Tag Archives: Movies

Those pesky other dimensions

As Bonnie and I left the theater last night after a showing of “The Mist” (part of the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival and Cthulhucon going on this weekend in Portland), I wondered why it is that whenever the military, or scientists, or military scientists punch a window through the fabric of space-time into another dimension, and the window turns into a door through which things pour into our world, those things are always (1) big, (2) mean, and (3) a lot like bugs, deep-sea creatures, reptiles, dinos, or some combination thereof.

Wouldn’t you think that just once in a while, by the law of averages, we’d punch our way into a dimension of ponies and buttercups?

That said, “The Mist” is one of the better film adaptations of Stephen King. Not directly Lovecraftian, though the sense of brooding mysterious cosmic horror is Lovecrafty.

The evening’s offerings also included “The Haunted Palace,” a 1963 film based–loosely–on HPL’s The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. In the hope of cramming the film into the studio’s “Poe Cycle,” AIP bookended it with quotes from a Poe poem and plopped a transplanted European castle, a la the Hearst palace, into the middle of rustic Arkham. Hence the title.

I had seen bits of it before but this was my first exposure to the complete film. It’s really not too bad, and has a lot of wonderful shots and some classic Price mugging. I couldn’t help but notice, however, that after Charles Dexter Ward and his wife (anyone who knows HPL is eye-rolling at that!) arrive at their inherited, abandoned palace carrying a total of two small suitcases approximately the size of lightweight portable sewing machines, those reticules disgorge, in the course of the film, a dazzling profusion of full-length brocade dressing gowns and ruffled shirts (him), and lacy peignoirs, satin dressing gowns, and full-crinolined skirts (her).

Now, I love luggage, and I love packing. It has long been my dream to find the perfect piece of luggage, one that violates the laws of physics by being much bigger on the inside than its exterior dimensions would seem to allow. Apparently the prop department at AIP in the 60s had a couple of these treasures.

Writing, watching, soon reading

Must . . . finish . . . book . . .

Nova Swing is waiting.

After my major work interruption of last June through February, during which I missed a ton of deadlines, I renegotiated all those deadlines with my publisher. The result was a tight but doable schedule that would push me through the overdue mss. and then on to new work. But of course I am already falling behind that optimistic schedule. I had hoped to have finished a ms. on Forensic Anthropology (part of a series for middle-school-age kids) by now. Or by last Thursday or Friday. It’s a wonderful subject with lots of fascinating details and anecdotes, but my work habits are, er, rusty.

But now I am motivated to finish, and that right swiftly. Such as maybe by Tuesday. Not only do Zach and I have plans for later in the week, including a big dinner party for an out-of-town guest on Saturday, but my copy of Nova Swing arrived yesterday. I want to read it but can’t in good (or even mediocre) conscience do so until I have turned in at least one piece of work!

I loved Light but somehow, inexplicably, never got around to reading this follow-up novel. I don’t expect it to have the same impact on me as Light, but I’m expecting a damn fine M. John Harrison read.

On another note, we rashly invested two hours last night in another Sci-Fi Channel Original Movie. When will we learn? By 8 or 10 minutes into Star Runners, Zach and I were competing to call out references/homages/ripoffs. We agreed that despite hints or liberal doses of Resident Evil, Pitch Black, and many more, the most numerous and obvious “echoes” were of Firefly and Serenity. Was this thing seriously intended to come off as being set in a corner of the Firefly universe, one that Joss Whedon and company just never got around to visiting? Whatever. After a day spent writing (me) and doing heavy yard work (Zach) our exhaustion was such that it went down pretty easily, helped along by some Yamhill Valley pinot noir.

Last Watch

Just finished this fourth volume in the Night Watch series. I posted it at goodreads.com and am copying that post here:

Last Watch would be fairly confusing to anyone who hadn’t read Night Watch, Day Watch, and Twilight Watch. Even though I’ve read and enjoyed the whole series, I had some trouble remembering who was who among the minor characters; details of what happened in the earlier books, often mentioned in this one, were also a bit fuzzy. Still, I enjoyed this a lot. The protagonist, Higher Light One Anton Gorodetsky, remains a fresh, wry, and occasionally surprising voice, and the intersections of the magical and real worlds continue to be weird, clever, and often violent or amusing. I found this story sketchier but also more poignant than the earlier episodes in Anton’s career; there are echoes of Arthurian (or Merlinian) legend and The Tempest woven throughout. Overall, not as strong as the first two entries in the series, when Lukyanenko’s world-building was new and startling, but satisyfing.

To those who know the Night Watch series only through Timur Bekmambetov’s sensational films, the original story line of the books is different from that of the movies and is worth exploring. But the films are dazzling, and I adore them.¬†

Fantasy vs. SF? Near the end of Last Watch, in a conversation between two of nonhuman characters about the future of the world, Lukyanenko–who has published lots of both sf and fantasy–tosses off a few observations about the two genres. One character speculates about the appeal of fantasy worlds, magic, etc. to human readers. It’s a brief interchange, not a dissertation, but readers and writers of both genres may find it entertaining.

The Right One

Wanna see a good teenage vampire romance horror flick?

I recommend one about kids, fear, sexuality, love, trust, growing up and fitting in and fighting back. It’s a subtle, elegant, beautifully acted, touching, scary Swedish import called Let the Right One In, and it’s amazing.

Here’s one review:
www.cinematical.com/2008/04/27/tribeca-review-let-the-right-one-in/

See it now, because it will probably not play forever at the multiplex like a certain pop phenomenon that shall not be named. And don’t wait for the Hollywood remake by the guy who directed Cloverfield. Not joking. Already greenlighted.

Primer

I just finished watching Primer online through the instant-view option at Netflix. I saw this film in a local theater about three years ago, when it played Portland briefly after making a splash at Sundance and winning some prizes. I was mightily impressed at the time and thought the movie would be worth seeing again someday.

It was. In fact, it looked and sounded better on my laptop than in the theater; it’s a movie with a very tight focus and is set almost entirely in close spaces, so it seems almost made for laptop viewing.

Highly recommended for anyone interested in successful first-time moviemaking (and some online interviews are available in which¬† writer/producer/director/cinematographer/composer/actor Shane Carruth talks about the process–oh, and his mom and dad did the catering). Also great for those interested in narrative complexity, time travel, or the morality of science. Don’t look for a tidy batch of exposition to explain the ending, but if you pay attention (as I was careful to do just now, seeing it for the second time) it comes together with a subtle but powerful wallop.