The Space Between Us

July 25, 2019

The Space Between Us:  I was aware of this film when it came out because once again, it vaguely resembles the plot of one of my recent novels, Martians Abroad, i.e. kid born on Mars comes to Earth, chaos ensues. (Like with Voices of Dragons and How to Train Your Dragon, which came out around the same time and are both about a world where humans and dragons don’t get along and then one young human meets a dragon and learns to ride him… seriously, this stuff will drive you nuts if you let it.)

I never got around to watching it because there wasn’t any real buzz about it and too many other things were going on. Stuff, you know.

So I tried watching it.  I turned it off after ten minutes, when the mother dies in childbirth. The mother who is the only woman on this historic mission to Mars and who nobody calls by her title which is “mission commander” but everyone just calls her “miss,” and then it turns out she gets knocked up by accident, because I guess women don’t know how to prevent pregnancy in the near future or something, and I guess the flight surgeons on a very important historic space mission wouldn’t bother to actually give her a medical exam right before the mission, and then Hollywood still thinks the most interesting mother is a dead one. Because it gives the main character angst, don’t you know.

I turned it off. Everything in this was just so dumb. Then I lay in bed trying to fall and sleep and thought, And I bet it turns out that the obnoxious space genius tech guru played by Gary Oldman is the father.

So this morning I read the wikipedia synopsis, and I’m right, he is the father, and the kid comes to Earth to look for him, because the only thing more interesting than a dead mother is a kid looking for his father. And the rest of the movie appears to continue to be really dumb.

I’m so proud of myself for actually turning off a movie when it was clear what direction we were going. Saved two hours there.

Instead, I watched The Last Starfighter for the twenty millionth time , and this time what made me really happy is how supportive everyone is of Alex. Maggie never gets mad at him for playing the Starfighter game. All the people in the trailer park actually want him to leave and do great things. They may not understand the game but they’re all really excited when he beats the record.

It’s just so nice, you know?

 

Advertisements

Summer update

July 23, 2019

It’s that point in the month where I realize I’d better get going on all the things I said I was going to finish by the end of the month.

A couple of reminders:

The Jean Cocteau Cinema has signed books by me for sale.

My long review of the film Tolkien, and mini-critique of the genre of Idyllic English Schoolboys Do Things, is up at Lightspeed.

I’m behind on movies. I don’t even know what’s showing, which isn’t like me at all.

TV? I’m trying to catch up on last year’s season of Supergirl, that’s how far behind I am. And guys, I gotta tell you, it’s a slog. The standard 23 episode season isn’t really designed to be binged, and feels interminable after the short streaming seasons. It’s like you need that whole week between episodes to forget just how bad it all is, but when you watch episodes back to back, all you see is how bad it is.

I still like the show’s positive ethos. I love that it has rooms full of professional, sharp women solving problems. But holy cow there are times when all these characters are dumb as bricks. The entire plot is built on characters keeping stupid secrets from each other for stupid reasons. There’s a point where Kara is explaining why she can’t tell Lena she’s Supergirl, and I’m thinking, “Lena is literally the only person in that room who doesn’t know, how the hell does this make any sense.”

And the heavy-handed “issue” episodes are groaningly, agonizingly bad. Like, fine, include issues. Have ripped-from-the-headlines stories, sure. But having the characters deliver lectures cribbed from FB memes? Having deep important issues suddenly be relevant for all of ten minutes and then never mentioned again?  It’s painful. Just stop.

I think for next season I’m going to watch all the DC crossover episodes and skip the rest.

This is why it’s been really hard for me to find something to watch. Apparently my tolerance has bottomed out this summer.

 

I’m often asked where people can get signed books by me, and I like to send them to local/indie businesses that they can support. So, here’s a really good place to order books that I’ve signed:

The Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe has been hosting many author events over the last few years, and they have a stock of signed books from many of those events. Including a bunch by me! They don’t have everything, but they have a selection of Kitty novels, Bannerless, Martian’s Abroad, Wild Cards novels, and others.

Check here to see what’s available and how to order.

There’s some really great stuff in stock. Check it out!

 

 

I just got back from a much-needed camping trip in Buena Vista, where I slept by a rushing creek, went rafting for the very first time, discovered a nice local whiskey, spotted a red-naped sapsucker nest, and got sunburned sitting in hot springs.

It all sounds lovely, and it was, except that my friends and I are also mourning the loss of one of our own. Our friend Andro passed away from leukemia a week ago. He was a good guy and way too young and I haven’t found a good way of talking about it so I’ve mostly been quiet.

It’s been a rough few weeks.

And now it’s time to get ready for the Ireland trip and Worldcon, which is in a month.  I’m looking forward to more travels and adventures. Will I see you there?

 

So I’ve made it through all 19 seasons of Midsomer Murders available on Netflix. “I don’t know what to watch I guess I’ll just put on Midsomer Murders while I sort the yarn stash” has come to an end. This is going to take some adjusting.

I have thoughts. Like, watching the evolution of the show in a short amount of time is interesting. About halfway through, people of color suddenly start appearing, and the show progressively becomes more diverse. Also about halfway through, the detectives start rescuing the would-be final murder victim at the last minute, as if the showrunners realized that having three or four murders in sequence was making Barnaby & Co. look rather incompetent. How many people would live if they could just figure things out sooner?

I could rate the sergeants, that would be fun. Troy might still be my favorite and not just because he’s first, but because his personality seemed more distinct. Vaguely clueless, still awfully brave, and so on.  My least favorite is the guy who only lasted like three episodes, departed with an off-hand comment about being out sick, and was literally never spoken of again. (All the other sergeants at least get a mention, if not a future guest appearance.)

Playing “where else have I seen that actor?” is a huge amount of fun on this show, because I think just about everyone from the BBC Jane Austen films shows up sooner or later. And Doctor Who. The best was probably seeing the one with Olivia Colman right after seeing her in The Favorite.  It was also massively startling when John Nettles, aka Tom Barnaby, showed up in my binge watch of Robin of Sherwood. British acting really does seem like a tiny, tiny world sometimes.

The same themes come up over and over again. The same patterns, and I’m not sure if these are things that are actual concerns in rural British life, or if they’re common tropes in English cozy mysteries, or if they’re just things that make for easy mysteries on this particular show. The newcomer starting a business that will “destroy village life.” The landed gentry fallen on hard times and having to face selling or converting the use of the country manor. The business based on some new technology moving in and causing suspicion. A person vanished ten or twenty or fifty years ago returns. The local person become famous for art/music/writing/something and then ownership of that thing causes strife. It’s a lot of traditional conflicts of old vs. new, upper vs. lower class, and so on.

And is every pub scene filmed in the same pub or is that just me?

I think my favorite episode, or at least the one I’ve thought about the most, is “Death and Dreams,” from series 6. This is the one with the three psychopathic children who systematically and gleefully murder all their mother’s potential suitors, and then it comes out that their father did not die by accident in a mountaineering outing but was pushed. This one stuck with me I think because of the visceral horror of it. Not the blood and guts kind of horror, but the profane kind of horror. The sheer psychological ick of it.  Their mother is an old friend of Barnaby’s. The episode ends with him preparing to explain to her what has happened. We don’t get that explanation, or the reaction, on screen, which is probably for the best. But it’s that elided moment that I can’t get out of my mind. She’s a psychologist, her children–all of them–are monsters. What is she going to do with that?  The episode takes us right to the edge of that cliff, and it’s gut-turning.

This is also the episode with the obsessive marching band that made me realize that I think I understand The Prisoner much better after watching this show. Village life, indeed.

I can’t remember which episode it is, but it’s about my favorite exchange in the whole show:

Jones:  “This village is weird.”

Tom Barnaby:  “Jones, they’re all weird.”

 

Lebowski Thor

July 8, 2019

I’d meant to post about this earlier but then June got completely out of control. So I’ll post about it now. By far the most popular cosplay at Denver not-Comic Con was “Lebowski Thor” from Avengers: Endgame. There were dozens of those guys walking around in bathrobes and overgrown beards, guts hanging out over pajama bottoms.

It’s as if thousands of dudes with the proverbial “dad bod” watched the film with growing elation realizing that yes, finally, they can cosplay a superhero who looks just like them!  (And as I saw pointed out elsewhere, now maybe some of these guys understand the importance of inclusion and representation just a little bit more now.)

I guess San Diego Comic Con is this weekend. I won’t be there, but maybe someone can let me know if “Lebowski Thor” is as a big a thing there.

 

 

 

A lot of thoughts and feels with this one, and I’m having trouble anymore separating my expectations of MCU films from the actual films, and that’s partly because these films are so good at engaging with expectations, both to fulfill and overturn them.  And I also keep insisting on pulling back the curtain and looking at the scaffolding. Like, when we’re halfway through the film and I realize we’ve already seen every single moment from the trailers and we still have a ton of movie left, and that’s on purpose because the trailers are kind of a big fat misdirection. . .

I may already have said too much.

Like a lot of sequels, it doesn’t have quite the surprise and delight of the first one — Homecoming was just so, so good at combining the teen comedy with superheroes, and it was just so startling and wonderful because we’d never really seen anything like it. Far From Home does the same thing, but we’ve seen it before, so it’s still wonderful but not quite as startling.

It’s a sequel, it builds on Endgame. This is another chapter in the same story. Peter has a character arc, and he’s being set up as the core of whatever sequence comes next. He has survivor’s guilt, a huge amount of insecurity. It’s a different arc than any of the original Avengers’ arcs, and that’s good.

On one level the story is very, very trope-y, and I can’t really talk about the main trope in question without spoiling the whole thing. Sorry for being cryptic. It’s a trope we’ve seen before, a couple of times in big movies. But this film handles it so well I don’t even care that we’ve seen it before. One of the reasons we (or at least I) love superhero films is because of the tropes, and in this case it’s very well integrated in the into the existing world and stories.

In both movies, Peter Parker is dealing with Tony Stark’s legacy, the good and the bad. Peter is being set up as Tony’s heir — kind of against his will, but he’s really the only person standing in the right spot. That means being a hero, that means getting his hands on all this tech. But it also means dealing with Tony’s messes, the unintended consequences of Tony’s work. Tony made a lot of messes, it turns out.

And the post-credits scenes are back. And they’ve blown the story wide open again. There was a moment heading into this where I wasn’t sure I wanted any more MCU. Endgame was a really nice closing chapter. Satisfying. Did I really need more?

Yeah, I guess I do.