A comic and a flick for a quiet evening:
Snotgirl by Bryan Lee O'Malley & Leslie Hung
Canadian cartoonist Bryan Lee O'Malley has created some of the most interesting comics of the 21st century, most notably the Scott Pilgrim series with a theme best summed up as “all the world’s a video game and all the men and women merely avatars.” (Side note: The surreal and charming 2010 movie adaptation Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, though a critical success, was seriously under-noticed by audiences.) His 2014 graphic novel Seconds (theme: be careful what you wish for) is also worth a read.
In Snotgirl Volume 1 (2017), O’Malley retains the tone of his earlier works but without the surreal or scifi elements – except to the extent modern life resembles scifi. Lottie Person is a 25-y.o. fashion blogger who has enough followers to make a living at it. Her always-fabulous always-chic online persona is very different from her actual allergy-ridden often-unkempt self. To promote her image Lottie impersonates her online self in public knowing full well that in our world of cell phone cameras any faux pas will end up online, too. She and her circle of friends all adapt styles tailored for social media presentation. Lottie’s real-world behavior in response to normal life stresses is often terrible, yet she retains enough human likability not to lose the reader. The nickname “Snotgirl” is given to her (affectionately? passive aggressively?) by Caroline, a genuinely cool girl. Lottie can’t quite remember if she physically attacked Caroline for that in a bar bathroom. There are O’Malley-like questions of what is real and what is fake – and if what is real counts as real if not captured by cell phone.
A comic book about a fashion blogger has some obvious pictorial creative challenges that illustrator Leslie Hung handles exceptionally well in her first major collaboration.
Thumbs firmly Up for this thoughtful and engaging comic.
There is remarkably little correlation between the size of a budget and the quality of a movie, particularly in the case of scifi movies. True, flashy fx can enhance a good script but they are wasted otherwise, as in, for example, the 1998 Godzilla. (Washington Post on another high budget scifi flick: “A million monkeys with a million crayons would be hard-pressed in a million years to create anything as cretinous as Battlefield Earth.”) On the other hand a good script is enough to carry a movie even with a minimal budget, e.g. Safety Not Guaranteed. You just never know from the scale of the production. Coherence is a microbudget indie, but it works pretty well. The actors deserve much of the credit for this since a lot of the dialogue was impromptu.
We’ve seen the set-up before: a dinner party of long-time friends and frenemies. Hosted by Mike (Nicolas Brendan) and Lee (Lorene Scafaria) at their suburban home, the guests have histories with each other, not all of them good. Mike is a TV actor whose career has expired. He says he was on Roswell, which is both an in-house joke and a portent: Nicolas Brendan in fact was in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Xander), but there are actors who appeared on both of the contemporaneous shows, e.g. Julie Benz (Darla/Tupolski) and Jason Behr (Ford/Max). A chance casting decision easily could have landed someone on one instead of the other.
Coherence relies on the notion that there are parallel realities and that new ones are created whenever random chance produces two or more outcomes, so Schrödinger's famous cat is alive in one reality but dead in another. This is a seriously proposed idea in some circles, and it is one of which scifi authors are particularly fond.
A large comet is making an extraordinarily close pass of the earth the night of the dinner party. The power goes out at the house. Mike has a home generator, but there are no communications. The guests spot a nearby house with lights. (*Partial Spoiler* but the reader likely has guessed the plot twist already from the last paragraph.) Yes, as you may be suspecting, it is another version of their own house, and there is more than one. The comet somehow has broken down the boundaries among realities when directly overhead during its near approach. Can the party attendees trust all the other versions of themselves? Should they? For that matter, when they reconnoiter another house, do they return to the house they left? A dinner party that without the comet simply would have been strained and unpleasant instead turns nightmarish.
Thumbs up – not way up, but up.