Sunday, September 4, 2011

Visual Delights!

This weekend is one of those lovely crossroads - FryDaddy and I have both reached stopping places on our respective writing projects and, while the next one for both of us is gesturing frantically from the wings, we made a conscious decision to spend the long Labor Day weekend resolutely not working.  As experience (that harshest of professors who refuses to grade on a curve) has taught me again and again, taking time off to breathe is necessary to produce quality work.  Just going and going and going results in motion, but not usually of the forward-reaching kind.  So we've spent a chunk of time watching things that we don't intend to turn into articles, presentations, or chapters.

It's been lovely.

First up, I worked to get caught up on Season 4 of Breaking Bad.  I'm still not caught up on past seasons, but that'll come.  Seriously, if you're not watching this, you ought to be.  At least, you ought to be if you enjoy character-driven drama, seeing the effects of hubris, and flat-out gorgeous cinematography.  The look is lush and the story has that sense of impending doom - bad things are coming, and they were set in motion by conscious choices.  You can build the levee, but it won't hold back the tide forever.  What's even worse is that the high water mark from this storm is likely to be so high you don't even see the mark, for the whole house is underwater.

We also treated ourselves to a popcorn matinee.  (Yeah, the "eat healthy" plan took a hike for the afternoon.  Good for it.)  We decided on Apollo 18, which I will heartily recommend.  It's a member of the "found footage" genre, but don't make the mistake of thinking it's "Blair Witch in Space."  The production values are much, much higher and the story is a keeper for anyone who enjoys a slow burn.  (Blair Witch made me jump, but also irritated me - just follow the river, people!  It'll lead to some sort of settlement.  Always.)  By the way, Apollo 18 is not a film for the "whiz-bang-blow-'em-up" crowd.  I was impressed with the film, which I predict will become a cult classic, despite a plot hole or two.  The tricks with the film stock, the marketing ploy with the website given at the end of the film and the reminder that Watergate did indeed change everything about how we view our own government - all of these are reasons the see the film on the big screen.  Having just read Mary Roach's Packing for Mars, which answers many of those questions you may have had about space travel, but never felt comfortable asking (How do you test a space toilet?  How do you shower in zero-g?), the film has a different level.  Astronauts are carefully vetted for psychological stability as well as desirable mission skills.  It's pretty cramped up there and the flip side is that there's an awful lot of nothin' up there, too.  Going bibbledy isn't an option.

I've read some rather vicious criticism of the film, which leads me to my next point.  No one is going to like everything.  However, if your main complaint is that the film takes too long and isn't scary enough, try watching something that wasn't edited together with smash cuts.  Further, if you want a film where the astronauts are slashed apart and their innards are floating in space (1) this isn't the film for you and (2) exactly what's wrong with you?  Disclaimer:  I count myself in the "I don't like everything" category.  For example, I despise slasher films.  I find them to be uncreative, shocking-just-to-shock, and generally very unkind to women.  Some people like that sort of thing.  I try not to leave sharp objects around such individuals.

Also, one of the actors in Apollo 18 plays one of the leads in Alphas, a SyFy series about super-powered (read: mutant) beings.  It has some promise - there are some very interesting characters and anything that brings the amazingly under-rated David Strathairn to television is worth a look.  The fact that it also gives Ryan Cartwright a role that will make your jaw drop to the point of forgetting his very entertaining turn on Bones is simply a bonus.

Work beckons and a stack of books on anime yearns to be gutted for a short presentation on Cowboy Bebop in about a month, but this was the right call for this weekend!

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