Marvel Promises More “Guardians,” More James Gunn

In a move which surprised utterly no one, James Gunn announced today that he is returning to the Marvel Cinematic Universe to direct and write the third installment of the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, the second of which opens in theaters the first weekend of May. Unlike a usual announcement, which would come from the higher-ups at Marvel, Gunn announced the news himself on his Facebook page, revealing the news to millions of fans who, like myself, were unsurprised at this news.

Marvel (and by proxy, Disney) has proven time and time again that they don’t when to quit, so at this point I have the expectation that they will not quit, regardless of where their storylines go. Gunn mentions in his post that the Marvel Universe has been leading up to Infinity War, in which the Guardians of the Galaxy will appear. Speculation about the nature of their appearance has run rampant both before and after Marvel confirmed they would be in the film, yet these preemptive announcements take a little bit out of the excitement of Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, at least for me. I will, of course, go into Vol. 2 with the assumption that no real threat will befall our heroes and that they will survive  for the events of Infinity War, but I have no idea what to expect from the latter film. Although Marvel hasn’t been known for killing their main characters, or even changing them significantly from one film to another, their persistence that Infinity War is some kind of end-of-the-road film where all bets are off creates a new kind of hype surrounding that film. Anything could seemingly happen in that two-parter, the first part hitting theaters next summer, but now, with this confirmation of Guardians 3, we can safely assume that those characters will make it through the world-defining Infinity War struggle unscathed.

Herein lies my biggest problem with Disney/Marvel. Although superhero fatigue has set in–many of their films have failed to reach the levels of their predecessors–Marvel continues to announce an onslaught of further and further productions. Last week, news popped up that Disney also does not have an end for the Star Wars franchise in sight, although the ninth episode and conclusion of The Force Awakens trilogy will bow in 2019.  The money will continue to roll into the pockets of Disney executives and the studio will pump out further and further adaptations and sequels.

Still, James Gunn expresses desire in his Facebook post that the this iteration of the Guardians will end with the third installment. On one hand, I have absolute faith that Gunn will handle these unique characters with ease and end their story appropriately. On the other hand, I fully expect Disney to announce a new iteration of the series soon after. This is the company which has given the world three Spider-Man series in 15 years, after all.

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The Ever-Changing Rules of the Academy

Apparently unable to keep a homeostasis for very long, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has yet again changed its rules of eligibility, effective for the 90th Academy Awards next February.

Numerous categories were affected as the changes were announced on Friday, yet most notably changed was the Best Documentary Feature category. Despite O.J.: Made in America winning Best Documentary in February as a film and also serving as a TV documentary mini-series, the Academy has now ruled that documentary series are now longer eligible for the award. Although O.J. was not mentioned in the press release announcing the rule change, this alteration feels, to me, like a direct response to a film which met Academy qualifications last year by premiering in theaters before it aired on television. This rule seems to make it unnecessarily difficult for worthy films to be nominated for Oscars, and the Academy seems to be limiting their own goal of finding the year’s best films (O.J. topped my best-of film list for 2016, as well as numerous critics). Traditional, theatrically released docs are not the only way to make an exceptional film, although the Academy seems to be preserving some sense of superiority by limited the category in such a way. ESPN’s latest documentary We the Fans, which premieres on April 11th as the first part of an eight-part series is now no longer eligible for the Academy Awards, yet may be eligible for the Primetime Emmy Awards comes September.

Of course the Academy is not shy about changing its rules in one way, sometimes directly after changing them in another way. The best example of this in my lifetime is the recent rule changes for the Best Picture category. In 2009, before the 82nd Awards, the Best Picture category was expanded from five nominated films to ten, although it only stayed that way for two years. A response to populous films like The Dark Knight (Nolan, 2008) not being nominated, many now think the rule change was a failure mainly due to films such as The Blind Side (Hancock, 2009) and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Daldry, 2010) receiving nominations. The category now hovers between five and ten, and very few films with mass appeal, like Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Abrams, 2015) make the cut despite original intentions from the Academy.

I’m on the fence about the rules myself. I thoroughly believe the Oscars should do their best to honor the best films possible, yet their near-constant dismissal of films that received critical and commercial acclaim is baffling to me. Yes, some films that meet both qualifications have received nominations–Toy Story 3 (Unkrich, 2010), Inception (Nolan, 2010), Django Unchained (Tarantino, 2012), and others. Still, the middle ground is irritating. There are far more than ten films released every year that deserve Best Picture nominations, and I see no harm in giving the Academy a minimum/maximum of ten to nominate. I do see the dilemma when films like The Blind Side and Extremely Loud get nominated, though. For the record I enjoy those films, yet calling them Best Picture-worthy feels odd to me. Perhaps the Academy is better being exclusive, live it was for decades upon decades, and only nominated five, often incredibly-worthy, films.

In Which Brent Recommends Three Things

The last week of March brought with it a plethora of pop culture, of which I devoured three things–this shouldn’t come as a surprise, right? I mean, I’ve spent the better part of the year reviewing HBO’s Big Little Lies, after all. While much of my week has also been spent re-watching the second season of Better Call Saul, which arrived on Netflix last Monday, I also managed to spend ample time in a movie theater to see two films currently in limited release, Raw (Ducournau, 2016) and Dark Night (Sutton, 2016).

On Wednesday March 29, my girlfriend and I made the drive to Nashville to see Raw at the lovely Belcourt Theatre near the campus of Vanderbilt University. She and I have both been looking forward to Raw since we saw the initial trailer late last year, and it did not disappoint either of us. The feature-length directorial debut for French filmmaker Julia Ducournau, Raw is about a young woman who enrolls in veterinary college, just as her entire family has done before her, including her older sister who is still a student. The student, Justine (the wonderful Garance Marillier in her film debut) is a vegetarian, also like her entire family, yet is quickly exposed to carnivore-ism as a result of the hazing rituals that the veterinary school employs. From there, the film quickly devolves into that of nightmares, and is full of both realistic and disturbing gore, as well as a fair amount of sexual activity. Saying a lot about this film is difficult without revealing too much, and the film actually works better if you go into knowing as little as possible. Still, the film is an impressively shot piece of art, bolstered mostly by Marillier’s performance, as well as Ducournau’s mature script and direction. A coming-of-age film at its most pure, Raw is a tough watch at times, although it is not nearly as graphically horrific as many reviews have claimed it to be. The film concludes as a metaphor for how far we, as humans, will go to be accepted by our peers, and is unflinching in its gaze, which both punishes and glorifies uniqueness and individuality. Raw is a film that will likely get better with every viewing, and I highly recommend it for fans of both horror, and of teen dramas. Check out showtimes and trailers for Raw on its website.

Last night I was lucky enough to catch another independent film in limited release, this time at the brand new Speed Cinema at the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky. The film I saw, Dark Night, was introduced quite cautiously by a member of the museum and is, as the title suggests, a reflection of the 2012 Aurora shooting at the screen of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises. Although not a direct interpretation of the attack–indeed, there is a brief mention of the Aurora shooting, which strongly suggests that the attack in this film is a copycat attack of sorts–Dark Night uses the Aurora massacre as a sort of jumping off point to draw its own conclusions and to make its own powerful reflections on American society. The easiest comparison for this film is Elephant (Van Sant, 2003), but even that feels too easy a comparison. Dark Night is, above all else, a film about American desensitization and the physical and emotional distances that we put up to hide ourselves away. Many of the shots in this film are through mirrors, and almost every character expresses some sort of barricade: our ex-Marine is having a difficult time reintegrating into everyday life and is obsessed with guns, our young woman is a selfie queen, yet is hiding much more conflicting feelings about herself, and Jumper, this films eventual antagonist, hates the world and everything around him, only finding control and a place in this world in the film’s understated conclusion. Dark Night is a gorgeous film, and French cinematographer Hélène Louvart manages to find beauty in a dark world, one which she and director Tim Sutton strive to showcase in true colors. In a perfect world, Louvart would be nominated for an Academy Award come 2018.

My last recommendation is one that I won’t spend as much time on because it has already been written about extensively in the past week: the new podcast S-Town from the teams behind Serial and This American LifeS-Town, hosted by Brian Reed, is a glorious and hauntingly lovely podcast that, most notably, centers around the relationship between Reed and his muse, Alabama horologist John B. McLemore. S-Town is often compared to a novel, and that is the most accurate description I can give as well–bingeing through the seven episodes of the series, which were released all at once, is akin to feverishly reading a novel that you can’t get enough of. There are some wonderful articles about S-Town published in The New Yorker here and Vox here.

Spider-Man Thoughts

Spider-Man is easily my favorite superhero and I am an unashamed defender of nearly all of his feature films so far, save for one example: I absolutely loved The Amazing Spider-Man 2, but I did not enjoy Spider-Man 3, and the latter gets worse with each viewing. After the new trailer for the latest iteration Spider-Man: Homecoming dropped yesterday I had to reevaluate my overall thoughts about the franchise–after watching the trailer multiple times, of course.

First and foremost I do think this movie has some potential, and I’ll absolutely be waiting in line to see it on opening night. I was a huge fan of Tom Holland’s portrayal of the character in Captain America: Civil War, and I think the addition of actors such as Marisa Tomei, Zendaya, Tony Revelori, Bookem Woodbine, and, particularly, Michael Keaton, give this movie a fresh, diverse group of talent. Although I am weary that the film has six credited screenwriters, I am quite excited for this film, apart from its awful title. Still, I don’t think this film needs to exist.

From a financial standpoint I do understand why this film has been made. Sony was desperate to move on from the lukewarm reception of Amazing Spider-Man 2 and their 2014 hack, while Marvel was itching to bring one of Marvel’s most popular heroes into their Cinematic Universe. Mutually, they agreed to co-produce the film pleasing fans almost universally, save maybe for people like me who loved Andrew Garfield’s take on the character. Despite this film’s good intentions, though, it feels like a cash grab to me. As Civil War shot to the top of the box office and the juggernaut of Star Wars continues to be the highest grossing film of the year even when it’s a mostly unrelated spinoff film like Rogue One, Disney and Marvel have proven that they are in it for the money, and we continue to give them ours.

I don’t want to sound cynical. I am monstrously excited for not only Homecoming but for Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 and I’ll buy my tickets for Star Wars: The Last Jedi months in advance, yet I wish we, America, gave a bit more attention to smaller independent films as well. (On a related note, I’ve bought tickets to see both Raw (Ducournau, 2016) and Dark Night (Sutton, 2016) this week so expect to see a mini-review of both of them in the coming days.)

You can check out the (very good) second trailer for Spider-Man: Homecoming here.

Rebecca Hall on “Christine” and Gender Dynamics in Commercial Hollywood

Rebecca Hall, the British actress and star of the criminally under-appreciated 2016 film Christine, did not shy away from some revealing discussion about gender in an interview published late last on year on The Business podcast with Kim Masters, touching on both the struggles that the real-life Christine went through, as well as her role that was essentially left on the cutting room floor in 2013’s Iron Man 3.

Based on the real life Florida television reporter Christine Chubbuck, who took her own life on air in 1974 at the age of 29, Christine drew Hall in because of this story, one which she recalls was quite difficult to uncover. Notorious only because of the supreme and public act of violence which took her life, Chubbuck was, in Hall’s mind, at the risk of falling into the “annals of history” as a footnote and nothing more. “I did this film to know the person behind it,” Hall states and, although the film crew and Hall herself were unable to talk to many people who knew Chubbuck personally, Hall was drawn to the social-historical context of the film as well. The role, which Hall describes as “scary” on the podcast, is indeed a crucial and necessary one and one in which the supremely talented Hall rises to the occasion by delivering a deeply complex, thought-provoking, and absolutely Oscar-worthy performance.

The film, too, is an important one. On the podcast, Hall describes the complexity of the film as Taxi Driver-esque which feels aptly appropriate for a film that examines mental illness is such a genuine and non-judgmental lens. Important as well is that fact that the film features a strong (and fragile) female lead, another factor attributing to Hall’s passion about the project. Ever rare in any case, yet alone a case as delicate as this, Hall is no stranger to the unique position (to say the least) of women in Hollywood.

During the production of Iron Man 3, directed by Shane Black, whom I have mentioned previously here, Hall was reportedly told that she’d be playing the principal villain of the film. However, halfway through production, Hall found her role to have been greatly reduced prompting her to claim “I signed up to do something very different to what I ended up doing.” Even after the film was released and the news broke that the studio had changed Hall’s role because they preferred a male villain, nothing much came of the change and, although she was vocal in her willingness to talk about it, very few people ever asked her. Hall, a veteran of the industry, is well aware of the situation she found herself in–“I don’t get to be the lead in a tiny independent film unless I bring in the money to make it,” she said.

Hall, an incredibly talented and intelligent filmmaker, has effectively established herself, very quietly, as one of the very best in the industry even if she has yet to break into the Hollywood mainstream. If Hall continues to churn out reliably excellent performances–look at not only Christine, but also The Gift (Edgerton, 2015)–then it is not unreasonable to think that she will stick around in both independent and big-budget features for quite some time.

The Semi-Rarity of a 100% Rotten Tomatoes Rating

On February 24th, Jordan Peele released his directorial debut Get Out in theaters which, at the time of this writing on February 25th, holds a perfect 100% rating on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes. This is not to say that every critic reviewing the film has given the film perfect scores, though, with the average rating of the film being an 8.3 out of 10. Still, this is a monumental achievement, especially for a director making his debut and working within the confines of two genres not known for their critical acclaim–comedy and horror. Get Out is a great example of how to do both genres well, and manages to be a great film in its own right, too, yet seems like a left-field choice for a film receiving unanimous critical acclaim. After doing some research, though, the distinction of a 100% rating is not as rare as one might think, and some truly odd films have achieved this feat.

Certainly some films in the historical canon of greatest/most important films of all time appear on the list: The Birth of a Nation (1915), The Kid (1921), Nanook of the North (1922), Modern Times (1936), The Grapes of WrathRebecca, The Philadelphia Story (all 1940), Citizen Kane (1941) and the first two Toy Story films (1995, 1999) all appear along with many other examples of classic films. Still, many other films with a 100% rating are more obscure and appear on the list thanks to positive reviews from just a handful of reviews–a 1993 Queer/exploitation film titled Totally Fucked Up holds a 100% thanks to six reviews. The amount of “perfect” films hasn’t decreased in recent years, yet it has most often occurred for documentary films including Netflix’s The Square (2013), Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me (2014), and 2016’s O.J.: Made in America (for my review of that film, see here.)

In the modern age, though, it is rare for a film to be so widely seen and to still hold the perfect Rotten Tomatoes rating. Only three films have been reviewed by over 100 critics and still hold the unanimous approval rating: Toy Story 2, which has 163 reviews, Man on Wire (2008) with 154 reviews, and Get Out with 132 reviews and counting. This unanimous approval seems to be counter-intuitive to the nature of film criticism sometimes. Even films hailed as Oscar contenders in recent years–like Selma and Boyhood (both 2014)–received a handful of negative reviews even on route to numerous Oscar nominations. While many predicted that, because of the intense acclaim these films received, one of them would win Best Picture, it came as a surprise when both of these films went home with one award a piece on Oscar night and both losing Best Picture to Birdman, a film with a still very highly-resepectable score of 91%.

Immense critical acclaim does not often lead to being the big winner come Oscar night. Toy Story 2 lost its only nomination back in 2000 (for Randy Newman and Best Original Song), and Man on Wire won only the Best Documentary Feature Oscar with no other nominations. Will Get Out stick around long enough in the mind of Oscar voters to garner a few nominations next year? My vote is no, based specifically off of its genre which Oscar voters almost always ignore. However, the lack of award attention that the film may unfortunately fall victim to does not take away from the praise that it so deserves. As a consolation prize? Get Out is currently the best reviewed horror film and the best reviewed comedy of all time.

“Variety” and the Los Angeles Lakers

I was looking on Variety’s website yesterday and I was surprised to find that they had published an article about the recent shakeup in the front office of the Los Angeles Lakers. Though ordinarily a film publication, Variety seems to be comfortable with writing about anything and everything L.A., even when a topic such as the NBA wouldn’t seem to make many waves in the film industry. In the sports industry, though, this is huge news. The Lakers, the second most-winningest NBA franchise in terms of wins and championships, have struggled immensely recently and have now turned to Earvin “Magic” Johnson, their former star point guard, to lead the team as the president of basketball operations.

So, why does Variety decide to post about this one specific nugget of sports news? Why the Lakers, when they have a literal plethora of teams to choose from in the area–the Clippers, the Rams, the Chargers, the Angels, the Dodgers, et. al.? Like many things in the city of Los Angeles, the decision seems to be a superficial one: Magic Johnson is a superstar in every sense of the word and, historically, the Lakers have been a team of superstars as well.

The Lakers have struggled mightily in the past few seasons–in back to back years they have eclipsed their own marks for the worst seasons in franchise history–yet their past history is on their side. The Lakers have existed in Los Angeles longer than any other team besides the Dodgers, and have won a resounding sixteen championships in the city. As film production expanded in the late 1960s and early 1970s so too did the Lakers, acquiring future Hall-of-Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar from the Milwaukee Bucks in 1975 and drafting Johnson with the first overall pick in the 1979 NBA Draft. The 1980s was the famed “Showtime Era” for the Lakers earned them five titles and, after the team gained Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant in the mid-1990s, there was little lull in the team’s success.

The success of the Lakers is easily paralleled with the success of Los Angeles as whole–intense highs and very little lows–yet their lows have gotten quite extreme over the past years. It’s in the best interest of the city to have a team they can stand behind and revel in the pride of (sure the Clippers are good, but who like the Clippers?) Magic Johnson is a star in his own right, a valuable media presence and television personality, so it should be no surprise that Variety would publish an article about his doings and the going ons of Los Angeles’s favorite team. As long as Jack Nicholson is still kickin’ and sitting courtside at every Laker game, there will always be a clear connection to the team and the movie industry that dominates the town.

Michael Shannon Is Just Like The Rest Of Us

In a November interview with Marc Maron for his WTF with Marc Maron podcast, actor Michael Shannon laid everything out about his personal and professional life and, although it can be cliche to say this, Mr. Shannon is very much just like the rest of us.

A personal favorite actor of mine Shannon gives off the persona of elusiveness, yet does not come across as such in any interview I have heard with him. Warm and friendly, Shannon spoke to Maron, and to most interviewers of him, with kindness and humility as though he was speaking to a friend and not another famous person. His polite and humble nature likely comes from his quasi-Southern upbringing: born in Lexington, Kentucky, Shannon spent equal time there and in Chicago, where he attended high school and joined theatre troupes. Shannon is aware of the odd dichotomy of his two homes–in the interview with Maron he claimed that he didn’t “fit in” in either place too well, yet found solace in the local theatre. His smooth and slightly Southern accent notwithstanding, Shannon’s quiet confident nature would feel very much at home in Kentucky and throughout the American South; perhaps this is why he has occasionally been typecast in Southern roles.

Another reason for this humility is probably because Shannon believes that he owes much of his success to other people. A fiercely loyal collaborator, Shannon is perhaps best known to the average cinephile as the only person to appear in all of Jeff Nichols’ films, including Midnight Special and Loving, which Shannon appeared on the podcast to promote. A popular character actor in the plays of Tracy Letts as well, Shannon levied high praise on both Letts and Nichols in the interview, saying that he wouldn’t be where he was today without their influence.

Shannon also appeared on the podcast to promote the then-recently released Nocturnal Animals, directed by Tom Ford. One of my favorite films of the year, Nocturnal Animals is boosted by a terrific Oscar-nominated turn from Shannon as, you might’ve guessed it, a Southern (Texas) police officer. The beacon of semi-morality in an otherwise lawless film, Shannon’s Detective Andes is a typical character for him, someone with a strong sense of power and authority in a role that’s just enough flash and prestige without distracting the audience from the rest of the film.

Although he’s a strong family man Michael Shannon manages to stay prolific–he has five films coming out within the next 12 months alone, and, as he’s approaching the thirty year mark of his career, Shannon has also managed to gain widespread acclaim for just about every film he appears in. If he continues to work with acclaimed writers and directors, and if he has it his way, Shannon will continue to stick around and impress us with his performances for years to come.

Review: “O. J.: Made in America”

Very likely my favorite film of 2016, O. J.: Made in America is the rare kind of film that manages to add a little of everything to the mix. What is this film, an Academy Award nominee for Best Picture, really about? Race? Class? Gender and masculinity? The murder of a young woman and a young man? The fall from grace of an American icon? If you ask anyone who has sat through the almost eight-hour long epic (which took me a week to complete), and they will rightly tell you that the film delicately balances all those things, and more.

One of the greatest things about this film is how well director Ezra Edelman treats his audience by assuming that they know nothing about O. J. Simpson. You’d be hard pressed to find someone in 2017 who doesn’t know at least something about O. J. Simpson–I was only four months old at the time of his acquittal for murder, yet I feel as though I know the case better than some people who can remember it. Still, Edelman treats the film as though he is revealing the man of O. J. Simpson for the first time, a wondrous achievement. Beginning with Simpson as a young man, the film chronicles his early successes playing high school, college, and professional football, and his quick ascension to celebrity status, all with the backdrop of race, which Simpson was also an expert in. Edelman shows that, because of his maneuvering between the white and black races, Simpson was able to take hold of the white American psyche in a way that few, if any, African-American figures had done before, all the while still being adored by the African-American community as well. By adding in the complex topic of race early on in the film, the audience is given a clear indication that this will come into play later in the documentary, which it does in full force, especially during the parts of the film which depict the murder trial of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.

The film is far too long, and far too far-reaching, for me to accurately sum it up in a single blog post, let alone a full-length essay, yet the whole film really comes down to the man it depicts–Orenthal James Simpson. A deeply enigmatic, deeply flawed, and deeply troubled icon of American pop culture, Made in America makes a valid attempt to understand the man himself, and it very richly succeeds. Simpson is a man dominated by the desire–the need, the addiction–to be liked, and to be famous. This is eerily present in the documentary which makes great usage of Simpson’s past interviews and archive footage. A charming guy with a great smile, a strong voice, and a passionate way about him, Simpson nevertheless emerges as a tragic individual. When someone is so dominated by the impulse to be loved by everyone, they will inevitably step on a few toes to get to the top of that proverbial mountain. Currently imprisoned since 2008 for a Las Vegas armed robbery, Simpson is carefully painted in both negative and positive lights for the film. While Edelman seems to make the conclusion that, yes, despite what the twelve jurors decided in 1995, Simpson is a murderer, there is a tragic way about how Simpson is presented in the documentary’s present tense. Simpson flew too close to the sun and got burned–if you ask Marcia Clark and Fred Goldman, as Edelman did, they’d say that karma came back and bit O. J. Simpson.

As a culture we are obsessed with fame and this film makes that abundantly clear. Allegedly, on the night of Simpson’s armed robbery in a Vegas casino, his god-daughter Kim Kardashian announced her new television series Keeping Up with the Kardashians, which, again allegedly, Simpson said would last no longer than two weeks. When the Kardashian patriarch, Robert, was such an influential figure in Simpson’s murder trial, did you really not expect one of his daughters to appear in a documentary about Simpson? We as Americans are so pre-occupied with fame that we, at times, forget to live our own lives, and we forget that fame is a tangible thing. I myself am a victim, as I’ve spent the vast majority of the past week researching, listening to, and watching any thing I could about a crime that happened before I was even born, all because a celebrity was at the center of it. But hey, whenever something as groundbreaking and astonishing as O. J.: Made in America is on, can you blame me?

For more information about, and another review extolling, O. J.: Made in America, read this New York Times piece by resident critic A. O. Scott. 

Shane Black’s Cruel Wisdom

I am a fan of Shane Black and his films. Unlike many other writer-directors working today, Black always seems to straddle the line between cinematic acclaimed films and audience pleasing pictures very well–I could recommend a Shane Black film to a film friend of mine, as well as a family member who only goes to the movies once a month. The Nice Guys was one of my favorite films of 2016, and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang introduced me to Robert Downey, Jr. even before I had seen a single Iron Man film. I admire Black’s dialogue, his directorial style, and especially his love for the Christmas holiday, a love which we deeply share. That being said, I do not think I would enjoy hanging out with Mr. Black, as an interview with Ben Blacker for his The Writer’s Panel podcast made painfully evident.

Recorded live in front of an audience before the release of The Nice Guys, Black’s interview with touched on a wide range of topics, including the production of his most recent film, his love of the Christmas season, his career trajectory, and his newest project The Predator, yet most of these topics circled back to how famous and wealthy Mr. Black is. This is not to say that he doesn’t have the right to talk about this–I’d probably also love to talk about how celebrated of a writer I was–yet the manner in which he did it felt inappropriate. Braggadocios, condescending, and frequently cruel, Black was not shy to talk about his success in front of others, and this oftentimes came at the expense of everyone else–at one point Black tells the audience, in less words, that they will all fail in their goal to become writers. Perhaps this is true. Black and the host of the podcast, Blacker, mention a statistic that states 93-94% of would-be-writers are unemployed in that field, a stat that did not surprise me. Still, the medium didn’t feel right, for me, to tear about the hopes and dreams of the audience who paid money to see Shane Black be interviewed. There was little hope and a lot of despair in the room, unless you were Shane Black, because, as he often reminded the audience, he is indeed a successful writer.

Although I was quickly turned off due to Black’s nature, I was able to glean one thing from his interview that I try to do myself–get in a routine. When pressed for advice for the writers listening to the interview, Black went on to describe a day in the life of someone who wants to have their work published/produced: wake up the same time everyday, eat the same breakfast, work for a certain amount of time, break for a certain amount of time, come back and edit, and then work again. This, at least, is an admirable quality that Black has, and one that I personally believe in as well. Routine is good, I think, and it gives one a sense of normalcy even if the world is metaphorical (or literally) falling down around them. I’ve found that it helps me plan out almost every little bit of my day to give myself time to write, or work on another project, homework, etc. By getting into a routine or schedule, Black says that inspiration and brilliance will come because you’re working on the same thing over and over and getting into the real groove of your story. Wholeheartedly, I agree with this, and appreciate the advice that I believe is easy to follow. Like the rest of the interview, Black says this nugget of advice in a callus way, yet I can dig through the subtext to appreciate the intent of his advice.

Will I still watch Shane Black films? Sure. Listening to the interview didn’t crush my soul or anything–I understand that not everyone is a nice guy, but I can still wish that everyone was. What did I learn from listening to Black’s interview? The best of advice can come from the most uncomfortable of places.