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Archive for November, 2010

After next week’s post up at Fantasy, “Films of High Adventure” is going on hiatus for a while due to Jesse and myself needing to devote more time to other projects. But! This week we celebrate my dad’s birthday by watching one of the movies he showed me as a wee Tanz: it involves Mars, red money (Mars is red!), red dust, red blood spurting out of people, and a red-faced Austrian body builder as a secret agent who thinks he’s a construction worker who thinks he’s a secret agent. Maybe. What could it be?

Film: Total Recall (1990)

WHOSE RESPONSIBLE THIS??? Direction again by dirt-dog par excellence Paul Verhoeven (Starship Troopers, Basic Instinct), his follow-up to last week’s RoboCop. Final screenplay by half a dozen people after dozens of attempts (including one by Pier Anthony) to adapt a Philip K. Dick short story that featured very few gunfights and mutants—of those who penned the final version, most notable is Dan O’Bannon (Alien, Return of the Living Dead). Soundtrack by Jerry Goldsmith (Pretty Much Every Cheesy Action Film From the Last Three Decades) and some decent special effects by frequent Verhoeven collaborator Rob Bottin (RoboCop, The Thing). “Acting” by Films of High Adventure All-Star Arnie Schwarz, Sharon Stone (so, so many turkeys), Rachel Ticotin (uh, Con Air), Ronny Cox (the main OCP baddie in RoboCop), Marshall Bell (the coach in A Nightmare on Elm Street 2, Magistrate Claggett in Deadwood), and the dependably angry Michael Ironside (Scanners, Starship Troopers)

Quote: “You blabbed, Quaid! You blabbed about Mars!”

Alternate quote: “YOU BLEW MAH COVAH!!!”

Alternate alternate quote: Two weeks.”

First viewing by Molly: I have no idea. Young, young, young. My dad got really excited when it came out, and so it was one of the rare grown-up sci-fi action movies I saw as a kid.

First viewing by Jesse: Elementary school—another one my dear, departed grandmother showed me.

Most recent viewing by both: A couple of weeks ago.

Impact on Molly’s childhood development: I thought it was pretty fucking cool, that’s for sure. I was never a huge Arnold fan—I found him alarming as a child, and still do, honestly—but I remember being impressed by the things that impress children inclined towards mutants, three-tittied hookers, psychically-implanted memories, and x-rays that show guns, too.

Impact on Jesse’s childhood development: Decent. I generally preferred fantasy to sci-fi but this one had mutants and ultra-violence, so it was alright by me. I remember not understanding that atmospheric pressure affected the human body and thought the reason Arnie et al inflated on the surface of Mars was that the red sand was poisonous or something. That shit freaked me right the hell out:

Random youtube clip that hasn’t been taken down for copyright infringement:

Molly’s thoughts prior to re-watching: Pretty excited. My dad’s birthday was the 16th of November, and I wanted to do this review this week in celebration of his enthusiasm for science fiction and fantasy that was so formative for me. I didn’t recall (oh ho!) much of the film other than the asphyxiation sequence at the end and the three-tittied whore, quite frankly  [Jesse says: also, dude, three-tittied whore is not the preferred nomenclature. Tri-breasted sex worker, please].

Jesse’s thoughts prior to re-watching: Cautiously intrigued, as I am with most Verhoeven screenings these days. That he has talent is undeniable; that he uses said talent in the service of vicious, intentionally trashy indulgences of his nihilism is equally undeniable. Yet I seem to remember this one having an honest-to-goodness, no-strings attached happy ending. . . which of course made me think I must have missed something the first time around.

Molly’s thoughts post-viewing: I feel like there’s a whip-smart sci-fi action movie lurking behind the façade of Total Recall. By this I mean that the film could have spent a lot more time exploring the nature of memory and subjective reality, but chose instead to over-rely on chest-thumping and man-worship. That said, it’s still fucking awesome in the way only big-budget sci-fi action movies can be: loud and bullet-riddled, and filled with questionably-futuristic technology, hot babes, awesome dudes, evil corporations, and cool stuff.

I think I prefer RoboCop of these two films simply because it manages to be (1) gorier, (2) smarter, (3) populated with more interesting characters, (4) more violent, and (5) less misogynistic all at the same time. That’s no small feat, but it’s true. That said. . . Total Recall will always have a place in my heart, like Legend, in that even though they’re both questionably good, I saw them at a young enough age that they were utterly mesmerizing and highly educational. Also, Total Recall is obviously the forerunner of Tank Girl, which I didn’t realize until this re-watch. Really! Tank Girl substitutes post-apocalyptic earth for Mars and a suit-wearing corporate grey-haired water lord for a suit-wearing corporate grey-haired air lord. Psychic mutants become warrior-kangaroo-men, and hey! Presto! A script! Sort of [Jesse says: think I still prefer Tank Girl, though—Ronny Cox is good, but he is no Malcolm McDowell, and Arnie sure as shootin’ ain’t half the thespian Lori Petty is].

Anyways, there’s apparently a remake in the works, and it’ll be interesting to see what a 21st century overhaul of this film might look like [Jesse says: maybe with Colin Farrell! I have no idea what his career did to make him hate it so. . .]. I really like Verhoeven’s grimy futures as seen in Total Recall and RoboCop, and if the new film is all shiny and Mac store-looking, I can’t imagine it will be as good. I like that these two films look like they could be our real future; that they could be the near-future that will one day be the far-future of Wall-E. Verhoeven is far too cynical to make near-future films where somehow the world has, I dunno, decided all of a sudden that polluting rivers, littering, strip mining, and overproducing unnecessary commodities so we can all enjoy the planet’s resources is Not Cool Anymore, since. . . well. Yeah. The evidence for that happening anytime soon is not particularly compelling. But in the true Verhoeven style, what we get is all that in the background, for the nerds to ponder. For everyone else, there’s explosions and boobies and one-liners! Thanks, Mr. Verhoeven, for giving us what we want and then sneering at us for wanting it, as you laugh all the way to the fucking bank. It’s what you do best.

Jesse’s thoughts post-viewing: Molly’s summation directly above is pretty much the most accurate description of his Hollywood output that I’ve ever read, and she also managed to connect Mr. Showgirls himself to Wall-E, no mean feat. For my money, Total Recall is decent viewing both by Schwarzie and Verhoeven movie standards, with many a well-executed effect, action scene, and bit of tawdry silliness to help grease the rails. The movie, as Molly pointed out, isn’t nearly as clever as it should have been, and compared to the superficially simpler but surprisingly nuanced RoboCop it’s fairly one-dimensional. Of course, that one dimension has mutants and nudity and mutant nudity and guns guns guns and fights fights fights, so it’s not as bad as it sounds.

The scenes where the film strains to be more than a simple action movie and almost succeeds are easily the most interesting, such as when Sharon Stone and the doctor from Rekall try to persuade Arnie to take the red pill to wake up from his artificial reality (and no, I don’t know why we didn’t cover The Matrix for this month, either, other than neither of us could bear re-watching it anytime soon). Although the scene in question quickly devolves into grunting and punching and shooting, it’s interesting to note that everything the doctor predicts comes to pass in the course of the film, which leads to the possible interpretation that Total Recall really is about a construction worker going crazy from a virtual vacation and not, as is usually thought, about a secret agent rediscovering his identity only to reject it for a nobler one.

The concept is never again overtly referenced in the film, but in the commentary Verhoeven somewhat gleefully offers that the fade to white that concludes the happy ending could be Arnie’s character finally being lobotomized following the hallucinations that have made up the bulk of the film. Given the director’s bleak track record, it’s easy to hypothesize which version of events he favors. So much for that happy ending—thanks for another bedtime story about the human race, Uncle Paul.

High Points: All the classy moments, from Arnie using an innocent bystander as a human shield to just about any scene with Sharon Stone—such as when Arnie greases her and says “considah that a divorce.” The part where Arnie takes the bug out of his nose. Definitely not Arnie’s acting. Johnny cabs, which are an infinitely cooler method of knowing where you are than Garmin or Magellan:

Final Verdict: ARGHHHHHH!!!!!!! But, you know, in a good way.

Next Time: We conclude Memory, Humanity, and Dystopia Month with Blade Runner over at Fantasy Magazine.

More happened this week than just me writing a review of RoboCop:

I linked this in my FoHA, but omg: if you like NSFW silent comics about Victorian ladies in ruffly underpants and their robotic lovers, you should probably go check out Chester 5000 XYV.

My ace dawgg Jesse got interviewed over at BookLife by Jeremy Jones!

There is a seriously, seriously awesome story by Caitlin R. Kiernan about futuristic furries over at Lightspeed that is well worth your time.

Please make sure to mark your calendars for Barbara Barnett Stewart’s story “Mortis Persona” that’s going up on Fantasy on Monday, November 15th! This story made me cry and drool and cheer all at the same time.

There’s a really cool group blog I just found out about, aimed at supporting early-career writers. Check out Inkpunks for really thoughtful advice!

I think that’s it!

Memory, Humanity, and Dystopia Month continues today with a film about a robotic police officer. I wonder what it could be?

Film: RoboCop (1987)

WHOSE RESPONSIBLE THIS??? Paul Verhoeven (Total Recall, Basic Instinct), perhaps the nastiest, most cynical director of the modern age. Screenplay by Edward Neumeir (who later “adapted” Heinlein’s Starship Troopers for Verhoeven) and Michael Miner, both of whom would probably rather be remembered for this collaboration than their sophomore pairing, Anacondas: Hunt for the Blood Orchid. Suitably epic soundtrack by Basil Poledouris (Conan the Barbarian) and impressive special effects by Rob Bottin (The Thing). Acting by Peter Weller (Naked Lunch, Buckaroo Bonzai) Nancy Allen (Carrie, Dressed to Kill), Kurtwood Smith (the dad from That 70s Show causing the same sort of alarming OMG-it’s-that-guy reaction that Paul Riser evokes in Aliens), Ronny Cox (Total Recall), Robert DoQui (Coffy, Nashville), and Twin Peaks alum Ray Wise (Leland Palmer), Miguel Ferrer (Special Agent Albert Rosenfeld), and Dan O’Herlihy (Andrew Packard) as scumbags of various stripes.

Quote: “Excuse me, I have to go. Somewhere there is a crime happening.”

Alternate quote: “I’d buy that for a dollar!”

First viewing by Molly: Last week.

First viewing by Jesse: In the fourth grade, at this kid Nathan Fisher’s house.

Most recent viewing by both: Last week.

Impact on Molly’s childhood development: Very little. I remember it being on the TV at my friend Amanda’s house (Amanda had not one but two older brothers and parents who didn’t give a crap if their kids watched R- or X-rated movies) and being vaguely intrigued. I remember inquiring of one of these aforementioned older brothers, “is RoboCop human inside the suit?” and the answer being “No, he is a robot.” Being a mere child, I did not realize that robots, too, could have feelings and experience angst (thank god the internet was created to teach us such lessons—link NSFW, but worth your time if you like robots and ruffly underpants), and thus figured I would not care about RoboCop’s fate. How wrong I was.

Impact on Jesse’s childhood development: High. I remember being totally unprepared for the wanton violence, and, of course, totally impressed by it. The toxic waste scene freaked me out more than just about anything else from my childhood—I’d seen The Toxic Avenger, so I knew these things were plausible.

Random youtube clip that hasn’t been taken down for copyright infringement:

Molly’s thoughts prior to watching: Uneasy. I don’t really like Paul Verhoeven’s movies in general. I mean—the ending of Starship Troopers, where a haz-mat besuitted scientist gives an unsolicited gynecological exam to an alien still troubles me (around the 3:30 mark), and Verhoeven also directed the only movie I genuinely wish I could un-see: Flesh and Blood. Even Ladyhawke had some moments I didn’t loathe—not so with Flesh and Blood, which made me actively wish I had never been born so I would not have then grown up into a person who was watching Flesh and Blood. Christ. BUT N-E-WAYZ Paul Verhoeven also directed Total Recall, which is pretty awesome, and Jesse assured me that RoboCop was more in the TR mold than F&B. . . even though he also mentioned that it was “a movie that would probably make me hate everything.” With that sort of endorsement, what could go wrong?

Jesse’s thoughts prior to re-watching: Wary. Verhoeven’s mean-spirited, bleak view of humanity has depressed Molly before, and though the pleasure I take in Molly’s reactions to some of these turkeys may appear to be sadistic, I don’t actually like making her unhappy—at least not in the way that Paul Verhoeven makes her unhappy. For one thing, it’s hard to tell if he’s misogynistic or simply nihilistic to the point of hating everyone regardless of their gender. His tendency to cater to the lowest common denominator while simultaneously mocking said denominator for being so low and common is something that puts as many people off as it wins over, and though I enjoy a good-natured torture session along the lines of a Yor: The Hunter from the Future or a Beastmaster I’m not so keen on making her genuinely miserable with the screenings I select.

Molly’s thoughts post-viewing: Man, was I ever surprised by RoboCop! It’s really good! Who knew, besides everybody but me?

Jesse’s review pretty much encapsulates my feelings on the film, but I have to say, I was impressed for a number of reasons. First and foremost, I was amazed by the ridiculous amount of violence of the film—wowza. I mean, I’ve seen enough movies to know something bad was going to happen to the dude who trained the gun on the ED-209, but I was surprised by the sheer number of bullets pumped into that poor bastard. Same goes for the scene where the dad from That 70s Show and his assorted thugs kill Murphy—that shotgun blast to the hand was pretty agonizing to watch, as was the rest of that scene. And oh god oh god where the ginger-bearded bad guy drives a truck into a silo of toxic waste and survives long enough to melt and wheeze in a completely nauseating manner. . . I am going to stop thinking about that right now.

I was also impressed by how merciless and accurate the depiction of a privatized future America was, too. Interestingly enough, Jesse and I watched this the night of the overwhelmingly depressing mid-term elections, as America was voting tea baggers and other sundry assholes into office. Though it feels ridiculous to even type the words, I’mma say it: RoboCop hit a little too close to home for me that night. The fact that an overwrought parable like RoboCop (fucking RoboCop, man) made me so uneasy is both a testament to the state of America in 2010 as well as the overall quality screenwriting and directing of the film.

It’s obvious that the team that brought RoboCop to fruition love their dystopian novels about the dangers of capitalism and what treating people as commodities does to the world, and were intelligent enough to update the old warhorse of Brave New World into relevance. The early shout-out to Henry Ford Hospital pleased me immensely, but then later when a Lee Iacocca Elementary School is referenced. . . that’s brilliant. It’s those little flourishes—as well as updating the shiny bright nobody-has-feelings-but-at-least-they-have-bread-and-circuses of BNW into the more reasonable if ickier future of environmental pollution, lowered standards of living for disposable segments of the population, and general public despair and dilapidation as the rich get richer—that make RoboCop a much better film than Verhoeven’s Total Recall, which I felt had a smart movie lurking somewhere inside of it. Alas, with Arnold in the lead, couldn’t really rise above anything more than him shooting Sharon Stone and saying “considaaah this a divorce” or whatever the fuck happens in that moment. RoboCop, by contrast, is much smarter, much more pointed in its critiques, much better.

In the end, RoboCop is a really weird movie, and watching it for the first time at age 29 is a pretty weird experience, too. I do wonder what I would have thought of it had I seen it at a significantly younger age. I don’t think I would have been able to handle it as a child at all. . . I mean, I had nightmares for quite literally weeks after watching the tequila- and monster-fueled rape scene in Poltergeist II. In high school I probably would’ve resisted the core message of the film due to my objectivist leanings at the time (or re-framed it into a parable about how Man’s Greatness Shines Through and blamed the corruptness of the individual corporate bad guys instead of capitalism as a system). In college I. . . I dunno. Might have become enraged, as that was my default mode? Probably. But as a seasoned adult (or something) I must say: RoboCop is a damn fine movie.

Jesse’s thoughts post-viewing: Hey, very nice! And by very nice I mean incredibly dark and nihilistic and devoid of any sort of catharsis, but by Verhoeven standards this is positively charming. I pretty much agree with Molly’s take on his work in general and this film in particular, although I’m perhaps less turned off by the filmmaker’s unrelenting pessimism.

Verhoeven may be subtle as sledgehammer, but he’s also archly subversive, and certain scenes carry far more weight and gravitas than one would expect from an action movie about a robotic police officer. When RoboCop/Murphy and his partner Lewis are all kinds of fucked up following the penultimate shoot-out and lie bleeding to death in a lake of polluted sludge, Robo reassures Lewis that OCP, the corrupt corporation responsible for the events of the film, “will fix everything. They fix everything.” Murphy may have rediscovered his humanity but he’s still a literal tool of OCP, and though all the Hollywood villains are dispatched by the time the credits roll nothing has really changed—the status quo has been protected, and OCP can continue with business as usual.

For being a movie about a moralistic cyborg cop cleaning up corruption, RoboCop studiously avoids buying into the chest-thumping and flag-waving of most 80s action movies. On the contrary, part of what makes it such a fascinating film is how Verhoeven rejects these conventions of the genre and instead fashions a cautionary tale of the dangers of unfettered capitalism—the privatization of the public sector is nothing short of catastrophic in Verhoeven’s universe, and has led to tv addiction, public apathy, desensitization to violence, environmental collapse, and general misery for the majority of the population. That Verhoeven’s film satirizing America’s desensitization to violence was so bloody its initial cut was rated X plays into what we were talking about earlier regarding the director’s tendency to simultaneously give the audience what they want even as he mocks them for enjoying it. He may be a nasty man with a mean sense of humor and utter contempt for humanity, but at least he’s interesting.

High Points: All the weird Korean commercials it spawned. The effects, which hold up incredibly well and kick the shit out of most CGI nonsense. That such a nihilistic “hey, fuck you dumb Americans” movie spawned a stereotypically American kid-friendly franchise complete with toned-down sequels, action figures, video games, comic books, and cartoons. The mingling of ultra-violence with blacker-than-the-chambers-of-a-dead-nun’s-heart humor, such as this early scene:

Final Verdict: Pretty awesome.

Next Time: We continue Memory, Humanity, and Dystopia Month with Total Recall.

Well! Last week was super-busy in a good way! I was recently promoted to Managing Editor of Fantasy Magazine–and I will also now be the new Managing Editor of our sister magazine, Lightspeed, since both magazines are now being edited by the amazing John Joseph Adams. I am very happy to be assisting him throughout the transitional period and afterwards!

While there won’t be much that changes on the outside over at Lightspeed, JJA will be making a few alterations at Fantasy. We’re undergoing some restructuring, and our content focus and submission guidelines have already shifted slightly. Keep checking back over the next few months–exciting times ahead!

When Jesse and I realized we’d watched Total Recall and Dark City in quick succession, we decided to appoint November as Memory, Humanity, and Dystopia Month. So, cool! Theme months. Be warned, though–I was cranky and tired when I wrote this week’s review, so it’s probably more unfair than usual. . . but I also tend to get more riled by near misses than epic failures, just because I hate to see a good thing ruined. And after a very strong, compelling start, Dark City was ruined for me by a third act fumble of epic proportions, in that involved Heavy Exposition, The World’s Crappiest CGI Battle, Space Aliens, and a Conclusion that is Morally Questionable But Goes Internally Unquestioned. Woo! Onward:

The Film: Dark City (1998)

WHOSE RESPONSIBLE THIS??? Mostly Alex Proyas (The Crow, Knowing), who directed and co-wrote with screenwriters David S. Goyer (the Blade series) and Lem Dobbs (the Gary Busey classic Hider in the House). Soundtrack by Trevor Jones (From Hell), with some help from Anita Kelsey and Echo and the Bunnymen. Starring Rufus Sewell (A Knight’s Tale, The Illusionist), Jennifer Connolly (Labyrinth, Requiem for a Dream), William Hurt (A History of Violence, the Dune miniseries), Ian Richardson (Brazil), Richard O’Brien (The Rocky Horror Picture Show), and a bizzaro version of Kiefer Sutherland (Jason Patric and the Coreys versus the Dreamy Living Dead).

Quote: “Remember, John, never talk to strangers!”

Alternate quote: “No more Mr. Quick. Mr. Quick, dead, yes.”

First viewing by Molly: A couple of weeks ago.

First viewing by Jesse: In the theatre, so mid-high school.

Most recent viewing by both: A couple of weeks ago.

Impact on Molly’s childhood development: None. Never heard of it.

Impact on Jesse’s childhood development: Slight. I recall appreciating the aesthetic but thinking it aped a bit from City of Lost Children, stylistically. Like any teenager worth their weight in angst and mix-tapes, I was fiercely defensive of things I enjoyed and convinced everyone was out to take cools things and make them not cool via the dread mainstream.

Random youtube clip that hasn’t been taken down for copyright infringement:

Molly’s thoughts prior to re-watching: Our local video store is currently selling off stock, and when Jesse saw it on the rack he said something like “LOL DARK CITY” but in real-life speech. I was like “What the heck is Dark City?” and he replied “Oh, man. We should do that for Films of High Adventure,” but due to his refusal to tell anyone anything about a movie before watching it, wouldn’t say more.

Jesse’s thoughts prior to re-watching: Intrigued. I had only seen it the once, when it came out, and remembered thinking it was good if not great. I really couldn’t remember much about the movie, other than being dissatisfied with the finale and thinking wonky-ass Kiefer Sutherland was about the coolest thing ever.

Molly’s thoughts post-viewing: I’m still recovering from WFC so I’m just warning you—this is going to be disjointed and ranty.

Dark City is a case of squandered potential. I mean, it’s a movie that would be infinitely better without the lead actors’ characters being part of the plot. Yeah, I know, “what?” But it’s true. And just think about that for a second. I’m trying to think of another movie where I wished so continuously that the male and female leads would just go away so I could hang out with the supporting cast, but I’m coming up empty, because most movies where I despise the leads, I also am pretty eh about the supporting actors as well [Jesse says: uh, didn’t we just try to watch The Frighteners? I would watch maybe a thousand movies about Jeffrey Combs’ FBI agent character]. Not so here, where had Rufus Sewell and Jennifer Connolly been totally absent, it would’ve been a much, much better film, even with the goddamn space aliens in the third act.

I simply cannot wrap my head around why on earth the scriptwriters thought milquetoast monomyth nothing-master Sewell and Bland Love Interest Connolly were even remotely as engaging as twitchy mad scientist Kiefer Sutherland and angsty detective William Hurt. Then again, the scriptwriters thought that “space aliens create a large film noir-styled spaceship, populate it with human subjects, and use a scary syringe to switch up memories in people in order to search for what makes the human soul oh-so-precious and unique (?)” was an okay plot, so perhaps I’m just caring about this a bit too much [Jesse says: you’re right, it’s not an okay plot—it’s a great plot!]. After all, the space aliens hire Kiefer Sutherland’s “psychologist” character to go around switching up people’s memories because he. . . is an artist of the mind? Or something? ORLY? Is that what psychologists are? What? Jesus fucking Christ.

It’s just—argh. I just think Dark City had so much to offer, so much interesting stuff that (omg a sports metaphor?) is just sitting on the sidelines. Nay, languishing. Every good character, every engaging concept is benched (woo) in the name of that style of plot wherein a generic white male (with telekinesis!) will save the human race because he is a generic white male (with telekinesis!) and thus must overcome adversity for all our sakes in the form (this time) of the world’s lamest CGI battle.

In the end, Dark City begs no deeper question of its audience than “why should we care?” Sewell brings no depth to his role, but he’s not given much to work with other than a character description that was probably written down somewhere as ‘He is a generic white man who evolves telekinesis and shall save the world,” and indeed, is scripted in such a way that he comes off as kind of a d-bag at the end (more on that later). Jennifer Connolly is only worthy of our interest because she is pretty [Jesse says: and dresses nice and has a lovely singing voice (dubbed over her own)—what on earth more do you want from a female lead?!]. Of the only two interesting characters, one disappears into the shadows by way of resolving his plotline, the other is. . . sucked. . . out. . . into. . . space. Nice tidy ending there, especially because that character had more chemistry with Connolly than Sewell, so out he goes! Yeesh.

For a film that tries to be all moody and dark and emotional, it evokes zero pathos because there is no real substance, and like I said, anything interesting is just ignored. To wit: why did Sewell in particular evolve telekinesis? Why, if the detective had his memories of being a detective implanted, is he so good at noticing stuff? Why is Sewell convinced Connolly actually likes him, when he knows perfectly well that she had her love for him implanted in her skull, just like her memory of cheating on him [Jesse says: because you can’t fake love, Molly, the movie told us that multiple times, REMEMBER?!]? Why does he choose to believe one lie and not the other? (Because she’s pretty.) Why are there spirals everywhere? Does Kiefer Sutherland regret his decision to work for the space aliens? Did he retain any of his own memories? Does RiffRaff’s character yearn to be human and that’s why he chooses to have human memories implanted, or did he have a different reason to volunteer? WHO CARES! CGI BATTLE! IT’S-ALL-OK ENDING! CREDITS!

I dunno. I could go on, but it’s just one of those things where I can’t care any more, so I’ll just put the cap on this bottle of haterade by saying that Dark City’s ending is a perfect synecdoche for the entire film. Basically, at some point, the space aliens re-implant Connolly’s memories, giving her amnesia; Sewell retains his memories. After saving the world and then being given the power to re-shape it however he wants—and he just, like, does it because he’s apparently fully confident that he should be Lord of All and A God Amongst Men—he meets her on a weird little pier and pretends he’s seeing her for the first time, and they go off to presumably have a relationship. THIS IS PROBLEMATIC. Right? Who cares—he gets the girl! That’s it. I’m done.

Jesse’s thoughts post-viewing: I actually thought it was better than I remembered. Although I’ll agree with Molly’s assessment of a third act fumble, plot-wise, it bothered me way less the second time around, probably because I was vaguely expecting it and was thus prepared for it. I also appreciate now that it’s much more of its own thing than I’d previously given it credit—although the City of Lost Children touches are obvious, they’re not nearly as prevalent as I had remembered. The Jeunet and Caro film is one of my all time favorites, hence my protectiveness of it, but coming at it from a more experienced position, cinematically speaking, I see now that it’s just one of many sources of inspiration, and I would never begrudge anyone for loving the same works as myself.

So it’s a bit of a mess, and I agree that Hurt and Sutherland’s characters are more interesting than our actual focal points, but it’s so damn pretty I’m willing to forgive a lot. And I don’t have quite the aversion to aliens of the space variety that Molly does, though I’ll allow that I too was disappointed with the revelation the first time around. This is an unusual case of actually liking a film a bit more the second time around—being forewarned of its failings, I was better equipped to appreciate its successes. Other than that, I think Molly really covered all the bases (sports reference!) so I’ll leave off by saying that while she is technically correct about everything, it doesn’t make this movie any less cool looking, nor does it make Mr. Young Guns any less twitchy.

High Points: Kiefer Sutherland tweaking out. RiffRaff rocking the bald look. The hand-wringing of the creepy-ass strangers:

Low Points: When one gets to the point in the movie that should be titled Kiefer Sutherland Explains the Movie.

Final Verdict: A gorgeous, stylish thriller that trips over its CGI-enhanced feet in the third act.

Next Time: We continue Memory, Humanity, and Dystopia Month with either Robocop or Total Recall.

World Fantasy was a great time this year, even (sadly) without (1) S.J. Chambers, (2) having a voice more than an uncanny screech that sounded like rusted metal hinges or, alternatively, like the world’s grossest clarinet played by the devil’s worst musician, and (3) partaking of a single drink due to the brutal course of amoxicillin I was taking.

I met a lot of cool people and attended some wonderful readings. Most notably regarding the latter, you should all be anticipating Saladin Ahmed’s Throne of the Crescent Moon, and you, like me, should run out and grab Haunted Legends, edited by Ellen Datlow and Nick Mamatas, and Paul G. Tremblay’s In the Mean Time. Regarding the former, I met so many awesome folks that I’m not going to make a list because it would be too time consuming, but a few brief scenarios that will be cherished:

Excitedly discussing Jonah Hex, Christian Domestic Discipline, and other crimes against humanity with Genevieve Valentine, Mari Ness, Jesse, Charlie Jane Anders, and Annalee Newitz

Exploring North Market while discussing fantasy novels and Greek religious practices with a certain Columbus local who doesn’t really want her name all over the internet so let it just be said that she is a rad person

Comparing notes on awesome anime to watch with the lovely Dmitri Valente at the Habitation of the Blessed/Native Star release party

Giggling with Nick Mamatas at the aforementioned release party while we made gentle fun of the also aforementioned Dmitri Valente for reading Piers Anthony

Hearing Jeffrey Ford read his story in Haunted Legends and vowing to go home and re-read “The Beautiful Gelreesh” in Running with the Pack while imagining his Long Island accent instead of, I dunno, the Tim Curry-sounding person I’d “heard” narrating the first time I read it

Gargling Cepacol (provided to me by a thoughtful and generous friend) and actually managing to make it to my panel in order that I might discuss Batman and Dr. Horrible for an hour with my co-panelists Mark Teppo and David Boop

Feeling like a rock star when Christie Yant asked me to sign her copy of Running with the Pack–my first book-signing EVARRRR–and then feeling like a prat when I realized I’d left my copy of Way of the Wizard in my room and couldn’t get her to sign it for me

Meeting with Christie and John Joseph Adams over the exciting new changes to come over at Fantasy Magazine

Shaking L.E. Modesitt’s hand the first night, and then noting his delight in sporting loud waistcoats during the rest of the con

Using an unoccupied con suite to take off my shirt and compare tattoos with the cheerful and delightful Erin Cashier

I could go on, and on, and on, but I won’t, thus neglecting so many fun people and so many good times!

So, in conclusion, yay, and congrats to all the winners of the World Fantasy award–though honestly, an award should have been given to my conpanion Jesse, who totally took care of me like a champ while I was getting over the end of whatever horrible (non-contagious! I asked the doctor!) illness I was trying to kick during the whole damn con. It was such a great experience overall that I definitely had a moment of post-Christmas morning “meh” on the plane ride home. . . but thankfully the flight was so horrifically turbulent that I had to concentrate more on not vomiting. Huzzah!