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Tag: crits

Somehow you never took to fright

One of my earliest memories is my first nightmare. I was five, had just started kindergarten, and was having… social adjustment problems. As the oldest child in my family, I was used to interacting with adults. I was also a nerdy little thing, already prone to big words (for a five-year-old) and science fiction references. I didn’t understand kindergarten — it seemed like it was for babies — and kindergarten didn’t understand me, either. In this dream, the kids in my kindergarten class were being herded into a vast and terrifying machine. I think its design was based on a…

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Fright Night: the very disappointing remake

The 1985 Fright Night has been one of my favorite vampire movies since college. I knew it was dangerous to see a remake of a movie I love-love-love, but after seeing pictures of David Tennant’s hilariously cheesy (and shirtless!) take on Peter Vincent, finding out that Marti “Buffy” Noxon wrote the script, and seeing nothing but moderately good reviews, I thought, what the hey? I figured I’d be getting a halfway decent vampire movie, if I just forgot this other thing called Fright Night existed. This is the best thing about the remake, so I’m posting it here.  I was,…

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What did I learn at Clarion West? [3] : Unlearning English Lit

Part of the Clarion West 2014 Write-a-thon series. Sponsor me, sponsor another writer, or learn more about the Write-a-thon There’s this thing they used to make you do in school — maybe they still make you do it, I don’t know — which involves reading a story, and then writing about what it means. We call this activity English Lit,. This will shock absolutely nobody, I know, but I happen to be naturally good at this thing. It comes so easily to me that, as a kid, I was vaguely astonished that they bothered to give me a grade for…

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Against Against YA

From Slate, by Ruth Graham: As The Fault in Our Stars barrels into theaters this weekend virtually guaranteed to become a blockbuster, it can be hard to remember that once upon a time, an adult might have felt embarrassed to be caught reading the novel that inspired it. Not because it is bad—it isn’t—but because it was written for teenagers. Oh, good! A controversy I can dig my brain into that is completely irrelevant, non violent, actually sort of fluffy and entertaining — but also relevant to my interests: whether it’s “okay” for adults to read YA novels. (Adult friends:…

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From the vault: The new Tron movie

(Now that I have updated the website, I am doing some electronic housecleaning. Sometimes I run into a fairly complete, but unpublished essay, such as this one.) So, we saw the new Tron movie. I have inexplicably fond feelings for the old one. I saw it as a teenager, but even then I realized 1. It wasn’t very good, and 2. Jeff Bridges was great. Sure, it was kinda stupid, but it looked cool and it had David Warner as the villain. The new movie is stupid, and still looks cool. But it doesn’t look new and innovative cool. It…

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Pacific Rim


Saw Pacific Rim on Sunday… another movie I wanted to love, and unfortunately didn’t. Guillermo del Toro! Nerd obsessions! Giant monsters! Mako Mori! Idris Elba! It looks pretty and there are some parts of it that work great, but overall I was bored too often and surprised and delighted too little.

(Spoilers, I’m sure, follow.)

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The Conjuring


As part of my birthday shenanigans, we visited the newly remodeled Sundance Cinema in the U-district. (It used to be the Metro) It is now 21-and-over, and you can get a cheese plate and beer and drink in the theater. Also, reserved seats, and really nice big seats with lots of elbow room between them.

Two thumbs up for the theater, although I imagine it will be a disappointment to 18-20 year old UW students.

We saw The Conjuring. I wanted to love it, I really did. I was promised good, old-fashioned haunted house scares, plus Lili Taylor, in a horror movie with nearly universally good reviews. The early scenes, which featured the creepiest of all creepy dolls (who always follows you…), an engaging early-seventies style, and a likable and natural-feeling family moving into the eerie house (the dog won’t come inside!) kept my expectations high. Then…




(spoilers follow)




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I didn’t MAKE him for YOU!


In The Rocky Horror Picture Show (which I saw an unconscionable number of times in my adolescence) when Frank N. Furter unveils Rocky, his artificially created superhunk, Janet says, “I don’t like a man with too many muscles.” Frank snarls back, “I didn’t MAKE him for YOU!

That little exchange always goes through my head when certain conversations come up. For example, if you follow any SF writers online, you are probably aware that there is a very big sexism controversy going on right now over the content of the SFWA bulletin. It goes like this: Step 1, put a cheesy bikini-chainmail babe on the cover. Step 2, write a condescending article about “lady” editors and writers in the field. Step 3, when people express objections to these two things, let Mike Resnick and Barry N. Malzberg make epic fools of themselves trying to defend sexism by equating the act of expressing a contrary opinion to censorship.

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The Taming of the Shrew


Thursday night, Paul and I saw the Seattle Shakespeare Company’s production of The Taming of the Shrew. The production is mostly great (especially Kelly Kitchens as a tough biker chic Kate) and the rednecky, rural southern trailer park setting works extremely well. The down-n-dirty vibe fits the lowbrow material much better than the sumptuous period-look movie from 1967, which is the only time I had previously seen a treatment of the play. I didn’t particularly like the movie, when I saw it in high school, although I remember a spirited classroom debate about what Kate’s “Thy husband is thy lord” speech at the end really meant.

I did like this production. The underlying material is still troubling, but the actors do a great job of selling it, and they have a wonderful time with the broad physical comedy and dirty jokes. This story needs to be set in the kind of culture where people chuck cans of Pabst at each other, sometimes at request (Beer me!) and sometimes not.

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What is this I see? Yet more lit snobbery to wrestle with? Some Books Are More Equal Than Others by By Clare Needell Hollander. I read this courtesy and knew I had many objections, but I felt like taking the time to break them down somewhat carefully. The snobbery in evidence here is not merely a narrative of the essayist’s superior literary tastes — the essay actually seems intended as a persuasive piece, with a clear call to action for those who would assign summer reading to middle-schoolers. Her call? Make them read nonfiction instead of fiction.

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Your escape, my revelation

Oh boy! A juicy lit snob essay I can sink my teeth into! My Stephen King Problem: A Snob’s Notes by Dwight Allen. The essay begins: IN THE MID-EIGHTIES, when I was living in New York, a friend, an editor at a major publishing house, told me that I should read Stephen King. This friend, a guy who loved Pynchon and Nabokov and Gass [..], said that King was good. As I recall, my friend didn’t qualify the “good” by saying that King was “really pretty good for a genre writer” or “good enough if you happen to be on…

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