March 31, 2011

Geek Weekly: Special review - Shyamalanathon

Since I do reviews on all the first and third Thursdays of the month, I thought it would be fun to do a Super Special Review on the rare fifth Thursdays. For the forseeable future, I'll be focusing them on a series of themed marathons, complete with reviews and blow-by-blow reactions. Since M. Night Shyamalan is one of my favorite directors (I can see a bunch of you running for the hills already, GET BACK HERE), I thought a Shyamalanathon would be the way to start it off.

A few notes: a while back I made a half-assed attempt at a blog, and the Shyamalanathon was one of my first posts. Unfortunately I failed at committing to a blog at the time (as opposed to now YAY), so this post got thrown out. This was originally written before Avatar: The Last Airbender came out, and I have to admit I haven't seen that one yet. It was also originally multiple posts, so it's going to be a bit long. You have been warned.

Shyamalanathon 1/3: The Bruce Willis era

The Sixth Sense
I almost forgot how much I love this movie. Although I am of the MTV generation, I really like when a scary movie takes its time building the tension before making me jump. Of course I've seen this one enough times not to be too affected by the scares anymore. Remember when Haley Joel Osment was so cute with the stiff-legged run? Remember when Bruce Willis still had some hair? Did you realize that the barfing girl ghost was played by Mischa Barton? And then there's Night's very first twist, the revelation that Bruce Willis is one of the ghosts haunting Cole. It's fun watching the movie knowing that, and enjoying his character's non-interactions with the rest of the cast. Scariest ghost = the crawlspace guy; you only hear his voice. CREEPY. Night sighting: the doctor who accuses Cole's mom (played by the excellent Toni Collette) of abuse. Hi, Night!

Blow-by-blow notes:
  • Bullshit! hee
  • the “magic” trick... hee again
  • scariest ghost = crawlspace dude *shudder*
  • night sighting! the doctor
  • I see dead people
  • ACK barfing ghost
  • Bruce Willis is dead!!!

When I first saw this movie, my friend and I dubbed it “That Security Guy vs. Mr. Glass.” It was made to be a sort of prequel to a superhero flick asking the question, “What if superheroes and supervillans existed in the real world?” It does a fantastic job of mixing the fantastic and the mundane, which I think is a trademark of sorts in M. Night's movies. This one wasn't very well-received, probably because most people were expecting “The Sixth Sense 2.” Comparatively this movie is much less scary, but it has plenty of awesomesauce to go around. Ever since I saw it I've been hoping for a sequel, and according to IMDb I just might get it. Night sighting: potential drug dealer at the stadium where Bruce Willis works as a security guard. Hi Night! Surprise twist: Mr. Glass (played gorgeously by Samuel L. Jackson) is TOTALLY EVIL!

Blow-by-blow notes:
  • aw, poor baby Samuel L.
  • Samuel L. deploys The Rage!
  • Robin Wright's “I want to get back together but I'm totally ok if you don't want that *sob*” speech was particularly effective when I first saw it 'cause I had recently gone through a massive break-up and was totally in that desperate place at the time. Ouch, and also? WOW.
  • *crunch crunch crunch wince* the breaking of Samuel L. *wince*
  • Night sighting! potential drug dealer
  • 6:39pm tweet: On movie 2 of the Shyamalanathon (Unbreakable). Supplies still holding out, haven't needed bathroom break yet. Soldiering on. #shyamalan
  • GAH psycho janitor's entry is so creepy “I like your house, can I come in?” *shudder*
  • David becomes a superhero. LOVE.
  • best moment: David whispering to son across breakfast table “You were right.” *sniff*
  • surprise twist: MR. GLASS IS TOTALLY EVIL!! duh.
  • according to IMDb, Unbreakable 2 is in development. Yes, please!

Shyamalanaton 2/3: The Joaquin Phonix era

This one is very sentimental. It's also a study in faith, which is not something I normally enjoy (being essentially atheist). Nonetheless, it's a great, creepy, and often funny movie. Cuteness abounds, helped along by tiny Abigail Breslin in one of her first movie rolls (love the bump-da-bump dance, particularly knowing “Little Miss Sunshine” is in her future). Mel Gibson brings the funny more than once, apparently having not yet been driven insane by Jesus. Then the alien invasion starts, and it is SCARY. One plot hole that occurred to me... if the aliens know that water is deadly to them, why do they choose to attack EARTH?? Twist ending: it all has a purpose. Swing away, Merrill! Night sighting: the dude who killed Mel's wife. Oops. Hi Night!

Blow-by-blow notes:
  • tiny Abigail Breslin!
  • ”I'm insane with anger!” LOLZ
  • night sighting – unexplained guy who makes everyone uncomfortable
  • cornfields are always scary o_0
  • Joaquin & Mel sitting on couch with hands on knees = hee!
  • night sighting 2: awkwardness explained
  • god, Mel Gibson used to be so funny. until Jesus drove him insane.
  • oh HEE Joaquin in a tin hat too
  • ”it's happening” *shudder*
  • they left the dog outside to die DO NOT APPROVE
  • Joaquin protecting the kids... I have no maternal instinct whatsoever, yet seeing a not-yet-dad-age dude protecting kids makes me drop eggs like they're hot

The Village
Aw, it's an M. Night Shyamalan love story. Along with being a world-is-evil story. There are so many amazing actors and performances in this that you couldn't even find enough sticks to shake at them in the scary woods. Also, James Newton Howard's music is particularly great in this one. I think this one might actually be my favorite, although the next one will be high up on the scale as well. Night seemed rather determined to make up for the rather weak twist in the last movie by adding a total of FOUR twists. And, in my opinion, pulling off each one quite gracefully, and saving the best and biggest for last. I can honestly say that I did not see that coming, like, at all. Night sighting: at the end, he plays a ranger who delivers a load of awkward exposition. Nice of him to take that job on himself. Hi Night!

Blow-by-blow notes:
  • Adrien Brody is adorable and creepy at the same time. How does he do that??
  • Bryce Dallas Howard has the awesomest laugh ever
  • this movie is chock full of 70's sci-fi awesomesauce in the form of William Hurt and Sigourney Weaver
  • violin music – James Newton Howard
  • aww!!! Joaquin + Bryce = teh cuteness
  • AAACCCKKKK with the stabbing
  • twist #1: Those We Do Not Speak Of are the elders!
  • twist #2: no wait Those We Do Not Speak Of are ACTUALLY REAL!!
  • twist #3: oh wait nevermind that's just Adrian Brody
  • twist #4: we are in present day, folks.
  • night sighting: mostly just the voice as one of the rangers who kindly delivers giant chunk of clunky exposition

Shyamalanathon 3/3: Parable Time

Lady in the Water
Yeah, this one's my favorite. It's tough to knock The Village off that pedestal, with all the stellar acting going on; but even with the general drop in thespian skillz, there's still some shining exceptions. Most notably Paul Giamatti, who successfully pulls off comedic adorableness and heartbreaking pathos in equal measure. Another highlight is M. Night himself in his biggest role. A little messianic, yes, but well performed. Plus, love the silly interaction with the sister character. In fact, there is not a character in the movie I don't love for one reason or another. The only thing that I would change is that when Reggie is revealed to be The Protector in what is probably considered to be the movie's big twist, I would have like to see him bring some Hellboy-esque smackdown on the Scrunt. It would have paid off his one-side-only workout regimen, for one thing. For another, it would have been awesometastic. As I said, there really wasn't a big twist, more like a series of little twists throughout the movie. And, hi Night!

Blow-by-blow notes:
  • the slaying of the bug LOLZ!
  • eek! grassy dogs!
  • Micah! playing a child prodigy. what a departure.
  • i want to live in that apartment complex, for reals
  • yep, this one's my favorite
  • appx 12:30 tweet: Movie 5 of the Shyamalanathon. Have already put up installments 1 & 2 on The Blog: Supplies still holding, for now
  • night sighting: a major character! and he's hilarious to boot. love his brother/sister stuff. adorable!
  • have I mentioned I developed a crush on night during this movie? so pretty
  • Paul Giamatti is a comedic genius
  • one regret: Reggie should have brought the pain
  • love that eagle

The Happening
After the happy that was the last film, this one takes us darker than any of the others. It's a really cringe-worthy concept, watching people off themselves in increasingly horrifying ways because the plants told them to. As a fan of the horror genre, I loved it! Ok, granted, the ending was a little weak, and not because of the lack of any real twist. Personally I don't have any problem with a straight-forward, twist-free story; if he tried to use that every time, it would get boring. The ending just felt kind of lame. I was also a little disappointed that Night didn't make an appearance in this one... I think he might have gotten panned for his work in the last film and probably decided to forgo an appearance here. What I did love was the Parisian coda. Look out, France, you're next! Can't decide what the most disturbing part was; there were so many. The lawnmower certainly sticks out in my mind. Kudos to Night for crawling right under my skin and setting up camp there for two hours. Guh.

Blow-by-blow notes:
  • just before watching this movie, went upstairs for potty/smoke break and got completely freaked out. movies getting to me. eek.
  • this one jumps right in with the eep
  • wahlberg redux: donnie was superior
  • cameron!
  • zooey. zoooooooooey. zooeydeschanel. that's fun to say in a bad french accent
  • aw john leguizamo as a daddy = cuteness
  • is it wrong that I love the part where three people use a gun one after the other to kill themselves?
  • omg these suicides are bonkers
  • cheese and crackers! hee
  • oh yeah, breslin redux as well: both performed admirably
  • oh ACK the lawnmower ACK
  • are you my mummy? old ladies in gas masks, hee
  • o hai crazy lady EEEKKK
  • no twist, no night, and an awesome coda

Shyamalanathon: Redux and Wrap-Up

The Buried Secrets of M. Night Shyamalan
Surprise! Bet you didn't see this coming... Come now, no proper Shyamalanathon would be complete without this one. It would have been part of the original Shyamalanathon posts, but I kind of forgot to put in on my NetFlix queue in time and didn't get it until yesterday. Oops.

When I first watched this, I thought it was real. I mean, on one level I didn't because, c'mon. It was only a few days later that I saw the retraction/apology, and that didn't surprise me either. When I watched it at night, alone in my apartment, I was, frankly, totally convinced. To the extent that I slept on the couch with the TV on that night. In the light of day it was a bit different. Seriously, there was Deepak Chopra! And Johnny Depp! And all sorts of crazy drama! How could it not be real? Ok, the creepy hoodie kids were a little out there. And the acting was sometimes a bit... well, awkward. Still!

I know a lot of people think the movie is ridiculous (assuming they even know about it). Most people are pretty scornful of the fact that it was an admitted hoax. Personally, I think it was brilliant. Not only from a publicity standpoint, but also as just a bit of really good storytelling. I mean, how often do you get to see a movie about the life of a real person, a famous person at that, which is really creepy and interesting? And that person is actually INVOLVED in the movie? I just thought it was cool as hell both in its attempt to make the viewer believe it was real, and after knowing it's fake, the story itself.

A story that I started writing a long time ago revolved around the idea that horror movies and books aren't fiction at all, just windows into worlds most people ignore or don't want to see. One of the characters in my story is Clive Barker, who turns out to be this haunted guy who sees into those places and whose stories and characters are based on what he sees there. This movie follows that same tradition wonderfully, and the involvement of Night in the process just makes it all the more awesome.

C'mon, they pulled the wool over your eyes for a minute too, just admit it. This movie is well worth watching if you can stop bitching and enjoy it. It would only have been better if everyone involved had managed to keep up with the ruse and left us all wondering if maybe, just maybe, it was real.

Blow-by-blow notes:
  • first time... kinda bought it, kinda not
  • lovely cinematography
  • should have noticed the awkward “acting” from some of the crew types
  • creepy hoodie kids!
  • Deepak Chopra was an interesting random celeb
  • ditch the hate and enjoy the ride, people – this thing is worth it
  • JOHNNY DEPP I almost forgot about that!
  • Adrian Brody = awesome
  • GAH the house part is so creepy
  • it's too bad they had to admit it was fake

Wrap Up
Things purchased in preparation for the Shyamalanathon:
  • smokes
  • milk for cereal
  • lunchmeat and bagels for sandwiches
  • crab dib and pita bread
  • white cheddar Cheeze-Its
  • Papa John's large bacon-green-pepper-onion pizza with extra sauce
  • Crystal Light wild strawberry flavor with CAFFEINE
  • Diet Code Red Mountain Dew 12-pack
  • Friskie's Indoor cat food

So this was a really fun experience, even more so because I got to spew my thoughts about it all over the interwebs. Hope the three or four of you that read it enjoyed it as much as I did, and I definitely suggest giving the Shyamalanathon a try if you have the chance.

I have a few other -thons I'm mulling over for the fifth Thursday reviews, including an American-Remakes-of-Asian-Horror-thon, a Stephen-King-adaptation-thon, a the-UK-is-scary-thon, and the grandaddy of -thons, an Extended-Director's-Cut-Lord-of-the-Rings-including-all-DVD-special-features-thon. Check back in June for the next fifth Thursday to see which one I picked! (Actually, come back before then, because I need validation. Thanks.)

March 28, 2011

Life on the Couch: Adventures in cooking.

I've been doing this menu planning thing for a few weeks now, and have been actually cooking food rather than just taking it out of the freezer and putting it in the microwave. There's been some frustration and a lot of angsting, but I'd like to share some of my excitement with you instead.

Like stir fry. Why did no one ever tell me about stir fry? It's so easy! The way I make it, anyway. Bag of frozen veggies, packet of pre-cooked chicken cubes, can of water chestnuts, bottle of stir fry sauce. Then you just put it on heat and stir it around. WHAT IS THIS MADNESS? Needless to say, I'm exploring the world of stir fry with a nearly ridiculous amount of enthusiasm.

I also made my first-ever chicken dinner. It was a simple rice bake, but it involved actual uncooked chicken that I had to make so that it didn't give me Salmonella poisoning. (Here's the thing... I have this weird, nearly pathological fear of cooking chicken. I have no idea why. I've never had a traumatic experience with undercooked chicken, I don't know anyone who's died from poor chicken preparation. I just feel like it's the pinnacle of how I have no idea what I'm doing when it comes to cooking. So the chicken bake was kind of a big deal for me.)

I even have a go-to recipe that I call Baked Ziti (even though I make it with penne). It's possibly the most simple recipe in the history of ever, requiring only boiling the penne, dumping it into a pan, adding a bottle of Prego and half a bag of shredded mozzarella and mixing, then sprinkling it with the remaining half of the bag of cheese. Then bake it for a while and I've got five meals. FIVE. Awesome!

I've got some more adventures in my near future, including fish – FISH! - and from-scratch veggie burgers. I'm also glad to report that I've successfully navigated the grocery store a couple of times now, with almost no blank staring or aimless wandering or panicked beelining.

That sound you hear is me patting my own back. Damn right.

March 24, 2011

Geek Weekly: Growing up geek.

Time for a little nostalgia kick. Once again this is going to be an interactive post... leave a comment with some of the geeky things that you loved growing up!

My mother swears that the first movie I ever saw in the theater was The Empire Strikes Back. I would have been three years old at the time. I'm assuming my first movie would have been Star Wars, but I was still in the womb when that one came out. At any rate, I can imagine my tiny toddler brain absorbing the sights and sounds of Lucas' epic and becoming totally hooked.

As a child of the 80's, I was raised on sci-fi and fantasy movies like The Neverending Story, Gremlins, The Goonies, The Explorers, Willow, and of course the aforementioned Star Wars movies; cheesy but fabulous television shows like “The Hulk,” “He-Man,” “Wonder Woman,” “V,” “The Greatest American Hero,” “Star Trek: the Next Generation,” and “Alien Nation;” and spent lots of time playing with my Transformers and my Atari (favorite game? “Joust”). At a young age I also developed a fascination for classic movie monsters, an obsession that would have had me fit right in with the kids in Monster Squad. I prided myself on my expertise in all things ghost, werewolf, vampire, and the pantheon of Universal movie monsters.

My love of Stephen King's books began at the tender age of ten, when I started reading Pet Sematary by skipping the first 100 pages, and moved directly on to The Shining... and have now read and re-read most of his books.

I became a teenager in the 90's, which was when my focus began to shift towards horror movies. There was a dearth of horror then, but there was some great stuff on television: “Friday the 13th” (not to be mistaken for the Jason Voorhees movies), “Tales from the Crypt,” and “The X-Files” are a few that I loved. Most of my horror movie viewing was stuff from the 70's and 80's, such as the various Freddy and Jason movies, Alien and Aliens, all the Hellraisers and Halloweens, plus every cheesy camp-counselor beach-party prom-night movie I could get my hands on. It wasn't until Scream reminded us just how awesome horror flicks are that the genre began to pick up steam again, and I was in heaven.

Unlike the kids today (please do picture me hunched over a cane shaking my fist as I say that), I had to grow up in the internet-less vacuum of the 80's and early 90's, virtually unaware that there were other kids like me who rejected the possibility of having a life on Saturday nights because ST:TNG was on, or haunted their local video store's tiny horror section (usually located in the back corner, by the curtained door leading to the porn), or wrote stories in the world of their favorite show. Had the internet existed, I would likely be as addicted to it as I am now. But I'm glad I didn't have it, because the movies and shows I loved feel more like discoveries I made myself.

It was a great time to grow up geek.

March 20, 2011

Life on the Couch: Acting class as therapy.

I started taking improv classes a few months ago. As you can imagine, it's been quite an interesting adventure. I frequently refer to them as my learn-to-be-funny classes, although it's turned out to to be a lot more about discovering my fears and boundaries.

Performing isn't really a big fear for me... I have enough of the only child LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME mentality not to be afraid of standing in front of people. However, I developed an instinctive fear of being viewed negatively when I was one of those bullied kids in school. I will usually avoid doing anything that makes me look stupid, both consciously and unconsciously. Little insiders tip about performing comedy: it doesn't really work if you're not willing to look stupid.

I'm next in line to create a scene. I must start as an animal and then become a human with the characteristics of the creature. I'm given “panther” as the cue, and must begin. I find myself crawling along the floor, doing my best stalk, slowly rising to my feet with as much grace as my 220 lb, 5'7” body can muster. I feel embarrassed by the difficulty I have. I'm glad when the exercise is over, sure that I've disgusted my fellow students. The one who suggested my animal persona (who is himself a reasonably attractive straight male), tells me that my performance was his favorite of the night. I don't know what to think.

On a similar vein, these classes bring up a lot of my body issues. I'm not comfortable with my body, and when I'm asked to crawl, or roll around, or bounce, I get really weirded out and have a hard time doing it. I am also discovering just how genuinely bothered I am by people touching me or being asked to touch other people. Just having people invade my bubble without touch makes me incredibly freaked out, and I find myself backing away from them. I'm curious to find out if this is the result of sexual abuse, or simply because my family was never very huggy. It's also something I'd really like to change about myself... I don't want to be scared to touch and be touched.

I try to do the “straight man” to my acting partner's silliness. The teacher stops me and asks me to imitate my partner's goofy behavior instead. I do, trying really hard to just be in this character instead of worrying about how I look. My acting partner lays on the ground and invites me to join him. I insist I don't lay on the ground. “Yes you do!” cries my teacher, and I force myself to at least sit on the ground next to him. He's scared me with the invitation to lay with him, is the thing. On the surface I know I'm safe... I'm in a room full of people, my scene partner is not some crazed sexual predator... but the defenses have come up, covering me in a layer of razor-sharp spines. The scene continues as he keeps pushing my boundaries, playing with my hair, touching my arms... I'm grateful to him, for understanding that I need to be pushed, but not pushing so hard that I can't take it.

Another issue that's coming up is how little I trust myself. I've been having a really hard time pushing myself to spit out those ideas that float into my head during improvisational exercises. Needless to say, if you can't trust yourself, you're not going to do well in improv. It also ties into that desperate need not to look like an idiot, because the nature of improv is that you sometimes fail. Sometimes what you say doesn't work and you just have to find your way back to the funny. A lot of that comes from practice, but there's also an element of knowing that you're good and will eventually make it right. It's something I don't have, but I want. I want to learn how to trust myself.

We stand in a circle, doing two-line scenes, jumping out with no forethought and shouting a line that someone else must jump out and respond to. We are nine weeks in, and I still haven't been able to be the first to jump out. Whatever I say will be too lame, too pointless. It doesn't matter that half the other lines the other students are coming up with are lame and that is the whole point of the exercise.

These classes are not all terror and sweaty palms. I laugh through most of the night, I enjoy watching my fellow students take risks and I learn so much every night. I don't know if improv is an art I'll ever excel at, but I can sense how incredibly good it is for me.

March 17, 2011

Geek Weekly: Television review - “Spaced.”

If you've never heard of “Spaced,” I can't say I'm really surprised. Painfully disappointed, but not surprised. A little background for the uninitiated:

“Spaced” was created by Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Jessica Stevenson (now Hynes), and stars Pegg, Hynes, and Nick Frost (along with some other wonderful character actors). Most of the team went on to create the movies Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, so chances are pretty good that if you're a geek, you're familiar with their brand of humor. The series aired in 1999 and 2000 on Channel 4 in the UK.

The show centers on Tim (Pegg) and Daisy (Hynes), strangers who meet over the classifieds in a London coffee shop. Tim has just been kicked out by his long-term girlfriend, while Daisy is attempting to get out of the squat she shares with several friends. They pretend to be a couple in order to get the perfect flat, thus becoming the nucleus of an odd and wonderful little family that includes Tim's “A-Team”-obsessed childhood friend Mike (Frost), Daisy's blonde fashion plate bestie Twist (Katy Carmichael), Marsha the landlady and her ever-present glass of wine (Julia Deakin), and the tortured and socially awkward artist Brian (Mark Heap).

The show is a celebration of geekdom, filled with loving references to everything from 2001: A Space Odyssey to X-Men comics to Scooby-Doo to the ever-present Star Wars movies. One memorable episode uses a theme centered on the “Resident Evil” video games, and gives a sneak peek into the inspiration for Shaun of the Dead before it's even been made.

What this show does so well is balance the goofy humor with genuine heart and just a touch of romance that's compelling without being too heavy-handed. It's the same formula that made Shaun of the Dead so successful and so much fun to watch. The world is familiar yet surreal, filled with human caricatures that should be completely ridiculous but never fail to remind you of someone you know. My personal favorite being Tyres, the raving bike courier.

The series ran for two seven-episode seasons and is available on a DVD boxed set, which includes the 2004 documentary Skip to the End. It's the perfect length for an all-day marathon, with the more hard-core marathoners among us able to tack on the movies to watch the progression of the Wright-Pegg-Frost triumvirate.

Bottom line, if you're a fan of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, you have to see this show. If you're not, what the hell is wrong with you?

March 16, 2011

The sexuality of “Torchwood.”

Just FYI, this is pretty deeply “Torchwood” geeky, so if you aren't relatively familiar with the show, you may be a bit lost. I highly recommend watching the first two series and the “Children of Earth” miniseries for clarification.

While reading an article online regarding the woeful lack of bisexual characters on television, one of the comments left by a reader got me thinking. He pointed out that the only truly bisexual character was “our beloved Captain Jack.” This immediately rankled, thus necessitating my first ever off-schedule blog post. Thanks, random commenter! (Also, I can't remember if I've already said this somewhere on my blog before, but in case you haven't figured it out by now, I identify as bisexual.)

So here's my argument: the only truly bisexual character on “Torchwood” was actually Owen Harper.

Yes, I mean the doctor guy. It'll make more sense in a bit, just stick with me.

The thing that first attracted me to “Torchwood” was the apparent idea that the characters lived in a world without “straight” and “gay,” where anyone could end up with anyone else regardless of gender. And indeed, each of the five main characters had some sort of romantic or sexual relationship, even if it was as brief as a kiss, with someone of both their own and the opposite gender at some point. However, I believe that there is a distinction to be made between the promised fluid sexuality and the delivered encounters.

The reason I believe Owen is the only truly bisexual character comes from a very brief scene in the pilot episode. When it's revealed that he's using an alien pheromone spray to attract people for the purpose of sex, he initially uses it on a woman. But when her boyfriend comes raging after them with baffled threats of violence, Owen uses the spray on him and invites him along for the night. While the argument could be made that he did it simply to avoid getting beaten up, the look of glee on his face after the man lays one on him and drags him off suggests otherwise. And while it seems like the whole thing is dropped in favor of his varying levels of romance with Gwen, Diane, and Tosh, to me this scene makes him the most honestly bisexual character on the show.

So what about everyone else?

Toshiko Sato did have one lesbian encounter, with an alien bent on manipulating her trust to get into the Hub. While the situation is certainly up for interpretation, my take on it is that it was more about power and control than sexuality. And unlike Owen's casual handling of physical intimacy with either gender, Tosh spends some time wringing her hands about how she's never had sex with a woman before. She's clearly thrown for a loop, which seems pretty unlikely if she were really bisexual. She also goes on to have only same-sex relationships from that point on, with Tommy, Adam, and Owen.

Gwen Cooper hardly counts, since her one lesbian experience was with that sex-energy alien. She's straight.

Now we get to the really sticky ones. These are the two whose sexuality I've probably spent the most time wondering about.

Ianto Jones. Before “Children of Earth,” I would have said that Ianto was the one solid representation of bisexuality on “Torchwood.” He clearly had not just physical but romantic relationships with both Lisa and Jack. Before “Children of Earth” I was thrilled by the ease with which Ianto's sexuality was handled, and how successfully they had shown how a character could love a woman and a man equal amounts. But then... then there was “Children of Earth.” Wherein Ianto confesses to his sister, “It's not men, it's just... him.” Essentially blaming his foray into dickville solely on Jack's uniquely charming persona and supernatural ability to circumvent established sexuality. Thank you, “Children of Earth,” for that painfully exclusionary new bit of canon. The bottom line: Ianto? Not bisexual.

And then there's Captain Jack Harkness. Jack has been identified in numerous interviews as “omnisexual,” not bisexual. Jack is a 51st century human, born in a time and place where humans are spread so thin across the galaxy that they are necessarily adaptable. One of the first lines in the pilot of the series has Jack revealing that he had been pregnant at some point, and if you include the Doctor Who Face of Boe mythology (which, since we're going on stated canon here, I think we must), he will become pregnant again at some point when he's a giant tentacled head in a jar. We also find out in “Children of Earth” that he has a daughter and a grandson living in present time. The point being, in my mind, that Jack does not represent a bisexual character because his particular brand of sexuality isn't anything that exists in the real world.

So there you have it. I've yet to be completely satisfied with any portrayal of bisexuality on television, although there have been a few that have almost gotten there, and a few more that still have the potential to. I would write a whole other blog post on that, but Chris O'Guinn already did it over on AfterElton. Go read the article if you're curious about my thoughts on it, because he said it pretty much the same way I would.

March 13, 2011

Life on the Couch: Work is hard.

This is going to be a short-ish one, 'cause I'm pretty sure I'm coming down with the plague which makes me cranky and unmotivated. Unlike how I usually am.

I've worked a myriad of customer service and retail jobs. I don't tend to stay at them very long, because I seriously suck at customer service. The problem is that I really don't care. I'm terrible at upselling, because what's it to me if the large corporation emblazoned across my chest (or worse, stitched on the breast of my company polo shirt GAH) makes an additional four dollars? I also have this utterly irrational idea that the customer should already know about the place they're in and what it sells or what the program does, which makes them a lazy, ignorant idiot for asking me about it. Doesn't take long for me to succumb to the seething rage.

As a customer, if I ever had to ask myself for assistance, I would think I was the rudest, most disgruntled employee ever.

Of the thirty-odd jobs I've had in my life, almost all of them have been retail or customer service of some sort. And for those of you who just gasped, “THIRTY???” I offer you a list (from memory, so probably not complete):

Paper delivery
Grocery cashier at a small-town store
Grocery cashier at a warehouse grocer
Taco shop clerk
Toy store clerk
Reception/admin at a job placement company
Book store clerk
Reception/admin at a computer training company
Video store clerk
Music/video store clerk
Lingerie store clerk
Admin at a federal office
Lotion store clerk
Admin at a mental health facility
Dispatcher for a cab company
Admin for a technology firm
Rental video store clerk
Box office staff at a children's theater
Sign language interpreter at a high school
Large media/electronics store clerk
Group home attendant
Sign language interpreter at an elementary school
Admin at a state agency

I'm quite excited to start my next job: professional student. Not much customer service involved in that one.

I don't even think this post made sense. I blame the plague.

March 10, 2011

Geek Weekly: The heebies.

You may have noticed by now that I love horror movies. I love the tension, I love the gore, I love the scares, I love the atmosphere... I love it all.

The problem is the after-effects. When a movie succeeds in actually scaring me, it tends to last for a while. Sometimes weeks.

The Grudge was one of the worst I've experienced. To this day, if I watch the movie (for the eleventyth time) or even just think about it too much, I have a hard time looking into dark corners for fear of seeing that white-dress-long-dark-hair shape. I can barely stand to go up the stairs, because the risers are open to the crawlspace beneath and I'm positive a small white hand is going to grab my ankle as I hurry up. It doesn't exactly help that my roommate's cats like to sit under there and stare out between the risers with their creepy reflective eyes. GAH.

The problem is, as much as I love these movies, I'm a total scardy-cat. I have a horrible habit of playing the “I wonder what I would do if...” game. This usually pops up at the most unexpected times: having a smoke on the porch (I wonder what I would do if a zombie came lurching around the corner); laying in bed about to fall asleep (I wonder what I would do if a voice suddenly said my name); brushing my teeth (I wonder what I would do if something walked behind me in the mirror).

I'm not sure if these thoughts are the result of being a horror movie addict, from starting my Stephen King obsession at the age of ten, or if they're simply the product of an overactive imagination. I'm guessing it's all of the above, with a strong dose of general insanity thrown in.

It's a good thing the heebies have become a way of life by now, because Insidious looks awesome, doesn't it?

March 6, 2011

Geek Weekly: Movie review – Paranormal Activity 2

I do realize that it's Sunday. The Life Sundays post is coming too, hopefully tomorrow. If you know me at all, the fact that I've gotten a bit behind is no surprise. The shocking thing is that it took an entire month for it to happen. But enough bluster, on to the main event!

I originally watched the new Nightmare on Elm Street movie intending to rip it to shreds (ha ha), but it was actually so bad that all I could do was seethe and rage. I also happened to rent Paranormal Activity 2 just for my own enjoyment, so I've decided to talk about that instead. We may revisit That Other Movie later, if I'm desperate for topics and feel the need to vent.

On to the fun movie!


I went into this sequel with no real idea of what I was getting into, so I was very pleasantly surprised by the appearance of Katie and Micah from the first movie, and rather devilishly pleased when I realized how the timelines of the two movies wove together. You can watch almost the entirety of the second movie, then stop it and watch the whole of the first movie, then the last few minutes of the second movie again, and the story is seamless. One thing that did bother me was the inclusion of the backstory, since giving an explanation for Teh Evil weakens it somewhat; the scariest stories are the ones where there is no reason for the victims to be targeted (i.e. The Exorcist or The Grudge). That said, I really liked the dark turn it took as the family makes the decision to transfer the haunting to Katie, thus setting the events of the first movie (and the subsequent results at the end of this one) in motion.

What this movie does so well (like the first one) is the slow build... ramping the tension up so high that it's almost a relief when the scare finally comes. For me, the hallmark of a good horror flick is how many times I end up hiding behind my hands, and it happened over and over again during this film. There's a delicate balance to that crescendo; if you get off too quickly, there's no satisfaction, but if you take too long to stretch it out, it can become boring and you barely even care when the scare does come. (Yes, like sex. I see wot U did thar.) The scene when all the cupboards slam open in the kitchen was so loud and startling that it sent my cats scrambling under the nearest furniture. It was the most fun I've had watching a horror movie in a long time.

Another thing that works really well is that you never see the demon. Horror movie monsters rarely live up to their hype, and more often than not once you see the monster, it becomes less frightening. The monster in Paranormal Activity 2 exists purely in the viewer's imagination, and is so much worse there than it could ever be onscreen. And the fact that the protagonists themselves eventually become the monster makes it all the worse, because how do you fight someone you love? How do you stop yourself from becoming the monster?

The sequel has a lot of similarities to the original, a lot of the same kinds of scares and tactics. I think this is a strength rather than a weakness, because it makes sense in the context of the films... after all, they are the same haunting. There is just enough of a difference to give the their own unique twist, and make both worth watching. If you liked the first one, there's no reason you shouldn't like this one as well. And if the first one scared the pants off you, this one should do the same. If it didn't scare the pants off you, you're lying. It totally did.