Archive for January 2nd, 2011

Season’s Screenings

Kate says “if that’s another year-in-review post I’m cutting you off.” But it isn’t; it’s current affairs.

We saw a lot of movies this holiday season, in theatres and on DVD and on TiVo. It was almost like being sick, when I tend to curl up in my bathrobe on the couch in the parlor and just watch and watch. But more fun than that. Here are my thoughts on those films, in no particular order.

Tron: Legacy. What an irredeemable mess. The plot made no sense whatsoever; picking at plot holes is like shooting slats in a barrel (at least the fish move). Even the flashy action sequences, like the Tail Gunner / Star Wars crossover aerial battle, were boring. We knew going in that it wasn’t going to be good, but I still wanted to see it in 3-D because, you know, Tron! But it really failed to live up to expectations. The best thing about it was the quotes from the previous film.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. A delightful, surprisingly complex science fiction film, which went a lot farther than movies usually do into the implications of the posited technological change. Thoughtful and highly satisfying.

The King’s Speech. One of the best movies I’ve seen this year, combining high stakes with a very small and human story. Brilliant performances by the leads; sure to be an Oscar contender.

A Town Called Panic. This played at the Hollywood Theatre for several months this summer but we only just now saw it on DVD. A bizarre, surreal film in which tiny plastic toys are animated in a way that looks and feels childish but has an adult sensibility. The fact that it’s all in French pushes it completely over the top. Recommended.

The Lives of Others. A drama about a member of East Germany’s Stasi secret police who eavesdrops on a dissident playwright; a gimpse into a world that has vanished; a story of conscience and consequences. Thoughtful but not gripping.

The Empire Strikes Back. Comfort viewing. This is the first time I’d seen the special edition, and though some of the added special-effects shots entering Cloud City were brilliant the overall effect of the changes was just distracting and the new readings of Boba Fett’s lines were awful. Otherwise it held up pretty darn well.

Titan A.E. The first time I’d seen this Don Bluth animated film since its original theatrical release. The plot and characters are simplistic and kind of nonsensical, and the songs were eye-rollingly bad, but it handled zero gravity, vacuum, and truly alien aliens better than almost any SF movie I can think of. The destruction of the Earth, the fight in the hydrogen swamp, and the extended sequence in the ice rings are each worth the price of admission themselves. This stupid little film has been surprisingly (perhaps appallingly) influential on my own work.

The Emperor’s New Groove. This is what you’d get if Chuck Jones directed a Disney movie. I laughed out loud.

The Tempest. Generally a win, but Caliban (whose line readings I could barely understand) and the weird kaleidoscopic sequence in the middle were just baffling. I’m glad I saw it anyway.


I tend to take my new year’s resolutions pretty seriously. Some years they’ve been a little frivolous, like the year my resolution was to watch Casablanca, but even then I did make sure to do it. They’re usually pretty concrete, and measurable, and designed to be achievable though a bit of a stretch. A legacy of my years at Intel, I guess.

My resolution for 2010 was to read the Aubrey-Maturin books by Patrick O’Brien, in order. I knew up front I wouldn’t be able to read all twenty-and-a-bit of them in one year, but I intended to read as many of them as I could. Well, that’s what I did, and “as many as I could” turned out to be three: Master and Commander, Post Captain, and HMS Surprise, plus a little bit of the fourth (The Mauritius Command). Fairly pathetic, really, but I gave it my best shot. I intend to continue plugging away at them until I’m done, along with all the other reading I want to do.

In 2011 I need to get back on the writing horse in a big way, after the many Mars-related and travel-related disruptions of 2010. They were enjoyable and valuable disruptions, to be sure, but they did interfere with the word count. So my new year’s reosolution for 2011 is: finish and submit my current novel and make a good start on another novel.

To break down the elephant into smaller, more chewable chunks, I intend to attack this resolution as follows:

  • Complete the first draft of the current novel by the end of the first quarter (March 31);
  • Have the current novel critiqued, revise it, and submit it to at least one publisher by the end of the second quarter (June 30);
  • Write at least 30,000 words on a second novel by the end of the third quarter (September 30);
  • Have at least 60,000 words of draft on the second novel by the end of the year.

In support of these goals, I intend to write at least 500 words, preferably 1000, every day. Though I’m not going to get doctrinaire about it like I did in 2009; if I miss a day, that’s life.

I know these goals are laughably unambitious by the standards of some of my writer friends, but for me they are a stretch. However, I think I can achieve them, with good quality, and if I can do this it’ll be my best novel-writing year ever. Wish me luck!