I had an amazing trip to London from March 28 to April 5 to celebrate the launch at Eastercon of my collection, ACROSS THE EVENT HORIZON, edited by Ian Whates and published by Newcon Press. I had a great time at the con and got to meet many people I’d only had the pleasure of interacting with online. I especially enjoyed hanging out with Ian Whates and Ian Watson (“Big Ian” and “Little Ian”), chatting with Aliette de Bodard and Rochita Loen-Ruiz, meeting Garth Powell, Nina Allen, Roy Gray (from Interzone‘s TTA Press), Neil Williamson, Terry Martin (from Murky Depths) and so many enthusiastic fans. I was truly astounded at the number of fans familiar with my work who approached me to say how moved they were by “Longing for Langalana” or how much they liked the Kawkawroons or the scenters in “The Scent of Their Arrival.” The whole experience seemed surreal to me and I’ll never forget it
I also attended the launch of SOLARIS RISING 2, edited by Ian Whates (Solaris) at Waterstone, a London bookstore in Bloomsbury. A pleasure to meet fellow contributors Paul Cornell (current writer of Wolverine and the most British of the attendees), Adrian Tchaikovsky, Martin Sketchley, and the charming James Lovegrove. Ian Whates hosted the festivities.
My story “Dear Annabehls,” originally published in John Klima’s Electric Velocipede, now appears in the anthology Other Worlds Than These, edited by master anthologist John Joseph Adams, alongside stories from Stephen King, Ursula K. LeGuin, George R.R. Martin, Joyce Carol Oates, Robert Silverberg, Orson Scott Card and others. Here’s an interview I gave about the story.
Also, here’s a terrific recording of the story that originally aired on the Maine radio show “Beam Me Up.” Enjoy!
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Before getting to my top picks, I’d like to acknowledge some of the critically lauded — even Oscar-nominated — movies that failed to live up to expectations in 2011. One of the worst culprits, Terrence Malick’s grandiose The Tree of Life tried to reveal the meaning of life through out-of-sequence scenes of the Big Bang, the age of dinosaurs, a family’s life in 1950′s Texas, and the afterlife – all accompanied by soaring symphony music. Unfortunately, it only succeeded in revealing the meaning of pretentiousness. The Help, in contrast, failed for being too pedestrian. Not even the above-average acting performances by its female cast could elevate it beyond its simplistic script. Another disappointment for me – and I love baseball (and baseball statistics in particular) — was the extraordinarily dull Moneyball, a snoozer that consists of conversations in dark rooms between ill-defined characters. (Was Jonah Hill really nominated for best supporting actor? Really? C’mon!) And while I appreciated the melancholy tone and Hawaiian setting of The Descendants, I still don’t understand the fuss over this average family drama. Shame showed us the sordid life of a sex addict in all its NC-17 glory, but I only needed about five minutes to get the drift of it. Finally, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, a spy movie set in the 1970′s, proved impenetrable to me (perhaps because I was unfamiliar with the novel and/or miniseries) and I quickly became lost in its murky plot.
Here are my favorites. One takes place in the 1930′s, another in the 1920′s and a third in the 1910′s. Two are by the same director, two are about the age of silent movies, two have protagonists with comic dog sidekicks, and four are set in Europe.
10. Young Adult. Charlize Theron shines in this black comedy about a hard-drinking, self-centered writer of young adult fiction who returns to her hometown to reunite with her high school sweetheart (Patrick Wilson). So what if he happens to be happily married with a newborn infant? The clever script by Diablo Cody (Juno) does a great job of setting up viewer expectations—then dashing them in unanticipated ways.
9. Beginners. This quirky love story zips back and forth to different points in the life of a lonely graphic artist (Ewan McGregor) who’s unable to commit to serious relationships. In contrast, his septuagenarian, newly widowed father (sure-to-win Oscar-nominee Christopher Plummer), who’s just come out of the closet, has no such difficulties. The complex relationships between McGregor, his lover (the luminous Melanie Laurent from Inglourious Basterds) and his father all ring true in this poignant tale of new beginnings.
8. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II. Harry vs. Voldemort in the long-anticipated showdown! The action-packed finale to the Harry Potter saga delivers movie magic (once again) and a satisfying resolution to the epic series, which ends on a high note.
7. The Adventures of Tintin. The Hardy Boys meets Raiders of the Lost Ark in Steven Spielberg’s motion-capture animated 3-D adventure about the iconic Belgian comic book sleuth. It’s worth seeing just for the spectacular visuals—but there’s also mystery, a treasure hunt, pirate battles, pulpy action sequences and a pet dog sidekick who steals the movie. Tremendous fun.
6. The Artist. This beguiling black-and-white silent movie — about a forlorn silent film star (Jean Dujardin) coping with the advent of the talkies — speaks to something that still resonates today, the sense of loss that sometimes accompanies the arrival of the next technological marvel. But it’s also sly, funny and uplifting.
5. Bridesmaids. The year’s funniest movie by the Judd Apatow-crew shows that sensitive talky gals can be equally as funny – and as hilariously raunchy – as their male counterparts. Saturday Night Live‘s Kristin Wiig surprises with her acting range as the bridesmaid who fears she’s losing her lifelong best friend (Maya Rudolph). And Oscar-nominated Melissa McCarthy is a scene-stealing laugh riot. ’Nuff said.
4. Midnight in Paris. Owen Wilson effectively adopts the nebbish-y neurotic Woody Allen persona in this charming flick about an American writer who explores Paris at night and time-travels to the 1920′s where he rubs shoulders with legendary literary figures. Nighttime Paris evokes the kind of wonder and mystery Allen typically reserves for New York City. With his exploration of London in Match Point, Barcelona in Vicki Cristina Barcelona, and now Paris, Allen seems to have found a formula for reinvigorating his career. Let’s hope he continues his European exploits.
3. Hugo. Hands down the most visually spectacular film of the year, Martin Scorcese’s magical 3-D movie about an orphan who lives inside the compartments behind a wall-clock in a French railroad station in 1931 – and loves motion pictures – is absolutely enchanting. Like The Artist, Hugo celebrates the age of silent film and is populated by an array of peculiar characters, including Sacha Baron Cohen as an officious, child-hating station inspector and Ben Kingsley as a bitter toy store owner with a mysterious past.
2. War Horse. Steven Spielberg’s affecting masterpiece tracks the epic journey of a horse through the horrors of World War I, presenting the interweaving stories of its various owners on both sides of the conflict. Shot in the lavish, old-Hollywood style of a John Ford Western, the red skies and open prairies and horrific battle sequences show off Spielberg’s skills, but his greatest gift remains his ability to tell an emotional story with no apologies. To Spielberg’s many sourpuss critics, I can only say: I challenge you not to be moved.
1. A Separation. Contemporary Tehran seems utterly alien, yet so familiar, in my favorite movie of 2011, a riveting Iranian family drama about a child custody dispute—and a murder charge. It features the best ensemble acting performances of the year with characters that are nuanced and sympathetic, and a script (nominated for best screenplay) that underscores the sometimes-subjective nature of truth. Brilliant.
11. Margin Call (moody financial thriller set in the nighttime offices of a New York City investment firm on the eve of a market catastrophe); 12. Captain America (Marvel’s iconic superhero is brought to life in this entertaining popcorn flick set during WWII); 13. Drive (a strange hybrid of languorously paced art film and brain-bashing action flick starring a magnetic Ryan Gosling); 14. Contagion (Steven Soderbergh’s slick, frighteningly clinical account of the race to contain a global pandemic that threatens humanity’s survival); 15. Another Earth (a duplicate version of Earth appears in the sky—a metaphor for second chances—in this compelling indie about terrible mistakes and redemption)
Finally, here is a list of actors more deserving than Jonah Hill of a best supporting actor nomination: Albert Brooks in “Drive”; John Hawkes in “Martha Marcy May Marlene”; Kevin Spacey in “Margin Call”; Jeremy Irons” in “Margin Call”; Ben Kingsley in “Hugo“; Sacha Baron Cohen in “Hugo”; Seth Rogan in “50/50″; Patton Oswalt in “Young Adult.”
Where did 2011 go? A few blinks of the eye and *poof*!
● I’ll never forget 2011 because it was the year I was nominated for my first major award, the World Fantasy Award, for my Black Static story “Tu Sufrimiento Shall Protect Us.” I traveled to San Diego for the award ceremonies, did a reading, and got to lose to the amazing Joyce Carol Oates. (It still makes me laugh that I was mentioned in the same breath as a multiple Pulitzer Prize nominee.) Best of all, I got to share this experience with my fellow Fluidians N.K. Jemisin and Matthew Kressel who were also nominated.
● In March, I co-taught a science fiction writing seminar, the Holodeck Writers Workshop (organized and hosted by the inimitable Tony Smith of StarshipSofa) with an esteemed staff consisting of Asimov’s editor Sheila Williams and writers extraordinaire Michael Swanwick, James Patrick Kelly and Gregory Frost. I spoke about a topic near to my heart: the benefits and pitfalls of writing groups.
● Two of my stories appeared in back-to-back issues of Interzone, both set in my Wergen Universe. “For Love’s Delirium Haunts the Fractured Mind” came out in Interzone #235 (July-Aug 2011) (many thanks to Matt Kressel and Paul Berger for helping me come up with that audacious title, btw). Rich Horton recently called it one of the best stories published by Interzone in 2011. My novelette, “Tethered,” appeared in the following issue (Interzone #236) (Sept./Oct. 2011). Both of these stories were accompanied by haunting illustrations of the Wergens by Ben Baldwin, which I loved. They are my sixth and seventh stories, respectively, to appear in the acclaimed British mag.
● I was honored to learn that David Hartwell & Katherine Cramer recently selected “Tethered” for their annual Year’s Best Science Fiction 17 anthology, published by Harper Collins, scheduled to hit bookstores in May 2012. I’ve been a huge fan of this “year’s best” series ever since it debuted seventeen years ago (edited solely by David Hartwell at the time) so this was especially exciting news.
● “Tethered” has also been long-listed for the British Science Fiction Award, which means that at least one member liked it enough to add it to the pool of about thirty contending stories from 2011.
● My short story “All Smiles” appeared in Murky Depths #16 in March.
● In November, StarShipSofa (No. 211) podcast my story “In the Harsh Glow of its Incandescent Beauty.” It was narrated by J.J. Campanella, who gave a terrific performance. Take a look at the ice-field and towering glaciers of Triton, illustrated below by Brian Mutschler! That same story also appeared in the Starship Sofa Vol. 3 anthology with some amazing artwork by Timothy Booth.
Art by Brian Mutschler
● I made my first sale to Poland, with “Tu Sufrimiento…” being translated and reprinted in the annual anthology “Steps into the Unknown.” I was particularly pleased that the story appears in the table of contents right next to fellow Fluidian Paul Berger’s highly acclaimed “Stereogram of the Gray Fort, in the Days of Her Glory.”
● Two stories from 2010, “In the Harsh Glow…” and “Dance of the Kawkawroons” received Honorable Mention in Gardner Dozois’s Year’s Best SF.
● These same two stories appeared at #6 and #7 respectively in Interzone’s annual Readers’ Poll.
● ”Tu Sufrimiento…” received an honorable mention in Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year anthology.
● Speaking of Ellen Datlow, I co-hosted the KGB Reading twice with Matt Kressel when Ellen was traveling and had the pleasure of introducing Kit Reed and N.K. Jemisin.
● Czech Republic magazine X-B1 translated and reprinted “In the Harsh Glow…” in its January 2011 issue and informed me recently that it will be republishing “Dance of the Kawkawroons” in an upcoming issue in 2012.
In sum, not a bad year. My 2012 resolution: to improve my story output and get closer to finishing my collection of interrelated Wergen stories.
I haven’t posted the good news here because it’s been a week and I’m still walking around in a daze. I’ve been nominated for a World Fantasy Award! (I just reread that sentence and I still can’t quite get my head around it.) I was in Bethany Beach, Delaware last Thursday lounging on a beach when I received a text message from Raj Khanna and an email from Genevieve Valentine congratulating me. This was followed by a tidal wave of congratulatory emails. When I checked the actual nominations online, I saw that my fellow nominees in the short fiction category included Karen Joy Fowler, Christopher Fowler, Kij Johnson and Joyce Carol Oates(!). And li’l old me. For my short story, “Tu Sufrimiento Shall Protect Us.” (A complete list of the nominees appear below).
Making the news even more sweet was that two of other nominees included members of my writing group, Altered Fluid. Nora Jemisin was nominated for her much-heralded fantasy novel The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. This completes the trifecta for that amazing novel: nominations for the Hugo, the Nebula and the World Fantasy Award! (And also winner of the Locus Award for Best New Novel, ho-hum.) And my friend, the multi-talented Matt Kressel, was nominated in the Special Award, Non-Professional Category for his tireless work with Sybil’s Garage and Senses Five Press. (Way to go, Matt!)
My nominated story, “Tu Sufrimiento Shall Protect Us” appeared in Black Static #18, another slick issue put together by the incomparable Andy Cox. Needless to say, I owe my writing career in great part to Andy, who also puts out Interzone where I’ve published a slew of stories since 2006. I really don’t know where I’d be without Andy’s support throughout the years. Thanks, Andy!
In “Tu Sufrimiento ” I used a radically different voice than I’ve ever tried before in my fiction. My Dominican protagonist, Edgar, speaks in “Spanglish” and he lives in a bleak and frightening near future New York under the constant threat of terroristas. Another source of terror are the “justice gangs” that roam the streets hunting down what they deem to be potential threats. Edgar is settling into his new high-security apartment when he’s starts to hear a moaning in his head, the painful cries of a voice seemingly coming from the building’s basement — a basement that doesn’t exist. Despite the near future setting, “Tu Sufrimiento Shall Protect Us” is most definitely horror, with a political bent. (But I’ll let others discuss the politics of the story).
There have been several in-depth reviews of the story, which do get into the politics. In what is just a small excerpt of his thorough review over at Trumpetville, Pete Tennant makes the following observations:
“[W]hile the story might take side swipes at the legacy of the Bush administration and the moral contortions of the so called “War on Terror”, it also does something far more basic, by turning the mirror on the reader and asking exactly what we would be prepared to do to protect ourselves, our loved ones. What do we do when such questions aren’t simply intellectual conundrums but as here, as for Edgar, vital concerns that require us to steep our own hands in blood, to rend and tear the flesh of another, to sacrifice our own innocence on the altar of pragmatism so that others will be spared. The last line of the story is, “‘We’re safe,’ he says.”, and it’s left for the reader to wonder at the terrible cost of that security, whether life at any price is a bargain well made.
Rivera doesn’t have any answers to give, and perhaps there aren’t any, but he poses the question in powerful terms, with no turning away from the savage and appalling consequences of the story’s dialectic, and for that he is to be commended.”
And Jonathan McCalmont in SF Signal writes:
[A] brilliant meditation upon the role of magical thinking in our political culture. “Tu Sufrimento Shall Protect Us” explores the idea that, in times of stress, humans retreat into atavistic beliefs about the need for pain and purification. …. Rivera asks: Is the acceptance of torture a result of ignorance or the product of superstition? Do we send people to be tortured because we genuinely believe that this is a reliable means of extracting intelligence or is it because we think that as long as someone out there is suffering for us, we will be safe? Rivera asks this question through the lens of South American culture, the story is elegantly written, beautifully atmospheric and filled with some wonderful local colour. “Tu Sufrimento Shall Protect Us” is not only the strongest story in the issue, it is also one of the most atmospheric, disturbing and thought-provoking short stories I have ever encountered.
Also, Sharon Campbell at Tangent Online provided a thorough review of the story. (“Mercurio D. Rivera jumps nimbly between bystander, torturer, and victim in [a] fast-paced tale [where]…the wars and terrorists of this not-so-distant future have left everyone a victim in some way…. Tight, fast, dramatic, and tortuous.”).
Andy Cox has posted a copy of “Tu Sufrimiento Shall Protect Us” over at the TTA Press website. You can read it HERE.
Someone pinch me.
World Fantasy Nominees and Lifetime Achievement Winners
The World Fantasy Awards Lifetime Achievement Winners for 2011 are Peter S. Beagle and Angélica Gorodischer. The awards are presented annually to individuals who have demonstrated outstanding service to the fantasy field.
The World Fantasy Awards nomination ballot has also been announced. Winners will be announced at this year’s World Fantasy Convention, to be held October 27-30, in San Diego CA. (Lifetime Achievement winners are announced in advance of the event).
Zoo City, Lauren Beukes (Jacana South Africa; Angry Robot)
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)
The Silent Land, Graham Joyce (Gollancz; Doubleday)
Under Heaven, Guy Gavriel Kay (Viking Canada; Roc; Harper Voyager UK)
Redemption In Indigo, Karen Lord (Small Beer)
Who Fears Death, Nnedi Okorafor (DAW)
Bone and Jewel Creatures, Elizabeth Bear (Subterranean)
The Broken Man, Michael Byers (PS)
“The Maiden Flight of McCauley’s Bellerophon”, Elizabeth Hand (Stories: All-New Tales)
The Thief of Broken Toys, Tim Lebbon (ChiZine)
“The Mystery Knight”, George R.R. Martin (Warriors)
“The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers beneath the Queen’s Window”, Rachel Swirsky (Subterranean Summer 2010)
Best Short Fiction
“Beautiful Men” , Christopher Fowler (Visitants: Stories of Fallen Angels and Heavenly Hosts)
“Booth’s Ghost”, Karen Joy Fowler (What I Didn’t See and Other Stories)
“Ponies”, Kij Johnson (Tor.com 11/17/10)
“Fossil-Figures”, Joyce Carol Oates (Stories: All-New Tales)
“Tu Sufrimiento Shall Protect Us”, Mercurio D. Rivera (Black Static 8-9/10)
The Way of the Wizard, John Joseph Adams, ed. (Prime)
My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me, Kate Bernheimer, ed. (Penguin)
Haunted Legends, Ellen Datlow & Nick Mamatas, eds. (Tor)
Stories: All-New Tales, Neil Gaiman & Al Sarrantonio, eds. (Morrow; Headline Review)
Black Wings: New Tales of Lovecraftian Horror, S.T. Joshi, ed. (PS)
Swords & Dark Magic, Jonathan Strahan & Lou Anders, eds. (Eos)
What I Didn’t See and Other Stories, Karen Joy Fowler (Small Beer)
The Ammonite Violin & Others, Caitlín R. Kiernan (Subterranean)
Holiday, M. Rickert (Golden Gryphon)
Sourdough and Other Stories, Angela Slatter (Tartarus)
The Third Bear, Jeff VanderMeer (Tachyon)
Kinuko Y. Craft
Richard A. Kirk
Special Award, Professional
John Joseph Adams, for editing and anthologies
Lou Anders, for editing at Pyr
Marc Gascoigne, for Angry Robot
Stéphane Marsan & Alain Névant, for Bragelonne
Brett Alexander Savory & Sandra Kasturi, for ChiZine
Special Award, Non-Professional
Stephen Jones, Michael Marshall Smith, & Amanda Foubister, for Brighton Shock!: The Souvenir Book Of The World Horror Convention 2010
Alisa Krasnostein, for Twelfth Planet Press
Matthew Kressel, for Sybil’s Garage and Senses Five Press
Charles Tan, for Bibliophile Stalker
Lavie Tidhar, for The World SF Blog
I really love this illustration by Ben Baldwin for my short story “For Love’s Delirium Haunts the Fractured Mind,” which will be appearing in Interzone #235 in early July. It depicts one of my aliens, the Wergens, and as N.K. Jemisin recently told me, it captures “both its humanity and quintessential creepiness.” Indeed!
The latest issue of Interzone (#234) contains the results of the magazine’s annual readers’ poll. I found out that my stories “Dance of the Kawkawroons” and “In the Harsh Glow of its Incandescent Beauty” placed at #6 and #7 in the list of favorites. It’s always an honor to be acknowledged by my British readers. Interestingly, this year three authors made multiple appearances in the top-10 list: myself, Jason Sanford (at #1 and #2), Aliette de Boddard (at #4 and #10). Personally, my favorite IZ story from last year was Nina Allan’s “Flying in the Face of God,” a touching, nuanced, oh-so-real exploration of the relationship between two women, one of whom is undergoing a physical transformation in anticipation of a one-way interstellar voyage. (It finished tied at #1 with Jason Sanford’s outstanding “Plague Birds.”) From posts I’ve read elsewhere, I think it was Jason and Aliette’s favorite as well and will be appearing in Gardner Dozois’s Year’s Best SF anthology (Along with Aliette’s terrific story, “The Shipmaker.”
I’ve been saying it for months, but I need to do a better job of posting here and I aim to be more interactive in the coming months.
A couple of reviews of note:
♦ A thoughtful review of the StarShipSofa podcast of “Snatch Me Another” calls my story “dark and thoughtful and terrible, in the best possible way. Snatch me another story from Mercurio Rivera. 4.5 out of 5.”
♦ And Pete Tennant provides an in-depth analysis of “Tu Sufrimiento Shall Protect Us” and makes the following observation:
“[W]hile the story might take side swipes at the legacy of the Bush administration and the moral contortions of the so called “War on Terror”, it also does something far more basic, by turning the mirror on the reader and asking exactly what we would be prepared to do to protect ourselves, our loved ones. What do we do when such questions aren’t simply intellectual conundrums but as here, as for Edgar, vital concerns that require us to steep our own hands in blood, to rend and tear the flesh of another, to sacrifice our own innocence on the altar of pragmatism so that others will be spared.
The last line of the story is, “‘We’re safe,’ he says.”, and it’s left for the reader to wonder at the terrible cost of that security, whether life at any price is a bargain well made.
Rivera doesn’t have any answers to give, and perhaps there aren’t any, but he poses the question in powerful terms, with no turning away from the savage and appalling consequences of the story’s dialectic, and for that he is to be commended.”
You can read the entire comprehensive review here.
As usual, I begin by noting some of the acclaimed films or fan favorites that didn’t quite make the cut this year: The Oscar-nominated 127 Hours is a gorgeous-looking film but ultimately can’t escape the trappings of its limited plot; audiences understandably shied away from “the Movie About the Guy Who Cuts His Own Arm Off.” Another Oscar-nominated film, Kids are All Right, is a good example of a movie that suffers from the high expectations generated by glowing reviews. Annette Bening is terrific but the overall story left me wanting more. Another great acting performance is delivered by Javier Bardem in Biutiful, and while I’m a big fan of director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, this is the feel-bad movie of the year, so bleak, so depressing, that like last year’s Precious it’s difficult for me to recommend. At the other end of the spectrum, I appreciated Scott Pilgrim versus the World well enough for its flashy style and inventiveness, but its endless battle sequences grow tiresome fast. Finally, Ben Affleck’s highly regarded crime drama, The Town, while well-executed, suffers from an unsympathetic protagonist and characters that appear to be in an F-Bomb-dropping competition (with exaggerated Bah-stin accents).
But enough stalling. Here were my favorite movies of 2010:
10. Winter’s Bone. A 17-year old girl (Jennifer Lawrence) sets out on a journey to find her missing father, who’s skipped bail, in this haunting film set in the backwoods of the Ozarks. It’s difficult to believe that this story takes place in modern-day America and not in some other century or post-apocalyptic setting. Both the film and Jennifer Lawrence are deserving of their Oscar nominations.
9. Toy Story 3. Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and the rest of the gang are back in Pixar’s clever and touching story about the fate of toys abandoned when their child owner grows up. Surprisingly melancholy, it still manages simultaneously to generate laughs while pulling at the heartstrings. Is Pixar even capable of making a movie that’s less than great?
8. Black Swan. In this edge-of-your-seat, psychological horror film, an ambitious ballet dancer struggles to embrace her dark side in order to master the role of the black swan in “Swan Lake.” Natalie Portman makes a lasting impression as the troubled ballerina and Barbara Hershey is particularly creepy as her domineering stage-mom. My only reservation is that the movie cheats – alternating between reality and delusion to “trick” the audience – and, as a result, becomes a bit one-note about three quarters of the way through. Still, the soaring music, the great performances and the unsettling story make Black Swan unforgettable.
7. Please Give. The year’s best indie stars Catherine Keehner and Oliver Platt as a married couple who purchase undervalued items at estate sales and mark them up for resale at their chic Manhattan furniture store. When they look to expand their apartment by buying the unit next door owned by an elderly woman, they form a relationship with the unpleasant old lady and her two granddaughters (Rebecca Hall and Amanda Peet). While short on plot, Please Give is an honest, slice-of-life movie that examines in an effective and understated manner the different ways in which everyday people deal with guilt.
6. The King’s Speech. Colin Firth deserves the best-actor crown for his portrayal of King George VI, the stuttering monarch tasked with delivering an inspiring speech to his subjects in the days leading up to World War II. When his wife (Helena Bonham Carter) engages the services of an unconventional Australian speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush), an unlikely friendship develops between these two men in this uplifting British drama.
5. True Grit. The Coen Brothers resurrect the rollicking, beautifully shot Western in yet another movie, like Winter’s Bone, about a missing father and a young girl’s odyssey. Hailee Steinfeld steals the movie as the unusually mature14-year-old on a quest for justice, and Jeff Bridges is terrific as well (though he delivers half of his dialogue in an incomprehensible growl) as the U.S. Marshal she hires to track down her father’s murderer.
4. Inception. Hands down the year’s most inventive film, this science fictional “heist movie” stars Leonardo DiCaprio as the leader of a team of agents who enter the dreams of corporate rivals to hijack their secrets. It is a classic Christopher Nolan film, a dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream “puzzle movie” in the vein of Memento, and easily the most talked about (and over-analyzed) movie in years. Originality is such a rare commodity in Hollywood these days, who can blame the critics and bloggers for giving Inception so much attention?
3. The Ghost Writer. This Hitchcockian political thriller set in rainy Martha’s Vineyard stars Ewan McGregor as a ghost writer hired to pen the memoirs of the former British prime minister. When an international tribunal charges the former prime minister with war crimes, McGregor’s character finds himself ensnared in a web of mystery and intrigue that culminates in the year’s best and most surprising ending.
2. The Secret in Their Eyes. A murder mystery. A love story. A compelling drama set in 1970’s Argentina. A brilliant movie. Last year’s Oscar winner for Best Foreign Film, which opened last January in the States, flashes back and forth between 1974 and 2000, telling the story of the relationship between a criminal investigator and a woman judge–and the old case that still haunts them. A must-see.
1. The Social Network. The top spot this year goes to David Fincher’s fast-paced biopic about the socially inept Mark Zuckerberg and the creation of Facebook. The rapid-fire dialogue (courtesy of Aaron Sorkin, in fine form) crackles with wit and intelligence. The film focuses on the troubled relationships between Zuckerberg and the friends who soon become his bitter enemies. It’s an amazing accomplishment that a plot that consists mainly of deposition testimony and flashbacks can be so riveting.
Runners-up: 11. The Fighter (Christian Bale steals the movie as the crack-addicted brother of a boxer (Mark Wahlberg) looking for Rocky-like redemption but held back by his dysfunctional family); 12. Blue Valentine (affecting indie with stellar performances from Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams that tracks both the hopeful beginning — and heart-rending breakup — of a romantic relationship told through alternating present-day scenes and flashbacks); 13. Inside Job (disturbing documentary that analyzes the underlying causes of the country’s financial meltdown – and the fact that not much has changed to prevent another such collapse); 14. Let Him In (a slow-paced, moody and evocative flick that focuses on the relationship between a lonely misfit boy and the girl vampire who lives next door).
I was sad to hear recently that Ikarie, a long-standing Czech SF magazine, came to an end. Fortunately, the editorial staff decided to continue the magazine under the new banner XB-1. If the above cover is any indication, it appears to continue the high quality of its predecessor. And, oh, “In the Harsh Glow of its Incandescent Beauty” is reprinted in the magazine’s latest issue.