Sunday, November 10, 2019

This Mess With ChiZine

My novel Napier's Bones was published a number of years ago by ChiZine. It sold well, and I saw a decent amount of money from it, for a small press. Like lots of other authors, apparently, I often had to go digging for that money, and I did bring it up with two other authors over time. Once in person at a convention, and that was greeted with a shrug, a "Whaddaya gonna do?" The second time was via email, and I was told they were having the same problem.

But I would push, and get a response, and eventually see the money. Or at least some of the money. But every time a promise was made, that promise was broken, and I would have to push again.

I realize now I should have yanked the book. I had considered doing so a couple of times, but in both instances money arrived and I let the thought fade away.

I live a different life than a lot of other authors. I work a full-time blue collar job, my wife has an excellent academic career, and we have two adult sons, one we just finished putting through university, the other in his 3rd year. We are not wealthy, but we do just fine, thank you. Starving artist I ain't.

I also spent two or three years seriously considering giving up on this writing biz altogether. Frustration, not just with ChiZine but also with certain other people and groups had conspired to leave me exhausted and disinterested. Time spent as the Canadian Regional Director and then publicity director for SFWA and newsletter editor and then president of SF Canada soured me on groups and groupthink, I stopped attending conventions, dropped a whole shitload of Facebook friends and contacts (many of them have sought me out afterward, and that's just fine).

All this is to explain I had no contact with the "whisper network," did not even know such a network existed.

I need to tell you something else. Before we each got married to our respective spouses, many years ago, Sandra from ChiZine and I had a brief romantic relationship, although mostly long distance. It didn't end badly, it just... ended. My view of this may therefore be considered by some to be skewed, and that's fair.

So I'm not going to badmouth people for things I did not witness, and I'm not going to share stories about anything I did experience, because I don't think they are important to this situation. I will note however that there are many editors and publishers and authors who fall into the category of asshole, and if that was all this was there really wouldn't be anything there.

But it isn't, and aside from my own issues, I believe the people who have come forward. And it breaks my damn heart to see people I knew and liked back in the day having been put through so much.

I also frustrates me - not, I should note, to the level of being pissed off, since we all deal with these traumas in our own way - that I didn't know. That none of these people ever thought to mention any of this to me, or that they were afraid if they did so I would sell them out.

As if the years I spent working hard for them and their rights meant nothing.

But those days were long years ago, and maybe everyone forgot what I once did. Hell, sometimes I forget, it's been so long. And if I knew it was happening to me, then probably I should have opened my eyes and assumed it was happening to others.

What's done is done, though. I've asked for and received an accounting of the year's royalties, but the immediate response I got was followed by silence when I pointed out a possible discrepancy. I will give it a few more days before deciding what the next step will be.

One more thing: A certain review site came on Twitter and blasted CZP and the complicit authors (and really, I have no idea how many there might be, because I really still am out of touch) but worded it thus: "Chizine seems to be rife with shady practices, and vile authors..."

I called them out on this, suggesting this sounded like they were happy to lump all CZP authors in with this group, and was told I was "nit picking a badly worded phrase" and I should "excuse the phrasing."

Oh, and that they had "never even heard of" me.

Here's the thing. I had never heard of them, either, but that wasn't important. This is a big tent, unruly and bursting at the seams but always growing larger nonetheless, and we're not going to know everybody. But unless someone has done wrong by you or your compatriots, there is no need to shit on them.

So for those few people who lived the tweets this review site wrote in response to me, I will remember. It's not a threat, nothing with meat on it, just self-preservation. If I ever do attend a con again and we find ourselves in the same space I will just walk away, cause no scene, just ghost. Because life is too short, you know?

Late addendum: Here's a link that helps explain much of what has gone on.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Books! We Have Books!

I am weeding books in preparation for downsizing and am therefore tossing them up here first for sale (such as it is). I've divided them in science fiction/fantasy/horror (SF/F), regular fiction (F), non-fiction (NF), comic-related (C), and advance reader's copies (ARC).

They're listed by category and then title, with the author name following, because I started that way and don't feel like backing up to fix it.

I don't list condition. If that's an issue for you, let me know. If someone contacts me about a book and I notice something, I will let them know. A few books will be remainders, and I will note that when asked about the title.

Hardcovers, $2 each, trade paperbacks $1 each, mass market 25 cents. Oversized books will depend on what it is, but some will be in that range. Buy 6 for the price of 5. If you don't live in Saskatoon we will discuss mailing costs, depending on how many you want and how you want them sent.

Contact me at

Also, the types of books are:

HC - hardcover
TP - trade paperback
MM - mass market paperback
OS - oversized


Throne of the Crescent Moon MM - Saladin Ahmed
Company Town TP - Madeline Ashby
The New Hugo Winners Vol II HC - ed. Isaac Asimov
Ship Breaker HC - Paolo Bacigalupi
Real Unreal: Best American Fantasy Vol. 3 TP - ed. Kevin Brockmeier
Summerland HC - Michael Chabon
Crank Autumn 1994 TP - ed. Bryan Cholfin
Tesseracts 8 HC - ed. John Clute and Candas Jane Dorsey
The Invisible Library TP - Genevieve Cogman
Tesseracts 15 TP - ed. Julie Czerneda and Susan MacGregor
The Silent HC - Jack Dann
Vanishing Acts HC - ed. Ellen Datlow
Adventures in Unhistory HC - Avram Davidson
The Strain MM - Guillermo De Toro and Chuck Hogan
Valis TP - Philip K. Dick
The Steampunk Trilogy HC - Paul DiFilippo
The Word of God TP - Thomas M. Disch
Vellum TP - Hal Duncan
Again, Dangerous Visions 2 MM - ed Harlan Ellison
Edgeworks 1: Over the Edge, An Edge in My Voice HC - Harlan Ellison
The Demon Redcoat MM - CC Finlay
The Patriot Witch MM - CC Finlay
A Spell For the Revolution MM - CC Finlay
The Graveyard Book HC - Neil Gaiman
The Ocean at the End of the Lane HC - Neil Gaiman
Gravity Wells TP - James Alan Gardner
Spook Country HC - William Gibson
The Road to Science Fiction 32 MM - James Gunn
Bored of the Rings MM - Harvard Lampoon
Starlight 2 HC - ed. Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Guardian of the Dead TP - Karen Healey
The Fireman TP - Joe Hill
Northern Frights 3 TP - ed. Don Hutchison
Northern Frights 5 HC - ed. Don Hutchison
Deepdrive HC - Alexander Jablokov
Tesseracts 7 HC - ed. Paula Johanson and Jean-Louis Trudel
Lady Cottington’s Pressed Fairy Book HC - Terry Jones and Brian Froud
Sandman Slim MM - Richard Kadrey
The Moon and the Other HC - John Kessel
Bag of Bones HC - Stephen King
The Outsider HC - Stephen King
Under the Dome HC - Stephen King
Logorrhea TP - ed John Klima
The Wind’s Twelve Quarters TP - Ursula K. Le Guin
North of Infinity TP - ed. Micheal Magnini
Counting Heads HC - David Marusek
Evolution’s Shore TP - Ian McDonald
Mission Child HC - Maureen F. McHugh
Nekropolis TP - Maureen F. McHugh
The Moon and the Sun HC - Vonda N. McIntyre
Perdido Street Station TP - China Mieville
Railsea TP - China Mieville
The Scar TP - China Mieville
Nebula Awards 28 TP - ed. James Morrow
Victory of Eagles HC - Victory of Eagles
Who Fears Death TP - Nnedi Okorafor
On Spec magazine TP - #s 73, 76, 80-89, 91-94, 96-98, 101, 102, 104, 106, 108, 109
The Stress of Her Regard MM - Tim Powers
The Colour of Magic MM - Terry Pratchett
Boneshaker TP - Cherie Priest
The Gold Coast: Three Californias TP - Kim Stanley Robinson
Unconquered Countries HC - Geoff Ryman
Was TP - Geoff Ryman
Nebula Awards 29 HC - ed. Pamela Sargent
Crossing the Line TP - ed. Robert J Sawyer and David Skene-Melvin
The Crook Factory HC - Dan Simmons
Drood HC - Dan Simmons
Lovedeath HC - Dan Simmons
The Terror TP - Dan Simmons
Gray Lensman TP - EE “Doc” Smith
The Servants TP - Michael Marshall Smith
Arkwright HC - Allen Steele
Coyote MM - Allen Stele
Spindrift MM - Allen Steele
Distraction HC - Bruce Sterling
Anathem HC - Neal Stephenson
Cryptonomicon HC - Neal Stephenson
The Diamond Age HC - Neal Stephenson
Photographing Fairies TP - Steve Szilagyi
Defining Diana TP - Hayden Trenholm
Deathless HC - Catherynne M. Valente
Annihilation TP - Jeff Vandermeer
Fast Ships, Black Sails TP - ed. Ann and Jeff Vandermeer
Journey to the Centre of the Earth TP - Jules Verne
Reluctant Voyagers HC - Elisabeth Vonarburg
Farthing MM - Jo Walton
Ha’Penny MM - Jo Walton
The Just City HC - Jo Walton 
The Philosopher Kings HC - Jo Walton
Spin HC - Robert Charles Wilson
Who Censored Roger Rabbit? MM - Gary Wolf
Home Fires HC - Gene Wolfe
Soldier of Arete HC - Gene Wolfe
Soldier of the Mist MM - Gene Wolfe

Nebula Awards 22 TP - ed. George Zebrowski


The Fool’s Progress: An Honest Novel TP - Edward Abbey
Big Trouble HC - Dave Barry
The Further Adventures of Halley’s Comet TP - John Calvin Batchelor
A New Anthology of Canadian Literature in English TP - ed. Donna Bennett and Russell Brown
If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller TP - Italo Calvino
Time & the Hunter TP - Italo Calvino
Bliss P - Peter Carey
Murther & Walking Spirits HC - Robertson Davies
Pady Clarke Ha Ha Ha HC - Roddy Doyle
The Woman Who Walked Into Doors HC - Roddy Doyle
Stones HC - Timothy Findley
The Telling of Lies HC - Timothy Findley
Five Canadian Plays TP
The Collector TP - John Fowles
Cherry Blossoms TP - Wes Funk (signed, for some reason, to Angela
Caleb Williams TP - William Godwin
Swan Lake OS HC - Mark Helprin, ill. Chris Van Allsburg
The Blessing Way MM - Tony Hillerman
Coyote Waits HC - Tony Hillerman
Dance Hall of the Dead MM - Tony Hillerman
The Fallen Man HC - Tony Hillerman
Finding Moon HC - Tony Hillerman
Sacred Clowns HC - Tony Hillerman
Round Rock TP - Michelle Huneven
The Ha-Ha TP - Dave King
No Great Mischief TP - Alistair MacLeod
News From a Foreign Country Came HC - Alberto Manguel
Counterpoint TP - Marie Moser
The River Beyond the World TP - Janet Peery
A Concert of Voices: An Anthology of World Writing in English TP - ed. Victor J. Ramraj
Wide Sargasso Sea TP - Jean Rhys
Beautiful Joe MM - Marshall Saunders
Star Wars: The New Essential Guide to Alien Species TP
Star Wars: The New Essential Chronology TP
Star Wars: The New Essential Guide to Vehicles & Vessels TP
Restoration HC - Rose Tremain
Waiting For Columbus HC - Thomas Trofimuk
The Night of the Moonbow HC - Thomas Tryon
The Forest Laird MM - Jack Whyte
Winters’ Tales TP - Jonathan Winters
A Man Jumps Ou of an Airplane Wearing Dad’s Head TP - Barry Yourgrau


Down the River TP - Edward Abbey
Spoken Here TP - Mark Abley
The Life That Lives on Man MM - Michael Andrews
The Tomb of God HC - Richard Andrews and Paul Schellenberger
The Last River HC - Todd Balf
National Geographic Dinosaurs OS HC - Paul Barrett
On a Cold Road TP - Dave Bidini
Tropic of Hockey TP - Dave Bidini
Writing on Gordon Lightfoot HC - Dave Bidini
The Universe Below HC - William J Broad
The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs TP - Steve Brusatte
Scholastic Canada Book of Lists TP - ed. James Buckley, Jr. et al 
The Day the Universe Changed TP - Jams Burke
L. Ron Hubbard: Messiah or Madman? HC - Bent Corydon and L. Ron Hubbard, Jr.
A Beginner’s Guider to Drawing Comic, Caricatures & Cartoon Strips TP - Peter Coupe
Creative Source Sixth Annual Edition HC
Toally Useless Skills TP - Rick Davis
The Greatest Show on Earth HC - Richard Dawkins
The Magic of Reality HC - Richard Dawkins ill. Dave McKean
Roman Aromas: Smelly Old History TP - Mary Dobson
Victorian Vapours: Smelly Old History TP - Mary Dobson
A Critical and Cultural Theory Reader TP - ed. Antony Easthope and Kate McGowan
More Joy of Photography TP - Eastman Kodak
In the Empire of Ice HC - Gretel Ehrlich
The Miner’s Canary HC - Niles Eldredge
An Edge in My Voice TP - Harlan Ellison
Witchcraft Oracles and Magic Among the Azande TP - EE Evans-Pritchard
Mysterious Monsters HC - Daniel Farson & Angus Hall
Virtual Clearcut HC - Brian Fawcett
The Adventure of Nature Photography TP - Tim Fitzharris
Bad Trips TP - Keath Fraser
The Fighting Fisherman HC - Raymond Fraser
Gone to New York HC - Ian Frazier
Hogs Wild HC - Ian Frazier
The Big New Yorker Book of Dogs OS HC - intro Malcolm Gladwell
The Tipping Point HC - Malcolm Gladwell
Wait Till Next Year HC - William Goldman and Mike Lupica
The Panda’s Thumb MM - Stephen Jay Gould
Victoria: A History in Photographs TP - Peter Grant
Schrodinger’s Kittens and the Search for Reality HC - John Gribbin
Marley and Me HC Illustrated edition - John Grogan
The New Comics TP - ed. Gary Groth and Robert Fiore
The Worst Rock n’ Roll Records of All Time TP - Jimmy Gutterman & Owen O’Donnell
Walking With Dinosaurs OS HC - Tim Haines
Scottish Myths & Legends TP - Judy Hamilton
Victorian and Edwardian Photographs HC - Margaret F. Harker
Stigmata HC - Ted Harrison
Paper Dinosaurs HC - David Hawcock
The Art of Color Photography TP - John Hedgecoe
Going Too Far HC - Tony Hendra
Mysteries of Magic HC - Stuart Holroyd & Neil Powell
Alberta: A History in Photographs TP - Faye Holt
The Fatal Shore HC - Robert Hughes
On the Sky HC - Robert Hunter
Talk Talk Talk HC - Jay Ingram
The Guinea Pig Diaries HC - AJ Jacobs
The Know-It-All TP - AJ Jacobs 
To See Every Bird of Earth
Flu HC - Gina Kolata
Mapping the Deep TP - Robert Kunzig
Cod TP - Mark Kurlansky
Religion Inc. HC - Stewart Lamont
The Black Book of English Canada TP - Normand Lester
The Missionaries:God Against the Indians TP - Norman Lewis
The Golden Ratio TP - Mario Livio
Rest in Pieces TP - Bess Lovejoy
Operation Mincemeat TP - Ben MacIntyre
Stolen Words TP - Thomas Mallon
A History of Reading HC - Alberto Manguel
Measuring the Earth With a Stick HC - Bob McDonald
How to Photograph Sports & Action TP - Robert McQuilkin
Mexico City: The Monocle Travel Guide HC
Bare-Faced Messiah HC - Russell Miller
Worldwalk MM - Steven M Newman
The Norton Anthology of English Literature: The Romantic Period Vol. 2A 7th ed.
Daddy Cool TP - Hugh O’Neill
Holidays in Hell HC - PJ O’Rourke
Apocalypse Culture TP - ed. Adam Parfrey
Red or Dead TP - David Peace
Watch the Skies! HC - Curtis Peebles
The Diary of Samuel Pepys 1660 TP - Samuel Pepys
Do Not Sell at Any Price TP - Amanda Petrusich
The Best of Photojournalism/9 TP
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance MM - Robert M Pirsig
Insect-Opedia HC - Hugh Raffles
The Mask of Nostradamus HC - James Randi
A Fire on the Mountains HC - Oakland Ross
Imaginary Homelands HC - Salman Rushdie
The 34-Ton Bat HC - Steve Rushin
The Lemur’s Legacy HC - Robert Jay Russell, PH.D.
The Paradox of Choice TP - Barry Schwartz
holidays on ice HC - David Sedaris
The Nature Photographer’s Complete Guide to Professional Field Techniques TP - John Shaw
Why People Believe Weird Things HC - Michael Shermer
Galileo’s Daughter TP - Dava Sobel
The Planets HC - Dava Sobel
Unmasking the Forger: The Dossena Deception HC - David Sox
Travels With Charley MM - John Steinbeck
Britannia: 100 Documents That Shaped a Nation HC - Graham Stewart
Light Elements TP - Judith Stone
The Great Divide HC - Studs Terkel
Eats Shoots & Leaves HC - Lynne Truss
The Cat’s Pajamas TP - Tad Tuleja
Perennial Gardening Guide TP - John M. Valleau
Lafayette in the Somewhat United States - Sarah Vowell 
Five Minute Challenge #1 TP - Ken Weber
Consilience HC - Edward O. Wilson
Pumping Ions TP - Tom Wujec


Classic Illustrated Through the Looking Glass TP - Kyle Baker
Orbiter HC - Warren Ellis, Collen Doran, David Stewart
Beowulf TP - based on the Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary screenplay
Marvel 1602 TP - Neil Gaiman, Andy Kubert, Richard Isanove
Great Expectations TP - Rick Geary
Bayou Vol. 1 TP - Jeremy Love
In Your Face TP - Doug Marlette
Mr. Gazoo TP - Tom Toles
Doonesbury: The Original Yale Cartoons TP - Garry Trudeau
Mage: The Hero Discoverd V-two OS TP - Matt Wagner
The Raven and Other Poems TP - Gahan Wilson

Monday, December 31, 2018

The Movies of 2018

I did not see anywhere near the number of movies this past year I've seen in previous years. In 2017 I saw 74 movies, 34 on the big screen. In 2018, I only saw 61, 23 in the theatre. I will note I saw Lady Bird on January 1, but had included it in my 2017 list. The number of countries is down again, from 10 to 9. I have every intention of changing that up this coming year. As a reminder, I live in a city essentially in the middle of nowhere, so there are many films that come late, if they come at all.

The countries?

South Korea

Here's the list. As in all my other yearly roundups, an asterisk (*) indicates I saw it in the theatre. I've included a short note with each, but caution I am not doing this as a critic.

*The Post (2017) USA - A top notch Spielberg film, very timely not just for what it says about the press in the Trump age, but also how men are always shutting down and shutting out women, even as they pay no attention to this fact.

Kong: Skull Island (2017) USA - Gloriously cheesy, and better fun than I would have imagined. Not a classic, but I did enjoy it.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard (2017) USA - Jackson and Reynolds play up the cliches about themselves, and it makes for some fun. I enjoyed it well enough; decent fodder for a plane ride, which is what it was.

I Am Not Your Negro (2016) USA - Outstanding documentary and I wish I had seen it earlier. Shocking to see how society has traveled pretty much no distance towards decency in all these years.

Icarus (2017) USA - An excellent documentary that started with one conceit, about a bike rider who thought he would dope for a year and see if it improved his results, and ended with a huge story that (sorta) brought down Russian sports.

*Hostiles (2018) USA - Good western about troubled and troubling characters coming to terms with their pasts and about the humanity they might still be capable of, even in the face of the evil they’ve done in the past. But the ending breaks down, feels ridiculously colonialist and even patronizing.

The Polka King (2018) USA - Wow, is Jack Black ever great in this. Based on the true story of Jan Lewan, the self-styled Polka King, who ran a Ponzi scheme and ended up in jail. Some portions seem too outlandish to be true, and yet they were. Like his meeting the Pope.

I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore (2017) USA - Excellent and strange thriller written and directed by Macon Blair, who starred in Blue Ruin. Kind of goes crazy with the violence at the end, in a way that had us laughing. I appreciated, too, that Ruth’s bad-assery at the end wasn’t about fighting but rather about finding inner strength.

*Phantom Thread (2017) USA - Outstanding, quiet, the sort of movie that was more common back in the ‘70s. No criminal escapades, no thrills, no explosions, just a beautiful and sometimes tense film about people and relationships.

Elle (2016) France - Isabelle Huppert is outstanding and certainly earned her Oscar nod for this movie, but wow, what an odd and creepy movie, full of characters very difficult to like.

The Ritual (2018) UK - A decent horror film, well done at not going overboard on the reveal until close to the end. Yeah, the creature is a tad ridiculous, but well-handled, I thought.

*Black Panther (2018) USA - An excellent MCU movie, although, as I believe I have noted before, eventually there gets to be a sameness to all the CGI battle scenes. These are superheroes, dammit, and therefore have to be able to fling themselves about or fly or hurl the baddies through walls. But a tremendous story, one of the best bad guys the MCU has seen, and a wonderful cast.

*Annihilation (2018) USA - Very good version of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach novels. Dark and purposefully slow, thoughtful, gorgeous, and a wonderful soundscape. And the scene with the “bear” and the three of them tied up in the chairs was as effed-up creepy as possible.

Murder on the Orient Express (2017) USA - Gorgeous and fun with the camera work, although I sometimes think the all-star cast was a bit wasted, since this was primarily the Kenneth Branagh show. Still, I enjoyed it.

The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble (2015) USA - The opening sequence was an absolute thrill, and the rest of the film can’t keep up with that, but it was still an excellent documentary.

The Zookeeper’s Wife (2017) UK - A decent enough film, but I’m happy enough having seen it on a streaming service and not having paid extra to see it in the theatre. 

Mudbound (2017) USA - Excellent film about race, about conflict, and atmospheric as all get out.

*The Death of Stalin (2017) UK - Hilarious and so very very dark. An awful lot to appreciate in this film, so it may be odd to single out the actors using their own accents, but I am going to do that anyhow.

*Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) USA - Good fun, and it's nice for a superhero movie to work on a (pun intended) small scale, rather than end-of-the-world stuff.

Memoir of a Murderer (2017) South Korea - Astonishing and dark film, full of disturbing twists and sowing plenty of confusion.

*Avengers: Infinity War (2018) USA - My favourite MCU film in quite some time, which is a surprise, considering how unwieldy it could have been. Said with the knowledge that it’s actually only part one, though, so incomplete.

I, Tonya (2017) USA - Both Robbie and Janney were excellent in this, and I find myself weirded out that Bucky from the Captain American films is in this. Nicely crazed, although I don't have to go digging for background facts to guess they pushed the envelope on the facts now and again. Enjoyable. 

Molly’s Game (2017) USA - Aaron Sorkin’s first directorial effort, and a pretty decent one at that. Plays at some times almost like a thriller.

Cargo (2018) Australia - A very good and quite moving zombie movie. Nice to see Martin Freeman carrying a film like this.

*Deadpool 2 (2018) USA - Funny and fun and, wonder of wonders, the fight and action scenes were largely secondary to the rest of the film. Better than the original, I thought.

*Solo (2018) USA - Better than I expected, but not anything approaching good. The wide shot in the dark room of the card-playing scene was absolutely gorgeous, though, the only thing that stands out for me. Certainly not going down as a classic.

*You Were Never Really Here (2018) USA - An astonishing, gripping, slow and quiet thriller, disturbing and violent, but often at a remove.

Game Night (2018) USA - One smart and very funny action/comedy, full of nice twists and turns and people by interesting and relatable (if often very odd) characters.

*Mission: Impossible - Fallout (2018) USA - Another excellent addition to the set, full of absurd and fun stunts and set pieces.

*Hereditary (2018) USA - Creepy as hell, upsetting and unsettling. I thought the ending went a little too over the top, but still an excellent horror.

Their Finest Hour (2017) UK - A decent enough WW2-era film that mostly deals quite well with women’s rights, although it might stumble a bit with that near the end.

*Sorry to Bother You (2018) USA - An astonishing if somewhat raw debut film, full of wildness and weirdness. Bonus points for being a very strongly pro-union movie.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2018) UK - Another WW2-era story, a nice enough froth to enjoy one evening.

*BlacKKKlansman (2018) USA - Not nearly as funny as the trailers made it out to be, and that’s good. Not first-rate Spike Lee, but even his minor stuff is well worth seeing.

*Juliet, Naked (2018) UK - Another Nick Hornby adaptation, in this one Ethan Hawke continues his apparently Very Good Year. Not an instant classic like High Fidelity, but I would say it approaches About a Boy.

All the Money in the World (2017) USA - After having watched Danny Boyle’s excellent miniseries Trust, it seemed sensible to watch this movie, about the same events surrounding the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III. I know the series had a few more issues with veracity, but I enjoyed it a little more than this, which was still a good movie. 

The Angel (2018) Israel - A fairly decent movie about an Egyptian, the son-in-law of President Nasser, who ended up as a mole for the Israelis.

Tag (2018) USA - A fun comedy which, sadly, drops much of the actual true story in what i suppose is a sop to streamlining. Most remarkable for the fact that Jeremy Renner’s arms were broken during filming and they had to digitally erase the casts.

Murder Party (2007) USA - Hilarious and VERY rough around the edges, the first feature from Jeremy Saulnier, financed largely by credit cards, his own and those of the cast (who were also the crew and producers).

Hold the Dark (2018) USA - As opposed to Murder Party, Jeremy Saulnier’s latest film is a fine work, sharp and well-made and extraordinarily violent. I don’t know if I buy the initial premise that brings Jeffrey Wright’s character to the north, but once he’s there it all works very well. 

*First Man (2018) USA - Riveting and astonishing, especially if seen on the IMAX screen. Ryan Gosling’s Neil Armstrong is a distant and cool character, but it still works. The launch and flight and landing scenes are all nerve-wracking, and when Armstrong and Aldrin land on the Moon and the screen expands to account for the IMAX film it is a thing of wonder.

*2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) USA - So glad to see this on the big screen in celebration of its 50th anniversary.

22 July (2018) Norway - The true story of the terror attack in Norway, and of its aftermath. Directed with his usual attention to real life detail and often using non-actors, Paul Greengrass (who did the same with United 93) created a gripping film that needs to be included in the discussion of the year in film but too often may be forgotten. 

*The Old Man & The Gun (2018) USA - A fine piece of work by Robert Redford and Sissy Spacek and Casey Affleck. Another true story, although again with many things changed. The meeting between Redford and Affleck was everything that the meeting between De Niro and Pacino in Heat was, although with more humour.

The Night Comes For Us (2018) Indonesia - Compared by many to the Raid movies, for a time it seems to be just a series of set pieces designed to one-up each other with violence. It gets better, but never matches the panache of the Gareth Evans-directed Raid and its sequel.

They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead (2018) USA - An okay doc about Orson Welles and the making of The Other Side of the Wind, which only this year finally was patched up and released, on Netflix. And which I have yet to watch.

Apostle (2018) USA - Speaking of Gareth Evans (Raid), his first big English-language film is a dark fantasy and, not surprisingly, pretty violent. Worth watching.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018) USA - As in almost every Coen Brothers film, there is not a lot (read: any) of diversity in the cast. Put that aside, though, because this is an incredible and very dark - yet fun - movie.

*Widows (2018) USA - A tremendous heist thriller with a great cast and a nice twist.

Isle of Dogs (2018) USA - Wes Anderson has made better movies, but still enjoyable and loopy and fun.

The Endless (2017) USA - A simple low-budget SF movie about two brothers who return to a cult they once belonged to, for one last visit, and almost get stuck there forever. And ever.

Crazy Rich Asians (2018) USA - Yes, it was as fun as everyone says, but I do find my tolerance for watching the plights of the super rich lessens as time goes on. Even though they seem to try and impart a similar lesson late in the film.

Rampage (2018) USA - A big bag of dumb. Fun dumb, but still dumb.

*Roma (2018) Mexico - Glorious and gorgeous. There are four lengthy shots that still stand out in my mind: of the forest fire; the student riot; the hospital; and at the beach. The first time I saw it was on Netflix, and am happy to have seen it in the theatre when it was re-released. The sound design was amazing in the theatre, and seeing it the second time unearthed new things for me. A wonder of a film.

Bird Box (2018) USA - An excellent horror/thriller that will receive comparisons to The Quiet Place, but really, it stands on its own and treats the problem with its own logic. A great cast backs up a very good Sandra Bullock, and I was certainly on the edge of my seat many times throughout.

*Mary Poppins Returns (2018) US - Outstanding. A great trip down memory lane, and the best Disney remake/sequel I’ve seen.

Calibre (2018) UK - A terrific and tense Scottish thriller about a hunting trip gone wrong, a horrible accident accompanied by awful decisions leading to a horror that  affects a whole lot of people. Also, a haunting final shot that seems almost unrelenting.

*Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) USA - Not the best movie of the year, but man oh man, it was certainly the most enjoyable. Such a smart, clever, fun film, self-knowing and really on the ball about the character’s comic book, TV, and movie history.

Upgrade (2018) Australia - A very good SF/action piece with an atypical ending. The acting by Logan Marshall-Green is excellent: scenes in which is body is doing one thing and his mind wants to do something else are tremendous, believable no matter how ridiculous they might seem.

Ready Player One (2018) USA - Well, not as bad as many people have been saying, but certainly not anywhere near the top of Spielberg’s films. The only real highlight for me was Mark Rylance as Halliday. Yes, even the hair.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (2018) USA - A fine but only moderately emotional documentary about Mr. Rogers. There was some depth to it, but sometimes it didn’t feel like quite enough. Perhaps when everyone talked about the emotional heft and all the tears I expected to react more strongly, and yet I didn’t.

My Top 10 of the year was a little easier this time around, with the only question up until the end was if I included my 10th pick, since it was actually a 2017 film. In the end I decided it needed to be there, since it didn't come to town until 2018.

1. Roma
2. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
3. Sorry to Bother You
4. You Were Never Really Here
5. Annihilation
6. Memoir of a Murderer
7. Widows
8. 22 July
9. The Old Man and the Gun
10. The Death of Stalin

Interestingly, I didn't see anything this year that made me angry. I suppose part of it is me getting too old to bother with obvious crap. My honourable mentions, mostly in order of when I saw them: The Polka King; I Don't Feel At Home in This World Anymore; Phantom Thread (would have been on the 2017 top ten if I'd seen it in time); Mission: Impossible - Fallout; Ant-Man and the Wasp; Black Panther; MudboundAvengers: Infinity War; Game Night; Hereditary; BlacKKKlansman; Hold the Dark; First Man; Apostle; Isle of Dogs; Bird Box; Mary Poppins Returns; Calibre; Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse; Upgrade.


Saturday, February 17, 2018

Foreign Language Films

I had a look at the movies I've watched over the past decade or so, and put together a list of the non-English titles I thought worth watching. Certainly some are better than others, not just in the way we normally think of movies but also in the level of filmmaking ability, as a couple approach amateurish. But they're still all good, at the very least, often excellent, sometimes capital-G Great.

28 countries, not counting co-productions, which spreads the monetary pain in making these features. Weighted heavily towards South Korea, because I love me some excellent Korean cinema. And I haven't, speaking of Korea, included Snowpiercer on this list, since it is primarily English. I did, after some deliberation, include Okja, though. My house, my rules.

I certainly see some gaping holes now that I've done this list, though, and will need to patch them. 

Wild Tales

Goodnight Mommy

The Year My Parents Went on Vacation

Les affamés

Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons
The Mermaid
Kung Fu Hustle 
Shaolin Soccer
Ip Man

The Hunt
The Department Q trilogy

The Intouchables
Tell No One
I’ve Loved You So Long
Lost in Paris

The Lives of Others
The White Ribbon

Frankenstein’s Army

White God

The Lunchbox

Raid: Redemption
The Raid 2
The Look of Silence

A Separation

The Band’s Visit

I’m Not Scared

Jiro Dreams of Sushi
13 Assassins


Horses of God

Troll Hunter

In Darkness

The Italian

South Africa:

South Korea:
Train to Busan
The Tiger
My Love, Don’t Cross That River
The Villainess
Kundo: Age of the Rampant
A Hard Day
The Host
The Good the Bad the Weird
The Wailing

The Orphanage
Pan’s Labyrinth

Force Majeure
We Are the Best!
Let the Right One In
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy
A Man Called Ove

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives


Owl and the Sparrow


Saturday, January 06, 2018

The Movies of 2017

I saw 78 movies last year, 34 of those on the big screen. Those numbers are up, which may be an indicator that both of my boys are grown and at university, with the younger one away from home. I have more time, even with Peak TV still being on us.

On a downward trend was the countries of origin, down to 10 from 11, and a previous peak of 16. Something like 50 of the films were American, which is a tad frustrating. Less focus on blockbusters would probably correct some of this trend. The countries were:

New Zealand
South Korea

Anyhow, here's the list. Short descriptors and thoughts accompany each title, and an asterisk (*) shows which films were in the theatre. Keep in mind these aren't proper reviews. Most films are from 2016 and 2017, but the only reason a movie from 2016 would qualify for my top ten list would be if it was not released here until then. And remember, I'm not writing these blurbs as a critic; other people have written excellent reviews you can find if you're curious about any of these titles.

*Hidden Figures (2016) USA - Tremendous film. In many ways it’s a standard biopic, but well-acted, with an appealing story that was important to tell, too long unknown.

*Manchester By the Sea (2016) USA - Some outstanding performances, and told without attention paid to normal storytelling structures. It ends when it damn well wants to, there are few satisfactory resolutions. and characters drop in and out as they please. In other words, just like life. Too white, too male, perhaps, but still riveting and heartbreaking.

Train to Busan (2016) South Korea - An astonishing and thrilling zombie film, on of the best of that type I have ever seen. Absolute rush, with characters of great depth and surprise.

*John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017) USA - Crazed and violent and with a strange but nicely logical world. Odd for me to praise such a violent film as such, but this is gorgeous to watch.

Queen of Katwe (2016) USA - Lovely true story about a girl in Uganda who helps lift herself and her family from destitution thanks to her skill at chess. And such a great final credits sequence.

Twenty Feet From Stardom (2014) USA - Excellent doc about backup singers.

Our Kind of Traitor (2016) UK - A decent Le Carre spy thriller, but nothing extraordinary.

The Legend of Tarzan (2016) UK - I didn’t dislike the movie, but even though it tries, it still can’t shake the colonialist background. Also, it tries too hard to behave like a superhero film a few times.

Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World (2016) USA - A Werner Herzog documentary, and therefore much more interesting than one would imagine.

*Get Out (2017) USA - Outstanding horror/thriller/race commentary.

*Logan (2017) USA - A magnificent and moving superhero movie, dark and gritty and powerful.

Pete’s Dragon (2016) USA - Fun and light remake of the cartoon.

*Paterson (2016) USA - I loved this movie. Peaceful and a gentle pace, full of poetry and where the most exciting scene, involving a gun, involves not a single shot. Beautiful.

Pandora (2016) South Korea - Exciting film about a disaster at a nuclear power plant. The Koreans can make a thriller like nobody’s business, and add features Hollywood can hardly ever manage to handle, or even think about.

Kill Command (2016) USA - A decent SF film, although not anything to make me sit upright.

Allied (2016) USA - Brad Pitt as a Canadian in a WW2 spy drama with Marion Cotillard. Decent, but again, nothing to write home about.

Cold in July (2014) USA - I’m sorry I missed this when it first came out. A very good revenge thriller.

*T2 Trainspotting (2017) UK - This was excellent, and I think at another time it might have made a bigger splash, but really, only the first one could truly capture the zeitgeist.

Department Q: The Keeper of Lost Causes (2013, 2016 in NA) Denmark - The first of three crime films (perhaps done for TV originally: I’m not sure). Good solid Scandinavian fare.

*Personal Shopper (2017) France - An outstanding and disturbing ghost story, quiet and with a nice turn by Kristen Stewart.

*Colossal (2017) USA - A wonderfully feminist movie, not willing to pull punches in showing us just how screwed up and unlikeable people can be and yet how you can still care for (some) of them. Anne Hathaway is tremendous in this.

*Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) USA - A fun but noisy superhero film, second verse, same as the first.

Tickled (2016) New Zealand - A startling and unsettling documentary about, believe it or not, what purported to be the world of professional tickling. Really, this one gets dark very quickly.

Deepwater Horizon (2016) USA - Effective enough. About what you would expect from a Peter Berg film starring Mark Wahlberg. Lots of macho but emotional heroics.

Desierto (2015) Mexico - A very good thriller, about Trump’s America before Trump. Jeffrey Dean Morgan and his dog hunt Mexican immigrants for sport.

Get Me Roger Stone (2017) USA - A documentary about one of the worst people in America. It was good, but I’m still having trouble processing whether or not it was worth watching, as he is such a horrible man.

The Boy and the Beast (2015) Japan -  A good but not great anime about an orphan boy who finds himself in another world and apprenticed to a beast with a temper.

The Tiger (2015) South Korea - Excellent film about an old Korean who helps in a tiger hunt under the Japanese occupation. Highly recommended.

Department Q: The Absent One (2014) Denmark - Another in the very good Danish police series of films.

*Wonder Woman (2017) USA - The best of what is admittedly a mediocre string of DC superhero movies. Overall very good, but I have to admit the ongoing carnage is beginning to lose me, and the big set piece at the end was also something of a letdown.

Department Q: A Conspiracy of Faith (2016) Denmark - The 3rd and, I believe, last of the Department Q films. The trauma the lead has suffered throughout this and how he deals with it is quite affecting.

*It Comes at Night (2017) USA - An excellent and disturbing  kinda-horror starring Joel Edgerton, who as of late has been ending up in a lot of movies I like.

Catfight (2016) USA - A fine dark comedy that takes a very dim view of human nature.

*Birth of a Family (2017) Canada - A moving documentary about a family of four First Nations children who were sent away from their mother by the government and did not find each other again until they were adults. The camera tags along on a reunion trip as they get to know each other.

The Girl With All the Gifts (2016) UK - A zombie movie with a difference is going to start to sound tiresome, especially since this is one of at least three I saw and enjoyed in 2017, but this was, and it worked.

*Baby Driver (2017) USA - If this was nothing but style it would be a successful venture, but Baby as a character is a winner. Tremendous film.

Okja (2017) South Korea - An excellent Netflix original full of great adventure and ethical questions. Although I will say Tilda Swinton is leaning more and more to over the top roles as time goes on.

*Dunkirk IMAX (2017) UK - Seeing this on IMAX was a smart decision. A gorgeous film to see in that format, thrilling, and with a tremendous use of time.

*Logan Lucky (2017) USA - One of the funniest movies of the year, a great cast that does not go wasted, and director Soderbergh again shows how well he can pace a caper flick.

*Lost in Paris (2017) Belgium - A funny and odd duck of a movie that might put a few people off, I suspect. In English and French, so you don’t always have to deal with subtitles. Something of an homage to silent film comedies, with plenty of slapstick and situational humour.

Megan Leavey (2017) USA - About what you would expect for a fact-based film about a woman who gets her life together by joining the military and becoming a dog handler then fighting to bring that dog back from Afghanistan.

The Candidate (2010) USA - An all right short film from DUST, and you can watch it here:

*The Trip to Spain (2017) UK - If you’re seen the other two films, you’ve seen this one, and if you’ve enjoyed the other two you will enjoy this one. By this point, though, these movies are just comfortable trips with a couple of friends, and the antagonisms and and plot points are just minor contrivances to remind us this is marginally fictional. Still, I have fun with the interactions between Coogan and Brydon.

My Love, Don’t Cross That River (2014) South Korea - A sad and beautiful movie about the last few months together for a Korean couple after 76 years of marriage.

Rules Don’t Apply (2016) USA - Warren Beatty does well to make this movie (which he directs and plays Howard Hughes) not about him. A decent comedy.

The Awakening (2011) UK - A decent horror film, the type with a surprise but not with blood and guts.

*It (2017) USA - An excellent horror that in many ways felt like a Spielberg film. And the clown was, to me, horrifying. And I'm not afraid of clowns.

The Lost City of Z (2016) UK - Slow moving but excellent fact-based film, and I have to say I am really enjoying seeing the roles Robert Pattinson is picking for himself after the Twilight movies.

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) USA - Quite mediocre, really offering much of the worst superhero movies are capable of.

*Blade Runner 2049 (2017) USA - As close as any SF movie (barring one that was clearly allegorical) came to making my top ten of the year (and I’m still vacillating on that as I write this). Gorgeous, a tremendous set of relationships, and some stunning world building.

1922 (2017) USA - A very good Stephen King adaptation, released on Netflix.

Cameraperson (2016) USA - A convoluted and impressive documentary about Kirsten Johnson, interweaving many of her own documentary subjects with footage of her own life shot by herself.

Split (2016) USA - In a perfect world James McAvoy would see an Oscar nod for his multiple parts in this almost-return-to-form for M. Night Shyamalan. And the delight I felt at the end is no surprise considering my love for one of Shyamalan’s earlier movies.

*Lucky (2017) USA - A wonderful, moving, fitting sendoff for the late and great Harry Dean Stanton, a movie that is entirely about death but one in which nobody dies (not even President Truman, David Lynch’s escaped tortoise).

The Big Sick (2017) USA - An excellent comedy in which one of he main characters lies near death for much of the film.

*The Florida Project (2017) USA - My choice for film of the year. Human and humane, heart-breaking and heart-lifting, with incredible performances by a very young Brooklynn Prince, by (believe it or not) Instagram star Bria Vinaite, and by Willem Dafoe as the nicest motel manager ever. The stunning final shot was captured on the sly using an iPhone.

A Monster Calls (2016) UK - AN all right YA novel adaptation in which Sigourney Weaver, presumably to attract American investment, plays an English grandmother. Nice ending.

War For the Planet of the Apes (2017) USA - Yes, I liked it, but no, I’m not as big a fan of this series as others are. Andy Serkis and the mocap crew he works with do an incredible job, but it’s not in my wheelhouse, I guess.

*Thor: Ragnarok (2017) USA - AS Taika Waititi is one of my favourite directors, the chances were good I would like this movie. That was wrong, though: turns out I loved it. Great, geeky comic book fun.

Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World (2017) USA - A very good documentary about native Americans and Canadians who led the way into rock and other popular music. Although not rap, which means there was nothing about groups like A Tribe Called Red.

Free Fire (2016) UK - Ridiculously violent and an absolute blast. The movie is essentially a two hour long fire fight.

*Tragedy Girls (2017) USA - Two girls addicted to getting attention on social media kidnap a serial killer and then begin to copy his crimes. A funny and clever conceit, done well enough, but perhaps with the distance of age it becomes more difficult for me to fall in more deeply.

*My Friend Dahmer (2017) USA - Excellent movie, based on a rue life comic book, about three friends who “befriended” serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer when they were in high school. Disturbing, with excellent turns by Anne Heche as his mother and by Ross Lynch, who seems to have been only in teen and Disney projects before, as Dahmer.

*The Villainess (2017) South Korea - There were two woman-as-unstoppable-weapon movies this year, and this one easily outstrips Atomic Blonde. It opens with a 1st-person camera view that is wild and bloody, which switches to 3rd-person in a way that took my breath away.

*Dave Made a Maze (2017) USA - Great fun, a movie about a bored artist who builds a maze from empty cardboard boxes in his living room one weekend while his wife is away, and gets lost in it. She goes in with a search party and camera crew to find him, and yes, it is as surreal as it sounds.

*Blade of the Immortal (2017) Japan - The 100th film from Takeshi Miike, I found it a little aggravating in some places. I felt especially that the young girl was wasted and left hanging. 

*Les affamés (2017) Canada - A Quebecois zombie movie, obviously done on the cheap but also done very effectively. As well, some of the things the zombies do are not only creepy but fresh, which added to my enjoyment.

Patriot’s Day (2016) USA - Another Peter Berg hagiography, another one where he teams up with Mark Wahlberg. There’s a formula here, and it’s effective.

I,Daniel Blake (2016) UK - A moving, frustrating, sad, happy film from great British filmmaker Ken Loach, about an older man trying to navigate the system after a heart attack means he can’t work anymore.

*Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017) USA - Stunning and upsetting, not the comedy the trailers initially made this out to be. Some moments of rage, some moments of absolute humanity, and what looks like a cheat near the end turning into a powerful ending.

Wind River (2017) USA - Would make an interesting companion piece to Thunderheart (both films also feature Graham Greene as a local, native, police officer). This one does, I think, a slightly better job of avoiding the White Saviour fallback, and is in fact a very good and tense film.

Atomic Blonde (2017) USA - A decent movie with some great action sequences and a nice couple of plot turns, but see my notes earlier about The Villainess.

Supergirl (2016) USA - A fine doc about a young Orthodox Jewish girl who is also an excellent weightlifter.

*Star Wars (2017) USA - I enjoyed it, but was not as taken with it as so many others.  Frankly, I think Rose and Fin were given short shrift and Poe was too irritating and hot-headed. And that slow motion chase scene! And that planet with the gamblers! Ugh.

!The Shape of Water (2017) USA - Stunning. Gorgeous. And what a cast. Yeah, Michael Shannon was more of a pantomime villain, but it didn’t stop me from falling in love with this movie. Also, Sally Hawkins is The Bomb.

*Coco (2017) USA - When I watched Up I cried in the first ten minutes. This one I cried for the last ten. Another excellent Pixar film.

Detroit (2017) USA - While I am sure some parts were dramatized a bit more than where reality pointed, I was astonished and appalled to read up on this later and see just how much of his movie was based on actual events. 

*Lady Bird (2017) USA - Loved this movie, and it is another of several this year that found just the very right beat to end on.

My top ten for the year was difficult, and titles bumped around and in and out a few times. The only for sure choice was the number 1 position, and the top 4 stayed steady, although may have changed positions with each other now and again. Everything else saw some bigger movement.

  1. The Florida Project
  2. Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
  3. The Shape of Water
  4. Get Out
  5. Lady Bird
  6. Paterson
  7. Baby Driver
  8. Logan
  9. Train to Busan
  10. (Tie) Lucky/Colossal

My honourable mentions, in no particular order: Blade Runner 2049; Into the Night; Thor: Ragnarok; I, Daniel Blake (which was 2016); Wind River; Les affamés; It; The Villainess; My Friend Dahmer; The Big Sick; Logan Lucky; Okja; Dunkirk; Pandora; Coco; Personal Shopper.


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Ads at the Movies

I wrote a series of Tweets about my recent adventures in the movie theatre, but Tweetdeck made a hash of threading, so I am gathering them here in order for the sake of posterity. I'm @derrylm in case you choose to find me there:

8 or 9 ads before THE LAST JEDI. I turned to my son and said “Soon we’ll be seeing 3D ads.” Put on our glasses and watch THREE 3D ads. Fuck you, @CineplexMovies . #MagicLantern is opening here soon and if they have fewer ads they’ll get my money.

My wife and I saw THREE BILLBOARDS a couple weeks ago, same nonsense. An adult audience, some who maybe don’t go to movies that often, forced to watch almost 20 minutes in ads.

Why do I even bother? I have a big screen at home, I sure as hell don’t need 3D (paid for it so I could reserve a seat), and in most cases I can wait to see a movie, thank you very much.

The evening for me and my son, including snacks, cost about $70. For the privilege of watching unending ads. The same goddamn ads that have been running before movies for weeks or even months.

When this bullshit first started I actually convinced a theatre full (well, partly full) of people to stand and face away from the screen until the ads were done. But we’re sheep, and it’s unlikely I could do that again.

I do have two small rep cinemas here in town. Both play the odd ad, but not the obnoxious onslaught. I don’t need to see the processed cheese I saw tonight, not first-run anyhow. I should be paying my money to see the smaller films.

And I do! THE FLORIDA PROJECT, PATERSON (starring Kylo Ren!), DAVE MADE A MAZE, THE VILLAINESS, LUCKY, PERSONAL SHOPPER and more were all excellent films seen on those screens. So much less stress, so much more interesting cinema.

Anyhow, that’s all. I know I won’t get any satisfaction, and there will be times when I am still forced to attend a film in the #Cineplex commercial hellhole. But those times will be much fewer.

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