Tomorrowland—fun with a good message.

MishaBurnett:

I was going to write this review, but someone else beat me to it.

Originally posted on Elementary Politics:

“Every day is the opportunity for a better tomorrow.”

tomorrowland posterDespite some bad reviews from ideologues on the right and the left Tomorrowland is a good movie—it’s not a great movie, but then again it’s not exactly targeted at an adult audience, so one would be insane to expect perfection.  But director Brad Bird, director of The Incredibles and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol has followed up his previous successes with another wonderful film—the problem is that while there are traces of depth in his work he still hasn’t managed to flesh them out into full fledged great art.

So let’s deal with the spoiler free stuff first.

First you should go and enjoy this movie.  It’s fun, it’s fast paced and has more than enough eye candy to keep you entertained.  It starts off with a quirky narration that goes back and forth between your two main characters competing for how…

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How To Lose Me In Seven Minutes

It’s summertime, and the television is empty. We’ve had season finales of the current shows that I watch and so I have been cruising Netflix looking for something to watch with dinner in the evenings.

I really like the television format as a medium for storytelling.  A series of individual episodes, each one able to stand on its own, yet each building on the proceeding episodes allows for a very large canvas.  When it’s done well it can be used to tell stories with both a breadth and a depth that other mediums simply don’t have space to tell.

Sadly, it so seldom seems to be done well.  There are a number of reasons for this, I suppose, some dealing with the economics of the production companies, others more tied to the preconceptions of the writing staff.  Paradoxically the same attributes of the medium that in theory allow the filmmakers to experiment and take risks with the narrative structure often, in practice, discourage innovation and reward reversion to trope.

After spending much of yesterday sampling the first quarter hour or so of a number of Netflix’s crop of archived programs, I have identified a number of common scenes that are both endemic and emetic–that is to say, they are everywhere and they make me gag.

I am not saying that any of these things will necessarily make me click the remote and move on to the next show, but when I see these same bits showing up within the first few minutes of starting a pilot I grow very discouraged.

Damn, This Shaky Camera Is Heavy: Someone is running through a scary place, which might be a) the woods at night b) a series of dark alleys at night or c) an inexplicably poorly lit empty office building at night.  We don’t see who it is, we just see the landscape blurrily bouncing by with heavy breathing on the soundtrack.  Seriously, guy, put down the freaking camera, you’ll make much better time and we’re not going to learn anything from watching this.

Perky Yet Practical: She’s young and pretty, with designer clothes, professional hair and makeup, and an hour-a-day-at-the-gym body.  She’s the newest member of the team, a rookie, an intern, or a student. She’s been sent to work with the old master because her teachers recognize her enormous potential.  In order to prove that she’s not just there to give the old men some eye candy, her introduction to the audience must involve her just happening to know the one fact that the old master doesn’t.

I Will Now Explain What The Show Is About: He’s a charmingly eccentric middle-aged man who doesn’t follow the rules because he cares too much about what he’s doing to follow anyone else’s procedures. Naturally he teaches the advanced graduate class in whatever it is, in a classroom conveniently located three lines of dialogue down the hall from his brilliantly messy office.  After trading quips with the hidebound administrator who hates his methods but loves his results, he comes (late) into the classroom to deliver a stirring introduction to his subject, explaining in words of one syllable what it is that he does.  The class–who evidently have been napping during the first seven semesters of their schooling–listen in rapt fascination. (This may explain why perky yet practical has been pegged as a genius–she’s the only student without anterograde amnesia .)

You’re A Sensitive Man? Wow, I’m A Sensitive Man, Too: Here we meet two members of the team, one of whom is probably Black.  They are rough and tough and hard to bluff, but deep down inside they are both vulnerable and caring people.  We know this because we see them in the locker room or the break room talking about their feelings.  This will involve a woman that one of them (probably the White one) wants to ask out or a woman that one of them (probably the Black one) is scared of losing.  This scene will be interrupted by the old master gruffly charging into the room and ordering them both to saddle up.

I Always Hated Those Guys: It’s the big mission briefing for the team and it turns out that there is some kind of problem at either a secret research facility, isolated warehouse, or corporate headquarters of Big Evil Company, Inc.  The old master, of course, knows all about Big Evil Company, Inc., since he either used to work for them or has been trying to get them shut down, or both.  Usually both. This will involve explaining to perky yet practical just how evil Big Evil is, with the old master trying to be fair minded and stick to the facts and one of the other team members (one of the two above, or both together) explaining the unproven accusations.

The Only Person In The World Who Can Do This Job Is Your Ex: No.  Just no.  Great big steaming heaps of no drizzled with a tangy no sauce.   As part of an on-going series that I already like I am willing to grit my teeth and accept ex-spouses who are in the same business being forced to work together on a limited basis (yes, Agents Of Shield, I am looking at you here) but as part of the series setup in the pilot?  No. I’m out of here, as soon as I move these cases of no out of the way of the emergency exit.

Look, I understand that writing for a television series is highly competitive business.  There is a lot of content out there and a series has to pick up a lot of viewers out of the gate to make it past the mid-season cuts.  You want to give the viewers some hooks to keep them watching.  There is a lot of pressure to be all things to all people–exciting, funny, dramatic, tragic, what have you.  You have to give the people what they want or you’re on the next bus back to Burbank to do continuity on The Home Shopping Network.

There are better ways to do that.  Give me characters who are interesting and sympathetic on their own before you start filling the studio with puppies to kill. These aren’t dramatic twists any more, they are painfully predictable.

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Imminent Danger Free to Download this Weekend!

MishaBurnett:

Great book for free! What more could you ask for?

Originally posted on Michelle Proulx -- The Website:

Hey peeps! Just popping in to let you know that Imminent Danger And How to Fly Straight into It is free to download again this weekend. So if you haven’t picked it up yet, now’s your chance!

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.ca

It’s actually available on all the Amazon sites — so if you’re not American/British/Canadian, hop over to your favorite Amazon site and search the book name. Happy reading!

Unrelated media of the day:

Source: http://imgur.com/gallery/TJb3H0Y

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Have a Book that Doesn’t Fit in? -or- Want to Read Something Different?

MishaBurnett:

More out of the box thinking from Read Tuesday.

Originally posted on ReadTuesday:

Images from ShutterStock Images from ShutterStock

NONEXISTENT BOOK CATEGORIES

There are two related problems from two different perspectives:

  1. Many readers may enjoy reading a totally brand new kind of book. But how do you find such a book when everything is listed in standard preexisting categories?
  2. Many writers are naturally creative, and wish to extend that creativity toward writing a totally different kind of book. But when you proceed to publish your book, how will readers discover it? When you need to select categories, e.g. at Amazon, the option just isn’t there.

Amazon really missed out on a golden opportunity here. Why didn’t they think of creating a Cool & New category, and making such a category visible? It would have been great for both readers and authors. (It’s not too late. Feel free to send in a suggestion. Seriously, the more similar suggestions a business receives, the more apt they are to…

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Nux & Capable: Fury Road

This post is about the film Mad Max: Fury Road, and it will contain spoilers. I will be digging into the text and subtext of the film so, please, if you have not seen it, don’t read this post.

I do strongly recommend the film, so if you haven’t seen it, go out and catch it in the theaters and then come back and we’ll talk, okay?

Everybody clear on this?  Here Abide Spoilers.  You have been warned and When you have been warned, you must listen. (Extra special bonus Sensei Of Schlock points for identifying the source of that quotation.)

Now, let’s talk about who did what to whom and what I think it means. Oh, and that brings me to one last point–the opinions and speculations contained herein are entirely my own.  I do not claim to speak for George Miller or anyone else associated with the film.  I am not saying that how I interpret this film is The One Twuu Way or the absolute last word.  These are my thoughts, and, as always, I could be dead wrong.  It gets tiring to type “I think” or “in my opinion” as part of every single sentence and I’m sure it’s just as dull to keep reading qualifying phrases. So let’s just say it here and then globally apply it to all that follows.

This isn’t an “anti-male” film.  It is, however, an “anti-male domination” film.  I will not say if it has a “feminist agenda” since, as I have stated elsewhere, I am a man and as such I refuse to put myself into a position where I have to try to define what is or is not feminism. Women who choose to use the term are fully able to decide such things without my help.

I found a very definite message in this film and it is one that I support.  Women and men are intended to act together and compliment each other, and they work best that way.  Neither is more important, since neither can survive (in the long run) without the other. We are not identical, but we are identically important to the survival of the species.

I see three distinct storylines woven together on three different scales, all of which are variations on that theme.

First, we have Max and Furiosa.  They are presented as equals, comrades, siblings in arms.  Yes, there are some ups and downs in their relationship, and the balance of power shifts between them.  However the overall theme is that on the level on which they interact gender doesn’t matter.  They are mutually sexless–their chemistry is that of one warrior to another.  As individuals they are both formidable because of their humanity–neither is inherently more worthy than the other.

Second is Immortan Joe and the Keeper Of The Seeds.  This is the most complex and takes up most of the film.  It is also the most allegorical and the source of the most arresting and surreal imagery. The Reader’s Digest takeaway is that they are both dying in their own way and their lands are dying with them in a very Arthurian Landking/Landqueen sort of way.  There is so much symbolism here that I could write for days on it, but I won’t.  Instead I want to move onto the third, and for me, the most important relationship in the film.

Nux and Capable.  Nux is a warboy, one of Immortan Joe’s fanatic elite guard.  Capable is one of Immortan Joe’s captive wives.  They are the only characters that we see interacting as man and woman in a sensual sense.  Capable in a very real sense “makes a man” out of the warboy and gives him a genuine purpose to replace the false sense of destiny inculcated by service to Joe.

Nux is dying–we see him on a primitive form of life support at the start of the film and, in fact, Max is only brought along on the mission to provide a blood supply for the warboy.  Faced with his mortality he is driven to make his death have meaning.  At first he believes that dying in the service of his master will give him that meaning, and he attempts suicide missions three times–“Three times the gates were opened!” he wails plaintively at one point.

He is denied the Valhalla he seeks, however, because he is not worthy.  He is a boy, not a man, and he is fighting to recapture the brides of his lord without seeing them as people–only as precious things that have been stolen.

Nux finds himself betrayed by his lord and fighting on the side of the brides and it is then that he begins to see them as human, understanding for the first time his own humanity in the process.  Capable treats Nux as a man, and this allows him to see her as a woman, not a slave or a possession, but as a person who deserves her own life.

It is then that the warboy becomes a man, and it is then that he is worthy of Valhalla. His death has meaning because he–however briefly–had something to live for.  If I had to sum up this film in a single aphorism it would be that a slavegirl is not worth dying for, but a free woman is.

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Maintenance: A Love Story

A little background.  In a Facebook group called The Dragon’s Rocketship, Rick Rossing proposed a Bad Writing Contest.  The following is an entry into that contest, but I didn’t write it.

This story is from Michael Bondurant, who actually writes fairly well when he’s not trying to be bad.  Since he doesn’t have a blog page, he is willing to let me post it here.

Maintenance: A Love Story

It was a gorgeous day. The sun was shining brilliant without a cloud in sight, spring was fully sprung and the famed blue bonnets of the country’s namesake were thick in blossom, their scent hanging heavy on the breeze.

The Princess Helen looked around at all the dead bandits. Two were missing heads, one was down an arm and the other four had simply perished from multiple, violent stabbings. The lot of them were felled by her hand. She smirked prettily to cover her thrill. That old witch had been right after all, find the sword and find freedom. It was a wonder someone had tossed the thing into a lake. Ungrateful, that’s what people were..

The blade was enchanted, the witch had said. It possessed the soul of a long-dead warrior, and a fearsome one at that. She even said the thing could talk, but Helen hadn’t heard it yet. She no longer had any doubt about the sword’s magic though, not after the way it had jumped to life in her hand at the first sign of danger. She’d barely had to do anything on her own. Nothing more complicated than not falling over.

Helen looked down to admire her weapon and grimaced. Oh yuck! It was covered in bandit blood! She’d have to see to that before something rusted. She skipped off to the side of the road and perched her pert bottom on a boulder not short in sittable qualities. She jabbed the tip in the dirt, took a moment to figure out how to approach the job, then started to wipe away the sticky darkness smeared along the length with a gathered up bit of her skirts. It was all she had, and worth ruining a garment.

This sword happened to be the answer to all her problems.

Princess Helen no longer wanted to be a princess. None of it excited her, from the etiquette classes to the public appearances and the unwanted attention from not-so-charming princes always asking to have their princely parts inappropriately inspected. The scandalous womps. Unfortunately none of her princess skills were particularly useful in anything other than being a princess. They were especially useless in running away from home and living as a vagabondess.

Someone interrupted her ranting daydream with a pointed cough.

Princess Helen looked around, warily. All the dead bodies were still dead. Nobody else seemed to be around either.

Ahem. Why are you stopping?

Why, the mystery voice came from right inside her head! Could it be her blade?

“Are you my sword? Why am I stopping what?” She asked aloud, unsure if just thinking the words would be enough, though it felt silly to talk alone.

No. I’m THE Sword. The one and only Tall, Dark Sword of Great Deeds. You are My human. I killed those bandits for you, so why have you stopped with My maintenance?

Oh..

Oh!

“I’m so sorry, Tall, Dark Sword of Great Deeds. It was just a shock to hear you speak. Do you have a shorter name or am I to refer to you as the Tall, Dark Sword of Great Deeds every time?”

You may call Me the Great Sword if your inferior, fleshy lips tire overly from so many syllables. But if you’re going to keep talking at Me, at least finish Me off.

The princess Helen blushed fiercely, then nodded, unsure if the blade could see her doing so. “I–.. I’ve never cleaned a sword before..”, she confessed, then started wiping the stickiness away once more. Blood is harder to clean than you might think.

The sword started to glow with a soft, white light.

Slower. You’ll clean Me better that way. And pull me into your lap.

A pushy weapon, but the princess truly was thankful and really didn’t know the first thing about what she was doing, so she did as she was told.

No, no. Start at the base and push it all forward. Firmly! But slow, too.. repeat the motions..

Princess Helen grasped the sword’s blade with skirts in her hand, firmly as commanded but not so tightly as to cut herself, and pushed all the blood down the blade. As she worked, the magical sword’s soft glow grew brighter by the moment. More solid, more intense.

Unf..

“What was that? Are you okay?” The noise had been masculine, and had startled the princess.

Nothing. Pay no mind. Clean your Great Sword, pupil. Clean Me real good.

There was something familiar in the weapon’s heady tone. Something startling, distant.

Forward, to the tip. Get the tip. You missed some there.

The Princess Helen eyed the sword more skeptically now. “Who did you say you were before you became a sword again?”

At that moment, the blade’s building glow came to a culmination. It gave the briefest flash, a few throbbing pulses, then faded away. The voice, when it came, sounded more used up than it had before.

I didn’t. I was a prince. The finest, most handsome prince. I must say, you know how to us–..

The sword’s voice cut off from inside Princess Helen’s head as she thrust it back into the magical sheath she’d found it in.

She picked herself up off the boulder, brushed the dirt from her bottom, and marched off down the road with the beginnings of a petulant storm trailing her.

“I’m going to need a deeper lake.”

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Imagine learning about books without first seeing them… Intrigued?

MishaBurnett:

Great idea from the folks who brought us Read Tuesday!

Originally posted on ReadTuesday:

Image from ShutterStock Image from ShutterStock

MEET THE CHARACTERS

It’s nearly impossible to discover a new book and learn about it without first seeing the cover.

  • In the bookstore, this was a necessity. (Unless you put on a blindfold, opened the book, and then removed the blindfold.)
  • In principle, online bookstores don’t need to show you the cover first. But they do anyway. It’s a marketing strategy. That visual appeal generates interest, helps generate spontaneous purchases, and cover design tricks can even send subconscious messages.

And thus, we see books and judge them before we know anything else about them.

But they do serve a valuable purpose.

  • A good cover is the author’s way of showing, at a glance, that the author cares enough about the book to invest in it, and that the author has put forth some effort at least in the cover design.
  • If the cover reflects a lack of…

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