Everyone Needs To Watch Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse

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What if I told you that an animated Spider-Man movie would be so stylish, so well done, so dense and so thoughtful that it would be one of the greatest animated movies of all time? Well, you better believe me because Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse exists and it totally whips.

This movie is a masterpiece overflowing with style and care. I don’t remember the last time a movie had so much style that I kept thinking about it. On a rewatch all I wanted to do was pause and take in every single scene and setting. Most movies have scenes or sequences to that affect, but another movie that is end to end as stylish as Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse? Honestly don’t think it exists. This movie is excellent on so many levels it’s impossible to spill enough digital ink on it.

This may be my new favourite animated movie. It’s right there with The Lion King. It won a freaking Oscar. It captures all the best parts of an animated movie in a time where Big Hollywood seems to want to make everything that was animated into “Live Action” at the expense of imagination.

It’s a Spider-Man movie that doesn’t even follow Peter Parker. We’re following Miles Morales, the half African American and half Puerto Rican Spider-Man through his origin story. A super hero origin story in 2018. That isn’t rote.

Miles is an awesome character. They do a great job establishing him as his own hero.  He isn’t just the new Spider-Man. He wears sneakers, a black suit, hoody, doesn’t tie his laces. He has confidence even as a kid. He’s into graffiti and is creative.  He’s so much more than “Black Spider-Man”. He’s a real character.

And he’s still a high school kid. High school Spider-Man is so much fun. Spiderman should always start in high school. He can move on and grow, but you got to get to know Spider-Man when he’s a kid. Spider-Man learning to Spider-Man as a kid is integral to the character. He’s a young teenager going with the suffix “Man” when that is typically reserved for ambiguous 30-something’s like Iron Man, Batman, Superman, etc.

Miles’ personal style is woven into the storytelling and visuals. I don’t think this movie works with a Peter Parker at the center of it. It feels like the movie is entirely in Miles’ perspective and you see the world as he sees it.

Can’t overlook how refreshing it is for a super hero to have parents that are alive and supportive. It provides new avenues for the hero to work through the conflicts and motivations that give a unique take on being a vigilante. The story moves, twists, turns and satisfies in so many different ways with this flexibility.

We’re living in a Spider-Man exclusive New York. It is helpful to distinguish this world from the live action films (RIP now) where Spider-Man is hanging out in a New York where Doctor Strange, Iron Man, the Avengers and everyone else seems to room on the daily.

Getting the weird fringe Spider-Man’s into the movie is radical too. Peter, Gwen and Miles are pretty mainline at this point, but Noir, Ham and Peni are pretty obscure. It’s neat to see them get some time on screen instead of this being more of a Batman family style movie where you get Peter, Miles, and Gwen hanging out with like Kane Parker, Flash Thompson, etc. and whatever other dudes find themselves adjacent to mainline just Peter Parker.

The movie gets meta in a fun way. Sometimes it’s a gag that subverts your expectations. Other times it’s a small love letter to everything Spider-Man at some point: how many times Uncle Ben has needed to die, the spider bite that gets everyone, dancing emo Peter (which I defend) and a great post credit scene that memes out .

The visual style is the main attraction to this movie though. It does some weird 2 frame play, 1 frame hold, 1 frame skip type look to give it movement as if it’s a flip book or a motion comic but also keeps fluid animation. It takes a bit of time to get used to, but after a little your brain adapts and gets absorbed by it.

There is so much to look at. The base animation mixes with comic panels and hand drawn inserts for flashes. Thought boxes, onomatopoeia words coming and going, panelling in and out. Backgrounds are “drawn” but the characters look 3D. Elements of cell shading and Ben-Day dots/halftones mixing with CGI creates a sharp focus in part of the frame, while having the background look as if it’s a 3D film when you don’t have the glasses on.

Every frame is packed in detail without being distracting. The colour work is phenomenal. So much pop but also keeps the scenes distinct. There’s impressive use of long takes, which is typically unimpressive in an animated movie. There is so much “Show, Don’t Tell” storytelling going on. The directors, animators and cinematographer really outdid themselves.

The score is rad and the mix of hip hop totally fits the style and tone of the film. The music melts right into what you’re looking in every frame and raises the visuals. The voice cast whips and is only outdone by the art style of each character. Nic Cage, Mahershala Ali and Chris Pine in the same movie? And they’re all varying levels of secondary supporting characters? Damn man.

Shameik Moore never falters as Miles. Jake Johnson is perfect as Peter. Hailee Steinfeld couldn’t capture Gwen better. Brain Tyree Henry nails being a father in the soft moments and the harder ones.

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An issue you could have in a movie like this is “how do you differentiate what are basically six spider people?” Just have every single one of them radiate their entirely own style. Miles has his modern hip hop fusion from the suit and his movements. He has his own set of distinct abilities on top of the base Spider-Man ones. Peter A Parker as the ideal and Peter B as the “I’ve been at this for so long” shlub version. Gwen’s mix of punk rock while moving gracefully like a ballerina. Noir being… well very noir with the suit and classic “Put up your dukes” fighting. Ham is full on Looney Tunes and Peni gets the anime treatment complete with posing, mannerisms and a 2D style.

This carries through the villains too: from the behemoth that is Kingpin to the fluidity of Doc Ock to the precision of everything Prowler does. The freedom of imagination and creativity is on full display and while you might not pick up on everything, your brain is noticing and picking up every bit of subtlety. Every character has a distinct silhouette so despite the richness on screen you can still pick up everything going on. The action isn’t a mess.

I can go forever. The movie is so damn good. There are more layers to this film than an onion. I also have the same pair of Nike’s that Miles wears.

If you’re already seen the movie and want to just get more about how great it is then make sure you watch this video. You won’t spend 15 minutes better today.

Spider-Man: Far From Home Is Where The Heart Is

Spider-Man: Far From Home Trailer – Nick Fury, Mysterio Invade Peter Parker’s Holiday in Europe

There is no better live action Spider-Man than Tom Holland. He’s so good at everything: his physicality, his look, his age, how he plays Peter, how he acts as Spider-Man. He’s perfect.

High school Spider-Man is so much fun. High school hijinks and comedy are great because everyone can relate. Everyone remembers having those awkward moments as a teenager. It’s so entirely different to follow a kid around in a “serious” super hero movie and that’s the key reason that you’d go see a film like Spider-Man: Far From Home. Having a kid involved in these big conflicts while he’s also worried about how he’ll handle his first kiss and how he finds both of them as difficult and stressful. It is a refreshing side to the big story.

It’s an excellent wrap up to the Infinity Stone/Thanos saga. It doesn’t quite tap into all the depth there like overpopulation, how the revived people reintegrated and relationship dynamics that would be fundamentally altered between people.

But it does give you get enough of a taste for what the new post-Thanos RIP-Iron Man world is like that you feel like you can move on. It provides enough answers to the surface level questions about what happened when people came back, how they aged, how relationships are affected, etc.  It even gives you a taste of what the response is now for an Avengers level threat without the world having their big hero six Avengers.

Also, the movie is about Spider-Man and how he’s getting on in this world without his father figure and all the newfound responsibility and infamy he’s webbed up in while still trying to figure out how to navigate high school and nabbing that first kiss from his crush.

Like the first film, Iron Man/Tony Stark plays a role but he isn’t a shadow over the film. Not to say the presence of Iron Man is minimal or passed off. It isn’t. But it is no different than the Uncle Ben Guilt cloud that usually hangs over Spider-Man films. Tony Stark dying is this Peter’s “Uncle Ben” moment and subsequent arc.

We’ve seen Uncle Ben die in 2 films, like 143 times in the comics and 69 times in cartoons. While Uncle Ben existed and passed, or has at least been alluded to in these movies, this is a new grief. And it’s handled really well. Handled exactly how I probably would have handled this if I was a 16-17 year old who just wanted to date a pretty girl and not fail my classes. I could barely manage school, a personal life and sports in high school.

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John Watts is back as director and did a really good job with a really tricky spot. He’s got to develop the overarching MCU in the dust of Thanos. But also tell a silly high school kids story where horny teenagers just want to make out. And then also show how a teenager is handling the grief of losing his surrogate father and the boatload of great power and responsibility that’s been thrust on him.

The movie is at its best when it is being most personal. The high school kid moments are great. Supporting characters playing off each other is great. Characters bouncing dialogue and chewing scenery is great. Peter having one on one chats with people is great. When it’s him 1v1 against the villain it’s great. The movie loses some steam when it gets a bit too big and loud.

In a way you can say that the big noise action being distracting is the point, if you want to get all meta about what’s at the middle of motivation for the villains.

The real world themes are played with humour, but do well to accurately capture and comment on modern society from how the news cycle is handled/vetted to people risking their lives so they have the best viral Instagram video. Playing a very modern perception vs reality debate and how people believe what they want these days is pretty fun without getting too preachy, though if you’re the kind of person who might get mad at this then maybe you’re the kind of person who needs a bit of introspection as to why that is.

The realization of Mysterio as a character is excellent and so is the execution of his abilities. Whoever it was that concepted and coordinated this needs to be involved in any future Doctor Strange movies. The personal action scenes with him are full of thrill and wonder and suspense all at once.

The action does grow and get big and loud, but it sticks to what is within his character. There isn’t some random turn where he decides to shoot a blue laser into the sky or unleash a gas to turn people into obedient creatures.

I really appreciate that they’ve kept Spider-Man villains to what non-symbiote Spider-Man villains mostly are: dudes or ladies who want to rob banks or steal technology to become rich and villainously famous. Captain America fights the dudes who want world domination. Thor stops aliens who want to destroy planets. Spider-Man tries to keep the neighbourhood friendly.

The cast is great. I’ve gone on enough about Tom Holland, but Zendaya and Jacob Batalon nail it. They’re the two characters closest to Peter and help represent two of the three ways he’s pulled, with Nick Fury representing the third way.

Zendaya is a treat as MJ. Her chemistry with Peter is wicked and the twist on her being a bit of a “darker” take on MJ’s personality is refreshing. Hopefully we get that red hair soon. Batalon as Ned is lit. Dude’s such a full on shlub with a heart of gold.

John Favreau and Marisa Tomei are great as well. Watching them awkwardly adult flirt is a great foil to Peter and how he navigates his relationship with MJ. The smaller roles of the other students and teachers are well done too. They all feel like people despite being relatively one-note.

Jake Gyllenhaal has a blast playing Quintin Beck aka Mysterio and it radiates through. You can always tell when an actor is on board and all in with what they’re doing and it makes things that much better. He’s chewing it up, being a little hammy, but is able to pull that serious side out. I get a warm feeling when memed actors pull their careers back around and whip ass.

There’s so much potential with this Spider-Man and the stories they’ve crafted around him. There could be a full on Spider-Family movie at some point. Marvel is able to keep pulling off live action versions of things I thought could never exist beyond a cartoon as a kid. This movie is a great ride.

The mid-credits scene is an absolute thriller and makes sure that you want more Spider-Man even after you’ve just sat through his 5th appearance in 4 years. That’s quite something when the exposure has reached the levels it has.

Unfortunately, there may not be a MCU Spider-Man much longer (LINK). So enjoy this while you can before the guy who thought Deadpool was a bad idea gets his hands on another beloved property.

The Lion King: Its The Lion King ft. Real* Lions

I love The Lion King. It is my favourite Disney animated movie. It’s a masterpiece and I’ll fight anyone who wants to talk trash about it. There’s so much art and craft in it that I’m willing to bet often gets dismissed because its an 88-minute long hand drawn Disney flick. It is an amazing story with memorable characters, excellent direction, animation and cinematography, beautiful visuals. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it (unless you want to discuss the problems of a monarchy, arranged weddings,  a ruling class that literally eats its servants and stuff but please just shhh and let me enjoy what I like).

The biggest fear when remaking something so damn good is screwing it up. Bright side: They didn’t screw it up. Down side: I don’t think this one is better.

It was a bit of a difficult time titling this review. I didn’t want to say it was bad. I can’t really say it’s better. It is prettier, but it’s less imaginative as a result. It pretty much just is The Lion King remade with real* lions.

I can’t say for sure if that’s been the case in previous iterations of the Disney live action remakes. I’ve actually seen remarkably few animated Disney classics and even less of the modern live action remakes in recent years.

For reference:

  • The Jungle Book: saw live action, never the animated version
  • Beauty and the Beast: never the animated, lasted about 20 minutes into the Emma Watson version
  • Dumbo: didn’t see either
  • Aladdin: see above

The biggest change is that this movie traded the fantasy elements of the original for realism in the portrayals, as if this could actually be happening or did happen over in Africa.

For every amazing visual of the landscape or close up on the animals or amazing tracking shots of the lions running that look straight out of a documentary, you lose some whimsy and fantasy that came with the musical numbers or interpretations of certain conversations. I was really hoping to see what director John Favreau and cinematographer Caleb Deschanel would come up with for those more fantastical scenes, but they kept it “realistic” throughout the film. It isn’t a bad choice, just a slight bummer.

One thing you really miss with the realistic animals is elements of character design. Scar in the animated is very wiry and thin; his claws are always out, vibrant green eyes, black mane and he almost has an “evil beard” in his mane.

Same goes Mufasa. In the original, while a lion, he’s shaped like a body builder and has a silhouette as if Superman was there. Big shoulders, chest out, glorious mane and a broad face similar to the square jaw you’d see on Batman or Captain America in a cartoon. Simba looks like a young boy animorphed into a lion. Same with Nala and Sarabi. They look feminine through their eyes and slight difference in head shape far more than the “real” lions in the movie. Timon doesn’t quite seem like the used car salesman as his mannerisms aren’t the same now that he’s an accurate meerkat.

It’s those elements of personification that allow for just that extra bit of connection and storytelling to the characters and thus the story. You might not have noticed those things, but your brain did.  Simba looking like a boy makes you feel like he’s you as a kid or your son. The look of Mufasa really gives him the look of a protector and king. That little bit of a human look to the animals makes their actions and voice work feel more personal.

While that is lost, the look is still a treat as the designs are now more subtle. The photorealistc animals are great to look at and tell their story in a more subtle way. There is more emphasis on colour palette and using natural proportions to their physical best. The animals are adorable and imposing. Child Simba moving around on his little legs helps make him feel like he’s just that much more of a child.

The story is still excellent, and the few additional scenes and beats are improvements. The voice cast is great.

James Earl Jones is back as Mufasa and his performance is as strong as it was 25 years ago. Child Simba and Nala are great. Timon, Pumba, Zazu, and the Hyena’s are great. It’s a coin flip on who does a better job. I prefer Donald Glover’s adult Simba to Mathew Broderick’s. Beyonce isn’t quite as good as Nala as Moira Kelly.

The biggest change comes in the form of Scar. In the original, voiced by Jeremy Irons, the character is more of a conniving trickster and betrayer. A character not unlike Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. He’s more cheeky and campy. He desires the throne and wants to scheme his way to the top. Every word was dripping in contempt for Simba and Mufasa.

While both are characters who have been passed over for not being “good” enough, Chiwetel Ejiofor’s is more terrifying. He really comes across as if he’s brooded on the shortcomings that have kept him from the throne far more than Irons’. You don’t really sympathize with him, possibly empathize as he’s less cartoonishly evil, but you get a bit more of a feel for how a life of being #2 when he believes he should be #1 has poisoned him.

Ejiofor is more menacing as Scar. He’s angry and hate-filled. There is a lot more raw power to his voice that comes across as hatred. He’s a far more evil character, and that makes the stakes feel higher in the darker moments of the film as he seems like a bigger threat. He truly covets power and seems as if his hunger will never be sated. You get more of a feeling that he has planned and made contingencies to protect him akin to James Spader’s Raymond Reddington. There’s more of an imposing danger to the modern version.

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The movie doesn’t transform the source material, but I don’t know why you would want it to. The Lion King is a perfect movie. Call me a fool for supporting the laziness of Big Hollywood, but a visually refreshed version of this is all I wanted. It’s what I got. It’s what you’ll get.

I expect at some point, maybe 10 years from now, where this version is the definitive The Lion King for a whole new generation and that people will judge it more on its own merits. I just hope that this one doesn’t come to replace the 1994 version and a masterpiece is lost.

One question I’m left with though: why are the gazelles and giraffes and all them showing up at the baby shower? If my boss also ate me to stay alive there isn’t a chance in hell I’m showing up to watch him parade around his kid who will grow to be my boss by birthright and possibly eat me. Maybe I’m taking it all a bit literally.

Yesterday: Music, Love and Happiness

Yesterday is a really nice movie. It is nice to mix in a light, cheeky film amongst the serious dramas, R rated films and big ass action movies. There will always be a place for lighthearted fun and it will always be a bonus when it comes as an enjoyable celebration of music, happiness and love.

The premise is a great one, and your fulfillment on the execution will vary. I can see how someone would be underwhelmed by it. It doesn’t dive too deep into the butterfly effect of what would happen, hypothetically, if The Beatles never existed and how that would play out in a larger pop culture sense. It isn’t like without The Beatles that hair metal, grunge and nu-metal never existed. Jack isn’t going to be dying under the weight of guilt for plagiarizing these songs to the point he ends the film dying of a heroin overdose in a motel bathtub. It’s just a world without The Beatles. Maybe they got erased by Thanos. Who knows?

It’s a light fun rom-com that is funny and touching, so your execution of the premise is going to be in alignment with that or you get left with a mess tonally.

That isn’t to say the movie is empty calories. They do well on the premise. They take it seriously without it being too serious and having the whole movie be cotton candy and rainbows.

A nice directorial style gives it some extra flavour. Definitely some of those kinds of scenes where you can tell Danny Boyle meticulously planned from the second he thought of it to getting it to execution and to the edit. Its nice to see directors be able to flex their creativity with style and meaning. Its important to the art of directing to get those flexes. A nice eye-gasm.

The movie delivers on a few nice alternate universe shenanigans. If The Beatles are gone, then what else is missing? Did Pokemon ever exist? Did The Rock stick in the CFL and never become a pro wrestling icon and mega movie star? Did politicians find some morality? Makes you wonder what else is missing.

The story is basic but that isn’t a problem. I can’t emphasize this enough. It’s a benefit in my eyes. It’s a feel good movie. It doesn’t do anything dumb. It’s a bit silly, and it’s meant to be. It’s a rom-com, but it doesn’t make you want to gag. It tells a simple story but an effective one that has a lesson to it. When a simple message is told effectively it is nevertheless uplifting anyway.

Without the cast however, this movie probably would come up short. The cast is great and you find yourself engaged by their chemistry. When characters work so well together and give such strong performances it raises the material. Himesh Patel is excellent as the lead, Jack, and his chemistry with Lily James as Ellie is so charming that it feels real.

It was also nice to see someone of a different race and “normal looking” in the lead. He does a great job being a schlub and you’re rooting for him. Just adds a bit of spice to the story so it isn’t just another “white guy with an acoustic guitar wants to get famous” thing as everyone I think knows that guy and wants to vomit when they think of him.

Himesh Patel is also actually singing the songs. He’s actually the one playing the guitar. And he’s actually the one playing piano. No trickery involved. Give the man a standing ovation.

The supporting cast does their job well. Joel Fry is a fun burnout friend, Jack’s other friends feel like real people, and his parents are cute and hilarious. Ed Sheeran isn’t obnoxious as celebrities playing themselves can often be.

The comedy in the movie is great and feels a lot like how friends rib each other. Jokes are best in these situations when they feel like the real kind of barbs you toss between friends. While some of the satire is clearly satire, at the same time it also clearly isn’t satire. Or at the least, probably not quite as satirical as someone more naïve to the corporate workings of the entertainment industry would believe.

Kate McKinnon is probably the most “unrealistic” character in the film and comes across as if a parody cranked up to 11. But I wouldn’t be surprised if she isn’t as much a parody as she seems. The corporate management and marketing side of the music industry is pretty ruthless and gross. Underneath all the humour paint is undoubtedly how every musician feels they are valued and treated by the suits and ties up in the board room.

The movie itself is pretty much the perfect length as well. It is paced well so it doesn’t drag. Good music in a film makes things good too, and none of the songs last too long. The pops of music always do a good job to pick you up, and when at the climax it gives it and goes. Boom done, here’s your 2 minute epilogue. Bravo.

More movies need to learn the lessons of brevity.

Its so weird how everyone can acknowledge how great the songs of The Beatles are, but for most people you can fall off and forget about them without something to jog your memory and stick them back in.

Yesterday is a charming movie. It isn’t an all-time classic, but not everything has to be. That’s something nice about films like this and Stuber. They’re great ways to spend a down evening that don’t require much/any knowledge prior, keep you engaged through their story, and then leave you in a good place to have some fun conversations about the film. That’s fun.

Samurai Cop: Glorious Mess From Start to Finish

I don’t know where to begin, and I feel that’s incredibly appropriate when you’re talking about a movie as notorious as Samurai Cop. This is one of the worst movies ever made. It’s terrible. It is so bad. And it goes so far below a zero it falls of the scale. But then it somehow comes around to be a ten.

Bad knock-off movies of popular movies were popular as all heck in the heyday of VHS during the 80s and 90s. Heck, the concept is still popular today if you fall down the right hole on your Netflix subscription.

But simply being a Lethal Weapon knock off isn’t what makes Samurai Cop. It’s the sheer incompetence behind it at every level: editing, filming, directing, acting, writing, lighting. You name it, it’s done poorly.

The director has done decent bad movies before, but this is a new level. You watch a film of his like Killing American Style and you’re just left like “well, that was bad and dumb. kinda funny. kinda uncomfortable.” but it doesn’t stick with you.

When you watch Samurai Cop, it hits and sticks with you like The Room. What is going on? Why did that happen? Who is that? Where are they? When is this? How does that work?

I’m not even sure there was a final edit of the film. Actually, I’m positive there isn’t. It seems like they had a work edit and did what they could for a day to finish the film with no proper post production. Just ship it, make what you can make off it and move on like it never happened.

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The wig. Wow. So the director told Samurai Cop, Matt Hannon, he was done filming. Everything is wrapped. Samurai Cop goes and cuts his hair. Director calls him to the studio, Samurai Cop thinks this is to get his reel that he can drop off for casting elsewhere. Nope. The director still needs to shoot a some scenes. He freaks out and they drive down to a prop shop and buy a woman’s wig hoping it can pass as Samurai Cop’s glorious hair. The director says it’ll be okay.

“Don’t worry. It’s only from far away. No one will notice”

Except it was like half the movie. The wig comes off multiple times. It doesn’t look like real hair. It has volume and curls. Heck, the first scene of our titular Samurai Cop is in his hilarious wig.

There is just so much that doesn’t make sense. It almost feels like an alien algorithm watched every action cop movie from the 80’s and early 90’s and spat out a film.

 

The horny nurse. I don’t know what to say. This scene does nothing. There’s no narrative point to this scene. But it’s in the movie. And it’s great.

The mistakes and weird nonsense is endless:

  • The lion. What is that?
  • The FFWx2 Speed action scenes. The cast were all using their own cars and doing their own stunts and fight choreography. None of them were trained stunt drivers or fighters. So they just slap the x2 speed on the action so that it becomes exciting.
  • Half the dudes get shot without squibs so they just do a little Ants In Their Pants dance.
  • Beardy Chin man somehow survives a broken neck to commit sudoku. Sepultura. Whatever!
  • You can see the film crew in the reflection of surfaces in the movie. There are shadows of the boom mic.
  • There are no establishing shots. Not for scenes, and barely even for characters.

Editing is a mess. There are edit’s that follow no continuity. People are holding a black glock in one scene and then a silver revolver in others. Clothing appears and disappears in the same scene. There is some of the most “we can edit around it” action as well, but they didn’t have enough footage to edit around the mistakes in the action!

They couldn’t afford proper lighting rigs so they only shot during the day which is why the shots never line up. The colour temperature loses alignment inside the same scene. There is awful ADR that doesn’t sync up with the lips during dialogue scenes. The director does the “UGH!” and “ARGH!” voices of all the dying goons. All of them.

It is almost The Room-like in it’s nonsense. Plot lines are brought up and dropped. Characters have moments that aren’t set up. Characters just disappear. The same extras are killed multiple times.

It is 55% of a “competent” movie. One that could have been just long and forgotten in the VHS mass production boom and never seen again. But the 45% left being as bad as it is makes this movie a classic.

And it rules. Find a copy. I’ll lend you mine. And watch this bad masterpiece.