Friday, December 17, 2010

If I Stay

A week ago, I read Gayle Forman's book If I Stay, mainly because Kaleb Nation wrote a review of it for NPR. I tacked the book onto an Amazon order so that I could get free shipping, as one does.

The premise is similar to The Lovely Bones, yet very different; that book did not resonate with me the way that this one did. Instead of a 13-year old who is tells us on the first page that she was murdered and then explains what happens as she watches down on her family as they deal with/don't deal with the trajedy, If I Stay is in the voice of a 17-year old whose entire family is in a fatal car crash in the first chapter. She realizes that she is still alive (for now) and struggles to accept her new situation and what decision she must now make. The Lovely Bones was about "an event;" If I Stay was more about plain emotion.

At times, it was greatly saddening: descriptions of Mia's life and her relationships are set against what is happening now at the hospital. It is a short book that I thought at first would only take me a day, but I had to slow down for the first half. After that, I moved more quickly because I simply had to know what Mia would do. She becomes so important to you as you read: it's more like reading someone's memoir than a novel.

And when I finally closed the back cover, I felt like calling everyone I know to tell them how I appreciate them . . . I didn't actually do that, but the point is, this book made a definite impact on me. That's a big statement for me. I found this book so close in with human experience that I had to take something from it and continue pondering its content.

It seems Summit Entertainment is trying to make a movie out of it. We'll see how that goes.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Make Way for the Dawn Treader!

I don't believe I have said much about my opinions on the first two Disney/Walden Media Narnia films; let's just say that while they did some things well, others I was not so keen on. After Prince Caspian, I didn't even feel like getting too excited over The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. After all, it was a two and a half year wait, in any case. Once I learned that Michael Apted would be directing (whose work with Amazing Grace I loved) and that he would be bringing David Arnold in for the score (whom I also lauded for AG), I started to hope.

Suddenly, a week ago, the movie was here. I saw it the afternoon it came out (coincidentally, after an English Grammar study session), and I smiled through nearly the whole thing. The opening shot was whimsical, tricking you for a second that you are looking at Narnia when it is really London. Will Poulter embodied Eustace absolutely perfectly; he deserves some awards for his performance. Reepicheep was finally the Reepicheep I had read about. Ben Barnes was able to be Caspian to the full extent.

Scenery is gorgeous. The ship's look is just right, the cave where they put the deathwater pool looks amazing, and I must give the team extra credit for pulling off an attack by a sea serpent. The score was lovely in its simplicity: it wasn't begging you to think epically, letting itself instead work as the enhancer of the movie it ought to be.

Although I certainly have nit-picking, as well, this is all I will say. (If you want to read a bit more, here is my review on Narniaweb.) It was a well-made movie that I thoroughly enjoyed and greatly recommend.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Lullaby By Tolkien

I forgot to mention a book I finished about a month ago: another of the posthumously published Tolkien works, The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun. Written entirely in verse and based on Norse mythology versus the medieval nature of The Lord of the Rings, it was something I was slow to buy. Also slow because of the high price tag it had when it first came out, but eventually I was able to get it for $3 (new) on Amazon. Can't beat that.

Even Christopher Tolkien (in the introduction) admitted that certain parts of this book are next to impossible to understand, which is why he added in pages of commentary for each section. I didn't feel like reading those, though certainly not because I felt like I didn't need to: he was very correct in his statement. But rather than thinking about all of the plot details, I focused more on the poetic structure, the rhythm of the words. The lines are all very short, making for a format that looks simple yet is complicated. I read the book in the evening, letting the cadence of the words fall like a lullaby in my head.

It's definitely an experience I would recommend for fans of Tolkien (or of poetry). It's a chance to look at more from the man who placed songs of Luthien and Nimrodel and Gil-Galad inside of the text of The Lord of the Rings. It's, to me, a work from Tolkien the linguist.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Cease, O Clouds!

I am sitting with that most beloved of all drinks, acai juice, which manages somehow to be like a fruit smoothie and a chocolate shake combined into one. It is most delicious. As I drink it, I contemplate why it is so dark outside at five o'clock. Dratted clouds. With the advent of cooler weather, however, it also becomes a very tempting idea to sit inside with a nice movie. So here is my latest update on what I've been watching.

1) Somewhere in Time. The description calls it "unabashedly romantic," which it most definitely is, though in rather a unique way. I watched it, thought it was okay but didn't feel that deep connection some people tend to have toward it. But now, over a month later, I find myself thinking more and more about it. It really is a gorgeous premise, carried out like nothing else.

2) Avatar. I know I was ridiculously late in seeing this movie, but at least now I can say that I did enjoy it. The depth of the world created was impressive, as were the visuals. The story, though it's true that it's one that's been done a thousand times and will be done a thousand times more, still gets you thinking.

3) Coraline. Had to mention this one because I absolutely disliked it. It was creepy, as I knew it would be, but not, to me, in a good way. I'm not saying it was a bad movie; the style just didn't sit well with me at all.

4) Hidalgo. A relatively simple movie whose story I really enjoyed. A little drama, a little action, a little adventure.

5) Stardust. I knew this was a movie that could either be good or just fall off the other edge; it walks on that kind of a fine line. Turned out, I really liked it. It was sweet dark and creative and new and the same at once.

6) Your Mother Wears Combat Boots. I watched this because it stars Barbara Eden (aka. Jeannie). Though it is a small made-for-tv movie, it isn't without entertainment worth. Moments of it, too, are just slightly reminiscent of Jeannie.

7) Frida. I pressed "play" thinking it was a documentary, not a biopic, and finished the movie slightly in awe. I knew little about Frida beforehand; this movie helped me understand her paintings. The story, too, has so much thematically that we can grab hold on for ourselves.

8) Superman. I think I saw the first movie once (not sure if it was the whole thing), so I decided I'd better rewatch, this time watching all four movies. To my surprise, they were alright. The second was my favorite (hello, drama); the third was my least (hello, boring-what's-the-point).

9) Shakespeare Retold. These are four BBC episodes, each taking a Shakespeare play and retelling it in a modern setting. Doesn't sound particularly great, and the first few minutes of Much Ado About Nothing left me bored, but once I started recognizing character traits, the fun began. Much Ado is just so hilarious to begin with that they couldn't do wrong. Macbeth was hilarious, starring James McAvoy. Who knew Macbeth the chef could be such a marvelous idea?

10) I'm still hooked on I Dream of Jeannie. I'm rewatching the entire series and still loving it.