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How To Make a Stupid 80’s Movie

How To Make a Stupid 80’s Movie

Once the 80’s misfit teenager ranged far and free across the American landscape. from John Cusack to Molly Ringwald, if you could pretend you were a high school outcast who had big dreams and a desire to win you were on top of the world.
However, I’ve noticed that ever since 1989 people have stopped making stupid 80’s teenager movies. Oh sure, people tried to make a similar film in the 90’s, movies like Chasing Amy and Mallrats, but these movies didn’t have the same flair, the same élan, or the same bone-headedness of the classic 80’s film. To help remedy this situation and to inspire all the budding filmmakers with a desire to make something truly brain-dead I humbly offer this guide to making stupid 80’s movies.

Stick to the Recipe

To make a stupid 80’s movie you have to stick to the recipe. If your main character isn’t a high school student having a hard time fitting in your movie will fail. If the parents in the movie have brains, or even anything resembling a serious part in the film people will suspect your masterwork of being something introspective or even deep, and nobody wants that. No, like a great sonnet, you must work within the framework, and only use the plot elements that have been so well-tested over the years. Specifically:

High School Students

Even if your main actors are old enough to be PhD candidates, you need to portray them in high school. And not just any high school. Your 80’s movie high school is covered in graffiti, the halls perpetually packed with an assortment of punks (colorful hair), preppies(colorful sweaters draped over their shoulders) and jocks (wearing team colors, of course). If anyone is not wearing bright colors they will be your nerds. They must laugh at space jokes, wear brown pants above their navels, and be generally looked upon with either scorn or pity, depending on the character looking upon them.
Against this backdrop you will place your protagonist. If male, your protagonist will wear a tie that is less than 2 inches wide at its widest point and a sports jacket. If female, your protagonist’s hair must be no less than 3 inches taller than her actual skull. In terms of wardrobe you have more freedom with a female lead, but remember that she has to clean up nicely for the big dance, where she will wear something with shoulder pads that would frighten a linebacker.
Your antagonist may be one of the following: The school administration, the jock boyfriend of your male protagonist’s love interest, or the preppie ice queen that actively seeks to destroy your female protagonist’s dreams of finally being socially accepted.

The Dilemma

Again, your dilemma is tightly proscribed, and must fit within the high school milieu. Perhaps your main character needs a date to the prom, or maybe they will be denied some life goal if they don’t get their grades in line by the end of the semester. Either way, your protagonist must solve this problem within one week, two at the outside.
Once you have truly mastered the art of stupid 80’s movies you may consider the third-party dilemma. This is where the romantic interest has a problem and the protagonist must help them solve it, usually in a way that would make no sense at all. Saving an old house from being torn down by winning a boat race, for example. The third-party dilemma gives you more room to experiment, but also walks the line between stupid 80’s movie and standard romantic comedy, and should be used sparingly.

The Cast

While your main couple are fine and all, you can’t really have a stupid 80’s movie without a good supporting cast. Your main character’s best friend, for example, will often define the tone of the movie, and should get the lion’s share of the memorable lines. There should be a younger brother who is either silent and brilliant, or insanely talkative and vapid. In either case the younger brother will be obsessed with finding an attractive female companion. His success in this endeavor is immaterial, so long his antics are sufficiently comic.
It is not uncommon for the love interest to already be romantically involved with someone at the beginning of the movie, and that someone should be an intensely shallow, self-centered icon. Male or female, they should wear pink and have blond hair. You may worry that the audience won’t accept the fact that your love interest, whom you have written as a sensitive, intelligent, and caring person, has willingly paired off with such a dud. For the most part, as long as the romantic interest ends up with your protagonist all will be forgiven, but if you feel the need to have the romantic interest explain their choice, the standard “[He/She] used to be different, before [he/she] became head of the [basketball team/cheerleading squad]” formula is sufficient.

The Music

The music in a stupid 80’s movie should be from the 80’s, of course, and no pains should be spared to emphasize the 80’s-ness of it. Any piece that doesn’t have a synthesizer should be rejected out of hand. Themes ranging from new love to lost love may be used. At some point, usually at the prom, there should be a live band, who should endeavor to look as Californian as possible. Brightly colored suits with white loafers are acceptable. There should be two keyboards on stage, a Roland and a Yamaha. If you have a female singer in your live band she should look as much like Cindi Lauper as your budget allows.

Product Placement

Speaking of your budget, a large portion of your production budget can be covered by a few well-placed pizza boxes or soda cans. There’s no reason to write the names of these products into your script–that would be too obvious–but any time a group of friends is gathered to celebrate some minor success be sure that they do so with Coca-Cola and Pizza Hut. Particularly savvy producers can even get either Roland or Yamaha to pay for the Cindi Lauper impersonator, but be aware that they will ask for a long keyboard solo in the middle of your dramatic-conflict-resolution-at-the-dance scene.

Conclusion

And there you have it. Follow these steps and you will be on your way to making quickly forgotten teen movies like a pro. Join us next time when we take a look at making nightmare-inducing children’s fantasy movies using rubber masks and puppets.

Lyin’ Lion

Lyin’ Lion

There’s a card that my sister-in-law gave to my son for Valentine’s Day. It’s one of those silly little Valentine cards that you’re supposed to buy for the entire class, so it’s not actually romantic, it’s just socially acceptable. But it’s making me crazy. Again, not because I have anything against Valentine’s Day; I don’t. Instead it’s because of the pun on the card.

The card features an image of a lion. In fact, other than the text (I’ll get to that in a moment) that’s all there is on the card. his be-maned features fill the card from edge to edge. The problem isn’t the lion. The problem is the text.

“Theres(sic) no lion,” it says above the lion’s face, in blatant contradiction of the facts at hand.  It finishes it’s sentiment underneath the lion’s face, stating “You’re great!” A nice, positive, affirming message. Sure, it’s one that is usually associated with a large cartoon tiger, but we can accept that. The problem is the whole “lion” pun.

I realize I’m over thinking this, but when something says “there’s no lion” I expect to be greeted by an entire absence of the king of the jungle. One cannot behave like this in polite society. If I were to say “there’s no giant gaping abyss” while standing at the edge of said abyss, I’d be seen as a lunatic at best and a public nuisance (and perhaps a danger to very gullible or distracted people) at worst. So when a card that is meant to be given to a student in a classroom lies like this it doesn’t sit well with me.

What bothers me even more is that the joke could have been done just as well if the top half had said, “I’m not lion”. While still unacceptable if we assume that the image on the card is the speaker, this rendering  could be construed as true. The person who created this card most likely did so in Photoshop, and lions as a species have thus far failed to master any part of that program, so we can accept the original author’s claim of non-leonine heritage. Likewise, we can accept that the sender of the card, most likely a student in the third grade, is not a lion, and has called attention to this fact. The card further emphasizes the point by including an image of a lion, perhaps for comparison to the features of the sender to further strengthen their argument. Seen in this light, the “I’m not lion” line works infinitely better than the disingenuous lie “There’s no lion.” But the makers of this card felt otherwise, and I’m left to deal with the wreckage.

Perhaps they included the top text as a way to put the recipient at ease. A way to say “I realize the lion in this picture is quite realistic, albeit minuscule, but rest assured that the envelope in which I delivered this card to your shoebox-cum-mailbox is devoid of any form of big cat. The bulge in the envelope was caused by the small, chalky candy that you have probably already eaten in your panic” as it were. In this light, considering that they have reduced a paragraph of Hawthorne-ian proportions down to three words, they have succeeded grandly, and pulled off their safari-related pun at the same time.

So, it is in this reading, and this reading only, that I am willing to accept the card maker’s statement. Any further attempt to justify their blatant regard for facts will result in a return to my pedantic and neurotic state, and nobody wants that.

Where Are The Planeswalkers Now: Predictions for Avacyn Restored

Where Are The Planeswalkers Now: Predictions for Avacyn Restored

(Note: this post will make zero sense if you don’t play Magic: the Gathering. But what’s the point of being a huge nerd if you don’t occasionally put some inside jokes out on the web?)

So, for some reason I’ve been thinking about what all the Planeswalkers will be doing during the Innistrad block. We know where Sorin, Liliana and Garruk are, but what about Jace? And Chandra?

Yes, this is the sort of thing I think about. and while I was thinking about it the other day I made up stories for what all the1 planeswalkers are doing. Enjoy.

  • Ajani is in a hospital somewhere recovering. Anyone dumb enough to take on Bolas in a Duel Deck situation deserves what they get.
  • Bolas, of course, is back in his pre-planeswalker library, reading some Hardy Boys books. he always looked more comfy in the old days.
  • Chandra and Gideon were last spotted by the planar paparazzi sitting by the pool in a very nice Lorwyn resort.
  • Elspeth, rightly worried that everyone will forget about her if she isn’t in every single themed block, is trying to break into Innistrad. However, there’s a sign at the door that says “you must be this gothic to enter” and she just can’t put on that much mascara.
  • Liliana will be the next Avacyn. She needs power, needs it now, and there’s not really any other good reason for her to be in Innistrad. It’s entirely possible she’s the one who killed the old Avacyn, and this would be a good comeuppance for her.
  • Sorin, of course, has come back to Innistrad to kick butt and somehow create angels, and he’s all out of wings. Or something. I’d like to see how he talks Lilly into becoming an angel.
  • Garruk will leave Innistrad without Liliana’s head on a pole, and will be so distraught that he’ll go straight to New Phyrexia and kill a few hundred giant twisted monstrosities to make himself feel better.
  • Nissa will spend the entire block sitting in her tree house drawing hearts around her new “Sorin, Lord of Innistrad” poster.
  • Koth and Karn will be starring in a tasteless comedy version of their escape from New Phyrexia called “Weekend at Venser’s”.
  • Jace is working on a spell to break into our plane and do some serious mental rearranging on the people who banned his best card.
  • Poor Tezzeret. Whatever’s going on, his life sucks right now. Get better, big guy! Hoping you feel less possessed soon!
    • Same goes for Sarkhan.
  1. currently alive planeswalkers from the main game, not from Duels of the Planeswalkers []
The Danger of Writing While Sleepy

The Danger of Writing While Sleepy

I’m somewhat behind in my NaNoWriMo writing this year, so last night I was up late writing. After a while I was starting to nod off and didn’t really know what I was doing any more, so I closed Scrivener and went to bed. This morning I looked at what I wrote last night, and it’s clear that I should have stopped a little earlier. I present to you, without editing, whatever it was I wrote last night.

"ANYWAY the point is that we’ve seen two ways your little plan with those two surface dwellers can pan out. The first is the easy way: you reprogram the communication network and you’re out of there. The problem is getting in there in the first place. The second method is more difficult: you have to capture and hold at least a third of the Centarch and the rest will turn ugly in a hurry. But you still ave to capture some transmission equipment and make sure you broadcast the Centarch turning ugly and why. The problem with this method is that there’s no second chance, if you do it the right kind of wrong.

"But I’ll never understand women, so let’s see here…"

As usual the one that did the military female no favors showed up the next day.

I really don’t know why there’s no second chance "if you do it the right kind of wrong", nor who “the military female” is, and I have NO clue how or what the “one” that does her no favors is. Apparently my characters turned incredibly sexist when I started falling asleep. But whatever. I’m keeping it. No reducing the word count during November!

On Gratitude

On Gratitude

Something I have been thinking about lately is the effect of gratitude on life. I’m not alone in this: Wikipedia has a long article on gratitude and the research that is being done looking into its effect on people. And in a way, that just makes it all the better.

So, here’s the interesting part. They say to make a journal of things for which you are grateful:

Out of the six conditions, the longest lasting effects were caused by the act of writing “gratitude journals” where participants were asked to write down three things they were grateful for every day. These participants’ happiness scores also increased and continued to increase each time they were tested periodically after the experiment. (From Wikipedia’s Article on Gratitude)

And a lot of people will start doing just that. And the first few entries will seem really really banal. Because we are grateful for the simple, obvious things first. But what about when you keep doing it? Then what happens?

In fact, the greatest benefits were usually found to occur around six months after treatment began. This exercise was so successful that although participants were only asked to continue the journal for a week, many participants continued to keep the journal long after the study was over. (ibid)

This ties in (again) to the writing I’ve been doing on Favorite Thing EVER: the more I look for things that I really really love the more I realize that the world is full of lovely things. And the field isn’t getting narrower. I’ve written a number of articles for that site, and I still see a growing number of new things every day that are worthy of a write up. It’s really pretty amazing. But after reading the results of the studies listed above I’d like to try the real experiment: Six months of writing about three things I’m grateful each day. This is actually kind of exciting!

Writing has always felt (to me) like scrubbing my soul; as I write freely I start to see who I actually am, and start to climb out of the scared, bored shell that builds all too quickly around me.

So, I’ll let you know how it goes, both of you who stop by here from time to time. Stay tuned to this…er, Rss feed!