Star Wars in Concert

March 23, 2018

Last night I went to see Star Wars with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, and it was a lot of fun. First, I love live symphony music. Second, the Star Wars soundtrack is one of the greatest of all time. The both together? Excellent.

Watching the symphony play the soundtrack live with the movie, I notice things I wouldn’t otherwise. Like, the woodwinds play a big part. (Listening, I always thought it was strings and horns?) And also the silences. Places where there’s no soundtrack at all:  a big chunk of the Battle of Yavin has no music. Darth Vader and Obi-Wan’s duel? No music. The music starts again at the emotional beats:  the moment Obi-Wan turns his lightsaber away in the duel. The death of Red Leader in the battle.

The whole soundtrack is great, but when you hear the music in concert, played as concert music, you’re only going to hear the set pieces:  the opening titles, the Imperial March, etc. But seeing it with the film? You get to hear the whole thing.

A couple of years ago I went to see and hear when the symphony did Raiders of the Lost Ark, and the thing I noticed on that one is the Ark’s theme: it has its own theme that gets played when people talk about it, when Indy discovers the next clue on the quest, etc. And it builds. The first time we hear it it’s just one flute. Then flute and clarinet. Then all the woodwinds. Then the strings. So that by the time we get to the climactic Nazi reveal ceremony and all the terribleness, it’s the entire orchestra and the audience has been musically primed for the emotional build the whole film.

It’s great.

Next, I decided I’d really, really love to see “2001: A Space Odyssey” with a live symphony and chorus.

 

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Couple of announcements:  My Black Panther review is live on Lightspeed, along with a review by Violet Allen. A two-fer!

Reminder that tonight at 7 pm MT I’m doing a live Google Hangouts, with a reading and Q&A, so stop on by and ask questions.  Here’s the channel.

And I saw A Wrinkle in Time.  It’s. . .not very good.  I’m not sure I’ve ever been this sad that a movie is not very good. Like, I usually get angry. But this one, I’m just sad. I’m probably not being fair the film — I have a feeling it’s going to change some 10 year old’s life because it’s going to be the exact thing they need to see at the right time. But that’s part of the problem — it feels like it’s aimed at 10 year olds.

To be brief, there’s way too much exposition, the pacing is off, the plot is disconnected, and the emotional core just wasn’t there. It’s very pretty, at least.

 

escapism

March 5, 2018

Saw Black Panther again because my friends and I have decided that we like Wakanda better than reality. This time I really liked the blanket shields, and how important of a lesson it is to always make friends with your boyfriend’s battle rhino. I also noticed that Agent Ross is wearing a wedding band? Why do I notice these things? Sheesh.

Over the weekend I also completely binge-read not one but two novels with really happy endings. I’m thinking about what I would like to see in a romance novel, if I were going to write one. I haven’t read a ton of romance but I do have opinions.

Like I don’t have enough projects on my plate right now.

This may be the first and quite possibly the last time a movie I wrote a formal review for wins the Best Picture Oscar. See my review of The Shape of Water on Lightspeed.

This month’s issue of Lightspeed has my review of Black Panther.

And if that wasn’t enough I went back and watched Avengers last night. The first one.  That world has gotten so huge and big and complex that it’s a real trip going back and watching the start of it all. It’s very earnest, and there’s a sense that they hadn’t quite opened the throttle on it yet. They were happy just to get all the balls in the air and flowing smoothly. That first Avengers was juggling so much. And now, they’ve gone from juggling like 5 balls to juggling 12, and it looks just as smooth as it ever did.

There really isn’t enough escapism in the world for me right now. Which makes it all the more fortunate that I have the job I do. I’m just going to be over here thinking of stories and happy endings, thank you very much.

 

Annihilation

February 28, 2018

Just a quick word on the film for thems what’s interested or are trying to decide about seeing it. It’s based on the Nebula-award winning novel by Jeff VanderMeer, which I have read.

The movie is very different. And it frustrated me.  A lot. Mostly because of its reliance on standard horror tropes which made it predictable, and the way in which it seemed to insist on making things concrete, when the book is very much rooted in ambiguity, impermanence, permeable boundaries, etc.  Like, the characters in the movie all have names, which really annoyed me.

I think if I hadn’t read the book first I would have had a very different experience watching it.

More, when I do my long review for Lightspeed.

 

Friday update

February 23, 2018

I have a sudden craving for deviled eggs. I have never made my own. Perhaps I should do so this weekend.

I finished reviewing page proofs for The Wild Dead this week, which means I could get back to writing new things, which makes me very, very happy. I have a couple of short story drafts and a new novel in progress. So many things. I wrote 5000 words in 2 days, which is A LOT for me. Wanna get this thing done.

And I can’t remember if I posted this or not, but here are my December movie reviews for Lightspeed. More movie reviews coming up: Downsizing and Black Panther are already written. After that:  Annihilation, A Wrinkle in Time, Pacific Rim 2, Avengers Infinity War, Ant Man and Wasp. Solo. Wow, it’s gonna be good year for movies, I hope.

Have a happy weekend!

 

Black Panther

February 18, 2018

It’s good. It’s gorgeous. It’s an MCU movie, and ten years into this franchise I continue to be impressed by how well they’ve been able to take all these many pieces/parts and fit them into the same universe, the same continuity.  There’s a lot going on in the film thematically, about tradition and moving forward and what people’s responsibilities are to each other. I’m writing a long review for Lightspeed so I’ll get into more details over there.

Another thing this film does that all the MCU movies do is give us a whole cast of delightful supporting characters who all deserve their own comic book series. I love that everyone seems to have a different favorite character.

Mine is Shuri, played by Letitia Wright. Stole every scene she was in, and now I’m on the verge of writing fanfic about her, Tony Stark, and Rocket in some gadget-laden roadtrip adventure.

Like this:

(Tony and Rocket are arguing about some broken piece of machinery they can’t seem to figure out. Rolling her eyes, Shuri takes it away from them and just fixes it.)

Shuri:  You white boys.

Rocket:  Hey, I am not a boy.

Tony:  You’re not white, either.

Rocket (looking himself over in shock):  I’m not?!

**

Yeah, just that, for like two hours. I’m so there.

 

It’s award nomination season time again (I’m eligible to nominate for both the Nebula and the Hugo, and I try really hard to do both). I’ve already posted my own work, and now in the interest of completion I want to post about other people’s work that I really liked.

As usual, I haven’t read nearly as much as I should, especially in the area of short fiction. One of my goals this week is to try to cram in some reading to find some gems. I have, however, managed to get in a few novels — mostly new entries by old favorites.

Tool of War, by Paolo Bacigalupi. This is set in the same world as his Shipbreaker and The Drowned Cities, and nicely wraps up the stories of characters from all those books.  These are some of the best action/thriller novels you’ll read, and all grounded in really solid and thought-provoking science fiction, mostly in the areas of climate change and bio-engineering. Good stuff.

Persepolis Rising, by James S.A. Corey. The latest in the Expanse, and this book does something I don’t think I’ve ever seen space opera of this kind do. Plenty of space opera deals with galactic empires and the fall of galactic empires. This one covers the start of one.  It’s great.

Best series:  The Hugos have a Best Series category with some pretty specific requirements, and I’m happy that once again Wild Cards qualifies. I know I’m totally biased on this one, but this is a series that’s been running for 30 years, with 20+ volumes, and has remained cohesive and consistent and is also some of the best superhero storytelling in the genre. It really deserves a nod.

Movies:  Always a fun category. I’m definitely going to nominate Colossal, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Downsizing (I gave it an A for effort if not execution).  I’ll probably also nominate Wonder Woman.

But TV is where things are really going to get tough this years. We’re at some kind of peak TV. It’s amazing how much good TV there is out there. Enough that so-so shows I would have put up with 10 years ago are just right out now. Who has time for so-so when there’s so much great?

I’ve got three shows I really want to push this year. The Expanse, of course. Probably episode 2.13, “Caliban’s War.” You know, the one where everything goes to hell. Again. Love it.

Legion. I can’t stop thinking about this show. My favorite episode is “Chapter 7,” the one that operates on three different levels of reality, where David talks to himself and figures out some of his past, and then becomes a true and honest-to-goodness superhero, much to everyone’s consternation.

And finally Star Wars: Rebels hasn’t just grown on me, it’s become one of my favorite things on TV, and I’m kind of dreading the show ending this year. It’s because of the prequel thing:  with the exception of a couple of cameos in Rogue One, most of these guys don’t show up later. I’m very worried. But never mind that for now. Last year included what may be my favorite episode of the show:  3.15, “Trials of the Darksaber,” in which Kanan Jarrus finally comes into his own as a mentor, and Sabine finally comes to terms with her past. And they do it at the same time, together, in a great piece of storytelling. (In looking up this episode #, I discovered the Kanan is voiced by Freddie Prinze Jr., which I somehow had not figured out before. The man who starred in Wing Commander, all grown up.)