I discovered F1, like everyone else, by watching Drive to Survive on Netflix. My experience came in early 2020, just before the second season (and impending quarantine) would be released. I knew formula one existed. At the time I was living in Austin, home of Circuit of the Americas, and F1 was a big deal on race weekend. Unfortunately, in ATX, COTA is far from the center of the city, and it just became another major festival among the many that visited Austin every year - SxSW, Austin Film Festival, Austin City Limits, Fun Fun Fun Fest, to name a few - so it never really got on my radar as the owners probably hoped. DTS opened up my world. I was immediately fascinated by the individual stories, the fantastic editing, and the behind-the-scenes narratives that were highlighted beyond the actual races. Who knew that a sport could be so complicated? OR cutthroat, for that matter? The thing that hooked me, and that DTS did so well, was knowing every driver had a journey, and with only 20 seats currently available on the grid, it was easy to get to know each and every individual driver.
Of course, the series had its favorites. Daniel Ricciardo, if not already a talented driver, is a personality made for DTS. His rockstar nature is easily admirable and shows he can be around even when his driving career has ended. Early episodes also give us empathetic characters like Esteban Ocon, Niko Hülkenberg, Alex Albon, and Romain Grosjean (whose major episode in season 3 kept me on the edge of my seat); none of which have been in true contention for the championship thus far, but that doesn't make them, nor any driver on the grid, any less deserving of it. In fact, that's what DTS does so well, in getting us to focus on drivers that are not normally part of the conversation, and realizing that the story of an F1 Driver is never about one season, but is often told throughout the course of many seasons during a driver's career. One could argue that making it into Formula One is already the ultimate goal, and anything afterward is considered extra. We're just...along for the ride...so to speak.
As mentioned previously, I was very new to F1, but I LOVED the Netflix series, and as quarantine hit, I couldn't stop telling everyone to watch it. That year, when given the opportunity, I even wrote & directed a parody for my friend's youtube channel; which I am very proud of. It wasn't until after Season 3, in 2021, that I finally jumped from DTS to watching full races on Sunday (which quickly became the entire weekend). Now it's required viewing in my house. Formula One is the BEST international sport, in my opinion. It's about speed. It's about fine margins. It's about individual characters. It's also about teams; which have more to do with an actual outcome of a season than say– a football manager or owner, when you consider how each car has different engineers. This is why formula one also has something called The Constructors Champion, on top of the normal driver's championship. Being in a good car is half the battle for most drivers, and they can only do so much if the engineers are not able to meet the needs of their athletes.
This brings me to what I want to chat about today, as we near the start of a new era, the 2022 season, in less than a week's time.
Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune is what got me back into video games. In my young adult life, back in 2010 (when I played it, though it was released in 2007), I didn’t really have much time for video games. Yet when I finally picked up the Uncharted Series I encountered that which has now become a common experience amongst many who have enjoyed these games as they’ve released - and since - of feeling as if I was playing a movie. Now only was I wholly enthralled by the story and the characters during cutscenes, but there were times where my exasperated remarks would be echoed by Nathan Drake himself, as we both climbed, swung, dodged, and fell through ever escalating encounters during our swashbuckling treasure hunting adventure. Basically, for every “oh crap!” I uttered, it felt like Drake was right beside me, echoing my frustration, and it changed everything I ever wanted from video games from that point onward.
When the movie was first announced, I probably wasn’t as hopeful as others. Mostly this was due to the fact that Uncharted, as a video game, was designed specifically to make you feel like you were in a blockbuster film. It took it’s inspirations - bombastic set pieces, globetrotting scenarios, and macguffin driven stories - and did something movies couldn’t do: place you inside the adventure. Creating a film, based off a series of video games, that were inspired by these exact films, felt like a reversion. What could the film give us that the video games hadn’t? Would this just be a re-hash of Drake’s Fortune? How could you even distill ~30 hours of gameplay into two-ish hours?
Moreover, there was only one person in the entire world, at the time, that people could accept as a live action Nathan Drake, and it was NOT Mark Wahlberg. You know who I’m talking about.
Still, I didn’t care. This felt like a cash-grab. I never truly had faith in any adaptation, and I certainly wasn’t a fan of David O’ Russel (controversial opinion, I’m sure, but please don’t @ me.) Color me not surprised when the film bounced around for the better part of a decade under different iterations of directors, writers, and even actors involved. There was a moment where I gained a mere bit of hope, and that was when 10 Cloverfield Lane director - and former Totally Rad Show host - was attached to the project. Not only was this a guy who understood video games after talking about them for a living, but he was a prolific filmmaker who brought to life adaptations of his own (Portal, Warframe) and has directed some of the best episodes of genre television (Black Mirror, The Boys). Alas, the project would eventually move on without him, along with my now diminished hopes.
But then came along Sony’s shining savior, and apparently only face that they’ll plaster on billboards now and in the near future: Tom Holland, and with him came the answer to at least one of our questions. It seemed that we would be going with a younger Nathan Drake, maybe not so much an origin story, but at least a story that didn’t so much interfere with the video game timelines...or so we thought.
Of course, all of this is ancient history. You know the rest of the story. Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) gets attached to direct. Mark Wahlberg has now aged out of, and is instead relegated to, Nathan Drake’s colleague and sometimes wise, albeit flawed, mentor, Victor “Sully” Sullivan, sans mustache. And with the success of Tom Holland’s recent spandex inspired visual effects outings, we were finally off to the races.
All told, it’s been about 14 years - and four more games - between initial announcements and the final release (2008-2022), but we did, finally, get to see Nathan Drake, in cargo pants and a henley, on that big silver screen, and it was...well...a movie. I’ll give them that.
In my observation of television and film in which police play a role, there are, for sure, a fair amount of scenes involving coming to a door, finding the latch broken, and proceeding to draw a weapon to enter. Stand offs are common place. Guns are being reached for at every appropriate scenario (unless it’s a commentary on today’s hot button topics, in which case the wrong escalation of force will be used.) Yet another thing I observed were the amount of times a gun would NOT be handled. When cops would choose hand-to-hand (CQB) tactics over going for their weapon. Sometimes this is done to raise the stakes, most likely written because this is more dramatic, after all, than a shootout, and sometimes it’s just to show the coolness/badassary of a specific character. In every case, they don’t seem very threatened by anyone not holding a weapon, as they are usually accepting of the potential to beat up the bad guy. if there’s a knife? Even better. In situations where a cop is caught off guard, or in a tough spot, the gun never comes out except as a means of putting a button on the whole thing. A period at the end of a conversation. First they disarm, they incapacitate, and before the “bad guy” can retaliate, our hero draws the weapon. It’s over.
There was a certain amount of destiny surrounding my birth.
I assume my mother went into labor on Christmas Eve. I never asked about the exact circumstances of that night, but I know I was born around 2am. Had I been born on the west coast perhaps I might have missed destiny altogether. Time zones were on my side though, because December 25th, 1986 became my official birthdate. I like to imagine it was snowing.
Were the great storybooks and novels to write the event, it would read like this:
The first-born child to a veteran couple. The mother — a fiery red head — grew up on farm lands in south Texas to a truck driver and his stay-at-home wife. They were emotionally, if not physically, abusive parents to their two daughters, who escaped the confines of their homes as often as possible. Once old enough, she left town in a hurry. Owning next to nothing, she lived in her car for a season before enlisting in the U.S. Navy. Her favorite hobby was driving to the airfield at night to watch the jets take off among the backdrop of dark blue and glittering stars. She remembers being most free during this era.
It’s approximately 1:30 am.
I weave through a maze of cars leading towards the backyard carrying a six-pack of craft beer. Stout, in case you’re wondering. I don’t like the hosts’ repeated choice of Lone Star (the National Beer of Texas) or PBR (the working man’s beer), so I snagged my own. Sometimes they have kegs. But they reserve those for special occasions like Halloween, a birthday party, or that time when they still had a half barrel left over from a private function.
Despite the late hour, the party is just getting started and I’m not the only one arriving. Most people have gotten off of work within the last hour, and others are still closing up and plan to join later. Service industry people keep different hours than the rest of the world. We’re not quite vampires, but you also won’t catch most of us up before noon either.
Once I make it to the backyard and traverse over to the back patio, I encounter the usual suspects of smokers. They huddle in clusters with worn jackets and cigarettes to keep them warm. They’re a lively bunch. Brodie, a lanky kid wearing all denim, notices my arrival and throws me a hand that I snag on my way through.
“How’s it going dude?” He says cooly.
“Oh, you know.”
They all know. He goes back to his cigarette.
I had a conversation last night with a good friend about how different He and I have approached our relationships after a breakup. He is friends with, and contacts regularly, most of his exes; whereas I don't normally have an ongoing friendship after a breakup. What's interesting is we both thought our own experiences were "abnormal" in the views of society. I have, at times, wished I was able to approach relationships more like him, and vice versa; yet in practice neither of us really do. It made me wonder what we consider normal.
I've often been lauded for my ability to be "all-in" with how I've romanticized my relationships and put so much focus on commitment. I'm a little more sensitive than most. It wouldn’t be untrue to say that I bought into love at an early age, probably brought on by pop culture, movies, and music, resulting in an outlook that puts emphasis on relationships, the story of “us”, and who I am with and without a significant other. My preference, obviously, would always be in a relationship. You could call it my default setting.
Saying that out loud seems very counterintuitive with today’s society. Maybe it’s just my social media feeds, but “kids these days” seem to prefer things to be more casual. Gravitating towards self-love and exploration when it comes to relationships. Millennials are getting married later in life, as I’m sure you’ve heard, and there’s less onus on finding “the one”, as my generation tends to fight against the lessons that Disney...
I always preferred long hair, and after four years of high-and-tights and pushing the 4” limit on the top of my noggin, I was determined to get my hair back to it’s former glory. Well - glory is an exaggeration - as no teenager with curly hair in high school could be considered to have “glorious” hair. Nonetheless, there was a semblance of freedom of finally having the choice to not cut my hair, and I was going to exercise that freedom. I’m pretty sure I went almost 3 years without so much as a trim. During that time, I also pursued acting, and the mindset at the time was hair is easier to cut than to grow, so I figured the roles would dictate what type of hair I needed.
Fast forward several years to now, 2019, and I’ve kept my hair more-or-less long. It’s definitely been trimmed. I toyed with “medium-length” for a time. I went through the man-buns and the half-buns and the viking braids any other manner of styling to keep my hair long and represent my ethnic makeup. But my hair was never, by common definition, short. So when I finally chopped it off a couple of weeks ago, I expected a lot of surprised looks and comments from my closest friends and people who had been around me for the past decade.
Strangely enough, I received close to nothing.
I admit — that last item is pretty specific. I suppose the answer is not that exciting either. The truth of the matter is Nero, the strong one, had been scratching at his ears for a while — something I thought was leftover from flea issues previously or might be ear mites. In any case, I don’t have the money for Vet appointments, so I tried my best to diagnose and buy cheap medicines to help combat the problems based on what I read on the internet. Eventually, his ear started to swell from shaking his head too much — a Hematoma — which resulted in a $500 vet bill and the need for a cone to discourage the scratching and shaking while he recovers.
Why am I telling you this?
For one: Because I should probably live up to that subtitle. The people need answers.
Two: This episode has left me in quite a funk.
Like most humans, I saw The Last Jedi on its opening weekend, and like some movie nerds, I’m acutely aware of the divisiveness of the eighth chapter in the Skywalker saga. The backlash is deafening. There are so many people who have been hurt by Rian Johnson’s vision that it is, quite frankly, overwhelming. I mention this to say two things: one, a lot has already been written in an attempt to make sense of this phenomenon, and two…
I’m not one of them.
Let’s make something clear: I think The Last Jedi is the perfect sequel, and once enough time passes, I believe Hollywood will no longer name drop The Empire Strikes Back as something they are trying to emulate with their never-ending-franchises, and instead filmmakers will reference what Rian Johnson managed to accomplish on December 15, 2017. That said, I’m not here to defend the movie from hurt fanboys or those who refuse to accept a creator’s inalienable right —ie: to do whatever the F*** they want. While I do have some thoughts on Fandom, and why this phenomena means we should mourn the loss of creative freedom, I’m not sure this is the right medium (pun not intended) nor the right time. Furthermore, I simply don’t have the words.