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Saturday, March 30, 2024

Studio Notes on Spider-Man: Home for the Holidays

FROM: Earl J. Woods
TO: Jeff Shyluk, Executive Producer, Paranoid Productions
RE: SPIDER-MAN 4--Studio Notes


As always, your notes are spot-on, especially given the reasonable skepticism we're facing from Disney, Sony, and the fans given our position as new kid in town with the IP. Getting them was a coup, but making a good movie is the only way the gamble is going to pay off. 

Totally understand your concerns about Gwen's agency, the overall weakness of the third act, and tropes we've seen before; we absolutely do not want to do MJ over again, or Raimi's work. Your observation regarding Spider-Man's effect on his world vs. Rick Deckard's is spot on. 

I agree that the relationship between Peter and the Stacy's is the core of the film, and we'll build on that core in future treatments. 

It might be more realistic for Peter to get hauled in for suspicion regarding the Christmas Eve car bomb, but I'm resistant--I feel like Captain Stacy really wants to be in Peter's corner despite his suspicions. On the other hand, if Stacy stops his detectives from questioning Peter, he's undermining his authority. 

Damn. Don't see that I have a choice. Peter's going to have to face some tough questions from our John Munch figure. (Maybe played by Bruce Campbell?) 

Might not make sense for Kingpin to car bomb Stacy, you're right. Could be a mook with too much initiative (not Bullseye, someone lower level - maybe a comic-relief type character we introduce into Kingpin's organization earlier in the film). 

Your final suggestion could save the third act. I'm going to scrap the idea of Bullseye kidnapping her. Her being an unwitting pawn of the Kingpin is far more organic. She'll still play a key roll in our Die Hard-esque showdown, but instead of playing the damsel in distress, she'll be in a (very dangerous) position to help Spider-Man--working behind the scenes to sabotage the Kingpin's men while trying not to give herself away. 

Captain Stacy and the NYPD will have an important role to play in the third act, too--they won't be standing idly by. In the comics and some of the films, the people of NYC helping Spider-Man save the day is a key theme--the community is just as important (more important!) than the singular hero. 

Kind of surprised Disney hasn't suggested any cameos--I was sure they'd want Daredevil involved somehow. Gotta have that corporate synergy. Hell, I'll put him in the post-credit scene as a hedge. 

I'll send another treatment in a few days. 


Thursday, March 28, 2024

Spider-Man: Home for the Holidays

A modest proposal for the next MCU Spider-Man film. 

Peter is studying at Empire State University, and his intent is to stay in the dorm over the Christmas break; none of his friends remember him, so there's no point visiting them. Besides, he's been spending more and more time as Spider-Man, spending most of his Peter time on his studies; and even then, he's taking courses and learning not for the sake of learning, but for pouring all that knowledge into how to be a better crimefighter. He's wisecracking less, and his jokes tend to be a little bitter now. And he's found himself in an intense but toxic relationship with cat burglar Felicia Hardy, who, of course, loves Spider-Man and doesn't even know Peter exists; she won't even let him take his mask off when they're intimate. 

Without his loved ones, Peter is losing perspective. Several of his dormmates and classmates--including a very intriguing blonde by the name of Gwen Stacy--offer friendship, but Peter politely but firmly holds back from making any real connections; he's too scared of the pain of losing people he loves again. The only bright side is that at least MJ and Ned got into MIT, so he doesn't need to feel guilty about that anymore. 

On the first day of the Christmas break, Spider-Man faces a truly humiliating defeat at the hands of the Kingpin and Bullseye--teaching him a lesson for (unknowingly) doing so much damage to the Kingpin's operation. This defeat happens right in front of Felicia, who runs away, disgusted and afraid, unable to deal with seeing her lover brought down so low. His costume in tatters, his body bruised to the bone, Peter staggers back to ESU but passes out just at the door to his dorm room, collapsing in the hallway. 

He wakes up later being ministered to by Gwen. It's lucky anyone was even at the dorm--everyone else had left for the holidays, and the only reason she hasn't is her father is late picking her up. When Captain Stacy finally arrives and sees Peter's condition, he and Gwen insist that he come home for the holidays with them--he's in no shape to stay at ESU alone. If he has no where else to go, why, of course he's coming with the Stacys. Besides, Captain Stacy can tell Peter's claim that he was mugged is hogwash, and he wants to find out what really happened.  

Over the break, the Stacy family makes Peter feel cared for the first time in a long time. Despite himself, his better nature yearns for this kind of connection, and his body--and soul--start to recover.

What Peter doesn't know is that he's not the only one to have vexed Kingpin. Under the sound leadership of Captain Stacy, the NYPD is making a dent in organized crime, too--and the Kingpin has marked Captain Stacy for death. Only Peter's spider-sense prevents the Stacy family from falling victim to a car bomb on Christmas Eve. Though Captain Stacy is grateful, he's still a cop; how could Peter have possibly known about the car bomb? Did he plant it? Were his injuries a ruse to get closer to Gwen--and him--in some kind of setup? 

Of course Peter can tell Captain Stacy isn't sure what to make of him, and he feels shame--he wants to trust this new father figure, and he's falling for Gwen. Once again, Spider-Man is coming between him and happiness, and once again, his dual identity is endangering people he cares about. 

The week between Christmas and New Year's, Spider-Man takes to the streets again, but this time he's specifically looking for members of the Kingpin's gang, working his way up the leadership ladder, sending a message that the Stacys are off-limits. But he's misjudged the Kingpin's ruthlessness; Wilson Fisk is not easily intimidated, and sends Bullseye to kill Captain Stacy. But Stacy has been changing his schedule around so that he's harder to pin down, and he's sent Gwen into hiding--or so he thinks. Gwen can't bear to leave Peter by himself, so she's at the wrong place at the wrong time when Bullseye shows up at the Stacy home. With no specific orders regarding the girl, he brings her back to the Kingpin, reasoning she makes an excellent bargaining chip to force Captain Stacy to offer himself up for assassination. 

It's New Year's Eve, and Spider-Man has to fight his way through Fisk Tower to pull off an improbable rescue...when it's all over, will the new year bring triumph or tragedy? 

Monday, March 25, 2024

Scary House

Jeff very kindly 3D-printed some fantasy-styled houses for me, and tonight I finished painting the first of them. I started by priming it black, and I immediately dubbed it The Scary House. So I kept it black and gave it a few accents by painting the door and window frames blood red. 

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Dumpster Fires

Painting flames is a challenge for me, but I think these dumpster fires look okay at a glance. I even tried to suggest some reflections on the undersides of the dumpster doors and a bit of a soft glow around the edges of the dumpster openings. Far from great, but good enough for play. 

Friday, March 22, 2024

Turnip Tuesday in Hell


At Hell's lunch counter Beelzebub and Mammon 
Serve everything you hate
Week after week like this: 

Liver and tripe Monday
Turnip Tuesday
Kidneys in cod liver oil Wednesday
Parsnip Thursday
Boiled cabbage and haggis Friday
Beetroot Saturday
Blood pudding and Jell-O Salad Sunday

But the worst part is
It's all you can eat
Mandatory all you can eat
Unto eternity and after

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

You Put the Chimp in the Coconut

Primate revenge! These cheeky chimps are making chimp change out of these bald businessmen. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Misinterpreting "Green Light"

Last year I discovered Lorde's "Green Light," and it won me over instantly. The song's beat and melody feel so bright, so joyful, and the effect is buoyed by the singer's barely contained furious energy. According to my YouTube Music year-end wrap-up, it was the song I played most in 2023. 

But when I investigated the genesis of "Green Light," I found that I had completely misinterpreted Lorde's message--and the discovery made me ruminate on the male gaze. 

When I first heard "Green Light," I heard the music and lyrics as barely contained excitement over a young woman's determination to pursue a new love interest. She sings: 

I do my makeup in somebody else's car
We order different drinks at the same bars
I know about what you did and I wanna scream the truth
She thinks you love the beach you're such a damn liar

By this point, you might wonder how I could have mistaken Lorde's intent, because the last two lines of this stanza clearly indicate the nameless man may have some character deficiencies. But she goes on: 

Those great whites, they have big teeth
Hope they bite you
Thought you said that you would always be in love
But you're not in love no more
Did it frighten you
How we kissed when we danced on the light up floor?
On the light up floor

I thought the "great white with big teeth" was the other woman referenced in the previous stanza, and that Lorde's character was reacting with jealousy. Then, she reveals the man isn't in love anymore--presumably, his relationship with the "great white" has ended, and the singer's character has a chance: "Did it frighten you, how we kissed when we danced on the light-up floor?" 

The song's tempo and beat climb exuberantly, and she sings: 

But I hear sounds in my mind
Brand new sounds in my mind
But honey I'll be seein' you 'ever I go
But honey I'll be seein' you down every road
I'm waiting for it, that green light, I want it

I read this as excitement and joyous anticipation; the singer thinks she's on the verge of connecting with this man, and all she's waiting for is the green light (from him). 

This is followed by: 

'Cause honey I'll come get my things, but I can't let go
I'm waiting for it, that green light, I want it
Oh, honey I'll come get my things, but I can't let go
I'm waiting for it, that green light, I want it
Yes, honey I'll come get my things, but I can't let go
I'm waiting for it, that green light, I want it
Oh, I wish I could get my things and just let go

I read this as yearning for consent to connect. The singer goes on: 

Sometimes I wake up in a different bedroom
I whisper things the city sings them back to you
Those rumours they have big teeth
Hope they bite you
Thought you said that you would always be in love
But you're not in love no more
Did it frighten you
How we kissed when we danced on the light up floor?
On the light up floor

I read this as jealousy at the prospect of other potential partner for her man, followed by a reaffirmation that she thinks he's scared of the intensity of their nascent love. 

But I hear sounds in my mind
Brand new sounds in my mind
But honey I'll be seein' you 'ever I go
But honey I'll be seein' you down every road
I'm waiting for it, that green light, I want it

Again, I read this as reaffirmation of her desire. The song concludes in this vein, with Lorde's character singing about how she'll get her things as soon as she gets her green light. I was left hoping that the song's character would soon get that green light, and she and her beau would live happily ever after. That first, problematic stanza? Given the tone of the rest of the song, I thought perhaps the guy had been a jerk in some mild way, and that Lorde's character hoped that minor sin would be enough to foul up the prospects of his hookup with the song character's rival. 

After listening to the song about a dozen times, I searched for information about the origins of "Green Light." And to my surprise and embarrassment, I found I had turned the song completely on its head. In interviews, Lorde has said "Green Light" is about heartbreak and finding the strength to move on. She's "seeing (him) 'ever I go," so she can't go forward; the green light she needs isn't from a man, it's from herself. 

Missing the intended meaning of a song might not seem like a big deal, but I thought I was brighter than this. It makes me wonder, not for the first time, how many times I've misinterpreted women's stories, particularly the stories of women close to me. It's a daunting prospect. 

For what it's worth, my relationship with "Green Light" began with empathy and well-wishes for Lorde's character, even if my thoughts were misplaced. My good feelings and hopes remain, though for different reasons. 

Sorry, Lorde! And sorry, the many other women who I've doubtlessly read wrong over the years. 

Monday, March 18, 2024

Ranking the Best Pictures 2023


As part of my quest for quantum immortality, I'm watching every movie ever made, which naturally includes every Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) AMPAS Oscar nominee. As has become tradition for me, I managed to screen all ten Best Picture nominees just before the award ceremony. While I correctly predicted Oppenheimer would win, it wasn't my favourite of the ten nominees. Here's how I feel about them, ranked in ascending order of preference: 

10) Killers of the Flower Moon. No one denies that Martin Scorsese is brilliant. Furthermore, Killers of the Flower Moon tells an important story about the ongoing struggle between Indigenous peoples and European colonists. The cinematography is stunning, and while the film is lengthy, it's well paced. However, I was underwhelmed by the lead performances, and Scorsese's direction and the screenplay feel uninspired given the importance of the real-life savagery they chose to adapt for the screen. 

9) Maestro. Bradley Cooper lacks not for ambition, and I admire his skills as both actor and storyteller, which do a credible job here of bringing composer-conductor Leonard Bernstein to life. (Kudos also to the makeup artists, who in this production have created the best aging makeup I've ever seen.) Carey Mulligan, though, is the highlight here; her performance as Felicia Montealegre makes her character more compelling than Cooper as Bernstein. And as a whole, Maestro feels like yet another in a series of well-made Hollywood biographies constructed deliberately to appeal to the somewhat insular tastes of AMPAS voters.

8) Anatomy of a Fall. I didn't perceive anything particularly innovative or challenging about this picture, but it does succeed as a hybrid courtroom drama and murder mystery wrapped up in the disintegration of a small family; there's additional interest in its setting and the film's refusal to provide a definitive answer to the central question of the film. 

7) Oppenheimer. Christopher Nolan once again uses his out-of-sequence narrative technique to good effect here, and the scope and scale of his films rarely fails to impress. Still, despite excellent performances and a well-crafted screenplay, the film's failure to address the politics and the controversy of the atomic bomb to greater depth robs the narrative of its potential; there's nothing particularly bold here. 

From this point forward, my enjoyment of 2023's Oscar nominees is unqualified, and ranking them is merely a matter of how I feel at this particular moment in time. Had any of the top six in my list won Best Picture, I would have been content.

6) The Holdovers. Paul Giamatti is utterly phenomenal as a teacher at a private high school grappling with loneliness and the frustration of realizing his ambitions for his life will be forever frustrated. He's matched by Da'Vine Joy Randolph as the school's chef and chief mother figure; she's grieving the recent death of her son, lost in Viet Nam just before the picture opens. In a sense it's a triple coming-of-age film: Giamatti and Randolph shepherd their characters through times of painful transition just as harrowing as those of their student, Angus Tully (Dominic Sessa). Director Alexander Payne balances pathos and comedy expertly here, creating a Christmas story like no other--one in which Christmas itself is sidelined by the events surrounding it. 

5) Past Lives. Director Celine Song's star-crossed romance wrapped me up in a blanket of cozy melancholy. I was completely invested in the story of Nora and Hae Sung, two children who may have been lovers had one not moved away to New York (via Toronto!). It's a warm, gentle, beautiful, but ultimately heartbreaking glimpse of two people trying to reconnect across oceans of space and time--and, in the end, enjoying that reconnection only briefly. It's a film of powerful empathy and sincerity. 

4) Barbie. Years ago, I wrote skeptically about the notion of adapting toys and games, including Barbie, to film. I'm happy to have been wrong in my pessimism, because Barbie's satire and worldbuilding are pointed, compelling, and funny. Greta Gerwig's filmography continues to impress, and I hope she continues to share her vision across genres. 

3) American Fiction. I'm obviously not qualified to opine on questions of Black identity or experience, but for what it's worth, I believed in the story told here by writer-director Cord Jeffersion, and an amazing ensemble led by the always remarkable Jeffrey Wright, never better than he is here. American Fiction balances two story arcs with great invention and dexterity, and there's nary a false note to be had. 

2) Poor Things. I'm a huge fan of director Yorgos Lanthimos and actor Emma Stone, and they're a winning combination in this macabre feminist parable. Willem Dafoe is equal parts hilarious and creepy as a sort of Doctor Frankenstein; Stone deserved her Best Actress win for bringing her Daughter of Frankenstein-esque character to life, who starts off as something of a pathetic, broken doll, but overcomes her environment and her enemies to build a life worth living. 

1) The Zone of Interest. It's just another ordinary day in the life of a Nazi prison camp commandant, going about his terrible business. But we never see the atrocities of the Holocaust clearly in this picture; instead, our vision is limited to the carefully-maintained home and ground of the commandant and his family, the camp walls looming high in the background. From time to time there are shill screams and inverted colour sequences to remind us of the horrors going on behind those walls. But I think what I appreciated most about this film was the ambiguity of its hallucinatory ending, one that can be read in very different ways; to my mind, there is an optimistic and a pessimistic view of humanity on display here, and perhaps they can both somehow exist side-by-side, like a wave function before it's collapsed. 

All in all, I thought AMPAS did a pretty good job of picking their best films of the year. It's not often I feel this way about the Academy's choices, and while I'm sure they could have picked better films to reward, they could also have picked far worse--but they didn't. 

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Lace-Up Socks

If yesterday's fashion proposal didn't impress, here's something Bing came up with while I was attempting to create my dynamic combo of ankle socks and sweat bands. 

Behold lace-up socks! 

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Angling for Ankle Fashion

Tonight, Sean and Sylvia were visiting; the topic of ankle socks came up. I don't like ankle socks, because they make my ankles feel naked. I proposed a new fashion trend for people like me: wear ankle sweat bands above your ankle socks. 

Bing's image generator failed to capture my vision, but it's easy enough to image. It could be the biggest thing since leg warmers! 

Friday, March 15, 2024

Night Sniper

I see a soldier and I want to paint her black. I'm feeling lazy now, I want to paint her black. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Alabama Jones

My paint job's a bit muddy here, I'm afraid. Luckily, I've done better with similar figures. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

70s TV for 7TV

Here's another 28mm scale television set. This looks a lot like a couple of the televisions the Woods family had in the 70s and 80s. Ah, the old days of clicking through three or four channels with one dial and wondering what the other was for. (UHF, but we never had UHF channels in any of the places I grew up.) 

Monday, March 11, 2024

Skull Altar

The white primer turned kind of powdery, but I painted over it anyway. As it turns out, I like the resulting texture. 

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Fancy Coffin

Here's a rather Gothic coffin I painted recently. I'm quite pleased by my work on the interior, although zoomed in like this I now see that there's a bit of misplaced yellow paint from the rose that wound up on the pillow. Argh! Still, I think I'll use this as Dracula's luxury resting place. 

Saturday, March 09, 2024

Naked Mallah

I took an extended break from painting miniatures, but I've completed a few here and there. You can never have too many gorillas, and I like this one's rage. Sean has suggested I could turn him into Monsieur Mallah by adding some details. He's right; all this mini needs is a red beret and a bandolier of ammo. If I can't figure out how to add those details, consider this a naked Mallah. 


Friday, March 08, 2024

The Day Green Lantern Visited Twin Peaks

"He's still alive...wrapped in plastic," Green Lantern murmured to himself. Then, addressing the victim: "Don't worry, sir; my power ring will cut you out of there in a jiffy." 

"Wait! You don't understand," cried the terrified man. "'Through dark and gloom the clingfilm creeps; a fearsome sight to see; it crackled as it ambulated; gyre, wind for me." 

"Is that a poem?" asked the stalwart but confused hero. Then all the lights overhead flickered and extinguished themselves, and the green glow of the ring hovered alone unsteadily in the black.