Deirdre Saoirse Moen

Sounds Like Weird

Archive of posts with tag 'movies'

: Expressiveness and Disbelief

I’ve been kicking this post idea around in my head almost a year, ever since I sat in front of a computer working on a fan site wondering if I’d gone mental. Adding to the surreality was working at a glass desk over the shallows of the Indian ocean — hardly normal for me.
Backing up a bit, several of us were fans of a particular actor and role on a particular show that was, as is often the case, canceled. It was obvious the actor in question hadn’t found additional work in the US and would return home to Australia soon. One night, a Twitter direct message conversation spawned between myself and another fan, and I up and registered a fan site domain on the spur of the moment.

The Site That Almost Wasn’t

The following morning, I was scheduled to leave for Tokyo.
No worries, I thought, it’s a few bucks. If I still think it’s a good idea in when I arrive in Tokyo, I can do something about it.
Or, you know, not.
Honestly, I almost didn’t. It’s putting one’s self out there a lot and it’s a lot of work, not to mention an implied ongoing commitment. Making a fan site is adopting someone as “your people,” only they don’t really get a say the other way.
Plus, back when I was a teen, a friend of mine and I were singing at Disneyland in the annual Christmas Hallelujah Chorus thing, and Jimmy Stewart was the big actor there that night. My friend was a total fan. Just loved him. Unfortunately, he was a total jerk that night, and it broke her fannish little heart. Sometimes, we’d rather keep our fannish things to ourselves.
From the other end of things, I remember the first time I saw a positive review for one of my pieces. I was stoked. This person probably will never understand why I think they are so totally awesome—even if they never feel the same about anything else I ever do.
Back to the site…I got to Tokyo. Kinda freaked out. Emailed someone who ran a different fan site:

I’ve just bought a domain for a Ryan Johnson fan site, but it’s the morning after and I’m having cold feet, so please tell me that you’ve had some positive feedback from someone other than me. 🙂

This is where people you don’t know from Adam will leap to help you.

Most people in the limelight are happy with a fansite, as long as it goes easy on the gushing, treats them as human beings without objectifying them and respects their private lives.

Which is really good advice for dealing with anyone, and not different than I’d planned. I can’t handle the fan sites that are populated by stalkerazzi photos. I hope that fan site runner gets some happy feedback from their person eventually.
However, it was a couple more weeks before I told Rick about the fan site, though that was partly because I was in the Maldives and he was not….

Stuff I Learned

I’ve always thought of myself an audio person rather than a visual person. In high school, I was in band, marching band, orchestra, dance band, and choir at the same time. I studied sound recording (audio and film) in college. I’m generally more interested in how someone sounds than how they look.
I’ll often identify actors by voice long before I recognize their face (due to lighting, makeup, and the general chameleon-like nature of actors in their profession).
However, suddenly having (way) more than a thousand pictures of an actor’s career in front of me and having to pick and choose which made the cut and which didn’t — things started to click.
I’ve never really liked animated movies. Sure, I can enjoy them, but I never deeply bond with them. If you asked me why, I’d have said: the limited facial expressiveness doesn’t bridge my suspension of disbelief.
And that’s true, as far as that answer goes, but the real answer runs far more deeply than that, and I really had never put two and two together.
People’s facial expressiveness mattered to me far more than I realized. I tend to take people at face value, and I realized that I was getting far more of that “face value” from facial expression than I’d been aware of.
I started thinking about people I liked—the colleague you joke with, the person who sticks out at an event you attend—and realized that many of them had more expressive faces than average.
And, unfortunately, people whose faces are less expressive than average are generally people whose faces aren’t as memorable for me unless they say something that’s particularly memorable.
As I sorted through the pictures and tried to get good screen captures for the fan site I was building, I finally understood a whole lot more about why I hated YouTube so much, why I preferred Vimeo, why I liked BluRay and hated standard def, and why I generally loathed streaming media. The lossiness of video, particularly streaming formats, cuts a lot of the facial expression detail. I kept feeling like I was watching Odo from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine when his face was melting—not because of any issue with the acting or production, but because of the quality of the video I was viewing.
So while the fan site wasn’t a project I undertook to understand more about myself—it really was “Dude, I love your work”—it helped anyway.
I was nervous and strung out about announcing it, but he was very kind. It’s hard to pick a favorite out of all the pictures, but this one’s on my short list.

: Ten of My Favorite YouTube Videos (Including Sheep Playing Pong)

So, Google had been annoying me with the “Do you want to link this YouTube account to your real name?” crap for eons. It was like a bad date who wouldn’t take the word “no” seriously, you know?
Usually, I’d log out of YouTube, then reload the damn page to watch the video. As my friend Jason is so fond of saying, “Because fuck you.”
So I went to favorite a video today, and I had no favorites list. None. Zero.
I thought I’d lost my carefully-kept list of Ryan Johnson clips. I haven’t put fan videos featuring his work on that list, but my favorite of the ones I’ve found is this Fairly Legal one featuring Duffy’s “Mercy”. I think maybe it’s time for a second playlist here….
Anyhow…what happened. My YouTube account split. I now have my old persona and my new persona. All two of my uploaded videos are goners, but at least I still have what mattered most: my favorites.
So, without further ado, here are ten of my favorite YouTube clips.

  1. Jessica Biel can actually sing. I love this song, love her performance. Colin Firth steals the movie, but her music is, in my opinion, the real star.
  2. Ilio the Surfing Pig. For real. I first saw this segment on TV, and there was more of Ilio surfing then, but only “Part 1” has been uploaded. If anyone finds a better link, I’m all ears.
  3. Salvador Dali on the 50s TV show What’s My Line?
  4. Jordan, the Royal Tour. Visit the country of Jordan, guided by a former Star Trek actor who also happens to be the head of state. (This is several YouTube videos long and is definitely worth watching if you’ve never seen it.)
  5. Daylight Robbery, a show featuring extreme squirrel obstacle courses.
  6. Star Trek/NIN “Closer” mashup. Exactly what it says on the tin. Original series slash at its finest. All clean except for the (non-bowdlerized) song.
  7. TED: Bonnie Bassler, The Secret Lives of Bacteria. Quorum sensing bacteria is just such an amazing thing to me.
  8. Boney M, “Rasputin.” Love this video. Though it is their official video, the male singer isn’t the person at the microphone as this is the non-live version of the track with live footage carefully cut.
  9. Sean Penn gives us all a lesson on how to answer awkward questions about one’s ex. Major props to him for a really winning approach that leaves nowhere to go and is hilarious at the same time.
  10. Extreme Sheep LED Art. Welsh farmers with a truckload of LED lights and a bunch of sheep. Hilarity ensues.

So, there you go. Hope you enjoyed.

: Four Hugo Awards Recommendations

The Hugo Awards
Best related work: Fic by Anne Jamison, a history of fanfiction.
Best fan artist: Randall Munroe. Last cartoon of the year is 1311 and first of 2013 was 1155 (thank you @xkcdfeed). Three of note: 1158 (it’s all about physics), 1167 (Star Trek Into Darkness), 1177 (Time Robot). For those who feel he isn’t eligible, he was ruled eligible in 2011 and the rules have not changed. Further discussion here.
Best dramatic presentation, short form: Flying Tiare by Matthieu Courtois and Ludovic Allain. Made as a fan film for the airline’s 15th birthday, it’s a real look at the technology and work of commercial flying. The really cool part, though, is seeing someone go up into the jet engine and get to see the (running) engine from the inside.

I’d already posted a recommendation for: Short story: “The Slow Winter” by James Mickens, so just a reminder.

The Cambellian Anthology

The 2014 Cambellian Anthology is out! It features 860,000 words (eight-ish novels in size) from 111 different writers who are eligible for the Campbell award this year. Totally, completely free.
I want to offer my immense gratitude to Stupefying Stories for this. More than any other single award, I try to be well-read for the Campbell, and it used to be a real chore before Writertopia started keeping the eligibility list. Stupefying Stories took it to the next level with the clever idea to have an annual anthology.
Also, immense gratitude (and props) to the authors and publishers who’ve permitted their work to be included.
Special shout-out for Brooke Bolander, who is one of the eligible.


Best dramatic presentation, long form: Sharknado. As billed. Loved it, and I’m not normally up for this kind of thing. Definitely smarter than it had to be.

: A Movie I've Been Waiting For

Oh, God, I’ve waited for this one, and I hope to see it sometime this first week.
My favorite screenwriter and one of my favorite directors got together to make a film.
The writer of Heathers.
The director of Mean Girls.
They are brothers.
Working together at last.
I’m talking: Vampire Academy.

Mini-review I just saw on Twitter: I have seen Vampire Academy!!! Credits rolling. Review to follow. Quick take: OMFG AWESOME. I’m 100% serious. #happy
(I realize I have odd taste in favorite screenwriters; Charlie Kaufman is probably my second favorite. I squeed like a little girl when I happened to have dinner recently with one of Daniel Waters’s former classmates at McGill.)

: Philip Seymour Hoffman's Death

I’m surprised that I feel such a loss at his death.
He wasn’t my favorite actor.
I like to call him: my favorite actor whose choices I mostly hated and mostly couldn’t watch. That’s because I strongly prefer comedy to drama and he clearly went the other way on that scale. Sometimes I would watch his movies even though I knew I’d hate them, but I stopped doing that after Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead.
State & Main is one of my favorite films. A friend said he didn’t like it because it “lacked warmth.” Well, he’s from the south, so I just kinda laughed at that and said, “It’s got great warmth for Northern New England. After all, styles of warmth differ.” And it did. (And they do.)
So I’ll hang onto that and The Big Lebowski, Twister (aka: The Weather Channel with a plot), The Invention of Lying, and Pirate Radio.
And maybe, just maybe, at some point I’ll be in a place where I can watch The Master.
Philip Seymour Hoffman

: Admiration vs. Objectification

I’ve been fascinated with the unfolding narrative about casting 50 Shades of Grey and the fallout from Charlie Huunam (pictured) deciding against the role. I find it far more interesting to read the discussions because neither the book holds any interest (especially after reading Jenny Trout’s recaps/teardowns here and especially this link about abusive relationships) nor do either of the lead actors, so I’m able to watch the train wreck without feeling invested in it.
ThinkProgress just posted this article about Huunam’s backing out and objectification vs. admiration. This. So much this. Also, this earlier piece from the same writer about the specific problems of casting 50 Shades.
I’m a pretty solid fan, and I’ve met lots of people through fandom over the years. Thanks to Fairly Legal, I wound up getting close to several people, one of whom I write most most days. Before that, I’ve met a lot of people through science fiction fandom, generally through our mutual love of books.
Some of what I’ve heard out of fans just boggles me. Like, for example, one fan’s confession that she stopped watching White Collar after Matt Bomer came out because she just couldn’t fantasize about the actor or character any more — and, weirder, not realizing that might be a problem in her character.
I’m happy that my favorite actor, Ryan Johnson, is married (cute wedding pic). I like knowing that there’s someone to be there through life’s daily challenges, because auditioning (and job interviewing generally) is stressful, and actors do more of that than most people. I love knowing he’s discovered my favorite coffee gadget or bought an iPhone for his birthday, but not as excited as when he announces a new role. In other words, I root for him. Yeah, he rocks a suit (and a cereal bowl), but what I most like about him is that he’s funny (gag reel clip) and expressive. And nice.
Back when Ryan was doing a live chat during an episode airing of Fairly Legal, one of his fans said that he’d make an awesome Christian Grey and had he considered the film role? My first thought was, “Nooooooooooooo.” His response was, if I recall correctly, that he hadn’t read the book or been approached about the project. Regardless, I remember it being a far better answer than the one I came up with. If he did land the part, I’d be supportive — it’s not about what I want, after all.
I think that’s part of the perspective that some of the people objectifying Huunam have completely forgotten about. There are actual real people involved in the making of this film, and real people have their own career goals in mind, not to mention needing to take into consideration the people around them. No matter how much fans might wish otherwise, a random fan on the internet (or not on the internet) doesn’t count in “the people around them.” We’re just happy when we’re happy and not when we’re not. Even the loyal among us aren’t perfectly so.
Getting back to 50 Shades, the rumors going around are interesting: 1) Huunam was offered $125k for the film (which seems unlikely given a studio of that size and a role of that size); 2) he left due to creative differences, frustrated with the handling of his notes about the script — which, apparently, he wasn’t allowed to see before signing. The official reason for his departure was scheduling differences.
It’s pretty evident from the attention Huunam’s gotten that objectification was part of the problem with keeping the film role, though that damage can’t really be undone. Worse, there’s the argument some are making that he’s inherently asked for this because he’s an actor. Which, frankly, is a variant on saying that a woman’s asked to get catcalls just because she wore a short skirt, and just as ridiculous.
You know what most actors are used to most of the time? Being passed over. Being ignored. Rarely having the right look at the right time. Being too young (or having too little experience). Being too old. Getting close to a part they want and not getting it. Not getting a call at all for the hot audition for the new hot project. Being one in a room of similarly-hot actors. Being called in for second reads with twenty-five other actors, and trying to find the right unique take that will clinch them the part. Having a better read, but not getting the part because the look wasn’t quite right. Maybe, just maybe, they’re lucky like Stephen Furst and manage to fumble an audition in the most perfect way and land the part.
Using an actor is not a part of the job actors signed up for. Do actors want attention? Probably most of them do. (I’d have said “all” at one point, but have you seen the Inside the Actor’s Studio episode with Kim Basinger shaking like a leaf? Talking about how she couldn’t leave the house for months because she is agoraphobic? Now imagine her doing 9-1/2 Weeks being that person. Amazing actor.) But that kind of objectification? I don’t think any of us want that. Wil Wheaton has written about this. More than once.
The one thing that makes me think the 50 Shades film might not be the total nosedive it might otherwise be is Sam Taylor-Johnson. I loved her film Nowhere Boy about the early life of John Lennon. I think it both respected how difficult Lennon was as a person and how charming he could be. No doubt that film is why I eventually wound up finally visiting Liverpool.
Sam had to work with difficult constraints about people both living and dead in order to make the film, and it worked. Do I think she could handle the 50 Shades content sensitively? Yes, if permitted to do so.
There’s also the issue of wanting to cast younger stars for the leads in 50 Shades. Historically, Hollywood will tend to cast people who are age 30 +/- 10% for their first leading role, even if that role is as a teenager, because they have to have a certain amount of fame to be a draw for the film and enough experience to be completion bondable. Example: Eric Christian Olsen in Fired Up!. The younger an actor is when taking on a role like 50 Shades, the more it will tend to typecast them. One of the things that was different about Twilight was that Catherine Hardwicke cast younger actors, but they weren’t expected to do a lot of nudity. It’s also worth remembering that Twilight was an indie film. Summit is no longer an independent studio, and that’s largely because of the success of the series. I believe Hardwicke still holds the title for the highest domestic-grossing film of all time directed by a woman.
Yet, for both of these book series, it was the book fans, not the actor’s fans, who were the initial primary pull for the movie. Sure, more people saw the Twilight films than read the books. That’s to be expected. But the initial pressure came from the book’s fans and what they expected Edward Cullen to look like/be like. Many of them were quite unhappy with Pattinson’s casting, partly because of the “don’t cross the streams” problem with his appearance in the Harry Potter films. After auditioning three hundred actors for the role, Hardwicke got what she was looking for. But: name three other films Pattinson’s been in since the series started without looking at IMDB.
There was a great interview with Daniel Waters, writer/director of Sex & Death 101, about casting sex scenes. Unfortunately, I can’t find a link to that audio file. (Here’s another interview.) The short version was that he found it incredibly difficult to cast Americans in the roles, and found it far easier to find Canadian and Australian actresses to be in his film. Also, the lead, Simon Baker, was Australian. (This was Baker’s last role before The Mentalist.) In a threesome scene, the two actresses involved had different body parts they didn’t want shown, and Waters talked about making sure that scenes were shot and edited to comply with the actors’ constraints. This is all difficult stuff, and non-trivial in a movie like 50 Shades where you need more comfort with explicit material from both leads.
On the other hand, the movie can’t actually be very explicit. There’s no way this movie will be PG-13, and it’s hard to get big box office numbers with an R-rated film. Even R won’t permit a lot of explicit content. (See: This Film Is Not Yet Rated) The two movies it’s most likely to be similar to, sex-scene wise, are 9-1/2 Weeks (which actually was remarkably light on sex scenes and had a teeny domestic gross and was also based on a book) and Basic Instinct (which was primarily a thriller).
So I’m perfectly content to let the actors act and the director direct, and see where this thing heads. It’s quite possible the movie will be better than the books. I certainly hope it will at least minimize the abusive relationship aspect.
Since we’re talking movies based on books here….time for a few book plugs.
For reading in the BDSM erotic romance subgenre, Abigail Barnette’s The Boss series, Maya Banks’s Sweet series, and Jayne Rylon’s Men in Blue series are all series written by people who know a lot more about the genre than E.L. James, who admittedly was writing outside her own experience. I’ll add this disclaimer, though: I’m not into BDSM, but I read outside my own preferences all the time, and I enjoyed those three series. So if that is your thing and you don’t like the books because of the way they explore BDSM content, I’d love to hear why.

: Review: 20 Feet From Stardom

20 Feet From Stardom is an awesome documentary about backup singers and their trials and tribulations.
It has some awesome interviews, awesome footage, and, well, if you needed to think Phil Spector was any more of a bastard than you already thought, this film will provide you with a different kind of rage.
There are amazing performances. While it’s not exclusively about backup singers who are either women or people of color, the film focuses on the careers of six women of color. The youngest of the six is Judith Hill.
It’s this kind of movie that makes me really sad that I never really figured out what I wanted out of a musical career back when I was a teenager and in my early 20s. I never had a clearly-enough defined goal that I had something to aim for. Plus, I loved rock music and played (mostly) alto sax, but wanted to sing, and it just seemed all too confusing — like I had the wrong skill set.
In high school, I was in band (alto sax), marching band (alto sax and piccolo), orchestra (viola and oboe), dance band (baritone sax), and choir (first soprano) at the same time. I studied sound recording (audio and film) in college.
Despite a phone call with the man, one of my greatest life regrets (of which I have a handful) is not taking up Malcolm McLaren’s offer of an audition when he was trying to put a band together. I don’t think I would have gotten the gig, but I’ve always regretting not having the nerve to fly to London and have a go at it.
A couple of years later, I was offered a gig as a motion picture sound intern on a friend’s project, and I turned down a gig (a sure thing) to go to France to work on the film.
Those of you who know me will say, “Wait, Deirdre, that doesn’t sound like you at all.” Yes. That’s true. Regret changes you.
Each of the amazing women in this film have had victories and setbacks, and they’re interesting to hear about. Highly recommended.

: Creeping in Film Form

There are a number of examples of creeping in “romantic” films, and by creeping, I mean men who do not listen to what women say, taking no to mean yes.
It’s the Schrodinger’s Rapist problem. In a nutshell, a man who doesn’t listen to what you communicate, verbally or otherwise, is unlikely to listen in intimate situations where your consent is more important.
Ever since I read that essay, I hadn’t seen a clear film representation of it until last year, when I saw the 2011 film Rockstar on a flight. Thankfully, I was able to turn it off and watch something else.
In short, there are several times Heer, the female lead, gives JJ, the male lead, very very clear “no” responses and he keeps treating them as “yes.” When he shows up in her classroom to declare his love for her despite that, I just couldn’t watch any more.
I wouldn’t recommend the movie (obviously), but that’s a pretty clear-cut creeper example if anyone happened to need one.

: Two Movies I'm Looking Forward To

First up, Now You See Me, which can be described as a mashup between The Prestige and The Bank Job with Jesse Eisenberg’s Mark Zuckerberg as Robin Hood. Seriously, if they nail this, it has the potential to go on my top 10 favorite movies of all time.

Second, a Zombie romcom, Warm Bodies. The trailer’s really funny. Even if you don’t like zombie movies, I recommend watching this trailer.

: Venice, Airships, Versailles: Wait, What?

Rick and I saw the new Three Musketeers movie tonight. Unlike other versions, this one’s actually SF.
It’s not a great movie, granted, but it was an awful lot of fun. Rick opined that Dumas would have loved it.
The acting rarely rose above adequate, but Milla Jovovich was a nice surprise: her skill’s improved significantly over the years. The dialogue is best left unrated, but I really loved the look of the film, which was mostly shot in Bavaria.

: Cord-Cutting: Antenna Ho!

The antenna guy came today. We used AV Solutions Pros out of Mountain view. He got it done as quickly as it could be and with great quality. We’re getting some channels I hadn’t expected to, and it all seems very nice. Of course, we’re subject to weather fade, much like satellite is, but he said it’s really worst conditions now due to the leaves on the trees.
Over-the-air cost so far is a wash with buying the HD shows the first year, but of course it’s a gain in years after that.
Now it’s an ongoing saga to figure out content we care about in this new ecosystem, plus I want to make sure to pick up any interesting show premieres somehow — that’s how I discovered FlashForward two years ago.

: Cord-Cutting: Netflix

In addition to the usual computers, we have three devices we can watch Netflix instant on:

  1. TiVo (Series 3)
  2. Apple TV (Second gen)
  3. Boxee Box

Of the three, the best user experience (not to mention the smallest) is the Apple TV.

  1. Best throughput and caching
  2. Best user experience
  3. Best responsiveness

Maybe I’ll make a little movie about it.

: Cable: The Final Insult

Rick and I drove our Comcast equipment back to its home in Foster City on Saturday morning on the way up to the city. The man behind the counter gave me a stickie that said $14.48 — as in the amount I’d be refunded.
Catch is, I had a bill that wasn’t yet paid (or due), so that wasn’t the final number.
A few minutes ago, I got an email: “Your Aug 7, 2011 Comcast billing statement is ready for viewing.”
So I tried to log on, curious what the final total is, and this is what Comcast’s site said:

You do not have access to account or billing information. Please see the Primary account owner to view and pay the bill online.

How incredibly dorktastic.