Poor Things, a most peculiar movie

I’ve been deprived for so long. Our local movie theater has been showing the usual profit-making superhero movies and kids’ shows, so when I saw the announcement that they were showing something outside the norm — a norm I’ve become tired of — I had to go. I had a great time.

Cool. What a surprise! It’s a weirdly beautiful movie. The premise is that a hideously scarred Willem Dafoe fishes up a pregnant suicide (Emma Stone), and he transplants the fetus’s brain into the skull of the woman using fantasy 19th century Frankenstein technology. It’s then about this baby/child growing up in an adult body, and encountering a dream-world version of Europe. She has a super-power, though: as an innocent in an adult body, she discovers she has a button she can press to make herself very, very happy. There’s a lot of sex in the movie. But mainly it’s about discombobulating perspectives and a mind changing and becoming more aware over time against an exotic background. Stone took a lot of risks with this movie, but she pulled it off.

As I was leaving the theater, I was asked what I thought of it. My answer was “Peculiar!” That was high praise.

It was a relief to see a challenging movie in town. Morris residents better see it fast, though: it looks like next week we’re getting Madame Web, a confusing superhero movie tangentially spider-related, and Ordinary Angels, some uplifting dreck made by a Christian production company. I’ll be staying home next weekend.

I don’t like Star Trek anymore

I have a terrible confession to make, one that may drive away many readers: I am tired of Star Trek. I was a kid when the original series aired, I watched them religiously, I still have nothing but fond memories of it all. By the time Star Trek: The Next Generation rolled around, though, I was at the point where I was watching reruns to mainly groan at the bad science and the cheesy special effects, and ST:TNG didn’t help — more bad acting, more terrible writing, more ludicrous plots written by people who seemed to have more of a background in soap operas than in science fiction. All those other series that were subsequently shat out? I didn’t even watch them.

I know. I should be drummed out of the old SF nerd club. I feel terrible for not being able to share in the pleasure so many people still get out of the series, but you all go right ahead. Have a good time, while I roll my eyes at all the Trek worship.

I would rather see something with a fresh take. Something that is genuinely about ideas, rather than milking a comfortable old story to death.

But still, here’s something I did enjoy: a site that catalogs all the reused props from Star Trek. You need a strange futuristic device on a desk? Add some odd lighting to a CD rack. Glue random geometric shapes together, spray paint them silver, and done–we’ll find a use for it. Rearrange the shapes, you’ve got something new.

Nothing goes to waste. You can use them same props in different series!

Kudos to the props department for their creativity and economy. This I could enjoy reading, even as I’ve lost all interest in the plots of the stories they support.

We don’t have beach reading in the Midwest, lacking in oceans

Since FDotM mentioned how social media can cut into your book-reading time, I thought I’d say that for me, it isn’t true. I can read a book any time I want, and I do. It is my custom to read for an hour before bed, or sometimes over lunch, and I chew through books pretty fast.

Sometimes I pick up trash reads. The latest was one called Pistols: A Deep Sea Thriller (hint: you know it’s going to be a throw-away when they need to include the genre in the title; sometimes you can just look at the cover). It’s totally ridiculous. It’s about stomatopods that are exposed to toxic waste and swim around, snipping people in half and cooking them with high intensity sonic bursts. My favorite part was when the scientist character has to explain why they also have toxic slime, and starts babbling about ubiquitination, before he has done any kind of analysis of tissue, or even seen one of the monsters. Cheesy, but sometimes you need something silly.

I’ve also been on a Madeline Miller kick lately, and that’s definitely not cheesy trash. I recently re-read The Song of Achilles, which was magnificent and nearly made me cry. Circe is also really, really good and well worth your while. I’m going on a collecting trip in the old Lake Agassiz lands up north this weekend, and picked up her short story, Galatea for those moments when I’m not chasing spiders.

See? Being an internet nerd is not incompatible with actively reading for entertainment.

Go ahead. Prove your bookworm cred by telling me all the stuff you read for fun. Don’t be shy, and admit to your popcorn reading as well as your high-brow stuff.

Bored with zombie movies, but…

I’ve given up on certain movie genres: superheroes and zombies leave me cold. The Walking Dead killed zombies for me — just drove them right into the ground — and the coup de grâce was that terrible Zack Snyder (sorry, the adjective is redundant) zombie mess. It would take a lot to get me to turn on a zombie movie anymore, even though they’ve become ubiquitous.

Then people were raving about this new zombie movie based on a video game (that’s really the kiss of death right there), The Last of Us. I sort of half-watched the first couple of episodes this weekend. It starts off with a pedestrian zombie plot, the twist being that it’s a fungal infection based on Cordyceps, and then it makes it clear that the overall story is about a girl who has a natural resistance to the fungus, and is the key to saving humanity.

Ho hum.

Then the third episode rolled, and was effectively distracting me from my work. Dang it, that’s a love story, a very human love story, and it was beautifully done.

It wasn’t at all what I expected from a zombie-video-game movie, and now I’m all confused. I’m going to have to watch the next episode on Sunday night. Will it collapse into the usual kill-the-humanoid-monster story, or is it going to keep going with human-centered tales of love and struggle? No spoilers, please. I haven’t played the video game, some of you may have.