syncategorematic: (erythraean sibyl)
( Sep. 9th, 2013 07:36 pm)
We skip ahead in our scheduled storytelling to tell you of "Riddick", which I watched with Mcwetboy and Fritzkat on Sunday afternoon at the already-moribund (attendance-wise) World Exchange Theatre.

You may have noticed recently that I have a tendency to judge movies much more leniently than some; that I am willing to defend movies with poor dialogue or an unimaginative plot because of various justifications, as we saw in my essay on "Pacific Rim."

Well, there are indeed movies out there that I consider Bad.

"Riddick" is Bad.
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So after Monday evening Colin and I came out of "Pacific Rim" at the SilverCity Gloucester (where there were possibly a dozen people for the Monday night showing), I said, "Neon Genesis Evangelion this is not, but I enjoyed myself."

"This reached entirely new levels of bad," he said.

"Yes, but it was visually BEAUTIFUL," I insisted, with a rather giddy grin.

I think it was Madeleine L'Engle who said that the good thing about getting older is that you are still all the other ages you ever were. And one of the ages I have been was a girl of seven or eight, who did not yet understand English that well, but who adored watching "Batman: The Animated Series", and whose few glimpses of "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" and the animated "X-Men" set a fire inside her and a longing for more that has not quite died in twenty years.

I didn't _care_ that the dialogue may have been awful; I didn't have the English to care. Yes, there are people who say that this is why Hollywood blockbusters with dumb scripts do so well in overseas markets. I say, "And is that a bad thing?"

The more subtle the script, the more each line of dialogue sings and packs a punch, the more inaccessible it would be to people outside the culture. Even with a good translator. A great script relies on being more than the basic words on the page by picking up the audience's absorbed cultural knowledge; someone from outside the culture would just have the words on the page, and to her some of the ways the characters behave may simply be incomprehensible. I would adore to pieces a work that referenced Shakespeare, Auden and Yeats every third line; someone who had not read Shakespeare, Auden and Yeats would find it as bewildering as you would if you read some brilliant parody of something you’ve never heard of and went, "Why is this listed as a humorous work?"

A skilled translator can do a lot, but it takes a certain kind of genius in its own way to convey genius into another language. I've done enough of this kind of stuff that I know.

What does translate is beautifully-shot SF that does not depend on a particular cultural sphere. The other cultures make their own movies, hopefully, that have the delicately subtle scripts that reference their own poetry and political slogans and advertisers and pop songs and the truth of living there (and subtitled versions of which which people in the Western English-speaking world get dragged to by their arthouse-film-fanatic friends and go "I don't get this at all, and I was bored out of my skull”). What they go to Hollywood for is to do what Hollywood does best: throw a bunch of very beautiful CGI for an easily translatable concept.

You know what else is easily translatable, on a grand scale, with dazzling visuals and music, overblown emotions, and often criticized for dumb plots? Opera. Afterwards, reading about the film on Wikipedia, I encountered the quotation from Del Toro: "Del Toro conceived the film as an operatic work: "That was one of the first words I said to the entire team at ILM. I said, 'This movie needs to be theatrical, operatic, romantic.' We used a lot of words not usually associated with high-tech blockbusters …" This. This is totally it.
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Yesterday I went and saw The Avengers alone, at last, in the World Exchange theatre. The screen is fairly small as screens go, and there were maybe twenty people in the theatre (half of whom either did not know or did not care about the post-credits scenes, as they walked out before them).


- As IMDB observes, the Cyrillic sign seen just before Black Widow's interrogation scene with the Russian mobsters has random Cyrillic characters on it.
- Black Widow herself being Russian, well --- they credit Rosetta Stone in the end credits, and that movie should be an indicator that no, Rosetta Stone will not make you a native speaker. The Russian was grammatical, for the most part --- except for the line that is something like "just another pretty face", which is word-for-word correct, but infelicitous: you don't use that expression in Russian, you skip the "another" word. Black Widow's reply, "You think that I'm pretty" uses "krasiva", the short form of the predicative adjective, which sounds unnatural. And the repeated phrase "to move tanks" - "tolkat' tanki" actually means "to push tanks" and I automatically parsed it as meaning "sell on the black market" as in "push drugs" but I never quite figured whether they meant it as tank sales or tank transportation.
- The syntax may be mostly okay, but the phonology was atrocious. Somebody should have sat them down with the IPA, rather than using Rosetta Stone. In Soviet Russia, consonants palatalize you, and it was the consonant palatalization that Black Widow and the "mobster" kept missing on. Both their accents were horrible. My brother agreed with me, saying that he was snickering in the theatre when he saw it with a friend, and people were staring at him, because that moment in the scene is not at all funny.
- What bothered me was the actor playing the mobster. Sure, you want Scarlett Johansson for the female lead. But what was wrong with getting a Russian-speaking actor to play the mobster, instead of someone who spoke in some mix of a Polish and American accent? (Jerzy Skolimowski, apparently, who is a Pole and speaks like it.) The Tom Clancy movies hire Russian actors for the minor roles: the only reason I saw "Sum of All Fears" is for the thirty seconds in which a family friend of ours plays the Russian Minister of Defense (the Russian President's wife in that movie spoke way better Russian than the President, Ciaran Hinds, did). Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy had two well-known Russian actors in the Russian roles. Why pick a Pole for a Russian job?

It made me be deeply suspicious of whether the little girl speaking Hindi actually spoke it well, but M'laah Kaur Singh does apparently speak Hindi and Punjabi, although she was born in Illinois.

After the foreign-language scenes were over, I thoroughly enjoyed the film. I liked the pacing of the dialogue, that they give each other no chance to breathe before the next line. This is the kind of movie you sit back and soak in, rather than racing ahead of the plot. I want to own it on DVD, so I could watch it several times over.

It occurred to me as I watched the battle scene that the plot of Avengers 2 could be the wives and husbands and parents and children of the slain Chitauri coming back to, ironically, avenge their slain. Although apparently they're biorobots. Still. They may be ugly, but they had lives and feelings, and being slaughtered in another universe, with no chance for the ones who loved you to even see your body again, is a very lonely death.
On Friday, the usual games and geekery crowd had a celebration of Melanie's birthday by playing games, and we ended up playing Wizardology.

Which was my choice, since I've never played it before, but I conclude that I don't like it. Way too much depends on chance and luck of the draw, nor do your odds of succeeding increase as you progress through the game; I cannot imagine how playing the game multiple times would increase your odds of winning, the way they would for Settlers of Catan.

Best comment of the night, by Carmen on the Twilight love triangle: "Would you rather have an oral fixation, or doggy style for the rest of your life?"

Saturday i picked up the first season of Babylon 5, as a boxed set of DVDs, at the pharmacy. Thankfully, Abi Sutherland's rewatch on Making Light had told me what episodes I may safely skip, so I watched 1, 6, 7 and 8 before going to bed. I am enjoying it so far, therefore (possibly because I skipped the bad episodes.) The aliens in this one may actually be intelligent, although the first incluing by basically accusing Londo, on behalf of his entire species, of misleading humans a hundred years before, threw me off. Even if he is an ambassador, no individual can speak for his entire species' decisions of possibly before he was born, nor have to.

I happen to feel very strongly on that point, of confusing individuals with groups, possibly because of hearing "Oh, those Russians did..." way too many times. When you equate the self-identity of a population of umpteen million with the actions of a few hundred people in the government, especially if you know that this government is not fairly and democratically elected, that is assigning responsibility without power. And just plain feels like being accused of something you didn't do.

Probably a common feeling for many members of monoliths, be they Arabs, mining industry workers, members of the media, or Microsoft employees. The cure for it, however, is pausing to think a little and distinguish the monolith into a few more subsets, separating the human beings from the system.

I guess both these frustrations, the one with Wizardology and the one with Sinclair's discussion with Londo, come from the same source: I want effort to be correlated with reward, and I do not like punishment not related with your own effort. Indeed, I react to frustration, to feeling powerless in the system, strongly enough that there are many good books set in oppressive regimes that I have quit reading (e.g. Cory Doctorow's For The Win), even though I know that the hero will triumph in the end; I do not want to emotionally empathize with that world for even the short time before the heroes will start winning, by pretending that I was in their place and in their place, there was nothing I could do.
So yesterday I at last remedied a huge lacuna in my knowledge and watched the movie “Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears.”

The irony is that (a) I have actually performed the song from the movie, without having watched the original movie; (b) it is a classic that Elizaveta and her family, along with millions of other Russians, have watched millions of times; ( c ) it’s available on Youtube, last I checked, as my brother had watched it for his Russian class and said he understood Russians a lot better having watched it; (d) I had it on my USB key on my keychain. I’ve been carrying both parts on my keychain for months, and I didn’t deign to watch it.

This has finally been fixed.

This movie has been cited as a guide to the Russian soul in general, and to the Russian woman in particular. Unfortunately, I am no longer a Russian woman, as, although it is an excellent movie, I found it frustrating.

A spoiler-rich movie review and discussion of gender politics )
So yesterday I watched both Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and The Dark Knight in quick succession; Mirabel had lent me HBP, and I had bought The Dark Knight, and am glad I did. 

Note, in case I haven't made that clear: one of my first experiences with English-language media was Batman: The Animated Series, on a black-and-white TV in the early 1990s, before I knew much English. And it made a deep impression on me. I suppose that if I had been exposed at that tender and sensitive age to Superman or Spider-Man or Harry Potter, I would be as deeply fond of them --- but there are reasons beyond that they are very good movies why my tiny DVD collection now features both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight without hesitation. 

The latter is a very good movie I will re-watch and enjoy, although I was getting fridge logic moments. ROT13 for spoilers: Gur Wbxre frjvat hc rkcybfvirf naq n pryycubar va gur oryyl bs n qrgnvarq pevzvany, ranoyvat gur 'whfg bar cubar pnyy' fprar, whfg qvqa'g evat gehr. Jura qvq ur unir gvzr gb qb gung? Jbhyqa'g gur qrgnvarr unir orra frnepurq naq fpnaarq ol n zrgny qrgrpgbe (crbcyr jvgu senpgherf jverq gbtrgure be zrgny uvc ercynprzragf bsgra unir gebhoyr jvgu nvecbeg zrgny qrgrpgbef)? Tvira gung gur fhetrel jnf cebonoyl qbar jvgubhg nanrfgurgvp be fgrevyvmngvba, ubj pbhyq gur thl rira jnyx? Naq - V arrq zber rkcregf guna V nz ba obgu obzof naq uhzna culfvbybtl - jbhyqa'g gur uhzna obql fgneg ernpgvat gb n sbervta bowrpg va vg dhvgr dhvpxyl, rira sbe n fhophgnarbhf vzcynag, naq nssrpg gur qryvpngr purzvpny onynapr gung vf na harkcybqrq obzo? Abg gb zragvba gung n pryycubar, va zl rkcrevrapr, trarenyyl arrqf zhpu yrff rkphfr gb fgbc jbexvat guna orvat vzzrefrq va oybbq naq ylzcu. Gurl znxr qnza tbbq pryy cubarf va Tbgunz Pvgl. Gurl arire qebc pnyyf, gurl jvyy nyy npprcg n fbsgjner qbjaybnq (npebff gur argjbex) gung znxrf gurz fpnaavat qrivprf...

As for HBP - it is a good movie, and I am being a heretic here, but I am finding the Chosen One tropes to irk me more and more as I grow older. I know that they appeal to every kid's and teenager's dream that no, I am not supposed to live this boring life (mine wasn't boring), I'm supposed to be special. But once you grow up a little, and stop thinking just of yourself, they smack too much of "If you're not born this way, tough luck." As I tried to get to sleep or wake up, besides pondering the above fridge logic moment, I also thought of various ways to subvert the Chosen One concept to make it more appealing to me particularly:

Read more... )

I should get back to writing my own stuff, which tries to subvert the Chosen Ones trope thoroughly.


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