Horror, criticism, and movie choices

December 24th, 2009

I've been meaning to recommend this piece of horror criticism for a couple of months: Nicholas Seeley's "A Dragon in the Time Machine: A Gross Anatomy of Horror." He does a good job expanding on Stephen King's theories, and this part in particular grabbed me:

But to my mind, the perfect work to illustrate the Vampire archetype is perhaps not the one you would expect: Ridley Scott's film Alien. This is a Vampire story distilled to its essence: a small group of humans, alone with the darkness, in which lurks a thing that is coming after them. They have done little or nothing to deserve this fate, but it doesn't matter much. Screenwriter Dan O'Bannon takes some pains to develop the characters, but character is, in the end, nearly irrelevant too. The good and the bad, the strong and the weak get eaten all alike. There's no excess in this movie to distract from the horror—and wonder—of the beautifully conceived monster that's coming to get us.

This made me think of Aliens, which is a very different movie altogether. I don't own Alien or Aliens on DVD. I love the movies, but I've been scared off by the eighteen different versions available (Original, Director's Cut, Platinum Edition, Gold Star Director's Platinum Edition Special Version, Extra Crispy...).

One version of Aliens, for example, restores some deleted scenes. One of those being a scene where the marines set up sentry guns, and those guns mow down scores of aliens before finally running out of ammo. When I first saw that scene, I thought it was pretty damn great, and I wondered why the hell it was removed.

But now, after reading Seeley's article and thinking about it for a bit, I agree that it should have been removed. Because that scene really reinforces what Aliens is: It's a Zombie movie. While Alien might be a Vampire movie, with the humans facing off against a single, powerful being, in Aliens the good guys are running away from hordes of monsters. Monsters that die easily when faced one at a time, but which will quickly overwhelm you when faced in numbers. The sentry gun scene only serves to highlight that point: You can kill dozens of the things, but eventually you'll run out of bullets and they'll tear you apart.

So the sentry gun scene just isn't necessary, doesn't really add anything (except some nifty hardware), and possibly detracts from the movie.

As a bonus, I think that reduces the number of versions I have to choose from to only around twelve or so.

Rule #9

December 23rd, 2009

From this point forward, and also retroactively, all commentary to posts on this blog (and any linked post appearances such as on Facebook) are instructed to observe Commentary Rule Nine. For those unfamiliar with Rule #9, which is not surprising as I am coining it at the moment, here it is:

Commentary Rule #9: Assume reasonableness

Which is to say, do not make observations or ask questions based on the premise that the poster is unreasonable or foolish. Assume that anything obvious which is left unsaid is unsaid because it is obvious, not because the poster did not realize it. Do not extrapolate to ridiculous extremes because said extremes were not explicitly precluded. Do not use overly broad interpretations when what is being discussed is clearly but only implicitly circumscribed.

This applies only to posts which do not invite unreasonableness by being obviously unreasonable, such as rants and other forms of humor by excess. Those are clearly fair game for equal reciprocation.

Were I to state that I prefer to take my shirt off by lifting from the collar, rather than the hem, it would be a violation of Rule #9 to ask "Even button-down shirts?"

Were I to state that Republicans are continually seeking to weaken consumer protections, it would be a violation of Rule #9 to reply "But what about Theodore Roosevelt?"

As mentioned, this rule is hereby in effect for this blog. You are also at liberty - nay, encouraged to - invoke rule #9 for your own exposition, in any format.

And of course, this post itself is subject to Rule #9.

I do want to hear from you and I do give a damn about your opinion (well, most of you), but if I wanted to write small print to cover every eventuality I would have been an attorney.

Polar Opposite

December 21st, 2009

I like Christmas decorations. I try to make time every year to drive around in the evening and enjoy people's Christmas lights. I enjoy public trees, and storefront signs, and faux reindeer antlers on cars.

So it would normally be a good thing that the office building in which my office is located takes it upon themselves to put up some nice Christmas decorations, including 6 trees with fake presents, a giant wreath, etc.

Except that prominent among their Christmas decorations are several very large white-sprayed styrofoam Emperor penguins.

Penguins! For Christmas!

I would very much like to slap whoever thought that penguins had anything whatsoever to do with Christmas. What, they come from a land of ice and snow and must therefore be seasonal? Are llamas seasonal? How about Tibetan monks? (i.e., lamas). Oh look, walruses! Eskimos! John Carpenter's 'The Thing'! It must be Christmas!


One of Those Mornings

December 17th, 2009

Got to the BART parking lot squarely in the middle of my usual time window. Drove around and around up to the seventh floor, where the parking generally is at 8 in the morning. Noted that the lot was emptier than usual, probably on account of the holidays, Thursday not usually being a low-load day for the BART parking structure.

Whipped out onto the 7th floor rooftop area (there is also an 8th floor rooftop area on the parking structure addition) because I enjoy parking on the roof. It was almost empty, perhaps a dozen cars across the hundred-parking spot area.

And then for some damn reason I couldn't make up my mind where to park. I thought "I shall park where I can pull through," and then I didn't park there. I thought "oh I'll park backwards next to the wall" and then I didn't park there. I thought "well now we're around the end of the lane, I'll park facing through the other way" and then I didn't park there.

Finally, aggravated at my own indecision, I said "fuck it" and just parked, and wound up in a spot with a concrete post ahead of it so I can't just pull out easily when I return this evening. Possibly the only bad spot on the whole roof and I parked there.

Sometimes I swear I make decisions by committee all by myself.

Suspect Win

December 16th, 2009

I am a big fan of failblog (failblog.org, not .com!) in general; and Suspect Win is simply too awesome not to be shared.