There is always an amount of fear when picking up something that is so popular, has mob mentality caused everyone to overlook some flaws? Am I going to be disappointed because how can anything live up to the hype? With thoughts like this swirling around my mind, I picked up Throne of Glass. The first book in one of the most popular YA series out at the moment.
I'm delighted to say those fears were vanquished by some excellent story telling and compelling characters.
It’s always difficult to judge a book when it doesn’t live up to your own expectations, just because the book wasn’t what you thought it was does that make it a failure or is it your own failure to see the signs.
The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl, has a cover, and title that stands out amongst a lot of YA. This combined with the blurb, mentioning an upcoming apocalypse, let me think this was a fantasy story of regular people with the occasional super power. In actuality it is a coming of age romance, something that is not typically my cup of tea. As such, personally I didn’t enjoy this book to much, however I did stick it through and finished it and there is a lot to recommend it.
No seriously, what did I just watch?
Watching The Maze Runner last year as an enjoyably stupid experience, not on the level of Divergent which we saw with a cocktail in hand, but still fun. Although through out the entire movie there is this awareness at the back of you head that no answer will be satisfactory to setting, a nagging voice that is made worse by the fact it's a known trilogy.
Sure enough the visceral excitement of the group of teens trying to escape and survive this maze is met with an ending that... is so stupid. Unbelievably so.
There are only two films I have ever walked out of, one I don't remember apart from it was a war film and there was a scene where someone waited in the rain.
The other was Spirited Away.
A move for which I have felt guilty of for a very long time, I since went back and watched it through many times over. I've also watched Howl's Moving Castle. Meaning my understanding of Studio Ghibli is high fantasy and extraordinary images; fast paced animation with extraordinarily beautiful line work.
When Marnie Was There is missing all those things with the exception of beautiful line work. It's a film of more restrained movement, any supernatural element is subtle and easily explained away. It is still beautiful but of a very different tone to the rest of Studio Ghibli.
The main character Anna is a young girl, outside the circle as she puts it, isolated with abandonment issues. Her guardian doesn't know why she has suddenly shut her off from others and even her own emotions. So she sends Anna off to the coast, to stay with some relatives, the clear air will also help with Anna's athma.
In this beautiful coastal town Anna avoids all other children till she finds an old marsh house, and a young girl who seems to be trapped there. Marnie.
Anna is an interesting character, she isn't just an isolated child who needs to learn to let people in, she's also a little bit of a bitch. She's quick tempered and incredibly rude, although usually only in her thoughts. It's a culmination of things in life that have made her shut everyone out.
Her friendship with Marnie develops quickly and deeply, always stretching the line between reality and dreams. Time seems to be lost when they are together, Marnie never appears when any of Anna's friends are around.
Is she a ghost, a memory, an imaginary friend? As it turns out, perhaps a little of each. The story is a very traditional one, the characters feel archetypal and yet fresh enough to still be interesting.
The animation felt odd however, it is still as beautiful as ever, but the more realistic speed of the characters and less bombastic action mean's it feels a little too constricted and as though it could be doing more.
A beautiful a touching tale, unique in how restrained it is for a Studio Ghibli, however crying out for something with a bit more of the unique creativity the studio is known for.
Today the first in The Old Kingdom series, Sabriel, turns 20 years old. There are a few books I can point back to as being so very influential on my life.
The first was Howl's Moving Castle; I wasn't an adventures reader during my younger years. I didn't have a great grasp of spelling or grammar, a trait I'm happy to say I still am unable to escape... wait... happy's not the right word. However it was How'ls Moving Castle that was the first ever chapter book I read, and I couldn't put it down. I don't know if it was the magical world, characters or just how endlessly creative it was but I couldn't put it down. It was the first book that was ever threatened to be confiscated from me, but certainly not the last.
From then on I was a very avid reader, a huge fan of Tamora Pierce, Diana Wynn Jones and Margret Clark''s Web Watchers... which is so incredibly dated in hind site that I have to laugh, although lovingly.
One of the book made a very lasting impression on me without ever having a chance to read it, this was Lireal. I borrowed the book but didn't have a chance to read it before I had to return it, although my father did. When the Librarian asked what I was planning to read next I said Lireal, and was then promptly told that I couldn't. Lireal was apparently too adult for me, and I should never have been able to borrow it in the first place. I'd never been told that I wasn't able to read something before and that set something off inside me.
It was in the high school library that I finally was able to get my hands on Lireal, to this day it is still my favorite book. It's the only book I've ever re-read and re-read and re-read.
There was only one other book that opened up another word for me as well, the first ever tome fantasy that I read. Sword of Shannara, was the first time I'd challenged myself when it came to length.
However this isn't really a great birthday for Sabriel, as I've spent so long talking about how I like it's younger sibling more. While it's considered a trilogy, I see it a bit more like The Hobbit and then LOTR. Sabriel is set around twenty or so year before Lireal and Abhorsen.
So Sabriel, a happy twentieth birthday to you, one of the few books I'll re-read, part of my favorite series of all time and a truly great book.
So this year I've decided to try the AWWC (Australian Women's Writers Challenge) in which I will be reading and reviewing five books by Australian Women; conveniently I have had one sitting on my too read list since September.
When We Wake is a, say it with me everyone, young adult dystopia. Actually that isn't really fair, its the future, it's not perfect as it's dealing with the consequences their past but it's real and it's very human. There is no secret experiment where young able bodied teenagers are forced to run mazes... for reasons.
Let's start with a bit of a spoiler free talk over the plot; Tegan is our main character; living in Melbourne's near future. Her life is awesome until it is suddenly cut short and she wakes up in the future from an experimental cyro system. Propelled into the life of a celebrity by the fact she is the first person to be successfully revived Tegan has to deal with having suddenly lost everything in her in edition to the disillusionment that the future may not be as perfect as her and her friends had protested for.
What the authors wants to look at is laid out right into the first few pages as Tegan is off to a climate change protest rally. Karen Healy keeps the focus nice and tight by having the 'future' only be 100 years forward, allowing some major changes to have taken place but for a lot of society to be recognisable. The book does feature a number of some distopic ideas with warring countries, limited resources, human rights abuse but there is no evil villain. There are a few antagonists but they are all humanized to a degree and none of them sit in a total seat of power.
There is a lot that could be dissected in this book, the author clearly had a lot she wanted to explore. The effects of climate change, Australia's treatment of immigrants, autonomy and how our technology or the future could impact that autonomy. Although she doesn't really go into the last one as much; it's more a plot device to ensure Tegan is controlled by the state.
I really enjoyed how Healy clearly takes her audience seriously enough to understand a lot of the issues themselves, although sometimes the exposition hammer is wielded and the big secret of the government is fairly easy to guess. I'd say it's on the young end of YA with the writing style and the dialogue is probably one of my least favorite parts as it feels forced. The characters however are all a lot of fun and have their own motivations, yes the main characters are all a little too good. I was getting a bit of a Power Rangers vibe of 'these can't be real teenagers cause no teenage is that good'. Tegan is the only one who is perhaps a bit more selfish then that, Healy makes a point of us knowing that while she does care about the social issues she is protesting but is more happy to be spending the time with her friends. Which makes sense, Tegan is our audience stand in and is the one who needs to learn about caring for the issues over her own personal drama.
I suspect if young me had of picked up this book it could easily have been one of the ones that blew my mind; there is a lot in this book and it means sometimes they only get the opportunity to scratch the surface of the issues. I'm interested enough to read the next in the series and see where Tegan's adventure continues.
If YA is your bag then this is a really good quick read, and if your in the target audience this could really be something that speaks to you.
So far, a really strong start to the AWWC; although it has been pointed out to me that this may be a cheat since Karen Healy is in fact a citizen of New Zealand, however she spent a lot of time in Australia and the story is set there so I'm going to count it.
Oh it is also fantastic, and yet somehow hilarious, to be reading a book where the future relationship between Australia and New Zealand is in anyway important.
Hey everyone! So starting this month I'll be doing something new. Serialised creative stories, a chapter a month (hopefully more once I switch to part time for my paying job). Once the story is then finished I'll be bringing them together into a novel. So be ready for the first Chapter of Bed of Thorns; a sci-fi re-telling of Sleeping Beauty. But speaking of fairy tales, lets look at Cinderella.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a fan of the Disney Princess genre, there are very few films in that genre that I will skip, even the ones that are Disney knock offs rather than actual Disney. So I went into the new live action Cinderella with decently high expectations, I wasn't expecting anything ground breaking but I also wasn't expecting to leave disappointed.
Rather than just going through the movie we are actually going to do a compare and contrast, with the animated Disney Cinderella and the live action Ever After staring Drew Barrymore with the new Cinderella film. Which is a straight remake of the animated one and yet tries to ape the strides that Ever After took and falls woefully short.
Let's look at the environment first; Cinderella of all of them most looks like it takes place in a fairy tale world. It's bright colours and flawless costumes, it has a world that looks remarkably clean. The Animated movie in contrast is very contained, there aren't any scenes of the outside world from her house until she goes to the ball; and Ever After is a fair dirtier movie. Pledging itself to some degree of historical accuracy... some.
The environments: set up clearly the tone each one is going for, the animated movie which focuses more on how Cinderella is contained to help contrast how special it is when she goes to the ball; the live action which is more interested in setting up a world where magic is possible and characters that are archetypes rather than characters. Ever After however is far more focused on character and making the fairy tale more like a possible event than a parable.
Speaking of characters lets really look into the meat of the issues here, the characters.
The Prince: I'm a little torn if I like the Prince in Ever After or the live action Cinderella more; Ever After's prince was a tad more flawed. Vulnerable to pride and making the mistakes that come with it, so his relationship feels more deserved, the both have flaws they need to get over. The live action prince is torn between love and duty but we don't see much more of him beyond that; however Rob Stark (Richard Madden) does play a whole hearted charming prince who any Game of Thrones fan will be happy to see finally wind up happily ever after.
The animated price is the least developed prince of all the Disney princes; and that is saying something.
The Step-Mother: This is one of the closest races there is; each of the portrayals have their own strengths. The animated step-mother is straight up evil, it's an incredibly menacing performance there is no effort made to try and humanise her. The animated step-mother gets points for simply being the most memorably evil. Ever After and the live action both try to show the step-mother as being evil from hurt caused by their new husbands never giving them love and instead showing Cinderella as his only family. However nether really does anything with it and Cate Blanchett turns evil far too quickly for there to really be any chance of understanding. Anjelica Huston on the otherhand, has over a decade to turn Cinderella into a slave and displays occasional moments where it's suggesting her own pain is causing her to inflict this pain on Cinderella.
They try a similar thing with Cate Blanchett, however Blanchett is playing it as evilly as the animated movie and every attempt at humanising her comes off as shallow. There is a moment when things really could have been tied together; Blanchett's character says that she married to give a chance to advance her daughters and there is this implication that she resents Cinderella for being this idea women who could marry a prince while her daughters are too inadequate to get advantageous marriages. But no, they don't tie it in with this sub-text of how society places restrictions on women, she destroys any chance of having her character ever be redeemable by saying she is cruel to Cinderella as Cinderella is good an innocent... And that's it. That is her motivation. Blanchett really is far too good for this role.
The animated movie, like most Disney animated movies of the past, is not interested in humanising the step-mother. She is cruel and evil because some people are just cruel and evil. While this villain could have slipped by, they did such a fantastic job animating her; really the animated movie really is just incredibly powerful in it's small moments. Especially with Cinderella, however we'll get to more in a moment.
A poorly humanised villain is simply more frustrating than painting a villain with the broad brush of saying evil because evil. So even though I do love Anjelica Huston and Cate Blanchett it simply has to go to the animated step mother. Brilliantly drawn, classically cruel and controlled giving a fantastic subdued but constantly threatening performance, Eleanor Audley is the best evil step-mother.
The supporting cast: Wow, I spent a lot of time on the step-mother, let's speed through some of the supporting cast. The step sisters are usually just comic relief, although occasionally effort is made to humanise Anastasia/Jacqueline, although usually it is just done by making her more of a push over by her mother and step-sister. It doesn't excuse what she does, just makes the audience feel bad for her as well. We'll give this to Ever After for having the two sisters actually act differently and not being unbearably annoying.
The fairy god mother, it's surprising that this character is usually the least interesting character, they really are only there as living deus ex fairy. A plot device to get Cinderella to the ball. Da Vinichi from Ever After is our stand in fairy god mother and is the most developed... but that isn't saying much. Have to go with the animated one for some bibbidi-boboidi-boo action.
The animals; no one wins on this one. The animals are either way to prominent in the movies, just there to reference the animated movie or not there are all.
Cinderella: Now Cinderella often gets a lot of flack for being a problematic character; she's one of the most passive Disney Princess's. Tying with Sleeping Beauty as the most passive in fact. So a lot of modern interpretations seek to address that; they give her character and chances to prove himself. Ever After is perhaps the clearest example of this, making Cinderella well learned, and keen to escape the situation she's in but without any means to; she suffers through the movie but when she is given a chance to rescue herself she does. Animated Cinderella is a kind and caring person, still totally good hearted despite the abuse she has suffered.
The new Cinderella attempts to marry these two concepts and ends up being the weakest part of the movie and why the movie ends up failing as a whole. The motto of the live action movie is have courage and be kind. This motto is repeated endlessly and is why the prince falls in love with Cinderella before the ball and why she is able to talk to animals and why the fairy god mother shows up for her. Cinderella is never courageous however, she is a doormat. Cinderella is well learned in the new movie, she has skills and intelligence that would allow her to find a life outside of her step mothers control and became a servant when she was old enough to escape, and is shown to have friends who could assist her living outside of the house. In fact she does try to escape, but decides it is cowardly to run away from the abusive situation she is in.
It was cowardly for her to run, because she says no doubt many people have it worse than she does.
... ... ... oh movie... no.
Contrast this with the animated movie, again in this Cinderella never escapes, however we are given no evidence to suggest that she could. Cinderella has lived like this since she was a child, we don't know that she has ever been outside the house. She also doesn't take the abuse in the same way; again I have to praise the animators who managed to give a lot of quiet dignity. Cinderella carries her head high at all times, its a small little sign that she isn't broken; it isn't until her dress is ripped that she finally breaks down. The dress tearing scene is chaotic and emotional; I've heard some refer to it the closest Disney has ever gotten to depicting a rape scene. And it was, until Maleficent and the scene where she wakes to find her wings removed. In contrast the live action scene has a sleeve ripped, that's it. Just one small rip; the scenes just can't compare in emotional weight. Movies have a simple language, which is 'show don't tell'. The animated movie never needs someone to exclaim the moral as 'have courage and be kind', Cinderella shows it through her actions alone and is rewarded for it.
It is really just hollow in the live action Cinderella movie; Cinderella claims to be endlessly kind and the film ends with her forgiving her family for the abuse. Yep; she forgives her abusers. Not gains some understanding about their motives, or any appreciation for the difficulties the Step Mother might face as a single mother in this time period. Nope, forgiven without question... they still get banished from the kingdom along with the duke who dared to stop the King marrying a peasant girl to protect the Kingdom. So, justice is served?
The live action movie really doesn't bring anything new to the table, although some great character work is done with the Prince and the King, it just adds nothing to the 'canon' of Cinderella. It is inferior to the animated movie it tries to improve upon. Meanwhile I love the hell out of Ever After and the animated Cinderella film; both are different however and each do succeed in what they are attempting.
I'll be updating again on the 20th as I turn the other passive fairy tale princess Sleeping Beauty into a sci-fi heroine.
I was very much on the fence about seeing Citizen Four; I think it shows how badly informed on the topic I was since I kept getting Edward Snowden and Julian Assange confused; I'm also concerned about how uncaring I was about the revelations that were coming out.
However we'll get more into the politics and why it's so important right now in Australia; but for now let's review the documentary itself. I haven't seen the two other documentaries by Laura Poitras, the three together are considered a trilogy on post 9/11 America. I can say that it isn't required for you to have watched the others to really enjoy this documentary.
The atmosphere is designed to feel intense from the beginning as they go over the security measures that Snowden was introducing to try and release the information. Perhaps it is because I didn't know enough about his reveals going into it but from a film point of view the danger felt to sudden and didn't match with the visual and audio tone. Things however pick up very quickly and once we finally meet Snowden the documentary really hits its stride; the footage all feels incredibly natural. Helped by the fact the subject Snowden is fairly charismatic. There is an ongoing sense of tension that makes the documentary seem like another world from the one we live in, but then it keeps grounding itself to remind us that the tension is real and exists in our world. The only real criticism I have is that the soundtrack doesn't really fit, often feeling the only artificial aspect.
So, if you are a fan of the documentaries, then definitely check this one out. And if you aren't, still go see this movie.
We are way to cavalier about how about our privacy and rights in exchange for a little bit of ease; however in Australia, the Labour Government recently said it would fold on the issue of data retention. No I've not been blogging in a while so I'm not going to jump straight into a political rant but I would strongly advise anyone to look up the issue and if you feel as strongly about it as I do. Speak to your local member and let them know.
Next time, just a review without the political rant...well... actually I make no promises!
Whelp, in the spirit of new year resolutions and goals, I guess it's time to dust off my old blog. Keep it active for 6 months and then dust it off again in 2016.
The system works.
So for those of you who were wondering, by which I mean my ten facebook friends I force to visit this blog, the reason I have been so inactive here is I have in fact been writing for other places!
I'm writing for The Australia Times - Games Magazine, and Media Hype101. You should check them both out!
I have however been staying on board with films, having seen over 40 movies this year. Most of which I was in fact glad to see; so let's award some some Good Whine prizes!
The Instragram award, for movie with the best food! - Chef
Simply mesmerizing food that I am still drooling over, combined with a hot soundtrack and some brilliant acting. A great movie if let down by an ending that was a little too happy.
The 1984 award, for inevitable human destruction! -TIE between Hungergames Mockingjay pt 1 and Snowpiercer
I was torn between the two movie as both are dealing with similar issues, namely can we live in a society which depends on the suffering of some. Both are class-ist revolutionary films with strong action. Hunger games probably deals with more additional issues with its display of the media while Snowpiercer is more focused.
The Taylor Swift award, for a movie that was better then it had any right to be! - The Lego Movie
Lego has proven itself incredibly subversive in it's game adaptations, and that anarchic humour combined with reverence for classical story telling led to an amazing move. The Lego movie was the biggest surprise of the year, based of a simply plastic toy it manage to capture what Lego's truley are for most kids. An opportunity to build any story you want.
The Ripley award, best film about fighting aliens! - TIE between Guardians of the Galaxy and Edge of Tomorrow
The summer music award, for film I haven't been able to get out of my head! - Her
I've already done a full review of Her so you can check out my feelings there, however it's great to see a hopeful look at the singularity.
And the Good Whine award for my personal favourite film of 2014 goes to Captain America 2 - The Winter Solider.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.