Haunted by the Repo Man

You know how you can sometimes listen to a song and think, it’s okay I guess, kind of odd, but not too bad. Then, months later, you find yourself thinking about it again, and you realize you’ve never heard anything quite like it. And you pay closer attention to the lyrics, the key changes, the varied instrumentation. And then you realize, in a moment of stunned silence, that the song you thought was so-so was actually fucking brilliant.

Repo! The Genetic Opera (cover)That is exactly how watching Repo! The Genetic Opera went for me. I thought it was a new idea, something I hadn’t seen before, but otherwise not terribly special. Then the haunting began and, oh holy night surgeon, was I taken by it. I couldn’t get around the things I’d missed: the complex story, the multi-faceted characters, the clever lyrics, the sheer lunacy of creating something so absurd but so completely epic.

The world Repo! built is a true dystopia, a society gone so wrong, ruled by a monopolistic corporation, and one man, whose idea of revenge is right along the lines of Oldboy (if you haven’t seen that, you’re missing out on one serious mental meltdown). In this world, you can get new organs on a payment plan when yours inevitably fail, but if you can’t pay your bills, the repo man comes to get your organs back. And he doesn’t mess around with silly things like anesthesia when he takes them. Nope. You’re just dead, pretty much.

But here’s the kicker. We have two primary characters in this story, two people we’re supposed to sympathize with and root for. And that would be the repo man and his daughter. Just let that mull in your head for a moment. The repo man is our hero.

Talk about an anti-hero. This one is a doozy, and I am convinced no one could ever play the role again after Anthony Stewart Head gave a soul and his gorgeous singing voice to the character. If you see this film for no other reason, do it for his performance. The way that man oscillates between a doting father and a maniacal killer who loves his job is something to behold. But don’t miss Paul Sorvino’s powerful presence as the villainous Rotti Largo, or Sarah Brightman as the mysterious Blind Mag, for that matter. Does she ever do anything bad?

Be prepared for plenty of gore and a good dose of camp, and maybe a few annoying moments. You may walk away thinking it was a mediocre film, but you’ll be reminded of it months or even years later, and then you won’t be able to get it out of your head. What I would especially like to get you thinking about is what the climax of the film manages to say about the way we, as a society, view horrific true events as entertainment. Seriously, it’s brilliant.

As an added bonus, the years-later event that put this film back on my radar was my discovery of Paw’s Music Movies. It’s been so fun to watch his musical reviews, so nostalgic. And I find my tastes very closely match his, which is awesome because I thought I was the only weirdo out there who could never get that stupid siren song from Hocus Pocus out of my head. Here’s his review of Repo!, complete with spoilers, so watch at your own risk. Check out his other reviews, too. Especially if you grew up watching musicals and would enjoy learning new little tidbits about them. The man really knows his stuff.

That Goodreads Post

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From what I can tell, I use Goodreads in a way that may require some explanation. My star ratings never drop below three, for example. There’s a reason for that, and it isn’t that I love every book I read, nor is it that I’ve gone ahead and slapped three stars on books I dislike. It’s just that I don’t finish books I dislike any more. I used to, but then I decided life was short and there were far too many books I would never get around to reading, even without having finished the ones I disliked. To me, Goodreads is a place where I can share what I’ve read and enjoyed with people who care to know. I also add books I may have read in the past, if something reminds me of them and I want to share them.

About stars: I have a love/hate relationship with star ratings. I always wish there were more choices: half stars, ten stars, constellations—I don’t know. But stars are an easy way to categorize, so that’s how I use them.

Here’s my personal star rating system, including what I would do with one and two stars if I ever decided to use them:

* One star would be what I might give to a book I disliked, and felt was poorly done.

** Two stars are what I would give to a book that was not for me, but I felt was still well done.

*** Three stars means it held my attention. I liked it well enough to finish it. Something about the book was interesting to me.

**** Four stars means I liked it quite a bit and would recommend it to friends I think would enjoy it.

***** Five stars means I LOVED the book. I likely own it, or it haunts me in a good way. I probably talked The Other Lamm’s ear off about the book all while I was reading it, and now I’m going to try to get him to read it, too.

So that’s it. I’m sure there are other people who use Goodreads the same way I do—lots of people, even—but I thought I’d do a little post on it anyway. I just think it’s a great way to share books with friends who aren’t neighbors, like a gigantic book club, only no one’s dictating what you’re supposed to read like they usually do in book clubs, which is why I’m not in one.

Visiting the Night Circus

I have this recurring dream. It isn’t a nightmare; it’s actually a lot of fun (except for the one with the corpses, but we won’t talk about that). In the dream, I’m in a house. I head to one room and find that there’s a labyrinth of rooms tucked away behind it. The rooms are usually of increasing size and varying color, theme, and style. Some rooms have whole apartments in them, kitchens and balconies like hotel suites, or small beds all in a line as though laid out for a number of children. Sometimes there are gardens in secret courtyards or hidden treasures in dark corners. In the end the inside of the house turns out to be far bigger than it looked on the outside.

The Night Circus (cover)Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus is a lot like that recurring dream. It’s a labyrinth of sets and scenes and characters, each one introduced slowly and with great care. The story is secondary to exploration. Discovery and mysterious whimsy are more vital than characters. It plays out like a new world, all folded up like origami and found in the shape of a book.

For me, Reading The Night Circus was not unlike reading The Monsters of Templeton (without the nightmarish ending). The narrative was rich and full and delicious. But at some point I wanted the book to end, I think because I had the same feeling all the way through. I never became angry or elated for any of the characters. I only ever felt a kind of pleasant dreaminess, which was lovely, but exhausting after a while.

That said, I loved the book overall. It’s not a story to be read so much as experienced. The sights and sounds and smells—the whole flavor of the circus is so vivid, I wished I could have visited it myself. And I did like Marco and Celia and Baily and Poppet and Widget and all the other characters that won me over in the long run.

The Night Circus was a fantastic experience, in the truest sense. And while my sad state of an attention span often struggled with it, I’m glad I read it.