Metapost: Index Party

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Film Corner: Howl


HOWL: Passengers on a night train are attacked by a vicious creature out of folklore, and must band together in order to survive until morning. I hope it's a banshee. (It is never a banshee. It will be a werewolf.)

Oh, good, the unskippable Amazon Prime videos now include fat jokes.

Our POV character appears to be an employee of the "Alpha Trax" line. Is that a real line or a werewolf alpha joke, I legit don't know. He's been turned down on his application to supervisor, on account of management preferring to promote an obvious douche. Obvious Douche puts Alpha Trax Boy on the next redeye because the usual guy called in sick. (FROM LYCANTHROPY? WHO KNOWS.) He's a ticket inspector with a crush on the stewardess. He rattles off the names of the quaint English places they'll be passing through, all of which I assume will not be equipped to deal with werewolves.

We have been jump-scared by a Chihuahua.

Passengers are rude to him. So far I am existentially sorrowful for this boy. We see a full moon, then the train hits something and screeches to a halt. A vast misty forest surrounds the train on all sides. Probably just hit a deer. Though it's a little disconcerting that when the rudely awakened ticket guard visits the first car, the lights are dim and there are no people. Where are the passengers?

The driver says there's something on the line and they'll be on their way shortly. Alpha Boy and Stewardess try to right her upset cart. A surprisingly strong passenger with two sets of house keys helps. This is vaguely strange. (LYCANS? HAVE TWO HOUSES INSTEAD OF ONE?) Passengers continue to be absolute bastards. I guess we won't be sad when they get eaten? The train driver walks in the dark rain in search of whatever stopped the train, which I feel would be pretty fucking enormous? I thought trains basically GO unless something very very very big says stop.

I have been informed that night trains out of London do not pass through misty rainy endless forests.

To my immense astonishment, my prediction of "probably just a deer" turns out to be true. The driver is attempting to physically pull a dead deer by the antlers from between the train wheels, and like. A fully grown buck weighs more than the entire moon. This isn't happening, buddy. Something outside the train eats the driver. Everyone on the train waits in increasing tension.

I really cannot stress how rude the passengers are. One girl is smoking and singing aloud to her phone, and was verbally abusive to the protagonist. Having been in retail work, I'm torn between "Well, it's realistic" and "But now I won't be sad when they get et." Alpha Boy and Stew Girl call in the emergency, then report to the passengers that it'll be 4 hours before a rescue team can come get them moving again. Passengers yell at them.

One of the passengers wants to walk the remaining 1-3 miles to the station. I find this movie very amusing as an American, because they're *acting* like entitled Americans but they've got UKian accents, so maybe American Rudeness has crossed the pond. One of the passengers is an elderly man with high blood pressure, but he thinks walking 3 miles at night is a grand idea. I refuse to believe the Scottish businesswoman with a laptop and high heels wants to walk in the rain.

They all leave the train and the doors close ominously behind them. They are in "Thornton forest" which I assume is definitely a place and definitely has werewolves. At this point, I strongly believe that Alpha Boy is being liberated by werewolves from these passengers. Maybe he's their long lost cub. Is that the right word for werewolf babies? Cub? Actually, a "yer a werewolf Harry!" story could be really compelling, especially if they're rescuing the poor lad from retail work.

....well, they found the missing driver. Alpha Boy is able to get everyone back into the train in time except the posh elderly woman. And even she's alive, just badly bitten. I wonder if she'll fursplode. The passengers are freaking out. Not ONE of them is quoting those Keep Calm posters. My mental image of England is being challenged.

He has a name! Alpha Boy is Joe. He tries to hail emergency assistance on the phone, but the lines are down. "There haven't been any bears or wolves around here for centuries" they say of Thornton forest. Their cell phones have no signal. I have to say I love the bitchy Scottish businesswoman, like she is 110% personal goals. Oh no, she's got a family. She's doomed.


The elderly man gives them a "get it together, y'all" speech, and now they're montaging the windows to be reinforced. Trains apparently have lots and loss of spare loose metal to weld against the walls. You'd think that in itself would take the 4 hours we were told it would take to get help out here. They've already run out of water. It's been, like, an hour.

I think the elderly bitten woman is about to fursplode. She foolishly divulged a backstory. The mystery of the guy with two sets of keys is revealed: he keeps a city flat for mistresses. He's asking Joe to Be Strong and leave the weak behind if it comes to that. Another passenger dies in the lavatory, which you'd think would be safe from werewolves!! Wolf went right through the train ceiling.

The least furry werewolf ever--he's like the Sphinx cat of werewolves--beelines right for Joe to growl at him. Maybe they ARE trying to save/recover him?? The passengers are killing the buff naked werewolf with, like, a crowbar and a fire extinguisher. I'm impressed. The passengers are pleasingly quick to recognize that the werewolf is, well, a werewolf. They're alarmed to see the werewolf is wearing a wedding ring. "Maybe it's a disease you catch?" They all look at elderly pensioner lady.

Elderly Man is telling the story of how this all happened in 1963: a rail crash in the Thornton forest, bodies missing or eaten, a mystery people didn't think too much about. Whoops! It's still alive but after some more fire extinguisher work, it no longer has a face.

Two tiny problems.

1. Elderly Jenny looks real bad.

2. There's more of them in the forest.

Two Keys wants to kill Jenny because she's one of them. The passengers restrain him. The problem is...he's pretty clearly right? Like, I'm ok for amoral bastards to get what's coming, but they need to NOT be right about the obvious zombie-werewolf in their midst.

Two of the boys are going out to try to repair the fuel leak. They don't have any tools, but I think you can do that with bare hands. Stewardess Girl stays in the front with Joe to tell him how wonderful he's been. Ah, ok, they have tape. That's all you need to repair a train. Lookout Boy hears a voice in the woods calling weakly for help. He walks towards it, swinging his light wildly and shouting HELLO. Usually that's a thing you do at the start of horror movies, not 2/3s of the way in.

The train starts up. Jenny turns into a werewolf. To my surprise, Two Keys actually does attempt to save her husband from her. Scottish woman is down, sacrificed by Two Keys. We're supposed to hate him for it, but there was honestly nothing he could do *and* she's responsible for the ongoing Jenny On A Train situation. The tape gives out and the train stops again. Jenny is dispatched but two more Werewolf Zombie Gollums are now on the train.

Don't really see a happy ending here, tbh. Two Keys tries to sacrifice Joe as bait for the monsters, but Ellen cuts Two Keys with glass shards. Ah, you see, the real monsters was us all along. Joe and Ellen escape through judicious application of someone else setting the train on fire. Joe, now a man, stays behind as a sacrifice so Ellen can get away. I assume they'll crown him their king for his bravery. Ellen arrives at the next station, covered in blood; none of the passengers notice.

Back in the woods, Werewolf Joe eats Two Keys. Credits slam in.

...that was dreadful.

Storify: Impeachment Hearings


Okay, I'm going to try to live-tweet the Impeachment Hearings.

I'm coming in late because I had tech problems on my end. Chairman Schiff is outlining the concerns in a thoughtful manner. "The president has instructed witnesses to ignore subpoenas and refuse to appear." (All quotes from me are subject to user error; the feed isn't closed-captioned.) "If we find that the president abused his power ... must we simply 'Get Over It'? Is this what Americans should now expect? If this is not impeachable conduct, what is?" --Schiff

I haven't heard Schiff speak before; he's a very effective public speaker so far. Calm and measured, thoughtful, not grand-standing. Nunes is talking now. He, uh, strikes an immediate awful contrast to Schiff's calm. He's blasting Democrats for "smearing any Republican who ever shook hands with a Russian." Nunes is playing to the base and I don't know how well that will work. Instead of answering Schiff's thoughtful charges, he's complaining that Dems tried to obtain "nude photos" of Trump from Russians.

Film Corner: Beyond the Trek

Beyond the Trek

BEYOND THE TREK: A deep space mining vessel has been adrift for two years. It is suspected the crew brutally killed each other, but the reason for the bloodbath is unknown. A rescue crew is sent to find if there are any survivors, what happened, and why.

Ok, first of all, does this sort of investigation EVER end well? It's always either demons, aliens, or Space Mental Illness. Second of all, does that title make any sense except as a desperate bid for Star Trek fans to notice it? I'm surprised they didn't go whole hog and call it Event Trek: Horizon Dead Space.

Event Trek: Dead Wars on the Horizon Space.

Event Trek: Battlestar Dead Wars on the Horizon Space.

Event System Shock Trek: Dead Wars on the Horizon Space.

Although, honestly given what we know about human nature, most workplace killings just involve a disgruntled employee with a weapon. Has a SciFi movie ever done that as the reveal?? Don't say Pandorum, it's covered under Space Mental Illness and also I'm the only person to watch Pandorum. Even the director of Pandorum didn't watch Pandorum. I love it anyway, though.

I still really hate the unskippable Amazon Prime commercials.

We open with the usual ominous timeline:

- 2015: Scientists genetically modify human embryos.

- 2020: Human generic modification is commercialized. Genetically modified babies have higher IQs, ideal physical traits, and positive temperaments.

Space Mental Illness it is, then. Just a reminder that IQ tests are basically a test of how a person has been socialized, not of their superior gene-ious. (Aha, a wordplay joke.) In that regard, I actually find it plausible that expensive designer babies would score highly on the tests made by expensive designer people. But there are cheaper and easier ways to tell if someone is a wealthy white American.

- 2038: The process has a 97% success rate as the first generation of genetically modified humans become adults. These 'perfect' specimens are called GC Humans, named after the company that created the process, GLEN CREST LABS.

Uhhh, what happens to the other 3%? And, really? That's the least catchy name ever. Extremely doubtful. "Glennials" is right there.

- 2047: GC Humans deploy to deep space.

I....ok? That......I guess? Not really sure I understand how that was a natural progression, but sure. We're informed that Climate Change made this necessary, but I don't really follow that either unless the plan is to evacuate ALL OF EARTH to somewhere else.

On an extremely pretty ship, five extremely pretty people wake up. I assume they're all Glennials. Maybe it's six people? Two of the guys look functionally identical to me.

They're...apparently here to recover cargo from a much bigger ship, which is trying to crash into Titan. (The Saturn moon?) This doesn't seem to have anything to do with the introduction's climate change OR the description's promised investigation into a bloodbath.

Event Horizon had the bloodbath and Pandorum had the climate change so maybe they changed course and went with recover cargo which no one has done before-- ALIEN, get out of here, I'm trying to do a live-watch! Take Sigourney Weaver with you but leave the cat.

I need you to know that the Not Star Trek uniforms have a little dip in the back that draws the eye down to the butt crack and it's unsettling as a design. The Weyland Yutani guy back home yells at his robot, so I'm assuming one of the crew members is secretly an advanced robot. My money is on the doctor.

The cargo is VERY IMPORTANT to recover because it will magic earth's atmosphere back to normal. Duh. Weyland says that non-Glennials can't manage space travel because normies get Space Mental Illness and that's probably what happened to the dead crew. Grand. Oop, the cargo ship has a robot on it. There's a lot of "PC culture" jokes about what to call robots ("ART" for Artificial Human) and non-Glennials ("premie" is a Bad Word).

The ghost ship has Death Metal being piped over all the speakers, I guess for irony. The Glennials board with their guns drawn and at the ready, which seems uhhh, I mean. Yeah, I know this is a survival horror movie, but what the fuck guys. A tiny little metal robot from robot wars shoots at them and they fry it. RIP, Stabby.

"Black box has been forcibly removed", reports a Glennial. The whole point of black boxes is supposed to be that they're shit hard to recover / tamper with. The greenhouse is now a jungle so we're ripping off LOST IN SPACE and it doesn't make a whole lot of sense because you'd think plants in space would have limited nutrients to become overgrown like this.

A bearded and very silent survivor has been located. The magic cargo is missing. He isn't talking but that doesn't stop the doctor from diagnosing him with several mental illnesses because I guess you can just tricorder that in the future.

The Glennials are stating that only non-Glennials bond with pets and robots. I'm over here wondering: How the hell did they remove basic pack-bonding from our genes and how would the result be recognizably human? Like. Even the loneriest loner has pack bonding tendencies which inform our actions. If you completely remove that so the result is one that doesn't bond with animals or things that look and act human... that's a hefty domino chain.

Anyway, they're kinkshaming the survivor for giving a shit about the robot which has been his only companion out here in deep space for god knows how long.

...Glennials don't have violent impulses, urges, or interest in violent sports. Like! Non-violence is great, but an entire race of humans who have no violent urges at all still feels unrecognizable to me? And yet they're supposed to be driven, highly competitive, and grade-focused. ...and they carry pulse rifles everywhere.

One of the Glennials has developed a hand-tremor, and another is becoming forgetful. The Glennial doctor is suggesting they torture the survivor since he's not talking fast enough. You'd think he'd at least know that torture is not a very effective means of getting at the truth. The patient will say what he thinks they want to hear.

Two of the Glennials are hooking up and I think it's supposed to be seen as another glitch behavior, but I'm down with casual sex so it's hard to view as strange. *shrug* Now the Glennial Girl is crying because her boyfriend is in danger of dying and everyone is SHOCKED at this display of emotion, like, they're more concerned by her tears than they are at the prospect of the ship exploding.

"For only $999999, you too can have a baby that won't pack bond with you or anyone else, will hate sports and pets, won't ever show a single emotion, and won't hesitate to torture or shoot you!" / "What a deal!! Let's call him Damien, darling."

The patient is quoting Tolstoy and this is now being cited as proof that he isn't actually a trauma victim, because "I've never heard of a patient quoting Tolstoy before." I cannot. The patient jettisoned the cargo onto Titan (the moon) because... I think *he* thinks it's a biological weapon designed to wipe out non-Glennial humans? The Glennials are torturing the robot in an attempt to psychologically break him.

The couple are having a discussion about how love is a distraction and wrong and bad and yet here they are, etc., what is happening to them, and I'm uncomfortable? Being aromantic isn't abnormal! Romance is not inherently human! At the same time, these sound like conservative college kids who have just discovered pantsfeelings and think they invented romance all on their own, so that part rings familiar.

Ok, so the cargo turns water lethal but Glen Crest sells a proprietary filter that fixes the water. *jazz hands* CAPITALISM. The Capitalism side slaughtered the "Maybe Let's Don't Poison The Entire Earth" side. Survivor dude killed the capitalists in their sleep. "The compound isn't a cure. They already had a cure. What they needed was the disease."

We learn that Glen Crest put a proprietary tracking code in the DNA of every genetically modified human. It is mutating and causing "irreversible neurological problems". "GCs have never known emotions, so they don't know how to control them. Their downfall is fast." THEY TURNED OFF PACK BONDING, SURVIVAL INSTINCT, AND EMOTIONS.

"The earth is burning. Regular humans are being hunted down and harvested for their blood, to keep GCs temporarily stable." They've only been gone THREE YEARS, is the thing. The earth went full Genetic Vampires in THREE YEARS. Super jazzed, by the way, that the couple have manifested emotions by way of "Man, Horny and Territorial; Woman, Weepy and Trades Sex For Hugs". REAL AWESOME. I mean, having the woman manifest mental illness by being sexually aggressive probably wouldn't have been *better*, but you could've at least made them consistent regardless of gender.

The doctor wants to harvest the survivor for all his blood. A vote has been taken on whether to kill the human in order to harvest his blood. The sexy couple says no; the remaining 3 vote yes. Making the Black man the sadistic torturer of the group sure was a choice, huh. I gotta break down the characters for a second here. The tall white commander is becoming caveman-brutish. The Black doctor is the one who keeps advocating sophisticated medical torture. The attractive man is the lusty, protective pantsfeelings one. The brunette is manifesting emotional weakness: crying constantly, bemoaning her lost childhood, and trading sex for physical closeness. The blonde is manifesting physical weakness via hand tremors and that's about it. She's the POV character.

How has nobody turned to emotional support eating, you'd think they'd wanna pack that in for shame points.

Survivor is set up for killin', but the others realize he was reading Sun Tzu's The Art of War. OBVIOUSLY, that means he didn't actually do the real killing but rather had the robot do it and she's a danger now. WHO PUT MONEY ON "KILLER ROBOT"? ...who put money on the Black man dying first. Fuck shit.

"With a combat chip, she's every bit our equal." Oh, right, the previously well-established combat chips that have been mentioned before this very moment. Hey, if they abhor violence, you'd think that actually they'd make really shitty soldiers and that they could be overpowered by a single normal human with a knife. But of course then they wouldn't seem "superior" to an American audience, so.

Emotional Girl dies second, immediately after saying "whatever happens, I want you to know I love you." Lusty Man gets a few good hits in before dying. In an honestly unforeseen turn, Blonde Girl turns on her people and kills the last Glennial. She reveals that she was one of the "failed 3%" of Glennials for having emotions, and she's been having to fake being emotionless like them. You'd think that would make her just a Normal Human, but instead they're making her out to be Dangerously Mentally Ill and Violent. Sort of? Ish? She still feels remorse for the violence, I guess.

She saved the Survivor and his Robot because she's worked out that the robot has...developed self determinancy? She tells them to go back to earth. (Where...humans are being harvested for blood?) "I may seem fine now, but you're not safe with me." Ah, yes, the dangerously mentally ill. He protests that earth isn't a great place to go back to and she tells him to "do what you do best: survive" but that might mean she wants him to kill all the Glennials. Blonde crashes her ship onto Titan at maximum speed.

What a great movie that was for stigmatizing mental illness. SPACE MENTAL ILLNESS was the culprit after all, just with a side of capitalism. In closing, I wish to note that both the title and the box image have NOTHING to do with the actual film. Calling it "Uncle Bob's Space Jamboree" would've been equally relevant.

December Newsletter (2019)

These monthly review posts are always so strange for me because I have to think things like "was my girlfriend really not my girlfriend last month?" That seems strange and impossible. Surely my girlfriend has always been my girlfriend. I cannot quite comprehend a time in which she was not, and yet I know it must be true. can probably tell I'm doing well this month. *shy smile*

Movies were live-watched on Twitter and scheduled for posting on the Patreon every Tuesday and Thursday--I hope you'll like those a lot. I posted a new Narnia post! I have some more D&D drabbles to put up, although a few of them still need to be put onto paper. I'm working on a story which is coming along very slowly; I've always known I work slower in winter because of my seasonal affective disorder. It's alright. Slow and steady wins the race.

Reminder! It's a new month, which means new paper books for the $25 patrons and new bookmarks for the $5 patrons! If I don't have your address, send me a message on the internal system or email me at AnaMardoll at gmail dot com. I love sending ya'll things!

An index to the deconstructions on my blog is here.

My YouTube channel is here.

Do you like "Tumblr Threads" which collect funny tumblr posts? I have one here!

My Twitter account @DivorceKittens with stories and pictures is here.

Please drop in the comments and let me know how you're doing? I love you all and I know this time of year isn't always easy.

Narnia: In Which Little Happens

[Narnia Content Note: Animal Mistreatment. One gif from the Frozen 2 trailer.]

Narnia Recap: Digory and Polly used their rings to flee from a dying world but found to their surprise that the mysterious Queen Jadis was able to come with them through the power of the rings.

The Magician's Nephew, Chapter 6: The Beginning of Uncle Andrew's Troubles

When we last left our heroes, they were rocketing at high speeds away from Charn towards the Woods Between Worlds (though, through what medium they are traveling, I could not say) and they had an unexpected tag-along. 

   “I’m not touching you!” said Digory.
   Then their heads came out of the pool and, once more, the sunny quietness of the Wood between the Worlds was all about them, and it seemed richer and warmer and more peaceful than ever after the staleness and ruin of the place they had just left. I think that, if they had been given the chance, they would again have forgotten who they were and where they came from and would have lain down and enjoyed themselves, half asleep, listening to the growing of the trees. But this time there was something that kept them as wide-awake as possible: for as soon as they had got out on to the grass, they found that they were not alone. The Queen, or the Witch (whichever you like to call her) had come up with them, holding on fast by Polly’s hair. That was why Polly had been shouting out “Let go!”

Open Thread: Light Reflected Off Wet Containers

Sorry for the lack of open thread last week, depression was really bad, and after Tuesday evening I had some very different priorities.  I figured that it was better to wait for Friday and this one than post a stopgap open thread so late on Wednesday that it might as well have been Thursday.

The picture was taken from the Portland side of the red bridge (Casco Bay Bridge.)  This loading yard used to be parking for the Scotia Prince, which was a cruise/ferry that went from Portland to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.  Notable for also being a way for Mainers in the Portland area to gamble, since as soon as you crossed out of Maine territorial waters it became legal.


Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us, so give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

Film Corner: Predators


As a grand finale to the Alien Franchise re-watch, I'll close out with Predators which is not an alien film but cheekily sorta refers to the xenomorphs at one point. I really enjoyed Predators more than basically any of the other Predator movies and concepts I've seen because it was like someone took the idea and tried to make it more... hmm... tonally consistent? Well, that's my opinion anyway.

We open with Adrian Brody waking in a freefall and being very confused and terrified. A strange parachute attached to him opens when *it* feels like, rather than from any urging on his part. It's a very effective opening for shit getting real. Adrian wakes up again, this time on the ground, just in time to see a confused and frightened stranger land with similar violence and point guns at him. "Don't!" Adrian orders, but in a sort of friendly badass way.

This is my FAVORITE trivia about this movie: According to Nimród Antal and Robert Rodriguez on the commentary, in the script, the character Cuchillo was described as "a guy who looks like Danny Trejo." When Danny Trejo heard this, he called Robert Rodriguez and said, "hey, I heard there's a guy in the script for 'Predators' who looks just like Danny Trejo, and guess what, I look just like Danny Trejo!"

Royce (Brody) and Cuchillo very nearly have a shoot-out right then and there when a third body *whumps* to the ground between them and his parachute does NOT deploy. As they're trying to figure out how to feel about *that*, machine gun fire rips through the forest. WE HAVE NOT HAD EVEN A MOMENT TO BREATHE and I like that.

Royce manages to flank the shooter--a burly Russian guy--and puts his gun to the guy's head before politely growling "please stop doing that!" Nikolai introduces himself and Royce asks what he remembers. "War. Then there was a light. Then I woke up and I was falling." It's the same for the others. Nikolai asks where they are and Royce nods at a woman with a gun trained on them. "Maybe she knows."

Royce asks if she'd like to lower her weapon and she just shakes her head no. (I would die for her.) She says she's never seen this jungle and she's "seen most". I like to believe the plants are different enough from earth plants that she can just tell. She says the place is too hot, and the typography all wrong, for Asia or Africa. Then she reveals she saw more parachutes. Royce asks which way, "so I can figure out who threw me out of a fucking airplane."

She nods a direction, he takes off, everyone follows because... what else are you going to do? Safety in numbers. Behind them, a man in a *very* nice business suit silently follows. After removing his nice dress shoes, which are slowing him down, I guess. Nearby, two men are fighting. One of them wears an orange prison jumpsuit. They hesitate when they see the armed group. Isabelle tells them they have bigger problems and they join up.

Jumpsuit mentions a guy hanging in a tree who keeps calling for help, and it's (yay!) the nerdy twiggy boy from That 70s Show. His parachute trapped him hanging upside down in a tree. Royce asks if he has anything to cut himself down with and the man is confused by the question. Noteworthy, he is one of the few who isn't dressed in military-esque type clothes with lots of pockets. He just looks...normal. Royce shoots the branch so that Edwin falls into a pool below and honestly it's a miracle it was deep enough that he didn't snap his neck but this is Hollywood, he's fine. Edwin says he's a doctor on his way to work. We're going to assume that the Predators kidnapped him in order to keep everyone patched up. Team Medic!

Hey, you know what's great? Not having rape threats! Jumpsuit--who presumably hasn't seen women much lately--stares at Isabelle's ass and tells her it's "awesome" but doesn't try or threaten to try to hurt her.

The group finally notices Business Suit (Hanzo), who is staring at a metal pillar thing that looks...really alien. Everyone discusses what they think is going on. If it were a training exercise, everyone would be military. Kidnapping for ransom doesn't make a hell of a lot of sense. And the skull trophies on the ground around the pillar are...unsettling. Edwin says it isn't drugs because they aren't feeling any side-effects, and a behavioral experiment would have some kind of *point*, which this doesn't seem to have. The point is made that they could be regular-degular dead; several of them remember being in combat. Royce growls that you don't need a parachute to get to hell and stomps off to find high ground.

Nikolai tries to touch a pretty flower and Doctor Edwin stops him, pointing out that the plant would have paralyzed him with poison. Nikolai promises to protect him out here. Sweet! Isabella keeps trying to create team cohesion and Royce doesn't want any of that. Instead, she shows him a homemade.....compass? I guess? (It's a needle on a leaf, set in water.) It spins and spins rather than pointing north? He frowns, worried. Royce points out the sun hasn't moved since they arrived. Then he notes how dangerous everyone is: Spetnaz, cartel, RUF, Yakuza, Jumpsuit. ...and a doctor. "He doesn't belong." I still maintain he's surely there to patch people up for long-term hunting.

They accidentally set off a series of traps and Isabelle nearly falls into a pit. For all his "I'm stronger alone" growls, Royce instantly races to slide and save her. Bless him. Royce and Isabelle crouch back to back, scanning with their gun sights. Isabelle (the sniper) sees the threat and Royce says to "take him" but she says she doesn't have to. "He" is a corpse, his chest exploded outwards. HMMMMMM. They triggered a dead man's trap, but what was he trying to kill? The deadfall size suggests he was afraid of something *big*.

Everyone is distressed to locate a horizon on which they can see extra moons that shouldn't be in the sky.

Dogs that look REALLY WEIRD come at them and everyone drops to either fire or flee; the doctor and Jumpsuit run (they don't have guns), Isabelle and Royce calmly single fire; some others panicky waste ammo. I like this because it's the first real *hunting* thing we've seen the Predators do here; they sent dogs to flush the game and observe how they respond to threats. I don't like hunting, but this feels like actual hunting rather than invisible serial killing.

Isabelle's rifle jams and her side-arm does nothing against the dog. Cornered, she places her gun to her temples. Doctor Edwin screams for her to stop, but a whistle calls the dogs away before she can shoot. Royce orders everyone to reload. "This planet is a game preserve and we're the game. We just got flushed out." I like this because it actually *fits* the things they've observed and isn't just magically intuited or given from Ancient Writings.

They notice someone is missing, then hear his cries for help: he's in the middle of an eerie field, not moving. When they throw a rock into the field, some kind of trap electrifies and disintegrates the rock. They drift away, aware they can't help their companion. Isabelle, moved by pity, shoots him in the heart... then starts in horror as "help me" is heard in his voice again.

Royce wants to trace the dog tracks to their camp in order to see who they're dealing with. They find a... camping site with bodies hung up in various states of... being skinned for trophies? They find a predator, sans armor, strung up and suffering. Royce disappears while Isabelle has an emotional reaction to the creature. Then they're being shot at and Royce is yelling RUN. They run off a cliff into a pool which was apparently fucking freezing, per IMDB.

Isabelle punches his pretty face and tells the others that Royce used them as bait to learn about the creatures. He agrees but points out that Isabelle recognized the thing. She reluctantly spills classified information about Arnie's original predator movie. Royce has them hole up with traps to draw the predators to them, but they don't take the bait so he decides to use Doctor Edwin as bait and sends him running through the forest while something big chases him. Problem: It's not a predator and Isabelle didn't shoot it.

A whispering voice approaches them and then an invisible predator materializes. It's Lawrence Fishburne! "I'm alive!" he whispers. "You talk too loud." Noland takes them to his hideout and tells them about the place: predators dump things here--"shit like you wouldn't believe!"--and hunt and kill them. He's managed to survive by running and salvaging. The predators come in a ship, but no one knows how to fly it.

Noland goes to sleep while Royce plots to convince the captive predator to help them. "Enemy of my enemy," he says, echoing Alien vs Predator. "Doesn't make him a friend," Isabelle says. To punctuate this truth, they realize the cabin is filling up with smoke. Noland has disappeared. "He's a scavenger," Doctor Edwin yells. "He wants what we have!" Royce shoots the nearby wall in order to alert the predators and "call in the cavalry". This is...kind of effective in that they kill Nolan. Less effective in that they start killing everyone else. Nikolai takes one out (and himself) with explosives.

Jumpsuit gets himself killed but gets a few good hits in. Hanzo has a sword fight with one of the predators, which in interesting because they have guns but this suggests a legitimate obsession with becoming a "perfect" warrior. Royce, Isabelle, and Edwin are the only ones left. Edwin is maimed in a trap and Royce says they have to leave him behind if they want to survive. Isabelle refuses. "You should've gone with him," Edwin says sadly. "I know," she replies.

Isabelle and Edwin are captured and thrown in a pit. Royce frees the captured predator and the spaceship rises into the air. Edwin asks if she'd make the same choice if she could do it over again. "Yes." She promises to kill them both quick, and Edwin says "No, it won't be quick." Then he cuts her with neurotoxin and she collapses. Whoops, turns out he's a serial killer and we only *thought* he was here to be team medic. In the sky, the spaceship explodes.

Royce comes back, rescues Isabelle and Edwin from the pit, and then kills Edwin in a scene which is, like, 78% of my kinks I'm not going to lie to you all like a liar. Royce booby-traps Edwin with grenades, blows up the predator, and then beats him up while covered in mud and surrounded by fire (to confuse the predator's heat-vision). About the time he starts losing (because, I mean, it's still a predator and he's still Adrian Brody), Isabelle manages to drag herself to her sniper rifle and helps kill the damn thing.

Royce and Isabelle exchange names for the first time, hold each other until morning, and watch grimly as more parachutes fall from the sky. THE END. A downer, but I honestly love it. I believe in these kids. That's it, that's the movie, we made it to the end!!

Film Corner: Aliens vs Predator

Alien vs Predator

Alright, here we go. Movie night. Aliens vs. Predator has a soft spot in my heart because my spouse made me watch it and I expected to absolutely HATE it and instead ending up liking it a lot. That was a few years ago, though, so let's see how it holds up. I tentatively select "extended version" on the play screen, though sometimes that's a mistake. We'll see.

We start in a snowy place where a panicky man is running around willy-nilly. Invisible Wolverine stabs or shoots him, it's unclear, and we cut away. I'm sure that's fine. In space, a Weyland satellite exists. It locates an identified heat signature in somewhere. Everyone seems very excitable about it. A Black woman climbing an icy mountain gets a call on her bluetooth headset from someone claiming to represent Weyland Industries. They offer her a bribe to meet with Weyland, and when she reaches the top of the mountain a helicopter is there waiting for her.

Smash cut to... somewhere warmer and people speaking Spanish. A person excavating a dig locates a pepsi-cola cap before HE takes a call from Weyland as well. Weyland is clearly putting together the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. A Scottish man takes a picture of the Black woman while she sleeps. She has the extreme patience to not slap the camera out of his hands. He asks her to take a picture of him for his boys. He's a chemical engineer. She splits her time between environmentalism and taking scientists on the ice. I love her and would die for her.

Open Thread: Sun-Obscuring Clouds

In spite of how it looks, this isn't actually that close to Sunset.  At least, I don't think it was.  Taken through the passenger window of a car.


Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us, so give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

Film Corner: Covenant


Anyway, if I want to start Covenant tonight I need to do it now, so I guess let's do this.

We open with David being turned on for the first time. Weyland quizzes him about what he sees and feels. Weyland looks a LOT younger than before, which suggests that the David on Prometheus was an older android model than I'd expected. David and Weyland talk about god and needing to meet one's creator and David instantly questions why he should have to serve Weyland if Weyland is ephemeral, fleeting, and capable of death. This is just... argh, no.

The best I can do here is assume that David was programmed with Weyland's values, because there's no *objective* reason to assume that immortal beings are inherently better than mortal ones. Something being fleeting does not make it less precious. It feels like Scott or whoever wants to make a really profound point about existence with these movies but instead is just exposing a lot of his own fears and biases which aren't, strictly speaking, facts or objective.

Open Thread: The Great and Powerful

Not the first time I've used an image of a toy, though it might be the first time I used a picture of one that someone I know actually owns instead of a toy spotted in the wild, as it were.  While I was picking up clothes off the floor of a closet, I found The Great and Powerful Trixie Lulamoon laying on her side.

Originally I was going to use a different image of her.  That one is much sharper, but it came at the expense of the sparkles.  Trixie here captures the light of a flash in a way that makes it look like she's glowing, but the flash completely overpowers the sparkles, and the sparkles, I have realized, are compulsory.

So, anyway: small sparkly plastic toy.  Sit/stand/whatever in awe of her greatness and power.


Friday Saturday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us here, so give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

Film Corner: Prometheus


Alright, bitches, witches, good friends with stitches, and people with itches: the Alien marathon continues with Prometheus. Prometheus has a lot of emotions for me because I wanted to see it in theaters (a new alien movie! In my lifetime!) but I was instead in the hospital having surgery. Then I saw it on Bluray and was glad I didn't see it in theaters, lolsob.

In a sign of the high quality control that went into this release, I have to wrestle with the Bluray disc for 20 minutes in an attempt to get the damn thing to fucking play. I think the bluray is trying to cleverly "resume playing" from the last time and is instead just horking itself. The fact that we're gonna have to watch the DVD instead would almost be funny if I weren't so irritated, lol.

Open Thread: Fallen Leaves

Sorry this is so very late.  Depression has been really bad.  I have food and water, but it's hard to think, hard to move, hard to get the food or the water, and hard to remember that I'm supposed to be eating or drinking it instead of staring off into space.

Normally I'd reserve such "Woe is me" stuff for the comments or my own blog, but this is really late and I figured you all deserved an explanation.

Picture from October 29th of 2018.  I haven't exactly been taking a lot of pictures lately.


Friday Sunday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us basically over, so give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

November Newsletter (2019)

October is over and it feels like all I did was blink. Where did the time go?

A lot of it went to a new friend who is a bit more than a friend now. *shy* It's hard to remember only a year ago I was asking you all to reassure me that I'd someday be able to stop missing my ex-husband so much. I can't remember the last time I've been this happy, even if it means I'm not as productive as I'd like to be. Time keeps slipping away but in good ways, in that did we just spend two hours talking about our favorite movies kind of ways.

[TW: Parental Bigotry] What was, uh, not fun was my mother dropping by to demand if I was "in a homosexual relationship". (If you're on twitter, you may have already seen this thread.) This was a case of a particularly suspicious stopped clock being right: she couldn't believe my friend would come over to take care of me while I was ill unless we were dating. *sigh* I told my mother that I'm bisexual and that there's a girl I'm interested in dating, and she berated me for a bit and bluntly suggested that this was why my ex-husband left me. (It's not, and it would be biphobic of him if it was, rather than "my fault".)

I'm not quite estranged yet, but visits from my parents (and the resultant disability care they were providing me) have essentially stopped. Which is honestly a strange relief on my part, but more than a little inconvenient because I needed the aid. Based on a lot of your recommendations, I'm looking at for some in-home aid but a lot of this is overwhelming at the moment. My friend is helping to chase the nightmares away by holding me at night and I took this week off of work to try to put myself back together. It's difficult because I really did try to give my parents the fiction they wanted, but I just couldn't convincingly lie and say I was heterosexual like she wanted.

In terms of what this means for Patreon, I did get some outlining done on my No Man of Woman Born sequel idea and I noodled some words onto paper but they aren't ready for post. So it's another month of live-watches, drabbles about characters, and let's play videos. And maybe a few more things.

Reminder! It's a new month, which means new paper books for the $25 patrons and new bookmarks for the $5 patrons! If I don't have your address, send me a message on the internal system or email me at AnaMardoll at gmail dot com. I love sending ya'll things!

An index to the deconstructions on my blog is here.

My YouTube channel is here. The Phoenix Wright videos are here.

Do you like "Tumblr Threads" which collect funny tumblr posts? I have one here!

My Twitter account @DivorceKittens with stories and pictures is here.

Thank you for much for hanging in here with me--you are all quite literally helping me to stay alive. I love you.

Film Corner: Alien Resurrection

Alien Resurrection


Alright, it's Alien 4 aka Resurrection aka Joss Whedon Has Issues time. Get yer popcorn. I'm going to state that I actually like this movie, but I can't stand Joss Whedon so it's going to be a complicated live tweet, lolsob.

We open with naked child-Ripley in a tube that then morphs into naked adult-Ripley in a tube. On an operating table, doctors extract the chestburster from her and decide to sew Ripley back up. Weirdly, there's a little umbilical cord they have to cut, which you'd think might be acidic, but apparently not. But, look, this movie is going to be about PREGNANCY and MOTHERHOOD and not about science, so we might as well resign ourselves to some inaccuracies now.

Ripley actually wakes during the procedure and grabs the hand of the doctor and twists it. This is our first introduction to a "Ripley" that isn't who we remember. I do like this Ripley and the way Weaver plays her; she's continuing her path into nihilism.

Alone in confinement, she notices a tattoo that says "8". They call her that, too: Number 8. While under examination, she attacks a doctor and tries to kill him. They have to shock her to save him. She regresses to "little girl" motions, twisting childishly in chairs and tilting her head at people. There's some gibberish as to why she has fragmented memories; we get an emotional reaction from her when she's shown a little girl who looks a little like Newt.

In the mess hall, Ripley warns the scientist that the alien is a queen. "She'll breed. You'll die. Everyone in the company will die." There's a joke that Weyland-Yutani was bought out by Wal-mart. I don't know if I like that angle; on the one hand, the later movies (*looks at Prometheus*) get a little silly about Weyland-Yutani being the source of all evil in the world. It makes sense to have a new antagonist that just... exists. Because mankind seeks to destroy itself. On the other hand, if Weyland-Yutani really is gone then that's a bit of an "end of an era" feeling.

Either way, we have a new theme that mankind meddles as a feature of the species rather than because of rampant capitalism. I preferred the capitalism angle. (Then again, there does come a natural point where audiences were questioning how Weyland-Yutani was justifying all this to the board of directors.) The scientist tells her that the creature will be useful once it has been tamed. "You can't teach it tricks," Ripley warns. "Why not?" he asks. "We're teaching *you*."

A proto-Firefly team (thank you @ScottMadin) approaches the facility. It's full of morally questionable characters, Winona Ryder, and a man who sexually harasses her on the job but it's supposed to be okay because he's disabled. (It's not okay.) The crew board the scientist vessel--which seems a strange fit for such an obvious outside-the-law sort of gang--and are searched for weapons. (We will later see that the wheelchair is used to smuggle in weapons, which is one of my least favorite tropes because it leads to ableds treating mobility devices with suspicion.)

It's not really well explained why a cargo of disposable people are "hard to come by", nor why the military would need to pay Firefly smugglers to bring them people, nor why they would need to pay exorbitant amounts, but apparently the future has fewer missing persons? It would work better, I think, if the scientists wanted a very specific type of person (O-negative blood or something) and couldn't just requisition 8 drifters for egg-implantation.

Anyway, the "cargo" wake up just in time to see the eggs opening and I'm left wondering why they were allowed to wake up at all. Maybe the facehuggers require a conscious host? Would explain why Ripley and Newt weren't implanted in their sleep, but would be a problem for A3.

Ron Perlman aka Proto Jayne tries to flirt with Ripley by playing basketball with her, but she turns violent and this crew of violent murderers seems to take exception to that, which seems a wee bit hypocritical. God, I would happily watch 2 hours of just Sigourney Weaver beating up men. This is the future liberals want, etc. Anyway, sorry, the scientists are very proud of the fact that Ripley can beat up a man with a basketball. She wipes away a nosebleed and it acid-burns the floor.

Here follows the sexiest movie scene ever and it involves a foot massage. Damn, I could go for a foot massage.

@seandehey. sorry if spammy i l o v e this movie. if you havent seen ron perlman's reaction to sigourney weaver nailing that trick shot, here it is.

Yes, this is beautiful.

While the Firefly crew enjoys their downtime, we see how the scientists keep the aliens in line: they have weaponized cryo freeze gas. Really, that's how you think this is going to work, scientists? This isn't just hubris; it's outright bad animal training! They don't have any treat-reinforcement for behavior they want to encourage, they just have punishment!

Winona gets drunk and stumbles around the ship only it's a RUSE because she wants in Ripley's room. Some stolen biometrics later and she's in Ripley's chamber with a knife. She's horrified to learn that the queen isn't inside Ripley anymore. "Ellen Ripley dies 200 years ago," Call tells her sadly. "You're not her." Ripley's face falls as she absorbs what she already knew.

Ripley warns that they're looking for Call. She leaves and is caught by guards; the Firefly crew is rounded up for execution. The Firefly crew quickly demonstrate that they're more capable and trained than the military. It really is funny how much this crew just IS Firefly but with different actors and a very few changes in role assignments. Whedon really loves the idea that experience makes a crew more deadly than training, and they go overboard here to the point where they can calculate bullet ricochet angles with deadly accuracy. I'd like this better if they didn't turn instantly useless when the horror starts.

The aliens take advantage of the distraction to kill one of their own (why were they housed together?) and the massive outpouring of acid instantly eats through the deck. They *knew* the aliens bleed acid, and they're IN SPACE. They don't have a way to neutralize the acid quickly in case of an accidental bleed out? Forget tactical suicide, what if one of them was sick? Injured? YOU'RE IN SPACE. If a single alien had a vomiting fit, they'd instantly breach the hull and everyone would die. These people are not qualified to run a bath.

The Firefly crew decide, wisely, to evacuate while all the soldiers die. Proto Malcolm Reynolds is picked off first, the aliens laying a clever trap for him by leaving a gun to tempt him. Ripley then uses the dead body as a trap to shoot the alien, which now does not seem to have any acid in him at all. This movie is not about scientific consistency! It is about FIREFLY and MOTHERHOOD. Ripley and Call can magically tell that the ship is moving even though that should be impossible. The ship is programmed to return to earth in case of emergency. What a great protocol!

Ripley and Jayne have a great conversation. "I heard you ran into these things before. What did you do?" / "I died."

Passing a suspicious room, Ripley investigates to find other versions of herself; some in terrible pain. A Ripley on a table begs for release. "Kill me." Crying, Ripley complies. This arc, at least, is revisited: that death can be a release. Though I remember liking Resurrection in the past, it must be said that it is paced very badly. After Suspicious Room #1 we come to Suspicious Room #2, where an infected survivor is located. He's confused and unaware; he was in cryo on his way to a job.

Honestly, god bless Weaver for her acting skills; she's really carrying this one on her shoulders.

Having done several rooms with talking, it's time to start picking people off as rapidly as possible. The crew has to swim through a flooded corridor because "the cooling tanks" have enough liquid to flood an entire ship level. Sure. I feel like here is where you could explore how *unlikely* it is that probably-space-born space-hoppers would even know how to swim, let alone be as good at it as they are here. The aliens swim excellently, though, so that's nice; I like when they're allowed to be elegant.

The aliens have booby-trapped the other end of the pool with membrane and eggs, which is an unexpectedly tactical deployment of the facehugger concept. Not sure how I feel about the trap; seems like if the facehugger gets you while you're swimming, you sink and die. Even if it keeps you alive by turning water into oxygen to pump down your throat, it dies and falls off and THEN you drown.

The wheelchair user had to abandon his chair before the pool--a plot point that I have never liked--and he is now dead weight to slow the guy carrying him. I really hate that so much. Anyway, the Evil Scientist shoots Call and she falls into the pool. Despite never having evidenced this ability before that I can remember, the aliens can spit acid. Christie unlatches himself from Vriess and falls to his death after being acided. This is the death I hate the most, I think. I liked Christie.

They're trapped but the door opens and a wounded Call is on the other side. She lives! Ripley gives her a Look. She's an android. "I should've known. No human being is that humane." It's a neat little full circle that Ripley has come, from fearing androids to considering them an improvement over humanity. Ripley instantly becomes protective and maternal because there was an existing theme of motherhood in these movies and we're going to run with it, dammit.

"I can't make critical mass. I can't blow it." / "Then crash it."  Ripley, both you AND the alien survived the last crash. This seems like a bad idea. Why not just turn it around? You're not caught in a gravity well or anything! You just need to override the GPS. (You can see why the fanbase has basically declared the entire movie off-canon.)

Ripley and Call talk about nihilism. Ripley asks why Call cares. "Because I'm programmed to," she says tearfully. It's a shame the movie isn't better, because the scene has a lot of potential for exploring why we keep trying when times are hard. Like, Ripley really is an amazing case study. She keeps going despite the fact that her life is a nightmare of horrors that never end. Why? What motivates her? She's cycled from wanting to protect people to raw survival instinct.

Then MOTHERHOOD kicks in and Ripley feels sorrow for the nearby queen, who is in pain. Why? I honestly do not know except that Whedon has fucked up ideas about what MOTHERHOOD does to women? I mean, I guess you could handwave that this experience has made Ripley lose any real distinction between "human girl" in need of protection and "alien queen" in need of protection, but if that's the case then she's kinda lost the one defining thing that made her Ripley. Her whole thing isn't just "protect weak things", it's been "protect them FROM the aliens". But something something MOTHERHOOD and womanly hormones. That's SCIENCE.

Evil Scientist and Infected Victim take each other out in a rapid thinning of the cast.

Back at the alien nest, a scientist explains that just as the alien biology changed Ripley, so too did Ripley change the queen: she's got a human womb now and instead of eggs she's giving vaginal birth. MOTHERHOOD. (I blame Joss Whedon for this.) Hybrid Alien is born and kills the queen because she doesn't smell like mommy. That's gratitude for you, isn't it, ladies. Amiright? Motherhood, etc. Ripley does smell like mommy, but she has apparently gotten over whatever made her feel sympathy for the aliens and she makes a strategic decision to get the fuck out of Dodge.

The Firefly crew seems very confused about flying their own ship, and I understand that they're down several crew members but I feel like you'd train everyone in basic procedures like "how to take off". Despite dying 200 years ago, Ripley decides to fly the machine. "This piece of shit is even older than I am." It's silly but it's the kind of silly that I actually like, so I'll allow this silliness. (Science Fiction Writers Have No Sense of Scale, though, seriously. 200 years ago we were riding around in buggies.)

The Hybrid is on the ship (no, it makes no sense) and he closes the hatch so they can take off (that makes no sense either) and now he's chasing Call (which makes the least amount of sense) but just go with it, okay, because the ABORTION METAPHOR is coming. Apparently flying is no longer really important because Ripley runs off to go find Call, only to find that the Hybrid is on-board and trying to fondle Call to death. "Put it down!" Ripley orders, and the Hybrid does so. (Jayne takes the wheel back in the cockpit.) You see, he instinctively obeys her because MOTHERHOOD. Science.

Ripley flicks a drop of her own blood on a nearby window so that the acid will make a hole, and the Hybrid goes ripping out through the hole in an abortion metaphor that angered at least one conservative Christian blog I read one day while I was bored. I'm not even joking. Ripley feels sorrow as the Hybrid dies because MOTHERHOOD means that aborting the alien baby who would definitely kill you makes you a hormonal weepy mess. I want to know why the buckets of acidic blood he's hemorrhaging aren't widening that hole.

Anyway, that was Alien Resurrection. Is it a good movie to eat popcorn to? Yes, sure. Is it the weakest of the original Alien Quadrology? Yes, my god. My ranking of films so far:
- Aliens
- Alien
- Alien 3
- Alien Resurrection

If I have a beef with Resurrection, and I do, it's that the themes of motherhood were grossly mishandled. Ripley 1-3 loves and protects the weak because of her humanity, not because estrogen made her weepy. It reminds me a little of a similar mis-step they made with that awful Metroid reboot, actually. The only thing that really saves Resurrection from the dustbin is that there are some genuinely good quips--mostly given to Weaver and Perlman, as goddess intended--and the Firefly crew trope is inherently interesting because pirates are cool.

Several of you have asked if I'll keep going. The answer is yes, but not tonight.  I will probably do Prometheus and Covenant next, but I also want to get in the first Predator v. Aliens (which was unexpectedly good for reasons I want to gush about) and maaaybe Predators.

I will add that in the Alien series books, Earth gets completely fucked up by aliens and I can see Resurrection wanting to tie in with that? Because I honestly can't think of any other good reason to CRASH the damn ship rather than just turn it around. Or fire on it. Like, you cannot convince me that a Firefly ship wouldn't have SOME kind of ship to ship weapon. Even if it's just the Guardian of the Galaxy solution of "open the bay door and fire with a regular gun".

Realistically, though, the ship should've been toast as soon as 1-5 gallons of alien blood were spilled in the initial alien escape. That should've eaten through the hull no matter how far away it was. But this was not about SCIENCE, it was about WOMB MAGIC.

I woke up this morning thinking how it's not the alien which causes Ripley to break down crying, it's the Company's betrayal and honestly that's a relatable mood. She gave her whole life to the Company and all she asked was that Weyland-Yutani be half as loyal to her as she was to them. But in the end, they were all "crew expendable". And it hurts her so much more than merely knowing monsters exist.

Open Thread: An old sunset

This was taken on January 14th of 2013.  It's the sky over South Portland as seen from the new Veterans Bridge.


Friday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us, so give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

Film Corner: Alien 3

Alien 3

We'll go Special Edition again, because we can.

An egg on the Sulaco. A facehugger climbs up Ripley's sleeping tube. We see a skeletal imaging of a face wrapped with a facehugger, then acid starts a fire in the sleeping compartment. Honestly the alien was really lucky the ship crash-landed somewhere habitable and didn't just explode in space.

A pretty man walks on a planet which is pretty in, like, a dirty way. I guess he's pretty in a dirty way too. He finds Ripley by a body of water and carries her back home. Men stare at Ripley in her underwear while he barks at them to get down to the beach and look for other survivors. Pretty sure this is all added footage for the director's cut.

Hicks and Newt are dead, slain by an inability to re-sign the same actors. We learn that this is a prison planet which is honestly FASCINATING to me: it suggests that there are so many habitable planets that humanity can afford to waste one on housing, like, 60 men. Anyway, the men are worried that Ripley will upset their religious chastity and honestly bite my ass.

Back in the medical bay, Ripley wakes up and Clemens (the pretty boy who found her) explains she's at a "Weyland-Yutani work prison". Ripley's face when she learns she's the only survivor is just pure pain. Sigourney Weaver is an amazing actress. It used to be a 5,000 convict facility but it's been reduced to a custodial staff of 25. They make iron sheets for toxic waste containers. I don't know how this can be profitable but...Capitalism?

Alien 3 is grim because of all the deaths but I like it because it's honestly a natural continuation of a theme: Ripley tries to save people but they die. She can't triumph over death except temporarily. She saved Hicks and Newt for a little while, but their time came. And we see her increasing nihilism in her decreased concern for social niceties. (We'll see even more of that in Resurrection.) Like, love the series or hate it, I believe Weaver put a tremendous amount of effort into portraying a cogent character who realistically changes over a series of devastating disappointments.

Anyway, she sees an acid burn and realizes there was an alien on the ship. She demands to see the bodies and starts examining Newt for a chestburster. I don't think she thinks they're in danger; I think her sole concern is that the company NOT get an alien to play with. So Ripley is now trying to protect all of earth. Ripley demands an autopsy because she says Newt may have had cholera. "There hasn't been a case of cholera in 200 years." I like this because she's been asleep for most of that time and genuinely doesn't know.

Newt has no alien in her. The nice medical officer asks Ripley what they're really looking for, but they're interrupted by the head guy. Clemens covers for Ripley, saying he had to autopsy for cholera. Ripley demands a cremation and Clemens backs her again because he is an Ally, dammit.

Elsewhere on Planet Grimy, two prisoners mull over the mystery of a cow that died suddenly and the weird dead facehugger thing they've found. (The theatrical version had a dog, not a cow. The cow was a better choice.) The cremation service occurs, during which the cow erupts with an alien. Ripley cries and her nose bleeds. The eulogy is lovely. The alien baby is very CGI, but not in a bad way.

Sigourney Weaver showers over the sound of men grumbling about the corruptive power of her sexuality and it feels almost too on the nose for 2019. Ripley thanks the prisoners for their eulogy and she gets a crash course on their apocalyptic religion. Then she takes Clemens to bed so he'll stop asking why she wanted an autopsy. Again, I feel like this fits with her character arc: she's becoming more cynical in her attempts to eradicate the aliens. If that means fucking a cute boy, well, life is short and the last one died before she got to spend any time with him. Carpe diem.

Clemens is called away because of a dead prisoner. It looks like an industrial accident but...there's an acid spot. And now I pause for the night. While Clemens does official medical officer stuff, Ripley goes dumpster diving for the broken android (Bishop).

I'm informed by @liminalfruitbat that an early draft had this planet as a monastery / cult retreat, which fits the religion stuff much better. I'm not sure why they changed it to a prison, but I suspect they did so for the rape scene which now occurs. Which... sigh. Ripley is grabbed by 4 men and is about to be raped when the cult leader saves her. Again, we have a scene of sexual violence in which Ripley is saved from white men by a Black man (the first scene being in Alien) which for 1993 was a pretty deliberate statement.

I didn't mind the Ash scene because it was in service to a deeper company goal: what appears to be sexual assault is instead a cover-up. I would have preferred something like that here, but no, it's just the rape attempt it appears to be. It feels unnecessary, I guess is the point I'm trying to make. It doesn't add to her characterization. If it adds anything, it's that the cult leader is a better guy than you thought (despite being a prisoner and, he claims, guilty) but...was this scene needed for that? Idk.

Ripley repairs Bishop and he confirms there was an alien on the ship. He begs her to disconnect him rather than let him be repaired. Continuing her arc of being an angel of mercy (theme: death can be a release), she 'kills' him. Ripley approaches a huddled conference in which a man is accused of murder but swears it was a dragon. Ripley says he's telling the truth, but the head jailer tells her to sod off.

She tells the jailer about aliens, the cat already being out of the bag as it were. (Bishop informs her that the flight recorder transmitted all data back home.) We get the wonderful "we have no weapons here -- we're on the honor system" line. The prisoners are kept in line largely through fear and isolation -- since they can't leave the planet, rebellion would just end with them cut off and dead. Mind you, I don't think that would stop a really dedicated separatist, but I guess they need supplies.

Ultimately, he doesn't believe her and confines her to the infirmary. Wearily, she tells Clemens she has a sore throat and pained stomach. FORESHADOWING. Clemens tells his tragic backstory and Ripley gives him an affectionate look, so yeah, he's done for. An alien skewers him. Ripley, cornered, prepares to die but the creature sniffs her and withdraws.

Ripley breaks into the latest meeting to gasp "it's here!" The head jailer orders her sent back to the infirmary but then is dragged up into the ceiling by the alien--an effective piece of evidence for everyone to see. It's nice to see Ripley acknowledged as an expert for once. This is a high point in her own arc: she's gone from equally in the dark as everyone else (Alien), to an ignored expert (Aliens), to a veteran with people pleading for her knowledge.

The prisoners derisively call the junior jailer "85" and Ripley asks why; it's supposed to be his IQ. We're back to another theme from Alien with the lower-wage workers there: the company exploits the most vulnerable members of society, but Ripley works with them. (I still maintain that Gorman from Aliens fits into this category as well; he's played as not just inexperienced but genuinely the 1990s vision of someone neurodivergent.)

Ripley explains her "herd the alien into the smelter" plan and the cult leader asks "why should we put our ass on the line for you" so she can say "your ass is already on the line" like a badass. Shit gets fucked over, but they manage to trap the alien. Ripley and Junior Jailer phone Weyland-Yutani and she asks "permission to kill it", to see what they say. (They don't have the necessary weapons, regardless.) The computer spits back NO NO NO.

Then we undo all our good work with neurodivergence by having the most "crazy" prisoner assault his best friend because he wants to see the "dragon" again. Ugh.

While they try to decide what to do about the escaped alien, Ripley goes to the spaceship's medical pod scanner thingy. Junior Jailer offers to help her. There's an alien inside her chest. So we need to talk about this. A lot of fans dislike Alien 3 because it doesn't follow the "rules". Ripley doesn't die within hours of the facehugger coming off (like Kane did), and the alien from the cow/dog looks and behaves differently than the ones in Alien and Aliens.

But I actually like this because we're seeing the aliens' greatest strength which is their sheer adaptability. Aliens from human tissue look different from aliens which gestated in cow/dog tissue. It makes sense. Presumably they would look different from another species. Etc. And it makes sense that a queen might take longer to grow in a host than a drone would. OR that Ripley's body grew the queen more slowly than Kane did because of the very serious trauma she sustained in the crash.

We really don't even know whether Kane's chestburst was unusually fast or not; the colonists had been cocooned for a seemingly LONG time when the marines showed up, yet one was still alive to chestburst at them. (Hell, you could even speculate that Ash did something to speed up the process for Kane, but I don't think that's as plausible just because they knew so little about the species at the time.) In order for aliens to be the universe-spanning terror that they are, they would NEED to be able to adapt to whatever they could use as a host. That means a certain degree of flexibility. So honestly I like that the "rules" are broken here.

Ripley's scan is sent to the Company and the Junior Jailer is informed that it's of the absolute highest priority that she be quarantined. And, you know, I like this. Because it really is a mystery at this stage whether they mean that in a "good" way or "bad". Ripley suspects they want to capture an alien to study, but she really doesn't know that. She's cynical and nihilistic now, having lost everything she loved. Maybe they're really just trying to do the right thing and NOT have a queen running around killing people. All we've really seen of the Company wanting these creatures, after all, is Burke being a greedy shit. He might not be representative of the actual Company at large. It's a nice touch.

Ripley goes to hunt the creature, hoping it will kill her; it refuses, so she goes to find herself a killer to do the job for her. He refuses, too; he can't go back to what he was before. He really does an amazing job in this scene; his face shows so much emotion. He says she has to help him destroy the alien first. "If it won't kill you, maybe that helps us fight it."

Ripley gives a stirring speech about the way the Company declared both crew and marines expendable, and prisoners won't be worth more to them than that. After two movies of people being brutally picked off like popcorn, there's a certain catharsis in watching the prisoners go full olly-olly-oxen-free and just run around pell-mell trapping the alien in retro future corridors. Like, again, I can see why the movie isn't what the fanbase expected or wanted at the time--there's a certain silliness to it--but as the third installment in a movie marathon, it *works*. Humans can only live with abject terror for so long before, yeah, we tend to get a little silly about it. If I'm gonna die anyway, if I'm doomed, you bet your ass I'm going out Leroy Jenkins style.

God, it's really painful (in the right ways) to see Ripley have the occasional pain spasms. Something a lesser movie wouldn't remember to do with its "infected" hero. She's not able to herd it the way she wanted, which honestly makes sense -- it would be silly if the aliens were powerless in the face of an infected host. BUT, the cult leader picks her up and she screams and the alien reacts, which again *makes sense*. She can't magically herd it (because that would be a huge evolutionary disadvantage for this perfect species), but she CAN be used as bait. It follows to protect her. Ripley wants to stay but Dillon refuses to let her and he stays behind instead. He isn't the person he used to be. He holds the alien while they pour hot lead into the smelter onto them both.

Having "Bishop" show up at the end is so emotional. "The company sent me here to show you a friendly face." And there's so much contrast between the android who protected her and the human who can lie to her face. Sigourney Weaver's anguished face during the temptation is everything. She is an amazing actress. Bishop utterly fails to convince Ripley by yelling "IT'S A MAGNIFICENT SPECIMEN" at her, but I think it works here because he's human and irrational.

Ripley falls backwards, arms spread wide, jesus dying to save us all. The special edition doesn't have the chestburster coming out and her holding it in, which is a shame because I liked that scene, but it probably wasn't medically possible. The sun rises and the company men leave, shutting the facility behind them.

I'll do Resurrection in another thread; this one is getting long.

Open Thread: Leaves Turn

According to my yard, as evidenced in the above picture, it's Fall.

(Those who pay attention to planets and orbits noticed the onset of Autumn on this side of the equator almost a month ago.)


We have special open threads set aside for discussing various movies and shows, said discussions including plain text spoilers.  This is the only current one:
   ● Game of Thrones


Friday Saturday Recommendations!  What have you been reading/writing/listening to/playing/watching lately?  Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about - the weekend’s ahead of us here, so give us something new to explore!

And, like on all threads: please remember to use the "post new comment" feature rather than the "reply" feature, even when directly replying to someone else!

Film Corner: Aliens


Next up is ALIENS, which is probably my favorite; I used to watch it during panic attacks in order to calm down. Of course we instantly open with MORE slow pans over dust-ridden consoles, because Ripley wasn't picked up where and when she'd hoped and instead took the long way through the solar system. She's alive and that means the salvagers don't get to claim the ship as salvage and I just remember being *so relieved* that they didn't just kill her for a payday.

A visitor: Jones and a man in a suit. "I work for the Company but I'm actually an okay guy." Ripley eyes him warily. No one has told her that she was out there for 57 years, so Burke ends up having to break the news. I did genuinely feel bad for him for that much. They should've had a doctor tell her! Prior to the Company inquest, Burke informs Ripley that her daughter died at age 66. All they have of her is a grainy photo. Ripley sobs. My heart.

No one at the inquest believes Ripley which is honestly not as sinister as I think audiences tend to take it; she's either witnessed something right out of a horror movie OR she's mentally ill and possibly murdered her entire crew. They don't prosecute her or try to hold her responsible for the cargo; she's basically dumped into a second class citizen status where she can get low-class work but nothing prestigious. Lots of class politics here again.

She demands to know why they don't investigate the planet, but it's already populated by terraformers and they're fine. How many? "Maybe 60 or 70 families." Ripley pales. On DEATH PLANET, a beleaguered man is asked whether a salvage team's claim will be honored if they find something at a grid reference he sent them out to. He says he doesn't even know *why* they were sent out there, but sure whatever fine.

The sheer fucking TERROR when the mom rips open the vehicle door, the winds howl in, she grabs the radio in a panic, and Newt sees the facehugger on her father and begins SCREAMING.

Burke arrives at Ripley's apartment with Colonial Marine Gorman in tow. It's later suggested that Gorman is neurodivergent in some way and not considered up to snuff by the brass; I do wonder if Burke hand-selected him in the hopes that his own...actions would not be discovered. Burke tries to pressure Ripley into coming along as a consultant; she tells him to fuck off, but the nightmares don't stop. She promises to go IF the plan is to "destroy them. Not to study, not to bring back. But to wipe them out."

Ripley wakes up in her underwear with a number of marines. A lesser movie would've had her ogled by one or more of the men in an attempt to establish them as jackasses; this one does not. They're still jackasses, of course; they talk smack to the girl marines and about girl colonists and are just generally childish and unprepared for what is coming. Ripley watches all this with big eyes and tries to hope that everything will be okay.

Ripley is alarmed when one of the crew members turns out to be an android. He tells her it is impossible for him to harm her, but she orders him to stay away from her. Ripley tries to brief the marines but no one is interested in listening to her (except the one quiet, cute boy). Everyone else is laughing, talking, and playing. They're given punishing prep assignments and everyone groans.

I like this a lot from a filmmaking standpoint because the audience feels Ripley's unease. Are these people confident because they got this thing in the bag, or are they confident because they have no idea how bad shit is about to get? She doesn't know and neither do we. A horror movie that lets you share in the protagonist's dread as they worry about the future is a neat trick to pull off and not easy.

In extremely good foreshadowing, Ripley asks if she can help out and volunteers to drive the loader machine. "I have a Class 2 rating." The cute boy grins. It's nice seeing Ripley acknowledged as sexy and powerful for her machine competence. We cut to gun porn as Vasquez is sexy and powerful in similar yet very different ways.

It's addressed more in the book, but I do like how Vasquez and Drake have a very clear buddy vibe with each other and aren't lovers; it would have been easy to go that route, but instead they're really good friends and I like that.

Gorman, the lieutenant, looks pale as they drop to the planet. Ripley asks how many times he's done this before and this is only his second. The plane drops off the marines and dusts back off to park at a safe distance. (If they had only stayed airborne forever the movie would've gone very differently, lolsob.)

There's a lot of silent hallways and nothing movie and it's incredibly tense and when they do find something moving it's a hamster. Gorman calls the area secure ("It's not secure!" Ripley protests) and says they're coming in. Outside in the rain, Ripley hesitates. "You okay?" asks cute boy Hicks. She's not but she goes in anyway. So much of Aliens (and Alien, to a certain extent, but lesser) is about foreseeing that something VERY BAD is going to happen and Ripley knows this but she's powerless to prevent it because of the men in charge who refuse to listen to her.

A smol child appears. Ripley holds her into submission: "It's going to be okay!" I like the recurring themes of Ripley as a mother and protector, and of Ripley projecting herself onto weaker creatures because she shares their fear. Newt joins the horror genre tradition of little girls saying terrifying things. "These people are soldiers." / "It won't make any difference."

The marines locate the colonists' GPS trackers (essentially) and they're all in a single location that now looks... really weird. It's noteworthy that the Alien scene where Ripley found and euthanized Captain Dallas was added later (for the Director's Cut) and that rather changes *this* scene, because whether it did/didn't happen affects whether all this looks and feels familiar to Ripley. That said, I find it plausible that Ripley says she "doesn't know" what this place is / why it looks the way it does, because these changes are significantly more extensive than what the first alien did to the Nostromo.

Ripley points out that the weapons the team is using risk rupturing the cooling system and then a nuclear explosion happens, no biggie. Instead of pulling the team back to reconsider, Gorman just tells them not to fire on anything. This is probably the second big mistake (with the first being "going in the facility when it wasn't properly cleared to begin with") because they should've pulled back and sent in maybe one scout (or, better, a camera on a little roomba). Gorman doesn't listen to Ripley until Burke says she's right, which has a whole dissertation of gender experiences in it.

As things start getting scary, Ripley tells Newt to go sit up front away from the cameras. The marines find a live colonist, cocooned to the wall, and she begs them to kill her before dying from a chestburster. There's a terrifying moment of quiet and then... beeping. "Multiple signals -- readings in front and behind!"

Aliens start grabbing marines and Gorman panics when this doesn't behave like a simulation. The communications cut and Ripley screams "Do something!" before running up to take the wheel of the armored car they're in. She actually straps Newt in first, which I love. They're about to die, but SEAT BELTS. Ripley protects, first and foremost.

It's a small detail, but I love that Hicks either notices or guesses that it's Ripley driving the car. He tells her when everyone is inside and to haul ass, then helps calm her when they're clear and the axle is shot. Everyone assesses the damage and there's a noticeable shift in the marines' willingness to listen to (now-calm) Ripley.

They argue nerve gas and whether it'll affect the aliens and Ripley does her (excellent! wonderful!) "I say we take off and nuke the site from orbit" quote. Burke freaks out and starts talking about the dollar value of the colony. (The marines are all instantly hard and/or wet because I mean, honestly, it's SUCH a great line.) Ripley tells Burke that Hicks is in charge now, since it's a military operation. Hicks tells the plane to come pick them up so they can "take off, nuke the site from orbit". The echo of Ripley's words is so good because he's clearly giving her credit rather than stealing.

Unfortunately, there are aliens *in* the plane because they weren't smart enough to not land nearby the infested colony. "We better get back coz it'll be dark soon and they mostly come at night. Mostly."

Ripley has the marines pull down maps of the complex so they can seal themselves off and can only be reached from a few number of corridors. (This will blow up in their face later when they forget about the ceiling ducts, which feels unfair. Like, Ripley specifically asks for floorplans including subbasements and whatnot; you'd think "overhead access panels" would be included in that!)

While the marines secure their area, Ripley insists that Newt take a nap because it's been a hell of a day. Newt continues her adorable creepy act: "My mommy always said there were no monsters, no real ones, but there are."

Ripley visits Bishop in the lab and they talk about the alien biology. She orders him to destroy the specimens when he's done, but he says Burke wants to take them back. Ripley (foolishly) confronts Burke in private and tells him SHE knows he sent the colonists to the ship. She promises to nail him to the wall, then (foolishly) goes off to sleep with Newt without telling anyone what she knows. I forgive this act of foolishness because it just wouldn't occur to Ripley to *murder* someone to cover up a secret like this.

I do feel like they forget the "acid for blood" thing when the robot guns are slaughtering the aliens by the dozens in Hallway B or whatever it is. Getting in that way (acid opening a new pathway) seems more realistic than "whoops we forgot the air conditioning ducts". Oh, and in other news: the colony is about to go thermonuclear and someone needs to go patch into the extra ship and pilot it down manually. Bishop volunteers to crawl through a claustrophobic duct and pilot the ship down on remote. (AGH, I get claustrophobic just watching him crawl nope nope nope nope nope.)

Vasquez really does not get enough credit for being strong under the strain. She's the only marine, besides Hicks, who doesn't crack.

Ripley wakes up, startled by a noise, only to realize there's a live facehugger in their room. No one is watching the camera (Burke turned it off) and the glass is noise-proof. This marvelous bitch first tries to break the glass, then sets the fire alarm off with her lighter--and that's something you can't do now that they've practically banned smoking in movies.

NO SORRY THERE ARE TWO FACEHUGGERS IN THERE. And one of them has its tail around Ripley's throat. It takes THREE marines to peel the damn thing off Ripley, and Hicks and Vasquez do a really cool game of skeet shoot where he's like "OVER THERE" and she's all "YEAH" and he throws and she shoots. God fucking bless Ripley for gasping "IT WAS BURKE" for her first words because fuck that little bastard. (Fun fact: the actor's mom *cheered* in theaters when he died. He did a great job in that role.)

ANYWAY, aliens come in through the ceiling which (as previously noted) feels somewhat unfair. Burke dies dishonorably. Vasquez and Gorman die with honor. Newt falls down a duct. Ripley gets Hicks (wounded) back to the ship, then suits up with ALL THE GUNS so she can go get Newt. After LOTS OF FIRE, Ripley comes back up with Newt and there's that heart-pounding moment where the ship is gone and it looks like the android betrayed her. The queen is coming up, all is lost, and then there it is!

Ahh, it's so good and such a good subversion of expectations after the first one and the whole "crew expendable" order. ...which is why it is such an incredible kick in the chest when Bishop is suddenly dismembered by the Alien Queen, like, holy shit.

Ripley does the power loader thing which is so very very good and then everyone gets tucked into bed and they all live happily ever after until Alien 3 and the failure to re-sign the original cast. We'll start Alien 3 tonight but I might need to bed soon. I actually liked Alien 3 at the time and was surprised to find out afterwards that the fanbase generally did not.

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