avengers steed

Still alive!

I'm going back to figure out how to back up some of my LJ posts, and I just realized that I haven't done anything in here for ALL OF 2013.  Um.  I still want to keep this...we'll see what happens.
avengers steed

My Fantastic Fest 2012, 15 films

Flipping through the book that lists all the movies that played at Fantastic Fest, I am reminded what a small percentage I actually saw.  Here is my list of 15, in alphabetical order.  If the summary is in quotes, I'm taking it from the FF book.  Please forgive the short descriptions, I'm still getting over a head cold.

Bring Me The Head Of Machine Gun Woman (2012, Chile, dir. Ernesto Diaz Espinoza)
Summary: "Timid, video game-loving DJ Santiago seemingly digs his own grave when he agrees to bring a violent criminal kingpin the head of Machine Gun Woman."

The summary tells most of it, except for how little she is wearing at most times.  Eh, it was okay.  Violent, cliched, and in love with Grand Theft Auto, it was definitely a popcorn film.  It's not going to stick with you for long unless you fall hard for actress Fernanda Urrejola.

Cockneys Vs. Zombies  (2012, UK, dir. Matthias Hoene)
Summary: "When a badly planned bank robbery and a zombie outbreak collide, hilarity ensues in this ball-out, irreverent British comedy."

Full disclosure?  This was the film that I went to FF desperately wanting to see.  A zombie comedy?  Maybe.  A zombie comedy starring veterans of British television?  As soon as I started hearing the names Honor Blackman, Richard Briers, Dudley Sutton and Tony Selby I *needed* to see this film.  So, the plot:  two young men and their cousin plot a bank robbery in order to save the facility their grandfather lives in.  The robbery goes awry.  And then we get the zombies.  It's a hoot, the music is great, and they manage to throw in a few curves that Shaun Of The Dead didn't consider.  If you can manage to cope with zombie movie gore, go to this and laugh your ass off.

Cold Steel (2011, China, dir. David Wu)
Summary: China, during WWII.  A young hunter finds purpose and love as a sniper defending his homeland.

This is a gorgeous film.  The wartime effects are spectacular and it is an engaging historical drama.  If anybody reads the book it is based on, could you tell me if the communist guerillas actually appear in it?

Doomsday Book (2012, Korea, dir. Kim Jee-woon and Yim Pil-sung)
Summary: "Innovative Korean genre directors Kim Ji-woon and Yim Pil-sung turn their imaginations to apocalyptic sci-fi with this three part omnibus film which outlines three possible ways in which the world goes kaput."

This is made up of three films.  The first was about the spread of a zombie virus and while I found it amusing in spots, I didn't get a lot out of it.  The second part deals with a future where android workers have become common, and one at a Buddhist temple may have achieved enlightenment.  This one had something to say about life and perception, and I found it a very thoughtful piece.  The third dealt with an "asteroid plummeting to the Earth" scenario, and it was the most light-hearted of the three.  It was fun and sweet.

Dredd 3D (2012, USA, dir. Pete Travis)

Feel free to go read someone else's review, there should be plenty out there.  I felt like it was 3D overkill, with ultra-realistic (and very grim) violence and not much plot.  If you're seeing it for Karl Urban, ask yourself if you'd go see him in a movie where he spends the whole time with his head in a bucket.  Because he does.

The Final Member  (2012, Canada, dir. Jonah Bekhor and Zach Math)
Summary: A documentary about the Icelandic Phallological Museum and their quest for one last specimen -- a human penis.

I think most people talking about this film at Fantastic Fest referred to it as "the penis movie".  Well, that's what it is.  It is also an amazing documentary about a nice guy named Sigurdur "Siggi" Hjartarson who has been collecting penises for decades and claims at the beginning of the movie to only be lacking a human penis to complete the collection.  He has two offers: an aging Icelandic explorer and famed lothario who would like to donate his penis to the museum on his death, and an American who has decided that he wants his penis to go on to fame and fortune by itself...while he watches from a distance.  And maybe writes a comic book about it.  It's bizarre, and the strangeness is not helped by the fact that the American made me think of Will Ferrell.  I really, really hope this film gets out into the world, though given the subject matter it will be tricky.

Flicker  (2012, Sweden, dir. Patrik Eklund)
Summary: "...tale of a small town telecom company plagued by anti-radiowave anarchists."

The summary doesn't do it justice.  It may have been the translation, but it seemed that more than just a telecom company (while they were talking about 4G service), they were being blamed for the power outages in the area.  I found this a little confusing.  That said, this is a lovely, funny film that should otherwise translate to American audiences just fine.  It's a little Office Space, a little Ted Danson, a little Twin Peaks, a little melancholy, and just all-around recommended.

Fuck Up  (2012, Norway, dir. Oystein Karlsen)
Summary:  "Clearly it's all the moose's fault.  Jack had everything under control until his best friend crashed into a moose on the Swedish border.  With a trunk full of cocaine.  Now it's all gone to shit."

Four best friends who have been best friends forever.  One of them has really made something of her life.  The other three have fumbled their way along, complicating their life with sex and drugs in a small town on the border of Norway and Sweden.  When one of them crashes at the border while smuggling cocaine, the other three find themselves potentially implicated.  And then it gets worse.  Much, much worse.  This film was solid.  A thrill ride of humor, violence, and hope.  The acting was great, and I expect future great things from this director as well (assuming he doesn't die of alcohol poisoning).  It definitely rated a Wow.

Holy Motors  (2012, France, dir. Leos Carax)
Summary?  Um...a man travels around Paris for the day, going to appointments for work.  That's a lousy summary, but it's as true as it is bad.  The Guardian review called this "a fuzzy teacup of a film", which is probably just as good a summary.

This film is probably the most talked-about film that ran at Fantastic Fest this year.  Heck with Frankenweenie or Looper.  I heard people describe it as "one really fucked-up film" and also as "Possibly the best film I have ever seen."  I didn't have any trouble understanding it for the most part, for which I credit Harlan Ellison's "The Man who Rowed Christopher Columbus Ashore". (Is there a similarity of theme? Yes.  Do I think Ellison should sue?  No. End discussion.)  It is beautiful, it is strange, it is interesting, it can be disturbing.  It is linear, which I cannot say about everything I saw at FF.  I do recommend this for anyone who can handle odd movies.  If you feel that your favorite film out of everything I saw at FF would be Dredd, just skip it.

Plan C  (2012, Netherlands, dir. Max Porcelijn)
Summary: "Detective Ronald Plasmeyer has a problem in need of a solution: A 10,000 Euro debt to the Chinese mafia.  Plan A didn't work.  Plan B made things much, much worse.  Now it's time for Plan C."

There were things about this movie that I liked, and things that I didn't.  Sadly, the main thing I had a problem with was our main character.  Not the actor, but Ronald is written as a sad-sack character, and I kept seeing things that he could have done to make his situation less grim if only he would have stepped forward.  It wasn't a bad film.  You get the feeling of real danger to him and his family (particularly in the form of the actor Ton Kas, who reminded me of a younger, psychotic Donald Sutherland.  It might have been the glasses.) and the story is good, but....

Tower Block  (2012, UK, dir. James Nunn and Ronnie Thompson)
Summary: "The last remaining tenants of a deteriorating, soon-to-be-demolished tower block must band together to survive when a killer with a high-powered sniper rifle starts picking them off through the windows of their flats."

Wow.  This one was brutal.  Once things started happening, they just kept going, hard and fast, until the very end.  It's not until the last minutes of the film that you know if anyone is even going to walk out of this alive.  It's written by James Moran, who seems to have learned the rule that to mess with the audience, you need to kill off characters they're not expecting to die.  Or much sooner than you are expecting them to die.  Or more brutally.  It was a toughie.  A good film for this particular sub-genre.

UNIT 7  (2012, Spain, dir. Alberto Rodriguez)
Summary:  "Alberto Rodriguez's UNIT 7 is a gritty realistic thriller about a crew of narcotics officers in Seville, Spain, who go rogue during a citywide crackdown in the years preceding Expo '92."

That's a pretty good summary.  And that's basically everything that happens.  It shows us the officers and the changes in their lives over a five-year-period.  And then it stops.  It wasn't bad while I was watching it, it's a perfectly serviceable movie.  It's not particularly memorable, however.

Vulgaria  (2012, Hong Kong, dir. Pang Ho-Cheung)
Summary:  What does the producer of a film do?  Even better, what does the producer of a porn movie do?

This movie was a hoot.  A big one.  Our main character is played by Chapman To, who should be a huge star in China if he's not already.  He's incredibly likeable as a film producer who explains his role of producer of porn films to a class who is more interested as to whether or not he really did have sexual relations with a mule to get his funding than in the rest of what his job entails.  And oh, the things he had to do!  But he wins in the end, and so did the producer of this film.  According to the person who did the intro, this has been the biggest Chinese-language film in Hong Kong this year.  I cannot recommend it enough.  Amusingly, the only thing in this film that would get it an R rating here is language and subject matter.

Wrong  (2011, France, dir. Quentin Dupieux)
Summary:  Dolph Springer's beloved dog Paul has gone missing.  Where could he be?

Okay, it's probably not a good idea to see absurdist films when you have a head cold.  I was miserable and just couldn't get into this.  I might have even walked out, except that I would have been equally miserable anywhere else.  This is the follow-up to Dupieux's film Rubber, which was much loved by a lot of people (it's on Netflix, haven't seen it yet).  The acting was fine, visually it was fine, the absurdist elements were...well, absurd.  But I would have done much better with a straightforward film that day (which I did, as it was bracketed by Tower Block and Cockneys Vs. Zombies).  Wait for someone else to review it.  See the trailer. 

Young Gun In The Time  (2012, Korea, dir. Oh Young Doo)
Summary:  A cute girl wants our out-of-luck detective to kill someone for her.  He can't do that, of course, and witnesses her death shortly thereafter.  He goes to the museum where she works...and she is still alive.

This film blew me away.  Why?  Because not only is it a really likeable film with action and a good plot, but it was made for $30,000.  It's clearly not a big film, there are only maybe a dozen characters with lines.  The special effects are minimal.  But the story is tight, the characters and actors are likeable, and it has the best 4 1/2 person fight scene ever to take place in a van.  If you get a chance to see this, definitely do.

a morning rant

A citizen is a citizen. There should be no "second-class" citizens. It's 2012 folks! I should not be worried that my daughters might have their right to vote taken away from them! I know, that's over-reacting. But it is within my lifetime that I got the right to choose what I was going to do with my body; my grandmother was an adult before women got the right to vote.

I watched something interesting last night on PBS. They've started a new series called "Finding Your Roots", dealing with genealogy of famous people (Yep, like "Who Do You Think You Are"). One of the people they researched was Congressman John Lewis of Georgia, who was heavily involved in the Civil Rights movement in the 1960's. He was amazed when they showed him that one of his ancestors, a slave emancipated by the Civil War, had registered to vote in 1867 in Alabama. Why was this so amazing to him? Because it took another hundred years, and the actions of him and many other people before his family could vote again. The Emancipation Proclamation declared:

That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.

Well, it didn't take long for that to fall apart. In 1870, the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution was passed, saying:

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

They were having problems. According to Wikipedia, they were also demanding that voters be Christian in some areas.

Actually, I'm going to steal a whole chunk from Wikipedia here:

The 13th Amendment, ratified in 1865 after the Civil War, abolished and prohibited slavery and secured a minimal degree of citizenship to former slaves. The 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868, granted citizenship to all people “born or naturalized in the United States,” and included the due process and equal protection clauses. This amendment did not explicitly prohibit vote discrimination on racial grounds.
The 15th Amendment, ratified on February 3, 1870, provided that, "The right of U.S. citizens to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude." Additionally under the Amendment, the Congress was given the authority to enforce those rights and regulate the voting process. Soon after the end of Reconstruction, starting in the 1870s, Southern Democratic legislators found other means to deny the vote to blacks, through violence, intimidation, and Jim Crow laws. From 1890 to 1908, 10 Southern states wrote new constitutions with provisions that included literacy tests, poll taxes, and grandfather clauses that permitted otherwise disqualified voters whose grandfathers voted (thus allowing some white illiterates to vote), some with the aim and effect of re-imposing racially motivated restrictions on the voting process that disfranchised blacks. State provisions applied to all voters and were upheld by the Supreme Court in early litigation, from 1875 (United States v. Cruikshank) through 1904. During the early 20th century, the Supreme Court began to find such provisions unconstitutional in litigation of cases brought by African Americans and poor whites. States reacted rapidly in devising new legislation to continue disfranchisement of most blacks and many poor whites. Although there were numerous court cases brought to the Supreme Court, through the 1960s, Southern states effectively disfranchised most blacks.

Eventually, they put the boot in with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Of course, we are still having issues with voter disenfranchisement. If they pass the Voter ID issue, statistics suggest that suddenly over 200,000 people in the state of Minnesota will be unable to vote. Citizens of the United States of America, unable to vote. A right of citizenship, taken away.

And some politicians -- more than I would have thought possible a few years ago -- seem to be determined to take away my rights as a woman to choose how I will treat my body. My body is me, more than my religion, more than my citizenship. If I have no rights over my body, then what am I? Am I a slave?

August 26, 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment passed into law giving women the right to vote. 92 years ago. The Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade was in 1973, 39 years ago. Unfortunately, there was no law passed there, so while I look at it as a moral victory and a turning point, it has less effect on the world than I would hope. There are women in jail for deciding what to do with their bodies in some places in the United States. But if they destroy the fragile victory gained in 1973, if we are going backwards 39 years, then how soon before we go back 92?

We are all citizens. We all have those rights. Let us all exercise those rights and hope that the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.

avengers steed

Armenian Lamb Stew

Since I haven't posted anything here recently and I've had a few requests for the recipe I mad last night, I thought I'd stick it here too.

Armenian Lamb Stew (Tass Kebab)

from The Frugal Gourmet On Our Immigrant Ancestors by Jeff Smith

2 pounds boneless lean leg of lamb, cut in 1 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons butter
2 medium yellow onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup tomato paste diluted with 1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons dry red wine

Heat a large frying pan and add the lamb and butter. Brown the meat and place it in a 6-quart stove-top casserole, leaving the fat in the frying pan. Saute the onions in the reserved fat and add to the pot, along with the remaining ingredients except the wine. Cover and simmer 45 minutes or until all is tender. Add the wine, cover, and simmer 15 minutes more.

This stew is very thick and rich-tasting. Serve it over rice.

My notes: I used lamb shoulder which worked just fine. Just do your best to trim the fat off. I added extra water while it was simmering, eyeball it to keep it from burning! Instead of the dry red wine, I used vermouth. Over rice, with green peas on the side, I wished I'd had enough lamb to double the recipe!
avengers steed

Not that I know anything about economics, but....

This started due to an exchange I had with my sister, who noted that she had found mention that the government, to reduce the apparent inflation rate, had removed food from the statistics they include when announcing it. It didn't surprise me much, because it struck me as the sort of government manipulation of figures that they all do. I don't even know if this is a new thing. But we discussed grocery prices in our respective parts of the country and then went on to other things.

It stuck with me though, so I went looking. And I didn't look far, and I don't have a degree in economics, etc etc etc. But what I did see in a quick look does make me wonder. Take a look at this article from September: http://money.cnn.com/2011/09/15/news/economy/inflation_cpi/index.htm

The Consumer Price Index rose 3.8% in the month compared to a year earlier. That's up from 3.6% in July and is the highest reading since September 2008.


On a month-to-month basis, prices rose 0.4% in August, twice the rate of increase forecast by economists surveyed by Briefing.com.
Consumers have been paying more for a lot of key goods and services. Clothing prices in August were up 4.2% over the year, while new car prices rose 3.8%. Used car prices were up even more, rising 5.4%. And medical care was 3.2% more expensive than a year ago.
Gas prices rose at a slower pace in August than the previous month, but were still 1.9% higher than the July reading. Over the last 12 months, overall energy prices are up 18.1%, while food prices have risen 4.6%.
Stripping out volatile food and energy prices, the so-called core CPI rose 2.0% annually, at the high end of the range viewed as acceptable by many economists, including those at the Federal Reserve.

Okay, this is the bit that I want to know about. They refer to "key goods and services", such as clothing, cars, and medical care. And they say they drop the "volatile food and energy prices" to figure the "core CPI". But aside from maybe the medical care, the "key goods" are generally optional to the average person. And I understand the volatility in the markets for food and energy can make things harder to track, but food and fuel (gas and electricity for our homes!) are necessities of life. So it sounds to me that while an inflation figure based on the "core" Consumer Price Index is a good tool for looking at trade and the economic health of the nation as a whole, it is pointless to use when trying to figure out the effect of inflation on consumers.

Want the actual Consumer Price Index statistics? Go here: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/cpi.nr0.htm
It's very interesting.

I'd love feedback on this if you have anything constructive to say, because I'm interested in learning. If your commentary is going to be more in the vein of calling me a pinko commie liberal or blaming the current administration because *they* are pinko commie liberals, don't bother.
avengers steed

Who needs Gwyneth Paltrow?*

So I was listening to a podcast the other day. Something was mentioned, sending me off to Safari immediately to check it out. Type in the address and...holy shit. Jessica Harper has written a cookbook!

Okay, maybe I need to explain who Jessica Harper is for some of you. Eons ago, I fell in love with the Brian DePalma masterpiece, "Phantom of the Paradise" (1974), in which Jessica Harper plays Phoenix, the...well, not the heroine. The love interest for William Finley's Winslow Leach/Phantom, as he goes up against Paul Williams' evil Swan. (Yes, *that* Paul Williams. Sadly, he has yet to write a cookbook.) Anyway, that's the first place I ever ran into Jessica Harper. She didn't impress me much. Her acting was okay, her singing was...well, fine, I guess. It's a good song, but it kind of slows things down. And her dancing...well, yeah. Not a high point of the film. Anyway, I didn't think about her much. I guess she was in other things that I haven't seen. "Suspiria" gets mentioned a lot. Then I fell in with "Wiseguy" fandom (Wiseguy, Cannell Productions, (1987-1990) and who should be there screwing over our favorite lightbulb with ears but Jessica Harper?** So that's pretty much where I know Jessica Harper from, one somewhat schlocky cult hit (with the most kick-ass soundtrack this side of "O Lucky Man!"...or possibly better. Don't make me choose.) and two episodes of a tv show from the 80's. I had no idea what she had been doing since then.

Well, apparently she was raising a family and writing a cookbook! It's called The Crabby Cook Cookbook, and she has a website for it [www.thecrabbycook.com]. I've been reading it over the last couple of days and I find it to be an amusing read as well as the home to "135 almost-effortless recipes plus survival tips". I stole that from the front cover. The cover is also home to quotes from Ruth Reichl and Valerie Bertinelli...weird combo, but hey. I've found several recipes I'd like to try for my family, and I feel that she can empathize with my issues in dealing with picky eaters, as she talks about the daughter who would only eat six things. I smiled when I read the words "When the kids got older and would tolerate pasta of different shapes...." Welcome to my world!

I think if you're looking for a family-friendly cookbook, one that isn't complicated and doesn't require you to go out and get anything more exotic than Gruyere cheese (admittedly, that would have been *plenty* exotic when I was growing up!), this one would be a good choice. Check out her website to get your own idea of what it's like.

*Nothing against Gwyneth Paltrow, but I've heard lots about her book while this one slipped under my radar.

**Maybe if she had done more cooking for Frank I would have been more sympathetic? Nah. She dumps her husband after he compromises his ethics to come up with the money to get a new liver for her? Hmph. Sorry...that was Jenny McPike, not Jessica Harper. Poor Frank....
kermit henson

Happy 75th Birthday, Jim Henson!

Thank you for everything you've done for the world. I wish you were here to enjoy it with us.

And a side thank you (and belated happy birthday) to Paul Williams, for the soundtrack to The Muppet Movie. (And Phantom of the Paradise!)
avengers steed

To Sandy, who I am happy to call my friend.

Hi, Sandy. It's been a long time since we last talked -- over a decade! -- but I wanted to drop you a note to let you know I was thinking about you. You are there in my earliest memories of the internet, pre-world wide web. (Geez, are we that old?) I think you were one of the folks who laughed your ass off over how I discovered slash fiction, and may have been the one that pointed out to me that while there were folks in the B7 group that enjoyed it, that we kept it pretty quiet there.

You put me up on one of my visits to Seattle, and then proceeded to introduce me to the joys of Starsky & Hutch fanfiction (including probably my favorite S&H story ever, which I forgot to write down or lost the note on and have never again found a copy, darn it!). You then proceeded to give me instruction on how to vid, while you were working on "You Gotta Be".

I've been out of touch with a lot of fandom over the last decade and a bit, but I've been raising my own fangirls.

(This is two years ago, when Scooby Doo was the current fandom. Last year they were Pokemon trainers, and this year they were Batgirl and Supergirl.)

Right now they are mostly absorbing the media, but they do write and illustrate their own stories. They've been doing crossovers from an early age. Somewhere, I have a picture that Laura, my eldest, did after watching the Doctor Who story 'Pyramids of Mars'. She cast her favorite stuffed animal, Peter Rabbit, as the evil Sutekh.

Some day they might trip over mom's old zine collection, and they might have the same reaction I did. (Over the same zine, even. I still have that copy of 'Fire and Ice' that Denetia Arellanes sold me!) But the fannish world is a different place these days. Who knows? But the time they get to it, slash fandom may no longer raise eyebrows. It has been a long time since I horrified Jean whatserface who did the Man From U.N.C.L.E. zines by mentioning slash.

One of these days we'll sit down at the computer and figure out how to edit video together, and I'll show them Media Cannibals vids as examples, because those are some of my favorites. And I'll be doing my best to dredge out of my memory the things you taught me. Thank you! And thank you for *all* the memories...even the slightly off-key ones from Escapade.

Wendy Comeau (formerly Hyers)