The above photo is from my spec music video password: BRMC

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Comedy Never Wins

Comedy doesn't win awards.  It doesn't.  Unless, of course, there is a category specific to it.  Duh.

Go look at the Academy Awards winners for Best Picture. Only a few comedies have won. And those that are listed are all Comedy/Dramas (or Satire).  They all have the universality of the drama genre (or solid intellectualism in the form of satire) to ground them in the court of public opinion.

A while ago, my USC thesis film (which is a comedy) didn't win a student film award.  It was "nominated" so to speak, but didn't win - a drama film in fact won that night. Moreover, my film had been up for several awards in the previous months but didn't win anything.  It did actually earn "2nd Place" in the comedy category at the College Television Awards (Emmy Foundation), however, I don't count this "win" for this blog post since it won in a comedy specific category.

Anyway, the night of my non-win, I was having an "alone" moment by the step-and-repeat (the red carpet thing) when an older gentleman walked up to me and asked if I was "okay". It was quite embarrassing - I must have looked really disappointed.  He then began to explain to me why comedies never win:

Too many people have too many different tastes on "what is funny".

Think about how many countries in the world there are?  And then count the fact that each of these countries/regions have different comedic tastes...  If you don't believe me, watch foreign comedy films... some of them can be quite weird (I'm thinking of you, Germany).  

Or instead, check box-office returns - American comedy films, in fact, typically do not do well abroad compared to other genres.

Then... think about how many different comedy tastes there are within a country.  Whose Line is it Anyway? versus Eastbound & Down... quite different audiences.  

Also, think back to that recent comedy film that your dumb friend liked that you hated. See? That movie was terrible AND offensive!

So... given how many people have different tastes when it comes to comedies, what is the litmus test for declaring it's a "great film"?  What is a universal way of codifying the subjective tastes regarding "funny"?  

Well, there is none.  In the words of Supreme Court Justice, Potter Stewart, there is not a way to confidently say, "I know it when I see it..." (he was talking about porn by the way).

Standing on that red carpet, I suddenly felt better - I realized that comedy gets screwed over!  And thus the only thing we can do is laugh at ourselves.  Because we'll never win. Never...

And that realization was actually strangely comforting.

After our conversation by the step-and-repeat, the older gentleman grinned and offered to take a picture with me.  

He then formally introduced himself:  Neil Stiles, President of Variety Magazine.  

So I guess he probably knew a thing or two.

I don't know why we are standing so awkwardly

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

7 Flushes

Apparently, I was too precious to touch.  

Whoosh... gurgle gurgle.

I was the eldest grandson, a child that both Iyo and Min Tamaki took care of everyday after school while my parents worked.

Despite being half-White, my two Japanese grandparents took care of me without blinking an eye.  Keep in mind these were two Japanese Americans who lived through the U.S. internment camps of World War II.  Two people thrown into desolate racetracks and desert camps only several decades earlier to test their "loyalty" as Americans.  

And now these two people were charged with watching over John, a pale curly-haired child kindly referred to by my cousins as, "White Boy".  

Whoosh...  gurgle gurgle.

In fact, "White Boy" couldn't even call his own grandparents by the proper Japanese titles, "Oba-chan" (Grandmother) and "Oji-Chan" (Grandfather).  Instead, my toddler slang seamlessly recycled the Japanese words into "Baba" and "Jiji".  And yet, to my cousins’ dismay, I would just get away with this improper Japanese.  My grandparents even adopted the nicknames "Baba" and "Jiji" and referred to each other as such till the end of their lives.  Thus ironically, "Baba" and "Jiji" ultimately became the names embraced by all within the family.

Whoosh... gurgle gurgle.  "Still nothing" whispers Baba to Jiji.

Each afternoon I would take a nap in Baba and Jiji's bed, twisting like a clock until I was sleeping perpendicular on the mattress.  And when forced to wake me up from my slumber, my grandparents didn't have the heart to touch me.  

No no, that would be cruel and heartbreaking.  They couldn't bear to shake me... they couldn't bear to shout.

So instead... they flushed.

Whoosh... gurgle gurgle.  Rattle, rattle...

The bathroom door a mere seven feet away, the toilet a few feet past that.  It was... in range. 

Whoosh... gurgle gurgle.  Whoosh... gurgle gurgle.

Suddenly a stir... "Quick, flush again!"  Whoosh...  gurgle gurgle.

Eyes opening...  and... "He's awake!  John's awake!"

The flushes became the preferred unit of measurement for how tired I was.  "You must have been sleepy!  It took SEVEN flushes to wake you up!!!",  they exclaimed.  "SEVEN FLUSHES!!!"

And this was completely normal to me... 

Years later, at my grandfather's funeral, I tried to explain their care, their love...

"What is love?", I asked.  

Love is Baba and Jiji terrified of waking up their grandson.  Love is a White Boy too precious to touch.  Love is seven flushes.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Subtle Hints

There is a certain gracefulness that can be attained with hints.

Sometimes, you can deliver hints like a master ninja - throwing out unspoken desires with the grace of a spring breeze, gently tickling the hairs on the back of your neck.  WHAM! Dead.  No one saw it coming!  Whoa..........

Then... there are other times... 

Times where hints materialize with the quaint subtly of a bazooka firing on a pinata.  At that moment, you become the six-year old with the flaming pinata party, scarred for life from the burning pieces of candy goo sliding down your face.  

My parents did this recently.  They "hinted" to me with the subtly of Charlton Heston parting the Red Sea.  And I was the pinata... a donkey perhaps.

I like vintage robots.  Yes, I'll admit to that.  I don't collect them or anything but I do own a single vintage robot toy that stands on my desk:

He looked a little challenged, so I named him "Ronnie" because I felt, "Ronnie" would be the name of the guy I'd cast to play RonnieThe Slow Robot, in the subsequent motion picture of his adventures.  The poor guy is living there by himself on my desk -  alone, like a bachelor.  So my parents had an brillant idea.

During their last visit, they were kind enough to give me a gift.  Smiling, they unwrapped a new vintage robot toy and placed it next to Ronnie:

Her name was "Venus" robot.  Apparently she cleaned and did other shit, all while wearing nothing but a painted apron on her torso.  Hmm...

My parents grinned at me as we stared at Fraulein Venus in silence.  "Don't you get it? Venus robot!?" They laughed together.  I coldly stared back in silence.

My mother nudged the FEMALE robot closer to the MALE robot with her hand.  She then looked up at me and smiled.

I crossed my arms... THIS IS FUCKED UP.  Real subtle guys.  Smooth.  Thanks for the subliminal message.  Thanks for reminding me that I am single right now.  Really clever... AND, just FYI, by the process of elimination, you have made me into the challenged robot. I AM RONNIE. I AM SLOW AND ALONE.  

Yes... I, John Dion, was offended and I was going to call them out on their so-called "hint"...

I looked my parents directly in the eyes and spoke knowingly:




At that moment, the gears in the Venus robot activated.  She threw herself off the desk and into the great carpet beyond.