Shelter-in-Place: Day 138

I was pretty much already awake when my alarm went off. I felt vaguely like staying in bed for a bit, but I also knew I was awake, so I went ahead and got up. I did my full morning routine and sat down at my computer at 7am, thinking I would get some writing done, but so far I’ve just been scrolling Twitter and feeling a little…off. Not sick, but just mentally distant. Like I’ve partially slipped into another dimension, but not completely, so I’m not here but I’m not there either.

This week has been mostly really good, starting with the weekend. I wrote all day Saturday and Sunday and got several stories to a new and fun place. Monday and Tuesday were of course work days, but work was interesting and I accomplished things, and I also did some writing in the mornings and at lunch. In the evenings I relaxed and enjoyed myself. Last night Sean and I watched the extended cut of Ghostbusters (2016) and wow, they should not have edited it down for the theatrical release. It was perfect at its original length. The cameos felt more natural, the story was more cohesive, and overall it was way funnier. I thought it was pretty funny before, but damn.

Yesterday there was some “drama” in my main fandom space, and it bothered me enough to say something. Usually I just try to ignore stuff like that, because it’s almost always driven by personal preferences that aren’t going to change anyway, but I was seeing a lot of piling-on that had nothing to do with the original topic and it was making me mad. I felt that an entire swath of people were being generalized and demonized because they use a certain fandom term. I wrote and deleted-without-posting a snarky comment, and then I wrote something a bit longer and more thoughtful and less douchey.

Whenever stuff like this happens I feel antsy, like I’m just waiting for something terrible, but I think maybe now that it’s the next day it has died down? Here’s hoping.

Some people thrive on this “drama”, but I absolutely hate it. It’s so pointless, creating in-groups based on nothing but personal preference. It’s just an excuse to be hateful to others. I want to explore a bunch of ideas; I don’t want to imply to anyone that there must be a consensus about any idea about entertainment. Yes, it feels very good when someone likes or agrees with your ideas. But that doesn’t mean you and that someone are “right” or that “defending” those ideas by deriding others is a good thing.

Anyway, that’s probably why I’m in this strange sort of fugue this morning. I’m sure my brain will function just fine for work—the fact that I was thinking about and looking forward to work tasks when I woke up is promising—but I hope it will get back to a creative writing state today too. I’ve been enjoying my streak!

Fifty Shades of Controversy

NSFW. Trigger warnings: abuse, rape.

It was intriguing to watch the various reactions to Fifty Shades of Grey play out online as the movie’s release date approached. I’ve seen many discussions breaking down how the story is a grossly inaccurate portrayal of BDSM. People are worried that 1) this will reflect poorly on people who engage in BDSM safely and with proper consent; and 2) people will hurt themselves and others. In my opinion, these are very valid concerns. On the other hand, I’ve also seen it pointed out that fantasy is just that: fantasy. Just because someone reads or watches a story about something doesn’t mean they want to try that something in real life. If that was the case, we would have a lot more serial killers. I think this viewpoint has merit as well.

Portrayals of BDSM in popular culture have been strange. I obviously have not consumed all media, and I often feel that my pop culture knowledge is inadequate, so keep that in mind…but Fifty Shades is the only high-profile example I can think of where the main characters engage in what is supposed to be BDSM. I can’t remember there being a mass-market motion picture advertised all over the place like this. And usually when I see BDSM in a TV show—often a police procedural or medical drama—it is engaged in by a suspect, victim, or patient. The main characters may raise their eyebrows, or even discuss how it’s perfectly fine, but they never seem to go so far as to dabble themselves.

While looking for examples of portrayals of BDSM in media, I read through this Wikipedia page, and it gives me the impression that two different things are being treated as if they are the same, when they obviously aren’t. The first thing is abuse: domination and punishment of someone who has not consented. The second thing is play in which all parties have agreed to certain rules and situations and which will stop at any time if any of the participants wishes it to.

I recently read a series of stories in which the characters engaged in BDSM. One of the characters wrote storylines that they all then acted out. In one ongoing storyline, the submissive characters were literal sex slaves of the dominant character. There was no consent involved whatsoever. But the characters who were acting out the storylines were all equals, and any of them could stop the play at any time. In other words, one of the characters pretended to own sex slaves, and two of the characters pretended to be sex slaves, but they were never actually those things. The stories spent a lot of time on after-care, as the dominant (or dominants, depending on the story) pampered the submissive(s) afterwards.

This meta-portrayal of BDSM really drove home to me the idea of fantasy. A person might, for example, have a rape fantasy. They might simply imagine it. They might read stories or watch pornography about it. They might go so far as to ask a partner to act out a situation with them. But they don’t actually want to rape someone, or to be raped.

In the case of Fifty Shades of Grey, there is no meta level. The person having the fantasy is the person reading or watching. The fantasy is the book or movie.

I imagine there will be varying levels of response to Fifty Shades of Grey. Some people will keep the fantasy in their heads for their own private amusement. Others might decide they want to try acting it out. In the latter case, I think it’s good that so much has been discussed about the book and film—people who are interested in BDSM have plenty of resources to draw upon.

Ultimately, I think it’s important to give people as much information as possible, and then let them make their own decisions. It’s dangerous to look at any work of art as a guideline for how to live. Art is an expression of emotion and thought and possibility. It’s a way to explore ideas. It asks questions; it doesn’t (and shouldn’t) provide answers. Answers are up to the person experiencing the art.

I’m more interested in making sure people have the tools they need to critically evaluate the world around them than I am in trying to “protect” people by banning certain stories or types of story.

I do hope people take advantage of all the information that’s out there. I hope all the discussion of Christian Grey as an abuser will help people recognize abusive relationships and avoid being abused. And I hope that as the film raises the profile of BDSM, people research it instead of making snap judgments. I really hope people stay smart and take care of themselves.

Beyond the realm of fantasy vs. reality, there is the fact that individual works don’t exist in a vacuum. The stories we surround ourselves with do have an impact on our perceptions. Men have been told through culture, pop and otherwise, that they are entitled to women’s bodies; women have been told that they are worthless without a man’s approval. These are issues that go well beyond one work, but Fifty Shades certainly does nothing to change the situation.

I’m nervous about the movie, honestly; this author says that while the book is easily understood as fantasy, the movie plays out just a little too real. I don’t want to see that. I’m actually pretty sensitive about abuse. I won’t be seeing the movie.

I don’t plan on ever reading Fifty Shades of Grey, either. Beyond my ambivalence about the story’s potential impacts, there’s the simple fact that I’m kind of picky about writing. I tend to get tripped up by wildly improper punctuation, poor word choice, bad sentence structure, and a lack of smooth narrative flow. The story has to be really good for me to get past that sort of thing. I enjoy rule-breaking when it is intentional, but not when it obviously isn’t. Based on the excerpts I’ve seen, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t force my way through the book. (I can’t read Dan Brown novels for the same reason. Hell, I had trouble with the last few Harry Potter books because of all the ellipses.)


Effective feminist criticism

Often when people attempt a feminist critique of a story, they’ll focus on characteristics of the women in the story. For example, Pacific Rim‘s Mako Mori was criticized for not having much of a speaking role. This sort of criticism does no favors to feminism and actually perpetuates one of the worst aspects of patriarchy: the determination of who a woman is “supposed to be” by someone who isn’t that woman.

Just as we reject that all women must be submissive, passive, good with children, helpful to a fault, etc., we must also reject that all women must be anything. Some women are loudmouths. Some women are quiet. Some women are great with kids. Some women hate kids. Some women want to be lawyers. Some women want to be designers. Some women find nothing as fulfilling as being a homemaker. And men are the same. People have different beliefs, backgrounds, interests, and skills, and they make different decisions.

An effective feminist critique of a text, then, is not one that judges how “badass” or outspoken a female character is. Instead, it focuses on how the film portrays her life. Does she make choices? Are her choices realistically effective? She doesn’t have to be right or successful all the time. She does have to receive the same story treatment as a male character. Does she serve a purpose in the plot beyond furthering a male character’s story? Does she have her own story? Does her story make a difference in the world of the text? Is she essential, or could she be lifted right out? These are the questions to ask, not whether a female character fits some sort of template for the “modern woman”.

We are people, we are different, and we deserve to be portrayed in myriad ways. There is no catch-all character who can speak for “womankind”.

More on Man of Steel

I am a huge fan of Man of Steel in that it is a flawlessly executed movie. However, there are some thematic elements that I found problematic, and I wanted to go into those.

Put bluntly, the film is fundamentalist. It’s anti-science, anti-progress, and deeply suspicious.

Where in other incarnations of the Superman myth, Krypton fell due to the ills of its society despite its technological achievements, in Man of Steel these technological achievements are implied to be the reason for the societal ills.

Kryptonians developed the technology to reproduce without requiring a woman to endure carrying and birthing a child. Then they went beyond this level to the point of specifically designing each person.

Jor and Lara don’t like chance being taken out of the genetic equation, so they decide to have a child naturally, including 1) not manipulating genes in any way and 2) having Lara undergo pregnancy and labor. Why they didn’t just do 1 and spare Lara 2 isn’t addressed. The issue is treated as black and white: either you choose genetic manipulation/science, or you choose the natural way/tradition.

When you compare and contrast Kal and Zod in this context, the implication is that a large reason why Kal is “good” and Zod is “evil” is because Kal was born naturally. You even see this in Kal’s upbringing as Clark. He seems to be innately good; he doesn’t appear to have learned his goodness from the Kents. The question is never “Should I be good?” but “How should I express my goodness?” Meanwhile, Zod even comes out and says that he is acting as he was designed to act, that he can’t fight his own nature. Zod can’t be redeemed; he must be killed to be stopped.

This, of course, makes the more general, dangerous implication that some people are born “good” and others are born “bad” and that it’s impossible for a person to change.

Man of Steel does some unfortunate things: it treats complex issues as black and white; it rejects progress in favor of tradition; and it paints anyone who diverges from what’s “natural” as irredeemably “bad”. In this way, I’m sure the film is appealing to people who’d prefer a homogenous society. To someone like me who favors diversity, change, and the benefit of the doubt, though, it’s pretty troubling.

Review: Man of Steel

Kal and LoisMan of Steel is one of the best films I have ever seen.

It took me awhile to get around to seeing it. Part of the delay came simply from how busy I’ve been lately, what with travel to Augusta and Rhode Island and getting a new job. Part of it may have been superhero movie fatigue. Sean has also been reluctant to see the movie, likely due to the mixed reviews it’s getting. I finally ended up seeing the movie by myself yesterday afternoon, and I’m so glad I didn’t wait any longer.

I don’t pretend to have extensive Superman comic knowledge, but I do have general Superman origin knowledge. I have also seen all the other Superman movies, Lois & Clark, Smallville, and the various animated series featuring Superman in the Paul Dini DC Animated Universe. Bear this in mind when reading my review.

I didn’t seek out reviews or spoilers beforehand, but with the sheer number of conversations about the movie taking place around me, online and off, there was one spoiler I didn’t manage to avoid. The subject of that spoiler ended up being the only issue I had with the movie. I’ll get to that below.

After seeing all the trailers, I wondered how the Man of Steel could possibly cover so much ground. And indeed, the story is dense…but it is expertly woven, never dragging. No story element is introduced without being addressed. Everything in the movie exists for a purpose. Callbacks abound, but they’re hardly trite. It all fits tightly together in a strong, cohesive whole.

There is so much depth to the story, so much that isn’t explained–but enough is explained that you never feel lost. This is the hallmark of good storytelling: showing only what needs to be shown and implying the rest. The audience doesn’t need to know all the details; they just need to know the details exist, that it is truly a robust world. On this point Man of Steel delivers in spades.

(This is where spoilers begin, so if you haven’t seen Man of Steel and want to be surprised by this new take on Superman, you probably want to stop reading.)

Kal-El’s is the first natural birth in centuries, a fascinating twist on the Superman legend. The conflict that this creates between destiny and desire is ultimately played out between Zod and Kal, between Krypton and Earth. Zod is the embodiment of the warrior he was designed to be; Kal has been allowed and encouraged by both sets of parents to find his own path. Krypton, as Jor-El explains, has lost something vital: chance. The younger Earth still has that chance, and with Kal’s help may be able to find a better fate than Krypton’s. This theme is introduced in the very beginning and executed perfectly throughout the movie.

The resolution of this conflict is Kal-El’s decision to help Earth–his realization that Krypton cannot be saved. The metaphor for this is Kal-El breaking Zod’s neck, killing him.

This is the plot point that was spoiled for me; I’d heard somewhere someone saying that Superman killing Zod doesn’t feel right, that Superman doesn’t kill. I wondered if this moment would be given the standard Western hero cop-out treatment, in which the villain dies due to the fight with the hero but there is no way the hero could save him. This trope has been used to absolve many a hero of guilt. He/she feels guilty, but “There’s nothing you could have done.”

Things are not so clear-cut in this case. Kal screams at Zod to stop, and Zod shouts, “Never!” This is not simply a conversation about what Zod is doing at the time. If Kal had wanted to stop Zod from killing people with his heat vision in that particular moment, he could have blasted off into the sky with Zod, forcing him to aim his eyes elsewhere. But this is a conversation with deeper implications. It is telling us, and Kal, that Zod is not going to stop trying to destroy humanity. He will keep killing people.

At this point we don’t know about Kryptonite. With the phantom drives gone, there’s no means of sending Zod away. We know he could be contained in an environment that replicates that of Krypton, but how to stop him until one is developed and he can be contained there? How to ensure that he never escapes?

And so Kal kills Zod.

This is the point that sticks with me, though perhaps not as strongly as if I’d been unprepared for it. The message seems to be that sometimes there is no choice but to kill. It’s not a message I really like seeing out of a Superman movie.

It’s not a message Kal likes either. His howl of frustration, of anger at himself and the situation, lets us know just how strongly he did not want to kill. I think perhaps this moment salvages him as Superman. He’s not a grim general, sacrificing anything and everything to achieve his goals. He’s not Zod, at least not yet. And as long as he has this reaction, he won’t be.

That said, I hope future movies will feature Superman’s no-killing rule rather than its exception.

One cardinal Superman rule that I was delighted to see broken was the Lois rule. Man of Steel‘s Lois, brilliantly portrayed by Amy Adams, is everything Lois Lane should be: smart, brave, dedicated. It only makes sense that she uncovers before anyone else not only that there is an alien among us, but who he is and where he’s been hiding. There are strong echoes of Smallville in Lois’ dogged pursuit of super-saves that ultimately leads her to the Kent farm and Jonathan’s grave. And then there is her willingness to give up the story for the sake of humanity itself. I’d say Lois is my favorite part of the movie, but honestly, the movie is amazing on so many levels.

The score is fantastic. I was not sorry to see John Williams’ classic theme go. Williams’ score is wonderful, no doubt, but it comes with so much baggage. I was excited to hear a new take, and Hans Zimmer does not disappoint. More than that, he captures every mood of the movie, from Clark’s fears and longing to Kal’s determination and strength. The main theme builds, laying a foundation that echoes the love inherent in Kal’s birth and Clark’s adoption and then rising into the new power that emerges from both: Superman, product of two worlds, last bastion of one and savior of the other, surging forth to forge a better destiny.

The casting is also spot-on. As I’ve already mentioned, Amy Adams is brilliant as Lois. And Henry Cavill is Clark, is Kal, is Superman. There is so much in his performance that feels…right. And the two of them together are fabulous, especially in the very last scene, which made me grin from ear to ear. “Welcome to the Planet,” indeed!

As far as I’m concerned, get Lois and Clark right and you’ve won me over, but the rest of the cast are perfect as well. Zod and Faora. Perry. Dr. Hamilton. Col. Hardy. I absolutely loved Russell Crowe as Jor-El and Kevin Costner as Jonathan. Diane Lane’s Martha is a new spin on the character that feels familiar and true. She’s not into abstract art like Lois & Clark‘s Martha or a savvy businesswoman like Smallville‘s. She’s a strong Midwestern woman. “It’s just stuff, Clark.” Meanwhile, Ayelet Zurer’s Lara is a woman who chose to go through the pain of natural childbirth in the hopes of changing the future of her race, who moves with grace and dignity yet strength and purpose. With the exception of Lois, the women of the Superman mythos have traditionally been plot facilitators more than anything else. Here, they shine and even occasionally eclipse that role (though not nearly as much as the women of Smallville did).

The visual effects are extraordinary. For the first time, I truly felt what it would be like to have a Superman on Earth. The destruction in Smallville, Metropolis, and beyond was unflinchingly rendered. People very obviously died. And Superman’s powers themselves were so realistic. The ground breaks beneath him; he starts floating instinctively in response. Trying to fly forward out of his enemy’s reach, he’s caught by the cape, leaving him stuck briefly in midair before the Kryptonian soldier flings him backward. Even little things like having young Clark scrunch a fence post…it all makes Superman real.

There are other touches that I was thrilled to see as a Superman fan: Kal, weary, reaching out toward the light of the sun. LexCorp trucks. The Smallville High letterman jackets.

Krypton doesn’t look the way I expected it to, but rather than disappointed, I was intrigued. There are more curved lines and warm colors. Jor-El has a large flying creature for a pet. There’s an organic feel to the technology that speaks to the Kryptonians’ mastery of genetic manipulation. Metropolis is perfect; as I watched the fight range around the sprawling city I imagined that someone, somewhere had designed the whole place, and how neat it would be to look at a map.

Everything–the story, the casting, the music, the effects–comes together in a film that is expertly crafted and beautifully rendered. I was mesmerized from start to finish. I knew that the film was extraordinary almost from the very beginning, and that impression never wavered as I watched, nor faded afterward.

Man of Steel is our generation’s Superman.

Why Flight of the Navigator is awesome

I watched Flight of the Navigator, a 1986 Disney feature film about a boy abducted by aliens and returned home eight years later, about fifty billion times as a kid. I saw it on TV as an adult a few years ago, and a recent Shortpacked! strip inspired me to watch it again. Never does the awesomeness fade.

The movie plays on the fact that it’s about aliens by teasing you several times with what seem to be straightforward alien encounters, but then turn out to be normal things like a silver frisbee being thrown at a dog competition, a blimp passing overhead, and even a silver water tower during the part of the movie when you just know that this time, the aliens are coming! When the aliens actually do come, you don’t even see it; our protagonist passes out, then wakes up, and the abduction is over.

This is brilliant because it builds suspense–when will we see the spaceship?–and also allows the you to experience events alongside the protagonist. David doesn’t remember being abducted, so you live through that discovery with him. And it’s completely realistic. David doesn’t immediately adjust to being dropped eight years into the future. He’s lost, scared, and confused. When he finds his house with a different family in it, he completely shuts down.

(I’ve got to tell you, that child’s acting is amazing. He far outshines some of the adult actors in bit parts, like the NASA security guards.)

This was the first time I’ve watched the movie where I noticed when Max described himself as a “drone ship”. I guess that should be obvious, but it struck a chord for me this time. Max has a personality, even before he scans David’s brain and gets a sense of humor. He’s very proud, and he seems to care about the creatures he’s tasked with “sampling”. But he’s a drone–a servant of the aliens we never see. This is an example of another way the movie is brilliant. It isn’t just a straightforward action adventure. There are different levels you can experience at different times in your life.

Another example of the movie’s nuance is how the antagonists aren’t really bad guys. Sure, they aren’t particularly sensitive to David’s needs and fears. But they’re not trying to hurt him. They want to know where he’d been, or how he’d been sent through time. And they want to know what his connection is to the spaceship they found. As a matter of national (and planetary) security, you could argue they need to know those things. So a little brusqueness is perfectly understandable. I almost feel sorry for them at the end!

David and Max’s relationship is great, too. They don’t get along right away. They take time figuring each other out. But in the end, they’re friends who care deeply about each other. David’s relationship with his little brother Jeff takes a similar path, as meeting Jeff’s older self shows David that his brother isn’t such a bad guy after all. This is a movie about evolving relationships and growing up–much deeper than just a jaunt on a spaceship.

Despite the complex themes, the story doesn’t take itself too seriously. There are some extremely funny moments, including when David and Max stop at a gas station in the middle of nowhere and a group of tourists think the spaceship is part of a display.

Beyond the amazing storytelling, there’s just the coolness of it all. The spaceship set was awesome, but I was also enthralled by all the computers, wondering how they worked and wishing for my own set of computerized star charts. And Flight of the Navigator was my introduction to the idea that time slows down as you approach the speed of light. Beyond that, there’s all the beautiful aerial video, making you yearn to take to the skies in your own ship from outer space.

If that’s not enough to convince you…the music rules. Seriously, just watch the scene where David is riding inside the R.A.L.F. unit. It’s impossible to keep from dancing in your chair.

Review: Where the Wild Things Are

This movie, like the book that inspired it, is written in the language of children. I had a little trouble immersing myself in it and was really only able to grasp how it made me feel hours later. Being grown and accustomed to stories with a different structure–more complex, perhaps, but also with more obvious fundamental truths–I was at first put off by the seeming lack of foundation. After some time to think it over, though, I would have to say this is a good film for parents to watch with their children, if not something that’s going to entertain adults.

The film tells the story of a boy learning that his way isn’t necessarily the best way and that sometimes it’s hard to understand or do anything about other people’s pain. It’s a story of growing up. But more than that, it’s a story of finding and nurturing happiness through caring about others.

These conclusions aren’t immediately obvious. There’s no narrator, and no character steps up and says “treating people badly is wrong, and here’s why”. Instead, we see the moral obliquely, through the characters’ actions and their consequences.

When Max’s sister’s friends destroy his igloo, he’s hurt and angry. The boys have crossed a line–a line that is only visible to Max. To Max, retaliating to snowballs with snowballs was perfectly acceptable, but he doesn’t comprehend why they’d chase him back to his igloo and then break it in to get to him. The audience can see that the boys think it’s all in good fun, but Max interprets their actions as maliciousness, and his sister’s lack of understanding as abandonment.

Later, Max urges Douglas to throw dirt clods at Alexander. Alexander protests, but Max pays this no mind and has Douglas throw more dirt. It’s only when Alexander becomes extremely upset that Max realizes anything’s wrong. He comes full circle in this scene–now he’s the boys, and it’s all in good fun, except someone inadvertently got hurt. And like the boys, he doesn’t know what to do until much later, when he finally apologizes.

Having seen hurt from both perspectives, Max realizes it’s not as simple as he thought it was. It’s not that people choose not to do things Max’s way because they don’t like him. It’s that everyone has their own wants and needs and feelings that are different from Max’s.

The Max/Carol relationship is very important. Carol is Max’s analogue in the Wild Things family–he’s the one who feels lonely and scared and fights those feelings by acting out.

Max feels lost and alone at the beginning of the film. His dad’s gone, his mother’s busy, and his sister is going through her own kind of growing up. When his mom splits her attention even more, inviting a man over, Max feels abandoned. This is similar to how Carol feels about KW running off to hang out with Bob and Terry. Max feels that his mother should focus her attention on him. Likewise, Carol wants all of KW’s attention.

To try and get that prized attention, Max acts out in the kitchen. His mother doesn’t react the way he wants her to so he fights her. It ends with Max biting his mother, and his mother screaming “What’s wrong with you?” It’s a total rejection, one that sends Max running out the door and down the street and through the fence and onto the boat.

Later, Max sees similar behavior in Carol, behavior he can’t understand or control. He’s afraid…and that fear causes him to withdraw from Carol. At that point he begins to understand his mother.

While these are the two examples of role-reversal that stuck out to me the most, the film is rich with them. The structure is therefore quite simple: introduce a perspective, then answer it with an opposing one. But the conclusions are never expressed. Max leaves the island without teaching the Wild Things anything more than basic love. And we don’t see Max and his mother talking about what happened; all we see are looks passed between them and a strong embrace. We are left to find the lessons Max learned on our own. The closest we get is Max’s comment to the Wild Things, “I wish you guys had a mother.”

Because the moral of the story isn’t obvious, I imagine many parents’ gut reaction will be to not show this movie to their children. If you ignore the reversals that teach Max to see more than one side of a problem, you’re left simply with a string of wild and violent behavior, many times frightening, overlaid with the grim prophecy of Max’s teacher about the death of the sun and the human race. It’s a dark picture that parents might feel they want to protect their children from.

But the movie is highly teachable. It’s certainly not a film to let children watch by themselves, and it absolutely must be discussed afterwards. But the structure of the film allows for some very good instruction on the nature of human relationships, what it’s like to make tough decisions, and how to find happiness in an uncertain world.

I would suggest parents ask their kids questions about Max’s feelings and motivations at different times in the movie. “How did Max feel when the boys smashed his igloo? Why did he act out in the kitchen? Why did Max run away? Why did he decide to go home?” Through discussion, parents can help their children reach the conclusions Max did.

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Previews before Harry Potter

There were several previews before Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, some of which made an impression.

It was neat to see the 2012 trailer on a big screen. The effects looked just as spectacular as they did on my computer monitor.

When the trailer for the next Twilight movie came on, before I could even tell what it was, 90% of the theater had an orgasm. At least, that’s what it sounded like!

I was horrified that no one around me seemed to have read Where the Wild Things Are. I heard no shouts of excitement or even murmurs of recognition. One of the teenage boys in front of me explained to his companions, “It’s some sort of book.”

There was an ad for a movie about a boy becoming a hero with a long name I can’t remember, and an ad for a kids’ movie. And that’s about all I recall.

Really, none of the trailers that were new to me were all that interesting. I’m not sure what movie I’m looking forward to at this point…other than seeing Half-Blood Prince again :)

Edit: I forgot about the preview for Sherlock Holmes, mainly because it looks completely stupid and non-Holmesian and its mere existence is enough to drive me to throw things. I probably blocked it out of my memory ;P

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The original Terminator

So apparently the next Terminator movie will feature Arnold Schwarzenegger…or at least a CGI version of him, created from a full body mold taken when he made the first movie.

I’m actually pretty excited about this. I love continuity and cameos. I was only mildly interested in the movie before; now I actually feel like seeing it.

When we first started seeing CGI in movies, I was unimpressed. It looked fake and, worse, like it was drawn on top of the scene rather than existing in it. I could spot even the best-rendered model.

Around the time of the Star Wars prequels, that began to change. Watching those movies, I knew that most of what I was looking at didn’t actually exist…but it was all seamless. Nothing looked like it had been added in later. Part of that was surely due to more realistic modeling, but I believe the fact that the movies were filmed digitally also made a difference. After that, it started getting harder to tell what had existed tangibly and what had been created with a computer.

At one time, I believed CGI could never surpass stop-motion animation in terms of feeling real. Despite the sometimes jerky movements, stop-motion objects have always had a depth to them. You got a sense, looking at them, that you could touch them. But nowadays I am rarely jarred when I see a computer-animated portion of a movie, and sometimes I don’t realize it at all.

I don’t know if I’m just getting used to CGI or if it’s improved to the point that it looks real, but whatever it is, it has changed my approach to computer animation. Ten years go, upon hearing that a CGI version of Schwarzenegger was going to be in a movie, I would have thrown up my hands in annoyance and despair. But today, I think it’s going to be awesome.


Today I learned, via Japundit, about a new comedy whose plot involves a movie being filmed about the Vietnam War. Robert Downey, Jr. is playing a actor who has taken a role originally written for a black man. Rather than having the role rewritten, his character, one of a group of very pompous actors, is playing it black.

when did Ben Stiller get ripped?

Given my previous discussions of race issues, you might expect me to be upset about this. I kind of expected me to be upset about this. But this is actually pretty awesome, for two reasons.

1) It’s hilarious. I mean, this has got to be one seriously self-involved character, to think he can “play” another race. I’m pretty excited to see what kind of jokes come out of it. Done well, this could be truly effective modern satire.

2) Look at this:

side by side comparison

I think this is pretty successful. And I don’t think the message is that it’s easy to make a white person look like a black person. I think the message is that we don’t really look that different.

Hair, eyes, skin color, size…those can all vary. But at the core, we’re all human beings. We’re made of the same stuff, just in a thousand beautiful variations.

I think that’s a very positive message.

Images courtesy Daily Mail

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Great Christmas movies

All the Christmas stuff going on lately has got me thinking about my favorite Christmas movies. Here’s a list of the ones that get me into the spirit:

Home Alone – The original, of course. Quintessential Christmas.

An Affair to Remember

Die Hard – Yes, Die Hard.


The Nightmare before Christmas

The Santa Clause

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

While You Were Sleeping

The Star Wars Holiday Special – Okay, this one’s a joke.

What are your favorite holiday films? Here’s a pretty good list if you need to jog your memory.

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Sometimes it’s weird to read my father-in-law’s MySpace

So there’s this thing on MySpace (and probably email) where you forward and add to a list. Reid sent out one recently where you pick a movie title and add a certain phrase to it.

I think his addition to the list was the best.

The Day the Earth Stood Still between my legs



Originally posted on the AMRN GenDis, here is my reaction to the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix movie, written right when I got home from the midnight premiere:

Live it.

Love it.

There are, of course, the usual deviations from the original that people across the internet are no doubt already complaining about. But the story was brilliantly told, the scenes that were removed or changed made sense, the casting was superb, and the new music guy is outstanding.

If I have any quibbles, they’re with the very beginning, which didn’t have enough Harry-in-a-bad-mood (I was honestly looking forward to watching him mope around in the flower garden); the Sirius scene (you know what I’m talking about) which was more…final than the book made it out to be; and the lack of a conversation about what Harry saw in Snape’s past.

Loved Dumbledore. And Tonks. And Luna. And Snape, of course.

It’s all over next week ;_;

David Spade does it again

The mashup at the beginning is fabulous. (I also love how Spade knows and employs words like “mashup”!)

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