Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Caramel is Just Sugar, When You Boil It Down...

2015 is coming to a close. It's been a terrific year, all things considered. No, I'm not going to get all maudlin and do some personal "year in review" nonsense! Fear not!

In fact, tonight's post is likely going to be brief. As in, I'm wearing briefs on my head, as is my year-end custom. Hey, we all have our quirks, don't we..?

I primarily came in here to post the video of this year's Christmas play, called "Out There", which was performed on December 20 and starred Jennifer Scibetta, Andrew Ian, Mario Ortiz and Hanna Halland. It was, by all I could see, the most well-received play we've ever done. I'm immensely proud of the job our cast did...

As usual, there's something about seeing a play, live, in person, which does not translate well into video form... so even though the video turned out great for the most part, it just doesn't have the same punch to me that it did in person...

If you do watch it, be prepared for a weird little buzzing noise from 1:23 to about 1:50, it was a technical feedback glitch, and Bill O. handled it. After that, the play really takes off. It's about 30 minutes long. It doesn't look good full screen, sorry... I don't know how to get it to upload to YouTube at anything higher than 480p...

Again, many thanks to everyone - both the cast and the crew - who helped make the play happen. I think it bodes well for future productions... perhaps I can get even more local actors to participate.

Christmas was mellow, as was our 25th wedding anniversary, and we have nothing really planned for New Years... but hey, that's ok...

OK, I'm going to talk briefly about Star Wars vs Star Trek, and I shall keep things spoiler-free in case you haven't seen The Force Awakens yet... yes, I'm going to nerd out for a few minutes...

So, the age-long debate over Wars vs Trek is, in and of itself, well-trodden ground... but the fact that the same director has now made solid cinematic efforts on both sides of the debate lends new wrinkles to the discussion....

The punchline to what I want to talk about is thus: I really liked Star Trek: Into Darkness, while I was greatly disappointed by Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

I have never really considered myself a "true" fan of either franchise, really. I mean, I like them both, as much as the next guy. That being said, it seems that "true" Star Trek fans (whatever that means) had substantial problems with the way JJ Arbams handled Into Darkness, while "true" Star Wars fans can't gush enough about how incredibly good The Force Awakens is. My 2 favorite online movie reviewers -- Jeremy Jahns and Chris Stuckmann -- each said The Force Awakens was their favorite movie of the year. For comparison - for Into Darkness they each gave their highest possible rating at the time, but in the year end list, Jeremy put it at #9 in his Top Ten Films of 2013, and Chris Stuckmann gave it an Honorable Mention - not even top ten...

Now, being a casual fan of both franchises, I went into each movie with an open mind, hoping to see a great movie. I didn't expect anything from Into Darkness - and I loved it. I thought it was a fantastic action film, with great moments, characters and performances. I went into The Force Awakens with an open mind - though admittedly, with everyone saying so universally how awesome it was, I took it for granted that I would love it as well. And surprisingly (to me), I thought it was a bit of a turd. It was sappy, ham-fisted, and filled with uninspired characters, dialog and performances... it did have great visuals and some great moments, but overall, the more I ponder the film, the less I like it. The opposite was true of Into Darkness...

The reason I bring this up is the irony, and also the idea of the impact that "true" fan-ness may have on a person viewing the properties. I had nothing really invested in either franchise - I liked them both, for the most part. I wasn't anchored in the lore, or the canon, or expectations based on things that have gone before. In each case, I just wanted to see a good movie. "True" fans disliked Into Darkness, "true" fans love The Force Awakens. To me, the better film is easy to spot a mile away...

I could go on at extreme length about all the questions and concerns I had about The Force Awakens - but I know it would be wasted. I think that the vast majority of the population is willing and able to overlook every possible weakness in the film and label it amazing, which is fine. Unplug your brain and enjoy the ride, that sort of thing. I say, go for it. I'm not wired to do that. I have to think about what I'm seeing - and if things go clunk, I need to figure out why....

Bottom Line: Without a "true fanboy" filter to hinder my assessment, I give Into Darkness a very solid 9.5/10 and I give The Force Awakens a very generous 6/10.

So the final blog post of the year is in the bag. And yeah, it was boring. What can I say? One of the drawbacks, I suppose, of winging it.

Lots of great things on the horizon for 2016, in both writing and acting (and possibly directing). I will keep you all updated as things continue to evolve.

Thanks again for your support and silent readership (lol... leave a comment, dangit!).

Have a great New Year's Eve/Day.

Adios for now,

Dave the Contrarian

Monday, December 14, 2015

25 Down, 75 To Go. Plus, My "Best Of" List! O Joy!


Well, hello there!

Welcome to another episode of Which Dave Is Going To Show Up To The Blog Tonight?! I am your host, Dave the All-Over-The-Place, and have I got a KFC-Bucketful of nonsense for you tonight! Unless you're reading this in the daytime, in which case the, uh, "tonight" thing doesn't really apply... whatever, I don't know how timezone's work...

Where was I?

Ah, yes, which Dave has shown up tonight? Is it the morose, pensive Dave, prone to wax maudlin and self piteous? Or is it the goofy Dave, spouting nonsensities and randomness? Is it Dave the Overconfident, droning on about some artsy thing, or reviewing a book/movie/TV and pretending he knows what he's talking about? Or is it the pseudo-theological Dave, peppering you with empty Biblical theories and semi-relevant scripture verses? Or is it that version of Dave that just talks about all the acting/writing stuff he's been doing?

The answer?

I don't know! Let's find out!

So tomorrow (December 15) is my 25th anniversary. 25 years of marriage. Twenty Five Years. My entire adult life.

Honestly, as you probably can imagine, I have a wide variety of feelings about it. The question of the moment is: how open should I be about it? I suppose a related question could be: who cares how open I am, lol?

Don't worry; I'm not here to lament the hard stretches of road, or pat myself on the back, or fish for compliments/sympathy. It is what it is. I suppose the heart of what I'd like to say revolves around the idea of symbolism, I guess. The past several years, in my personal ruminations on various subjects, I seem to always come back to the themes of "fantasy v reality", or rather, "the idea of something" vs "the reality of something." An off-shoot of that topic is the idea the importance of symbols... it's funny the way things represent things to people - often wildly different things, depending on the person.

Did you ever see the movie The Pianist, with Adrien Brody? He's a Polish Jewish musician of some renown before the war, who has a harrowing time dodging the Nazis during the occupation. At the very end, emaciated, desperate, the Nazi's have fled and the Russians have arrived, he stumbles out of the home he's been hiding in, and he's bundled up in a big winter coat that a Nazi officer had left behind for him - with the German army markings all over it... he stumbles out to greet his liberators - and is promptly shot at. He dodges into a building, calling out that he's Polish and please don't shoot, etc. They call him out, guns pointing at him, and one guy says "Yeah, he's Polish..." Another guy says "Why are you wearing that &^%$&* coat?" And Brody says, "Because I'm cold."

It's a powerful scene, and popped to mind as I was contemplating symbolism today.

But, yeah, a 25th anniversary... it represents something multi-faceted and emotionally complex to me. I suppose it's like finally reaching the peak of a mountain I've been climbing. Trying to imagine the view from the top (the fantasy) for so long... and then actually seeing the view (the reality). It's odd... there's always been a sense of finality, or completion associated with the 25 anniversary in my case... like once I get there, I've accomplished something huge, epic, worthy of note. Like the world should stop and celebrate our accomplishment or something. And yet I know the day will pass like any other day for everyone else - as it should. The symbolism of my 25th anniversary doesn't mean anything to anyone not directly impacted by it: my spouse and I of course, but also our kids and my mother and sister... that's about it. It won't even register on anyone else's radar - and it shouldn't.

The power of symbolism. Why am I wearing this coat? Because I'm cold.

But of course, my marriage isn't ending - I'm not "finished"... We will continue to march forward together, my wife and I. It has its ups and downs, as it always has - as I'm sure it would also have ups and downs if I were single or married to someone else or whatever situation I find myself in... alone in a cave somewhere. Pluses and minuses. Accept them both or reject them both. In fact, if anyone were to ask me, "Dave, what relationship advice do you have for people who wonder how the heck you can stay married for 25 years?" I'd say that. Everyone has positives and negatives... which weighs more? If the positives outweigh the negatives, accept them both. Don't try to pick the positives and "fix" the negatives about the other person... accept them both. If a "negative" changes, it will be because the other person changes on his/her own. If they don't, then so what? You accept them, right? The price you pay to reap the positives. If the negs outweigh positives? Chuck them both. Weigh them both, accept them both or reject them both. Don't try to cherry-pick and micromanage.

There. Simple advice from Dave the Simpleton.

So the year draws to a close. I guess I could discuss some of my Favorites of the Year, in various forms of media...


This is a tough one for me! I read 25 books this year - most of them new, but a few re-reads. Once again, I read the Stormlight Archive (Brandon Sanderson), the Kingkiller Chronicles (Pat Rothfuss) and Tuf Voyaging (GRR Martin) all of which I enjoyed revisiting... not surprising, I suppose... I wouldn't re-read a book if I didn't really enjoy it previously. But as for the new books I read, as I review the list, there isn't really a title I loved without reservation. There were good ones, but they each had flaws of various kinds. City of Stairs (RJ Bennett) and Leviathan Wakes (JS Corey) were both great reads but had weak endings... Redshirts (Scalzi) and Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (R Riggs) had great premises but mediocre execution. Daughter of Smoke and Bone (L. Taylor) and Half-A-King (Abercrombie) were watered down with too much Hollywood flavor... I suppose if I had to pick this years best book for me, it would be Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence - though that one was hamstrung by it's choice of first person perspective, which limited it's potential scope.


I saw some great television this year - as well as some turds (The Flash). And also some that started well and morphed into turds (Person of Interest)! I seemed to gravitate to superhero fare mostly. I loved the first season of GOTHAM - but the second season is flat-lining. The inconsistent writing is undoing the show, in my opinion. I had big problems with The Flash for this same reason - although I had other problems with The Flash beyond the writing -- basically top to bottom. The writing, directing, casting, acting, story choices - I honestly have no idea why this show is so popular...

But back to the good stuff! I loved the dark and gritty shows, like Daredevil and Jessica Jones. Fantastic filmcraft on display - in fact, when it gets to the point where I'm ready to start directing films, I'm going to use Jessica Jones as my film school. I will break down scenes - shot for shot - to see the choices that the director made, and why. It is a visually sumptuous show - practically every shot like a painting. So good. I hesitate to say it's my Favorite of the Year, since the content is dark and disturbing - the villain (David Tennant as Kilgrave) was as unnerving as he was well-portrayed. Can't say I'd recommend the show to anyone who offends easily. But if you want to see absolutely fantastic filmcraft on display, you won't get any better...

But to pick a Favorite, I'll go with Daredevil. It had direction almost on par with Jessica Jones, terrific writing, great casting, wonderful long shots, and great performances - with two notable exceptions. Two of the main characters in the show - Eddie Henson as Foggy Nelson, and Deborah Woll as Karen Page - absolutely rubbed me the wrong way. I don't think it was just the way the characters were written (they were a couple of hard-drinking whiners, really, who never passed up a chance to cry), but the acting was consistently weak. However other actors (such as the fantastic Vincent D'onofrio as Wilson Fisk) more than made up for it, as well as cameos by the likes of Scott Glenn. All things considered, an outstanding show.


This one is an easy choice. As with the TV category, I saw films that ran the gamut this year. But Birdman was easily not only my Favorite of the Year, but one of my Favorites of All Time. The writing, the acting, the themes, and the incredible craft on display made it thoroughly memorable to me. I wrote a review of it last March, if you'd like more detail on why I loved the film as much as I did. The same director is about to release The Revenant, starring Leonardo DiCapprio, which I *was* going to see - until I read reviews about how relentlessly brutal and unflinching it is... I may pass on that one for now.

Of course, the new Star Wars movie comes out in December - If it's as good as I hope it it, I may need to revise this list! I doubt it will unseat Birdman, but hey, you never know!

Other good movies I saw this year include: Spotlight, St. Vincent, John Wick and Captain America: Winter Soldier.


This one is a bit of a challenge - I heard some terrific music this year. It was hard to decide between Thank You (Sevendust), Hush (Hellyeah), Failure (Breaking Benjamin) and Big Bad Wolf (In This Moment)... but I decided my Favorite Song of the Year is the recently-released song The Light by Disturbed.

I would link to them, but honestly, they are all heavy rock songs - my listening has trended in that direction the past year or two - I love the energy level. I know not many other people who read this blog would be interested in listening to such music, but if you are, you likely already know the songs. If not and you're really curious, you can find them easily enough on YouTube.

I will embed The Light, though...


This one is also a pretty easy call. As much as I enjoyed the Dead Island Series, Grim Dawn, Minecraft and Wolfenstein Old Blood (fantastic art direction), I have to say Fallout 4 is proving to be every bit as awesome as I'd long hoped it would be. Roaming the wasteland has never been so fulfilling. I'm 70 hours in, and still only level 29...

A funny (to me) sidenote. I bought and played a bit of Grand Theft Auto 5, and I can safely say it's one of the most impressive games I've ever played (and likely one of the best games ever made), but as much as I enjoy the game when I'm playing it, when I'm *not* playing the game, I have absolutely no desire to play it. Does that make sense? It's a great game, but I rarely ever play it. I really have to talk myself into playing it - and when I do, I enjoy it completely. It's a weird dynamic.


Anyway, that's that for now.

We perform the Christmas Play next Sunday (12/20). The whole cast is miked this year, so we'll hopefully have good sound on the video. If it turns out good, I'll post it here.

Other projects I'm working on all seem to be on hold until after the holidays.

Wow, this post ended up being longer than I had anticipated. Looks like all of the Daves showed up to tonight's episode!  If you endured all of this nonsense without tipping over, you have my admiration and appreciation.

I hope your Christmas is a good one.

Dave the Rambling Smacktard

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Blogging (v.): What Crazy People Do Instead of Going To Bed

You autumn be ashamed of yourself!

There, my weak lead-in pun is out of the way. Now I can get down to business. And by "business" I mean my usual stream of hot air, studiously pounded out on my Logitech G510s Gaming Keyboard. Hey, only the best for you, you know this!

So, what has happened since last we spoke? Well, I guess I'll lead with the Four Points Film Festival, which I mentioned in the previous post. I talked of a short film I got to be in where I got to play an android. Well, it has since been made available online, so I'mma let you see it!

Warning: Abbie, you're not going to like it. Everyone else, I think there's enough worthwhile elements to make it worth a viewing, so go for it!

Hmmm.... it doesn't have embedding enabled... I was just going to conveniently post it here, for you to watch without having to leave this wonderful little blog... but I guess not!

So, if you want to watch it, it is called Memory Recall, and can be found at THIS LINK.

If you do go there, you'll notice 4 "pages" of films (8 per page, only 1 on the 4th page), totaling 25 films. Even though 170 films were submitted worldwide on time, the judges have culled out the 25 films that they wanted to put up for the Audience Choice Award! Our film made this cut. Which means if you wanted to, you could vote for your three favorite films of the twenty-five available for viewing. The Audience Choice Winning Film wins a cool $1,000. (vote here)

But your vote would only count if you vote for exactly three films! You can't just vote for one! Which means, if you're a conscientious person, you can spend a couple of hours watching all 25 films and score-carding them all... or rely on the opinion of someone who already did that! (Yes, I mean me...)

My Favorites:

-- What Goes Around: This is a work of art; a true film. It's from Warsaw, Poland, and has terrific cinematography, clever shots, great costuming, wonderful acting, lots of great moments, and is my pick for the very best. If I were a contest judge, this would get my vote for Best Film.

-- Morsus: This is the best American effort, in my opinion. Crisp writing, tight editing, very solid acting, terrific flow. This one got one of my three votes as well.

-- The Man in the Swivel Chair: OK, bear with me on this. It is a completely absurd film, and it's incomplete, in that it has no opening credits or closing credits - I assume they ran out of time and just sent it "as is"... it just starts and ends abruptly. And the characters are hams, along the lines of something you'd find from the Coen Brothers... but I laughed so hard - and I really needed a good laugh when I'd seen it - so (after much deliberation) I gave it my third vote. I guarantee you not everyone will enjoy this as much as I did - or maybe even at all (don't even try it, Abbie!) - but it was just what I needed. Absurdity at its rough-edged best. (warning: a bit of bad language)

-- Phil Can Feel: Another beautiful, well-crafted film (from Peru), it is loaded with wonderful imagery, minimalist dialog, effective acting, great moments. In fact, as well as I tried to do the "android" part in our film, I think this guy's android performance buries mine. I'll just have to try harder next time!

-- Reconnectes: This was very well made as well, in my opinion. It's a bit too heavy-handed with the message for my taste, but beyond that, a top-notch effort, featuring some very natural performances (not all, but many).

Others that I feel are worth a watch include: Who Am I?, Taste Tester, Running Heart and Handle With Care.

Do with this info as you will. The films are all under 8 minutes long.


Well, I'm about 75% of the way through my re-read of Pat Rothfuss' Kingkiller Chronicles. As usual, reading The Name of the Wind was a pure joy... and also, the same concerns I had with The Wise Man's Fear the first time around are still there this time... Inconsistent writing, a few forced moments, some boring stretches of barely-interesting world-building, some oddly skipped content (The Trial, and the disastrous Voyage to see the Maer of Vint), and a hamstringing of the relationship between Kvothe and Denna (that awful, illogical "argument" they had right before Kvothe went off to find the bandits was so overdone and unnecessary).

Speaking of boring, how boring was that last paragraph?

Here, I'll liven things up...

Abbie, you won't like that video either, I'm afraid... more Extreme Absurdity... it will only appeal to you if you are a fan of all of the following:

- Absurd Humor
- Star Wars
- WWE/Randy Orton
- Internet Memes

If you failed to check all of those items, skip the video...

Guess I better drop a photo in instead...

This kid fell asleep in his mom's arms while waiting to get a photo with Santa... so Santa improvised this photo... awesome...

I had a great Thanksgiving - I hope you all did as well. Very mellow. Had dinner at my Wonderful Mother's house, as per tradition. Because I was there, we had two turkeys... no, not because I'm a big eater, but because I'm a turkey, see?... Come to think of it, I'm a ham as well, so we technically had two hams also...

Anyways, one of the highlights of the whole extended weekend was the fact that I bought exactly ZERO games in the Steam Holiday Sale! None! I resisted every deal! Well, honestly, it was likely because I own Fallout 4 now.... I've been playing it, saving the post-apocalyptic wasteland from all the various and sundry wasteland baddies... so who needs more games, eh? What else does a growing boy need? I even stopped Minecraft for the time being! That's how serious I am about saving the wasteland! See what a hero I am? SEE?!??!?!

Wow, another boring paragraph... I'm on a roll!

Uh oh.... I'm in trouble...

On the plus side, I also recently read that people who talk to themselves out loud are more likely to be geniuses!

So I've started talking to myself out loud... O_o

And just to tease you all again about Beyond The Impact, man o man, wait until you see what we are going to do... just wait. Incredible things are in the works. When Jeff gets back from his World Travel, we go into high gear... I cannot wait...

All that to say... yeah...

One final tidbit, I went to a family gathering over the weekend, with almost all of my aunts, uncles, cousins - many of whom I haven't seen in a decade or more. It was great visiting with everyone. I live in my own little world so strongly, it's hard to remember the importance of extended family.

Anyway, if you watched our film, thank you. If you voted for it, thank you even more.

I'm exhausted - I need sleep!

Until we meet again,

Dave the Goof