You’re Getting Sleepy

I don’t know if ASMR is the gateway to hypnosis, but that’s where I ended up. But first, I made a pit stop in the world of subliminal video/audio. I don’t know about you, but subliminal video gives me flashbacks to U2’s Zoo TV Tour. So much so, I keep hoping to hear “The Fly.”

Just me then?

I don’t know if subliminal audio/video works, or if I just want it to. Either way, I do feel better and I guess that’s the point. Over the months, I have become far less defeatest, and I am not quite as cynical… About some subjects.

I was wary about hypnotism, since all I know about it is that at some point every sitcom has an episode where someone is hypnotized into thinking they are a chicken. I am not a control freak, but I don’t like to cede control unless a safeword has been agreed upon.

There are times when I feel that I should stop being so tightly wound and just let go. Much like how Bruce Banner controls the Hulk by staying angry 24/7, I keep from stressing out by never relaxing. Or, at least I did.

I don’t know if this is normal or not, but it took me a few times before I was able to go under. Maybe I was fighting it. Truth is, I am not sure if I have gone under, or just relaxed so much that it seems like I did. Years ago, I could meditate on something to the point I felt that I was dreaming while still awake. At some point, I lost that ability.

The upshot to the hypnosis is that I don’t have a gambling addiction, and I haven’t had a cigarette in months. I didn’t smoke or gamble before hypnosis, I’m just trying to look at the positives.

Frankie Say Relax

I have been feeling kind of frazzled for nearly a year now. I have always had good days and bad, but every so often a big thing comes along and it wears me out. At the moment, I have one big thing weighing on me, and another potential thing could be on its way. I am trying not to worry about the second thing, for it may only be a blip on the radar, and there is the potential for an upside. From past experience I know that while looking at the positives I am bound to be blindsided by the negatives.

Normally, I have a support system in place when I need to talk, but I am in the process of being the support system for my support system. I am overstating the case, but I don’t want to burden those who have enough to carry.

Late last year I was perusing a website that mainly deals with geeky stuff, when I saw a mention of something called AMSR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response). I Googled it, since that is what one does when you want to learn stuff.

AMSR works on the idea that certain sounds can stimulate the pleasure center in the brain. I say “idea,” because there is no hard science to back up the claims as of yet. It could be a placebo or snake oil, but I was willing to give it a shot.

What ASMR videos have in common is that the host, or “artist” as they tend to refer to themself, speaks in whispers or a soft voice. I understand why this can be soothing. Who doesn’t like a calm voice telling them that everything will be okay?

*Sigmund Freud on line one.*

Along with the whispering, the artist will often make noises such as tapping or scratching. They may also crinkle paper or candy wrappers. Thankfully, there are no windchimes, since those blasted things sound like metal pipes crashing down on the highway. Kissing and lip smacking sounds are popular as well, but I will never understand the appeal of gum chewing, for that gives me a headache.

There can be an element of roleplay in ASMR. Some of the more popular ones are: eye exam, cranial nerve exam, haircuts, (for men or women) and applying makeup. I’m a winter! Who knew?

AMSR is usually fun, lighthearted fair. There are some artists that like to talk about what they bought at a discount store, and there’s the ever popular “What’s in my bag?” videos. It does sound like a David Letterman bit, but that isn’t a bad thing.

The videos I like are the ones where the artist does roleplay as a caring friend, or just has a chat about stuff. Sometimes they will talk about their favorite bands, or hobbies. I even found a couple of videos by a woman who talks about Formula 1. Yep, I’m in love.

Another ascpect I enjoy is listening to foreign languages and accents. I don’t speak any language other than English, so I have no idea what they are saying, but I love to hear them say it. That being said, I may be the only person in the world who finds a Scottish accent soothing.

I do fear that having “conversations” with people on YouTube is not healthy. I may damage my limited social skills by talking to a screen like I am Sally Sparrow. But things worked out for her.

The Revolution Will Not Be Filmed

Mad Max: Fury Road has sparked something in a lot of us that write about films, and that’s a good thing. I am estatic that so many film lovers, both professional and amatuer, have found something that most of us can agree on and enjoy.

But, and it’s a Kardashian sized one, there has been a lot of talk about how Fury Road is the first shot in some kind of filmic revolution. I wish that was the case, and if I am wrong, which I hope I am, I will admit it. If anything, Fury Road was a one off; an anomoly that is as rare as Hally’s comet.

Fury Road isn’t that different to the original Mad Max trilogy. Those films were something totally out of left field. They arrived at a time when all most of the rest of the world knew about Australia was kangaroos, koalas, and Olivia Newton-John. Writer/director George Miller gave us these bizarre movies filled with characters that looked like someone took the audience from a punk rock concert, a heavy metal show, a leather bar, and a BDSM dungeon, and dropped them off in the Outback. For the most part there was very little dialogue, which is just as well since the American distributor felt the need to overdub the dialogue in Mad Max since it was believed that most of us had would have no clue as to what they were on about.

The Mad Max films were influential in that they had a number of immitators; mostly low budget affairs or the occasional music video. Blade Runner was an influential movie as well, and that spawned sci-fi films that looked like they were shot in the dark. The biggest takeaway from Blade Runner seemed to be the soundtrack by Vangelis, which led filmmakers to hire their cousin with a Casio keyboard to score their movies. As a fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000, I have been subjected to more than my fair share of these soundtracks which is the definition of “deep hurting.”

In my previous post, I discussed the feminist aspects of Fury Road. In short: I am all for them. Still, I don’t see Hollywood rushing out to make action films with female leads. Notice I didn’t say “strong female leads,” for strong is implied and inherent.

The box office success of Lucy still hasn’t motivated Marvel Studios to greenlight a Black Widow movie. Yeah, I am still going on about that. Lucy was directed by Luc Besson, who twenty-five years ago(!) gave us La Femme Nikita. That movie inspired an American remake (Point of No Return) and two television series. It seems that if you want see a female secret agent kick some ass on a regular basis, you need to turn on your TV. See also: Alias, and Covert Affairs.

Fury Road was made with a minimal amount of CGI. If you consider ten percent minimal. It is, compared to most films. I am not anti-CGI; it has its place. I don’t see the Russo brothers strapping rockets to Robert Downey Jr for Captain America: Civil War. If they had, he probably would have landed in my yard, since they are shooting in Atlanta. And I cannot see Zack Snyder telling Henry Cavill to jump off a roof and method act his way to the ground.

Probably too much has been made of J.J. Abrams using mostly practical effects on Star Wars: The Force Awakens. CGI was not the problem with the prequels. As for it being shot on film? I think it’s kind of cool. Abrams, along with Quentin Tarantino and a few other directors have the ability to make that call, while studio heads tell others, “David Fincher shoots digitally, you can too.” Last time I checked, there was only one David Fincher.

Fury Road benefitted from not being tied down to a release date. It was made three years ago and then they went back for extensive reshoots. There was a time when that sort of thing would be a bad sign, but it happens more than you know. World War Z had a totally different ending prior to reshoots, and Marvel schedules them for all their movies.

I know I am oversimplifying things, but Warner Bros. pretty much gave George Miller $150 million, at least, and told him to come back when he had something. Miller even convinced Oscar winning director of photography, John Seale, to come out of retirement. The thing is: Miller did all this with some storyboards and a vague idea. Admitedly, this is more than Michael Cimino had when he made Heaven’s Gate. But not by much.

After making the masterpiece that is Mad Max: Fury Road, George Miller could have dropped the megaphone and walked off. No one would blame him, he is seventy years old. He has been talking about a sequel called Mad Max: Wasteland. Good on him. No one else can make a film the way he does.

Mad Max: Fury Road and Feminism

In the past week or so, there have been many articles writen about how Mad Max: Fury Road is a feminist film. Needless to say, this caused any number of “men’s rights activists” to get all hyper in their diapers. Boo fricking hoo.

Being a guy, I don’t know if I can be called a feminist. Some use the term “feminist ally,” and I will accept which either one. The MRAs will call me a “beta male,” and I really don’t care. They use that term as an insult, and believe me when I say this: I have been called worse.

Some have said that Fury Road is a “humanist” film; whatever that means. I have heard people say that the term “humanist” is a cop out; that it is for those who are afraid or unwilling to indentify as a feminist. I don’t know about that, but I understand the point.

SPOILER WARNING!

I guess Max Rockatansky is an alpha male; albeit one that doesn’t that has to go around trying to prove it to everyone he meets. Or himself. I don’t see him as the kind of fellow who would be spotted in the front row of a Frank T.J. Mackey seminar. So what if he couldn’t shoot the spotlight and Furiosa had to do it. No one would have said a word if Nux had made the shot. Who cares if Max hardly said a word and literally rode shotgun throughout the majority of the film. If you want to see Tom Hardy drive and talk–watch Locke.

No, seriously. Watch Locke. It’s excellent.

There are those that want to argue that Fury Road can’t be a feminist film considering how Immortan Joe’s wives were dressed. Well… It gets hot when you are locked inside a vault located in the desert. Or maybe, that is what Joe forces them to wear. It’s not like the women chose to be part of a harem of their own free will–they were kidnapped. Joe didn’t place an ad on Craigslist looking for “breeders;” who would have answered that? I don’t care if he has what passes for a “wash & wax” in the post-apocalyptic world, there wouldn’t be that many takers.

Considering how the wives were dressed, there was a noticable lack of male gaze in Fury Road. The War Boys saw Joe’s wives not as sex objects, but as goddesses, or princesses, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. As for the scene where Max stumbles across the wives in the desert washing themselves, it’s not like it was an 80s sex comedy in which high school girls start a bikini car wash in order to make money for cheerleading camp. Max thinks he is seeing a mirage, and you can’t blame him. I would too if I had been drained of blood, strapped to the front of a car, shot at, gone through a sand tornado, crashed, then had to drag around a War Boy and a car door. At the very least, I would have made an appointment at Pearle Vision.

So… What have we learned? Not much. But if Mad Max: Fury Road is a feminist movie: More please.

Mad Max: Fury Road and the Battle of the Box Office

The first question I asked myself after watching Mad Max: Fury Road was: “Well, did it live up to the hype?” The short answer is : Yes. It didn’t surpass the hype, but how could it? Even the less hyperbolic reviews were effusive with praise.

On more than one occasion, I described the second Transformers movie as “Sound and fury, signifying nothing.” (I am nothing if not unoriginal.) It was a noisy and numbing experience. Fury Road is loud, bombastic, and way-over-the-top; but in a good way. In the Eighties, I watched the Mad Max films, while the generation that came after me was watching the Transformers animated TV series. Having never watched the show or played with the toys, I have no allegience to Optimus Prime, et al. People seem to enjoy the Transformers films–if the box office receipts are to be believed. I had no idea if anyone would want to revisit the world of Mad Max thirty years after the previous installment. Talk about Beyond Thunderdome.

Yes, I really do need an editor.

Or a joke writer.

I was concerned that for the third summer in a row, Warner Bros. would have an excellent film that didn’t quite make as much money as it deserved. The previous two being: Pacific Rim, and Edge of Tomorrow. Some people on various social media platforms have tried to brand Fury Road a flop, simply because it finished a distant second to Pitch Perfect 2 on its opening weekend. I am by no means an expert, but by doing a bit of what I like to call “research,” I saw that Pitch Perfect 2 made more on its debut weekend than Pitch Perfect did during its entire theatrical run. If anything, PP2 overachieved since it made nearly double its projection. But then again, math was never my strong suit.

Tomorrowland opens this weekend, but it has received mixed reviews at best. It’s a Disney film, so everyone is required by law to see it, despite what the critics say. How will Fury Road stack up against Tomorrowland? I have no clue. Maybe Fury Road will be one of those movies like Kingsmen: The Secret Service that never held the top slot, but hung around in the top five for a very long time.

Mad Max: Fury Road

Can you spoil Mad Max: Fury Road? Yes. And no. You can tell your friends, or blog readers, about the majestic action sequences, but there are so many that you’d more than likely forget half of them. What about plot stuff? There is plot, but in true Mad Max tradition, it’s really an excuse to showcase glorious chaos.

And blow crap up.

The action starts early in Fury Road, but it’s a brief chase; an appetizer for what is to come when the pu pu platter hits the fan. Max (Tom Hardy) is captured, and then turned into a human blood bag for a War Boy called Nux (Nicolas Hoult).

Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) is sent on a fuel run to Gas Town, but she has other plans, and makes a literal left turn. Furiosa has liberated the five wives of Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) and he is less than pleased. He sends his War Boys on a mission to retrieve the women, and that’s when it all kicks off.

I can’t decide: Does “The Five Wives of Immortan Joe” sound more like a John Ford, or a John Cassavetes movie? Answers on a postcard to the usual address.

What happens next is nothing short of extraordinary. The action and stunts in Fury Road are among the best in cinema history. It has everything: X Games-type motorcycle jumping, dudes on swinging poles, chrome spray-painted teeth, a bloke with pierced nipples, people spitting gasoline into superchargers, sand tornadoes, a guitar that doubles as a flamethrower, seeds!

One of the many things Fury Road has on the majority of blockbusters is that the violence, gunplay, and explosions have consequences. There is blood, but not a huge amount for an R-rated movie, and there is no gore. Thankfully, director/co-writer George Miller is above all that. I’m not saying you can or should let your children watch Mad Max: Fury Road–but you could do a lot worse.

Let’s Go to the New Mall!

My friend and I made an excursion to a new mall in Alpharetta yesterday. I say “new;” it’s new to us. It’s been up and ruuning for a while, but it’s an outdoor mall, and we were waiting for the weather to co-operate. Two months ago, we made made an arrangement to see Birdman at the theatre there, but somebody had to go and call it a “plan.” My friend got a better offer to go to a different outdoor mall in Atlanta. That one has an IKEA, and a pub where supporters of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club hang out. My friend is a Manchester United fan, so it was no big deal. I’m a Gooner, so I was like, “Have a nice day.”

Outdoor malls have become all the rage in Georgia; I’ve been to five in the past few years. The one we were at yesterday is called “Avalon,” because if you have to call it something, you might as well call it something pretentious. The one in Atlanta with the Spurs pub is Atlantic Station, which is the least pretentious sounding of the lot. There are two on 141; one is The Forum, the other is “The Mall Formerly Known as The Avenues,” since I refuse to use it’s new, even more silly, name.

That leaves whatever it is they call the one in Buckhead. I call it “The Hole,” for that is what is was from the time everything was torn down on Peachtree Road between Buckhead Avenue and Pharr Road, back around 2007, until the thing was finally constructed. I sometimes refer to it as “Centre Commercial du Frommage,” since many of the Buckhead bigshots wanted to emulate the area along the Champs Elysees, which is only slightly less popular with the locals than the cleaned up Times Square in New York City.

These newfangled shopping areas are set up to look like neighborhood streets. Many have apartments, town houses, and/or office buildings adjacent to them. What it actually resembles is the Warner Bros. back lot. I wandered around Avalon hoping I would find Luke’s Diner. To be honest, I was really hoping to bump into Lorelai Gilmore, but neither she nor Rory would shop at someplace so obviously artificial. And you don’t have to watch Mad Men to know that “neighborhood atmosphere” really means that you are trying to make potential customers nostalgic for something that never was.

Upon arrival at Avalon, I became cognizant of the fact that I didn’t read the guidelines about proper attire. What I am saying is: Everyone else went “athletic casual.” At least I was wearing sneakers. All the shoppers looked as if they stepped out of an ad for Dick’s Sporting Goods, or as if they were on their way to 24 Hour Fitness. They certainly weren’t on the way back, for there was nary a drop of sweat to be seen. It was as if they were Stepford Shoppers, or this was a variation of Westworld, or worse–Los Angeles.

I suppose it makes sense, since Atlanta is the new Hollywood. This week, Buckhead doubled for London, England during filming for Captain America: Civil War, which says something about filmmaking, London, or both. I guess if “Civil War” is in the title, you might as well film in Georgia.

Anyway, after completing our shopping experience, we made our way back to the car; as you do. As we passed by the prime parking spots reserved for electric cars, what we saw was not a Nissan Leaf or Chevrolet Volt, but a Tesla, which pretty much sums up our time at Avalon. It’s not that I have anything against Teslas; far from it. Tesla drivers? Maybe. But at the end of the day, I am more of a Ferrari kind of guy.