retsuko: snarky quote :) (capital letters)
These two episodes weren't awful, but they weren't great, either. I think the writers were in a rut of trying lots of new things in an effort to see what stuck.

The Battle: The Ferengi are back... and they've brought a Count of Monte Cristo-level complicated revenge scheme with them! )

Hide & Q: Everything's going along contrived but fine until something awful happens. )

Signs that it's THE FUTURE:
* Dr. Crusher says she rarely encounters headaches and the common cold is eradicated. Wishful thinking there.
* The Enterprise's bed technology is YEARS AHEAD of ours! (Seriously, not even a fancy mattress or something? Picard's bed looked like he was at a particularly joyless Motel 6.)

Signs it's NOT THE FUTURE:
* Well, any story involving Q usually necessitates future tech so that Q can show off his powers by messing with it. Both of these episodes need to take place in the future to work, and nothing feels out of place this time around.

Unintentionally Funniest Line:
Geordi: "Worf! Is this your idea of sex?!" (And, thus, a thousand terrible fanfics were spawned.)

The writers' 'ship=Geordi/Yar. This comes out of nowhere! And then is never mentioned again for the rest of the episode!
retsuko: antique books (books)
In Books:

The Sculptor, words and pictures by Scott McCloud: I read this book deliberately, one chunk at a time, until I reached the 2/3 point, and then I could not stop; the story became so urgent that I almost felt like stopping reading would mean leaving the main characters alone to die, and I couldn't bear the thought of that. I still wish I could have parceled it out a little more slowly, though, because now I will never have the chance to read it for the first time again. What a wonderful story, told by a master, and a meditation on art, love, and life. It's never maudlin and puts neither of its main characters onto pedestals; furthermore, it's nice to read a story where the hero's actions aren't universally treated as the correct Be-All and End-All to all the story's problems. (In fact, the main characters' actions contribute to some of his problems, in the messy, complicated way that often happens in real life, and I really appreciated that angle of the plot.) I'm also amazed that McCloud managed, in every instance, to show in two dimensions a story that I could feel in all three. Not literally, of course, but I could imagine all the textures that are part of the story beneath my fingers, and this is a rare thing for any work, graphic novel or not. The final twenty pages or so are some of the most beautiful pieces of art I've seen in years.

When I finished this book, I sat on the couch for a few minutes, wiped away the tears, and went to hug my son. It's that kind of book, the kind that makes you value what you have and remember how life, although tumultuous and sometimes troubling, is a gift. It's absolutely worth paying the hardcover price for. Run, don't walk!

The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell: Like the The Sculptor, this is a work that deals in huge themes and it's hard to reduce it to a few sentences of plot and critique. In some ways, it's as good as Cloud Atlas, although I don't think anything will ever knock that book out of my favorites list. It's the most Buddhist work of science fiction I've ever read. It's filled with characters of all sizes and shapes, although it sticks with one character throughout in thought-provoking ways. Unlike Cloud Atlas, I ended up liking all of the characters, including one who I never thought I would come to tolerate, much less like. It's also one of the more depressing visions of the near future that I've read in some time, and I'm sorry to say that the final installment of the story is the one that sticks with me most of all, when I think it should be the work as a whole.

Both The Sculptor and The Bone Clocks are masterful at capturing in macro- and micro- the ways that life slides by, and they both feel epic in similar ways, even though their subject matter is completely different. While The Sculptor is more accessible than The Bone Clocks, they're both wonderful reads for story and character, and that amazing sense of grandeur that a lot of works lack.

In Comics:

Marceline Gone Adrift, Issues 1 & 2: The story is unfolding slowly so far, but the wonderful artwork is more than enough to make up for it, and I have faith Meredith Gran is going to spin a marvelous second half. There have been some great flashbacks to Marceline and Bubblegum's past so far, and I'm sure there are more to come.

Help Us! Great Warrior, Issue 1: I wasn't sure what to make of this comic until the last two panels of the final page, in which this amazing line of dialogue resides: "Ssshh! Do you hear that? It's the sound of me believing in myself." At that point, I was totally sold. The whole work is impossibly adorable and squishy, and there are a lot of fun asides like this one. I'm really excited to see where the story goes!
retsuko: martha jones from 'doctor who', in black and white (martha)
This is a crazy pair of episodes: one that was really pretty good, and one that was... well, uhm, I'll take it to the comments.

Lonely Among Us: Are You Aware Everyone is Behaving Strangely? )


Signs that it's the FUTURE:
* Uhm... energy being? The idea of colonizing another planet is pretty standard sci-fi, so there's that, but, generally, both of these episodes would have worked out in non-sci-fi contexts pretty well.

Signs that it's NOT the FUTURE:
* Dude, why doesn't the Enterprise have a firewall? This is the third time where the computers have just shorted out and/or been vulnerable to alien attack. If the ship is so sophisticated, surely the engineers planned for the computers to be invulnerable, at least in most of the ways that it counts!

* Also, the lighting in these episodes is STILL SO WEIRD. Everyone in Engineering apparently works in total darkness OR with the help of one florescent lightbulb.

Unintentionally Funniest Lines:
* A possessed Crusher, on what had happened to Worf: "A temporary... mental aberration." (I love this excuse, and will use it from now on, as much as possible.)

* Picard, on uncertainties: "Why has everything become a 'something' or 'whatever'?"
retsuko: (yay doctor!)
Before I begin, a brief side note: last time I posted, [profile] foreverinasmile and I were talking and she graciously listed her 5 favorite episodes, and then asked me the same question. I suddenly realized that aside from "The Inner Light" (which is one of my top 5 science fiction stories EVER, which is why I know the name), I had almost completely forgotten the actual episode titles, but rather, the arresting plots and images that came out of some of my favorites. So, without any further ado, the things I'm looking forward to:

1) Holodeck episodes: Data as Sherlock Holmes and Geordi as Doctor Watson; Picard as a film noir detective.

2) Character development episodes/scenes: Crusher teaching Data to dance for Chief O'Brian's wedding; Data's daughter; poker games; Worf attempting to be a parent to Alexander; Spot, and Data's efforts to learn music; and that one where Picard and Crusher almost but not quite confront their UST because of some crazy alien hostage situation.

3) Crazy images: Cellular peptide cake (with mint frosting!), which is probably the most bonkers episode that stands out in my memory; that one where everyone de-evolves for some reason; Worf delivering Keiko's baby in a turbolift shaft; the Borg (all of the stuff involving the Borg); and the Cardassians (who I will hard pressed not to type up as Kardasians.)

Things I'm not looking forward to include: Barclay and the holodeck (*cringe*); the Cardassians (ugh, just thinking about that torture scene); that one where it turns out Starfleet Command has been infiltrated by mind control aliens and the plot line is never brought up again; that one where everyone is addicted to a stupid game except Wesley and some girl he has a crush on; and more Ferengi nonsense.

Speaking of Ferengi nonsense, let's get to the rewatch stuff, because the Ferengi figure prominently in the first episode! The Last Outpost: Your alien images continue to shock us. )

So, as a palate cleanser, Where No One Has Gone Before: I'm not the Doctor! )

Signs it's THE FUTURE:
* Even though everyone references it, except for the Captain's Log, it appears that no one has to do any paperwork! Hooray!
* Engineering has barstools. Seriously. Hooray?

Signs it's NOT THE FUTURE:
* Aside from ragging on the awful sweater crocheted abomination that Wesley wears in the second episode, I've got nothing. Other than sickbay's bizarre lighting, these episodes manage to stay firmly in future tech territory.
retsuko: (Default)
Uhm, wow. These two were pretty crazy.

The Naked Now: Everyone acts like they're drunk, and Wesley drives the ship in the PG-est drunken orgy I've ever seen. )

Code of Honor: No one likes the prime directive. )

Signs that it's THE FUTURE:
* Someone wears a metallic lame jumpsuit. Definitely the future.
* Their goblet technology is YEARS ahead of us. YEARS, everyone!

Signs that it's NOT THE FUTURE:
* Plague is still around, or at least, in our vision of the future, plague is still a problem on a large scale.
* Bureaucracy ruins everything. People still complain about it, and at some length.

FASHION Side talk: I know that there are other blogs devoted solely to critiquing the fashions of Next Gen, and I won't go too heavily into that, but I do want to know where the costume department got ahold of all that weirdly ridged fabric and why it figures into almost every costume they make. Also, Wesley Crusher's sweaters are just the ugliest damn things I've ever seen. And, finally, Troi's outfit gets worse with each passing episode; the "belt" of the pink ridge stuff is almost like an arrow that says "Vajayay this way!" and I just want to take Troi shopping for something, anything better than that.
retsuko: (Default)
In your own space, post recs for at least three fanworks that you did not create.

With the demise/retiring of the marvelous rec com Crack_van, over on LJ, I've been doing a little less fanfic reading than I'd like. But I have favorites that I revisit, including, first and foremost, the wonderfully hilarious In Which John is a BAMFy MoFo, OMG!, a Sherlock parody that I save for days when I'm sad and need cheering up. I don't want to spoil what makes it so funny, but suffice it to say, it's nice to see Inspector Lestrade having the upper hand, just for once, and it's awesome to read about John being a total BAMF, and completely annoying Sherlock just by doing that.

In the realm of fanvids (one of the fanworks that I wish I could create, but haven't had the chance to try yet), there are a bunch of vids that I love and keep revisiting.

Blow, by kuwdora is a great introduction to what makes the cancelled show Sanctuary so awesome and fun: cool characters, monsters of the week, period clothing, and kick-ass, punchy action. This video also went a long way to converting me to Ke$ha fandom, or at least, not total indifference. Kuwdora is a great editor and one of those vidders who makes me green with envy.

Then, there are other fanworks that I keep revisiting because they're this mix of awesomely funny and socially relevant. Serrico's 'Pornstar Dancing' is a great example of this sort of work. The lyrics of the original are just gross, but the images that serrico uses completely subvert them, to perfect, hilarious effect. (Serrico's notes for this video are: "Being a thoughtful, sensitive, and nuanced examination of gendered expressions and characterisations of desire. (Also known as: Let's Objectify Men.)") This is fairly NSFW, both for lyrics and image. Wait until you get home from work to point and laugh.
retsuko: (spoilers!)
Netflix's very careful, non-spoilery summary: "The new starship Enterprise and its crew's first mission to explore the mystery surrounding the creation of Far Point Station on the planet Deneb IV."

There are two elements of this opener, one of which involves Q putting Picard & Co. on trial as proxies for the human race for crimes against... humanity? The universe? Crabgrass? Or something. (This part of the episode plays out like the worst job interview ever, complete with crazy outfits and impossible questions.) The other involves (obviously) the "mystery" of Far Point station, where everything is built to exact StarFleet specifications by some ~*~mysterious~*~ means and everything that people want keeps magically appearing. I use the sarcastic tildes and stars above because the idea that people (especially Star Fleet engineers) would dismiss this magical perfection as "just a coincidence" when they know that the planet doesn't have the materials to do this is ludicrous. The opening exposition dialogue between Riker and Dr. Crusher is really odd in this respect. My mental summary was:

Riker: Everything's too weirdly perfect here!
Crusher: LOL, you're such a suck-up.
Riker: But, APPLES!
Crusher: If only this cloth had an ugly pattern.
Shopkeeper: (eerie stare)
Riker: BUT!
Crusher: Whoa, this cloth has an ugly pattern!
Wesley: That pattern wasn't there before!
Riker: See?! Something weird--
Crusher: It's just a coincidence. Good luck with that sucking up while I reveal my angtsy past.

Seriously, StarFleet doesn't seem like an organization which would ignore weird coincidences, especially not on planets where it wants to build a permanent base. Of course, there's an explanation: Spoilers, just in case. )

The solving of this mystery leads to the other part of the episode, which is Q's trial for humanity, in a courtroom that's rumored to be modeled on one in the year 2079, after some event called "The Atomic Horror." It appears to be canon that ST:TNG's working model for our immediate future is that Mad Max does happen at some point, and that armies drug up their soldiers to get them to perform... better? Run faster towards their deaths? Or something. The courtroom is filled with people who look like they're all in a community theater production of "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" and Q has this awesome scissor lift chair that I noted as, "must own." Q and Picard have a snarky battle of words; Q uses his infinite cosmic powers to ice Lt. Yar like he's Mr. Freeze in an old Batman episode; and while this is all very dramatic, it's weird sequence of events. The pacing is really odd, with a lot of reaction shots from all the characters involved, and they all look awkward and grouchy.

This leads me to my other area of surprise in the rewatch: everyone is awkward and grouchy around each other. More spoilers! )

There is something interesting character building that I had forgotten: Geordi, for example, reveals that using his visor means that he can effectively see, but that he's in pain most of the time, and he's not going to let Dr. Crusher meddle with his brain to deal with that pain if it means he can't do his job or be himself. Geordi is a total badass. I also liked the revelations between Crusher and Picard, even if the entire tone was awkward; it still felt right, given what they'd been through together. Data and Riker's first meeting was pretty nice, too.

Awesome-est part of the episode: DeForest Kelly! And Majel Barrett Roddenberry's familiar voice.

Signs it's not the future:
* Picard orders the Enterprise to cease all internal communications in order to fool Q; he says they should use "print outs" instead. ZOMG.
* The lighting in this episode is very odd: sort of florescent, but weirdly dark in patches.

Signs that it's the future:
* Cloth is sold in cylinders, not in bolts! THE FUTURE!
* The Enterprise's elevator technology is YEARS ahead of ours. Years, people.
* Far Point station is in the form of a city with a pointy spire at its center. Pointy cities = always the future!
* People are always poking at wall computers, although it's never clear what they're doing (except for the time when Riker uses the computer to find Data in the Holodeck.) Wall computers! THE FUTURE!

Next time: Everyone gets some virus that makes them act drunk; Lt. Yar goes to that planet where she has to fight some guy's wife. This should be good.
retsuko: (yay doctor!)
Day 3: In your own space, talk about your creative process - from what inspires you to what motivates you to how you manage to break through blocks. Does your process change depending on the type of creating you're doing?

For fanfic! )

I should add here that my trick for beating block in both fanfic and original work is two-fold:

1) Ignore all voices coming from mental radio station KFKD (thank you, Anne Lamott) with a constant mantra of, "It's just a rough draft, mistakes don't matter, it's just a rough draft, you can always go back, it's just a rough draft, writing is a recursive process..." (Or some shorter part of that.)

2) ALWAYS quit while I still have something to say, even if it's just the last sentence of a character's speech, or a more cliffhanger-y, pivotal moment. Even if it's just the sentence, keeping it in mind for a while often leads to other thoughts, like, If Character A actually says this, then B will have no choice but to do that... UNLESS... or, Character C doesn't know about A&B yet, what would she/he say if she/he saw this scene take place?

More questions are always better than fewer!

For my original works, it's more complicated. )

For crafting stuff... )
retsuko: (Default)

Fandom Snowflake Challenge banner

Day 1: In your own space, post a rec for at least three fanworks that you have created. It can be your favorite fanworks that you've created, or fanworks you feel no one ever saw, or fanworks you say would define you as a creator.

My AO3 account looks a little anemic these days, and I'm a little sad I can't blog about something I did for Fandom_Stocking this year, since reveals haven't gone up yet. But, anyway, here are three of my fanworks I'm most pleased with as of right now:

1) Theory and Practice, a XXXHolic story featuring Watanuki, Doumeki, and an OC. This work was for a (now sadly defunct) LJ community, for a prompt that asked for Doumeki caring for Watanuki, showing his feelings through actions. I enjoyed writing this work for two reasons: I got to research first aid methodology, a field which I'd never really investigated other than the two-step process of 1) find band-aid and then 2) use band-aid. This research lead me to the second reason I enjoyed writing the fic, which was sorting out Doumeki's character more. I was actually really reluctant to write him at first; he's so stoic in the manga, and I didn't want to assume too much about him and write him very OOC. But the more I thought about the way he cared for Watanuki, the more his actions made sense, and I grew more confident writing those and giving him minimal dialogue. Creating the side characters, including the OC, was a lot of fun, too, because I got to play with the idea of that manga teases that Doumeki has a lot of admirers (irritating Watanuki to no end, of course) and that this carries over into real life, where it's a bunch of sweet old ladies worried about him because he's so thin. Finally, I'm a sucker for hurt/comfort and this story has it spades, so yay for that! This is probably my favorite piece of fanfic; I was really proud to get the feedback on it that everyone was IC, and that the recip was delighted with it. :)

2) Star Candy, an Adventure Time coffeeshop AU. (The alternate title that I strongly considered was, Perfecting the Twinkle Matrix, which I still love, although it's a mouthful.) This is a femmeslash story between Marceline and Princess Bubblegum, although the slash is more in the subtext and ending than in the story itself. I know that some readers have a visceral hatred of coffeeshop AUs, and I thought I did for a long time, too, but than I saw this prompt and found the idea oddly charming; Marceline as slightly harried owner/proprietor was fun to think about, and putting the Adventure Time characters into a less fantastical setting still worked because AT is a show that is strong in a variety of settings, with low or high magic. This was another gift for an exchange, and I'm happy that so many people enjoyed it besides the recip.

3) When Ahiru Met Haruhi, a crossover between The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi and Princess Tutu, at the request of (I think) [personal profile] lemon_badgeress. This is one of my oldest works. I had asked my friends for crossover prompts, and Lemon asked for this jokingly, and I thought, ha ha, I'm gonna do it! It's one of the silliest, fluffiest things I've ever written, and I wish it would get a little more love. However, both of those fandoms are pretty quiet these days, and this short fic is pretty neglected.
retsuko: (Default)
2014 has been a good year for pop culture activities, even without SDCC tickets. I've been lucky enough to see about half of the movies that I wanted to; I've read 53 books (it would be 54, but I abandoned one because of sheer boredom/desperation); and I've had wonderful times speaking to many fun, knowledgeable, and interesting people about shared fandoms and pop culture interests. I hope 2015 brings more of the same, especially since there is Star Wars to look forward to, and Avengers, and Agent Carter and all my returning favorites and, really, far too many upcoming titles to entirely list in one entry.

I do have a bunch of projects that I want to bring to fruition in 2015, some of them big, and some fairly small and relaxed. In no particular order:

1) A Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell reread, to get ready for the BBC adaptation. My target date for this is January/February, just so I'm not attempting to finish such a long book too close to the release date. I'll blog about this in chunks as I go through it, and if there's anyone who wants to join in, I can get more specific about these chunks and when I plan to have them done. :)

2) Yebisu and I are planning, thanks to Netflix, to do a Star Trek: The Next Generation re-watch, probably two episodes a week. I'm hoping that the two episodes a week format will help balance out some of the truly regrettably bad episodes that I remember from the first few seasons by contrasting bad with good, or at least passable. I'll blog about this, too.

3) Photography of the action figures in SOME format; I just haven't settled on what yet.

4) A far more cryptic pair of projects, one of which hinges on acquiring new skills, and the other of which depends on time. I'm remaining cryptic in hopes of actually accomplishing both and/or confusing my older self when I review these entries years from now.
retsuko: snarky quote :) (capital letters)
My subtitle for the last installment in this franchise was, "The Hobbit: Everything's Coming Up Arrows!" and after careful reflection, I came up with a few more for this final chapter:

The Hobbit: Everyone Has an Ironic Steed!
The Hobbit: Women and Children First!
The Hobbit: Orcs are the WORST. (Also up for consideration: the title above, and Orcs are the jerkiest jerks ever.)
The Hobbit: Wait 'till HR hears about this!
The Hobbit: No, seriously, let's catch the express bus to Gundebad, we can hitch a ride back afterwards.
The Hobbit: Not without my mommy-/daddy-issues! (Close second: Family is sooooo embarrassing.)

I don't mean any of these in a mean-spirited way; I really did enjoy the film, and there are so many beautiful elements in it that I'm willing to ignore a lot of weirdo plot contrivances (most notably that the map of Middle Earth that I thought I had pretty clearly in mind was *completely* wrong.)

Spoilers, I suppose... )

In summary: Lots of fun all around. I've read some pretty negative reviews of this film, and I'm not sure what the reviewers went into the film wanting. It's called "The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies," not "The Hobbit: Peter Jackson sat down and asked YOU what you wanted out of a Hobbit movie," for gosh-sakes. There are five armies, there is a mountain of cursed dragon gold, and there are more than a few heroes. What did everyone expect, Citizen Hobbit? The Maltese Dragon? I don't know. Anyway, I thought it was fun and diverting, and that's exactly what I wanted when I went in, so that was perfect.
retsuko: antique books (books)
I used to be so excited for the Monday night block of shows. But Gotham has been... somewhat uneven (another entry for another time) and Sleepy Hollow has become even uneven-er. This used to be a show that I would unreservedly recommend to all and sundry because it was so much fun. Somewhere along the line this season, though, that fun just drained away, and last night's mid-season finale clinched it for me.

Specifically, a lot of spoilers: )

And even more specifically, solving a problem like Katrina: )

I do love this show. I love Abbie Mills, and the Mills sisters working together (and the episode with them last week was the strongest all season long). I love Crane vs. 2014. I loved Abbie's speech in last night's episode about how she wasn't going to let Moloch take away any more people--that's the core of part of the reason I love the show right there: it's a story about a strong woman, who is surrounded by other strong women (because in the scene in the church before Henry showed up was Abbie, Jenny, and Katrina vowing to shop evil, with Crane chiming in, a rarity for a mainstream network show.) Most of the men on the show (when a romantic subplot isn't ruining everything) are compelling characters in their own right, and I want to know their stories, too, but the most interesting thing about the story remains Abbie, and her facing down evil with a platonic partner. I want the show to go back to that, and stop shoe-horning in people I don't care about, and subplots that go nowhere. I'd like it to be funny again, too. Basically, I want to go back to that feeling of recommending it to all and sundry, not the way I feel right now which is, "It's OK, but..."
retsuko: lady rainicorn and princess bubblegum from the pilot episode of Adventure Time (PB + Rainicorn)
Yesterday, Yebisu and I had the distinct pleasure of seeing Big Hero 6, which is one of the rare movies that I didn't want to end because it was so beautiful and so entertaining, and because the ending of the film provided a springboard for so, so many stories that would be equally as fun and interesting as the movie itself. This isn't to say this was a perfect or flawless film, but it's pretty damned good in almost every respect, and that is saying quite a lot.

There are quite a few plot summaries that are easily available on the web, and I don't want to add to what's been already said in that respect. Some of the plot aspects that I found especially interesting, though, had to do with the depiction of science and scientific process. Science, although it provides our heroes with their gadgets and weapons, isn't a solution to all problems, or something that's so simple and quick that it looks like magic. Instead, science is something all of the characters think over carefully, and get their hands dirty for. In one pivotal (and very touching) sequence, we see that one of the characters went through so many proto-types for a project that he forgot which number he was on, and what time of day it was. Being smart and willing to approach problems through trial and error is never, ever shown as a liability for any of the characters, and the story is richer for it. No one gets a free pass to becoming a hero/heroine.

The design aspect of this film, from the robots to the city of San Fransokyo, is excellent. It's hard to say where to begin with this: the Golden Gate bridge has been re-imagined in the most wonderful way, and a lot of classic SF buildings have, too. (I crossed my fingers that City Lights would appear, but it didn't, to my slight disappointment.) Everything in the city, from the signs to the trolleys, was just beautiful, and if the whole movie had just been a tour through the city, I probably would have been good with just that. (Note to my subconscious: If you want to add this city to your map of dream!San Francisco, please, please, please go ahead.) But there was more than that--all of the objects and homes and buildings around our characters felt right. Hiro's home, in particular, has that "lived in" patina of family photos/fannish posters/random pictures on the wall and discarded projects and games strewn around the floor of his bedroom that make it feel like a real space, not just a CGI, story-necessitated one.

The overall plot is the only place where things start to get shaky: for anyone who's seen a film before (or read the works of Joseph Campbell), certain aspects are visible miles away. This is a mostly a pretty kid-friendly film, although death and revenge are two of the major plot elements, so perhaps think carefully before taking younger kids. But if your kid is up for it, you won't be disappointed. Stay until after the credits have rolled to catch a scene that is just... well, it's hilarious, and I was so happy because it validated a theory that I'd formed halfway through the story. :D
retsuko: (fierce!)
Parts of last night's episode worked well enough, but the central plot device of the episode was the disturbing Mystical, Forced Pregnancy trope. These kinds of episodes never end well for me, because they either become a political screed (any episode where Camille Paglia is a spiritual consultant worries me greatly) or they are gross and wrong and hit all my squicks.

On the plus side, though, it should be said there was plenty of time for Abbie to be awesome, and I liked the inclusion of Reyes and the local police force as "Abbie's army," although that plot arm made me nervous because if it had gone wrong, I was worried that Abbie might have lost her job. I also thought that Sleepy Hollow is the only show I know where a disguised PSA about Election Day suddenly becomes plot relevant and is genuinely entertaining. I also loved the final dialogue at the end of the episode, where Crane realized how much he loves Katrina, and he and Abbie were able to shore up their resolution to defeat the bad guys.

On the minus side, I have the following concerns:

1) Who are Henry's minions? Cultists? Sorcerors? Rogue demons? (What's a rogue demon? Heh.) I feel like this could be resolved so easily with just a few lines of dialogue, and it would lend urgency to the story. After all, what's Henry going to do next week when all of these thugs are in jail? Does he get them from rent-a-thug? Are there more? Do they have a health plan and benefits? Etc.

2) I am very tired of the is-she-or-isn't-she-EBIL plot meandering for Katrina. Just really tired of it. Seriously--either your character is evil or she's not, and we need some definitive plot confirmation one way or another.

3) And speaking of Katrina: OMG, where to begin? I began to wonder if the real reason the show has held back on letting her come into the main timeline is because a witch as powerful as she is would upset the balance of reality. If Katrina is as powerful as the story says she is (and the glimpses we've gotten every now and then), then she could, almost single-handedly, make things work out for our heroes in the coming battle. I would rather see her try that and die heroically than be stuck in the background as a half-neutered character.

3a) DAMMIT, mystical forced pregnancy trope: I don't like to see characters suffer like that, and I really don't like the idea that women's bodies are incubators that can be highjacked and used for demon baby vessels anytime. It's also lazy writing: if Moloch could have done this from the get-go, why didn't he try it sooner, and with anyone else? Nope, it had to happen at this specific time to this specific character. (Yes, it was inferred that Henry's minions had tried with other people to no avail, but OF COURSE it works exactly the way it was supposed to when it was Katrina's time.) It's almost as if this storyline was a punishment for her omissions of truth previously. (UGH, the implications of the whole thing give me the heebie jeebies.) The resolution was also ridiculously rushed and particularly deus ex machina.

I started thinking about this trope and wondering if there were ANY narratives that did it "right," or if it was even possible to do right at all. The only other show I could think of that attempted something similar was an Angel episode from first or second season where Cordelia gets magically knocked up overnight and we had to go through the whole "pregnant ladies eat crazy things!" blah blah. Is there any show/storyline where this trope has been used for anything other than a rape allegory? Can it even be done without inspiring some level of squick? And what would it take to retire this particular trope from the writer's handbook? ;p
retsuko: watanuki freaking out with a pig in his hands (omgwtfbbq!)
Happy Halloween, to all those who celebrate it!

I've been reading some AWESOME scary stories lately (one over at Jezebel bothers me very, very deeply, and I'm really, really glad I didn't read it alone at night!) and in the interests of adding to the general level of scare, I thought I'd share my only experience with a ghost. It's not particularly scary, but it was a pretty unnerving experience in both halves.

When we lived in Vancouver, we rented a basement apartment. I was initially against this, since I thought it would be dark and dreary. Instead, it turned out to be a wonderful space, painted white, with gorgeous hard wood floors. Yebisu and I loved it, and it was relatively close to UBC on the bus line. All of the public transport options were easily accessible from our apartment, including the trolley that ran on old-fashioned train tracks a few blocks over. Our neighborhood was laid out in a fairly straight grid pattern, so I never had a problem getting lost as I got to know it, and to top it off, it was a pretty quiet location (except for Chinese New Year and Halloween, when all of neighbors would set noisy fireworks off.)

One night in late September, I awoke around 2:00 AM to see a man standing at the foot of our bed. He was tall and pale and wore lumberjack style overalls and a plaid shirt. He was staring down at his hands. Fear gripped me and I started to shake Y. awake. For those who don't know, Y. is a terribly hard sleeper (years of being in the army reserves have given him the ability to fall deeply asleep almost instantaneously, no matter where he's sleeping) and he was slow to wake. As I shook him, I looked to the foot of the bed again. The man was starting to move, but incredibly slowly, like a slow-motion movie that was one frame too short. He was beginning to look up. I shook Y. harder, and eventually, he woke up as I turned on the light. The man was gone. Y. searched the entire apartment and found no one--the window next to us was locked tight, our doors, too. Y. assumed I'd had a bad dream, but I've never had the sleep paralysis that leads some people to ghost-story-like waking nightmares. As I thought over what had happened, I realized that I didn't feel that scared. It was out of the ordinary, of course, and it surprised me, but there was no lingering terror, no sense of malevolence from the thing at the foot of our bed.

I held onto the story for a few months, until our friend M. came to visit. M. had some amateur ghost-hunting experience and listened to my story. Then she asked if she could use some equipment to look at our room. Under a UV light, she found a long scratch on our bedroom wall that didn't appear when the regular lights were on. It was about the height the ghost-man's hands had been as he stood at the foot of our bed. M. walked around the neighborhood with me, and when we came to the train tracks, she speculated that the spirit/ghost had been looking for them. After much consideration, I came to the same conclusion, and I think now that the thing at the foot of the bed was lost and the scratch on the wall was a marker that he'd been there, a breadcrumb on the forest path. We never saw him or anything else again, and whatever he was, I hope he able to find where he was going.
retsuko: (yay doctor!)
Full disclosure: I am not a super-fan of this character, but I like him well enough that I stayed up late last night to watch the pilot of the show. (I regretted this somewhat this morning.) And I'm pretty OK with the decision to watch the thing, because there was enough Done Right to balance out the Wrong/Annoying/WTF. In many ways, this episode felt really like a pilot and not a presentative episode of what the show's going to be like as a whole: lots of exposition crammed in (and I mean crammed into every second of almost each shot, for good or ill), characters not really standing out (other than Constantine himself), and a whole lot of "look, look, this is cool and shiny! People will like it! Buy it!" I fervently hope that this frenetic, sales-focus approach will dissipate over the next few episodes and just let the stories breathe, because there is a lot that the writers can do here with a lot of talent.

Among the Things Done Right: I like Matt Ryan as Constantine--he looks perfect, and even though his accent isn't, strictly speaking, correct, it's good, and his speech has the cadence and tone that I imagined for the character. He's good at weary, but not whiny at all, and he acts like a man who knows the cost of too much and not enough power. His looks, as I said, are almost eerily like the character stepped off the comic book page. Of course, when we see him as a person, I kept thinking, dude cannot tie a tie! Depending on your feelings about the character, this either makes him adorably rumpled or distractedly uncaring, both of which (again) Matt Ryan carries off well. The settings around him were a bit on the generic side (probably to hide the fact that they are NOT London), but the effects for the spirit world overlaying ours were very, very nicely done. I also like the look of the magic that we saw--wards and glyphs all over the place, a lot of dramatic flame, and a nice bit of scare/ick during the cold open involving cockroaches. Another plus was Jasper's hideout, which is basically the most awesome occult library ever, and contains the helmet of Doctor Fate(!)*, as well as a bunch of other, plot-related things. The entire episode could have taken place in this setting, and I would have been fine. Harold Perrineau's appearances were good in the same way, although far more cryptic. Still, though, an entire episode of his character and Constantine sniping at each other, and I'd put up my feet and settle in quite contentedly.

But the flip side of this is that because there was Harold Perrineau's character, and Chas, and one other guy whose name I've forgotten, the token female character got almost totally sidelined, even though she was supposed to be a featured character. (I know the actress isn't a regular on the series, and her character was written out by the end of the episode, in a way that felt like a DM trying to compensate when a pivotal PC suddenly has to leave the table early.) I felt sorry for her, mostly. The dynamic between her and Constantine was very much like the Doctor and a new companion, and I think people's experience of the show depended a lot on their tolerance for that sort of power imbalance. Half of the dialogue was like this:

John: [Cryptic statement about Liv's powers/the occult/adversaries.]
Liv: [Reasonable question or freakout about any of the above.]
John: [Deflection or cryptic warning about adversaries.]
Live: *eyeroll* or *distracted*

Matt Ryan's performance saved this from being condescending nonsense; he never acted as though he knew more than she or thought her inferior. It seemed more like he was juggling too many things in his head to answer properly. The other half of the time, a plot element would come along and interrupt the conversation, stopping any power imbalance talk in its tracks. In the end, I really didn't blame Liv for leaving, although it was mostly because I hadn't even had a chance to invest in her one way or another.

My biggest other quibble with this pilot was the decision to bring Constantine's past mistakes forward so quickly. The adorable-child-in-peril plot device is something that really, really grates on me, because there's only so many times it can be used before it gets old. This episode brought it out... about four times in total: twice in flashback, once in explanation of said flashback, and once in person during the big showdown at the end. I think a far more effective method of introducing this plot element would have come at the very end of an episode that built to it. After a prolonged fight against a much scarier demonic villain, a sidekick character demands to know why Constantine risks life and limb to help people he's never met and/or barely knows, and in a tight close up, he says something like, "Wasn't fast enough before. Never gonna let that happen again." BAM--compelling character shown through his actions, rather than just words, and a tortured soul to boot. I think it's fine for characters to mysterious pasts or refer to stories we never learn the entire truth about. Not everything has to be Chekov's gun. I would have preferred a more straight-up urban fantasy adventure, with implications around the edges instead of front and center.

My only real WTF about the whole thing is that for a show that features demonic villains, angels, and magical powers, there was absolutely no appearance of the word "God." Constantine only invoked a Creator, and when he did other spells, he named symbols ("the power of the Star of David, the power of the Cross.") I'm a bit confused at the absence of any larger divine presence, and while I'd like to think it's because the writers are rejecting the standard either-or, good-evil, God-Devil dichotomy, I suspect the truth is more aligned with fears of alienating religious viewers. I need to go back to the comics now and see what sort of spells Constantine uses there.

But I'm eager to tune in next week, because as I said before, this show has a lot of elements that I do love, and I think with some time, it could really grow into a strong contender for an awesome, fun DC show. Given their track record thus far, I'm willing to give them a lot of leeway to get it right.

* If this means that Zatanna gets an appearance later on, I will probably die of SQUEE.
retsuko: martha jones from 'doctor who', in black and white (martha)
So, the cold open for last night's Gotham featured a character we'd never met before, high on a Plot Device drug, running screaming at the camera. This image pretty much encapsulates the show for me: it's loud, it's not subtle, and if I'm willing suspend a lot of disbelief, it's fun in a "did they really go there?" sort of way. The best scenes involve Jada Pinkett Smith and her mob boss character's machinations, sexual and otherwise. The worst ones... I dunno. There's a lot of violence that's mostly necessitated by the plot, and there are a lot of minor villains who serve as antagonists of the week. The show is exceedingly well cast, but the writing feels kind of flat and predictable: Antagonist is introduced, Gotham City Police react carefully and sensitively like a blunt instrument and beat lots of people up, Jim Gordon does some detecting where no one else will, villains plot, and confrontation, and then foreshadow-y, meta-plot scene and credits roll.

My other big problem with this show (and, to a slightly lesser extent, Arrow, which we're catching up with on Netflix) is that I have yet to see any reason why Gotham or Starling City is worth saving. Gotham, in particular, is a dingy, grimy, just plain awful place that doesn't seem to have any kind or altruistic citizens, just wall-to-wall gangsters, homeless druggies, and criminals, with a few rich people here and there to be offended by the very presence of the lower class. Even the trees in the final moments of last night's episode were dirty--it's a freaking park on a sunny day, and the trees were just patches of dingy green and darkness. Seriously, TV shows, what gives? I don't think it would be a stretch to have an episode centered around someone who's trying to do actual, genuine good in these cities, not as a vigilante, but as a social worker or community advocate (and Councilman Blood on Arrow doesn't count, since we have yet to see him actually doing anything in the very community he's meant to represent.) All cities have their issues with crime and poverty, but I have yet to travel to a city that doesn't have any good people in it, or a nicely landscaped park or museum with adequate lighting somewhere. Further, adding some nice people or places wouldn't diminish the grimdark tone the writers/production people are going for, it would make the dark seem darker by comparison. Come on, shows, surprise me! Make me want to visit Gotham or Starling City!

I'm definitely enjoying this season of Sleepy Hollow more, but last night's episode brought up a few problems: Spoilers, of course. )
retsuko: martha jones from 'doctor who', in black and white (martha)
A lot has been written on Gone Girl, both book and movie, lately and I've been impressed at the topics of discussion that have come up because of it, mostly because they are things that people do not like to talk about: the failure of marriage, as an institution, to provide for all parties involved in a way that compensates for all the sacrifices they make and the identities that people assume to cope with that failure. When I watched the movie with a single friend of mine, I turned to her at the end and joked, "So, hey, feel like getting married now?" and she laughed but then vehemently replied, "No way." Actually, the audience at the showing I saw was pretty worked up throughout the whole thing, and I think there were a lot of people around us thinking much the same thing. Marriage isn't usually a villain in any equation, and seeing it act like that here is at turns awkward (Amy's diary monologues about wives who control their husbands like Dancing Monkeys) and outright disturbing (Nick's sheer cluelessness about what his wife does with her time; Amy's multiple, casual re-fabrications about her life.) People around us laughed at some points, but it was an uneasy, restless laughter that left a sad tinge to the credits.

The other thing that really impressed me about the film was the number of facades that the movie presented us with: Amy and Nick's house is a blank, bland slate, colored in beige and wimpy green (not actually verdant, just the pale cousin of bright, lifelike green); Nick's bar is as generic as it gets (almost down to the level of grit on the windows, which I got the feeling the set decorators measured to be absolutely, disgustingly perfect); and all of the landscapes in the movie are either empty (the vast fields that Nick and the army of volunteers comb through, or the vague blankness of the cabin in the Ozarks where a pivotal mistake is made) or prefab and fake (Nick's office has no decorations, only a computer and a desk, cementing his status as "fake professor.") I kept expecting the characters to go around to a back of a building, only to discover that it was just a false front on a Hollywood backlot. It's a shell of a movie--a beautiful, exquisitely constructed shell that's hollow on the inside, just waiting for one of the characters to come back and truly inhabit it.

All this said, it's not a "fun" film, or a simple narrative. The book is easy to read--Flynn's sharp-witted prose just slides by like nothing else is happening and as a "need to know what happens next" type of book, it shines. The film is like that, too, relying on an excellent script from Flynn and reasonably quick pacing. But neither of them is a settling experience, and both of them made me feel like I'd watched someone else's homemade, creepy porn by accident. I'm still trying to brain bleach out a few of the images and sentiments. They're both worthwhile pieces of work, but not for the faint of heart, or those who want black-and-white endings.
retsuko: (spoilers!)
I know I'm a grown woman, and that I should be doing more responsible things at the moment, but there is something just so lovely about sitting down with a pile of comic books and reading them from cover to cover, regardless of time and chores, and the general mundanity that is life.

In comics:

Rat Queens, Issue 8: Violet's origin story gets told in a highly satisfactory fashion, with some very sweet moments between her and her mother, and some sour ones with her family as a whole. I especially like the first two pages, where Violet is getting dressed and it's made abundantly clear that a) the artist knows how armor works, and b) Violet is not your standard comic book lady with an unreal body. In any case, the story unfolds, and it's very, very bittersweet as it's contrasted with the final page of the issue. I love this comic!

Thor, Issue 1: The only disappointment in the whole haul, mainly because the new Thor is only in the whole issue for two pages. I'm eager to see Lady Thor in action, and while the two-page spread of her lifting Mjolnir was beautifully colored and dynamic, it was frustrating as a whole for a comic about her to only feature her for a moment. The art in this is very nice, though, and hopefully when the next issue shows up, new!Thor will have more to do. Also, some frost giants to battle, because there sure were a lot of them in this issue. (And their toenails are grotesque. GROTESQUE.)

One other, minor disappointment: still no word on how original!Thor will keep those abs now that he's not wielding the hammer anymore. Will he have to go to the gym like the rest of us?? Inquiring minds want to know!

Gotham Academy, Issue 1: This is a lot of fun, and it has a lot of promise. My only quibble with it is that it's too short! The first issue is setting up a lot of plot elements: our heroine's angsty past with her mother and other students at the school; conspiracies in and around the school itself; and whatever the monster in the walls is. I wished that there was more time to let the story unspool just a little bit more, instead of "here is this character! that one! look, it's Bruce wayne!" That said, I'm looking forward to the next issue, and hoping that the pacing will pay off in the long run.

In graphic novels:

This One Summer, words by Mariko Tamaki, art by Jillian Tamaki: The artwork in this is just gorgeous, and it captures perfectly the "summer at the seaside" that I was lucky enough to experience as a kid. The plot is very subtle but sweetly compelling, a coming-of-age story for the main character, Rose, mostly, but also the story of her friendship, her parents' relationship (which is not relegated to the sidelines, like a lot of YA literature might; I really appreciated the fact that the adults in this story were real people, too, not just paper tigers or imparters of Important Truths about Adulthood), and her awkward crush on the local convenience store guy. There's a sudden twist or two towards that the end that propels the action of the story into overdrive, but that's what summer is often like: a whole lot of leisure, and then the sudden realization that it's all about to be OVER and you need to do something, right away, before you lose the chance. I'd recommend this to a number of my friends, and to anyone who's spent any time at a summer resort as a kid. The sheer nostalgia alone is worth the price of admission.
retsuko: (spoilers!)
No spoilers about Gotham, except to say that I like what I've seen so far, and the casting is perfect for almost every role. It does feel very organic, like this could have happened before other Batman!verse events, although the timelines are off for a few of the major characters. The only quibble I have with it (and I realize it's pretty damn ridiculous) is since almost all the characters are villains/heroes in the making, Yebisu and I started wondering if every character had some significance in the story's future; we forgot that sometimes an ugly mob thug is just an ugly mob thug.

Of more immediate squee-ish interest to me is Sleepy Hollow. Spoilers ahoy! )

Trailer Park:

* Dammit, Annabelle trailers: I do not need another phobia. While I'm sure the actual movie won't be that scary, whoever edited these trailers (there were two) is to be commended for making the whole thing as spooky and awful as possible. Also, who buys a creepy-looking doll like that? What the hell, people?

* Kingsman: I am all for Colin Firth as a suave British secret agent who can kick ass, but this movie appears to have some worrisome strikes against it: 1) February release date--not January dumping ground, but not prestige, either; 2) Lea Michelle appears to be in it, with a British accent (uhm...); and 3) How is this not The Avengers, but without Emma Peel?

May 2016

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