Tag: Nando v Movies

We’re through the Endgame

We’re through the Endgame

For days, all I’ve heard about Avengers: Endgame is that it is perfect. There was not a single bad thing said about the 22nd Marvel Cinematic Universe film.

That couldn’t be true.

This movie is three-hours long. It simultaneously culminates two-dozen films, sequelizes a massive blockbuster and ends stories for characters we’ve known over 10 years.

There was no way it could balance that and still come out perfect — even if everyone seemed to agree otherwise.

Without spoiling me, by the way. Thanks y’all!

But I had an open mind. The family watched Infinity War last night, then Dad and I did a deep dive into the One Marvelous Scene series on YouTube to prepare.

I even wore my finest Marvel socks for the occasion:

Three hours later, we left the theatre. Then came chores. Almost three more hours later, I sat down to write.

I still don’t understand how it was actually perfect. Better than I was led to believe.

Because this movie isn’t just a beautiful, all-encompassing endpoint for a decade-long story. It also makes every other MCU movie feel more important in hindsight.

I mean every movie.

I don’t care about Thor: The Dark World. But this movie genuinely made me care about it.

Endgame even improved characters.

Pepper Potts never really did it for me, in part because I hate Gwyneth Paltrow and her Goop pseudoscience.

But the way she plays into Tony Stark’s arc made me care about Pepper Potts beyond her cute version in the Nickelodeon cartoon.

In fact, the arcs given to each of the original six Avengers are about as fitting as I could ever hope to create (without spoiling them — yet).

Granted there is one thing about the movie I’m not a huge fan of in concept. Like Infinity War, Endgame starts with no context and uses the assumed familiarity of long-time fans to set up obviously telegraphed emotional ploys. Both dramatic and comedic.

The opening scene is Hawkeye spending time with his family on house arrest, paralleling Ant Man & The Wasp. I cringed in anticipation, as they make it obvious we’re about to watch the snap’s effect on this previously-unseen Avenger.

But the scene’s obvious dramatic intent didn’t make it less effective.

The moment is escalated by becoming Clint’s jarring driving force for the story, and informing his growing connection to Black Widow.

There are a dozen scenes in the movie that I could take a similar fine-toothed comb to because they’re blatant emotional ploys. But they’re effective and well-deserved story beats for MCU fans, as obvious as they are.

There are also references to jokes and cameos from other Marvel movies that are obvious callbacks, but emphasize the fleshed-out relationships between characters as far-flung as Thor and Rocket Raccoon, or Captain America and Spider-Man.

Hell, even things like “girl power” scenes that have gotten the studio crap from brainless fans in the past have seemingly been cranked up just to rub it in people’s faces.

But even this moment, which may have gotten an eye-roll out of me in a less well-crafted film, was arguably one of my favorite scenes. Because it emphasized how the MCU has developed some fantastic characters, who all got time to shine in the…

Big CGI Fight Scene™ between two armies. A scene that actually epitomized my feelings toward Endgame.

Again, in literally any other movie I would feel numb watching a mindless clash between mostly faceless mobs that includes moments of character fan service and callbacks.

But Marvel has elevated that mindless action to such a high degree for their decade-long viewers that it creates transcendent filmmaking.

In his One Marvelous Scene video, Nando v. Movies read a quote from this A.V. club article that perfectly captures my thoughts on how the MCU reverses action movie conventions. It’s worth a read.

When that army battle ended, my heart was racing so hard that I got worried.

Then five seconds later, the movie left me crying at three different scenes that wrapped up multiple stories supremely well.

All in a movie where I laughed out loud, and got to appreciate unexpectedly beautiful character dynamics like Iron Man and Nebula.

But on top of all that, this movie genuinely made me excited for a post-Endgame Marvel.

I thought once the core six were gone, I’d feel more apathetic because characters like Dr. Strange, Captain Marvel or Black Panther strike me as better ensemble heroes.

But torches were passed. And certain movies staring certain characters with certain plots sound amazing as a result.

There isn’t much I can do from here besides gush and spoil things.

So I’m going to do that. In the meantime, go watch Avengers: Endgame.

Believe the hype. This movie is, truly, a Marvel to behold.


Featured Image courtesy of IMDb

Continue reading “We’re through the Endgame”

Another day, another exam

Another day, another exam

The first day back from Spring Break went off pretty well all things considered!

Last night I expressed some concern about a Cognitive Psychology exam that would be greeting me after a week of lazing around.

My feelings were mixed about it. On the one hand I gave the material zero attention over the break because I was busy hanging out with friends and doing internship stuff, so I couldn’t help but imagine walking into a nightmare. On the other hand the class’s first exam was very easy, so I didn’t feel the need to spend a lot of time studying.

Luckily the lazy side of my intuition won out.

The test was rather easy, and even though I haven’t seen the official grades come out (we took it at 1:00 p.m. today), I did my own basic calculations off of what I didn’t know and figure I’ll get a 92 percent at the lowest.

Unless I’m wrong about what I don’t know, of course. But my intuition is usually solid.

The thing that got me about the exam was how haphazardly our professor seemed to handle things. Firstly, she decided to announce that she added extra free response questions to our docket only five minutes before passing out the exam.

Would’ve been nice to get some advanced notice over Spring Break… But then again, she promised to post the kind of scantron we would need and didn’t get around to that either.

So who knows. Teachers need a week to relax too.

There was also a stretch of seven questions at the beginning of the test where every answer was “C,” which made me second-guess my choices despite knowing they were correct.

I don’t have proof that it was on purpose… But that kind of trickery always felt like a joke on behalf of professors to stress us students out.

After finishing up the exam, everything else was smooth sailing clear to nightfall.

I managed to secure my Commencement tickets, another topic I touched on last night. Even made a fun little Tweet out of it:

It was a legitimately weird process.

Spent a little bit of time in the Honors Center after that, finding out some more about another event I’m taking part in this Friday and working on my novel.

Felt good when I sent the next chunk of the story to my mentor tonight, even if Spring Break wasn’t as lucrative for the writing process as I wanted it to be. At least I’ve done something, and the more I write the better I’ll look come my presentation in May!

I also watched/listened to some cool things I suppose. The latest Mostly Nitpicking podcast on X-Men: Apocolypse. The most recent KingK video on The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks.

Lots of nice things.

That’s really all I’ve got to say for the night, though. It’s been another lukewarm kind of day with a lot of work and not much else.

Tomorrow I’ll be able to break things up with a Fire Emblem Heroes post (as exciting as I’m sure that is for you all), and Friday I should hopefully have something to write about my next Honors event.

But until then, I’ll just be here keeping up the ‘mundane day-to-day’ posts train that the end of the semester has brought out of its station.

Captain Marvel is an excellent, if flawed, lynchpin for the MCU

Captain Marvel is an excellent, if flawed, lynchpin for the MCU

So, guess who just saw Captain Marvel? The movie which Meninism Magazine voted worst blight on masculinity since Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters.

I kid. Any relation to real-life absurdist magazines or misogynistic straw polls is purely coincidental.

It’s just hilarious to me how reactionary the hate for this movie has been leading up to its release.

But that’s neither here nor there. I’m not here to make political statements.

I’m here to review a Marvel movie.

As a general disclaimer, I wasn’t excited for Captain Marvel like I was for Infinity War.

Not because of the aforementioned testosterone backlash — though I’ll admit some of the film’s advertising seemed a little too determined to prod that tiger.

I just happen to know next to nothing about Carol Danvers, so it was going to take a lot to convince me she is the Avenger’s one true hope.

Luckily, the experience was more fun than I expected and proved the heroine’s place in this narrative.

Captain Marvel stars Brie Larson as “Vers,” an amnesiac member of the Kree Empire’s armada of intergalactic warrior-heroes locked in conflict with a shapeshifting race of alien terrorists called the Skrull.

Vers has visions of a human life as Air Force pilot Carol Danvers, and winds up on Earth before her untrustworthy narrative is resolved.

There she must sort out her fractured past, flush out the invading alien threat and have buddy cop adventures with Samuel Jackson’s Nick Fury — over ten years before he starts the Avenger’s Initiative in 2008’s Iron Man.

The movie starts strong by putting the clichéd complexities of an “amnesiac protagonist” on the back burner for an in media res emphasis of the living world in Marvel’s deep space, similar to Guardians of the Galaxy.

But when things got to Earth, I became concerned.

The burst of mid-90s nostalgia pandering — complete with a Blockbuster video and Stan Lee cameo rehearsing for his appearance in 1995’s Mallrats — is fun and gives Larson a quirky “fish out of water” bit reminiscent of Wonder Woman.

I imagine it’s not uncommon to levy comparisons to DC’s female-led superhero film, but I think the better comparison is with Solo: A Star Wars Story.

My least favorite part of that origin story was the way it condensed every bit of information you know about the character’s past into the span of a week. It was blatantly referential rather than clever and story-driven, weakening Han Solo as a character.

When Captain Marvel introduces Nick Fury, dropping bits and pieces of recognizable information for MCU veterans to say,

img_2302-1

I was afraid the film would fall into the same trappings of timeline condensation.

However, it handles itself far more tactfully, and instead ties huge loose ends of a decade-long story into succinct bows. It’s, dare I say, a marvel how well Captain Marvel stands as the “inciting incident” for the rest of the MCU.

The final product is not my favorite Marvel film as an overall experience. But the wonderful cast helps solidify the movie’s place.

Jackson is a stellar second lead. His interactions with Larson, Carol’s best friend Maria (played by Lashana Lynch in a performance that stood out despite a late entrance) and the kitty Goose were solid cinematic glue.

I have to give extra props to the effects department for selling a de-aged Jackson so well over almost two hours.

The alien races’ full-makeup and costumes also worked, with Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) and Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) each nailing their roles as Kree and Skrull commanders respectively.

Thanks to them, the “alien war” serving as Captain Marvel‘s crux was far more interesting than I expected based on YouTube think pieces setting up certain Avengers as confederates due to the Skrull’s infamy in comics.

The movie also benefitted from being smaller in scale than I expected.

Everything was very interpersonal, only briefly referencing “world threatening” stakes that most superhero movies rely on. As an added bonus, this made the effects more contained, befitting plot and action where needed.

But of course, there’s the lead. Brie Larson is charming and wonderful as the kick-ass, witty, and snarky hero who growls at aliens and doesn’t need to prove herself to anyone.

I had a few smaller gripes with her character, such as the only injury she ever suffered being a bloody nose (mostly to contribute to her mysterious past) and the forced reliance on amnesia tropes as a whole.

Though that’s more on the screenplay than her performance.

It’s also worth mentioning one of my Dad’s complaints with the film: She very quickly accepts a sudden shift in perspective on [Spoilers]. That, in turn, feeds my own issue that after the character development, her powers seemed incredibly vast considering their somewhat modest origins.

That said, an action set piece at the end of the movie makes great use of visuals to show her strength and definitely sold Captain Marvel as a powerful ally in the upcoming second fight against Thanos.

The film’s score also offered some distinct positives. It relied more heavily on variations of the main theme than a glut of pop songs (like Guardians), and there was a stand out moment where Western vibes took over the melody during a one-on-one confrontation in the desert.

So that, in a nutshell, is Captain Marvel.

A solid enough Marvel flick that perhaps falters most in its primary storyline’s reliance on amnesiac origin story clichés, but makes up for it with beyond excellent world building, special effects befitting a more personal adventure (that really only got wonky once or twice) and a top-notch cast.

All playing second fiddle to the cutest cat ever committed to film.

After Captain Marvel, I’m very ready for Endgame to hurry up and hit theaters, because if the mid-credit stinger was any indication, it should be a wild ride.


Featured Image courtesy of IMDb

Ice cream passover

Ice cream passover

After Aly won big at the Dos Pueblos Jazz Festival last night, I decided it would only be appropriate to celebrate by taking her out for ice cream.

Thus, this beautiful image of us together was born.

The girl and I actually spent most of the day together. Waking up relatively early to make breakfast (Bacon and eggs? Can’t go wrong), listening to internet videos while sitting on the couch doing homework/novel-writing and, of course, getting ourselves some of that classic soft-serve frozen milk.

In the process we also made some classic lols, including the most brilliant movie script doctoring ever imagined by anyone in the history of time.

What a good gif!!

I’ll be waiting on my check, DreamWorks. Because as soon as more than ~35 people see this Bee Movie joke pulled straight out of 2017, I’ll be raking in the followers and likes for sure.

Alright all joking aside, that’s just the kind of dumb humor that flows out when my sister and I spend some quality time together.

But because I’m a terrible human being that somehow still finds Bee Movie jokes humorous, I figured I would share that quality post with the world.

Consider me inspired by Nando v. Movies recently finishing his Man of Steel rewrite.

Obviously this whole post is a little lackluster, and that’s more or less because I actually did spend most of the day either cooking or working on my Senior Honors Project. Doesn’t give me too many interesting things to share, but I also didn’t want to just leave another blank day after losing March 1 to my all-out lazy afternoon.

So consider this a passover post of sorts. Just a real quick 300 words about my day to tide you all over in the hopes that I have something more substantial tomorrow.

In the meantime, I’m going to get back to eating fancy pasta and writing. Because very rarely does my Comm Law class give out no homework, offering me the opportunity to catch up on my novel.

Looking to get past 100 pages before Tuesday.

Wish me luck.

50 shades of analysis

50 shades of analysis

So I just flew in from Fullerton, and boy are my arms tired!

Does that joke work over text?

I guess the more important question is whether that joke works considering I drove to-and-from Fullerton instead of flying, but nobody knows that.

And if I have my way, they never will.

Anyway, today was the first day of the spring 2019 semester for me. If it’s not already obvious, the whole affair has me a bit exhausted and delirious.

That being said I can’t complain about the contents of my day as much as the fact that it was required in the first place. I enjoyed my first two classes and found out that my class tomorrow was canceled, meaning I get an extra day off.

But I want to save a week-in-review post for the end — Thursday or Friday.

Thus today I’m going to go in a completely different direction and talk about something I discovered which helped keep me sane during the return to form.

While listening to the recent Split episode of Nando V. Movies‘ podcast, “Mostly Nitpicking” (which sounds like a paid plug but comes solely out of a fan’s love), I was recommended a different YouTube channel’s video series.

That series was the “A Lukewarm Defense of 50 Shades” trilogy by an analytical writing-focused channel called Folding Ideas.

Now I know what you’re thinking. “50 Shades of Grey? That series of mommy porn books from the early 2010s? That stuff was trash, why should I care?”

Trust me. I was the same way.

I’ve actually seen this video series floating around in my recommended feed considering I spend a lot of time watching similar analysis channels [Examples one and two] to both help my own writing and laugh at bad writing.

I just never cared because 50 Shades wasn’t a series I got into.

But I happen to trust Nando’s opinions because I enjoy his content, and because I am succepible to media influencers apparently.

Now I’m here to pass on that recommendation to all of you because this Lukewarm Defense trilogy is wonderful.

For the most part, especially in videos two and three, the guy is more than eager to lampoon the terrible, awful writing of the books and how they translate into terrible, awful writing in the movies.

Except it goes so much deeper than that.

The video on the first book goes in-depth on the history of translations from the fan fiction to book to movie, and offers a wealth of positives about the first book’s movie adaptation to contend with all the obvious negatives.

It succeeded in making me appreciate the filmmaker’s zeal adapting what must have been a garbage fire into something more palatable and well-crafted.

A lot of his points about things like the removal of the main heroine’s inner-dialogue making her a more self-driven and competent player in the plot are really successfully delivered thanks to an editing style that presents evidence from both mediums simultaneously.

Of course most of the positives are confined to the first book’s adaptation, considering he also goes into why the other books are worse and had worse movie making conditions.

But I never thought I would appreciate 50 Shades of Grey — the movie — near as much as I did while watching this.

That’s not even to mention how funny the guy’s content is in its own right, and how successfully he tangles brief jokes or asides into relevant points multiple videos down the line.

It’s just excellent content. Enough so that I’ll go back and watch more.

To be fair, I am somewhat more open to narrative analysis content at the moment considering I’m swinging back into more focused work on my own novel.

However Folding Ideas presents some serious, evergreen writing advice. If nothing else I’m going to think way harder about paying off plot points in my own writing because I watched this guy destroy 50 Shades for dropping the ball so often due to the original nature of its production as a serialized fanfiction.

If you have about three hours to kill, check out this mini-series. I promise it’s worth your time whether you’re into script doctoring or just laughing at terrible content.

It certainly kept me sane on day one of the semester, and for that I owe Folding Ideas a lot.


Featured Image courtesy of Teesta31 via Wikimedia Commons

Balance is key

Balance is key

As promised earlier, my time to go radio silent for finals has come and (hopefully) gone. This weekend was just a bit too full of work for me to spend extra time coming up with blog post topics.

That said, it was a very productive weekend! I finished my nine page paper for Evolution and Creation:

Which considering how much I was dreading the assignment, the fact that I banged it out in a day or two was wonderful — and I got a lovely talking point out of it.

Then on Sunday I took my online Visual Communications exam. Was a bit harder than I expected it to be, but still squeaked out with an 84 percent…

… That was immediately balanced out by an exceedingly curved 110 percent on Exam 2. Not sure how it happened, but it means I’ve retained a high A in the class.

I also spent time putting my study guides together for two Psych exams. One of which, Learning and Memory, is officially over and done!

I got an 82 percent, though I can’t complain because even that score retains my A in the class.

Thus, all I have left for the semester is my cumulative, non-curved Sensation and Perception exam and a presentation on my aforementioned paper.

Then I am free.

I’m going to try to do a blog post every day during finals, probably culminating with a semester-in-review sort of thing. I’ve found that having some distractions to keep the stress of exam season balanced out has been especially helpful during this semester’s class cycle.

In fact, the rest of this post will be talking about the media I consumed this weekend to break up all of my studying and writing woes. Hence the Thanos reference: Studying and fun in perfect harmony.

I have TV, Movie and Video Game stuff to talk about, so it should be (mostly) fun! Plus this keeps me from the existential dread of my next exam for a wee bit longer.


Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

I want to do a full-scale post all about Smash in the early days of Winter Break, so I’ll keep things brief right now.

Ultimate has been my ‘play a few hours a night’ de-stressor, and boy have I needed that. The process of unlocking every character one-by-one was a great experience of gradually forgetting and being reminded of how many fighters there are in the game.

Yet the biggest thing to discuss (especially with online servers still being kind of trashy) is the sheer amount of love and care that went into the game’s references. The Classic and Adventure modes are a joy to play through because each fighter and Spirit has their own thing to make them unique.

Again, I’ll go more in-depth later. Though I do feel obligated to point y’all to my friend Kristina’s review in the Daily Titan that got published today, because I happened to pick it up a few minutes ago and it’s a good.


Wreck-It Ralph 2

There’s too many nice things to say about this sequel. On top of being a gorgeous piece of animation (with special accolades to the mass-character physics of a plot-relevant spoiler toward the end of the movie), Ralph Breaks the Internet presents an interesting take on the digital world that has strong characters, ever-present metaphoric theming and super tight narrative structure.

The movie also exceeds due to a rare blend of reverential and reference-filled, self-defacing humor that I would have never expected Disney to approve. Especially for the Princesses — who I’m sure you think you know everything about thanks to the ads, but I assure you are a beyond wonderful mix of fan service and commentary.

It helps that my Dad worked for Disney, so we laughed a lot at the jokes they were putting down.

If you haven’t seen Ralph Breaks the Internet, do yourself a favor. It’s not as video game-heavy as the first, but what it offers instead is just as good if not better.


Bohemian Rhapsody

Talk about a movie with a great set-up and wasted potential.

Bohemian Rhapsody is a biopic about Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury, but as my Dad aptly pointed out it winds up being more of a timeline on the success of the band than it is the trials and tribulations of Mercury’s life.

Don’t get me wrong, Rami Malek is wonderful as the lead character, surprisingly so considering how used to him as a psychopathic introvert from Mr. Robot.

The rest of the cast is good too, and the cinematography is very pretty. Plus, it’s hard to go wrong with a soundtrack composed of Queen songs.

But the narrative of the film falls really flat because it glosses over so much of the potential personal drama in favor of the band’s story. I swear, there are a number of scenes missing between Mercury and his father that would make a pay-off scene toward the end that much more impactful.

Bohemian Rhapsody is far from the worst thing I’ve seen this year. It’s kind of perfectly average, disappointingly so.

But the worst thing I’ve seen this year probably goes to:


Venom

Wow. What a hot mess.

You know it’s bad when the best part of the movie is a totally irrelevant post-credit scene previewing another movie that I would have had much more fun watching.

The only thing Venom has going for it is Tom Hardy as the titular character’s host, Eddie Brock — but even then he’s given nothing to work with. Half of this movie feels like it was left on the cutting room floor. It literally meanders until a relationship between the two that had APPARENTLY been developed without us knowing about it arrives.

Then we’ve immediately got the unearned climax to hit.

The whole experience is also generally unpleasant because of clear editing issues like awkward jump cuts. Maybe if the dialogue was better and the characters were likable I wouldn’t have noticed so readily, but because we got things like this:

It was hard to stay engaged.

Venom has been beaten to death so I won’t abuse the poor horse. Instead I’ll just say… Go watch Nando V. Movies’ fix for it instead.


Big Mouth

I can’t give you all a full review of this one. I only watched a chunk of the second season with my sister, so I’m working entirely off that.

That said, Netflix’s Big Mouth is an… Interesting experience. It’s a show all about young teenagers going through life changes, with puberty given physical form as “hormone monsters” that work off of them in a variety of cliché coming-of-age scenarios.

The premise of a physical embodiment of puberty is interesting enough to work through all the clichés in what might otherwise be a typical school-age comedy — alongside a heaping helping of gross-out and mature humor. There were about as many moments where I said, “damn that’s pretty accurate” as I cringed at something uncomfortable (like most of the musical numbers).

If you think you would enjoy a Family Guy-esque adult comedy, but a little smarter and more fresh, Big Mouth is worth checking out. I’ll probably go back and finish season 1 before season 3 comes out.


Featured Image courtesy of Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons

A post-Stan Lee world

A post-Stan Lee world

I don’t know that I had anything planned to talk about today amid a storm of homework I’ve been putting off. But once I saw this news come through, I knew there was really only one thing I could do: Pay tribute.

Within the last hour or so, rumors began to trickle around Twitter that the great Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee had died today at 95 years old.

Having seen a few celebrity death hoaxes in the past, I didn’t want to succumb to the emotions that came with that statement at first.

But once I saw the Associated Press confirm it, I has to accept the truth.

Since then I’ve honestly been walking around seemingly like a shell of my former self. Hell, I haven’t felt inspired to write a tribute in death for a celebrity since Carrie Fisher passed away, so you know this one must have hit hard.

How do you quantify the life of a man that has affected culture so much? How do you live in a world that, in its innate cold-nature’s cruelty to our mortality, will just keep moving forward in time without him?

Obviously this isn’t a “surprise” beyond the fact that it’s happening somewhat unexpectedly right now. The internet has been talking about Stan Lee’s inevitable passing for years, lamenting the possibility of the older man disappearing now that he has become a ubiquitous part of our movie-going culture if nothing else.

In fact, take a look at any of the stories that have already come out about Lee’s passing and you can tell they’ve been written and on the back burner for a long time, ready to update once the day came.

Personally I really like the piece Variety put out. It captures a lot of the good and the bad of Stan Lee’s life in a degree far better than I could as an arguably fledgling comic book fan.

To be honest, that’s kind of the craziest thing about my feelings toward Stan Lee’s death right now. I’m not even a huge comic book fan — so I can’t imagine how terrible other people must feel.

While a much younger Jason had a vague appreciation for certain comic book animated shows like Teen Titans or Batman the Animated Series (both DC properties I know, but that’s beside the point), it wasn’t until the Marvel Cinematic Universe boom began with 2008’s Iron Man that I started to steep myself in the world of comics.

Also, I guess you could count “Who Wants to Be a Superhero?” from the mid-2000s as part of my early exposure to Stan Lee. But I feel like that old show is a topic for another day.

I’ve seen almost every movie put out by the studio since their cinematic universe project began (outside of, say, Iron Man and Thor 2). Having grown into my own as an aspiring writer alongside its release schedule, I’ve come to really appreciate the way they create such an extensively connected story, one that makes me more and more excited for each entry to see where it can go next.

Sure, I know the films are somewhat formulaic and arguably predictable for anyone who knows the comics… But like I said, I don’t really. Only since the movies have grown in popularity have I personally started to research different famous comic book arcs and find YouTube channels dedicated to comic book stuff so I can educate myself on the matter, like NerdSync or Nando v. Movies.

Both of whom have also become regular parts of my life through binging their podcasts on my long commutes to-and-from CSUF.

So the Marvel movies have really been my gateway into comics. And all of them have one unifying thread.

A creative giant who has a cameo in all of them.

From what I’ve read there are a few more Stan Lee cameos pre-recorded for Captain Marvel and Avengers 4 at least, but they’ll certainly be more bittersweet than ever before.

Though not any more bittersweet than never seeing him cameo again after, even if Avengers 4 seems like as poetic an end point as they come.

Rest in peace, Stan Lee. A man who will truly live in forever in his creations.

Excelsior.


Featured Image courtesy of Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons.

Overheard at a Starbucks counter

Overheard at a Starbucks counter

For all intents and purposes, this morning has kind of been a bust. I’m going to spend a good chunk of this post complaining before getting to the fun Starbucks bit, as a fair warning.

I woke up extra early today, around 6:00 a.m. or so, that way I could commute to campus and show up for 8:00 a.m. walk-in hours at the Communications advising center. I’ve already complained about that and referenced it twice after, so I’ll yadda yadda that and send you over to my complaining post for further details.

If you aren’t interested in reading that post, and I wouldn’t blame you considering you’re probably here for Starbucks stories thanks to the title of this post, basically all you need to know is I had one question about the application of something in my planned schedule next semester that I was going to take regardless. A really quick, little question that I couldn’t get answered with an appointment because they were all booked up for the next month or whatever.

Figured if I showed up at the beginning of walk-in hours today it would be fine.

Then this happened.

Turned out even with my early commute I was the fourth or fifth person in line and everyone is allowed 20 minutes at most. Many people needed that full 20 minutes, as it turns out.

Adding insult to that injury, my question wound up being negligible anyway. Apparently the collateral category I was interested in applying this class to goes away once I complete my minor in Psychology.

Which is something I was made aware could be the case via the internship coordinator on Monday.

So I guess I got confirmation that it is, in fact, the case… But the nearly two-hour wait certainly didn’t feel justified to get that confirmation.

Oh but that’s not all, I also had some salt rubbed into that injury which was subsequently insulted. By the time I got my Comm advising, the office hours of my Psych professor were basically over so I couldn’t go there. Then it turned out the Honors Program Director isn’t around until next week because she’s at a conference, so I wasn’t able to have my project proposal signed off and finalized.

Basically. Getting up super early this morning was a bust. Don’t feel super justified doing it.

That ends the “let me complain about things that annoyed me on my personal blog” portion of my post, though.

Because the fun Starbucks-focused thing you all probably jumped on this train to hear about came while I went to get a drink and drown my annoyance.

Now there are a few caveats I need to elaborate as scene setters.

The Starbucks I went to is on the ground floor of the Pollak Library here at CSUF. It’s kind of the most central point on campus so it’s a very busy spot.

By 10:00 a.m. or so, the lineup to get coffee was long and the place was booming.

After ordering my drink I popped one headphone in and continued listening to a podcast I started during that two-hour wait.

Mostly Nitpicking, the podcast put on by that YouTuber I love Nando V. Movies, for anyone curious. It’s great and you should be listening.

BUT ANYWAY. Point is I might not have been the most cognizant of my surroundings.

Even so, I swear to god this is true. While waiting for my order to get thrown onto the counter I saw one girl attract the attention of a barista. She leaned in, mumbled “Order 66,” and the barista got the most solemn look on her face as she nodded, turned around and went to the back room.

Being the nerdy loser I am, the only way I could have possibly took that was in the framework of the Star Wars prequels.

Like now I’m totally convinced some random customer at Starbucks is secretly Emperor Palpatine and all of the younglings in the back room of the coffee shop have been chopped up by future Darth Vader barista.

There’s absolutely no other way to interpret that scene.

Especially not one that involves the mobile order Barista Vader brought out a few seconds later.

Total coincidence.

Yeah, that’s the whole story. Don’t know if you think it was underwhelming after spending a chunk of this reading about a guy complaining about his first world problem of getting up early for no reason, but I personally thought it was hilarious.

Probably in good part due to the aforementioned lack of sleep and general annoyance.

Figured if nothing else it would make for a good blog post to write and fill the extra three-hour time gap before my first class at 1:00 p.m.

So I hope you too feel that reading this was a good use of your extra time.

Repeat Offenders

I’m having a strange sense of déjà vu this semester.

A couple of my class have given me assignments this week that are pretty much identical to other assignments I’ve had in previous courses — one of which I’ve seen at least three times now, in fact.

That third-time returning assignment (the one that I find more interesting right now, considering at this rate I’ll need to develop a punch card) was handed down in my Visual Communications class this afternoon. Essentially I have to take a number of photos over the next two weeks, either on my phone or with a professional camera, that represent major concepts in visual composition.

So a photo that shows a prominent horizontal line, one that shows a good grasp of the rule of thirds, one that displays the difference between the foreground and background, etc.

As an isolated assignment it makes sense. What better way to get kids engaged and learn a variety of terms by making use of that little device in our pockets to actually engage with the work.

The problem comes when, as in my case, you see the same assignment repeatedly. In Comm 202, focused on broadcast journalism basics. In Multimedia Journalism. Now, again, in Visual Communications.

Is there just some unwritten rule that in the 21st century, every visual-focused class will get students to go out and take sample photos with their phones? Was there a college teaching conference that established this staple?

Is it only a California thing or does this happen all across the country?

I’m actually, genuinely curious to know.

My Mass Media Ethics class yesterday also assigned a small project I’ve seen before. For that, we need to spend about a week keeping a media log with all the news we consume so we can reflect on it.

I had to do the exact same thing for my Comm 233 class — the one that I started this blog for.

Back then I was pretty upset with the project. The professor was kind of an old fart and quite literally used the assignment as a way to rub it in our faces that we’re all too addicted to technology.

Like sure we definitely are, but that doesn’t mean you need to be condescending about it dude.

This time around the assignment is focused more on tracing back to the corporations that own each media outlet and deciding how that ownership might create bias.

A more interesting, reasonable through-line in my opinion.

Thinking about it, those two kinds of assignments seem very intrinsically linked to modern-day students. I suppose that’s the reason why they’re showing up repeatedly, for me at least. Whether or not you guess see these particular assignments, or just other projects that multiple teachers have assigned, I guess is up to you all to let me know.

No matter what, I’m just glad neither of these two projects are due next week. Because my two essays for my Psych classes still loom heavy on my mind…


As an aside, while this isn’t related to the overall post I’ve just written, it’s something that stood out to me so much today that I just had to share it.

Over the past few months I’ve been watching a YouTuber named Nando v. Movies rewrite the recent DCEU Justice League film beat-by-beat. It has been fascinating to watch, as one of the reasons I picked up on the guy in the first place was because of his script rewrites. They show a great grasp of the comic book source material and movie structure, so it’s always a joy.

The four-part Justice League series has been especially great, in my opinion. While I enjoyed the original movie, the novel version Nando creates is vastly superior and sets up a much more compelling path for the universe to take.

It’s just too bad he isn’t actually working at DC’s movie division.

The final part of the series just released today, and I would say it’s very worth taking an hour and a half to watch each part in a row. You can check them out here.

Dude deserves the shout out, go see his stuff.

Script Doctoring at its finest

Script Doctoring at its finest

If I haven’t made it totally obvious around here, I like movies.

I like movies a lot. A good chunk of that love comes from my dad, who was a pretty serious actor for a while and continues to work in the movie industry, currently for Fandango as I’ve discussed in the past. Thanks to him I’ve seen all kinds of flicks from throughout cinema history.

As time has progressed, seeing movies with him (and the rest of my family by extension) has essentially become a fun exercise in script doctoring. While a ‘script doctor’ may be an actual industry term for someone who consults on a script before it is put into production, I mean it more in a post-viewing thought experiment sense. Being able to walk away from a movie and discuss what could have been done to improve upon it.

Granted there are elements of hindsight involved knowing everything that happens as a finished product rather than seeing it in its fledgling development. A development that may be plagued with other problems that lead to less than stellar end products.

But we discuss things with those points aside. We have no real qualms given that none of us have any intent to create our own movie anytime soon. It’s just fun talking about how we might have improved certain things.

Superhero movies have been an excellent source of that internal debate for the last few years. Especially thanks to the Marvel and DC cinematic universes attempting to create larger, cohesive universes. That kind of large-scale project opens up tons of opportunities to pull from previously established canon in both the comics and movies to determine what might be better ways of moving in the direction those studios are going toward.

DC movies are the obvious ‘easy target.’ You’ve probably heard all of the comments: They ruin a bunch of popular characters. They’re doing everything to catch up to Marvel in too much of a compressed timeline. The dark, gritty approach to superhero storytelling isn’t utilized well.

For the most part I can’t say I’d argue. There are plenty of recent DC movies that I thought I would love just based off trailers which wound up being disappointing. Suicide Squad and Batman V. Superman come to mind immediately.

However, there’s plenty of good things going on in the DC cinematic universe. Things that we all want to work out better in an overall context because of how iconic the characters are.

The Batman and Justice League animated series’ from the 90s/00s were huge parts of my childhood. I knew Batman and Superman and all of those characters growing up because of how iconic those shows were, given the fact that I was never much of a comic book reader.

Outside of the big characters like Spiderman or Hulk, I wouldn’t know anything about Marvel until they began their own cinematic universe. Though, to be fair, as amazing as that universe is there still are flaws. It just happens that the flaws are less noticeable due to how much is going well around them.

I would also say that the MCU has been a big thing to me because of how amazing an example it is of creating an extensive universe. Of crafting stories that all tie in together and create one giant experience.

For someone who wound up becoming a writer, it’s amazing to see.

But all of that aside, I feel like I’m getting too tangent-y with what should otherwise be a simple post. Basically, I love discussing the flaws and successes of each superhero movie with my family because of their merits as good cinema and because of the engaging universes they create.

That post-movie critique is frankly as important to me as the movies themselves.

This summer, I’ve taken those interests in post-critiques to a whole new level. My realm of consistent YouTube views has expanded into more analytical channels, rather than simply let’s plays and other video game stuff.

Some notable examples, because I’m honestly using this post as an excuse to promote these people include:

  • NerdSync — A channel focused on looking at not just obscure bits of comic book stories and trivia, but looking at them through the lens of the real world history that led to in-universe decisions. Great 10-minute watches which have taught me so much more about comics themselves that also often promote other comic book-related creators on YouTube.
  • Captain Midnight — More or less the same idea as NerdSync, examining decisions in comic books (primarily their movies) through the lens of real world decisions and general tropes surrounding them. Includes interludes on every video showing commercials and media properties from earlier decades related to modern-day cinematic counterparts that are very recognizably stylized and pretty cool.
  • Mother’s Basement — Kind of does for anime what channels like NerdSync do for comic books. Examining the problematic or successful underlying writing tropes and such which go into beloved shows. Loves to bash on Sword Art Online, which I find hilarious having never watched the show but knowing just how hated it is by anime fans.
  • Just Write — If you want to be a writer like I do, this channel is a good place to spend some time. They look at popular media (be it books, television, movies or some combination of the three) to pick apart specific traditional writing clichés or innovations. Some really notable pieces on shows like Westworld or the modern-day Star Wars trilogy that I love and have been able to use as some writing inspiration for my own novel.

These guys join a pantheon of other more analytic-focused channels that I now enjoy the catalogs of, amongst mainstays like Game Theory, Cinema Sins and Wisecrack.

None of these creators are the reason I decided to write this post in the first place, however. I found a brand new addition to this list today that really pushed me over the edge.

Nando v Movies is a channel that looks at all different movie genres (though primarily superhero flicks) through an analytical realm similar to the others I listed. Picking apart tropes and clichés to see what works and what doesn’t.

But Nando does something a little different to stand apart from the crowd.

He is, essentially, a very well-researched script doctor.

What my dad and I might do just based off knowledge of the cinematic universes we’re observing after watching a new DC movie, he does using a full breadth of comic book history to draw upon.

He quite literally acts out brand new scripts for scenes that either minutely or majorly change a film in a way that drastically changes things. I don’t think I’ve seen any videos of his that misses the mark in making both good and bad films better in some way, shape or form.

He doesn’t just look at the major cinematic universes too, though his work on lackluster DC flicks are pretty amazing. He also looks at the Marvel Netflix shows and other major blockbusters. Star Wars, Ready Player One, Jurassic World. All of which are given minor adjustments with so much heart that they feel like they could be easily canonical.

Even if he too acknowledges in part one of his Justice League rewrite that he has the benefit of hindsight and no movie-making pressure. That’s sort of where I stole my own earlier disclaimer from, as a disclaimer.

Side note, investigations and fan theories for the current Star Wars films have become some of my favorite things. Because I enjoyed the Last Jedi, but I’d almost say I enjoy fan-generated ideas for the Last Jedi better than what we got in theaters.

Now with all this said, I don’t always agree with the content of the creators I’ve mentioned here today. But I feel like that’s just as big a part of the magic behind watching them as the amazing theories and insight they’ve been able to cobble together for mediums I haven’t paid too much attention to.

The Internet, for as divisive as it can be, is an excellent place to pose ideas and invite civil debate. I love having the opportunity to compare my own ideas and headcanons to their own.

So that’s essentially my pitch for the day as I finish this post seeing I’ve somehow almost hit 1,500 words. Go out and find some analytical content for your favorite things.

It’s not only an excellent way to kill time, but an excellent way to kill it with engaging, thoughtful material.