Awhile back I wrote an article about The Walking Dead that plead for patience. In that article I tried to show that even boring seasons are constructed with larger themes in mind. Unfortunately, this didn’t even begin to address all the problems people currently have with the series, so in this article I’d like to address a few more concerns starting with a complete breakdown (episode by episode, season by season) of how much time the series dedicates to exciting moments. Then I will use this data as a springboard to discuss the other issues people have with The Walking Dead.
Hacksaw Ridge is one of those films that does a lot of things right, but gets a bunch of little things wrong. I left the theatre feeling conflicted, not about the film’s message or themes, but its presentation of its message and themes.
Because Hacksaw Ridge is not subtle. It is about Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) who, despite being a conscientious objector, enlisted in World War II, refused to carry a weapon, and became a decorated soldier. The film spends about half its runtime on Doss’s process of getting through the army as a conscientious objector. Hacksaw Ridge wants to tell a story about absolute faith and it thinks the key to achieving this is to hammer the conscientious objector story until the nail is so deep it will never come out.
I’ll return to Hacksaw Ridge when it comes out on DVD and spend some time with it to figure out all my problems, but for now I’d like to quickly look at the lack of storytelling subtly in Hacksaw Ridge.
Please note, this article will contain Hacksaw Ridge spoilers. Moreover, because this article deals with some nuances of its storytelling, it won’t make sense unless you’ve seen the film.
I rewatched The Matrix the other day and was impressed by how purposeful it was with its CGI. And not just it’s CGI, The Matrix integrates all its ideas seamlessly into the story. Here’s a movie that wants to build a dystopian future, incorporate philosophical concepts, be the first North American film to have fight choreography from Yuen Woo-Ping, popularize a technique that manipulates how viewers perceive space and time in a camera’s frame (that they coined “bullet time”), and incorporate anime and cyberpunk influences.
And somehow, amidst these varied and bold initiatives they manage to make each and every single element serve the story as well as making an entertaining action movie. This helped me remember that good CGI has more to do with serving the story than it does with looking cool. There are a number of reasons CGI might look bad (low budget, time constraints, conflicting information between directors and producers), but unnecessary CGI is the greater crime.
Here are three examples of where CGI serves the story well and three examples where CGI serves the story poorly.
With the most recent episode of The Walking Dead, “Swear,” fans are starting to get restless.
I’ve had a fortunate background with The Walking Dead. I only started watching just before Season Five, so I was able to binge watch the series up until that point. This meant that if the show dragged for a couple of episodes, I didn’t have to wait long to get to the “solid episodes.” But you notice something when you watch the series all at once; it’s clearer to see that the “slow episodes” are actually building something. Something of value. We all experience the highs of The Walking Dead and those moments aren’t because Rick is stuck in tank and we’re not sure how he’s going to out, it’s because there are themes and ideas the show is trying to convey while simultaneously getting you to care about its characters and where they are going.
And slow as Season Seven may be (so far), I think it’s helpful to look back at previous seasons to remember that the season has a destination in mind and we’re going to be delighted somewhere along the path to that end point.
Superman III revisited. In this series I re-watch a movie I haven’t seen in a long time to look at it with new eyes, and (hopefully) more experience. This time I revisit Superman III.
I haven’t seen Superman III since I was a kid and couldn’t really remember much of it. Re-watching it again, I can see why it wasn’t worth remembering. The basic plot is that tycoon Ross Webster (Robert Vaughn) has ambitions to dominate more global markets. Webster discovers a talented computer programmer, Gus Gorman (Richard Pryor), and Webster forces Gorman to use his programming talent to manipulate the world and to combat Superman (Reeve).
The opening sequence of Superman III is a series of mishaps: A blind man’s dog runs away, the dog knocks over a lady, the blind man mistakes a street lane painter as his dog and starts following it. Somewhere amidst this chaos, a man gets trapped inside a flooding car and Superman must save him.
I wondered what kind of story this was establishing. Is this a story about all the things that go wrong in the world that Superman can’t fix? Is it a story about him struggling to decide between who to help and who to abandon, even if that sometimes means between choosing who lives and who dies? This was me giving Superman III too much credit. Superman III is a Superman story told as a screwball comedy. It is a strange movie. It is a boring movie. And I didn’t think it was a funny movie.
Here are six thoughts I had when revisited Superman III.