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First, the funerals: the Inexplicable Logic of my Life is a contemporary YA by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, the author of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. Three friends and one of their dads compare paths to the dead moms club. Definitely a crying book, I kept being reading this in public places and regretting it. I liked this less than Aristotle&Dante, probably because it's not a romance, and also Sáenz' teen voices worked a little better for me when they were set in the 80s than set now. The texting in this never sounded quite right, in particular. But Sáenz writes some powerful moments, and captures some subtle and complicated feelings. He's at his most interesting to me when he's exploring identity issues like what it means to be born Anglo but adopted and raised by a Mexican-American family, interesting stuff there. The main character chooses something at the end that bothered me, but I can see what Sáenz was getting at and it made sense for the character, just, eegh.

And then, the dinner parties. A Civil Contract (1961 Georgette Heyer Regency novel) and Home Again (2017 Reese Witherspoon film) might seem like an odd pair of works to want to pair up for reviewing, but actually they're perfect, because Civil Contract is a difficult novel because it refuses to give in to the pull of wish fulfillment, while Home Again is an enjoyable movie because it's wish fulfillment all the way down, and they both involve the male romantic lead standing up the female romantic lead for an important dinner party.

Civil Contract's dude hoped to be career military, but dad/untimely death/aristocratic responsibilities, you've heard this before if you read Regencies at all. He's in love with someone, but he's broke, so he has to marry her friend, the daughter of a rich businessman, instead, to save his estate. If Courtney Milan is writing this plot, he would discover that she had some kind of awesome interest or compelling backstory, he would fall in love with her, yay. Heyer, however, doesn't let us have that fantasy - while he does come to *appreciate* his wife's comparative lack of drama, and the comfort that he gets from her catering to him, there's no real indication that he finds her attractive, or is interested in her as a person. (She's been in love with him all along, which is why she's so willing to completely shape her life around his comfort, and do all the emotional labor of managing her feelings without ever bothering him with them.) In theory, I like the idea of a romance novel pairing that focuses more on in-jokes and child raising than bodice-ripping sex, but in practice, it doesn't even really feel like a romance. I am interested in the decentering of *desire* from the narrative, but what I really read romance for is the mutual passionate admiration! That's the stuff! It doesn't feel like a happy ending to me if she's in limerence with him and he's not with her. (There is a long and excellent discussion thread here with, among others, Courtney Milan herself basically making this argument.)

Home Again, in contrast, delivers passionate admiration in spades. Our 40-year-old recently-separated mom heroine has *three* nice young men fall for her; she's only ever romantic with one, but she gets to bask in attention (and emotional and household labor!) from all three of them. It's not just a fantasy of still being desirable, although that's obviously part of it, it's a fantasy of getting to enjoy the excitement and fun of a new romance even after already having had one good marriage. (Although her ex as we see him onscreen is awful, I think we're supposed to have the impression that it was a good relationship for a long time, until it wasn't anymore.) She eventually decides that the life-stage gap between her and her young man is too big for a relationship, but they all three will still be around as part of a found family with her and her kids and her mom, yay - she may have given up the sex, but she gets to keep the admiration.

Oh, and the dinner parties? I had curiously opposite reactions to them. In Home Again, the missed dinner party is the precipitating event for the end of the relationship - it's supposed to be their first "real date" beyond their fling at her house, he's going to meet her friends, but he stands her up rather than risk offending the guy he's hoping will help them get their movie made. She decides that this means their priorities are just too different, but I found myself more sympathetic to the dude than she was - the movie pushes how these guys are these aspiring filmmakers who Really Believe In Films, and he's young and new to navigating Hollywood, and believes this is an important chance. And unfortunately it falls into her ex's pattern of blowing her off for flimsy work reasons, so it makes sense that *she's* just like "I'm not doing this again", but it didn't make *me* think they wouldn't work. Civil Contract dude on the other hand has promised to be home for his sister's engagement party but instead borrows a ton of money to gamble wildly on a military outcome so that he can have money of "his own" instead of his wife's money - it turns out he's right but, ugh, he takes this enormous risk for no real important benefit, I lost so much sympathy for the character and of course his wife is just like "that's all right honey you know best, nice work honey". It's the climax of the book and I guess the idea is that now that he doesn't "owe" her he's more able to realize that he's fond of her and doesn't resent her for having had to marry her. In a way, these stories end the same - with a friendship rather than a romance - but what a difference, coming to it from opposite directions.
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Yeah, so when they said "great visuals, bad writing", that was not anti-SFF snobbery talking.

Let me complain at length.

But first! Previews! I got the Wrinkle in Time preview and I can't believe the world has to not blow up until *March* for us to get to see it, augh. Looks so good. I am also tentatively interested in the romantic comedy where Reese Witherspoon plays a 40-year-old mom who trades in her husband for a small harem of twenty-year-olds... ok, I'm sure in practice it will be terrible, but I want to see what fandom can make of it? Like there's some interesting stuff there with interplay of Mom Identity and sexual identity, where she's momming two of them and fucking the third, and it's nice to see films with middle-aged ladies getting to Renew Their Lives With Youth(s), a traditionally dude-dominated genre.

Okay, now Valerian spoilers. Read more... )

So, yeah. Cannot recommend, alas. I always want the big SF films to be good but... too many of them are not. :(
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I liked it! I'm very excited the 80s are now past enough to be a period to stylize, and I'm a forever sucker for badass women. It's no must-see like Wonder Woman but if you like spies lies and ultraviolence I would definitely recommend it.

Your Name

May. 1st, 2017 08:55 pm
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I loved this anime movie - visually gorgeous, compelling premise (bodyswap! I always love the classic tropes), more tightly written than I was expecting. Some of the best handling I've ever seen in fiction of how dreams feel - or at least how my dreams feel, I sometimes have very vivid or complicated dreams that seem more real than real life when I first wake up, and then I can hardly remember not long after. And I also dream more about people from my adolescence much more than people in my current life. (I assume something got hardwired somewhere in my teen brain development...) So teenagers who are having these dreamlike experiences - spot on! I also just love so much the little details of Japanese life and setting - this movie was so *placed*, so locationally grounded, in the same way that, like, My Neighbor Totoro is. Neat to get a little glimpse of a different world. (It was out in 2016 in Japan, 2017 here, I dunno what year would count for Hugo purposes.)


Apr. 20th, 2017 07:48 pm
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Logan was good, although I wonder if they thought while making it that an oppressive, corporate-controlled US that people are trying to escape from over the border to Canada was more like a what-if dystopia than an accurate depiction of the present day.

Moonlight was also good, very good, I don't seem to have ever mentioned that, mostly putting it here so that when I go back looking for what movies I saw it's on the list.
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Hidden Figures is OUTSTANDING; October Sky is a long-time favorite movie of mine, although I haven't watched it in years, and this is, I think, even better. Sheer delight and excellence. To talk briefly about one mildly spoilery aspect Read more... )

I would like to particularly point out that it was officially released in 2016, making it Hugo-nominable in the nominations that have just opened! "But historical fiction isn't science fiction", you say - let me point out that Apollo 13 was a finalist and October Sky made the long list, so clearly some Hugo voters consider these kinds of movies eligible.

Rogue One!

Dec. 19th, 2016 12:01 am
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I don't know how to do spoiler cuts on Facebook so I'm going to have to talk about this movie here! Spoiler cut! Read more... )


Nov. 15th, 2016 11:39 pm
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Overall very pleased with this adaptation! The film team obviously understood the story and added movie-appropriate spectacle/drama/closure in mostly satisfying ways. More about which behind this cut. Read more... )
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Ghostbusters was a blast, like a two-hour jaunt into an alternate universe where women can be awesome without being filtered through the male gaze. And some great new iconic scenes and stuff.

Star Trek Beyond was also awesome, it's like they finally let one of these NuTreks be made by people who actually loved Star Trek. Like we finally got movie-style spectacle and sensawunda stuff coupled with speeches about values. A fine summer for films here.
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I have finally seen Mad Max: Fury Road. I can't argue that it did many things right and many things well (notably not the sound balance, we tried turning it up for the talking and down for the fighting but I still couldn't make out half the dialogue) but it wasn't really my thing and I'm glad I didn't spend a theater outing on it.

I liked the Alyssa Wong story "The Fisher Queen" so I can vote for her for the Campbell with a clear conscience; I didn't care for "Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers". Not my thing, to continue a theme here.

I guess I still need to read some magazine issues, for Editor Short and Semipro? Getting close to done though.
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Finding Dory - cried. Thought it was very good. A couple of laugh-out-loud bits too. Discussion question: what if the movie was exactly the same in every way, but the octopus was voiced by, I don't know, Roseanne Barr*. On the one hand, yay more female buddy characters, on the other hand, do Hank's choices in the end suddenly feel self-sacrificial instead of self-actualizing. And does that one bit automatically turn into a reference to a certain famous movie I haven't actually seen but still know the iconic ending of. (*Roseanne was just who first came to mind, as, like, an older female "character actor", but then I looked it up, and the voice of Hank was apparently the guy who played Al Bundy, so Roseanne is like totally exactly the right parallel and I wonder if on some subconscious level I was cued for that by Hank's voice.)

Her Every Wish, Courtney Milan novella. I really like the thing Milan is doing of expanding her serieses into including non-aristocrat couples? Like there's always been some of that in historical romance but very often it's aristo/non-aristo, and I feel like Milan is doing cool stuff with people in social roles I'm not used to seeing in historicals at all? Like obviously there's plenty of both-not-aristos in settings in the American West, cowboys/mail order brides and all that, but, like, actual working-class people in London contemporaneously with Lords and Society and all that? This is neat stuff. I would read a hundred more chapters about Daisy and Crash and their shopkeeping lives. (I would love to have seen a little more done with the implication that Crash is bisexual, I spent most of Unraveled thinking that Smite was bi (that Richard was his ex) and am still sad he wasn't, I can see how Milan just didn't want to go into it with all the complexity of historical attitudes/legalities, but, like, bi hero? that's interesting!) I wasn't super into every aspect of their romance... I thought their conversations were a lot more interesting than their sex... but, like, family dinners, would read so many family dinners with Daisy's mom and Aunt Ree.
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Behind cut for spoilers. Read more... )
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
Ms. Marvel Volume 3: Crushed, Wilson, Bondoc, Miyazawa. I didn't think this was as strong as Generation Why, plot/theme-wise, or as fun in its guest stars (Wolverine >> Loki), but it still had a lot of great character beats. I'm... cautiously intrigued by what they're doing with Kamala and Bruno, like it's maybe *not* falling into any of the obvious patterns that could take?

Hereville: How Mirka Caught a Fish, Barry Deutsch. The third Hereville book. Okay, talk about character beats. Deutsch is *so good*. There were bits of this that were almost breathtaking. And I didn't quite cry but I got a little misty-eyed. Plus the Hereville world is just so interesting - I guess it's exotifying to look at it that way, but we're in my lj, so, whatever, I *really enjoyed* the way it sometimes jars my assumptions, like, it's so easy to slip into thinking that they're in the past because of the clothes, and then suddenly - car! Or the comparative bathing suits! Don't tell Junie but I need to either buy her all three of these or put them on her wishlist, now that she's into comics, they're just so good.

Last of the Sandwalkers, Jay Hosler. I really wanted to love this, and I feel all weird and sad about how lukewarm I ended up feeling about it. I mean, THIS IS AGE OF ELYTRA - I didn't even realize when I picked it up and then at some point I was like, holy shit, this IS the long-prophecied beetle project, I've been waiting for, what, over a decade? The thing is, I love beetles, but part of what I love about beetles is just how *gorgeous* they are, and this comic, for me, didn't really capture that. In fact, I found the character designs confusing - I had to keep referring back to the cast page to try to tell them apart - and not particularly easy to identify with in a Scott McCloud iconic-character sense. I did enjoy meeting some nifty beetle species, but the mechanics to get the party from encounter to encounter felt way over-labored... neither the action-adventure-intrigue plot or the character dynamics ever really drew me in, but that stuff was way too much of the weight of the book for the zing of pure beetle enthusiasm to shine through. I don't know. I feel like an asshole griping about this when, like, it's a fucking comic book about beetles, it's amazing it exists in the first place, who cares if it was 50% gratuitous robot, but Clan Apis was so beautiful, and moving, and important to me, I obviously wanted this to be Clan Apis But With Beetles and you can't step into the same stream and... yeah.

Megamind is stylistically similar to another DreamWorks animated superhero movie from around the same time that I really liked, Monsters vs Aliens, but the latter is more of a classic origin story, and Megamind is a deconstruction. I mean, both have some fun with the cliches of the genre, but I think a *lot* of Megamind was lost on my not-yet-genre-savvy kids, and I'll be surprised if they remember it as enthusiastically? I loved it, though. Great character dynamics. Am now tearing through fic. :)
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I liked Ex Machina a lot more than some other members of our viewing party, and also interpreted it pretty differently, so if you're looking for a movie to argue about, this could be a good one! (I thought it was aware of and critical of its gender ickiness, although I can understand a preference for movies not being icky in the first place...)

World of Tomorrow, on the other hand, didn't really work for me; yes, there were a lot of Big SF Ideas, some of which seem sort of clever or cute in retrospect, but it was so weird that it was awkward to watch with other people, and so bleak. I'll be a little surprised if it gets nominated, it seems like more of a movie critic movie than something average Hugo voters would go for, maybe?
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
I think in the tumult of Christmas I never posted about this. Sanjay's Super Team is the best Pixar short ever. I have probably said this before (Day & Night, Boundin') but, no, really, this time, I *mean* it, it is an entirely different kind of thing than a neat visual gimmick or an inspirational poem, it's simultaneously epic cosmic high fantasy, and amazing character work, all in this teeny-tiny space of, like, seven minutes. I would watch a full-length feature trilogy expansion of it though, it's just - stylistically SO COOL, and the backstory (with the photos at the end) took my breath away. I don't think it can be purchased online at this time which is unfortunate because I want to tell everyone in the world to a) watch it, because it is so good, you want it in your eyeballs if you do visual media at all, and b) nominate it for the Hugo Dramatic Short-form (I usually try to stay away from "you should nominate this" language, but I just want everyone to get to know about it!).

The Good Dinosaur, the movie it screened with, is not so exciting. Phenomenal photorealistic nature animation but the story was pretty by-the-numbers. Which is fine - "some cute moments and nothing really obnoxious" is not a bad kids-movie experience - but it's too bad that Sanjay's Super Team might not have gotten as many in-theater views because it got paired with a less-enticing feature.
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
Interstellar was *so bad*, like, what if they let M. Night Shyamalan remake 2001.

Magic Mike XXL on the other hand was a lot of fun, starring Channing Tatum's arms as the leaders of a merry band of sex elves traveling the American South to make sexually repressed women smile. It's simpler and more optimistic than the first one, still not really about eroticism as much as a sort of intersubjective performance of sexuality that's a whole lot of layers removed from actual sex. (Fun questions of "who is the consumer" - the women who are chosen to be the 'guests' of the various strip acts are sometimes being "proven" to themselves to be worthy of sexual attention, sometimes to other women in the audience, sometimes they're pretty much being used as props for the male dancers showing off for themselves or each other.) There were a few moments with actual passion - Tatum's first dance at the beginning, alone in his workshop when a song comes on the radio he used to dance to - that was hot. And a couple of moments at Domina, when Tatum kneels for Rome and kisses her hand, and when he first watches tWitch dance with obvious fascination/desire. Well, I thought it was obvious; they got *so close* to doing something interesting with it at the end, with the mirror dance, but I just didn't feel it with the choreography there. Good movie but needed more homoeroticism (probably my standard review to be honest).


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