Maleficent

Angelina Jolie was perfect as Maleficent. Rick Baker's work on her face and horns? Also perfect. There is an awful lot to love about this movie.

So, yes! I loved this film, and had a great time seeing it with Sandra. Having an actual date at a movie will do a lot to boost it over the Threshold of Awesome, but I don't think Maleficent needed the boost. 

The film did have a little bit of a demographic problem, though. Kids are going to want to see it, and I can see how parts of the movie were built to appeal to them. The narration, in particular, was something neither Sandra nor I felt was necessary, but for kids who can't yet grasp the nuances of great acting the additional layer of storytelling is bound to be helpful. And the battle scenes? Lots of clobbering and flinging, but no actual stabbing, no blood splatter, no decapitation, and surprisingly very little death. One scene in particular shows a group of soldiers fighting giant, burning, magical thorns, and it's going badly enough for them that I pretty much assumed they were dead. Nope! The smoldering, sooty, and scraped up soldiers report back to the king, and that particular visual seems like it would feel right at home in a cartoon. 

There were lots of kids, and I think a few tweens in the audience. Judging from the noise, they had a good time. What I'm saying here is that you shouldn't trust me to tell you whether a movie is going to work for your kids, because I AM FORTY-SIX. 

The jaded old man in me wanted Maleficent to dig deeply into the horrors Maleficent wrought. Why stop with "kind of dark" when "grimdark" is just a few steps away? Well, because Disney. Minor disappointment aside, I'm totally okay with how Disney decided to play it, especially since they played so well against some of the tropes they've established over the last 75 years.

You might be wondering what the film does to the Sleeping Beauty canon. Well, wonder away, because I don't want to spoil anything... except to say that there were a couple of scenes where the sets were built to echo the animated feature's matte paintings, and I got a real thrill out of those. If watching Disney's Sleeping Beauty is something you're up for before seeing Maleficent, I'd encourage it. I wish I'd done it. There are probably a hundred such moments throughout the film, and I only caught two. 

Maleficent clears the Threshold of Awesome, and though it only ranks #5 for me, as of this writing the top six films are really quite close. And I think I said that last week, too.

(Aside: "Fun I had at the movies" is not the same as "want to see again." Godzilla, Maleficent, and The Lego Movie are all films I'd be happy to see again, and I've already seen Godzilla twice. But before you ask, no, I'm not going to create a scale for re-watchability. I do have an actual job to do. Speaking of which, I need to post this, and then ink comics and sketch in copies of Book 10.)

Order Now, and See Me at Lock & Load

I'll be at the Privateer Press Lock & Load event in a week. If you'll be there too, skip to the last paragraph!

While I know there is overlap between Schlock Mercenary readers and Warmachine players, it's not huge, and to further narrow the intersection of sets, there's probably a very limited number of people who play Warmachine, plan to attend Lock & Load next week, read Schlock Mercenary, AND want signed and sketched Schlock Mercenary books.

For this, and other reasons, I won't be selling books there. I'll be playing games, and maybe signing things related to the stuff I've written for Privateer Press. If, however, you are there and have Schlock Mercenary books, I'll totally sign and sketch those, too.

If you'll be there and you want me to sign books, place your order now. Then email schlockmercenary@gmail.com with your order number and the words "Lock & Load" in the title. We'll put those unsigned, unsketched books in the mail tomorrow, and you'll have them in time for the event. I'll bring my Sharpie.

My Favorite Big Idea

I'm featured as a guest in a couple of places this week. 

Over at Mary Robinette Kowal's site you can learn about My Favorite Bit from Longshoreman of the Apocalypse, and on John Scalzi's site I'll tell you what the Big Idea was in that story.

And of course here at Schlock Mercenary you can still pre-order the book. All orders placed before June 4th will be signed! 

X-Men: Days of Future Past

After all my rambling on about nostalgia-mining, X-Men: Days of Future Past proved to be a great case-study in how to work nostalgia correctly. And putting aside all the artsy deconstruction stuff, I had a fun at the movie. It clears my Threshold of Awesome.

So, nostalgia.

As it happens, "Days of Future Past" is a time-travel story. Who knew? (Answer: everybody who watched the trailers.) With time travel as a plot device, the storyteller can do some neat things, meta-things, like taking the audience back to movie-moments they've experienced before, and making them better than the audience remembered them.

Your mileage may vary, here, depending on how much you liked X-Men (2000), X2 (2003), and X-Men: The Last Stand (2006). Me, I liked the first one, loved the second one, and thought the third one was clumsy in spite of (or maybe because of) the amount of awesome stuff they tried to put into it.

X-Men: Days of Future Past skirts around that trilogy completely, opening with a late-stages apocalypse setting (post-"Last Stand," obviously) and then jumping to the early 70's, about a decade after the events of X-Men: First Class. In the course of doing this, we get to see some of what Logan/Wolverine remembers about the intervening years. And even though that bit was only a tiny part of the overall movie, it served to make the whole thing more powerful by taking all the nostalgia I had for the previous decade's X-Men films and distilling it for a single, concentrated punch. 

Of course, if you hated those films and don't want to be reminded of them, that punch may end up working against the directorial vision for this film. Like I said above, YMMV

X-Men: Days of Future Past comes in at number 5 for me for the year, but pretty much everything above this year's Threshold of Awesome is neck-and-neck, so the numbering feels kind of arbitrary, even to me. 

BYU Special Collections

Three librarians, a cartoonist, and a blogger walk into a restaurant.

The cartoonist defaced the menus, the blogger tweeted about it, and then the first librarian cataloged the menu, the second cataloged the tweet, and the third librarian bemoaned the fact that the cartoonist didn't pick up the check and thus leave behind a signed slip with a date on it that could be cataloged as evidence.

No, that's not a thing that actually happened, but Sandra and I did have lunch on Wednesday with three librarians from Brigham Young University's Special Collections. 

Here's an amusing thing that did actually happen. All three of them made genuinely horrified faces when I told them about how sometimes I'll get a strip all penciled, and then hate it, and then (and I pantomimed this part) crumple it up and throw it away.

Okay, it was amusing to ME. And I didn't even need to tell them about how, if I'm feeling really grumpy, I'll spill my drink into the wastebasket just to be sure.

You see, in recent years they've taken to collecting early art and all kinds of other records from alumni artist types, and they seem to live in fear that with every passing moment somebody somewhere is throwing something away.

Am I exaggerating? Maaaaaybe.

After lunch they took Sandra and I on a tour of the Special Collections area. It had some things I expected it to have, like first printings of The Book of Mormon, and original letters written by Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. It also had some things I didn't expect it to have, like a first printing of Jane Austen's Emma (which Sandra and I got to hold with our bare hands, a fact that made our good friend Mary Robinette Kowal whimper publicly.)

But beyond the unexpected, Special Collections also had some amazingly cool things, like a 19th-century pioneer journal which, after spending a hundred years half-buried in a grain silo being chewed on by rats, was rescued by a conservator who cleaned it up, and then layered each individual page between sheets of Mylar

And absolutely beyond the pale on the amaze-o-meter, they want my stuff. Those strips we've been selling you? Yeah, the librarians were a little sad to see those go to private collectors who don't have conservators armed with Mylar. But I cheered them right up when I told them that I still have plenty of the earliest originals, including a couple of unpublished versions of early strips which I hand-lettered, and which nobody but Sandra and I have ever seen.

Honestly, the very most amazing thing they had was their shelving. There isn't room down there for every shelf to have its own aisle, so the shelves move. Deep beneath the polished concrete floor, a whisper-quiet motor slides multiple tons of books and shelves--sometimes moving several shelves at once--in order to create an aisle for access. And if the sensors between the shelves fail, those moving shelves can totally kill a librarian dead, and simultaneously stain a lot of books. 

(No librarians have died down there yet, but several kick-stools have been sacrificed in the name of library science.)

I won't lie. It feels kind of weird. In some distant future there may be boxes of my stuff awaiting discovery by a collection-delving, thesis-writing grad student who will, I'm sure, lose weeks of productivity to the Schlock Mercenary archives in order to figure out why these horribly-rendered pictures of talking poo are being kept in this box. And if he's not careful, and if the sensors aren't working, he will be crushed to paste in his quest for the deeply esoteric, at which point, though long dead, I WILL HAVE OUTLIVED HIM.

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