Top 5 Underrated Films

While there are certainly movies among my collection that I consider to be guilty pleasures - Super Mario Bros., I'm looking at you - there are others that I feel are just vastly underrated. I'm not even remotely embarrassed to celebrate my love for these films, and I hope you're with me - or at the very least, that you're willing to pop some popcorn and settle in.

The Illusionist came out in the same season as The Prestige, which was unfortunate, because it is a vastly superior piece of storytelling. The Illusionist is atmospheric and lovely, with truly stellar performances by Ed Norton, Paul Giamatti, Rufus Sewell, and Jessica Biel. I've never wanted to make out with somebody with a beard more than I do in Ed Norton in this movie. The twist is unexpected but no less real, unlike, in my opinion, the hot mess of no-explanation that was The Prestige's climax. It's a compact, romantic, and deeply satisfying tale.

Time was whenever I was feeling low I would watch Fanboys, and I'm honestly probably due for another viewing. I'm sure it comes as no surprise that I celebrate anything that celebrates nerd culture, and this film is unabashedly sweet and generous with its heroes - and lone heroine. I loved Kristen Bell here first, and Sam Huntington, too. It's a romp and I'm not even sorry about it.

There were a number of moody, dystopian films out for awhile, and Equilibrium takes itself just seriously enough to be a stand out for me. The first time that I saw it my husband and I both marveled at the Gun Kata, which was just silly and spectacular enough to be entertaining. He probably liked it because of math. I just appreciated Christian Bale's sheer badassery. Also, bonus Sean Bean.

Stranger Than Fiction is my kind of romance, and unlike Ruby Sparks, which I so wanted to love but which made me feel terrible about being a writer and a woman, this story feels real and complicated and ultimately, sweet. Will Ferrell has never been more adorable. Also, Queen Latifah and Emma Thompson. Come on.

When I recently learned that they're likely abandoning Tron Legacy and rebooting the franchise, again, I was so disappointed. I love the nostalgia of this installment but also everything about it that feels slick and fresh - including Jeff Bridges' The Dude inspired performance of Flynn. And the music, my goodness, the music.

What about you? Any dark horse favorites?

What's Your Fictional Type?

I definitely have a "type" when it comes to fictional characters. These are the sorts of folks who I wouldn't find myself associating with in real life: they'd be unbearable to be around, impossible to talk to, or just intimidating as hell. But on the page or the screen? It's true love. The Strong, Silent Type

John Thornton

Dudes who are supremely self-contained, whose moods occupy the eye of the storm until they are the storm itself, who communicate volumes with their eyes alone... it's no surprise I love them, right? One of the first - and possibly most embarrassing - fictional crushes on this sort of fella was Conner McDermott from Sweet Valley High: Senior Year. When you identify strongly with bookish, rule following Elizabeth Wakefield as a teen, it's kind of hard not to fall for the boy you 100 percent shouldn't. But, this archetype is an interesting one, and has appealed to me the longest possibly because I want to believe there are hidden depths to everyone... or want to justify my tendency to lose my tongue in the company of quiet, steely-eyed, handsome dudes. Noteworthy SSTs: Bran from Son of the Shadows, Mr. Darcy, John Thorton from North & South.

The Scoundrel

Malcolm Reynolds

I really ought to know better about this one, and while I've certainly crushed hard on some real-life troublemakers in my time, I much prefer the fictional variety. No consequences with those - and no need to confront the reality that you neither can nor should try to change who someone is to accommodate your love of law and order. This guy can make a girl laugh even when he's about to get her killed. I've not found many mischievous book characters I find believable or likeable, which makes me worry about attempting to write this sort of person myself. But I'm sure someday I'll try. Noteworthy miscreants: Han Solo, Sky Masterson, Malcolm Reynolds, Rosto the Piper from Tamora Pierce's Terrier and Bloodhound.

The Boss Bitch

Aeryn Sun

I want to be her and I want to be her best friend. She's tough, smart, and capable. There's not a day in her life she's taken shit from anybody. I like that these women are strong, physically and emotionally, and I swear half the reason I've been working out lately is to be more like the fictional women I admire. I doubt my capacity to ever write this sort of woman, though, because I am, regrettably, too much of a pleaser. I blame being raised in the Midwest, and, as my best friend recently pointed out to me, the sort of person who apologizes when other people bump into me. Noteworthy bosses: Katniss Everdeen, Beka Cooper from Terrier, Bloodhound, and Mastiff, Garth Nix's Sabriel, Aeryn Sun.

So, who's your type?

Saturday's Child is Undead

There's nothing like the haunting narratives in World War Z to get my blood pumping... when I'm loading the dishwasher or running the vacuum. I'm sure I've listened to it on my iPod three times within the last year with the same fervor of tonight's race through the first two volumes of The Walking Dead, shunning the aforementioned chores in favor of the undead. I don't know what it is about zombies, but I know it's not healthy. Possibly contagious. I'm already afraid of the dark, and indulging in literature like this just fills it for me, the gurgle and drag of my imagination promising nightmares. Still, I can't resist, not when these are stories that get at the heart truths of what it means to be a living person, to live, to be a person. I'm not interested in drivel, but ink that coagulates on the page like old blood, terror that resonates even when it's a belly laugh; maybe because of it. Like the Borg or the Flood, the Cybermen and even to some degree the Shadows, what is scary and best about zombies is their singular desire, their collective agency, that they want and rot and are willed all the same. I've found I haven't enjoyed as much those short stories that explore zombies who retain some sense of who they are, and zombie romance confuses the hell out of me, mostly in attempts to gross me out. Zombies who want more out of their (un)lives than brains might as well be vampires or aliens or soccer moms. I like my monsters just the way Romero intended them... and I like even better the monstrous things they inspire in soccer moms.

Bottom line, I don't want to save them. I just want to shoot them in the head.

Greased Lightnin'

My general malaise regarding my CD collection has driven me of late to FM radio, though there are little gems to be had. Namely, the sweet nostalgia that launched me from the confines of my car into the street artist exaggerations of the opening credits of Grease. The movie was a perennial favorite of my childhood and adolescence, though I haven't seen it in years and found the ending bittersweet with every subsequent viewing as a teenager. Sandy and Danny float off in their car, singing and cuddling and sweet, but where are they going? As a child I was content that they were together, mouths busy with kissing and made-up words. At a sober seventeen, I knew they wouldn't be together forever, and even if they were so cursed, they'd just get married, have babies, and argue over who was meant to do the vacuuming. Love wasn't something experienced by my contemporaries, I felt, or worthy of any more of my attention than could be diverted from the truly important things: college, graduate school, and a killer job writing for a magazine. I wasn't picky about where I went to school or which magazine I'd write for, only when all of these things needed to happen, and the answer was Right Away.

Grease was the musical of choice in the spring of my senior year, and for all I was pure as the driving snow in virgin white and carrying a torch for abstinence until marriage, what I wasn't was a soprano, and so I was cast as Rizzo. I wanted the part, and in retrospect, I had more to learn from her than just her lines. I recall blushing at the notion of getting one's kicks while still young enough to get them, but I was in a hurry to grow up for different reasons. I've had the suspicion for years, whatever my degree of emotional stability in high school, that somehow I missed out on something. Probably making mistakes, but what I haven't got now is what I had then: an excuse.

Still, I'd like to think Rizzo ditched Kenickie after she'd had her way with him, invested in reliable birth control, and went to college. Or at least got a killer job in publishing.

Touch-A, Touch-A, Touch Me

There's a scene in Star Trek: First Contact when Jean-Luc Picard puts out his hand and touches Zephram Cochrane's warp ship, explaining to Data that though he had seen it in the Smithsonian, there was something about the sensation of touch that heightened human experience. I don't remember anything in the Prime Directive about paraphrasing Starfleet captains, so if I'm out of bounds, take it up with Roddenberry's ghost. I get that. Feel it even. Whenever there is an opportunity to visit a flea market or an antique mall or a vintage store I take it, because unlike going to the museum, I can put my hands all over everything provided the folks doing the selling don't find my behavior suspicious. Maybe I'm only forging a tactile bond between myself and the nineteen sixties, but it sure as hell beats fondling melamine plates at Target.

Crazy Daisy Pyrex butter dishes will be caressed, novelty salt and pepper shakers and cast iron skillets and oak chairs and Fiestaware pitchers will feel my fingers all. I love the jumble of old perfume and Coke bottles cloudy still with their original contents, long past the time when you'd want to put them on or take them into your body. But I still want to touch, as though they have stories or better, carry somehow the stories of those who have touched them before.

And isn't that what it's about? What's real or isn't real isn't why I'm as greedy as an infant fitting every little bit of the world they can into their mouth - it simply isn't acceptable for me, and I know too much about communicable diseases, or I'd do it, too. It's about making a connection, and on the rare occasion that I bring something home with me, it's maintaining that connection for who comes after.

Hipsters Shouldn't Be Allowed to Go to the Movies

I'm guilty of loads of things, and one of the many of which I am acutely aware is thinking about myself in terms of the things that I am attracted to.  There's no shame in finding friends or lovers who listen to the same bands as you do, or read the same books, or prefer their coffee made in a press versus the greasy sludge pumped from the Bunn commercial coffee maker at the corner Speedway, but there is something of the regrettable hipster in giving oneself gold stars over your vinyl collection. Not that hipsters give themselves - or each other, for that matter - gold stars. But if they did. My point is illustrated thusly: M and I, after much deliberation, saw a midnight showing of Tron last week, and while I'm far from regretting the opportunity to ogle Sam Flynn and covet a light cycle of my very own, we rarely leave such gatherings of geeks unscathed. This time, as I'm waiting for the show to start and checking Facebook on my snail of an Android, a young man leans over his date in the seat next to the empty one I've saved for M and asks, "Do you have Google on your phone?" I replied that yes, I did, but it was extremely slow.  If there was something he wanted me to look up before the film started, he should've asked an hour ago.

But as it turns out, it wasn't about actually needing the information. It was about making sure that I knew and everyone within hearing radius knew something truly special about him.

"I just want to show her," he gestures to the pitiable female in the seat beside him, "a picture of Daft Punk. I could care less about Tron, really. I'm here because of Daft Punk."

What I wanted to say was something along the lines of Like-I-Give-A-Fuck, but I was spared by a fella sitting in front of me who had an iPhone 4 and thus, a real connection to the World Wide Web.

He didn't stop there, of course, and when M settled down we both had a nice laugh about him when he went on to assume loudly to his girlfriend - for her sake, I hope not - that he didn't think anyone else in the theatre even knew who Daft Punk were. I kept waiting for him to use the word "plebians," but was sadly let down. The things is, we were both biting our tongues because we did and do like Daft Punk, but to say as much would be to align ourselves with this silly prick. To not say anything was, conversely, to let him number us among the drooling masses. Who isn't, though, for a kid like that? And why did I care?

It's one thing to pat yourself on the back, I guess. It's another to verbally grope yourself in public.

Covens and Covetousness

Reprised from the Delta quadrant. Welcome to Federation space. I've spent a great deal of time in the past few days thinking about The Craft, which sadly includes neither Fairuza Balk nor Robin Tunney, but does give me the power to render my enemies hairless should I become bored and vengeful. The molotov cocktail that was The World Fantasy Convention and today the start of my very first NaNoWriMo has my brains boiling with possibility. I've realized how utterly unaccountable I've been with my first novel and the revision I'm currently mired in - sure, I'm working, but how much? - and while I realize I'm only saying this now, how very little 2K is a day when you're not thinking terribly hard about it, which is exactly what I was(n't) doing when I was writing my current draft. The process was about as organic as holding my face under the belly of a cow for milk, which is to say, fucking messy.

But I'm still learning. School didn't teach me how to be a daily writer, or a publishable one. I learned how to get drafts in on time by writing them in a mad dash two days before they were due and how to take criticism, so much criticism, with grace that lasted long enough for me to escape the classroom and kvetch with my girlfriends. But, I can craft a damn fine sentence (on the third try) and I've got a lot of ideas. It's a start, which is more than I had in high school when we were chanting light as a feather, stiff as a board at drama club overnights and I was still writing poetry about boys and God.