Tag Archives: things i loved

Things I Liked in Wonder Woman Movie

I have seen the new Wonder Woman film (directed by Patty Jenkins) twice so far, and I love it. Spoiler-y reaction in more detail below:

WW courage2

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Things I Liked about Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

I love that it starts without the traditional scrolling text. This Star Wars story is more urgent, less epic–but not less significant!

I love that the first visual we get is disorienting, planet rings from below half-blocked by the planet’s shadow, and you’re not sure what you’re even looking at until it changes perspective and now we see, ah, there’s the planet, and now the rings and the shadow make sense. Because this film’s story is looking at a series we’re familiar with, but from a very different perspective than we’ve seen before. The other side of the rings!

I love K-2SO. A snarky droid after my own heart!

I love Captain Cassian Andor. He’s dreamy!!

rogue-one-a-star-wars-story-diego-luna-as-cassian-andor-1

my new crush

**spoilery things i loved below**

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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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Thoughts on “The Bling Ring”

I saw Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring last night, and I loved it.  It captures a based-on-real-events drama that, in the director’s words, “is so contemporary, it’s really a story that could only happen today.”

bling-ring group shot

I thought it was both funny and a sad a cultural condemnation, but only because it so brazenly exposed the obsession with superficial values that most of us are implicit in encouraging.   .

What I loved most were the insights through the little things; details like ringleader Rebecca wobbling in her heels when she’s walking away from casually robbing unlocked cars on the street.  And the collage of celebrity pictures cut from magazines that were plastered all over a wall in her room.

I did think it was a little strange (or maybe sad is a better word) that the kids kept referring to gossip blog dlisted.com to find out when celebrities were out of town; I mean, I find it sad that they could be avid readers of dlisted.com, which is written with a very snarky tone towards celebrities, continually mocking them, and not have that attitude alter their idolization of the stars.  Are they just too dumb to realize it’s negative attention, or do they crave and envy the attention to so much they don’t care?  I suspect it’s some of both.  After all, their idol Paris Hilton’s house is decorated seemingly entirely with pictures of herself.  And when they go out clubbing, they seemed only interested in posing for selfie after selfie.  I wish I had been keeping a tally of how many pictures they took of themselves.

Nicki complains that Marc is "stressing me out" when he's worried about security footage of their exploits being on the news.

Nicki complains that Marc is “stressing me out” when he’s worried about security footage of their exploits being on the news.  Because none of them seem capable of processing how their actions might affect anyone else or their own futures, and nothing is more important in this moment than that Nicki not feel the burden of stress.

I laughed at lot throughout the movie, mainly at vapid or unbelievably self-centered dialogue from Emma Watson’s character Nicki.  The actress has talked about how she prepared for the accent partly by watching hours of reality television, and I noticed an awful lot of vocal fry in her lines, which is totally on-point.  I thought she pretty much nailed the accent, except in some of the scenes when she was speaking very quietly her natural accent peeked through a little bit.  Like when her mom asks if she got a new dress at the dinner table and she makes up an answer to cover for the fact that it’s stolen, she drops the -r in “my manager”.  But overall she was very good.  My favorite lines by her included “Your butt looks awesome,” “Let’s go to Paris’s, I wanna rob,” “You’re stressing me out”, and everything in her statement to the press outside the courtroom (“I wanna lead a country one day for all I know”) and in her Vanity Fair interview scene, (“Mom!  Shut up! It’s MY interview!”)

 

But despite all that laughter, I also found much of the film to be incredibly sad, like Marc confessing his constant worry that he wasn’t attractive enough to be liked.  “I know I’m not ugly but I never saw myself as an A-list-looking guy.”  I just wanted to tell him “oh, honey, almost nobody has genes that good, don’t make that the standard you compare yourself to!”  It’s the same heartache from chasing unattainable body-image standards that so many young girls feel trying to look like the photoshopped-into-impossibilities images in magazines.

And in the scene where they break into Lindsey Lohan’s house, and the camera lingers on Rebecca spritzing herself with LiLo’s perfume and admiring herself in the star’s mirror while her eyes fill with tears and Marc’s voice-over states that this was her highlight, all I could think was how utterly sad and pathetic it was that the moment that made her happiest was pretending to be somebody else.  She was an amoral, selfish a-hole, but I still felt bad for her, the emptiness of her dreams, and the futility of trying to adopt an identity that isn’t yours instead of just accepting and being yourself, in that moment.

The scene where Sam flippantly handles the gun that they find under Brian Austin Green and Megan Fox’s bed made me incredibly uncomfortable, because she seems to have absolutely no concept of how dangerous it is, that the instrument she’s holding could permanently maim her friends with the slightest slip, or even kill them.  And she just thinks the fact that Marc is bothered with this realization is funny.  It’s a pretty perfect metaphor for the reckless behavior the Bling Ring kids exhibit throughout the film, with no thought to the possibility of consequences.

And I love that the last shot is a fresh-from-truncated-jail-sentence Nicki, on a talk show, looking straight at the camera and shamelessly self-promoting her website.  She has apparently learned nothing.  But hopefully the audience has.

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Only Six Months Until “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”!

This week we got to see the first trailer for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.  Sometimes I feel like I’m just a puppet of the people who work in movie marketing, because I was totally focused on looking forward to Man of Steel this week and then Catching Fire in the fall, but about five seconds into watching this trailer all I could think about was “December can’t come fast enough! I need to start working on my costume! I need to start thinking of themed snacks I can bring to have while we wait in line for the midnight showing!”  And then I listened to the soundtrack to the first film for the rest of the day and re-watched the trailer dozens of times.  I mean, I’m not complaining, it was a glorious day, I just feel like I’m too easily manipulated into excitement over these things.  But I don’t care!  I love it!

GAH, so exciting, so lovely, so perfect!

Look, there’s Beorn in bear-form!  If you recall, I predicted that the visit to his cabin would be a good place to pick up the storyline for part 2 since it’s a natural refresher for the audience of the names of all the dwarves as they come in two at a time and Gandalf introduces them all to their host.

The barrel ride escape from Mirkwood is definitely being done differently from the book, because they’re not shut inside with lids closed for a silent ride, but honesty it’s going to be a lot more fun to watch this way.  I”m not totally sure why CGI-elves with bows drawn are chasing them, but I’m sure it’s for dramatic effect as I don’t recall Beorn attacking the dwarves in bear-form ever in the book, either.  I am a little more concerned about the elves chasing the barrels only because it’s going to make them look like poor shots when they miss them all, and I like to imagine all my elves with the ridiculously accurate aim that Legolas epitomized in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

I love what we’ve seen so far of the new character of warrior elf Tauriel, played by Evangeline Lily.   (I’ll be posting a preliminary analysis of her braid hairstyle later).  I can’t believe I’m even hearing rumors that some fans are objecting to her inclusion;people saying that do realize that there wouldn’t be a female character other than Galadriel in the whole trilogy if she’s not in it, right?   These movies, like all adaptations are not “the book” but their own version of the story, so just accept it and enjoy it.  Or if you’re going to say Tauriel is non-canonical and shouldn’t be included then you’d better complain about every single other element that’s been changed or added, too.

The peek at the dragon at the end reminds me of Gollum at the end of the first trailer for the first movie.  It’s the exact same format, a sinister scene right after the title.  But it’s a formula that works, and I love it.  I wish we could see more of Smaug’s body, because I need to start figuring out how it might be possible to make a dragon costume to wear to the midnight premiere, but I have a feeling they may want to save the full reveal for the movie.  At least I know what colors to use now, and the full shape of the head which is a lot more to go on than the eyeball shot we got at the end of An Unexpected Journey.

The best thing about this new trailer, though, is that director Peter Jackson shared a youtube video of some fangirls watching it for the first time, and then he posted a video of Evangeline Lily, Orlando Bloom, and Lee Pace in their Mirkwood elves costumes, watching the fangirls reaction and fangirling over the fangirls.  It might be the greatest thing I’ve ever seen.

I honestly think I may have watched the above video more times than I’ve watched the actual trailer so far. I get a vicarious thrill for the fangirls, (sisters who have a webseries called Happy Hobbit), being able to see that the actors truly appreciate their enthusiasm.  (The sisters later posted a reaction-t0-the-reaction, which has been dubbed “Hobbitception“)  The part where they thank Peter Jackson and the actors for watching their video and say “If we can give back an ounce of the joy that you give us through all of your hard work then we’re more than happy to play the part of the fool and have you laugh at us,” reminds me of the sentiment I tried to express when I posted about spending weeks crocheting dwarf beards for last year’s Unexpected Journey, and the part where they squeal “she knows we like her!” in regards to Evangeline Lily/Tauriel is delightful, and when one sister tries to calm the other’s freakout over the fact that Orlando Bloom comments on their attentive faces with “well, we’ve seen his face”, it’s all just pure fangirl gold.

I mean, this might be the only time we see Thanduril smiling, and he’s not only smiling he’s flapping his arms just like I and millions of other fans did when we watched the trailer.

And look at adorable Legolas imitating Smaug!

 

I’m serious, this is my new favorite thing, like, at all.  Of all books and movies and shows and songs that I love, this is my favorite.  Actors fangirling fans fangirling them.  In a Peter Jackson adaptation of Tolkien.  It’s a delight.

 

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The Hobbit: A Meticulously Prepared-For Journey

I did it!  I finished the 13 dwarf beards in time for the midnight premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  It took me five and a half weeks overall, but I didn’t work on them every single day during that time.  I didn’t do much of anything else in my free time, though.   All the hard work was definitely worth it; they looked great, (not 100 percent accurate, but overall pretty close), and wearing them with a big group while in line for the midnight showing was just as much fun for everyone as I had hoped it would be.   This is going to be an image-heavy post, but I’m just so proud of the work I put into this event, I want to be sure it’ s documented.  And if anybody is planning a Hobbit- or Dwarf-themed party, maybe this will give you some ideas.

Kili.  I gave him a goatee because I wasn't sure how to crochet a five o'clock shadow, and I didn't want him to be the only one without a beard section.

Kili. I gave him a goatee because I wasn’t sure how to crochet a five o’clock shadow, and I didn’t want him to be the only one without a beard section.

Fili.  Originally wanted to untangle the yarn on top that is pulled back, because movie-Fili's hair is kind of wavy there, but I ran out of time.  Love his braided mustache.

Fili. Originally wanted to untangle the yarn on top that is pulled back, because movie-Fili’s hair is kind of wavy there, but I ran out of time. Love his braided mustache, and I love this yarn color.

Oin.  some of his mustache strands have craft wire in them.  The lighter gray strands of unbraided mustache on top are actually hot glue-gunned onto the braid beneath them to keep them in that round shape circling the mouth.  I noticed during the film that one of the dwarves had a kind of spiked curl in the back of their head, and I think it was Oin, so I might need to add that for next time.

Oin. some of his mustache strands have craft wire in them. The lighter gray strands of unbraided mustache on top are actually hot glue-gunned onto the braid beneath them to keep them in that round shape circling the mouth. I noticed during the film that one of the dwarves had a kind of spiked curl in the back of their head, and I think it was Oin, so I might need to add that for next time.

Gloin.  I realized after I finished this one that those three small bundles on either side of his mouth should actually be braids, not loops.  Love this color of yarn, though--I used the same color for Nori and Ori, and working with it always made me want to eat a pumpkin muffin, because the color is called Burnt Pumpkin.

Gloin. I realized after I finished this one that those three small bundles on either side of his mouth should actually be braids, not loops. Love this color of yarn, though–I used the same color for Nori and Ori, and working with it always made me want to eat a pumpkin muffin, because the color is called Burnt Pumpkin.

Dwalin.  Couldn't figure out how to add tattoos to the scalp part.

Dwalin. Couldn’t figure out how to add tattoos to the scalp part.

Balin.  I curled the ends of the beard by dipping them in a mixture of water and glue and wrapping them around wax-paper-covered rolls of toilet paper to dry.

Balin. I curled the ends of the beard by dipping them in a mixture of water and glue and wrapping them around wax-paper-covered rolls of toilet paper to dry.

Bifur.  I don't think his beard cuffs got enough silver spray paint, and I didn't manage to figure out how to include the axe head that is supposed to be imbedded in his forehead. Maybe I can work something out by next year.

Bifur. I don’t think his beard cuffs got enough silver spray paint, and I didn’t manage to figure out how to include the axe head that is supposed to be imbedded in his forehead. Maybe I can work something out by next year.

Bofur.  The braids have craft wire in them, and the mustache was formed separately with glue and let dry, then hot glue-gunned onto the upper lip crochet base.  You can't see it in this picture, but he's got another braid hanging down in the back.

Bofur. The braids have craft wire in them, and the mustache was formed separately with glue and let dry, then hot glue-gunned onto the upper lip crochet base. You can’t see it in this picture, but he’s got another braid hanging down in the back.

Bombur.  Hard to tell in this picture but he does have a "bald" spot on top.  I ended up making another ,bigger neck-braid too, but that part was pretty simple.

Bombur. Hard to tell in this picture but he does have a “bald” spot on top. I ended up making another, bigger neck-braid too, but that part was pretty simple. And I know for a fact that Stephen Hunter approved of this creation, because he favorited my tweets of it.

Nori.  Definitely the most complicated design, so I was the most proud of how this one turned out. The cones are crocheted and stuffed with batting.  He's the only one I made eyebrows for, since they had to be braided back into his hair!

Nori. Definitely the most complicated design, so I was the most proud of how this one turned out. The cones are crocheted and stuffed with batting. He’s the only one I made eyebrows for, since they had to be braided back into his hair!

Ori.  This was the first one I added extra yarn "hair" to, and I was originally planning to do this de-tangling of the yarn for all of them, to make them look more like hair.  But it took way too long, so I didn't do it on the rest of them.

Ori. This was the first one I added extra yarn “hair” to, and I was originally planning to do this de-tangling of the yarn for all of them, to make them look more like hair. But it took way too long, so I didn’t do it on the rest of them.  Adam Brown re-tweeted a picture of this, too, so it must have turned out good enough for the real Ori!

Dori.  Had to show off the multiple angles!  This was one of my favorites.  I just think it looks so cool!  I don't have the braids replicated exactly right but I'm pleased with how it turned out.

Dori. Had to show off the multiple angles! This was one of my favorites. I just think it looks so cool! I don’t have the braids replicated exactly right but I’m pleased with how it turned out. The silver cuffs on all of these were made by first squiggling designs with Elmer’s glue onto white cardstock to create texture, then after the glue dried I spray-painted the whole thing silver.  If I had more time I might have tried to match the actual cuff designs, but the random glue squiggles still look pretty cool.

Thorin Oakenshield.  Should have made his braids a bit longer, and I noticed while watching the movie that it looks like maybe he has a bigger braid or two in the back?  But I love the gray streaks that I included at his temples and forehead.

Thorin Oakenshield. Should have made his braids a bit longer, and I noticed while watching the movie that it looks like maybe he has a bigger braid or two in the back? But I love the gray streaks that I included at his temples and forehead.

Our company of dwarves was first in line at our chosen theater, although not all 13 dwarves were there right away.  After the sun went down it was pretty cold, but the beards helped keep our faces warm, and I had arranged for a friend to deliver us hot pot pies, (because it sounded like a hobbit/dwarf-ish food), when there were still about four hours left before the show started.  We also had somebody bring us hot chocolate, which we shared with the people behind us in line.

Themed activities that we did to pass the time (and to give me an excuse to hand out prizes) included an archery contest, (we shot at a goblin target with a toy bow and arrow, and the grand prize was a Kili action figure), a warrior attack contest, (charging at the same goblin target with a chosen fake weapon from our stash and seeing who had the best style), playing a dwarvish rune-based memory game (I made the cards based on the movie’s “dwarvish word of the day” from the facebook page), riddles, and trivia.  And anybody that could correctly name/identify all 13 dwarves got an edible pipe.  We also traded some edible pipes for lembas bread from some elves that were a few groups behind us in line.  We also had an on-going burglary competition, but the caveats were that you had to be wearing your beard at the time and you couldn’t actually steal anything serious.  (The winner ended up being a sneaky little dwarf who drank half of somebody else’s soda before they noticed, and the prize was a Bilbo action figure.)  Other prizes were posters, some of them small ones that I made by cutting up a Hobbit movie calendar–I don’t exactly have an unlimited party-planning budget.

Front and back example of easy-to-make Sting prize; hold it silver-spray-painted side out when all is safe, but flip to blue cardstock/candycane to signal that orcs or goblins are near!

Front and back of Sting prize; hold it silver-spray-painted side out when all is safe, but flip to blue cardstock/candycane to signal that orcs or goblins are near!

Edible pipe, made from brownie cooked in mini-muffin pans with reeses peanut butter cups at the center for the "tobacco."  I stuck pretzel sticks in the reeses when they were still warm so that it would harden around the pretzel, then dipped the "bowl" in almond bark to reinforce it.  A little tedious, but they turned out great!

Edible pipe, made from brownie cooked in mini-muffin pans with reese’s peanut butter cups at the center for the “tobacco.” I stuck pretzel sticks in the reese’s when they were still warm so that it would harden around the pretzel, then dipped the pipe “bowl” in almond bark to reinforce it. Tedious, but they turned out pretty well and they were a hit.

Another snack idea that I thought of but didn’t have time for was stone trolls; I was going to make rice crispies and cut them out using a gingerbread-man cookie cutter, then dip them in white chocolate almond bark with a little bit of candy food coloring to make it gray, so that they resembled Bill, Tom, and Bert after they were turned into stone.  I thought about dipping all but their feet and calling it “Trolls at Sunrise,” but I didn’t end up having time to do any of it, and that’s not a snack that will be appropriate next year for part 2 since the trolls are only in part 1.  I can re-use the pipes and candy-cane Stings ideas, though.

Ori enjoys an edible pipe.

Ori enjoys an edible pipe.

Fili sneaks up on the goblin for a surprise attack with a glowing Sting, (which I got over at thinkgeek.com).

Fili sneaks up on the goblin for a surprise attack with a glowing Sting, (which I got over at thinkgeek.com).  I painted the goblin based on the Grinnah action figure.

The Dwarven rune-based memory game cards; basically I copied the runes, pronunciation guides and meanings provided by the official Hobbit movie facebook page, and found pictures to match the meanings. I put the runes and the pronunciation on the cards with the pictures too so that anybody could make a match regardless of previous rune knowledge. The cards are printed on colored cardstock so that you can't see through them when they're flipped over to cheat, and laminated to make them more durable.

The Dwarven rune-based memory game cards; basically I copied the runes, pronunciation guides and meanings provided by the official Hobbit movie facebook page, and found pictures to match the meanings. I put the runes and the pronunciation on the cards with the pictures too so that anybody could make a match regardless of previous rune knowledge. The cards are printed on colored cardstock so that you can’t see through them when they’re flipped over to cheat, and laminated to make them more durable.

I’m definitely going to save the beards for next year when part 2 comes out, although personally I’d like to go to that one in a Smaug costume if I can, although I have no idea at this point where to begin crafting on that.  I’ll probably tweak the beards to improve them before then anyway, especially now that I’ll have a lot more reference pictures from multiple angles to work with from the first film.  And we didn’t have a Bilbo or a Gandalf this year, so maybe they can be added as well.

13 dwarves wearing pagelady's beard creations at the theater for the midnight showing of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

13 dwarves wearing pagelady’s beard creations and 3D glasses in the theater for the midnight showing of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

This project was a lot of work, and sometimes it seemed ridiculous or frustrating that I was putting so much effort into something that might seem silly or fleeting.  But if you watched the Hobbit production videos like I did, you have an idea of how much work by how many people goes into making these movies that we love.  And I think this is the best way to honor and appreciate the hard work that those people did–not just Peter Jackson and the cast, but also the people who did make-up, lighting, sound editing, digital enhancements, and every little step along the way, for months and months–by putting in a lot of hours myself to enjoy experiencing their work to the fullest.

And the highlight of the night for me was when the official Hobbit movie twitter account acknowledged all my hard work with a “so great!” stamp of approval.

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Re-Playing The Hobbit

This Saturday (September 22) was “Hobbit Day,” the shared birthday of Frodo and Bilbo Baggins.  I might not have noticed, but the marketing for the movie The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey made a big deal out of it being “Tolkien Week,” releasing a new trailer and asking via their facebook page what people were doing to celebrate Hobbit Day.  Since it was a Saturday and I’m always up for a random reason to celebrate, (I once threw an elvish party on Orlando Bloom’s birthday, and an Australia-themed party on Australia Day which involved watching movies set down under), I decided to celebrate by eating second breakfast and playing the Vivendi Universal video game The Hobbit on Gamecube.

pic of video game cover

I may have slept in too late to have what could really be considered “second breakfast,” but it at least counted as “elevensies.”  And I did manage to play The Hobbit up to the “Riddles in the Dark” chapter, so I covered nearly as much ground as I predict the first film will.  Plus I was barefoot, so, it was a pretty good Hobbit Day.  Could have used more theme foods, but maybe next year I’ll have more time to prepare.

I was excited about re-playing The Hobbit because I remembered it fondly as my favorite video game, the first RPG that I played all the way through.  (I didn’t grow up with any gaming consoles, so until college I only played snippets at friends’ houses.)  In re-playing I discovered that it isn’t quite so perfect, but still very enjoyable, with the best video-game music I’d heard before I played Skyrim.  The game music for The Hobbit actually won “Best Original Soundtrack of the Year” in 2004.

The drawbacks to this game that I either forgot or didn’t recognize the first time I played include not having any maps to refer to, so if you stray from the courage-point-gemstone-led path it’s very easy to become lost for extended periods of time.  I guess Bilbo didn’t have a map for all of his burgling either, but I was jumping to a ledge so I could fight some goblins to get to the next save pedestal in a cave, and missed, sliding down the cave wall to a level below.  It took at least thirty minutes to find my way up again without a map or courage points leading the way.  It was extremely frustrating, and leads me to another drawback of this game-not enough save pedestals!  Maybe that’s just supposed to be part of the challenge, but you can’t save unless you’re at a save pedestal, and sometimes they are few and far between, meaning I had to keep re-killing the same goblins over and over and jumping up and down the same paths because I would die before I could reach the next save opportunity.  Also annoying is the fact that you can’t go back and re-play a level; when you get to the end of a level your stats tell you if you missed any chests, coins, or loot, but you can’t tell while you’re in the level if you’ve found them all or not and you can’t go back to re-play once you find out you’ve missed some.  (Maybe that is just another challenge and I’m too accustomed to relying on game hints).  Finally, the camera angles are super-irritating; they change in the middle of your movements and make it difficult to maneuver since the joystick direction depends on the camera angle.  If you’re in a corner it’s sometimes impossible to get the camera behind you to look ahead, and you have to sort of jump blind or at an awkward view and hope you don’t miss.

The things that I love about this game far outweigh the frustrations, (except in those moments where I am being defeated by some foe or falling off an edge, in which case I temporarily scream that it sucks, until I go back and vanquish the same foe or difficult jump and then I’m back to thinking it’s awesome.  So maybe I am not the most emotionally stable and rational person when I’m playing a game.)  I love that the tone is a light-hearted, yet at times dangerous adventure, just like the book.   The music does a lot to help set the tone, and as I’ve mentioned it is fantastic.  I love that part of the game is solving puzzles, sneaking around and “picking locks”, like a good Hobbit burglar.

picture of lock picking in game

To pick a lock in game, you have to hit the button as the moving pieces line up with the green. More difficult locks have more pieces to get right, and there is always a timer. Some locks are poisonous, and if you hit the button at the wrong time or run out of time your health suffers. Of course, those chests tend to have better loot.

I love that you can use your walking staff to sort of pole-vault into a long jump, and you don’t immediately drown if you hit the water.  (You can’t swim, but sometimes you can hop out or onto a rock if you’re fast enough.  If it’s too deep, you die rather gruesomely–poor Biblo struggles and then leans his head back, eyes closed, and opens his mouth when he drowns.)  I love that you can climb, up some cliffs if they have vines hanging, and you can hang on ledges by your fingertips and creep along them scooting one hand at a time while hanging.  I love that you get to use Sting as light in dark caves, and use the Ring to sneak invisibly past foes after you acquire it.  (The Ring has a time limit, which is good because otherwise the second half of the game would hardly be a challenge).  I love the choices in weapons–you start out with just your walking staff, but later acquire throwing rocks and the sword Sting.  The staff has a longer reach, Sting does more damage, and the rocks are a distance weapon.  Sometimes you can use flaming or freezing rocks for special attacks.

I’m currently at a stage in the game where I’m trying to sneak past and/or fight goblins, and it made me realize how differently I think of the same “type” of creatures within different stories.  In The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, goblins are the enemy, they’ll kill you if you don’t kill them.  But in the Harry Potter universe, goblins run the wizard bank Gringotts.  They have an uneasy history with wizards, but they aren’t goons grunting around in caves.  And in The Hobbit, there’s a whole company of heroic dwarves, while dwarves are hardly mentioned in Harry Potter.  There are several dwarves in The Chronicles of Narnia, but I don’t remember any goblins.  It’s funny how some fantasy elements are universals, but still re-defined in each story.

To give you an idea of what gameplay in The Hobbit looks like, here’s video of someone playing part of the first level, “An Unexpected Party.”  The music for this part in the Shire might be my favorite in the whole game.

I expect there will be new Hobbit video games made in the next few years to go along with the movies, but I think I’ll always prefer this version.  Despite the drawbacks, it’s truly a delight to play.

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Clash of Kings Book Reaction

I actually finished reading Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin two weeks ago, but I haven’t had a good chance to sit down and compose my thoughts, reactions and predictions until now.  (The beginning of the semester is always a little hectic).  Like it’s predecessor, this book is so long and dense it’s a little overwhelming to dissect, and I’m resigned to the fact that I’ll probably forget to include some crucial plot twist or character dynamic in this post.  Although, my system of marking noteworthy passages was much better organized this time.  I used different colors for characters, quotes, cultural clues, and prophecies:

I have not started reading Storm of Swords yet, because I really wanted to write down what I was thinking and feeling about the series at this point before moving on.  You only get to read something for the first time once.  Also, once I’m caught up to what has been published so far I’ll still have to wait an agonizing few years before the last two books come out, so I might as well savor the journey I have ahead of me.

Characters:

Arya: Still totally love this girl.  She is probably my favorite character so far, (followed closely by Jon Snow with Tyrion in third place).  She is so strong-willed, determined, and smart, and she is probably one of the only one in her family who could endure and survive what she has been through.  I liked that she spent this entire book masquerading as a peasant, too, because every main character is high-born (or at least a bastard raised in privilege) and I was starting to wonder what life must be like for the common people.  Whenever the narrative describes these elaborate, jewel-encrusted outfits that Cersei wears I think, how long did it take some seamstress to make that?  It’s not like they have sewing machines, and they’d have to make or acquire all the fabric and materials, and it would take months or years and that would be their whole life, sewing sewing sewing all day long till their backs and fingers ached.  Or what about these guardsmen, standing around in front of a door all day, loyal to one family and getting killed because of the other families that don’t like the family you serve, and it has nothing to do with you except that you had the misfortune to not be born to a lord.

Arya, aka Nymeria “Nan”, page to Roose Bolton at Harrenhal.

Davos: Davos is so far the closest thing to a lowborn main character.  I mean he actually was lowborn, but now he has a title.  I liked his not-from-privilege perspective and I thought he was honorable, but I wish he would be more concerned with his sons’ futures than just hoping they’ll have higher stations.  He should be instilling some of that code of honor into them–what good will a lordship be if they grow up to be horrible?  They seem foolish and overly enamored with power.  Also, I think it’s kind of funny, but mostly gross, that Davos carries his severed fingertips around with him.  Fingertips: the new rabbit’s foot?  I guess both are pretty morbid.

Theon: I hate Theon.  I hadn’t really thought about him much at all during Game of Thrones, so when I started reading the first chapter from his perspective I was like, “yay, another new p.o.v!”, but two pages in, when I saw what a misogynist pig he is, I was like, NOPE!  Shut it down.  Not fangirling over this jerk.  Then of course I thought it was hilarious when he accidentally hit on his sister.  That’s what you get, Theon, for treating women like crap!  I guess I felt a teeny bit bad for him when he wasn’t accepted by his father the way he thought he would be, but really, he just waltzes in expecting praise and responsibility and he hasn’t really done anything to earn anything.  He’s a spoiled brat, and basically everything he did this book make me continue to dislike him, (hello, taking over Winterfell, fake-killing Bran and Rickon, actual-killing two innocent peasants?!), but when I ranted to my friends that have read ahead of me about how much I hate Theon they said, “he’s confused, he’s torn between his father and Robb!”  I certainly didn’t see any confusion from him in this book, so I’m guessing he must have some more character development to come.  But at this point I really hate him, so if I end up defending or loving him later, it had better be because he does some majorly redemptive rescuing of some other character or something.

Catelyn: I am getting really tired of Mrs. Stark.  For most of her chapters I was wanting to shake her and shout, “Get your ass back to Winterfell!” Her four-year-old misses and needs her desperately, her other son is having to deal with adjusting to life without he use of his legs and she hasn’t even seen him since he was still in a coma!  She doesn’t even act like she cares, she just says “Oh yes I miss my kids at Winterfell but I have to stay here with Robb, he needs me more,” when the truth is she wants to be wherever she thinks she can personally wield the most power and influence.  If she were honest about her ambition I might not find it so annoying, although I would still think she’s a bad mother for abandoning her youngest and most vulnerable children, (and look how that turns out for them, by the way!  Who needs you more now, Cat?!)  I wish we could get Robb p.o.v. chapters instead of Catelyn.

Tyrion: This was totally Tyrion’s book.  I loved seeing how clever he was at the manipulation and diplomacy involved in running a kingdom.  His plans kept falling into place so perfectly that I started worrying about the inevitable downfall when everything would come crashing down.  I really thought something bad was going to happen to Shae, and I guess it still might.  I’m extremely curious to see what becomes of Tyrion now that his father has returned to take over the job of Hand of the King.  I was cheering for him when he rode out into batle, though.   Poor guy, getting his face cut up, like he needed another physical deformity!  Tyrion definitely creept up the list of my favorite characters during this book.  I want to see him get married and have kids–he would be such a good dad!  And I want him to be happy.

Daenerys: I’ve decided that Dany’s chapters are primarily interesting for the cultural descriptions, (of the Dothraki, Qarth, the merchant shipyard, etc.), but not so much for her character.  Maybe she will grow to be more compelling later, but for now I’m like, “Hey cool, you have dragons!  And…not much else.”

Bran: I tend to forget about Bran until I get to one of his chapters, and then I remember that I totally love him and feel bad that I’d forgotten about him.  I was so proud of the way he carried the responsibilities of Winterfell lordship in his mother and older brother’s absence.  I’m heartbroken for his broken legs and broken dreams of fighting and becoming and knight, and I’m loving this whole wolf-warg business, mostly because he still gets to experience running and moving independently that way.  When Jojen said Bran was the winged wolf who would never fly, I started to worry that Bran wouldn’t survive to the end of the book, and I almost held my breath from the time Theon put those decapitated heads up to the time it was revealed they weren’t really Bran and Rickon.  Maybe, (hopefully), Jojen’s vision just meant that Bran would never walk again.  (Please don’t die, Bran!)  I do wonder, if Bran wargs into Summer’s brain right before he died, would he continue to live on in the wolf form?  It seems like that’s what happened to the wildling guard Jon killed towards the end:

On a rock above them, the eagle flapped its wings and split the air with a scream of fury.

“The bird hates you, Jon Snow,” said Ygritte.  “And well he might.  He was a man, before you killed him.”

Jon: Speaking of Jon, who discovered in this book that he, too can warg into his direwolf, he continues to make me say “awww!” in a high, adoring/pitying pitch when I read about his bravery, loyalty, and noble character.  His is a difficult path.  When Mormont needled him about his brother being King while Jon could never leave the Watch, I loved his response:

“What will you do?” Mormont asked, “Bastard as you are?”

“Be troubled,” said Jon, “and keep my vows.”

I love Jon’s sword, Claw.  I know he got it in the last book, but I think I forgot to mention it in my previous post.  I still love his friendship with Sam, and I know that even if all the other watchmen believe Jon has betrayed them, Sam will always believe he’s still loyal.   (I really love Sam, too.  I love how gentle and well-meaning he is, telling Gilly that surely Jon can help her, teaching his ravens how to talk).  I loved that Jon spared Ygritte, and that his squad leader probably based his decision to give Jon the most difficult mission of joining the wildlings in part based on that act, (my conjecture).  When Jon asks why he was commanded to kill the girl, Qhorin say:

“I did not command it.  I told you to do what needed to be done, and left you to decide what that would be.”  Qhorin stood and slid his longsword back into its scabbard.  “When I want a mountain scaled, I call Stonesnake.  Should I need to put an arrow through the eye of some foe across a windy battlefield, I summon Squire Dalbridge.  Ebben can make any man give up his secrets.  To lead men you must know them, Jon Snow.  I know more of you now than I did this morning.”

I’m still sticking to my theory about Jon’s real parents, but I put this book’s revelations on that front below in the Prophecies and Predictions section.

Sansa: I liked Sansa better in this book than Game of Thrones, because she finally realized the Lanniester suck and started acting more like a Stark.  Too late, of course, because she’s trapped there now, but at least she’s wishing she wasn’t.  That’s an improvement.  And I like that she is resistant but still a lady–I mean, she has to keep dressing fancily and making appearances and keeping proper court manners, but not everybody would be able to carry on and maintain composure in that situation.  She isn’t a warrior like her sister, but she does poses great strength, and I like the contrast between the two forms of strong females.  I also love her “Florian,” but I’m afraid he’s pretty much worthless, except to keep her hopes alive.   Oh, and poor girl, traumatized by her first period because she’s afraid she’ll have to marry Joffrey, (which she now doesn’t have to do, *phew*), I felt so bad for her, but also laughed a little bit:

“The blood is the seal of your womanhood.  Lady Catelyn might have prepared you.  You’ve had your first flowering, no more.”

Sansa had never felt less flowery.  “My lady mother told me, but I…I thought it would be different.”

“Different how?”

“I don’t know.  Less…less messy, and more magical.”

Sansa becomes a woman.

Jojen Reed: thank goodness, a green-eyed character who is not evil!  I was worried when I read his description that he would be another Lannister-type villain.  Even better-his prophetic visions are called “greensight.”  I’ll take all the posotive green-eyed connotations I can get!  I really like his sister, Meera, too; she is now Arya’s main competition for the character in this series I would most like to be.

Cersei and Jamie and Joffrey Lannister: they still suck.  Carry on.

The Hound: I’m still fluctuating, but I think overall I like him more in this book than I did in Game of Thrones.  His best moment for me in Clash of Kings was when he saved Sansa from the mob.  I also liked when he talks back to Joffrey, and that he refused knighthood.  But what exactly was he planning when he waited in Sansa’s bedchambers?  And why does he seem to be drunk all the time?  I know patricide is awful, but I kind of hope he kills his brother.  Because Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane needs to die, and I think The Hound would get the most catharsis from it.

Jaqen H’ghar: Loved him, by the end, because of the way that he helped my favorite character.  Very intrigued about his background and abilities.  Hopefully we will see more of him.  Valar morghulis.

Hodor: Hodor!  Hodor hodor, hodor hodor.  Hodor?!  Hodor!  Hodor.

Quotes and Cultural Things I Loved:

Winter is coming, and it’s going to be fierce because this summer has lasted:

Ten years, two turns, and sixteen days it lasted, the longest summer in living memory.

We learned a lot more in this book about the religion of The Seven, as well as the Lord of Light and the Drowned God.  We learned a little about the old gods, too, and the children of the forest.  I think I’ll save an analysis of all those religions for a separate post, though, since this one is already pretty long.  I also marked all the different ways people referred to the comet, so I can post about that later too.

These were some of the quotes I liked in this book, with pages numbers from the paperback edition I was reading, (ISBN 978-0-553-57990-1):

“Power resides where men believe it resides.  No more and no less.” -Varys, p. 132

“When we speak of the morrow nothing is ever certain.” -Ser Rodrick, p. 257

“To Winterfell we pledge the faith of Greywater.  Hearth and heart and harvest we yield up to you, my lord.  Our swords and spears and arrows are yours to command.  Grant mercy to our weak, help to our helpless, and justice to all, and we shall never fail you.”  –Jojen and Meera Reed, p. 329

“That’s pretty.”  He remembered Sansa telling him once that he should say that whenever a lady told him her name.  -Jon Snow, p. 370

His stunted legs might make him a comic grotesque at a harvest ball, but this dance he knew. –Tyrion re:playing Cersei’s manipulative games, p. 450

“We can only die.  Why else do we don these black cloaks, but to die in defense of the realm?” -Qhorin, p. 632

Jaqen made me brave again.  he made me a ghost instead of a mouse. -Arya, p. 681

Tears filled Bran’s eyes.  When a man was hurt you took him to a maester, but what could you do when your maester was hurt? -p. 967

WTF Moments:

I mean, Melisandre giving birth to Stannis’ assassin shadow.  That’s the main one.  It’s the only one I can think of right now.  I did not see that coming, at all.  I mean I knew she was up to something sinister but I never would have guessed it would take that form.  It was…a WTF moment.  There is no other way to describe it.

I share your shock and revulsion, Davos.

Prophecies and Predictions:

I’m not really sure what all the visions that Dany saw in the House of the Undying Ones mean, but I marked them all so I could check back later to see if they end up making more sense eventually.  Like, could this one be talking about Ned Stark, whose sigil was the direwolf, who was led like a lamb to his slaughter?

Farther on she came upon a feast of corpses….In a throne above them sat a dead man with the head of a wolf.  He wore an iron crown and held a leg of lamb in one hand as a king might hold a sceptor and his eyes followed Dany with mute appeal.

Then she saw the bit about the Targaryean baby, and that has to be significant somehow because they mention the name of the series, “song of ice and fire.”

Viserys, was her first thought the next time she paused, but a second glance told her otherwise.  The man had her brother’s hair, but he was taller, and his eyes were a dark indigo rather than lilac.  “Aegon,” he said to the woman nursing a newborn babe in a great wooden bed.  “What better name for a king?”

“Will you make a song for him?” the woman asked.

“He has a song,” the man replied.  “He is the prince that was promised, and his is the song of ice and fire.”  He looked up when he said it and his eyes met Dany’s, and it seemed as if he saw her standing there beyond the door.  “There must be one more,” he said, though whether he was speaking to her or the woman in the bed she could not say.  “The dragon has three heads.”  He went to the window seat, picked up a harp, and ran his fingers lightly over its silvery strings.  Sweet sadness filled the room as man and wife and babe faded like the morning mist, only the music lingering behind to speed her on her way.

It seems like its gotta be referring to Rhaegar Targaryean and his firstborn Aegon by his wife Elia of Dorne, but as Ser Jorah says when Dany tells him about the vision,

“If [Aegon] was this prince that was promised, the promise was broken along with his skull when the Lannisters dashed his head against a wall.”

My theory about Rhaegar being Jon Snow’s true father could mean that Jon is actually “the prince that was promised,” but then I’m not sure what the meaning of this vision was.  Did Rhaegar misinterpret a prophecy?  Where did this “promise” come from, anyway?  What is this business of the three heads?  And does the fact that he plays a harp tie him to Ygritte’s tale about Bale the Bard, so is it all just a cycle that keeps repeating and the vision is not meant to represent exactly how it happened?

The tale of Bale the Bard definitely supports my theory about Jon being Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark’s son.  The blue winter roses!  They’re everywhere!  In Game of Thrones, Ned kept seeing them in his flashbacks of Lyanna, and she wore a crown of them in her crypt statue, and Rhaegar gave her a boquet of them at that joust before he supposedly kidnapped her.  Well, in the Bard’s tale, (which is called the SONG O’ THE WINTER ROSE, by the way!) Bale sings so beautiful for the then-lord of Winterfell that he is told he can choose his own reward.  Then, in Ygritte’s words:

“All I ask is a flower,” Bael answered, “the fairest flower that blooms in the gardens o’ Winterfell.

Now as it happened the winter roses had only then come into bloom, and no flower is so rare nor precious.  So the Stark sent to his glass gardens and commanded that the most beautiful o’ the winter roses be plucked for the singer’s payment.  And so it was done.  But when morning come, the singer had vanished, and so had Lord Brandon’s maiden daughter.  Her bed they found empty, but for the pale blue rose that Bael had left on the pillow where her head had lain.”

The story continues, as the father searches for his daughter to no avail, but a year later she shows up in her room with a baby, and it turns out they were hiding in the crypts beneath Winterfell all along.  (Then the story gets sad and  bloody and I think involves a Bolton ancestor who flays the grown-up baby.)

I’m telling you, these blue winter roses are significant…somehow.

So, similarities to the Rhaegar/Lyanna theory: a Stark maiden is supposedly abducted but might actually love the guy, and has a baby, and blue winter roses are significant.  When I type it out that way it doesn’t sound like such a strong argument, but the roses…the similarities…it’s got to be significant!  When Jon refuses to believe Bael’s story, calling him a liar, Ygritte responds with, “a bard’s truth is different than yours or mine.”  So maybe it won’t be clear what the meaning of these parallels are until later.

But then, we do find out that Bran and his entourage escape Theon Greyjoy by hiding in the crypts of Winterfell, while everyone goes searching far and wide outside the grounds for them!  Just like Bael and the young lady Stark, in the song!

This is totally giving me Battlestar Galactica flashbacks: All of this has happened before, and all of it will happen again!

One last, minor prediction: I think that Varys can warg, possibly into that old cat that has been around King’s Landing forever.  It would make a lot of sense as to how he is able to somehow know everything about everybody else’s business if he spies on them in animal form.  I suspect that cat just because it has been mentioned several times.  They call Varys “the spider” but do spiders even have ears?  If he warged into an insect could he really see very much?  (Although, I guess it worked for Rita Skeeter in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire!)

How I Felt At The End:

What is to become of my poor Starks, scattered to the winds?  The winds of the WINTER that is coming?!  Arya needs to rip that flayed man emblem off her tunic, because the Boltons are bad news.  As much as I hope she and her small posse make it quickly to Riverrun, I’m afraid the fact that her direwolf Nymeria is still running wild and unaccounted for is prophetic of Arya’s fate to remain separated from her family and on her own.  Jon is with the wildlings now, and had to kill a night’s watch brother to join!  I was so happy when he spared Ygritte, and I hoped she wouldn’t betray him later.  Well, I guess she’s probably part of the reason he’s still alive now, but I’m already worried about how he’s ever going to get back to his brothers, and whether they’ll believe he didn’t really betray them, and I’m worried about how lonely he’s going to be, unable to really trust anyone.  What’s going to happen to Bran?!  His optimism closes the book, but all I feel is anxiety.  He and Rickon have loyal helpers but they are such small groups, if anyone finds them they are pretty much screwed.  Their biggest protection is their direwolves, but that’s not going to help them if they run into one of the armies wandering around the country!

Writing this post has definitely re-ignited my desperate obsession with this series.  I’m off to start Storm of Swords!  Do NOT spoil it for me!

WINTER IS COMING!!!!  FOR REAL THIS TIME!

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My Reaction to the Book “Game of Thrones”

So.  This book, the first in George R. R. Martin series A Song of Ice and Fire, has been on my to-read list for over a year.  I saw the “first look” in Entertainment Weekly when they started filming the television show adaptation, and I immediately thought “this looks like something I would like.”  But I haven’t seen the show yet, because I wanted to read the books first.  And I kept putting off the books because they are so long, I had other things I wanted to read first, and I knew that once I started I would probably get sucked into a new obsession that would take over my life.  And that is exactly what happened.  I gave it 5 stars, and I am now completely obsessed with this fictional world and its inhabitants,eager to devour thousands more pages.  Four more of the planned seven books are already published, so I’m sure have plenty of glorious plot twists ahead of me.  I can’t wait!

I managed to stay fairly spoiler-free by meticulously avoiding clicking on anything remotely related to the books or show and plugging my ears and humming to myself whenever people around me would talk about it.  My vigilance paid off, because I was able to fully appreciate all the unexpected twists and the roller-coaster emotions that I felt towards the characters throughout the book.  I hope I can stay spoiler-free until I’ve caught up on the series, and I don’t want to ruin it for anybody else, so look away now if you haven’t yet read Game of Thrones!  Because the rest of this post will contain **SPOILERS**!!!

The prose sucked me in immediately. This was my face for the first few chapters, giddy over the incredibly rich detail of this fantasy world and the intrigue of the characters’ relationships.

I’d have to say my favorite character was Lord Eddard “Ned” Stark, but whenever I was reading a chapter from Jon Snow or Arya Stark’s perspective, they were my favorite.  And then towards the end I really fell in love with Robb Stark, too.  And of course I love Bran!  I guess I loved everyone while I was reading from their point of view, but I connected with Catelyn Stark and Daenerys Targaryen the least.  And while I like Tyrion Lannister’s humor and sympathize with his difficult past, he’s a little slimey and morally ambiguous, nothing like the noble Lord Stark.   I like Tyrion best of all the Lannisters, but that’s not saying much.

Oh, the Lannisters.  I knew at the first physical description of Cersei, her brother Jamie, and her son Joffrey that they would be unlikeable, yet another example of the annoying “evil” green eyes stereotype.  This is how they were introduced, promenading into the great hall of Winterfell in a chapter from Jon’s perspective:

His lord father had come first, escorting the queen.  She was as beautiful as men said.  A jeweled tiara gleamed amidst her long golden hair, its emeralds a perfect match for the green in her eyes.

.

Prince Joffrey had his sister’s hair and his mother’s deep green eyes.

.

Ser Jamie Lannister was twin to Queen Cersei; tall and golden, with flashing green eyes and a smile that cut like a knife.

There were other clues besides their eye color that the Lannisters weren’t going to be the heroes, but about 30 pages after reading these descriptions and predicting that these particular characters would be especially “bad” somehow, I was proved very, sickeningly correct.  This was my face when I found out about the incestuous relationship between Jamie and Cersei, just before they pushed Bran out the window so he couldn’t tell anyone he had seen them together:

I made the same face when Cersei told Ned that she and Jamie were “one person in two bodies.”  I don’t care if the Targaryens marry siblings too, it’s…sick.

If I had to rank the Lannisters from most evil to most humane, I guess it would be:

  1. Tywin-because of how he treats his family, particularly Tyrion and his wife.  That was awful.
  2. Jamie-because he is a kingslayer, a vow-breaker, an incestuous creep and he pushes Bran out the window.
  3. Joffrey-if he is allowed to rule much longer he’ll surpass Jamie in evil-ness. He hasn’t had as many chances to display his darkness.
  4. Cersei-she’s mean, cheats on her husband (with her brother!) she has it in for Ned, but she doesn’t want to kill him.  She really seems to loves her children.  Unfortunately her children suck, partly because of her.
  5. Tyrion-his main fault is being a loyal Lannister.  And he’s completely self-serving, I think.  He cares more about others than anyone else in his family, but he’ll still do whatever is best for him.

I liked the way the book continually switched between several characters’ point of view; it definitely pulled me deeper into the story because I not only got to understand multiple sides, but at the end of each chapter I immediately wanted to know what happened next for that character, and I’d have to read five or six more chapters before I got back to them.  There are really no good stopping points, there’s no time that you’re not desperate for  at least three storylines to be followed up.  I also really appreciated the narrative choice to shield the reader from witnessing the goriest action; for example, the chapters immediately following King Robert’s death are told from the perspective of Arya and Sansa, and we know that people are being killed and things are very bloody but the only death we witness is of the boy in the barn, and when Sansa walks to the courtroom later she averts her eyes from the bodies strewn about the castle grounds.  Then when Robb is in battle against Jamie Lannister, we’re sitting in the trees with Catelyn, waiting for it to be over.  The violence is there but we’re mostly spared the graphic details.

Learning about the Dothraki language and culture was what I found most interesting about Dany’s chapters; I didn’t really care for the Princess herself.  I mean I feel bad for her, but she’s somehow not as compelling to me.  The Dothraki were fascinating, but I would be terrified to actually meet one.  I wish there were more examples of their language, but I guess that’s something to look forward to when I watch the show.  Linguist David Peterson is the Dothraki consultant for HBO, and as soon as I’m able I’m going to check out his Dothraki website.  My impression of Peterson is that he’s way cooler and nicer than Paul Frommer, the linguist who created Na’vi and Barsoomian.  Frommer comes off in interviews as condescending and uninterested in interacting much with conlang fans or revealing too much about his work, so that he’s always the one who knows the most.  Peterson seems like a fellow enthusiastic language nerd, and he tweeted his agreement with my Dothraki analysis back at me when I said:

That was based on this passage, when Dany eats the heart of a stallion at Vaes Dothrak:

Khalakka dothrae mr’anha!” she proclaimed in her best Dothraki.  A prince rides inside me!  She had practiced the phrase for days with her handmaid Jhiqui.

The oldest of the crones, a bent and shriveled stick of a woman with a single black eye, raised her arms on high.  “Khalakka dothrae!” she shrieked.  The prince is riding!

He is riding!” the other women answered.  “Rakh!  Rakh!  Rakh haj!” they proclaimed.  A boy, a boy, a strong boy.

Speaking of language, I wish there was a pronunciation guide for all these names!  How am I supposed to know which vowel the ‘y’ happens to be representing this time?  My friends that have watched the show keep correcting my pronunciations, and it’s frustrating because English already has a ridiculously inconsistent spelling system and I feel like I’m making reasonable assumptions, then I’m told I’m saying it “wrong.”  I didn’t know Catelyn was “Cat-uh-lihn,” not “Kate-lihn.”  I didn’t know Lysa was “Lai-zuh,” not “Lee-suh.”  I didn’t know Rickon was “Rih-kun,” not “Rai-kan.”

Oh well, maybe pronunciation is to me as needlework is to Arya.  I love Arya, for her spunk, her un-lady-likeness, her courage, her fierceness, for standing up against Joffrey in defense of the butcher’s boy, for.  I love her “dance lessons” with Syrio.  I hope she’s okay in disguise as a boy with Yoren.  I’m not sure I trust Yoren, but it’s better that he found her and is helping hide her than the despicable Lord Varys or the selfish Petyr Baelish.

My feelings for “The Hound” Sandor Clegane, with a tragically burnt face like one of my all-time favorite characters, Prince Zuko, yet a sworn sword to the evil House Lannister, can best be described by this chart:

My feelings towards Sansa fluctuated throughout the book as well.  At first I thought she was just annoying, and rolled my eyes at the prim and boring counterpart to my beloved, wild Arya.  I know she’s just trying to be a “proper” lady and that she wanted Joffrey to like her, but I was so angry when she wouldn’t back up Arya’s version of the confrontation with the Prince.  I guess Sansa paid for it by losing her direwolf, and now she’s paying very dearly for her moment of stupidity when she betrayed her father to the Queen.  I can’t hate her for it though because she’s a child and didn’t know the full situation, and I’m starting to like her a lot better now that she’s realized what a prick Joffrey is and is having fantasies about pushing him off of high towers.  If only she had Arya’s gumption, she might actually do it.

Then there’s Robb.  I think part of the reason it took me longer to become attached to Robb was that there were no chapters told from his perspective.  At the beginning I thought he and Jon were rivals, without realizing they were also close friends, and I sided with Jon so I didn’t care for him as much.  But I started to admire him as he struggled to take on the responsibilities of adulthood and leadership that were thrust upon him so young when he was left in charge of Winterfell.  I wonder which Frey will Robb choose to marry?  Will he even keep that agreement, or will some unforseen twist get him off the hook?  When the royal family visited Winterfell in the beginning, Robb escorted the Princess Mycella and was “grinning like a fool,” so I thought maybe he liked her.  And when Catelyn wondered if her son had ever kissed a girl, I thought maybe he had kissed Mycella.  Was that just a little crush, or will it break his heart to have to choose one of Walder Frey’s grand-daughters to spend his life with instead?

If I try to write a coherent paragraph about why I love Ned Stark it would just dissolve into blubbering.  He’s so noble!  He’s so pure-hearted and honorable!  He’s so good, and fair, and he loves his children so much!  This was my face when he was betrayed by Littlefinger, accused of treason, and imprisoned by the Lannisters:

Worrying about Ned Stark’s fate.

And this was my face when it came to THAT PART.  You know.  The terrible, terrible, gut-wrenching, unfair, dishonorable destruction of the best character in the whole book.  (I told you there would be **SPOILERS**!!)

page 727, in my paperback version.

And then, after I had recovered a bit, I vented my anger at stupid snott-nosed inbred Joffrey making such a stupid, unwise and unfair decision, and being allowed to do so by all the worthless people around him:

Dammit, Joffrey! I hope you are quickly dethroned in the next book.

Jon Snow was my second-favorite character, so now with Ned gone I suppose he is my top favorite.  He’s still young, so  he’s not quite as noble as Ned yet, but I think he will be.  I loved how he helped Samwell Tarly at The Wall, and all the conversations he’s had with the Maester’s there, even when he’s being lectured for his mistakes.  I loved how Sam decided to say his vows to the old gods, with Jon, even though Sam had been raised in the faith of the Seven.  It was another way to indicate a break with his past, that this was a new start, the same way people sometimes change their names when significant events happen, (although I think it was a sign of Sam’s loyalty to Jon more than anything else, and I loved that too).  I loved when his fellow newly-inducted brothers go after the deserting Jon to bring him back.  I love Ghost, (and all the direwolves of course), and the way Jon finds him last of all, alone and outcast like himself.  I just love him!

And, I have a theory about the true parentage of Ned Stark’s supposed bastard.  All throughout the book, Ned refused to talk about who Jon’s mother is, and whenever he mentioned or thought of his dead sister Lyanna, there was some mystery involved.  Her death had something to do with the war that led to Robert’s accession to the throne, but  we still haven’t really been told the whole story of what all happened between them.  But Ned had flashbacks and dreams of Lyanna with blue rose petals, or blood, or both, whispering, “Promise me, Ned.”  When Ned is imprisoned by the Lannisters, he recalls a jousting tournament when he was 18:

Ned remembered the moment when all the smiles died, when Prince Rhaegar Targaryen urged his horse past his own wife, the Dornish princess Elia Martell, to lay the queen of beauty’s laurel in Lyanna’s lap.  He could see it still: a crown of winter roses, blue as frost.

But the clue that really stuck out to me came from Bran, when he goes into the Winterfell crypt with Maester Luwin and Osha and is telling the slave about the Starks who are buried there.  When they come to Lyanna’s tomb, he says:

“Robert was betrothed to marry her, but Prince Rhaegar carried her off and raped her,” Bran explained.  “Robert fought a war to win her back.  He killed Rhaegar on the Trident with his hammer, but Lyanna died and he never got her back at all.”

I don’t think Rhaegar kidnapped Lyanna.  I think they were in love and ran off together.  I think he got her pregnant and she died in childbirth, that Ned was there and the promise he made to his dying sister that still haunts his dreams was to claim her son as his own bastard, to never tell anyone the truth in order to protect the life of her son.  So Jon Snow is really Jon Targaryen, and he resembles Ned because he is half-stark, but Ned is his uncle and not his father!  My friend @maldem, who has read all the books, pointed out to me that the series is called “A Song of Ice and Fire,” and Jon Snow being half Stark and half Targaryen fits it perfectly.  The Starks live in the North, they were the kings of winter.  The Targaryens are the blood of the dragons, and can withstand fire, which Daenarys proves at the end of this book.  Jon burned his hand when he killed the wight that was attacking Mormont, but it healed pretty quickly.  Because he is half Targaryen!

This was my face when I read that final clue from Bran that I needed in that puzzle:

I think I know who Jon Snow’s real parents are!

Speaking of theories, here’s another one I put together that is much more trivial: the one cat that Arya had so much trouble catching once belonged to the former Targaryen Princess.

One by one Arya had chased them down and snatched them up and brought them proudly to Syrio Forel…all but this one, this one-eared black devil of a tomcat.  “That’s the real king of this castle right there,” one of the gold cloaks had told her.  “Older than sin and twice as mean.  One time, the king was feasting the queen’s father, and that black bastard hopped up on the table and snatched a roast quail right out of Lord Tywin’s fingers.  Robert laughed so hard he like to burst.  You stay away from that one, child.”

Later, when Varys visits the imprisoned Ned and tells him that if he does not “confess” to treason, the Lannisters will murder Sansa, the eunuch says,

“Rhaenys was a child too.  Prince Rhaegar’s daughter.  A precious little thing, younger than your girls.  She had a small black kitten she called Balerion, did you know?  I always wondered what happened to him.  Rhaenys liked to pretend he was the true Balerion, the Black Dread of old, but I imagine the Lannisters taught her the difference between a kitten and a dragon quick enough, the day they broke down her door.”

This story is so rich, even the cats have backstories!  I love it.

I still don’t really know much about those creepy zombie-like creatures in the prologue.  It was so scary reading the chapter when Jon was out with the rangers looking at those dead bodies that were starring up with “blue, blue eyes,” and right away I recognized that they were more of the sinister beings.  It was bad timing, because it was late at night, I was home alone and had only a small lamp on at the time.  Fortunately my direkitty was nearby to protect me.

pagelady’s fierce direkitty.

  (That’s another thing I don’t quite understand–what exactly is the connection between the Stark children and their direwolves?  I mean how does that work?  And how did Bran and Rickon have the same prophetic dream about their father?  And how do magic and prophecies work in this world?  Like, was the prophecy about Dany’s son wrong, since he died, or was it true and that means the baby isn’t really dead, but smuggled away somewhere?  Or was it just stillborn and the maegi woman made up that horrific tale about it having scales and wings and disintegrating?

This book is so dense, I could almost be content to read it again instead of reading the next one, just to pick up on all the little things I’m sure I missed.  But I’m also dying to know what’s going to happen to my beloved Stark family next,  and I’m eager to get caught up so I can go join the rest of the fandom online without worrying about avoiding spoilers.  Besides, the last two (of the planned 7) books aren’t published yet, so I can always re-read while we wait for them.

Robb unexpectedly becomes King of the North

I hope you’ve enjoyed the illustrations for this post.  I had to make my own, because I dare not type “game of thrones” or any characters’ names into a google image search, for fear of seeing something that will spoil that books I haven’t read yet.  I’m sure they would still be worth reading, but part of what I love about the first time through a book is making guesses and theories about what’s going to happen, and then finding out if I’m right or not.   For example, I’d  like to think I would have predicted that Dany’s dragon eggs would hatch at some point, but since I had happened to see a picture of that scene from the television show, (where three dragons flit around the shoulders of a silver-haired girl,) I’ll never know if I really would have, or what would have been my definitive clue.

In other words, the Others take you if you leave me a book-two-or-beyond spoiler in the comments!  And here’s a blank template if you want to create your own reaction faces; you just add eyebrows and a mouth.  It’s super fun.

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“Avengers” Is Awesome, And Totally Quotable

I have now seen Joss Whedon’s Avengers twice, once in 2D and once in 3D.  (The 3D is absolutely worth it, by the way).  I absolutely loved it, as I do pretty much all thing that Joss Whedon creates.  In the hands of another director this might have been a very clunky storyline with superheros crammed in together for no reason, but Joss weaves everyone together naturally and keeps it fun and exciting and badass and hilarious.

If you’re confused about the tag scene after the credits, this is a great article explaining who appears.  If you’re wondering how the Hulk was suddenly able to control his Hulk self, it’s a matter of debate but here is one explanation.  If you are and have been a Whedon fan like me, then you probably already know this but here is a letter Joss Whedon wrote to his fanbase and posted on whedonesque.com.

Really my main complaint with the movie is that Thor should have left a freaking postcard for Jane Foster.  She’s gonna know he was on earth, it’s all over the news!  And if I were her I’d be pissed he didn’t take the opportunity to message me.  Also I wish they would have explained how Banner was able to control Hulk better, but even so Banner/Hulk was probably my favorite character in this movie.   I hope there is a director’s extended edition, though, and that it shows Thor taking 5 seconds to leave a memento or note or something for Jane.  Also, I totally want to see a Hulk movie starring Mark Ruffalo, written and directed by Joss Whedon.  Because then we would finally have a good Hulk movie.

I love that each character in The Avengers is partially defined by his or her dialogue style–Capain America uses outdated phrases that would have been modern for him back when he was frozen in ice (“this guy packs a whallop!”), Thor verbally stomps around in “thee”s and “thou”s, (“I do not look to be in a fighting mood!”) while Stark is of course flippant, sarcastic, and constantly running his mouth, (“That man is playing Galaga!  Thought we wouldn’t notice–but we did.”).  There are a plethora of great, quotable lines in this movie, and I probably haven’t caught them all yet, but after two viewings here is what I have so far (spoilers, totally, obviously):

Professor Erik Selvig: “The teseract is misbehaving”

.

Hawkeye: “The cube is a doorway to the other end of space, right?” *shrugs* “Doors open from both sides.”

.

Loki: “I am Loki, of Asgard, and I am burdened with glorious purpose.”

.

Loki: “Freedom is life’s great lie.  Once you accept that, in your heart, you will know peace.”

.

Black Widow: “We’ve kept our distance, but now we need you to come in.”

Banner: “And what if I say no?”

Black Widow: “I’ll persuade you.”

Banner: “And what if the…other guy says no?”

.

Black Widow: “We’re facing a global catastrophe.”

Banner: “Well those I definitely try to avoid.”

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Nick Fury: “The world has gotten even stranger than you already know.”

Captain America: “At this point I don’t think anything would surprise me.”

Fury: “Ten bucks says you’re wrong.”

(later, when the ship flies and becomes invisible via high-tech reflection panels, Captain silently hands Fury a ten dollar bill).

.

Pepper Potts (to Coulson): “Phil!  Come in!”

Stark: “Phil?  His first name is ‘Agent’!”

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Stark: “I’m gonna pay for that percentage comment in some subtle way later, aren’t I?”

Pepper: “Not gonna be that subtle.”

(…later…)

Stark: “Y’know, I thought we were having a moment.”

Pepper: “I was having 12% of a moment.”

.

Coulson: “When he’s [Banner] not that thing though he’s like a regular Stephen Hawking.”

Captain: *blank stare*

Coulson: “He’s like, a really smart guy.”

.

Coulson, to Captain: “It’s an honor to meet you, officially.  We’ve met before, I watched you while you were sleeping.  I mean, I was present while you were unconscious.”

.

Black Widow: “Gentlemen, you might want to step inside.  It’s gonna get hard to breathe.”

Captain:  “Is this a submarine?”

Banner: “Really.  They want me in a submerged, pressurized container?”

(it turns out to be an airship)

Banner: “Oh no.  This is much worse.”

.

Hawkeye: “I need a distraction, and an eyeball.”

.

Captain, to Loki: “Y’know, the last time I was in Germany I met a man like you.  We ended up disagreeing.”

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Stark, to Loki: “Make a move, Reindeer Games.”

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Stark, to Captain: “You mighta missed a couple things, y’know, doin’ time as a Cap-sicle.”

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Captain: “Stark–we need a plan of attack!”

Stark, jumping out the plane: “I have a plan–attack.”

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Captain: “There’s only one God, ma’am.  And I’m pretty sure he doesn’t dress like that.”

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Thor: “Do not touch me again!”

Stark: “Then don’t take my stuff.”

Thor: “You have no idea what you’re dealing with!”

Stark: “Uh, Shakespeare in the park?  ‘Doth mother know, that you weareth her drapes?'”

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Jarvis, after Iron Man’s suit absorbs a lightning bolt from Thor’s hammer: “Power at 400% capacity.”

Stark: “How ’bout that.”

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Thor: “Loki is of Asgard.  He is my brother!”

Black Widow: “He killed 80 people in two days.”

Thor: “…he’s adopted.”

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Fury: “I’m interested in knowing how Loki turned two of my men into flying monkeys.”

Thor: “I do not understand.”

Captain: “I do!  I get that reference.”

.

Captain: “Is everything a joke to you?!”

Stark: “Funny things are.”

.

Captain: “Big man in a suit of iron, take that away, what are you?”

Stark: “Genius, billionaire, playboy philanthropist.”

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Thor: “You people are so petty.  And tiny!”

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Banner: “Sorry kids, I guess you don’t get to see my party trick after all.”

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Captain: “It seems to run on some sort of electricity!”

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Random Farmer: “Are you an alien?  From outer space, an alien?”

Banner: “No.”

Random Farmer: “Well then, son, you’ve got a condition.”

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Stark: “Loki, he’s a full-tilt Diva.”

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SHIELD pilot: “You guys aren’t authorized to be here!”

Captain: “Son-just, don’t.”

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Stark: “Actually I’m planning to threaten you.”

Loki: “Should’ve left your armor on for that.”

Stark: “Eh, it’s seen a bit of mileage, and you’ve got the glowstick of destiny.”

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Stark: “If we can’t protect the earth, you can be damn sure we’ll avenge it.”

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Hawkeye: “Wanna give me a lift?”

Stark: “Right–better clench up, Legolas!”

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Council Member: “Directory Fury, the Council has made a decision.”

Fury: “I recognize that the Council has made a decision, however given that it’s a stupid-ass decision I have elected to ignore it.”

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Loki: “Enough!  You are all of you beneath me.  I am a god, you dull creature!  And I will not be bullied by–

(Hulk thrashes Loki around like a rag doll)

Hulk: “Puny god.”

.

(Stark is lying on the ground, unresponsive.)

Hulk: “RRRRRRRRROOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRR!!!!!!!”

Stark: “Whaaaaat the hell?  What the hell just happened?!  Please tell me nobody kissed me.”

Captain: “We won.”

Stark: “Hey, all right, yeaaaah, good job guys!  Let’s call it a day, not come in tomorrow.  Ever heard of shawarma?  There’s a shawarma joint two blocks from here.  I don’t know what it is, but I wanna try it.”

Thor: “We’re not done yet.”

Stark: “And then…shawarma after?”

.

Chitauri leader (tag scene): “Humans–they were not the cowering wretches we were promised.  They are unruly and therefore cannot be ruled.  To challenge them it to court death.”

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