Archive for January, 2011

Interview with Winter’s Bone Director Debra Granik

Monday, January 31st, 2011

Lots of interesting tidbits here. I knew the film was relatively low-budget by Hollywood standards, but I didn’t know it was only $2 million. Personally, I’d rather have 100 Winter’s Bones than one Avatar, but I’m not running a Hollywood studio…

Phil Collins Contemplated Su-Su-Suicide

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

Sorry, couldn’t resist. But this is actually a pretty interesting profile about how Phil Collins is really, really tired of being Phil Collins.

As a Peter Gabriel-era Genesis fan, my personal opinions of Mr. Collins are, um, conflicted. Even as late as Duke, Collins-era Genesis were still producing great albums, but after that each each album they put out was worse than the last. Collins’ solo output was mixed: some decent songs (“In the Air Tonight”, “Take Me Home”) mixed with wimpy schlock.

The article mentions criticism of Collins from the guitarist of Oasis being the thing that first damaged his reputation, but here in the states, Oasis was just another Brit band that never broke particularly big. (Personally I think Collins should have respond with a video of him lying in a giant pit full of money. “What’s that, Noel? Sorry, I can’t hear you with all these hundred pound notes clogging my ears.”)

I think the things that really turned public opinion against Collins (at least more so than any pop musician past their natural expiration date) were his taking the Concord to appear in both versions of Live Aid (what was the point), and the simultaneous one-two punch of Patrick Bateman’s oleaginous declarations of his virtues in American Psycho, and his appearance in the “Timmy 2000″ episode of South Park within the same week in April of 2000.

Plus, anyone doing songs for Disney movies automatically earns the “lame” tag. It’s just the way the world works.

I do find it interesting that he’s a serious collector of Alamo relics and memorabilia. I mean, who would have thought? Although Phil Phillip, I hate to tell you, but those mystical “orbs” in your Alamo pictures aren’t paranormal energies, they’re dust specks catching the flash. It’s a pretty well-known natural phenomena. Sorry.

The Wire as Documentary

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

It’s always dangerous to assume that any fictional work accurately reflects reality, be it movie, TV show, or novel. But some works come a lot closer than others.

HBO’s The Wire rings truer to me than most, not primarily because of the gritty, noir depiction of urban crime and a dysfunctional, overworked police department, but because they accord very closely with creator David Simon’s excellent non-fiction work from which they draw, Homicide: A Year in the Killing Streets (also the basis of the NBC TV show) and (with Edward Burns) The Corner.

Well, here’s Simon delivering a righteous smackdown to Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III over his assertion that the show was a “smear that will take decades to overcome”:

Others might reasonably argue, however, that it is not 60 hours of “The Wire” that will require decades for our city to overcome, as the commissioner claims. A more lingering problem might be two decades of bad performance by a police agency more obsessed with statistics than substance, with appeasing political leadership rather than seriously addressing the roots of city violence, with shifting blame rather than taking responsibility. That is the police department we depicted in “The Wire,” give or take our depiction of some conscientious officers and supervisors. And that is an accurate depiction of the Baltimore department for much of the last 20 years, from the late 1980s, when cocaine hit and the drug corners blossomed, until recently, when Mr. O’Malley became governor and the pressure to clear those corners without regard to legality and to make crime disappear on paper finally gave way to some normalcy and, perhaps, some police work.

And here’s a former Baltimore police officer backing him up on it: “As a former Baltimore police officer for 11 years, I can attest to the fact that much of what appears in the HBO series “The Wire” is a very accurate depiction of reality both on the street and within the Baltimore Police Department.”

As for the greater issue of why Baltimore crime remains stubbornly high, why the drug problem remains so intractable (I’m in the “legalize it, regulate it, and tax it” camp), and why the “broken window” policing Mayor Rudy Guiliani used to bring down New York’s historically high crime rates has not (could not? can’t?) be used in Baltimore is a topic far beyond the scope of this blog (and my own expertise, formidable as it may (or may not) be).

Movie Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Written by Michael Bacall and Edgar Wright (based on the graphic novel by Bryan Lee O’Malley)
Directed by Edgar Wright
Starring Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin, Ellen Wong, Jason Schwartzman, Chris Evans, Brie Larson, Brandon Routh, Alison Pill, Mark Webber, Johnny Simmons, Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza

I saw Scott Pilgrim vs. The World recently, and enjoyed what I thought I would enjoy about it, and was slightly less annoyed than I thought I would be annoyed by.

The setup (for those of you who didn’t watch a single film in theaters for the first half of 2010; the trailers were pretty ubiquitous) is that schluby Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera, about which there shall be much more anon) splits time between sharing a tiny efficiency with his gay friend and playing bass with his band, Sex Bomb Omb, before he meets Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), the girl of his dreams, and has to fight her seven evil exes to win her affections. Actually, Pilgrim doesn’t seem quite as schluby as the trailer makes him out to be, because he previously dated a hot girl named Envy (Brie Larson) who’s now a pop superstar, and when the movie opens, he’s just started dating a 17-year old Chinese schoolgirl “with the uniform and everything” (Ellen Wong). I should point out that his schoolgirl girlfriend is cute as a button, and looks absolutely nothing like Korean model Hwang Mi Hee in the following picture:

Scott Pilgrim's 17-year old Chinese schoolgirl girlfriend looks absolutely nothing like this

Hmmmm….where was I? Oh yeah. She looks nothing like that. Anyway, Pilgrim soon throws her over for Ramona, whose evil exes come out of the woodwork to fight him in flat-out-impossible video game battles in real life. All of it is good, over-the-top fun. If you’ve ever watched a Coyote-Roadrunner cartoon and gone “Hey, wait a minute, there’s no way he could have survived that long a drop,” well then, this movie isn’t for you. I’ve never read the graphic novel it’s based on, but I’m guessing it’s very true to it.

All the evil ex fights are filled with amusing and completely insane action. The best is probably the fight with Envy’s bassist (Brandon Routh), which is not only high on the splat-fu, but also combines the absurdity of veganism giving you supernatural powers with the even more amusing absurdity of Vegan Police stripping away those same powers (“Chicken isn’t vegan?”).

The movie has a lot going for it. Edgar Wright is a hell of a director. Hot Fuzz is one of the funniest (and most underrated) movies of the last ten years, and he’s a master at keeping the action moving along at a steady clip. That aesthetic serves him well in a movie designed for Generation Twitch, in which almost every aspect of the characters “real” life has been speed up and Nintendofied. Also, although I didn’t grow up Nintendo, I’ve played enough video games that the antirealism of it (when Pilgrim dispatches an evil ex, coins rain to the floor; when he gets in a particularly good blow, a voice announces “Combo!”) was amusing rather than annoying. And the acting is almost uniformly excellent. Except…except…

(sigh)

Except for the Michael Cera Problem.

There are many actors in Hollywood with a broad range of characters. Michael Cera is not one of them. While he was fine in Superbad, he wasn’t any better than McLovin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) or the fat kid (Jonah Hill), and while he was also fine in Juno, he was probably the weakest link in an otherwise exceptionally strong cast. After watching both, I got the distinct impression that Cera’s range extended from teenage awkwardness to awkward teenageness. “Do you…want an actor…who can…pause………awkwardly?” He does the awkward pause thing even more frequently than Topher Grace does his “slight pause before the…eyerolling delivery” thing, and it’s considerably more annoying. There’s no reason he should have become this generation’s Hollywood go-to guy for male teenager leads over the likes of, say, Zombieland‘s Jesse Eisenberg, who looks a little bit like him. (Then again, since The Social Network is a serious Oscar contender and Scott Pilgrim wasn’t quite the hit the studio was hoping for, we all know who got the better end of that decision…)

In Juno he had a supporting role, but here he’s the center of the film. Fortunately, the nature of the film tends to accentuate his strengths and (generally) mask his weaknesses. You don’t notice his flatness of range nearly as much when everything around him is exploding. But he’s still the weakest actor here, except…

Except that his love interest, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, is if anything even flatter. Maybe this was a conscious decision on Edgar’s part, given the source material and the film’s overriding aesthetic. Maybe Ramona’s anime-hair colors are suppose to indicate that she’s every bit as useless and ornamental as the Princess in Donkey Kong. She’s a goal with a backstory, not a person.

So, can you enjoy Scott Pilgrim vs. the World if the actors playing the two central characters aren’t that great? I did. Your mileage may vary.

If you can buy into the cartoonish nature of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, this is quite an enjoyable movie (though nowhere near as good as Hot Fuzz). If you’ve ever mastered the art of mashing six controller buttons at the same time to rip off an opponent’s head, this is the movie for you.

Winter’s Bone Gets Best Picture Oscar Nomination

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

Oscar nominations are out, and Winter’s Bone (which I reviewed here) is, as predicted and hoped, one of the ten Best Picture nominees. Also as predicted, Jennifer Lawrence received a Best Actress nomination, and John Hawkes received a Best Supporting Actor nomination.

And if you haven’t seen it already, by all means do. It’s an astonishingly good film and a very worthy nominee.

Behold the Car of Tomorrow!

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

Keeping with our previous automotive theme, here’s yesterday’s look at the car of tomorrow:

Although some might find this video’s view of the fairer sex just a wee bit antiquated…

New Frontiers in Auto Accessories

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

I don’t think this option was available the last time I went shopping for a new car:

Library Additions: November 15, 2010-January 14, 2011

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

Here are all the books I’ve added to my professional library over the past two months. Every time I start to think I’m slowing down I buy a bunch more stuff…

  • Baker, Kage. The Hotel Under the Sand. Tachyon, 2009. Trade paperback original, Fine.
  • Beagle, Peter S. The Line Between. Tachyon, 2006. One of 250 signed, numbered copies, Fine, sans dust jacket, as issued.
  • Beagle, Peter S. The Unicorn Sonata. Turner Publishing, 1996.
  • Beagle, Peter S. Your Friendly Neighborhood Magician. Tachyon, 2006. Chapbook, one of 100 signed copies, Fine.
  • Bear, Greg. Foundation and Chaos. Harper Prism, 1998.
  • Bear, Greg. Sleepside Story. Cheap Street, 1988. One of 52 signed and numbered, traycased “publisher’s edition” copies, a fine copy in tray case, sans dust jacket. See here for details.
  • Brunner, John. Stand on Zanzibar. Doubleday, 1968. First edition hardback, a Fine copy in a Fine- dust jacket with just the tiniest bit of wear. Replaces an ex-library copy. (I bought this back in June and forgot to list it last time around.)
  • Carriger, Gail (pen name for Tofa Borregaard). Soulless. Orbit, 2009. Paperback original, Fine- with slight spine creasing. Thought I’d pick this up since we swanned about together at Worldcon before she hit the big time…
  • Chabon, Michael. Manhood for Amateurs. Harper, 2009. Non-fiction.
  • Cherryh, C. J. Cuckoo’s Egg. Phantasia Press, 1985. First edition hardback, one of 350 signed, numbered copies, in slipcase.
  • Clark, Alan M., Randy Fox and K. J. Peterson. The Pain Doctor’s of Suture Self General. Arts Nova Press, 1995. First edition hardback, one of 550 signed, numbered copies. Art book.
  • Clavell, James. Shogun. Atheneum, 1975. VG with spine worn, slight separation between page block and backing at head, and stains to page block edges, in VG, price-clipped dust jacket.
  • Dick, Philip K. Eye in the Sky. Gregg Press, 1979. First hardback edition. Fine, sans dust jacket, as issued. Replaced an Ex-library copy in my collection.
  • Dick, Philip K. Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick. Pantheon, 2002.
  • Dick, Philip K. Vulcan’s Hammer. Gregg Press, 1979. First hardback edition. Fine, sans dust jacket, as issued. Replaced an Ex-library copy in my collection.
  • (Dick, Philip K.) Dick, Anne. The Search for Philip K. Dick. Tachyon, 2010. Trade paperback original. Expanded, revised, and corrected edition. Non-fiction.
  • Disch, Thomas M. The Wall of America. Tachyon, 2008. Trade paperback original, Fine.
  • Disch, Thomas M. The Word of God. Tachyon, 2008. Trade paperback original, Fine.
  • Fforde, Jasper. Shades of Grey Hodder & Stoughton, 2010. First UK edition (curiously, the American precedes, which is very unusual for Fforde), a Fine copy, one of 1000 numbered copies signed by Fforde to be sold through the Waterstone’s bookstore chain, a Fine copy in decorated boards, sans dj, in decorated slipcase, as issued.
  • King, Stephen. The Bachman Books. NAL, 1985. First hardback edition and first omnibus edition, all four included books (Rage, The Long Walk, Roadwork and The Running Man) having previously been published as paperback originals. F/NF- copy, with rubbing to edgewear to dust jacket.
  • King, Stephen. Pet Semetary. Viking, 1983. Fine/Near Fine, with slight wear at dust jacket head and heel.
  • Lansdale, Joe R. By Bizarre Hands Rides Again. Morning Star Press, 2010. Expanded edition with new stories and story notes, one of 300 copies signed by Lansdale.
  • Lansdale, Joe R. Deadman’s Road. Subterranean Press, 2010.
  • Lansdale, Joe R. Flaming Zeppelins. Tachyon, 2010. Trade paperback original thus (omnibus edition), Fine.
  • Lansdale, Joe R. and Pat LoBrutto, editors. Razored Saddles. Dark Harvest, 1989. Octavo, cloth. First edition hardback, one of 600 numbered copies signed by all the contributors, in slipcase. I had the trade, but not the limited.
  • (Lovecraft, H. P.) Joshi, S. T. I Am Providence: The Life and Times of H. P. Lovecraft. Hippocampus Press, 2010. First edition hardback, two volume set. Non-fiction.
  • Marquis, Don. archy and mehitabel. Dolphin Books, no date (probably about 1969). Paperback reprint.
  • Martin, George R. R. A Feast for Crows. Voyager, 2005. One of 1,000 signed, numbered copies, Fine, sans dust jacket, in slipcase, as issued.
  • Michaels, Barbara (AKA Barbara Mertz, AKA Elizabeth Peters). Ammie, Come Home. Meredith Press, 1968. First edition hardback, Fine- with a trace of spine lean in a Fine- dj with slight wear at head and heel.
  • Moorcock, Michael. The Best of Michael Moorcock. Tachyon, 2009. First edition trade paperback original, Fine.
  • Morrow, James. The Cat’s Pajamas. Tachyon, 2004.
  • Niven, Larry. The Best of Larry Niven. Subterranean Press, 2010. One of 250 signed, numbered, leatherbound copies
  • Niven, Larry. The Best of Larry Niven. Subterranean Press, 2010. Trade edition.
  • Orwell, George. Nineteen Eighty-Four Secker and Warburg, 1949. See this post for details.
  • Powers, Richard. Galatea 2.2. Farrar Straus Giroux, 1995.
  • Power, Tim. Deliver Us From Evil. Charnel House, 2010. One of 100 signed, numbered copies in slipcase, sans dj, as issued, accompanied by an original manuscript page. See here for full details.
  • Powers, Tim. Night Moves. Axolotl Press, 1986. First edition hardback, one of 100 signed, numbered copies.
  • Schroeder, Karl. Pirate Sun. Tor, 2008.
  • Shea, Michael. I, Said the Fly. Silver Salamander Press, 1993. First edition hardback, one of 300 signed hardback copies.
  • Simmons, Dan. Drood. Little, Brown, 2009.
  • Vance, Jack. Lurulu Tor, 2004.
  • Watts, Peter. Maelstrom. Tor, 2001.
  • Williamson, Jack (John Stewart Williamson). Wolves of Darkness: The Collected Stories of Jack Williamson Volume 2. Haffner Press, 1999.
  • There. I thought I’d document this bunch since I have another bunch coming in…

    Library Acquisitions: Tim Powers’ Deliver Us From Evil

    Monday, January 17th, 2011

    My most recent acquisition of particular note is the new Tim Powers book Deliver Us From Evil from Charnel House. It’s quite an elaborate production, on par with some of Cheap Street’s books.

    Full description:

    Powers, Tim. Deliver Us From Evil. Charnel House, 2010. First edition hardback, one of only 100 signed, numbered copies, handbound in Japanese silk, in matching slipcase, accompanied by one page of the original Powers manuscript. Includes three chapters and a very detailed outline of a book Powers never finished. The book itself is accompanied by a page of Powers’ original manuscript.

    (Note: I do have one additional copy available for sale or trade through Lame Excuse Books if you’re interested…)

    MegaPython vs. Gateroid

    Saturday, January 15th, 2011

    So you find yourself thinking: I want to watch Mega Shark vs Crocosaurus, but I’m afraid it may be too intellectually challenging to jump into right away. Is there perchance a stupider movie I can watch first?

    Come January 20, the answer to your question will be: Yes, yes there is. Behold the wonder that is MegaPython vs. Gateroid.

    Still not convinced? Hey, it stars Debbie Gibson AND Tiffany! (Granted, 15 years too late, but still…) And if that’s not enough, I have two words for you: cake wrestling.

    It’s good to see the folks at The Asylum and the SyFy Channel maintaining the reputation they’ve worked so hard to earn…

    (Hat tip: Bill Crider.)