End Of The Movie

End Of The Movie

I've lately become somewhat obsessed with a particular type of movie ending.

You know the one.

Our protagonist/antagonist has overcome whatever it is Joe Campbell said they must overcome. Happily ever after feels imminent, as underlined by perhaps the opening riffs of a familiar pop-tune. But our hero, they've still got one final punchline to drop, whether verbal or otherwise, right before a cut-to-black.

And that music? It plays. We hit the chorus, or an ironic line, or something that makes us smile almost as much as the punchline, hitting its stride just as the first names appear.

It's a very specific type of ending, and to be honest, I have no idea if there's a particular cinematic term for it. But you know what I'm talking about, right?

In case you're unclear, here's one - the final scene of the Wachowski's paranoid red pill, The Matrix:

At this point of the movie, we've just seen the protagonist literally return from the dead, a god reborn. The new, subversive king of an artificial world populated by human slaves spending their entire life asleep as part of the plot's major twist: as our evil robot overlord's organic power supply. Seeing Neo fly up out of shot like that for the first time, it's a real moment. People do superhuman things inside the Matrix, but nobody's ever flown. And to suddenly drop an entirely fresh twist like that, literally a few frames before the cut to black? The effect it has on the average nerdy viewer is close to orgasmic. But then consider the tune itself : Wake Up, by Rage Against The Machine. One of the seminal anti-establishment protest songs of that odd late-90s era, with no accident that it both matched the subversive themes of the film itself, but also that it quite literally has a title matching the central demand placed on all the major characters (and presumably the millions of sleepers) as the film closes - an awakening this new god will hopefully bring about.

It all works. All a bit obvious, perhaps, but in the heat of the moment, if you're too caught up in the action to ponder it, the resulting end-of-the-movie moment is electrifying.

Though this technique does not necessary have to be a high-powered fist-bump, of the likes of Fight Club ('Where Is My Mind?') and Iron Man (though does that one count, the music starting arguably a touch late?) There's also the softer, smoother exit via the exact same route, often creating as evocative and energetic a moment as the punches-in-the-face.

Take the final scene Wes Anderson's classic, Rushmore:

While our protagonist doesn't actually do much more to advance the plot here, he does succeed at taking the hand of the woman he'd attempted to woo so unsuccessfully throughout the film. And perhaps in that final moment as the music begins to play, by hearing the mature way Max accepts his defeat, in taking his glasses off, Rosemary's finally looking at him as a man, not the ridiculous young boy he'd been throughout the film. And the song itself… well, that says it all. As the verse swells, the film slows to almost a halt, as we see all major characters assemble for one final photo, our couple still very much the focus of the frame. And just as the cut to black (or in this case, the curtain close) finally occurs, the music reaches the chorus: "I wish that I knew what I know now"; a line whose relation to everything else one can hardly ignore. But are these the character's thoughts, or that of the director himself? With Anderson's name revealed immediately as the line is sung, perhaps this busts the fourth wall for us slightly, the director having said on occasion how much of his own past he threaded into the film's central character.

I love these moments, and yes, I've become obsessed.

Taking note of them for months. Collecting them. Stashing them away for some unknown purpose, unknown even to me at this point. The novel I'm currently developing has accidentally wound up with moment like it winding through the narrative and tying up the ending. Part of me even thinks there might be an idea buried amongst this odd collection to form the premise of an entire story in itself. Perhaps a tale about someone bound by a collection of endings, the same way the protagonist in High Fidelity (another great end-of-the-movie play-out moment) seems bound by the songs and playlists of the women in his past.

Or is that just too obvious? Would it be more appropriate for a literary tie-in of this device to be something more down the 'random swing track' path Die Hard treads, or merely a stretching of the final mood as per the much-drooled-at Gosling-fest, Drive? Or is it foolish to even be trying to force this round cinematic peg into square literary hole?

I don't know. And if I'm completely honest here, I have no idea why I'm collecting these. And yes, I am collecting them. Check out these sweet puppies on Spotify. Each one of them one of these very deliberate end-of-the-movie music moments (if you can guess them all). Well, not this one, which I kept on the list for no good reason than… well… who doesn't think every playlist deserves a little Backstreet? And no, it really doesn't count as one of my obsessional types. Party tracks, such as the play-out at the end of Dirty Dancing, or the odd moment at the end of 40 Year Old Virgin; this type of ending isn't quite the same. They're literally just playing the track, delivering a performance. Where's the irony, the punch-in-the-face, protagonist's final punchline? No, not quite as magical, no matter how awesome or appropriate a party playout can be as an ending.

My search shall continue, but until I reach whatever the unknown destination is, let me know if you think of any more.

And like, don't you… forget about me…


Cure For Wellness

A + B = F**K

Here we are: it's suddenly June.

The vfx tunnel has been a long and squirmy one this time — an epic five-monther, as opposed to my usual in-and-out crunch-time contracts. Why? A bunch of reasons, but mostly to get the chance to put on my big-boys' supe pants for a change; getting deeply involved in a film, as opposed to cruising across the finish line with a couple of shots to my name.

It's been.... fun, I guess. Different. A learning-curve. An eye-opener. A huge boost to my vfx skillset (I can't wait to comp again, now that I've tasted the other side). But for all those things, it's also been an experience that's given my usual work-life balance quite a solid kicking. No complaints, if I'm being honest. More just a statement of fact: my 2016 has mostly been about a film. There hasn't been the time for much else. (See the above pic for instance - my actual work desk right now. Hell, why not. Does a man really need much more than tequila, Spotify, and a wacom pen to enjoy a long Friday night stuck at his desk?)

Right about now is usually where I bang on about 'hoping it's all been worth it'. This one? As always, hard to tell, looking at it from the limited window us vfx types look out at the bigger motion picture, but it feels like it might be? Who knows. By the time it comes out, the aches in my bones, the slithers in the dark, and the wrap-party hangover will be such a distant memory. But I do think it might be. A unique project to have been part of, a director I've really enjoyed seeing work his craft, and a film whose story and content has taken us all to places of darkness in ways that feel almost.... refreshing... after working so many PG-13 comic book movies.

A little bit of dark-and-evil can be good for you sometimes.

My only regret in all this is the foolish (in hindsight) prediction that there'd be all this time available after hours to pitch a finished manuscript to a pile of literary agents. Nope. Nada.

And that's okay too. What's been interesting is that over the last week, I picked up 'Winners' again for the first time in a few months. And you know what? The extended rest has done us both some good. I've had the chance to read it almost fresh. Sink into it like I'd sink into any other novel. The verdict? Not bad. Still the polish I knew it would need, but far less than it could have been. Hell, I've quite enjoyed reading it. Messy pockets aside, it's got pace. I still like the characters. I don't hate the story. I wanted to continue reading. The only times I groaned were at some of the horrendous typos, and the occasional piece of dialogue-lameness, things that'll be long gone before y'all get your eyeballs anywhere near them.

In short, all good. I'll finish up on the movie soon, and take hold of something I'm not just 'seeing through' : there's a genuine confidence in the book now. After such a solid rest, I know exactly what the book is (and isn't), the positives far outweighing the negatives. I just hope I can capture and infect my upcoming pitch phase with that very same enthusiasm.

Wish me luck. Both with the pitching, and the wrap-party hangover.



'Winners' : done deal

You heard me right.
I think I've finished my second book, Winners.

Well, 'finished' is a tough call to make at this point, so how about: 'finished... enough...'?

Oh, who am I kidding; there'll be more work on it, especially once the querying gets going. But for now—minor moppings-up and a grammar/punctuation pass aside—I'm pretty happy with where it's at. Time to let it settle, give it and my brain a rest from one another, and to start throwing the first 10000 words in front of the right pairs of professional eye-balls.

So what's next?

Funny you should ask. I thought I'd be moving on to this great and crazy idea that'd been percolating in the back of my head for years, however it looks as though fate has other plans.

All it took was one of those long walks home, on a day where I'd (okay, I'm going to let you in on a personal secret here) set my Spotify app not to broadcast what I was listening to, just so I could play (and enjoy, with great shame) the soundtrack from Frozen, and suddenly, a fresh story materialised into my head. By the time Elsa belted the final strains of 'Let It Go', I had the bare bones of a story tapped furiously into Notes.app, where it's since become the thing I've thought about and fleshed-out during every foot-commute since.

The book is tentatively called Beth & Stevie, and it's a different kind of love story.

I'm hesitant in saying too much more about it yet. Just know that I'm just as excited about it as I was at the beginning of Winners, and despite it being very early days, can't wait to start smashing out drafts. Until then, I've got a serious amount of reading to do. Where my last two books have been very much the product of personal history and imagination, while this is still true, there's a serious research component involved this time should I ever want to bring the outline to any respectful, three-dimensional life.

More on that later.

For now, you might have also noticed that the ol' vanity domain looks a little different. Take a look around, marvel at the wonders of WYSIWYG/shortcode template editing tools in 2016, and make sure you're all signed up to the all new mailing-list. (Not sure what I'm doing with this yet, though likely just very occasional updates if/when something amazing starts moving with one of the manuscripts.)

Oh, and if anyone needs me, I'm heading back in on a movie gig next week. Should be a good one - stay tuned. :)

demislw - not dead

Report Of My Death : Greatly Exaggerated

No, I'm not dead.

I made a pact with the devil regarding my second book: "Winners", and opted not to write a single word anywhere apart from the draft that is now sitting in my Scrivener being picked-apart, rewritten, and polished.

It's in great shape, if I may be so bold. Way further along than the first was after the first draft; a win for my own education/development, even if it's still a long way from sitting on your collective Kindles. Can't wait to share it. While I'm proud of having finished "The Brave" (still querying!) I've planned this second one to be a far different beast. "The Brave" was me determined to exorcise a whole bunch of autobiographical ghosts, trying to write a good book but not thinking of where it'd go when it was all over. "Winners" is me determined to simply tell a good story - a cracking yarn - very conscious that yes, I'd like this published, thank you very much (vs. 'whatever - I just want to finish a novel'). Already I can see the difference in the eyes of any friend or colleague I corner with a beer and run through both pitches. With The Brave, they say "yeah... cool... " but sorta glaze.  With Winners, they smile and nod, and usually say "that'd make a great movie", followed by the customary follow-up "have you thought about self-publishing?" (Me: "Yes. And no." Insert long-winded reply about having faith in the additional manuscript-honing talent that pursuing traditional/hybird path brings...)

That wasn't all I've been up to. Two short movie gigs (both Marvel properties, not-so-oddly enough). Quite a lot of travel (Spanish mountain hikes, fishing on Norwegian fjords etc.) not to mention coding and managing the tech/site/social end of Cat's epic East London dining/delivery pop-up project, which has all gone well.

So sorry, vanity domain. I've neglected you.

However, the near future already has its series of buzzwords: declutter. Slash and burn. Simplify. I'm quite busy shuffling a number of things around ( / out ) of my day-to-day/week-to-week at the moment, in favour of a cleaner, more focused state. The wind's been blowing that way for a while. This site will stay, of course. It kinda has to. Those were the rules, and those haven't changed.

Hopefully I'll be back to posting semi-regular again, and not just this pseudo-journal personal crap either. Maybe.


But not yet.

Enjoy your summer, folks, as I'm sure as hell enjoying mine... (August : Rome, Morocco...)


Watch this space.

demislw.com - all about that bacon

'All About That Bacon' : The Pun That Never Took Off

I've always had a fascination with trying to figure out why certain lame shit goes viral, where other stuff doesn't. Going by the numbers, there does seem to be one genre of joke where any sense of being able to predict the crowd reaction gets cast completely to the side: shitty puns.

Puns are a battleground. Sometimes you see them out there, riding high atop Reddit's front page, shaking their defiant gutter-scraping fist at us, daring us to call them the lowest form of humour. Other times, you'll see something else out there, every bit as awful and timely as the fist-shaker, yet it never takes off.

I ran into something of an Internet rabbit-hole this morning, something that really got me thinking. You all know Meghan Trainor's hit song from 2014, right? This one? So there I was, in an unrelated thread on Facebook, talking about bacon, when a comment compelled me to ask: "I wonder if anyone out there has recorded 'All About That Bacon' and gone viral with it?" Fair question, right? It's the sort of shitty thing people do all the time on the Internet. No doubt anything along those lines was going to be every bit as terrible as we'd imagine, but figured someone out there must have made a million hits off the idea. So, off I went to YouTube...

The result? It seems the Internet isn't ready for 'All About That Bacon'. Several people tried. Several more have produced rather professional audio tracks. Some even tried to sell them. But did anyone actually punch through our collective cultural consciousness, and actually take a terrible, terrible play-on-words and achieve their fifteen minutes of celebrity with it?

No. Hell no. Not even close.

I've collected a few of the best and tried to dig into them a little, looking for answers to the mystery. All were produced between October and November last year, around the time that song was really hitting its stride.The timing was perfect, but so, why didn't the Internet run with this particularly lame play and make it a star? Take a look for yourself. Maybe you've got some ideas.

Without any further ado, in the order in which they were released, I present to you the Six Best Independently-Conceived Versions Of  The God-Awful Play-On-Words, 'All About That Bacon' :

Artist: C Stewart

Total YouTube Views: 4616 | Released : Oct 05, 2014

Straight up, this one loses several points for being shot in portrait, but that aside, we're looking at not only the earliest known YouTube video covering this particularly horrible pun, but also the one with the most hits (a whopping 4616 as I write this). I'm not going to diss Ms Stewart too hard for her efforts (particularly in light of the other videos in the list). Despite being rather obsessed with her comparison between regular porcine bacon, and the inferior turkey kind, she does redeem her position with a very strong point about how the consumption of the latter will actually cause the senseless death of kittens. With the amount of hits she's managed, I'm going to assume C Stewart has a fairly strong follower-base on Facebook or Twitter, but either hasn't discovered Reddit yet, or was wearing far too much clothing (or inexplicably offended many with that badge or shimmying) for the viral-making masses to upvote. This could have gone viral, with the right demographic. Feels like it nearly did...

Artist: Brittany Roup

Total YouTube Views: 16 | Released OCT 26, 2014

Brittany's version, while being significantly shorter, still maintains a negative attitude toward an alternate food-stuff which, quite frankly,  wouldn't be out of the question sitting on the same plate or table as fried strips of pork. I'm giving her an extra point for attempting to pull off a mid-level vocal effort without the use of a backing-track, but then taking it away again for screwing up the few words there are. For my money this one could have gone on a little longer, but perhaps this was about as much as the Internet could handle. Brittany would not appear to have more than fifteen friends. I'm not all that surprised this didn't show up in my feeds.

Artist: Bgirl Bubbles

Total YouTube Views: 306 | Released: Nov 08, 2014

This one had great potential. The vocalist, 'Jam', has a cute-sounding voice that I imagine could have translated well to video had Bgirl chosen live-action over animation for her style of music video, but let's not hold that against her. Unlike her predecessors, BGirl's lyrical focus fortunately shifted away from protein sources, and onto unnecessary carbohydrate accompaniments. I'm going to go out on a limb and assume some kind of wheat intolerance might have been in play for either Bgirl or Jam, or perhaps that they're strong proponents of the Atkins Diet; either way, the negativity feels far more rational than the last two. Questions linger though - does she like untoasted bread? What about crumpets? I guess we'll never know, as while Bgirl has at least 300 friends, I fear her underdeveloped animation style may have stopped this potential viral hit dead in its tracks.

Artist: Drew2 Pictures

Total Youtube Views: 123 | Released: Nov 16, 2014

I'm not going to lie - this adaptation is my favourite by a long shot. Drew2 has pulled out all the stops. He's got the backing track. His version sounds a little bit like it was performed by Cake. He's gone to some effort with his updated lyrics. The visual effects, while perhaps a little over-the-top, add plenty to his performance, setting his visual style well apart from his bacon-loving peers. To top it off, he doesn't diss any other food-stuff in the course of making his point."...All about that bacon, that bacon cheese-burger..." See what he did there? My only real criticism of this (practically perfect) version is that he chose to bring topics of politics and obesity into what could have remained a light-hearted discussion about his favourite food, though this doesn't weigh things down for long. I have no idea why Drew2 hasn't gone global. Drew2 is some kind of YouTube hero. Like, share, follow.

Artist: Cassandra Herfel

Total YouTube Views: 14 | Released: Nov 18, 2014

I'm fairly sure Cassandra must be one of Brittany's sixteen friends. Still, I'm giving her a couple of extra points for daring to embrace her a cappella attempt with what would appear to be a fully-improvised choreography. She scores a further point for choosing to include bacon itself in the video, where many others have dared not.

Artist: Alison Moss

Total YouTube Views: 36 | Released: Nov 19, 2014

Alison looks to have learned a few lessons from Cassandra, improving on the bacon-inclusion idea by actually eating said bacon on camera. While she's lacking the nifty video tricks of my man Drew2 (and come on, Alison - portrait orientation? I know your parents should know better - don't ever let them hold you back like that!), I can appreciate that she's taken away from Drew2's version that message of positivity; not dissing sausage, or toast, or anything else, merely reiterating her central bacon-related point that she does, in fact, "love it". My only thought about why Alison didn't go viral with this superior release is that she didn't touch the bridge passage of the song itself. Yes, I'll agree that the bridge was where C Stewart's turkey point first began getting tired — perhaps Alison made a deliberate choice to keep her opus more buoyant. Maybe there's something in that, though it never helped her reach full Internet celebrity. Out of all of the above, Alison's video definitely shines in one regard : I really, really want to eat that bacon she has in front of her. Full marks to the chef.

Thoughts or theories? Leave them below...

demislw - Online Book Discovery

The Pitfalls of Online Book Discovery

Books, and in particular, the process of book discovery, are still being somewhat failed by the Internet.

No, that's unfair — a big call, and a big generalisation. Certain genres are fine, as well as anybody interested in keeping up with that handful of bestsellers that happen to be riding high on the western world's collective Top 20 at any given time. You know, those titles you find in every airport bookshop.

But wait, there I go already: using a real-world example to represent book discovery in a way you'll all relate to. Where's that ubiquitous Internet equivalent? I'm sure many could throw an example or ten at me, but of those, how many will have a list identical to the next? And even though there'll be some places that will start to clump, what are the chances that those popular sources match my particular taste in books?

It's all so hard. If you want to get serious about finding online book reviews and curation that matches your own tastes, it really is a lot of work. Too much for most, which is a shame, considering what is potentially being missed if you stick to the easy Top Lists. Plus — and I'm happy to cast this generalisation out there without sounding like a total snob — there's often a lot of pulpy stuff on those Top Lists. I'm sure you can pick a few titles out of the air that found their way onto the popular bestseller lists that may have been a fun holiday ready, but ultimately drivel and not all that engaging as a non-holiday read (if that's what you're into). Or worse: crappy YA or NA titles that get caught on that list for two years at a time, often joined by their sequel/s, openly derided by all bar their specific demographic or fan-base.

Look, all that stuff is still fine. Each to their own. I don't mind if people are reading crappy books - it's still cooler they're reading anything at all, rather than not. If those books are what sells, then whether I'm into them as well is irrelevant - give the people what they want.

The problem, then, is still this other one: how are the rest of us supposed to navigate? With the most prolific book-buyers (thus demand-supply drivers) not always encouraging titles with higher education or reading-age levels, particularly with the rise and rise of the Young and New Adult genres in the past ten years, those with broader genre or literary tastes aren't getting the same ease of discovery as the rest. Those reviews are still all out there, those books still being reviewed, but it takes a lot more proactive work to sift through it all, and even more research to know whether or not individual reviewers might share your taste (as opposed to going with the numbers, as YA readers are often able to do).

The solution, for now, would appear to be one-on-one engagement within communities you know and trust.

Finding certain Goodreads lists. An individual reviewer on your favourite newspaper. A regular best-of-the-month post on a particular blog. Some dark corner of one of Reddit's numerous book subreddits.

Yes, it's all out there. It's still just a little too hard. I've had to do a lot of work over the past couple of years whittling down my own preferred sources. And honestly, when all is said and done, apart from the annual Booker Prize Longlist and a couple of favourite reviewers, much of my own reading list comes from a handful of trusted friends I'm in regular comment-banter with on one particular (private) Facebook Group.

"You'll love this one, dude." See, I can trust that title, since I trust the guy behind the words.

What I'm hoping to see in the coming years is a stronger level of AI on popular book sites or stores. Right now you tend to get "other readers who bought this also bought ____ " style suggestions from sites, which I'm assuming are largely based on the numbers (see above re: pulp). But imagine if the software began digging even deeper than that. What if, having just picked up and enjoyed The Goldfinch, some clever piece of code was able to identify that I enjoyed that particular style of writing, or that I like stories with characters spiralling into dark, dark places, or that matched books with similar overarching themes, keeping that in mind while they ran through your own history for things of a similar reading-age etc. Perhaps it'd be smart enough to learn that you didn't just like reading heavy book after heavy book, throwing in something lighter or quirky after you just read something dark? I can see it being possible at some point, though it doesn't exist yet. Not online, not automagically.

Or does it?

I am getting my reading list from somewhere, right? And didn't I just say most of it was coming from a nice bunch of trusted friends on a private Facebook Group? My eyeballs are still finding those great book titles, aren't they?

Haters gonna hate.

I'm sure I'll get my super-smart AI book-discovery robot one day, Internet. (And my flying car.) And boy, will there be hell to pay the first time that bleeping bastard serves me up a copy of Twilight or Fifty Shades.