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monsters. [alien invasion/visitation movies – #1.]

First, ‘Movies in Space’ got rolling, now it’s time to get started on the other side of that coin with ‘Alien Invasion/Visitation Movies.’

Movie #1 is a film I really wanted to see last year, but was robbed of that potential when the film never had a run near Seattle. That’s a rare occurrence, what with the Emerald City being such a movie loving town. If you ask me, it’s pure nonsense. Universe, don’t let it happen again!

So, I finally watched it. It was pretty much exactly what I expected, which is a good thing and a bad thing. Good, because I was looking forward to seeing it, and for the most part I wasn’t disappointed. Bad, because I wasn’t surprised once throughout the film, and in a film like this you sort of want to be surprised.

For those who don’t know the film, it goes like this. NASA sends a probe into deep-space after discovering the possibility of alien life. It crashes on the way back, over northern Mexico, and the eventual result is an infestation of giant extraterrestrial creatures against whom the US declares war (which includes building a giant wall along the border). A photojournalist hoping to catch a photograph of a living creature is ordered by the owner of his newspaper to get said boss’s daughter safely back to the States.

Doesn’t that last part sound like either a Cary Grant bedroom comedy, or a terrible romantic comedy (minus the monsters)? The handsome photojournalist has to find a way to get the bosses hot socialite daughter home, who just happens to be unhappily engaged to be married. Adventure ensues! “Wait, there’s only one bed! You wouldn’t make me sleep on the floor, would you?” Along the way, they learn a little about what it means to work together, a lot about themselves, but most of all, they learn about love. It sounds terrible… unless it’s a Cary Grant picture, then it would be awesome.

This movie was worth watching, mostly because the world feels real. The subtlety with which they draw this alien infested North America makes it feel more authentically human. The best scene in the film happens in the final few minutes, when some ‘monsters’ show up at a gas station where our hero and heroine are holed up. The biology of the creatures was so well-crafted that it felt like watching Planet Earth instead of a low-budget sci-fi film from England.

Obviously, in a lot of ways this is the North American version of District 9, with the immigration issue replacing Apartheid. The US walls off Mexico, after we were the ones to cause the problem to begin with, then attempt to bomb the creatures out of existence without much concern for the damage done to the people of Mexico by bombs and agitated monsters. Fortunately, the film never becomes heavy-handed. We never get an eye-rolling moment where they force the whole, ‘but who are the real monsters?’ thing down our throat. It’s subtext, which is much better storytelling.

All in all, it could have been a much better film, but for what it was I think they did a pretty good job.

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let me in.

I’d heard so very many people say this film was well-made, but ultimately a waste of time. The reason for saying this was because, while they appreciated the well crafted film, they felt it was too close to the original, stolen scene for scene so that the only difference was whether or not they had subtitles. I must have been watching a different movie.

It was obviously a direct American remake, so in part their argument is sound. There certainly was a direct crossover of tone, and many scenes were taken directly from Let the Right One In. Yet, there were so many differences and variations in nuance that many characters were very different from what they were in the original film adaptation. In several scenes, the dialogue was lifted from the original film, but in several instances the dialogue had very different meaning because of different decisions regarding several key plot elements.

This film certainly isn’t superior to the original, but there are plenty of facets in which the film offers a different interpretation of the material. Reeves’ version is more overt, less ambiguous, and answers questions that the original film left open-ended.

Reeves direction was excellent, including several scenes in which he changed the details from the original film significantly, but to great effect. The performances of each actor involved was also fantastic.

**Spoilers Follow**

One thing that is changed in the American version is that very different things are meant in each film by the line, “Would you still like me if I wasn’t a girl?” Novel: it is made explicit in the narrative that Eli isn’t actually a girl, but was a small boy who had been mutilated when made into a vampire. Swedish version: this isn’t made as explicit, but the scene when Oskar peeks at Eli getting dressed shows the scar from the mutilation. American version: It’s implied that Abby was a little girl, but has become a vampire, so she feels she is nothing anymore. It’s still possible that the original story could fit, but no one would get that idea from the text of the film.

The first adaptation of the film leaves interpretation of many events up to the viewer. Was there a sweetness and love in the midst of all this violence, or was Eli just preying on the weak and lonely Oskar? Let Me In answers that question, making it clear that Abby was taking advantage of Owen’s loneliness in order to groom him to be her caretaker in the future, as she had done in the past. The text of the the original film adaptation of Let the Right One In certainly allows for that interpretation of what is happening, but never explicitly says so. Eli/Abby’s caretaker at the start of the film, brilliantly played in each version by Per Ragnar/Richard Jenkins respectively, is handled differently in the two films. In Let The Right One In, it is possible that he is a portent of what’s to come for poor Oskar, but that is only one potential possibility, in the novel it is explicitly stated that he is not in fact a former boy companion of Eli, but instead is a formerly homeless pedophile. In Let Me In, the photo booth pictures make clear that Owen is part of a cycle that Abby uses as another aspect of her predatory behavior, to keep her hands clean from the act of killing her victims herself (or, as Owen sings in the final scene, “Eat some now, save some for later.”)

A change I appreciated was that the American film forced the audience to grapple with the innocence of all the victims in the film a bit more overtly. The police officer was a good man, and his gruesome death at Abby’s hands… er, teeth, hammers home the point of her evil. This is present in both films, but is handled with more clarity in the American film, in which we see how Owen enters into the evil of Abby’s existence because of his feelings for her.

Yet, the police officer, while expertly played by the always underrated Elias Koteas, was also the need for a giant serving of suspension of disbelief. The film primarily asks, “What if vampires were real in 1980’s New Mexico, in the real world?” Thus, everything should be realistic aside from the existence of vampires. Yet, here is one lone detective carrying out the entire investigation of these grizzly murders on his own. The bodies discovered imply serial killings, cult activity, and the involvement of children in the violence. Can you say, “Federal Task Force”? There is no way a single cop would be carrying out an investigation of this scope, but we are never led to suspect that there is another investigation going on and that our hero cop is simply going beyond the call of duty. This unexplained silliness is a loose end, and by far my least favorite part of the film. Although, as a character, he was certainly easy to care for.

Anyway, I think this film was well worth my two hours, and while I won’t watch it once or twice a year like I do Let The Right One In, I certainly do hope to see it again someday.

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one. [88 mph.]

[For those newer to the blog, this is an ’88 mph’ post: posts in which this humble blog becomes a time-machine to appreciate something from the past of one of our writers.]

/ one love / one life / when it’s one need in the night / one love / we get to share it / it leaves you, baby, if you don’t care for it /

/ did i ask too much? / more than a lot? / you gave me nothing / now it’s all i’ve got /

This month, it’s been 19 years since the release of U2’s Achtung Baby. I should probably write an 88mph post about the whole album, and I could actually pretty easily write a post for each song. Today, one song has got me thinking to the point of needing an outlet.

“One,” the third track on the album, is one of the most amazing songs ever written. I’m not going to qualify that statement at all, because whether you actually like the song or not, its impact is well-documented, and can’t be disputed. Whether you are referring to the huge sales; the acceptance by, and impact on, other artists; the song’s almost constant appearance on critic, musician and listener created lists of the greatest songs ever; the fact that it saved one of the most successful bands in history from breaking up; or the various causes and issues that the song has become an anthem for… to quote our VP, the song is “a big fucking deal.”

As the story goes, the band was recording, or attempting to record, Achtung Baby in Berlin, during the period of reunification. Things weren’t going so well, and the band was quite literally on the verge of calling it quits, believing that the life of the band had run its course. That’s when The Edge started improvising a riff, Bono started improvising some lyrics over it, and a long process began creating a song which has literally touched the lives of millions.

As The Edge has said:

“At the instant we were recording it, I got a very strong sense of its power. We were all playing together in the big recording room, a huge, eerie ballroom full of ghosts of the war, and everything fell into place. It was a reassuring moment, when everyone finally went, ‘oh great, this album has started.’ It’s the reason you’re in a band – when the spirit descends upon you and you create something truly affecting.”

The music of U2 in the 80’s was hopeful, and angry, and naive (in the most beautiful way possible). With open eyes, they looked at the pain of the world and tried to offer a rallying cry for a better way to live. As they grew up, and the 80’s became the 90’s, the band and the world changed. The Edge had just gotten divorced, Adam Clayton had experienced some personal problems, the world wasn’t the bright new place the band believed it had the potential to be. As Bono would later sing nearly a decade after Achtung Baby, the band was trying to find its identity in a world where / hope and history don’t rhyme /.

This song became the anthem for where the band was, what this album would be, and what the band had to say throughout the 90’s. Gone was the heart on his sleeve, earnest Bono of the 80’s; replaced by characters to hide his true self and offer incarnated prophetic utterings. The Mirrorball Man (an over the top televangelist/used car salesman douchebag, also, evil or the devil); Mr. MacPhisto (an aging actor or rock star, also, evil or the devil); and most often, The Fly (the typical rock star, too cool and arrogant for emotions), with his trademark wraparound shades, always hiding behind the glasses, this character obviously functions as a cartoon of what Bono fears about himself, perhaps all three characters do.

Everything was different now. The Edge describes Achtung Baby as the sound of four men chopping down The Joshua Tree.

“One” was truly at the heart of that sentiment. Moving into darkness and depression, but without ever fully letting go of hope. To use Bono’s metaphor from later in the decade, it was a time of / looking for the baby Jesus under the trash /

As is the case with most of Bono’s lyrics, “One” finds that perfect balance of being explicit enough to be affecting, while being vague enough to allow nearly endless interpretations. Like all great art, it can mean something poignant to a person or people in very specific circumstances, while meaning something equally powerful to someone in a very different place and time. One remarkably brilliant interpretation of the song is listening to it as the conversation between a gay man dying of AIDS and the fundamentalist father who’d rejected him. Lines like, / have you come here for forgiveness? / have you come to raise the dead? / have you come here to play Jesus to the lepers in your head? / — and — / you say love is a temple / love, the higher law / you ask me to enter, well, then you make me crawl / and I can’t be holding on to what you’ve got, when all you’ve got is hurt / — just to name a few, take on a pretty powerful nuance when you listen to the song through that filter.

Whatever interpretation you might embrace during any particular listen, the song’s interaction with estrangement and forgiveness is powerful.

Born from the band’s anger, frustration and near demise, in a context of a Berlin which had been a divided city for decades, about to come together again, forced to learn to live as one city, comes a song about conflict, and pain, and the beauty and agony of living together. As the band has pointed out, the song is about going through some bad shit, and having a pretty difficult discussion when all involved realize things will never be the same again. It’s about disillusionment, and rage, and grace.

The fact that Bono can get to the heart of the difficulty of loving one another and still remaining differentiated, still being ourselves, disagreeing and holding onto ourselves without casting out the other, is amazing. Yet, the fact that he can do so with the way his voice aches over a single phrase, /we’re one, but we’re not the same / — is unbelievable. Bono said:

“It is a song about coming together, but it’s not the old hippie idea of ‘Let’s all live together.’ It is, in fact, the opposite. It’s saying, We are one, but we’re not the same. It’s not saying we even want to get along, but that we have to get along together in this world if it is to survive. It’s a reminder that we have no choice”.

To lift a quote directly from wikipedia:

The Edge described it on one level as a “bitter, twisted, vitriolic conversation between two people who’ve been through some nasty, heavy stuff”. On another level, he suggested that the line “we get to carry each other” introduces “grace” to the song and that the wording “get to” (instead of “got to”) is essential, as it suggests that it is a privilege to help one another, not an obligation.

That’s brilliant. It’s such a beautiful and challenging philosophy. The sort that could change the world if more people took it to heart. Sadly, most don’t, myself included. Still, I’ll keep listening, hoping that this is one of those artistic works that might actually make me a better person in my experience of it. Perhaps the music can work its way into those deep recesses of my brain that science hasn’t yet mapped and help me live like / love is a temple / and remember when I’m dealing with some asshole I’d rather tell to fuck off, that we have no choice but to learn to live together.

/ we get to carry each other /

That’s some pretty profound shit. My God, I love this album.

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dune. [the book.]

I finally read Dune. The David Lynch film is on my list for ‘Movies in Space,’ which gave me the extra motivation to check this one out. Added to the fact that I’m working my way through all the novels to have ever won both the Hugo and the Nebula awards, and the time had come.

I’m always a little intimidated about entering into a film or novel which is considered an uber-classic. Not just intimidated, I’m also always excited, but I don’t take it lightly, so it often takes a while for me to get around to it, even after I decide to make the leap.

Another gift from Powell’s City of Books, the greatest book store in the omni-verse, I got an old paperback copy on our last visit.

The book is pretty fantastic. Obviously, it has had a huge influence on genre fiction that has come after it. I expected the influences on the sci-fi I’ve read from later decades. For example, the way Orson Scott Card can use his stories to get deep into interpersonal and political intrigue and relationship in really believable ways owes a lot to how well Herbert did it first. What I didn’t expect was how much of an influence it has had on fantasy. It’s set in space, in the far distant future filled with fictional scientific innovations, but Dune is definitely a fantasy novel above all. Set in a feudal society, complete with sword-fighting; wizards and witches with superhuman powers of a sort; lots of political scheming between families and political groups; this has done much to shape modern fantasy, perhaps more than anything outside of Lord of the Rings. Robert Jordan took a tremendous amount of inspiration from Dune in his creation of the fantasy world for the Wheel of Time series.

It makes perfect sense that Herbert would have written so many sequels, and why there would be such a rabid group of fans in the Duniverse. The world in which Dune is set is so perfectly crafted, there is a limitless supply of stories to tell. The planet of Arrakis is so well formed, ecologically and politically; the universe itself has such a believable system of politics; the characters are well drawn out, even though they are so very alien from the reader; an ambitious film project of the book that bombed terribly at the box office… it’s all tailor-made for the creation of five decades of cult fan worship.

Time for me to watch the movie and add the sequel to my ‘to-read’ list so I can immerse myself further into the world of Dune.


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Truth is, I love him.

Alexander Ebert, that is!

He’s the lead singer of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and he just put out his solo album March 1st.  While I love the whole album, I’m obsessed with the  single “Truth.” I’ve had it on repeat since I found it in January.

He spews the lyrics out like a raw, hip-hop track, and it’s different from every song on the album; even his work with Edward Sharpe and Ima Robot. .

My favorite lyric from the song is,

“Every little lie in this world come from the bible
Say you’re my lover, say you’re my homie,
Tilt my chin back slit my throat take a bath in my blood get to know me
All out of my secrets
All my enemies are turning into my teachers.”

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him live with Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and he’s amazing! The energy and magnetism he has blows me away.Everything he touches is gold.I might be bias, because I’m kind of in love with him.At least I’m telling the truth.

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firefly and serenity [rise of the nerd virgins.]

I’m on a Firefly high!  I know I’m more than a little tardy to the bandwagon, 7 years tardy to be exact, but I’m so glad I jumped on.   Scott has been wanting me to watch this show ever since he set his eyes on it, but honestly I wasn’t interested.  And then, I fell in love with Nathan Fillion.

It pained Scott that I would identify Fillion as Richard Castle when talking about his career (yes, I’ve seen Dr. Horrible, but didn’t fall in love with him then).  I’m very glad that I have finally met Captain Malcolm Reynolds.

The show is awesome!  I’m not a huge fan of westerns, or most sci-fi, but Firefly has captured my heart.  I went into it hesitantly, mostly because of all the hype I’ve heard from various people. I was afraid of disappointment.  The only disappointment I have is the fact that it got cancelled.  The show is hilarious, I found myself laughing out loud in various episodes. The suspense and action scenes got more and more complex as the season went on.  I loved the characters and the show felt honest about people who live in cramped quarters, with death never far away.

Now here is where the spoilers enter the picture. So if you haven’t seen the show I wouldn’t recommend reading any further. Instead, go watch it!

***SPOILER ALERTS***

I have two favorite episodes – the first being “Our Mrs. Reynolds”.  Scott told me that their was a special guest star and I was really excited to find out who it was.  Low and behold, it is none other than the sexy Christina Hendricks.  I found myself laughing throughout the episode.  The chemistry between Hendricks and Fillion on screen was papable.

I also loved the last episode, “Objects in Space.”  Jubal Early was an excellent character   River was fantastic in this episode and was consistent throughout the series, always creeping me out while also being intriguing.

I have to say that after the 14 episodes I was feeling content with the series, but I’m very thankful that Serenity exists.

Serenity was fantastic.  I was worried throughout about who they were going to kill and who would be allowed to live, I’m glad they stopped the killing when they did.  Also, thank you Joss Weadon for finally putting Kaylee and Simon together, that is one thing I would have been highly disappointed if it didn’t happen.  Though I was saddened with Wash dying, I assumed going into it that both he and Zoe weren’t both going to live.

I’m curious about the Shepard’s past as I would love to see what happens next in the lives of the characters.  But I know one thing – Nathan Fillion will no longer be Rick Castle to me, instead he’ll be Captain Castle.

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what i've been listening to this week. [five things. 3.12.11]

1. The Head and the Heart – The Head and the Heart

This one is a little obvious, based on previous posts this week.

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2. Radiohead – King of Limbs

I don’t want to say anything bad about this album, because I really do love it. It’s just hard to be Radiohead. So many of their albums have been revelations. They have had so many utterly brilliant albums, and this one is just really, really, really good. Even though one song sounds like they’ve been listening to a lot of TV on the Radio, and even though King of Limbs feels a lot like a really good appendix to In Rainbows (as opposed to something truly new as we would expect from Radiohead), this will still make my ‘favorite albums of 2011’ list.

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3. Childish Gambino – EP (aka – Dopeness) [download this for free, here.]

Donald Glover keeps doing what he does… being amazing. My friend Matt asked me the other day if I’d listened to this album yet. It was delightful for two reasons: 1. That he thought I probably listened to Childish Gambino. 2. That the Donald Glover movement is still growing.

We have tickets to see the I Am Donald tour here in Seattle at Neumos, which is the tour I’ve been waiting for him to do for a year. He’ll be performing stand-up AND hip hop. The small venue maybe even makes it possible I’ll have the chance to meet him. Then again, I already had a chance to walk up and say hello during the five minutes he was at the Raveonettes show at Bumbershoot, but it seems with Donald Glover I’m Troy to his Lavar Burton.

At least I can keep listening to this EP, you can’t disappoint an EP.

Video is NSFW [lyrics].

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4. Tapes ‘n Tapes – Outside

The music video is lame, but the song is still worth it.


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5. The Civil Wars – Barton Hollow

Again, another obvious one based on recent posts.