retsuko: (spoilers!)
This was… an oddly lackluster pair of episodes, considering everything that happens within them.

Skin of Evil: )

We'll Always Have Paris: )

Signs it’s THE FUTURE: We can maybe reboot the brain after death? No? Maybe? Uhm. Time travel! Theoretical physics?!

Signs it’s NOT THE FUTURE: Our Star Trek villains are still just guys in capes.

The writers’ ‘ship: Yar/Worf, and Crusher/Picard, but Picard’s attention is elsewhere. Poor Beverly.
retsuko: finn & jake's fist bump of awesome (fist bump!)
OMG OMG OMG. It was just one day, but it was AMAZING. It was really funny how going for one day only changed my approach to the experience; in the past, when we've had four-day passes, I was far more organized and planner-ly than I was this year. Instead, on Friday, I was so dazzled by the Exhibit Hall floor that I threw all my careful plans out the window and just rolled with the punches. This lead to trouble only once (which I'll talk more about below) but, generally, it was a good strategy. I didn't end up at any super-spoilery/specific panels, but I saw a ton of stuff, spent money fairly freely (although I didn't go overboard, except for one obligatory splurge), and had a great time with my friends, which is the whole point.

This day was also notable in that it was the smoothest and quickest check-in I've ever had when I came to the registration desk. It did help that I arrived a little later than I normally would have, around about 9:30 when the Convention Center was already open, but even so, I got through so quickly that I almost doubted what convention I was actually attending! All told, I only waited about five minutes from the time I got into the center until I had my badge in my hands (at which point, I had to resist the temptation to break into a jig and a song because it was REAL and ACTUALLY HAPPENING.) I should say that before I got into the center, I was in a scrum of people getting off the trolley, during which time I had a lovely discussion with a woman dressed up as Cruella DeVil about the difficulties of cosplay in a hot costume/intense wig. The fundamentalists were there, too, as usual. I saw a SDPD officer having a very difficult but respectful discussion with one of them about where he (the protestor) was allowed to stand in relation to the convention attendees, and I wanted to high-five the officer for being so infinitely patient, but I held back.

Once I had my badge and had squared away the free gigantic bag (I got the Lucifer one, somewhat to my disappointment--Teen Titans Go! or Supergirl were also in evidence and I would have preferred one of those, but oh well, whatever), I headed downstairs and started looking at EVERYTHING. It's a little hard to describe the rush that comes from stepping in the Exhibit Hall for the first time; there is so much to see, and there are so many people, and 99% of them are happy, and there are costumes everywhere, and there is a low hum of enthusiastic chatter, and it's just magic. Further fannish babblery ensues! )

There was only one bad thing that happened all day, and it had to do with (you've guessed it) zombies. Dammit, people. )

If you want to see my photos, I've put them all up on my Twitter feed (@ChaoticSensible). I saw some amazing cosplay this year, and I tried to get a few shots of the scene around the Con itself (although these are often tough without being on a ladder, because it's almost impossible to convey the scale of the experience.)

I think we're gonna try to go all four days next year, providing that we can get the tickets. Bad stuff aside, I had a wonderful time, and I'd love to put together a costume of some sort together. As usual, the frustrating/difficult parts were far outweighed by the good times and I really can't wait to go again.
retsuko: (fierce!)
OK, now this is what I was waiting for! The fabulous episode, Datalore )

Unfortunately, "Angel One"... I wasn't waiting for so much. Klingons appreciate strong women. )

Signs it's THE FUTURE/NOT THE FUTURE: OK, writers, in the future, have we eliminated the common cold or not? In "Datalore" it's mentioned (for the millionth time) that the common cold has been eradicated and no longer plagues anyone, but in "Angel One", the illness that the Enterprise crew is suffering from looks suspiciously like the common cold. Which is it, writers? Please pick one option or another!

A note for science fiction writers interested in writing a matriarchial society: If this is an episode about a planet dominated by women, why are the men talking so much? If you've set up this scenario solely to show how our modern society is still grappling with sexism and it's wrong, there are far easier ways to go about making that point without effectively doing exactly what the characters you make into villains are doing.
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: (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: 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: (fierce!)
Recently, while I was visiting my sister, I finished watching the first season of "The Carrie Diaries" on my AirBnB's host's Netflix account and griped to my sister about it next morning. I went into a few reasons why I was dissatisfied with the show and after a minute, my sister spoke up. "Why," she asked, "Would you waste your time on something you hate so much?" I backpedaled a bit, and tried to explain what had drawn me to the show in the first place (the awesome of Freema Agyeman--much minimized, alas; 80s clothing; somewhat interesting character arcs for a few of the minor characters), but it was clear that my sister thought I was 100% crazy, and that she'd never heard of hate!watching anything at all.

Generally, I don't hate!watch shows much. America's Next Top Model, for example, is fun with a glass of wine and MST3K-style snarkery, but it's usually the same thing from episode to episode, and I move on. The problem occurs when a show that I like veers from 'genuine pleasure' to 'guilty pleasure' category, and then into hate!watch territory. Once Upon a Time went from "oh, wow, this show is so much fun, I need to watch every episode obsessively" to "OK, this is getting little over the top, but still fun" and, finally, "who are all these people and why should I care about them?" I guess if that's the case, a long, slow demise, then I don't feel so bad about hate!watching a few episodes in the hopes that the whole endeavor will slide back onto the quality side of the equation.

More problematic, though, is the show that goes from "genuine pleasure" to hate!watching at alarming speed. This is where I am with SyFy's Defiance. There are a lot of reasons I want to like it: there's a dynamite ensemble cast who have a lot of chemistry together; the setting is interesting and the world-building, although muddled, compelling; and the themes of the show and the individual storylines within it are mostly interesting. Add to this a lot of diverse roles for female characters and slightly dystopian sci-fi feel to the whole thing, and bam, it should rock, right?

Well... not as much as I'd like.

For one thing, not since Lost have I had so many questions about the larger meta-plot of the story that are going largely unanswered. The frustrating thing about this is that many of these could be answered with a few lines of dialogue. I don't need an exposition dump; I just want to know a few things that would help me understand the characters and their motivations better. For instance, the show is set in the near-future, after an alien invasion/colonization effort went bad. Why is there no anti-alien sentiment? Where's the "Aliens go home" graffiti that I'm sure would adorn many, many buildings in this setting? Further, the Earth Republic (a kind of grumpier UN, at least as far as I can make out) seems to have no greater goals than messing with our heroes/heroines' plans. Wouldn't they have some bigger idea? Why do we never hear about them trying to do good things, like starting up manufacture of medicine and infrastructure?

Equally frustrating is this show's depiction of women. On one hand, there are a number of interesting, diverse roles for female characters. Jaime Murray is excellent as Stahma, an alien woman dealing with newfound power and the cost to hold onto it. There's also Doc Ewell, whose dry sarcasm is perfectly timed and in sharp contrast to the earnestness of those around her. Julie Benz plays Amanda, the town's (now ex-) mayor, with a lot of poise, except when she's being menaced by memories of her rape at the hands on an unknown assailant when she was younger. This sexual assault is on its way to becoming a major plot point, and, really, all the women on this show have been shown sexually threatened, assaulted, or wounded at some point, whereas the men (with one notable exception) have not. It's gotten so frustrating that I'm beginning to wish there was a pact that authors/writers/showrunners (for this show and all others) could sign agreeing not to use rape or sexual assault as a plot device. I don't care that it "develops" the character further (because there are other, more effective and less rape-y ways to do this just as effectively), or that it's "realistic" (because sci-fi and fantasy are chances to do something that isn't necessarily realistic.) It's not even very original. I would like to watch one episode of Defiance that doesn't show one of its female characters wounded, assaulted, or threatened sexually. Just one.

And that worst thing is, this show has a lot of potential to be fascinating. I've never seen a mainstream piece of work approaching a tricky subject like cultural appropriation in such a thought-provoking way. I also like the religious systems the aliens brought with them that are slowly being revealed in fits and starts, sometimes clearly menacing, but always completely alien and convincing. As I mentioned before, the cast is fantastic and the special effects work well with the story and feel organic. I don't want to end up hate!watching this show... but I don't see how much longer I can watch it for pleasure, either.
retsuko: (Default)
Through Hulu's terribly commercialized interface, I was finally able to see the Agents of Shield pilot. (I work Tuesday nights and missed it.) I tried to go in with very few expectations, and for the most part, that strategy paid off. I was pleasantly surprised when unexpected references were made, or this or that actor showed up (happiest surprise=Ron Glass, who I hope isn't just making a cameo here.)

What I liked:

Fitz & Simmons: These two characters were having the most fun, and I think the actors must like each other very much, because their banter was believable and funny, very true to life and not at all nerdish stereotype. They also had the most personality of any of the characters, although the others all had HINTS dropped about background information that will no doubt come to light soon enough.

J. August Richards: The character and the actor were both fantastic. Richards is such a good actor, and it was a joy to see him on my TV screen again. Spoilers regarding who he played: )

Union Station: Yay for a real L.A. location! I love that station and have often felt it would be a perfect setting for a movie or show, and it did not disappoint. I was trying to guess from the lighting what time of day the crew was shooting during, and I think it was relatively early morning, judging from the brightness of the light.

Lola = Ha ha ha, excellent! :)

What I did not like:

Grant Ward: I hate to judge a character so quickly because he does have all season to evolve, but if this is the character the audience is supposed to identify with the most, then AUGH/BARF. I don't care that he has Issues, or that he's the Best Espionage Agent Since Romanov (oh hell no), I think he's an arrogant, insufferable douchebag, and I was pleased as punch when spoilers happened. ) If he's going to continue as the central hero, then I hope he loses his arrogant B.S. really fast.

What I am "meh" about:

There was something about this pilot that felt... kind of mechanical. With other Whedon shows, especially Buffy and the first few seasons of Angel, I had the distinct impression that no one was telling anyone on the staff of the show what to do, that as long as they didn't go completely over the top, they were left alone to construct plot arcs as they liked. But this show has so many factors leading into it, and so many people producing and executive producing. It seemed a bit forced in parts, and even though Clark Gregg had a great time lamp-shading some of those forced bits of plot and/or character make-up, they were still there. I hope this feeling will go away with a few more episodes, but this sort of problem is often the thing that makes me break up with TV shows.
retsuko: (spoilers!)
Thursday!: Videos Games! Awesome Web Comics! A depressing panel that turned out OK! Talking with awesome people! )

Friday!: Defiance! Literary How-To's! Weird Outside Stuff! )

Saturday: We camped out in Room 8 for five hours! But the Adventure Time panel was worth it! Huzzah! )

Sunday!: Loose Ends of all varieties! )

General Thoughts:

~ The fundamentalists were more vocal and more... uhm, personal, this year, for lack of a better word. Last year, they just yelled about Jesus, but this year, their attacks were more Comic Con-specific, like the guy with a megaphone who shouted at all and sundry, "Don't let your souls be enslaved by comics!" (It took some willpower not to shout back, "Too late!") There were counter-protests, of course, and those looked unpleasant to referee. I tried to thank as many of the law enforcement people as I could when they weren't working or concentrating on other things; one of the transit security police officers looked surprised when I did, and confessed that he really wished he could go to the Con himself. (He wanted to meet Stan Lee for real, not just pay for an autograph.) As usual, even in the hoards of people, I never felt unsafe or afraid for my physical well-being once, and I think the SDPD is responsible in a large part for that.

~ For some reason, the crash after this Con was especially hard this year. The real world, as much as I love it, doesn't seem quite as interesting for the first few days afterwards, and today was no exception, with mundane chores and problems looming large.

~ There was a lot of zombie stuff--costumes, toys, images, etc.. It was not fun for me. I wish this trend would run its damned course.

~ There were times when the Exhibit Hall didn't seem as crowded as usual, and I couldn't figure out if it was actually truly empty, or I had just gotten really, really good at making my way through the knots of people. It is a lot easier when it's just me, and I tend to stay out of the central scrum of the big companies and their lines, but I could have sworn there were times when there were swathes of empty space, and that's an oddity.

~ The overall theme of this year's Con ended up being something along the lines of, "Crazy Contradictions!" It was personified best in the juxtaposition of the Christian Comic Arts Association booth next to the Killer Zombie Bunnies booth in the Small Press area. Comic Con often leaves me with the aftertaste of sweet and sour. On one hand, there's a pure interest in comics and reading that makes my heart sing, but on the other, there's a crass commercialism that manifests itself in the crazy-long lines for the exclusive toys and vinyl collectibles that makes me alternately groan and grumble. Comic Con is the only place where I can wear my Kate Beaton t-shirt and people not only compliment me on it, but also want one themselves. Comic Con is also the place where my phobia is everywhere, all the time, and I have to make compromises with myself to get past it, but it's also the place where many, many people I admire (both real and fictional) are front and center, and I can draw on their words and examples to give me strength. There's beautiful art, and there's the cheesiest of cheesecake, side by side; in fact, there are Charles Dickens-esque contrasts every two feet or so. It's sublime and ridiculous, and I love almost all of it, even as I realize that what I love is what some other attendees hate. But that's the beauty of multiple fandoms, and when they're all present and not in conflict, it's just completely awesome.

Pictures are here, updated with Saturday stuff. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera on Sunday, so no extra photos. Still, lots of good ones, though. :)
retsuko: (fierce!)
I thought that Star Trek Into Darkness was pretty damned entertaining, and I'm just sad that I couldn't go with a giant group of friends to squee over it. Spoilery, happy things! )

This isn't to say that it was flawless, though. Spoilery, critical things! )

If anyone is contemplating seeing it in 3D, I don't know if I'd especially recommend it one way or another; there were one to two sequences that were made more exciting with it, but I suspect they'd be just as good in regular old 2D.

My biggest problems, though, have nothing to do with spoilers, and have to do with the over-hyping and eventual fan backlash:

1) I got really, really sick of hearing about this film months before it opened. The back-and-forth over who Engelbert Snickersnack* was actually playing was maddening, because in the end, who he was and what he did weren't the point (although they were catalysts for some of the conflict in the story.) It's a bit like getting mad that you've been spoiled for Citizen Kane by being told that Rosebud is the sled; if you're angry about that, you've hopped on the wrong train and wasted your time. So I was annoyed that so much of the publicity and pre-show talk focused on that, instead of trying to assure fans that this AU reboot, although doing some unconventional things, is true to the spirit of the original.

2) The fan backlash has been huge and while I understand that Trekkies/Trekkers/Your-Chosen-Sobriquet-Goes-Here are often easily riled (hell, even I'm on the defensive about some stuff in the above critical part), I got very tired of reading multiple comments on multiple forae to the effect of, "J.J. Abrams/This Actor/That Actress said [stupid thing about movie] and now I refuse to see it!". My beef with this attitude is that actors/writers/staff are continually saying stupid things about well-loved shows/books/movies/series and it does not diminish those beloved things. Sarah Michelle Gellar once said that she wasn't a feminist, because feminists were yucky women who don't shave their legs, and even though this was patently facile and insulting, it didn't take away from my enjoyment of Buffy the Vampire Slayer one bit. (In fact, the irony of SMG playing a feminist icon still amuses me to this day.) I understand that some fans don't like the idea of a reboot AU at all, but the bar for hating on this movie was set far too low, and a lot of fans are missing out on what the film did right.

In some ways, this brouhaha reminds me of the fuss around the remake of "Let the Right One In" a few years ago; people were refusing to see the remake because they thought the original was so good that it didn't need one. At first, I was in this camp, but then I decided to give the reboot a try, and damned if it wasn't good in an entirely different way. A good story is worth telling twice, and the difference in storytellers and their techniques is just as interesting as the story itself.


*Yebisu has been making up new names for Benedict Cumberbatch for the last few days, much to my great amusement.
retsuko: antique books (books)
From the comic book haul of the past week:

Rachel Rising, Issue 6, Words/Pictures by Terry Moore: OK, Mr. Moore. I'm officially grossed out; I have no idea what's going on with your story; and it doesn't look like I'll get much in the way of explanation or closure anytime soon. I'm all for conquering my zombie phobia, but this series isn't going to be the way I do it. What drives me crazy about this is that Moore really is a great artist. All of his characters have distinct facial types, and their expressions of emotion are spot-on. I often feel like I'll walk down the street and pass Francine or Katchoo someday. But "Rachel Rising" is a muddled mess of "Psycho" meets "Night of the Living Dead" with a twist of "Supernatural" and a whole of "where the hell is all this going?!" spice. So, that's that.

Ultimate Spider-Man, Issues 7/8: I really like where this is going. Miles' internal monologue worrying about heights as he scales a building in the Spidey suit is witty and fun, and the new conflict between the Prowler/Miles' no-good uncle and Miles' own sense of responsibility should open up some interesting story avenues. Sara Pichelli's artwork continues to be fabulous.

The Unwritten, Issues 32-35: As usual, I covet Yuko Shimizu's cover artwork, especially the haunting image of #35, one of characters and the words she's made up of. However, I'm not keen on one of the big plot twists that the story's going for: Spoilers ahoy! ) Not stopping reading the series, of course, just saying that I don't appreciate all that.

Adventure Time, Issues 1 & 2: So much fun, and very true to the spirit of the show. I like the little gutter panel comics and comments on the bottom of the pages. For the record, though, I do think that Marceline could easily hold her own in a battle against the Lich King.

Zita the Spacegirl, by Ben Hatke: A recommendation from one of the comic book store guys who knows my taste and I was not disappointed. This is a wonderful, all-ages read, never condescending or childish, but with a strong child protagonist who faces tremendous odds. Zita is a girl who goes on an interstellar journey to rescue a friend of hers. She's resourceful and compassionate, but also gutsy. Hatke's artwork is sweet without resorting to cutesy, and he has a dramatic sense of layout and timing that really pays off as the events of the story become more fraught with peril for all involved. What a lovely book. I can't wait to share it with my child when he's old enough!
retsuko: (fierce!)
I'm pretty loyal to most of the shows I watch, and this either has to do with a plot I'm invested in, or characters I care about. However, as I blogged about previously, when a show gets down to *one* character I care about, I'm pretty hard-pressed to keep up with it, and then if a bad plot comes along, it's curtains for the show in general. A case in point is "Dexter", a show which I've been watching on DVD since season 1, but am thoroughly done with now. This most recent season, the fifth one, was rife with plot contrivances, disturbing subject matter (more so than the series' usual fare), and characters behaving utterly unlike themselves. More here, with spoilers. )

In sum: it's a challenging season, and I'm glad it's done now. This break-up was sort of odd, in that I'd read that this season was wildly uneven and knew the basics of the plot going in, but I was still unprepared for the level of squick I found there. I suppose I'd still recommend the first few seasons of the show to people who like that sort of thing, but in general, I think I've had it with serial killers and semi-true-crime TV shows.
retsuko: (spoilers!)
In one of my more first world problems lately, I've found myself in a somewhat awkward position in regards to several of the TV shows I follow: I only like one of the characters on it, and this person isn't the main character. So time spent watching these shows is an exercise in patience, a patience which I don't have much of.

In the case of The Office (the U.S. version), I suspect it's largely due to the slow death of the show as a whole. But it still saddens me to think I find myself annoyed by each and every character, except one. This is an ensemble show, with a talented cast; you would think the writers would have at least one other likable character. Especially since Daryl (the character I like) is one of the few left with an open-ended story line: will he get his act together and ask out the cute woman from the warehouse? Will he decide that he wants to move up in the company? Will he come to his senses and realize he's one of the few smart, down-to-earth people in the office and would be much better served in another job somewhere else? Whatever happens, it's going to make for great comedy and Craig Robinson is such a talented, fun actor that I'm happy to watch. The problem is, when is it his turn? The writers seem fixated on other, lesser concerns, and most of them haven't paid off narratively this season at all. (Jim has gone from being a reasonably funny, somewhat smug Everyman to a sad, more smug EveryJerk, and the plotline with Erin and Andy just hangs on the season like an albatross.) I can only hope that either some other characters become likable again, or that the writers realize that focusing on different characters would make for better episodes.

In the case of Dexter, though, this annoyance is more due to my loss of patience with the serial killer drama genre as a whole. I'm just catching up with Season 5 on Netflix, and it's very, very patchy. On one hand, we have Debra at her awesome, funniest, most vulnerable best. Watching her progression through the series has been a profound pleasure, and seeing her this season makes me wish there was just a show about her, without all the serial killer drama. Because the serial killer drama in Season 5 is... awkward at best, and downright disgusting at worst. Dexter still is a largely sympathetic personality, but his actions this season don't fit his character at all, and the wild consequences of them have been profoundly strange. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop--there are too many loose ends for the season to end well, for any of the characters. Of course, I don't expect that there's going to be a tidy happy ending all around, but in this case, my suspicions of what's going to happen are keeping me from enjoying the season as a whole. It's like watching someone prepare to do some prank or trick that's going to fail spectacularly, and the person just won't listen to common sense. ("It's gonna be great!" "No, not exactly, are you sure--" "No, seriously, it's gonna rock! Watch this--AUGH!") This used to be the one serial killer/police procedural I could reliably watch without feeling this way; now it's moving into a darker, less entertaining territory. If only the writers could take their expertise with Debra and apply it to the series as a whole. I don't want to be watching for just one character, because that's not going to bring much fulfillment.
retsuko: (river w/ gun)
There is an excellent essay by Laura Hudson here that is specifically about the new DC comics relaunch and its gender issues, but really can be taken as a comment on comics fandom as a whole. It's awesome, and I really don't have much to add to it, except for the fact that the pages and panels from 'Catwoman' that Hudson uses could just have easily been from any other superheroine title and the analysis would still be just as on point and valid.

In any case, the issues with the depiction of women are one of the reasons that I often hold back on saying what I'm fan of. Since "nerd" is undergoing a sort of semi-cool Renaissance, I can usually mention my love for "Doctor Who," the works of Jim Butcher, or any of the Harry Potter books and movies without fear of reprisal. But one word about comic books and people start getting that judgmental aura of "I thought you were smarter than that" or giving me these expressions of utter bewilderment, usually followed by the question, "why?" And I must admit that I answer that question myself every damn time I step into any comic book shop. It does help that my local comic supplier, Comickaze, is run by an excellent staff of knowledgeable guys who have never once made me feel uncomfortable or weird. But in other places, at other stores, I have felt the distinctly unpleasant feeling of Difference, (or Otherness, in academic parlance). Seeing a wallpapering of posters of female comic book characters in bikinis, with bodies that are completely impossible in every sense of the word, is a depressing experience. Why keep reading books by an industry that largely imagines women to be merely men with breasts? Why bother looking at titles that depict women as objects to be sexed up, used up, and thrown away? Am I just indulging some kind of nerd-specific masochism?

Every time I start asking these questions, or see too many women in bikinis, I close my eyes and think of all the awesome women I know or know about who are involved in the comics industry, or in the independent fringes. I think of [ profile] psychoe and [ profile] ashears's amazing artwork and how one day, I'm going to say "I liked them before they were cool" in an annoying hipster voice. I think of cartoonists and writers like Kate Beaton, Moto Hagio, Natasha Allegri, Tracy Butler, Gail Simone, CLAMP, Momochi Reiko, Hope Larson, Naoko Takeuchi, Yuko Shimizu, and many, many others, too numerous to list here. I remember all the amazing female characters who I've read and loved, like Storm and Kitty Pride, Francine Peters, Rose (from Bone), Faiza Hussein, Lizzie Hexam, Elissa Megan Powers and Ninjette, Nico and Gert and Princess Powerful (from Runaways), and all the characters whose stories I haven't read yet. But mostly, I think about opportunities.

Comic books as a medium are an amazing opportunity for artists and writers to tell stories in a unique and powerful manner. And I have hope that this industry will come to its senses, even if it has to go through a horrifically prolonged birth process to do so. (Although I will admit the DC Relaunch is one hell of a contraction.) There's more than enough opportunity to go around to keep the industry afloat. Why not fix the sexism problem? Imagine twice the money. Imagine the marriage of idealism and commerce. Imagine a day when no reader has to ask the question "why?" when she or he steps into a comic book store.
retsuko: (Time Lady)
Because we were feeling masochistically curious, Yebisu and I watched the live-action "Avatar: The Last Airbender" the other night.

... yeah.

It was pretty much as bad as I'd heard. I mean, there were good parts and a few beautiful images (Aang bending the huge wave to stop the Fire Nation ships was, in fact, just gorgeous; there were some excellent martial arts stunts), but for the most part, the whole thing fell down in the first 10 minutes and didn't find any momentum to pick itself back up again. It was a movie about spirituality that was almost entirely devoid of any soul. And that's a real shame, because the source material (as I've blogged about before) is bursting with soul, wit, and excitement, none of it forced or railroaded into the story. Late in the plot of the TV show, there's an episode where the characters are able to sneak into a play about themselves and their exploits and are appalled at the liberties taken with their personalities and the narrative as a whole. I felt like I was in that episode, watching a pale reflection of their story and just waiting for the characters to start complaining about their portrayals. (Katara: Am I really that annoyingly earnest? Sokka: I'm not really that flat and dumb, right? Right?! Aang: I didn't just announce that I was going to meditate for four days and then start doing it, did I? 'Cause that's just plain stupid.)

The sad thing is that in the right hands, A:tLA could make for an excellent movie or mini-series. There's drama aplenty, a grandiose epic of nations at war, and some truly compelling characters. The trick, I think, lies with selecting the right amount of story and letting it unfold in its own time. The eastern religions that make up the core of this story's meaning sound contrived when they're rushed, as they did in Shyamalan's film. Likewise, character development, something that made the animated show truly interesting, is largely absent from this movie, or it's presented by ham-handed dialogue. (The worst line award goes to poor Princess Yue, "We have to show them that we believe in our beliefs as much as they believe in theirs.") Practically every action in the movie felt like a plot contrivance at best, and a joke at worst.

So, how to do this right? Much has been written about the casting choices for this film, and I don't think I have much to add on this subject. The right actors for these parts would certainly have helped, along with a better script that didn't try to tell the entire first half of the story in under two hours. Letting this story breathe, and giving some of the humor a chance to shine through would help as well. After all, this is supposedly a movie for children; there's no need to make every moment a serious one, especially when the themes you're dealing with are so serious. Aang's character development is interesting because we see him grow up over time--when Katara and Sokka meet him, he's just a kid who ran away from responsibility. The shift in his beliefs from child to adult makes for a wonderful coming of age story, and makes his heroism all the more poignant. I'd prefer to see that, rather than be told it. Likewise, Zuko's choices over the course of the narrative are dramatic and difficult. Dressing up as the Blue Spirit, for example, is a gutsy move, and his motives for doing it weren't even touched on in the movie, just hinted at. This should have been a major plot point, but instead, it just felt like a convenient plot device for rescuing Aang from the fire nation. (And, can I just say, Fire Nation soldiers: when you've finally captured the Avatar, who can airbend, putting him in a room full of candles is pretty, but REALLY STUPID. Do you want to set your fortress on fire? Really?) If I'd been writing this script, I'd have started with finding Aang in the ice, but only moved the story as far as the Kyoshi warriors, hinting at sequels and setting the stage for the larger conflict in a later movie. You can have plenty of Zuko and Zhao acting as standard villains, but lay the groundwork for Zuko's eventual conversion. Plus, lots of character development time for everyone involved. This could have been a huge franchise for Nickelodeon films and Paramount. Adaptations are tricky, it's true, but it's a shame that this one was so awful when the source material is so good.
retsuko: (caffeine)
Annoying news first: Due to general sleepiness this morning, I forgot the camera at home and didn't realize until we were at the trolley station. However, there are photos from Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday here! And I will take plenty tomorrow, and plan to spend the whole day on the Exhibition Hall floor.

Anyway, without much further ado: Friday, Friday, FRIDAY!: Seth Green is very polite! Star Wars comics! Shoppity shoppity & more celebrity sightings! )

And then today, Saturday!: Quick Draw, Cartoon Voices, Blah Blah BLAH Marvel, and best of all, LEGEND OF KORRA! )

Anyway, it was good today, and I'm looking forward to seeing as much as possible tomorrow. :D
retsuko: (double squee!)
Before I get into talking about the time spent at the Con itself, I have to get something off my chest, and I will do my best to keep it short and not too soapbox-y: I don't have tickets for next year's Con, and this is because it is impossible to get them. At 10:30 yesterday morning, I went over to the Hyatt, all set to procure them, only to be to told that the number released for today had already been sold out. And (here's the kicker, wait for it!) people were *already* lining up to buy tickets for the limited number available tomorrow (i.e., today, Friday.) So the upshot is that even though I live in San Diego, have the cash, and am prepared to spend it, I cannot buy the tickets. I am not willing to waste a day of my Convention experience waiting in line so I can have it again next year. This is ridiculous. Of course, there will be a certain amount available online later this year, but I'm not holding my breath, given the experience others have had with that system. I think at this point, a lottery system is the only fair way to distribute these, if they're this limited. But making people wait overnight in line? That's just messed up.

OK. Now to the fun part!

Preview Night! [ profile] yebisu9 and I had an awesome time poking around in the exhibition hall, although the lines were already insane. I couldn't figure out who, exactly, was doing the lining up. But, regardless, we got to see a lot of fun stuff. Even though there are purportedly fewer movies this year, the big studios are certainly around and their booths are usually jammed full. The hyping is still at epic proportions, especially for TV shows and cartoons. (The entire Con appears to be bankrolled by basic cable networks, HBO, and Showtime.) The swag is still rolling in, too. Yesterday, I ended up with untold numbers of postcards and flyers, an inflatable plastic sword from EA Games, a plastic water bottle, a paper model of Godzilla, sunglass promoting "Psych", pins, tote bags, a superhero toy made out of popsicle sticks, and several temporary tattoos (one for Dexter that is actually pretty awesome). The best swag was a bag of microwave popcorn promoting Movies On Demand (appropriate AND useful!)

Best Dialogue Overheard On the Exhibit Hall floor:
"Wow, this is a nerd nexus!" (Said by some people behind us as we were all trapped in a large scrum of people trying to get to the Hasbro booth.)

And, another time:
Guy 1: (pointing at a screen) Oh, that's from "The Exorcist".
Guy 2: The movie, or the musical?

And, yesterday, between a mother and daughter:
Mom: Who's that character?
Daughter: (disbelieving/amused/affectionate) Mom, how are *you* at Comic Con?!

Thursday: After the ticket debacle, I spent the day on the floor, going through the Small Press Area and Artist's Alley. I had the great good fortune to see Katherine Brannock and buy her gorgeous sketchbook; her artwork is amazing combination of Arthur Rackham and Charles Audobon. I also chatted with Ryan Clayton of Elephant Eater comics, who is kind enough to remember me even though I only see him once a year. (We talked about teaching comics; he is someone who I wish I could do a joint Comic Books course with--I'd tackle the literary end, and he could handle the artistic end). I also visited Nemu Nemu Comics at the behest of a friend, and was pleasantly surprised to find an adorable comic and related merchandise. There was also a great double-header in the form of The Frantic Meerkat and the Mincing Mockingbird, which showcases some awesome bird paintings and funny animal comics; again, nice people to talk to, and with some really fun, innovative stuff.

There are photos, too, but I'm waiting to post them until I work out a kink with LJ. :p
retsuko: (plothole?)
On TV, last night was the season finale of The Office, accompanied by the very strong rumor that Catherine Tate will step into the Crazy Boss role that Steve Carrell vacated. This is exceedingly good news because it means that I might just keep on watching the show next season, and not give up as I'd planned. (The promised performance by Jim Carrey was mercifully brief, and I admit I exhaled a little when we realized he wouldn't be around more than his one scene. That guy is comedy poison.) Although CT's appearance was short, she was very funny in the role of "Uber-Boss's seriously say-anything crazy best friend" and I think her presence could be a real plus. The rest of the episode... well, it was sort of meh. Spoiler-specific further fannish babbling ahoy! )

I should say that the best moment of comedy last night came from Pam, who was trying different accents on the phone to stop temporary boss Creed from running Dunder-Mifflin into the ground. This short scene that ran with the credits was delightfully silly and over the top, and it made long for times when the rest of the series was that way, too.

In the trailer park department: the trailer for the Tintin movie is here. And...argh. I have many, many mixed feelings about this endeavor. The Tintin books, after the Sunday funnies, were my introduction to comics and despite their multitude of failings, I have a strong loyalty to them. And I know that the script was in good hands (Moffat had his paws on it), and that the plotline of The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham's Treasure will make for a good story (they're probably the most accessible of the series as a whole, what with the secret scrolls in the masts, spies, underwater treasure, and almost all of the beloved characters appearing in one place.) Also, Steven Spielberg, although his involvement isn't necessarily a mark of absolute quality anymore. But... there's something strange about the trailer and the project that worries me. The whole thing is CG, and while the characters look like themselves... that's weird in and of itself; Tintin comics are supposed to be flat and two-dimensional, but the movie shouldn't look like that. (Or have 3D pasted on.) I fear the movie will also bring Herge's narrative troubles to the fore: the racism/colonialism in the art and plots, and the utter lack of female characters other than Bianca Castafiore (who, admittedly, is a majorly entertaining character), and these in turn will overshadow the tremendous beauty and ingenuity in Herge's design and illustration. And it's this last point that makes me the saddest. Herge was an accomplished and talented artist, and even with all the good intentions in the world, you can't bring this aspect to the screen if you're adding adventure/3D/SFX extravaganza! to the proceedings. Just... argh. I want to be excited, I really do. But this is too easy to screw up, and the screw up vibe is hovering around this trailer in a way that's far too close for comfort.
retsuko: (eels in the photobooth)
We've finished all but one episode of "Glee" on Netflix instant view, and for the most part, it's exactly what our baby-addled, sleep-deprived brains crave after a long day: mindless fun, manic energy from others that is not required from us, and lots of cheerful music. I really, really want to enjoy this show all around, without reservations. But there are some crazy recurring plot points and character problems that I just can't get around. And it makes for an uneven viewing experience.

To start with, the "love it": What a pleasure, in the midst of sweeping and distressing budget cuts to arts programs, to have a show about the value of these programs and why they matter to *all* students, not just the art and drama crowd. And it's a wonderful plot point that, not every episode, but at least every five or so, one of the students articulates what music has done for her/him or uses music to express feelings they can't otherwise express, for reasons plot-driven or personal. I also like the mix of old Broadway standards and pop music, which has been fairly well-balanced, except for the "event" episodes (Madonna/Lady GaGa). The choreography, although a tad exaggerated for the abilities of a high school group in the time frame they're presented with each week*, is fresh and fun. There have also been some fun guest stars, most notably Neil Patrick Harris, who allow the characters to show different sides of themselves.

The other major "love it" point for me is the depiction of Kurt's relationship with his father, Burt. (What's with the rhyming names? Oh well.) I love the way Burt consistently supports his son, even though this is obviously a growing up process for both of them. But what really clinched it for me was his passionate defence of his son when another character uses the word "faggy." The prevalence of this term drives me mad because it perpetuates the idea that the worst for a man to be is "not a man," that true manhood is a constant insistence that there's no other way to be, other than male. (This is to say nothing about the idea that the other worst thing you can call a man is a pussy--even worse than being gay is a woman and her (read: vile) sexual organs.) So, to have a highly popular, prime time TV show call this word out and have a character who's arguably one of the most standardly "manly" men in the entire character lineup decry its use was just wonderful. Go, Glee!

Regrettably, this brings me to the "shove it" part, though: For a show that's so hyper-aware of the uses of language and gay rights, I'm disappointed at the depiction of women. All of the women in this show are at turns manipulative, cruel, mentally ill, or selfish, in varying degrees and to different ends.** I'm not saying that women are saints compared to men, but it would be nice to have at least one female character depicted the same way Will Schuester is depicted, a character who can do no wrong even when he does. The reverence reserved for his character weirds me out; on one hand, yes, this is a great teacher who truly cares about his students and their well-being. But the other part of this, which the show never really explores or critiques, is the huge ego that goes along with that. In fact, it's used as a point of ridicule by his arch enemy, the evil Sue Sylvester***, and discounted by everyone else. This show would be a lot stronger if the Church of St. Will did a little internal audit and dared to show him as a real human being, too. This show would also be a lot stronger if the female characters were more well-rounded and the minority characters weren't just window dressing. (I mean, 'other Asian'? The time, it's a funny joke, but after that, it's not funny anymore. It bears mentioning that 'other Asian' is played by Harry Shum, Jr., who is the best dancer in the entire cast and needs a lot more time to shine. I need to blog about "The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers" immediately!)

In sum: more shove it than love it at this point. I want to love it! It's fun and there's dancing and singing! Let's put on a show! It's just... it's 2011. Can't we have a show that's better than this for women and minority characters?

* One of the plot inconsistencies I try to ignore is that there is almost no way a high school group could produce something that polished every week; there's not enough time with all the intervening plot to practice, let alone perfect!

** The only women who've not been any of these things, so far, have been Mercedes and Tina. Of those two, Mercedes has grappled with crash dieting after being manipulated by Sue and Tina appears to have come out without being anything other than inadvertently cruel when she lied about having a disability.

*** Whose insults towards Will showcase some of the show's snappiest and best writing.
retsuko: (love this show)
One of the side effects of breastfeeding is that I am suddenly parked on the couch for long spans of time, with very little use of my hands. Reading is basically out; I tried it several times and it takes either a very lightweight book (in terms of actual weight, not the content, ha ha!) or magazine, and even then it's really the luck of the draw whether it will work or not. So, I've been watching a lot of Netflix things, some old and some new. Catching up on every 'Futurama' episode is good, and at about the intellectual level I'm at these days, what with the very patchy sleep and all.

In Manga:

Rinne, Vol. 4: I did manage to read one volume of manga, and this is it. Fortunately, this was a very good volume, which heaped trouble on trouble upon our hero's already overloaded and in debt head. Hero's father turns out to be a good-for-nothing spendthrift who has nothing better to do in his (after-)life except create get rich quick schemes that don't work out and ultimately ruin his son's life. Our heroine continues to be completely oblivious to the hero's feelings for her, to somewhat plot-contrivance degrees, but this is a Takahashi manga, so I don't expect the love story to happen in the first 20 or so volumes. In the meantime, there's lots of comedy and glimpses of an underworld that apparently runs on scantily clad demon ladies and ridiculously handsome demon guys... and despite our hero's warnings to the contrary, the heroine never seems to keep away from ending up there. I would like the hero to catch a break, but I'm not holding my breath.

On TV/Netflix:

Avatar: The Last Airbender: So I held off watching this series for a long time. There were a lot of reasons why, some better than others. But I shouldn't have held out so long because it turned out to be pretty good! Copious spoilers ahead. )

Better Off Ted: I am amused that everyone I have talked to who's watched this show swears it was based on *their* office with [insert name of X huge company here]. If this is indeed true, then I weep for the soul of the American workplace. While I'm doing that, though, I'll be watching this sly little comedy with no laugh track (yay!) and a cadre of excellent actors.

Spartacus: Blood and Sand: [ profile] orichalcum recommended this and even though [ profile] yebisu9 and I have enjoyed it so far, I feel like it's pushed the TV-violence envelope even further than the most recent season of 'True Blood' did. I'm not sure I like that fact too much. OTOH, I do like several of the characters, and I'm reasonably intrigued such that my interest outweighs my gross-out factor. I will admit that I went into it thinking that if it were good, I would show an episode to my humanities class; ten minutes in, I realized that if I did that, I would probably create all kinds of controversy on campus and possibly get fired. So, a cautious yay for the time being.

May 2016

1516171819 2021


RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags