This Week in Geek (13-19/06/16)

Buys

In the books department, got me A Midsummer Night #nofilter, and as for movies on DVD, Mr. Nobody, and a Richard Curtis romcom triptych, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, and Love Actually.

"Accomplishments"

At the movies: Love & Friendship adapts Jane Austen's Lady Susan, a shorter work that seems to be about a prototypical Austen heroine - full of wit and feminist pragmatism - but really turns out to be about an Austenian VILLAIN, or at least, anti-heroine. Lady Susan is a delightfully horrible person, a destitute widow navigating her way (and her daughter's way) around rich family relations and even richer husband fodder, a journey to stability that is probably too complex to fathom in one viewing (I've accepted that Lady Susan's plans were improvised and full of dead ends), but nevertheless amusing, with some outstandingly funny performances along the way. Director Whit Stillman even finds a way to juggle Austen's large cast, proving her stories can be made to clock in at the 1h30 mark without losing anything, keeping the pace up, and thus, the humor.

DVDs: Gamera, Godzilla's nearest competitor, starts her giant turtle life 11 years after GZ premiered, but in a similarly black-and-white film, lending it some gravitas and perhaps the illusion that, like Godzilla'54, it's about something (Hiroshima swapped out for the dangers of modern power production). But though they look like contemporaries when you file off the copyrights, the content shows Gamera to definitely be set in the Golden Age of kaiju movies, poaching such tropes as a the child empathic to the monster and a "one foot in the future" approach to its world. Derivative though it may be, the film does put in an effort to differentiate its protagonist from the King of Monsters. Gamera has Atlantean connections, is released from a glacier, is drawn to and consumes heat and energy, and can turn itself (I really want to say herself because turtle in French is a feminine word, but I don't actually know the monster's sex) into a flying saucer. But like Godzilla in his first outing, she's strictly a menace, at one point destroying buildings implicitly filled with people. Like GZ, she'll become Earth's guardian, but in Gamera the Giant Monster, that's only obvious to one very, very foolish kid. A lot of fun, nice period effects, plenty of destruction, what more do you want?

Netflix (it's also on YouTube): In the tradition of Manborg (but that can't ever replace Manborg in my heart), Kung Fury is a 30-minute tribute to high-concept action flicks, TV shows, cartoons and video games of the 80s, treated to look like a failing VHS tape. It's not a proper artifact of the 80s, but rather a crazy spoof that winks at EVERYTHING that fits the genre/period - riffs on Knight Rider and Street Fighter and Lethal Weapon and Back to the Future, plus killer robot arcade machines, time traveling kung fu Hitler, Thor and his gun-totting Valkyries, and a character called Triceracop. Anything goes in this this, and usually does. Don't look for a coherent universe; it's all sight gags, higher-than-high-octane action, and references to your childhood. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Books: Jonathan Franzen's Strong Motion, though published 9 years before The Corrections (an absolute favorite of mine) has the same troubled family dynamics, the same wry humor, and the same feeling that every sentence is a clever gem. In other words, I loved it. The story centers on characters dealing with a rash of unusual earthquakes in the Boston area, an over-arching metaphor for the shake-ups that occur in their own lived and following a similar pattern of inexplicability, shock, aftershock and settling into a new shape, with something of a similar journey for the reader when points of view jarringly (but by design) shift fairly late into the novel. When we find these characters, they are islands, unable or unwilling to connect with others, but strong (e)motion makes them crash together more than split apart, if only they can resolve their individual need to pay their karmic bills. A delight to read with its unusual points of view, its strong thematic resonances, and grin-inducing prose; I found myself daydreaming about reading it if I wasn't already.

4 comments:

Brendoon said...

Kung Fury: and don't forget to mention the original movie theme by the HOFF himself! I reckon the music vid needs to be watched in companion with the film, where Hasslehoff gets to play all the heroic parts himself!

jheaton said...

Love and Friendship's running time probably owes a lot to it being Austen's shortest (completed) work. I was tremendously impressed by how well Stillman managed to tease a conventional cinematic narrative out of the novella's epistolary format, and Sir James Martin is the funniest character I've seen this year.

Siskoid said...

Definitely! Hilarious!

Andrew Gilbertson said...

Gamera is... unique, I'll give it that. And as ending solutions go, this one certainly... 'has the virtue of never having been tried.' :-)

 

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