Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Shame

Well, the unthinkable has happened. I have missed a day here and there over the run of this blog, and always made up for it the following day. I've never been so busy or so disengaged that I let the issue of filling this space fade that far from my mind, and it's been a few years of times that were not always so placid. I always managed to keep these interruptions minimal. Indeed, there were none for a very long time, but that has come to an end.

Here's what happened. I wrote something for Wednesday - an item about how good I had been feeling through the midpoint of the week. Then I just don't know what happened. It's true that after my post Wednesday was written and posted, a string of things happened. That night I had my first meeting of a new sketch team, which was exciting. The following day it was the tenth anniversary of my Toastmasters club followed by an audition, which was also followed by my first chance to write for Top Story Weekly as a staff writer.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Out Of The Stretch

Yesterday was the third day in a row that I was feeling good. That's a rare streak, and it's notable that this stretch hit a Sunday, a Monday and a Tuesday.The Sunday is no surprise. Sundays are often pretty good, or at least they finish well. Lately they've been really good, of course, on account of the sketch stuff I've been getting to do. Actually, that has been spilling over, so I guess this Sunday was really very good. I don't mind that.

Monday often is good if Sunday was great. There's a lot of congratulations and thanks going back and forth between different people. It never was enormous when I was just doing two line jokes for the medley portion of Top Story Weekly. There would be a little, especially if I got several jokes in and I was very enthusiastic about it. Doing sketches is different. You don't have to tell people which ones are yours, and you get the boost of all the actors who are in the sketches. That's nice.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

More on Moron Process

Writing a sketch provokes particular feelings. When it's going well, I'm really cruising. There is, hopefully not a lot of labor in it. It just sort of happens, and it seems like it just happens to be my fingers on the keyboard as the sketch assumes shape. I stop and look at it and feel really good about it. I don't know how others will see it, but I see it in a positive light. Sometimes, but not always, it's like the ball leaving your bat and you already know it's going all the way out.

The best sketches write themselves in my head so long as I get out of the way. I live my life and ideas occur to me. Wherever I am, I put them down. Later maybe, I actually write them, but not aggressively. In a very casual sense, I decide that I am now writing but permit my mind to wander. It goes far afield and comes back, looking at the idea from different angles like it's a Jenga tower and sees parts of the sketch form up. It is, again, more like I'm watching it happen than that I'm doing it.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Carry On

Something I've learned about sketch comedy compared to improv is (as you would guess) that there is more equipment involved. Each of the past three weeks, I have had to read through scripts and identify props and costume pieces that my sketch needed or that I could contribute to someone else's. I have then had to obtain many of those things, and then dump it all into a duffel bag which I then had to bring down to the theater from my place.

For me this is a slightly more onerous task than it is for others, since I have to do this using public transportation. God knows I wouldn't make an issue of it being a difficult thing to do, since I'm able to do it. I'm a man of slight build, but adequate brawn to carry what amounts to a fair sized bag of dog food. I just loop the strap over my shoulder and I could carry that for miles. It could only be more manageable if I had my hiking backpack.

Sunday, August 17, 2014


I have lately been watching some Steven Seagal movies. I had seen a couple. I was rather fond of "On Deadly Ground", and Of "Fire Down Below". In those, Seagal was some manner of elite operative looking after the environment. The former takes place in Alaska, and the latter in Kentucky. Other than that they are more or less the same movie, which is not a bad thing. I like them. I guess Fire Down Below has the edge since it's a little less preachy about the environment.

I had never managed to see either Seagal's early work or his late work. Over the last few days, I've seen some of both. In "Out For Justice", something like Seagal's fourth film, he plays a Brooklyn cop who clashes with the mob. It's one of those 'we all grew up in the neighborhood' movies. It's not at all bad. Seagal tries a little hard to convince us of a Brooklyn Italian accent. He also somehow is the worst at running. You wouldn't expect that of a martial arts guy, but he looks awful running.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Writer Rider Right Here

The past few weeks have seen me do more writing of significance than I've ever done before in my life. As I write this, I am buoyed by the knowledge that I have been accepted to be a writer on a sketch team at iO West. You might consider us a humble little "Saturday Night Live". I submitted a writing sample and it was liked, so I will get to write more stuff like that and talented people will breath life into it on a stage once a month.

Other sketch writing got me to that point. I had been futilely writing sketches for no outlet the couple of years before this one, and got to where some 80 or so of my sketches were just piled up doing nothing. By chance I saw half of a show called "Top Story! Weekly" at iO a year ago because I was at a festival with an improv team. I shortly after submitted a writing packet, but it was not accepted. I have spent the year since writing two line jokes for them, watching lots of live sketch shows, and getting good enough that they have accepted and run a number of my sketches. That has been an intensely gratifying experience.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Wrappin' It Up

Every day since the 21st of last month, I have been dissecting "Friday The Thirteenth Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan". A quick estimate (which will probably be proved false with just a few minutes work) would be that I've written in excess of ten thousand words on the matter. Many of them have been harshly critical, and you might wonder why I would spend so much time on something I dislike. I hope I've made clear though that I don't dislike it.

I really like it, but I'm clear-eyed enough to see its faults. It disappoints me because of what it could have been. It was all right, but it was definitely a failure in the eyes of those who shelled out the money. Maybe my way isn't what would have made it any more of a financial or a critical success, but I do believe that my ideas at least would have given it more of a chance. I don't know what brought those people to make that movie. Maybe I couldn't have done better, but I sure would have busted my ass to try.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Reshaping, Part Three

I was yesterday getting deeper into how I would change up the story for "Friday The Thirteenth Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan". I mostly laid it out as I see it, but there are a few more things that occurred to me that I think it's worth getting into. As little effort as seems to be put into this aspect of these films, I figured it was worth the risk of getting too thorough. I can always hold some stuff back when I pitch this to the license holders and money people, right?

For the character of Sean, I see some refinement necessary. In the original film he chafes under his overbearing father, who is much duplicated in McCulloch. I say we get rid of the father, but McCulloch elicits the same reactions from Sean, so it works out fine. Sean's arc involves him coming to terms with what his father wanted for him when he sees how he's been forged as a man to deal with the adversity and evil of the world. It's kind of a "Red Dawn" thing.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Reshaping, Part Two

Yesterday I decided that "Friday The Thirteenth Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan" would be stronger if the film took place mostly in the dark, isolated places in the five boroughs of New York that I feel sure must exist. Hell, who overlooked the novelty of Jason stalking teens in Central Park? The point is, if that never would have worked, that you need to work hard to keep Jason in his comfort zone even as you put him someplace new.

The general thrust of the plot is something a little different. Most of the films in the series would benefit from roughly the same notes as I shall be giving here. So we have a group of sight-seeing high school seniors in New York. Let's say that some kind of incident- something comical, like an inability to read a map, or something more serious like a health emergency - gets them good and lost, and maybe the same  kind of thing that actually gets Jason to New York still does in this version.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


I think we're at the point in my examination of "Friday The Thirteenth Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan" where I begin to sum up what I would have done differently with the film. God knows I would have done plenty differently. Frankly, I would not have even begun with the premise of Jason leaving Crystal Lake. That's where he lives and where he belongs. Taking him away from there, you might as well get rid of gravity or make apples currency or make fish talk. Why moor yourself to anything at that point?

But let's say you're committed to this New York thing. You should really have the film inhabit New York. Much has been made of the fact that it's really "Jason Takes A Cruise Ship And Eventually Reaches Manhattan". That doesn't make it a bad movie, but it does make the movie a bait and switch. I would say the thing to do is to make the movie take place almost entirely in New York if not entirely. Why spend time on the trip there?

Monday, August 11, 2014

Not Tough Enough

In "Friday The Thirteenth Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan", Jason has all too few scenes where it matters much that he's in New York. One of the scenes that's supposed to be a fantasy fulfillment is when he walks down the major road and wrecks the boombox that these punks are listening to. Very reasonably, they get upset, and even though Jason is a horrible legend not that far from the city, no one thinks twice about confronting him in the city.

The punks call out the shitty thing Jason just did, which already undermines their menace. Why don't they just do something about their displeasure, like really come at Jason? There are too many witnesses, maybe? It's not like they realize he could kill them yet. I don't know that they ever learn that to my satisfaction. He's huge, but no bigger than your average Canadian farm boy, of which New York of course has many. It's tame behavior.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Why And Why Not?

One of the things about "Friday The Thirteenth Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan" that I dislike is how the menace of Jason is undermined by the city. He is best in the woods around Crystal Lake for any number of reasons. One of them is that the area around that lake is dark and remote. New York is by comparison well lit. That's not true everywhere, but it seems much harder to get into the same kinds of vulnerable positions there.

Also there is the fact that there are millions of people in New York. Jason can't kill them all, which makes it less interesting that he's among so many people who presumably would trigger his code. The fact that the code would mandate that he kill them all is less interesting when he obviously can't. He passes up many opportunities to kill in favor of killing the people from the cruise ship, but why is he any more invested in killing them than the New Yorkers?

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Cooking Up A Defense

Hey, how about the huge cook in the diner we see during the third act of "Friday The Thirteenth Park 8: Jason Takes Manhattan"? I fretted that I had exhausted subjects within the film that warranted coverage, but then I remembered one of the little moments in it that is unintentionally kind of amusing, at least to me. You'll remember without my prompting you that the surviving characters enter a diner in hopes of getting help? Little do they realize how little New Yorkers care.

The moment Jason threatens the diner itself though, the staff cares. The cook, burliness personified, readily rushes out to face the threat. He's huge, but you'd think in the big city that simply being physically imposing is not necessarily the means for an automatic victory over all threats. Someone could have a gun or knife, there could be several of them or there could be some other issue. Why not call the police? Would they not care?

Friday, August 8, 2014

Man's Best Hindrance

I was thinking about the dog in "Friday The Thirteenth Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan". It shows up in the second scene and shows up unexpectedly for a last scare at the end, but in between it doesn't do much. It doesn't fight Jason or tip someone off to Jason or get killed by Jason. The last of those things is the last thing that would happen in a movie. People will tolerate a thousand people getting butchered in a movie without worrying a bit, but God knows they won't accept one dog getting killed even if torturing and killing animals is a known precursor to being a serial killer.

Any of those other things would be a viable reason to include the dog. If the dog affected the story at all, that would be a good reason. I can't remember one important thing the dog did. It just was there for a little bit, gone for a while so that you forget it ever was there, then there again at the end. The only thing you could even begin to argue the dog did was impact the image of its owner, the character Rennie. The trouble there is that Rennie's already supposed to be very likable without being demonstrably kind to animals. If Mickey Rourke was in the movie you'd have to show him being nice to dogs.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Down There

I covered yesterday most of the things about New York that "Friday The Thirteenth Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan" has to teach us, but not quite everything. There is something going on beneath the city's streets that may seem hard to believe, but why should a film like this like about a thing like that? The apparent truth is that every night at midnight, the sewers flood with toxic waste. For all we know, it happens in every city.

Where does the waste come from? It's beyond me. The film offers no explanation for that, nor does it say why exactly the waste comes through at midnight. I wonder also where it goes after it drains away. Perhaps it goes into the sea? Perhaps it comes FROM the sea. Nothing is for certain, but until City Hall comes forward with some kind of information, we must speculate wildly about every one of these things.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The City That's Not So Nice

As "Friday The Thirteenth Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan" would have it, New York (or rather its best-known borough) is a pretty rotten place. It's not just run down or populated by absurdly jaded and bad-mannered citizens, it's also both very crowded and nearly vacant. It has a touch of Woody Allen's magically real New York as well as more than its share of Charles Bronson's "Death Wish" New York. It's a horrible, horrible place.

Grumpy McWet Blanket Principal McCulloch is mad at Sean for landing them in a bad neighborhood, though it surely seems like a step up from when he was mad at Sean for not being able to navigate them out of the fog. He does seem vindicated when the group is mugged by thugs who then spirit Rennie away with intent to rape her. You don't generally get stuff like that in a Friday The Thirteenth movie. There are characters like the bikers from Part 3, but rapists are something new.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A Sign

The first really interesting thing that happens in "Friday The Thirteenth Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan" is when Jason himself climbs out of the water and sets foot on land. There's a touch of humor that does work, but that badly undermines the menace of the character, and not for the first time. Jason looks up and sees a billboard for a hockey league. He cocks his head ( as a dog might if it saw itself in the mirror) before stalking off to kill the survivors of the ship.

It's a funny moment. It's a kind of clever contrast with the sinister persona that Jason has, and chances are it's one of the things from this movie that people are going to remember, and more likely than not, they're remembering it fondly. The problem is what cost that comes at. A character you can laugh at is a neutralized character. He's scary never if he's funny ever, and the effect is cumulative. By the end of the original run of films, Jason is a joke. It's too bad it happened that way.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Adrift & Miffed

I'm going to jump ahead a little in my continuing analysis of "Friday The Thirteenth Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan". Suffice it to say that after most of the characters are killed on the boat, Jason makes himself known to all and the ship catches fire. The survivors pile into a lifeboat, which is the next really interesting thing to me. This is the scene that makes it tough to say how much time the film occupies, for one thing. How long are they in that boat? It's entirely unclear to me except that it surely must be no more than days.

It's a lengthy sequence. I would have advised one good shot of them in the boat and a fade out/fade in to them being within sight of New York. Instead, we get numerous shots with dialogue that stress what a tough spot they're in. That just doesn't seem smart to me, since it's really hard for "stranded on a non-cross Atlantic vogage" to compete with "stalked by a murderous maniac aboard a relatively small ship". Being stuck on this boat in what seems like pretty reasonable temperatures is heaven by comparison.

Sunday, August 3, 2014


One of the more interesting subplots in "Friday The Thirteenth Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan" - a film which hardly needs any story complications - concerns the beautiful and amoral Tamara, who is interested in sex, drugs and using those things to evade actual effort. Somehow she is on the senior trip despite not having done some kind of biology project which, as I've said before, doesn't really add up. How she's even on the trip is odd, but maybe not more so than the fact that this project makes or breaks her ability to be done with school. It must be some kind of unusual school.

In any case, her scheme requires the video camera skills of Wayne, but first she must lure Principal McCulloch into her cabin. That's easy, since he insists on visiting her cabin in order to see said project, which she's supposed to have brought with her. We are talking about writing too feeble for self-respecting pornographers, here. Porn films and slasher films are a lot alike really, and this film shows that as well as any.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Not Enough Cooks

I believe I brought it up, but the crew of the cruise ship which serves as the setting for most of "Friday The Thirteenth Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan" is pretty bare bones. I can run down who seems to be there pretty quickly. I already mentioned the dubiously-titled Admiral. He has his other guy on the bridge. His son Sean is not, I think, an official member of the crew. That leaves the extremely creepy and suspicious deckhand who tries to warn people about Jason.

He fills the role that Ralph did in a couple of the early films. You have to have a guy no one finds credible giving an accurate warning about what's going on, and the less he can manage to put things in a reasonable-sounding light, the better. I'm not sure what this guy's name is supposed to be- I think he's only ever called 'deckhand', but he sure is fun. He even manages a little moment when he declares to Sean that the voyage is cursed and Sean agrees for his own reasons.

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Sweet Pain Of Wayne

As I discussed rocker JJ Jarrett from "Friday The Thirteenth Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan", it seems right now to cover her nearest associate Wayne. We meet them both together in what is for Wayne one of several scenes. It becomes apparent that while JJ is possibly the only person in the world who likes Wayne, he pines for the terrible Tamara. Isn't that the way of people in high school? I don't know if JJ would want him that way, but we know that Tamara definitely does not.

Wayne's deal is that he's supposed to be an aspiring filmmaker. It doesn't come off as well as JJ's music, maybe because guitarists do wander around with their instrument jamming, but the only people who go nowhere and do nothing without their camera running are tourists. Even worse, Wayne's camera looks to be a huge VHS camera, but when we see his perspective through the camera, it looks like a black and white 8 millimeter film camera. It must be a custom job.