brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Mirrored from Words, words, words, art..

“The Children” is a movie about kids going wild and murdering people, and is boring.

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that little kids are creepy. There’s a lot of reasons for that: they don’t think and reason like adults; they don’t have the same morality as adults; they are tiny and easy to over look yet are very strong; they say creepy things; they see and talk to things that aren’t there; they have a hard time separating fantasy and reality; at night their eyes look weird; most of us feel an urge to protect them even when their behavior, if from an adult, would be scary or abusive. Creepy kids are a staple of horror films, and for very good reason. Family tensions and isolated homes are also staple horror fodder. “The Children” combines these elements, gives them a stir, and falls asleep.

The movie starts with a blended family of mom, teen daughter from previous relationship, husband, and their two younger children, driving up in a crappy old car to an enormous house in the middle of nowhere. They’re visiting mom’s sister and her husband and kids. Familial tension is established right away: the sisters’ families belong to very different income levels. The car they’re driving up is a cast off from Rich Sister. Their house is not as big or as nice. Etc. As they get out of the car the youngest child, a boy, wanders into the bushes and barfs. NOTE: there is a lot of barfing in this film so if that bothers you, give this one a pass. I mean, I’d recommend giving this film a miss anyway, but the barf doesn’t help at all. Once inside the house all the kids are excited and running around and screaming. The barf boy launches himself off a counter while screaming for his mummy, and when his dad (uncle? they looked a lot alike) catches him and starts rough housing with him, the kid punches him in the nose. Rich Sister asks Poor Sister if shes seen “that article about the MMR” and talks about her plans to homeschool; there’s mention of how great it is to see one of Rich Sister’s kids up and running around again (apparently she was very ill previously?).

For quite a while, as the other kids each start barfing/coughing up blood/whatever (and not telling anyone), their rowdiness and noise and roughness can be dismissed as kids being kids. Even the first death could easily be written off as an accident. The parents, however, are quick to yell angrily, to put their hands on the kids. The kids are frequently expected to parent the other kids while the parents sit back and drink… both Casey (teenager) and Leah (I think that’s her name?) (pre-teen) are expected to care for the other kids. Leah’s mom tells her that since she’s the oldest she has to act as mummy while mummy gets ready for the party… which consists of family who are already at the house. Both sets of parents think the other pair is stupid and bad at parenting, failing at life. (Both sets of parents, I’d argue, are correct.) The teen girl, Casey, has an incredibly poor quality tattoo on her stomach of a fetus… either because her parents attempted to abort her but she survived, or because they forced her to have an abortion. Her step-father is unrelentingly hostile toward her and her uncle gives her both whisky and pot at different times. The movie would have been a lot stronger if it had decisively selected her as a protagonist and swung behind her, putting focus on her. But it HAS no focus for most of the movie, a bunch of stuff just happening, the characters barely fleshed out except in the broadest strokes. We’re meant to see the murderous children as antagonists but frankly I was rooting for them.

“Child’s Play” managed to make me care about Karen, Andy, and Aunt Maggie in just a few minutes. They were very real characters who cared about each other and had lives and concerns and interests, and it was easy to get invested in them. The kids in “the Children” are a baffling smear of noise and action. They don’t have distinct personalities. Their parents are interchangeable stock asshole characters. One wants to home school her kids. One sells Chinese Medicine. They smack their kids, ignore them, trot them out to lisp out poorly pronounced Chinese phrases. I don’t care about anyone in this ovie, including Teen Casey who is essentially Misunderstood Goth-lite Teen Angster # 305. Forced to attend an unwanted, boring family gathering, she finds herself in the position of having to kill the whiny, loud, ill-behaved young children– a common teen fantasy.

They call the cops, of course, who don’t show up even after several hours and several phone calls. The radio plays only static. The woods are full of vomiting children. Is this how the world ends? If it’s full of people like this, maybe it’s time.

I will never get this time back.

I give this movie 1 star out of 5.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Mirrored from Words, words, words, art..

“Child’s Play” is a surprisingly good movie.

“What are you recording,” Nesko asked me as the DVR whirred.

“Child’s Play,” I responded.

“Ugh, why?” he asked.

His response, combined with my nodding acquaintance with the ridiculous sequels, left with me low expectations as I started the movie. I’d never seen “Child’s Play,” just as I haven’t seen most movies that everyone else has. I really wasn’t expecting much, and the opening met every expectation.

And then the movie surpassed expectations.

“Child’s Play” very deftly mixes the creepiness of dolls with the creepiness of little kids, and works in large part because Andy (the kid) is a pretty well realized character with understandable motivations. His mom is well fleshed out, their world is recognizable as a real world. Chucky, the doll, is a great blend of animatronics, puppeteering, and long-distance shot of a Little Person.

The action in the movie starts fast, and the characters of “Aunt” Maggie (Karen’s best friend and co-worker), widowed mom Karen, and small child Andy are quickly established and fleshed out. Karen and Andy have sweet moments of interaction, we feel the stress they are under, but the moments aren’t saccharine or maudlin. And then the creepy doll murdering kicks into gear. Andy insists Chucky is talking to him and all the adults think he’s lying or imagining it at first… or is crazy. Mom is upset and then she realizes Chucky has no batteries. So how can be be talking? She demands answers from the limp, lifeless toy… and it squirms to life and starts yelling at her and bites her. The battery discovery is chilling, the confrontation tense, and the attack downright scary. Karen tries to tell the Detective what’s up but he doesn’t believe her until Chucky attacks him in his car.

Responses to the living doll felt very realistic. “No, officer, my child’s not crazy, the doll’s alive!” “lolwut.” Karen tries to warn people, knowing she sounds dangerously insane. People don’t believe her because dolls don’t really come to life. There’s lovely tension between what we the audience know and have seen and the realistic ways the characters act. The way the doll is brought to life by the animatronics and puppeteers is smooth and beautifully done, it holds up very well as a practical special effect. In fact, the charred doll advancing inexorably down the hall as bits of it are shot off? That’s an image that’ll stay with me.

There’s downsides to the movie, of course. Chucky was able to send his soul into the doll because he managed to get a Houngan to teach him Voodoo, which is something that Voodoo practitioners LOVE sharing with white people and is very likely to happen. His teacher exists pretty much only to teach him the magic that lets the movie take place, and to tell Karen and the Detective how to reverse the magic before he dramatically dies. Karen also is almost raped by a homeless trashpicker because, again, it wouldn’t be a horror movie without a woman being threatened with rape. But other than that, it’s a solid movie that’s held up well and I was surprised (pleasantly!) by how much I enjoyed it.

I give this movie 4 stars out of 5.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Mirrored from Words, words, words, art..

“Apartment 1303″ is a remake of a Japanese movie, set in Detroit, about very sad white people.

The movie opens with a young white woman (Janet) walking down a city street enthusing over the phone about the super great awesome apartment she just rented. The young white woman she’s speaking to (Lara) scolds her for taking the very first apartment she sees. Janet is undeterred, and apparently using Lara’s money for the deposit, even though she’s got a full time job that pays her money. Janet, without enough money of her own to pay her own deposit + first month’s rent, hires a moving company to pack and move her stuff for her. She hauls her own little wheeled suitcase into her building, which is covered in graffiti and has abandoned, trashed furniture littering the lobby. What a GREAT apartment! Janet, you make the BEST life choices. Did you actually visit the apartment building, or just hear about what it looked like from the leasing agent? Do decrepit buildings filled with abandoned furniture and graffiti usually HAVE leasing agents? She sees a white girl in a school-type uniform in the lobby as she’s taking the elevator up to the 13th floor (her floor). As she gets off the elevator she sees the same girl, who she hails as “little girl.” The girl, Emily, tells her to clear out.

If you’re wondering why I’m harping on race in this review, it’s because Detroit is over 80% Black, with most white people living in the affluent suburbs and not in down town. However, most movies set in Detroit feature predominantly white casts, just as most news articles about Brave Bold Gentrifiers and Urban Gardeners etc focus on white people and not the Black folks who’ve lived in Detroit for generations. The folks who made this movie made a choice to 1) set it in Detroit and 2) center the story on white people. They made a lot of other frankly baffling choices as well.

Janet dismisses this and lets herself into her apartment, which is incredibly Japanese-looking (paper screened walls, etc), has appliances from the 1970s, and a view of an industrial corridor (“a great view!!!”). She puts some framed photographs of herself and Lara (her sister) onto the kitchen counter/island and tries to open a bottle of wine but doesn’t know how to use a corkscrew. She eventually sorts her shit out and gulps down a massive glass of wine while crying.

Janet spends most of her time in the movie whimpering or crying.

The lights go out twice her first night, her landlord tries to creep on her and force his way into her apartment, her boyfriend is nasty to her. She has nightmares, takes sleeping pills, dreams that she’s literally thrown around the apartment. The next day she talks about “all her bruises” and a coworker/friend comments on facial bruising and accuses her boyfriend of abusing her, and her of lying about the abuse which is… not a tactful or effective way of speaking to someone dealing with Intimate Partner Violence, y’know? Janet denies it all, and calls her sister to cry and talk about how she’s going to stay in a hotel. Lara says not to, because she (Lara) doesn’t have any money/has maxed out her credit card. Again, Janet is a grown woman with a job, relying on her sister to pay her bills.

I should note, here, that Janet and Lara’s mom (Maddie) is an abusive, alcoholic musician whose career is apparently on the decline. She’s had a DUI and is unable to drive, so Lara runs errands for her. Janet moved out because Maddie, while drunk, assaulted her… although Maddie claims Janet walked into her while she (Maddie) was playing guitar and got hit with the guitar. There is literally no reason for there to be an abusive back story for Janet and Lara. Like, Janet is a young woman living in a depressed economy. It would be totally normal for her to want to go out, rent her first apartment on her own, and not want to be some gross sad sack who goes running home when she gets creeped out living on her own. Nope! Women can’t exist in movies unless they are being abused in some ways. Right? Additionally, Maddie asks Lara if she’s been taking her medication because “you can do some sick things when you’re not on your medication.” So we’ve got a GREAT dose of lolcrazycaeks going on.

Long story short, Janet is killed by the ghost, her boyfriend is secretly an undercover cop, and Lara moves into Jan’s old place. A police detective dressed in street clothes who doesn’t bother showing her a badge leaves a file about the apartment with Lara, which is a totally realistic thing to do. He talks about the history of the apartment, implying there’s ghosts, except he totally doesn’t believe in ghosts. Secret-Cop-Boyfriend-Mark who was AT BEST distant towards Jan is incredibly concerned about Lara and spends the night with her several times “to protect her,” blowing off his ex-wife and his kid. Lara’s mom takes out a restraining order against her, yet continues to call her and also visits her. The ghost kills both Mark and Maddie, leaving Lara to get blamed for it. Emily and the superintendent are both ghosts. Blah blah blah. The end.

There’s no charm or subtlety to this movie, there’s a lot of ACTING, and all the women are weak sobbing victims or abusive and insane. I have a feeling the Japanese movie (and book) this is based on is a lot better.

I give this movie 1 out of 5 stars and will keep an eye out for the Japanese version.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Mirrored from Words, words, words, art..

“Cujo” is an incredibly slow moving film about boring people and an angry dog.

Vic, Donna, and Tad Trenton live in a large rambling house near the ocean. Vic is an impatient, brusque advertising guy who plays tennis with local handyman/woodworker Steve (and they kinda sorta flirt with each other?) and drives a red convertible Jaguar. Donna is a housewife who is having an affair with local handyman/woodworker Steve, and drives an decrepit cream/yellow Pinto. Tad is cute and terrified of monsters in his closet. In one poignant scene the family sits around the dinner table in strained, awkward silence, until Tad turns the tv on. Vic turns it off again, and suggests he and Donna have another child, possibly so they’ll have something else to talk about. Their family is coming apart, the viewer has no reason to care: Donna is a human-sized puppet with no hobbies or interests or character (other than fucking a dude she isn’t married to) and Vic is kind of a jackass.

Vic takes his car to a local mechanic to get something fixed. Although the man is working on a car at the time, in the middle of doing his job, Vic demands his attention and is stunned and shocked to find that the mechanic isn’t going to drop the job he’s working on to jump Vic’s issue ahead of the other cars waiting for service. The mailman recommends that Vic take his car to some rube in the middle of nowhere to get his car fixed. Impatient, eager for immediate gratification, Vic jumps in his sporty red convertible and zooms out to the middle of nowhere to let a drunken wife-abuser fix up his baby on the cheap. I mean, look. Is it possible for amateur mechanics to fix up a car and do a good job? Sure! But do you really want a stranger who doesn’t do this for a living and who has no insurance to handle your car, leaving you with no redress if they fail to fix the problem or make things worse? If you’re Vic, the answer is yes! Bonus points for having to travel a long distance.

Vic’s main success as an advertising guy is inventing a spokesperson for a cereal line. The cereal contains so much red dye that the people (kids) who eat it defecate, urinate, and vomit red, terrifying their parents who think they are hemorrhaging. This seems like something that would be caught before the cereal was sold, but whatever. It’s an excuse for Vic to freak out and yell at Donna and then leave town for business. As he drives around in his (fixed, functional) car, he catches a glimpse of Donna and Steve talking, and decides that they’re fucking, because they are both absolutely unique individuals and nobody else in the entire world looks like them, and there’s no reason for a person who’s a friend and employee of the family to have a conversation with his wife. Because Donna is a woman, Steve later attempts to rape her in the kitchen, because that’s part of the check list for existing as a woman. Vic and Tad walk in, see Donna is upset and some stuff has spilled on the floor. This only fuels Vic’s feelings of anger and betrayal… at Donna, not Steve, who is his friend, tennis partner, flirt buddy, and employee.

A third of the way through this relatively short movie and there’s no actual horror. Cujo has appeared for only a few brief moments, and all that’s shown to us is the disintegrating marriage of two people… one actively unlikeable and one sans any kind of personality. There’s nothing to like or dislike about her.

Vic, in a snit, drives off in his sporty, sexy, functioning car for a business trip. He leaves his wife and very small child with a barely functioning car, and expects her to drive this car– which is so malfunctioning it’s dangerous– to the drunken, abusive, far off amateur mechanic he favors. The mechanic’s wife has “won the lottery” and bought him an expensive present to appease him before asking permission to take their kid and visit her sister. She packs personal mementos, and obviously is attempting to flee him. He’s dazzled by the idea of spending a week getting drunk, gambling, and going to porn movie theaters with his best friend and doesn’t notice. Cujo, an extremely active St Bernard who was bit by a rabid bat while hunting a rabbit, starts manifesting violent behavior due to the rabies virus. Fifty minutes into a ninety minute movie, he attacks and kills the mechanic’s drunken, slovenly friend and then attacks and kills the mechanic. When Donna pulls into the dirt yard in front of the mechanic’s house, Cujo attacks the car, trapping her and Tad inside. Her shitty, dangerously broken car has finally crapped out for good. She can’t start it. The actual horror doesn’t start until after the movie’s halfway over.

Vic tries calling home several times over the next few days and nobody answers. He finally gets worried enough that he heads back home, leaving his partner to finish business without him. (he doesn’t tell his partner “I haven’t been able to contact my wife and small child in several days and am worried something happened to them,” though. No, he says “My wife was fucking some other guy but I’m totally cool and want to repair our relationship.” Gosh, which is more important?) When he gets home he finds the place has been trashed. Steve has taken a knife and slashed all the furniture, photos, etc. Donna and Tad are nowhere to be found. The cops are INCREDIBLY unconcerned that a dude violently trashed their house and a woman and child are missing, possibly at his hand. When the cops pick up Steve and hear his side of things, they are not at all interested in pursuing the missing people until Vic pushes things. A cop is sent out to the mechanic’s house, where he sees a battered blood-smeared car matching the description of the car belonging to the missing persons he’s supposed to be investigating, but he doesn’t walk over to the car to investigate. Instead, he wanders into a barn where Cujo corners and kills him. Nobody bothers investigating the missing police officer.

Tad passes out after 3 or so days of being locked in a hot car with nothing to drink. Donna, who’s already tried to escape once and been bitten, realizes her kid is about to die. Powered by Motherly Instincts or some bullshit she gets out of the car and picks up a baseball bat, which she uses to batter Cujo’s head. Which, look. Dogs have really thick, hard skulls. Big dogs, like St Bernards, have incredibly thick hard skulls. It is unreasonable to expect to be able to hurt a big rabid dog by hitting it on the head with a baseball bat. The bat breaks off and Cujo jumps Donna, impaling himself on the broken end of the bat. Donna has apparently never read a horror story nor seen a horror movie, and doesn’t bother using the cop’s gun that she picked up to shoot Cujo in the head. Instead she leaves the dog’s body and uses the gun to break open a car window (the doors are all stuck) to take Tad out. She hauls him into the house and tries to get water into him and do CPR. Cujo, of course, attacks, and this time she shoots him to death for real. Tad revives, Vic arrives and yells for them, The End. Will Tad recover? Does he have brain damage from the heat? Will Donna recover with rabies treatment? Will Donna and Vic repair their marriage and have that second baby? We will never know, and I really don’t care. None of the characters were interesting. We don’t really know anything about them. There’s no REASON to care about them. The pacing in the movie is horrible. It’s possible the movie relies too much on familiarity with the book.

One positive thing about the movie is what a debt later zombie movies and books owe to it, especially the menacing scenes in the car when Donna and Tad are trapped and Cujo keeps battering the doors and windows with his head, trying to get in, smearing blood and slobber on the windows. But that’s about four minutes out of ninety, far too small a positive to make up for the negatives.

“Brigid, you sure do complain about lack of characterization in movies! What would you have changed about this movie to improve it?” For one thing, I would have given Donna dialogue. When Steve first arrives on scene, she doesn’t talk at all. And that’s almost excusable because they’re fucking so one could argue she’s over-correcting to not seem overly familiar with him. But it comes across as WEIRD, that she’s incredibly unfriendly and hostile. Have her talk to a friend in person or over the phone. Have her mention to Vic that he needs to watch Tad because she is going to a book club/meet a friend/go play racquet ball/something else. Show her reading a book or magazine. Show her interacting with Tad instead of just sitting there passively as Vic interacts with him. Have her talk to Steve about her relationship with Vic. Have her talk to a girlfriend about either man. Have her talk to a girlfriend about ANYTHING. What about Tad? All we really know about him is he is terrified of the monster in his closet and doesn’t like summer camp. Show him talking about his favorite dinosaurs or robots. Show him playing with another friend. Show him DOING something. What about Vic? Show him not being a fucking entitled asshole to every single person he meets… unless we’re meant to think he’s a dick, but I have a feeling he’s supposed to be Just Some Dude, y’know? The Poor Maligned Hard Working Husband And Father With A Betraying Wife. It’d also be cool if sweet affectionate fun Cujo was shown more, if he and Tad had some kind of fun relationship, and if the Killer Rabies Cujo threat had ramped up in more threatening ways earlier.

I give this movie 2 out of 5 stars.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Mirrored from Words, words, words, art..

“Warm Bodies” is a Romeo and Juliet homage with zombies.

I didn’t realize that at first, even though the Designated Love Interest’s name is Julie (Juliet). It was while the zombie protagonist was trying to slur out his name and kept just saying “Rrrrr” and Julie was trying to guess “R” names that I chuckled indulgently to myself and though “lol “romeo” is an “R” name” and then I wanted to die. Unlike “Romeo and Juliet,” however, only 1 person dies in “Warm Bodies.”

I’ve mentioned before that I love vampires and vampire movies. I have a deep and abiding love for them. They were one of the first supernatural creatures I really got into (although I flirted with werewolves for a while, in part because I’m exceptionally hairy and have a unibrow I AM NOT EVEN KIDDING) and “Vampire: the Masquerade” remains a touchstone of my role playing life. But zombies? I love zombie books and movies, too, even though they’re pretty over done and cliche now. A lot of the focus now is on the scrappy band of protagonists being total survivalist badasses who are ace shots and super athletic and blah blah survivor porn. But the shambling hordes of things that LOOK human but AREN’T remains extremely creepy to me, and my favorite zombie stories are ones that do something a little different with the established tropes.

If zombies represent the fear of the implacable approach of death, the indignity of loss of rational thought and the fear of losing loved ones (and society), what do redeemable zombies represent? If we delay that final head shot out of desire to save the not quite dead, we risk losing ourselves- and the world. How merciful can we afford to be? How much hope can we risk having? “Warm Bodies” doesn’t really address the question. It spends no real time talking about how the zombies got started or spread, and there’s no real explanation of how the zombies come to life again… because they do. Their hearts start beating, they gain memories, they breathe, they come to life again. They become reintegrated into society. The zombie apocalypse lasts for less than a generation. And while I generally like more fake science-y explanations about zombies (it’s rabies! it’s magic! it’s a curse! it’s the cure for cancer crossed with the cure for the common cold! it’s an implanted parasite making a self-aware bid for freedom and separate identity!), the movie really isn’t about that: it’s about a walking corpse who collects records and is so totally misunderstood yet cool that a hot chick wants to bone him despite his murdering and eating her boyfriend and horrific stench and lack of conversational skills.

There’s some issues with this movie, like the massive security breach in the walled human city that nobody notices… not the shambling hordes of zombies eager for fresh brains, not the well trained and disciplined military groups constantly patrolling; or the fact that almost the entire cast is white (out of the entire horde of zombies, 5 of them look other than white; out of the walled city, 3 soldiers are Black. The love interests and all their friends are white or white passing); the fact that Julie goes from rightfully terrified to flippantly sassy toward her undead captor; the fact that Julie starts falling in love with a creature that isn’t human and eats humans. It’s kind of like a cow falling in love with a farmer… and a farmer falling in love with a cow.

There’s a lot that the movie does right, though. Julie doesn’t spend much time mourning for her dead boyfriend because in her world to love someone means preparing for their deaths. And it’s not a big tragic tear jerking thing when she says that, it’s a casual almost offhand thing. It’s just part of life, something common. How depressing. The acting is good. The make up affects on the “corpses” (traditional type zombies) looks good. The “bonies” (more advanced zombies) look pretty shitty, but the concept is creepy.

It was also interesting that zombies are able to make some decisions about how they kill. They can chose whether or not to eat a victim’s brains. If they don’t eat the brain, the body rises up as another zombie. If they do eat the brains, they gain the body’s memories and emotions (R likens it to dreaming) and the body just dies. R chooses, early in the movie, to eat Perry’s brain during the zombie attack on their looting party. This leads to a HORRIFIC scene where R, full of Perry’s memories and emotions toward Julie, approaches Julie, corners her, and gently touches her face with his gore-befouled hand. He smears Perry’s blood and viscera on her gently, lovingly, as she cringes and waits for death… and then he leads her out of there to the home he’s set up in an airplane (which… do the other zombies also have homes and safe places?).

Over all I enjoyed this movie. I do want to note that this is based on a YA book, and YA largely caters to a (young) female audience. Books about male characters coming of age are Great Literature while books about female characters coming of age are chicklit, you know? The primary audience for YA is young women. The primary audience for this movie, for this romantic comedy about cute teen zombies, is young women. And in this movie written for and advertised to young women a human woman escapes from the brain-eating monster that killed and devoured her boyfriend and that monster’s best friend dismisses her with the word “bitches.” Women. Such bitches. Why DO they act the way they do? Why don’t they realize that awkward soulful boys who don’t fit in DESERVE their love regardless of their own preferences or desires for safety? The casual misogyny was jarring, and while it might have been meant ironically it still stung. Other than that, though, Julie’s a pretty well realized character who drives the movie quite a bit. Her best friend Nora doesn’t get much screen time, but feels like a human being and not simply Generic Female Character Designation: Friend. The movie overall does a better job with female characters than most horror (or other genre) movies.

I give this movie 3 out of 5 stars.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Mirrored from Words, words, words, art..

“Ghost Story” is an R-rated movie starring Fred Astaire.

I have never seen a movie that contained so many sweaty, weeping, old white men. This slow paced movie features a group of four men who call themselves “The Chowder Society” who get together to tell each other hoary old chestnut “ghost stories” of the sort little kids tell each other. They are really very boring stories, but are apparently terrifying enough that the men blame their nightmares and night sweats on them. Oh, so much night time sweating. This movie also features male full frontal nudity as a dude falls out a window to his death.

The most remarkable thing about the movie is the female lead, who manages to speak without moving any part of her face but her mouth. Her eyes, forehead, etc… they don’t move. It’s like her face is a rigid mask, like she’s an automaton with an articulated mouth. Did botox exist in the late 70s/early 80s? Was it meant to be creepy, to make her see inhuman? I remain unsure.

Anyway, unemployed failed writer Don has returned to his childhood home after the unexpected death of his successful brother. His dad hates him, and wishes he were the dead one, not his successful brother. Dad falls off a bridge to his death. Even though he tumbles over backwards, it’s deemed a suicide. Don decides he wants to join the Chowder Society, but the price of entry is a ghost story. So he launches into this incredibly long story about the time he totally banged a ghost, including mentioning his taking a bath with her and tweaking her nipple with his toes. Like, why would you tell a bunch of sweaty old dudes who are basically your uncles a sexy story with that level of detail? They reject him, but later invite him into the club when more of their number die.

It turns out that these besties totally murdered a chick by accident while drunk and dumped her body in a car in a pond, and even though she was super rich nobody noticed she was gone. Also they all went on to be really successful and didn’t suffer in any way until they were already old and palsied, so I’m not sure what took the ghost so long to wreck her vengeance.

I learned some stuff from this movie, though:

  • If you try to kiss a gal and she mashes her bared teeth into your lips, she’s not into you. Stop it.
  • When telling a ghost story to your dead dad/s sweaty old friends, maybe leave out your detailed sexual escapades and focus more on her mumbled rantings to the sea about killing you.
  • It’s actually pretty hard to kill someone by hitting them on the head, so don’t make assumptions. If you knock someone out, check their pulse before writing them off as dead forever.
  • If you’re a white dude, it’s possible to literally get away with murder and then become mayor of a small town.

At least failed writer Don now has something to write about?

This movie’s based on a Peter Straub book that is probably like 500 times faster paced and more interesting than the movie. I give it 2 out of 5 stars, unless you really like watching old white men cry and sweat, in case you might want to add another star to the rating.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Mirrored from Words, words, words, art..

“The Uninvited” is a serviceable American remake of “A Tale of 2 Sisters.”

The last two reviews are pretty negative, I admit it. I like horror movies, horror books, horror comics. It’s a genre I love, especially ghost stories. Unfortunately, it’s a genre that’s often incredibly hostile toward people who aren’t white dudes. It’s a sexist and racist genre and creators tend to cling to the most harmful tropes. I’m not a huge fan of gore/torture porn and tend to avoid it, preferring psychological horror. So I’m a pretty big fan of Asian horror, even though it involves reading subtitles with my shitty eyes, and I’m aware that I’m missing a lot of cultural references. “A Tale of Two Sisters” is a fantastic South Korean movie that I watched over 5 years ago and is still with me. When I read the little blurb for “the Uninvited” I thought it sounded familiar, and sure enough, it’s a remake of “2 Sisters.” American remakes of Asian films tend to be pretty shitty (“The Grudge,” I’m looking sternly in your direction) so I was braced for that… and pleasantly surprised.

“The Uninvited” follows Anna, released from a psychiatric ward after a suicide attempt following the accidental death by fire of her ill mother. Her writer-father Steven takes her home, where she greets her sister Alex and discovers that her mother’s nurse is still hanging around. Her father’s affair with her while their mother was still alive has now moved into more permanent territory, and Rachel is very comfortable in their home, and making changes to things. It’s a tense, uncomfortable situation to be in, and the personality clash and resentment is handled well. Anna has visions, jarring and disturbing, and discusses them with Alex. The girls decide they’re being haunted by their mother, blaming Rachel for her murder.

If you’ve seen “A Tale of Two Sisters,” the big twist isn’t much of a twist at all. But the ride there is still an interesting one, and the acting is pretty good. There’s fantastic tension between Anna and Rachel. The original, as usual, is far superior. But I enjoyed “The Uninvited” on its own merits.

I’d give this movie 3 out of 5 stars.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

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“Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet” is a movie about how terrifying the menstrual cycle is.

I mean, that is literally what it’s about.

“Mary Hatchet” gets her period for the first time, goes nuts, and tortures and murders her mom then kills her dad while he’s sleeping… a theme throughout the movie, where in general the women are chased and terrorized and tortured before being murdered while the men are killed with one clean stroke. She’s sent to a mental hospital where she’s diagnosed with menstrual psychosis and is violent and awful every time she gets her period. Women, amirite? A fat, slovenly, unshaved guard rapes her and of course she gets pregnant and of course the camera lingers on the squeaking bed frame as the crime occurs. She’s told the baby dies in birth, at which point she murders everyone in the hospital (except for one person) and is shot to death by the police.

But her ghost comes back, of course.

Meanwhile, just as Devil’s Night or Mischief Night is celebrated in some areas, “Blood Night” is celebrated in this area. In it, bros buy out all the stores tampon stocks, paint them red, and hang them up as garland/fling the at people.

Can you imagine being a girl, coming of age, hitting puberty, in that area? Knowing the legend of Mary Hatchet, knowing that menstruation is linked with insanity and murder? Knowing that menstruation, tampons, are a big joke? What would it be like getting your period on Blood Night? How would people react? The people involved with this movie made a choice, they sat down and made a series of choices, and one of those choices involved emphasizing the link between menstruation and insanity/violence. They made a lot of other choices, too, like having Mary walk around naked a lot, and having teen female characters describe their underpants and do strip teases and fuck gross nerds, and having a female character tell a joke story about being gang raped LOL NOT REALLY WOMEN MAKE THAT SHIT UP ALL THE TIME. They made a choice to consistently depict women as sexual aggressors: initiating sex, being on top, discussing their underpants, doing strip-teases in public, joking about their pussies, dragging dudes upstairs. It’s a male fantasy of men being selected and serviced by women. While the women are nominally aggressive, it’s in socially acceptable ways that perform for and cater to male tastes. They made a choice to have the men killed by surprise most of the time, unaware, quickly dead, their gore spattering onto girls’ faces like so much red bukake, while the girls are chased, hunted, terrified, terrorized, tortured, hacked to pieces. The girls have time to scream and writhe in agony, to be dismembered. These are choices that were made, choices that did not occur in a vacuum.

Watching this movie took time out of my life that I will never get back.

I give it 1 star out of 5.

At least it wasn’t Stoker.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

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“Stoker” is one of the worst movies I have ever seen.

This review is rife with spoilers.

For starters, although it’s called “Stoker” there is no reference to Bram Stoker and/or Draculas, which should be a crime. An absolute crime.

Like a lot of horror, the movie is intensely exploitative of female sexuality, and dismissive of female characters. The protagonist, India, is defined primarily by the fact that she has acute senses and knows how to handle a gun. What are her hobbies and interests? They’re never really gone into. Her mother is a spoiled, wealthy woman who does none of the work associated with being a wife or mother. She doesn’t cook or clean, she despises her husband and seems to actively hate and resent her daughter. She speaks fluent French and plays piano and wears fancy, expensive clothing and probably went to finishing school and hates living in the rural mansion staffed with paid help. Her eighteen year old daughter plays piano, but seemingly shares none of her other refinements.

The movie opens with India exploring the immense and well manicured grounds of her large and well appointed home, looking for her hidden birthday present. When she finds it, stashed in a tree, it’s not the pair of saddle shoes she normally gets. Rather, it’s a mysterious key. Conversation with her grandmother confirms that it wasn’t the grandma who stashed the presents every year, as India had assumed. Nor was it her distant mother, nor her recently dead father. Perhaps it’s because this is a horror movie, perhaps it’s because India is surrounded by negligent jerks, but nobody questions who it is that’s been stashing shoes in her size in various hidden places around the house for her entire life. Some people would find that creepy, but not India or her family. It’s just a thing that happens. Perhaps this is a symptom of wealth, to simply take for granted that perfect gifts appear at times from invisible hands?

At her architect father’s funeral, India meets her uncle Charlie for the first time. She didn’t know he existed until that point, but he’s come to help “support” the family. He claims to be a world traveler who’s been too busy traveling to visit the family. Or call. Or email. Or anything. India’s mom doesn’t second guess any of this, because she’s too busy fucking him with her eyes over the newly dug grave. Charlie moves into their enormous house. India sees him arguing with the head housekeeper (they have so much staff they need someone to manage the staff) who later vanishes, which isn’t at all suspicious or unusual. India’s mother reacts with anger. She’s so put upon! How dare the person who’s worked for them for 18 years not show up for work. Doesn’t anyone know how she suffers? Charlie cooks then dinner and sits there, plate full of still-bleeding meat, and watches them eat without eating any himself.

India’s mother discovers that Charlie is staying with them and tells India’s mother that she needs to speak with her about Charlie. Mummy assumes that Granny is an old hag out to split her from her One True Love and refuses to talk to her.

India discovers the housekeeper’s body in the freezer, but doesn’t tell anyone.

Charlie kills India’s grandmother– his mother– who India is close to, and burries her in the back yard.

Charlie lies and tells India’s mom he doesn’t know how to play piano and she “gives him lessons.” Later he plays a grope-y, panting duet with India, his niece, who is only a few days over the age of 18. And I assume she recently celebrated her 18th birthday so everyone involved with the movie can point their fingers and say LOOK. SEE. SHE IS 18. IT’S OK. SHE IS AN ADULT. IT’S ALL GOOD. India doesn’t like to be touched, except by her creepy uncle. India is sexually harassed by bullies at school. A male classmate tries to rape India and Charlie murders him. India helps Charlie bury the kid in the backyard. India realizes Charlie murdered and buried her grandmother.

India, filthy and sobbing, jerks off in the shower as she pictures Charlie murdering her rapist.

This is the kind of movie “Stoker” is. It’s a movie that takes a female character and, professing to be about her sexual awakening or whatever, exploits teen girls, teen sexuality. “Stoker” is a movie comfortable with an adult male predating upon his blood relative. “Stoker” is a movie in love with rape as motivation, as plot piece, as random thing that happens.

India doesn’t tell anyone.

When the Sheriff comes by to question her about her rapist’s disappearance, she lies to protect her uncle, who killed her grandmother.

India realizes the key opens a locked door in her father’s desk. In it, she discovers a cache of photographs of her father and Charlie… and another boy. She discovers a huge stack of letters Charlie wrote to her from her infancy, never delivered to her. They are adoring love letters, love letters written by an adult man to an infant, a toddler, a child, a pre-teen, a teen-ager. Letters of love and sensuality written to a minor, to a blood relative. This is what the movie is. This is what “Stoker” presents to us, the viewer: sexual predation and exploitation as voyeuristic titillation.

India is pleased with and aroused by the letters, because she was written by a Lizard Person who has no concept of how human beings actually work, think, function.

Then she realizes they came not from Africa and Europe and Asia but all originated in the local mental asylum, where Charlie’s been a patient.

She confronts him and he fesses up. He had a younger brother. He killed his younger brother, fairly gruesomely. His parents dumped a bunch of money on the local mental hospital and he’s been living a cushy life there learning French and playing piano and writing fantasy letters to his minor niece and imagining fucking her. He’s been dealing with the head housekeeper, who was giving him India’s shoe size and stashing the gifts and keeping tabs on her and reporting on her to Charlie… and one might ask WHY she did this, what was her motivation, was Charlie paying her and if so where did he get the money, and how did India’s parents, who were receiving the letters, deal with this? How did they not figure out someone in their employ was a super fucking creeper? Charlie gives India a pair of Laboutins, red soles and all, her first pair of high heels.

It’s symbolism, you know. She sticks her dainty feet in those high heels just like he wants to stick his dick in her. She trades her childish saddleshoes for the sexy high heels her uncle gives her. She puts away her childish things.

She decides she’s going to take off with Charlie. Her mom spills bile across her, speaks words of rage and anger and jealousy. Of course.

Charlie tries to rape her mom.

India shoots Charlie.

IT TURNS OUT: her father took her hunting so often so she’d know how to handle a gun so she could shoot Charlie. Because that’s the best way for him to protect her. Not to tell her about Charlie. Not to get Charlie committed some place (he apparently was just hanging out in the asylum because he wanted to and was free to leave at any time). Not to actually deal with the problem. Just teach her how to shoot a gun.

She’s figured out that Charlie killed her father, bashed his head in with a rock, and made it look like a car accident… something nobody questioned. Nobody at all. Because getting your head bashed in with a rock looks exactly like a car crash, and nobody questioned that daddy dearest picked up his insane murderous brother from the mental institute before having his “accident” and brother was nowhere to be found.

She buries Charlie in the backyard.

She doesn’t go to the cops. She doesn’t show them the letters, the photos. She doesn’t tell them that Charlie killed her dad, the house keeper, her grandma, the boy. She doesn’t pin all the blame on him, claim she was terrified for her life, escape scot free.

No. She gets Charlie’s wallet which has money and keys and a map to his pre-paid for one year apartment in New York and speeds away. She gets pulled over and inexplicably, for no reason, murders the Sheriff who pulls her over.

Just because.

Bitches, man.

The only thing in this movie’s defense is that it’s pretty. There’s a scene where blood sprays across a flower, changing its color, and its elegant and beautiful. But everything else about this movie is crap unless you firmly believe that women are vague ciphers who flip out and do murder at no provocation and incest is totes normal and cool PS let’s have some more guilty murderbation in the shower.

I’m trying really hard to figure out why so many people like this movie and I just can’t. It enraged me. It’s all about a girl, a girl barely 18, being preyed upon by her uncle and ignored by almost all the other adults in her life. She doesn’t tell anyone that bad things are happening. There’s hardly any HER there. She has very little personality, very little that defines her. She barely exists, except as a thing for men to prey on, and then to “snap” and murder men. She’s a barely fleshed out male fantasy/fear: the docile naive sex-toy who, it turns out, has teeth. I’m surprised she didn’t castrate anyone.

I originally started a 1-5 star system for these movies. I would give this movie negative stars if I could. This movie is so awful that I went back and bumped up the ratings of other movies because, while they had their flaws, at least they weren’t THIS movie.

I’m really tired of movies, horror or not, that hold women in such contempt.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

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“Gothika” is a paranormal horror film about women being assumed liars.

Dr. Miranda Grey, played by Halle Berry, works at a rambling beautiful but fairly decrepit mental hospital. Its secure wards feature electronic locks (with, apparently, no manual locks as back up) despite the fact that building’s wiring is faulty and they lose power several times a week. Dr. Grey is successful in her career and in her love life, happily married to another doctor– the hospital director. After driving home one stormy night, however, she wakes up in a cell of the hospital she works at, under the care of a former co-worker. To Grey’s horror, she’s told that she’s the prime (only) suspect in the brutal, horrific murder of her husband. Grey insists she didn’t do it, although all evidence points directly to her. Her claims are dismissed just as the claims of Chloe, a patient alleging that someone has been coming into her cell to rape her, are dismissed. Nobody seems to care that she has no motive. Other than her lawyer, everyone in control of the situation is a white man.

There’s ethical questions about Grey’s situation. She’s in the care of a co-worker whose romantic overtures she rejected. That seems a pretty big conflict of interest. She’s at the hospital she worked at, in the company of patients she used to have control over and is now at the mercy of should they desire revenge or some sort. Providing day to day care are nurses and security guards she’s interacted with every day, so hopefully none of them have an axe to grind with their former boss. The detective investigating her husband’s murder was his best friend, and already convinced she’s guilty.

In this horrific situation, Grey starts seeing ghostly activity, causing her to doubt her mental stability. Then the ghost physically lets her out of her cell, and she witnesses another person in Chloe’s cell, raping her, matching the description Chloe previously gave Grey when she was Chloe’s doctor. She starts to realize there’s a lot more going on than she thought… and to suspect that a ghost possessed her and used her body to murder her husband. But why?

Grey stages a daring escape that includes one of the best hiding places I’ve seen in a movie, and hinges on a sympathetic security guard aiding her. She checks out her home, and the property her husband and his best friend were fixing up. There, she discovers a secret about her husband that explains why a ghost would want to take him out.

It’s a pretty tight movie. I’d heard overwhelmingly negative things about it, but found the story and acting pretty top notch. At its heart, this is more than just a ghost story. Dr Grey and Chloe are both women of color who are in prison and believed to be crazy and/or lying. Their claims are utterly dismissed, even when one of them (rape in a prison) is depressingly common. Men in a position of power prey on women, and trust that their privilege will protect them, will keep other people in positions of power from believing the women they prey upon. The vengeful ghost is a woman who was disbelieved. People, including her father, found it more plausible that she’d run away and killed herself than been murdered, even though she’d shown no sign of suicidal ideation previously.

I give this movie 4 out of 5 stars.

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“The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” features a few moments of terror and slick CGI which are lost in a sea of loose ends and gratuitous mythology.

Clary Fray, a teenager living in New York with her artist mom, starts absently drawing a mysterious symbol over and over and over. What could it mean? Is she going crazy, or is she simply the long lost daughter of half-angel demon hunters, her mysterious and secret past kept hidden from her in an attempt to protect her that goes awry and actually puts her in greater danger? As Clary hangs out with a young man who moons over her (and, inevitably, becomes ENRAGED when she kisses someone else, even though he’s never asked her out or expressed overt interest in her) she notices Mysterious And Scary Things happening around her…. Things Nobody Else Can See! She comes home to a trashed, mom-less apartment, and there’s some legit scary scenes with a shape shifting demon dog that owes a bit of its character design to Marvel Comic’s “Venom.” Thus launched into the thick of the adventure, Clary hooks up with other half-angel demon hunters, meets some werewolves, finds out Johann Sebastien Bach was a demon hunter and that there’s weapons caches under Christian church alters, hangs out at a secret citadel, and makes out with her brother. There’s demons and werewolves and vampires and secret portals and magic and tarot cards and it just comes and comes and comes and doesn’t stop, with no much actual story (other than “find the macguffin/keep the macguffin safe”) holdings things together.

There’s a lot of teens in leather pants, though.

I am a sucker for vampires, full stop. They are absolutely one of my favorite things. I’m also interested in demons, angels, angel-human (and demon-human) hybrids, girls who have to save the world, werewolves, hotties in leather pants, and mystical tattoos/runes that grant magical powers. In theory this movie should have been a big hit. But it’s not, it’s just kind of boring. A trimmer cast, more focused story, and less vague side-quests would have helped quite a bit. Eliminating the “we’re just friends lol whoops no I loved you all this time you owe me” character– or making him not romantically interested in Clary/not a tedious jackass– would have helped also.

I classed this as horror because there’s demons and vampires and shit, and early on when Clary’s fighting the apparently unkillable demon dog that keeps shifting and oozing? That was horrific. But the movie can’t sustain that horror or tension so whoops.

I give this movie 2 out of 5 stars.

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“Beautiful Creatures” is a grindingly mediocre movie about magic users, True Love, and the South.

The narrator is Ethan, a football player who loves poetry and books and is all sensitive and stuff like that. His mom’s dead and his dad is completely absent throughout the movie. His surrogate parent is played by Viola Davis, the small town’s librarian and apparently the only Black person (or at least the only one with a speaking role) in the film. (In the book the movie’s based on her character is a house keeper/nanny instead of a librarian. In both versions she’s essentially The Magic Negro: a Black character alone in a sea of white faces who pops up to provide advice, comfort, and answers and then disappears again. She’s a tool, not a character.) His small town life is shaken up when Lena Duschannes starts at his school. All the girls in his class start spreading rumors that she’s a Satan-worshipper, because they are catty bitches, like pretty much every girl everywhere except for Lena who is totally cool and reads Bukowski and is basically a cool dude with tits. Ethan’s been having recurring dreams about a chick who looks just like Lena, because Fate and True Love and blah blah scriptcakes.

They get together, of course, and Lena reveals that she’s a “caster” (IE a witch but don’t use that word it’s an INSULT U GUIS) and so forbidden to fall in love, so I guess all baby casters are the result of one night stands or something. Also, casters are either totally dark (evil) or light (good) and there’s no way of influencing yourself what you are, and it’s totes cool to be a dark male caster but if you’re a dark female caster it’s really super bad so Lena’s in a bit of a pickle because oh noes what if she’s dark!!!!!! Her mother is a huge evil megabitch dark caster and her sister/cousin (I’m not sure which) is a slutty mcslutterson dark caster and her uncle, who she’s staying with, is a dark caster but he’s acting like a light caster to try and help her be light because even though you can’t chose if you’re dark or light apparently her uncle can make that choice.

As it turns out, Lena’s role as dark caster or light caster will something something affect something or other, which is why her uncle Macon and her super evil mom Serafina are both trying to influence her to be dark or light. For some reason. Macon lives in a creepy gothic-y mansion that inside is decorated like something out of, I don’t know, 1980s California only tackier. Most of the adult women wear costumes apparently inspired by “Hocus Pocus.”

This movie raises a lot of questions. Like, if you honestly think someone’s a Satan-worshipping witch, do you really want to antagonize that person/that person’s incredibly wealthy family? Why would a dark caster who apparently can’t chose if he’s dark or light suddenly be able to act like a light caster and influence a young caster to be a light caster? Is this movie reinforcing sexual stereotypes (women tend to be “dark” casters, which means they are irrational, manipulative, sexual, “bitchy,” have strong emotions) or questioning them? Is there a reason women are pitted against women in this movie (Lena’s evil mom is jealous of her daughter’s youth, beauty, power, and hot boyfriend) other than lazy cliche? Is there a reason Macon is the patriarch of a family made up almost entirely of women, including his mom (who, one would think, would have seniority over him)? Is there a reason every single mother is dead or evil and every single father is entirely absent? Is it really a good idea to teach women that men only scream at and berate women because they care about those women? Can we have a movie that isn’t secretly about white man pain like ever?

I originally rated this movie 1 out of 5 stars, then watched a movie so bad it made me go back and rate other movies higher. So I give this movie 2 out of 5 stars.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Mirrored from Words, words, words, art..

“Mama” was a movie I saw promos for and got really excited about, but wasn’t able to see in theaters… partly because of child care issues (IRONIC), and partly because my husband isn’t a huge horror fan so it wasn’t at the top of our see-together-list. In retrospect, I wish I’d gotten the chance to see it on the big screen. But when it aired on HBO, I jumped at the chance to DVR it and watched it as soon as I could.

“Mama” is co-written and directed by Andrés Muschietti, based on his earlier short film called “Mama.” Guillermo del Toro served as exeuctive producer, a very good fit. “Mama,” like much of del Toro’s work, is deeply and unsettlingly creepy in the ways that the best fairy tales are unsettling and creepy.

The original film is a neat little confection of horror, short and to the point.

“Mama” the character is portrayed by Javier Botet, an actor with Marfan Syndrome, who uses his physicality and contortion ability to portray creepies in horror films. A big part of what makes Mama so very creepy is the human body behind the CGI.

If you don’t mind spoilers, or haven’t seen the movie in a while and want a refresher, here’s a collection of all the sightings of Mama– many of which I missed because I watched the film in a sun-flooded living room in the middle of the day.

“Mama” is a horror fairy tale about two little girls (Victoria and Lilly) taken into the woods by their father and left there. In this particular case he’s left them there because he’s killed their mother, after escaping some financial misdealings, and fled with them. A car crash sends them into the forest, where the little broken and bloody family comes across a seemingly abandoned house. Father urges his light-haired moppets inside but the older of the two– who’s lost her glasses– hangs back, convinced somebody’s inside. As usual, the instincts of a child are dead on, and whatever’s in the house kills murderous daddy and raises the children as its own.

Later on, due to ceaseless searching on behalf of their artist uncle Lucas (who pays someone else to search, not searching himself), the girls are found and brought to a hospital for evaluation. The doctor is pretty convinced that the older girl can be re-integrated into human society, but the younger one has almost no language and walks on four limbs instead of her feet. They sleep under the beds, they growl and snap, and they draw on the walls. When she gets her glasses back, however, the older sister recognizes her uncle, mistaking him at first for her father.

Uncle and his rock-star girlfriend Annabel gain custody of the children and are moved into an isolated mansion in the woods. The girls’ maternal aunt wants custody, but Uncle is willing to make deals with the doctor to allow him continued access to the kids, so they win. Not even pre-teens, and these girls are already marked by theft, fraud, murder, and shady ethical dealings. Girlfriend is reluctant to take on the (admittedly enormous) responsibility of co-parenting not just two young kids, but two young traumatized kids, one of whom is feral. She is adamant about not wanting to be a mother, about not wanting kids. But when her boyfriend needs her she bucks up and supports him.

Even when it means abandoning her career, her friends/social support, and her own family for life in a creepy house in the creepy woods with her boyfriend’s creepy kids. And then: Mama.

I was deeply worried that “Mama” would end like “The Orphanage” ends, with blame on the part of the mom for not being mom enough. Annabel, however, carves out her own place with the girls, her own relationship with them. And while it’s not quite enough, she isn’t punished for her failings, real or imagined.

Overall, I found it a satisfying movie. The characters are well developed; Mama is creepy and grotesque and tragic; the little girls are tremendous actors; the cinematography is beautiful and the settings are haunting. The ending doesn’t hold together as well as I’d like, because it’s not a good ending. There is no realistic way that Lucas and Annabel would be allowed to retain custody of Victoria, and most likely they would be accused of (and convicted of) murder themselves. The older I get, the more I want endings that aren’t tragic. They don’t have to be all sunsets and rainbows, but a bit of hope would be nice.

The film has some interesting things to say about parenting (we don’t know anything about bio-mom; bio-dad killed bio-mom after stealing a bunch of money from people; uncle Lucas spends money (inherited from his brother’s estate) but not his own time or effort looking for the kids; Annabel (who isn’t related by blood or marriage to the girls) spends time and effort caring for and nurturing the kids; Mama takes on raising the girls after her own child’s death. There’s also a look at abuse dynamics, I think. Mama’s love is smothering and harmful. She hurts other people and controls the girls, ignoring their desires and needs. Victoria, a child, is put in the position of trying to protect her younger sister and the adults in her life from Mama. Parents, adults, are supposed to protect kids from the monster under the bed. But Victoria, a child, has to protect her adults and younger sister from Mama. Mama selfishly tries to strip Victoria from the people who love her and who she loves, and in the end takes Lilly down with her.

Horror movies are at their best when they move beyond simply presenting something scary/creepy/other and when they include something a little deeper. Little kids, abandoned buildings, isolation, forced adoption, forced motherhood: these are all creepy things. But what do these things, and our attitudes toward them, say about us and our society? What is the line between love and obsession?

I give this movie 4 out of 5 stars.

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I felt a little let down by the novella and novelette categories, that the offerings were a mixed bag– something that other people I know have agreed with and said is how the Hugos often are. Which shouldn’t be surprising, really, as there’s a wide variety of tastes and preferences and they’re called “The Hugo Awards” and not “The Brigid Awards,” so I shouldn’t expect to love everything on offer.

And then I hit the short story category and three of the four stories deeply affected me and made me cry and the fourth was just eh. Not for me. If I could nominate three of those short stories for first place then I would. It’s a painful decision, and that’s super great.

Before I talk about the stories, I’m going to tell you something ridiculous.

I read two of the stories, couldn’t find the third I wanted to read, and then started reading “A Stranger In Olondria.” “Wow,” I thought to myself, “this is a really long short story. Huh. This sure is slow to start. My goodness, this is pretty long for a short story.” Then, uh, I realized I’d started reading A NOVEL and not A SHORT STORY. So I stopped (which was hard, actually, looking forward to picking it up again) to read the very excellent short story by the same author.

The Ink Readers of Doi Saket, by Thomas Olde Heuvelt, is a story set in Thailand about Thai people and culture and Buddhism, written by a white man from the Netherlands. It reminded me very much of “The Milagro Beanfield War”: both works are very earnest, but also condescending and exotifying toward the people/cultures they are about.

Selkie Stories Are For Losers, by Sofia Samatar, is a fantastic story about loss and love. It’s a coming of age story, and it’s a story about stories. The protagonist is still reeling from the sudden loss of her mother (who may or may not be a Selkie; she may or may not have accidentally returned her mother’s skin while looking for something else) when she meets, befriends, (and falls in love with) a young woman whose mother has tried to kill herself several times and who has basically checked out of life. They are both motherless, in their own way. They are both creating their own homes, their own families, or trying to, in their own way. It’s a beautiful and deftly written book, full of longing and bitterness and sorrow and hope and fear and love, so much love. And I really love Selkies and Selkie stories. And the fact I didn’t rate this story higher speaks volumes about the quality of the short stories on this ballot.

If You Were A Dinosaur, My Love, by Rachel Swirsky, is an incredibly powerful short story about love and hate and destruction and hope and which lives are considered important. I think a lot of people are put off by the opening cadence of the story, which is a bit like a children’s story (notably, “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie,” but it reminded me of some other kid stuff I’ve read to my own kid) but that stylistic choice is very important one that gives the story a lot of its power. This is very much a social justice/social commentary piece (as, in my opinion, the BEST Science Fiction is), and it is utterly devastating. I highly recommend it, but have some tissues or a sleeve or something handy. (For some reason, this wasn’t included in the voter packet I downloaded. I’m very glad I sought it out and was able to find it online.)

The Water That Falls On You From Nowhere, by John Chu, is a stunning bit of character-driven fiction that revolves around personal relationships that are hampered by the odd fact that, suddenly and for no reason, cold water started falling out of nowhere on people when they lie. It ranges from a clammy mist, to a drizzle, to a torrential downpour depending on the severity of the lie. It’s greatly impacted the very private and closed off Matt, who loves his boyfriend and loves his traditional Chinese parents and sister, and is terrified of letting any of them down. Matt has to come to terms with what he wants, and what he needs… and he has to learn how to open himself up to his boyfriend and to his parents and let them in. The cold water falling down is a fantastic narrative device, something that has utterly fundamentally changed the world without changing human nature, something that reveals Matt’s lies to himself… as well as his truths.

It was SO HARD deciding how to rank these stories, and I’m SO HAPPY that’s the case. I utterly adored Samatar’s short (and have really been enjoying her longer work). She manages to capture characters and their world so very well. I’d like to read more about those girls. Swirsky’s short is absolutely heart breaking, wrenching, so sad and so beautiful, and so wonderfully written. But Chu’s piece? It’s so very human, and so hopeful in the end.

I want to say a special thank you to Chu for managing to break the streak of male mediocrity in this year’s ballot. What a powerhouse of a story.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Mirrored from Words, words, words, art..

The 2014 Hugo Ballot has five novellas: three by men, one by a woman, and one by a man and woman team. I’m going to review them from least-liked to most-liked.

The Butcher of Khardov, by Dan Wells, is a tie-in to the Warmachine game franchise and was poorly written enough that I didn’t finish reading it. I found myself describing the reading experience as “slogging” so I just stopped. If I were a Warmachine fan, my feelings might well be different, but probably not: this is an incredibly genretastic OMGMANPAIN story with very little that sets it apart. The writing isn’t that good, either, and the fake Russian-esque stuff irritated me (they have a powerful clear liquor called vyatka which is totes different from vodka u guis no really it is). I liked one scene early in the novella where it becomes clear that the protagonist is haunted by his dead wife, and dances with “her” (actually a huge axe) in an inn as people look on, horrified. It’s an intriguing scene, and gosh do I love ghost stories. But that scene is marred by the “you can tell I’m the good guy because I loudly object to a person insulting women, all men but me are abusive rapists” trope, and also by the protagonist going all ragey and murdering every single person in the inn for ~reasons~. After that it becomes pretty clear that ghostwife is your pretty basic idealized woman-on-a-pedestal who gets fridged for MAXIMUM MANPAIN. The negatives really outweighed the positives to this story, and I spent most of it feeling a little lost. If I were familiar (at all) with the game, I might have liked it more but, again, I didn’t think the writing was that great. And I’ve read ALL the “Vampire: The Masquerade” novel tie-ins. So trust me, I know from bad game novelizations.

The Chaplain’s Legacy, by Brad Torgersen, is a military genre piece about a chaplain’s assistant who accidentally averted human genocide after encountering an insect-like alien race. As a result of this, he was hella promoted. Now that the aliens are saying “nope nm we gonna kill u” he’s been called in to avert things again. As with Torgersen’s novelette, his military protagonist is anti-military-rank-and-protocal and has a folksy nickname and hooks up with a female character who exists primarily to motivate him, and makes really strained and unfunny sex “jokes.” Although an atheist, he adheres to some pretty stereotypical Judeo-Christian beliefs about sexual mores (if u dun love a grl u shdn’t slep w/her or its WORNG). The idea that an atheist is teaching an alien race about religion, and that he’s a spiritual inspiration to religious people, is a cool idea, but the writing is just so… blah. The characters remain shallow and uninteresting, overall. There’s a lot of “it’s in the script.” And Torgersen has a pretty anti-technology beef in the story that’s a little unrealistic. Namely, the alien race has been SO dependent on technology for SO LONG that they FORGOT they can FRAMBLE the KLURTZ!!!! Thankfully, there’s a HUMAN around to remind them of REAL LIFE and ACTUAL NATURE and INSTINCT. Oh gosh if ONLY those aliens didn’t have TECHNOLOGY preventing them from realizing how awesome faith is!!! There’s a few kernals of interesting ideas in here, but eh. Better than his novelette, but that’s damning him with faint praise. If you’re looking for military sf that reads like something written in the early 1960s, this might just be your bag.

Equoid, by Charles Stross, was a real mixed bag for me. There was stuff I really liked about it (unicorns as horrific creatures; a re-imagining of Lovecraft’s work) and stuff I didn’t like or didn’t think worked. One of the issues was that this Novella is part of a larger series, so I alternated between feeling kind of lost and feeling clumsily info-dumped. It’s not the only piece that was part of a larger series, and I wonder if the Hugos shouldn’t have a category that’s specifically for pieces of larger works. Another issue is that the story tries to be wacky humorous, like Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchet, kind of off beat and wry and whimsical, and it feels forced and often falls flat… especially in contrast to the very visceral horror. It’s not a good mix. But there were two things that bothered me the most. The first is the idea that racism, virulent BNP racism, is an external thing pushed upon humans by evil, malevolent outside forces. Look. People who are racist aren’t monsters. They are human beings. Insisting that the only reason humans act in racist ways is because of horrific external influences just… it’s shitty. The second thing I really didn’t enjoy, that left me very uncomfortable, is the incredible and sexualized violence inflicted upon women in the story. Yes, yes, it’s spinning off of unicorn mythos in which (female) virgins play a big role. But I am left utterly cold when a teen aged woman is literally being eaten alive from the inside out and a male character talks about how turned on it leaves him despite the terror of it, and is saved from inadvertently fucking her when he catches sight of the monstrous barbed tentacle her clitoris has turned into. Women– girls, really, ranging in age from 4 years old to teen aged– are mind controlled, tortured slowly, and killed in agonizing ways. A handful of men are eaten and one gets shot and killed, but it is not the same level of torture, and throughout the narrative we’re meant to empathize with the male protagonist and realize how utterly awful it is that the unicorns kill men. Not that they enslave, torture, and kill the women they use as bait. That’s just a thing that goes on, kind of in the background, oh isn’t it a shame. And it’s really frustrating for two reasons: 1) I’m tired of it. I’m just so, so tired of it. 2) I keep thinking about this story. For all its flaws, bits of it really sunk into me and I keep mulling it over in my head. And every time I do that, I also get the image of naked girls being consumed from the inside, alternately whispering for help with their own voices and tempting men closer with horrific shub-niggaruth voices. That’s how women exist in the novella, as sacrificial horrors. There’s also jabs at little girls who like unicorn stories because if there’s one group of people who isn’t mercilessly shat upon for liking stuff, it’s little girls, right? I think there’s enough here that I liked that I’d be willing to try more stuff by the author, but I’m really turned off by the way women (girls, actually. literally little girls.) are treated here. Stross has a novel up for voting as well, so I’ll sample that and see how it goes.

Wakulla Springs by Andy Duncan and Ellen Klages, is a marvelous piece of American Magical Realism. Set in a very specific place over very specific time periods, the novella explores America’s history of racism (and to a degree, classism and sexism) and the concepts of invasive species, cryptozoology, and what it means to be human. The setting is described so well, so completely, that it feels familiar; the characters are wonderfully drawn and interesting; the story is an intriguing one. This well polished gem of a story was a very pleasant surprise. I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I started it, but it’s very engaging. I’ve read some comments that one needs to be familiar with the Tarzan mythos to understand the story. I’m noddingly acquainted with it, no more, and didn’t feel any lack… which was a nice change of pace from all the pieces on the ballot that are part of larger works. This is a pretty short review. It’s a good story, very solid and excellently crafted. I’ll be on the lookout for more pieces by the authors, whether working jointly or individually.

Six Gun Snow White, by Cat Valente, was the best of the novellas… but I should note that I’m already a fan of Valente’s work and also love retellings of fairy tales so I was doubly biased. This is an eloquent novella that mixes the structure and theme of both classic European fairy tales and non-European folk tales. The story is rooted very strongly in a specific time, and several specific places, locations sketched with such detail that they feel familiar. Valente does a marvelous job of capturing Snow White’s voice, and deals beautifully with thematic elements like racism, colonialism, sexism, and domestic abuse. These all sound like heavy topics, and they are, but Valente manages very deftly not to write OMG AN ~~ISSUES~~ novella. It’s just a story about a person who has a bunch of bullshit in her life, and handles it to the best of her ability. I saved the reading of this novella for last, as something to look forward to. However, again, if I could award first place to two works I would. This and “Wakulla Springs” were both fantastic.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Mirrored from Words, words, words, art..

There were 5 nominations in the 2014 Hugo Novelette category, two by women and three by men. Two were strong stories, two were mediocre, and one went unread. I’m going to review them from least liked to most liked, and omit entirely the one I didn’t read because I can’t comment on something I didn’t read.

Of the novelettes I read, I liked The Exchange Officers by Brad Torgersen the least. Part of this is simply a genre thing: although I’ve read a lot of military SF (in part because that’s what was predominantly available in my small town library when I was younger) I’m not a huge fan of it. I’m familiar enough with it, though, that it really feels like this work (and his novella, another military SF thing) have the TRAPPINGS of military SF without an UNDERSTANDING of it. Like, he’s read a bunch of Heinlein and early 1960s era milsf and is imitating the genre in a lazy, shallow way. It’s got, you know, a military man who just super hates military command and rank and also he has an Eastern European last name that gosh darn but nobody can pronounce it so he gets a nickname, and there’s a female Marine who gets nicknamed “Chesty” but hey don’t worry it’s not because she has TITS and it’s a CONSTANT REMINDER THAT SHE HAS TITS lol no she’s nicknamed after famous marine Chesty Puller so just relax already her nickname isn’t sexually loaded reminder that she’s a woman with boobs! The antagonists are Evil Communist Chinese Hoards who are sneaky and inscrutable, and there’s a woman president who’s spoken of with scorn etc. The writing itself really needed a stronger editor. The story was mediocre, the characters weak and not really memorable or likeable. It feels really dated. This novelette did absolutely nothing new with the genre or the tropes it dragged out. I’ve read other reviews saying it’s not as good as his usual work, and his novella IS slightly better, but has a lot of the same flaws. In the piece’s defense, nobody spanks Chesty or tweaks her nose, but her character’s had all the depth and appeal of a floor lamp. The protagonist wasn’t much better filled out, though. If you’re a big fan of military SF you might like this more than I did, or you might just get angry at it. My youngest brother’s a Marine, I want to float both pieces past him and see what he thinks of them.

The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling, by Ted Chiang, has a promising premise but a flawed execution: a journalist in the near future sets out to write a well researched, nuanced piece about a popular piece of technology that many people are claiming will ruin humanity forever. Just as we in our time have smart phones and blogs and instagrams and twitter, people of his time have “lifelogs,” which are kind of like googleglass I guess. They record every aspect of their lives, and these recordings can be used in court. However, they’re difficult to search because there’s no tags or keywords or whatever, so you wind up doing a lot of scrolling. A company figures out a way to easily index and search lifelogs, and sells their product, making it a hell of a lot easier for users to replay exact experiences in full. The narration is interspersed with an account of a young man from a “primitive” tribe taught to read and write by a European missionary, and discusses how stuff we take for granted (like reading and writing) is technology that changed how we remember, see the world, interact, etc. There’s some really interesting ideas in the story, but there’s also some lazy writing, some florid writing, and I’m really tired of the trope of poor put upon suffering male hero has a flighty bitch ex-wife who abandoned him to “find herself” and she’s so horrible and such a bitch. Yes, it’s revealed in the book that the narrator is a real dickbag who rewrites his memories to make himself the long suffering victim (as all humans do) but still. There’s a lot of real fundamental laziness going on, and despite the interesting ideas presented, Chiang doesn’t do much with them. The narrator, and his daughter, remain ciphers. The story doesn’t seem very emotionally invested in them at all. I almost didn’t finish the story… there just didn’t seem a lot of POINT to it.

The Waiting Stars, by Aliette de Bodard is an absolutely incredible story about identity and family and colonialism. (If you click the link, it should take you to de Bodard’s website, where you can download the novelette or read it right there.) In the far future, there are sentient ships, born of women, in a strongly Vietnamese culture. The story follows two women: one is a Da Viet woman trying to reclaim a captured ship, who she considers her Great Aunt, from the “Outsiders” who have captured it; the other is an orphaned Da Viet woman who was “rescued” as a child along with a bunch of other girls and raised in an orphanage where she was “civilized” and given a European-sounding name and forced to forget her culture of origin (language, food, dress, religion, family, etc). I’ve noticed that the women writers on the Hugo Ballot ALL addressed race and/or gender issues, and “The Waiting Stars” tackles racism and transracial adoption and colonialism in a BIG but not heavy handed way. The writing is deft, lyrical, and powerful. The world and the characters and the politics are incredibly real feeling. The story left me wanting more: more of the characters, more of the world, more of the writing, more. I absolutely will be seeking out more by de Bodard, she’s a talent to watch.

The Lady Astronaut of Mars, by Mary Robinette Kowal, is the story of a now-elderly woman astronaut who was one of the first to travel to Mars and set up a colony there. (once again, click the link to read the story.) This is the first novelette in the packet I read, and it utterly floored me. I was thrown, at first, by the references to Dorthy Gale and Kansas, but moving past that, it’s a fantastic exploration of what would have happened if the USA had had a functioning space program that reached Mars in the early 1950s… and had included women in the program. Elma, married to her programmer love who hasn’t much longer to live, is desperate to fly again. She’s given the opportunity to do just that, but it would mean abandoning her husband to die without her present… and without any children to support him, as they decided not to have kids because of her astronaut career. It’s a beautiful and poignant story about regret and about hope, about inspiration, and about love and devotion. I’m not going to lie, it made me tear up… and it put Kowal very clearly on my reading radar. As with de Bodard, I’m absolutely going to keep an eye out for her work.

The last two novelettes reviewed were difficult. I love them both so much, but in different ways and for different things. If I could, I’d vote for them both to be number one, but failing that, I gave Kowal’s piece the #1 slot. If I’d read de Bodard’s first, to be perfectly honest, my ranking might have been different though.

I did not read the other novelette.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Mirrored from Words, words, words, art..

Nesko got this awesome new job that, while challenging, also pays him literally like twice what he was making at his previous job plus we have medical benefits. Which means I can finally get some mouth stuff taken care of (including a bone infection I’ve had for over a year HA HA FUN HOW AM I STILL ALIVE) and also we have some spare scratch to do fun stuff like repaint Niko’s room (so cute!) and buy a voting membership to LONCON. I’d wanted to join previously but we couldn’t afford it, and the biggest way I was able to convince Nesko to pop for it this year was that “The Wheel Of Time” is up for consideration as a complete work which means that the ENTIRE SERIES is included in the voting packet and purchasing the electronic versions of each book individually would cost more than the membership. That went a long way toward convincing him. So we signed up, I got the voting packet, and I’ve been plowing through the material.

There’s been three things about this years’ Hugos that a lot of people are talking about.

The most minor thing is that one of the publishers is only including excerpts of novels (they had three that made the nomination cut) and not the entire novel. One of those novels I bought as soon as I heard that, because I’d been wanting to anyway. Then I bought Anne Leckie’s novel because I’d heard amazing things about it and it was $1.99. That leaves the third novel which I am going to see if I like from the excerpt and may purchase or may just judge based on the excerpt. As many people have pointed out, it’s easier to track down a free version of a novel than a short story, novella, or novelette. If it’s good enough and popular enough to be a successful nomination, then you can probably get it from a friend or the library. The voting packet is a favor and a perk, not something a voter is entitled to. Hugo voters pay for the privilege of voting, not getting a bunch of free books and stuff. I really hope these three authors aren’t hurt by their publisher’s choice, especially as they are up against freaking WHEEL OF TIME but hey.

Another relatively minor thing, touched on above, is that WHEEL OF FREAKING TIME, a F O U R T E E N novel series, is up for consideration as a whole work. For people like Nesko, that’s going be weighted based on nostalgia alone, and also perhaps pity because Jordan died while working on it and his wife has been BUSTING ASS to keep his dream alive and get the series properly finished and published. And apparently Brandon Sanderson (the new author) is a really stand up guy. So a lot of long term voters/members are discussing how to properly and appropriately and fairly change the rules to create a new category or prevent this from happening against because COME ON, fourteen books, helllllllll.

The more major thing is that Larry Correia put together a list for “the sad puppies,” authors whose WELL DESERVING AND TOTES AWESOME!!!! works never win Hugos because the gosh darn liberal feminazi jack booted socialist communist thugs are KEEPING THEM DOWN. One of the first and foremost on his list is Vox Day, the only person to be kicked out of the SFWA (for using official SFWA platforms to spread misogynist bullshit), who famously referred to N. K. Jemison as “a savage.” He is intensely racist and sexist and homophobic and very emblematic of certain old guard SFF who want all these Black people and women and assorted scumbags to get off their lawn and never write again because ew who cares about anything but straight white men over the age of 35. Correia was pretty successful with over half his suggestions getting on the final ballot. A whole lot of people have been speaking out against his actions, urging his fans who wouldn’t otherwise buy LONCON memberships last year to do so so they could nominate these works. A WHOLE LOT of people have been speaking out against his personal politics, and even more so against Vox Day. An awful lot of folks have been complaining that the Hugos are nothing more than a popularity contest.

Well, duh.

Personally, I have no issue with someone advocating, hard, for a creator or group of creators. There is nothing inherently wrong with that. Some folks have been alleging that Correia and/or Day personally invested a bunch of money in buying “fake” Loncon accounts simply to nominate and then vote. This sounds… farfetched. Not impossible, but farfetched. And I want to point out that when Mark Oshiro and his fans pooled money to buy Loncon memberships to vote in the Hugo awards, and had specific slate of people to vote for, nobody (that I’m aware of) objected to that. It was just fans being fans. (It’s also what REALLY got me interested in voting in the Hugos, btw) Is it because Oshiro is a passionate fan while Correia and Day are professional writers? Is it because Oshiro is a gay Latino raised by an Asian family who speaks out about homophobia, domestic violence, misogyny, etc while Correia and Day are deeply invested in the status quo of white heterosexual men ruling the world? I do not know. I also don’t really care, when it comes down to it.

I don’t think Correia’s slate of nominations, that him urging his fans to get a membership and vote, was a bad thing.

But I do think that every single work I’ve ready by someone who he’s nominated has been… mediocre at best and pretty dismissive toward women. And I know that I’m not going to read Correia’s work or Day’s work, because I know that the entire time I read it I’ll be braced for something casual and ugly to come out and I’m tired of reading and waiting for the casual ugliness.

Years ago, someone asked Seanan McGuire when her female characters would be raped. Not IF they would be raped, but WHEN, because the idea, the very common idea, is that rape is something that happens to women to motivate them/males in their lives. It’s just a thing that happens. Like sunburn. Like the common cold. Can’t avoid it. It’s both utterly routine and also the worst thing in the entire world worse than death. And she responded that her female characters would not ever be raped, that she would not write rape. And I started getting REALLY interested in reading her stuff. And I picked up her “Toby Daye” series and I liked it, and during one of the books Toby’s in a really tight situation and being menaced aggressively, emotionally and physically, by a much larger man. And I realized that I didn’t need to worry that she was going to be raped. And an invisible weight, one that I didn’t know I was carrying around, rolled off my shoulders. I pick up McGuire’s (she also writes as Mira Grant) works and I read them and there’s a freedom I feel as I read them. I hadn’t realized until I started reading her stuff how much I brace myself for the inevitable rape. It’s incredibly liberating and wonderful not to have to worry about that, not to carry that weight around.

Correia and Day’s work will be the opposite of that. I know that I’ll spend the entire time waiting for a woman character to be raped, or threatened with rape, or some dude will leer at a woman and the protagonist will go five rounds with him because he “failed to respect women” or some bullshit, and the women will be props and excuses and motivations and not characters. I’ll spend the entire time waiting to hear about how Black/Latin@/Asian/their equivalent are inferior to White people, that they’re savages, that non-Christian characters (or whatever the allegorical equivalent is) all deserve to be murdered. And life’s too short for that.

I’m going to review the works included under the Novel, Novella, Novelette, Short Story, and John W. Campbell award sections over the next few days. I’m not really going to touch on Correia’s or Day’s works, and if I didn’t finish something I’ll note that I didn’t and why. (I’ll also note if I’m already a fan of the author, which duh will predispose me to liking their work.)

I’m not going to be voting for best screen play, because I’m unfamiliar with most of the works, or with Best Dramatic Presentation because I don’t really give a fuck about Doctor Who, etc.

One thing I’ve noticed is that I’ve read more male authors than female authors, and the male authors have all been pretty mediocre: poor, lazy writing; shallow characters; cliched tropes that add nothing new; stereotypes galore. The female authors, on the other hand, all have produced sparkling gems of excellent tight writing about the human condition, opening existing tropes to new study, creating characters that I care deeply about. I don’t know if this is just a coincidence and I haven’t hit on the really good male writers yet, if it’s a prime example of women needing to be twice as good to get half the credit, or if it’s the effect of the ballot being larded with Correia’s hand-picked authors who… just aren’t that good but share his politics. I really don’t know. But I formed most of my opinions about these works without knowing the gender of the author.

I also want to note that it was HARD making a decision about Best Fanwriter, and I wish the fiction sections had that level of high quality writing, passion, and interest.

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Friday, 6 June 2014 18:16
brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

I think Niko’s getting sick (again) which is unfortunate because he’s on the tail end of an irritating cold and only has one week left of school and would like him to actually attend school for the entire week. But he’s been extra cranky and tired lately, and last night there were… problems.

I woke up at 2:30 in the morning (why does that time even exist. why. WHY.) because I thought I heard someone banging on a door. Who could it be? Was G watching a movie just loudly enough I could hear it? Were the tenants upstairs having (another) emergency that could only be solved at 2:30 (alarming!!!)? Was it someone trying to gain entry? The banging droned on, accompanied by moaning. It was very zombie-like and I was more than a little creeped out. I put my glasses on, which always makes me feel more secure, and went to investigate.

It was Niko.

I opened his bedroom door, which was neither locked nor stuck, and he stumbled out.

“I peeeeeeed my paaaaaaaaants a liiiiiiiiiitle” he sobbed at me, which was a LIE because he peed his pants A LOT. He stumbled into the bathroom, sobbing, and unleashed a torrent of additional pee (HOW BIG IS YOUR BLADDER, CHILD?) and then stood there crying, the back of his pyjama pants and shirt both soaking wet.

“Alright, take your clothes off,” I instructed him.

“I caaaaaan’t take off my clothing, it’s too wettttttttt” he wailed at me and then tried to fight me when I started peeling it off him. I honestly considered cutting it off of him, just to get it off and done with, since he’s outgrowing them and they only have a few wears left anyway and they’re all pilled and nubbly, but figured that would only traumatize him further. I got him naked and herded him back into his bedroom and helped him dress. He was still crying, loudly enough that Nesko came to see what was going on. Niko was upset about standing around (???) so I told him to huge Nesko, and he did, walking over to him and hugging him and leaning against him and almost drifting off again. His bed was soaking wet, including one pillow, and everyone was tired. So I just stripped everything, brought Niko into bed with us, and left the making of the bed for later.

Niko snuggled right in and slept until 9:45. He usually wakes up around 7:00, so that was a big lie-in. When he woke up, he complained about smelling “a big stinkness” and admitted it was him. I gave him a shower, which he cried and yelled through. He wasn’t too keen on breakfast, or lunch (which was pizza! what?), and has spent literally a total of about 4 hours (so far!) having tantrums and crying and yelling and waving his arms and legs around and kicking things today, which is about 3 hours and 50 minutes longer than he usually has tantrums on any given day.

He spent, literally, half an hour yelling and crying and kicking and flailing various limbs and lying on the floor and repeating over and over that he JUST NEEDS A DAY OFF and he’s TOO TIRED and he CAN’T WALK FOREVER and he JUST SERIOUSLY REALLY NEEEEDS A DAAAAAY OFFFFFFF WHY CAN’T HE HAAAAAAVE ONNNNNNE. Did I ask him to clean the bathroom? Wash dishes? Fold laundry? Go grocery shopping? Take a long walk? Do many jumping jacks? Join the Foreign Legion? No, no. Gentle reader, I instructed my thirsty child to walk down the hall to his bedroom and get his water bottle so he could have a drink. In the time he spent thrashing around about THE UNFAIRNESS OF IT ALL, he could have gotten the bottle and drunk it dry, twice. He did not handle it well when I pointed that out to him.

Today’s not too fun. Here’s hoping tonight and tomorrow are better.

Mirrored from Now Showing!.

brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

For those of you who’ve been following along for a while, Nikola has a baby doll named Baby who he dotes upon and loves. He “changes her diapoh” and “cleans her dirty BUTT” and tucks her in for a nap and feeds her and burps her and celebrates her 1st birthday about one a week, complete with “cake” and “wrapped presents” (random crap he drapes paper or t-shirts or tissues or something over) and a card that he makes for her.

Lately, Baby has been displaced in his affections by… Spider-Man.

Nesko’s parents had a mini-family reunion and I got to meet like 50 people who were total strangers to me and mostly didn’t speak English (I am monolingual) and that wasn’t terrifying or awkward for me AT ALL and I made lemon cheesecake and turtle bar cookies and rice krispy treats and they were all big hits so yaaay. But Nesko’s culture has this thing where it’s common for visiting adults to bring presents, candy, and/or money to the kids they visit. One of Niko’s scores was a pretty big Spider-Man toy with a Spider-Copter or something. Spider-Man is his New Love and he’s been taking Spider-Man to bed with him and cuddling him and toting him around.

DID YOU KNOW: Spider-Man likes bacon, and he likes sausage, but he hates ham. Steak is ok, but pancakes and eggs are right out. His favorite breakfast consists of a croissant, donut, banana, and potato (??). We went out for breakfast the other day and Niko ordered a pancake for himself and a plate of bacon for Spider-Man. Niko set Spider-Man on the seat next to him and fed him bites of bacon and afterward he requested two lollipops… one for him and one for Spider-Man. (Niko also scolded me for being rude and mean to the waitress, so I explained to him that I was ordering a BELGIAN waffle, not a BELCHING waffle.)

Let me tell you what kind of parent I am: knowing that he was making a bold grab for two dum-dum suckers for himself, at the cash register, I said yes.

In the car, driving to Home Depot, Niko crunched away on his sucker and then piped up “Since Spider-Man isn’t really REAL, can I just go ahead and eat HIS lollipop TOO?” I said yes, of course.

In other news, we’re repainting Niko’s room and it’s taking longer than expected. He’s sleeping in our room while we paint. I hope we get done soon. Really. Seriously. And that he transitions back to his own bed quickly and easily.

Mirrored from Now Showing!.

brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Mirrored from Words, words, words, art..

Rich, well-dressed, fancy-car-owning, connected, white-identifying virgin Elliot Rodger described himself as a nice guy and a gentleman, and was furious with women for “rejecting” him.

He left behind an online presence like a pustulant rash, documenting his interactions with women and how they made him cry simply by existing. He describes himself as a “nice guy” and a “gentleman” while insulting -and physically assaulting- women. At one point he, in a car, smiled at two women waiting to cross the street. When they didn’t smile back, perhaps not even seeing him, he circled around and threw his coffee at them, lamenting online that it wasn’t hot enough to burn them badly. That’s the action of a nice guy and gentleman, right?

In his many, many brain leavings online he does not talk about actually approaching women. All that rejection he faced? He never asked any question, he never put himself out there. He decided to punish women for not reading his mind, for not sensing his interest, for not flocking to him and being the sexual prizes he felt he deserved. He murdered women because women did not attach themselves to his dick, unasked.

He wrote many, many times and made many videos about how much he hated women, and Black men, and Asian men. He was deeply misogynist, and deeply racist as well. He described himself as “a nice guy” but nothing in his writings, nothing in his representations of himself, can be identified as actually NICE.

There’s an awful lot of guys who identify themselves as “nice guys” with nothing backing that up. And like Rodger, they lash out at women and try to punish them for any perceived failing. They call women sluts, all women, define them as such and deride them as such… then seek to punish them when those “sluts” exercise control over their sexuality and refuse to have sex with them. There’s a lot of comments -a LOT- supporting Rodger and claiming that if some woman, some sacrificial virgin, had just TAKEN ONE FOR THE TEAM, then Rodger wouldn’t have been forced to become a spree killer. There are comments literally saying that women need to pay for their lives with sex, that a woman who does not have sex with a man deserves to be murdered.

But rape culture doesn’t exist, right?

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