Thursday, June 29, 2006

Scott Pilgrim #3 is out!

Just read it on Ain't it Cool -


... has been published. Sweet!

From the review: "If I called SCOTT PILGRIM the finest example of comics, the most fun a reader can have with graphic novels, then that would be an understatement. The third volume manages to top the insanity of the previous volumes ..." And then there's spoilers. And people who've read this series know that knowing nothing is the knowledge you want to know when you start reading it.

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Sunday, June 25, 2006

Online ettiquette

Does linking to this cross the line?
What about googling your date?
And here's some advice for the LiveJournalistas out there.

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Relationship Failure (No. 463)


I'm talking to my soon-to-be Former Flatmate (STBFF).

Me: So I looked at a flat today, and I met this woman I was interested in. Now, she's the flatmate who's moving out, and we only talked for a couple of minutes, but I still have the phone number, so I wanted your opinion on whether it'd be weird if I -

STBFF: No. Because that'd be stalking.

Me: ... Yes. Yes, of course you're right.

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Fury and Betrayal

ulatFriday night. Played Fury of Dracula (FOD) again, and my third game of Betrayal at the House on the Hill (BATHOTH).

FOD holds up as a great example of co-operative strategy and finely balanced adversaries. Once again, Gino played Dracula. Once again, the hunter-players were on his trail from the beginning, and three-quarters of the way through we'd cornered the fiend in Eastern Europe ... but this time, Gino played a few new cards that allowed him to jump over our net and run for his un-life.

Again, it was exciting, ended with a confrontation with Dracula over the course of dusk to twilight, across the English channel &, this time, with victory for the Hunters.

As for BATHOTH. Well, see the comments thread in the link above for more. BATHOTH is beautifully designed, it's interesting and tense as you explore the house, generating mood reasonably effortlessly. Then the Haunt starts - one of the players becomes a Traitor and plays the forces of the House trying to kill all the other (non-traitor) characters. There are 50 different Haunts in the game (aliens, zombies, angry servants, evil plants, and more and more) so there's a lot of variability in every game.

But that's what I think it at the heart of the controversy. Because of the variety of Haunts, there's no consistency to the gameplay BETWEEN games. Some Haunts seem tougher than others, attributes are randomly penalised, and some Haunts require you to explore more of the House than you have. This lack of consistency means some Haunts'll be easy to defeat; others, impossible. Some Haunts will be tense and fun; others, boring.

Whereas FOD has delivered a consistent experience each time I've played it, BATHOTH has been highly variable, more reliant on luck than player skill, and up and down in terms of fun. I've heard (and can believe) that there are great Haunts that are really fun to play through, but my point is that that should be the case every time you play, not just every fourth time it happens (or however often it does).

The Limit - Solving the Midpoint

Today's my 'finish this re-draft' deadline ... & I'm approaching the end of Act 2. REASON: MWA offered me some more work which has had to be done over this week and last, so I've deferred script progress in order to earn some dentist money.

The writing's been going smoothly but right now I think I'm facing a psychological block - I need to make a change that has big ramifications for the rest of the film. It's a simple change, but I think its implications are stopping me from going ahead with making it. Instead I'm analysing. And working on this much-delayed post.

The work I'm doing for MWA is confidential, but I can say - Without disclosing anything secret - that a lot of very successful people in this country perceive a difference between women and men in the way they solve problems. Apparently, (1) men come up with solutions and implement one quickly whereas (2) Women analyse the whole situation, try and get down to the core of the problem and then generate a solution.

Now I'm not sure whether those patterns are gendered that strongly, but I've reached a point on The Limit that reminds that I've certainly been guilty of #1 a lot.

The Midpoint of the script consists of an argument plus a new threat for one of the lead characters. Now, the threat's always worked fine but the argument has always seemed to slow things down. I've tried a lot of fixes on it over the last five drafts and nothing's worked.

So what did I realise during this edit? That none of these quick fixes had addressed the main problem. That the midpoints for the two leads were separated by about 10 pages ... and that that distance was killing momentum the script's momentum.

So, lessons to apply in future:
1) Coming up with a quick fix is fine, if I'm utterly convinced by it.
2) If I'm not convinced, then analyse the problem thoroughly. I've been finding that Deviation Analysis works well as a tool.
3) Analyse anything that looks like a massive drop in engagement when I draft my Whammo Chart.
4) If, after coming up with a quick fix, a problem still remains in the next draft, analyse it.

Now, to probably procrastinate further!

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Lost timeline

I love that there are people out there more obsessive than me.

Here's a timeline for before the crash and Seasons 1 & 2. Be aware: there are HUGE spoilers for anyone who hasn't seen up to the end of Season 2. However, the timeline is missing much Eko and Ana-Lucia information.

Things I learned:

Sayid met Kate's father in Iraq.

Locke inspects Nadia, Sayid's love's house.

Sarah (Jack's ex-wife) blows out a tire and flips into oncoming traffic, hitting and killing Adam Rutherford. Shannon’s last name is Rutherford.

Now, enough procrastinating, back to the script ... which I was stressing about this morning ... but have since taken a walk, calmed down and resolved to write as much as I feel capable of today.

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Buffy - Season 6 Overview

When I first watched this season on TV, I felt it was the weakest outing in the Buffy-verse yet - a real disappointment after the highs of Season 5.

Specifically, I was fine with the downbeat opening tone - it's appropriate, after all; the lead character has come back from the dead and (although she died triumphantly) I believe her resurrection here is a metaphor for a person who's attempted suicide - but that downbeat tone continued for too long - past Willow’s car crash, past Xander’s wedding - dragging the characters and the show down, down, down, further and further into misery, until it finally recovered with a great, 4-part, action movie season finale.

I wanted emotional growth from Buffy - I wanted her to go from numbness, through despair, until finally she grew up, confronted her life and achieved happiness. I would have preferred to have that happen in 13 episodes and for the show to move on, but instead it took 22 to justify Buffy’s resurrection and her happiness in the finale seemed shoehorned in.

I've just re-watched Season 6 – and had a completely different experience on this viewing.

For me, the downbeat tone stems specifically from Buffy (the character) being passive and not driving any of the plots forward. She’s numb, socially withdrawn and most importantly not very funny. Compare that to episodes from previous seasons – Buffy is at the centre of most stuff, initiating conversations, deciding how things happen – she’s the charismatic sun at the centre of a solar system of Scoobies [/metaphor]. Changing the characterisation like this gives the show a radically different feel. Even though Buffy’s there, she feels absent ... and as a result the show feels far more subdued.

At least for the first dozen or so episodes. As Buffy comes out of her shell – and I can’t pinpoint a specific moment yet, but it’s accomplished by the time she finally rejects Spike – the show feels like itself again. Darker, less fluffy-funny, but recapturing the dynamic of previous seasons.

This leads to my next discovery, that Season 6 feels like a necessary maturation in the series. At this point – the characters did need to grow up and start confronting life in all its setbacks and ... awesomeness. To do otherwise – to simply keep returning to a status-quo of characters wise-cracking their way through tragi-comedy would’ve been pretty shallow.

So that was a bit of a shock to me – to approve of the goal of Season 6 – a goal that’s explicitly signalled by Giles’ motives for returning to England: To force our leads to stand on their own feet.

And finally, Spike’s characterisation. Yes, he was cool in Season 2, but in order to work with him again, Whedon chose to humanise Spike – first by putting a chip in his head so that he wouldn’t automatically kill the core cast, then by making him fall in love with Buffy so he had a reason to stick around. But underneath all of this, Spike’s still evil, as demonstrated by Season 4’s “The Yoko Factor” and later his manipulative, dysfunctional and predatorial seduction of Buffy when she’s at her weakest.

Sure, he’s less the Billy Idol rebel as a result of all this, but he’s become a character with far more possibilities – and when this is coupled with the work in the last seasons of Buffy and then Angel, we can see that the character of Spike’s been taken on quite a trip courtesy of Team Whedon and the performance of James Marsden.

(Personal note: watching this season for the time, I’d only seen 3 or 4 episodes of Buffy before. It was during a scene between Buffy and Spike in her bathroom, where Spike was trying to deal with how messed up their love was, that I finally clicked and decided that Spike was a character who I enjoyed watching, a character who I liked. Literally a second later he attempted to rape Buffy – which completely messed with my mind & consequently consider to be one of the best scenes the show ever produced.)

So that’s it for my initial thoughts. Breakdowns of specific episodes will follow in the indefinite future. In the meantime, I’m pleased to hear that a new season of Slayers East is in the works; I eagerly await new stories from that creative team.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Limit - Decisions

Work on The Limit was brutal today.

I've been trying to get back into this re-edit. I have, in fact, set myself a two week deadline to finish this part of the writing - so that's 25 June. But I was stuck on this 2 page section where Peter talks to his stepson. What has happened during this rewrite is that I've figured out how important this scene is to the movie - and it's helped clarify how I should be characterising Taine.

Unlike working on the 48-hour competition, there is no immediate pressure on me to make a decision about a line of dialogue or an approach to the scene. This leads to perfectionism - which is my curse & the reason I've been working on this goddamn project for what seems like most of the decade - and this two-page scene for the last four days.

The big picture upshot: next film I write, I'm getting myself a year to complete it. One year, and then I'm getting out no matter what state it's in. Hopefully that'll give me some motivation not to waste all the work I've put in.

Medium picture upshot: working on this has been long, secretive & driven by the need for perfection/the desire for greatness. Next project, I'd like to do something shorter form (TV, short film, short TV - the link goes to a Wired article about fan TV shows in the Whedonverse), with a development process that is completely out in the open, and it's driven by attitude and immediacy.

Right now: I had to take a walk in the bitter cold to clear my head. And my conclusions were a) I need to relax and have fun while I'm writing, and b) the scene didn't need to be perfect - I'm going to go back, read the script aloud when I've finished this re-edit, and make adjustments.

Scenes finished now, and I got through another four pages to boot.
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Monday, June 05, 2006

Hot or Not - Boardgames

Played two new boardgames on Friday night.

The second one's called Caylus - it's very much in the Puerto Rico/St. Petersberg school of design - there's a basic premise (you're building a castle for a King and, in order to do so, you have to build up the town surrounding the castle) and a nice economy - you can gradually build up a more sophisticated town that'll give you money, victory points and the raw materials needed to contribute to the castle.

I didn't enjoy this one so much - it felt very samey to me - in that it's really nice and playable, but similar in concept to many other 'German' boardgames that I've played over the last couple of years.

The first game was Fury of Dracula - the game covers all the major cities of Europe - one player controls Dracula, who moves from city to city, trying to breed new vampires and laying traps for the players hunting him. Everyone else plays the Hunters - we don't know where Dracula is, so we have to use deduction to track him down and fight him, while avoiding his traps. There's lots of nice stuff in here: a co-operative game, a nice combat system, a real sense of threat on both sides.

And I really like this. So, comparing the 2 games, I've decided that I like games with strong colour that mean something to the game. To clarify - in Caylus, when you buy a Stonemason so that you can build a Bank, it feels to me the same as buying a Wibble to build a Neek. There's nothing in the process of buying and strategising that makes me feel like a construction worker, or that I'm building anything.

In contrast, in Fury of Dracula, every element of colour is designed to either create period detail or to engage you in the conflict between Dracula and the Hunters - the backs of the cards, the emphasis on combat and tracking, the way the map of Europe works, the unreliable rail system, ... there's even a ticking clock that counts down the hours till nightfall ... at which point, Dracula becomes more powerful (mechanically) in the game.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Lost 1.21

We start with Locke dealing with the consequences of killing Boone – badly. When Jack confronts Locke, his emotions are RAW.

The episode breaks down like this:

CB1: Shannon wants Sayid to take revenge for her. Superb.
CB2: Locke reveals he attacked Sayid and destroyed the radio. This pisses Sayid off.
CB3: Shannon heads off to shoot Locke.
CB4: Locke survives Shannon’s attack. Sayid loses Shannon’s love.
End: “John. No more lies.” Awesome.

Nice bits:
“You drugged me? Oh. Okay.”
Locke has the bad taste to talk to Shannon while covered in Boone’s blood.
Ooh. Walt’s afraid of Locke now.

Locke says, “I know what it feels like when you lose family.” What are the ramifications of that?

Script issues:
It doesn’t seem plausible for two Arabs to be discussing bombing and martyrdom in such a public place. But technically it’s an excellent scene. Hassan is expressing doubts while Sayid, through necessity, is arguing for something he doesn’t believe in.

Using Sawyer as a natural pacifier, someone who’s voice keeps the baby quiet seems … goofy.

Act 3 starts with the preparations for the terrorist attack. Act 3 seems to be about action. Act 4 is about resolution, tying up, consequences. I really need to get how each CB links to the next major step in the script.

Sayid’s character – does he represent guilt? The search for love?

General things:
Locke’s gun comes back into play.
I’m not convinced by Maggie Grace’s performance as Shannon.

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Thursday, June 01, 2006

Lost 1.20

My episode reviews of Lost Season 1 continue. I took down some notes for the end of the season back in January, and I'm just getting round to transcribing them now.

CB1: Claire's having a baby.
CB2: Kate'll have to deliver the baby. These are oddly oblique commercial breaks.
CB3: They have to amputate.
CB4: Boone dies.

Yep, this is the episode where we contrast Life vs. Death. Baby vs. Boone. You can see it in all of the CBs, and the end of the episode contrasts the new baby being presented to the tribe with people bury Boone.

It's very much an episode exploring Jack's character. He has to make a choice between which patient to treat (Boone or Claire), and he chooses the hopeless case. "I am gonna save you," he says. Jack is defined by his need to take responsibility, but he also questions himself and has doubts.

Three script-writer notes:
1, Jack's "Don't tell me what I can't do!" mirrors Locke.
2. Jack worked a miracle on his wife (who had a similar injury to Locke), therefore the script makes us believe he can save Boone.
3. There's no comedy in this episode.
4. Next episode promises a Jack vs. Locke smackdown ... and see how we're really getting into follow-on continuity now?

Some other character notes:
We're seeing Charlie as father - he's seeking redemption via creating a family. Charlie is also the new Boone - a wannabe hero.

Jin knows a lot about healing for a rich girl.
Man, Daniel Dae Kim is an awesome actor. He was good-ish in Angel, but he's knockin gthis out of the park.
I love how the crisis of Claire's pregnancy forces Jin to talk to Sun.

Water, running, everywhere - it means a lot of ADR, but it's an easy way to create motion in the background.
Flashbacks in non-chronological order reflect the truth of being human - we can learn a lesson and then be in trouble again; we have patterns that we fall into.

Notes that I've written down and have no idea what they mean:
This is different from pregnancy ???
Sawyer helped Kate, twice.
Community, despite language barrier.

And a question:
How'd they get he cargo container up to the caves? Maybe it was addressed in an earlier episode, because it seems implausible to me.

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48Hours - The Screening

It went bloody well.

Monster Hunter IV: Beyond Repair is what our film's called. MHIVBR, for short. What stood out for me was how it didn't waste time - the work me, Sean and Morgue did in compressing the story meant that it compared favourably to the other films in our heat, in terms of being tight and solid.

Also, the screening confirmed that a 48 Hour film doesn't need to be an out and out comedy - the objective is to have a film that has lots of moments that really 'get' the audience, and big laughs aren't necessarily the only way to do that.

So, in last night's heat, I felt our film was probably the most solid and true to genre.
Optimistic Prime, a Based on a True Story black comedy with a barbershop quartet Greek chorus, was the most entertaining.
The Longest Wait - B&W puppet movie - was the most ambitious and moving.
Honourable Mentions to Driving for a Bargain and to Let it Go, the musical. Man, musical is tough.


Oh, and the process of rewriting the script in my head continues. The final lines (to me) are now:

Robin and Diana look at the monster's corpse.

Some things are too damaged to survive.

Robin stares up at her.

What about us?

There's a long look between them, as Diana considers him.

... Let's find out.

She drags Robin to his feet. They stagger away, together.

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