Tuesday 30 November 2010

Racism in casting The Hobbit?

 (I can't tell you how much I've wanted to use the Elrond Facepalm again)

Yeah, this old chestnut's raised its ugly spectre again.

Tuesday 23 November 2010

What Lupoff Said (Updated)

The third part of what has turned out to be a trilogy of posts, we can finally see what Lupoff actually said in the introduction to The Last Heiroglyph, thanks to Mikey_C of the Robert E. Howard Forums.

With regard to REH, Lupoff alludes to the Big Three not having led a so-called "standard model" American lifestyle of wife, kids, suburban etc, then includes a paragraph as follows:

Howard never married. He reportedly bragged of his sexual exploits but his claims were at best unsubstantiated. The details of Howard's suicide are well known. The reason or reasons may be more complicated than the following bald statement: His mother lay dying, her nurse told him that the end was near, he took a gun and put a bullet through his brain. Chronic depression, financial stress, a failed relationship, and what I am informed is now known as "Caregiver Stress Syndrome" may all have contributed to his act of self destruction.
As I said in the Forums... That's it? That's what we're supposed to have a fit about?

Monday 22 November 2010

John C. Wright on Robert E. Howard and others

As an addendum to my previous post, I'm going to post an example of the two kinds of criticism: one of which I believe someone's entitled to that I can just disagree with, one I do not.

Just so everyone know's what's what.

Handling Howard with "Kid Gloves"

I confidently predict that certain people in the wacky world of Robert E Howard fandom will have a fit when they read Richard Lupoff's introduction.
  - Jojo Lapin X
I have no doubt about that whatsoever, and by this time one would think they could just let the matter rest. There is a point at which these continual leaps to Howard's defense cease doing Howard any good and merely suggest to the world that this is an author who must always be treated with kid gloves, a notion Howard himself would most likely have found ridiculous.
  - jimrockhill2001
You should've seen the original version!
 - Scott Connors

From The Eldritch Dark Forums.  The Eldritch Dark is a fantastic resource for Clark Ashton Smith stories, poems, biographies, criticisms and links, and I heartily recommend it.  You can even brave the Forums if you like: they're at least as protective of Smith as Howard fans are of their favourite author.

Sunday 21 November 2010

Momo as Drogo

A supplement to the recent A Game of Thrones news, here's a picamature of Jason Momoa in that other barbarian role, that of Khal Drogo.

Looking at him, I have to say he doesn't fit my mental image of the Horse Lord.  I imagined a much longer, Hun/Mongol style moustache, for one thing. Not sure if I'm digging his tattoo on the left arm being visible (unless it's being covered up in the actual show.)

Something like this:

Still, he looks great, and I'm sure Martin's legion of fans are pleased.

Friday 19 November 2010

Early snaps from A Game of Thrones kicking "Conan's" arse in Every Way Imaginable

My general apathy with A Song of Ice and Fire is probably one of the most puzzling things about me. How can I not like a fantasy series that's all about treachery, violence, betrayal, political machinations, battles and gritty realism?  A lot of people promised I'd be hooked after A Game of Thrones, but for the life of me I can't get into it. Yet all the same... good golly am I looking forward to the upcoming series. 

Entertainment Weekly has just-short-of-a-dozen pictures from the film.  I'm deliberating over whether posting it over at Conan Movie Blog, since it's tangentially related as another Jason Momoa project, but he doesn't appear in the pictures.  While there's no sign of Khal Momo, the contrast between these and the ones for "Conan" is utterly staggering.  All the characters look great, the costumes have incredible verisimilitude, the sets are fantastic, even the quality of the film - it looks great.  The only problems I've noticed from commentators are Daenerys' and Cersei's eyebrows not matching their hair.  Man, if only my problems with the "Conan" film could be so trivial...

I normally try to refrain from silly base proclamations, but I'm going to say right now that A Game of Thrones is going to absolutely wipe the floor with "Conan."  Hell, the fact that it actually features characters from the source material already has it won, anything else is just a bonus.  Still, given the quality of previous HBO productions, the actors and crew, and compare that to the quality of previous Lionsgate productions, actors and crew... yeah, this is a bit of a one-horse race.

See this, Lionsgate?  This is how you do a goddamn fantasy series.  This is what "Conan" should be looking like, not a sub-Hercules: the Legendary Journeys riff.

Saturday 13 November 2010

Preview for Savage Sword's Dark Agnes

Conan and Solomon Kane may be the marquee characters of Robert E. Howard’s pulp adventures, but the writer created a whole host of fascinating heroes and heroines in his too-brief life. Among the classic REH characters being revitalized in Dark Horse’s “Savage Sword” anthology is Dark Agnes, or Agnes de Chastillon, a woman who fights back against her expected submissive role in society in 16th century France - with a sword.

And thus, I let my gruff masculine facade slip as I squeal like a little girl.

A little girl, I say.

Thursday 11 November 2010

Arrivederci, Dino: Dino de Laurentiis, 1919 - 2010

And so ends a controversial, but influential career.

De Laurentiis is certainly a divisive and polarizing figure. His vast resume is clear, and his financial input has led to many successful films, even some cult classics.  He's certainly well known for the many fantasy, science fiction and action-packed movies.  However, his infamous creative ideas have resulted in cinematic disasters like Dune, Orca, the first remake of King Kong and... well, let's just say his films' quality is all over the map.

Conan the Barbarian may well have suffered a similar fate if de Laurentiis had his way, with rumours of his desire for a pop soundtrack instead of Poledouris' phenomenal score scaring the bejeezus out of me.  Luckily, John Milius isn't the sort of guy to kowtow to Hollywood types - unluckily, it means he wasn't asked onboard for Conan the Destroyer, and Richard Fleischer seemed a lot more likely to adopt de Laurentiis' ideas.  What we got was a more family-friendly Conan - one that Roger Ebert seemed to advocate and even prefer over Conan the Barbarian - and arguably, one that led to the crashing halt of the Conan film franchise.  Then Red Sonja came along and soured Arnold on the very idea of doing new Conan movies.

It seems unfair to discuss the "warts and all" aspect of a man after his death, but in my mind, it just showed how powerful and influential he became.  He could make or break a film based on his input.  Sometimes his gambles paid off, sometimes they didn't: sometimes a film benefitted from his input, sometimes it didn't; sometimes he backed off and let a director do his thing, sometimes he didn't.

Whatever one thinks of the man's handling of beloved franchises like Dune, King Kong and, yes, Conan, it is clear that de Laurentiis had a part in the creation of some truly fantastic films.  Not only the magnificent, flawed, infuriating Conan the Barbarian, but the likes of Manhunter, Death Wish, Blue Velvet, Serpico, and others.  Truly a remarkable career.

The Conan Score That Could Have Been

Also a review, and a brief warning: lots of videos in this post.

Monday 8 November 2010

An Urgent Appeal (Well, not *Urgent* but you know what I mean)

Things are heating up. I have a couple of projects going, and with the release of "Conan" being announced, at least one of them now has a set date.  However, I have one thing to ask, and it is linked to the Newcomer's Guide as well as The Secret Thing.

I'm looking for all the different permutations of Conan's "origin" story, and who can be credited for them.

Obviously, we have REH's as revealed in the P.S. Miller letter, but in addition...

 - Stone & Milius' for Conan the Barbarian, where Conan's parents are murdered by Thulsa Doom, his village is destroyed, he is sold into slavery, and pushes a wheel for 20 years
 - Harry Turtledove's for Conan of Venarium, where Conan's home has been conquered by Aquilonia and Conan leads the rebellion
 - Christy Marx's for Conan the Adventurer, where Conan's parents and grandfather are turned to stone by Wrath-Amon, and he embarks on a quest to restore them and defeat Wrath-Amon with his marvellous star metal sword along with his trusty sidekicks

 - Michael Higgins' for Conan the Barbarian #235, where Venarium is a hyper-futuristic city destroyed by sorcery
 - From the Conan the Cimmerian game, where Conan was living happily as a blacksmith with his wife in the sleepy village of Irskuld, until a group of horsemen under the command of Thoth-Amon raid the village, knock Conan out, murder his wife, butcher his friends, and ride away
 -  Dennis Richard & Charles Henry Fabian's for the Conan series, where Conan's homeland is enslaved by Hissah-Zuhl

 - Busiek's for "Born on the Battlefield," the only one that actually starts with REH's letter as a basis, albeit also making Conan a Chosen One responsible for the Aquilonian invasion
 - Doppenheimer's for "Conan,"where "Conan's" father is slain by Khalar Zym, his village is destroyed, and he manages to escape to embark on a life of vengeance/faffs about the Hyborian Age without really caring about the dude who wiped out his people until he comes across him years later

Have I missed any?

Friday 5 November 2010

A good look at the pulps

Mark Finn directed me to this blog from Jess Nevins, a pulp historian, about the debt science fiction owes to the classic pulps.  Of particular note is this section:

Were pulps racist?
One common perception of the pulps which is not true is that they were exceptionally racist. Certainly, the pulps were racist. Numerous pulp stories featured overtly stereotyped characters, from anti-Asian Yellow Perils to subhuman black or native savages, and many other stories described worlds in which people with non-white skin didn't exist. The science fiction pulps were particularly bad in this regard, exceeded only by the romance pulps, which were the most egregious offenders. Racism is widespread in the pulps.
But it is not true that the pulps were exceptionally racist. Racism was common in the rest of American popular culture during the pulp era. The pulps were only marginally more racist than the slicks, or genre novels, or movies and radio, all of which commonly portrayed people of color in racist and bigoted ways.
In fact, pulps were often racially progressive. Many pulp stories were racist, but the pulps had people of color and female protagonists far more often than did the slicks, genre novels, and movies and radio programs. These characters were active in primarily-white environments and were portrayed as capable, efficient, and in as progressive and non-stereotypical a fashion as the author could manage. Moreover, most of these characters were portrayed as cowboys or detectives or big-game hunters first, and black or Chinese or Jamaican second or third. The characters were defined by their profession rather than their ethnicity, just as white characters were.

Anyone who's followed my discussion of REH's views on race will see where he's coming from.  That final paragraph rings particularly true.  Again, I look to my man Ace Jessel: a sympathetic, intelligent, good-natured, heroic boxing character, the main character of two stories, the only one of an author's many characters to be a world champion, who happens to be black - created by a young, white Texan, in 1929.

Isn't that much more worthy of note than his dime-a-dozen savage stereotypes?

Do not go to Spike Blogs - that way, madness lies!

I have no words.  Well I do have words, but they'd erupt in a blasphemous gibbering outpouring of unintelligible insanity.  I'll just let these reviews for The Film Whose Name We Do Not Speak say it for me. Points of interest shall be put in bold, while points of sheer unfathomable, unreasoning bafflement shall be put in red.  I have to think some of these were not written in English originally, resulting in some quite spectacular translation quirks.

Be warned, oh ye blessed folk who have not read this yet: madness this way lies.  It's too late for me, you can still make it!  Don't do it.  What ever you do, don't click that link!

Wednesday 3 November 2010

Michael J. Bassett, Silent Hill, and Robert E. Howard

I've been quite critical of Michael Bassett's Solomon Kane in many regards. I even nominated him for the de Campista awards, which, in retrospect, I don't think was entirely deserved. Not because the changes he made to Kane's origin were any less objectionable, but because he did such a damn good job of praising Howard, without qualifiers or nonsense. His weird ideas on Solomon Kane's origins are an honest, artistic derivation, not one dictated by focus groups or trying to fit in with other stories he wrote. I'm not going to defend Solomon Kane as a Howard adaptation (which it isn't in the first place), but I know Bassett's heart was in the right place.

Anyway, Solomon Kane still hasn't hit North American theatres for reasons unimaginable, but Bassett's next adventure has been announced at Bleeding Cool - Bassett's writing and directing Silent Hill: Revelations, the sequel to the not-great-not-terrible Silent Hill.

Tuesday 2 November 2010

Finally, Poledouris' Conan the Barbarian Gets It's Due

Thank you again, Google Alerts, for this piece of happy news!

I think canvassing Conan fans from every spectrum - the Howard diehards, the comics buffs, the pastiche experts, the movie aficionados, and everyone in between and encompassing multiples - would reveal that one of the few things almost every Conan fan would agree on is that the score for Conan the Barbarian is freaking fantastic.  I love it too.  I still can't fathom why it wasn't at least nominated for that year's Oscars - and much as I love E.T., that score had one jewel in the main theme: Conan the Barbarian's score was an entire crown studded with jewels.

However, the release of the soundtrack has been woefully incomplete thus far.  The original Milan soundtrack excluded a lot of great movements, and even the extended Varese Sarabande didn't have everything.  However, the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra are recording the entire score of Conan the Barbarian and releasing it on a two-disc set!