Posts Tagged ‘ film/vid ’

Things Missed (80s)

2010.10.27
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GENERIC FOOD. FOND MEMORIES OF shopping the Lucky’s store in Concord c. 1981 wherein a vast wall of white and yellow cans, boxes and bottles severally proclaimed “COLA.” “CIGARETTES.” “CHILI.” “DOG FOOD.” “BREAKFAST CEREAL.” “ART.” (That last is ironic, but if they’d only let in Andy Warhol and a big Sharpie we could’a had us a time.)

(For that matter, I also miss “Repo Man.”)

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Why We Didn’t Finish Watching “Avatar”

2010.09.05
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ME: “THEY SURE USED A lot of tech to spin a yarn about how tech is bad.”

She: “Nice visual imagination, though.”

Me: “Very nice. And the acting and casting are spot on. But it’s a planet full of Magic Negroes. Blue Magic Negroes. And there’s still two hours left.”

She: “Let’s read aloud ‘Lord of the Rings’ instead.”

Me: “Okay.”

(Okay, maybe that’s a bit harsh. But I did find it to be so obvious as to insult my intelligence. (I mean, the Good Guys wearing organic bodies and the Bad Guys wearing robot bodies would be thrown back as too small by other metaphoragers. But mostly I don’t like being preached at, even when I agree with the preachment (and especially the latter if it’s heavy-handed). I did want to like it; some of my friends did, and one who’s reminiscent of Sigourney Weaver’s character, and doing some fairly serious and beautiful work along tangential lines (i.e., avatar as revelatory experient), is “all about it” the way I am about, well, Judaism. But when A&I started saying things like “This must be where the hero doesn’t know that the monster behind him frightened off the monster in front of him,” the spell was, alas, broken.)

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Harvey Pekar Z”TL

2010.07.12
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Fig. 1.

A MOMENT OF SILENCE WOULD be inappropriate to mark the death this morning of autobiographer, comix legend and music critic Harvey Pekar, since (depending on your view) the former Cleveland Heights resident is right now either a) arguing with “God,” b) planting one on Billie Holiday, or c) sitting around saying, “NOW what?”

Pekar’s gift for depicting the epic struggles of everyday life was mostly channeled into his comic, “American Splendor” (later a 2004 movie auteured by Paul Giamatti), itself inspired by a friendship with the young R.Crumb. His unsentimental and award-winning prose had the brutal honesty and tender insight of a Joyce or a Steinbeck, had those gentlemen worked at Cleveland’s V.A. hospital or tangled with David Letterman. Unlike many compulsive autobiographers, Harvey himself didn’t flinch from writing about his own less-than admirable side. That’s what it means to be Pekaresquely human: to accept our flaws and brokenness as the price for a wonderful sunset, cold beer, arguing with friends and everything else worthwhile on this side of the grave.

“Zecher tzaddik livracha — the memory of the righteous is a blessing.” We’re gonna miss you, Harvey. Thanks for showing us that it’s the little things that count — and that they’re not so little after all.

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From Persephone to Canaveral

2010.07.08
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REMEMBER THE TV SERIES FIREFLY? The epic, intelligent, Star-Wars-without-aliens, Emmy Award-winning 2002 Joss Whedon production? Which Fox canceled after 14 episodes? Big fan campaign spawned the 2005 cinematic sequel Serenity? A feat unequaled since Star Trek v. NBC c. 1968? Remember?

If yes: Did you know that since June 19, 2007, the complete DVD sets of both series and film have been whizzing overhead every 90 minutes or so on the International Space Station? Neither did I, until I happened across the blog Breaking Atmo: Serenity to ISS on STS-117 written by one of the fellows who put them there. The blog’s not been updated since that tremendous day (or shortly after), but if you’re at all a Browncoat (or just want to be shiny) you’d best not be ignorant of this. Dong ma?

If no: It’s not too late for you[1]. Rent or buy them today; you’ll want to see each of these again at least twice (except maybe for part of “War Stories”). Seriously. Ferstehen?

(PS to Mr. Whedon, who in these days of technowonderment may even be reading this: Thank you, sir, for creating the quintessential retroseminal space opera. You’ve really upped the ante for, and inspired the hell out of, the rest of us.)

[1] For another view from our couch, see Ann’s excellent http://sacredwilderness.net/2010/07/why-you-need-to-watch-firefly-and-serenity/.

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Sizing Science Fiction

2010.06.17
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ADMIT IT: YOU’VE ALWAYS WANTED to compare the Millenium Falcon to a Danube-class runabout. Well, they’re about the same length according to Jeff Russell’s STARSHIP DIMENSIONS. SD scales nearly every species, starship and space station in the visual science-fiction universe (I mean, he’s got Robbie the Robot and the whale probe from Star Trek IV and the space stations from 2001 and DS9 and even real vehicles like the Apollo rockets and ISS and and and GoshWowBoyOBoy).

Metaphorager say: 5 beanies. Click ‘em out.

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Pithyism #2.35

2010.05.22
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THE FIRST TIME, YOU SEE/READ/HEAR IT for the story; the second time for nuance; third (and thereafter) is sheer love of craft.

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5 Thoughts: DS9 Reruns

2010.05.04
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1. SATURDAY NIGHT, STARBASE 33 MINYAN (Ann‘s and my official Couch Potato Lodge) commenced to go where two geeks had lately gone before: the entire seven-season, 149-episode run of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. We first encountered this most operatic of the Trek offerings less than a year ago, about a day after discovering them through a popular online DVD service[1]; despite being raised on the original and animated series and enthralled by the Next Generation, I/we missed most of DS9 after its premiere back in 1993. Seeing it once through only made us want to see it again — the word “operatic” accurately describes DS9′s scope and themes, and this time ’round we also wanted to pay attention to the detail.

2. Chief among these is the amazing amount of character development: something which the first two series lacked, but without which DS9 wouldn’t be DS9. It’s set on a space station on the edge of civilization, so that unlike TOS/TNG the main characters have to deal with each week’s problems instead of fleeing them at warp speed. (Just like life, at least for those with the courage to live it.) Complex characters call for able actors, and DS9′s ensemble are all Shakespeare veterans of one or another stripe. We don’t have many rules here at Starbase 33[2], but chief among them[3] is that suspension of disbelief doesn’t just happen — even for a well-grounded universe like Star Trek‘s.

3. Apparently, the show’s religious elements — primarily the development and applications of Bajoran theology — honked off a number of otherwise fans. For myself and Ann, the religious elements are some of the most appealing in that they deal with the day-to-day life of “the faithful” without recourse to stereotype (TNG did this when they made Worf a sort of Klingon ba’al teshuvah: he’d been raised by humans and had to learn for himself what it meant to be Klingon). Such characterizations are few and far between (although I’m writing some m’self); religious folks are usually fanatics, and while DS9 has plenty of those (especially among the Bajorans and the Jem’Hadar) the writers are careful not to make that the main aspect[4].

4. One thing that did bother me is the heavy use of homage/derivative stories, especially in the later seasons. We seem to have reached a culutral point where recycled injokery stands in place of creativity. I imagine part of that is due to the intense pressure under which weekly television productions operate, but as a viewer, it just makes me wonder what better line / funnier gag / more interesting effect might have been. In SFnal productions, and DS9 in particular, such homage is hard to spot without the encyclopedic knowledge most fen carry like a business card. Much of DS9′s humor derives from same, in fact — but you don’t need that to enjoy the series.

5. Two must-have, double-bag websites will greatly enhance your viewing experience: Memory Alpha (http://memory-alpha.org) is the online Talmud of all things Star Trek (try this random page if you don’t believe me); Jammer’s Reviews (http://www.jammersreviews.com/st-ds9/s1/) cover TOS, TNG, DS9, VOY, ENT and all 11 feature films (if you count Star Trek V). They’re great to read after a strenuous evening’s sedentation.

NOTES:
[1] Name withheld to encourage custom at your local DVD shop.
[2] Three axioms: a) Good science fiction is about ideas. b) Great science fiction is about characters. c) The best science fiction is about the human condition.
[3] Our Prime Directive: If it’s well-written, -directed and -acted, we don’t care what it’s about.
[4] For more on the links between religion and science fiction, see http://metaphorager.net/posse-commentatus/.

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5Thoughts: 21st Century SciFiFlix

2010.04.26
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FROM SOMEONE WHO WAS 15 when the first Star Wars premiered, and has recently been introducing the wife to the pre-1977 fruits of sfnal cinema:

1.) Though splashier, CGI doesn’t provide half the sense of wonder these days as models. “You mean somebody built that? With their hands? WOW.”

2.) Those films have aged least which most successfully combine visceral message with kitbashed production values. (When’s the last time you saw Silent Running, Soylent Green or even Dark Star?)

3. WHAT’S with all the DAMN VAMPIRES? Robots are less pretentious and, unless they’re C3PO, can be just as scary.

4. As we move into the 21st century — my generation’s cultural event horizon; remember wondering whether 1984 would resemble 1984?) — I’m beginning to understand the truth that the past is an inaccessible country. Once upon a time, there was an unanticipatable future to look toward; today, our dreams more resemble the tools we use to construct them. (Which isn’t bad; after all, we’re still dreaming, and doing so with greater togetherness. And yet I miss the hand-drawn days, free of ironic self-commentary, when men were men and “derivative” was still “seminal.”)

5. I’ve finally gotten over not having a jetpack. And a transfer booth. But foregoing a 100-mile-up HoJo lunch: not so much. (And whatever happened to Space Food Sticks?!?)

HoJo, per 2001: A space odyssey

Howard Johnson, c. 2001

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Live Long and Kosh — er, Prosper

2009.06.04
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IT’S NOT ALWAYS NEWS WHEN a rabbi writes a book — but when he writes about Vulcans, Ferengi and Klingons, it’s bound to raise at least one fascinated eyebrow (I’m looking at you, Spock).

Rabbi Yonassan Gershom‘s Jewish Themes In Star Trek is exactly what the title says it is. As part of its recent release Rabbi G. has assembled a JTiST portal with more than two dozen links to Trek-related Judaica, from the origin of the Vulcan hand salute to whether or not Ferengi are anti-Semitic stereotypes (he doesn’t think so, and neither do I). He also tackles some of the issues raised by J. J. Abrams’ latest Star Trek film, both Jewish and fannish, and seems to intuit the unspeakable truth of Nerd Religion. Diftor heh smusmah, and mazel tov!

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Invasion of the Sound Creatures

2009.06.03
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TITANIC THINGS ARE LURCHING ABOUT your neighborhood with awful speed and clumsiness — and by the time you finish reading this, you’ll hear them too.

I speak not of the consequences attending long-term medication, nor of some Lovecraftian horror rolling beneath the surface of reality, nor the start of Sonoma‘s tourist season. I speak of the ubiquitous and near-subsonic “swooshhhhhhh-BOOM” which has shouldered aside fanfares and instrumental flourishes in the modern mediasphere.

You’ve heard it. You must have. It can’t be escaped. As the product appears, a bassy “swoooshhhhhhh” as of Cyclopean wings circles the soundscape followed by a deep rumbling “BOOM.” Sometimes it’s just the “BOOM.” Or several in sequence, like an undead Godzilla tipsily shambling toward the theater/iPod/living room.

Or you might not have noticed it during the past terrible ten years; you might have been unwittingly seduced by the infrasonic siren’s call. Seduced into thinking that the product is brilliant. Brilliant enough to swallow every last box-office dollar and make you beg to give it even more.

But no. I am foolish. These … Things won’t bear revelation. They don’t want us to notice, those huge swooshhhing BOOMS with the BOOM and the BOOM and the BOOM and the have a beer commercial. Forget me. In fact, forget you even clicked here.

But don’t forget to listen.

I only wish I could.

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Why Star Trek Worked — And Lord of the Rings Didn’t

2009.05.14
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THE ONLY THING THAT BUGGED me about the new Star Trek movie — and that only for the first 20 minutes — was that it didn’t look “retro” enough; as though Mr. Abrams’ idea of “early Star Trek” was taken from the first films rather than the original series.

That disappointment was much more fleeting than the one which still accompanies another mythical relandscaping, Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings. Sure, he got a lot right — including the balrog issue — but like many fen I loudly objected to Jackson’s character-monkeying (e.g., the emasculation of Aragorn) and addition of narrative-twisting scenes neither in the book nor appropriate to it. Not because I’m a purist (even though I am); adapting a Beloved Work from text to image, or from older image to newer image, almost always requires sacrifices, edits, and rewrites. And if you’re lucky or good enough to be in such a position you’ll soon split the fan base along love-hate lines depending on whose vision you ruined.

But even though Abrams’ Star Trek employs a couple of revisionist touches in look (2000s sweaty for 1960s antiseptic) and continuity (the planet Vulcan turns out to have been destroyed by time-travelling Romulans before Kirk and Spock can go mano-a-lirpa in “Amok Time”), he didn’t mess with the characters. Kirk, Spock, Uhura, McCoy, Chekov, Sulu, Scotty — they’re played by the next generation (puntended) of actors, but their essential Kirkness, Spockness, et al is intact.

And that contains a lesson for religiospiritual seekers of modern mind and purist bent. I can’t speak for members of other traditional religions who try to balance ancientry with innovation, but Jewish communal organizations have recently been floating a number of well-intentioned “repackaging” initiatives designed to make the old attractive to the new. As Jewish tradition is all about reinterpretation, we have something of a 3,000-year head start on the process. Yet many of these initiatives seem to assume that Judaism can’t speak for itself — that it has to be changed in order to suit 21st Century palates. But at what point, then, does it cease to “be” Judaism?

E. g.: Aragorn a la Jackson. By Tolkien, Aragorn knows exactly who he is: the last son of a line of noble kings trying to restore a united realm and win the hand of his love. By Jackson, he’s just another afraid-of-his-destiny Kevin Costnerism. That may play well in our no-heroes-without-ironic-flaws era. But it’s also inauthentic and dishonest, robbing both character and work of integrity and intended meaning.

An authentic Spock doesn’t need to be played by Leonard Nimoy, or even to have pointed ears — but he does need to struggle with his twin-world identities, just as many Jews do whether they live in the United States, Russia or Iran. Likewise, an authentic adaptation of anything must maintain the source’s integrity — instead of changing it beyond recognition by those who know and love it.

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So then Ann Says:

2008.02.04
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… as we’re watching EpsIII-IV last night: “Animal Wilhelm.”

(Bwahaha; that is, if you like the idea of grafting the Scream onto appropriate footage.) (John Wayne jumping on a horse, say.)

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