vonniek: (BLebowski: Lazy Dude)
Movie-watching is srs bnz in Toronto during TIFF. Ticket holders line up for an hour+ in fickle weather, just so that they could get a good seat in a packed theater screening some obscure French documentary. I've become quite familiar with certain blocks in downtown Toronto, having spent hours per day in various line-ups for the past week. I've also found that four movies a day are one movie too many. There have been days when I went, "wait, what did I see the first thing today?"

The festival is almost done (just 2 days to go! *sadface*). Stand-outs so far:

Maren Ade's Toni Erdmann, which is an almost 3 hour-long German comedy of embarrassment centered on a relationship between a prankster father and his uber straight-laced daughter. Sounds terrible on paper, but it just kept unfolding in directions I wasn't expecting -- it meanders here and there, squirmy at first, then at turns heartbreaking, weird and lovely, then flat-out, doubled-over-in-hysterics hilarious in parts. The best comedies have a vein of sorrow running through them -- this is one of those films. It also features an unforgettable karaoke rendition of a Whitney Houston song that made my theater burst into a spontaneous applause, like when was the last time *that* happened in your movie theater?

La La Land by Damien Chazelle, who made Whiplash. In a word: SWOOOOOON. The mood invoked by its dreamy trailer is spot on. This is a go-for-broke throwback musical without a cynical bone in its body, starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, who are much better actors than they are singers, but no matter. It's a gorgeous, fanciful love letter to Los Angeles, edged by a melancholic streak a mile wide, which was my favourite thing about it, naturally. Also, I need the soundtrack IMMEDIATELY.

Park Chan Wook's The Handmaiden, I suspect, will not be for everyone. It's beautiful but kind of bonkers, not to mention LURID AS FUCK. I have heard of but have not read Sarah Water's Fingersmith on which this movie is reportedly based, and now I am mad curious to see whether some of the more outré elements from the movie are taken from the book. Uh, probably not that scene near the end that features Park's trademark stylized violence (which is mercifully confined to that one scene). What surprised the hell out of me was how riotously *funny* this movie is. It is brimful of profane witticisms throughout, not surprising in a film where the characters are constantly trying to one-up one another. Its politics are fascinating -- there are of course the many twists and turns of its sexual politics. Then there is the transplantation of the story from Victorian England to colonial Korea under Japanese rule, which sets the film up for some glorious real estate and costume porn, and serves as the backdrop for interesting identity politics. Both of the major male characters, who are Koreans, try to pass themselves off as Japanese aristocrats, and the movie has a great time poking fun at their attempts at self invention that is also the negation of their national identity. The notion of reinvention of self is an ongoing theme through the movie, for good or ill and everything inbetween -- there is a lot to unpack there. I have to agree with some of the critics though -- its several explicit f/f love scenes are filmed in a super male-gazy way. I mean, the *content* prioritizes female pleasure, but the camera does not. But that reservation aside, I had a rollicking good time watching this exquisitely-made, OTT florid Gothic lesbian romance on drugs. Pro-tip: don't watch it with your parents! Also: LOL OCTOPUS

Manchester by the Sea by Kenneth Lonergan: I saw this a couple of days ago with very little prior knowledge of what it was about -- I knew it starred Casey Affleck and was about Affleck's character dealing with his brother's death. I won't say much more since I think the best way to see this movie is to go into it relatively blind and let the story unfold gradually. I will go as far as to say that this is probably the best movie I've seen about grief and how a profound personal loss can affect both the individuals and the community since The Sweet Hereafter 20 years ago (talk about a high bar). In terms of sheer emotional impact, it might have been my favourite film in the festival -- I basically spent the last third of the film silently weeping, then walked around downtown for the rest of the day an emotional wreck. That makes it sound dreary but it's not, not at all. At the heart of the movie is the relationship between Affleck's character, who is a broken shell of a man, and his 16-year-old nephew, which is this rich and lovely living thing peppered with equal parts heartache and wonderful dry humour. At almost every turn, the movie avoids hackneyed traps and manages to come across both specific and universal. It asks, how can a person, who has zero spoons left, offer emotional support to someone in need in time of crisis? The answer proves to be tremendously rewarding and not at all facile. It also has some of the most effective use of flashbacks I've seen in films in recent years. The only thing I was not 100% on board with was some of its musical cues, which felt at times heavy-handed.

Also, Affleck is gonna win an Oscar come next February. You heard it here first. (No, okay, critics have been saying this since it debuted at Sundance back in January this year but whatever!)

Denis Villeneuve's Arrival was one of my most anticipated film of this festival going in, and by and large, it does an admirable job adapting Ted Chiang's short story ("The Story of Your Life") with its tricky emotional tone intact. Amy Adams plays Dr. Louise Banks, a linguist called upon to help translate an alien language during Earth's first extraterrestrial encounter, and hers is a quiet, interior performance that nevertheless conveys a great deal without saying much. The aliens -- Heptapods -- are marvellously realized, and the way their written language is depicted on the screen (never explicitly described in the short story, if I recall) is cleverly done indeed. I did have a few niggles though, which I can't elaborate without getting into spoiler territory. In the story, there is no purpose revealed behind Heptapods' visit to Earth. This apparently proved to be too nebulous for the producers, thus they concocted a vague future threat against which humans and Heptapods would need to collaborate sometime down the road. Okay, fair enough. But they also added a threat of major military conflicts on earth in response to the alien landing (agitated by China and Russia, natch) to ante up the dramatic stake, which might be a realistic response but made me nonetheless cranky due to its conventionality. One significant, likely necessary, change, that shifts the emotional revelation to the end rather than the middle, is that the audience is not made immediately privy to the nature of Louise's vision of her daughter, which she starts experiencing in the middle of the work with the Heptapods. Adams portrays Louise as a grave soul who looks somewhat wounded from the beginning (plus Adams looks ageless enough that she could pass anywhere from early 30's to late 40's in the film), so the natural conclusion at the onset is that the birth and death of her daughter was the a loss in her past. So when the revelation comes in piecemeal in the final few scenes (showing Jeremy Renner's physicist character as the father of her child, ending with the moment of the child's conception), it makes a substantial emotional impact. That is, if one had not known of this "twist" in advance. For someone familiar with the story, the emotional resonance felt significantly more muted. Also, I kinda wish they'd found a way to inform the audience of the main hook of the story -- that the increasing familiarity with Heptapod B alters one's experience of chronology, and what that says about free will vs. determinism -- other than as an exposition-dump with a voice-over from Renner's character. I mean, I don't know how else they could have done it, but I feel like there should have been another way to make this more weighty. These reservations aside, it's a beautifully made, thoughtful SF film with very fine performances and I am already looking forward to watching it again when it comes out.

Elle by Paul Verhoeven deals with the aftermath of a violent sexual assault the main character (named Michèle, a CEO of a video game producing company played by Isabelle Huppert) experiences at her home. The way she reacts to the rape is unusual to say the least, and the movie turns into a mesmerizing character study and shockingly, something of a black comedy, which left me confused and alarmed about my own emotional response because, well, the comedic parts are very black and also very funny. The thing is, I can't imagine any woman reacting to a severe trauma like this the way Michèle does. Except the movie makes a passable case for why she is made the way she is (she's given a very unusual background) and Isabelle Huppert is so fucking amazing in the role, you buy everything she is selling for the duration of the film. I suspect many would find the movie unconscionable. All I can say is that I couldn't take my eyes off the screen.


Impressions on a few others:

Terrence Malick's Voyage of Time is... not precisely a documentary but some type of philosophical statement about Life, Time, Universe, and Everything. It is utterly breathtaking to look at, and Cate Blanchett contributes ponderous narration, sounding like Galadriel on a bunch of heavy narcotics. I saw this on an afternoon from a nosebleed balcony seat at the grand Princess of Wales theater, my stomach full of fantastic Thai food, and almost fell asleep in the middle of it. To wit: I don't think I'm not the right audience for what Malick is selling. I also found myself suuuuper irritated with its use of brown and black bodies in extremis as a convenient shorthand for human suffering. Critics seem to love it, so blah blah not my beautiful cake but may be yours, etc.

Burn Your Maps, dir. by Jordan Roberts: In a family ravaged by a recent death of an infant daughter, their son, a 8-year-old boy, suddenly decides he is a Mongolian goat-herder at heart (they are Caucasian) and starts dressing the part, floating goats and eagles made of toilet paper and all. This is framed as his way of coping with the loss and while the premise is, uh, somewhat Orientalist to say the least, I gotta say the journey proved to be quite enjoyable, mostly on the strength of a funny script and very fine performances by Vera Farmiga as the boy's mother and the ADORABLE Jacob Tremblay (the little boy from Room last year) as the boy in question. In the middle of the film, they of course all go off to Mongolia and have healing, enlightening experiences aided by helpful locals. I KNOW. It sounds terrible, but I found myself charmed nevertheless, almost against my will. Tremblay participated in the Q&A after the showing and I nearly had kittens, 'cause GODDAMN that kid is cute.

Terry George's The Promise is a handsomely-mounted historical epic chronicling Armenian genocide at the hands of the Turks in 1910's, while doubling as a love triangle. Despite the presence of Oscar Isaac and Christian Bale, this turned out to be something of a dud -- it's a painfully old-fashioned film, which never met a cliché it didn't like. It could have been made in 1950's without a single change. I mean, it wasn't a hardship to sit through the film due to the aforementioned pretty (both the scenery and the actors) but I'd expected better. Ah well.

Jim Jarmusch is often a hit or miss for me but I quite enjoyed Paterson, a small film with quotidian pleasures, centered on one of those rare birds -- a portrayal of a happy, functional relationship. It's an odd choice of role for Adam Driver (he plays a taciturn bus driver/poet in a small New Jersey town), who's made a career out of playing unhinged weirdos, but he acquits himself here quite well. And as his significant other, Golshifteh Farahani is adorable playing a character who could have easily been insufferable. On its own, it proved to be a bit too uneventful for my personal tastes (3 PM showing also meant I was fighting post-lunch lassitude) but it wormed its way into my graces at the end. Its cadre of oddball supporting characters (full 70% of whom are persons of colour) is uniformly endearing, and stealing every scene he is in, is this squat-faced cranky little English bulldog named Marvin. Paterson/Marvin 4eva!

A United Kingdom by Amma Asante reminded me quite a bit of the director's first feature, Belle. Which is to say that it's a handsome historical biopic centered on an extraordinary (but not widely known) person of colour. David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike play the leads, as the tribal prince of what is now Botswana and the English girl he marries against all odds. The actors are very fine, and the political story is interesting indeed, but... after Belle and now this, I've basically come to a conclusion that Asante is just not very good at romance. The courtship is the least interesting thing about the film. Once they are in Bechuanaland, the movie picks up considerably. Overall, I found it earnest and worthy, but I kept wishing the actual filmmaking was more interesting.

Weirdest movie I've seen in the festival: The Bad Batch by Ana Lily Amirpour, a post-apocalyptic romance between a double amputee and a cannibal (who had something to do with why our heroine does not have her right arm and the right leg, if you know what I mean AND I THINK YOU DO). I guess one's tolerance of cannibalism can be... uh, relative, since our Hero is played by Jason Momoa and happens to be 1) a fantastic artist and 2) a loving father to an adorable moppet. My imagination is sadly limited and kept tripping over the whole cannibal thing, but I am shallow like that. My favourite part of the movie, actually, was a hilarious turn by the totally unrecognizable Jim Carrey as the local mute hermit/garbage-cart man wandering the wasteland. I don't think it quite works as a whole, but hey, kudos to Amirpour for originality for sure.


Wow, OK, that's enough for now. I have 3 films to see today from 3 PM to 9PM, so off to downtown I go. Despite the crazy schedule, I AM HAVING THE BEST TIME. It's gonna be an annual thing, I can tell.
vonniek: (BLebowski: Lazy Dude)
posted by [personal profile] vonniek at 12:09pm on 04/09/2016 under
The venerable Toronto International Film Festival, commonly known as TIFF, is the biggest film festival in North America. It's considered a festival for the people, since it is (or used to be) comparatively easy for regular folks to participate -- unlike Cannes' for example, which is largely for the film industry. Back in my wet-behind-the-ears days when I was actually living in the city, I used to take vacation time in September to watch movies all day long for over a week. It was both a splendid and exhausting affair. Watching up to 4-5 films a day, as you might imagine, tended to reduce one into a fetal position by the end of the day. But the next day would roll on, and I'd start afresh. AHHH YOUTH. Back then, everything was on paper. You made the selection of films you wanted to see, then lined up at holy shit-o'clock at the box office to drop off your list -- the choices were first come, first served. You wouldn't know if you got the tickets to the showings you wanted until you received your selection later in mail. If you didn't and were really keen on seeing a particular film, you'd line up in the rush line 2 hours before the movie started for those handful of tickets that might become available at the last minute. I have many fond memories of chatting to strangers about movies in the rush line -- there was a real sense of community there, certain rueful "we are all in this crazy shit together" feeling of simpatico.

Anyway, I'm going to TIFF this year for the first time since... oh man, 1998 (!) and boy howdy, Things Have Changed. For the better in some aspects as most of the process is now online, which evens things out for out-of-towners. But the rest! SO CONFUSING. There are, like, different tiers of memberships and different types of movie packages, and separate windows for folks in the tiers to buy their packages (10 movies per festival? 20? during the day? just in the evenings? only the flashy gala films with the cast in attendance?). Once you buy your package (I chose 20 regular, non-gala showings, since I don't really care about seeing movie stars), you wait to get an email from the TIFF organizers informing you of the window to make your selections. The order? Randomly assigned by the computer. Mine was this Friday at 11 AM, which was the LAST of the 5 days of selection assignment. I actually took the day off so that I could do this in peace at home, like, I was *committed* yo. I ended up getting about 3/4 of the films I wanted. THEN, 9 AM this morning marked the start of something called "the single ticket purchase day", which is when everyone else who did not buy a package beforehand can buy individual tickets. You can do this online, or in person at the box office on King Street. Some determined souls, who did not want to leave their fate to the fickle whim of the internet and the wrath of Ticketmaster, actually lined up in front of the box office yesterday and camped overnight on the street for those first dibs, as if this was the line for Hall H at Comic Con or something. The rest of us had to wrestle with getting error messages and "too many people on site, DO NOT REFRESH OR YOU WILL LOSE YOUR SPOT" at Ticketmaster site this morning, while gnawing our fingers off in stress. Anyway! I successfully procured 5 extra tickets for those screenings I couldn't get during my selection window, glory hallelujah! (Ticket availability comes and goes in semi-mysterious ways that are designed to vex you.) Now I need to go take a nap, holy shit.

Final haul: tickets for 25 films to see within a 9-day period (Friday 9/9 to Sat 9/17 -- I'm skipping the first and last days due to logistics issues), a couple of which are 4 movies/day affair. AHAHAHA OH GOD. We'll see how long I last before I cry uncle and give up on the last showing of the day. Among the list of the movies on the docket:

Arrival by Dennis Villeneuve, which is the adaptation of Ted Chiang's "Story of Your Life." I have been looking forward to this film for over a year, with particular curiosity re. how the filmmaker might tackle its tricky chronology and the relationship between linguistics and metaphysics while preserving its tender, elegiac tone. Predictably, the trailer is marketing this as a First Contact story, which it is, but only partially.

La La Land, a musical starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, which has been getting raves since it premiered at Venice Film Festival earlier this week.

Park Chan Wook's The Handmaiden, which is an adaptation of Sarah Waters' Fingersmith, with its setting transplanted to Korea under Japanese colonial rule. (!! I AM EXCITE!!)

Una, an adaptation of the stage play Blackbird, about which I've heard amazing things, starring Rooney Mara and Ben Mendelsohn.

Jim Jarmusch's Paterson. OK, this is mostly about Adam Driver, I admit, but it's been getting excellent reviews at festival circuits.

Into the Inferno, Werner Herzog's documentary about volcanoes.

Queen of Katwe, Mira Nair's biopic about Phiona Mutesi, an Ugandan chess prodigy.

I wish I could sample some of the Midnight Madness offerings, which are often horror/sci-fi films inviting audience participation. I saw there was an adaptation of The Girl with All the Gifts, which I have on my kindle but haven't read yet (TIFF has now spoiled me on its plot, thanks a bunch!). But there is just no way I can stay until 2 AM downtown and make my way back to my folks' place in North York in good enough shape to function the next day. More's the pity.

Depending on how knackered I feel during the fest, I may post updates after seeing some of these films. We'll see.

EEEE!
vonniek: (Community: Abed in space gear)
1. It wasn't that long ago that I was bemoaning how everyone had decamped off LJ/DW to those terrible other platforms but lo! You could never pry livejournal, my forever fannish home, from my cold dead hands! *looks at the last entry, which was like 2 months ago* Um.

I'm still here, sporadically reading. But mostly I'm at Tumblr, where I almost never post any original content but at least have a steady stream of reblogs (approximately 10% cute animal gifs, 5-10% vaguely political content, 15% photoshoots of hot people, 20% films, rest vaguely mediafannish stuff about interests de jour) and try hard to stay the fuck out of any fandom arguments.

I also have a twitter account, which I activated in 2010 and basically never looked at until a week ago, when I went and followed a bunch of lefty political and entertainment journalists. I blame the DNC and the circus tent on fire that has become of the Trump candidacy in its aftermath, which has now entered the realm of surreal hilarity and is impossible to look away from. I have to say though, t's nice to be able to cackle rather than being scared shitless. Anyway, if your main fannish platform is now Twitter, let me know and I'll follow you. I don't foresee posting much there other than occasional retweets, but eh. We'll see.

2. Movies seen in local multiplex in the last few months:

Captain America Civil War: Overstuffed, but nevertheless tremendous fun. Had mixed feelings about how it turned from the Political to the Personal at the end (effective emotionally, but made my brows furrow afterward) and was vaguely resentful of the way the scale seemed to tilt toward Steve and his We Know Best School of Superheroing. But not enough that it dented my enjoyment, or stopped me from going back to watch it the second time with a local fannish friend, mostly to fangirl over T'Challa. HOLY SHIT, CHADWICK BOSEMAN. I'm only marginally fannish about MCU at this point and haven't read a fic in the fandom since Age of Ultron, but overall, I'm digging the way they're expanding their universe.

Ghostbusters: Enjoyable but had too many callbacks to the original, to its detriment. I had a fun time at the theater and support its talented cast 100%, but I think Spy was a much funnier film.

Star Trek Beyond: Waaaaaay better than Into the Darkness, but the 2009 reboot still reigns supreme in my heart. I liked the way the character focus was more spread out beyond Kirk and Spock, although Sulu and Uhura still needed more things to do. Favourite part: JAYLAH OMG I LOVED HER AND WOULD READ 100,000 WORD FIC ABOUT HER IN STARFLEET ACADEMY IN A HEARTBEAT. Clever Simon Pegg, writing himself into the lion's share of scenes with her! The actress (Sofia Boutella, who played that assassin with swords for legs in the Kingsman movie) had charisma to burn and moved like a dream. It took me by zero surprise to learn that she was a dancer for most of her professional life. That said, I'm giving the movie a bit of a side-eye for casting two excellent actors of colour (Boutella and Idris Elba) and burying both of them under a bucketful of alien make-up.

The tributes to Leonard Nimoy within film and Anton Yelchin afterward were very moving.

The Lobster: *blinks* Points for originality for sure. The first half was both horrifying and hilarious and the satire there was much more tightly written. The second half didn't really work for me.

Zootopia: Gorgeous to look at, with a world-building that does not at all stand up to scrutiny. I totally ship the bunny and the fox, shut up. (Mixed sex law enforcement partnership, helloooo.) Seriously, if they didn't mean us to, they did it wrong.

Captain Fantastic: Saw this last weekend in lieu of the new Jason Bourne movie and loved it a lot. It's about this super granola father who raises his six children in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest on books and rigid physical regimen away from the civilization, which sounds horrifying. Except the father is played by Viggo Mortensen with such tremendous warmth and the kid actors are so fantastic, you kinda get swept along with it. It's gorgeously shot and acted, and has interesting things to say about parenting and personal responsibility. Ending's a bit facile, I think, but definitely worth a look. Here's the trailer.

Plannin' on giving Suicide Squad a wide berth but gotta admit, I am feeling not insignificant amount of schadenfreude at the way the folks in charge of DCEU seem to be making a royal mess of things. It's petty, I know, but I just hate Zack Snyder as a filmmaker A LOT, okay. I have zero investment in Marvel vs. DC rivalry and actually have a great deal of warm feelings toward the DC shows on TV. But it's been my long-held opinion that Snyder is a talentless hack and employing him to helm the franchise was a completely boneheaded move from TPTB, so I feel wee bit vindicated. My only worry is that this might taint the Wonder Woman movie, which I want to succeed for obvious reasons.

3. Things that I am actually fannish about right now: STAR WARS. Yep, still! I went and bought the prequels (I KNOW!) and watched the first two. The Phantom Menace is sort of watchable if you FF through the Jar Jar scenes. It's kind of amazing how lovely and warm Liam Neeson manages to be as Qui-Gon despite the stilted dialog. Also amazing: how well choreographed yet BORING that climactic three-way lightsaber fight scene is compared to its counterpart in The Force Awakens. Emotional weight >>>> pyrotechnics, every single time.

It's been like 3 months and the only reason I didn't get to the third movie was because Attack of the Clones BROKE MY SPIRIT, IT WAS SO BAD. I had seen memes of the "I hate sand" scene on Tumblr but did not think it could be so hilariterrible as suggested. IT WAS ALL THAT AND MORE. I actually went and watched selected episodes of ~3 seasons of The Clone Wars as a palette cleanser, which was super enjoyable and did such a great job of fleshing out the friendship between Obi-Wan and Anakin in particular. Gotta get back and finish the series, but I am easily distracted by other shiny things.

Anyway, on emotional fannish investment terms, I'm just killing time until Rogue One comes out, people. I've also taken to reading Rey/Kylo Ren fic (I KNOW), which... it is what it is. There is a great deal of it (much of them terrible) and I needed an outlet once I quit reading Oliver/Felicity okay, leave me alone! *cries into hands* That said, I'm just weirded out (to say the least) by the way fandom talks about the ship. It's a nemesis ship, kinda half way between Harry/Draco and John/Scorpius in my mind, but the Discourse is just waaaay more heated because Rey is a girl. The pro-ship side of the fandom is no less wacky, like, people are SO INVESTED in the ship becoming canon. *blinks* Dudes, that is not gonna happen, yo. I just want them to have fraught scenes together and for Rey to kick his ass a lot and Kylo to continue to be a messed up and conflicted trashbag, redeemed or not, IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK. I vomited my Kylo Ren-related feelings on the tags on this post, and that's enough said about that.

4. What else. Wow, this is getting long. On TV front, I am enjoying S2 of Killjoys a ton (talking about an enemy ship, Dutch/Delle Seyah hellooooo) even though I am still irritated by the generic central-casting-Paul-from-Orphan-Black-ness of the D'Avin actor. S2 of Mr. Robot remains marvellously stylish but has been rather draggy in terms of plot momentum. Right now, I am *SPARKLEHEARTS* about Netflix's Stranger Things, which I just finished this past weekend and about which I have Many Feelings. I should probably make a separate post about that with a spoiler cut.

5. Vividcon next week, where did all the time goooooo. I can't wait to see y'all!
vonniek: (Pacific Rim: Mako determined)
posted by [personal profile] vonniek at 01:26pm on 06/06/2016 under
John Boyega cast as the lead in the Pacific Rim sequel

!!

I AM SCREAMING

I THOUGHT THE SEQUEL HAS BEEN SCRAPPED

NOT ONLY IS IT A GO BUT BOYEGA IS SET TO PLAY STACKER PENTECOST'S SON

WHAT IS GOING ON I NEED SOMEONE TO PINCH ME

*runs around flailing the arms*

...

Okay, now that I've had the chance to calm down a bit (NOT REALLY I AM NOT CALM), what do we have so far? Steven DeKnight will be directing, who has quite a lot of genre cred, given his stints on Buffy and Angel as well as his experience as the showrunner for Spartacus and most recently, Daredevil. My hope is that the tone of the movie will remain a Guillermo del Toro joint. Charlie Hunnam, Ron Perlman, and Max Martini are the only cast members listed on the IMDb page so far.

... if Mako does not come back, I'm gonna take to bed in mourning, y'all. I am already having ALL THE EMOTIONS over Mako and Boyega's character's relationship -- Stacker's adopted daughter, his jewel in the eye, and Stacker's biological son, for whom there probably would be a thorny backstory (one presumes). IT COULD BE SO GREAT.

Eeeee!
vonniek: (The Flash: Barry in a storm)
posted by [personal profile] vonniek at 10:42pm on 24/05/2016 under
vonniek: (CoM Tomorrow)
posted by [personal profile] vonniek at 05:03pm on 20/05/2016 under
Spoilers )
vonniek: (Jane the Virgin: Jane in yellow)
posted by [personal profile] vonniek at 11:30pm on 16/05/2016 under
!!

!!!

!!!!!

incoherent spoilers )
vonniek: (Pushing Daisies: pumpkin PMS)
posted by [personal profile] vonniek at 08:10pm on 16/05/2016 under
Several months ago, the trusty gang at Pop Culture Happy Hour recommended Don Hertzfeldt's Oscar-nominated digital animated short film, World of Tomorrow, which had started streaming on Netflix earlier this year. They were enthusiastic enough about it that I stuck it onto my streaming list, then as these things wont to go nowadays, I'd forgotten all about it. Until a couple of nights ago, when I decided to hit play on a lark. And again. And Again.

I've seen it about five times now (it's only about 15 minutes long, so not a terribly big time commitment, really) and it's kinda turned me inside out a bit. It's a strange little film, and it packs an extraordinary amount of emotions into its short running time. At any given moment, it would crack me the hell up with its absurdist humour *and* destroy my soul in the same beat. Time travel is its chief narrative conceit, and it strikes me as the best kind of Sci-Fi -- a story that engages both mind and heart, and has profound things to say without pretensions. The deceptively simple (with not so simple background) animation serves the story perfectly. Hertzfeldt's interview at NPR about the creative process might be of interest to you if you watch and enjoy the film.

I don't follow animation or short films closely, so I thought this was the first film by Hertzfeldt I'd seen. But no. Turns out he did that justifiably famous alterna-opening credits to The Simpsons involving time travel. (If you had watched that opening, you'd know immediately what I was talking about). In many ways, the couch gag feels like a dry run for "World of Tomorrow" and carries the same kind of emotional punch on a smaller scale.

If you don't have Netflix, you can rent or buy the film at Vimeo -- it's well worth your time and a pocketful of change. It's one of the best things I've watched this year so far.
vonniek: (SWTFA: pensive Rey)
posted by [personal profile] vonniek at 10:15am on 06/04/2016 under ,


As someone who didn't really care about the franchise until... oh, 4 months ago, it's been rather alarming to have my brain on Star Wars 24/7.

On that trailer )
vonniek: (Jane the Virgin: Jane in yellow)
Howdy from Brooklyn! I'm vegging out in a little neighborhood cafe in Carroll Gardens, and plan on taking it easy for the rest of the day before heading into the city for Hamilton tonight. Instead of going eee!, I am feeling rather mellow about the whole thing and have refrained from listening to the cast recording since the drive to the airport. Go me!

The trip has been fairly low key so far. I'm staying in a cute little apartment in Brooklyn secured via AirBnB, which costs about half of what I paid staying in a tiny little closet in a hotel midtown two years ago. My host is both accommodating and unobtrusive, which is the best combination of traits. Based on the sample size of 1, A++ experience, would AirBnB again!

Yesterday, I went on a food tour in Greenwich Village (this one), which was both fun and informative, encompassing a variety of international cuisine offered in the Village. I was particularly taken with this tiny Brazilian bakery called Brigadeiro at the border of SoHo, brigadeiros being small sweet treats with nutty crunchy outside and creamy fillings inside. I tried the coffee-praline flavour and immediately bought half a dozen to go. I'm actually eating one of those right now in the coffee shop and it's fucking great! Anyway, the tour filled me up so much that I couldn't do the excellent food I had at dinner later with [livejournal.com profile] coffeeandink justice.

(Oh, come on! My audio player shuffle function just started playing "Satisfied." So much for my resolution.)

Also visited on the trip so far: another quick drop-by at MoMA. Instead of being comprehensive, I went directly to the 5th floor to look at the old favourites, the de Chiricos and Picassos and van Goghs, and spent many happy moments parked in front of I and the Village and The Sleeping Gypsy. Maybe it's my advancing old age, but I can rarely spend more than 2 hours in a museum before flagging in strength these days. Oy, my crumbling bones.

On the first day here, I got a discount ticket in TKTS to see Fun Home in the Circle in the Square, which is an intimate theater ideally suited for this particular show. I've only heard snippets of songs from it during last year's Tony's so went into it with only barebone baseline knowledge, and found it funny and moving and sad and an all-around excellent production. The strengths of the show are in its book and staging -- musically, I found it effective but not terribly memorable ("Ring of Keys" excepted), but that may be the side effect of having Hamilton on brain 24/7. Bruce (Allison's father) was played by the understudy, who was very good. But apparently he's usually played by Michael Cerveris, whom I loved as September in Fringe, so I felt a pang of disappointment.

***

Quick update on general state of fannishness, since I'm looking at a long work week ahead when I return and who knows when I'll have a chance to blog...

1. I am very fond of half-hour comedies. That said, I have found out that family-centric comedies don't work well for me no matter how well-written, whereas I can get more of mileage out of work-place comedies. This is perhaps unsurprising given that I am a single woman who lives alone and works crazy long hours. Anyway, this is a long preamble to say that I have watched half a season of Black-ish and about 3/4th of a season of Fresh Off the Boat and found them sharp and topical and to be congratulated on its portrayal of diverse American families, but ultimately Not For Me. Whereas I have been watching and thoroughly enjoying Brooklyn Nine Nine in its third season, even though I really don't have the urge to post about it any more other than occasionally pipe out, "I LOVE YOU ROSA" (although... Death is not an option: Stripe or Manuel Noriega?) or "Terry's never gonna die!" or coo over Holt and Cheddar, or say "Jake Peralta, who knew?!"

2. The OTHER half-hour work place comedy I picked up this season (nevermind about how I need another show like a hole in the head) is Superstore, which has turned out to be surprisingly winning. It's about a group of employees working in a big box store in Midwest (I think it's supposed to be set in St. Louis). Spiritually, it's a direct descendant of The Office US, with a similar mix of gentle and biting humour, with its tone balanced well between sweet and bittersweet. It's got a talented and diverse cast, and a set-up for a long-term slow burn potential couple (played by America Ferrera and Ben Feldman) with real, solid obstacles in their path rather than bullshit ones. It finished its abbreviated first season (11 episodes total) on a cliffhanger, and has been renewed for season 2. I reblogged a few gifsets from the show on Tumblr here if you wanna see what it's like.

- Garrett is my favourite OBVIOUSLY. Colton Dunn is amazing at dry delivery. He's basically playing the Sassy Black Friend on this show but I don't even care because GARRETTTTT. Here's hoping for some backstory come S2.


- The way the show never gives Jonah a free pass for being that certain type of self-righteous smug liberal white boy.

- I LOVE that Amy is married with a kid. And that while she's obviously having issues with her husband, it's not something the show wants to set aside willy-nilly to make way for Amy/Jonah. The episode when Amy's daughter visits the store! I never liked Jonah as much as when he was flailing about, trying to help her deal with her first period.

- The one in which everyone is locked in the store overnight! In which Glenn stops giving a fuck! Cheyenne's dance recital and that priceless transition from "True Colors" to "Anaconda"! I love Cheyenne.

- How the show took Dina's unrequited feelings for Jonah seriously at the end. OH MY GOD the scene in which she got dolled up and finally gathered the courage to kiss him, and how lovely that kiss was -- how in that moment, our sympathy was squarely with her. When she tried to blow out the candle afterward only to realize it was a switch-on variety! Lauren Ash is so great. The moment in finale when she put the kibosh on the walk-out came across as a believable character moment after all the build-up.

- I am a bit disturbed by how much Glenn reminds me of Michael Scott YET Mark McKinney infuses him with such uncomplicated sweetness that you cannot help love him a little.


- Right now, Mateo is the only one of the main cast who is more of a caricature than a fully fleshed out person. The wedding episode where we learn Mateo is gay helped mitigate it quite a bit though. I want to learn more about his family trauma! Something about his twin brother drowning?!


3. The X-Files reboot: Wow, that sure was a bunch of episodes of a show I used to love. I enjoyed the Darin Morgan episode reasonably well but suspect it won't stand up to repeat viewing. Ep 4 (the garbage monster one) was a decent old-fashioned casefile, which left me dismayed because the side plot had my beloved Scully having a total emotional breakdown and I felt... very little. I found my own degree of emotional remove from the show more upsetting than whatever was happening on the screen, seriously. "Babylon" was a joke and I decided I wasn't going to waste emotional energy watching the finale, which by all account was a terrible episode of TV.

Ah well. We'll always have the first 6 seasons. And many of you whom I have first met through TXF fandom.

4. Jane the Virgin, spoilers through 2x14 )

5. izombie, spoilers through 2x14 )

6. The 100, spoilers through 3x08, Terms and Conditions )

OK, enough about... all that. Time to go and do some exploring!
vonniek: (Agent Carter: Jarvis stitching up Peggy)
First off, I'm going to see Hamilton in a little over a week (!!). I might or might not have been screaming into my pillows about this for the last few weeks. Attempts at holding off listening to the cast recording obsessively so as to render the experience fresher have predictably not been very successful.

I'll probably try to catch another show on a non-Hamilton day while I'm in the city. Err, something discounted on the day of, to balance out $$ spent on the Hamilton ticket. *winces* Does anyone have recommendations? It doesn't have to be a musical. Work has been a bear and the notion of doing more research into the matter makes me want to lie down and sleep foreverrrr.

***

On general mediafannish front, I feel a bit at a limbo. I'm still watching the DC Comics TV shows, but the bright burning enthusiasm I used to have for them has waned considerably. I feel rather philosophical about it -- it's the natural way of things after all. It's not that the writing for Arrow this season has been worse than S3 (which, let's face it, was frequently dire), but what I don't have any more is the excitement about possibilities, like when the universe was opening up in that grand and what felt like cohesive way back in S2 (says she, laughing ruefully), or the flutters I felt about Oliver/Felicity before TPTB made them canon. Now, the world feels narrower and the possibilities dimmed. I still have a great deal of affection for all the characters, but I can't remember the last time I felt genuinely excited about the show. Maybe that episode with Nyssa and Tatsu? I'll see through the rest of the season, but after that, who knows?

The Flash, IMO, is having a serious case of sophomore slump. S1 had such a bright arc culminating in that finale, and this season, I feel like they've been floundering left and right. I did like the Earth-2 episodes A LOT (the first part better than the second), but Zoom has turned out to be a disappointment, and the whole Barry/Patty storyline did Barry's character no favours. Plus they STILL haven't figured out what to do with Iris. At this point, I'm mostly watching the show for Cisco for lo! Carlos Valdes is made of magic. spoilers to The Flash 2x15 )

As for Legends of Tomorrow, I'm thisclose to dropping it. Seriously, I can't believe I have watched this far because let's face it -- this is a pretty terrible show. some spoilers in case anyone cares ) Anyway. I give it one more episode. Or not. Haven't decided yet.

OK, what else? Supergirl! Still enjoying it in fits and starts, still finding a big part of it quite clunky. James Olsen remains very pretty yet I care naught for any current or future romances. Stuff I am enjoying: Kara's work family (Cat - James - Winn) and her DEO family (Alex - Hank), and the growing relationships therein. Spoilers up Supergirl 1x15 )

On a completely shallow note, I mightily covet the entirety of Cat Grant's wardrobe. There was this one episode where she wore this GREAT black and orange patterned silk pencil skirt and I swear I spent the entire episode staring at Calista Flockhart's nonexistent ass. Whoever dresses Cat Grant knows what the fuck they're doing.

***

As for All Things Marvel, well, I'll probably never get to write up Jessica Jones, which I found interesting and compelling for the most parts but with wonky pacing issues. So much has been written about it that I feel like I don't have anything to add? *hands* Daredevil S2 is apparently almost here and... I'll watch that eventually. I have blacklisted All Things Civil War on Tumblr, not because I particularly care about spoilers, but because I am super-susceptible to overexposure-fatigue-turning-to-resentment. And the sheer amount of fucks I do not give about Doctor Strange and Iron Fist cannot be quantified.

On network TV front, I have gleefully deleted all unwatched episode of Agents of SHIELD from TiVo. YAY! Letting go can be super-satisfying. Season 2 of Agent Carter, which started out with so much promise, unfortunately did not stick the landing. Spoilers for the entirety of Agent Carter S2 )

Okay, that's enough blathering in one post. Wow, I sound cranky. Non-comic book TV stuff to come later!
vonniek: (Restless: trees in the desert)
posted by [personal profile] vonniek at 11:04pm on 06/03/2016 under
Saw this in theater last weekend. The movie is subtitled A New England Folktale, which seems quite apropos. I am a horror movie weenie, and on that front, it served me well, being almost (but not entirely) devoid of jump scares and explicit gore. Watching it was an occasionally frustrating experience -- its language, reportedly faithfully-reproduced 17th century speech, was about 60% comprehensible to me at best. It's got a slow creeping start full of not-so-amorphous dread and a gloriously bonkers ending. Over the week, I kept thinking back on it in bits and pieces and particularly on that finale.

Spoilers for the entire movie including the ending )
vonniek: (SWTFA: pensive Rey)
video under the cut )

*dies* This latest ham4ham video of Chris Jackson (who plays George Washington on Hamilton) and Elmo singing "The Story of Tonight" might possibly be the cutest thing I've ever seen. And I'm not even a Sesame Street person!

****

For those who are in the mood for some hard core Star Wars geekery (and spare 45 minutes): ALL the Easter eggs and references from Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

embedded video under the cut )

I am so confused. HOW IS THIS MY NEW FANDOM. I am *thisclose* to buying the prequels on the cheap so that I could at least bone up on the canon ("don't do it!", I can hear you yelling.) What even.
vonniek: (WotD: Kate in profile)
posted by [personal profile] vonniek at 01:24pm on 14/02/2016 under


What, isn't everyone rewatching "The Supremes" on the occasion of Scalia's passing? God bless Netflix. I'd forgotten how much I love this episode. Of course it's a liberal political fantasy, in which the opposition is principled rather than venal and the notion of extraordinary dissent is celebrated. But it's a lovely place to visit, even for just 45 minutes. Glenn Close is so fucking dreamy in this, I can't even. *stars in the eyes*

I'd also forgotten that Deborah Cahn wrote this episode, along with my *other* favourite TWW ep, "Institutional Memory." Apparently she's been serving as a writer-producer for Grey's Anatomy all this time since The West Wing ended. (I can't believe that show is still on. I mean, seriously.) Hopefully GA will gracefully shuffle off its mortal coil soon and Cahn can go write-produce something awesome I'm actually interested in watching.

"Oh my God, you're putting my mother's cats on the Supreme Court." Hee!
vonniek: (SWTFA: pensive Rey)
Bryan Fuller tapped to run the as-yet-unnamed Star Trek TV series. What with the memory of Hannibal and Pushing Daisies fresh in my mind, I had totally forgotten that he had an extended stint on ST: Voyager back in the day. Fuller is one of the few show-runners who could fairly be called an auteur (... there is no way to say that word without a whiff of film school drop-out douchebaggery, is there) and it would be interesting indeed to see how his current sensibilities mesh with the grand Trek tradition. Whatever the result, it certainly won't be boring.

Hmm. I wonder if the new series will be set in the post movie-verse reboot timeline or in the old one.

***

Went to see Hail Caesar! over the weekend, the latest Coen Brothers flick. It's as substantial as a puff of smoke, especially compared to the top-tier Coens, but enjoyable fluff nonetheless. As a story, it doesn't hang together particularly well. As a series of Old Hollywood production number pastiches, it's a blast, even if it's frequently self-indulgent and meandering. Channing Tatum has a particularly uproarious bit in a vintage Gene Kelly-esque dance number with the Gay dialed up to 11 (in case anyone around here is interested in stuff like that. :p)

***

I've been feeling fannish enough about SW: The Force Awakens to venture out to AO3 a couple of times, but have found the endeavour discouraging, as there is SO MUCH out there already and not enough of what I'm looking for, i.e. Rey-centric gen stories and fic about the tragic clusterfuck that is the Skywalker legacy. Thankfully, [livejournal.com profile] musesfool did a rec update recently with a bunch of excellent stories, many of which were up my alley. In particular, there were a couple of Leia-centric stories among the lot by [archiveofourown.org profile] nymja, which legit made me tear up: In Tandem and Still Home. The same author just completed a series of connected stories called Do or Do Not, which is a tight three-person gen fic about Rey, Luke, and Kylo Ren, based on the spec that very young Rey was in the Jedi school when Ben Solo / Knights of Ren slaughtered the students. (The spec dovetails nicely with this fanart I came across the other day.). The stories are short and written in a sparse style, and do a lovely job of turning the thematic and plotty repetitions in TFA into a feature, not a bug. They also made me weirdly full of Luke Skywalker feelings of all things. Who would have thought.

***

Tuesday night tele:

The Flash 2x13, Welcome to Earth-2 )

Agent Carter 2x03-2x05 )
vonniek: (Pushing Daisies: Chuck working)
posted by [personal profile] vonniek at 03:35pm on 08/02/2016


... yeap, already off to a great start.
vonniek: (BLebowski: Lazy Dude)
Frequent visits to local multiplex in the past couple of weeks. It's the Oscar season after all. Briefly:

Spotlight: I liked this a great deal. It's a very non-flashy handling of an explosive topic (the Boston Catholic priest sexual abuse scandal), with emphasis squarely on the actual *work* of journalism (so many dramatic close-ups of people underlying stuff on paper!) -- a platonic ideal of a procedural, one might say. It builds up steadily and is gripping throughout for all its measured pace, and the ensemble cast gives very fine performances across the board, my favourite among which was this incredibly quiet, interior portrayal of the new editor to the Globe by Liev Schreiber. [livejournal.com profile] veejane, I imagine you'd have seen this already -- it felt like your kind of a movie. The world on the street is that this is the front-runner for the Best Picture, and I'd be more than happy if it won.

Carol: That was fucking *gorgeous*. I kind of wanted to roll around in all that vintage lushness, and Cate Blanchett's frocks made me wanna cry, they were so beautiful (Sandy Powell's gonna get yet another Oscar, obvs.) That said, I'm not sure if I really bought into the central romance as this all-consuming Great Love. It worked better for me as a coming of age story for Rooney Mara's character, with Blanchett's Carol serving as a catalyst for her awakening.

The Big Short: Points to the film for making me *think* I understood the subprime mortgage crisis of 2008, at least for the duration of the movie. (If you asked me now, I couldn't tell you). It also puts you in an uneasy position of sorta rooting for the hucksters who bet against the economy and won a shitload of money. Afterward, I felt vaguely icky. The movie is snappy and funny, and makes some interesting stylistic choices. That said, it is SUPER-bro-y, and I'm not sure if it is deserving of all the acclaim it's getting. Like, Christian Bale is fine as a genius broker on the spectrum, but that best supporting actor nom could have gone to Benecio del Toro in Sicario or Oscar Isaac in Ex Machina, which were both vastly more interesting performances in service of more thought-provoking films, not to mention how that would have mitigated the whole #OscarSoWhite fiasco.

Anomalisa: Just saw it this weekend, and am still mulling over it. It's an extraordinary mix of the mundane and transcendent by the way of uncanny-valley stop-motion animation, not to mention surprisingly funny. As Charlie Kaufman films go, it's actually on the less surreal side (well, it does have that long puppet sex sequence...) That said, I kinda wanted to punch the main character in the face at the end.

Brooklyn: A charming period film about an Irish immigrant in 50's New York. Saoirse Ronan is excellent as the protagonist, and the movie has a very strong sense of place and time. Emily Bett Rickards from Arrow has a small supporting role, in which she acquits herself well. It was... nice? And very pretty to look at? It didn't linger with me afterward.

Room: based on Emma Donoghue's best seller, this was tough to watch, but rewarding to push through. The two central performances (Brie Larson and the young Jacob Tremblay) are breathtaking. There is a sequence about half way into the film that basically destroyed me into a tense then a sobbing wreck. Uhm, if you want to see it, some emotional girding-of-loins may be necessary, I'm just sayin'.

After being emotionally spent post-Room, I snuck into the theater right next to it (shhhh!) to watch SW: The Force Awakens for the FOURTH time. Um. I needed it, okay! I understand I may have a little problem where this movie is concerned. It is my current happy place, even the sad bits. Especially the sad bits. Things that struck me in particular this time: I guess we still spoiler-cut? )
vonniek: (TXF: Scully has guts! Literally!)
... mostly because I am procrastinating on this paper I'm supposed to revise.

1. Random small thing that recently made my life better: reorganizing my sock drawer! See, I used to ball them up and throw them into the drawer like this, but even messier:



... which meant I would just grab whatever was on top each morning, squinting at the ball to see if it's brown or gray or black or whatever. This also led to me wearing the same half a dozen pairs of socks over and over after weekly laundry because, ehh, too much bother to dig into the bottom, right? The other day, I listened to an episode of Slate's Pop Culture Gabfest podcast, in which they talked about this (apparently very famous) Japanese organizational expert, Marie Kondo. It made me go watch a couple of Kondo's videos on a lark, and while I do not think I will join her legion of followers (apparently she advocates throwing out, like, EVERYTHING), I did like her advice on how to fold socks (yes, I have actually watched an instruction video on sock-folding. Shut up). It seemed simple enough to do. Anyway! Not only do all my socks fit into one narrow drawer with this method (the balling action made things messier AND made it look like the socks were taking up way more space), but now that I've organized them by colour, I can see exactly what I'm choosing each morning. Ditto the drawers housing my tights (I have A LOT) and underwear. There is something very pleasing about opening your drawers in the morning and findings things all laid out clear and proper.

2. Talking about underwear (what?)... a bra rec! I bought a Natori Hidden Glamour Contour Underwire Bra in nude a few months ago, and it's one of the softest, comfiest bras I've ever owned in my life. I also have a couple of Natori Feathers bras and oh man, they are absolutely beautiful on top of being super comfortable. A few things: 1) They offer modest support, so not sure if they'll work for folks who are very generously endowed; 2) The cups run about half-to-full size small so if you had your girls measured and know your size, would recommend going one up on the cup size; 3) NO NEED TO PAY $60+ FOR ONE BRA. I bought all of my new-with-tags Natori bras off ebay at about $20 each.

Anyway, I still have a couple of Wacoals and some left-over Victoria's Secret bras from way back, but I always find myself reaching out to the Natoris because... no pinching! SO AWESOME.

3. I bitch and moan about Tumblr a lot, but one thing that site offers better than any other platform I've been on is the abundance of FANTASTIC fanart. Fanart output in the wake of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in particular has been nothing short of amazing. Like this gorgeous one of Rey and BB-8 in the desert, and oh man, how fabulous is this Finn art? And this little comic about Chewie, OH MY HEART (assume spoilers for the entire movie for any of these art pieces). And this amazing depiction of the big lightsaber fight near the end!

Right now, I'm sorta obsessed with this one. spoilers for TFA )

4. Oh God. Too much TV. I've been watching and enjoying both Supergirl and Jane the Virgin tremendously, but don't have the brain space to write about them. Then of course, there was the second ep of The X-Files.

The X-Files 10x02, Founder's Mutation )
vonniek: (Arrow: arrowcave team)
vonniek: (TXF: Scully has guts! Literally!)
Objectively, that was a terrible episode of TV. I suspect individual reaction to the episode is a gauge of a particular fan's residual affection for the characters *and* susceptibility to the power of nostalgia. It mostly made me laugh and facepalm. So, better than the second movie, then! (THE BAR, SO LOW THAT IT IS SUBTERRANEAN)

The truth is out somewhere smoking a doobie )

***

I took the inclement weather as an opportunity to watch the original Star Wars trilogy and have come to the conclusion that I never watched the trilogy in full back in the 80's when I *thought* I watched them. The entire section set in Hoth? Brand new to me. The scenes in Cloud City were familiar though (Lando Calrissian, being a smoove MF, must have left an impression.) I found The New Hope a bit of a slog, but Empire Strike Back was *fantastic* from start to finish. Pacing, drama, razzle dazzle, YODA, some genuinely decent dialog - it had them all. Plus hilarity at Vader's chosen method of dramatic demotions! After that, Return of the Jedi was like a non-stop "O'RLY" party. The Luke/Vader bits were great! EVERYTHING in Jabba's palace was gross. I know it was supposed to be a den of iniquity, blah blah, but there was this kind of exploitative sleaziness to the whole thing that felt extratextual. Ugh. The Ewoks were... cute? The scenes Lucas added seemed *really obvious* in Return of the Jedi in particular.

... and wow, I had not realized the full extent to which women (who were not Leia) were absent from the universe. I think the only other women with any line of dialog in the entire trilogy was Luke's aunt, and that one other lady in the War Council in RotJ. Yikes.

Of course Han Solo was a hotass and Han/Leia worked like gangbusters. But I found myself surprisingly fond of Luke. Luke'n'Artoo 4evah!!

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