October 1, 2018

Colette is a biopic of the early 20th century French writer, starring Keira Knightley. It’s long and leisurely and visually lush in the way of a lot of biopics, especially ones of artistic people. And like a lot of biopics of writers it says some true things about writing while also making the writing life look impossibly romantic.  I mean, writing is just a really slow process, so you gotta take cinematic short cuts. But mostly what the movie is interested in is Colette’s unconventional life and career, and that’s where it shines, in its positive portrayal of genderqueer and genderfluid characters.

I also learned that Colette was born exactly a hundred years before I was.

For all that I enjoyed the film, I left angry because that thing where a brilliant woman creator had an egotistical and overbearing husband who constrained, damaged, or took advantage of her apparently happened enough that there’s a whole genre about it. Big Eyes about Margaret and Walter Keane, Sylvia about Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes.  Colette’s early novels were published under her husband’s name. He would lock her in a room until she produced more. When she suggested maybe putting her names on the books too, he did not react well. Eventually she left him, and wrote plenty under her own name.

During the movie I thought about the Impressionist artist Marie Bracquemond, whose husband was also a painter, resentful of her talent to the point where she stopped painting at all.

It just… it’s infuriating. Once is a sad story. Two, three, four. . . that’s a pattern. And it sucks.



so that Captain Marvel trailer

September 21, 2018

So the trailer for Captain Marvel, the next film in the MCU, has dropped.

Of course I love it. Was there even a question? I can’t get through it without crying out of sheer, emotional resonance.

As you all likely know by now, one of my favorite pet topics is women aviators. Carol is a pilot before she’s a superhero. And the fact that the trailer highlights that just. . . I’m so happy. It’s like they did all this just for me.

And there’s even more:  this shows her falling, and falling, and falling… and getting back up. Like, what is the primary trait we want people to know about this character?  She gets back up and goes back to the fight.

Here I go crying again.

One more thing. So, Wonder Woman was all about Diana being a woman hero, from an island of women, a woman in No Man’s Land, and so on. Her gender is a huge part of that movie and her identity and that’s great, we needed that.

Carol is a hero who is a woman. It’s a subtle difference. One of the many things I love about this trailer — her gender isn’t brought up at all. It’s just another thing, like the color of her hair or what hat she’s wearing. A hero who is a woman.  We’ve needed that, too.

It’s great. Just…. somebody hand me box of kleenex, gah.


The Spy Who Dumped Me

August 13, 2018

So my friends and I went out for drinks and The Spy Who Dumped Me, thinking we’d get some dumb fun.

Guys, it was really good. Crass, hilarious, very aware of itself, good.  I really want the director, Susanna Fogel, on a Marvel movie now. Also, pretty dang subversive. Like this:

1.   It bought into its own premise really hard. Like, this isn’t a slapstick comedy vehicle. This is a spy movie, that just happens to have a couple of really crass thirty year old underachiever women as main characters.  Like they asked, What would happen if we put these characters in a spy movie? and then they played it straight from there. It’s ridiculous and it works.

2.  The friendship between Audrey and Morgan is the most important thing in the movie. It’s the reason they survive, it’s the reason they’re able to do the crazy things they do. The male spy characters keep telling them, “Don’t trust anyone, you can’t trust anyone.” But they always, always trust each other and it’s why they win.

And the reason this is subversive is that many stories about two women friends have a point where they fight, argue (often over a man) and “break up” and then reconcile.  This never happens here. They may be crazy and obnoxious, but these two are just always there for each other and it’s wonderful.

Also, I kept thinking about The Bourne Identity, a movie I love, and I suddenly realize that Marie (Franke Potente’s character) is basically a prop. Like, who is she? What was she doing when Jason meets her? What were her plans at that point? Where was she going? We never find out! What about her family? When he tells her to flee to Goa she’s just like, okay? WTF man? And I started thinking about Bond Girls, and so on, and how often women are just props in these movies.

And The Spy Who Dumped Me, everyone tries to treat Audrey and Morgan like they’re just props and they’re like OH HELL NO WE ARE NOT PROPS WE ARE MIGHTY and clumsy and confused and totally ill-equipped for this adventure but also MIGHTY.

It’s fantastic.

Also, there is zero female nudity in the entire movie but one big really obnoxious in-your-face scene of male nudity.

Subversive, I’m telling you.


weird movie categories

August 6, 2018

So yesterday I discovered my friends and I have yet another weird metric for rating films. You know, like:

“Is this spaceship crew dumber than the crew of Prometheus, yes or no?”

“Would this have made a better Dungeons and Dragons movie than the actual Dungeons and Dragons movie?”

Categories like this are surprisingly useful for ranking and comparing films. Well, yesterday I realized I have this habit of dragging my friends to science fiction movies they’ve never heard of, sometimes with less-than-stellar results. “Why did you make us watch this, Carrie, whhyyyyyyyyyyy?????????”

Which gives us the category:

“Was this unpublicized SF film Carrie dragged us to better or worse than Snowpiercer?”

You see, they still haven’t forgiven me for making them watch Snowpiercer. Sigh.

(The film we saw was The Darkest Minds, which turned out to be a very trope-y YA dystopia story clearly heavily influenced by The X-Men. Wait for cable.)


Monday update

July 23, 2018

You know, I’ll feel much better once I get this massive revision of the new novel off my plate. By the end of the month, for sure. I’m going a little bit crazy right now.

In the meantime, THE WILD DEAD has been out a week. Here’s a great, thoughtful review of the series as crime fiction, not just science fiction. I’m hopeful that the books will find their way to mystery readers.

I watched Cold Mountain last night, because I’ve been craving historicals lately, and wanted something that was kind of a love story and kind of gut wrenching. (I’d never seen it before, but I will never forget the Oscar-watching party where Renee Zellweger was up for Best Supporting Actress for her role in it — very richly deserved, she was great — and they played a clip of her character’s biggest emotional outburst done in a thick, Appalachian accent. Nobody in the room knew what she said — except for me. I told them exactly what she said, which was when I realized I’m like the children of immigrants who can’t necessarily speak the language from the Home Country but can understand it. I can’t speak Southern, but I can usually understand it.)

ANYHOO, it’s a decent movie, but a bit trope-ish and predictable for my tastes. A really great cast. Jena Malone, Donald Sutherland, Charlie Hunnam, and a ton of other really top-flight actors in small parts. It’s kind of a gritty Americana version of The Odyssey. It’s also a western — that is, I’m thinking a lot today about the ways in which the movie felt like a western — the local roughs harassing a couple of women struggling to maintain the homestead when all the men are gone, the ways in which westerns often intersect with the Civil War — the story of the soldier trying to get home, or escaping by going west, etc. I mean, western North Carolina is still west, I guess?

Anyway, it’s got me thinking about genre — westerns, Civil War movies, where they overlap, is it the tropes that make a western or the location, and so on.  What I would want to do with a western, or a Civil War movie, or that spot where the two genres overlap.


First off, here’s my long and breathless Lightspeed review of Infinity Wars with bonus material on what it means to be a movie fan these days. I’ve done a lot more thinking since writing this, that is only increasing my admiration of how well it’s all put together. All that business about close magic and misdirection in Ant-Man and The Wasp wasn’t just throw-away cleverness. Captain Marvel doesn’t just have the burden of being its own movie — it’s going to be the prologue to the next Avengers. It’s just…so, so much.

In other news, I’m seriously considering pitching the Coast Road books, including the brand-new The Wild Dead, as “Midsomer Murders meets The Road.” Which sounds ridiculous right up until it doesn’t. A personable investigator in a really dodgy small community with lots of hidden secrets, against a backdrop of desolated civilization?

I already got one sale on FB using this description. I’ll try it out a few more times and see what happens.


The Incredibles 2

July 16, 2018

So, it was nice, I guess? The animation was beautiful — you can see the technological development of the software/techniques/style over the last 14 years.

Trouble is, I think it was a mistake picking up the story immediately where the previous one left off. Because the superhero film genre itself has undergone a pretty radical evolution over the last decade and a half. The Incredibles was subversive. It showed us a story we hadn’t really seen before — wholly character driven, a bit of meta commentary, the superhero in middle age, in a suburban setting, with the tropes of both those genres crashing together in exactly the right way.

Incredibles 2 doesn’t cover any new ground thematically. The plot is almost the same — the hero who misses the action-packed life leaves the family and gets duped by a shadowy, technologically advanced entity who has a pathological issue with superheroes. The kids come to the rescue even after they were supposed to stay home, and everybody grows and changes, yadda yadda. The action, the quips, the baby, are all fun to watch. (And it’s clear this film takes place immediately after the first so we could have lots more Jack Jack. That may be the only reason.) But as I’ve been saying for awhile, the quality bar is really really high on superhero movies right now. That wasn’t true when the first one came out. So the story that was amazing then. . . well, it’s been done already. A lot more has been done since. I wanted more.

I consider myself something of an expert on writing stories about superhero families that combine action with domestic angst. (I’m always pleased when After the Golden Age lands on lists of “best superhero novels.”) And there’s a reason I set Dreams of the Golden Age twenty years after the first Golden Age novel. Because I didn’t want to cover the same ground. Because the questions raised at the end of the first book could only be answered years later. Because there’s more than one story that fits into this trope and setting.  What happens after the adventure where the characters have all learned who and what they really are? What do they do with that information?

If the Parr family had really learned anything in the first film, the second should have been different.