Sunday, September 30, 2012

The October Horror Movie Challenge is Nigh

Tomorrow is October 1st and that means one thing: it's horror movie time. No more hoarding those twisted little movies. It's time to watch them and write about them.

The Rules: Your mission is to watch 31 horror movies between 12:01 AM on October 1st and midnight on Halloween. 16 of those movies must be movies you have never seen before. TV movies count. TV episodes do not count unless they are feature length entries in an anthology series. TV miniseries also count, so if you want to watch The Kingdom or Bag of Bones for the challenge, feel free. Feature length is arbitrarily cut off at 50 minutes. Anything shorter than that is a short and does not count (unless you want to play the variant where several shorts collectively count as one feature once they collectively reach 50 minutes, but that's a pain to keep track of). As for what counts as "horror," use your best judgement. My own definition of "horror" is notoriously permissive, so who am I to throw rocks. You are, of course, more than welcome to watch movies beyond 31, so if you have time for fifty or a hundred movies this month, knock yourself out.

If the Challenge is too easy for you, you might try some variants: only watch movies you haven't seen before, only watch zombie movies, only watch movies from Asia, whatever you like. It doesn't matter HOW you do it so long as you make it to 31 movies with 16 first time viewings.

One variant of the Challenge that I do encourage is this one: watch horror movies for charity. I'll be blogging for the National MS society again this year, and I encourage you to donate some nominal amount--ten cents, fifty cents, whatever--to the charity of your choice for every movie that you watch. It's not mandatory, so don't feel bad if you don't, but I'll be cutting a check in November for my viewings and I hope you will too.

I'll be doing Challenge roundups every day, so if you post something for the challenge, leave me a comment and I'll add you to the link dump.

Here are some other banners for the challenge if you want them for your posts, or just use the ones at the top of the page.

Now then, ladies and gentlemen, start your screaming!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Kicking a Dead Horse

There's no easy way to say this: I've been blocked. I won't get into the reasons, but it has been next to impossible for me to concentrate on writing lately. Some of this is blogging burnout, which eventually afflicts almost everyone who blogs for any length of time. Sometimes, those burnouts never resume blogging. Hopefully, that won't be me. I enjoy writing about film. I've been writing about film since I was a teenager. It's just not coming as easily right now as it used to.

I'm also tired of my current blog design, so even though I plan to resume blogging regularly next week (when the October Challenge begins) or possibly this weekend, stately Krell Labs will probably look different sometime very soon. I definitely need to clean up the clutter and find a better way to index my blog than that insanely long list of tags on the sidebar. Hopefully, this will result in a blog that's easier to read and easier to navigate.

Meanwhile, here's a drawing of Snake Plissken I did for one of my fundraiser backers. I'm still accepting commissions, if anyone wants a drawing, but I didn't make it to Fantastic Fest (again) this year, so it's not a fundraiser, per se, just a means of keeping my blog afloat in a crappy economy.

Also, a reminder to anyone who wants me to participate in the October Challenge, send me a note at christianne_in_leather at yahoo dot com with links to your blog, or just leave me a comment.

Love to everyone who reads my rantings. I'll be back in a bit.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Myth Guided

This is a part of the Camp and Cult Blogathon. The mad genius behind this is Stacia over at She Blogged by Night.

One of the things I always loved when I was in grade school was the English sections on mythology. I was a monster kid, after all, and I read the two books my parents had provided me on mythology to tatters, looking for stories with monsters. I got quite the education in the bargain, even if the reason I loved Herakles above all the other Greek heroes was because he fought the most monsters. But I also responded to a good story, and one of the stories that royally hooked me was the one about Theseus and the Minotaur. The early parts of the Theseus myth are a kind of ur-E. C. Comics collection of stories, in which Theseus takes on various villains in poetically just ways (Procrustes, the stretcher, is my favorite: if guests in his house were too short for his bed, he'd stretch them. Theseus was too tall for it, so you can guess his intentions. Theseus turns the tables on him). But as I got to know the full myth in later English classes, I really began to appreciate the Greeks and their knack for creating heroes that were recognizably flawed. Theseus, it turns out, is a bit of an asshole. Flush with victory, he forgets to change the black sails on his ship to alert his father that he's successful and his dad flings himself into the sea. King Minos's daughter, Ariadne, helps him navigate the labyrinth only be marooned on an island with her kid sister for her troubles. There's a reason that Theseus isn't a major hero when it comes to movies based on the Greek myths. He's a right bastard. Which is why I was interested to see Tarsem Singh's Immortals (2011), in spite of all the horrifically bad reviews. It puts Theseus front and center. How, I wondered, were they going to pull that off. Certainly, Tarsem is an arty enough director to buck conventional wisdom and make the character heroic but unlikeable. Maybe having a prick for a hero is what garnered all the hate.

I should have known better.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Grudge Match

I don't know if she can act--on the evidence of Haywire (2012, directed by Steven Soderbergh), the jury is still out--but that may not make a difference for Gina Carano, who comes to the movies from the world of mixed martial arts. She reminds me a bit of Arnold Schwarzenegger, to tell the truth. Nobody ever accused Arnold of being an actor, but he WAS a star and with good reason. I think Carano might have that same star quality. When, at the end of Haywire, she drops in on the film's hidden bad guy with her hair tightly braided against her head and her posture ready to kick some unholy ass, all I could think was, "Sign that woman to play Wonder Woman, pronto." When she's on screen, my eye is drawn to her. That's a start.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Long Day of Things and People

David Cronenberg is a filmmaker who never throws anything away. Sprawled across his mannered and uncomfortable adaptation of Don DeLillo's Cosmopolis (2012) is the history of his film career, even the weird body horror with which the director made his name. It's a return to form, of sorts, but then, Cronenberg is almost never very far off model. Even in outliers like The Dead Zone and A Dangerous Method, Cronenberg's private universe is recognizable. Cosmopolis, is Cronenberg's first screenplay in over a decade, which tends to distill his obsessions into a more concentrated brew. Cosmopolis is certainly perverse.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Thinking Inside the Box

Do you want to know the worst part about writing about movies as a vocation? It's finding something to say about mediocrities. Good movies and bad both provide an essential element to the writing process: passion. A mediocre movie? Man, what's the point, eh? This is the dilemma I'm having with The Possession (2012, directed by Ole Bornedal). It's not a bad movie, and you might think I'm grateful for that given how badly awry some legitimately awful horror movies can turn. It's professionally made and it's not egregiously stupid or morally obnoxious. It's not a standout, either.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

A Hong Kong Elegy

On its surface, Ann Hui's A Simple Life (2011) plays like an Ozu-ish family drama, carefully observed and in touch with a basic shared humanity with the audience that isn't overcooked by the trappings of plot or melodrama. This, it accomplishes very, very well, and it's no wonder that the film has become the director's biggest hit and an award winner wherever it plays. It's one of the year's most pleasurable dramas. If I see a gentler, more humane film this year, I'll be shocked. If it only worked on that level, it would be amazing enough, but it plays a deeper game, too.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Life Among the Nerds, and Short and Sweet

I spent five days in Chicago at the World Science Fiction Convention this past weekend. I'm not much of a con-goer, even though I've had an interest in science fiction, fantasy, and horror all my life. I get bored at cons. I don't drink, so the room parties don't appeal to me, really, and while I like talking shop with writers and artists, I find that I can do that with less awkwardness on the internet these days. From all this, you might assume that I had a bad time, but I didn't. I had the opportunity to meet some people in meatspace with whom I've had long internet correspondences, and meeting people in meatspace is a rare pleasure. You get more of a person's overall presence when you share air and space and elevators with them.

There was also the vendor's area, a cavernous hall at this convention located somewhere beneath the convention center (a significant portion of Chicago appears to be underground, by the way, and I half expected to run into the mutants from Beneath the Planet of the Apes at any time). Various booksellers tormented me with collectible books. I've never seen so many $300 and up books in one place in my life. I'm poor right now, but if I had money to spend, I would have spent it. Probably for the best.

I had a good time, too, at the ceremony where the Hugo Awards were presented. I was a Hugo voter this year, and I was pleased to see that my own tastes aren't totally out of step with the rest of the world. Of the four main literary awards, I picked three of the winners, with my second place pick in the novella category taking the fourth. I was especially happy with the diversity of the winners. Genre fiction has well and truly broken the rule of straight cis white dudes. At the risk of indulging in identity politics, the fact that there's a trans woman with a literary Hugo award right now makes me squee a little inside. The fact that this level of diversity was acknowledged in the opening remarks by the event's emcee, writer John Scalzi, was flabbergasting in itself. I'm much more predisposed to loving science fiction fans this week than I was last.