Monday, September 15, 2014

Capaldi as the Doctor

BBC Promotional image from Wikipedia
I'm not a fan of Steven Moffat. It's not that he's necessarily grossly sexist as much as annoyingly oblivious to his sexism. In his mind he doesn't see anything wrong, and he keeps writing these female characters that are all the same--self-confident, quick witted, sarcastic, with cutesy, sexy banter, and all of them seem to know the Doctor inside and out but have no real personality outside of being a foil to the Doctor. Which can get a little humdrum and boring. Amy is pretty much River Song is pretty much Clara, with minor variations based on the actresses performance.

I'm also not a really big fan of seasons 6 or 7. While season 5 was amazing, and a great follow up to Tennant's Doctor, seasons 6 and 7 were extremely hit and miss and constantly bogged down with story arcs that didn't pay off well in the end. Whole episodes seemed to be limping by to get to the next bit of story-arc plot so we could get to the finale. I thought season 7 ended well with the specials really making a difference and sending Matt Smith out well.

And then there was Capaldi.

My God is Capaldi great.

He's grumpy. He's cranky. He's Scottish. He's world-weary, but there's still enough child-like wonder at the universe that, much like Tennant, Capaldi can carry the goofy scenes and he can carry a dramatic scene like a goddamned lumberjack.

The season premiere was okay. It had some great moments--the Doctor's confusion about who was who was funny, and his interaction with the dinosaur was glorious. But there were times when he wasn't just cranky, he was cruel. Demanding a homeless man fork over his coat is shitty. Later, he has the homeless man's coat, and I was furious. And it was only during the second watch through of the episode that I noticed that they hint that he traded his watch for the coat. Still dicey, but at least the cushioned that.

On the other hand, the Doctor leaves Clara in a horribly dangerous situation, and I don't care that he came back to save her later, fuck that. That is not what the Doctor would do. He does everything he can to make sure everyone else gets out first. He doesn't abandon people. I could see pulling that kind of stunt after the Doctor has been around for a while. I could maybe see Matt Smith being able to pull that scene off and have it be funny and quirky rather than shitty and selfish, but this Doctor is crankier and can't do that.

But the last three episodes have been great. Into the Dalek wasn't bad. You could tell the crew was still getting used to things, and I was as well.

The Robot of Sherwood was awesome. I've had an affinity for Robin Hood since I was a little kid anyway. The guy they got to play Robin Hood must have been channeling Cary Elwes, so much to the point I wondered if he was his younger brother.

And Listen was a great scary Doctor Who episode. They haven't had one in a while. And while I don't think they fully answered all of the questions like most Who episodes, I actually liked that ambiguousness. The Doctor shouldn't know everything, and neither should we.

All in all, I'm very pleased with season 8 (series 8?) of the show. Capaldi's performances are strong, and by God Clara is getting some actual character instead of literally being there only to provide the show mystery and flirt with the Doctor.

It's also nice to see PoC in the show again, even if it is only one guy.

Friday, September 12, 2014

My Fantasy Female Ghostbusters Cast

Right. So. Things have been a bit poop here lately, eh? Lots of terrible things happening online, life has been pretty busy at home. Rather than rant in your ear about important things that you should be paying attention to, I'm going to take a break from doom and gloom and indulge in a little personal fantasy for a moment.

Today, I want to talk about my fantasy casting for the female Ghostbusters reboot.

Bill Murray has been pretty adamantly against a Ghostbusters 3, mostly because they're all so old at this point that I think he thinks (and he may be right) that it'd be sort of like The Expendables: a bunch of old dudes dress up like they're in their 20's and 30's and try to recapture their glory days.

And nobody wants to see that.

But he seems to like this idea of an all-female reboot, and by God so do I. He suggests Melissa McCarthy, Emma Stone, Kristen Wiig, and Linda Cardellini as the new crew. While that's a decent list--all very funny, awesome ladies there--it's a little...pale? And since we're talking fantasy ideal casting for movies now? I've got some ideas.

The four Ghostbusters fit the basic personality types of all teams. They are the same as the Ninja Turtles, as the Power Rangers (plus one or two), the guys from the Hangover.

There's the smart one.

The child-like one/goofball.

The leader/straight man.

The sarcastic one/tough one.

Thats, respectively: Egon (Harold Ramis), Ray (Dan Ackroyd), Winston* (Ernie Hudson), and Peter (Bill Murray).

* The catch is, of course, that while I enjoyed the diversity and Ernie Hudson did a fine job, the writers gave Winston basically nothing to say. So, he is the straight man...just not a very memorable one, unfortunately.

My ideal casting for an all-female Ghostbusters movie?

1. The Smart One

I think that Billy Murray was on the right track with suggesting Linda Cardellini. I know that the Scooby-Doo movies aren't very well respected, but I thought she nailed Velma, and because of that, I'm pretty sure she could nail the brainy, techie of the group. She wouldn't have to pull a repeat performance of Velma--she's a great actress. But having seen Velma, I know she'd be great spouting the techno-babble--which really is an important role. You need some explanation of what's going on, even if its nonsense, and if the person lacks conviction saying it, the illusion is shattered.

But, let's say she doesn't want to get locked into anything even Velma-like? Who then?

I say Tina Fey.

Tina Fey is already hilarious. She's smart. And she pulls off "harried" in a great way with 30 Rock, and I can easily imagine her popping her head up from a pile of paper-readouts or mechanical parts and spouting technical jargon about what she's doing. Maybe even adjusting her glasses.

I know, I know, the glasses = nerd stereotype is played to death, but it's so iconic Ghostbusters!

2. The child-like one/The goofball

In the original movie, Ray was definitely as smart as Egon, spouting off just as much mumbo-jumbo. But where Harold Ramis brought a scientific and logical aspect to his performance as he watched these supernatural events unfold, to Ray it was more exciting. He is, afterall, the one responsible for the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. His child-like excitement at encoutnering these ghosts is something that the new movie will need to help avoid the cynicism that might come with a remake. It'd be entirely too easy for the writers to mock the old one, throwing out disses at the old outfits, the old hairstyles, whatever.

So, someone that can keep the innocence and magic is important. And I think Lucy Liu is that person.

Lucy Liu has been a bad ass. Lucy Liu has been a snake. Lucy Liu is fucking amazing.

I'm thinking of her rapid-fire humor, competence, and overall carriage in Lucky Number Sleven. I can easily see her being someone who maybe went to the same university as Tina Fey or Cardellini. Maybe they studied the old Ghostbusters cases together. But they're retired. And when shenanigans start going down in New York again, the two decide that THEY can do it.

For Fey or Cardellini's excitement over the science, Liu gets giddy and amazed over the wonder of seeing LIFE AFTER DEATH!

Liu is such a great actress, she could totally carry any heavier moments while keeping her performance light.

3. The straight man

Winston was the every man. Just some dude that got roped into this craziness. If Eddie Murphy had been cast as originally planned, we would have had some great ad-libbed moments of Murphy freaking right the fuck out over seeing ghosts. As it stood, Ernie Hudson did what he could with an underwritten role.

Dear god, the straight man can be so damned funny, though. In the show Archer, Sterling Archer is the swirling ball of narcisistic chaos, but who is the person that keeps him grounded to earth, whose reactions to his madness are hysterical on their own? Lana. Lana is a straight man character (most of the time) that OWNS that show.

So why should Aisha Tyler get a position on Ghostbusters?

She's a hysterical comedian, she already shows she has a lot of range voice acting on Archer, and I watched her host a video game event and she's a total nerd. Being in Ghostbusters is a perfect fit, and honestly, I'm surprised I haven't seen someone else suggest her.

Seriously, if I were casting this movie, this would be one of my "musts." You HAVE to get Aisha Tyler for this movie, y'all. She's perfect.

4. The Wise Guy/The Tough Guy

Peter Venkman is probably the most memorable role in the movie because Bill Murray is hilarious. He has an almost supernatural gift of rattling off jokes off the top of his head and getting laughs. He's just naturally quick, and his biting sarcasm was great to vocalise what everyone was already thinking. And his cynical, cut-to-the-chase attitude business-wise was a great balance to Egon and Ray's excitement over the job.

Who better to pull off this role than the already suggested Melissa McCarthy. If anyone can fill the Venkman-sized shoes in the role, it's McCarthy. She's sarcastic, she's quick, so much of her stuff is ad-libbed and off the cuff. Watch some of her outtakes in The Heat or--JESUS CHRIST, GO WATCH HER STUFF FROM THIS IS FORTY. It's amazing.

Seriously: Melissa McCarthy needs to be all up in this movie.

If I were a studio exec, this would be my other "must." Because not having Melissa McCarthy and Aisha Tyler in this movie would be a goddamned crime.

So, who would you cast in the female Ghostbusters movie?

** I just want to point out that all of the women I mentioned are actresses in the early to mid-forties, and all very very close to the same age, which is awesome because we need to get more mature women on screen more often. Don't get a bunch of 20's actresses to make this movie just to appeal to the young crowd. Seriously, these are talented, smart, funny women that would kick ass in this role.

*** I know that a Hollywood exec isn't going to read this blog, and even if they did, it's not like they'll go, "Hey, he's right! Call up these women please!" These are just general thoughts.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

9/11 From Someone Raised in its Shadow

Today is September 11th. 9/11. 9-1-1.

You don’t need an introduction. Or a rehash. Even if you don’t live in the US, you probably know a rough idea of what happened.

It’s amazing that it’s been 13 years since the attacks. I don’t even know how to process that. I’ve spent more than half of my life living in 9/11’s shadow. Those towers cast long, dark shadows, even after they were gone.

Here are things I remember:

I remember I was 12 years old. I was in 1st period Geography class (or maybe it was 2nd…it’s been a long time…). My teacher was an awesome guy. He was in the Army, if memory serves. He used to tell us tons of great stories about shenanigans that happened while he was on duty. He was stationed in the jungle once when his troop was bombarded by monkey hurling poop at them. He said his sergeant was so covered in poop at the end of things that he just walked into the ocean fully clothed and let the waves wash him out a bit and wash him off.

I don’t remember where we were in the class. I could probably figure it out by looking up the times of the attacks, but I’ve never really thought about doing that before. This is just off the top of my head. Anyway, at some point, someone came into the room and said something to my teacher. He jumped up, led us all to the library. The TV was running. We all sat down in front of the TV while he talked to the librarian. Whatever was going on, it was serious. He looked scared. She looked scared.

The TV showed the smoking top of a building, one of the towers. We didn’t know what was happening, but the scroll at the bottom told us all we needed to know: a plane had flown into the towers. We didn’t know, at the time, that it was an attack, until the second plane hit live on TV.

We were 12. We were stupid. We realized that it was an attack not long after that. We got giggly. Excited. We didn’t fully grasp the reality of what was happening. It was almost like watching a movie. I don’t remember when I learned about the Pentagon attack, but I don’t think I believed it at first. I thought it was just over-excited people telling stories, trying to make things more exciting than they were.

I’m ashamed to admit, but I remember my friends and I, we started talking about going to war. What it meant. And I remember making jokes with my classmates about how they’d messed with the wrong people, that we were going to blow them off the map. 12-year-olds aren’t really equipped to deal with something as complicated and horrifying as war.

It wasn’t until after I was alone, until I’d stopped feeding off of everyone else’s excitement, that I started worrying that more attacks might happen. Would they bomb my school? Would we even go to school the next day?

I don’t know if I saw the towers fall while we were in the library, or if it was after I got home and I saw a replay on the news.

I remember rumors flying everywhere. The terrorists had bombed Pennsylvania, they were going after the Statue of Liberty, they were going to bomb sports stadiums during games. Surely they wouldn’t bomb my school, though. We were probably safe. We were middle of nowhere Arkansas.

I’m not sure who worried they’d go after the nuclear reactor in Russellville, maybe my mom. All I know is even Arkansas felt like a potential target. Nowhere felt safe.

The full reality of things didn’t really hit me until I went home. My mom was watching the news. She hugged us. We spent the next two weeks watching CNN. There were so many people missing. So many people crying, with handmade signs, flagging down every camera man they could, trying desperately to find their loved ones.

I remember it was basically impossible to find an American flag for a while. They were sold out everywhere. We wanted one to fly out of our car window, to show we were Americans, that we weren’t afraid of those monsters that attacked us.

Looking back on that time, I have this strange split, between the fear of those foreign countries, of those strange religions, and the knowledge I gained later. Of how that honest fear of the unknown was exploited, manipulated. Twisted and pushed.

I remember the pride I felt when we all pitched in together. Americans standing side-by-side, working together. No races. No classes. Just people helping people, recovering from the chaos.

I didn’t think about what it meant for people who were Muslim. I didn’t even consciously realize there were Muslim people in America. To me, they were all foreigners. They were all Others, form Over There.

I remember during the 2004 elections praying to God that George Bush would win another term because lots of my relatives said that if Kerry won, “the Muslims would take over this country without a shot.”

I remember learning that Islam was one of the fastest growing religions in the world and that it wouldn’t be long before they far outnumbered Us. Us, to me at the time, was Christians, and I remember feeling scared by that thought, but not being sure why I felt that way. I remember the same confused feeling when I learned that, based on birth rates, Whites would eventually be in the minority in the world. I don’t know why this scared me, just that it did.

I remember feeling a disconnect from the people around me, even after the 9/11 attacks. I remember speaking to one relative that I had loved and respected my whole life saying to me in Walmart, “We should round them all up and send them back where they came from.” And I remember saying, “But people born here wouldn’t have anything to do with that. Why do that?” And my relative just repeated, “Round them all up and send them back.”

I didn’t push the issue.

Thinking about 9/11 makes me angry. Not just because of the obvious horror, but also because I have spent nearly half my life sorting through the lies and scaremongering done in the name of "democracy". A lot of my opinions and beliefs in life have been influenced by 9/11. I learned a lot about ugliness in the wake--foreign, sure, but especially domestic.

I wish I could look back at 9/11 as a time where we were our best selves. A tragic moment where we rose up against an evil and stood defiant. Where we were the good guys.

I wish I could.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Brooke Johnson: Harper Voyager Novelist!

Photo from: Brooke's G+ Profile
Well, if this isn't just great news!

One of my oldest friends, Brooke Johnson, has received some fantastic news.

I'll let her tell it:
"I have some big news today!

I am happy to announce that I have signed a three-book deal with Harper Voyager Impulse, the digital-first imprint of HarperCollins’ Science Fiction and Fantasy division!

As part of the contract, Harper Voyager Impulse will be republishing the first book in my steampunk series, The Clockwork Giant, and my associated novella, The Mechanical Theater, (tentatively titled), as well as publishing a sequel, with an option for a third novel."
You can read more about the what and how and all of that at her blog post here.

You can also read a more frequently updated blog here.

And for good measure: Google+ and Facebook. Pretty much the only social media she's not on is Twitter.

Head on over to one of those places and congratulate her if you haven't already.