Category Archives: movies

The snipers empathy

Today is a different day, today is not some case where I am a Don Quichote wannabe, I am not fighting a windmill and I am not hunting for Credit Agricole and certain upcoming 2024 events (for those who were able to comprehend the links between three earlier articles), not to mention an unconfirmed rumour that a small group will end up with the better part of €467 million. Today is different, this is a point where I might be wrong from the very beginning, and I am OK with that.

This is about an article in the Guardian last Wednesday (at https://www.theguardian.com/film/2019/aug/07/ads-human-stalking-satire-the-hunt-pulled-us-mass-shootings). I saw the trailer and to be honest, I never made any link to the El Paso and Dayton killings, I also understand that in this turbulent times the studio needs to rethink its approach to a movie that took most of the previous 2019 to make. It was also the moment that I learned that is was based on the 2012 original Jagten with Mads Mikkelsen (Death Stranding, Dr Strange, Rogue One), which is actually a little issue as this was done before with the remake of Nightwatch (Nick Nolte), the makers wanted an English movie without having to rely on subtitles and missed to boat to the larger degree, the issue is not the makers, the director was for both Nattevagten and Nightwatch Ole Bornedal, so I am at a loss how the movie was worse, the actors were good, I felt that the original had a much better atmosphere. So now I do worry for the Hunt, yet in all this the hunt has a strong cast (Betty Gilpin, Hillary Swank, Emma Roberts), and it might work, the idea that hunters overestimate a woman is not without premise giving an edge to the movie, the idea that ‘they’ve been chosen to be hunted in a game devised by a group of rich elite liberals‘ is also strong, the idea that clueless rich people cannot look beyond the veil of a spreadsheet is readily accepted by the audience, yet that is not what this is about.

This is about the event where a filmmaker is now getting his hands tied behind his back because of an event in real life and the polarisation of the people around it. I believe that there is strong character in the cast and crew to look at other ways to adjust creating awareness. Creating awareness is an important part of any movie and spreading creativity has a plus and a consequence. I get it, you do not want to set the open stage of ‘entertainment’ where the people are all upset over events, yet the premise remains.

Does it really?

When we consider the quote “According to the Hollywood Reporter, cable network ESPN dropped an ad for the movie that was to air last weekend while studio Universal reassesses its plans for the film, which is due for release on 27 September in the US. The same publication says “a source” at ESPN said that no spots for the film would appear on the network “in the coming weeks”” and we see the ‘27th September‘ as the start date, why would there be any advertisement on TV before September 1st? There are other venues! for example IMDB as well as YouTube has been seen as a trailer central for movie lovers, there no restraints are needed, those in grief (and we get that) would not be in a state of mind to seek out new trailers, watch movies that are coming, in addition, the Digital world is global and even as the makers need to pussyfoot around their American audience for now, but that restraint is a lot less needed internationally. When we consider that the larger productions are now in a stage where the US is often merely 25%-35% of the total global revenue, focussing on the non-US side would become increasingly more important. There is also an issue with the quote: “The Hollywood Reporter quotes a Universal executive saying that the studio was responding to the politically “fluid situation” amid a wave of protest in the US against gun violence and white supremacism and that it was discussing plans to change direction over the film’s promotion “if people think we’re being exploitative rather than opinionated”” Here we need to realise that the original is 6 years old, in addition, filming was completed months ago, showing the clear stage that this is about a movie and not about exploitation, that next to the fact that when some people are calling the issue a ‘politically fluid situation‘, we need to realise that the politicians are part of the problem here; this was been proven close to half a dozen times over. When we give rise to: “Employees in different departments were questioning the wisdom of making such a movie in these times“, we need to ask additional questions. Was there wisdom in creating ‘the Deer hunter‘, ‘Apocalypse Now‘, or ‘Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile‘? Where do we draw the line? Now we see the Hunt, which is a story, not a reality and somehow people are unable to distinguish real from fiction, we can call that a much larger failing on all of us. And if this was a small (not so) subtle push to propagate the dislike of firearms, does that have a quorum in a work of art (as the maker would call it)?

I will accept that some people do not want to get near this movie for all the personal convictions they might have and that is fine, yet how should we go about fiction because it is uncomfortable? Is art not set to the stage to make it larger? Is pushing a person outside of their comfort zone not an important aspect? If we so object, how come that the protest was not louder when in the movie Final Girl was trained by Wes Bentley to take matters in her own hands? Was it because an Axe gave the coup de grace and not a Benelli M4 Super 90? Seems weird, in the end the person would still be dead. It reminded me of an old conversation, “We are not murderers, we are killers“, all whilst we know that the person we’d be gunning for ends up being equally dead either way we label it.

For me the Hunt will be interesting, the switch away from Mads Mikkelsen and towards a female lead. In addition, Emma Roberts has proven herself to be a bad ass witch (Madison Montgomery), can she repeat it in the Hunt and end up being as bad ass as her daddy was in the roles like Alex Grady, James Munroe, Tomas Leon and several others, to see the ‘bad ass’ stamp pass on to the next generation is just a fun part. Emma Roberts has distinguished herself a few times over, watching Nancy Drew go Madison Montgomery on us is merely icing on the entertainment cake. It also shows that the makers did a good job, which is essential for any movie lover.

Yes, if there is a focal point to the hunt for me, then it is the stage of fun, it always has been that; art and fun need to go hand in hand; it is also the reason why Lars von Trier movies take so much effort for me. I found his ‘the House that Jack built‘ a little meeker that I expected. I remember seeing ‘Dancer in the Dark‘ I was deeply depressed for well over a week, so when I see art, I prefer to feel joy and entertainment. The Hunt is in the end still entertainment, nothing more to it. Is it a hunting story where we get to enjoy the change as the hunter becomes the hunted. It is as stupid as it gets, like jumping into a snake pit and playing with your food, it never ends well. For a true hunter, the idea that someone thinking that he is a hunter and getting eaten by the lion he wanted to kill is just great joy. A true hunter kills for food, not for joy, a true hunter is not there to get the Lion, he wants to get the real deal, the animal that gets him fed, not the pelt (which is merely a bonus at times).

So when I am looking at the story of “a group of globalist elites gathers for the very first time at a remote Manor House to hunt humans for sport” I see the need that this goes Topsy Turvy on the hunters and it remains entertainment. It does not take away the issue that there is a real event in the US and because of that the anti-gun feelings are exploding, I get that, I truly do and I also accept that the film makers are not there to upset feelings, they show the empathy that politicians never show when they exploit events for their own personal limelight. Yet the film makers could take it to better staging (I have not seen the hunt at present and beyond the little captions know, as well as the trailer) I know very little about the movie at present. Yet the stage that we see today also calls for other parts.

Whilst politicians are trying to exploit a movie, the recollection of the New York Times (at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/22/us/politics/trump-atf-nra.html) where the NRA is accused of “It has aggressively lobbied against nominated directors and pushed Congress to enact restrictions on how the bureau spends money to curtail its ability to regulate firearms and track gun crimes. One funding provision, for example, forbids the A.T.F. from using electronic databases to trace guns to owners. Instead, the agency relies on a warehouse full of paper records“, if that accusation is proven, then we have a much larger setting where the governing members of the NRA might be guilty of corporate manslaughter. If we accept: “an organisation will be guilty of the offence of corporate manslaughter if the way in which its activities are managed or organised causes a person’s death“, will the absence of electronic records set a stage where it caused a person’s death? Consider the Columbine High School massacre, perhaps the best known shooting (1999), it happened in a time where databases and data analyses has already evolved to a much larger degree, consider that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold had been in the database system, is there enough evidence that this alone might have triggered clearer actions in time? In addition, if the NY Times is to be believed and the issue of: “For decades, the N.R.A. has used its sway in Washington to preserve the A.T.F. in its limited capacity” could be proven, does that increase the chance of conviction of corporate manslaughter on the NRA and the governing members? It is an important question because the evidence that the failing of the ATF is funding and either all politicians unite to grow the ATF or they should be muzzled and forbidden to make any political statement at any shooting, should that increase the chance of actually solving matters?

Perhaps larger visibility to the hunt becomes essential, when we see ‘entertainment’ and the premise of real danger we might take more notice. The notice of sociopathic millionaires and billionaires hunting people for sport is not realistic, but the dangerous premise where weapons are handed out and remains available completely unchecked is an actual danger. I myself have a fondness for guns (specifically long range rifles), yet I never owned one because in the Netherlands there are no proper rifle ranges, and I lived in the city. In Sweden there were options, but I was in the city and did not see the need to get one and so on. I believe in responsible choices and so far there has not been an option to enjoy my passion for years, so I have to limit myself to other fun events and there are plenty.

I believe that the largest passion of guns in the US comes from partial hunting and from passing on the skills and knowledge from generation to generation; there is plenty of evidence that farmers and families are about safety and about proper handling of weapons, so having these people in a database should not be an issue or a worry, it is when a group caters to a 1% group with other needs, that is when we need to worry and that is seemingly happening now.

When we call the entire senate to attention and demand an answer on the limitations of the ATF, will we get a clear answer? The last permanent director of the ATF was Todd Jones (August 31, 2011 – March 31, 2015), whilst President Obama was in office until 2018, so the failing in the White House is much larger than we see. This is important because if the people are not taking this serious, why should a movie maker show constraint on a movie that is not based on real life?

I wonder how the person with links to Universal responds in case a person like Oliver Stone decides to wake up and does a deep dig into the ATF and the political ramifications it has faced for over 10 years, in an age where terrorism is a larger danger, how can you limit the one organisation that could assist the FBI to the largest extent? I wonder how the NRA will scream and cry like little bitches when a movie like that makes it to the world screen. In the end I do agree with the NRA on one thing, “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people“, and there is also the hidden wisdom, should we stop a database that connects a gun to a person? It is a larger issue and we accept that, yet the solution was simple and has been for over a decade, the fact that the media and the real politicians who fight for a better nation are not there to protect and grow the ATF also are the shown politicians that are optionally part of the problem. That evidence is shown as the 5th director of the ATF was Bradley A. Buckles (December 20, 1999 – January 2004), and Carl Joseph Truscott as the 6th director from 2004 to 2006.
So in a stage of terrorism and mass shootings, there has been a proper ATF director in play for a period of 10 years out of the last 20 years, why is that not daily news? The fact that the ATF started on 1st July 1972, and so far there have only been 7 permanent directors, with decent governance in the years up to 2004, does that not strike you as strange too, especially after all the 9/11 events?

I believe that those opposing and complaining about the Hunt have a much larger problem, but it seems that calling the white House and the ATF, as well as the FBI to attention on this is not what limelight seekers do, they merely want the stage for the message of selling themselves, not presenting the presentation on how to keep Americans safe, is that not a nice consideration to have?

A sniper does not show empathy to instantly kill its target, there is no benefit to prolong your targets life, it merely needs to e killed and one bullet does just that, kill a person, kill a cause or kill an idea. It is a Hollywood stage where the target has to suffer, or be able to plead, or be able to alert others through screaming.

As I see it, apart from the joy that a movie like the Hunt brings (with a soda and pop-corn mind you), it could optionally show just how stupid people are by not demanding a permanent ATF director and a better ATF budget from their elected official every single day. When people do that every day and make sure that their life (read: their re-election) depends on it, we will see an actual improvement to limiting and in the long term stopping mass shootings. Perhaps a movie like the Hunt is good on other levels, it might make people wonder on how the system is kept in place by political exploiters and that too is important to shove into the limelight (the less diplomatic, the better).

There is no short term solution, there never was and anyone telling you that is lying to you, yet none of it is reality until actual decisions are handed out and for now, they are not.

 

 

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Surprise, surprise!

There was an interesting surprise this morning. It was not any newspaper; it was no DVD or Blu-ray. It was a YouTube video (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tu3mP0c51hE), the announcement of the Downton Abbey movie coming in September. Weirdly enough, I had not felt this happy since the initial teaser of Avengers: Endgame, a movie that is now less than $100 million away from breaking the Avatar record. It is weird how a TV series with 6 seasons have had such a profound impact on viewers and I am not the only one who is amazed and happy with the coming of the movie. Hugh Bonneville, who plays the lord (aka Mr Henry Brown in both Paddington adventures), Maggie Smith, Dowager Countess of Grantham (also famous in a very well-known hotel in India), and of course the list is not complete without Jim Carter as the undoubtable Mr. Carson and some might remember him as a Transformer too.

The list is too long to go into detail and it is important to remember that. Even as the record of I, Claudius is not broken. Downton Abbey got closer to breaking that achievement than any other series ever did. When ITV started this, they had no idea how large a behemoth this would become. The foundation was given by Julian Alexander Kitchener-Fellowes, Baron Fellowes of West Stafford. And we all know that as a member of the House of Lords he would be able to spin a fine yard under the most mundane conditions. Yet Downton Abbey is anything but mundane and that is the first requirement into making a legendary piece. I have mentioned it before, I, Claudius had all the elements in place, for the most so does Downton Abbey. The story is excellent, the cast is amazing and many fans feel linked to many of the actors and actresses to a larger degree. The writing got the start, but it was the player that embodies the script and there is not one who gave less than 110% that part clearly shows in the end result. So there will be forum upon forum that will ask and speculate on what they will get. I reckon that a fair amount will go into the speculations of Robert James-Collier (Thomas Barrow) on what he will be like in the movie, antagonistic, devious or a third still to be revealed part, and let’s face it, the man ‘grew up’ on Coronation Street (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNV_Hh5ZWaE if you forgot the tune, which should be unlikely).

There is no way not to get enthusiastic on the series and now we will be getting the movie. I believe it to be an important work as it is truly the first work that would be close to thumping ‘I, Claudius’ of the throne of being the best drama in the history of TV. I personally believe that it did not achieve that, but only by a nose length. Perhaps it is because the Roman era allowed for more murder and intrigue, perhaps it is the view of lavish parties, but for the first time, it is not about the actors, each set of players was pretty much on par with the other set of players, which was an amazing achievement. As for the script, I believe that the quality of drama Robert Graves and Julian Fellowes are on par as well; the element remaining is the director, the visionary in all this. It is impossible to do this, comparing Herbert Wise to Michael Engler, Brian Percival, Catherine Morshead is unfair, it is work separated by decades of vision and technology. The fact that they all try to meet the Herbert Wise standard speaks for Mr Wise as he set the bar half a century ago and the fact that this bar is still there is slightly too amazing for words.

Yet the fact that no one ever stopped getting there speaks for those pursuing excellence in any way possible and that is what Downton Abbey also embodies, a view towards excellence and that too drives us to the movies and the mini silver screen (aka TV). I think that the end of the Victorian age and the age of George V as the UK was led from WW1 towards WW2 is often ignored, but more important than most would think, the sinking of the Titanic in the pilot, the start of WW1 and the impact of the end WW1 and the setting of the veterans as we saw its impact in Downton Abbey is an eye opener, a side that the previous generation onwards ignored is now directly reflected towards us and it impacts us and how we look at this all. A similar impact was seen with The Crown in season one when some saw the episode ‘Act of God‘, I was not born in the UK as such that episode hit me hard, I never expected such a view on chimneys, the smog it created and what kind of a health hazard it actually was in 1952, as such the way we view health hazards and the way politicians neglect it nowadays is a too little astounding.

Downton Abbey had another part shown during the episode where one hospital takes over another one, it is that part where we see the impact to the population in those years, it hits us directly as it is a real setting, not some drama, or better stated drama that doubles as reality just a little too closely. In the end you cannot have anything but the greatest respect on a part of history and how it is portrayed to us, as such the movie, even as it is about a royal visit is likely to have hidden gems that have to be seen to be enjoyed, and that is likely what the makers are hoping for. A TV series that had 11 golden globe nominees and 3 golden globes won, in 2011, Downton Abbey made the Guinness book of world records with the highest ratings for any TV show, the first time a British show got that distinction. A stage that covers 13 years of history, so as the movie is set to 1928; I wonder what we will be treated to. There is no speculation from me, I am slightly scared to be right in this case and I hope that the readers want to see the movie all the way without any spoilers, other than the ones the trailer gives us. I think that this is the biggest part of my appeal to it. On how historic events affect the characters of Downton Abbey, which historic events we will be made aware off. There were the floods of the river Thames, the Oxford English Dictionary first edition was completed, the London and North Eastern Railway’s Flying Scotsman steam-hauled express train begins to run non-stop over the 393 miles (632 km) of the East Coast Main Line from London King’s Cross to Edinburgh (on my birthday no less), the voting age for women is lowered from 30 to 21, Amsterdam hosts the Olympics and the Dangerous Drugs Act 1925 comes into effect. All events of that year and some will be mentioned; optionally we will be introduced to the discussions on it. Downton Abbey will give so many reasons to watch it and as far as I can tell (judging from the TV series) absolutely no reason not to go see it on the large silver screen (aka not the TV).

We still have 15 weeks to go before the movie makes it to the big screen, and as I see it, September 2019 can’t come soon enough.

 

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Merely the beginning

Yes, the news is full of the overwhelming success that Avengers: Endgame is and rightfully so, yet the Washington Post looks further. The article (at https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/avengers-endgamemakes-disney-invincible-in-2019-then-what/2019/04/29/b5e35016-6aaf-11e9-bbe7-1c798fb80536_story.html) gives light to the strategy that is surrounding Disney plus as owners of the Marvel franchise. We get part of it with: “Disney’s films will no longer get licensed to partners such as Netflix during what’s known as the “pay one window;” instead, they’ll go exclusively on Disney+. That’s a big selling point for the streaming app, but it’s a costly decision that reduces the amount of licensing revenue Disney can earn from its films after they leave theaters.” this is a point of view that is true and the strategy is valid, yet having the stage where we see a time exclusivity (like in gaming) where the others get the option after 6 months is not to be ignored as an alternative. In addition, the mention of the ‘real’ editions of the time honoured animations like Aladdin and the Lion King are now on screws, especially after Dumbo has become a miserable flop. That is the puzzle that comes next, as I personally see it, the cast was golden, the director is phenomenal and the story is sound, so why did it flop and is that the premise for the other movies? We know that Robin Williams made Aladdin the success it was; this puts a megastar like Will Smith in an awkward position. To willingly step into the shadow of a giant takes monumentally sized balls to begin with and even as we know that Will Smith is no coward, willing to step into the fringe of movie making, I cannot stop being worried on how Aladdin will fare. As such the other Disney productions will be under pressure as well and that is just the beginning.

Disney has had the longest issue with being too sweet for most adults and even as we saw Pretty Woman in 1990 as a new view on what Disney could do, there was a distinct feeling that the Disney people were so far out of their comfort zone that they needed guides to find their way back. This is particularly important as Marvel has its own dark parts (more than just a few) and without that defining dark there is a larger concern down the road. I believe that so far they handled it fine, yet the worry remains: “will the wrong Disney executive demand the Marvel TV version to be lighter, sweeter and less dark“, so far what we have seen from X-Men: Dark Phoenix, The New Mutants imply that we should not be worried, yet waiting with worries for too long is not good either. What I saw from Cloak and Dagger season 1 is a clear warning, yet perhaps it is also important to consider that the movies will be less in danger of becoming laced with Disney Sweetness than the TV series. Their Metascore of 68 could be considered as supporting evidence in all this. Some gave the following views: “a horribly sentimental soundtrack“, as well as “If you want a show chock full of “edgy” liberal issues thrown into the plot regardless of if it fits with the story, then look no further” (which was the most negative review) we see the initial issue. Even the more positive ones give us “Through its initial four episodes, the real star of Cloak & Dagger is the structure and editing and overall environment more than any individual actor“. I believe it that some of the changes took away the dark side that would have made Cloak a lot more appealing, it was his dark side that appealed to me in the original comics; the TV parts I saw were too emotional, I am not stating that this is a bad thing, merely that . The comic books decently graphic about his devouring hunger, I missed seeing that in the few episodes I saw. Yet it is not all bad, Mayhem is showing to be the direct confrontational angry type she was in the comic book.

This is in part my issue; Disney is seemingly trying to skate away from the darkness is what will have a larger non positive impact on series that were pretty phenomenal in comic book form. So far the silver screen Marvel productions have exceeded expectations swimmingly; it is what I saw in Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and the defenders that felt off, not bad, but off.

It is not the cast or the work done, no matter what, Mike Colter makes Luke Cage totally believable and real. I believe that the scripts fell short (from my personal point of view). Perhaps it is my non-US view, the fact that there had to be complications and conspiracy plots from day one in these series is why it is falling short. Even as we hear noise like ‘creative differences’, I believe that the entire conspiracy twinkle has ran its course to the largest degree, to be honest, that is why I stopped watching Kiefer Sutherland in Designated Survivor. The series started great and then when we suddenly see an FBI director compromised around episode 6 that was it for me. Oh, and before I forget this is a series that is all about conspiracy, but the way it is done was too far out there, it lost flavour. I believe that Marvel series have been pushed into that field too much as well (as well as several other comic book based series). I believe that the effort to go too deep too fast to please an audience is exactly why appeal is lost to some degree and Luke Cage gets to pay for it (as well as Iron Fist). With over a dozen movies coming in the next 2-3 years as well as optional TV series, this critical look early on will be more essential than most realise. You see, a Marvel overdose is pretty much similar to a Star Trek overdose, at some point we lose the interest to watch it, which is actually opposite to the feelings we had with the comic books and as such we have to consider our point of view. Now, like the comic books there is a filtering, most of us do not care for all the franchises. I was a die-hard Batman and X-men fan and I never got into Spiderman that much. I still loved the movies and I read the comics at times, but it was not my number one, neither were the Fantastic Four. That’s fine because Marvel (and DC) had a flavour for everyone, so much choice, as such we would be more protective of the comics we were nuts about and that is fine too.

Yet there is still Disney to consider and their long term need to make everything too sweet and too ‘pink’. Even as we realise that most cancelations might be linked to IP and the fact that Netflix will be a direct competitor of Disney+, yet the idea that Disney is a little too uncomfortable with these dark tainted series on Disney remains a concern for many fans and as such it is a concern for some fans of these series that they are now part of Disney. The factual reasons are not out there, or perhaps better stated, there is no source I trust to give me the actual truth (except a joint statement from Marvel and Disney and that is unlikely to happen).

Even as Forbes gives us: “Marvel meanwhile plans live-action series for characters including Loki, Scarlet Witch, Winter Soldier, and several other characters“, the die-hard fans will now wonder whether we will get the Asgardian Wars on TV or silver screen, not only as it was an awesome story, but that also puts Asgard, the X-men and the Canadian Alpha Flight team on the range implying the coming of a few more series, or movie franchises. All of them have a large following, so Disney would be nuts to walk away from an optional few billion more. Yet that does require Disney to allow for very dark streaks in their acquired paintings and that is where the problem is likely to rise, or at least that is what I think is likely to happen.

Even as Disney can ignore everything this year, the year that Avengers: Endgame broke every record, the long term view is less of a given, with view n 2020-2023, there will be more issues and other issues to deal with, not all of them revenue driven, but revenue will be the mainstream in any discussion that surrounds whatever ‘creative differences’ we will see make the headlines on all kinds of media channels and to ignore this so early in the year is not a healthy thing to do, especially as most of the upcoming movies will be staged to bring in a billion plus each. As stated, I do not think we need to worry about the movies too much, but the Marvel TV series that will be another matter, they will be the bread and butter of Disney+ and those people like their shows a little too sugary to my taste.

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Remembering events

There is an issue in Palestine and Israel, I am not stating that Israel is innocent in events, but when I see the Guardian giving us (at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/apr/25/uk-cinemas-should-boycott-the-israeli-film-festival-seret) the headline ‘UK cinemas should boycott the Israeli film festival Seret‘, this was a letter and an opinion. I am not attacking the person, because everyone is entitled to an opinion. As such, I have no issue with: “We’re shocked and dismayed to see how many mainstream cinemas – among them Picturehouse and Everyman – are hosting this year’s Israeli film festival, Seret, whose funders and supporters include the Israeli government and a clutch of pro-Israel advocacy organisations“.

When we see that do these people remember the Sbarro event on August 9th 2001? You might think it was a long time ago, but it was merely the start of a lot of events by Palestinian terrorists. And the girl on the stretcher was wearing a white shirt, that is, until the explosion got to her, it is overwhelmingly red now. I don’t even know if she survived any of it. From my point of view, when you start bombing buses and civilian restaurants you have lost the plot and whatever case you try to bring, from that point onward the Palestinians were merely to be regarded as terrorists.

They even send rockets into Beer Sheva where it hit a kindergarten classroom (By Avi Ohayon GPO – https://www.flickr.com/photos/36313307@N06/3349461091/sizes/l/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6222905), yet in that case I will admit that there is absolutely no telling what they were actually aiming for, their material is unreliable at best.

So in all this, it is still an anti-Israel rally through an attack on culture. Now, I have stated that Israel is not entirely innocent, there are issues on both sides of the border but the only way to ever make any progress is not to ban cultural events, but to have more of them. So when we see “This UN report is the latest in 70 years of reports of mass expulsions, killings, house demolitions, detention without trial, torture, military occupation and military onslaught against the indigenous population, the Palestinians” we can clearly see that this is a pro-Palestinian article, leaving the Palestinian acts out of it. OK, I get that the writer is heavily pro-Palestinian and people are allowed to be that, freedom of expression and so on. We can also agree with part of the statement that gives us: “We cannot understand why cultural institutions continue to behave as if Israel is an ordinary democracy. It is not“, yet the part that is missing is that the State of Israel has been under non-stop terrorist attack since 1948; that part is ignored almost everywhere. Perhaps someone can explain to me how this will stop when Israel has been under unrelenting attack since it was founded? Now we can optionally disband the State of Israel, but only when Europe gives up 25% of Europe. Or did you forget that the extermination of 6 million Jews came with the disowning of millions of real estate locations? You see those 6 million owned some of the richest parts of Europe in Germany, France, the Netherlands, and a few more places. So if you can get those areas all to be re-annexed as original Jewish properties come back to talk, if not find another solution. By the way before you think of adding a number to that, it will depreciate Europe by well close to a trillion euros.

A choice was made in 1945 because of what lied ahead, it was perhaps the best solution for Europe and when we consider that the Jewish state was stolen from the Jews by the Italians between 1BC and the 5 centuries that followed, we see a larger issue. In that time part of Syria was also part of the 12 tribes of Israel, so in the end the discussion could go on for a lot longer than now. All elements that people tend to forget (because they ignore history). What should be remembered that any nation that has been under attack for three quarters of a century will at some point stop being polite, so perhaps lowering tension and embracing culture as an opening to commence a dialogue will be a lot more useful to set the steps towards an actual agreement based towards long lasting peace. And If I can see that with my lack of diplomacy and articulate cultural speech then all those artistic people, those directors, writers and others should know a lot better than putting their autograph under some short sighted narrow minded call to boycott any cultural event.

That is merely my limited view on the matter, yet I might be wrong too.

 

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Removing the floor

OK, I have made predictions in the past and most were close to spot on, some were just a little off, yet I had not ever for the life of me gotten it wrong by half a billion before. In ‘First the Soft‘ at (https://lawlordtobe.com/2019/04/27/first-the-soft/), I made the prediction: “we now see that Avengers: Endgame is heading towards a 700 million opening weekend (globally) is no stretch, it would make it the largest opening weekend in history“. Some claimed I was being too optimistic, perhaps I was at that a little; I now see from several sources that the estimate was off by a lot. The sources mostly re-quote Variety and when we realise that the reality of “According to Variety, ‘Avengers: Endgame’ pulled in $350 million in the US and an incredible $1.2 billion worldwide in its first weekend. This smashes the ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ take by over $500 million“, we can agree that my thoughts on it being the best Marvel movie ever is not even close to the mark. The movie is now listed on 18th position of the best money making movies ever on a global scale, from naught to 18 in one weekend. This now implies that the movie could shoot to 3rd position in a week, optionally replacing Titanic in 2nd place, it is a record that James Cameron held for 21 years, and he also held the number one spot for 10 years which is now in equal danger of getting surpassed by Avengers: Endgame soon thereafter. I believe that will happen, yet the speed at which this could be happening at has never been seen before.

This news is actually more important than you might think. You see Hollywood is nothing if not revenue driven, so there is every chance that my beloved comic books form the 70’s and 80’s will find themselves to the big screen or some Netflix streaming channel. This is both awesome and optionally sad. When the money makers see the amount of money Marvel just grossed, it will make them step into the fairway and claim their own billions. The sad part is that there is every chance that people will concentrate on their dollar shaped pupils and forget that Avengers: Endgame is the result of 11 years and 22 movies, so whatever they do they need to be careful not to squander the option they would acquire.

One of the front runners in this would be the work of Don Lawrence. He became famous with the works of the Trigan Empire as well as Storm. The Trigan Empire has everything to become stellar, it is placed in what would be a ‘Nova Roma’ A roman empire but in the 21st century, so we get decadence, martial impact (for references see the Spartacus series), direct encounters (read: sex, combat and confrontational resolutions) as well as other elements making it highly desirable to the watchful eyes of millions. Getting it right would be an essential part in all this. Remember, that I Claudius failed in the first attempt until it was done right in the 70’s.

In second place there is the Spanish artist Segrelles who gave us ‘El Mercenario‘, a little more fantasy, but most pleasing to the eye in more than one way. It is utterly lacking realism (the dragons are a dead giveaway) but the stories have been intriguing since the beginning and the art has a certain flair that does go with the need for excellent story telling.

I am not giving you a top three. There are so many considerations. There is the Flash Gordon from the 70’s, there is Diabolik, although in this case it seems that Murdoch’s European pay-tv operation are already on that case, so I reckon that if they make that one dark enough, they might have an instant hit. This all has one additional benefit for me, there is every chance that someone will consider reprinting the comics by Angela and Luciana Giussani, a win-win for all. I believe that technology was the greatest push here. Now that special effects can set the stage more closely to what the comic book makers envisioned and gave to their audience, the sky has become the limit and as we see more and more revenue towards streaming, there is every chance that the biggest delays will be finding the actors committing to a series and finding the right actors, manpower will become the largest obstacle for moviemakers in the foreseeable future. I will happily volunteer there, but I know I am no Inspector Ginko (or inspector Gadget for that matter).

Yet we can also look into the other direction, for that we merely need to seek out André Franquin and his office boy Gaston, every company seemingly has one and therefor would bring instant joy, laughter and entertainment on a global scale, all mostly untapped ideas as American Netflix has been too localised in their searches (as well as the method of finding new stuff). Yet with Disney Plus on the horizon and other players like Stan making more and more waves, we might see a bidding war for the IP rights of these works soon enough.

 

 

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First the soft

There is a wave of anticipation, having seen Avengers Endgame on opening night two days ago, we see the anticipation rush through. There will be no spoilers here, but I can give advance warning of the dangerous side shows in the cinema. You see, the final part is a three hour movie and worth watching, yet watching the parents with younger sidekicks watch the movie whilst the parent realising that after two hours the bladder of junior is under pressure is a sight to see. I saw at least two fathers rushing themselves (as well as junior) to the bathroom hooping not to miss too much is a sight to take momentary notice of.

Taking a large/jumbo drink into a three hour movie is a really bad idea!

The second one is sweet. In at least two points in the movie, something huge happens and it is a sight to behold, I was not ready for large crowds to stand up and cheer and clap, it was a little unexpected, the movie gets you that deep into the story, it is an amazing one and we get volley after volley of amazing moments for almost three hours.

So when we now see that Avengers: Endgame is heading towards a 700 million opening weekend (globally) is no stretch, it would make it the largest opening weekend in history. The three most successful movies never pulled that off, so Avatar, Titanic and Star Wars: the force awakens will not be the contenders. The question becomes, can Endgame surpass the opening weekend of Avengers: Infinity War, which had an opening weekend of $630 million. There is however one side that hold endgame back, as a few nations open a week later, and as at present the overseas record has not been surpassed, the end result is not a given, I believe that the movie has what it takes to surpass Infinity War in every way, in the end, it becomes a roll of the dice (to some extent). I believe that this movie has the goods to surpass the amazing results that Avengers: Infinity War brought, I believe to be proven right in the next week. I hope to be able to see the 3D version at that point.

So we end the soft part of the day with a detailed view on Bradley Cooper, who is going to be in the movie and that is not a spoiler at all.

 

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The TV as a weapon

There is an old saying and there are alternatives to it. In Australia we say:

Q: Do you know the difference between ABC and Channel 7?
A: ABC shows you how bad things are in the world, Channel 7 shows you how screwed up your TV life is.

In the Netherlands it used to be NOS versus SBS6, and every nation has its own version. So what happens, when we see the millions of smart TV’s and Apple enters the race opposing Netflix? The New Daily gives the quote: “Spielberg who appeared live, touted the revival of his Amazing Stories anthology, while Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, and Steve Carrell then took the stage to discuss another Apple original, The Morning Show” with the added: “a range of new streaming entertainment services, as well as financial products, at a star-studded event Tuesday morning“. the message was apparently clearly brought and when we get to see: “Apple is expected to spend US$2 billion this year on original content to challenge established steaming players Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and the forthcoming Disney+ service“, we need to realise that Apple has an optional goldmine in the making. In addition we see: “Hot on the heels of the Google game streaming service, Stadia, Apple launched Apple Arcade in a bid to grab a slice of the multi-billion dollar gaming market“, which will be fun to watch as Apple has shown a keen interest in negating the need of gamers (which is not all their fault in all honesty), will they figure it out this time? At least with the established Android gaming platform size, Google does have a huge advantage for now. OK, apple does have a gaming community on IOS and I was not short selling that (yes, I was). Yet the overall view I have seen in the past gives a better light of gaming to gamers on the android, than the Apple (a mere personal view on the matter).

So here we are watching two streams being created. First is the Netflix drain by Apple and as soon as they realise that 2 billion is a mere stack of money, to get the TV series that get the people to sign up, even besides Netflix will requires series that surpass The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, The Haunting of Hill House, Bird Box and a few other gems, Netflix has the writers, will Apple have them? We all know that Game of Thrones will enter their final season, so there are plenty of needy watchers to pick up after that conclusion, yet if Apple does not have the IP, they are not going anywhere. Even with the added Spielberg Amazing Stories anthology, which was actually quite decent when it was initially released on VHS, they will still have quite the task at hand. More important, even if they have all the ducks in a row, they will still having to deal with the market shares of Hulu, Stan, Amazon and the forthcoming Disney + service as well (and a few local others). Do they have the IP when that goes online? I can see half a dozen series that could be hits, and I am not the only one. Plenty of dedicated story tellers will have a list. Yet, does the Apple executive (whomever Tim Cook handed this hot potato to), does that person have a clue? The difference between a good presentation and an actual good idea comes with a gap that can fit the Grand Canyon and many Apple executives are a little lost when they face that gap.

It goes further, having a great idea is not enough and most visionaries have that in mind. to see that part we need to reflect on: “Apple, which became the world’s first trillion-dollar company in August last year, had been dropping cryptic hints about the launch event for weeks, sending the internet rumour-mill into overdrive“, yet since then Apple lost well over 20% of its value and the next few ‘slam bam’ misers will dent that even further. The next part is interesting as it impacts gaming and TV.

To get a great product you need at the very least (before marketing gets to have a go):

  1. A script, a story that will compel the reader to go on. Loading it with sex and graphics will only hold a small percentage for some time. A great example of a near perfect script was I Claudius by Robert Graves.
  2. A cast that works well together, each good actors, but together they become ambrosia, wine and nitro-glycerine, all at the same time. Again I Claudius became the golden standard. With Derek Jacobi, George Baker, Siân Phillips, Brian Blessed, James Faulkner, John Hurt, Patrick Steward, Ian Ogilvy, John Castle, and John Rhys-Davies we got something unheard of. They were already good actors, yet together they created greatness, they are now globally celebrities, but in 1976 that was not a given, they were iron rods and the director shaped them into high tempered steel increasing their mark close to tenfold.
  3. The director. Not merely the man implying 3, 2, 1, action! No, he is the person that becomes the visual visionary and Herbert Wise delivered. The evidence is seen in his work. As a director he has 91 marks on his career rod and when we look at it all, it is all decent work, insightful work, yet I Claudius is a 180 cm person walking in Indonesia (where the average height is 152cm), it stood out tall above all others. So, even as we accept that I Claudius could not have been done without the cast, it equally required the right director to make it work.
  4. The Producer (in this case the BBC), who had to put up the dough with a need of blind faith and no idea how much they were going to lose. These four required to be completely in sync and they were as such I Claudius is still seen as the best BBC drama ever produced, even now, 43 years later we see that new TV series merely hope to equal this achievement, thinking that it can be surpassed is mere folly (yet optionally not impossible).

This is the setting that Apple is trying to get into and throwing 2 billion at it thinking that it will be easy by presenting a few famous people is as reliable as getting rich by spending what you have on blow and hookers. It looks pretty, yet it is an absolute non-winner 100% of the time. Finding the right people will be the task for Apple and as they are all competing for the same pig through increasing the value of good scriptwriters, yet they too are starting to look critical at the offers, because they lose value with every failure and often enough, they do not get to blame the director of the production company, they get to be the scapegoat. So they will require their optional bosses to set an income and levels of freedom and commitment to a much higher degree.

As for gaming

Gaming has a similar setting. It will be about getting the gamers on board and that requires a great product, in an age where Apple has been all about marketed iteration, they are vying for innovation? In a market they do not seem to really comprehend? I am slightly puzzled.

There the director is the project director; the cast are the graphic designers and the scripters and coders. The art and stage might have similar issues, but finding these parts to intertwine and interconnect is where good coders are required. Then there is the learning curve of the game. And it gets to be worse fast when it becomes a product relying on micro transactions. Ubisoft, Bethesda too never quite worked it out and the first screw up will diminish the value of the event overnight. Apple will have to steer clear of micro transactions in the first year by a certainty of 100% and in the subsequent 2-3 years for 90%. Can they afford that game? Their essential path will be the RPG games that call the horn of attendance for gamers on a global scale, if not, than this becomes a long term project that will not end up becoming a winner. In that they have additional competition form makers like Nintendo, their Switch is still gaining momentum and the games I have seen lined up for that system shows that Nintendo is taking this momentum extremely serious. I wonder if Apple has thought this through beyond their return on investment expectations from executives who rely in spreadsheets and lack essential data skills other than identifying their ROI and bonus column. Once that goes south Apple will take a few hits in short succession and they will be painful. If it goes wrong (I am not stating or indication that this is the case), they could face the hits where their total value is a mere 50% of what it was on September 16th 2018.

Yes, Apple could rise high with streaming on TV and consoles, but in the end they require the golden eggs to get there and I am not convinced that they have what it takes to get there. For the most it is an art, I have been involved in gaming since 1984 and I still miss elements in all it. It is both science and an art, the moment you separate the two is the moment you lose. That has been an essential given for close to two decades. Ubisoft got it wrong more than once, Bethesda took massive hits with miscalculations and they are dedicated experts in that field, I doubt Apple has seen that shortfall at present.

To illustrate that we need to look at a game called the Division 2, an Ubisoft product. Important fact, it is seen as a really good game, better than the first version and steps forward, at times leaps forward, some reviewers have stated that is sets a new bar of online gaming and that is awesome to learn. Now add the two headlines: ‘Ubisoft Patches Annoying ‘The Division 2’ Skills Bug‘, as well as ‘The Division 2 PC players report a 100% CPU usage issue, Ubisoft is investigating‘, on games this size this will always happen and the fact that it is looked at and fixed this early is really good, so this is not about pulling Division 2 down. This is what happens on games this big depending on online elements, which is besides server down times. A consequence of online gaming and in this Apple is as I expect it not ready to see gaming to the higher levels it needs to see it.

If they see these two elements as a method to use the TV as a weapon, a data weapon for additional wealth, we see a company that is about to get hit really hard. That is in the foundation of it all. I believe that they are making the same mistake that Microsoft made. Microsoft is talking a good talk, yet the people all over the world are seeing the impact, the most powerful console in the world is being surpassed by the weakest of the three. Their setting of always online, their bullying tactics, their essential inability to listen to gamers (or ignoring what they are being told) is what is dragging down Microsoft and Apple will experience that lesson in a very hard way soon enough if they walk that same silly line.

Just like Microsoft, we see a company that more likely than not does not comprehend gamers and will falter because of corporate ROI needs soon enough. They see the two as connected to grow better, but these are two separate entities (TV and Gaming) representing 6 dimensions that can go in any direction, when these executives learn that lesson the hard way and they are looking what to do next, I will offer Tim Cook my last $99 for the company (Apple, a fruit of the loom division).

Could I be massively wrong?

Absolutely, yet the Apple marketing need of the hype and their viral needs seem to be on my side, as the gaming industry as a whole tends to be as gossipy as any old tea lady, so word would have circulated into my inner core of contacts much earlier, as such I think that Apple is not ready, nowhere near ready, personally I do hope to be proven wrong. I would love to see more contenders in the gaming world, more choice, more innovation and better games is the consequence from that war, and I do love playing good games.

I will keep you all posted on what happens next.

 

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