“Atomic Blonde” was okay.

I went to a sneak preview for “Atomic Blonde” this evening, and I promised you guys some thoughts on the film. (This is pretty close to spoiler free, as far as plot goes.)

“Atomic Blonde” is not exactly an action movie. It’s a period piece spy thriller punctuated with extreme violence. And I do mean extreme. Many, many poor stalks of celery must have been sacrificed in the making of its foley effects. The fight sequences are nothing short of brutal — neither stylized nor overtly cartoonish. When Lorraine Broughton slams a dude with whatever is handy, it’s obvious that she’s genuinely fighting for her life. I am not generally squeamish about movie violence, but I flinched almost continually through the bloodier bits. One thing I appreciated, though, was how very bruised and bloody the protagonist became. This wasn’t glamour shot violence in which a severe beating leaves little more than the need for a bandage on the forehead or the lip and everything looks fine the next day. In an odd way, I respected this touch of realism.

I wanted to love this, but I only sort of liked it. I was bored on and off through the first third of the movie, which seemed like “here’s a little sparse dialogue, here’s a little violence, here’s a snappy song from the 80s” with little cohesion and some uneven pacing. I wanted to punch James McAvoy right in the throat from the first minute he appeared on screen. Charlize Theron seemed to be exhibiting a here-and-therian accent that was sometimes American and sometimes British — and sometimes neither, but nearly always off somehow. I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt that this was a character choice. I mean, I wouldn’t put it past her to do something like that as a symbolic gesture toward the amorphous nature of her spy character…but it might not have been anything so deep, either. I genuinely don’t know.

I enjoyed the latter half a lot more than the first, though. The pacing evened out, battles were waged, and everybody played their parts well. Events in the film were successfully woven around the fall of the Berlin Wall, and it became far more entertaining. Broughton is obviously a badass, but she doesn’t make it look easy. She makes it look bone-crunchingly hard. Also, the only sex scene in the movie was femme-on-femme, which — though a little male-gaze-y — was completely atypical for a movie like this, and an interesting touch.

Everything else aside, I have to say that I loved the costuming! Broughton is clothed almost exclusively in black and white, as if to symbolically deny the grey area in which a spy must by definition operate — besides being chic as hell. (Even the visible dark roots of her platinum blonde hair echo this theme.) Percival’s scruffy post-punk regalia (with hidden traditional English undertones) was also very effective.

I also really enjoyed the soundtrack, though Lennox thought it was too “mainstream.” I argued that since most movies are actually aimed at the coveted youth market, kids these days aren’t going to care that they used almost every single German pop hit that also charted in the US in the 1980s. They’re just gonna think that it sounds cool. And I also disagreed that it was only the most blatant pop hits. I mean, “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)” is likely not close to the first Bowie song most people will think of from the 80s, and “Cities in Dust” by Siouxsie & the Banshees is probably mostly forgotten in households other than ours, where Siouxsie is perhaps more revered than average. So. Obviously I’m right.

Anyway, Lennox felt like he liked it a lot more than I did, and yet we both gave it 3 out of 5 stars. (What can I say? Maybe our scales are just different.) It’s worth seeing if you have any interest in it, but I wouldn’t recommend paying full price unless you’re a Charlize superfan.

 

The pleasant ambiguity of “My Cousin Rachel.”

We went to see “My Cousin Rachel” this afternoon, and I really liked it. It wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty good overall — and Rachel Weisz was excellent.

I haven’t read the book since I was a teenager — it had been so long, in fact, that my internal misandry had erased the male protagonist from my memory altogether — so I can’t say whether or not the film was true to the source material. But as Lennox remarked, “It was like a du Maurier mobius strip of both misogyny and misandry!” Is Rachel wicked after all? Is it just a function of the male gaze? We never really know, and it’s better that way.

The costuming was interesting, too — subtle, but quite good. The vicar’s daughters have terrible, slightly out of style sleeves from the previous decade (fashions were slow to appear in Cornwall, I’m sure), the fresh-faced innocent is presented in all of her country glory (her at-times almost masculine daywear underscores how understanding she is, of course), and Rachel is a figure of enigmatic foreign mourning (with so many symbolic veils). Even Phillip’s scraggly and mud-spattered riding clothes imply his immaturity and artlessness as clearly as the actor’s performance.

And Cornwall! What is it about Cornwall that makes everyone in a du Maurier story fall into terrible trouble? Criminals around every corner! Wicked women and evil vicars and conspiracies of silence! Muttering, mad housekeepers! Amongst the cliffs, terrible misunderstandings abound. And a distant cousin, who may (or may not) have been every bit as horrible as a naive and suspicious young man suspected.

“My Cousin Rachel” isn’t a masterpiece, and isn’t for everyone. People with short attention spans or a low tolerance for costume drama will want to skip this, but others with a taste for gothic ambiguity will probably enjoy it. I thought it was worth seeing for Weisz’s performance alone, though I enjoyed all of it. I recommend it (although with my previously stated reservations). I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

The shipping news, or imaginary people who ought to boink.

I had a few thoughts about shipping earlier on Twitter.

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I think about shipping a lot these days — though it was rarely a focus of my fandom in the past. I blame the beauty that is fan fiction, frankly. It’s kind of a fascinating business to see what ships take, which fizzle, and which eventually become canon.

I’ve discovered a couple of patterns in my own shipping habits, too. I lean heavily hero/villain — especially if the villain wants to redeem him or herself — and though less often, I find that I sometimes favor May/December pairings, too.

Let me prove my point with a short (and incomplete) list of pairings I favor…

Buffy Summers/Spike (William “the Bloody” Pratt) – “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”
I despise Angel, and his stupid hair. And I love Spike even more than I hate Angel. The really funny thing is that I identify with Drusilla (I’m batshit crazy, kind of goth, & a little bit psychic), but I’ve always shipped Spike with Buffy. I feel that the canon relationship was handled horribly on the show, though. Thank goodness there is such a plethora of fantastic fan fiction to address these canonical flaws.

Helen Magnus/Nikola Tesla – “Sanctuary”
I don’t know how anyone could resist the fictional vampire version of Tesla, let alone someone trying to resist his charms for over a century. I had a two part essay all about this ship on a previous version of this blog, so I’ll try to sum up. Suffice to say: I was heavily, weirdly invested in this ship. The important thing is that these characters were equals among people who could never quite measure up to their genius. Besides, there was endless sexual tension in their bickering — and they shared several lifetimes worth of common experience.

Jeff Winger/Annie Edison – “Community”
I’ve written a bit about this one before, too. Jeff may be quite a lot older than Annie, but they’re on the same emotional level. Annie had to grow up too fast, and Jeff didn’t start to grow up until he was nearly 40. Their chemistry was irresistible, and their adventures were always my favorite episodes.

Dr. Daniel Jackson/Vala Mal Doran – “Stargate: SG1”
I know everyone generally ships O’Neill/Carter on this one (and I’m cool with that, too – it’s one of my favorite May/December pairings), but I adore Daniel/Vala. Their love/hate friction (more love than hate, obviously) was one of the best things about the last two seasons of the show. And everybody knows that true love is inevitable, at least in alternate timelines.

Dr. Hannibal Lecter/Will Graham – “Hannibal”
Is there anyone ALIVE who doesn’t ship these two? It’s so wrong, but it’s so right. Or should I say…it’s almost criminal, but it’s too delicious to resist?

Sarah Williams/Jareth the Goblin King – “Labyrinth”
A big ol’ “DUH” here. I could write reams about this movie — and have actually written a fan fiction novella about this pairing. You can think I’m a pervert if you want, but I was already a Bowie fan when this movie came out, and considering I was 11 at the time, and my actual name is Sarah, you can understand that this film had developmental implications for me. So let’s face it: This pairing is probably the entire basis of my hero/villain AND May/December issues.

Lisa Reisert/Jackson Rippner – “Red Eye”
This is the pairing about which I have the most intellectual misgivings, and about which I feel most guilty. There is no doubt that this would be an abusive relationship on some level, but I can’t deny a regretful gravitation toward the pairing. There was very little in the movie to support this ship (aside from a peculiar possessiveness in Rippner’s manner, and a threat to “steal” Lisa later), but there was just something in the performances of both lead actors that betrayed the characters’ unlikely fascination with one another. I have read some truly wonderful “Red Eye” fan fiction that explores these uncomfortable themes without flinching — and while managing not to be rape-y or gross, which is an accomplishment in and of itself. The movie itself is an underrated gem, even if you find my Lisa/Jackson shipping reprehensible. You can, you know. It’s fine. I already feel terrible about it.

Elizabeth Keen/Raymond Reddington – “The Blacklist”
Another hero/villain + May/December pairing. What? No. Calm down. He’s not her father. He never was. It’s fine. Okay, maybe it’s still a little creepy. I admit that. And yes, season two kind of sucked, with its misplaced emphasis on trying to redeem Lizzie’s fake husband, a.k.a. “that abusive fuck, Tom Keen.” It pushed me straight into the arms of the Lizzington ship, if you want to know the truth. I was kind of on the fence about it in season one, though the terrible yearning glances between Red and Lizzie were difficult to ignore. I mean, she spent most of the first season staring at his lips! This is a ship built on body language; it didn’t get verbal until later. “The Blacklist” only succeeds when Keen and Reddington work together (whether they currently hate each other or not), so let’s hope season 3 is better in that respect. Let’s also hope they return to writing Lizzie as a complex person with agency and whatnot. (Sigh.)

Emma Swan/Captain Hook (Killian Jones) – “Once Upon a Time”
This ship is just classic hero/villain stuff. In fact, it has a great deal in common with Buffy/Spike — though I hope it fares better on screen than Buffy/Spike did. I’m half a season behind on the show, though — so don’t tell me if they’re going to break my heart!

Walter Longmire/Victoria Moretti – “Longmire”
This is just classic May/December stuff, although the actors’ chemistry is undeniable. This ship has a number of vocal detractors among TV fans, but it’s completely canon in the Longmire novels. I also love the fact that “Longmire” fan fiction is the “musical-based-on-a-movie-based-on-a-stageplay” of fan fiction, as it is fan fiction based on a TV show which is based on a series of detective novels. That gives me such a tickle.

Anyway, you get the point. I have patterns. Probably most shippers do. Weirdly, most of my slash ships don’t follow my patterns, though — like Kirk/Spock (the original Space Gay!) or Dean/Castiel (total hotness!). I have also been known to embrace more conventional, mainstream pairings — like Crichton/Aeryn (fate! also completely canon!) or Carter/O’Neill (see above!).

My earlier tweets were brought on by “NCIS” Abby/Gibbs shipping, though. I thought it was one of the silliest, most preposterous pairings ever…until I really binged on the show. It recently popped up on Netflix, and I watched 3 seasons over 2 weeks. And my goodness! I may not be 100% on the Gabby train, but I can totally see why other people are — and what canon evidence they use to back up their assertions. Gibbs is openly, physically affectionate to Abby (and fiercely protective of her), and Abby seemingly adores him. Now, you could read that in a paternal/platonic way (lots of fans choose to do just that)…but they really do flirt — aggressively at times. Sure, it’s a ship that’s not likely to ever be canon, but the show still gives Gabby shippers plenty of ammunition. What I really meant by my tweet storm is that fans rarely create a ship out of whole cloth — there’s usually a concrete reason people start shipping characters, whether show runners intend it or not.

Now, all that being said, there is one ship I will never support, no matter how directly it is addressed in canon. I will never, ever ship Scully/Mulder…because I will always ship Scully/me!

I’ll have what S & P are having.

I could write about the show “Hannibal” all day (best show on TV, for real), but the question on my mind lately regards the following Mason Verger quote: “Spitters are quitters, and you don’t look like a quitter to me.”

How on earth did they get that past standards and practices? How?

Then again, this was in the same episode as a pretty graphic disembowelment, so maybe standards and practices were on vacation that week. Or possibly they’ve been shooting up with whatever creepy cocktail Bedelia was injecting the next episode? Oh! I’ve got it. They were so worried about early edits for the kaleidoscopic lesbian sex scene in “Dolce” — too much female satisfaction on display, you know — that a vicious little quip about swallowing semen just slipped right through the net.

Either way, two thumbs up! Keep up the good, filthy, violent, weird work, you guys. The fans appreciate your laxity.

My virtual cat obsession.

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I’ve been playing a Japanese game called Neko Atsume (or maybe that’s one word? I’m not sure; it’s all in Japanese) where you lure cats into your virtual yard with food and toys, then photograph them to “collect” them. There are a bunch of regular cats — and some special fancy cats, too.

And I’ve already collected them all.

I am a champion, at last.

Things I’ve learned from reading fan fiction.

  1. The “Sanctuary” version of Nikola Tesla is an unstoppable vampire sex machine. No surprises there, really.
  2. The dirtier the scene, the worse the typos and grammatical errors. Actually, that’s unfair. There are a lot of errors everywhere.
  3. Writers of erotic fan fiction about “The Mentalist” are surprisingly realistic about Patrick Jane’s stamina, which I think is oddly charming, but now that “Jisbon” (Jane/Lisbon) is canon, they’ve gone bananas with the sex anyway.
  4. “Community” fan fic writers have penned as many feverish imaginings of Jeff and Annie’s first coupling as there are snowflakes in a blizzard. (And some “Community” fan fic is better than the “gas leak” season.)
  5. Grammatical errors won’t stop me from reading, but OOC (out of character) dialogue or actions will. I always thought I was more pedantic than that, so it’s nice to see I’ve mellowed.
  6. If Walt Longmire spent as much time worrying about his attraction to Victoria Moretti on the show as he does in fan fic, no crimes would ever get solved in Absaroka County. But also? “Longmire” fan fiction is actually a thing in the world, and for some reason that just makes me grin.
  7. Sometimes I’ll read a really, really good fan fic and wonder if the writer is going to be the next E. L. James. (I never read that novel, though. You know the one.)