17 Jan

Back, if a bit wobbly…

I’ve been down for the count almost all week long with a strain of whatever flu has been running wild. Yes, I did get my flu shots (every year, cardiologist thinks its a good idea as my heart does not like being dehydrated), but still succumbed.

Fortunately today I seem to up and out and looking at my email inbox in horror.

I watched a lot of silly TV while in a state of shivering stupor at the wee hours of the morning. I can’t remember half of it. But I do remember two of them, both on Netflix streaming.

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One For The Money was the adaptation of Janet Evanovich’s novel starring Katherine Heigl. Panned by critics and slow at the box office I decided to watch it because I figured I had nothing to lose.

Maybe it was my feverish state, but I was quite charmed. It suffers from following a more novelistic pattern than a summer blockbuster one (two finales and two, or maybe even three, mini-ends) all throughout, which I could see might lead to some finding it meandering. The Jersey characters veered toward stereotypical that might not have been in the book [and Racalicious could probably write a doctoral thesis on the portrayal of the two black prostitutes]. And, the male lead, Jason Mara, while he has a pseudo-mid-career Mel Gibson sort of vibe going, just doesn’t quite match the badass of Daniel Sunjata (perfectly cast) leading to a mis-casting feel. Further, I’m wondering if female audiences who went to see it were hoping for a little more steam than the ads might have promised, it’s all very PG-13.

Nonetheless, Katherine Heigl made for a plucky Stephanie Plum. And unlike most movies with a strong female lead, she has agency and resolves the final threat to her own life, so I enjoyed that. She spent so much time being tutored by Daniel Sunjata I was worried the books would flip to, something that bugs me in too many (but not all) urban fantasy/female gumshoe novels I read where the heroine gets protected by the love interest. This movie avoided that silliness. After spending the whole movie learning the tricks, she uses them. Hurray for that.

This movie cost $40 million to make and didn’t earn out.

Seeing as that District 9 cost $30 million to make, I really don’t understand how it was possible for One for the Money to cost that much, unless it was mostly for the price of Heigl’s acting fee. In which case, she wasn’t acting Jersey all *that* well.

It seems to me they could have done 4 of these at $10 million dollars a pop with a slightly less famous actress and recouped their money on syndication or iTunes rentals. But what do I know? I just struggle to earn a living writing novels.

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The other movie was Gunless. A Canadian take on the Old West mythology. Again, panned by critics. I think because it is less a ‘comedy’ than a movie that pokes back at the myth of the Old West from a Canadian perspective, which means it actively clashes with received wisdom from Gun Culture, which tends to rule in Pop Culture. For as much as the NRA is demanding that we not look at the man behind the curtain and instead look at video games and movies, I imagine Gunless is not the response they want, but it’s actually the direction you go if you’re playing with the assumption.

Now, what I found interesting about the movie was that even though I found the theme one I basically agree with (shotguns, rifles are tools, and the Canadians in the film own these kinds for basic self defense and hunting, but other kinds of guns are only for killing and mayhem, and they find them and the gun culture around them, as embodied by the gunslinger who shows up, both repellent in the damage it does [embodied by having their stuff casually shot up and their blacksmith challenged to die for no big reason that they can see] and fascinating at the same time [myth, manliness]) and cutely argued, I found the film ‘preachy’ initially, but as I self-interrogated I realized I found it ‘preachy’ based mainly (not entirely, there are 3 mini-preachy pieces of dialogue in there, to be fair, that I would have cut, audiences are not as stupid as we sometimes believe) on my own immersion in gun culture, which presumes Clint Eastwood’s pro-gun Dirty Harry/Westerns to be the base standard.

But Clint’s world is actually one pole. Just because it’s the pole I am constantly exposed to doesn’t mean anything. Gunless felt preachy mainly because it sat somewhere in the middle of a conversation about guns as tools (as I said, a middle position of one where it had rifles and shotguns as tools for farmers for self defense as hunting, but not for killing over insults, it was not anti-gun, though Clint-steeped gun fetishists would call it anti-gun it clearly isn’t) where a movie about Ghandi or no guns at all is the farther side of the continuum. My ‘meh’ feeling had more to do initially with my own pop culture experience.

That’s not to say Gunless was high art or an amazing movie. I’d pick 3:10 to Yuma or Unforgiven over it anyway, they’re just better pieces of art. Done. But Gunless was a cute, fun film that I’m glad I finally got around to watching after having had it in my queue for a year now. It had a lot of negative reviews, but I wonder if some of them were because it moved against a grain that people couldn’t quite express.

I probably wouldn’t have been able to self-interrogate if I wasn’t on an intellectual journey regarding my own assumptions about gun-fetishm that came from visiting England in November. That began a research quest that challenged many assumptions and wrapped up with Sandy Hook.

So that’s some of what I did while I was sick. Not my favorite way to spend a week. Hope your’s was better.