sarcasticwriter: (Default)
So Roger Ebert's last couple of blog posts, on the "need" for gun control in the wake of the Colorado movie theater shooting and how injuries from the shooting demonstrate the need for universal healthcare, have been sufficiently irritating as to demand a reply. Here are mine:

Dear Roger,

I know that almost 600 posts in, it's unlikely that you or almost anybody else will read my post, but I have to say this:

I saved my health - and quite possibly my life - with a handgun that I was legally permitted to carry. And I never fired a shot.

I was working alone in a hotel overnight. Our lobby security doors hadn't properly locked shut, when three men walked in. I was doing some cleaning in the lobby and stopped to ask if they wanted a room. Rather than reply, they looked around the lobby, down the hall, out at the parking lot where a car was running, and at the front desk area. They refused to make eye contact with me, and they were all wearing hoods pulled over their heads on a 80 degree Arizonan night. The guy in front had his hand clutching something in his pocket.

A rush of instinctual alarm washed through my entire body. It was completely different from the thrill of a roller coaster or horror movie. I've never felt it since.

I reached for the pistol I kept in the small of my back. I drew it from the holster and held it out of sight slightly behind me. While I never showed them the gun, they of course knew I had it.

We quietly stared at each other for several beats. I calmly decided I would shoot the guy in front first if he pulled a gun from his pocket; then the guy on the right and the guy on the left. I'd practice multiple-target shooting on the range. I was confident I could hit each of them before they got close enough to touch me.

Without a word, the three men hastily turned and ran for the car, which screeched out of the parking lot before I could get a plate number.

Another hotel less than half a mile away was robbed the next night. The male clerk was held up at gunpoint and violently beaten by three men, wearing hoods, who drove off in the same kind of car.

I saved myself from that fate. I looked vulnerable: A college-age female, 5'2", and completely alone. But I had a tool that gave me the power to intimidate three dangerous, predatory men.

The greatest negligence of the feminist movement was to ignore the liberating power a personal firearm grants to women. Having a firearm gave me the freedom to work a somewhat risky job and live as a single woman in a bad neighborhood without any fear. For most men that would be an unremarkable way to live; for a woman it is rather extraordinary.

Shootings have statistics, but experiences like mine - where a potential violent crime is nullified by the presence of a handgun - aren't officially counted anywhere.

But they do happen. I have first-hand experience.


I didn't receive any responses, but after reading many comments in support of Ebert's position (mostly from men; for whatever reason, his blog mostly seems to attract male commenters), I found myself becoming increasingly annoyed with the oft-repeated casual statements that "nobody needs a handgun."

Even women who clutch at their skirts and shriek about banning guns "for the children" are aware that females face greater predation from violent criminals (barring men who make a career choice to work in organized crime, of course). The usual response from anti-gun female advocates often boils down to "if we remove all the guns, men won't prey on women" or "women should avoid dangerous situations," neither of which is realistic or satisfactory. But at least women understand female vulnerability. Men, and especially the men of Ebert's blog commentors, are simply oblivious.

So here was my second response:

You know, I always find it interesting when men blithely declare personal firearms can not possibly serve a purpose in our society. Maybe because they've never been at a physical disadvantage with almost every person they encounter, and can't imagine what it would be like to be smaller, physically weaker, and - from the perspective of our culture, at least - easily victimized?

I wrote above about how I, as a college-age small female, was able to successfully prevent myself from being robbed while working a graveyard shift, alone. The mere threat presented by the presence of my (unseen!) firearm was enough to deter three predatory men from attacking me.

In a moment when there was NOBODY else to save me - no coworker, no police officers - I saved myself. My firearm was a tool - the ONLY tool - that allowed me to defend my personal space. If I hadn't been carrying it, I would have been robbed at the very least; potentially beaten and possibly worse.

For a small woman, there is no self-defense tool that is as effective as a firearm. Firearms completely negate the disadvantages of body-type. They perfectly level the playing field. Not so for any other self-defense method. Even a woman highly trained in hand-to-hand combat is unlikely to prevail against a much larger opponent, and lesser tools (pepper spray, tasers) are unreliable and often ineffective. For example, out of curiosity, I had my prison guard buddy hand-taser me, and I was shocked that the sensation was much milder than, say, waxing leg hair.

So if there aren't any tools except for firearms that women can effectively use to defend themselves, and women aren't permitted access to firearms....then what? What am I supposed to do? Not live in a bad neighborhood? Not live by myself? Not work alone at night? Not go by myself to see the late screening of a movie? Not take my dog out at 1 AM when he really needs to pee?

With all due respect...fuck that, and fuck you if you think I should modify my behavior so as to not tempt dangerous criminals into victimizing me. As an American woman, I am entitled to live an independent life, free from the effects of criminal molestation. I require a tool of self-defense in order to live the way that best suits me, and that tool is a firearm.

When people talk about preventing ordinary citizens from having firearms, whether they realize it or not, they are talking about disenfranchising the only truly effective form of female self-defense.

Knock it off.


Another drum Ebert has frequently beaten on is Universal Healthcare - he is in favor of it, even though at his age he would most certainly have died of his thyroid cancer if he'd been receiving UHC in Europe (although being a beloved celebrity probably wouldn't have hurt).

I think universal healthcare in America is probably, unfortunately inevitable - get ready to die much younger than your parents did - but the worst part about oncoming universal healthcare is the plan to do it in the absolute worst way possible. My thoughts:

...We do not have an economic system in place that makes American universal healthcare financially feasible. If healthcare providers and insurance companies are permitted to set pricing on their services, with the expectation that the government has unlimited funds to pay out, it will create an economic disaster for taxpayers.

American universal healthcare has to be more than the government paying healthcare bills. It has to be draconian control of the entire system. The government has to have the power to set pricing, limit malpractice lawsuits, reduce medical school costs, and deny care when it's responsible to do so. The taxpayers can't pay $400.00 for a bag of saline. Doctors can't afford to spend $50,000.00 a year on malpractice premiums or $300,000.00 for their education and training. And we can't spend $10,000 a day for tens of thousands of people with end-stage diseases to linger in intensive care for weeks or months before dying. We literally can't afford it.

But do you think healthcare providers and insurance companies - the businesses that contribute to campaign funds - will permit that degree of government interference in their pricing structures? Nobody is that naive.

Roger, when I said in a comment a year ago that we couldn't afford universal healthcare, you responded with disbelief that the "wealthiest country in the world" couldn't pay for healthcare.

We're not the wealthiest country in the world. America [has a negative] net worth and therefore does not have "wealth." We are almost $16,000,000,000,000.00 in debt, and we're gaining about 1,000,000,000,000.00 a year. A trillion. That's 10 to the 12th power.

That's a lot of debt, and there will be an economic apocalypse if we don't start reducing it. The apocalypse isn't going to happen during your lifetime, but at 32 years old, it will probably happen during mine. People my age - even my self-identifying socialist friends - laugh at the idea that we will ever receive Social Security. What a joke!

Also, I work in downtown Seattle. I drive on roads riddled with deep cracks, potholes, and outright structural failings. The estimated time it would take to restore the damage to the Seattle area's roads - if people stopped driving on them - is 50 YEARS. I commute over a bridge with a 55% sufficiency rating, considered by the Federal Highway Administration to be "functionally obsolete." Another local bridge got down to an 8% sufficiency rating and was permanently closed, bringing economic devastation to the small businesses in the area as commuters had to reroute. Does that sound like something that would happen in "the wealthiest country in the world?"

National debt and infrastructure - these are the biggest problems facing my generation, but they aren't sexy issues, so nobody gives a shit about them.

But tell a sad story about a pregnant lady, and then some Americans will cheerfully let the debt rise and the roads crumble while we line the pockets of for-profit healthcare providers and insurance companies.

Obamacare is the worst of both worlds; it's a transfer of wealth from taxpayers to for-profit corporate interests, and the process is going to be managed by government bureaucracy.

Roger, please, stop writing about universal healthcare unless you're willing to talk about what realistically must happen before American universal healthcare can be realized without hurting average American citizens!
sarcasticwriter: (Egg)
My cross-post in response to a comment on Ebert's blog who stated: "As bad as the Holocaust was, the mass-murder of American babies now dwarfs it in the magnitude of human slaughter and in the level of defenselessness and innocence of its victims....I hope you understand better...the term 'Feminazi.' It is not a term that applies to every feminist but only to those who overtly advocate for an increase in the number of abortions -- in other words, those who openly hope that more mothers and doctors will kill more innocent and defenseless babies prior to birth..."

And my response:

Abortion is primarily a natural process, and a good and healthy one. Between 15 and 20 percent of all known pregnancies end in spontaneous abortion (miscarriage), because the fetal material is not viable for life and the gestating body rejects it. More often, spontaneous abortion occurs even before a woman knows she's pregnant; there are estimates that up to 50 percent of all pregnancies end in spontaneous abortion.

Spontaneous abortion is pure nature, acting to preserve the species. If you believe that God is directing nature, then it is inescapable and inarguable that spontaneous abortion is God's will.

There are many medical procedures today that were considered to be against God's will when they were invented; blood transfusions and organ transplants being the most obvious. Countless people have been saved by blood transfusions and organ transplants, and few people today reject either procedure as being against the will of God.

Similarly, countless people have been saved from suffering and misery by induced abortion. Like spontaneous abortion, induced abortion is a rejection of a nonviable fetal material. In the case of induced abortion, the lack of viability is usually environmental, rather than physical, but it amounts to exactly the same thing; a rejection of potential life that should not and must not live.

Abortion is not murder, neither when it is spontaneous, nor when it is induced. In both cases, it is a process that minimizes human suffering and improves the health and well-being of the human race. It is right and proper that humans have developed a safe way to induce abortion, safely mimicking nature and/or God's will for the well-being of all humanity.


I believe every word; in fact, this is a much milder and less passionate version of my first draft. After contraception, abortion is the greatest tool for preventing human suffering. If there's anything that should be provided for free by the State, it is birth control up to and including abortion. There are unfortunate physical side-effects from abortion that effect women's bodies and mood, but there are no negative consequences, and every woman who has ever had an abortion is a humanitarian and a hero in my eyes.

I'm off to make a donation to Planned Parenthood now, I think - or maybe the National Network of Abortion Funds.
sarcasticwriter: (Ghosts)
Man, I hate the spring movie dead zone. All the Oscar-hopeful movies - the kind you wear a sweater to - have come and gone, and it's not hot enough yet for the comic book blockbusters. There are usually two decent movies released between February and May - this year those two movies were Haywire and Chronicle - but otherwise, the theaters are barren.

Sadly for me, I had earned a free movie ticket that was going to expire on the 21st, so on Saturday I took myself to see The Legend of Arrietty, the latest movie out of Studio Ghibli. It was the movie I didn't want to see the least, and was only willing to see for free.

Luckily for me, it ended up being pretty darn good. God help me as I say that I enjoyed it more than almost anything else that has come out of Studio Ghibli/Hayao Miyazaki. And I'm about to say something xenophobic here, so hang in with me:

Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Howl's Moving Castle, Ponyo, My Neighbor Totoro all have plot points - minor and critical - that are informed by Japanese cultural. Characters make leaps in logic my Western mind doesn't follow, revelations are made that seem significant to the characters but not to me, protagonists react to emotionally provoking situations counter-intuitively, and eccentricity of behavior often goes ignored and unexplained.

It's not bad storytelling. I can feel that there are layers of significance that I'm not perceiving. I can clearly see that the movies assume that I know certain things about the way these stores are told. I can see that the movies are expecting me to bring a certain life experience into them. A mostly Japanese life experience.

Ponyo is the most aggravating of the Ghibli films (why does nobody care that their homes have been destroyed by a tsunami?), followed by Spirited Away (why is it again that Chihiro able to tell that her parents weren't any of the pigs presented to her?).

The Legend of Arietty isn't aggravating at all. It tells an absolutely simple, straightforward story about a "Borrower" - a 3-inch tall 14 year old girl who lives with her parents in the crawlspace of a house unbeknownst to the full-sized human beings who live there, until she accidentally beknownsts herself to an ailing teenager who wants to make friends. Even though Borrowers are traditionally afraid of full-sized human beings (with good reason), they make friends.

That's about it. There are no supernatural elements, beside the fact that there is a race of three-inch tall people. The story does not require an education in the behavior of Japanese spirits or demons. The Legend of Arrietty is just about a couple of people who make friends, despite their wild, wild differences.

Since the story is universal (or what I mean by "universal" is fully accessible for the Western mind, anyway), it's easier to concentrate on the beauty of the animation. The characters themselves are fairly standard for the anime format, but the backgrounds are extraordinary; hand-painted, stylized (sometimes even impressionistic), always beautiful. My favorite scene was Arietty's first journey from under the floorboards into the house; she follows her father as he makes his way between the walls and into the kitchen. Perspective and sound design reframe the homey kitchen as an impossibly huge cavern, the gigantic shadows ominous with threat. It's also fun to see how three-inch tall people cope with the challenges of scale, and how they repurpose the full-sized items they've borrowed for their small-scale life.
sarcasticwriter: (Closer)
It's funny how many people have referred to the diminishing activity on Livejournal with temperature metaphors. I vaguely remember a community comment that said LJ was drifting into a permanent ice age. [livejournal.com profile] madbard just referenced a novel "...where an underground civilization got progressively colder, until there were just a few cottages left with the lights on." And I said myself that LJ is dying an internet heat death.

And I've gone into the reason I haven't been updating - sheer, shameful laziness. But for godsake, if I'm going to take the time to write long comments on other blogs, the least I should do is cross-post them here!

And so:

My current favorite stranger blogger, The Last Psychiatrist, recently wrote two posts on The Hunger Games, The Hunger Games is a Sexist Fairytale. Sorry.

I won't recap - The Last Psychiatrist is a brilliant essayist, and his mini-dissertation on how The Hunger Games is a basic Cinderella-style fairytale without a "strong" female character is most satisfying when read all the way through. But I'll cross-post my comment on his latter entry here, since I think it (mostly) stands alone:

I felt, in my gut, that there was something wrong with both the movie and book series, even though I thoroughly enjoyed both of them.

Well, actually, I had an idea, it just wasn't comprehensive enough.

I find the lack of rape throughout the series - or even the threat of it - really strange. I think it's strange the word was never mentioned once in all three books. There's a brief explanation that a past Hunger Games winner - a male winner - was pimped out to wealthy patrons in the city. But it's not the same thing.

History shows us that things don't usually go well for women in the impoverished, desperate communities where labor is divided by gender, there is no birth control, and the population is dominated by external "peacekeepers," who all seem to be male and ritualistically terrify the oppressed population. What's more, the highest positions in the government seem to be filled exclusively by males (which makes me wonder - how would the story have read if President Snow was female? Glenn Close instead of Donald Sutherland? That would have been awesome!).

And in the games themselves, where late-teen males, trained from childhood to kill other human beings, form temporary gangs to hunt down their opponents, laughing while their victims cry and beg for mercy...doesn't it seem strange that none take what's for all but one of them the last opportunity to experience pussy before they die?

We can speculate that the producers of the Hunger Games have informed the contestants that they must not violate the TV-14 ratings of the games by introducing sex to violence. Or that rape might alienate their patrons and those patrons might withhold their parachute packages (although late in the game, the packages become so expensive we can assume that the contestants eventually give up on the hope of receiving them - why not rape then?). Or maybe they don't want to live with the consequences of having a reputation as a rapist if they do survive. Not that that seems to have hurt many celebrities in the real world, but maybe the citizens of Panem are more easily disgusted by rape than we are.

But then the question becomes: Why would that be? Why would a society that cheerfully watches child-on-child murder find rape even more offensive? So offensive that it has apparently been completely eradicated, to the degree that Katniss never, ever mentions it?

The word is never used. I think rape just doesn't exist in Suzanne Collins' fictional universe. And so Katniss is protected from rape by never being exposed to even the concept of rape. Because rape isn't a thing that threatens good girls like Katniss. Do you hear that, young female readers? Heroines don't even have to know what rape is. Be pretty, but not sexual, and you won't have to know what rape is, either.

If that isn't paternalism cranking the deus ex machina, I don't know what is.
sarcasticwriter: (X Marquis)
So a guest calls me. Older guy, or maybe a middle-aged guy who sounds older.

"How do I pick back up on watching a movie I ordered?" he asks.

I wince a little, because I know that he's not going to like the answer.

"Well, unfortunately when you order a movie, it just plays straight through. If you shut it off, when you order it again it'll play from the beginning. I'm sorry about that."

"So it's not like my On-Demand at home?"

"No, I'm sorry, it's not. I really wish it were." And I do. When you stay in a luxury hotel, everything should be better than what you have at home, from the linens to the entertainment system. Our TV system is pathetically archaic. We didn't even get HD until last year. Maybe I complain a lot about guests, but I also get embarrassed when I'm not able to deliver the kind of service they should have.

"Oh. Well...oh. Hm." A long silence. "Maybe I'll just reorder it. Will it charge me again?"

"The system will automatically bill your room again, but I'd be happy to remove the charge from your bill."

"I'll do that, then. Thanks!"

He hangs up, and I go over to the movie-system computer to cancel out his first movie. I type in his room number, and the billing and broadcast information pops up. He ordered it at 12:19 AM, and watched for 31 minutes. And the movie is called:

"The Best ANAL of the Year!"

Suddenly I know a whole lot of things about this guy that I wish I didn't know.

The Clock

Feb. 10th, 2012 02:27 am
sarcasticwriter: (Egg)
Random clusters of fertility talk - a bit of The View that was playing while I was setting my VCR, Melissa Rivers getting fertility shots on Joan Knows Best, Adam Carolla discussing how he and his wife needed fertility treatments, and how Dr. Drew and his wife needed treatments, too, a Livejournal friend who's trying to get pregnant, and another friend who isn't - has me thinking about the weird paradox the first world has created when it comes to childbearing. Many of the women who are most qualified to have babies - grown adults who are educated, emotionally stable, financially secure - aren't having an easy time getting pregnant. The very reason they'd make good parents is in conflict with their biology.

For all the developmental education I received in school, nobody ever mentioned that a woman is born with a set number of ovum, and once she runs out, she's out. Nobody ever mentioned that some women run out of ovum significantly earlier than is average, and that not everybody - not even most - can depend on having a baby at 40. While popular culture advises against getting married before 25 at the minimum, it never mentions that peak female fertility occurs in the early to mid 20s.

My Seattle peer group is full of mid-20 and early 30s folk who aren't in committed relationships, much less contemplating childbearing. When pressed, almost everybody says that they want kids - someday. Maybe in 10 years, or 15. Or 20. Certainly not in the next five years! And not with this current partner, but maybe the next. No matter what their age or their plan, everybody is confident they'll have kids when they want them. Just not for the next decade, or two.

I think a lot of my responsible, ideal-parent peers aren't going to have kids.

That's disastrous, because the wrong people are having kids young. People who are too irresponsible to use birth control correctly, people who think a baby will fill their emotional void, people in the thrall of powerful religious compulsion; these are the people our society doesn't want having babies, and they're the ones producing most of them.

The worst part is, there's no solution. Intelligent people are going to put off having children until they're financially and emotionally stable, and dumb, irresponsible people are going to continue pumping out babies they can't properly educate, nurture, or support.

I don't know what that's going to mean for our society 20, 30, 50 years from now, especially if our economy continues to decline. Maybe we'll see a shift in the acceptable age difference of couples: as men become financially secure only as their female peers are aging out of fertility, they'll begin courting (and successfully winning) much younger female partners. This might even be more likely if the economic climate is significantly more hostile than today. I can't imagine that will be good for feminism; a wave of young women eschewing economic independence for the financial security offered by older men in exchange for childbearing. Might as well walk right out onto the plains and start hunting gazelle with spears, and, at that point, what was modern civilization for?

Hm. This is much too big a subject for a Livejournal entry.

It's Time

Jan. 18th, 2012 06:17 am
sarcasticwriter: (Unicorn and Bull)
I contacted my US Representative in December about SOPA and I just contacted my two Senators about Protect IP. This is the worst idea proposed by our government in the last five years - and I'm including indefinite military detention of US citizens without trial in that assertion. It's extraordinarily unlikely you'll ever be directly effected by draconian anti-terrorism measures, but you will be effected by Protect IP and SOPA, as will future generations.

Our government intends to break the internet, people. Wikipedia, Youtube, Twitter, Livejournal, I Can Has Cheezburger, Facebook - in fact, *all* the websites where uses comment or contribute - they *all* are at risk. This is going to effect your life. Please contact your elected officials and threaten to withhold your future support if they do not kill this bill.

Here's the letter I'm sending:

Dear Elected Asshat [that may not be my actual greeting],

I am writing to you as a voter in your state. I urge you to vote "no" on cloture for S. 968, the PROTECT IP Act, on Jan. 24th.

The PROTECT IP Act is dangerous, ineffective, and short-sighted. The Motion Picture Arts Association points to Chinese and Iranian governmental censorship of the internet as the model upon which America should base itself, this time in the name of ineffective copyright protection. This is so absurdly anti-American I can barely find words to express my outrage. Protect IP and SOPA will cripple a vital part of our culture and economy. It is not acceptable.

Going into the future, I will not support any elected official who supports Protect IP or SOPA. Again, I strongly urge you to vote "no" on this issue.

Thank you very much for your time.

Sincerely,

Christina Decker
sarcasticwriter: (Spirit Ice)

I have to go to work in nine hours.  I live in hilly country, and there are like 5 snowplows in the entire state.

 

Fuck snow.  It's nice to look at when you have the luxury of not going out to work.  Otherwise, it's Satan's...well, you know where I'm going with that metaphor.

Posted via LiveJournal app for Android.

sarcasticwriter: (KittenKill)
Uh...

Tuesday night was pretty quiet. I'm doing some research work for my dad and his new business. The work is tedious and repetitive, and trying to work on my wee little netbook with its small screen and tiny keyboard isn't really cutting it. The netbook is great for browsing, media consumption and word-processing, but it starts wheezing as soon as you have five browser windows and a word-processing program open.

I"m hurting, too - my eyes, back, and right hand (the touch-pad hand) are all aching. The screen is small enough that the font is a size that I can't quite see it if I'm leaning back or sitting upright in my chair - I have to hunch forward and peer. That's not a problem when I'm browsing around on the internet, but for intense work over multiple hours, the posture becomes painful.

Which means I have to buy a bigger computer, I think, but goddamn, is that a task I don't look forward to. The number of options are mind-boggling, with all the models, price points, etc. Should I buy from Costco and pay the sales tax to receive the "free" 2nd year warranty, not to mention no-questions-asked returns for the first 90 days or whatever it is? Or do I go with the cheaper, dodgier Internet option with its strict no-return policies and hugely irritating warranty processes? And then there's the occasional smoking-good-deal that pops up from Office Max and other big box retailers, too.

And once I have the new computer, there's the chore of configuration; uninstalling all the bloatware and installing my necessary programs, plug-ins, and settings, updating every program that's updated since the computer was manufactured, porting over all my data, having to adapt to a new OS (I got the last computer with XP), and... Oh, god. I'd much, much rather spend a day at the DMV.

Not to mention, I'm going to give my computer-illiterate mother my netbook, which means thoroughly scrubbing it of all my stuff and setting up protections so that she doesn't accidentally launch a nuclear attack from some missile silo somewhere. It could happen.

...

This is a first-world problem.

Hugo

Jan. 7th, 2012 11:59 pm
sarcasticwriter: (MST3K)
I screwed my sleep schedule up over the weekend by staying up way to late Friday afternoon and then sleeping through the night.

But I got stuff done Saturday, if "going to see a movie" and "finding the perfect pillow that ties my living room furniture together" can be considered getting "stuff done."

Anyway, the movie was Hugo, which had some moments but was largely flawed.

(I'm starting to think that The Age of Innocence might very well be Scorsese's best movie. Yes, better than that one. And yes, better than that other one. I don't have a lot of tolerance for movies about "stupid man crap," as [livejournal.com profile] niobedancing once so brilliantly put it. Those guys should have all just gotten real jobs and taken care of their families and called it a life.)

Spoilers.

The biggest two problems with Hugo go right down to its foundations, character and plot structure. Because the titular character isn't terribly interesting. His circumstances are interesting; orphaned from his loving father, adopted by a drunk uncle and taught to run the complex time-keeping mechanisms of a Parisian train station, then orphaned again and left to run the station by himself, but the character isn't interesting. He's driven to complete the repairs to an automaton his father found, but again, that's more plot than character. Virtually every line of dialogue he speaks moves his plot forward; we're not sure who this kid is, except that he seems nice and wants to be loved.

Part of the problem, I think, is with the casting of Hugo and his character design. The kid who plays him is beautiful, with clear, milk-maiden skin and crystal blue eyes fringed with long lashes, his thick dark shining hair falling slightly too-long across his brow. I use the flowery language deliberately, because that's what the kid looks like. There's a glamor about him that isn't appropriate for a kid who's one cop away from becoming a Dickensian orphan. For all that he's crawling about in the attics, basements, and access passages of an old building, doing mechanical work, his nails are clean, his clothes are pressed, and his hair looks freshly combed and his skin just-powered.

One could argue, I guess, that his desire to continue living in the station means he must maintain a high degree of cleanliness in order to blend in when he walks the floor, but...it still doesn't quite track. Steam and dust are used frequently in the movie; steam floats up the grates of his attic living space almost constantly, and specks of dust drift through the platforms. But there's no sense that he's effected by the constant moisture or dust.

It also doesn't make sense that Hugo has been maintaining the station single-handed for months, without anybody noticing his uncle's absence. His uncle tells him that they are supposed to work unseen, but surely somebody would have noticed when his uncle stopped showing up on payday, wouldn't they? And wouldn't his uncle have introduced Hugo to the station staff as his apprentice, to avoid any misunderstandings if they bumped into each other in the maintenance halls? Once his uncle is gone, Hugo has to resort to stealing food, but why didn't he just go to the pay office and say his uncle sent him for his pay? They he wouldn't have had to steal at all. This is a children's movie, but it takes place in what is ostensibly the real world of Paris 1930s, utilizing real historical figures. Even in a "reality" that's a soft and golden fairytale, adults still show up for payday and introduce their apprentices to their coworkers.

We spend the first half of the movie following Hugo as he tries to complete his automaton and avoid being caught by the station master. Then, as Hugo gets to know the gruff owner of a toy shop in the station, played by a grumpy Ben Kingsley, the focus of the movie shifts from Hugo to the shop owner, who is revealed to be Georges Melies, the pioneer of fantasy and special effects in film's infancy.

As soon as the focus turns to Georges, the movie loses all interest in Hugo. There is a long montage/flashback sequence as Georges tells his story about buying his studio and making his first films, and seeing his process for creating incredibly sophisticated effects - the first effects, the first film depictions of moving fantasy, science fiction, and horror - is completely absorbing. He's the important character in the movie, brave, driven, a pioneer and an artistic genius. His mini biopic is the best part of Hugo, and that's a serious problem when the movie is called Hugo.

Because by the time the focus is dragged back to Hugo, in time for the conclusion to his emotional journey, we, the audience, don't care about him anymore and have kind of even forgotten he's there. Or worse, now we're annoyed by him. It's like standing in an endless line at Disneyland for the Monorail, having a friend hold your place while you walk straight on to Space Mountain, then going back to standing in line for the Monorail. Maybe if you'd stayed in line, you'd be excited to finally get on the Monorail, but not after getting a taste of Space Mountain. You can never go back after Space Mountain.

Where was I?

There are some great parts in the movie, as well. Sacha Baron Cohen as Inspector Gustav, the orphan-hating lamed station guard, is absolutely sublime. Cohen has only shown us the vicious side of his comedy acting before now, but he has a vulnerable and subtle side, too. His character's self-importance and obsessiveness is explained completely in a quiet, resigned line as he finally introduces himself to his crush, "My leg was injured in the war. It will never heal." And when he yanks Hugo off the track a second before the boy is killed by an incoming train, Gustav's concern for the boy is genuinely terrified. Here was another character that deserved his own movie, because his mix of deep vulnerability and officiousness is touching and funny. Beside him, Hugo's simple emotional journey seems tired and cliched.

It also doesn't make sense that when Hugo's uncle is discovered dead in the Seine, and Gustav realizes that Hugo is the one that has been professionally and flawlessly maintaining the clocks for months, like an adult, he doesn't just give Hugo the job. Hugo's probably 12 or 13 - old enough to work as an adult in the 1930s, isn't he? While the emotional journey of the film requires that Hugo be rescued by Georges, who Hugo rescued from obscurity and despair, it didn't have to be a choice between a Dickensian orphanage or a loving home. Hugo's admirable skill with mechanics and engineering had to count for something.

Again, these are the kind of questions that you're not supposed to think about during the movie, and I suppose many people would tell me that I criticize too harshly or refuse to suspend disbelief. But it's my contention that it's the responsibility of the filmmakers to not introduce these questions in the first place. Hugo could have been just as alone if he'd been picking up his uncle's pay and buying his food, instead of stealing it. Gustav could have still grown suspicious of seeing only Hugo and never Hugo's uncle. On that point, the movie still would have worked, if it had made a little more sense.

I know that not everybody is as analytical or articulate as I am (do I have to explain why that's not braggadocio?), but I'm convinced that people still subconsciously know when something doesn't make sense. I think when people dismissively say that a movie is "okay," that's what they're referencing. They know something's wrong with the temporary reality they're observing, even if they don't know what it is. They can feel when the truth doesn't ring out.

The truth doesn't ring out of Hugo, but the movie has some beautiful moments and at least one amazing performance. I just wish the rest of the film had risen to meet its high water mark.
sarcasticwriter: (Queer Eye)
Wednesday night at work was quiet, which gave me a chance to do some tedious research work for my father, and watch most of the epically-paced Sex and the City: 2.

Which was...well, it wasn't good at all, but I'd been braced for complete hell and was kind of surprised at myself for ordering it from Netflix. I get and even agree with what the critics complained about; these characters are monstrously selfish and privileged, artless, and for a show about liberal New Yorkers, surprisingly insensitive to other cultures. Oh, wah! - being a mother is so hard, even with full-time help! How do people without help do it? And...flying coach is a fate unthinkable! And even though you're the foreigner who voluntarily traveled to a misogynistic, backward country, well, it should change - because you say so!

But...I watched every episode of the show (back when the episodes were a little more...substantive), and the first movie was good, and I like seeing the girls, even if they weren't quite themselves in the second movie. Of course, the clothes and luxury travel all looked very appetizing, too.

But between guilty-pleasure bubblegum chick flicks, I found Sex and the City 2 much less offensive than Eat, Pray, Love. The Sex and the City girls recognize that they're on vacation, and they revel in the admittedly beautiful, opulent luxury of their trip. At least there was never any longing for some Eastern brown people to magically transmit some easy, self-centering enlightenment. Between the two, I'd much rather see Americans impose Western materialism on a patriarchial theocracy than incorrectly and insultingly reverence the minimalism of the Exotic East. As a blogger whose blog I can't find said (and I paraphrase), if all the Americans have to journey to India for enlightenment, where are Indians supposed to go for enlightenment?

(Let's not forget that Elizabeth Gilbert financed the extensive travels for her book about her own self-discovery and enlightenment...with the advance for her book about her own self-discovery and enlightenment.)

(Also, she is a total bitch to service staff - I have firsthand experience.)
sarcasticwriter: (Black Stallion)
I just rewatched the Cohen Brothers remake of True Grit on Netflix instant stream and was pissed off anew by the way the movie was perfect up until two details that occur right at the end of the film.

A movie that's bad from the start and all the way through doesn't bother me much - that movie never had a chance to be good. But a movie that's great, aside from an unconscionable, easily fixed mistake drive me crazy. These were mistakes in True Grit that could have been taken care of with a couple of edits, or, if strictly necessary, a small out-sourced bit of corrective CGI.

Spoilers, naturally.

So Rooster has his four-on-one shootout. In the shootout, Rooster's horse and two of the villains' horses are shot dead. This leaves two remaining live horses from the firefight, Mattie's Blackie makes three. It's never explained where LaBoeuf's horse is - but since he made a surprise reappearance to save Mattie, LaBoeuf's horse should be somewhere nearby.

Mattie falls into a pit filled with rattlesnakes, one of which bites her (even though rattlesnakes are usually shy and won't go out of their way to attack creatures much larger than they are). That's fine. Unrealistic, maybe, in its staging, but that's one of those things you can overlook for the sake of the story. Rooster needs to get her to a doctor to save her life, so he gets up behind her on Blackie - her pony - and drives Blackie mercilessly back to civilization throughout the night. After running the horse for hours (which isn't, by the way, something that horses do), the horse collapses in exhaustion and Rooster puts him down, then has to carry Mattie on, himself. She is lucky to lose her arm - she almost dies.

Except, before they go on this heroic dash to save her life, there's a point-of-view shot from Blackie's back where they run past this:



Hey, it's a fully-saddled and provisioned horse standing quietly beside its dead rider! By tying Mattie into Blackie's saddle and distributing the weight load between two horses (one of which, it must be emphasized, is a pony), both horses can travel faster and farther. Or, if that's too dangerous, ride together on one horse, leading the other by the rein, then switch when the first gets tired. Either way, this well-domesticated, well-trained and freshly-rested mount is a godsend!

Except, three seconds later:



So...you're just going to leave the other horse? You're going to run within 15 feet of it, while it quietly watches you go by? You're just going to leave it there? THERE?!

What kills me is that this isn't even natural horse behavior. A professional trainer had to spend countless hours training that horse to stand quietly, without moving away to graze or to follow Blackie (since horses are herd animals, when one runs it often sets off the others). The film crew paid the trainer to make sure the horse stood still beside the "dead" bodies as the dolly rig passed by. They deliberately set up and paid extra for a shot that makes absolutely no sense.

Why not just...leave the horse out of the shot? Don't even present the bigger, stronger, freshly-rested mount as an option. Just leave it to the audience to assume that the villain's horses scattered, and leave it at that. Don't dangle a better option in front of the audience, as if the audience is too dumb to realize it is an option. And for godsake, don't spend extra time and money to fuck up the climax of your movie.

All right, well...so that's a big fuck up. The movie jumps forward 25 years, as a 40 year old Mattie journeys to see Rooster for the first time since the snakebite. She arrives at the Wild West show he was performing in, only to be told that he'd died of a heart attack three days earlier. That's sad. She goes on to say in voiceover that she wonder's what's become of LaBoeuf, if he's even still alive, because, "...I judge he would be in his 70s now, and nearer 80 than 70."

Jeff Bridges, the actor, is 21 years older than Matt Damon, the actor. I don't think Bridges is playing Rooster much younger than his 60 years when he made this movie; he's older, if he's anything. And Matt Damon, isn't playing older than his 40 years. If anything, he looks pretty great for 40.

So these guys are supposed to be 20 years apart in age, right? I mean, look at a picture of them:



But actually, when we see Rooster's tombstone at the end of the film, the birth/death dates are 1825-1903, meaning Rooster died at the age of 78 and was 53 during the majority of the movie. So if Mattie thinks LaBoeuf is "closer to 80 than 70," as Rooster was, then...what the fuck, Rooster and LaBoeuf were supposed to be the same age? Matt Damon is supposed to be 50 in this movie? Bullshit.

At this point, my coworker, upon hearing my complaint as I was putting away my computer, said, "It's just a movie, Christina, you shouldn't think that much about it." And she's right. I shouldn't think that much about it. But the Cohen brothers, producers, editor, sound mixer, actors - they should have realized it didn't make any goddamn sense, and that the last thing you want your audience thinking about as the credits roll is the math of the characters respective ages.

It's an even easier fix than the horse thing. Just have the actress in the recording studio say about LaBoeuf, ""...I judge he would be in his 60s now, and nearer 70 than 60." It doesn't quite make sense, but at least it's vaguely plausible, and even keen audience members might not puzzle over the numbers. The fixes would have been so easy, which is why it's frustrating they went of their way to fuck up the conclusion and retroactively sour the delicate, bittersweet emotional conclusion of the film.
sarcasticwriter: (PTSD Jesus)
So, New Year's. Thank god I didn't work it!

Doug the Best Friend and Al the Friend's New Year's Eve theme this year was Post-Apocalypse. This was not initially a very inspiring costume theme. I worked a little put on putting together a Mormon fundamentalist polygamist sisterwife costume, but the look is so distinctive that I wasn't able to adapt any clothing to it. Those dresses they wear aren't quite historical, and the pastels colors make it difficult to repurpose Amish clothing. After balking at spending $60 for a wrong-colored costume dress online that might not even fit, I decided to abandon my costume entirely.

This did not sit well with Doug the Best Friend, who moaned over breakfast earlier that week that none of the ladies in the group seemed inspired with his theme, and none of them wanted to put in any particular effort into their costumes. This despite "post-apocalypse couture" occasionally making an appearance on the runway.

"I don't think women like the post-apocalypse genre the way men do," I said. "Dudes have this fantasy that they're all going to become alpha male road warriors the moment society collapses, even though most of them are unprepared, out of shape, white collar desk workers. But women know, even if only subconsciously, that industrial infrastructure is critical for maintaining equality of the sexes. Without it, we're all just -"

And then inspiration struck.



I'm "Every Woman in the Post-Apocalypse." Perhaps with a subtitle: "After the Ammo Runs Out." It's too bad I'm trying not to laugh in that particular picture, it's the only full-body shot that turned out really well.

I spent the bulk of the morning working on my costume and doing a practice of my special effects make-up. Halfway in to my final make-up test, Juli the Friend called from her work, our sister property downtown, wanting to know if I could help her move some free furniture back to her apartment. I agreed, figuring I could drive over, wait in the car, and be home again with nobody wondering what the fuck was wrong with me.

That was, until I pulled up to the valet zone and wasn't able to get Juli on her cellphone in the building. Which meant that I had to stroll into the lobby and up to the front desk looking like I'd taken a vicious beating. Hayden, my old boss, was working the front desk, and her reaction was almost worth my embarrassment, even after I explained myself.

I came home and worked on distressing my sweater, t-shirt and skirt to make them look old, terribly old, and very worn out. Nothing substitutes for getting something dirty and stained, but I think I did a rather intelligent distressing of the sweater and t-shirt; putting rips into the usual places where seams separate in clothing, as well as the elbows and buttonholes. I'm particularly proud of the front of the sweater, where I ripped the buttonholes to make them look as though they'd been stretched out for years, then tied the sweater back together with strips from my skirt's hem. I also made some really big tears and roughly repaired them again. I think it looks terrible, but in a good way.



My original plan was to just use the chains, doll, and distressed clothes, but random inspiration struck while I was trying a new eyeshadow color, and suddenly special effects make-up seemed to be in order, although it took several practices to get it just right. Maybe too right, but I'll come back to that.



Amazingly, I only used four completely commercial, regular cosmetic products to achieve this effect; a Mac medium-brown matte eyeshadow, a Mac shimmery dark purple eyeshadow, a brown eyeliner pencil, and Stilla's Raspberry Crush cheek and lip stain. I used a contouring brush to swipe a light, dusting of brown down my eyelid and cheek, then several swipes of purple, just until I started looking...not right. Then, I rubbed the purple eye-color palate with my finger and used it to swipe on color with sharp, almost violent strokes. I patted on a little brown here and there as well, but tried very hard not to blend at all, since blending seems to be what takes a special effect from realistic-looking into "avante garde make-up." For the cuts on my forehead and lip, I traced a thin line of red lip stain, blended it out a little, traced a thin line of brown eyeliner, didn't blend it, then used my fingers again to pat on brown and purple bruises. For a finishing touch, I pumped several huge globs of lip stain into the end of my brush, and dotted it here and there, as well as under my "injured" eye like eye-liner. When the stain isn't brushed out, it keeps a pretty gelled consistency - unnervingly blood-like, actually.

I'll add that there's no foundation under the bruise; so the redness that I would usually cover with make-up helped the effect of inflammation along. But I'm sure a stain or dark blush could have replicated the look on somebody with better skin that me. I made up the other side of my face to as naturally flawless as possible, in comparison.

The only problem was...even though the rest of my costume - chains, baby doll, pregnant belly when I remembered to stand that way - should have indicated the make-up was an effect, some people didn't know it was an effect. Four hours after I walked into the party, and over late-night breakfast in a very well-lit Meander's, Ben the Friend asked "what happened" to me, and laughed in nervous relief when I said it was just make-up.

And I think that's why I didn't get the reaction I was expecting; knowing laughter maybe leading to a lighthearted debate about gender politics. Instead, people (especially those I didn't know well) often seemed awkward and distracted while I was talking to them. Men way, way, way more so than women. I got the impression that even those that reasoned out immediately that I was wearing make-up were still made uncomfortable by the effect of it.

That's good, in a way, because people should be deeply uncomfortable when confronted with evidence of wholesale abuse. But it was bad for a costume party, because that's not the time to manipulate people's visceral repulsion of violence against women. The joke of the over-the-top chains and baby doll and bare feet would have been funnier without explicitly commenting on deadly-serious-no-kidding-around victimization.

That said...



I'm turning that picture into a User Icon.
sarcasticwriter: (Scrat Staring Ice)


I'm rather enjoying the tv series version of Kung Fu Panda. The animation is almost as good as the movies, maybe just a little rougher, but certainly better than can be expected for a tv show. The writing is clever and witty, and the long format gives us a chance to explore the other characters besides the titular panda. My favorite character is Mr. Ping, Po's adoptive goose father and noodle shop owner. In one episode, after his noodle shop is destroyed, he moves in with Po with hilarious results. 

 

Very decent show, even if you haven't seen the movies, and probably funnier than any 2011 episode of The Simpsons.  Check it out, if you like.

Posted via LiveJournal app for Android.

sarcasticwriter: (Closer)
At work, between the frequent, constant interruptions of eleventybillion guests, I watched the recent Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes, and boy, was I underwhelmed.

In case you don't read past my spoiler warning below, I'll say this: The movie sucked, but Sherlock, the BBC miniseries which places Holmes in the modern day, is fucking genius. Not only is the writing and characterization more true to the original source material, but the camera work and production design is more interesting. It's slick, modern, and fast-paced - all three 90 minute episodes combined felt shorter than Sherlock Holmes tedious 90 minute running time. Sherlock's on Netflix streaming. Go watch it now.

Spoilers for Sherlock Holmes, I guess.

I get that it's a classic Holmes motif to expose the supernatural as the craftily natural, but in order to do that, the story has to take place in reality - our reality - the one that we all recognize as free of the supernatural. There was no drug available to Victorian England that simulates death to the degree that a competent doctor would be able to make a mistake after checking two pulses and respiration.

Also, a doctor that certifies a hanging execution would know there are two methodologies of death by hanging; a broken neck, or asphyxiation. Both of them leave pronounced effects on the corpse, effects - or lack thereof - that would be noticed while checking a neck pulse, by the way.

Apologists will at this point say that I'm being nitpicky, and, for some stories, they'd be right. But not for Sherlock Holmes. The point of Sherlock Holmes is the details; it's the process of watching a brilliant man observe the world around him and make factual conclusions based on that observation. Sherlock Holmes is the ultimate symbol of rational observation and thinking. To drop him into a setting that isn't at its core perfectly rational is both insulting and pointless.

That's the biggest hole, but there were plenty of other holes and unlikely coincidences. The film opens on Blackwood - who is himself aware he's only pretending to use black magic - chanting over an "innocent woman" (as she's later described and as we have no reason to disbelieve) writhing on an alter (unrestricted, by the way). At one point, he speaks in some kind of tongue and the woman reaches for the dagger laying beside her. It's clear she's going to ritualistically plunge it into her own heart, by Blackwood's command.

Except - what the fuck?

There isn't anything you can say in a foreign, occult-sounding language that will compel an innocent victim to drive a dagger into her own heart! Maybe certain kinds of modern-day drugs might lead to a high degree of suggestibility and compulsion to do grievous self-harm, but probably not enough to convince a kidnapping victim to kill themselves. Certainly Victorian England didn't have any drug that would cause an innocent young woman to writhe around and then stop writhing just in time to stab herself with a dagger.

So from the opening frame of the movie, it's nonsense. Modern Hollywood took one of the most sensible characters in literature and trapped him in an nonsense setting. What a disappointment.
sarcasticwriter: (Me in a Hat)
So, I worked on my birthday and generally ignored it, aside from replying to the well-wishers on Facebook (thanks, guys!). Since most weekends involve a dinner out with friends, there's no real purpose in making a dinner out with friends about me, so I'll just leave it at that. Birthday came, birthday went, I'm an adult and I don't require recognition of having survived another trip around the sun.

I know better than to resolve to update every day. I'd rather consume media than create it (insomuch as a blog creates media), and there is plenty of media to consume. That's a theme in my recent, infrequent LJ posts. But - goddamnit - I do still want a record of my life, and between internet at work, at home, and on the phone, I should be able to spend some time, even if it's just five minutes, saying something. Or just taking a picture on my phone, maybe. Something.

It doesn't help that LJ is dying an internet heat death, and I've seen most of my Friends fade away, often to the brevity of Facebook and occasionally just gone entirely. And while I'm aware that diary writing should be done for the writer and not the reader, I want and need an audience, even if it's just one other person.

So here's what went on with me this year:

1. I got out of consumer debt, and my credit score broke 800 points.

2. The month after I paid off the last credit card, I received an inheritance from my paternal grandfather that allowed me to buy a new car, a new couch, and peace of mind about the immediate future. I'd like to turn the bulk of my remaining inheritance into a retirement nest egg, but...well, I'm starting to become skeptical of the traditional model of retirement planning.

3. I started the path towards bariatric surgery - the gastric sleeve, to be exact. I've been thinking about bariatric surgery for years, but as my insurance didn't cover the procedure, I didn't seriously consider the surgery until I had the cash in-hand from the inheritance. Then, by astonishingly happy coincidence, one of my insurance plans at work began covering bariatric surgery. I switched insurance plans, and bam - I'm going to be able to have the surgery and save 20 grand doing it.

4. We lost our beloved family dog, Rocky, at the age of 14. It devastated my family and the mere thought of it fills my eyes with tears. And here I thought I was a person that didn't cry that much! In a family without young children, and where there is a great deal of intellectual love but little physical affection, Rocky absorbed all of our nurturing instincts. His loss was much worse than that of my paternal grandfather, who was a sociopath, or my maternal grandmother, who succumbed after long, terrible suffering to Alzheimer's. Rocky's loss was pure, unrestricted, unmixed grief. I can't...I can't write any more about it.

So - year 31 of life saw three very good events, and one horrible one. So far, it looks like 32 will see me healthier, wealthier (well, maybe. I've got to get myself on a budget!) and wiser. And mostly happy, too.

I hope.
sarcasticwriter: (PTSD Jesus)
As we approach Thanksgiving and Black Friday, I'd like to announce my campaign to cancel Christmas gift-giving among adults.*

The best part about being a working adult is the autonomy to make choices about when to buy stuff for yourself. Since nobody knows better than you what you want/need, you're the best person at shopping for you. And as your social circle tends to be in similar financial circumstances to you, there's usually nothing they can get you that you can't get for yourself. In the traditional model of obligatory gift-giving, everybody stresses out trying to buy affordable-but-hopefully-appreciated items and disappointed when they receive affordable-items-they-didn't-want-enough-to-buy-for-themselves.

Come Christmas, every adult should just buy themselves one big gift and call it a life.

* Gift-giving to children remains obligatory. As children have no economic autonomy, Christmas and birthdays are traditionally the only occasions on which they can expect to receive the "big" things they want but have no means to purchase for themselves. For kids, Christmas is a time of profound gratification, which is why you can recall your childhood gifts vividly but can't remember what you got last year.
sarcasticwriter: (MST3K)
I just emailed this to Regal Theaters corporate.

I am a major movie buff. I see between 40-50 movies in theaters a year. I believe the movie theater is the ideal way to view movies, with a picture and sound quality on a scale far superior to what can be viewed on TV. No movie is "best on DVD." Every movie is improved by the theater-going experience, even despite environmental irritations like audience members texting.

Or, that's how I used to feel.

I was terribly disappointed with the projection quality of Anonymous, an historical drama set largely in gloomy British castles with naturalistic lighting. Within the first few minutes of the film, I realized that its projection was much too dim. There was no nuance or depth in the film's many shadows; dark areas of the screen, which should have been rich with texture, were a flat black. I found myself squinting during interior scenes, trying to see the detail that I know from my vast film-going experience SHOULD be there, but wasn't.

Then I looked back at the projection booth and my heart sank when I saw two stacked beams of light and realized we were watching the film through a 3D projector with its 3D lens still in place. Had I been alone, I would have immediately returned my ticket and added the film to my Netflix queue, as I have many times in the past. But this time, I was with a friend, so I had to suffer through the entire movie, knowing that this beautiful, lush, melodrama was being visually strangled by its projection.

At the end of the movie, I spoke to Michael, the manager on duty. He couldn't have been nicer or more understanding, and he stated that projection dimness is a complaint he hears "frequently." He provided me with a list of the theaters with 3D projectors in the building and advised me to call ahead to ensure that the film I'm planning on seeing isn't in one of the 3D theaters. He also insisted on giving me a readmission ticket, even though I initially declined.

That's helpful, and he was clearly using all the tools he possessed to help his customers, but it isn't acceptable. The only thing movie theaters have going for them over HDTV with Blu-ray is the scale of picture and sound. But when the picture fails, the whole experience of going to a movie theater fails. This isn't my first experience with a Regal theater using a 3D projector to improperly project a 2D film, but I hope it'll be one of the last.

Please consider mandating that 2D films be projected through 2D projectors, or consider buying projectors that have easily removable 3D lenses. Please bright back the brightness to 2D movies. You run a promo in your theaters that shrinks the images on the screen to the size of a TV in order to demonstrate the superiority of large scale, but if you don't properly light what's on the screen, that promo becomes only sadly ironic.

Please, don't drive me away from my favorite hobby by giving me an experience inferior to my 32-inch TV at home.

Sincerely,

(Me)


Of course I realize that one letter doesn't influence corporate policy, but somebody has to tell theater companies that yes, the audience can tell when there's something wrong with the picture. Even if they're not consciously aware of it, or they're attributing it to the film instead of the projection (as my friends and family have done), they know that something's wrong, and that the movie-going experience just ain't what it used to be.

If you've experienced a dimly-projected film recently, please complain to both the onsite theater management and their corporate entity. Roger Ebert wrote an post on the subject of projection dimness earlier this year that breaks down the problem.
sarcasticwriter: (Unicorn Bull Beach)
Holy shit. Once Upon a Time is fucking terrible.

I love the premise - fairytale characters denied their happy ending and cursed to live in the real world, with no memory of their "real" lives. If done well, it could be incredibly entertaining. Of course, Disney/ABC seems to have a tough time making quality TV these days; their entire lineup is made up of forgettable dramas or shitty, passionless ripoffs of better shows.

Once Upon a Time (OUaT, I'll abbreviate) feels like the latter, except that there was never a better fairytale show. They just went straight for a shitty, passionless ripoff of the Disney vault.

Here's how I imagine the studio exec meeting went:

"Let's see, so vampires and werewolves were hot, and for some reason people like Desperate Housewives, but when we combined the two with The Gates, it tanked. Then superheroes were big, so we decided to make another Heroes, I mean, The Incredibles, I mean, No Ordinary Family, but that flopped, too. Sassy female cops are popular on basic cable, let's put two of 'em in Body of Proof. Hey, people like that '60s Mad Men shit, right? Let's do that, but without any subtlety and make it about hot stewardesses and espionage! It'll go for at least a season if we give it a big enough marketing blitz. But we gotta rip off something new!"

"Conspiracy-themed island mystery-adventure?"

"No, Phil, Fox is doing that. With dinosaurs."

"Damn. Maybe we can do that, but during the Ice Age, with, like, CGI wooly mammoths 'n shit."

"We need something new. I was thinking, get ready for it...fairytales!"

"Yeah, but, Dave, NBC's doing that, with Grimm."

"I know, but that never stopped us before, Phil."

"You're right, Dave! Emma! Call my favorite hacks - I mean, writers - and get them over here. We gotta start spitballin' this project!"

*Aaaand...scene!* .

I'm convinced I've somehow teleported my consciousness into that room, because it doesn't seem possible that a skilled, powerful, passionate show-runner - somebody who gave a rat's ass about the content - could have put this shit together. Here is a sampling of the dialogue, which was delivered with the cheesiest, one-dimensional over-acting imaginable.


Evil Queen, at Snow White's wedding: I shall destroy your happiness, if it is the last thing I do.
Prince: Hey! *throws sword, she apparates away and reappears in her evil lair*
Henchman: Would you like something to drink? *presents a goblet on a silver tray*
Evil Queen: Do I look like I need a drink?
Henchman: I was only trying to help.
Evil Queen: Thank you. *takes goblet*
Mirror on Wall: Now that was an awfully big threat. Destroy everyone's happiness? How do you plan on accomplishing that?
Evil Queen: The dark curse.
Henchman: Are you sure, your majesty?
Mirror on Wall: But you said you'd never use it -
Henchman: -you made a deal when you gave away that curse -
Mirror on Wall: - you traded it away -
Henchman: - she won't be happy to see you.
Queen: Since when do I care about anyone's happiness but mine? Prepare the carriage. I'm going to the forbidden fortress.

Cut to -

Pam the Vampire's castle

Pam, I mean, "Maleficent": How are you dear?
Evil Queen: I'm doing fine.
Pam, I mean, "Maleficent": Are you? If it were me, I'd be simply tortured...watching that flake of snow so happy.


Srsly. You can't make this shit up.

Every line is bad. The Prince's delivery of "Hey!" sounds like a frat boy shouting across a parking lot. The Henchman's appearance with the goblet, and the exchange about whether or not the queen wants a drink, is weird and superfluous. Then the Mirror on the Wall and the Henchman deliver embarrassingly obvious exposition, culminating with one of the most clunky self-insights a character has ever uttered:

"Since when do I care about anyone's happiness but mine?"

You guys, this is for real. I actually paused it and ran it back. She really said it:

"Since when do I care about anyone's happiness but mine?"

And she didn't say it with an evil laugh, which might have softened its clunkiness by delivering a weak, ironic little self-aware insight into her own state of evil. No. She was serious. She actually, unironically chided her henchmen for cautioning her that she might piss off a fellow villain.

But, hey, right, it's only their second episode, sometimes it takes a while for a show to get it's stride....

...until we get to Pam the Vampire and "flake of snow."

Seriously. "Flake of snow." Granted, it was laced with all of Pam's heavy irony and smirking superiority, but...well..."flake of snow." It's not funny, and it's not an insult. It's just unbelievably stupid.

That's when I paused the stream and started writing this entry.
sarcasticwriter: (Homer in Space)


You know how, every Christmas, you end up watching at least part of A Christmas Story on its TBS 24-hour broadcast.  And somehow, it never gets old?  Rather than being boring, it's comforting and pleasant, like an oft-used recipe that gets the taste of a thing just right, every time?

 

I just realized that the syndicated Treehouse of Horror episodes of The Simpsons that are rerun every Halloween are the same.  My local affiliate starts with Treehouse of Horror I and goes straight through, and I always watch all week, and never get bored. If anything, they get funnier with repetition.  I anticipate my favorite lines the way you smell that recipe cooking and anticipate eating:  "Way to go, Lis'.  Maybe next time you'll be reincarnated as somebody who can stay awake for 15 minutes!"  "Oh, I wish, I wish I hadn't killed that fish." "Wait...one of them is nailing something to the door of the cathedral...I've created Lutherans!" "Well I believe I'll vote for a third-party candidate!"  "Go ahead. Throw your vote away!"

 

(Incidentally, that last exchange, in context, is the greatest commentary on the American political system ever uttered.)

 

This is heaven.

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