Tag Archives: action

What Does St. Augustine Have to Do With Social Justice?

“[. . .] where ignorance is bliss,
‘Tis folly to be wise.”

Those lines are from “Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College”, by 18th century poet Thomas Gray. Now we both know the origins of the phrase; you’re welcome. There’s a reason those three words I bolded have survived and become a part of our cultural lexicon when the man who wrote them, and even the fact that they come from a poem to begin with, have long since faded away: we all know what it’s like to learn something we wish we hadn’t.

Kind of like when that image of what appeared to be a pink boa constrictor began circulating around the internet a couple of years back-

pinkboa

-and many people, when they found out what it was, said they would never eat another chicken nugget again. Which, let’s be real, can’t be a resolution that most of them ended up sticking with.

It’s easy to continue hitting up our dietary habits when it comes to Gray’s words; after all, don’t we eat every single day? Anyone who has seen the documentary Food Inc. may come out of it with the hot piece of trivia that corn makes its way into almost every item of food in American grocery stores, but the real question is whether or not they continue purchasing and consuming meat that has, in all likelihood, been produced by a factory farm. Continue reading

NEON: Our Illuminating Interview with Director Mark Blackman

neonThe week before last we at CWR were given the opportunity to review a sci-fi thriller short film called NEON. In addition to that director Mark J. Blackman was also kind enough to answer a few of our questions about his work. He did change my correct spelling of “favorite” to the British-Canadian “favourite” (because he and all his lobsterback brethren are a bunch of heathens) but we’ll try not to hold that against him.


NEON definitely presents some surprises with the development of the story. What was the inspiration behind the plot?

The truth is, NEON was a story that just wouldn’t die, based on a very graphic, stark image of a man silhouetted in the rain who had fallen from grace and was the epitome of a lonely heart.

I was trying to work out what this man wanted and what had got him into such an emotionally dire predicament.  I awoke in the middle of the night just knowing it was about love and shame: it was about keeping another out of love’s way for your own selfish desires – and then it all just clicked: the tone, the mood, the emotion, why it was raining, why he was bald and his place in the world around him.

I was developing another short to direct, a haunting medieval horror, but pitched this to my producer and exec. producer instead – we then spent a year developing the script and working out the best way to present a narrative that goes far beyond what shorts usually handle, as there’s an entire history and world-building element to NEON that is intrinsic to it working. Narratively, we knew we were taking a monumental risk in how we were presenting our story but we figured go big or go home. We went big.

We really enjoyed that NEON was able to present such a vibrant world on what I can only assume was a bit of a budget. In your experience as a creator, what are some of the challenges and rewards in making a short film like this?

NEON is the first film for a while that I’ve directed in such a meticulous manner. I usually like to direct and shoot more organically – a bit more ‘guerilla’ – and feel things out as we go along following rehearsals and workshopping – but NEON was not that sort of film at all.

With so much backstory and world-building to accomplish, every second counted. The way in which the script was written was VERY prescriptive and we even made an animatic of the entire film to check our timings throughout. Every moment was accounted for – every angle, reason for a shot… the timing of an actor’s blocking was rehearsed in my head a million times before the camera ever rolled.

Was it rewarding? It was and it wasn’t. I like to be surprised on set, I like to encourage improvisation and to find new details or moments that are unexpected delights as they can often make a scene. However, the ambitious nature of NEON meant we had less time to allow for such moments and, as such, it was quite the military operation schedule-wise. Having said that, it was the very ambition of what we were trying to achieve with the story and emotion, the cinematography and saga-esque nature to the film that made the process rewarding. Up until NEON I’d been making films with what I could, budget-wise, resource wise – films I could make with what I had access to. NEON was a film for which my producer and I said to ourselves: “What’s the film we want to make?” And we put our money into that. Continue reading

Why Horror Movies Are Good For You

That’s right, boys and ghouls-

Good for you.

That’s not something you’d expect someone to say about the genre, is it?

Sure, you might hear about horror “classics”. There are plenty of fans out there who’ll talk about their personal favorites. You might even hear critics fondly contemplate how certain horror flicks were telling of their times. But morally edifying?

Well that’s the argument I’m going to be presenting to you today.

Be warned- spoilers may follow.

Now this isn’t the first time I’ve tried to champion the macabre. I don’t expect it to be the last either- not considering the reaction folks give me when I say I enjoy the stuff.

And before we really dig in here- let me get the obvious out of the way.

Yes, a lot of horror movies are garbage. The slasher/”teen-scream” subgenres use cheap gore and excessive nudity as a crutch for plot. More serious attempts still rely on the same cliches that have been around for decades. Plenty are poorly acted and have production values that could be outstripped by a middle school enactment of Romeo & Juliet.

But that’s hardly unique to horror. Continue reading

Why The Fast and the Furious Franchise Has the Superior “Comic Book” Movie Shared Universe

This isn’t going to be the longest post for two reasons: 1) I made a bet with a friend and am only eating leaves for the entirety of today [this was my breakfast] and am therefore weak in mind, body, and spirit, and 2) this is a very straightforward assessment that two other other writers have already broken ground on already. Let me take a single step back, though, and remind you of what happens in a week’s time and why I’m writing this.

Furious 7 comes out.

I know I used my love of comic books to springboard my post on Flash Boys, the novel Aaron Sorkin refuses to write a screenplay for because “there aren’t any Asian movie stars”, but here we are again. Well, sort of. See, comic books only reach so large an audience. Comic book movies, on the other hand? They find themselves as two out of the top five highest grossing movies of last year [four of the top ten]. Everyone wants to get in on that business, to the point where a shared universe of larger-than-life characters was one of the goals of the truly awful Dracula Untold. Here’s the thing Universal, you already own The Fast and Furious [referred to as FF from this point on] franchise which has been going hard since the early aughts.

Remember at the end of Iron Man when Tony Stark meets Nick Fury for the first time and your nerdy friend gripped your arm so hard you thought they would snap it and whispered directly into your ear that “it’s happening“? The FF movies have been pulling that same move for years without the help of a narrative that’s been ongoing since the 60s. Every one of their reveals is builds on the preceding films,and the fact that they’ve managed to make this viewer drop his jaw is worth mentioning in and of itself.

Continue reading

Evan and Gordon Talk: Movies in General

EVAN: Human beings and animals that have somehow taught themselves how to read English, welcome to another E&GT. This week Gordon and I have come off of a mini-hiatus, and as a result are just a tad rusty.

As a result we will be discussing the very broad topic of movies, devoting a portion of our time to each one. Gordon is going to be starting us off with . . .

GORDON: The big screen experience.

If you’ve been to theaters recently (no, Evan, it is NOT spelled “theatre”), you may have noticed a series of ads harping on how “some things just weren’t meant for a small screen.”

“Spectacle” is the term for it. How much is it integral to movies and the movie-going experience? Do we really lose anything by watching a movie on our TVs rather than in front of the big screen? Continue reading

Shame Day: Political Ignorance

Do you know what the origin of the word “idiot” is?

It comes from the ancient Greek for someone who is totally self-centered; someone without any interest in public affairs. To the inventors of democracy, “idiocy” was the opposite of “citizenship.”

Readers, we are surrounded by idiots.

When I was putting together yesterday’s post, the pictures I used inevitably had a host of comments sighing “It’s Washington, what do you expect?”, “Politicians have always been dirtbags,” and “This is why I don’t vote.”

The issues change, but the reactions remain the same. People throw up their hands and start spewing folksy, thought-cancelling truisms about how politics is inherently corrupt, or how it’s always been this way and always will be, or how it doesn’t matter who you vote for. Continue reading

What Ever Happened To Comedy?

Comedy.

Everyone likes comedy.

You like comedy. I like comedy. Even the most dour, lifeless people on the planet (Wesleyans) like comedy.

Why then, is it so hard to find a good comedy?

Let me rephrase that- “why is it so hard to find a good comedy movie?Continue reading