Reading too deeply into these things since 1981
Header

Mega Man 2

So I know it’s been quiet on this front, but we are planning to post the finalized list of contents here on March 31. To be honest we’ll probably know slightly ahead of that date (and if we do we’ll be sure to contact each of the authors with the news rather than make them wait), but I don’t want to provide an unrealistic deadline again.

Updates can be found on this site’s Twitter feed, so be sure to follow that if you want to hear about me ripping my hair out because it’s impossible to whittle down the great submissions we’ve gotten to a reasonable number.

This puts us a month behind schedule in terms of the acceptance / rejection portion of our project, but overall we’re still on track for a spring release, I think. It’ll just be…late spring. I’ll post dates, of course, as soon as I know them, and am reasonably confident we can meet them.

I appreciate everybody’s patience. Mark my words: you will hear from us no later than March 31, at which point the formal announcement will be posted here as well.

I’m very excited about this. We have two stories left to read, and then we’re going to spend the rest of this month comparing notes and making our final decisions. It won’t be easy, and no matter what we do, a lot of great writing is going to get cut. So don’t take it personally if your story is not selected for inclusion; the competition was very fierce.

As far a second volume goes, that will be dependent on how well this one performs. If nobody downloads it, I can’t imagine it would be worth the effort to do another. If loads of people download it, it almost certainly would be. So if you do want to see another volume (and have another shot at inclusion) be sure to get your friends to grab a copy. It’s free, after all, and then they can be impressed by how many pages you managed to squeeze out of Hogan’s Alley.

Physical copies, again, more or less a given…but those won’t be free. I’ll sell them as inexpensively as possible, so that I can cover the cost of production, but that’s it. Anything you pay will be no more than I pay. Labors of love ftw!

So, yes. Stick around. As Bob Dylan once said, “Things should start to get interesting right about now.”

Only in this case it’s right about two weeks from now. Super sry. You’ll live.

Review: The Grand Budapest Hotel

March 14th, 2014 | Posted by Philip J Reed in film | review - (8 Comments)

The Grand Budapest Hotel, Review

Surprising no-one, I love the new Wes Anderson film. I’m going to get that out of the way right now. And I honestly believe this has every potential to be his masterpiece. (Of course, the man’s made at least three strong contenders for “his masterpiece” by now, so I’m positive this is a question that can’t be seriously discussed for another few decades.)

I expected to like it. The trailers looked great, it’s full of fantastic actors, and it was the first full-length screenplay that Anderson wrote solo. Those are all very promising components, and I didn’t expect they’d disappoint.

The surprise, however, came with just how good this movie turned out to be. It’s a moving, rollicking, tragicomic juggernaut of a film, and I haven’t been this deeply affected by a movie-going experience since…well…The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou.

The plot of The Grand Budapest Hotel is so layered, so dense with momentum, so quick to evolve and so vast in the span of time it covers that I could fill this entire review with the most basic of summaries. There’s a reason the trailer seemed so schizophrenic; the movie doesn’t stay put.

As such, I won’t be saying much about the plot of this film, so don’t fear spoilers. I’m going to talk a lot about what I got from the film, but not necessarily much about what was visually on the screen.

Suffice it to say, however, that the core of the film is the relationship between Zero — a young, penniless immigrant who becomes employed as The Grand Budapest’s lobby boy — and his boss, the concierge M. Gustave. The two get wrapped up in a caper, a mystery, a scandal, and a creeping international conflict, all of which sets the stage for expected comedy, and unexpected profundity.

The Grand Budapest Hotel, Review

Ralph Fiennes plays Gustave with an impeccably charming air of self-importance, and at first he seems to be a classic Anderson dick in the tradition of Royal Tenenbaum or Steve Zissou, and his terse, meticulous demands of perfection seem to channel both Max Fischer and Francis Whitman. However Gustave reveals himself before long as something much more complex; he’s a dick for a noble purpose. He’s a dick because that’s the only way he knows to bring comfort to those around him. And it works.

Under Gustave’s supervision, The Grand Budapest flourishes. He might be condescending and overbearing to his staff, but it’s because Gustave knows one of humanity’s saddest secrets: societal order is not achieved…it is imposed. And if you don’t impose the order as firmly as possible, it’s a matter of time before somebody else will impose theirs upon you.

With The Grand Budapest, Gustave has imposed rigid order upon an isolated society of his own making. (It’s not just visual quirk that sets the palatial hotel upon a largely inaccessible mountaintop.) Gustave is, thematically speaking, a dictator…but he dictates benevolence.

A darkness intrudes, however, and it intrudes on multiple levels. From a creeping war — which first claimed Zero’s family and threatens to claim the fictional Republic of Zubrowka, in which this film is set — to the more personal tragedy of the murder of Gustave’s elderly lover.

There’s a brilliant moment early in film during which Gustave learns the news from the morning paper, letting his eyes roll past the massive headline announcing the invading army down to the photograph of his now deceased ladyfriend, announcing her death. It’s a perfect illustration of the way our personal tragedies, though relatively small, will always hit us harder than the larger, impersonal ones…even if it’s the larger, impersonal ones that should be demanding our attention.

It’s also a nested tragedy — one murder within the boundaries of large-scale war atrocity — which contributes to one of the movie’s main themes: layering. It’s not uncommon for Anderson’s work to see gestures, statements and plot points operating on multiple planes, but it’s never been brought to the fore in quite this way.

The opening scene of The Grand Budapest Hotel sees a young girl in a graveyard, reading from a book. That book contains the action of our film, so the young girl reading it is layer one. Layer two is the book itself, which is narrated by its author and purports, at least, to be non-fiction. The author recounts meeting a much older Zero, who tells him the story in conversation, which makes that conversation layer three. The flashbacks themselves are layer four, which is where we spend most of the film: watching the events play out. And any scene in which Zero is not present must have been relayed to him second hand, at a later point, giving us an ultimate story that’s at least five layers deep, and potentially subject to false memory or self-censorship at any one of those levels.

The Grand Budapest Hotel, Review

In evidence of that claim, the film has the older Zero admit that he’s not comfortable discussing Agatha, as it’s too painful. This would be very fair if he were speaking only about an old, lost love, but as she’s an integral part of the story we are hearing / reading / seeing, it’s a potentially problematic omission. We catch glimpses only of the less painful moments he spends with her, and, of course, the ones necessary to our understanding of the plot. The rest — including what must be the most painful moment to him — is either left unspoken or referenced so briefly and obliquely that the words do not coalesce into a visual portrait for us…it’s the conversational equivalent of something happening off-camera, and so that’s exactly what it does.

This deliberate obfuscation of the love story may be a response to Anderson’s previous film, Moonrise Kingdom, in which the love story was front and center, and which we witnessed unfold with unblinking eyes, sparing us nothing, just as the couple in question was spared nothing.

It wouldn’t be the first time Anderson directly replied to the themes of one film with the themes of his next. Rushmore was about a young boy reaching beyond his lowly station in life, with a father who loved and supported him in his ambitions to a fault. That was followed by The Royal Tenenbaums, which followed grown children who had tumbled from their higher stations in life, with a father who did not support them and whose love was debatable. Then The Life Aquatic, which had a father-son relationship as its very core and as the driving force behind every event in the film, was followed by The Darjeeling Limited, wherein the never-seen father died before the movie began, leaving the brothers Whitman to limp along in their own ways without him. (The Darjeeling Limited also begins with the father figure from the previous film, Bill Murray, being left behind by the train that bears this film’s title. It’s not the most subtle thing in the world, but it does what it needs to do.)

In fact, much of The Grand Budapest Hotel feels like a response to Anderson’s previous films, with moments of bleak darkness, unexpected violence and genuinely chilling suspense working their way into a movie by a director who is by and large pretty life-affirming.

The darkness in Grand Budapest hits twice as hard because it’s also Anderson’s most overtly comic film. Sight-gags abound — all of them perfect — and Gustave is nothing if not a fountain of caustic one-liners. There’s a cartoony set-piece that kicks off the final third of the film (arguably two cartoony set-pieces), but all of this feels like the film’s own coping mechanism for the darkness it has to face. It’s a world coming apart, and it’s already as good as gone. The film has a sense of humor about its own internal tragedies, because, if it didn’t, what would it be? It’s humanity’s way of keeping the terror at bay. It’s necessary. And it’s heartbreaking.

Moments of broad comedy give way to tragedy, which then evolves into horror…and is then joined by another moment of comedy. There’s no better encapsulation of this than Gustave provides himself, while behind bars: he tells Zero of a fellow inmate named Pinky who ridiculed him, which grew into a fistfight, which itself ended with both men seriously battered…but since then he’s come to consider Pinky a dear friend. Comedy, tragedy, horror, comedy. It’s a cycle that recurs throughout the film, and it keeps us from ever feeling confident in the balance.

And is there really any balance? The stalled cable car creaks emptily to the pulse of the soundtrack, which is lovely, but what’s to keep it from just…letting go?

The Grand Budapest Hotel, Review

It’s all cycles and layers. Layered cycles, and cycled layering. Poor Zero begins his apprenticeship having lost everything, and though he rises — in more ways than you might expect — we know from the way other things have worked in the film that he will come full circle. In fact, his very name is emblematic of a circle, and is synonymous with nothingness. And the film knows it.

Humanity is an agreement. That might be the main theme of The Grand Budapest Hotel. We create the world, even if we don’t. Everything we do and everything we don’t do is responsible for the society in which we live, whether that society is an isolated hotel, a fictional republic, a war-torn continent, or an era rapidly approaching antiquity.

We see The Grand Budapest Hotel at the height of its glorious austerity. We see The Grand Budapest as a crumbling shell that once housed greatness. We see Zubrowka as a still-bright outpost in dreary world, and we see Zubrowka fall to the hands of its conquerors.

The Grand Budapest Hotel was Gustave’s gift to humanity, but it couldn’t last. An older Zero observes that Gustave’s world was gone before Gustave even entered it. There’s a reason he enjoys romancing elderly ladies so much: it’s not just the attention — though undoubtedly he does like that — but it’s the desperate clinging to a fast-fading past. It’s a chance to hold with both arms the dwindling numbers that can still recall a brighter day.

And there’s a reason that the death of his lover is what sets the entire plot into motion, and thus the entire nested crumbling that constitutes the whole of the film. It’s an intrusion of reality, a blunt reminder that humanity is an agreement, and it only takes one person to act in violation of that agreement for everything to come falling down.

While Gustave is traveling with Zero to see his lover for one last time before she’s buried, the train is stopped and boarded by military policemen. A problem with Zero’s papers results in a rough moment of brutality, but it is stopped by one of the MPs, who recognizes Gustave as a good man who had shown him much kindness when he was a boy.

The train pulls away, and Gustave, nose bloodied and hair disheveled, begins to use this as a teachable moment. He lectures Zero about the importance and magnitude of these small flickers of humanity…but quickly abandons the lesson in favor of a defeated, heartbreaking, “Fuck it.”

There is a lesson to be learned from what happened there, but, unfortunately, it isn’t the lesson Gustave wishes it to be.

Reality encroaches. Agreements are honored, but more rarely, and only this time. Not everybody who imposes order does it for the good of others.

Gustave’s world was not only gone before he entered it, but before we entered it. By the time it’s printed in the book being read by a young girl in a cemetery, The Grand Budapest is already demolished. It no longer exists. Whatever order applied there at whatever time is no longer relevant.

At least, not unless its own faint flicker of humanity inspires another.

We create the world in which we live. Everything we do, and everything we don’t do.

ALF, "The Gambler"

When I was in Vegas I met up with Ron DelVillano, a talented artist friend who took the opportunity to question me about the ALF reviews. They were good, he said, and interesting, but he couldn’t believe I was getting so many words out of each one.

I’ll be honest: I kind of can’t believe it either. A few times I’ve deliberately tried to keep them short, but it never seems to work out that way. Each episode ends up having entire scenes I gloss over or omit entirely, and I still find myself staring at 5,000 words about some unmemorable episode of a show nobody’s cared about for two decades. I don’t know why.

This one, though, I will try to keep relatively short, simply because I don’t know how much I’ll have to say about anything apart from the ending. That’s not to say that “The Gambler” is any good before we get to the ending; it’s just…holy hell that ending.

Anyway, it starts with Willie and Kate in a tizzy because they only have a week to prepare for their garage sale. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never spent more than a few hours preparing for a garage sale. It’s not the prom; don’t you just shovel a bunch of your crap onto the lawn and trade it for pocket change? Leave it to writers of ALF to treat it like you’re preparing for the Rapture.

Willie is upset because Kate wants to sell his ship in a bottle, but we never find out why he’s so attached to it. Did he make it himself? My eyes are telling me that it’s just some chintzy thing from an airport gift shop, but I have a feeling the show wants us to believe that this is another one of Willie’s disposable hobbies.

Why can’t they give him a hobby and stick with it? It’s changing constantly. Didn’t Kate Sr. say he was always whipping up killer robots in his shed or something? Whatever happened to that? Why do we replace it with ships in bottles, skydiving, and writing songs about asparagus? I’m absolutely positive that the writers had no idea whatsoever who Willie was when this show began, and I’m pretty sure they’re ending the season without having any clearer concept of who he is, or who they even want him to be.

ALF pops up through the window that exists only so that he can have something to pop up through. He tells Willie that he read his credit card statement, and $11,000 is way too much to spend on balloons. Willie explains to him that the “balloon payment” is referring to his mortgage, but ALF keeps thinking it’s an actual balloon a million fuckin’ times even though Willie and Kate keep telling him it’s not and Jesus Christ I’m going to write another five thousand words about this shit, aren’t I?

ALF, "The Gambler"

The credits come and go* and we start the episode proper with Willie asking ALF if he understands balloon payments now. Huh? So I guess the credits sequence took the place of the conversation in which an aging white man explained the financing of the house to the alien that lives in his laundry room…but why? Was anyone watching really concerned about whether or not ALF would come to understand the concept of mortgage payments?

Last week the show didn’t bother to connect in any way the action of the pre-credits sequence to the actual episode, and though I gave it a bit of guff for that, that’s really fine. It’s a sitcom, after all, and sometimes the rigid structure creates gaps and irregularities. A good show knows how to pave over the holes, or even use them to its advantage, but this isn’t a good show. This is ALF, which for some reason believes that the one time it needs to create a feeling of more realistic progression it’s so that they can assure as that ALF now understands the intricacies of late 80s homeowner financing.

The. Fuck.

Willie moans again about having to sell his ship in a bottle, but Kate tells him they need to make space, which is why they’re having the garage sale to begin with. This thing is the size of Willie’s forearm at best; can’t it sit in a closet somewhere if he loves it so much? ALF believes that the real reason for the garage sale is that the Tanners need money — presumably because they’ve had to replace everything they own about 21 times over since his hairy dickass moved in — but even if that’s true, how much money do they think they’re going to get for Willie’s I LOVE PENSACOLA BEACH tchotchke?

Then Kate reveals that she’s going to sell Willie’s hockey stick and he goes bananas and holy shit how many never-mentioned hobbies does this asshole need? Willie Tanner has absolutely no consistent character traits. I used to believe the problem with him was that the writers wouldn’t give him any…but now I see that the problem is that they give him so many that they keep overwriting anything we’ve seen before. It’s so strange.

ALF, "The Gambler"

OH GOOD. Kate Sr. is back. I guess I shouldn’t have brought her up earlier in the review, because she heard that and rushed right over, fresh from her nooner with Wizard Beaver and with nothing else to do all day.

She sits down and turns on the horse race, telling the kids she needs to watch this. That’s fine…but why in the name of hell did she have to go all the way to the Tanner house for that? Doesn’t she have a television? Isn’t she obsessed with some dumbass soap opera? Will anybody on this show achieve consistent characterization?

Kate Classic comes in and is shocked to learn that her mother is a gambler. She asks how long she’s been gambling, and Kate Sr. replies, “My whole life,” because God fucking forbid this show suggest that anyone might develop over time.

Kate Sr. jokes about leaving all of her money to the Alien Task Force when she dies, which makes a later moment even odder than it would be otherwise, but we’ll get to that in a bit. The more pressing concern right now is the fact that civilians know that the Alien Task Force exists. Doesn’t that imply, then, that humanity within this universe knows — doesn’t suspect, but knows — that there’s extraterrestrial life? After all, if that wasn’t a given, why wouldn’t there be rioting in the streets that the government openly operates a massive entity dedicated to creatures that might not even exist? Can you imagine the shitstorm if Obama announced the foundation of the Federal Department of Sasquatch Relations?

If people know there’s an Alien Task Force, then they must also know that there are aliens. But if they know that there are aliens, then why is the Alien Task Force trying to cover them up?

It’s a chain of reasoning that isn’t debatable. If you openly operate the Alien Task Force, then everyone needs to believe in aliens, in which case there’s no need for coverups and secrecy. And if you operate the Alien Task Force in secret then we don’t need to take knowledge of extraterrestrial life as a given, but in that case you can’t have minor characters know about it and you can’t have your fucking representatives going door to door in full regalia asking if anyone’s seen the latest alien that fell to Earth.

I know I shouldn’t bother looking for logic of any kind in this show. I’m just holding out hope that somebody on the writing staff cares about this shit…and I’m disappointed almost every time.

ALF asks Kate Sr. for the name of her bookie, and then he calls him and says he wants to turn $50 into $11,000. They’re going to do all of this by mail, I guess, which is fine because sending currency back and forth through the postal service with somebody you’ve never met while betting on sports you’ve never heard of is bound to end well.

Then we cut to ALF listening to the radio and he has a lot more money now so I guess he won a bunch of times and my god who cares.

ALF, "The Gambler"

It’s actually part of a sequence set to a jaunty ragtime tune that’s supposed to suggest that ALF’s accumulating winnings over an extended period of time. So, a montage. Right?

Well, technically…but I don’t think the people working on ALF know how montages work. They’re meant to compress time so that we can skip over the boring stuff. They show the highlights, maybe a few comical moments along the way, but they are designed, essentially, to fill in the gaps as quickly as possible and get to the payoff. That’s why they’re nearly always set to music: the tempo creates a sense of momentum. We’re not just watching something…we’re moving forward.

That’s what happens when they’re employed for narrative reasons, anyway. They can also be employed for expressly artistic reasons, injecting some visual variety into a traditionally static medium. Maybe the story could be told just fine without one…but it can be told in more interesting ways with one. Breaking Bad did this regularly, and it was great at it.

Of course, you can do both at the same time. Being ALF, this show does neither.

This “montage” is just a bunch of meandering scenes stitched together in which ALF talks on the phone or monitors a horse race. It moves at no greater clip than any other given scene in any given episode, rendering the exercise redundant. It would have been easy to chop this down to an assortment of several-second scenes that showed ALF counting his money, tossing it in the air, placing more bets…you know. Something with momentum. Instead they just sit a camera on a tripod and slap music on some long scenes of a puppet poring over a betting sheet.

I don’t know. Maybe the ragtime music was laid over this sequence by some desperate editor who was charged with adding some sense of pacing to an episode rooted firmly in the mud. Even so, though, the way to do that would be to whittle down the footage he has for sharper impact…not lay some rollicking library tune over it and call it a day.

FIVE THOUSAND WORDS HERE I COME

Then it’s the day of the big garage sale! Hooray! Of course this show doesn’t have any outside sets so we won’t see any of it.

Kate Sr. comes over and says that she thinks the Ochmoneks are having a yard sale too, because they have a mess of shitty furniture in their front yard, but Kate Original Recipe delivers the punchline: it’s always that way. That would actually work as a joke if Kate Sr. had never been to the Tanner house before, but she clearly has. And, y’know, kinda lived there forever and a day.

It’s like this show goes out of its way to make no sense.

ALF, "The Gambler"

The Kates ‘n’ kiddies head outside, and Willie skulks around with his hockey stick and souvenir from some layover in a vaguely tropical region. ALF tells him to join him to watch the race, because it’s going to win him a lot of money. But the horse ALF bet on falls over. Willie leaves to re-hide his stuff, and ALF panics and calls the bookie, who says he’s coming over to the Tanner house to collect his money but why the fuck wouldn’t the bookie have asked to see the money in advance and holy cockmother in hell this is garbage.

ALF, "The Gambler"

In the garage ALF scrapes together his meager possessions in the hopes of selling them at the garage sale to pay the bookie. I don’t know if it’s attention to detail on the part of the props department or the simple fact that ALF didn’t have much of a props department, but some of the items laid out here are from previous episodes. He wore those headphones in “A.L.F.” (though I didn’t have anything to say about the scene here), he gave those green dice to Brian in “Help Me, Rhonda” (and apparently took them back…fuck you, kid), that’s his ejaculating flower from “Going Out of My Head Over You,” and those are the X-Ray Specs from “Wild Thing.” Maybe there are some other specific callbacks there that I just can’t remember.

Either way, the fact that I recognized any of it is evidence that I have wasted my life.

ALF, "The Gambler"

Oh, wow. I stand corrected; we do get to see the garage sale. I guess I forgot that they have a set for the driveway.

Nobody’s buying anything, though, and eventually Willie and Kate figure out it’s because ALF priced everything really high. How did he manage to re-price every item at the garage sale without anybody noticing? Especially since he only found out he needed that money after the garage sale began?

Anyway, Willie and Kate are pissed so they go inside to club ALF to death with his own foreleg, and there’s a really, really weird moment:

ALF, "The Gambler"

This guy was in the background during the whole scene, looking at things for sale, and then after Willie and Kate leave he approaches Kate Sr., and I really expected him to reveal himself as a member of the Alien Task Force. After all, they went out of their way to have Kate Sr. clumsily reference the organization earlier in this episode — and that’s only like the third time it’s been referenced ever — but no. It’s not even a deliberate fakeout. He’s just some guy who wears a military uniform to yardsales, I guess. He asks about a screwdriver and the scene ends.

What the actual god damn.

And that’s not even the worst thing that happens at the garage sale. No, I couldn’t begin to tell you why they dressed this extra like Colonel Klink, but something leaves me far more speechless than this ever could.

Stay tuned, dear reader.

ALF, "The Gambler"

ALF reluctantly explains to Willie and Kate about the bookie, and there’s somebody at the door so it must be the bookie because that’s the way shitty sitcoms work. But it’s not just any bookie…it’s David Leisure!

For whatever reason, ALF sure does get a lot of talent for one-off appearances. Why they didn’t cast any of these good actors and actresses in recurring roles is beyond me.

Yeah, yeah, I know David Leisure isn’t exactly Paul Newman, but he was a funny guy. He might not have had much range, but what he did he did well. I remember loving him as Charlie on Empty Nest, which he played with a genuinely charming shade of oily sleaze. And he was Joe Isuzu, in what’s got to be the most memorable advertising campaign for automobiles ever.**

Sadly, David Leisure gets stuck with a hankie and a deep voice because his character has a cold, which prevents him from putting much of his own stamp on the character. All he gets to do is demand money and sneeze. Hilarious.

Anyway, he wants $6,000 from Willie. Willie doesn’t have $6,000, so David Leisure breaks a vase and leaves. Good shit.

He’ll be back, we assume, though it’s not clear why he left. Willie then runs into the kitchen to stab ALF through the brain with a railroad spike.

They all stand around the kitchen talking about everything we just saw and repeating everything we already know, because the episode wasn’t long enough and what else were they going to fill time with? Jokes? Ha! You kill me.

ALF explains that he was just trying to help pay for the mortgage, but Willie says they have money stashed away for that, and it’s not a problem. This is actually a decent twist — ALF legitimately tries to help, but there’s no problem to begin with, which in turn results in him causing a problem — but it sure is dusted onto a damned damp squib of an episode.

Someone else comes to the door, I assume because he read my mind and knew that I thought it couldn’t get any worse.

Bitches? Bastards?

It gets worse.

ALF, "The Gambler"

It’s some guy we’ve never seen before who was at the yard sale. He says he wants to buy something he found, but he isn’t sure it’s for sale.

Willie and Kate ask him what it is. He says “the spaceship.”

So…wait. A million fucking times wait.

A fucking trillion million fucking billion fucking wait.

That’s where the space ship has been the whole time? In the bullfucking yard? Why have we never seen it? It’s just been sitting out in the open? Nobody thought to move it? Not even when they were hosting a garage sale?

They just left it clearly visible? It’s been clearly visible since episode mothertitting one?

The man doesn’t think it’s real, though…he just wants to use it as a prop for a film he’s working on, called Jupiter Guys.

But fuck all that; fuckfuck alla that fuck.

From the very first episode of this show until today the space ship has been in the yard. I wondered a while back where they could have hidden it…stupid ass idiot me!!! They didn’t hide it. They just scraped it off the roof of the garage like a dead pigeon and left it where it fell.

This is ridiculous. The people browsing their used cutlery and underpants have a clear view of the crashed UFO sitting in their yard. And it’s recognizable as a “space ship” by sight. Think about that.

Think.

About all of that.

What about that shit in “Baby, You Can Drive My Car” where ALF strips it for parts and sells the plumbing? Did that not actually happen? Is it a UFO or a pile of scrap metal?

None of this makes any sense, and it’s the grand resolution to the whole episode.

The Tanners don’t want to sell the space ship. But why? ALF’s obviously not taking it anywhere. Who knows. They agree to rent it to the man for exactly $6,000, as long as he gets it back to them within a week.

Why do they want it back? I guess I could think of a few reasons, but all of them are moot if the thing’s just sitting in the dicksplitting yard at all hours of the day and night. And won’t this be a problem when the guy sees that it’s not a prop, but a big, functional, complicated flying machine capable of intergalactic travel? Won’t he find that to be a little bit suspicious?

No, of course not. What kind of fucking moron would even think that? Everyone lives happily ever after and what with all due respect was any of this god damn bullshit goodbye.

MELMAC FACTS: On Melmac they don’t name their bottles.

—–
* For some reason this episode gets the longer version of the credits that we saw in “Try to Remember.” I don’t know why…this is still 22 minutes long, which is the same as the other syndication edits, but for some reason we don’t get the truncated credits. I figured the only reason the longer credits were on “Try to Remember” was that it wasn’t a syndication edit but who fuckin’ knows anymore.

** What would even be the competition for this? I can’t think of any other “mascot” characters for cars, apart from that receptionist Toyota has now that’s just a clear derivative of Progressive’s Flo. Am I forgetting something?

Antiphony, Chris KatsaropoulosSo I’m going to try something a little bit new here. Please take a moment to read this post, and let me know what you think in the comments below. (There are some prizes available for commenting, which will hopefully be a nice incentive for you, but mainly I want your feedback.)

SO WHAT IS IT?
I’ve decided to take part in an online book tour. If this is well received, I will do more of them moving forward. You may remember that I’ve reviewed a few self-published and indie books in the past, and that’s something that I’d like to keep doing. The difference with an online book tour is that instead of simply receiving a copy of the book in exchange for review, Novel Publicity & Co. will be ponying up gifts and prizes to commenters on the blogs hosting the tour.

AND WHAT DO YOU GET PHILIP? HUH?
In the interest of openness and full discretion, I will say that I don’t get anything for this that I wasn’t getting for my standard reviews. That is to say that I receive a copy of the book for review…and that’s it. In the further interest of openness and full discretion, there is a cash prize available to one of the blogs that hosts the tour. I don’t know what the qualifications are to win that prize, and it’s certainly nothing I’m angling for, but if I somehow managed to win this contest that I don’t fully understand, rest assured I would disclose that fact on this blog as well. Really, what I’m hoping is that this will be a way to benefit you guys while still indulging my desire to provide exposure to small-time authors.

HOW DOES IT BENEFIT US?
Well, you get to read all about a book you might not have otherwise heard of! You’re welcome!!! …nah, there is that, but in addition Novel Publicity & Co. offers a cash prize of $50 to a random commenter on one of the host blogs. Additionally, I have an extra copy of Antiphony that I will personally be awarding to a commenter on this blog, also at random. On top of that, there’s a Rafflecopter thing below that looks easy enough. I’ve entered contests in the past that way and haven’t ended up on any spammy mailing lists, and that’s a third way to win something. I can’t speak for Novel Publicity & Co.’s selection process, but in terms of winning a copy of the book from me, my only requirement is that you comment below with your real email address. It won’t be displayed, but if you win I’ll need to contact you, you silly billy.

ANYTHING ELSE?
I don’t believe so, but if you do have any questions, please comment below and I’ll be happy to answer them. If this is something you guys like, I’ll do more of it. If it’s something you don’t, then I probably won’t. So please, please do let me know your thoughts one way or the other. Oh, and I guess it’s worth mentioning that all the text below the review has been provided by Novel Publicity & Co. You probably could have guessed that…but there you go.

THE REVIEW:
Antiphony is a short read; it’s a mere four chapters long, consisting of around 50 pages each. I wouldn’t normally open a review by talking about something so superficial, but in this case I think that it’s actually a selling point. It’s a muddled experience and I’m not entirely certain that the book is aware of what it’s trying to achieve, but since reading it is such a brief experience and there’s plenty in the book worth meditating upon, I think the brevity works to balance out some of its emptiness.

The central character is a man named Theodore, who is set to deliver his findings in the field of Perturbation Theory to a group of highly-esteemed physicists. He misplaces his notes, however, and finds himself forced to piece together his speech from memory. What follows is an unexpected — to him and to his peers — presentation about God actually being the answer that scientists have been searching for.

Antiphony claims to chronicle Theodore’s professional decline from this point forward, but that’s not strictly true. I wish it were, because that would be a very interesting book on its own: somebody says something they don’t particularly believe, and then have the choice of either facing the consequences for their own carelessly chosen words or doubling down on them and attempting to push through the controversy. Something like the movie In the Loop, where a single offhand comment ruins and makes political careers while hurtling an unaware world toward armed conflict.

This would be on a smaller scale, of course, but that’s not quite what we get. Theodore’s story is an internal one, and that’s also where Antiphony is at its best. The deeper we get into Theodore’s head — his confusion, his second-guessing, his fear — the more interesting the story is. That is to say, the further we get from the story, the more interesting it is. It’s the external stuff we see Theodore deal with that poses a problem.

For instance, about midway through the book one of Theodore’s private emails gets forwarded to his colleagues, and he can’t figure out how it happened. There are half a dozen ways that this conflict could be resolved in a thematically appropriate manner…but Antiphony goes with the least interesting and least satisfying answer possible. There’s also a painfully clumsy exchange between Theodore and a right-wing blowhard who speaks less like a character than a lazy political cartoon.

These lapses in narrative judgment are frustrating, because Antiphony achieves moments of solid beauty and passive profundity along the way. It’s at its best when it’s raising questions, but stumbles a bit when it wants to pull us toward an answer. Most frustrating, however, is the novel’s treatment of Ilene, Theodore’s wife.

The text is cruel toward Ilene without a hint of self-awareness, putting her down, diminishing her needs and opinions, and ultimately providing Theodore with a moment of profound disrespect toward her that I believe we’re meant to celebrate. If I had more faith in the book I’d say that this was some artful commentary on broken relationships and power imbalances, but I don’t think I can give it quite that much credit, however good much of it manages to be.

In the end, Antiphony is more like an experiment than an experience, though I don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s like the message Theodore finds himself relaying to his colleagues, or like Peter Finch relays in Network; we get a sense of what it means to the characters…but don’t necessary need to have it mean anything to us. Network utilizes this disconnect for satirical purposes…Antiphony isn’t quite sure what to do with it and so doesn’t do much of anything.

Yet, for all of its flaws, it’s a very interesting read, full of legitimately impactful questions and moments of smooth, textual loveliness in the least anticipated places. It’s nothing I would recommend without reservation, but for its length — and especially if you win a copy for free — I’d say it’s worth your time. I’ve spent more time thinking about it than I spent reading it…and, personally, I think that’s one of the largest compliments any novel could hope to earn.

Thoughts below, please. Every comment is entered to win.

About the Book – About the Author – Prizes!!!

Welcome to another exciting publishing house spotlight tour from Novel Publicity. Join us as three new titles from Luminis Books–we’re calling them the Luminis Literary Triad—tour the blogosphere in a way that just can’t be ignored. And, hey, we’ve got prizes!

About the prizes: Who doesn’t love prizes? You could win either of two $25 Amazon gift cards, an autographed copy of Antiphony by Chris Katsaropoulos, or an autographed copy of its tour mates, A River So Long by Vallie Lynn Watson or Sabrina’s Window by Al Riske. Here’s what you need to do…

  1. Enter the Rafflecopter contest
  2. Leave a comment on my blog

That’s it! One random commenter during this tour will win a $25 gift card. Visit more blogs for more chances to win–the full list of participating bloggers can be found HERE. The other $25 gift card and the 3 autographed books will be given out via Rafflecopter. You can find the contest entry form linked below or on the official Luminis Literary Triad tour page via Novel Publicity. Good luck!

About the book: Theodore Reveil is one of the leading lights in String Theory physics, on his way to present his latest research at a triumphant meeting of his colleagues from around the world, when he realizes he has lost the notes for his presentation.

At the podium, in the midst of his distraction and confusion, he poses the question: “What if the universe, instead of being a giant machine, is really a giant thought?”

Then he crosses a line which he can never step back over again, saying, “The infinities and singularities in these equations may be telling us that what we are missing is unknowable in terms of physical science. These unsolvable terms in our equations may be roadsigns pointing to consciousness—to God—as the missing piece of the puzzle.”

Antiphony traces the downward spiral of Theodore’s career in the wake of what he has said, and the remarkable transformation that leads him into the depths of madness . . . or the revelation of the Final Theory, the ultimate secret of the universe.
Get Antiphony through Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

About the author: Connect with Chris on his website, Facebook, Twitter,or GoodReads..

Luminis Books was launched in January, 2010 by husband and wife team Tracy Richardson and Chris Katsaropoulos with a mission to publish thought-provoking literary fiction for children and adults. We publish what we love: Meaningful Books That Entertain. Our award-winning books engage and inform readers and explore a wide range of topics from love and relationships, teen sexual assault and homelessness to string theory, consciousness, and the Universal Energy Field.
Luminis Books is a proudly independent publisher located in Carmel, IN.

Learn more about Antiphony‘s tour mates HERE.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Just before I left for vacation last week I alluded in my farewell post to a song from Fallout: New Vegas. It was “Let’s Ride Into the Sunset Together,” which is my favorite one on the soundtrack. In retrospect, I should have used this one, because boy does it take on a whole other resonance when you’re in a place like Vegas in a post-relationship state of mind. It really was the perfect soundtrack, even if I only realized it on the plane coming home.

I’m not sure I ever got as much out of a vacation as I did this time around. Great, great fun…thanks to everyone I got to meet up with, everyone I got to meet period, and everyone I was unable to coordinate with, for giving me a reason to go back.

More actual content to come…I promise. I’d better get working, though, since I have nothing left in the pipeline. In the meantime, here’s a nice big picture dump of all the fun you missed. But no worries…that’s one hell of a city, and that’s where I plan on holding ChatterCon ’15. I’ll see ya there!

Las Vegas, 2014

Las Vegas, 2014

Las Vegas, 2014

Las Vegas, 2014

Las Vegas, 2014

Las Vegas, 2014

Las Vegas, 2014

Las Vegas, 2014

Las Vegas, 2014

Las Vegas, 2014

Las Vegas, 2014

Las Vegas, 2014

Las Vegas, 2014

Las Vegas, 2014

Las Vegas, 2014

Las Vegas, 2014

Las Vegas, 2014

Las Vegas, 2014

Las Vegas, 2014

Las Vegas, 2014

Las Vegas, 2014

And that song ain’t so very far from wrong.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...