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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Link Dump: Hugo Nomination Edition
Just some links that may prove to be of some use for folks in the Hugo nomination game.
  • 2015 Hugo Sheet of Doom - This is a public Google doc with potential nominees broken out in each category. Some of the nominees are clearly, er, longshots, but at least it's a source where things are categorized by, um, category (so you don't need to figure out a way to hack a Kindle book/story to do a word count or something). It's public, so you can add stuff if you'd like, but play nice (I did my part and added Coherence and The One I Love to the Long Form Dramatic Presentation Category - and you should totally watch and nominate if you like them, because I'm doubting they will get there without a little help).
  • Chaos Horizon - An extremely thorough attempt to predict Hugo and Nebula (novel) nominees. It is basically a value neutral attempt, so there's very little in the way of proselytizing, just lots of collation and correlation, and plenty of analysis. Dude is even starting to predict the 2016 Hugos...
  • Announcing Sad Puppies 3 - Brad Torgerson takes the baton from Larry Correia and is leading the charge this year. It is mildly less combative, but will no doubt raise a lot of hackles when it manages to get something nominated. It does still seem less about "These books are awesome and deserve recognition" and more about "Other people are ideological and we need to fight them" or some such thing. I can't ever seem to get on board with this because it's just too whiny. He's also written a few follow up posts, but has not posted a list yet (and frankly, I would not really recommend wading through the comments). It's worth noting, though, that the folks who bought a supporting membership last year are still eligible to nominate this year, so there's a fair chance that we'll see more Sad Puppy nominees...
That's all for now. I'm sure I'll be posting more about the Hugos as time goes on.
Posted by Mark on January 28, 2015 at 10:28 PM .: Comments (0) | link :.


End of this day's posts

Sunday, January 25, 2015

2014 Kaedrin Movie Award Winners!
The nominations for the 2014 Kaedrin Movie Awards were announced last week. Today, I'll be announcing the winners of said awards. Next week, I'll cover less traditional categories in what we like to call the Arbitrary Awards, and not long after that, I'll post my top 10 of 2014. At some point, those other awards, I think they're called Oscars or something, will happen as well, and we'll probably do our normal predictions and live-tweeting as well. But I digress, let's get back to the important stuff:
  • Best Villain/Badass: Koba, played by Toby Kebbell in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Despite a reasonable crop of villains this year, it appears that the only non-human nominee takes the cake. And Koba is a fantastic villain, in part because you can actually see where he's coming from. Of course, he ends up going way to far with his actions (he really becomes a turd, a villain you love to hate), but his mistrust of humans is not unwarranted.
    Koba
    Honorable mention goes to Amy Dunne, played Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl, who may end up being a more memorable villain in the long term, but is also almost cartoonishly evil. Also of note is Eva Green, who gives her all in a rather awful movie (300: Rise of an Empire) and even chews up the screen in a movie not nominated that I just caught up with: Sin City: A Dame to Kill For) (another terrible and unnecessary sequel). To the extent that these two movies are watchable, it's almost entirely due to Eva Green's fearless performances. Someone needs to give her a real vehicle.
  • Best Hero/Badass: Rita, played by Emily Blunt in Edge of Tomorrow. This was an difficult choice, and I kept bouncing between Rita, John Wick, and M. Gustave. In truth, I do think that the character of Rita gets a bit of short shrift in the end, but she's just so great all the way through and I think that's primarily due to Emily Blunt's performance. Also, she uses a helicopter blade as a weapon, which is totally badass.
    Rita
    As much as I enjoyed John Wick and as cromulent as Keanu Reeves is in the part, there's nothing there we haven't seen before. As for Ralph Fiennes, well, we'll get to him in a moment. And the other nominees here were no slouch. Godzilla has many flaws as a film, but the titular monster is not one of them and really saved the movie for me. I love Groot, but it's hard to single out any individual member of the Guardians of the Galaxy for this award. Miss Duan would have been an interesting choice, but her character takes some weird turns, as does Journey to the West in general. Still, Rita takes it.
  • Best Comedic Performance: M. Gustave, played by Ralph Fiennes in The Grand Budapest Hotel. A big upset here, seeing as though I didn't even bother to nominate Fiennes for this award last week. However, I definitely meant to (and thought I did!) and catching some of Grand Budapest on TV this week really cemented it. It seems that write-in votes have a much better chance when only one person is voting. The problem with the nominees is that they tend to be part of a larger ensemble, and while fantastic, they don't quite have the singular quality that this award implies. Fiennes performance is truly a masterclass, and hysterically funny to boot, so he takes it. Of the other nominees, I was thinking Channing Tatum, Jason Bateman, or James Franco, and thankfully, I don't have to actually make that choice. Phew.
  • Breakthrough Performance: Jillian Bell in 22 Jump Street. This is always a weird award, but I'm giving it to Bell for her scene stealing performance opposite Jonah Hill. A small part, to be sure, but she shows great promise and wonderful comedic timing. Runner up would be Dave Bautista for Guardians of the Galaxy, who was just so unexpected. Chris Pratt also worth a mention, though I guess he'd been breaking through in smaller roles for a while now. Also of note, a bevy of performances Gone Girl that were great and forced me to hit up IMDB to see what all these great actors have been doing. Unfortunately, the breadth of options split the votes between Gone Girl nominees, so they couldn't win.
  • Most Visually Stunning: Under the Skin. And not just because it stars Scarlett Johansson in a revealing part. My preference for this award trends more towards well photographed movies than special effects extravaganzas, which is what befell Interstellar and maybe The Lego Movie. Still lots to choose from though, and all the nominees are rather gorgeous, in their way.
    Under the Skin
    I just wanted to throw Under the Skin some love now, as it's a movie I respect but don't particularly love (and the visuals are what kept my attention, despite the movie being way too long for its content).
  • Best Sci-Fi or Horror Film: Coherence and The One I Love (Tie). A pretty good crop of nominees this year, and I really just couldn't decide between these two low-budget SF(ish) films (Both highly recommended for SF fans). Funny, because this year boasted a few high-budget blockbusters, something that doesn't normally happen in this category. In the end, had to go with my gut on this one.
  • Best Sequel/Reboot: Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Man, this category is unusually strong this year. I often find that comic book series often have a great second film, and Captain America really delivered in that respect.
    The Cap and Black Widow, just chillin
    The rest of the nominees were also rather good, with special mention to Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, mostly because I really didn't care for the first movie (it was fine, but I didn't get the love for it).
  • Biggest Disappointment: How to Train Your Dragon 2. A funny choice, because I think I like this better than all the other nominees. The thing with this award, though, is that it's a game of expectations. I didn't expect Spider Man 2 to be anything special, so while it was still mildy disappointing (because it's not like I wanted it to be as bad as it was), it didn't provide quite as much of a problem because my expectations just weren't that high. But I really, really grew to love the first How to Train Your Dragon (thanks to frequent cable airings at some point), so I was much more crestfallen by the sequel, even though it was "fine" in most respects.
  • Best Action Sequences: The Raid 2: Berandal. Duh. Though honorable mentions go to The Winter Soldier for a few great, varied sequences, Fury for what may be the best tank battles on film (a pity the rest of the movie doesn't live up to that), and John Wick for just being generally badass (I feel bad that I'm shutting it out in the awards so far, so perhaps we'll see something in the Arbitrary Awards for this sucker).
  • Best Plot Twist/Surprise: Gone Girl. Always a tricky award to talk about, as I don't really want to give anything away (is just nominating a movie for an award a spoiler in itself? I sure hope not!) This movie, though, really kept me on my toes. Even when I had a decent handle on what would happen, something else that was unexpected would happen. Other nominees were good too, will refrain from spoilers. You should totally watch them all.
  • Best High Concept Film: The Lego Movie and Boyhood (Tie). It's unbelievable that The Lego Movie turned out to be this fantastic, sticking to its gimmick when it comes to the animation, but then doing other interesting and playful things with the narrative that were completely unexpected (and yes, high concept). Boyhood is a movie I have a tremendous amount of respect for due to the gimmick at its heart: it was filmed over the course of 12 years with the same actors. This way of capturing the passage of time over years is rare and impressive, but the reason I can't just give the award to Boyhood is that I just didn't particularly enjoy the movie. I know, I know, I'm the worst. I do want to recognize the effort though... Also, I probably should have nominated Birdman for this category, even if I don't think I'd give it the win (don't worry, it'll get some love in the Arbitrary Awards).
  • 2014's 2013 Movie of the Year: The Way Way Back. One of the many coming-of-age tales that peppered 2013's movie landscape, this was a really enjoyable variation on the theme (and actually better than several of the others I saw that year). Frozen comes in a close second place in the voting, but alas...
And there you have it! Stay tuned for the Arbitrary Awards and (eventually) a top 10 of 2014...
Posted by Mark on January 25, 2015 at 03:45 PM .: Comments (0) | link :.


End of this day's posts

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Hugo Award Season 2014
It's that time of year again. The Hugo Award Nomination Period has begun, and of course, all the requisite whining has begun. People whining about Awards Eligibility Posts, people whining about politics, people whining about the people whining about politics. And wonder of wonders, some people are actually talking about books they like, compiling lists of things to check out before nominations close, or coming up with thorough models to predict who will get a nomination this year. How revolutionary. I'll do my best to focus on same, but I'm sure I'll be sucked into some controversy or other.

Last year, I was a little gunshy about participating in the nomination process. This was mostly due to the fact that I hadn't really read a comprehensive selection of 2013 books or stories. It was also before I realized that some people don't bother reading all the nominees before voting or nominate things for purely ideological reasons. I also realized that I was very nearly one of the two votes that could have put Lauren Beukes's excellent time travel serial killer novel The Shining Girls on the ballot. This year, I won't claim to have read particularly deep into the catalog, but I read more than I did last time and there are definitely some stories I would like to nominate. My current nomination ballot, some thoughts on same, and some things I'd like to read before I finalize my ballot are below. Knock yourself out. Comments are still wonky, so if you have any recommendations, feel free to email me at mciocco at gmail or hit me up on twitter @mciocco (or @kaedrinbeer if you're a lush).

Best Novel: All three are kinda longshots. A Darkling Sea has the best chance to make it, as there is at least some minimal buzz surrounding it. A Sword Into Darkness is self-published and not typical Hugo material, but I really enjoyed it (and not for nothing, but there's a fair chance it would make the Sad Puppies slate, which could improve its chances). The Martian suffers from eligibility issues - it was self published in 2012, then snapped up by a publisher and put into fancy editions and audio books in 2014 (where it has sold extremely well). General consensus seems to be that it will not be eligible, but I think there are a few things going for it. One is that self-published works that get bought up by a real publisher and come out a year or two later have made it onto the ballot before (an example that comes to mind is Scalzi's Old Man's War, which was self-published in 2003 or 2004, after which it was promptly bought up by Tor and republished in 2005, garnering a Hugo nomination in 2006). Another is that I've heard that version published in 2014 has some differences from the self-published version, but I have not confirmed that (and it's very possible that this is not true), which might call some things into question. In any case, unless someone official makes a definitive statement about The Martian being ineligible, I plan to include it on my ballot.

Best Novelette?
  • Atmosphæra Incognita by Neal Stephenson (from Hieroglyph)
  • A Hotel in Antarctica by Geoffrey Landis (from Hieroglyph)
Here's the thing with short fiction, I think it's pretty easy to tell the difference between a short story and a novella and a novel, but when you throw novelette into the mix, it becomes much less intuitive. I'm pretty sure the above two stories are long enough to be a Novelette, but I'm not positive. Also, you'll be seeing a lot of Hieroglyph in the nominations today. Hopefully I'll be able to pad this out with some other sources of short fiction as time goes on. Also, maybe I'll find a novella or two!

Best Short Story:
  • Periapsis by James L. Cambias (from Hieroglyph)
  • Covenant by Elizabeth Bear (from Hieroglyph)
  • The Day It All Ended by Charlie Jane Anders (from Hieroglyph)
This is a a pretty good list here, and I'm reasonably certain that at least one will come close (Covenant seems to have some buzz). I will most certainly be checking out additional short stories though, so hopefully I can find some more nominees.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: While I don't claim comprehensive selection in my reading, I'm much closer when it comes to film. Alas, I'm pretty sure my two favorite nominees (Coherence and The One I Love) will not make the cut, and the one I'm most ambivalent about (Interstellar) seems to be a shoe-in. I also wouldn't be surprised if movies I didn't care for do well, notably Snowpiercer.

Again, comments are still wonky on here right now, so if you have any recommendations, feel free to email me at mciocco at gmail or hit me up on twitter @mciocco (or @kaedrinbeer if you're a lush).

I think we'll leave it there for now and revisit some other categories or perhaps some stuff I want to read next week. Until then, happy nominating.
Posted by Mark on January 21, 2015 at 11:19 PM .: Comments (0) | link :.


End of this day's posts

Sunday, January 18, 2015

2014 Kaedrin Movie Awards
Only a few weeks late this year, I've done a much better job keeping up than the past couple years. As of right now, I've seen 75 movies that could be considered a 2014 release (as per usual, there are borderline cases where, for instance, a 2013 movie sneaks onto the list because it only played festivals or foreign markets in that year and wasn't really available for me to watch). More than your typical moviegoer, but probably significantly less than your typical critic. But I caught up with a significant portion of that list in the past month or so, and am finally able to commence the ninth annual Kaedrin Movie Awards. [Previous Installments here: 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013]

Same general rules apply: Must be a 2014 release (with caveats mentioned above) and I obviously have to have seen the movie (and while I have seen a lot of movies, I don't pretend to have seen a comprehensive selection). Standard disclaimers about subjectivity and personal preference, because who wants to live in a world where we all liked the same stuff for the same reasons? That would be a boring world. So let's get to it:

Best Villain/Badass
It often feels like a given year can only have great villains or great heroes, but not both. For instance, last year was a terrible year for villainy (and a rather good one for heroism). Not so this year! I had no problem populating both categories, and there's some solid choices on both lists. As with previous years, my picks in this category are limited to individuals, not groups (i.e. no vampires or zombies as a general menace, etc...) Best Hero/Badass
As mentioned above, this was a good year for heroism too, perhaps a slight overmatch for the villainy, but that's the way these things should work. Again limited to individuals and not groups (so I only grabbed one Guardian of the Galaxy, even if I liked the whole group!) Best Comedic Performance
This category gets tougher every year and I find I need to just pick an individual from an ensemble that is representative of the movie. Perhaps I should just bite the bullet and change this to Comedic Ensemble or something. That being said, lots to choose from this year: Breakthrough Performance
Always an interesting category to populate, I feel like the big actor showcases this year were all about people I was already very familiar with (notably something like Birdman). As with previous years, my main criteria for this category was if I watched a movie, then immediately looking up the actor/actress on IMDB to see what else they've done (or where they came from). This can sometimes even happen for a long established actor, so yes, I already know who Tyler Perry was, but I didn't know he was doing stuff like this. Yes, the criteria is vague, but the fun of these awards is that they're supposed to be idiosyncratic and weird: Most Visually Stunning
Sometimes even bad movies can look really great... and we've got a pretty interesting mix of stuff this year. Indeed, this category is downright stuffed: Best Sci-Fi or Horror Film
I like to give a little love to my favorite genres, hence this category. When I started this category, I always had trouble finding good SF movies, so I had to pad out the category with horror. But we've seen a big flourish in independent, micro-budget SF over the past few years, such that SF is kinda leading the charge these days. Best Sequel/Reboot
Usually a very difficult category to populate, I had no problems at all this year. Biggest Disappointment
A surprisingly difficult category to populate. Usually, I can think of a few additional movies that would fit, and it's not like there weren't a bunch of movies I saw that I didn't enjoy, I just wasn't expecting much of those movies so I couldn't really be that disappointed... Interestingly, they're all sequels, and most of them aren't really that bad, they were just disappointing. Best Action Sequences
This award isn't for individual action sequences, but rather an overall estimation of each film, and it's been a rather fantastic year for action movies... Best Plot Twist/Surprise
Well, I suppose even listing nominees here constitutes something of a spoiler, but it's a risk we'll have to take, right? Best High Concept Film
This is always a strange category to populate because the idea itself is a bit nebulous, but nevertheless, there are always a few interesting choices... 2014's 2013 Movie of the Year
This category gets more difficult every year, but there are some good choices this year, and I'm definitely going to have a couple good options next year... So it looks like Guardians of the Galaxy and The Lego Movie are leading the way with 5 nominations apiece, followed closely by Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Gone Girl, and Inherent Vice with 4 nominations. And the list expands as we go from there (5 movies with 3 noms, 8 with 2, and even more with just a single nod). So I'm going to noodle these nominations for a week and announce the winners next Sunday, followed by the traditional Arbitrary Awards and hopefullly, a full top 10 list for 2014. This should be all wrapped up before the Oscars, which I guess I'll be live-tweeting or something again this year. Stay tuned!
Posted by Mark on January 18, 2015 at 11:01 AM .: Comments (0) | link :.


End of this day's posts

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Weird Movie of the Week
Last time on Weird Movie of the Week, we covered a touching tale of dolphin assassins. Today, we tackle The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T.
Young Bart Collins, lulled to sleep by the monotony of his piano lessons, dreams of a castle ruled by his piano teacher, the eccentric Dr. Teriwilliker. Dr. T is determined to prove that his "Happy Fingers Method" of teaching piano is the best method in the world. Having banished all other musical instruments to the dungeon, Dr. T lures 500 reluctant little boys to perform in a colossal concert on the grandest grand piano ever built. In his effort to escape, Bart comes in contact with some of the strangest characters imaginable - Siamese twins on roller skates, a human drum and the most memorable villian since the "Grinch". Filled with surreal landscapes and tongue-twisting rhymes, for which Dr. Seuss is famous, this is a movie children and their parents will love to watch again and again.
Or, you know, not. Audiences at the time apparently didn't, as this was a colossal bomb. Still, it boasts a screenplay by Theodor Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss), even if he pretty much disowned the film and made quippy remarks like "As to who was most responsible for this debaculous fiasco, I will have nothing more to say until all the participants have passed away, including myself."

Also of note to eagle-eyed Simpsons fans is the fact that the name Teriwilliker was lifted from this film to be used as Sideshow Bob's last name. And we all know that Bart is Sideshow Bob's nemesis, just as this movie's Bart is Dr. T's nemesis. It's amazing to me that I'm still, after 25 years, unpacking references made by The Simpsons.
Posted by Mark on January 14, 2015 at 11:26 PM .: Comments (0) | link :.


End of this day's posts

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Public Domain
I got curious about the Public Domain recently and was surprised by what I found. On the first day of each year, Public Domain Day celebrates the moment when copyrights expire, enter the Public Domain, and join their brethren, such as the plays of Shakespeare, the music of Mozart, and the books of Dickens. Once in the Public Domain, a work can be freely copied, remixed, translated into other languages, and adapted into stage plays, movies, or other media, free from restrictions. Because they are free to use, they can live on in perpetuity.

Of course, rights are based on jurisdiction, so not all countries will benefit equally every year. In 2015, our neighbors up north in Canada celebrated the entrance of the writings of Rachel Carlson, Ian Fleming, and Flannery O'Connor to the Public Domain (along with hundreds of others). I'd be curious how a James Bond movie made in Canada would fare here in the U.S., as they now have the right to make such a movie. Speaking of the U.S., how many works do you think entered our Public Domain this year?

Not a single published work will enter the Public Domain this year. Next year? Nope! In fact, no published work will enter the Public Domain until 2019. This is assuming that Congress does not, once again, extend the Copyright term even longer than it is now (which is currently the Author's lifetime plus 70 years) - which is how we ended up in this situation in the first place.

I've harped on this sort of thing before, so I won't belabor the point. I was just surprised that the Public Domain was so dead in the United States. Even works that gained notoriety for being accidentally let into the public domain, like It's a Wonderful Life, are being clamped down on. Ironically, It's a Wonderful Life only became famous once it was in the Public Domain and thus free to televise (frequent airings led to popularity). In the 1990s, the original copyright holder seized on some obscure court precedents and reasserted their rights based on the original musical score and the short story on which the film was based. The details of this are unclear, but the result is clear as crystal: it's not aired on TV very often anymore because NBC says they have exclusive rights (and they only air it a couple times a year) and derivative works, like a planned sequel, are continually blocked.

I don't know of a solution, but I did want to reflect on what the year could have brought us. There goes my plans for a Vertigo remake!
Posted by Mark on January 11, 2015 at 01:52 PM .: Comments (0) | link :.


End of this day's posts

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Link Dump
Random stuff found whilst spelunking the depths of the internets: And that's all for now. Proceed.
Posted by Mark on January 07, 2015 at 10:28 PM .: Comments (0) | link :.


End of this day's posts

Sunday, January 04, 2015

The Year in Books
According to the Gregorian calendar, the earth has completed yet another orbit around the sun, and thus Earthlings like myself are prone to reflect on the previous orbital period or somesuch. I'm still catching up with 2014 movies (as per usual), but expect the annual Movie Awards season to start shortly. I just posted about my year in beer, so now it's time to take a look at what I read this year. I keep track of my book reading at Goodreads, and they have some fancy statistic generator things that are pretty cool, especially since I now have 5 years worth of reading tracked on the site (though, of course, I'd love to see more details).

First up, let's take a look at overall books read:
Overall Books Read in 2014
So I read 46 books in 2014, significantly more than 2013, but less than my record of 50. There is a bit of a distortion here due to the fact that I was following along with the Hugo Awards this year, so a lot of the "books" are actually short stories, novelettes, or novellas (breakdown below). Cheating? Well, I've certainly done similar things in the past two years, so while it's probably above par, it's not completely ridiculous. Also, it appears that I made up for those shorter stories by reading stories that were significantly longer because my total pages read is the highest ever:
Number of Pages Read in 2014
Significantly more than 2013, but eking out 2012 by just a few hundred pages. Of course, it is tricky to measure your reading by page numbers, but this is basically the most I've read in a year (since I've been keeping track, at least - I'm sure I read more during my schooling days). So anecdotal evidence over the past few years seems to indicate that I read more when I include a lot of shorter material in my literary diet. I'll have to try that out again this year, which should go similarly since my Hugo membership also applies to 2015... Anywho, let's break down the books a bit more:
Longest Book and Book Breakdown
So The Eye of the World takes the honor of longest book, which is not as long as a few books I read in 2013, but at 800 pages, is no slouch. Hitting the runner up (I think) is Edmund Morris' biography of Theodore Roosevelt, Theodore Rex (772 pages).

You can also see the breakout of types of book I read:
  • 1 Comic Book (a volume of Locke & Key, which I should really get around to finishing up at some time)
  • 2 Short Stories (though it looks like 2 of the short stories I read for the Hugos were not listed on Goodreads, so I guess the numbers aren't as inflated by this as they may seem)
  • 11 Novellas (also includes Novelettes, because who makes that distinction anymore?) This is the greatest increase from previous years, and takes up a larger chunk of the pie normally reserved for Non-Fiction.
  • 5 Non-Fiction books (which is significantly lower than the past couple years, probably due to my Hugo run)
  • 8 Books written by women (which is a decrease from last year any way you measure it. (Note that this does not include anthologies, but even then, it's still low))
  • 41 Fiction books (probably even more SF/F than in previous years due to my Hugo run)
Goodreads also provides a neat little gizmo that graphs publication dates, which now looks like this:
Books Read by Publication Date
The oldest book of the year was the 1974 The Mote in God's Eye, certainly not as old as I normally go, but again, as you can see in the graph, there were a lot of 2013 and 2014 books in there because of my Hugo run. I'm guessing something similar will happen in 2015 if I follow the Hugos again.

So it's been a pretty good year for reading. I certainly did better than last year, though I did find that the Hugo Awards process distorted things perhaps a bit too much. I enjoyed the exercise, and since my membership still applies, I will most likely follow along again in 2015, but I don't know that I will be paying as close of attention in the following years unless this year's Hugos really knock my socks off. It's a good thing to read outside your comfort zone, but at the same time, I didn't particularly love many of the books/stories on last year's ballot. We shall see, I suppose. In the meantime, I've got plenty of stuff to read, so stay tuned.
Posted by Mark on January 04, 2015 at 12:48 PM .: Comments (0) | link :.


End of this day's posts



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