Reviews: A Serious Man, Pirate Radio

December 11th, 2009

A Serious Man - 3/10

It was like slowly poking an icepick into my brain. And then running electricity through it.

There was a real dearth of interesting movies this fall. The miracle of babysitting arrived one Friday, and we wanted to see a film, but nothing exciting was playing. A Serious Man was 87% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, and I really enjoyed some Coen Brothers films (Oh Brother Where Art Thou, Barton Fink, although I don't like Fargo), so it seemed like a good bet.

Turned out it was pretty much distilled essence of 'The Winter of my Despondancy', albeit in Yiddish. It was like a black comedy with absolutely nothing funny in it. Bad stuff happens, then more bad stuff, then things take a turn for the worse... yet totally lacking in irony somehow. Like someone telling you at length and in detail about a relative's ultimately fatal bout with Crohn's Disease.

Hell, that might have been preferable to watching this movie. (The retelling, not the disease.)

The film suffered deeply from the fact that almost all of the problems faced by the main character stemmed from the fact that he's an utter doormat. No spine whatsoever. And that makes it really hard to sympathize with him. Impossible, in fact. Nor would he have ever attained the things he had in life - family, job, etc - given how utterly pusillanimous (coupled with clueless) he seems to be in the film.

So I hated it. Top 10 worst films list. Right up there with critic-beloved films The Thin Red Line and There Will Be Blood.

Pirate Radio - 5.5/10

Another choice from a long spell of unattractive films, this time my wife's pick. The premise was, well, very promising.

The film not so much.

It had interesting characters. That's pretty much the high point. The plot barely existed, there were at most minor flareups of conflict, and in the end it was little ado about very little indeed.

What's really bothersome is that the premise - "pirate" ships broadcasting rock n' roll radio to Britain - had so much potential, and damn near none of it was capitalized on. Not only could I have made a better film, I am confident that you could have as well, and almost but not as confident that my four-year-old son could have.

At least it wasn't A Serious Man.

Review: Crossover, Breakaway, Killswitch

December 11th, 2009

Crossover, Breakaway, and Killswitch by Joel Shepherd - 6/10

A trilogy of far-future science fiction novels which focus on Cassandra Kresnov, a cutting-edge gynoid, built for combat, who has decided that although she's really, really good at it, combat's not really what she wants to do. So she 'retires' to a high-tech, hacker-oriented planet and - surprise! - finds herself allied to the SWAT-team analogue and in combat all the time.

I read all three of these books, but just barely. At no point was I highly enthused to see what happened next. The characters were not cardboard but they were pretty shallow, having obvious motivations but nothing deeper. And the plot - goodness, the plot. It was the classic "drunkard's walk" where stuff happened and then other stuff happened and suddenly some other stuff is happening and none of it seems anticipated, much less foreshadowed. The characters would be investigating something and then it would be combat time and then they'd go chasing off after somebody else for no reason that a reader could readily ascertain.

Shepherd writes pretty good combat sequences, and his prose flows well, but the books lacked the structural elements of literature that really make a book worth reading.

Do Black Women Read Comic Books?

December 10th, 2009

You may already know the answer to this question. If you're a Sequential Tart, you almost certainly do know the answer. But I didn't and it's something I was wondering recently.

Black men definitely read comic books; I would not be at all surprised if the percentage of comic book aficionados who are black was greater than the percentage of the general population who are. A majority of the clientele at my local comic book store in College Park MD were African-American. Comic books have spoken to black kids as well as white since at least the 1970s (if not even earlier).

But women into comic books are uncommon - certainly less as a percentage than their proportion in the general population - and although in my two decades of Con-going comic book geekdom I have spoken with Asian, Hispanic, SE Asian, and all sorts of Caucasian women who are into comic books, my personal experience has not had me talking comics with any black female comic book fans. So I wondered.

Anyhow, the answer is yes. Felicia D. Henderson began writing Teen Titans this summer, and has the following to say:

I am a long time comic book fan. I was a sickly child, which meant lots of time on the Asthma inhaler and lots of time in the house while my brothers and sisters played outside. So I created my own alternate universe and comic books helped me do that. My sisters were reading Archies and I was reading “Batman” and coming up with ways the villains could take out my younger brother. Yes, I was dark even at ten years old.

So it appears to be a hole in my experience, rather than a lack of interest in the medium on their part (at least, no greater than the lack of interest on the part of the female gender as a whole.) So that's good. I like it when people read comics and I like it when comics speak to as many people as possible. Clearly I just need to get out more, go to some conventions outside of San Diego and the SF Bay Area.


December 9th, 2009

When you have a chainsaw, all sorts of problems suddenly look like they can be solved with a chainsaw.


December 8th, 2009

One of the side benefits of listening to Rammstein is that it improves my admittedly feeble German vocabulary.

New from 'Leibe is für alle da':
Haifisch = Shark
Einschalten = Energize/Switch On

I have to say, though I love English and can extol her virtues ad nauseum, German really is a perfect language for serious rocking out.