Geography Police Strike Again, Justified

In Season 1 Episode 11 of Justified, Raylan Givens, who lives in Lexington finds Ava in a bar in Corbin, Kentucky. He asks her what she is doing in Harlan and she points out they are actually in Corbin.

If you’re not from Kentucky, this sounds fine. If you are from Kentucky, you know that being from Lexington, being in Harlan, and finding someone in Corbin is about like hailing from Los Angeles, travelling to San Diego, and searching for a friend only to find them in Temecula. Or at Disneyland. An example for my fellow Nevadans-it would be like being from Las Vegas, going to LA, and finding who you are looking for in Victorville.

Corbin is 65 miles from Harlan. The two are nowhere near each other.  This is not some difficult to discover piece of information. It is called Google Maps, Justified, you should check it out.

Also, this is much more minor, but technically Harlan is not a dry county.  Like many counties in Kentucky, it is classified as moist. Yes, moist. What the hell is a moist county, you ask? It is one that doesn’t sell liquor in stores, but does sell it in restaurants with more than 100 seats in it. So, if I had to guess, Ava would probably drive 20 miles to the Applebees in nearby Cumberland to get her drank on, or head across state lines to Virginia or Kingsport, Tennessee, a town just as far away as Corbin, but much larger than the 21,000 people Corbin has to offer.

This part right here? This is just me offering color. I don’t expect Executive Producer Graham Yost to know people in Eastern Kentucky tend to (from my understanding) go to Tennessee and Virginia for things a fair amount of the time.  I don’t expect him to realize people flying to Harlan would fly into Tri-Cities in Tennessee, not Lexington.  I realize at this level I am nitpicking a show that has many, many good things going for it.

But I would expect him to question the geographic possibility that someone would choose to go to a bar 65 miles from the town she is from and 88 miles from the town she currently lives in for no particular reason whatsoever.

/rant

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Dancing Through Life

I’ve spoken before about my childhood as a competitive dancer.  I don’t think I really went into detail on my post-competition dance career though.  After leaving my studio, I moved to Lexington’s School of Classical Ballet and actively tried to gain acceptance in the School for the Creative and Performing Arts (SCAPA) as a ballet major. After getting rejected my first year, I got waitlisted in 6th grade and got a call I was in just a couple of weeks before school began.

I started at my new school eager to spend the day splitting my time between academic classes and pursuit of the arts.  As a ballet major, I took a 60-minute class every school day.  On Mon/Wed/Fri I attended Creative Writing classes after ballet.  On Tues/Thurs, I took in another hour of dance in tap classes.  At school alone, I was logging six hours of dance a week, more when we had rehearsals for Dance SCAPA (our annual recital).  

We were also required to take class outside of school.  At our level, that meant two hours of classes three times a week.  Throw in rehearsals for that studios annual recital and we were talking about 20-30 hours of dancing every week.  At the time I also still took gymnastics, taking 90 minutes or so of classes on the one day a week I wasn’t at the studio.

By the time I was ending my second year at SCAPA, I was dancing as often as many hours a week as some people spent at their jobs.  In theory, I was going to continue this pursuit at SCAPA’s high school program, where the daily classes extended to two hours a day and the outside classes and rehearsals only looked to be more time consuming.  Even though I always loved ballet, I became restless. I convinced my mom to let me switch studios to one that was less intense, but even that still necessitated two long days of dancing a week. With our classes at school, sometimes I was dancing 5 hours a day.

As 7th grade drew to a close, I made a decision to retire my pointe shoes and switch my major.  I initially planned to go into creative writing, but impulsively opted to do drama instead, having never been anything but a dancing extra in any of our school shows.  I was accepted into the drama program and gave up ballet cold turkey.  I still tapped twice a week, but I went from 32 hours of dancing a week to two.

In high school my directors knew about my dance background and often cast me in dancing parts in our musicals, but I was never in regular class.  Those four years, I never thought twice about my decision.  As I looked ahead to college though, I started to think I needed some sort of dancing in my life after all.

Knowing a bit about colorguard since our high school’s band was extremely successful, I decided to try out for the USC Marching Band as a flag girl, known as a Silk.  I made the squad (tiny secret: everyone who tried out did).  Since we were a marching guard, this was much less dance-like than I anticipated, so I started looking elsewhere for my fix.  I found the USC Repertory Dance Company.  The Silks put a piece in their annual show my freshman year and I was hooked.  I auditioned and successfully made the company my sophomore and junior years.  In addition to taking part in a number of dance routines that necessitated 3-4 hours of dance a week, I also took advantage of our dance classes for credit and enrolled in ballet again.

By senior year though, I had to start thinking about my career. I had an internship working on the movie “Stealth” and I spent a good chunk of time producing student films for my friends.  I tried to audition for the Company again, but didn’t have much time and didn’t attend the workshop to learn the audition combination (a series of dance moves set to music for those not in the know).  I couldn’t keep up and, while I made callbacks, I didn’t make the cut.  I wasn’t surprised. The company was becoming increasingly competitive and many of the girls (and guys) were on their way to professional dance careers. So I stopped dancing again. Career and school came first.

That was about ten years ago.  Since then, I’ve taken aerobic classes, longing for some means to stay in shape that occupies my mind with choreography.  I took hip hop classes (put your judgy face away, I may be white and nerdy but I have a little rhythm).  It was fine for what it was, but the moves were always a bit basic and I didn’t feel particularly challenged.

About a month ago, I decided to try out dance, hoping it would be the challenge I was looking for.  I went to the Rock Center for Dance, which offered a range of adult-level classes and took a ballet class.  While my flexibility and turnout were a fraction of my peak, the instructor was impressed with my technique and I was surprised at how quickly the terminology and the patterns of barre work came back to me. I immediately bought a pass for ten more classes.

Since then, I have been coming to classes three days a week. I am hooked and I can’t stop.  Even though I am the only one in class who can’t do the splits (working on it), I always leave feeling energized and eager to come back.

The other day, my jazz instructor stopped me on the way out and we chatted a bit.  I told him I used to dance a lot, but I’ve lost a ton of my physical abilities since then. He offered some reassuring words.

“It will come back.  You can tell you love this though. That is the important part.”

He was right, I love it.  I didn’t realize it 15 years ago, but I really loved it.  In college I loved it too, but I thought I needed to love my career more.

At USC, part of my decision to devote less time to dance came because I knew I wasn’t going to be a pro.  I didn’t have the skill or the body type for such a career, plus, while I loved it, I didn’t want it to be my livelihood.  When I think about it, I basically made the choice not to make dance my life back in seventh grade.  

As kids of the 80s and beyond, we are required to make insane commitments  to our extracurriculars.  Unlike our parents, who dabbled in everything, we are taught if you are going to do something, you need to really do it.  I quit gymnastics not because I didn’t like it, but because it became a choice of dance or gymnastics–the time commitment each necessitated meant you couldn’t do both. If I was to keep going to the gym, I needed to commit to compete and get better.  In middle school, it became clear I was going to be too tall to be an elite gymnast, making it the only time in my life I’ve ever been deemed “too tall.” Combine that with a late start, and the consensus was it wasn’t worth pursuing anymore.

When it came to ballet, I think 12 year old me realized I wasn’t the best in the class. I wasn’t going to be a prima ballerina because I was too short, too muscular, and lacked the raw talent.  So at the age of 12, I thought I had to quit.  Loving it wasn’t a good enough reason to keep doing it.

I would like to say that I made the wrong decision in my adolescence.  I would like to say these recreational classes let me pursue something I love just because I love it..  Even these though, there is a certain amount of pressure.  This week, my teacher persuaded me to try the intermediate/advanced class. I did. It was not my finest hour, but I didn’t embarrass myself.  This was a relief, because I would like to someday work my way up to that class.  Taking that class gave me a glimpse of what was next though. The entire hour we heard about building stamina to be in a show, picking up choreography quickly so you can excel at auditions.

Let’s take a moment just to picture what I would look like at a casting call for dancers in Las Vegas. 

Nonetheless, I find myself right back in the mode of wanting to get better, wanting to level up, wanting to be good enough.  It is infuriating on some level, but this is also what I wanted. Aerobics classes don’t cut it and dance, like sports, is one of those things where you truly have to focus on getting better.

Just like middle school, it is still about making it to the next level, moving up that next rung.  My recreational time is basically a version of Candy Crush.  I try to move up levels, I try to outscore my friends, and, no matter how old I get, I can’t just settle for doing something purely out of love.  

Real Nostalgic

I think most people will agree that nostalgia reigns supreme in the current pop culture conversation.  A group of writers and thinkers in their late twenties and early thirties wax poetic on sites like Vulture and Grantland and many topics of conversation center around shows of yore.  We obsess over the reboot of “Boy Meets World” not because this show was good (it was really rather mediocre), but because it meant something to us, so, in turn, we revere it on a level it probably doesn’t deserve.

This glut of reboots and revitalization of long-dead shows like “Veronica Mars” and “Arrested Development” have us worried revisiting our old favorites won’t produce the experience and emotion it did the first time around.  This is a founded concern, really.  I mean, think about the stupid crap we watched in the 1980s.  Much as I lament my 11-year-old nephew liking crap like Catscratch, I used to think this cartoon was amazing:

If you are unfamiliar with the Fluppy Dogs, it was a one-off Saturday afternoon Disney TV movie about dogs from another dimension.  These dogs may look normal (if a dog being blue is normal), but they speak English, they stand upright when they walk, oh, and they have magical powers when you pet them.  In addition to doing things like making furniture fly when scratched, the dogs also have a key that bears a resemblance to a radioactive kazoo made out of amethyst.  The key causes doors to appear out of the ether and lead the dogs to other dimensions.

Yeah. Nostalgia may make me to this day still mimic the villain and ruefully shake my fist whilst yelling, “Get me those Fluppies!”, but in the decade or two since my height of Fluppy love, I have realized that the idealized version in my head is not what this movie actually is.

When MTV decided to do a #retroMTV weekend and re-air the original New York, San Francisco, and original Las Vegas seasons of The Real World, I thought I would have a similar reaction.  While my interest in Real World had waned a bit by the time Las Vegas hit the airwaves in 2002, I remember the New York and San Fran series vividly.  I was around 10-years-old when the San Francisco season aired in 1994.  I remember watching in awe as these grown ups lived their adult lives before the camera, still a decade removed from understanding that being in your early 20s hardly makes you an adult.

When the opportunity arose to watch the show as a person who had more life experience than these cast members, I jumped at it, DVRing every episode.   I thought there would be some personal fulfillment in seeing that, while the seven strangers picked to live in that house weren’t as emotionally immature as the most recent seasons, they were still 20 somethings in search of something, just like I was–and arguably still am.

Unlike the Fluppies or Boy Meets World though, this show was remarkably unchanged by hindsight.  I still admired most of these people with the blind adoration of 10-year-old me.  These people were the 20 something I aspired to be.  Even Cory, the so-called naive cast member seeking to find purpose didn’t seem all that lost.  She was investigating graduate school programs, found a part time job, and made a sincere effort to get to know each of her housemates in a meaningful way.

These housemates had plenty of insight to offer.  I think we are all pretty familiar with one of the poster boys of the AIDS crisis, Pedro Zamora.  It was pretty obvious Pam Ling, who managed to work rotations as a doctor in between stints at the house, had her shit together.  Judd Winick has gone on to be a pretty established cartoonist (and marry Pam btw, cue the collective “awww”), working with numerous noted comic books.  Mohammed Bilal, the spoken word artist and musician, is now a media producer.  Rachel Campos is married to Real World alumnus turned Congressman Sean Duffy and is a mother of six. And then there is Puck, but even that guy with a clear screw loose still managed to have an impact and accomplish enough with his persona on the show that people are still mimicking his outlandish attitude twenty years later.

This batch of overachievers helps to explain why Bunim-Murray Productions eventually decided to make the cast work together on a job–no one was ever home! They were all off at speaking engagements, curing the sick, putting on a show, or meeting with politicians.  While most hour-long Real World episodes center around a single night of drinking and the shenanigans and emotional consequences that result, these half hour episodes are packed with plot.  In one episode, Cory learns about the struggle of African-Americans by attending Mohammed’s poetry performance. She hears Pedro speak and realies his family has struggled as well.  She then goes on a quest to make her middle class White identity less bland.  By episode’s end, Mohammed no joke has the roommates assemble and each read a poem about their identity aloud to the group, followed by a thoughtful discussion.

I thought my college friends and I were introspective and intellectual. Be honest, you did too.  We did not do poetry readings in the living room. I think we went to some poetry slams together, but there was no performance and we definitely different discuss racial politics after it was over.

You could argue this new season of Real World discusses race I guess.  On commercial after this episode wrapped, we saw a sneak peek of the girls discussing what color their nipples are. I mean, at least skin tone is entering the conversation.

In the end, of course I saw the ads for the new Portland Real World and longed for my Real World.  You could argue this is just nostalgia rearing its head once again.  Watching Pedro and crew, I think that, in addition to being the quintessential cultural time capsule of 1994, this is a truly excellent example of what reality TV and documentaries can be though.  While nostalgia prompted the re-watching, 29-year-old me admires this shows for reasons beyond simple nostalgia.  Yes, the midriffs, mentions of pagers, and Pam’s Joe Boxer smiley face bring a smile to my face, but this is an example of a piece of pop culture where my nostalgic fondness for it for once had me not giving it enough credit rather than giving it too much.

A Crushing Addiction

Kids. I have a problem.

It is an addiction that eats my time. It even costs me money.  Not a ton of money, but when I finally come out an admit what I am willingly spending dollars on, I am inevitably going to feel a little ashamed.

I’m addicted to a Facebook game. It is called Candy Crush. Yes, like the name of a recurring segment in Tiger Beat. Candy Crush.  As the name indicates, it involves candy.  They come in on a Tetris-like board and you have to move the candies to create lines of three, four, or five of the same type of candy.  Then they disappear.

This sounds simple enough, but King.com, the creator of this game, has somehow managed to create more than 200 levels by adding a variety of obstacles and bonus candies to the mix.  

This is far from the most genius thing King.com has done though.  You only get five lives at a time, then you have to wait 30 minutes for a new life to get added to your queue.  If you don’t want to wait, you have two options: 

1. Pester your Facebook friends to give you lives

2. Buy them at a rate of five lives for $1.20

When I first tried this game, I was keen to wait.  I have never put money towards a social game and the thought of nagging people with requests  offends my Southern sensibilities about politeness.  So, I played on and managed to make progress all on my own and free of charge.

Then I reached the end of the first “episode.  This is where these maniacal geniuses at King got me.  In order to get to Episode 2, you needed to either get three friends to give you a ticket or you could pay 30 cents.  

Okay, I said to myself.  As much as I hate plunking a credit card down for a transaction less than a dollar, I hate pestering people and FB game requests more, so why not?

Since then, I have turned into a degenerate straight out of "Trainspotting.”  I play in the morning before work so I have the work day for lives to repopulate.  If I feel like I am making headway on a tough level, I convince myself momentum actually plays a role in my success and I buy new lives.  I have gotten 30% of my office on this game as well, and will inevitably be reprimanded by our CFO any day now for assassinating our productivity  In the two weeks or so I have been playing this crack-like game, I have beaten 96 levels.  Level 97 though….oh Level 97.

In my head I try to justify this behavior.  "You need a way to unwind, Jess.“  "You would spend way more money mimicking the same sensation at a video poker machine.”

The worst is when I tell myself that I do not need to write a blog post or watch a movie on my resolution list.  "I mean, yeah, you could write about how strange it is that in order to play an adult, dramatic role, the curly-haired Keri Russell has to straighten her hair in order to be taken seriously on “The Americans”, but isn’t it just as intellectually fulfilling and impressive to devise a way to defeat this?

Canady

C’mon Jess…you’re not gonna write anything nearly impressive as this. I mean, that one candy has sprinkles on it. Sprinkles!

So I play. And when I do write, the only thing I have to write about is a Facebook game.

This leaves me with one option, really. I clearly can’t quit the thing now that I am this far along. I have no other choice but to beat the whole damn thing. Easy game.

But if anyone does have any tips on how to get past freaking Level 97, I would gladly take them. 

An Addendum, an Update, and Letterboxd

We’re only midway through the third month of the year,but my resolution to watch the 2007 AFI list of 400 movies nominated for the 100 Years…100 Movies honors is already perilously close to my goal.  Thanks to a productive couple of weeks and a slew of movies I needed to see airing as part of TCM’s 31 Days of Oscar, I now only have 69 unseen movies left from my original list of 117.  Considering my goal is to get this list down to 50, I am practically at my goal.

Here is the problem though: I am running out of stuff I have easy access to watch.  TCM will continue to air some of the missing pieces and there are a few left on Amazon’s online store that I can watch, but the pace I’ve established is starting to slow. I’ve taken to watching movies not on the list again, not because I am avoiding my project, but because it is hard to justify spending all that money hunting some of these more obscure titles down.

So, I decided to call an audible and widen my reach for this project.  There is another AFI-produced list of 400 movies.  This is from the original list, issued in 1998.  You’d be surprised how much a decade can change people’s tastes.  Several movies did not make the cut the second time around.  In fact, of the 96 movies on the 1998 list I haven’t seen, 38 of them are not on the 2007 list.

You could argue that because they didn’t make the cut both times AFI undertook this project, but considering I want to keep watching worthwhile movies, it seems sensible enough to add those 38 to my list.  That brings the number of unseen movies to 107.  Let’s see if I can get that down to 50, as opposed to seeing all but 50  out of my previous list.  Here they are:

1. The Americanization of Emily

2. Around the World in 80 Days

3. Bataan

4.The Broadway Melody of 1929

5. Bullitt

6. The Caine Mutiny

7. Cavalcade

8. El Cid

9. Cimarron

10. David Copperfied (1935)

11. Fantastic Voyage

12. From Russia With Love

13. The Great Ziegfeld

14. The Greatest SHow on Earth

15. The Gunfighter

16. Hail the Conquering Hero

17. Hud

18. Intruder in the Dust

19. The Last Temptation of Christ

20. A Letter to Three Wives

21. Little Big Man

22. The Little Colonel

23. The Mark of Zorro

24. Medium Cool

25. Melvin and Howard

26. El Norte

27. On the Beach

28. Only Angels Have Wings

29. Pillow Talk

30. Rambling Rose

31. Run Silent, Run Deep

32. Sands of Iwo Jima

33. Shadows

34. Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo

35. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

36. The War of the Worlds (1953)

37. Within Our Gates

38. The Yearling

And here are the 69 movies I still need to see from my original list:

1. Ace in the Hole

2. All Quiet on the Western Front*

3. All That Jazz*

4. Badlands*

5. The Band Dick*

6. Beau Geste*

7. Ben-Hur (1926)*

8. The Big Parade*

9. Blue Velvet*

10. Brazil*

11. Bull Durham

12. Cabin in the Sky*

13. Camille*

15. The Cheat*

16. City Lights

17. Coming Home

18. The Defiant Ones

19. Dirty Harry

20. Do the Right Thing

21. Five Easy Pieces

22. Force of Evil

23. The Four Horsement of the Apocalypse

24. Frankenstein

25. The Freshman (1925)

26. Fury

27. Glory

28. Goldfinger

29. Gun Crazy

30. Halloween

31. The Hustler

32. The King of Comedy

33. Last Tango in Paris

34. The Little Foxes

35. The Man Who Would Be King

36. The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek

37. Modern Times

38. My Darling Clementine

39. Nashville

40. The Night of the Living Dead (1968)

41. Out of the Past

42. The Outlaw Josey Wales

43. The Ox-Bow Incident

44. The Poor Little Rich Girl

45. Porgy and Bess

46. The Pride of the Yankees

47. Queen Christina

48. The Quiet Man

49. Requiem for a Dream

50. Return of the Seacaucus 7

51. Road to Morocco

52. Safety Last

53. Saturday Night Fever

54. The Scarlet Empress

55. Sex, Lies, and Videotape

56. Sleeper

57. Sons of the Desert

58. Sophie’s Choice

59. Sounder

60. Stranger Than Paradise

61. The Sweet Smell of Success

62. The Thin Man

63. The Thing from Another World

64. Trouble in Paradise

65. 2001: A Space Odyssey

66. The Wild Bunch

67. The Wind

68. A Woman Under the Influence

69. Young Mr. Lincoln

As for updates, I have given up blogging about the movies I’ve seen here, because I have discovered a new, nifty social site for movie lovers, Letterboxd.  I’ve developed a profile over there and started reviewing everything on my profile on the site.  You can check it out if you’re curious how things are going.

Why I’ll Gladly Give Kristen Bell $100

If I were to rank the female TV heroines I value and adore the most, Veronica Mars would be somewhere between Mary Richards and Liz Lemon.   If Liz Lemon is the screen version of me and Mary Richards is who I dream of being, Veronica, the spunky teenage detective, played by Kristen Bell on the CW program Veronica Mars from 2004-2007, resides somewhere in between; an idealized version of myself, but something seemingly more attainable than the practically perfect in every way Mary.

So, when I heard that there was a chance my beloved Veronica Mars was going to potentially make a movie, I was thrilled, but not without a little trepidation.  Any time shows are resurrected years after their conclusion, I always worry the show will feel false and manufactured, with a goofy inciting incident that justifies why the gang is getting back together.  I will also add that, while I love all three seasons of Veronica Mars, I believe Season 1 has an argument as one of the single best seasons of TV ever produced.  The same argument can’t be made for Season 2 and Season 3 saw a drop off in quality from that.  So I am somewhat skeptical that the movie or Season 4 or the flurry of other rumored VM projects we’ve heard about over the years will be as good as the lightning in a bottle that was Season 1.

I went to Kickstarter and I watched this positively delightful trailer.  It erased so much of my wariness in one fell swoop.  As I saw the dollars for the project climb into the millions, I knew the show would hit their $2 million goal with ease, but I decided to pledge money anyway:

Some might ask why I would, especially those who do not feel entirely comfortable with contributing money to what they see as a giant conglomerate.  You see, Warner Brother TV is the rights holder of this show.  Not only do they need to okay the production, they also will be used to market and distribute the final digital product.

I saw several on Twitter complain that it isn’t right to give money to a massive conglomerate like Time Warner.  Others suggested that the contributors deserved a piece of potential profits.  Me though? I gladly handed over $100 with no expectation of getting anything back except my Veronica Mars movie.  There are a few reasons I am completely okay with this:

I am getting a fair amount of bang for my buck.

These discussions of the VM Kickstarter project frequently use the word “donate”, a word that I don’t think describes the relationship between producers and consumers in this particular scenario very well.  I am not donating, I am buying a product.  In fact, for my $100, I am buying several:

-Periodic email updates about the production with behind the scenes info

-A pdf of the script

-A t-shirt!

-A digital copy of the movie

-A movie poster

-A Blu-Ray/DVD combo of the film with special features (and there is nothing I love more than DVD special features)

I’ll be honest.  I am not normally spending $100 for this amount of stuff.  Those who know me well know that I live by the motto, “never pay standard retail price for anything.”  However, I do tend to spend a little more on indie films or small time shows that I know benefit more from my patronage than others.  Veronica Mars is one such project, so I am willing to pay a premium, and consider my $100 to be effectively a pre-order, kind of like buying season tickets for the theater in advance so they can use the money to put on the shows I am going to watch.

You are still effectively financing an independent film

Many of my friends have said if this were an indie film, not a WB product, they would feel better about the arrangement.  In actuality, the production model for this movie matches up pretty well with how independent films get made.  If you are a small scale movie like The Blair Witch Project, you raise capital to shoot your film.  In the age of YouTube and mass consumption of digital content, you can try to go about getting your film in front of people’s eyes on your own, but in order to be really successful, you tend to need a distributor.  Netflix makes these sorts of distribution film with all sorts of indie movies, documentaries in particular.

In this instance, Warner Brothers is allowing these folks to produce a film and not challenge the rights issue, but according to the Kickstarter page, they have very little to do with the production phase.  According to this Entertainment Weekly article, Warner Brothers Digital Distribution is really just agreeing to market, promote, and distribute the movie.  While I can’t say for certain, it seems like Mars creator Rob Thomas and his gang of misfits will shoot the movie and basically just deliver a final cut to WB. 

This is the part of the process where most indies travel the festival circuit trying to sell their film to distributors.   Most of the money for the filmmakers in these deals is up front.  In Hollywood, getting a percentage of the gross is an uncommon occurrence.  Moreover, you don’t really want a percentage unless your movie is Harry Potter.  Movie studios have very creative means of accounting and they can make something that cost $5 million to shoot and grossed $50 million look like a financial failure.  Since these percentage deals on grosses are done based on numbers after the cost is recouped, it is very, very difficult to see money post-release if you are a producer on one of these indie hits (Blair Witch and The Passion of the Christ being the real exceptions. Trust me, Mel made boatloads of money, then enough money to make Titanic-sized cruise liners out of more money with which to carry the boatloads of money back to his Malibu pad).

So, in my mind, the $2 million is kind of like the up front fee that Thomas would normally get from distributors buying his product.  Warner isn’t willing to pay it, but we, the fans, are.

Let’s face it: This movie isn’t getting made any other way

The list of shows the internet laments the premature death of is a mile long. Veronica Mars, Freaks and Geeks, Arrested Development, Sports Night are just a handful.  If you are a broadcast network like CBS or ABC, it would be financially idiotic to keep producing them.  Simple fact of the matter is, not enough people watch the shows to make them viable commercial television products.

We’ve gotten extra seasons out of networks here and there, such as when Chuck fans went to Subway en masse to prove they were willing to put their ad dollars to work if NBC put their show on the air.

We even got a movie out of the short-lived Joss Whedon-helmed show “Firefly”.  This sounds like a success story, but it isn’t.  No one went to see the Firefly movie “Serenity”. It made $38 million globally in its theatrical run.  You know how much it cost to make before marketing, distribution, and exhibition costs? $39 million. 

Movies are expensive, even small ones.   A film with a $39 million budget is considered a low budget studio film these days.  The way the movie studio business models works is such that the amount of time and money that goes into development and production mean that they can’t waste their time spending $5 million on a movie that makes $10 million.  That is not to say the studio system is the smartest business model on Earth.  This is purely to let you know Warner Brothers simply doesn’t make movies on the scale of the Veronica Mars film. The beauty for us film fans is that there is a very healthy indie film business for just those types of pictures.

So that is why I gladly pulled out my credit card and pledged my money.  Not only because I miss Veronica oh so much, but because I think this a genuinely viable business model in which small groups of rabid fans can keep their favorite projects alive when they fail to succeed in the standard TV and movie channels.

Even if you’re not a fan of Veronica Mars (and you’re probably not a fan simply because you haven’t watched, so get on the stick and watch Season 1 ASAP y’all), this is a groundbreaking, paradigm shifting kind of moment for film and TV fans.  This is a new channel, a new chance for us to proactively determine exactly what kind of content we are willing to directly spend money on.  For those who complain about Downton Abbey being delayed in the States or Game of Thrones not being available on streaming services, this might just be our answer. So, Marshmallow devotee of Veronica Mars or not, this is something that should excite you, not have you worried that the corporate arms are extending their reach even further.

Note: If you are interested more in how the development, production, distribution, and exhibition  of movies work, most of my information in this post comes from a class I took at USC based heavily around The Movie Business Book by Jason Squire.  It is a touch old, but a very clear cut explanation of how movie studios work.

Unjustifiable

“Justified” has always been one of those shows I avoid because I know I’m going to get caught up in the reality of the setting so much that I can’t pay attention to the plot.

It is kind of like how I imagine a Hawaiian person feels about “Hawaii Five O”–while it is always nice to see your hometown as the centerpiece of a major television show, you can’t help but nitpick at the things that seem so patently incorrect about the locale.

I finally decided to give “Justified” a go, believing it was set in Harlan, a town in Southeastern Kentucky.  Now let me give you a quick rundown of how we Kentuckians identify: 

1. Northern Kentuckians – These are folks that are mostly just angry they can’t say they live in Cincinnati.

2. Central Kentucky – This is where my hometown of Lexington is located.  If you think of Kentucky as a state with a head and a tail, we are the middle of the head.

3. Western Kentuckians – This is Hilltopper region, not to mention home to some bad ass BBQ. Unlike Central Kentucky, this area is heavy on lakes and bodies of water. I’ll come back to this.

4. Louisville – This central-ish western-ish city just gets lumped by itself.  Probably for the best, as Rick Pitino needs to be in a confined area.

5. Eastern Kentucky – home of the hill people.  These are the coal miner’s daughters and banjo plucking good ole boys of the Commonwealth.

6. Southern Kentucky – is a place I know exists, but no one I know ever needs to have much need to go there.  I once went to Berea, which is a town with a college that rewards financial aid to students who do stuff like make wicker chairs and corn cob toys in the name of craftwork. (In all seriousness, the Berea College Crafts Program is pretty rad)

So Harlan is in the space I am least familiar with.  I have been to Eastern Kentucky a bit, but if you are a city girl like myself, you tend to think of Eastern Kentucky the way the rest of the country thinks of Kentucky, if you catch my drift.

Back to “Justified” though.  The opening shot had me super concerned they had gotten Kentucky very, very wrong.  Thankfully, this scene was set in Miami.  We meet US Marshal Raylan (Timothy Olyphant), our hero, in Florida after he fires a weapon on a man in a questionable use of force. His punishment?

Being sent to Kentucky.

Raylan is actually from Kentucky, and, as people tend to assume, would never want to go back there, having escaped.  I’ll let this slide, as I had that moment in my life where I never wanted to go back either.

He returns home and the dialogue informs me we are in Lexington.  I take them for their word, as so far I have seen no identifying markers of the city.  I have seen non-white people though, which is a step in the right and accurate direction.

Apparently simply by setting foot in the state, Raylan develops an accent he previously did not have.  Again, I’m trying to cut some slack, as I can have a few too many or stay up too late and it becomes real apparent real fast based on my speech exactly where I come from.

Raylan is informed of a pesky white supremacist, Boyd Crowder, wreaking havoc in Harlan and Lex-Vegas and, of course, he knows him from back in the days when Raylan grew up in Harlan.  You know how they knew each other?

They mined coal together.

Okay, I’m sorry, I’ve been lenient and am trying to go with the flow, but come on, coal?  If this were Wisconsin would they have met on a dairy farm? In Idaho out in a potato field?

Contrary to popular belief, even in Eastern Kentucky, these days there are plenty of people who did not work in the coal mines.  In fact, it is a population whose numbers have sufficiently dwindled over the years due to layoffs and modernization.

May as well have had them met racing horses in the Kentucky Derby.

I digress, so Raylan learns that someone, likely Boyd, has blown up a Black church in Lexington with, of all things, a rocket launcher.

At the crime scene, they appear to be on the outskirts of a small town.  They identify the scene of the crime with reference to Tates Creek Road, which is actually a real thoroughfare in Lexington, nice job Justified.  It is one of the biggest and busiest roads in town and looks a little like this:

image

If you can’t tell, this is a point where the road is, by my count, seven lanes wide.  It is far from a country road. I don’t have a screen shot of the scene in question, so let me describe it for you: Cars are parked basically wherever.  No one is driving by and there is a sign displaying the speed limit as 25 in the background.  The church parking lot is basically a gravel pit and there are more trees than buildings.

In other words, this is not even close to what Lexington looks like.  This is the Lexington skyline, by the way:

image

(Photo courtesy of Skyscraper Page Forum)

Perhaps you don’t know that the metro population of Lexington is almost half a million people.  It is the 62nd largest city in the United States and is the second largest city in the state behind Lousiville (which has a metro population of almost 1.5 million).  I’m not saying we’re New York City, I’m just saying this is metropolitan place.  There is nothing “country” about it.

One other minor nitpick? I tried to rewind and see for sure, but there appears to be a bridge near this church. Funny thing about Lexington: there is no water there.  There are some creeks and ponds, but the Kentucky River is outside of the city by several miles, so we are one of the larger truly landlocked cities in the country.

Raylan constantly driving over bridges on the trek between Harlan and Lexington makes a little more sense, as you do cross the Kentucky River on the trip.  It should bear mentioning that the two places are almost three hours apart from each other though, that if he has to drive out there as much each episode as he does in the pilot, I do not envy his job at all.

After this long list of frustrations, you might think I didn’t like the show at all, which isn’t the case.  It is certainly interesting and the cast of characters is fascinating.  The preacher of the burned down church was played by Doug E Doug of Cool Runnings fame. I will say, it may not be my Lexington, but I can’t be too hard on a Lexington that is the home to the “Kiss the Lucky Egg” guy from one of my favorite childhood films.

In other words, I understand this is supposed to be a fantastical depiction of the Gothic South, embellishing when need be for dramatic effect.  No one but me really cares if the Lexington in this show looks or feels anything like Lexington because not many people know what Lexington looks or feels like.

I will say though that, while this show is interesting and I intend to keep watching, I do lament that we can’t have a sitcom or a doctor show that just so happens to be set in Greenville or Nashville or Lexington and not have it be all about being Southern with a depiction of place that is rooted in the small, the kitschy, and the uncosmopolitan.  Yes, there is regional influence on the way these cities operate, but they are probably way more like the small cities you’ve visited in California, Ohio, Massachusetts, or Washington than you realize.

So Justified is, well, justified in taking some dramatic liberties, but just keep in mind that this fantastical space and my hometown are two very different things.

Everything Is Beautiful at the Ballet

I saw the New York City Ballet at The Smith Center tonight. The staging of Jerome Robbins’ “In The Night” took me back to the days of being a seven year old watching the principles in the Lexington Ballet hoping that some day I could be as pretty and dance as effortlessly as they did. Stunning stuff.