Time Bomb

Two hours to air time.

Since the last time I mentioned Cinema Smackdown, I’ve become a staple on the show and have lost track of how many episodes I’ve done. You can pick through the archives at CJLO to try to figure that number out.

This week at 2:00 PM (Eastern), we’ll be talking about the catastrophic box office returns for Solo: A Star Wars Story, and the unfathomable reality we now live in, where a Star Wars movie can flop. Expect rants and recriminations as you listen live.

Work on the ebook editions of the Longshot Trilogy continues. If I ever said anything remotely neutral about Kindle Comic Creator in the past, I take it all back. As software goes, it’s a colossal piece of shit. But it is getting the job done, even as I fight it to the death every step of the way. We’re still on schedule to release this week.

That’s it for Longshot talk today, but to round out yesterday’s discussion of the back-cover history, here’s the full scan of “Mrs. Cliff’s Yacht” from 1896.

The Last Star Wars

SOME SPOILERS AHEAD.

Rewatching The Force Awakens on Netflix the night before the next film in the series opened, I came to realize something. Despite my best efforts to keep Star Wars at emotional arm’s length, to regard it as nothing more than the money-milling asset it is, to dismiss its high points and low points as ultimately meaningless, the venerable franchise was too important a part of my childhood to ignore. Forty years later, Star Wars remained important to me.

The next afternoon, I hiked out for a matinee of The Last Jedi. There was no line. Gone, it seems, are the days of queuing up hours early to get a ticket. There are too many theatres, too many screenings, too many post-release streaming options, and ultimately too many Star Wars films to stretch a horde of people around the block like it’s 1983 again.

Still, I felt a certain relief once I had my ticket in hand. I was going to see the new Star Wars movie before anyone had a chance to spoil it for me.

See it I did. And my initial reaction was, “That was a heaping pile of meh.” The film, it seems, spoiled itself.

A first impression is not always the right impression. Despite answering some initial questions about what I thought of The Last Jedi, I thought it would be prudent to sit on my opinion and let it percolate a while longer. Over the course of the opening weekend, I’ve had time to more carefully reflect on what I saw, and what it all means, and indeed I’ve revised my verdict somewhat.

I now consider Star Wars: The Last Jedi to be the new worst Star Wars movie ever made. So…uh…congratulations everyone involved!

Am I saying it’s worse than The Phantom Menace? No. I’m saying it’s even worse than the Star Wars Holiday Special. Cocaine-fuelled TV-variety-show trainwreck though that was, it was still Star Wars, and it didn’t piss all over the characters and their legacy. Even when Carrie Fisher was forced to sing that fuck-awful Life Day song, there was a certain laughable dignity to it.

But this… This hits a new low on so many fronts. I could go through it scene by scene, refuting apologists, but there’s going to be a million dissections of the film out there on the web. Anything I’m likely to say here would be redundant, and the last thing Star Wars needs is more rehashes and redundancy. Let’s just focus on one thing: the disgraceful treatment of Luke Skywalker.

I waited 34 years to see Luke Skywalker, one of the towering icons of my childhood, back in action. What I got was a depressed and bitter, tittie-squeezing, cowardly hermit who has let all his friends and family down, grumping about, forsaking everything he ever worked for or believed in, and acting like a total dick. Even his final sacrifice is literally phoned in, and plays more like a sad, lonely suicide. They may as well have had him die an inglorious death by autoerotic asphyxiation in his man-cave—thinking about those green-milk spewing titties, no doubt.

What a wasted opportunity. This trilogy was the last-chance last-hurrah for three characters who ushered in modern blockbuster Hollywood, and made many people in that town rich beyond their wildest dreams. Killing off Han Solo was forgivable. Harrison Ford had lobbied for the character’s death before the original trilogy even played out, so it only made sense he would return and promptly die in Episode VII. Carrie Fisher dropping dead in real life has effectively ended Leia as of this film. Luke was the last hope for a meaningful continuation of what once was. Everything was reasonably set up for that by the end of The Force Awakens. But, apparently, there’s no one at the helm. No overarching storyline. They just let the new guy come in and write the next chapter however he pleased. He tossed away plot lines he didn’t like, killed off characters he didn’t give a shit about, and threw in a mess of junk and loose ends for J. J. Abrams to try to stitch together when he returns for Episode IX.

Disney has been firing directors off of Star Wars projects left right and centre. There seems to be a lot of second guessing of high-level decisions. But I think they fired one director too few. I would have sacked Rian Johnson the moment he handed in a draft of this dog’s breakfast script. My assessment of him has gone from “promising new voice worth keeping an eye on” to “irredeemable hack.” The fact that he was offered his own off-shoot Star Wars trilogy after delivering this cookie-cutter insult suggests a certain insanity in the ranks. Disney needs to dump Kathleen Kennedy immediately and search the galaxy for a showrunner who can function as the Star Wars equivalent of Kevin Feige, or their four-billion-dollar investment is going to capsize and sink.

It’s too late to win me over at this point. I’m out. Star War was a magical lightning-in-a-bottle trilogy that ran from 1977 to 1983. Everything since then has either been a cynical cash grab or elaborate fan fiction. Sometimes both at once. I’ve searched my feelings, and I know this to be true.

Merry Halloween

Just in time for Christmas, I’m back on the air for the tardy Halloween episode of Cinema Smackdown on CJLO.

I’ve done the show so many times now, I stopped bothering to plug it here. But since we’re talking about a subject near and dear to my heart (horror movies), I thought I’d mention it a whole hour and a half before showtime.

Listen live and see if we manage to break the station again–like how the rerun last week became dead air for twenty minutes before it defaulted back to automated music. That may prove to be a preferable fate to the answers we have in store tonight at 7:00.

 

The Jumping Dead

It happens to even the best shows. They have a great run, a huge audience gets really engaged with the story, and then the main character retires to become a lumberjack. Or something.

A lot of my favourites have been slipping of late. Westeros discovered quantum physics this year on Game of Thrones, so characters can now teleport around the map at will. I mean, hey, why not? Properly depicting time and distance is hard work, and it’s not like George R. R. is still minding the till. Sherlock has mostly sucked since that ill-conceived bait-and-switch Christmas special a few years ago. Good luck finding a hole in the calendar to book Cumberbatch and Freeman for a gig at the same time these days. And House of Cards is suddenly packing it in after a pederasty plot twist. Who saw that one coming? I mean, other than everyone in Hollywood.

The Walking Dead has been trying to jump the shark for years now. But you can’t keep a good zombie down, not even with a well-placed headshot. Every time the show does something stupid (like faking the death of a beloved character only to kill that character again for real a few episodes later), it manages to crawl out of its grave and get fun again. How can a bunch of British actors pretending to be Mericans at the end of the world (and personal hygiene) ever fail to be fun? Despite the frequent cast culls, there’s always a pile of characters worth following.

Like Rick Grimy; his lovely daughter, Coral; Larping Samurai; Filthy Hick; King Rasta; Tony the Computer-Animated Tiger; Junkyard Lady-Spock; The Comedian; Popeye Pizza-Boy; Angel-of-Death Soccer-Mom; Annoying Priest Guy Who’s Still Alive for Some Reason; Samoan Lancelot; Bedroom-Eyes Jesus; the gay guy who’s been on the show for years who we keep forgetting is in the cast; the other gay guy who’s been on the show for years who we keep forgetting is in the cast; Sexy Tiny-Scar Face; Mullet Sheldon; and Lucille, the most engaging piece of anthropomorphic sports equipment since Wilson was robbed at the Oscars.

And ultimately, it’s a show that gives us hope that a diverse group of people can come together in trying times and work as a team to murder other diverse groups of people. I’m a sucker for an uplifting message like that.

Lately though, I’ve had to try hard to enjoy the show and ignore the fact that the last few episodes didn’t make any goddamn sense. Granted, that awkward flash-forward to Rick having a bad J. Jonah Jameson hair day isn’t supposed to make any goddamn sense…yet, but I’m talking about everything else. The problem is we’re now in a storyline called “All Out War” and I haven’t understood anybody’s tactics, plan, or strategy since before last year’s season climax. How could Sasha have possibly anticipated her move was going to pay off in any positive way? What was Negan’s shtick with the coffin supposed to be—other than weird and not at all intimidating? More recently, who is attacking where in this multi-pronged offensive? What are the objectives? How do any of these raids affect each other? If this is the plot they’re tackling, perhaps the crew should have tried to watch some war movies to see how it’s done. This is like trying to sit through The Guns of Navarone without knowing where Navarone is, why it has strategic value, or that the mission is to blow up the guns there.

And then—itsy bitsy spoiler alert that you won’t even care about because nobody else does—there was last episode’s big reveal. MORALES IS BACK, MOTHERFUCKERS!!!

Who?

Exactly.

At this point, having killed off damn near everybody who was around for Season One, the producers dug deep to bring a beloved original cast member back into the fold. Unfortunately, there were no beloved original cast members left who hadn’t already become zombie chow, so they rang up some actor nobody remembers at all and offered him a gig.

You know, Morales! He had a family. And they were with the group, but they wanted to leave and go someplace else. So Rick and the gang gave them some food and bade them a fond farewell. And then nothing dramatic happened. I think. I don’t know. I watched the first season twice back in the day and I still had to Google who this dude was, that’s how much of an impression he didn’t make.

That this untriumphant return was presented to us as a big moment we should care about reminded me how little I care about anybody anymore. I’ve become so disengaged with everyone’s fate, I might as well be watching Fear the Walking Dead.

Really. As bad as that.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ll still watch my trashy, formerly great TV shows, no matter how many years they linger past their prime. I’m not going to give up on them like I did ER around the time they blew up the ER for the THIRD TIME. They may be jumping the shark, but at least they haven’t dropped the helicopter. Yet.

No Time in the Present

So many updates, and no time to write it all down.

I could tell you about my work on the new animated TV show ToonMarty and link you to some of my episodes that have shown up on YouTube.

I could tell you about my trip to Paris and all the morbid history I got to hang out with.

I could tell you about my last three appearances on Cinema Smackdown and my pending chat about the Fantasia film fest tonight at 7:00 on CJLO.

I could even tell you how the sequel to Necropolis is coming along.

But mostly my time is occupied by a new/old project that requires me to produce nearly 300 pages of reformatted art—hopefully before the end of the year.

I’ll give you a clue what that involves.

Observant readers may extrapolate additional information from one of the file names appearing in that screenshot.

Yes, it’s for real this time. There’s a contract and an advance payment I’ve already spent.

What the hell have I let myself in for?

In honour of the passing of one of my personal favourite film directors, George Romero, newsletter subscribers will be receiving a brand-new exclusive short story—my one and only foray into flesh-eating zombie fiction. Sign up now to get it with the next newsletter, along with other unique content and exclusives.

Assisted Career Suicide

So Kathy Griffin posted a picture of herself holding up a bloody severed Trump head and I had one thought, and one thought only when I first saw it.

Meh.

I wasn’t shocked, I wasn’t appalled. I work in gallows humour. You have to go a hundred times darker than that before I even notice things are getting a tad morbid. The real sin of the photo, to my mind, was that it wasn’t funny. All it seemed to say was, “I hate Trump. I wish him dead.” Well, no shit. You’ve long since made that clear. Posing for a picture that looks like a publicity still from a low-rent 1970s giallo horror film doesn’t add anything to that narrative. I might have hoped for something biting, satirical, viciously sardonic. Instead, Kathy Griffin throws out something half-assed, spur-of-the-moment, ill-conceived, and witless. That’s kind of her shtick, I know. I (used to) watch her do CNN’s trainwreck New Year’s show with Anderson Cooper every year, and wonder when she would cross a line that would get her fired. Pretending to blow Cooper on live television didn’t do it. Screaming vulgarities at Ryan Seacrest didn’t work. Swearing at hecklers over the air failed. It seemed to be an unshakable gig. She could do no wrong—or at least could do nothing wrong enough to get her ousted.

I turned the virtual page and moved on, with a vague parting notion, “Some people are really going to hate this.”

And then everything blew up. Twenty-four hours later, the CNN gig was gone, standup appearances were cancelled, endorsements were dropped. Plus the Secret Service, which is obliged to take any perceived threat to the president deadly serious, was looking into it. The family Trump, prone to announcing any fleeting notion or passing of wind, took to social media to express their displeasure. All to be expected, really. I mean, after all, what did she think was going to happen?

A video apology followed. Griffin made one of her infrequent appearances without a ton of makeup, probably judiciously trying to appear more vulnerable and sincere by doing it au naturel, without the usual war paint. It wasn’t an apology to Trump himself, but it was an apology to people who were offended. And it seemed pretty sincere. It seemed to work.

And then, like manna from heaven, Kathy Griffin was given the greatest gift a foot-in-mouth celebrity could ever hope for. Covfefe happened, and the whole world collectively decided they’d rather make jokes about that than futilely try to find the funny in Griffin’s gory photo shoot.

Give it the weekend, and it would have all blown over nicely. Sure, a lot of paying work would have dried up, but Kathy Griffin would have been in the clear. On the heels of the vitally important political covfefe event, something else would have inevitably happened in the world, and by this time next week no one would remember or care about bloody head props. Griffin could then safely slink back to the ranks of the D-list.

But, alas, no.

She made two colossal mistakes. First: Kathy Griffin employed the services of Lisa Bloom, daughter of Gloria Allred and every bit the media-circus bottomfeeder her mother is. Second: she called a press conference to dredge it all up again. And not just any press conference. The single worst clusterfuck of a press conference I’ve ever witnessed. There were tears, there was laughter (forced and performed by mouthpiece Bloom), there was indignation, there were more insults for Trump and his family, and there were cries of victimhood.

You can try to sit through it if, like me, you’re a sucker for punishment.

At this point, the real villain here is no long Kathy Griffin, or Donald Trump, or the vulture media, or the skittish sponsors, or CNN, the worst media outlet in America today. It’s Lisa Bloom. Any lawyer worth a shit would have advised her client to lay low, take the hit, let the apology sink in, let the public move on, and let Trump get distracted by something new. I mean, hell, he’s the goddamn President of the United States. He may be petty and vindictive, but he’s got other stuff on his plate.

But that’s not what happened. Because Lisa Bloom is a terrible terrible hack lawyer who wanted to get her face front and centre and ride this celebrity shitstorm into the next stratosphere of her gruesome parasitical poisonous career. Rather than do her job properly, she let her client summon the media for an announcement and a Q&A. She may have even suggested it. And in the process, she let Kathy Griffin keep digging that grave for her career.

Give Griffin a lean year, and I thought she might have been able to bounce back from this unscathed. The story would have flared up briefly on New Year’s Eve as those few who still watch CNN asked, “Where’s Kathy?” There would be a reminder of what went down last spring, and then they’d cut away to a drunken Don Lemon talking about getting a Trump tattoo on his dick—again. Same old, same old. Before you knew it, she’d crop up in some supporting role on a sitcom, or a bit part in a movie. You’d hear she was doing standup in casinos and dive bars once more, and by the time Trump was running for re-election, she’d be back doing her ginger Joan Rivers act, and would even be getting away with a new round of jabs at The Donald’s expense.

But after this? It’s going to be a long hard road back. Michael Richards hard. And for what? She shot off her own foot and it did no damage to Trump. It gave him a boost.

Some people have come out trying to defend that decapitation photo as art. Provocative art, but art. And maybe is it. But it’s bad art. The difference between good art and bad art is that good art stays on message and accomplishes a goal. Bad art gets tossed off, lets the chips fall where they may, and has no clear message or intent. Like a grenade tossed into a room with the pin out. That’ll sure provoke a reaction, but mostly it will make a mess.

Try not to be standing in the blast radius when it goes off.

NB: If you’re a B, C, or D-list celebrity who has just committed career suicide, DO NOT call Gloria Allred or Lisa Bloom to help salvage something from the ruins of your life. Call someone who knows a thing or two about scandal damage control. Call me. I might even know what I’m talking about, and I work cheap.

Getting to be a Habit

A quick note to say I’m appearing, yet again, on Cinema Smackdown in just a couple of hours. This will be my umpteenth episode. I’ve kind of lost count at this point. It’s probably only something like my sixth episode, but they all blend together into one big movie-talk blather. My old friend of 30-plus years, Michael, will be guest hosting (and judging), which always leaves me a freer hand to let my freak hang out with answers that might burn me on any other show. Last time around was something of a shambles. We’ll see if chaos will reign again tonight.

That’s 7:00 ET, live on CJLO.

2 + 8 Days Later

Ten days into release, Necropolis has already sold as many copies as my last two books combined. Raw and Other Stories still dominates on the Kindle Unlimited pages-read front. And sex may have sold Sex Tape, but not as much as urban fantasy sold Necropolis. I hope to see Necropolis, at twice the length of my collection of short stories, topple Raw in the pages-read category in the near future—not least because I ultimately make more money with the Kindle Unlimited program. Damn you, Amazon, and your tempting promotional programs that further establish you as a monopoly thanks to my willing complicity!

Last night I attended the launch part for ToonMarty, which is a new cartoon series that will air on Teletoon starting May 1st. I haven’t talked about screenwriting on this blog in a long time, but this is one of the shows I worked on recently, scripting three episodes of the first season. I’ll probably get around to linking them just as soon as someone records and illegally posts them to YouTube. Checking out my television-credits page, I notice there have been a number of episodes yanked since last time I looked. Getting called on copyright violations, no doubt. That’s unfortunate, considering YouTube has been the most convenient venue for me to see my own material for years now.

I was also informed that work continues on Chop Chop Ninja. This is the other series I worked on last year. I completed my contract on it in 2016, but if there are still unfinished scripts on the production line, I don’t expect to see that air until this fall at the very earliest.

Right now, it’s back to work on Epitaph, which is currently sitting at 66,000 words and counting. And another project that may involve just as many dots.

Drunk on the Air

At 7:00 pm ET, I’ll be back on the air for another episode of Cinema Smackdown on CJLO. I think this is something like my fifth appearance. They’ve all blended together after that three-hour Oscar Special last time around.

Because St. Patrick’s Day has devolved into some sort of week-long celebration of inebriation in Montreal, we’ll be talking about the Irish and the Irish curse for the whole show. I’ll be tying all my answers in with Irish actors, Irish directors, and Irish film topics. When necessary, I will be wedging some square pegs into round holes because, hey, on or about St. Patrick’s Day, everybody’s Irish.

Like we really need an excuse to drink ourselves piss-stupid in this town.

Listen live here.

Oscar Afterburn or: Hollywood Can’t Read

The Academy Awards gets it wrong all the time, but never so obviously, stupidly wrong.

In a clusterfuck that threatened to turn Warren Beatty into this year’s Jack Palance and host Jimmy Kimmel into the Oscar’s own version of Steve Harvey, the wrong movie won Best Picture. For about a minute. Then it was corrected, to everybody’s shame and embarrassment.

Apparently a second copy of the Best Actress envelope was handed off to Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway instead of Best Picture. During a long moment that looked like late-stage dementia, the two were left to interpret the surprising contents of the envelope that told them the Best Picture was, in fact, Emma Stone. In the spotlight, under the gun, they leapt to a reasonably logical conclusion that since Emma Stone starred in La La Land, the Best Picture they were trying to decipher must be La La Land. Only it wasn’t. And this was amended, to everyone’s mortification, mid-acceptance speech.

How could such a thing happen for the first time in nearly a century of Oscar awards, you ask? Simple. Nobody in Hollywood reads. Not the treatments, not the screenplays, and not even what’s printed in plain English on a damn envelope (check out “Underwriter” in Raw and Other Stories for more of my take on this phenomenon). Illiteracy in Hollywood is a terrible thing. It gets all sorts of awful movies made, and now it’s screwed up the climax of the great film-industry circle jerk, just when they were trying to reward the one or two half decent movies they accidentally made last year.

It’s a pity. It’s also pretty damn funny.

For more of my Oscar coverage (before it’s rendered utterly irrelevant by the passage of time, and nobody remembers who won what a day or two from now), read my epic live-tweet of the event where I burned through 70 snarky comments over the course of the evening. Or you can listen to my three-hour Cinema Smackdown appearance on their Oscar show, which has just been posted to their website.