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Monthly Archives: September 2013

Chinatown: Most overated movie of all time.

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This movie sucks.  I know, heresy, but let me explain.  My husband and I watched this movie because it’s the ‘definitive’ film Noir, and I kind of like film noir on occasion.  The movie Brick was so good that we decided to see the movie that launched a genre. And we would really like our 130 minutes back. The whole movie was great, right up to the last ten minutes, when nothing that happened in the proceeding two hours mattered! We watched the plot twist and turn, clues revealed that only made the whole skein yet more tangled and it was great. Then the whole sordid mess was uncovered, the knot untangled, the pattern made plain. Hurrah! Our hero has unearthed everything and now the bad guys will be caught, our hero made a difference. The pain and effort was worth it! But alas no. It was a total and complete waste of his time in every way. Nothing changed except that more people were now dead than when he started. It could be argued that his involvement made the whole thing worse.

And I now need to take a shower, because I feel dirty. The whole movie is just one big waste of time. And I feel this way about so many ‘great’ movies. I don’t need them to have a happy ending, I’m okay with bittersweet, like Gladiator and Sucker Punch. I’m okay with main characters dying as long as they accomplish something with that death. I’m not okay with main characters getting the ever loving snot beaten out of them, their life put on the line and it not meaning a thing in the end. Maybe I just hate tragedy, and that is true, I’m not a fan of it. Romeo and Juliet strikes me as just one long exercise in failed communication and futility. But even in that story, their deaths ended the feud, so they did accomplish something. That didn’t happen in Chinatown. It was just sheer futility and pain, struggle for nothing, not even character growth. I don’t find that to be a story worth spending time with because it’s not a story, it’s just something that happened, but didn’t mean anything.

Yeah, that ending might be true to real life more often than not, but I don’t watch movies to relive all the times real life has kicked me in the face. I watch most movies to see somebody beat those odds. One of the many questions writers ask themselves when constructing a narrative is ‘why this character and why now?’ The point of that question is to make sure that we are telling an interesting story, that the story we are telling is a pivotal point in that character or the worlds history. That’s why when we look at history, we see the points of change like WWII, The eruption of Pompeii, Fall of Rome, etc. We don’t tell the story of a boy 10 years before the fall of Rome because nothing is happening there! Unless the story is about the boy himself, then you can do it, but if it’s about Rome, no one cares. The why is as important as the when. Why are we telling this story? Does someone in it triumph over their adversaries to meet a goal? Because if they don’t why are you writing it? What’s the point in the telling?

tumblr_md1ul6cNys1qzsuffo1_1280You can probably tell that I am not a fan of literature. I can respect some fiction because thrillers, suspense and mysteries mostly end with the hero solving the problem or living or whatever. I prefer to travel off planet for my fun, but that’s personal taste and not a problem of the story being broken. And Chinatown isn’t the only movie I’ve seen with this problem. Most of the movies coming out with Oscars tend to have this problem. The movie is great right up until they slit their own bellies at the end. I always walk away from those wondering what the writers or directer or producer were thinking. I wonder if they just couldn’t figure out what to do with the ending or if they all have prosaic sponsorships I don’t know about.

To be fair, Chinatown might be a classic because it’s the first Film Noir or maybe it’s an example of some filming technique I don’t know about. I’ve not been to film school, so I don’t know. But I am of the opinion that it isn’t fit for general consumption. I found very little to recommend it. If you did, more power to you, in at least that much, it’s still a free country.

 

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Star Trek: Into Darkness

In the interest of full disclosure, let me preface this review/discussion with some back ground. I love Star Trek. I’ve been a fan for almost my entire life. I was raised on re-runs of TOS and was there to see TNG hit the airwaves live at the ripe age of 8, and have been watching reruns of that for many years as well. I was into DS9, up until the dominion war got hot and heavy and I was left bored with that whole story line in all honesty. Voyager had promise, but I felt they squandered it for the sake of pure soap opera in space plot lines. And Enterprise will not be mentioned here. I love Bakula, and none of it was his fault, but that was a total travesty of a show that should never have been associated with Trek. I still consider myself a Trekkie and as Weird all so poignantly put it, “Only question I ever thought was hard Was do I like Kirk or do I like Picard?” I consider myself a Trekkie and eschew the term Trekker with extreme prejudice. If you like it, I won’t hold it against you, as that would be highly illogical and counter productive.

So when the reboot came out, I was on geeky pins and needles, tripping between possible elation and bitter despair. I needn’t have worried, because the first reboot was great gobs of snarky fun. Did it have problems? Are you kidding? It’s a Trek movie, of course it has problems, but that’s half the fun with Trek. It also had that fun, exploring a new world concept, even if the world was just the divergence from one we already knew.

Coming into the second re-boot, I avoided pretty much all of the online discussions and articles and just stuck to watching the trailers. As Sherlock fan, I squeed at Cumberbatch being in the movie. So I went into the movie not knowing exactly what to expect but being mildly apprehensive. I also had the distinct advantage of going to a double feature with friends, so I got to watch the first and second re-boot back to back.

*Warning! If you have not seen it, SPOILERS ahead!*

Into Darkness

I will not go into a plot run down because I find them a tedious waste of time. If you saw it, I need not explain how the whole thing goes down, you already know. Over all, I liked it a lot. It was fast and funny and that forgives a great number of flaws in movies, books and TV. It kept me entertained for the most part, though there were some cringe worthy points that I will get to later. The lens flairs were kept to a minimum this go around, and while it might not seem like it, just watch the first one again and gape anew at the total opacity of whole scenes due to lens flare. One of the things I really, REALLY hate about the re-boots in the engine room. I don’t know why there are huge water tubes, vats of nuclear waste and wide open spaces in a fairly small vessel that would have been built with spacial economy in mind. That bugs the ever loving crap out of me every time I see it. Sorry, just had to get that out of my system.

So let’s dig into the meat of this movie shall we? The real conversation? Khan Noonien Singh. The biggest bad ass and bad guy of TOS. Or was he? I am in a unique situation to view this movie, as I am currently going through the Original Series on Netflix along with the and we have recently seen ‘Space Seed’. This is the first appearance of Khan and while he was pretty cool, he wasn’t the man we think of him as being today. In this episode, he was just a man, a very intelligent, manipulative, genetically engineered man who almost took over the Enterprise, but not the man we meet later in the Wrath of Khan. If anything, he was pretty mild mannered and seemed pleased to be given a whole world to tame at the end of said episode.

Original Khan


But we don’t remember this man, we remember this man.

Old Khan

But this is an unfair comparison. This is not the man the re-boot cast is facing. And while I admit a certain amount of discomfort at Khan being in the second movie of the re-boot series, it wasn’t a problem for me until they started to try to mirror the Wrath of Khan in the latter half of the movie. Up until that point, Cumberbatch played Khan beautifully. He was cunning, manipulative, brilliant and self assured. This is the Khan of Space Seed, the Khan that makes sense to see at this point in the time line.



And let’s talk about the whole ‘race’ thing for just a second, because I know this caused quite the tempest among some fans. There were rumors of casting a Latino actor to play Khan and that confuses me to no end. Khan is not Hispanic. He *might* be from northern India, but that was just a guess on Uhura’s part in ‘Space Seed’, and while I’m guessing she’s right, still, a Latino guy int he role makes no sense. I could see it being an English guy though. India was colonized by the British and still has British people living there, so the idea of Khan being British is fine by me. I would have preferred an Indian guy myself, they do exist, like the guy from Heroes, but I can stretch it for Cumberbatch. He did an amazing job of playing Khan. He was scary in a very subtle way, making you want him to be good and decent when you know darn well he isn’t. He slices and dices Klingons like a boss and that voice gives him a presence of leashed fury that Montalban had in the movie, but not in the series.

What I think happened here is that we’ve all retconned Khan into being the same man in ‘Space Seed’ that he later became in Wrath, but he wasn’t. And I think this movie made the same mistake. They never should have tried to recreate the Wrath of Khan this early in the new timeline, some 15 years earlier or more, than in the original timeline. That’s when I started to cringe, and Spock yelling Khan’s name made me squirm. I can only compare it to the hideous howl of Vader in the third Star Wars movie, the one everyone makes fun of so frequently and with perfect justification. This is the same thing for me and for that one scene, I am ashamed of my fandom.

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2013 in Just to be Random

 

The softer side of Dragoncon.

2013 badgeI’ve been to a number of conventions, anime conventions, small SciFi cons, a gaming con or two and last year I went to Montreal Comicon. This was my first Dragon*Con and it really was unlike any other I’ve ever been to. It had its similarities, as all fan conventions do, but it was also quite different. Everyone knows it’s huge, filling five downtown Atlanta hotels to the brim, pretty much every other hotel in walking range and there are attendees scattered all over the city, from those who live in the area or stay with friends, to those who choose to stay in hotels farther away but accessible via the MARTA system. In 2012 52k people came to the con and this year, I was told by a staffer that they expected 60-65k. It sure felt like they hit that number on Saturday.

In terms of sheer size, it’s one of the biggest fan conventions in the world. I won’t lie, I’m not fond of large crowds. I don’t like going to concerts unless they are classical in nature, I don’t go to crowded bars, I avoid large parties, hate sporting events and try to stay home on Black Friday. And yet I went to Dragon*Con and loved it. I’m hoping to go back again next year, and someday want to be there as an author on a panel. (squee!) So how can someone so against crowds love this event? Well, I avoid the big stuff for the most part, and stick to the smaller panels. Not because I’m trying to avoid crowds, but because this con is so big that it has a ton of panels and many of them are pretty specific and niche. I spent most of my time in these smaller panels because these were the things that interested me the most, and it was like being at a small convention until you went outside to swim upstream like a spawning salmon to your next panel. We went to a few big ones, cast panels for the Walking Dead and BSG, which were in big ballrooms and had hour long lines. And there are plenty of those to be had. What you hear about Dragon*Con is how big it is, how crazy the costumes are, that there’s a big parade and huge parties every night. This is all true, but there’s a softer, quieter side to the con that few talk about. Not because it’s bad, but because it IS quiet and no one thinks that’s exciting. Unless, like a lot of us geeky people, you’re an introvert. You could easily spend the con going from one giant crowd of fans to another, hit the big dances and parties and have a blast if that’s your thing.

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If it’s not, you can have just as much fun on the softer side and never run out of things to do. This is the first convention I’ve been to that had me booked almost all day in one panel after another. We would get up at 7:30, get breakfast at the food court and be in the first set of panels for the day at 10am and not stop until the last panel at 10pm. I went to panels like ‘Magic and Mayhem: Witches in Urban Fantasy’, ‘Space Opera Then, Military SciFi Now’, ‘Down and Dirty Marketing for Authors’ and ‘Dragon Sex!’. Yes, Dragon Sex!. Let me explain that or this is going to turn into a very different blog. Dragon Sex! is a panel about the dragons of Pern from Anne McCaffrey’s best selling series. Apparently this panel started many years ago to answer questions for authors of fan fiction who submitted their work to fanzines. Yeah, remember those? While fanzines didn’t last, this panel did. You can ask anything you want about dragons mating and how their riders are affected and I mean anything. There was a discussion on green riders and who they had sex with, if you know what I mean. It’s held on Saturday night at 10pm and was the single funniest and most entertaining panel we saw.

And that’s one of the things that makes Dragon*Con so different from the other cons I’ve been to. It’s run by fans and doesn’t have corporate sponsors, unlike all the other big ones. Nothing against the sponsored cons, those are great too, but that does change the atmosphere a bit. The fans who run this shindig get to pick what panels to present, who’s on them and what to talk about. There are no outside sponsors to think about, no need to get approval or worry about offending the sponsors, or the sponsors customers. And Dragon*Con doesn’t court guests, guests court Dragon*Con. If you are famous in the genre as an author, actor, artist etc, you apply to be a guest. Dragon*Con wants guests who want to be there, not people who have to be there. (Apparently, George R.R. Martin will never attend because he hates it.) And the guests who come are also fans. I’ve never seen so many ‘guests’ at a con in all my life, from those who are known by a few fans to the very recognizable, they are all there. Again, without corporate sponsorship, Dragon*Con can have everyone and anyone who wants to be there, and a lot of people want to be there.

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If you have ever thought of going, but are put off by the con’s size, give it another look. Yes, Saturday is a crush, but only in the halls, and 90% of the people there are awesome. My husband and I sat next to a random con goer for lunch in the food court, ended up chatting with him the whole meal, as with any other con you’ve ever been to. It’s a giant club and everyone there is into what you are on some level. But be warned, getting a hotel can be hard..

 

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