Face Off (1997) review: We are all two people once

January 18, 2014 § 3 Comments

Almost 40 years ago to the day, there was a book published called The Inner Game of Tennis. I don’t know the ins and outs of legality and copyright infringement on a book that I’m sure few people are picking up new copies of, but you can read the whole thing online for free. That’s one of the nice things about not actively seeking books to read until you’re in your thirties.

Most of the good ones are just out there to be had and won’t cost you a dime over your regular monthly costs of having the internet.

Now to be honest with you, I haven’t read the entire thing. As with most things that are written, I mostly just started it and I hope to finish it one day. I can tell you however that it didn’t take long to get the gist, and it was easy to understand why Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll considers this book to be one of his greatest inspirations, despite being about a completely different sport. In fact, the book has little to do with sports at all.

The author Timothy Gallway was on the Harvard tennis team and then went on to be one of those club pros that teaches rich moms, dads and their kids how to “play” tennis. After awhile, Gallway started to get bored of simply allowing his clients to fail — as you can imagine most of them would — and began to look for ways to actually improve a person’s game. And it wasn’t about strategy, it wasn’t about stamina, it wasn’t even about technique, but instead he started trying to think about how the mind reacts to commands and then how to make the body best follow through with those commands. 

See that?

Mind + Body. Two separate entities in the same ‘parental’ unit, i.e. You.

Think about a time when you’ve tried to do something right that you were new at or not very good at. Take bowling for example. I am one of the worst bowlers you will ever meet. I know that a lot of people say stuff like that, but the reason that I know I am one of the worst bowlers is because naturally everybody bowls in groups. Nobody bowls by themselves except for actual bowlers — it’s not like playing video games or shooting hoops. 

If you went to the bowling alley on your own, rented shoes on your own, bought a lane on your own, stood next to actual groups of people playing in groups as friends and family on your own, then you’re either a bowler, want to be a bowler, or an alien trying to fit in with humankind as best you could calculate. But you miscalculated somewhere from the Degobah System to Albuquerque. 

Because people bowl in groups, I’ve been able to judge my skill against the skill of every group I’ve ever bowled in, and in every group I’ve ever bowled with I’ve finished in last place. Dead last. I’ve never hit 100. Not once. Not “one lucky night,” not one night of cheating with the bumpers, never. 

I am one of the worst bowlers you will ever meet. But it’s not like I’m not trying!

Every single time I bowl, I pick up my ball and slide my fingers in nice and gentle. I feel the weight of the ball in my hand and I stare at it while I rub my right hand (I’m a lefty) on the outer crust of the ball. I caress it. I hook it like a Longhorn in my left hand while I start to take the steps up to the front of the lane, while aligning myself on the little white pyramids that point me towards the Glory Land: 

Those 10 little pins, just begging to be put down so they can go for a ride and do it all over again.

I stand to the right so that my left arm lines up better with the target, which is that cocky little sumbitch that stands in front of the rest of the pins like he’s Cmdr. General Bowlinpin. I have no idea if I’m standing in the right place, as I have had no formal training except for 25 viewings of Kingpin. (Which is better than learning from 25 viewings of There Will Be Blood, otherwise I’d be killin’ Paul Dano over and over again. Spoiler alert?) 

(You deserve to have TWBB spoiled. That was like seven years ago.)

Now that I’ve ritualized every precise moment in the dance, that’s when everything goes wrong. 

I start a little stutter step towards the lane while I begin my arm’s descent. *Okay fingers, put your seats in the upright position and your tray tables back up, hopefully this will be a smooth landing* That’s when I begin to make the most fatal error that anyone with my skill level can make. 

I start to think about it. 

I think about how hard I’m going to throw the ball when it’s finally time to let go.

I think about the direction of the ball and the placement of my hand when it’s finally time to let go.

I think about when it should be time to finally let go.

I think about not thinking about it.

I finally do let go and it’s like…. It’s like if I told you to down down from 3 and slapped you in the face halfway between saying ‘3’ and ‘2.’ That’s usually how bowling goes for me because you release and sometimes you’ll know instantly that it’s going in the gutter and sometimes it just instantly goes in the gutter. For me at least. 

When I’m talking to myself about everything that needs to go right, that’s when everything goes wrong. When I’m just about to give up, it’s almost like a Michael Corleone moment. JUST WHEN I THOUGHT I WAS OUT, THEY PULL ME BACK IN!

If I’m a horrible bowler, I’m a worse golfer. I’ve played golf — with a serious intent to do good — about 10 times. At most. Less than 200 total holes, probably way less. But I remember with perfect precision, detail, and vividness, the best three shots I ever hit off the tee. And on every single one of them, I had completely released myself from “doing good.” 

The best shot I ever hit was two years ago on a public course here in Los Angeles. I walked up to the tee, probably the 11th or 12th of the day, so I had already known I was about +5 on every hole up to that point, and I still had a cigarette in my mouth. I didn’t care anymore. It was a par 3 and I had that cig in my mouth, and while my three buddies were jibberin’ and jabberin’, I just swung.

“Fuck it.”

The ball came within a foot of a hole-in-one. 

Can you imagine how dismayed my friends would have been if me, the worst golfer that they have probably ever met, had gotten a hole-in-one in his career before any of them had? Even on a shitty par 3 that was probably 150 yards (or whatever they measure in. see how much I’m paying attention?) that’s a big deal. All I had to do was stop caring about it.

So what did I do on the next hole? I thought really super hard about how I’m not going to think hard about it and I fail, of course. Because learning how to unteach yourself to teach yourself so constantly in the moment, takes years and years of practice. Anyone can do it once by cosmic chance but to actually lose yourself — an actual athlete like Michael Jordan may refer to it as “the zone” — on purpose, is something special. I may not get in “the zone” as an athlete much, but I probably have areas where I’m comfortable enough to do that. Just not in sports.

There are other areas where I can probably start to bind the mind and the body together so that they’re not just talking to each other, but working together in perfect silence. We all have that. When we can just get our second self to shutup for awhile. 

I think about my “second self” a lot lately, but in a different way. I think about things I’ve done in the past, embarrassing things, things that I would never actively want to do again, though I know I’ve done it at least once before. I wonder to myself, “Who is that?” 

That’s you.

“Why did I do that?”

I literally do not know, but you did.

“Can I not do it in the future?”

Of course.

“But will I not do it in the future?”

I can’t answer that.

“But you’re me!”

Well, you’re you too. 

“Like your favorite band.”

You could not resist.

“You know me. I love puns and wordplay.”

That’s one thing, my friend, that we can both agree on.

*self-effacing high-five*

(or maybe even *self-facing high-five*?)

Everybody should be at least two people, all of the time. Not in a schizophrenic way, not in a psychotic way, but just in the way that we constantly need someone to check ourselves. Or in the case of zooming your zoomzoomzoom, to wreck ourselves. I’m not just talking about conscience, I’m not talking about the angel and the devil on either shoulder, and I’m not just saying the person that you talk to when you’re bowling. 

Maybe more like Marty McFly when he goes back to back to 1955 and sees himself the first time he went back to 1955. The times that we have to face the choices that we made and reconciling with yourself that you were the person in your memory playback, but are you the person in the memory playback? 

Did you actively seek ways to change or do you need to change at all? You’re always two people at once, but you’re also always one person that one time.

Face/Off was a movie that was released in 1997 starring Nic Cage and John Travolta. They switch faces to kick off the second act, and apparently the FBI has first crack at science and technology that is still not available (that we know of) 17 years later. It makes less sense than most movies I’ve ever seen. Not just movies though, but ‘things’ in general. It’s nonsense.

I give it 4/4 Nic Cage’s

 

Zandalee (1991) Review: A Nic Cage performance that gives me hope for the future

January 13, 2014 § 2 Comments

My last post on this site, besides the one telling you that I was coming back to this site, had to do with being 30 (I’ve since turned 31, though I still tell people I’m 30 — it’s just easier?) and how I was looking forward to the decade ahead of me. I wouldn’t say that my life has turned to shit since then and I wouldn’t say it’s blossomed into fairy dust either. It’s just been an existence – my own existence – and it’s given me a lot of time to think.

To think my own thoughts, to live inside of my own head, to be the only one to answer my own questions (the ones that Google or Wikipedia can’t answer) and to continue to exist. I moved out of a two-bedroom apartment that I shared with a roommate and for the last four months have been living alone in a small (but comfy) studio apartment. So by remaining single I haven’t only gotten less alone, I’ve gotten lonelier. To fill the void of that loneliness I eventually found my inevitable destination, the place that I’ve come to expect all people would turn to after a few months of solitary confinement, is of course the life work of one Nicolas Cage.

The preeminent Hollywood acting figure of the last 30 years.

I chose my words as carefully as I could there, because Cage is so many things all at once. At one time and at no time, Cage can be Bruce Willis or Tom Hanks or Joaquin Phoenix or (and this is probably the most important distinction) Steven Seagal. Some of the best movies I have ever seen star Nic Cage and some of the worst (read: best) movies I’ve ever seen star Nic Cage.

So I decided to fill the void of my heart with the volume of work produced by Cage. As I have done with sports for many years, I turned Nic Cage into an Excel spreadsheet that I could then look at, examine, study, and with any luck, understand. Imdb listed just over 60 credits to his name that have been released and are available for public consumption, and I have seen less than half of them. Most of which were in the latter part of his career, almost completing ignoring how Cage trudged through Hollywood for his first 10 years of “acting” (those quotes are up for debate, as is so much that is connected to Cage) until finally becoming a bankable box office star with The Rock in 1996.

Was “early Cage” going to be the same as “early Metallica” or “early Saved by the Bell,” in that it would the only good, pure, true form we see of an artist before they are “ruined” by the power of fame and money? Or, did Cage only improve over time, finally reaching his pinnacle of acting success with Adaptation in 2002? Or is Cage’s entire career linear — just a mish-mash of the bad-good-terrible-great-ohmygodwhatshappening-awesome-aNationalTreasureMovie?

When I look at Cage’s career as a whole, I think about my own career:

“What should accomplish in my first 10 years as a writer?”

“When does my career as a writer actually start? From the time I started writing or from the time I started to get paid for writing or from the time anyone noticed that I was being paid to write?”

“Can I excuse past actions under the claim that “I was young and I didn’t know what I was doing!” or should I take more risk and more chances because I can make such excuses? And would that attitude not allow me to be more free than someone who truly relied on their craft as financial support?”

“Who the fuck is Nic Cage’s agent?”

And not only thinking in terms of career, but in life. I’m 31 now and I look around and I don’t see my friends as having accomplished a lot either. I only know of one who is in an actual relationship. All of us are still working for “the man” and all of our dreams still exist as nothing more than that; dreams.

Nic Cage was born on January 7, 1964 in Long Beach, California. He turned 31 in 1995, before winning an Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas, before his “big three” movie deal that catapulted him to action movie stardom (The Rock, Con-Air, Face/Off), before the National Treasure franchise, but not long before. By then he was a movie star, a top-billed actor you could sell as the lead in It Could Happen To You, but he hadn’t quite reached the pinnacle of success he had strived for.

But he was close.

I am now 31 and living in Long Beach, California. I have not quite reached the pinnacle of success I have strived for. I am not even entirely sure if “strived” is a proper past tense of “strive” because the editor gives me a squiggly red line but Merriam-Webster says it’s okay, though I still have doubts. Am I on the precipice of my Leaving Las Vegas or am I on the edge of my Kiss of Death? Have I even reached my Fast Times at Ridgemont High?

In 1991, Cage made a movie called Zandalee. It was directed by Sam Pillsbury, who’s biggest credit is Free Willy 3: The Rescue and who’s most recent credit is National Lampoon Presents: Surf Party (2013) starring Matthew Lillard. It was written by Mari Kornhauser, the same woman that would go on to write F.T.W. in 1994. (Amazingly ahead of it’s time if only the FTW didn’t stand for Frank T. Wells, the title character played by Mickey Rourke.)

For what Zandalee lacked in directing and writing talent, it made up for in star power.

The cast didn’t only include Cage, but other well-known actors such as Joe Pantoliano, Steve Buscemi, Marisa Tomei, Ian Abercrombie, and Viveca Lindfors. Besides actors, it also had Judge Reinhold, Aaron Neville, and a then-unknown and still-unknown Erika Anderson, who played the title role of Zandalee. (FYI: Zandalee is a name.)

Zandalee is available on YouTube with over 18,000 views, and the description of the video is only a biographical paragraph on Anderson, leading at least one writer (me) to believe that Anderson herself (or a family member) was the one to make Zandalee available for free on the internet. Which of course was stopped by nobody for copyright infringement, because who really cares?

Nobody even cared in 1991 when the film was instead slated as a direct-to-VHS American premier rather than a theatrical release, presumably because someone at the studio watched it.

While I was nervous when I began to watch Zandalee, worried that it would simply be bad rather than laughably-bad, I was dead wrong. Despite some boring bits here and there, I quickly realized that even in 1991, Nic Cage was Nic Cage. His entrance into the movie (a bachelor party scene with strippers quickly cuts to a hallway and a silhouette of Cage leaning over, putting his hands on his knees, and spinning his head around like he’s at a rock concert) immediately released any tension I was feeling about the film and allowed me to enjoy the next hour and a half.

Cage’s brilliant insanity continued throughout the movie as he started a love affair with Zandalee, the wife of Reinhold’s character, from screaming “Fuck! Shit! STRIKE (rips shirt off) ME DOWN!” in a church, to covering himself in black paint as he has a mental breakdown in the final 15 minutes of the movie. The bonus of seeing a young Buscemi (when he kind of looked like a normal guy) to seeing nudity on YouTube (there are minute marks in the comment section that I thought correlated to insane Cage moments but instead pointed to Anderson-is-naked moments) and seeing Joey Pants in a dress (he plays a cross-dresser in the movie for no good reason) to a cameo by Tomei and Reinhold just trying his hardest to be an actor (with the worst Southern accent I’ve probably ever heard) make Zandalee as entertaining as I’ve come to expect any movie starring Cage.

I now carry that hope into my own life, as a person floundering through his own existence. At a time when I don’t know where I am at in both my personal life and my career. I don’t know if my “Zandalee” is in my past or my future, but I know that pleasant surprises exist all over a person’s timeline.

You just have to be willing to look.

Zandalee Stats:

- Cage’s 15th feature film

- Runtime, 100 min

- 4.3 on Imdb, making it tied (with Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance) for his 3rd-worst rated film.

- No U.S. box office

- Budget unknown

- Cage hair: incredibly fake looking mullet, three muskateers-style goatee. In other words: top notch.

Zandalee is available on YouTube for whenever you want to watch it. I believe that the 18,000 views on YouTube would be a fair estimate of the total number of people to actually see this film for what it’s worth.

Rating: 3.5 out of 4 Nic Cage’s.

 

This is a movie blog now

January 8, 2014 § 5 Comments

It’s been awhile since I have written on KennethAuthor.com, the blog that I started awhile ago to talk about anything I wanted and am currently paying to own the domain name rights to. (Back off other authors named Kenneth that give a heck!)

I don’t want to say it’s because I didn’t have enough time. I have the same amount of time, really, as I did a year ago.

I don’t want to say it’s because anything terrible happened in my life. It’s the same amount of terrible as it’s always been.

I guess my absence just sort of happened, and like taking “just one day off from the gym” or “eating just one chip,” a little turned into a lot and so a few weeks after my last post, I return. Sort of. I have returned to say that I’m returning, though I don’t know how often the posts will be up. They’ll either be a lot, or a little, or somewhere in between. But the other thing is that rather than have a place to write about “whatever I feel like that day” I’ve decided (again. I’ve done this before.) to narrow the topic down to one thing.

Flims.

No, wait. Damn it! Films! Movies! Moving pictures! Hollyweird, California, you see!

I like movies and I want to spend more time delving into them in the same way that I get to write about and delve into football and the Seahawks. Yesterday, I created a big spreadsheet containing information on every Nicolas Cage movie. What am I going to do with this spreadsheet? I don’t know yet, but I never gather information with a specific goal in mind. I just gather it because I “need” it, and who doesn’t need more info on Nicolas Cage?

Who doesn’t NEED more INFORMATION(!!!) about the great and almighty NICOLAS “FUCKING” CAGE WOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

My first thought is that I’m going to watch everything Nic Cage has ever done as an experiment. To prove something? No. To gain something? Almost certainly not. But just because I can.

Where do you start with Nic Cage? From the beginning, with his short appearance in Fast Times at Ridgemont High or perhaps Valley Girl? Maybe during his action trilogy that shot him into the stratosphere, starting with The Rock? His Oscar-winning performance in Leaving Las Vegas or maybe his Oscar-winning performance in Trespass. (That’s an incredibly funny joke that I have to explain with this parenthetical because most people have never heard of Trespass, the movie that made 16-THOUSAND dollars at the box office.)

I actually think that one of the key moments of Cage’s career came in 1995’s Kiss of Death co-starring David Caruso, which happened to come out just before Leaving Las Vegas, and was Cage’s first big flop. It’s an interesting point in his career that could have gone either way, but luckily for him, things worked out.

For awhile.

But I think I might start with Zandalee (1991) because it’s a movie that very few people have ever heard of or seen (straight-to-video) despite having quite an all-star cast. Despite the cast, it appears to just be an awful and terrible film… that is available in it’s entirety on YouTube! 

If you want to watch it in prep for an article or podcast about the movie, then just go to that link. Until then, I’ll see you next time here at KennethAuthor: A (nicolas cage?) Movie Blog!

 

Preparing for the 10 best years

October 11, 2013 § 7 Comments

When I was a kid, I always used to come up with something that my next birthday represented. This can probably go back as far as when I was 9-years-old, but maybe it goes even deeper. My memory of childhood isn’t so good (if that’s because of repressed memories, please never let them unpress) but this action I took on my birthday’s is something I often think about.

When I turned 9, that was the last year of being in single-digits.

When I turned 10, that was my first year of being in double-digits. (And if I was a little genius kid, I probably would’ve said something about binary code but to be fair, the internet was not even around yet for the public.)

When I turned 11, that was identical-consecutive-numbers.

When I turned 12, that was proper-numerical-order-numbers.

Of course 13 is a big one, because that’s the first time you are a teenager. And then you are classified quite succinctly as being “a teen” and all that it implies, for the next seven years of your life. When you turn 13, you really become a classification of your age, you’ve truly entered “decade assignment” and from now on you might have tasks to perform before your next decade, goals to reach or otherwise be considered a failure.

I don’t know how many of those goals that I properly hit as a teenager. I didn’t have my first girlfriend. I can’t believe I’m even going to admit this, but I didn’t even have my first kiss as a teenager. I got drunk for the first time. Smoked a bit of weed and didn’t care for it because I got way too high. (I’ll never understand this apparent notion that you don’t get high your first time; I thought I was getting high for the first time and also dying for the first time at the same time.) On that note, I didn’t care for the first time I got drunk, aided by my sister’s boyfriend-at-the-time and a bottle of whiskey. Why would anyone start a young kid on whiskey, if not only because that dude turned out to be a giant asshole.

I did the normal things. I got my driver’s license, turned 18 and bought cigarettes and dirty magazines, graduated high school, got into some trouble, went off to college, and before you know it I’m in my twenties.

The funny thing about turning 20 in this country is that it’s the most anticlimactic of all the decade change-overs. Nobody spends their adolescence waiting to be a 20-year-old. Turning 20 is only another roadblock in front of the true goal: Turning 21.

I really wasn’t even much of a drinker when I turned 21. I wasn’t much of a rabble-rouser as a teenager, I didn’t do drugs or get drunk except for on sporadic occasions, and when I turned 21 I went over to my friends apartment with one of those mini-kegs of Heineken that my mom had given me as a gift, and maybe drank half of it. I wasn’t even drunk; that didn’t become an interest of mine until literally the next semester at college, when I made a new group of friends and now had full access to the bars. Now I consider it to be one of my favorite hobbies!

What are the goals of a person in their 20s these days? It used to be that by the time you were 25 you better have a career, a spouse, a bun in the oven, and a house for your spouse with an oven and some lovin’. Start preparing for your retirement 40 years before it’s due. My understanding is that you’re supposed to hire an accountant named Ira so that he can help you save up 401,000 dollars by the time you are 65.

Those goals don’t seem to apply to the 20s anymore. Now your goals are to not have goals, to travel, to date a lot, to use protection to avoid putting any buns in any ovens, entering the housing market is a terrible idea, and “most people really don’t even have their careers figured out until they’re 40 so don’t worry about it!” This current generation of 20-somethings is now sort of the “eh, it’ll work itself out!” generation. It’s the generation that puts the drinking bird toy by the keyboard so that it keeps hitting the proper button to keep Springfield from having a nuclear meltdown and goes out to watch Naked Lunch. Your twenties is literally the time between being a teenager and being a 30-something, and that is literally how people in their twenties interpret that time in their lives.

“We don’t want to leave behind the time in our lives where nobody held us responsible for anything but we also want to be treated like adults!”

By the time I had hit 27 I was already itching to get into my thirties. Don’t get me wrong, I also don’t want to be held responsible for anything, but I’m also fine with surrounding myself with people that don’t expect me to be an adult. When I’m at a business place — like work — I consider myself to be more of a “three kids in a huge trench coat” that walks around pretending to be an adult.

“Business! Reports! Filing things! Print!”

I turn 31 in December and I’m already starting to think about what it all means. What the clock on my life is doing. When will I be “too old” to do certain things? I don’t really worry about things like “playing video games for an entire weekend” or “eating a Lunchable for mid-morning snack” because those are timeless, but there are plenty of other bigger life decisions to consider.

When will I be “too old” to date a girl that’s 26?

When will I be “too old” to have a kid?

When will I be “too old” to quit my job and travel Europe?

When will I be “too old” to consider myself “too legit to quit”?

I look at myself as someone in my early-30s and I think to myself, this could be your last chance to not be “too old” to do anything you want to do. Nobody has ever told me it’s a bad idea for me to quit my job and risk being poor, because I don’t have anyone to support. The age difference from 31 to mid-20’s isn’t bad at all, and if the opportunity to date anyone arises, I’ll let you know.

And there are going to be plenty of grampas that “Do the Hammer” in about 30 years, so don’t you worry about that last one.

But I start to look at other people now, older people, and start to consider what I’ll look like when I get there. I start to wonder “How am I going to look when I’m 45?” or “How will I come off to younger people when I’m 50?” I don’t want to be a creep but at the same time, I don’t want to be an old fogie that doesn’t know how to boogie. (May have just nailed my own coffin there.)

I sometimes go to a bar near my apartment and it’s one of those “locals hangouts” with the same 15 people every night (and about 5000x less charming than Cheers) and I see this group of old men hitting on young women and I think “Oh God no. Not me. Never” and it freaks me out to think about becoming one of those dudes if I don’t either settle down before I’m 40 or develop an anti-aging potion-slash-lotion.

(And really, if I develop that point/lotion, I’ll be so rich that none of the rest of it really matters, so yes, I’m working quite hard on that too.)

So I look at myself now, and I look ahead, and I think:

This is it. This will be the best 10 years of my life. My first 10 years were so stupid that I barely remember them! The next 10 years seemed to have me missing a lot of what you’re supposed to experience when you’re a teenager and I tend to look back on that with embarrassment and regret. The next 10 years were all well and good, but they are gone now and you can’t dwell on that. The next 10 after my 30s will be the first time that I really start to resemble “the dad” of pretty much everyone I knew in school. When you’re 40, you’re perfectly capable of having a kid that’s going off to college. That might not be as normal these days, to have a kid when you’re 19 or 20, but it’s not extremely abnormal either.

I’m not only not ready to be an actual father, I am equally unready to look like a father.

(I picture Maury Povich yelling at me: “Ken, you are NOT the father….  Buuttt.. you could be. You look the part. Technically, you’re not, but I would not have all been surprised if you were the father of this 15-year-old.”)

There’s no choice now but to enjoy it. I’ve lived nearly the first full year of being in my 30s and it’s not like each year is going to be better than the last. At some point you peak, at every point you are one second further from a person that is 26-years-old. And then one day, you’re 40.

(At which point, I’ll bargain that that is the best 10 years.)

 

Is it love or is it Thailand: The third and final chapter

October 4, 2013 § 1 Comment

So with much procrastination and a lot of “man, do I really want to say this?” I have finally finished telling my story of my trip to Thailand. It’s certainly personal and frankly, I don’t know if it paints me in a good light, but at least it’s over and I can move on to the next thing. I don’t know what that will be. I received my yearly notice that my rights to this domain are going to expire and I’m not sure what to do with this blog anymore.

I guess we will just have to wait and find out.

To download and/or listen to part III, just follow this link:

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/fieldgulls/2013/10/04/kenneths-thailand-adventure-part-iii

Thanks for listening! I’m sure that wasn’t easy.

Dexter’s final victim: Viewers like you!

September 25, 2013 § 2 Comments

If y’all are trying to avoid Dexter spoilers, why would you possibly read further?

I have been a fan of horror and the macabre for as long as I can remember. It probably started somewhere along the road of coming across some horror film on HBO when I was far too young, or possibly finding out that there were Scary Stories that you could tell in the dark, but that was “my thing.” (That and food, I guess.) But I’ve always had a healthy obsession with death, serial killers, and movies about death and serial killers.

What do you MEAN that’s not “healthy”?!?

So when Dexter came along in 2006, I was hooked. Finally a television show that would focus on the killer as the hero. Dexter was a show (or book, depending on if you read or not) that actually found a way to take someone like Ted Bundy and have millions of people sympathize with him! (Or maybe millions of people were already sympathizing with Ted Bundy but Dexter took away the guilt?!) No, I think it was just a matter of people having a fascination with what made a serial killer “tick” and Dexter was a likable character that also happened to have a need to kill people and that need was harnessed in the best way possible — killing people like him. Somehow I found Michael C. Hall much more relatable and likable as a killer as I found him in Six Feet Under.

(Please note: This article is not a “confession” of any sort. To being a closet serial killer.)

On October 1, 2006, the pilot episode ‘Dexter’ told the story of a Miami blood splatter analyst that was adopted as a young child and taught by his police officer father how to properly kill and get away with it because his dad knew that it was the only way to protect his son. He would help develop the perfect machine for getting people like Dexter off of the street, people that killed innocents because it was something innate. Something they couldn’t help. I suppose that Harry Morgan watched Halloween a bunch and figured that even if he sent Dexter to a mental institute, he would eventually escape when he was 18 with super-human strength and kill a bunch of babysitters.

Instead, he’ll kill the babysitter killers. Of which, in the universe of Dexter, there must be millions. According to the Dexter wiki site, he may have killed at least 134 people. And that’s pretty much only in the Miami metro area. Just imagine how many serial killers that would make in the continental United States alone! But aside from the obvious insanity of some of what went on in Dexter, the first season could be considered something special, something different than other shows, perhaps one of the best debut seasons in television history.

Dexter was dead inside, but he had a fake girlfriend Rita. A tortured soul, a battered single mother that would accept Dexter into her life because he was gentle and didn’t want to have sex with people, something that terrified both of them. Dexter needed Rita because it made him look normal, all part of Harry’s Code. In the weirdest way, they were a perfect couple.

His sister Debra was also on the force, working her way up from vice to eventually make detective. All of which gave Dexter special access to the Miami Metro records and information, beyond his own scope and reach as a blood splatter analyst. Deb kept – fucksuckity bitchasscockalekee turnip tits – Dexter grounded. She was as close as he could ever get to loving someone and caring about whether they lived or died. Even if she was an annoying as hell character and the worst cop to ever be on TV and Ice-T is a cop on TV.

His father Harry died long before the pilot episode yet made an appearance for the whole series, playing the part of Dexter’s conscience and a reminder of right-and-wrong as he went about fighting every natural urge he had in order to follow the Code. Or maybe Harry really was a ghost, there’s no way to tell, really. This is the show Dexter after all. Wonderfully charming in it’s originality as well as it’s penchant for going completely off of the rails. Not that the show ever went “Urkel now has a teleportation device” off-the-rails, but it would get rather ridiculous at times.

“How will Dexter get out of this jam!? Find out next week!”

“Oh, he had the key. Okay, cool.”

And then there was probably the most underrated character of the entire series: Sergeant fucking Doakes. The show would eventually try to replace Doakes with Quinn as “the suspicious cop that’s on to Dexter” but when we found out that Quinn was the most one-dimensional character in the history of anything that’s had characters, he moved on as soon as “Deb brought me coffee? What does that mean? Hey, is this shirt too big?”

Yes. Yes, it is far too big.

But the first season was excellent. The Ice Truck Killer provided the first season arc, the backstory of having a brother and what happened to his mother and finding out that he wasn’t the only person that was born this way, since his brother was the Ice Truck Killer all provided for excellent twists and turns as you really worried about the survival of all the characters. And while I would have been upset at the time, you could have ended the show right there and had nothing short of a 12-episode work of art. Put it on the BBC, and nobody’s complaining then!

Instead, we got a lot more. Way too much more.

The second season was okay. It brought Dexter’s work to light as ‘The Bay Harbor Butcher,’ bringing suspense to every episode was you genuinely worried if Doakes was going to catch him. Up until the moment where he actually did! You had more tension between Rita and Dexter as she suspected he was up to something, and nervous that Rita would have her heart broken again. But then you had Agent Lundy and cucumber sandwiches, a gross relationship between him and Deb (not the age difference, but every relationship that Deb ever got into was gross) and you had Lila, the one girl in Dexter’s life throughout the series that I wanted to die immediately. The only thing that really made the second season memorable was the death of Doakes, and really that could have been the death of the show.

Luckily, the third season was pretty fucking good.

Many will point to the Trinity killer and the work of John Lithgow as the pinnacle of the series, but I much preferred the relationship that Dexter had with Miguel and the belief that maybe Dexter could have a best friend that knew everything about him. As viewers we all knew what Dexter was, but nobody else on the entire show was aware except for Dexter and Harry, and that motherfucker ain’t even alive! Finally we could have someone like Miguel to share this with and he was like the coolest guy ever! When he turned out not to be that cool after all, I was more twisted up inside than when we found out who the Ice Trucker Killer was. The show was on top of the world when Dexter and Miguel turned from friends to mortal enemies, and at this point it seemed it could do no wrong.

Season four ended with the death of Rita, as finally Dexter Morgan had to face the fact that he loved people and that his actions as a serial killer had consequences that could eventually come back to bite the people he loved. He always figured that if somebody was going to go down for what he was doing, whether it be by prison or death, it would be him, but now he knew for sure that the people around him were in danger too. Now he had to make a decision as to how to best protect his son Harrison from also succumbing to the consequences of his actions.

Which also happens to be THE EXACT SAME FUCKING CONCLUSION THAT DEXTER WOULD COME TO FOUR POINTLESS SEASONS LATER.

Each of the first four seasons has some sort of personality, with 1, 3, and 4 really sticking out as three of the best story arcs in cable television history. Here’s how I remember seasons 5, 6, 7, and 8:

Season 5 – Mrs. Ten Things I Hate About You comes to town and kicks it with Dexter for awhile and then they kill the guy from Hackers because he’s like Tony Robbins or something but is really a sexual deviant and then she just leaves at the end of the season and is never heard from again.

Season 6 – What’s Colin Hanks so mad about?

Season 7 – Deb knows! And she can’t tell anyone because she went all “Game of Thrones” and fell in love with her brother :( so the consequences of “What would happen if Deb finds out?” turn out to be: Nothing! Nothing will happen. She’ll be okay with the 100+ victim serial killer. She’s like, lieutenant now, by the way. Biggest surprise of the series: Quinn likes strippers. Dexter gets a new girlfriend and breaks the code by not killer her. Deb is hella jealous.

deb

Season 8 – Fuck. You don’t even wanna know. From Vogel to Elway to the Marshall to Zach to Saxon, it was like a who’s-who list of “who the fuck am I supposed to give a shit about, again?”

Remember when the show introduced “the new Doakes” and then killed him right away? What was his purpose?

Remember when the show brought in “the female Doakes” to compete with Quinn to get a promotion and then got the job… and then completely disappeared?

Why the fuck did Masuka get a daughter? She was going to have some scam or something and then, just sort of, was there. Was that just an excuse to get a new regular that eventually went topless?

The final season of Dexter was obviously the worst, but really this is a show that went downhill steeply after Rita’s death. The first four seasons were still full of terrible detective work, unbelievable scenarios, a myriad of serial killers that have never and will never exist, especially not the extent of having more on every block in America than 7-11’s, but it was held up by interesting characters and suspenseful situations that made you fall in love with Dexter but also the people around him. Eventually the people around him became stupid and shitty and annoying and you just wanted to be the one that wound up on Dexter’s table strapped by plastic wrap.

Finally the writers and producers gave you what you wanted, death, it was just a slow and painful one that last four years too long.

 

 

 

Man who walk through turnstyle backwards, may end up in weird Thailand sex city: Part II of the podcast

September 23, 2013 § 2 Comments

And during your patient wait since part I, of which I’m sure there were any number of you waiting for the exciting continuation of my podcast detailing my trip to Thailand (any number between one and two), I have finally put part II down on audio record.

Let’s just say that Thailand has a… reputation, and Khaosan Road in Bangkok hardly does that reputation justice. While there are definitely ladies (and boys) of the night strolling Khaosan Road at night looking for business, as well as your Tuk Tuk (taxi) drivers that are saying “ping pong show?” under their breath (prostitution and the sex trade is not technically on the up-and-up, but prosecuting that activity in Thailand would be like outlawing gambling in Nevada), the truth is that we were pretty far from the red light district.

In this issue of the podcast, I talk about how Marcus and I tour the most sacred temple in Bangkok with two German girls — in which both Marcus and one of the girls end up desecrating the holiness and cleanliness of the Buddhist sanctuary. (Not in that way… you’ll just have to listen to find out.) And then on Day 3, Marcus and I travel to a place called Pattaya, where we thought that “it’s a great place to party!” meant something entirely different than what it turned out to be.

What it turned out to be was that “Thailand reputation” times 100, unlike anything I have ever seen or expected from the “sex trade reputation” that Thailand has, including a trip down the most surreal road I’ve ever been down.

Sidenote: I know realize that the reason I can’t add an MP3 for download is that wordpress wants more money to do something like that. Why embedding the player won’t work, I don’t know. To listen to the podcast or download it, just go here: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/fieldgulls/2013/09/22/nsfw–thailand-travel-tips-and-adventures-part-ii

Bada bing, bada boom, just one extra click! Thanks!

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