Things have been quiet here on the blog for the past month because I was busy prepping preshow graphics for Hot Docs and then immediately jumped into work on a great gig creating an animated opening title sequence (and some graphics) for Leslie, My Name is Evil, Reg Harkema's (Monkey Warfare) new feature film:
Perry, a sheltered chemical engineer, falls in love with Leslie, a former homecoming princess, when he is selected to be a jury member at her hippie death cult murder trial.
I've never done opening titles before -- and it was ambitious sequence for a first try -- but I love the learning curve and it's not often that you get to work on something that's as much fun as this. More updates on the flick later, once post-production is done ...
We spent a night in Cleveland last weekend. I'd been to the city several times in the early 90s but I hadn't been back since 1991. Back then, downtown Cleveland was a deserted wasteland and I was curious to see if things had improved over two decades.
After checking in at our hotel, we walked down Rock and Roll Boulevard to find a bite to eat. We were ready to rock. And here's what we found:
If you look closely, you can actually see a third person in the above photo (behind the car making a left). This photo was taken around 3:30 pm on a Friday ... a waiter in a diner had just told us that they were closed. According to the city's wikipedia entry, there's a local perception that the downtown is a crime zone ... and Cleveland is apparently the US' 11th most dangerous city (we've already done #1). And named the US' poorest major city twice in the past decade.
We'd just arrived and were hungry and, fortunately, we were able to find an open food court in this mall:
I was at this mall twenty years ago on my first trip to Cleveland and it was a dead mall back then. Today, it's an even emptier, dead mall. Which begs the question, who would bother operating and maintaining an abandoned mall? FOR TWENTY YEARS? Maybe that's why Cleveland is so poor.
But the mall management hasn't given up and is rocking the mall with an exciting red umbrella campaign.
After the food, we continued down Rock and Roll Boulevard to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (adult admission $22 ... so most people actually from Cleveland can't afford to go) where, as you can see in the photo, we saw another three pedestrians. You know what those pedestrians were doing? ROCKING. Okay, no ... they weren't.
We'd had enough at that point and were ready for dinner. The Flats was the "hip spot" in the 90s (it's not a "district" as promoted, it really is just a "spot") but it's on the wane. The city's groovy hipster area today is the Warehouse District. So we walked there. Alone.
The Warehouse District is an area of attractive old buildings that surround a supermassive parking lot. It's sort of like Liberty Village, with one glaring omission ...
The quaint streets are packed with a total lack of human beings. This is the restaurant and bar district ... on a Friday night. Maybe everyone was hung over from rocking all week.
We spotted a bar with people on the patio ... including a group of black and white people socializing together, which disputes the tourist mags' claim that multicultural Cleveland is a rich melange of twenty shades of white:
They don't even mention African Americans in the article pictured above, which is funny because we saw black people everywhere. The woman behind the desk at the hotel was black and so was the guy checking in before us. In fact, I checked the stats and 51% of the city's population is ...
Everyone not visiting that part of town is missing out; we had a beer on a patio and a pretty good dinner at a restaurant. Afterwards, we walked back to the Hotel and passed through 'Tower City', a mall and train station that serves tens of people every year.
Then, on our way back to the hotel we stumbled upon something startling ... a single city block of bars and restaurants. There were even people there.
So that's downtown Cleveland. What makes it so eerie is that it looks like a real city. There are lots of big buildings and some of them are really nice and the downtown is walkable, if lonely.
I guess we'll try again in another 20 years. See you in 2029, Cleveland.
I was thinking of this because I caught a few minutes of the season finale of Gray's Anatomy tonight. It's amazing that such a strong cast -- the key players are really good -- can be fed so much terrible dialogue. It's one of the worst written shows on tv ... the characters don't talk, they just speak in urgent declarations, for example:
If you you don't treat him, he'll die!
If you don't kiss her, she'll die!
If you don't get the oil changed, it'll die!
What makes it worse is that all of the actors deliver their dialogue in one voice and it becomes this monotone of urgent declaration. It's as though the show's writers and directors were so moved by 9/11, they decided that all of their characters should talk just like the news anchors on that day. It's all constipation and no relief ... the show needs dialogue suppositories.
And then I realized that there's another show where the characters deliver their lines the exact same way: Rock of Love, Bus. Nobody talks to one another, they just announce everything and much of it, esp. Brett Michaels declarations (I'm looking for the finale one forever to the end, amen), is just bunk.
CSI Miami has already set the dialogue cheese bar eighty metres high ... and they did it by inventing sixty different words for 'urgent'.
It's Mother's Day weekend, so we went to Star Trek. My mom's been a fan since the beginning and she was optimstic about this one. And for good reason: it's a big, fun adventure.
A couple of things struck me about the movie. First, I had no idea how much I missed these characters. The Undiscovered Country came out during my last year of university so it's been more than a decade and a half since we've had a story with all of these characters together (sorry, the overly-reverent and often sappy New Voyages doesn't count).
The other impression I had afterwards was how unnecessary the story was. In a nod to the canon festishists, the story provides a semi-reboot of the franchise as a way to help old-school fans accept new actors in the classic roles. But it wasn't needed. The characters are so well cast and do such a great job of bringing the spirit of the characters to life, they could have dreamt up any old adventure and just said, "Star Trek. New Cast. Enjoy."
Phew, I needed that. If they could get a sequel together for next month, that'd be great.
* Meanwhile, on Space: we saw Christie on the Star Trek panel earlier in the day and while she seeemed to say the least, she also made the best points. Watch the look on her face when the idiot with the glasses (who thinks 'Generations' is a great film) talks ... she should have smacked that loser down.