Heading Up on the End of the Year, You Say?

It’s the holidays again. That came up fast. Haven’t been posting much in advance of them. Just working, mostly. On other people’s things and some of my own.

I’ve also got this stack of review books to get through. (Some read and I just need to actually write reviews for them now, others that are sitting patiently to be cracked open.) So that’ll probably be what my holidays involve.

I’ll be pulling together my recommendations list in the new year. It’s a mixed bag right now, and my reading has mostly been for review, so I’m either catching up on things in some cases or just saying fuck it in others.

And while I wasn’t posting much in the last couple weeks, Tor.com announced that they will be shutting down their open submissions window indefinitely come January — on the 7th, I think?. The magazine stays open, they’re just going to be working with solicited material. So you still have time to submit there before that becomes the new (old — since they didn’t start with an open door policy) new: http://www.tor.com/submissons-guidelines/

I’m saddened by that, for reasons I’ve discussed on Facebook, and don’t feel like rehashing here. But since that sucks, let us all feel better by noting a couple of other things that are currently open to submissions, with deadlines inbound:

PoC Destroy SF. DL 02/19/16.

Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling anthology. DL 12/31/15.

There’s far more open or to talk about this season, but those are the things that come immediately to mind. Moreso because in light of some discussions going on on Facebook, and general thoughts I am having about seeing a lot of white author- and/or male author-heavy anthologies announced or coming up down the road, I’d like to be flipping some tables. Instead, I am pointing to excellent venues in signal boost.

Because fuck hetero-normative, straight white cis patriarchy.

And so on.

Speaking to which:

Most of my time is focused on the publishing industry one way or another these days, but it’s not like things don’t happen during downtime around here. Saw Spectre the other night. Had been thinking about seeing either that or The Force Awakens, but the theatre I was at was packed last night for all the TFA showings, so I ended up seeing Spectre. Which I do not regret.

I run hot and cold on a lot of the Bond films for multiple reasons. (Treatment of women is usually issue number one.) And as a practicing editor I have so many problems with their storytelling. In some respects, Spectre also has that problem for me — the narrative basis is largely weak because the film’s central dramatic focus isn’t built up enough, here or prior, and it would have had to have been built up much more centrally for the entire Daniel Craig run to work the way this one film was asking for that to work. But that said, the film’s actual trajectory as a stand-alone piece of cinema does work, because of the causative narrative progression primarily. Events stem from discovery or revelation. Actions scenes (and one of the sex scenes in this film’s case) are bridges between plot points and Bond-style infodumping. In that sense the film is cohesive. (Indeed, in that sense, for all their many, many failings, a number of the Bond films hold together as functional, if non-action-content-light, throughlines.) The reasons for those progressions are often batshit (and don’t in many cases hold up under the scrutiny of logic — I’m looking at you most recently, Skyfall‘s villain’s master escape plan). But they’re still chartable, causative progressions. As opposed to just throwing shit at the wall and seeing what sticks, as an inordinate number of action films do. Complex motivation and chartable narrative progression that makes any kind of sense is the first thing to suffer in the face of requiring a film to have as many action scenes as possible. (Bond films often sit on the fence in that regard — not so much with the complex motivation, but what they do have of it they employ a lot better than most action films do. And I can’t believe I just said that….)

The thing that struck me most about Spectre though (aside from wanting far more Naomie Harris as Moneypenny than that film was willing to give, and more than ten minutes of screen time for Monica Bellucci who is a fantastic dramatic actress as represented in European cinema and so often wasted in North American filmmaking) is the cinematography. The film broke suspension of disbelief multiple times (can I just say that after that torture scene, you’re not going to be up and running … or doing much of anything with precision for a while, really), but it is extraordinary in terms of its cinematography. There’s so much beautiful work done with location, and lighting, and visual set pieces. Bond films are often more about their action sequences and the beauty of things — and people objectified as things. But what Sam Mendes has done with this one is create a consistent visual language written in ochres, umbra, and argent. The lighting is never stark, is always muddy, and dissolves slowly into the background without obscuring draw distance. Even the snowbound sequences are muted, the later treelines and earlier cubist building design of the first location encountered there, standing stark atop a hill, are beautifully framed shots. Oddly minimalist in a film that is unexpectedly and quietly so. Spectre is a gorgeous film, but for all its large set pieces (and there are some stunning ones) it’s not about spectacle. Hell, the film opens with what looks like spectacle via a several-minutes-long tracking shot with multiple sweeps that ranges across multiple levels (street and intermediary up through eventual roof level) that charts not only the colour scheme of the film to come, but the tension and pace the film will engage throughout — an unhurried, expectant progression from organized chaos to minimalist resolution. The initially, seemingly, gaudy is repeatedly revealed to be background noise throughout the film. There is no eye of the hurricane, but there is a centre to that storm nonetheless.

And then explosions and fight scenes despite and/or around the quiet and minimalism, because it is a Bond film.

This one’s not as noisy though. Partly, perhaps, because it’s borrowing a fair bit from the basis of the Bourne film adaptations. Which actually works really well in this context. And in some ways, speaking to Bourne-style filmmaking, I like Craig’s bond the most of the cinema bonds. (Yes, I hear you screaming. No, I don’t care.) He’s the only actor to play Bond as damaged. And I mean deeply fucking damaged. Craig’s Bond wit isn’t joyous or playful, it’s vicious. It’s a defence mechanism. It’s a function of keeping people at bay, so they’re not dragged down with him as much as it is about finally letting people in once they prove themselves to him. (Bond is the archetypal depiction of toxic masculinity: cold, repressive, emotionally needy, self-medicating, and explosively violent in general presentation, with the full suite of abusive behaviors to boot, and I would absolutely argue the “You’re a good man, Mr. Bond” observation in the film coming as a line of dialogue from someone else with unaddressed emotional issues in the narrative — though I suppose that could also be the point: that those two characters are both living their lives as lies, if they’re living them at all.) I’m also fascinated by the fact that Craig’s run on the Bond films is a closed narrative unto itself, despite all the callbacks. It’s a complete arc. And it’s a redemptive arc. It’s M’s line in a discussion about the purpose of the 00 program that frames Spectre‘s closure (paraphrasing to capture the sentiment, because I wasn’t taking notes): “The 00 license isn’t just about being able to pull the trigger. It’s about choosing when not to.”

It could function as a throwaway line. But in a Bond film? Where murder is seen as the appropriate final resolution to imminent threat? (Remember: Bond isn’t a spy in the Craig run, he’s an assassin.) That’s subversion at work there. And it only took, what, fifty-some-odd years to see that in the film series?

That and the opening credits. Wherein Craig is as much a nakedly sexual object as the ubiquitous nude Bond women. Also, congratulations to whoever pulled those opening credits together. Nevermind subtext, that was some text tentacle hentai going on there. And I have no idea how you got that past production.

Anyway.

Now if we could just get Idris Elba in as the next Bond…. (Luther crossover fanfic. You know you went there.)

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