Love: A Very Merry Christmas All Life Long

‘Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.’
-Calvin Coolidge

December 25th. A special day for Christians and traditionalists alike. A special day for many others too. Whether you are the kindest person, a bad-ass biker, the softest soul, a disenfranchised misanthrope, a heavy metal rocker, an angry militant, a drunken sailor, a depressed fledgling, a happy go lucky clown or a combination of all of those….you can allow the Christmas spirit into your heart and have it all your life long. This is where some of you call me a softie or a wimp, but that’s not the case. This is what I’m saying. (Click link and watch)

Christmas is not just a time for Santa Clause and superficial shopping. It is a time for giving. And you can give a present to your loved ones. You can give a hug. You can donate some money to the poor. You can buy a homeless person a sandwich. You can call up an old friend just to say ‘hi’ (and I just received a nice call from a great friend I haven’t heard from in a while). You can give a gift to an old friend or enemy of yours and say, ‘I love you. It’s Christmas’.

Look, we’re all human. We’ve all had hard times. We’ve all had bad experiences. We’ve all burned bridges. We’ve all made mistakes. We’ve all failed. We’re all lovers and haters. We all, at times, feel helpless and powerless. That’s the point of life. To have ups and downs. But once you learn, practice and change your perspective, you can have more ups than downs. And no matter how much of a Mr. Scrooge you are, your heart can be warmed by the Christmas Spirit. What is the Christmas Spirit to you?

‘Let us not be satisfied with just giving money. Money is not enough, money can be got, but they need your hearts to love them. So, spread your love everywhere you go.’
-Mother Teresa

If you’re reading this m.a.v.b.l.o.g. post, I love you. And regardless of what God you believe in (if any), I wish you a Merry Christmas. You don’t actually need to be religious to find the miracle of Christmas. It’s about being good, to yourself and others, it’s about forgiving yourself, forgiving others, making amends, spreading joy however you can, being charitable, realizing that you can do good in this world, however large or small, and transforming your life for the better. I keep this poem by my desk and look at it each day. I think it’s something we all would benefit from reading and applying in our lives.

Think what you will, but to me Christmas is a special time where anything is possible. It is a time when dreams can come true. Miracles can happen. Love can break any walls down. And any man or woman, can tap into the Christmas Spirit and utilize it to help them change their lives for the better. My heart has been warmed and cooled and burned and frozen over the years from experiences in my life…….but each Christmas my heart grows and grows and grows. I wish you the very best on this Christmas and for the rest of your life.

‘I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.’ -Charles Dickens

Movies: Tim Burton through the years

I don’t necessarily want to m.a.v.b.l.o.g. about movie directors all the time. But after the Tarantino post I had a request from a great man named Jim, therefore I am writing this one.

Tim Burton. Awesome guy. He’s made some amazing films. He fell off the wagon a bit over the past decade, and he looks a little haggard these days…but hey. He’s TIM BURTON!! And here we have, my inner monologue about some of his films through the years.

1. Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)…..this is great! Pee-Wee. Large Marge!! Yes!!!

2. Beetlejuice (1988)……Alec Baldwin! Michael Keaton! This is amazing!!! You are an amazing man!!! Beetlejuice?? You have an amazing mind. This movie is the greatest!!!

3. Batman (1989)…….A dark, non-Adam West Batman with Jack Nicholson and Michael Keaton!!! Whaaattt!!??? You are the greatest director in the world!!! You…..are……the best!!!

4. Edward Scissorhands (1990)…….Seriously dude. How are you this original? This movie is amazing. You just keep knocking em out of the park!!! Go Tim Burton Go!!!

5. Batman Returns (1992)……..Ok. Not as good as the first Batman. But still good. Still good! Danny Devito was really creepy when he ate those fish all movie long. Kinda strange. But you’re Tim Burton. I’m still with ya!!

6. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)……..WOW!!!! This is one of the most original, most groundbreaking films ever. You didn’t direct it, only produced it…..but this has got Tim Burton written all over it. Wow. Wow. Wow. Can I kiss you??

7. Ed Wood (1994)………Yes. You made a movie about Ed Wood!!! And Bill Murray is in it!!! And Martin Landau!!!! Tim Burton you are the man.

8. Mars Attacks (1996)…….Good God man! Everything you touch becomes gold. What a cast! And Jim Brown!!?? Damn dude….just awesome. Some mixed reviews, but one of my favorites. Go Tim Burton Go!!! You are an idol.

9. Sleepy Hollow (1999)……..Ok. Ok. Not that good, but it was entertaining. And Christopher Walken is always great. Whatever man. It was decent. I’m still a huge fan.

10. Planet of the Apes (2001)……….Um…Well. Uh, that was…..really bad. Really, really, really, really, really bad. I’m in shock. What happened? Are you ok? Is something wrong? I’m just going to pretend this movie didn’t happen. Ok?

11. Big Fish (2003)……..Ok. Two bad ones in a row. I didn’t realize it was possible to be so emotionless in a film. Great actors. Love the casting. But…..ok. Whatever. Do a better job next time.

12. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)………I just don’t understand. You used to be so original. Why would you even touch this project? Didn’t you see ‘Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory’ (1971) with Gene Wilder? GENE WILDER. I realize this isn’t a direct remake, but why bother to make something similar? I mean…..Mr. Burton….What has happened to you!!!!?????

13. Corpse Bride (2005)………Great! Ok. You’re getting back to your old self again. Maybe this will be a re-birth of the amazing Tim Burton.

14. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)…….Ok. Awesome. Interesting to do a musical…..but ok. Alan Rickman. Johnny Depp. Dark. Spooky. Depressed. Yeah man. Keep up the good work.

15. Alice in Wonderland (2010)………Dude..seriously? What’s the deal? This was horrible. More than horrible. Why are you DOING THIS!!!!???? Johnny Depp doesn’t have to be in all your movies. You just crapped on Alice in Wonderland (1951).

16. Dark Shadows (2012)……..I think you should take a vacation. Just stop it!!! Why are you making bad movies now!!!??? WHYYY!!!!!????

17. Frankenweenie (2012)……..Thank you. Thank you. But this doesn’t erase all the bad ones. Please start being consistent again.

And there you have it. I love Tim Burton’s films. I think he’s an amazing director. I own many of his movies…….he’s awesome. But man oh man has he made some whoppers. It boggles the mind. I hope you enjoyed my silly chronology of Tim Burton’s movies. HAVE AN AWESOME DAY.

Outrageousness: Quentin Tarantino is an untalented hack

There, I said it. I don’t like Tarantino films and I think he is an untalented hack. Now… I’m in the visible minority whilst swimming in a sea of Tarantino fans. This fella here pegs it pretty good in his cool shit in the crosshairs blog post, although there are many spelling and grammatical errors. I know that ENRAGES a lot of readers on the internet, so I’ll try to stay free of errors while I bash Quentin Tarantino and his filmmaking abilities. Just look at him…..is that not the face of an ‘asshole’??

Now, ok. I’m not saying I’m any better than the man. Especially not as a filmmaker in terms of financial success or garnering fans. After all, he’s a mega-director and I’m just some schmo who’s only made a handful of films that about 50 people saw…..and a movie named ‘Kung Fu and Titties’. I’m merely commenting on how bad of a filmmaker Quentin Tarantino is; rather than continuing to keep this information bottled up for fear of being ostracized by 90% of people in this world. Look, there are things I appreciate about the man……I do applaud some of his early writing. ‘True Romance’, which he wrote, is one of my favorite films. But that’s neither here nor there.

So, why do I dislike Quentin Tarantino’s films and why do I think you should reconsider your love for Tarantino?

1. His films are boring and long-winded. Look, it was cool when ‘Pulp Fiction’ came out. The world was ready for something quirky and different. That style exploded and everyone tried to copy it. But go back and watch the film now……it’s boring. It was clearly just a fad. There’s a reason why I only liked ‘Pulp Fiction’ when I was 16 and not when I was 20 or 25 or 28. It’s a cute, funky film once over for an adolescent. After that….it’s drab, repetitive and stale. In my opinion it just doesn’t hold up or stand the test of time. It’s like ‘American Pie’ for grungy, wanna-be violent kids with alot of pent up anger. As are most of his films. The only thing his movies do for me…..is make me want to WATCH A BETTER MOVIE.

2. He’s a thief. This is a huge gripe of mine as a filmgoer, filmmaker and art enthusiast. Quentin Tarantino stole the theme music from ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’ (and a lot of other music). He straight up ripped off the music. Now it’s one thing if Tarantino himself loves ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’ and wants to preserve Ennio Morricone’s compositions. It’s another when you take music, from other classic films, and slap it on your film for use as your own. People are supposed to think to themselves and say, ‘Oh I love that finale song in ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’…..not…..’Oh yeah…..that’s the song from ‘Kill Bill’. It’s awesome’. I’ve done research online (to no avail) and I don’t know the circumstances of this music heist, but regardless of the music being in the public domain or if it was him getting permission to use it……it’s not right! You do not simply take another films theme song, no matter how old the film is. That’d be like a filmmaker saying, ‘Hey the music to ‘Star Wars: A New Hope’ is in the public domain now….I’m too lazy to find a great new composer for my film, so I’m just going to use that music in my film. It’ll be great!!’. It’s theft, plain and simple. A movie has many elements; a script, actors, a director with a vision, producers, a composer etc…….and what do most average movie goers remember besides the story and the actors? The music! Music can make or break a movie. Part of being a filmmaker is realizing that you’re creating something original, not hacking apart other films and pasting them together to make ‘your film’. Tarantino has even said of film composers, ‘I just don’t like the idea of giving that much power to anybody on one of my movies’. See full article here. So Quentin, it’s ok for other filmmakers to collaborate with composers, like normal professionals do, and to trust them and give those composers control over the soundtrack? And when it’s done well, for instance with films Ennio Morricone composed, you can then steal their hard work which was meant for another film……because why……you’re ‘special’??

3. He bastardizes history. ‘Inglorious Basterds’ was and is a complete joke. Ha ha….bastardize, ‘Inglorious Basterds’. Very funny, but no. It is not historical. Even if I was looking at the un-historical, hokey comic book style he went for….it’s still a joke. If I were Jewish, I’d be offended. If I were a Nazi, I’d be offended. If I were Brad Pitt, I’d be offended. This film is a complete waste of time. The only saving grace is that the world was introduced to the wonderful acting of the Austrian genius, Christoph Waltz. And I’m part Austrian…score for us!! Mr. Waltz deservedly won the Oscar for his performance. But do you really think Quentin Tarantino was directing him heavily? Especially when he acted fluently in French and German. An actor that good needs to merely be encouraged, not directed. So, with criticizing Tarantino, I must also thank him for giving Christoph Waltz an opportunity to shine.

4. He’s ANNOYING and BORING. Quentin Tarantino is a nettlesome person who likes to hear himself speak. This is why he writes asinine dialogue that is painful to listen to. Just see if you can get through this 4 1/2 minute long interview where he is wearing a kimono, using a crappy fake Italian accent and talking about zombie movies and music (namely his distaste for composers: see #3). It’s atrocious. It feels like it’s 3 hours long. Rule of thumb…..if someone comes across as pompous, arrogant and obnoxious on video…. How do you think they’ll be in real life? More importantly for a filmmaker, what do you think their films will be like?…..

and lastly….

5. He thinks that he’s an actor (or thought he was). But in reality, HE’S THE WORST ACTOR. He doesn’t speak clearly. He’s too energetic and outrageously distasteful. And to put it nicely…….he’s not easy on the eyes. Just look at this clip from ‘Sleep with Me’ (1994) or this one from ‘Desperado’ (1995). It kinda makes you wanna punch that annoying kid from your high school science class doesn’t it??

Quentin Tarantino is a bad choice. At the end of the day, he’s a super rich, commercially viable, famous movie director who is backed by The Weinstein Brothers. Whether or not he produces flops, he will probably have opportunities to make more films until the day he dies. If you measure that as success over a persons integrity, attitude and talent….well then……I guess your brain is wired to like crap and you will continue to make bad choices. I applaud Mr. Tarantino’s hard work, his writing of ‘True Romance’ and the fact that he’s given myself and others something to complain about (because we all need something to complain about once and a while). But other than that……I say ‘NO THANKS’. I will not watch his latest debacle, ‘Django Unchained’ (2012). Let me spoil it for you. It’s going to be homicidal. People are going to have repetitious, meandering conversations. There will be Ennio Morriconne music (assuredly stolen from other great films). There will probably be some funky music from the 70’s along with a jagged editing style…..And, of course Samuel L. Jackson will be in it. This purportedly violent film opens on Christmas day…..how pretentious can you be? Way to ruin a great family holiday. Go see it if you want…..as for me…..I’ll be outside with a smile on my face as I watch the snow fall.

So please Mr. Tarantino, take your gobs of money (maybe do something good with it, such as a charity), realize that you ‘owned’ the 90’s and had a good run and quietly fade away into the sunset. And maybe he’ll stop now (see this article where Tarantino talks about retirement), but probably not.

If you want to learn more about Quentin Tarantino, google his name. I’ve wasted enough of my precious time on this earth m.a.v.b.l.o.g.’ing about how much his filmmaking pisses me off. But thanks for reading! I know you’ll make the right choice!

Love: Wesley Willis’s Joyrides

For my first post in the ‘Love’ category I will highlight a great man who was a very bright soul in this often-times cruel and dark world…..Wesley Willis. As well as, and more importantly, a great documentary that tells the tale of his life, his artwork and his foray in the music industry; Wesley Willis’s Joyrides.

Some of you may remember Wesley Willis from when he surfaced in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, playing his unique brand of music in small and large clubs across the country. Some of his hilarious and outrageous song titles included, ‘Suck a Caribou’s Ass’, ‘Rock n Roll McDonald’s’, ‘My Mother Smokes Crack Rocks’, ‘Suck a Pitbull’s Dick’ and the ever popular ‘Cut the Mullet’. I was a young teenager when Wesley surfaced and to me he was hysterical. Everytime I heard his songs, I laughed…….and to this day I laugh. But there was a lot more to the man than him saying things like, ‘Suck a wooly mammoths rotten booty hole’.

Wesley was born into poverty in Chicago, IL. At the age of 26 he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. I won’t go into the mans complete biography, you can look that up online. But despite the mans shortcomings, he was a genius artist, a genuine person and a headstrong musician. You can’t help but laugh when you see him talk, sing or interact with people. And it’s not a laughter from cruelty……it’s a laughter from joy, happiness and hilarity.

Unfortunately for myself, I didn’t get to experience his live performances where he would play music, then greet some fans and head-butt you repeatedly if he liked you. But fortunately, I saw a screening of Joyrides at the Florida Film Festival and learned that Wesley Willis was much more than a crazy musician who had a potty mouth. Yes….this is an age of miniscule attention spans and instant gratification…..but please, do yourself a favor. Sit down and watch Joyrides. It will change your life.

I have so much to say about Wesley……though I don’t want to ruin it with a long winded mavblog post. I love the guy…..and I didn’t even know him. Any man who can make you laugh until you’re slapping your knee, make you envious of his unfortunate life circumstances, put you in awe with his artistic abilities….and then go sing songs about termites while head-butting fans…..is ‘ok’ in my book. Here’s to you Wesley Willis…..may your bright soul shine above us and guide us all to be better people.

Wesley Willis (1963-2003)

You can find ‘Wesley Willis’s Joyrides’ online to watch for free or you can purchase the film here, which I highly recommend. I met the filmmakers and they’re really great people. To learn more about Wesley you can check out his website (not sure who maintains it since his passing). And oh yeah, do yourself another favor and listen to his music. Just check out a few songs on youtube. ‘Suck My Dogs Dick’, ‘Cut The Mullet’, ‘Suck A Caribou’s Ass’. If you’re not laughing after listening to those…..there’s either something wrong with you and/or you think you’re way too important or superior and you need to relax.

Video Games: Dragon Age: Origins- Awakening (2010)

Ok. This pc/console game came out two years ago and was an expansion pack, but I feel that it’s a very noteworthy game. Now I’m not an MMORPG player. I like to marathon video games sometimes…but I don’t like to become delusional and obsessed like lots of ‘World of Warcraft’ users. And I say ‘users’ because video games ARE a drug. I have a PS3 console and I dig mostly action games and rpg games. That being said, I’m sure that some things I liked in this game aren’t entirely new because I don’t play every video game, and I’m sure these elements exist in MMORPG’s….but they were new to me in this console game.

Dragon Age: Origins was awesome, so I bought the expansion. Now, what is most impressive about this game is the expanded choices you are given and the opportunity to ‘create’ in a sense, your own castle as lord of your manor. It was just really cool to step in and be greeted by lords and ladies who were vying for your assistance and approval. Do you help the rich by protecting the city first? Do you help the common farmers outside of the city? Or do you spread your guards thin and try to protect them both? Also, the options given on whether to re-inforce the castle walls with just regular stone, or to save up and get the good stuff were cool too. As well as the judicial hearing in the castle where you decide the fate of a nobleman who committed a murder.

All good stuff. Very cool to incorporate that into an action/role-playing game. I only played through twice, so I’m not entirely sure if those choices had any real bearing on the eventual outcome of the game…but nonetheless it was fun. I’m sure the legions of game designers and big game companies have been cooking up new ways to incorporate this style into their upcoming games; more in-depth and with greater options, and that is great.

Bottom line is. Video games have advanced alot since when I was a kid playing nintendo. Game junkies play because they want to have fun. And people who like rpg’s play because they want to ‘control’ their world. Psychologically it’s a human necessity to want to have control, just look at any world leader or dictator to realize that. So, giving a casual gamer an ability to get their action fix, while at the same time letting them build/rule their own castle/manor is a pretty great and effective recipe for success in my opinion. Casual gamers don’t want to invest 2,000 hours into an MMORPG and become a fat, socially inept, dork who has no friends. BUT, a casual gamer still has the same desires and will gladly invest 20,40 or 60 hours into an amazing action/rpg. Just look at the success of games like Oblivion or Mass Effect to see that. Unfortunately really unique, well crafted and fun games are few and far between, which is why I only play 1-3 games a year. But, when it’s done well….it’s priceless. So, console game designers, if you’re reading this…..use this recipe. It works. Action. Good gameplay. Choices. Control. Ability to lead your followers & group. Ability to manage a town/city, whether you build it or not.

M.A.V.B.L.O.G. SCORE- 8 out of 10

Good game. Fun gameplay. A little repetitive. But cool new choices and options make you feel like you’re really making a difference in game and protecting your city. Of course, if you’re gonna play it…be sure to play the original first because you can carry your character into this one.

Click here to learn more about Dragon Age: Origins- Awakening (2010)