Ethereality News & Weblog

February 25, 2010

Top Ten Ways to Be A Better Artist

NEWS:
I always get a lot of questions when I post photos of my music studio, so I finally added a page showing the design plans and construction photos of my studio, with explanations of why I made the choices I made.

My Top Ten Ways to Be A Better Artist article has been published in the February 2010 issue of ImagineFX magazine. This was originally a more detailed version I posted at cgtalk, and ImagineFX contacted me and asked me if they could publish it. I had to edit the original down to fit their layout, so if you want to some of the missing details, read the original version.

It was quite a pleasure working with them this time around (they interviewed in their premiere issue, and I also did a paining tutorial for them as well. The editors were very understanding in my adamant request to be involved in the editorial process and have final say in the exact wording. I’m very adamant about this matter because in the past, I’ve had publications that tried to paraphrase me or shorten what I said in order to fit into their layout, resulting in technical mistakes, incorrect emphasis, incorrect context, or alteration of the tone for the worse. I vowed at some point to never be put through that again, so my currently condition in being interviewed or published is to be granted full participation in the final editing process. This might make me sound like a control freak, but that’s not really the case. I simply do no like being misrepresented, that’s all.

(EDIT: my previous mention of the mistakes was a misunderstanding. The scan someone sent me for some reason is not the same as what I just received in the mail from Future Publishing. I don’t know how someone got a hold of the pre-publication edit, but anyway, I’m very happy that the final edit is exactly as I had worked out with the editors.)

I recently did a Q&A session with Peter Lucky, and I thought some of his questions were quite interesting–different from the typical questions I get when I do interviews, so I decided to post them here.

Q: I’ve looked over a great deal of your website, including your really long bio. Reading it noticed how honest you are about yourself with other people. Not many are willing to do that, does this translate outside the internet in your everyday life?

A: Pretty much. I’ve always been a pretty candid person, and I don’t know why some of us are really withdrawn while some of us are really open. Perhaps it’s personality, or perhaps it’s outlook in life and also individual values. I believe in constantly striving to become a better person and redeeming past mistakes, so I see myself as a “work-in-progress,” which means I always have the chance to change anything I don’t like about myself, and also redeem myself. This leads me to never having to feel ashamed or overtly embarrassed about anything, because I know I can always improve and learn and change. I also believe that past mistakes are very important factors in our growth, because they are valuable lessons. I think sharing those lessons is a great way to give back to the world so others can maybe gain something from my mistakes, or at least feel like they are not alone in their struggles.

Q: I’ve seen the stunning amount of totally different careers you’ve done over the years, very few people will take the risks you do and prefer to stay with one thing most – if not all their lives. Were there any career decisions you made which you regret?

A: In some ways, I wish I had concentrated on music or film/writing, since they are the most potent to me emotionally, but because art was easier for me to find a job in, I stuck with art jobs even if they weren’t as emotionally involving to me. If I could go back in time, I’d have forced my parents into letting me take piano/music lessons and raised completely hell until they agreed. It’s the biggest regret of my life.

Q: You’ve said you’re a pretty optimistic person, what kept you going through the dark times you’ve had in your life?

A: I remind myself that I’m not terminally ill, am not living on the street, am not living in a country that’s constantly at war, was not born into some remote village in a very poor country with constant famine and disease…etc. Compared to many, I’m incredibly lucky. I also tell myself that tomorrow is a different day, and you can never tell what’s going to happen because life is full of surprises. Another thing I tell myself is that I’ve gone through very dark periods in the past, yet I survived them, and every single one of them felt like there would be no end to the suffering. They all eventually passed, and I’m stronger and better for having being tested, so this current dark period is no different. I’ll survive it and then sometime in the future I’ll be able to look back and think, “Yep, I survived that one as well.”

Q: You say everything you do is self-taught. This is something I relate to completely, most of what i’ve learned in creative pursuits are from my own initiative, research, experimenting, and mistakes. Even being in college now, I still learn most and best on my own. Having dropped out of college and not attending an arts school, did that ever put you at a disadvantage for employment? In the digital world, there have been endless debates about self-taught vs secondary education. From your experiences how has being self-taught affected you during job interviews? Have you ever been treated differently because of it?

A: Almost never. It’s all about your portfolio, resume, experience, and how you interact with people. In fact, most people are highly impressed that I’m self-taught. The only time I ever came across something different was this one art director who told me she preferred candidates that has a degree because it shows they can stick with something long-term until they achieved their goal. When I interview candidates as an art director, I don’t care about their education either, unless it was something unusual, like they never even finished high school. That’s when I get a bit concerned.

Q: Moving onto lighter questions, you’ve mentioned your passion for gaming. I’m very passionate for gaming as well, what would be some of your favourite games?

A: Check the “About Me” and “goodies” sections of my site–I have a page called “Influences” that lists everything I love (movies, music, games, artists…etc).

Q: Games are becoming more like high-budget films at a break-neck pace. Do you think this is a good direction for the video game industry?

A: Yes and no. The visceral impact is impressive and can really make your jaws drop, but there’s also less experimentation and innovation because every product has to turn a AAA level profit. With that said, I’m sort of guilty of buying into the big-budget AAA titles and don’t pay nearly as much attention to indie games as I should. This is mostly because my time is precious so I try to only play games that are highly regarded and has made a splash in the industry, so unless an indie game has garnered that kind of attention, I usually stick to the big AAA titles.

Q: Working with Sony Pictures Spider-Man 3 and Surfs Up hopefully would have been an incredible (and presumably well paying) experience. Could you describe how that experience was for you?

A: It was very stressful since half-way through the projects they raised my fee to double, but giving me only a fraction of the time to finish them. At first I had 3 or more days to do each piece, but once they doubled my fee I was only given a day per piece, so I wasn’t sleeping much at all. But it really pushed me to be resourceful and clever and choose my battles carefully when executing the pieces. It’s to date the most challenging gigs I’ve had because the caliber of the work had to be top-notch Hollywood level, but done very quickly.

Q: Soon you’ll begin teaching on CG Society (unless classes start as soon as your full) and I imagine this will be a very exciting learning experience for both you and your students. When you’re finished, do you expect to continue doing this workshop – or offer something completely different?

A: I will repeat the workshop for as long as there’s popular demand. It would be a shame if the workshop only ran once, after I’ve spent well over a year working hard on it. As far as tackling other subjects or focus, it’s all up in the air. For now, I’ll have to make sure this workshop does everything I designed it to do, and I’ll find out after its first run. Also, as creative people, we often go through cycles of learning, assessing, practicing…etc. After working on the workshop for so long, I’m totally ready to start my next cycle, which is to produce a lot of new works and take my own works to the next level.


Q:
I saw your house and studio, both were absolutely stunning and being the tech enthusiast I am – the studio is my favourite part. Right now my studio consists of a small bedroom. To me having a studio like yours would really make me think of how far I’d come to be able to even have something like this. What does having your studio make you think?

A: It was also a dream-come-true for me to finally be able to design a studio from the ground up and construct it myself to my own ideals. But even then, compromises were made, since we’re not exactly rich. I wish it could be just a bit bigger so I can have a bit more room to work with–such as maybe putting in an acoustic piano or an additional drum kit. I also wish I’d have the room/budget to do a full-blown room-in-a-room construction so that all structural noises would be eliminated (such as some guy upstairs stomping around or hammering away at something). Acoustically, I’m quite happy with the acoustic treatment, but computer noise is still a problem and I’m working towards a solution right now (building a custom isolation cabinet). But even with the compromises, it’s my little piece of heaven–I spend all of my time in the studio. While we may never be totally satisfied and there’s always that premium piece of gear we want, the truth is, at some point in your studio’s evolution, you’ll hit a point where you pretty much have everything you need to create anything you can imagine, and whatever other gear lust you have are only luxuries, not necessities. That’s where I am now–I’m not missing anything, but I still have gear lust and want to upgrade certain pieces of gear. Knowing this is a calming feeling–that it’s no longer about you missing the gear you need to achieve a particular effect–it’s now all about how creative you can get.

Q: When it comes to software, what would be the most challenging one you’ve learned? Would you like to share your experiences with it?

A: I would say that in general, 3D software are by far the hardest to work with and are the most technical. Music, photography, writing, video, 2D…etc all have complex software too, but they are by nature not nearly as technical. That is perhaps the one thing that really turns me off about 3D–the highly technical nature of it all. Very often I feel like the ROI (Return On Investment) with 3D is not worth it for me personally. The same time and energy spent in music, drawing/painting, photography, shooting video…etc will yield me more creative fulfillment and fun, not to mention less frustrations and technical hurdles to jump over.

Q: You say you enjoy watching films on DVD with your wife, do you watch any television shows as well? Currently airing or on DVD.

A: The “Influences” page on my site lists them.

Q: Is there anything out there in the way of technology or software that you wish would be invented?

A: I fantasize about this all the time. Hand-held medical scanner that can detect any disease and its location, and then treat it ASAP. Completely reliable data storage/backup solution that’s also practical and cost-effective (maybe solid-state drives when they come down in price). Much more advanced and intuitive sample/physical modeling hybrid solutions for realistic musical instrument emulations. Cameras with far superior high ISO and auto-focus performance that’s as quick and dynamic as the human eye, so you’d never fudge a shot again. The perfect headphone that can easily rival the most expensive reference studio monitor speakers, including authentic and visceral sub-bass reproduction. Teleportation devices so we don’t have to fly/drive long distance ever again. The list goes on and on and on.

WEBLOG:
I finally finished Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare 2 a while ago. My opinion of it hasn’t changed–it’s still a big Michael Bay-esque roller coaster ride with relentless and over-the-top action, and it’s a lot of fun without a lot of subtlety or substance. The credit roll with the museum set pieces were a big surprise, and I thought it was one of the most clever and interesting credit roll ideas I’ve ever experienced–right up there with Portal‘s adorable and hilarious ending song.

I’m not sure which game I’ll focus on finishing next. I did start on Dragon Age: Origins, but so far it’s not as compelling as I had hoped–at least not in the way that Knights of the Old Republic or Mass Effect were.

I’m currently looking to get one of the room correction products on the market (IK Multimedia ARC System, KRK Ergo, JBL MSC1, Samson D-1500, dbx Drive Rack PX…etc). Even though my studio is fully treated acoustically, it still isn’t perfect, and the room correction products will be the icing on the cake. I would never use one of these products to act as substitute or replacement for proper acoustic treatment, but as that extra icing on the cake, I think these products can be quite helpful. Once I decide on which one and have done the measurements and corrections, I’ll report back on how it went.

I recently purchased two software that I really love. One is the Isone Pro, and the other is the J River Media Center 14. Isone Pro is a plugin that makes your headphones sound like you’re listening to speakers in a room, thus eliminating listening fatigue that’s caused by the drastic stereo imaging inherent in headphones (that uncomfortabler “in your head” sound, which is the most dramatic when there are instruments panned hard right and hard left). Isone Pro allows you to set the distance of the virtual speakers, the size of your head and ears, and type of speaker cabinets used. I’ve tried other similar crossfeed plugins and they don’t come anywhere close to how natural the Isone Pro sounds. Redline Monitor is one such plugin, and it costs three times more than Isone Pro (which only costs $27), and it doesn’t really work all that better than the free Headphone plugin that comes with Media Center 14. None of the other crossfeed plugins actually sound like the sound is coming from speakers in front of you, and Isone Pro is the only one I’ve heard that does it. I’m assuming hardware units like the SPL Phonitor probably does something similar, but hardware units like that cost well over a grand. $27 vs. a grand. You do the math.

Media Center 14 is by far one of the very best media librarian/player on the market. It allows extensive customizing, is very robust and feature-rich, and now has native VST hosting, which was the main reason I finally upgraded from Media Jukebox (the free version of Media Center) to a paid license. Now that Media Center can host VST’s (and you can freely change the order of the activated plugins), one of my favorite things in the world is to listen to music late at night in Media Center while studying spectrum analyzers (Voxengo SPAN, Stillwell Audio Schope, Nugen Visualizer…etc), with the Isone Pro engaged, and play around with EQ’s (Voxengo GlissEQ, Fabfilter Pro-Q, Blue Cat’s Parametric EQ, EasyQ…etc). It helps me understand how some of my favorite songs were mixed and mastered, and in turn will help me improve in my audio production skills.

Quickie movie/TV reviews:

The Sopranos (season two~six) – I finally finished watching the entire series, and although I enjoyed some aspects of the show, I have to say that I feel it’s a bit overrated. While I appreciate the fact it broke new ground when it came out, I don’t really think it deserves the kind of rabid praise like “best TV show in the history of television.” For me personally, it’s important that a story contains some kind of transcendence, where the character(s) actually overcome some kind of obstacle and we see a metamorphosis happening–something is changed, and from that change comes a profound revelation of some kind, or at the very least an emotional catharsis. It doesn’t even have to have closure, but it must be cathartic, and intellectually we must have gained some valuable insight or understanding. With The Sopranos, we don’t really get any of that, or at least not the amount or intensity I had hoped for. In Goodfellas, we got a powerful and sobering closure when Henry looked into the camera and started speaking to us, the audience). In The Godfather, there was poetic and emotional catharsis–that operatic and visceral experience. In The Sopranos, we got a fucking anti-climatic riddle at the end that just wasn’t very satisfying (at least not in the way that we expected the ending to six long seasons to be). I have read all the different interpretations of the series finale, and whether the black silent screen meant it’s Tony getting whacked, or the audience getting whacked (no longer privileged to peek into their lives), it makes no difference–it just wasn’t emotionally satisfying. I so wished that someone in the show could’ve gotten out of that bleak world of violence and misery-maybe just packed up and drove away from it all to begin a new life, but no one did. Perhaps that was the message–that once you’re in that life, there’s no getting out, no transcendence, no redemption, no metamorphosis–just a dead end spiritually, physically, and emotionally.

In season 3, when the mash-up of Every Breath You Take and Peter Gunn played in the episode where the feds were tailing the Sopranos, I grinned like the Cheshire Cat. That was pretty damn clever.

Fantastic Mr. Fox – I was surprised by how well Anderson’s sense of rhythm for dialogue worked in perfect symphony with stop-motion animation. It was by far one of the most interesting and entertaining animated films I have seen in a long time, and I loved the fact that the film didn’t feel like it was aimed at children in any way. Often animated films aimed at adults can be a bit drab or pretentious, and this one really got the balance right in my opinion. Oh yeah, and no irritating and smug references to pop culture–thank God.

February 1, 2010

It’s live! Becoming A Better Artist – Critical knowledge and techniques for today’s artists

Filed under: Art & CG,Computers & Gadgets,Film/TV/Animation,My Life/Musings,News — Rob Chang @ 11:49 am

NEWS:
My workshop Becoming A Better Artist – Critical knowledge and techniques for today’s artists is now open for enrollment. After more than a year’s worth of blood, sweat, and tears, it’s finally ready to go live. Space is limited (only 35 students will be accepted), so definitely act fast. The course will start on March 8th and will last eight weeks. Whether it will repeat in the future will depend on popular demand, so if you don’t get in the first time, definitely let CGSociety.org know that you want to see it repeated. If you want even more details about the workshop or want to ask question, get yourself over to this announcement thread.

The first run of the workshop is going to be very interesting, as I’ll find out if it’s possible to teach so much content in just eight weeks. I hope the students will be a real pleasure to teach–passionate aspiring artists who are hungry for knowledge, craves guidance, motivated, and hopefully smart and talented as well.

WEBLOG:
My Samsung SyncMaster 2493HM display monitor have been acting up in the last few months–it would turn itself off repeatedly, refuse to respond to the power on/off button in the front, jump around in brightness/contrast levels, and other weirdness. It acts up sporadically so it’s totally unpredictable and hard to reproduce the problems. I took it to the local Samsung service center in Fuzhou and they said they couldn’t find anything wrong with it, but when I brought it home it’s still got the same problems. I know it’s not because of my video card or computer since everything’s normal when I use my SyncMaster 244T instead. I’ve only used the 2493HM for about a year, and since the problems usually don’t last (turning the power switch on the back on and off usually takes care of it, but sometimes even that doesn’t work), it’s not like I have full justification to just go out and buy a new display monitor. I almost wish it would just kick the bucket so I could be rid of it.

Elena was telling me the other day that she’s sick and tired of seeing useless people posting petty and pointless emo rants online in blogs, forums, social networking sites…etc–she called it “polluting the internet with negative vibe.” These people don’t seem to contribute to our civilization in any tangible way, and only adds misery, chaos, and negativity to our virtual world. Why not actually contribute something useful or meaningful to the world? Post a recipe. Offer some useful advice. Share interesting knowledge. Help others. Hell, even writing user reviews of products you have used is contributing to greater good of our civilization. Do something–anything, that makes this world a better place while you’re online, instead of only dumping personal baggage into our virtual space.

Related to her little rant, I had a similar one myself. I was talking to her about David Duchovny’s character (Hank Moody) in Californication and how he’s not nearly as likable as Fox Mulder in The X-Files. While both characters are very intelligent, talented, and witty, the difference is that Mulder is passionate, motivated, and strives to be a noble person, while Moody is mostly a jerk that takes pride in being an asshole. I could never relate to people like that–those who enjoy hurting others or putting them in uncomfortable situations for their own amusement. I know we all have the potential to act like real douchebags, but the difference lies in how much of an effort we make to keep that ugly side shoved far down in the basement of our psyche and how hard we try to do the right thing whenever we can. Taking pride in being a jerk is the last thing I’d ever want to see in myself or those around me.

I personally believe that people who are intelligent, talented, accomplished, driven…etc have the obligation to strive to be role models–to set an example for others to follow. If the most capable of us don’t try to be the best the human race has to offer, then perhaps they don’t deserve the gifts bestowed upon them in the first place. Unfortunately, many of the elite use their gifts for evil and selfish gains, carving a path of destroyed lives as they ruthlessly march forward in their quest to satisfy their greed, or they’re simply too narcissistic to care beyond admiring their own greatness. I guess the question that we all should ask ourselves is this–if we find ourselves in the world of superhero comic books, will we choose to be a supervillain or a superhero? But life is not that simple, is it? Even if we pick a side and try to live according to our convictions, we will be tested when life throws us a curve ball. For example, if you find a wallet stuffed with cash and you’re in need of money, would you give the money back or would you keep it? How about if you accidentally run someone over while driving and you’re pretty sure of two things: 1) The person is dead 2) No one saw you–would you drive away or would you turn yourself in? Even if we think we know how we’ll behave while contemplating such questions in a calm, detached manner, we could very well do the exact opposite when actually facing these decisions under stress.

When when it comes to everyday life, we’re not faced with these very difficult decisions, so at the very least, we could try to be kind to one another instead of behaving like jerks. But apparently, even that is too much to ask of some people.

Quickie movie reviews:

The Road – I loved the book–it’s now one of my favorite books of all time, and when I found out it was being made into a movie, I had high hopes. I knew instinctively that the gravity of the source material will only attract cerebral and serious filmmakers–the kind that could do the book justice. In other words, the book is safe from shallow directors like Michael Bay, because it doesn’t have enough explosions car chases.

The film remained mostly faithful to the spirit of the book, and whatever deviations didn’t detract from that spirit, except maybe the ending. While the ending is essentially the same, because the difference in the characters involved in the ending makes it feel like the film tried to appeal to the lowest common denominator–the kind of audience that demands Hollywood happy endings. I think that’s the one thing the film did wrong–it shouldn’t have tacked on that extra coat of sugar at the end–it almost felt like the kind of rampant sentimentality that Steven Spielberg used to sprinkle throughout his films, until he finally grew out of his Peter Pan phase. The ending aside, I think the film is a worthy adaptation of the book.

Avatar – I’m one of those people who has heard of Avatar’s development as far back as the late 90’s, and have been waiting for it for all these years. I finally got to see it a few hours ago with Elena, and we watched it in 3D.

I think as a commercial blockbuster made for the mainstream audience, it’s got a very good balance of heart, action, visual spectacle, and a conscience. It’s very obviously dumbed down a bit so that it can reach the widest audience. I think Cameron learned from Titanic that a simpler story is what will be understood by more people, and in turn make the most profit as well. I think Cameron is certainly capable of writing characters that are more complex and morally ambiguous, but whether he wants to take that route with very expensive blockbuster films is a different issue altogether. Maybe a small indie film could afford to be very complex, but in today’s cinematic climate, I think the days of expensive blockbuster having the same complexity as sophisticate arthouse films are long gone. I can’t remember the last big-budget blockbuster that had a really complex story with moral ambiguity.

I thought the CG characters were expressive, and served their purpose very well, but any talk about conquering the Uncanny Valley is irrelevant because they are stylized fictional creatures, so they don’t count as human CG characters. In most cases, they looked like an interesting blend of stylized realism, but they are definitely not to be mistaken for total photorealism–at least not to me. I doubt they were meant to be in the first place, since the whole world of Pandora has an ethereal and stylistic vibe to it.

During some scene transitions I had the distinct feeling that some scenes were cut for the theatrical release, and we’ll definitely see them on the DVD.

A lot of people talk about the white man’s guilt and also how it always takes a white hero to save an inferior native race (Dances with Wolves, The Last Samurai, Black Rain…etc), and I think perhaps it’s just a template that resonates with typical American audience the most. If the main character wasn’t white, would the discussion have taken place?

A side note about the movie-going experience:
The last time I went to the movie theater to watch a movie in China was almost 9 years ago when Fellowship of the Ring showed in China, and I swore then I’d never watch a movie in China ever again because the experience was just horrible. People treating the theater like it’s their living room–they’d talk loudly, answer their cellphones non-stop, and the sound of food wrappers crinkled from the first minute to the last. This time, the theater was newer and more modern, but the quality of the audience remained the same. The guy to my right answered his phone SIX TIMES during the movie, and his kid kept on talking and asking questions loudly. The women to my wife’s left also kept on talking and answering their phones and she had to tell everybody to shut up three times during the film. I know this kind of stuff happens in most countries, but in China it’s extra bad. But then again, I haven’t exactly watched movies in theaters in a bunch of different countries, so maybe some countries are even worse.

Drag Me to Hell – Sam Raimi’s return to the campy horror comedy genre, and I think as a director who’s helmed big Hollywood blockbusters and serious dramas since his Evil Dead days, he is now much better at knowing when to use restraint and when to get down and get crazy. I think some of the more campy scenes stick out a bit since they only really happen during the scenes with scares and the rest of the “normal” scenes don’t really contain any traces of that campy vibe–resulting in a somewhat schizophrenic feel. Overall it’s a lot of fun though. Alison Lohman is an interesting looking actress. I remember she was really adorable as Nick Cage’s daughter in Matchstick Men, and she’s one of those really petite girls that just on the verge of being too tiny, but that’s part of her charm–that cute waif look.

The Royal Tenenbaums – Although this one has the trademark Wes Anderson mixture of wry comedy and heartfelt drama, it wasn’t as interesting as his other films I’ve seen. The relationship between some of the characters were underdeveloped, and the focus seemed to wander a bit.

Final Destination 4 – Elena and I have seen all the Final Destination films, and while the story is always the same, the fun is in the creative ways each character gets offed. I don’t know how many more of these movies they can make before people stopped watching them though. Unless they come up with a new twist to the franchise, this may be the end of the road.

Time Traveler’s Wife – While it may not make logical sense if you want to get scientific about the plot, the film is endearing because of it’s warmth, and I think Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams really sold those characters. It’s definitely a movie for romantics, and I think if you allow yourself the suspension of disbelief, you’ll be won over by its charm.

Surrogate – A fairly interesting sci-fi premise about humans and their artificial surrogate bodies, but the plot itself squandered the potentials the premise had, being too simplistic and lacking an additional layer of subtext or complexity. The moral ground it takes is also shaky at best–one of those arrogant and illogical human fallacies that places mankind’s sick fascination with existentialist crisis before pragmatism and reason. If in my life time this technology becomes popular and available, you bet your ass I’ll gladly indulge in it.

The Lovely Bones – I was very disappointed by this film. The entire paranormal/after life aspect of the story felt unnecessary and overly self-indulgent. It did not add anything significant or profound, neither did it express any meaning worthy of its inclusion. If anything, a simple murder mystery would’ve been much more effective than the meandering mess it is.

The Perfect Getaway – A pretty entertaining thriller, although I guessed the plot twist pretty early on in the film. This is one of the things I hate about being a writer–you can see the tricks other writers use from a mile away, and it takes away the joy from being an unsuspecting audience. If a film’s writing is halfway decent, then it’ll have to make sense, and in order to make sense there are very limited number of suspects in every thriller, because only bad writers would jump the shark and pin the murders on characters that barely had any screen time and completely irrelevant. Once you figure out the formula, you can pretty much guess the possible plot twist of every single thriller you watch, unless the writer is wickedly talented and clever–so much so that he could even surprise other writers. So in a way, my being able to guess the plot twist of this film shouldn’t count against the film, because in all honesty, it’s one of the more refreshing thrillers of late.

Jennifer’s Body – I can’t decide if the slightly campy tone made the film more endearing or detracted from it. Megan Fox is definitely easy on the eyes, but I couldn’t help but kept thinking that the character she plays seems so much like how the media portrays her personality in real life. Maybe they cast her because she’s known to be a bitch? I think the film pulled too many punches and was way too tame to make its mark in the world of horror cinema. It should’ve had a much darker tone and been far more violent to make a strong impression.

2012 – A compelling premise with eye-popping special effects, but completely drenched in sappy Hollywood sentimentality–to the point of being idiotic. While I’m not an advocate of cold-blooded pragmatism, I also think that unchecked sentimentality which would put the survival of an entire species at danger is just moronic. Too often Hollywood writers err on the side of excessive sentimentality, and I think there just has to be a better balance in these types of movies.

Carriers – It was entertaining enough, but a bit too safe and predictable. I think when it comes to thrillers, today’s audience expects thrilling surprises and plot twists, and this film doesn’t really have any.

My personal beef is that I can’t stand watching irresponsible and idiotic characters in movies, especially if they are the leads. I avoid morons like that in real life. yet I have to spend an hour and a half glued to the every move of the same ilk of dickheads? The older brother, Brian, is exactly the kind of asshole idiot that I can’t stand in real life–people who are completely incapable of self-control or understand that any kind of horsing around is the perfect ingredient for accidents or disasters. It’s idiots like him that causes accidents–doing stupid shit like “Look! No hands!” while driving or riding a motorcycle or sitting on some railing 20 floors high. Assholes like that think everything is a joke and it’s funny to create dangerous situations just for a laugh. I hope jerks like that get themselves maimed every time they pull stunts like that so they finally learn to cut that shit out for the rest of their lives.

White Out – The story itself wasn’t bad, but the execution was thoughtless and clumsy, displaying many of the problems that film buffs often complain about–things that are so easy to address if the people in charge had the mental capacity for it. It’s not even the really big things, but smaller things like ridiculously glamorous makeup on the female lead so that she looks like she’s about to pose for a high fashion magazine, or being exposed to extremely cold temperature during a furious blizzard for a very long time without wearing any protection for the face, but looking totally normal after the fact, or the female lead kept turning around to check the door behind her for possible attacker, while standing there waiting for sheets of fax to print out, but never thought of to simply turning the fuck around and face the door while waiting, or the embarrassingly gratuitous shots of her undressing and sticking her ass directly into the camera right at the beginning of the movie. That should have been a clear enough sign that it’ll be a pretty mindless movie made by people with less than stellar taste (not that I have any problems with T&A–it’s all about context and choosing an appropriate creative tone for any given project, and the people behind this film didn’t understand that).

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