That Neil Gaiman is skilled
his words and choices are artful
he can construct a scene
give a character a voice
and has the capacity
to see that point
at which a story
Horror movies are about expectations. Continue reading
If you don’t remember this movie, I don’t blame you. The marketing for it sort of oriented itself around the selling point that Megan Fox is hot, and She makes out with Amanda Seyfried in this movie. The trailer even seemed to dedicate quite a bit of time to showing off that sequence, which had about it the waft of a movie that was trying very hard to make its 15 racy seconds feel like 30. A transgressive, raunchy, highschool-aimed horror movie, Jennifer’s Body showed up just long enough to make everyone I know roll their eyes and go ugh about it as they went on to talk about how horribly exploitive it probably was.
The thing that nobody seemed to know at the time was that Jennifer’s Body wasn’t a Species-style exploitative horror film with nothing going on, it was a Frankenstein-style exploitative horror film with nothing going on. By that, I mean that this movie is basically the mediocre bits of three other movies that were killed, stitched together into something that resembles a whole. Continue reading
Arrow has one of the most effective opening hooks for a comic book nerd dork like me I’ve seen in a series in a long time. Continue reading
Just as Game Pile has developed away from its roots of being a pure videogame review section of the website and instead developed into a house for me to talk about stuff in videogames, using videogames as ways to talk about anything else that interests me as well, I realised that one thing that paralysed me was a movie that I enjoyed but didn’t have anything super-meaningful to say about.
I mean, what am I gunna say about Pacific Rim? Just eight paragraphs of enthusiastic wibbling about big robots and big monsters with three pictures interspersed? Is it enough for me to just talk about disjointed stuff I liked in a movie without some greater, central thesis?
Let’s find out!
Alright, so if I’m not happy with the way Aquaman is being treated based on a trailer and the quite safe assumption that the DC Expanded universe is being made by a neverending stream of teapots that suffer from such fundamental failings as objectivism or being Joss Whedon, what would I do differently? Yes, it’s me jumping on a bandwagon of popular analysis form where because I’ve gotten your attention thanks to talking about media that exists, I think I can talk you into listening to my ideas about media that should exist.
I at some point in my life shifted from the kind of person who made fun of Aquaman, because he was a character you kind of knew about but it was easy to imagine making fun of him, to someone who spends his time arguing about how much interesting potential Aquaman has as a storytelling agent, frustrated at the previous group of people.
There are challenges describing series that are part of the zeitgeist. When I talk about videogames it’s always as the Cool Take school of study, where nobody else is talking about the game and therefore whatever I’m saying is presenting to you a game you might not already know about, and giving you a reason to consider what the game is like or about, or some reason to care about it, or connect it to your life. When it comes to popular main-stream movies and series, though, that task is more difficult both because almost certainly someone else is giving that take, and there are some takes I don’t feel equipped to deliver.
Before I go on, though: I liked Luke Cage, Season 2, but it wasn’t a lot of fun. Good, grungy drama, and the time I can consciously think I had the most fun were sequences with Bushmaster being righteously angry.
I can’t speak to the values of blackness in Luke Cage. I can’t speak to what it’s like to be torn between two worlds, to have your identities – potential or otherwise – dictated to you by people who reject your humanity, not in this way. I don’t know the music. I don’t know the culture. I don’t know the life.
There’s this moment.
Spoilers for Luke Cage Season 2 follow.
CW: Discussion of gendered violence, sexual abuse, biphobia
What you care about shows in what you make.
Let’s talk about Hacker’s Magic.
There’s this joke, about ska.
The joke is that not many people like ska, and people who do like ska, are funny, and to be laughed at.
It’s not a really good joke, but it seems to be the only way ska music gets brought up. Hey, remember ska? Some people like it! Hah! You do sometimes see the variant ‘I can’t believe there was a time where we thought ska was good,’ usually in reference to the late 90s when a handful of ska bands got a few songs on the radio, which represented, of course, an invasion.
Also it got to be in the Digimon soundtrack because it was cheap, which is probably where a lot of people heard it the first time.
I haven’t watched this.
Oh, don’t give me that look.
When regarding any production made for Japan by the Japanese without an explicit eye towards translation and distribution – so, you know, lots of stuff – there’s a temptation towards an orientalist lens. The typical weeb view that Anime and Manga and such things are so much deeper than the tawdry production of the west, that these shows aren’t for kids, when they very much are for actual kids.
There’s a physicality to the Kamen Rider W universe that you don’t get even in big-budget superhero stories. That’s because a lot of the time when Robert Downey Jr is waving his hand at a table, he’s acting the heck out of interacting with an empty space. Thor talks to a head on a stick. Ian McKellan sits in an empty room made up of 100% greenscreen and cries to himself about the technical emptiness of a craft that started on a stage. These are the restraints on the implementation of computer effects as the foundation of a scene.
In Kamen Rider W, as with other Kamen Rider shows, the baddies are made outta rubber.
In Kamen Rider W, they use the term hardboiled a lot, and they directly, by name, invoke the idea of hardboiled detective fiction. The books are shown in shots, around the home and office that Sokichi made, and Hidari later inherited. Sokichi names Phillip after after Phillip Marlowe, the character central to Raymond Chandler’s series of novels. It’s repeatedly invoked in the case of secret catboy Hidari Shotaro, where he explains why he does something as being the essence of hardboiled. The series’ theme –
which is awesome –
is called WBX for DOUBLE-BOILED EXTREME.
Kamen Rider W is my first Kamen Rider Series and it owns bones. It is a high-energy series about loving a place, about wanting to live up to your potential, about found family, about the stories we tell one another, about legacies and respect and love and fear and about kicking baddies in the face and refusing to give up and there’s a motorbike which changes parts and there’s a truck that drives the motorbike around and –
I really like this show.
We’re going to do something a little bit different this time.
This Story Pile is going to be about the newspaper comic Cul De Sac, a comic I really like, but which is also, unlike other media I cover, actually kind of already represented online in its entirety as it is. Like, if you want to go read Cul De Sac, you can… just… do that. The other thing we’re going to talk about is Calvin and Hobbes, which Bill Watterson, the creator, has been similarly archived online, but also crucially, not by me.
Normally I break up these essays on media with pictures from the media in question, or youtube embeds or whatever, but GoComics lacks that functionality and while I could always take the strips, upload and offer them in the context of my own work and you know, review and educational purposes (which it is), I’d still feel just a bit of a dick about it. This is much as with the work of Gary Larson, who has asked that people not circulate Far Side strips online, and, well, they do anyway.
With that in mind, I’m making the conscious decision to not put any of the comic strips here in this blog post. Instead, I’m going to try and keep it short.
The Last Samurai is a 2003 American history-drama movie where Tom Cruise The Space Pope reprises his basic conceptual role in Dances With Wolves* and goes to Japan to learn of these strange, exotic natives and their wildly different ways. It is a story regularly lambasted for a variety of reasons such as its grotesquely understated depiction of Tom Cruise’s alcoholic soldier going completely teetotal without any seeming ill effects (which is very fair) to its claiming that Tom Cruise becomes ‘the best Samurai’ in the narrative (which is not) to the marketing which literally puts TOM CRUISE THE LAST SAMURAI directly adjacent one another suggesting that no actually, yes, Tom Cruise does become The Last Samurai in this story (which is extremely fair).
BUT WE’RE NOT GOING TO TALK ABOUT THIS MOVIE, HA HA
We’re going to talk about Samurai.
After the first series of Arrested Development, seasons 1-3, they revived it. Who’s they? The wizards, I dunno. The point is, thanks to the neverending zombie franchiseland that is Netflix and the endless well of relaunch fever for people who were noticing we were approaching or in middle age desperately tried to head back to the mid eighties, Arrested Development was brought back to life in 2013.
It’s not very good.
Here’s the story of a television show that fell apart in an amazing way, and came together as the average of the sum of its parts. Continue reading
The comparison between Superman and Captain America is very much like the comparison between tractors and trucks. They’re not an unreasonable comparison to make, especially when you only know of either thanks to movies, but the more you know about either the less the comparison works. The two have some very broad similarities, but when you start to talk about the kind of stories they can tell, things start to break down.
One of the reasons I shifted this particular blog feature from ‘series or movie’ to ‘media’ to ‘story’ is that some things don’t neatly fit into a constrained form like that, and I still want to talk about them.
Comics are a good example. If you want to talk about a comic story, you really have to go with this is a good place to start, because even the most contained comic is still part of and reflects a greater historical context. Things that are old enough to proceed no other comics like them still have to explain where they got some of their base ideas, like why Superman wears his underpants on the outside. If you want to talk about a comic story in like, 1990 well, good grief, you need to explain why then is different to now, what characters have moved on, all that stuff. Really, if you want to give a comprehensive rundown of comics you have to start a few thousand years before comics began and just kick it off with Enkudu and Gilgamesh.
Nonetheless, we are in a time where interconnected media interests allow us to see and partake of media that spreads far and wide into a deep and weird comics history and with that in mind, now we are finally in a place where, through staggering coincidence, people are generally aware of Deadpool and Thor’s Loki.
And to that, I want to tell you about my favourite page in all of Deadpool.
Here’s your basic starter point. Deadpool has found himself stranded on the moon, with Loki, who tells him that he, Deadpool, is his son, and that he knows the secrets that Deadpool knows. Continue reading
Okay, hold up.
I watched this movie kind of. Back in the fundamentalist church, there was this thing some families with VCRs would do, where they’d record a movie from TV, pause at points they knew the movie would get bad, then unpause afterwards. Think of it like cutting the ads (which they did as well), but for swearing and sex and music.
Okay, it’s like this.
Press Gang was a short British TV show from the late 80s and early 90s that centered around the running of a school-then-more Newspaper connected to a comprehensive school, a sort of state public school that doesn’t get choosy about who they take. It was the debut show for a guy called Steven Moffat, and if I’m being honest, the work of his I have the least contempt for.
Content warning; Suicide.
I don’t need to talk to you about this movie. General wisdom is that this movie is bad and you have a bunch of different sources giving you different reasons for it to be bad, and there’s even a comprehensive, thoroughly done, four hour long video essay breaking down a whole host of the problems I had with it.
Honestly, if you’re into movie criticism it’s a very engaging, thoughtful and thorough examination of the movie’s failings, complete with a very reasonable perspective on Zack Snyder’s work, and a recognition of some of the movie’s virtues.
That’s if you want to go look into the movie. It seems pretty unnecessary though.
What’s interesting to me, though is the people who love this movie.
I normally try to set April aside to talk indulgently about stuff I really like, because it’s the month with my birthday in it. You know, a theme is as good as any other theme. I haven’t really done that this month, like I didn’t dig down to make an ostensible show of picking out five of my absolute favourites I wanted to babble about self-indulgently. Still, this is the last Story Pile for April, so why not.
Let’s talk about a movie that I freaking love.
It’s also kinda bad. Continue reading
When you get down to it, Altered Carbon is a series that doesn’t so much need recommendations as much as it needs content warnings. Up front, the series features gender, race, and general body dysphoria (being in a body that’s ‘very wrong’), graphic torture, death, murder for pleasure, torture for pleasure, sex workers, sex worker abuse, sex worker marginalisation, realistic and sympathetic AI death, sensory overload, sensory deprivation, descriptions of nightmares, depictions of trauma, hetero bonking, consent-comprimised hetero bonking, nudity, violent nudity, cutting and –
Good grief, what isn’t in this series.
I feel a bit bad about this because the avalanche of things to warn people about in this show are all reasonable things. It paints the picture of this series as gaudily, grindingly nasty and full of vile indulgence. It’s not like that, I promise – it’s more that the series has such a breadth of nasty things it deals with that to have one leap out of you in the story as a surprise is like finding a razor blade in your ice cream. It’s not only unexpected it’s also extremely bad if you weren’t expecting it. The emotional punch is all there, I just don’t want people going into this series blind, especially since, for all of its content warnings, I really liked Altered Carbon.
I’m not going to talk about the greater universe of the story, though, I’m not going to run down the plot or its themes or its meanings. The story is a neon noir cyberpunk dystopia that uses income inequality as its most intense theme, its central character is a jerk, and it weaves together his history and his present. That’s all good and I might talk about them another time, but instead, we’re going to talk about one thing.
We’re going to talk about Poe.
Don’t worry, we’re also not going to spoil the plot!
I’ve written about the idea of ‘the death of the author,’ but to crash course it: The concept of death of the author is the idea that the interpretation of a story is about the person doing the interpretation, not about the person who made it. That is, there is no ‘author’ who can be said to truly represent what the story means in any and all circumstances. There’s a lot more to it, but it’s mostly cigarettes and sadness. That’s your basics:
The Death of the Author is the idea that the Author does not have exclusive rights to define interpretations of their work
This is a great idea and its most obvious modern application is fanfic and fan media. The story says Snape is an ugly snooty jerk, but that doesn’t matter, because you read the book and your interpretation involves no such thing, and the image of these characters interacting in your mind is perfectly valid. You don’t get marks for how the story works in your head, nobody’s grading you. If other people can grasp what you’re expressing when you share it, then that’s all that matters.
The thing is, thanks to Twitter and the Web 2.0 era of produsage, one of the groups of people getting involved in further creating fanfiction for these works and they are most annoyingly, the original authors.
Thanks to the unprecedented access we have to authors these days, we have a whole host of authors who are actively and aggressively attempting to insert into their own texts things they didn’t bother to try and put there the first time around. I’ll always kick at the Harry Potter franchises for any reason, but specific way that Rowling has claimed that Dumbledore is gay will always bother me. This has recently come to a head – again – with the upcoming Fantastic Beasts 2 movie that wants to have Young Dumbledore but also is ensuring to absolutely not show any of that icky gayness that the story isn’t about at all.
What this means is that any given reading of the text, these days, is not taken as a reading, with people willing to examine it, but as with all things in nerd cultures, we bury it under the toxic intention to prove it. Work must be tested or verified to be acceptable, interpretations must be justified to our satisfaction, and thanks to the availablility of certain authors, and their willingness to pontificate on what their work really means, we are now facing Zombie Authorship.
The author lies not still in their grave but shifts and moves, ever tumultuous in their position, expanding the work a tweet at a time – Werewolves are AIDS, the nudity is justified, you will e’re love the story for its manifold purpose. Tarantino, Martin, Rowling, Kojima, they each inflate their work not for its art but to remain alive a word more, to continue, to consume.And so the zombie slough flows over us all, and we do not engage with or interpret or study art, but we see it all as grey slurry that washes over us. The nerd cries out, be canonised, be purified, be true, and our eyes grow dull and dull and dull.
As for the Death of the Author, the sad thing is it contains within its own explanation; we bring out experiences to bear interpreting work.
The act of creating the work is one of those experiences.
It’s not often people approach me and suggest anime to me. I’m pretty fidgety about anime these days, because I watch it subbed (for no reason I can adequately explain) and I don’t like watching TV shows I can’t watch while I work on other things. Still, it was in Netflix, it was easy to get, and what they hey, it looked kinda interesting so let’s check out this anime.
It opens with a character losing a poker hand based on an Amazing Hand, which is a huge red flag for me about people not knowing how poker works. This was not an auspicious beginning for a series that I later heard described as Death Note For Money.
Anyway, I quite liked Kakegurui.
My god, this series is rubbish.
Let’s not talk about spoilers.
The premise of The Good Place is a pretty good one, a robust hook they serve at you in the first episode. We’re introduced to the character of Eleanor Shellstrop, as she comes to consciousness in an afterlife, which the story then underscores is not ‘Heaven.’ It is, to simplify, ‘The Good Place.’ The drama of the narrative comes then from her revealing, in private, to her first potential friend, that she isn’t the person they think she is, and that she doesn’t belong there.
That’s our basic premise, and it’s a strong hook. Rather than a whacky situation comedy, where there’s this good scenario and the story repeatedly dumps into this status quo a new strange setup, and the story refreshes around it, you get a really interesting story that’s also very funny that builds on the premise of the story established in this opening. It’s strongly continuity-driven, and that means that you aren’t really tuning in for an episode as much as you are tuning in for a few at a time.
It’s a good show to watch all of over the course of a weekend, that kinda thing. Good quality Netflix Content.
And I don’t want to talk about what happens in it. I want to talk about a joke. Continue reading