galactica’s head honcho is walking the picket line, too. He tells an anecdote:

“I had a situation last year on Battlestar Galactica where we were asked by Universal to do webisodes [Note: Moore is referring to The Resistance webisodes which ran before Season 3 premiered], which at that point were very new and ‘Oooh, webisodes! What does that mean?’ It was all very new stuff. And it was very eye opening, because the studio’s position was ‘Oh, we’re not going to pay anybody to do this. You have to do this, because you work on the show. And we’re not going to pay you to write it. We’re not going to pay the director, and we’re not going to pay the actors.’ At which point we said ‘No thanks, we won’t do it.'”
Moore, like most of his fellow writers, was extremely bothered by the studios attempting to designate content shown on the web as “promotional,” even when that content has sponsors and advertisers. “Their position continues to be that this is ‘promotional.’ That they can have it promotional material, free of charge and they can make you do the work and they don’t have to compensate you for it and they don’t have to credit you for it. It’s undercutting everything that the writers have built up in other media. The notion that just because it’s on your computer as opposed to your television set is absurd. It’s an absurd position for them to take, but, you know, if they can pull it off, they’re at the moment of a watershed change of how your media is delivered to you. Your television and your computer are going to become the same device within the foreseeable future. That reality is staring us in the face.”

Also worth mentioning is Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski’s explanation of what is at stake, and this anecdote about “profits” which is really quite eye-opening:

I have a share of the net profits of B5. But by the terms of the deal that was made, WB takes 60% of all monies in overhead, and can charge almost anything they want against profits. If a stage used on some other WB project being shot in Bolivia burns down, they can charge it against B5. Consequently, B5 has never shown a profit even though it’s made half a billion dollars just in DVD sales, leaving out foreign sales, syndication, merchandising and so on.

the WGA strike

I confess that I don’t know a lot about the TV and movie business. There’s a general “pox on both your houses” vibe going around, but after some casual reading I came across this which basically made me a believer. The writers are asking for 8 cents per DVD, and some cut of the internet distribution profits. That seems reasonable, and even kind if humble once I learned more details about the feudal nature of the industry. From the link,

Last night I went on, clicked on “The Office.” You can watch entire episodes of 10, 15 series. OK. You click on the office, what do you get? You get a commercial for Fidelity Investments. Then you watch the cold open, then you get a commercial for Target. They are monetizing these episodes already. OK?

Carlton Cuse was telling me “Lost” does not run a second network rerun. So writers on that show are not getting the typical nice check you usually get when working on a successful series. That goes right to the Internet. They’re making money on it. We’re not making money on those.

We must realize that that’s the kind of issue we cannot let stand. That’s the way my kids watch TV. They hear about a show, they look for it on the Internet. Soon, when computers and your TV are connected, that’s how we’re all going to watch. OK? Those residuals are going to go from what they are toward zero if we don’t make a stand now.

There’s a lot more, and it seems clear to me who to root for. If you want to read more on the issue, here’s some background on the negotiations and evidence that the strike will have ripple effects to advertisers. Lastly, there’s a blog run by WGA members that gives you their perspective.

To be honest, I hope the strike does serious damage to the established order of things. Any system where Firefly gets canceled and “Ugly Betty” gets greenlit is so ridiculously broken that it needs replacing anyhow.

it could happen

This isn’t as far-fetched as it seems as first glance:

If reculsive artist Bill Watterson has his way, it will soon become illegal to own copies of his beloved Calvin & Hobbes comic strips — and even Stupendous Man may be powerless to stop him.

Breaking a long period of seclusion in which he granted no interviews and issued virtually no public statements, Watterson, creator of the wildly popular and critically acclaimed “Calvin & Hobbes”, has announced that he is seeking the total destruction of all copies of the strip in any form.

ok, it is far-fetched, but it isn’t as far-fetched. It’s pretty far to fetch, admittedly. But it just isn’t as far to fetch for Watterson, whose pre-Calvin artwork established him as pretty far ahead in the fetching department.

Firefly screenshots

I was rewatching Firefly to take a break from Last Exile, and was moved to take some screen shots from the pilot episode. One thing that strikes me about this series is how hilarious it can be. For example, the joke at which the crew is laughing about here:


has me laughing aloud every single time. I know the joke is coming; it just never gets old. Hearing Wash tell Mal, “You’re a psychotic!” with genuine admiration is just icing on the cake.

this scene is pretty hilarious too, in a much sweeter way:


Anyone with a sibling is bound to smile at what Simon says to River: “well, you’re a dummy.” Context is, of course, key.

Levity aside, the drama of this scene also always feels like it’s my first viewing:


Actually, their first encounter with that ship is even more so, but I’m too lazy to go back and get the screencap. You really buy into the threat; every character plays the tension perfectly even in casual conversation about the Reavers. Memorable quote: “If we’re lucky, they’ll do it in that order”. Heh.

At any rate, she doesn’t look like much:


but I am already as fond of her as I am of old NCC-1701.

an airborne landscape

I’m almost halfway through the series. I recall Shamus has blogged about Last Exile a while back and found the ending disappointing. I’ve got a bad feeling about this. Still, I’m in now, and committed to see what happens.

One of the things I have really enjoyed about the series thus far, which Shamus and others have also mentioned, is how cool the aerial combat scenes are. In fact, it goes beyond that – Last Exile combines Podracing (a la Star Wars Episode One), 3D dogfighting (a la Star Wars X-Wings vs Ties) and capital ship combat (a la Star Trek II).

I mentioned in my last post that the world made little sense thus far, but given the events in the last episode I just watched, I think I can make some speculations. Below the fold, of course… Continue reading “an airborne landscape”

Last Exile

I am only 4 episodes in thus far, but I am enjoying this series. The little girl, Al, is just a delight – her scene with the stuffed animal and later, her innocent roaming about the ship, and thinking she was unobserved, were just charming. Klaus is also pretty appealing as a straight shooter protagonist.

I really haven’t noticed the CGI, it isnt intrusive (except for smoke, which uniformly sucks). The landscapes of the world they inhabit are just too piecemeal to really appreciate. Unlike the vistas in gedo Senki, to take an example, you never see anything but a local shot and thus there’s no reference information about what the terrain is on a larger scale. You’re always zoomed in. The only time there is a clear view is up in the sky, and then it’s just a monotonic cloudscape. So, I dont have any sense of what the world is like. I hope we do get a better overview eventually.