Archive for November, 2010

Long Lost Print of King Kong Found

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

Supposedly one with the long lost “spider pit” footage. I’ll believe it when I see it, but that’s probably the second-most-famous missing footage from an existent film, behind only the missing reel of The Magnificent Ambersons.

(Hat tip: Bill Crider. )

Greg Bear: Project Gutenberg Screwed Up

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

You may remember this post on how a lot of science fiction was showing up in the public domain at Project Gutenberg (which was picked up by SF Signal, Io9, etc.).

Well, Greg Bear and Astrid Anderson Bear, his wife and daughter of Poul Anderson (whose works were among those put up by Project Gutenberg), are saying that Project Gutenberg screwed up:

After conducting legal research on the LEXIS database of legal cases, decisions, and precedents, we have demonstrated conclusively that PG was making incorrect determinations regarding public domain status in many, many works that originally appeared in magazine form. The Poul Anderson estate has been able to get one work, “The Escape”, that PG had firmly declared to be public domain, removed from their site. PG’s original reasoning was that since the magazine it appeared in had never actually filed for copyright, the work was unprotected. “The Escape”, printed in 1953, was the first half of Anderson’s well-known novel BRAINWAVE, which was published and properly copyrighted the following year.

However, even if ‘The Escape” had not been published as a novel, it would have remained under copyright protection until 1981 (28 years) and been eligible for copyright renewal. Authors of that era, and Anderson in particular, were very aware of the need to renew copyrights, and typically meticulously kept their copyright protections up to date. Copyright law for works created more recently is much easier: life plus 70 years. (Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, 1998).

(snip)

In general, Project Gutenberg is doing a tremendous service by making available texts that have truly long since fallen out of copyright, but they are clearly overstepping their original mandate. They are not merely exploiting orphan works, but practicing a wholesale kidnapping of works that are under copyright protection. Authors and estates need to aggressively take back what belongs to them.

I would imagine that Project Gutenberg may very well be hearing not only from the estates of Philip K. Dick and Leigh Brackett, but from lawyers for the still-very-much alive Frederik Pohl, Norman Spinrad and Jack Vance…

Lots of Jack Vance Magazine Scans Up On Flickr

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

From Doc Mars, whoever he might be. (Besides, of course, another insane Jack Vance collector, of which there are many, and who tend to make my own Vance bibliomania look relatively mild in comparison.) It includes a lot of covers and interior spot illustrations. And I must say, that the outfit in that Virgil Finley illustration for The Houses of Iszm is rather fetching…

Movie Review: Winter’s Bone

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

Winter’s Bone
Directed by Debra Granik
Written by Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini (based on the novel by Daniel Woodrell)
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Dale Dickey, Lauren Sweetser, Shelley Waggener, Ashlee Thompson, Isaiah Stone, Garret Dillahunt, Tate Taylor, Ronnie Hall

It’s interesting that the Coen Brothers’ adaptation of True Grit (which was a very good Charles Portis novel before it was a John Wayne film) is coming out in December, since Winter’s Bone is, in many ways, much the same story. Except instead of tracking down the man who killed her paw with Rooster Cogburn, Ree has to track down her paw Jessup herself, and instead of her paw farming he cooks meth, and instead of justice she needs to bring him back because he put their house up for bond and skipped bail, and instead of 19th century Indian territory, she’s traveling deeper into the 21st century rural Ozarks. But the heroine in each case is just as strong, smart, determined, stubborn, and winning.

The movie has been getting enthusiastic reviews across the country, and deserves them all; it’s astonishingly good. It’s also set very far away indeed from the places and people that Hollywood loves to focus on. I’ve never been through the Ozarks, but I have relatives who live in the sticks, and the details I do recognize (the trampoline, the dogs) make the rest ring true. The poverty on display here is very different from that of the urban poor, but seems just as bleak and grinding. “He’s cooking meth now,” Ree says to a friend. “They all are” she replies.

Jennifer Lawrence’s turn as Ree is at least as good as Ellen Page’s turn as the title role in Juno, and maybe a little bit better. Not only does she have to find her father, but she has to take care of her crazy, helpless mother, her two younger siblings, cook the food, cut the lumber, and do everything else to keep her family scraping by. She needs every bit of that determination when she goes asking her daddy’s no-good friends where he is, going ever deeper into the back country to question ever-more-hostile members of her own extended family, and she knows when she’s being lied to. The deeper she goes, the darker it gets, as it begins to look likely that not only are they going to lose the house, but that her father is probably dead, and the people that killed him might be just as willing to kill her too. And yet she still keeps going, too desperate and stubborn to quit. Or just too strong. If there’s any justice in Hollywood (I knew, foolish idea), Lawrence will be an Oscar nominee.

Another exceptionally strong performance is that of John Hawkes as Jessup’s brother Teardrop, who starts out as a frightening, scuzzy drug abuser, but by the end of the movie is…well, still a frightening, scuzzy drug abuser, but one with a strong sense of family. “To tell the truth, you always scared the hell out of me,” Ree tells him late in the film. “That’s because you’re smart,” he replies. Hawkes has been in about a hundred things, but this is a career-making turn, and another Oscar-worthy performance.

Director Debra Granik (who co-wrote the excellent script, and of who I was completely unaware before this film came out) turns in direction worthy of her main character: strong, direct, and deeply unsentimental. There was much made of Kathryn Bigelow being the first woman to take home the Best Director Oscar for The Hurt Locker. That Oscar was, I think, well-deserved. Winter’s Bone is a better film. I’d be astonished if it wasn’t an Oscar finalist this year, as I’m pretty sure that (sight unseen) there can’t be ten better films out this year.

There may not be one.

Here’s the trailer:

And, since I mentioned it, here’s the trailer for the Coen brother’s True Grit:

Classic Thanksgiving Traditions

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

Watching the turkey drop episode of WKRP in Cincinnati.

Books Read: Charles Stross’ The Fuller Memorandum

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

Charles Stross
The Fuller Memorandum
Ace, 2010

I’m a big fan of Charlie Stross’ Laundry books. As Geek Cthulhu Mythos British Bureaucracy Spy Thrillers, they hit a lot of my personal pleasure centers, and the latest installment is no exception. Our Network Admin/Computational Demonologist Bob Howard starts off enjoying, for the first time in his career, a competent boss he likes. However, he’s soon sent out to a bit of fieldwork for his ancient, inscrutable “real” boss Angleton, whereupon he promptly bollocks things up, resulting in the death of a bystander and some mandatory leave. Meanwhile, Bob’s wife Mo (with her deadly Erich Zann violin) comes back from a particularly gruesome mission a mental wreck, and that’s before a possessed Russian agent shows up trying to kill them, Angleton disappears, and a top secret document goes missing. And if all that weren’t enough, not only is the clock ticking ever-faster on Nightmare Case Green (i.e., when the Old Ones come down from the stars to eat our brains), but cultists are actually trying to hasten the event.

In short: The usual.

If you liked the previous Laundry novels, you’ll like this one. The plot is compelling, the supernatural elements are darker and more disturbing, and this may have the best ending of any of the laundry novels. (Important Safety Tip: If you’re going to try to sacrifice a Computational Demonologist to powerful, malevolent, otherworldly entity, you better make sure you have your binding spell right…) But the reason The Fuller Memorandum isn’t any better than the The Atrocity Archive and The Jennifer Morgue is that it suffers from flaws not found in those novels. For one thing, Bob acting like an idiot once is OK, but him acting like an idiot again, in exactly the same way, strains credibility given that he’s a pretty smart cookie. For another, if you’ve read “The Concrete Jungle” and “Pimpf,” you’ll figure out who the villain is entirely too easily.

Still, well worth reading and remembering come award time.

Roger Ebert Reviews Monsters

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

He liked it.

Just like Howard and I liked it.

If it seems like I’m pimping Monsters a lot, it’s only because I am. It’s the sort of independent film that doesn’t have enough of an ad budget for people to hear about it without word of mouth. So I try to do my part to encourage people to see it if it’s playing in their area. Consider that a recommendation, and remember it for Hugo and Nebula voting.

Zardoz as 8-Bit Video Game

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

Though I’ve been running this blog for a while, I only recently installed a page-hit tracking module. One of the biggest surprises is what the most consistently popular posts are: My piece on Denver airport conspiracy theories and…my review of Zardoz.

Conspiracy theories always exert a certain fascination, even if (or especially if) you don’t believe in them. But I must admit to being baffled as why a review of a bizarre science fiction film more than 35 years old continues to draw such attention.

I went looking for reasons for this inexplicable interest…and didn’t find any (beyond the usual fascination with cinematic train wrecks). But I did chance across this rendering of Zardoz as the opening of an 8-bit video game:

To bad he only did the opening. Just think of all the other Zardoz video game sequences you could have:

  • Shooting the Outlanders

  • Sneaking into the giant stone head
  • Arousing the Apathetics
  • Avoid the Renegades (every touch “ages” you one life)
  • Shooting the Hippies
  • The boss fight against crystal computer, ala the mothership in Phoenix or the flagship in GORF.

Good times, good times.

In any case, I’m sure such a game would be a lot more fun than the E.T. video game or Mamma Can I Mow the Lawn.

(Hat tip: io9.)

OK, that’s going too far

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

Skyline: The Most Inept Alien Invasion Film Since ‘Plan 9 from Outer Space”.

Sir! You have gone TOO FAR!

Plan 9 came out in 1958.

But Monster-a-Go-Go came out in 1965. The Creeping Terror (featuring killer carpet samples from outer space) came out in 1964. Prince of Space (which possibly shouldn’t count, since it was cobbled together from Japanese kiddie serials) came out in 1959. Laserblast (which sort of counts as an alien invasion movie) came out in 1978. All of those are, I assure you, much much worse than Skyline. Granted, most of those are available in a form in which Crow and Tom Servo are there to help ease the pain, but still.

There are much worse films than Skyline out there. Let’s not get carried away, people…

Massawyrm Chimes in on Skyline

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

Ain’t It Cool News movie reviewer Massawym also reviewed Skyline. He was even less impressed than Howard and I:

The Brothers Strauss are perhaps the single most inept filmmaking duo working in the studio system today. There isn’t a moment here they get right, not a single decision they make that doesn’t end ridiculously. In fact, there are three chief moments in the film where they seem to be making bold, inspired choices, only to completely fuck it up each time. The film opens with light descending from the skies – the alien invasion beginning right there in frame one. Wow, you think. They sure are dispensing with the bullshit. There’s no foreplay, no dicking around; just aliens showing up to kick some ass. And then, a moment later, just as things are getting really interesting, the movie jumps back 15 hours to give us 20 minutes of needless exposition (that never amounts to anything) about wafer thin characters we never are allowed to really give a shit about anyway.

Honestly, who the fuck thought it would be a good idea to make an alien invasion movie that, rather than following around scientists or soldiers or reporters or anyone interesting, follows around a group of AFFLICTION wearing, narcissistic, LA douchebags “living the life” off of new money they have no qualms about throwing around? These aren’t the types of people we want to connect with – these are the first ones to die in every other film EVER MADE. They are every bit as hollow, vapid and unlikable as they are when they are *supposed to be* hollow, vapid and unlikable; only here they get to be the protagonists. And the Brothers Strauss have no idea how to make them in any way endearing. They are thoroughly unlikable and just plain annoying from beginning to end. So when they start dropping off like flies, you not only aren’t invested in them, you kind of wish they would die off faster.

But don’t let that excerpt fool you. He also has some negative things to say about it.