More Movies

You know, you’d think I’d get around to writing about something other than movies.  But I’m on vacation now, so this is all you’re going to get.  My thoughts on some July movies follow.

The Last Airbender

I really wanted this movie to be awesome.  I mean, I want all the movies I see to be awesome, but for this one I had  especially high hopes.  This is because it was a live-action adaptation of the animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender, which is one of the best things ever.

Now, I will admit to some trepidation when I heard that M. Night Shiyamalan was the driving force behind this film.  But, by all accounts, he was so excited by the cartoon that he fought to be able to make the movie, and at least the story was already coming from somewhere else, so there’d be no lame twist ending.  In fact, the first season of the show had one of the best endings to anything I’ve ever seen, so there’s no way he could screw that up, right?  And the trailers were looking pretty sweet, too.

But alas, all my hopes and dreams were dashed.  The Last Airbender had Lucas-esque dialogue, narrated montages that skipped over so much and explained character interactions rather than showing them, and just felt rough and unfinished.  It was also short.  I will grant they had a tough job, cutting 10 hours worth of TV down to a single movie, but they could have at least gone for a 2.5 to 3 hour movie rather than the abrupt 90 minutes we were given.

The ending also changed somewhat from the show, cutting out details making it just a little bit less awesome and a lot wussier.  Way to go, M. Night!  You could have filmed the last 3 episodes of the season shot-for-shot and had one of the best things ever on film, and you still managed to cock it up.

(It is my fondest hope that Shiyamalan was working busily away on a 3-hour awesome epic version of this movie when the studio told him it had to be released in a month, and so he whipped this version together in the little time he had, and that the DVD will have a super-cool Director’s Cut.)

The movie was not without *some* redeeming features: it did showcase a lot of cool ideas from the show, and the bending looked pretty good (though not quite right compared to the original).  Some of the actors were okay, but they weren’t given much to work with.

I wish I could recommend this movie wholeheartedly, but it was so rough, and so disappointing, I can’t.  About the best I can say is that if you do see it, the cool ideas that made it into the movie might inspire you to watch the original show, which is—as I have stated above—one of the best things ever.  (Also, if you do see the movie, see it in 2D—the 3D is the converted kind, not the filmed kind, and apparently sucks and makes the movie incredibly dim and an even worse experience.)

Despicable Me

This was a cute and funny CGI movie.  I saw this in 3D, but apart from a few token “wow” scenes nothing would have been lost seeing it in 2D.  It centers on Gru, a supervillain who gets scooped when a new villain steals the pyramids.  As part of his plan to regain his status as the most dastardly of supervillains, he adopts 3 orphan sisters.  Wackiness ensues.

From the setup, you can probably figure out the emotional arc of the plot, but it is still handled with charm and humour.  It doesn’t approach Pixar-quality, but it has plenty of laughs, some clever ideas, and some “Awwwwwww” moments.  A satisfying and entertaining summer movie.

Inception

This is the latest movie from Christopher Nolan, whose last movie (The Dark Knight) was all kinds of awesome.  As such, there was a lot riding on this to be a success, and a lot of hope from audiences that it would be different and good.  Thankfully, I think it succeeded on all fronts.

Inception is a sort of reverse heist movie.  Leonardo DiCaprio plays an expert at going into others’ dreams to steal ideas and knowledge who gets hired to *plant* an idea instead.  He has to assemble a team, make a plan, and then execute it (which inevitably goes wrong).  Wackiness ensues.

Now, the plot is more complicated than that.  A *lot* more complicated.  That may be the greatest problem in the movie.  They have to devote a lot of exposition to it in the first hour of the film, and then when the action kicks in it is somewhat-to-very confusing to follow what is really going on when the plan goes awry.  The overlapping action scenes are beautifully-constructed, though, and once you’ve given it a bit of thought, only the ending is left as ambiguous.

So, this is an excellent movie that is beautifully shot.  I saw it in IMAX, which was pretty sweet (except for sitting in the 3rd row like I did).  It’s not a simple action movie, it’s not quite a drama, but it is really good.  I recommend this one.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

I know, I know.  Disney movie, starring Nic Cage.  Why give it the time of day?  Well, we gave it the time of day because nothing was out that we hadn’t already seen that we might possibly find amusing.  But you know what?  It wasn’t bad.  In fact, I might even go so far as to say it was pretty good.

Nic Cage seems to have found his most natural role ever in playing a creepy, crazy old guy, and Jay Baruchel nailed his lovable nerd loser role (as he is wont to do).  The plot was a bit predictable, but it moved quickly, *mostly* made sense, and was pretty fun.  The visuals were good, and in some places genuinely clever.

So this movie was like the inverse of The Last Airbender: the trailers made it look awful, but it turned out to be surprisingly good.  It’s not the best movie of the year or anything, and it doesn’t really need a sequel, but it was a fun way to spend a couple of hours on a Friday night, and that is more than most movies can say these days.

Jonathan Coulton and Paul and Storm: Another Triumph!

Last night, I saw Jonathan Coulton (with Paul and Storm) for the third time.  As expected, it was a great show.

In general, I prefer the music of Coulton to Paul and Storm (though I like both quite a lot), but in the live shows, Paul and Storm are absolutely hilarious in their between-song banter.  Most of the stuff they had played in their previous shows, but that included favourites like “Nun Fight”, “Live”, and “The Captain’s Wife’s Lament” so it was much appreciated.  They also played a couple of songs I hadn’t heard before, and I very much enjoyed “Frogger! The Frogger Musical”.  By the end of the opening act, my jaw was aching from laughing so much.

Coulton took the stage after a short break, and basically played all of my favourite songs of his.  He also did a few I was less familiar with, although “Sunny Blue Day”, which I first heard at his last show in Toronto, is rapidly becoming another favourite.  An excellent set indeed.

About the only thing I’m unsure of  was the venue.  Previous shows were at the Lula Lounge, which didn’t have assigned seating, but had a friendly and comfortable atmosphere, and felt like a more intimate space.  In contrast, the Enwave Theatre was a bit bigger and a proper theatre, with a stage, balconies, and the like, but it felt… stodgier.  The staff enforced no food/drink/photography rules, when a quick search of YouTube will demonstrate that Coulton is not shy about letting fans record his shows.  And while everyone had a good view thanks to how the seating was arranged, the openness of the theatre space made it feel sort of empty.

(However, that may be an issue unique to me.  My seat was on the balcony nearest the stage—great view, but no one in front of or behind us.  So I didn’t get that feeling of being in a crowd at concert.  During the chorus to “Re: Your Brains” when the audience joins in, I wasn’t surrounded by a horde of singing zombies as I was at the Lula Lounge.  But even down below, the crowd seemed tamer than previous year’s shows.)

Anyway, an excellent show all around.  If you ever get the chance to see either Coulton or Paul and Storm, take it.

2009: A Year in Movie Reviews

Well, the year is almost over, and I have realized that there are a lot of movies that I saw and failed to write about at the time I saw them.  To remedy this sad situation, and to punish myself for laziness, I thought I would recap my entire year in movies (seen in theatre).  It is possible that I have forgotten some, but I’ll update later if I remember more.

* * *

Coraline

I already wrote about Coraline, which was a most excellent stop-motion movie based on the children’s book by Neil Gaiman.  Recommended for anyone who enjoys creepy fantasy, but perhaps not for very young (or especially wussy) children.

Watchmen

I wrote about this before, as well.  Watchmen was a good adaptation of the graphic novel that fell just shy of being great.  I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Dragonball: Evolution

I also wrote about this one.  (Clearly, I started the year with a bit more drive to do my movie blogging on time—or perhaps the summer movie season just overwhelmed me with frequency.)  This movie was not nearly as bad as it could have been, but it occupies some sort of weird zone between not being close enough to the source material to satisfy all the existing fans, and _too_ close to the source material to appeal to new viewers.  I had fun watching it, but I’m not sure who I’d recommend it to.  Perhaps my best endorsement is this: there is no need to avoid this movie.

Fanboys

I held forth on this film as well, and quite enjoyed it.  I’m not sure people who aren’t Star Wars fans would get quite as much enjoyment as I did, but it was still a funny road trip comedy, with a nicely dark vibe running through it too.

Monsters vs. Aliens

I also wrote about this one, which was okay.  It was an adequately entertaining CG movie.  I did not feel upset or angry after having seen it, or that I had wasted my money, so that’s a plus, I guess?

Star Trek

Despite my reservations with certain elements of the Star Trek reboot (see this previous entry), I loved this movie.  It was great fun, and was pretty successful at pulling together a young new cast to fill the shoes of the iconic classic actors.  ‘Nuff said.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

I also had a number of issues with this movie (see this previous posting), but was still entertained by it. The story had some problems, but the action was all pretty entertaining, and it was far and away better than X-Men 3, so kudos for that.  An adequate action movie, but it failed to live up to its potential.

Terminator: Salvation

That’s pretty much all I can say about Terminator: Salvation.  It was a passable action movie, but it turned out to be a prequel to the original trilogy, rather than showing an end to the war with Skynet.  So there was some combat sequences, and cool giant robots, and… well, that was sort of it.  Once we understood the timeframe, we kind of knew how things would end, since we’ve seen the other movies.  As a result, it was a rather disappointing conclusion to the Terminator movie saga, but in its own context it was reasonably entertaining.

Up

Pixar’s Up was fantastic, despite (or perhaps because of) the incredibly sad first ten or fifteen minutes.  As usual, Pixar hit on all cylinders, with excellent voice actors, a great script that had a perfectly-paced story, nice humour, and wonderful visuals.  Up was another example of why Pixar movies aren’t great because of their computer animation, but because they do everything else right, too.

The Hangover

This movie diverges somewhat from the overall science fiction and fantasy skew of my general movie watching, but I do enjoy my comedies, so long as they’re funny.  Thankfully, The Hangover fit the bill, and was a fun entry into the wacky night they can’t remember/road trip genre that defied convention in a few clever ways and yet didn’t refrain from toilet humour.  Highly enjoyable.

Moon

I had almost forgotten about Moon, which is unfortunate, because it was one of the better proper science fiction movies I have seen in a long time.  A (comparatively) low-budget movie about a miner on the moon, most of the movie has only one actor on screen, unless you count Kevin Spacey as the voice of the robot companion.

That makes it sound a bit claustrophobic and corny, I know, but the lead actor (Sam Rockwell?) does an excellent job, and the story is quite clever.  I was able to predict some elements of it (likely due to my greater familiarity with science fiction as a whole genre), but in terms of science fiction movies, I can’t think of anything quite like it.  It is most definitely not a sci-fi action movie.  But it was good.  Really good.  I liked it.  My girlfriend liked it.  A definite recommendation from me.

Ponyo

Ponyo is, I believe, the latest movie from Hayao Miyazaki, the legendary master of Japanese animation, and was released in North America by Disney.  (Pixar’s John Lasseter is a huge Miyazaki admirer, and was a driving force behind Disney’s aquisition of North American distribution rights for the Studio Ghibli oeuvre.)

Ponyo is a traditional 2D animated movie, with the story loosely adapted from the original Little Mermaid fairy tales.  The animation was beautiful, and intense and terrifying in places, but overall it was a cute movie aimed at younger viewers.  More like Miyazaki’s “My Neighbor Totoro” than “Princess Mononoke”, for sure.  Still, any admirer of quality animation will appreciate this film.  I look forward to adding it to my Ghibli collection.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

I have only read the first Harry Potter book, so all my knowledge of the story comes from the movies.  As such, I can judge the movies by whether they work as movie, rather than by how well they adapt the book.  For example, I thought the third movie (Azkaban) was great, but a lot of people were upset by how much was left out from the book.  The fourth movie tried to put in bits of everything, and it ended up being practically incomprehensible as a movie without knowledge of the books.  Thankfully, they got back on track with the movies for the fifth one, and continued the trend with Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

It was a good movie.  It continued the story nicely (as you would expect), had some great visuals, intense moments, and a coherent story that came to the end leaving us wanting more.  We learned things we didn’t know, and did it because the characters were smart.  So I count this movie as a win.

Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen

This movie was so terrible that my rage moved me to write of it after seeing it.  I think the comedy group Hot Waffles needs to rewrite their song “George Lucas Raped My Childhood” to feature Michael Bay instead.  This may have been the worst movie I have ever spent my own money to see.

Unfortunately, it made a hojillion dollars, so there will likely be a Transformers 3.  My only hope is that, like me, everyone else who saw this movie was so appalled that they will avoid any future installments like the plague.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

Alongside Transformers, G.I. Joe was the other foundational toy of my childhood.  (Star Wars and Lego were also prominent, but Star Wars toys were adapted from the movie, not vice versa, and there hasn’t been a Lego movie yet, so I’m limiting myself to Transformers and G.I. Joe for the sake of comparison.)  After the abominable live action Transformers movies, I was less than hopeful for G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.

Thankfully, it exceeded my (admittedly low) expectations, and turned out to be a fun, if ridiculous, action movie.  I’m not exactly sure I’d recommend it, but it was silly and enjoyable.  My biggest beef was that they revamped the background of all the characters, removing their diverse and long-established origins and making them all interconnected and less interesting.

They set up a sequel, which I’m sure I’ll go see.  This was much better than the first Transformers (live action) movie, so even if they drop the ball on the second like they did with Transformers, hopefully it won’t fall as far.

Surrogates

This is a Bruce Wilis movie.  A friend of mine said he expected that, at the end, Bruce Willis would survive, and win the day, and be beaten to a bloody pulp.  He was not wrong.

Surrogates was an enjoyable SF movie about a world of the near future in which people live primarily through robotic surrogates that they control remotely from their homes.  The Surrogates never age, and can look like anything, from an idealized version of the owner to someone completely different.  Trouble starts when some surrogates are killed and and so are the owners connected to them, which should be impossible.  Bruce Willis (a cop, naturally) is put on the case to investigate.

As the story unfolds, we encounter a number of twists and turns, some cool action sequences, and some interesting characters.  I hadn’t read the graphic novel on which this was based, so I don’t know about the _accuracy_ of the adaptation, but at least the quality is high.  I recommend this movie.

The Imgainarium of Doctor Parnassus

I saw the gala premiere of this movie at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), which I wrote about here.  I don’t have much more to say than that.  It was a good movie, very Gilliam-esque, with delightful visuals and quirky characters and storylines.  Not for everybody, to be sure, but it will definitely resonate with the right audience.

Time Trip: Curse of the Viking Witch

The other TIFF movie I saw was a Norwegian movie about some kids who travel through time to help and immortal viking become mortal so he can die.  Not bad, actually, for a kids movie.  Not so good that you need to figure out how to import the DVD or anything, but not bad.

Astroboy

This movie was a computer animated take on the classic Astroboy anime.  Clearly aimed at kids, but enjoyable.  From what I can tell, it changed some elements of the story from the original, but still retained the basic premise: after his son is killed in an accident, a scientist builds a super-advanced robot with all his son’s memories as a replacement.  Needless to say, this doesn’t work out well for anyone involved, but Astroboy is born.

The movie had a bit of an environmental slant like Wall-E, and absolutely nonsensical science, but it wasn’t bad.  It was surprised that it showed some characters dying on screen, even if they were non-bloody deaths—I had thought that most films coddled kiddies more than that nowadays.  If you’re looking for a good kids movie, you could do worse than this.

Zombieland

I wrote about Zombieland briefly after I saw it, because it was just so much fun.  I do loves me some funny zombie-killing.  If you like zombies, and comedy, and don’t mind lots of gore, this movie is perfect.

Twilight: New Moon

I saw this with my girlfriend as atonement for taking her to Transformers 2.  I now consider that debt paid in full.  I mean, Transformers was still without a doubt the worst movie I saw this year, but Twilight: New Moon gives it a close run.  At least I didn’t spend my own money to see New Moon.

New Moon fails to entertain at every possible opportunity, and instead has vapid, uninterested actors spouting terrible, repetitive dialogue while they do absolutely nothing, and then external forces conspire to end the movie by essentially negating everything that did happen (which wasn’t much).  Terrible terrible terrible.

Ninja Assassin

Ninja Assassin is one of those titles, like Snakes on a Plane, that gives you a perfect idea of what the movie should contain.  You can quite readily know, when going to see a movie called Ninja Assasin, whether you are likely to enjoy it.  In that respect, you may consider me the target audience for Ninja Assassin.

Unfortunately, I was a little disappointed.  There were, indeed, some awesome action sequences, full of impossible martial arts and ridiculous gore.  But there was also a sort of storyline, and some superfluous characters that bogged the movie down.  There were parts where _minutes_ went by with no one being killed.  MINUTES!  I had been hoping for a movie like _Shoot ‘Em Up_, but with ninjas and swords instead of guns, but instead they actually had a bit of a plot.

Now, I likes me some plot.  It is my favourite thing.  I think my problem with it in Ninja Assassin was that it wasn’t interesting enough for me to accept it in lieu of non-stop over-the-top action.  The movie starts with a cool assination sequence, which sort of sets the bar.  When we switch away from ninjas, though, the plot better be DAMN GOOD to keep me satisfied, but I think it fell a little short here.

So, I liked Ninja Assassin.  I though the action sequences were pretty good.  The storyline was adequate—I mean, it made sense, and all—but it couldn’t match the action, and so the movie was uneven.  A decent enough action flick, but not one that I’d call “must-see”.

The Princess and the Frog

This movie marks Disney’s return to 2D animation, after they abandoned it in favour of 3D (thinking that was the secret to Pixar’s success).  After a number of notable 2D and 3D bombs, Disney has finally put out a decent movie again.

The animation is good, but I’ve seen just as good or better from Studio Ghibli and other Asian studios.  I enjoyed the jazzy soundtrack, although nothing stood out as especially memorable.  The characters, in a notable Disney first, were not entirely stereotypical: as an example, the spoiled, marriage-obsessed, self-involved daughter of the mayor turns out to be very generous and happy for her friend when she finds true love.  I was also suprised to see a main character killed, as in Astroboy, although this being Disney, perhaps they were returning to their roots in more ways than just going back to 2D animation.

Overall, this was a pretty good movie.  I’d recommend this one.

Avatar

James Cameron’s Avatar has been many years in the making, and has been getting lots of press.  Overall, it’s a very good movie, albeit a heavy-handed one.  The story is clunky and predictable, with absolutely no ambiguity or moral uncertainty about who is good and bad.

Much of acclaim has been accorded to the visuals.  I have to agree—the visual effects are among the best I’ve seen, with the aliens and their world seeming perfectly real to me, and blending nicely with the human actors.  I am less enamoured of the 3D nature of the showing I saw—I really don’t like the technology, and come out dizzy and disoriented, though sitting in the third row surely contributed to some of that.

The story concerns a Marine who essentially goes under cover with the natives of an alien planet to learn their ways.  Unfortunately, the alian culture seemed to be a mishmash of various First Nations and African tribal beliefs, rather than something truly alien, and the aliens were a little too human-looking for me to really view them as alien.

Anyway, as he becomes more involved with the alien culture, he puts himself at odds with the corporation and military group that want to move the aliens to mine some more “unobtainium” (we never learn why it’s valuable).  Wackiness ensues.

The cast is good, the visuals are great, and the story is kind of “meh”.  Still, definitely worth seeing, even at nearly 3 hours long.  I supsect I’ll prefer the non-3D version on DVD…

* * *

And that’s about it!  I think my favourite movie of the year was _Star Trek_, with honourable mentions (in no particular order) to _Ponyo_, _Zombieland_, _Coraline_, and _Moon_.  For 2010, I’ll try to be more on the ball with movie blogging.

Toronto International Film Festival

After five years of living in Toronto during which I typically found the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) a nuisance, I finally took in some shows this year at the urging of my girlfriend.  (It helps that I no longer live near any of the venues or ritzy hotels where the celebrities stay, so my life has been hindered considerably less.)

I left it to my girlfriend to pick the shows, and we ended up going to two of them—one a regular screening, and one a gala premiere.  I’ll talk about them both below.

Timetrip: The Curse of the Viking Witch

This film was a children’s movie from Denmark, and as such, was a subtitled film.  The director was at the showing, and held a Q&A after.  He seemed nice enough, and gave good answers to the questions.  (I think my girlfriend chose this because she is a medievalist, and feels the need to pass judgment on all movie that intersect with that time period.)

The movie itself was a fairly conventional children’s adventure, where a high school guy and his younger sister, travel through time to help a cursed immortal find an artifact lost hundreds of years ago.  They end up in several different times during Denmark’s history, and wackiness ensues.

It was actually pretty good, for the kind of movie it was.  I was entertained, although I found little surprising or unexpected.  There was danger, a surprising amount of violence that was sort of glossed over, a little bit of character development, and a happy ending.  The kids in the theatre seemed to pay close attention, too, so I guess it worked for them.

Anyway, apart from a few introductions before the screening, and the Q&A after, nothing really set this apart from any other movie viewing.  So, in that respect, TIFF elicited a bit of a “meh” from me.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

The second show we had tickets to was the North American gala premiere of Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.  This movie is notable for two reasons—director Terry Gilliam, and star Heath Ledger.  Filming was partially completed when Ledger died last summer; actors Colin Farrell, Jude Law, and Johnny Depp stepped up finish the film in his place, lending a lot of star power to the movie.  (I suspect the possibility that any of those men might be at the premiere was the primary motivation for my girlfriend and her roommates getting tickets to this showing over any other.)

We were told to arrive at least an hour before showtime; we got there an hour and a half early, and found ourselves at the midpoint of the line.  This line was at the back entrance of the building, far from the red carpet entry where the celebrities would arrive.  We waited for over an hour before the opened the doors.  Needless to say, I was not exactly thrilled with this setup, but my company in the line was good, and so it passed pleasantly enough.

The venue for this was Roy Thomson Hall, a concert hall with two levels of balconies.  Naturally, the floor seats were for celebrities and special guests; I suspect the second tier was for people who bought the expensive tickets.  We were exiled to the third balcony, but at least we had an unobstructed view.

They were screen the red carpet coverage from outside while we waited for things to get underway.  The ladies in our party were appropriately devastated at the lack of Ledger/Depp/Farrell/Law, but we did get Christopher Plummer, Verne Troyer, and director Terry Gilliam himself, among others.  There were all introduced before the show, and Gilliam spoke a few words before the movie began.

And, well, that was basically it.  The movie was good, and very Gilliam-esque.  The handling of the Ledger/Depp/Farrell/Law substitutions was masterful, and made perfect sense in the context of the movie—at least, as much as anything in a Gilliam movie makes sense.  It was imaginative, and odd, with sometimes likable characters and sometimes not so much.  I suspect it will do well for Gilliam once it is in full release.

But, when it was over, it was over.  And from the “nosebleed” seats, the presence of the cast and production team still seemed so distant and removed that it was little different than watching them speak on TV.  So—much like arena concerts—the experience was good, but I suspect I would have found it more exciting if I were closer to the action.  But as it was, the “gala premiere” really felt little different than any other movie, except with colder popcorn.

So, I got to see a good movie by a director I like several months before its general release, which was cool and all, but I just don’t understand the excitement people associate with TIFF.  At least it’s something I can cross off my list of things to do in Toronto.

Worldcon: Day 5 Recap

NOTE: I tried to post this yesterday, but my web host seemed to go down.  Hence, this is a day late.

The morning started off with sleeping in a bit—there were no 9:00 AM panels that grabbed our interest more than sleep did, and so it was at 10:00 AM that we hit up the “Movements in Fantasy” panel, which talked about the rise of literary movements within the genre.  Among the key points discussed were that such movements are usually only identified after the fact, often arise from a group of like-minded authors reading each other’s work and responding to it (usually pre-publication), and need a defining work to kick them off and an ideologue to promote it.  Interesting and entertaining stuff.

At 11:00 AM, my girlfriend went to the “On Editing” panel featuring David Hartwell, while I went in search of autographs from Charlie Stross, Julie Czerneda, and John Scalzi.  I was happily successful, and they were all very warm and friendly, though due to the lines for each, it meant I could only get to “On Editing” for about the last 5 or 10 minutes.  What I saw of that panel was good—Hartwell is a very entertaining and engaging speaker.

After lunch, we took in the panel on “Hard SF: Is It What You Do, or How You Do It?”, which explored whether the definition of the genre is fixed in the rigorous application of science, or in the appearance of the rigorous application of science.  They did admit that hard SF could still incorporate “magic” technology, but otherwise no one held forth a conclusive answer, which, I suppose, it not terribly surprising.  Interesting, but after an hour the audience ran out of questions and a lot of ground had been covered, so it ended early.

We did a brief run through the Dealers’ Room again, though thankfully did not spend any further money, and then we went to a reading by Robert J. Sawyer.  He’s a generally entertaining reader and pretty genial guy, and he entertained us with a reading of his story “Mikeys” and a prose poem (not in that order), and then I got him to sign my copy of the Distant Early Warnings anthology I’d been collecting signatures on all weekend.

Next, at the request of the girlfriend, we went to a reading by George R. R. Martin from his forthcoming and eagerly-anticipated book A Dance With Dragons.  Fans of the series (which has been optioned by HBO, and a pilot episode is currently in production) seemed to enjoy it, and I thought it was okay—a little too descriptive and verbose for the kind of reading I’m into these days, but I could see why he has a huge fanbase.  I will no doubt pick up this series when I’m back into reading big books.

And then it was the closing ceremonies, which were brief and too the point, handing off things to the Melbourne Worldcon organizers for next year.  It was surprisingly well-attended, and a sort or sad send-off back to the real world.

Almost.

After successfully acquiring dinner at Le Steak Frites, we hung out back at the hotel for a while, before heading to the Dead Dog party at the Consuite at the Delta.  It was surprisingly packed, and we ended up in some long and varied conversations with some very nice people before heading back to our hotel after 11:30, because I seem to have come down with the plague.

Or a slight sore throat.

I’m not sure which.

Anyway, that was the Worldcon.  Once I’m back in Toronto, I may do a wrap-up post of my thoughts about it, post some pictures, and possibly update these posts with panelist names and such.  Yesterday, however, was about seeing a bit of Montreal.

Worldcon: Day 4 (Part 2)—The Hugo Awards

Sunday evening was the main event—the Hugo Awards presentation.  Before that, being human beings of a hungry sort, we decided to seek out food.

This proved to be more problematic that we could have imagined.  We first decided to go back to Le Steak Frites, but found them to be booked full until 8:30 or later, which was no good, since the awards started at 8:00, and, well, we didn’t want to wait that long.  It seemed to be full of Con people, and perhaps there were officials being dumped there, and such.  So we went back to the convention center to try a restaurant there, only to find that was full.  We had had trouble finding a place that was open near the convention center the evening before, so we decided to go back to our hotel and try the restaurant there.

Food was only being served at the bar, and was not especially cheap or appetizing.  So we set out again, thinking maybe of the nearby Dairy Queen, before ending up at Eggspectation, where I had a satisfactory panini sandwich.  After all that questing, we were running a little later than expected, but still arrived at about 7:55 PM, where we had to sit toward the back of the massive Main Tent, as it was quite full.

The Hugo Awards ceremony was generally well-run.  There were a few tech mis-cues, and a few times we had to wait slightly long before somebody came out or got to the stage, or whatnot.  None of the speeches were unnecessarily long, and so the evening went by quickly and pleasantly.

The results can be found here, at the official Hugo Awards site.  It was nice to see Neil Gaiman win for The Graveyard Book at the Worldcon where he was Guest of Honour.  David Hartwell also won Best Long-Form Editor, and he was Editor Guest of Honour, and also damned entertaining.  I enjoyed all of the winners, and felt a little bad for the “losers”, many of whom were my first choice, but it was a fun and exciting evening overall.

After the awards ceremony, we did one more panel, from 10 to 11 PM, called “Young Turks”.  It featured a few writers who were basically emerging as forces to be reckoned with, and because the audience was small enough, it became a sort of cooperative Q&A whereby they talked about why they wrote, how they got to the point they were each at, techniques and tools they had found helpful for their writing, and the like.  For a panel so late, and day 4, after the Hugos, it was a pleasant surprise to have such an engaged and active set of panelists, and such a fun and interesting panel.  Kudos to them for pulling it off.

At that point, we called it a day.

Worldcon: Day 4

The fourth day of Worldcon was also a big one, and quite full.

We started at 9 AM once again, with a panel on “How Not to be a Jerk Online”.  I went to this because John Scalzi—whose blog and work I am a fan of—was one of the panelists, and I suspected it was a topic he would hold forth entertainingly about.  I was right, although the other panelists (whose names I will call forth in a later update) also had excellent and amusing contributions.

The next panel I wanted to see was “Deities and Demigods”, because I wanted to snag panelist Paddy Forde to sign a book I had, but alas, it was cancelled.  That did leave me free to join my girlfriend at another panel I was interested in, on “English-Canadian Small-Press SF Publishers”, which was an illuminating and honest look at the business and economics of small press publishing in Canada, with the attendant advantages and disadvantages.  Kind of interesting and depressing.

Next was another panel on “The Singularity: O RLY”, which was pretty entertaining, although with my own reading in the area and the panels I’ve been to this weekend, I may be singularitied out.  I did get a signature from Peter Watts after, though, and had an entertaining conversation with him about genetic algorithms as they might be applied to FPGAs that was punctuated him him being mind-boggled when he noticed my {Terror} t-shirt form Dr. McNinja.

Then it was lunchtime, followed by spending too much money in the Dealer’s Room, where my girlfriend bid on a print in the art show, and I bought a Con t-shirt, another book, and ended up subscribing to OnSpec.

The next panel we saw was “Which Histories Get Alternates?”, wherein the panelists discussed why so many alternate histories focussed on the same events (eg. American Civil War, WWII, etc.), and partly concluded that it was needed because the audience had to have strong familiarity with the events in question to understand how it is alternate.  A list of other types of alternates was also volunteered by the audience.

Then it was on to “Economics of Star Traders”, which discussed whether it could ever be worthwhile to have trade between planets, first in a relativistic universe, then opening it up to FTL-capable universes.  Some interesting ideas bandied about.

We were pretty exhausted by panels, so we wandered around a bit, outside, before heading back so I could get some books signed by Robert Charles Wilson.  Then it was in search of dinner, about which I will complain in the next post.