The home page for author Eric J. Juneau

Nostalgia Critic No More

This week, former producers of Channel Awesome/That Guy With the Glasses compiled a list of grievances and complaints about their treatment, including sexual harassment and neglect. Others are seeing this and jumping ship (although I think that’s a poor metaphor–it’s more like a Klingon discommendation where everyone makes the Wakanda salute and turns their backs.)

star trek worf discommendation

I knew about issues behind the scenes with poor management and scheduling, but I thought those were part-and-parcel of amateur film making. I’ve heard many DVD commentaries that basically consisted of “this space was available so we took it”, like Basket Case converting a hotel elevator into a lobby or Monty Python & the Holy Grail using coconuts or The Room being… the room.

And there were problems with… conflicting personalities? Well, that’s the nice way of putting it. The NC is basically a basement-dwelling, ungrateful, insufferable bastard. Everyone who came after copied that acerbic MST3K style, because that was what worked. NC is the vent for our frustrations at greedy producers, apathetic directors, badly chosen actors, studio interference, writing to the merchandise/market/instead of the story.

When your job to portray yourself as Comic Book Guy turned up to 11, there are bound to be residual effects. But when you fight the monster, you must make sure not to become one. When you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back.

five nights at freddy's camera

Yes, I’m talking about Spoony, and no, there’s no excuse for what he did. But I don’t really know what transpired–I didn’t follow that thread. I know it had to do with mental health, the “shieldy” nature of the Internet, and follower wars/information bubble. It made me sad, because I loved his work. I sat back impassively and watched, having no dog in the fight. Besides, here we are, years later. Noah Antwiler hasn’t made a video in six months and Lindsay Ellis is getting retweets from Mikey Neumann, Hank Green, and John Scalzi.

But when you put it all together, there was more going on here that I should have been paying attention to. These things have poked their heads up from time to time. Like Allison Pregler’s poor HR handling, on-set accidents (like everyone getting sunburned and dehydrated on Kickassia). Whoever leaves Channel Awesome leaves it in infamy. But I let it go, because these people are basically giving us good content, spending their time and money with no promise of reward, for free. ‘

Now you should never work for exposure. Money should flow toward the artist. If the client is important enough that exposure means something, they can afford to pay you. If not, then it’s not worth it. But just co-hosting/posting material on the site shouldn’t require payment. TGWTG is a popular site, and letting others partake of that traffic, it’s like advertising.

But that’s as far as the exposure should go. Once CA starts pulling in producers for crossovers, movies, etc. they become employees. They are helping you make a product that you own, and they should be compensated for that labor. [Case in point: the “To Boldly Flee” sexual assault scene that no one wanted to do].

But all the sexual harassment? The lack of care for those under their wing (like not bringing their website out of the 1999 style). The bullying. The neglect. I cannot turn a blind eye to that.

When I read this manifesto, I was appalled. So appalled I actually tweeted at the conversation “what can we fans do to help”? (I think MarzGurl, Holly, and Lindsay Ellis were in that thread) And you know me–I never make contact with the outside world. Holly responded “don’t watch CA content on the site or YouTube”. I don’t feel this is enough — these people need to be accountable for their misconduct. A single removed subscriber isn’t going to make an impact. We’ve got to stop accepting what we cannot change, we have to change what we cannot accept.

book reading appalled surprised

Bottom Line: I can no longer support or patronize Channel Awesome until they remediate these grievances.

Let me make this clear. I love the Nostalgia Critic. I wanted so much to be part of them because they looked like my people. People I wanted to be with, be friends with. Others had Friends, I had TGWTG. I’ve written many articles about their producers, how they’ve influenced me. I’ve watched all the NC videos. Sometimes I just binge-watched because I wanted to be part of that group. They looked so happy in those crossovers, working together, being creative, nerding out over stuff. Those were my people. But now I do not want to be associated with them.

It seems the biggest problem is their off-screen CEO. Basically, they’ve got a Charlie Rose junior in the driver’s seat and he’s got a choke chain around the Nostalgia Critic IP. That’s a problem, because to call it the primary money-maker is disingenuous. Nostalgia Critic is basically the site. And if you need any bigger indicator of a douchebag, just look at that poor apology. The only good thing about it is that it exists. It means the backlash is loud enough that now they have to pay attention.

shawshank redemption letters
“Now I’ll write two letters a week.”

But it’s also that Doug and Rob Walker stay silent. They either just don’t care or aren’t allowed to. I see Doug Walker as just a guy who wants to make videos. He wants to be on screen and that’s fine. And Rob is Rob. Like Bob Zmuda to Doug’s Andy Kaufman. But their inaction makes them complicit. I’m waiting for some kind of statement. I’m waiting for them to be more than some goofballs watching TV.’

If I could do more, I would. I’m writing this article, so that’s something. But I can’t let this one go. This is the age of #MeToo and #TimesUp. We’ve got to do better. They’ve got to do better. We’ve got to realize that sexual harassment and bullying can’t be written off. No more eye-rolling. No more “boys will be boys” bullshit. No more excuses.’

That means calling people out. That means consequences for actions. And I refuse to support, even with my ad-blocker in place, a smaller-scale version of the Weinstein company.

Tears of a Spoon

spoony one logo cartoon noah antwiler

I’m a big fan of The Spoony One, an Internet producer/reviewer in the same vein as That Guy With the Glasses. Personally, I like him better, entertainment-wise, than Doug Walker. The Nostalgia Critic has more of the screwball Daffy Duck slapstick, but Spoony has more of the clever, cynical wit I appreciate.

Recently, he just finished his compilation of the Ultima video games, started two years ago in 2010 (which is an eternity in online video). It spanned twelve games and seventeen videos, with in-between vlogs, conventions, and other reviews. Not to mention several online fights, heart conditions, personality disorder diagnoses (Bipolar II), bouts of depression and sleep disorders, and termination from the very site that led me to discover him in the first place. It’s not been an easy journey.

But the series finished last weekend. But not the way one expected it. Sure, there are AfterEffects explosions, random clip insertions, inside jokes, and lots and lots of screaming. Spoony’s whole theme  has been “betrayal!”

To me, betrayal is nothing new. It’s when developers or publishers take a franchise spew out as much product with that license as they can, to take advantage of the fans.

There are arguments against this. You can’t go home again. If the movie stinks, just don’t go. Get off the treadmill.  One bad work in a series doesn’t ruin the whole thing.

But it does, or at least it can.

And this is not a case of low budget or tighter deadlines. This is a case of problems that can be fixed, should be fixed, and are easy to fix. Problems like a creative director forcing his/her own vision (see Kevin Smith’s story about Jon Peters’s Superman) instead of staying true to the spirit of the material. Or problems like a studio that acquires a license and has no passion about the product, just wants it so they can make money (see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1989) or Superman (1999). Or just lackluster mediocrity that forsakes the original passion of the fans (Superman Returns)

True, you can’t harness creativity or spark. But there is effort, and that’s what counts. If you make effort, it will show. And lack of effort is just as transparent. The quality doesn’t matter — if it has the brand, fans will get on that treadmill and purchase. And they’re right, but only up to a point. When the crap starts rolling out, they will turn away. And the franchise will be driven into the ground and forgotten.

From Spoony’s review of Ultima 9, it’s very clear that the game — a sequel to more than eight other stories — almost intentionally disregards anything that came before it. Sure, there’s a half-hearted effort to encompass the established history, with mantras and the Guardian. But it completely ignores the details, as if the writer only looked at the backs of the boxes to figure out the storyline. Like an omnipotent bad guy whose plan is full of plot holes, or the main character not knowing what his role is after nine games.

ultima screenshot what's a paladin
What’s a paladin?

I understand that you need some way to educate newbies, but there’s got to a better way than the main character straight out asking “What’s a paladin?” when he’s been a paladin for nine games. That’s like Captain Kirk asking “what’s a Vulcan?”.

It’s really frustrating to see something you love — something you have so many positive memories of or a personal attachment to — either die or get shit on. You see something like Ultima 9 and curse the sky because you know they could do better. Because you could do better. The people who are in charge of making the product are the ones who should care the most. And they just don’t. The executives pull in people that know nothing about the franchise, who hit gold once or are owed a favor, like whoever directed Star Trek: Nemesis.

It’s a middle finger to the fans — we don’t care that you invested your time and money in eight games. We’re going to give you mediocre gameplay, poor QA testing, characters that act opposite their established personas, and absolutely nothing new story-wise. There are no raised stakes, no new goals, and the main character acts contradictory to his own nature. He’s supposed to uphold nobility and honor, but he regularly visits prostitutes, steals, and kills children. You can almost hear the author shrugging his shoulders.

So now the established fans are alienated by the story, and the poor gameplay estranges the new ones. And no fans mean no further incarnations of the franchise.

And that’s why this really matters. Because every piece of a franchise has the potential to be the last. It happened to great works like Batman, Highlander, Shrek, Superman, Mega Man. Some don’t even have the chance to get off the ground, like Ang Lee’s Hulk, Godzilla, and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Star Trek 10 ended on a cliffhanger, with one of the most beloved characters getting killed, and someone new to take his place. But we’ll never know what happened after that because it was made so poorly and got rebooted. You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.

That’s why TMNT fans, myself included, raised their arms in protest when Michael Bay was attached to the new film. And thanked our gods when it was moved to development hell. Because Bay has an established record of making absolute shit. Especially with licenses. I’m not even a Transformers fan, and I hate what he did to it — putting in explosions, racism, and drug humor where it didn’t belong. And TMNT III already did enough damage.

Studios have this narrow-mindedness that says “Oh, people didn’t like this game or movie. And the second one didn’t sell. Guess there aren’t as many fans as we thought.” No, it’s because you put out crap. Executives seem to be of the mind that they don’t have to put in effort. If it’s average, it will sell because we only care about the license. No. We can tell. We can fucking tell when someone cares. Joss Whedon cares. Christopher Nolan cares. And we care.

That’s why people like Kirsten Stewart, Adam Sandler, Justin Bieber, Snooki, Courtney Stodden, Kim Kardashian, Nicolas Cage, and Uwe Boll get such (rightly deserved) hate from the geek community. Because you can clearly tell they’re only doing their job for the money and/or attention. Their motivations are selfish, and their production is emotionless. They don’t give anything of value back to the world. They can’t hide behind the glut of albums, perfumes, music videos, or sex tapes. We know.

And it’s the same reason that people like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Wil Wheaton, Nathan Fillion, Felicia Day, Samuel L. Jackson, Natalie Portman, Bill Nye, Kirsten Wiig, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Emma Stone, Tina Fey, Penn Jillette, Justin Timberlake, Adele, and Neil Patrick Harris are so well-loved and continue to be well-loved. Because they try. Even if they fail, they put their best foot forward and put energy into what they do. They don’t phone it in.

good effort

I’ve lived long enough that I’ve seen so many of my favorite franchises drilled into the ground, leeching off nostalgia to make a buck. Final Fantasy, TMNT, Star Trek, Star Wars, The Legend of Zelda, Alien, The X-Files, Indiana Jones, Sex and the City, Garfield. They started off with true spirit, but lost their way. (In fact, I’m seeing a pattern that everything George Lucas touches turns to dust).

Some franchises are still keeping their head above water: Half-Life/Portal, Batman continues to reinvent itself, Buffy the Vampire Slayer maintains by not over-producing schlock, Doctor Who keeps fresh by reincarnating both actor and showrunner.

Some are in danger of becoming adulterated by money-making schemes, like Adventure Time, MLP:FIM, Game of Thrones. Back to the Future and Ghostbusters seem in constant danger of an unnecessary sequel, remake, or reboot. And Disney has toed a collapse several times, under its own “too big to fail” illusion.

Get it? It’s “overexposure”.

Thank god for people like Spoony. He’s shown that he’s not afraid to open a vein, like Wil Wheaton on the death of his dog. He’s the one that opened my eyes to why so many of us on the Internet dedicate our time to talking about silly things like He-Man and Oregon Trail. Thanks to him, I now understand why people like Linkara, MarzGurl, The Nostalgia Critic, ContinueShow, and others spend so much time analyzing such horrible, horrible works.

It’s not because they hate them. It’s because they love them. They love Spider-Man and Highlander and Ninja Turtles. And they HATE when someone uses them to sell product instead of produce art. That’s why they use so much humor in their reviews. Not just for entertainment’s sake, but because you have to laugh when you see such goofy, poorly-made shit.

Because the alternative is just too sad.

No SOPA Radio

soup

I don’t know much about making political opinions — the details are too complicated for me to process in my state in life. I’ve got to worry about kids, wife, work, and how to do anything than to find out how a bill works and who’s working with it.

But people smarter and savvier than me are against SOPA (Stop Internet Piracy Act), a bill currently rattling around in Congress. That includes everyone under Doug Walker, Lindsay Ellis, The Spoony One, Hannah Harto, and just about every video I’ve posted from YouTube.

I wish I could do something that’s a bit less “out there”, but they’ve convinced me because I love these people. I want to see more out of them — they’re going to do great things. But they won’t do it if they’re shut down. They finally convinced me to write to my senators and representatives.

Why? Because of the vlog “The Spoony One” posted. He’s a great storyteller, and I was surprised to learn that he met with staffers of my senator – Al Franken. I was even more surprised to learn that Mr. Franken was in favor of the bill. And that’s not cool. That’s what finally convinced me to write to my representatives.

Below is the letter I wrote to the three people who represent me — Rep. Erik Paulsen, Sen. Al Franken, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar. I altered it a little bit for Mr. Franken because The Spoony One mentioned him specifically. It’s not hard to write a letter. Took me about an hour, and each rep has a clearly indicated place to contact them on their webpages.

How to contact your senators: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm
How to contact your representative: https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml

I don’t even mind if you use my letter. Just make sure you alter it so you’re not plagiarizing. I think the most important is at the bottom. Make sure you tell them that you’re watching this bill, you’re watching how they vote, and that you will be making a voting decision next year based on how they respond to this bill.

Strength in numbers is what we’re looking for. Their elections are based on numbers, not messages.

Stop SOPA.

Dear Mr. Senator,

I have never written to one of my representatives before. I have little to no interest in affairs of state at any level. I only vote during presidential elections, during which I face my great impotence in decision-making skills. Suffice to say, I don’t know much about politics.

But I do know the Internet.

I work on the Internet. I play on the Internet. All my favorite stuff, except for my family, rests on a computer. One of those favorite things is “The Spoony Experiment”, a video series hosted by Noah Antwiler (a.k.a. “The Spoony One”). He was part of a group who traveled to Washington, D.C. to speak with representatives about voting against the SOPA bill. And I was disheartened to learn that several congresspeople from my state (which I consider generally savvy about technology and intellectual property) were in favor of the act.

As much as I was against the bill, and as much as everyone on the Internet is encouraging people to write, I had no intention of doing so. Until I saw Noah’s video recap of his experience. I believe you must vote against SOPA, because it will do more harm than good.

There’s nothing that concerns me more than that most of the people trying to pass laws on it don’t know how it works. They don’t know what a DNS server is and what “de-listing” does (especially that it does not prevent people from access). I believe this law will do nothing to stop piracy. It will give too much power to people who wish to take down sites with no due process. That is too much power for anyone to have.

Any time power can be abused, it will be. It doesn’t matter if the bill is “targeted” towards a different audience. Look at this article on Cracked Top 7 Biggest Dick Moves in Online Gaming. If you ignore the salty language, you can see a preview of what happens when any human gets too much power. If a site blocks a trolling Internet commenter, that commenter can get the website delisted if it uses material that is covered under the first amendment for fair use and parody. And there’s no recourse for the accused party to defend themselves. When the DMCA came about, there were many cases of content being wrongly taken down, so there is precedent.

I’m mostly concerned about the lack of due process, the vague wording, the inadequate methods of how to enforce, and the fact that this law is a national attempt to fix an international problem. Piracy cannot be stopped. It has always been in existence as long as there has been media. That doesn’t mean it should be made easy, but SOPA is not the way to do that. SOPA will cause more legitimate businesses to suffer than it will to punish criminals.

But I’m sure a hundred other constituents have already summarized this for you, and I don’t need to reiterate it here. That’s not the reason I’m writing this letter.

The reason I am writing this letter is to tell you that I will be watching the bill. I will be watching how my representatives are voting. And if they do not vote the way I believe they should, I will be making a point to participate in the next election and remove them. Because at that point, it is clear they are not operating in my best interests as a citizen. I have never done any such thing before, but the fact that this bill threatens something I love, I have no choice, but to take action.

Good luck to you,
Eric J. Juneau

BTW what does “No Soap Radio” even mean? Who invented that name?

Things I Like: The Nostalgia Chick & Her Friends

lindsay ellis bow tie

The Nostalgia Chick (a.k.a. Lindsay Ellis) is one of the vloggers on That Guy With the Glasses. Yes, yes, I know I talk about that site too much, but hear me out. She’s more than another snarky deadpanner who criticizes 80’s movies.

See, to understand her, you must understand her origins. She was taken into the site as the female equivalent of the Nostalgia Critic who, due to his penis, couldn’t otherwise target those female-centric blasts from the past. So she started with videos like “Labyrinth”, “Thumbelina”, “She-Ra”, and “The Babysitters Club”. Her specialty is compare-and-contrast, like “Cruel Intentions vs. Les Liaisons Dangerouseses” and why “When Harry Met Sally” works and “Sleepless in Seattle” doesn’t.

She’s a smart cookie. She’s got a degree in film and she has ambition. So she’s expanded her repetoire to documentary-style like “The Smurfette Principle”, a metaphysical look at why she’s there, and who’s come before her. Plus whole story arcs like “The Dark Nella Saga” and the “Todd in the Shadows/Obscurus Lupa/Nostalgia Chick” love triangle. It’s to the point where her entry in the web page menu has expanded to Team NChick.

Team NChick consists of Nella and Elisa Hansen. Nella is the BFF who frequently gets the best lines, like in Suburban Knights where she has a cameo as Ellis’s stunt double to take a punch, or the Labyrinth video (“Hey, Lindsay? Do you want some cock?” ) or a prominent role as “Dr. Block” (lab partner to “Dr. Tease”, who we’ll get to in a minute) and “Dark Nella”. To be honest, I didn’t like Nella at first. To be perfectly honest (don’t worry, this will become a compliment), I thought she was ugly and fat, with her bad hair and thick glasses. She reminded me of a frumpy Velma. I know, I’m a sexist who judges on appearances.

Then I saw more of her, through the Dark Nella saga, and her other appearances, like the specials. And I fell in love with her enthusiasm, her bright eyes, her geek charm, and her archetype of an oblivious doormat. Despite Ellis’s role at the forefront, Nella shines when partnered with Ellis who takes a more passive, backseat, observant role. Or maybe that’s just because Nella’s character is so animated and passionate. All she wants to do is be herself. She’s self-actualized, something I lack in myself. Nowadays I look forward to seeing her in videos.

The other main co-star is Elisa Hansen, the tall, auburn-haired, Phantom-of-the-Opera-obsessed roommate. She’s played “The Makeover Fairy”, lead singer of “The Misfits” (Jem’s rival band), and “Dr. Tease” a mad scientist obsessed with sexual experiments. No, not that kind. The kind that involve clipboards, lab coats, surprise interviews, and Asperger’s syndrome. And, I’ll just say it, she’s *hawt*. She’s leggy, she’s got great eyes and a great smile. In any other world, she’d be unapproachable, but she has this weird fan-girl/goth energy that makes her a little crazy.

But back to Ellis. I could talk about her videos all day. Doug Walker did a good job when he selected her as his female counterpart. She’s broken away somewhat from her Nostalgia critiques (where is the “Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer” review?!). I even bought the Dune RiffTrax she did with The Spoony One, another of my favorite vloggers. Instead of simply summarizing and critiqueing, she’s using her knowledge of film to analyze what works and what doesn’t in Roland Emmerich films, pop-girls like Ke$ha, and Disney vs. Dreamworks. What I’m trying to say is that she does good work. She’s not just a counterpart, she’s her own thing. She’s not afraid to make the low-brow dick jokes just as she’s not afraid to make intelligent examination of top film-makers.

But that’s not why I like her. Lindsay does something the others don’t. She’s had a lot go down in her life and she’s not afraid to open a vein about that. Example?

She had an abortion. And she made a documentary about it.

Of course, that’s not one of her vlogs. It was for her end-of-term project. Most decide to make a movie about zombies or pretentious black-and-white art piece. Lindsay decided to make a film about her experiences, which are powerful. It’s not about religion or politics. It’s not propaganda. It’s an honest look at what she went through. (Note: I haven’t seen it, so I’m just reciting what’s on the website. I’d like to see it though)

Not only that, but at the end of her TLC video she takes off the pigtails and makes some confessions regarding Lisa Lopes, the then-current death of Amy Winehouse, and some of her own struggles with friends and addiction. In a blog post, she writes about the adolescent pandering romanticism of The Band Perry’s “If I Die Young”, comparing it to the reality of dying young based on what she’s experienced in own life.

Like Wil Wheaton, she’s not afraid to speak openly about the hard personal issues. It’s not easy to do that. I still haven’t mentioned that my dad died a month ago. I prefer keeping my dark secrets to myself. The process of releasing them is worse than keeping them inside. But putting it on the Internet, it’s like making a personal sacrifice in order to help other people. It takes great courage to do that, and that’s why Lindsay Ellis is an awesome person.

Things You Should Know About: MarzGurl Picks Apart Twilight

marzgurl anime

MarzGurl is one of the Channel Awesome (A.K.A. Doug Walker’s That Guy With the Glasses) vloggers. She specializes in anime and the works of Don Bluth, which are a lot more comprehensive than I thought.  Plust she looked smoking hot as Princess Mononoke in Suburban Knights.  Channel Awesome’s more known for their videos, but right now MarzGurl is doing something I think is fairly important.

She’s examining Twilight, the book, as she reads it. She was curious what all the fuss was about, as any good geek should do, and is posting a literary analysis as she goes on.

I’m really impressed with the level of detail. She’s looking at exactly what is wrong chapter by chapter, specializing in Stephanie Meyer the writer and Bella the character. And it’s not just good because Twilight deserves to be bashed (and if you don’t believe me, click the link).  It’s good for writers. It shows the level of detail you need to go into when making a novel, unless you want to reveal yourself as an incompetent fraud.

For example, in the first few pages, it’s immediately clear that Meyer has no idea what time her story is taking place. Bella starts in Phoenix, AZ and going to upper Washington state. Even though it’s not relevant to the plot (what plot?), MarzGurl does a great job illustrating that, by the context clues, there’s no way to determine what time of year it is.  The temperatures and precipitation cited are inconsistent with the real world. It’s clear that the author herself doesn’t know, and doesn’t care.  And that’s bad writing.

Not to mention the great descriptions of how apathetic, ungrateful, shallow, whining, and manipulative Bella is. Before we even learn about Edward, she has three other boys pursuing her, and she doesn’t give a rip.  Yet she claims to be unattractive and plain.

Not to mention Meyer’s writing style. I’ve never read her books, but I can see right away, by the passages MarzGurl points out, how inconsistent and nonsensical her prose is. People don’t sound like they’re talking to each other. They don’t sound like real people, let alone teenagers (she did get one part right – that they’re self-centered). Plus her characterization hops from one mood to the other, with no motivations. There’s a lot of “and then” connectors, but “but” and “therefore” like there should be.  She can’t decide if Bella wants to be noticed or unnoticed.  She can’t decide if Edward wants to be around Bella or not.  She can’t even decide what time it is.

So check it out. Twilight fan or not. You’ll be glad you did.

MarzGurl Picks Apart Twilight: The Novel

Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man Will Become Superman (1978)

spider-man tobey maguire hands

Time will not be kind to Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man. I have come to this realization. Its the Marvel equivalent of Christopher Reeve’s Superman. It lit the fuse for superhero movies, but hasn’t nearly the explosive power its successors will (X-Men, Iron Man, etc.). The movies were a well-loved phenomenom now, but the trilogy is finished. And a reboot is months away, only ten years after the first. Why?

I hardly need to say much that hasn’t already been said. Sure, they’re good movies. Sometimes great. Good casting. Well imagined. Fun special effects. And far be it from me to disrespect anything with Bruce Campbell in it. But Sam Raimi is the guy who made The Evil Dead, Darkman, and dozens of cheesy syndicated TV shows like Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. He is not used to big-budget productions.

But everything in it is comical. Sometimes comically good, like the upside-down kiss, to the comically bad, like Green Goblin’s outfit. There are so many moments that are just stupid, awful, or stupidly awful. Characters toss the idiot ball back to each other, doing things no one with a lick of sense would do, for the sake of the plot. That’s plausibility, my friends. That must be there, or everything falls.

I’ve never seen superheroes cry so much until SM3. Yeah, Sam Raimi’s trying to appeal to the humanity of these characters, but the first movie was the time for that. Maybe some of the second. But not the third. The thing that cannot be forgiven is that Raimi stopped being true to the spirit of the material. And the spirit of the material is chop-socky comic book action. It’s not Sandman lamenting over his daughter or Norman Osborn arguing with himself or Mary Jane being a bipolar pill. It should be called “Peter Parker, the Spider-Man”.

You know what people wanted to see through all three movies? Venom! You know what we didn’t see? Venom! I’m all for a writer staying true to his/her vision, but part of a successful work is giving the audience what they want. And the audience wants Venom. So what’d you do? You stuck him on that kid from That 70’s Show for a few bullshit scenes at the end. Fuck you, Raimi, for not delivering.

The Nostalgia Critic’s already cited the Top 11 Dumbest Spider-Man Moments. Here’s the quick rundown: too many American flags, irrelevant characters, hokey extras, bad CG, lack of Venom, terrible romance, bizarre AI on Doc Ock’s arms, the first movie’s comic book dialogue, emo Peter Parker, Willem DaFoe hamming it up, and the dance scene.

To me, it sounds a lot like the 1978 Superman. Good casting, fun special effects (for its time), but comical in all the wrong places. Lex Luthor, with his moll and single bumbling henchman, seemed more like The Three Stooges. Marlon Brando has fifteen minutes of screen time and as many lines, while eating half the budget. The bad romance with Buster Keaton Clark Kent. Plus all the things I find wrong with Superman in the first place.

So that’s why it seems to me that the Spider-Man movies will go down as a first try. A reflection of what it could have been, and what it will be.

Original Movies Are Not Original

channel awesome logo doug walker

I was watching the Doug Walker’s (A.K.A. the Nostalgia Critic, That Guy With the Glasses) Top Ten Movies I Hate But Everyone Else Seems to Like (I meaning he). He had some controversial picks on both sides, but one thing kept coming up that I thought was interesting. There were several movies on the list like Avatar, Cars, Gladiator, With Honors, District 9, and Moulin Rouge.

What he remarked upon was how many people keep saying that these movies are original and innovative, when they’re not. I agree, and I thought, is this really a problem?

Granted, not everyone knows everything, and the kids who saw Avatar, Cars, and District 9 may not be familiar with its predecessors in either literature or film. But are adults are thinking this? They must really be ignorant not to realize that Avatar is a direct lift of Dances with Wolves, The Last Samurai, and Pocahontas. District 9 starts as a documentary (This is Spinal Tap) and moves into Transformers/Independence Day style action. Gladiator = Ben Hur. And Moulin Rouge is every romance movie in the world mashed together (including all the stupid tropes and cliches) and set a breakneck pace to disguise that fact.

But don’t make a mistake — I don’t care that these movies have unoriginal plots, it’s that people think they are original. I think the biggest problem Doug Walker and I have with these movies isn’t that the plots are reused, its that they use cliches. Cliches are elements so overused they’ve become uninteresting and predictable, trite and obvious. You know how Avatar and Gladiator is going to end because you know how their predecessors ended. That’s the problem with using cliches (and why writers say not to do it).

But what these movies offer is innovative styles. Avatar obviously used tremendous CGI (although I agree with Doug Walker that it wasn’t incredibly lifelike, but I find that with any CGI). District 9 used several different styles from shakycam mockumentary to shakycam reality drama to survival/horror to big budget action movie. And Moulin Rouge has Baz Lurhman’s signature medication-induced frenzy. That’s why I like (some of) them, and it’s a valid thing to offer the audience. You can like a poorly written movie if it has something else to offer.

But don’t confuse its goodness/funness with being original and innovative. Avatar‘s story is not original. Moulin Rouge‘s story is not original (didn’t even use original songs). Cars‘s story is not original. Gladiator‘s story is not original.

True, you can’t ever say that any story is truly original. Things are lifted from here and there. We call these tropes. But if you use the same collection of tropes that another story does, you have no business reacting badly if someone calls your work blatantly derivative.