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Movie Monday: Pacific Rim

Here are the reasons you should go see Pacific Rim:

1) Giant Robots (Jaeger)  vs Giant Monsters (Kaiju).

pacific-rim-movie-banner-striker-eureka-jaeger-vs-kaiju

2) Idris Elba.  His character’s name is Stacker Pentecost. He’s canceling the apocalypse. This could be ridiculous, but he sells it like it’s Shakespeare.

idris-001

3) They order the evacuation of the city, and there are kaiju shelters, even, so I felt much less guilty enjoying the structural carnage (see item #1) imagining the people of Hong Kong weren’t getting squished right and left.

3) There’s a nice cast of character actors who flesh out the human story really nicely, with full commitment, whether as the nutty, nerdy science geek or the  last-man standing, get the job done hero.  Sure there were a few without enough screen time to avoid feeling a little stereotype (“In Soviet Russia, robot drive you.” and “Australians and Americans like to brawl!”) but it was surprising how many really nice character moments that kept the humans from being totally overshadowed by… well, giant robots and monsters.

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4) The girl–and yes, there was only one, but she’s awesome–was an actual character. She had a, you know, personality. And a backstory. And something really important to do. And here’s the kicker:  Relationships with the male characters that were not about romance.

Sure there’s an attraction between Mako and The Guy, because they’re both young and attractive. But the cool things is, they also challenge and respect each other, and they make a good fighting team because of it.  They are an even match. She’s not there just to worship him (I’m looking at you, Man of Steel), or take care of his kids (I’m looking at you, World War Z).   And Mako has a really cool dynamic with Pentecost. She’s both strong AND vulnerable, and smart and feminine. Also, her hairstyle is adorable, and I’m totally taking a picture of it to my stylist.

rinko-001

So Hollywood blockbusters please take note. You can have a female in a movie and have her, you know, DO STUFF.

5) The storytelling.  Pacific Rim is not high art. And that’s okay. Because it’s damn good storytelling. (And here’s where, as a writer of books, I justify putting a long-ass post about a movie on my blog. Other than the fact I dig movies with giant fight-y things.)

The characters aren’t complex, but they all have a ‘hook’ and every point we know exactly what is at stake for them, and for the human race. We know what they have to do in a scene, and why it will be difficult, and what will happen if they don’t. When you’ve got THAT MUCH CGI going on, and that much destruction happening all the time, this can be difficult to accomplish (*ahem*Michael Bay*ahem*).

Pacific Rim hit every Man vs. Monsters beat, that’s a GOOD thing. Those beats are important, because they make a satisfying story. If you skip one (like the “all is lost” scene or the “hero pulls himself up by the bootstraps” moment) then it makes it less satisfying when the humans (spoiler) win the day.

SO, here’s a note to Hollywood. You CAN have a blockbuster movie that’s fresh, fun and tells a good story. You can have a female character who is an actual character, and not a cipher.

And also, don’t think I missed that if Idris Elba is the head of the Jaeger program, that makes him the Jaegermeister.

In summary:

Pacific Rim is damned enjoyable, loads of fun, intensely satisfying, and even though I HAVE seen this story before, all the elements: script, direction, characters, plus the particulars of the premise (Jaeger, Kaiju, etc.) make it feel like I haven’t seen it a million times.

Goats are always funny.

I used to be one of those people who watched the Superbowl The Big Game just for the ads. While I am capable of enjoying football if I have a horse in that race, mixed-metaphorically speaking, really I’m just there to see what a three million dollar commercial looks like.

But now, with the Internet, I don’t have to sit through all that sports to find out!  I can just wait until Monday morning and watch them all on YouTube. Yay!

So, here’s my favorite, along with an analysis of what makes it great.

1. It features a goat.  The beginning of Texas Gothic features a goat.  It is not a coincidence that both these things are high-lair-ious.

2. Sound effects. And on a related note…

3. Goat Reaction Shot. Made funnier by the fact that goats in real life pretty much don’t react to anything. (Except for fainting goats.)

4. Showing, not telling. This is the kind of less-is-more visual storytelling that relies on the viewer to be smart enough to figure out the….

5. Circular humor.

 

What Superbowl ads were worth their super hype?  Do you have a favorite from past or present years?  (My all time favorite is probably still the Volkswagon/Darth Vader one.)

 

Friday Faves – The Twisted, The Pretty, and the Yummy

Here’s what’s floating my boat this week. Why? Because “Friday Faves” sounds cool.

1. Gillian Flynn. This is not a YA author. (Not by any stretch of the imagination.) Banner for Gone Girl by Gillian FlynnShe writes books about grisly murders and really twisted up characters. Her book Gone Girl is a best seller, and deservedly so. Her books keep me riveted, not just with the plot twist, but because she’s got this astounding facility with voice.

Also, it is really hard to knock me to a place where I’m staring at the book going “Holy $%^&! I did NOT see that coming.”

[YA disclaimer: I'd rate her books almost an R, not for any graphic sex but for disturbing psychology... in both the killers and the protagonists.]

2. The Immaculate Baking Company.  Oh my GAWD these chocolate rolls are so good.  I literally reward myself for getting up early and going to mass by baking them when I get home. (Appropriate, given the name, I guess.)  Only today is Friday and I’m eating one just because. (They also promote Folk Artists and they have a blog with delicious start-with-our-products-and-make-them-even-more-awesome recipes.)

Yum.

Yum.

3. The cheerfulness of Vera Bradley’s Ribbons pattern… and their Pinterest board full of inspiration.

 

4. These floats, covered entirely in flowers (like the Tournament of Roses parade), from Holland’s Bloemencorso.

Look at that little guy on the bottom, helping out with the grooming. So. Cute.

Look at that little guy on the bottom, helping out with the grooming. So. Cute.

What a cutie.

Speaking of cute. This is. 

 

5. Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Looper. First off, I LOVED that movie. JGL did an incredible job playing young Bruce Willis. His mannerisms and line delivery were dead on.  But I feel like I just discovered this guy. I know he was in Inception (and really great in that, too). But when did he go from being “Wow, that kid from Third Rock From The Sun can really act!” to “Wow, he’s kinda hot as well. A little skinny, but… day-um.”

 

That’s it for this Friday. I guess I’ll have to pull my head out of my book long enough to find new things to be obsessed with next week. Please make suggestions in the comments. Seriously.

Let Them Knit Cake

I am a knitter.

I want to make it absolutely clear that I liked knitting long before hipsters started doing it.

Free time? What's that?

Free time? What’s that?

I started when Mom broke her leg, which meant hours and hours in doctor and hospital waiting rooms. My first project was a scarf. It was pretty awful–eight inches wide at one end and five inches at the other. The scarf, not her leg. Though that was pretty awful, too. Poor Mom. She’s been through a lot. And I’ve gotten a lot of practice knitting in hospitals and doctor’s offices.

So, silver lining and all that, I have progressed beyond horrible scarves to pretty good scarves, plus gloves, shawls, hats, purses and sweaters.  Okay, sweater and a half. One was for my niece, who is only two.  I figured that would be a good one to start with, because my attention span is–

Squirrel!

Which has always been my crafting downfall.  I–like just about every knitter/quilter/crocheter/stitcher–have many many projects in many stages of completion because there’s always some new and bright and exciting project that catches your eye right when you’re in the tedious middle of the current one.

I might mention, this also happens with books. A new idea is always exciting. You can’t wait to start banging out words. And the end is great, because you have momentum on your side. You can see the shape of the finished project! All it needs is a few more rows. But when you’re in the middle, that’s when shiny new ideas for other books appear to tempt you.

Or sometimes it happens with books and knitting BOTH.  I’m working hard on my next book, but I picked up a knitting magazine when I drove Mom to Jo-Ann’s this afternoon. Now I want to knit a sweater.

This sweater:

 

I want to knit this sweater, to give to some hypothetical guy on some hypothetical future date when the hypothetical he will be able to wear a wool sweater in Texas.  Which is about five days a year. Non-consecutive days, I might add.

What are the odds of this?

I totally bought this magazine because of the hot guy modeling this gorgeous colored sweater.

Clearly we have entered a new era of knitting. No longer are doilies and old lady caps and mittens enticement to shell out for a knitting pattern magazine. Now the target audience is women (or men, I guess) who like to picture themselves knitting a sweater for a hot guy.

And I have succumbed to the siren call. I want to be a girl who knits sweaters for cute guys. I want to wear adorable lace wristlets and skinny scarves and not look like dork. I want to refinish flea-market furniture and repurpose antiques into quirky jewelry… Oh my God, next thing you know I’ll be baking CAKE POPSICLES.

Actually, none of that is true.

Except maybe the cake part. I’ll take cake in pretty much any form it comes in.

Mmmm... Cake.

Mmmm… Cake.

Are you a crafter? What are your hobbies (besides reading)?  Do you have a favorite online resource? What are your feelings on Cake Pops?  Delicious bite sized treat or bakery anathema?

PS The pattern for the knit cake above can be found here.

Girl vs. Lawn

Recently, I have become responsible for mowing my own lawn.

This probably doesn’t sound like a big deal to a lot of you. Or maybe it sounds lazy or sexist (after all, I can clean house like nobody’s business). But it is what it is… Or was. I have never had to mow the lawn before.*

It didn’t start well. It didn’t start at all, because the first thing I discovered was that the lawnmower was kaput and would take an Actual Lawnmower Repairman to fix.

Since the Home Owners Association won’t let me get a herd of goats (even a small one), I had to get my hands on a functioning lawn mower. And since an Actual Lawnmower Repairman costs money, and I am going to be the New Mower of the Lawn, I decided to get a rechargeable electric mower because it’s:

• Better for the environment
• Not dependent on my filling it with gasoline, which is icky and smelly.**

But the situation is getting dire, because the grass is now two weeks long. And I have small dogs. I’m worried I’m going to lose one of them.

Worse, I’m worried what might be taking up residence in my lawn. My suburban back yard could turn into a scene from Death in the Long Grass.

Or there could be gnomes. Or velociraptors.  This could happen:

So I look up what I want online and go to Home Depot. They have rows and rows of mowers: riding mowers with cup holders, push mowers with air conditioning… It’s a car lot of lawn mowers, but there is only ONE electric mower model in house. And it’s out of stock.

So the Home Depot Associate says: Well, I do have one in the back. It’s a return but it works perfectly well.

Me: Sold.

We get the thing in the Jeep and get it home and I call @peterthefencer to come over and help me get it back OUT of the Jeep, and then I charge it up and I read the instruction manual and I look up online How to Mow a Lawn.

Apparently there is a Great Debate over side to side mowing versus a spiral patterns. I mean a Great Debate. It’s like the Big-Endians and Little-Endians. I went with: However the heck I can manage to push it.

Because my bargain basement returned-but-working-perfectly electric rechargeable lawnmower is not self-propelled (none of them are). It’s RCM propelled.

And here’s what else I found out. My yard only LOOKS flat. That five degree slope is like freaking Everest when you’re trying to turn a lawnmower on it. Especially when one’s small stature puts one at a severe leverage disadvantage.****

The first time took me an hour and a half and a couple of breaks. There may have been pointing and laughing from the pothead teens across the street. There may have been some swearing. There may have been gnomes.

Not My Lawn

But at last it was done! It looked (mostly) great. I felt such a great sense of accomplishment!  I was high-fiving the dogs and doing a victory lap around the yard (a slow, tired victory lap).

And then I realized I was going to have to do it again the next week.

And the week after.

And twice a week in full summer. You can’t give those gnomes an inch, or they’ll encroach right back in.

I think I hear them singing their Elton John war chant right now.

Maybe I’ll clone some velociraptors to keep them out. That would take care of my home security as well. Though I suspect if the HOA objects to goats, they won’t go for genetically engineered dinosaurs, either.

But if I had velociraptors, I wouldn’t have to worry about the HOA, either.

Jurassic Security System

*Ironically, I have mown a pasture before, but that was on a tractor. Not the same thing as wielding a Toro in the suburbs.
**Mostly this last one.
****This is why I’m in equal danger from gnomes as I am velociraptors. Also, gnomes are creepy.

Awesome Things

There has been no new blog post for a week because…

1. I’m eyebrow deep in rewrites.

2. I taught/led/participated in six workshops/panels at DFW Writers Conference, which was awesome and cool and gave me the boost I need to dive back in to reason number one.  (See P.S. below.)

3. My Friend Kate linked to this on her Tumblr and I’ve watched it five times:
 Happy Reading / Writing / Final Exam Taking / Whatever is keeping YOU busy this May! TTYL!

PS  Are you a writer? Want to experience the awesomeness of an RCM class from the comfort of your own couch? I’m teaching Loglines, Queries and Pitches through the Young Adult chapter of RWA ONLINE the last week of June. Here is a link to register.It’s $20 for non YARWA members, but even if you’re not ready to pitch your book, it’s valuable information on things to make sure you put IN your book to make it irresistible when you do get ready to submit.

Earth’s Mightiest Heroes

Here’s what is obvious about The Avengers:  It is an awesome thrill ride, absolutely jam packed with action, badassery, wit, and heart. It’s that truly rare thing: a movie that is both fun to watch and really, really well-crafted.

Here’s what is less obvious:  It’s a story about superheroes that is really about humanity.

So. Much. Awesome.

Wait. Maybe that’s obvious, too. Some part of superhero stories reflects our human condition. But a lot of times, the superhero is a larger than life Greek Tragedy figure who serves to Teach Us A Lesson. With great power comes great responsibility. The mutants in X-men represent the scary Other that must be controlled or killed. The X-men fight to save a society that hates them. Batman is… Well, Batman is just wackadoo.

(Which sort of brings me to the trend of “dark” in superheroes. There’s a certain breed of “super” that is watchable/readable because it IS so removed from what we are. Deadpool, Spawn, anything by Frank Miller. I feel like Nolan’s Batman, for all that I love the mind-twists that Nolan does with that, gets further away from his humanity, even as he makes sacrifices (or “sacrifices”) for the good of Gotham or whatever. )

But okay, back to the Avengers. With the notable exception of Thor, everyone on the Avengers team started off as an actual human. They were transformed by science or technology.  The team was assembled by a human. Contrast that with the X-men [geek warning], who exist in the same comic book universe. They are mutants, different at their genetic core. Magneto calls them homo-superior, the next wave in evolution. Whenever the Avengers and the X-men show up at the same comic book party, there’s a distinct difference: The Avengers are Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. The X-men are Earth’s outcasts, who fight for a world that hates and fears them.

Both of those are cool stories worth exploring, but they’re different. The X-men are mutants in search of humanity.  The Avengers, in all of their origin movies and to some extent here, are humans who need to find their inner superhero.

And what’s really cool about that is that the director (Joss Whedon, for those of you living under a rock) allows for  moments when the most non-superpowered people in the film find their inner hero.  Men and women on the street. People with no powers at all but the fact that they volunteered for a tough job. Dweebish SHIELD agents.

Those are just moments, light touches that flavor the movie but don’t detract from the central story. This band of humans (or Asgardians) has to find their inner superhero, and then they have to find (stumble and fight, really) their way to being a super-team.

The thing that really blows my mind in this movie is how Whedon gives every single member of the team a character arc that seamlessly fits into the whole picture. Managing to give every character their moment without dragging down the story or the pace (except one or two scenes, maybe) is pretty amazing feat.

Equally amazing is that you don’t notice the craftsmanship and the intricate framework of character story and overreaching theme while you’re watching. You’re just being blown away by the logarithmic awesome that’s on the screen.

Here’s something else I loved about it. Whedon holds nothing back for the sequel. He goes full out, how-could-you-ever-top-this spectacle. He shoots down EVERYTHING.

There were so many hero shots, so much something something ominous badass, so much heart-twisting sniffle, cheer out loud, laugh, snort, gasp and squee in this movie I cannot wait to go see it again for stuff I missed.

So… highly, highly recommend this movie, both for the craft, the intelligent script, and most of all for the not-holds-barred spectacle of awesome.

Anthropological Me

Spring makes me crazy. 

I want to do crazy things like buy a bicycle and bike to the grocery and the coffee shop like I lived in some quaint English village on BBC, ignoring the fact that in a few weeks it will be 90 degrees by 8:30 in the morning and the closest coffee shop is the Starbucks on the Interstate. 

Not me.


I would fill the basket (because of course the bicycle would have a basket on the handlebars) with delicious fresh produce that I will bring home and actually eat. And maybe a baguette. Spring makes me want to be the girl from the Anthropologie catalogue. 


Hey, maybe I’ll go to the farmer’s market instead! 

Or maybe I’ll plant a vegetable garden, in addition to the flower beds I want to put in and lovingly tend, even though the summer heat and drought watering restrictions will doom them to a short, but beautiful, existence. 

Not my house.

Spring makes me break out my rose scented dusting powder so I smell as old fashioned as my name.


Apparently spring turns me into Miss Marple. All I need to do is solve crime. 

I have coffee on the porch. I clean my office and find utility bills from 2008 behind my desk. I make huge stacks of books to give to the library. I actually dust my ceiling fan. 

None of this will last, of course. By the end of May I’ll be hibernating during the daylight hours, away from the heat and car exhaust. I’ll contribute to it by driving to the grocery store for Tostitos and Reeses peanut butter cups. 

But at least the weather will no longer be such a temptation pulling me away from work. 

Do you get spring fever? What do you long to do when the weather gets nice, even if it’s totally impractical. 

(P.S. In looking for pictures, I discovered that not only does Anthropology carry bicycles like the one above, but cruiser bikes have become quite the thing. If I point out that I had one of those in college and was mocked for it, does that make me a hipster?)

The last one on the clue bus (as usual)

So, AggieCon was a lot of fun. Totally different crowd from some of the other Texas cons, but it was fun meeting new people. Came home kind of wiped out, dealt with family stuff, then crashed. Had more weird dreams. These, however, were less terrifying by the ones inspired by the FenCon people introducing me to literal videos. Specifically the one below, which I’m posting because you just have to see it to believe.

I mean, seriously. It’s like some kind of like some kind of Harry Potter cracktastic slash fic come to life.

Thanks to Tim Miller I had nightmares of being chased by glowing eyed zombie vampires. (Yes, I know that’s redundant on the undead front, but the secondary characters in my dream were very specific. "Run! Zombie Vampires!"  Which will teach me to stop for directions in the middle of the night on a Texas State Highway.)

I’m I the last one to know about these literal videos?  The one to Meatloaf’s I Would Do Anything For You (but I won’t do that) nearly killed me. Kool-Aid man for the win. The most awesome thing, though, is really how completely trippy these videos were from the beginning.

Anyway, if you want to waste the better part of a day, google "literal videos." Just don’t do it when you have somewhere to be.