A Thing I Made For My Science Fiction Class

I took a class this semester called “Science, Technology, and Society: Examining the Future through a Science-Fiction Lens.” For our final project we were to answer, in the form of an essay or creative work, the question “How do scientific discoveries, technological advances, and society pressures drive human change?”  I wrote a song about language change on the internet.

It’s not great production value, the video is just an exported PowerPoint, and yes I know that ASL is not the same thing as English so I shouldn’t have included those visuals in the second chorus without making more of a distinction but I was trying to illustrate the “and/or sight” concept and also I was originally just writing about language in general but then switched the subtitle to be English-specific since all my other examples were and now it is too late to change it because I’ve already submitted the link.

Anyway. There are links in the video’s description.

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Party-Planning Anne of Green Gables

When you want to have an Anne of Green Gables party, (because it is of course when, not if), here are my suggestions for elements that you can include, based on recent parties I’ve organized for myself and some of my friends. First of all, PUFFED SLEEVES!  Don’t let Marilla tell you that it’s a waste of fabric. You know watching Anne recite “The Highwayman” at the White Sands hotel and Gilbert lead the standing ovation afterward will be way more fun if you and your friends are wearing giant puffy sleeves while you watch it.  My easy, no-sew tutorial video for sleeves that you can pop on over any outfit is below, (filmed & edited by Bianca Brown–thanks, lady!). The elastic should keep the sleeves on well enough for movie-watching, but if you’re going to be wearing them while being more active, such as three-legged-racing with your new bosom friend or climbing onto roofs to walk ridgepoles on a dare, you may want to use a safety pin or two to hold them in place.

As for non-sleeve apparel, I recommend pearls in honor of Matthew.  Depending on the ages of your invitees, you can get pre-made necklaces, or just pearl beads that can be strung together as an activity.  I mean, it’s a safer activity than bashing slates over each others heads, right?



Hair can be braided into pigtails like Anne wears when she first comes to Green Gables, or, if you’re ambitious, you can try this Anne of Green Gables Hairstyle Tutorial or this slightly less complicated one, or this fairly simple twist updo if you want to skip all that back-combing.  To take your hair cosplay up a notch, get some temporary spray-on hair color from a costume store: orange, if you want to be everyday Anne, or green, if you want to be tragic-dye-mishap-Anne-on-the-day-she-met-the-peddler-on-the-road.  And if your hair is too dark to effectively use spray-on coloring?  You’re Diana, with beautiful raven tresses!


Pearls, Puffed Sleeves, and Pigtails!


Not everyone has to wear puffed sleeves.  These boys decided to cosplay as “Matthew, dressed up on his way to pick up Anne from the station,” and Gilbert Blythe

Obviously the only thing to drink at an Anne of Green Gables party is Raspberry Cordial.  I mixed Cran-Raspberry juice with Sprite, to make the ‘cordial’ I served at a recent Anne party.  If your guests are more mature (and responsible enough not to drink three glasses in a row and then stumble home, DIANA!) you can add vodka.  Or, see if you can find a berry-flavored wine.

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Though there isn’t really anything specifically about tea parties in Anne’s story, except for perhaps when she does invite Diana over for that fateful raspberry cordial visit, it’s just super fun to eat and drink from dainty dishes.   I found a set of tiny serving bowls, spoons, and forks that were supposed to be for appetizers and used those to serve snacks for my guests.  If you have a tea set, you could use that as well.  You can serve mini-sized candies, fruits and veggies cut into small pieces, small pastries, pumpkin or banana bread cut into small cubes, cheese cubes, or small crackers, for example.  Of course if you really want to be thematic you can make plum pudding and sauce, and then yell “DON’T EAT IT, MISS STACY!” whenever your guests try to take a bite.  Or, make a snack that incorporates brown sugar, and say that you’re just trying to help Marilla use up some of the 20 pounds that Matthew bought.



Carrots! You can’t get much more Anne-themed than that.


This “raspberry cordial” was a mixture of cran-raspberry juice and sprite, (no alcohol!)



I hope this post has given you plenty of “scope for the imagination” so you can throw your own Anne-party.  Let me know in the comments if you have more ideas!


Three cheers for Anne Shirley, winner of the Avery!  (Note the movie in the background)



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Thoughts on Twilight’s Gender-Flip

When I heard the news that Stephenie Meyer had re-written Twilight with (nearly) all the characters’ genders swapped, about three things I was absolutely positive; first, this publication would be an immediate target for pop culture ridicule. Second, there was a part of it–and I didn’t yet know how potent that part that might be–that I myself would mock. And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably committed to reading that book in full.

Look, I’ve had as much fun as anyone making fun of Twilight in the past, but I’m also willing to defend certain aspects of the series and I definitely don’t think it deserves the amount of ridicule and scorn it gets. I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment expressed in articles like this one by Daniel Kraus, and even the widespread (and totally deserved) criticism of Edward and Bella’s relationship is I think in a way very positive, because the message of how to identify signs of an abusive relationship reached a huge audience through that common frame of reference, and it gave many young readers a context to push against as they grew.  I put myself in this category, too–I devoured the entire series one winter break, and thoroughly enjoyed it even as I recognized it had flaws.  Later I read more analyses and deconstructed it further and became more demanding and critical of relationship portrayals in new stories that I encountered, thanks to what I had learned from and rejected in Twilight. I’m not saying that was Meyer’s intention, I’m saying it’s a legitimate result for me and I believe for many others that was born out of the series.

Does the Green apple signify all the money that Stephenie Meyer is making with this

Does the Green apple signify all the money that Stephenie Meyer is making with this “rewrite”?

Gender-reversing fictional characters is nothing new to fandom.  The internet is full of genderbent drawings and cosplays and fanfics for pretty much every currently active fandom, often exploring themes from the original canon by displacing plotlines to a different context, shifting character dynamics by altering age/gender/sexuality/nationality/abilities/etc, or hypothesizing how the characters would react to new scenarios.  Meyer’s gender-flip turns out to be disappointingly unoriginal against the rich backdrop of actual fanfiction, since it is largely a straightforward find-and-replace of name changes and doesn’t really seem to explore very deeply the thesis she outlines in her foreward (that Bella is not a “damsel in distress” but a “human in distress”), but the significant alterations to characters that she did make are fascinating.  Every decision reveals something about the way Meyer (and society?) perceives gender roles, and every criticism of Life and Death that enumerates aspects of the gender swap that “fail” (such as this one or this one) reveal something about the way the critic (and society??) perceive gendered social norms as well.  In the same way that I think the numerous posts analyzing Bella and Edward’s unhealthy relationship all over the internet is a good thing to come out of Twilight, I think Life and Death, even if it ultimately does not exemplify the gender equality purportedly meant to, has potential to fuel a great collective discussion on these issues.  The book has barely been out a full week and there are already dozens of articles on mainstream platforms discussing gender and sexism and we have Stephenie Meyer to thank for that.

Here are my initial thoughts on notable aspects of the gender swap, arranged by my emotional reactions:


The description of women’s physical appearances in this book is a HUGE PROBLEM. The paragraph introducing Dr. Carine Cullen is identical to it’s Twilight counterpart introducing Carlise, except where the later is simply “handsomer than any movie star I’d ever seen,” Carine is “more beautiful than any movie star I’d ever seen. Like someone sliced up Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, and Marilyn Monroe, took the best parts, and glued them together to form one goddess,” (emphasis added). Um, WHY are we figuratively chopping women up, and how does reducing three successful individuals to their aesthetically “best parts” promote gender equality, and why was this not necessary when Dr. Cullen was a man??

Much more disturbing is the portrayal of Edythe.  I haven’t done a thorough comparison of Edythe vs. Edward descriptive passages, but my general sense is that Edythe is described less superfluously than Edward was.  The passage that stood out to me the most takes place in chapter 12, when the vampire/human couple hike up to the meadow, where the human will see the vampire’s skin sparkle in the sun for the first time.  Here is the passage from Twilight describing Edward:

His  white shirt was sleeveless, and he wore it unbuttoned, so that the smooth white skin of his throat flowed uninterrupted over the marble contours of his chest, his perfect musculature no longer merely hinted at behind concealing clothes.  He was too perfect, I realized…

And here is the Life and Death counterpart describing Edythe:

I’d never seen so much of her skin. Her pale arms, her slim shoulders, the fragile-looking twigs of her collarbones, the vulnerable hollows above them, the swanlike column of her neck, the gentle swell of her breasts–don’t stare, don’t stare–and the ribs I could nearly count under the thin cotton.  She was too perfect, I realized…

I literally swore out loud when I read this part.  Speaking as a person who has struggled like so many other young women with disordered eating and an unhealthy body image, we need to DESTROY THIS IDEA that ribs you can “nearly count” and twig-like collarbones are physical “perfection” for a woman.  DESTROY IT!! DON’T PERPETUATE IT BY UNNECESSARILY MAKING YOUR CHARACTER ‘DELICATE’ AND ‘TINY’ JUST BECAUSE SHE’S A GIRL NOW!!  Edward gets “perfect musculature” but Edythe gets “Her arms were so thin; it was hard to believe they contained the strength that I knew was in them” (two paragraphs earlier in the same chapter).  Edythe–DEADLY, SUPER-STRONG MIND-READING VAMPIRE, gets “vulnerable hollows” above “fragile-looking twigs of her collarbones”, or so says the puny and clumsy human narrator with male genitalia. SET THIS WHOLE TROPE ON FIRE AND BURN IT TO THE GROUND!


In Twilight, Charlie is protective of Bella and treats Edward with some patriarchal hostility when he finds out they are dating. Charlie demands, “You take care of my girl, all right?” In the Life and Death counterpart scene, instead of a gruff fatherly interaction, Charlie is literally swoony over his son’s girlfriend. “She unleashed the dimples, and his face went blank.  It took him a second to recover.”  Also, “Charlie ran a hand through his hair self-consciously.  I didn’t think I’d ever seen him so flustered.”  It’s very…awkward…


In Twilight, Edward rescues Bella from a group of men that it is heavily implied intended to rape her. In Life and Death, Edythe rescues Beau from drug dealers who decide they are going to maybe shoot him because one of them saw him with Charlie when he arrived at the airport and they therefore mistakenly assume he is an undercover cop and that he is going to bust them even though he barely witnesses an unclear transaction from afar and is basically just walking by.  I think there is a LOT that can be dissected here, in comparing the way the threat to Bella is so apparent just from the fact that she finds herself alone and accosted by strange men that she is mentally preparing to physically defend herself, versus the contrived circumstances necessary to put Beau in some sort of equivalent danger, and even with a gun pointed at his head he does not react as strongly as Bella does when she is at the other end of the street from her would-be attackers. Similarly, Rose’s backstory (her human death was rape and murder at the hands of her fiance and his friends) becomes not-really-synonymous Royal’s “my fiance was the daughter of a mob boss and she tricked me into getting engaged because i wanted power but then she had her lover from a rival criminal syndicate beat me to death.”  Are these differences more attributable to straight/white/male privilege, or rape culture?

Also, Beau, like Bella, has several human admirers as the new kid at school. However I don’t recall Bella so actively manipulating her suitors into dating other girls the way that Beau does with both McKayla(/”Mike”) and Taylor(/”Tyler”).  I think Beau in general is written as a more active character than Bella, who tended to be more passive, but this particular behavior felt like it had an extra layer of negativity somehow.


After their Port Angelos impromptu dinner-date, Beau tries to protest that Edythe is picking up the tab and she says, “Try not to get caught up in antiquated gender roles.”  I found this particularly hilarious because just a few pages earlier she loaned him her scarf and assured him, “It’s not a lady’s scarf, if that’s what’s bothering you. I stole it from Archie,” and furthermore the whole Life and Death dinner date starts with Edythe asking Beau’s friends, “Will it ruin your night if I make Beau take me to dinner?”, whereas in Twilight Edward simply states “I’m taking you to dinner.” This type of switching is littered all throughout the book; when Bella tells Charlie she has a date with Edward, he asks “where is he taking you?” but when Beau tells Charlie he has a date with Edythe, the question becomes “where are you taking her?”  So it’s not just a gender swap, it’s a gender swap plus a role reversal so that everything still lines up with the “antiquated gender roles” that we are supposedly not meant to “get caught up in.”


When Bella is killing time, she flips through the collected works of Jane Austen, but Beau reads Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and and specifies that what usually catches his interest is “a giant squid or a narwhal.”  This just seemed like a very silly and unnecessary change, perpetuating the myth of GIRL books vs BOY books.

Life and Death’s vampiric chill bothers humans significantly more than Twilight‘s; twice Beau narrates that his hands are numb after holding hands with Edythe. Does this change mean–**SPOILER ALERT** the altered ending of Beau becoming a vampire after the tracker bites him is more necessary, so that he and Edythe can comfortably consummate their love, whereas it was important for Bella and Edward to do the do before she transformed so that she could have a baby?  Like, was the changed ending a side-step of the fact that Beau couldn’t birth a baby if he wanted to, or was it motivated by an assumption that having a baby is not a definitive part of the male human experience or necessary for his happily ever after the way some have argued the original series implies it is for women?  Probably the changes to the ending were motivated mostly by a desire to definitively end the story in one book, but it’s doubtful Beau’s gender wasn’t a significant factor in Meyer’s narrative choices as well.

Bella has often been criticized for being too bland, but Beau is worse, literally describing himself as “the kid who was too quiet and too pale, who didn’t know anything about gaming or cars or baseball statistics or anything else I was supposed to be intoUnlike the other guys, I didn’t have a ton of free time for hobbies,” (emphasis added.)  Not just no socially sanctioned “gender-appropriate” (?) hobbies, but NO hobbies at all! Never mind that he clearly likes to read and cook.  Those couldn’t possibly be considered hobbies! (?!)  Ridiculous.

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Alternate Title Suggestions for The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies

Even though I had already decided that The Hobbit definitely didn’t need three films, I just want to reiterate that position; having seen the final installment, I remain utterly convinced that it never should have become a trilogy. The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies is entertaining for sure, but like in a “let’s get drunk and watch it with friends while we make sarcastic comments” kind of way. Remember how the last one failed to include the desolating of a certain dragon, even though that was the title? And originally the third film was supposed to be called “There and Back Again”, but it became “Battle of the Five Armies” in a change that Jackson called “completely appropriate.”  I have some suggestions of my own for alternative titles that I believe would have also been completely appropriate:

The Hobbit: More Thranduil Please!

The Hobbit: Every Creature In Middle Earth Is Probably A Mount: A Pig, A Moose, A Goat, A Bat, You Name It!

The Hobbit: My Strange Addiction: Dragon Sickness

The Hobbit: Do I Have To Try To Melt A Dragon To Get A Solid Gold Floor Like That? Because It Looks Awesome

The Hobbit: Everything In Middle Earth Has Been Bred For A Single Purpose (And That Purpose Is War)

The Hobbit: The Laws Of Physics Don’t Apply To Legolas

The Hobbit: Only Half Of The Dwarves Get Speaking Roles

The Hobbit: Martin Freeman Is A Treasure In Every One Of His Scenes Even In This Stupid Movie

The Hobbit: Thirteen Dwarves Without Helmets Make All The Difference In A Literal Battle With FIVE F–KING ARMIES!

The Hobbit: Elvish Fathers And Sons Are Too Pretty To Hug It Out

The Hobbit: It’s Always Eagles To The Rescue At The End Of A Middle Earth Story. IT’S ALWAYS F–KING EAGLES!

MY FAVE! He's so gloriously disdainful of everyone else.

MY FAVE! He’s so gloriously disdainful of everyone else.

(Seriously, can we get a story that is just an exploration of the eagles inner politics and why they never get involved until the last dire minute?) I did like seeing Galadriel wield her ring of power, I LOVED Thranduil and his ostentatious moose, Smaug was terrific, and the credits sequence was beautiful.  But all the good, necessary parts in this bloated, fan-fictiony trilogy could have easily fit into two films, An Unexpected Adventure and There and Back Again.  And the titles would have made more sense.


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Yarn Craft in Catching Fire

There’s really not much doubt in anyone’s mind at this point that Catching Fire is a fantastic film, (it was the highest grossing film of 2013), but did you notice the knitwear theme to Katniss’ wardrobe?  The first time I watched the movie I was sitting next to my friend and fellow yarn-enthusiast bowrene (check out her etsy shop) and she kept hitting me in the arm whenever a new bit of yarn-crafted clothing showed up on screen, whispering things like “look at that cowl!”, “that sweater is gorgeous!” and “this movie is ruining my life!”  Tumblr user feminerds posted a collection of pictures of the knitwear from Katniss’ wardrobe in Catching Fire and captioned it with the brilliant pun “Katknits,” a term I am intensely jealous not to have thought of first.

Readers of the book will know that fashion is a big part of the Capitol audience’s focus surrounding the Hunger Games, and stylists play an important role in the strategy behind a Tribute’s (or Victor’s) public image.  While the description below from the book doesn’t exactly match Katniss’ on-screen wardrobe, the fact that there is a consistent theme in her outfits while on the Victory Tour is absolutely within the spirit of her stylist Cinna coordinating her clothes as he does in the books, and it does mention a “woven sweater”.

I may have no interest in designing clothes but I do love the ones Cinna makes for me.  Like these.  Flowing black pants made of a thick, warm material.  A comfortable white shirt.  A sweater woven from green and blue and gray strands of kitten-soft wool.  Laced leather boots that don’t pinch my toes.

“Did I design my outfit?” I ask.

“No, you aspire to design your outfit and be like me, your fashion hero,” says Cinna.  He hands me a small stack of cards.  “You’ll read these off camera while they’re filming the clothes.  Try to sound like you care.”


I realize Cinna’s trying to put a coat on me, so I raise my arms.  I feel fur, inside and out, encasing me.  Its’ from no animal I’ve ever seen.  “Ermine,” he tells me as I stroke the white sleeve.  Leather gloves.  A bright red scarf.  Something furry covers my ears.  “You’re bringing earmuffs back in style.”

Katniss’ outfit in the film at this point is actually quite close to this description, and I noticed when I watched it a second time that the fur trim on the collar of her coat is very similar to the trim on the collars of her prep teams’ coats when they walk into her house, which fits perfectly with Effie’s line about “eveyone’s wearing Cinna these days!” and with Katniss being an unwilling style icon.

True, there are no earmuffs in the movie, (and I am not complaining about that,) but Katniss’ clothes still have a distinctive look while she’s on tour.  You definitely get a sense that someone is coordinating her outfits for her, and that someone has decided that this season, Katniss is all about the knitwear.  Given the popularity of her braided hairstyle (as seen in Catching Fire by President Snow’s granddaughter mimicking the look), I will be very interested to see if any characters in the next two films wear knitted sweaters that appear to be inspired by Katniss’ wardrobe in this installment.

Besides her outfit at the beginning of the tour, she wears a great cardigan and later a sort of diamond-patterned sweater at stops along the way:

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An extra-long cardigan on the Victory Tour.

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Beautiful knitted sweater with blocks of color at another stop on the Victory Tour.

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Even the nightgown she wears on the Victory Tour train is knitted.

There is a scene where Katniss wanders the train at night, unable to sleep, (and unintentionally sees scenes of uprising in District 8 on the monitors in the control room), in which she is wearing another knitted cardigan, but I can’t find a screenshot of that one yet.

Katniss rocks an intricate knit infinity scarf even after she returns from the Victory Tour to District 12:

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Standing between Gale and the new head Peacekeeper never looked so stylish

But my favorite of Katniss’ yarn-crafted outfits is the one-shoulder cowl she wears while hunting at the beginning:

cf katniss cowl front view

As bowrene pointed out to me, it’s actually woven, not knitted. I like that it has a bit of structure like a Capitol dress but still fits with District 12’s rural aesthetic and Katniss’ outdoorsy nature.  It’s nicer than her clothes in the first film, but she can afford nicer now that she gets a Victor’s stipend.  I can picture her sharing some of her winnings with a local craftswoman by buying this cowl from her in the Hob.

I think this blogger has come the closest to replicating the Katniss cowl as seen in the movie since she does weave the collar around rope, (see her free pattern on Ravelry here), but the bottom of hers is knitted whereas I think in the movie the bottom is some kind of weave as well.  And if you look at the back of the cowl in the movie as in the screenshot below, you see that the collar is not self-contained loops.

cf katniss cowl backview

Lastly, although it doesn’t count as a “Katknit”, I can’t end this post without mentioning Finnick Odair’s sweater.  Although it appears only briefly on screen, when Katniss, Peeta, and Haymitch are reviewing the field of competitors on their way to the Capitol for the 75th Hunger Games, it’s pretty fantastic:

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The official Capitol Couture tie-in website devoted an entire blog post to Finnick’s sweater, detailing the significance behind the style:

Nothing speaks to clan heritage like a fisherman knit sweater. Typically passed down through generations, these rugged pieces date back to islands off the west coast of Ireland. Finnick Odair’s own Aran cardigan—comprised of over 100,000 artful stitches—is a sartorial relic from his father, who fished District 4 back when sea bass and cod were bountiful. Rumor has it the debonair Victor sees his sweater as a talisman representative of his family’s Celtic strength and pride.

from “Finnick’s Look is Key for Fall Chic” by Monica Corcoran Hare on capitolcouture.pn

This is a great example of the way CapitolCouture.pn mixes the fictional and real worlds of fashion; Irish clan sweaters like the one he is wearing really exist, although their family-specific patterns were originally used more for identification than fashion statements.

Because the design of the sweaters became very specific to each clan, they could be used to help identify bodies of fisherman who drowned at sea and then later would wash up onto shore.

from “Irish Sweater History” by Kelly Nuttall on eHow.com

I found this page that displays the distinct sweater patterns for several Clans, but it doesn’t list Odair.  (You can also buy clan-specific sweaters on that page, but they’re pretty expensive).  While I do think it’s a good-looking sweater and I appreciate that they put a lot of thought behind it, I’m not sure it’s very realistic that a tradition like a clan-specific Irish sweater would survive in a society that has forgotten much of its own history; according to Katniss’ narration, they don’t really even learn much in school about the history of Panem itself or what the country was like before being divided into Districts, so why would knowledge about a heritage that spanned back even further to another country have survived?  Still, it’s a cool-looking sweater and an elaborate detail in the film’s world-building.
What’s your favorite “Katknit” piece?  Let me know in the comments!  (And don’t say “Finnick’s” just because Sam Claflin is so pretty…unless that sweater really is your favorite.)


Filed under movies, nerd

The Hobbit: Less Desolate On Second Viewing

I was finally able to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug for a second time, and I have to admit it was better watching it again.  Whether that was because I knew what would happen so the disappointment/annoyance wasn’t fresh, or I was able to focus on the elements that I did enjoy since I’d already cataloged the things I didn’t like, I don’t know.  And I did notice a few new things that I didn’t like.  But I don’t want to let my first reaction to the movie be my last post about it, because I neglected to include any of the things that I did like about the film in that post, and there were some really great moments.

I still think the movie is way too long, and there are inclusions that I will never understand–like, do we really need so many lingering shots of the giant bumblebees at Beorn’s house?  And how are the orcs so fast they can keep up with and at times run ahead of the dwarves, who are traveling at the speed of the rushing river?  (And how is there a seemingly never-ending supply of orcs anyway?)

Thranduil is PERFECT, though.  He might be my favorite thing about this movie.  I know I already said that but it was just doubly reinforced watching his scenes a second time.  He’s majestic and petty and knowledgeable but sassy and selfish and beautiful.



Smaug looks great, too.  If you just skip over the whole video-game-sequence, dwarves-running-around-easily-distracting-Smaug-and-then-stupidly-trying-to-melt-a-FIRE-BREATHING-DRAGON-(and-by-the-way-what-in-the-world-is-that-wheelbarrow-made-of-that-it-doesn’t-melt-when-Thorin-rides-it-in-a-river-of-molten-gold?) part, all the rest of Smaug’s screentime is excellent.  I love the way his belly lights up just before he breathes fire.

I think the Legolas fight scenes are excessive but I do enjoy them, and I especially love the way he shows disdain for the dwarves; it adds to the significance of his eventual friendship with Gimli when we get to see more of how he thought of and treated dwarves before the Fellowship quest.  My favorite moments with this aspect of Legolas’ character in this film were when he stands on the dwarves’ heads while they race downriver in barrels, because they are so beneath him he sees no problem with literally walking all over him in his goal of fighting orcs, and when Thorin throws a weapon to take out an orc that is coming up behind Legolas, but the elf never turns around to see it, so he’s just going to go on not trusting dwarves for 60 years because he’s unaware that one just saved him.

I’m still annoyed that Tauriel is being forced into a love triangle and my eyes almost roll out of my head when she and Kili are talking about starlight while he’s her prisoner or he’s delusional, saying “Tauriel…you cannot be her.  She is far far away from me.  She walks in starlight in another world.  It was just a dream.  Do you think she could have loved me?” while his head rests on a bed of walnuts, but, I’m going to try to get over it and appreciate the bits about Tauriel’s character that I did like.  I mean she looks fantastic and cool, I like her outfit and her hair and everything.  She’s graceful yet deadly, she’s very skilled in battle but not as much of a show-off as Legolas.  She’s smarter and more compassionate than Legolas or any of the other elves, too, it appears.  And as far as the whole stupid romance aspect, the comic below raises a good point and I will begrudgingly try to just appreciate the Tauriel character without ranting about the stupid romance, (although I whole-heartedly stick to my stance that storytellers should not assume including a female character means that you have to include romance!).

Biblo dropping the ring in Mirkwood and fighting the creature (spider? land squid? I don’t know what it’s supposed to be…) to get it back is really good, but then it lingers too long on his reaction after the fact.  That’s a problem throughout the film, scenes that linger on for too long.

Also it starts to feel like watching a kindergarten program whenever the dwarves trample into the shot together, nobody saying anything distinct and nobody displaying any apparent brains; like, why don’t they just get into the barrels without Thorin having to expressly command it?  Why do they just turn and start heading back down the mountain when the sun goes down and they think they’ve missed their chance?  Why are they incapable of figuring out that they need to lift the handle to open the door at Beorn’s until Thorin gets there; is it just so we can see them tumble inside in a big heap when the door finally opens?  Seriously, kindergarteners.

And while it was a great moment in the trailer, the over-dramatic pause in Balin’s line of “that, my lads….was a dragon,” is completely unnecessary and tedious because by that point I’ve been watching the actual dragon swoop around the screen for fifteen minutes.  Get on with the plot!  (Oh, I forgot, there isn’t much of one.)

Also, it’s really unclear why Bard is even being chased by the guards that arrest him near the end, and when they do catch him and he says “on what charge?!” they just say “any charge the master chooses,” which I guess is supposed to illustrate the corruption of Laketown’s ruling class but it just feels like laziness on the part of the screenwriters.  I would really like to know what the script looked like when they had planned this adaptation to be only two parts.  I’ll bet it made a lot more sense.  Instead of extended edition DVDs, can we get compressed editions?

Ugh, this post turned out to be more negative than I had planned.  I’m really not trying to be a Negative Nancy or a Debbie Downer…the movie just isn’t very good.  And I’m still bummed about that fact.

peter pan crying

Me reconciling my dashed hopes and dreams for what this film could have been with the reality of what it is.


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Sherlock: ACD’s “A Study in Scarlet” vs. BBC’s “A Study in Pink”

As a fan of the BBC Sherlock show, I recently decided to read Aruthur Conan Doyle’s original mystery stories.  I’ve never read any of them before except for “The Hounds of Baskerville” in a high school English class.  I’m going to tackle them in chronological order of publication, so I started with A Study in Scarlet.  Having finished this first book I can definitely see a lot of exact parallels between it and the first episode of the modernized BBC show, “A Study in Pink,” but also some obvious omissions or alterations.

Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Sherlock Holmes and John Watson

Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Sherlock Holmes and John Watson

The first episode starts off very similar to the beginning of the first book; John Watson is a recently returned military doctor, wounded in a war in Afghanistan.  I’m not really familiar with the particular war that would have been going on at the time, but I think it’s too sad (that the region is still/again plagued by military unrest over 100 years later) for it to be cool that this factoid lines up perfectly with modern times.   Anyway, everything about the way Watson and Sherlock meet and become roommates happens pretty much exactly the same way in the book as in the show, and one of the first things Watson learns about his soon-to-be companion comes up in this conversation  between a mutual acquaintance and John Watson, about Sherlock Holmes:

“…He appears to have a passion for definite and exact knowledge.”

“Very right too.”

“Yes, but it may be pushed to excess.  When it comes to beating the subjects in the dissecting-room with a stick, it is certainly taking rather a bizarre shape.”

“Beating the subjects!”

“Yes, to verify how far bruises may be produced after death.  I saw him at it with my own eyes.”

A Study in Scarlet, chapter 1, by Arthur Conan Doyle.

sherlock whipNow doesn’t that sound like one of the first images we’re given of the character of Sherlock in “A Study in Pink,” where he’s whipping a corpse and instructs the morgue worker, “I need to know what bruises form in the next twenty minutes; a man’s alibi depends on it.”?

Sherlock’s method of “the science of deduction,” his superior intelligence, his fascination with specificity, and his arrogance towards the work of the detectives he consults for is exactly the same in the book and the show.  In the book, a Scotland Yard detective (Tobias Gregson, who does not appear in the show, although his colleague Lestrade does) is excitedly recounting how he thinks he has cracked the case, and Sherlock yawns in the middle and says sarcastically that it is “quite exciting.”

sherlock plucks violin

In both the show and book, Sherlock plays violin, often absent-mindedly while deep in thought, although he is capable of playing elaborate pieces perfectly.   His drug use is alluded to in the show and the book, but in the book Watson can’t believe his new friend actually uses drugs because he doesn’t fit the stereotype:

“Nothing could exceed his energy when the working fit was upon him, and for days on end he would lie upon the sofa in the sitting-room, hardly uttering a word or moving a muscle from morning to night.  On these occasions I have noticed such a dreamy, vacant expression in his eyes, that I might have suspected him of being addicted to the use of some narcotic, had not the temperance and cleanliness of his whole life forbidden such a notion.”

Many elements of the central mystery in the show and book were the same, such as the murder being done by poison pill, which the victim was forced to choose from a set with identical placebo and poison options, the letters “RACHE” being written at the crime scene, the murderer turning out to be a cabbie with an aneurism, and Sherlock’s use of the homeless network to help track down information, (although in the book he gives them the much-less p.c. title “my Street Arab detective corps”).   However, in the show, Sherlock mocks detective Anderson for thinking “RACHE” is meant to signify the German word for revenge, and it turns out that the victim was writing “Rachel,” her smartphone password; but in the book, “RACHE” is written in blood at the crime scene by the murderer to mislead the police into thinking it is a political killing related to a recent crime in New York.

Also, the killer in the book is actually motivated by revenge, targeting the ex-Mormon man who forced the killer’s fiance to become one of his wives twenty or so years earlier in Utah, whereas the killer in the show is being paid to carry out murders in a specific way by an unseen mastermind.  The book has a huge side-track into the storyline of this sensationalized Mormon subplot, literally five chapters set in Utah before the narrative returns to Watson and Sherlock in London.  It’s a very strange section and I’m glad they left that part out of the show, because aside from its very questionable historical accuracy, it detracts from the storyline of Sherlock and Watson getting to know each other and solve crime together.  Of course, the show focuses much more on their relationship than the book does, at least so far, but I’m not complaining about getting added scenes like the one below from the end of the episode:

Sherlock covers for John by telling Lestrade to ignore Sherlock's previous deductions about who shot the murderer.

Sherlock, realizing who saved him, covers for John by telling Lestrade to ignore Sherlock’s previous deductions about who shot the murderer.

A couple of things that I noticed in A Study of Scarlet are not mentioned in “A Study in Pink” but do show up in later episodes, including Sherlock’s extensive knowledge of types of cigar ashes–in season two, episode 1, “A Scandal in Belgravia”, it is mentioned that Sherlock has blogged about 243 types of tobacco ash, while in the book, Sherlock deduces the type of cigar that their suspect smokes from some ash he finds on the floor of the crime scene and remarks:

“I have made a special study of cigar ashes–in fact, I have written a monograph upon the subject.  I flatter myself that I can distinguish at a glance the ash of any known brand, either of cigar or of tobacco.”

Additionally, Sherlock’s ignorance of the workings of the solar system is made much of in season 1, episode 3, “The Great Game,” and it is one of the first areas that Watson remarks on in his account of Sherlock’s knowledge and skills.

That any civilized human being in this nineteenth centruy should not be aware that the earth travelled round the sun appeared to be to me such an extraordinary fact that I could hardly realize it.

“You appear to be astonished,” he said, smiling at my expression of surprise.  “Now that I do know it I shall do my best to forget it.”

“To forget it!”

“You see,” he explained, “I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose.  A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things so that he has difficulty in laying his hands upon it.  Now the skillful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic.  He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order.

(The brain-attic sounds a bit reminiscent of the mind-palace mentioned in several episodes of the show, but I wonder if there will be a more explicit reference to something like the mind-palace in one of the later books that I haven’t read yet.)

Characters that appear or are mentioned in the episode “A Study in Pink” that I did not see in the book A Study in Scarlet include Sherlock’s brother Mycroft, (but I assume he’ll show up in one of the later stories), Moriarty, (same), Molly Hooper, (what a shame, she’s one of my favorites!) and Mrs. Hudson, (although a landlady is mentioned, she is not named.)

Although the title of the television episode is an obvious nod to the source material, the meaning behind it is quite different; Watson titles his blog write-up of the case “A Study in Pink” because the first victim they investigated was dressed in a pink outfit and had a matching pink suitcase.  However, the title of the book comes from Sherlock describing the case he is investigating as:

“…a study in scarlet, eh?  Why shouldn’t we use a little art jargon.  There’s the scarlet thread of murder running through the colorless skein of life, and our duty is to unravel it, and isolate it, and expose every inch of it.”

A Study in Scarlet, chapter 4, by Arthur Conan Doyle

I’m looking forward to reading the rest of ACD’s Sherlock stories to see what other little tidbits have made it into the BBC show.  Mysteries aren’t usually my cup of tea but these are not too long and they do feature a fascinating, eccentric, egotistical, brilliant protagonist.


Filed under Books, television

the pages that pagelady read in 2013

Well, 2013 was not the best blogging year for me on here, was it? I’m way behind in writing up posts on the books I’ve read, but it’s a new year now so I have a fresh chance to do better in 2014.  Here’s a summary of the books I read last year and a brief reaction to them.  I still hope to post a full reaction to Allegiant soon, and a book-versus-movie comparison of The Book Thief.

In case you don’t want to read all my sub-cateogires, I’ll put my favorites first:

Favorite New Reads of 2013:

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.  So overwhelmingly, heart-breakingly beautiful.

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancy.  I read this book one Saturday while home alone and the first half of it scared me to death; it seemed like a pretty realistic possible scenario if an alien invasion was to happen on Earth.  The latter half of the book got more cliche and predictable, but I like Cassie, the protagonists, and I’m still interested to see what happens next, although I’m not sure when the sequel is scheduled to be published.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.  As a shy fangirl who is more outgoing online than in real-life social situations, this book’s protagonist was totally relatable to me.  I’ve never really been into fanfic much but I am in multiple fandoms, I know these terms, I understand and partake in these obsessions. Plus, the Nebraska college-town setting was very similar to some of my own experiences in Kansas.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell.  Read this one because I loved Fangirl so much, and it did not disappoint.  From my review:

and i think that maybe it’s partly best explained by the answer Park gives in english class about the longevity of the story of Romeo & Juliet: “because people want to remember what it’s like to be young? and in love,” but this version is maybe a lot more relateable to an audience that isn’t part of a wealthy feuding italian family centuries ago, and to anybody that feels like kind of a misfit.

Rainbow Rowell is officially my new favorite author, not only because of her books but because of her twitter and tumblr which just made me instantly feel like “ah, yes, she’s one of us!“, which is too bad for David Iserson (author of Firecracker), because until I discovered Rainbow Rowell in the last weeks of December he would have been my choice for “favorite new YA author that I started twitter-following in 2013”.  He’s snarky and witty and I did love his book but I feel like I could spazz out about Rowell’s books in real life in front of her and she would be like “I know, me too!” but if I did that about Firecracker in front of Iserson he might just be like “wow, ok…” or say something cynical.

Young Adult

As you probably know, Young Adult is my favorite genre (all my “favorites” this year were YA), so of course I read more YA than anything else this past year.  Besides the ones listed above, I really enjoyed Reached by Ally Condie, the conclusion to her Matched series, Tiger Lily by Jodie Lynn Anderson (even though I’m not sure I liked every single aspect of that storyline), and Firecracker by David Iserson, which features an awesome, snarky, insanely rich protagonist that you want to be friends with but you know she’d take one look at your jeans and call you a peasant, if she ever even acknowledged you.  Here’s one of my favorite quotes from Firecracker:

“Things were about to change. If nothing changed, I wouldn’t be writing this down because this is a book about the time when everything changed. And isn’t that what every book is about? No, seriously, isn’t it? I don’t read books.”

Another book that I read and enjoyed this year but not in an “I love it so much!” way was Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.  The title refers to the motivation behind a young girl’s suicide, and while it’s not one that I’ll want to re-read, it’s a very good book that I think all teenagers should have to read and discuss, similar the way I felt about Hate List last year.

A series that surprised me this year was Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor and it’s sequel Days of Blood and Starlightmy review for the the first one ended with:

In conclusion, I liked this book more than I didn’t like it, and I’m definitely going to read the sequel, but I think it’s a pretty silly story.

But, as I admitted in my review for the second book, the imagery of the story stuck with me and I found myself doodling hamsas and imagining possible chimera combinations and now I am definitely looking forward to Dreams of Gods and Monsters, that should be coming out this April.

I liked The Fault in our Stars in 2012, so I read more books by John Green this year but didn’t end up liking either Looking for Alaska or Will Grayson, Will Grayson as much as TFioS.  I also read Every Day by David Levithan, (co-writer of Will Grayson, Will Grayson)and although the premise sounded intriguing, (narrator is some undefined spirit-entity that wakes up in a different body every day,) it ended up feeling a little flat to me and nothing was really resolved by the end.  From my review:

The whole thing just feels like a gimmick to be able to explore aspects of identity like gender and brain chemistry, and what the common denominators are between all human experiences, which is fine, but wasn’t as compelling as it might have been if the story had more gravitas.

The worst YA book I read this year was definitely The Maze Runner by James Dashner; the narration was stiff and repetitive, the story didn’t affect me emotionally, and I was not pleased with the depiction of the one female character (literally the ONE girl in the whole book).  Also in the sadface section of this category here at the bottom of my 2013 YA list is Allegiant, Veronica Roth’s conclusion to the Divergent series, but that one deserves it’s own post.  It’s not terrible, and I’m not upset about spoilery things that happened, it just…doesn’t feel like the same story.


This year I read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum, which was a lot more violent than I expected a children’s book to be, but you have to remember it was written a hundred years ago.  I downloaded it in a set with all the sequels, so I might read the rest of them someday.  It was a short read, but I read it for a bookclub so I’m not sure when I’d be motivated to read more Oz stories.

I also listened to the audiobooks of Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey, translated and narrated by Stanley Lombardo.  I definitely liked The Iliad more, but both were good, and I highly recommend the Lombardo translation since it’s very contemporary and easy to follow.  I never realized before how much influence the imagery and plotlines in these ancient epics have had on our culture today; so much of it feels very familiar and modern, like something you could easily see on a big-screen.

Resolution for 2014: read more Classics!


What Really Happened: John Edwards, Our Daughter, And Me by Rielle Hunter.  Loved it, not kidding.  The writing is awful, but that’s part of the entertainment.  From my review (one of my favorite reviews I’ve ever written, by the way):

Reading this book is exactly like eating junk food. You know it’s bad, that it has no nutritional value, but it’s irresistible and you can’t stop munching delightedly away. NOM NOM NOM, GOSSIP AND JUDGMENT AND UNBELIEVABLE NARCISSIST DELUSION, DELICIOUS!

Self-Inflicted Wounds: Heartwarming Tales of Epic Humiliation by Aisha Tyler.  Meh.  Wanted to like it more than I did.  From my review:

This is unfair, but my main reaction while reading this book was “man, Tina Fey’s Bossypants is so much better.” Also, “wow, Aisha Tyler’s writing style is kinda pedantic,” but that observation is totally fair and true. Footnotes and five-syllable words galore!

Double Down: Game Change 2012 by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann.  This book didn’t really need to be written and I’ll probably get more insight on the 2012 election from the upcoming Netflix documentary Mitt than I did from reading these mostly-tedious, poorly-written (like, they try too hard to be clever with their phrases and it’s distracting) pages.

Comic Books

I am still relatively new to the world of comics, but I am getting more comfortable with the genre and being able to find things I’d like to read within it.  This year I read and loved Mark Millar’s Superman: Red Son as well as Art Spiegel’s Maus, and I would recommend them to pretty much anybody. I also read a story arc on The Death of Captain America by Ed Brubaker, which I liked pretty well, and I was excited when the trailer for the upcoming Captain America movie came out because I recognized characters immediately without having to look them up, just like a real comic-book nerd!

I also read and reviewed all three parts to Avatar: the Last Airbender: The Search.  It was a pretty frustrating story arc overall, but I’ll still probably read the next series Gene Luen Yang churns out because I love the original show so much.

I want to give it only one or two stars, but I’m giving it three because it’s doing a very effective job of eliciting strong emotions in me, (mostly RAGE!), which is a mark of good storytelling, and the art is pretty good…and I’m just so damn happy to have another piece of the ATLA universe, even if it is hopefully a very misleading segment.

-quote from my review of Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Search part 1

My favorite series is still Matt Kindt’s Mind MGMT and I keep up with it every month; after I read each issue I go read Drew Bradley’s column at Multiversity Comics for his  in-depth breakdown of all the little things I probably missed.  Because I’m enjoying Mind MGMT so much and following Kindt on twitter, I’ve also started reading the Spider-man series that he is writing.  Oh, and I also read his 2 Sister’s: A Super Spy Graphic Novel (four stars) and Red Handed: The Fine Art of Strange Crimes (five stars).

This year I also read a new comic, Dream Thief, by Jai Nitz and Greg Smallwood, on the recommendation of friends and because the author and artist both live near me, but I didn’t end up liking that story, although the art was fantastic.  (Maybe I will post a full analysis of Dream Theif 1-5 at some point as well).   Finally, I read the first two issues of Lazarus by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark and loved it, but my local shop doesn’t carry it regularly so I’m going to have to get caught up with that one with the trade paperbacks.


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Filed under Books, comic books

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Good Story-telling

When you read J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, did you think, “yeah this is a great story and all, but my favorite things are the character and place names! Everything else could be changed,”?  If so, then Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is the movie for you!

I suppose that summation may be a little overly harsh.  But for the last two weeks I’ve been feeling guilty about deciding I wasn’t going to be able to do a whole spectacular costume and line party like I did last year for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and as I sat in the theater last night I kept thinking wow, I’m glad I didn’t go all out for this one, because it would have been an embarrassing waste of time and energy and made the film an even more bitter disappointment.  After the first Hobbit film came out I said I would reserve judgment on splitting the 300-page book into three extra-long films until I’d seen them all, but that’s no longer necessary.  I can definitively state that it was a bad decision, and no matter how glorious the final installment may end up being, this middle movie, in which no substantial plot progress is made and there are no character arcs, should never have been made.

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Biblo is terrified the movie will end before he gets substantial character development.

By the way, this post includes spoilers without warning because my enthusiasm for this movie has deflated like a balloon punctured by a black arrow and I no longer care about preserving its mystique or hype.

The first film cut off pretty much at the end of chapter 6, and chapter 7 starts with the dwarves meeting their temporary host Beorn in groups of two or three at a time, so I thought, great, they’ll have a natural way to re-introduce us to all the dwarves and their names.  Instead, the movie starts with a flashback to Gandalf meeting Thorin in the Prancing Pony, (oh hai Peter Jackson reprising your cameo of carrot-munching Bree resident in the rain), and we never get the introductions at Beorn’s.  Hope you remember your dwarf names from the first film!  If not, it doesn’t really matter since they won’t be defined as individuals for the most part, (but if you do want a refresher watch this clever video starting at 3 minutes).

Everything in Mirkwood was rushed or omitted; no partying elves luring them off the path, spiders quickly and easily dispatched, elvish imprisonment barely lasting a day instead of dragging out for months.  I realize movies need to condense time that books can fit between a few words, but the skipping of canonical drama just to add all the ridiculous, unnecessary, tedious scenes we got later is not okay.

I could have done with a lot more Thranduil.

I could have done with a lot more Thranduil.

I desperately wanted to like Tauriel, totally on board with the reasoning that the onscreen representation women of would be severley lacking without introducing this non-canonial character.  But this film still does not come close to passing the Bechdel test, (unless Bard’s daughters have a conversation I don’t remember?) and they don’t let her live up to her advertised bad-assery, reducing her motivations from a big-picture, save-the-world mission to risk-all-to-save-the-cute-taller-than-average-dwarf-i-have-a-crush-on.  NOTE TO STORYTELLERS: “hey this story needs more female characters” does NOT equate to “hey this story needs romantic entanglements!”

Like, why does Legolas need to be infatuated with unrequited desire for her? Why can’t their relationship just be warrior buddies?  And why does she swoon so quickly for Kili, just because ooh look at him all broody in his cell and my but he’s tall for a dwarf??  Ooh let’s touch fingers when I hand you back your talisman stone from your mom?? Oh hey I’ll single-handedly hunt down a pack of orcs to save you, and then I’ll use kingsfoil to heal your poisoned wound and you’ll see me in an aura of white light just like Frodo saw Arwen in Fellowship of the Rings, because didn’t you love that part? This is freaking fan-fiction!  What is it doing in the theatrical version of an official adaptation?! I wouldn’t even need to see this in an extended edition!  (I realize that a possible explanation is that either kingsfoil makes you hallucinate people in white light auras, or the aura is part of the elvish healing magic manifesting, but still, it’s COMPLETELY UNNECESSARY!  As is splitting the dwarves up so that some of them stay behind in Laketown, what the EFF?!!!!!)

Yes, Tauriel shoots and fights like a badass, but .

Tauriel shoots and fights like the badass warrior captain she’s been for hundreds of years, but isn’t allowed to care about anything more than boys because lady parts.

The thing is, Tauriel does express that she’s concerned about the orcs getting more aggressive and that it isn’t enough for the Mirkwood elves to defend their own borders without regard for where the orcs will go terrorize next, so I don’t know why that wasn’t a good enough motivation for her character to have for all of her actions.  I HATE that her primary goal becomes Kili.  And I can only assume that her fate being wrapped up with his means she too will die in the next film, probably in a failed attempt to save/avenge him from his own fatal end.

Perhaps the worst thing about the story as presented in this film is that it doesn’t even follow it’s own rules; the Master of Laketown supposedly has such tight-fisted control over the comings and goings of the city that the dwarves have to be smuggled in beneath fish, but then a whole passel of orcs gets in and is crawling all over rooftops with nobody noticing?  I mean geez at least show them killing a guard or two if that’s how you want it to play out, but how the heck would no-one notice?  I can kind of believe the elves sneaking in more easily since they’re quick and quiet-footed and all but even so, Laketown guards should know to watch for elves considering they’re neighbors.  Also, why in the world would nobody in the town be willing to help poisoned and injured Kili when the dwarves were literally the toast of the town the night before?!  Why would they need to come banging desperately on Bard’s door? That whole scene reeks of we-shot-this-one-way-but-then-we-added-stuff-since-we-got-an-extra-film-to-fill-so-it-doesn’t-totally-flow. 

The whole “only a rare black arrow shot from a special launcher can kill a dragon!” addition would be fine, except why take the one arrow out of its hiding place just to stash it in a canoe?  And why wouldn’t the kid know about its existence anyway?  Whatever, by this point I just can’t even with this movie.  

Azog the Defiler’s role is way over-inflated.  And now they’re introducing even more named orc generals/captains/whatevers for me to not care about, in this Bolg guy.  Why do we have more named orcs than female characters, seriously.

Then we get (half of the) dwarves running the frick around Erebor with a secret plan as if dramatic tension can only be achieved by keeping the audience blind to the goals of the protagonists.  Sorry your elven-magic-coma storyline got cut, Bombur, but hey, you got to be yanked around on a bellows chain at a giant forge, which is almost the same thing as character development, right?  Hey Bilbo, why don’t you follow Thorin’s shouted instructions to keep running to lead Smaug to these random places like “the forge!” or “the Hall of Kings!” even though I don’t know how you’re supposed to know where they are being that this is literally your first time inside the underground maze of halls.

There’s too much obvious GCI!  Legolas’ contacts look weird and flat!  Why is Gandlaf tripping out and seeing A Man within The Eye within The Eye within The Eye, and how am I supposed to be in suspense for him being locked in a cage surrounded by orcs when I not only know he’s going to survive to the end of Frodo’s quest, but I’ve also seen him pull the grab-a-moth-when-in-distress-to-summon-an-eagle-rescue move in two separate films by now so I assume it’s his next step.  I mean, I know what’s actually going to happen is Galadriel et al will come bring some elvish ring-bearer pain on the old fortress, but even if I didn’t know that I wouldn’t be worried about what was going to happen to Gandalf. 

Just like I’m not in suspense about what’s going to happen to Laketown or Smaug, though the movie ends with the dragon flying off in a rage and Bilbo saying “whatever’s going to happen next?!”  (Yes that’s seriously the last line before the screen blacks out and the credits song starts).  It’s not that it’s a true “cliff-hanger” ending of suspense, (if this is a cliff hanger for you READ THE FREAKING BOOK ALREADY, it is very short and if you’re really that lazy you can just read chapter 13-19, that’s all that’s left,) but is a suspension of completing a story arc.  Maybe there are elements in this movie that will add up to whole arcs when combined with the next film, but why should I sit through 2 hours and 41 minutes of non-story non-arcs?  

Seriously, what the hell happened here?  There is no reasonable argument for stretching this story into three films if this is the kind of stuff they’re filling time with, other than “we can make more money with an extra film.”  Well, I certainly don’t want to pay to see this again!  When I go to a movie I expect to be given a story, not just a collection of scenes.  When I watch a Peter Jackson adaptation of Tolkien, I expect epic, not trivial.   The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug has shattered my trust in these movie makers and broken my fangirl heart.

My message to the filmmakers ^^

My message to the filmmakers ^^


Filed under movies

Catching Fire Opening Night

cf outfitsSo I went to see Catching Fire on opening night with a group of friends.  I’m tagging this write-up as “midnight showing” even though it was technically an 8 pm showing; most movies don’t really wait to premiere at midnight anymore, and although part of me thinks that’s a little sad, another part of me is getting old and appreciates not having to stay up so late.  It was a good premiere; I wasn’t able to organize and prepare as much as I did for the first film, but we dressed up in Capitol fashion and the movie itself was, in my opinion, better than the first.

The thing about shows that start before midnight is there isn’t as much waiting-in-line time to fill, so I kinda over-prepared and we didn’t end up doing all the activities I had planned, but that’s alright since a lot of them didn’t take much effort.  (For example, if we needed to kill time I thought we could play a version of the “telephone” game were you start with a phrase and whisper it from one person to another to see if it ends up the same at the end, but call it “mockingjay,” and use phrases like “Peeta has hot cross buns.”)

We did play the game that I spent the most time preparing for, which was Arena Trivia.  Everyone playing was a Tribute in the Trivia Arena and started with a perfect 20 health.  When it was their turn, they spun a wheel to see how lethal of a “weapon” question they would be able to wield against an opponent; easy questions were a knife and would only take five health points away if the Tribute they selected to aim the question at got it wrong, but harder questions were a machete (minus 10 health if missed) or near-deadly trident (minus 15).  Tributes could form allies by helping someone else answer a question if they wished, but, in the end, there could only be one victor.  The wheel also had a small wedge labeled “a gift from your sponsor”; if Tributes landed on that section when it was their turn, they could draw a healing card instead of a question that would give them back a portion of the health they had lost.  (Most of the healing cards would only restore 5 health, but there were a couple 10s and 15s in there too).  It worked really well, (except maybe I should have made some of the questions easier), and I’m pretty dang proud of how well themed it was.  I think it’s totally marketable.

This Arena Trivia spin-wheel was made from a Twister game's.  The different levels of questions were printed on different colored paper and separated into pouches based on difficulty.

This Arena Trivia spin-wheel was made from a Twister game’s. The different levels of questions were printed on different colored paper and separated into pouches based on difficulty.

Each Tribute had one of these health bars to keep track of how close to "death" they were. They had to put a sticker on 5-point sections depending on how hard of a question they missed, but if they got a gift from a sponsor, they could cover a colored sticker with a white one to regain health.

Each Tribute had one of these health bars to keep track of how close to “death” they were. They had to put a sticker on 5-point sections depending on how hard of a question they missed, but if they got a gift from a sponsor, they could cover a colored sticker with a white one to regain health.

Sugar cube prize bags that I handed out at the Catching Fire premiere.  Other prizes included Catching Fire magnets and a grand prize of the soundtrack CD.

Sugar cube prize bags that I handed out at the Catching Fire premiere. Other prizes included Catching Fire magnets and a grand prize of the soundtrack CD.

I really have very few negative things to say about the movie itself at all, which is pretty amazing given my tendency to be very nit-picky and critical.  It stayed very close to the book with a surprising amount of dialogue coming verbatim from the pages Suzanne Collins wrote.  The things that were skipped or condensed didn’t really alter any of the action or character development, (like Katniss figuring out what the spile is right away, and realizing what Wiress meant by “tick tock” faster, leaving out the bread drop communications and the prolonged healing from the poison fog scars, leaving out Bonnie and Twill because it was established through the visualization of the Victory Tour that there was an uprising and that Katniss was an inspiration to people, etc.), and like the first movie the elements in the film that were not found in the book added wonderful insight and depth to the story, (like President Snow’s granddaughter idolizing Katniss–that was genius!  And I’m so glad we got to actually see the painting of Rue that Peeta did for the Gamemakers, to “hold them accountable, if only for a moment…for killing that little girl” as he says in the book, instead of just hearing about it.)

They even included a tiny visual reference to one of my favorite characters from the first film, Seneca Crane(‘s beard).  When Katniss hung the dummy labeled with his name for her evaluation, she painted his signature swirly beard on it’s chin!  I remember this being a common idea among the fandom after the first film, that oh, wouldn’t it be great if they really show her hang the Seneca dummy in the second film and they include the beard?  To see it actually transpire that way on screen felt almost like it was a bit of an inside joke for the die-hard fans, whether or not they intended it that way.  Speaking of amazing visuals, that mockingjay dress was spectacular.  Even though I had seen most of that scene already in the trailer, I was blown away by how incredible it looked.  Whereas Katniss’ flaming dress at the interview scene in the first film is a bit pathetic and too-obviously CGI, this time around I literally could not have imagined it better.

So far the only criticisms I can come up with are:

  • Prim’s “Katniss! Katniss! Katniss!” screaming at the Reaping is too shrill, but really, I thought that last movie too.  Maybe that’s just the actress’s voice.
  • The music in some scenes was too exactly similar (or exactly the same?) to the score in the first film.  It’s fine to reuse/recycle themes, but in a couple places it sounded 100% the same, like the Tribute Parade, (which is maybe understandable if they basically use the Panem national anthem for that every year), and the Victory Ball at the Capitol, (which really didn’t seem to match the music beat for dramatic beat effectively).
  • In the Arena, they establish that there is no fresh water source except for the trees, but then when Katniss, Peeta, and Finnick are leeching the poison from their bodies they are in what appears to be a freshwater pool, not the saltwater at the beach.  I understand the change since it allows for the monkey attack to happen sooner, but it’s an inconsistency.
  • This isn’t really a criticism, more of a funny observance–why does Peeta stand up in the middle of his living room to watch TV?  (When they are watching President Snow announce the Quarter Quell).  Is it one of the tricks they tried to make us think he’s taller than Josh Hutcherson really is?

But really, almost everything was perfect.  Effie was perfect, with her shallow growth and her gold hair! Finnick was lovely!  Mags broke my heart with her warmth and sacrifice!  Beetee melted my heart with his nerd-speak!  Prim impressed me with her calm taking-charge to tend Gale.  Plutarch Heavensbee, Haymitch, Cinna, (*sob* Cinna!) and Johanna were great.  The whole thing was just spot-on!  Peeta was still not as good as book-Peeta, but he was much improved over the last film’s bastardization of his character, and really all I can think about Peeta-wise right now is this.  (Warning: that last link is a spoiler if you haven’t read Mockingjay yet).

I’ll definitely be going to see Catching Fire again.  But now my movie-party-planning focus has to switch gears for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.  It’s only a few weeks away!


Filed under movies, partyplanning