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Surely we can allow Silver Linings Playbook as much leeway with reality as we give, say, Argo.
Other contenders for the Best Ensemble SAG award were also worthy. Les Miserables did a gorgeous job of making even chorus parts individual and real, and this is a great movie that looks even better on home video than it does on the big screen, for Anne Hathaway's performance is not over the top when her face is not eight feet high on the screen.
In fact, Les Miserables looks better and better to me, despite the Santa Claus absurdity, as I see it again. Unlike Lord of the Rings, whose falseness to Tolkien's original becomes less and less bearable with each re-seeing, Les Miserables, as a movie, is more faithful to Victor Hugo's original novel than the stage production while still leaving out the voluminous overwriting that is typical of 19th-century fiction, both literary and popular.
Hugh Jackman's transformations are not just makeup like Ben Affleck, he is capable of playing far more than suffering and rage. As with Bradley Cooper, Hugh Jackman is at his best when playing the grownup, responsible portion of his role; this is the hardest thing to do as an actor, and Jackman is brilliant at it.
That the performers in Les Miserables achieve brilliant reality while singing only makes their achievement all the more remarkable (as also that of their director, Tom Hooper).
I'm afraid that The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel has no chance of awards, though it, too, brought together an ensemble of wonderful actors in well-balanced parts. Was it the best picture of the year? No; but it was very good, and is worth seeing more than once; the exuberant performance of Dev Patel is one of the most likeable ever on screen.
I wish Daniel Day Lewis weren't such a cold actor, and didn't look so mask-like in every clip of Lincoln that I've seen; I wish Steven Spielberg's track record of storytelling dishonesty didn't make me assume that Lincoln butchers both history a Lincoln's known character in order to fake up some false dilemma.
It's hard for me to work up any desire to see the movie or Daniel Day Lewis' performance. I probably will, though, before Oscar time. After all, maybe it's the Spielberg of Empire of the Sun who directed Lincoln, instead of the Spielberg of all his other movies.
Meanwhile, as I think back over the year's movies, I still keep coming back to Looper as the most brilliantly written script, and Seeking a Friend for the End of the World as my most emotionally satisfying experience in the theater this year.
So many admirable films; so many really crappy ones; but they all got made, didn't they! That's an award in itself, that somehow a script, however weak or strong, got the right people attached to it, got the money behind it, and made its way into the theaters, for good or ill.
Though there are bound to be some absolutely brilliant projects that just can't get made, because Hollywood is such a ludicrously nonsensical place to do business, there are thousands and thousands of truly hideous projects that the Hollywood sieve has prevented us from being afflicted with.
Though some of those make it through, too. Cloud Atlas. I rest my case.
I've already reviewed Kristine Kathryn Rusch's Retrieval Artist series, with its powerful combination of science fiction, mystery and character-centered storytelling.
She has another series that began with Diving into the Wreck. From the title alone, I had assumed (wrongly) that this was some kind of underwater story. Having had my fill of underwater stories when I novelized The Abyss, I didn't look at this other series until I picked up Boneyards.
That was a mistake. Boneyards, well into the series, requires the reader to play catch-up to an off-putting degree. I soon realized that I needed to back up and read the immediate predecessor, City of Ruins, first.
Good choice. The premise of this series is that a woman known mostly as "Boss" heads a crew of space divers. No water involved and no gravity. But like salvage divers in ocean waters, these space divers, wearing suits in order to survive, plunge into and explore the hulks of long-lost, abandoned and wrecked spaceships.
Especially they relish exploring the relics of the ancient, semi-legendary Fleet, which 5,000 years ago had made its way through the region of the galaxy where humans live.
The Fleet was itself piloted by humans people so much like the ordinary run of people that they could interbreed, though a few small differences have evolved. Now long gone, the Fleet had a technology that Boss and her crew can't understand.
But the contemporary Empire wants very much to recover the Stealth Tech that the ancient Fleet had, which is far superior to anything available today.
This is the situation in which City of Ruins begins. Boss has been engaged to explore, not a space wreck, but an underground ruin where some kind of ancient technology occasionally erupts with fatal effect on surface habitations.
Having read City of Ruins, I was then able to read Boneyards with far more pleasure. Boneyards, however, is a book marred by a couple of mistakes. For one thing, the titular Boneyards a vast collection of ancient ships protected by the Fleet's shielding isn't even mentioned until near the end of the book, and is not even penetrated by our heroes at book's end.
The serious mistake, however, is the needlessly convoluted structure that seeks to simultaneously keep us emotionally involved in a present story while withholding from the most vital information from a 20-year-old story whose puzzles don't unravel until near the end.
This despite the fact that the entire story is known to one of the main characters, nicknamed "Squishy," from the start. If Rusch had chosen to tell us Squishy's story in time order, everything else would have been clearer and much more enjoyable to read.
But such are the decisions writers make, and then have to live with. This is nowhere near as damaging to the book as the decision to tell Hunger Games in first person present tense, which added nothing to a good story, but made the sequels increasingly awkward to write.
The combination of first person and present tense is so false and contrived that one never really gets used to it the way readers can eventually accommodate either first person or present tense.
One conjures up the image of a hero dictating the story in highly literary language while actually going through the adventures.
Or else one has to imagine that the hero would, after the fact, choose to tell the story in a ridiculously literary way though the character has no particular literary bent.
But Kristine Kathryn Rusch would never do that.
Oh, wait. Unlike the Retrieval Artist series, these books do use a weird present tense, which is constantly annoying and adds absolutely nothing. Why? Rusch knows better than this, and has proven it many times over. I guess sometimes writers have to succumb to the temptation to prove they can "play with the big boys."...continued on page 3