Sunday, July 8, 2018

So I have moved...

 I have to apologize. 

It's been a while since I have posted on this blog but that's because of a very positive reason.

This blog is officially moving to:

Going forward all of my regular posts as well as my 52 MOVIES FROM 52 COUNTRIES posts will be here.  I am also starting a new series: LESSONS FROM SCI-FI/FANTASY MASTERS, in which I read every book on Amazon's “100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books to Read in a Lifetime.” list and post the writing lessons I have learned from each volume.

It's been a pleasure posting on Blogger, but I believe this is the right move for me.

I hope you continue to read the posts I put out at

Thank you,


Sunday, June 3, 2018

52 Movies from 52 Countries - #21 ICELAND

This post is a part of an ongoing project in which I watch one movie from a different country every week. 

PLOT: Gummi (Sigurò Sigurjónsson) and Kiddi (Theódór Júlíusson) are two brothers living in a remote Icelandic farming community who are neighbors but have not spoken with one another in forty years. When one of Kiddi's rams is found to have scarpie (a degenerative disease), the government orders that all the sheep in the region be destroyed. Gummi manages to save a handful of his sheep, hiding them in his cellar, but when authorities catch on, he must turn to his estranged brother in order to save his animals.


MEMORABLE MOMENT: The opening scenes in which Gummi brings his most prized ram into town for a local sheep contest. The way he talks to and handles the ram shows us that he considers it a work animal (as opposed to a pet). However, he clearly loves the creature and respects it for being the source of his livelihood. This relationship establishes the great lengths both brothers go to in order to try to save a handful of their animals.

WHO IS THIS MOVIE FOR?: I'll be honest, this is hard question to answer. Like last week's The Color of the Mountains, Rams doesn't clearly fit into a genre so it's difficult to give a clear cut "anyone who likes _____ will love this movie." 

If I had to identify Rams, I'd say it's a low-key dramatic comedy. There are humorous moments but most of them are so subdued several seconds pass before I realized that what I saw was actually quite funny.

Rams' ideal viewer is someone who understands why people would risk going to jail to save their animals BUT has a thick skin when it comes to watching a movie where animals die. A lot of animals die in this film and it is utterly heart breaking.  On top of that the film has a slow pace. It avoids many of the chaotic pratfalls a Hollywood film with the same plot would embrace.

That being said, the movie is extremely well acted and beautifully shot. While I wouldn't go so far as to say it is a "slice of life" film, most of the story feels very believable. 

No, Rams isn't for everyone. In fact of all the films I have watched for this project, this is the one that would have the smallest audience (at least in America). That being said, it is a very well made movie that is excellently acted and painfully believable.

RUNTIME: 93 Minutes

DIRECTED BY: Grímur Hákonarson

WRITTEN BY: Grímur Hákonarson

Sigurò Sigurjónsson
Theódór Júlíusson
Charlotte Bøving

Sunday, May 27, 2018

52 Movies from 52 Countries - #20 COLOMBIA

This post is a part of an ongoing project in which I watch one movie from a different country every week. 

PLOT: Manuel (Hernán Mauricio Ocampo) is a young boy growing up in a rural area of Columbia where guerilla soldiers and the military terrorize the locals while fighting for power. One day, an older boy kicks Manuel's brand new soccer ball into a mine field. Manuel and his friends now have to figure out how to get it back.

MEMORABLE MOMENT:  The boys work their way across the minefield by hopping from bolder to bolder. They climb a tree and rig a harness from the branches. Poca Luz (Genaro Aristizábal), a shy boy with glasses, is the smallest in the group. They convince him to climb into the harness and lower him to the ground. He has almost reached the ball when he loses his glasses. The branch breaks and he falls. Now the timid boy is standing hurt and blind in a minefield.

WHO IS THIS MOVIE FOR?: Like Munyurangabo, the Rwandan film I watched a few weeks ago, The Colors of the Mountain shows a side of the world we rarely see from Hollywood. Yes, there are American films set in Colombia, but (like many US films set in other countries) they almost always  present the world from the American's point of view.
The Colors of the Mountain presents a community of peaceful individuals torn by the conflict between two opposing sides, but it is mostly told from the point of view of children. There is a great deal of innocence and delight in the film (with some moments that made me laugh out loud) but ultimately it is a dark film about people who are trampled despite their best intentions. While Manuel and his friends try to figure out how to get their ball back, his parents debate whether or not to help the guerilla soldiers. If they do they will be criminals. If they don't the guerillas will destroy them.

So who is this movie for? If you liked The Florida Project (a film that should have won best picture but wasn't even nominated) definitely check this movie out. They are both films that cover painfully tragic situations told from the point of view of children who maintain their innocence throughout much of the movie. Even if you didn't care for The Florida Project or have never heard of it, I'd suggest  The Colors of the Mountain to anyone seeking a story that presents a very painful situation through the eyes of innocent but complex characters.

RUNTIME: 90 minutes.

DIRECTOR: Carlos César Arbeláez

WRITTEN BY:  Carlos César Arbeláez

Hernán Mauricio Ocampo
Hernán Méndez
Genaro Aristizábal

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Open to Submissions: GRIEVOUS ANGEL

I just wanted to give you all a heads up that the poetry/flash fiction publication GRIEVOUS ANGEL is accepting submissions!

They've published some very impressive works of fantasy and science fiction including MOONSHOT which is quite possibly the best work of flash fiction I've ever read. - Seriously, check this story out.

-Submissions shouldn't be longer than 750 words (yeah, you read that right).

-They pay at a "professional rate," six cents per word (and $1.00 per line of poetry).

-Publication qualifies for the Science Fiction Writers of America.

Their website includes this important note:
 "We've refined the emphasis of our SF&F genre-coverage to echo this site's overall focus on Weird Tales, Ghosts, Geeks, Urban Myths, and Folklore. Yes, we still want Science Fiction and Fantasy, as well Humour/Satire riffs on these genre, but we are looking to be intrigued!"

Of course you'll want to read their GUIDELINES in full.

Good luck!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

52 Movies from 52 Countries - #19 Scotland

This post is a part of an ongoing project in which I watch one movie from a different country every week. 

PLOT: A devout Christian police sergeant (Edward Woodward) travels to a Scottish island in search of a missing girl whom the locals claim never existed. While there, he learns that the islanders worship pagan Celtic Gods and are planning a... honestly, the less you know going into it the better.

MEMORABLE MOMENT: When the "fool" of a police sergeant finally encounters the titular Wicker Man. I won't describe the scene or the context (because 1- it's too great of a spoiler and 2 - I wouldn't do it justice). However, I will say that Edward Woodward's performance transforms him into the human manifestation of misery. I am left dumbfounded every time I watch this scene.

  • The Wicker Man was intended as a vehicle for Christopher Lee who agreed to appear in the film for free. He considers the role of Lord Summerisle to be his favorite of all the characters he's played (sorry Saruman fans). Lee paid for his own press tour out of pocket and sat down with anyone who was willing to interview him about the movie.  Supposedly, there were some farmers in Iowa who were surprised to see him live on early morning public access shows.
  • A remake was filmed in 2006 and a sequel (The Wicker Tree) was made in 2011. I have seen neither but from from what I hear don't bother. 

WHO IS THIS MOVIE FOR?:  Despite the modest success upon its initial release in 1973, The Wicker Man has become required viewing for horror fans. In 1977, film magazine Cinefantastique stated that The Wicker Man was "the Citizen Kane of horror movies."

That being said, the film goes against many horror tropes.  Most of the scenes take place outside during the day and the majority of the music (a character in upon itself) is traditional folk songs.

In fact, impatient viewers might complain that the film's first hour is downright campy. Many of the scenes feel like something out of a comedic police procedural. There are no grisly murders or jump scares. We are given the impression that Sergeant Howie is in complete control of the situation.  However, the audience needs to see this movie all the way through to the end. The climax is one of the most disturbing scenes I have ever witnessed, completely juxtaposing the light-hearted nature of what has come before.

The Wicker Man isn't just a monument of a horror film, it is also a very unique horror film. Halloween and Psycho are slasher films. The Sixth Sense and It Follows are supernatural thrillers. The Wicker Man's unique plot structure and tone places it in a sub genre of its own.

So yes, this is a film for anyone who is a fan of horror or cult films or great movies in general. That being said, people who are sensitive to discussions that criticize Christianity and Paganism may want to tread lightly. Also (light spoiler) some animals do die very horrible deaths. To be honest, that was the part of the film I found the most unsettling...that's just the kind of guy I am.

RUNTIME: 88 Minutes (Although this varies slightly depending on which version you're watching.)




Sunday, May 13, 2018

52 Movies From 52 Countries - #18 Rwanda

This post is a part of an ongoing project in which I watch one movie from a different country every week. 

PLOT: Orphaned by the Rwandan Genocide, Ngabo (Jeff Rutagengwa), a member of the Tutsi tribe, sets off to kill his parents' murderer. He is accompanied by Sangwa (Eric Ndorunkundiye), who is Hutu. During their journey, they stay with Sangwa's family where tribal differences cause friction between the two friends.  

MEMORABLE MOMENT: The opening scene in which Ngabo steals a machete from a marketplace. As he holds the weapon we see there is blood on the blade. The camera pans to Ngabo's face and then back to the machete. We see that it is in fact clean, the blood is all in his mind. At this point we have been told nothing about Ngabo's backstory but we can guess what the young man intends to do with the weapon.

According to IMDB

  • Munyurangabo was the first feature-length movie filmed in the Kinyarwanda language. 

WHO IS THIS MOVIE FOR? Munyurangabo is a movie for people looking for a quiet, intimate portrayal of the aftermath of one of the most brutal genocides of the second half of the twentieth century. It is as far away from Hollywood as one can get, not only in terms of budget and setting but also in its pacing. On the surface, Munyurangabo is a revenge story, a sub-genre that has always been popular in American films. However, the movie spends considerably more time on quiet, domestic scenes and friction between family members.

Had I come across Munyurangabo while flipping through the channels, I might momentarily mistake it for a documentary. The film maintains a grounded, slice-of-life quality, even as it portrays some of the characters’ worst moments.  

However, the film gives little history regarding the genocide itself. I’m assuming this is because it was filmed in a country where every member of the population is all too familiar with the events. If you aren’t familiar, though, you may want to watch a movie like Hotel Rwanda first to get some context.

(Then again, seeing as how the Rwandan Genocide has become known as one of the most overlooked travesties in recent history, I would suggest learning more about it anyway.) 

WHERE CAN YOU FIND IT?: The DVD is available through Netflix. It is also available to rent ($3.99) or buy ($9.99) on Amazon. I'm sure you could also borrow it from many public or university library systems. 

RUNTIME: 97 minutes

DIRECTOR: Lee Isaac Chung

Samuel Gray Anderson
Lee Isaac Chung

Jeff Rutagengwa
Eric Ndorunkundiye
Jean Marie Vianney Nkurikiyinka 

Monday, May 7, 2018

52 Movies From 52 Countries - #17 France

This post is a part of an ongoing project in which I watch one movie from a different country every week. 

PLOT: Like most works of surrealism, Holy Motors' plot is difficult to describe and is (in some ways) besides the point. The film follows an actor, Mr. Oscar (Denis Lavant), as he travels through Paris in his stretch limo. Over the course of a day and evening he plays nine different characters. However there are no visible cameras or audience.

MEMORABLE MOMENT: I'm not the first person to say that the most memorable moment in the film is when Mr. Oscar dons the guise of a violent madman rampaging through a cemetery, pushing over mourners and devouring flowers. The gleefully bizarre sequence culminates with him terrorizing a super model's photo shoot. 

  • Edith Scob, who plays the chauffeur, Céline, starred in the French horror classic Eyes Without a Face (1960). The mask Céline puts on at the end of the film is a direct reference to the movie.
  • The opening scene was inspired by a story by E. T. A. Hoffmann, about a man who discovers a secret door in his bedroom leading to an opera house. 

WHO IS THIS MOVIE FOR?: Like last week's movie this is a film for fans of David Lynch, Alejandro Jodorowsky and other filmmakers who specialize in surrealist cinema.

Holy Motors does technically have a plot. It also has characters and a direction, but this is not a movie for anyone seeking logic. No matter how much we analyze the film, we're not going to find a down-to-earth explanation, and that's part of the joy of the ride. I enjoyed Holy Motors the most when I stopped trying to rationalize the events and accepted the film for what it is - a strange, funny, tragic, musical, and sometimes offensive odyssey into the absurd.

WHERE CAN YOU FIND IT?: You can by the DVD from Amazon or watch it for free as long as you have a subscription. Those of you with a Netflix subscription can request the DVD.

RUNTIME: 115 Minutes

DIRECTOR: Leos Carax

WRITER: Leos Carax

Denis Lavant
Edith Scob