VENUS LIVES AND MONSTERS DIE by Eric Emma

“We are the music-makers,

And we are the dreamers of dreams”

 

            Most folks know this famous verse from Willy Wonka, but it is originally from the poem “Ode” by Arthur O’Shaughnessy. While writing the scripts to my latest project, “Calico M.D.”, I was searching for a quote that encapsulated the feeling/struggle of the story. “Calico M.D.” tells the story of an ally cat and her quixotic dreams of being a doctor. The quote has always struck me in that it manages to communicate that hope that we can strive for something better. However, reading the actual poem from where it came brought far deeper revelations that I did not expect.

             The poem describes in rousing detail the mystical power of story and art. Art’s ability to conjure grandiose empires from the past and its ability to move civilizations forward, but it also captures the deep sadness inherently in all art, and us: that it all must pass to dust. That all that is beautiful must fade. As we stare at the ruins of all that was once was great, we can really come to only one conclusion: striving for greatness for the sake of greatness is a pursuit for children. When I stare into the eyes of other artists… I mostly see death. Most of these undead warriors can be found wandering the graveyard known as Hollywood.  

            For the last several years, I’ve worked on a variety of projects in a variety of mediums.  Some highlights include helping produce a feature length doc that got picked up by PBS and being part of the writing team that adapted “Pretty Little Liars” into an interactive mobile comic book. In addition, I’ve produced quite a bit of my own content with two of my film shorts this past year having been screened at various film festivals around the world. I also work as a producer at a cutting edge new media start-up and I teach artists story at the International Center Photography’s New Media Program.

             All that to say, I’ve worked a lot of different ends of this story-telling game and picked up a lot of different skills. The question became though as I earlier mentioned, “Why am I doing this?” I am an empath. It is a struggle to get thru a day without taking on the pain of all I see in this world. Story is the only place that I can truly make sense of it all, while also having fun letting my imagination run wild. I do not want to validate the status quo with my work. Like most I want to scream at the top of my lungs at how humanity has let me down continually and yet, there is still hope in the individual. I want to tell MY STORIES no matter how weird they are. I want to find other people who want to tell stories that help them make sense of the world.  

            This was the breeding ground of THE VENUS RADIO THEATER CORPORATION. The time is now to do something big and it has nothing to do with money, success, or fame. It is about doing something meaningful and important. I am creating a radio theater podcast to help bring unique stories to life from not only me, but other immensely talented writers. The idea of a radio theater was born out of a want to continue to do something different, but to take a tangible step forward to a sustainable creative future. I wanted to create a place where exciting work could be incubated rather than hunted, killed, skinned, and displayed lifelessly.

            Our purpose at Venus stands antithetical to the market place’s purposes. We are not giving you what you want, we are giving you what you need/yearn for. It is fundamentally asking its artists, “Why are you doing this?” If there are no fans, there is no money, there is nothing, but simply, the creation, are you committed to this? It’s asking us to value our work and to dive into creation without a safety net.  And in that truthful place, it is where we want to create. My journey is inward. Each project that I take on is simply my trying to get better at my craft as a storyteller to better express myself and to take my audience on an intimate journey, and to understand the world better.

            The Venus Radio Theater name was inspired by the great Orson Welles’s Mercury Theater. Currently, we are hard at work at releasing a podcast series that will present a variety of different stories in a theater-like format. Some of the stories will be written by myself, but they will also be written by other extremely talented writers that I’m very honored to be working with. We currently are finishing production of the three-episode story, Calico. M.D. and prepping scripts to enter production in early 2019.

            The future is bright with projects and opportunity, but, I am reminded of the ending of “Ode”, “For each age is a dream that is dying, Or one that is coming to birth” I consider this the end of the road for Neurotic Monsters Productions and that era of my life. When I graduated Tisch in 2012, I left without a clue on how or what I was doing. Neurotic Monsters was a bold initiative to create and more importantly, figure out how to create. However, once you figure that out, the next question is why are you doing what you’re doing.

            I have developed a confidence and a rhythm to my work. The work has elevated another step and with it, more changes. The Venus Radio Theater Corporation is an actual tax-paying company. The projects are bigger in scope and, there is a plan on how everything is to be released. There is no going backwards, only going forwards. With that, I say good bye to monsters and hello to Venus.        

A Look Back at the First Great Batman Relaunch by Eric Emma

In the late 80s, DC faced a problem that the big two (Marvel & DC) have faced many times before: stagnation. DC had been around for near 50 years and to make all those years of continuity work, DC used the multiverse. The multiverse was a creation of Gardner Fox (Guy Gardner is a tribute to him!) when he wrote the story “Flash of Two Worlds” in “The Flash” #123. That story set up the concept that there are multiple worlds that operate on different frequencies. Thus, Batman stories from the 50s were set in one verse and so and so forth. Each ‘verse was referred to by a number, i.e. “Earth-1” “Earth-2”, etc. This solved the problem of having inconsistencies in the continuity. This device may sound overly complicated, but it really wasn’t and that’s because comic readers were far less discerning back then.

The reason the original comics are worth as much as they are, besides being historical artifacts, is that people were not saving comics. They were mass produced and thrown away like newspapers. When someone opened a comic that took place in Earth-1 or Earth-2, it didn’t matter, he or she was tuned into that stand-alone story. By the time the 80s rolled around, times had changed. Comics had grown up. There was a demand for collections and continuity, which now made the whole damn thing too confusing, since people were trying to make sense of the histories of these characters.

DC decided to do something bold: blow up the entire thing. They would restart the entire DC Universe. Enter Marv Wolfman’s “Crisis on Infinite Earths”, which ends with all the worlds merging into one universe. After which, all the characters would be restarted… Sort of.

DC couldn’t completely start from scratch because to do so would destroy popular characters that relied on years of continuity. An example of this is “Nightwing.” Nightwing is Robin all grown up so you can’t have Nightwing if Batman is going to just be starting out. So what DC did was keep all the characters the same age as they were before they merged the world, but they would hire creative teams to do retellings of their flagship characters that would be considered the definite canon going forward. One of the most famous of these was Frank Millar’s Batman: Year One. After which, DC followed up with the less well regarded Batman: Year 2 and Year 3 stories. Ed Brubaker wrote “The Man Who Laughs” in 2005 as a sequel to Year One. It’s also retelling of Batman #1 and Detective Comics #168 (The Man Behind the Red Hood).

Batman Year 1 is interesting in that it is the farthest you can get from the proto-typical comic Batman and the reason is that this this is 100% Frank Miller’s Batman. This is not Millar adding to a character that has been collectively written for 50 years. A clear example of this distinction is in Miller’s Bat-Universe, Selena Kyle is a prostitute with some martial arts ability instead of a renown cat burglar. Also in this world, the lines are further blurred with personal woes like Jim Gordon cheating on his wife. Miller writes what he feels comfortable with regardless of whether it fits the 50 years that had come before. 

Aside from my stylistic critiques, from a technical standpoint the whole idea of covering the first year of Batman’s career in one graphic novel is ambitious and at times, it feels a little hollow. Miller relies on heavy exposition with narration from both Batman and Jim Gordon. At times the exposition can be interesting and we get to see Batman as a full-blown psychopath and Gordon as a man on the brink. However, as interesting as these bits can be, I always want to see more drama and more interaction in the world. Actual scenes instead of Bruce Wayne and Jim Gordon talking at me would go a lot farther. And like I said, by the time you get towards the end of the book, I feel like I’m reading characters out of a Raymond Chandler novel instead of the Bats and Jim Gordon I know and love.

Batman is a super-hero. Everything he does breaks common sense and logic even if his powers are not divined from supernatural or equally fantastic pseudo-science means. Part of the super-hero is that they are super, not only in the psychical sense, but emotionally. As we read these stories, we long to be men and women of mental fortitude that can go out night after night enduring/inflicting extreme amounts of violence, while not succumbing to the emotional toll. Miller in a need to legitimize and dare I say be edgy, takes Batman to a place of being a psychotic. Which is no less realistic, and is less fun. For this reason, his later attempts at the character failed because the silliness of it became more pronounced.
 

Batman Year One offers a lot of bits and pieces that have been incorporated into the Batman Mythos, but the actual heart/meat of the story has been discarded because it isn’t Batman.

Batman Year 2 is an interesting tale and penned by Mike W Barr. Barr has a far more interesting take on Batman than Millar. He understands the unrealistic balance that Batman must tread as he faces a grim underworld. Batman faces many dark and disconcerting elements, but ultimately, Batman must never lose his own morality in his fight against crime or it is all for naught. To show this, Barr created a vigilante that preceded the Batman in Gotham City: the Reaper. The Reaper has been gone from Gotham for many years and during his hey-day, he was more gruesome than the villains he slayed. The Reaper killed with little regard. In Batman’s second year in Gotham, the Reaper returns and is murdering the criminals of Gotham. Quickly, Batman is placed in direct conflict with the Reaper. Batman makes a deal with Gotham’s underworld for a cease-fire, as they work together to find and take down the Reaper. Batman is forced to work with Joe Chill, the man who murdered his parents. 

While I can’t argue that Year Two is on par with Year One, it is certainly an enjoyable Batman tale. The fun of this tale stands in stark contrast to the moroseness of Year One and for that reason, I applaud it. I’d rather have Bruce Wayne struggling with his internal conflict to be good and fighting outlandish villains than a “realistic” Bruce beating the hell out of pimps and other disgusting human beings. Year 2 also features one of my favorite Batman tropes. He’s in love with a woman he can’t be with because of his devotion to his fight against crime.

The sequel, Full Circle, deals with legacy. Joe Chill dies at the hand of the Reaper in Year 2. Years later in current continuity. The Reaper returns. We later find out that it is Joe Chill’s son who has taken on the mantle of the Reaper and he’s wants revenge against Batman. This story highlights the importance of Robin to the Batman mythos. The tragic element of Batman is that he will never know true happiness hence why ne never stays with any of his many loves. He is irreparably damaged by the events of his parents’ death. Year 2/Full Circle give clarity to his quest in that Bruce realizes he himself must stop the cycle of violence. He ultimately decides to spare Joe Chill Jr’s life so that Chill Jr can have a relationship with his son. Also Barr gets across that Batman’s own relationship with Robin is important because he is saving Robin from being as broken as he is.

Batman Year 3 was written by Marv Wolfman. The same Wolfman that restarted the continuity with “Crisis on Infinite Earths.” More importantly, Wolfman wrote Teen Titans in the 1980s. Teen Titans was DC’s answer to X-Men. The Titans is a team consisting of the sidekicks of DC and it is in this book that Dick Grayson developed into Nightwing. Dick realized that Bruce was too overbearing for him and he needed to strike out on his own so he gave up being Robin and to become Nightwing. Batman Year Three is a story that was told in then contemporary 1989 continuity with Dick as Nightwing, with flashbacks to the third year in Batman’s crime fighting career.

I absolutely loved the story structure of Year 3. It’s one of the most brilliant stories of Batman that I’ve read. It begins with a mafia boss being eliminated in spectacular fashion. It’s the latest in a string of mafia hits. Batman has been unable to deduce who is behind the string of hits. Worse, Batman is deep in depression over the death of Jason Todd (Robin II) at the hands of the Joker and is in danger of going off the deep end. We return to the theme of Batman’s morality. It cuts to the parole hearing of Boss Zucco, the man responsible for Dick Grayson’s parents/ death. As I mentioned, the story is half flash-back so half of it is about Boss Zucco rise in the underworld/Batman taking in Dick Grayson and Batman tracking down the killer of the mob bosses.

This story is the perfect cap to this trilogy of stories because it follows on the thread of legacy. We learn that Zucco was an orphan and his parents were also murdered by mobsters. Unlike Dick, or Bruce, he turned to a life of crime and became a hardened criminal. One of the fascinating aspects is that Alfred tells us that he could temper Dick unlike Bruce, because Bruce left for years. We see this exemplified in the story as Batman sinks deeper into depression and Dick is there to pull him out. Dick Grayson is the hope of the future because he has a chance to live a happy life, while unfortunately, Bruce will always be haunted by the past.

When I look back at the original run of stories from the 1940s, it’s interesting to think about how those stories never really concerned themselves with whether Batman is good or not. It simply always taken as a given. That’s what I find fascinating. When DC set out to retell Batman’s origins in the late 80s, hundreds of Batman stories had been written to that point and so in terms of redefining Batman, while still holding true this trilogy did a good job of setting the path of Batman for years to come. Year One was the quest to become the hero. Year Two sought to explore Batman discovering his code of ethics. Full Circle/Year Three sought to explore the consequences of that code and what does it all add up to.

 

MONSTER BREEDING REPORT #10 by Eric Emma

MONSTER 1: FOR LIBERTY!

GESTATION CYCLE: POST-PRODUCTION

Very excited about this as I’ve just been handed the reigns on this project and I shall be completing an edit. So hopefully, we will be finished with this project and sending it out to film festivals soon.

MONSTER 2: KLACK AND ROE, ANIMATED PILOT & BIBLE!

GESTATION CYCLE: FINISHED!

We finished the pilot! We finished the bible! And now we’re submitting to NYTVF Independent Pilot Competition! We’ll upload the 1 minute trailer soon!

MONSTER 3: COSMO CAT AND THE ADVENTURES OF THE PETRICHOR!

GESTATION CYCLE: POST PRODUCTION

What a ride, but now we near the end of this product as well. We’re currently hard at work on finishing a one minute long sizzle reel (which as soon as it’s finished, I will be uploading!) The bible and the rest of the pitch materials are complete and look forward to bring it to TAC (The Animation Conference) in the Fall!

MONSTER 4: HENRY & EMMA, LIVE ACTION WEB SERIES

GESTATION CYCLE: POST-PRODUCTION

Currently, George Lois is hard at work editing the first four episodes and we hope to have it fully finished and edited before the end of the summer.

 

 

Searching for the Superman! Part 1: Why Superman in BvS is the wrong Superman! by Eric Emma

“In truth, man is a polluted river. One must be a sea to receive a polluted river without becoming defiled. I teach you the Superman! He is that sea; in him your great contempt can go under.” Nietzsche

                A few weeks ago, I took part in a nationwide event of shared anguish as I left one of the most unpleasant cinematic experiences of my lifetime, Batman v. Superman.   A friend of mine was so perturbed that he made a Facebook group to discuss how a film could go so horribly awry. Even though there are many conjurers of thoughts that have weaved and cast their spells to try and decipher how and why this already-legendary turd came to be, I thought I would cast my own analysis out into the world.

                No matter how much money WB dumped into the marketing of Batman v. Superman, the inescapable fact was that this is a sequel to Man of Steel (2013). Superman is how we came into this dark, grim world and thus through that prism the rest of the film will be judged. So in that vein, it’s in the second opening scene of the film where Lois finds herself in a generic Middle East local trying to score an interview with a terrorist leader that we instantly realize what a travesty this film is going to be. Things of course go horribly wrong and instead of Superman coming into save the day, Jimmy Olsen is shot point blank in the face and then the terrorists turn to Lois and THEN Superman dashes in to save her.

                DEVASTATING describes my emotional state as a viewer because it’s when I realize so clearly that the film-makers either have no idea who Superman is or the even more grim reality, they do and they absolutely do not care. On face value alone, the actual act of violence itself is so grotesque and disturbing that it has no place in a superhero movie featuring characters that have been marketed to pre-adolescents for 70+ years. Marvel, DC, and other heroes of these kind of stories deal in fisticuffs, laser beams, and other forms of violence that are extremely expressive in the act of committing the violence, but then, thru years of story-shorthand, the rules of the universe separate the actual consequence of such action. For example, when characters punch each other in these stories it never results in more than a slight bruise. We don’t see the grotesque broken bones, bruising, and other actual injuries that are sustain in real life.

                The reason for this is that violence is a catharsis (thanks Freud) and these stories allow us to enjoy violence because we can’t enjoy it in real life because in real life, actual violence leads to destruction/pain. There’s a poignant scene in Cronenberg’s “History of Violence” that is in response to this (also based on a comic). In “History of Violence”, the protagonist son punches a high-school bully in the face and breaks the bully’s nose. In the aftermath of the punch, we’re force to endure the grotesque visual of a broken nose followed by scenes that deal with the actual consequences of real-life violence. It is not a heroic act. This is what makes the choice to have a character shot in the face so disturbing because there is no way to stylistically wash away the actual consequence of it. In BvS, even though we don’t see Jimmy’s head explode as it cuts on the gun shot, we are imagining it and in some ways that’s even worse. This tone deafness on the part of the film-maker reverberates through the entire film as Batman brands/kills his enemy, Superman’s mother is traumatically kidnapped, hundreds die in a bombing in the Senate, etc, all in the name of being “real.”

                Moving beyond the face value of the violence of shooting Jimmy in face, there’s something greater that was lost when Jimmy dies.   First, let’s examine the history of Jimmy Olson for those that are unfamiliar. You may be surprised to know that Jimmy Olson was not always integral to the Superman mythos and his existence is owed largely to the needs of the performance medium. Jimmy Olson really comes into being when DC was translating Superman from the comics to a radio serial. The creators of the radio serial wanted to give Superman someone to talk to so as to flesh out his psychological struggles. It’s around this time that he became more important in the comics, but when the radio serial died, Olson disappeared. It was not till the TV show came out in the 50s that he was revived again. One of the biggest differences between written stories and performed stories is that in a written story, you can create conflict out of the metaphysical. We can have mountains of conflict over simply a character struggling to tell his feelings to another character. You translate that to the screen and it’s literally, a character nervously standing there looking at another character. Jimmy has always been important as a way of showing the duality of Superman’s lives and serves as a touchstone for Clark’s humanity in that the relationship between Jimmy and Superman/Clark shows those differences. This relationship struck such a cord with comic book readers that there was a popular comic created called, “Superman’s Pal: Jimmy Olsen” in the 50s.

                The fact that the filmmakers felt no need for Jimmy Olson in this universe tells us that Clark has no struggle with his humanity/duality as Clark/Superman. In fact, there is almost no Clark in this movie… Just like there was almost no Clark in Man of Steel. The chief derailing reason that the Superman of Batman v. Superman is so wrong is that the filmmakers use Superman as a trite Christ-metaphor. The moment Batman v. Superman posits Superman as a “GOD”, they chucked his humanity and he became a terribly boring character. In many ways, Superman became more akin to Thor then he did to actual Superman. For those that are unfamiliar, in the comics, Odin feels Thor needs humility so he erases his memories and gives him the identity of Donald Blake on earth. After various adventures, Thor gains his humility and eventually casts the shell of Donald Blake completely and takes his place as a god because he’s not a man. Guess what: Superman does the same in Batman v. Superman, when the identity of Clark Kent is killed. The significance of this is profound because it changes everything about Clark/Superman.

                Clark IS HUMAN and Superman is not. Clark Kent’s world is marked by trying to be a good reporter, being a good son, being a good husband, things that concern humanity. Superman’s world is that of being a symbol and acts of heroism. Superman is never actually real and that is where his importance lies. The endearing aspect of Clark is that he’s forced to endure how the people in his life idolize Superman and yet, they view him as nothing, but normal. It’s endearing because being Superman is easy, being a good human is not. This is why readers/viewers have tuned into the Adventures of Superman for years because how can you not root for a guy that fights for his friends/way of life, while always wanting nothing, but the simple life.

                One of the most iconic moments in the Superman mythos that NEVER changes is the moment Martha and Johnathan Kent find baby Clark. It captures our imagination because part of the human experience is up-bringing, it shapes us for the rest of our years on this planet, and it’s the humanity that Johnathan and Martha Kent instill in Clark that gives birth to Superman.  That’s what makes Clark/Superman easy to relate to because he has the powers of a GOD, and yet, those powers make him more humble and gracious because it never feels like “being a God” is ever really an option. The alter-ego of “Superman” is simply a symbol/ideal for Clark to use his power, but as a character he’s unsustainable.

                What problems does Superman have? If Clark Kent decided that he wasn’t Clark, but rather Superman, what would that even mean? Superman doesn’t have to pay bills. Superman doesn’t have a mother and a father that he visits regularly. Superman doesn’t have a wife. If Clark became “Superman”, then suddenly, Superman is far less “Super.” The allure of fantasy is that it is fantasy and it doesn’t have to be bound by logic or obligations. It’s why Clark has never seen an option in such things, but this also has been the bedrock of stories that deal with the contradiction that Clark lifespan is far longer than a normal human. This is why Superman has flourished on the small screen, while Batman has flourished on the big screen because Superman’s human side is so much more interesting than his alter-ego. (This is true of the Hulk as well). Batman, on the other hand, is a character that chooses to escape his humanity because he’s broken and finds refuge in his mission. This is why they can do X amount of Batman movies because the villains/quests show us Batman’s fractured humanity.

                The inherent struggle of every writer trying to pen a superhero story is how to make saving the world interesting on a weekly basis. While everyone wants to point to Deadpool (2016) success as being attributed to its tongue-in-cheek tone and breaking the fourth wall, I’d argue it’s real selling point is that it is a small-contained character driven story that audiences can relate to: “a man’s quest to regain his life back to be with the woman he loves.” When one looks at “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014), no one gives a shit about the cookie-cutter chase the orb-of-power plot, people were interested in James Gunn’s quirky, supposedly damned characters rising up to be heroes.  When the filmmakers killed Jimmy Olson and posited Superman as a God, they killed any chance of the audience being able to relate or care about him because we don’t care about Superman, we care about Clark Kent. (Notice how the Thor movies are the worst BO performers. It’s because we don’t relate to gods, we relate to people.)

                If Superman is a God, then he’s apart from our society and all his acts become charity. Throughout Batman v. Superman, we are supposed to feel bad for Superman because people don’t appreciate his heroic acts. The big complaint against Man of Steel (2013) was how Superman can be super when he destroys half a major metropolitan city just so he could kill one of his fellow gods. Further showing that this franchise is in the hands of blunt/unthinking artists, the response was simply to go to great lengths for the characters to always emphasize “WE’RE IN UNPOPULATED PARTS OF THE CITY SO ALL THIS DESTRUCTION ISN’T HURTING PEOPLE.” Instead, when one looks at Batman vs. Superman, we see a god meddling in the affairs of humans and cherry picking which people he wants to save and then feeling little to no regard for those he hurts along the way. Even if this version of Superman was completely happy and a great hero, audiences would still yawn. In fact, this is the reason why we got to this place in the first place.

                After years of Superman stories that forgot that Superman’s humanity is what brings in the audiences, the narrative became SUPERMAN is boring. The great folly in this adaptation of Superman is not in the grim/dark tone, but rather erasing Superman’s humanity and focusing purely on SUPERMAN is where it all went wrong. Not that I’m advocating for a dark Superman as I think it’s completely wrong for the character, but if you divorce the humanity out of Superman, if you kill the Jimmy Olson’s of Clark’s existence, then all you’re left with is a disposable man of steel punching random shit for two hours that is completely indecipherable to audiences. 

Thoughts on Oppression in the Media from a White Man. by Eric Emma

                Last night, I found myself sitting in what looks like any normal high school gym. Folding chairs are set-up, a projector screen hangs, and various folks pile in as the community movie is about to begin. The only thing that would tip you off to the difference of this gym and this community is a banner in the corner of the gym that reads, “RI School of the Deaf.” For those that don’t know, my parents are deaf and that has led to my driving need to understand oppression and to understand my own place in the dynamic of oppressor/oppressed.

                The movie I was seeing was called, “Deaf Club”, and was created entirely by folks in the deaf community. The film has no sound and all the actors speak in American Sign Language with captions for those that don’t know ASL It was important to my father that I see the film as it is a good representation of deaf culture.

                The purpose of “Deaf Club” was to promote awareness about Deaf Clubs. Most of the film’s crew and actors are non-professionals so it has a very fun/improvised feel to it. Looking past lack of lighting, make-up, etc the film promotes a very positive image of a community of people bound by their disability and helping each other. While not a good film by any stretch, I did leave with a smile on my face and almost immediately after the film ended, I was reminded about my mix feelings about the Ukrainian film, “The Tribe”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tribe_(2014_film).

                “The Tribe” (2014) won quite a few awards and was the talk of the town for a little. Similarly to “Deaf Club”, the film feature no spoken dialogue and is told all through sign language; HOWEVER, the film features a great sound mix. It also chooses not to have any subtitles.  The film focuses on a deaf school in the Ukraine and the students’ descent into drugs, prostitution, and malicious violence against each other. While an incredibly well-made film and achievement in film-making, I couldn’t help, but feeling dirty after seeing it.

                “The Tribe” (2014) had turned deaf people into monsters to be gawked at rather than as people we understand and relate to. The lack of subtitles serves more to play to the viewer’s ignorance than to show us deaf culture. Is there not something exploitative in having fully explicit sex scenes of two deaf people where half of our interest is in the sound they are making? My chief criticism against “The Tribe” is that it’s exploiting the deaf in that its “look this is a movie about the DEAF” and then pushes the incredibly negative stereotypes that have serve to keep the deaf and hearing worlds separate.

                “Deaf Club” will never be a wide-release popular film for at its best it’s amateurish and at its worst it’s just plain bad. While “The Tribe” is an incredibly shot film that shows amazing technical prowess in all its different facets of film-making. My point isn’t to say that one film deserves more than the other, but rather to shine a light on a sad history of films that show minority groups in a negative light profit greatly.

                When I saw “The Tribe” a few months ago, I remember hearing folks tensing up when I gave my rather pointed criticism. Immediately, folks would defend the film and highlight how I’m being unfair to the film. It became apparent that these hearing people didn’t know any deaf people so since they thought the film was authentic, they needed to defend or else it’d be a reflection on them. This is how oppression and negative imagery in the media becomes autonomous. The irony though is that I liked “The Tribe” a great deal, but I would just like to have the discussion. And that’s the problem. People need things in black and white. Either it is exploitative or it isn’t.

                People often ask me since I’m a writer, “Why aren’t you writing about deaf people!” As if it’s some unmined gold mine. The reason is that I don’t see deaf people as different from me. They are people. Obviously, there are aspects of their disability that dictate how their lives have been shaped, etc, but the deaf people I know are like everyone else. The “deaf stories” these people are referencing are not the “deaf stories” that I would tell.

                My main criticism of the “The Tribe” is that it’s selling the idea of “the other.” It’s selling the age-old theme of look how awful it is to be “the non-disabled white male.” The principle attraction of “The Tribes” is… look at this fucked up subsection of humanity because they can’t hear. IT’S SO AUTHENTIC. When in fact the only thing with certainty that we can say is authentic is the need of hearing people to believe that the deaf are savages. This can be apply to every minority group and media representations.

                Media representations becomes so important because in the homogenous areas of this country that’s all they have to base their knowledge of a minority group on. How many times have we all suffered through the well-meaning story about racism written by a white individual with no real contact with whatever community he or she is writing about? And so to bring this back to my original point, my thoughts are not to condemn of “The Tribe” and to put on a pedestal a low-budget community film, but rather to highlight how oppression works and how its tied to capitalism. At the end of the day, this all becomes about money. Art dies because we need to make products that sell and part of that is by giving the people what they want, which is to have their own stereotypes/opinions validated.

                Oppression is a two-way street. We can complain that the producers of media are feeding oppressive imagery to the masses, but what are we doing as consumers to change that? When you look on facebook and look at your social network is it diverse? Because if it is, I guarantee you’ll be alerted to diverse art made people from all walks of life. When you look at what you’re watching on TV is it the 20th Fast and the Furious movie? Or is it something challenging your prospective? At the end of the day, I can be railing against content creators, but we as consumers have to make the change.

MONSTER BREEDING REPORT #9 (ALSO MANY SITE UPDATES) by Eric Emma

HEY EVERYONE!

So SUPER MEGA UPDATE! New Cosmocat Art! Pilot of Henry and Emma posted! And an updated BIO! WOOOOO!!!

MONSTER 2: KLACK AND ROE, ANIMATED PILOT & FUTURE EPISODES

GESTATION CYCLE: FINISHED!

Finally made it to the finish line on this project! AND IT LOOKS AWESOME! Great work by Manolo on the animation. This project we’ll be keeping under wraps till we have a firm release plan, but stay tuned!

MONSTER 3: COSMO CAT. PRESCHOOL TV SHOW PITCH

GESTATION CYCLE: SHELVED

Pitched this to Silvergate Media two months ago, went really well and it was a great experience. What we decided is that it’s a good concept that’d be better served for older audiences so Jacob and I cannibalized the genetic material from the project to make “COSMOCAT AND THE ADVENTURES OF THE PETRICHOR!” And the new art can be seen on the web-site!

MONSTER 5: HENRY & EMMA, LIVE ACTION WEB SERIES

GESTATION CYCLE: Episode 1 Finished! More Episodes to Come!

THE PILOT IS FINISHED! For now, you can all go check out the pilot on the “Henry and Emma” page, but once all four episodes are finished we’ll be coming up with a distribution plan!

MONSTER 6: THE PROMETHEUS HACK, FEATURE LENGTH SCRIPT

GESTATION CYCLE: WRITING

Still working on this.

MONSTER 8: COSMOCAT AND ADVENTURES OF THE PETRICHOR!

GESTATION CYCLE: DEVELOPMENT

As mentioned previously, this is the new concept that Jacob and I are developing. Super excited about it and hope to be ready to pitch in the next month or so.

"Straight Outta Compton" - Success Don't Make It Right. by Eric Emma

We are assembly. Follow Instructions. Avoid Death. Avoid Pain.

This is the American way. No longer are humans born, but rather, we’re surgically removed from the womb on calculated time-tables and then an insidious mechanical thought worm is placed deep into our developing brains: success is always good. Then after that, we’re placed in society and told that we’re still human beings even though this thought worm will spend its entire existence trying to strip us of that humanity and making us believe that we’re happy.

“Straight Outta Compton” is the ultimate symbol of that worm.

Ice Cube and Dr. Dre have been trying to get this fluff piece made for a long time. At no point, would this be a serious examination of hip-hop, themselves, or of the establishment they once espoused to be against. Instead, this film is Ice Cube and Dr. Dre thanking the establishment and reaffirming that while not perfect, the establishment always correct itself and good triumphs and in the process, they solidify their legacies as geniuses and great human beings. Their worms triumph and the rest of the worms vigorously hope to reach that success.

As I watched this film, my insides turned as I realized that the industry has reached its zenith. That, the depressed ticket sales and the shrinking of American power has given more power to the worms, not less. Social media being the final piece of the puzzle for the worms. No longer do writers write compelling stories with characters with earned objectives and stakes… No. Instead, movies are now montages of moments that trigger emotional responses that the worms inside us tell us that we should be responding to. “Straight Outta Compton” has a collection of scenes that make absolutely no sense together with characters constantly articulating their entire emotional issues/history in amazing punchy one line pieces of dialogue.

And here’s the kicker: THAT’S THE POINT AND WE KNOW IT. That’s why “Straight Outta Compton” is being heralded as great as it did exactly what it wanted. Like a McDonald’s hamburger… It’s not good, but it’s been perfected in a lab to provide us with some type of hollow pleasure.  They then pass that hamburger off to an excellent marketing team. The marketing team’s job is to make us believe that this movie is culturally benefitting and isn’t empowering the worms/making us less human. And how do they do this? They tell us it’s empowering because it’s all black protagonists. That’s it about a true story about a musical group that helped reshape the racial conversation. They then bring up how the film touches on a cultural moment that still haunts us today: the LA riots. All of this makes this movie SPECIAL, IMPORTANT, and most of all… they now have the thing that supposedly makes that true… BUSINESS SUCCESS. The worms are doing jumping jacks!

“Straight Outta Compton” strips away all the context of which made NWA “important” much like when you drink one of those healthy “smoothies”, they strip away all the fiber and other important nutrients and up the sugar so it’s INSTANT GRATIFACTION and we can believe we’re being healthy. The importance of NWA is wrapped up entirely in the time in which they came out and less so than the individuals. They were a symbol of black men saying what’s on their mind and having the wherewithal to do so during a time (and arguably, not much has changed) when the voices of Black America were not being heard.  The evidence of this would be look at Dre and Cube’s solo career. Is there anything in there that is revolting?

The film shows us what we want to see Black America is the poor/downtrodden, talented youngsters use their talent and are innately good, they get to then indulge in what life is about treating women as sexual objects, being cheer on by thousands of lesser beings, constant violence (Which is okay when you’re successful), and then magically, you grow old and become adjusted human beings. This is the fiction that we, as Americans, want to believe. This is what makes this film so damning.  “Straight Outta Compton” is “not about reality, but all about a salary.”

The reason why the sexism, glorification of violence, etc in “Staight Outta Compton” is so danger is that it doesn't show the other side of the equation. What is the effect of treating women like sexual objects? What is the effect on the women and the men? When we believe that success is equated to having lots of stuff and sleeping with as many women as possible, what does that do to our humanity? And let’s go a step further, what does it do to us as a people, when we send the message out that the system is okay as long as you’re talented enough? What does it do to the many people fighting for reform against a broken system? People weren’t rioting in LA simply because police are dicks… They were rioting because of the institutional injustices that have rob a section of people from enjoying access to healthcare, jobs, education, and even FOOD. Instead, the movie takes a very cheap out, it shows us the reality we want to believe in… There are people suffering, but ultimately, if you’re talented enough, then you’ll get everything you deserve in life which is lots of meaningless stuff and cheap sex.

And this returns to where we started, which is that malicious worm that was implanted at the base of our brains when we were babes that we must fight against for the rest of our lives: success is good no matter what. This is an easily digested film that takes absolutely no effort to watch and due to a great marketing campaign is making tons of money, but please resist the urge to listen to the worm that tells you success is always right, and see this for what it is… bland pornography.

 

Thoughts on Days of Heaven... by Eric Emma

So as I knock two off my movie watching list, "Days of Heaven" (1978) & "The Great Escape" (1963), I thought I'd post some thoughts about the former along with some pictures.

I know after Tree of Life that Terrence Malick has become a whipping boy for pretentious indie film, but he's one of the few film-makers that relies entirely on visuals/audio to tell his story.

There are no bloated scenes of exposition or characters endlessly explaining their background, but rather, we're taken to an extremely specific, tactile world and drop into the lives of the characters. As we see Gere's character run as fast he can away from the steel mill, Malick informs us with his frame. There's something incredibly romantic in Bill and Abby's love in this stark western frontier atmosphere.

I also love that Malick adds a third character that is voiceless through most of the film to the characters, yet we hear her inner-thoughts and reflections on what is going on. Look at some of the screen caps that I've posted below and you immediately can tell that this doesn't feel like the Westerns that were created on Hollywood sound stages in the 40s and 50s. I even love the character of the actors faces in this harsh, yet magical world. I love how a traveling flying circus can drop into the middle of the narrative and we don't need to learn anything about them, other than the images they present.

Lastly, I love the ending images of the film and how this it captures that this was a distinct moment in each of these characters lives. Days of Heaven is a complete triumph and much watch by anyone.