February 26th, 2008


The Funeral, Ruined

From Ben Payne (benpayne) at Last Short Story (lastshortstory), a review of some of the stories in Paper Cities, including mine:

Ben Peek's The Funeral, Ruined is another entry into his red sun world series, and is perhaps my favourite of those stories so far. In this story a young woman must deal with the death of a young man she cares for, and what comes after that. This story stands out because it creates an engaging central conflict, with both sides interesting and believable. The world-building is also fascinating. Probably the strongest story in the anthology. Well-crafted and moving.
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An Open Letter to Sylvester Stallone

Dear Mr. Stallone,

I am writing this letter to you to let you know that while I enjoyed Rambo, I did so with some reservations.

Firstly, I wish to compliment you. Some have argued that your character, John Rambo, is not a figure you can use to critique the world's issues, but you have proved, once again, that this is not true. Your new film has reached the heights of subtlety displayed in Rambo III, in which I, an impressionable youth at the time, learnt that the Afghanistan people were our friends and that Russians were our enemies and that white people had nothing to fear from the former, and everything from the latter. This was slightly confusing to me in the later years, as I thought that somehow America might be responsible for the creation of the Taliban, and I like to think that it was not these men that Rambo rode around on a horse and tossed the carcass of a dead animal through the goals in a strange version of soccer with.

And I must admit, I worried that such elegant political characterisation would be beyond you, some twenty odd years later, for this, the fourth Rambo film.

I worried, for example, at the brutal displays of violence that opened the film, and which included the hideous practice of soldiers seeding rice fields with landmines, and they gambling on which of their prisoners could make it to the end (or die first--I was never quite sure what they were gambling on). In the face of such brutality, I wondered what an elderly Rambo, hunting snakes and shooting fish with his bow, might do in this, especially as you began the film by building the violence in such an overt and dreadful way. Another might be impressed by this portrayal of the violence, for it is quite shocking and serves, in this bland world where film violence has become passe, to actually provide a sense of atrocity to what has happened. But that person is not me, no--frankly, I thought it too much, and wondered if it was possible that you could tone it down a bit for the DVD release and increase the 'action' scenes to make them beautiful and operatic so that I can show it to young children, just as I show them your previous films, and just as the people I overheard in the lobby of the cinema wished.

Of course, for tha fault, you redeemed yourself admirably in your portrayal of the Burmese military. Not since the evil Russian military in Rambo III have I seen a man who deserved to be gutted so well as the general to this army, who smoked his cigarettes, tortured men and women, and fucked little boys all through the night. Such insight into the political motivations of the area! Such even handed portrayals! If only Brian Dennehy had been Asian! That would have truly bought the film full circle for me, incidentally. Perhaps if you do a fifth film, this could be organised with Mr. Dennehy?

(I must admit, however, that I was a little disappointed by your portrayal of Christian aid workers as being misguided, and your arc for the self righteous in there was one that, while making me chuckle, felt as if it were playing only on the dark parts of my humour, and my admittedly cynical opinion of rich white people who go to poor countries to help men and women and children, so long as they read the bible.)

What I also enjoyed about Rambo was the characterisation. I had no problems believing that a cute, bible bashing blonde girl could motivate the cynical Rambo into picking up his bow and killing hundreds. Why, I myself have seen many men completely changed by a bible bashing cute girl (blonde or otherwise), but it did raise the point between me and my friend that we'd never seen Rambo get it on in his films. Since you are returning to your original films at the end of your career, is it not possible that you could mix John Rambo and the character you played in Italian Stallion together? I don't mean to harp on this, but I did feel as if you could have given us a bit of sex. The violence is all well and good, but the visceral nature of it does take away a certain level of enjoyment--such as with the previous Rambo film, in which men were killed with glowing arrows and Rambo burnt wounds with gun powder--and suggests to me that you were actually trying to make a film that was a lot more interesting that it ended. To combat this, you could include visceral sex.

Overall, however, I'd prefer if you stopped trying to make a slightly interesting film, if you could. I'm just not into that anymore. Sure, Rambo killed all the bad guys, and while he did this by being badder than all of them, I felt that you had not given yourself into the mayhem and violence in the good ol' way that I remember in Rambo III, which, yes, I know I keep returning to, but, fuck, man, wasn't that just an awesome film?

You also had witty lines in that.

Just a hint for Rambo V, okay?


B. Peek