The mainstreaming of sci-fi

I just saw Looper. It was an okay bit of time travel narrative but I’m rather surprised so many people thought it was mind-bending. I thought the time travel aspect was fairly straightforward and can only assume that it was confusing mostly to people who didn’t see time travel being the main plot of like every fifth episode of The Next Generation.

In fact, the reception for Looper rather reminds me of that for Inception as far as its sci-fi bits go. Have we forgotten the lessons taught to us by both the Back to the Future franchise and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure?

Primer, now that was a genuine time travel headscrew. Be more like that, Looper. And as for the rest of you people, quit being so dazzled by sci-fi, these plots have been going round and round for decades by now. And while we’re at it also make me king of the world. Is any of that really too much to ask?

Turn, turn

What the hell? One day it was warm, the next day it was actually fall. I’m pretty sure last weekend was the last time I could have worn shorts but I foolishly didn’t take the opportunity. The Toronto International Film Festival really marks the end of the summer movie season, doesn’t it?

And by the bye, The Bourne Legacy wasn’t a pile of crap. Kind of weird pacing in the start but it was okay enough.

The answer is blowing in the wind

On The Onion AV Club there is a discussion about the first film that participants have seen. I couldn’t contribute anything in my case because I honestly have no idea what my first movie is. I have seen hundreds upon hundreds of movies in my life and would be hard-pressed to tell you which specific movie was my first ever. I’m not even sure if it’s something I saw on video or at the movie theatre.

However, this realization also brought to light the fact that I have no idea how much media I consume beyond the vague estimate of “hundreds” in the case of movies. Therefore, I have a new project for myself: between now and the end of August of next year, I will count what and how many novels, movies, tv shows, and comic books I consume. I’ll even list what I’ve consumed in a given month.

Luckily August has only started so I still remember what I’ve consumed so far. Anyway, this project should be very instructive.

Books: Started reading Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson

Comic Books: Gokuko no Brynhildr #21, Sket Dance #204, Otogi no Machi no Rena #49, The World God Only Knows #197

After the end

Okay, I’ve had time to sleep on it and I have to admit that The Dark Knight Rises is better than I thought it was. It’s already the next day and I’m still thinking about it. I’m reading online reviews and discussions about the themes and characters, so evidently the movie is one of those slow-burning ones where it takes you a while to fully digest everything. I’m revising my opinion upward.

No Man’s Land

I just saw The Dark Knight Rises. It’s an interesting little blockbuster.

All in all, I would say I liked it. I think the second was superior but I also think this film is better than the first. However, in the years since The Dark Knight I’d forgotten how melodramatic the dialogue in Nolan’s Batman films could be. It also had a somewhat clumsy thematic link to the Occupy Movement, the story being based mostly on the No Man’s Land arc from the comics, where Gotham City is cut off from the rest of the United States and anarchy rules the land.

I do think a stronger thematic connection could have been made between the villain, Bane, and Batman, particularly since they are both figures who deliberately disregard established social structures, but perhaps it’s better that link shouldn’t be returned to when it was used so well in The Dark Knight (the link being violence and insanity in that case).

The movie was good, not great, which makes it sound somewhat disappointing for what’s supposed to be a summer blockbuster, but then again, I can’t remember the last time I exited a movie theatre thinking, “That was awesome!” Perhaps I’m just picky.

Isn’t it good?

After all this time I’ve finally seen the film adaptation of Norwegian Wood. I’m really not sure what to think.

As it is, I’m not sure how to evaluate Norwegian Wood as a movie. Having read and liked the book, I already knew what was supposed to be happening. I don’t know how someone approaching the movie as a movie would evaluate it.

However, I am not that hypothetical person. I did read the book and then I did see the movie. I can only react from my own experiences and not from someone else’s. So how does the movie stack up against the book?

First, it’s definitely not a poor translation of a book to film. It successfully captured the quiet mood of the book but at the same time it’s also its own thing. Props for that.

Still, it should be no surprise that I still prefer the novel. That’s almost always the go-to answer when evaluating book-to-film adaptations, with a few notable exceptions. Yes, Midori is peculiarly forward in the film, but it’s a pity there wasn’t enough time to show the variety of her strange flirtations with Watanabe.

Additionally, I’m not sure how well the movie conveyed the strangeness of the book. Haruki Murakami’s stuff is always suffused with an air of quiet strangeness (technically I believe it would be termed magical realism but somehow labelling it makes it seem more dry and boring). The film got the quiet part right but the strangeness didn’t come across as well.

Also, this is probably the only Haruki Murakami novel that will ever be turned into a movie. It’s probably the most conventional one in terms of plot and yet the movie adaptation by necessity still turned out a bit peculiar in conveying its narrative. Good luck filming something like The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.

Anyway, I don’t regret watching this movie. It’s not a bad way to spend a hot Sunday afternoon.

The glory of violence

I saw The Raid: Redemption yesterday. It’s hard to describe my reactions to the movie without speaking entirely in clichés. It actually was balls-to-the-wall action. It actually was superb and thrilling. It was almost literally pure action (I think there may have only been 10 minutes in total where nothing violent was going on). It’s not ironic and it’s not metatextual. It’s just legitimately good.

My god, it’s incredible.

Gymnopedie No. 1

The last episode of Community ends with a piano piece that was maddeningly familiar to me, but I couldn’t quite place it. Apparently it was from My Dinner With Andre, but knowing that fact didn’t scratch my itch since I’ve never seen that movie at all. So then I looked for the piano music on Youtube and found the answer in the comments: Gymnopedie No. 1 is the piece used in the trailer for The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya. Whew, I’m glad I found that out, not knowing the answer was really starting to bug me. And to think, I would have been simply out of luck in the days before the Internet. Thank you, Youtube! Also Internet Movie Database, that site has answered innumerable questions for me as well.

Mickey Rooney vs. Dennis Hopper

I ... I could have sworn "Blue Velvet" was the sequel to "National Velvet"

Man, I remember watching Blue Velvet late one night on tv. I knew nothing at all about it beforehand besides the fact that it was showing on Showcase, the art film channel. I think I was still in high school at the time. I still don’t get it.

The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya

I watched The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya last night. Word on the street was that the movie was a good addition to the Haruhi Suzumiya series, and I really must concur. I’m kind of glad that I didn’t get into the series until a few months ago, since apparently the last new content was from 2007. That must have been a long three years for the fans.

The Haruhi Suzumiya series reminds me a lot of The Time Traveler’s Wife – not in terms of plot or even aesthetics, but rather in the way both use science fiction in the service of the story. They’re not like too many other science fiction stories, where the writers are too busy geeking out over the ray guns to bother about the characters or the plot. Rather, the fantastic elements in both stories exist to drive forward the fundamental relationships at the heart of their respective plots – in Haruhi Suzumiya’s case, it’s about a misanthropic girl learning to appreciate the mundane and a misanthropic guy learning to appreciate the fantastic (with that term encompassing time travelers, psychics, and aliens). However, both Time Traveler’s Wife and Haruhi Suzumiya aren’t just regular stories with science fiction stuff thrown in, they would be fundamentally different without being science fiction.

I like Haruhi Suzumiya. It’s always got such interesting ideas.