Weekly Update: October 14th, 2019

Long time, no write! I’ve been delinquent in my duties for a long time, but let me get this one out so I can go on with my life.

Knife Skills

I started off September right: with knives! Sadly all they let me knife was some vegetables, because this was a culinary knife skills class at the local technical school. You might have been forgiven for thinking otherwise, considering it was taught by a certain Sue Brassard — a local chef, bearing no resemblance to the Shadowvale game owner. That Sue, as I joked, knows lots about knifing unsuspecting PCs, but she doesn’t usually advertise her skills.

Anyway, it was a very educational evening! We started with holding the knife, knife honing vs. sharpening, and some easy cuts, like chiffonade and mince. Then we moved onto the more difficult stuff — fine dice, brunoise, and fine brunoise, rendering some poor carrots into “carrot confetti”, as not-that-Sue called it. We ended with more reasonably-sized dices, as well as specific approaches to slicing onions and shallots.

All in all? I was surprised how well I did. I feel like a lot of the things we talked about — how honing is not the same as sharpening, how you should hold your fingers on your off-hand to push the food into the knife, how to do a chiffonade, how to peel garlic — I’ve learned from cooking shows. (Maybe the original Good Eats?) I also have a small amount of professional kitchen experience, from when I was working at the Adirondak Loj and had to sub in as prep cook.

And when it came time to do the difficult cuts, I was actually pretty decent at them. I couldn’t produce brunoise cuts at speed, certainly, but my table-mate kept expressing astonishment that I was managing to — slowly — create 1/8″ cubes of carrot.

My biggest struggle, as ever, was onions. I seem to be really, really sensitive to their volatile oils. At home I have kitchen goggles just for this, as I’ve learned none of the other ridiculous remedies work. (Yes, even that one you’re thinking of right now. I’ve tried them all). At the class? Not so much. Not-that-Sue kept trying to convince me that sticking my head in the freezer would help, and I eventually gave in. It did help that one time, but I think that had more to do with getting away from the onion.

River Styx Brewing Company

Recently Matt and I visited a local brewery, River Styx Brewing, located in Fitchburg, MA. You might recall that we liked their offerings at the Nashua River Brewer’s Festival, so it was only a matter of time until we made it there in person!

We sampled a flight of their offerings, and ended up coming home with three “crowlers.” That was a new term to me — it’s basically a 32oz pop-top can. In some ways I like that better than growlers, since the beer will stay fresh much longer while closed… but it also means you have to drink it all in one sitting, once you’ve opened it.

The crowlers were:

  • Hypnos, God of Sleep, a lavender chocolate Imperial double stout. I can’t stop raving about how good this is — and I don’t even favor stouts! Both the lavender and the chocolate come through exceptionally well, and I was surprised how well that floral note paired with the richness of the stout.
  • Morpheus: Hawaiian P.O.G, a sour ale featuring passionfruit, orange, and guava (hence the name). This is similar to the one they had at the Fitchburg festival, but this one hadn’t been aged on candy. Was not as fruity as I would have hoped, but still imminently drinkable.
  • Nectar of Aristaeus: Berry Smoothie. This was a milkshake IPA made with “hundreds of pounds” of berries. The fruit did quite a lot to mellow our the bitterness of the hops.

They also had Thanatos — which we’d sampled at the festival — on tap, but it was unavailable in crowlers. I’m told they sometimes sell it in cans, so here’s hoping!

The Big E

I finally got to The Big E this year — the Eastern States Exposition, basically a state fair for all of New England. (Thus fulfilling another goal on my 101 Goals in 1,001 Days list!) They offer a “$6 after 5” admission deal on weekdays, so I took a half day on a random Wednesday and met EB in West Springfield.

One of the interesting things about the fair is that lots of local people rent out their driveways for parking, often for much cheaper than the official fair parking. I ended up paying $5 to park on the lawn of some really sweet people on York Street, who invited me to sit on their deck and have a beer. (I declined).

Once inside, EB showed me around the various state pavilions. In the CT pavilion, they were shucking oysters and giving them away for free, so I had one of the best oysters I’ve ever had. I did some early Christmas shopping and bought some ice cider in the Vermont house, ate some apple cider donuts in the MA pavilion, and took a picture with a bear in the NH house.

We also visited Storrowtown, the 19th century village they’ve recreated, looked at baby goats in one of the agricultural barns, and ate a famous eclair from the 4H building and admired the cross-stitch work there.

Oh, and I ate a late dinner of poutine on the midway, which was possibly one of the less exciting things I could eat there. (But still delicious).

It was fantastic, and I just wish I could have visited for longer! I barely scratched the surface of everything there is to do there.

Nothing says New Hampshire like marrying a bear with sunglasses.

Bathroom Renovations

… are done! I’m absolutely thrilled with how everything turned out. I haven’t yet taken a bath in my new tub, but I am looking forward to doing so!


I’ve been playing a lot of ESO lately, and I wrote about my impressions of the latest expansion.

I’ve been doing more stuff lately with Feline Good Meowporium, the trade guild I’m in. I really enjoy the trial group they run on Tuesdays and Sundays, even though I can’t always join. I haven’t been able to heal much, because there are two dedicated healers who always scoop those roles up, but I’m enjoying dpsing with Falanu again. Last week we did normal Cloudrest+2, and veteran Hel Ra Citadel. The latter was a first for me, and now I have that Ra Kotu bust for my house.

Speaking of housing, I am working on an overly ambitious design for FGM’s Halloween housing contest. How overly ambitious? Well, let’s just say it involved buying a house that cost one million gold, and printing out maze designs. The deadline to enter is October 21st, and I have to be done by October 28th — we’ll see if I can pull something together in that time…


I’ve started a bunch of books, but haven’t finished many lately.

I’m currently reading Black Powder War, the third in Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series, which so far is interesting, but far too easy to put down. I’m entertained that once again my choice of SFF reading has taken me to an alternate-history Istanbul 😉

In search of some, ahem, adult literature, I found myself reading Lidiya Foxglove’s Queen of the Sun Palace series, a spicy m/f fantasy romance with an interesting power exchange dynamic, which lists as inspiration both Sleeping Beauty and the life of Marie Antoinette. I thought was fun, at least, and very much My Thing, but it has some unusually hostile reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, so I figure it’s not everybody’s cuppa. Anyway, I just finished the second book, and I know just enough about the real life Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution to wonder how this can possibly end well…

Matt and I have also been working our way slowly through the Audible Original performance of Treasure Island, which is fantastic, featuring the voices of Daniel Mays and Catherine Tate, among others.

I’ve also been picking at S.T. Joshi’s biography of Lovecraft, which I had apparently read a chunk of before? I didn’t remember how much Joshi forces his opinions on the text, but wow, he sure does. I usually agree with his conclusions, but sometimes he says things like “Lovecraft thought all poetry after Yeats is crap, and I agree,” and I have to kind of side-eye the both of them.


As I’ve written about on Facebook, I decided to dive headfirst into the wide, wild world of (the new-ish) Doctor Who. Previous to this, the only thing I’d seen of it was the famous “Five Doctors” episode of the original show.

This all started with a craving for more David Tennant, after enjoying him so much as Crowley in the Good Omens series. I asked my friends if I could start watching with his 10th Doctor, and the answer was mostly, “yes, but you might as well watch the 13 episodes of Christopher Eccleston first.”

So I started watching from the (new) series one, and found, to my surprise, that I liked many of the episodes. After years of railing against the popularity of this series, it actually quite entertained me! Though, as I said on Facebook, I feel it’s best when it’s a human interest story, and doesn’t delve too much into the science — because let’s be real, there’s not much science behind an alien with thirteen lives who travels through time in a sentient blue deus ex machina.

The best part of this has been watching in tandem with EB, sharing our snarky comments over Messenger. She’s a big fan of the series, and she’s going through a tough time right now, so it’s been a great way to connect with her at a distance, while getting additional info on the show. I post most of our best exchanges on FB, but here is one that still makes me giggle, shared during “The Empty Child,” i.e. gas mask aliens during the Blitz plus introduction of Jack Harkness episode.

“Captain Jack apparently pilots a rave.”

Now we’re on to the Tennant series, i.e. my original reason for watching, and I’m liking him quite a lot! I’ve heard it’s pretty normal to imprint on your first Doctor, so I’ll probably always have a soft spot for Eccleston, but on the whole I found the adjustment to Tennant pretty easy. It helps that he’s nice to look at 😉

The other thing I’ve been watching lately, in keeping with the season, is Vincent Price films. We have a selection that we own that we watched every year (House of the Long Shadows, The Abominable Dr. Phibes, Madhouse, the episode of The Muppet Show that Price was on, etc), but we also check each year to see if Netflix/Amazon have any new offerings. That was how we ended up watching The Cry of the Banshee, which… I do not recommend. There is a whole lot of rape and women screaming, not mention losing their shirts for absolutely no reason.

Last night, in keeping with this theme, I re-watched Dragonwyck with my friend Jess. You might recall I reviewed this one when I first watched it. Jess made an interesting observation about the length of the shots in this 1940s movie — modern movies rarely have shots longer than 7 seconds, but this movie often lingers for 30 seconds or more. Fascinating!


I continue to PC Shadowvale and NPC Madrigal 3.

Matt recently took up a role as staff on Mad3, which means he’s going to be busy with that, although my role should stay about the same.

I have to start thinking about what game I want to play after Shadowvale ends, which is closer than I realized — only five events remain! My most likely candidate is Cottington Woods 2, probably with some variation on the character I had meant to play in the first campaign: Galina, a witch and herbalist loosely inspired by Baba Yaga. I’m not nearly as invested in being a healer in my next game, though, so I’ll have to figure out how to do that within the witch header.

On the freeform/interactive literature front, I’ll be heading to Mythic Consequences in the UK in November, and the weekend-long game Tutankhamun: Evil Under the Egyptian Sun in Retford, UK, in February 2020. I’ll also be returning to Intercon this year, and actually just proposed a game! (Not my own: The Drinklings, a Nordic-ish game that I played at Consequences last year).

That said, Matt and I have decided to skip Consequences in 2020 (and probably the 2021 weekend-long game), just due to how expensive the bathroom renovation has been.

And that’s all I have to say for now! Not exactly bite-sized, but this is what happens when I don’t post for a while.

Civil war in 1844 – Review of Dragonwyck (1946)


Matt and I recently watched Dragonwyck (1946), one of the harder-to-track-down Vincent Price films. (We had to buy it in a “FOX Classic Horror” movie bundle with a couple of other ones). It’s also vastly different from pretty much any other Price film I’ve watched — it’s gothic romance, with all the trappings of haunted houses, brooding heroes, doomed families, and sense of being displaced in time.

Miranda Wells (Gene Tierney) is the daughter of a farmer in Greenwich, Connecticut in 1844. She’s a dreamy-headed girl who her parents think unmarriageable. Then a letter arrives from a distant sorta-relative named Nicholas Van Ryn (Vincent Price) — the patroon of Dragonwyck, a manor on the Hudson. She’s invited to Dragonwyck to be a governess to his daughter. Over some objection from her parents (who are about as unlikeable as can be), Miranda jumps at the chance to have anything to do with castles and lords.

Of course, everything unravels from there. The manor is haunted, naturally — by the ghost of the wife of the first patroon, who felt trapped and miserable there. Her haunting is a mellow sort — ghostly harpsichord playing that only those with Van Ryn blood can hear. The servants fear this, but the Van Ryns mostly disdain it.

Also there are those creeeeeeepy vibes Nicholas is sending Miranda’s way, making a point of saying they’re not really cousins (Miranda’s mother and Nicholas have the same grandfather; you do the math), and also some posh variety of “hey there, beautiful” (“the breeze must feel wonderful indeed with a face as beautiful as yours against it,” which sounds only marginally less ridiculous in Price’s mouth). He also comes to her rescue when she finds herself embroiled in a social mess at a ball he hosts.

Of course all of this is with his wife Johanna (Vivienne Osborne) standing right there.

Then the stuff with the tenant farmers starts up — they refuse to pay their rents, requesting the right to buy their land. After all, it is 1844 and they are living in the United States. This starts to bring out the crazy/evil in Nicholas; now he becomes obsessed with the fact that he doesn’t have a male heir and what will become of Dragonwyck, ohnoes. It doesn’t help that at this point Miranda strikes up a friendship with a local doctor and anti-renter, Jeff Turner (Glenn Lagan).

Given all this, and the genre, is it any surprise than Van Ryn decides to off his wife?

…is that a spoiler? The movie is 70 years old, in addition to this being a common gothic trope.

On the same night that that Johanna is dispatched (by poison: oleander), Nicholas, being sketchy as fuck in the delightful way only Vincent Price can be, commences the serious wooing of Miranda.

Next thing we know Miranda is going back to her family and acting very weird and skittish. When Nicholas shows up again, we figure out why–he’s going to ask her father for permission to marry. Reluctantly, he gives it.

Of course, this solves nothing. Nicholas is already becoming dictatorial by the time Miranda announces she’s pregnant. The baby is a boy, hooray! (And ooh boy, the weirdly detached way that 1940s movies depict pregnancy…) But he’s sickly, and dies right after being baptized.

This is all more of a pretext for Nicholas to descend further into madness, drug addiction, and yet more attempted poisoning. Miranda is only able to escape with the help of Dr. Turner, who arrives at a critical moment with a gun and a mob of angry farmers.

The final climactic scene of the movie is Nicholas being shot to death — right atop the seat where he used to take the feudal tithes at the annual kermis. Oh, while wearing a fabulous dressing gown. Because Vincent Price, of course. His dying words? “That’s right. Take off your hats in the presence of the patroon.”

As symbolic as this is, apparently the book ends with a steamboat chase scene, and I am kind of sad that wasn’t replicated here. I blame wartime austerity. (While the movie came out post-WWII, it was clearly made during it — the print we had has a “buy war bonds!” message on the opening credits scroll).

So that’s the plot synopsis. But what did I think?

It actually reminded me a lot of Crimson Peak — more than just being a gothic. The whole “female character prone to flights of fancy falls in love with a brooding gothic hero in a terrifying manor and is eventually ‘rescued’ by a down-to-earth doctor” brought a lot of the same feelings up.

(Which may have led to me saying, “I guess Vincent Price was the Tom Hiddleston of his day.” And like Hiddles in Crimson Peak, a 35-year-old Vincent Price in Victorian clothing is very fine to look at).


I actually find the historical background really, really interesting for this, for all that the movie barely touches on it. (The book, by Anya Seton, may do more — the movie felt like it was rushing through the Cliff Notes version). It’s set in 1844 in upstate NY*, which will twig any Rasputina fan’s sensibilities, if you’ve heard the song “Calico Indians,” about the anti-rent wars of the 1840s.

* (upstate NY by the most common meaning, which is “New York that is not New York City” — in particular the Catskills and the capital district. I admit, I object to this title, too; I was born in Plattsburgh, NY, which is basically southern Canada. But whatcha gonna do?)

Really the whole system of patroonships that led to the anti-rent wars is super interesting. The Dutch, arriving in the 17th century, set up what were basically feudal landholdings for people who pledged to settle a certain number of colonists to the Dutch West India Company. These became the “patroons,” from the Dutch word for “patron.”

While feudal landholdings were still a done thing in the 17th century (how else would Charles II have appeased his many mistresses?), they were not really present in any place and time in U.S. history… except the patroonships. These unlikely feudal holdings persisted until the family lines literally died off in the 19th century. (When the English took over from the Dutch, they just converted them to manors legally, but left them otherwise untouched).

“The Last Patroon” was Stephen Van Rensselaer, patroon of the Manor of Rensselaerswyck (shades of Dragonwyck, hm?) which gave us most of Albany and Rensselaer counties — also the dude what founded RPI.** His heirs, trying to collect the rent from the tenant farmers after his death in 1839, is what sparked the anti-rent wars.***

** If you’re familiar with New York’s capital district, you’ll also recall there’s a bridge near Troy called Patroon Island Bridge)

*** I’m not even touching on some of the wackiness of the anti-rent wars that the Rasputina song mentions, which Wikipedia summarizes as “Riders disguised as Indians and wearing calico gowns ranged through the countryside, terrorizing the agents of the landlords.”

And it’s in this fascinating Dutch diaspora, frozen in time, that Dragonwyck is set. (Another thing that reminds me of Crimson Peak — or is it gothic in general? — is that sense of being displaced in time). It’s embodied in how the ladies at the ball talk — speaking of the Hudson as if it’s the only river; assuming her name is “Van Wells.” We see it, too, in the kermis — a sort of festival that has its roots in Dutch culture — that takes up a good chunk of the story, and is where Miranda meets Jeff Turner.

Random “actors in this film who were way better known later in their careers” notes: At one point in the movie I was like, “I swear that voice is Harry Morgan’s!” (on Klaas Bleecker, one of the anti-renters). Indeed, Harry Morgan (who you probably know as Colonel Potter from M*A*S*H) is in this movie as “Henry Morgan.” Jessica Tandy also appears as Miranda’s maid Peggy O’Malley, complete with an awful “Oirish” accent.

All in all, it’s an engaging picture. If I have any complaints, it’s that I wished for more character development than we saw over the course of the story. Price is awesome as Van Ryn, of course, but in comparison all the other characters seem a bit wooden. I also just wanted MORE to the story — as I said, it felt like an abridged summary of the book. I think I may have to acquire a copy of Seton’s novel.

If you’re a Price fan, or you have an interest in the gothic genre, or weird U.S. history, you should definitely track down a copy of this unique American gothic.

Observations on The Three Musketeers (1948)


I had seen almost every film version of The Three Musketeers.

I have seen much of the oevre of Vincent Price.

But until recently I had not seen The Three Musketeers (1948), in which he plays Cardinal Richelieu.

In that regard, I was not disappointed. Every time Price was on screen was brilliant. He was born to play that role.

… sadly, not for more than maybe ten minutes of the whole film.

(Learning that Price was probably bi has colored my interpretations of his roles. I feel vaguely bad for wanting his seducing D’artagnan over to his side to be an actual seduction — but only a little).

I lurve these villains so much.

Other thoughts:
– Gene Kelly (as D’Artagnan) really wanted to dance in this movie, and it seems like NO ONE HAD THE POWER TO STOP HIM. The sword fights — of course there are a lot — feel like dance routines where people are just kind of waving around weapons.

– The story is fairly accurate, except when it’s not. Like, Constance is D’Artagnan’s landlord’s niece, not his wife. (This is a common change — if not always in this permutation). There’s also the fact that they decided to smoosh Milady’s imprisonment/Buckingham’s assassination/Constance’s poisoning into one subplot in one location. Sure, I guess so? It makes the plot go faster…

– WTF is Lana Turner (as Milady de Winter) wearing? There’s perfectly serviceable 17th-century garb all around her, and she’s wearing some strangely architectural 1940s evening gowns. And some truly ridiculous hats.

What the hell?

Sadly, there’s otherwise nothing notable about her performance as my favorite character 🙁

– This is a version with a Duke of Buckingham! The script writer even went to the trouble to learn the given name of the historical first Duke of Buckingham (George Villiers). But then no one bothered to pronounce it right.

– Surprising no one, I get all teary-eyed at Milady’s execution at the end of the story. She’s a terrible person! I know that! But still. It’s no wonder I decided to write an entire novel as her vindication.

Crimson Peak — fashion and fantasy

This post has been sitting around, half-formed, in my Blog Posts folder since I saw this movie in November. I still don’t feel like it says much, but here, have it anyway… maybe it’ll help if you’re choosing what to watch on video?

Guys, I need to write about Crimson Peak.

This movie blew me away. I was transfixed throughout the whole thing, hand-to-mouth with shock in some parts. It was everything I had hoped for and more.

It was…

Visually stunning. That’s Guillermo del Toro for you. The red clay that dyed everything in Allerdale Hall bloody red was… improbable, but beautiful and thematically satisfying.

The attention to detail is pretty much what you’d expect from del Toro. As somewhat of a connoisseur of Victorian fashion, I can say that even the clothing tells a story.

For example…

Edith Cushing, our protagonist (Mia Wasikowska)’s dresses are all the height of 1890s fashion, her colors bright against dull, especially when she’s at Allerdale Hall:

Puffed sleeves! Intricate hats!

Lucille Sharpe (Jessica Chastain)’s by contrast, are the heavily-swagged gowns of the late 1870s/early 1880s in deep, saturated colors; also notably, she wears a high-necked day dress in the ballroom/waltz scene while everyone else is wearing sleeveless evening dresses.

Like so.

As for Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), Edith remarks that his clothing is ten years out of date. Indeed, his velveteen frock coat and satin waistcoats and cravats strike me as more 1880s than 1890s.


Especially contrasted with Alan (Charlie Hunnam), who wears a more modern cut (shorter, squarer) and is more drab.

I would turn neither gentleman out of bed for eating crackers.

What does this costume design tell us? It paints a picture of the Sharpes’ morbid fascination with the past and contrasts it deftly with the breath of modernity that Edith and her companions represent.

Also, apropos nothing, I kind of want to be Thomas’ blue velveteen coat for Halloween some year. Not him — just the coat.

Alsoalso, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy staring at Tom Hiddleston for two hours. He is a shapely man who fills out a frock coat well. He plays the same sort of doomed, beautiful, broken man he plays in every movie, it seems.

Enough about fashion! This movie is also…

Satisfyingly gothic, with modern sensibilities. There’s a great video out there of Tom Hiddleston explaining what gothic romance is. He pretty much gives the textbook definition, too. It’s delightful.

The joke about the gothic novel is that it’s “girl meets house,” and this is true here — Allerdale Hall is as much as character as any of the humans, with its water running red, its clay pits, the snow falling through the gaping maw of the roof, the sounds of its breathing. Its inhabitants are corrupt and doomed, with a sense of dark noblesse oblige that ties them to the house. Thomas, in particular, is the classic brooding gothic hero, with redemption perpetually out of his reach.

But our heroine is so much more useful than most gothic heroines. I love that she’s a writer, and that the story is framed around the manuscript she’s writing; I love how she deflects jibes about “lady authors” (“Our own Jane Austen… but she died a spinster, didn’t she?” “I’d prefer to be Mary Shelley, who died a widow”). And oh, she makes good use of the fountain pen her father gives her…

The ghosts, and the violence that births them, are much more real and unabashed than in a gothic novel, though. There’s a scene early in the film that ambushes you with its violence and brutality, in a way that a 19th century novelist would shy away from. It’s still beautiful even in its horror, in classic del Toro fashion.

A horror movie, maybe? I hear it’s gotten panned for “not being scary.” I guess? There aren’t a lot of jumpscares, but there is a lot of creeping dread. It evokes fear less than it does unease.

Executive summary: It is beautiful. It is wildly unbelievable. See it.

Lise watches a star war, and talks about it

(There will be spoilers in this post, but the first part is not spoilery)

So I went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens this week.

How was it?

Tentatively, I say, wonderful.

Why “tentative?” Well, I’m old enough to remember seeing The Phantom Menace in theaters, and what my reaction was then. The hype was so strong that at first I told myself I enjoyed it. It took a long time to realize just how bad it was.

TFA is not a perfect movie. (What movie is?). I’ll talk about what bugged me later on in this post. But I spent most of the movie rapt, feeling glee and sorrow and nostalgia and awe — that all important element of SFF! — at all the right moments.

That is more than the sterile prequels ever did for me.

Okay, there will be actual

… after this point.
Continue reading “Lise watches a star war, and talks about it”

The Tarantiniest Birthday of All

Monday was my (35th) birthday. Hooray?

In any case, I found myself watching Django Unchained (2012) this weekend, and followed it up with a chaser of Inglourious Basterds (2009). It started just as “let’s put on a movie to watch with my dad” (who was visiting this weekend) but I liked the first enough that I decided I wanted to see the second.

I’m not… excessively a Tarantino fan? I liked his stuff a lot when I was younger, and I still own a DVD of True Romance and a VHS (!) of Pulp Fiction. I appreciate what he does with theme and symbolism and absurdism, but as get older I find I have less and less tolerance for the old ultra-violence. I also see very few movies in theaters these days, and both Django and Basterds came out in a time period when I saw almost no new movies.

Let’s be honest: Django Unchained is a brutal movie, full of violence and virulent, slavery-era racism. It is hard to watch, even cut down significantly from what it was originally. In most places, though, it feels genuine and not gratuitous — although, on the other hand, gratuitous violence is genuine to how Tarantino tells stories.

I remember reading that Will Smith turned down the role of Django because he felt he wasn’t the main character, which is how Jamie Foxx ended up in the role. I can see that, and it’s a real problem — the protagonist doesn’t get to protag. Foxx does have some wonderful moments of characterization despite that — a subtly shaking hand as he puts his smoked glasses back on, for example, betraying he’s not so cool as he seems.

I feel like the movie is more about King Schultz, Christoph Waltz’s German bounty hunter character, and in a lot of ways when he wasn’t onscreen I stopped being interested in the story. (Which becomes another “rescue another damsel in distress” story when those details are stripped away).

That said, Christoph Waltz is amazing. He will always be the Cardinal Richelieu of my heart. I was moved by how his mercenary and his conscientious sides were on display. He’s both the guy gunning down bounties in the street as well the one offering $500 to keep a slave from being torn apart by dogs. And, in that final moment where he shoots someone, and turns back to Django with a look on his face of mischief, saying, “I couldn’t help myself”… gah. That got me.

DiCaprio was amazing, too, as insanowitz plantation owner Calvin Candie — apparently the scene with the skull, where he cuts his hand? He actually smashed his hand down on a glass, and just kept on going, while bleeding.

(Also entertained by the speech Schultz gave to Candie about Alexandre Dumas, considering Waltz played Richelieu in the 2011 Musketeers, and diCaprio played Louis XIV and Philippe in The Man in the Iron Mask. And pleased that they remembered that Dumas was mixed-race).

Also, a word about Samuel L. Jackson: !!!! I was entertained to read that at one point in shooting, when diCaprio wanted to break because all the racial slurs he was throwing around were troubling him, Jackson said something to him like, “Motherfucker, this is Tuesday for us!”

Moment of Tarantinian absurdism: the ten-minute interlude of racists arguing about the quality of the bags on their heads.

Overall, there’s something not-good to be said for the fact that a white guy makes a movie all about slavery and makes it largely about the actions of white guys >.< And I can't excuse that. But despite that all I still enjoyed large chunks of the movie, in part due to the fantastic acting. Inglourious Basterds I was less sold on. After watching Django, I really just wanted a fix of Christoph Waltz, but as it turned out, Hans Landa, the SS colonel he plays in this movie, is just not a very interesting villain. He knows everything and everyone, speaks flawless French*, English, and Italian, and maintains a cool and polite facade while being an utter villain. And it’s just… boring, to be honest. I don’t know what he wants, really, and it’s implied he goes through this huge change as a character, to do what he does at the end, but it’s not on-screen.

I kind of felt that way about all the characters, especially the titular Basterds. Like… we only get brief snippets about some of them (Stiglitz, Donowitz), and not even all of them. I wanted more scenes of them doin’ their thing, basically… we only get one, really, which is when they’re interrogating the German soldiers near the bridge. And no, I don’t want to see people get beat to death with bats, but there was more characterization in that scene than in the rest of the movie combined.

And don’t even get me started on Brad Pitt. Next to other more talented folks, it becomes evident he can’t act his way out of a paper bag. His portrayal of Raine seems to be mostly composed of squinting.

I wish they had done more with the character of Zoller — he could have had an interesting redemption arc — although I thought it appropriate that when he’s rejected, he turns into a raging asshole who can’t take no for an answer.

I felt similarly blandly about Shoshanna as I did the other characters. Like most of them, her characterization boils down to “hating Nazis.” Which, while we can all get behind, is just not very interesting in the final analysis.

Moment of Tarantinian symbolism: all the rat symbolism in chapter one, post Landa’s speech.

The best part of the movie overall was the standoff in the bar. It kind of felt like the film was made just for that moment of awesome. Hard to buy that Fassbender’s character would be that culturally ignorant if he learned all his German from movies, tho…

* Christoph Waltz does speak a beautiful French, though *swoon* It’s kind of hilarious to hear him say, in the opening scene, that he’s “just about exhausted his French,” when he speaks it as well as English. I assume his German is flawless, too, as he’s German-born, but I have less of a scale on which to judge that.