My Life as a Zucchini: A Sad, Beautiful Garden

Here on this blog, we’ve unintentionally managed to cover just about every animation nominee for the 2017 Academy Awards in one way or another. Not that I particularly care about the Academy or their opinion, but after giving some page space to Kubo and the Two Strings, Zootopia, and Moana, it felt kind of strange to just ignore the other two films and my artsy ass can never resist delving into productions by lesser known studios. So I set out to tackle the first of these two films: My Life as a Zucchini (or Ma Vie de Courgette in the original French). Distributed by Gebeka Films and premiering at the 2016 film festival in Cannes, the quirky stop-motion film tackles a surprisingly dark subject, and does it well. However, as with most things, this doesn’t mean it was devoid of problems.

Spoilers below and trigger warning for mentions of child abuse. Continue reading

Fanfiction Fridays: After, Now by lc2l

(via TV Guide)

There probably aren’t very many people who remember Fox’s ill-fated reboot/sequel of Minority Report, which was quietly canceled in 2016 after a supremely lackluster first season. The TV series had so much potential—it introduced a huge number of characters of color to a canon that was predominantly white and it discussed complicated issues like immigration, genetic engineering, and police profiling, though it never got deep enough into any of these issues to really be satisfactory. I can honestly say that I enjoyed watching it, despite its many writing missteps.

However, the main failure of the show was its handling of the PreCrime program and the precogs who were used against their will to run it. While the original Minority Report film ended the PreCrime program because John Anderton proved that people could choose not to commit a crime and thus change their own futures, the Minority Report TV show made this touchy issue into a procedural cop drama by assuming that all the futures the precogs saw would definitely come to pass. This uninspired utilization of the original film’s themes meant that the TV reboot was neither as creative nor as thought-provoking as its predecessor, and it unfortunately meant that the potentially meaty conflict between leads Lara Vega, a Metro P.D. cop who believed fervently that PreCrime was the best way forward for society, and Dash, a precog who wanted to help people but didn’t want to be put back in the milk bath, was quickly erased so that the procedural cop drama could move forward. We never got to see a connection between the themes and characters of the film and the themes and characters of the show. But fortunately, in fanfiction, other writers can tackle these problems for us.

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James T. Kirk is Actually a Feminist

image via trekcore

March 22nd is the future birthday of Captain James T. Kirk, and while this post is a day late, I felt the need to honor the Star Trek: The Original Series captain. I have always asserted that James. T. Kirk is actually a feminist despite the caricature that people have made of him in both the new movies and the fandom. In the new Star Trek movies, Kirk is often portrayed as a scandalous womanizer. He sleeps with Uhura’s roommate, then leers at Uhura while he changes on her bed. He also never backs off when Uhura tells him that she isn’t interested in him. Then he watches Carol Marcus change clothes when she specifically tells him not to. This is not the Kirk of TOS! I’m convinced that those who think he is a womanizing sexist have either never watched the series or are possibly projecting their own beliefs onto the character, because Kirk is most assuredly very pro-women and there is a ton of evidence to prove it.

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Throwback Thursdays: Paranoia in Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco

First published in Italian in 1988, Foucault’s Pendulum is an eerily prescient novel by the philosopher and semiotician Umberto Eco, who passed away about a year ago. Despite its arcane exploration of ancient mystical societies, and academic protagonists, its analysis of conspiracies, conspiratorial thinking, and related phenomena feel uncannily familiar, as though he were anticipating the incomprehensible modern world of truthers, birthers, and Pizzagate.

The book focuses on a trio of underemployed scholars in modern Italy, who make ends meet by working at a small, vanity publisher focusing on esoterica and conspiracy theories. Mocking their authors (whom they refer to as “Diabolicals”), the protagonists amuse themselves by trying to weave every bit of nonsense together into a grand new theory of the history of the world.

Belbo, Causabon, and Diotallevi never quite let themselves believe their own tale, but remain dangerously entranced by the possibilities that they dream up. Their apparent knowledge brings them into increasing conflict with the Diabolicals themselves, who persistently believe that any denial of a conspiracy is only evidence of its potency.

The book is set in 1970s and 1980s Italy, a time of social upheaval known as the Years of Lead. The era saw significant terrorist activity from far-left groups such as the Red Brigades as well as far-right and neo-Nazi organizations like the National Vanguard. In a society torn apart not only by violence, but by fundamentally oppositional views of the world, Eco saw the potency of esoteric thinking: it not only offered truths that could not be doubted, but the promise that ultimately, someone, somewhere, was actually in charge. Even if it was all made up.

It is this aspect of the book which resonates so deeply in the 21st century, when the world again seems plunged into chaos, and truth itself recedes into the distance. The conspiracy theories that animate contemporary politics overlap with the many legends in Foucault’s Pendulum, but even more than such specifics, the temptation, power, and danger of these beliefs echo loudly.

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In Brightest Day: Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children and Cloud’s Incomplete Battle with Depression

I wrote a review for Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children a while back. In it, I went over some of its problems—it panders, has too many characters for its running time, and breaks its suspension of disbelief more than once. I also briefly touched on Cloud’s depression, which I plan to talk about in more detail today. Advent Children has a lot of things wrong with it, and as a whole, the movie simply does not work. Cloud’s character arc is one of those things. The movie doesn’t know how to handle mental health issues, and that makes Advent Children more than a little painful to watch at times. Cloud suffers from depression, but his depression never contributes to his character arc in a way that matters. Advent Children uses it to set up his internal conflict, but it never resolves his issues. Instead, Cloud’s depression is little more than a gimmick, and the way the movie handles it really drags on the story.

(via wikia)

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Web Crush Wednesdays: Dates!

I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I am a firm believer in the idea that there need to be more happy stories about queer people. Thankfully, certain creators seemed to agree, and back in 2015, I was able to buy Dates Volume 1, an anthology of queer historical fiction. While it was created through Kickstarter, I didn’t back it at the time… because I didn’t know it existed until my at-the-time comics shop held a release day party. However, I’ve got a second chance to help out this awesome team, and that’s why my web crush this week is Dates Volume 2, and their currently active Kickstarter.

Margins Publishing, the creative team behind the comic, describes their mission for the Dates series thusly:

Every queer person knows how hard it is to find ourselves in fiction, and how much harder it is to find fiction where our stories don’t end tragically. And of course, it’s particularly difficult to find happy queer characters in historical fiction. We wanted to work towards evening the score, and the result was Dates 1: a 176 page celebration of queer identities of all kinds, across the world and throughout history. We were thrilled by the reception to Dates 1, and we knew people still had more stories to tell, so we decided to do it all again. And just like last year, there are no tragic endings. [emphasis theirs]

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Until Dawn and the Indestructible White Guy

A while back, a friend and I attempted what we called a Maximum Chaos playthrough of the game Until Dawn. Until Dawn is basically an interactive horror movie, presented cinematically but offering its players the chance to steer the story in different directions based on character interactions, decisions, and quick time events in action scenes. The Maximum Chaos run involves picking the most risky choices, starting as many fights between characters as possible, and not hitting any of the QTEs, leading to the most exciting, dramatic, and gory story possible. Given Until Dawn’s “anyone can die” premise, this leads to some interesting and brutal action. But, as we learned along the way, it also reveals that certain characters are quite literally indestructible no matter what your button-pressing and narrative choices inflict on them, and some are far too easy to damage, which leaves the game with some unfortunate implications.

Spoilers for the game, character deaths and possible endings beyond this point! Continue reading