Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Gossip Girl S2 Ep16

Ah! It's back. Yummy goodness of a television show with promise!!

Okay, okay, so I can't say that the heartwarming Chuck-Lily scene really did much for me. And sure, I'm finding this exercise in how weird it is that Lily and Rufus are dating to be tired, tired, tired. But...

Well, let's just say the last few minutes of the show were delightful. Ms. Carr... ooh, she's fun. It's heavily implied that she's going to have an affair with Dan. Now, this isn't exactly breaking new ground for a teen tv show. (See Dawson's Creek and Life as We Know It.) But let's face it. Mary Kay Letourneau subplots are absolutely delicious. More, please! Hooray!

This will be even more fun if they don't make Dan and Serena break up. Dan should have an affair. It would be good for his boring boy image. Come on.

And...Ms. Carr versus Blair seems like a promising prospect as well. I can see it now. Just when Ms. Carr has finally beaten Blair to a bloody pulp, she discovers that Dan is screwing her. (Eee!) Blair will have to make a choice. Will she ruin Ms. Carr even if it means breaking Serena's heart? Oh, the agony. Please, please, please make this happen, oh Gossip Girl writers. Please!!!

I did NOT understand what the heck was going with Jack Bass trying to rape Lily. I mean, why would he do that. I thought he might kill her or something. That would have made sense from his perspective. And while Chuck sailing in to save the day was gallant and all... eh. This is not the stuff of television show magic.

I'm also a wee bit curious about the future of the show. I could have sworn they were setting everything up to have all the principals go to Yale in the fall. But now, with a splintered cast--Serena at Brown, Dan at Yale, Blair (probably) at Yale, Chuck running a company, Nate and Vanessa god-knows-where, and Jenny still in New York, it sounds like an unweildly way to enter a third season. If handled badly, it's a recipe for disaster that will run in the face of the premise of the show. (In the books, Cecily von Ziegesar started a new series with new characters once everyone went off to college. Please God, do not tell me that they will pull a Saved by the Bell: The New Class on Gossip Girl.)

We'll have to see if the show delivers the goods in the coming months. Who's excited? I am.



Thursday, January 15, 2009

Gossip Girl Se2 Ep15

Since the board of education has apparently lost its mind and decided to cancel school today (when the snow on the ground doesn't even cover the grass) I surprisingly and luckily have the day off. I'm working on the first draft of the sequel to Breathless, my YA romance-thriller. It's tentatively called Trembling. Anyway, I'm feeling a little like a break, having penned about 3500 words this morning. So...I thought I'd post a blog. I imagine this is a little like what it must be to be a real, published writer, since they're always posting blogs instead of writing, much to my chagrin.

For the topic of this blog, I'd like to discuss this week's episode of Gossip Girl. GG's one of my guilty pleasures, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. When it's good, it's Dangerous Liasons good, and when it's bad, it reminds me of the giddy excitement I used to feel watching the original 90210 television show. (Oh, I should warn you not to read this if you aren't caught up with GG, as I will be talking in detail about plot points.)

Soo...after the winter hiatus, I was slathering at the mouth for more of this show. The last few minutes of the show before Christmas were insane. When Rufus asked Lily, "Is it a boy or a girl?" my mouth dropped open. I was stunned.

But...now, things on the show seem to be falling apart a little bit. Okay, so Dan and Serena are freaked out that they share a sibling. Why? It's not like they're related or anything. Admittedly, I can see how it would be a little weird. But it doesn't seem to me like a good reason to break up. In all honesty, Dan is the most boring character anyway. I liked him last season, but I'm kind of over his whole nice boy act. I want Dan to do something bad. He's boring, for God's sake. On the other hand, so's Serena. Even considering her bad girl past, she doesn't seem to do anything remotely interesting anymore.

What I want is more crazy Jenny!! God, it was awesome when she was going to divorce her parents are become a fashion designer. Why did the show decide to resolve that story line so neatly? Jenny is boring now that she's back at school.

In fact, everyone's kind of boring right now. Chuck isn't going through his tortured bad boy with a soft side for Blair phase anymore. Or...maybe he is and always will be, but I have to admit that he's much more attractive when he doesn't look quite so coiffed. I want more Chuck with uncombed hair please. Jesus, last week when he was drunk on top of the building and his hair was all crazy in the wind... Oh my God. Sooo hot. And Blair was so sweet to him.

But. Blair's not sweet!!

It doesn't work for her. I was glad when she threw the flowers back into the elevator with Chuck. I ached for her. It was awful that she trust Chuck and he betrayed her, but I mean, come on, it's Chuck Bass. If she's going to love him, she's going to have to do by being herself, not by being sweet. And Blair is a bitch. Which I why I love her. More bitchy Blair, please!!!

Back to Serena and Dan. I'm not sure how this is going to play out. I think it's going to be weird if Lily and Rufus are together and Serena and Dan are together. Weird, sure. But is it going to be must-see-tv? Something, something, something needs to happen. Something big!

Generally, Gossip Girl does not let me down when I want these things, so I'm just going to keep watching.

*As a side note, I do want to point out that I have read some of the original novels that the tv series was based on, and sacreligiously, I like the tv show better!*

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Twilight movie

This post is going up a little late. After all, I saw this movie the day after it came out, which was way back in November. Lots has happened since then, but I wanted to revisit my feelings about the movie, especially since my life seems have taken a crazy swing in another direction after watching it. I can't say that Twilight is solely responsible, but I can't deny it had a part in all of it.

To start off, I guess I should say that I had read the Twilight series over the summer. I hadn't been particularly gung-ho about the prospect, because I'd asked one of my students (all of whom seemed to be toting around the book last year) what it was about and gotten an enthusiastic, "Omigod, it's so good. It's about a girl who falls in love with a vampire." I'd smiled tightly and said, "Sounds original."

I mean, come on. Had these people never read any vampire fiction in their entire lives? Actually, I guessed, they really hadn't. They were sixteen. I'd felt this way about Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Anyway, I read the books over the summer. And I hated them. Really. I did. I frequently commented to people, "I'm reading the worst book series ever. Nothing at all happens for hundreds of pages, except this chick makes dinner and makes eyes at some pretty guy. And I can't put the freaking thing down!" I knew there was something going on with Twilight. While I did think the books were lacking in the plot department, they sure as hell weren't boring. I read the first three in a week or two, only stopping to drink and treat my subsequent hangovers. (Well, what did you think high school teachers did with their summer vacations?) I couldn't stop. And I was deeply connected to the characters, firmly siding with Jacob against Edward (and knowing he'd never win in the end).

Flash forward a few months. My best friend says casually that she might like to read the Twilight series. "Sure," I say. "Take them." She took all four of the books. Later that week, when I spoke to her, I realized the series had worked its crazy magic on her as well. For some reason, however, Chelsea liked Edward. (As if! Jacob rocks!)

When the two of us went to see the movie together, we were both terribly, terribly excited. And we were both disappointed.

"That was cheesy," I commented.

Seriously. The only good thing about the movie was Robert Pattinson. I often spent large expanses of screen time staring at him and ignoring the dialogue. Which was...cheesy. And stupid. And melodramatic.

And oh-my-god taken verbatim from the book.

Really? I'd liked that book. Had it really been that bad? Why hadn't the movie worked?

I got to thinking about the structure of the novel. About its elements. Plain, normal girl. Impossibly beautiful boy. For some reason, he wants her. It was the shared fantasy of every teenage girl in the world. (And no matter how old we get, we never forget that fantasy.) Furthermore, it was about important things, like LIFE and DEATH. And honestly, isn't everything life and death in high school? (I think Buffy did this metaphor first, though.) I began to think, as I paged through the book and read portions of it to Chelsea. We were trying to pick apart the movie and understand why it had been so utterly bad.

I thought, "I could do this. I could do even better than this."

I made some excuses, left Chelsea's house, and went home. I started writing. Nine days later, I had the first draft of Breathless, the story of a normal, plain girl who finds out that she's actually something extraordinary. She's thrown into a situation where everything she trusts is taken away, and she's on the run in fear for her life. Oh, did I mention the yummy guy named Jason who's along for the ride?

I've been writing books (and finishing them) since I was twenty-three, five years ago. I've finished eight first drafts of novels. Nothing has ever felt like this. Breathless is something special. I don't know how I know it, but I do. And even as the rejection letters from agents roll in, I don't stop believing that.

So, anyway, thanks to the Twilight movie, I wrote a book that changed my life and changed what I thought I wanted to write and everything else.

For more info on Breathless, visit Jason and Azazel on myspace. Friend them!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Better Late than Never: The Mist

Liz and I have been planning to watch this movie together since sometime in October. Since I finally got around to visiting her, I thought I'd share my impressions.

Minor spoilers are contained within, however, this movie has been out a while, so I don't feel too bad. I promise not to reveal THE ENDING, arguably the only marginally interesting thing that happens in this movie.

Thematically, Stephen King got stale somewhere in the middle of The Tommyknockers. That may be the last interesting or new statement he made on anything. Thankfully, The Mist isn't another "technology is bad" story, but it does involve one of King's weakest premises (something that appears in almost all his work)--namely that there are VERY BAD things in the supernatural world, and that these things are bad precisely because they aren't from our world, and that (oh yes) they want to KILL US. Evil, in King's work, is always evil for evil's sake. Nevermind that there are no actual instances in reality of anyone actually being evil for no other reason than they're evil. King writes about VERY BAD things, which are bad because they're VERY BAD, and that's really all there is to it.

The Mist boils down to the idea that we've somehow accidentally opened the door to another dimension, and the VERY BAD things in that dimension are coming for us. What to do in a situation such as this? Hide out in a grocery store, obviously.

Said grocery store has a front wall made entirely of plate glass. Outside said grocery store are a host of creepy-crawly things (big bugs, massive spiders, tentacle-ly things, etc.) A bunch of noise is made at the beginning about how these things are going to break in and kill the people in the grocery store, but for the most part, nothing all that bad really happens. Sure, one night, a bunch of locusty-looky things get inside, but our heroes quickly dispatch them. Nothing else gets in again, even though the glass has already been SHATTERED in like five places. (However, a piece of plywood works wonders in situations like this. Duh.)

No, no. The real danger in this situation COMES FROM WITHIN. Yes, we humans, the nasty bunch of us, will resort to religious group-think when frightened, even in a relatively short period of time. All it takes is one crazy lady talking about the end of the world. Then it's just a hop, skip, and a jump to human sacrifice.

Before long, our heroes are faced with a quandary. VERY BAD things are outside, but inside there are also VERY BAD things: people. What to do in a situation like this?

Leave the grocery store, drive until you run out of gas, and then--

Oh, wait. I promised not to talk about the ending.

Well, let's say this. If The Mist had focused more on the ambiguity of power of God (even if he's speaking through a crazy person) versus rationality, it might have been really cool. As it is, it's a muddled film with kind of cheesy effects, with an interesting ending that feels, well, tacked on.

This is probably because it's not the ending of the original novella (which ended in much more ambiguous and vaguely hopeful manner). Also, it's not an earned ending. Its violence seems shocking, useless, and uncalled for. The last few moments are gut-wrenchingly ironic, but hollow somehow as well.

If post a blog about Hostel...

...will I be able to stop thinking about it?

I've avoided Eli Roth's 2005 grosser-than-gross movie Hostel for years, because I didn't think I'd like it that much. I cited movies like Wolf Creek and House of a Thousand Corpses, where gore is celebrated and victims are considered little more than incidental objects to be cut up, as examples of why I don't like these kinds of films. Horror, I argued, needs to be caught up in morality to truly be effective. Or, perhaps, to be excusable. Whatever the reason, I knew that even as a horror movie aficionado, I liked horror because I liked the idea of the hero triumphing over the monster--a storytelling trope as old as storytelling itself. Stories that celebrated the monster's triumph over the victim turned my stomach. From what I'd heard, Hostel did exactly that.

I decided to watch the movie today because I realized I'd been railing about it, but had never actually seen it, and I probably should give the flick a chance before I knocked it completely. Not expecting to be very impressed, I sat down in front of the screen with a stack of papers to grade, figuring I'd hide my nose in student journal responses if it got so gory I couldn't handle it.

Hostel was nothing like I expected. People who called it torture porn neglected to tell me that in a 95 minute film, there are 40 minutes of build up, where no violence of any kind is seen. Perhaps I'm desensitized, but I didn't find the torture scenes to be that bad. Sure, they were gross. They were visceral. They were icky. But...they didn't really bother me. Why? Because I didn't identify with the victims. Hostel is actually doing a far more sophisticated thing than I'd ever given it credit for.

No one told me that Hostel was actually a scathing indictment of American tourism, of American's ignorance of European culture, and of the American post-adolescent male obsession with and trivialization of sex. No one told me that the film plays on the idea of European hatred of America and on the Americans' own sense of self-importance and arrogance. In other words, I had no idea this film was actually saying something.

The three main characters of Hostel--twenty-somethings on a backpacking tour of Europe--spend the first 40 minutes of the film being the most hateful people imaginable. They're sexist. They're homophobic. They're arrogant. They are motivated entirely by the urge to fuck prostitutes and do drugs. They're vapid and stupid and horrid. When they start getting hacked up, part of you can't help but feel as if they deserve it.

Not that there's anything redeeming about the men doing the hacking up. The scenes in the movie that are the worst are when they actually speak. They're disconnect from the fact that what they're doing is utterly disturbing. No. It's not that they're disconnected. It's that they know what they're doing, and they don't seem to think it's in any way wrong. Not that that's unusual for a horror movie. There are tons and tons of movies featuring soulless killers who have no regrets. It's just that these guys aren't killers, and there's more than one of them. They're just regular rich guys, looking for a thrill.

Oddly enough, what the movie seems to do is nail to the wall the exact kind of behavior that critics claim it glorifies. It seems to be saying that we're a society of people who don't value human life--who look at people at something to be used for our own pleasure. The sick twist of the knife is the boys who are out trolling for prostitutes--women to be used as bodies, not humans to be interacted with, but living sex dolls--are used as kind of prostitutes themselves, their bodies sold to be used by others violently.

And all of this is really effing disturbing. But...at least it's...you know, got a point.

Where the movie really gets me though...where it veers off course and makes me feel really, really ooky, is the revenge scene at the very end. In the bathroom. I'd heard about this revenge scene. I'd been told it was very satisfying. I happen to be a fan of revenge flicks--Last House on the Left and I Spit on Your Grave come to mind. So...I wasn't expecting it to really bug me. After all, the premise of a revenge flick is that it gives the viewer permission to root for violence against someone who deserves it.

Well...in some ways, all of the violence in the film thus far had seemed deserved. But...I don't know why the scene upsets me so much. For one thing, I guess, it's bothersome that it takes place away from the torture sight, after the final guy has made his escape. It seems to me that the right thing to do in a situation like that is to send the bad guy to authorities, not cut off his fingers and slit his throat. He should report him. ? It's also just the fact that the kind of violence done in this film is so horrific that a victim of it shouldn't want to inflict it on anyone, not even the people who inflicted it on him.

In I Spit on Your Grave, the revenge is merciful compared to the impossibly long and vicious rape the main character has sustained. In Last House on the Left, the people taking revenge are parents. What person wouldn't go a little crazy on the people who brutally murdered your daughter for no fucking reason? Both acts of revenge condemned the original act.

In Hostel, for some reason, I get the impression that the revenge condoned the torture. It made it okay. It made it...seem like the proper response to the situation. But the situation was so fucked up that...more violence made it cheaper. Tawdry.



Understand. The tendon slash? No big. The eyeball snip? Awful, but I'm not gonna lose sleep. But the revenge? God. I still keep shivering whenever I think about it.

I'm posting this because I desperately want to talk to someone about this, but I don't seem to have people to talk about horror with anymore. Not in the kind of depth I'd like to discuss it. Maybe no one reads this, or if they try, they don't get this far, but it's easier to get it out, I guess. And if the movie made me feel these kinds of complicated, confusing feelings, I think it deserves to be categorized as something far less derivative than "torture porn."

The Lost Boys: The Tribe

So, I finally decided to torture myself by watching The Lost Boys straight to DVD release sequel: The Tribe. It was, as I expected, disappointing. The movie does little more than parody the original, and sometimes, not even in a tongue-in-cheek way. In a actually-we're-serious-we-
thought-we-could-do-the-exact-same-thing way. The plot is essentially the same as the first movie, with some fun gender twists. Older brother, younger sister. Younger sister starts to turn into a vampire. (Not older brother, like in the original. See, this is different.) No grandfather. Instead, an elderly aunt. No Kiefer Sutherland. Instead, Angus Sutherland, his half-brother, playing essentially the same role. (Actually, Angus is smoking hot. So what he can't act his way out of a paper bag? I could watch scenes of him on mute and be kind of happy). Furthermore, the older brother is so sincerely a Jason Patric lookalike.

The ending is anti-climatic and predictable. Sorry--no head vampire twist this time. Actually, that was another difference between this movie and the original. The mystery element--totally gone. Futhermore, the movie trades the anguish of burgeoning teenage sexuality as metaphor for monstrousness (one of the best things about the first film) for cheap, soft-core moments. Everyone in the movie seems to think that the first thing you do with someone you meet and find attractive is jump into bed with them after knowing them for five minutes.

There are a couple good things, in case you're a diehard Lost Boys fan and will watch this movie no matter what (like me.) So, fear not, it's not a total waste of your time. For one thing, Corey Feldman is awesome, reprising his Edgar Frog role. Honestly, you can hardly tell he's twenty years older, except for the fact he's a little taller and his voice is deeper. He's fun. There's a Tom Savini cameo, complete with some intestine-eating--totally played for laughs. There's an oiled, shirtless fat dude playing the saxophone on a street corner. And there are two moments in the film, where the parody rises above itself to almost become what I'd call a shot-for-shot homage that is so similar to the original, it's still visually stunning. (Actually, the look of the movie isn't half bad. It's no Schumaker film, but, well, what is?) Or maybe it's just that damned "Cry, Little Sister" song. Even a cover gives me chills. Great fucking song!!!

Argh. Why can't they let me write the scripts to these movies??