Girl Asleep (2015)
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alexx_kay

Girl Asleep is a delightful recent entry in the sub genre “girl on the cusp of womanhood who is confused by her changing life (and body) and learns to deal with it via a fantasy universe”, like Labyrinth and Mirror Mask. (I’m sure there must be more examples, but I’m having difficulty recalling them. Anyone want to add to the list?)

This particular girl, Greta, is growing up in Australia in the late 1970s. This is, in itself, more than a little fantastical, and the boundaries between the real and the visionary remain porous throughout the film. (I particularly liked the “integrated captions” for the scene changes, such as focusing on a bucket of fried chicken with a logo on the side reading “later that day”.) Her mother means well, but doesn’t understand her introvert daughter. Her father is little better, and over indulges in dad jokes (and an impressively 70s ‘stache). Her older sister is clearly thinking about moving out and has a dangerously sexy boyfriend. The family has moved to a new town, so Greta has to deal with the new school and all that entails. The only kid at school who seems to want to be friends with her is incredibly dorky (and adorbs). But a gang of archetypical “mean girls” also offers her membership – with unclear but intimidating strings attached. And then mom takes it into her head to invite all her little classmates to Greta’s 15th birthday party. The horror, the horror!

The party starts out okay, but piles stress upon stress until either reality or sanity fractures (there’s enough ambiguity that you may have your pick). Greta becomes lost in the woods, which are inhabited by wonders, but also by Big Bad Wolves. (And a friendly huldra. Don’t see too many of them around…) It all comes to a head in a climactic battle that I was quite charmed by, alternating seamlessly between hair pulling and pillow fights on the one hand, and advanced martial arts movie moves on the other.

The story had its genesis as a stage play, but the film fully embraces the possibilities of its new medium. While the film doesn’t seem to have a huge budget, it used that budget to excellent effect, creating many beautiful and memorable images. What I think it brings most from the stage is a “theatrical” sensibility, where the creative staff are willing to trust the audience’s suspension of disbelief, presenting images that work on multiple levels simultaneously, and respecting the audience’s ability to interpret. Both Kestrell and I were reminded of the excellent work of Lifeline Theater in Chicago.

It’s available on DVD and on Amazon video. Highly recommended.

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The end was nearer than I thought...
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alexx_kay
My first pass of annotating Alan Moore's Voice of the Fire is complete. There is more that could/should be done, of course, but that will never cease to be true; "Art is never finished, only abandoned". Not that I'm abandoning this, but I am mostly moving on for the time being, having gotten this project to a point that I am proud of. Additions and corrections still happily accepted, of course!

I'm particularly pleased that the last note was for the phrase "full stop" :-)

[Obligatory Patreon link]
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Alexx’s June Patreon update
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alexx_kay

It’s been three months, as suspected. The finale of Providence wasn’t as time-consuming as feared, but on the other hand, the last chapter of Voice of the Fire is proving to be quite dense. Plus, gardening season started, and, sadly, weeding still pays better than scholarship. That said, plenty has been annotated.

I’ve also gotten a good start on the final chapter of Voice of the Fire, featuring Moore himself. Next update should feature that, another issue or two of Cinema Purgatorio, and the first few sections of “Round the Bend”. Be seeing you!

[My Patreon]

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The Eternal (1998)
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alexx_kay
Kestrell and I watched a nifty movie yesterday, an obscure Gothic horror from 1998, written and directed by Michael Almereyda. “The Eternal” is the name we saw it under, but as often seems to be the case with low-budget horror movies, it had several other titles as well: Trance, The Mummy, and Eternal: Kiss of the Mummy – possibly others.

All this mention of a mummy is perhaps deceptive, though not false. Our setting is not Egypt, but Ireland; the body emerging not from a pyramid, but an ancient peat bog. Also featured are Druids, witchcraft, transmigration of souls, terrorists, guns, explosives, whiskey, broken glass, broken hearts, broken promises… Plus most of your traditional Gothic elements: the creepy, isolated old house, the family secrets, the madwoman in the attic, the creepy girl, the thunderstorms. No individual ingredient was anything we hadn’t seen a million times before, but the sheer quantity of volatile moving parts meant that we had NO idea where the plot was going to go next.

The film ended up on our radar because it has Christopher Walken in it. As is often the case, his role was relatively small, though important to the plot. His faltering attempt at an Irish accent was perhaps the weakest element of the film, but that didn’t get in the way of my enjoyment.

So, what’s the basic set up? A loving couple of alcoholics bring their son to Ireland and the ancestral house. Ostensibly, so he can meet his grandmother, but possibly also to try and stop drinking. (The script does acknowledge that going to Ireland to dry out is perhaps not the wisest choice.) Such family as remains alive within the ancestral house mostly accuse each other of having “lost the bucket” (apparently the Irish equivalent of losing one’s marbles – there seems to be a series bucket shortage in their neighborhood). Uncle Bill (Walken) is perhaps most obviously bonkers, since he’s spending a lot of his time hanging out in the basement with a remarkably well preserved 2000 year old corpse that he seems to think might be able to be revived.

One thing that particularly pleased me about this movie was that the script did not depend on anyone holding the idiot ball. At various times, characters are inattentive and miss details that one wishes they had not, and there are no shortage of poor life choices, BUT no one wastes any time denying the evidence of their senses (once they notice the weird shit), and they make reasonable efforts to get out of danger, even if these don’t always work. There is a character who looks for a while as if he will be a traditional Fatal Boy, but he does not fall into that trap, and even makes effective use of his one real life-skill (partying hard) before the end.

Many reviewers panned this on the sadly-traditional basis that it is a horror movie without a huge amount of blood, or even that large a body count. For those (like me) who like their horror with a lot of atmosphere and characterization, it’s an overlooked gem. Recommended.

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Garden Report
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alexx_kay
The strawberries are in bloom, which means it must be weeding season. Progress is happening at a goodly rate. Nonetheless, the project is eternal. Estimating from both my progress and observed growth rates, I should have the spider wort vanquished by approximately 2020. And by “vanquished”, what I actually mean is “cut back to the point where I can keep it away from the strawberries with ONLY constant vigilance”. Slow and steady wins the fruit.

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Follow Thru (1930)
Bar Harbor
alexx_kay
I found this film on YouTube (split into 12 parts, not sure why) as part of my great Thelma Todd binge. She’s only got a supporting role in this one as “the bad girl rival”, but does quite well in it. The film stars Charles “Buddy” Rogers, one of Todd’s classmates in acting school, and the only other member of her class to have a significant Hollywood career. Nancy Carroll plays the female lead, a local golf champion in competition with Thelma Todd for both trophies and for Rogers’s affection. The lead couple aren’t called upon to do much of a dramatic range, but do carry out their roles pleasingly. Also notable in the cast is a pre-Tin Woodsman Jack Haley, whose face I did not recognize but whose voice I did, in an extremely silly role. Matching him in silliness is Zelma O’Neal; the romance between her and Haley is delightfully off-kilter.

O’Neal and Haley had both been in the Broadway show that this film was based on. With a well tested story, and some of the actors already very familiar with their roles, I found the film more successful than the average of this era.

Of technical interest, this is one of the very first Technicolor films. They were still working the kinks out, so the whole thing has a fairly muted palette, but the history-of-technology geek in me found that neat to see.

In addition to the romantic comedy, it’s also a musical, mostly using pre-existing pop music of that era. The songs are well sung, if not enduring classics. Most of the choreography is either quite restrained, or looking very much like a stage number that was filmed. That said, there is one bizarre exception. A production number late in the film (section 8 of the split up YouTube version) “I Want to be Bad” starts out with some fairly nifty pyrotechnics and what could plausibly be practical effects. But it just keeps going more and more over the top, with angels descending literally from heaven and getting caught in the flames of hell, cupids in the clouds summoning astral fire engines, and things like that. I have to wonder if they borrowed young Busby Berkeley to choreograph that section. If they didn’t, I have to believe it was an influence on him.

Overall, a pleasant bit of fluff, and mildly recommended. But Sovay, you should at least check out that one song.

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_Finder_ dream
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alexx_kay
Had a dream that I waa reading _Finder_ by Carla Speed McNeill. (Well, earlier, I was watching an old Babylon 5 tape, but in the manner of dreams, the experience shifted.) There was a memorable incident where someone was meeting and negotiating with a tribal chief. I don't remember his name, so I'll call him X. X was a very big man, and had his (rather ancient) wife next to him during the meet. After the negotiations were over, and the foreigner had left, X removed the outer layer of his robes to reveal that "he" was actually three slender women!

It seems that, a while back, this tribe had a difficult situation. Tribal law dictates that the chief must be male (mostly due to the neighboring tribes being sexist). The original Chief X, when he died, had three daughters, but no sons. None of the daughters had married (partially due to the fact that any husband might end up Chief, and they didn't see any acceptable candidates in the dating pool). Faced with this conundrum, X's wife managed to convince the tribal Council to accept the legal fiction that X's daughters, collectively, *were* X, and could maintain "his" Chieftan-ship.

That seemed like a nifty enough idea to be worth sharing. I'm not a fiction writer, so if anyone wants to pick it up and run with it, feel free.

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Climate change for kestrels
Bar Harbor
alexx_kay
The kestrel-cam in Boise, Idaho is active again. There are five eggs in the box, despite a long hiatus after the first two, possibly caused by an unseasonable snowstorm at that time.

Right now, mama-bird is sitting on the eggs determinedly, as wind blows snow hard enough that there are drifts inside the box with her. Brrrrr!

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IEHEU (1977??)
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alexx_kay
Yesterday, Kestrell and I watched a bunch of YouTube videos from the British Film Institute, mostly ones connected with their “GOTHIC” film festival from a few years ago. Which may have had something to do with the incredibly odd film I dreamed last night.

I was at a… party? At any rate, there were a lot of friends around, and we were snowed in. I was channel surfing looking for something interesting to watch. I eventually landed on a PBS station from out of state, which seemed to be showing this movie repeatedly and/or in random order. I can’t be quite sure, because the snowstorm was intermittently knocking out the signal, so what bits I did see were in random order at any rate.

The overall antagonist of the piece was Godzilla, but he was attacking Victorian England. In order to combat this threat, Sherlock Holmes had enlisted the help of Dracula, Jack the Ripper, and others (maybe Frankenstein’s Monster?). Near the end of the film, Jack had a speech about how he envied Godzilla for having spent most of its life in a world without humans.

Much earlier in the film (probably the opening scene) a prehistoric tribe of white furred hominids are about to be trampled by rampaging woolly mammoths. We focus in on one of them as he closes his eyes and prepares to die – but he doesn’t die, though blood splatters across him. A ghastly roar is heard above the noise of the trampling mammoths. He opens his eyes and sees (though we do not) the towering form of Godzilla, chomping down on the mammoths, inadvertently saving the ape man’s life. His name is Zaius, and he will become the shaman of his tribe.

Meanwhile, in Victorian England, criminals are taking advantage of the chaos of a Godzilla attack at night to break into a bank vault – but Sherlock Holmes has anticipated this! Sadly, his near-superhuman speed is not sufficient to stop the criminals, who escape in a waiting coach. Several of them were dressed as cowboys (Including Billy the Kid?) but most of them were uniformed Bobbies. Some sort of government conspiracy at work?

I was telling someone else at the party about this incredible film I’d been watching, when I woke up enough to realize I wanted to tell all of YOU about it. And now I have.

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Farewell LiveJournal
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alexx_kay
Given the latest round of shenanigans, I'll be largely abandoning LiveJournal going forward. I'm not personally worried, so I'll be maintaining crossposting for the time being, though really just for the further-crosspost-to-Facebook functionality. But I won't be reading LJ, so if you expected me to see something there, try another means of communication.

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