Mar 312016
  March 31, 2016

spiderpersonEugie would be amused today. We had a rule in our house: Don’t hurt the spider people. Yes, Eugie called them spider people. Our home was not only a no kill zone for spiders, it was a “don’t touch them and let them have their own home in our home” zone. (This was brought into question when we got Hobkin, as he did not live by the same rules and thought spiders were delicious.) Part of this came from both of our tendencies not to kill things just for the hell of it, but much of it dates to our old home.

You see Eugie hated millipedes and centipedes—which I shall call leggy worms from this point on. She was phobic of them. She’d scream like a little girl if one came upon her suddenly, and once being a little girl, she knew what that scream was like. One of my jobs in life was to keep them away from her. I took my job seriously.

Long ago now, unknown builders started a huge construction site near us, turning the farm land that surrounded our little subdivision into a lot more subdivision. When they did so, any animal that lived in that farm land raced through our subdivision, and sometimes, our home. It was the year of mice. But when they started, it was apparently the season of leggy worms, and millions upon millions of them swept over the neighborhood. A million is probably way too low. The streets were no longer grey, but had a solid red carpet of millipedes. If you drove, you killed hundred with each roll of your wheel. If you walked outside, you would leave pale shoe-shaped patches of death. There was no avoiding them.

And leggy worms can get into your house. And so they did. But we lived in a duplex, with everything but the garage and an, at that time, unfinished great room at ground level, so as the weekend of the leggy worm plague progressed, we saw none. That was till we went downstairs. The door to the garage was not so tight—enough of a gap for an army of the things to get in. Except they didn’t. A few spiders had set up shop. They had spun their webs along the bottom of that door, so any leggy worms that came through wiggled into a trap. And these were large and skilled spiders. Their web was less a piece of art and more industrial strength equipment. The leggy worms were big, but the web was stronger. The spider people didn’t catch one of two. They caught hundreds. The web looked like a leggy worm burrito—white silk on the outside around a thick tube of red. It was impressive. I can’t imagine what any of my neighbors without spiders must have experienced, but I’m guessing they had unpleasant nights.

Eugie looked at the burrito web, shuddered, and turned to me and said, “They [the spiders} get to stay.” They’d earned their keep. They didn’t get all of their prey (I wasn’t keeping that death tube in the house, and it was way more than they could eat in a year anyway), but they did OK. And our truce was made with the spider people. Well, until Hobkin.

So today as I walked about the house I saw a relatively large dark something by the front door, though hovering a bit off the floor. It seems a spider had set up there in the last day, and a leggy worm and slunk in. The spider won—or is in the midst of winning. I’ll wait a bit before intervening. The spider person has earned her prize so I can wait a day to neaten the field of battle. Perhaps I’ll play some song, something played by our accessories, or her accessories, after the great wars of olden days to commemorate what is and has been. A song to the spider people. We all need our myths.

Eugie’s ghost has been kept safe from the evil of the leggy worms by the vigilance of the spider people. Which is how it should be.

Mar 312016

Batman (Ben Affleck) is very grumpy because his life has sucked and Superman’s big fight in Man of Steel killed his friend. Superman (Henry Cavill suffering from depression) is grumpy because…he’s just an asshole. Lois (Amy Adams napping) is grumpy because director Zack Snyder told Adams to act that way. They all express their grumpiness while not saving people and having dreams until Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg on cocaine), who is too inconsistent to be anything, nudges Batman and Superman into fighting while he is secretly working on a Harry Potter cave troll. Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot thinking she’s in a real superhero film) and Alfred (Jeremy Irons pretending he is in a better film) desperately try to save this sinking ship, but they are far too little. Continue reading »

 Reviews, Superhero Tagged with:
Mar 272016
  March 27, 2016

0x0ss-85I’m a movie guy. I write reviews, run a film festival, speak on film panels, and have been a judge at numerous other fests. So the Dramatic Presentation Hugo categories are my thing. They shouldn’t be entirely, as far more is allowed than movies and TV episodes, but it is rare for anything else to show up. So OK, let’s deal with those two categories.

Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

The Short Form category… It is a mess. It is extremely annoying. Why? Because what should get nominated NEVER gets nominated. Never. It is a flaw of popular awards that they rely on what is popular, that is, what is easy to be seen by lots of people, and the best works do not necessarily fall into that group.

What should be on the ballot? What should everyone be nominating for Best Short Form Dramatic Presentation in 2016?

  • Replika (Directed by Luc Walpoth)
  • The Mill at Calder’s End (Directed by Kevin McTurk).
  • Dust (Directed by Michael Grier)

The first is a French cyberpunk story of a mother who’s android child is failing and who needs a replacement. It is beautiful, emotional, and intellectual, doing what Ex Machina could not. It is pretty much THE state of the art in cyberpunk/AI cinema. The second is a gothic ghost story with a feeling of Poe and Lovecraft, brought to the screen with puppets. Dust is a quest for a cure in a post-apocalyptic world. All three are brilliant. And you’ve seen none of them. They are the short films on the film festival circuit. That’s where good short films go. They are the best of the best. And the best is supposed to be on the Hugo ballot. But they won’t be. And that is a fundamental problem with the awards. I could nominated them, but what’s the point? How many other film festival attendees vote on the Hugos? It’s sad, but that’s the way of things.

So, within that sad restriction, what should make the ballot this year? I admit a strong desire to put Super Power Beat Down, Batman vs Darth Vader (Alternate Ending version) on the list both because it is quite good, and because it has a much better version of Batman and Superman than what Zack is doing—really, go watch it. But I’ll leave it as an alternate suggestion. As I will also leave the three short films above, just in case somehow someone wants to show them a little love. Instead, I’ll offer what you can, and have seen. And it one case, I’ll escape the video trap that most voters are in. I’ll also keep it at four as I plan to stick in one of those alternatives

  • Pseudopod 428: When It Ends, He Catches Her, written by Eugie Foster and preformed by Tina Connolly
  • Doctor Who: Heaven Sent
  • Doctor Who: The Husbands of River Song
  • Rick and Morty – “The Ricks Must Be Crazy”

The first I explained here, but basically it is a chance to give When It Ends, He Catches Her the nom it should have gotten last year, plus it is a really good presentation.

Then there is The Doctor. I doubt I’ll have to defend Heaven Sent. It was the deep and serious episode for the year, and I’ve already seen just about everyone suggesting it be nominated. It’s good that, for a change, the deep and serious episode deserves it. The Husbands of River Song, this year’s Xmas ep, is my favorite episode for the year, and in fact, for the past several years. It was painful for me to watch, as Eugie and I watched Doctor Who together and up to this point, I knew she wouldn’t have minded missing the eps all that much. But this one she would have loved, as did I. Not only was it fun and witty, but ended up having a far more profound point than any strictly serious episodes and programs have managed. I can’t express how important the concept that happily ever after exists, and is also framed by time is to me personally, and to everyone who thinks about it. It’s good to think about the fact that we did indeed live happily ever after.

Rick and Morty is a surprisingly good, and incredibly dark animated series. It had many brilliant moments over the season and multiple episodes came to my mind for nomination, including Auto Erotic Assimilation (about a Hive mind), Big Trouble In Little Sanchez (where the A story pales next to the incredible B story of marriage counseling destruction), and the tragic season finale, The Wedding Squanchers. But The Ricks Must Be Crazy tops them with great A & B stories. In the A, Rick and Morty are miniaturized and go into a battery, where Rick has created an entire civilization just to power his car. In the B, Summer is kept safe by car, that does the most horrific and heartbreaking things I’ve ever seen in a cartoon. The problem with Rick and Morty is that it will probably lose out from people going for different episodes. Besides the others I’ve mentioned, I’ve seen people recommending Total Rickall (dealing with mental parasites). All of them are good.

I expect episodes of The Flash and Supergirl to show up on some nominating ballots, and while those shows are fun, they just aren’t of the quality that should earn awards. Game of Thrones is likely to show up, but while I enjoyed it, no single episode really stands out. It would be better to nominate the entire season in Long Form, but to the best of my understanding, that is no longer possible (it has to do with the creator’s being able to say how a work should be treated).

Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

When I did my ranking of the best Science Fiction features of the year (and later modified it to be best Fantasy and Science Fiction), my number one ranked film was…nothing. I left it empty because nothing deserved the top spot. That would push me toward doing a No Award for the Hugo, but the Hugos are not equivalent to my rankings, and I can worry about final votes later. So, keeping in mind that nothing was quite as good as I’d have liked, and grading on a curve, what do we have.

  • The Martian
  • Predestination
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron
  • Ant-Man
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The Martian stands out as both being an enjoyable few hours of entertainment and relatively smart, only doing a few things which defy science. Everything else on this list should be called fantasy. The Martian is science fiction. The award needs one true SF nomination.

Predestination is a clever time travel film based on Heinlein’s All You Zombies. It only made it to limited release, but as it is based on Heinlein, and the Pups drool over him, so I think it is likely to get some votes. It also is pretty good.

Age of Ultron and Ant-Man are fun superhero films. Nothing more, nothing less. And I expect Star Wars to make the ballot, although it barely does for me. It was less written than constructed by corporate committee out of previous Star Wars films. Still, in a weak year, it earns its spot.

I expect some are thinking of Mad Max: Fury Road, and it would be my sixth choice, but think about this before nominating it. The Hugos are one of the two major F&SF literary awards. That is, they are about writing. And what about the writing in Mad Max? The entire plot is, let’s drive across a desert and then turn around and drive back. The dialog is sparse because the title character barely speaks. And the only activities in the movie are driving and fighting while driving. Sure the movie was fun to watch, but it is incredibly stupid (just think about how water functions, or look here) and the script is not its virtue. If there was a special effects Hugo, or a combat Hugo, then yes, but there isn’t.

The other likely choice I am skipping is Ex Machina. Films can succeed in many ways (Mad Max wasn’t smart or have much of a script, but in action and FX, it was a winner). Ex Machina doesn’t have a lot of ways. It doesn’t go for action, or fun, or wit. It is trying to be a smart movie. My problem is that it wasn’t very smart. If all you have going for you is being smart, then you can’t have silly things like the key cards, and no weapons when you keep a robot in the house that you know could kill you. You can’t have characters make one stupid decision after another just to keep the plot going.

After that you’d be looking at Jurassic World or Terminator Genisys or Tomorrowland and I don’t think we want a world where those get Hugo consideration.

I’m afraid I didn’t finish Jessica Jones. It was a bit too down for my mood and already too many stupid decisions were being made by the characters, but it had a lot of potential. So if you liked it, I suggest nominating it here as a whole instead of choosing a single episode to put in short form.

My five suggestions under Long Form are all ones I think should make the ballot, but personally I am more invested in the Short Form, and this year, that means Eugie’s story (I doubt you are shocked), and The Husbands of River Song, as its theme really spoke to me.

Mar 272016
  March 27, 2016

No, there haven’t been any new stories by Eugie published this year. I’m still waiting for word on her novel (there’s a lot of waiting involved with publishing), and I haven’t done much with her other few remaining works.

But, her short story, When It Ends, He Catches Her was released as a audio podcast in March 6th, 2015. That’s a dramatic reading, which is, a dramatic presentation. When It Ends, He Catches Her is a fabulous story and the dramatic presentation of it, the reading, is marvelous. If the story was my favorite in 2014, then it is not surprising that I find the reading to be the best Short Form Dramatic Presentation.

And this does fit under Dramatic Presentation. There is a podcast category, but it is for “fancasts,” which are an entirely different thing.

So, the story that would have been nominated for a Hugo if the Puppies hadn’t mucked up the whole thing actually has another shot at it. I don’t expect it to get nominated. People don’t think that way. People won’t consider it. But I will. I do.

So for my nominating ballot, right in that first slot for Dramatic Presentation, will be Pseudopod 428: When It Ends, He Catches Her, written by Eugie Foster and preformed by Tina Connolly.

Mar 262016
  March 26, 2016

marveltalesIf you are able to vote for the Hugos this year, then you both know about the Retro Hugos, and you know your time is running out. We’ve only days left to nominate in a lot of categories, and that’s tricky when besides 2016, we’ve got 1941 to deal with. So, if I can offer my humble assistance, here are my thoughts and recommendations for the Retro Hugos. I won’t be  talking about Semiprozine as I can’t even guess what counts in that category vs prozines vs fanzines. And also I’m skipping Related Work. I wish I wasn’t, so if anyone has some suggestions on Related Work, please let me know ASAP. Now, onward:


1941 Retro Hugos: The Fan Categories

Fan Writer:
Forrest J Ackerman
Ray Bradbury
H. P. Lovecraft
Donald A. Wollheim
Bob Tucker

Futuria Fantasia (Ray Bradbury)
Monsters of the Moon (Forrest J Ackerman)
Science Fiction Progress (John Michel, Donald A Wollheim)
Sci-Fic Variety (Bob Tucker)
Snide (Damon Knight)

The fan categories do not work well in the Retro format, and I have left out Fan Artist and Fancast, and bet that almost everyone will do the same. Fan activates are of a time, and without context, they mean little. The zines mean even less because so few have survived. Fan writing is important for what it does to the fans that year, and it is hard to guess now. Even in 1941 is was uncertain as there was an attempt to index all the fanzines and it failed. Add in that they changed names from month to month, or the same person would do several, and you have a mess. The best we can do, if we really want to do anything, is give a nod to those where the people later became major movers and shakers in the fan community (like Ackerman and Tucker) or became important writers or editors (like Bradbury, Kuttner, Wollheim, and Knight). If any Fanzine stands out, it is Bradbury’s Futuria Fantasia which published short-shorts and flash from himself, Heinlein, and several other soon to be important authors.


1941 Retro Hugos: Professional Artist

J.W. Scott
Hubert Rogers
Virgil Finlay
Margaret Brundage
Ed Cartier

Going through cover art from the ‘40s, the works seem to only thrill me for a moment, and greater inspection leaves me cold. Even some of the “biggest names,” now largely forgotten, seem to have been just churning out simple quick pics. Still, a few stand out. I am taken by Scott’s work on Future Fiction and Marvel Tales (see the pic above). Roger’s work for Astounding is a notch above the rest as well. The rest are simply a bit better than the average. Brundage, one of the few women artists working in F&SF and frequent pinup painter, is my favorite artist of the five I’m recommending, but 1940 does not seem to be a great year for her.


1941 Retro Hugos: Editor, Short Form

Frederik Pohl
Raymond A. Palmer
Dorothy McIlwraith
John W. Campbell, Jr.
Mort Weisinger or Malcolm Reiss.

A pre-DC Comics Weisinger (Captain Future, Startling Stories, Thrilling Wonder Stories) or Reiss (Planet Stories) are both solid choices for the final slot, with Palmer (Amazing Stories) and McIlwraith (Weird Tales) pretty much requiring their two places. But lets face it, this is a two man race, with one of them given a huge head start. Pohl would be my top choice, as Campbell has had a mixed effect on the field (see my comments under Short Story below). But both are important and are the obvious choices. Every nominating ballot should contain Pohl and Campbell.

A few of the editors others’ have suggested are unknown to me. I have no idea who Mary Gnaedinger, F. Orlin Tremaine, or Martin Goodman are, which makes me think their legacy is not equal to that of the others and I’m afraid this is mainly about legacy.

Note: Farnsworth Wright is not eligible, having turned over Weird Tales to McIlwraith in ’39.


1941 Retro Hugos: Editor, Long Form

I’ve no clue. Zilch. Got an idea? Let me know.


1941 Retro Hugos: Dramatic Presentation

Long Form:
The Thief of Bagdad
Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe
2 blanks

Short Form:
Night on Bald Mountain
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
Pinocchio (88 min)
The Invisible Man Returns (81 min)
The Ghost Breakers (85 min)

I’ve explain this already here. Keep these in mind as people are suggesting films under 90 minutes for Long Form, and that’s not how the categories work.


1941 Retro Hugos: Best Graphic Story

Captain America Comics #1 (Joe Simon, Jack Kirby)
Batman #1 (Bill Finger, Bob Kane, Sheldon Moldoff, Jerry Robinson)
Introducing Captain Marvel! (Bill Parker, C.C. Beck)
The Spectre! (Jerry Siegel, Bernard Baily)
The Origin of the Spirit (Will Eisner, Joe Kubert)

Others to consider:
Buck Rogers: Forgotten Earth Colony
Flash Gordon: Ice Kingdom of Mongo
Flash Comics #1
Doc Savage Comics #1

With my suggestions in the artistic/literary categories, I’m saying what I think after reading/examining the works. But not here. In this case, I’m not going with my artistic feelings, but the level of importance the comics have, and the opinions of others. But those in the know seem to have general agreement: either it is the five above, or you go with comic strips that appeared in newspapers, specifically Buck Rogers: Forgotten Earth Colony and Flash Gordon: Ice Kingdom of Mongo. History says Captain America and Batman, and so shall I.

In any case, Captain America Comics #1 really needs to be up there, if just for the cover. It’s the one with Cap punching Hitler which was both important at the time and iconic now. Batman #1 is Batman’s first solo comic, and also introduces the Joker. So, yeah, history demands it be on the list.

The Spectre!, Introducing Captain Marvel! (that’s Shazam), and The Origin of the Spirit don’t have the same clout, but all are major comics. I suspect if one of these doesn’t thrill you, tossing in Flash Comics #1 or Doc Savage Comics #1 would be the move to make, but with Cap and the Bat keeping their places on the nominating list.


1941 Retro Hugos: Best Short Story

Strange Playfellow aka Robbie (Isaac Asimov)
Beauty and the Beast (Henry Kuttner)
The Song of the Slaves (Manly Wade Wellman)
Revolt of the Ants (Milton Kaletsky)
Quietus (Ross Rocklynne)

Others to consider:
Homo Sol (Isaac Asimov)
The Pipes of Pan (Lester del Rey)
Threshold (Henry Kuttner)
The Uncanny Power of Edwin Cobalt (Henry Kuttner)
Clerical Error (Clifford D. Simak)
The Sea Thing (A. E. van Vogt)
When It Was Moonlight (Manly Wade Wellman)

Robbie is the closest to a sure thing there is. It is the first of Asimov’s robot stories. I can’t say I’m a big fan, but it is reasonably good and historically important. While I very much doubt I will vote for it on the final ballot, I think it does deserve a place on that ballot. Asimov’s Homo Sol is also worth considering, but is somewhat lesser in quality, and much lesser in importance. It also has some questionable racial elements, brought in not by Asimov’s choosing, but by his editor, Campbell (and brings up why Campbell is not the guy to win Best editor). After this, Asimov kept stories with aliens, that could be used as metaphors, away from Campbell. So if you are going with one Asimov tale, it should be Robbie.

I could fill my whole list with Kuttner. My favorite three short stories for the year are all his, but that might be too much for anyone but me. While Threshold (a man attempting to outsmart a demon) and The Uncanny Power of Edwin Cobalt (a man’s doubt makes things vanish from the universe) are both quite good, Beauty and the Beast is the best. It’s a Daikaiju (giant monster story), from the monster’s point of view. It also has enough elements in common with the Ray Harryhausen film, 20 Million Miles to Earth, that I am certain the filmmakers did a bit or “borrowing.”

Manly Wade Wellman has two horror-tinged fantasy stories up for the awards, one with vampires and one with zombies. The zombie piece, The Song of the Slaves, has a deeper theme while giving us a satisfying Twilight Zone-type story. A slave holder decides it would be fun to catch the slaves himself, but is none to happy when they begin singing about his death.

Revolt of the Ants is a satire, something all too rare in F&SF. It has aged well and fits with today’s society as well as it did with 1940s. And it was one I hadn’t read before, so a point to the Retro Hugos for introducing it to me.

Quietus reminds me of Kuttner, del Rey, and Van Vogt as it questions our prejudices and preconcieved notions. Alien birds pass by a mainly destroyed Earth in search of intelligent life and make a large mistake.

I suspect Simak’s Clerical Error would be on my list as I recall liking it a great deal, but it has been twenty-five years since I read it and the details escape me. My copy seems to also have escaped me.

What I haven’t listed, but will certainly rear up, are the stories of Heinlein. He has multiple (Requiem, Let There Be Light, Successful Operation), and people will tend to vote for them simply because he’s Heinlein. Luckily, they aren’t bad stories. But they also aren’t great.

Of note, Ray Bradbury self published a pair of stories in his fanzine. That’s enough to get the fanzine on my list, but these pre-professional Bradbury stories feel like what they are—a talented beginner’s work.

If you haven’t read these (and those that follow), some are available online with a quick Google search (like Manly Wade Wellman’s) and some can be found in free ebooks linked to over at File770.


1941 Retro Hugos: Best Novelette

It! (Theodore Sturgeon)
The Hardwood Pile (L. Sprague de Camp)
All is Illusion (Henry Kuttner & C. L. Moore)
Vault of the Beast (A E Van Vogt)
Into the Darkness (Ross Rocklynne)

Others to consider:
The Smallest God (Lester del Rey)
The Roads Must Roll (Robert A. Heinlein)
The Elixir of Invisibility (Henry Kuttner)
Fruit of Knowledge (C. L. Moore)

* About half the people I’ve checked are putting Farewell to the Master as a novelette, but my count puts it as a novella. It certainly should be on your nominating ballot somewhere.

This is a hard category because there are so many great authors who published in 1940, and because many of the stories have been largely forgotten. There’s Theodore Sturgeon, L. Sprague de Camp, Jack Williamson, A. E. van Vogt, Clifford D. Simak, Robert A. Heinlein, Alfred Bester, Isaac Asimov, Clark Ashton Smith, C. L. Moore, August W. Derleth, and Lester del Rey. What eases it a bit is that some of it is pointless. With a lot of searching I might be able to find all of the del Ray and Simak stories, but it doesn’t seem like many people are trying. I’m seeing the same few stories mentioned by reviewers, usually involving the name “Heinlein.” I’ve read many, and tried to prep for this, but I know I’ve missed a bunch. So I’ve gone with great stories that also are ones others have likely seen.

Of those, It! is the big one. It is a highly influential horror story, and I suspect the only real competition for final votes for Heinlein’s The Roads Must Roll (which doesn’t quite make my list, but will be getting a political boost from the Sad Puppies). Besides It!, I really like The Hardwood Pile, which I first read many years ago. I’m fond of all of de Camp’s work, and this one is particularly amusing. And if the Retro Hugos are good for anything, it is giving me a chance to nominate Henry Kuttner. I am amazed at how many have forgotten him. He was one of the greats, and if I wanted to give multiple nominees to an individual (which I’d rather avoid), I’d also list The Elixir of Invisibility. But All is Illusion is the one to go with. It’s a touch better, no doubt due to his collaboration with C. L. Moore, another one of the greats. Also, if you are noticing the lack of women on this list—you should be, as their just weren’t many in the genre in 1941. But there was Catherine Lucille Moore, and she deserves a lot more recognition than she has received.

Vault of the Beast screams Van Vogt, which I take as a good thing. It could have been horror as easily as SF. It is sharp and a fun read. It seems to be a choice for anyone who has read it and I think the only reason it won’t make the ballot is that not enough people have.

Ross Rocklynne has almost entirely been forgotten, yet this is the second time I’ve put him on my list (he’s up under short story). Into the Darkness is a philosophical piece, and way ahead of its time. If you are tired of the pulp, here is a work of the 1940s that takes a deeper approach.

Besides my choices, and my stated “others to consider” I expect to have a few people vote for Asimov’s Half-Breed stories because they are available and he’s Asimov, but they are lesser Asimov which even Asimov acknowledged. Another often mentioned contender is The Voyage That Lasted 600 Years by Don Wilcox as it’s the first generation ship story. But while it is reasonably entertaining, the lack of vision is astounding. It has a simplistic American world with no eye to the future, which is something SF needs.


1941 Retro Hugos: Best Novella

The Mathematics of Magic (L. Sprague de Camp & Fletcher Pratt)
The Roaring Trumpet (L. Sprague de Camp & Fletcher Pratt)
Farewell to the Master (Harry Bates)
Some Williamson or Heinlein

Yes, I have two by de Camp and Pratt, but I love them both. They were later joined to become the novel The Incomplete Enchanter, and later still, another story was added to make it The Complete Enchanter. Anyway you read them, they are delightful, humorous, action fantasy and a must read. Either of the two would make a fine eventual winner. Farewell to the Master is another bit of history that demands to be on the ballot. An excellent story, it is also the source material for The Day the Earth Stood Still (bet you didn’t know it had a source).

After my top three, it is harder to find anything that really should get an award. Most of the rest of the novellas I’ve found have been pure pulp (and I don’t say that as a positive). There is a Lovecraft work (which might be a novelette), but I doubt even Lovecraft enthusiasts will be pushing for it. So that leaves the Williamson (Darker Than You Think, The Sun Maker) or Heinlein stories (Blow Ups happen, Coventry, The Devil Makes the Law, If This Goes On…). They aren’t bad, and wouldn’t be an embarrassment, except for the politics behind promoting Heinlein, but I’ll be sticking with three nominees. The Devil Makes the Law (later re-titled Magic, Inc) is probably my favorite of the six, though I haven’t read a few of these for many years. I expect Heinlein to end up winning this in the final vote, as a kind of life time achievement award—either for The Devil Makes Law or Blow Ups Happen. The Pup vote will edge it that way. In fact, with their political focus, I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up with four Heinlein stories. In that scenario, I imagine the lesser known Farewell to the Master being kept off the ballot, which would be a real shame.

Just as the Sad Puppies rigged the game last year and are still messing things up, we shouldn’t be surprised if the Scientologists get back into the game this year. They did it before (they are the proof of concept for the cheating that the Pups have adopted). Their founder, L. Ron Hubbard, has an eligible, and not poorly received story, The Indigestible Triton.


1941 Retro Hugos: Best Novel

Slan (A. E. van Vogt)
The Ill-Made Knight (T. H. White)
A Million Years to Conquer (Henry Kuttner)

The two biggies here are Slan (A. E. van Vogt) and The Ill-Made Knight (T. H. White). These two need to make the ballot, and I suspect they will. Frankly, the entire exercise loses all legitimacy without these two. After those two, it gets a little harder to choose. 1940 does not seem to have been a year that published a lot of books that I, or most F&SF readers, have kept on the shelf. Well over half of the books I’ve seen listed I’ve never heard of. Even many of the authors have slipped into obscurity. But some authors are very well know, though from either earlier or later books. E. E. Smith, Manly Wade Wellman, L. Frank Baum, Jack Williamson, Edmond Hamilton, L. Ron Hubbard, H. G. Wells, and Edgar Rice Burroughs are all names I expect genre readers to know, but not for these books. Even when you know of the books, that isn’t necessarily a positive. Smith’s Gray Lensman is part of his Lensman series which is still well known, but most people agree this is not one of the better entries. Burroughs has a Mars book, but not the one you are likely to pick up if you want to dig into his Martian saga. Even Baum’s co-written Oz book gets little love. I wish I could be a bit more helpful, but three is all I can find that are award-worthy. I do like Kuttner’s A Million Year’s to Conquer (re-titled The Creature from Beyond Infinity for a ‘60s re-release). It is far from one of Kuttner’s best works, but Kuttner’s weaker efforts are equal to most writer’s best works. Kuttner is one of the masters of SF, and in his prime he’d have blown everyone else away. As is, this isn’t my top vote for the year, but it is worth nominating. I hope I am not stepping into the “life time achievement” arena that I think will be behind multiple of the final nominees this year.

As with the previous category (and short story, though I think it is less likely in that cagegory), there is the chance of Scientologists trying to play the system since L. Ron Hubbard has three works that could be nominated (Final Blackout, Fear, Typewriter in the Sky). I have not read the Hubbard works, and there is some disagreement on their exact length, so some might count as novellas.

Note: Robert A. Heinlein’s If this Goes On is not eligible. It is too short, even though the Pups are slating it in this category. It was later enlarged into a re-titled novel, but that was a decade in the future.

And that’s it. If you have any thoughts, let me know, and the quicker the better.

Mar 242016
  March 24, 2016

For anyone not involved, the Retro Hugos are part of the Hugo Awards. Any particular Worldcon is allowed to present awards for years before the Hugos existed, provided they are exactly 50, 75, or 100 years in the past. So this year the Hugos will be giving out awards for 1941 (for works published in 1940).

Today I’m going to talk about about Dramatic Presentation, mainly because everyone seems to be getting it wrong. There are two categories: Long Form and Short Form, which are split at 90 mins. This is a poor choice of length. I’m not aware of anyone who uses 90 mins as a cut off. I run a short film festival and we sure don’t. We use 45 minutes. The most common divisions I see between feature and short is 60 min, 50 min, 45 min, or 40 min. In recent years, this hasn’t had a huge effect on nominations as most features are over 90 and most TV shows are under. But in 1940, it was different. Many features were less than 90 minutes and there were no TV shows worth speaking of. Almost all of the suggestions I’ve seen for Long Form have included multiple films that don’t qualify. So let’s see what does:

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

1940 was not a big time for horror, science fiction, or fantasy film (I doubt if there are more than 20 that fit the requirements, and perhaps many less (I haven’t checked every film’s length). And outside of film, I can find nothing except serials. Some have suggested film or radio serials for the Short Form category, but that would be like plucking twenty minutes out of the middle of any random feature and calling that a short film. No, the serials go here. The problem is, they aren’t very good.

The top serials are The Mysterious Doctor Satan (easy to find online) and Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe. I find neither of these worthy of an award, though I suspect Flash Gordon will make it onto the ballot, and for history, I suspect that’s not a terrible thing. I watched it as a kid, and didn’t hate it.

In film, I’ve only two to suggest.

First, The Thief of Bagdad. It certainly has the name. And it is fun. But it really isn’t very good. It’s fine as a matinee, at home with the kids, but it just isn’t award worthy. Still, it is not an embarrassing nominee and is an important film.

Second, there is the one gem: Fantasia. It needs to run away with this category. It is a masterpiece.

So, that gives me as my nominees for Best Presentation, Long Form:

1- Fantasia
2- The Thief of Bagdad
3- Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe
4 & 5 – blanks

And no, the numbers don’t matter.


Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

Everyone is saying they can’t find any, but this is where all the films are. With 90 minutes as the breaking point, almost every SF/F&H film ends up here. My top choices:

Pinocchio (88 min)
The Ghost Breakers (85 min)
The Invisible Man Returns (81 min)
The Invisible Woman (72 min)
Dr. Cyclops (75 min)
Mr. Bug Goes to Town (74 min)

There are more choices than in Long Form, but most of the films are not ones that I’d be a cheerleader for their nomination. They are so-so, but not classics. Surprisingly, my favorite is The Invisible Man Returns. It isn’t great, as so many of the earlier Universal horror films (or like the one that would come out the next year) were, but it is quite good. And a young Vincent Price alone is worth getting this on the ballot. Pinocchio is my next choice, though it works mainly due to a good song. For the others, The Ghost Breakers has some iconic moments (and one of cinema’s great scenes), but it falls apart into bad Scooby Doo land at the end, and the racism is hard to take. The Invisible Woman is sometimes funny. Mr. Bug is fun for kids. And Dr. Cyclops is technically a movie.

OK, so we have choices, but not great, award winning choices. Anything better? Well, not much. There are the radio shows to consider. I skipped considering The Green Hornet (the eps I listened to didn’t seem to be SF—just action). The only show that rises up is The Shadow, however, none of the specific episodes from 1940 are particularly good—not even good enough to kick The Invisible Woman off the list. It is handy that they are easy to find online.

That leaves cartoons. There are a few out there (such as Ghost Wanted) which just don’t have much zing. The one exception is You Ought to Be in Pictures (9 min), which has Daffy Duck messing up Porky’s career by having him resign from cartoons to go into live action films. I suppose it counts as fantasy.

So, is there nothing great? Actually, there is, and it makes things complicated. Fantasia is a single entity, and should be nominated as such, but its parts do stand alone (that’s how I originally saw most of them, on The Wonderful World of Disney—IN COLOR!) Almost every section fits as fantasy, and they are wonderful. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Night on Bald Mountain are both magnificent. Those are the two best Short Form presentations for the year. What I’m not sure about is how the committee will feel about that. If a single story is nominated in two categories, they move it to the correct one (or the one where it more people put it, if there is no “correct”), but how would they treat parts of a nominee being nominated in a different category? It has never happened before. Well, it seems like a good time to find out, as I’ll be going with:

Best Presentation, Short Form

1 – Night on Bald Mountain
2 – The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
3 – The Invisible Man Returns
4 – You Ought to Be in Pictures 
5 – Pinocchio

The Hugo committee could mess it all up, by accepting things that are the wrong length in the wrong category, though I hope not. That would just make it confusing.

Mar 112016
  March 11, 2016

A few classic films have escaped me. One was Now, Voyager. I’ve seen bits before, but now finally I’ve seen it all. And my God what absolute crap—a painfully awful film. It is THE weepy—the Women’s Pictures of its day, which is a bit different than the now-called Chick Flicks. Like other weepies, the relationship is doomed from the start, because nothing says romance like gloom. It was another way that Eugie was spectacular in that she was as contemptuous of that as I am. Romance means getting your happily ever after, even if “ever after” is a short time indeed. She was annoyed at the repeated takes on Arthurian legend which to her was the opposite of romance. It’s important to share a vision of romance.

But Now, Voyager has far more wrong than that. The “inner monologue” that pops up only occationally when the script writters couldn’t figure out how to show feelings or thoughts is enough to ruin anything that might have been good, as if anything might have been good. If Bette Davis (playing the ugly girl because she wears glasses and does her hair poorly) had just stabbed her mother to death in the first scene, then maybe we’d have something.

As for the ending, well, it is really messed up. I think I am safe in saying the weird child-share plan it ends up with will fuel years of therapy. We do learn that a woman who is unattractive is not worth much, but as long as she can show real mothering skills, then she can overcome being ugly. Ugly, motherless women are worthless. So remember, if you are ugly (and considering both Davis at the beginning, and the cute “twelve-year-old” are considered ugly, it is a pretty common condition), then steal a child. It is your one chance.

Mar 102016
  March 10, 2016

Ah, the Bond title sequence. It is as iconic as Bond himself, or at least has been since the playbook was completed with Thunderball: Beautiful female silhouettes undulating about with weapons pointed at them or in their hands against surreal backdrops. Good ones can set the film up. Bad ones pull the audience down.

I’m looking at three factors. First, the song, and I’m giving more points to the music than to any other factor. A good song can do wonders. Unfortunately, Bond has surprisingly few of those. Bond was a rat pack guy. Remember Connery’s Bond mentioning how terrible The Beatles are? No doubt they thought rock-n-roll was a phase and that joke wouldn’t date the movie at all. They had a good grasp on the music while they were thinking Las Vegas, but once they left that, they’ve rarely been comfortable. I can’t help but think age was a factor. It’s the number of “adult contemporary” songs we get, which is a place Bond should never approach. When they try to be more “with it,” it gets worse, going with the worst excesses of techno, autotunning, and indie hipster rock. Still, sometimes they did it right and a few times it was fantastic. I’d just expected more winners from 26 films. (For comparison, I’ve ranked just the songs separately here.)

Then there is the visuals. A majority of the title sequences were created by Maurice Binder, and those made after his death have followed his style. Binder saw himself as an artist, and he was. Billy Wilder declared that his titles were better than the films. Binder was going for a theme, one of beauty and danger, but more, of perfection. This brought him to the female form, which he managed to display with a great deal more nudity than you’d expect in PG-rated films. He was famous for being able to talk girls who assumed they’d be in bodysuits into performing naked. The most well known story of his Bond work was when producer Cubby Broccoli found Binder on his knees rubbing a naked dancer between her legs. Broccoli was taken aback, but the business-like Binder explained that her pubic hair was showing up in the silhouettes and he was applying Vaseline to keep it flat. The dancer had said that he should do it instead of herself so that it would be right and she didn’t want to shave.

Binder’s work was original. He made mini-movies. He cannot be blamed if the music he was given was not always fitting. His Bond flaw was repetition. His first titles were so original, but once he got it right, he stuck with the formula, over and over again.

Finally, I’m looking at how well the title sequence fits with the movie. Does it carry through a theme? Does it build to the proper level of excitement, or does it drag the audience down or indicate an entirely different type of movie?

A few notes on my general reviewing of these, and most anything else, so you can see where I am coming from—a few things on my good and bad lists. I dislike clip shows of any form. They show both a lack of artistry and originality. And if the clips are for what we are about to see, it is horrible. By the way, originally is good. Dull colors and a limited pallet are normally bad. Sensuality is good. And finally, musically, for the most part I dislike country, disco, techno, synthpop, adult contemporary, cheesy hip indie, most power ballads, Muzak, and Laurence Welk. Unfortunately, only one of those is not pertinent.

So, to begin at the worst:


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Mar 092016
four reels

Gloria (Ann Hathaway) is a mess. She’s a jobless, lying, alcoholic. She tries to be good, but she doesn’t try very hard and is weak. She’d be self-centered if she put in the effort. Yet she’s likable, as long as you don’t have to rely on her or trust her. Her longterm boyfriend does need to do those things, so has had enough, and kicks her out. With nowhere else to go, she returns to her hometown. There she runs into her childhood friend Oscar (Jason Sudeikis) and several others who appear to have their acts together, but are really as messed up as she is. Around the same time, a giant monster appears in Korea, destroying buildings and killing hundreds. Gloria soon figures out that the monster is somehow connected to her.

This was unexpected. Sure, the setup is pretty good but I’d figured they’d just roll with that, sliding into a typical indie drama and be done with it: You know, Gloria has to struggle to get her life on track, stumbling a few times along the way until she works it out and the monster fades away. Nah. Colossal has no interest in being what anyone expected. Yes, this is indie art house meets geek, but if that sounds like something dull, think again. I can’t help comparing it to this year’s other mashup of indie drama and geedom: Logan. But Logan had no surprises, giving me what I knew such a mashup would in plot, character, and theme. Colossal breaks the rules and I couldn’t be happier.

The dialog is sharp, the plot is smart, and it is shot beautifully. The only problem is if you go in with the wrong expectations. If you are expecting Godzilla or Pacific Rim or any big daikaiju action film, you are in the wrong mindset. Likewise if you are set for a very serious indie character piece, you are in for a rough time. Colossal is its own thing. It has a giant monster and there is city smashing, but that’s not the focus. It has discussions of alcoholism, but it isn’t a somber examination of a social issue. It is closest to being a quirky comedy, but with a dark thriller layered on top… Plus a giant monster. There is symbolism galore. Everything represents something else, yet none of it is too heavy-handed, nor too obscure. I saw the metaphors easily, but one viewing isn’t enough because there are so many. Don’t want to dwell on the metaphors? Well, that’s foolish, but hey, there’s a giant monster!

Anne Hathaway is perfect as Gloria, keeping her from falling into drab melodrama tropes but also never cleaning her up. Yes, Gloria goes through serious changes in the film, but no unbelievable character shifts. She was a mess when it starts and she’s a mess when it ends, and still managed to keep me with her. I cared about Gloria. Jason Sudeikis is as good. It was a clever bit of casting as he appears to be exactly what a Jason Sudeikis character always is, until we find out he isn’t that at all.

Colossal is one of the best films of the year and by far the most original of my top ten. Daikaiju films often attempt to be about big themes, but few succeed. This is how it is done.

Mar 082016
four reels

General, now Secretary of State, Thaddeous Ross (William Hurt) brings an ultimatum to the Avengers: place yourselves under the control of the United Nations or retire. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), feeling guilty over numerous actions, agrees that they need to be put in check or more innocents will die. Steve Rogers (Chris Evens) sees this as a dangerous attack on their liberty. When his old friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) is blamed for an explosion that kills many, including the king of Wakanda, the Avengers split into two group.

Civil War is partly a sequel to The Winter Soldier and partly one to Age of Ultron. It is a huge, sweeping film packed with action of all kinds while still managing to be a personal story about characters. Its two hour and twenty-six minute length is never felt as it whips along. This is a epic popcorn movie with heart.

Still, I was looking for a home run and got a double play. Civil War isn’t a story, at least not a complete one. It is a bridge between other movies. By its end, nothing is finished, and in fact, nothing really happens of note after the first twenty minutes. Lots of combat, lots of flying about, and plenty of amusing or dramatic discussions do occur, but if you removed them all, it wouldn’t change a thing. The main plot, of the split in The Avengers over the UN accords and Bucky, goes nowhere. And the smaller threads, of Bucky’s future, the success or failure of Baron Zemo’s revenge, Tony’s emotional state, and all of the relationships, are left dangling. They didn’t have to cross all the “T”s, but I would have liked to see something closed up.

I also have mixed feelings on the big action set pieces. Some, like the Avenger vs Avenger showdown at the airport, were marvelous, but others were too frenetic, and filmed too close and too shaky. Of course if one big, superhero confrontation isn’t to your liking, another is just around the corner. There’s a lot of fighting in Civil War.

There is also a tone problem, caused by making the funniest character, Tony, serious and broken. Tony Stark is an ass. Always has been. But like Loki, we like him anyway because he’s charming. A broken Tony isn’t charming. Which also knocks out the great debate of the film. When one philosophy is supported by an unlikeable fascist (Ross) and an ass, and the figurative imprisonment becomes literal, it’s clear which side we should choose. No one ever presents the Accords as a reasonable choice. The closest is a grieving mother, but her son would have died anyway. It’s quite noticeable that no one ever points out that in each case, things would have been drastically worse without The Avengers intervening and not a single soul who died would now be alive. There is a case to be made for controlling The Avengers, but this film doesn’t attempt to make it.

Which leaves us with the rest of the characters, and there things go well. Captain America is once again surprisingly engaging as is most of the rest of the crew. Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Agent 13 (Emily VanCamp), and Falcon (Anthony Mackie) may not get a lot of screen time, but they use it well. Vision (Paul Bettany) comes off as a fool, but he’s got a few funny moments. Bucky fights more than speaks, but he looks good in those fights and War Machine (Don Cheadle) is fine as background. Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) becomes the emotional heart of The Avengers and easily carries that. I always cared about her. And the newly introduced Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) is a winner. He’s suave and violent and I look forward to his solo movie.

The standouts are Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland). Both are minor figures in the film, but they own the screen. Both add needed levity, normally while punching things. After a run of bad Spider-Man movies, it was rewarding to see the character done right, and having seen it, I now can’t figure why Sony failed so miserably.

The villain of the piece, Zemo (Daniel Brühl) is an afterthought and I could rewrite the script without him. The conflict comes from within The Avengers. But I liked him. For his scant screen time, he’s an effective villain and a relatable one. It’s easier to choose his side than Tony’s.

So, a mixed bag that adds up to a good movie. Not the great one I was expecting, but that’s on me. They can’t make The Avengers every time. It just seems like a very long wait until a lot of questions get answered (2018 for both Black Panther and Avengers 3).

 Reviews, Superhero Tagged with:
Mar 072016
3,5 reels

Arrogant surgeon Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) damages his hands in a car accident and in desperation travels to the far East for mystical healing. There he finds The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and her sorcerer acolytes who defend the world from magical threats. The threat of the moment is from a rogue sorcerer (Mads Mikkelsen) who has stolen a forbidden ritual and plans to use it to open Earth to The Dark Dimension and to the giant demon that rules it.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe adds their mystical strand and as with the previous thirteen films, creates something worth your $16. Where Doctor Strange excels is in its fantasy action. The fight choreography is superb, being quick but clear and filled with the unexpected. Better still is the twisting cityscape and constantly changing background. This is Inception done right (or if you liked Inception, call it Inception done far, far better). Combatants spring onto ceilings, elongate floors, and wrestle in mid air as gravity shifts. Combine those with the acid trip moments of Strange opening his third eye and we’ve got the new king of drug movies.

The humor works, the characters are well defined, and the pace is brisk. Still, while you should head out to the theater to catch it, Doctor Strange is on the lower end of the MCU films. It is yet another origin story, and one a bit too familiar. Merge Iron Man with Nolan’s Batman Begins and you’ve got the outline. Besides the plot being old-hat, the problem is that Stephen Strange is unlikable, even with Cumberbatch doing a spot-on American accent. Tony Stark is a terrible human being when we meet him, but a fun one. You’d want to hang out with him at a party even as you were appalled with what he was doing to the world. That kind of reprobate works in a film. But Strange is a different kind of problematic person. He is unpleasant. He’s doing the right things but for the wrong reasons and is simply nasty or pointlessly argumentative in his personal life. This works much less well in a film, particularly as he isn’t given the time needed to either learn his new craft or come to his epiphany. It would have been far better to start with him already a hero and present what was absolutely necessary of his unsavory side in brief flashbacks.

So, Doctor Stange should have been better, but it is still quite good. The casting is excellent. Chiwetel Ejiofor embodies nobility and rigidity as Strange’s sometimes teacher, sometimes partner. Mikkelsen doesn’t have a lot to do but manages to fill his villain with menace while Benedict Wong, as the combat librarian, is perhaps the best sidekick in the MCU. Swinton, as the White sorcerer supreme, nails the guru bit, making the switch from the comic book’s racially Asian character not a problem for this film, but rather one for the entire MCU which is noticeably lacking in Asian heroes. Only Rachel McAdams is underwhelming, but she’s stuck as the girlfriend we barely see so I doubt anyone else could have made more of an impression.

I think it likely that Doctor Strange’s best moments will not be in this solo film, but in his future outings with other Avengers, and based on the first of the two post-credit sequences, I expect we’ll see him in such a situation quite soon.

Mar 072016

Rob (Cian Barry) is broken and suicidal. His girlfriend, Nina (Fiona O’Shaughnessy) died in car accident. He’s given up his dreams, as someone who is in mourning does, taking a job at a supermarket and visiting weakly with Nina’s parents. His shy co-worker and paramedic in training, Holly (Abigail Hardingham), sees something in him and he, in desperation, goes out with her. Her acceptance of him, and the energy of her life gives him what he needs and they quickly end up in bed together. But their passion calls up undead Nina, who emerges from the mattress in a pool of blood, twisted and broken. Nina is none-too-pleased with her boyfriend—not “ex” as they never broke up and now, never can—playing with another girl. Holly retreats off the bed, but stays, waiting for Rob to do something. But when he doesn’t, and ends up being kissed by the corpse, Holly takes off, and soon after, Nina vanishes. But neither are through with each other, and are drawn together again, with Holly vowing that they will make it work, and that she’s willing to deal with Rob’s past, and the corpse it invokes.

This is not going to be a normal review for me, but rather more of a critique, which means spoilers galore. So, if you just want the basics, I’ll sum it up with: Forever Nina is well-crafted, with a solid performance from O’Shaughnessy and a masterful one from Hardingham, which makes it particularly galling when the film fails so miserably. It is not a horror picture, but a relationship drama, with a living corpse, that exists for its theme, a theme that misses what life is like.

On to the heart of things. This is a film about grief (yes, if you’ve seen it and know a bit more, just wait; I’ll get there). Unfortunately, I have a bit of experience with the subject, and the filmmakers don’t seem to. Films get grief wrong, over and over again, which makes those who are grieving feel just a bit more alone, so I am interested in a film that might finally get it right, and for a time, Forever Nina could have been that film. But that time was brief, and things then fall apart so badly that it seems no one connected to this film has ever had a loved one die. That seems unlikely, but I’m at a loss for another explanation.

This is a metaphor movie to the point that people and events obey the rule of the metaphor. Rob is grieving. He can’t let go of Nina. She is always with him, in his mind, and so, when he has sex with Holly, Nina appears because she is always in his mind. She is the manifestation of his loss, his need for Nina, his inability to forget her, and his survivor’s guilt. Nina spells out the situation clearly: She doesn’t want to be there, but she has no choice because Rob can’t forget her, and they can’t move on in their relationship, can’t even break up, because she’s dead. There is no closure. I can’t argue with that last bit.

Here we see our first sign of trouble. Rob is not very likable. We learn little about him over the course of the film, but what we do learn doesn’t make him a bad guy, just a ho-hum one. And the few things he does range from stupid to stupidly cruel. But he’s grieving, so he’s off the hook. He isn’t expected to be a great guy since what he wants is to be a dead guy.

Holly, on the other hand, is near perfection. She is beautiful, fun, forceful when she needs to be, wild, accepting, caring, and open. She can deal with the worst situations, ones that would destroy anyone else or at least send them screaming from the room. Holly is a paragon. And while a bit unrealistic, I’m good with that.

Nina, on the other hand, is a bitch. She’s territorial, but also hurts both Rob and Holly just for the Hell of it. She could get a partial pass if this was due to her unpleasant situation—glass in her throat, a broken body, and no escape—but a few exchanges indicate that she was always like this.

This sets up a far too simple dichotomy. The old girlfriend is bad. The new one is good. Who should we root for? It could be far more interesting and moving if both were loving. But it is worse as we’re in metaphor-land, making the nasty corpse the equivalent of memories of the lost one. It seems you can’t have good memories of the deceased.

Now Holly, being wonderful, acts kindly and respectfully, inviting Nina into their lovemaking and taking actions to show that Nina will never be forgotten and that she’s not there to replace her. Metaphor-wise, that is exactly what Rob needs. That is the way to deal with grief—to find a new reason to live and act, particularly in the love of someone new while keeping the memories of the past, honoring them, and never forgetting. Holly is willing to accept Rob with his baggage, with his ghost, both metaphoric and non-metaphoric.

Huh. Well, the filmmakers messed up on Nina, but maybe, partly, they do understand grief.

But wait, it turns out the film isn’t about grief. All that stuff about mourning, about remembering vs moving on vs family—forget all that. It turns out, grieving is easy. Just man-up and get on with your life. Get a good job and sever all ties with your dead loved-one’s family, as Rob does, and you’re good to go. Sure, it takes some sex and attention from a girl to set the process in motion, but after that, it’s a breeze and the new girl doesn’t matter.

That doesn’t mean the film isn’t still all a metaphor, just not for grief.

You see, it turns out Rob’s grief had nothing to do with summoning Nina. Sure, it seemed like it did in many ways and Nina pointed out she was in his head, and much of the first half makes no sense without that, but nope. And if the metaphor doesn’t involve grief, it is strange that it is Nina who is summoned instead of some other form of undead metaphor. But nope, forget all about grief and the whole point of the picture. It was Holly who was summoning Nina because Holly is sick. She’s got Florence Nightingale Syndrome. She only liked Rob because he was in bad shape and she wanted to fix him. That’s why she wants to be a paramedic. Paramedics all have messed up personalities apparently. All those times she was being reasonable and loving, she wasn’t. A woman wouldn’t actually accept a man with his pain, and help him with it. She wouldn’t take the man and his ghost. No. Even though that is exactly what my wife did when I was grieving over the death of my first wife. No, women only do that kind of thing when they are crazy. And once Rob is doing OK, he’s no longer interesting to Holly. So much for Rob.

But Holly’s need to save people (which is bad—very bad—which is made clear when she turns out to be a very good paramedic because…OK, I’ve no idea why her being a good paramedic indicates she’s a mess, but it does), her insecurities, and her dark side, which isn’t all that dark, draw Nina to her. So now she’s got Nina’s corpse with her, and Rob goes happily on his way.

It’s a mind boggling mess. This was a movie that desperately needed not to have a twist, and not such a ridiculous one. If it wasn’t about grief, why did we follow Rob when Holly wasn’t around. Why’d we stick with him as he cleaned up the blood and then tried to take gory sheets to a public laundry? Why did we see him at Nina’s parents as they dealt with their feelings and his future? What was the point except to make the actually interesting part of the film a huge red herring? I suppose I answered that: It was all a red herring.

The writing/directing team of Ben and Chris Blaine end up with statements that defy humanity. Mourning is no big deal. Just don’t wallow it in and you’ll be fine. Besides, no decent girl will want you. And as for women who have a touch of the goth about them and want to help people, stay away from those sickos.

Grieving is horrendous, and there is no moving on. You don’t get over it. Nor should you want to. You can continue to function and have a life, and a way for that to happen would be for a Holly to come along, to bring purpose and love. Forever Nina rejects that, which is truly sad.

 Horror, Reviews Tagged with: