Dreaming on the Screen
I don’t tend to watch television or movies as often as I read, and I really didn’t pay much attention to SF&F movies or television for a long time. I think I expected all of them to be something like Star Trek, and I’ve never been a Trekkie at all. I’ve never seen most of the episodes of any version of Star Trek (TOS, TNG, DS9, Voyager, etc.) — I caught a few episodes of TOS and it just didn’t ever grab me. I haven’t seen all the movies, and certainly haven’t read the books. Every once in a while that makes me feel like a real freak if I go to a sci-fi convention!
It Started With Babylon5
Anyway, my former SO got me to watch Babylon5 with him — just try it. Once. Really. Of course, he showed me the first part of a two-part episode, which was cheating — and then insisted that I watch all the previous episodes (two seasons worth, as I recall) before seeing part two! (Yes, he does have every single episode from the entire series on tape.) Of course I was completely hooked by then, and continued watching through the rest of the series’ five-year run.
The biggest difference between Babylon5 and anything else I’ve seen is the quality of the writing, and the fact that there is a cohesive story that connects the entire series. The arc may be moved along a lot in one episode, and barely at all in another, but it is always there. I like that much more than the solely episodic nature of Star Trek. B5 also has very good special effects for a TV show. I’m not especially into effects, but I know that I find most of the ones in B5 fairly believable, unlike so many other shows and movies.
The characters also make B5 pretty special. They aren’t painted in black and white – even the main characters have their faults. And you can’t be sure that a main character will always be around, as they’ve been killed off in the past. You don’t have one character who’s always the hero, but rather a group of people who are all working together. There is at least one love story going on between two main characters, but that isn’t the main thing in their lives or in the show. They’ve shown women being strong, assertive fighters who are still feminine, and men who are sensitive but certainly not wimpy. These are all Good Things in my book.
And Then Came Xena
Katie somehow got me to watch Xena: Warrior Princess. She even got me to learn how to program the VCR so I could tape and pre-screen the episodes before she saw them (they aren’t all appropriate for children by any means). Heck, she even got me to go try horseback riding because she wanted to be like Xena, and to have a cool Xena costume sewn for her a few Halloweens back. Well, how much harm can it do — I’d certainly rather have her emulating Xena than Barbie!
I can’t claim that my fondness for Xena is solely due to Katie, though. The show is entirely unbelievable, but happily, campily so. It doesn’t claim to be true to traditional Greek mythology. It hops around from stories involving Aphrodite to retelling the Biblical story of David and Goliath. The combat scenes are sillier than anything I’ve seen since the 60’s Batman TV show. And all that’s just fine – if you’ve suspended your disbelief enough to think that a warrior is going to run around in a leather miniskirt and armored bustier, what can’t you believe?
Xena is funny and smart and moody and no-nonsense. She’s strong and irreverent. She has, and acknowledges, her dark side, although she strives to be a good person. Neither she nor Gabrielle is ditzy – they’re occasionally silly, and Gabrielle is naïve at times, but they aren’t stupid. They’re both strong while staying very feminine. And, reversing the more traditional order of things, they’re usually rescuing the menfolk rather than being rescued. I have to like that role reversal! I have to say I don’t like the storylines in the last season or so with the whole messianic thing as much as I liked the earlier, campier episodes — but they’re still entertaining and engaging. I do like the fact that Gabrielle has grown and changed into a very different person than she was in the earlier seasons.
Buffy Snuck In
I didn’t even plan to watch one episode of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer — in fact, I don’t think I knew it was a show, though I’d heard of the movie when it came out several years back. We didn’t even have cable at the time, and rabbit ears don’t really work that well in our area. But I was ordered to bed rest due to a back injury, tired of reading and stitching, and bored silly, so I picked up the remote one night and started flipping channels. There were a group of teenagers tossing off wisecracks while fighting people with weird ridged foreheads, yellow eyes and fangs. The too-skinny blonde was obviously some sort of superheroine — no, not believable, but hey, it’s television. The dialogue pulled me in. I watched the rest of the show and found myself watching it again the next week.
While I still haven’t seen all the episodes (though a friend has them all on tape, and says he’ll loan them to me), I’ve seen a fair number of them and read most of the original novels that have been released. We did rent and watch the original movie, which was cute and campy but didn’t really have the same level of writing as the TV show. I watch Angel as well since the plot-lines tend to cross back and forth from time to time, but being beat about the head and shoulders with the whole redemption thing gets a bit tiring there.
I think Willow is my favorite character on the show. I’m really unhappy that Oz is gone — why couldn’t he have stayed? They could have had Willow involved with both him and Tara in a nice, healthy, polyamorous vee. Surely that couldn’t upset anyone any more than her being part of a lesbian couple, right?
Have you gotten the idea that I enjoy watching women who kick butt? Yeah, I thought so. Anyway, I watched the Witchblade pilot and liked it. It was pretty obviously based on a comic strip, but maybe if it’s picked up as a series they’ll manage to outgrow some of that. I also taped the Dark Angel pilot, but I haven’t gotten around to watching it yet.
Sam insisted that I watch The Crow with him. I resisted mightily, as it was a horror movie as far as I was concerned. I did enjoy it when I finally saw it — although it isn’t something I plan to watch over and over again (that whole thing with the eyes — UGH!).
I guess I was one of the last geeks to see The Matrix. It was somewhat disturbing, but compelling. We were playing in a Mage campaign when I saw The Matrix, and it was neat to notice so many apparent references to that game in the movie. I haven’t really felt a need to watch it again, even though we do have the movie at home (two copies, although that wasn’t planned) — I don’t really like movies that make me go “Eeeewwww!” as this one did in some places. I have to admit that my apparently permanent aversion to Keanu Reeves probably had something to do with my opinion of the movie (I don’t think I’ve liked him in anything he’s done so far).
Well, seeing a movie the day it opened was a first for me — but we did it for X-Men: The Movie. I’ve never been big on comic books, and was probably the only person in the entire theater who’d never read any of the stories before seeing the movie. It was fun, although I didn’t find it a life-changing experience or anything like that, and I don’t feel a need to go see it again.
Galaxy Quest is likely to join the family video library shortly. It was really cute and funny, and while it’s obviously a parody of the original Star Trek series it was always obviously done by people who appreciated Star Trek and it’s descendants.
A friend and I went to see Starship Troopers the weekend it opened. Both of us really expected to be disappointed, fearing how Hollywood might butcher the real message of Heinlein’s book. The way they had handled their web site was utterly asinine, and further increased our distrust of Sony. We were both pleasantly surprised to find the movie a very well done military/coming-of-age flick (I still think it should have been billed as “based on the book by Robert Heinlein” rather than “Robert Heinlein’s …”). They threw in a gratuitous love story and a few other obvious Hollywood touches, and it was extremely gory. The special effects were very well done – I had nightmares afterward. I was utterly horrified to see young children in the theater! There were several kids there in the 4 – 8 year-old range, and this movie was clearly rated R. The rating was well-deserved due to the violence in it, and the violence content was obvious from the advertising and posters and trailers and so on. Those parents need to be taken out and flogged for taking children into that theater! The violence was very realistic, and the movie was an excellent portrayal of the fact that war is not glorious or cool or exciting in any positive way – that it’s sometimes a necessity, but it’s an ugly one. It showed that heroes have no magical immunity to being hurt or killed, whether male or female. And it carried through with some (although not enough, in my opinion) of Heinlein’s message about citizenship and patriotism – a very good thing is this era of fools wanting to vote in bread and circuses every time we turn around.
Contact is the only movie I’ve ever described as beautiful. I haven’t read Sagan’s book, but I will certainly be doing so soon.
Men in Black was funny, but not long enough. Will Smith always reminds me of my brother, Matt, and the resemblance was especially strong in this movie! It’s one of the few movies I’ve ever seen twice in the theater – once with a friend, then with Katie after I was sure it would be okay for her to see it (there’s violence, but it’s overtly cartoonish and didn’t upset her at all). There’s a Saturday morning MIB cartoon now, and it’s surprisingly decent (for a Saturday morning cartoon).
One of the very few movies I’ve ever bought on video for myself is The Princess Bride. I was surprised to find that Katie absolutely loved it – she watched it four times in one weekend, and for a while she was constantly going around doing her Inigo Montoya imitation and giggling (which is rather confusing to those who haven’t seen the movie).
I heard only negative remarks about Dogma before I saw it, but figured (correctly) that I’d like it based on the sources. And while I found bits unnecessarily gross, I did find it very clever.
Sam and I saw Practical Magic expecting to hate it, fearing just what kind of nasty things it would have to say about witches. We were more than pleasantly surprised — it’s a wonderful movie and very pagan-positive. We have a copy at home now.
Last updated December 19, 2000