Copy

The Full Lid
30th April 2021

Welcome friends to The Full Lid, your Hugo-nominated Friday at 5 weekly dose of pop culture enthusiasm, career notes, reviews and anything else I've enjoyed this week. Think of it as email, but good!

Hey, did you know that the Oxford English Dictionary defines 'clusterfuck' as "a disastrously mishandled situation or undertaking"?

Anyway, instead of Wonderwall here's the great, much missed Chadwick Boseman's best performances as this week's interstitials.

Here's what else we've got for you:

Contents

The Uncomfortable Valley
The Fox Spirit Book of Love
Jiujitsu
Signal Boost
Where You Can Find Me This Week
Signing Off / Playing Out

The Uncomfortable Valley


It's 2011 (I think) and I'm sitting in a holiday camp in Wales waiting to (maybe) accept an award on behalf of a friend. Specifically I'm sitting on the front row in a hall that comfortably holds about 500 people and is currently holding 1000. I'm sitting next to the then-editor of SFX (Hi Rich!) and we are crammed in. I'm always super aware of the space I occupy and this felt a lot like taking up too much space in not enough room. So we sit there, knee to knee and bumper to bumper as the awards ceremony goes on. I didn't need to accept, Rich wrote up a piece about it, eventually we got to leave the holiday camp (Prestatyngrad, as it had then been christened). All good.

But that sensation, that O Little Town of Bethlehem esque 'The hopes and fears of all of fandom are held in thee tonight and DID YOU JUST SPILL MY FUCKING CHIPS?' feeling is something I've been reminded of three times this week, all with the same reason at their core.


The 2021 Oscars


The Best Actor category was presented at the end of the show this year. With the late great Chadwick Boseman a finalist, there was a sense that this would be the big cathartic moment, the largest and loudest cheer of the night as Boseman's astounding body of work would lead to a posthumous Best Actor win. His family were in the building, the moment was primed and...

The winner was Sir Anthony Hopkins. Who had been refused the rights to accept his award via Zoom, and so accepted the following morning from his home in Wales, resulting in a show finale collapse we haven't seen since the last time the Oscars screwed up. 

Or the time before that.

Worse still, Boseman's face had been used as part of a charity NFT (don't ask, you're happier not knowing) given out in swag bags. He'd been commoditized, used as a drama magnet for a show that was never going to give him the honor he deserved. The Oscars' long, ugly history of pulling the football away continued at the last second and managed to not only insult Boseman's memory but Hopkins' achievement. An achievement itself tarnished by the decision to refuse to let the last winner of the night -- an 83 year old man sheltering during a global pandemic -- participate remotely.

How did this happen?

Because narrative expectation and reality at no point met to compare notes. There was no feedback on what might work and what might not and no backup plan. The show just...stopped when it should have soared. The tradition of secrecy colliding with the pragmatism of event planning to create bad feeling and resentment in the wake of a man's DEATH. There's no 'big finish' on Earth worth that. No surprise twist worth sticking the knife into a grieving family. And yet, here we are with no apology or explanation offered. After all, Oscar got what he wanted. Everyone else just... goes home.
The 2020 British Fantasy Awards Ceremony

The British Fantasy Awards


In the run-up to the 2021 judging season for the British Fantasy Awards, as she's done every year since taking over their administration, KJ Fowler announced that she wanted to continue recruiting diverse judging panels for the awards. And the finalists under her leadership have reflected the results -- multiple viewpoints and multiple voices from different nationalities age groups, ethnicities and genders ensures a more inclusive spread of finalists.

And yet again, this laudable step towards greater inclusion was met with the traditional weeping and rending of garments. Specifically, the criticism that other 'qualified' judges -- experienced authors and editors - were not being selected. It wasn't done, it wasn't right. WHITE MEN WERE NOT BEING UTILIZED!

Except the results spoke for themselves. Fascinating and worthy finalists were nominated. The judging panels approached the same with rafts of differing opinion, and the job was done. In the past, volunteers were so lacking I was on three juries at a time. This year Fowler had more to work with than she could fully utilize.

So why the uproar? Because like most long-standing genre organizations, the BFS has an arc that bends back towards insularity. If you've done a job before you can and should be expected to muck in and do it again. As the old chestnut goes, do something once it's revolutionary. Do it twice it's a fandom tradition and why would you change it? Why wouldn't you sign up to do the same?

Or to reframe that, why ask for something better? Or expect something to improve? When what you've always had has just kind of done? This is the entropy at the heart of privilege, the well meaning obstructionism that looks at diversity, at harassment policies, at accessibility needs and says 'Well we never needed those before'. When the truth is you did, and you always have, but those who weren't personally touched by their absence never thought to make them a priority.

And that KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON sign scrawled with a shaking hand brings us to our final stop.
This fan-created cut is 1:41
The full version is 3:20

The 2020 Hugo Awards


Last year's Hugo Awards Ceremony can safely be described as being based on some very definite Choices. The kindest read of it is that GRRM's endless diversions into discussions of the past were an attempt to ground the successes of the present and, in doing so, show just how strong the genre remains. Unfortunately everything from the serial inability to pronounce even the most basic names correctly to the constant building up of the very figures of the past that the present has worked so hard to move past suggested otherwise.

This was also hot on the heels of the reveal that the Julius K. Vogel awards -- the national genre awards of the hosting country -- were jammed onto the end of the Retro Hugo ceremony, ensuring the celebration of local talent was, again, subsumed in reverence to the old dead white men of genre.

This was award ceremony as lecture, one which a lot of the current generation, myself included, called out as misjudged and offensive. The reaction earned Natalie Luhrs excellent 'George R.R. Martin Can Fuck Off Into the Sun or The 2020 Hugos: Rageblog Edition' a Hugo nomination for Best Related Work. It's also led to the piece being at the center of a constructed concern-trolling, tone-policing, rules-lawyering harassment nightmare. (Camestros Felapton has neutral and nuanced coverage on the cluster over here.)

Written down that sounds really harsh doesn't it? But that's the crux of this conflict. New and upcoming authors -- you know, young hungry whippersnappers with a mere fifteen years or so in the industry -- want to talk about how to make the industry better for themselves and those that come after them. We want to celebrate the art that rewrite the maps, embracing that 'change' can mean 'change for all, for the better'. Others want to revere and revel in the past, reliving glory days featuring all too (overwhelmingly white and male) few.

I'm not without empathy. 'When Lord, when's gonna be my time!' is a valid emotion. But I strongly believe that the rocket can't be steered towards the future if we're looking behind us. I'm grateful to the next two WorldCons for their decision to not only not run the Retro Hugos, but in ChiCon 8's case to trust friend and fellow finalist Cora Buhlert with a spotlight on those year's work. Cora is the intrepid hat-wearing archaeologist of the Pulp era, tirelessly spotlighting the work and people lost in Campbell's malignant shadow. I'm likewise looking forward to experiencing how the move away from a single personality as presenter speaks to Worldcon's willingness and acknowledgement of the need to change both behind the scenes and on the stage.
 

What's Next?


So where does that leave us? In a hall crowded with decades of conflicting expectation, on uncomfortable seats and perhaps not sitting beside who we'd like. No one's entirely happy, but everyone's the same level of unhappy. And if there's one thing I've learned about entertainment events at every level it's this: if everyone's a bit pissed off, that's as close to a win as you expect.

But not as close as we deserve. So here's what I'd like you to do.

Think about it. Talk to the people around you, and then go find some people who aren't around you and talk to them. Listen. Share an aspiration, or a wish, or a hope. Listen some more. Have an idea. New ideas aren't bad ideas because they're new. And old ideas aren't immutable traditions because they've happened more than once.

Find something that sparks that sensation of 'this could be better' and do something about it. Take an action, any action. Write an email. Volunteer. Let go of an expectation. Hold a boundary. Let something go. Say yes. Say no. Change. Show that change is possible. Show that change is necessary. We -- and our community -- are worth it.
The Famous Flames -- Get On Up

James Brown is one of the most iconic, personality filled performers in human history. Boseman positively dances in the titan's shoes. Light on his feet, utterly confident, and joyous.

The Fox Spirit Book of Love


Editor's note: spoilers


Fox Spirit is an award-winning, leading light in the UK indie publishing scene. I've been honoured to be published with them, and it always thrills me to see new authors and editors join The Skulk. With The Fox Spirit Book of Love, debut editor CA Yates has worked incredibly hard to make this a book that explores love in a full spectrum, not caring a fig about stepping outside of the constraints of the usual cis/het focus, and championing each tale as its own unique love story.

'Decomposing Corpses: A Love Story ' by Douglas J. Ogurek is a tone-setting opener. A blood and gore soaked meet-brute between two vultures it has clever things to say about love, dependency, community and eyeballs. Funny, wry and filled with refreshing, still-beating heart.

'The Holy Waters' by Dolly Garland packs a book's worth of history and background and tragedy into one short story. As a pair of monarchs struggle to deal, in very different ways, with the loss of their children, the story pulls back and back until we get if not comfort, then context. If not understanding, then acceptance. It's intensely ambitious and one of the best pieces in the book by some distance.

'Jixxa, My Love' by Alec McQuay is right there with it too. McQuay's poem has blood on its teeth and love in it's heart, a berserker sprint through an unlikely alliance, romance, rejection and what comes after. It's very, very smart and fundamentally kind in a way much of McQuay's work is. This is a story about love not as destination but as port of shelter, a story that embraces the complexity of emotion at the same time as the necessity of longing and it's really, really good.

'End Times in Paris' by James Bennett takes an entirely different tack and is just as successful. From the beautifully turned, wry opening line this is a story about contradiction and restriction in a time when none of those things matter anymore. The love between a human and an angel, at the end of the world, is still forbidden. But when the walls come down, surely the rules do too? Interested in concepts of identity and how those evolve in relationships it's got Bennett's typically sharp eye, an absolutely killer ending and a heart of gold.

'Love in the Age of...' By David Tallerman turns the entire concept of the book around and explores what love is like for the muses. How do you know something's real when it's what you're created to inspire? Could a muse ever be happy by themselves? These questions are raised with Tallerman's trademark humor and compassion and the ending here is both wryly funny and deeply sweet.

'The First Day of Khirshi-Da' by Joyce Chng is one of the most intense pieces here, balancing the idea of gifts of love with an increasingly tense payoff. There is a vast world just beneath the surface here and Chng's skill as an author is such that we're given exactly what we need and no more, much like the protagonist. There's a sense of incredible tension, and hope in the final lines. The risk of love, the risk of loving, encoded into something materially dangerous and profoundly gripping

'By Blade and Bloom' by Xan Van Rooyen combines some of the richest, lushest language and metaphor in the book with a carefully, precision turned exploration not just of love but what happens when love is not quite enough to break down the walls of society. Complex, verdant writing with an ending that's as haunting as it is beautiful.

'The Fine Art of Fortune Telling' by Michelle Ann King is an incredible piece of writing you do not see coming. A mounting sense of unease during a familial visit leads to the sort of suburban unease I grew up around and with and to a series of rolling conclusions which build on each other to absolutely terrifying effect. This is love as the science of infinite lives, but an imprecise science and one whose findings are never shared with everyone involved. It's sweet and tart, soured and intricate and very very good.

'A Curse That's Not For Breaking' by Lawrence Harding continues the exploration in Van Rooyen's piece of what happens when love is a component rather than a solution. The relationship here is deep-seated, pragmatic and sweet in a way that's surprisingly touching and marks the story out as one of the more unusual entries. There's no sentimentality, no corners cut and you'll still leave smiling.

'A True Wish' by Charlotte Bond is another example of just how good Bond is. This entire book is a spotlight and cross section of the best of the UK indie scene, and Bond's work is a textbook example of just how great that scene is. Like others it explores the limitations not just of love but of magic but unlike those it offers a different way to win. The end result is a story which is sly and kind, calmly explaining how it's not actually done anything even as everything changes. Close up magic in prose form and one of the strongest stories in the book.

'Notes on a Haunting' by Kit West folds romance and longing into a haunting and ties them in a knot so complex it's unclear who is haunting whom. Not that that uncertainty is bad. It's not. If anything it explores, with remarkable, patient kindness, how ghosts are haunted by their memories even as those memories haunt us. Bleak, sharp, a shot of espresso shot through with roses and very good.

'Subatomic for 'It Must be Love' by Emma K.Leadley is glorious precisely because it is nothing at all like anything else here. This really is a subatomic love story, little explosions of joy and flirtation sending shockwaves to the core of the characters and story, and all leading to a graceful, subatomic dismount.

'The Twelfth Day' by Ro Smith, continues the theme of turning expectation on it's head, taking a dark turn where the punchline you're expecting is not the one you get. The one you get is far, far better and contextualizes the piece to create a very different take on what you think you know.

'The Wind's Son' by KC Shaw changes gear again and throws magical realism and myth together into a story which echoes everything from classic quests to classic romance. Hints of Cinderella, a well-tuned guitar and a perfectly landed ending make this a real standout and one with a tone quite unlike any other.

'Salt Ocean' by Lisa Shea may be my favourite story in the book. Xymo and Abli are members of an aquatic alien race and on their way to being in love. But in their world, love is something that must be defended as vociferously and desperately as their fragile pods. Out and out science fiction, executed with style, grace and heart, this is a massive standout. I'd read a book about these two.

'Enchanted Garden by KA Laity is a perfect example of why Laity is one of the best authors working in genre right now. A Faustian pact is sought, but no one involved has the reasons they first think they do. It's deceptively simple, elegantly drawn and has one of the best and most ambiguous endings of the collection. Again, I'd read a full length book about this.

'Rapture on the Lonely Shore' by Jenny Barber is another story that elegantly hints at wider events without ever having to explore them. The romance here, between a nun whose order is slowly collapsing and a mermaid, is one of the sweetest in the book and also the most redolent with meaning. Does the mermaid represent freedom and individuality as much as love? Is the order collapsing because the world is, or because of the mermaids? Barber's subtle, clever language uses these questions as foundations but focuses in on the core relationship to create a story which feels apocalyptically romantic without ever resorting to hyperbole.

'The Whale and the Moon' by G. Clark Hellery closes the book with what I suspect was one of the hardest pieces to land successfully. The story of the deeply loving friendship between the Moon and Whale, it's mythical in tone and language but intensely sweet and personal in outlook. The joy here is not in romantic love but in the sense of coming home you feel when you meet someone who gets you completely.


With The Book of Love, Yates has crafted a collection exploring love from dozens of underlooked angles -- some  bloody, occasionally terrifying, always worthwhile, and never the same twice. Love red in tooth and claw and clear in aspect, the Fox Spirit Book of Love is available now. Find more of CA Yates' work on their website.
Reparations -- Da 5 Bloods

One of Boseman's final performances, defined by the same iron cored serenity and clear view he brought his every performance. This is hopelessly, tragically idealistic, exhaustedly furious and inspirational all at once. Just amazing work.

New reader? Looking for a back issue?
Buy me a coffee?

Website Website
Twitter Twitter
My Carrd My Carrd

Jiujitsu

 

Editor's note: spoilers and may the Maker have mercy on our soul.


Okay. Bear with me.

I'm not going to tell you Jiujitsu is a good movie. It features a covert military unit so secret their bosses don't know they exist. A vast, movie-changing twist is given one entire line to be explored. Nicholas Cage makes paper hats. It is, by all weights and measures, the exact sort of pulpy facekickery that claimed video stores (look them up) as their kingdom in the 1990s. The kind of story you'd read in 2000AD because it was there. If a movie was a cheeseburger, this would cost you a buck and come in a brighly-colored cardboard box with a toy.

But.

It's also the first in an unofficial trilogy of returns to genre cinema for the most unpredictable leading man in Western movies. After a decade mining the endless straight-to-supermarket-one-location-or-your-money-back-make-the-check-to-cash action movies Bruce Willis and John Travolta have been sentenced to, Cage is back doing weird, interesting stuff again. Still cheap, fast and dirty stuff, but weird and interesting cheap, fast and dirty.

Don't believe me? Check out Willy's Wonderland in which Cage silently battles demonic animatronic animals that for legal reasons are neither the cast of Five Nights At Freddys nor the denizens of Charles Entertainment Cheese's plastic Valhalla. Still don't believe me? Later this year we get Prisoners of the Ghostland in which Cage, playing a criminal named Hero, must rescue live hostages from the lands of the dead, possibly while wearing exploding trousers.

Throw in his, frankly, unsettlingly brilliant work on Mandy and it becomes clear this particular branch of the Coppola family tree likes it weird. And Jiujitsu is pretty damn weird.

Adapted from a 2017 comic by director Dimitri Logothetis and Andrew McGrath, the movie straight-facedly posits that martial arts were brought to Earth by an alien named Brax. He returns every six years to see how well his skills have been absorbed by humanity. To this end, ten of your Earth martial artists are chosen to fight him. If they beat him, we live. Hurray! If they don't, he kills the planet. 

I think.

Anyway, six years has rolled around again and Jake Barnes (Alain Moussi) is one of the fighters scheduled to fight for, well, let's say our lives. The only problem is Jake's on the run, injured, and has no memory of what he's supposed to be doing.

Oh and also Nicholas Cage.

Look, I'm not going to bust on this movie because it knows exactly what it is -- a stunt crew's tax write-off / paid vacation. Dimitri Logothetis knows what he needs to do -- position the camera so highly trained martial artists can laugh at gravity and spinkick it in the face, also keep Nicholas Cage in focus -- and he does it. In several places he does it really well. There's a great Neveldine Taylor-esque sequence where Tony Jaa (playing... Tony Jaa?) breaks Jake out of the military base where he's been taken. The two fight their way clear, their characters passing the camera between them and periodically putting it down so they can fight more effectively. It's honestly kind of brilliant and has an energy and fleetness of foot that's really fun to see.

Also, Nicholas Cage is present. Doing shit like this:
Cage plays Wylie, a member of the one of the previous Jiujitsu teams. He's...very Nicholas Cage. He has a piano in the cave where he lives. He purrs 'I CAN FLY TOO' at one point. He fishes Jake out of the water in the opening scene and then leaves him to the military. Each line is delivered with the ravenous glee of a man who finds syllables delicious and is overjoyed to be at such a delightful buffet. Each action beat, a surprising amount of which is Cage, is given the right combination of humility and caffeine.

Cage is, by no stretch of the imagination, subtle. At any point. Ever. But he's consistently watchable and fun and clearly understands the assignment. Moussi, who is a remarkably sincere interviewee, has sung the star's praises, making it clear he was present throughout the entire shoot, not just the sections he was required for too.

So, Jiujitsu features Nicholas Cage, the world's neediest and most brutally violent sensei and an amnesiac hero. We're good to go right? Noooooooooope! The movie also folds in 'as he was in country anyway' MCU frequent flyer Frank Grillo, frankly terrifying martial arts polyglot Juju Chan, and others as members of Jake's team. Grillo in particular is surprisingly fun here and the movie sketches in a real sense of foreboding as these impossible badasses go off to fight a losing battle in which they have no choice.

There are hints of the emotional costs, hints of the punishing history of the 'competition' (although no reference to it's ANCIENT ALIENS style MAHOOSIVELY racist premise). Oh and also a military team sent to kill Brax the Alien led by Rick Yune who are simultaneously off the books and funded for years. There's a LOT going on here, usually kicking other bits of it in the face. Brax especially is simultaneously pleasingly beefy and insubstantial, making him a brutal, fluid opponent. There are the components of a GOOD B-Movie here, like Relic level good. Shadows of Predator level good.

But Jiujitsu is not that movie. It aspires to travel in parallel with a good movie, waving cheerfully from the passing lane as its burning engine revs for one last, desperate push. If you've ever finished a pulp story because you admired it's moxie, watched a Jean Claude Van Damme movie to the end, or ever just wanted to see a bunch of character actors run around Cyprus, Jiujitsu is for you. It's here for a good time, not a long time. If you tag along just... check your expectations at the door. And maybe don't ask Brax about that timeline... 

Jiujitsu has arrived on Netflix, having been available to watch in exchange for legal tender earlier this year. I went with that option.

...Make better choices.
On the plates -- 42

There is master-class level acting in this scene: John C. McGinley finding the humanity behind the now-parodic seeming commentary; Alan Tudyk's dead-eyed racism and the nuance he brings it; Jesse Luken's brutally efficient Eddie Stanky and the exhaustion and confusion and annoyance he feels at what he's compelled to do.

But it's Boseman you can't take your eyes off. He barely speaks. His physical performance -- the expression of thought and emotion -- shows us everything with effortless-seeming naturalism and grace.

Want More?

Signal Boost

 

Books

Comics

Blogs

Music

Newsletters

Podcasts

PSA

TTRPGs

That's this week's Signal Boost, folks. If you have a project you'd like to see here get in touch.

Where You Can Find Me This Week

Twitch 

  • The Council took A TURN. Demons?!? Puzzles! A Quicktime event that will NOT STAND next week!
  • Alexander J. Newall joined us for a fantastic talk about self care, face masks, and thrones made of bone. 

Podcast Land

 

PseudoPod 755: Exquisite

The living are not done with you yet -- Captain America: Civil War

For me, this is the moment where Boseman not only carved a place for himself in the MCU but subverted every single expectation of the role. A dutiful king, a vengeful, grieving son. Yet somehow still a man together enough to see the tragedy his friends and enemies are trapped in and to save the life of the man who killed his father.

THAT is what Kings do.

Find me on The Online

Website Website
Twitter Twitter
My Carrd My Carrd

Award Voting


Hey everyone! Here are some award voting resources for you.

Signing Off / Playing Out


AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAND THAT WAS A WEEK! 

Right then! Welcome to the end, thanks for joining us, have some water, take a seat, you earned it.

TFL returns next week. Check my Carrd for all the places you can find me, including the Team KennerStuart Instagram and the Twitters, currently singing about the midnight train to Georgia it seems to have...missed. Twitch streams have well and truly resumed -- follow the channel to get notified when we go live.

This work is produced for free. If you like what you read please consider dropping something in the tip jar. And thank you!

Playing us out this week is TimmySean with the theme tune to the show I wished I grew up watching.

Aside from being FUNKY AS HELL? 
This is a Full Lid.
Copyright Alasdair Stuart © 2021 -- All rights reserved

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.
 






This email was sent to <<Email Address>>
why did I get this?    unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences
Agathon Towers · Cheapside Road · Reading, Berkshire RG1 7AG · United Kingdom

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp