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a wrench in the gears

On Wednesday, I wrote 875 words on Chapter 3 of The Red Tree, which brought me to the chapter's end. It also gives me 35,491 words total on the manuscript, or 150+ pages. Even if I'm forced to do the full 100,000 words stipulated in the contract (which would call for some serious padding), I'm more than a third of the way to THE END. If I get the 75,000-words length I want and think the story needs, I'm almost halfway there. Which is quite encouraging at this point. And, at this stage, I have to admit, I like where the book is going.

I took yesterday off, because I badly needed a day off. A full day off, with no expectation that I would write anything. Not even a blog entry. And I have been gorging on movies.

Wednesday night, we braved a thunderstorm to see Werner Herzog's Encounters at the End of the World (2007) at the Avon on Thayer Street. The Avon is wonderful. It was built in 1938 and is even cooler than the Plaza in Atlanta. And the film was, of course, very good. Herzog has yet to let me down. Encounters at the End of the World, while a documentary, covers some of the same ground as Herzog's recent sf film, The Wild Blue Yonder (2005). But it was ground I didn't mind retracing.

Yesterday, we caught a matinée of Christopher Nolan's The Dark Night, and I can now say that, finally, someone has made a Batman film I like better than Tim Burton's Batman Returns (1992). Indeed, someone has finally made a superhero film that works as a film, period, even if divorced from the context of comic-book adaptations. The film is just superb, top to bottom. Yes, Ledger's Joker is fucking brilliant. As much as I love Christian Bale, this film belongs to the Joker, not Batman. Indeed, I'm hoping we see Ledger receive an Oscar nomination for this, at the very least. I also thought Gary Oldman's performance was excellent. James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer's score was perfect. And I wish I were not so fucking asleep, so I could articulate my thoughts better. I should have written this last night, not this morning, while I'm sitting here waiting for the Ambien to wear off. Anyway, even though I found that The Dark Knight far exceeded my expectations, and I'll go so far as to say it's a damn near perfect film, I did have a couple of qualms with the last twenty or thirty minutes. And I don't feel like fooling with the tags for an LJ cut, so IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE MOVIE AND WANT TO AVOID SPOILERS, SKIP TO THE NEXT PARAGRAPH. NOW. Frankly, I think one of the ferry's should have blown, and it should have been the one loaded with civilians. There was just too perfect a build up, and when one didn't blow, it felt like a letdown. Up until that point, the Joker seemed, to me, to be functioning as a sort of bringer of revelations to Bruce Wayne. The Joker always won, one way or another, and he was never wrong, until then. And it felt forced, like maybe the studio execs were too afraid of a test audience in Little Rock or something. If the civilians had pushed the detonator and their own ferry had exploded, after having been spared by the convicts, that would have been true to the film. But that's my only major quibble. Also, big nods to the screenwriters, because, damn, that's a quotable movie, one of the most quotable since Pulp Fiction (1994), I think. I'm making a list of my favourite lines, such as (as the Joker explains himself to Harvey Dent) —— "Do I really look like a man with a plan, Harvey? I don't have a plan. The mob has plans, the cops have plans. You know what I am, Harvey? I'm a dog chasing cars. I wouldn't know what to do if I caught one. I just do things. I'm a wrench in the gears. I hate plans. Yours, theirs, everyone's." Fucking A. Or another of the Joker's lines —— "You see, nobody panics when things go according to plan. Even if the plan is horrifying. If I told people that a gangbanger was going to get shot, or a busload of soldiers was going to get blown up, nobody would panic. Because it's all part of the plan. But tell people that one tiny little mayor is going to die and everyone loses their minds!" Or Harvey Dent's line —— "You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become a villain." Great stuff.

Then, last night, we watched an odd little zombie film, The Signal (2007), which was divided into three parts, with three directors —— David Bruckner, Dan Bush, and Jacob Gentry. It also contains a beautiful cover of Joy Division's "Atmosphere," by the way, courtesy Ola Podrida. A visceral, gory film that does a nice job of keeping you off balance, and of mixing a sort of cosmic horror with black humor. Not great, but a nice surprise.

Anyway....if you have not yet ordered a copy of the new mmp edition of Daughter of Hounds, I ask that you please do so. Thank you. Let's keep these books in print. Meanwhile, Herr Platypus says Friday is as good a day as any to subscribe to Sirenia Digest. And, of course, subpress is taking preorders on A is for Alien.

And wouldn't you just know, as soon as I try to back away from Second Life, I go and discover a pretty cool Medieval Persian rp sim that allows me (more or less) to resurrect Shahrazad al-Anwar, this time as a mute, amnesiac necromancer? I have been spending far too much time in the sim —— Kingdom of Sand —— the last two days, and sleeping far too little. You can see my character's profile and a screencap here (if you're into that sort of thing). Last night, I even caught a djinn.

Now...I have to try to wake up, answer email, and get started on a new story for the next issue of the digest. Where's my cocaine!

Comments

( 18 comments — Have your say! )
stsisyphus
Jul. 25th, 2008 05:41 pm (UTC)
There was a lot that was wonderful about TDK, but I could go on for about two hours about the film in ridiculous depth. It is unnecessary here. I do agree with the ferry conclusion and agree that there should have been some Ironic Karmic backlash on the part of the citizens. But there were two scripted issues: The Joker was a "man of his word" (so he couldn't lie about how the detonators were rigged), and that the Gothamities were sort of undergoing a moral change from dispassionate, self-focused loners into a community inspired by people who Made A Difference. Plus, the film just loved screwing with our expectations left and right.

In the meantime, I am throwing the gauntlet down, Ms. K. I'm curious what you will do with this. My contribution is a little pallid, but you got to start these memes somewhere.
greygirlbeast
Jul. 25th, 2008 05:55 pm (UTC)
I do agree with the ferry conclusion and agree that there should have been some Ironic Karmic backlash on the part of the citizens. But there were two scripted issues: The Joker was a "man of his word" (so he couldn't lie about how the detonators were rigged), and that the Gothamities were sort of undergoing a moral change from dispassionate, self-focused loners into a community inspired by people who Made A Difference. Plus, the film just loved screwing with our expectations left and right.

See, I think a servant of Chaos, as he claims, must also be a liar, and hence the Joker could not truly be a man of his word, though he could fuck with your head by making you think he was. As for the ferries and expectation, I think, in this case, it would have been thwarting expectation to have one of the boats blow (especially the one loaded with civies). As for the community thing —— feh —— I think my problem is that, for me, the Joker was the film's true hero.

In the meantime, I am throwing the gauntlet down, Ms. K. I'm curious what you will do with this. My contribution is a little pallid, but you got to start these memes somewhere.

Ah..nice. I shall have to do this...
stsisyphus
Jul. 25th, 2008 06:30 pm (UTC)
...I think a servant of Chaos, as he claims, must also be a liar...

Well, not necessarily a liar - which would just be an order of contrarianism - but yes, I see and agree with your point. I was just trying to figure out why this occurred from the point of view of the film's internal logic. It's impossible to know what people were expecting, but I think the film had already set up an "anything could happen" dynamic - suggesting that it was entirely possible that it could happen. The fact that it didn't, while all of us bloody-minded cynics were certain it would, is where I saw the subversion of audience expectations.

Oh, and with some reflection, perhaps the inspirational moment of the two ferries had more to do with a post-9/11 response to terrorism. I hate to bring that up - but perhaps it was less "...a test audience in Little Rock.." than a test audience in NYC: "I'd tell that Joker to take his detonator and cram it in his ass, I tells ya!!" Dunno. Just popped in there.

I think my problem is that, for me, the Joker was the film's true hero.

I truly felt that Ledger had not played "the Joker" - the comic book character, the villain, Batman's nemesis - he had invented a new character who was a shrewd, brilliant, and completely unstoppable maniac who was simply known as the Joker. He was a force of nature. As Alfred notes, he "wants to see the world burn" - not because he hates it or is vindictive, that it is somehow flawed, or deserving of punishment. Simply because there's nothing better on television at the time.

As I mentioned, I could go on for a long time here...
greygirlbeast
Jul. 25th, 2008 06:31 pm (UTC)

I truly felt that Ledger had not played "the Joker" - the comic book character, the villain, Batman's nemesis - he had invented a new character who was a shrewd, brilliant, and completely unstoppable maniac who was simply known as the Joker. He was a force of nature. As Alfred notes, he "wants to see the world burn" - not because he hates it or is vindictive, that it is somehow flawed, or deserving of punishment. Simply because there's nothing better on television at the time.

Yes!
reverendcrofoot
Jul. 27th, 2008 07:55 am (UTC)
I truly felt that Ledger had not played "the Joker" - the comic book character, the villain, Batman's nemesis - he had invented a new character who was a shrewd, brilliant, and completely unstoppable maniac who was simply known as the Joker. He was a force of nature. As Alfred notes, he "wants to see the world burn" - not because he hates it or is vindictive, that it is somehow flawed, or deserving of punishment. Simply because there's nothing better on television at the time.

No!

Ledger was good, I'll give you that, but the things you are crediting him with, actually go to the writer. Everything I like about this Joker came from the writing. His utter fearlessness, his great quotes, his psychology all come from Chris and Nathan Nolan.

Heath did come up with some great tics, and I totally bought him as the Joker, but that is what they were tics and tricks. I would love to see what another Oscar caliber actor would do with this part. Such a good villain. (Though if you ask me Scarecrow was behind this some how. Joker says he's not a planner but if not he was pretty damn prepared for the Just In Case.)

A good villain because, this isn't someone who snapped because there was nothing on TV, this was someone who ate the shit the world served him for too long. The lies of this is how it's supposed to be.

Maybe the realization that justice is for those that can pay for it, that people under the boot of order need an escape that when a champion comes forward another force needs to balance it out.
But something caused him to snap into action, moving him to take that next step and it wasn't the lack of TV choices.

Something hinted at in that self inflicted smile, a way to remove himself from society. That there would be no way he could lose his guts and try to bury his head again. Society would always see him on the outside how he felt on the inside, as an outsider.

Maybe he wants to burn the world, not because he hates the world or is vindictive but because it is his duty. If he doesn't stand, no one else will. A necessary opposition to the order. A emissary of Discordia.


I am still not sure, but that is what makes this such a good movie. I am examining a character for motivation, expecting it to move under the microscope like a real person might.

My favorite part of the "Some people just want to see the world burn." story is where Alfred and his cronies burn down the forest to catch the thief. It makes you wonder who really wants to see the world burn? Or the lengths that order will go to see chaos wiped out.
greygirlbeast
Jul. 27th, 2008 02:40 pm (UTC)

No!

Ledger was good, I'll give you that, but the things you are crediting him with, actually go to the writer. Everything I like about this Joker came from the writing. His utter fearlessness, his great quotes, his psychology all come from Chris and Nathan Nolan.


I think it's grandly ironic that you are accusing me, in my own journal, of having not given the screenwriters due credit. It was never my intention to imply they were not important to the creation of the role. But, you're awfully naive regarding the process of film making if you think that they were somehow solely responsible for what we saw of the character on the screen. A huge part of that goes to Ledger. Many actors would never have been able to pull that off, just as the character was also the product of collaboration between Ledger and the director, and folks like the art director/s and make-up team. I suppose I could have said all this to start with, but assumed it was unnecessary.
(Deleted comment)
greygirlbeast
Jul. 25th, 2008 05:56 pm (UTC)
Re: STILL SPOILERS HERE

If the most dangerous- and insane-looking of the convicts had been the kindest and gentlest, the most humane, and the civilians had turned into murderers, dooming themselves, I think the Joker's point would have been most clearly and perfectly made. Especially if it had been the mother with her son to push the button.

Yep.
oohbloodymurder
Jul. 26th, 2008 02:52 pm (UTC)
Re: STILL SPOILERS HERE
Personally, I think it was supposed to mirror the Joker's speech from earlier when he was dressed as a Nurse in Harvey's room.

The planners... how they can't plan anything, chaos, anarchy, etc.

He planned that one of those ferries would blow up the other. He was the planner, and it blew up in his face. He planned on chaos.
derekcfpegritz
Jul. 25th, 2008 07:41 pm (UTC)
I liked The Signal far more than I expected to. I figured it would just be like Stephen King's Cell, only without the weird psychokinetic group-mind bullshit, but the fact that it clearly took its premise with a dose of salt and humour made up for the unoriginality of the plot. I laughed my ass off at it several times!

But I do agree with you on the Joker's ferry-boat plan: at least one of 'em should've blown. Had I been the scriptwriter, BOTH of them would've blown up because their passengers were indecisive jackasses, and...well, I like to blow up things. However much of an anticlimax the no-blow situation was, it did kind of fit into the Joker's methodology--if both of them had blown, that would've fit right into his plan, and as you've noted, the Joker is not big on planning.
kousmichoff
Jul. 28th, 2008 11:22 am (UTC)
DKR
In regard to the ferry "social experiment": like most viewers I figured the civilians were going to blow up the boat, which would have been much too predictable. Most movies' misplaced cynicism ruins their plots. Misplaced (and unbelievable) optimism can be found in Spiderman 2, when the subway riders learn of his identity: somehow, not one of the New Yorkers tells his secret. Lazy, ridiculous writing there.

It was necessary for the civilians to act in such a manner because they did believe in Dent and wanted to work together, because that was the popular belief to have. In our world New Yorkers did the same thing with 9/11, they worked together, putting their faith in Bush. Sure many people returned to their unproductive and selfish natures later, but for that instance in time they worked in unison.

And the criminals did the same thing. Many of them put their faith in the guy who could being their dream of a chaotic world to reality, they wanted to see what their champion would do next. Just as in real life though, some criminals wanted to take the opportunity to make a virtuous choice. The clink can make a person meditate upon the reasons he/she is imprisoned. And some were just scared to the point of paralysis to make any sort of decision at all, being a "cowardly and superstitious lot". They were afraid to die (the anti-hero).

The coin symbolized the balance between human nature- with Batman and the Joker, with law-abiding citizens ("good") and criminals ("evil"). One simply can't negate the other. The two-sided coin blurred that distinction.

It was absolutely vital for the Joker to feel let down- have his grand dream ruined by the opposing force. This underscored those Joker/Batman dualities (with a hat tip to Alan Moore's The Killing Joke). It should also be noted that the Joker- like Batman, Gordon, and Dent- was not afraid to die for his own view of the world.

Yet despite losing his ferry gamble, the Joker covered his bases with manipulating Two-face- recruiting him to join the table. Because that's what the movie was: Batman, Joker, Gordon, Dent, all seated playing a card game.

It's a brilliant movie deserving of thought.

And also because everyone in the theater laughed when hospitals blew up. Reason enough to see any movie.
opalblack
Jul. 26th, 2008 01:02 am (UTC)
this film belongs to the Joker, not Batman.

Amen. And not just because Heath Ledger is dead. He owns the Joker, now and forever.

The only thing OMG SPOILER WARNING that I found undermined the premise IMHO was that Harvey's speech wasn't affected by having half his face burned off. At all. That bugged me a bit.

Agreed on the ferry thing, I expected the same, though maybe that's why they didn't do it that way; too predictable. Especially with the things going according to plan speech.
robyn_ma
Jul. 26th, 2008 05:16 pm (UTC)
I love how Gary Oldman, of all people, is the foursquare moral authority in these Batman films. Gary Oldman. Who twenty years ago would've made a great Joker (better than Nicholson). I can picture how the pitch went down:

Nolan: So, Gary, I'd like you to be in my Batman films.

Oldman: *sighs* You probably want me to play some rabid villain, right?

Nolan: Um, no, I'd like you to play Jim Gordon, Gotham's only honest cop.

Oldman: ...I'm in.
chris_walsh
Jul. 27th, 2008 01:30 am (UTC)
Oldman is apparently a nice, gentle person; I'm guessing/hoping he's a good dad. I also heard an anecdote of him being spooked enough by an earthquake during an L.A. film shoot that he took his lunch into the middle of a parking lot, far away from anything that could fall on him if another earthquake hit.

That gentleness, combined with the sort of psychos he can play, comprise the reason he was such a good choice to play Sirius Black, I'd say.
robyn_ma
Jul. 26th, 2008 05:28 pm (UTC)
Also, glad to hear that the Avon is even still there. In the dead days before Netflix, I went there as often as possible (and shopped at the next-door bookstore before the movie started). Haven't hit Thayer in years, but it used to be awesome; a Million Year Picnic comic store, a couple of great little record stores.

Wait till Spooky takes you to the Cable Car. I wouldn't advise a late show there, though. The couches are too comfy and you'll fall asleep.
humglum
Jul. 26th, 2008 10:41 pm (UTC)

Thayer street is a shadow of its former self these days. I don't even think any of the record stores are there any more :/
And the book store has now been taken over by Spectrum India, which I was actually glad to see still exists.
I'm not sure how long Million Year Picnic lasted, but it was gone last time we visited. It's just sad.
The stocking/sock shop is still there, Salvation Army, Store 24, the shoe store that's been there forever...
But back in the late 80's... even into the 90's... there were a couple of vintage clothing places and at least 3 record stores on the street.
robyn_ma
Jul. 26th, 2008 11:15 pm (UTC)
My close personal friend Google tells me that Two Million Year Picnic (which used to be next to In Your Ear) closed its doors in 2005. I believe I last went there in 2001, though the cold hateful bitch known as my memory could be deceiving me. (I always tell my memory the truth, and she consistently lies to me; I think it's time for us to break up.)

I am a sad panda about the bookstore going away. I imagine Brown's bookstore is still there, right? I mean, they must have left something cool besides the Avon...
chris_walsh
Jul. 27th, 2008 01:12 am (UTC)
Off-Topic: Farscape comics
Hey, Cait,

Via writer Keith R.A. DeCandido (kradical): there will be Farscape comics, and Rockne S. O'Bannon will write them.

You know more now. Unless you already knew.
jacobluest
Jul. 27th, 2008 07:14 am (UTC)
I thought the title was "A Wench in the Gears"
Which would make a good song name, or modus operandi.

I didn't like how they rushed Two-Face's development. The barge thing seemed tonally different.

My favorite part? The fact that people brought 9 year olds to this film, or where they were laughing because the joker was acting comical while torturing someone. Really brought home his whole message. Like...wow you're on to something here.

And I like the mad dog quote, but the Joker is bullshitting himself. His entire potency as a teacher is based off of ridiculously meticulous planning. Even the opening bank job, while unorthodox, is still quite a complicated plan.

But that's why we love him.

~Jacob
( 18 comments — Have your say! )

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