Celebrating creative story telling – this batch of viewer letters explores what happens when things go right and not-so-right. Plus more questions about Wonder Woman 1984 and other good stuff …

An exercise in self-aware toxicity …

Dear Rob,

I wanted to write a letter directed to a particular member of the PGS that I upset on Twitter, on Monday, December 28th, to the point they blocked me. First, let me set the stage.

A YouTuber known as Star Wars Theory filmed himself while watching the season 2 finale of the Mandalorian. With the introduction of a favorite character at the end, the YouTuber was brought to tears. The same happened to me watching the same scene. I watched the YouTube stream live, and his tears were very real.

Due to the number of people wanting to see his reaction without going thru the entire livestream, so he clipped it into a short video. Some may remember, about 2 and 1/2 years ago, this same YouTuber got the attention of Lucasfilm by producing a fan film called VADER. Over a hundred thousand dollars was spent and the fan reaction was very positive.

YouTuber, Star Wars Theory, was mocked by Lucasfilm’s Pablo Hildago

SWTheory, to my knowledge and per his words, made no money on this film, that would be illegal. Lucasfilm tried to shut him down anyway. Eventually, Lucasfilm did lift their copyright claim and the fan film was restored.

His reaction to the season finale made the rounds to the point that it caught the attention of Lucasfilm Story Group member, Pablo Hidalgo. Pablo decided to remark on a thread discussing the moment by reposting SWTHEORY’S picture of him crying with the phrase, “Emotions are not for sharing.”

After getting blasted for this, he deleted the tweet but made it his Twitter banner. Eventually, everything came down and Pablo Hidalgo went off to hide behind his wall of a protected account.

Hidalgo has a history of bad customer relations. Tweets taking on Fandom he and director Rian Johnson posted,, took an upset Fandom and gave birth to the Fandom Menace. Right now, In one fell swoop, a Lucasfilm employee, mocking a fan, lost all the goodwill the Mandalorian group has built. Chants of “Fuck Lucasfilm” aren’t hard to find.

So, I created a tweet myself, expressing our displeasure. I made sure that this tweet was sent to Bob Iger, Jon Favreau, Disney’s Twitter, Dave Filoni, Pablo Hidalgo and SWTheory himself. Will they see my Tweet? More than likely not. The purpose was to get enough likes and retweets to get the issue trending. That WOULD get Disney’s attention. And apparently we did.

This is where the other member of the PGS comes in.

In the process of getting this trending, the member of the PGS wanted to debate the merits of the campaign because of their thoughts about Star Wars Theory. I was having none of it. He would attempt to discuss and I would simply respond with, “I don’t care”.

Now, I hope the PGS member hears this because I do want to apologize.

I am not against discussing the merits of SWTheory as a pundit and fan at any other time. I was attempting to build a 4 lane hwy straight to trending town with just a wild hair possibility that my tweet might get read by someone who can make this right. That 4 lane hwy, in my mind, wasn’t built to have an off ramp to have that particular discussion, especially considering who I copied on the tweet.

I have been asked to have a more open and broader idea of what a fan is. So, no matter what anyone thinks about SWTheory, he’s still a customer and fan. Heck, as a YouTuber, he has been more complementary towards Disney Star Wars than most.

For an employee as high profile as Pablo Hidalgo, to mock any customer and fan for having an emotional response to the art and product that the company he works for produces, is the foundation of what becomes toxic and deserves to have action taken.

Again, for dismissing the PGS member’s point of view, and being crass, I sincerely apologize. I do not put this person’s name here. I don’t want to see this person swarmed or piled on in any form.

If they wish to discuss their thoughts in another Twitter thread or DM, I’d be happy to discuss, I just didn’t want to derail the objective at hand.

With Sincere Apologies,
Mark C.

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Celebrating the rise of Filipino Filmmaking

Hi Rob and to the Post Geek Singularity.

I would like to say thank you for reading my previous letter regarding my recommendations on Filipino films that are available in physical media. I also want to thank you for giving me an avenue to showcase Filipino cinema to the intergalactic audience of The Burnettwork which I hope would spark interests among you.

There is one information that I forgot to mention regarding the 1975 classic “Manila in the Claws of Light” by Lino Brocka. I mentioned that one of the special features in the Criterion release of the film is an introduction from Martin Scorsese and that is because he is a huge fan of the film and it influenced Taxi Driver, which was released a year after. The film is just wonderful and it is peak verisimilitude. I am planning to rewatch it again and maybe I’ll share my review in a letter soon.

Filipino cinema has never been given a huge spotlight to the worldwide audience. I mean no Filipino film has ever been nominated for Best International Feature Film at the Academy Awards or at the Golden Globe Awards. But recently, I have witnessed a rise of interest on Filipino cinema thanks to the digital world and restorations of Filipino classic films as well as Criterion releases of films like “Manila in the Claws of Light.”

Filipino film classic, A LULLABY TO THE SORROWFUL MYSTERY

Filipino films are now also recognized in prominent film festivals around the world. Lav Diaz’s 2016 film “A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery” (which by the way has a running time of 8 hours) won the Golden Bear in the 2016 Berlin International Film Festival which had Meryl Streep as its jury president. Diaz’s other 2016 film “The Woman Who Left” (which has a running time of almost 4 hours) won the Golden Lion at the Venice International Film Festival which had Sam Mendes as its jury president.

By the way, fun fact: if you’re wondering why Lav Diaz’s films are long, well most of his films are actually long. He is really known for that. His films normally have a running time of between 4 to 10 hours and they are critically-acclaimed.

There is also Brillante Mendoza, the first Filipino filmmaker to win Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival for his 2009 psychological thriller film “Butchered.” Quentin Tarantino actually sent him a letter praising the film. He said to him, “Bravo on your difficult, troubling work. Your decision to never dramatize the murder, never indulge in movie suspense was bold, daring, and, to me, the whole point of making the movie in the first place. I felt it was completely an eyewitness account of a horrible murder.”

Meanwhile, veteran actress Jaclyn Jose became the first Filipino actress to win Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival for the 2016 film “Ma’Rosa” also directed by Mendoza. Filipino cinema is now realt getting more recognized around the world.

If you ask me, the reason why I think Filipino films are not getting much recognition than it should have is because there’s not a lot of effort to export the films and aggressively promote them. There are a lot of Filipino films that are world class and worthy of getting Criterion releases and restorations. Tarantino is a known fan of Filipino cinema.

Scorsese is a fan of some Filipino films like “Manila in the Claws of Light.” Bong Joon-ho cited Lino Brocka as one of his inspirations. Filipino films just need more wide recognition and I do hope that a lot of cinema fans around the world would check them out more. As I’ve mentioned in the previous letter, there are 2 Filipino classic films that are on Criterion that you can buy a Blu-Ray of or watch on The Criterion Channel.

Anyways, that is all my letter for now since it is getting too long. I actually have a lot more interesting facts to share and some related personal anecdotes. Perhaps I will save them in another letter. Thank you again Rob for reading this letter and helping spread the word of Filipino cinema.

Stay safe and live long and prosper.

Mike F.

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Wishing you a “Mercy Christmas”

Hello, Rob and fellow members of the Geek Singularity!.

MERCY CHRISTMAS – fun, frights and adventure on Christmas!

In this year of terrible movies, I would like to point out a good movie from 2017. It is a comedy horror, called “Mercy Christmas.”

It is a low budget movie but man I haven’t laughed this much in years. Goes to show you that you don’t need a huge budget to entertain. This movie was the antidote to the sickly sweet holiday movies that mean nothing unless you are talking about Die Hard or It’s a Wonderful life both classics in my opinion.

This year I have been dejected by Star Trek Discovery (which is soul-destroying for a Trekkie such as I). I have been told through media that I am an ist or a phone because I don’t like what is dished out. What I love most about movies and TV shows is that feeling of wonder. I feel that when I watch “The Expanse” or “Battlestar Galactica” or the best of the best Star Trek “Deep Space Nin.e.

I feel like the purveyors of culture today have thrown aside the wonder of “What if?” in favour of agenda and we are all diminished because of this.

I love your show and think you are a beacon in this crazy world!

Thanks, Rob and my fellow Geeks.

Elaine

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Are movies even important anymore?

Hi Rob, moderators, and Post Geek Singularity,

I know there is a big worry about how long the film industry, as well as the theater industry I guess, will last.

However, something I have noticed, but I could be wrong since this a personal observation, is how movies are not really held as being that important anymore.

I can’t speak for everyone, but it seems as though movies are seen by most people, who are not film fans like us in the PGS, as really just something to kill time. For example, someone might say to himself or herself, “I got time on my hands, I’ll just watch a movie”, or one person says to another, “Do you want to watch a movie?” with no real sense of emotional investment.

I can’t speak for anyone, but when I go and watch a movie I haven’t seen before, I have to be extremely emotionally invested in it because I want to feel something when I watch it, as I am taking a certain period of time to have an experience of wanting to be entertained and feel a sense of escapism. Even if I end up not liking the movie, it won’t change the emotional investment I want to have, as I will still have the same type of investment with another film I haven’t seen before, and see if I have a different reaction.

I know you once said Rob, how movies are not considered as important to society anymore, as they once were, so maybe that’s what I see happening.

Anyways, that was just something I was thinking about.

Thanks, live long and prosper.
Omar

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Playing favorites with sci-fi.

Rob,

An Imagination Connoisseur asks “What’s your favorite starship?

On ROBSERVATIONS Season Two #587, you held what is your favorite capital starship Star Trek The Motion Picture’s Enterprise-Refit model.

With your vast collection, I believe that your favorite transport spaceship is the Eagle from Space:1999.

Now, my question is what is your favorite (one person or two person) science-fiction space fighter?

Thanks.

All the best to Elysabeth and you in 2021.

Steve G.

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The Force may be with Star Wars – but it could use a little common sense, too.

First time letter writer. I love your show, and appreciate your “to each his own” philosophy when it comes to the likes and dislikes of the many fictional universes we follow. I also have much in common with you in terms of our shared love of scifi, fantasy, and superhero content in books and all other forms of media. Plus I also love making models, and collecting statues or Hot Toys, so we definitely park our shuttles in the same shuttle bay.

I wanted to write about some of the constructive criticisms, or pet peeves, of some of these fictional universes. Unfortunately, I have been fighting cancer the last two years, and I don’t know how many days are left in front of me, so it feels good to write some of these ideas out before I will have to say take the “Second star to the right… and straight on ’til morning.” I would like to start with my favorite fictional universe, Star Wars.

I obviously loved the Original Trilogy, and most of the Prequels, but I really soaked up all the fantastic lore of the Legends universe via the books and comics. My love of starships began with Star Wars, and it made me want to become an Aerospace Engineer, where I have been lucky enough to spend most of my career working on various NASA programs.

I love Star Wars so much probably because of its combination of scifi and fantasy elements. I am very keen on the story elements of space nobles, knights, the seemingly supernatural Force, superweapons, and epic galactic scale conflicts. There is a lot to like, but my biggest complaint about Star Wars is what I always called a lack of common sense, but verisimilitude sounds a lot better. Now by no means do I want to turn Star Wars into a hard scifi universe, say like the Expanse, or make it considerably more grounded.

With that said, I do wish they avoid assigning hard numbers to things, since there seems to be a lack of understanding of dealing with things on a galactic scale. I think its much better to leave things vague, or not give hard numbers at all when it comes to Star Wars. It always takes me out of the story when I read things like: we are lacking the resources or will go bankrupt with respect to building a single ship, this city planet with 100’s of levels has the population density of a small town on Earth, there are 6 million clones fighting a galactic scale conflict over millions of planets, there is only a single planet in the entire Galaxy who is producing warships/weapons/certain technology, the lack of starship design/role/size diversity when considering an entire Galaxy. I could probably list many more.

Again I don’t want a physicist to review every story, but just try and think things out a little bit more. You could probably build millions of warships from the resources of a single star system, and a galactic scale war should involve countless trillions, where most likely a bunch of planets get devastated. I know it was more of a kids cartoon, but the Clone Wars is guilty of this, and makes things feel more like the Clone Skirmishes.

Star Wars LEGENDS Universe – where formerly-canon material goes to live on.

Another problem I have with many Star Wars stories is the overuse of the underdog trope. Though the Empire or the First Order are so much more powerful than their opponents, the Rebels always carry the day in highly improbable ways.

I can buy this story trope for a few battles, but unfortunately its used in almost every instance, such that the Rebels/underdogs have in my opinion the thickest plot armor in fiction. Typically the Rebels win via a lucky shot, gross Imperial incompetence, the always successful sabatoge mission, or by exploiting an obvious technical flaw. To me this makes the Empire a non-threatening villian. With only the occasional Sith Lord or Grand Moff showing any sense competency, the Empire’s armed forces only seem to have one effective member per every one trillion personnel.

What also makes it worse is that the Empire is typically shown to be incredibly effective offscreen, conquering worlds, melting the crusts of planets, or out right destroying them. However, as soon as few lightly armed civilians show up on a space freighter, everything goes down hill. It also drives me crazy when the Republic or Empire can conduct an orbital bombardment or destroy a planet in a number of different ways, but instead they send down a small group of troopers to quickly get picked off, or use the lowest yield weaponry possible that’s equivalent to the capabilities of an Napoleonic Era army.

I also think between Legends, and now the Disney canon, that the Imperial Era has been done to death. Instead I would like to see more stories set in the Old Republic Era, the far past, or the far future. You could get away from the underdog trope and instead show some epic conflicts between two competent sides. There are so many stories from Legends they could adapt, from the Alsakan conflicts between Republic member planets, the Pius Dea Crusades, all of the various wars with the Sith, or the invasion of the Yuuzhan Vong.

I would like to see Star Wars utilize the multiverse, just like DC or Marvel. I would love to see new stories set in the Legends continuity. Even some cartoon adaptations of these stories would be great. There was also a great “What If” comic series that would make for some interesting story telling.

I know this is a personal preference of mine, but I love to see space nobles in charge of things, rather than something more akin to today’s governments on Earth. I just find that noble intrigue makes for a more interesting story. I enjoy this story element in other fictional universes like Dune and as well as many others. I really liked the Legends universe interpretation of the Old Republic, where its really a UN or NATO like organization, rather than an actual galactic government. Then you have each planet with its own sovereign government, military, and colonies. Most of the Core Worlds were monarchies or aristocraticies.

With that in mind, all the talk of democracy in the Prequel content just seemed really out of place to me. With most of the lore painting a picture of noble families ruling over their planets for many millenia, and the Republic turning into an Empire at the drop of the hat, a big push for democratic reforms just doesn’t work for me in the Star Wars fantasy setting. Again if I would be talking about something like the Expanse, then an extrapolation of our present day governments makes more sense to me.

I know I am not very terse in my writings, but I will try to keep this one short. Enough of showing us mostly backwater, Outer Rim, one environment worlds. Lets visit the Core Worlds and more advanced worlds around the Galaxy every once and awhile too.

Another short one, and I know there is a lot of content, but please be more consistent. I mean there can be little things here and there, but with the right people involved, I don’t think being beholden to canon or being a consistent in-universe is very difficult. For example how shields work in the Star Wars universe is all over the place.

This probably should go to verisimilitude as well, but I had it separate. This is something many other scifi stories do, like Avatar did, and is one trope that will always take me out of story. It is when a full up futuristic military force loses to a very primitive civilization or to wild animals. Star Wars is guilty of this on more than a few occasions like the Ewoks in RotJ, space whales in the Rebels finale, and to some extent the Zillo beast in Clone Wars. These battles should last about one second in pretty much every possible scenario.

In closing, I must say I did not care for the Sequel trilogy at all, and I much prefer the Legends universe post-RotJ timeline of events. However, like many out there, I have greatly enjoyed the Mandalorian and am very excited for the future for the Star Wars universe. Thanks and may the Force be with you.

Scott K

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In movie musicals, it seems all the world’s problems can be solved with a song. Considering 2020, why not give it a try?

Hi Rob and hi gang!

As so many of us did this weekend my family (wife and two teen kids) and I sat down to watch a movie each night. WW84 Friday night… all I have to say was hated it! Soul on Saturday night. Really good and actually had all of us discussing it long after it ended about what is important in life.

THE PROM is now singing and dancing on Netflix

On Sunday night we all sat down and decided to choose The Prom on Netflix. Had not heard much about it but we decided with that cast, Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, James Corden, Andrew Rannells, Kerry Washington and Keegan- Michael Key, we should check it out. It is directed by Ryan Murphy and written by the original writer and lyricists of the broadway show.

Meryl Streep was perfect as a member of a troupe of self-obsessed ultra liberal theater stars who go to a small conservative Indiana town to support a high school girl who wants to take her girlfriend to their prom.

We were all blown away at what a great movie musical it was. It brought back a feeling of classic musicals of the past but with a truly, truly modern theme. It was funny, sad, romantic and very touching.

This is exactly the type of film that needed a theatrical release to get the word out. But in today’s environment won’t, so I hope I can just help spread the word to all of you out there.

Anyway, I hope all of you have a very safe and happy new year.

Michael R.

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Would the real DC please identify themselves?

Dear RMB,

My letter today is in regards to DC. Does DC have an identity problem? I think they do.

I watched Wonder Woman 1984 last week and actually enjoyed it. I found the film to be fun and filled with love by both the cast and crew. I will admit that it has it’s flaws, but I still love it.

The thing that I noticed is that Wonder Woman 1984 is different from every other DCEU movie made so far. I love how it is not a copy and paste plot from Wonder Woman 1 and that it is it’s own thing. A viewer can just watch WW84 without watching any of the other films and still understand what is happening.

Exactly who makes up the DCEU pantheon of heroes any more?

In fact, I know this is true because a friend of mine told me that she didn’t see the first film and figured out what was going on. She also thought the plot seemed too similar to Shrek 4 so I guess that’s also something to think about. I appreciate when sequels try to tell their own story and not find themselves stuck on being the second part of a whole.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Spider-Man 2, and The Dark Knight are the best superhero sequels ever made because they do this. They are their own stories. Despite WW84 being it’s own story, I think therein lies an issue that has become pretty frequent amidst DC’s past films under Walter Hamada.

I’ll start off by saying that I love DC. These characters are the characters I grew up with.

I have also loved the majority of the DCEU films. Suicide Squad is one of my favorite comic book films. I love Man of Steel, BvS, and Wonder Woman.

Ever since Justice League, it feels like DC has tried to change the way they make their films and focus on making different types of films. Aquaman is an Indiana Jones like adventure film that explores the seas and is basically a comic book brought to screen. Shazam is Big meets Superman. Joker is an R rated DC film inspired by Taxi Driver and King of Comedy. Birds of Prey is like a Deadpool film. The Batman looks to be a Se7en/Chinatown inspired crime thriller. The Suicide Squad looks like a beautiful James Gunn fever dream. And WW84 is…basically Shrek 4.

I think these are all great ideas, but at the end of the day execution is what matters.

WW84 is honestly the most divisive film I have seen since The Last Jedi, so I wouldn’t call it a success by any means. I’m afraid that DC/Warner Brothers just has no idea what they are doing.

The recent article about 4 films a year being released worried me because let’s not pretend that DC is doing that great. Their HBO Max Gotham Central show taking place in Matt Reeves’ The Batman universe lost their showrunner. The Flash still seems like it will never come out. Shouldn’t they wait before they start committing to multiple films a year?

Yes, Joker won Academy Awards. But that doesn’t mean that every film they make next will too. DC’s idea of dabbling into multiple different genre films isn’t something that is new, so I want to compare them to a studio that in my eyes did it much better: 20th century Fox and their X-men universe.

They popped out a whole bunch of X-men films and spinoffs until they gave us Deadpool, which turned the tables on comic book films. Now an R-rated comedy superhero film was a success. It was entirely different from what came before and it was able to occupy a genre of it’s own.

Fox put out Logan, a gritty Western that many believe to be one of the greatest comic book films made. They also made New Mutants, a horror film that doesn’t get enough love. But Deadpool and Logan were major achievements for Fox and Marvel both critically and financially.

The difference between Fox and DC is that Fox had a plan. DC at this point seems like a fly that doesn’t know whether it wants to move into the light or away from it. They just had a year where two of the films they released received a large amount of disappointment from fans. It seems that they have found themselves in a similar situation to 2016 when they released Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad to scathing reactions.

Not every studio can have the same success as Marvel Studios under Kevin Feige, but somehow it works for them. This is probably because they put their characters before their universe like you always say Rob. I actually think DC was on the right foot when they started with Man of Steel and they had also got back on the right foot with Wonder Woman. Sadly, they have become so reactionary that they seem to change their plans every day.

A Snyder Cut is great, but what will be it’s point? Will future films reference it? Will we ever get to see Joe Manganello play Deathstroke again?

I think right now DC must be mindful of the legacy that lays in its future. I think back to 2005 when Batman Begins was released and how that changed superhero films entirely. Christopher Nolan took Batman and made an epic action film with films like Serpico and Metropolis for inspiration. It worked and people were actually able to take it seriously.

DC is struggling right now and I just hope that we get to see them get back on their feet next year with the Snydercut and The Suicide Squad. I believe in them.

Thank you for reading this letter. Depending on when you read this, happy holidays and hopefully it’s 2021.

Sincerely,
Kyle A

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In praise of Authorship, Walter Tevis, and The Queen’s Gambit

Hey, Rob, Lys & PGS!

So… I just finished watching The Queen’s Gambit for the second time, a series that I consider to be the best fictional drama series of 2020.

It’s great, and you don’t have to just take my word for it – it’s been on Netflix’s Top Ten since it came out in September – that’s four months. This got me to wondering why is this so? Why is it so good compared to everything else?

Well, I think there are a lot of reasons: the acting is great; there’s not really a weak link in this category. Anya Taylor-Joy is mesmerizing as Beth Hardon and Marielle Heller, as Beth’s adoptive mother Alma, is fabulous. The other supporting actors also give top-notch performances.
Direction, Costumes, Lighting, Props, Sets, and the 1960’s CGI version of Las Vegas is very hip. But I think the primary reason the series is so good is because the script is so good. As you are often fond of saying: Authorship is key.

This brings me to Walter Tevis, an author who it pains me to admit that I did not know about until after hearing you mention his name on one of your shows.

According to Wikipedia: Walter Tevis was born in 1928 and died in 1984. He developed a heart condition at an early age, for which his parents put him into a children’s convalescent home where he was given heavy doses of phenobarbital. He would later in life become an alcoholic, which according to his son, he attributed to the use of phenobarbital.

It seems safe to safe that the drug use, the children’s home, and his alcoholism were at least partially used as a basis for the character of Beth Harmon, and that’s fine. There’s an old bit of advice for writers: write what you know about.

Walter was also apparently a pool player and gambler which is likely the basis for The Hustler and its sequel The Color of Money.

I just started reading Mockingbird, his science fiction novel set in the 25th century where people no longer read and robots run everything. Gee, that almost sounds pretty darn prescient. So far, it is excellent. Can a movie or series be in the future? Who knows, but considering how great his other works are I wouldn’t bet against it.

Happy Holidays and continue to stay safe!

Bronze Age Slacker (Kurt)

PS: Tevis wrote two novels in 1983 The Queen’s Gambit and The Steps of the Sun, a sci-fi novel where the Chinese have become the dominant superpower. I’ll have to read Steps when I finish Mockingbird and I guess that might be the basis for a future letter!

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