August 26, 2016
When I drove home earlier this week, it wasn’t particularly late but I was very tired because I’d already been on the road ten hours. So I put on the “Awesome Mix Vol. 1” from Guardians of the Galaxy, which has become my go-to driving while tired album. It’s big, brassy, danceable, and keeps me awake. As often happens with a good soundtrack, I got to thinking about the movie, especially the last montage during “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” and I think I might have hit on something.
Guardians is all about family, right? Finding a family when you’ve lost yours, fighting for your family, coming together and supporting each other. But then — isn’t the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe about family?
I know as themes go that’s super broad and kind of all encompassing. But I went character by character. Thor dealing with his place in his family and his contentious relationship with his brother. Natasha having all access and possibility of family cut off — and so she adopts Clint’s, and protects her fellow Avengers like family. Steve Rogers struggling to replace families that keep getting taken away from him. Bruce rejecting family — for their own protection, he thinks. And even Scott Lang doing what he needs to do to get back to his family. And Tony — Tony, who can’t seem to keep a family together no matter how much he wants to.
I don’t think this is something the filmmakers necessarily thought about ahead of time, beyond the fact that “family” as a theme makes for really powerful storytelling more often than not. But I so like the idea of this one theme or concept tying all these movies together, even beyond the interlinking stories. It gives me some ideas of where the MCU might go from here, and gives me some confidence that the movies will continue to hold together.
August 3, 2016
So I caught up on this recent sword-and-sandals flick starring the guy who plays Jaime on Game of Thrones and Gerard Butler with his Scottish accent. It got a lot of flack when it came out for borrowing a lot of Egyptian mythology without actually bothering to learn anything about Egyptian culture and casting all white people. And then the director threw a tantrum about the criticism, which made me sad because it’s the same guy who directed The Crow and Dark City, which is one of my favorite movies, and he should really know better.
The whitewashing was not as bad as I was expecting — not as bad as Noah, for example, which did not have a single person of color in the entire thing, not even in crowd scenes, which it seems to me you’d have to really work at. On the other hand, it turns out to be pretty striking when you’ve set a movie in Egypt, cast white actors in the leading roles and then populated many of the secondary, red shirt, and exotic love-interest roles with actors of color. It’s like, obvious. I’ll go back to The Force Awakens as at least a start of how to do things right: variety in lead actors/characters is the goal, here. Something different, something inclusive. It’s not hard.
BUT HOW IS THE MOVIE, CARRIE?
It’s strange. It’s just completely strange. Because there were parts that were really totally endearing. (Scarab beetle chariot!) The whole thing was actually goofy, and seemed to be goofy on purpose. A little weird, having a Horus who in full god mode looked like a proof-of-concept for a live-action Silverhawks movie. (Dear Hollywood: please never do a live-action Silverhawks movie.) It went on maybe forty minutes too long. And I think I would have liked the whole movie better without that mortal kid hero guy thing. God, he annoyed the hell out of me.
But now I want to write a story about a bunch of gods just, like, doing stuff. I dunno what. I’ll figure that out later.
July 25, 2016
That was a lot of fun, and something of a huge relief that the new incarnation no longer seems determined to rehash previous plot bunnies to death. I understand new writers and a new director are to be credited. Huzzah! So what we get with this movie ends up being something unusual after fifty years of Star Trek: not just a new story, but a kind of story that Star Trek hasn’t really done before. Which was very cool I must say!
One of my friends was unhappy with the promotional images for Star Trek Beyond because they show the Enterprise getting destroyed. It isn’t that he hates seeing the Enterprise getting destroyed — it’s just that it’s been done so often by now, and what was spectacular and horrifying at the end of The Search for Spock is now just the thing that Star Trek does to try to shock people, which isn’t actually shocking anymore.
So the movie starts and things happen and the Enterprise is destroyed — in the very first act. And it’s spectacular. And we all think, “Holy cow, now what?” Now what is Star Trek without the Enterprise. The crew has all survived via escape pod and are now scattered on the planet below, being hunted by the alien baddy. (Who is actually the weakest part of the whole story. There’s a baddy, there’s an alien Macguffin Device of sorts that the baddy is after, and it might have been the two margaritas I had beforehand but none of this was entirely clear to me. Partly because none of it mattered. It was just a necessary obstacle to provide the crew with the excuse they needed to be awesome.)
This was actually a great setup for a Star Trek story. Uhura and Sulu get captured by the bad guy and do what they need to to hold the line and take care of the rest of the captured crew. McCoy is marooned with a rather severely injured Spock, and they banter, as one expects. Kirk and Chekov do the bulk of the adventuring, in tracking down the others. Scotty meets the alien refugee who’d previously been marooned on the planet, and who has discovered the still-functioning wreckage of an earlier crash, an older Starfleet vessel that our lovely crew can now get up and running again in order to save the day.
This all gave us something that had been missing from the previous two films: a crew, working together. This isn’t the Kirk Angst Show. This isn’t the non-stop Kirk-Spock buddy action drama. This is a movie about the whole crew, about Starfleet, about their mission, about the good they can do.
Star Trek movies have tended to be big, to justify their existences on the big screen. Giant existential threats against the whole of the Federation, Starfleet, whatever. The two Abrams movies seemed to need to double down on that — altering timelines, destroying planets, etc. This movie really felt like it just wanted to celebrate the little things that have always made Star Trek great: very cool space stations. Making friends with aliens. (I must say, I loved kick-ass alien Jaylah in spite of myself. She was kind of a big ol’ trope, but she was super-earnest. And she seemed really excited about being invited to enter Starfleet Academy, which I just had to love.) Each person on the crew having a job and being awesome, and not just being a satellite for Kirk. The idea that Starfleet wins fights against power-hungry bad guys because of community and optimism.
The layer of meta: in-universe, we learn that Ambassador Spock has died. This felt important, because in the Next Gen timeline, he never died, he moved to Romulus and that was the last we heard of him. So this was really the death of that character, the beloved old timeline character, which was a little strange to think of. This was, in fact, a memorial to Leonard Nimoy, and it was gently done, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. They only had time to add a “For Anton” in the credits for Anton Yelchin. But for me, I think I cried a little bit every time he appeared on screen.
As has been said elsewhere, this isn’t the best Star Trek movie. But it’s a good one, and is a good sign for more to come.
July 20, 2016
I caught up on a couple of classics recently.
Movie: The African Queen. That was not what I was expecting. I think all I really knew about this was the clips that always get shown of Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart motoring down the river and being curmudgeonly. (And that the actual boiler from the boat is on display in the lobby of the place I stay at when I go diving in Key Largo. I can’t explain it.) I guess I expected ninety minutes or so of banter and curmudgeonly-ness. Turns out, this is a straight-up romance. The two characters fall madly in love pretty early on and spend the rest of the film cooing at each other like teenagers. Which was a little weird, with those two particular gruff craggy actors. And then the last fifteen minutes of the film is blowing up Germans. Which I was also not expecting. This is the first time I’ve ever watched a classic film and sort of wished someone would remake it with modern sensibilities and without the rather drippy conventions of 1950’s romance movies.
Book: On the Beach by Nevil Shute. I’ve known about this post-apocalyptic classic forever, and finally just now read it. It’s great, and it hit me hard. Once again, mostly because of my own weird history. So, when my dad was flying B-52’s in the early 80’s, I really worried about him. If the bombs fell I knew I was just dead, that wasn’t an issue. But if Dad was out flying on a mission when the bombs fell — which was pretty much exactly what his job was, to get his plane in the air before the base got hit — what would happen to him? Where would he go? I know they had protocols, they had emergency bases and mid-air refueling and theoretically he would go there and do whatever. But his home would be gone. Everything would be gone, and I thought up these horrifying images of him just flying around above a blasted nuclear wasteland until his fuel ran out. (I’m still coming to understand that those years were maybe a little more stressful than I realized at the time.)
So, anyway, one of the main characters in On the Beach is an American military officer whose submarine is deployed when the bombs drop, and he’s caught away from home. He ends up in Australia, waiting for the radiation fallout to kill everyone, and he knows his family back home (wife, son and daughter, just like our family!) is dead but he just keeps functioning because he has to. It wasn’t until the second to the last chapter that I thought, “That’s my dad.” But boy, when I did, I had to take a break from the book for a few minutes. It happens every now and then, that I’ll be reading or watching something about war or the military, going along just fine, and then suddenly think “That’s my dad,” and it kicks me in the head just about every time. I love my dad and it’s just really hard thinking of him in those difficult situations, even if they never happened. Imagination is a funny thing. I’m really glad I didn’t read this as a teenager.
The rest of the book, I loved the Australian perspective on the Cold War, that Australia wasn’t going to be dropping nukes itself but would absolutely suffer from radiation and fallout from any kind of nuclear exchange. It strikes me that this is a big part of the backdrop of the Mad Max movies as well — dealing with a situation they had no part in making.
July 15, 2016
Saw Ghostbusters and loved it. Had so much fun. Now I’m skimming other peoples’ reviews and I’m a little sad that some people seem determined to hate it, and some can’t talk about it without talking about gender. But enough about that, I have a long review to write and will discuss more there.
Previews for The Expanse season 2 are hitting the web, including pictures of Bobbie Draper. BOBBIE DRAPER!!! Fan favorite indeed.
I’ve started Lucifer and quite like it. It’s got that thing that Castle did, of the flippant guy annoying the serious woman detective, and murder mysteries that are fairly straightforward because they aren’t actually the most interesting thing about the show. And the thing that Sleepy Hollow had with the squirrely guy with the British accent and a completely different outlook, and the straightforward woman detective. HOLLYWOOD, HAVE YOU HIT ON A FORMULA HERE, HMMMM????
In other news, I overslept this morning, and it felt great.
July 13, 2016
A short post to let you know that my long-form review of Warcraft is now live at Lightspeed. I called it “A Mage, A Knight, and a Half-orc Walk into a Tavern–” because I just couldn’t not call it that. Verdict? It falls in the category of “A D&D style movie a million times better than the actual D&D movie.” Which is, granted, a very low bar…
I’ll be writing a long review of the new Ghostbusters for Lightspeed as well. Got my tickets to see it tomorrow. I can’t wait. I’m sure I’ll have a lot to say about it.
In other news, from the back, my dog looks like a cat.
June 10, 2016
Yes, summer is here! I know because I almost passed out after riding the Boy yesterday. That first really hot day always gets me. I’m better now. Now it’s time to go hiking and sit outside reading books and enjoying the hell out of it so next January I can remember what warm is like.
Reminder: Amaryllis and Other Stories is available for pre-order at Fairwood Press. It’ll be released in August — we’re debuting it at Worldcon in Kansas City!
OspreyCam: The surviving baby and parents are doing great. Little guy is growing fast. I love checking in with these guys. I’ve visited the nest in person, too, but it’s tough to see much from the ground so I love the camera.
I saw Warcraft. Because reasons. I’m writing a long review of it for Lightspeed and I’m having so much fun with it. Partway into the movie my friend leaned over and said, “Does this seem cumbersome to you?” “No,” I shot back. “It’s adorable.” Since I’m pretty sure “adorable” is not what the filmmakers were going for, make of that what you will.
The schedule for Denver Comic Con has been posted. I’ll post my own schedule next week, so you’ll know exactly where to find me.
And now, I’m deep in revision mode on the new novel and a new Wild Cards short story. Trying to finish before family visits next week. *girds loins and gets back to it*