So let's talk about CAPTAIN AMERICA TWO

Behind a cut because SPOILERS.

SPOILERS! )
So, I watched Snowpiercer last night.

For those who haven't heard of it (most people, apparently) it's a film made by Joon-ho Bong, a Korean director, which has had extensive distribution outside the US, but was having issues getting in cinemas because the US distribution company wanted to make cuts that Joon-ho Bong insisted would ruin the film. It has some pretty big names, including Tilda Swinton and Chris Evans, so I've been eagerly awaiting the chance to see it despite it being a movie about basically everything I hate seeing movies about (post-apocalyptic dystopias, man's brutality to his fellow man, et cet). But it does have Chris Evans in it, and one of the best surrealist sushi meals I've ever seen.

Supposedly it's based on a comic book, but I downloaded the comic and despite it being in French I worked out enough from it to believe that probably the premise is the only thing that fully transferred over from graphic novel to film.

It's super-hard to discuss the film without spoiling it, so I strongly recommend seeing the film first -- but if you are easily disturbed by psychological fuckery in films, you actually may want to get the spoilers. I dunno -- I'm glad I didn't because I might not have watched if I had.

Snowpiercer -- major spoilers. )
I saw The Lego Movie last night and it was shockingly awesome.

I want to put that into perspective for you: I generally dislike going to the movies, and yet I got the lead out and went to a movie because I desperately wanted to see the Lego Movie, I was prepared to love it, I was predisposed to find it great, and it still shocked me with how much I enjoyed it.

It does have the worst earworm of all time, which I am still humming this morning, but if you're going to have a song stuck in your head, a song whose primary lyrics are "everything is awesome" is not a bad choice.

It was a funny movie and it had a cute plot, but it also had a real depth of thought in terms of what the film was saying and how it was saying it. I said to someone that it had a great metacommentary on imaginative play -- there's a discussion to be had about the interplay between structure and imagination and how it's all sketched in shades of grey.

Anyway, I enjoyed it a lot, and I will be humming "everything is awesome!" all day.
So! I have seen the new Joss Whedon Much Ado, and as someone requested three things, I am here to oblige.

Spoilers for Much Ado About Nothing )

3a. I saw someone, somewhere, describe the final scene as "Awkward white people dancing; Clark Gregg possibly having a seizure" which I think is both accurate and salutatory.

(ETA -- the above quote is from the inimitable -- believe me, I've tried -- Scifigrl47 on Tumblr.)
So we went to see Les Miserables today.

I saw Les Mis for the first time on stage in San Francisco when I was twelve, and a second time a few years ago in Toronto. I read the abridged version of the novel when I was fourteen; I've never managed the unabridged, but I've heard it's tediously detailed, so I'm okay with that.

I liked the movie; I loved the innovation of having the actors sing live, rather than record in a studio and then sync along. It allows the actors to emote in the moment and control the tempo and phrasing. But I think it also caused some collateral damage, because it's so new and fancy, as an idea, that the cameras tend to linger on faces a lot longer than they need to. Watching Fantine suffer through I Dreamed A Dream was moving for about thirty seconds, and then it began to become a little tedious. And they did it a lot. God On High and Empty Chairs Empty Tables got the same treatment, when they could have been conveyed more effectively with intercuts of the barricades and the wrecked cafe. It felt like the film began with this epic vision, this amazing imagination, and then as soon as it settled into itself, its scope just...shrunk down.

Mind you, it was still splendid. I particularly liked the bishop, who it turns out as I suspected originated the role of Jean Valjean on the stage. Hugh Jackman is a pleasure to watch, as is Anne Hathaway. And while I'm not a huge fan of Russel Crowe, I think he did the part of Javert credit.

I do hope the Music Box does a sing along version at some point.
I did end up locating and watching the chronologically-arranged Marvel Movierverse film cut this weekend.

In case you're worried about spoilers for movies from 2008-2011, review is behind the cut. )

So yeah. Nine hours, five movies, and I didn't have quite the staying power to get through Avengers as well, but it's not like I haven't seen it a few times already.

Also, if you enjoy Sam Explains Comics for the learnings and not the banter, I did a post over on Tumblr detailing the terrifyingly dysfunctional Ultimate Comics romance between Tony Stark and Natasha Romanoff. Complete with Natasha's hilarious spiderweb undies.

ALSO: crackfic.

Title: The Photograph
Rating: PG
Summary: Steve had body-modesty trained out of him in boot camp, and apparently his attitude is infectious.

At Dreamwidth
At AO3
I had a really terrible afternoon yesterday, to follow on the heels of my what the hell is this day Friday, so last night in the hopes of being cheered up I watched the 1998 made-for-TV movie "Nick Fury: Agent Of SHIELD" starring David Hasselhoff as Nick Fury, Agent Of SHIELD. It was everything you'd expect and more.

Oh, it was so gloriously awful. It was chock full of villain monologues, questionable fashion choices, startling and random moments of homoeroticism, and terrible acting. Apparently Nick Fury not only has an eyepatch but a fake hollow eye behind it, in which he keeps string and explosives. My favourite line of dialogue is a toss up between a bad guy goon shouting LET US ROCK AND LET US ROLL early in the film, and Fury telling the big villain "I danced on your poisonous father's grave" followed by "Hey, how is HYDRA's dental plan?" as he elbowed a bad guy goon in the mouth.

So that's well worth a viewing party if you like terrible films. And it even has a man I dubbed "Fake Coulson", Nick Fury's suit-wearing, sarcastic-remark-making friend who holds down the fort while Fury's off wreaking havoc. I salute you, Fake Coulson. You were the finest part of that film, for what that's worth.

I also wrapped up final edits on The City War this weekend, which was great, and I'm not sure if I've said it but it won't suffer from repeating that the folks at Riptide Publishing have been nothing but awesome throughout the editorial process. If you write romantic or erotic fiction, particularly in the queer or kinky spectrums, they're a great place to submit your work. I haven't read a lot of my fellow authors on the site, but given the vigor and ingenuity with which they edited The City War I am sure it's good stuff.

Today I am going to sit quietly and hope nothing horrible happens. I think it's a good plan.
BTW I am watching Avengers. I am an hour in and can't not be sarcastic yet admiring about it anymore.

SPOILERS behind the cut!

I feel a little misled. )
So I went to the Willy Wonka sing along at the Music Box this afternoon. I'm going to have that stupid Golden Ticket song stuck in my head for a week.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was a go-to film for me as a kid, a movie I loved like burning, but I haven't seen it probably since I was fifteen or so. And yet, both I and the woman sitting next to me managed to sing along to every song, including the creepy boat song, and recite half the dialogue. (It occurred to me also, watching the opening credits, it's probably to blame for my fascination with industrial mass-production equipment.)

I frankly have no idea how that film got made or marketed to children, because it's like a psychotic romp through Roald Dahl's ultra-creepy subconscious and parts are genuinely traumatising. What other children's movie do you know has footage of a chicken being beheaded? I guess we can blame the fact that it was the early seventies.

And it's not like the film isn't enchanting, too. The whole thing is remarkably well-written, which I can appreciate more as an adult; Roald Dahl was a fantasist but he had a very firm grasp on how to tell a multi-channel story, using cultural objects like news reports and television interviews to build a world around the central plot. It holds up extremely well on the big screen, especially when you have Audience Participation and get to blow bubbles during the fizzy lifting drink scene. I've never blown bubbles during a movie before, they look really cool when they drift up through the projection light.

Next year I'm so going in costume. SOMEBODY FIND ME A PURPLE VELVET FROCK COAT.
And he's back from the moving pictures.

I saw Show People, which is a really remarkably funny film -- a silent picture made after the talkies had already started up, but not long after, and honestly I don't know that it would be improved by being a talkie. It makes really good use of the text frames as transitions; I wanted to share the film with you guys but I can't find it online, but you can see a great use of transitional text frames about halfway through this clip. The faces are funnier on the big screen; Marion Davies does some of the best mugging I've ever seen, especially later in the film when she's trying to school her features into an upper-class sneer.

The film is notable for having a ton of big stars who did cameos in it, including Charlie Chaplin. I've seen pictures of Chaplin without the traditional Chaplin Face, and I've seen Chaplin films, but I've never seen him out of makeup in a film. I think I know why he used to wear really baggy clothing as a costume: it's to mask the fact that he has a great big giant head. Seriously, it's huge. You can see a clip here (forgive the voiceover) where he asks for Peggy Pepper's autograph and she has no clue who he is.

It's interesting too the different vibe you get from seeing this kind of film in this kind of setting. There's no pre-show slideshow or ads; the organist, who also runs the Silent Cinema series, gets up and does a little talk about the film, and then we just jump right in. I know in old movie houses there'd be a newsreel, a cartoon, maybe a trailer, and then the feature, but it's just so different from the popcorn ad - fifteen trailers - silence-your-phones announcement - Anti-Piracy ad - MPAA Rating - finally-the-film setup that you get now.

Next time I'm totally going in character as someone seeing a film in the twenties -- not outwardly, just in my head. Gee whiz! A new picture! Say, I better see if I have an extra dime for a Nehi soda. I ain't JP Morgan, yanno.

Because secretly I am nine years old and love playacting.
So, despite my doubts about a 20's-era silent film produced in 2011 starring the wife of the film's director, we went to see The Artist this afternoon. I'm glad mum talked me into it, because that was fucking brilliant, and I say that as somone who generally hates cinema.

I'm not sure it's necessarily brilliant in the sense of original, because it is a mixture of homage, pastiche, and send-up, but it was certainly enjoyable and a fun commentary on silent film. And I do kind of love silent film, so my concern to begin with was that they'd fuck it up, rather than that it was, you know, a silent film.

I think the absolute best part, for me, was the very end -- so spoiler behind the cut! )

At any rate, Mum and Emmy and me all enjoyed it, and Mum immediately came home and googled the name of the Jack Russel Terrier in the film -- who not only has his own Wikipedia page, but his own twitter.

Any movie is better with a dog. (Except Old Yeller, fuck that noise.)
Wow, if this isn't an appropriate post to make on December 7th...

To unwind, lately, I've been reading this book a friend gave me called The Rape Of Europa, about art crime in Europe during WWII. It's pretty awesome, but it's a very densely packed book, so I've been reading it for like a month now and we've only just beat the Nazis.

It's such a great book, even if I have trouble keeping everyone straight. It jumps around a trifle because in the early days a lot of stuff was happening in a lot of different places, so you get a chapter about Nazi looting (or "safeguarding" as they called it) in Germany and Austria, and then a chapter about American museums hiding their collections in case of bombings, and one about Great Britain, and one about what happened in the east, to the Soviet Union, which is especially interesting from a White Collar point of view. Spoiler: Siberia is not a great place to stash priceless temperature-sensitive art, or its curators.

It does make me want to do two things: one, find a biography of Rose Valland, possibly the most awesome woman of WWII. She not only participated in the hiding of French art but then during the occupation worked for the Resistance and tracked where Nazi spoils went and then after the liberation of Paris went to the MPAA or "Monuments Men" from Britain and America and told them where all the art had gone.

Two, it makes me want to write a novel about the Monuments Men, because they led fascinating lives during the end of the war and after V-E day. These were usually low-ranking men who had in civilian life been museum curators, engineers, and art lovers. With almost no funding and no official unit support, they ran around Europe in borrowed or stolen cars (or hitchhiking), often only a week or two after Allied troops had been through the area, digging up art and books and trying to preserve historic monuments. They supervised the rescue of art from hidden caches, including scrounging food for the workers and transport trucks for the art. And then, when the US decided it deserved all of Germany's own art as reparations -- under the guise of "safeguarding" again, what a dreadful word -- they protested so loud and so long that they not only kept most of Germany's art in Europe, they managed to shame the US government into sending back the two hundred-odd works that had made it to America. (After a whirlwind tour of the US, which brought out a million visitors in four weeks in Washington DC alone.)

So it's an awesome book, but it's a bit of a plow to get through.

This probably isn't unrelated, though the decision wasn't conscious, but I've also been watching a significant amount of WWII documentaries on Netflix.

There follows an essay upon WWII, history, documentaries, and my stupidly inaccurate education regarding both. )

Anyway. It was a horrible war on every side, not that war ever isn't horrible, and there are no easy answers, and I'm just about done with my little mini-inhale of it.

Still want to find a biography of Rose Valland, though.
I feel like when the Music Box concessions staff asks you "Butter on your popcorn?" and you reply "Lots, please," they really comprehend what you are saying.

The film was great -- really cool to finally see Dr. Caligari on the big screen. The live organ was a fantastic bonus, though not as good as the Elsinore's massive pipe organ in Salem (OR, not MA) for sheer OMG ORGAN, but then the Elsinore would spoil anyone. I'm not actually much of a cinema fan (see icon) but I have a special place in my heart for classic film and German expressionism in particular; I actually own a copy of Dr. Caligari on DVD. And this afternoon I'm going to break out Dr. Mabuse as a companion piece, and maybe M this evening. MAD GERMANS! I should have fantastic dreams.

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is essentially the granddaddy of the horror genre, generally agreed upon to be the first ever made, with amazing surreal-deco sets and overall fantastic art direction given the infancy of the medium at the time. Watching it is a little like watching the art of cinema be born: you can see in it the techniques that we take for granted in modern video media, like flashbacks and integrated visual metaphor, the use of shadow and light, of physicality and deliberate focus. At times it's unintentionally funny, but you get sucked in, and the suspense is tremendous.

I always seem to make friends when I go to the Music Box, which is kind of strange. I got to talking with the couple sitting next to me before the film and found myself thinking why are you talking to me? not in my usual fuck off and die sense but more...curious, like what were they getting out of it, what was motivating them to hold this conversation with a stranger. Then I realised two things:

1. Interesting stuff was coming out of my mouth, because I'm intimately familiar with Caligari and the art movements behind it;
2. They were Canadian.

So that was nice. Also, a couple of people came in costume, which was brilliant if startling.

Chicagawans, take note: the next Second Saturday Silent Cinema Show at the Music Box is in November, but starting in January they're showing them the second Saturday of every single month. The organist was taking suggestions for films they should show, and he also happens to be the head of the BUSTER KEATON SOCIETY (it satisfies something deep in me that such a thing exists) so we'll definitely be getting some Buster Keaton. And, it sounds like, some freaky silent noir.
I have to say, I'm not best pleased with the Music Box Cinema right now.

I had a good time at the movie, because I love Bedknobs & Broomsticks and have since I was kid, but seven dollars for a Sunday morning matinee of a film that came out in 1971 is a bit steep. I wouldn't mind so much, because I like to support my local independent cinema, but I think we may have actually had a reel from 1971. The film quality was pretty terrible -- I don't mind the scratchiness so much, I rather like the "dirt" in fact, but there were a couple of points where the film jumped in the middle of dialogue.

Also, inexplicably, it was missing scenes. And I sound like such a doofus that I know this, but the version we saw was missing one song and at least two plot-points -- the library duet, the scene where Paul provides the magic words from his picture-book, and the scene where Brown joins the army. I can't imagine why they were cut except perhaps for time; unless you really don't want the hero joining the military as a message to kids, there wasn't anything offensive about them. Perhaps I'm even more of a doofus for thinking it, but cutting the last scene pretty much eviscerates Brown's character arc as well.

Still, it was epic to finally see it on the big screen. It's a strange little film; there are these moments of childish, silly whimsy, and then all of a sudden you get hit in the face with some pretty heavy themes. The summoning of Britain's ancestral militias to drive off the invaders is mythical stuff, and the special effects have held up really remarkably well. (Other than the bed-travel scenes, which are pure seventies lolarity.) It was thrilling to see the soldiers crest the hill -- and then you pan away and there's a line of them just going on forever. It's remarkable, the power of impact in that imagery.

I thought it might seem a bit creepy, an adult going alone to a kiddie matinee, but it turned out I was in the majority. I ended up sitting with three other guys my age and one guy in his fifties, and there were a bunch of college kids in the back, and then dotted around were maybe two or three couples and four or five families. Grownups significantly outnumbered the kids. It was nice, actually, to dork out about this film we all really loved and had come out in the PISSING DOWN RAIN OMG to see. The older guy we were sitting with could remember actually seeing the film in a cinema the first time round.

You can find the whole thing pretty easily on YouTube, if you're feeling nostalgic or have never seen it and would like to, but my two favourite parts are the Portobello Road extended scene (which I don't think ever aired in actual cinemas) and the Substitutiary Locomotion battle.
So! I am back from seeing, as my movie ticket calls it, RON: Legacy.

I had a good time. It's hard enough to unpack a complex series of plotlines like that without having to do it on a compact keyboard, but yeah: I loved it, I thought visually it was impressive (though not, actually, as impressive as the original), and there were a lot of themes of parenthood and succession, control and release, to explore.

Spoilers behind the cut! )

In all it was very enjoyable, and it takes a lot to make me enjoy a film.
So, the whole family settled in to watch TRON this evening, in anticipation of seeing TRON Legacy tomorrow. Our copy of TRON comes from a VHS taping of an old network broadcast, dubbed to DVD a few years ago by yours truly. It's not the most elegant version ever but I'm a little afraid to see the remastered original TRON, because I love the weird noirish look that the terrible film quality adds to it.

I love TRON and I'm not ironic about it. )

I love TRON. Tomorrow I'm gonna go see TRON Legacy and even if it is dreadful, there is no possibility that Legacy will kill my love of TRON. It was a defining myth of my childhood, and I have loved it for twenty years.

YEAH TRON.
It's hard to oversleep on a day you don't have to work, but I think I did it. I didn't wake up until ten in the morning, which is quite late for me. I'm still fighting this stupid cold; last night I blew my nose and I'm pretty sure I freed an elder god from one of my sinuses.

Still, I've managed to clean the kitchen and pack for tomorrow's travels. I'll be in Texas for nine days; Mum has a whole schedule planned, among it the McNay Gallery, TRON on the IMAX at the Bob Bullock History Museum, and a trip to see my stepfather's mother, Mama Tickey, Last Of The Southern Belles. I'm also possibly chaperoning my sister and her friends to some other movie; apparently I'm marginally cooler than their collective parental units. They're all high school sophomores, and thus the supreme dictators of cool. I should be okay as long as I wear my leather jacket and don't get asked any questions about music.

There may be talks of college; I think she's eyeballing Rice, but I'm pitching Northwestern and Univesity of Chicago. Playing that "Marginally Cool" card for all I'm worth, yo.

Speaking of how I am uncool, I tried to watch Inception last night. I want to like Inception, because most of my friends like it and/or have written a ton of fanfic about it. I went in knowing nothing other than "stuff happens in dreams and there's a guy named Arthur" but I just couldn't get into it. Leonardo DiCaprio's character is kind of a tool, Ariadne is an exposition-dump, and most of the other characters are rather bland. The concept is intriguing but I found myself going but dreams don't work that way, and also being more intrigued by how this "military technology" got loose and whether it's legal, how legal, and how it's changed society, than I was about a handful of screwups trying to fuck with some rich boy's subconscious.

I did kind of like Saito, he was funny and badass, but it would be hard to build a film entirely about his encounters. Yusuf's character and situation could support a film, and I think that's the film I'd want to see -- something that uses him as an entre into an exploration of how this machine got out of military hands and how it has impacted society. Obviously he's heavily involved in what I guess you'd call dream trafficking, and I'm more interested in that than in the caper. Which is sad, I love a good caper film.

Anyway, about halfway through I decided I would open the red wine that Santa brought me, only to realise I don't have a corkscrew. So I gave up and went to bed.
I watched Shark Attack III this evening while cleaning.

I'm not proud.

You knew that.

Sam's Three Things About Shark Attack III: MEGALODON )

3a. Look, I don't really have anything else to say about this film, so here is John Barrowman in a wetsuit.



Having seen Shark Attack III and Sherlock Holmes Not The Good One in the course of a single week, I feel like I need to find the worst film David Tennant ever made just so I can round out the trilogy. Given that he's done less than his fair share of shit films, I'll settle for something with at least one sea monster and/or dinosaur in it.

Casanova didn't have any dinosaurs in it, did it?

I didn't think so.
SO.

I had a nap, and felt better, and then I watched Sherlock Holmes. The other one, not the good one, this time.

I find myself oddly charmed by it, actually.

I will say that I think they could have titled this movie (spoilers behind the cut!) Sherlock Holmes And The Ill-Fitting Trousers Of Dr. Watson. )
SO!

I WENT TO SEE PRINCESS AND THE FROG TONIGHT.

And lo, it was awesome!

I haven't seen a real proper Disney film in years; the last one I think I saw was The Lion King. I miss 2-D animation, and this was a tour-de-force artistically speaking; gorgeous art, well-drawn characters, excellent backgrounds and a real feeling for early 20th-century style.

The story was charming, if pretty much the Disney Standard, and a little truncated in places (the villain's motivation gets rather short shrift, IMO, and some of the events at the end felt rushed; also, "My dream wouldn't be complete without you in it" was a bit, uh) but it really was a pleasure to see a well-executed story with gorgeous art. It does have the signature Disney "nightmares, I will have nightmares" moment, but one expects that. And the resolution of the Evangeline subplot was amazing.

The music is great, naturally, and ukeleles got a nice tip of the hat. They really are a rather underappreciated instrument.

The film is unmistakeably and unapologetically New Orleans, and while I feel a few moments were a bit over-the-top in using that trope, overall it had a really nice flavour to it. I'm sorry I didn't see it sooner, and not just because I have friends who worked on it. *grin*

Anyhow. More than worth a movie ticket and a big bucket of popcorn. :D

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