Oof, May was a brutal month in terms of books read - a mere five. I haven't read that few books in a month for years, but then G&G and an out-of-province funeral ate up over a week. Still, not great.
The five I did manage to finish were Connie Willis' All Clear, The 10th Victim and Victim Prime by Robert Sheckley, and Ancillary Justice and Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie. As I suspected when reading Blackout, that novel and follow-up All Clear could easily have been condensed into one book half the size of either volume. Willis is usually a tighter writer than this. It's not that both books weren't enjoyable, it's that for the first time in my experience of Willis she belabours a theme nigh unto death. She's still better than 90 percent of writers working in the SF field today, of course.
Ann Leckie is new to me and relatively new to the field; her two novels of artificial intelligence and gender ambiguity are fun and interesting, but a bit lightweight. As for Sheckley's Victim novels, both are rich with mordant humour and predict reality television by several decades. We haven't gone quite as far into bread and circuses as Sheckley imagines, but it can't be far off if things keep going as they are.
Somehow I managed to catch over a dozen movies in May, though, partially due to marathoning my way through a gangster box set over a couple of weekend afternoons. In theatres I saw Avengers: Age of Ultron and Mad Max: Fury Road. The former is an entertaining but noisy, messy and predictable Marvel movie; you get exactly what it says on the tin, superhero action laced with humour. Mad Max: Fury Road, on the other hand, is a genuine masterpiece, one destined to be one of my favourites of the decade; in fact, it might very well be my favourite film of the 21st century thus far. But more on that in my in-depth review.
This month's other big surprise was Kung Fury, a 30-minute love letter to 80s action movies crowdfunded via Kickstarter. It's the movie with everything: a renegade cop, laser raptors, Thor, Viking warrior women with chain guns, Nazis (led by Hitler, Kung Fuhrer), a robot arcade machine, time travel, and David Hasselhoff. While I was entertained by the film's trailer a few months back, I doubted the humour would hold up at feature length. Well, that hasn't been tested yet, but I laughed all the way through the short film's half hour, and I hold out hope that the planned full-length feature will be just as entertaining.
It was only as I started typing this sentence that I realized with David Ayer's Fury, I wound up watching three movies with "fury" in the title in May. This was an accident, but a fortuitous one; Fury is a powerful World War II drama - intense, disturbing and poignant. Having seen Fury, I have high hopes for Ayer's Suicide Squad, being filmed now.
Over the last couple of years I've been working my way through the Woody Allen canon, and in May I screened Crimes and Misdemeanors, perhaps my favourite of his works so far. Martin Landau is amazing as a successful but adulterous man who finds himself pushed into a corner - and sanctions murder as a result. It's moving, funny, suspenseful, and the ending will show you how powerful film can be when creators are brave enough to make difficult choices.
Early in the month Sean and I watched The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. It's a terrific thriller of the Cold War, a down-to-earth look at spies and the ugly, morally corrupt world they inhabit. We were both shocked by the ending - in a good but somewhat queasy way. This is a film that makes you uncomfortable, and art should do that from time to time.
Pete organized a series of Western movie nights in his home theatre to get us pumped up for Gaming & Guinness X; I only manged to make one screening: Tombstone. I've seen this early '90s Western several times before, but it loses none of its charm, wit or thrills. And that cast!
Fury was not exactly an enjoyable war movie, but it was pretty good. I'd even go so far as to compare it side by side with Apocalypse Now (Redux). In both films, we reveal and revel in the inhumanity and brutality of war, although due to shooting constraints, sometimes Apocalypse now becomes more figurative and lyrical than the very literal Fury. In both films, the wheels come off after the hero has dinner with the Plot Twist French Family. In Apocalypse Now, that's as epic as every frame of film surrounding Marlon Brando. In Fury, the wheels literally do come off (spoiler). Apocalypse Now's troubling ending is as legendary as it is flawed, while Fury's is merely predictable and disposable. Classic thirdactitis, unfortunate, crippling, but not quite mortal.
Fury Road, though. That show is so far off the hook, well, hmmmm, where the hell did that hook go? Gahhh!! The hook is in my eye! The hoooook issss innnn myyyy AAAIIIEEEEE!!!!. I know I will agree 150% with whatever you have to say about it. Nothing short of a cinematic milestone!
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