Wednesday, October 31, 2007


News broke yesterday from Bloody-Disguisting that Warner Brothers is looking to fast track a live-action version of Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira. The rumored director is Ruairi Robinson, whose best known credit is this short (via Warren Ellis), The Silent City:

I hastily threw the rumor on FW earlier today, along with John Brownlee's own drunken anecdote:

I did have an interesting (and completely abstract) conversation with [Robinson] the night before I moved from Dublin to Berlin about whether a live-action remake of a story as sprawling, surreal and decidedly Japanese as Akira could work as a live-action remake.

His feeling, as I recall, was that the setting could still work, but there'd be a necessity to move it to America to please studios. His idea was that a Neo-New York that had been culturally swamped by Japanese immigrants in a post-globalized future could take the place of Neo-Tokyo. In short, something like Blade Runner's futuristic vision of Los Angeles.

The other thing that he said that was interesting was that he didn't think Akira could be filmed as a single two-hour movie: the anime had tried that and failed to really convey an understandable plot. An Akira movie would need to be a Kill Bill style two-parter.

So who knows? Take our drunken ramblings with a grain of salt, since we used to talk about stuff like this all the time. Maybe the rumors are true and he has been picked up as the director of Akira.

I guess the sole thought going over and over in my head today was how can you change a line like Kaneda screaming "TETSUOOOOOOO" into the sky. Effects-wise, you'd need WETA-level production once the body-morphing begins. It would be impressive to see Akira in person, but keep thinking about it. Once you change Tetsuo's name, you'd change Kaneda. Then you'd change Akira and now the American version will be Steve.

Who the fuck will be afraid of STEVE in block letters on a masthead while a kid in a red leather jacket with a pill on the back stands in front of a city. No one.

This is fascinating to me, though, since WB is also responsible--or will be--for co-producing a live-action Robotech with Tobey Maguire last month.

I'm a massive anime fan and a bit of a nerd when it comes to the critical essays on culture, the state of apocalypse and how The Guyver is all one big allegory to teenage hormones. But would an American audience sit down for this? Will they for Dragon Ball Z or whatever it is Fox seems to be casting?

Visually and culturally, I don't think you can Americanize any of the films. It sounds lame, but segments of Otomo's manga are inherently Japanese and were removed, shortened or abandoned for the feature release. And it worked. Of course, it wasn't the full story, but what about Vampire Hunter D? The anime is the second or third story in a franchise. The Akira anime produced a streamlined and superior version to the manga, especially for an unfamiliar audience. If you can honestly say that you were--in 1988--well versed and had read all six tankobon prior to the film, you can go fuck yourself.

The visuals for all the films are another big reason. Especially in the case of Robotech, which would be laughed at the second a fighter jet turns into a bi-pedal thing with arms, carrying a missile-shaped gun. And it battles pods. My god, it was great as a child, but you seriously think this will work on film? Nah.

And goddamn it, I'm a huge fan of any series with a power level OVER 9000, but even I can recognize how awful DBZ is. Not "translated" or "adapted" or "turned into a multi-generational story that is in fact a reference to Journey into the West."

No, it's awful. It is the stereotypical "shounen" story. But it's so addictive.

Definitely unlike seeing Tobey Maguire as Rick Hunter or even Robinson, whose own Silent City evokes Maroru Oshii, Kereberos/The Red Spectacles/Jin-Roh and the best use of Cillian Murphy since he was dragged off horseback in Batman Begins.

I'm kidding. The best use of Murphy remains Disco Pigs.

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Hardball & I

This is a continuation of The Reeler's Totally Unrelated Blog-A-Thon. The rules remain:

1) Authors should either be publishers of or contributors to a regularly updated film blog (In other words: You should have something to want a break from);

2) Entries must not address subjects related to filmgoing, filmmaking, film criticism, film news or anything else film-related (television is OK);

3) Everything else is fair game.

Therefore, I'm going to address a "dark" point in my life. Not to mention my #1 Google hit.

The common rule I always found when it comes to my second hometown of Hot Chocolate City is:

"You're either punk rock or into politics."

The basis being you either learn three shitty chords and scream, or you bite the bullet and take the Red Line to Union Square Station and work at the Hart/Dirksen/or Russell buildings for whoever happens to be in power at that point. I know there's the idea that if you're punk, you're already political, but I knew way too many kids who were more interested in getting wasted on glue than who the mayor was.

Then again, you try growing up in a city where there is no real representation. I got in during the good time without the race riots or extreme bigotry. I was lucky, but D.C. has a funny way of sucking out that activism and replacing it with a bottle or a bong.

If you missed it by now, I couldn't play three chords at all. I sold the guitar my parents bought me for a copy of the Matthew Good Band's Underdogs.

Anyway, I'm digressing. During the summer of 2004 I was in Spain--at summer school, natch--when I got an e-mail informing me that I had been accepted to work as a Runner for MSNBC at the Republican and Democratic National Conventions.

A Runner is fairly interesting. The job description is loose, but can be considered like this: I ran. I ran so far buy shirts at the GAP for producers, to get lunch orders, to bring new scripts within the trailers, to escort guests, to hold Rob Reiner's hand, to get back to the hotel room at 3am, sleep, wake up at 10:30 am and then walk back to Fanueil Square Faneuil Hall ready to do it all again.

Now, it's important to note that I worked for Hardball with Chris Matthews, a show made forever famous by Matthews' ability to conduct Q&As solely by raising the tempo timbre of his voice. Personally, I think it's impressive. I would love to have that power.

Me: So, how'd you get interested in this?
Subject: Ah, I dunno. I mean--
Subject: [Breaks down crying, nodding. We hug. It is a powerful moment in Journalism.]

I never met Matthews while I was in Boston. I was partnered with a guy named Malcolm and we routinely had to run through the Fleet Center doing all sorts of odd things. Get signs, get scripts and be able to run constantly. During the day I'd live in Satelite Truck City with the NBC interns and even run into Paul Wright--better known as The Big Show.

The producers of the show heard I could write and were looking to have someone blog for the then-new Hardblogger about the conventions. When considering names, someone christened me The Hardblogger Jogger.

And I took this picture two minutes after finding out I'd be an "official" MSNBC Blogger for a few days:

It also didn't hurt that I was going to be in New York (thanks NYU!) for the second convention. Which was marked only by getting to see the D.C. Statehood Dragon be paraded up 7th Avenue, then lit on fire and burn to the ground during some Beastie Boys tune.

Ah, Hot Chocolate City.

But back to work in NYC, or rather a week prior. Since I lived in D.C. I asked if I could come work in the Hardball office for a week until going back to New York. After all, I wanted to see how the show functioned during regular office hours. This led to two odd moments:

1) One day, as production on the show ran late and they still did a live 5 and 7 pm broadcast, I took dinner orders and ran out for the meal around 5:30. The Dubliner is a few blocks from the (old) studio and serves a hamburger with two potato pancakes as buns. It is worth murder. I came back, distributed orders and people all commented that the burger is good, but the potato pancakes make it great. And I agreed. I sat down at the spare cubicle I was given for the week, turned the TV at my desk to FX and started watching Predator instead of the live, in-house feed.

I catch movement from the corner of my eye and turn around. First, to my meal: the fries are nearly gone. I just opened the take-out box and had a full batch. I looked up and there was Hardball host Chris Matthews sitting at his desk, eating fries and looking me dead in the eyes. This would be my first experience with Chris and food.

2) The week I was there, the whole John Kerry Swift Boat fiasco was going on. Michelle Malkin, by pure happenstance, was scheduled to pimp her then-latest book, In Defense of Internment: The World War II Round-Up and What It Means For America's War on Terror. Now, a lot can be said about her. If I learned anything from my brief time in Network TV, it's that a majority of these writers and on-air talent become obsessed with furthering their "public image" at the sake of being seen as a blow-hard, a liberal, a conservative, a wind-bag, whatever.
Most of these people are generally decent--except for politics, that's where they turn bat-shit crazy.

Anyway, I was buzzed while Malkin's interview was being wrapped and asked to deliver a book on Matthews' desk to the studio. It would be on a chair. The book I grabbed was Malkin's own copy of her book--with notes, stickies and page markers for some reason--which was left on a chair. I brought this into Matthews and he looked relatively confused at why I gave him the book. See, I assumed I was supposed to give the book to the host. Instead, Malkin fumed at the door while Matthews gave me the book back and said, "Why do I need this? Put it in my office."

Malkin stopped me at the door, told me it was her book and I handed it over. I felt bad about the mix-up, but oh well.

The next day, this popped up on her blog:
As the show broke for commercials, Matthews scrambled for his producers to see if what he said was true. And I’m irresponsible? One staffer ran to the office where I had left my copy of the book, and handed it to Matthews, who–for the first time, apparently–started flipping through it. I asked for my book back and politely said thank you. After I left, he trashed me again on the air and his scurrilous charges were repeated by his MSNBC colleague Keith Olbermann, who called me an “idiot.”

On the bright side, I got a promotion! On the other, Malkin published the "main" number, or number that rang for all producers, staff and myself. Thanks Michelle!

And now, back to New York. The convention wasn't anything special. I started blogging about it and Bo Derek--aka THE Bo Derek.

I also met Joe Trippi.

In fact, after my first blog ran, I happened upon Trippi coming out of the production trailer at Herald Square one day. I walked up to the man responsible for publicizing the net with politics during the Howard Dean campaign and said, "Uh, hi, Mr. Trippi. I'm a runner here, and I just started blogging--"

"Yeah, yeah," he said. "You're the Hardblogger guy."

"Yes! I mean, I'm new to it."

"Great, can you go get me a diet coke from the food trailer? Thanks."

That was how I met Joe Trippi. YEAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!

Aside from Trippi using me to constantly get him Diet Cokes, even so far as spending $2.50 at 3:30 am on the last night of the convention to get one for him. Seriously, it is 2007 and Joe Trippi still owes me $2.50.

Then again, he owes 90 percent of the Dean staff money too. So...guess I shouldn't complain too much.

...basically, it boils down to this. Even now, when I apply for work, people always ask me about working at Hardball and Chris Matthews. Even a freelance gig I applied to with the anime-centric Protoculture Addicts, Managing Editor Zac Bertschy asked me about Matthews as a boss, then never returned an email or call. So, for the sake of future editorial inquires, I will now relate the rest of my personal thoughts on working for Chris Matthews.



He was a good boss. I worked more with the actual producers. They were great.
I also baked him a cake once. Seriously, it was delicious and the office loved it.
He can be loud, he's roughly 6'3", if not a bit taller. And no, he doesn't remember me. There is the slight chance he remembers the cake I made for him after being shouted at since I didn't bring him another cake. Hm. Wait.

4) The Chris Matthews Cake Bake Story

Apparently, this is legend around the Hardball office. And I will address it here.

Yes, I once made Chris Matthews a delicious, chocolate cake with vanilla icing.

It was the summer of 2005 and I came back to Hardball as an intern after working the conventions. On a rather off Thursday, there a was a lull in the news cycle. It was going to be an easy day, Matthews wasn't coming in until the early afternoon and the rest of us interns were just kicking around. When he did come in, the word came out that everyone was ordering coffee from Starbucks and we'd get a chocolate cake. There were hearty laughs had by all. And Starbucks orders were taken.

Then, he came out, walked up to me and said,

"Where's our cake?"

"What cake," I asked.

"...the chocolate cake I asked for."

"Oh. Oh, you were serious?"

Yes, Chris Matthews was serious. For chocolate cake. And so, at 3:45 on a Thursday afternoon, I had to find a chocolate cake. Now, I was moderately lucky that a deli nearby sold cake. Of course, they only took cash and that meant me paying $40 from my own pocket for cake. But I came back to the office, cutting him a slice only to hear:

"This tastes like raspberries."

I assured him it didn't. Matthews was adamant that, in fact, I brought him chocolate-raspberry cake. He called in his assistant to confirm this. And then no one ate any of the $40 cake. Mind you, the $40 cake I had to hustle to find on a Thursday afternoon before the 5 pm show. My only bright point came from Hardball reporter David Shuster admitting the cake tasted great.

This would lead in later years to my friends and I lauding Shuster and creating the unofficial "David Shuster Rocks Drinking Game."

You drink every time Shuster rocks during a broadcast. It became very bad when he'd take over Tucker Carlson's 4 pm slot on occasion.

But after that day, I went back home blind with intern rage. I was so enraged that it wasn't until later that night did my mother stop and ask me,

"...John, why did you bake a cake?"

And I had no memory of it. Indeed, I baked a delicious cake while furious with my boss. Bringing it in the next day, it was delicious. And Matthews ate the chocolate cake with vanilla frosting. And he too claimed it was delicious.

And so, forever more, I would be remembered as the intern who baked a cake. A delicious cake made from rage, anger and spite.

Anyway, that was the time I worked for a major cable network and in politics. It taught me important, Big-J Journalism lessons. Not to mention that Joe Trippi owes a lot of people money, despite having a very nice farm in Maryland.

Oh, and that despite your former bosses' best advice, a career in freelancing is less stressful than working for a cable network.

And Hardblogger was just like Huffington Post: they don't pay for "original" work. So, I still like freelancing more.

Edit 10/28/07, 12:58 pm: Oh, totally forgot. After working there, I found myself doing the trademark "Ha HAH!" laugh for weeks. I still do it by accident sometimes. It's like PTSD.

Edit, later: Holy christ, I've been living in New York too long. All my D.C. terminology is being mixed up.

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Friday, October 26, 2007

Idiot Savant's Guide to Saw IV

Tales of Hoe: Overheard at CMJ

"She comes up to me after a panel and says, 'Your voice makes me wet.' I was like, whoa!"
-some DJ, IFC Center, screening of Flesh and Blood who then started count a stack of $20 bills as thick as my mini spiral bound 80-page notebook.

"Vince Vaughn's an asshole and the movie sucks."
-PR person outside an event, remarking on Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show

"I was just there and they don't even have a screening room."
"Really? That is odd."
"Yeah, I can't figure it out. I mean, I was down there at the Soho Grand--"
"Screening's at Tribeca."
"The screening's at the Tribeca Grand."
"...I'm fucking retarded."
-me upon realizing I'm fucking retarded and can't tell the difference between the Soho Grand and Tribeca Grand. Luckily, I was at the press center on Lafayette and Houston. Very nearby the Tribeca Grand. Very not nearby, sorry.

"Oh god, and then I totally asked Will Smith what made him choose to play a poor guy. It was incredible."
-unnamed People Magazine staffer who kept his ID badge on while I ate dinner with Vadim and waited to see Control

"What band are you in?"
-a lot of drunk people to me.

"I'm Travis Morrison."
-me to a lot of drunk people.

-the common response. Hot Chocolate City represent. sigh.

"I work for Filmwad."
"Oh. Is that like a porn site?"
-me to MTV dude outside of Frank and CathyCindy at MoMA

"GEE HA HA HA HA HA HA HA AH AHA HA HA HA HA HA. Oh, I love how he makes his father into an asshole and his mother such a junkie."
-blonde, high-pitched woman sitting next to me at Frank and CathyCindy who may have been high. Or someone I know.

"CMJ sucks."
-friend of mine who is dead on.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Note: The inspiration comes from The Reeler's Totally Unrelated Blog-A-Thon. The rules, as my benevolent dictator/editor states, are simple:

1) Authors should either be publishers of or contributors to a regularly updated film blog (In other words: You should have something to want a break from);

2) Entries must not address subjects related to filmgoing, filmmaking, film criticism, film news or anything else film-related (television is OK);

3) Everything else is fair game.

So, because I update as regularly as I'm employed, I figured I'll join up. And so...

It starts out innocent enough. You hear a song, tap your foot, think about all sorts of things. Maybe you grew up in a know-nothing town, maybe you're an urban punk with Ian MACK-EYE's blood/truth/doctrine flowing through your veins. Whatever, dude. It's all the same.

But this is the age of YOU. We are the children of the revolution, moblogging the march and uploading to Flickr while we drink our Aqua Velvas from the skulls of the old media.

Or something. A skull isn't much of a glass. Trust me on that one.

So you like a song. The next logical choice is--on a lark--make a "music video." This is a long-standing practice with the anime community. Fan videos are as old as gathering in your mother's basement and hitting natural 20s. In the old days they'd be compiled on tape, run close to 1 GB .wmv files and would either come from a Metalica/Linkin Park or Madonna song. (Seriously, Madge is popular. Who knew?)

That said, ever since YOU were person of the year, YOU got all uppity. No longer are there just anime fan videos, but complete re-stagings of these songs thanks to the fan video. In essence, they'd lead to the mash-up culture that's better known through music--and every fifth post on BoingBoing. For the sake of making my life easy and to kill time today, I went through YouTube using the world's catchiest song as my bait.

So, without further ado, here are some of the videos I found for Soulja Boy's "Crank Dat Soulja Boy."

The literal (and perhaps, best):

Uploader: burntpiano

It has Asian Pop Stars (and RAIN OMG RAIN OMG IT IS RAIN!)

Uploader: rimokon


The "Alternate Genre" Version

Uploader: Anubisgirl15

Dora The Explorer Supermans that Ho


So what does this exactly explain? How does it look into a culture that is constantly reinventing itself through splicing, slicing, editing, music and other multimedia? That nothing is sacred? That anyone can fire up the ol' laptop to edit? That the Internet is made for wasting time?

Who cares. The real lesson here is to always Superman that ho.

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

So, does this mean I'm getting my $25?

I sort of got this tip from a friend (i.e. Google) a few seconds ago. Namely this link:

Funny they don't credit this little piece to me except at the very end--or that I never was paid for it.

Oh well. At least I'm still a contributor! Now I can breathe easy, quit my assortment of jobs and live off the land.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

tales of hoe: cmj, day 2

I honestly considered going to see Jimmy Carter: Man from the Plains for 20 minutes. I swear. I honestly, actually spent 20 minutes thinking about whether or not I would walk over to the IFC Center and catch a two hour, Jonathan Demme helmed PR campaign designed to showcase Jimmy Carter's book tour.

Then I read there'd be a post-screening discussion! About national politics!

And I promptly showered and kept refreshing my Gmail.

Haven't gone back to the CMJ press building after the initial clusterfuck. I hear they are out of stupid swag bags. and their wireless doesn't work, which is the only reason I'd go there--to work and then go over to IFC.

Tomorrow should be mildly interesting if just for Wristcutters: A Love Story and Anderson Cooper's Q&A.
I wonder if he'll tell us what 'G' stands for.

Probably going to see Control or The Trigger Man tonight. and both happen to be same walking distance. hm. decisions.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

tales of hoe: cmj, day 1

Ah, I'm at the News Bar up in yr Editorialiste.

I'm not there starts in an hour. then other movie tonight around 7 pm.
I am accredited as ABOUT.COM

Oh, Filmwad, will you never get the respect you deserve?

Also. I am drowning in a sea of leather and plaid. is this just soho in fall, or...wait, yes, it is soho in fall.
man, i need some sweet $55,000 blogging money.

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