Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Romance is for Other People Tidbit #18

Hello Everyone!  Here is Romance is for Other People Tidbit #18:

18. Both Jeremy and Amanda play on basketball teams.

 Look for a new tidbit next Wednesday!  Here are the last 17 tidbits:
1. I am releasing a novel in 2014
2. The title is Romance is for Other People
3. There are four main characters
4. The first main character is Chris, male, 14 years old.
5. The second main character is Lydia, female, 14 years old
6. The third main character is Jeremy, male, 16 years old.
7. The fourth main character is Amanda, female, 16 years old.
8.  The format is first person, split between the four main characters.
9.  The title is a quote from the novel.
10.  All the chapter titles are quotes.
11.  Plot summary (View Here)
12.  Genre: Modern Teen Drama-Comedy.  Just to be clear, it is not: Horror, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Historical Drama, Mystery, Western, or Musical.
13.  There will be a dance in chapter 3.  
14. Chapter 1 will be from Chris and Lydia's viewpoint.  Chapter 2 will be from Jeremy and Amanda's viewpoint.
15. Chris and Lydia will be auditioning for a play in Chapter 1.
16. Amanda has a best friend named Katie.
17.  Chris and Lydia have not been dancing together before the beginning of the story.

Friday, April 25, 2014

The “Dancing with the Stars” Firings: What is going on?

February has been a busy month behind the scenes for Dancing with the Stars.  Before the celebrities and dancers have even been announced, on February 3, the Harold Wheeler Band, the orchestra who has done the live music since the beginning of the show, was suddenly let go: (http://insidetv.ew.com/2014/02/03/dancing-with-the-stars-harold-wheeler-band/). As if that wasn’t as big a shock, last week on February 22nd, Brook Burke-Charvet was fired from her job as co-host, which she’d done since season ten (http://insidetv.ew.com/2014/02/22/brooke-burke-charvet-leaving-dancing-with-the-stars/).  And almost just as quickly, news has come out about who is replacing the band and the co-host.  The network hired Ray Chew as the new band director (http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/dancing-stars-taps-new-music-678238), and People reports that Erin Andrews is the new co-host (http://insidetv.ew.com/2014/02/23/dancing-with-the-stars-erin-andrews-will-replace-brooke-burke-charvet/).  What does all this mean?  Why would the network mess with an orchestra that has been there since the beginning of the show, and fire a co-host who has been there for the past seven seasons?  Well, I can think of a couple reasons…

The first reason is to keep the show fresh and interesting.  It’s no secret that the show has faced declining rating the most recent seasons (http://www.today.com/entertainment/can-dancing-stars-save-series-going-extremes-8C11148898).  Last season, the biggest thing that the show did was move from two nights to one, with the exception of the finale.  This was to make room for other content on Tuesdays to liven up the ratings.  On the other hand, nobody on the show was fired.  But since the show can’t reduce its size anymore, the only thing it can do is chance the show from within.  Giving the show a new band and band leader, along with a new co-host, will bring the show in the news again.  But the impression might be that the show is desperate.  Why change a thing when ratings are good?  (Hence seventeen seasons of the Harold Wheeler Band).  And while Brook Burke-Charvet was not the first co-host (Lisa Channing and Samantha Harris hosted season 1, and seasons 2-9, respectively), seeing the move come after the firing of the Harold Wheeler band makes it look more desperate than simply “the show is moving in a new direction.”  But the impression it is supposed to give is that there is a new band bringing the music, there is a new hot co-host to watch.  Tune in for the first time if you can.  That is the impression they want to give, anyway.

Another reason might be is money.  Many, many TV shows have nearly come to a halt with contract negations over pay.  While there have been no reports of such on Dancing with the Stars, nevertheless, contracts grow as people stay longer at a particular job.  People get paid more for staying longer.  A new band and band leader, with the opportunity of national exposure, would jump at the chance to appear on the show.  I have no idea what the offered pay might be, but it’s probably good but not as much as the exiting band.  Same with the new co-host: Erin Andrews is offered to be a co-host on a national TV show.  She could be offered the same amount that Brook Burke-Charvet was offered when she started in season ten, which most certainly was not the same as what she was paid last season.  So the network fires the band and the co-host and hires new ones to save money, because it costs less to hire someone new than to keep the old ones. 


Either way, the show has lost something which appealed to me the previous seasons.  I will give my personal opinion here: I do think the Harold Wheeler band was great for the show and I do think that Brook Burke Charvet was a great co-host.  While of course they weren’t the primary reason I watched the show, they were still an element I liked and felt worked.  I will say this: I must admit, having now seen the new show with the new co-host and the new band and band leader, I have to say that both new parts of the show are quite good.  But I will nevertheless miss the elements of the show that I had grown to know and love.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Romance is for Other People Tidbit #17

Hello Everyone!  Here is Romance is for Other People Tidbit #17:

17.  Chris and Lydia have not been dancing together before the beginning of the story

 Look for a new tidbit next Wednesday!  Here are the last 16 tidbits:
1. I am releasing a novel in 2014
2. The title is Romance is for Other People
3. There are four main characters
4. The first main character is Chris, male, 14 years old.
5. The second main character is Lydia, female, 14 years old
6. The third main character is Jeremy, male, 16 years old.
7. The fourth main character is Amanda, female, 16 years old.
8.  The format is first person, split between the four main characters.
9.  The title is a quote from the novel.
10.  All the chapter titles are quotes.
11.  Plot summary (View Here)
12.  Genre: Modern Teen Drama-Comedy.  Just to be clear, it is not: Horror, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Historical Drama, Mystery, Western, or Musical.
13.  There will be a dance in chapter 3.  
14. Chapter 1 will be from Chris and Lydia's viewpoint.  Chapter 2 will be from Jeremy and Amanda's viewpoint.
15. Chris and Lydia will be auditioning for a play in Chapter 1.
16. Amanda has a best friend named Katie.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Recognizing Cameos & Bit Players: Blessing or a Curse?

When watching a certain movie, suddenly an actor or actress appears that you recognize from something else. For example, in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, the master of Lake-Town is revealed to be…Stephen Fry, well know British Actor, who I had just discovered from the old British series Jeeves and Wooster.  Part of me was excited that I knew who the actor was: “That’s…that’s Jeeves!  Wow cool!”  But at the same time, it brought me out of the story.  I wasn’t thinking about the actions that the Master of Lake-Town was making, I was thinking about how I knew the actor. 

This can be a good thing.  Charles Shaughnessy appeared in the Veronica Mars Episode “Lord of the Pi’s.”  In it, he played, a British man with an air of cool, which coincidentally is the same character he played in the Nanny.  That experience is one that conformed to expectations.  Essentially he was playing an expy of Maxwell Sheffield.  When bit players play a takeoff of their original role, sometimes it can be very funny and very welcome.  Another example is Reginald VelJohnson, who has cameo role as a cop on Chuck in the episode, “Chuck versus Santa Clause.”  He also plays a cop on Family Matters, and, as it turns out, Die Hard, which was the episode this episode was homage to.  It may be unfortunate, but we expect these people to be in those roles, and when they turn up in those roles, it gives us satisfaction and we accept it as part of the plot.

But it can also be distracting.  When any TV show uses a celebrity just to use them, it becomes more that the actor is appearing rather than an interesting character.  On the one hand, it probably won’t be a big deal for many fans of the actor.  For regular viewers, they probably appreciate at least some effort to make the characters more relevant to the story.  Shows that featured athletes or musicians, who are not natural actors, or cameo heavy shows like Will and Grace service the cameos too well, to the point that it overwhelms the plot.  All we can think about is the cameo of the famous guy or girl from the show.  In Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide, BMX bike star Mat Hoffman makes an appearance in an episode of “Dares.”  In it Mat Hoffman convinces Ned Bigby not to try a dangerous stunt as a dare…right before doing it himself.  Mat Hoffman’s appearance is distracting and the only thing you can think about is the cameo.  Friends did an episode after the Super Bowl, called “The One After The Super Bowl.”  Instead of doing something big in terms of plot, instead it was an episode which highlighted cameos.  Julia Roberts, Brook Shields, Jean-Claude Van-Damme all make an appearance in the episode.  Some of course are more distracting than others, but all serve to highlight “there’s a famous person in this scene” instead of servicing the plot. 

Cameos and bit players certainly have their place. There needs to be good actors and actresses for small roles in movies or for featured guest spots on TV.  But to insert celebrity for the sake of celebrity can be distracting and not beneficial to the plot of the show.  To the notoriety of the show or movie, yes, it can be very successful.  But on the other hand, it can derail or completely stop the plot, and as such may not in the best interest of the overall arc of the show.  

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Romance is for Other People Tidbit #16

Hello Everyone!  Here is Romance is for Other People Tidbit #16:

16. Amanda has a best friend named Katie.

 Look for a new tidbit next Wednesday!  Here are the last 15 tidbits:
1. I am releasing a novel in 2014
2. The title is Romance is for Other People
3. There are four main characters
4. The first main character is Chris, male, 14 years old.
5. The second main character is Lydia, female, 14 years old
6. The third main character is Jeremy, male, 16 years old.
7. The fourth main character is Amanda, female, 16 years old.
8.  The format is first person, split between the four main characters.
9.  The title is a quote from the novel.
10.  All the chapter titles are quotes.
11.  Plot summary (View Here)
12.  Genre: Modern Teen Drama-Comedy.  Just to be clear, it is not: Horror, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Historical Drama, Mystery, Western, or Musical.
13.  There will be a dance in chapter 3.  
14. Chapter 1 will be from Chris and Lydia's viewpoint.  Chapter 2 will be from Jeremy and Amanda's viewpoint.
15. Chris and Lydia will be auditioning for a play in Chapter 1.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Does knowing the tropes used in stories lessen our appreciation of them?

If you watch a lot of movie, certain themes start to pop up again.  Certain actions the heroes (and even the villains) take seem be more and more familiar.  It’s a hazard of watching so many movies and TV shows; you begin to see patterns and tropes more easily.  And yet, we gobble them up again and again. 

For example, why is it that origin stories continue to be done, even though we know the beats it will make?  Here are some of the familiar tropes in origin stories.  First, there is the separation from/death of parents: This trope shows up in, for example, Batman, Batman Begins, Superman, Man of Steel, Spider-Man, The Amazing Spider-Man.  Another example is physical separation from home; learning to be the hero: Batman Begins, Superman, Man of Steel all have that element attributed to it. 

In romantic movies, one common trope is a nice or okay guy dating the female lead, but because he is not the protagonist, he will not be the guy she ends up with in the end; what TV tropes calls a “Romantic False Lead.”  This shows up in Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, His Girl Friday, The Wedding Singer, The Notebook, Across the Universe, and Enchanted, just to name a few.  Another moment common in romantic movies is the moment where the previously frumpy female comes out decked out pretty clothes and her hair styled (and we see the leading man notices).  This shows up in My Fair Lady, Miss Congeniality, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, 10 Things I Hate About You, She’s All That, among others. 

Horror movies are the most notorious for its repeated use of tropes, so much so that it is known and easily parodied.  Nevertheless, here a couple common tropes in horror movies: one is the use of woods as a place of fear.  The characters are stalked by something in the woods, and it rarely if ever ends well.  This shows up in Blair Witch Project, Cabin Fever, Deliverance, Sleepaway Camp, The Cabin in the Woods, Wrong Turn, for example.  Another common trope is the fact that an attractive young woman will have the final battle with the evil thing terrorizing the characters.  This shows up in Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, Jeepers Creepers, and Scream.

One trope seen in comedy movies is the idea of the main character, in order to impress someone, telling a little lie.  However, when he or she is confronted on the lie, rather than confess, makes up bigger and even more outlandish lies until all the main character is doing is covering up the first lie.  This show up in The Birdcage, Easy A, Meet the Parents, Just Go with It, etc.  Another one is the put-upon straight man, the one that never cracks jokes and is the victim of the funny character’s humor at times.  Examples include: David Space’s characters in Tommy Boy and Black Sheep, Jack Lemmon’s characters in The Odd Couple and Grumpy Old Men, Jon Cho’s character in the Harold and Kumar movies.  

So you have that “oh yeah” moment, where you see the trope more and more often.  It becomes familiar. It can get annoying, but for the same reason we like heartwarming movies (which I wrote about here as well), we come expect and appreciate the rules which govern Superhero origin movies, romance plots, horror stories and comedy situations.  It’s not a bad thing or good thing, it’s just a thing.  We come back, knowing what to expect, and we enjoy it all the more.  

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Romance is for Other People Tidbit #15

Hello Everyone!  Here is Romance is for Other People Tidbit #15:

15. Chris and Lydia will be auditioning for a play in Chapter 1.

 Look for a new tidbit next Wednesday!  Here are the last 14 tidbits:
1. I am releasing a novel in 2014
2. The title is Romance is for Other People
3. There are four main characters
4. The first main character is Chris, male, 14 years old.
5. The second main character is Lydia, female, 14 years old
6. The third main character is Jeremy, male, 16 years old.
7. The fourth main character is Amanda, female, 16 years old.
8.  The format is first person, split between the four main characters.
9.  The title is a quote from the novel.
10.  All the chapter titles are quotes.
11.  Plot summary (View Here)
12.  Genre: Modern Teen Drama-Comedy.  Just to be clear, it is not: Horror, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Historical Drama, Mystery, Western, or Musical.
13.  There will be a dance in chapter 3.  
14. Chapter 1 will be from Chris and Lydia's viewpoint.  Chapter 2 will be from Jeremy and Amanda's viewpoint.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Postmodern Anti-Hero: The Rise of the Cartoon Villain Turned Good

Cartoon movies by their nature can be very black and white: we know right away the good guy and the bad guy.  Take any Princess movie (with the possible exception of Frozen), and you’ll have a heroine who is basically good through and through.  She has pure intentions and only desires the best in people.  She’s good from the beginning.  Many cartoon movies feature good-hearted boys and girls struggling against evil people to save the day.  But in a post-modern world, the definitions aren’t so simple.  Good people can do evil things and evil people can do good things.  What is interesting is that there have been three separate animated movies which have a main character that is essentially supposed to be bad, but through the course of the movie decides to be good.  The main character is specifically shown to be a mean and/or designated villain.  But then, circumstances happen which make the villain make a choice to do the right thing.  Let’s examine them:

Megamind is a designated villain who is seemingly destined to forever do battle in Metro City with Metro Man, the designated hero.  Megamind was an alien, who crash landed in a prison, and thus learned all of his terrible ways from them and became evil due to everyone else’s rejection of him.  But in the opening sequence, Metro Man is killed!  Megamind, who is expecting to lose and thrown in jail, is totally surprised at first, quickly takes over the city.  But becoming bored with the whole winning thing, he decides to create a new hero using some of Metro Man’s DNA.  The guy he picks is a goofy cameraman from the local News Team, Hal, to become “Tighten”.  But the unintended consequence is that Hal has no desire to “be good” and instead uses his new powers to do whatever he wants.  When the battle between Megamind and Tighten finally happens, Tighten wants to kill Megamind, which Megamind never expected, because with Metro Man he was always captured and put in jail.  He escapes, and realizes the damage that Tighten has become.  When Tighten kidnaps Roxanne, the news anchor that both Megamind and Tighten are in love with, Megamind decides to really stop Tighten from hurting Roxanne and destroy the city.  In this story, Megamind is the designated villain, who is forced to choose to do good to stop someone who selfishly desires only to please himself.  While he was born into that role, ultimately he can choose his own fate.

Despicable Me is about Gru, a supervillain who desires to be the best supervillain of all time.  His problem is that Vector, a new villain has stolen the pyramids of Giza and now everyone else looks lame.  So he decides to shrink and steal the moon.  He obtains the shrink ray, but immediately afterwards Vector steals the shrink ray from him.  But then three little girls come straight through the door selling Girl Scout cookies.  Finding out that the girls are orphans, he decides to adopt them to use them for his plan.  He is able to get the shrink ray, but as he starts getting ready with his plan, he starts bonding with the girls, which starts to conflict with his plans of moon-stealing.  Their ballet recital is on the same day as the big day he plans to steal the moon.  So his partner in crime, Dr. Nefario, sends them back to the orphanage.  Gru is hurt, nevertheless he tries to steal the moon on that day anyway, but after he does so, Vector holds the girls hostage.  Gru willingly trades the moon for the girls, and but Vector doesn’t give the girls up, and Gru goes after him to save the girls and the moon.  In this story, Gru, the designated villain, decides to adopt three girls as part of his evil plan.  But the unintended consequence is that he would come to care for them like a father cares for his children.  His love for them started to supersede any evil plan he had. 

Wreck-It-Ralph is about a video-game villain who is tired of his designated role in the video game.  As part of Fix-It Felix Junior, the townspeople of the game respect and admire Felix the hero but look down on Ralph.  Not content to simply be a villain anymore, he decides to escape the game altogether and enter other games in the arcade.  Thinking he needs a medal like Felix receives in the game to be accepted, he decides to find another game to receive one.  At first he goes to the shooter game Hero’s Duty and receives a medal, but it inadvertently the game’s villain, the Cy-Bug.  Then he crashes in to Sugar Rush, a candy-themed racing game.  He finds Vanellope, who is ostracized because she has glitches in the game.  At first, he helps Vanellope make a car to race.  But then the Candy King finds Ralph, gives him a medal and tells him that having Vanellope win would be terrible for both her and the game.  Ralph wrecks the car and returns, but everyone has left the game, because without the villain, Fix-It Felix will be unplugged.  Then he figures out that Vanellope was supposed to be in the game all along; and goes back to Sugar Rush, saves Vanellope and Felix (who had been captured looking for Ralph), and Felix fixes Vanellope’s car.  As Vanellope begin to race, the Cy-Bugs begin to take over the game.  Ralph chooses to sacrifice himself to keep the Cy-Bugs from destroying the game, but Vanellope uses her glitching ability to save Ralph.  In this story, Ralph is the designated villain in name only. He is the most benevolent of the three examples and actively works with Vanellope even when it only had marginal benefit on him.  He does wreck Vanellope’s car, but only because he thought it would hurt her to race.  He realizes that the role he plays is more so of an actor for a movie than a part he is destined in “real-life.” 


All three of the characters are “designated” villains who make a choice to be good when faced with circumstances that harm others.  While it does somewhat conform to the postmodern idea of there being no bad or good, it also shows that no matter how you start out, your life can be redeemed.  It can have true meaning.  We are also not destined with our supposed fate; we can choose to be good.  This choice informs all of the main characters of the three movies and gives them the sympathetic angle we can identify with when we watch them.  

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Romance is for Other People Tidbit #14

Hello Everyone!  Here is Romance is for Other People Tidbit #14:

14. Chapter 1 will be from Chris and Lydia's viewpoint.  Chapter 2 will be from Jeremy and Amanda's viewpoint.

 Look for a new tidbit next Wednesday!  Here are the last 13 tidbits:
1. I am releasing a novel in 2014
2. The title is Romance is for Other People
3. There are four main characters
4. The first main character is Chris, male, 14 years old.
5. The second main character is Lydia, female, 14 years old
6. The third main character is Jeremy, male, 16 years old.
7. The fourth main character is Amanda, female, 16 years old.
8.  The format is first person, split between the four main characters.
9.  The title is a quote from the novel.
10.  All the chapter titles are quotes.
11.  Plot summary (View Here)
12.  Genre: Modern Teen Drama-Comedy.  Just to be clear, it is not: Horror, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Historical Drama, Mystery, Western, or Musical.
13.  There will be a dance in chapter 3.