Given the article’s title, you can be forgiven for thinking “why bother” with this article when its conclusion is right there.
If you’re into telling stories, however, I strongly encourage you to check the article out. It’s a beautifully reasoned work that explores the elements that make up a story. Yes, all stories share a very similar thematic skeleton, but its in the telling of the tale, and the tale you present, where the differences come in and its why certain stories shine while others may not.
What I find most fascinating, and at the very real risk of stepping on the article, is the very last sentence Mr. Yorke offers in the article. I’ll reprint it below but, again, I encourage anyone who is interested in the mechanics of storytelling to give the full article a look.
Anyway, the line is:
In stories throughout the ages there is one motif that continually recurs—the journey into the woods to find the dark but life-giving secret within.
As a writer myself, I can’t tell you how elegant and illustrative that single sentence is when related to creative writing. All stories, mine very much included, feature a “journey into the woods” and finding that “dark but life-giving secret” within.
Looks like all my internet woes regarding my website and blog have finally been resolved.
There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to clean up/re-work your website and slamming head first into all kinds of technical problems. Reminds me of…
In the above scenario, I wasn’t the one in the car. Or truck.
Anyway, I believe all is in the past now and things should function as they should from here on in.
Catching up on other things, the big news of the past few days was -what else for 2016?- the deaths of three very well known people and, at least for me, one that was known to my family.
First, Leonard Cohen passed away…
He was 82 years old and passed away after suffering a fall. In the elderly, something as simple as falling can lead to very bad things. RIP Mr. Cohen.
Florence Henderson, best known for playing the very chipper Carol Brady on the beloved Brady Bunch TV series, also passed away at the age of 82. I can’t say I was a huge fan of the show but like many people in and around my age, it was a fixture of television and provided some pleasant entertainment. And who can forget that opening?
The last of the big name passings is Fidel Castro.
Fidel Castro, more than anyone else in this world, is the reason yours truly exists. If Castro hadn’t overthrown Batista back in 1959 and taken over Cuba only to subsequently announce himself a Communist Dictator and take possession of all private industries and properties, my father would probably never have left his original home and studied abroad.
The country he was allowed to study in was another communist nation, Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia), and it was there he met and married my mother and I was born. Eventually they fled communism and made their way to Canada and from there Venezuela before settling in the United States.
That’s not to say I’m happy with Mr. Castro’s actions. There is no way to sugar coat it: He was a brutal dictator whose hands are stained with the blood of many and the suffering he caused the island nation of Cuba is inexcusable. Having said that, if there’s one bit of consolation it is that he was also a man of his time and I suspect someone like him will never come to exist ever again.
Just as well.
The fourth passing experienced in the last few days was a personal one. My brother-in-law’s brother suddenly passed away the day before Thanksgiving. I was not very close to him but I like my brother-in-law and it hurts to have someone so close to him pass.
When one becomes a “celebrity” its open season for ruminations on their character.
I’ve done so myself, opining that Donald Trump is not presidential material and wondering aloud to friends and family if he’s even mentally fit, period.
I based my opinions on the ample exposure Mr. Trump gave the nation and world during these elections.
On the other hand, other than the “newsworthy” mis-steps of Kayne West, I couldn’t tell you a whole lot about him. I don’t know any of his music and couldn’t tell you the name of even one of his songs yet know many consider his albums the work of pure genius. Oh, and I also know he’s married to Kim Kardashian.
A couple of days ago I read that Mr. West, following engaging in some weird antics at his latest concerts, including stating he would have voted for Trump (!), was admitted to a hospital. Though no one knows the exact reason he was hospitalized, it is strongly believed the cause is related to mental issues…
When I was young, I was one of those strait-laced kids that other “cool” kids were weary of, though they needn’t be. In the high school dorm where I boarded during three years of high school, I suspect some of them, at least before they got to know me better, feared I could be a snitch because I wasn’t a “party” person and neither drank nor indulged in any drugs (back then and over there, the drug du jour was marijuana).
Drinking never appealed to me for one simple reason: I never liked the taste of it. Through my life I’ve tried all kinds of liquors, from beer to vodka to champagne to rum to whiskey…but as I said, the taste never appealed to me and therefore I never pursued it. It’s quite possible that in my entire life I’ve drunk maybe five or less beers. Curiously, as little as I like the taste of beer as a drink, I do enjoy some foods cooked with beer. For whatever reason, the taste within food “works” for me even if it doesn’t as a drink.
As for drugs (the smoking kind, anyway) and cigarettes, I thank the Gods I didn’t get into them as when I got into my twenties I developed issues with my nasal passages and turbinates specifically which resulted in a strong allergy to cigarette smoke and drove me to the brink of…
I’m not kidding.
I won’t go too deep into the gory details but the suicide fixation occurred, ironically enough, after the third (and, as it turned out last) time I got a nose operation to try to fix the various symptoms I was suffering from because of my nose problems. One of the biggest of the problems was an including inability to sleep a full night without the interior of my nose becoming painfully inflamed. I spend nearly a decade without being able to sleep through a night without being forcibly awoken by at times painful nasal swelling and having to get up until this swelling eased.
Immediately after that third -and successful- operation, I was incredibly tired and wanted nothing more than have a good night’s sleep. I was prescribed codeine to ease the pain from the operation and I took one the night after the operation in the hope it would allow me a restful sleep.
The drug created a weird, hopeless feeling in me that was almost overwhelming. All my anxieties were heightened while, curiously, another part of my brain knew I was having a bad reaction to the drug. Yet that other half of my brain insisted this latest operation, like the two previous, was a failure and I would never be able to sleep normally again and I just couldn’t take it and therefore it was time to end it all.
It was 2 A.M. in the morning and with a bloody bandage over my nose I stepped out of the house and walked around the block twice in the hopes of getting those overwhelming feelings out of my head. When I got back home and sat down I was suddenly bathed in sweat as the drug exited my body. The bad feelings left me and, needless to say, that’s the first and last time I’ll ever take codeine again.
I present all this information to point out that I’m a very “straight” person when it comes to drugs, alcohol, or cigarettes. Partly its because of taste (the alcohol) and partly its because of issues regarding my body’s reaction(s) to these items but the bottom line is I’ve spent my life very clean.
I nonetheless know many others who don’t or can’t. I know drugs and alcohol can become addictive and breaking the addiction can be an incredibly difficult thing to do.
I am also sanguine enough to know that we’ll never stop the use of these things. Like prostitution, drug use has existed since the dawn of human-kind and to think one day, through regulation, we’ll simply wipe it away is both arrogant and silly, IMHO.
Thus I came to the conclusion that the best way to treat drug use -and, for that matter, prostitution- was to legalize it, tax it, and use the monies collected from those taxes to either improve the living conditions of those who fall into these vices and treat them and their issues directly. One can do this through medical attention, education, addiction treatment, and improved job opportunities.
It certainly is better than making these things illegal and criminalizing and ruining peoples’ lives.
In recent years, several states here have approved the use of medical marijuana while others have decriminalized its personal use. The Global Commission on Drug Policy is going a step further. In this article by Amanda Holpuch and presented in theguardian.com, she points out the latest recommendations from that body, which is presented in the article’s title:
Though I highly recommend you read the story, the upshot of it is this: In upper Sweden a hoard of some 163 Islamic coins dating to the mid-10th century AD were discovered buried.
As a reader, I wondered: Is this an unusual find? Does it prove trading between these vast distances? My answer, from the article itself:
The presence of Islamic coins in Sweden is not unusual and to-date nearly 70,000 have been uncovered. This reflects the extensive long distance trade routes which once existed between the Viking world and the orient. These were mainly focused on the Volga River and saw items such as furs, slaves and leather being exported southwards, while silver coins and exotic goods returned northwards.
If the 2016 Summer Movie season is remembered for anything, it likely will be for the way internet comments/critiques fueled interest and/or hate toward certain films. Example “a” of this is, of course, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. This film was positively crucified well before its release. And when it did make it to the theaters, things got even more saucy. There was a virtual war of words between professional critics (who for the most part hated the film) and audiences, who liked it considerably more.
I’ve made my opinions regarding that film well known. I liked the theatrical cut fine even as I found the “Director’s Cut” even better. I’m also of the opinion that over time this movie will be re-evaluated and people will come to view it as one of the better superhero films made. Regardless of that, BvS found a strong audience and, despite attempts by those who hated the film to minimize its accomplishments, it pulled in great numbers and was a success. At least financially.
BvS, however, was only the first of two DC Comics films released this past summer. The second, Suicide Squad, followed almost exactly in BvS’s footsteps. There was early word/rumors Warner Brothers execs were unhappy with the final product and had therefore ordered re-shoots (re-shoots were indeed filmed, though the reason for them was never publicly revealed). As the movie neared its release, a new rumor emerged that the movie’s director created a darker version of the film and Warner Brothers had the people behind the amusing trailers create their version of the film. With two versions created, the studios decided to merge the “best” of both versions and that was supposedly what was released to theaters.
Upon the movie’s release, the critics slaughtered it but, as with BvS, audiences were far kinder. The film proved a huge financial success.
What did I think of it?
I found Suicide Squad an oddity of a film. I thought the story it was telling was a mess but there was an undeniable energy to the proceedings which was contagious. Further, the actors were so damn game and fun to watch going through their paces. My reaction to Suicide Squad was an odd one, for sure: I liked the film despite the fact that it should have been an easy pass.
And as with BvS I was curious to see the other version(s) of the film. Would Warner Brothers release both the director’s cut and the trailer maker’s cut? So far, they have not but with the release of the digital version of the film this past week, we’ve been given an “Extended Cut” of Suicide Squad.
I picked it up, watched it, and…
…my opinion of the film remains roughly the same.
Unlike BvS, the Extended Edition of Suicide Squad doesn’t add all that much to the film. Perhaps the single biggest add on is an all new sequence featuring Dr. Quinzel (aka Harley Quinn) as she quite literally pursues an exasperated Joker down on a motorbike. We also have a little more of the bad guys planning to bolt at the start of their mission and get a little more of Katana, including her taking off her mask, but the extra scenes don’t change the film for the noticeably better as the extra scenes did for BvS.
Still, if you haven’t done so already and are interested in seeing Suicide Squad, you should see the Extended Cut. At the very least you can’t go wrong with more of Harley and the Joker.
Interestingly, I watched the film with my wife and, unlike me, she’s far from a fan of comic book films. In fact, before I put the movie on she told me she was about to head to the bedroom to rest. She caught the first few minutes of the film and asked me:
“Is this a Batman film?”
I told her it wasn’t and that his appearance was only a cameo. After telling her this I expected her to grab her tablet and head out but she stuck around. She laughed at the movie’s jokes (especially Captain Boomerang’s bar scene) and watched the whole thing. When it was done, told me she enjoyed the film.
“Did the critics like it?” she asked, dimly aware of the critical drubbing the film received.
2016 was supposed to be a very big year for the Star Trek franchise. Fifty years before, in 1966, the original series premiered. Since the first appearance of that series, which limped to three seasons yet somehow, miraculously, found life after death in syndication, we’ve had numerous movies, TV shows, and still more movies, this time featuring the Next Generation cast before reverting to the original series but with a twist.
The twist was that the “original series” and her characters existed in an alternate time. While you still had Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, and Dr. McCoy, their “universe” was altered in time and this allowed for a new, young cast to take over for the original cast and try to chart their own path in the franchise.
I didn’t like the first movie featuring this new cast, 2009’s Star Trek, though I give everyone involved in the project an “A” for effort. The new cast were remarkably good taking over the very familiar roles but the story…it just didn’t do it for me. There were simply too many echoes to 1982’s magnificent Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan.
Still, I was impressed with this new young cast and hoped that despite my reservations, this new version of Star Trek would work.
In 2013 Star Trek Into Darkness, the second feature starring this new cast, was released. While watching the film I enjoyed myself and thought it was far better than the first film but the good feelings turned out to be transitory. The moment the movie was over and I started to think about what I just saw, plot holes and silly elements became only too obvious. Star Trek Into Darkness, like Skyfall, proved to be one of those experiences you enjoy while watching the movie for the first time but if you spend even a second thinking about it afterwards your enjoyment rapidly sours.
Fast forward three years and we’re in 2016 and the third Star Trek film featuring the new cast, Star Trek Beyond, was announced and then…
…nothing. Not even, it seemed, a peep.
The summer movie season was taken up with internet arguments regarding DC movies and Marvel movies and the silliness tied into the new Ghostbusters film. All the while, Star Trek Beyond became a ghost. An abandoned work.
Some people openly wondered if the film was a disaster and Paramount Studios realized it and was trying to bury the film.
It certainly seemed so.
And then, a trailer was released and actor/co-writer Simon Pegg expressed his disappointment of it and urged fans to “hang in there”, that the film was much better than this trailer made it out to be. Incredibly, Paramount would subsequently release a trailer that proved even worse as it gave away a key plot element of the movie’s plot. Once more Simon Pegg was forced to express his feelings about the movie’s trailer, this time urging them not to see it or any trailers that should follow.
I can only imagine how unhappy Mr. Pegg must have been with this, the third film in the franchise and the first to feature his actual (co)writing and the way Paramount seemed determined to botch the whole damn thing.
Star Trek Beyond was released on July 22, 2016 and while it did decent enough business, it appeared not to recoup its budget, never a good sign. While the film received positive reviews and good word of mouth, the Keystone Cops routine Paramount engaged in before the movie’s release appeared to have dampened the excitement the film should have had. Conversely, it is possible people were never all that attached to this new iteration of Star Trek and maybe this particular franchise was suffering from diminishing gains.
Regardless, as a Star Trek fan I wanted to see the film. Unfortunately for me, the movie was in and out of theaters in a flash and became yet another of those films I’d have to wait to see when it reached home theaters and video.
That day finally came and yesterday I got the chance to watch it.
I’ll be blunt: Star Trek Beyond is easily the best of the “new” Star Trek movies and also the one that most captures the original series. There is plenty of plot here and the excitement builds as the movie moves along before reaching a very exciting climax.
What more could you ask for?
Well, there are a few nits to pick…
A big part of the reason I’ve had a hard time warming up to the new Star Trek is that I’ve found the new actors, as good as they are, never “gel” into the extended family we had with the original actors. Despite plenty of behind the scenes rumors/gossip of how little the actors of the original Star Trek got along with certain other actors in the cast (most of these rumors boil down to William Shatner being an incredibly difficult person to work with), the fact of the matter was that those original actors were spectacularly good at rising above whatever tensions existed behind the scenes and creating a genuine sense of being an extended family.
When (SPOILERS!) Spock dies at the end of The Wrath of Khan, the acting of everyone, particularly William Shatner, drilled home the agony of loss and, in an abrupt -and dare I say logical- gear shift, the hope for the future. Spock’s death, as sad as it was to the characters, meant they would live. His death was a noble sacrifice and the crew/actors conveyed their conflicting emotions incredibly well.
Compare that to Star Trek Into Darkness which was a thinly veiled remake of The Wrath of Khan. There, surprise!, Captain Kirk “dies” and it is Spock who grieves for his death but the emotions feel hollow. In these actors I never got a sense of them being a family and therefore whatever sadness was expressed felt…phony.
This is rectified to a great degree in Star Trek Beyond, which pushes the characters front and center and them interact to a greater degree with each other than they did in the previous two movies. Every one of them shines and therefore we feel more engaged with not only them but the story, even if they still have a long way to go to give us the same sense of family the original cast offered.
Regardless, it is a big step forward.
As good as that was, however, the plot of the film could have used some tightening. The main villain and his plan are presented in a rather sloppy way. Further, after a big action sequence that winds up separating all the characters, they seem to bump into each other awfully quickly after being stranded on a large and rocky planet. It was like they landed within two or three miles from each other.
Still, this is nitpicking.
The film builds up the tension and stakes and makes us care for the characters and their fate. While the villain winds up not being as well defined as I would have hoped, his plan is truly evil and he has to be stopped.
As I said before, the film builds up the excitement and shines brightest in its climax. Had someone explained the climax to me beforehand -and mentioned the music dragged in from the first movie as a key piece of that climax- I would have rolled my eyes into my head so fast they would have caught fire…yet in the movie it works exactly as it should, being both hilarious and thrilling at the same time.
Despite Paramount’s best/most inept efforts and some nits I have to pick, Star Trek Beyond, as I stated before, is easily the best of the three “new” Star Trek films. If you’re a fan of the original or new Star Trek series yet haven’t seen this film yet, by all means give it a look.