Category Archives: Books

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Musical

A couple of months ago, some friends of mine (withVintage Faith Students in Manhattan, KS) demonstrated their immense creativity by writing and performing an original re-telling of the first third or so of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, as a musical.  It was amazing.  They modeled the aesthetic on Peter Jackson’s film The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and used the beards that I had made for their dwarf costumes, and commissioned* a Gandalf beard and Bilbo wig so they would all match.  They stayed a little closer to the book than Jackson’s film, and they went a little further into the book than the movie left off.  No word yet on whether they plan to follow up next year with another installment, but even if they don’t, the videos I’m posting below of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Musical Journey might be my favorite adapted-from-literature performance ever.

My signed script

My signed script

*By “commissioned” I mean “asked me to do for free as a favor,” since this was a production by volunteer college students for their non-paying friends.  For my troubles I received a copy of the script signed by one of the masterminds behind the project, who plays Thorin, a CD of their practice songs, and the immense pride of knowing that I contributed to this awesome play.

Bag End

Part 1: the dwarves arrive at Bag End where an unsuspecting Bilbo is about to be swept up into an adventure.  The first song is verbatim from The Hobbit, and the second is from The Sound of Music with some lyrics changed to make it more Bilbo-y.  (For each of these videos, if you click to watch them on youtube you can find all the lyrics in the video descriptions).  How much do you love super-tall Gandalf?! He’s wearing stilts.  Also, check out Thorin’s elaborate armor–it’s part spray-painted catcher’s leg gear, part woven placemats spray-painted silver so they look like chain mail.  So creative!

Names and Faces

This was one of my favorite parts–this song kills me!  It’s so funny, and so perfect!  It’s to the tune of “Doe Re Mi” from The Sound of Music, but with all the lyrics changed so that it’s about teaching Bilbo the names and attributes of all 13 dwarves.  It’s pure amazingness, and totally catchy.  Song starts at 3 min.   (Again, the lyrics are all in the video description on youtube).

Home is Behind

This scene picks up right after Bilbo rescues the dwarves from the trolls, (which happened off-stage in this production to avoid having to come up with a way to portray giant trolls that turn into stone).  Bilbo misses a few lines in the song, but it’s based on “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music, except instead of “cream colored ponies and crisp apple streudels, doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles” he’s singing about “bacon with eggs and toast buttered like crazy, Snapdragons, lilies, laburnums and daisies.”  (Song starts at 2:35).

At the end, there’s a new interruption–a tra-la-la-ing elf!

Rivendell Revelations

In a meeting with Elrond and Gandalf at Rivendell, Thorin finds out about the true fate of his father.  Gandalf has to convince him not to try to avenge his father’s death, and to seek to reclaim his birthright at the Misty Mountain instead.  The dwarves set off on their renewed quest to the tune of “Be a Man” from Mulan, but of course in this version it’s “Be a Dwarf.”  This is easily my second-favorite song, after the “Names and Faces” one, and it was my favorite part of the script because of this hilarious note on the choreography:

IMG_1380

I also loved how they told so much of the story through this song, (which starts at 3:50), like Bilbo getting the ring from Gollum, fighting the goblins, and escaping the wolves.  You can see an eagle flying in to rescue them at the very end right before the lights go down.

(To be a dwarf)
You must be strong as an iron anvil!
(Be a dwarf)
Defending family with every bone!
(Be a dwarf)
And grow a beard of unrivaled thickness
Enduring the storms like polished granite stone!

Mirkwood Melodrama

This is where Jackson’s movie cuts off, but An Unexpected Musical continues, with the dwarves entering Mirkwood forest sans Gandalf, who warns them not to leave the path.  Bombur falls under an enchantment, and everyone gets hungry and homesick, which they sing about to the tune of “Red/Black” from Les Miserables.  Maybe I was lying earlier when I said “Be a Dwarf” was my second-favorite, because I really love this one too!  The re-working of lyrics so perfectly fits the characters and their backstories as told in the book.

BILBO
What would my parents think if they could see me now?
Mr Baggins was such a predictable man
But my mother the Took lived her life on the edge
And their tension continues inside of my heart
The colors that they loved, now pulling me apart

Red – the sunsets in the Shire
Black – the Burglar’s road to walk
Red – my nice chair by the fire
Black – I can’t even pick a lock!

(The song starts at the 3 minute mark, and the full lyrics are available in the video description on youtube.)  In the end, the dwarves are temped to leave the path to try to crash the enchanted elvish party they think they can see in the woods, with disastrous results.

Greater Adventure

Everyone has been captured by giant spiders except Bilbo, who finds himself alone with a dazed wood-elf.  The elf scampers off muttering about unwanted party guests, and it’s up to Bilbo to face his fears and rescue his friends from the spiders, which he does after reprising bits of “Be a Dwarf” and “I have Confidence”.  (I so love the fishing-pole-spiders, and the leotard boss-spider!)  A rescued Thorin is grateful for Bilbo’s help, and gives a rousing speech about looking forward to adventures yet to come as they continue their quest.  The whole group joins in a word-for-word singing of the finale from Les Miserable, asking:

Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Somewhere beyond the barren waste
Is there a world you long to see?
Do you hear the people sing?
Say, do you hear the distant drums?
It is the future that they bring
when tomorrow comes!

So amazing.  I’ve watched it dozens of times now and I still can’t believe how much work they put into this just for the fun of it, and how well it turned out.  I love it, and I hope you did, too!

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Books, music, nerd

Divergent Casting

I know I’m way late to the game with this post about my reaction to the castings for the Divergent movie, since they’ve already been filming for about a month now.  And I’m behind in general on this blog–sorry!  Part of the reason is that I hate to post sub-par content, so when I don’t have time to really polish and fully research a topic, it lingers in draft-land for ages.  The other reason is that I did a half-marathon (my first!) this spring and training for that took up a lot of time that might have otherwise been spent writing.  Also I’m lazy and I don’t get paid for this blog so sometimes I choose to watch netflix instead.  But still, I’m sorry I dropped out of action for awhile there and I’ll try to finish more of my lingering drafts soon and get them posted.

So, Shailene Woodley has been cast as the books’ narrator, Beatrice “Tris” Prior.  I am “meh” about this casting; Shailene seems to be landing roles all over the place lately, so I’m sure she must be talented. I just haven’t seen much of her work, and I don’t really get a Tris vibe from her at all, maybe partly because I know she’s a hollywood actress who has been on lots of red carpets and at the oscars and stuff, which doesn’t match one of the things I related to about Tris’s background of being raised in a strict, selfless, conservative environment.  But I know it’s a movie and good acting means you don’t have to be like the character in real life, so I’ll wait for the movie to come out and hope she surprises me.

The first official image released for the movie featured Tris in the knife-throwing scene found in chapter13 of Divergent.  The scene has also been re-written from Four's perspective, in the novella Free Four.

The first official image released for the movie featured Tris in the knife-throwing scene found in chapter13 of Divergent. Veronica Roth has also released a re-written version of this scene, told from Four’s perspective, titled Free Four. You can read it online or download it to kindle.

Ansel Elgort, who is playing Tris’s brother Caleb in this film (but will also star with Shailene as the Augustus Waters to her Hazel Grace in The Fault in our Stars) tweeted a picture of the Prior Family the other day, with Ashley Judd and Tony Goldwyn as their parents.  I think they do look like they could be related.  I hope the actors are able to make me feel as strongly about their…I’ll juts say “choices of actions”, to avoid anything to spoilery–at the end of the first book.

One of the castings that I am most excited about is Kate Winslet in the role of villainous Erudite leader Jeanine Matthews.   I think she will be a fantastic adversary for Tris, and I just hope the script allows her to have subtle complexities so she’s not a one-dimensional power-hungry monster.  I think Kate Winslet is a good enough actress to be able to portray that in Jeanine’s mind, what she’s doing is for the collective good.

A fan-made edit of Kate Winslet as Jeanine Matthews, from tumblr. Unsure of the original source post.

A fan-made edit of Kate Winslet as Jeanine Matthews, from tumblr. Source for image.

Maggie Q displaying Dauntless atitude as Nikita on the CW show.

Maggie Q displaying Dauntless atitude as Nikita on the CW show.

Another casting decision for this movie that could not be more perfect is Maggie Q as Dauntless faction member Tori.  She administers Tris’s aptitude test, inks Tris’s tattoos, and warns her to keep her Divergence a secret.  This casting is great for two reasons; one, if you’ve seen even a single episode of Nikita you know Maggie Q can totally pull off the Dauntless wear-black-shoot-guns-do-reckless-stuff attitude.

Second, her inclusion (and that of Zoe Kravitz as Tris’s friend, fellow Dauntless initiate Christina), means that the character diversity in the books is not being completely erased in the translation to film.

Someone asked Divergent author Veronica Roth about this before the movie was announced (click “source” to see her complete answer, as  I’ve only included part of it here):

If the series ever gets turned into a movie, would you insist that the POC characters (biracial tobias, asian tori, and black christina, for example) are played by POC actors/actresses?

I really hate whitewashing. I really do. It’s VERY important to me that it not happen. And I have communicated that already, and will continue to communicate it as clearly as possible (even via interpretive dance or sternly worded limericks, if necessary), to the people who are involved with the Divergent movie stuff as it proceeds.

So: if the Divergent movie happens, I promise I will USE MY WORDS to the very best of my ability.

source

My only quibble with Zoe Kravitz as Christina is that it flips the size difference between her and Tris as described in the books.  Tris is supposed to be physically tiny, and often underestimated because of it, while Christina is tall and confident, but in real life Shailene Woodley is several inches taller than Zoe, who is book-Tris size.  I don’t want to get hung up on the actors’ appearance because I know that the acting is the important thing, and there are movie magic tricks that can be done, but I worry that it might change their dynamic.

I’ve saved the best for last.  One of my top literary character crushes, the badass yet sensitive Dauntless would-be leader and my, I mean, Tris’s, love interest, known as Four, will be portrayed on screen by Theo James.   I don’t have much to say about this other than I AM SO EXCITED, and fully confident that he will be amazing in this role.  I mean, just look at him!

source for image.

Is that the tip of a Dauntless-flame back tattoo curling around his neck? Also, hello biceps. Hello brooding brow and chiseled cheekbones. Please be as good as you look!  source for image

You know, my predominant emotion about Divergent being made into a film is excitement, and I think the casting of characters is pretty great, but I am a little sad that once the film is out there will likely be less original fan art like the talented pieces I’ve been collecting on my divergentfanart tumblr, since people will start to sketch scenes featuring the actors instead of  basing their drawings on their own interpretation of the description in the book.   But then, it’s hard to be sad about the prospect of being forced to re-blog pictures that look like Theo James.  I think I’ll survive.

Which Divergent casting are you most excited about?

1 Comment

Filed under Books, movies

FourTris For The Win

I love Young Adult literature probably more than any other genre.  Dystopian YA books are my favorite favorite.  And right now, the Divergent series by Veronica Roth is the one I love the most.  (Warning: this post assumes you’ve already read Divergent and its sequel Insurgent and therefore contains spoilers for both.)

Tris and Four on the Ferris wheel, drawn by tumblr user mynameisfour (source)

Tris and Four on the Ferris wheel, drawn by tumblr user mynameisfour (source)

I like Divergent so much partly because I relate very well to Tris, not in every way but in being raised in an Abnegation-esque household, and feeling like I wasn’t very good at being selfless, and getting piercings and dying my hair purple when I moved out on my own.  (I know Tris gets tattoos, not piercings or hair dye, but both are totally Dauntless styles.)  I’m not like Tris, though, because I totally would have chosen Erudite.  But I wish that I could be Dauntless.  I love their manifesto.

I like Divergent better than Matched by Ally Condie, (but only barely, because I really really love Matched,) because I don’t see myself in Cassia as much as I do Tris, (except for Cassia’s green eyes!), and because Cassia’s struggle doesn’t really mirror my own.  Similarly, I like it more than The Hunger Games in part because its themes are more immediately relevant to my everyday life.  The Hunger Games is about war and governments and propaganda and revolution and self-sacrifice.  Divergent is kind of about societal corruption and thwarting sinister plans and revolution, but really it’s about trying to figure out what values different virtues have, and what it means to live ethically.  Is it better to be selfless, brave, honest, peaceful, or logical?  What does it mean to be selfless, brave, honest, peaceful, or logical?   I may not be living in Divergent‘s Faction-divided society or facing initiation and fear landscape simulations, but I do face interpersonal conflicts every day and must decide how to approach them.

But one of the things I like the most about Divergent is the love interest, Four, (definitely one of my forever book-boyfriends), and the fact that he and Tris have a relationship that is refreshingly free from a lot of YA cliches.

"Drunk Four" drawn by request by tumblr user badlydrawndivergent (source)

“Drunk Four” drawn by request by tumblr user badlydrawn-divergent (source)

It’s not a love triangle!  They don’t spend chapters and books hem-ing and haw-ing over whether to admit they like each other or not!  Nobody is forbidding them from being together!

Of course they have problems, have miscommunication and misunderstandings, but it doesn’t linger unnecessarily long just so there’s added tension.  They deal with it as soon as they can.  They confront each other over how they perceive the other is behaving, and then they either resolve their conflict or they break up.  They’re very straightforward.

It could be that this is in part due to the story being so action-packed, Four and Tris literally don’t have time to sit around analyzing each others’ subtle facial expressions from across the room and wondering whether or not it means they still want to hold hands later under the table, but their relationship isn’t the plot, anyway.  It’s very important, but there’s other stuff going on that’s not dependent on their status.  And I’m not saying the whole plot revolves around the love story in every other YA book; just that it’s really refreshing to read a story where “does he like me or not?” is not the protagonist’s main preoccupation, (which is ironic, because the thing I wanted to happen most when I first read Divergent was for Tris and Four to get together.)

You know, it’s not that Tris doesn’t have doubts and insecurities of “why would such an amazing guy like little ol’ me?”, but she’s honest with him about them, and he’s honest right back about why he likes her.  And then they totally kiss by the underground river.

And when everything is in turmoil, the Abnegation faction decimated and the Dauntless in disarray and their little band on the run, he reassures her:

“We’re all right, you know,” he says.  “You and me.  Okay?”

My chest aches, and I nod.

“Nothing else is all right.”  His whisper tickles my cheek.  “But we are.”

One of my favorite FourTris moments, when Tris is doped up on peace serum at the Amity compound.  Drawn by tumblr user thedauntlessavox (source)

One of my favorite FourTris moments, when Tris is doped up on peace serum at the Amity compound. Drawn by tumblr user thedauntlessavox (source)

And when they almost break up, it’s clearly communicated that it’s not because he doesn’t love her anymore.

“You’re giving me an ultimatum?”  I try to keep my voice down so others can’t hear.

He shakes his head.  “No, I’m telling you a fact.”  His lips are just a line.  “If you throw yourself into danger for no reason again, you will have become nothing more than a Dauntless adrenaline junkie looking for a hit, and I’m not going to help you do it.”  He spits the words out bitterly.  “I love Tris the Divergent, who makes decisions apart from faction loyalty, who isn’t some faction archetype.  But the Tris who’s trying as hard as she can to destroy herself…I can’t love her.”

I want to scream.  But not because I’m angry, because I’m afraid he’s right.  My hands shake and I grab the hem of my shirt to steady them.

He touches his forehead to mine and closes his eyes.  “I believe you’re still in there,” he says against my mouth.  “Come back.”

They challenge each other to become better people.  They protect each other.  They understand each other.  They love each other.

And I love that towards the end of Insurgent, when they go to his childhood home, he washes her feet and says “I’ll be your family now,” because it echoes the Abnegation initiation ceremony they both grew up expecting they might one day undergo.  They really are one of the best couples in YA lit.

Four's tattoos, by tumblr user ice-ridden (source). She's got a lot of really great art

Four’s tattoos, by tumblr user ice-ridden (source). She’s got a lot of really great art on her blog, including several other Divergent pictures.

4 Comments

Filed under Books

MIND MGMT Movie

It was recently announced that there will be a movie adaptation of Matt Kindt‘s Mind MGMT series, (published by Dark Horse Comics.)  This is a great article about it that includes an interview with Kindt from just before the news was announced.  (This, meanwhile, is a terrible article that repeatedly mis-spells Henry Lyme as “Henry Lime” and inaccurately summarizes Meru’s connection to the amnesia flight.  Come on,  Hollywood Reporter, put a little more effort into your work!  Although now I kind of want to draw a lime wearing Lyme’s sunglasses…)

Anyway: This.  News.  Is.  Fantastic!

As I posted in my piece on learning how to read comics, I’m totally into this series.  It’s exciting to be “in” on a fandom like this from early on, and I can’t wait to be able to boast about how I was into Mind MGMT “before the movie.”  (It’s similar to how I feel about Veronica Roth’s Divergent, which I picked up in the first month it was published and then got all my friends to read, and now a movie adaptation is underway for it, too.)  But mostly I’m excited to see a Mind MGMT movie because the story and characters are so great, and I can’t wait to see how the film medium translates them.

Like, can you imagine how much fun they could have with the advertising campaign alone?  Oh please don’t just make generic posters, please please make references to Mind MGMT‘s style of advertising, and make me want to see the movie but at the same time paranoid that I’m being mentally manipulated by a secret government agency, please!

I think I’m most excited to see who will be cast as Meru, but that may be because I’m fascinated by her character the most.  In issue #1 I actually wasn’t sure whether I liked her much, this sloppy slouching mess who can barely seem to keep her life together and doesn’t even wear pants.

Meru in Mind MGMT issue #1.

Meru in Mind MGMT issue #1. (credit Matt Kindt)

But she’s scrappy and persistent, and there’s so much more going on than meets the eye, and as it turns out Meru is full of unrealized bad-ass potential.  What I particularly love about Meru is that she is potentially one of the most powerful people on the planet, but she looks so ordinary and even kind of scrawny.  I hope the movie doesn’t try to make her look like a badass, or too glamorous.  I like that she’s badass without outwardly appearing to be.  Isn’t that part of the allure of the whole idea behind Mind MGMT, that the power of the mind could be so much stronger than all the muscles and weapons in the world?

Meru in issue #6

Meru in issue #6, (credit Matt Kindt). This is my favorite page in the series so far.

What fantastic character development–and that’s only the first few issues!  I mean, have you read #7 yet?  **SPOILER ALERT**  When I got to that last panel and she just nonchalantly drops that oh yeah, I must have subconsciously warded off an assassination haiku, I was all OMG!  Because I had been reading the side story about the assassination notes in the bottom margins as I went, and until I got to that last panel I just thought she was tough for having touched the envelope without being hurt!  And my next thought was, if it’s so easy for her to protect herself without realizing it, how long before she unintentionally kills someone, like a subconscious reflex?  Judging by the next issue’s cover, maybe not very long.  It’s the first cover so far that doesn’t feature a single-character headshot, and it looks very chaotic.  It comes out in two days.  Omg, I can’t wait!  **END SPOILER**

Henry Lyme is a fantastic character, too.  His enormous and deadly power could have made him overwhelmingly frightening, (like the way he appears in the #0 story “The Bear”), but the tragedy of losing his family and the struggle to know what’s real in a world he so easily manipulates humanizes him.  I didn’t realize until I read the aforementioned interview that there was debate over whether Meru or Lyme is the main character.  I had assumed it was Meru, but maybe I was just unconsciously rooting for the girl to be the hero.  There’s obviously a much bigger stage with many more players than were introduced in the first six issues, but I’m still sticking by my Meru.  It seems like she’s somehow key, especially since she wasn’t trained by the agency.  But then again, there’s the danger that without training, her powers will be too destructive.  But then again, Lyme had all the training and his powers were still too destructive!  But then again, maybe all of it is more complicated than I think and I’m being tricked by Mind MGMT “advertising” into thinking what they want me to think!  Or not think!  I love it.

I’m really curious to see how the movie will tell this story; there are so many ways it could frame it.  Will they copy the comics exactly, with the “how can your own mind surprise you” prologue that’s echoed later in Lyme’s re-telling of the Zanzibar tragedy, or will they do a prologue of one of the inner-cover side-stories or case files, just to set up the idea of the agency and what they can do, or will they have the whole thing be related as history by a monk in one of the psychic libraries?  And I wonder if they’ll uncover revelations in the same order, or mix it up?  I hope they keep Meru’s trajectory pretty much intact, because I want to watch that transition from barely-in-control to crazy-powerful, and then back to frustratingly disorganized and disoriented, but stomping blindly back to power…at least that’s what it seems like her path is, so far.

Stuff I can’t wait to eventually find out about in the ongoing comic series in the meantime: (might be some **SPOILERS** if you haven’t read any of the comics yet, and if that is the case I suggest you go read them immediately because they are awesome, then come back and see if you can think of more things to add to this list.)

  • How are the children with Mind MGMT aptitude recruited?  Like how does the agency figure out which kids have aptitude, and how to they coerce them away from their parents, or do they wipe the parents’ memories?  Has a recruited kid ever tried to escape and go home and then the parents just don’t recognize him or her?
  • If both sides knew about Meru all along, does that mean her foster parents are in on it?
  • I want to see more of the historical Mind MGMT files, like how they were involved in instigating, averting, or covering up major wars and events.
  • I want to see more of the story of The Animal Kid and the Black Ops dolphins she frees, and find out what the dolphins are up to now.  Are they coming back later or are they going to stay isolated?
  • I need like a whole arc about the monks.
  • I might need a Perrier twins flashback, mostly just because I want to see them together again and in happier times.
  • Basically every two-page Case File and inside cover story tucked into each issue, I would love to see expanded.  There’s just so much going on in this world, so many characters and storylines, that even though I gobble them up each month it just makes me hungrier for more.
  • When does my brain explode?

Re-reading my copies of all the issues out so far has just made me that much more excited to read the rest of the series, and then I remembered that I started this post to talk about the movie!  It’s a good thing there is a new issue coming out this week, or I might explode from anticipation.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, comic books, movies, nerd

Panem’s Anthem

The Panem Capitol District seal from The Hunger Games movie.

The Panem Capitol District seal from The Hunger Games movie.

Although the national anthem of Panem is mentioned several times in the books that make up Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series, the lyrics are never revealed.  (Mostly it is referenced in the text when it plays in the Arena at night, just before the faces of that day’s dead Tributes are projected into the sky.)  For the film adaptation of the first book, music and lyrics were composed that played during the propoganda film at the Reaping as well as the Tribute parade at the Capitol.  It’s very hard to make out the words when listening to the soundtrack, but if you watch the special features “Post Production” segment on the special edition DVD, there’s a clip of the chorus recording the anthem.  After watching that clip over and over, I am pretty confident that these are the lyrics:

O Horn of Plenty,

A Horn of Plenty for us all!

And when you raise a cry

The brave shall heed the call

And we shall never falter.

One Horn of Plenty for us all!

(My submission is in line with the general consensus on what the lyrics are over at the Hunger Games wiki.)  I don’t understand why they don’t just officially release the lyrics somewhere.  Someone obviously went to all the work of composing a song that could very plausibly be the national anthem of a totalitarian dystopian fictional government, so why not celebrate that?  Officially releasing the lyrics could have been a useful marketing tool, to drum up excitement and discussion leading up the movie’s release about how well they fit the Panem we know from the books.

For the record, I think these lyrics fit the story perfectly.  It’s an infuriatingly disgusting piece of hypocritical propaganda, but what else would you expect from a government that allows some citizens to enjoy a luxurious lifestyle, (Capitol citizens), while subjugating the residents in all other districts to increasingly severe levels of oppression, including food shortages, forced labor, little or no educational opportunities, and limited electricity and medical supplies, not to mention mandatory participation in the Reaping for all non-Capitol citizens between the ages of 12 and 18, oh and if you try to rebel they’ll cut your tongue out and you’ll become an Avox slave.  The distribution of wealth and resources is appallingly lopsided, with the Capitol overflowing and many district residents starving, and yet the anthem asserts unity and “plenty for all!”

It’s likely that many naive Capitol-dwellers actually believe these words represent the ideals their country strives for, that they feel patriotic when the Cornucopia symbol is featured in the Hunger Games prominently every year, not realizing the twisted irony that it’s overflowing with killing weapons instead of food.  And I can totally picture someone like Seneca Crane superimposing the line “the brave shall heed the call” over an image of a dead Tribute, thinking it’s a respectful and appropriate homage, and pampered Capitol-dwelling viewers sniffle for a second while they watch the memorial footage reel of the same Tribute, before they get distracted by the latest gossip or fashion trend or a mirror.  Meanwhile the dead Tribute’s parents and friends back in their home District interpret the same words as a threat, a reminder, that if they try to rebel against this terrible injustice to them and their children, the better-equipped, more-powerful forces of the government will “never falter” in crushing them back into submission.

There are two specific passages in the books that vividly illustrate the gross inappropriateness of the Capitol to claim, through their anthem’s lyrics, that theirs is a nation of “plenty for all!”  The first is found in chapter 5 of  The Hunger Games:

Cinna invites me to sit on one of the couches and takes his place across from me.  He presses a button on the side of the table.  The top splits and from below rises a second tablecloth that holds our lunch.  Chicken and chunks of orange cooked in a creamy sauce laid on a bed of pearly white grain, tiny green peas and onions, rolls shaped like flowers, and for dessert, a pudding the color of honey.

I try to imagine assembling this meal myself back home.  Chickens are too expensive, but I could make do with a wild turkey.  I’d need to shoot a second turkey to trade for an orange.  Goat’s milk would have to substitute for cream.  We can grow peas in the garden.  I’d have to get wild onions from the woods.  I don’t recognize the grain, our own tessera ration cooks down to an unattractive brown mush.  Fancy rolls would mean another trade with the baker, perhaps for two or three squirrels.  As for the pudding, I can’t even guess what’s in it.  Days of hunting and gathering for this one meal and even then it would be a poor substitution for the Capitol version.

What must it be like, I wonder, to live in a world where food appears at the press of a button?  How would I spend the hours I now commit to combing the woods for sustenance if it were so easy to come by?  What do they do all day, these people in the Capitol, besides decorating their bodies and waiting around for a new shipment of tributes to roll in and die for their entertainment?

I look up to find Cinna’s eyes trained on mine.  “How despicable we must seem to you,” he says.

Has he seen this in my face or somehow read my thoughts?  He’s right, though.  The whole rotten lot of them is despicable.

Cinna is unusually sensitive to the hypocrisy and injustice in the system, for someone in the Capitol.  It’s certainly not the norm for Capitol-dwellers to be aware of the food shortages in the Districts, much less sensitive to the idea of conserving resources.  The following excerpt is from Catching Fire, chapter 6:

“Why aren’t you eating?” asks Octavia.

“I have been, but I can’t hold another bite,” I say.  They all laugh as if that’s the silliest thing they’ve ever heard.

“No one lets that stop them!” says Flavius.  They lead us over to a table that holds tiny stemmed wineglasses filled with clear liquid.  “Drink this!”

Peeta picks one up to take a sip and they lose it.

“Not here!” shrieks Octavia.

“You have to do it in there,” says Venia, pointing to doors that lead to the toilets.  “Or else you’ll get it all over the floor!”

Peeta looks at the glass again and puts it together.  “You mean this will make me puke?”

My prep team laughs hysterically.  “Of course, so you can keep eating,” says Octavia.  “I’ve been in there twice already.  Everyone does it, or else how would you have any fun at a feast?”

I’m speechless, staring at the pretty little glasses and all the imply.  Peeta sets his back on the table with such precision you’d think it might detonate.  “Come on, Katniss, let’s dance.”

….

We’re quiet for a while.  Then Peeta speaks in a strained voice.

“You go along, thinking you can deal with it, thinking maybe they’re not so bad, and then you–” He cuts himself off.

All I can think of is the emaciated bodies of the children on our kitchen table as my mother prescribes what the parents can’t give.  Food.  More food.  Now that we’re rich, she’ll send some home with them.  But often in the old days, there was nothing to give and the child was past saving, anyway.  And here in the Capitol they’re vomiting for the pleasure of filling their bellies again and again.  Not from some illness of body or mind, not from spoiled food.  It’s what everyone does at a party.  Expected.  Part of the fun.

My outrage when reading this scene is very similar to the disgust I feel when I consider the shamefully dishonest lyrics of Panem’s anthem.  And that is why they are perfect.

5 Comments

Filed under Books, movies, music

“A Feast For Crows” Recap/Reaction

Note: For my reviews on the preceding A Song of Ice and Fire books, click here.   Warning: The following contains rampant **SPOILERS**!

Well.  I read this book very quickly, even though it wasn’t nearly as fast-paced or heart-stopping as the one before it, (A Storm of Swords).  The  storylines in A Feast for Crows are not necessarily slow-moving individually, but there are so many of them and so many chapters between each that it seems to take forever to move forward in the story’s timeline.  There aren’t as many surprise reveals or unexpected twists as the other books, and it’s very dark.  Dark wings, dark words.  I counted ten title references in the text, where the narration explicitly described crows feasting on dead human flesh.  Eleven, if you include this line (emphasis added):

This is a time for beasts, Jamie reflected, for lions and wolves and angry dogs, for ravens and carrion crows.

There are also two references to the “Dance of Dragons” song, which alludes to the title of the next book, when half of the main cast of characters will finally be featured again since they didn’t appear in Feast, (and I’m sure there will be some more new ones as well).  At first I was excited about the new points-of-view that were introduced, since they gave insight to aspects of Westeros that we hadn’t seen much of yet, like the Ironborn and Dornish cultures, but by the time I was 263 pages in and still being introduced to new character perspectives, I was leaning more towards frustration that there would now be yet another side-story to wade through before I could get back to an Arya (my favorite) or a Brienne (second-favorite, in this book) chapter.

A basic summary: there are dead bodies everywhere in Westeros, and crows are eating them.  It is gross.

A basic summary: there are dead bodies everywhere in Westeros, and crows are eating them.  It is gross.

There were two characters in this book that provided sort of meta-quotes about reading, which described my own experience while I was devouring the thousand-plus pages in a matter of days.  First, from Sam; (substitute “chapter” for “book” and it fits perfectly):

One more book, he had told himself, then I’ll stop.  One more folio, just one more.  One more page, then I’ll go up and rest and get a bite to eat.  But there was always another page after that one, and another after that, and another book waiting underneath the pile.  I’ll just take a quick peek to see what this one is about, he’d think, and before he knew he would be halfway through it.

Also, Asha’s “nuncle“, Lord Rodrik “The Reader” of the Ten Towers, sounds like a bookworm after my own heart:

Lord Rodrik was seldom seen without a book in hand, be it in the privy, on the deck of his Sea Song, or whilst holding audience.  Asha had oft seen him reading on his high seat beneath the silver scythes.  He would listen to each case as it was laid before him, pronounce his judgment…and read a bit whilst his captain-of-guards went to bring in the next supplicant.

Oldtown

I loved the prologue, which gave us a glimpse of the path to maseter-dom via the group of novices that were featured.  Previous books had mentioned that maesters forged a new link in their chain whenever they mastered a new subject, but I hadn’t really thought about how the process worked or how anyone got started in that pursuit.  I guess I thought that it was an inherited trade craft or aspiration similar to knighthood, but this book revealed that it’s not seen as a prestigious career by many high-born lords, (like Samwell Tarly’s father or Aemon Targaryen’s father).  But it appears that you don’t have to be high-born, or really have any prestigious connections, in order to become a master–theoretically, anyone with the intelligence and aptitude to learn all the required crafts could forge a chain.  Pate, the prologue’s point-of-view character, has tried and failed multiple times over several years to pass the test for his first link, though, and I’m curious how standardized those tests are, because it sounds like different archmaesters might have varying expectations or grading rubrics, and whichever one a novice chooses as a mentor will have a big impact on what knowledge the novice will need to acquire, and to what degree of mastery.  So basically like a graduate advisor approving your thesis.  In fact, the whole chain-forging process that maesters go through sounds like getting multiple Ph. D.s, and who has time for that?  I mean what is the average length of time for novices to successfully complete their chain, and what is the average age at which newly minted maesters go and find a castle to serve in?  It does sound fascinating, though.  If I lived in Westeros I would totally want to try to become a maester, except I don’t think girls are allowed.

But anyway, who was the mysterious stranger (“alchemist,” supposedly) that took the master key from Pate and then erased his memory?  (I thought that he killed him, but then Pate was still alive when Sam got to Oldtown in the last chapter).  My first guess was Jaqen H’gar, because the physical description of his features didn’t match anyone I could think of, but we know “Jaqen” (or whatever his real name is) can alter his appearance, and he was always making a coin “walk across his knuckles” the way the stranger in the prologue does with the promised payment.  Having finished the book and learned more about the practices of the House of Black and White that Jaqen hails from, I think this guess is definitely the best one, because of how he answers when Pate asks, “Who are you?”

“A stranger.  No one.  Truly.”

The House of Black and White serves the Many-Faced God, and the kindly man there explicitly points out to Arya that in Westeros the Many-Faced God is known as the Stranger.  Furthermore, the kindly man is constantly asking Arya who she is, expecting the heartfelt response, “No one.”  So really the only mystery about the stranger in the prologue is, what does he intend to do with the key?  I don’t know, but since the servants of the Many-Faced God are in the business of delivering his “gift” of death, I bet it’s to gain access to some high-profile, corrupt maesters to kill them.

King’s Landing

Cersei drove me crazy in this book.  I’ve never liked her anyway, and she was one of the only characters so far for whom I still had little to no sympathy after getting to see the world from their perspective.  (The other is Theon Greyjoy).  Reading Cersei’s point-of-view chapters just solidified the fact that she is terrible at the game of thrones–paranoid, never seeing the big picture, letting her emotions affect her decisions, unable to cultivate allies, and not even self-aware enough to realize how much she sucks.  I was nearly screaming at the book in my hands when I read the part where she agrees to let the High Septon resurrect the church’s army if he will in turn bless Tommen; what a clearly stupid move for a monarch struggling to maintain control over a kingdom!  Why would you want to allow another force to be created that could oppose your own, when you’re already fighting multiple enemies, and why would you not even pause to think about what could happen if the church opposes any decision or action the crown takes?  I was a bit gleeful when I was proved right and Cersei’s plans backfired on her by the end of the book, but she obviously never saw it coming.  Just look at how proud she was of her stupid, stupid, un-strategic move immediately after making it:

Cersei could not help but smile.  Even her lord father could have done no better.  At a stroke, she had rid King’s Landing of the plague of sparrows, secured Tommen’s blessing, and lessened the crown’s debt by close to a million dragons.  Her heart was soaring as she allowed the High Septon to escort her back to the Hall of Lamps.

The prophecies that haunted Cersei from her childhood were interesting, but it was annoying how they kept being alluded to yet it seemed like it took forever to finally reveal them in their entirety.

“Queen you shall be…until there comes another, younger and more beautiful, to cast you down and take all that you hold dear.”

Obviously Cersei thinks the younger queen is Margaery, but I’m convinced it’s Dany.  (Speaking of Margaery, I’m not sure what I think about her presumed guilt or innocence in her current predicament; I’m willing to believe her marriage to Renly was never consummated because I’m pretty sure Renly and Loras were lovers instead.  The matter of the missing hymen is inconclusive, too, since Cersei specifically mentioned at one point that high-born ladies often lost theirs due to horse-riding rather than marriage beds.  And Grand Maester Pycelle was cut off when he said that he had provided Margaery with Moon Tea, before he could elaborate on who or what she wanted it for.   I would love to get an inside look at the inner schemings of House Tyrell.  Not that it matters too terribly much, since regardless of who wins this temporary struggle for power in King’s Landing, I predict Dany’s going to ride in on a dragon with her bloodriders and Unsullied army and take over anyway.)

  “And when your tears have drowned you, the valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you.”

The bit right before this prophecy said that her children will all die, (“gold shall be their crowns and gold their shrouds,”) and it’s later explained that valonqar is High Valyrian for “little brother.”  Cersei is convinced that the “little brother” who’s going to kill her is Tyrion, but the prophecy doesn’t say it’s her little brother.  I mean it could be, but what if it’s Bran Stark?  He’s a little brother, and a potentially very powerful warg.  Or, maybe more likey, Stannis Baratheon?  He’s Robert’s little brother.

Tommen is much less offensive than Joffrey, and  much more stable than little lord Robert Aryn.  He would have the potential to grow up into a decent monarch, if only his mother wasn’t around, (and if there wasn’t already a prophecy that he would die.)  Poor Tommen.  I loved the scenes were Jamie, as a Knight of the Kingsguard, got to act fatherly towards his secret son, but I don’t think that relationship is going to ever get a chance to develop.  I continued to love Jamie in this book though, with his striving to maintain his vows to a dead woman, for honor, and his determination to keep practicing swordplay with his remaining left hand even though he’s continually discouraged by his performance.  I think Jamie’s character arc so far is just fantastic, and I would love it if he somehow meets up with Bran again before the end of the series so the two of them can team up together in an amazing parallel to their first interaction, when they were so black and white.  Bran was a pure innocent little boy, Jamie was a sick sinister man who thought nothing of killing a child for convinience.  And now Bran is a powerful warg, (at least I think so, I haven’t seen him since A Storm of Swords!) and Jamie is acting more and more like a true knight now, keeping promises and defending maidens’ honor and struggling with inner conflict and remorse and rehabilitation with a golden hand.  Here’s the video I made depicting Jamie at the high table at Darry.

The IronBorn:

I like Asha and I’m glad she’s still alive, since I was afraid she might be killed at the kingsmoot.  (The Reader’s warning to her spooked me.)  It was enlightening to get a closer look at Aeron Damphair and the religion of the Drowned god; (that is some hardcore baptism!)  In fact, we got a lot of insight into the Seven this book as well, and I’d like to post an analysis on the various religions in Westeros after I’ve caught up on the series.  The annoying this about Damphair’s chapter perspectives were that they kept hinting at some traumatic memory involving iron gates and his vicious brother Euron, but we never found out what it was.   Maybe it doesn’t matter; we can guess that it’s horrible considering what we learned about Euron and Vicatrion’s third wife.

I’m definitely not a fan of Euron “Crow’s Eye” Greyjoy, and when he sent Victarion on a mission to capture Dany and bring her back as Euron’s bride I laughed, since I am certain that Dany and her dragons can take these guys.  But, I think the Crow’s Eye may have more powers than the ordinary man.

“When I was a boy, I dreamt that I could fly,” he announced.  “When I woke, I couldn’t…or so the maester said.  But what if he lied?”

I think he’s a warg, like Bran.  Bran dreamed about flying when he was in the coma after his fall, and after he woke up his warg skillset was unlocked.  Is his nickname referring to the three-eyed crow, like the one in Bran’s dream, the one that Jojen Meeren refers to?  Has he warged into crows or seagulls or something and “seen” things across the sea that others haven’t?  There’s definitely something going on with him.

Dorne:

The Sand Snakes sound badass!  I wish we got to see more of them.  Even though they’re only barely introduced, my favorite is Nymeria.  First of all, she’s named after the same warrior legend that Arya named her direwolf after.  Second of all, just read this description!  Doesn’t she sound awesome?  I won’t even try to make a picture of her, because the words do a better job of that already than I could:

She appeared suddenly upon a dune, mounted on a golden sand steed with a mane like fine white silk.  Even ahorse, the Lady Nym looked graceful, dressed all in shimmering lilac robes and a great silk cape of cream and copper that lifted at every gust of wind, and made her look as if she might take flight.  Nymeria San was five-and-twenty, and slender as a willow.  Her straight black hair, worn in a long braid bound up with red-gold wire, made a widow’s peak above her dark eyes, just as her father’s had.  With her high cheekbones, full lips, and milk-pale skin, she had all the beauty that her elder sister lacked…

By contrast, I’m very annoyed with the Sand Snake’s cousin, Princess Arianne.  She’s so immature and impatient, and even though it wasn’t what she intended, she is responsible for Myrcella’s injury.  And I think this is a total cop-out:

Prince Oberyn had armed each of his daughters so they need never be defenseless, but Arianne Martell had no weapon but her guile.  And so she smiled and charmed, and asked nothing in return of Cedra, neither word nor nod.

Oh I’m sorry Princess, are you sad that your daddy didn’t make sure you learned how to use a deadly weapon when you were growing up, but all your cousins that were your constant companions did?  Why didn’t you just practice with your cousins, then, if it was something you wanted?!  You’re blaming your father and using him as an excuse for your laziness.  It has been your choice to make a habit of using charm as a weapon instead of wit.  And I do not admire you for it.

Black Brothers:

I love the exhange between Jon Snow and Samwell Tarly, when the new Lord Snow forbids his timid friend from referring to himself as a coward.   And I’m so pleased that Sam’s going to become a maester; it suits him perfectly.  I was a little disappointed that Sam didn’t figure out the baby-swap between Gilly and Dahla’s boys sooner, since I thought it was immediately obvious, but I guess his naivete is part of why he’s so lovable.  I do wonder what threats Jon made to convince Gilly to go along with his plan, and it seems he surely must have told her he would kill her baby instantly if she refused.  Which is so unfair, although not the first time in this series where we’ve seen high-born human life valued above low-born.  There was a great quote from Septon Meribald, (the traveling minister who led Brienne to Saltpans), that relates to this:

“It is being common-born that is dangerous, when the great lords play their game of thrones.”

The baby-swap to protect the identity and life of a high-born child, arranged by none other than Jon Snow, seems like another echo of this cycle of repeating history the same way that Bran’s group hiding in the crypts of Winterfell mirrored the Bard’s tale in A Clash of Kings.  If my theory about Jon’s true parentage is correct, then he is unknowingly arranging a fate for another princely baby similar to his own–to grow up thinking he’s a bastard, because the truth of his identity is too dangerous.  It also faintly echoes a trope that repeated several times during A Feast For Crows, of smallfolk claiming they have a royal lineage.   The undergaoler that Jamie questions in the wake of Tywin’s murder has a story about being descended from a princess.  A Hedge knight is offended that Brienne has never heard of,

Ser Clarence Crabb, I said.  I got his blood in me.”

And an innkeeper that Brienne does business with in Duskendale says,

“You’d never know it t’look at me, but I got me royal blood.  Can you see it?”

I guess the prevalence of low-borns claiming noble ancestry might not be related to the high-born baby swap, though–it could just be a sign of the instability in the kingdom in the wake of war, and illustrate that even the people who aren’t able to play the “game of thrones” are striving for power and prestige above their station.  Of course, two of Robert Baratheon’s bastards also appear in the book, (Mya Stone and Gendry), and neither appears to know or claim their parentage.

Meanwhile, Maester Aemon keeps rambling about a prophecy that he never fully describes, but I’ve marked all those passages because he mentions bits and pieces that will require further analysis at a later date.  (Something to hold me over while I wait for book six to be published).  But this is a great quote from him, that could totally be used to sum up the state of Westeros in the whole series so far:

“Sam, we tremble on the cusp of half-remembered prophecies, of wonders and terrors that no man now living could hope to comprehend…”

I mean that’s the quote I would use in a voice-over if I were making a trailer for this book, and I would play it with images of a dragonglass candle burning and Euron Storm-Crow’s dragon horn for the “wonders” and zombie Catelyn for the “terrors”.

There’s definitely a lot of room for analysis though with the whole “the dragon has three heads” thing, and I’m not sure I trust the maester that met with Sam at the end and appointed himself the task of traveling to assist Dany and become one of the “three heads”.  I don’t really know what I think it means or who it’s all talking about yet but these prophecies are SOMEHOW VERY IMPORTANT to the overall direction of the story, I’m sure.  I’ll put more thought into it after I finish A Dance with Dragons.

House Stark

Sansa is a total gamer now!  I was so irritated with her gullibility in A Game of Thrones, (and it was totally her fault that Ned lost his head because we know now that dumbass Cersei would never have been able to out-mastermind him if Sansa hadn’t walked up and told her everything about his plans.)  But Sansa, who now refers to herself as her undercover name “Alayne,” has definitely learned a lot, and she is smarter and more perceptive and clever in the “game” now than Cersei could ever hope to be.  I have to give begrudging respect to her mentor/captor Littlefinger for being so clever, too, although that doesn’t excuse him from still being a creep and making Sansa kiss him and sit on his lap.

Here’s the video I made of an exasperated Sansa with a fitful Robert Arryn:

Arya continues to be my favorite character, (or is Jon Snow my favorite?  Hard to decide!  But Jon was barely in this book so I’ll say Arya), but I felt like I was being tortured via Arya-chapter-deprivation, because there were so few of her chapters and they were spread so far apart!  Out of desperation I started marking all the places that mentioned the wolves terrorizing the Riverlands as “Arya” sections, since in a way they are, if we can assume that it’s her direwolf leading the pack.  Below is my video of Arya entering the House of White and Black, (it’s better if you watch it with sound!).  All I have to say about her waking up blind at the end of her last chapter is that it had better be a temporary affliction that marks the next phase of her initiation, or I will have to do a little aggressive, Arya-style “needlework” on some inanimate objects to vent my rage.

Just as Arya better not really be blind, Brienne better not really be dead! I’m going to hold on to the belief that she’s still alive, that whatever word she yelled at the end there as they were hanging here was enough to give them pause and save her, (but what one word could do that?  “Winterfell?”)  Like an idiot, I was excited when I realized Brienne was being brought to “lady Stoneheart,” because I thought it would be a happy reunion and that Catelyn would be so glad to hear that her loyal sworn sword was still out there risking everything to find her daughters, but Cat Stark is as stubborn and impulsive in “death” as she was in life.  I had hoped she could be reunited with one or two of her children, or at least have the peace of learning they’re  not all dead like she thought, but she’s just killing everyone, out of spite, so she needs to die, again.

Random Observations:

I don’t remember coming across the term “Westerosi” (to describe people from Westeros) before this book.  Now I just want to try to work it into conversations somehow.

This is a great quote from Asha’s uncle, Rodrik “The Reader”, for the whole “when you play the game of thrones, you lose or you die” thing.  He’s talking about the Greyjoys, but it applies to everyone:

“This dream of kingship is a madness in our blood.”

It’s possible that the Hound is still alive, and a novice at the Quiet Tower.  The Elder Brother claimed that the Hound died in his arms, but the Elder Brother also said that he himself “died” and was reborn at the Quiet Tower, so maybe that is just figurative language.  They acknowledge that they have his horse there.  Two of the three brothers that meet the travelers when they arrive are described as having their faces covered with wool so that only their eyes show; that would certainly hide a half-burned face, and if lots of brothers dress that way a covered face wouldn’t draw attention.  And the novice digging out a grave when they walk by is said to be “bigger than Brienne.”  I hope that’s really the Hound, because I so wanted him to have a chance at redemption, and if he’s dead then he never really got it.  (If it is him, that same description says “from the way he moved, it was plain to see that he was lame,” so like Jamie he would be a once-skilled fighter forced to forge an identity through some other means.)  I didn’t come up with this Hound theory on my own–I have to credit my friend EM for the idea.

I’m very eager to read the next book soon, and finally be “caught up” so I don’t have to worry about avoiding spoilers anymore and I can go browse the fan pages and wikis and see what theories other people have come up with.

9 Comments

Filed under Books

Stop Trying to Make “Katnnick” Happen. It’s Not Going to Happen.

Entertainment Weekly has revealed their exclusive first official look at images for Catching Fire, sequel to The Hunger Games.  Let’s analyze:

This new cover features Sam Claflin as new cast memeber Finnick and Jennifer Lawrence returning as Katniss.  Finnick is a previously victorious Tribute from District 4.  Spoiler alert–but really how are they going to market this film without letting people figure this out–the 75th Annual Hunger Games Tributes are reaped from the pool of existing victors.  So Finnick, along with Katniss (and Peeta, whose photographic absence I’ll get to in a bit) must return to an Arena and fight against 23 Tributes to the live-televised death.

This time the Arena is–spoiler alert–mostly water, with the cornucopia on an island in the center and a strip of land around the outside of a circular sea.  That’s why their outfits this time are basically wetsuits, although that’s not quite how they were dressed in the book:

This year’s tribute outfit is a fitted blue jumpsuit, made of very sheer material, that zippers up the front.  A six-inch-wise padded belt covered in shiny purple plastic.  A pair of nylon shoes with rubber soles.

The purple belts (which double as flotation devices) probably wouldn’t look particularly sexy, but in the book, the thin jumpsuits are easily ruined and they end up running around in their underwear most of the time.  So the change to wetsuits for the movie is maybe an even trade-off, but I don’t think they’re very flattering.  And it looks like they’ve included built-in flotation devices, like the bulge visible on Katniss’ elbow in the picture above, instead of the belt.   But speaking of book vs. movie aesthetics, you know the movie is going to either leave out the part where they are covered in scabs which are covered by goopy medicine, making them look like they’re “decomposing”, according to Finnick, or they’ll minimize the scabs so they don’t cover their faces, or they’ll strategically place just one wound above Finnick’s left eyebrow or along his chiseled cheekline.  You know they’ll keep him looking hot the whole film, and if they include this line from the book, it will be humorous for more than one reason:

“Poor Finnick.  Is this the first time in your life you haven’t looked pretty?” I say.

“It must be.  The sensations’s completely new.  How have you managed it all these years?” he asks.

Personally I think Finnick looks great on this cover, although from what I’ve seen in the blogosphere so far that doesn’t appear to be a unanimous opinion.  My only complaint about him is that the wetsuit makes his abs and hips look bulgy when I’m pretty positive they are not.  (Attention, Catching Fire marketing executives: you’d better release a shirtless Finnick picture so I can be sure.  For research purposes.)  I’m more inclined to nitpick this presentation of Katniss: why is her hair so shiny and her bangs so straight and perfect, like a Barbie doll?  (It does appear to be the same style braid that she wore in the first film.)  Her face looks more angular than usual–how much did they photoshop it?  Look at the line between her chin and her neck.  And now you can’t stop staring at her huge neck, right?  Necks are weird.

The second exclusive picture from EW is also of Finnick and Katniss, but this time it looks like they’re in Tribute training.  I thought at first that this was the infamous sugar cube scene, but they would be dressed (or mostly undressed, in his case) in their parade outfits if it were.  Still, this picture has that same vibe, with him flirting to tease her and Katniss trying to ignore him and not blush.

quote about sugar cube

“Hello, Katniss,” he says, as if we’ve known each other for years, when in fact we’ve never met.

I mean, this picture looks great for that, but what worries me is the total absence of Peeta in either of these first official pictures.  Peeta was what I was most worried about for the adaptation of the first book, and he was only okay in the film, which is a problem because–spoiler alert–Peeta Mellark is THE BEST.  Even Katniss thinks so:

In this way, Peeta’s not hard to predict.  While I was wallowing around on the floor of that cellar, thinking only of myself, he was here, thinking only of me.  Shame isn’t a strong enough word for what I feel.

“You could live a hundred lifetimes and not deserve him, you know,” Haymitch says.

“Yeah, yeah,” I say brusquely.  “No question, he’s the superior one in this trio.  So, what are you going to do?”

The movies are already off to a bad start doing Peeta’s character justice, and with this marketing it’s like they’re not even giving him a chance.  And how many people are going to look at this and think that Sam Claflin is Peeta?  If they didn’t read the books, if they only saw the movie once, or if they’re only familiar with The Hunger Games through pop culture osmosis?

I hate that these two images are presenting Finnick and Katniss as a couple.  Finnick is an audacious flirt, but he has a true and tragic love, and it’s not with the Girl on Fire.  It was already annoying that they tried to market Katniss-Gale-Peeta as a Twilight-esque triangle when deciding between two boys is so not the bulk of her dilemma or even something that she’s willing to spend time thinking about.  She’s preoccupied with, oh, I don’t know, little things like providing for her family, protecting her sister, staying alive, resisting tyranny, trying to make the self-sacrifices that don’t come naturally to her.  And Finnick turns out to be much more complex than the superficial sex-symbol persona he projects.  He’s got his own secrets and form of resistance.  The relationship between Katniss and Finnick dances between ally and enemy, not “will they-won’t they,” (unless you end that phrase with “kill each other.”)  Meanwhile, the relationship between Katniss and Peeta takes significant steps in Catching Fire, and the total lack of Peeta in either of these pictures is not making me feel confident that the movie will handle him any better this time around.  Couldn’t they have at least included him in the second picture, looking jealous, annoyed, or amused in the background?

Why do the people behind this design feel the need to add fuel to the fanfiction, non-canonical fires?  “omg, Katniss and Finnick, so hawt together!!!” the easily-persuaded, annoying peripheral fans now scream.  NO.  STOP IT.  Go read the book so you can fall properly in love with Peeta, since apparently the movies aren’t going to give you the opportunity.

**update** Two more pictures have been released, (you can click here to see them at EW.com), and we finally get a glimpse of Peeta.  It looks like he and Katniss are on their District tour; I would guess they’re in District 11 and Katniss is looking down at Rue’s family.  The way Peeta is looking straight ahead and there’s a gap between him and Katniss is probably good for that scene but it’s not doing anything to combat the Katniss+Finnick implied narrative of the first images.  The second new picture is Gale being restrained by two Peacekeepers in the center square of District 12.  The Peacekeeper’s uniforms look live they’ve been restyled a little big from the first film, but they still basically look like Stormtroopers.

3 Comments

Filed under Books, movies

The Pages that pagelady Read in 2012

This is an overview of the books I read in 2012, minus all the comic books because I already posted about those.

Favorite:

When asked to name a favorite book, I always think of a line from the movie Ever After, when Prince Henry takes Danielle (a.k.a. Nicole, at that point,) to a monastic library and tells her to pick a book, and she says, “I could no sooner choose a favorite star in the heavens!”

So, I don’t think I can narrow down everything I read this year to just one favorite, but my top four would be:

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green.  Time magazine named it as the top book of 2012, so having it as a favorite is pretty mainstream, but I would have chosen it anyway.  Like Hazel Grace, I, too, now have an Augustus Waters fetish.  I cried my eyes out reading this book.  It was a great way to spend a weekend, and I am not being sarcastic.

Matched by Ally Condie.  From my review:

The first blurb on the inside cover that described it as “Think The Giver, but sexier,” (Lincoln Journal Star), was spot-on and I couldn’t describe it better myself.  What I loved most was how important words were, how the main characters realized that a poem could be subversive, that learning to write could be so powerful, that they could be inspired by the memorized words smuggled to them from over a century ago. And the writing of the story itself was just amazing; every other page I found a new quote that I loved and had to mark with a post-it note.

Also, Ky Markham is my literary boyfriend.  Well, one of them anyway, I mean I can’t forget about Four or Gilbert Blythe or Jim (from Moccasin Trail.)  But Ky is a permanent member of that club now, too.

Battle Royale by Koushun Takami.  I picked it up because I kept hearing it in comparison to The Hunger Games, sometimes in an accusatory “Hunger Games ripped off Battle Royale” argument.  Having now read both, I don’t think anybody is being copied, (and besides, Suzanne Collins has said she hadn’t heard of Battle Royale until after writing The Hunger Games).  They share the basic plot of “kids forced to kill each other”, but they’re very different in tone and agenda, and many of the other similarities (corrupt government, tracking devices, morally beating the system by refusing to go along with its rules) are also shared by hundreds of other stories.  I don’t think it’s fair to describe either story as “basically the same” as the other.  Take them separately, and then have a discussion about the similarities and differences.  From my review:

The way Battle Royale‘s third-person-omniscient narrator keeps switching to different individuals’ perspectives each chapter, and more often than not those individuals end up dying just as we’re really starting to empathize with their unique background, is devastatingly effective.  Some of the graphic descriptions of bloody violence pop up so suddenly and in such unexpected detail I was nearly sick.  Just now, having finished the book for the most part in one weekend, I feel like my heart has been battered by Yuichiro’s bat and stabbed by Mitsuko’s knife, and I will probably have a nightmare about Kazuo and his machine gun.  To me this is all evidence of the excellent writing that crafted this story, (so strong it comes through even in translation). I feel like the memory of each death will be hard to shake, too, since I was such an intimate witness to them all.  Excellent, excellent book, but not for the faint of heart or stomach.

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin.  Also, A Clash of Kings and A Storm of Swords.  I’ve already babbled extensively about my reactions to and love for the first, second, and third books in his A Song of Ice and Fire series, so I’ll just include a visual representation here of what it’s like to go on the emotional roller-coaster within these books:

pagelady reacts to various plot twists in A Game of Thrones.

pagelady reacts to various plot twists in A Game of Thrones.

Least Favorite:

Probably Wither by Lauren DeStefano.  I think I’ve already posted everything I didn’t like about it.

Favorite New Author:

Definitely George R. R. Martin.  I had never read John Green before this year either, but his books didn’t take over my life and transport me so completely to a fantasy universe that I will be forever longing to visit now (right along with Narnia, Middle Earth, and Hogwarts) the way Martin’s did.

“Can’t Believe I’d Never Read This Before”:

Battle Royale by Koushun Takami.  Why had I never even heard of it until this year?!

Top Recommendation:

The Hate List by Jennifer Brown.

Even though it may not have been favorite book this year, it was really good.  I haven’t heard as many people talking about this one, so I don’t think it’s as well known, but that’s a shame and I think more people should read it.   To quote from my own goodreads review:

This was a really good idea for a story.  It’s “about” a school shooting, but it’s really about dealing with the truth of the way people treat each other, which is unfortunately often negative, and how to realistically try to change the world or yourself for the better.  The story focuses on Valerie, girlfriend of the shooter, who targeted people from the “hate list” they had compiled, that Valerie thought was just venting.  It follows her surviving and having to deal with the fallout, and her healing process.  The complex emotions are really, really well portrayed.  The pain of so many characters feels so real, my heart was literally aching while I read much of this book. And I really liked that nothing was simple; Nick (the shooter) wasn’t a completely evil villain, and at times you could really sympathize with his pain.  The student body wasn’t united in its reaction to the event.  Valerie’s parents even had their own flaws and serious issues.  I would recommend this to be required reading for all high school students, because I think it would be a great discussion-starter and it really helps you empathize with multiple points of view.  I mean, shootings don’t happen in every school, but bullying does, and they COULD always happen, unless we try to change the culture.  I also really loved the therapist, (and in the Author’s Notes you find out her husband is a clinical psychologist and helped her authenticate Dr. Hieler’s dialogue and Valerie’s healing process). Plus, I really liked that it was set in Kansas, so a lot of the little place-mentions were familiar to me. I’ll probably check out the other books by this author.

Re-Reads:

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  I re-read it to refresh my memory because Baz Luhrman’s new movie adaptation was originally scheduled to be released this Christmas.  It has since been pushed back to summer 2013, but I’m glad I read Gatsby again because I had forgotten some of it, and probably didn’t appreciate everything when it was required for high school English, anyway.  It wasn’t a pleasant read though, since there isn’t a single likeable character (to me) in the whole story.

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien.  Because, obviously.  Bilbo is such a wonderful, faithful and unflashy hero.

Anne of Green Gables by  L. M. Montgomery.   I didn’t really read the whole book, but I downloaded the full Anne collection on my kindle and would sometimes read a chapter or two on lunch breaks when I was in-between other books or projects.  It just reminded me how much I love Anne Shirley, how many great quotes there are in those books, and how excellent the movie adaptation of the first book is.  (We shall not speak of the monstrosity that is the third movie.  We shall pretend it does not exist.)

Disappointments:

Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver.  It’s the sequel to Delirium, but I don’t think it’s as good.  I was annoyed with Julian and didn’t like the relationship that developed between him and Lena.  In a lot of ways it was the opposite of what I liked about Delirium, but maybe that was intentional, and maybe the conclusion to the trilogy will be better.

Thumped by Megan McCafferty.  It’s also the second in a planned triology–middle books in series are often weakest, it seems.  As I said in my review, what I liked about Bumped was the complexity of the issues it was questioning, but in Thumped the philosophical, theological and social questions were hardly included, and the plot twists became a bit ridiculous.  For once I would like to read a dystopian story where the teenaged main character doesn’t spark a national or global revolution, but rather a small one.  Even if it’s just within themselves.  When it invariably blows up into this huge, unplanned thing it just feels less likely.

And a little bit The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling, but that was a different kind of disappointment.  It was just a depressing story, but still very well-written.

Book Club:

I joined The Sword and Laser Bookclub, (one of the elements of Felicia Day’s brainchild Geek and Sundry), in September.  It’s nice to be participating in a book club again, after my local in-person group meetings lapsed into inactivity because too many of the other ladies were having babies.  The online format is convenient in that I can go read the discussion forums whenever I’ve finished reading that month’s book rather than having to scramble to finish by a set date and time.  But I do miss having in-person discussions, and I’m always less likely to participate in group conversations when they’re online, especially in such a big group.   Also, the convenience of “I’ll look at the discussions whenever I finish” can also be a too-easy cop-out for not finishing the book on time.  And you don’t get fun little themed snacks!  Oh well, I didn’t even try to read their November pick, The Dirty Streets of Heaven by Tad Wiliams, because I was busy making dwarf beards, so I guess I’m not really taking it too seriously.

The two new books that I read this year through Sword and Laser were Foundation by Isaac Asimov and Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell.  I rated them both 3 stars, but I think I might have liked Foundation better.  I wish goodreads would allow rating by half-star increments.

Looking Ahead:

The books I am most looking forward to reading in 2013 are all series that I need to finish.  Reached by Ally Condie is waiting impatiently for me (oops, finished reading it before I finished writing this post!  I loved it.), as are the fourth and fifth books in A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin.  Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy finale, as yet untitled, is supposedly maybe being published this fall and if so I will seriously consider staying up to begin reading it at the midnight moment of its release.

What was your favorite 2012 read?  And what are you most looking forward to reading in 2013?

3 Comments

Filed under Books

2012: the year pagelady got into Comics

Prior to 2012, I had only read a handful of comics.  I mean besides the ones in the newspaper on Sundays, which my siblings and I used to fight over, (and I have a video recording of one of my sisters bidding me farewell when I left for college saying she was glad I wouldn’t be around to “hog the comics” anymore.)  No, I’m talking about actual comic books.  And trade paperbacks, (a term that I learned to distinguish from “graphic novel” this year, in my evolution of becoming a comic book nerd.  A graphic novel is a book-like comic that was published as one whole.  A trade paperback is a book-like collection of weekly or monthly issues of comics from a particular storyline.  The term “graphic novel” is a little more general and is sometimes used to refer to trades, but my new-found comic-world sources say there’s a distinction and this is it.)

Before I got into comics for myself, I had really only read Watchmen and V for Vendetta, reluctantly and at the insistence of my husband.  I enjoyed both stories, but I found it difficult to read the comic format.  My brain was so accustomed to becoming fully engrossed in worlds built exclusively from text that it couldn’t quite make sense of this hybrid word-and-image realm.  My eyes jumped from word bubble to word bubble automatically without taking time to process the pictures that went with them, and then I’d have to go back and see what I’d missed.  Instead of processing the images and words together as a storytelling whole, I was tackling them separately, a distracting and disjointed method that left me frustrated and unenthusiastic about the comic format.

I felt less dumb admitting the format was challenging after realizing that it does demand substantial mental energy:

“Comic books make the brain work in a very interesting way,” says [Seattle Public Library librarian Blythe] Summers. “You are reading, but you are also filling in the ‘gaps’ in the story that occur between pictures.” -(source)

“Comics…stimulate both sides of the brain simultaneously: the right side processes pictures and the left side processes words. These operations reinforce each other, and readers get a double whammy of images and phrases that convey important information.”  -Glenn Herdling, (source)

That last quote is an overly simplification of how the brain works, because virtually any processing task lights up multiple locations of the brain and very little is handled exclusively by either the left or right hemisphere, but it’s still true that reading comics requires an ability to decode meaning from written words AND from non-linguistic images at the same time.  Recent  research by Neil Cohn actually indicates that images in comics are processed very similarly to sentences, and “we depend on a visual grammar in comics in order to make sense of them.”  (You can download Cohn’s paper, “Linguistics, Comics, and Visual Language: the past and future of a field” here, or any of his other papers here.  It’s all very interesting, especially to me with my background in linguistics, and I’m glad I chose to blog about this topic because I might not have found his work otherwise!)

Anyway, I eventually got over my inability to read comics smoothly.  And I can’t really point to one epiphany moment when I suddenly “got it,” I just adjusted as I read more comics.  My brain became more skillful at the simultaneous processing of linguistic and non-linguistic visual input, and I discovered that comic books are just like the traditional books that I’ve always loved; worlds of rich imagination and complex characters, relate-able villains, idealistic heroes, metaphors to process reality, alternate realities to escape to, adventures to experience, lessons to learn, lives to live; magic enchanted on a page.  The main difference between comic books and text books is in the format used to transmit the story from the mind of the creator to the mind of the reader.  (You could also argue that there is greater homogeneity in the fictional worlds derived from the story that live in readers’ imaginations, since comics provide visual representations instead of just occasional physical descriptions.  Do comic book readers argue about which actors could best resemble beloved characters as much as fans of something like The Hunger Games or Harry Potter do?)

One of the first comics that I read and enjoyed fully the first time through, (I don’t want you to think I didn’t fully enjoy Watchmen or V for Vendetta when I eventually re-read them!), was Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Tales.  I burned through all seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on DVD a few summers ago, and it was a lot of fun to revisit that universe and add depth to the story even though there were no new episodes.  Of course, you can really revisit Buffy and the whole gang by reading the continuation of her storyline in seasons 8 and now 9, released exclusively in comic format.  And I did read all the season 8 comics for Buffy the Vampire Slayer this year–I didn’t totally love them, but that’s not the important thing.  The important thing is that I was able to read them because I discovered that my local library has a collection of comic books!!

This was truly a thrilling revelation.  Like, not quite as good as discovering that libraries exist and that you can borrow virtually anything from them to read, but pretty close.  I don’t have to be able to afford to buy everything in order to read it!  (Which is fantastic, because comics are expensive, and also, as someone new to the genre I’m still getting caught up and sampling storylines, authors, and artists to find what I like).

Thanks in part to the library’s collection, (but also in part my wallet,

pic of civil war, the shepherd's tale, and the guild: the knights of good

I added these treasures to my personal collection in 2012.

my birthday giftcards, recommendations from comic-savy friends, and the Alan Moore/Batman obsessions of my husband), these are the comics I read in 2012:

Volumes 1-6 of Mind MGMT.

Volumes 1-6 of Mind MGMT.

Mind MGMT is a brand new comic, by Matt Kindt.  The first issue was published in May 2012, but I didn’t read it until July.  (Still, I feel like that is pretty dang close to getting in at the beginning!)  There are six issues so far, but then there’s also a #0 and some digital comics that tell little side-stories, too.  I picked up the first issue because by that time I had started following @DarkHorseComics on twitter, (step 2 in my evolution towards comic book nerd), and I was browsing in the comics section at Hastings, (step 3), and I saw Mind MGMT and remembered all the tweets praising its creativity and depth that I had flicked through in my twitter feed and decided to check it out.  (Good job with your social media marketing, guys!)  It’s about mind control and a secret organization and a novelist hunting down leads on a mysterious case of mass amnesia, and it is worth reading in the monthly format rather than waiting for the trade collection because 1.) it’s an experience that is another step in my evolution towards comic book nerd, and 2.) the story is so dense you get more out of it each time you read it.  The more that is revealed in later episodes, the more significant little things in the first pages are.  And each page has Mind MGMT “field guide” notes in the margin, that add another dimension to the story like tantalizing breadcrumb clues (!).

Becoming hooked on a monthly comic (and resigning myself to happily parting with a few dollars every time a new issue comes out) was a pretty significant step in my comic book reader evolution.  Additional steps I experienced this year included: one time I went to pick up the latest Mind MGMT and they were sold out of the issue I needed!  I had a minor panic attack and rushed home to order it online.  Afterwards I felt like I could legitimately say I had leveled up in the comic-reading world.

Somewhere along the way this year I created accounts to be able to read Marvel, DC, and Dark Horse comics online, and get e-mail updates about new releases.  Another step occurred on a recent trip to Chicago, when I visited not one but two comic book stores, and added some more treasures to my collection.  (I most excited about picking up a trade of  Captain America: The Death of Captain America.)   And finally, now I have an entire shelf devoted to my collection, complete with plastic protective covers and everything!   (Just one shelf, though, for now.  I’m still evolving.)

I solve the DC vs. Marvel quandary by maintaining Dark Horse Comics as my favorite publisher.  They do a lot of television and movie tie-ins, which is how I really started getting into comics in the first place, (Felicia Day’s The Guild comics were some of the first I purchased,) and besides that they publish Mind MGMT.  So, yeah, I’m a Dark Horse girl.

And now it’s time for the next step in my comic-book nerd evolution: what recommendations do you have for me?  What are the classics that you would assign if you were teaching a college literature class devoted to comics?  Or, what is something you’ve read that has an excellent story arc or beautiful illustrations or both?  I know I can get recommendations from goodreads.com or wikipedia or something like that, but I like hearing suggestions from real people on stuff they’ve actually read.

Also, can someone explain to me how canon works with these long-running comic characters?  Like, I know there have been other people besides Bruce Wayne who acted as Batman at different times.  So are they all Batman, like is there a continuous lineage that you can trace and say at different times who Batman’s alter ego is, or do they overlap?  And if there are multiple origin stories, then which one is definitive?  Or are they all canon and you just have to specify whether you’re talking about, for example, Spider-Man in the Marvel Universe or the Marvel Ultimate Universe, etc.?

*update* Okay, so this totally has to count as leveling up again, right?  Legit twitter recognition from my favorite comic publisher?  SQUEE!

14 Comments

Filed under Books, comic books, nerd

“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” Reaction

Now that I have seen The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey twice, I feel able to post a reaction.  I never like to offer an official opinion based solely on a midnight showing, because sleep deprivation or distraction from noticing all the book-to-film changes can cast an unjustified negativity over the whole experience that disappears on a second, well-rested viewing.   (Although with this film, I didn’t really have any criticisms from the first viewing except that it did feel more like watching an extended edition than theatrical; I didn’t mind, but I can see how some critics, especially if they’re not Middle Earth nerds, might argue that it’s too long.)  My second viewing was in IMAX 3D with the high frame rate–I wasn’t wearing one of my home-made beards that time, but it was still an epic experience.

TheHobbit_1024x768_desktop-wallpaper

Although the 48 frames-per-second medium has been getting mixed reviews, I personally thought it was fantastic.  Some critics reported that it looked “too real” or that sets looked fake in the sharp, very clear picture.  I just don’t understand this perspective.  One reviewer said,

“Constructed interiors look much like they do in any of The Hobbit production diaries – like sets. Bilbo’s home has gone from a comfortable and homely Hobbit hole to something quite plasticky, and Rivendell suffers the same fate. In a quest to make his world more real, Jackson has inadvertently drawn our attention to its artifice.”

and

“When The Hobbit looks bad, it looks really bad, chiefly during action sequences where CG creatures are featured against non-CG backdrops. One scene stands out in particular, where a group of CG wargs (giant wolf-like creatures) chase our group of non-CG heroes across a grassy plain. The wargs look like CG wargs, while the dwarves look like Richard Armitage et al running around a….well, a grassy plain.”

I wonder if those criticisms aren’t really more of an audience problem than a flaw in the film itself.  For one thing, I completely disagree about the sets looking fake or “plasticky”, and I’d be very curious to see what this person’s reaction would be if they got the chance to visit the actual Bag End set, because I know they really built an actual Hobbit hole residence that Peter Jackson loved enough to keep and turn into a guest house.  So I’m not sure how, in this case, seeing the incredible detail and craftsmanship that went into that construction, as clearly as if you were there, makes the experience…worse?  I mean if the makeup or costumes or backgrounds were actually sloppy or of inferior quality then yes, seeing the clearer picture in a high frame rate might be a disadvantage, but that’s simply not the case here.  I think it’s wonderful that you can really see and appreciate a lot of those tiny details of painstaking work that you otherwise might not notice.  And as for the comment that you can tell the wargs are CGI, and the dwarves look like actors running around grass, I think that is an indication that this critic is incapable of suspending their disbelief, and maybe doesn’t exercise their imagination very much.  Of course you can tell that the wargs are CGI!  I can tell that Shelob is also CGI in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, but that doesn’t stop her from scaring the crap out of me every time I watch it.  CGI is getting better all the time; it can be crap in some films, but I don’t think that’s the case here.  The trolls, goblins, and Gollum are all excellent.  Maybe the wargs look a bit less realistic, but not enough to distract me from the story.  And I can’t comprehend what this statement that they look like they’re running around “…well, a grassy plain” is supposed to mean.  How is that not totally perfect?  Have these critics never walked around with their iPod playing the Lord of the Rings soundtrack and imagining they’re running across Middle Earth on some epic quest?  Have they never looked at a patch of grass or a group of trees and pictured themselves in the movies’ setting?  What exactly is not good enough for them about these shots where there’s no highway in the background, no train whistles or neighbor’s dogs, no buildings, all of which my imagination is able to block out or transform when I’m walking down the street, if I want to temporarily be an elf?  Basically, I don’t get the people who don’t get 48 fps.  It’s like they expect the movie to do everything for them, and at the same time they don’t want it to do too much.

One of the things I loved about this adaptation, that I hadn’t known I was missing, was the perspective that the dwarves are in a diaspora.  It certainly lends more purpose and heart to their quest, and it’s easier to root for them this way than if they were just going after gold.  And it’s not really an addition, it’s completely justifiable from the text, I just hadn’t ever thought of it that way before.  I absolutely loved the exchange between Bofur and Bilbo, when the hobbit is considering leaving the company because he doesn’t feel like he’s useful or one of them, and he says, “You’re used to this life…never settling in one place, not belonging anywhere.  I’m sorry…” and Bofur just sadly agrees, “No, you’re right.  We don’t belong anywhere,” and wishes him well.  (Also, Bofur’s hat is the same style as Radagast’s, which makes me think it’s not inherently dwarf-style, but Bofur just picked it up somewhere in his wanderings.)  Bilbo’s later declaration that he’s sticking with the dwarves because, “[Bag End]’s where I belong.  That’s home.  You don’t have one.  It was taken from you.  And I will help you take it back if I can,” is a better explicit motivation than inner monologues of “something Tookish woke up inside him,” or “he suddenly felt he would go without bed and breakfast to be thought fierce,” such as we see in the book.

blunt the knives end

I did love the “Blunt the Knives” song sequence, when the dwarves are tossing dishes around, much to Bilbo’s dismay.  In light of the dwarf diaspora perspective, this joyful pastime seems almost sad in a way, like it’s an improvised way to keep a part of their culture alive.  They once mined jewels and pounded silver and gold and mithril into extraordinary creations with rhythmic hammerings, but they don’t have mines anymore.  They don’t have any of that anymore.  They have dishes, forks and knives and feet.  So they stamp them and clash them together, they use whatever they have to keep that rhythmic group effort piece of their culture alive, to link themselves to their proud heritage and to maintain a collective identity even though they are scattered, and in the words of Balin, reduced to “Merchants, miners, tinkers, toymakers.  Hardly the stuff of legend.”  Thorin’s response was one of my favorite lines in the film:

“I would take each and every one of these dwarves over an army from the Iron Hills.  For when I called upon them they answered.  Loyalty, honor, a willing heart–I can ask no more than that.”

Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins was PERFECT.  In every scene.  There’s no other word for that performance; it was perfect.

Am I the only one who automatically, silently quoted The Lord of the Rings movies during the scene when the dwarves narrowly escape the wargs in the secret passage to Rivendell?  When Gandalf shouted, “This way, you fools!” I couldn’t help but think, “Fly, you fools!”  (And by the way, I’m pretty sure that Gandalf shouted for everybody to “RUN!” at least three separate times in this movie.  Oh, Gandalf, you awesome wizard, you sure love bossing people/dwarves/hobbits around!)  And then when the dwarves are in a heap at the bottom of the tunnel they dove into, and the wargs are just outside, and they hear a horn, I can’t help but channel my inner Helm’s Deep Legolas and think, “That is no orc horn!”  Every time.

I read that Peter Jackson cameos as a dwarf running away from Smaug at Erebor, but I’m not sure I caught a glimpse of which one was supposed to be him.

I covet Elrond’s outfits, head to toe.  I want that lovely long straight hair, his silver crown, his beautifully embroidered tunic, and his boots.  Galadriel’s gowns are gorgeous, too.  Galadriel is gorgeous, period.

I didn’t love Radagast.  I mean, I liked him, especially when he was saving the little hedgehog, but it was more like I tolerated his comic-relief “I’m kind of a forgetful pothead” schtick later on.  I probably wouldn’t even be commenting on it except that I had read that Phillipa Boyens thought he would be a fan favorite.  And what are Rastagan (Rastafarian? Rastabad? Radagastan?) Rabbits, and are they really faster than wargs?

One very cool thing towards the end of the credits is a list of names and corresponding languages with the header “Foreign translations of the novel provided by:”  I haven’t been able to find any articles about this, so I’ll have to jot down some of the names the next time I see the movie and look them up individually to be sure, but I think it’s just a list of the people that did the translating work over the years to allow more people to enjoy reading Tolkien’s work.  And if that’s what it is, that’s a terrific show of respect, both for the source material and for the people that have contributed to spreading an adoration for this story, and I love it.

Anyway, now that we’ve seen the first installment, I’m curious whether people’s opinions on splitting the story into three films have changed.  I’m not entirely sure where I stand myself yet; on my first viewing I thought that it did feel a little long, but I’m not sure what I would have cut.  I want to say I’ll wait until all three parts are out to make an official decision, but by then I will have fallen in love with everything that was included and not be willing to make a case for leaving anything out, so I guess my unofficial position is approval.

10 Comments

Filed under Books, movies