Under the Sea

So, we ventured out to Elmwood to one of those Palace theaters and watched Aquaman yesterday.

Oh my God, how much fun was that movie?

I will always say I was more partial to DC than Marvel when I was a kid; I did come to  appreciate Marvel during my second wave of comic fandom as an adult, but I always have a softer spot for DC. As I said yesterday, I was also–while being a fan of the bigger name heroes–a big fan of the second tier heroes: Aquaman, Green Arrow, Flash, Green Lantern, Teen Titans–and so I was really happy to hear they were going to give Aquaman his own movie after Justice League (which I really wanted to like, but I don’t really remember much about the movie–which is kind of telling. I do remember that I still thought Wonder Woman was terrific, and that Flash and Aquaman were well done, and the lightening up of Batman was an improvement, but other than that….not really very memorable) and I had the typical fanboy immediate response to the casting of Jason Momoa–he’s not blond–before I got over it very quickly because, well, JASON MOMOA.

And Aquaman was absolutely what it should have been: highly entertaining, visually breathtaking, and most importantly, didn’t take itself too seriously.

I mean, it’s a movie about people who can speak to each other underwater and can breathe on both land and sea. COME ON.

But it was epic in size and scope and scale, and like I said, the visuals were breathtaking. I am so glad we saw it in IMAX.

Patrick Wilson was stunningly beautiful and deliciously malevolent as the bad prince Orm/Ocean Master, and Yahya Abdul-Manteen II was perfect as villain Manta. This movie managed to do the seemingly impossible–tell an origin story without being boring, as well as having a great adventure. Someone on Facebook or Twitter said Aquaman was a kind of combination of “Indiana Jones, Game of Thrones, and a superhero movie” all rolled into one, and they’re right.

The movie is long, but you never wonder how much longer is this damned movie? I was actually, while satisfied with the ending, left wanting more.

So, I hope the DC Cinematic Universe people are paying attention: Wonder Woman and Aquaman are the way to go.

I also saw the trailer for Shazam! before the movie started, and I have to say, it looks fun and charming.

When we got home, I signed up for the DC Universe app membership, so we can watch Titans. (I love the Teen Titans, and have been wanting to watch this how but wasn’t sure I wanted to subscribe to another app…but ultimately decided to make up my mind after I saw Aquaman. I am really looking forward to Titans now.)

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Lay Your Hands on Me

I managed to get all the errands done yesterday, and didn’t feel exhausted until I was in the process of putting away all the groceries and things. I went to both the grocery store and Costco yesterday; I was rather impressed that I wasn’t worn out much sooner. I did get the bedding laundered as well. But I didn’t get any writing done; I am going to need to do that today.

There are a lot of things I am going to need to do today. Sigh.

I’ve been invited to contribute to an anthology; and I am not certain I have anything ready to send along. I do have this one incredibly disturbing story that I would like to make even more disturbing–that’s just how I roll–and I need to get back to work on the Scotty draft. I’d like to revise Chapter 11 a bit today, get it cleaned up more so it isn’t nearly as sloppy as it currently is, and I want to get these other two stories cleaned up as well. I need to spend some more time with “Don’t Look Down” than I have been; I need to get inside the characters more, understand who they are better, and then I think the story will wind up being a lot more strong. The same goes with the Chanse story; the story is really about his relationship with his brother and that’s not strong enough in the story as it sounds right now. That is also, I think, the problem with the Scotty book. I need to spend some time today with it as well, figuring out motivations and so forth.

Ah, being a writer. Always such a challenge.

We finished watching Collateral last night, and I was rather pleased with it; it was written by David Hare, the playwright, and you could tell it was written by someone good. Carey Mulligan was terrific, and I highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys complex, multi-layered crime dramas. I think tonight we may watch Justice League, to just to see if it really is as terrible as everyone seemed to think; I didn’t hate either Man of Steel or Batman vs. Superman, so I am not going into it as a hater.

I’m also still reading Tinseltown, which I am greatly enjoying. I don’t know a lot about the early days of Hollywood; the early 1920’s and late 19-teens, other than what I know from reading biographies of David O. Selznick, whose father was a producer and tried to build up a studio at the same time Adolph Zukor was building Paramount, and before the big merger that created Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). So all this is new information to me, and William J. Mann is a terrific historian and researcher. (I am more familiar with later periods of Hollywood, but hardly an expert.) I’ve always wanted to write about Hollywood’s past; I have an idea for a noir novel to be set in the late 1940’s, but my lack of familiarity with the nuts and bolts of Hollywood in that period makes it difficult–or rather, makes my already vast insecurity about writing about another period even stronger. Although I’ve already written one short story about that time–an ambiguous setting of the early 1950’s–I don’t know. Maybe I should try it as a short story first, see if I can get the sense of the period?

I don’t know.

I’m also saddened to say that I’ve now finished reading both of Lawrence Block’s art-inspired anthologies, In Sunlight or in Shadow and Alive in Shape and Color, but I’ve heard through the grapevine that he is putting together another, which is great. So, for today’s edition of the Short Story Project, I am sad to say this is the last story from a Block anthology: “A Woman in the Sun,” by Justin Scott, from In Sunlight or In Shadow.

Could she change his mind? Four steps to the open window, lean out and call, “Don’t.”

Or walk to the window and call, “Go ahead, do it.Good luck.”

Or stand here and do nothing.

He had left her his last cigarette. She had talked him into leaving the gun and he had kept his word. It was still on the night table, wrapped in one of her stockings. She had the time of the cigarette to make up her mind. More time, if she didn’t smoke it. Let it smoulder.

This is an interesting story; in that it leaves more questions unanswered than it actually answers. We never know the characters’ names, nor do we really know what has brough them to this point. All we do learn, as the story progresses, is that both are at the end of their ropes and done, basically; they are both ready to die. The only question is whether she will stop him or will she join him, and this rather uninvolved, distant approach makes the story even more poignant and sad; there’s a very strong sense of melancholy that runs throughout this story, and the reader soon realizes you don’t have to know the whys and hows and whats of their pasts–all you need to know and feel is their now.

Powerful.

I then started reading through Jim Fusilli’s Crime Plus Music, and the next story up was”Me Untamed” by David Liss.

She covered the black eye with makeup, but I could still see it was there, something alien and unaccountable. Like a vandal’s scrawl across a museum painting, the dull outline of her bruise was an outrage. Carla smiled and greeted everyone good morning, defying us to say a word, to let our eyes linger too long. It was, I supposed, how she protected herself.

Jim Baron, the senior partner in the practice, met my gaze and flicked his head toward Carla as she walked past with a stack of case folders under her arm. Carla was getting ready, as we did every Tuesday and Thursday, for surgeries–no office visits on those days, just procedures. The practice felt a bit like a gastrointestinal assembly line, and sometimes I hated how we moved patients in and out, hardly taking the time to look at them, but Jim cracked the whip. It was volume, volume, volume as far as he was concerned. We were there to heal, not to socialize, and the more healing, the better.

The point of view is that of a divorced, shy, quiet Milquetoasty doctor,  who is kind of in love with Carla, or maybe he is not. She’s married to a thug of a guy, a man’s man, who works out and so forth, the kind of man a Milquetoast would hate. And he decides to do something about Carla’s abuse…decides to make himself into the kind of man he’s always wanted to be, the kind of man that he thinks Carla would like and love. This is a terrific story, with a terrific twist at the end that lifts it up even higher in terms of craft. Well done, sir!

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Woman

I slept really well last night, yet again, which means now over a week of good, restful sleep. I’d forgotten in all the years of not-so-good sleep how addictive sleep can be; how hard it can be to come back from the wonderful, deep slumber and get back to life and reality. But I am determined to shake off the sleep and laziness today and hit my revising goals–and my cleaning goals. I started reading Cain’s The Cocktail Waitress, and I intend to get further along in it, as well.

Yesterday was a lovely day. Five months into owning a new car, and I’m still not used to it, being conditioned for so long with my clunker so that I don’t want to drive anywhere–and then I get in the new car and am all, “Oh, yes, the reason I hated driving was because I hated driving that car” and everything is right with the world again. Yesterday we drove out to Elmwood to the AMC Palace 20 theater to see Wonder Woman.

And it was, indeed, a wonder.

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While I would not refer to myself as a ‘comics geek’, as that implies a level of fandom and devotion I don’t feel I am entitled to, I do consider myself a fan. I grew up with the DC Comics titles, and periodically throughout my life I’ve dipped back into comics–I have a ridiculous amount of them in my iPad at the moment that I’ve not read yet–and I’ve always managed to try to keep up with what was going on in the worlds (universes?) of DC and Marvel; I’ve always been partial to DC because that was my childhood, but at the same time I’m impressed with Marvel and what they’ve done/accomplished over the years. I saw the Christopher Reeve Superman (and later, Superman II) in the movie theater, and yes, I did come out of them thinking that a man could fly. But as good as those two films were, and as good as Reeve was in the role, there was a bottom-line cheesiness to the movies, and some of the roles were miscast (Margot Kidder as Lois Lane was a mistake; with no offense intended to Ms. Kidder, they should have gone with Kate Jackson or Jane Seymour or Pamela Sue Martin; I never believed Kidder in the role and I never believed Superman would fall in love with her Lois Lane–and that’s not even taking into consideration the absolute lack of chemistry between Reeve and Kidder). But I did enjoy them, and was happy to see super-hero movies being made. The Superman movies eventually went off the rails–the last two Reeve-as-Superman movies were terrible, and that was, I feared, the end of that. I wasn’t crazy about the Batman movies, either; they were entertaining enough, but that film series also went off the rails completely in the last two installments. As Marvel began dipping its foot in to waters of film, I liked the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man movies, but didn’t love them; the X-Men movies were just okay (brilliant in moments, awful in others), and while I thought the reboot of Batman with Christian Bale were done really well to begin with–again, as the movies progressed they started going off the rails. I didn’t hate the rebooting of Superman with Henry Cavill as much as everyone else did; I enjoyed the movies, thought he did a fine job in the role, and even Ben Affleck, whose casting as Batman in the new world of the DC Cinematic Universe was, to me, questionable, kind of pulled it off in Batman vs. Superman. I also enjoyed Deadpool and Guardians of the Galaxy, and loved Chris Hemsworth as Thor, but the movie overall itself was just kind of meh. (I’ve not seen the other Thor movies, so can’t judge them.) The Iron Man movies I’ve seen were enjoyable, but not memorable.

But all the movies made money, which is all that matters in Hollywood, no matter what kind of critical roasting they get, and so we were bound to get more of these movies. When they announced who would be playing characters I’ve known and loved since childhood for the  Justice League movie, I wasn’t so sure–I didn’t know who either Gal Gadot and Ezra Miller were, and while I love Jason Momoa (who doesn’t?), I wasn’t so sure about him playing Aquaman. But the brief scenes in which Gadot appeared in Batman v. Superman were luminous, and that gave me hope. I really, really wanted Wonder Woman to be a great movie, because I love the character so much (and always have), and the previews looked pretty damned spectacular. Already people were posting on social media about how much they enjoyed the movie, so that was good–but I was still a bit nervous about it when we took our seats in the IMAX 3-D theater in Elmwood.

Two and a half hours later we walked out of the theater, stunned.

Not only did it exceed my expectations, but it was a great movie, from beginning to end. Origin stories are extremely hard to tell and make interesting, but we get to see young Diana as the only child on Themyscira (which was indeed a Paradise Island), and Connie Nielson was terrific as Queen Hippolyta–although Robin Wright as her sister Antiope stole every scene she was in–who knew The Princess Bride could be such a badass? (Robin Wright has always been under-appreciated as an actress–from her beginnings as Kelly Capwell on the soap Santa Barbara and The Princess Bride–and I’ve always believed she gave the strongest performance in Forrest Gump and should have at least gotten an Oscar nomination as Jenny) Chris Pine is, of course, thoroughly appealing as Steve Trevor–everyone in the cast was superb–but the true success of the movie lies completely in the hands of Gal Gadot.

And she was amazing, absolutely amazing. From her first glimpse of London to seeing an actual baby for the first time to trying to figure out how to get through a revolving door to her first taste of ice cream, she managed to capture Diana’s innocence and naivete without coming across as an idiot–and that is not an easy thing to do. She inhabited the role perfectly, and the film was not shot to sexualize her or make her an object of lust–and that is all due to the superb direction of Patty Jenkins, who should be put in charge of the DC Cinematic Universe. The action/battle sequences never got boring–as they tend to do in most super-hero movies–and there were moments when I got goosebumps and tears in my eyes–the scene where she emerges from the trench at the battlefield in her uniform for the first time affected me so deeply I wanted to stand up and cheer in the theater, but settled for teary eyes and goosebumps. There were many of those moments in this movie.

I think what gets lost, what was missing, in earlier super-hero movies (and most especially in the recent two Superman outings) is that the heroes themselves are symbols of hope, and that they themselves believe in the ultimate goodness of humanity; and they have an innate sense of nobility. That’s the piece that was missing from the Superman movies; that, and the sense of fun. Wonder Woman delivered on both counts, in spades.

There hasn’t been a single super-hero film I’ve seen since the 1970’s that I would be excited to watch again on television, let alone go see in the theater again.

I would go see Wonder Woman again in the theater.

I can’t think of any praise higher than that.

Well done, DC, and everyone involved in this film. Bravo.