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Thursday, January 2nd, 2020
10:18 pm - Collected Fanfiction Post
Links to all fanfiction I've written in various fandoms. That I'm admitting to.

Alias )

Angel the Series )

Babylon 5 )

Battlestar Galactica )

Breaking Bad )

Buffy the Vampire Slayer )

Citizen Kane )

David Copperfield )

Doctor Who )

Farscape )

Earth: Final Conflict )

Heroes )

Highlander: The Series )

Historical Fiction )

Lost )


Merlin )

Mythology )

Once upon a time )

Order of the Air )

Penny Dreadful )

Rome )

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine )

Star Trek: The Next Generation )

Star Wars )

Sunset Boulevard )

The Americans )

The Beatles )

The Borgias )
The Godfather )

Torchwood )

X-Men )

The West Wing )

Crossovers )

current mood: exhausted

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Friday, April 20th, 2018
8:34 am - The Americans 6.04
This one dragged a bit, imo as always.

Read more... )

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current mood: contemplative

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Thursday, April 19th, 2018
6:00 pm - Legion 2.03
In which the stylish nightmare fuel continues.

Read more... )

This entry was originally posted at Comment there or here, as you wish.

current mood: calm

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Monday, April 16th, 2018
12:38 pm - Lost in Space (Season 1 review)
I‘ve never watched the original Lost in Space. I gathered a few things in fannish osmosis, plus I did see the movie some years back which I also gathered many of the original show fans hated, and which did not find a new audience, either, and thus flopped and disappeared from publich consciousness. (Yours truly recalls feeling indifferent.) Which means I went in watching this new version of the tale with the following background info by osmosis and flopped movie watching:

- the original show was an optimistic 60s tale, in which Bill Mumy, aka Lennier in Babylon 5, was the child hero Will
- There was a robot, with the catch phrase „danger, Will Robinson“
- The original show‘s pilot introduced one Dr. Smith as a dangerous villain, but in subsequent episodes he almost immediately became instead a silly, non-threatening villain, and also camp (in the flopped film, he‘s dangerous again and played by Gary Oldman at his craziest, but then the entire film was GRIMDARK in capital letters, which I take it pissed the original fans off)
- The Robinsons were a family of geniuses, idyllic in the original, grimdark dysfunctional in the flopped movie.

Now, due to the movie not having left much of an impression, I might or might not have watched the new series, but then I realised Toby Stephens was in it (as family father John Robinson), and also Dr. Smith is a woman this time around. (Amoral female villains still being far rarer than the male variety, this was a plus.) So I thought, okay, I‘ll check this out. Now, having marathoned it, there‘s the irony that what sold me on this newest version and made me like it a lot isn‘t either Toby Stephens (he‘s reliably good, but has essentially a solid supporting role) nor female Dr. Smith (they do some interesting things with her and avoid various trapfalls, but one of those trapfalls they avoid is making the villain the quippy, cool character). It‘s Maureen Robinson, and also the kids. Oh, and the robot, yeah, him, too.

But really: Maureen. Read more... )

This entry was originally posted at Comment there or here, as you wish.

current mood: enthralled

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Saturday, April 14th, 2018
7:58 am - Meme alert
From various people in my circle, with the caveat that I don't have that many romantic relationships I'm rooting either for or against, and thus will choose an ampersand variation in some fandoms:

How about we do that thing where you give me a show/movie/book/fandom and I'll tell you:

my favorite female character
my favorite male character
my favorite book/season/etc.
my favorite episode (if it's a TV show)
my favorite cast member
my favorite ship
a character I'd die for put a reasonable amount of effort into defending
a character I just can't sympathize with
a character I grew to love
my anti-OTP

This entry was originally posted at Comment there or here, as you wish.

current mood: bouncy

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Friday, April 13th, 2018
6:59 pm - Won in translation
It's poetry month, and since one particular poem of Brecht's has been on my mind recently, I looked it up again. I couldn't find a translation into English, so I tried my hand on one, because it's truly a favourite, for a lot of reasons, not least because it captures the excitement of artistic collaboration so well. And not just any collaboration. It's late in WWII, and Bert Brecht, German playwright, sharp tongued egomaniac, communist and passionate smoker of cigars, currently living in exile and writing withering commentary about it, is doggedly trying to get one of his plays staged in the US. He does this with Charles Laughton, British acting genius with a quick temper and reportedly a thin skin. Laughton doesn't speak German. Brecht speaks English badly. Do they end up hating each other's guts? Au contraire. They end up creating an English version of Life of Galilei, and Brecht writes the following poem:

Letter to the actor Charles Laughton regarding working together on the play "Life of Galilei"

Our people were tearing each other apart still when we
sat with grubby exercise books, looking
for words in dictionaries, and many times
we crossed out text and then
we excavated the original phrase beneath the strike-outs. Slowly -
while the walls of houses were crumbling down in our capitals -
the walls of languages were crashing into each other. Together
we started to follow the dictation of characters and events
with new text.

Again and again, I changed into an actor, demonstrating
by gesture and tone a character, while you
turned into a writer. Yet neither I nor you
leapt out of our calling.

This entry was originally posted at Comment there or here, as you wish.

current mood: mellow

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Thursday, April 12th, 2018
4:30 pm - The AMericans 6.03.
In Svetlana Alexejevich's Zinky Boys, about the Soviet soldiers in Afghanistan and after, one of the many aspects that caused an utter disconnect and alienation among the surviving Afghanistan veterans was that when they had left, full of the usual propaganda, there had been a Soviet Union, and when they returned, there simply wasn't anymore. There were Russia and several other states, but the Soviet Union was gone, and the war they fought wasn't regarded remotely like The Great Patriotic War everyone had been taught to revere but like something shameful and lost. During that scene with Elizabeth and Philip in the kitchen, I had to think of those passages in the above named book.

You haven't spoken to anyone back home for more than twenty years... )

This entry was originally posted at Comment there or here, as you wish.

current mood: contemplative

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Wednesday, April 11th, 2018
11:59 am - Legion 2.02.
In which I wonder whether the show hasn’t make a wrong creative decision in the long term, though what do I know? I keep getting surprised anyway.

Read more... )

This entry was originally posted at Comment there or here, as you wish.

current mood: pensive

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Tuesday, April 10th, 2018
6:48 pm
When I got my assignment from [community profile] ssrconfidential, the Agent Carter ficathon, I thought, no problem, I can do that. Except the AC idea that's been plagueing me for a while is quite dark and angsty, and my recepient asked for shenanigans, which means it would be bad manners to dump my unasked-for dark fic on them. Fine, thought I, they'll get something light, and I'll write the dark story as a treat and gift it to someone else.

Except then a suitable shenanigans inviting, light hearted idea refused to present itself. Comedy being harder than tragedy in 99% of the cases, etc. Until today! Inspiration struck, and now I have a genius idea for exactly these characters, and it will be fun and amusing (I hope), and... hang on. Surely someone has thought of this before? I mean, it's so obvious, once you think about it?

*eyes Agent Carter section carefully, tries out relevant tags*

...No, it doesn't look like someone has. Hooray! Except: if I write this idea, I need an actual plot. Even/especially if it's an absurd one. And I might have to refresh my memory on spoilery stuff.

...I really can't write in this fandom without the urge to do research, it seems. Last year it was German scientists, and the year before that Hungarians in Hollywood. Ah well. But those were more or less character centric mood pieces, not case fic.

Conclusion: shenanigans are work!

Also, whom do I bother with my additional dark fic, should I find the time to write it at all? Potential victims, beware...

This entry was originally posted at Comment there or here, as you wish.

current mood: silly

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Thursday, April 5th, 2018
10:07 am - The Americans 6.02
In which mistakes are made all around.

Read more... )

This entry was originally posted at Comment there or here, as you wish.

current mood: calm

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Wednesday, April 4th, 2018
6:37 pm - Legion 2.01.
And the most original, wildly experimentel tv series to be based on a Marvel property is back! Now, given that one distinct feature of the early episodes was the question as to whether our pov character in those episodes was insane or not, and whether anything he and thus we saw was real, I was wondering how the show, having answered that quesiton, would avoid feeling more conventional in its second outing. Not to mention that one of the two cliffhangers the first season left us with felt like it would be tricky to follow up without repeating an s1 storyline, and the other was bizarre even for this show. But of course I was very curious indeed to find out how Legion would tackle these challenges. And the answer, other than "with aplomb", is...

I make people nervous?!? )

This entry was originally posted at Comment there or here, as you wish.

current mood: weird

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3:40 pm - Elena Ferrante: The Neapolitan Quartet
I've just finished the Neapolitan Quartet by Elena Ferrante, consisting of the novels "My Brilliant Friend", "The Story of a New Name", "Those who leave and those who stay" and "The Story of the Lost Child", which I started almost a year ago. They live up to the hype, though they are as far from a "feel good" or "empowering" story about female friendship as you can get while telling a tale with the complicated, intense relationship between two women at its heart. There is, at different points in their lives, as much anger, jealousy (both intellectual and sexual) and alienation between our heroines, Elena (the narrator) and Lila as there is support, trust and affection. They each achieve triumphs as well as defeats, but they are always temporary. And the roles keep changing; if at first Elena is the overlooked hedgehog to flashy Lila's hare, making the race out of their childhood poverty via sheer diligence and industry as well wihle Lila is sabotaged by a mixture of patriarchal circumstance and her own temper, this changes back and forth.

It's also one of those stories - like The Shawshank Redemption or The Barefoot Contessa - where the narrator telling the tale is not its central hero(ine), which keeps said central hero neatly enigmatic and fascinating. (For that matter, this is also how the ACD Sherlock Holmes stories work, and not for nothing are the two where Holmes takes over the narration not held in high regard.) Elena's fascination with her friend is certainly shared by the reader, though then again: since Elena, in the novel, is a writer as well, there is a very meta awareness that this is also a story about the way we construct each other. In the last volume, Elena reflects that she loves Lila - who at that point has already begun her endeavour to erase herself that's announced in the first novel's opening, which is why I don't regard it as spoilery - and wants to keep something of Lila for the world - but specifically Lila as she, Elena, writes her. In the second novel's opening, Elena destroys Lila's notebooks, an action that's easily among the most shocking in the Quartet to me (which is saying something, not just because this is a novel set for the larger part at a brutal location where the physical and emotional violence is always considerable) but which is, in a way, the counterpart of Lila's repeated attempts to direct Elena's life for her.

The cast of supporting characters mainly consists of a couple of families in the impoverished, crime-ridden part of Naples where Lila and Elena grow up, and the way their lives intertwine with our heroines allows the author to depict various levels of society as well as the social upveal in the decades she covers - and the question of what it means to be a woman in those decades. I've seen complaints that the men are all in various degrees weak or tyrannical or both, and I disagree; there are sympathetic male characters (Enzo and Pasquale first and foremost, arguably also Antonio). But unsympathetic or sympathetic, the male characters mostly show up to trigger reactions in the women; it's never their story.

One of the meta elements in the saga are Lila's and Elena's disagreement about fiction - Elena at first thinks you need to bring structure and order into the raw material life delivers via fiction, but ends up concluding that Lila is right about this not capturing reality (and in any event not the reality of Lila herself), that only disorder and open endings would do. Add to this the irony that while there are some unsolved mysteries (besides a central one) by the end of the Quartet, there is also a strong structural sense; in a way, the story comes full circle, via a narrative device whose construction Elena herself as the narrator pointed out earlier.

I hear there's been a British stage version, and there will be a tv version. One of the elements I wonder most about is how not being in Elena's head will make a difference. Elena-the-narrator is ruthless with herself in the novels, depicting all her bad moments, petty motivations etc. without trying to excuse them, but she also gets across her tremendous insecurities. Which the character doesn't talk about to many other people, especially not Lila when they're trying to compete. If a tv version doesn't get this across some way, I'm a bit afraid the balance between the two central characters will be lost.

But be that as it may: it's very gratifying that four novels with women at the heart of them became international bestsellers, and that they're also damm good books.

This entry was originally posted at Comment there or here, as you wish.

current mood: contemplative

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Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018
12:13 pm - The Death of Stalin (Film Review)
Back when I was a student, there used to be this debate about whether or not you can create artistically successful comedy out of the horror of the Third Reich without selling its victims short, and the standard answer was that Lubitsch and Chaplin could (with To be or not to be and The Great Dictator respectively), but that both of them said they couldn't have done it had they known the full extent of the horror. Mind you, it was a very late 70s, early 80s debate; that taboo has long since been shattered.

Now, Stalin and his millions of the dead were always a lesser taboo, not least because of the Cold War situation in which I grew up. But I can't think of a good example of an artistically successfull comedy set in the Stalin era and using its brutality, either; movies like Ninotchka present their Russian communists as a strict, humorless bunch, but the worst its characters have to fear is prison. Well, The Death of Stalin is that rarity, imo as always - a hilarious pitch black comedy which does not shrink from, on the contrary, highlights the horror its setting and yet doesn't belittle the victims. The goings on around Stalin's last day and the aftermath of his death are farcical, but the atmosphere of utter fear and the destruction a totalitarian state wrecks on relationships between people on every level (including the husband/wife, parent/child ones) are tangible.

Like the trailer made me hope: no fake Russian accents, THANK GOD. (The habit of making actors speak in fake Russian or for that matter fake German accents when the movie or tv show in question is set on a location where the audience is aware the characters are talking in their own language to each other is a pet peeve of mine.) The splendid cast is in high form, with Simon Russell Beale utterly chilling as Beria, Steve Buscemi doing the hiding-canninesss-under-buffoonery thing very well indeed as Chruschev, Michael Palin as the ultimate company man as Molotov and Jason Isaacs in what is this movie's Harry Lime role (i.e. really little screen time, big audience impact) stealing scenes as an art form as General Zhukov. The "Stalin demands a recording of a concert Radio Moscow has just broadcast, since none has been made the concert has to be performed again to oblige" anecdote was familiar to me, though I guess the Stalin-loathing pianist who through all that happened to her is past fear (the only character other than Zhukov who is) is invented. But then, unlike many non-comedic takes on history, this film never claims to be oh so accurate only to then not to be, but unabashedly stands by its history-as-a-comic-book origins.

Mind you, given contemporary events, the difference between reality and satire has been lost anyway. While thankfully the only one of the current autocrats holding something like the same power over his subjects that Stalin did is the one in North Korea, the sycophantic public flattery and humiliation of minions rings oh so familiar, no matter in which direction you look (Putin, Erdogan, Orban, Kascynski, and of course the Orange Menace). That's another reason why I'm glad the director decided against fake Russian accents and went for US and British ones; there's no othering possible when it comes to the characters. Most of us (as in "us the audience this movie will likely have"; it's forbidden in Russia, which is telling) don't live in a totalitarian state in which we can get shot on a whim, thankfully. But more and more of us live with leaders (or aspiring-to-leadership-politicians) who keep rewriting the past as it suits them, conflate facts and opinions and demand public glorification as their due. No, this is not a historical movie.

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current mood: chipper

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Saturday, March 31st, 2018
3:13 pm - Easter Wells: Fairy Tales Edition
Happy Easter and Pessach to all who celebrate, and to everyone: I bring beautifully decorated wells, as I do every year. Since the Easter weekend in my hometown was predicted to be a rainy one, I used the sun on Good Friday to do my annual trip through Franconian Switzerland to admire the Easter Wells. This year, they had a distinct fairy tale theme, as you'll see below the cut, but for starters and above cut, enjoy some variations of Puss-in-Boots. The Marquis de Carabas salutes everyone.

 photo 2018_0330Ostern0052_zpszuwwtdav.jpg

 photo 2018_0330Ostern0033_zps977y0dn4.jpg

Read more... )

Once more, enjoy the holidays, everyone!

This entry was originally posted at Comment there or here, as you wish.

current mood: good

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Thursday, March 29th, 2018
1:43 pm - The Americans 6.01. and some unrelated links
In which the Elizabeth and Philip who aren't British Royals are back, Gorbachev is General Secretary, and the end, my friend, is near. Also, Arkady Ivanovich is BACK, and I know at least one person on lj whom this is going to make very happy indeed.

Spoilers are maintaining their cover story under pressure )

In other fannish news: this obituary of Philip Kerr, whose death I wrote about some days ago, goes into more detail than the Guardian one I linked earlier.

Also, I've known I liked the current Speaker of the House of Commons ever since he declared the Orange Menace, should he visit Britain, would NOT get invited into Parliament, but my distant affecton for Mr. Bercow got strengthed by him dressing down Boris Johnson yesterday. Britain's version of the Orange Menace and Foreign Secretary was as obnoxious as usual in ridiculing his Labour counterpart by calling her "Lady something" instead of her name, and Bercow calling him out on this was just beautiful to wach. Enjoy:

This entry was originally posted at Comment there or here, as you wish.

current mood: bouncy

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Wednesday, March 28th, 2018
5:04 pm - Okay then...
So, to recapitulate: the NRA/Republican Party response to the Parkland students so far was, leaving out the usual "thoughts and prayers" right at the start:

- those students are not students but "crisis actors"
- they're real students but coached by evil Democratic masterminds and don't know what they're doing/talking about
- the shooting was really organized by the FBI/evil Democrats
- the students are heartless fameseekers
- the students are really to blame for the shooting because the shooter was bullied.

All revolting, but the last one especially so. This article by a student who tried to be nice to the future shooter despite the way he menaced her, and what this resulted in, makes for devastating reading.

You know, I remember the Orange Menace's boast that he could shoot someone in public on Fifth Avenue and his followers would still stand by him. Depressingly, a year of evidence made me conclude it's even worse. Spoilers for decades old Stephen King novel to follow: In The Dead Zone, one of his earlier novels, Stephen King has its eerily Trump-lke politician (aka the other US (almost) President Martin Sheen played in the film version) finally brought down by said guy grabbing a toddler to hide behind when the shooting starts, on live tv. It's not often that you can say Stephen King turns out to have been overly optimistic about human nature. By now, I'm convinced the Orange Menace could personally beat a toddler to death on live tv, and his base, as well as most of the Republican party, would react as follows:

a) The toddler is white:

- the whole thing didn't happen; the toddler was a Hollywood special effect
- if it did happen, the toddler attacked the Orange Menace first
- also, the toddler probably had rabies and the Orange Menace had to stop the kid from spreading it
- look, it was good for the ratings, why are you complaining anyway?

b) The toddler belongs to a non-white ethnic group
- clearly, the toddler was a terrorist; our thoughts and prayers are with the President, and Congress needs to enforce better anti-immigration laws against the *insert ethnic group of choice* toddler menace.

On to less depressing issues. This year, James Ivory, better known as a director of book adaptions in the 80s and early 90s (to the point where "Merchant/Ivory" became basically a trademark), won an Oscar for his screenplay for the movie Call me by your name (another one I need to watch before it leaves the cinemas again), which he did not direct. This resulted in some renewed media attention and this delightful interview, in which, among other things, he calls the director out on not providingfull frontal male nudity:

One aspect that does still rankle with him is the absence of full-frontal male nudity. Ivory’s screenplay specified that Elio and Oliver would be shown naked, a detail overruled by clauses in the actors’ contracts. “When Luca says he never thought of putting nudity in, that is totally untrue,” says Ivory. “He sat in this very room where I am sitting now, talking about how he would do it, so when he says that it was a conscious aesthetic decision not to – well, that’s just bullshit.
“When people are wandering around before or after making love, and they’re decorously covered with sheets, it’s always seemed phoney to me. I never liked doing that. And I don’t do it, as you know.” In Maurice, his 1987 film of EM Forster’s posthumously published gay love story, “the two guys have had sex and they get up and you certainly see everything there is to be seen. To me, that’s a more natural way of doing things than to hide them, or to do what Luca did, which is to pan the camera out of the window toward some trees. Well …” He gives a derisive snort.

I hear you, Mr. Ivory, I hear you. And he did walk the walk, not just in Maurice; unless I misremember, A Room with a View provides male nudity as well. The article also mentions his life long partnership (romantic as well as professional) with the late Ismail Merchant, and when the reporter asks why they didn't talk with the press about being a couple back in the day, he gets told: “That is not something that an Indian Muslim would ever say publicly or in print. Ever! You have to remember that Ismail was an Indian citizen living in Bombay, with a deeply conservative Muslim family there. It’s not the sort of thing he was going to broadcast. Since we were so close and lived most of our lives together, I wasn’t about to undermine him.”

That Ivory is still holding on to his decades long dream project of making a cinematic adaption of Richard II . ([profile] angevin2, do you know about this?) and hopes his Oscar may finally make it possible: him, on the one hand, yay, otoh, between the BBC adaption starring Ben Wishaw and the RSC production starring David Tennant in recent years, he might be out of luck again, or does the fact both were tv productions make a difference?

This entry was originally posted at Comment there or here, as you wish.

current mood: cynical

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Monday, March 26th, 2018
7:22 pm - Black Panther, Das schweigende Klassenzimmer (Film Reviews)
Due to much rl business in February and early March, followed by a severe cold, I missed out on a lot of movies in the cinema, but have been finally able to watch two of them.

Black Panther: very enjoyable adventure movie. Its victory at the box office, annihilating (one hopes) the bias that a block buster with a nearly all black cast (and the two "Tolkiien White Guys", as I hear they're called, which is hilarious, are in minor supporting roles) mainly set outside the US, with the female roles (wise cracking tech wizard, seasoned warrior of the realm, spy) being exactly the type that usually go to the male cast) - that a movie can do this and get in easily as much cash as the nearly all white, one or two token women blockbusters of yore is deeply gratifying. It would be in any case on general principle, but this is also a well crafted film, great cinematography, and it manages to juggle a pretty huge ensemble without the audience getting confused as to who is who.

Now, I'd be be faking it if I said was so profoundly emotionally moved as many of the people in my circle appeared to have been. I liked the movie; I liked the characters, I really appreciate that the movie at no point botheres with a "...for a woman" type of compliment for its fabulous female characters, who are all distinct from each other, the high tech Utopia which has to wonder what the responsible thing to do when faced with the many miseries of the world is being an African country makes for a great theme with many lines of dialogue feeling like commentary on our here and now (I'm thinking of W'Kabi's and T'Challa's exchange re: helping refugees versus military intervention in particular, and of course T'Challa's big speech in the mid-credit scene). But I think one reason why I never quite made the leap from liking the film to loving it was that T'Challa, our hero, fel tmore interesting and compelling to me in his debut as a supporting character in Civil War than he does here in his own movie. This may be partly because he's surrounded by such a great ensemble of colourful characters, or because his own storyline is the most traditional/predictable thing about the whole movie. (This is something almost inevitable if you're the main character in this type of story, to be fair.) But there it is. I hasten to clarify that "didn't find him as interesting here as in CW" does not equal "didn't like him" - I liked him! I promise! I just liked several of the other characters more. This being said, some spoilery T'Challa related observations (all positive in nature, though not all serious):

Spoilers freeze like an antelope )

Fannish osmosis already indicated to me that Shuri is basically the new Darcy (from Thor, not from Pride and Prejudice) in terms of fan favouritism, and she's as great as advertised, will hopefully remain a presence in subsequent Marvel movies. I liked how basically angst-free the relationship between Nakia and T'Challa was. Her and Okoye having a different initial response to the spoilery event leading into the movie's third act didn't feel like it was simply because of their respective different relationships to T''Challa but mainly because of their different concepts of what loyalty/duty to one's country meant, which I dug.

Though it didn't escape me the film otherwise avoids a problem with its basic concept, which is, in two words: absolute monarchy. With the succession (potentially) decided by ritual combat. That's fine for fantasy worlds, but if the world building is supposed to resemble the present (plus superpowers and aliens), it becomes trickier. Now you could argue that the key event at the end of the second act already demonstrates a problem with that principle, i.e. the movie textually points it out, but: not imo not really. Spoilers wonder what Wakandans not into martial arts but into politics think of it all? )

That nitpick aside: I hope for more in this particular corner of the MCU. This was a splendid entry.

One more Marvel thing: you can still sign up for [community profile] ssrconfidential, the Agent Carter ficathon, here. Writing about Peggy and friends has proved great fun to me in recent years, and I'm glad I'll have one more chance.

Das schweigende Klassenzimmer ("The Silent Class Room")

This movie was directed by Lars Kraume, whose previous movie Der Staat gegen Fritz Bauer (The People vs Fritz Bauer) was one of my favourite movies of 2015; looks like this new one has a good chance of becoming one of my favourites in 2018. The title is both an accurate description of a key event and a play on the title of one of Erich Kästner's most popular books, Das fliegende Klassenzimmer ("The Flying Class Room">, and the story, which actually happened, has a distinctly Kästnerian flavour.

Like Der Staat gegen Fritz Bauer, Das schweigende Klassenzimmer is set in Germany in the late 50s, only in this case East Germany, and it shares some themes; the injustices of the system, courage and conscience against overwhelming odds. In 1956, five years before the Berlin Wall was built, it was still possible for East Germans to cross over legally, and at the start of the movie, two school boys (our heroes, Kurt and Theo) do just this in order to watch a "daring" movie in West Berlin. (Meaning: a movie where there is supposedly female nudity.) Back then, newsreeels still preceeded the main event, and thus Theo and Kurt catch a report about the Hungarian Uprising (and its impending crushing by Soviet Forces). This, once they're back home, leads to some more illegal radio listening, and finally the boys and their entire class (which is mixed, female and male students together, and is the Abiturjahrgang, meaning they're preparing for their final degrees which will qualify them for university), stunned by events in Hungary, decide to observe one minute of silence in memory of the Hungrarian dead in protest.

To say this backfires in their faces is putting it mildly. One great thing about the movie is that the motivations for the original protests are mixed, and not all act out of sympathy for the Hungarian revolt; some do it for the hell of it, or because of peer pressure, or because a (as it turns out, wrong) report said among the dead was a football hero of theirs. But as the punishments and investigations escalate, until even the secretary for education (Burkhard Klaussner, who played the heroic Fritz Bauer in the previous movie, here in an absolutely chilling role) shows up and the state comes down with all its might on a couple of teenagers. Who are just young and idealistic enough to refuse to back down, and so indignant about the threatened beyond all proportion punishment and the pressure to denounce each other that despite internal tensions and them at the start not all acting for politics, they maintain solidarity to each other.

A group of teenagers standing up to say "This is not right" and getting failed and vilified by the adults around them in varying degrees makes some contemporary associations inevitable, which Lars Kraume couldn't know about when he shot the movie. As in his West German tale, the fact that this is the late 50s the Third Reich is just a decade away is relevant. All the adults are in varying degrees broken. Even the most frightening character, the Secretary of Education, has a past as a Communist resistance fighter which left him with literal scars as well as a deformed (or just too fitting-the-bureaucracy formed) personality. Then there's the almost desperate belief that this is the socialist utopia which just has to get through its early difficulties which is shared by a great many of the characters, adults and students alike. Theo is the first of his family to go to grammar school, and to have a chance at Abitur and at university, and as the school director, who comes from a similar worker's background, points out, neither of them would have had the chance in the past.

Despite Theo (whose father participated in the workers' uprising of 1953, got punished and is now desperately grateful to have a job at all and does not want to see his son fail) and Kurt (whose father is a local city councillor, which is one reason of several why it's Kurt who has the initial idea for the silent minute) being the main characters, this is also an ensemble movie, and several of the other students get narrative attention and characterisation as well, like Lena (in something of a triangle situation with Kurt and Theo and the first one to really get the political implications), Paul (whose uncle Edgar is a kind of mentor figure and the source of their illegal radio listening; Edgar is also homosexual, which is another overlapping theme from the Fritz Bauer movie, because East German society in the 1950s isn't a wonder of acceptance either), and Erik (whose father died in the concentration camp Sachsenhausen, which has informed Erik's entire world view and will be used horribly against him by the authorities later). Among the adults, we have in addition to Edgar Kurt's parents, Theo's parents, school director Schwarz (who isn't without sympathy for the students, but definitely not willing to stand up for them, either, once the next highest authority has been notified), the Kreisschulrätin Mrs. Kessler (that would be the next highest authority, a one woman good cop/bad cop commando) and the above mentioned minister.

The movie is set at Eisenhüttenstadt, or, as it was called then (truly!), Stalinstadt, which, as the "first socialist town in Germany" was only created in 1953 (out of a conglomerate of settlings) as a socialist model city, with train trips to Berlin, and filmed on location. The soundtrack is unabashedly emotional, which fits with the young main characters. Who are a believable bunch of teenagers, none of them perfect - or stereotypes -, and all of them passionate. The previous generation's original sin, whether they kept their heads down, were Nazis, or were on the contrary Communists, was, as the movie reveals more and more, all giving in to the urge to save themselves at the expense of others. And this is the test these youngsters now face. It's not just history. I really hope it will be shown in your part of the world, too; l loved it.

The trailer:

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current mood: calm

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Saturday, March 24th, 2018
4:37 pm - "Not that winter meant much in that part of the world..."
Not the kind of fannish content I wanted to post, alas, but: I learned via the internet that yesterday, novelist Phiip Kerr died. I only discovered Kerr as a writer last year for myself, having been made curious by this article in The New Yorker. (Warning: it's pretty spoilery for the novel it reviews, Prussian Blue.) I read the first Bernie Gunther novel, March Violets, and then I had enough time at my hands, so I fell into the rabbit hole and read the rest of the Bernie Gunther series, all eleven of them, and Kerr's children's novel Frederick the Great Detective to boot. By which you may gather I really was captivated by those novels.

It's always an odd relationship one has as a reader with a novelist; there's no way of knowing what the person behind the book is like; maybe they are okay, maybe they are jerks, and when you're in really bad luck, they turn out to have been fine with child abuse, but in any case, their creations sparked something in you, made you think and feel, and so it's impossible to be indifferent to their existence despite the fact they're strangers you'll never meet. (Most likely. I did meet a couple of novelists whose books I encountered first in my time.) So: I have no idea what Philip Kerr was like as a person, but I feel sad he's gone now.

This entry was originally posted at Comment there or here, as you wish.

current mood: sad

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Friday, March 23rd, 2018
3:59 pm - I promise I'll be back to fannish stuff in the next entry
You may or many not have heard in recent days about former conservative French President Nicolas Sarkozy arrested over the € 50 m he got from Gaddafi for his election campaign. I prefer to think of this as another case of a European film which will get the inevitable American remake for a global audience.

Meanwhile, in terms of "once as a tragedy, once as a farce" Brexit news, those blue pass ports (which as Guy Verhoefstadt has pointed out Britain could have had at any point they wanted - maroon as a colour for European pass ports is optional, which is why two member states picked another color instead) of the future UK will be printed in France. Because of course they will.

On a more serious note, Patrick Stewart reflects on Europe, Britain and the cost of Brexit. Oh Captain my Captain, I knew I could rely on you to be sensible about this.

Now, in Germany, we have had our own share of facepalm inducing political shenanigans in recent months (and those just from the normal parties, excluding the awful bunch who made it back into parliament in the last elections for the first time since 1945, more or less), but endless negotiations do not flashy international headlines make, so I thought those of you interested in German politics but without knowledge about much of same might enjoy reading this article about Angela Merkel and Andrea Nahles; Der Spiegel, the English edition of which published the article, even found a feminist angle for this one ("Never before in German history have two governing parties been led by women. The country's political stability will now hinge on the relationship between Andrea Nahles and Angela Merkel"), and I (who haven't voted for either) found it a fair portrayal of both of them. (Also, descriptions of other politicians such as the one of Oscar Lafontaine - "the narcissistic leftist who once led the SPD" cracked me up because, well, so true.)

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current mood: full

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Thursday, March 22nd, 2018
5:40 pm - In a mirror, darkly
Last week I noticed that several of our major news media - the FAZ and the SZ, who are our equivalent to the Washington Post and the New York Times, basically - did major stories about the My Lai Massacre, due to the anniversary. Whereas I didn't see anything in my admittedly limited look at the US media, and feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, it's entirely possible that I missed several articles.

Now, given all that's happening in the US in the present, I'm aware there's no lack of stories about current day calamities. However, I couldn't help but feel reminded of something someone in my circle observed a while ago: the sense that the Vietnam War, which used to be very present in (American as well as non-American) pop culture when I grew up in the 80s, seems to have all but disappeared. And I can't help but speculate, and connect it with a couple of things. 9/11 being one of them. (Which reminds me: the NY Times last week also had an enraged opinion piece by an Iraqui writer on it being the 15th anniversary of W's invasion of Iraq. Someone in the comments observed on the depressing fact that according to current day polls, a lot of US citizens seem to think Saddam had something to do with 9/11. This despite the fact this was one lie too big even for Dubya and his neocons, who stuck to non-existent weapons of mass destruction back in the day. It's not like Saddam is lacking in villainous deeds to be blamed for, but not this one.) And because in recent weeks I finished my Star Trek: Enterprise marathon, my brain made some weird connections, to wit:

1) The Xindi arc in s3 of ENT was an obvious attempt to grapple with 9/11 in fiction. (And the result was, err, less than stellar storytelling.) S4 offered something a bit more nuanced in the form of the the Vulcan three parter. By which I mean that wereas the Xindi arc started by Earth attacked out of the blue by a previously unknown race (who, as it turned out, themselves were manipulated into doing it) , and our heroes deciding that the Jack Bauer way of morality was the way to go, the Vulcan trilogy, written by the Garfield-Stevenses of many a TOS novel fame, had the Vulcans Command dominated by a guy who clamed that the Andorians were in possession of a weapon of mass destruction and that totally asked for a preemptive strike at Andoria. Rather satisfyingly, it ended with the guy in question being deposed and Vulcan society undergoing a moral reformation. But then, it was clearly fiction.

2.) Another attempt to deal with the emotional impact of 9/11 by then ongoing genre shows that I can recall were, of course, the rebooted Battlestar Galactica (the scene of the pilots touching the photos of people who died during the Cylon attack on the colonies was meant as a direct evocation, for example).

3.) And then there was the (in)famous review of the newly released The Two Towers in TIME Magazine by Richard Schickel which read the movie as basically Saruman = Osama bin Laden, Aragorn's speech to Theoden = directed at nations unwilling to back the US in its Iraq venture, which enraged Viggo Mortensen to no end. (He wrote a letter of protest to TIME and showed up in every public appearance he had to promote the movie wearing a T-Shirt saying "no blood for oil".)

What all these attempts and interpretations have in common is this: in all of them, the society coded as "us" (as in "the US") is the attacked-by-overwhelming-forces plucky little guy. I mean, technically you couild argue the humans of the twelve colonies on BSG outnumbered the invading Cylons, but the Cylons, at least at this early point in the show, were presented as technically superior and as the relentless hunters whereas the humans were on the run and fleeing, definitely outmached in weaponry. Not a single one of them has the society/group the audience is supposed to identify with as a superpower outmatching their attackers in weaponry, numbers and economic strength. And most definitely not as a superpower with a history of invasions of its own.

Partly I suppose this is because everyone wants to see themselves as the little guy, the plucky rebel/victim of injustice, and not as The Man defending the status quo. But part of it... well, this brings me back to where I started, the My Lai Massacre and all it symbolizes, the Vietnam War. Because my current interpretation is this: the story the Vietnam War told for a while, in the 70s and 80s, was unbearable post 9/11. It amounted to: the US fought a war which not only it did not win but lost both in the moral and the pragmatic sense. None of the aims it set out to achieve was in fact achieved; the end result was Vietnam as a Communist state. In the process, the image of "defender of the free" etc. was torn to shreds; instead of GI's storming the Beach of Normandy, the enduring iconic image was of a naked little girl running because she got bombed with Napalm, instead of flags being put into the sand of Iwo Jima, you got "we had to destroy the village in order to save it" as a summary of US military strategy, between Johnson and Nixon, both parties in a two party system were tainted by leading this war (and lying about it to the public). It was all for worse than nothing. The US soldiers killed for nothing and were killed for nothing. They got addicted to drugs and committed massacres for nothing. Now you can do the Rambo thing and get a still pleasing to to conservatives story of a brave soldier/brave soldiers let down by their government during and after the war in question, yet good by themselves. You can try the "a few rotten apples" explanation for the likes of My Lai. But by and large, you're still left with: the war was lost on every level it could be lost, and nothing good, no grand final justification came out of it. And that's just completely alien to the narrative US Americans are taught about themselves.

Mind you: there's a sci fi saga created at the time in which the narrative "we" and "us" are in fact a superpower, involved in a conflict with what appears to be an inferior foe under false pretenses, a republic which is rotting from within though there are also people in it who do live according to their ideals. A story with heroes who make moral compromises which end up making everything worse, not better, and with a central character who might start out as an innocent thinking the task of his chosen profession is to free people but who ends up committing massacres....why yes, I'm thinking of the Star Wars Prequels. Which have their flaws, sure enough. But in this, they have a bit more narrative honesty than all those other reflections. (Also more than the sequels who avoid the inconvenience of having to depict main characters defending a functioning state and the status quo by destroying the new Republic off screen and presenting its heroes in a brand new rebellion against a superior foe.)

And since I'm ending on a Star Wars note anyway: my favourite WIP has been finished as of last week. I've reccommended it here before, despite usually avoiding WiPs, because it's that good an AU, encompassing Prequel and OT era alike. It uses its time travel element at the start not as a cheat but as a great way to explore the characters, because Vader regretting Padmé's death and his own physical state and wanting to change this isn't the same as Anakin being redeemed, the way Anakin later, at a point when he thinks he's escaped his past, gets confronted with what he did in both the original and the altered time line is enough to satisfy the strictest critic, Leia-as-raised-by-Anakin-and-Padmé is both intriguingly different and yet recognizably herself and has a heartrendering, fantastic arc once she finds out about certain things, Luke is the most humane character as he should be, there's Ahsoka to make my fannish heart heappy, and while I'm usually not really into the EU bookverse characters, the way this story uses Mara Jade is awesome. (Especially an angle which the novels she hails from to my knowledge didn't consider, to wit, that she and Anakin share the experience of being groomed by Palpatine from childhood onward.) In conclusion: it's a long tale, but so worth it.

Out of the Dark Valley (324646 words) by irhinoceri
Chapters: 53/53
Fandom: Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Star Wars: Rebellion Era - All Media Types, Star Wars: Rise of Empire Era - All Media Types, Star Wars - All Media Types
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: Graphic Depictions Of Violence
Relationships: Padmé Amidala/Anakin Skywalker, Mara Jade/Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa & Luke Skywalker
Characters: Anakin Skywalker | Darth Vader, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Padmé Amidala, Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa, Ahsoka Tano, Mara Jade, Original Female Character(s), Han Solo, Sheev Palpatine | Darth Sidious, Barriss Offee, Yoda (Star Wars)
Additional Tags: Skywalker Family Feels, Alternate Universe - Time Travel, Alternate Universe - Canon Divergence, Padmé lives!, minor ahsoka tano/barriss offee, Canon-Typical Violence, Time Travel Fix-It, Time Travel Fuck-It-Up-Again, Family Drama/Angst, Dysfunctional Family, Ensemble Cast

15 years after the events of RotS, Darth Vader discovers a way to time travel backwards through the Force, to the moment in his past he most regrets. This creates an alternate timeline where he has the opportunity to change his and Padmé's tragic fate. But reliving the past and making a new future will prove to be no easy task, and the sins of the father will have lasting effects on the next generation. (AU from Mustafar onward. Ensemble PoV featuring Anakin, Padmé, Obi-Wan, Luke, Leia, and Mara Jade. Skywalker family focus with mild Anidala and LukeMara elements. Background Barrissoka. Rated T for violence and dark themes.)

This entry was originally posted at Comment there or here, as you wish.

current mood: pensive

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