January 20, 2016
I had another post planned for today but I’m going to save it until next week because word has come down the internet that my current editor, David Hartwell, is in critical condition, on life support, and not likely to recover.
I remember riding in a cab with him in NYC, from the Javits Center to I don’t know where during BEA, and he started telling stories. He has lots and lots of stories. About the old guard and the book world in the 70’s and so on, and I thought, This guy knows where all the bodies are buried. He’s one of only a handful of people in the field who ever met Alice Sheldon/James Tiptree Jr. in person. He worked as an editor in one capacity or another for 40+ years, and the wealth of knowledge and institutional memory he has is incalculable.
So I’m not really in mourning for myself, but for the whole field, which is losing part of its heart.
My deepest sympathies to his family during this hard time.
January 18, 2016
By now, twenty-plus years into Tarantino’s career as a filmmaker, most people should know whether or not they like his movies. If you like his movies, you should absolutely go see The Hateful Eight. If you don’t, you should not. I feel like I shouldn’t have to explain this, but every time a new Tarantino movie comes out I see all this commentary about how grossly violent it is, how weirdly paced it is, and how retro it is — with an air of surprise, as if this has never happened before. Goodness, people, just stop it. Tarantino is never going to make a movie that looks like a normal movie, and thank God for that. (Although I admit I’m now suddenly deeply curious about what a Tarantino Transformers movie would look like.)
I really liked The Hateful Eight, even as I was frustrated by it. It’s long and leisurely — too long, really, but I don’t think I’d cut out a single second, because moment by moment it’s all so good. The whole middle section has the stately air of a classic stage play — it all takes place in one room, and does that thing where the narrative flow is all about the shifting dynamic among a group of people who are trying to suss out lies, truth, and secrets. Like in stage adaptations of Agatha Christie, of all things. It works and it’s riveting because the acting is so high caliber, you can’t look away.
And then the guns come out and heads start exploding, and part of the fun of a Tarantino movie is admiring the classic seriousness of it all while wondering anxiously when the bloodbath is going to start.
This is a spiritual sequel to Django Unchained, which I appreciated. It’s a Western — with a great Ennio Morricone score, even. The main characters are bounty hunters; one of them is black, and he forces the room full of white people — including a couple of former Confederate soldiers — to confront realities of race and bigotry. There is an arc. It’s very nearly a cliche arc, the one you expect with that kind of setup. But it’s also deeply satisfying because it’s so well done. I don’t mind that the whole movie felt long. It was worth it.
Also? Tim Roth is back in a Tarantino movie. Squee!
January 15, 2016
I’ve never dealt with death very well. I’ve managed to stay mostly insulated from it — I didn’t lose a grandparent until I was 28, for example. So when it hits. . .it hits.
Celebrity death — the death of people I don’t know, have never met, and yet whose work I care about — seems to distill and concentrate the issue for me. Maybe I shouldn’t grieve this much for people I don’t know. But their work. Their work is so tangible, and the thought that there won’t be any more, and that I will be reminded of this gutted feeling every time I encounter their work — even as I’m so deeply, massively grateful that their work exists — just flattens me.
David Bowie and Alan Rickman in the same week seems just. . .wrong. So, so wrong.
What’s more, and for the first time, I can see the time when all my favorite creative artists and makers are gone, and I don’t know any of the new young faces coming up, and I am past. Out of the world. And thank God for art. Just. . .art. We would all be walking dead people without art.
Art lasts. All these people last. Death isn’t real. Death is just a thing that happens but art stays.
January 13, 2016
At long last, my long (2000 words!) review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens is live at Lightspeed. Scroll down past the movie poster for the spoiler-filled version.
Reading over it again, three weeks after writing it and after seeing the movie twice more (including once with my brother in Oregon, which was a real treat), I think it’s a pretty good review. Emotional and fangirlish, with analysis that doesn’t have an ax to grind. I think that’s the problem I’ve been having with a lot of commentary about the movie: chips on shoulders and axes to grind. Stunt nitpicking. I’m finding I just want to bask in the glow. Enjoy being a fangirl again. (That said, apparently if I want to know more about Poe Dameron I should be reading a bunch of comics and the new Star Wars novels coming out, and I don’t have time for that! Argh!)
Related to this, some news: Starting with this review, I’m going to have a regular movie review column over at Lightspeed. That makes me a professional movie reviewer. Isn’t that cool?
My niece came to my signing in Salem. She and her mom had to leave early (bedtime!), and I was still talking when she came up to me and gave me a hug and a kiss before she left. I totally stopped to hug her back. Because dude. So freaking adorable.
I did actually go to a wildlife refuge in Oregon. The Ankeny refuge south of Salem. Saw a flock of 40+ tundra swans, which was spectacular. I also brought snacks, on principle.
And then I caught a wretched cold that I am still getting over. Much sadness. But, life is somehow getting back to normal, and I’m actually enjoying the post-holiday, post-travel normal.
January 11, 2016
So this is what a sunny day in the Pacific Northwest looks like:
That’s Mt. Hood in the foreground, and in the back, left to right, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams I believe. Pretty spectacular. The weather out there always seems to clear up the day I leave, but at least that means I get the view.
January 8, 2016
Right before going to see SW: The Force Awakens for the first time, I had a strange experience.
I had meant to do more fangirling prep for the movie — reading comics, watching movies, etc. — but I got busy. Between working on some brand-new projects and getting ready for xmas, it just didn’t happen. But literally just a few hours before going to see the new movie, I made time watch Star Wars. The first one. Just to get in the spirit. To remind myself how it feels. And it was so strange, so odd, so weird. Because I was so in the mindset of watching a new Star Wars movie, that Episode IV was suddenly new. I felt like I was watching it for the first time all over again. I’m not sure how that happened, and the strangeness of it made me cry a little, in that “who knew this was possible” kind of disbelief.
Here’s what I think: it’s been a long time since I just sat and watched Star Wars mindfully, not doing anything else, not putting it on in the background, but just watching it. And my writer brain was on and noticing all kinds of things I hadn’t really thought of before, like how we don’t actually meet the hero until about fifteen minutes in. Rather, it’s as if the world is the main character and we’re dropped into it to slowly immerse, learning about battles and droids and empires and the rest of it as it happens. This movie has a magnificent straight line plot, and every scene is late in/early out, just like we’re taught in writing school. Not a wasted second. Moreover the tension in each sequence escalates in just the right way to keep the audience engaged. This movie is really funny. The prison break scene? Never stops being funny, from the moment the trio is facing the wrong way when the elevator doors open to C-3PO thinking they’re dying in the trash compactor. The three heroes are earnest and dorky and absolutely lovable, and I think that Han falls in love with Leia before she falls in love with him. It happens right there after they’ve been fighting over money and he says, “I’m trying not to, kid,” after Luke asks what he thinks of her. Han’s got this look like, Holy shit my life is never going to be the same, and it scares him, but he may also be a little bit relieved, because it wasn’t like his life was going anywhere good before this. And in weird bit of counter-intuitive pacing, the entire third act is the battle of Yavin. Like, there’s nothing else that happens but guys in X-wings fighting the Death Star. But even that is well modulated and escalates tension. The whole thing is a sleek model of fast action pacing.
The other really amazing thing I noticed: The heroes are all so young. I’m well old enough now to be Luke and Leia’s mother. (But not quite Han’s, thank goodness.) Isn’t that crazy? They’re babies. But maybe it takes bright-eyed babies to save the universe.
And that’s when I just started bawling. Because this movie that I have loved since I was five years old, that I have seen countless times and that I know so well, can still seem new to me, and it is still my favoritest movie ever.