Monday, October 11, 2010

Another Movie Monday

I had a really great book event this weekend at the Balch Springs library. Due to a glitch, there were no actual books at the booksigning, but that turned out to be a blessing in disguise. If there had been books there, I'd have just sat at a table and signed books or waited for someone to want books signed. As it was, there was a decent-sized crowd, so I just did a talk. The host was well-prepared to give an introduction and turned that into an interview, then I took questions from the audience and read an excerpt from one of the books the library had. I was raspy and took frequent cough breaks and sipped punch constantly, but I got through it. I was impressed with the turnout, and one of the city council members was even there. They definitely go on my local book tour list for the next time I have a book out, whenever that may be.

I haven't done a Movie Monday in a while, but since I've been sick for so long that I've forgotten what my normal voice sounds like, I've watched a few movies lately. Most of these were HBO.

First, (500 Days of) Summer -- I was rather skeptical of this one because it seemed a bit arty and pretentious for its own good, and I was prepared to dislike it when the narrator announced at the beginning that it wasn't a love story. I was expecting the arty/literary attitude that happy endings and true love aren't realistic and you're being a sellout when you do a happy ending, but that's not exactly the way the movie goes. The relationship in the movie does have an unhappy ending, and that's not a spoiler because it's the first scene in the movie, but I don't think the message of the movie is that there aren't any happy endings. The thing I liked about it was that it was told out of order, just in random days throughout the relationship, so you could examine the relationship on that day, out of context. There would be a post-breakup day followed by a just-met day followed by a high-points day followed by an on-the-decline day. It was a fascinating structure, and I need to watch it again now that I have it all worked out. My problem with the movie was mostly with the female lead, and I'm not sure if it's the writing or the actress. There was something very Mary Sue about the character, who was one of those inexplicably beloved by all (even though she's actually kind of a passive-aggressive bitch), overly cute and quirky people, but Zoey Deschanel seems to be typecast into that part (or else she plays everything that way). Maybe it's because I'm a straight woman, but I don't see what's so special about her that all men fall instantly in love with her. I did like the main character and most of the supporting cast, especially his sister and his relationship with his sister.

Then there was City of Ember, which is hard for me to discuss coherently because I was on Benadryl at the time and kept drifting off. Mostly I was noticing the production design, which was spectacular. It kind of reminded me of the movie Brazil, that sort of retro-futuristic Forties meets Steampunk, but made out of found objects, look. The gist of the story is that hundreds of years ago (in the story timeline), there was some cataclysm on earth, and the only way for mankind to survive was to move underground for a couple of hundred years. To keep people from going mad and trying to get to the surface, it seems they started with children who wouldn't have known the surface and created this whole story to celebrate the life underground. The full information about why they were there, how long they had to be there, and how to get out was put in a box with a countdown timer on it that each mayor was to pass on to the next major, and when the box opened, they'd know what to do. But then one mayor died unexpectedly without passing on the box, the box was lost, and now no one knows about the surface or how to get there. Meanwhile, the city, which wasn't meant to last this long, is falling apart. Then a girl finds a strange box in the back of a closet in her family home ... It's sort of a dystopian (yet optimistic) adventure story. I wasn't that into it from the beginning, but by the end I was caught up in it.

I watched last week's PBS production of Macbeth, starring Patrick Stewart, on Sunday afternoon, and I liked it enough that I may get the DVD. They turned Macbeth into a war movie, which totally works. It's a vaguely WWII setting in a somewhat Stalinist country (when Macbeth becomes king, there are all these banners with his face on them). It worked so perfectly in that context. It was Macbeth with machine guns!

And then, I was finally able to get my hands on a copy of Penelope, which was recommended here when I was talking about looking for paranormal/fantasy romantic comedies. I'm not sure I'd entirely classify this as a romantic comedy, since it was more about the individual growth of the two characters and they were barely together in the movie, but it still sort of scratches that itch. It reminded me a lot of Pushing Daisies in tone and look -- that sort of contemporary but still kind of retro style, the fairy tale tone, the color saturation and then the city that's essentially "Everycity" -- all the elements we look for in a city for a story like that, while not being any particular place (it was fairly obviously filmed in London, but most of the cast was either American or British playing American, which helped give it that everywhere/anywhere effect). The movie was utterly delightful. It's essentially a gender-switched beauty and the beast story, which I love because I've gotten tired of all those stories where the woman is expected to fall in love in spite of appearances, but the guy is always getting a beauty. In this case, a curse on a blue-blood family means that the next daughter born will have the face of a pig, and the curse can only be broken by someone of her kind falling in love with her. When a daughter is born, more than 100 years later, the family keeps her hidden while trying to find the blue-blood guy who won't run screaming from her. Meanwhile, she's getting tired of being locked up and wants to live life. I got it from the library but may buy a copy because it's a real feel-good movie.

Meanwhile, the season finale of Haven totally blew me away. It doesn't necessarily fall into the "paranormal romantic comedy" category, since it isn't strictly a comedy (though it can be very, very funny) and isn't really romantic, but the main relationship is one of my favorite ever and seems to be doing a slow enough build to wherever it's going that it's exactly the kind of thing I like. That's one of the things a series (whether book or TV) can do, build a relationship gradually over time by pulling the people together and putting them through things that strengthen their bond. It's like the writers have looked at all the cliches of every TV partnership ever and either subverted them or dropped them entirely. They got the "partners draw guns on each other" thing out of the way in their first meeting. They've had an outside romantic interest without jealous hissy fits. They've had secrets that were then revealed without heavy drama and with them understanding why the secrets were kept for a while. They've had fights and arguments that didn't lead to major rifts but that were resolved with an apology. It's like the way I write characters and relationships put in a Stephen King plot, which sounds like some unholy hybrid, but now I'm kind of wondering how that would really work. Hmm, I wonder if Stephen King would be interested in going the James Patterson route and working with a writing partner.

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