Arguments over the recording’s merits aside, the song’s central message remains as true today as it was on the day it was written. Bela Lugosi is indeed dead. Continue reading Chvrches Is Right
Creating an imaginary world is a tough gig. I’m pretty sure that’s why, when it’s done perfectly, that world becomes a beloved classic. But there are so, so many places where it could all go wrong.
We’ve already covered what happens when the mythology is too complex. (In short: It sucks.) But there’s another place where I often get tripped up as a reader or viewer, and that’s the intersection of the imaginary world and the real one.
And the folks here at SportsAlcohol.com are team-teaching for the rest of the week, before the long Vampire Weekend. Keep an eye out up top for our full coverage. Your schedule:
Before I talk about Vampire Academy, let me get some stuff out of the way:
Vampire Academy is about an academy for vampires so obviously during the movie you wonder if Vampire Academy has rival schools that play them in sports and stuff, and think of additional schools such as:
International School of Werewolf Studies
Frankenstein Country Day
The Gill-Man Institute of Technology
The Mortal Instruments: Campus of Bones
But apart from that train of thought, I went into Vampire Academy ready and willing to take it as seriously as I needed to take it. Most of the movie, as it turns out, is an exploration of how seriously you should be taking Vampire Academy and, by extension, the life you’ve lead that resulted in you sitting in a movie theater on a Monday night watching Vampire Academy.
The presence of who are now billed, apparently, as the Waters Brothers, suggests that one should take the movie itself seriously (because a team-up of the guy who wrote Heathers and his brother who directed Mean Girls seems so natural that it also seems like some kind of a trick) while allowing the movie itself to not take it too seriously (because Heathers and Mean Girls are both very funny movies that puncture high school melodrama with non-vampire fangs). Daniel Waters and Mark Waters are ideally equipped to make a movie that casually and charmingly tear down the romantic dopiness of the Twilight series and replace it with snappier expressions of adolescent angst.
If they ever go back and make a movie about smart-mouthed vampire teenagers at a boarding school, I still think that could happen.
But Vampire Academy is not so much a movie about smart-mouthed vampire teenagers at a boarding school as it is a budget would-be franchise-starter based on a series of popular YA novels. So yes, some of the vampires are smart-mouthed and some of them are teenagers and there is a boarding school involved, but those easily understandable descriptions are too meager for the complex, multi-generational, heavily detailed and completely fucking pointless mythology that this movie is built around.
Here is a little tip for screenwriters and YA writers and pretty much anyone putting pen to paper about teenagers and magic, years too late to save Beautiful Creatures or The Mortal Instruments or any other movie I’ve seen in the past year-plus that chokes on mythology and then turns blue and purple on screen as the mythology stays lodged the throat of its corpse:
Mythology is not cinematic.
It sounds cinematic, I know! Mythology! Maybe you picture Greek Gods or centaurs or minotaurs or Middle Earth when you hear the word! But mythology is not just the fun of centaurs and/or minotaurs. Mythology, if it is made into a crucial component of your movie, is actually just a form of exposition, or at least requires a fair amount of it. And exposition is usually non-visual information. And movies, at least in theory, are a visual medium. So while mythology may make your movie sound grand and epic, it may actually weigh your movie down with information about something that is so clearly made up that no one really needs additional information about it.
Of course, as with mythology, there are ways to cleverly work exposition into your movie. I to this day cannot believe that people have a problem with Ellen Page’s character in Inception, supposedly because she exists to have the rules of the Inceptionverse explained to her and to ask questions on behalf of the audience. But the thing is, Ellen Page’s character asks way smarter questions than I would ask about this stuff, and is also a character with thoughts and opinions, and who moves the story along quite handily. She is the proverbial new kid being shown around the cafeteria on the first day of school. Hey! Speaking of that: Mean Girls! Mark Waters directed a movie that used voiceover, exposition, and a high school version of mythology (more like anthro, I guess, but still) very, very well.
Vampire Academy goes as far as to actually tee up a cafeteria-intro scene and call attention to it, and then, I guess because Daniel Waters imagines he is poking at convention here, then doesn’t actually have that scene where we meet a bunch of Vampire Academy students, organized by lunch table. I guess he thought that would be too cliché, or beside the point, or maybe there is so much goddamned mythology in this movie that there is no room for anything else that takes up more than half a minute. It engages in a lot of “world-building” while ignoring just how much world-building the title has already done: it’s a school for vampires! Got it! Done! But this movie would rather explain the hierarchal process by which Vampire Academy administration happens to be formed than, you know, have anything to do with vampires going to boarding school.
Here’s what I was able to glean: there are three types of vampires at and around this academy, except one kind aren’t really vampires. There are the bad vampires, who are presumably not welcome to matriculate, who want to kill the pretty good royal vampires (who don’t kill humans, at least as far as we can see), and the non-vampires who protect said royal vampires. This movie is about Rose (Zoey Deutch), a non-vampire protector who has bonded with pretty good vampire Lissa (Lucy Fry). So a semi-reverse-slayer, basically. Rose can sometimes see what Lissa sees, a power that allows her to both better protect her and absorb even more exposition, in part concerning a mystery about who is trying to intimidate and/or kill Lissa and/or Rose. There are also, by my rough estimate, forty to fifty boys in the movie, subject of various crushes and entanglements that the movie finds far less interesting than the (again, by my rough estimate) one thousand different types of royal vampire families who blah blah blah blah arrrrgggghhhh. There’s one who looks like a lil’ Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, one who got my attention by also being named Jesse (SUCH a hot name right now), and then Rose naturally, by which I mean creepily, falls for the one who’s actually an adult man. In general, the I-hate-high-school backstabbing and gossiping and hooking up feels like an afterthought as Important Mythology Characters jostle for screentime with characters who might actually be funny or affecting. The gossip in Vampire Academy conceals itself within the elaborate mythology, which could be a sly joke if the delivery was remotely interesting.
The most disappointing thing about Vampire Academy (the movie, not the higher-ed institution) is that Zoey Deutch, who I’d never really heard of before, is quite good in it. She’s the one who displays the most frequent signs of Daniel Waters wiseassery; at least fifty percent, if not closer to seventy percent, of her wisecracks don’t really land, but they come a lot closer to landing than they should because there’s something appealingly brusque and no-nonsense about Deutch’s delivery. I may have mentioned Ellen Page earlier because Deutch has a similar fast-talking vibe, and she looks like Page crossed with Rose Byrne. Her performance and character in this particular mythology-flooded enterprise left me with the odd sensation of thinking, boy, I’d like to watch a whole movie about her instead — during a movie where she is, in fact, the main character.
So Vampire Academy isn’t painful to watch, mainly because of Deutch and the stray good lines Daniel Waters feeds her and a lucky few. But it plays uncomfortably like a pilot for a show that gets better seven or eight episodes in, shortly before its cancellation. It also gives the distinct impression that I could read Vampire Academy books all day every day and still not learn a goddamned thing about Vampire Math, Vampire Art, or Vampire Biology. I guess it’s off to Vampire Summer School for me. In related news, be sure to check out SportsAlcohol.com Presents: Vampire Summer School, coming to an e-reader just as soon as we can make up a bunch of stupid backstory.
If you’re looking for last-minute ideas about how to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year, consider this one: Just don’t. Hear me out.
Nobody Else Is Celebrating It
Well, nobody you want to emulate is celebrating it. The only people who make a big deal out of Valentine’s Day are kids (who are forced to give valentines to all their classmates, regardless of their true feelings), single people who want to make a big show of being self-pityingly single (or make a big show of not being self-pityingly single), and couples who are celebrating their first Valentine’s Day together. Most of the happy, long-term couples I know would rather be home re-watching the last episode of Sherlock or that insane, six-minute tracking shot from the end of last week’s True Detective again. They know they love each other—every day—and they don’t have to make a big freaking deal about it on the day that they’re told they have to make a big freaking deal about it. Not that I’m against long-term couples fêting their love for each other—it’s just a lot better for all involved if they don’t do it on Valentine’s Day. Why?
AHHHHHHHHHH! THESE SONGS ARE SO AWESOME! THAT FIRST ONE WAS GREAT BUT I HEARD IT ALREADY, AND THAT SECOND ONE WAS JUST AS GOOD, BUT THE THIRD ONE WAS EVEN BETTER AND I DIDN’T THINK THAT COULD EVEN BE POSSIBLE! WHY DID I HAVE TO WAIT FOUR YEARS FOR THESE SONGS?
Wait, I waited four years for these songs? The Hold Steady has been a band for ten years? Am I really that old? Come to think of it, the crowd was jumping around a lot less and there was maybe only one beer spilled on me. Are we all getting old? Sleepy.
In addition to writing about I, Frankenstein, I also sometimes write fiction. I’ve been working on a story recently that involves a potato gun. You might say that I am somewhat obsessed with potato guns despite little experience with them in real life. For example: years ago I wrote this extremely short story that also involves a potato gun. Now that I’ve written a second story with a potato gun, I have to either make a potato gun-themed short story collection, or maybe set this other piece aside. Or: maybe I set it free, and nothing says setting free like SportsAlcohol.com. It was either this or try to discreetly slip it into a literature textbook and get fired. Enjoy?
Dawson, Pete, and Sophie are planning a trip to Mexico. They go over the checklist. It’s in Sophie’s handwriting, which looks sort of like normal girl handwriting, soft and round, but messier, like if a boy possessed her hand. Sophie is recording secretary. Sophie keeps things civil by telling people to shut up.
“Blankets. Matches. Juice boxes—apple. Pillows.” Sophie reads, and Pete and Dawson nod in unison several times, until Pete looks at Dawson’s nods and stops.
“A box of change for tolls. One BB gun.”
They are in Dawson’s van. It used to be a minivan, but he took the back seats out to make room for the stuff on the list. It’s summer and it’s hot inside the van, but Dawson never wears shorts. Sophie would say it is because he never figured out how to look dignified in them (even though nobody has). Pete would say it is because he is an asshole. Dawson would say that he doesn’t have any shorts.
“Batteries. Photographic film. Marshmallows. BBs.”
“Hold up,” says Dawson. “BBs?”
“For the BB gun,” says Sophie. Pete looks at the floor.
“He’s allowed to load the BB gun?”
Pete looks up. “Of course I am! BBs are on the list!”
“True,” says Sophie.
“If I thought we were gonna let him have BBs, I never would have agreed to buy that BB gun,” says Dawson.
“It was implied,” says Pete. “So I added them.”
“You doctored it! You added BBs without my approval!”
“Shut up, Dawson. I’ll cross them off,” says Sophie.
“Don’t cross it off. What am I supposed to do with a BB gun and no BBs?” says Pete.
“You should’ve gone for the potato gun,” says Sophie. “I told you.”
“No,” says Dawson. “No way would I supply him with potatoes.”
“I would’ve brought potatoes from home.”
“You don’t have any potatoes from home.”
“Well I know where I could get some.”
“Even now, without a potato gun, potatoes aren’t on the list. Do you think I’d put them on the list if you had a potato gun?”
“Enough!” says Sophie. “Pete, do you have a potato gun?”
“Do you even know where to get one?”
“Dawson, do you even know what a potato gun looks like?”
“I saw one once.”
“Dawson, do you know?”
“Then let’s shut up and move on.”
“If I ever get a potato gun, Dawson, I’m coming for you.”
The next night, Pete sneaks into Dawson’s bedroom with a potato gun. This sounds impressive until you consider that Pete and Dawson live in the same apartment. Then it sounds very simple, until you consider that Pete went outside and came back in through Dawson’s bedroom window.
“AHHHHHH – hey, is that a potato gun?” says Dawson.
“You’re goddamn right,” says Pete, immediately forgetting to use his menacing whisper.
“And it’s loaded with potatoes?”
“Well, Jesus. I’m pretty impressed.”
“Honestly, you didn’t think I could find potatoes?”
“I figured you’d spend most of your energy not being able to find a potato gun,” says Dawson.
“You figured wrong,” says Pete.
“Why did you just start whispering?” says Dawson. “Anyway, can I go back to bed now?”
“So I can bring it?”
“No,” says Dawson.
“Okay then,” says Pete. He points the potato gun at Dawson’s head. “We’re gonna play a little Idaho roulette,” says Pete.
“I don’t really see how it’s roulette,” says Dawson, “since there’s no way to partially load a potato gun. So I’m going to get it in the head no matter what, unless it jams. And knowing you, you didn’t buy a cheap potato gun. You probably cashed in a savings bond you had since you were a baby or something to get yourself the best potato gun in the catalog.”
“Plus shipping,” says Dawson.
“I’m a man of taste,” says Pete.
The next day, Dawson comes home from the store with bread and a flower for Sophie and sees Pete on the steps of their building with two potato guns at his sides.
“So when I told you that you couldn’t bring a potato gun,” says Dawson, “you decided to ask if you could bring two?”
“I found a way to do roulette with potato guns,” says Pete. “I have two. One is loaded. One isn’t. Get the picture?”
“I get a picture,” says Dawson. “But I don’t exactly see where roulette comes in.”
“I’ll juggle the guns around and shoot you in the head with one of them.”
“But that’s not really roulette. I’ve got a fifty-fifty shot of getting mashed in the head, and that’s assuming you don’t maintain some knowledge, subliminal or otherwise, of which gun is loaded. I’m guessing a loaded potato gun is significantly heavier than an unloaded one.”
“Fuck it,” says Pete. “Now I’m just going to shoot you.”
Dawson’s van pulls up to the curb, driven by Sophie. Even though they’re already looking straight at her, she leans on the horn.
“Hey boys,” she says, and honks it again.
Dawson calls over to her. “Sophie, do you have that Super Soaker full of mustard?”
Sophie brandishes it.
“Son of a bitch,” says Pete. “This always happens.”
“The mustard gun thing always happens?” she says to Dawson. “Were there others before me?”
“Since forever,” says Pete. “He’s taller, for one thing. It pretty much went from there.”
Sophie looks at Dawson, and apologizes with her eyes. She open fires mustard on the crowd of two. She shows no mercy. She gets it in Dawson’s hair. She staves off adulthood for another week.
This is the story that Dawson and Sophie tell on their wedding day six years later, about their trip to Mexico, when they first admitted to falling in love. They get about halfway through it before Pete charges in with roman candles blazing and wrecks two centerpieces. As Dawson’s two biggest cousins drag him away, Pete gives the first part of a magnificent toast, trailing off. Sophie takes Dawson’s hand. They look around the room, heads turning in sync, and for a moment everyone else is a stranger.
If you’re anything like me, you are full of hate. A couple of the things you hate are social media ‘experts’ and the silly names they give themselves. Some of this hate might be borne out of jealousy because you want that job, but I wouldn’t read too much into it.
We here at SportsAlcohol.com don’t claim to be social media gurus, ninjas, or any other moniker that reeks of cultural appropriation. We are, however, human beings and we would like you to follow us on social media. We are Social Media Human Beings! Here is but a sampling of our fine social media offerings:
The Super Bowl is Sunday, and because SportsAlcohol.com is a hard-charging tech company and a thousand times better than Apple and Cyderdyne combined, we need you to know that we have the best Super Bowl apps available in our app store. Although our site is still soft-launching, the app store is hard-launched and completely perfect.
The Super Bowl this year looks really good. Like really good. As Nate Silver noted on Colbert earlier in the week, this year is only the eighth time the two best teams have faced off against each other. He called it a pick ’em. In addition to statisticians, sports books and video game simulations think it’s going to be a very close (and therefore exciting) game. We even have some lovely apps in our app store to help you enjoy the game better.
That being said, I’m nothing if not difficult. I think I’m going to probably skip out this year. Maybe you should join me. Here is why: