February 20, 2013
Remember those Harry and Marlowe stories I just mentioned? They’re out now! I should have waited a day to post!
More info about The Mad Scientists Guide to World Domination, including “Harry and Marlowe Meet the Founder of the Aetherian Revolution.”
So I watched Arbitrage, and it drove me a little batty that almost every character was from Hollywood Central Casting, Cliche Department. (The exception was the main character’s daughter, who was smart, ethical, savvy, a mother, and a generally decent human being. I think this would have been a better movie from her point of view.) In fact, when the Euro hipster art dealer mistress went to the back of the gallery during the big opening to snort cocaine, I busted out laughing. Dude, that is so 1988. **SPOILER** I also think the movie would have been better without the car wreck, which turned the whole thing into a two-hour episode of Law and Order, but what’re ya gonna do? **END SPOILER**
Fortunately, I didn’t stop watching there because the next scene was Tim Roth playing Columbo…and he really was playing Columbo! It wasn’t my imagination! “My deepest condolences, I’ll leave you alone now…but if I could just ask one question…I couldn’t help but notice that cut on your forehead. You mind telling me how that happened?” It was beautiful.
And did you know that Columbo isn’t actually original to Columbo? That character, the bumbling detective who is completely despised and dismissed by the criminal suspect, but who in reality is the smartest one in the room and trips up the suspect through roundabout questioning? That character has been around for a long time. Petrovich, the detective in Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment is this type. And before that, Inspector Bucket in Dickens’ Bleak House. That’s right, Charles Dickens invented Columbo!
I love being an English major!
February 13, 2013
I rarely watch the in-flight movie unless I have my own TV screen and can pick what I want to watch. Usually, the in-flight movie is a Kate Hudson romcom, which just no. On the flight to Maui, I did my usual thing, ignore the in-flight movie, plug in my earbuds and pick up a book. But I can never, never not sneak a peek at the overhead screen. Sometimes, I’ll even try to see how much of the film I can figure out in 30-second snippets with no sound. (This is surprisingly easy to do with lots of movies. Especially Kate Hudson romcoms.) So here is what happened.
This was a movie starring Richard Gere, with lots of white men in suits Talking About Things. It’s a White Men In Suits Talk About Things movie. Very tedious, so I didn’t pay very much attention to it at all. But then I glanced up…AND THERE’S TIM ROTH. TIM ROTH IS IN THIS MOVIE AND NOBODY TOLD ME. So I watched the rest of the movie, without sound, because I just can’t look away from Tim Roth. Seriously. (Unless it’s Lie to Me. I had to stop watching Lie to Me. Sorry, Mr. Roth.)
Not only is it Tim Roth, it’s Tim Roth playing a surly detective. You can tell he’s surly because he has challenging facial hair and wears his badge on his belt. And he kind of strolls around his scenes, glaring with interest at people. He’s not just a surly cop — HE’S COLUMBO. There exists in the world a movie in which Tim Roth is channeling Columbo — how did I not know about this!?!
So for the first time ever, I looked up an in-flight movie to see what it was so I can possibly go watch it, with the sound, later. The movie is called Arbitrage, and my question to all of you is: is it worth watching? Or was my way of experiencing it better?
February 11, 2013
I guess there are minor spoilers here. Thematic spoilers, mostly.
So it’s basically Romeo and Juliet with zombies and an unmitigated happy ending. But in my case, I couldn’t really get past the Stockholm Syndrome romance. You know the one —
the creepy borderline psychotic the hero kidnaps rescues the woman who ought to be freaking out the open-hearted heroine, who sees the goodness within him and realizes they were meant to be together. Yeah, getting kind of tired of this. (Though I’d suddenly like to see a gender swapped version that doesn’t end up like Misery. You know, Manic Pixie Dreamgirl kidnaps, or rather “kidnaps,” a cute but intellectually vague guy…)
Movies like this also remind me why I don’t go to comedies much. I’m sitting there stewing, smirking at the so-called jokes while the rest of the audience is laughing whole-heartedly. And when I do laugh (exactly one and a half times in this movie), no one else in the theater generally does, which makes me feel like a total freak. (Meanwhile, I think Hansel and Gretel, with its whopping 15% on Rotten Tomatoes, is hysterical.)
This isn’t a bad movie. Nicholas Hoult is pretty much brilliant as R and carries the movie all by himself. But it could have been so much more. It could have gone in some really interesting directions, but decided to go John Hughes lite instead. Which mostly tells me that I’m just not the target audience.
January 28, 2013
Or as we like to call it in my household, Hawkeye and Gretel.
The short review: It passed the Bechdel Test, and Gretel wore sensible flat-heeled boots the entire time! Also, that shirtless Jeremy Renner scene I requested turned out mighty fine.
The longer review: I would not have gone to see this at all if not for Jeremy Renner in leather. I figured I’d suffer through another terrible Van Helsing-like mess of a movie, but hoped that Jeremy Renner in leather would be enough to get me through. But you know what? I’m really glad I saw this. This thing is delightful. Darkly campy in a totally intentional, self-aware way. There’s a brief, quite wonderful visual gag right after the opening credits that’s just too good to give away, everyone in the theater laughed, and it clearly stated the filmmakers’ intention with this movie: it’s going to be funny, you are allowed to laugh. And then they delivered. The scene with Ben the witch hunter groupie in the tavern? (“That’s kind of weird,” Gretel says. “Kind of creepy,” Hansel adds.) So awesome. The action is fast-paced and gross and reminded me very much of early Sam Raimi, which counts as a good thing in my book. And there’s a plot! Holy crap, a plot that makes sense! Things are set up! There is payoff! The movie is no longer than it needs to be!
In fact, the more I think about it, the more this feels like a throwback to the kind of cheesy 80′s fantasy movie I loved so much. Our badasses collect a band of endearing allies in their quest to defeat, in a very straightforward manner, the very straightforward bad guys. There are a lot of jokes and quirks, done intelligently and intentionally. No angst or machinations shoehorned in in an attempt to seem deep and serious. Good actors having straight-up fun. And Gretel. Oh, my. She’s wonderful, an old-school kick-ass heroine from the days of Xena and Valeria, before the Angelina Jolie and Kate Beckinsale versions of the kick-ass heroine made it all about sex more than action. I wasn’t much of a fan of Gemma Arterton, but I am now. SHE WORE SENSIBLE BOOTS!!!
Seriously, it’s the little things.
(Update: It’s also been pointed out to me that Gretel wears her hair pulled back and out of her face the whole time. Double sensible!)
Bonus G.I. Joe commentary: they ran a special long preview of G.I. Joe: Retaliation, and I have a couple of comments. Love Snake Eyes’ new outfit. Love the gonzo straight-from-the-comic-book bits. (Seriously, the Cobra banners on the White House? I needed that.) Hate the 3-D conversion.
January 14, 2013
This post is for people eligible to nominate works for the Nebulas (active members of SFWA) or the Hugos (attended Worldcon last year, or will be attending this year and have already purchased your membership).
I’m mostly putting up this post because I’m actively campaigning to get Something Else Besides Doctor Who on the Best Dramatic Short category in the Hugo. So many works are eligible, there are so many good shows, good webisodes, good creative work being done. And seriously, Doctor Who just isn’t what it was five years ago, and can we please move on? So what am I going to be nominating?
“Happy Birthday, David.” Prometheus may have bombed, but this promo video is still astonishing, a two and a half minute bit of flash fiction on video that illuminates the emotional uncanny valley. It’s creepy, intriguing, and I love it.
“Absolut Greyhound.” I ought to be embarrassed recommending a vodka commercial for the Hugo, but I’m not, because this is another astonishing bit of flash fiction on video: a complete story about a certain kind of technology and the culture around it. Decadent and gorgeous.
Best Dramatic Long: I just want to remind everyone about Chronicle, the amazing Wild Cards-like found footage superhero flick from earlier in the year. I’ll also probably nominate Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome, which hit all my big spaceship SF buttons and mostly did a great job, despite a mis-step in the plot. (Notice how them sleeping together didn’t actually change a darned thing and made little sense and didn’t need to happen?)
And a couple of recommendations for best Novel:
Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone. I talked a lot about this novel at cons last year, pretty much on any panel where someone asked how important it is to stick to strict genre categories, because this proves that good story trumps any kind of marketing category. Write a good book, the publisher will find a way to sell it. This one got marketed as urban fantasy, with the hot chick with a weapon on the cover. But it’s also a post-apocalyptic fantasy with gods that’s also a legal thriller. It’s pretty much unlike anything you’ve read.
Caliban’s War by James S.A. Corey, because I’m a fangirl of this series.
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. Something I’ve learned with all the young adult books I’ve been reading over the last year: there really are some SF&F readers who refuse to read YA because they think it’s beneath them. And there really are YA fans who won’t read SF&F because they think it’s beneath them. So SF&F YA really gets the short end of the stick, and what that means is a lot of people are missing out on books that they’d really enjoy. Like Seraphina, a traditional fantasy with dragons, great worldbuilding, a complex society and politics, that’s also a book about passing. If you love Robin McKinley and Patricia McKillip, you should read this book. Don’t overlook it just because it’s labeled as YA.
More as I think of them…I’m woefully behind on reading shorter fiction this year. We’ll see if I can catch up.
January 2, 2013
My review, in bullet points:
- If you have six hours to spare, I think this would make a fabulous double feature with Lincoln. The topic of American slavery addressed by two of America’s most iconic directors? Hell yeah.
- I love how this movie just sort of takes a bunch of skeletons in the closet of the American psyche, drags them into the light, paints them in garish colors, and makes them dance around a little bit. Yeah, it’s like that.
- Every time a new Tarantino movie comes out, some people are surprised by how grossly violent it is. People, it’s long past time you stop being surprised by this.
- But the thing I love about Tarantino is he’s also capable of poignant, heartbreaking moments. (Like in Reservoir Dogs when Freddy fishes his wedding ring out of the coin jar.) When Schultz tells the story of Brunhilde and Siegfried to Django, when Django says goodbye to Shultz — utterly heartbreaking.
- There’s an interview with Tarantino on the 10th anniversary DVD of Reservoir Dogs where he talks about his approach to writing: he called it “fucking with genre conventions.” So, imagine how ridiculously happy I was when I learned he’d be tackling westerns. And the first convention he turns upside down is the one where westerns are supposed to be about rugged white men making their way heroically across the frontier. And the montage where Django and Shultz are riding across a gorgeous wintry landscape, beautifully shot in a classic epic western style — and Jim Croce is playing, and it’s so damn perfect.
- This is a movie that is literally about the value of human life. The cost of human life, and what slavery does to that calculation. Plus, it’s got the KKK scene we’ve all been waiting for ever since Birth of a Nation oozed out of Hollywood. Because Tarantino just goes there.
- I left the theater thinking about how much better a writer Tarantino is than I am. It made me a bit sad, but I think I know what I need to work on.
December 17, 2012
I don’t suppose there’s any chance of Martin Freeman getting nominated for any acting awards for this, is there?
Not a whole lot to say, really. If you’re inclined to love this movie, you will love it. If you want to find things to criticize about it, you will. If you’re not likely to love a carefully crafted epic filled with all sorts of fantasy squee, you probably shouldn’t go see it. If you are, you’ll be in heaven.
When they cross the pass into the Misty Mountains, which are actually laden with mist and shadows — oh my goodness, did I smile. And when the dwarves really did sing “That’s What Bilbo Baggins Hates” — I mean, I don’t even like the song, but it was just so perfectly done. The film has lots of little moments like that. It made me happy. And Martin Freeman. Did I mention that he’s just wonderful as Bilbo? Well, he is.
I’m one of those who’s skeptical that The Hobbit needed to be drawn out into three very long movies. When early reviews complained of bloat, I understand completely the concerns, because I sat through Peter Jackson’s King Kong, which is so full of cinematic bloat you could remove every other frame of film and have exactly the same movie at half the length. I’m still a bit skeptical, and rather wish they’d done something like they did with Lord of the Rings: release a streamlined theatrical version, then release extended versions for all the true geeks. And I’m saying this as someone who loves the extended version of Lord of the Rings. But I would also love to see a version of The Hobbit that had a little more focus and a little less pretension.
This is going to be a trilogy because the movies include much of Tolkien’s appendices and external material. I don’t really mind this. I appreciate the depth and richness. But I also happily read The Silmarillion as a teenager, so there you go. By biggest — I’ll call it an observation rather than a complaint — observation is that not only does the movie include a great deal of peripheral material, it appears to be inventing a plot to string them all together. And that’s what makes the story feel a bit contrived. The appendices are extra because they don’t really fit anywhere in the two novels. Trying to force them to fit. . .well, I’m not convinced. I’ll still happily watch the movie again, just with a bit of a sigh whenever the pale orc what’s-his-face appears.
I saw it in 3-D, and was not entirely impressed with the 3-D. The action scenes were mostly downright blurry and hard to follow. I think I’d like to see it again, but in 2-D.
**Completely nerdy, spoilery digression that may change how you see a certain scene in the movie forever, so I won’t inflict it on you unless you really want to keep reading**
So, we got to the scene where the dwarves are taken prisoner by the goblins under the Misty Mountains, and I noticed that the goblins, for all their grossness, are a bit like Brian Froud goblins. Not directly, just a distant inspired-by kind of thing, like the special effects guys grew up watching Labyrinth. (Froud did the goblin design in Labyrinth.) Froud goblins after a really bad couple of years, maybe. They’ve got large round eyes, hairy pointy ears, goofy expressions, a bit of personality. So the goblins bring the dwarves to the central square to meet the Goblin King, who speaks in a clear British accent. And a squirrelly corner of my brain yelled out, “Sing ‘Magic Dance!’” A couple of scenes later, when the goblins really do start singing, with the Goblin King kind of stomping around, I nearly ruptured my gut trying to keep from laughing out loud. I could not stop laughing. I do not think this was the intended response to this scene.
November 26, 2012
This film is uncanny. It’s uncanny seeing a Lincoln who might have stepped out of a Brady photograph. It’s uncanny because I couldn’t help thinking about the Disneyland animatronic Lincoln, which is terribly unfair to the movie and Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance, but there you go. Every third or fourth scene was an oratorical set piece where all the other characters seemed to step back and a little light seemed to shine on Lincoln while he held forth with some story or piece of wisdom. It made me think of a play, of seeing this all on stage rather than at the movies.
It’s uncanny because this film is very much a product of its time, the early twenty-first century. All historical films are a product of their time, more representative of when they’re made than the historical period they represent. (This is why The Tudors couldn’t bear to show Henry VIII as anything other than a Gen Y hottie, even in his later years.) I kept wanting to open a trapdoor over the anti-abolitionist Democrats on the House floor and drop President Obama into the middle of the debate. “You want to talk equal rights? Here, have a black president. It took us almost another 150 years, but we did it. Boom.” So yes, a movie about Lincoln, specifically about the wrangling to pass the 13th Amendment, that utilizes some of the same language that was featured in the last year of political debate about how freedom cannot include the freedom to oppress others, could really only happen right now, with our first African American President in office. The film becomes a mirror to show both how far we’ve come, and in some ways how far we haven’t.
It seems to be a foregone conclusion that Lewis will get the best actor Oscar for this. I’m willing to bet Sally Field has a good chance at best actress for playing Mary Todd Lincoln. But I really, really hope Tommy Lee Jones gets a best supporting actor nomination for his performance. He was phenomenal.
November 14, 2012
My hope for this was that at least one of the women who slept with Bond this time around would survive to the end of the movie. And that happened, so huzzah!
Forward from that, this was different, intense, still inarguably Bond, but it may be the first Bond that really involved a theme and a meaning much deeper than “this is Bond, James Bond.” It’s about getting older and obsolescence, knowing when to let go of the past and when to hang on, and when to walk away and what happens if you don’t. And when the old ways are indeed the best ways, and when they aren’t. The best part of all, the usual checklist of Bond tropes were made to serve those themes. See, in the bad Bond movies, the tropes cross the line into self-parody. In the good Bond movies, you can’t imagine Bond without them. And this is a good Bond movie.
November 9, 2012
Re: the previous post. I held an election night party. The best way to watch election returns is with friends and alcohol.
Last week seemed very long. This week seemed very short. I think because I’m leaving on a trip next week, and so my time to get everything done before I leave on the trip is shrinking. I’ve finished a couple of projects, I’m on track to finish a couple more over the weekend. And I’ve started three others, because apparently that’s how I roll.
This has been a good couple of weeks for short stories. I’ve sold several reprints, and a couple of new ones. I’ll let you all know when and where those are going to show up. Because of course I will!
I also saw Wreck-It Ralph last weekend, and here’s my belated review: It’s fun. It’s geeky. And it’s kind of disturbing, because I left the theater thinking, “So wait a minute, the message is that you should never aspire to anything greater in life, because if you do, you risk destroying the world and everything you love? And getting thrown off the roof is okay as long as your oppressors bring you cake afterward? WTF?” Granted, there are also messages of “Every kid should get to ride the go-karts,” and “Don’t be a jerk.” But I just kept thinking how this is also a movie about how Ralph learned to be happy living in the junkyard, and that seemed off to me.
Also, it didn’t have enough references to Tron.