Tag Archives: Movies

Well, Now I’ve Done It…


I’m very good at dreaming, but I have to admit that I’m less good at putting those dreams out there. Significantly less good. Does that sound familiar to you? I hope not, but if you’re like most of my friends and just about everyone I’ve ever met, it probably does. So, I’m going to guess you know what I’m talking about.

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I think that deep down, or maybe not even so deep down, we all know that this is true. But we doubt anyway. Why? I could try to answer that, but I won’t, because right now I need to focus, not on the problem as I usually do, but on the solution. Because I find myself in the unusual position of having put something I care about out there in the public sphere, and now I have to see it through.

It happened the way these things usually do. An opportunity presented itself at just the time I was able to take advantage of it. That’s right. Opportunity knocked, and I answered.

It would have been so much easier to pretend that I wasn’t home. But the knocking this time was especially hard to ignore.

Axe scene from The Shining with Shelley Duvall.

The axe-weilding harbinger of opportunity splintering the calm of procrastination came in the form of the latest incarnation of the Telus StoryHive Competition. Telus is a Canadian national Telecommunications giant that has come up with a brilliant way to procure new media content while at the same time supporting content creators who don’t normally have easy access to traditional methods of funding (read independent artists). A couple of times year they invite digital creators in Western Canada to submit proposals for Music Videos, Web Series or, in this case, short films. If they like your project and if you can demonstrate strong internet support, they’ll write you a cheque for $10k to make it a reality, no strings attached. That, as they say, is one hell of an axe. Okay, no one’s ever said that, but you have to admit that it is.

And Telus just happened to put out the call for 10 minute short films right when I had just come up with what I thought was a great idea for a 10 minute short film. All I needed was the money. How could I turn this down? Quite easily, if personal history has taught me anything at all. I can’t tell you how many opportunities I’ve walked away from in my life, for one simple reason:

Doubt [dout]
noun
1. a feeling of uncertainty or lack of conviction.
“There is considerable doubt that anyone will give two hoots about anything that Mark Kandborg thinks is worthwhile.”
synonyms: uncertainty, unsureness, indecision, hesitation, dubiousness, suspicion, confusion; More. MUCH more…

verb
1. feel uncertain about.
“I doubt my ability to do the job”

I’m sure you’ve heard of it. But this time, for whatever reason, doubt failed in it’s mission to cripple. It missed the tackle. It did it’s best, but I was still standing. And I went for it. They say, those wise people we like to ignore, that once you’ve made a decision, things tend to begin to move, almost of their own accord.

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Exactly. I mean, not literally, because the universe is a faceless and heartless collection of atoms that doesn’t care about the Andromeda galaxy’s imminent collision with our own, so it certainly doesn’t care about my little project. But figuratively, because once you’ve really made a decision, certain actions are bound to follow and those actions have consequences which tend to make things real, fast. And I had made a decision to submit a project which absolutely terrified me.

It terrifies me first because I really care about it, but mostly because I simply do not know if I can pull it off. See, I suffer from the common desire to seek the path of least resistance. I don’t like resistance. It makes me feel funny. But really, it makes me feel doubt. Because I forget that hard is usually better, that easy almost always leads nowhere, that taking the easy way is really just boarding a train at Okay and riding it mindlessly till you get off at Not Great.

The path of least resistance for me is doing something I know I can do. I know I can make a traditional film about guns or the mob or any of a number of traditional short film subjects, and I know that any of those choices will dictate every detail from approach to structure to tone. It’s a formula, and it’s one that I’m very comfortable with. So this time I said no to formula and yes to fear.

I want to make a live action film about a mouse, a cat and a bird where the characters are all played by grown ass men and women wearing animal costumes. There. I’ve said it.

I want to tell a story where irony sits atop irony to reveal even more irony. I want to challenge my audience by making something new, something even I haven’t seen. Because that’s what I admire in others: The willingness to stand alone, to build something without certainty. To have faith.

I want to tell the story of Munchie Mouse, a Candide-esque character who’s innocence allows him to see beauty and wonder in the most unlikely places. Which I believe means that he sees the world around us for what it really is, a fairy tale.

Munchie Mouse 1920x1080 title card

We’re so lucky to be alive, to be experiencing new things, to be able to see beyond the darkness (and the doubt) through to the possibilities, by “squinting real hard”, as Munchie would say. Because I truly believe that the only way forward for our civilization, in this confusing time of distrust, judgement and outright paranoia is not to lash out, nor to ignore what’s all around us… but to have the willingness to see the good in people, in life… to actively seek out what Lincoln so beautifully described as the better angels of our nature, both in ourselves and in others.challenge_accepted

But I can’t do it alone. StoryHive is a competition, after all, and as such will rely on Votes, Likes, Shares and Tweets to help determine if this little story deserves to be told.

I don’t like to ask for help. I mean, I’m Danish, after all, stoic to a fault. It’s like that old joke about a Dane’s last words: “I’m fine”.

But I need your help if I’m going to take this to the next step, which is to face my fears and actually make this thing.

If you want to help, for the sake of curiosity if nothing else, here’s how you can do it:

  1. Vote! You can vote for Munchie Mouse and the Land of Dreams once every day for the next week by going to the Munchie Mouse StoryHive Page (there’s a 60 second video for you to watch if you’d like). You can share the project from there, too.
  2. Like the Munchie Mouse Facebook Page (you can also invite others to like it).
  3. You can follow Munchie Mouse on Twitter and he will follow you back, I can almost guarantee it. He’s just that way.

There. That’s it. I’m going to do something really uncharacteristic now, and say that…

I care about this.

No turning back now.

Time to put my money where my mouse is.

Munchie

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How Christopher Nolan Broke My Heart and Punched My Brain


“There’s a new name for fatuous, unforgivably ignorant, misguided and arrogant film making: Interstellar. Never has my intelligence been more acutely insulted. Christopher Nolan continues the tradition of schlock he began with Inception and carried through The Dark Night Rises. Hey, Nolan, news flash – we’re not all idiots.” – Signed, Clawing My Eyes Out

Okay. Maybe the above Facebook post was a little… heartfelt. But in my defence, my heart actually felt wounded. Like I’d been jilted, three times in a row. By the same person. Maybe I was angry at myself for expecting more. But damn it, I wanted there to be more. I thought he could change.

Don’t get me wrong. Nolan’s style is breathtaking. He really likes to show us things upside down, but still. His ideas and concepts, equally laudable. And Inception wasn’t so bad, really, which is why I say his descent merely began there. But for me, there were little things in that film which heralded the coming of what I see as Nolan’s disregard for his audience – like how he states as a central point of fact early on that jostling a subject while they are ‘dreaming’ will wake them up. Makes sense. I’ll buy that. But then, in the film’s pivotal scene, he has a van full of subjects sleep soundly through a wild high speed car chase and stay sleeping as they GO FLYING OFF A BRIDGE. Apparently, he doesn’t even have the respect to suggest that maybe they’re not being jostled too badly, an obvious, if suspicious, out – instead, he repeatedly shows their heads being yanked back and forth in slow motion closeups while remaining blissfully asleep. This is ignoring the logic he has already set up, all in service of an action scene with memorable visuals. Not cool, Chris. Not cool.

Tumbling

But that’s not enough to indict the whole enterprise, and to be fair, I don’t. I leave that to others. However, I do feel that Inception tries to get all ‘deep’ while failing to muster anything more interesting or insightful than any high school kid might manage after smoking a couple of bowls. One big missed opportunity there, Nolan, and not enough for me. If I want a mind f**k with some art and intelligence, I’ll watch David Lynch. He never leaves me wanting. Confused, but never wanting.

Nolan’s disregard for both basic physics and the intelligence of his audience continues in the Dark Night Rises, but he takes it up several notches. I won’t even bother listing the problems with that movie here. Although I especially love that criminal mastermind Bane sacrifices a flunky to insure that the right amount of bodies will be found in the wreckage, but he doesn’t seem to think finding the plane’s wings kilometres from it’s fuselage might raise an eyebrow or two.

dark-knight-rises-trailer-full-plane-heistNo, I’ll save the bulk of my energy here for nolan’s self-proclaimed ‘scientifically precise’ Interstellar (which should first of all actually be called ‘Intergalactic’ since all of the travel is between planets and between galaxies, but NOT between stars). I would need far more time than you’re probably willing to invest right now to really get into it, but good lord. It’s hard to even choose between highlights. Or lowlights. Let’s set science aside for a moment and deal with some very basic problems. Like how many times does cowboy pilot Cooper ‘switch to manual’ during this movie? How stupid is that? And why does the NASA appointed astronaut (and an engineer, by the way) and instrument of humanity’s only hope not bother to ask how wormholes work until he’s just about to fly into one? And seriously, a folded piece of paper? Ok, now he gets it [face palm].

This is a Wormhole

I guess this makes sense to a filmmaker who gives us a world where scientists can send hibernating scientists and robots with strong AI to Saturn and through an Einstein-Rosen Bridge ten years ago but when it comes to plant biology, well, if the corn stops growing, humanity will simply starve (what’s the beer they’re drinking made from, by the way? Just curious. No, really).

Drinking a Bottle of Corn Liquer-1I mean, if they’ve figured out how to feed the world’s population on nothing but corn, surely they know enough to fix the ‘blight’ problem.

Maybe the engineers could’ve put aside some money for biological research (they can freeze people, for god’s sake. And why do that? So that the scientists don’t get bored on the way to Saturn?) by not building a centrifugal spacecraft completely unsuited for interplanetary travel just so that the scientists in hyper-sleep could have the illusion of gravity. Why? Because a centrifugal ship is gimmicky and saves the filmmakers a bucket load of money in production doing all the weightless effects of a serious movie like Gravity (which had its own issues, but still). And because then the All American farmer/pilot can once again ‘switch to manual’ and execute an impressive maneuver in an obligatory action sequence. Of course, the centrifuge design isn’t just expensive and completely unnecessary for the mission, it’s also problematic, as the astronauts discover once they’re already in space. 

Dramamine?

“I think we have some dramamine.” You think? And Dramamine? Really? What is this, the 1940’s? No. It’s some time in the second half of the 21st Century. Maybe that lady scientist has some in her purse.

Of course, the motion sickness problem, the one that apparently wasn’t dealt with in the simulations they obviously didn’t bother to train on as a matter of course for any trip into space by anybody, won’t be too bad as long as they don’t design the spacecraft with an absolute shipload of goddamn windows for absolutely no reason.

Windows 2

Oh, and how about transmitting GPS coordinates via a smattering of binary lines on a floor? Does anyone involved in the making of this film know how either GPS coordinates or binary code work? Apparently not. In which case it seems perfectly reasonable to take the ‘quantum information’ from the interior of a black hole and translate it into Morse Code. What!?!

Here Are the Coordinates in Binary

Then there’s the question of ‘Them’. A bewildered Cooper asks, understandably, who ‘They’ are. No idea? Alrighty, then! Let’s go! Not only is this pretty important question not answered, given much weight or even, as far as we know, investigated by the scientists… it’s hardly even mentioned again. Sure, ‘They’ offer a handshake upon arrival which no one seems particularly concerned about. But what’s the deal? What have ‘They’ done to even warrant their mention in the first place? Put the wormhole in place? What’s the compelling reason to assume that? Because an Einstein-Rosen Bridge (none of the scientists call it that because we’re too stupid as an audience to handle it, I guess) can’t exist naturally? Oh, I guess all of a sudden everyone understands what is and is not possible on the very fringes of speculative physics. So therefore ‘they’ did it, but we don’t try to contact them or figure out what their deal is as we face species annihilation. Of course, the bigger question is… why would you build the launch pad twenty feet from your boardroom?

Engines in the Boardroom

Do I even bother, now with the science? Like the simple fact that planets don’t (can’t) orbit black holes without a star? That without a star this little planet would be anything but ‘earth-like’. That any planetary object close enough to a black hole to experience meaningful time dilation would be torn apart in an instant by gravitational forces? That the accretion disk (so beautifully rendered in 3-D!) is a result of every bit of mass in the vicinity being pulled right through the planet into the black hole? That this would include enough X-rays and other forms of radiation to be instantly fatal to any form of life, space suit or no?

Whiteboard

“See, if we land on the sun at night…”

How about that waves hundreds of metres high can’t exist in less than a metre of water because they would need a trough of equal depth (forgetting what havoc the gravitational attraction implied to pull these waves in the first place would wreak on anyone on the surface) to exist at all? I could go on and on. And on (and on) without even getting into the terrible dialogue, the ridiculous characters…

Brilliant Scientist

“I am totally convincing as a brilliant scientist. And I am so terribly lonely that I am going to kill the only three people in the galaxy. Oh, wait.”

…or the ploddingly obvious plot ‘twists’, but I’ll stop.

Not before I ask one more question, though: Ok, Nolan, so ‘love’ travels across time. Then, uh… doesn’t ‘hate’?

I know that many people simply like the movie and don’t care about any of the things I’ve touched on here. And that’s valid. I guess I’m just not that forgiving. Maybe it’s because I can’t help picturing a scene like this one: Consulting physicist Kip Thorn clears his throat, nervously. “Excuse me, Mr. Nolan, but it, uh, just doesn’t work like that.” Nolan turns to his accountant. “How much am I making for this?” The accountant whispers something into the director’s ear. “That’s what I thought,” he says. Looking the physicist in the eye, he shrugs. “Fuck ’em.”

Hear no Evil good

If you want big ideas that are handled properly, do yourself a huge favour and watch Sunshine, 2001 A Space Odyssey (again, I hope), Coherence (NOT Divergent or Convergence, for the love of god) or Timecrimes, just for starters. You’ll see, I hope, that while it’s not easy, it can be done.

I’m incensed, clearly, that someone with the power and resources of Christoper Nolan chooses not to make the effort, or simply doesn’t care. I don’t like being talked down to. Actual good ideas, well thought out and presented, can not be replaced by throwing out words like ‘quantum’ and ‘relativity”, nor by the endless repetition of a Dylan Thomas poem.

Frozen Cloud

“What was that?”

“Frozen cloud…”

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