Feb 122015

As of this writing, Fifty Shades of Grey holds a 32% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a 47 on MetaCritic, and a 3.1 on IMDB. Suffice to say, it won’t sweep the Oscars next year. I do predict it will do well at the Golden Raspberries. Its loyal fanbase will probably guarantee a commercially successful opening weekend and a lot of DVD sales, but I suspect it will do poorly in the long run.

I am a little disappointed we won’t see little CGI chibi versions of Dakota Johnson’s subconscious and inner goddess hopping around.

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May 132013

I’m surprised at how much material from AMC’s Mad Men I find for this blog. First there was protagonist Don Draper’s masochistic sessions with a prostitute who slaps his face. Then there was the episode “Mystery Date”, which showed that Don was trying to be faithful to his wife, while a toxic cocktail of lust, fear and rage boiled inside him. Meanwhile, other characters had their own reactions to sexual violence.

And now, in “Man With A Plan”, Don goes full on dominant. Since the season began, he’s been having an affair with his downstairs neighbour Sylvia, the wife of a heart surgeon. While Don’s been lacking in sales meetings, he makes up for it by expertly playing on Sylvia’s Catholic guilt, setting her up for their trysts in the maid’s room.

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Apr 032013

Perkins, Lori, ed. Fifty Writers on Fifty Shades of Grey. Benbella Smartpop, 2012 Amazon

Much like Christian Grey himself, the Fifty Shades trilogy is everywhere, overwhelming and relentless, dominating bestseller lists, metastatizing into countless imitators, and spawning an entire industry of gifts, CDs, boardgames and other branded merchandise, plus a feature film. Through sheer repetition and ubiquity, we find ourselves trying to accommodate it, even to make excuses for its flaws and offences. Some of the authors in this essay collection try too hard to put a positive spin on Fifty Shades. Even the collection’s  editor, Lori Perkins, says:

Some have wondered how a “classic” can be so “poorly written.” But I contend that it is not poorly written, but rather written in an everywoman’s voice, a necessary part of its success I once worked with an author who used plebian language…. When she returned my edits, she told me that she did indeed know the word “simultaneously,” but when she was fantasizing, she always used the phrase “at the same time as,” and she knew that her readers did as well. [Pg.3]

EL James’ prose is not “plebian” or “in an everywoman’s voice”, it’s just plain bad. You don’t need an MFA to read or write good prose or hot prose.

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Feb 232013

Django Unchained 2012, writer/director Quentin Tarantino, IMDB

(Spoilers ahead)

Briefly, Django Unchained is about a slave in the Old West, before the Civil War, who is freed by, then partnered with, a German bounty hunter, Dr. Schulz. They set off on a quest (explicitly compared to the German legend of Siegfried/Sigurd) to recover Django’s wife Broomhilda from a plantation known as “Candie Land”.

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Feb 052013

After writing more than 87,000 words on this trilogy (some of it excerpts), what can be said?

Someone once asked me if Fifty Shades had any good points. I thought a moment and said, “It’s very good at making money.”

That’s ultimately what is most baffling about Fifty Shades: its phenomenal commercial success, particularly in light of its inferiority to so many other romance or erotica books on the market. You’d think people had never read a sex scene before. Why it is so popular is a mystery, even after reading the entire thing.

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Jan 262013

On a strictly literary and technical level, Freed is actually a worse book than its predecessors. EL James’ prose remains about the same, her characters are no better developed, and Ana’s response to everything is to flush or think “Holy shit!”

Furthermore, the plot is shapeless. Fifty Shades of Grey had the will-she-won’t-she-sign-the-contract plotline to create tension and give events some structure, though the contract was later abandoned. Darker was about whether they would stay together. Freed opens with Ana and Christian already married, and from there the plot was fight-makeup-fight-makeup, interrupted by one artificial crisis after another, usually resolved in the next chapter, or completely irrelevant events like the entire cast going to Aspen for no good reason. Then it’s back to scenes from a really bad marriage, as Ana feebly struggles against Christian’s controlling regime.

There’s no character arc either either. Despite all the sex, stalkings, car chases and kidnap and ransom schemes, Christian’s attitude towards Ana is basically unchanged by the end of the story. From one of their earliest meetings, the moment when Christian saves Ana from being hit by a bicycle, it’s clear that Christian sees it as his responsibility to look after Ana, with the implicit assumption that she can’t take care of her self. That continues right through to the end, when Ana, near comatose, hears her husband and her step-father both talking about her as if she was a little girl in need of a spanking. Ana, for her part, is so immature that it’s apropos. So, one-percenter Bluebeard meets dim-witted girl-woman and they live happily ever after.

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Dec 312012

Will this be the big Scene that the whole series has been building up to? Or will EL James screw with us once again?

“So you want to play?” he murmurs.
He says nothing, and I risk a quick glance . . . up his jeans, his denim clad thighs, the soft bulge at his fly, the open button at the waist, his happy trail, his navel, his chiseled abdomen, his chest hair, his gray eyes blazing, and his head cocked to one side. He’s arching an eyebrow. Oh shit.
“Yes what?” he whispers.
“Yes, Sir.”
His eyes soften. “Good girl,” he murmurs, and he caresses my head. “I think we’d better get you upstairs now,” he adds. My insides liquefy, and my belly clenches in that delicious way.

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Dec 302012

We get the backstory on Christian and Elena, and it’s straight out of a Penthouse letter.

“It was a hot summer day. I was working hard.” He snorts and shakes his head, suddenly amused. “It was backbreaking work shifting that rubble. I was on my own, and Ele—Mrs. Lincoln appeared out of nowhere and brought me some lemonade. We exchanged small talk, and I made some smart-ass remark . . . and she slapped me. She slapped me so hard.” Unconsciously, his hand moves to his face and he caresses his cheek, his eyes clouding at the memory.


“And you know something, Ana? My world came into focus. Sharp and clear.
Everything. It was exactly what I needed. She was a breath of fresh air. Making the decisions, taking all that shit away from me, letting me breathe.”

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