Here We Go Again

 

Okay, sorry. I’m back.

It’s been a while. How have the last six years been? Fruitful, I hope. It has been less so for me.

One of my loves is writing about stuff that I love, or challenges me, or that I love and challenges me. It was part of my life and it slowly faded away. It has not been as much fun without it.

So, I’m going to shamelessly rip off the great Matt Zoller Seitz and his 30 Minutes On: series from his MZS blog on the truly excellent RogerEbert.com. (Here is a sample on The Thing [1982].)T his blatant theft should accomplish two things: got my lazy butt back into the mode of critical thinking and take away any excuse to stop me from writing. C’mon, it’s just 30 minutes!

I just whipped the site up in about ten minutes. The font is butt. The sizing is weird. But whatever. All excuses. I’m about to watch Fences with my betrothed. I’ll let you know something about it I liked in about three hours.

Further kudos to writer and editor Danielle Villano whose head-first dive into the books she has not yet read helped to kickstart this project. I too have a jar filled with movies I need to watch. They get arty! Be warned.

The New Normal

Hey folks. Remember that time about eight months ago when I said how much I love changing blog themes? Well, here I go again….

I used to feature all my writing only in this here spot, but that will no longer be the case. In the last few months, I’ve turned into a film critic/columnist at http://www.TheFilmStage.com and will soon bring my “I’ll Never Get Tired Of…” column style over there.

On top of that, I’m excited to announce that I will also be starting and’ for lack of a better term, be the editor-in-vhief at a new writing-based web magazine called The Inclusive, which will be found at http://www.TheInclusive.net. As of now we are collecting a number of great writers for our staff and will always be on the lookout for guest contributors. The site’s nomenclature is also its mission statement: it’s a site for us, all of us, to write for. I’m terribly excited for it to begin. High, high hopes for that one.

So what, then, comes of this space?

The Inclusive will get at least two columns from me (if not more) so this space will be a catch-all for anything I write. Sometimes it will feature a link to let you know of a new review posted on The Film Stage or a new humor column on The Inclusive, but it can also be a place for writing that doesn’t fit in either box. If I rant about Charlie Sheen, for example, it might not be able to fit in The Inclusive’s box schedule, so it’ll go here. Or I have a funny li’l three paragrpah story, this will be its home.

Exciting things are happening, folks. Keep up with all my doings here, at ooooolllll’ Mike-Anton.com.

Or keep gawking at photos of Brooke Baldwin. Whatever floats your boat.

Growing Up With South Park

I distinctly remember the first time I watched South Park. Bundled up in my bed at around 10:10 on a Saturday night, I flipped on Comedy Central to see this bizarre, low-res animation show featuring a fat, angry child who wanted to be abducted by aliens. I was confused but obviously intrigued. After watching wide-eyed for a few minutes, I started screaming for my mom to come into the room and share in the fun. Odd, isn’t it? While this was the same woman who refused to let me play Mortal Kombat or watch Beavis and Butthead, she also gave me my first good taste of comedy, sitting me down for Marx Brothers movies, I Love Lucy, and her reluctant acceptance of my love for The Simpsons. I wasn’t looking for approval as a parent, but rather as a lover of comedy.

She rushed in, sat on my bed next to me, and watched. Seeing her vacillate between abject horror and gut-busting laughter made me question what was more entertaining: her reactions or the show itself. While I was dying at every joke, she was still on the fence (both as a parent and a consumer of comedy, I’m sure). Then Kyle asked Ike to do his impression of David Caruso’s career. She nearly fall off the bed. I sat there, confused. It was that moment that cemented South Park as must-see television. Sure, there were great, funny jokes, but it also had stuff that went over my head, things I had to search out to understand. Comedy Central ran the next three episodes of the first season in a mini-marathon and we both watched, enthralled. My mom kept reiterating that she should leave, but never made a move for the door. Her better judgment keeping her where she needed to be.

It is my most indelible memory of sixth grade.

Since that time, I’ve gone into and through middle school, entered high school, got my license, decided I wanted to become a filmmaker (no doubt through the influence of shows as brilliant as this one), graduated, attended Boston University, fell in love with a girl, dated her for two years, broke up, turned 21, graduated college, and am currently in New York trying to become a TV writer myself at 25, nearly the same age as when Matt Stone and Trey Parker made their animated Christmas card “The Spirit of Christmas” for producer Brian Graden, which led to this very show. Looking back, that’s a staggering amount of time for me.

Imagine what it must feel like for Matt and Trey.

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The Conveniences in Inception

It’s nigh blasphemous to run a TV/Film blog and not have a post about Inception.  At least it feels that way.  The cerebral blockbuster, which ended the year as the fifth-highest grossing film of 2010, made the leap from “big movie” to required viewing; you had to see it just to be in on the discussion.  And what a wide-ranging and ridiculous conversation it was (and, hopefully, continues to be, fingers crossed).  While everyone was talking, no one could quite agree on exactly what they had seen; conversations were led around corners and into dead ends like the puzzling sets and set-ups from the film.  But the fact that people were talking at all is a wondrous event on its own.

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The Contradictions in Animal Crackers

Story.  Story.  Story.  It’s the one that thing was drilled in to my head from countless screenwriting classes.  Story was the most important element in any film.  It was the reason someone watched and, more importantly, the reason people kept watching.  Even if you have interesting characters that the audience cares about, unless they’re doing something, anything, then your story is not worth telling and your screenplay is not worth being made.  If your screenplay didn’t have characters that pushed the narrative forward or did not directly relate to the overall structure, then you had failed.  In the years since graduation, I’d taken the lesson to heart, both in criticism and in practice in making my own stories.  It was simple.  I was happy.  And then, you watch something like Animal Crackers, and it all gets shot to hell.

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The Style of Chasing Amy

Kevin Smith has been attacked as a director almost as much as his films have been attacked for lacking morality.  The easiest attack levied at him was that he didn’t have much visual style as a director.  Writing is most certainly his forte and was the calling card for his breakthrough, the seminal 1994 Sundance darling Clerks.  That film was focused entirely on the banter between the two clerks and how they navigated the misanthropic paradise of a central Jersey convenience store.  The movie was almost exclusively a collection of static oners, with some shots lasting well into the five minute range with few cuts in between and little to no camera movement (which makes the choice to go hand-held during the roof hockey game feel like something out of Cloverfield).  Smith himself has taken this criticism to heart, and eventually latched on to the idea of having a “no style-style” as some sort of coping mechanism.  I believe he even copped to as much in the first “Evening With Kevin Smith,” with the notion that if you say it first, then the insult loses its power.  So everyone–including Smith himself–has come to the conclusion that he doesn’t have a visual style.

And to that, I call bullshit.
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The Relationships in I Am Trying To Break Your Heart

Working creatively is a tricky, fickle prospect.  Hell, I’ve already re-written this piece four times in the last 20 hours.  Creating that art, or music, or film in general is tough, let alone when it becomes a commodity.  The pressures to make something that you’re proud of gets exacerbated by reviewers, the press in general, your family’s well-being and financial stability, and the all-powerful corporation that, if you’re lucky, backs you.  The story of Wilco’s 2002 album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot holds a wide array of hope, joy, pain, misery, depression, and triumph, featuring many different facets and shades.  While Sam Jones’ documentary on the recording and release of that album, I Am Trying To Break Your Heart covers all of that, it’s main focus is on the changing of relationships and falling out of love.  The title of the film is not just a coy reference to the first track off of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, but a threat, a promise, and a rallying cry.

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