Sunday, July 31, 2011

Movie Review: Cowboys and Aliens

Ever since I saw the trailer last year, I've been anxiously awaiting this movie. SF meets Western flick - what's not to love? After all, Star Wars is just a Western in space.

A brief rundown: In 1873 Arizona, our hero (Daniel Craig) wakes up in the middle of nowhere with no recollection of who he is or where he is, and a weird bracelet on his wrist. After getting into a scuffle with some roughians, he heads to the town of Absolution. There he meets a woman, Ella (Olivia Wilde), who seems to know more about what's going on. Our hero also finds out he's the wanted criminal Jake Lonergan, whom Colonial Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford) has a personal grudge with. But when aliens attack the town and kidnap citizens, including Dolarhyde's son, Lonergan (his bracelet is the key to destroying the aliens), Dolarhyde, and Ella team up to track down the alien nemesis.

For once, in a long time, I've actually found a movie that I enjoyed immensely - no, really! The acting was superb, each character has a story-arc and grew a little by the end of the movie, lots and lots of action, good handling of tropes - and no, just because there were tropes does not make it cliche, and a satisfying conclusion. No, this movie isn't the deep brilliance of Blade Runner (my favorite move ever) but it's enjoyable. It doesn't drag in any spots or make you groan with sob scenes that take fooooreeeever. Yes, beloved characters died and there were tears, but they kept it brief.

There is criticism about the alien menace being too dumb. I'm just glad they're not insects! Though, they're kind of these weird mutant turtle things. I wonder if they like pizza... Anyway, one issue was that the bracelet/weapon that Lonergan uses originally came from the aliens - you know how it goes, careless worker leaves it out and the human test subject grabs it and runs away. Looks like someone is receiving a deduction from their pay check. In my eyes, considering that mysterious little Ella could also use this alien tech, I figure this technology is not exclusive to this alien race. Perhaps the bracelet/weapon, which operates based on the owners thoughts or emotions, was mass produced to fit all interplanetary species needs. I wouldn't be surprised if there a logo on that thing. And you know how dumb people can get a hold of guns? Well, perhaps this is the SF version of dumb aliens getting a hold of dangerous gadgets.  

Trying not to spoil this because I want you to see it. Yes, support the good movies! Instead of crap like Transformers franchise. Plus, I'd love to see Hollywood do more of this genre mashing, perhaps a fantasy western or space fantasy - or space fantasy western. There's lots of good tropes in these genres waiting to be used properly! Also, I'm sort of becoming tired of of superhero movies. Please, can we have something else?

So I'm giving this movie my rare rating of 5 out of 5 stars. Dumb aliens or not, it didn't detract from my enjoyment of this film.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Got Maturity?

This came up yesterday morning over at Every Day Fiction in the comments section of a particular story. Now I assume that the comment section is there not just so readers have a place to spill their enthusiasm, but that it's also a place to leave critiques. And don't start with the: "Oh, but it's already published, there's no point in critiquing it!" Have you ever seen a bad movie or read a bad book? Did you feel a need to criticize it even though it's a finished product? Of course you did! The amazing thing about human beings is that we can form opinions and express them. This is the nature of communication. And even if it's a finished product, that doesn't mean it's immune to scrutiny. The point of criticism is for you [the creator of X] to learn and improve on your craft. Yes, it's going to sting, but you take it and roll with it.

Now, there a few ways you can react to criticism: A) You can ignore it. B) You can acknowledge it and thank the critter for their time. Or C) You can become defensive of your work.

Guess which one is the immature reaction?

(If you said C, you are correct!)

I understand everyone has an ego and some egos are bigger than others, while some are very fragile. If you've got ego issues, then don't - I repeat - DON'T bother putting your work out there, because chances are, you've got a bit of growing up to do. And frankly, I'm quite tired of these children posing as adults, and then crying when they don't receive the praise they think they deserve. Sorry, but you're not entitled to anything, but whatever you do receive, be damn grateful, even if it's criticism. They read your story! Isn't that enough?

Oh, and don't forget, if you act all defensive on the internet, it's there for the whole world to see. So just think about that next time you feel the need to chew out a reader's critique.  

But yeah, I've had enough of these childish egos. Keep your stories underneath your pillow, maybe the writing-fairy will leave you a quarter.        

Sunday, July 24, 2011

ATHF and Rape

If you've never heard of Aqua Teen Hunger Force (ATHF) it's a absurdist comedy shown on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim segment. The main characters are fast food products (a milkshake, fries, and a wad of meat) and the humor tends to be very random. So random in fact, that rape was the joke for an entire episode. The episode Handbanana (you can watch part 1 and part 2 on Youtube) centers around Carl (the neighbor) being raped by an engineered hand-dog hybrid. And that's pretty much it. I can only assume that the writers intended you to laugh at the situation of someone being raped.

Rape isn't funny and will never be funny.

What's worse of all is how Carl is treated when he informs his neighbors that he's been raped, which is basically being ignored and not taken seriously. By the end of the episode, the neighbors watch with apathy from their home as Carl is raped in his own backward.
What were they thinking? I know this is an old episode, but it has never sat well with me, and not too long after watching it, I ceased watching ATHF all together. It's quite clear that the writers feel pretty secure about the fact that they will never be raped, and thus to them, a guy being raped is funny. Forget the fact that the one doing the raping is this ridiculous creature, because it's nothing more than a prop. Oh, and if Carl had been a Carla do you think this episode would have flied? But I guess because it's a guy being raped it makes it okay? 'Cause it's not like men are ever victims of rape. *sarcasm*

And it's this sort of attitude that harms the victims of sexual assault, that rape is looked upon as a joke rather than a serious issue for both men and women. This is done with very poor taste, much like someone telling a racist joke. It's not funny no matter how you look at it. No, of course the show isn't tasteful and much of the humor is crude, but that doesn't excuse it from making fun of the issue. And yes, I think the writers/creators should be held accountable, whether they know what they did was wrong or not, they need to be corrected. Because attitudes don't change unless you correct them. Although, some time has passed since the episode originally aired, I still feel it's relevant, especially considering that there are people who actually enjoy this episode. Which says A LOT about them when you think about it.

And if I ever get a chance to go to ComicCon in San Diego (next year, I hope), I will most certainly confront them about it if I can - oh, and I will try.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Just out of curiosity...

...would you read a novel about motherhood? Straight up motherhood, not a comedy about it. No, I'm not writing a novel about motherhood - wouldn't even dream of it. But I read this one blog about an author who did write such a book, because they wanted a book about "female" issues, instead of war, sex, and violence. Yeah, I'm not going to name the author, but it did get me thinking who would be interested in such a book. I'm a woman - well, I have ovaries so they must count - and I don't find the topic of motherhood to be an exciting read. Oh sure, there are trials and frustrations in motherhood, but where's the conflict?

Alien verse motherhood?
War, sex, and violence has oodles of conflict. That's why writers write about it and why readers love to read it. A book with no conflict is rather boring. I can't think of any conflict in motherhood of itself. However, the role of being a mother verse the role of being a employed (could be overworked, could be demanding) has ample conflict, but that's pitting motherhood against something, like Alien verse Predator.

Granted, I'm not a mother and this may be why it doesn't appeal to me. I'd actually be impressed if someone could write an engaging book about motherhood. However, I still feel like there would have to be something more than just motherhood, an event that shakes things up and turns the world on its side. Then again, motherhood may not be my cuppa.

Perhaps I'll just stick with freaky creatures and wormholes.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Sex Doesn't Matter

No, not the act ‘sex’. I’m talking about the genitalia between your legs, because sex is the correct usage, not ‘gender’.  I’ve wanted to discuss the topic of sex in SF/F since a discussion of it had cropped up on AW.

Now, in a galaxy far, far away… science fiction was once a male dominated genre, and a lot of the characters in SF were male. Optimistically, I like to think that has changed and there are more women writing in SF as well as female characters in SF.

So what’s the issue?

Male to female ratios. Apparently, some think that if you don’t have enough women in your SF universe, your universe is implausible! Or, they may just call you a sexist, as is the case for Star Wars. It’s hard to cram an entire universe into a single book, and if you do, the book ends up being a couple thousand pages long. A linear story is going to focus on what’s important: the plot and the characters involved in the plot. So no, we’re not going to see the entire universe and all the diversity. And nor am I going to hold a magnifying glass to the background to see how many vaginas there are. Because gosh darnit! There’s gotta be a space pilot with a vagina! Is space pilot #4 important to the story? No. So who cares what it is.

The characters should serve the story, not the other way around.

Look, I’m all for characters with two sets of genitals or characters with no genitals so long as it makes sense. Are the characters going to bump uglies or exchange DNA through pili? Then yes, it would help to know what sex the characters are. But one thing I can’t stand is when sex (the act) is just thrown into a story and it isn’t part of the plot or character growth. Make it relevant or just get it over with, because you’re holding up the story! (sorry, minor rant)

Now if you want a pro-wrestling woman as your main character, you’re going to have to work around the limitations of the female body. Sorry, but no matter what fantasy world you live in, men and women are biologically different. And yes, you will need to explain how a woman can be a wrestler and win the belt. If technology is allowed, then the woman can use nano enhancements, thus leveling the playing field. If this is fantasy, perhaps a strength spell or the woman is from a race of Amazonians.

Sex doesn’t matter.

I think this is what LeGuin was trying to get at in her novel The Left Hand of Darkness, where the planet Winter is populated by hermaphrodites. Male, female, whatever, the story should still be able to go on without us getting hung up on who has what between their legs.

*Edit* Found this AWESOME rant by Limyaael which sums up my feelings about this whole issue. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Definition Wars (aka How defcon was right!)

Definitions can be tricky, everyone seems to have their own, and of course, they think their definition is correct. And of course, I must disagree with them. There was a bit of a discussion about SF (science fiction) on AW, whether a story set in the future is automatically SF or not. I'm going to refer back to a previous post, which I talked about how it's SF when it feels like it. Star Wars feels like SF because you have laser beams, space ships, and aliens. Granted, it's the softest of SF, but you can imagine the Star Wars universe was built up thanks to engineers and scientists. It certainly wasn't the Force.

However, I don't believe all stories set in the future are SF. To say all stories set in the future are SF is to bar fantasy from being set in the future. But that's not true. Emma Bull's Bone Dance is clearly fantasy despite it being set in post-apocalyptic America since it has gods intervening and a surreal, other worldly atmosphere. Then there's Ralph Bakshi's Wizards which is another post-apoc story, but it features elves and fairies as the main characters. Oh, and magic! I'm all for magic and technology mixing blood, however, if the technology is barely there, how can you continue to call it a SF? But - but it's set in the future! So what? Doesn't mean it's a SF, certainly doesn't feel like it's a SF.

So this is how it works (via venn diagram inspired by Buftysquirrel):

And thus I rest my case. However, I always keep my dukes up. Challenge me at your own risk.