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September 30, 2009

Pan's Labyrinth

CoverPan's Labyrinth is a multi-layered story that is more than the sum of its parts.

There are three story threads running through this movie. The first is about Ofelia, a young girl who travels with her very pregnant (and very sick) mother to live with her evil step-father out in the country. After arriving she meets some magical forest creatures who tell her that she is the long lost princess to a magical kingdom. The second story is that of the evil step-father, a brutal military captain fighting off a group of revolutionaries. Last is the story of Mercedes, the house maid who is working in the country house while secretly feeding information to the rebels.

With all these stories put together the movie becomes one third demented Jim Henson production and two thirds gritty war movie.

The Ofelia story is the heart of the film. It focuses on a series of tasks set forth by a Faun to find entrance into the kingdom. Consequently, she goes on all these tasks alone, so the viewer is left to decide if these events are real or part of her imagination. The rest of the film is delegated into the "real world" of the very brutal Spanish Civil War. Now, when I say brutal, I mean it. At one point, after a major shoot out with the rebels, the military goes to all the dead and shoot them again in the head to make sure they are all properly deceased. What got to me the most about the violence is that it is so unexpected.

Almost the entire movie takes place in the real world which is violent and deadly and scary in its own right. Clearly the violence is used for shock value to contrast from the fantasy elements in the Ofelia storyline. It's this theme that carries the film. While Ofelia is running around doing all these magical tasks, she asks the adults about Fauns and Fairies to which they reply they used to believe in them when they were children, but not any more. Guillermo del Toro tells a thought-provoking tale about the lose of childhood innocence.

Admittedly there is nothing intrinsically wrong with the movie, but it is so lost in the fairy tale theme that the characters are more caricatures than actual people. While the movie is following a theme, for all intents and purposes it skates melodrama pretty closely.

Certainly this is not a movie for everyone and definitely not for children. There is significant message for adults to appreciate here. Sadly, after that there is little more that needs to be said about the film.

September 11, 2009

A few more thoughts on Stephenson's Quicksilver

And no, I haven't finished it yet. Not even close.

If you pick up this book thinking it is going to be just another novel, you will not like it. If you pick it up thinking I surived Robert Jordan, I can survive this!!, you probably will not like it.

Quicksilver isn't so much a novel as it is a discussion and an observation. If all my history of math (which I hope to re-read this winter) and history of science had a plot line, they would read like Quicksilver. If I can survive reading this, I'm pretty sure i'll be inspired to pick up the husband's histories of econ in Europe books. Although they look obscenely boring.

Read a novel, learn something, get inspired to learn more about a subject you had always thought was obscenely boring. Now that my friends, is a sign of a good author. Ok, and author who really, really, really for the love of anything you believe in needs a better editor, but a good author nonetheless.

That said, if someone were to ask me “is is a good book? Did you like it?” my response would have to be something along the lines of “describe the last sunset you saw”. Because the person's response could easily define if they will like Quicksilver or not. Was the sunset just ok? Did they not even notice it? Were they too busy texting at the time? Or were they fascinating by the shape and colors of the clouds? Did they stand and watch for a few minutes as they could observe the height of the sun just by seeing what colors the clouds were, and how tall the clouds were based on if there was any daytime sunlight on the tops of them? Do you see what I mean?

On that note, I believe this saturday will be spent away from distractions attempting to read more of Quicksilver. Those distractions being the 2nd cutest video game ever, Eternal Sonata, (the cutest video game ever would be Katamari Damacy) and a fun actiony gamey thing called Devil may Cry. Damn you xbox 360, and your distracting box of fun!

September 04, 2009

I require FUN books.

I'm finding in my old age, that fun is a requirement while reading for pleasure. Call me unliterary, call me immature, call me uneducated, just so long as you call me.

Quicksilver, by Neal Stephenson – informative, humorous, beautifully detailed, a palatable history lesson, but fun? Not so much. I'm about a third (400 pages + )of the way through, and I just don't feel like I'm getting anywhere. Like this is going to be 900 pages of set up, for something that's going to take another 2500 pages to come to fruition. Have I ever mentioned I hated reading Robert Jordan? The one thing this book really has going for it is it's damn educational. I feel like I'm taking a political / financial history class, and for once, this is a good thing. Stephenson's got so much going for him, would it kill him to get a damn editor? If/When I write a review for this book, it's going to read like a dissertation, because it will take me 10 pages just to set the scene. Even worse, the stupid book is addicting. I can't put it down because the characterization is great, and I'm getting a great history lesson, but other books sitting around the apartment are just so much more fun and entertaining. Sigh.
And will someone please tell me what the hell Enoch Root is doing in Massechussetts in 1713? Shall I just assume he's immortal?

Hood, by Stephen Lawhead – again informative, somewhat humorous, detailed, somewhat of a history lesson, a little slow. Many of the same things I complained about regarding Stephenson's Quicksilver, but with Lawhead, it's not such a big deal. Then again, in my book, Stephen Lawhead can do no wrong. He may write some cheap endings (Endless Knot!), but I still adore him. Hood is his take on the Robin Hood legends, except in Wales, during the Norman conquest of England. Bran ap Brynchan may be the heir of Elfael, but he wants to live his life as differently as his warlord father as possible. When his father is killed by invaders, Bran can run away from the burning villages of his people, or he can stay and fight. More apathetic than afraid, Bran simply does not want the life of a leader. He saw what that life did to his parents, and he wants anything but for himself. Finding safety in the forest, and help from a forest “witch”, it takes time for Bran to decide to do the right thing. The middle of the book is fairly slow, but it needs to be, as Bran is fighting his transformation into the leader he didn't know was inside him. Lawhead makes this into a perfectly acceptable Robin Hood myth. Where's friar Tuck? Where's king Richard? Don't worry, they are in there, just in slightly different incarnations. I am looking forward to the rest of the books in the trilogy – Scarlet and Tuck. Another thing I respect about Lawhead – he doesn't string me along. A trilogy is a trilogy, a stand alone book is a stand alone book. Lawhead tells me ahead of time how much of my attention he wants, and I like that.

Red Seas Under Red Skies, by Scott Lynch – This is the second or third time I've read this book, which is the 2nd book in Lynch's Gentlemen Bastards series. Sure, It's not as good as the first book, but damn, it is just so funny, and I can't help but giggle at all the swear words. Like the first one, Red Seas is pure, unadulterated FUN. It's taken me a long time at admin to my friends that I am a Scott Lynch fan girl, as his stuff just strikes me as so immature. But when I want something fun, he is my go to author. Don't be surprised in a group of rabid fangirls descends on Lynch's home in Wisconsin, demanding the next book in the series.

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