Feeling Challenged

Watched five more films directed by women this month. I’d already seen Messiah of Evil this year, so it doesn’t count toward my goal of 52. I mention every time that this is hard, far more so than it should be. I’m nearly finished with my viewing for HubrisWeen, and once that’s over I will find a way to catch up. With the number of movies I watch, I should not be finding it this difficult, but here we are!

  • Messiah of Evil
  • Tenement
  • Ishtar
  • The Bigamist
  • Trouble Every Day

Oh, and that puts me at 30 for the year. 22 to go in just four months.


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.


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.

Film Diary: July

The yearly count is up to 249 now. That’s a lot of movies. I’m so far ahead of schedule now that I don’t even try to squeeze in movies anymore, and yet I saw 26 this month. One of them I saw twice, because “The Frozen Dead” was so nuts that I had to show it to Tim and Dave at our mini movie marathon the following week.

I’m finally done with the BBS box set. Great films, but so downbeat. “The King of Marvin Gardens” was probably my favorite of the bunch, but that’s like choosing a best depression. Fortunately I had Stephen Chow’s 2-part Monkey saga “A Chinese Odyssey” to revive me with fart jokes and wire-fu.

My recommendations from the month’s viewing would be “The Secret World of Arrietty”, Studio Ghibli’s gorgeous adaptation of The Borrowers; “Under the Skin”, an art house sci-fi film that’s very near to very good; and “Holy Flame of the Martial World”, which lowered the sanity bar for Shaw Brothers films so far that sewer lines had to be moved (it has a disco ball of death!).

Arachnoquake (2012)
Attack of the Monsters (1969)
The Bay (2012)
Best Friends Forever (2013)
A Chinese Odyssey Part One: Pandora’s Box (1994)
A Chinese Odyssey Part Two: Cinderella (1994)
The Eagle (2011)
Entity (2012)
The Frozen Dead (1966)
Gamera (1965)
Grave Encounters (2011)
Grave Encounters 2 (2012)
Haunt (2013)
The Hidden Fortress (1958)
Holy Flame of the Martial World (1983)
Intruder (1989)
The King of Marvin Gardens (1972)
The King’s Speech (2010)
The Last Picture Show (1971)
Ninja III: The Domination (1984)
The Perfect Host (2010)
Perfect Stranger (2007)
Ponyo (2008)
The Secret World of Arrietty (2010)
Stitches (2012)
Thale (2012)
Under the Skin (2013)

Atomic Contributions to Dead Films

I’ve joined the crew of contributors at the League of Dead Films! The League posts movie reviews, movie of the day suggestions, and other items concerning film and film history. I’m happy to contribute to their growing collection of information, as I’ve long been a fan of the site.

My first contribution is a recommendation for today’s viewing pleasure (?) — Shock Waves, a movie featuring the remains of a Nazi zombie force. Why on Earth should you watch it today? (Or at all?)

Hie yourself to The League of Dead Films and find out!

I Went to Camp Optimist But It Didn’t Take

I was recently lauded for my optimism, and I am wondering if I’ve fallen into the Bizarro universe.

Of course, I know I haven’t. Bizarro congress would be functional. The bank would pay me every month to keep living in my house. Sewage would come from the taps and we’d drink out of toilets.

Okay, now I’ve grossed myself out.

But really, optimistic? Me?!

Call me a cynic or a pessimist, and I’d see your point. What I really am is anxious and a bit paranoid. I can’t help but leap straight to the most likely disastrous outcomes, and if I weren’t on pills for it I’d lie awake all night obsessing on them. If I could breath I might even get a good night’s sleep one day.

(Note to self: schedule that sleep study. For real this time!)

What I’ve usually come across as, in polite terms, is an angry Chicken Little — or a raving Cassandra, if you prefer mythological references. Everyone would be trucking along — maybe grumbling but doing their work — and there I’d be screaming about impending doom. It’s a tendency that’s won me plenty of invitations to discuss my charms with management.

So, yeah. Now that I have something of a leadership position I’ve been trying hard to keep my natural state of panic from leaking out all over the team. I smile, and I work in calm phrases like “if I have one concern” and “I do wonder”, and all the while my stomach clenches into knots.

Optimistic? Nope. Just internalizing the dread, thanks.