Thoughts on Twilight’s Gender-Flip

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

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

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

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

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Alternate Title Suggestions for The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies

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

The Hobbit: More Thranduil Please!

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

The Hobbit: My Strange Addiction: Dragon Sickness

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

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

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

The Hobbit: Only Half Of The Dwarves Get Speaking Roles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Yarn Craft in Catching Fire

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

Readers of the book will know that fashion is a big part of the Capitol audience’s focus surrounding the Hunger Games, and stylists play an important role in the strategy behind a Tribute’s (or Victor’s) public image.  Continue reading

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The Hobbit: Less Desolate On Second Viewing

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

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

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

perfection

perfection

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

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

Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Sherlock Holmes and John Watson

Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Sherlock Holmes and John Watson

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

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the pages that pagelady read in 2013

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

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

Favorite New Reads of 2013:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Good Story-telling

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

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

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

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Catching Fire Opening Night

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Divergent Trailer Is Not Very Divergent

I have become so disillusioned with this series.  I was really into it at first, and I wanted it to become huge partly because I was so “in” from the beginning, but the sequel books didn’t really live up to the promise of the first installment, and although I didn’t hate the last book, (Allegiant), it wasn’t exactly as good as I had been hoping.

Meanwhile, I can’t get excited about this movie adaptation.  Everything about the way they’ve marketed it so far screams “conformity to stereotypical Hollywood tropes and generic YA action movie themes that are the SAME as so many other things!”, which is so ironic given that they’ve simplified the storyline into “Tris is the hero because she’s DIFFERENT!”  Like, look at this poster:

Really, guys, a butt shot?

Really, guys? Really?

This poster makes me absolutely rage.  WHAT IS THIS BUTT POSE AND CAN WE STOP MAKING IT A THING THAT WOMEN DO IN  ACTION MOVIE POSTERS PLEASE!???!!  And other than the birds and the Ferris wheel in the background, what about this poster is actually specific to this story as opposed to almost anything else?  (Hint: nothing).  Then there are the character posters that apparently you don’t get if your character is not in the Dauntless faction because they’re all about “guys, look tattooooos! Doesn’t this make our movie look badass (and one-dimensional?!) Never mind that the original story was partially about struggling with multiple virtues and which one if any should be most highly valued; TATTOOOOOOS!”

So now we have our first official trailer, and it has done nothing to lift my curmudgeonly spirits about this movie:

Theo James is definitely too old to be playing Four.  His American accent is not consistent.  Shailene Woodley as Abnegation Tris is wearing TOO MUCH MAKE-UP!  Yes I know it’s a movie but they didn’t have to go overboard obvious with the mascara and eyeliner before she’s even transferred to Dauntless.  I still don’t like the over-stylization of Four’s back tattoos.

OKAY FINE, I will not be a 100% Negative Nancy, there are some good moments in this trailer.   Like when the Dauntless jump joyously off the train at 0:28, and the fear landscape drowning scene from 0:46-0:55, (although in this cut it looks like it’s the aptitude test), Tris jumping off the roof at 1:15, Four’s intense stare in the knife-throwing scene at 1:39.

If anything, the disappointing path the Divergent movie marketing has taken just makes me more impressed with Catching Fire which has been consistently killing it.  Well, internet, am I the only Initiate not jazzed about this trailer?  What did you think of it?

 

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Trailer Music: X-Men: Days of Future Past vs. Star Trek Into Darkness

A new trailer was released today for X-Men: Days of Future Past.  The first thing I noticed was that the music sounded familiar, and it only took a minute to confirm my suspicions (and boost my music-recognizing-ego); it’s totally the same song that was used for the Star Trek Into Darkness trailer.  It’s a different arrangement and the music in the second halves of the trailers diverge after both have a moment where the music stops completely for a line of significant dialogue to land by itself (“Patience isn’t my strong suit” at 1:24 for X-Men:DoFP and “You think you’re safe…you are not” at 1:04 for STID), but it’s definitely the same song.  Compare:

I like the vocals the in the STID version, but I think I have to give the edge overall to the music in X-Men:DoFP, because the last part of STID‘s music is just “BWAAAAM! BWAAAAM! BWAAAAM!”, but X-Men:DoFP‘s is a lot more musical, if admittedly generic.  What do you think–which trailer uses the music better?

I am not aware of the origin of this song of who wrote it, and I haven’t been able to find any credible information on it yet, but this doesn’t strike me as such an egregious trailer music choice as when Man of Steel used the score from Gandalf’s death scene.  Maybe this is just one of those songs that gets featured in trailers a lot.

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