Spoiler Alert Sunday :: our thoughts on Ant-Man and the Wasp

12 Aug

As you may well know, Ant-Man was a film I considered insultingly mediocre and perfectly useless, and drift partner echoed that sentiment despite not going so far as to force herself through it in the theater. Ant-Man and the Wasp was something we were looking at from the standpoint of “well, we have to go because Wasp, and maybe he’s better now that Civil War made him funny.” Essentially, we were hoping that it was going to be a Defenders situation where everyone present just routinely mocked the least-marketable male superhero.

It wound up being a surprisingly nice time, actually, and only in part because it did involve quite a lot of mocking Scott Lang (Paul Rudd). They also cleverly subverted my initial cause of concern, namely “how are the events of Infinity War going to affect this movie?” I’ll just say it straight out: they don’t, because this movie takes place some days before the events of Infinity War begin to unfold. How conveeeenient.

One of the great strengths of this movie is that a great deal of the Scott we get is the Scott that’s for other people. Scott the friend/business partner of Luis (Michael Peña), Scott the father of Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson), Scott the teammate of Hope (Evangeline Lilly) and I guess technically of Hank (Michael Douglas) too although Hank is a garbage old man. Scott is a character who’s best when he’s framed through others because it really helps when you have other characters telling you why you should like him, and this is especially true with his daughter, who for whatever reason thinks he’s the bee’s knees. (Cassie is also just great as her own character, though, so I’m inclined to trust her opinion. She’s a pretty with-it child.)

The plot of Ant-Man and the Wasp is basically “Scott is in his last week of Sokovia Accords-related house arrest but wacky shenanigans mean he has to cleverly get around that!” with a side of “hey, you guys remember Janet Van Dyne? Hope’s mom? She’s Michelle Pfeiffer and she’s alive.” This is to say it’s part just ~wacky shenanigans~ and part a chance for Evangeline Lilly to do some Acting.

Because it’s a Marvel movie, though, there should also be actual villains. The commonplace one is a conniving evil entrepreneur played by Walton Goggins (if you’ve seen Walton Goggins play anyone, ever, you can imagine what he does – a lot of Southern smarm combined with some clever plans and some dumb ones) but it’s the actual super-quality one who makes this movie also worth it. Ava (Hannah John-Kamen), alias Ghost (which I will heretofore call her because Ava is already someone in the MCU dammit and SHIELD Ava was named Ava because that means “voice, sound” and the poor thing’s function in the plot was to be the hearing-deprived fellow space slave of Jemma’s that we actually had a face for and Marvel needs to buy a damn baby name book), is a girl who was in a quantum accident as a child, then used as an assassin by SHIELD (who in SHIELD used her in this capacity is unspecified). She has pseudoscientific dimension-related powers that the film explains better than I can, but she serves as a villain figure because she is Determined To Cure Herself At All Costs, even if that cost is someone else’s life. (You can also probably figure out by the term “villain figure” that we don’t consider her an actual villain, and most of the characters eventually arrive at that point as well.)

Also, Ghost has the advantage of being British. The actress is British, so I don’t know why this surprised me, but it did. Between that and her general vibes (spaced out, remorseless, very sad and wounded) she sort of comes off like Dru from Buffy, which I obviously mean as a compliment.

Anyway, this movie has requisite Wacky Chases, lots of Bullshit Superhero Science (which I say with love), plenty of Hope giving Scott shit, weird tangential musings on the nature of parenthood and family, and enough fluffy nonsense to make a fun little movie. It’s not a standout, but it was a pleasant surprise.

–your fangirl heroines.

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Fashion Friday :: a shining star.

10 Aug

Lyanna

That’s Lyanna (Bella Ramsey). She’s wonderful even if she didn’t get to do all that much in season 7, but then again, many of the people who did get to do things in season 7 had a horrible time so maybe that’s for the better. Long live the Queen of Bear Island.

(Sorry this is a BTS picture. All of the screenshots I was finding were from season 6 and that’s not what I wanted.)

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No but bear (ha ha) with me here, what I’m going with is brown and textures and something you could go riding/etc. in. You can’t tell me that present-day Lyanna would never wear overalls. It’s just not true. She lives in the middle of nowhere and does outdoor things. Fall Potluck Overalls in Chocolate, ModCloth.

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The top can be dressed up or down, which I imagine Lyanna finds quite practical. Hosting for the Weekend Tunic in Taupe, ModCloth.

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Ankle boots are kind of the best I can do at this juncture, guys. But I think these are cute and practical at the same time, so it works. Alllll the shades of brown! Apparently. Happily Hosting Ankle Boot, ModCloth.

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And to break up all the brown, a purse in Mormont green. Stow it Goes Crossbody Bag, ModCloth.

–your fangirl heroine.

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Things in Print Thursday :: my thoughts on Neverworld Wake

9 Aug

As you may remember, Marisha Pessl is one of my designated Sight Unseen authors, meaning that even now at the point in my life where I don’t actually buy that many books without knowing I like them I will buy any book she writes without question. This obviously extends to her newest, Neverworld Wake.

This is a designated YA, as opposed to adult-book-about-teenagers (Special Topics in Calamity Physics) or adult-book-about-adults (Night Film). This it’s less than 500 pages long (not that some YA isn’t, but I kind of get the feeling that Pessl purposely didn’t let herself go as long as usual with the intention of being less daunting), has a plot that’s somewhat easier to summarize, and doesn’t feature quite as many obscure references or vocabulary words.

If it sounds like I’m being sarcastic about the presence of any of those things in her other books, I’m not: I love those details, I love the substance and complexity of those books. I love the fact that I’ve read both books more times than I can count and there are still details I pick up each time, that there’s so much about the books that can’t even really be explained but just needs to happen to you. The good news is that Neverworld Wake manages to achieve many of those same highlights while clearly trying to be more accessible to a YA audience.

A key theme of all of Pessl’s stuff seems to be Unlikely Groups solving and/or being entangled in mysterious deaths. Like in Special Topics, the Unlikely Group here is a cluster of high school friends; like in Night Film, the mysterious death is something we know about going in. In this case the group consists of narrator/nice girl Beatrice, popular princess Whitley, chivalrous hacker Cannon, quirky gay boy Kipling, and unnerving (and possibly autistic tbh) genius Martha; the mystery in question is the death of their friend (and Bee’s ex-boyfriend) Jim the passionate composer.

(If you’re like me and are sensitive about names, particularly if there are lots of weird/hipster/trendy ones in one place, I will clarify: these friends were from an elite prep school. All of them but Beatrice and Martha have rich and eccentric parents who definitely would name their children things like that. Besides, it adds to the heightened reality of all of Pessl’s novels.)

Anyway, the novel opens a year and a couple months after Jim’s death. The friends have gone to college, and Bee has purposely lost touch with them, but decides to take Whitley up on a surprise invitation to a summer birthday soiree. At said soiree, they’re all in a car accident and almost die, and this doesn’t count as a spoiler since it’s on the book jacket and is the premise of the book: they are subsequently trapped in the same eleven hours over and over again, able to contact the outside world and retain their own memories of past “wakes,” until they vote (unanimously-but-one) on which one of them gets to survive.

Friends, when I first heard this concept I was intrigued but also a little wary. Back in my junior high days I frequented a website called Fictionpress.com, where amateur authors (many in my own age group) posted their work. (It was the non-fanfic version of Fanfiction.net.) While I was a fairly normal weirdo artsy teenager, I had a touch of the edgelady when it came to my taste in stories: I once wrote my own “on the brink of death, a teenager must make a decision” story, in fact, and multiple of my favorited short plays on the website were about small groups of teenagers faced to confront mortality either at the hands of their peers or mysterious otherworldly forces (not unlike the otherworldly force in Neverworld Wake). I was worried that this premise would lose its shine now that I’m not a thirteen-year-old who likes writing about death because it startles people.

Conveniently, though, the story actually isn’t about death so much as it is about life. The kids all quickly learn how to manipulate the Neverworld, how to use their seemingly endless cycles to learn things (how to deal with each other, how to take advantage of strangers, even how to travel through space and time) and grow as characters (sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse). A great deal of the book’s mythology is based on an in-universe fantasy novel that Martha has carried around for years and worships, a vaguely steampunk adventure, and this proves intricate and well-laid-out, not just a half-assed plot device. (This is something Pessl is also very good at and used to: Special Topics relies on the mythology of an in-universe revolutionary group, Night Film on the fictional cult films of a reclusive director. Both times – all three, now – these fictional background concepts are developed in a very satisfying way.)

As with the other books in her repertoire, though, Pessl’s latest can’t really be overexplained. There’s a decent twist to the ending that’s right up my alley, and the real glory is (as always) in the details. Little sidequests that add up to the proper ending, facts that get tossed out at the beginning and become relevant again partway through, pieces of a photo that got torn apart and is getting taped back together.

–your fangirl heroine.

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Fashion Friday :: you know, a year late.

3 Aug

I guess I was taking advantage of the fact that the last season isn’t until next year as I put off doing a season 7 fashion retrospective for Game of Thrones. I put it off because, well, season 7 made me cranky more than it made me happy and I was hoping that some of my annoyance would have at least faded but I just reread the post-season 7 post I wrote last year highlighting pros/cons and, nope, I’m still pissed about a lot of it.

But Sansa (Sophie Turner) is cool!

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This was also the season where everyone went super goth. So that’ll be fun!

taken

Sleeves: check. Turtleneck: check. Black texture: check! It’s kinda mod because of the length and cut, too, so I guess that’s how we’re playing this. Taken by Texture A-Line Dress in Black Chevron, ModCloth.

luxe

There aren’t any cloaks right now (surprise, it’s August, there aren’t cloaks) but this is also long-sleeve and it’s black and it’s texture-on-texture and that’s cool. Just don’t fasten it! Luxe the Part Draped Blazer in Black, ModCloth.

layer

Always useful and classic. Layer It On Tights in Black, ModCloth.

casual.jpg

Short boots are mod, but these are practical too. Casual Influence Boot in Matte Black, ModCloth.

spin

Eh, a silver necklace needs to be there. Here we go. Spin Me Right ‘Round Time Necklace, ModCloth.

–your fangirl heroine.

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Sarcastic Saturday :: I am an angry librarian.

22 Jul

Drift partner saw some people arguing on Twitter tonight. They were arguing about an article written (on Forbes) by a gentleman who claimed that all libraries should be replaced by Amazon bookstores. Amazon, specifically. Not only would this save taxpayers money, he claimed, but it would increase the value of Amazon’s stock.

Yet in the Twitter replies, he claimed he personally had no Amazon stock. A likely story, bucko.

Normally I keep my angry librarian side in check around these parts, and I don’t actually talk a lot about my librarian side in general, but just for background: in addition to about 5 years volunteering in libraries and gaining experience in a practical way, I have a master’s degree in library and information science. This is to say that I know rather more about libraries than the average bear, namely this fellow. Since I’ve already clicked on this article, I’m going to summarize its main points so you, friends, don’t have to, and because I am an angry librarian I’m also going to counter each and every point as if they were being made by some jerk playing devil’s advocate in a class I took.

  1. “There was a time” that libraries provided useful services such as book borrowing, meeting places, [community programs], and access to the internet. He spends a good fourth of his article discussing the various services that libraries provide to communities, but all in the past tense, as if libraries are now just hollow shells draining you of your tax dollars. Yet today, when I was volunteering at one of my local libraries, I saw people utilizing the library, in the present tense, for the following: borrowing books, movies, CDs, and other material; using the library as a place to read, study, or otherwise; using the free internet, often on library computers; utilizing librarians’ help for research purposes or just to find a good book. I also saw advertisements for community and library events such as summer reading programs and various classes (community outreach is bracketed in the above description because his article actually doesn’t mention it, but it’s an invaluable part of the library’s function) as well as community events. To say that libraries no longer provide this level of service is a flat lie.
  2. One reason libraries are less valuable is because of places like Starbucks. He describes them as “third places,” which is not inaccurate (quoth Wikipedia, “examples of third places would be environments such as churches, cafes, clubs, public libraries, or parks”) but is incomplete. The argument is that people use Starbucks to read, use the internet, meet people, “and enjoy a great drink” (I’m pretty sure this man was paid by Starbucks as well as Amazon, but that’s not the point). However, Starbucks does not have books, movies, or CDs to borrow. It is not quiet enough to read or study most of the time unless you bring noise-canceling headphones. Its Wi-Fi is free, but if you don’t have your own laptop, tablet, or phone you’re out of luck for accessing it. There is nobody to help you research or study or use that internet you might not be able to access or even find anything more than a seasonal thermos. It hosts no community events or outreach programs, especially ones aimed at promoting education or literacy. Additionally, Starbucks does not let you sit there for hours on end, especially without buying things. Oh yeah, and although apparently they’ve been trained better now, there’s always a chance that if you’re a minority at a Starbucks (or other cafe, let’s be real here) someone might get mad at you or call the cops. (I’ve never seen a Starbucks that openly advertises being a safe space. I’ve rarely seen a library that doesn’t.)
  3. Another reason is that people get media from streaming services. For “an affordable rate” (or what he deems affordable to him) people can watch movies and television. Blockbuster is dead, shouldn’t libraries also die? Except what he seems to be willfully ignoring is the fact that his affordable is not everyone’s affordable. I would never presume about any of the patrons I see checking out DVDs, but I would say it’s a fair bet that at least some of them literally cannot afford Netflix or Amazon Prime or Hulu or xyz other streaming service. In addition to that, not every DVD the library has is on a streaming service. Digital content comes and goes, and if it’s old or obscure it may not even arrive in the first place.
  4. The old argument about “paper books are irrelevant now that digital media exists.” Blah, blah, blah. He describes physical books as “collector’s items,” which just shows me how out of touch he is. Yes. Lots of people utilize ebooks and e-readers and xyz other digital forms of media. Many newspapers and magazines are partially or primarily or singularly online these days. Here’s the thing, though: a lot of people still like physical books and a lot of people still check them out and read them. I personally don’t own an e-reader, mostly because I like physical books (for all of the sentimental reasons), and I know some people who have one but don’t utilize it exclusively (using it for travel, for certain media, etcetera). And just as some people can’t afford membership to streaming services, or brand new physical books, or whichever thing they’re checking out from the library, some people may have an e-reader but not want to pay for every ebook they read. There still needs to be a place for people to get digital media without paying per item. (Libraries are hesitant to say that their products and services are “free,” given the taxes, levies, donations, and otherwise that provide their funding, but you at least don’t have to pay for every individual item.) And here’s the kicker: libraries do provide digital media! Libraries do a brisk business in ebooks and audiobooks. Drift partner was telling me earlier tonight that she gets audiobooks from the library and because she’s consuming more books than she was prior to her ability to listen to audiobooks (specifically at work, but) she’s a happier person. (And while she’s bought some of the books she listened to, since she could listen to most of them through the library she’s spent approximately 17% of what she would have done if she had to buy all of those books from an Amazon bookstore.)
  5. Amazon bookstores intended to replace bookstores and also provide cafe settings, as well as their digital library of materials. Well, he’s beating his points into the ground, so I will do the same. Not only does Amazon charge money for all of its services (which not everyone can afford!) he’s basically advocating for an Amazon monopoly. Monopolies are illegal, pal. That’s bad news.
  6. Amazon bookstores are better than libraries because of the above reasons and because they don’t cost the taxpayers money. He cites no actual statistics or specific factual information in this entire article, by the way. (It’s also shorter than most papers I wrote in my academic career, but hey, you do you.) But the gist of it is: Amazon does cost people money. You have to buy books, you have to buy CDs, you have to buy DVDs, you have to buy drinks at the cafe if you’re going to be allowed to sit in it. It is a business and it is a business that wants your money. The amount of taxpayer money that goes to libraries varies from state to state and county to county, but the average statistics I found usually put library funding at no more than 1-2% of revenue (Washington state, for example, funds its libraries mainly through property tax levies) or between $0.50-3.00 per $1000 collected by the government. Amazon Prime, meanwhile, costs $12.99 monthly or $99 annually, while Netflix is $13.99 monthly, Hulu is $7.99 monthly or $95.88 annually, and that’s not even taking into account the cost of other streaming services, individual physical books, or other pieces of media like CDs or memberships to websites. Yes, some of us can afford that, and it’s lucky to be able to, but not everyone can.
  7. To return to the “third place” issue. The author of the article skims over this, but I’m not going to because that would be doing libraries a massive disservice. In addition to reference services (finding specific materials, helping people do research, recommending books and other materials), which is what people often think of when they think of library services, libraries provide that safe space I mentioned before. They provide enrichment programs for K-12 students and avenues for adult education. They provide not only free internet but computers that are free to use for people who cannot afford their own computer, and many times they provide help to people who need to use them, whether it be for general research or more fundamental things like job hunting/applying and learning languages. They provide places that people can go and sit for hours without being disturbed. They provide friendly environments for people of all ages. And they provide all of this without judgment and to anyone who walks through the door.
  8. Amazon’s stock would increase because of its bookstores replacing libraries. He brings up the increase in stock value multiple times in the article, which is incredibly suspect. Amazon is a company, not a person, and its financial gain is not more important than people having ready access to information. It’s just not.

And to clarify: I’m not actually linking this person’s article because I really, really don’t want to give it more hits.

–your fangirl heroine.

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Spoiler Alert Sunday :: our thoughts on Sorry to Bother You

16 Jul

As a rule, one of the most surreal experiences is attending events that you can tell part of the audience isn’t prepared for. This happened at Hamilton, it happened at Janelle Monae, it’s been a theme this year, and it definitely happened today when we went to see Sorry to Bother You.

This is not to say that this movie was for either of us, exactly; it’s not. As mentioned, I’m a white girl, and drift partner is white-passing mixed race/biracial (Chinese/white). But we at least clearly knew what we were there for and were open to and appreciative of it. This is not to say our entire audience wasn’t, or that we were the only people who seemed [insert adjective here] enough to get it, but a great many of them… well, you got the impression they were just there to waste a hot Sunday afternoon in a dark/air conditioned theater. (And we can say this with certainty because we were the first ones there and watched every single person and group enter.) Sitting quite near us was one of several middle-aged or older white couples, and this gentleman felt compelled to pass judgment on each trailer they showed, many of which were also not for “white people” movies; there were also a lot of laughs when things were funny, but probably not the kind of funny that most of us in the crowd were supposed to laugh at.

I describe this in detail because in a way it really complements the film itself, and also because there’s only so much we can say about the film itself without ruining it for you. The basic premise of the movie is this: Cassius “Cash” Green (Lakeith Stanfield) is unemployed, lives in his uncle’s house, and feels inadequate compared to his girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson), an anti-establishment performance artist. He ends up scoring a telemarketing job at RegalView, where he flounders for the first few days until an older coworker, Langston (Danny Glover), lets him in on a little secret: Cash needs to use his “white voice” to engage his customers. Once he does this, he begins to rise in the ranks of the company to become a Power Caller. Meanwhile, his coworkers, including Detroit and Squeeze (Steven Yeun) rally to protest their low wages and demand unionization. This is the first thirty minutes of the movie, give or take, and it is literally all we can tell you without spoiling some of the best moments.

What we can spoil: the performances, for one. Lakeith Stanfield was in the ensemble of Get Out last year, in a role that very much prepared him for being able to pretend to do a “white voice” (his “white voice” in the film is literally a white actor, though), and he should probably win a bunch of awards for this movie because he’s really wonderful at carrying it. It feels odd to say Steven Yeun is a delight because it’s not like his character did any particularly delighted or delightful things but it was mostly just a delight to get to see him not in immediate danger and sometimes also to see him get to be funny. And Tessa Thompson, well. Tessa Thompson is… everything. That’s the easiest way to put it. I’m just going to put it out there and say if this was a movie about/by white people, her character would have been written and treated like shit and made as unlikable as possible, and I was worried for half a second about this happening here but I shouldn’t have been. She just got to be an aggressively Afropunk feminist artist with agency and emotional authority, and she is also in fact impossible to stop watching because she’s entrancing and beautiful and her voice is the best thing ever and also, she wore shirts that said things like “the future is female ejaculation” and earrings that said things like “tell Homeland Security / we are the bomb.” (Thompson confirmed on twitter that most of her costumes were shirts she bought for herself.)

The best comparison we can think of is to Get Out, in terms of both social commentary and darkly comedic tone, which is a bit of a shame because the two movies really deserve to stand on their own merits. But there aren’t that many movies in the “dark racial comedy/social satire” subgenre, so here we are. This movie will probably receive similar attention to Get Out come awards season, at least I hope so, but I suspect the ending will be deeply polarizing. There are going to be people who hate it, and it’s possible that it will keep this movie out of the big Oscar races, but I really hope it won’t.

–your fangirl heroines.

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Fashion Friday :: I would call her crazypants but she doesn’t wear pants.

6 Jul

And “crazyskirt” just doesn’t have the same ring to it. Galaxia is an antagonist who I’m sure will grow on me when I rewatch season 5 but for now, again, I have kind of minimal feelings about. Whatever here she is.

Here. It sure is yellow. Yellow is a pain in the ass. Collared Charisma Knit Dress, Smak Parlour at ModCloth.

These are gold. They are not boots but they sure are gaudy. Patterns at Display Metallic Heel in Gold, ModCloth.

Because so much of her outfit is so geometric. Echoing Deco Belt, ModCloth.

This is also gold. Crafty Carrier Bag, ModCloth.

So are these. Markedly Sparkly Earrings, ModCloth.

–your fangirl heroine.