Is He Your Friend?

Ex-machina-uk-poster

A big thing that I’ve wanted to do for 2016 to help keep my head on straight and to keep myself from feeling overwhelmed (here and in other areas of my life) is to get around to things I’ve been putting off. Whether that’s real life things, like prioritizing my finances, cleaning out my closets, running every day, not just every other day, or fandom related things like catching up on comics and prose reading, or social things like making an effort to see my friends and leave the house (this WHILE managing the finances is probably the most interesting.) So, if you’ll notice over on Facebook, every week I’m prioritizing “things I’m getting around to,” and this week’s big one was “watching Ex Machina.”

I haven’t stopped thinking about the movie since I finished it on Friday night.

Ex Machina is a film I should have seen earlier, but I just kept putting it off. So, I decided to just watch it and I’m really glad I did. The movie asks uncomfortable questions about human, technology, consciouness and in case you were wondering, the way men see women.

It’s not a coincidence that the only two human characters in this film are men. It’s not a coincidence that Nathan, the tech mogul played by Oscar Isaac has chosen to create an AI in the form of a beautiful young woman. It’s not a coincidence that Caleb, the programmer played by Dohmnall Gleeson, brought in to Turing Test the “system” (known as Ava and played wonderfully by Alicia Vikander) falls for her so quickly. This film is saying something about control, about fantasy, about how men want to control women. About how women refuse to be controlled.

I still don’t know exactly what it’s saying and I definitely want to revisit it…but not yet.

The best parts of Ex Machina are the twists and surprises, so I won’t say much more. It’s a fascinating and unsettling film. And it is masterfully acted, the performances (particularly Gleeson and Isaac) are natural and engrossing at the same time. You believe that these are men who might exist. And Vikander is stunning, engaging and just a hair over into inhuman as Ava. It’s an exceptional performance.

Overall, I was impressed, and glad I decided to check it out. Ex Machina is not in my usual line up of stuff I like or would check out, but expanding my horizons and pushing out of my comfort zone isn’t just going to apply to travel, food and exercise this year for me, it’s also applying to the kind of media I’m consuming. I figured this was a good place to start (genre trappings I’m comfortable with, themes that fascinate me and an actor I have a massive crush on…you know safe things for an outside the box choice…)

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I Read A Book: The Year of Yes

year of yes

Why yes, I did read two books this week. And started a third. Yes, they are both books I’ve been putting off reading for reasons that I can’t even explain why. And yes, this one made me want to take on the world.

love Shonda Rhimes.

I love what she’s built. I love that she won’t apologize for being who she is, for creating things that she wants to see. I love that she’s built an empire because women were sick of not seeing stories about themselves on television, and that she started a revolution when she did it.

I loved the fictional worlds that she’d created and now that I’ve read The Year of Yes,  I feel like I know this woman who’s created these things I love a little bit better and I really admire her.

I admire her courage, and her decision to live her life saying yes in the face of fear. I liked her explanation why Christina Yang is her “favorite child” as it were. (Shonda is of course entitled to favor whichever of her creations she does, but I’ve always been a Miranda Bailey girl. And Abby from Scandal.) I loved her clear love for her children and for the people who are helping her be the best mother she can. I love that she’s chosen the life of a single woman.

I could keep going, but overall I was just deeply impressed by the book and, well, I’ve been deeply impressed by the woman for well over a decade now. I’m writing this post while watching one of her shows.

Scandal is the last of Shonda’s shows that I watch. (I need to get into How To Get Away With Murder) I jumped off the Private Practice train a few years before it ended and I think the last time I watched Grey’s Anatomy with any regularity Katherine Heigl was still on it. (God, remember how much we loved her?) But when Shonda describes writing her shows as laying track for an oncoming train. That metaphor explains a lot about her writing style, which is pretty much just plot, plot, plot…EPIC SPEECH.

But despite many of my misgivings I always enjoy my stays in Shondaland and really appreciated this view into it’s soveriegn’s mind. Also it made me want to get to writing seriously again. (Not that I don’t consider what I do here to be serious, but you know what I mean!) So I’ve been outlining a modern romantic comedy novel I want to write.

You see, once, long ago, before I let my life get overrun by fantasy and superheroes, I was going to write about young people falling in love with each other in realistic settings. So I’m going to try to do that.

Sailor Stars Check In: Episodes 186-187

Sailor Stars

Our first episode has the whole Senshi/Star Gang off stalking a toddler, who’s been hanging out in the home of an old billionaire by herself.

Nothing weird here.

OK, maybe I’m being overly critical but, that’s strange. I do love me some Chibi-Chibi though. I think this might be my favorite arc because of her and I mean, my queen Galaxia.

Anyway, this old guy has taken a (not creepy, I don’t think) liking to the little pink haired baby and has been giving her snacks, which she brings home. Usagi is convinced that she’s going to a Candy Kingdom, because Usagi is kind of an idiot. (But an adorable well meant one) So she follows her eventually she meets up with everyone else and they find Chibi-Chibi with the billionaire, who also has no idea who the Three Lights are, even though I think he’s sponsoring their next show or something? I don’t know.

Aluminum Siren and Iron Crow (Steel Crow, WTF is her name?) attack him and then Sailor Moon defeats his monster self.

This whole episode is mostly about the Senshi and Cats asking what the deal with Chibi-Chibi is, and the old guy perceiving that there’s a strong connection between her and Usagi.

Luna’s theory is that she’s Chibi-Usa’s daughter, which is, actually not a terrible guess. (It’s wrong but it’s OK.)

We do learn in our second episode of the week that Chibi-Chibi is a Sailor Guardian, but we’ll get there.

There’s a school sports meet and Seiya bullies Usagi into being on his softball team. (UGH, Seiya…) and his fan club is NOT INTO the idea. Namely his number 1 fan, an older girl from school, and a star softball player decides to make things tough for Usagi here.

Anway, Seiya and Usagi practice all night and she gets OK at softball. Meanwhile Galaxia threatens Aluminum Siren if she doesn’t find the Star Seed. The bad Senshi decide to go after the older girl.

Oh right, and Usagi and Seiya have a conversation about every person having a star in them and it’s actually very sweet but I still hate him.

Look the most important things about this episode is that we saw Sailor Chibi-Chibi Moon and she’s adorable and that Sailor Aluminum Siren realizes that Usagi’s probably the one with the Star Seed that she needs, because, obviously. 

However, I don’t think she’ll do much with this knowledge since I’m pretty sure Galaxia is going to kill her next week.

And I really don’t like Seiya, he has no respect for Usagi’s boundaries, when she has said repeatedly that she has a boyfriend and isn’t interested in him. And all of her friends (except for Rei, who does not have her head up the Three Light’s collective asses) keep encouraging her to cheat on her wonderful boyfriend who also is the reincarnation of her soul mate, who she’s been waiting literally a millenia to be with again? Also, they have a future child together? Who they all kind of love?

Anything Other Than Me: One Tree Hill Rewatch Season 1: Episodes 11-15

One_Tree_Hill_-_Season_1_-_DVD

And now that we’re halfway through Season 1, let’s reflect on the fact that we’re entering into the best of One Tree Hill. (Actually Season 4 is my personal favorite, but I recognize that it’s not the quality that 1 and 3 are.)

Season 1: Episode 11: “The Living Years”

OK, so, Deb and Dan are in family counseling and every time Nathan tries to share he gets stomped on. He doesn’t want to choose between them, but they’re forcing the issue. So instead he convinces Haley to cut school and they get drunk on a beach.

Seriously. I love them.

Meanwhile, Brooke and Lucas are making out in stranger’s hot tubs. Peyton is still pining but she’s trying to be a good friend when Brooke comes to give her advice. I can’t say enough how much I love their friendship, it’s such a unique relationship in media, and I’m glad that it’s here. Although it does make me sad that there are more like in portrayed.

Haley fails a quiz and Nathan tells her that he’s sorry because their relationship is the best thing ever. Also, Lucas meets Peyton’s Dad and Brooke is worried that she and Lucas have nothing in common. Peyton’s Dad decides to stay in.

Also there’s some really cute Jake and Jenny action, and Nathan quits the team.

Right, that’ll last.

Season 1: Episode 12: “Crash Course In Polite Conversation”

You know what gets lost in the later years of One Tree Hill? That it’s actually the story of a family. This is about the Scotts and how they hurt and heal each other. It’s also about Basketball, and friends and music and first love, but primarily it’s about family.

In this episode we learn that the cycle of Scott emotional abuse begins with Dan and Keith’s father, Royal, who used to treat Dan the exact way Dan treats Nathan. GASP! But you know, this show used to have complexity, so he also stops by the cafe whenever he’s in town to catch up with Karen, who’s still in Italy, but he talks to Haley instead.

There’s a disastrous family dinner where Dan and Deb pretend to they’re still together, and Haley tells Nathan about Royal coming by the cafe, Nathan reveals that he quit and we all learn that Dan’s been lying about why he quit back in the day. Then they give him a quilt made of basketball jerseys.

Peyton learns that her dad is caught in a hurricane and gets a call to indentify a body. She and Lucas go, but get caught in a storm and then hang out in a motel and talk all night. It’s not Peyton’s dad, they go back to the hotel and wind up almost having sex. They cut it off because of Brooke. Obviously.

Season 1: Episode 13: “Hanging By Moment”

Yet another Tree Hill Trope born. Someone is happy for about a minute and a half and then something awful happens. In this case, Keith is excited to see Karen again and finally have a real relationship with her and he and Lucas get into a car accident where Lucas in gravely injured.

So that’s that. Also, Lucas and Peyton are sneaking around and kissing behind Brooke’s back and it’s gross and awful and I hate them, but it gives them plenty to give each other long angsty looks about and CMM and Hilarie Burton do specialize in those.

Meanwhile, Nathan continues to be awesome. Whitey is considering retiring and wondering if his career has made a difference. Nathan decides to show him that it has by getting into a heated argument with him.

Haley and Lucas fight about him and Peyton being together. It’s brutal and not the last time they’ll fight I guess but I always hate it when they’re not getting along. When Haley talks to Nathan about it he says it’s weird since their relationship started as him trying to get under Lucas’s skin. Haley doesn’t like that one bit.

After the accident, Dan is the one who pulls Lucas out of the car, at the hospital he says he’s Lucas’s father in order to get him the care he needs.

Season 1: Episode 14: “I Shall Believe”

Lucas is in a coma and everyone has a lot of feelings about it. Brooke is very worried and nervous about meeting Karen, although they bond in this episode in a way that I’ve always found to be deeply moving. Peyton avoids the hospital because it’s too hard for her to deal with her feelings for Lucas and be around Brooke. Haley doesn’t want to go because she’s feeling really guilty about their fight. She’s also mad at Nathan.

Haley has a lot of feelings.

Karen is refusing to see Keith because he was drinking before the accident.

My favorite part of the episode though is that Lucas wakes up when Nathan comes to see him. The fact that these two still hate each other is dissipating and I really can’t wait for the Scott Brothers to be actual brothers. That’s some of my favorite stuff.

Season 1: Episode 15: “Suddenly Everything Has Changed”

Haley sings! I didn’t realize how late in the season this came around. But it’s awesome, and great. Also Nathan decides to move in with Dan in order to make the divorce happen more quickly. It’s wrenching because he really feels torn between the two of them. (So close to Emancipated Nathan!!!!!)

We get another round on the Brooke/Lucas/Peyton merry go round. Lucas breaks up with Brooke to be with Peyton. Brooke is devistated. Lucas goes to see Peyton and collapses, everyone lies to cover their ass, but Brooke finds out what happened anyway,  and she tells both Peyton and Lucas that she never wants to see them again.

Keith is having money problems after paying Lucas’s hospital bills, and Jake comes to work at the cafe. SIDE PLOTS!

Overall Thoughts On This Arc:

Now we’re into the meat of things. I feel like the Haley song is a real marker of “This is where we want the show to go,” but Lucas’s hospitalization is also a big step towards full on soap opera-ville. This is also probably the most exhausting Brooke/Lucas/Peyton stuff. I’m a huge fan of love triangles and this is one of my all time favorites. (Favorite-favorite is probably Pacey/Joey/Dawson…) but the early goings is hard to take.

The Naley stuff here is so great though. I like when they’re more integrated into the main plots, but I really do love them at this point, off in their little corner falling in love and being the best things in each other’s lives.

Deb and Dan divorce is much more interesting than I remember it. It’s absolutely bat shit crazy and riveting.

Like I said, this show is crack to me.

The X-Files 2.0: “My Struggle II”

X-Files

Well, this is over. And it wasn’t, you know, anything spectacular. I mean Scully did save the world with Science! but that’s about it.

Turns out the most recent conspiracy DID begin in 2012 (dun, dun, dun…) and it’s like a plague, or something, for whom the only people with immunity are people with alien DNA.

Again, or something. So everyone in the world starts getting sick, and Scully and Einstein have to science them up a vaccine using Scully’s alien DNA. How do they learn this, might you ask?

Agent Reyes of course! Turns out that not long after the series finale, Monica met with CSM and left the FBI, when he offered her immunity in order to work for him? Sleep with him? I’m not really sure what the exact nature of their deal is, but the point is that Reyes totally sold out.

I’m disappointed. I liked Reyes, but I know she’s widely hated by the fan base and this was probably really, really vindicating for them.

Also we never saw Doggett, which, I mean, BOOOO. And again, like, no Skinner at all which was stupid. And the ending was super dumb, and I didn’t like it and seriously, DAMN YOU CHRIS CARTER!

We did however get Mulder yelling at CSM and CSM looking vaguely amused by the whole thing. We also learned how he survived being you know blown up. Or at least whatever, I don’t know. It didn’t make any sense. And nothing was made better by Tad O’Malley’s dumb interludes. I understand what they were going for there, but it didn’t work out.

I did like that Scully’s blood is the key to saving the world, because, I mean, sure, why not, that makes enough sense. But the ending just infuriated me.

So it’s over.

No more X-Files.

I don’t know what I’m going to do now.

I mean, I’m sure I’ll find something that I’ve willfully ignored for most of my life but I should have been really into.

I’m thinking The Simpsons.

I don’t know. We’ll figure it out.

I Read A Book: Carry On

Carry On

One of my (many) new years resolutions is to do things that I’ve been putting off, particularly when it comes to reading and watching movies.

This week, I got around to reading  Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. If you’re not familiar Carry On is the fanfiction that the main character of Fangirl, Cath wrote throughout that book.

If you’ll remember Fangirl got inside me in a big bad way and I was really looking forward to reading Carry On, but then when it came out it just sort of got buried. But since “getting around to things,” is a big part of what I’m doing, this seemed like an easy pick.

I really enjoyed reading it. I like Rowell’s style a lot, and it was a lot of fun to try to match up which parts of the story matched up with the parts of Fangirl, thinking, “Oh right, it makes sense that Cath gave one of the main characters an estranged twin,” or “I bet Cath wrote this scene where Simon and Baz talk about how weird falling in love feels when she and Levi finally got together.”

But mostly I enjoyed reading it for it’s own sake. Rowell playing around with the cliches of a chosen one story was fun and it was neat to read a book that actually read like fanfiction. Very, very good fanfiction. (As opposed to say, Fifty Shades which reads like the ridiculous terrible fanfiction that it is. There is a place for that.) There’s a lot of Harry Potter style imagery tied in to the story (I mean, obviously, that’s what Simon Snow is supposed to be)

It was cool to get to know these characters who I’d previously only known second hand (third hand? As Rowell explained, Simon is a fictional fictional character, there’s a lot of meta going on in this book.) Agatha was probably my favorite, which I think is funny since I know from Fangirl that Cath is not a fan.

Sorry that this isn’t an overly analytical piece. I’m sitting in my hotel room in Nashville after a very fun but also very exhausting weekend visiting my cousin Kara (another resolution, do more things I wouldn’t normally do, like not sit at home on weekends.) I’ve also “gotten around” to rewatching Happy Endings. It’s been a whole lot of fun!

Catching Up: Non-Compliance, Megaton and Everything Else

Bitch Planet

I was 3 issues behind on Bitch Planet, because I’d mostly given up on reading comics, wanted to re-teach myself to read prose, and a lot of other justifications.

I read all three issues, their back essays, their letters and Kelly Sue’s meditations on whatever it is that she’s thinking about these days.

As usual as I read through I think about myself, my life, my principals and how I compromise. The times I do comply to make my life easier, the times I don’t. The ways I am protected, the ways I am vulnerable, the things I get to say because of my privilege. Because of my race, because of my socio-economic class, my comforts, my education, my family.

I think of how frustrated I get that I have all of these things and still find myself feeling like everyone I work with looks at me like a silly girl who doesn’t know what she’s doing. I still look in the mirror and think that I’m not pretty enough, not thin enough. I still think I’m not smart enough. Not strong enough. Not enough.

Maybe that’s why I stayed away for a while. Because Bitch Planet always makes me ask these questions and look at these issues and lately I just haven’t felt like it, and then I feel guilty for not feeling like it and the cycle begins anew.

I’d given up comics because I felt myself losing engagement, and now I’m picking one up again to feel engaged.

It’s a weird oxymoron, I know.

But if there’s one thing that I’ve taken away from this reading it’s the following. I’m not radical. I just am not. I never have been and I’m not sure I ever will be. I am, in my deepest most private nature, a conservative person. I like routines and sameness, and warmth and home. I like waking up in the morning and knowing what my day has in store.

But here’s where I differ from what the mainline narrative of a person like me goes. Here’s where my non compliance comes into play. There is nothing in me, ever, that feels like everyone should want those things.  I hate that anyone should be forced into a box.That anyone should be denied the chance to find the life that feels right to them. I also feel like anyone should have a shot at those things. Not just people who look, love and act like me.

Pushed into this run of Bitch Planet was a family that was trying to fight The Protectorate and The Council of Fathers and who’s oldest daughter was punished for it. It presents us with, as far as I can remember, the first man who’s actively working against the current system. And it’s cool to see.

Like I said, reading this book makes me feel weird and philosophical which I know is the point.

Anyway, I’m off to Nashville for the weekend with my family. Which means that I may have to keep a lid on all my patriarchy stamping, as I prefer my dad’s head unexploded, thanks.