intertribal: (leather)
Oh, and while I'm at it: Godzilla --

-- was not as good as Cloverfield or Pacific Rim.  By a long-shot, in my opinion.  The trailer is a lot better than the movie - there's an apocalyptic solemnity in the trailer that's quite convincing, but lacking in the movie, which feels like a throwback to the 1990s' style of fluffy blockbuster without any of the humor or star power.  I really didn't understand what was going on with the plot, even though I suspect it was very simple - the movie rushed through its clumsily-delivered explanations.

The audience didn't take it too seriously either - everyone could not help laughing when Ken Watanabe ominously intoned, "Gojira," and everyone clapped for Godzilla's power move kill shot at the end.  It was the kind of movie that had L. suggesting that Godzilla should have just gone ahead and done a little salute at the end.  It was corny.

What I love about Pacific Rim is that it's scary, and it builds its world extremely well.  I bought the world of Pacific Rim as a world in which these gigantic monsters keep popping up and destroying cities, for years and years on end, and humanity has more or less altered to live with it.  The indie movie Monsters is the best example of this sort of creativity, but Pacific Rim has a bold, neon, all-in shamelessness in its world-building that I loved.  (Also, Raleigh and Mako ugh I can't)  I mean, for God's sake, the entire Ron Perlman character. Godzilla has none of that. Godzilla is bland - camo-toned and humorless and flat.

And what I love about Cloverfield is its sincere, hysterical emotion.  You hate those stupid yuppies but damn if they don't seem like real people.  Damn if this doesn't seem like what would actually fucking happen if you were living in New York City and a monster attacked.  What struck me about Godzilla was how utterly calm everyone seemed to be.  The military, the civilians - it was almost like people had to be reminded to run, to scream, to act scared.  Bryan Cranston was the only person who seemed to be articulating his emotions, and as a result actually looked a little out-of-place.

In other words, Godzilla didn't seem to believe in itself.  Which is too bad.

I will say, though, I would love to watch a giant monster movie compilation set to Iggy Azalea's "Change Your Life" ("pop out your past life and I'll renovate your future/ yeah I love your hustle baby, just let me add a little bit of muscle, baby").  Seriously, something like this set to "Change Your Life"?  Would be amazing.

iggy muscle
intertribal: (tongue)
I saw two horror movies back to back recently - Contracted and Alyce Kills (both on Netflix).  They're both like Girls episodes gone bloody, which is always interesting to me since we know how much I like the whole women-in-horror thing.  I told a friend who doesn't like horror movies the plot line of The Descent this evening and she came away saying, "I will never watch that because I can't handle gore, but it sounds intriguing."  Which of course it is!  I have come up with a new crazy theory about how watching and writing horror has made me a stronger person, but I think it needs to be fleshed out before I show it to the world.

Contracted is about sexually transmitted diseases. Alyce Kills is about being obsessed with your best friend, I guess.  The main characters of both movies are lesbians in their 20s living in some L.A.-like city, working as a waitress (Samantha from Contracted) or a menial office worker of some kind (Alyce from Alyce Kills).  Both are surrounded by an infuriating cast of realistically - sometimes absurdly - obnoxious characters.

Neither of the two are especially sympathetic, but both are - at least at first - at the mercy of larger forces, both supernatural and societal.  Samantha is a nail-biting bundle of nerves who's recently broken up with too-cool-for-school Nikki and living with her ridiculous mother, whose inability to accept that Samantha is a lesbian is perfectly mirrored by her inability to see that Samantha has contracted some terrible, terrible illness.  Samantha is not over Nikki and wants desperately to get back with her, but meanwhile she's being harassed by dweeb-leech Riley.  She's sleepwalking (nightmaring, really) through life.  Then she goes to a party and has her drink spiked by a dude no one seems to know named B.J., who we previously saw engaging in necrophilia.  B.J. rapes her.  Samantha thinks she's got a bad cold... then a bad stomach bug... then a bad STD.  But come on, people: her eyes are bleeding, her hair and nails are falling out... Samantha's turning dead, and no one seems to be all that alarmed.  The movie is an allegory about a lot of things, but I came away thinking mostly about invisibility, intense helplessness, and apathy.  Samantha definitely has an external locus of control, and unfortunately the world just doesn't give a shit about her - until, of course, she's become a full-on zombie.

Alyce is different, and in some ways a relief after the excruciating passive weakness of Samantha - except that Alyce has murderous, apocalyptic tendencies.  But Alyce, to her credit, gets shit done.  When she pushes her best friend off a roof - accidentally?  again, Alyce, like Samantha, has been drinking when the great Calamity happens and the horror rabbit-hole opens up - she quickly figures out that she's going to lie to the police about having been on the roof too.  She decides she'll have sex with a drug dealer for the drugs she needs to get the ghostly visage of her best friend out of her head.  She decides she needs to kill her paralyzed best friend (who she loves, and hates, and everything in between) before the best friend can point the finger at her.  She decides to cause a terrible scene at the best friend's funeral.  She decides to start killing people who hurt the best friend.  Etc.  Alyce, if nothing else, is a very active agent in her life.  She also makes terrible - evil, really - decisions with very little regard for others.  Both Samantha and Alyce kill people, but Samantha does so out of a combination of her slow-burning frustration with existence and more importantly, the zombie disease inside her.  Alyce, like her best friend before the fall, is hovering over the precipice and cracking up, probably because she's one of those people who doesn't really consider other people to be "real."

Neither of these are much fun to watch, and neither are beautiful in any way.  My favorite scene in Alyce Kills is one where Alyce takes home a douchey stud-muffin who's been hitting on her and can't resist inflicting minor pains on him - he'll punch her off the bed, and she gets right back up, laughing.  It's perfectly uncomfortable and hysterical in a Hole-ish way.  The equivalent scene in Contracted is horrific, grotesque, and involves maggots ("my body the hand grenade," indeed).  I'm not sure I had a favorite scene in Contracted because the whole experience is so uniformly unpleasant and sad and there's not an ounce of mirth or glory in it.  But Contracted stayed with me for longer.  These are both flawed movies that certainly won't speak to everyone, but they're certainly interesting additions to women-in-horror-the-saga-continues.

On that note, one of my favorite horror-Hole songs:

intertribal: (city)
I watched Norwegian Wood a few months ago (haven't read the book, I know, a thousand suns of shame).  I didn't think that I would ever be in the position of relating to the girl described as "outgoing and lively," but man, I was definitely Team Midori.  Maybe because like Midori, I've been hurt too much in the past and I just want to be happy now.  So Midori is in love with the main character, Toru Watanabe, who is depressed and attached to this suicidal girl Naoko who's off at a resort-sanitarium.  And I have no idea how it is in the book, but in the movie it comes across like he's just kind of like, man, I know Midori likes me, but I don't know what to do about it, so I'm gonna do nothing and just sit here quietly with my dark thoughts, blahrghgh. So there's this part where Midori finally tells him, "I'll wait, because I trust you, but when you take me, take only me"... fuck it, I'll just post it.

I'm reading through the Goodreads quotes from the book and they're a little eerie.  Especially this and this.  And this letter is from here (I guess this is from the book?  It almost made me cry though):

midori toru
intertribal: (black)
One of the most common conversations I get into with friends who discover that I really like horror movies is this: "Why are the ghosts/demons always women?"  It's an age-old question, one that I've probably talked about already, but once you point it out to someone you can't stop noticing it.  I've even noticed it in my own writing: I'm way more likely to write a female ghost than a male one, even though when you watch those shitty ghost re-enactment shows, the ratio seems to be about 50-50.  If these little testimonials are any indication, you're just as likely to be haunted by Great-Uncle Bob as Great-Aunt Millie.*

I have a few theories that I offer when asked the aforementioned question:

  • Women are more likely to be disenfranchised with limited options in real life, so their only recourse for the plethora of wrongs done to them is supernatural vengeance (c.f. the rape-and-revenge ghost movies like Shutter and Rose Red, or even that old samurai ghost story retold in Kwaidan, as well as the occasional slow-burner like Lake Mungo or Ghost Story)

  • Women are considered closer to wilderness, savagery, evil, insanity, magic, so they are either explicitly more susceptible to the supernatural or just the quicker, lazier, easier option for the creator (c.f. a whole bunch of stuff, from Evil Dead and Infection to The Ring and Noroi and The Haunting of Hill House)

  • Women are more likely to die a violent death - this goes with #1 (c.f. Ju-On, Silent Hill, What Lies Beneath, Retribution, all them Korean Whispering Corridors movies)

Demon possession movies are an extreme version of Theory #2, because demon possession in real life tends to be colored by the perception that young women are: 1) walking potential demon vessels, because they are the weaker/fairer sex, or further from God, or natural followers, or something - I really don't know, but something about Eve?; 2) really tasty demon food, sometimes because they can potentially bear the anti-Christ; 3) more likely to give in to temptation?; 4) so sweet and innocent and virginal and protected that it's more tragic and horrifying all-around (the same reason some Christians say believers are more likely to be attacked by demons: they're a more impressive conquest); 5) NO ONE EXPECTS THE LITTLE GIRL.

If you look at movies like Emily Rose, The Exorcist, and The Last Exorcism, wherein you've got a pretty teenaged girl writhing around in her nightgown and talking dirty to stiff, straight-backed male priests - and of course, the implication that the Devil has literally invaded this girl's body - you've got to conclude that there's some psycho-sexual shit going on, like the Devil is mocking and showing off our society's sexualization of young women who are, nonetheless, still absolutely required to be good girls (a lady in the street but a freak in the bed, and all that).  Like we are so used to ogling and objectifying young women, well look at her now.  Like the most grotesque and disturbing thing we can think of, as a culture, is a wicked, furious, enraged sixteen-year-old girl - precisely because they are supposed to be pliant, happy, vulnerable, something for Liam Neeson to rescue.  The irony is that she's still all those things, of course, because as the Paranormal Activity trilogy sadly reminds us, it's the demonic spirit acting through her body.

The Conjuring is all about all this stuff, but also highlights a couple less common, but still pervasive themes:

  • Ghosts and demons and poltergeists alike attack families when the father is out of town.  Strangely, this actually does correspond to those ghost re-enactment shows.  I always assume it's because the malevolent entity thinks the father is the alpha.**  The father also tends to be the disbeliever/skeptic, compared to the histrionic mother.

  • The truly most horrifying thing we can think of is an evil mother: a mother who kills her own children.  I'm torn on whether this is seen as worse than or equally as bad as an evil father, because there are fathers-gone-rotten: Amityville, The Shining, Insidious.  I think if you look at the news media, you get the sense that child-killing mothers are worse, because maternal instinct is assumed to be stronger, and men are assumed to be violent anyway.  "Mother is God in the eyes of a child," as they say in Silent Hill, so naturally the topsy-turvy version of that Good Mother is going to be pure evil.

Put in this perspective, The Conjuring isn't really especially right-wing.  It falls right into place in a very old-fashioned, very Christian rendering of the supernatural genre.  "God brought us together for a reason," Lorraine Warren says to her husband, who admonishes the besieged family for not baptizing their daughters.  Note that it's also a very American Christianity here: the Catholic Church is no help because it's tied up in red tape, so if you want an exorcism done right you gotta do it yourself, Signs & Wonders style.  It occurred to me last night that it's really quite incredible how much American demon possession movies align with the world view of a very fringe faction of Protestantism along with other people who take exorcism and "spiritual warfare" into their own hands and are thus most likely to accidentally kill somebody in an exorcism.  The most disturbing part of the movie for me comes near the end, when the demon is breaking the possessee's bones and Lorraine says, "We are now fighting for her soul!"  This is in other exorcism movies too and I gotta say, few sentiments in horror movies seem as likely to lead to the deaths of actual people.

But I guess I've grown weary of movies like this - The Conjuring even comes complete with a creepy haunted (girl) doll that needs to be kept in a glass case, how much more retrograde can you get? - especially when even Hollywood seemed for a while to be churning out new, different types of supernatural horror movies, like Insidious, Sinister, Cabin in the Woods, Mama - not to mention the indies, like the extremely creepy and highly-recommended Lovely Molly, problematic V/H/S, Absentia, The Moth Diaries, Hollow.  I like to think that we can be more interesting.

* Speaking of Bob, David Lynch deserves credit for making one of the most frightening supernatural men ever, and one that clearly hates women, at that.
** Yeah, "malevolent entity thinks"... I know.  Can never be too careful!
intertribal: (want me to get you something daddy?)
So, The Dark Knight Rises - the last Nolan Batman movie (God willing).  I really liked Batman Begins, which I think I saw in theaters with Christina when neither of us knew what we were expecting - and we were both like, "I think I really kind of LIKED IT" - and have a special relationship with The Dark Knight, which I saw on my own in a shopping mall/movie theater in Surabaya after I bought a canvas bag that said "Life.  Industry.  Work.  Strength."  I saw The Dark Knight Rises last weekend in another shopping mall/movie theater in Jakarta with mixed company, and I felt frustrated and disappointed with it. 

Many people have talked about the questionable politics of The Dark Knight Rises - I particularly like Abigail Nussbaum's review (but when is that ever not true?).  Others have pointed out that these weird fascistic/Randian trends have been in Nolan's Batman movies the entire time, although I must confess I didn't really see them.  To me Batman Begins wasn't very controversial politically, and The Dark Knight was about the classic dilemmas facing public servants trying to do the right thing (I think the most interesting character in it is Dent's) as well as the personal mental collapse that takes place when you decide you can't take trying anymore (see for instance "that's it, I'm moving to Canada" on a much more mundane level, or "fuck iiiiiit" in meme terms).  In the Order vs. Chaos argument, I think a pretty compelling point was made for Chaos, even if officially Order won out.  The Dark Knight Rises, on the other hand, was really playing up the 1% vs. 99% thing, and the 99% pretty much turn out to be duped by an evil that has no motivation other than to be evil.  It actually kind of reminded me of Michael Crichton's "environmentalists are actually engineering global warming to scare us all into going with the Kyoto Protocol!" as well as of that terrible book by Glenn Beck.  The 1% don't even really commit any sins except their parties are boring.  And then there they are, being thrown out on the streets and executed by exile onto a sea of thin ice!  Even Catwoman, the "Robin Hood" character, is all "Batman, you don't owe these plebes anything, they stole all your money."  So yeah, all that: kind of sucky.

Beyond that, I didn't find the movie as much "fun" as I did its predecessors.  I had heard a lot about the explosion in the football stadium scene beforehand but it did not pack the emotional punch that it truly should have, given me and my inclinations.  I actually felt most emotional in the opening scene, during the nuclear physicist's surprise kidnapping.  I don't really know why - maybe the claustrophobia and imminent death involved for such a small pack of people?  But the police being stuck in the tunnels, then surprise!liberated and being gunned down like Theoden's Riders in The Return of the King - meh.  The random schoolbus of orphaned boys - meh.  The pit?  I did feel a twinge when Bruce Wayne makes it out at last, but it was for the cheering prisoners still in the pit, not Bruce Wayne.  This one just didn't click with me.  It felt cold and distant and unwilling to really give of itself.

On the other hand: Alfred the loyal-unto-death butler and Gordon the beleaguered police commissioner were great.  I think those two and Blake (the scrappy new cop) were really the actual soul of the movie, as far as it had a soul at all - the most human characters, at any rate.  Batman/Bruce Wayne was just kind of annoying/useless (ironically), Catwoman was like What Happens When Men Write Women #5a, or so, and Miranda Tate would have potentially been a competent character if not for the barren face heel turn.  Cillian Murphy as the Scarecrow was also fun. 

If anything I sort of wished Batman was erased from this movie, and that it was just the tale of the horribly dysfunctional city that had to fend for itself - that there truly was no ubermensch to save it.  Because I'm fond of Gotham - have been since the beginning - and I was always fiercely of the belief that the League of Shadows was wrong, and Gotham should not be sacrificed as hopelessly corrupt.  Maybe that's because I come from a city that really reminds me of Gotham, sometimes ("criminals in this town used to believe in things - honor, respect!"), and Gotham being assailed by Chaos was like the Jemaah Islamiyah era here, when hotels were being blown up; and the Gotham being assailed by Quasi-Revolution is like what's happening now, with people burning suspected thieves in the street.  And let me tell you: we have no ubermensch.  What we might have, if we're lucky, is a Gordon, a couple Blakes.  We certainly have plenty of Alfreds.

ANYWAY.  Something else I realized while watching The Dark Knight Rises: I think I may be finally shifting my gaze from older men (father substitutes, all) to men my age (the "damaged" ones, but oh well).  I was way, way more attracted to Joseph Gordon-Levitt in this movie than Bruce Wayne (that scene where he's running to the hospital with the rifle!  Rarr!), and that is new.  I was talking about this with my mother, and concluded that regardless of who I actually date, my ideal type seems to be this older, married, brooding political scientist type that is clearly a doppelganger for my father.  And it's also!  A completely safe, riskless outlet for whatever feelings I might develop, because I know in my hardest of hearts that nothing real can actually happen there.  There was no possibility of anything developing.  I couldn't really get involved.  I wasn't going to get heartbroken.  Plus it let me deal with my Daddy Issues.  Sort of, anyway.  I mean, the walls I put up -- both because my father died and everything normal and happy was shattered, and probably just because of me, because I was born nuts -- were miles high.

But I think that's starting to change, and that's a good thing.
intertribal: (i like it rough)
Katie is my favorite character of the Paranormal Activity franchise.  For a while I had a default icon that was called "because she looks like Katie."  She was the reasonable one (compared to her boyfriend Micah) in PA1, with a delicious darkward turn as she becomes possessed and kills Micah, as if telling him in the most ferocious terms, "see, this is what happens when you don't listen to me, dumbass."  PA2 reveals that she became possessed because her brother-in-law Dan "sicced" the demon on her - it was to save his wife and son, but still - and Dan gets his comeuppance and "Katie" gets "her" revenge when she comes to their big fancy house, demon-possessed, to kill Dan and Kristi (his wife/her sister) and take Hunter (the infant son).  In PA3, Katie is a child who gets dragged (literally) into Kristi's bad-idea-of-the-year "friendship" with the demon - she and Kristi both end up at least somewhat possessed and in the care of their evil witch grandmother Lois*.

I really love PA1, enjoy PA2 mostly for the big "Fuck U" it allows Katie to give, and am not such a fan of PA3.  I think this is because I didn't like the story that the creators (who changed from movie to movie) eventually laid out to explain what happened in PA1.  Witchcraft - especially of the matriarchal "coven" variety - in horror always sets off an alarm in my head: "this is a women-are-evil story."  That's accentuated in the Paranormal Activity franchise by the special importance given to the firstborn son, who everyone will go to extreme lengths to protect and who is apparently Blue Moon rare (girls in this family are basically throw-aways, especially if they can't be broodmares).  By contrast, Katie is sacrificed by her brother-in-law because she's nothing to him - she is an expendable, mother to no one.  Dan's teenaged daughter from a previous relationship, Ali, is the only one who says "hey, this isn't fair to Katie," and Ali is also safely tucked away on a field trip during Katie's rampage.  And while I liked the potential that Paranormal Activity had to be Katie's Good Girl Gone Bad (kind of Laura Palmer in reverse) story - even if witchcraft and a special son had to be involved - PA2 and especially PA3 show that there's nothing unique about Katie.  The same thing happens to her sister.  They get possessed and go bad because they're women (and I will note that the possession scenes always read very "rape-y" to me), the end. 

There's a perspective shift too.  In PA1, Katie and Micah are both leads, and you're in each of their headspaces; because the "paranormal activity" revolves around Katie and she's an adult, she might be more the main character than Micah.  PA2 is very decentralized - it's also very shallow in the sense that it's in no one's head in particular, and all the characters are ciphers.  In PA3, the boyfriend of Katie and Kristi's mother, Dennis, is the lead.  Katie and Kristi are children and not especially emotive ones, and their mother Julie is a non-entity.  The next closest thing to a character in PA3 is Dennis's male videography buddy.  It's interesting that in PA3 Katie and Kristi are basically there to be "creepy little girls" with incomprehensibly creepy behavior - "little girls are creepy," as my roommate says - whereas there's nothing creepy about Hunter, the baby boy in PA2, and the audience is simply meant to feel protective of him ("that poor baby boy," etc.).  PA1 sets itself apart from its sequels because we actually get to be in the headspace of the eventual-possessee, to see her as a three-dimensional human being instead of just a "creepy little girl" or a blank mother-type placeholder (in Kristi's case - who is Kristi?  God knows!). 

Men are do-ers in the Paranormal Activity franchise.  Micah is dense and foolish, but he is the macho take-charge investigator - and this trait of his is sort of mocked in PA1 as Micah bombastically insists that "no one comes into my house and fucks with my girlfriend" and Katie's just like, "you don't have power here" (his defensive reply is something along the lines of "don't tell me I have no power").  In PA2, Ali is the investigator, but she's not an actor, and she apparently wields zero influence over any other character, making her relevant only as an info-dumper.  Dan, the brother-in-law, is the only actor, and shows piss-poor decision-making - firing the maid for saging the house, ignoring video footage that he himself arranged, and ultimately transferring the demon to Katie.  Dan is actually absent during most of the movie (when the women of the house are being afflicted with paranormal activity), and it falls on him to make up for his failure to be the responsible man of the house by saving Kristi and Hunter and sacrificing Katie to the darkness.  Dennis, Katie and Kristi's would-be-dad, is neither a dolt nor an asshole, and is more of a protector for Katie and Kristi than their own mother.  He's heroic and self-sacrificing, a sensible investigator, and the good-guy foil to the human villain, the evil grandmother (there are no human villains in PA1 or PA2, and I think this does change the dynamic of a horror story - just ask Stephen King).  And of course then there's the biggest do-er of them all: the demon.  With all the marriage talk in PA3, the demon is definitely male.  But whereas the human men of Paranormal Activity all (arguably) mean well as they try to fix this situation that their women thrust them into, the human women are either corruptible to the extreme or just irrelevant, and in all cases unable to even try to protect themselves or their loved ones.  Their bodies are the battlefield for the war/pissing contest between the human men and the male demon. 

The demon always wins, and it's through the demon that the human men are killed by the women in their lives.  The visual effect is different, though: on screen, it's psycho bitches on the loose (with the only really affecting death, at least for me, being Micah's at the hands of "Katie").  It's too bad that Katie's actions at the end of PA2 probably aren't Katie's at all.  I would have preferred her to be taking revenge on Dan and Kristi - if only subconsciously, if only with the last smidgen of Katie that still existed within the bloody Katie-shell - but it was probably just the demon being demonic en route to obtaining that precious little boy. 

"Jennifer's Body" - Hole
"Arsenal" - Kidneythieves
"Climbing Up The Walls (Radiohead cover)" - Sarah Slean
"Behind Blue Eyes (The Who cover)" - Sheryl Crow

*: Fun fact - Lois is my maternal grandmother's name!  This is why one of my middle names is Louise.  Because my mother didn't like the sound of "Nadia Lois."  WITCH! 
intertribal: (pro nails)
If I could make music videos I would make one for this movie to the tune of "They're Coming To Take Me Away," Neuroticfish cover.

I think my favorite exchange (other than "murders and executions") was:

Evelyn Williams: You hate that job anyway. I don't see why you just don't quit.
Patrick Bateman: Because I want to fit in.

It was a real "YESS" moment for me.  I have friends/acquaintances for whom this would probably strike too close to home.

It's a tricky movie, though, because you know there are people out there who are like "yay Wall Street" after seeing this movie.  I mean the number of people who don't "get" what I see as the point of this scene, for example, is huge.  Patrick Bateman's world is complete artifice, shallow and insincere and color-by-numbers, where merit is determined by business card fonts and the most time seems to be spent deciding what restaurant to go to and no one knows who anyone else is, anyway.  Bateman cuts through the niceties and surface tension and just puts forth the truth of what this world is all about.  And of course if you know about predatory capitalism...

On the other hand, there's this kind of sad exchange I had with a receptionist yesterday, about New Yorkers:

Receptionist: I mean, do those people have any idea what the real world is like? 
Me: ...?
Receptionist: They have no trees, no lawns!
Me: Oh.  Well, they probably feel the same way about people here.
intertribal: (black tambourine)
Taken from [ profile] handful_ofdust, who had some great answers. Seriously.

Day 1- Your first horror movie: I'm sure it was some Chinese horror movie that I saw on the Indonesian RCTI channel.  Something with jiang shi - jumping vampires, most likely.  These guys.

Day 2- The last horror movie you saw in the theater: Either Insidious or Scream 4.  Both recommended, both better than I thought they'd be.

Day 3- Favorite classic horror movie: I actually don't know that many classics, but I do like The Innocents, which is a delicate, almost "lacy" creep-fest, and The Curse of Frankenstein, which IMO depicts Victor Frankenstein as the slimeball that he is. Does War of the Worlds count?  Because I enjoyed that as well.

Day 4- A horror movie you thought you'd love and didn't: This is relatively rare for me because I tend to like horror movies almost by default.  But I didn't love The Prophecy (thought I would because I like religious horror and Constantine) - mainly I just couldn't retain interest in it - and I didn't love The Quiet Family (thought I would because I love Happiness of the Katakuris, Takashi Miike's bizarro remake) - I think it was almost because it didn't live up to Happiness.  

Day 5- Favorite horror remake: Tough question.  I absolutely love Werner Herzog's Nosferatu the Vampyre.  One of the first truly beautiful horror movies I saw - kind of remade what horror could be, for me.  But I also really like Happiness of the Katakuris, Alexandre Aja's The Hills Have Eyes, Jack Finney's 1978 Invasion of the Body-Snatchers (Donald Sutherland's final scream?  Scared.  The.  Shit.  Out of me.), Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead, the 2010 The Crazies, and of course, Thir13en Ghosts, which is just too much fun.

Day 6- Favorite vampire movie: Interview with the Vampire, probably.  I also really like Blade.  For some reason I don't really consider Herzog's Nosferatu to be a proper vampire movie...

Day 7- A horror movie you think no one has seen: I'm not very good with obscure movies.  I think not a lot of people have seen The Ceremony, which is the best low-budget/indie horror I've seen in a while.  Has anybody here seen Bungalow 666?  It's Indian.  Circle of Eight is a horror movie I wish no one had the opportunity to see, because it is that bad (it served as an antidote to Ju-On).  Apparently Bloody Disgusting thinks that Halloween III: Season of the Witch is obscure, and that movie rocks!  "Six more days 'til Halloween!  Halloween!  Halloween!"  Yeah, I drive people nuts with this movie.  I don't know, though - Screen Rant's list of obscure movies is hilariously sad (SuspiriaAuditionIn the Mouth of Madness?). 

Day 8 - Favorite foreign horror: Something Japanese - probably Noroi: The Curse.  It's become my favorite of its ilk.  I also really like Ringu (but so sad!) and One Missed Call (cheesy-wheezy, but has screams).  Oh God, and Retribution.  Or basically anything by Kiyoshi Kurosawa.

Day 9 - Favorite supernatural horror movie: What the heck kind of question is this?  Pretty much every horror movie I love is supernatural.  Okay, how about Candyman.  There!  It's my welcome-to-grad-school movie.

Day 10 - Horror movie everyone loves but you don't: Too easy: Pan's Labyrinth.

Day 11 - Favorite horror/ comedy: Probably Shaun of the Dead.  This is the first horror movie I ever saw that actually made me ROFL.  Me and Yue were basically going nuts while watching the scene I linked to.  Runner up: Cabin Fever.  Bronze: Trick 'r Treat.  Tin: Infection (I know it looks like pure horror, but it's really absurdly funny).  And we already know I love Happiness, right?  Right.

Day 12 - Your most disturbing horror film: I agree with [ profile] handful_ofdust - Martyrs is very disturbing.  Also disturbing to me were Marebito and Ju-OnMarebito is unsettling, and Ju-On just fucks me up.

Day 13 - Favorite zombie movie: Probably 28 Days Later, although I am also very fond of Pontypool and Romero's borderline brilliant Land of the Dead.

Day 14 - Favorite indie horror movie: I'm really bad at figuring out what's indie.  I'll say Lake Mungo.  Which I am VERY ANGRY that they are remaking for an "American audience."  It is Australian.

Day 15 - Favorite monster movie: Cloverfield, or Alien.

Day 16 - Horror film with a great soundtrack: I love The Hills Have Eyes' soundtrack (the 2006 one) and The Shining theme scares me the most, but for this question I'll go with Mulholland Drive.  Which, yes, counts as a damn horror movie.  I really, really love Angelo Badalamenti's scores.  This is Lost Highway's, and this is "Laura Palmer's Theme."

Day 17- Favorite 80's horror: Just a horror of the 1980s decade or horror that somehow represents the 1980s?  The Shining, probably.

Day 18 - Favorite horror movie filmed in black and white: See my answers to the classic question.

Day 19 - Best use of gore: The Descent.  I'm normally not a fan of "extreme" cinema, but it worked for The Descent, which isn't exploitative and feels realistic (the characters that manage to fight and embrace the gore are the ones with the most baggage/issues). 

Day 20 - [One of your f]avorite horror character[s]: Lim Ji-oh of Whispering Corridors.  A total BAMF of a high school girl (without being sexy), an artist, and an individualist of the Luna Lovegood variety.  I also really like Richard Dees of The Night Flier, although he's kind of a douche.

Day 21 - Best horror franchise: I'm going to go out on a slight limb (because the third one has not been released), and say RecRec 2 builds very well on its punch-in-the-face predecessor.  There's no mistaking Rec world.

Day 22 - Best death scene: I'm going to say the first death from Ringu / The Ring (honestly, I like both movies).  It scared the SHIT out of me the first time I saw it - and continues to scare me to this day - but I just love the transition from "two high school girls gossiping about boys and death curses while alone in a house at night" to "wait one of them really is cursed" to "the phone!" to "oh, it's just her mom" to "SON OF A BITCH THE TV JUST TURNED ON."  Coupled with the actual death scene, of course.  Anyway, this is what I mean.  Or Ringu, if you prefer.

Day 23 - A great quote from a horror movie: "Born in lust, turn to dust. Born in sin, come on in." - Storm of the Century

Day 24 - Horror movie character that describes you: I've always felt a little bit of kinship with Trish Jenner from Jeepers Creepers.  Slightly hysteria-prone but still able to get shit done, some anger issues, willing to sacrifice herself for family members.  Likes poli-sci majors.  Etc.  I think I also have a bit of Marlena Diamond in me, from Cloverfield.  "Sarcastic outsider," you know?  But I suspect that a quiz would call me Clarice Starling.  We have a lot of the same issues.  I think we're both deep rollers.

Day 25 - Favorite Christmas/ holiday horror movie: GremlinsGremlins until to the end of time.  But, the original Black Christmas is also wonderful.

Day 26 - Horror movie for a chicken (subtle or non-gory horror?): The Others, The Changeling, The Blair Witch Project, Picnic at Hanging Rock, Signs, Insomnia, The Skeleton Key, Paranormal Activity.  Of course, what I consider a "subtle" horror movie is usually a serial killer movie (like Zodiac, or Perfume: Story of a Murderer), and those are always gory...

Day 27- Your guilty pleasure horror movie: I have a lot of these.  Silent Hill probably takes the cake though.  I mean, you got the hate coming from horror movie aficionados, from the video game's fans... and I'm all "whatever."  I also like the Resident Evil series more than I should.  If Deep Blue Sea counts as a horror movie then that is also included.  And a lot of the After Dark Horror Fest movies - Gravedancers, etc.  Rose Red is another one that I really enjoy, even though I know it has serious plotting issues. 

Day 28- Horror film you'd like to see remade/ rebooted: Pumpkinhead deserves a reboot.  I would be willing to help.

Day 29- Worst horror movie: Well, there's a lot of dreck on SyFy, but that stuff is kind of expected to be dreck, and forgiven for it.  However, I'm not a fan of the Amityville franchise.  Partly because of the whole "hey this is fake even though we all said it was true" thing, partly because of the involvement of the Warrens, and partly because the story itself is just ridiculous.  I also really dislike 1408.  I sort of can't believe how many people think this movie is great when it reads like a bland, passionless joke of a horror movie.  

Day 30- [Three of y]our favorite all time horror movie[s]: Candyman, Noroi: The Curse, and... Kwaidan, since that was really what got me started on "good horror."
intertribal: (black wave/bad vibration)
Dog Day Afternoon, another great '70s crime movie that I had never seen before.  And by another, I mean in addition to Taxi Driver - my repertoire is pretty slight in this area, unfortunately.  The IMDb tagline is "A man robs a bank to pay for his lover's operation; it turns into a hostage situation and a media circus," which I guess is accurate, but makes the movie sound more farcical than it is.  It kind of makes me sad, how commonly-referenced and parodied this scene is, because when he starts saying "put 'em down!" I actually got a little weepy.

By the way, this is what "Attica!" is a reference to.  I highly suggest you click the link, if you don't already know.  And I wouldn't say that Dog Day Afternoon is even unfair to cops - Detective Moretti, the first hostage negotiator, is actually a sympathetic character who tries to stop the moronic cops who assume an asthmatic black hostage being released is actually one of the bank robbers and immediately start treating him as such.  And both Sonny and Travis Bickle, the criminal heroes of Dog Day Afternoon and Taxi Driver, are veterans of Vietnam.  

Yeah, I know I still haven't talked about Taxi Driver.  I guess what I can say is that this type of movie - the atmosphere, the narrative style, the "message," etc. - is not at all what I write, and something I can't spend a lot of time with before I become claustrophobic and panicky, but is something I really, genuinely admire.  The Attica scene would never happen today, and we're worse off for it.  We're so inundated with cop-centric crime narratives (even the grittier stuff you see on cable channels, it's pretty much all "woe the fractured lives of cops," so I guess hooray for Sons of Anarchy?  But even that is about alternative methods of "law enforcement," not being anti-establishment, so...), so conditioned to look at crime as a single, selfish act of law-breaking, and very quick to excuse police and military brutality as somehow "deserved," no matter what.  You see this on 24 and Law & Order: SVU.  I suppose we made the bed we'll die in. 

We'd much prefer to read stories about "police vigilantes" acting outside the law in fulfillment with some kind of higher calling of justice, destroying evil-doers - a short story in Alan Heathcock's collection Volt, "Peacekeeper," is exactly this sort of story.  There's Lawful Good and Chaotic Evil or Chaotic Neutral and it's this big cosmic struggle played out usually on the dead or missing body of a young woman.  Those are popular stories.  But that isn't really the story of police work in the U.S., just like it isn't the story of the U.S. military abroad.  The real story is a hell of a lot more banal than that. 
intertribal: (baby got a poison gas)
Low is from Duluth, Minnesota, and its anchor is husband-and-wife team Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker, who sound great together.  I'm not really sure how I'd describe their sound, but I'll throw out some adjectives: ethereal, heartfelt, electronic but still homey, and harmonious. 

I owe my knowledge of this band to that lovely little horror movie The Mothman Prophecies, which is another example of horror done right.  They collaborated with Tomandandy (whom I knew of because I own the creepy-yet-triumphant score they made for the remade The Hills Have Eyes) to make the song "Half Light."  I was so enthralled by "Half Light" that I started referring to "the half-light" in passing in my stories.  When I first saw this video was when I was starting to make the mental shift to the idea of writing horror, so this video - I was particularly fixed on the "EARTHQUAKES HAPPEN PLANES CRASH PEOPLE DIE CAN'T EXPLAIN" part - is sort of my emotional and aesthetic base.

From there I got to Drums and Guns, an album of Low's that sort of received mixed reviews from long-time Low fans.  Not being a long-time Low fan, I really enjoyed it.  As the title indicates, it's kind of an anti-war album as a whole, although it's more of an overarching response to state-sponsored killing ("Murderer") and the effect of destructive violence ("Violent Past") than a rant against anything specific. 

"Violent Past."  Be warned, my mother once asked me to shut this song off because she thought it was "off-key."  I guess I'm not so sensitive, because I love it.  And this is my favorite line: "All I can do is fight, even if I know you're right."

"Murderer."  This is a fan video, not an official one.  This song is a heart-stringer, for me - "Don't act so innocent, I've seen you pound your fist into the Earth and I've read your books.  Seems that you could use another fool.  Well I'm cruel, and I look right through." 

"Breaker."  When Low makes official music videos, they look more like this.  YouTube commenter marfis78 gets it right, though: "That's exactly how they want to look you **** : the dumb folks applause while their leader can't get enough."

"Take Your Time," which I added to my post about people who despite their huge contributions to safeguard the lives of others still don't think they've done enough, is my current favorite off Drums and Guns.  My mother's obsessed with it too.  I told her "I didn't want to expose you to any more Low after your reaction to 'Violent Past.'"  I've probably listened to this song about 100 times in the past week.  I just think it's really beautiful in a really... poignant, almost painful way.  Alan Sparhawk's voice really comes through on this one.

I got two other albums recently - The Great Destroyer and C'mon.  "Monkey," off the former album, seems to actually be one of their most well-known songs, because it was in some Mickey Rourke B movie.  It is I would say one of their more accessible songs, a solid alt-rock piece:

Off C'Mon, as of now I love the folksy, lyrically bizarre "Witches", which is just asking for a nice literary horror novel to go with it: "One night I got up and told my father there were witches in my room.  He gave me a baseball bat and said here's what you do: When you have finally submitted to embarrassing capture, take out that baseball bat and show those witches some pasture."

And here's the lovely "Especially Me," which showcases Parker's voice: "Cuz if we knew where we belong, there'd be no doubt where we're from.  But as it stands, we don't have a clue.  Especially me, and probably you."


May. 11th, 2011 11:31 am
intertribal: (baby got heart attacks)
This was entertaining, much more so than most superhero or pseudo-superhero movies.  It's not particularly subversive, and the humor is kind of slapstick, but oh well.  The bad guys (to the extent that there even are bad guys...) are all aliens, so at least there's no demonization of human cultures going on.  The parts that take place on Earth are way more fun than the parts that take place on, uh, Thor's home planet.  Overall, alternated between funny and campy!dramatic, but in a very non-annoying way - and we all know how easy it is to annoy me.

I thought they actually did a really nice job with the everyday folk in this one - Natalie Portman's character was very likable and relatable and cute (and everything about Thor was filtered through her perspective, which was awesome, because it almost felt more like he was the love interest, not her - which is really fucking rare in action movies, to allow women to show desire - usually it's just like, Exasperated Love Interest Suddenly Becomes Willing To Make Out With Hero, How Did That Happen? Don't Ask), with her main adjective probably being "clever."  Her assistant, Darcy - the political science student - was the comic relief, and was a riot.  Then their beleaguered scientist mentor dude was Stellan Skarsgard, and he did a good job; I generally like Skarsgard anyway.  It all takes place in a very desertified New Mexico.

The aliens - Thor's people, and their enemies the Frost Giants - are a little headscratchy.  They have a nice-looking planet, sure, with the cosmos as their sky and a long psychedelic crystal highway that leads out to the rainbow bifrost bridge - kind of like something off a sketchy "space art" web site.  And their attire reminded more of Saint Seiya than anything else, did anybody watch that show?  Disturbing anime, that.  Anyway, they're all completely identical to humans aside from their ridiculous armor, which was played for some laughs when they eventually came to Earth.  The Frost Giants are corpse-gray with red eyes and live in a desolate ice world.  Character development in this "realm," as Thor would say, was a little weak, but I think is a good example of what I was saying the other day - heroic heroes are more interesting than antiheroes. 

Thor comes straight out of Hero Mold, you see.  He is a total stupid dumbfuck when he first becomes an adult, but his flaws are hero flaws - wants to go after the enemy and teach them a lesson, doesn't want to wait for diplomacy, must defend honor, blah blah blah - a lot of sound and fury and prideful bombast, but he doesn't angst or consider switching sides or even behave all that reprehensibly.  There was one part where I thought he might suffer A Very Painful Lesson (TM) because he's smashing all these Frost Giants with his whack-a-mole hammer while miles away his friends are about to get eaten by a gigantic ice Balrog/Troll, but no, he sees that they're in danger and saves them.  He has some character defects, but they're heroic defects.  And he becomes much less of a dumbfuck as the movie progresses.  But thank God, you know, thank God that he wasn't "I'm just a loser and I'm sad about my average life but holy shit look I have superpowers now I am uber cool woohoo."  I am so done with that kind of superhero.  With Thor, at least we've moved beyond the standard "what does this power mean?" conversations, because you know, Thor knows he has power.  He's been groomed to be a leader all his life.  So instead of "you too can be a leader" claptrap you can actually concentrate on what good leadership is (not that this movie is very deep, but eh).  And if that means that fewer boys in the audience can "relate" to Thor, too damn bad for them.  Captain America looks right up their alley.

Loki, his brother, the "bad guy," is a whole bucket of crazy.  He's kind of sympathetic, and he's certainly Thor's shadow-self, and he doesn't seem to be motivated by Unrepenting Evil or whatever, but neither his motives nor his personality are consistent.  I don't mean that he develops as a character like Thor does - he's just wildly inconsistent.  I accept that he's keeping his true motives and plan to himself, but towards the end I kept going like "Loki, why are you doing that?  I thought that's what you wanted!" and "Loki, what the fuck?"  Unlike Thor, you never really figure out what Loki believes or values - we get that he values himself, yeah, but he seems to have literally no opinions or belief system beyond that - which is just as bad as the villain that is evil Just Because.  

But, oh well.  The movie ultimately comes down not on the side of genocide, which for an action blockbuster, is pretty good.
intertribal: (this chica right here gotta eat baby)
I'll write a "real" post about grad school decisions soon, but for now I just have to say that Insidious, the new "it's not the house that's haunted. it's your son" horror movie, is really good.  It isn't deep, although it helps that they hired real actors (I really like Rose Byrne, although Barbara Hershey had a vital role as the believer mother-in-law and I loved Lin Shaye's psychic lady character), but it's a lot of fun.  The young people in my theater all went through the three motions of horror movies numerous times: 1. hold breath, 2. scream, 3. laugh nervously.  The whole thing was kind of like going to fake haunted house attractions around Halloween, except you're not the one running, and it's scarier. 

The plot itself is sort of reminiscent of Poltergeist and Ink and Silent Hill and the woefully underrated The Dark, but what really impressed me about this movie was the step-above horror imagery.  The "Darth Maul" demon and its shock appearances are the most obvious example, because depicting a demon without some kind of human shell (the possessed person, or vessel) is rare, and this manifestation was very stark and visceral - his first appearance had the girls in the next row screaming bloody murder - but a family of 1950s ghosts were actually equally striking.  I have never seen ghosts depicted in this fashion (Ghost Hunters would call it a mix of the "tape loop" style of haunting and an intelligent haunting) - very disturbing, and very undead.  Almost uncanny valley.  The whole "other" realm of The Further hit a lot of sweet spots, horror-wise, as well - and as a horror writer, that sort of thing is always interesting to me.  It's something I need to get better in, because I feel like my creepiness is very derivative, even though I'm kind of afraid to improve in that regard (haha).

A lot of reviewers have been critical of the "final act," when Insidious goes beyond a standard haunted house movie and into something more fantastical, but I bought the transition and don't see why anyone should find it all that ridiculous.  The subject matter is the paranormal, after all, something that isn't "understood" in any conventional sense, and horror movies have always taken great liberties with the afterlife and the psychic realm.  The spoofed Ghost Hunters characters are rather amusing - a rare instance of comedy, I might add - and some of the psychic contraptions are pretty outlandish, but they didn't take away from the "no holds barred adrenaline thrill ride," so I file that under "why the hell not."  Paranormal investigation units are a popular thing on television right now - way more so than church-sanctioned exorcisms, for obvious reasons, although Hollywood still force-feeds us those - so they're fair game for a horror movie, and for that matter I was glad that the movie didn't dwell too much on the whole skeptic vs. believer thing, and that the mother-in-law sprang right up with suggestions that didn't involve a psychiatrist.  I say this because given the whole 1/3 of Americans believe in ghosts thing, it's astonishing how common it is to see horror movies where no one believes the protagonist, and no one gets heebie-jeebies until it's too late, and people are barely even superstitious.  At any rate, the PG-13 rating shouldn't dissuade horror fans. 

Again, there isn't much lurking under the surface of Insidious.  It's not social commentary.  There's no agenda.  It's not meta-horror in the manner of Fear and Blair Witch.  It's just a tense, spooky horror-adventure that does its thing really well, and that kind of vintage horror is my sort of junk food.  Good on James Wan for going beyond Saw, which did not need any sequels.  Hopefully we don't get stuck with Insidious VI: Return to the Further.  
intertribal: (when I get what I want)
This article, on film schools teaching screen writers not to write female characters who talk to each other about something other than a man, inspired me to make a list of movies that do pass the Bechdel Test.  Then a theme developed among the movies that I came up with.

: Helen and Bernadette. 

Topics of conversation: Their research.  Poverty and housing developments and the way the city is divided up to maintain class segregation.  

Mulholland Drive
: Betty and Rita.

Topics of conversation: Rita's identity.  Betty's auditions.  A car crash, a murder mystery.

Picnic at Hanging Rock: Everyone (there are very few male characters).

Topics of conversation: Each other, the scenery, existentialism, class, disappearing into fucking rocks.

Silent Hill: Rose, Cybil, Dahlia, Christabella.  Arguably Sharon, arguably Alyssa, arguably the Demon.

Topics of conversation: A missing child.  A haunted town.  Keeping the community safe.  Religion.  Demons.  Motherhood.

28 Days Later: Selena and Hannah.

Topics of conversation: Taking drugs to not care about being raped.  The infected.  Survival. 

Suspiria: Suzy and Sarah.

Topics of conversation: Strange developments at the dance school.  The weird teachers.  Dead students.  Their investigation of the mystery.

Yes, in horror movies, to quote one Bechdel Test reviewer, "they have more important things to talk about."  Another point is how frequently women are featured in horror movies, often alongside other women.  I suspect the ratio of women to men ends up being a lot higher in horror movies compared to movies in other genres, even in unlikelier scenarios like Drag Me To Hell (female antagonist, female protagonist, male bystander - a formula that's very common in J- and K-horror), although here I focused on female friendship/partnership. 

To some extent this is as B.S.-y final girl stuff, but as these movies indicate, not always.  Maybe horror filmmakers just like seeing women on the screen.  But seriously, in a world of all-male casts, where are they in horror?  Few and far between.  I think of, like, The Sixth Sense, and The Thing.  And The Sixth Sense just has two male protagonists, but an array of female characters.  2001: A Space OdysseyPredator?  But get ghosts and dark magic involved (as opposed to vicious killer aliens), and it's a woman's game.  Interesting that even for the "masculine" subgenres of horror (aliens, serial killers), the most authoritative movies have female leads: Alien, Silence of the Lambs.

Anyway, I'm sure plenty of people have written about this, but I really haven't read enough "scholarly review" of horror movies.
intertribal: (Default)

Some people have commented on the seemingly heavy-handed politics of Monsters - the issue of border-crossing and the Wall and of course, Mexico being an "infected zone" that must be kept at bay - and the most awkward lines of dialogue are the ones that try to straight-forwardly discuss the idea of America building walls and sealing itself in, and how different America looks from the other side of the Wall, and we "forget all this" when we're in our "perfect suburban homes."  But that's extraneous stuff that's not at the heart of the movie.  Monsters goes beyond any current political issue.  It's really about coexistence/extinction/evolution, and the possibility of understanding an alien that isn't a humanoid little big-eyed bugger but looks like Cthulhu. 

Serious kudos to the decision not to make these aliens totally horrific, by the way.  They do kill people, but for them it must be like swatting at flies, and they do other things besides kill - they hang out in lakes with fallen aircraft, they moan plaintively, they lay their pretty glowing eggs in trees that the U.S. military then chemical-bombs, they turn off televisions, they communicate with each other through gentle touch and look like ethereal, celestial beings. 

It's sad that people have said nothing happens in this movie - I'm guessing because aliens aren't popping out every other minute and having fist fights with the main characters - because the movie shows that a great deal has happened since the alien-carrying space probe landed in Mexico and North America is continuing to change.  It's a bottom-up movie, which means we don't see the U.S. president frowning over the situation with his cabinet, and we don't see people living in underground shelters or totally extinguished or anything - because this is about how life went on in Mexico after the aliens landed.  One of my favorite bits was a five-second clip of a Mexican info-cartoon for children showing a happy little Dora-the-Explorer-like girl putting on a gas mask and standing in front of a wall, behind which a googly-eyed, unthreatening squid monster dances around.  Those kinds of details make Monsters remarkable.  

A Mexican port official explains that if you have money, you take the ferry to the U.S., bypassing the alien-infested infected zone, and if you don't have money, then you "go by land."  Third-world-first-world relations continue pretty much as they always have, with passport drama and bribe drama and "why do your friends have guns" drama, as an industry of illegal infected-zone crossing has developed.  In a lot of ways Monsters is more of an "Americans trapped outside America!" movie, but it's a Grade A example of that subgenre, neither making things unrealistically easy or unrealistically hard, and not making it about Evil Dangerous Mexicans threatening the Poor Innocent Americans.  But then there are moments where the movie rises above that subgenre - when the leads find an ancient pyramid that's been grown over by jungle, for example, leading you to wonder if our civilization will also be overtaken by these new lifeforms.  But who can say?  What little we see of the U.S. implies that the American people have an inflated, confused perception of the aliens' threat level, because they don't have to deal with the aliens on a daily basis.  But the people of Mexico have been living within spitting range of the infected zone for six years now (the wall protecting the U.S. from the infected zone is made of brick, and the one protecting Mexico from the infected zone is more like a very tall fence), and they're not going to leave because their work is here, their family is here, as a taxi driver explains.  They've also started to pick up some things about the aliens' life cycle and behavioral patterns, and the aforementioned friends with guns explain that if you leave them alone, they'll leave you alone - this doesn't quite work out because there's so little bridge of understanding between the "creatures" and the humans, but these scenes of altered, adjusted life - after the running and screaming is over, as the director says - is really what I watch sci-fi for, and Monsters hits this out of the park.  I bought this world.  Detailed, believable, and intense.  Nothing like the ridiculousness of Avatar.

Also sad are the comments I've read saying this is just a relationship movie.  I don't even know what to make of those comments, honestly.  So many sci fi movies feature heroes with love interests, but I doubt anyone said that Transformers was a relationship drama.  The two leads develop a bond that can't be consummated, because she's engaged.  Is it because they have actual conversations and think about their lives?  It's not as if the action stops so that they can stare into each other's eyes.  It's baffling to me that anyone could think there was too much relationship drama, but sort of reminds me of a couple discussions in SF/F lately about how if you include a sex scene or too much relationship stuff then a book somehow jumps out of SF/F and becomes romance - yet another "issue" that I cannot wrap my head around (does that mean Updike wrote romance?  it's laughable, the obsession with formulas that some SF/F fans have). 
intertribal: (sit down shut up)
Shakespeare: Private First Class Shakespeare falling in for inspection, sir!
Fairweather: Corporal Fairweather falling in for inspection, sir!
Captain Jennings: Very good.  Hmm.  Doesn't do to let standards slip, Corporal, you have a responsibility to these young men.
Fairweather: Yes, sir.
Quinn [unseen]: AAAHHHHH!
Captain Jennings: What is that god awful racket?
Shakespeare: That's Private Quinn, sir.
Captain Jennings: Why is he not here for inspection?  Sergeant!  Why is Private Quinn not here for inspection?
Sergeant Tate: ...
Captain Jennings: Right.  Well done, men, you fall out.  I'm gonna go have a word with Private Quinn.
Fairweather: Please don't do that, sir.
Shakespeare: He'll kill you, sir!
Captain Jennings [incredulous]: I'm an officer!

Good movie about the machine of war that I think Virilio would approve of, personified by a deep muddy trench filled with soldier-skewering barbed wire (so that's where Silent Hill got it from), soldier-eating mud, and suspicious red mist that seems too sentient to be gas.  Also nicely absurd, and Charlie Shakespeare's character reminded me very strongly of my novel's protagonist, so that was fun to sort of "see him in action," so to speak, in an alternate universe where he's a British soldier in WWII.
intertribal: (something in my eye)
I really liked you, man.  I mean, especially in Jurassic Park: The Lost World, seeing as how you made that movie worth watching.  I memorized all your lines!

"Remember that chap about twenty years ago? I forget his name. Climbed Everest without any oxygen, came down nearly dead. When they asked him, they said why did you go up there to die? He said I didn't, I went up there to live."

"I believe I've spent enough time in the company of death."
intertribal: (sit down shut up)
This will be longer than my assessment of True Grit, because this one had a way greater emotional impact on me.  Whereas True Grit was like a friendly slap on the back, Black Swan was like a punch in the face.

I thought this wasn't really about ballet at all - I read it as pretty clearly about "the young woman in society."  All the contrary messages that Natalie Portman's character Nina receives - be strong, except your weakness is perfect; be sexual, but then you're a whore; live a little but keep up your obligations; you're sick but how good that you lost weight; if you're the chosen one it means you're great and special but everyone will hate you; be perfect, but lose control; be the White Swan and the Black Swan (and there are only two options!) - are not reserved for ballerinas, let me put it that way.  I thought Portman did a great job exemplifying the uncertainty and awkwardness that often results from living in this pressure cooker.  I really felt for and empathized with her character, which meant I had a strong emotional connection to the movie as a whole.  I don't know if director Darren Aronofsky sort of fell into doing more than he thought he was doing (it sounds like he thought he was making a movie about how women are jealous of each other and back-stabbingly competitive), but I liked the result.  I really enjoyed the ballet scenes, especially the final surreal performance of Swan Lake at the end, but I did ultimately think that ballet was just a medium.  Just like each movie in the South Korean Whispering Corridors series (which fixates on similar topics) uses a different medium to explore the same subjects - ballet, art, choir, pick your poison - and by the way, Whispering Corridors: Wishing Stairs is the ballet movie, and it's pretty good and creepy.

Speaking of creepy, I liked the way they handled the "creepy scenes."  I loved that they didn't pause to explain or dwell on them - lets you sit there in the moment, with Portman's character and the only information she has - but I'm a fan of that kind of thing: weaving the "supernatural" so much into the fabric of the text that you can't differentiate it as supernatural at all, and you're just living in a world where reflections and paintings move on their own.  My favorite effect was definitely the whites of Portman's eyes turning red.

I think any child psychologist and anyone who's read Reviving Ophelia or Ophelia Speaks and such will be able to see each development in the movie coming - for one, all the language of "control" and "perfection" has got to be straight out of some How To Deal With Adolescent Girls handbook, special emphasis on the Eating Disorders and Self-Harm chapters.  Hell, "Perfect" is even an Alanis Morissette song: "Be a good girl/ You gotta try a little harder/ That simply wasn't good enough/ To make us proud."  It's old stuff to me - I was a teenaged girl not too long ago, and I went to a girls' college where I roomed with perfectionist ballerinas, one of whom had a textbook perfect-and-skinny mother as well as an eating disorder - although I grant that I was an over-analytical teenager, but also possessing of perfectionist impulses, especially when it came to grades and pleasing teachers (but not being a teacher's pet! it's a delicate balance), keenly aware of judgment and competition, and highly critical/hateful of my appearance and body.  Another of my roommates (not the ballerina) and I used to rock out to Courtney Love (she was the one who first recommended this movie to me).  This movie didn't "teach me" anything, although having it all bundled together and thrown in my face was a fairly exhausting experience.  I don't know how much of it is "old stuff" to people who are not so close to the issue, though, so for that reason I'm glad it's getting good reviews and the theater was packed with confused people laughing nervously during the masturbation scenes.  Or maybe people are aware, but think "well, not my daughter"?  Yeah, I've got news for you, folks.

intertribal: (Default)
I asked for a bulletin board for Christmas.  It's an idea board, really, because I rip pictures out of magazines (Vogue and Harper's, lol), and now it is up opposite my desk in my room and I LOVE IT.  When I was in middle school I covered the walls entirely (and I mean entirely) in pictures of various sizes, and when I lived in the basement of this house for a while I put up pictures down there as well that looked the way I imagined my novel's setting would look.  But I no longer like taping things to walls, and I like to change things, so voila.  It kind of looks like an altar now, but that's fine.

Movies (received as presents because I'm already obsessed with both of them):
  • Candyman (I could write a thesis on how this is the most perfect horror movie evar, but I don't want to end up like Helen)
  • Mulholland Drive (this movie has grown on me considerably since I first watched it when it came out)
Books (paid for partially with present money):
  • The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson (already read)
  • We Have Always Lived In The Castle, Shirley Jackson (reading now: love it already, but no surprise)
  • Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, Tom Franklin (don't remember where I saw it first; sold by the Amazon excerpt)
  • A Good and Happy Child, Justin Evans (recommended by [ profile] handful_ofdust; sold by the Amazon excerpt)
I really want to make it my winter goal to read Gravity's Rainbow.  Is this suicide?
intertribal: (twin peaks: laura)
I saw Wes Craven's My Soul To Take last night - it was actually pretty decent.  The plot was a little convoluted, with all the souls splintering and being captured and going into babies and all, but I really enjoyed the characters.  They were teenagers - "who look like they're actually in high school," as Christina said - from various social cliques who were not at all cardboard cut-outs.  They acted like actual people.  They all had flaws as well as positive traits.  No one was romanticized or vilified. 

But here's the other thing: I think that writers often get the message to build three-dimensional, realistic, balanced characters.  But part of that, and the part that I think tends to fall by the wayside, is that these lovely three-dimensional characters are still part of society.  They're influenced by social norms, by the expectations others lay on them; they feel more comfortable with some people than others.  A lot of them probably want to stay wherever they're comfortable.  And in most high school settings, they're going to be sitting somewhere within a hierarchy.  In other words, these characters need to reside in realistic social systems, IMO - realistic, of course, for whatever world has been built.  My Soul To Take totally nailed this one: the beautiful popular girl isn't going to fall for the unpopular, loser-ish outcast - she's got a reputation to maintain, or she doesn't think he'd be good for her, or she doesn't find his type attractive, or "it just wouldn't work."  Does that mean she's a shallow, selfish bitch/whore with nothing more to her?  No.  Of course not.  She's still a whole person, just like the outcast is still a whole person.  It just means they don't exist in a social vacuum. 

Of course, this is not to say that beautiful popular girls have never fallen for unpopular outcasts, or that I as a rule cannot "buy" a story where that happens.  Just that I feel like fictional characters seem to defy society a lot more than real people do.  It's also not to say that social roles are straitjackets, because that's crazy deterministic.

How important this is varies from person to person, I know.  But I've discovered that it's very important to me.  It makes me feel like there's less lying going on, usually about how good the world is (or alternately - in the case of horrific dystopic totalitarian states where EVERYTHING IS BAD and EVERYONE SUFFERS - how bad the world is).  Plus I like seeing social systems in action, I guess.  There's a reason I majored in political science.

P.S.  Watching One Missed Call 2.  Could have sworn director Tsukamoto sampled a bit of audio from one of the LOTR movies.  Only this time instead of Frodo mesmerized by the ring, we have girl being attacked by ghost.  It's all the same, really.
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Called Winter's Bone.  Here's the trailer, and yes, it's as good as the trailer advertises.

Yes, I realize I'm way late on this one (it was a Sundance winner, came out in June), but that's how it rolls in Nebraska.  The trailer pretty much tells you what it's about - Ree, a seventeen-year-old girl in the Missouri Ozarks, is the de facto caretaker of her younger brother and sister (who are the de facto caretakers of a zoo of dogs and cats), because her mother is non-responsive/drugged up/a non-entity and her father is a missing meth chef.  Her father put the house and the family's woods up for bond, and if he doesn't show up for his court date, the government takes the property.  So Ree has to go find him - either find him and drag him to court, or (more likely) find proof of death.  Obviously she has next to nothing going for her: she has no car, no money, and no one will tell her anything.  But Ree is tough - not foolhardy, just aware of how severe the stakes are.

This movie could have easily slid into a sort of, "oh my God look at how terrible poverty is" or "oh my God look at how cruel these people are" exploitation flick.  It doesn't.  People live by a particular clannish code, and that code necessitates that things be taken care of in a certain way, but people are neither evil nor helpless, and they bend the code when they both can and want to.  Family was neither here nor there, I felt - it was more a question of will.  It turns out that Ree does have allies - her young best friend, already married to an asshole and mother of a baby, and her creepy but ultimately caring drug addict uncle Teardrop.  There's also a shady sheriff, passive aggressive neighbors who may or may not be child molesters (if you've read the Laura Ingalls book The First Four Years, they're like a more extreme version of the Boast couple), cattle auctions, musical family reunions, a sisterhood of enforcers, and an interesting question of whether Ree should sell the hundred-year-old woods on the property (she has a dream/vision of the woods being cut down, and squirrels running from the wreckage, like she and her siblings being chased from society).  There's also brief glimpses of the life Ree could have led had she been born into a better situation - the kids with more "normal" lives at the high school she's dropped out of, the junior ROTC, the Army (she wants to join because the poster advertises $40,000). 

I was terrified for Ree, but the ending was actually less bleak than I expected it to be (which was appreciated, in this case - and no, no rich grandpa drops out of the sky and adopts them all into his mansion - things are still bleak, just not as bleak).  I strongly recommend those of you who are into Southern gothic type stuff see this (the writer of the book this was adapted from, Daniel Woodrell, apparently calls his stuff "country noir"). 
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