Tags: movies


I saw Transformers yesterday, and I've come to a conclusion which will explain it. Michael Bay is a robot. It is the only way someone can make a film in which the robot scenes are, for the most part, fun and exciting (as long as they don't talk), and where the human beings behave as some mechanical intelligence believes they might. The people spoke and acted like they were written by a toaster: he was trying to get humans right -- he just couldn't quite get the hang of them. 

This is one of the most insulting movies I've ever seen. Now I've seen Michael Bay films before, so I know what to expect. I came in there prepared for a lot, and I got all of it: the American military fetishization, slow motion shots of people holding hands with heart-lifting music, A-list actors slumming for a paycheck (in this case, John Turturro and Jon Voight), insane plot developments (at one point a special forces team turns on other members of the American government on the baseless word of some kid they just met who loves his pet robot, and the Secretary of Defense, who's standing nearby, goes along with it all). And explosions. Lots of explosions.

The explosions were cool. The scene in the beginning where a robot attacks a military base looked great, and at that point I was optimistic. There's a neat scene where Starscream, the evil jet, gets into a dogfight with other jets over LA. But then, you know, people started talking, and I wept into my popcorn.

I could have done without the crass stereotypes, too. The fat guy who eats an entire plate of doughnuts while waiting in an interrogation room, spreading crumbs in a three foot radius around him on the table (who then gives up his friend in the most excrutiatingly telegraphed "joke" I've ever seen in a movie); the soldier who is always lapsing into Spanish and has to be reminded by his cohorts to speak English (nothing like right-wing propoganda to make a movie go down easy), and the black characters who yell and clown and have crazy mothers who give them the finger or are worried about the carpet when the FBI storms the house. 

Just typing this, I find myself getting pissed off. And I'm equally pissed off at the people who grew up with the toys and the cartoons who are checking their brains and their ethics at the door so they can agree to like this turd. So let me sum up:

Fuck this reductivist, stereotyping, racist, right-wing, anti-intellectual movie. And fuck Michael Bay.

Readercon, and comments on a documentary

Right now it appears I may be able to go to Readercon. It depends on finances, mostly, but if I scrimp and save and basically feed myself and the little one with cockroaches, I think it's possible. I'd be flying up there with Dale Bailey, a good friend and a wonderful writer whose collection The Resurrection Man's Legacy should be required reading for lovers of the genre and lovers of beautiful prose. Lucius Shepard will be Guest of Honor there, which is reason enough to go all by itself. I first met Lucius a couple of years ago in New Orleans when he dropped by a SF writers workshop run by Andy Fox. He came to the bar where I worked the following day and drank a lot of Jack Daniels and told a lot of stories (including a couple sweet ones about Richard Ford), and I got to enjoy the rare experience of discovering that the writer I've admired for many years is actually a pretty cool dude in real life, too. But I also want to go because I've heard a lot of good things about Readercon, and because I was born in Massachusetts but haven't been there since I was a toddler, and because it'll be nice to hang out with Dale, and with Robert Wexler if he can make it, and ... well, you get the picture. It'll be cool. It might break me, but it'll be cool.

Last night I watched General Idi Amin Dada, the 1974 documentary by Barbet Schroeder, in preparation for finally watching The Last King of Scotland. Idi Amin, dictator of Uganda from 1971 to 1979, was practically a collaborator in this documentary, even getting credit for the soundtrack. It's a fascinating portrait. I confess I was lulled into laughter at some points in the film, especially during an absurd sequence in which he stages a mock invasion of the Golan Heights in a scene reminiscent of Malcolm McDowell leading the Romans in an attack against the ocean in Caligula. Idi Amin comes off as childlike: he is disproportionately proud of his military hardware, directing the cameraman to capture a couple of passing jets as they fly over, or a helicoptor as it comes in for a landing; he is petulant when confronted with uncomfortable questions or faced with even the mildest challenge to his authority; and he is remarkably vapid in his speeches to his cabinet and professional gatherings, delivering little more than vague pep talks laced with threat. The dark humor inherent in the film is of course undermined by the reality of the stacks of dead he left in his wake. If he was like a child, then he was like a petulant, unloved, unloving child filled with hubris and blessed with the awful gift of near-unlimited power. As if the death toll of approximately 300,000 wasn't enough, he managed to destroy Uganda's economy, as well, before living out his days in a peaceful exile in Saudi Arabia. 

Since I haven't yet figured out how to post a video in the middle of a real post, I'll link to a collection of scenes from the documentary here. Check it out.

A little bit about painting, and a movie reviewlet

Yesterday was  my day off from Biltmore, so I went with my brother to one of the sites he's painting and tried to learn a little of the craft. The site is temporarily stalled because of some water-pipe troubles, so work for painters is coming in slowly. Yesterday we had to prep two houses and prime one. Prepping, I learned, consists primarilty of going inside and covering all windows with clear plastic to prevent them from being spattered by paint during priming. We also had to cover the bathtub and fireplace fixtures. This was all simple enough; you staple the plastic right into the bare sheet-rock, and worry about covering the holes and sanding them down later. The only difficulty here arose with the skylights: those fuckers are really high. One house had its skylight situated directly over the staircase, which means we had to place the ladder on the stairs themselves. Not surprisingly, a device is made for just this purpose, effectively extending one stair enough to support a ladder. Still, it seemed pretty precarious work to me. 

Afterwards, we just laid down the prime coat. You just find yourself a neutral color (Relaxed Khaki, in this case) and use a spray gun to go over every room in the house. It doesn't have to be even or even pretty: that all comes later, with the primary coat. So it's easy if tedious work, made bearable by the fact that my brother and I could bullshit throughout the day about story ideas, movies we'd seen, and whether or not Iron Man sold out during the Civil War (he didn't, haters!). 

Later that day I saw 28 Weeks Later, which I had been entirely prepared to skip until I read Lucius Shepard's comments on it, followed by an enthusiastic review from A.O. Scott at The New York Times. It's directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, who made Intacto a few years ago, and it's a pretty damn good flick. It takes place during the early stages of an American-led effort to return the exiled British community to their island, and is set entirely in London. It's not as scary as the first one -- this one derives its scares from abrupt cuts, explosions of noise, and frenetic editing, which usually irritates the piss out of me but was well executed here. (Well, there is a scene with three people stumbling around in the dark, with only one night-vision gun sight between them to see by, which was creepy as hell.) This one's more of a thriller with zombies than a horror movie, but that's hardly a bad thing. What impressed me most about this was its unrelenting pessimism, and its absolute refusal to fall in love with its own characters. Sequels, I think, tend to be smaller and kinder than their progenitors, but in this case the opposite is true. My only real complaint was that one particular zombie kept showing up, which was a complete contrivance culminating in a scene which did not have any of the pathos I think it was meant to have ... but that's a small detail. It's a sweet little zombie flick, with a great ending. You should see it.

Good days

It's days like this that make the others worth it. My daughter and I woke up late and went down to try a new breakfast place (the check for "North American Lake Monsters" arrived, so I thought we'd treat ourselves). It was expensive for breakfast, but good. Then we came home and she practiced riding her bike down a hill. Instead of getting frustrated, she looked at me wisely and said, "It's okay if I make a mistake, Dad. That's just part of the life cycle of practice." You have no idea what a relief it is to hear her say that! Now we're inside watching The Iron Giant, one of the finest kids' movies I've ever seen (I particularly love the black and white crawling brain movie Hogarth watches near the beginning!), and later we'll go out and practice on the bike some more. Tonight, work on the White Wolf project and the new short story. Then a story or two from M. Rickert's collection, and sleep. 

Tomorrow I begin learning the house painting craft; we may be getting our first contract this week.

It's a good life. 


Update: Mia's Zenlike patience came to an end recently. She was biking uphill, standing off the seat to provide more power to her legs. I said, "All right, kiddo! That's the way to do it!", whereupon she fell over and skinned her knee. In a fury beheld but once every hundred years, she informed me that "I'LL NEVER TRUST YOU AGAIN!"  A short while later, in case I hadn't fully grasped the gravity of the situation, she yelled, "I hate science! I hate art! I hate everything!"

I'm pleased to report that all is again well, after the careful application of Mint Cookie Ice Cream.