Tuesday, December 10, 2013
( 2:15 PM ) posted by Setsuled
The director Michael Powell once said of his 1948 film The Red Shoes, "For ten years we had all been told to go out and die for freedom and democracy; but now the war was over, The Red Shoes told us to go out and die for art." It would be nice if this year's hard Science Fiction film, Europa Report, similarly inspired people to die for advancing space exploration. It probably won't but this extraordinarily, painstakingly realistic film pondering the conditions of an exploratory trip to Europa with contemporary technology is fascinating to watch.
It's a found footage style film in which we watch the video flight recordings of six astronauts travelling aboard a small vessel on a mission to find life on Europa, one of the moons of Jupiter.
The film has a brief nod to 2001: A Space Odyssey as the crew listen to "The Blue Danube" waltz at the beginning while they experience weightlessness. It's appropriate since this is the most credible feeling movie about space flight I've seen since 2001. There were some effective, realistic things in Europa Report I'd sort of like to see in more fantasy space films, actually, like space appearing almost purely black and devoid of stars.
The characters nicely avoid become types--there's no guy who goes psycho and becomes a liability, no-one who completely cracks up. Mostly what we see are people genuinely driven by a desire to explore. Their science officer, Katya (Karolina Wydra), has a scene where she wanders out onto the ice surface of Europa and we share in her breathless excitement at discovering a tiny organism.
The film does have thriller aspects and things go wrong. I almost think the film would have been better without them. I guess they figured it would have been hard to ask people to go see a movie about people going to space, finding cool stuff, and then coming back.#
Monday, December 09, 2013
( 2:58 PM ) posted by Setsuled
This year Guillermo del Toro, a Mexican filmmaker, made what in many ways is a very American homage to a Japanese film genre. Pacific Rim is a delightful film with brilliant monster battles. Its most ambitious component is in bringing so many aspects distinct to kaiju films and mech anime to a modern, American, live action format than has ever been attempted. But removing that context, Pacific Rim is a far less ambitious film than many of the films or series that influenced it. It feels rather like a child's impression of monster films who has not consciously perceived the subtext. It's a lighter story but certainly quite amazing.
I love how the monsters, created mainly through cgi, have the feel of the men in suits from the old kaiju movies. The filmmakers have banked on the idea that there is a terror inherent in that those monster's movements had an unnatural quality coming from the fact that they didn't have skeletons or muscular systems that quite fit with their exteriors--and it pays off.
The protagonist, Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam), is a distinctly American archetype--a simple, blonde haired, beefy white guy whose psychological issues aren't more complex than missing his dead brother. He's a good, regular joe.
His co-pilot, Mako (Rinko Kikuchi), is closer to a Japanese type of protagonist who is motivated by complex family issues relating to abandonment and self-esteem that have left her deeply scarred. She's one of the aspects of the film that most reminded me of Neon Genesis Evangelion.
And here's where we get to a point I found somewhat distracting. Guillermo del Toro has said in interviews that he's never seen Neon Genesis Evangelion. Of course, the reason he was asked about it is that many people have been suggesting the film draws a great deal of influence from Evangelion. And not unfairly, in my opinion.
In fact, the similarities are so strong that I was able to predict parts of the story based on my familiarity with Evangelion. The giant robots in Evangelion are biomechanical--part organic and part machine--and they have only one pilot. In Pacific Rim, the robots are entirely mechanical and they have two pilots that must mentally synchronise with each other perfectly in order to share the psychological load of being mentally connected to the robots.
When this concept of two people having to mentally synchronise was introduced, I immediately thought, "The male protagonist is going to have to mentally synchronise with a beautiful young woman with whom he is going to have a contentious relationship even as they share a subtle attraction and empathy, just like in the ninth episode of Evangelion."
And indeed, this is what happens when Raleigh and Mako become co-pilots of Gypsy Danger, one of the giant robots.
One can indeed say that story aspects and ideas can arise independently of each other simply because different creative people happened to be writing within the same genre. Yet one can easily put together a paragraph filled with specific story details that apply to both works:
Gendo/Stacker is the stern, brilliant, and self-possessed commander of the organisation which designs, builds, and maintains the giant fighting robots who defend us against giant possibly alien monsters. The organisation is independent but funded by a mysterious council of world leaders to whom Gendo/Stacker must answer in hologram/video conference. Gendo/Stacker is a paternal figure whose aloofness is a difficult thing for his officers to come to terms with. However, he has a mysteriously warm relationship with a young female pilot with short blue hair named Rei/Mako. We learn through Rei/Mako's flashback that Gendo/Stacker had once gone to great lengths to rescue her and in so doing he displayed much more emotion than we're accustomed to seeing him display in the present day.
You see, it's not just the surface details that resemble Evangelion. Mako isn't exactly Rei--she has aspects of Asuka and Shinji as well, especially in that she's driven by a desire to prove herself as an exceptionally capable adult, like Asuka, and she lost her mother under mysterious and monstrous circumstances, like Shinji and Asuka.
But, again, Del Toro says he's never seen Evangelion. I'm inclined to give the benefit of the doubt to the director of Pan's Labyrinth, however derivative I found Hellboy II to be. My suspicion is that Del Toro and screenwriter Travis Beacham reworked a screenplay that had been an attempt to rework Evangelion into an American live action film that was not in danger infringing on any copyrights. And in not being familiar with Evangelion, Beacham and Del Toro unknowingly reworked a reworking into looking more like Evangelion again. Because, after all, if Del Toro didn't want us to know he was drawing inspiration from Evangelion, wouldn't he have consciously made the similarities less pronounced?
And, again, the physics of the monster fights feel much more like kaiju films.
Here's where the film feels especially intriguingly American. The original Godzilla film is very much about the horrors of nuclear power. The film, made in the mid-50s and not long after World War II, is understandably filled with characters who are reluctant to use weapons of mass destruction in view of potential collateral damage to the environment and innocent people. The creature itself emerges from the ocean floor after its lair was inadvertently disturbed by nuclear testing. The implication is that the destruction caused by the beast results partly from our own actions. A beast from the ocean is a nice metaphor for something old and bestial in ourselves being brought out by our new, terrible devices.
In Pacific Rim, although there's a line early in the film about the danger of becoming monsters ourselves, nuclear power is sentimentalised. It's what distinguishes Gipsy Danger's power core--or heart, resembling the sinister S2 engines that power the Evangelions. The other robots in Pacific Rim run on a digital power that is disabled by the monsters. Gipsy Danger's "analogue" nuclear reactor is impervious and more than once it saves the day.
We see buildings and cars destroyed but never the impact on people. There's no horrific collateral damage like there is in Evangelion or in Godzilla. But those works are both from a Japanese perspective while Pacific Rim comes from a place that's never had to deal with the negative effects of nuclear power on such a scale. In the U.S. most people think of the atom bombs has having marked the end of a horrible war.
There's no malice in this perspective in Pacific Rim. Just innocence. And if you take it as a simple hearted, childlike ode to awesome monster fights, it's pretty good.
Del Toro has said about the film, "I don't want people being crushed. I want the joy that I used to get seeing Godzilla toss a tank without having to think there are guys in the tank . . . What I think is you could do nothing but echo the moment you're in. There is a global anxiety about how fragile the status quo is and the safety of citizens, but in my mind—honestly—this film is in another realm. There is no correlation to the real world. There is no fear of a copycat kaiju attack because a kaiju saw it on the news and said, 'I'm going to destroy Seattle.' In my case, I'm picking up a tradition. One that started right after World War II and was a coping mechanism, in a way, for Japan to heal the wounds of that war. And it's integral for a kaiju to rampage in the city."#
Sunday, December 08, 2013
( 4:22 PM ) posted by Setsuled
Most zombie movies are about a small town or city in which a few survivors are trying to contain a spreading zombie menace. World War Z imagines what it would be like if the zombies succeeded in taking over. The result is an extraordinarily tense survival film.
The single most effective sequence in the film is probably the beginning where we see Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) escaping Philadelphia with his family. It occurs to me Gerry Lane sounds like a character Gene Kelly would play. I don't think I've met many Gerrys.
Er, sorry. Wandering. Shambling, shall we say, though that's not what the zombies do in this movie. They're of the 28 Days Later sprinting variety.
We meet the Lanes at the breakfast table and follow them through a relatively normal day until they get stuck in a traffic jam that gradually, subtly gets worse. Director Marc Forster and his editors use extremely effective short shots to convey Gerry's anxiety as the normal chiding of his children to behave in the backseat dovetails with mysterious mobs of people hurrying by and runaway vehicles.
The events that follow are a good, breakneck speed survival thriller film as the Lanes are forced to adapt to new social rules in microseconds. In a really nice, eerie moment, Gerry finds himself reflexively thanking the man who murdered a pharmacist because afterwards he handed Gerry some inhalers for his asthmatic daughter.
After they escape Philadelphia in a helicopter that takes them to an aircraft carrier crammed with refugees the film follows Gerry, who happens to be a U.N. investigator, as he travels the world in search of a way of fighting back against the zombies.
One of the places he goes to is Israel where the Mossad somehow managed to build a wall keeping the zombies out. Here we meet "Segen" (Daniella Kertesz), a young Israeli soldier I quickly developed a crush on.
The actress is Israeli but her father's from Transylvania. I dig this dame.
Oh, and then Malcolm Tucker shows up to verbally desiccate the zombies with a decisive bollocking. Well, not really, but Peter Capaldi shows up, not playing Doctor Who but instead a "W.H.O. Doctor". I'm not kidding, that's how he's credited:
A lot of people complained about the final act of the film which was apparently rewritten several times by multiple screenwriters. Certainly it's much smaller in scale from the rest of the film--basically playing hide and seek in a research facility instead of watching hordes of undead take down a large city. But I thought it was fine.
Though, now reading about how different the book is from the movie it sounds as though the book is a lot more interesting, following disparate individual accounts of surviving the zombie apocalypse. But the movie is pretty good.
Twitter Sonnet #573
Red day dresses wait on wrought iron chairs.
Saturday, December 07, 2013
( 3:52 PM ) posted by Setsuled
This is not a great picture of one of nice looking wrought iron benches at the movie theatre where I saw The Counsellor Thursday. I didn't get a good shot because I got nervous about being seen with a camera in a movie theatre.
I got to the theatre thirty minutes early so I sat on one of these benches and finished reading The Drowning Girl: A Memoir by Caitlín R. Kiernan. A wonderful book and, as it turned out, containing themes not dissimilar to those in the movie I saw. The line about the drug cartel gangsters, "They don't believe in coincidences. They've heard of them, they've just never seen one," could be said of India "Imp" Phelps, the narrator and protagonist of The Drowning Girl. She's an unreliable narrator reminiscent of Merricat from Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle. India sees patterns and significant recurrences all the time and she presents her questionable observations to the reader frankly, without hesitation.
Talking of coincidences--or significant patterns in the world--the latter section of the book features the poem "Dover Beach" by Matthew Arnold which also figured very significantly in another novel I read this year, Saturday by Ian McEwan.
Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold
The sea is calm tonight.
Sophocles long ago
The Sea of Faith
Ah, love, let us be true
I find myself compelled to compare how the poem was used in the two books. McEwan's book is about the death of imagination in modern society and an attendant erosion of common decency. But it's also about how great art can still, ultimately, redeem us and specifically Arnold's poem. Caitlin's book could almost be said to be the opposite. She refers repeatedly to a line from Radiohead's "There There (The Boney King of Nowhere)"--
There's always a siren singing you to shipwreck.
This seems to be how India cautions herself against seeing or believing things that aren't real. Art in this book is a hazardous thing, a stimulus with a potential to exacerbate harmful obsessions.
Saturday is also more Apollonian and The Drowning Girl is more Dionysian. Caitlin refers to the novel as autobiographical which possibly is why it's been called post-modern. In the book's seventh chapter, India accuses herself of hiding truth from herself by using alternate names in her writing but there's never a moment where she actually calls herself "Caitlin". So the book is actually saved from being post-modern. Some may dispute my implication that fiction ought to be saved from post-modernism. Well, look at this case. Unless you know Caitlin, what would be gained by breaking the fourth wall in such a literal way? And if you do know her, you probably know enough to know there is a lot in The Drowning Girl that reflects her own life. So being so direct would be redundant.
In real life, a woman Caitlin loved committed suicide. The nearest analogy one might see to that person is the character of Eva Canning in the book, though, even knowing little about the actual person in Caitlin's life I can see that there's not a precise allegory here. My suspicion--and I'm only guessing--is that Caitlin distributed feelings and characteristics differently among her three main characters--Abalyn, India, and Eva--so that no one character is an exact counterpart of a real person but the three nonetheless confront similar issues with some new perspective for the new juxtapositions. This may account for India's apparent suicide attempt in the story and the perspective from India on how Abalyn reacts.
I've already written two long entries about the The Drowning Girl--first this one where I discussed Drowning Girls as a trope in fiction and what they might generally mean and this one where I found similarities between the book and Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo. Caitlin's told me she's never seen Vertigo all the way through so the similarities would seem to be coincidence. But having finished the book now I can say the resemblance is never extinguished. They are indeed both works about a protagonist whose delusions related to a mysterious and ghostly woman go to the brink of doom. Though one could say The Drowning Girl ultimately has a more hopeful message about accepting and coexisting with illusion.
As for the Drowning Girl as trope, one could certainly see the dissolution of identity present that I'd talked about as having seen as being fundamental to the trope. Though certainly from a unique angle compared to the other examples I mentioned--what we learn of Eva Canning comes from the most unreliable states of the generally unreliable narrator, India. So one might see the persona of Eva as being as much an aspect of India's personality as anyone else's. The idea of there being two Evas and the idea that one might have changed to be more like the other--certainly we're talking about dissolution of identity underlined especially strongly by a specific occurrence of a Drowning Girl (I'm being vague to avoid spoilers).
It's a lovely book about different human minds and the difficulties they have interacting. It's about the beauty and danger of fallible perceptions and how difficult it can be to reach through them sometimes to the people we love.#
Friday, December 06, 2013
( 1:58 PM ) posted by Setsuled
"The truth has no temperature," says Malkina, the psychopath played by Cameron Diaz when Javier Bardem's character, Reiner, remarks that she is cold. This is after she'd told him that she doesn't miss people who are dead because missing something implies the possibility that the thing can return. She doesn't understand the temperature comes from human attachment. In Ridley Scott's brilliant new film, The Counsellor, we see the sort of world a socially powerful psychopath can create. To say that the film is about a fundamental amorality in the world is tempting but not quite adequate. It's a movie about grief, grief made all the worse by knowing how things could have worked out.
Michael Fassbender plays the unnamed Counsellor, an American lawyer who finds himself in a financial crisis. He's always stood on a high moral ground before as Reiner, a friend with contacts in the world of Mexican drug cartels, remarks greed had never motivated the Counsellor before.
Reiner also tells the Counsellor that moral dilemmas in men are attractive to women. He opines that this is because women are at heart amoral themselves. Of course, his opinion is influenced by the fact that he's in a relationship with a psychopath but he exhibits a misogyny that predates his acquaintance with Malkina. When the Counsellor asks Reiner if he can interpret any of the complex graphs and charts on the computer screens Malkina uses, Reiner admits they are beyond his understanding--he tells the Counsellor he likes smart women but it's, "getting to be an expensive habit." He's not a smart man and the confused nervousness in his voice hints that he's just beginning to realise how much he's been betrayed by his own sexism.
The movie opens with the Counsellor in bed, under a white sheet with a smiling Penelope Cruz as his wife, Laura. The two have sex and it's so lovingly shot and performed. These two are in love and their vulnerability and openness with each other is sexy and beautiful. As the Counsellor remarks, life is in bed with her, everything else is just waiting.
Scott's direction, Cormac McCarthy's screenplay, and the performers do a remarkable job of conveying the innocence and the love in their very sexual relationship.
Reiner and Malkina's relationship stands as a contrast. Reiner describes an incident to the Counsellor he says he's tried to forget--Malkina having sex with his car.
It was "too gynaecological to be sexy," he says as he describes her vagina on his windscreen like "one of those bottom feeding fish." Honestly, the scene actually is incredibly sexy but it's significant Reiner doesn't think so--he's intimidated by a woman's sexuality. He describes the scene to the Counsellor and doesn't know why the Counsellor doesn't understand his horror.
Malkina and Laura have a scene together at a spa where Malkina is amused by Laura's love for the Councillor and her devout Catholicism. Malkina goes to a confessional after the conversation and smugly confirms for herself the priest's prejudice and the insubstantiality of his faith because he refuses to take her confession when he learns she's not Catholic. "It would be pointless," he says, again confirming for Malkina that morality is bullshit.
There's the slim framework of a thriller in this film but it's not really a thriller as so many critics had wrong-headedly presumed. It is a film noir of a very classic breed, a kind more grim than the sorts of movies that are often labelled noir nowadays.
The Counsellor makes a choice when he decides to go in with the Mexican drug cartels. After that, fate "puts the finger him" as Tom Neal says in the 1945 noir Detour.
Brad Pitt plays Westray, a humbler, American drug dealer who scoffs at Reiner's decadent lifestyle. He explains to the Counsellor that the beheadings he hears about perpetrated by the cartels don't come from anger, they're just business. He tells the Counsellor the one they hate is him, the Counsellor. Perhaps this is why we never learn the Counsellor's name--because, as he discovers, he's trapped in this persona of the rich, entitled American.
We don't see much of the big decision makers in the cartels who inflict so much horror and so they too have a broad, almost mystical quality, like a force of nature. Malkina is high on the food chain and we have an idea she's at least partially responsible for what happens but we also sense there's a larger machine of resentment and sadism she's only a part of.
The sex and the violence are presented in this film as the tangible results of malleable things created in the mind.
There's a beautiful and horrible scene near the end where a Mexican lawyer with contacts in the cartel explains to the Counsellor that there are no choices left and that what the Counsellor has to now is accept that one reality is gone and another reality is asserting itself. This film conveys remarkably the sense of terrible, inescapable grief.#
Thursday, December 05, 2013
( 1:48 PM ) posted by Setsuled
For once, I'm going to have to agree with box office figures--Iron Man 3 is definitely far superior to Man of Steel. It may even have as many plot holes but they don't matter so much because the characters work.
Marvel has a really nice thing going with their Disney owned films largely because they follow the pattern set by Jon Favreau's first Iron Man film. Favreau is known as an actor's director and the time he spends with the actors developing characters really shows on screen and helps to create the organic quality of his films. In fact, it works so well that Iron Man 3, which was neither written nor directed by Jon Favreau, continues to reap the benefits from sheer momentum.
Director Shane Black, who's blessedly fond of single shots where multiple actors have lines, puts together what might be Iron Man's equivalent of the "superhero loses his powers temporarily" type of story. In this case, there's a sort of homage to Sullivan's Travels where Tony Stark is forced to slum it in a small Tennessee town without his suit.
Tony befriends a kid who helps him recharge his power depleted suit. An idea they stick to even after Tony directly tells the kid the suit's powered by the glowing reactor he has lodged in his chest. Robert Downey Junior can sell just about anything and the rich guy with little boy personality has some amusing ego sparring with an actual little boy. Downey Junior's line delivery is so quick that even the unnatural lines feel naturally unnatural, like they're Tony Stark being clumsy with his words rather than the screenwriters.
Gwyneth Paltrow has less to do in this movie than in the previous two but she manages to help sell an insubstantial source of tension written between Pepper and Tony--she's started to become jealous of the collection of specialised Iron Man suits he's been tinkering with. It does lead to a nice, creepy scene of Pepper and Tony in bed and one of the suits suddenly grabbing her arm because Tony accidentally remotely activated it in his sleep.
Both Guy Pearce and Ben Kingsley work well as the film's villains. They both manage to get a satisfying foothold on relatively cliche characters--Pearce being the nerd who gets his revenge on the popular crowd.
There's not a lot of Avengers tie-in stuff this time except Tony now seems to be experiencing panic attacks due to having glimpsed the reality of an alien civilisation, which I really liked. It works with his character as a man who neurotically has to be in control of all situations finding one hopelessly outside his influence. And actually it makes the alien invasion work slightly better than it did in The Avengers, at least on a more human level.
The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series has kind of nicely played off the invasion, too, and it's great to watch this shared universe expand through movies and television. It feels like something fundamental to the nature of comic books is growing in motion picture media.
Twitter Sonnet #572
Sixteen apple ankles roll at matins.
Wednesday, December 04, 2013
( 1:56 PM ) posted by Setsuled
So I'm going to start in on this year's movies even though I still have plenty of Halloween movies left to watch. I guess I'll save those for January or February to mark the grinning skull of Time or just Valentine's Day or something.
I felt honour bound to start with the movie I've been kind of badmouthing all year without having seen, Man of Steel. Obviously I went in with low expectations so it was nice when some of the movie did actually work for me. I mean, as much as I hate Zack Snyder and David Goyer, I don't go into any movie wanting to hate it. If I'm going to give two hours (in this case almost two and a half) to a movie, I actually want to have a nice time. But, although this movie isn't all bad, it's certainly mostly bad.
I think the first thing that really struck me about the film was all the big black genitalia. It seems the people of Krypton like their shuttles to look like penises and figure there's no point in building a door that doesn't look like a vagina.
This is one of the film's rare two shots, Zack Snyder seems allergic to them. Usually they exclusively belong to establishing shots. Even an early scene where Jor-El and Lara Lorn Van (an effective Russell Crowe and a rather flat Ayelet Zurer), as Superman's biological parents, are standing next to each other facing the same direction doesn't get a two shot, we hop between close-ups of both of them. We don't really get to see two actors playing off each other until over a half hour in when Clark (Henry Cavill) meets the holographic version of Jor-El.
Which brings me back the genital architecture. I would say it's probably due to the influence of Prometheus already exerting itself, which is kind of funny considering how influential Alien's production design was on this sort of thing. History seems to be repeating itself.
One might perceive a purpose in it here. In this version of the story, the Kryptonians genetically engineer their offspring and Kal-El is the first natural birth in a long time. This angers General Zod (Michael Shannon) who stages a coup at the beginning of the film.
I do love Michael Shannon. He's creepy without trying to be creepy and focused as hell. He bears little resemblance to Terence Stamp's psychopath Zod. In this case, Zod tells us he's haunted by his actions but he thinks what he's doing is for the greater good. This seems like it may be one of the places where the film takes its cues from Nolan's Batman films whose villains tended not to be morally simplistic. Part of Batman's challenge is embodying the argument for justice against the actually seductive qualities of chaos or tyranny in his foes.
However, it's a little harder to see the point of view of the guy who wants to wipe out the entire human race for no apparent reason. He starts terraforming Earth but there's no reason given as to why out of all the planets in the galaxy Earth has to be the new Krypton.
Maybe the best thing about this movie is Amy Adams as Lois Lane, even though she's the worst written character in a movie filled with not particularly well written characters. She mainly seems to serve as free floating plot spackle--one minute she's the reporter who discovered Superman, next she's abducted by Zod for no apparent reason, and then she's arming a bomb in an airborne plane for the U.S. military.
But Adams remains a wonderfully engaging actress and damn her hair looks good in this movie. In a movie notoriously loaded with product placement Pert Plus really missed the boat here.
Of course she and Superman kiss at one point and it feels extraordinarily arbitrary. It's the sort of thing that's considered required by a studio when making a superhero film. But a studio asking David Goyer to write romance is sort of like the Three Stooges asking a mule to balance on a paperclip.
There's a really lame piece of dialogue after they kiss--she says something like, "They say it's all downhill after the first kiss," and he says, "I'm pretty sure that only counts if you're kissing a human." Which might give one pause as one wonders, "Did he just say he thinks their relationship is going to be lousy?" before you realise he was talking about himself, not her, while she had been talking about him. Of course this isn't about Lois. None of this is.
Which is a shame since Adams is a much better actor than Henry Cavill who doesn't improve on Brandon Routh at all. Actually, both of them seemed to have modelled their line deliveries on Christopher Reeve's straightforward, clear eyed tone, but in Cavill's case it feels a bit unnatural despite the fact the guy does have some expressive eyebrows.
The action scenes are good--Snyder does have a knack for video game kinetics. Though it's a bit odd when bystanders in Metropolis hang around to watch what must look like mouse cursors darting across the sky while buildings are falling all around them.
And of course, plenty of people have complained about Superman not seeming particularly concerned about the deaths of bystanders on top of a rather character-breaking moment at the end--if you haven't seen the film and you've avoided spoilers, skip the next paragraph:
There are around eight million things about that climatic moment that don't work. Zod's head clearly not being held steady enough by Superman being one of them--there's no reason he can't immediately fry the people he's talking about. But okay, let's say Superman had to kill him to prevent those bystanders from dying. What does that say? The man who doesn't believe in taking life under any circumstance is forced to take a life. It'll be weird if he tortures himself about it because Zod wanted to destroy the whole human race. If he doesn't torture himself about it, there was kind of no reason for the filmmakers to take us there except for the emotional kick.
Which ultimately is the film--a rather cheap ploy for thrills. Some ideas about justice and government--Clark is rather significantly shown reading Plato's The Republic at an early age--are fleshed out poorly by bad characterisation and arbitrary, money driven plot mechanics.#
Tuesday, December 03, 2013
( 4:42 PM ) posted by Setsuled
This was the sunset at school yesterday.
To-day so far I've been working on a massive pile of math homework and prep material for to-morrow's test. I am so bad at math.
Going through my old books and things I found my favourite book from when I was in second and third grade:
I read this book over and over when I was a kid as you might be able to tell from its condition. It's missing its back cover, too.
The language with which it's written is, sometimes charmingly, clearly directed at children. But it had a lot of real information about shapeshifters in myth and folklore as one can see from a glance at the index:
It had some nice illustrations, too. It was the first place I saw "Les Lupins" by Maurice Sand:
And there are some nice original illustrations by Stephen Gammell:
As you can maybe see on the left page, a lot of the folklore is rather delightfully presented as fact which might be why, as this person notes in their Etsy auction for the first edition, the book started getting banned in school libraries.
I see on Amazon the cheapest used copy of the paperback is $44.56 with new copies--of the paperback--going for $177.82. The hardcover is oddly cheaper with used copies for $7.92 and new copies for $151.98.
Anyway, it's just one of many books I'd rather be reading now than my math book.#
Monday, December 02, 2013
( 12:07 PM ) posted by Setsuled
Still trying to remember my dreams. Last night I was in an enormous, empty hanger at night with a small, extremely busy Starbucks in one corner. I also dreamt Romana II (from Doctor Who) was fighting an evil clone of herself. Each was in her own glass sphere at least partially filled with water. They were connected by a blue tube that looked like a fallopian tube. One Romana crawled through the tube and managed to strangle the other who turned into a small glass sphere held in the remaining Romana's hand. Inside the sphere were dry, blue and pink particles like the gravel at the bottom of a fish tank. All of this took place on a bright green lawn.
Doing a Google video search for Romana II, I see there are a lot of Ten/Romana II mashup videos. I'm a little afraid to look at them as much as I love both characters.
I didn't leave my apartment all day yesterday. I never even opened the front door. Which was nice but probably not healthy. Fortunately I'll be getting plenty of exercise to-day walking up the hill to school.
The clip above is from "The Horns of Nimon" which has a minotaur. You can watch the serial in its entirety here.
Twitter Sonnet #571
Blackened puddles solicit the dry rain.
Sunday, December 01, 2013
( 4:29 PM ) posted by Setsuled
Solemn and cute. That could describe most of the German films I've seen from the past decade and it definitely describes 2011's Hell--"hell" being German for "bright" but I think the double meaning is intended. It's an endearing little melodrama.
In 2016, five years in the future of the 2011 film's release date, the sun gets much brighter and temperatures rise all over the world by 10 Celsius--50 Fahrenheit. People are compelled to wear hoods and scarves and protective glasses when they go out in the day but wandering unprotected in the light doesn't seem to be immediately fatal.
Early on in the film, we see Philip (Lars Eidinger) burn his hand on the exterior of his car. Yet the film really feels like it was made by people who aren't accustomed to hot weather. There's usually a glimmer of sweat on people's faces but with the temperatures we're talking about they ought to be drenched most of the time. I never could shake the feeling that I was seeing a mild day for San Diego.
Of course the film was shot in and takes place in Germany where it probably was a lot colder than the filmmakers endeavoured to make us believe.
The governments of the world have dissolved and two teenage sisters, Marie and Leonie (Hannah Herzsprung and Lisa Vicari) wander Germany in a dusty red station wagon after the death of their mother. With them is Philip, Marie's boyfriend.
Marie is the point of view character. Herzsprung does a good, subtle job. The impression I get from films like this and Kill Me is that reserved facial expressions are becoming associated with femininity in Germany. It reminds me of an anime character type that's emerged in Japan over the past twenty years beginning, I think, with Rei Ayanami in Neon Genesis Evangelion. I'm sure there's a common name for this kind of moé though I can't seem to find out what it is. This blogger refers to it as the "doll archetype" while TV tropes calls it the "Rei Ayanami Expy". Basically, it's a young, beautiful girl who seems unable or uninterested in expressing emotion regardless of circumstance. As a fan of Rei Ayanami and Evangelion, I can't say I categorically hate the character type, though sometimes I think it's used as a way of fetishistically pacifying women.
Marie in Hell isn't quite that extreme but we often do see reaction shots of her that convey little more than attentiveness.
Melodrama has become a bit of a dirty word even among people who regularly enjoy it. I think this is because the word is often misused--it simply refers to a story that depends on sequences of unlikely occurrences in order to move along with emotional impact. Things like people frequently escaping from certain death, friends or enemies turning up at unlikely, convenient or inconvenient, times and places. This can certainly harm suspension of disbelief which is why it's usually accompanied by bigger than life, attractive, or charming characters. And melodrama can definitely be good.
Hell features enough close escapes and harrowing situations for Marie to qualify as a melodrama, albeit a quite solemn faced one. First Marie and her friends almost fall prey to the bandit Tom (Stipe Erceg) who briefly takes Leonie hostage. After Philip beats him up, Tom becomes a brave and strong epitome of heroism that outshines Phillip, who turns out to be cowardly shortly after we've learned Marie had sex with him.
Then Leonie and Tom are captured by a cult of cannibals. Marie is almost eaten or raped for breeding purposes several times but always manages to escape just before something really terrible happens.
You root for her and it's a fun bit of adventure though the scene at the cannibal dinner table brings to mind the far more effective scene in the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The film mainly seems to have been riding a wave of post-apocalyptic media following Bethesda's revival of the Fallout video games in 2008 and the film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's The Road in 2009. The story of a small group of attractive young people in a simply constructed wasteland feels like a low budget, unobtrusive distillation of the genre's characteristics.#