Andreas Katsulas 1946-2006

Andreas Katsulas and his characterization of G’kar was, in the end, the most memorable part of Babylon 5 for me. His portrayal of the ambassador for the newly liberated Narn was exactly what was needed to give the series ‘an edge’. Despicable, but at the same time likeable, the character matured with the show into the image of a visionary leader of his people, once again oppressed by their old masters.

His story arc was about the only one that came to a satisfying conclusion.

I’ll never forget the convention in Tulsa where he posed for this picture. (Yes, those are puppets, made by a friend of mine) He made the convention worth attending, all by himself.

This pretty much puts an end to the possibilities of a resurrection of B5. Without the characters of G’kar and Dr. Franklin (played by Richard Biggs who passed away in 2004) A story based on the original characters would be quite hard to tell.

I have found the voice over that Andreas did as G’kar at the end of the Episode “Z’ha’dum” to be quite moving at times. It goes like this:

“It was the end of the Earth year 2260. The War had come to a pause, suddenly and unexpectedly. All around it was as if the Universe were holding its breath, waiting. All of life can be broken down into moments of transition, and moments of revelation. This had the feeling of both.

G’Quan wrote: ‘There is a darkness greater than the one we fight. It is the darkness of the soul that has lost its way. The War we fight is not against powers and principalities, it is against chaos and despair. Greater than the death of flesh is the death of hope, the death of dreams. Against this peril we can never surrender.’

The future is all around us, waiting in moments of transition to be born in moments of revelation. No one knows the shape of that future, or where it will take us. We know only that it is always born in pain…”

He will be missed.

ZTeamProductions – Babylon 5: In Memory of Andreas Katsulas – Dec 7, 2008

http://www.zteamproductions.com

A Woman President

I’ve been watching Commander in Chief on the tube lately. Friends of mine who have been trying to get me to watch West Wing for years ask me “why are you watching that show?” Getting beyond the obvious political leanings of the star of West Wing, I just have to answer “If I want to watch a man play at being POTUS, I just have to turn on any news channel”. Talk about a bad actor.

I’ve always had a weakness for Geena Davis, I can’t help it. Ever since Earth Girls are Easy, I jump at the chance to see her in just about any role. When I heard she was going to play the President, I just had to watch. She’s been quite convincing in the role (even if some of the story lines are a bit far fetched) Hard edged without being brutal, skating the thin line between a leader and a tyrant.

Yes I’ve heard the rumors concerning Commander in Chief‘s creators. That’s why I’m not going to make an issue out of the obvious ‘liberal’ (more aptly labeled ‘socialist’) leanings of those involved with West Wing. I would like to say one thing on the subject, though. If indeed they are trying to prep us for a woman president, I think they got the wrong actress to play the part. Perhaps Nichelle Nichols would be better suited to the role; I think that Condi has a much better chance of ever being president than Hillary does.

Prediction? Not really. Let’s call it an educated guess.

Critiquing an artform (‘Failed’ part 2)

It’s all hot air, I’d just like to say that as a preface. The critiquing of art only has statistical relevance, as in the method used at www.rottentomatoes.com, and then only if the positive/negative is weighed properly. Which is why I don’t make top 10 lists, for example. It’s pretty pointless. My favorite top 10 anything will shift from day to day, and should be meaningless to just about anybody else.

I know what I like, and why I like it. Conversely, I know what I don’t like and why that is as well. For example, Sin City is not a good film no matter how many tickets it sold. There is no discernible theme. There is no apparent rhyme or reason for the use of color in the film (which is done in nouveau black and white for those who haven’t seen it. Can anybody explain the Ferengi in the final segments of the film? I just don’t get that bit at all) it is an excellent representation of a graphic novel whose pictures move, but it is a very poor film. Are we clear? Good.

Having made that point clear, I’d like to respond to two points brought up here:
http://www.fireflyfans.net/showblog.asp?b=2857#8598

(non-SciFi fans will be forgiven if they run screaming…)

Gedeon wrote:
So are you saying Joss will lose his thunder like David Lynche did?

I’m still a browncoat, still love the characters, but they should stop whoring the story for new fans next time around. You know, not have Simon save River thus destroying what he did in the series. Not have Jayne take River for a nice Shuttle ride… It makes the story clearer, but you and I didn’t need it.

What I was saying is that Fire Walk with Me was a failure in every way that Serenity was not; and yet it was acclaimed as a great film. I’ve never cared, one way or the other, for David Lynch’s work. I consider his version of Dune to be one of the worst adaptations of a movie from a novel that I have ever seen. They didn’t get one thing right except casting and makeup for the Harkonens. I’ll have to beg off judgment on anything else he’s done, since I haven’t seen it.

I personally think that Joss took the wise course in attempting to create a film that would not alienate the new viewer by catering to the fans of the TV show. I’ve said this before and it bears repeating:

“I’m not in charge of making the movies; I daresay that (whoever you are reading this) you don’t make films either. Since they don’t pay me to make decisions about what I want to see in a film and, in fact, pay someone else to do it, I don’t expect people in positions of authority on any particular film will care much if I have a complaint about a particular scene.”

The scenes in question make sense from a plot standpoint (even if they don’t in series continuity) and so can be forgiven, at least in my opinion (I especially love the ‘beaning’ that Jayne gets. Nice pun Joss) they do not, in fact, conflict with established facts from the series.

So, no aspersions on Joss whatsoever, kudos to Joss for getting Serenity in the air at all.

Gedeon wrote:
To me, in years to come, we will consider Serenity like trekkies consider the first Star Trek movie. It’s the right characters, but the costumes were all wrong. The other six are much better.

The worst of the ST films was the last one. That they (Paramount) have apparently given Berman and Braga (the Nemesis of Trek) the reins of the next film as well pretty much spells the complete end of the franchise for me. If Berman is given control of this film, it will be the first Star Trek film that I won’t bother to see in theatres. Nemesis was so far removed from Gene Roddenberry’s vision of Trek that I just couldn’t sit through it more than once. That and the fact that they rehash the death of Spock with the death and re-birth of Data; they inexplicably find yet another ‘brother’ for Data, while traveling on a dune buggy, the only vehicle with wheels ever seen in Trek. Need I go on?

In contrast, the first film (despite it’s meandering pacing and far too simplistic plot) clearly has a lot of Gene in it. The machine trying to become human (a la Data from Next Generation) for example. The first Star Trek film is something I cherish. It got the ball rolling again.

If that is what Serenity ends up being (the film that gets the ball rolling again) then I will look back on it just as fondly.

Failed Movies From Failed Series

Ever heard of a show called Firefly? I’m a fan. A hardcore fan. Ever heard of the movie Serenity? It’s a continuation of the characters and storyline in Firefly. Again, I’m a hardcore fan. I just want to get the fact that I LOVE the show(s) in the record before we go where this post goes. Stay with me here.

Firefly was canceled due to the infinite wisdom of Fox television. All television executives are omniscient, just ask the guys at NBC who canceled Star Trek in the 60’s. They knew it was junk and was never going to make any money. Don’t let the fact that Paramount has milked millions out of the franchise (and founded the 5th broadcast network with not much more than Star Trek to carry it) since that point fool you, Star Trek needed canceling. In much the same way, the red-headed (browncoated) stepchild that was Firefly needed canceling, because Fox only agreed to let Joss Whedon do it so that they could keep him for another season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. You don’t promote and fund a ‘gimme’ long term. And they didn’t. 13 episodes filmed. 10 episodes aired. No promotion to speak of. You’re outta here!

But Firefly wouldn’t die, I’m sure the old guard Star Trek fans out there understand why that is. Writing. Talking. Promoting. And lo and behold the show that needed canceling is resurrected as a feature length film. Some said “that doesn’t happen” (Trekkies know better, but we let them have their moment. Kids are so cute) and marveled at the feat. And, really it was a feat. An excellent film that preserved the atmosphere of the original show, and completed the main story arc left unfinished by Fox needing to cancel the show. It was on screens all too briefly, and passed onto disk (a copy of which is already in my library) within a few short months.

And then the rumblings started from naysayers, TV executive lakeys, and Hollywood insider wannabes concerning whether Serenity the movie was a success or failure, and whether or not this should “shut the fans up”.

Personally, I don’t feel like shutting up, and I don’t count the shows short time on screen as a failure. Why you say? Because in comparison it’s just not.

I’d like to point out a show (no, not Star Trek) that had a similar fate, not so long ago. A critically acclaimed series with a very short life was resurrected as a movie (that was also critically acclaimed) that went out of theaters nearly as fast. What was the show? Twin Peaks. The movie was Fire Walk With Me. My point is this, even with the media circus that surrounded the show and the subsequent movie, if you look at the numbers here or here, you will see that the show did not in fact do an impressive amount of business. A recoup of about half of the 10 million dollar budget spent on it. But the critics loved it…

In comparison, Serenity’s numbers are just rosy here and here. All told, Serenity has made back the money spent on it, and we aren’t even done with the video sales yet. Not too shabby if I do say so myself. And still, I hear the “What if’s” and the “If onlys”. What’s done is done. The movie came out when it did, competed with the films that were out then, and left the theaters when new films crowded into the fall schedule showed up to push it out. Gotta have all the good films out right before Oscar time. Don’t ask me why, it must be that same omniscience that the TV execs have.

So why should we wear long faces and walk silently? Because the film wasn’t as popular as Lord of the Rings? Didn’t make the kind of money Titanic did? The film didn’t have the history of Lord of the Rings to promote it to every adult in the world, or the potential 200+ million dollar hickey that motivated the blitzkrieg of media exposure which ensured Titanic‘s (undeserved, in my opinion) box office sales. Serenity was good enough on its own merits to pay back it’s investors, and good enough on its own merits to inspire loyal fans of the series. I say we crow to the moon and demand a second film! Who’s with me?

A Graphic Novel That Moved

Sin City (2005)

…and for the art-house approach to cinematography, I give it 1 star. There were no other redeeming qualities to the film. Without a doubt the longest 2 hours of my life. I would have sworn it was at least 3 hours.

There is no cohesive plot to speak of. (not even the disconnected plot line of Pulp Fiction, which this film has been edited to emulate, ergo the guest director credit to Quentin Tarantino I’m sure) The acting is reasonably solid, and the cast was well selected, yet the film was doomed from the outset (like many before it) by its lack of a properly crafted script. The jumps from story segment to story segment are jarring and hard to follow. Nor does the dialog seem natural. It comes out as if the actors are reading it off a page.

The symbology of introduced color does not appear to be consistent (Blue obviously means falseness or error in the film. But red means what? And why is there a Ferengi in the last segment? Was not aware this was a Star Trek film) Nor does the “graphic novel” approach to lighting and effects really lend itself to the cinema experience. This was, perhaps, the fatal flaw in approaching this film as a true “art film” experience, the lack of an internally consistent and recognizable symbology.

All and all a pretty poor film.

IMdb

A Screwball Comedy as Big as Texas

Lone Star State of Mind (2002)

“Didn’t I kill you once already, boy?”

Baby

That line still cracks me up. If you’re looking for reality, look somewhere else. If you are looking for some laughs while watching a group of impossible characters attempt what should be a simple task that turns out not to be simple at all; a quest that leads to getting shot, mutilated or run over by a truck (sounds horrible, don’t it? It’s a hoot) This is the movie for you.

IMDb


Editor’s note 2019. The Wife can be seen sitting at a table in one of the restaurant scenes. It also features a rare appearance by John Mellencamp. Yes, that John Mellencamp.

The Most Depressing Film I’ve Ever Seen

What Dreams May Come (1998)

I expected more from this film. The pre-release cinematography was gorgeous but the story.. Man. The kids die, the wife dies the main character dies. Depressing, horrible stuff and she goes to hell and everything gets worse. None of this is really a spoiler (even though IMDb has flagged this review as containing spoilers) because all of that happens in the first act of the film. It has to happen for there to be any story to tell in this movie. The entire rest of the film is spent getting back out of hell. You have to have some belief in an afterlife to have any reason to watch this film.

Cuba Gooding’s brief appearance is the only and I repeat ONLY positive moment in the entire film. A nasty depressing ride I can skip ever seeing again.

IMDb


Editor’s note 2019. Yes. I get it. It is supposed to be a tribute to undying love. I’m not buying the premise, and if I’m not buying the premise, the film doesn’t work.

An Introspective Look at Indie Filmmaking

Shoot or Be Shot (2002)

It’s an Aleatoric film.

I attended the premier in Austin, Texas. I enjoyed it immensely, especially meeting the cast members for questions afterwards. Sure the edit could use a bit of tightening, but the dialog was witty to sarcastic.

Harry Hamlin and William Shatner delivered solid performances. I have friends and family working in independent film and they completely got into this movie. Sad news folks. those people really are crazy. The real question is what is crazy in relation to film making? If you are making an independent feature, you are pretty close to certifiable already.

IMDb


Editor’s note 2019. The Wife borrowed my IMDb account to write that one lo these many years ago. I spruced it up a bit. We still tell the aleatoric joke to each other when we are watching something that reeks of needing a decent script.

My Favorite Fairytale

Joe Versus the Volcano (1990)

Joe Versus The Volcano (1990) Official Trailer

This is perhaps the most wrongfully maligned film in all of movie history. Everyone I meet hates this film, aside from the lead singer of Abney Park. He wrote a song about it. I’ve watched this film too many times to count. It was my favorite stoner film for a long, long time.

Stoner film? A movie you watch while you are high. Forget Cheech & Chong. Forget Heavy Metal. Forget Dude Where’s My Car. All of those are good. None of them end with a guy jumping into a volcano with his true love. A movie featuring Fish as the native chief who shows Joe which path he has to follow.

The crooked road. The crooked road that he takes to work. The crooked road that mars the plaster in his apartment. The crooked road is everywhere in the film, as is Melanie Griffith who shows off her acting chops by credibly presenting several different characters with the same face.

The New York accent that always sends him down the wrong path. Poor Joe. Repeatedly sent the wrong way by people who use him, yet he always manages to find something of value everywhere he goes.

The mistake everyone makes is taking this movie seriously. It’s not serious. The thing I find most mystifying is that anyone would try to take a film seriously that starts with Once Upon a Time and ends with …And They Lived Happily Ever After. It’s a fairytale. The best fairytale. Try reading Mother Goose or the Brothers Grimm and then get back to me. None of them can hold a candle to this movie.

They just pay me to drive the limo, sir. I’m not here to tell you who you are.

Marshall, performed by Ossie Davis written by John Patrick Shanley

IMdb