This was enjoyed by all members of Chateau Steelypips; it was amusingly self-aware and meta in ways that don't detract from kidly enjoyment of the slapstick. (I mean, it opens with Batman in voice-over saying something like, "BLACK. All serious movies start with a black screen.")

I have not seen all of The LEGO Movie, but the bits I did, didn't impress me: oh look, it's the one cool girl, again, and also daddy issues, whee. This movie is still dude-heavy, with just one of the four central hero characters being female, but at least the Mayor is also a woman? And I love that Barbara Gordon is Commissioner here, with Jim Gordon retiring and very emphatically shuffled off-screen, also that she is firmly on the side of Batman working with the police, not as a vigilante.

Here are some extremely mild spoilers, because this is not the kind of movie where the plot is a surprise:

spoilers )

Trailers:

* Power Rangers: is "gritty" really the appropriate aesthetic?

* The Boss Baby: please no.

* Cars 3 teaser: [personal profile] mariness had said that it reduced a theater of kids to tears, so when I realized what it had to be I warned the kids, and they were fine.

* Some live-action thing that looked earnest and kind of too adult and that entirely failed to make an impression on me, even after I looked through the forthcoming list at IMDB.

Moana

Jan. 15th, 2017 12:28 pm
I promised links at the Moana panel that just ended, so I might as well write that up first. The panel writeup will generally assume that you've read these because I'm hoping to get to a 1pm panel.

Good overview at Smithsonian.com: references the Long Pause in Polynesian exploration of the Pacific, the controversy over Maui's character design, the omission of Maui's companion goddess Hina, the various coconut-people and general coconut-related issues, and some details that were accurate and welcome.

More in the NYT about Maui's size.

The Guardian on authenticity as marketing tool (see: Vanity Fair), especially in the context of the economic effect of tourism on Hawaii.

A Twitter thread on complicated feelings from @fangirlJeanne.

Mari Ness on, among other things, the unexamined weirdness about the environmental message ("it’s a message that diminishes environmental issues down to “magic,” something largely beyond human control, and suggests that only “magic” can restore the environment").

(A kind person on ToastieSlack provided me with some of these links.)

my general thoughts on the movie )

Notes about today's panel. I will say above the cut that I do not set out to be the Designated Harsher of Squee, but that I find these questions of representation important and if I'm going to be the only one making the case, well, so be it even if it's tiring and frustrating (it is).

Usual disclaimer: it's easier for me to remember what I said because, well, I'm the one who said it; I wasn't taking notes during so I generally am not positive which panelist said what, and so I usually leave those attributions out. If you want to claim credit, please do!

on the panel )

And now I have half an hour to get some lunch and go to Ursula Vernon's GOH talk.
If you're considering seeing the movie Arrival, and you HAVEN'T read the story it's based on (Ted Chiang's "Story of Your Life"), I would strongly recommend you keep it that way until after you've seen the movie. Because I've read the story and it definitely got in the way—I mean, I can't guarantee the movie would have attained cohesiveness if I hadn't, but it's getting very good reviews, so I think more likely, at least.

I'm glad it exists as an example of successful smaller-scale prestige SF, and I'm glad I saw it, but more to be up on the conversation than because it really worked for me.

SPOILERS for story and movie )

Ugh, I don't know, I thought it was blazing hot in the theater and Chad didn't, which is so exactly the reverse of our usual reactions that I may be having new and excitingly different symptoms in my cold, so I'm going to find some Tylenol and fall into bed. So this is far from useful but tomorrow is going to be ridiculously busy so I figured a few impressions now were better than nothing.

Oh, trailers, super-quick:

Allied: oh, look, Brad Pitt gets to angst over whether Marion Cotillard is secretly evil and whether he needs to kill her. Pass.

Nocturnal Animals: I have literally no idea what this is about.

Split: the trailer for M. Night Shyamalan's next movie is so stunningly offensive that I'm not linking to it or describing it.

Beauty and the Beast: why. Why does this exist.
The kids are away for the weekend and there's nothing really compelling in theaters, and we saw The Lobster on the on-demand list and remembered that it sounded interesting and got good reviews. It's an AU of our world where single people have 45 days to fall in love or they get turned into animals.

So one of those reviews was at the A.V. Club, which said,
Bizarre rules and rituals, deliberately stilted dialogue, flashes of grisly violence that threaten to tilt the humor straight into horror: All of this could only have come from the warped imagination of Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos, here making his singularly strange English-language debut.
And, yeah, basically that, except I found very little humor in it. Really not my kind of thing.

Context-free content notes: )

A note about the ending. Spoilers, naturally. )
I have edits on a brief that need to be dealt with, so, Hail, Caesar!, the latest Coen brothers movie, in one paragraph.

It's a movie about a 1950s movie studio executive dude, who runs around putting out fires while contemplating the direction of his life, that fairly regularly stops dead for set-pieces like Channing Tatum singing (I didn't know he could!) and tap-dancing, or Scarlett Johansson in one of those aquatic ballet thingies. I don't have strong feelings about Hollywood movies of this era, I'm aware that the studio system was awful, and I didn't much like the main character or agree with him (the second thing he does is slap a woman twice across the face. The first is go to confession; notably, he goes the next day and confesses only to slapping someone else.). So this was visually attractive and certainly not bland but not something that engaged me.

The trailers were fucking dire and, accordingly, are better left unmentioned. (Now in comments, because [personal profile] skygiants asked.)
Okay, I graduated high school in 1994, which means that that four-movie run of sheer musical brilliance in Disney animation (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King) is literally the soundtrack of my high school years, and even though I know a lot of those won't hold up well I still have really fond memories of listening to those soundtracks over and over and over, and thus:



Lea Salonga, the original voice of Jasmine, joins Lin-Manuel Miranda to sing "A Whole New World." Text cannot convey my delight.

(And LMM does quite well, at least as far as I can tell through headphones because the kids are sleeping.)

(Now I just have to finish Steven Universe so I can tell you all about my second-favorite song from it that has peak Disney Princess voice from Deedee Magno Hall as Pearl while subverting classic-Disney-style stories in at least three different ways.)
We saw this last Friday and I haven't had the time to write it up, but honestly I'm doing more so out of obligation/putting things on the record: it's very enjoyable and I've barely thought about it since.

Okay, that's not true, because I am an analytical type when it comes to my entertainment, but much less than some other things.

In short: very entertaining; successfully adapts the book in terms of streamlining and making emotions more present (Mark is a very peculiar brand of unreliable narrator, in that he says "I cried" and you don't really feel it on a gut level); surprisingly resists the urge to Hollywood it up until the end; could've done better on casting in terms of racial representation, but it could've been worse, too; whoever did the soundtrack was having a lot of fun.

As for the casting bits: Kapoor is Hindu in the book and is played by Chiwetel Ejiofor in the movie; he does have a line about his father being Hindu and his mother being Baptist in the movie, but when Irrfan Khan turned them down (h/t [personal profile] musesfool), well, it's nice they didn't go with a white guy, but it's not like there's only one Indian actor out there in the world, you know? With that casting, the only visibly Asian main characters were of East Asian ancestry. On a similar note, point for casting Rich Purnell (race not specified in book) with Donald Glover, and minus for not casting Mindy Park with an actress of Korean ancestry. (Point for making one of the guys in China a woman, as well.)

Finally, I don't know what Sean Bean and his non-American accent were doing in this movie. I am entirely willing to believe it was solely in the service of a particular meta joke that had the entire theater laughing uproariously, but I shamefully admit that I think it was worth it: tiny, tiny spoiler ).

And now, some spoilers about the adaptation and ending:

spoilers how for the movie ends, and the book too )

I dipped into the fandom tag on AO3 and was depressed to find it was full of Watney/Beck (a.k.a. the power of two vaguely conventionally attractive white dudes—seriously, they have minimal interaction in the movie, and if you must break up canonical m/f pairings, Martinez is his best friend in the book), so I will take any gen recs from you all, but I can enthusiastically recommend the Interstitial series by Lanna Michaels, which is a book-style continuation (so far two short-ish pieces) that's perfectly in character and just terrific. Also, for the brilliant crack, Lanna also did a fusion with Jonathan Strange. And now the kids' morning TV is done so I will save the trailers until later.

I have to start generating draft post link dumps as I post things to G+.

On movies:

You should be reading Wesley Morris, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his movie criticism, regardless of whether you want to see the movies he's writing about. Here he is about the truly appalling Ted 2:

For people of color, some aspect of friendship with white people involves an awareness that you could be dropped through a trapdoor of racism at any moment, by a slip of the tongue, or at a campus party, or in a legislative campaign. But it’s not always anticipated. You don’t expect the young white man who’s been seated alongside you in a house of worship to take your life because you’re black. Nor do you expect that a movie about an obscene teddy bear would invoke a sexual stereotype forced upon you the way Kunta Kinte was forced to become “Toby” [in Roots].

And as a palate cleanser, his review of Magic Mike XXL.

The AV Club's Random Roles series is almost always great. Here's Diana Riggs, who I've never even seen on screen and who I now want to be when I grow up.

I also love their Expert Witness series; here's a recent one on being a second-unit director on Hollywood blockbusters and one I somehow missed on from a camera operator on the Puppy Bowl.

On TV:

I don't watch Penny Dreadful but [livejournal.com profile] glvalentine's recaps of it are worthy of live-blogging on their own. The one about the most recent episode contains such gems as "Somehow opting not to just go full Gothic and have sex in front of the corpse" and "(He had so much trouble just facing his mother’s death that he made three more people. Then he had sex with at least one of them. The man is troubled.)"

I also don't watch Parks and Recreation (though I'm considering it), but I suspect fans of it would like this vid by [personal profile] such_heights.

On books:

This review of For Such a Time by Kate Breslin makes you wonder how on Earth anyone could possibly think that it was a good idea. (Content notes: Holocaust, dubcon.)

Palate cleanser: absolutely hilarious Imperial Radch AU by Rachel Swirsky.

Miscellany:

@AcademicsSay: The Story Behind a Social-Media Experiment, an interesting look at the growth of that Twitter account and what the academic behind it decided to do with the social capital it had.

Yakhchāls: "By 400 BCE, Persian engineers had mastered the technique of storing ice in the middle of summer in the desert."

A Mostly Accurate Norse God Family Tree, in comic form, with research notes. A.K.A., "TIL that Odin's grandparent was a cow."

The Poet Laureate of Fan Fiction, an interview with someone whose work was appropriated by Supernatural fandom.

Did my boyfriend just get married? on AskMetaFilter; search the poster's username for updates.

What This Cruel War Was Over, the meaning of the Confederate flag in the plain words of those who bore it.

Saw it last night. It's better than I expected but not as good as many people seem to find it.

I saw it described numerous places as a two-hour chase scene and that just sounded really tiring, especially combined with its over-the-top aesthetic. But it does know that viewers need quiet moments to catch their breath and the pacing works pretty well—though I misunderstood spoilers and thought the movie ended somewhat sooner than it actually did, so that was a little weird for me.

I've seen a lot of praise for the action scenes, particularly their use of actual vehicles. To me, something about the way the first vehicle sequence was shot didn't make it look any more or less "real" than good CGI—I think it may have been slowing down and speeding up things for effect? It wasn't very engaging, anyway, though not as distancing as the truly terrible opening sequence of Ultron. By the last big setpiece I was engaged, but that was probably as much emotional as anything. And, overall, the aesthetic was not particularly my thing (except for Imperator Furiosa, Charlize Theron's character, which (a) has her face and (b) is about the most simple thing in the movie).

Yes, it is about the toxicity of masculinity in a sexist world, and yes, there are lots of matter-of-factly disabled characters, including at least one and possibly two protagonists, depending on how you view things. (However, there is just one obviously non-white character.) But enough was done right about sexism and the female characters that three moments spotlighting male characters at the expense of female characters felt particularly jarring to me—not enough to completely overcome the overall effect, but enough to be distracting and unpleasant.

Finally for general comments, many of the logistics make zero sense, as people have noted. The majority of them I can accept as (a) the product of a deranged mind who doesn't care so much about efficiency as supporting a cult (the water distribution, human milk, gasoline wasting) or (b) the price of admission (Max's likely age). The one I can't actually handwave past is Furiosa having the position she does, actually; she's the only woman we see driving rigs or in a position of explicit authority over men, and I have no idea how she could've got there in this atmosphere. There'd be no movie otherwise, so, price of admission, but I care about her unlike Max, so I poke at the question. (Well, I care about Max, but only with Furiosa. I started getting into the action sequences when they started wordlessly working together, handing each other weapons and trading off shots; and as Chad tells me someone said, there is more chemistry in the bit with the shoulder rest than in the entirety of Ultron.)

Before I get into spoilers, the last thing I can say outside a cut is that that song "Matches" I mentioned last week is totally apropos to this movie. *puts on repeat*

Now, for spoilers. First a thing that is a moderate spoiler but is also an important content note/trigger warning that I haven't seen mentioned elsewhere (though I haven't been reading a ton of stuff about this movie):

moderate spoiler, content note/trigger warning )

And now for the rest of the spoilers.

spoilers )

New-to-me trailers:

Vacation. Oh geez, make it stop. (NSFW.)

San Andreas. I am so fucking over the expectation that I will find the deaths of millions entertaining. Especially when the trailer ends with a super-cynical effort to mitigate its own disaster porn by linking to a disaster preparedness website. Fuck. Off.

Crimson Peak. Nice to see a trailer for something I won't see because it looks good at what it does. (I don't do horror. Which is too bad because, Jessica Chastain's face.)

Terminator Genisys. I like that they're starting with Sarah already badass, but do we really need to keep doing this? I don't think so.

The Transporter Refueled. I entirely checked out during this, other than to note that Jason Statham apparently is too expensive for these now.
AV Club article on restoring The Apu Trilogy and its burned negatives. I assume those of you who do this sort of thing professionally know about this project already, but, way cool.

The Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell TV adaptation finally has release dates: Sunday, May 17 for BBC One and Saturday, June 13 for BBC America. (I am sure I will have many words to write about this! I'm not sure in what form or where yet, though.)

MCU & Ultron stuff (is that how we're referring to it? A:AoU looks like a werewolf howl): Max Gladstone has interesting thoughts, of which my favorite is the bit about character totems at the very end.

Did I really not link to [personal profile] skygiants's hilarious Ultron summary? Well, there you go.

I transcribed Natasha's speech in That Scene in a comment at Tor.com, which I will probably want to be able to find again (ugh).

Finally, All Trailers Are the Same.

Big Hero 6

Mar. 13th, 2015 09:27 pm
Okay, I spent most of the movie trying to explain the plot to the Pip, because it's really above the level of a three-year-old (SteelyKid loved it), so I cannot say I gave it 100% of my attention, but I am pretty sure it is absolutely adorable. Nothing surprising plot-wise but charming and nicely diverse (I don't know what I think about the San Francisco-Tokyo mashup, though), and I want a Baymax—both the plush ones you can buy and the movie one I can't.

(Note: does contain a significant character death, as is common for superhero origin stories.)
Chad desperately needed a break so we enlisted the babysitter and went to see this.

The nice thing about hearing about it from many different avenues is that my expectations were very low and it exceeded them. I honestly cannot say that it is a good movie, but it is less bad than I was expecting—see: very low expectations. I thought I was going to have to force myself to find things to like about it, and in fact I did not, I genuinely enjoyed myself. I think I'm going to go with "delightfully batshit" as my two-word summary.

The thing is, as many non-professional-reviewers have said, it is a straight-up unashamed id-tastic power fantasy for young women. And somewhat along the lines of what [personal profile] metaphortunate has been saying about women's fantasies WRT Fifty Shades, it's hard for me not to see the over-the-top-ness of it being devalued by a lot of critics because it's got a young woman at the center. Putting Fifty Shades aside, because that is a discussion I do not want to host for a number of reasons:

Jupiter Ascending is a secret-heir power fantasy, kitchen-sink variety, with: gorgeously expansive visuals; lots of chase and fight scenes; inexplicable scenery chewing; what I would swear is a Princess Bride homage; good momentum except for an ill-advised bureaucracy parody part-way through (it's only 2:07, which is downright speedy for a Wachowski sibs movie); non-white people who may only be in secondary roles but at least don't die for the white heroes (I wanna be Captain Tsing); and a critique of capitalism that is crashingly unsubtle but is also less insipid than Interstellar's big message. There are way, way worse recipes for a big-budget SFF movie. And, seriously: I did not have to force myself to enjoy it.

SPOILERS )

Trailers:

Ant-Man, which I continue to resent the existence of.

Chappie, which looks like a completely different movie in the new trailer. I'm still not sure it's a movie I want to see (that body language keeps driving me nuts, it's so obviously human-inna-suit), but the difference between that and the first trailer is kind of stunning.

Spy. I am allergic to the kind of comedy that Melissa McCarthy does, as I am to almost all movie comedy, frankly, but I hope she kicks ass in the movie and at the box office.

Run All Night, which looks like a positively loathsome specimen of the Liam Neeson-as-inexplicable-badass subgenre.

Ted 2. I somehow missed the existence of the first movie and I wish that happy state of affairs had continued, as I am fairly sure brain cells died in protest at watching that trailer.

Focus, which is a Will Smith con-man movie, and which I might love or loathe depending on how the tone, treatment of women, etc., shakes out.
I deliberately avoided finding out much about Interstellar because a while ago I suggested to Chad that we get a babysitter and go see it, as a much-needed break. Here's my verdict.

It's science fiction that's worth seeing if (a) you want to be up on the state of the genre; (b) you like Nolan's visuals and/or space; (c) you really really like sarcastic robots or Jessica Chastain's face, which are small but notable parts of the movie; or (d) you have a high tolerance for at least one plot hole you could drive a truck through and what I am too tired to find a tactful way to call something other than mystical twaddle. (Chad's term, not mine, though he liked it better than I did.) Also a lot of time, because holy fuck, it's long.

so, so many SPOILERS )

Trailers:

Selma (IMDB). I have literally no idea if this is a good trailer because almost the moment it started I was digging my nails into my hands to keep from bursting into tears out of all the present-day resonances. At least it's being made by Oprah Winfrey's company, i.e., not by white people.

The Gambler (IMDB). I have insufficient space to describe the ways in which this is repellent to me.

Chappie (IMDB). The robot's body language is too obviously a human in a suit, and it just doesn't look fresh, which is a disappointment from the District 9 director.

Furious 7 (IMDB). You should watch this trailer, because it has an objectively ridiculous but really fun heist in the first half and a shot that is a literal row of pretty brown people.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (IMDB). If you care about this, you've already seen it and my feelings about it.

Exodus: Gods and Kings (IMDB). WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG. (Also, please tell me that subtitle doesn't mean it's the start of a series.)

Mockingjay - Part 1 (IMDB). I love you, Katniss! Which makes me very afraid for this movie, but I'll see it anyway.

(I think that's all. I didn't take notes but I went forward through the IMDB's forthcoming pages looking for things I recognized. It was also a lot of trailers.)
Very sorry to hear that Tom Magliozzi, the one who laughed all the time on Car Talk, has died. I have actually three different pretty strong associations with Car Talk, which is impressive considering that I've never done anything more with a car than add windshield wiper fluid. First, the two years in New Haven when Chad was doing a post-doc and I was in law school; NPR was his alarm clock station and whichever morning Car Talk was on, was timed perfectly for lazy weekend waking-up. (Especially as they've moved into re-runs, the show's occasional but very tired sexism has become more grating to me, so it's weird to have my principal association be soft-focus romantic contentment.) Second, around about SteelyKid's birth I went back to listening to the show, this time as a podcast, and blitzed my way through quite the backlog up in the nursery with her (this association is less strong because I was so out of it during that time). And third, continuing up to the present day, I start my week with Click and Clack: the podcast is released over the weekend, and I default to listening to it on Monday's commute to and from work. In fact, I did that today, but I came home early (more on that in a moment) and had already finished it when I heard the news.

I have spent literally hundreds of hours listening to these guys. I knew what I was hearing was exaggerated personas, but I still enjoyed their company. And hey, their show taught me enough that I knew to take my car in for service for what turned out to be a bad wheel bearing, before the wheel actually fell off: so it was useful too.

The reason I was coming home early is SteelyKid had a tooth out today (she's fine) and Chad had class. But irresponsible though it would have been, I would have been not-so-secretly happy to stay home with her the whole day, because we realized a little bit ago this was the perfect opportunity to show her The Princess Bride for the first time—it's too scary for the Pip—and it was done by the time I got home. I asked her about it after the bleeding stopped and her mood improved (both of which happened at the same time, almost like flipping a switch; it was incredibly bizarre though of course welcome), and we agreed that Wesley's head flopping around on the castle wall was very funny, as was when the Prince got tied up; she also liked Fezzik and the horses, and "the ninja" (the Man in Black) fighting, but thought the Machine was too loud, especially when it went to 50. Chad tells me that Fred Savage's character was a note-perfect stand-in for her, not that this was a surprise; and that she spotted the Man in Black as a good guy right away, which is interesting. I'm sorry I didn't get to see her face—I'm calling dibs on showing it to the Pip now, though we'll have to do it solo so SteelyKid doesn't spoil it all for him—but now I'm flashing back to countless weekends watching it on UHF in my childhood, and feeling warm and fuzzy that I've passed along something so great to her. (Also feeling like a rewatch is due; I know what I'm putting on during stitching the next couple of sessions.)
Is reading criticisms of the new X-Men movie (which I have just about decided not to see) while the Pip watches the Backyardigans episode where Tyrone, as a tour guide, admonishes a bunch of folks in costumes for not being useful: "You're superheroes, for goodness' sake!"

And now Chad is up and I go back to bed, as is our weekend morning tradition.
DVR'ed, thanks to the AV Club noting it was running on CW a few weeks ago. This is the low-budget British alien invasion flick from a couple years ago that got a lot of critical buzz.

Good stuff, nothing stunningly ground-breaking but makes excellent use of a limited budget (see: the creature design) and a good cast. The setting is also very specific, which contributes significantly to its success. Roger Ebert's review is good; I don't know if the theatrical version is more horror-like, I have a pretty low tolerance for such things and was okay with what we saw. (TV has the advantage of subtitles. Also, I almost wish they'd bleep expletives rather than just mute them, because it makes it more obvious that something is missing.)

Now I almost want to re-read Broken Homes, which is also about council estates in South London (and has a lot about architecture and history).

Gravity

Oct. 22nd, 2013 10:19 pm
The critical consensus seems to be fairly well-defined regarding Gravity: visually stunning (IMAX 3D or nothing), lousy dialogue, Sandra Bullock isn't the best choice to carry so much of the movie.

Perhaps so much emphasis on the last two warped my expectations, but I didn't think it was that bad? Yes, there is a particularly nonsensical bit of dialogue where Clooney's character draws out Bullock's character's backstory, which he unquestionably should have known beforehand (and if he had, that particular point was emphatically not the time to bring it up). But I thought Bullock was fine, she kept me right there with her in the story.

(There's a point . . . maybe 1/2 to 2/3 of the way through? . . . where the movie skates on the edge of disaster. To me, it does recover, but just by the skin of its teeth. That is wholly the script's responsibility, though.)

Yes, the visuals are stunning. (This article about the special effects is annoyingly split up over several pages, but it does bring together information from a bunch of different sources.) I did see it in IMAX 3D and it did not make me sick (unlike, say, the last two of the Matt Damon Bourne movies), and most of the time it struck me as fairly unobtrusive, though the occasional coming-right-toward-you! moments made me roll my eyes a bit. I am vastly unlikely to see anything else in 3D, though, since the trailer for this December's Hobbit was hideously artificial looking.

Two last thoughts: Ed Harris is the voice of Mission Control. Why don't I have Apollo 13 on disc, and more importantly, why isn't the book Apollo 13 available electronically? And now I have even more feelings about visiting one of the space shuttles last month. *sniff*

Trailers:

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit: I have read the early Jack Ryan books. This feels nothing whatsoever like them. (Say what you will about what Ryan turned into, when he started he wasn't young and he wasn't fundamentally an action hero or a spy—he has his action hero moments, but at base he's an analyst.) Also, even though I have never seen a movie with Chris Pine, I still instinctively want to punch his face every time I see it.

47 Ronin: Really? Keanu Reeves is the destined hero of a fantasy-Asia because he's a half-breed? REALLY?

Thor: The Dark World: I will require spoilers assuring me that none of the women are fridged before I attempt to make time to see it.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: I had this down in my notes as "Stiller midlife crisis (magic realism?)", before the title reveal. Then I looked up summaries of the story, and I am fairly sure that the movie has comprehensively failed to understand it.

Ender's Game: even if I didn't want to NOT support Orson Scott Card, this entirely fails to give me a Battle School vibe, which is the thing that makes the book interesting.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: a.k.a., LotR: Some More Prequel-ish Stuff via Peter Jackson's Id.

1.

Back when the news that Ben Affleck was going to play Batman broke, I said elsewhere,

The thing is, I don't really care about casting for Batman because Batman is fundamentally a boring character. All he is, is a vehicle for manpain and an opportunity for more interesting people to aggregate around him. (Usually people who deserve a better protagonist.)

Superman's boring too. So there.

*drops mic, walks offstage*

And I stand by that. But [livejournal.com profile] glvalentine's Strange Horizons column Ten Worlds About Ben Affleck's Batman is still awesome with awesomesauce on top. (Why aren't we in world #5?)

2.

Know anyone starting law school or thinking about it? Recommend to them A Student's Guide to Law School, freshly-published and written by a co-worker and one of the smarter people and better attorneys I know (and I know a lot of smart people and good attorneys).

3-4.

A writer at the A.V. Club is dismayed to revisit the first Xanth book (because it may not be obvious if you're not familiar with Piers Anthony's work: trigger warning for discussions of pedophilia):

Here’s how this article was supposed to go down: As a kid, I lived in Florida. Back then I loved the books of Piers Anthony . . . . For this installment of Memory Wipe, I was going to reread A Spell For Chameleon . . . . Then, in poignant prose, I would revisit the magic of my own Floridian childhood, even though that childhood was actually pretty fucked up, but maybe not quite as fucked up as it seemed at the time. The big takeaway: Thanks, Piers Anthony, for the swell book, not mention giving me a tidy epiphany about how fantasy, geography, and nostalgia overlap in the hazy mists of reminiscence.

Instead, this happened: I reread A Spell For Chameleon, and during those excruciating hours all I could think about was what a sad, misogynistic piece of shit it is.

It seems like realizing the awfulness of Piers Anthony is a rite of passage among people who read SFF when young, so I offer it to you all for the sympathetic wince/cathartic rant factor.

Also because of this:

Ultimately, Anthony is the worst kind of misogynist: one who defends his offensive views by saying, in essence, how could he possibly hate women if he’s drooling over them all the time?

I'm not convinced that that's the "worst" kind, but it is a particularly infuriating kind, and it strikes me as relevant to sexual harassment. And that is on my mind because of recent revelations of sexual harassment by Bora Zivkovic, a very prominent man in the science blogging community (context). The most recent report (with links back to others) is by Kathleen Raven. Among other things, this prompted a massive Twitter conversation of people sharing personal tales of self-doubt caused by even much milder forms of harassment (on Storify, or try #ripplesofdoubt if you hate Storify for long things the way I do). Difficult stuff, but worth reading if consistent with your well-being.

(To be clear: Bora is not, at present, using this defense, though I am morally certain that someone somewhere has offered it on his behalf. Reading these links in the same day merely made an association that seemed a useful transition.)

5.

Fallen London players, follow this link for a tiny gift from a Rubbery Man (one not generally available since 2010, can you believe this game has been around that long?), and check out your Lodgings for some seasonal content.

6.

I think about unfollowing Elementary's writers on Twitter every Thursday, when they live-tweet the show that I don't have time to watch. But it doesn't seem worth the effort, and they do things like last week's "feud" with the writers of Sleepy Hollow, which was adorable and hilarious. And then this afternoon they started in with the knock-knock jokes and I gave up and followed @sleepywriters too just so I didn't miss anything . . .

(I have not seen Sleepy Hollow; I appreciate the comparisons everyone's making between it and Elementary regarding the dynamics of the lead pairs, but I've given up trying to watch anything but Elementary and Face Off, and I'm also a little dubious about the mythological elements that [livejournal.com profile] abigail_n points out. As for SHIELD and Korra, I'm letting those scroll off the DVR, and if someone tells me they get to be worth watching, I will pick them up from that point.)

7.

A Dark Room is a really neat minimalist web game about discovery and exploration. I hesitate to say too much about it because of those themes, but it's not too long or demanding and has a definite end, and the minimalism works very well for it. (You should run it in a browser tab that can stay open while you're away from your computer.)

ETA: now some spoilers in comments.

ETA 2013-08: apparently there are some content differences in the iOS app which sound very much not my thing.

8.

‘12 Years a Slave,’ ‘Mother of George,’ and the aesthetic politics of filming black skin, a fascinating article at the Washington Post about the racism embedded in the very "technology and grammar of cinema and photography."

While we were on vacation in Baltimore, we went to see The World's End, the pub crawl/not-so-stealth SF movie by the team who did Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. The trailer made this look entirely not my thing—dudes going back to their hometown to attempt to finish an epic pub crawl of their lamented youth, with lots of fight scenes, whatever—but I read spoilers because that's a thing I do, and as I thought from those, I did end up liking it.

I don't think it gives away too much to say that the rosy, nostalgia-laden description of the first pub crawl at the opening of the movie . . . is revealed to be given by one of the now-middle-aged participants in a group therapy session, Gary. The movie really does kind of a remarkable job in communicating that, actually, it is sad that Gary regards that never-finished pub crawl as the lost opportunity of his life, the high point to which he wishes to return, and that he is not in fact a very healthy person. (In a sympathetic way, not a point-and-laugh, meanspirited way.)

The fight scenes were still kind of long, and its portrayal of female characters is not very good, but it is funny and it has nice details, like the pub names and what happens in each. (If you like beer, though, be prepared to come out with a terrible thirst.)

And now, SPOILERS.

SPOILERS )

Trailers: dire. We had:

  • A pair of movies about white boys doing bad things, with women solely as sexually-alluring decoration (The Wolf of Wall Street and American Hustle);
  • Tired humiliation comedy with a women-as-property premise (Ride-Along);
  • A Jackass movie, really, these are still being made?! (Bad Grandpa);
  • And a horror movie, during which I got distracted trying to decide if the unsafe crib arrangement shown was a hint it was in the past, a hint about the parents, or just the filmmakers choosing the expected visual over demonstrating proper safety (probably the latter) (Insidious 2).

    (For those unfamiliar with current practice: no pillows, blankets, stuffed animals, padding, etc. in cribs of infants, just a baby and a fitted sheet. Also, you put them down on their backs until they're old enough to roll over on their own.)

So, I suspect that's my last movie until either Catching Fire or the next Hobbit installment, whichever we can get to first.

And now, I continue my pop-culture brain dump with a movie that hardly anyone I know saw (though it did unexpectedly well at the box office) and that isn't in theaters any more, because I believe in putting these things on the record: Now You See Me, the magic-show-as-heist flick with Mark Ruffalo, Michael Caine, and Morgan Freeman.

It opens with four individuals being observed by a mysterious figure in a hoodie (not a mysterious hooded figure; that's Welcome to Night Vale, which is next in my queue, I think). One is Woody Harrelson, using hypnosis to be a blackmailing asshole. One is the guy from The Social Network (Jesse Eisenberg), doing large-scale card tricks and being kind of a dick. One is a woman (Isla Fisher) doing a straight-up escape trick and being fierce. And one is some young guy (Dave Franco) picking pockets. They're all brought together for some mysterious plan . . . and then a year later, are running a magic show in Las Vegas with Michael Caine as their backer. Mark Ruffalo is the FBI agent assigned to investigate the aftermath of the show; Morgan Freeman is a professional debunker of magic tricks.

The thing about caper movies is that they need two things. On the mechanics side, they need both a satisfyingly non-obvious trick and a satisfyingly fair reveal. And on the story side, they need a reasonably just, by the standards of the genre, conclusion.

Now You See Me does well with the first at the beginning, but gets pretty wobbly in this regard thereafter. (I should never think "that's stupid" during an explanation; ideally I should never think it, but at least have it wait until the next day or even just the drive home.) As for the second . . .

SPOILERS. )

Because this was back at the start of June, my partial notes on the trailers are all outdated except one, which is:

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones: there is no justice in the world.

February 2017

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