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March 20 2006

Serenity nominated for best film at the Anti-Oscars. Okay, so it's not a real award. But it's still nice to see Serenity get some love. [ETA: Look down at the second section for the mention.]

In his column "Uncle Orson Reviews Everything," noted sci-fi author Orson Scott Card discusses his reactions to this year's Academy Awards, and also mentions his Oscar party's "Anti-Oscar" poll, where they nominated and voted on what they felt were the year's most accomplished films. Serenity ended up in an eight-way race for best picture, and did surprisingly well in the voting.

Well that was nice.
Best part about that article was the link to the Brokeback Mountain/Back to the Future trailer. Pure hilarity!
Can I just say that I don't agree with his assessment of David Lynch?

I watched Twin Peaks, its movie, and was just given Mulholland Drive as a birthday present. His work, the first time you watch it, is like, "What the...?"

And it may still gain that reaction after many more viewings, but it's surrealist, dreamy art on film. It's open to interpretation after interpretation, oddly funny, emotional and disturbing. I dunno, I find his stuff fascinating, and it makes me tense and uneasy in some inexplicable way that's creepy.

Like "Restless" on acid.
Anyone who hates the current Charlie and the Chocolate Factory can't do any wrong by me. :-) I know a lot of people liked it, but the whole idea of Christopher Lee's character modified the fundamental story in ways that were wronger than then wrongest fan fiction...
Why are we taking Orson Scott Card seriously? I know Whedonesque has a policy of not bashing the writer's of articles but in this case... The man is a misogynist and a homophobe and clearly very conservative when it comes to the type of movies he likes. I'm glad he thought "Serenity" was the best film of last year, but most other films released would have just offended him on some level - so it's an uneven playing field. I'm sure he was ecstatic that Brokeback Mountain didn't win Best Picture - I'm sure to him that film is some kind of recruiting tool.
I know Whedonesque has a policy of not bashing the writer's of articles

Oh, good, so you won't. Right?

but in this case...

And as the great Kel Mitchell once said, "Aww, here it goes!"

I should have known that posting this link would draw a Card-basher out of the woodwork. I should have anticipated it, but I was tired and wasn't thinking clearly. How foolish of me. I've defended this man ad nauseam on Whedonesque, and could write out yet another lengthy argument in his defense. But since I know from experience that such a course of action does no good, I forbear.

You know, I just posted this article because it was a nice, positive, enthusiastic mention of Joss Whedon's work. Then someone had to go and say that someone he disagrees with shouldn't be taken seriously. How are Card's political views even relevant to the fact that HE LOVES THIS MOVIE?! We're not talking about Hitler here, or even David Duke. We're talking about a man with political views you don't share, who is nevertheless praising something new and original in the genre that he works in and loves. Keith, accept the fact that people you don't agree with will sometimes like the same things as you...and for God's sake, try to be a little more open-minded and tolerant about people who have different views.
I love that OSC loves Serenity this much. And, yay, I agree with him about Meryl Streep. OTOH, I couldn't disagree more about Tim Burton and David Lynch, who are two of the few visionaries working in (relatively) mainstream American cinema today. My Lynch love knows no bounds.

And, it shouldn't need saying, but OSC's political views are not relevant to this topic at all (but may or may not be relevant to other topics). And, yes, the rule here is play the ball, not the man (to quote Simon's usage), no matter who the individual is.
We're talking about a man with political views you don't share

I didn't realise hatred was a political view nor that I should tolerate intolerance.

and for God's sake, try to be a little more open-minded and tolerant about people who have different views.

As soon as OSC learns to be more open-minded himself.

His personal views do inform the piece you link to - his personal conservatism is relevant to the discussion. It might not have direct bearing on his love of "Serenity" but taking that completely out of context renders his love of the film meaningless. He pits the film up against other films; he faintly praises the Academy with one hand while tearing them down with the other.

If he'd just written an "I love Serenity" article - which he's done before - that'd be great. But he denigrates other movies that don't fit his personal viewpoint and that doesn't make "Serenity" the best film of last year - just the best of his narrowmindedness.

I'd love to read a defense of him - usually I skip threads linking to his work but this time I couldn't let it lie.
No, the author does not put his political views at issue here - unless one takes the view that everything is political.

I've asked that there be no further comments about OSC's politics in this thread. The next such comment will be deleted. Thanks.
SNT, noted. I was in the middle of drafting a response, but I'll take it off-board.
Thanks to a serendipitous combination of factors, I just read Ender's Game for the first time. One of those factors was the recommendations I had heard here on Whedonesque that came up in the discussions when he first said nice things about Serenity.

I am someone who splits the artist from their art if at all possible. Leaving aside any opinion of the man himself, of which I have none since all I know about him is what I have read on Whedonesque and on the book jackets of his books, I enjoyed what I have read of his fiction and I enjoyed this article.

I can understand the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory dislike, as I had mixed emotions about it myself. I loved some things about it while not being thrilled about the additions that were made. I forgive it a lot though because I give Tim Burton extra leeway. He is someone who is always trying to push things to another level, and we need that. David Lynch is another one who is trying to do something worth putting on screen so I put him in that same, don't always love their stuff but respect what they are trying to do, category. Meryl Streep, well, gee, I thought my mom and I were the only two people who did not understand what the fuss was about there.

...and I just wanted to say, "Thanks Whedonesque." for bringing a good book, and maybe books, to my attention. I got the next one in the Ender’s series out of the library the other day.
So, if you've enjoyed Ender's Game, good. It's a great book. Speaker for the Dead is also good, but I found the ending of Xenocide to be the most contrived, unrealistic, shark-jumping nonsense I've encountered in recent memory. I, personally, found it far more offensive than any of Card's political views. I was so offended by that ending that I haven't picked up any of his novels since.

And it's OK to like CatCF if you're a Burton fan. I am not, never have been, and never will be. I can't think of anything he's done that I've liked, except Keaton's Batman. Something about gratuitous skeletons or skulls... even in children's movies, even when they weren't in the source material. I really think it's a travesty that Roald Dahl's works (CatCF and James and the Giant Peach) that have been made into movies recently have been made by Burton. I won't ever take my kids to see any of his movies. I don't like horror (Not going to see Slither), and Burton's genre seems to be quirky, disturbing semi-horror. It's a fine niche to be in, but SO wrong for making movies out of beloved children's novels.
Interesting article - he had lots I agreed with, lots I disagreed with. I personally love both Tim Burton and David Lynch (though I agreed that CatCF was horrible), and I think Meryl Streep is a great actress (with occasional missteps).
Loved that Serenity won their poll, though for the most part their list of nominees just seemed to be the best of the box-office hits (other than Serenity). Almost none of those would I label as excellent - most were just entertaining popcorn flicks. And I think both March of the Penguins and Pride & Prejudice were quite overrated, even though I enjoyed them both.
But I agreed with lots of his assessment of the Oscars, from the praise for Jon Stewart to the love of Three 6 Mafia's speech (of course, I also loved their song, in the film at least - not so much the Oscars performance). And I agree that Cinderella Man was really underrated and deserved some recognition. But other than their Serenity vote, I found all of the real Oscar nominees far preferable to their "anti-Oscar" ones.
newcj: I think you'll enjoy the Ender series very much.

jclemens: I understand your un-love for the ending of Xenocide. I can only apologize for it by saying that it was originally supposed to be in the middle of a much larger novel, the second half of which was published as a separate book, Children of the Mind. In many ways, Children is the final Ender Wiggin novel, and it earns back much of Xenocide's uneven ending. You should check it out.
"...but SO wrong for making movies out of beloved children's novels."

I had a few mixed feelings about CatCF, but I liked it more than I didn't. I'm not an expert on Dahl and am now inspired to look further into his works. If I'm not mistaken, the original Willy Wonka was supposed to be a bit creepy. It was the studio that made Gene Wilder's Wonka anti-creepy. Dahl's novel is indeed beloved as a children's work, but it's not all smiley-happy. I really like that artists like Lynch and Burton leave me with such mixed emotions. It means they are doing something right, IMHO, of course. I loved that CatCF was indeed geared towareds younger viewers, even though it was not at all for very young viewers. Works for families and kids that try too hard to avoid anything that's not sunshiny pleasantness smack of insincerity.
I read all of the Willie Wonka books and James and the Giant Peach (as well as the original Mary Poppins books, Stuart Little, The Little Prince, and all the Narnia books etc.) to my son while reading them for the first time myself. There is a lot of creepy or very adult stuff in all those books and there were times when I liberally edited them as I read because I thought my son was just too young for it. I personally came to the conclusion that they were books for adults disguised as children's stories. On that basis, I do not have a problem with the movies having a "watcher beware" quality.

BTW, have any of you read the original Peter Pan. Good grief! Talk about tearing your heart out and depressing you for days. A kid would never get it fully. It had to have been written for adults.
Actually, newcj, the Peter Pan universe was originally created by James Barrie for a few boys he knew, on whom he modelled the main characters. He made himself Captain Hook--Barrie's right hand was partly lame, giving it a hook-like appearance--and transformed the mother of the boys into Wendy. (Interesting note: the Peter Pan story marks the popularization of the name Wendy. Barrie reputedly coined the name from a child's word [though it was already in use], and it soon became one of the most popular girl's names in England.)

Barrie wrote a book of Peter Pan short stories for the boys and had two copies bound, one of which was lost. (The other is surely worth a fortune.) He got the inspiration to turn Pan into a play while attending a children's theatre performance with the boys. Because he was sure it would be a commercial flop, he even offered to write a second play free for a producer, on the condition that Pan be put on stage. He needn't have worried; the play proved as popular among adults as children, and the royalties from the play and subsequent novels made Barrie an extremely wealthy man.

Yes, I know, I have way too much information on this.

One final interesting sidenote, though, before I go: Barrie willed the copyright to all Peter Pan works to the Great Ormond Street Hospital, which has used them to become one of the world's leading facilities for pediatric care. When the copyright ran out and the work was eligible for the public domain, the British Parliament passed a special act that allowed the hospital to continue collecting royalties from the work so that they could further their mission. It's a fitting tribute, no?
Actually BAFler, I knew an alarming amount of that information, though not the first two sentences. I wonder whether it went through a transformation between the original stories and the book, however. So much of the detail seems pointed at adults. Of course the point of view of children was much different then. I particularly noticed the emphasis on Peter still having his baby teeth. That would make him 5 or 6, which makes sense since children were working in mines and factories at as young as 8 , if I recall correctly, and therefore might be considered too old to be real children.

...and so did you actually read the book?

Back on topic (BOT?) sort of: I always expect quality to be uneven in a series of books, but thanks for the warning about Xenocide. I think that is the one I have not seen at the library. I'm afraid they may not have it. If they do, I'll try to read it and the next one as one book. I noticed there are also books following other characters from that universe. Should they be read after the Ender books or sprinkled in between in some way?

[ edited by newcj on 2006-03-21 20:21 ]
I read Orson's Ultimate Iron Man comic book mini-series. I was not overtly impressed. Didn't leave me wanting more.
I personally came to the conclusion that they were books for adults disguised as children's stories.

newcj, I adored Roald Dahl's books when I was a kid. From a very young age, he was one of my favorite authors. (The BFG, in particular, was a favorite, but I also loved Charlie, Matilda, Fantastic Mr. Fox, James, Witches, Henry Sugar, etc). Even though there is occasionally disturbing stuff in his writing, I always found it exhibited a much greater understanding of how kids' minds work that most "children's authors." Most kids, for instance, are fascinating to at last some degree with disturbing or disgusting things, and they have an inate sympathy for kids as heroes – one of the hallmarks of Dahl's books is the completely ludicrous, mean, abusive, unfair, and stupid adults that generally populate them, who kids are forever having to figure out how to get past. I always figured that was something that JK Rowling imitated with Harry Potter.

I don't know what age your son is, but he might have more tolerance for the creepy stuff than you realize. At least for myself, I loved the books even when very young (early elementary school), and have always been amazed at how well Dahl did target children. His adult writing, on the other hand, is another story – some of it is excellent, but it's really twisted and mature and sexual and, well, adult. His autobiographies also have some pretty disturbing scenes in them - he clearly views the classic English boarding schools as institutionalized child torture.

As for the movie of CatCF, it's true that Willie Wonka is a little creepy in the book, but that whole bit about his father being a dentist really annoyed me – seemed like the kind of psychological backstory that Dahl would have disdained, and I didn't find it fit at all with the story or the character.
acp, At the time my son was young enough that he could not read. We are talking under 5. Although I exposed him to certain things that some might think were inappropriate, it was a judgement call on some of the other things that I did not expose him to that might have been shrugged off by others. If we read them again when he got older, I tried to wait until he was old enough for the full version of what we were reading. He is now 10. He is insightful and sees implications beyond what is expected at his age. He has always been pretty prone to nightmares though, and we both cover our eyes during gory stuff --though I now have to watch more so I can tell him when the coast is clear. ;-) He is welcome to read any of those books himself now, in their full glory. Back then, however, it was not always so good.

Oh, and I have never been a big fan of the, make all adults evil idiots, school of children's books. One of the things I like about the Harry Potter books is that there is a variety, like in life. (Oh, we read all of those too. Twice through for my son. Three times for me. The first time through he was young enough that I skipped some parts, but by the next time he was ready for them.)
newcj: I have indeed read the book. Don't get me wrong...I agree that today, it would likely be marketed more as a fantasy novel for adults than a children's story. I just wanted to make the point that Barrie did, in fact, write it for children.

The other books in the Enderverse to which you refer are part of what I like to call the "Shadow" series (Ender's Shadow, Shadow of the Hegemon, Shadow Puppets, and Shadow of the Giant). They follow many of the supporting characters from Ender's Game during and immediately after the events in that novel. Special attention is paid to Bean (the titular character in Ender's Shadow), Petra, Alai, Peter, and Ender's toon leaders in Dragon Army. There is absolutely no connection between them and any of the Ender novels except the original, and they may be read before, after, or concurrently with your reading of Ender Wiggin's later adventures. You'll likely enjoy them more, however, after a brief reread of Ender's Game. Then you'll be that much more astonished as Card takes everything you THOUGHT you knew about the 'verse and turns it on its ear.

Delete this if you must.

[ edited by zeitgeist [apparently I must] on 2006-03-22 02:02 ]
Keith, feel free to email one of us if you have a disagreement after you've been asked not to post again on a topic.

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