Posts Tagged ‘movies’

I’ve long harbored a suspicion that, were I to write about dating here on the blog, it would prove to be quite popular. And it looks like I was right. I don’t know what, if anything, I’m going to do with this information, but I was very pleased at the high quality of the comments on my dating post, both here and over on Facebook. Thank you for being thoughtful and interesting commenters.

My friend Ferrett read the same post by Rahul I did, and he had a different response that is worth checking out.


I saw the movie Another Earth last weekend. In spite of its plot holes, I liked it as a metaphor. Also it was pretty. Also I had my first cream soda float while watching it, and it was delicious.

I kind of want to see the new time travel movie Predestination, but it’s only playing at one theater in my area, so whether I’ll have time to check it out is up in the air. If you’ve seen it, let me know what you think


My friend shared this amazing photography series by Sacha Goldberger. Entitled Super Flemish, it is a mash-up of superheroes (and other fictional characters from Star Wars and Alice in Wonderland amongst others), Flemish painting, and Elizabethan fashion. I wish I could go see an exhibition of this, but happily all the photos are available for perusal on the web.


Any excuse to use a Stormtrooper photo is a great excuse! Photo Credit: Kalexanderson via Compfight cc

Any excuse to use a Stormtrooper photo is a great excuse! Photo Credit: Kalexanderson via Compfight cc


In other news, I’m off to my favorite regional science fiction convention this weekend, ConFusion, in Dearborn, Michigan. Here is my panel schedule for the weekend:

Friday 6pm: What We’re Reading Now Southfield

Writers are almost always avid readers, and being in the business sometimes allows more insight into new and exciting authors, series, or just ideas that different people are playing with. If you’ve looked around and wondered what’s good that’s out now and in the near future, this panel may give you a new slew of books to track down.

Saturday 10am: How to like problematic things Erie

Lord of the Rings. A Song of Ice & Fire. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Many of us like things that are deeply problematic! Liking these works doesn’t (necessarily) make you a jerk. How can we like problematic things and not only be decent people, but good allies and activists? How does one’s background matter? How does one address the problems? This panel will discuss how to own up to the problematic things in the media you like, particularly when you feel strongly about them.

Saturday 1pm: Romancing the Vulcan Southfield

Emotionally restrained heroes were popular in the age of reason; after Romanticism swept Europe, Jane Austen’s Darcys and Knightleys were the only emotionally Vulcan-esque heroes left in media for quite some time. From Darcy/Lizzie on the page, to Spock/Uhura on the screen and Spock/Kirk in our fanfic, we love human passion rubbing up against Vulcan reason. What are other models of this dynamic? What’s so appealing about loving a Vulcan… or being one?

Saturday 5pm: Effective Role Playing (TEEN FUSION) Windsor

How do you stay in character during a RPG so that the game progresses and you have fun at the same time?

ConFusion is always a very busy convention for me, but please feel free to come up and say hi!

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I only realized in the past week or so that yes, on the whole, I prefer TV shows to movies.

This is a strange about-face for me to make. I was the roommate who, in freshman year of college, fought hard to prevent having the TV in the living room. I came from a household where we watched TV pretty much every night, usually for 3-4 hours, and I was sick of it. I became sick of it before I went away to college, and I’d hide out in the back room practicing music by the hour, reading lots of books, and whiling away my remaining time playing backgammon and Hearts with a computer AI.

But now, I find when I get to choose between a TV show and a movie, I am more likely to select a TV show.

I prefer TV shows for the same reason I prefer novels. I am what I call a character reader; I get pulled through a story because I am invested in the characters’ lives and development. World building I only care about if it is so off as to be distracting. Plot I care about more. But it is the characters who breathe life into the experience for me. And TV shows allow a lot more space for character development than most movies

But perhaps more importantly, I was listing my favorite shows and found that all of them feature either a female lead character or ensemble casts with plenty of female characters. Which is something that can be hard to find in the movies, which too often have the token female character or the two female characters who never even talk to each other. (Thank you, Bechdel test, for helping me systematically notice this.)

In fact, these days I tend to choose not to watch TV shows that have a male lead character as opposed to an ensemble cast. (The exception to this is Sherlock. My love for Sherlock Holmes is greater than my irritation at the low numbers of female characters in the show.)  I was never interested in Dexter or Breaking Bad. A serial killer who the audience is supposed to be okay with because he chooses his victims carefully? A teacher who is a drug dealer and brings his student and family with him on his downhill plummet? Ugh. Both of these shows have their merits, from what I hear, but they are unappealing to me. Plus in the current culture, neither of those characters, anti-heroes at their finest, could have been female, simply because they aren’t likeable enough in their conception. Ugh again.

No, instead I have an endearing love for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (Not so much love for Angel.) I enjoy the ensemble casts of Battlestar Galactica and Game of Thrones. (Yes, GoT women tend to conform to types, but at least they exist as main characters, and their stories, horror and all, are illustrative of what it’s like to lack power and agency due to gender and the different ways they are forced to strive for power in spite of their genders simply in order to survive.) I rewatch Veronica Mars and Gilmore Girls. I watched every episode of Gossip Girl, and I’m catching up on Vampire Diaries.

Murray Close/Lionsgate Publicity Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen.

Are these shows perfect? Not by a long shot. But at least I get to watch women doing stuff and being a real part of the story. Perhaps with the box office successes of Catching Fire and Gravity, I’ll get to watch more women doing stuff in the movies too. Maybe they can even do stuff together. Maybe Frozen did well enough that next time, I’ll get to watch a female snowperson sidekick/comic relief, without any sexist jokes being involved.

And in the meantime, I’ll be sitting on my couch watching Buffy.

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Apropos of nothing, I watched Bridget Jones’s Diary last week. Afterwards, I realized that the third book in Helen Fielding’s series, Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy is coming out this week. So my timing was impeccable.

To provide some context, Bridget Jones’s Diary  was originally published as serialized fiction in a column in The Independent in 1995. The novel form came out in 1996. And the movie version came out in 2001. So the movie is twelve years old but based on material that is eighteen years old.


1. Bridget Jones doesn’t seem to be good at anything. We can assume that she’s okay at her job in the PR department for a publishing company, but we don’t get to see her being okay at it. We get to see her talking to friends on the job and doing a stunningly bad job doing public speaking, and that’s about it.

When she gets a new job, it’s not because she’s worked hard and studied; instead, she gets hired when she confesses that she needs a new job because she shagged her boss. And even when she lands the exclusive interview that makes her career, she does so in spite of her complete ignorance of the subject and missing the shot she was supposed to get because she decided to go get cigarettes. The only reason she succeeds is because Mark Darcy decides to help her.

It’s not that I want Bridget to be perfect or super intelligent or have any social skills whatsoever. But I want to see her be good at a few things, you know?

2. Really, the reason everything works out okay in the film is because of Mark Darcy. Not only does he prevent Bridget from being sacked, he warns her about her dangerous romance with the Hugh Grant character and ends up being completely right about that too. He provides the Happily Ever After, apparently because Bridget’s many awkward social outbursts and blue soup win over his heart. They never seem to actually bond over anything, but True Love wins out in the end anyway. And he even strips meaning from the end, Bridget’s plucky run outside in the snow in only underwear and a cardigan, because it turns out he was only popping out on an errand and wasn’t actually offended by the terrible things she wrote about him in her diary.

3. The mother is portrayed as largely unsympathetic and ridiculous until she reunites with the father, at which tender moment he calls her a “daft cow.” Suddenly I had a complete picture in my mind of why she decided to leave her marriage in the first place.

4. It is possible my life is anomalous because I’ve never had almost complete strangers inquire about my love life or ask me pointed questions about why I was single. If they did, I would not feel obligated to be polite.

5. Happily, at age thirty-two I also wouldn’t feel obligated to wear terrible outfits picked out for me by my mother. Even if it was the holidays.

6. The way the film handles sexual harassment at the workplace stood out to me. Bridget wears a short skirt to work and her boss makes comments about it in a documentable form (email? IM? I can’t remember). Of course, it’s all fine because Bridget is happy to have the sexual attention from her sexy boss. I wonder if this would be portrayed the same way in a film today.

7. All this being said, Renee Zellweger does an excellent job of selling Bridget as a goofy and endearing protagonist. As long as you don’t think about any of it.

7. James Callis, who played Gaius Baltar in Battlestar Galactica, is ridiculously fun to watch as one of Bridget’s best friends. He was also ridiculously fun to watch in the recent film Austenland. I wonder if I should hunt down everything he’s been in to watch even more ridiculous fun.

What do you remember from Bridget Jones’s Diary?

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My favorite movie is Star Wars. Star Wars: A New Hope, to be precise. I chose this favorite movie at some point during high school, and it stuck.

Now, some people will argue that The Empire Strikes Back is a superior movie, and I don’t disagree with this. However, high school me had a copy of Star Wars on VHS (without commercials, even, which was a big score) that I could watch over and over again. High school me did not have a copy of The Empire Strikes Back. (And when I eventually got one, it DID have commercials.) So Star Wars has the nostalgia win there. Also, The Empire Strikes Back has that cliffhanger ending, which means you don’t get a complete viewing experience unless you then watch Return of the Jedi, and Return of the Jedi is definitely NOT my favorite movie. Whereas Star Wars has a complete story arc contained in its two hours.

Star Wars has a lot of things going for it. Light sabers. Comic relief droids. Space ships. The neat blue lines that signal a jump to lightspeed. A kick ass princess with a sharp tongue (although alas, she is the only female character, which I consider to be one of the movie’s worst flaws). A walking carpet. An iconic bad guy who can be identified by sound, not just sight. High stakes. Guts, glory, and scoundrels.

The iconic villain also has a very recognizable silhouette.

But the reason Star Wars is my favorite movie? The emotions it evokes in me and the way I feel after I watch it. When Luke succeeds against all odds, blowing up the Deathstar and saving the entire Rebel Alliance, it reminds me of what is possible. It pumps me up and makes me feel ready to tackle my own life, my own goals, and my own problems. This feeling was valuable back when I was eleven and has continued to be inspiring ever since.

I love that Luke is just some guy, and nobody really thinks he has what it takes to make such a difference. (Well, no one except Obi Wan, anyway.) But through hard work (we don’t get to see it, but it’s implied that he’s spent large amounts of time on flying and target practice before the movie starts), courage, and belief in himself, he is able to rise above other people’s expectations of him and do his true best.

We all receive negative messages about our capabilities at some point. There are always the naysayers who think (and sometimes tell us) that we don’t have what it takes to accomplish our goals. Sometimes the loudest naysayer of all is inside our own heads. What I love about Star Wars is that it reminds me to ignore these naysayers. It reminds me that I won’t know my capabilities unless I fully commit. It encourages me to dream and strive and achieve my own personal best.

What about you? What movie inspires you? What movie makes you feel like you can take on the world?

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Last night I couldn’t stream Netflix through the Xbox like I usually do because Microsoft’s servers were down. So instead my husband suggested we watch When Harry Met Sally, since I’d been talking about it being a good holiday movie while at a certain wedding a few weeks ago.

While watching it, I realized that this movie, more than any other, is responsible for many of my early ideas of what adulthood was going to be like. It came out in 1989, so I’m imagining it reached the free cable preview weekends (my only real source for movies at the time) a few years after that, and I remember watching it more than once in high school. And while I spent lots of time consuming every Robin Hood movie I could get my hands on, watching Star Wars Episode IV whenever I got sick, and sighing with my best friend over Dirty Dancing, When Harry Met Sally struck me as being more like what real life was actually going to be.

Here is what it taught me:

1. Everyone you know will have a professional sounding job: attorney, journalist, political consultant (I had to ask my husband last night what that actually meant). These jobs will cause them no angst whatsoever and were obviously easy for them to both choose and succeed at.

2.However, everyone will actually spend most of their time and energy dealing with their crazy love lives, having lunch with their girlfriends, and hogging the batting cages from small boys. Also going to baseball games, reading self-help books, and attending many parties.

3. On New Year’s Eve, everyone goes to posh parties at big venues with lots of people they don’t know. Otherwise it doesn’t count.

4. People will often host small and slightly awkward parties at their apartments, where everyone divides up into two teams and plays Pictionary. And they always have an easel set up with a really big pad of paper to make it more awesome. (WHY has this not happened to me in adulthood? WHY?)

5. Never let a friend set you up because blind dates always end badly.

6. Adults are not afraid to do zany and embarrassing things, like sing Oklahoma! at the Sharper Image or have public fake orgasms. (This is particularly true of theater people, but alas, the movie neglected to educate me on that fact.)

7. It is okay to toss barely-used Kleenex around the room when you are very upset.

8. Men might be idiots about love sometimes, but in the end they will come to their senses and sweep you off your feet with an appropriate grand gesture and speech combo. (This is what most romantic comedies teach us, but I’ve found real life to be a vast disappointment in comparison, since most people I know do not seem to have the inclination to actually plan and execute grand gestures.)

9. A man who is married will never leave his wife for you. (Thanks to Carrie Fisher for the running gag teaching this valuable life lesson.)

10. When you move in with somebody, be on your guard for their equivalent to the Roy Rogers wheel wagon coffee table, and make sure you’ve stipulated that it’s not going to be part of the move ahead of time, thus avoiding an embarrassing fight in front of all your friends who are helping you.

What movie most shaped your ideas about what being an adult was going to be like?

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On Tuesday night my husband and I went on a date night to see The Adjustment Bureau. During the car ride home, I proceeded to tear the movie apart: partly its plot (especially the end, ouch) and partly its portrayal of women. My direct quote: “Was this movie written by people who hate women?” Yeah, not pretty. (Also, just for the record, this movie is urban fantasy, not science fiction.)

Well, at least the poster is pretty.

While I could easily spend an entire blog post critiquing this movie (and wouldn’t my snark be amusing?), I’m going to restrain myself and instead point out something else. If I had watched this movie three years ago, I would have thought it was mildly entertaining and left it at that (except the end. I still would have thought the end was stupid.) I wouldn’t have noticed the negative depiction of women, and I definitely wouldn’t have noticed the issues I had with the plot.

Becoming a writer has changed me in many ways, not the least of which is the way that I engage with entertainment. I read differently, and I watch TV series and movies differently. If I still played video games, I’d probably experience them differently too. Even when I force my mind out of critique mode (which I can usually do if the errors in front of me aren’t super egregious), I notice aspects of the narrative that I never saw before. I think about conflict, I think about stakes, and I think about character motivations. And I notice when women are being portrayed as playing pieces instead of fully realized characters.

When I’m not enjoying a novel, instead of just putting it aside, I start to analyze why it isn’t working for me. Are there too many info dumps, or is the beginning too slow? Do I not understand or buy into the world building ? Does a character’s voice not ring true? Or is it merely a personal preference issue? (I tend to bounce off fairly dense prose with large amounts of description. Sometimes I can objectively see that this is good, but it doesn’t matter. I’m still bored out of my mind.)

When I am enjoying a novel, I try to pay attention to why I’m loving it so much. What combination of techniques is the author using to give me such a reader happy? How is that Guy Gavriel Kay switches POVs and tenses as much as he does without making me hate the book? How is it that Suzanne Collins keeps the pace so breathless in The Hunger Games?

I don’t usually mind this interference. It sounds awful, and if I had known about it ahead of time, it might have given me pause. But in reality, it’s kind of like a nerdy, intellectual game. It’s fun to be able to have solid reasons to put behind my opinions. It’s even entertaining to have debates on the relative merits and drawbacks of a certain work.

But perhaps most importantly, I haven’t merely learned how to read or view media differently. Becoming a writer has changed how I see and understand the world and its history, present, and future. It has changed how I see the people in that world. And I wouldn’t give that up for anything.

If you’re a writer, how has it changed how you read or experience the world? If you’re not a writer, have you encountered something else that has had a similar effect on you?

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