Aurora Award ballot – Canada’s Ditmars?
Shirley Jackson Award shortlist
ALEX: Iron Man 3; Oblivion; Cloud Atlas
ALISA: The Adventures of Alyx, Joanna Russ
TANSY: A Song of Ice & Fire update, Flower and Weed by Margo Lanagan
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I went to see it, and you know what? I really, really enjoyed it.
Firstly: I know people have said they found the narrative structure difficult to follow. Perhaps if you’re only used to a completely linear narrative, with no interweaving, then this would indeed be somewhat difficult to follow, because there are lots of cuts back and forth. But each timeline is designed very differently – you can tell just from looking at the scenery what time you are in – so I didn’t find that aspect disturbing or confusing in the slightest.
Something that was a little disturbing, and intriguing, and uncomfortable-making, was the cross-race acting. Now, I am as anglo as it gets, so my take on this is to be read from that perspective. But anyway: I found most of the Anglos-as-Koreans to be cringeworthy; James D’Arcy was the only one that seemed passable, ish, while Hugo Weaving was verging on grotesque. But what I really liked was the fact that some of the non-white also crossed race. Halle Berry as Jocasta really worked, for me, although Doona Bae as Tilda was somewhat less convincing. I think the fact that the actors all played multiple parts made this race-crossing more acceptable – it made sense, in this weird cinematic world, that a version of Berry would exist in the rarified whites-only world of 1930s English snobbery. If it had just been ‘let’s put Weaving into Neo Seoul!’ there would have been a serious problem. I haven’t read any reviews of the film yet, because I wanted to go in totally unspoiled, but I’d like to read reviews by people of colour to gain an understanding of how it looks from a non-privileged perspective.
The multiple-character thing was immensely amusing, as I eagerly tried to figure out who each actor was in each time – and nothing will ever compare with Hugo Weaving as Nurse Noakes. Some of the cosmetics and prosthetics were genuinely very clever; there was some excellent use of fake teeth, especially for Tom Hanks, and some very good use of hair, too. Hugh Grant as an incredibly painted and very nasty warrior-savage-type was a magnificent casting-against-type instance, Hanks did well in all of his varying roles, and I really, really liked Berry, too.
This film was not, in the end, actually what I thought it would be. I expected that, because of the multi-time and multi-character acting, I was going to get something a little like Kim Stanley Robinson’s Years of Rice and Salt, where people keep getting reincarnated and being with the same souls generation after generation. And while some of the same actors found themselves together in some form or another in multiple settings, it’s not like Berry and Hanks were always lovers or whatever. In fact, there is little similarity between any of the epochs, with the exception of what I see as the main theme playing out: fate vs freedom. And, yes, there’s love as a real and binding force, but I don’t really see that as a theme, more as a Human Condition kinda thing.
So, fate vs freedom is really what it comes down to. How do you act within your fate, how can you fight against your fate, what are the limits of freedom… and tied up in this is the notion of an ‘established order’ within society, the existence of which a number of characters insist on – and when that’s contrasted between the ‘order’ of whites over blacks, and the ‘order’ of pureblood over fabricant – it could have got preachy, but actually I think it skated the line well enough.
There are big moments, of trying to change the world, and small moments, of trying to change one single person. There are intensely sad moments, and some brutal ones (I see why it’s MA, but it wasn’t nearly so bad as I had expected); some poignant, and occasionally funny ones as well.
I saw this with my friend Mel. Last movie we saw together at the cinema was Inception. We’ll have to be very careful in picking the next film we see together… it will either have to be the filmic equivalent of War and Peace, or maybe Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
For the first time I have kept track of the films and TV I have consumed over the year. I don’t watch much random TV; we tend to consume an entire series in one (sometimes extended) hit. So this list covers almost everything I watched on the screen in 2012, bar the occasional foray into the news.
Films watched for the first time:
Frost/Nixon * Going Postal * Fair Game * All Quiet on the Western Front * Source Code * Conan the Barbarian (2011) * Tangled * The Adjustment Bureau * Captain America * Iron Jawed Angels * The Avengers * Moneyball * Contagion * Underworld Awakening * Prometheus * Snow White and the Huntsman * The Dark Knight Rises * Beckett * Battleship * Margin Call * Looper * Led Zeppelin: Celebration Day (2008 concert) * Hamlet (David Tennant/Patrick Stewart version) * Argo * Quatermass Experiments (2005 BBC live production) * The Breakfast Club (FOR THE FIRST TIME YES I KNOW) * Skyfall * One in the Chamber * The Bourne Legacy * The Expendables 2 (…twice…) * Total Recall (the remake) * The Hobbit, Part 1
That’s not actually as many as I would have guessed. Possibly because the next list is a lot longer… what can I say, I like things that are familiar.
Films: the rewatch:
Chronicles of Riddick * DOA (I know. No, seriously, I know) * Lethal Weapon 4 * Alien * Under Siege * Aliens * X-Men: First Class * Stand By Me * All Quiet on the Western Front * The Siege * Marie Antoinette * Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire * Tomb Raider * Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince * Aeon Flux * Children of Men * Mr and Mrs Smith * Iron Jawed Angels * Danton * One Night the Moon *Aliens (again) * Batman Begins * Serenity * The Dark Knight * Nicholas and Alexandra * Minority Report * Grease * Romeo and Juliet (Zefirelli * Romeo + Juliet (Luhrmann) * Sahara * The Avengers (um, twice) * Chronicles of Riddick (again, ok?) * The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus * Good Morning Vietnam * The Outsiders * 2012 * Fellowship of the Ring (extennnnded edition) * The Two Towers (extennnnded edition) * The Return of the King (extennnnded edition) * Star Wars IV: A New Hope * Avengers (…) * Beneath Clouds * The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus * Van Helsing * Quantum of Solace * Expendables * Salt * The Negotiator * The Mask (most of) (omg so bad) * Dante’s Peak * Goldeneye * Tomorrow Never Dies * The Dark Knight Rises
So that’s quite a few. Some of these I watched for/at school – occasionally twice in a semester, once to preview it and once with a class. Also, there are just some films that are go-to. I am astonished that The Fifth Element is not here!
TV for the first time and rewatch:
Ashes to Ashes (season 2) * (New) Doctor Who (season 1) (rewatch) * Las Vegas (season 1) (rewatch) * Las Vegas (season 2) (partial rewatch) * Las Vegas (season 3) * Sherlock (season 2) * Las Vegas (season 4) * (New) Doctor Who (season 4) * Las Vegas (season 5) * House (season 7) * (New) Doctor Who (season 5) (rewatch) * Top Gear (season 18) * Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (season 1) * House (season 8) * Game of Thrones (season 1) * The Prophets of Science Fiction (most of most of the episodes) * Firefly (rewatch) * Stargate Universe (season 1) * Ashes to Ashes (season 3) * A Rather Large Amount of the Olympics, inc opening and closing ceremonies * Outcasts (the first and ONLY (sob) season) * Doctor Who (season 7… well the first half) * Heston Blumenthal’s Search for Perfection (season 1) * Metal Evolution * The Deep * random bits of Classic Who * Paradox (the five eps that got made before cancellation… /gnashing teeth) * Homeland (season 1)
This list doesn’t look as long, but of course they don’t represent just 2 hours of viewing like most of the films (all right, nearly four for each of the extended LOTR; whatever). Las Vegas seasons each had 22-odd episodes, for example…
Overall I think my media consumption reflects me pretty well. Loads of SF and action, with some literary stuff chucked in there along with Metal Evolution for some balance, and some trashy but enjoyable stuff as well.
It’s an interesting question, isn’t it, about whether it’s necessary to alert people to possible spoilers for works that are regarded as classics, or that are based on historical events. Someone was apparently complaining, over in the comments for the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, about other commenters spoiling the story. I dunno; Pride and Prejudice has surely passed its statute of limitations on that sort of thing? And I do know of a man who was in Vietnam (as in, the country and the war) at the time of the Apollo 13 crisis, so when the movie came out, he didn’t actually know what happened – and initially thought it was fiction.
What about other historical events? A movie about Cleopatra? – she kills herself, spoiler! JFK? – the president dies! About WW2? – the Germans win!
Or other classics? Hamlet? – everybody dies! The Trojan War? – Hektor and Achilles die at Troy, while Agamemnon gets killed by his wife! (except that – what the HELL, Wolfgang Petersen? Seriously? What is Clytemnestra going to do now, live happily ever after with Aegisthus? You deprived yourself of making the Oresteia! Are you mad? I wanted Angelina Jolie for Clytemnestra, Helena Bonham Carter as Elektra, and Karl Urban as Orestes! Someone, make it happen…)
This line of thought has come about because I saw Argo last night, and my modern history is poor enough that actually, I wasn’t sure whether the hostages got out or not. I thought I knew, but wasn’t positive, and also wasn’t sure whether I wanted TO know before going in.
Overall, it’s a really wonderful film. Incredibly tense; my companion was anxious throughout the whole thing, because her modern history is worse than mine, apparently. I though the cinematography was just awesome and nicely done to feel genuinely early-80s. I’m not quite up enough on my rock history to be sure that all of the music was era-appropriate, but I was ridiculously pleased when they put on (actually put on, on a record player) Led Zeppelin (Levee’s Gonna Break, fwiw). I thought all of the actors were great, and Affleck was outstanding, even under all of that hair. During the credits, they brought up pictures of the actual people involved, to show that they had cast people (and, obviously, used good make up) to make the principles actually look like their person.
Except. And this is my one gripe.
Affleck’s character’s name is skated over, in the film. He goes by Kevin Harkins while in Iran; he does at one point tell someone that his name is Tony Mendez. I didn’t think much of it at the time. During the credits, there’s a shot of the real Mendez – Antonio Mendez. Yes, he would indeed be Latino. And Affleck certainly does not look Hispanic. So I really am disappointed that Affleck, who directed the film as well, didn’t have the balls to cast an Hispanic actor in the role, and take on a lesser role for himself; perhaps the section chief.
Also, I don’t know whether it was shot in Tehran (I’m going to go with ‘no’), but it certainly makes it look like a gorgeous city.
Look, I know. I know, OK?
I knew before we rented it that this was going to be totally unmitigated crap. And it was, so there were no surprises. Right?
Actually, I was a bit surprised at just how absolutely atrociously awful it is. I can watch and enjoy the odd bit of unmitigated crap, as long as the explosions and chases are entertaining enough. But here… well. The characters are laughable, you could drive a semi-trailer sideways through the plot holes… the plot for Battleship almost makes Transformers 3 look like it HAS a plot (although I did not want to scrub my brain after watching this, which I did after watching Transformers 3. Maybe because I watched B in two sittings, and not in a theatre having paid quite a lot of money). And the science… zomg the science. Or rather, lack thereof. Friends, this movie shows people trying to communicate with another planet by using a radio telescope to fire a coherent laser beam at it.
I just. I can’t. There are no words.
This review is, actually, superfluous. Everything you need to know about the movie can be found in this hilarious review. It contains multiple spoilers but, if you haven’t seen the movie yet, and at some stage you are forced to, use this as a drinking game: every time you get to one of the points mentioned, drink! That review does, however, miss THE most awesome bit of the whole film: using an anchor to make a battleship do a handbrake turn. Seriously.
The plot: aliens are coming in response to the message we sent and they want to TAKE OVER THE WORLD. Or something. Since there’s no actual communication, how do we know that? Oh yeh, because they’re ALIENS. Then plucky sailors fight them off. Where plucky sailors include Rhianna trying to look badass, some punk kid who turns out to be a genius, and a bunch of old dudes who just happen to be hanging around.
The characters: there are none. They’re all just cardboard cut-outs.
The one good thing this movie proves: Liam Neeson really, really doesn’t care what you think anymore.
I saw it, and I enjoyed it. I’m not saying it was a great movie; it was a fun way to spend a Saturday evening.
What follows is my entirely spoilerific rambly take on Prometheus. You’ve been warned.
The first thing to mention is, I’m sure to no one’s surprise, the role of women in the film. I thought it started well with one of the lead archaeologists being a woman, and indeed the one to make the final discovery that locks the whole ‘they’re inviting us to go visit them’ into place. And then the apparent leader of the spaceship is a woman, too, so that was cool, and one of the crew too, seemingly the one with med training. So… three out of 17. Well, ok, it’s only 2093, so maybe things haven’t changed a whole lot? Anyway, things progress, and then I got cranky… because Holloway, the male archaeologist, is talking about how amazing it is that life is ubiquitous and that it can be created anywhere, and Shaw – the woman – gets all teary because she can’t have children. Now, I understand that this is indeed a very painful thing for many women; and I understand that it sets up the tension for later in the film when – spoilers! – she appears to be pregnant, but… seriously? What it felt like was someone, somewhere, thinking “hmm, we really must account for this young woman having a spectacular career and going off in a spaceship while not worrying about her toddlers at home. I know! Make her infertile!” And it made me angry. Especially – especially – when teamed with the attitude towards Vickers, nominal head of the spaceship.
Because it really is nominal: in his introductory speech, Weyland appears to make the archaeologists the leaders of the expedition; and Janek is the captain of the ship, so he has significant power too. Fine, whatever, a confused power structure; this is nothing new, and interesting for plot tensions. It still sucks. Then there are a few lewd comments about lap dances with Vickers and suchlike… ok, grunts make fun of their commander, I can kinda see that. But then there’s a conversation between Janek and Vickers where the former says she should just say she’s looking to get laid, rather than pretending to be interested in something vital to the success of the mission. Vickers laughs this off quite successfully, and I thought it would be left there as an example of adult banter between people who respect each other. But then Janek asks whether she’s a robot, and Vickers’ response? “My room, ten minutes.” And at that point I got pretty cranky. Because of course, a woman resisting a man’s advances is clearly inhuman. And a woman already struggling with clear chains of command is clearly going to sleep with a subordinate just to prove she can! So. Dumb.
Oh, and the medic gets very few lines and dies horribly, but this was the case for most of the male red-shirts too, so that didn’t fuss me much.
And then there’s the mystical pregnancy. Oh yes, ladies and gentleman, there is one. I guess it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise when you realise that yes, Ridley, this is an Alien prequel (more on that below). Shaw is told, by David, that she is pregnant… about three months’ pregnant, which is impossible unless we’re to accept that pregnancy is halted by cryosleep, which I guess it might be. Of course the other option is that actually this is from the sex 10 hours ago, which is also impossible… but the TRUTH! Yeh, it’s an alien. And it leads to a very graphic attempt at a caesarian, which is only possible after Shaw tricks the automatic surgery unit that it must do abdominal surgery on her, which it has to be tricked into because it’s configured for a male and therefore can’t do a caesarian. WTH? A gender-specific automatic surgery unit? Are you for real? So, a few issues in that little plot device then.
Now that I have that out of my system, what else is there to say? Oh, I thought Michael Fassbender was generally excellent as David, especially for the first half of the film. I think I picked him as an android in the first two seconds of seeing him walk; I really liked being introduced to him walking around the spaceship alone, checking up on things – and his fascination with Lawrence of Arabia was awesome and gave me all sorts of expectations (not all of which were fulfilled) for his role throughout. It does, of course, poignantly contrast with the utter callousness directed towards him by Weyland and, especially, Holloway, later in the film. This callousness from Holloway was one of the things that struck an off-note for me, because otherwise he is shown to be a generally sympathetic and empathetic character. I know it’s possible for someone to be perfectly nice to ‘like’ people and evil towards the ‘unlike’; but it still felt off. And sadly, David goes seriously off piste in the second half of the film, and it was just another bit that didn’t make sense. Why was he so determined to bring back samples that he infected Holloway? From Ash, in Alien, and from Carter in Aliens it makes sense – it’s part of their instructions. But with David, all we know is that Weyland wants to meet the creators; are we seriously expected to think that David hopes that infection will somehow turn Holloway into one? It just seemed like yet another way to draw a parallel between this and Alien – because make no mistake, this is absolutely the Alien/Aliens story all over again, and basically a direct prequel.
Shaw IS Ripley, in many respects. The four Alien movies are in many ways the evolution of Ellen Ripley, from somewhat naive spacefarer with a dislike for violence through to a demi-monster for whom violence threatens become the be-all. Shaw can be seen as the stage before this: she rarely uses violence, and indeed in fighting the alien at the end who threatens to kill her does not personally actually fight him: she lures him into a fight with the alien thing that had previously been in her stomach (which has, in a matter of hours, grown to epic proportions). And at the end (I did say there were spoilers!) she wants to go off and find the aliens’ home planet, if she can, not to deliver the ship-load of biological weapons she has at her disposal, but to ask them what humanity did wrong. No “get away from her you bitch” lines there (but hey, she’s not a mum, so what can you expect?).
Look, there are dozens of other plot holes that I could happily drive a semi-trailer through. I know they’ve been picked over by many people on the internet – and heck, the stuff I’ve ranted about above has been too. But you know what? I don’t count it a waste of my two hours. Terminators 3? That was a gigantic waste of my time, and I wanted a scrubbing brush to clean my brain with afterwards. Prometheus, by contrast, I thoroughly (well, mostly) enjoyed at the time, and I’ve really enjoyed thinking about it afterwards. Would I stop someone from going to see it? Only if I thought they would have series trigger issues. Will I watch it again? Almost certainly not. And that’s ok.
I’ve decided that, since I can’t find a convenient film-version of Goodreads, I will keep a tally on the blog here – over on the right, if you’re reading this on the blog itself; if you’re getting this through RSS or email, and you care, you’ll have to visit. Anyway so far there are two movies there: Frost/Nixon, which I’ve been meaning to watch for ages, finally saw yesterday, and really enjoyed – what a cast! – and Chronicles of Riddick, which I love despite its flaws.
I watched Contact many years ago – possibly even at the cinema – and I read the book, too. I don’t remember the book very clearly, although I do remember thinking it was better than the film (what a surprise). I had fond memories of the movie, so when we decided to watch it again recently, I was a little apprehensive that the Suck Fairy might have visited.
I still really enjoyed it. The opening sequence is still simply marvellous; I utterly adore the perspective given to our Little Blue Dot, of course very appropriate given it was written by Sagan.
Jodie Foster… didn’t do much for me. To be honest I’ve never really understood the hype about her. I’ve never seen any of her early roles, to my knowledge, so maybe I just don’t have the context. But here – well, she’s good, but I certainly don’t see it as a role that no other actress could possibly fill. That said I do really like her character. I love how strong Ellie is, how determined she is to get her science done, that she listens to the radio waves herself rather than leaving it all to the computers. I also really appreciated that there’s really only one character who doesn’t take her seriously as a scientist, and that’s David Drumlin, whom I have called all sorts of rude names because of his treatment of her. His arrogance and sexism are aspects of his characters; they’re not meant to be taken seriously, as reflecting the sensible world. (Also, Tom Skerrit is brilliant.)
The rest of the cast is mostly good. I love William Fichtner: for his cameo in The West Wing as the judge who gets to be Glenn Close’s foil and plays with Toby’s mind, his bit part in The Dark Knight – he’s wonderful. And he’s great as Kent; the being blind is interesting and not over-played, and for me just seemed part of the diversity of characters. Yes, it’s played on to get the “ooh he has super hearing” thing, but it doesn’t feel overdone. David Morse is good in his cameo as Ellie’s dad… and then there’s Matthew McConaughey.
I like Palmer, McConaughey’s character, in theory. I really really like that the religious issue is a fundamental one in the movie, even though I don’t entirely agree with how it was handled; and even though I find it irritating that Palmer, as apparently the President’s go-to man on religion, ignores one of the big moral precepts of Christianity that helps set Christians apart from others in society (that whole no-sex-before-marriage thing). But I think he’s interesting, and I think he provides an interesting contrast to Ellie: for all he’s equally intent, he’s more relaxed than her, and they have some great discussions about evidence and faith. The Palmer character and his interactions with Ellie does, however, provide one of the things which most grieved me about the movie. He admits that he screwed up her chances to do the thing she most wants to do in the entire world not simply for religious reasons (which, actually, I liked – having to make the decision between your lover and your feelings of faithfulness towards the spiritual majority of the world), but for selfish reasons? Seriously? And our heroine still likes him? Pfft.
As a movie, I think it still holds up. The tech etc don’t feel like they’ve dated much, society doesn’t feel like it’s changed that much, and the look of it is still contemporary. Overall I was relieved, and pleased. Contact is still very watchable.
Unstoppable is close to being the perfect action flick, even though it doesn’t have Bruce Willis in it.
- It’s “inspired” by true events, which gives it a slightly more gripping and horrifying feel than your generic action-adventure.
- There are trains going to high speed.
- There are helicopters getting close to trains going at high speed.
- There’s a little bit of family drama: just enough to give the viewer an investment in the main characters, not enough that I started to fall asleep and/or expected Elijah Wood to turn up.
- It has Denzel Washington to make up for the lack of Bruce Willis.
- There are trains going at high speed.
- There’s a mad dude with a pony tail who drives a red pick-up really, really fast.
- There’s conflict between a (black, female) subordinate and a (fat, white, male) superior.
- It’s a rooky/retiree buddy flick, but the conflict between them is neither overplayed to tragic Greek proportions nor downplayed to non-existence.
- It’s less than 100 minutes in duration.
- It knows when to end.
Seriously, I loved this film. It has highs, it has lows, it has comedic and blood-draining-from-the-face moments. Chris Pine is quite good, and Washington is… Washington. I could watch that man even if he was acting as a football coach. (Oh wait, I have. Numerous times.) It’s no Oscar contender, but for excitement and entertainment it’s a winner.
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In which we work, play, shake up our format a little (gasp!) and cover the life & death of magazines, the changing face of the industry, respect for non fiction, sexual harassment, rants, reboots and as usual, books, books and more books. Also a few sneaky clues about what Twelfth Planet Press is publishing next year!
Realms of Fantasy is back, again…
Escape Pod expands: ”We have been pushing to expand what Escape Pod does, adding an SF blog and distributing our stories via magazine format. We’re also becoming a pro market, and hope to keep paying our authors pro rates well into 2011 if the donations make it possible.”
Cheryl Morgan talks about paying for reviews as semipro.
On the Cooks Source scandal and seeing stuff on the internet as ‘public domain’.
Jim C Hines on reporting sexual harassment in SF/F.
Old men complaining? When you get old, do you by consequence lose your sense of wonder? Just simply because you’ve read everything? And is/should all SF be aimed/written for the 60 year old man? And Jason Sanford responds
New Buffy Reboot
New Friend of the Podcast: The Writer & the Critic (Mondy & Kirstyn).
Chat, rants and backpedalling…
What Culture have we Consumed?
Alex: Blameless, Gail Carriger; “The Devil in Mr Pussy,” Paul Haines; Women of Other Worlds, ed. Helen Merrick and Tess Williams; Bold as Love, Gwyneth Jones; Day of the Triffids (2009 BBC production)
Alisa: works too hard, and also Fringe.
Tansy: To Write Like a Woman, Joanna Russ; Marianne, the Magus & the Manticore by Sheri S Tepper; Sourdough & Other Stories, Angela Slatter; China Mountain Zhang, Maureen McHugh, Mists of Avalon movie
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