Friday, February 27, 2009

Watching The Watchmen

So, went to see it in preview, at the IMAX theatre. I wasn't as impressed as I expected to be, even though I discounted ninety per cent of the hype. There were some very good moments - the opening montage and the murder of the Comedian (Snyder's trademark slo-mo-during-moments-of-violence used to good effect, for once), a sequence in Vietnam, the prison riot, Dr Manhattan on Mars, and his origin myth - and the revised ending was smart and worked better than the original. But while obsessive fans may be reassured by the reverence with which the source material was treated, I thought it made for a plodding, discursive film, with far too many scenes of people talking to each other in dialogue that sounded like, well, dialogue, rather than urgent, felt conversations. Several of the actors clearly needed direction they weren't getting - most notably Malin Akerman as Silk Spectre, and Matthew Goode, playing playing smartest-man-in-the-world Adrian Veidt as a refugee from a one-hit wonder synth band. Jeffrey Dean Morgan as the Comedian and Jackie Earl Haley as Rorschach were rather better, and Billy Cruddup's Dr Manhattan had a nicely wistful otherworldly vibe. Still, it's clear that Zack Synder is happier in the digital editing suite than working with actual actors. Despite the state-of-the art special effects (you really can film anything now), and a ton of reverential detail, there was no real feeling of excitement, just a string of set-pieces spaced by actors talking past each other and a pretty excruciating lovemaking scene. It's a faithful adaptation of a notoriously difficult-to-adapt graphic novel, but it makes for a so-so anti-superhero movie, rather than the great one we've been promised.

Heads Up

You can listen to readings of 'Little Lost Robot' and two other BSFA-nominated short stories on the excellent StarShipSofa site. Tip of the hat to Tony Smith.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Become a (virtual) Texas deputy:
"During the day watch for subjects on foot carrying large bags. During the night time hours watch for activity involving lights from the middle of the screen to the bottom."
People often ask writers where they get their ideas. Well...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tony M.

Saw a preview of a Chilean film, Tony Manero, last night. Directed by Pablo Larrain, it's set in Chile in 1978, when Pinochet's dictatorship was at its height. Raul Perlata (Alfredo Castro) is a middle-aged loner obsessed with Tony Manero, John Travolta's character in Saturday Night Fever. His only ambition is to imitate his idol and to win by starring in a cabaret in a seedy cantina, and win Tony Manero lookalike contest staged by a TV programme. The fact that's he's over fifty and looks more like Al Pacino than John Travolta doesn't enter his head; he's prepared to do anything, including murder, to make his dream come true.

Unrelenting closeups and handheld camerawork track Raul as he moves with singleminded purpose through a broken and poverty-striken city where curfews are enforced by the army and police summarily execute anyone suspected of attempting to protest or undermine the dictatorship. Although there's a degree of black comedy in his attempts to transform a miniscule rotting stage into a facsimile of the glittering disco where Tony Manero strutted his stuff, this is essentially a bleak, Dostoevskian moral tale. Raul kills without remorse, starting with an old woman whom he rescues after she's attacked on the street. He helps her back to her flat; she rewards him with tin of time-expired tuna and boasts about the colour TV she owns and her dead husband, a naval officer; he smashes her skull with the tin and afterwards shares the tuna with her cat, and then steals the TV and hocks it to buy the glass bricks he needs to imitate Saturday Night Fever's illuminated disco floor. It's shocking, and perfectly apt. He also kills a projectionist and a cinema owner because the cinema has replaced Saturday Night Fever with Grease, and the scrapyard owner who tries to cheat him on the precious glass bricks. Throughout, he shows no emotion but rage, barely connects with the little troupe rehearsing for his cabaret turn, and is impotent with his girlfriend. Other characters are equally unconnected from each other; the cabaret owner is interested only in profit; a mother betrays her daughter to the secret police out of jealousy.

Not so much a savage satire on the desperate hunger for fame, then, as an uncomfortable and powerful dissection of the amoral atomisation of society under a fascist dictatorship. I'm still thinking about it.

Monday, February 23, 2009

2009 Hugo Awards

Everyone seems to be at it, so, following the principle of Mutually Assured Destruction, and to be faithful to my recent vow of shamelessness, let me remind you that you have until March 1st to nominate stuff for the 2009 Hugo and Campbell Awards. Anyone who's a member of this year's WorldCon, or who attended last year's bash, Denvention 3, is eligible to vote. You can do it online, or by post.

I have several eligible works:
The Quiet War (novel)
'Prisoners of the Action' (novella, written with Kim Newman, published in The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy)
'City of the Dead' (novelette, published in Postscripts 15)
'Adventure' (short story, published in Fast Forward 2)
'A Brief Guide to Other Histories' (short story, published in Postscripts 15)
'The Thought War' (short story, published in Postscripts 15)
'Little Lost Robot' (short story, Interzone)

Good grief. No wonder I'm exhausted.

You can find all kinds of nomination worthy stuff on the Locus Recommended Reading List, or there's this list on the SF Awards site.

Currently reading: The Given Day, by Dennis Lehane.
Currently listening to: anything by The Golden Girls of the West that I can find (which isn't a lot).
Will see this week: Watchmen. In IMAX.

A Little Stick of Blackpool Reich

Here's something I've never seen featured in one of those Nazis-win-WW2 alternate histories. Although, of course, there's this counterfactual. Or is it?
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