athelind: (WARNING: TV Tropes)
Your Obedient Serpent quite enjoyed Ant-Man, particularly since it suggests that the hot mess that was Avengers: Age of Ultron is an outlier and not a harbinger that the grand experiment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has finally followed Mr. Fonzarelli's motorcycle over the infamous elasmobranch. However, I must agree with Mr. Taylor's assessement that the core conceit that the Ant-Man technology changes SIZE but not MASS was handled with a distracting inconsistency.

I will note, for the moment, that said inconsistency was handled pretty much exactly as it is in the comic books.

DC's Alternate Company Equivalent, The Atom, possesses full control over both his size AND his density -- and, of course, this was spelled out in dialogue, editorial footnotes, or both, in every single one of Dr. Palmer's Silver Age adventures. However, Dr. Pym, Ms. Van Dyne, and their assorted successors have never explicitly been granted anything but size control -- and usually, they are portrayed as no stronger than their insect associates at those scales.

A possible explanation of the Tiny/Heavy Paradox that plagues the movie occurred to me this morning. It's nonsense sci-fi technobabble, but no more than any other instance of Comic Book Physics, but it's sci-fi technobabble of impeccable pedigree.

Edward Elmer Smith, PhD, known to fans and friends alike as "Doc", was the author of the seminal Lensman saga, scribed back in the 1930s and 1940s. Lensman was the trope codifier for pretty much the entire genre of Space Opera, including Star Trek, Star Wars, and everything else of that nature, and had no small impact on another comic book franchise that didn't involve tiny people at all other than the occasional superintelligent alien virus.

A key piece of fictional science and technology in the Lensman saga is the conceit that later developments of relativistic theory divorced inertial mass from gravitational mass; in the epic, of course, this allowed for the faster-than-light velocities needed for star-spanning adventure.

I find myself wondering if this might prove the key to bringing some level of consistency to what the movie portrays: when Ant-Man is just standing, gravity only affects him as if he were the size and mass of an ant. When he falls, or hurtles into something, or socks someone in the jaw like a proper superhero, he has the momentum and kinetic energy of an 80-kilogram man, concentrated in the volume and surface area of one a mere centimeter tall.

(This works better if we discard the movie's explanation that the Pym Particle "reduces the distance between atoms" and return to the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe's assertion that the mass of the shrunken person or object is "shunted into another dimension".)

It suggests that subtle variations in angle and trajectory could produce a wide range of "effective" mass and momentum. As just one example, he can match velocities with his formic steed because the ratio of his surface area to his gravitational mass allows him to control his descent, but if he jumps off, tucks in, and minimizes his surface area, he can hit that hapless mook with all the force of a full-grown man dropping a meter onto his back. (Ow.)

It's no less nonsense, but it might be the hand-wave that "fixes" the movie; I would have to watch it again with Bergenholm Physics in mind to see if it really does mesh with all the delightful, preposterous things we see on the screen except for that damned keychain.


athelind: (WARNING: TV Tropes)
Time Warner has owned DC outright for years, and, of course, Disney owns Marvel. The House of Mouse is doing their best to bring the sum total of the House That Jack Built into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Sony and Fox are clinging to their respective Marvel licenses, because it's clear that Disney Wants Them Back.

So what do you do if you're a studio that wants to cash in on the booming market for comic book movies?

You aim for the indies, of course.

Evidently, a couple of indie movie studios have optioned Jim Starlin's vintage '80s space epic, Dreadstar.

Let us, for a moment, set aside the differences between "a superhero movie" (based on a particular genre) and "a comic book movie" (based on a particular medium). There have been some excellent and successful "comic book movies" that have nothing to do with superheroes, but it is evident that the Motley Fool isn't thinking of works like From Hell or A History of Violence. He's looking at Dreadstar, with its fancifully-named hero with extraordinary powers, and putting it in the same category as Iron Man or Thor ... or, possibly, with Guardians of the Galaxy, which is a more apt comparison.

Now, I love Starlin's work (so long as he keeps his hands off of Kirby's Fourth World). I loved the Metamorphosis Odyssey in high school, in which Vanth Dreadstar first appeared1. It was a sweeping, beautifully-illustrated epic (whose initial chapters appeared, appropriately enough, in Epic Illustrated, Marvel's stab at a high-end outlet for creator-owned works aimed at an older demographic), and it was unlike anything else in comics at the time.

And there's the rub: it was unlike anything else in comics, thirty years ago.

It's a star-spanning epic about a ragtag bunch of misfits who fight to liberate a galaxy an evil empire with vaguely-defined preternatural forces on each side.

There weren't many comic books like that at the time -- though that same basic structure pops up in the original 1969 Guardians of the Galaxy, the Bill Mantlo-scripted Micronauts, and much of Starlin's own work at Marvel. Once you sweep your gaze across other media, though, it looks, shall we say, increasingly familiar -- all the more when you include the works of the following three decades.

There are a lot of distinctive elements to Starlin's magnum opus, but, aside from the lush, painted visuals of the opening chapters, I doubt they'll translate successfully to the big screen. It's a thoughtful, philosophical work that happens to have the surface gloss of an action-packed space opera, but the movie industry, by and large, is terrible at making those distinctions.

Marvel Studios has tapped into an exceptional range of industry professionals who have an affinity for comic book superheroes, and have a gift for looking at half a century or more of comics and seeing just which elements will make a movie that is both entertaining and successful.

Not everyone in the industry has that Marvel Studios knack. That's why there have been so many mediocre superhero movies, and so many missteps.

In this particular case, there's a tendency to look at a property that was a successful, well-regarded comic book and assume that it's because of something distinctive and interesting about the character.

Sometimes, the only distinctive, interesting element about the character is that he was in a comic book. Once you move him out of that medium ... it's hard to distinguish him from other, similar characters.

I call this The Punisher Effect.

Frank "the Punisher" Castle is a Spider-Man villain from the 1970s who is a direct and shameless ripoff of Mack "the Executioner" Bolan, the protagonist of a long-running series of cheesy "men's novels" from that decade, published by the same company that publishes the infamous Harlequin Romances. Their origins are identical: Viet Nam veterans who carry on a vendetta against organized crime after their families are caught in the crossfire of a mob hit.

The Punisher became enormously popular in the Iron Age of Comics, the late '80s through the '90s and into the current century. He's been brought to the screen three times, in 1989, 2004, and 2008; all three movies bombed, and none of them snagged the brass ring of a sequel, much less a long-running franchise to match his comic book counterpart or paperback "inspiration".

Why hasn't this character ever really clicked on the big screen, even with his devoted following?

Well, why is he successful in the comics? Because in the Marvel universe, he's the only guy "fighting the mob with the weapons of war." He's different. He's unusual. He's interesting.

On the big screen, he's routine. Frank Castle is a blandly generic action movie protagonist, indistinguishable from any number of other characters played by Charles Bronson, Clint Eastwood, Sylvester Stallone, Chuck Norris, Steven Seagal, or Jean Claude Van Damme.

The only interesting thing about the Punisher is that he is a comic book character. Take that big fish out of his small pond, and he gasps for oxygen. Throw him in a bigger pond ... and he's just another fish.

As much as I would like to think that there's more substance to Vanth Dreadstar, Syzygy Darklock and their companions ... I am honestly not convinced.

When Marvel Studios says, "Hey, everyone! Here's a raccoon with a machine gun! Just roll with it!" ... we're going to roll with it, in no small part because they've earned that trust with almost a dozen excellent movies based on unlikely and historically-difficult source material. They can throw yet another ragtag bunch of misfits in space into the market, and we are intrigued and amused by the audacity, and eager to see how it ties into the larger saga.

If they weren't tied into that bigger story, though ... and Vanth and company are not ... well, that's a really big pond.



1Technically, the whole span of Vanth Dreadstar stories, including the comic to bear his name, are just chapters in The Metamorphosis Odyssey.
athelind: (Eye of the Dragon)
Goodness. I've let this lie far too long, and I apologize -- particularly since my last post of any substance was "I'M HAVING CHEST PAINS."

I should remedy that, and shall.

First and foremost, HEALTH:

Said chest pains proved not only to be not life threatening, they weren't even a significant health issue. They were, yes, Pre-Ventricular Contractions, and, yes, I do have a family history of PVCs -- but there are no structural issues with my heart. The doctor said that I could go climb Mount Kilimanjaro were I so inclined.

The "flips" have entirely faded, at this point, and considering that they started immediately after I got back from last year's Maker Fair ... I rather suspect the high-voltage jolts I got for funsies from the Van De Graff generator a few booths down from us might have triggered a little persistent twitchery in the old timer.

(Come to think of it, that anxiety/panic attack I had at dinner that one night during Maker Fair might have been the first manifestation -- that feeling of "panic" and "trouble breathing" might have been connected to "GAH MY HEART SHOULD NOT DO THAT" ...)

WORK:

I am quite enjoying my current employment. My experience with interpreting and displaying complex, abstruse data clearly (read: "Your Obedient Serpent Knows Stupid Excel Tricks") has made me the go-to guy for our company's more esoteric reports, and while I tend to get buried in these Special Projects, I really can sink my teeth into them.

It's still a 50-mile commute, but I'm no longer carpooling with [livejournal.com profile] kohai_tiger; a few times driving solo gave me a taste for getting in and getting home earlier ... and earlier ... and earlier. When I flew out to Midwest Furfest last November, I started running on "Chicago Time" ... and really never shifted back to Pacific Time. Most days, I roll out around 0400, get to work around 0500, leave around 1400, and get home around 1515, plus or minus fifteen to twenty minutes either way.

Oddly, since I've shifted my shower-taking habits to evening instead of morning, I get up at about the same time as I did when I was carpooling and getting to work between 0730 and 0800 -- but since I seldom if ever have to contend with anything resembling traffic, I get home three to four hours earlier. Drying off becomes relaxing downtime instead of rushed getting-ready time.

I've also found that I enjoy driving in the early hours of the morning, and not just because of the light traffic. I'm very much a morning person, and those crisp, clear pre-dawn hours just seem more alive to me. I confess that I've also been prone to a bit of Seasonal Affective Disorder for the past few years -- but I never had an issue while on The Chicago Schedule. It tried to sneak back on the few days that I shifted back to a "normal" schedule during the winter months. I think a key factor is Getting Home After Dark: if you get up before sunrise, you've Seized the Day. If you get home after sunSET ... the day has seized you.

FUN:

I've been mostly keeping up with the speculative cinema; I can't believe I've let both Captain America: the First Avenger and Marvel's The Avengers slip by without comment, much less any other movies. On television, Game of Thrones is an amazing achievement, and on broadcast television, I found myself wholly engaged and impressed by Arrow.

I am down to a single game on the RPG front: the monthly Star Wars game hosted by [livejournal.com profile] rikoshi and [livejournal.com profile] tealfox. The Wednesday night game sessions alternating between Ironclaw and The Dresden Files were becoming increasingly untenable for me, and once I switched to Chicago Time, I simply couldn't continue. Honestly, I'm suffering a bit of Gamer Fatigue on that front; once the Star Wars game wraps up, I will probably gafiate from gaming for a year or three.

My chronic automotive issues were finally traced to a glitchy OBD-II (On Board Diagnostic) computer. That took nearly two months to get replaced and functioning properly; if she proves stable, I may start keeping a packed Go-Bag, so I can head out for spontaneous road trips on random weekends. I spend far too much time traveling the same hundred miles of road (I take different routes in the morning and afternoon), and spending the weekend sitting around home not going ANYWHERE only goes so far. I'm a traveller by ancestry, instinct, and long, long experience, and by golly, I need to TRAVEL.

Oh, and I've picked up a few more volumes of Raymond Chandler ...
athelind: (hoard potato)
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Unbreakable.

One: It was early enough in M. Night Shyamalan's career that his name wasn't yet synonymous with "twist ending".

Two: The best twist endings recast everything you've just seen in a different light, and ideally, it should make even more sense in the light of the twist. Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense did that, but Unbreakable did it even better -- when it hits, both viewer and protagonist are overwhelmed by the horrific implications of the revelation.

Three: The twist -- and I won't spoil it here, on the off chance that a reader of my journal hasn't seen it -- relies heavily on the tropes of the comic-book superhero genre. I am intimately familiar with those tropes; superhero comics are My Thing. Despite that, I did not see it coming. I was utterly gobsmacked.


athelind: (defiance)
I've added the following to the top of that post, and reprinted it here because it shouldn't just get lost in everyone's already-read backlog:

I am, in fact, keenly aware of the miscarriage of justice visited upon the creator of the Ghost Rider by the courts. In short: they've bankrupted a sick old man by ordering him to pay damages to Marvel/Disney, one of the largest multinational combines in the world.

I thought long and hard about seeing the movie after hearing about this, but finally came to a compromise:

I donated several times more than the ticket price directly to Mr. Friedrich.

That's a whole hell of a lot more effective than a boycott, by my assessment.

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the show?

athelind: (hoard potato)
I am, in fact, keenly aware of the miscarriage of justice visited upon the creator of the Ghost Rider by the courts. In short: they've bankrupted a sick old man by ordering him to pay damages to Marvel/Disney, one of the largest multinational combines in the world.

I thought long and hard about seeing the movie after hearing about this, but finally came to a compromise:

I donated several times more than the ticket price directly to Mr. Friedrich.

That's a whole hell of a lot more effective than a boycott, by my assessment.

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the show?

Well ... I'm very glad I watched Ghost Rider on FX last night before seeing Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance [SoV] today. It makes for good compare-and-contrast.

I liked SoV, but stylistically, it's a very different movie, and seeing the first one the night before really underscored that. It's filmed and set in Eastern Europe, and ... well, you know how SF/horror/Action films from Eastern Europe are frequently a little ... off-kilter?

It's like that.

The directors also gave us Crank, with Jason Statham, so if you cross that frenetic energy with Eastern European surrealism and just a touch of the framed, compositional, comic-panel style of the first movie, that should give you some idea of the style

It kinda works.

Nicholas Cage was also a lot more ... NICHOLAS CAGE in this one. As in, the directors showed him the Nick Cage Losing His Shit video on YouTube, and said, "THIS. We want to see THIS!" The Johnny Blaze of Ghost Rider was far more sedate and underplayed than this Johnny.

That's right. You heard me.

The set-up opens the movie, so it won't be much of a spoiler: Johnny's bravado at the end of the first movie hasn't worn well after five years of playing host to the Rider. He's pretty close to the edge through the whole movie, and you know how much Cage loves stepping over that edge.

The effects and camera work are excellent. The Rider looks far more dangerous than he did in the first movie, and far more like a burning, smoldering ghost than clean white bones wreathed in cozy fireplace flames.

The plot's a bit pro forma, but sometimes, all a movie needs is a thread to hang the eye candy together and an enthusiastic performance or two.

Summary:
If you liked Ghost Rider, you may or may not like Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. if you liked Ghost Rider, and also liked movies like the Resident Evil series and Priest, you're more likely to like this.

This is probably a Wait For DVD movie for most of Your Obedient Serpent's audience, unless you genuinely enjoy Nicholas Cage having the time of his life playing his favorite character and living up to all his stereotypes.


athelind: (Beware My Power)
You know, folks, everything I said the other day the roots of my excitement for this movie also means that you don't have to apologize to me if you aren't excited, if you think it's going to be lousy, or if you don't want to tag along when I hit the theater tonight.

It's okay, really. I am an unapologetic Green Lantern fan, and believe me, over the years, there are a lot of things us GL fans should probably apologize for.

You certainly don't have to explain, above and beyond "I'm just not that into GL"; I have a long-standing principle of Not Listening To Negative Reviews before I go see a movie that I really want to see, because when I do, I keep looking for all the negative things the reviewers pointed out rather than just enjoying or critiquing the movie based on my own, unvarnished reactions.

For the record, I don't think that Green Lantern is going to come anywhere near the high-water mark of superhero movies (which is, IMNSHO, somewhere between Iron Man and The Dark Knight).

If it's just a bad movie, I'm fine with that. I'm an aficionado of bad movies.

I'm pretty sure of two things:

  • This is not going to be as bad as the Worst Superhero Movie I've Ever Seen.
  • This is not going to even come close to being the worst Green Lantern Story I've Ever Seen.


So, all in all, I'm probably going to be a pretty happy nerdboy this e'en.

In part because I've set my sights low. La la laaaaa.


athelind: (Beware My Power)
You know what?

I don't care if it's been over-hyped.

I don't care if parts of the previews might look a little iffy.

I don't care if Ryan Reynolds is playing Hal as a flippant jackass; this is, after all, Hal Frakking Jordan.

Deep down inside, all I care about is that the superhero who's been my very favorite since I was six years old had made it to the big screen in a sweeping special-effects epic.

I realized yesterday that, for the first time in more years than I can remember, I am genuinely excited to the point of impatience for a new movie, a new superhero movie.

It doesn't matter if it's good, bad, or indifferent.

Friday night, I'm taking my six-year-old self to see Green Lantern, and it will be awesome.


Cross-Posted to Kirby Dots & Ditko Ribbons.
athelind: (hoard potato)

"Hollywood Is Lazy, Unoriginal and Risk-Averse", whines yet another critic.



These columns crop up all the time, and nine out of ten of them give the impression that this is some horrible slide into the abyss from some mythical golden age.

The irony, of course, is that they been appearing since the film industry began.1

These guys forget2 that, as I've mentioned before, the classic John Huston/Humphrey Bogart version of The Maltese Falcon was the third film version of the story in the span of a decade, and they were all adapted from a formulaic, low-brow pulp novel.

The smart, arty flicks that this particular critic extols have never been a major component of the studios' output. "Risky" movies have always been "risky". The shitstorm that Welles had to wade through to make Citizen Kane is as epic and as well-known as the movie itself.

When Harris holds up "movies based on comic books" as one of his keynote symptoms of this "new" plague of creative barrenness, I wonder if he's including movies like A History of Violence and Shutter Island?3

Really, it comes down to this:
  • Hollywood is afraid to make risky movies because movies are expensive.
  • "Risky", by definition, means "might tank in the box office and lose skillions."
  • This has always been true. The only difference is in the number of zeroes represented by "skillions".
  • DUH.


For every Citizen Kane, there is a Waterworld.4




I should really sit down and write an Onion-style opinion piece lamenting how derivative and unoriginal film critics have become, how they rehash the same column over and over because it's guaranteed to get attention, and how shopworn remakes like "The Day Movies Died" will never be as good as timeless classics like 1963's "Christ, Yet Another Giant Lizard Flick".

Or maybe I already have.


1 Really, they predate the film industry. I've heard both some damned funny riffs and serious laments about the stage equivalent of the "generic formulaic blockbuster" in the eras of Gilbert & Sullivan, grand opera, and Elizabethan theater. Frankly, what I've read about the works of Aristophanes suggests that a good bit of his oeuvre involved similar digs at his predecessors and contemporaries.
2 I'm being generous here. It would be unseemly to suggest that someone who presents himself as a professional film critic would simply be unschooled in the basic facts of the history of the medium.
3Inexcusable Cheap Shot: while Blaming EverythingTM on Hollywood's desire for "known Brands", Mr. Harris says, Jonah Hex is a brand because it was a comic book. (Here lies one fallacy of putting marketers in charge of everything: Sometimes they forget to ask if it's a good brand.) Just because a lousy movie is made doesn't mean the source material is lousy.
4...and an Ishtar, a Cutthroat Island, a Mr. Bug Goes to Town....
cross-posted to KDDR

athelind: (funny)
I was so happy to wake up this morning, look at the date on my computer, and realize that, finally, it was February 3rd!

It's like I spent the last seven years having to relive the same mistakes, over and over, until I finally got things right!

Thank the gods that's over.

On to all new mistakes!


athelind: (work)
I don't often mention events at my current job, but last night bears some note.

Around closing time, I noticed that the mall was starting to get busy. This wasn't unexpected, since the new Harry Potter movie was slated for a midnight debut. I had some puttering around to do -- normally, I vacuum during the slow periods on Thursday night, but I had a few other tasks and not that many slow moments.

i decided to stay open while I was vacuuming, and see who wandered in.

A little after 9, I called my boss and let him know that I had more people wandering around the store than I'd had at any other point in the day.

Lots of bored people standing in line = lots of after-hours sales for the comic store.


... particularly after I sent a co-worker out to drum up business by handing out freebie comics and letting folks know that we had Harry Potter wands left over from Halloween, and were selling them at 20% off.

(I didn't clear that particular discount with the boss, but given that I sold all but two of the wands, and most everyone who came in to look at and/or purchase wands wound up buying other stuff, I don't think he'll complain.)

We wound up staying open until 11; a full third of yesterday's sales were made in those last two hours. There were, evidently, several thousand people in a line that ranged all the way around the mall. The theater wound up shutting down other shows so they could open Potter on more screens and clear the crowds out faster.

The energy of the crowd was infectious. Everyone was upbeat and happy and excited, and the realization of just how long two hours of waiting in a line really was only diminished that slightly (and fueled the impulse to head into Geek Heaven to find reading material, decks of cards, and other ways to kill time, so hey, bonus). That aura of enthusiasm kept me rarin' to go (RAR) well after I normally would have been fading out (aided and abetted by a 7PM can of Dr Pepper), and I have to admit: I had fun.

Pity we didn't have more Potter paraphernalia in stock.

My last customer of the night was also my favorite: a person in a Green Lantern shirt who admitted she was really there to see the GL trailer on the big screen. You gotta respect that.


athelind: (hoard potato)
Arnold Schwarzenegger sings "Crom!", from Conan: the Musical.

Slight spoiler warning, for safety:

[livejournal.com profile] athelind spit-takes when it gets to the line where the guy is stepping on Conan's hand: [SPOILER DELETED]
[livejournal.com profile] gatewalker: yes
[livejournal.com profile] gatewalker: I'm so glad I didn't have a drink in my mouth when that line came
[livejournal.com profile] athelind: HOT COFFEE MAN
[livejournal.com profile] gatewalker: hahahahahaha





athelind: (DRAGON!)
(Yeah, I'm posting a lot today. I'm thinky.)

Every few years, I come back to this question; for the first time, though, I've got a different answer.

When they make an animated movie of FurryMUCK / Second Life / The Internet / Your Favorite Tabletop RPG, who should voice your alter-ego?



For years, I wanted Kelsey Grammer for Athelind, but I think Your Obedient Serpent has finally moved past mere self-conscious pomposity.

Just as [livejournal.com profile] jirris_midvale wanted someone who could swing between the two poles of his personality, I've found someone who can capture the full binary range of Athelind's psyche:

Peter Cullen.



When Athelind is up, he's impassioned, sincere, and inspiring, much like Cullen's most famous role.

And when he's not ... Cullen has that covered, too. You can just hear him say stuff like "any day where you don't have brain damage is a victory", "so far, so good", and other, similar gems from my Argot entries, can't you? Really, some of those only really carry their full weight as Athespeak when said in that voice.

As always, comments are open -- who's your voice?


Edit 05 June 2010: You know, when I think about it, Argot entries tend to be in Eeyore's voice, while Feed Your Head entries lean toward Prime.
athelind: (cronkite)
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Do you think the government should have the right to censor the media? If you're generally against censorship, are there any circumstances under which you feel it might be warranted?

Unca Bob had this one down:

When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, "This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know," the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives. Mighty little force is needed to control a man whose mind has been hoodwinked; contrariwise, no amount of force can control a free man, a man whose mind is free. No, not the rack, not fission bombs, not anything—you can't conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him.

—Robert Anson Heinlein, "If This Goes On—" (1940)



That, by the way, is from a short novel about a Fundamentalist takeover of the United States after a "backwoods preacher" is elected President in 2012.1

Heinlein also said, "The whole principle is wrong; it's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't eat steak."

Now, Unca Bob, especially in the second quote, was talking about what Wikipedia calls moral censorship2, the suppression of speech that some individuals might find offensive or immoral; that is, in my estimation, subtly different from military censorship.

It is the opinion of Your Obedient Serpent that both "moral" and "military" censorship are always wrong; however, there are instances when the latter might be less bad than the alternatives. A Fully Transparent Government would not have survived World War II, and the most likely replacement had even less regard to such niceties.

It's a key part of my ethical system, however, that being forced to do bad things to avoid worse consequences does not make them good things; when you allow yourself to frame the kind of secrecy and suppression practiced in WWII as "good", you take the first step on the slippery slope that justifies political censorship, and all the cover-ups and black projects that burden us today.

I also don't automatically equate industry ratings systems as "censorship", although the MPAA has certainly demonstrated that they can be arbitrary and putative, and big studios, finding that "General Audience" films are often ignored, often tack extra nude scenes or coarse language to get an otherwise-acceptable movie out of the "kiddie ghetto"—an ironic kind of anti-censorship. Marvel Comics has implemented an entirely functional ratings system for their comics, however; while most adult comic readers are wholly unaware that Marvel even has one, the discreet little letter codes in the UPC symbol box provide a useful guide to parents looking for suitable reading material for their children, and comic store workers attempting to assist them.

I could go on, but I expect these opinions to get thoroughly Disassembled in the comments. I haven't even touched on the idea of "hate crimes" yet.


1The same timeline has a well-established Lunar colony at this point; grumbling about only getting the crappy parts of future histories may now commence.

2Wikipedia distinguishes between "moral" and "religious" censorship; please pardon me if I consider that to be hair-splitting.

athelind: (Warning: Memetic Hazard)
Oops!

I was going to post the last answer to The Better Than It Sounds Meme a week ago, and I forgot.

For those of you still keeping track, the only description left unguessed was #2:

Two small children and an adorable puppy help a career police officer come to terms with the death of his wife.


I gave the following hints:

  • It's a movie.
  • This description spoils the last ten to fifteen minutes.
  • The police officer has drug issues.


And the answer is behind the cut! )


Please don't hurt me.
athelind: (no help whatsoever)
Okay, [livejournal.com profile] paka was wrong: posting my own version of the Better Than It Sounds Meme only made me feel stupider, when I realized how vague and general some of my descriptions were.

#8 is the worst. The problem, obviously, is that the description I gave could describe dozens of other movies; I think I described a full-on trope rather than a single movie.

I'll go ahead and post the rest of the answers tomorrow night, but for now, let's see if some hints will help: )

Have fun, and please don't shoot me when the answers come out!

"Please don't shoot me" could work as a hint for at least two of the really tough ones, come to think of it.
athelind: (WARNING: TV Tropes)
This one's going around:

Pick 20 movies/anime/video games/literary works/comics/etc and put their summaries from the TV Tropes entry, Better Than it Sounds, and have your friends guess what they are.


The original meme was to use entries directly from the page, but most everyone I read seems to be writing their own summaries. I agree with [livejournal.com profile] paka: this meme makes me feel stupid, and the best way around that is to do my own version!

(The original meme also specifies "No Cheating", but I hardly need to add that, since a) you can't look these up at TV Tropes, and b) the people who read my LJ, by and large, aren't assholes.)

Since this is the Do-It-Myself version, you only get eight (I may come back and round it out to ten). Movies, comics, short stories, novels, TV shows, whatever: they're all fair game. Be advised that there's at least one really egregious spoiler in this list.

Oh, and some of them may not be better than they sound....

I'll bold these as people get them, but I'll only put the answers behind a cut, so EVERYONE can play.

  1. An explosive encounter with a rebellious teen forces forces a repressed professional man to confront his inner demons in this Cold War allegory.
  2. Two small children and an adorable puppy help a career police officer come to terms with the death of his wife.
  3. A man with a debilitating medical condition risks his health, sanity and personal integrity to help a man in a dead-end job find a new direction.
  4. A long-haul rig, a cute teenager, and no gas stations in sight: Hilarity Ensues.
  5. A band of reclusive senior citizens pull the strings on an implausible series of events to bring a hard-headed cop and a stubborn nurse together. After the pair get hitched, their kids go into the family business.
  6. At the height of the Cold War, a stoic, implacable polymath and his scantily-clad companion stand against a cadre of terrorists who plot to turn advanced technology against the international diplomats of the Security Council.
  7. A beleaguered ad man neglects his family as he tries to save his failing company, but a clumsy, slobbering St. Bernard will make this summer one they'll never forget!
  8. An urban professional's civil servant's job performance becomes increasingly erratic as he becomes increasingly obsessed with his job.


Answers! )


If you do see some of these summaries on the various TV Tropes pages at some later date, remember that Your Obedient Serpent is a regular contributor to said wiki.
I am so going to hell for some of these....

athelind: (hoard potato)
Last Saturday, [livejournal.com profile] quelonzia and I saw the new version of Clash of the Titans. We both enjoyed it: it was fun and exciting, and we both appreciated the nods to Harryhausen's original.

That said, Quel still liked the original more.

Heretic that I am, I prefer the remake.

I've heard a few people ask why they felt a need to remake the original. It's a question that comes up whenever a remake of anything hits the screen, but one questioner asked a much more cogent version: why, of all of Harryhausen's films, would they remake that one?

Answer: Because it's the one that needed it the most.

Please understand: when Clash came out in 1981, I was a 17-year-old Dungeons & Dragons player who'd grown up on Bulfinch's Mythology and Harryhausen's classics. I was the target market for that movie.

I liked it. I enjoyed it a great deal.

But it didn't quite click.

The original Clash of the Titans didn't quite know what it wanted to be. It was Harryhausen's last film, and the only film he made in the post-Star Wars era. Hollywood still hadn't quite figured out the transformation of High Adventure SF/Fantasy from B Movie to Blockbuster. Clash demonstrated that, even when you throw a Star Wars-sized budget, big names like Lawrence Olivier, and a blatant R2-D2 clone at a B movie, it remains a B movie in its heart and soul.*

As I said, Your Teenaged Serpent enjoyed and appreciated the art of the "B" in those bygone days. Broadcast TV was full of them, and I didn't watch Movie Macabre just because of Cassandra Peterson's wardrobe

When I went to see Clash, though, I confess I was hoping for something more—and last weekend, I finally got it.

The remake is the movie I wanted to see when I was 17.




*It wasn't the first movie to demonstrate this, and it was far from the last.
athelind: (hoard potato)
Yesterday, [livejournal.com profile] quelonzia and I went to see How to Train Your Dragon.

Magnificent.

I enjoyed it almost as much as I did Kung Fu Panda, and, in fact, if we hadn't seen it in 3D, I probably would have enjoyed it more than KFP—I mean, dragons, right? Alas, I find wearing 3D glasses over my regular glasses to be too distracting for the movie to pull me in quite as much. 3D was an interesting novelty with Coraline and Up, but until I can get prescription 3D lenses, I think I'm going to opt out from here on in.

That small technical issue aside, I loved this movie.

I have to agree with the consensus: between this and Kung Fu Panda, Dreamworks is finally making Pixar-quality movies, rather than just snarky, derivative flicks full "hip" jokes that audiences 20 years from now will need a reference book* to understand.

Let me be clear: How To Train Your Dragon is definitely Pixar quality, without being Pixar-style—and I don't just mean the animation, either. It's as well-paced, as well-written, and it has characters of the same depth and charisma as a Pixar flick.

But it has a completely different feel to it.

Dreamworks has found its ecological niche, and it's not the same niche as Pixar's.

Cut for Very Mild Spoilers )


* Okay, realistically, they'll be clicking on the Clifflinks™ on the hyperlinked video file, but you know what I mean.
athelind: (hoard potato)
I'm watching The Spirit. A couple of months back, when Blockbuster was closing down most of its stores, I picked up the DVD for $2.

I'm barely out of the credits, and I'm wondering if I was overcharged.

If I had a Twitter account I'd be liveblogging this.

It's very Frank Miller, in all the wrong ways, but there's not a hell of a lot of Will Eisner in here. Not script-wise, not visually.

For the love of Schwartz, we have Thugs Wearing T-Shirts With Thematic Code-Names on them.
This is, in fact, the Frank Miller version of the 1966 Batman series.

With some Warner Brothers thrown in.

Miller thinks "campy slapstick" is the same as "tongue-in-cheek whimsy", and "over-the-top stunt action" can sub for "magical realism".

I can see, in my mind's eye, a scene drawn by Eisner (or Darwyn Cooke), with the comic';s cast watching this, Ellen, Doyle, and Ebony laughing their asses off while the Spirit himself just cringes in humiliation.

The one bright spot is that this movie isn't disappointing me. It's performing to expectations.



Okay, I turned it off at the 62-minute mark. I'm not sure when I stopped actually paying attention to it.

Don't think that I'm just ragging on this as a bad adaptation. No, it's a bad movie, and there are any number of bad decisions contributing to that. For far too many of them, the only explanation that makes sense is that Miller was trying to emulate the source material and failing miserably.

I think he doesn't quite realize that Will Eisner and Harvey Kurtzman were different people. This is a Mad Magazine version of The Spirit.

For most of the others, it was evident that he wasn't able to resist throwing in Millerisms, or possibly attempts at self-parody.

athelind: (Default)
I'm watching The Spirit. A couple of months back, when Blockbuster was closing down most of its stores, I picked up the DVD for $2.

I'm barely out of the credits, and I'm wondering if I was overcharged.

If I had a Twitter account I'd be liveblogging this.

It's very Frank Miller, in all the wrong ways, but there's not a hell of a lot of Will Eisner in here. Not script-wise, not visually.

For the love of Schwartz, we have Thugs Wearing T-Shirts With Thematic Code-Names on them.
This is, in fact, the Frank Miller version of the 1966 Batman series.

With some Warner Brothers thrown in.

Miller thinks "campy slapstick" is the same as "tongue-in-cheek whimsy", and "over-the-top stunt action" can sub for "magical realism".

I can see, in my mind's eye, a scene drawn by Eisner (or Darwyn Cooke), with the comic';s cast watching this, Ellen, Doyle, and Ebony laughing their asses off while the Spirit himself just cringes in humiliation.

The one bright spot is that this movie isn't disappointing me. It's performing to expectations.



Okay, I turned it off at the 62-minute mark. I'm not sure when I stopped actually paying attention to it.

Don't think that I'm just ragging on this as a bad adaptation. No, it's a bad movie, and there are any number of bad decisions contributing to that. For far too many of them, the only explanation that makes sense is that Miller was trying to emulate the source material and failing miserably.

I think he doesn't quite realize that Will Eisner and Harvey Kurtzman were different people. This is a Mad Magazine version of The Spirit.

For most of the others, it was evident that he wasn't able to resist throwing in Millerisms, or possibly attempts at self-parody.

athelind: (Eye of the Sky God)
Fasten your seatbelts, kids; this post starts talking about current Pop Culture, then veers into politics, philosophy, personal development, and metaprogramming.

It all started when I was doing something I normally avoid: reading comments on an internet blog. Unmoderated comment boards are usually overflowing with ill-considered, insulting, infuriating nonsense that can completely ruin an article I may have otherwise enjoyed.

In this case, however, the opposite occurred.

The io9 Blog's review of James Cameron's Avatar is the same blah-blah-blah-Mighty-Whitey-IN-SPACE critique that I've heard over and over. Nothing new here. The comments, on the other claw, are full of feedback from non-whites and non-Americans that undercut that as a being a white-Americans-are-the-center-of-the-universe interpretation that's at least as insulting, if not moreso.

I think my favorite comment thus far is this one:
All stories are about someone leaving a group or joining a group, it's just that some of these groups are a racial group. Outsider Luke Skywalker joins the rebels and becomes their number one gun. That's a heroic journey story, but if Luke was the only human and all the rest of the rebels were aliens suddenly it becomes a white guilt story? I don't buy it.


And now, Mood Whiplash. This shook some things out in my head, and I think they're worth sharing:

I've been sorting through the cognitive baggage cluttering my mind lately, and you know what? I think that "White Guilt" is a particularly toxic meme. To be more specific, there's a pervasive idea that any action that may have "White Guilt" as a motivating force is automatically invalid, or just more cultural imperialism. This is bullshit. It is an invitation to inaction.

Your Obedient Serpent, when he's not a dragon, is a middle-aged Anglo-American, raised in a middle-class suburb, who's seriously considering an opportunity to teach middle school science in a "high-need", inner-city environment. The very idea of standing in front of a classroom is a massive paradigm shift for him, and coming to this decision has involved jumping over a lot of mental hurdles.

You know what? True Confession Time: One of them was "Mighty Whitey".

"What right do you have to come swooping in with your degree and your laptop and your melanin deficiency, to try and "save" these kids? That's no different than England coking along to "civilize" India!"

Sounds really stupid when you verbalize it, doesn't it?

But people keep saying this, over and over: these stories are bad, they're unprincipled, they're just new and different ways for the privileged to lord it over everyone else. And if these stories are morally suspect, and your life-choices parallel them, why, then, those must be bad choices, right?

Once again: it sounds really stupid when you verbalize it. Stupid and arrogant. The only thing more arrogant than casting yourself as The Great Savior is to walk away from helping people because you're afraid people will think that's what you're doing.

That's part of the point: there are a lot of unexamined assumptions that mass media promulgates on an entirely sub-verbal level. It's good to examine them, it's good to scrutinize them -- but it's an iterative process. What unexamined assumptions are the critiques carrying with them?

One of the big ones, in this case, is the assumption that any real person's real life is simplistic enough to use fiction as a valid model. This isn't the first time I've fallen into that trap, and I'm sure it won't be the last -- but at least now I'm aware that trap is out there.

Or in here.


athelind: (Eye of the Sky God)
Fasten your seatbelts, kids; this post starts talking about current Pop Culture, then veers into politics, philosophy, personal development, and metaprogramming.

It all started when I was doing something I normally avoid: reading comments on an internet blog. Unmoderated comment boards are usually overflowing with ill-considered, insulting, infuriating nonsense that can completely ruin an article I may have otherwise enjoyed.

In this case, however, the opposite occurred.

The io9 Blog's review of James Cameron's Avatar is the same blah-blah-blah-Mighty-Whitey-IN-SPACE critique that I've heard over and over. Nothing new here. The comments, on the other claw, are full of feedback from non-whites and non-Americans that undercut that as a being a white-Americans-are-the-center-of-the-universe interpretation that's at least as insulting, if not moreso.

I think my favorite comment thus far is this one:
All stories are about someone leaving a group or joining a group, it's just that some of these groups are a racial group. Outsider Luke Skywalker joins the rebels and becomes their number one gun. That's a heroic journey story, but if Luke was the only human and all the rest of the rebels were aliens suddenly it becomes a white guilt story? I don't buy it.


And now, Mood Whiplash. This shook some things out in my head, and I think they're worth sharing:

I've been sorting through the cognitive baggage cluttering my mind lately, and you know what? I think that "White Guilt" is a particularly toxic meme. To be more specific, there's a pervasive idea that any action that may have "White Guilt" as a motivating force is automatically invalid, or just more cultural imperialism. This is bullshit. It is an invitation to inaction.

Your Obedient Serpent, when he's not a dragon, is a middle-aged Anglo-American, raised in a middle-class suburb, who's seriously considering an opportunity to teach middle school science in a "high-need", inner-city environment. The very idea of standing in front of a classroom is a massive paradigm shift for him, and coming to this decision has involved jumping over a lot of mental hurdles.

You know what? True Confession Time: One of them was "Mighty Whitey".

"What right do you have to come swooping in with your degree and your laptop and your melanin deficiency, to try and "save" these kids? That's no different than England coking along to "civilize" India!"

Sounds really stupid when you verbalize it, doesn't it?

But people keep saying this, over and over: these stories are bad, they're unprincipled, they're just new and different ways for the privileged to lord it over everyone else. And if these stories are morally suspect, and your life-choices parallel them, why, then, those must be bad choices, right?

Once again: it sounds really stupid when you verbalize it. Stupid and arrogant. The only thing more arrogant than casting yourself as The Great Savior is to walk away from helping people because you're afraid people will think that's what you're doing.

That's part of the point: there are a lot of unexamined assumptions that mass media promulgates on an entirely sub-verbal level. It's good to examine them, it's good to scrutinize them -- but it's an iterative process. What unexamined assumptions are the critiques carrying with them?

One of the big ones, in this case, is the assumption that any real person's real life is simplistic enough to use fiction as a valid model. This isn't the first time I've fallen into that trap, and I'm sure it won't be the last -- but at least now I'm aware that trap is out there.

Or in here.


athelind: (loved)
Here it is, the Winter Solstice again. Since [livejournal.com profile] quelonzia and I were married on the Summer Solstice of 1997, I guess that makes this is our twelfth-and-a-half anniversary -- an eighth of a century.

Today, we had our first real date together since I moved out: lunch, followed by James Cameron's magnificent Avatar, which we both loved. I'm glad we saw it together, and I'm glad that was the movie we got together to see.

Happy Anniversary, baby. I've got you on my mind.


athelind: (Default)
Here it is, the Winter Solstice again. Since [livejournal.com profile] quelonzia and I were married on the Summer Solstice of 1997, I guess that makes this is our twelfth-and-a-half anniversary -- an eighth of a century.

Today, we had our first real date together since I moved out: lunch, followed by James Cameron's magnificent Avatar, which we both loved. I'm glad we saw it together, and I'm glad that was the movie we got together to see.

Happy Anniversary, baby. I've got you on my mind.


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