Halfway Through the 52 Movie Challenge

That’s July behind us, so where do I stand in the 52 films by women challenge? This month I watched the following movies by female directors.

  • A New Leaf
  • Kiss of the Damned
  • The Levelling
  • Lurkers
  • Organ
  • Slow Learners (co-director)
  • Wanda

I’d already seen Kiss of the Damned earlier this year, but I took it to show friends as an example of exceeding the extremely minimum standards of the Bechdal test. That puts me at 26 for the year. Halfway there, but at this point I should be at 30 or 31 to be on track to successfully complete the challenge.

I received some great suggestions on my Facebook page (thanks again, all!), but as most aren’t on Netflix I’ll need some time to gather them. There’s a small stack of films set aside for the annual HubrisWeen festivities, and a handful of them qualify for this. Hopefully that will see my count rise over the next few months.

Anyway, this is still a preposterously difficult challenge. I knew there were representation problems, but criminy! If nothing else, this has made it painfully clear how big the gender gap in filmmaking is.

Inching Toward Completion

I just passed 30,000 words on the 1st draft of the novel. The good news is that switching to 3rd person has helped a lot with, well, everything. I was having too much difficulty handling 1st person scenes where more than one viewpoint character was present. Actually, I’ve decided on something a bit offbeat (though not unheard of). My narrator is a character in the story, so while much of it is 3rd person it’s all through his somewhat suspect filter. So that’s fun.

The bad news is that my writing pace took some heavy hits for a while. June and most of July saw me distracted by other things. I’ve been depressed about work, having sleep studies, and pouring my remaining energy into the podcast The Fiasco Brothers Watch a Movie. But I managed 9,000 words through all that, and I have reason to hope that I’ll get back on track in August. If nothing else, I’ve gotten faster at editing the show and have started to get the other things under control.

So, progress slowed but is still being made. After everything I’ve worked through to get this far, I’m finally hopeful that I’ll even reach 70,000-80,000 words with the 2nd draft! You know, once I’ve finished this first one.

Rising to the 52 Films by Women Challenge

There’s a film challenge going on this year to see 52 movies directed by women. That’s a lot of movies in the first place for what I think of as normal people, but I’m already over 200 for the year. Curious about whether I’ve met the 52 by women challenge already, I decided to take an inventory. Here then are the movies directed by women that I’ve seen this year.

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So That Happened

I was coming home from work — in fact, I was about to turn onto the 1-block street that leads to my house. Then I noticed that there were flashing lights in my rear view mirror. Now, this isn’t an altogether unprecedented turn of events. I get pulled over every few years, usually for coming into town at a speed not quite worth ticketing. This time was different. Not in its result, because I was let go with a warning for the umpteenth time.

What freaked me out is the reason the officer pulled me over. Seems I forgot to put my new tags on last year due to never having ordered them. I have no idea how that happened. I swear that I even remember putting them on, but no such luck. Clearly someone’s been messing with the timestream again.

Anyway, I’ve now ordered them and paid the $10 late fee, so if I get stopped again before they come in they can at least see that I did register. Also very glad for discovering this before traveling out-of-state. And, as ever, for being a color the cops favor.

Drafting

Work on the novel continues, as does the speed with which I’m burning through the core plot. I passed 21,000 words, and I’ll be lucky to get another 10,000 out of the first draft. I’ve thought of a lot of things that I need to go back and insert, so while I still doubt I’ll reach the 80,000 count of a modern novel I’m still hopeful that I can get it to 50,000. In effect, my first draft is becoming a long-form set of notes. I can put details when I have them and gloss over things when I only have a vague notion.

Moreover, little but some of the dialog will remain from this draft. I’ve been writing it in sections of 1st person, alternating point of view. However, I want to tell more stories in this setting with different characters in other time periods. To tie them together I need a consistent narrative voice. So, it’ll be a total rewrite to 3rd person narrator. Well, I’m switching with the next chapter, so maybe more of that will make it through the next draft.

Mentally, I’m fighting to stay in it. With this draft on target to wrap up soon (probably by the end of April) my brain is doing what it can to make me give up. Remember the decade you spent on two drafts of that fantasy novel? Did you even keep a copy of it in the end, or did you destroy everything when you realized it was no good? Sure, you’re moving faster this time, but the result will be the same. It’ll never turn out, and you’re just wasting the time you could be spending on video games. Fortunately my brain isn’t quite as successful in thwarting me these days, and while I did lose a few days of productivity to Resident Evil 7, that game fortunately turned out to be disappointingly short.

At any rate: onward! And brain, you can shut up.

The Novel Continues 

I’m still working on the novel, and things are moving along at a steady clip. I’m just shy of 16,000 words now and have a bit of material to get through before heading into the conclusion. Still, right now it’s looking more like it will be a novella than a full-length novel. The smallest size I’ve found for a full-length modern genre novel is around 70,000. My first draft probably won’t break the 50,000 word goal I took from NaNoWriMo. There are a number of scenes I need to fill in for the second draft, but I don’t anticipate that bringing it anywhere near 70,000.

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New Year, Same Old Zombie

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know I don’t do resolutions. The arbitrary changeover of the year does however provide an opportunity to set some things down, so I thought I’d write down some things I hope for during this next spin around the Sun.

  • Continued employment: I don’t even need to enjoy my job. I just want to keep having one. (But it’d be great if it got better.)
  • Tolerable health: It seems like I’m always sick, and I’m used to that. I just don’t want to have anything major go wrong for me or my wife.
  • Cat poop in the box: Yeah, dream on. Let’s dial that down to keeping it on the tile floor of the bathroom rather than spreading to new and exciting locations.
  • No nuclear Armageddon: Everything else sort of depends on this one. At least I grew up expecting to be bombed, so fearing death by nukes feels oddly comfortable.
  • Writing: Lots of this. At least a first draft novel completed for the first time in nearly 20 years.
  • Impeachment: It could happen, right? Right?

Perfectly Broken

I’ve been listening to Bowie CDs on my commute, and for some reason I remembered something today.

The first time I heard David Bowie’s “Diamond Dogs” album, I was in high school. My brother brought the CD back with him from college. Just the CD, no case or liner notes. That’s because he rescued it from some guys in his dorm who were using it as a frisbee. They, in turn, had come by it when one of them had bought a floor-model player and found that left in the tray.

I want to stop here for a moment to enjoy the thought of an appliance department playing “Diamond Dogs”, because that’s pretty cool right there.

Right, so we were at me listening to the album. I was floored. It was the glammiest, glitziest, post-apocalypse I’d discovered. So of course I had to tape it. I hooked my brother’s CD player into my system and put in a tape. Everything was fine until it got to the final track, “Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family”, which is really the outro for both the album and the song “Big Brother”. It’s basically a disco breakdown that ends with a short loop that trails away to nothing, and it’s terrific. Unfortunately the disc got scratched during all of the tossing it around like philistines. Sometimes the player could work it out, but usually it would start skipping during the chant. Because it was part of the track before it, this meant that I had to keep re-recording both of them until it finally played through.

My brother wondered why I’d bothered. In his view it didn’t matter because the song skips anyway. I was 17, so all I could say was that I needed it to be right. Now I can explain it better.

ahem

IT’S PERFECT, AND I NEEDED IT TO BE RIGHT.

A Few Good Things

It’s already hot enough to make me irritable, and the general election is so far away in a truly awful election cycle, so let’s kick off June with a little positivity! Here then are some things for which I’m grateful.

My partner loves and understands me. Wendi knows I really enjoy some odd things, like sitting out in the cold rain to watch horror movies with like-minded friends. She may well judge me for that, but if so she keeps it to herself and is outwardly supportive of my trips. She also just nursed me through recovery from oral surgery, during which she watched some truly awful movies with me. If that ain’t love, I don’t know what is.

My friend Tim did not turn out to be a serial killer. Seriously, I can’t explain why I agreed to go on a road trip to Evanston in the middle of winter with a guy I barely knew. For some reason my paranoia filters weren’t on, and the myriad ways this could end badly didn’t register until after I’d committed to the trip. To my delight and total surprise, I survived the weekend and enjoyed it enough to go 8 more times. I even wound up meeting those like-minded friends I mentioned above. So thanks for not killing me, Tim! My world grew because you dragged me to B-Fest.

For some reason I’m employed. I dreamed of being an impoverished writer. That’s the deal, right? Unless you were born into money you scraped pennies together for years until suddenly you became wildly successful. Instead, after getting married it became evident that we both needed to pull in good money in order to afford luxuries like food and pants. At first I resented the time spent not suffering, but honestly my writing didn’t get very good until my 40s. That’s a long time to starve for art. Also, money buys movies, comics, and video games.

The Cats Don’t Always Poop on the Floor. Sometimes they’re even useful. Just this morning I found Bacall and Bogart sitting innocently in the bathtub with the shower curtain in a heap beside them. Something under the curtain moved, and Bogart couldn’t stand to feign ignorance anymore. He started swatting at the mouse they’d cornered. So while they make messes and scratch up the furniture, at least our cats keep the rodents under control.

And now it’s time to put in a bad movie, so I’ll just leave it there.