February 1st, 2010


Necon 30

I just sent in my Necon membership for this summer's convention. After missing last year's Necon, I wanted to make sure I reserved a slot because I didn't want to miss it again, especially with this being the 30th anniversary. Notably, this will also be the tenth Necon I've attended, though sadly by missing last year's I've lost my unbroken attendance streak.

Also of note, the gf is coming with me this year! We'll be rooming together, and with two uncomfortable single-sized dorm beds pushed together, it'll be just like college! (Or at least the way college was for people who had significant others back then; at the time I was way too much of an emotional basket case for such intimacy.)

Here's hoping those crazy Necon campers don't scare her away! And if I'm cursed to moderate the early Saturday morning panel again, she has permission to sleep in. But no one else does. Especially not Craig Shaw Gardner and Chris Golden! *shakes fist*

The Harlequin & the Train

How much of our lives are determined by chance, and how much by choice? It's a question that lingers in the back of everyone's mind during moments of philosophical introspection. For Rudy, the commuter train conductor at the heart of Paul Tremblay's 2009 novella The Harlequin & the Train, that question moves front and center after a not-so-accidental train accident leads to a brief encounter with a group of modern-day cannibals. The short story this novella is based on, which I first read in Tremblay's 2004 collection Compositions for the Young and Old, is a chiller, but this expansion turns it into something even better: an almost metaphysical exploration of everything from self to memory to predeterminism and free will.

Tremblay's cannibals are thoroughly modern folk. They're not robe-wearing cultists or serial killers who catch and eat humans, they're regular people like you and me. Well, except for the whole staging fake railway and traffic accidents and eating raw meat thing. In a way, that's the novella's beautifully handled point. There's nothing special about the cannibals. One's a businessman with a stale home life, another's a young professional who's not all that happy with her job or roommate, others are waitresses and mailmen and practitioners of every other type of mundane career you can think of. (In this way, and with some of the imagery Tremblay employs, The Harlequin & the Train reminds me a lot of Ray Bradbury's story "The Crowd.") These cannibals lead normal lives and have normal concerns, they just do this one very weird thing in an effort to have some control over their lives. Hardly your average horror story villains. But then, Tremblay has always excelled at confounding expectation and upending cliches. Rudy himself isn't your average hero, either. He's unmotivated, conflicted and heartbroken over his once vibrant but now brain-damaged sister Karen. He makes some terrible choices that only lead to worse results, and Tremblay's smooth, evocative prose pulls you right along with him toward the grisly, shattering finale.

One aspect I do wish Tremblay had explored a little more is why exactly the cannibals stage these elaborate fake accidents rather than going about their pursuits in an easier and less public fashion. It's not fully explored why they choose the meat-filled, life-sized harlequin mannequins for their make-believe train accident victims, or the meat-filled, diminutive ventriloquist puppets for their staged car accidents. Yet at the same time, the inscrutability of the cannibals' methods is part of what makes them so mysterious and, ultimately, alluring.

But that's a trick Tremblay sneakily plays on the reader too. The cannibals claim to have all the answers to taking control of one's life. But the truth is, in the end they don't. They're just as stuck in their dead-end lives as anyone else. They're not the harlequin positioned in the train's way to cause accidents. They're not even the train that inexorably hurtles toward its destined collision. They're the tracks. They just go on and on, like everyone else.

It's Razzies Time!

It's that time of year again, movie fans! The votes have been tallied and the nominations announced. No, not the Oscars--it's the Razzies, that annual celebration of the worst films of the year, as selected by the Golden Raspberry Award Foundation. (Hey, all publicity is good publicity, right?) This year's slate is as embarrassing as ever. You Hollywood suits should be ashamed of yourselves.

Here is the list of nominees, cribbed off of CNN.com (because I guess it was a slow news day, what with only 41 people dying in a suicide bomber attack in Baghdad and all; way to keep things in perspective, CNN):

"All About Steve"
"G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra"
"Land of the Lost"
"Old Dogs"
"Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen"

(To my lasting credit, I haven't seen any of these and don't plan on changing that!)

All three Jonas Brothers / "Jonas Brothers: The 3-D Concert Experience"
Will Ferrell / "Land of the Lost"
Steve Martin / "Pink Panther 2"
Eddie Murphy / "Imagine That"
John Travolta / "Old Dogs"

(Aside from the Jonas Brothers, I can remember a time when the list of BEST actors of the year would have included these same names!)

Beyonce / "Obsessed"
Sandra Bullock / "All About Steve"
Miley Cyrus / "Hannah Montana: The Movie"
Megan Fox / "Jennifer's Body" and "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen"
Sarah Jessica Parker / "Did You Hear About the Morgans?"

(Okay, I gotta jump in here and say Megan Fox did not totally ruin "Jennifer's Body" the way she undoubtedly will "Jonah Hex" and every other movie she touches. In fact, I'd say "Jennifer's Body" succeeds admirably despite Fox's involvement.)

Any two (or more) Jonas Brothers / "The Jonas Brothers: 3-D Concert Experience"
Sandra Bullock & Bradley Cooper / "All About Steve"
Will Ferrell & Any Co-Star, Creature or "Comic Riff" / "Land of the Lost"
Shia LaBeouf & either Megan Fox or any Transformer / "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen"
Kristin Stewart & either Robert Pattinson or Taylor Whatz-His-Fang / "Twilight Saga: New Moon"

(I have to admit, I hate when they get all cutesy with their nominee descriptions, but hell, it's the Razzies. They can do whatever they want and still get front-page CNN.com coverage on the same day as the 50th anniversary of the Greensboro 4 sit-in.)

Candice Bergen / "Bride Wars"
Ali Larter / "Obsessed"
Sienna Miller / "G.I. Joe"
Kelly Preston / "Old Dogs"
Julie White (as Mom) / "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen"

(I love that Julie White's role is listed as "Mom"!)

Billy Ray Cyrus / "Hannah Montana: The Movie"
Hugh Heffner (as himself) / "Miss March"
Robert Pattinson / "Twilight Saga: New Moon"
Jorma Taccone (as Cha-Ka) / "Land of the Lost"
Marlon Wayans / "G.I. Joe"

(It's a shoe-in. Marlon Wayans ALWAYS wins Worst Supporting Actor.)

WORST REMAKE, RIP-OFF or SEQUEL (Combined Category for 2009)
"G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra"
"Land of the Lost"
"Pink Panther 2" (A rip-off of a sequel to a remake)
"Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen"
"Twilight Saga: New Moon"

(What, no "Halloween 2" or "Alvin & the Chipmunks 2: The Squeakquel"? Such limited vision, Razzies!)

Michael Bay / "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen"
Walt Becker / "Old Dogs"
Brad Silberling / "Land of the Lost"
Stephen Sommers / "G.I. Joe"
Phil Traill / "All About Steve"

(You got off easy this time, Rob Zombie! You won't get so lucky for that remake of "The Blob" you're planning to helm...)

"All About Steve" / Screenplay by Kim Barker
"G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra" / Screenplay by Stuart Beattie and David Elliot & Paul Lovett
"Land of the Lost" / Written by Chris Henchy & Dennis McNicholas
"Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" Written by Ehren Kruger, Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman
"Twilight Saga: New Moon" / Screenplay by Melissa Rosenberg

(I'm sensing a recurring theme in this year's roster of nominees. Unfortunately, that means there wasn't enough room in the Worst Screenplay category for "Avatar.")

This being 2010, the Razzies have decided to look back at the past decade as well and choose the worst of the worst:

"Battlefield Earth" (2000) Nominated for 10 RAZZIES / "Winner" of 8 (including worst drama of our first 25 years)
"Freddy Got Fingered" (2001) Nominated for 9 RAZZIES / "Winner" of 5
"Gigli" (2003) Nominated for 10 RAZZIES® / "Winner" of 7 (including worst comedy of our first 25 years)
"I Know Who Killed Me" (2007) Nominated for 9 RAZZIES / "Winner" of 8
"Swept Away" (2002) Nominated for 9 RAZZIES / "Winner" of 5

(Once again I successfully avoided all of them! Go me!)

Ben Affleck (nominated for 9 "Achievements," "Winner" of 2 RAZZIES for his roles in "Daredevil," "Gigli," "Jersey Girl," "Paycheck," "Pearl Harbor" and "Surviving Christmas")
Eddie Murphy (nominated for 12 "Achievements," "Winner" of 3 RAZZIES for his roles in "Adventures of Pluto Nash," "I Spy," "Imagine That," "Meet Dave," "Norbit" and "Showtime")
Mike Myers (nominated for 4 "Achievements," "Winner" of 2 RAZZIES for his roles in "Cat in the Hat," "The Love Guru")
Rob Schneider (nominated for 6 "Achievements," "Winner" of 1 RAZZIE for his roles in "The Animal," "Benchwarmers," "Deuce Bigalo: European Gigolo," "Grandma's Boy," "The Hot Chick," "I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry," "Little Man" and "Little Nicky")
John Travolta (nominated for 6 "Achievements," "Winner" of 3 RAZZIES for his roles in "Battlefield Earth," "Domestic Disturbance," "Lucky Numbers," "Old Dogs" and "Swordfish")

(I did see some of these, though. Let the shame spiral commence.)

Mariah Carey (the single biggest individual vote getter of the decade with 70+ percent of ALL votes for worst actress of 2001 for her role in "Glitter")
Paris Hilton (nominated for 5 "Achievements," "Winner" of 4 RAZZIES for her roles in "The Hottie & The Nottie," "House of Whacks" and "Repo: The Genetic Opera")
Lindsay Lohan (nominated for 5 "Achievements," "Winner" of 3 RAZZIES for her roles in "Herbie Fully Loaded," "I Know Who Killed Me" and "Just My Luck")
Jennifer Lopez (nominated for 9 "Achievements," "Winner" of 2 RAZZIES for her roles in "Angel Eyes," "Enough," "Gigli," "Jersey Girl," "Maid in Manhattan," "Monster-in-Law" and "The Wedding Planner")
Madonna (nominated for 6 "Achievements,""Winner" of 4 RAZZIES for her roles in "Die Another Day," "The Next Best Thing" and "Swept Away")

(Oh my god, I completely forgot Madonna was in "Die Another Day"! Hahahaha!)

My guess is that Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is going to sweep every category it's in. Winners will be announced Saturday, March 6, the day before the Oscars.