Saturday, August 29, 2015

You Don't Need to Wash the Whole Film Grey to be "Grim and Gritty"

Is there something there? I can't tell.
With the coming of Batman Vs. Superman I feel the need to address something that has been bothering me for some time. That is the use of “color code” for a film genre, or to be more precise the use of digital color correction to wash an entire film a specific tint. You may have noticed: Horror films are blue; Sci-fi is green; Films in the desert are yellow; And if it is supposed to be an apocalyptic film it will be grey. 
      The first to use this all the way through was O Brother Where Art Thou, who washed the film to give it that old time sepia color. Which was nice and different then. It worked for the style of film, but now the trend has got out of hand.
      The film which bothered me the most in its use of the color code was Man of Steel. The grey wash was so thorough that it nearly blotted out every other color and, even though there was a lot of action, the use of grey made everything very dull to watch. I saw it in Imax and 3-D and still I was so bored that I fell asleep. Later on, as I analyzed why I was so bored, the one thing that I hit on more than anything else was the color scheme. As much as this might make me sound like an idiot, the use of bright colors or a contrasting scheme helps to capture the viewer’s eye and hold their interest. When everything is monotone and gloomy, then a person’s attention lapses. If we look at babies, they are naturally attracted to bright shiny objects and colors. And we never really lose that interest, even as adults, we’ve just learned not to shove everything in our mouths.
       Man of Steel came out a while ago, but what really prompted me to write on this topic was a conversation I had with a drone not too long ago (How come so many of my blogs are spurred on this way?). And by drone, I mean some who laps up everything that is tossed at him and regurgitates it back without thought. It was as if I was speaking to a larynx rather than a brain. But I didn’t realize this when I first spoke to him, otherwise I wouldn’t have wasted my time.
       During our conversation it came out that he was a fan of Man of Steel. I described my problems with it and he shook his head. He stated that the film was supposed to be “grim and gritty” and that the color had to match. That everything being grey was necessary to set the tone of the film.
       “Otherwise people might not realize.” He added.
        The conversation soon became pointless and I gave up.  I will get into the whether the character of Superman needs to be “grim and gritty” on a future blog, but the idea that the entire film has to be a dull color to set the tone is ridiculous.
       To prove my point. I will contrast various scenes from that wonderful classic A Clockwork Orange against Man of Steel. No one in their right minds will ever say that the subject matter of A Clockwork Orange is anything but grim and gritty. It is a savage tale told with an unblinking eye, but damn is it colorful.

If your haven't read it.
It's real horrorshow.

Lets start with a scene of characters sitting down:
No wonder this planet committed suicide. It is the most depressing place in the Universe.
There is black here, but it is offset by many other colors and draws your eye in.

       Jungian psychologists have studied the effects of colors on people. They discovered that grey tends to make one feel of: dampness, depression, lack of confidence, lack of energy. Not a great mood for an action movie.
       How about another example? Here we have characters who are verbally opposing the scene's protagonist. Which has more energy?  
 I'm about to go into hibernation.
The color primarily used here is white. Even the graffiti on the wall is white.
Which stands out? Which is more vivid?
Now let’s take a look at the protagonists.
Alex Delarge
     Note that the Clockwork Orange is awash in brightness and light, and yet still is able to denote a sinister tone. That’s because before digital color correcting they used a device called acting to set the mood.
     But this is all people sitting around. Let’s look at some action! 
Flying around in dark clothes against a dark background.

Granted the giant penis helps to grab your attention as much as anything else.
     Had enough? Let’s just try one final image. This is reaction shot of the protagonist in peril. Which grabs your interest more?
Man of Steel...
or A Clockwork Orange?

      Unfortunately it does not seem like overuse of digital color correction is going away anytime soon. Like the shaky cam technique, a lot of film directors and producers seem convinced that it adds to a film’s quality- or at least is what people want.

       Why? Because at the end of the day a lot of people are going to want to see Batman and Superman fight, no matter what the film looks like.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Vanishing Prisoner

            There was a bizarre incident at the Prussian prison of Weischselmunde (near Danzig) circa 1815, involving the disappearance of a man named Diderici. He had worked as a valet for an important man in the city. After his employer died suddenly of a stroke, Diderici had dressed up in his master’s clothes and a white wig and attempted to withdraw a large sum of cash from the family’s bank while impersonating the dead man. He was caught almost immediately and sentenced to 10 year imprisonment.
            One afternoon he was walking in chains in the walled prison’s exercise yard, with other prisoners walking directly ahead and behind him when, as described by the other prisoners, he “began to fade.” According to testimony taken of both guards and convicts within seconds Diderici became intangible, then invisible. His iron chains clanking to the ground.
Prison at Weischselmunde
 Officials suspected that the guards had been bribed in some way to let Diderici escape, but when the inquiry into the disappearance only yielded 28 identical stories, the authorities had no choice but to label the incident as a bizarre “act of God” and closed the case. Diderici, who had somehow made reality every prisoner’s dream, was never heard from again.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

How Victor Hugo Created the Joker

            What’s this, you say? I proposed this as a blog entry to several people and each of them said the exact same thing. “The Joker? From Batman? You are out of your fucking mind.” And while it is true that Victor Hugo died in 1888 and the Joker did not appear in the pages of Batman until 1940, I still stand by my statement.
            Victor Hugo, that towering literary giant and author of two of the most notable novels to come out of the 19th Century – The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Les Miserables- published a melodramatic piece in 1869 titled L’Homme Qui Rit- translated as The Laughing Man or The Man Who Laughs. He wrote the story while living in the Channel Islands, having been exiled from France due to the political content of his other works.
            The action revolves around the character of Gwynplaine, a 25 year old sideshow worker in 17th Century England, whose face was mutilated in his early childhood into that of a clown’s mask- meaning his mouth was carved into a permanent grin. Unlike the Joker however, Gwynplaine is a sympathetic character. He lives with his friend Ursa, his pet wolf Homo (meaning “man” in Latin- stop your snickering) and a blind girl Dea, who is desperately in love with him.
Conrad Veidt as Gwynplaine
Gwynplaine is eventually summoned to perform before the Queen of England for her court’s amusement and while there he stumbles across a doctor who is being tortured in the cells. It transpires that this same doctor is the same one who cut open Gwynplaine’s face as a child, on orders from the previous king. He then sold the boy to a group of travelers who used him to beg for alms. The reason for his disfigurement was that, after Gwynplaine’s parent had died, the previous king wished those estates to go to a supporter of his and decided to do away with the child.
            When the truth is eventually revealed, the new king reinstates Gwynplaine as a lord and provides him with a wife, who at first is sexually attracted to his freakish features, but soon completely rejects him. Upon his presentation to the House of Lords, Gwynplaine attempts to make a speech upon the unfairness of the modern age and the disparity between rich and poor, but he is laughed off the floor with much mocking of his features.
Realizing that he would never be accepted, Gwynplaine renounces his peerage and sets out to find his former family. He discovers that they had been exiled from England for illegally using a wolf in their act. He manages to board the ship they are on and he and Dea have a tender reunion before she suddenly dies of an unexplained illness. Gwnyplaine, driven to insanity and still speaking to Dea as if she were alive, walks off the side of the boat and into the icy water. It ends with Homo howling into the sea after his lost master.
            Eventually the book was made into the film The Man Who Laughs staring May Philbim as the blind Dea and Conrad Veidt as Gwynplaine (Veidt also acted as the Nazi general in Casablanca). He was decked out in a fairly decent looking set of dentures with metal hooks that pulled the corners of his mouth back into a very distinctive grin. Even though it is a silent film, it has a very modern feel and is beautifully shot. The late great Rodger Ebert described it as, “One of the final treasures of German silent expressionism… The Man Who Laughs is a melodrama, at times even a swashbuckler, but it is so steeped expressionist gloom that it plays like a horror film.”
Kino DVD cover
The movie plays more or less like the book, except at the end where the action is changed to Dea and Gwynplaine are happily reunited and sail off together. It was considered a lost film, until about 15 years ago when it was rediscovered, since then it has been restored by Kino (probably the best company around for silent film transfers) and distributed on DVD and Blue Ray.

by  Doug Mahnke
            Most people who know their comic history will remember that the Joker’s creation is credited jointly to Jerry Robinson, Bill Finger, and Bob Kane (though Kane in his typical self-aggrandizement claims credit for the entire thing). The Joker debuted in Batman #1 and went on to appear in most of the first 12 issues. Now granted the characters of The Joker and Gwynplaine are light years apart, but Robinson claims that when he was tinkering around with the concept of the Joker, he originally based on a card from the playing deck, but felt it needed something more. Then he remembered The Man Who Laughs and added the smiling rictus to the characters face. Thus a classic was born from a classic.
          And that’s how Victor Hugo created the Joker.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

UFO Cultists and Cattle Mutilations

A series of possibly interconnected incidents occurred in rural Colorado in the summer of 1975. While occasional lone UFO sightings had been recorded in the area of Gunnison County, that July saw an explosion of activity. Various balls of green, blue, yellow, and red were recorded looping in odd patterns, chasing each other, and possibly fighting over the skies for four days. This was the mildest incident of the summer.
            At that time there were also several dozen cattle mutilations reported by ranchers. The majority of the blood had been drained from the cows and various pieces removed- ears, sex organs, kidneys, udders etc.- but never the same pieces from any two heifers. Most of the written accounts of this time use the phrase “surgical precision” when describing the wounds, but this may have been creative license on behalf of the reporters. It may simply be a person who is skilled at cutting meat. Several of the bovine appear to have been dropped from a height of twenty or thirty feet. Unusual, as they were found in their pens nowhere near any device capable of lifting such a heavy animal.
            While some may leap to a supernatural or extraterrestrial explanation for these dead cows, there may possibly (or probably to be exact) a very human cause. A blue plastic bag was found lying by a trash can in the Thornton City Greyhound bus terminal. Inside was a cow’s ear, a severed cow tongue, and a scalpel, but no blood. Whether it was left there by design or accidentally it indicates a very human origin to the mutilations.
      John Lahti, an investigator of paranormal claims, has come across an old organization which existed in the town of Pictin, Colorado, called the Silver Society or, alternatively, The Silver Raiment Society. It was originally formed (and even briefly incorporated) in the 1910’s and flourished in the 1920s. Very little documentation remains on this organization, but what does exist indicates that this group married the idea of astral projection with the possibility of contacting intelligent extraterrestrial life. Astral projection and other forms of meditation had become a fad in America during this time, along with many ideas imported from Eastern religions.  The organization was shut down in 1927, due to a federal court case involving back taxes.
            Or did it? A bizarre incident during the night of August 21st, 1975 on the outskirts of Pictin may suggest otherwise. A motorist driving down Route 76 at about 3:30 a.m. encountered some 15 masked people in silver colored robes forming a roadblock with linked arms. As he stopped they attempted to encircle the vehicle, but he managed to turn around, nearly hitting several of them, and escape. The police paperwork on this incident has been lost in the subsequent decades or been misfiled. The incident has only been preserved because the motorist related the story to several reporters at the time.
            There has been some speculation, with no actual evidence, that the mutilations formed as part of a ritual for this group to communicate (or realistically, attempt to communicate) with an otherworldly entity. Whether this is a rite passed down through the generations or something new is up for grabs.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

In Defense of Choke Sex

Occasionally when I’m with a female acquaintance and things heat up, she asks me to choke her as I’m rhythmically inserting myself into her nether regions. And honestly, this hasn’t been isolated to just one whacky girl. The majority of women I have been with have preferred some sort of domination and choking during coitus.
Sometimes it has occurred as an organic progression- passionate kissing, leading to rough hands grabbing each other’s bodies, leading to heavy copulation, leading to hands around the throat, leading to an intense orgasm and her screaming in passion. At other times it been planned out ahead of time- a special request.
“You’re going to have to be rough with me. Show me who’s boss. Put me in my place. Use me like an animal. Treat me like a dirty girl.”
Well naturally a gentleman has to comply with a ladies request. It’s all part of being a polite guest. So I would dutifully clamp my hands around the base of her neck and squeeze with every thrust, making her cum like Niagara Falls.
Quite frankly, the art of dominating and choking a woman sexually can be exhausting. It takes much more effort and coordination to complete than your “standard” sexual positions- if anyone is actually still doing that.
Firstly you can’t just clamp down on a woman’s windpipe or you’ll knock her out. This is a mistake a lot of first timers make. It’s not sexy, it’s just painful. The best technique is to squeeze along the base of the neck on the common carotid artery. These arteries supply blood to the brain and, for some reason, stimulate sexual contact. Don’t squeeze for too long. Any longer than five seconds will probably render her unconscious. You will have to apply a squeeze and release technique regularly as you progress sexually. Practice and build up to it, it’s well worth the effort. Some of the biggest orgasms I’ve ever coaxed out of women have been using this style. Just be careful.
For the best results, to which I can personally attest, a person needs to get a nice secure hold and then squeeze in time with each mighty thrust. This sort of coordination is necessary for a clean flow of action. You can do it alternately, thrust then squeeze, but I find it’s like patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time- doable, but awkward, and eventually saps away from your own pleasure.
Next we move onto knots. If you’re like me, eventually the entire choke thing will become stale. It isn’t something that you want to do every time anyhow. The next best thing is to tie her up. I do not suggest rope, unless she really likes to be hurt. Most adult stores will have bindings that don’t leave burns, or soft cuffs. But if you didn’t plan ahead and need to improvise, the bedspread works just as well, along with sheets and pillow covers.
Make sure they are tight! Because a woman who enjoys being bound, also enjoys thrashing about. And I discovered the value of needing to make proper knots, after one young lady, during an orgasmic frenzy, accidentally pulled loose the pillowcase and mistakenly clocked me on the side of the head. The romance of the evening died shortly thereafter.
I’m sure there will be a certain amount of disagreements, but I am convinced that most women enjoy (or at least fantasize about) being dominated in bed. No matter how she acts in public. No matter how much she bosses her husband around. No matter how much she controls the household. In the bedroom, more than anything else, women want the alpha male experience.
Don’t believe me? Let’s just look at all those dollar votes. Fifty Shades of Grey- the go to book on sexual dominance- has now sold over 100 million copies worldwide, has been translated into 52 languages, and set the record for the fastest selling paperback of all time. The trailer for the watered-down movie also has the distinction of being the most watched trailer of all time. I guarantee you that the majority of the sales for 50 Shades wasn’t by men. Every endorsement of the book that I’ve encountered has been from a woman gushing about how wonderful it was.
The wonderful thing about the book is that it is giving many people courage to follow their fantasies, or at least try them out. You may find that it adds the intensity that you're looking for in your love making. And don't forget guys, you can get choked too!