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Archive for the category “books”

Announcing a new obsession!

Or perhaps better stated, the rekindling of an old obsession ….. Sherlock Holmes! Tah dah duh DAH! ….. Hmmm … Well, that was rather anti-climatic reveal then, wasn’t it.

I have previously written here of my love of Holmes in his many incarnations. Yes, I tend to fall in love with fictional characters. I loved Snape and Aragorn long before I saw Mr. Rickman and Mr. Mortensen’s portrayal of each respective character (I then, of course, became fans of their work after the fact). The same can be said of Henry Higgins (Pygmalion was my introduction into that great character). Holmes (and Mr. Rochester), however, I fell into backwards. I saw Basil Rathbone’s interpretation of Sherlock Holmes first and then ran down to the library and started reading and reading and then took to walking into rooms and “deducing” much to the annoyance of my brother. I was most often wrong but it didn’t stop me. I was the wrong gender, the wrong age, the wrong nationality and living in a different time but I so strongly identified with Holmes that all that didn’t matter. I think that speaks to the strength of Doyle’s characters. As we’ve seen lately, they can be plunked into modern society quite easily and hit the ground running so to speak.

This renewed Sherlockian fit was jump started by Jonny Lee Miller’s Holmes on Elementary. I caught an episode of Elementary on a friend’s recommendation and I became intrigued (oh let’s be honest, I fangirled, I squee’d and I started googling). If you are not familiar with this interpretation of Holmes, he is brought into our time with a female Watson (Lucy Liu) at his side. I thought I would have a problem with the liberties taken, but I did not. The BBC’s version of Sherlock (also brought into the 21st century) was my next move. Here we have a more traditional Watson – Martin Freeman (aka, Bilbo Baggins). His exemplary interpretation of the role caused me to realize what a great character he is in his own right. Being our man in the story so to speak, it is easy to trivialize Watson’s role as we wait wide-eyed to be amazed at Holme’s deductions. But Watson, ex-military doctor, calm, tolerant, is what allows Holmes to shine.

The Holmes/Watson dynamic works regardless of gender or time period. I dare say, it might even work with two females in the roles. So, should you be a reader of this blog, be aware that there might (or might not, depending on what the real world hands me) be prolonged comparisons, criticisms and ramblings in general about the goings on at 221B Baker Street in its many manifestations in the near future.

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I am shallow…

…. and because I am shallow I read “Beautiful Creatures.” Shall I explain? I saw Jeremy Irons present a Golden Globe award. He looked mighty fine in his long coat. I have come to realize that I seem to have a weakness for slightly older British gentlemen. Anyway, because he looked good, I IMDB’d him to see what he was up to. I have long thought that Mr. Irons would be absolutely perfect to play Boris Karloff should anyone care to make a film about Boris Karloff. Karloff was a nice quiet gent, probably not enough drama in his life to entice anyone to do a bio. …. But I digress …. When I checked out the IMDB page for Jeremy Irons, I saw he was portraying Macon Ravenwood in the film version of Beautiful Creatures. And again, because I am shallow, the character poster for Mr. Ravenwood convinced me that perhaps I should check out the book. And so I did. And I can honestly say I loved the character of Macon Ravenwood and Amma and Marian the Librarian … I guess there is also some kind of story there about teenage angst and love and secrets and magic and such but I lost interest in the teen love story and was more interested in the world the writers created to set the story. The background story and flashbacks reminded me of Dark Shadows (the tv series not Tim Burton’s movie) and I plodded through the kids’ story to learn more about the casters. I know, the book is not written for my age group but unlike the Potter series and also to a lesser extent the Percy Jackson series, it did not leave me wanting to run out and pick up the next book in the series.

As for the movie, ehhh…. it looks like they made changes that in my opinion weaken the story. The movie gets rid of the librarian character, makes the Amma character younger and incorporates the librarians character into Amma. Now, I understand Viola Davis’ liking the changes to the character but I’m not sure it serves the story. Amma was the chrone of the story – the old one with the ancient knowledge that took care of the boy. Funny enough, I never read her as a maid in the book. I saw her more of the caretaker of Ethan’s spirit while the librarian was the caretaker of his intellect. Both women, friends of Ethan’s mom, took on aspects of his deceased mom and served as guides for him. I did like the importance that books, history and family played throughout the book – I’m hoping those sentiments are kept in the film. I haven’t seen the film so I’ll have to reserve judgment on whether the changes works.
What I don’t like is the look of the film – the trailer makes it look like a segment of “Pretty Little Liars” (I’ve only seen the trailers for that show as well – again I’m not their target audience). I envisioned more of a shabby chic rather than a glammy goth look to the settings and costuming. And they’ve altered the appearances of the characters… And, well, you know what … It doesn’t matter … The books apparently don’t have a very active fan base ’cause I haven’t seen much protesting about the changes…. Bottom line, Jeremy Irons looks good and Macon Ravenwood’s character for me was the best thing in the book … We’ll have to see how the movie fares ….

Taking care of business

I attended the “Doing Your Research” panel at Festival of Books today. Well, it wasn’t so much a panel as two authors, Steve Berry and Michael Palmer, and the moderator Josh Bazell, also an author and a doctor. Palmer is an M.D. and Berry, a lawyer. The discussions were interesting – particularly Berry’s writing process. Turns out writing is a job and a business and not so much an art. Okay so as usual I exaggerate. I tend to romanticize the writing process as an altruistic endeavor, a pouring of your soul onto a page, a careful and precise use of words to tell a story for the sake of the story. But what I learned is, writing is a profession where discipline and process go hand in hand. Berry described his work schedule where he allots so much time for research, so much time for writing, marketing, etc. and he has one book being plotted, one book being researched and another in the writing process at any given time of the year. He stated he had not had a vacation in three years. I kind of thought just writing would be a vacation but not the way he approaches it I suppose.

They did speak on research and the importance of accuracy. Since Berry’s books are usually heavy on history, I was very interested in his methods. Both he and Palmer emphasized that Internet information is not to be relied on. They verify their research through published works and first hand sources if they can find them. I can see their point. You can find ten different answers to any given question via Internet research. Basically they read everything they can get their hands on relating to their subject and follow up with location visits if necessary.

One of the most important things I got out of the hour from both the authors was the advice to write about what you love. The old adage about writing what you know according to them is a crock. Write about what you love and do the research to fill in what you don’t know.

Honestly I went to this because I wanted to hear Steve Berry talk. I enjoy his books. They are not great literature but they are entertaining. Although I’m sometimes underwhelmed with his endings – his books are stuffed full of art and history but once you actually piece it altogether it’s a bit of a let down. Not always, but on occasion – The Alexandria Link comes to mind. I have the same issues with some of Dan Browns books. But you know, I’m writing a blog with a readership of 3 on a good day so who am I to critique published and successful authors.

All in all an interesting hour in which I learned that writing is a disciplined profession (i.e., I shouldn’t sit and wait for inspiration to visit, I must go looking for it) and its okay to write about what you love (so you think a book about watching tv sitcoms and eating chips will sell?)

By the way may I add that Berry comes across as very likable and intelligent, and quite handsome. His folksy little southern twang was a bit of a surprise -sounded a bit like Jeff Foxworthy. In reading up on him, I’ve found he’s very much interested and works toward historic preservation.

Mr. Rochester broods …

As I wrote about in a previous post, I’ve been reading Jane Eyre as of late and for better or worse, George C. Scott is my image of Mr. Rochester. I created the image below for myself I was playing with screen caps from the video available on YouTube and started manipulating the images with Photoshop. I had all sorts of enhancements on the image at certain points in its development – red strings from ribs, written quotes about tears dropping from the lash, etc. But the embellishments didn’t really seem to add much to the feeling of the image and looked a tad art school gimmicky. So here it is. I know it is an acquired taste to have George C. as Edward and the image has limited appeal. If you like it, take it, give credit if you can and if you want a small card of the image just click on it and go to the store and purchase it.

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Jane, George and me

It has been over a month since the last post, so I thought perhaps I would start the year out doing something productive – if blogging can be considered productive. I swore the first thing I’d do when I got back from the trip to back to NYC to see Alan Rickman in Seminar would be to chronicle the experience. But a whirlwind of Christmas and family and work and business came at me as I stepped off the plane and rather took the oomph out of my sails. And since I am at heart undisciplined (sounds so much nicer than “lazy” which is what I truly am), I have yet to tackle the Seminar/Rickman/New York at Christmas post, but I will … soon … really … but first …. I feel compelled to write about something else. Please don’t feel obligated to read the rest of this post, particularly if you have never read Jane Eyre and/or were not a dorky teenager in the early ‘70s with a crush on George C. Scott. That’s right, you read it right, George C. Scott – save the mockery for later please…

I first read Jane Eyre at about 14 years of age, maybe 13. I was obsessed with the book and the story. I came to it in a roundabout way – I saw the made for television version starring George C. Scott and Susannah York and was enthralled. I’ve always tended towards the gothy side (yes, I too, like Messrs. Depp and Burton, ran home to catch Dark Shadows on the telly). And my lord, Mr. Rochester, as portrayed by George C. sent my proto-goth head spinning. Off I staggered to the library upon seeing this to get the “whole” story. The book proved to be much more beautifully angsty than the television movie (obviously) and Bronte’s prose style was completely new to my 1970’s teenage sensibilities. Dear reader, I was hooked. I didn’t come up for air until I finished it (altho’ I will admit to a tiny bit of skimming on the “SintJin” parts).

[Flashforward] On the airplane coming back from NY, surprisingly not really interested in watching “Our Idiot Brother,” I started reading passages from Jane Eyre that I had downloaded to the iPad. The attic door was cracked opened but as I said, when I stepped off the plane, life came at me and I had little time for reading – until Christmas night when I picked up the book once more and then it all swooped in on me from out of the past. I found myself right back to the darkened hall, lit by my spluttering candle, listening to the screams and waiting for Mr. Rochester. I will spare you my analysis of the book (for now), but I did come to realize, under all the emotion and turmoil that drew me to the book, Jane Eyre was a great role model for a young girl. She stuck to her beliefs, she didn’t back down and she made her own way in the world. There is one exchange in the book and I’m paraphrasing ’cause I’m too lazy to go find the passage or uh, undisciplined that’s the word I meant to use, … anyway, Rochester is trying to basically convince Jane to live with him in sin or as near an approximation of sin as they had at the time, that no one would care or know, and she states, “But I would.” Good girl Jane – frankly then and now, I would be throwing my few belongings in a bag and following him out the door. Along with being lazy, I have no moral fortitude.

Still with me? Wow – I thought you would have given up reading this way up there at the “SintJin” part. Okay, continuing then….

The book also took me back to the burly arms of Mr. Scott. I had not seen the movie in many, many years. Since I was already on the iPad I googled the movie and found it to be available in I believe 9 easy segments on YouTube. Well, while I still love George C. as Edward Rochester – he was the first so therefore my definitive Rochester – I couldn’t say the same about the production. Susannah York was way, way way too old to be playing Jane and had a little too much worldly confidence. The ending was so anticlimactic I’m sure something must be missing from this version. So, obsessive/compulsive as I am, off I started to view (insert fanfare) – every Jane Eyre/Mr. Rochester combination available on YouTube to see which was truly the best version of this book. Do you have any idea how many versions of this book have been staged cinematically? I skipped Orson Welles’ version – I’d seen that long ago and while a good movie it was not Jane Eyre. I went through several BBC mini series versions, one with Toby Stephens, another with Tim Dalton and the new movie with Fassbender that just came out. I know, I know, a little obsessive. While I liked all the different Rochester’s for different reasons, I still liked Mr. Scott’s portrayal the best. But as to the best rendition of the book, I’d have to say it was the Timothy Dalton 1983 version that seemed the most accurate (altho’ I really didn’t care for Jane in that one). The most romantic was the 2006 version – zowie, but not faithful to the book. And one does want Jane Eyre to be faithful does one not?

Okay – I’m rambling at this point because I seriously doubt you followed me to the depths of this post so the rest is for me. Should you read this, don’t repeat it – I still love George C. Scott; his smile makes me happy. Watching him in Jane Eyre made me remember him in Beauty and the Beast, another movie that does not stand up to memory but his performance was exceptional and then that took me to “They Might Be Giants” (the movie, not the band). (All conveniently available on YouTube.) They Might Be Giants is a flawed movie but George C. Scott’s and Joanne Woodward’s abilities shine through to make you care about their Holmes and Watson. Scott was no pretty boy, but he had a manly charisma and the ability that all actors should have, that of embodying their character wholeheartedly. What I have referenced is admittedly not Scott’s best work – Dr. Strangelove, Patton, The Hospital, etc. are his best work. But his work in these films inspired me and took me into hallways where I never expected to find myself.

Thats it for now, but be warned, this blog may be visited soon by more analysis of Jane Eyre, the book, and Jane Eyre on film and perhaps a smidge more on George just cause I don’t think I’ve gotten all this out of my system yet.

Holmes, is that you?

I want to see the new Sherlock Holmes movie but I have some reservations.  I grew up watching Basil Rathbone and while I know his interpretation of Holmes was rather sanitized, his is the image of Holmes I see when I read the stories.  I loved reading the Sherlock Holmes short stories as a kid.  I must have been around 11 or 12 maybe younger, when I started checking them out of the library, consuming them and then annoying my brother with my deductions.  What I enjoyed most about the stories was that logic and observation where the means to undo the bad guys (kind of also explains my preference for Spock over Kirk).  Not brawn but wit was the best tool of Watson and Holmes.  Intelligence won the day.  I’m afraid the latest incarnation of Holmes might be more physical than intellectual.  Although, in re-reading the stories as an adult I did catch a bit more depth to Holmes than I had as a child – fits of depression, drug use, anti-social behavior to name but a few and I realized that in several instances, Holmes looked the other way and let the criminal off the hook when he judged the crime to be justified, but logic and intellect were still Holmes best tools. This is only from the trailers mind you so I may be completely mistaken, but Downey’s portrayal of Holmes makes him appear to more of a scoundrel and a street brawler and a sexy one at that.  I’ll have to work at thought of accepting RDJ as a sexy and charming steampunky Sherlock Holmes, shirtless …. scuffling …. erh…. uhm,…… where was I – oh, yes I was about to buy a ticket to see Sherlock Holmes.

It did make me feel better when I read that the Baker Street Irregulars are not dismayed:  Sherlockians

An early peak…

A preview of Deathly Hallows culled from the Half Blood Prince DVD has appeared in a number of locations on the net from the Leaky Cauldron to Snitchsneeker and beyond.  Unfortunately it hasn’t made it to YouTube yet, at least I can’t find it there.  I can only embed YouTube videos so if you’d like to have a look at the Deathly Hallow Trailer (an official one even) click on the link below:

Deathly Hallows Preview

or here: The Rememberall (they have screen caps of the whole thing as well).  Alas, no Snape.  Watching the trailer, it seems I don’t remember a heck of a lot from Book 7 so must put re-reading on the list of things to do before November 2010

And here’s a little something from my etsy store you might enjoy as well – The Boy Wizard Soap (click on the photo to go get it).  Would make a lovely little stocking stuffer to go along with the Half Blood Prince DVD … just saying…. go take a look:

I wish I was standing in the dark….

If I could choose to be in one place in the whole world to be tomorrow, I would not be in Argentina/Uruguay visiting my family, I would not be in London, Paris or Madrid standing in awe of masterpieces of ages gone by in one of the great museums, I wouldn’t even wish to be in Egypt in front of the pyramids or at the Valley of the Kings.  I would only want to be dropped down by this wish- granting force in the path of the 21st century’s longest eclipse – perhaps on a ship  in the middle of the Pacific where the eclipse is at its longest.  Tomorrow’s eclipse is over 6 minutes long.  I once traveled to India for 20 seconds, yes, you read that right, 20 seconds of totality.  Basically, I traveled half way round the world to stand in the dark for a few seconds.  Oh but what a wonderful 20 seconds it was and all the fantastic events that led up to and then continued after those 20 seconds.  Alright, I’m making myself sad just thinking about having to miss this eclipse.  If you are in India somewhere tonight (best viewing on land is supposedly in India), I wish you clear skies tomorrow.   Enjoy!

Here’s a little something to cheer us non-eclipse travelers (and to further seal the fact that I am a geek just in case someone hadn’t quite caught on).   The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is set to open in Spring of 2010 (hear that Ms. Sugarandspicetees and Eldest Daughter of Sugarandspicetees – you’d better start getting ready!).

Here are links:  Wizarding World of Harry Potter

And the Leaky story about it:  Leaky Cauldron (with video links)

All in all, I still would rather be in India tomorrow….

Fantasy is one thing, bit astronomical events such as this are truly magic.  Here’s a link to my previous post on eclipses (if you’re interested):  La Sombra de la Luna

(Wow – I just tried putting a link in to the NASA site but its overloaded – I’m happy to see the interest)

The Other Half of the Half Blood Prince

Welcome back (if you haven’t read the first half of “Half of the Half Blood Prince” please click and go read the spoiler warnings there.  You’ve been warned.  That being said, I feel I must correct myself.  At the end of that post, I said that Alan Rickman’s Snape embodied everything I liked and disliked about the movie.  That’s not wholly accurate.  Its not really Alan Rickman’s Snape, its David Yates’ direction of the character and editing of scenes that I find fault with.  And to further qualify, its mainly at the end of the film, or should I say what should have been at the end of the film, that  I find the lack of ferocity objectionable.

Alan Rickman’s Snape is sarcastic and caustic and has the stillness, in this movie in particular, of a cobra preparing to strike, mesmerizing with his venomous words.  My objection is he is never allowed to strike!  We are denied seeing that ultimate spewing of hurt and pain that Rowling gave us in the book.  The battle of words and wands between Harry and Snape that presents us with a glimpse into all that Snape is and has been swallowing when he proclaims “Don’t call me a coward!”  Instead of a battle of wills, with Harry venting anger and Snape controlling himself until he snaps, we get the tepid line of “I am the Half Blood Prince, ” a kick of Harry’s wand and away he goes.  My only hope is that scenes were filmed that weren’t included in the theatrical release and perhaps we’ll get to see them in future DVDs.

I got a glimpse, albeit a very small glimpse, of the Snape swagger in the scene where Snape is leading the deatheaters out of  the great hall – there was something very Sheriff of Nottingham in the way he charged out of there with the others in tow.

Also objectionable is the handling of the Dumbledore’s death.  Why change the fact that Harry is paralyzed and unable to help?  Why delete Dumbledore’s funeral – instead we get Harry sobbing and the whole of Hogwart’s pointing their wands to the sky (which reminded me of a 70’s concert or that old Coke commercial – with kids holding lit candles and wishing they could teach the world to sing).  Need I say, it did not have the emotional impact, at least to me, that Dumbledore’s passing should have invoked.

There is more I didn’t particularly like but most of it has been covered by the myriad of other Potter fans reviewing the film on line. Let me go back to one more thing I did like. While I was not particularly enamored of the lack of color, the blue and sepia tinged tones got a little weary after a bit,  I liked the cinematography of Bruno Delbonnel, the framing in particular.

Mercifully for you, I’ve run out of steam.  Here are two excerpts from interviews and reviews, that I’ve found entertaining:

A New York Times review described Rickman’s Snape as “drawing each word out with exquisite luxury, bringing to mind a buzzard lazily pulling at entrails.

And this from The GATE  interview of Tom Felton,

At the very end of the scene, after Snape has done his bit, we’re sort of walking out of the Great Hall in this sort of goose, v-wing formation in which he’s at the front. He’s the sort of leading goose if you will, and he’s got this sort of wedding-dress cape on that goes three metres on the ground.

The director was very keen for us to stay close behind to him and of course, don’t look at where your feet are going. And actually, before we started filming Alan turned around in his very sinister way and said, [imitating his voice] ‘Don’t step on my cloak.’

And we also didn’t know if he was joking or not, so we’re all, ‘Ha ha, very funny, very funny.’ So naturally, on the second take I planted my heel well and truly on it, which ripped his neck back in a hilarious fashion in my eyes, but at the time it didn’t go down well and there was a rather awkward silence after.

Half of the Half Blood Prince

Alright, if you’re reading this I expect you to have read the Half Blood Prince and have seen the movie.  This is full of spoilers.  So off you go to read and then to the movies if you haven’t yet … go on.  This will be here when you get back.  The rest of you, follow me (swirls cape and swooshes down to the below….)

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

 

 

 

 

 

We went to see the Half Blood Prince yesterday, my comadres and two of their little ones who are now of an age to be able to watch the movies.  And as we left the movie I decided that this was probably going to be my number two most favorite of the Potter movies (Number one of course being Prisoner of Azkaban which was brilliantly directed by Alfonso Cuarón).  But as we sat outside the movie theater and discussed what was missing and what issues we had with the film, I started to think about what I had just seen.  The movie is not faithful to the book which I expected but what I consider major scenes were left out and scenes were included whose inclusion I question.  Characters were dropped (Bill and Fleur for example) and others who hold prominence in this book were reduced to serving drinks (poor Neville).  But still I liked the movie.  I will tell you first why I liked the film and then I will expound on what I found to be missing, wrong, not acceptable, etc.  (You’d better get comfortable ‘cause I tend to be long-winded – get yourself a beverage and a blankie if you’re going to be in this for the long haul).

 What I enjoyed about the film is the same thing I enjoy about the books – the characters.  This time around I think all the kids in the movie have made a great stride forward in showcasing their acting abilities.  I was most pleasantly surprised with Daniel Radcliffe.  I’ve always felt he was a bit wooden in the role (I can hear the gasps from the Dan-Fans – sorry but its true).  In this film he comes across as much more natural, looser, more at ease in the role.  Frankly, I’ve always wondered if he only had one setting on his acting abilities (the Potter Channel – all Potter all the time) but his little stretch into “Happy Harry” when he takes the good luck potion  (Felix Felicis) was so well done  it made me think he has potential to go beyond Potter once this is all done.  (Perhaps his theater stint helped broaden his range).  Tom Felton, as well,  has grown into his role, imbuing Draco, as the anti-Potter, with the necessary pathos of someone trapped into doing something he does not want to.  And of course, Rupert has always been a natural at playing Ron (as has Emma at playing Hermione) and I enjoyed the easy interactions between the three characters – they have grown into the parts extremely well.

 The changes the characters are going through as they grow into young adults is well handled.  I’ve read other reviewers lament that there is too much “love struck teen age angst” in this film but really, the movie is about these kids and their growth, and love-struck angst is  part of the growth process.  Although, I will admit to having the same reaction as Snape did watching Lavender, Hermione and Ron in the hospital scene.  And there it is – look at how long I was able to go without mentioning Snape and Alan Rickman!  It took a lot of self control but I did it.  Alright, well having mentioned Snape, I will now place him in reserve for a later, very in depth analysis (prepare yourself Professor) and go on to some other highlights of the film.

 The production design, set dressing and costuming of the film was extremely well done.  I want to get the DVD as soon as it’s out so I can pause and inspect Spinners’ End and the Potions classroom and Slughorn’s quarters.  Someone had a marvelous time providing us with details.  This is the stuff I used to love to do way, way back in the day when I was doing set design –  finding just the book to put on the bookshelf that no one may notice but will add to the whole scene if they do, positioning papers and knickknacks and pictures to delienate the character and tell the his or her story in images.. It is a form of acting in a way … whoops but I digress….

 Michael Gambon’s Dumbledore was actually likeable this time around.  Perhaps “likeable” is too strong of a word.  Let’s say I pleasantly tolerated him in this movie and didn’t sit there mumbling “Richard Harris would have been so much better” under my breath.  Gambon’s portrayal of Dumbledore was a kinder, gentler version of what we’ve seen in the past three movies.  Although I found his asking Potter about his love life just a tad bit creepy.  

 Jim Broadbent was perfectly cast as Slughorn.  He hit every beat and revealed every folly of the man while keeping him sympathetic and likeable.  And then there’s Snape, stern, mysterious, cape-swirling Snape.  Alan Rickman as Snape embodies everything I liked about the film but also what I what I didn’t like –  And with that I will leave the rest for the next post ‘cause this is already way, way too long and I fear there is no one reading at this point except maybe one of my comadres.

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