Ooh, also, another Cage one I've been meaning to share for a while–one of the local indie theatres here does custom posters for most every movie they show, and this one for their 35mm double feature of Wild at Heart and Raising Arizona is hanging on my wall now.
Side note: the 35mm print of Wild at Heart I saw that night is the only surviving one left in circulation. It was the second surviving one until the week before the screening, when FedEx just up and lost reels 4 and 7 of the other existing print. It's absolutely mind-blowing and more than a little terrifying to me that a movie made as recently as 1990 could wind up with only one print left through sheer carelessness. It's a wonder we have any early films left.
Yeah, it's a bizarre thing. His stuff is so exactly within my wheelhouse–Crimson Peak and Shape of Water especially–but I just don't feel anything. I don't begrudge people their ecstatic feels toward his stuff, I just genuinely don't get it beyond distantly admiring it as well-put-together. The Devil's Backbone came closest to overcoming that, and even then I don't really have any overwhelming affection for it.
Ah well. As you say, he's lovely, so even though I don't think he deserved either Best Director or Best Picture I'm quite alright with him getting them. Hey, at least it wasn't Three Billboards.
Welp, I graduated college December 2016, and ever since then I've been working for a publisher in Minneapolis. We're a very small staff (only seven people counting me), but we're constantly expanding and I love the job. Our nonfiction books aren't my thing and our fiction books are usually pretty terrible, but we've been getting better and better stuff and the badness of the not-better books can sometimes be entertaining in and of itself–I've edited multiple books in a truly terrible YA mermaid romance series, AMA.
Outside of that, I've gotten a couple pieces of writing published here and there and am looking to continue in that direction. Still only articles/essays and no short fiction, but I'm hoping to fix that this year.
This crop of BP nominees was mostly good at bucking that trend, fortunately. The Post is merely solid, Three Billboards is a mess, and Darkest Hour is terrible, but the remaining six nominees are all very good to great. I connected least to The Shape of Water on an emotional level, but I get that every time with Del Toro so I can't count it against the film.
Anyone who loved the last 20ish minutes of this should check out Under the Skin, which is basically that tone/aesthetic but for an entire movie.
(I liked it too. I was fairly disappointed at how straightforward a lot of it was, and the bullshit science of "refracting DNA" and the like actively dampens the uncanny atmosphere Garland is attempting to invoke, but everything from the
onward is properly weird. It's a damn shame most people won't see it on the big screen, because those ending visuals/sound were clearly meant to be experienced that way. I prefer Ex Machina—it's tighter, more consistent, and doesn't waste Oscar Isaac—but God I wish more movies with this kind of ambition were being made by the studio system.)
Also, we as a society need to talk about the Battle of Kursk more. Because as I learned from reading The Third Reich at War, the Battle of Kursk was fucking nuts.
At one point, the superior German tanks were pounding the Soviet tanks, which couldn't afford to fall back. So here's what the Soviets did: under cover of darkness, they buried all their tanks with dirt. The Nazis assumed there had been a retreat, and rolled their tanks forward. When they'd all crossed the Soviet line, the hidden Soviet tanks burst out of the ground, opened up from behind, and obliterated the Nazis.
What makes it even better is that this massive triumph happened at the same battle that featured one of the biggest fuck-ups of all time, also from the Soviets. Shortly afterward, the Soviets were rolling their tanks forward to advance on the Germans and failed to realize they were running smack-dab into an anti-tank trench they themselves had set up. The entire first wave of their tanks fell into the ditch and was then crashed into by the second wave. Stalin was so furious at the losses that the military just all agreed to lie to him and tell him they lost all their tanks in a pitched battle with the Nazis, who suffered staggering losses. There's still a monument at Kursk claiming dozens of Nazi tanks were destroyed in that exchange. Three were in actuality.
Technically not quite finished with this yet—300 pages of the final volume left—but I'm close enough that I wanted to post about it.
Absolutely monumental history of Nazi Germany, covering its historical roots, government, military, racial-political ethos, internal conflicts, etc. The Coming of the Third Reich covers the period up to Hitler's official seizure of power, with the lion's share devoted to setting the scene by covering all the factors that led to his rise—the disaster of World War I, the resulting economic crisis, historical anti-Semitism, etc. The Third Reich in Power covers the period from Hitler's rise to the invasion of Poland, charting all the ways that Nazism tunneled into German society. The Third Reich at War is what it says on the tin, offering a history of Germany during WWII and the final solution.
This is 1,800 very dense pages, but Evans put in the work to make it a page-turner as well as information-rich. I think the thing that most struck me throughout my reading is how utterly wrong the popular image of the Nazis as some ultra-efficient political/military force is. It's mind-blowing how these yahoos self-sabotaged at almost every turn, with inner power struggles and redundant/contradictory bureaucracies constantly threatening to descend into chaos. (It's also notable how much they struggled at actually converting the German people to their cause—their propaganda efforts were ultimately enough to allow the Holocaust to transpire, but a lot of their attempts to instill the Nazi ideology in the population were completely pathetic. If it hadn't been for latent anti-Semitism and bitterness over WWI already at work, Goebbels and his team would have failed entirely.)
It would be hilarious if it hadn't actually happened, and as it is it stands as a sobering reminder that lack of competence doesn't equal lack of danger. (As if I needed any further reminder of that living under the current president.) Highly recommended.
Ooh, well now I'm gonna be eagerly awaiting your second-read thoughts. Apparently your initial reaction is something a lot of people had with Echopraxia, Watts' follow-up novel; I'll be reading that one soon and I'm curious to see if I'll feel the same way.
EDIT: That should have said second-read thoughts, not second-rate thoughts! Evidently my phone keyboard is the hostile kind of intelligent life.
You're definitely the resident winner, of the 18 predictions I ended up making I got 12.
Welp, 2017 was the best year for film this decade. These Oscars were . . . not, but Get Out nabbing Best Screenplay, Deakins finally getting gold, and Phantom Thread going home not entirely empty-handed makes me happy.
Uggggggggggh. Spoilers for all three Bioshock games below.
I'm glad to learn that this thing's reputation has declined in the five years since it was released. Gameplay-wise, it's fun if nothing special—takes the mechanics that were started in Bioshock and perfected in Bioshock 2 (which I'll argue is the best game of the series overall) and simplifies them into a pretty bog-standard FPS that happens to have magic powers. And visually it's absolutely stunning—I wish I could just play the first half-hour on loop over and over again. Seriously. Look at this.
But thematically, logically, and ideologically? This thing is an unmitigated disaster.
Look, the seeds of this were part of the franchise from the get-go. The original Bioshock gets credit as some deeply political satire when in reality it's basically just Ken Levine shitting on libertarians for ten hours. Which is fine—libertarians, particularly of the Ayn Rand variety, deserve to be shat on. But not only is there no deeper critique there, the game actively undercuts itself by choosing to make its ultimate villain not the batshit insane libertarian egomaniac who founded Rapture but the labor-union leader who rose up against him. This gets even further entrenched in Bioshock 2, which decides that because the first game focused on the evils of individualism the second one had to focus on the evils of collectivism. The second game is the best of the franchise when all factors are taken into account, but its politics are terrible and weigh it down.
But even the second game's politics were better than the jaw-dropping both-sides-ism at play here. After hours of showing us a white supremacist society that keeps people of color enslaved, subjects interracial couples to public beatings, and is built on absolutely grotesque economic inequality, the game decides that the slave revolt we've helped create is equally bad because . . . the pretty buildings of Columbia are getting messed up and the rich people are fleeing without being able to take all their stuff. That's not even an exaggeration—we're treated to scenes of the wealthy white people, who a few hours ago had gathered to watch the public torture of an interracial couple, weeping because they can't take all their luggage with them, while heart-tugging strings play on the soundtrack. And the main character shakes his head and says (in effect) "Truly, there's no difference between the enslaving dictator and his slaves." And then, because the game's creators realize deep down that this is bullshit, they have the black female leader of the slave rebellion try to murder a random white kid with LITERALLY no context or motivation just so they can point their finger and say "SEE? BOTH SIDES!!!" I would have had a problem with this shit back in 2013, but five years later it plays so horribly it's kind of stunning.
Couple that with an ostentatiously twisty SF story whose underpinnings make less and less sense the more and more you think about them, and there's basically nothing of value here aside from the visuals. Sure, the shooting is fun, but it's not a patch on the depth and variety of the combat in the previous games; just pointing and pulling the trigger. (And don't get me started on how tacked-on the Vigors feel—Plasmids were an integral part of the world of the first two games, whereas here they play absolutely no role in the larger world.) And where Bioshock 2 gets its power from being a really simple, linear, character-based story, Infinite doubles down on the superficial big-reveal storytelling of the original Bioshock and leaves absolutely nothing at the heart of the story. It comes off even worse when you compare it to The Last of Us, which came out the same year and has the same core story of a grizzled man with a haunted past defending a surrogate daughter (and that grizzled man is played by Troy Baker in both games, no less) but recognizes that we're in it for those characters, not the writer jerking himself off with nonsensical twist after nonsensical twist. Good for you, Ken Levine, you read an article about multiple universes and watched Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead once. Fuck off.
If you want an example of video games as art, play The Last of Us for its characters and their relationships, or The Stanley Parable for its genuinely thoughtful philosophical underpinnings, or Bloodborne for its use of the medium to evoke an atmosphere that other storytelling formats simply can't. If you want an example of an insanely pretty carnival ride that thinks it's the second coming of 2001: A Space Odyssey and wants you to know it's very important to remember that property damage is equivalent to slavery, play Bioshock Infinite.
Ugh, that was a jumbled ranty mess but I had to get it off my chest. Bioshock 2 is the best of the trilogy, Infinite is a mess, fuck off Ken Levine.
Just finished Peter Watts' Blindsight—which you can either buy in print or download from his website for free due to its Creative Commons license. Picture Alien, but as a first contact story that's a mind-bending riff on the nature of consciousness as a glitch in human evolution. This is the hardest of hard SF, but since it's also functioning as a philosophical horrorshow it's by necessity far more readable and elegant than something by, say, Kim Stanley Robinson—it has to evoke an emotional chill at the implications of its subject matter, not just an intellectual one.
Very much a companion piece to Thomas Ligotti's excellent/soul-crushing book of horror philosophy The Conspiracy Against the Human Race, which I recommended here a while back.
Also, if you don't want to read a whole novel as your jumping-off point with Watts, take fifteen minutes out of your day to read his story "The Things" (also freely available online), which manages to take John Carpenter's The Thing and make it even more horrifying by setting it from the POV of the titular creature.
It comes off even worse than it otherwise would when the book is making frequent hay out of how incoherent Trump is when he speaks. I mean, he is, and that's horrifying, but that doesn't excuse you weaving together phrases with such disregard for prose structure that you sound like a phone keyboard predicting text.
Currently doing Fire and Fury out of morbid curiosity, and I'm doing my best not to be a snob about the writing but I just had to share this sentence because it's so clear this thing had no copy editor.
That said, this is certainly compelling in a masochistic way. Much like Game Change before it, you know you're reading trash but it's such smuttily fascinating trash that you don't care.
Bumping because I just made one of those Topster top-42 collages and was curious to see what y'all's would look like, especially since tastes have probably evolved at least somewhat in the five years since this thread was touched.
When I first posted in this thread, I was still in high school and my tastes were largely pop-punk and dad-rock. The latter especially still forms a giant portion of this list, but I've gotten into folk in a big way since then and have also finally broken the barrier into appreciating jazz, rap, and hip-hop, so my tastes are a lot more eclectic than they were even though there are a lot of obvious Rolling Stone type albums in here.
Tried to keep it to one album per artist but had to break; the bottom eight are higher in my affections than their placement would suggest but I wanted to keep some variety. Albums in general are grouped roughly rather than ranked precisely.
Stats, just 'cuz why not and also it's a slow day at work:
Oldest album on the list:Rubber Soul, The Beatles Newest album on the list:Lemonade, Beyonce Artists with most representation on the list: The Beatles, The Who, and Green Day, three albums each Longest album on the list: going by original release, The White Album, The Beatles; if you count the extended deluxe edition, Live at Leeds, The Who Shortest album on the list:Sail Away, Randy Newman Decade with most albums on the list: 1970s and 2000s, 11 each Decade with the fewest albums on the list: 1980s, 1 Number of female-fronted albums on the list: 10 Number of POC-fronted albums on the list: 5 Album on the list that meant the most to me as a teenager:American Idiot, Green Day Album on the list that most reflects my current tastes:Young Man in America, Anaïs Mitchell Albums I picked up as a direct result of being on this forum:Rockin' the Suburbs, Ben Folds; Yeezus, Kanye West
If you somehow managed to win $100M, what would be your way of using it?
For the purposes of the fantasy, I'll assume that it's $100 million after taxes.
I'd promptly buy the Vines, the amazing student house where I boarded when I was at Oxford, and set aside a sizable chunk to live on the rest of my life—not an obscene amount, but enough that I'd be able to keep buying books and movies and music. I'd probably invest some in Disney stock, because if there's any company that's surefire for the next few years it's that one.
As for the rest?
- $20 million to prison libraries for the purchase of way more books - $20 million to public libraries for the same - $20 million to Against Malaria, Black Lives Matter, and assorted additional charities/social movements/etc. - $10 million to set up a "Library of the Apocalypse" that curates as many books, films, pieces of music, video games, etc. in multiple formats in a single, obscenely fortified location to be preserved in case of future zombies/catastrophic climate change - $500,000 each to the several writers I love who currently live below the poverty line - $500,000 each to any close friends who could use it - $1 million to fund an exhaustive search for Orson Welles' workprint cut of The Magnificent Ambersons in South America
That, or I'll fritter it all away on a newspaper just so I get to say:
You're right, I did lose a million dollars last year. I expect to lose a million dollars this year. I expect to lose a million dollars next year. You know, Mr. Thatcher, at the rate of a million dollars a year, I'll have to close this place in . . . 100 years.
- - - - -
What commonly-held belief about the future do you disagree with, and why?
Has anyone ever saved your life?
You're afraid of something unusual; what is it, and how did you find out you were afraid of it?
Who somehow reminds you of a song? What [different] song somehow reminds you of a person?
Choose one frame from any film where you'd like to spend the afterlife.