Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
What's even more interesting was how seriously Brackett took the writing of atmosphere, something none of her contemporaries ever did: unlike Burroughs, her Mars was a shadow-filled world much like Robert E. Howard.
I suppose I have to give a shout-out to my hometown girl, Daina Chaviano, don't I? A Miami-native, and the only other Miami science fiction writers I can think of, off the top of my head are the late Hugh B. Cave and...didn't L. Sprague de Camp live out his last few days in Palm Beach, if I remember right? A few friends of mine were THIS close a while back to stalking Encyclopedia Brown creator Arnold J. Sobol, but that's a story for another time.
Unlike Leigh Brackett, who died before I was born, and known J.D. Salinger-esque recluses like Cuban-born, Daina Chaviano wrote several Spanish-language books, that derive from Cuban folklore and myth. A lot of the books that inspire her, I grew up reading. My Dad had a copy of UNA BATALLA CUBANA CONTRA LOS DIABLOS (A Cuban Battle Against the Demons) on his shelf for years, and it spooked the heck out of me. Asimov was fascinated by Communist science fiction, which discouraged exploration into different types of societies out of the sentiment they were creating a new one, like good 19th Century Americans.
Because her work hasn't been translated into English, here in the States, she's mostly read by science fiction fans of Cuban descent in Miami that speak Spanish, which is a niche of a niche.
This is something I've been arguing all along: Spanish language television needs to take advantage of the resource that is the emerging science fiction writing markets. Spanish language TV, if it's at all possible, is even more thickheaded and resistant to change than North American TV: the same damn telenovela over and over. There needs to a be a science fiction anthology series on Spanish speaking TV.
Part of the reason the 1960s produced so many science fiction series of quality (STAR TREKM THE OUTER LIMITS, etc.) was because of the emergence of a real talent base from science fiction that were willing to write for television, that could produce science fiction of quality: Theodore Sturgeon, Harlan Ellison, and so on.
A similar phenomenon could be happening right now in the Spanish speaking world.
Friday, September 19, 2008
I have no idea whether this article is a parody or not.
As the writer of the article is a critic herself, it’s very tempting to look at her piece as a kind of satire that she’s writing from the point of view of an adopted persona: she’s not so much making fun of critics, as she is lampooning the whole internet-generation mentality, where the collective long-term memory has less than three months, the dominance of fanboys wowed by explosions, monsters and superheroes, raging anti-intellectualism, the importance of the blogosphere over traditional media, and last but not least, an overpowering sense of illiteracy and impatience. The over-the-top use of her language, liberally sprinkled with “totally” and “superawesome” while at the same time knowing who Fritz Lang and James Agee are, leads me to believe this is a joke.
I can just imagine the author cracking up at the idea there are some people out there that find themselves agreeing with the article.
On the other hand, there is a possibility all this isn't just fun and games. First, the obviously sincere envy and distaste for film critics, a print medium job that she correctly point out isn’t as relevant as it used to be in the age of blogs.
You get to see movies for free. You get paid to watch movies. You work part-time and get a full-time salary. You enjoy a private screening of "The Dark Knight" weeks before my buds and I queue up to pay big bucks at the multiplex. And then some of you have the nerve to badmouth Batman and the Joker! Show some love for the folks who keep you in lattes and DVDs.
Another interesting point that the article brings up: what exactly is the function of the critic?
I’m regularly known for having contradictory opinions. In fact, I’ve always thought that to agree with a large number of people on anything is a weakness. However, I’m just some random asshole on the internet beholden to no one but myself. I get paid nothing, I am not in a newspaper with an official position where I have to represent the moviegoing public.
As the article itself argues, “What we crave is consensus, write-ups that mirror the majority, the movie tastes of the teens and proles who rule the box office.” And also, “Shouldn't it be in the job description that if a critic sees a movie with 300 wildly applauding folks, it's against the rules to write as if that doesn't count? Like one fan wrote to a nit-picking critic: "If you do not like 'The Dark Knight' ... you should be fired because you do not speak for the people."
In other words, the film critic can be seen as having a position that isn't just giving their opinion, but is service-oriented. This is why we have film reviews in the entertainment section: to help people make decisions over where to go on a Friday night. If the film critic doesn't sync with the mentality of moviegoers, their ability to function should be questioned.
What the article seems to argue is that there is a disconnect between professional film critics and moviegoers, who are usually of an older generation, went to film school, and approach films from a different perspective. The article brings up the case of wildly popular comic book movies that critics don’t seem to "get." If that’s the case, how relevant is the function of the film critic, consulted not for their personal opinion, but for a recommendation as to the enjoyability of a movie? And if there is this disconnect, how important does the film critic become in the age of the blogosphere?
And this is something that is worth thinking about even if you don’t share the author’s anti-literacy and obvious anti-intellectual anxieties.
On the other hand, the average person is a moron. At some level, the function of the art, movie and food critic is to tell the average person they’re morons.
When the entire world was caught up in the mass hysteria that was TITANIC, the film critic of the L.A. Times had the stones to stand up and say the Emperor had no clothes. (If only someone had the guts to do the same to the schmaltzy, emotionally manipulative, dishonest FORREST GUMP as well!).
Here in Miami, there are two awards given for restaurants by the Miami Herald: one is given by reader poll, the other by professional food critics. A couple years ago, the award for “Best Japanese Restaurant” was given to, of all the places in this city, Benihana’s. Yes, Benihana's, the Applebee's of Japanese steakhouses. In an eighties ROLLING STONE magazine, there was a reader poll award given for the best guitarist in rock history, and the mental defectives chose the guitarist from the Bay City Rollers.
To answer the question at the beginning, the reason Judaism has kosher laws is a recognition of our humanity, that as human beings we don’t just shove anything in our mouths like an animal would.
And that, friends, is why we need movie critics. Because there is beauty and ugliness in the world, and it takes education and knowledge to discern one from the other. Food critics don’t just love every piece of teriyaki they shove into their mouths like the proles do, and critics know the difference between “Transformers” and “Dark Knight.”