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The best movie I’ve seen this year was written hundreds of years ago.

William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.

Fun facts:

  1. Joss Whedon directed it
  2. It was filmed entirely in his house
  3. There are no explosions

It isn’t that Shakespeare couldn’t benefit from an explosion here or there (imagine a few well-placed grenades in the background as Hamlet walks epically toward the camera), but my point is that this movie didn’t need them to be good.

But more to the point: I didn’t miss them. Because the truth is, I love character. And I love plot. And I love good writing. And I enjoyed the fact that I was sitting in a movie theater watching what was essentially Joss Whedon getting together with his friends and filming a movie in the space of a few days. I found myself thinking: They can still do that? Throw together a movie with great acting, character, and plot, and people will pay to see it? Is that like, LEGAL in Hollywood?

Unfortunately, most blockbusters are missing all three of those things: great acting, character, and plot.

This is how I imagine most Hollywood screenwriting sessions:

Writer 1: So I have about five lines.

Writer 2: I have three more!

Writer 3: All I have is “GO GO GO!!!” “Take cover!” and a few lines of evil monologuing.

Writer 4: GREAT! Now all we need are fifty pages of special effects shots.

And thus, “Battle: LA” was born. Also, every other summer movie for the last FIVE YEARS.

Let’s try an analogy:

Pretend you’re going to make chocolate chip cookies. Now, sugar is GOOD, isn’t it? It makes cookies taste good. And say you have tons of sugar at your house.

SO WHY NOT PUT ALL THE SUGARRRR IN THE COOKIES? In fact, let’s just axe the flour while we’re at it and add more sugar??? THAT WILL SURELY BE BETTER THAN COOKIES WITH STUPID FLOUR!!!!!

I know from experience that you get cookie soup when you do that.

Now, if special effects are sugar (and great acting, character, and plot are flour)…well, you can see where this is going.

Instead of a delicious movie, you get a pile of crap that you have to scrape off a cookie sheet with a spatula.

And you have to PAY other people money for it.

I love the movie Alien. It’s kind of horrible. People die, and there are angry aliens. And it is spectacularly well written, acted, and directed. Sure, there’s action, but it isn’t center stage. Nor should it be.

The characters are center stage. The plot is center stage. And that’s what makes it amazing.

The special effects and action are just there to assist these things. They should not run the show. If they do, they RUIN THE MOVIE.

To sum up:

Do I love a good action movie? Yes.

Do I appreciate good special effects? Yes.

Do I want to continue to pay money to see inflated extended special effects demos on the big screen? NO.

no no no no no.

I should not have to take my spatula to the movies. 


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An open letter to Hollywood: You’re doing it wrong

I don’t go to the movies a lot anymore, but that’s not because I don’t like movies. I really do.

It’s just that it’s hardly worth a $20 gamble for Ben and I to see a movie that might end up being a two hour waste of time. And in my recent experience, that’s what most new movies end up being: a two hour waste of time.

However, I’m forgiving. Which is why I’ve written the following open letter to the movie industry about what’ll get me back into the theaters.

Dear Hollywood producers, bigwigs, and assorted people with gobs of money:

I don’t like your movies anymore. And judging by the fact that your box office revenues are falling, I have compatriots.

Sure, we’ll hit the movie theater occasionally. But you can no longer count on us to fill your pockets as willingly as we did before the recession. After all, we can see new releases via RedBox for a mere buck – about 1/20th the cost of two theater tickets.

I therefore have composed this list of Things you do that suck and Things you should be doing instead, based purely on a non-scientific yet highly reliable survey of my own brain.

I am comfortable that this accurately represents the opinion of the entire American public.

So read, change your ways, and rake in the dough.

You’ll thank me later, really.

Things you do that suck

1. Stop going nuts with the special effects.

I understand that they are really really wicked cool. Yes, it’s awesome that you can digitally create a twenty minute long Transformers chase scene with extra explosions on top. And that slow motion bullet thing that you copied in every action movie since “The Matrix” is very nice, too. Good job.

This doesn’t excuse you from telling AN ACTUAL STORY.

You must still write a screenplay with good characters and a PLOT.

Special effects are tools that can lend your story some realism. They shouldn’t be taking center stage in your movie.

So get over it and use them properly.

2. Enough with the 3D already. It’s expensive and it isn’t even new. I saw my first 3D movie in an IMAX when I was like, 9. And stuff jumping out at my face from the movie screen still doesn’t excuse you from telling AN ACTUAL STORY. Nice try.

3. The comic book movies are getting old. X-Men was excellent, but it came out in 2000. A decade is way too long to focus on one trend. Please move on.

4. Stop it with the remakes. “Footloose” was fine. “The Thing” was hysterically, gloriously bad, and I resent your trying to make it into a respectable, legitimate, horror flick. Leave the 80s alone.

5. Quit making needless sequels. “Pirates of the Carribean” was done after the first movie, and the rest of the series has just been a painful exercise in circuitous scriptwriting. The Terminator franchise should’ve ended after the second movie because that was where the story actually ended. And yet, there are FOUR movies.

6. Make your characters more like, um, actual people.

I feel like every movie I watch now stars characters who are:

a) emotionless and untouchable
b) endless founts of pithy and annoying catchphrases
c) ALL NINJAS who can execute perfect and amazing flip-kick-punch-stab-spinny-leg-flip-turns

I cannot personally identify with a), b), or c). Can you?

This is especially true when it comes to female characters in action movies. Your average action movie female is basically a man with boobs and no emotions who is also a ninja. Which is really stupid when you think about it.


By now you’re surely scratching your heads and wondering “Well, what do we do now? We’ve already greenlighted ‘Pirates of the Carribean 5: The Curse of the Black Pearl Remade on Even Stranger Tides with new special effects in 3D!!!!!!!11111 starring special guests Superman and Wolverine,’ and we’re all out of ideas!”

(Now that I’ve written the above sentence, I’m actually a little petrified that some movie producer is going to find my blog and go: “THAT’S A GREAT IDEA!” I apologize to the world in advance. Oh well, at least there’d be a pretty awesome finder’s fee.)

Never fear, my dear producers. Here are the Things you should be doing instead:

1. Write a screenplay with believable characters and an interesting plot.

2. Use your special effects only to support that stellar screenplay you wrote. By all means, include explosions and killer sweet action sequences, but don’t get so caught up in them that you forget to have, you know, a plot and characters and stuff.

3. Make the humans human. Take it easy on the emotionless-ninja-killer-flippy-spinny-leg-kick-punch-crap. You don’t have to eliminate it, but be sparing.

Just give us characters we can care about and identify with in some way. People who, even if they have superpowers, are human enough that we could sit down and have a cup of coffee with them. Please.

In conclusion, meet these demands, and I’ll happily go back to the movies.

Many thanks, and best wishes for all your future endeavors. Provided you do everything my way, of course.


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