Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Entertainments while facing the void

Hey there, few readers I have left after not posting for a month!

[Three paragraphs of bitching and moaning excised. No one needs to read that shite.]

So, amongst all this, one still attempts to stave off the demons and the boredom with entertainments.

Stumbled through Lucy by Laurence Gonzales, which was festooned with some of the clumsiest writing I've come across since I've re-read some of my less-inspired posts. It also made the mistake of filling (filler) pages of description of verdant forests and vistas of unimaginable beauty, etc. Since Gonzales is such a clumsy writer, it was easy to skip most of that crap.

Which was too bad, really. The premise - a misguided scientist of the Jane Goodall stripe manages to create a human/bonobo chimp hybrid that looks mostly human - is a promising one. Alas, it pretty much apes (heh heh) the plot of Escape from the Planet of the Apes, makes the chimp-girl noble via sheer dint of her birth (why would she be better than a human just because she has bonobo genes?), and even stoops to the now-obligatory swipes at Christianity (though it was fundie Christianity being swiped at; the author had the grace to include a "good" Christian in the plot).

I wish someone would try again with this idea, and do a better job.

Tried to read Room by Emma Donoghue, and was immediately charmed by the dead-on first person narration by a five-year-old, with the funky word constructions and primitive, though logical, grammar.

Mysteriously they spend all of their time in a small room. However, SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER it turns out that they are being held captive by a kidnapper who is the (unwanted, rapist) father of the child, and in order to escape the child has to play dead in a rolled-up carpet and then jump from a moving truck. I have a child that age, and the thought of my little sweetie having to dive out of a moving car and bounce along the pavement is just too much to bear, even in print.END SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER

NOT REALLY A SPOILER (as it's indicated on the cover summary): What's worse, once they escape the room, the mother's character immediately changes in a way that isn't consistent with what went before, and it's heart-rending. The child still pines for the close environment of the room and his mother's undivided attention, but once she's free, she appears to not care about the child's adjustment to the new world, and that struck me as wrong.

At that point, I skipped to the end to see how it turned out, and was glad I abandoned it when I did. I'll leave it at that.

If child-in-peril plots don't bother you, you might like the uniqueness of Room and the artistic chance Donoghue takes, but I think anyone with small kids will be put off.

TLD: This goes against Ebert's dictum that you should review the thing you saw (or read) not what you wanted to see (or read), but since a few folks in the Amazon reviews mentioned it, I thought I would too, because I had the very same thought while reading Room: this would have been excellent as a short-form fiction - a novelette or short story. (Especially if the "escape" portion of the story would've been less harrowing.)

Works that have a strong, highly-stylized first person narrative that conveys specific character or mental traits are usually better in short form. For example both Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes and Born of Man and Woman are wonderful short stories with a great sucker-punch. (Those are links to the actual stories, and if you haven't read either, you've got a treat or two in store for you.) Flowers for Algernon is unique in that the author expanded the short story into novel form later. I've read both, and while I consider the novel a success, I prefer the short story as it delivers most of the same material in a tighter package, which makes the ending more visceral, in my opinion.

Thus, it'd be interesting to see Donoghue pare Room down to a short story. If you read this, Ms. Donoghue, and aren't too pissed at me for not completely enjoying your book, consider giving it a try.

On the heels of that unhappy fictional experience, I watched Shutter Island, which also eventually turned out to be another child-in-peril story. A very gruesome one at that. (Remember the moms who drowned their children? This is that on steroids.)

Even The Runaways, the bio flick about Joan Jett's first band (plus Lita Ford who I don't recall being mentioned by name in the flick which was weird, as she's the only other one who "made it") was mostly about how these young teen girls were exploited. I'd read the bio it was based on and thankfully they didn't use some of the more prurient stuff. Though I gotta admit the opening scene is audacious: menstrual blood landing on the gravel between one of the character's feet, the first line being something about what a time to get her period.

After all of this, oddly, I really liked Machete, Robert Rodriguez's latest. It's about as hyper-violent as it comes, full of everything that makes a move a hard "R", but it was damn good adult escapist entertainment. There's a scene where a nude woman removes a blackberry from the only place she could store it, replete with the sound effect of retrieving the same. I had a big chuckle with the boys afterwards about the sound tech who was instructed to come up with that sound.

So, here I sit, admitting I enjoyed a movie where the hero swings through a window a floor down - Die Hard-style - using a man's intestines more than these "serious" entertainments.

I guess I prefer bad guys getting hurt rather than babies.

And I guess I like that about myself.


Charles Pergiel said...

I saw "Shutter Island" a while back. I remember it being intense, I remember something bad happened (his wife died? committed suicide?), and Leo went nuts. They set up an elaborate charade to try and snap him out of it and it almost worked, but not quite, so they were going to resort to a lobotomy, which was very depressing. (All that was just to a check to see if I remembered it correctly.)

I've seen two movies this year where Leo's character's wife dies. The other was "Inception".

Both movies were intense and entertaining, but what's the phrase? Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing?

yahmdallah said...

I've noted on the internets many folks noting the similarities between the two flicks: shutter and inception; I noticed them, too. I think shutter was sound and fury, but I really dug inception.

Anonymous said...

re: sound effects w/ nude women. It reminds me of the scene in Crank where the guy is having sex with a woman on a downtown sidewalk, but then his phone rings and he answers it and pulls out. Nice sound effect there, too.


yahmdallah said...

I saw that, but don't remember that "moment". Got a guy's poker game coming up, perhaps that'll be the flick.