Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Face of Trespass

I'm still not sure why Ruth Rendell's editors asked her to use a pseudonym for her later psychological thrillers.  The Barbara Vine books are a bit deeper, and maybe more likely to be written from a female POV, but the tone is similar.  Who committed a crime doesn't seem as important as why, her narrators may not be reliable, and there's often a twist at the end.

Rendell frames The Face of Trespass with brief scenes featuring a newly elected MP.  At an alumni function, an old friend mentions a schoolmate of theirs, Gray Lanceton, who published a novel and is now living in the MP's district.  Lanceton is living in semi-squalor, minding another classmate's home (rurally placed yet within a few miles of London) and experiencing complete writers' block in the wake of a breakup.  Drusilla wanted Gray to kill her husband; he refused, ending the affair and his ability to write.  He's scraping by on ever-decreasing royalties when his mother's second husband calls him to France to attend her deathbed.  This trip, along with a promise to watch a dog for a vacationing family friend, lead him to call Drusilla for help and eventually to his arrest for the murder of Drusilla's husband in Gray's home.  We know he didn't (couldn't have) committed the murder, but who did?

I enjoyed Rendell's depiction of a tatty, squat-filled, 1970s London, made hazier by the obvious unraveling of her narrator's mental state.  The murder's identity is obvious, and we watch Gray walk through a London neighborhood miles from the murder site.  So why does The Face of Trespass work so well?  It's because Rendell so tightly plotted her mystery, and because the dread I felt as I saw an innocent man stumbling towards a certain murder conviction.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

I Ain't Afraid of No Trolls

When I first heard about the Ghostbusters remake, I thought it was unnecessary.  The original isn't "sacred" but it's a very funny part of my teen years.  I spent too many hours quoting the movie and deconstructing the video with my friends, and my initial group of college friends bonded over a freshman orientation showing.  It was original - one of the first successful combinations of deadpan humor and special effects.  A remake just wasn't necessary, it was contradictory.

Then the backlash hit.  Not because a studio was remaking a classic for no other reason than a quick profit.  No one objects to that today - most summer movies (and a fair share of winter releases) are remakes and reboots, often of more recent movies.  It was because the 2016 Ghostbusters would be women.  Sure, we can win the World Cup and serve in the Senate, but star in an action comedy?  Blasphemy!  Bring on the trolls.

And they came.  They went on YouTube and down voted the trailer in record numbers.  They flooded IMDb with one star ratings before the movie's release date (so obviously on principle rather than merit).  They launched a Twitter war, particularly against star Leslie Jones.  So much time and effort, and over something so insignificant - a summer movie.  Something that exists only to make people laugh and enjoy the air conditioning.

Despite my disinterest in remakes and reboots, I had to see it.  Even if it wasn't very good.

But it was good.  It's not perfect and won't make me forget the original, but it was funny, tightly scripted, well acted, and full of cool special effects.  Everything you need in a summer movie.  Ghostbusters isn't perfect, but I can only complain about two major flaws.  They had one or two too many scenes showing that the blond beefcake secretary was dumber than a box of rocks.  That could have been established with a lighter touch.

My second complaint surprised me.  The friendship scenes early in the movie felt awkward and slowed down the pace, especially the product placement pizza party.  More than that, they were unnecessary.  The entire battle against the ghosts demonstrated more clearly than any piece of dialog that these were four smart, strong, kick-ass women working as a precision team.  They backed each other up and anticipated each other's moves in a way that only highly competent, well practiced, close friends and colleagues can.  They were what every woman can be and often is.  And what we rarely see on the big screen.  That's what scares the trolls - the possibility that fantasy will include aspects of reality.