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.
Current Music: "Broadsword" - Jethro Tull
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.
Current Music: Ran OST - Toru Takemitsu
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.
Frozen phoney headphones clamp the question.
Fly wing crops crumble across the red plain.
Tentacle willow is fall's last bastion.
Colour planet desk ball bearing men swing.
Frosted stars slung along green rails glimmer.
Forest cables collaborate on string.
Weaponised eggs in black radars simmer.
Four brains ride a two aisle bus southward.
Poorly packed abacuses spill on us.
Volcano nymphs have drawn Susan Hayward.
Lava leaves the land with no car or bus.
Knights dig digital holes in the beach sand.
Nameless stones play blind Go in a fake land.
Current Music: "Your Horoscope for To-day" - "Weird Al" Yankovic
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.
Current Music: "Look On Down from the Bridge" - Mazzy Star
I dreamt last night I was driving in a city with roads paved over a lot of small hills, sort of like San Fransisco but much worse. I remember one hill felt like I was going straight down when I came to the other side. I can't remember much else about the dream except I came across a completely gutted Jack in the Box (the fast food restaurant).|
I haven't had much time or desk space for drawing lately. Here are some of my recent doodles, though--these first two are examples of an exercise I learned in art class where you draw something without ever lifting your pen from the paper:
I'd been trying to loosen myself up, I felt my drawings had been a bit stiff lately.
These next two are more typical of the things I idly sketch at school.
By the way, I do fully intend to publish The Casebook of Boschen and Nesuko #3 eventually. I can't say I have any idea when that'll be, though. Obviously I've been distracted. I did some colouring on pages I'd inked before all this began and it felt really good, I felt more like myself than I had in while. Hopefully I can get number three done by some time in January. Until then, you can still find the first two issues here.
Current Music: "Barcarolle" - Tom Waits
|» Journey to Someplace Far from the Centre|
I've decided I don't want to climb two miles underground in an unexplored cave system in the middle of nowhere. 2005's The Descent did a marvellous job of helping me reach this decision. It so successfully makes caving look so terrifying it doesn't even need to spend time really on the other things it spends time on. Which is not to say I think there's anything especially bad about the rest of the movie, just that it peaks around halfway through.
Oddly, whether or not anyone ends up dead becomes superfluous. We follow a group of beautiful young women as their leader, Juno (Natalie Mendoza), takes them without their knowledge to a new, unexplored cave system in the Appalachian Mountains. The other women think they're going to a thoroughly explored system which the youngest of them, Holly (Nora Jane Noone), dismisses as a tourist site.
Aside from pure thrill seeking, the adventure is also designed to pull Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) out of a gloom she's been in since her husband and five year old daughter died a year before. Most of the film is told from Sarah's point of view.
After Sarah's husband's brief appearance at the beginning the film, The Descent features for the remainder of its running time an entirely female cast. Which is rather refreshing. I don't think there's been anything like this since 1939's The Women (and, I assume, the remake of The Women) and it was basically a gimmick in that. There are hundreds of movies with entirely male casts but I've had a hard time finding any with an entirely female cast.
The film crew never visited an actual cave during the making of this film--everything was built in Pinewood Studios. The exteriors, meant to be the Appalachian Mountains, were all filmed in Scotland. I never perceived either of these facts as I watched the film which tells you something of how convincing these caves looked. A lot of it is the lighting which director Neil Marshall (who directed "Blackwater", arguably the best episode of Game of Thrones) allows in many shots to come exclusively from the flares, flashlights, and helmets on the women.
Though there are still plenty of shots with the typical backlighting I find so annoying.
There came a point, after they'd wormed their way single file through a space that looked thinner and longer than the average chimney, where I realised that it didn't matter if any of the women died in what was left of the film. It reached that plateau of tension.
But die some of them do, quite horribly, often at the hands of pale, blind, subterranean humanoids which, actually, may count as male cast members, though there was at least one female among them.
This was fun and not unwelcome. But it really wasn't necessary, especially since the creatures growl precisely like the Predator and I kept thinking of the Predator whenever I heard them. But more to the film's disadvantage is a silly soap opera plot about one of the women sleeping with another's husband. Whenever I was watching it play out between the characters I kept wondering why they, or we, the audience, were wasting our time with it. It really doesn't seem to serve any thematic purpose except in suggesting that the women were as capable of being as savage and amoral as the beasts. But dealing with the caves and the troglodytes seem like more than enough to establish these qualities in them, especially one woman who makes a horrible mistake. I think I was rooting for her more than the movie wanted me too--with just a little tweaking, it could've been a film noir.
Twitter Sonnet #570
Magnolia tarantulas snatch New Years.
The coal barrel blemished birthday blocked steam.
Coffee Harleys ran circles round kid beers.
Flying Marlon Brando masks dress girls green.
Baby bottle Star Destroyers burn wrists.
Calcium jewellery demotes the bling.
Origami fortune folds in your fists.
Lady Uvula taught Sir Tongue to sing.
Inverted turkey calls hang up on pork.
Decapitate the cranberry golem.
Glass webs reflect intense holiday fork.
Pinfeathers branch seven times and solemn.
The thin spork snapped in the bell casserole.
Squares'll tumble in circle capital.
|» Don't be a Turkey in the Corn, Have a Happy Thanksgiving!|
Is Fire Walk With Me the most Thanksgiving appropriate movie I can think of? I guess it kind of is. It's American, it's about family. A family who sits down to dinner together even if one of them apparently didn't wash her hands first.
Otherwise, unless Eli Roth makes his Thanksgiving trailer from Grindhouse into a real movie, I don't know if there's much else worth mentioning. Most of the titles that spring to mind are Bollywood movies for some reason.
Of course, I still have a big backlog of Halloween movies to watch. I suppose I could save them for next year but several of them look really good. I also want to start catching up on this year's new movies. If anyone wants to recommend one of those, please do, but bear in mind I might not like it.
I still remember years when I'd see at least ten new films every year without really trying. Seeing new movies has gotten less affordable and I've kind of fallen in love with pre-1960 cinema.
I guess Eat Drink Man Woman is a good Thanksgiving movie, despite being Chinese.
|» Attack of the Space Sex|
I kind of like 1985's Lifeforce. Sure, it's all kinds of stupid, what with NASA space shuttles going to Halley's Comet, a British Prime Minister hardly anyone bothers to notice turns into a zombie, and massive leaps in logic to make the plot move along. But as a homage to Dracula and for its earnest weirdness I have to love it a little.
Dan O'Bannon, who worked on the screenplay for Alien, also worked on the screenplay for Lifeforce and the beginning of the film feels like a slightly embarrassing, low rent version of Alien. An Earth spacecraft resembling the contemporary NASA space shuttle comes across an apparently derelict alien craft near Halley's Comet and discovers alien bodies, strange, organic architecture, and a dormant menace.
One of the first bright spots in this movie is that the dormant menace in this case is a beautiful naked woman who stays naked for most of the picture.
Oh, and two naked guys we never get a good look at. Bit of a double standard there. But on the other hand, this can be seen as the movie's homage to Dracula. You see, the key twist here isn't that Dracula comes from space but that Dracula's a woman. And instead of a gang of beautiful brides she has a couple beautiful husbands.
On the third hand, this dichotomy didn't stop us from getting plenty of fan service in Dracula's brides before. Perhaps O'Bannon and director Tobe Hooper saw it as necessary to have the woman naked in order to equal the overbearing sexuality of Dracula. "She . . . was the most overwhelmingly feminine presence I ever felt," says one man when asked how a small naked woman overpowered him. It's hard to resist smirking slightly. And yet, the idea behind Dracula was that his unfiltered, Eastern male sexuality overpowered sophisticated Victorian women.
Instead of Eastern Europe, the frightening unknown territory in 1985 was space. It would still be to-day if the public imagination was still there but I don't think it is. But that's another kettle of fish.
It's either the batlike aliens or the naked woman, I'm not sure which, that first signals that this will be more of a Fantasy movie than Alien, which was more Sci-Fi. Instead of problems and solutions involving corridors, air locks, computers, androids, and alien physiology, we have miraculous survivals, undead servents, hypnosis, and human souls ensnared by kisses. This may be why the film failed to connect with audiences--people expecting the rather credible feeling Alien instead got ghosts and goblins.
Other references to Dracula include a trip to an asylum and a prominently featured Dr. Seward surrogate played here by a pre-Star Trek Patrick Stewart. He does a good job in a small role though I'm really going to have to give most of my admiration here to the beautiful Mathilda May as the Space Girl. Yes, just because she's naked most of the movie. She doesn't have much of a chance to deliver a performance otherwise. She walks around smugly and kisses people.
The people she kisses turn into life-sucking zombies, who in turn create more zombies until there's an epidemic in London. And one is reminded of David Cronenberg's superior 1977 film Rabid which also featured a vampire woman who converted people into zombies. That vampire woman was played by porn star Marilyn Chambers but she gets a lot more character than the one played by Mathilda May. Chambers' vampire was portrayed as being herself a victim of the dehumanising sexualisation going about.
But, as I said, I kind of like Lifeforce. It has a sort of open hearted campiness to it.
|» Gods, Demons, and Punch Cards|
The first episode of the newest Monogatari arc looks promising. The conman who I didn't think was very interesting in Nisemonogatari has a cool running interior monologue in this first episode. I liked his opening lines, "People have an inherent desire to know the truth. That, or they want to believe that what they know is the truth."|
The previous arc wasn't bad though it mainly focused on lolicon fan service. I'm thoroughly amoral when it comes to art--I don't condone any abuse of real children but I have nothing against people who get off on drawings of children so long as they don't hurt anyone. But for myself, I don't think kids are very sexy. I find them rather sexless, actually.
But there was one episode of the arc I thought was really great--Shinobu, the vampire girl who lives in the teenage vampire male protagonist Araragi's shadow--tells Araragi a story about the first time she came to Japan. She's blonde and wore a vaguely fifteenth century European gown before she was turned into a child. We're never told, but I guess she's meant to be European.
The story she tells Araragi takes place when she was still in an adult body and it's told in a visually interesting way, in the form of mostly still images that scroll by onscreen while Shinobu narrates.
The arc is about how "oddities", supernatural beings, are devoured by a free-floating black nothingness if they don't behave like the sort of oddities they're meant to be. Shinobu, who at the time was known (somewhat incredibly) by the name Kiss-shot Acerola-orion Heart-under-blade, allowed some villagers to carry on under the impression she was a god and not a vampire, which drew the attention of the nothingness.
It's not a concept I find very interesting. Supernatural beings in fiction have power in the ways they reflect human feelings and bring those feelings to life. I don't know what it says when this reflection gets in trouble for not doing what I guess it was wired to do. It seems mostly like an enormous, unnecessary constraint placed on future stories.
But still. Nice visuals. The drawings look like they come from a natural meeting point between art nouveau and ancient Japanese art.
Twitter Sonnet #569
The black puddle membrane dreams of ether.
Copper seaweed drinks an olive fogbank.
Rusted can telephones toss in weather.
Tumbling dresses mutely brush the wash tank.
Slow motion maracas scratch the green felt.
Afterburn blue light darkens the light show.
Memory's veins clutch the ragged old pelt.
Golden clouds spark as the lion breathes slow.
Tail light trails bounce off the road planter walls.
Subcutaneous street lamps hold up bones.
Glowing pears hide in car dealership malls.
Arcane bikinis slip through island stones.
Recoiling internet springs sap screens.
Grey glass under pestle projects black beams.
|» Sky Long Legs|
When I visited my parents' house last week it had been raining the night before and as I drove into Santee it looked like the land and the sky belonged to two different days.
( Large pictures behind this cut.Collapse )
It's been my favourite kind of skies lately for photographs--big, dark, patchy clouds with lots of sun peeking through. I just haven't had time to go out looking for photos. One of these days I'll need to go the beach nearby. I have stale bread, maybe I can find some birds to give it to.
A couple nights ago I saw this daddy-long-legs enjoying a snack on my ceiling:
( Daddy-larger-legs behind the cut.Collapse )
That sure made the place feel like home.