Sunday, July 31, 2011

Warm Wine Colours

For some reason I wasn't sure I would like The Prince and the Showgirl, but I became confident very quickly after I saw Jack Cardiff was cinematographer. It was directed by Laurence Olivier who did an appropriately unexciting job for a story that's not particularly exciting. That's okay--Jack Cardiff, Marilyn Monroe, and the costumes and sets are the stars of this movie. Cardiff's Technicolor cinematography has the same rich, waxy look it did in the colour films he shot for Powell and Pressburger that goes so beautifully with Rococo environments.

The movie's told almost entirely from the point of view of Monroe's character as she meets the world of the Grand Duke (played by Olivier) after he's had her brought to a private room at the Carpathan embassy purely for sex. There ends up being no sex, but Monroe ends up hanging around for days in the same dress, almost accidentally mending small rifts in the Grand Duke's family. Very little happens--Monroe had long dreamed of getting a juicy dramatic role, but The Misfits is the only film that really satisfied the desire. But still, The Prince and the Showgirl and a bottle of sake makes for a wonderful, lazy evening.

I was fascinated to learn that Cardiff and Monroe developed a friendship, according to his autobiography. From this article;

While Cardiff is sympathetic to Olivier, who died, aged 82, in 1989, he remains loyal to Monroe. He paints a picture of a sex symbol who had an almost child-like quality off screen. He insists that her legendary inability to turn up anywhere on time was not arrogance, but shyness.

He recalls how a trip to the theatre could be enough to push her over the edge: "When we got inside, we were sitting in the stalls about 10 rows back and everyone sitting in front was just turned around looking at Marilyn. During the interval, to stop us being mobbed they had fixed up a private little room for us. The first bell to signal the end of the interval went, and we got ready to go, but Marilyn asked for another drink. Then the second bell went and she still wouldn't go. I looked at her and she was obviously terrified of going back."

Cardiff's last meeting with Monroe, in a Hollywood hotel just months before her death, gave him a revealing insight into her private turmoil. He recalls: "I went over and it was a big room with just one dim light and she was wearing dark glasses. We sat together on the settee and had a drink and she told me what a terrible time she had been having."

I dreamt I was at CostCo last night, which is a big club store generally known for selling food, furniture, and other things in bulk and therefore ultimately cheaper. In my dream, CostCo had a high school style cafeteria and David Lynch was serving food. He told me I looked like I needed bacon, which I acquiesced to, despite being a vegetarian, because he was David Lynch. When I got outside, I had to carefully avoid a komodo dragon who was fighting two alligators.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Kind Dragons

There've been a lot of really beautiful, lazy insects around here lately. Lazy enough they didn't seem to mind me taking intimate photos of them. Most of these I got when I was walking to the store a few days ago. A shopper from the nearby Wal-Mart wandered over and demanded to know what I was doing.

"Just taking pictures," I said.

"What for? What do you do with them?"

"I just put them on my blog."

She frowned, "Why?"

"I don't know, I just . . . do."

"I don't do that Facebook or anything. I don't need people knowing about my life."

"Ah, I see." I continued vainly attempting to take pictures of the little fish in the water nearby.

"You should go to La Jolla Cove and get an underwater camera for ten bucks," she said finally.

"Really? They're only ten bucks?" Then I noticed this guy;

"And you should go to Lindo Park," she said as I began to taking shot after shot of the dragonfly who was for some reason sitting patiently for me. "People come from all over the world to take pictures of birds there."

"Oh, where's Lindo Park?"

"It's in Lakeside. You go down" and she began giving me directions before stopping and saying angrily, "Well, do you want to know how to get there or not?" Apparently believing her hand gestures were a crucial part of her directions and not liking how I continued to take pictures of the dragonfly instead of looking at her.

So here are the rest of the pictures I've taken lately. If it's all right;

Industrious youth.

This one's a damselfly.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Thinking Fast

I have been watching Doctor Who. The three part season finale for Tennant's second season actually began well--as played by Derek Jacobi, the Master was actually interesting for once, mainly in how his true personality subtly leaked out from around the facade. Professor Yana seems to have been a good, brilliant person, and yet one senses a certain subtle, petty resentment in a lot of his lines. It starts to craft a psychological profile for the Master as a man who does great and terrible things because of something lacking inside him. As played by John Simm, though, he not only goes back to being broad and uninteresting, but also intensely annoying. Though he wasn't as bad as the very heavy-handed depiction of the Doctor as Christ in the third episode.

"Time Crash" was short and delightful, though I could've done without Tennant breaking character for a brief moment. "Voyage of the Damned" was mostly a nice little mini-movie, particularly good for the inclusion of Clive Swift in a much better role than he'd had in Revelation of the Daleks. I could've done without this, though;

It might have actually been sort of funny if it weren't for the whole Doctor Christ thing in the finale of the previous season that gave us to know Russell T. Davies takes this very seriously.

So far I'm liking Tennant's final season, except I thought the two part Sontaran episode was very badly written, though I appreciated the fact that its writer, Helen Raynor, who seems to be something of a pedant, took a moment to subtly point out that "Doctor" is not his name. It's been referred to as his name three times now in the new series, something the old series managed to avoid for its entire run. It's a title, not a name, that's kind of the point. It's Doctor Who.

Twitter Sonnet #287

Phosphorous yellow braids tangle in ink.
Lazy molluscs coil around chill flesh.
Broken feathers sway in the opaque drink.
Salt grey open grins keep ghostly meat fresh.
Onyx braille casts spells on a coral cake.
Bluebirds speed across a shaded vision.
Unmanned tugboats leave a scattered froth wake.
Dark depths are like a delayed decision.
Shining scales flush with sharp cherry red blood.
Nutrients congeal in gelatine orb.
Hasty movements leave burn in on the HUD.
Isolated lamps find dust to absorb.
Soft pink passages dry from a pipe's smoke.
But heavy blue extinguishes the coke.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Comic-Con Report, volume 4

I guess asking oneself, "If I were Waldo, where would I be?" isn't such a bad strategy.

Somehow these costumes were okay but Adrianne Curry was ejected from the Con for her ├ćon Flux costume. How much butt is a dangerous amount of butt? I do remember some divine wardrobe malfunctions at Cons of yesteryear, which is probably why enforcement's so strict now.

I suppose Comic-Con's fairly arbitrary costume rules are reflective of geek sexuality in general. I was amused when some middle aged ladies were highly insulted after I gave them cards for Amee's "Passion Parties", apparently something like sexually themed tupperware parties. We figured out then that it was probably best I not hand out cards for her.

I yelled, "Panty! Stocking!" to get the attention of this lovely pair;

Minutes later, I ran into another Panty and Stocking;

I bitterly regretted not asking Panty if she was not wearing panties since she was holding her gun--Panty's panties magically transform into her weapon while Stocking's stocking becomes a sword, and you can see she's only wearing one stocking.

I don't know who this is, but she's sexy;

Though her top makes her boobs look sort of upside down.

By the way, here's a little safety tip--this is not sexy;

It is in fact scary. In a bad way. Please ladies, there's not been a remotely sensible reason to do this to yourselves in at least a hundred years.

These two I would've liked to have watched make out;

When the Ariel was taking a photo with another girl later, the girl touched one of Ariel's seashells and said, "Ooh! That's hard!"

"That's what she said," said Ariel. I kind of like this one's bikini better, though;

Looks like it came from the same shop, but has the added bonus of looking like it's about to fall off.

There was also a sexy Tinkerbell;

And these girls were cute--I love Belle's handbag;

But these are the two I'd marry;

There was a big steampunk presence as steampunk's progress into mainstream media has gained, er, steam.

Remember the girl from last year who made a dress out of Con bags?

Well, I ran into her again this year with this year's bag turned into a new dress;

Finally, here is a very good pair of Ghostbusters;

Okay. I think that does it for Con reports. Now I just have to somehow deal with the Conless days preceding the next one.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Comic-Con Report, volume 3

You remember who Anne Rice is, right? I've been thinking about how I possibly could've come across her at the Comic-Con practically by herself, how her booth wasn't surrounded by thick, impassable crowds of people like the TV studio booths. Maybe it's just because she wanted to keep a low profile--her name isn't mentioned at all in the Con programme. Maybe, since last I heard she actually lives in southern California, she decided to come to the Con at the last minute. But I couldn't help being struck by an odd contrast--I took this photo on Wednesday, Preview Night, the day before the Con officially began;

The people you can see under the white canopies are lined up for the Twilight panel scheduled for the next day. There was a True Blood panel almost as swamped--that's two things that arguably wouldn't exist if Anne Rice hadn't basically invented the vampire romance genre. Ten years ago, it seemed like no-one questioned Rice's place in literary history. I suppose the fact that she's gotten a lot of somewhat embarrassing publicity in the time since has damaged her legacy--her conversion to Catholicism and apparent aversion to her previous outlook on life, her hatred of fanfiction that led to her cautioning fans that online appearances by Lestat were not really him, and, of course, her blow-up at an Amazon reviewer. I admit this stuff was what first came to mind when I saw her, and I was about to keep walking when I thought to myself, "Don't be such a fucking hipster." I remembered how much her books had meant to me in the 90s, how I could read even one of her lesser books at bleak moments and be somewhat consoled by the familiar voice.

I stood there a moment and watched her autograph a small stack of comics with a silver pen and thought about what to say, having the distinct feeling that she's someone it's probably very easy to accidentally say the wrong thing to. When she handed the stack to the vender, I finally said something like, "Hi. I just wanted to tell you your books meant a lot to me--I used to read the vampire novels over and over."

"Thank you," she said, but I could see her eyes glaze over as she mentally tried to check out of the whole convention.

"I didn't know you had a comic," I said, looking down at the books.

"It's Servant of the Bones," one of her young blonde yes men answered for her as she walked away. Servant of the Bones was a novel she wrote in the 90s and I guess this was a comic adaptation. I correlated this with the fact that she's sold and auctioned off a great deal of her stuff in recent years and thought maybe this was a pure attempt at cashing in, which would explain why she wouldn't be particularly enthusiastic about meeting a fan. Maybe she's met too many fans, maybe she was tired from dealing with the Con, maybe it was something else entirely, I really can't speculate. But it's hard for me to imagine being in a place mentally where someone telling you their work was tremendously important to them was barely worth acknowledging.

Peter S. Beagle was at the other end of the spectrum--at the other end of the exhibit hall, too, in Artist's Alley (despite the fact you can see a poster for his Last Unicorn comic behind Anne Rice in the picture above) where Amee makes a point of seeing him every year. Every fan who approaches him he talks to for a long time in a small voice, barely audible over the exhibit hall din. He told Amee and I about his friend in France who has cancer and is in critical condition. He gave me the general impression of someone who really, really needs love. Amee talked Wendy Pini, one of the creators of ElfQuest, who Amee also always visits in Artist's Alley, into doing some artwork for Beagle which I thought was sweet and made me ponder the existence of an Artist's Alley community.

This is one of the Frank Frazetta paintings I saw on Friday. The second best panel I saw at the Con this year was Robert Rodriguez on Thursday who announced that not only was he going to be remaking Fire and Ice and making a movie based on Frazetta's painting Death Dealer but that he was opening a Frazetta museum in Austin, Texas. He also told us about the several Frazetta originals that he was having exhibited the next day, for which we needed to e-mail an address he provided to learn the time and location. The paintings went up for five hours in the Hard Rock hotel across the street and I took Amee with me since she drank a lot of tequila the day Frank Frazetta died. Prints and posters truly don't do Frazetta's work full justice--I was impressed by the texture and even more by the incredibly striking colour, especially bright oranges contrasted with foreground blue greens that create a sense of three dimensions and life.

Speaking of vampire fiction, here's a good Mina Murray from League of Extraordinary Gentlemen;

I have a whole bunch of pictures of people in costumes I still need to post. Probably that'll be to-morrow . . .

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Comic-Con Report, volume 2

Doctor Who had a big presence at Comic-Con this year. Matt Smith and Karen Gillen did a panel on Sunday, which I didn't see because I figured it would be full of spoilers. Damn, I just looked at his Wikipedia entry and realised Matt Smith is younger than me. The first Doctor that's younger than me, that's a really weird feeling.

A saw a lot of people dressed as the eleventh Doctor at the Con, but I saw a lot more dressed as the tenth Doctor. I'm not sure how much that's related to his popularity or to the fact that his costume is the easiest and cheapest to put together. The best one I saw was this guy;

I guess because his suit actually fit him, though it's not tailor fitted to within a millimetre of its life like the ones Tennant wears.

There was one guy wearing a really pathetic excuse for a fourth Doctor costume (a scarf half the size, a sort of decent jacket, blue jeans and tennis shoes) but otherwise I'd about given up on seeing a classic series costume until Sunday, when I saw this great Romana II in line to play Guild Wars 2;

That's the other thing that had an unprecedentedly large presence at the Con this year--video games. I got downtown before 9am on Thursday and found machines were set up across the street from the convention centre allowing people to play Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. I'd played one of the Marvel vs. Capcom games, so I was somewhat familiar with the gameplay, but the guy I was paired against kicked my ass, despite the fact that I was manoeuvring around him and blocking his attacks better than he was blocking mine. This is because the Marvel vs. Capcom games are more reliant on button mashing to get you the big flashy combo moves that win everything now. Games like that are more like throwing dice than playing a fighter game.

I also played a new Playstation game called Scribble Shooter, which basically seems to be Galaga except all the graphics were drawn by the designer's 12 year old son apparently with markers on paper. I guess it's to Galaga what Paper Mario is to Super Mario Brothers. It was fun, though I'm not sure how long I would really dig the scribble gimmick.

These guys from Fallout: New Vegas were the first costumes I recognised (not counting the ubiquitous storm troopers) on Thursday morning;

I packed my own lunch each day of the Con and sat in the upstairs corridor to eat it on Thursday where the anime kids normally hang out. I became aware of an extraordinary number of people asking the blue painted girl sitting nearby for pictures so I finally asked for one myself, and asked who she was dressed as while I was at it.

Turned out she, and the girl on the left who joined her, is a character from Mass Effect. I'd watched Tim play the Mass Effect games a bit, and I like the complex dialogue system, though I don't like how often the dialogue options you choose come out as something totally different when your character actually speaks them. I'm guessing this is meant to be rephrasing of the dialogue choices to keep the experience less repetitive while still using the gist of what the player chose, but the rephrasings are a little too drastically different for me.

Later, I saw the girl who was the original face model for the blue character in the exhibit hall;

I did manage to play some Guild Wars 2, but as I've only just begun playing the first Guild Wars, I can't say much about how different the gaming experience is. But the things I'm hearing about the way dynamic events function in Guild Wars 2 have certainly whetted my appetite, and the fact that, as with its predecessor, it has no subscription fee is also very appealing to me.

Twitter Sonnet #286

Wincing dinner rolls and toast steal hard cash.
Hydration speeds Peruvian boulder.
False heroes grace distance with a red sash.
The silent toy watches from a shoulder.
The lonely staff spin idle deception.
Beautiful blue light gives sushi a sheen.
Tight bracelets await wrists at reception.
Rarely in spandex are xenomorphs seen.
Brown French rubber sparks a soft breaded bed.
Piano water bangs mad finger fins.
Opal dots needle gun centipede head.
Red nails frame the circle that no-one wins.
Anonymous blue broads draw reflection.
Buttons repel a scribble infection.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Comic-Con Report, volume 1

I trust the muscle tissue in my legs will stop feeling like a Nerf facsimile within a week or so. One loses track of what distance means to one's legs at Comic-Con--I must have walked fifteen miles a day, crossing the exhibit hall over and over, walking across the street and five blocks to get tea or dinner because I didn't want to pay Con prices for food (they were "con" prices in more ways than one), and up and down stairs to get to different rooms. Though actually this year there were very few panels I wanted to see. I was sorry to see that, for the first time in years, Ray Bradbury wasn't scheduled to have a panel. I hope he's okay. Of the panels I did see this year, I'd say the best was Francis Ford Coppola, who was promoting his upcoming film Twixt along with its star, Val Kilmer, and composer Dan Deacon.

The programme had said the panel would feature audience participation of some kind but said nothing more specific--as the audience filed into the room we were each given an Edgar Allan Poe mask with 3D lenses;

I'm sad to say I heard two girls behind me wondering if this is what Francis Ford Coppola looks like.

Some of you might remember a quote from Coppola that was publicised after Avatar came out that seemed to be critical of the concept of 3D, his criticism seeming to focus on the glasses mainly. This seemed odd to a number of people due to Coppola having directed the short 3D film Captain EO. His discussion at Comic-Con on Saturday indicate to me his comments may have been taken out of context and his meaning misunderstood--he spoke positively of 3D, though he expressed a dislike for wearing the glasses. This led him into a more general discussion of innovations in how movies are made and presented.

He showed a seven minute promo for Twixt, which looks rather good. It begins with Tom Waits narrating footage of a northern Californian town, remarking on how the town is distinguished by a belfry with seven clocks, facing in all directions, each telling a different time. It seems to be a story dealing with non-linear time, a subject that seems to have had some prominence in Coppola's films lately. It stars Val Kilmer as a horror novelist and Elle Fanning who seems to exist in a dream world or a ghost world or an alternate timeline--anyway, everything goes grey except for some red accents, like Fanning's eye makeup. "My goth debut," Coppola joked. And Edgar Allan Poe talks to Kilmer's character in this world, apparently something influenced by a dream Coppola actually had wherein he met Poe. Because of Coppola's dislike of glasses, only parts of the movie will be in 3D, and the clip gave the audience visual cues to let them know when to wear the masks.

I was kind of sorry none of the photos I took of the audience came out in focus, but I guess it kind of looks creepier this way, doesn't it?

Then it got really interesting. It seems Coppola plans to take the movie on the road in the first months of release and perform it live for audiences. That is, he has a computer set up with a programme that allows him to edit scenes differently on the fly, cutting early or allowing scenes to go on longer, and cutting to different scenes based on how he feels the audience is reacting to what's happening while Dan Deacon improvises music. He demonstrated for us, drawing from a copy of the whole movie and I must say it was surprisingly seamless. We saw a lot more footage, particularly of a scene that had made the audience laugh where Kilmer's character is trying to start writing a story. If I hadn't known what Coppola was doing, I wouldn't have guessed it wasn't a canned promo. He also tried putting the programme on shuffle, which got some laughs from the audience.

It's certainly a technique that goes well with the subject of non-linear time. It made me wonder if a William S. Burroughs style cut-up film could become a reality, though obviously Twixt doesn't seem to be anything so abstract. I'm not exactly sure I can say it adds to the experience--I liked the second, improvised cut better than the canned one, mainly because it featured a lot of dialogue between Kilmer and Fanning, though I don't know how much that's Coppola editing based on audience reaction or simply him personally feeling a different configuration for the material. I'm honestly a little afraid for him being at the mercy of modern cynical, obnoxious audiences--he's such a sweet guy and wonderful to listen to, something I knew from his DVD commentaries. I kind of felt for whoever controls the board for the Hall H screen as Coppola irritably started shouting direction to him as the feed would go to a split screen of movie footage and panel feed when he didn't want it to. It reminded me of when he practically took over Martha Stewart's show during a guest appearance. The lesson being, I guess, when Coppola's in the room, you'd better do what he says. Which I think is a good idea in any case.

That's the exhibit hall on Thursday. A very small part of it, anyway. It was very crowded, even on Sunday, which is usually pretty slow. I don't know how I'd handle it all if I didn't know my way around--I think I saw most of the booths three times as I made multiple walkthroughs each day to see what was doing.

I've only begun telling the tale of this year's Con, so tune in to-morrow.