I went to see Hidden Figures on Saturday with [livejournal.com profile] fabrisse -- the film about the African-America women who worked as computers for NASA during the run-up to the Friendship 7 launch. As a movie, it's well paced, keeps track of the 3 main characters well, and does a good job of making math and computer programming dramatic, which isn't always the easiest thing.

It also doesn't play down the fact that while NASA was a place that employed many African-American mathematicians and engineers, it was still a segregated employer in an America where segregation was legal and government-enforced. There are a lot of white characters in the movie who enforce fairly awful cultural norms without thinking, because they've never had to think about them before.
I just got back from seeing Rogue One!

It was a gripping movie, and I do recommend it. I also recommend, if you have young kids, you see it first and then decide if they can handle it, because it's much more of a war movie than any of the other Star Wars movies.
On Tuesday I went with [personal profile] greenygal and L to see Project Itoh: The Empire of Corpses.

It's an alternate-history anime featuring Dr. John Waston (yes, that one) working for the British government trying to find the lost notebook of Victor Frankenstein. In a world where reanimated corpses have become cheap labor.

Yup, a steampunk zombie movie from Japan. I loved it; it was gorgeous and ridiculous and utterly fascinating.

In no particular order there was:

John Waston, who has stolen and reanimated his friend's corpse.
M/Walsingham, the head of a British intelligence agency who blackmails John into working for him
Friday/Noble Savage-007, the aforementioned friend as a reanimated corpse; Watson has programed him to act as scribe
The Nautilus, in a moment of sheer WTF?!
An automaton that just wants a soul
A cameo by Thomas Edison
Babbage analytical engines directing corpse labor
Analytical engines running on punch cards with input/output by manual typewriter
Ulysses S Grant in Japan
Alexei Karamazov as Russian corpse-engineer who has stolen the Frankenstein notebook and run off to Afghanistan
Nikolai Krasotkin as a Russian agent sent to track down Alexei Karamazov
A battle at the Khyber Pass, as enacted by armies of reanimated corpses
Frederick Burnaby, who is assigned as Watson's handler/bodyguard
The British super-computer/analytical engine is named Charles Babbage
The American one, in San Francisco, is named Paul Bunyan
Frankenstein's actual monster
Universal Horror's version of Frankenstein's monster
A Japanese military officer with truly outrageous eyebrows
A woman on top of a stagecoach, wielding a flamethrower
Zombie shinto monks as scribes for a Japanese corporation's analytical engine
Security hacking of reanimated corpses and with reanimated corpses
A villain who wants everyone in the world turned into a reanimated corpse, because that's the way to peace...uhm, no?
Corpse-bomb, because what's creepier than reanimated corpses? Reanimated corpses that explode!
A trip around the world from London, to Afghanistan, to Japan, to San Francisco, and then finally back to London (by submarine? from San Francisco?!)
Frankenstein's brain, in a jar!

It was like someone had put 19th century European literature and history in a blender, and then filtered it through Japanese anime.

I want more of it, possibly in crossover with Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, possibly just a 5000 word essay on how abundant corpse labor would have transformed Victorian culture, with special focus on the effects on the working class of being replaced by undead factory workers, on death and dying when bodies might be reanimated, and on the leisure class when half your servants are dead.
I went to see Rams at the AFI last night. The description is: 'In a remote Icelandic farming valley, two brothers who haven't spoken in 40 years have to come together in order to save what's dearest to them - their sheep'.

My initial reaction was 'my god, it's Norwegian Bachelor Farmers!', except they're Icelanders. But I was with [personal profile] ellen_fremedon; and the Vegan Knitter, and she agreed it was totally Norwegian Bachelor Farmers. Though when we got to the end, she pointed that once you've run away to the mountains, that's the last step to becoming an outlaw and your story is over; so the ending was perfect, at least in the context of Icelandic sagas.

This afternoon I went to see Chandu the Magician with [personal profile] greenygalas part of the William Cameron Menzies retrospective. It had a good bit of painfully dated orientalism, and a good bit of raygun gothic with a 'death ray' as the central macguffin, but it also had some amazing set design consider it was made in 1932, some nifty special effects (and lots of van de graaf generators and tesla coils) and correct use of 'thou' and 'you' between a master yogi and his student Chandu. You could definitely see the seeds of both the Jedi and Indiana Jones in the movie.

Next up, there's short run of Harryhausen films, including King Kong and Jason and the Argonauts at the AFI that I'm going to go to, and a two-day only run of Project Itoh: Empire of Corpses, which is a steampunk anime alternate history -- 'Ever wonder what the world would be like if the British Empire had been built upon a working class of reanimated corpses?' -- so I will go see it even though it's only showing weekday nights.
On Monday I went out with [livejournal.com profile] fabrisse to see the National Theater Live filmed production of Tom Stoppard's The Hard Problem, as she had a spare ticket. It was quite an excellent play, which deals scientific ambition, financial trading, unreciprocated sexual attraction, scientific integrity, and adoption from the viewpoint of the birth mother. The hard problem of the title is the question of consciousness, which is currently one of the thorniest problems in science, since we really don't know enough about the brain to know anything other than "we don't how to ask that yet".

Yesterday, I went with [personal profile] greenygal and [personal profile] pleasance to see the filmed version of Julie Taymor's version of A Midsummer Night's Dream at the AFI. It was amazing. Given that it was Taymor, the costume design was fantastic, including use of fiber-optic lights in Titania's costuming, body paint -- Oberon's was either blue-black or blued steel, with glitter and gold accents -- and a donkey mask with hand-operated mouth movement for Bottom. The fairies entered and left through the ceiling and floor, and the entire cast made fantastic use of all the stage space, including catwalks above the audience. Max Casella as Bottom was hilarious, Mandi Mansen as Helena made me really feel for her when she was accusing Hermia, Demetrius and Lysander of mocking her, Demetrius and Lysander were hilarious when they kept getting in slap-fights and competive stripping over Helena (because it's not Midsummer if all four of the young lovers don't end up in their underwear), Kathryn Hunter as Puck was apparently made of rubber, I would love to see David Harewood (who played the Prince of Morocco in the 2004 film of The Merchant of Venice -- Portia should have run off with him, he was so damned charming) and Tina Benko as Oberon and Titania live, and Zachary Infante was surprisingly touching as Flute playing Thisbe.
neotoma: "Squee!" goes the bunny (SqueeBunny)
( Jun. 21st, 2015 08:36 am)
I went to see Tomorrowland with [livejournal.com profile] fabrisse yesterday.

Why did noone tell me there is a steampunk rocketship with a Babbage engine controller in this movie? That set-peice alone is worth the price of admission! And when Keegan Michael-Key showed up and announced his name was Hugo Gernsback I almost sporfled. Frank getting rambling off on a tangent about how Tesla and Edison hated each other while our heroes are on the run from killer robots was also a delight.

Also, passes the Bechdel test with flying colors, is about hope and science, and was just fun to watch. And Raffey Cassidy is an actor to watch out for -- I hope she continues to get amazing roles, because her Athena was fantastic.
[personal profile] greenygal and I went to see The Wizard of Oz on Saturday, as it was playing at the local arthouse cinema. It was a lot of fun to see it on the big screen -- there's a lot of detail that only shows up well that way. I did come up with the alternate characterization that Glinda is manipulating Dorothy into knocking out rival witches -- it's the only explanation that makes sense to me for why she didn't tell Dorothy how to get home at the beginning, and why she magicked the ruby slippers onto Dorothy's feet too. I was also struck by just how many geeky references come from Oz directly.

After the movie and lunch out, we went back to my place and watched Over the Garden Wall. If you haven't seen it, it was a miniseries that the Cartoon Network ran the first week of November, and it's gorgeous. Also, cute, surreal, and deeply eerie.

It starts off with two brothers, one a teenager, one a younger boy, lost in the woods and trying to get home, and unfolds from there. It takes about 40 minutes for the plot to get rolling beyond 'surreal and cute', but then it's amazing![personal profile] greenygal as a little upset that I'd only told her it was cute, but I didn't want to spoil the story. Among other things, the original music is fantastic, and they got opera singer Samuel Ramey do to the voice of the villain. Elijah Wood plays the older brother, with Christopher Lloyd, John Cleese, Tim Curry, Shirley Jones, Chris Isaak, among other voices you might recognize. It's available on Amazon and iTunes for about $10, at least in the USA.

I did have one theory about the show which I haven't seen anyone else come up with I think that spoiler ) Of course, that's just speculation.
As part of the Howard H retrospective, the AFI in Silver Spring is showing His Girl Friday at 5:10 on Saturday, and Casablanca at 7:15 on Saturday and 3:15 on Sunday.

Whose interested in seeing one or both of these movies? Maybe with a meal before or after?
Paths of Glory is showing at the AFI 12:30 tomorrow, as part of the Kubrik retrospective.

Anyone interested?
Well, I moved in -- I have hardwood floors -- and am in the process of acquiring things like a wardrobe, taller bookscases, and a useful tv stand. The new place may be slightly bigger than the old and it is definitely better laid out.

I've finally gotten to the point where I actually kind-of-sort-of have a plot for my [livejournal.com profile] sabriel_mini fic. I'm going with the starship story, which is going to be all sad because Sam's asexual boyfriend is leaving him to go become a starship. Uhm, yeah, another AU. Also somewhat on the genfic side of things, or possibly bob-fic... Anyone want to be on the writing filter?

I'm also hoping to get a new desktop soon. My laptop isn't bad, but the screen is smaller than I'm used to and I'd like to get one of those 2T hard drives for media storage.

And for you locals, the AFI is having a Spy Cinema film festival for the next few months -- who wants to see The Ipcress File, which looks like it might be fantastic and doesn't seem available on DVD. It's showing Friday at 7 and Sunday at 5:30.

There's also a Jean Harlow Retrospective going on -- lots of pre-Hayes Code films!
I think I'm going to get myself a copy of Sita Sings the Blues, having seen it through Netflix. It's an amazing story, and the art shifts are not only gorgeous, but well support the interweaving tales of Nina Paley (who made this movie on her computer) and Sita and Rama. The use of Annette Hanshaw's songs from the 1920s makes for a wonderful conceit for the film, which you should all watch.

Fortunately, it's on a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License, so if you want to download it an watch it, you can.

But I think I'll buy a copy when I can afford it -- because art like this needs to be supported. And maybe I need to finally read the Ramayana...
On Monday the 20th, Things to Come will be playing at the AFI at 4pm.

This is the 1936 film based on H.G. Well's The Shape of Things to Come, directed by William Cameron Menzies from a screenplay by Wells (yes, and he was heavily involved in the production!).

This is a must for any science fiction fan, because this is the Ur-Crystal Spires and Togas movie, shaping the way people imagined the future for decades to come.

Who has the day off and wants to meet up to geek out over an ancient SF film?
[personal profile] ellen_fremedon and I went to see Red Tails today. It was about what you'd expect -- gorgeous men in gorgeous planes and full of explosions.

Now I want to see what else the main cast have done. Because Red Tails is a WW2 movie -- you can see the tropes coming a mile away and nothing is a surprise (well, okay the Spoiler ), I'd like to see each of these actors in roles that let them extend their ranges a bit more.

For a war movie about pilots, the air combat was wonderfully easy to follow. I never felt like I didn't know which planes were American and which were German (and considering both sides start the movie sort of greyish and zip across the screen, that's a feat) or what action I was supposed to be seeing. I'm sure a lot of it is due to the fact that George Lucas put a lot of his own money into this film -- there was no way the special effects would be bad.

Spoilers )

But coming out of it, what I really want is for there to be a 10-episode miniseries like Band of Brothers or The Pacific about the Tuskegee Airmen. Using composite characters to get the story down to movie-length doesn't do justice to the real history, and it's not like there isn't a compelling narrative for a miniseries to follow.

I do hope there will be crossover fic -- the military fandom writers should be all over this! Recs if you've got them?
neotoma: Neotoma albigula, the white-throated woodrat! [default icon] (Default)
( Jun. 24th, 2011 08:37 am)
Yesterday, I took the day off and went to two of the Silverdocs showings.

First, I saw Cafeteria Man. The documentary follows Tony Geraci, who was hired to run the Baltimore school system's food program. Over the course of two years, he works with parents, teachers, students, politicians, local farmers, and chefs to eliminate the pre-plated, commodity food that was served in the school system's cafeterias with locally grown produce and introduce a more positive food culture into the entire school system, from pre-K to high school. This includes setting up a teaching farm inside Baltimore, reforming the food procurement system, setting up food service/hospitality programs in the schools, and trying to set up a central kitchen to cook food for the schools, because most schools in Baltimore do not have kitchens in which foods can actually be cooked and retrofitting them individually would be prohibitively expensive compared to a central kitchen with a hub-and-spoke distribution system.

It was a seriously fascinating look at food and bureaucracy in American public schools.

Second, I saw The Loving Story, about Loving vs Virginia. Told mostly through archival footage -- a news cinematographer/filmmaker had documented the case at the time, but had never been able to get funds to make a documentary of her own -- it was amazingly powerful, since Mildred and Richard Loving spoke for themselves, instead of having a talking head or 'voice of God' narrator explain things. There were several interviews from the time of the case that were cringe-worthy, mostly because America as a society has moved on, but it was really interesting to see how incredibly important breaking the miscegnation laws were -- for inheritance rights for the children, for survivor rights in the case of death of a spouse, for the right not to be arrested because of who you were married to -- and how we take many of these things for granted today.
Cave of Forgotten Dreams is playing at the AFI Silver Spring all this week -- I'm planning on going to the 2:35 pm showing on Saturday. Would anyone like to join me and perhaps have a light meal afterwards?

This film is a documentary about the cave paintings at Chauvet -- at 30,000 years old, they are the oldest known cave paintings -- which are not open to the public in order to protect them from damage. It looks fascinating, and I'd love see and discuss the film with other people.
[personal profile] greenygal and I went to see Thor on Saturday.

Oh, it was delightful!

Thor was as exuberant and unselfsconcious and as much as a goober as I'd hoped, and there was a lot of punching, just as [livejournal.com profile] kerrypolka promised in her review -- and Thor was totally Hotspur, just as she said.

Also, it was filmed on location in New Mexico, so it looks right! -- instead of like southern California, which is becoming a pet peeve of mine in television. Not to mention absolutely stunning CGI for Asgard, including some wonderful effects like a unique and non-cheesy Rainbow Bridge.

I would say Loki just needs a hug, but I'm pretty sure he'd bite )

Now I want fic for this, with wee!Thor and wee!Loki and wee!Sif and even wee!WarriorsThree. There's a bit of it on [livejournal.com profile] norsekink, and two stories on AO3, but I want more. I'm afraid that I'll start writing it if I don't find more that suits my tastes (gen, or at least non-Thor/Loki, because incest is not my kink)

Also, I might go see it again. Anyone up for a weekend afternoon of really pretty special effects and a rather fun plot involving punching things?
I want to see The Prestige in the next few weeks. So far, it sounds like a good, rather dark movie that the critics just did not get. Any movie that features Nikolai Tesla is worth seeing, in my opinion.

I'm cautiously interested in seeing Flags of Our Fathers, now that I've learned that it's a duology with Letters from Iwo Jima being the second film. Letters is from the Japanese perspective and staring Ken Watanabe.

Pan's Labrynith looks amazingly pretty and magical, and will hopefully have as wonderful a story. The difficulty will be finding a theater playing it when it finally comes out.

300 looks stunning, but it's based on a Frank Miller graphic novel from after he jumped the shark; I don't know if I could stand to go to anything that will give him money. Also, any movie whose preview has me thinking that the costuming in Troy were more accurate has a long row to hoe. Mr. Miller should note that the Spartans did wear armor, and if he wanted them to fight naked for artistic reasons, 'naked except for a metal brief' just doesn't cut it. If you want naked, suck it up and take your NC-17 rating like a man.
Sharpe's Sword (transcript here) is yet another interesting addition to the Sharpe series. The South Essex, the unit the Riflemen are attached to, seems to have a competent colonel for once and an achievable goal instead of another suicide mission. Of course, it all goes blooey because this is a Sharpe story.

Why isn't there more fic for this fandom? You'd think anything that includes in its canon a wet and naked Sean Bean character would have oodles of fanfic... )
So, I'm watching Sharpe's Regiment (thank you, Netflix), mainly because I moved to New Mexico when the series was airing on PBS and I didn't get to see them the first time all the first time round.

And really, all I can think is that Richard Sharpe falls predictably for two types of women: the first category, who last an episode or so, are damsels in distress that he can and does rescue; the second category, rarer but longer lasting, are women who can totally kick his ass. His sergeant actually twits him about his predictablity about women.

It's also fun to watch for the manners displayed -- I'm not an expert on Regency manners by any means -- but it is amsuing how Sharpe tends to be very correct about how to address people (even strange women who drag him home, shag him, and then kick him out the door without ever telling him their name) but the people above him the social ranks just aren't.

His brief foray into shameless street theater in an effort to keep his battalion from being broken up is an effort shameless enough for Miles Vorkosigan. Actually, if Miles ran into a man like Richard Sharpe, the Hegen Hub would be doomed -- Miles would do all the political manuveuring and just point Sharpe in the right direction, end of story. Sharpe's plan to figure out where his missing recruits are by joining the army as a private is rather Milesian, come to think of it...

It was also figuring out that one of the villians is played by the actor who played one of the more memorable roles in the 7th Doctor episode "Ghost Light".

Basically, I'm having fun watching, and will for days, given that there were so many episodes made.

PS I have seen the first disc of House, M. D., and it was wonderful. I have a lot of catching up to do...

PSS I'm still planning on having a marathon of the first Sharpe's episodes sometime in the next month or two. I should have copies of the first five by then...
I've dived back into Lord of the Rings recently (long weekend of knitting combined with watching all three Extended Editions), and really JRRT wrote a *lot* of Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs.

It's very odd -- there are Gryffindor characters (mostly Rohirrim, to boot) but not as many as you'd expect for an epic fantasy.

Aragorn certainly *isn't* a Gryffindor. Neither is Frodo. And Gandalf is a Slytherin.

It's not that surprising, I suppose, considering JRR Tolkien *was* a Ravenclaw -- a professor who invented languages for fun -- but it's still odd. As is writing an entire species as Hufflepuffs (ie Hobbits). But it's odd that Lord of the Rings is the modern ur-fantasy, and yet its characters don't quite fit the mold.


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