Friday, December 28, 2012

Stupid Movie Title

     I'm preemptively declaring the worst movie title of 2013: The Haunting in Connecticut 2: The Ghosts of Georgia.  Apparently, this is the sequel to the 2002 TV movie, A Haunting in Connecticut (despite the two films having no direct connection).  As the title of the "sequel" suggests, it takes place in Georgia, not Connecticut.  Yes, it's using the same logic as Reno 911! Miami, but without any awareness of how contradictory the title is.

Book Review: Lunar Park by Bret Easton Ellis

            Lunar Park is, to use an overplayed term, deceptively complex.  At once an autobiography, a ghost story, and therapy, Ellis tells the story of an edgy writer named Bret Easton Ellis who was catapulted to fame at a young age with the publication of Less Than Zero, only to come crashing back to Earth in middle age.   Bret (the character; I’ll refer to the author as Ellis) gets married to the movie star mother of his 11 year old illegitimate child and a six year daughter and moves to the suburbs to try to escape his past.  But his past comes back to haunt him, quite literally.   

            Ellis maintains the sleek writing style of his previous novels, but the tone is very different.  In his first three novels (Less than Zero, The Rules of Attraction, and American Psycho (I have not read Glamorama, and so will not comment on it)), the lifestyles of the privileged youth are depicted as shallow and ultimately meaningless.  While certainly depressing, the characters are in no hurry to leave that lifestyle behind, leaving the reader with the sense of the directionlessness and ennui the protagonists experience.  But Bret finds meaning and stability.  This book is about his (Ellis and Bret’s) coming to terms with maturity and responsibility and acceptance of the past.

            A particularly emotional theme running through the book is Bret’s unresolved issues with his father, and how those issues manifest themselves in his relationship with his son.  If Less Than Zero gave us a glimpse into Ellis’s world, Lunar Park gives us a glimpse into his psyche.  Over the course of the book, we see Bret grow emotionally in a way that we don’t see with any of his earlier protagonists. 

            As far as the horror goes, it was not as solid as the other genres wound into the book.  While genuinely scary at points, the horror scenes were on many occasions too bizarre to be taken seriously.  Likewise, Ellis draws out the process of reaching conclusions the reader makes pretty quickly, which throws the pacing off. 

            Overall, I’d recommend Lunar Park, especially to Ellis fans.  Lunar Park draws from previous works, both explicitly and subtly (at one point, Bret has a meeting at one Dorseah Diner) and offers a peek at the man behind the book.

     Favorite Quote: When you give up life for fiction you become a character.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Trolls and Censorship

            Anyone who spends time on the internet is familiar with trolls.  They pop up again and again, and anytime one gets taken down two more show up in its place, like a hydra with a third grade reading level and no social skills.  We have collectively accepted their incessant pestering as an inevitable part of internet culture.  But Cracked columnist John Cheese made a very good point in his article Four Easy Solutions to Problems We All Complain About: Most sites have a way to report trolls.

            Unsurprisingly, many of the comments were shouts against censorship on the internet.  There’s a difference between censoring the internet and reporting people for violating the rules of a site.  For example, I think the KKK is an odious, evil organization, but I respect its right to have a website.  I respect the right of its members to have their disgusting blogs to spew their vitriol.  But when they do that on someone else’s site, they have to follow other rules.  How about an analogy: A klan member holds a barbecue for some of his buddies, at which they shout racial slurs and generally act like complete assholes.  I don’t agree with it, but by all means that’s within their rights.  If that same klan member were to go to a crowded shopping mall and shout the same awful things, he’d get kicked out of the mall.  Replace the barbecue with the KKK's website and the mall with Youtube; it's the same premise.

            When people talk about the internet, they act like it’s one homogenous glob instead of a vast system of overlapping communities, each with its own rules.  There’s a difference between saying that members of a community should enforce the rules of that community and supporting censorship.  In regards to racism, censorship would be saying that no one could post anything racist anywhere on the internet.  John Cheese is talking about individual communities making sure users follow the community’s rules.  Censorship would be demanding that the KKK get off the internet altogether, what I’m talking about is getting people who follow their philosophy to stop spamming other sites.  They can have their barbecue, but once they start ranting in the shopping mall, they get kicked out.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Trailer Trash: Dark Skies

            Horror is hard.  You want to scare the audience, and you don’t want to go the torture porn/slasher route.  Judging by the trailer, “Dark Skies”goes for the haunted house/possession subgenre.  But don’t expect  “Dark Skies” to be the next  Shining or Exorcist.  I saw the following trailer in theaters yesterday:

            You know your horror movie is broken when the audience laughs at the previews as much as they did at the screening I attended.  What starts out as a standard (if a bit cliché) horror movie set up quickly takes a turn for the comic when Mrs. Barret (played by Felicity star Keri Russel) finds her husband (played by 1992 daytime emmy winner Josh Hamilton) standing unresponsive in the family’s backyard at night.   She approaches as J. K. Simmons’s voice-over warns them about strange behavior and loss of control.  She places her hand on her husband’s shoulder, turns to face him and sees…

            It only gets sillier from there, as moments later we see Keri Russel banging her head against a glass window with complete disinterest.

     On the bright side, it will probably be funnier than A Haunted House.