November 29, 2016

Westworld - Pre Finale Thoughts

I’ve been meaning to write about Westworld all season. I guess this is my last chance to hypothesize and speculate before we are given all the answers[1]. I wish I had written my thoughts from episode one. There have been so many theories. It would be fun to look back on.

It is hard to believe the first season of Westworld is almost over, especially since we know it won’t be coming back for a year and a half. I have been sucked into the Westworld vortex. I have gone down the rabbit hole. I’ve thought so much about Westworld it feels like I have been watching for much longer than 9 weeks.

I have throughly enjoyed the experience of watching Westworld week to week then reading reviews online and even listening to a podcast each week. When I get this involved in a tv show I tend to build it up to a point where it can no longer meet my expectations. For the most part I felt like I was avoiding this with Westworld. However, that changed after episodes 8 & 9. As they started wrapping things up I started to lose confidence in an amazing ending.

Episode 8 (Trace Decay) had a lot of awkward exposition, especially from the “Man in Black”. He was my favorite character for the first half of the season, but has quickly lost whatever it was that made him interesting. He does feel like the one wildcard that isn’t under Ford’s complete control. I’m holding out hope the Man in Black has a satisfying ending.

I am firmly on board with the theory that the show we have been watching is taking place in (at least) two timelines. The William & Logan timeline took place 30 years before the current timeline; where the rest of the show takes place. I also believe William from 30 years ago is the Man in Black in present day.

Up until this past episode I believed that Arnold was never an actual person. That has all but been disproven now. I believe we have seen the rail Arnold speaking with Dolores and we just assumed it was Bernard.

Here is a bullet list of thoughts going into the finale.
  • I feel like episode 9 further confirmed the multiple timelines theory. It also appears that Dolores is retracing the steps of the look she took with William (aka Man in Black) 30 years before. It also appears she has made this same “loop” several times.
  • From the moment we found out Bernard was a host I believed that he was created in the image of Arnold. That was confirmed. What is more confusing than ever is when Bernard was created. I had initially believed he was created shortly after Arnold died. Based on episode 9 it seems like he may have been created as recently as 5–10 years ago.
  • I have a hunch that Ford’s new storyline has a much greater scope than what we see with Teddy & Wyatt. I think everything that is happening is somehow Ford’s doing… including all of the Maeve and Dolores stuff. The Man in Black is the only thing that isn’t Ford pulling the strings.
  • I think the maze is not a physical place. I think the maze is a sequence of events that the Man in Black has been trying to get to match up for a while now. All of the character loops have to align for him to find the center of the maze. I don’t know what is there, but I think Arnold will be present.
  • I think Dolores is Wyatt. I am not sure how to explain this one. I don’t have a lot of evidence. I think the massacre at Escalante that Teddy and Dolores remember actually happened, and Dolores was the killer. I am not sure of the circumstances where she kills Arnold though. If this is true and Dolores went crazy and killed everybody… why hasn’t she been decommissioned?
  • I think Maeve is setting up to carry out a similar massacre. I’m not sure how it will all go down, but I would not be surprised to see Maeve walk in and start mowing people down.
  • Is Elsie dead?
  • Are all of the workers that program and repair hosts themselves hosts?
  • Will the picture of the maze be explained? We have seen it so many times at this point.
  • Is anybody actually smuggling data out of the park? Who?
  • Why don’t we ever see Dolores’s mother?
  • What is the story behind the gun? What is its significance. I think we will definitely get that answer.
  • What did Dolores do to make Ford so mad at her? 
This season of Westworld has delivered some of the greatest moments of tv I have seen in the last couple of years. These moments have been sandwiched between bewildering dialog and awkward plotting. I have excused most of it because I don’t know the end. Maybe it all has a purpose and will come together to be a cohesive narrative. Maybe it will be a disappointment. We will find out next week. Either way, I have really enjoyed watching this season.

  1. I don’t believe for a second we will get all the answers in the finale.  ↩

August 18, 2016

Stranger Things

The Netflix original series have been hit and miss, so when I heard about Stranger Things I was cautiously optimistic. Then I heard it was a modern take on an 80’s Amblin film. At that point I thought about Super 8 and I got kind of scared. I decided I was going to give it a shot. Everything deserves a shot. From the first episode I was hooked.

Stranger Things is an eight episode Netflix series by the Duffer Brothers. It is hard sci-fi, and at times it is quite scary. It is clear that the Duffer’s are huge fans of Steven King, Steven Speilberg, and 80’s aesthetic and storytelling in general. Stranger Things almost feels like something that was made 30 years ago and lost; only to be unearthed by Netflix in 2016. You can see just how much they borrowed from their 80’s inspirations in this YouTube video.

I really enjoyed Stranger Things. It was a ton of fun to watch. Like I said, I got hooked in right from the beginning and I didn’t stop until I was finished. I watched all eight 45 minute episodes in a week. Which is extremely fast compared to my normal pace of tv watching.

There were a lot of things to like about Stranger Things. I loved the music. The cold intros and then cuts to the title sequence worked really well. The cinematography was beautiful. There are some memorable shots. I’m sure a lot of them were inspired by classic 80’s films. I didn’t care. I thought Stranger Things looked awesome.

The characters and performances are well done. It feels like so much care and planning was put into make the aesthetic of the film feel authentic.

I was surprised by how much Stranger Things hooked me in and made me want to keep watching. It is hard-core sci fi, which typically isn’t my thing. It can also be quite scary at times… also not my thing. More importantly, it is a visually interesting and well told story, and I can get on bored with that. Even though the plot felt somewhat meaningless, it was a fun watch that I would gladly revisit. I have a lot of questions about the monster and the “upside down”, but I would probably be content if they never got answered.

It seems like Stranger Things has been a big success. I haven’t heard if it has been renewed for a 2nd season, but I imagine it will. At the end of the first season it was definitely left open to continue the story on. I would rather see Stranger Things come back with an entirely new story. Either way, I will be looking forward to watching more.

July 16, 2016

Starting Fresh With An iPad 3

I do the majority of my writing and internet browsing on an iPad. The same iPad 3 that I bought in March of 2012. About a year ago[1] it started freezing up and crashing. I’d usually restart it and it would work fine for a while, then I’d repeat the cycle. Yesterday my 4.5 year old iPad finally pooped the bed.

My iPad got into these crash loops. It would reboot itself, then immediately crash again and reboot. It would repeat this process for 30 minutes or so. If I tried to do anything on it another crash loop would begin.

I wanted to go to the store and buy an iPad Pro, but that wasn’t in the cards. I decided the best course of action would be to start with a clean slate. I was going to restore my iPad back to factory settings and start fresh.

The process was pretty painless. I don’t store pictures or files on my iPad itself, so I didn’t have to worry about losing anything. I hit the restore button in iTunes and left to do yard work. An hour later I came back and it was done.

I was starting with a brand new iPad. No apps. Nothing. It was freeing. I had built up so many unused apps. I had been meaning to weed through them, but this method was way better. Just get rid of them all and only re-download the stuff you absolutely need.

I’ve used my iPad for a week since refreshing and it has been working flawlessly. It feels like a brand new device. It is so much more responsive. I haven’t had one instance of lagging or crashing. I only have a few apps on it, but that is all I need for now.

I use a Bluetooth keyboard with my iPad a lot. A few months ago there started to be a noticeable delay between when I typed on the keyboard an when those letters showed up on screen. There have been times when I’d type out a whole paragraph with nothing showing up on the screen. I’d sit there and wait for several seconds and then the words would start to appear. Before the refresh it would happen to some extent every time I typed. I am writing this post right now with my bt keyboard and it hasn’t happened once.

It appears that my old iPad has new life, and should be able to get me to whatever iPad announcement Apple makes this fall or early 2017. I am still hoping to upgrade then. For now I am just happy to have an iPad that works.

I was skeptical about how effective it would be to restore the iPad. I had resigned myself to the fact that it was old and probably wasn’t going to work very well ever again. I’m amazed by how big a difference it made. If you are having any slowness or weird problems with an older iOS device give it a shot.

  1. Probably around the same time I installed iOS 9 on it.  ↩

July 7, 2016

Finding Dory Review

I was thinking a post about Finding Dory was going to be my return to the movie blogging game. Here we are two weeks after I saw the film and still no review has been posted. It’s weird because I have actually written 3 of them. All have been scrapped. At this point I am just going to write something and go with it.

Finding Nemo has been one of my favorite Pixar films. In my eyes Nemo and the Toy Story trilogy are elevated well above the rest.[1] I was really hoping, and expecting, to be able to put Finding Dory right up on that pedestal.[2] Dory didn’t live up to the hopes I had for it. I enjoyed the movie, but it is middle-of-the-road Pixar for me. The story felt sloppy, which I can almost never say about Pixar’s normally extremely tight storytelling skills.[3]

I feel very similarly about Finding Dory as I did about Up. Both films have great moments, but they just get… weird. The gravity of the story becomes lost when you have to imagine a crazy universe where this stuff might actually happen. There were so many times in Dory where I found myself asking “why?”. Maybe if I see it again some of the events and character motivations will make a little more sense to me.[4]

My biggest head-scratcher was the sea lions. The two main sea lions seemed like nice helpful guys, but that didn’t stop them from bullying poor little Gerald off their rock. His exclusion was played for laughs. I’m not sure what Gerald’s purpose was.[5] In the scope of the overall film his treatment sent a mixed message. The movie as a whole seemed to advocate for the acceptance of those with differences, yet it was funny to bark at Gerald until he got off the rock.[6]

I imagine I will like Finding Dory when I see it a second time. It won’t have the weight of the expectation to live up to. I will be prepared for the random weird stuff that distracted from the story. Maybe I should go read some Dory think pieces that will explain exactly what the point of it all was. Surely somebody has ascribed some method to the madness.

I did really like Frank. I thought he was an interesting character. I didn’t like the fact that a majority of the film took place on dry land and Dory was usually confined to a small vessel. It made me claustrophobic. Frank’s ability to maneuver on the turf made me a fan merely because he was a character that could actually do stuff.

I feel like I have been hard on Finding Dory. I did legitimately like it. Even mid tier Pixar is better than most movies out there. My daughters liked it so I am sure I’ll get to watch it over and over… and over. Maybe I will grow to appreciate its loose plotting and oddball charm.

  1. Though I haven’t revisited many of the Pixar movies since they first came out.  ↩

  2. I may have had my expectations set a little too high.  ↩

  3. I have never seen Cars 2.  ↩

  4. I’m not really sure why Nemo & Marlin were in the movie… except for they kind of had to be.  ↩

  5. And why couldn’t he talk? Or why didn’t he talk?  ↩

  6. Don’t even get me started on Becky the bird.  ↩

July 1, 2016

Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.
-Eleanor Roosevelt

June 21, 2016

Dave Chen writing about Finding Dory at /
Both of these characters feel like cheap jokes. For the kids that are in the audience, they send a pretty clear message: It’s okay to laugh at people who are different, or who aren’t as smart as you are. Sure, Dory is differently abled. But she doesn’t fundamentally look/function different than most of the other characters in the film. Becky and Gerald, though, are fair game. For a movie that’s all about how anyone can achieve anything, that’s disheartening and inconsistent.
As I watched Finding Dory with my 5 year old I found myself thinking the same thing. When the two sea lions barked the weirdo off the rock my initial reaction was to laugh along with the rest of the theater. Then I thought about it for a second and realized that it wasn’t funny… and felt kinda mean.

May 21, 2016

An Update

Over the past week I’ve had two separate acquaintances ask me if I’m still writing this blog. I had to tell them no. Their next question was obviously… Why not?

I have made the excuse to myself that I don’t write movie reviews anymore because I don’t watch movies. This is true. My film consumption dropped off significantly about 3 years ago.

I’m in full-on Dad mode these days. Even when I do watch a movie I don’t feel like I have the time to sit down and write about it. But the truth is, if I really wanted to, I could find time to write. For some reason I have way less motivation to share my opinions on the Internet.

Coincidentally my domain name came up for renewal this past week. For a minute I thought about letting it lapse. Maybe I was done. Ultimately I couldn’t let that happen. I don’t know how long I am going to keep it, but I am not quite finished with it yet. I’m actually sorta feeling like sharing my opinion on the Internet again…

March 9, 2016