Tag Archives: the Audition

With Netflix in mind

I was getting my zone on this morning (through caffeine) and as I saw something pass by last night (way too late) I decided to try and revisit what I shoved on the side something that was regarding Netflix. It was the only bold word I remembered from the 03:12 moment, and as such I did a search. I was not successful (at present); I did get a whole range of other items. Titles like ‘Terrace House on Netflix is an antidote to a world gone insane‘, ‘Netflix’s New Mini-Seasons Steal an Old Trick from Broadcast TV‘, as well as ‘Why Ben Affleck’s ‘Triple Frontier’ is your new macho Netflix guilty pleasure‘, the title or whatever passed me by was not there. It got me to thinking about certain series. You see, in a sea of options people get to drown because they cannot decide. Most (like me) want more than just a little 42 minute hype and that got me to one of the best BBC Drama’s around in decades (besides I, Claudius that is). Waking the dead was brilliant for several reasons. Not only because of the cast Trevor Eve (Eddie Shoestring), Sue Johnston, Wil Johnson and Claire Goose (Jane Kennedy) all awesome as a team! The issue is that the story was deeply overwhelming as every case was a two episode one hour each. The series were not a collected short stage of items; it was an actual story, complete with events to connect to. The makers were brilliant in a few ways as the stories were amazing, but that 2 part one hour approach was the pusher to set the stage much higher than ever before. So when we see these Marvel series, these crime series and other elements. I am surprised that places like Stan and Netflix have not pondered a much larger bet, one that could pay off for a much longer time. Not some vanilla series with happy endings. But based on the stories like Constantine, Elektra, Moon Knight, and optionally some series in the 90’s and 80’s that flopped. Everyone is looking at a new Buffy, Buffy was a huge success, but in that drive we forget to look at series because they failed. Some failed not because they were bad (well they were in that shape), but because we were not willing to make them dark enough and people have taken a real shine to dark TV series. By making them so dark that it makes black the new vanilla, that is the path some need to be on and it should not be some 42 minute series. It should be more like Waking the Dead, 2 episodes of a full hour. You can actually give the people a real story. This is not a new idea, others have voiced it and even as Hollywood is too scared to make that leap, for places like Stan and Netflix it could be the game changer. Netflix learned that when they gave the people ‘the Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina‘, the totally vanilla (and family friendly series) with Melissa Joan Hart has been rewritten into something that people teenagers and those who passed that age limit decades earlier go bonkers over; the mention of a new teaser poster auto evolves into a new viral wave of messages on a global stage. We should be more like Leonard Cohen in You want it Darker? And as we remember “You want it darker, we kill the flame“, we see the stage that several ideas should push towards. It gives light to the 1973 movie ‘The Legend of Hell House‘ which seems to have been the inspiration at least in part for ‘The Haunting of Hill House‘, Netflix blew the roof of their maximum ability to entice an audience and they are not done, not by a long shot.

So how do you think the audience will react, not to some 45 minute chase, but a 2 hour hunt for some truly bad person, raw, bloody and unforgiving by someone like Elektra Natchios, not some sexy looking Jennifer Garner (there will be minimal opposition against that element), but a well-trained, decently muscled and super agile version of a comic book assassin making short work of the bodyguards. Not some 1:43 scene, but a close to a realistic invasion of a well-protected house, taking our guards, optionally avoiding staff and brutally slaughtering the target in one quick sweep, a Jane Wick without all the noise-making, to coin a phrase.

And the people will love that story; we saw that in the original Day of the Jackal with Edward Fox (not the Willis version). There are several series out there that have parts of it, but not all of it and making a double one hour episodes on that would optionally give us all, it would give a totally new appreciation of quality writing and it would show the need for actual stories, it seems that all these marvel series will soon come to a grinding halt. Too much is the same, too much are transferred idea’s from series to series. Waking the dead was never that, it was unique. The BBC writers had a golden equation. It cannot be improved upon, but it can be the mould for something entirely new. and believe me, places like Stan and Netflix are looking for new, they have billions riding on that and they cannot get it wrong, not even once, not in this day and age when they are confronted with an additional $2 billion totaling their debt presently at around $12 billion. Even as they have 139 million subscribers giving them close to $1.6 billion each month, a lot of it is infrastructure and technology. Netflix needs to find new niches to give rise to new and fresh blood that can see series and movies no one else offers and for the most others do not offer dark. Do you expect to see that happen at Disney any day soon? That is the one handicap that Marvel, now part of Disney would face, series that are slightly too vanilla for most, it gives Netflix (Stan also) an opportunity, but it is merely one window and it will not be open for too long, in the end Disney needs to find the proper valves to keep it all afloat making profit, their optional delay in making the call, that is the one brief window that places like Netflix and Stan have for now, for now that is.

They are not the only ones vying for more viewers, in that regard Season One of American Gods hit the spot right on and with the pilot of season 2 hitting just four days ago, noise is rising from so many people on needing to see it, it shows not just how right I am, it might show that what I consider dark is just not dark enough. The numbers will show soon enough if this is what will drive Amazon Prime Video faster and larger soon enough. Even as some are less positive, I believe that it is merely the story taking a moment to adjust to what comes next and that is just my personal take on it, I reckon that in 4 weeks I will be proven correct (or wrong), it is in all that we need to ask, is it about pushing the envelope, is it about something truly novel? Not unlike the Japanese movie ‘the Audition‘. I believe it to be a blend of factors; the entire 43 minute mess to write it all in is no longer holding our attention well enough. There is plenty of short, there are enough movie, but in between there is a whole range of nothing. Waking the Dead had us covered and they were pretty much the only ones. It is time to see that and adjust form something like that. My money is on series of a much darker nature, most people are truly fed up with vanilla, it there is something to be learned from Bird Box that would be pretty much it. We cannot get a decent stress in a total frame of 42 minutes, yet in a double one hour episode we can get more than one and without it interfering with the quality of the story. It is not about the scare moment, it is about binding us to the scene and get us captured for the entirety of the episode, BBC solved it in the most brilliant way possible and we need to use that wisdom to create something the audience has not seen before. Novelty gets us there and having the best quality story keeps them there. From that part I believe that there is space very deep space for a new totally awesome Star Trek Movie. People were not happy about Star Trek Beyond; I do not believe it was about the acting or the directing. It was the story and there is enough evidence that they could have a two part cash cow if they hire the right writer to head that team. The nice part that if he is willing to make that jump you will get to see 125 million star Trek fans (globally) to go utterly nuts with joy, but to get that done, J.J. Abrams and Quentin Tarantino must be willing to make quite the jump into a direction neither had taken before. If they do they end up with two movies each passing the one billion revenue mark with ease. The classics can get you there, if you know the right classical writer who can give to you what wasn’t shown before.

Innovation is not merely seeing new, it is about the need and ability to adapt into another frame not making it merely novel, but giving a classical pressure to what still is, that is the field where all the leprechauns bury their pot of gold. There are plenty of plots to draw from; you merely need one man and a decent shovel to get you there.

 

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A flawed generation?

I was browsing the Guardian, more important the movie section. Then a thought came forth. It made me grab back to a Ted presentation, one of the most moving ones from 2006. Sir Ken Robinson treated us to comedy whilst underlining one of the most important issues, or so it should have been, watch it at https://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity, it will be the best 17 minutes of your week, so how did I get here?

So, I was browsing articles, some I have already read like (at https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/feb/05/the-cloverfield-paradox-review) ‘Netflix sequel is a monstrous mess‘. The few quotes that sprung out were: “disparate elements carelessly smashed together“, “most of them largely nonsensical“, and “the underseen ‘Life’ managed to combine thrills and ingenuity“. Yet this is not the only article. The second one is one that I had not looked at before (at https://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2018/feb/05/black-panther-fought-off-a-toxic-ghostbusters-online-campaign-rotten-tomatoes), you see, I have mixed feelings on this movie. The trailer was awesome and I would love to see it, yet unlike the other ‘super heroes’, this is one comic I never read. Not intentionally mind you, you see whilst growing up in The Netherlands, the 70’s gave me some comics, but not all, so some franchises never made it across the Atlantic river. I did see the Black Panther as there was a guest appearance in like ‘Fantastic Four’, but that was pretty much it (besides Captain America Civil War). The other heroes are not a mystery and I had seen at least a few comics from each of them. So my mixed feelings are about not being able to relate it to the comics, so some of the background will be unknown to me. That’s all on that. The article became a larger issue when I saw “this attack was aimed at the most high-profile movie ever to feature a predominantly black cast felt racist” as well as “In an era when culture wars are predominantly fought on social media, this sort of down-voting can seem like an effective guerrilla tactic. Clicking on an angry red face or selecting zero stars is even easier than adding your name to an online petition“. It does not make sense to me to have hatred of a product you are utterly unfamiliar with; it counters art and creativity in almost every way as I personally see it. It goes on with the third article (at https://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2018/feb/13/venom-trailer-tom-hardy-sony-spider-man), where you can read: “In recent years we’ve seen examples of movies that have triumphed at the box office almost entirely on the basis of snazzy advance publicity“, as well as: “fans were more interested in finding out what the new big screen version of Venom looks like than charting the next stage in Hardy’s career-long mission to channel the most eccentric human beings on the planet. And, on that count, they were left profoundly disappointed“. It was at that point that I remembered the Ted Talk with Sir Ken Robinson, the presentation that is still funny and legend after almost 12 years. What is more important that it is actually more to the point as an issue nowadays? When he states “Art, we get educated out of it!” he made a stronger point than even he might have envisioned. I think that this time was recently in the past and many of us have gone to a negative point past that. This could be considered on both side of the isle. The ‘haters‘ who seem to use whatever option they have to be toxic against whatever they want to be against using automated channels to ‘voice‘ it, or to merely spout their discriminatory bias. Yet on the other side, we see flaws too, with “Sony, of course, is facing a very different problem, in that its previous big screen incarnation of Venom was not beloved at all” we actually don’t get to see it, it is merely a reflection of a ‘failed’ movie, yet when you consider that they made $890,871,626 whilst the production costs were set at $258 million, I wonder what they are bitching about, because they took home a nice clean half a billion plus. So what gives? I think that Netflix, HBO and others are making the same mistake I accused Ubisoft of in the last few years. By relying on some business model with forecasting, a model set ‘to not get a failure‘ we are treated to the near impossibility of seeing an actual mind-blowing movie. If you are unwilling to move that could be a failure, you will in addition also miss out on making an exceptional win. It is like the line between genius and insanity, it is a very thin line and walking it is the only way to get something truly exceptional.

This is also seen in another way, most will not agree, or even be aware, but Ridley Scott is the person ending up making one of the most awesome and most amazing Crusader movies ever made. Kingdom of Heaven is seen as an utter failure to some, but the movie costing $130M still brought in a little over $211M worldwide. That’s still $80M in the pocket, I would instantly sign up for that. So as we see that ‘forecasting models‘ are becoming more and more the daily bacon of our lives, we are not moving towards better profits, we are moving away from exceptional achievements. There was a second reason to mention Kingdom of Heaven, you see, just like the Abyss, the trailers were actually bad, I consider them no reason to watch the movie, but the end result was in both cases spectacular. The dangers of marketing jives and kneejerk reactions to incomplete data, is that the studios seem to be overreacting. If it is not a positive Hype, it will not be a success. We see that danger to Venom, which would be somewhat of a risky choice no matter how you slice it, but in equal measure, the danger could to a much smaller extent also apply to Aquaman. It is a lot smaller, because Jason Momoa rocked it in Justice League, so he has created momentum. Another example will be seen when places like Netflix will grow the comic book Universe and add other characters, like for example Moon Knight, or more apt, as the New Mutants arrives in 2019, will the makers be willing to make Illyana Rasputin (aka Magik) dark enough? That is the question that the viewers/fans face. Even as the moviemakers are now direct enough (John Wick) and sexual tensioned enough (Spartacus, Game of Thrones) to take a leap to the edgy side, but when we see the absence of the edgy sides, was that truly the vision of the maker, or is that the forecasting model on how the prediction on what I regard to be unrealistic data to be setting the stage?

I cannot prove either part in this, but I am hopeful that outdated concepts are moving away further and further (John Wick is a nice example), but is it enough? You see, the more primal anything is, the more it links to our emotions and creativity (I personally believe that they tend to go hand in hand).

When it comes to the superheroes we tend to look at the legend Stan Lee and why not, he showed that creativity drives popularity and profit. The man has been around since 1922 and he was part of the creation of Spider-Man, the Hulk, Doctor Strange, the Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Black Panther, the X-Men, Ant-Man, Iron Man and Thor, representing well over $8 billion in movie revenue. So the larger bulk is all on him. Yet, I also want to see how this creativity is seen by the new makers like David Wohl, Marc Silvestri and Garth Ennis who created the Darkness. Can the dark view of Jackie Estacado, be created in the really dark way? As a videogame it was well received and ended up being an interesting setting, yet how would that work for the big screen? The problem is that the setting is now no more about the art (mainly), it is about the profit. Stan Lee had the benefit that the art stage was powerful enough and proven to be strong enough that most ‘forecasting models’ would remain obsolete, yet that path would be much less considered for anything new and unproven. We have seen How Azrael and Knightfall Batman were well received as comic books, but Azrael and the order of St Dumas, as a movie, or Netflix series, would it even survive if the character and acts were not dark enough? Will the ‘fan’ still embrace it when the forecasting models push the makers into making it into some Disney angora woolen soft product version, would it then instantly flop? I personally hope so!

The Main event

So as we saw some of the franchises evolve for the big screen, there seems to be a tactical and business side, but less of an artsy side to this. It is almost like we can no longer do that proving the point that Sir Ken Robinson made in 2006. As we look at how much coin we can get from a comic book transfer, we see a similar danger that it is merely the reutilisation of something already made, which in this light shows how rare the movie Life is (apart from the fact that Ryan Reynolds can make most movies watchable). Even as it seems to have been down written in reviews, I found it very enjoyable, in addition to that, the work of the other main cast members Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson and Hiroyuki Sanada was excellent. The issue is not just what is original, but what could make it. To see that distinction, you only need step out of your comfort zone and take a look at the Japanese movie ‘the Audition‘ (there is only the Japanese edition with subtitles), so you can’t be dyslexic for this one, or you need to be fluent in Japanese. That is the nice part of primal sides in any movie. It is the dark and unsettling side. It is easy to get to the primal sides of lust, because sex sells, it tends to do so with the greatest of ease. It is the other side where we are bound through discomfort, where we see exceptional works rise, but these instances are extremely rare which is a shame. In comic book world the fans are hopeful that they will see a good version of the Sandman, but that is still the stuff of ‘questionable future events’. So how can we rely on creativity to bring us an exceptional original movie, that whilst there is growing evidence that creativity is moving out, out of nearly all our lives, how can we move forward? I actually do not know. I have tried my hand at creativity in many ways, but I was never a movie maker, a storyteller (like all others ‘working’ on my first novel, which is currently approaching 60,000 words).

Getting back to where we had it

So how can creativity be reintroduced to the people? Well starting to create something, or better start to create anything is always a first step. We tend to replicate, then emulate and after that create. It is these actions that drive movies, TV series and video games forward. For something to be better than a mix of two (like a Pokémon RPG), we need to see it where we create within ourselves. This is how I found an optional new way to sink an Iranian frigate, how I came up with the concept of the Elder Scrolls: Restoration (ES6) and how I got the idea on two different kinds of RPG, as well as a new solution to resolve the NHS issues in more than one nation. Yet, even as the ideas were seemingly easy to grow and adapt; how to get them into reality? I am not a programmer and equally limited in my drawing skills, hence I rely on storytelling.

We see part of this (at https://www.polygon.com/2018/1/31/16952652/david-brevik-it-lurks-below-announcement), where the maker of Diablo is now building something new. Even as it looks familiar and it has elements of Minecraft (or Blockheads), we see the growth of a new approach, just like I saw with Subnautica which is an awesome result to an entirely new approach on survival RPG. Even as David Brevik revamped the 1985 game Gauntlet, and added more famous characters to create ‘Marvel Heroes’, the span between the arcade machine and Marvel Heroes gave it not just a more fresh approach, it gave it a new dimension as you could grow different super powers/skills making the game very replayable. So, even as I came up with this ‘new’ RPG, I did remember my many hours in the 7 cities of gold game on the Amiga and that shaped some of my ideas. Even as some of these games have been forgotten, the Amiga was a leap forward in those days. It had hundreds of games that were innovative (for a system with a mere 64Kb), so the fact that some of these ideas have not been restarted and evolved is simply beyond me. Now, is that new and creative? That is a point of view, by altering and evolving a game, it becomes a different game, by adding to it, the game does not merely becomes bigger, it becomes more. Now even as some games are remastered and as such remain the great games they were (System Shock for example), yet some games were nice on the original system (example Escape from Hell, Masters of Orion, Battle Chess, Covert Action), nowadays, these games would be too small, too limited and too restrictive, no bang for the buck. This is what has forever fuelled my passion for RPG (and sandbox games), the idea and the actions to do what I want, where I want, and at times when I want. Yet, I also believe that there should be inhibitors, just getting every mission, every option makes even an RPG game grinding. With limitations, we make choices, opening some doors, shutting others. It is that part that makes a game replayable and more important, it gives a much longer lifespan to any game you get.

Yet as I see it, the game makers are getting more and more restrictive, it is either making us do a thousand things on the side (AC: Origin), which is still a good game that I enjoyed, or we get into the grinding mode (Monster Hunter), a part in gaming I really do not like. Even as the graphics are amazing, it is the grinding that gets to me (I played the game on the 3DS). In that regard, the makers aren’t really making it easy for us, with Horizon Zero Dawn being a novel exception. In 2018 a new look on Spiderman is keeping us interested, but the actual ‘new’ additions seems to be limited to Sea of thieves, God of War and Vampyr, these seem to be the only games that are actually new and God of War only makes that cut because it is in an entirely new setting with only the playable character remaining the same, whilst the game play has actually change (a lot) from the previous 3, making it basically a new game. So including Monster Hunter there are 5 new games, the others are pretty much franchises (I left PC games out of the consideration).

In the end

Even as it is most visible with games, there is also an issue with movies nowadays. I love to see something really new, I equally enjoy the DC and Marvel movies, but if we take these and the sequels out of the equation, I am saddened to see it boils down to Red Sparrow, Annihilation, and Ready Player One. The rest seems to be either sequel, remakes or an altered version for something we have seen before. That does not make them bad movies, it is merely not really new, which is the issue here, they come through creativity. Isn’t it sad that the innovative list of truly new works is not growing to the degree it is? Now, we can look beyond borders, yet the reality is in my personal view that we have become less and less creative and we are losing out in several ways. Even if we are not game makers, TV producers or movie makers, as an audience we are equally missing out and we need to find a way to repair that flaw. One of the psychology views is: “Creative individuals are remarkable for their ability to adapt to almost any situation and to make do with whatever is at hand to reach their goals. If I had to express in one word what makes their personalities different from others, its complexity. They show tendencies of thought and action that in most people are segregated“. Even as the shrink focusses on complexity, I do not adhere there, I believe that the creative mind becomes ever better in analysing complexity and simplifying it, and reducing complex matters it into something ‘manageable’. It is an ability every person can have, but I believe that as our creativity levels went down, we lost some of that. The ‘business results driven‘ educational world has done this to us. We see the results more and more around us. We are blindly relying on automation and process instead of common sense. I am not stating that we should not adhere to these elements. I merely believe that once an automation or process failed that it will take a lot longer for people to react and that is not a good thing. Westpac saw such a failure only last week. With: “The meteoric rise of automated credit card applications has been called into question after Westpac was forced to refund a total of $11.3 million to credit card customers. The refunds, which worked out as several thousand dollars per customer, were necessary because the bank’s online assessment process had failed to gather enough information about the customers’ financial situation“, when we consider “Corporate watchdog ASIC said the crux of the problem was that Westpac had relied on automated application processes” and “Westpac admitted that customers’ employment status and income may not have been “directly reconfirmed in the credit card credit limit increase application process”” could be seen as optional evidence that a more creative mind would have seen the flawed complexity and beyond that optionally saved their boss 11 million. That is merely my point of view, but I stand firm on our loss of creativity, it is all around me every day. It gives rise that we have become a flawed generation; we lost more than we bargained for. I reckon that the academics will state that this element was a separate question and they were not instructed to focus on that as they designed the education system of the 70’s and 80’s, we can go on that this flawed system is still in place today giving us the danger of a descending line of our creativity and actual new experiences in the arts, a frightening concept to say the least.

 

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