Trump World Grab-Bag--A Collection

Monday, July 24, 2017

There's More to Life than Politics, I Guess

For just a moment, I want to touch on what a really great time it is for sf/fantasy in my book. I mean, I think Wonder Woman was one of the best blockbuster movies this year, and am completely happy about the potential of the coming sequel and pretty jazzed about the Justice League trailer. I'm going to preface this with a brief disquisition that will probably make your eyes glaze over if you come here strictly for the politics stuff and maybe even if, like me, you are a geek. 

I liked Batman Vs. Superman. There, I said it. Furthermore, I think Affleck as Batman is actually, among other things, what an Affleck might even be good for. He physically is Bruce Wayne/Batman-sized. He somehow inhabits Bats' obsessions and trauma vs. privileged intersections. I think the Christ-symbolism with Cavill's Superman was kind of heavy, but the addition of Wonder Woman, and the later good, solid, origin-story Wonder Woman tale, and the way both establish that meta-humans are now part of reality, were not bad--just possibly waiting for something like JL to break out the way Marvel's Avengers did. (I like Justice League just because--they were my playground pantheon.)

Speaking of Avengers--I've got a lot of love for Thor: Ragnarok. So, how would we make a Thor movie good for me--okay, be a Thor Movie, have Loki and maybe another character like the Hulk. Greeeeeaaaat. How would I make that better ? Okay, Cate Blanchet is the baddie and there's Jeff Goldblum.  And now I'm so...take my money!

Also excited for Black Panther! (Okay, what the Marvel films are doing is basically creating a thing where I just need to give them my money. How they have not realized that a Black Widow movie is the best way to make feminists give up the ducats is not a thing I totally understand, but I get that they are having a major creative arc--this is how they made me buy all the comic books in the 90's. I both still feel like the biggest mark and enjoy the sheer world-building escapism. But going with Black Panther's world is also a challenge they want to live up to. )

But why stop with the perv suits? Here's a great disturbance in the SF force--Doctor Who looks like a lady! I don't know why this is shocking for anyone--I don't know why the qualities that make a good character, like wit, strength, ethics, etc., suddenly can't be applied to virtually anyone regardless of gender. It seems to me like just having wit, strength, ethics, etc., should be really good things to display no matter who has them. It isn't like heroism is gender-specific at all--and I don't know why gender-attitudes of mostly "ancient" Earthlings should apply to Gallifreyans anyway. I look forward to Jodie Whittaker's adventures. 

Here's another entertainment I am here for in body and spirit--A Wrinkle in Time. Give me math and science nerds and love saving the day from conformity and totalitarianism  with the help of stars and witches. Give me Ana DuVernay to plumb these depths. So in, is me.  In like a very waiting and happy thing. 

Also--there is a new Star Trek in the works! I love Star Trek.  I even liked Star Trek: Enterprise where time travelling scientist Sam Beckett was somehow in the body of an Earth starship captain until he eventually solved the timeline by creating the Federation of Planets or something. I wasn't the biggest fan of that theme song, although I can sing it in a weaponized fashion. But this Star Trek is going to have ladies and gays even. I'm being snarkful. But still-yay SF diversitude!

But here's my favorite up-and-coming thing--a Stargate web series based on Catherine Langford. Oh, Stargate. You know I do love some period-based sciencing and adventurism. I love the idea of a trained historian venturing through the stargate with early 20th century know-how and spirit. It could be a fascinating exploration--here for it. Here for how she would respond to what she sees, how it changes her. I am entirely in. 

Also for books? I am recommending The Laundry Files: Delirium Brief. In light of what is happening in the US gov't, Stross's vision regarding new and untried takeovers of government without institutional know-how combined with an outside threat actually made me shiver a bit. Really good, though.


mikey said...

Great to see you exploring other topics than just the weeks Trump idiocy. Interesting insight into your views on entertainment. Thanks.

I have written extensively for years of my disdain for super heroes - actually for super powers, which are nothing but the most obvious mindless Deus ex machina. I've never understood how super powers make the conflict in a story interesting in any way, and in my lived experience the ultimate super power was a well trained combat operator with advanced weapons. Beyond that guy and his killing ability, we all struggle away with an approximately equal set of strengths and weaknesses. I won't pound away any further on the topic here - these kinds of movies are obviously quite popular so it's pretty clear I'm the outlier here.

As an aside, in a slightly different SF genre (steampunk), our dear friend on the intert00bz Robin Bennis (@accordingtorobin) has published her first novel - The Guns Above - through Tor books. It's in bookstores now and she's on a book tour. Steampunk is not exactly my cup of tea, but it's SO incredible to see one of our peeps having commercial success as an author...

Formerly Amherst said...

Hi Vixen, I think I would probably be in between you and Mikey relative to my appreciation for science fiction movies. (And I agree with Mikey that our special ops people with advanced weapons almost seem like fantasy heroes except that it's all real, and that isn't pretty.) For me the characters are adopted from comic books, and that is exactly what the movies are, comic book movies. And I can enjoy them on that level. It's sad that you can't really make a good movie about some of the most astounding people in history. Sometimes a movie about those people would just be pictures of people reading and underlining books or spending hours in deep meditation.

We went to see Dr. Strange (we had to drive to another town where they have a movie theather), and I was disappointed. The tendency today is to turn everything into an action movie. Previously supernatural movies were eerie, mysterious, and today it's just some guy in a ski masks with a chain saw.

Before he died, Ebert explained that nowadays movies are primarily made for the 18-to-24 year old audience whereas in the old days the scripts had to pass muster for adults who regularly went to cinematic temples. Back in the day, movie theaters had huge mahogany columns with Aphrodite figures holding bunches of grapes, other things carved in relief, all in rooms with high enough ceilings for balconies. Finally, there were purple and wine colored curtains majestically drawn back when the first reel started. We lost something when that was replaced with boxes holding 6 or 8 movies.

There's one genre of superhero movie that really stands out with a difference. There are films whose central character is blind but who has perfected some of the miraculous things that some blind people can do. (Some say Helen Keller could walk into a room and tell you what color the curtains were... and her favorite author was Emanuel Swedenborg.)

There have been a few movies that have capitalized on this but were fantasy oriented. But in 1942 Eyes in the Night, adapted from a book of the period. It starred Edward Arnold, Ann Harding, and Donna Reed.
Arnold played a detective who was blinded in the war and who had perfected some amazing talents. He could do hand-to-hand combat in a way that is not unrealistic. We have had blind wrestlers who have been very accomplished, so anyone who laid a hand instantly told our central character exactly where the bad guy was and what counter was required. He had a seeing-eye dog that was also trained for guard dog duties and also delivered messages. So if Arnold's character was in trouble, he could say, “go get so and so” and off would go the German shepherd. It was believable in terms of the willing suspension of disbelief. And of course written for 40-year-olds who went to the movies. (Donna Reed looked like a million bucks.)

Vixen Strangely said...

I think one of the weirder things about today's movies is that they are written for a younger audience, but I sometimes think they were written for my teen-through-20-something self. A lot of the superhero movie genre being heavily exploited right now depends a little bit a lot on that fan (guilty raised hand) who sort of really went in for the comic book scene. If this material might be new for millennial audiences, it's nostalgia to me. But I get what you mean about theatres being palaces. There was a lovely theater on Castor Ave, the Tyson, that had a splendid interior: (I can't recall entirely what it looked like or find an exact picture of the inside as it was--and I haven't been back on location to see if it was maintained, I think it's a furniture store, now.) Like the Crest, the Mayfair, etc., these were dreamplaces that brought you into the idea that you were now entering a place of artifice and illusion. I always feel like it's a shame when one of these structures is lost--they just had a great vibe.

I see meta-human hero movies as distinctly problematic now mostly because of the ethical problems--freaky powers outside of human abilities don't jibe well with human ideas about law and justice, and while the themes of how heroes stay within or necessarily go outside those lines, I always think, "But what if someone just wants to be an accountant even though they can (scale walls, shoot lasers, control weather)?" (There is a vampire accountant series of books I came across on Amazon--might have to try them.)

And then there's the "age of miracles" factor: the age of miracles isn't past, but sort of now-ish. I can't count the movies and old tv shows I've wrecked for myself just by think "And this would not have happened, if they were all carrying smartphones." Batman and Iron Man both rely a lot on tech for their abilities (and sacks of money). I do wonder if transhumanist ideas about tech augmentation or gene manipulation don't threaten to make what was fantasy next year's hula hoop or Rubik's Cube.

Vixen Strangely said...

(Being an old town--Philadelphia was ripe with that kind of theater. Today's megaplexes aren't the same--although I will admit AMC's reclining seats are pretty damn comfy--that's a seat for a forty-something bottom!)