Categories
Architecture

Lost to Time: The Muskingum University Quad Parking Lot

Stormont Street prior to Steele Center
What is now the campus’s major parking lot was for nearly a hundred years home to numerous residents, having the convenience of living across from the Quad.

For this feature, we are taking a look at a neighborhood that minus one house is entirely a parking lot now. At the top, we see the houses on Montgomery Blvd. Except for a few, a majority of these were demolished in the 1980s when the Recreation Center (now the Anne C. Steele Center) was about to be constructed.

105 Montgomery Blvd

If the newspaper article above is in the time period I’m thinking of, 105 Montgomery Boulevard was one of those houses to be razed, despite the recent remodeling/repurposing. Someone should put a plaque inside the Steele Center commemorating the efforts of the people who worked on it, only to see it destroyed a few years later. Or at least a Facebook post to tell the remodelers “good job!” From Pat’s Blog Site, thank you for your hard work.

101 Montgomery Blvd being demolished
101 Montgomery Blvd is razed by an excavator to make room for the Recreation Center. Circa 1985/86.

Across from Cambridge Hall is the Lowery House, which I believe was named after a professor (I’ll update this when I read Dr. William Fisk’s College history book again). After Lowery’s passing, the house was used by the university until 2002 when construction began on Caldwell Hall, and along with a few other houses along Stormont and Thompson, was torn down. Lowery House’s location and front is pictured below, with the lower image being used on the old Muskingum College website prior to the house’s demolition.

On Stormont, the ASAs took home to 154 for a short period of time, from the late 90s until 2001. Next to it was 152, which had been gone for a number of years prior to the construction of Caldwell Hall. Pictured below, the featured image is the former ASA House, with the brick house being 150 Stormont Street, then the college Wellness Center and Campus Police building. Also pictured is 148 Stormont, which is now located at 135 Lakeside Drive, and currently home to the Phi Mu Alpha (Sinfonia) fraternity.

Thompson Avenue had a couple of apartment buildings addressed at 104 and 106, both of which came down in 2002. 148 Stormont, along with 104 Montgomery, were the only two houses saved, with the former being moved to the former site of 135 Lakeside Dr. Photos of that event exist, though I have yet to see them uploaded anywhere and hope that changes.

Comin Street Annex, former Church of Christ Building in New Concord, Ohio.
Pictured are 106 Thompson Ave, and the Comin Street Annex
1990s aerial of Muskingum College
The final promotional aerial taken before the construction of Caldwell Hall, which began in 2002 and completed in 2004. The Comin Street Annex can be seen as the small white building at the top right of the image

One building I was unable to locate detailed pictures for, but able to write about its history, is the Comin Street Annex. It was constructed by a church community who would later become known as the Church of Christ. They held services in this building until the construction of a new building on Friendship Drive, closer to John Glenn High School. The church would sell the small building to the college, who in turn used it as an annex until its demolition in 2002 for the Caldwell Hall parking lot. As of this writing, I do not know what use the school made of it.

102 and 104 Montgomery Blvd in the 1970s
102 and 104 Montgomery Boulevard, from left-to-right. 102 was likely demolished before the construction started on the Recreation Center.

While the neighborhood, consisting of a total of 16 buildings, is entirely gone, its history is held up by one single house in its original place. 104 Montgomery, formerly the International House, currently houses Campus Police. The Wellness Center was moved to its own brand new building on the former site of the MACE House, behind the Lakeside Duplexes. Given that 104 Montgomery is nearly a century old, it’s likely that as much as life, it too, someday, shall pass, and its lot will find a new use.

I will be writing more posts on Muskingum College’s campus based on the numerous photos I’ve saved and collected over the past six years, although I do not intend to do it too frequently as I want my site to be diverse on its architectural studies.

Sources:
– Muskingum County Auditor for the addresses
– Google Earth Satellite imagery from April 1994
– Muskingum College Muscoljuan Yearbooks from 1940-1986

Categories
Essays

Sketchy Details: The Rise, Fall, and Re-rise of Animation Domination

Animation. An expressive form of storytelling, bringing illustration to life through frames, turning drawings into a vivid, living piece of work. A medium to give a sense of expression that real life does not always capture. Something once considered goofy and innocent grew up to serve various purposes. From Steamboat Willie to propaganda cartoons starring Daffy Duck, it seemed that the farthest a cartoon would go in terms of suggestive material would go above any kid’s head, and into an adult’s heart. A little over halfway into the century, these cartoons would evolve into what we know today as adult animation. While cartoons were intended to be for a broad audience, a lot of shows took the opportunity to appeal to families. One of the earliest examples to take the opportunity to air at primetime is Hanna-Barbera’s The Flintstones, which premiered in 1960. The sitcom is basically a sitcom set in the Stone Age, featuring enough slapstick and humor to make the cartoon fun for any age to watch. For its time, the Honeymooners-inspired series broke ground for primetime television and animation. While the show is tame compared to what we have today, primetime meant that an animated series could build an audience that did not focus just on kids, and families could watch the show together. Kids would come for the slapstick, adults would come for the situations and subtle dialogue. It was also a hit for advertisers who, back in the time when cigarettes weren’t bad for you, didn’t mind having product placement within the show.

The Simpsons premiered on December 17, 1989 with a Christmas special entitled “Roasting on an Open Fire”

Fast forward to December 17, 1989. The Simpsons premiered on Fox on a Thursday evening just in time for Christmas. Two years after starring on shorts from The Tracey Ullman Show, this turned out to be a groundbreaking success for Fox, and for series creator and Life in Hell comic illustrator Matt Groening. Not long after, other animated series came up on the network frequently to the point where Fox became an early hub for primetime animation. Critical success became a pattern for the network when King of the Hill, Family Guy, and Futurama, topped off the 1990s. Less-remembered animated series, such as The Critic and The PJs, with the former originally airing on ABC, ran short runs in the late 90s on primetime as well. By 2005, Fox had deemed that its cartoons could be enough to sustain a two-hour block on Sunday evenings. Gaining the attention of fans by reviving Family Guy a second time and ordering the first new animated series in years, American Dad!, it’s no wonder they realized how well an animation block would work. Thus, the birth of Animation Domination began on May 1, 2005. Arguably, Fox had a very popular block on their hands for nine years, but it was not without controversy, nor without several bad judgments. The block eventually came to a close 9 years later in 2014, and with its recent revival, it seems there’s still a lot to discuss about how the block will perform in its second incarnation. However, without the success, or failures, of Animation Domination, adult animation would not be where it is today without some of the lessons learned from Fox’s once-seemingly-powerful block.

Chapter One: The Golden Era (2005-2009)

On May 1, 2005, Family Guy made its triumphant return from cancellation, with an unprecedented move from successful DVD sales, which in turn were thanks to high viewership of reruns on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim block. Fox’s animation staple, The Simpsons, as well as newcomer American Dad! and Mike Judge’s King of the Hill, were also on Fox’s animation block for Sunday nights. Notably missing was Futurama which, after having multiple issues in being consistently aired in a profitable timeslot, was unfairly cancelled in 2003. Or rather, Fox simply stopped ordering more episodes.

Besides that, the first few years could be considered a golden era of adult animation for any channel. Whether or not any of the series from that era hold up today, Fox’s success was considered the best spot for any creator’s animated series, at least from the outside. While many unique producers pitched their series to Fox, there were a couple of problems that were consistent in the pitches that were not accepted. We will get to that later though, as the pattern did not become immediately obvious until certain shows were announced. The next four years for Animation Domination were smooth, with attempts to change the lineup nonexistent until 2009 when King of the Hill came to an end. With Fox in good faith that Seth MacFarlane could deliver a third successful show to the network, and wanting to give Mitchell Hurwitz another deal after cancelling the critically-acclaimed, yet ratings-troubled Arrested Development, this could be an indication that Animation Domination faced problems as early as 2009.

As any time before 8:00 is a time that most shows perform poorly in viewership, Fox needed to make a decision on which of the five animated shows would be moved to that block. Seeing that King of the Hill was ending soon, it only made sense to move its regular run to 7:30 and to give Sit Down, Shut Up a chance to shine. This show featured familiar voice talent, with Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, and Henry Winkler reuniting from Arrested Development, and was based on a short-lived Australian sitcom of the same name. With the show being a very fresh face to the Animation Domination lineup, it is no wonder that Fox was excited to promote the series by placing it between The Simpsons and Family Guy at 8:30PM.

Sit Down, Shut Up was cancelled after only 4 episodes airing, with the rest aired sporadically and in syndication.

Unfortunately, Fox’s judgment could not have been more disastrous. Sit Down, Shut Up began its run far too late in the season on April 19, 2009, which is close to the end of a normal broadcast season. After just two episodes, Fox immediately shoved Sit Down, Shut Up in the worst timeslot on the block: 7:00, the very time that killed Futurama six years prior. As a result, the show met a gruesome end after just four episodes, and Hurwitz’s animated series was hardly given a chance to make up for it. The next nine episodes were saved for syndication later that year, and aired at 11:59 PM on Saturday evenings, which seemed like twisting the knife in a mortal wound. While it’s easy to admit that the first few episodes are terrible, the show’s best episodes were not given a fair spotlight to air. Because of that, it is mostly a forgotten show, with the exception of some of the show’s staff. When Arrested Development premiered its fourth season on Netflix in 2013, one of the episodes released gave a fairly decent nod to Sit Down, Shut Up by having it pop up in the background during a scene.

Now, what about The Cleveland Show? Despite the initial odds of survival, the show went on to steal the 8:30 PM slot, and this is when the Animation Domination block became the home to three Seth MacFarlane cartoons, and just one from Matt Groening, with Mike Judge’s King of the Hill ending that year. The diversity by creators had mostly been destroyed, and future attempts for other cartoonists to shine became near-impossible. Remember when I mentioned that other pitches were made to the network? The first problem in these pitches being made appeared to be the premise. If a nuclear family was not the center of the series, Fox seemed quick to pass on it. Sometimes a series could be lucky enough to be produced by Fox however, and air on another network, such as Brickleberry. I’ll go ahead and read a few of these quality pitches they passed on:

  • THE AFTERLIFE: a digitally animated comedy about a family that dies from a freak photography accident and winds up in purgatory, which looks a lot like suburban los angeles
  • GODPARENTS: animated comedy billed as a twisted family show about a couple ill-equipped to raise kids who are forced to take care of their godchildren
  • MASSHOLES: animated comedy a smart nerdy tween trying to survive in a small Massachusetts town full of tough guys and half-wits
  • SWELL: animated comedy about a family from the 1950s that is somehow transported to the modern day
  • SAY UNCLE: animated comedy about a family whose life is disrupted when their uncle moves in with them. Now this is a show I might have found interesting, considering half of the Home Movies production team was in on this.

These all come from the development watch catalog on The Futon Critic. Go there if you want proof I am not making these up, and to see other bizarre pitches. Back to why these shows never got picked up, the second problem seemed to rely in the creator. If Seth MacFarlane had no attachment to the project, the series was doomed. By 2009, Animation Domination became a near-monopoly for Seth MacFarlane, apart from Matt Groening. For the next two years, The Simpsons remained on the block next to Family Guy, American Dad!,and The Cleveland Show, until an unexpected newcomer broke the mold in 2011.

Chapter Two: Diversity Attempts (2011-2012)

In 2011, Fox attempted to break the pattern of MacFarlane’s shows again with the premiere of Bob’s Burgers. Created by Loren Bouchard, whose credits stretch as far back as Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist and Home Movies, his venture into Fox seemed doomed from the start due to initially poor critical reception and a hard time competing with the big shots. The show’s quirky and off-beat humor was something unusual to the form of the other shows on the block. However, a second season was ordered, with the catch that it would be nearly a year until the show could air its next episode due to production times. Oddly enough, scripts were preemptively ordered in October 2010 in the event that a renewal could happen at the end of the season, but whatever the case, the second season was still delayed until March 2012.

In the meantime, a new show had to at least compete with Bob’s Burgers, to fill in the coveted 8:30 PM slot, and because Fox ordered two other animated series that were not MacFarlane-branded. Note here that during this half of the 2010-2011 season, Fox had to decide which of MacFarlane’s shows would be sacrificed to make room for the new show. American Dad! was thrown to the 7:30 PM slot to give advantage to The Cleveland Show, which was still fairly new and needed a chance to grow. Why Family Guy was not shifted around is unknown, but it could have been that Fox did not want to jeopardize an already-successful series for the third time, or catch flak from fans and workers for suffering another cancellation on the same show. Following the change, viewership for American Dad! dropped, with Bob’s Burgers and The Cleveland Show maintaining a steady audience. During the 2011-12 season, a new show was given the 8:30 PM slot, this time being the critically-panned series known as Allen Gregory.

Allen Gregory was critically-panned upon its premiere, cancelled quietly without renewal

Behind Allen Gregory were David A. Goodman and Jonah Hill. Goodman already had experience as a writer and producer on Family Guy and Futurama, which put him in a good relationship with Fox. Wanting to break the mold of the dysfunctional, nuclear family sitcom on Animation Domination, Goodman and Hill created a show starring the latter as the show’s namesake. Instead of a nuclear family, it was setup with two gay dads, an adopted child, and then our titular protagonist, Allen Gregory De Longpre. Besides breaking the nuclear family mold, it also broke the standard look of animation on Fox. Unfortunately, the animation is the only nice thing that can be said about the show. If you are curious on why this show was hated, there are plenty of reviews on the internet that perfectly sum the show up. Shortly after Allen Gregory started, it died. The show’s existence has been forgotten about. Purposefully, the show was removed from digital sources and is no longer legally available to purchase, which is unlike the other unsuccessful Fox series. Allen Gregory was the red-headed stepchild of Animation Domination, and was immediately thrown to the curb. During Allen Gregory’s use of the 8:30 PM slot, The Cleveland Show moved to 7:30 PM, and American Dad! found better success at 9:30 PM.

Napoleon Dynamite had low expectations coming eight years after its basis was released

In January 2012, it was time for Fox to air another new animated series, which was a continuation of cult hit Napoleon Dynamite (2004). On its premiere, its first two episodes received a good amount of viewers, but two weeks later, the message became clear that it would not last when viewership became severely lacking. A week after Dynamite’s last episode aired, Bob’s Burgers returned for its sophomore season and began building an audience again. Not long after, even Kevin Reilly, Fox Entertainment Chairman, had nice things to say about Bob’s Burgers. Bouchard had finally climbed the mountain of Animation Domination, and became the first creator who was not Matt Groening or Seth MacFarlane to have a show last more than one season on the block.

Murder Police remains an unsolved mystery in Fox’s archives, with not a single episode airing to date

Chapter Three: The Unraveling (2012-2013)

With both Allen Gregory and Napoleon Dynamite failing, but with Bob’s Burgers succeeding, it was clear that the block was no longer a MacFarlane monopoly. Eventually, David Goodman crawled from Allen Gregory’s grave and offered a new animated show that would go back to conventional animation routes, while still bringing a new perspective to Animation Domination. Around the same time this announcement was made, a MacFarlane show was shelved. His Flinstones revival failed to gain traction with Fox President Kevin Reilly, and this began shaking the core of Animation Domination’s block. In 2013, The Cleveland Show aired its final episode, and this became the first of MacFarlane’s animated series to be axed by Fox in recent years. Family Guy had initially been cancelled, but revived several years prior, and is currently the only MacFarlane show still running on Sunday nights. The 2013-14 season became the last for American Dad!, which was shipped off to TBS so they could have the liberty of expressing more vulgarity than creativity in its dying days. With that fatal blow, Fox only had three regular animated series running, leaving The Simpsons, Bob’s Burgers, and Family Guy, to hold the walls of Animation Domination up. In reflection, it seems that the pioneering block was unstoppable until this point. Looking back, there seems to be another reason for the untimely death. As it turns out, there was one more show that may have hit the nail in the coffin, before it had a chance to reach critics or even an audience. This would have filled in as the fourth show in the two-hour block, and had a chance to keep it alive for at least another season.

This new show heralded by Goodman and Jason Ruiz would be Murder Police, with an interesting array of cast members starring as members of a precinct in a crime-ridden city. Ordered for a season of 13 episodes and slated to air during the 2013-14 season, Fox promoted the show by taking the cast and crew to the 2013 San Diego Comic Con, where promo images were revealed and posters were distributed. A panel was held, giving the show creators a chance to talk with attendees who were interested in the show. Supposedly footage was shown, however I do not have a reliable source to back this up, nor any clips of the panel to support this claim.

By the time the new broadcast season began on Fox, nothing was said about Murder Police, which by this point was assumed to be delayed until spring. Shockingly, on October 8, 2013, Fox announced that they had cancelled yet another failed animated series, before it had even aired a single episode. Fox began taking down information about the show from its press site Fox Flash, and everything about the show seemed to be dead in its tracks. Presumably, you would think that the show was probably in an early production stage and taking too long to finish work, right?

Apparently, this was not the reason. Murder Police made it far enough in production that all scripts were completed by the time of its cancellation. According to the Copyright Catalog, the final episode script was copyrighted on August 7, 2013, three months before the fateful announcement, and almost four months after the copyrighting of the first episode’s script. With that amount of time, the show was so far in its production that it was likely that episodes had been fully storyboarded, or possibly even completed. No reason had been given for the abrupt cancellation, and no one has spoken on the show’s fate since that announcement.

Rather than stop everything, production apparently continued. It is evident as the Copyright Catalog indicates that all thirteen episodes exist on Betacam SP master tapes. On March 10, 2014, the first episode’s tape was copyrighted, and the final episode was copyrighted 9 days later on March 19. As of the date of this video’s release, no progress on the show’s existence has been reported to the public, and no network has picked it up. Goodman has since moved on, and whether or not the show would have been another Allen Gregory, it is likely hard on people to work on something for so long, only for it to never see the light of day.

Strangely enough though, interest in Murder Police came into light two times after its cancellation. On January 7, 2015, another show animated at Bento Box Animation that was produced by Fox met cancellation, which was Brickleberry on Comedy Central. When burning off its last three episodes for season 3, “Cops and Bottoms” premiered on March 31, 2015, and ended up using the heads of Murder Police’s main characters in a brief cameo. This is the only time images from Murder Police made it to television, even if there are slight differences in the character designs.

The protagonists of Murder Police made a cameo during Brickleberry‘s final season

On July 27, 2015, the only footage known to exist was released on YouTube. User fluffybroadcast321 leaked the opening credits sequence to Murder Police, which runs for thirty seconds. While people commented on wondering how the user gained access to upload the footage, the uploader never responded and the mystery surrounding this bizarre release is still unsolved. Even more bizarre, the video has survived this long. Nobody from Fox’s offices either seemed to notice, or care that it leaked. The show may not have been cut out for Fox’s animation block, but that is not necessarily the end of the story. With the age of Netflix, the executives apparently liked Waco O’Guin and Roger Black enough to order a new series from them. What happens if you mix the art style of Brickleberry with the concept of Murder Police? You get Paradise P.D., which premiered early into 2019. Despite being a critical failure and a ripoff of its predecessor, it has gained enough of an audience for a second season.

Chapter Four: Animation Dominated?

With no new ventures to try out, Fox killed their Sunday night staple, Animation Domination, after nine years. While the block was dead, a new one was created, now titled Sunday Funday, beginning with the 2014-15 season. This was likely due to Fox’s slow shift away from animation, and for trying out new shows from Phil Lord and Chris Miller, such as Son of Zorn, a semi-animated sitcom that didn’t live long. During the 2015-16 season, Fox aired Bordertown, yet another Seth MacFarlane show that was doomed from the start. Its first season would be its last, and was the last fully-animated show Fox aired after the death of Animation Domination. Another animated series, Golan the Insatiable, was given a second chance with the collapse of another Fox block, Animation Domination High-Def, or ADHD for short. Golan only premiered during the summer, and was cancelled before Bordertown’s premiere. The history of ADHD is a bizarre story itself, but best saved for the next episode.

As of this writing, Bordertown is the last new animated show associated with Seth MacFarlane that has aired on Fox

The following broadcast season, the lineup had changed yet again. Bob’s Burgers is the only show that has consistently been renewed despite the odds of airing in the death slot for the last few seasons, and is anticipating a feature film in 2021. The Simpsons and Family Guy remain in their positions at 8 and 9 PM respectively, while the other two slots have seen various uses. Will Forte’s live action series The Last Man on Earth used the 9:30 PM slot and had meager success. Despite this, the show’s ratings were not sustainable and it met cancellation after its fourth season in May 2018. As for every other show that have taken the :30 PM slots, none have been as lucky. Brooklyn Nine-Nine was initially taken off of its Tuesday block for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons, then given its spot back after its last episode on the Sunday Funday block aired on December 13th, 2015. Every other show has been cancelled after only one season.

Even with the death of Animation Domination to bring better life for Fox’s shows on Sunday Funday, success has been considerably worse for their network. As for the fate of Murder Police, who’s to say what will happen with the era of Netflix and other networks? While its death may have been intended to save the Animation Domination block, it also poses the question of whether or not the show may have been the block’s last chance at survival. Since the agonizing death of many series on Fox, successful creators appear to be moving to the streaming platform. Matt Groening’s Disenchantment premiered on Netflix in August 2018, as well as receive a generous renewal from the streaming giant. Loren Bouchard has two shows coming up, with The Great North to air on Fox, and Central Park on Apple TV Plus, handing the reins of Bob’s Burgers over to Nora Smith. However, as much as streaming seems to be the new road for creators such as Raphael Bob-Waksberg, best known for Netflix’s BoJack Horseman, producing Lisa Hanawalt’s Tuca & Bertie and co-producing Amazon’s Undone with Kate Purdy, there’s been a recent struggle with the unionization of animators at Shadow Box. Tuca & Bertie became the first Netflix original animated series to be cancelled, with BoJack Horseman following suit just a few months later, and the fate of Undone remains unknown despite being renewed for a second season. It’s possible that animation will do better on one platform than the other, but the lesson here is that ideas and demands change frequently. Disney opened its streaming platform Disney+ in November of 2019, and with its ownership in Fox, they are able to stream The Simpsons on there.

Bless the Harts broke the Animation Domination curse with its second-season renewal in 2019

In an unusual twist, Fox announced after its collapse in 2014 five years later, the revival of Animation Domination, which has newcomers Bless the Harts and Duncanville. As for Seth MacFarlane, no new animated projects have been announced as of this writing. Family Guy still airs at 9:00PM on Sundays, and American Dad! has continued modest success on TBS.

While this analysis of Animation Domination does not equally cover some of the prehistory and other odd pieces of history involved with its death, there is still another large chunk to discuss as there were an entire block of other shows that had a minor connection in the death of Animation Domination.

Categories
Reviews

Train to Busan

(Distributed by Next Entertainment World; Image Downloaded from NME April 20, 2020)
(Originally posted on PatPostsAboutFilm.tumblr.com on April 20, 2020)

Release Date: July 20, 2016
Runtime: 1hr 58m
Director: Yeon Sang-ho

The genre of zombie movies rarely appeals to me, however like many in cinema, I can make exception to quite a few, including Shawn of the Dead (which its writer Edgar Wright praised Train to Busan as being the best zombie movie he had seen in years) and Zombieland. The common element those two films share is comedy, which does not influence my love for Busan as it relies more on pathos, relatable characters, and never-ending action from the first few minutes to the end. 

Our main protagonist is a father (Gong Yoo) who is a fund manager, busy enough that he rarely spends it with his daughter (Kim Su-an) and has been accused of being selfish. In a time no better to prove people wrong, he finds himself frequently at the center of needing to help people when most begin setting aside their differences of class, working status, and self-importance. On trek to Busan to drop Su-an off at her mother’s home, Seok Woo realizes that Busan is the only city en-route considered safe, as the apocalypse has already taken over many cities on the way there.

Most movies take time for an infection to spread through bites, although this one takes the route of making infection nearly instantaneous depending on location of the wounds. This results in a fast-paced adventure, as zombies can easily move through the train cars, on land, and anywhere they can see human. Their only weakness is sight, which when they can’t physically see a human, their only reliance is on sound. Not necessarily a clever kryptonite, but it suffices.

Numerous characters, especially the most-likable ones, begin going out one-by-one, with one particular villain who sees his wealth as a reason he needs to survive, and pushes any human out of his way into disaster to spare his life. Trust becomes the ultimate weapon against the horde of fast-moving monsters, even as it becomes unclear by the end which ones will see Busan, just to find out if it really is safe.

The jinx are set fairly high in Train to Busan, and it might be the only zombie literature where I feel a connection to its main cast. The Walking Dead couldn’t even do that for me, and it’s been on for way longer than anyone has time for. Train to Busan in its nearly two-hour runtime is a non-stop adventure where time is of the essence, and it relies well on its characters, no matter their time on screen.

Categories
Reviews

Lucky

(Distributed by Magnolia Pictures; Image Downloaded from BFI April 16, 2020)
(Originally posted on PatPostsAboutFilm.tumblr.com on April 16, 2020)

Release Date: March 11, 2017
Runtime: 1hr 28m
Director: John Carroll Lynch

In a slight opposite of the previous review (Big Time Adolescence), this is now a look at an ending-of-life dramedy. The final role of character actor Harry Dean Stanton (The Green Mile), he stars as Lucky, a 90-year-old existentialist living a routine life of doing yoga, watering his plants, going to the local diner, and ending his evenings at Elaine’s Bar. Day in, and day out. There’s nothing necessarily exciting about its plot, and that’s somewhat the point.

Lucky is unusually healthy for his age, continuing to smoke a pack of American Spirits against his doctor’s wishes (although the doctor admits in his luck, taking them away may do more harm than good) and keeping a fairly sharp mind by doing crossword puzzles. In a moment that shouldn’t come up as out of the ordinary to the audience is his pondering over the seven-letter word, realism. “Realism is a thing now,” he states as he looks its definition up in the dictionary.

Realism becomes part of the film’s existential theme, with Lucky perceiving it, along with the truth, as being perceived only through the eyes of one person in how they see reality. At the end of it all, his thoughts on death are like everyone else’s at any age, young or old, as he mentions that he’s scared of “nothing.” The movie spends time focusing on the thoughts of the old man, knowing he could go at any time, and going through the process of a seemingly empty passing.

In a poignant scene that I won’t spoil, Lucky begins looking at the meaningless definition of death, and ultimately the universe a place where no one is in charge, and everyone dies. His solution? Smile. A minor B-plot that at first seems to have nothing to do with the main story, later gives the audience more of a chance to reflect on what their thoughts of the afterlife is. A tortoise named President Roosevelt has gone missing, with another old man at Elaine’s sorry he cannot find it, even discussing with a lawyer (Ron Livingston) that he would like to will his wealth to the missing tortoise. 

The tortoise symbolizes a sense of growing old, and how it may have a mind of its own, in escaping from its owner, and the fact it will likely outlive the residents of the small Colorado town for another century. It will grow old too, eventually go to the same place as those people. In Lucky, everyone in their own way is afraid of going into eternal oblivion, as is nature’s way of biological beings unable to comprehend what could be going back to nothing. The messages are many, not a single one can be picked out of the pile to say “this is what Lucky is about,” and instead, it gives us a chance to reflect on our own lives, and how we may live the next few minutes, or the next several decades.

5/5

Categories
Reviews

Big Time Adolescence

(Distributed by Hulu; Image Downloaded from Decider April 3, 2020)
(Originally posted on PatPostsAboutFilm.tumblr.com on April 3, 2020)

Release Date: March 13, 2020
Runtime: 1hr 30m
Director: Jason Orley

Coming-of-age dramedies were probably in their heyday in the 1970s and 80s, with the best remembered ones such as The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles, while less-remembered but still prevalent at one point movies like Breaking Away all carried similar tropes. Youth is a particularly interesting focus in movies as there is a diverse amount that can be explored when humans are in a rapidly-developing phase of life. Some films become highly endearing such as the ones mentioned above, or they become a weird mix of messages such as All the Bright Places, another direct-to-streaming movie that recently released that I do not plan on reviewing as I would be required to watch more than what I could stomach.

Big Time Adolescence is a unique look at its subject, focusing on protagonists Mo (Griffin Gluck) and Zeke (Pete Davidson) as a pair of opposites. Mo is the younger brother of Zeke’s ex-girlfriend Kate (Emily Arlook), who for nearly seven years past their breakup and despite the large age difference has continued looking up to Zeke as his best friend, and importantly, his only true friend. Zeke has not grown up much since the breakup, and in turn, it seems his immaturity could stunt the development of Mo’s. 

In numerous situations, Mo begins to emulate many of Zeke’s attitudes when it seems like good advice, rather than pick up on anything his fellow classmates do given that he feels out-of-touch with his age group. This sends him down a predictable, downward spiral, although this film takes a chance to look at the situation differently than most of its genre, and moves the story along with consequences.

Unlike the films I’ve listed above, Big Time Adolescence is not a “kid gets down on his luck, but wins the girl and saves the day at the end” kind of movie. It instead takes the opposite route, but not far enough that it takes away from the realistic outlook of Mo’s future. His experiences with drugs becomes immediately apparent to his parents, with his father (Jon Cryer taking a realistic approach to the wary father role) attempting to bar Mo’s Eddie Haskell from continuing to steer him the wrong direction without being overbearing. This fails, although Mo loses nearly everything with meaning in high school, including school itself for a period of time, the film doesn’t end with him just accepting it’s over.

I won’t give away how it ends, but it ends on a note that is neither bleak, nor happy. It is not the ending that immediately gives us what happens to either protagonist after the story we have watched is over. Instead, it allows the audience to ponder where they see those characters and how much they relate to them, then how their own life story has gone. There’s enough of Mo that I can find similarities with in personality that doesn’t feel like typical, and many characters in the story are thankfully written with more than two dimensions so the story has enough sides to last several rewatches. 

The biggest thing I take away from this movie is that the coming-of-age genre isn’t necessarily dead, but it’s somewhat of a lost art in cinema. You don’t have to necessarily be in the age group to enjoy it, as for many adults it gives them a chance to see what the writer and director sees. They were kids once too, and sometimes that never leaves. The kids just get taller as they get older. 

5/5

Special thanks to my childhood best friend, Sam Hyde, for recommending this to me. This review marks a change on my site, in which I will be reserving reviews for more obscure movies, and for discussing various topics relating to cinema that can involve both blockbusters and small movies that make it to YouTube.

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Downsizing

(Paramount Pictures; Linked from Entertainment Weekly 11 Aug, 2017)
(Originally posted on PatPostsAboutFilm.tumblr.com 20 Dec, 2017)

Release Date: December 22nd, 2017
Runtime: 2hr 15m
Director: Alexander Payne

Due to the plot of the film, any puns that may seem overused or intended are not. They are simply how I will describe this film.

When scientists discover a way to potentially save the planet and save resources, they literally downsize the overpopulated human race and create a self-sustaining ecosystem that will help the planet for generations. Paul Safranek (Matt Damon) is the film’s attractive average Joe who runs into constant frustration into trying to keep his marriage to Audrey (Kristen Wiig) a happy one, and ends up losing her in the process of what they think will make her happy.

Selfishly, Audrey backs out of the downsizing project (which would aid in their housing and wealth status when transformed) and rejects Paul, admitting that she feels that she needs to think about herself. “How do you think I feel? I’m five fucking inches tall!” exclaims Paul, in the only scene where Damon seems to strike a chord with the frustrating protagonist in the film.

While the films starts off appearing that it will follow Damon’s character in this new utopia, a subtle 180 takes place and the plot becomes unclear. Paul eventually downgrades from his riches during the divorce, and gains new riches in his neighbor and eventual girlfriend. Even then, the film begins taking the story outside of that utopia and back to the original colony in Norway where this project began.

Turns out this race of tiny people isn’t working out after all and must go underground to keep their lives running or they will go extinct. I’m usually good at paying attention to a movie, but about 2 hours in, I was still focused on what could be happening in that utopia we left halfway through the movie. This point, however, I lost my attention. The humor ran out, but made a decent comeback before wrapping up the story.

Since seeing this at SCAD Savannah Film Festival 2017, I had the opportunity to stick around for the Q&A session with writer Jim Taylor. I tried to think of a few questions, but each question I had come up with, I also had a reasonable answer for. The one question I would have for Mr. Taylor that I couldn’t answer on my own was how could such a 180 happen to the plot?

3.5/5

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Get Out

(Universe Pictures; Linked from Genre November 27, 2017)
(Originally posted on PatPostsAboutFilm.tumblr.com March 7, 2018)

Release Date: February 24, 2017
Runtime: 1hr 44m
Director: Jordan Peele

It took over a year until I finally watched this film. Unlike most hype built around theatrical releases, this was a film I truly wanted to watch in a theater. No open-minded soul would go to the theater with me, so at home I sat broken-hearted.

A year later, I began watching several horror movies to aid me in a writing project, and here I am after just watching Get Out. If you want to watch a movie where you root for a strong protagonist, watch this movie. If you want cheap jump scares, one-dimensional characters, and unsatisfying plot points, please watch Mama or The Conjuring. Good news, I hear The Nun is coming out soon!

Unlike most modern horror films, the layers of genre in this film are apparent. Comedy comes about through dialogue, situation, and almost simply, the plot itself. However, the thriller aspect dominates the audience’s perception of the film to the point that you really hope something good happens at the end. 

The film is also provocative in relaying stereotypes and placing people of color in an institutionally racist setting. In Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, he establishes a satirical horror film that ends up being both a political statement and an easily enjoyable film for everyone. Then there’s protagonist Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya), the only protagonist in any horror film or setting that I rooted for from beginning to end. 

Without giving too much away, this film is a modern breath of fresh air from typical horror conventions. We don’t have boogeymen, or people wearing masks. Instead, the darkest characters are everyday unassuming people, almost a Scooby-Doo-esque message. If you are uncomfortable watching the film, give it a chance, and don’t get out.

5/5

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Lights Out

(Warner Bros. Pictures; Downloaded from Art with Impact  July 7, 2018)
(Originally posted on PatPostsAboutFilm.tumblr.com on July 7, 2018)

Release Date: July 22, 2016
Runtime: 1hr 21m
Director: David F. Sandberg

During the 2010s, and up until thought provoking films such as Get Out and Hereditary were released, Hollywood went through a phase of releasing many horror films with good potentials for stories, but poor execution. It does not help that Hollywood frequently slaps a James Wan label on films that he either produced or consulted. This is one of those films.

I tend to agree with critical consensus on a lot of films, but this is not one of them. Lights Out was a box office success, and received positive reviews. So when I watched the film, I was intrigued by the concept in the film. It’s simple. A ghost follows you when the lights are out. So, similar to It Follows, with an added exception of light distribution, right? Not exactly.

Instead, this is the kind of horror film where all the tropes are obvious.There’s a cheesy backstory on how the evil entity formed, and why it ruins lives. Okay, great. Some horror films need this. If you are going to setup an ongoing problem, this opens up the possibilities for many solutions. Picking “suicide is the clear option” choice is what the film grabs from the hat, and like I would expect, it is poorly executed.

Suicide should never be an answer to a problem, whether in the real world, or the horror world within any story. It’s cheap, causes more pain that it intends, and only encourages an ongoing problem to continue, rather than look for actual solutions.

Unlike many horror films though, this one provides a great solution, and that is within the film’s title. Lights Out, isn’t just an easy phrase turned into a sinister name for a horror film, it is a word of caution. Advice. In America, many citizens use up energy for several every day tasks. This film advises viewers not to spend 81 minutes of the grid’s energy to turn the lights out for this miserable experience.

2/5