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Posts Tagged ‘Firefly’

 

Full disclosure: I am a Browncoat.

I wasn’t an early adopter, in that I never saw Firefly during its brief broadcast on FOX, but once a friend lent me his box set of DVDs, I knew I had found my all-time favorite science fiction television show.

That said, you might think I’m about to go all gosh and gee-willikers about Big Damn Hero, the first official Firefly novel.

And you’d be wrong. (more…)

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Over the New Year’s Day holiday, we screened a bunch of movies. There were a couple “meh” movies, but also several I liked (and I’m pretty hard to please), so it was a good movie-weekend for us. But of the ones I liked, two stood out and demanded specific mention for their “writerly” content.

The Words,” is one of those films that crops up every few years, where the main character is a writer. “Stranger than Fiction” (brilliant, btw), “The Ghost Writer,” and “The Wonder Boys” spring to mind as standout Writer-cum-Main-Character movies of the last dozen years, and I’ll put “The Words” right up there with them, but I’ll go even further. “The Words” is the only one I’ll buy on DVD so I can watch it again.

Why? Because this movie is more than just a movie where the main character happens to be a writer. It’s more than a movie filled with the angst-steeped maunderings of a man who can’t seem to put pen to paper. This is a movie about the ethics of writing.

Watch the trailer and you’ll see the setup: Rory is a young, struggling writer who happens across an old manuscript, reads it, loves it, and submits it as his own work. Later, the real author of the book appears, and thence comes our conflict.

Well, the good thing about this movie is that the trailer is lying to us. The conflict actually begins well before that, and rightly so. Why does Rory put forth this book he found as his own? How does that act affect him? How does it affect his world, his wife, his life? When Rory finally meets up with the real author of the book, the conflict is well underway, and things definitely do not get better.

What I liked best about this movie though, was the way it developed the characters (all of them), their history (seamlessly inserted into the narrative), and built onward to what I thought was a truly believable, adult ending and denouement. The movie is structurally complex but this structure is (in the final analysis) comprehensible and, more importantly, necessary to the fullness of the story. This is a movie that, on second and third screenings, will provide greater depth and detail.

The second movie I thought had a definite “writerly” slant was one I selected on a lark. As most of you know, I am a Browncoat, a Joss Whedon admirer, and a genuine fan of “Firefly.” So, when I learned that Joss’s production company had come out with a movie (albeit not of his direction), I looked for it.

The Cabin in the Woods” is, on first glance, another of those ultra-violent horrors filled with dumb teenagers and sadistic monsters. I am definitely not a fan of the slasher/dead-teenager movie, but I’ve seen enough of them to know the formula, and my reaction was, “Seriously, Joss?” But then I read the blurb and I was hooked.

What we have here is a beautiful deconstruction of the genre. This movie takes every complaint you’ve ever had about the genre, takes every moment of predictable stupidity that made you yell at the screen, and takes every built-in senseless implausibility these movies provide and wraps them all up in a larger, even more implausible explanation. It’s both a send-up and love letter to a genre that’s had its share of both, but this one is done with true ingenuity, wicked humor, and the sharp, semi-self-aware writing that only Joss Whedon can provide. And, as a writer, I enjoyed seeing it pick apart each and every detail of the Dead Teenager Movie formula and prop them all back up again.

In short, I loved this movie, from the opening shot to the big reveal at the end. It was respectful of its audience and hilarious to boot.

k

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I have often said, “Every book has its own lesson to teach, even the bad ones.”

Okay…now you’re looking off to the right and seeing the cover for the latest Richard Castle book and you’re thinking…”Oooh, guess he didn’t like that one.”

Wrong.

I liked it fine. It’s a tie-in, meta-reality, police procedural mystery, and as such, it worked just fine. It’s not high art or lasting literature, but it’s a fun read, and filled with all the little “Castle” and “Firefly” jokes that come from this clever and, dare I say, unique confluence of reality and fiction.

However, it wasn’t perfect, and through its imperfections, I learned something as a writer.

(more…)

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Obey the Kitty!I’ve spent some time on this blog bemoaning the flaws and poor implementations of Agile methodologies so, to be fair, this isn’t about that. I cannot blame Agile for the problems currently weighing on me at my Monkey-Boy-Day-Job. These problems go much deeper. It doesn’t matter what methodology you’re using; you can’t fix stupid.

Like most people, I want to succeed at my job. I want to do well and contribute to good outcomes. I really hate being set up to fail. But management-types don’t seem to grok that concept. So they do things like this:

  1. Create a situation wherein you need to do six months of work in six weeks.
  2. Ensure that the situation requires something you haven’t done before.
  3. Set people to work on it, but
    • Don’t give them details about what it is you want.
    • Pick people who don’t know the systems involved.
  4. Once underway, dribble in new and changed requirements.
  5. See what happens.

To quote Jayne Cobb, ” Where’s that get fun?”

k

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I’ve just seen what is possibly the most ridiculous premise for a television show, ever.

It has long been a fact of life in my house that, if we like a show, it gets canceled. If a show is sharp and well-written, it will probably get the mid-season axe (Yes, shows like “Firefly,” and yes, I am a Browncoat, but let’s not even go there.)

Well-written shows are thin on the ground these days. Ironically, broadcast television and the major networks—once the movers and shakers of primetime—are sinking to new and totally unimpressive lows, scything back scripted shows like Death himself, while pumping the pabulum of competition and so-called “reality” shows into our living rooms like cut-rate meth. Basic cable is the new frontier, and it’s doing some great work, but examples are few and far between.

As a consumer of television fare, I’m a tough market, but I am willing to suspend my disbelief—a lot—if you give me a good plot, some good writing, and some good acting to carry me along. Shows like “Awake” and “Journeyman” (both defunct) came with the sort of setup that required a healthy suspension of disbelief, but they both paid great dividends in the writing and the intricate plots. The writers for these shows put some serious effort into building a basis for the shows, and as incredible and hard-to-believe as the premises were, they had a logic that was integral to the worlds they inhabited. They made sense, and you didn’t have to dump a trainload of fundamental truths in order to go along with them.

Every story, every novel, no matter how bizarre the setting, must have an internal logic. If it doesn’t make sense, we won’t buy it. You can have wizards and dragons and disc-shaped planets and time travel, you can break every rule of physics and change the course of history, but if you don’t explain it or worse, if you can’t explain it, your reader/viewer will be lost to you. If you don’t respect the reader enough to craft a believable plot, you just don’t respect the reader.

This weekend, while watching the Olympics, it was impossible to avoid the ad blitz for the new NBC show, “Revolution.” The JJ Abrams nametag was intriguing, as was Jon Favreau’s direction for the pilot, and post-apocalyptic setting (thankfully sans zombies) looked okay. But what was the premise? That suddenly all the electricity stopped working? No, seriously, what’s the premise?

I did a search to find out exactly what I was missing. I found that the show was set fifteen years after

…an unknown phenomenon permanently disabled all advanced technology on the planet, ranging from computers and electronics to car engines and jet turbines and batteries.

Oh my.

So, NBC has postulated a phenomenon that was somehow smart enough to know what it was going to disable (Batteries? Really?) I don’t know about you, but an old car engine isn’t “advanced technology.” The internal combustion engine is, essentially, just like, fire, you know? And not only is it smart enough to know what it’s going to disable, it’s completely undetectable, and the entire world is unable to figure out what it is or where it came from or how it did it. This big thing happens, and that’s it. Nothing else happens afterward; no alien invasion, no nano-technological Brownian machines ravage the world, no super-criminal demands a ransom. Nothing. So, this “lights out” moment is totally natural, totally unknown, and totally arbitrary.

But, it’ll probably be a hit because it’s got pretty people swinging swords.

k

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