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: (yay doctor!)
I've made up a tag (below) solely for this entry, and I suspect I'll have cause to break it out again.

Spoiler-rific talk for the first two new episodes of Who, The Rings of Akhaten and The Bells of Saint John. )

Short version: they're fun, but I can't help feeling like something is missing. I think this series needs to get its sea legs more, and I'm optimistic that this can happen.

Speaking of sea legs, next week, it's snakes (or possibly just one snake) on a sub! Whee!
retsuko: (cool yuuko)
Waaaay too much TV lately, but all of it on the heels of some tough personal stuff, and soon to be followed by An Edifying Book Report. Also, one movie!

At the Movies:

Beautiful Creatures: So... sometimes I watch a movie or a show, and I wish the main characters weren't the main characters, and that a side character would step up and be the main character instead. In this case, it was Emma the librarian, played with steely layers of awesome by Viola Davis. The more I found out about her character, the more I wanted to swing the camera around to point at her and have her tell her life story. ("Hi, I'm a seer and unwilling-but-destined librarian for a group of quasi-immortal sorcerers who supposedly have a worldwide network with libraries connected via underground tunnels and I can talk to the dead. These quasi-immortal sorcerers drive me crazy with their self-righteous bullshit, but I take my work seriously, and I'll be damned if I give up anything before I'm good and ready to do it at the appropriate moment. Tea?") This isn't to say that the rest of the characters were bad or boring, but the teenaged love story paled in comparison to the world-building that struggled to take root in the background. I got the distinct impression that the authors of the original work had two goals in mind: 1) out-do Twilight with a better, slightly healthier romance, and 2) write up some cribbed notes from their best RPG sessions. Beautiful Creatures feels like a good role-playing game, as told by a storyteller who thinks that she/he had come up with something 100% original, when it's more like... about 50% original, but even the tried and true stuff was pretty good, so the players weren't complaining. The story unfolds in pretty standard teen romance fashion, but with the magic v. religion lens firmly in place, and with a villain who managed to be scary about two and a half times. The two teen leads were good actors and imbued the material with as much life as they could muster. The adults carried out their roles with varying levels of success, given the cheese in the settings and kudzu around them. It was a fun movie, a bit saggy in places, but I think it helped that I went in with almost no expectations. And I still wish I could have turned the story around to focus on the NPCs, er, side characters. Maybe rent it some night when you need something diverting and not too challenging.

On the TV:

Lost Girl, Season 1, and first episode of Season 2: I really, really enjoy this show, for a number of reasons which are too numerous and spoiler-rific, so are listed under this cut. )

All things considered, it's an excellent show, and one I'm glad to be able to watch most of on Netflix streaming.

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Season 3 Finale: I really enjoyed it, mostly because it felt like a mini-Broadway musical, complete with songs about every mood and whim that took the characters along with the plot. It also addressed an interesting question about the world-building of the show itself, one that I've been wondering about for quite some time: if the ponies' cutie marks somehow are tied to their given vocations, what happens if you end up with the wrong one? (Why, yes, I have been putting far too much thought into a cartoon aimed at selling toys to girls ages 6-10, why do you ask?) That question wasn't really answered, but at least it was raised, and everyone got to sing, and the ending was sincerely sweet. I'm actually on board with the big plot development, and I wasn't thinking that would happen at all. A nice ending to a somewhat short and rather uneven season.

Adventure Time: Fionna & Cake, "Bad Little Boy": So, Donald Glover was PERFECT as Marshall Lee's voice, and I liked the twist on the original conceit of the episode. (Does this mean that we're going to see someone else write Fionna and Cake fanfic in the next installment? I'd love to see Princess Bubblegum's rejoinder to Marceline's assertions in this episode.) I also like that there was so much singing in this episode, although some of the songs didn't quite hold together the way I'd hoped they would--I was hoping for "happy earworm" and instead there was a great deal of "dueling dialogue through song" that I've already forgotten most of. Still, it was an excellent episode and makes me long for the day when Fionna and Cake is its own entity. (I also have to say that the funniest bit was that Pendleton Ward's voice for Lumpy Space Prince was exactly the same as Lumpy Space Princess's.) It made me want to dye my hair blond for Comic Con so I could cosplay as Fionna!
retsuko: (tea room)
I've seen, read, and experienced a lot of wonderful pop culture this year, and I'm still boggling over just *how much* I've gotten to experience at all, given that my son turned 2 and spent much of his time unintentionally taking up mine. (99% of the time, that's great, but the other 1% is tough.) I've been lucky to get anything done at all! Fortunately, what I have been able to reward myself with is on the top-notch side of the equation.

Movies! The usual suspects, with a late entry of 'Argo', a tremendous, tight piece of filmmaking. )

Books! Are you my influencing machine who knows how to be a woman/space girl/consulting detective/mother, or just a cloud atlas? )

TV Shows! Escapism in the form of ensemble comedy and music. )

If I had to wear a t-shirt with a design that encapsulated my pop culture choices of 2012, it would definitely be a collection of awesome ladies all having tea at the same table. (Princess Bubblegum would be hosting and discussing futurism with Sonmi-451; Alison Bechdel and her mother would be facing off against some of Joanna Trollope's family characters; Hushpuppy would be comparing monsters with Zita the Spacegirl; and everyone would have a "Leslie Knope for President!" button.) Before I forget about it, here is a tremendously interesting video that showcases the roles that women had in Hollywood/mainstream film this year:

This leads me into my hopes and dreams for 2013 and pop culture: More here. )
retsuko: (girl & her dog)
Over on the Onion's A.V. Club, there's an interesting discussion around the question: what is the pop culture gift you'd like to share with everyone? There are some fabulous answers there (the always awesome Tasha Robinson lists "My Neighbor Totoro" as her pick, effectively affirming (and stealing) my original answer), but I thought I'd like to add my $.02:

1) Abel's Island, by William Steig: This lovely book is one of the best things I ever read as a child, because it taught me how to deal with solitude and not fear being by myself. I was a very serious child, and although I had friends, I often found myself with large blocks of time, with little to do. When I read this deceptively simple story, I learned quite a lot about what to do with those chunks of lonely time. Abel is a mouse from a well-to-do family who's never wanted for anything in his life. One day, due to a silly accident, he's swept across a river and stranded on an island, all alone. Days stretch into months, seasons change, and Abel is largely alone the whole time, plotting his escape and trying not to die. This isn't an action-packed book, though there are some very exciting and tense set pieces that punctuate the story. What stuck with me, though, as a young reader, were the passages that are introspective and quiet, where Abel contemplates his place in the universe, for better or for worse. He also takes the time to create art, and this act gives his life purpose and meaning. I always want to hand this book to the child who's a loner at classroom parties, who's not overtly unhappy, but doesn't exactly fit in all the time. "Here," I want to say, "It's OK to be alone sometimes. There's nothing wrong with you; just read this and you'll see."

2) Wings of Desire: I freely admit this is a hit-or-miss type of gift. It doesn't play well with the art-film-, subtitle-hating crowd, and many times, people are bored with its glacial pacing. It's not a fast or showy movie, but it's a beautiful one, and for a long time, it was the one piece of pop culture that made avowed agnostic me believe in any sort of higher power. The cinematography is simply amazing, and the characters in the story, while they appear to be cyphers at first, reveal themselves to be complex, determined people. Angels tend to get a cutesy rep in pop culture, and I'm pleased to say that the angels in this film are not cute. They're... well, they're supernatural, in the best sense of the word. I'm sad to see that this movie gets relegated to "art house" status, because I think it has a lot to teach any viewer about empathy and free will, and those are important themes for just about anyone on the planet, not only foreign film enthusiasts.

3) Bone, by Jeff Smith: This isn't a flawless piece of work, but what an ambitious and engaging story it is, and how much fun it is to read! I wish there were some more explanation of certain plot points, but in the end, it doesn't matter. I love that this is a comic that is, for the most part, truly all ages-friendly (really little ones may find the villain quite scary) but that doesn't sacrifice intelligent, thoughtful storytelling, and combines that with dynamic, gorgeous artwork. I also love that Smith has a strong sense of humor that serves to break up the tension, but also advances the narrative in surprising ways. I cannot want to read this one with my son, and it's a work that I hope more people will look at and appreciate for many years to come.
retsuko: (moko sake!)
In general, things I am loving this year: people and conversations over the most random of things. With a few exceptions, it's been a big fannish love fest so far.

Things I am not loving: The number of zombies and zombie-related crap. And the Christian group that has brought megaphones with them and yells at us every time we go in or out of the convention center about how Jesus Christ died for our sins and we are worshipping false idols. Yesterday, a lone guy tried to engage them in debate by yelling back, "This is NOT the way to convert people!" but had no effect.

Specifically, Thursday: )

And also Friday: )

For those who just want to see the pictures, check them out here.

Tomorrow: Adventure Time panel! I will be in costume all day! Hopefully reconnecting with some friends! Stay tuned!
retsuko: (spoilers!)
General notes:

* Can someone please tell the people who win awards for movies based on books to thank the author who wrote the original work? Only Alexander Payne remembered to do this. I do want to see "Hugo", but I loved the book long before the movie came along, and someone needs to thank Brian Selznick for his work.

* I enjoyed The Artist, but I don't think it's half as clever as everyone thought it was. Still, nice to see a black and white, silent film garner so much attention.

* Billy Crystal turned out to be a much better host than I thought he'd be. I enjoyed his running insistence that he enjoyed the jokes that were falling flat, and I liked his delivery of most of his lines. He has some great timing and an amazing poker face.

* Why does any/every clip from Bridesmaids have to be the bathroom one? I mean, yeah, it was horrible/funny, but there were many other scenes in that movie that were funnier and showed off the actresses' talents much more effectively.

* Speaking of clips, when it came time for George Clooney's nod in The Descendants, the editors didn't pick the clip I thought they'd go with, which was a nice surprise. The more I think about that movie, the more I like it, and I'm glad that it did get a few awards. Compared to the other films it was up against, it wasn't gimicky or overly forced.

General fashion blah-blah:

* I thought there were a lot of pretty, pretty dresses tonight. I liked Ellie Kemper, Tina Fey, Penelope Cruz, and Octavia Spencer; all of them looked glamorous without looking too unlike themselves.

* One trend I'm not too keen on is the "help, two dresses are fighting on me!" look, as exemplified by Viola Davis. The color on her was gorgeous, and the top half of the dress with the beads was beautiful, but the bottom half was all ruffles and tears and I couldn't tell what the hell was going on down there.

* I do wish that Tilda Swinton or Cher had been there and wearing something utterly crazy--it's nice to have one outfit that's completely over the top! (And Tilda always brings the awesome, no matter what she's wearing.)
retsuko: (bookshelf)
About ten or so years ago, I had a revelation about how I read and my depression. Simply put, if I don't want to read, it's a sure sign I'm depressed. Generally, the feelings that are a signal for this problem aren't little things like, "oh, I don't have time for this right now" upon looking at a book. Instead, it's the vague feeling of dread when I pick something up and say to myself, "I'll never get this done." And not just one book, but one book after another. Usually around the fifth or so book, I tell myself I need to get some mental shit sorted because I'm missing out on some good things.

Anyway! I can think of no better way to begin 2012 with optimistic plans about how and what I'm going to read!

The list, in general:


Zoo City, by Lauren Beukes (It has some excellent reviews on several sites I enjoy and the first few pages alone have already captured my attention.)
The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, by Sloan Wilson (To understand "Mad Men" a little better.)
Swamplandia!, by Karen Russell (A coming-of-age story set in a dilapidated Florida-themed amusement park.)
20 Under 40: Stories from the New Yorker (I am fully prepared for half of these to annoy me with their pretentiousness, while the other half are all kinds of amazing and awesome.)

Also, I will finish Naruto... if it doesn't drive me crazy first.


Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work, by Edwidge Danticat (My cool Uncle got me an autographed copy of this after hearing her speak in NYC!)
Tesla: Man Out of Time, by Margaret Cheney (I will finish this! It's all Sanctuary's fault!)
Angels and Ages: A Short Book about Darwin, Lincoln, and Modern Life, by Adam Gopnik (It was highly recommended by a friend of mine.)
Half Broke Horses, by Jeannette Walls (If it's even half as good as her first one, I'll be more than satisfied.)

Rereading Projects, on the Kindle=

The Adventures/Memoirs/Return of Sherlock Holmes: I've been meaning to reread these for a while now. They're actually fairly fast reads, although I will say that so far, I've muttered "Holmes, you bastard!" about once a story or so. Conan Doyle's thoughts on women bother me.

Poems of Emily Dickinson: Another reread I've been planning for a while. I need a better knowledge of her than one course in college and "Poems of Emily Dickinson for Young People" from when I was 10. (Which is a lovely book, by the way.)

The Iliad/The Odyssey: It's been too long.

There are also various titles from Charles Dickens, the Brontes, Virginia Woolf, and Jane Austen in the mix.

Any suggestions for other titles, in any category, are welcomed! :D
retsuko: (stars)
I was perusing some of the "Best Of" lists of movies and books this year in various sources (LA Times, NY Times, The Onion's A.V. Club), and realized that in most cases, I had only heard about half of the works on all the lists. This has never, ever happened before. In the case of books, I feel slightly better about it; books don't get the same pop culture treatment that movies do (the movie section of the newspaper is like the star high school quarterback, while the book review has been trimmed and pared down to chess club level status at this point). But in the case of the movies... gah. This is really how having a child has changed our lives. It's not an entirely bad thing, of course: we don't spend as much on movie tickets as we used to, and when we do see a movie, we're very, very picky about it. I'm also finding that most movies really don't lose much between video format and the big screen. But going to movies just because we felt like it was something that both [ profile] yebisu9 and I enjoyed a lot, and I hate to think that is not only no longer an option, but our general pop culture knowledge has declined because of it. The pay-off of this exchange, raising a child, is wonderful and awesome, and well worth losing movies. It's just a strange revelation for me, a reminder of how much things have changed.

In any case, the movies that I get a chance to see and enjoy fall mostly into the comedy category (Bridesmaids, the adult, cringe-worthy hilarity, and The Muppets, sweet and musical and funny), action-drama (Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows, Part 2, a tremendously satisfying conclusion), and straight-up drama (True Grit and The Descendants). We've pretty much stopped going to documentaries (*weeps*), although this has more to do with the timing of the art house movie theaters near us, rather than issues with the genre. I'm still hoping to get to see Tintin, but that's not going to happen before 2012.

Books are much the same story--read in a very slapdash fashion here and there. I've really enjoyed continuations of my favorite series, like the new Percy Jackson series, or the latest Thursday Next installment, which rewarded me for all my faith in the series by being one of the funniest and most inventive adventures yet. I also very much enjoyed more serious works, like The Wilder Life (the life story and legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her much beloved Little House books) and The Lace Reader (see previous entry.) Again, my nonfiction reading has suffered. Years ago, I vowed to myself to always have a nonfiction title going at the same time as a fiction one, and technically, I *have* one (Tesla: Man Out of Time), but I'm not rushing to read it as much as I should be. (Tesla's life story is fascinating, but the electrical engineering talk that takes up much of chapters leaves me confused and rather bored.) This will probably be the subject of a pop culture resolution for next year (see below).

Music-wise, my Top 25 most played are pretty similar to previous years--Susumu Hirasawa (the Paprika OST is STILL awesome!), Neko Case, Barenaked Ladies, etc. etc. Newer entries include The New Pornographers, Neko Case's new album, Middle Cyclone, which is absolutely fantastic, and Flight of the Conchords. (My love for adorable pop music parody knows no bounds.) If I had to sum up 2011's musical trend in one genre, though, it would be kick-ass lady folk-rock/rocky-folk, like Florence + The Machine, Aimee Mann, my perennial favorite Dar Williams, and the afore mentioned Neko Case.

2011 was also the year of "Probably Far More TV Than Was Good For Me." On the other hand, even though I watched a lot of TV, it wasn't just junk that I passively consumed. I discovered several new fandoms (Adventure Time, Warehouse 13, Sanctuary) and am currently having the pleasure of watching several great American novels (most notably Mad Men) set to TV. There was a fair amount of TV that was pre-screened for our son, but as long as he enjoys good quality programs like Shaun the Sheep and Sesame Street, I think the good news is that I won't go crazy. (I also fully expect him to adore something I hate, but I will burn that bridge when I get there.)

There have also been quite a few manga volumes and comics littering up 2011. Of all of these, the two I'm most looking forward to are the next volume of Wandering Son, a beautifully drawn and translated story about transgender teens by a mangaka who obviously loves her characters and the next issue of The Unwritten, a story which gets more and more interesting with each passing and not nearly frequent enough chapter.

Finally, my pop culture resolutions for 2012! )

Happy 2012 to everyone who's been reading!
retsuko: (harry)
I want to write a very serious piece about why this movie is excellent, and you should drop everything and go and see it, but whenever I try to picture this serious bit of writing, my fannish side takes over and there's a lot of capslock and squeeing. I enjoyed this so much, and even though the franchise is "over," I'm not depressed or feeling as if I'm lacking something; it's more of a hopeful satisfaction, coupled with the knowledge that there are some excellent books/movies out there on the horizon. This isn't the end, by any means. It's a beginning, and that's what the movie left me with: a sense of beginning, of purpose.

Further introspective nerdery follows! )

So, overall, a highly satisfying movie experience, and worth us paying the outrageous theater ticket prices and the babysitter.

Trailer Park: I only add this to ask: did anyone else see the trailer for "The Dark Knight Rises"? I couldn't understand a word Commissioner Gordon said, and the rest of the trailer was very confusing. Are they following the graphic novel plot or not? And, yeah... Bane. I have no opinion one way or another. (Side funny note: The trailer for "Cowboys & Aliens" warned: "Contains depictions of the consumption of tobacco." Really, MPAA, clutch those pearls much? I think there are far more scandalous things to warn for, in that movie, and in others.)
retsuko: (gert w/ dinosaur)
[Error: unknown template qotd]I think the choice here is one between "sane, safe, stable" and "crazy, but would be an exciting childhood" and "dead too soon". (I'm also curious at the wording of the question--why a couple in particular? Why not the single parents that populate great swathes of fiction?)

In the "Safe/Sane/Stable" category:

* The Austens of Madeleine L'Engle's Meet the Austens series: I used to love these books because the parents (and grandparents) were not hyper-judgmental of their kids' foibles and mistakes (although they were stern disciplinarians when the reasons were right.) They also encouraged their children to read (the description of Vicki's grandfather's barn of books alone was enough to make me long to be a part of that family) and think for themselves. And the sequence of the books where Vicki's Mom takes care of her after that disastrous bike accident is probably the genesis of my love for the hurt/comfort trope.

* David Stanley's parents in Zylpha Keatley Snider's series: For a divorced father and his new wife, parenting must be tough. And yet, the Stanley parents were unified and unwavering in their support of their children, especially in the face of scary stuff (kidnapping) and managing volatile personalities (almost all of the kids).

* The parents in the wonderful YA book Invisible Lissa: The Woodburys are a wonderful example of parents who aren't just cardboard cutouts for the heroine to bounce off of. They both have personalities and interests (Melissa's revulsion at her father's abstract art is particularly funny to read about) but when push comes to shove, they're on her side and standing up for her.

* Honorable mentions to Ananka Fishbein's parents in the Kiki Strike books (they are always studying due to a crazy inheritance that would take care of them as long as they were in school; Ananka's Mom is on her 3rd Ph.D. course).

In the "Crazy but Exciting" category:

* The Parrs in The Incredibles: I love how, after the veneer of normal has been cracked, they are still able to patch it up and give their children an approximation of a normal childhood.

* Homer and Marge Simpson: Homer may be prone to strangling, but the Simpson kids have traveled many, many places; met famous people; and done incredible things (like shooting Mr. Burns). Marge does have to mother Homer as well her kids, but occasionally, the two of them manage to be fabulous parents and support their children in their artistic and sports endeavors.

* The Bennetts in Pride and Prejudice: Life would never be dull with these two. Hysterical at times, joyous at others, and filled with uncertainty, but never dull.

In the "Dead too Soon" category:

* The Baudelaire parents in A Series of Unfortunate Events: By all accounts, they were awesome, taking their children to the natural history museum, reading to them, and making extravagant meals. However, by the time the story starts... well, membership in a secret organization didn't work out at all.

* Lily and James Potter: Imagine growing up with these two. How amazing it would be... except that Harry never got a chance to find out.

Who have I left out?
retsuko: (FTW!)
In no special order:

1) Anne Hathaway could have handled the hosting duties entirely by herself and I would not have noticed James Franco's absence. Her costume changes alone were made of awesome and win, but her charisma, musical talent, and wit were miles better than anything Franco could come up with.*

2) Hailee Steinfeld was robbed! Robbed, I say! *grumbles*

3) Yay, King's Speech! It's nice to see a movie that is simultaneously crowd-pleasing and well-made be honored for its many accomplishments. Out of all the awards it received, though, I was most pleased with the screenplay win. For your work to finally be recognized after years and years of plugging away... I imagine it must be quite validating.

4) Fashion: I would like to buy Hilary Swank's dress. I will wear it everyday. When I am doing laundry, going to the grocery store, teaching, etc. etc. Helen Mirren looked amazing (as per usual) and made me look forward to getting older and more graceful. On the flip side: what was going on with Cate Blanchett and Marisa Tomei? Both of them appeared to be wearing outfits where two dresses were at war with one another. But in dress wearing (as in Highlander) there can be only one!

5) I wish "True Grit" had garnered more awards, but... :(

6) Whoever put those montages of the 10 Best Picture nods together had a monumental task of crazy... and while she/he did the best he/she could, it still didn't make a whole hell of a lot of visual sense.

7) Why do the shorts always play for one week ONLY at the tiny art house theater that is almost impossible to visit without excessive planning in advance? Couldn't these be shown in the bigger theaters? Because I would go. I am curious what these films are like, and just as in an anthology of short stories, you learn a lot about the craft when you have the chance to see it in miniature.

8) On Friday, my Mom and I will have our annual fashion snark session! Wheeee! :D

* Is it just me, or does Mr. Franco seem perpetually stoned?
retsuko: (book love)
As usual this year, I was terribly late to the party in some things, and very punctual on others.

In Books:

What I've been reading this year is a mix of book group books, nonfiction/memoir, and random fiction that I chose myself based on recommendations of others or general 'what the hell' sentiment. (I will also admit that the covers of the random books played a role in my choosing of them.) The books for book group, as always, were a fairly mixed bag, ranging from excellent to awful; the best of them was Time After Time, by Karl Alexander, which was made even better by an appearance from the author himself. Other books that stood out were: The full list follows... )

Most Interrupted Book of the Year: The Unnamed, by Joshua Ferris. I've been reading this since Little Squeak was born, and it's a testament to Ferris' writing skills that I still remember who each of the characters are and what the central conflict is every time I read a few pages. It's like opening up a photo album while being distracted at a family get-together; every few pages, I stop to hear other things, but when I look down again, there are the same faces and stories that I remember.

Books Most Talked Back To: The Hunger Games Trilogy, by Suzanne Collins. If the success of a work is how often I start advising the characters on what they *should* be doing while I'm reading about it, then Collins succeeds 110%. By the final book, I was muttering back at the characters about once every page or so, much to Yebisu's annoyance. Of course, my advice made no difference, but I was sure invested in it.

In Comics/Manga:

Best Ongoing Series, Trade Paperback: Locke & Key, by Joe Hill/Gabriel Rodriguez. I love my horror when it's tinged with strong storytelling, artwork, and meaningful character development. The hardcover trades are well worth the money.

Best Ongoing Series, Serialized: The Unwritten, by Mike Carey/Peter Gross (Special mention for the gorgeous covers by Yuko Shimizu). Where this is going, I'm uncertain, but wherever it is, I want to be there. I want to be there so much that I think it's well worth it to buy in serialized format.

Special Mention, Late to the Party Edition: Demo, by Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan. Cloonan's accomplished and stylish black and white artwork was what got me in, but the short stories were so good that I stuck around for the rest, and I was glad I did.

Best Manga, Serious: Kingyo Used Books, by Seimu Yoshizaki

Best Manga, Silly/Guilty Pleasure: Rinne, by Rumiko Takahashi

At the Movies: Best/Worst List Follows: )

On TV:

This has been the year of BBC programming. Yebisu and I have rediscovered classics like Blackadder and A Bit of Fry and Laurie, as well as modern series like the new Doctor Who (loving Matt Smith, who I wish had appeared down our non-existent chimney on Xmas), and the riveting Survivors. Can't wait to check out more in the New Year.

Top 25 Most Listened To Songs:

Wow... looking back, 2010 was a great year for entertainment. I hope 2011 continues the trend! :)
retsuko: (ded)
The gallery is here! I realized how much I wanted a better camera this year, so as to better capture the crazy that is the Con.


First up was the Marvel panel, run by Joe Quesada (editor-in-chief) and some of his minions, whose names have escaped me. Quesada swore up and down that the merger with Disney was the Best Thing Ever to Happen to Their Little Company and that no creative control was being meddled with. (But guess what? There's a tie-in comic with the new Disney film Tron: Legacy coming out in October, which everyone was Very Excited about!) As is probably obvious from the preceding sentences, I really didn't give a damn about this panel one way or another. But it did lead to some of the most hilarious quotes I heard during the entire Con:

Quesada on a new Incredible Hulk title, coming out in September: "There'll be a lot of smashing in this one... yeah, lots of things smashed. It'll be really cool."

One of the scriptwriting/artists minions, in response to an audience question from two guys in costume who asked, "Why are Captain America and Iron Man hoarding all the knowledge of [unintelligible]?": "Uhm... you do realize that Captain America and Iron Man aren't real, right?"

Guy in the audience, ecstatic over an announcement of a certain character's return: "YEAH! Rocky Rac-Coon! Woooo!!"

This panel was quickly followed by the far superior and more entertaining Quick Draw, featuring Sergio Aragones (of Mad magazine), Scott Shaw!, and William Stout doing improvisational drawing games. I actually got a couple of decent pictures this year of the drawings they did, which are in the gallery. Describing this panel is like trying to grab hold of a very determined and grouchy eel in a large tank of vaseline, especially given my tired state of mind, but here goes: This panel reminds me why we're all actually at the Con. It's because of comics and drawings and stories. Little improv sketches give way to crazy stories, and come with all sorts of tales and prompts that hint at the stories that inspired them. (My favorite running drawing game is "New Jobs for the Hulk", as suggested by the audience. This year they were Secretary, Janitor, and Astronomer.) This panel always makes me glad I spent the $$$ on the ticket in the first place, mostly because I get to spend some serious time in the presence of people who I think are creative, funny, and talented.

After this, I met with M. from Book Group and a friend of hers and we went out for drinks and non-Con airspace. It was very peaceful out in Seaport Village, and nice to talk fannish stuff.

Following lunch, I lurched my way back into the Exhibit Hall and realized, somewhat belatedly, that I had hit my wall, putting-up-with-the-Con-wise. The crowds were pretty crazy; I didn't feel like spending anymore money; and I kept running into people at the booths who were really into the hard sell, which is something I really don't appreciate. (No, I will not buy the 5$ compilation of the series that I stopped reading over 10 years ago; I stopped reading it for a reason. Yes, I would like to support your charity, but I cannot for the life of me remember what this guy's artwork looks like, and I don't want to commission something from someone I don't know.) I did have a very nice discussion with the women at the Bekyoot booth, who did not do the hard sell and seemed happy to have someone talk with them about their designs and their plans to expand into the babywear market.

[ profile] yebisu9 caught up with me around 5:00 and we decided that we had to have dinner or we both might do violence. Unfortunately, I think it was this decision that caused us to miss a good place in line for the Mythbusters panel: by the time we got back to the room, it was still an hour before panel time and the line snaked back away from the room, down the wall, and outside, where it curved and rounded back on itself so many times that we couldn't figure out how many people were actually waiting and if we had a chance to get in or not. In the end, I told Yebisu he could call it either way and he decided we should bail. (We read in the Con newsletter this morning that 2,000 people came to see it! No way would we have gotten into that!) So we went home and watched an episode of "Survivors" instead.

[Bonus report! Yebisu attended the "V" panel and provided the following information:
1) Morena Baccarin is GORGEOUS (well, duh, we already knew that);
2) Mr. Hawt Britishy Guy will be a series regular this next season; and
3) Anna's mother is named Diana and there will be a shot of her on the V home planet.]


Today's panel was the spotlight on Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson books. And he was a gracious, articulate, and kind speaker, who fielded the questions from his youngest fans with great attention to detail. Overall, he didn't tell me anything especially new about the series and its creation, but his passion for writing and education really shone through, and it was a pleasure to hear him speak.

After that, [ profile] psydolivia and I wandered around the Exhibit Hall floor, where I fulfilled my final few quests of the Con, which were buying one more crazy fleece hat, procuring comic-themed baby clothes (Flash onesie! YAY!), and generally trying to soak it all in one more time. We met [ profile] psychoe and her friend, had lunch, saw [ profile] ashears one last time... and then my brain began the shut down process and I knew it was time to go. I would have loved to talk longer with everyone, but I could see the mental and physical storm clouds gathering, and I was determined to leave on a high note. One trolley ride and short drive later, we are home, and I am finding that I do, in fact, have a very painful blister and more free swag than I know how to deal with.

Sum-up post to follow, most likely tomorrow, when I've regained my brainpower. But whatever brainpower got drained, it was totally, 100% worth it. XD

Lost: The Finale

Monday, May 24th, 2010 08:19 am
retsuko: (sexy espresso)
My viewing experience was somewhat colored by the fact that I had an entire 20-oz. Coke around 7:00. I hadn't drunk that much caffeine and sugar in about four months, and the effect (at least, at first) was a laser-like precision focus on the show. (This is the effect that I imagine Ritalin has.) Later, though, the high wore off and I felt myself crashing in slow motion, getting cranky as [ profile] yebisu9 grew increasingly dissatisfied with the overall plot of the show and feeling like I had to defend it. This lead to a sugar hangover this morning, coupled with the flat-out weirdest dreams I've had in a while. (When the Daleks started attacking the apartment next to mine that inexplicably had an ocean in it, I knew that trouble lay ahead.)

Needless to say, I'm laying off the caffeine for another five months, at the very least.

Anyway, as mentioned above, Yebisu was often unsatisfied with the entire thing, especially the ending. My thoughts were generally along the lines of "haters to the left" because I thought it was a fine ending--not as definitive in some areas, but entirely conclusive in the others that counted. Spoilers ahead. )

Regarding the series as a whole, I realized about halfway through last night's episode that I had no desire to watch the whole thing over again now that the story was over. Maybe in ten years or so, or when I'm ordered by a doctor to have significant bed rest time (which is hopefully never.) (And I will either watch Lost again or finally get around to reading The Stand, which one of the book group guys swears is the best thing since sliced bread.) I feel like a second time around, the continuity errors would be more glaring, certain characters more annoying than ever, etc. etc.

I also wonder what the lasting impact of this show is going to be. I pointed at the Oceanic bottled water and said that it would make for a great Comic Con freebie; Yebisu snarked that by July, people will already have forgotten it. But I suspect it's not going to fade away as quickly as that, especially since I've heard several people say that they were waiting for all DVDs to come out before they started watching (and I honestly cannot say that I blame them for this strategy at all. Much easier on the viewing nerves!) I like that there was a show on non-cable TV that proved (yet again) that mainstream, largely character-driven sci-fi, could work and, for the most part, did not jump the shark. I also liked that there was no movement to sanitize this show for younger audiences; the marketing stayed firmly in adult viewing territory. I hope that one of the legacies of this show will be the realization that fans are willing to buy into a long-term program with a rich mythology/strong storytelling and the development of similar shows down the line.

EDIT to add: I forgot to mention one of the funniest parts of the show: right as the island started to shake, San Diego experienced a small tremor, an aftershock from the Easter earthquake. It was as if the forces of TV wanted us to have extra verisimilitude in our viewing experience! ;)
retsuko: (gwen)
As I blogged previously, both "V" and "Flashforward" went on five-months hiatuses (hiati?) to increase dramatic tension to build buzz (and let the writes do some tinkering to the scripts, I suspect). Both have recently returned, but only one has snapped up my attention from where it left off, while the other continues to flounder, a sad-eyed fish on the chopping board of my "whatever, I've got better things to do with my time" feelings.

Specifically, V, why did we ever fight? Let's never bicker over stupid things again! )

But in the meantime, FlashForward, why do you bore me so? )

In the case of both shows, I forgot the names of the minor characters entirely and am still trying to put them back together. However, in the case of FlashForward, when other characters used the missing names, I found they just weren't as good as the nicknames I'd mentally assigned while I attempted to figure out who was who. "Natalie" isn't as interesting as "Moon-Eyed CandyStriper" and "Bryce" isn't anywhere near as good as "Mr. Sensitive".

If you're interested, my mental names for the characters of the shows: )
retsuko: (dramatic tension)
What better way to celebrate International Women's Day 2010 than with the win of Kathryn Bigelow, the first woman to win an Oscar for outstanding directing? And as for "The Hurt Locker" winning Best Picture... well, all I have to say is: In your face, Avatar! Quality over quantity!

I really enjoyed "The Hurt Locker", which surprised me: war movies and I don't get along, and I only get a hankering for them about once every six months or so. But this movie, whether it's 100% accurate or not (and apparently there are disputes about its accuracy, which I wasn't previously aware of) held my attention from the get-go, and built up the suspense so neatly that I had to remind myself to breathe several times. But the best thing about this movie was that it wasn't only about war, it was also about its consequences: the damage to the souls of the citizens involved, the sensation of being an Occupying Other (with two academic capital O's, yes, I'm serious), and addiction. It was a beautifully made film, too; there were shots of small details that were achingly touching, like the stray feral cats wandering through the battered city landscape, or the eerily over-lit supermarket that one of the characters returns to in the U.S. It also utilized points of view in magnificent ways. At various times in the movie, I was seeing the action from the soldier's point of view, then of the Iraqi civilians' who were watching him dismantle the bombs, and then from the unknown insurgent's (or were they?). I highly recommend this movie, and I'm glad to be able to do so. It's a universal statement about the toll of violence on the human soul.

10 Movies for Best Picture is a lot... and it was hard to see them all. I ended up having seen "Precious", "District 9", "Up", "Avatar", and "The Hurt Locker". I meant to see "An Education" and "Up in the Air" but lost track of both of them before I had the chance. While it's great that more films were up there, I can't help thinking it was easier to be on top of things when I only needed to have seen five, total.

Stray observations about the Oscars, the ceremony, the fashion, etc. etc. can be found underneath the cut: )

My Mom and I will have our annual Friday-after-the-Oscars buying People magazine and dissecting the fashion ritual this year, too. Huzzah!
retsuko: (yuuko)
For this entry, I've got a double meme theme going on. I meant to do the semi-meme that was going around a while back: Name 100 favorite female fictional characters. And, I'm trying to keep up with the "Happy Things in February Meme". In general, thinking of my favorite characters makes me very happy! So, without further ado, the list: )
retsuko: (love this show)
This week, The Onion A.V. Club poses the question 'what are your best pop-culture-related memories of the past decade?' to its writers, with predictably entertaining and esoteric results. (As usual, Tasha Robinson's answer is the best and makes me wish she were my friend.) Here are some of my personal best pop culture moments from 2000-2009.

1) Just about any of my experiences at Comic Con would fall into this category, even the dull parts where I was waiting in line. Almost invariably, I fell into conversation with interesting people nearby, and on those few occasions where no one felt like talking, I had reading material in the form of huge sampler manga magazines and comic book previews. (This past year, a guy came past the line, handing out old issues of The Flash and Fantastic Four, refusing money and just smiling at everyone.) After waiting in a long line, meeting Lynda Barry a few years ago was beyond wonderful. But this most recent Con provided me with the best (and most personally embarrassing) pop culture moment of the decade: I saw David Tennant, John Barrowman, and Russell T. Davies on stage together and had a full minute of total fangirl squee. ([ profile] livyanne will no doubt be telling my children about this story someday.)

2) Seeing The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring with my family and realizing a) Peter Jackson had not messed it up, and 2) the movie was almost exactly how I'd envisioned the story as a child. (Although not quite with the crazy HAWTNESS of many of the male leads--I was a pretty sheltered kid, and most of my mental pictures of the characters came from my favorite illustrators, like Trina Schart Hyman, Michael Hague, and Herge.) Watching the first installment of that series was like being around the campfire, listening to a master storyteller spin a tale that I already knew, almost instinctively, but longed to hear again. The remaining films did not disappoint, either, but nothing topped the sensation of seeing it for the first time.

3) Reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in one day, the morning after they were released. It's very seldom now that I get a chance to read *anything* in one sitting, especially anything as long as those books progressively became. However, I staked out my selfish territory with these three tomes, on the basis that I would be talking to friends later that day, who would have read the entire thing already. And it was true--after each installment, there was a frantic phone call with [ profile] aratana_miyuki along the lines of "Are you finished?! Can you believe that-?! I know, right? Do you think that-?! No way! Way!" etc. etc. On of these phone calls took place at 11:00PM West Coast time--I was surprised to hear from her, since she lives on the East Coast. It turned out she'd just gotten back from a party, but wanted to talk about the books. The whispered conversation that followed (neither of our husbands had read the book yet, and were incredibly spoiler-phobic) is one of my favorite moments of my friendship with her.

3a) A pop culture low point involved working retail the night Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was released. It was dizzying. We sold at least 120 books in 45 minutes. I remember thinking it was worse than the entire Holiday retail season.

4) Seeing the first season of Heroes on DVD during the wild fires in 2007. It was a tremendously unnerving week: we returned from vacation to the smell of ashes in the air; everything was covered in a fine, grey film, and people were panicking. There was a very good chance at one point that the flames would jump over I-15, which would have brought them very close to our apartment complex. There was only so much news we could watch without getting too freaked out and tired. The little Blockbuster franchise in the shopping center nearby turned out to hold the key to distraction/salvation: we watched the entire run of Heroes over about three days, pausing every now and then to check in with my parents, who were housing some friends whose neighborhood was on fire. And it helps that the first season of that show contains some snappy writing, a great premise executed well, and a plot that has urgency and coherence. I was so grateful to the cast, writers, and production staff for putting it together and making me feel like everything would be all right, despite a direct and very real menace to the contrary.
retsuko: (eels in the photobooth)
Dear Flashforward: There's so much here that I like, but it's bogged down with a lot of stupid and very poor pacing. More spoilers, more plot advancement, less treating the viewers like two-year-olds-with-no-long-term-memory, please! )

Dear Office: Aw, don't ever change. Well, maybe a little, but not much. We need more subtle scenes, like Tobey showing Pam how to throw a punch, as if he's been planning to punch Michael for years, but never quite worked up the guts to do so. We need more Andy singing and more thwarted Dwight. I would dial down the awkward a notch, but that's just me.

Dear Code Geass: WTF. I mean, sincerely, what the hell is going on here? You can either have a re-write of world history and a rebels-taking-down-the-empire show, OR you can have a harem-esque, high school romantic comedy drama anime. Mixing the two leads to some really, really weird moments. It's like Star Wars with a cast of far more cliched characters, reset in a Southern California high school; Darth Vader's the superintendent of schools, Luke Skywalker's a scrappy transfer student with a plan to cancel all pep rallies, and Princess Leia's the captain of the swim team. It works well, but only sometimes, and in that weird, fanfic-y way that doesn't necessarily equal quality. Oh, and did I mention that there were giant robots? It gets crazier, with spoilers! )

Constant Viewer

May 2016

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