Sunday, July 24, 2016
( 1:18 AM ) posted by Setsuled
From the sea, a fog overtook Comic Con Saturday morning.
Amount of money I've spent so far on Comic Con this year:
15 dollars on trolley fare.
Starbucks is undercutting Mrs. Fields at the Con this year--a grande Starbucks drip coffee is 2.50 while Mrs. Fields sells a small for three dollars. What can this mean?
Twitter Sonnet #894
Ordained to lakes across the scorchéd plain
Friday, July 22, 2016
( 8:46 PM ) posted by Setsuled
Looks like Newt spotted me taking her picture to-day. Well, I'm glad she survived the beginning of Alien 3 after all.
I sure did a lot of walking to-day. 100+ Fahrenheit weather. I think I'll take a cold shower.
Lots more to see to-morrow. I'm still not sure whether I want to try to get into Hall H for the Aliens and Star Trek panels when all the Hall H stuff is going to be broadcast anyway. There are three other panels I'd like to see but I'd have to skip Hall H to see them. At the same time, Hall H is, common wisdom dictates, the Main Event. There've been people camped out for days for it, though only a few hundred. I'll see how I feel in the morning.#
Thursday, July 21, 2016
( 8:02 PM ) posted by Setsuled
This bird was trapped inside Comic Con to-day. Luckily there was plenty to eat:
So the newly beefed up Con security is no match for the humblest creatures. Still, I wonder if I'll be hearing about as many people sneaking in this year with the new Walking Dead key card badge system. I feel like I'm entering a secret government lab or conference when I go through. Still no frisking, though.
Wednesday, July 20, 2016
( 10:13 AM ) posted by Setsuled
Clearing my camera out to-day for Comic Con, which starts this afternoon with Preview Night. I don't seem to have accumulated a lot of pictures over the past few months, though.
I haven't even had a proper look at the schedule. I kind of want to see the Aliens anniversary panel. Maybe the Star Trek panel. Ever since I got a C in Star Trek class last year, though, I've kind of had an identity crisis as a Trekkie. Do I really belong? Surely. I had the Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual when I was in high school. I knew the name Heisenberg from the Heisenberg Compensator more than a decade before anyone heard of Breaking Bad. It seems like Star Trek is kind of pathetically running a bit behind Star Wars lately though. The fact that it seems that way even after Star Wars poached its director from Star Trek only seems to confirm it's real. It's not just that Star Wars can take Star Trek's lunch money, it's that everyone feels that money is better off in Star Wars' hands.
They're going to be having the San Diego Symphony Orchestra playing Star Trek music just like they played Star Wars music last year. How can something so magnificent seem so pathetic? Well, maybe I'll change my tune if I see it. I might as well since Doctor Who seems to be all but absent this year.
As usual, posts from me will be scarce or short until after the Con.
Twitter Sonnet #893
The best defined of clouds conspire cut.
Tuesday, July 19, 2016
( 2:11 PM ) posted by Setsuled
Arguments for the existence of God in previous centuries often were based on the premise that a world without God is simply too monstrous to contemplate. A warrior of faith fights not to establish a truth but to rebuke those who obnoxiously deny what's plainly true. So you can understand Francie Brady's frustration in 1997's The Butcher Boy, my favourite Neil Jordan film. That's not to say Francie's especially religious, though he does have visions of the Virgin Mary. He simply can't understand how people don't recognise what a threat Mrs. Nugent and her son Philip are and how Joe is the finest fellow around. It may seem extreme to kill to argue his point, but what can you do when people aren't able to face certain essential facts?
"You know where I met Joe first?" asks Francie (Eamonn Owens) at lunch with the other boys at the reform school. When one asks, "Joe who?" Francie's incredulous reply makes it seem Joe's renown is roughly equal to the Pope's. In the cosmos of Francie's mind, Joe (Alan Boyle) is that important.
The two are a couple bullies, best friends, as the film opens in their small home town, the opening credits accompanied by an instrumental of "Mack the Knife". The boys steal apples from a neighbour's yard and comic books from young Philip (Andrew Fullerton). As the film progresses, Francie's private war with the Nugents--Philip and his mother (Fiona Shaw)--and his mythologising of his relationship with Joe gain increasing strength as Francie's home life disintegrates.
Francie's father, played by Stephen Rea (who also provides voice over narration as an adult Francie) is a talented trumpeter but also a drunk. He and Francie's mother (Aisling O'Sullivan) have violent brawls.
One could see the film as a tour of Irish and Catholic stereotypes--there's even a paedophile priest. What makes it really work is its matter-of-fact attitude. The pizza parlour version of "Mack the Knife", the folk song "The Butcher Boy" from which the film takes its title, reflect Francie's apparent unflappability. He is capable of great violence without real remorse but he never seems especially vehement. It's all one chore after another just to get reunited with Joe as the two are the local Lone Ranger and Tonto for the upcoming atomic war.
The Virgin Mary in Francie's visions is played with a nice lack of self-consciousness by Sinead O'Conner. It's somehow really lovely hearing her finally become exasperated and say, "For fuck's sake, Francie." Mostly she talks how you might expect a vision of Mary to speak--gently and comfortingly. She doesn't entirely seem like she's Francie's hallucination. She tells him to stop fixating on the goldfish Joe mentions in a letter that Phillip won for him at the fair. But Our Lady has no hope of extracting that from Francie's craw.
Monday, July 18, 2016
( 5:25 PM ) posted by Setsuled
I'm not doing a great job adjusting my sleeping schedule for Comic Con this year. Last night I was up late playing chess after having a glass of Chartreuse with water. I'm more than a little hungover. I wonder if I be can dragging myself out of bed at 7am by Thursday?
2001 sure was a good year for talking heads. Especially sweeping crane shots that went from talking heads to wide shots or vice versa. 2001 had both Fellowship of the Ring and Amelie, massive successes on both the blockbuster and art house fronts, it was truly a year when faces were in all our faces.
It was like Sergio Leone on speed. And kind of a watershed, Peter Jackson and Jean-Pierre Jeunet had made several of their face-o-ramas throughout the 90s--really good films like City of Lost Children, Dead Alive, and Heavenly Creatures. Success seemed relegated to outside the U.S., though, with The Frighteners and Alien: Resurrection being disappointments, the latter due to be retconned out of canon by Neill Blomkamp's upcoming sequel to Aliens.
It seems like their time has passed, too. Jeunet never seemed to make a movie that connected again since Amelie and Jackson was a lot more restrained on faces in his Hobbit movies. For now, the faces have stepped back, waiting to be summoned again in some other future era.
I watched Jeunet's Amelie last night for the first time in quite a few years. I was pleased to find my old Amelie DVD wasn't as bad as my old Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon DVD, the menus less spoilery and the colours more evenly transferred. I think Amelie was one of the first movies to use digital colouring to be creative. It seems so standard now. I remember being surprised to learn this blue lamp was coloured in post production, now it looks pretty obvious.
But the film hasn't aged badly. In the years since I last watched it, I've seen many of the films that influenced it--Jules and Jim, Chungking Express--certainly Amelie owes a massive debt to Chungking Express. The main difference is that while both movies offer an effective portrait of a pretty, introverted woman who secretly manipulates other people's lives, Amelie is more of a fantasy film and has more of a fairy tale ending. Not surprising given Jeunet's background with City of Lost Children and Delicatessen, movies that are more Disney than Dostoevsky. Amelie could be looked on as a rare sort of perfect fusion of some psychological frightfulness and wish fulfilment. That's just the sort of combination that becomes a massive success, like Amelie did. So there's the recipe if you wanted it. I make no guarantees.#
Sunday, July 17, 2016
( 5:44 PM ) posted by Setsuled
It's not easy for a teenage boy to ask out a girl he likes. Is this all 1981's Gregory's Girl really about? There's something sweet about its aiming for such a humble target. Filled with unimpressive performances from non-actors but competently shot, a few effectively charming moments--and some subtle hints at sexual impropriety--set this above porridge.
Gregory (John Gordon Sinclair) is the goalkeeper on his high school soccer team. Dorothy (Dee Hepburn) joins the team despite everyone else feeling trepidation about it because she's a girl. Dorothy never displays any lack of confidence, though, all of the girls in the film being distant and wise creatures. The film is very much from Gregory's point of view. He proclaims in a cooking class that he's in love with Dorothy despite having spent very little time with her and never having spoken to her. "She's very modern" he explains to the boys who scoff at a girl playing football. Gregory is enamoured of her novelty.
Every other boy in school wants to ask her out, too. Gregory talks to the Italian teacher about learning Italian because Dorothy has been to Italy and likes the language.
A lot of the performances in the movie remind me of teenagers I've seen in low budget science fiction movies of the 50s. They're all very stiff and deliberate with their lines. Sometimes this heightens the sense of seeing guileless, defenceless babes dealing with being sexually attracted to girls all of a sudden. At the same time, there are very subtle indications that some of the teachers are sleeping with the students, or in one case, a drop out who's become a window washer. A teacher is so excited to see him cleaning the window of her classroom she throws a book at another student to stop him from reading aloud from A Midsummer Night's Dream so she can talk to the drop out. She concludes their brief conversation by telling him to "Come up and see me some time," like Mae West. A few of the boy students talk about this later, laughing--the fact that they're so goofy and usually wrong deflects the issue a bit but a few minutes consideration makes me think, yeah. Those two are having sex.
The climax of the film could also be read as a complete misdirection for another teacher having sex with a student. I won't spoil it but the point seems to be that Gregory's lust isn't nearly as discriminate as he thinks it is and that's okay. The film ends with a gag that's so dumb it's downright puzzling, which may have been intentional. And I found myself, like the Wicked Witch, asking, "Where's Dorothy?"
Twitter Sonnet #892
In orlop darkness pairs of eyes await.
Saturday, July 16, 2016
( 5:31 PM ) posted by Setsuled
Star Wars: Rebels, or Star Wars: Stunt Casting, has released a new trailer for its upcoming season three. Sadly, the most impressive thing about its first two seasons has been the casting and maybe the persistence with which Disney demands the show stick to its at turns annoying and boring main stars. But how to top James Earl Jones as Darth Vader in season two? Well, you really can't but Grand Admiral Thrawn is pretty exciting. He'll be played by Mads Mikkelsen's brother Lars--I understand Lars has a role on House of Cards, a show I've never seen. But if he's anywhere near as good as Mads, I'm happy with the casting.
I do like Thrawn despite the numerous problems in the Timothy Zahn books for which he was created (everything related to the ysalamiri). Considering writing has been the weakest point on Rebels so far, though, I'm doubtful the show will manage to put together the displays of cleverness and nuance Thrawn is known for. It is nice the trailer shows him investigating cultures through their art--that's something I've always liked about him. Maybe he'll finally be the one to tell Sabine she's the Girl Least Likely To.
But the main reason I'm going to be suckered into watching season three, and the reason I'm talking about it on the day of the week I normally reserve for Doctor Who, is that Tom Baker's going to be on the show. He looks like a giant yak in the trailer, some kind of neutral Force master. I guess this is the secret Star Wars project Baker alluded to in an interview last year. The guy just gleefully spills in every interview, I do kind of love that about him. I did slightly hope he'd be in Episode VIII but oh, well.
Even aside from the fact that he played the best Doctor, Tom Baker's great casting for any voice role, really.
I listened to two audio plays from 2008 this week, a Seventh Doctor story called Dark Husband and a Fifth Doctor story called The Haunting of Thomas Brewster, neither one especially good, the latter being slightly more entertaining. The Dark Husband is the first time I've ever seen or heard a romance hinted between Seven (Sylvester McCoy) and Ace (Sophie Aldred). It comes at a point when Ace is much older and more experienced than the confused pyromaniac we met in the television series though somehow it still feels kind of wrong. I don't know why. I'd have happily accepted Twelve and Clara making out and I'm pretty sure their age difference is even greater. Maybe it's that McCoy feels like one of the most sexless Doctors, maybe it's just that their rapport feels so grandfather/granddaughter on the show I just can't get past it.
Dark Husband actually introduces a love triangle between the Doctor, Ace, and the audio companion Hex (Philip Olivier), a young man around Ace's age and I do kind of like him but somehow I fancy an Ace/Hex match-up even less. Maybe it's Ace. I like Ace a lot, she is deservedly considered one of the best companions. Maybe I'm just too old for her myself to fantasise about her. I guess there are some occasions when sex just isn't called for.
The Haunting of Thomas Brewster is set in a self-consciously Dickensian Victorian London. Brewster (John Pickford) has memories of Five (Peter Davison) and Nyssa (Sarah Sutton) strewn throughout his young life which began at a very Dickensian workhouse. The Doctor mentions the Bootstrap Theory which Twelve asked us to Google in the previous television season. Unfortunately the writing for The Haunting of Thomas Brewster has a particularly bad ear for period. It's nice that there's a gay character in it but it feels pretty anachronistic for a nineteenth century street thug to tell Nyssa that he has more than a friendly feeling for another guy "if you know what I mean." I don't think that was really a topic for casual conversation between a young man of the streets and an apparently aristocratic young woman. Certainly he wouldn't have expected her to know what he meant.
The Doctor is stranded in London for a year during which he gets a house and joins the Royal Society. In one of my favourite bits, Nyssa is shocked when she thinks the Doctor may be sharing future scientific knowledge. The Doctor reassures her that he's careful to only tell his colleagues things they already know adding, "I think that's why they like me so much."#
Friday, July 15, 2016
( 4:38 PM ) posted by Setsuled
Paul Feig's Ghostbusters is about 30% Bridesmaids, 60% Joel Schumacher's Batman and Robin, and about 10% whatever wonderful entity Kate McKinnon is. She's fucking great in this. But mostly what Paul Feig has done for Ghostbusters is what Schumacher did for Batman, and I don't mean in terms of quality, though that's a factor, but in terms of camp. Like Schumacher with Batman, I think Feig went into this thinking the darker elements of the property aren't all that interesting and it's not what people are interested in when they go to see the movies. Feig and Schumacher thought, people want to see bright colours, silly tongue-in-cheek villains who play things way over the top, and, above all, threats that are so goofy and insubstantial everyone feels safe laughing at them. And they might be right, a lot of people might enjoy movies like that more than the kind of movie the original Ghostbusters was. The three drunk girls in the audience when I saw the movie, who sang along with the theme as they left the theatre, certainly seemed to like it and I don't begrudge them that.
And I enjoyed the Bridesmaids and Kate McKinnon percentage of the film. Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy work well together as they did in Feig's earlier film, though now they're playing insecure academics, something Wiig in particular does well. Her scenes at Columbia University trying to hide her past as a writer of books on the paranormal from her boss (Charles Dance) are funny and in this respect alone the movie most matches the tone of the original film where the stars began at a university they're kicked out from after an adversarial relationship with the dean. But this similarity vanishes when McCarthy and McKinnon's characters are kicked from their university by a dean who does a prolonged shtick about giving them the middle finger. Like much of the film, it deliberate strays very far from realism in the situation. Albert Brooks in Scorsese's Taxi Driver asked the director to let him be funny not like a comedian is funny but like a regular cut-up at the office is funny, a decision that helps that film's sense of realism as Brooks makes dumb, fawning jokes about pencils and coffee mugs while a mildly besotted Cybill Shepherd reacts. In Feig's Ghostbusters, everyone is funny like a comedian from the apparently improvised backs and forths between McCarthy and Wiig to the hotel manager who tells the Ghostbusters he has what people have told him is a disturbing shriek.
It's all part of a very deliberate and successful effort to create an insubstantial reality for the movie. It's reflected in the sets and locations in contrast to the original film. The first film begins with the New York Library with a very credible plain interior. This movie begins with something that's more cartoonish than Disneyland's Haunted Mansion and a ghost from a painting that seems as though it's meant to mock the one from Ghostbusters 2 with its over the top scowl. The climax of the film has the villain coordinating a dance routine for a possessed crowd of police, officials, and onlookers in what looks like a candy coloured backlot putting me in mind of The Mask except campier. Instead of the realistically grimy fire house used as headquarters for the Ghostbusters in the first film, Feig's stars make their base in the surprisingly spacious and clean upstairs of a Chinese take out restaurant. The film has been banned in China due to references to the supernatural though I wonder if the fact that absolutely no Asian actors are in the film had anything to do with it. I like the idea of having them above a Chinese restaurant but its an idea whose potential is never realised. They never even do anything as simple as walk through the restaurant itself, we never see anyone eating there and the only employee we see is a delivery man played by a Middle Eastern actor.
It made me think about what was so extraordinary about the original film. The connexion the characters share to a very real feeling New York City is an enormous part of what makes the original work. The beginning of the film gives you no real hint that these guys are going to be heroes you root for so when at the climax a massive crowd of people gathered to cheer them, clearly actually in the city, it's actually really exciting because it's kind of unexpected even as it feels earned. The new movie features a lot of the characters cheering themselves on without real weight. This is unrelated to the camp aspects of the film and I think it might have been a better camp film if it had avoided any sincere attempt at making heroes.
I'm not alone in praising Kate McKinnon in this movie. Andrew Lapin at NPR says she resembles a young Bill Murray and I think that's right on the nose. I think her character was actually meant to be the Egon analogue but her acting style is much more reminiscent of Murray's with its relaxed flippancy and subtle, constantly simmering anger. There's a dare in her every line mixed with nonchalance. When an FBI agents asks them how many laws they think they've broken, McKinnon's character asks, "Is it one?" He says no, she says, "Is it two?" he says no again and she says, "Is it one?" again. The agent, played by former Daily Show correspondent Matt Walsh, is peevish and doesn't recognise that McKinnon's character is fucking with him. Camp is a form of irony, irony by nature subverts sincerity. McKinnon, like Murray, has a kind of irony that subverts irony to go back to sincerity again. Only a few performers are able to reach this perfect plateau--Tom Baker is the only other one that comes to mind. I would happily see a regular Ghostbusters movie starring her character.
I wonder if the tone of the film was always intended. There's scene where Leslie Jones' character goes on the subway track to say to a ghost, "Sir, you're not supposed to be down here." The ghost is glowing bright blue and floating in the air, the idea that someone would mistake him as a normal person who wandered onto the tracks is absurd which makes me think Jones, when performing the scene, was informed she was seeing what looked like a normal, living man. Which might have actually been scary and also closer to the original film's style of having both physical entities and the glowing, floating kind. Considering the track record Sony has had over the past ten years, I suppose I can't really say for sure this is a Paul Feig film as much as it is a committee film.#
Thursday, July 14, 2016
( 4:10 PM ) posted by Setsuled
Teenage boys can inspire both disgust and pity, sometimes at the same time, as they try to navigate their raging hormones and cultural instructions to conquer. So it's a fascinating and potentially cruel experiment to toss one into the Deep End, as in the wonderful 1970 film of that name. This isn't simply a cautionary tell about sexuality, it's also gorgeously weird and funny. I love it so much.
Poor, dumb little Mike (John Moulder Brown) gets a job at a bath house where his co-worker, Susan (Jane Asher), explains to him that the older women who come to the establishment like to use the boys employed there for their sexual fantasies. It does nothing to prepare him when Diana Dors in an absolutely fantastic cameo uses him to masturbate.
Later, Mike finds himself in a prostitute's bedroom who, after Mike describes his job, observes the two of them are basically in the same line of work. But Mike's not there to buy sex, he only has eyes for Susan.
Amidst all the casual petting and sex going on at the bath house, Mike still is compelled to make the usual immature error that because he has a crush on Susan it means he has a claim on her. Few women could be a more hopeless target for a possessive guy--Susan is regularly sleeping with at least two men and even peeps on Mike when he's changing. Jane Asher is so great in this movie, her face very pretty and conveying an unashamed, sharp intellect.
So that's the already pretty entertaining set up, but I love the ideas director Jerzy Skolimowski has to explore the issues and the characters. I love Mike pacing outside the club where Susan and her fiancé are having dinner--he orders hot dog after hot dog from a nearby cart and starts to feel sick. Earlier, he stalks Susan in a porno theatre she's gone to with her fiancé--she kisses Mike and calls the cops on him.
John Moulder Brown is so fresh faced and hapless, it's hard to determine how much to hold him responsible for his actions, particularly when Susan's instincts are playfully sadistic in a way Mike has no hope of handling. I love that the film never seems to apologise for anyone--it's almost like the exact opposite of The Rachel Papers in terms of its male protagonist. There's no sentimentalising of Mike's awkwardness. When he pesters Susan like a kid pulling pigtails on a playground, he's annoying. When he demands Susan explain a nude, life size cardboard cutout of her displayed in front of peep show, his indignation is ridiculous and pathetic. Susan's instincts to playfully torment him range from the mean to the actually kind of helpful, as when she punches out the head of a poster showing a pregnant man--meant to make men think about using contraception--and puts the poster around Mike's neck.
And, of course, this kid has no idea what she's trying to do and just smiles at her like a puppy. Ah, this movie is so good. Even the songs by Cat Stevens couldn't ruin it.
Twitter Sonnet #891
Aquittal won't embody Sabbath toes.
Wednesday, July 13, 2016
( 4:42 PM ) posted by Setsuled
First I wanted to punch Charles Highway in the face. But halfway through 1989's The Rachel Papers, I also wanted to kick him in the groin. By the end of the film, he developed into a guy I wanted to tie to a wheelchair and push down the stairs like Tommy Udo. I don't blame the stars, I don't blame the Martin Amis novel the film's based on--I completely blame director Damian Harris for displaying some of the absolute worst storytelling instincts of a writer director I've ever seen assembled in a single film.
It's an old fashioned story of an awkward young man with a bad personality, Charles (Dexter Fletcher), falling in love with a young woman who has no personality, Rachel (Ione Skye). Really, if a girl was ever No-One, move over Arya Stark, it's Ione Skye in this movie.
Here we see her intrigued by a video Charles has sent her of his baby pictures and testimonials from his sister and brother-in-law (Jonathan Pryce amusingly playing Cockney) about what a great guy he is. He sent her the video unprompted--she barely knows him. All she knows is he's the guy who showed up at her party uninvited, insulted the guests, then tracked down her phone number and asked her out despite seeing she has a boyfriend named Deforest played by James Spader. James Spader basically plays the snotty rich kid he played in Pretty in Pink and still I think she'd have been better off with him than with Charles.
What is his big offence? He shows up unexpectedly when she's on a date with Charles. She apologises to Charles for Deforest later, explaining how that's so Deforest (and I can't help thinking, "Damnit, Rachel, I'm
The only reason we know it's bad is because it's bad for Charles. Which is the key problem with the whole movie--it presumes a universe that revolves completely around this douchebag. The movie doesn't show him as making flawless decisions but there's this loving attention given to all his mistakes that made me want to throw up. This is maybe the worst expression of the the 80s teen loveable brat genre, Dexter Fletcher descending from Matthew Broderick, John Cryer, and Anthony Michael Hall. I'm not even blaming Fletcher, who looks like a young Mick Jagger and is charming enough. The film has him looking directly at us and explaining his technique, putting me in mind of Kind Hearts and Coronets but updated with adorable 80s movie computer technology.
Charles aces all his classes and is getting into Oxford but still he doesn't know how to use an apostrophe. Or maybe she's one girl with multiple aliases, I don't know.
But there's no pleasure like in Kind Hearts and Coronets in watching Charles do wicked deeds because he's thoroughly inept. Everything he tries backfires--he insults the party before finding out Rachel is the hostess, he tries to look uninterested following his brother-in-law's advice and then sends her that pathetic video tape. But it's inevitable Rachel will be drawn to him because the film acts like he's the only source of gravity.
Rachel is training to be a teacher and beyond that we learn practically nothing about her. Ione Skye seems slightly drugged during the whole thing, every scene between her and Charles is defined by Charles' motives. When he takes her to see a Naturist film at a porno cinema on the advice of his brother-in-law, she surprisingly laughs and says the movie's actually kind of funny. They run into Charles' father at the theatre having a date with a woman who's not his wife for an embarrassing moment to get Rachel to fall for Charles just a little more.
When she finally does not only sleep with him but move in with him it seems less like her choice but a reflection of everything Charles has done and experienced, like a video game where he's reached the final level. And egad, what awkwardly shot sex scenes. And they seem to go on forever.
I don't mind the idea of a movie about an awkward guy who's not half as brilliant as he thinks he is. For all I know, the book the movie's based on might actually be pretty good. But Rachel being a walking doll designed to reward Charles' successes and comfort his failures is the tip of the iceberg of what's wrong with this movie--every time Fletcher turns his star wattage at the camera, all the commercial perfect cinematography, it's all meant to be an easily digestible fantasy. It's like a carton of ice cream that's been sitting out on the table for nine years.#
Tuesday, July 12, 2016
( 9:38 AM ) posted by Setsuled
I've finally gotten another chapter of Dekpa and Deborah online. Enjoy. I can't believe how long this comic takes to me. I thought I'd finish this chapter on Friday, then I thought I'd finish it on Saturday but finally had to admit defeat before spending all day on it on Sunday and still not finishing it until I spent all day Monday on it. Maybe it's that there were so many characters in this chapter. I always think there must be some easier technique I'm missing that would enable me to make comics faster in the same quality but I don't know what that technique is. Mostly I just wish I could clone myself and delegate tasks.
Anyway, happy birthday, Henry David Thoreau, Tod Browning, Milton Berle, and Ben Burtt.#
Monday, July 11, 2016
( 7:58 PM ) posted by Setsuled
I'm seven episodes into the the fourth season of The Walking Dead and the changeover to Scott M. Gimple as showrunner has improved the show in exactly the ways I'd hoped. Mostly just by focusing on simple things instead of the increasingly campy war between the prison and Woodbury. It's kind of a shame I don't have more time to watch the show, it'd be nice to get through the whole series before Comic Con next week. Hopefully I won't need to sit through a spoiler ridden Walking Dead panel.
Spoilers for Walking Dead season four after the screenshot.
And there's a Lewis chess set on the show now! That's a reproduction of a chess set from the 12th century. They're shown in the sixth episode, "Live Bait", written by Nichole Beattie, which did the impossible and actually got me interested in the Governor, David Morrissey's character, now known as Brian. After he gunned down a bunch of innocent people just because they didn't want to help him conquer Rick's team, it wouldn't seem like there was anywhere particularly interesting for the character go. But the writers wisely instead of looking to ramp things up did the exact opposite.
Running into two women, a little girl, and an old man hiding out in a building, the near-zombie now Governor listlessly falls into helping them. Even this guy who's gotten to the point where he can murder a whole group of people at the drop of a hat is a pretty decent fellow under the right circumstances. It's an interesting exploration on how an obsessive virtue can be bad in the right context. If they didn't run into Martinez (Jose Pablo Cantillo) things might have even ended happily ever after, or as close to that as one can get after a zombie apocalypse.
I loved that Brian is so quiet. He doesn't try to justify himself or make himself look like he was different than he was. Martinez has to assume from the fact that there are now two women and a child depending on him (again with the gender roles!) that he's not a murderous psychopath. Then, in some down time with a couple other guys, Martinez had to ask Brian directly if he's changed. Before Brian spoke, I knew immediately that if he said, "Yes," that would mean he would go back to murder. Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking the show for being predictable--it's a nice moment of insight. Like Oscar Wilde said, "Only the shallow know themselves." Once Brian asserts something about his personality, now he has to demonstrate for himself whether or not it's true and the last thing this guy wants is some introspection. He's so afraid of it he has to kill Martinez who has unwittingly become a mirror. Really nice stuff.
I also like that the existence of Rick's camp is threatened by a flu. That's the great contrast between seasons three and four--the writers realised it's the little things that get the best mileage.
Twitter Sonnet #890
Inside a back a front was hid from sides.
Sunday, July 10, 2016
( 6:50 PM ) posted by Setsuled
Any imagined problems from a mixed race population and homosexuality pale in comparison to good old emotional abuse in 1961's A Taste of Honey. This black and white vision of grimy Salford in England entrances with its awkward, fractious heroine as she proceeds from one credibly written, self-consciously antagonistic relationship to another.
Like a lot of socially conscious progressive films of the 60s, its minority characters are the nicest people in the film. Jimmy (Paul Danquah) is a sailor in town briefly but long enough get Jo (Rita Tushingham) pregnant. Their initial flirtation feels so real, the two smiling at each other while the usual compulsive abrasiveness from Jo doesn't prevent finally a kiss.
Jimmy doesn't want to leave her--he tells her, in a line later borrowed by Morrissey for The Smiths song "Ring Around the Fountain"; "I dreamt about you last night and I fell out of bed twice." But both seem to realise that once he's gone to sea they'll never see each other again. Neither one seems to make much of the fact that he's black and she's white except for one scene where he pretends to play drums and she dances, telling him there's still some jungle in him despite the fact that all the ancestors he remembers came from Liverpool. It's just the right kind of ignorant, awkward statement from Jo to keep her from becoming a flat, unlikely paragon. She doesn't accept Jimmy because she's enlightened; it just feels right.
She's not afraid of what her mother (Dora Bryan) thinks, either, though the two fight about it. But they can't seem to say anything to each other without tearing each other down. When Jo's mother flings insults at Jo about her looseness, Jo is quick to return with variations of "You should know!" apparently inspiring The Beatles' "Your Mother Should Know", according to Wikipedia.
It does feel slightly odd that Jo kind of takes a tour of oppressed groups when she befriends a young gay man named Geoffrey (Murray Melvin), who provides The Smiths with another line: "The dream is gone but the baby is real." He's not quite as amiable as Jimmy, having the reflexive insults at ready like Jo and her mother. Jo infers that Geoffrey has no home to go to and when he says she has a large flat she chides, "Thinking about moving in?" at which he scoffs, "Not likely" but somehow both know that's exactly what they both want to happen. He becomes a caretaker, adopting many of the roles that have become stereotypical for gay characters in film but the self-consciously insecure dialogue somehow makes everything feel much more credible. I found myself really wanting these two to have a nice life together.#
Saturday, July 09, 2016
( 5:21 PM ) posted by Setsuled
I listened to three momentous Doctor Who audio plays this past week--The Girl Who Never Was from 2007 and The Bride of Peladon and The Condemned from 2008. The Condemned follows The Girl Who Never Was chronologically for the companion Charley (India Fisher) but not for the Doctor--she leaves the Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann) in the first story and starts travelling with the Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) in the second, a significant downgrade for her on a variety of levels. But both stories are nicely written. though the Eighth Doctor story is easily superior.
Featuring Danny Webb, McGann's costar from the soon to be kicked from continuity Alien 3, as a mercenary that manages to charm Charley, the story seems to have been the inspiration behind the arc in the Twelfth Doctor's first season where Clara is fed up and wants to leave the Doctor but they decide to have one last, farewell adventure. In this case, though, Charley is fed up with the Doctor because of his cold attitude to the death of their mutual friend. This is a theme that's carried over in the other audio dramas released around the same time for the Fifth and Sixth Doctor with the line, "Everybody leaves." The Girl Who Never Was also has Anna Massey in a supporting role. The plot is an interesting, threatening time paradox--also introducing the idea that the Doctor doesn't feel any different about a companion based on her apparent age--but it's mainly entertaining for some exceptionally snappy dialogue by Alan Barnes. I liked a bit where a mechanical captor tells Charley and her fellow prisoners that their conversation is irrelevant and Charley responds, "Than you don't mind if we talk."
Having a companion move backwards through a Doctor's history, without being all over the place like River Song, is an interesting idea. I'm wondering how they'll eventually address the fact that the Eighth Doctor doesn't recognise her when they meet in Charley's first story. Already in The Condemned, I was disappointed by Charley's failure to ask certain questions. She doesn't seem to wonder if Six is a past or future incarnation of Eight. Maybe she's not even sure he's the same person, the story leaves a lot of area to cover. But the main plot is a really nicely eerie story about Charley being kidnapped by a young woman in Manchester and being held in a flat where light seems to be disappearing and a mysterious man keeps calling on different phones, saying he's trapped in the basement.
The Bride of Peladon features the Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison) and Peri (Nicola Bryant) and it marks the final story of the audio companion Erimem (Caroline Morris), the pharaoh from ancient Egypt. I'll miss her; she was very good, especially when the writers remembered to write her as a ruler from an ancient, brutal culture. I think my favourite stories with her were Nekromanteia and Son of the Dragon, both stories that were decidedly less kid-friendly than Doctor Who tends to be.
And of course, The Bride of Peladon returns to Peladon, the place visited on television twice by the Third Doctor in The Curse of Peladon and The Monster of Peladon. Like those first stories, this one mainly involves court intrigue and of course the Ice Warriors and the genderless Ambassador from Alpha Centauri, a character whose concept might have been more surprisingly progressive if the other characters could finally agree on their pronouns and their design didn't accidentally turn out to resemble a giant penis.
The Bride of Peladon begins with a pretty unambiguous Hamlet reference as the current prince is visited by the ghost of his mother, informing him she was murdered and demanding vengeance. But things drift away from there and while it is oddly entertaining hearing Peri buddy up with an Ice Warrior it's not one of the best written stories--somehow, when a prophecy demands the blood of a royal sacrifice, no one thinks that Erimem might be in danger.#
Friday, July 08, 2016
( 6:15 PM ) posted by Setsuled
Bigotry is part of human nature. To suggest that someone is incapable of bigotry is to deny their humanity. Micah Johnson ruined his life yesterday and ended others because he wanted to kill white people in retaliation for the unjustified violence and killing perpetrated by white police. I've been hearing and reading people assert over the past few years that black people are incapable of being racist against white people, that any member of an oppressed group cannot be bigoted against the oppressor group. The definition for racism at Merriam-Webster is "a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race." This is also how the term is generally understood yet there are many who would load an extra value judgement to the word that makes oppressed groups exempt. When you do this, you're telling people that there's something fundamentally different about their minds than the minds of others, it's a philosophy that divides and makes it easier for one side to see the other as another species.
I watched Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon again for the first time in quite a few years last night. I saw it nine times when it was in theatres sixteen years ago, watching it again felt really good. Like all of Ang Lee's movies, the main attraction is his ability to direct faces, to tell so much of the story through the subtlest shifts in facial expression.
It's a story of women dealing with traditional patriarchy. Jade Fox (Cheng Pei-pei) murders Mu Bai's (Chow Yun-fat) master because he refuses to train a woman and now Fox is the mentor to Jen (Zhang Ziyi). The movie is a wonderfully effective portrait of the differences between generations in many ways but with the central complicating factor of genuinely bad things about the system in which the older generation operates. Mu Bai is forced to acknowledge he must train Jen, despite tradition, because otherwise, he observes, she may become a "poisoned dragon".
The general idea of the movie is being open to the humanity of others regardless of whether their part of the oppressor group or not. Most of the conflict in the film comes from Jen's persistent inability to trust other people. She can't even rationalise to herself why she does half of what she does--her fear drives her to violent contrariness. First she pursues and attacks Lo (Chang Chen), the thief who stole her comb, beyond all reason--then she wants to rebel against her family to stay with Lo, then she rejects Lo, Jade Fox, and Mu Bai, holding obstinately to things she said and things other people said to her in heated moments.
Mu Bai seems to be the antidote, being a supernaturally gifted fighter whose skills seem less about attack than about finding a perfect harmony with nature--most of his action scenes are him calmly defending himself against attack with no thought of killing. Yet even he is vulnerable to the same poison and must pursue his revenge against Jade Fox.
When a white cop shoots an innocent black man, part of the dialogue that should come in the wake of the incident is how a system might exacerbate irrational patterns the human mind is vulnerable to. The human mind, not the white mind. Hearing recently lectures about how oppressed groups were incapable of bigotry, I couldn't help thinking of a book I've been reading lately on 17th century Ireland. What a complex history of overlapping groups with passionate, ancient grievances and commitments. Which group is the one exempt? The Old English Catholics, the old natives of Ulster, the Protestants, the members of the Confederacy--and which of the groups that splintered in the Confederacy? One of the benefits of studying history is seeing that all humans are susceptible to being human.
Twitter Sonnet #889
A waiting egg defaced its call with Hell.
Thursday, July 07, 2016
( 5:21 PM ) posted by Setsuled
The more you trust someone, the more integral they become to your identity, both because you trust their decisions, and therefore they become, in essence, your decisions, and because you begin to believe in their impression of you. Trusting someone completely means, as the title of 1989's Say Anything . . . suggests, that you feel you can say anything to them and that they feel just as open with you. Maybe no two human beings were meant to trust each other quite that much or face the consequences of damaged self-image that comes when such complete trust is betrayed. Certainly the three central characters of Say Anything . . . have a pretty painful experience though as John Cusack's character proclaims at the beginning of the film, "I want to be hurt," maybe such pain is a necessary part of life. The film is good, its attention to this idea only sidetracked by interesting and entertaining portrayals of supporting characters.
At the party that Lloyd (Cusack) and Diane (Ione Skye) attend after their high school graduation are some of the most believable drunken high school students I've ever seen in a film. The guy who passes out sick in the bathroom, Eric Stoltz as a distracted host, the way everyone subtly works in disbelief that Diana agreed to go out with Lloyd in conversations with them both, all feel like they were crafted by writer and director Cameron Crowe with an extraordinary ear for how people actually talk. Corey (Lili Taylor) sings angry songs about her slimeball ex-boyfriend she's still obsessed with that are just the right kind of mediocre.
Diane is established as an unsociable academic, having no time for friends but having a great and deeply trusting relationship with her father, Jim (John Mahoney). It amazes Lloyd the first time he has dinner with the family just how at ease Diane and her father are with each other with none of the apparent friction or layers of resentment common between teens and their parents. Diane's social isolation is related to how well she's succeeded in school--the movie's vague about what Diane's actual passions and talents are, the principal at her school lists just about every subject but unfortunately Diane's genius never comes into play once during the film. She functions more as the centre of gravity between Lloyd and Jim.
Which is not to say she's like a doll being tugged by two children on the playground. Her issues of love and loyalty and how they inform her motives are an active part of the film and in a scene where Lloyd feels like a scumbag because she seems to be rejecting him the scene is especially effective because both sides of the issue are clear.
Lloyd, telling a group of guys how satisfied with himself and the world he felt when he thought Diane loved him, begins to doubt everything about himself because he finds his trust in Diane misplaced. These guys he's talking to, a random collection of losers hanging out by a convenience store, throw him the typical bullshit about how all women are the same and how one should use them rather than trust them. The scene is comical but it's actually a pretty good insight into how misogyny begins. Meanwhile Diane finds herself in crisis because she finds her father isn't quite who she thought he was. When he makes a surprisingly thought-provoking argument about his misdeeds the movie resists becoming a simple matter of the boyfriend versus the dad. It would have been nice if Diane had had a scene of similar insight but there's enough to her character to make this film a very effective character drama.#