Derik Badman's Journal

2020-04-12 09:25

Not sure what happened the past few days that I didn't write anything. In a bit of a slump I guess, though also I was working more on my fiction (though not as much as I would like). We've passed the one month mark now of staying at home.

I've seen the fox kits more which has been a highlight. The other day I saw the mother (I just assume it's the mother), pick up one of the kits in her mouth and walk off and then the rest of them followed after. I opened the back gate on our fence, hoping the kits will be curious enough to visit our yard. In previous years they've liked hanging out on the deck we have that encircled the above ground pool that used to be back there.

I rewatched Kelly Reichardt's Meek's Cutoff yesterday on the Criterion Channel. It's a slow introspective western about a few families who have travelled off the main Oregon Trail (at least that is my inference from what is said) with the promise of some kind of shortcut by guide named Meek. By the time the movie starts they seem to be lost. Throughout, the slow dwindling of their water supply provides a level of tension, as does their various reactions to the worsening situation and the interplay between the guide and the settlers. Michelle Williams plays one of the wives who starts being more vocal and authoritative as the story goes on. From the beginning we see the men gathering together to make decisions, and the women gathered together wondering what the men are talking about or sharing what their husbands have told them. But as the movie continues we see Williams' character inserting herself more into the decision making and taking action in various ways, especially when they capture a native man who they hope knows the land and can lead them to water. It has a hopeful but ambiguous ending that surprised me even on a second viewing. I mean surprising in its ambiguity and abruptness rather than in it being a shocking ending.

I finished up the fourth of the Berserk deluxe editions yesterday. (I wrote about the last volume back in December [2019-12-12], and it appears I typoed there and said I had read the fourth volume. It must have been the third.) In reading this part of the story a second time, I really noticed how this at least partially, like Vinland Saga, is offering a commentary on the "fight to the top" "follow your dreams" narrative so common in manga. I mentioned that in my previous post, but in this one it becomes more clearly a twist or even a critique. The one main character, Griffith, after suffering imprisonment and torture, is shown to be somehow fated to become some kind of demon thing (the mythology of this manga seems very ad hoc), and he is given a vision. He is trying to reach this castle up in the sky, and he realizes that the road to the castle is basically covered in corpses. He is (in the vision, literally at least) walking over the corpses, but the road doesn't reach the castle yet. To follow his dream, to fight to the top, he has to kill and sacrifice and literally do it over the death of people he knows. In this case, it becomes him sacrificing his band of mercenaries (who compromise the protagonists and most prominent secondary characters in the story). It's a creepy and powerful sequence, that turns a lot of the previous story about his dreams and ambitiions into something horrible.

My previous comments about some of the leering gaze of the manga, continues in this volume in a place or two, though also there is a really effective sex scene in this one between two of the protagonists that is a major narrative turning. It not only provides us with more information about the characters, their pasts, their feelings, but also, going forward, changes their actions and the actions of others as the story continues. Kentaro Miura, who often seems a little off with his character drawings, actually draws the female protagonist, who is one of the strongest fighters in the mercenary band, with a strongly muscled body, that is refreshingly different for fantasy/comics artwork. His style makes it a little over the top with the muscles, but that tracks with how he draws the male protagonist too.

Watched the noir Dead Reckoning the other day too. It stars Humphrey Bogart and Lizabeth Scott. I thought I had positive memories of watching it before but this time at least I was pretty bored by it.

Eric linked me to this small RPG Mausritter the other day. It's an Into the Odd variation for a Mouseguard type game. Real simple rules, with some good idea generators, and a nice inventory system that involves little cut-out cards placed on your character sheets inventory slots. I think it would be fun to play, but the cards do not lend themselves to online play (we'd each have to print out a lot of stuff), so naturally I decided I'd try to make an online version. Handling the drag and droppable items seemed like it might be a fun thing to figure out. So I was working on that yesterday, at first just adapting my 5e character sheet code for the basic character sheet. Now I'm working on figuring out how to do the inventory stuff which is a good bit trickier.

Finished up watching Chantal Akerman's Les Rendez-vous d'Anna (1978) this afternoon after starting it the other day. Another slow film with long takes, and very low key drama. It's a portrait of a woman (named Anna) who is a film director who travels a lot (I guess for screenings of her films, the actual director part is only minor background information) and seems very isolated from most people. The film follows her arriving in Germany for a screening and then her subsequent trip back home to Paris. The action such as it is, is based around a series of conversations she has with people, some strangers, some not, primarily in hotels, train stations, and on trains. Throughout she seems distant and indecisive. In a strange scene a friend meets her at a train station. Anna's train is late and she says she's hungry. The shot sequence watches them go down some stairs to a doorway into a cafe or restaurant in the station, then a show of them standing next to a table that has no people at all but a lot of food on plates, as if a number of people had a large meal and didn't eat most of it. Then Anna says she's not hungry anymore and they turn around and leave and there's another shot of them going back up the stairs. It's a bit humourous, to me at least.

Throughout we get different stories from the people she talks to, in a few cases about the war (WWII, in this case), sometimes a bit about Anna. The portrait of her is slowly built up through these interactions until at the end she gets home to her apartment which looks like no one lives there: nothing on the walls, a completely non-descript bed, a fridge that seems empty. She lays down on the bed and listens to her answering machine messages.