2.26.2006

I demand a moratorium ...

... on the publication of Jane Austen fanfic.

Actually, let me amend that to "the publication of poor, shoddy Jane Austen fanfic."

I went to Amazon to look at this book, a collection of essays about Pride and Prejudice (one of which is written by my new favorite blogger/TV writer, Jane Espenson). Note well the suggestions Amazon makes for other books I might be interested in: two "sequels" to Pride and Prejudice; The Confession of Fitzwilliam Darcy, which one reviewer describes as a mix of "funny," "boring" and "pure porn"; and a couple of books from various series detailing the further adventures of the P&P crowd. I knew there was a subculture of P&P tribute novels out there; I had no clue it was this widespread - that so many "sequels" had found their way to publication.

OK, so I like fanfic as much as the next girl. (This might not be totally accurate, since the "next girl" - who I found by clicking "Next Blog" until a girl showed up - is from Sweden, and I can't read Swedish, so I don't know her thoughts on fanfic.) So last year, I picked up Pride and Prescience, the first book in the "Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mysteries." I was all, "Elizabeth and Darcy side by side, solving mysteries? Hells yeah!"

Um, hells no. As the savvier among you have probably already guessed, it's terrible. Jane Austen would have laughed this author and her wild notions right out the door. It was as though the author knew the basic characters and plot of P&P, but had no understanding of the world in which they operated.

But of course, there are tons of girls out there just like me, who've read all of Austen's works and want more. The Jane-Austen-clone industry has to be worth millions - and those millions can come from shoddy ripoffs as well as well-thought-out homages.

I would like to volunteer my services as a Jane Austen Sequel Quality Verification Associate (JASQuVA). As a JASQuVA, I will read the manuscripts of any Austen-related materials and provide the would-be publisher with an assessment of its quality. If the manuscript is not up to snuff, it can still be published - but under a special label reserved for poor interpretations of existing characters. Other titles under the "Shoddy Fanfic" label would include Star Trek novels where Kirk and Spock get it on, that Hey Arnold! fic that includes several pages describing Helga and Arnold making out, and Scarlett. This would clear up any more confusion about the quality of published works that use beloved characters.

2.23.2006

Something told the wild geese ...

Spring is on the way.

I know, of course, spring is always on its way, but two things on this 20-degree night solidified it for me: twilight and teenagers.

Tonight, for the first time this year, I saw twilight. Don't confuse twilight with dusk. Dusk is dark; twilight is blue. In twilight, the street lights have come on, but they aren't yet necessary - which somehow makes the artificial light stand out even more brightly. It's a phenomenon I associate with summer, when the daylight lingers as long as it can.

And the high-schoolers know. They were out in full force tonight, gathering wherever teenagers gather - which is, of course, in ridiculous places like the parking lot of the Blockbuster or the playground by the community center. They're wandering around in the near-freezing weather because they know.

I can't wait to break out my flip-flops.

2.18.2006

Sigh.

The CiN blogs are getting pretty bad. It's irritating.

In the past few days, we've had anonymous commenters say that:
- my high school teacher who's running for Congress will have to drop out because of unspecified "allegations";
- a downtown restaurant closed because the "busboys were jizzing into the bisque";
- a former intern beats his girlfriends;
- Gina is "a beast in the sack";
- the women who work for CiN are "whores."

I'm not sure why these things bother me. Why should I care what some Internet ass thinks of my teacher?

At the same time, I kind of don't want to post anything there anymore, because what's the point? It's just going to get shat upon.

2.11.2006

Oscar Watch, again

On Wednesday I tried to get Stacie to see Capote with me. She was in the mood for a comedy, so we wound up seeing ...

The Squid and the Whale (original screenplay)

I think I have to expand my definition of "comedy," because this movie, while good, didn't seem to fit the bill. While there were funny moments, I spent a whole lot of time feeling sorry for, angry at, or disgusted by the characters - but I was always interested in them.

Also, I wanted more of a resolution regarding the youngest son, Frank. The parents know about his problems (which I won't detail because the movie's still in theaters and I wouldn't want to spoil it for anyone); will they break through their haze of blame and selfishness and work together to help him?

The older son's story is satisfying, though. Have you ever met somebody who lives entirely inside his own perceptions, regardless of whether they mesh with reality? That's the horrible egotism Bernard has passed on to his son Walt - but somehow, the only perceptions Walt has have been given to him by his father. This trait comes through in many ways - like when we see that both of them feel that if one has the capability to do something, it's the same as actually having done it. If Walt thinks he could have written a beautiful song, it shouldn't matter that Pink Floyd already wrote it ... and if Bernard has the ability to work at saving his marriage, it's as if he actually did, and his ex-wife shouldn't have any grievances because it was obviously all her fault. It was fascinating to watch Walt take as gospel truth everything Bernard says, when he really ought to be old enough to see that his dad's a pretentious jerk. In this respect, Frank is more mature than Walt - but is his mistrust in his dad influenced by his apparent Oedipus complex?

Sorry, I'm just thinking out loud (if you can call the clatter of computer keys loud), because it was interesting to see the very prickly ways in which these characters interact. Everything felt genuine, from the awkwardness of high-school relationships to the seven-hour agony of knowing in the morning that heartbreaking news is going to arrive at the "family conference" that afternoon. The only thing that rang false was tennis pro Ivan's dialogue, because, come on, who really ends every sentence with "my brother"? But I'll spot them one irritating verbal tic.

It might not be a comedy by my standards, but it's a great movie nonetheless.

2.09.2006

Actors I often confuse (even though they don't even look alike), possibly because of a vague similarity in the actors' names

- Matthew Broderick and Michael Keaton
- Jake Gyllenhaal and Jason Schwartzman

Rar!

It's 6 in the morning, and I'm afraid to go back to bed for the hour or so that I could sleep before my alarm goes off.

Well, not "afraid" in the monster-under-the-bed or even rapist-at-the-door sense.

I'm afraid that if I try to sleep, that damn car alarm will ruin everything again.

It woke me up at 4:15 or so with its honk-honk honk-honk-honk-honking. At first my thoughts were along the lines of "bleah, car'larm, go 'way, sleepy ..." but it kept going. Just about the time when I became lucid enough to realize that that alarm had been going off for kind of a while if it had been going long enough for me to not only wake up, but start to be coherent ... it stopped.

Hurrah! I began to snuggle deeper into the blankets for my journey back into Slumberland - and then it went off again. But instead of 7,496 honks, the alarm just honked about 9 times, then stopped again.

Pause. Six honks.

Pause. Three honks.

OK, what is the deal? Is this a spectacularly incompetent car thief, or just some sort of code? I throw off the blankets (good-bye, warmth!) and head to the window. All seems quiet and peaceful on my street; there's a light dusting of snow on the cars that doesn't seem to have been disturbed.

I return to bed and spend a fitful half-hour imagining an elaborate hypothetical in which the car alarm is the distinctive screech of my Hyundai. In it, I clock the would-be perp with my largest frying pan, chase him down the street and pin him to the ground until the police arrive, whiling away the interval with "What would your mother think of you"s and periodic punches to the neck. I fall asleep.

Fast forward to 5:30, when the stupid alarm goes off again. Twice.

This time, I actually call District 2, hoping if they have a car in the area they can at least take a turn down the street. I find out that unless the alarm is actually going off at the time, they can't do much. In retrospect, I probably should have pointed out that the way things are going, if they drive down the street at any given time there's about a 50-50 shot that the alarm will, in fact, be blaring.

So now it's 6 a.m. and it doesn't seem worth it to go back to bed. I think I'll put on the kettle for tea - and possibly fashion some toilet-paper earplugs.

2.08.2006

Oscar Watch, continued

Corpse Bride (animated feature)

I probably shoulda seen this one around Halloween, when it was released. Maybe then I would have been in the mood for its Gothic story and goth look. As it was, not so very much. I felt it was a pale imitation of The Nightmare Before Christmas - Burton having a great idea for a story, but not really having fleshed it out perfectly.

Why exactly does Victor need to go back to the world of the living for his wedding to Emily (other than because the plot requires it)? Wouldn't it have made far more sense for him to die, then say his vows in the land of the dead? And why does Emily turn into butterflies at the end? Is that what happens when someone's resolved their unfinished business? So then what's the cab driver's unfinished business? The evil lord's? These plot holes kept me from really enjoying the movie - which is too bad, because it's beautifully executed.

Also, there were, like, three songs. If you're not going to have an entire soundtrack's worth of Danny Elfman tunes, then I say don't bother.

I would describe it as "a good start." If some more time had been spent polishing it, it could've been truly great.


Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (documentary)

This film did a good job of laying out the downfall of Enron in a way that average people could understand. The filmmakers try to bookend the movie with the suicide of Enron executive Cliff Baxter, but since we never really learn more about him or his role in the scandal, it comes off as the filmmakers searching for extra drama in an already horrifying event. (I was especially unnerved by the movie's opening, a dramatization of Baxter's suicide. I'm a documentary purist; I think all the footage should be real.)

Personally, I would have focused less on Baxter and more on the employees who thought they were working for the most successful energy company in the world, then suddenly found out they were jobless and their pension funds were worthless. There's a point in the movie when we see Enron execs on stage taking questions from the employees of a recently-acquired power company. One of the questions is, "Should my 401K be in Enron stock?" The execs (who were already starting to sell their own stock) laughed and said of course, and my heart sank as I imagined my own 401K disappearing, just like that.

In short, I think Enron is an important movie that people should watch to gain a better understanding of the scandal ... but I don't care for it as a documentary. There are too many distracting musical choices and quick cuts to random guys jumping out of planes to symbolize the "dangerous games" being played by executives. It winds up feeling a little like a VH1 "Behind the Music" piece. For the Oscar, right now I prefer March of the Penguins. Its subject matter might be less hard-hitting, but with its 100-percent-real footage and simple narration and music, it's the better documentary. (Maybe that opinion will change if I see Murderball.)

2.04.2006

It happens every year...

The Oscar nominations come out, and I suddenly realize I saw NO movies last year. None.

Well, like, 20. But still.

This year seems wose than most, though. Ususally I've seen one or two of the nominees for Best Picture. I can make some sort of educated statement like, "Sideways? Seriously?" or "If Return of the King doesn't win this year, there's no justice in Hollywood."

This year? I've seen none of the Best Picture films. And, of the 53 films nominated for an award, I've seen eight:
Batman Begins (cinematography),
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (makeup, sound mixing, visual effects),
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (art direction),
March of the Penguins (documentary),
Pride and Prejudice (actress - really? must've been a bad year for leading ladies - , art direction, costume design, original score),
Walk the Line (actor, actress, editing, costmes, sound mixing),
Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (animated feature),
and War of the Worlds (sound editing, sound mixing, visual effects).

When I saw the list, I vowed to do better. I am going to try to see as many Oscar-nominated movies as possible before the ceremony on March 5.

Last night, I took the first step with ...

Good Night, and Good Luck.
(Best Picture, actor, director, original screenplay, cinematography, art direction)

Good Night, and Good Luck. is writer/director George Clooney's big arm-waving jumping-up-and-down cry to the American people, "Come on, guys, history is repeating itself RIGHT THE HELL NOW!" It is incredibly relevant; when Edward R. Murrow points out that "balanced journalism" doesn't mean reporting the wrong as equal to the right, he's speaking to journalists everywhere, in all times.

It's so freakishly apt that I want to go back and study Murrow's old speeches and broadcasts, to find out if the things he said were really so applicable to journalism in 2005 (such as when he berates a room full of reporters for allowing the media to be dominated by silly entertainment masquerading as news) - but I can easily believe that it all happened the way Clooney presents it. Watching the film - which makes much use of historical footage; possibly as much as half the film is actual clips of Sen. Joseph McCarthy's anti-Communism hearings and Murrow's pieces for CBS - feels like watching history itself.

Of course, history often does not present itself in the form of a three-act arc of conflict, which may be why the pacing of Good Night, and Good Luck. feels off. The climax of the piece - the controversial broadcast where Murrow and producer Fred Friendly decide to go after McCarthy - comes fairly early, and the denouement is long. The footage of McCarthy and of Murrow's interview subjects is lengthy and sometimes repetitive. (Come to think of it, that could be a conscious nod to the films of the period, whose scenes I often feel end five seconds too late.)

But these problems slipped away once I left the theater, leaving me with memories of the striking dialogue and visuals that are going to make this film a classic. It deserves any awards it wins (um, not that I have anything to compare it to, really).

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