Book twenty-five of 2019: Gemini, by Mike W. Barr. ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 🖖 📚
Just one month to Norwescon 42!
(For me, at least, since I show up on Wednesday. Other staff members show up earlier, the con itself formally starts on Thursday. But for me, just four weeks to go!)
I watched all of Love Death + Robots on Saturday, and while much of the animation was impressive and parts of it were interesting, and I enjoyed a few of the episodes, as a whole, it was rather “meh”. They definitely weren’t kidding about the NSFW warnings, though: bloody, gory violence, language, and lots of nudity with a definite “male gaze” issue throughout many of the entries.
Speaking about the Netflix animated anthology series in a press release, Miller made it clear that viewers should expect mature content.
“I’m so f**king excited that the creative landscape has finally changed enough for adult-themed animation to become part of a larger cultural conversation,” he said.
While some of that excitement is justified – the vast majority of LDR looks great and many of its 18 short episodes are amusing, clever and shocking in the best possible way – gratuitous female nudity once again sticks the male and female characters on an entirely unbalanced playing field. Nudity on screen is fine – we’re all for it, in fact. But this is something different.
My personal rough rankings of the various pieces, from most to least enjoyable (if you’re cherry-picking episodes, for me, 1-8 are worth watching, 9-12 are not terribly objectionable, 13-18 are the most skippable):
- Three Robots: One of three entries adapted from short works by John Scalzi, all of which ended up in my top picks. Amusing story of three robots touring the ruins of Earth.
- Fish Night: I liked this one because it’s pretty and weird, though I’m not surprised to see it’s one of the lower-rated episodes on IMDB.
- Zima Blue: Neat animation style, and an interesting story with a fun ending.
- When the Yogurt Took Over: Hyper-intelligent yogurt saving humanity. Just silly.
- Helping Hand: When an EVA goes wrong, an astronaut has to figure out if she can save herself. Made me cringe, but because of what was happening, not because of how it was presented.
- Ice Age: Another short and silly entry. Remember to clean out your freezer!
- Alternate Histories: Goofball explorations of possible timelines prompted by killing Hitler in various ways.
- Good Hunting: I really liked the overall arc of the story of this one, though it’s also the first (in this ranking, not in presentation order) to use sexualized violence as part of the plot.
- Blind Spot: An average high-speed heist story, with a rather unsurprising final resolution.
- Suits: Farmers in mech suits defend their fields from an invading horde of aliens. Shrug.
- Lucky 13: I’m generally not big on military SF; most impressive for digitizing actress Samira Wiley so well that I actually recognized her character as the actress (and checked to see if it was really her, or if they’d just designed a character who strongly resembled her).
- Sucker of Souls: Archaeologists and mercenaries against vampires. With cats.
- Beyond the Aquila Rift: Not an entirely uninteresting story, but spent a little too much time on the sex scene (and sure, there was arguably a shock payoff for that at the end, but still…). It felt more like a “look what we can render/get away with” scene.
- The Dump: Relied too much on hick stereotypes and male-nudity-as-(unfunny) humor.
- The Secret War: WWI Russian soldiers battling an unstoppable enemy. Similar reaction as with Suits, only that one was was slightly more interesting due to the mechs.
- Shape-Shifters: Werewolves, lots of gore, and hoo-rah! militarism.
- The Witness: While the story itself wasn’t bad, and the animation style was neat, it ends up being primarily watching a terrified naked woman run away from a male pursuer.
- Sonnie’s Edge: Mentally controlling giant beasties to fight each other is rather cliché, but using off-screen gang rape as a motivating factor and more “look, they’re letting us animate naked women (at least until we kill them)!” scenes failed to impress me.
A collection I’ve wanted for a long time, and finally completed: All of Terry Gilliam’s films (except for The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, which isn’t out yet) are on my Plex server in HD. He’s just the sort of gloriously weird that works well for me.
It’s funny, though, thinking about it. I tend to think of myself as not being a big fan of dystopian fiction*, and yet that’s a large part of his work. But even in his darker films that don’t always end on happy notes, there’s often a definite line of optimism, hope, and the characters fighting against that dystopia — I think there’s a good argument to be made that there’s a hopepunk element to much of his work, which is why it resonates with me.
* I’m certainly less so now than I was in my youth when I first discovered Gilliam. Something about being aware of the dystopia we live in makes it a lot less escapist, doesn’t it? And, unfortunately, there’s definitely evidence that Gilliam doesn’t always recognize his own racial and sexual privilege, with his unfortunate comments about the #metoo movement and diversity in media programming, which could also partially explain his draw towards dystopian fiction: He can view it from what he perceives to be a “safe” distance, just as I did when I first discovered it. Meanwhile, there are lots of people (who, as I think about it, I really don’t think I can remember much representation of in his films) who are far more intimately, immediately familiar with the realities of living in dystopian worlds.
Huh. Well, that went astray from my original intention of “hey, I’ve got all the movies I can from one of my favorite directors!”
Celebrating π Day by eating a square piece of lasagne for dinner, soon to be followed by a shapeless mass of ice cream. But the ice cream is out of a round container, so that counts, right?
🖖 #StarTrekDiscovery S02E09 Goddammit, DSC. So much potential here, so many good moments, but also a lot of pieces that don’t make sense, and an ending that just annoyed me. Overall, uneven but mostly good until the end, which wasn’t truly earned and just came off as exasperating.
Torrey’s costumes are often some of my favorites at Norwescon, and it’s nice to see her featured in The Stranger!
Fond wishes on International Women’s Day to all the marvelous women in my life. Whether related by blood or by choice, whether near or far, whether AFAB or not, whether you feel like a woman every day or only some, and however you express yourself. I’m glad we know each other.