Why I Watch the Oscars

By FJ Contreras

The Oscar telecast features the talented, the fashion-forward, and the sycophants, all competing for attention in an attempt to purchase more staying power in a fickle business. Even the brightest stars know that they could be a movie away from cashing a paycheck as reality show D-listers (See Charlie “Tiger Blood” Sheen.) But audiences don’t feel that way. People tune in to live vicariously through them, to dream up what it would be like to seem so indispensable […]

By |Movies|

Know the Rules, Break the Rules: Style & Diction

From The Best American Short Stories 2014, edited by Jennifer Egan.
by FJ Contreras 

Here is one of the biggest challenges writers face:

Stories are made of words, which arranged in a particular way, are meant to provoke thoughts.
And emotions. Without emotions, the story’s themes are easily forgotten.
Unfortunately, words do not carry the emotions they signify.
If I write “love”, you don’t feel love. For example, “I love you.” It’s informative, but not for a second did you feel loved by me. I hope. […]

By |Art, literature, short stories|

Know The Rules, Break The Rules: Beginnings.

by FJ Contreras

Part I: The Theory
As writers, we try to find the best way to begin a story. Some choose to open with dialogue, some with a generalization, while others choose a description of a character or of a setting. There are plenty of other ways to begin, but the important thing is to include information that will persuade the reader to stay engaged. If I’m not mistaken, it was Aristotle who developed a mathematical equation to prove this point: […]

By |Art, literature, short stories|

The What Ifs of Black Mirror.- Episode 1: The National Anthem

By FJ Contreras

What if the influence of public opinion/social media is so strong, it can control how countries are run?
I often hear that the great advantage of the Internet is that it connects people all over the world, which in some way is true, but that connectedness does not entail affinity. The building of relationships takes a very long time compared to the speed at which people connect, so the amount of opinions and interests that are generated over the […]

By |Notes|

My Disappointing Experience at the Superhero Summit

by FJ Contreras

What IS the Superhero Summit?
This 12 day webinar featuring 12 speakers promised to increase my impact as a bestselling author, a booked-solid speaker, or a high-paid coach. The name of the conference alone made me cringe, and after I clicked on the main page, I saw these people were not joking: each speaker was portrayed as a cartoon version of their preferred superhero. For example, Michael Port, who vows to turn you into a booked-solid, million dollar speaker, […]

By |Notes|

Confronting the Critics: Is Wesley Morris (Grantland) being fair to Interstellar?

By FJ Contreras

Acknowledgement: I’m not sure how to quantify the influence critics have over people’s judgment, but I know it affects me. And I’m a stubborn skeptic, so when I find myself feeling less inclined to see a movie because it earned an unflattering score, I assume the critics must have substantial power over a movie’s fate. I’m not debating whether this is fair. My problem is that critics rarely get called out when their reviews are poorly written, so […]

By |Notes|

The American Saints

by FJ Contreras

Faith in America, like its buildings and roads, mostly fulfills a practical purpose. The spiritual components of faith also exist, but the relationship between Americans and the supernatural, in comparison to other cultures, is very restrained. For Americans to think that the plane of reality is also populated with spirits is a thing that only happens in horror movies.

In Mexico it’s very common to ask saints and virgins for all kinds of help. Even dead relatives are expected […]

By |Art, Movies, Notes|

The Worth Of Art – Part 1

by FJ Contreras

I’ve talked to many people who think art is not essential to humankind. “It’s fine if that’s what you like,” they say, as if letting me know they won’t chase and kill me for it. Some think it’s a hobby, just like following a football team, playing golf, or collecting X-Men comics are hobbies. Others think art is an activity that keeps misfits busy, so they don’t go burdening normal people. In other cases, art should be a […]

By |Art|

On Summer Blockbusters and Art

Since summer blockbusters cost an insane amount of money to produce, the studios need to appeal to the masses if they want to see any profits. But that’s a big bet. What if people don’t show? So to protect their large investment, movies also double as elaborate advertising campaigns. That’s why you see Iron Man driving an Acura, Captain America sporting Under Armour clothing, and James Bond drinking Heineken. It’s big business. Just to give […]

By |Art, Movies, Notes|

On Enemy (2014)

Directed by Denis Villeneuve.
With Jake Gyllenhaal and Jake Gyllenhaal as Jake Gyllenhaal and Jake Gyllenhaal.

* Enemy is one of those movies that are more fun to analyze that to watch. I’m reminded of The Sixth Sense: Once you get to the twist (the ending) the movie becomes attractive, but getting there is a medley of shots of Bruce Willis looking like he just figured out somebody stole his wallet, and of a Lego-looking child pointing at ghosts (and why is it that ghosts, given […]

By |Movies, Notes, Reviews|