Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Why Twilight Sucks, Penelope, Hellboy II

So, you say you're interested in a series created by a Mormon housewife for teenage girls that encourages them to abandon their own lives and ambitions to hang out with a guy? Look no further! The Twilight Series is here!
To read more about why this series sucks, read this:
Not only does it steal from Buffy but make the main girl character much less interesting and empowered...But also, the writing! Hurts! my! Head!

Okay, on to more pleasant topics:

Hellboy II is a surprisingly romantic and funny superhero film, if a little uneven. I love the star and I love the character, so I was going to like this film no matter what, but the way the writer manages to inject a little sensitivity and existential questioning into a gung-ho testosterone fest is pretty great. The director's pacing left a little to be desired - there were at least ten to fifteen minutes that were realllly slow and served no purpose - but his visual reference checks:
--Miyazaki's forest spirit blooming onto the land in Princess Mononoke
--Indiana Jones fight with the giant German wrestler into the helicopter blades
--many scenes reminscent of Spirited Away and other references to La Puta/Castle in the Sky Robots
--the "welcome to diagon alley" scene in the first Harry Potter movie
are pretty flawless. So, overall, a thumbs up! I even give it a "date night" recommendation.

Penelope is a fairy-tale fable about a contemporary girl cursed with a pig's nose. The first half, in particular, is great - gothic and strange and Christina Ricci is so charming, as is a scene which has the main love interest character literally kissing a (ceramic) frog. Definitely worth a rental.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Tips for sci-fi, fantasy, and speculative fiction writers from Kelly Link

If you're a fiction writer who dabbles in sci-fi, fantasy, or the speculative thing, check out this interview with Kelly Link (author of one of my favorite books, Stranger Things Happen) - she talks about her work at the low-res MFA program at Stonecoast, her teaching gig at the Clarion Workshop in San Diego (with Neil Gaiman, fellow teacher) and general publishing stuff here:
Oh yeah, you have to get about 12 minutes in to get to her part of the interview.
Anyway, makes me wish I wrote fiction instead of poetry! I would sign up for that Clarion deal in a heartbeat - and maybe even sign up for another MFA!
PS Kelly Link has a new Young Adult book, Pretty Monsters, due out in October. I've been recommending her other two books (chock full of sex and violence) to teens, so I'm glad to have something on the "safer" side to recommend.

PS Buffy and Fray crossover comics going on now! So get to your comic shop!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Kurosawa's Dreams

More from my series on the work of Akira Kurosawa...

Now, "Dreams" is a series of vignettes taken from, you guessed it, the dreams of the director. The main character starts out a young boy who witnesses a wedding procession of foxes, which is forbidden, and then goes to seek their forgiveness under a rainbow. He also speaks with life-sized dolls who celebrate a chopped-down peach orchard by dancing in ceremonial kimono. Several of the vignettes are explicitly about war - one in which a commanding soldier encounters the soldiers he sent to their deaths is particularly moving - and nuclear holocaust. Most jarring, although beautiful, was when the movie suddenly shifted into French - then English - in a piece about Vincent Van Gogh (played by Martin Scorcese) and the main character finds himself lost inside Van Gogh's paintings.
These pieces are really more like visual poems than a fictional narrative, with a lot of imagery and very little dialogue. A scene in which men are lost in a blizzard is little more than flying snow and sound effects of wind and walking for ten minutes - until they encounter "Yuki-Onna," a snow maiden. The sense that Kurosawa was trying to make sense of the Japanese society's (and his own personal) love of the natural world and the devastation that arose from technology and war really comes through in the film.
Since I've written both about the legend of the kitsune and Yuki-Onna, I really loved the film. It's not about action, it's very lyric and experimental. The more I get to know his work, the more I enjoy it.