tiistai, 22. tammikuu 2019

Into the Spiderverse (2019)

Bless the pop entertainment industry. There to give focus to our vague fears in time of constant low-level stress, there to uplift and give hope in times when the world really seems to go to shit. Spider-man animation comes just at the right time to cheer up people to whom Trump's presidency is a never-ending cruel joke with concrete consequences. It encourages and aims to inspire and manages to feel genuine.

Weren't superhero movies described as having grown up, back when the trend was for gloom and extreme violence? I'd say the genre is truly growing up now, to balanced adulthood, with movies like Into the Spiderverse. All those grumpy, dark, angsty renditions of super heroes were a probably necessary teenage phase. But at the moment, for real-world reasons, mentally tormented lonely men on an aggressive revenge rampage don't offer the same pleasures on screen as they once did. (Though there is Venom and it was quite successful, what to make of that? I guess I should watch it to find out what it wants to say to the audience.)

Different realities existing side by side and then violently colliding – is it far-fetched to take this as a metaphor of what's going on in the US right now? Does feel quite familiar here as well. There are people who see human rights, gender, environment, our duties and obligations as human beings towards other human beings entirely differently from what I see, and people I hang out with. We pass each other daily, but hardly ever interact, we can live quite comfortably without being aware there's this other world just close by, where up is down and circles have corners. But we can't maintain this separation indefinitely, at times these worlds must intersect, and it's more often ugly and messy and uncomfortable and threatening, than opening great new horizons.

Into the Spiderverse takes this source of stress, through dream logic of superheroes and movies makes it into a coherent storyline and grants us a happy end, where all the worlds go back to where they were: happily separate, but with expanded knowledge and understanding. If only it was so in the real world! But the world needs soothing, encouraging and optimism, and I am thankful for Into the Spiderverse for providing that.

It also looks amazing!

tiistai, 8. tammikuu 2019

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch (2019)

Interactive TV entertainment, like in the future! I'm sure I've read about this as a kid in some book. Netflix's Black Mirror special episode Bandersnatch was really interesting as a technical experiment and worked great as a story and an evening's amusement.

What's it about? Free will, branching universe, computer game industry's apparently unsolvable crunch problems, and excellent 1980's zeitgeist (music, graphics, interiors, costumes, everything!). The sets are full of interesting details so that even as the viewer/participant ends up seeing the same clips several times, it does not get boring. The 10-second window for making the choice works really smoothly, the movie progresses quite naturally until the time to make the choice is over.

I hope they release statistics about which choices were the most/least popular. Kill/talk, meet the therapist/follow ultra-cool game guru etc. And how these choices compare with what people watch on Netflix. What I'd also like to know is, did Netflix make alternate, slightly different versions of Bandersnatch. Similar enough so that people think they have seen the same thing but with little differences of mood, cut, actors' expressions etc. So they can really test what drives wievers' decisions. There's so much data to be mined!

Prediction: In five years, premium tv streaming services allow the user to choose the lead actor/actress.

keskiviikko, 26. joulukuu 2018

Ready Player One (2018)

It's a bit unfair to write a disappointed review when there is no ground to be surprised that the film is crap. The book it was based on was crap, I read it before the film was made, and still I decided to watch the film... my own fault, really. Picking up a piece of shit, it's stupid to be mad at the shit for staining one's fingers. Oh well.
First, the good stuff: The film did have a few amazing special effect / CGI scenes, like the New York drive in the beginning. Imaginative, visually creative, impressive (shame to watch it on iPad screen). CGI characters carefully avoided the uncanny valley. Mercenary i-rok was a great character – the only one who actually had something resembling a personality. There was also something touching about the pop culture knowledge team employed by the evil corporation IOI. Probably the script writers find themselves in quite the same position.

All the other characters were as cardboard-y cliches as it is possible to create, or maybe, more charitably, mythical personages of our era. 100% evil and greedy suit certainly is a permanent resident of our cultural consciousness. A brave fighter girl. Japanese ninjasamurai guy – in the movie the tick-like honour-talk was removed, which was an improvement over the book. Good-natured giant with witty quips, and finally, the center around whom everything and everyone rotates: the nerd dude, to whose exact strengths the whole universe of the movie is built to respond to.
It's a wish fulfillment fantasy of the obsessive gamer guy, who has put ten thousand hours into mastering games of a certain genre, and to whom the entire culture and history of the Earth is meaningless except for those parts that constitute the gaming universe. He is undeniably a virtuoso in his field. If only it was of any use in the real world! Well, in this movie, it is! I understand, truly. Don't I wish someone made a movie where the knowledge about obscure romance writers or obsolete lace machines was the key to saving the world…

Other critics have already ripped apart the uncomfortable pattern of white dude savior surrounded by lesser POC/girl characters. They do all the hard and dirty work in the real world, while proagonist Wade is being heroic in the virtual world and receives the prize in the end.
There's the Hollywood issue with Japanese actors (not) playing Japanese characters. Myanmar-origin Win Morisaki playing Daito has a Japanese stage name, Japanese entertainment career and speaks Japanese, but come on people! Does he look Japanese? It's like having Antonio Banderas as a Finnish guy called Seppo Virtanen, since Seppo and Antonio are both Europeans. Unless the movie wanted to make a point about national identity not being tied to ethnic origins? But if it was that, it was too subtle among the rest of the movie, which as delicate as a jackhammer.

Other particularly irksome things include the most infuriating 'romantic' gesture ever. This title belongs to picking someone by their chin with one hand and swiveling their head. Unjustly shamed virgins in 19th century romances may have had their modest aimed-at-floor gazes tilted up by the older alpha lover, but even back then it was stretching the limits of human decency. I can't think of a more infantilizing gesture apart from patting someone on their head. With the distinction that it is possible to pat a little child on the head kindly and without harming the kid's dignity, whereas the head-swiweling gesture is appropriate only for horses. And that a guy who was just minutes ago rescued from a certain death by a henchman of a clever rebellion-leading girl has the nerve to do this to that very same girl..! Words fail me.

The whole movie is presented as a magic mirror where you can see yourself as the hero of the story, and I guess it works for the part of the audience which is precisely the same as the protagonist. For the rest of us, it would have worked better if it was more of a window type of film, where you can look into another life, maybe finding parallels with one's own situation, maybe not, but at least perhaps understanding a little bit more about a certain culture and people in certain situations. But what did I expect! I knew it was going to be like this and it was just as I guessed it would be.

sunnuntai, 16. joulukuu 2018


Roskajoukko ulvoi linnakkeen ulkopuolella ja pärryytteli taistelutraktoriaan - uhkaavan näköinen kapine, mutta katolle kiinnitettyyn tykkiin ei ollut enää ammuksia, ei missään eikä kenelläkään.

Linnakkeen väelle oli melkeinpä kunnia-asia, että heidän aarteensa koitettiin ryöstää. "Mustaa kultaa! Ja se on meidän!", linnakkeen pomo lietsoi alaisiaan. Vanhimmat nyökyttelivät. He muistivat vielä katastrofia edeltäneen yltäkylläisyyden maailman. Nuoremmat heiluttelivat liekinheittäjiensä suuttimia uhkaavasti. He halusivat päästä tappelemaan. Eipä tässä maailmassa juuri muitakaan huvituksia ollut. "Tuhotkaa ne!", pomo kannusti sotureitaan, kun he syöksyivät ulos portista.

Pomo ja vanhin neuvontantaja lukittautuivat aarrekammioon.

"Hitto kun tekisi mieli keittää kunnon sumpit", pomo sanoi ja katsoi kaihoten linnakkeen aarretta, maailman viimeisiä kahvipaketteja.

tiistai, 4. joulukuu 2018

Those Lovable People

Ninefox Gambit was super exciting and I devoured it in a few days. I bought the second book in the trilogy, Raven Stratagem, right away. But it has been a lot slower read. Of course it's impossible to repeat the pleasurable feeling of being dropped in a whole unknown new world at page one and slowly discovering how it works and why, with a second book set in the same universe. Even taking that into account something has been bugging me.

The characters are too relatable. Each and every one of them has lovable quirks and endearing traits. It's like the author has a tiny crush on all the people he has imagined into existence. I'm definitely not looking for black and white evil, but I somehow resist being dragged into adoring even the murderers and tyrants...

Talking with different authors, the way they relate to their own characters varies wildly. Some create them deliberately, crafting personality traits and worldview into a coherent whole. For some they appear before any hunch of a story and kind of sit in the author's brain, until they can be released into text. I just recently read a book, which was all about the characters, their psychology and thoughts, as if the reader was slithering inside their brains and eyeballs. It made me feel slightly but distinctly awkward, like even imaginary people deserve some margin of privacy.

For me, the characters appear where the plot forces intersect. The characters are shaped by the story and thus fit perfectly in the plot, downside being that they are not stand-alone personalities. None of them have so far returned to demand a sequel for their story. Coming up with names is a struggle, and I know how they look only if it's relevant to the story. Sometimes figuring out the gender is infuriating. TBH sometimes I'd be delighted to skip characters completely, but only in exceptional cases it's possible to write a compelling story without human(-passing) characters.