Monday, August 26, 2013

TV Buff: Orange is the New Headline Joke

I binge-watched 13 episodes of Orange is the New Black, in between jotting about a dozen pages of the dissertation. Comments (on OitNB, not the dissertation) after the break.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Movie Buff: The Sapphires

This review will be a lot shorter than Take This Waltz; I didn't have nearly as strong a reaction to it. Essentially, the movie is about a group of Australian Aborigines who get a manager (played by Chris O'Dowd) and book a gig singing for American troops in Vietnam. Given the way the movie starts to unfold, I mistakenly got the impression that it was going to be a gender bender version of Cool Runnings, switching Jamacian bob sledders with Aborigine singers, with Chris O'Dowd playing John Candy. Yes, I thought, I'd watch that. And I got irrationally annoyed when it turned out to be more of a romantic comedy with some commentary on race and war. The women are great singers and as good as actors as the script needs them to be; Chris O'Dowd is Chris O'Dowd. That is all one really needs to know.

Later Days.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

This Week in Panels: Comics Outside the Big Two

It's time for everyone's favorite not-even-remotely-weekly feature, This Week in Panels! Now featuring panels from Archer and Armstrong #12, Saga #13, and Astro City #3. All after the break.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Game Retrospective: Lollipop Chainsaw

I have a well-documented tendency to watch movies while I play videogames, and so, while I was going through Take This Waltz the other day, I was also playing through Lollipop Chainsaw. (In case you're wondering, I'd sometimes pause one or the other when a particularly interesting scene was occurring. And at one point, I paused both when the urge to play Candy Crush Saga became too great.)  It made for a very odd experience. In the case of Waltz, I was watching something with a fairly positive feminist message and a fairly unlikeable female lead; in the case of Lollipop Chainsaw, I was playing something with a fairly problematic and possibly outright sexist message and a fairly likeable female lead. It was troubling. More on game mechanics, voice acting, and liking things that are bad for you after the break.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Movie Buff: Take This Waltz

I saw this movie after it was recommended to me by a friend. (Well, actually, what he said was, "there's like a five minute nude scene," but after four glasses of wine, that certainly sounded like a recommendation.)  The film stars Michelle Williams as Margot,  Seth Rogen as her husband Lou, and Luke Kirby as Daniel, the artist down the street whom she falls in love with. And there's a notable performance by Sarah Silverman as Margot's best friend Geraldine. It's not a movie that's really big on plot, nor one that really keeps you guessing. From the moment Margot and Daniel look at each other, it seemed pretty clear how this was going to end. And it's not even really a film about the characters involved. Lou and Daniel are both fleshed out only as much as they need to be to play their roles in Margot's life. Lou is cute and funny, but sometimes far too slow to respond to Margot. Daniel... smoulders a lot. Really, of the two, I thought Daniel was pretty undeveloped. He exists to appeal to Margot, and that's about it. Honestly, I think you could argue that Lou exists only to prop up an aspect of Margot too, except that Rogen's performance adds a bit more. I originally thought that Sarah Silverman's role in the film was to hint at a world beyond Margot, since a fair bit of time was devoted to establishing her as a recovering alcoholic. But no, that trait's just there to give her a particularly devastating speech to Margot at the end of the film.

So, then, if the film isn't about characters or plot, what is it about? Well, it's about Margot. Sort of. Michelle Williams does a really great job in establishing Margot as more than just a flighty 20 something, just through small things, like body language and facial expressions. And the film itself gets some credit here too; the opening and closing frames with her baking, for example, do a great job of establishing who Margot is when she's doing the mundane. But at the end of the day, I think there's a case to be made that Margot isn't really supposed to be a real person either. Rather, she's a living form of the abstract question at the heart of the film: "At what point is it okay to give up a good marriage in exchange for what could be a magnificent love?". And the film is less about depicting the lives of these people and more about finding that point.

And honestly, that doesn't interest me too much. I think it's fair to say I didn't really care for the film. And I had to ask myself whether that's because it's a film about a woman going against some societal norms. Did I dislike Margot because she dared to, as the film would put it, dare to try to fill that existential void everyone has? To stop being afraid to be afraid? ...Maybe. Would I have felt the same if the genders of the main characters had been reversed, if it had been a husband who fell in love with the girl next door? ...Again, maybe, but it's not really a fair question; you change the genders, and it's a different movie. It's a movie about the choices women face, not men. And part of my distaste, I think, comes from the fact that I'm fairly sure, if I was ever put in such a love triangle, I'm far more likely to be Seth Rogen than Daniel. And that's a perspective that entirely misses the point, because, again, it's a movie about a woman, not a man. But aside from all that, I still don't like the movie. I think there's two reasons, at the core. First is that I didn't really care for Margot, from the start. Within the first five minutes of the movie, she fakes a disability so she can ride a wheelchair through the airport, because she fears missing a connection. That's such an inherently selfish thing to do, and I found it really hard not to read her future actions through that lenses. And second, I'm not really a fan of the way the film placed its characters second to its main question. It feels a little too didactic to me, a little too heavy-handed.

So: it was a film of some really great acting, and more than a few good moments in terms of directing and writing. And I can see how it could be viewed as a positive feminist message, that women don't have to give up their passions because of the commitments they made. But all in all, it was a miss for me.

Later Days.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Bibliophile: Force of Habit and Death by Chocolate at Lakehead University

“A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.”
― George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones

 This is Bibliophile.

All right, the blogging's fallen off a bit this week. I blame the economy. Don't worry, the Bibliophile will put things back on track. This week, we're going to look at what new books are available at Lakehead University, after the break.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Planescape Papers: Drinking to Forget

Today's Discussion: Art in the Age of Magical Reproduction. Okay, it's really about thematic consistency and memory. But the first one sounds cooler. After the break.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Bibliophile: It Only Hurts When You Laugh at Carleton University

“Some books should be tasted, some devoured, but only a few should be chewed and digested thoroughly.”
Sir Francis Bacon 

This is Bibliophile.

Ever hit undo one time too many and erase an entire blog post? Well, I sure did. I had all my books selected, and then, with a few errant key strokes, lost it all. Ah, hubris. It's funny--I've officially turned 30 today, and I keep interpreting everything as this omen for how the next decade will be. Oh, the restaurant I wanted to go to is closed for renovations? Omen. The weather's nice today? Omen. Lost a Bibliophile post? Omen. It's going to be a long next thirty years if things keep appearing to be symbolic constructions referring to other entities the entire time.  Anyway, this week, Bibliophile takes a trip to Carleton University. We'll be looking at some of the new books it's accumulated in the next month, after the break.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Friday Quotations: What, what are we doing?

Sadly, the Planescape Papers hasn't quite been the boon for writing that I hoped it would be. But come on, you got 2000 words yesterday. And I'm turning 30 this weekend. I'm allowed to rest on my laurels for a little bit.

What are we here for, again?

Oh yeah, the quotation of the week. Here ya go:

"Again the ext. of the house, from a high angle, the lights holding steady for now. Descent is a soundless rush, the wood shakes becoming irregular things with grain, impact imminent, but then, suddenly and without explanation, no more aerial view, no more snow, no more wind. Penetration. We're inside, the octagonal attic window high int he shot serving as orientation. The only thing visible in the dried-velvet darkness is an even breathing, cold white moisture rising once, twice, dollied toward, positioned on the screen so that there would be room above the implied mouth for eyes, if eyes were opened." --Demon Theory, Stephen Graham Jones.

Later Days.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Planescape Papers: Crossing the Rubikon, Pt 2: Satire and the Evil Wizard

Right--so the schedule of this series fell off the rails a little bit. What happened? Marking research papers happened. On the bright side, the students delivered a lot of pleasant surprises. It's always a risk to allow students the option to write about "anything," but if you work with them on narrowing the topic, sometimes you can get some real gems. Unsurprisingly, people tend to put a little more effort into papers where they feel they've got some expertise. Ask a health sciences student for a  research essay on Shakespeare, and they'll feel out of their league; let them do an essay on Alzheimer's, and you'll get something better.

But that's besides the point. Today: we enter the Rubikon, and discuss the nature of satire in videogames.