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[movies|cancer] Lakeside Kickstarter

The Lakeside documentary [ imdb ] Kickstarter fund raiser has begun. Waterloo Productions has been deeply involved in my story for almost the past year, and the various reversals of fortune which have afflicted me have correspondingly driven their production costs up well past the original budget.

The film is the story of my life with cancer, and quite possibly my death. We’re working within the experience of my daily life, including things I don’t talk about much or at all here on the blog — the reactions of my family members (their privacy, after all, is not mine to breach here); my responses to those reactions; some of my own end-of-life thinking and the planning that has begun for that series of terminal events. It’s a bigger story than even this blog can tell.

As things do in life, everything happens at once. I believe another, separate medical fundraiser is launching shortly to help me pay for a rather expensive genetic test which will be completely out of pocket, as well as possibly meet additional medical expenses. This is a strange, strange time in my life, as I am not accustomed to asking for help this way. People and institutions have been very generous to me already these past few years. All of you who read and listen and hold the image of my struggles are generous with your time and your hearts.

Anyway, go check out what Donnie is doing over there. Whether you can give hope or money, it will help.

I will never get to heaven, but this film will be part of both my life and my afterlife.

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[movies] The Hobbit (with spoilers under cut)

So I went and saw The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journeyimbd&ndsp;] yesterday. Lisa Costello and [info]the_child took me over to Clackamas Town Center (the cinema at the mall where the recent shootings took place), where the usual suspects met up with us. I took off my sunshield face mask to walk into mall, figuring on not causing any more problems than needful. My face did not burst into flame from 3 minutes of UV exposure.

We saw the film in its traditional 2D presentation. It’s my hope to go back this coming week and see it in 48fps 3D, but that’s a junior film geek thing more than an “Ermahgerd, must see again nao lolz!” My basic expectation for the film was absolutely fulfilled: two and half hours of Jacksonverse Lord of the Rings fan service was what I was expecting, and it’s actually what I got.

The Hobbit is the world’s most expensive piece of fan fic ever.

As such, I loved it.

As a film, not so much. My critical brain never turned off, which is a bit of a pity. Given the lack of density of the source material (and I mean this specifically in contrast to Lord of the Rings I suspect the full Hobbitfilm trilogy would have been a pretty tight single 130 or 140 minute film. As it stands now, the amount of padding and divers alarums and excursions required to take a third of a small book and make it into a epic length trilogy really shows at the seas.

I wound up in the odd position of simultaneously loving the film and spending the last hour and change wondering when the hell it would be over. That would be my reader/fan brain in a pissing match with my writer/critic brain.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s gorgeous. The Hobbit absolutely lives up to the beauty and vastness and haunting glory of Lord of the Rings. Martin Freeman was born to play Bilbo. Gandalf is Gandalfy as ever. Jackson has even restored some measure of dignity to the dwarves, which was shameless stripped from Gimli in the first film series in the name of (apparently) comic relief. If you’re any kind of a fan of the Jacksonverse version of Tolkein’s work you will love this film. If you’re not, it will probably bore you.

Some incomplete spoiler notes:

Read the rest of this entry »

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[movies] More deconstruction, of the superhero variety

After last weekend’s deconstruction of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) [ imdb ] as an ur-James Bond move [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ], we watched The Incredibles (2004) [ imdb ] during the week. A friend once described that as “the best 1970s James Bond movie never made”. It also has some deconstructionist tendencies.

So, more with the deconstruction yesterday. Marta Murvosh, Lisa Costello and I watched a double feature of the director’s extended cut of Watchmen (2009) [ imdb ], followed by Mystery Men (1999) [ imdb ]. Those movies are oddly well matched. First, cynical superheroes in a dying world (with some odd echoes of Incredibles, intended or not). Then, earnest not-quite-superheroes in a world sort of like Bladerunner filtered through Pleasantville. Plus, Herkimer Battle Jitney! And Geoffrey Rush! And bonus Tom Waites! In both cases, the superhero dialect is turned on its ear in different directions. If we’d had time, we could have watched Kick-Ass (2010) [ imdb ] for the trifecta.

I like to be entertained. I like to think. (Even through the chemo fog.) Watchmen and Mystery Men were a great way to do both those things and have a hell of a good time. Gently (and not-so-gently) mocking love letters to the superhero genre.

As The Shoveler says: “We’ve got a blind date with destiny… and it looks like she’s ordered the lobster.”

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[cancer] James Bond and ow frick

As discussed, yesterday I did not go to the movies. This turned out to be wise, as my GI had a few nasty things to say around that morning. That actually started while Lisa Costello and I were out at early lunch with Jersey Girl in Portland and her visiting family. So I stayed home with Lisa and Jersey Girl and laid low. Mostly we watched Chitty Chitty Bang Bangimdb ], which I am old enough to have on VHS. Weirdest. James Bond. Movie. EVAR. Though it does include Dick van Dyke uttering the immortal line, “You’ll find a slight squeeze on the hooter an excellent safety precaution, Miss Scrumptious.”

(If you’re unfamiliar with the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang/James Bond connection, consider this: The original book was written by Ian Fleming. The screenplay was written by Fleming and Roald Dahl, along with two others. Albert Broccoli produced. Desmond Llewelyn has a minor role, who also played Q. The story features a magical car, an improbably named female love interest, a shadowy Eastern European dictatorship, and some weird sex. Yes, in a Disney movie. With Dick van Dyke as James Bond. Not to mention Benny Hill as a manic depressive toymaker and Phil Collins making an uncredited appearance as a child actor. Watch the movie with all this in mind and prepare to be amazed. It’s like all the James Bond plot cards turned 15 degrees out of true.)

Yesterday afternoon, the Neulasta pain came on. In a weird place — my upper arms and upper back. (This is not consistent with my own historical experience of this drug’s side effects.) I felt if I coughed or choked. This morning it is also in my lower back. What causes this is bone marrow growth blooms placing pressure on the bone from the inside. It expresses as a sharp, intense pain that can approach crippling, though in truth this is more annoying that crippling.

Ah, cancer and its discontents. I’ll always have Dick van Dyke. Sometime soon, we’re going to watch Mary Poppinsimdb ] with a similar revisionist eye. That movie also rewards such scrutiny.

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[movies] Rubber

Yesterday evening, Debra Stover came over, and we watched Rubberimdb ] on Netflix streaming.

Words fail me.

This might be my favorite movie I have seen this year. Allow me to quote the Netflix description:

A car tire named Robert rolls through the desert Southwest using its strange psychic powers to blow up birds, bunnies, human beings and more.

And that doesn’t even begin to cover it. Meta-humor, meta-humor about meta-humor, trenchant critiques of filmmaking and fourth wall, I could go on with the pretentious blather for a while. (But that’s so unlike me.)

Weird, weird, weird, weird. This makes David Lynch movies look like Brady Bunch episodes.

Suffice to say, I love this movie for no reason.

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[movies] Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter

Yesterday afternoon, Lisa Costello, [info]the_child and I joined [info]mlerules for a matinee of Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunterimdb ].

This one falls into the category of not-very-good movies that I enjoyed the hell out of.

Though I may be being unfair to the movie.

My comment at the end was that when I was fourteen, I would have thought this was a deeply awesome movie. In point of fact, the fourteen-year-old with us thought exactly that. My mistake at the beginning was that I tried to take it seriously for a while. The movie even seems to invite that initially, drawing the viewer down a garden path of secret history and faux period setting. After a while, I realized that expecting historical accuracy from a movie titled Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter was like expecting good theology from Oh, God!imdb ].

My “flying snowman” moment came during the stampede scene. (Coincidentally, Lisa Costello felt exactly the same way.) After that, I gave up on parsing this as serious alternate history or even serious horror and watched it as a big, loud comic book. The film became a heck of a lot more fun from there forward. This also nullifies my complaints about everything from the 1980s Goth vampires to the weird dialog to the profoundly ahistorical treatment of Lincoln’s time in the White House. So what? It was fun.

This is an American wu xia movie, in a deep sense, with about as much historical validity as Heroimdb ] holds for the Chinese audience. Which is to say, drawing on strong symbolism from our culture’s roots without needing to conform in any way whatsoever to the reality of those symbols.

Reflecting on the film afterward, I decided there were some very subtle things going on in the cinematography and production design. The use of color and texture drawn from nineteenth century photography, including the hand tinting look, is actually quite clever and well executed. Also, nearly invisible as you’re following the action on screen.

Whatever its filmic merits might be on any objective scale, Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter lives up to its title, brilliantly doing what it was meant to do: entertain everyone’s inner fourteen-year-old.

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[movies] Brave (low spoiler review)

Yesterday, [info]lillypond (a/k/a my sister) and I took [info]the_child and the Niece to see Braveimdb ], at the Neptune Theater in Long Beach, WA. The cinema was definitely a small town operation, which was fine, though the film broke during a key scene about halfway through. After ten or fifteen minutes of trying to splice the movie, the projectionist gave up and started the next reel.

So we missed a few things.

I really did like this movie. It was quite entertaining, which is the primary purpose of any movie. Cinema should not be prophylactic. (Or at least, not inherently so.) I liked pretty much all the characters. I liked that there was neither a classic Disney villain nor a classic Disney death-of-the-parent trope. Merida’s fundamental conflicts were natural outcomes of her situation in life and her relationship with her parents. Her story problem arose logically enough from believably bad teen choices. She and her mother ultimately rescued themselves from their challenges through being both smart and, well, brave. Brave was funny, at times witty, and fun to watch.

There were some things in the movie that bothered me, but honestly, not a lot. I did not like Merida’s grossly stereotyped rebellious, self-actualized, fiery redhead, heroine of a hundred bad fantasy novels. I did not like the goofy cartoonization of Celtic culture. I did not like the overromanticization of the Medieval lifestyle. I thought the brothers were overplayed, even given their basic role as comedic foils. But I can live with all that. It was a solid story that didn’t fall back on a simplistic moral axis to make its point or resolve its plot.

Interestingly, the Lake family did not agree on what we’d seen. I felt like the ostensible plot problem that initially drove the story never got resolved. [info]the_child felt like it was. My Dad (who had already seen the movie) derived a completely different moral from the plot than I did. We wound up discussing this quite a bit, which made for good family conversation.

I will also note passim that if you go to this movie based on seeing the previews, you will probably surprised. The gap between the film and the previews is far more yawning than even the usual such disconnect. Definitely worth your time, though, unless you just can’t sit through feature-length animation.

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[movies] More on Prometheus

I’ve been thinking about why I have such a strong negative reaction to Prometheusimdb ]. Yesterday morning I snarked on Facebook and Twitter:

The $100MM spent on PROMETHEUS could’ve bought 10 movies like MOON, or 10,000 first F/SF novels. Much better investment.

That brought a number of interesting reactions, and I made some followup comments, which I am paraphrasing herein.

To belabor the obvious, I don’t actually think that funding and publishing 10,000 first F/SF novels is a good idea at all, for a whole bunch of reasons. I was mostly making a point.

Also, I don’t mind $100MM movies. Some of them are freaking brilliant. And it’s not my money, so who am I to say how it is spent? But Prometheus was such a colossal waste of resources and talent… The script stoopid is so profound that it obliviates the many otherwise wonderful things about that film. To appreciate this movie at any level deeper than the casually visual requires a tolerance of deeply stupid and contrived character behaviors that would embarrass the summer camp teens in a grade-C splatter film.

And it didn’t have to be that way.

I wanted to love Prometheus, very, very much. The things that are wrong with Prometheus aren’t in its essentials, they’re in stuff that could have, at least for the most part, been fixed fairly trivially at any number of stages in the process of making the film.

In other words, stupid problems, not deep ones. It’s that wasted potential that infuriates me. With a $225MM worldwide box office so far [no cite yet, this was an commentor’s number], no one in Hollywood will see the lesson, because from their point of view, there’s no lesson to be seen. Movie got made, earned out its first week in release, boom done. Next!

Hollywood isn’t in the business of making good movies. They’re in the business of making successful movies. “Good” is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for “successful”, sad to say. Given its apparent box office take, Prometheus may well be the ultimate argument in favor of the Hollywood model, and the ultimate proof that script and story really don’t matter any more.

Combining that problem with the casual and shallow ruination of what could have been a truly great film is what irritates me so much.

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[movies] Prometheus

Last night, I went with Team E— to see Prometheusimdb ].


That was bad.

I don’t mean interesting or funny bad like “Eye of Argon” or Attack of the Killer Tomatoesimdb ]. I mean intellectually offensive and fatuously stupid bad. Like Star Wars Episode I [ imdb ] bad, except without the benefit of Lucas’ nuanced character development and sly, trenchant wit.

Prometheus made me want to ask if anyone involved in this movie had ever actually seen, you know, a movie. Or read a book. Or possibly even once spoken to someone who remembered having done so at some point in their lives. Or, you know, science. Plot logic. Character development.

Trust me on this one: slam your hand in the kitchen drawer. It will feel better in the end, and your trip to the E.R. will be more interesting and entertaining than this movie was.

The best comment I’ve seen on why the movie was so bad comes from the Web comic Hijinks Ensue. Other people also have a lot to say.

I’m pretty sure the slogan around the Prometheus production crew was “Millions for special effects, not one cent for story.” Which, admittedly, has been a big trend in movies these past few decades. But how could the people involved not know what an utter, steaming pile of dog crap they were making? Did anyone have control of this project? Prometheus was allegedly directed by some guy with the same name as the director of Bladerunnerimdb ]. Ridley Scott should sue that dude for defamation of character.

Either that, or the entire film was some gigantic post-modern joke that I missed completely. Basically, a $120 million episode of Candid Camera with America’s cinema audiences as the victims. (I’m actually kind of hoping for this interpretation to turn out to be true.)

I suppose my real reaction to this movie was to want to write an entirely new script to dub over the gorgeous filmmaking with a story that actually makes some sense. If you must watch it, do so with the sound turned off and invent your own dialog. Everyone in the theater will thank you.

What did you think of Prometheus?

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[movies] They’re gonna make a big star out of me (or maybe us)

As previously noted, Waterloo Productions is making a feature-length documentary about me, [info]the_child and the rest of our family on our journey through cancer, life and books. The working title is The Family Lake, and the project is slated for a release in late 2013.

Donnie Reynolds, writer, friend and the man behind Waterloo Productions, came up for JayCon XII. He arrived a day early and stayed for a week, commencing principal photography on the project. Donnie filmed at JayCon and at some of the related events, then in days following, he sat down with me and everyone in my extended family here in Portland for individual or small group interviews. This included [info]the_child, Mother of the Child, [info]lillypond (a/k/a my sister), the Niece, my dad and (step)mom, and [info]tillyjane (a/k/a my mom). He was also present for [info]tillyjane‘s trip to the Emergency Room, as well as few other less dramatic life events such as my daughter’s eighth grade graduation.

It was the interviews that were the toughest and most affecting. For me and [info]the_child especially so, I believe. Donnie set up a little studio in the basement of Nuevo Rancho Lake, which he called “the witness chair”.

Witness Chair (c) 2012 Donnie Reynolds and Waterloo Productions

We were each interviewed separately over the course of last week. (This is a documentary, after all, so I do not have review, approval or any control.) He went pretty deep with me, and as I understand things, he went pretty deep with my family members as well. Everyone but me was a little nervous up front, but thoughtful and excited after their interviews.

For my own part, this project is having two significant effects on me thus far. One, it is focusing me on my own narrative. That drives emotional and cognitive reflection for me. Two, Donnie is documenting me and my life in exhaustive detail — he estimates approximately 1,000 hours of footage will be shot to edit down to a roughly 105 minute final cut. This provides a record of me, and of the family, that [info]the_child will always have access to when this disease finally claims my life.

That is an unsurpassed gift he is giving all of us.

It’s very strange, being observed so closely. Strange and rewarding.

More about this as my thoughts develop further.

Photo © 2012 Donnie Reynolds and Waterloo Productions. All rights reserved, reproduced with permission.

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