Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays everyone!

Charles Schultz = pure genius. A Charlie Brown Christmas is such a simple story yet its captivating, intelligent and poignant. Another truly great mind which is gone forever. Who doesn't love Linus' description of what Christmas is all about? Charlie Brown is great, but such a sad (sometimes depressing) character, Linus is optimistic, secure in his beliefs and a true philosopher - the perfect friend for poor Charlie Brown.

Just want to take a moment to wish happy and peaceful holidays to everyone. Hope the new year brings great things for each of us and eventually the world.....

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Jane Austen Greetings

My dear Ms. Austen,

Please permit me to wish you a most happy belated birthday. You may be surprised to receive such a message from me - a person who you never saw in your life, but if you had even an inkling of the number of people who have been inspired, delighted, altered by the your work, you might understand a bit more.

Allow me to express how ardently I admire your work Ms. Austen. From the moment I apprehensively picked up your Pride and Prejudice and realized that the first chapter was amusing, clear and devoid of heavy, incomprehensible description, I was devoted to your compositions. From the moment, I sat down to watch the television series based upon your novel and realized how beautifully your words could be brought to the screen, I was committed. (You would have found television interesting I think. There is as much to amuse as to annoy on it. I think you would have found a great deal to marvel and laugh at.) I must thank you Ms. Austen for enriching my life with your novels.

Thank you for your heroines - for delightful people like Elizabeth Bennet, Catherine Morland and even opinionated Emma Woodhouse. Young women who I wish to emulate. They are flawed yet principled. Intelligent, but with a lot to learn. Some of them are witty. All are wonderful in their own ways. I can hope that someday I can learn to be more like them.

Thank you for your heroes – true they have spoiled me for having real life relationships with the boring men of the world, but ah well - I would not pass up making the acquaintance of your Mr. Darcy and Mr. Tilney and many of your other gents for the world. Your gentlemen are kind and wonderful. They show us what true nobility is. Mr. Tilney particularly is witty and adorable in every sense of the world. I envy your creation of him as I envy so many other aspects of your work.

Your ability to construct concise, loaded, truly hilarious sentences strikes me every time. If ever I can learn to express myself as you do, I would believe that I had reached the epitome of writing ability. You may think I exaggerate to flatter, but I do not. I speak the absolute truth.
I do not wish to weary you with a lengthy Mr. Collins-style epistle (you characterized him and your many other bores excellently by the way. I fear that you suffered the company of many such types in your short life). I will conclude directly. I cannot end though without saying that I love your villains. They are real. John Thorpe is so vivid in my imagination. Also many of the movies your novels have inspired are fantastic, and I have spent considerable hours enjoying them. It is because of you that I have been introduced to the amazing skills of the likes of Colin Firth, Jennifer Ehle, J.J. Feilds and many others. Perhaps you have a suspicion now of the pleasures you introduced into my existence. I can honestly say my life is better because you lived on this earth for forty-two short years.

Perhaps, you a white, British woman did not realized that one day your “bits of ivory” would touch the heart and mind of a young, black West Indian woman, but that is the beauty of writing isn’t it? We reach through the pages we write to touch other human beings; we cannot know how far the vibrations will go. Yours go very far indeed, and I hope you are aware of this in some way.

Happy 233rd birthday.

Yours respectfully etc.

Read more about this remarkable woman here

Monday, December 15, 2008

Can Pushing Daisies be revived?

While browsing on my favourite discussion boards, I discovered that the ABC's Pushing Daisies has been cancelled. Can we say "tragic"! The show is in its second season, and is a whimsical concoction which I find hard to describe. It is a comedy, but it's also a mystery. It's an hour long and definitely has drama, but it's a fantasy too with magic.

Read more about this wonderful show here

Whatever it is, I love all the elements of this show, and no cancellation has hurt this much since Cupid.*

Since it still hurts a lot, I can't talk too much about this. Besides I don't think I can say anything much about this show which has not been said already.

Briefly for those of you not in the know: Pushing Daisies is a show about a sad eyed young man named Ned who has trouble expressing his feelings, and finds some happiness in owning and running a pie shop called the Pie Hole (yup! Don't ya love it!)Ned is lonely and sweet and adorable, and he also has the strange power of bringing people to life by touching them. (Stay with me.) Ned can only bring the person to life for one minute; he has to touch them again and let them die or someone living in the vicinity will drop dead. This brings numerous complications to Ned's life. One of which is the love of his life the lovely and sweet Chuck who Ned resuscitated but whom he cannot bring himself to let die. So, (get this) he can't touch her! Ever! Or Chuck will die. (How can anyone not like this show?)

Despite the angst that his "ability" brings to his life, Ned has also found a way to profit by it. When not working at the Pie Hole, he helps a detective named Emerson Cod to solve murders by simply bringing the deformed (really weirdly) corpses to life and asking them about how they died. Many episodes revolve around Ned, Emerson, Chuck and fun Pie Hole staff member Olive solving murder mysteries. Usually I don't like shows like this, so this demonstrates how well Pushing Daisies captured my heart, because I even love the mysteries. They are just tres bizarre e.g. the bigamist who realized the cup of coffee one of his wives gave him is poisoned, but then dies anyway by slipping on the spilled coffee and stabbing himself to death on a strategically placed letter opener.

As you can tell, this show captured my sense of whimsy. In a TV universe of doctor/lawyer/cop/reality shows, Pushing Daisies was a breath of fresh air. One look at any scene just makes me smile. The sets, the clothes and the scenery are resplendent with vibrant colour. Magic works in this type of environment. Any place that looks like that must have magic seeping in at the seams. The costumes fit the fanciful atmosphere. The dialogue is rapid and quotable. (Like the time Ned, Chuck and Emerson are trying to find their way through a sewer and Chuck suggests that they "follow the yellow thick hose".) The romance between Chuck and Ned is lovely. They adore each other. Just look at them kissing through saran wrap. (They can't touch remember) Awwwww.

Anyway as this post is painful as well as doting I must end it. Instead of giving a show which epitomizes imagination and creativity the arena it deserves, ABC chose to scrap it because of its ratings. I do not care how poorly they imagined this show was doing. It will be a wonderful world if networks ever start putting their support behind good shows and giving them the extra attention they need instead of going for the money all the time. Yes, I know money makes the world go round (blah! blah! blah!) but I am confident this show could have continued to build an audience (and believe me there are many, many other dedicated fans out there), if it was given the opportunity.

For those of you who did not have the chance to get to know this show I am sorry. There are still some episodes left and Season One has been released on DVDs, so I recommend you give it a try. For those who are fans and are pained about this as I am, do not forget to let this network know how you feel.
Do it, even if it's too late. This show deserves as much.

*Very few people know this 1998 show, but it was also excellent and unusual and cancelled. I still mourn for it. Ironically this show was also on ABC. Great job guys.....Read about Cupid here:

Monday, November 24, 2008

Twilight Reflections

[WARNING: This review of Stephanie Myer's Twilight contains SPOILERS. I personally don't think that these spoilers can spoil your enjoyment of the book or movie, but if you're averse to all SPOILERS of any kind. BEWARE]

I've only read Stephanie Myer's Twilight in the past week, but I've been hearing about the book for a long time. And if you haven't heard, the movie will be coming out soon. People on my message boards have been waiting in eager anticipation. I have friends who are fans or have become reluctant fans. Entertainment Weekly did a cover story on it. Stephanie Myers is the hot author of the moment. Can you blame me for being a little wary of all this hype? I rarely touch the novels on the bestsellers lists, partly because they are usual suspense thrillers and mysteries which are not my cup of tea, but also because I find that I am not always in sync with the rest of the world when it comes to my reading material. However I can't resist this type of book. A supernatural young adult novel? Count me in. So I started reading Twilight in the bookstore then, getting impatient, I bought the book which everyone is talking about. My verdict is: it's not bad.

(Read more about the Twilight Series on Wikipedia – Watch out for spoilers! Won't hold myself responsible for anything you find on other websites.)

Sorry. No, I have not joined the ranks of the Twilight obsessed. However, I also cannot have the snobby satisfaction of disliking the book which is adored by the rank and file. Twilight has good things going for it, but it just hasn't touched me at that uber level so many have experienced.

Most people may know by now that the story revolves around seventeen year old Bella who reluctantly moves to live with her father. She is not at all happy with the move to the cold, snowy, gloomy town of Forks in Washington. But almost at once she notices and is drawn to a stunningly handsome fellow student, Edward Cullen and finds that she is drawn to him. Some dramatic events are entwined in the plot as they get to know each other, but these events are not the main focus of the story. This works to an extent for this book: it is after all a romance. The characters need time to see each other and experience the various feelings associated with love. The author also needs to take the time to develop the vampires in this universe she has created. The suspenseful turn the story takes later on is interesting, but is resolved fairly quickly. The very dramatic point in the plot is not even shown directly – an interesting move which I am not convinced works that well.

So the main draw of Twilight is its characters specifically Bella and Edward. Bella is typical, or she describes herself as typical. In her words, she is average looking, but evidence speaks otherwise as several boys from her school fall for her almost immediately. Bella speculates that this is because she is the new kid in school, but this theory doesn't quite gel with me. As far as personality goes, Bella doesn't exactly dazzle. She's definitely not a butt kicking, super fierce heroine. (Don't get me wrong. I have no problem with these types of heroines per se, but they are getting cliched and overdone.) She is timid, klutzy (this is a bit overdone) and aloof from her classmates. While, I am glad she does not belong in the super heroine mould, she did not generate strong feeling in me. She seems to care little about anyone else around her except Edward, and somehow I could not care about her as much as I would have liked.

This brings us to Edward: the object of fan girl obsessions; the imaginary boyfriend of thousands; the vampire du jour. There's no doubt about Edward's looks. He is gorgeous. Bella is deeply attracted to him, so much so it becomes a little tedious as almost every mention of him has to include a mention of angelic, Adonis-like looks. He also has an attractive voice; he plays and writes his own music. He's strong as an ox, and astonishingly fast. He doesn't need to sleep, and he can appear and disappear silently. Even his breath smells like heaven. As one character notes, these vampires have a "glut of weapons" in their physical arsenal "much, much more than really necessary."

Myers is to be commended though because despite all this, Edward is not insufferable. I can see why some readers have fallen in love with him. He is sensual. When he falls in love, he is devoted; he is passionate. He is fascinated. His whole attention is riveted. I love that aspect of his personality, but I am not blown away by him. I don't blame Mrs. Myers. She did the best she could. My problem is I've been spoiled: I've known better heroes. I'm familiar with the likes of Edward Rochester*, Sorensen Carlisle**, the evil Wizard Howl***. Edward is definitely a 10 in the book, but in my mind he's a 6. Not bad at all. As I said, I can see why so many love him, and I cannot safely say that he doesn't deserve the devotion.

Overall I'm glad I read it. Myers is quite a good writer. Her narrative flows and is not grating or annoying. As usual I am a little saddened that some writers who are better do not receive as much recognition, but I am always glad when so many people are interested in a series of books. It's a little like Harry Potter fever: you have a much better chance of finding someone who has read the same books and who are willing to discuss them, and I love book discussions. So in that sense, I am glad to be a part of another book phenomenon.

*Hero of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. Wonderful, deeply emotional book.

**Hero of Margaret Mahy's The Changeover: A supernatural romance. My favourite book by my favourite author with my favourite hero. Watch out for my future Margaret Mahy write-up.

***Hero of Diana Wynne Jones' Howl's Moving Castle. This character just suddenly popped into my head. He's not usually on my list of favourite heroes, but he's a very good one and fits the mould I'm describing.

(Make sure and leave a comment about my review, this book or the movie, even if you don't agree with me. As I said, I love civilized discussions.)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Demi Gods of Summer

Once the credits roll at the end of Clone Wars in a few weeks, my "summer" movie fest will have ended, and I will undoubtedly experience a moment of emptiness before I turn my face eagerly toward the fall movies. Daniel Craig's eyes in Quantum of Solace will definitely be a light after a short period of movie darkness.

However, before I turn away from the summer of 2008 forever I must do homage to the Demi gods of Summer. What are they you ask? Didn't you read my debut blog post? These are just the kind of people I've been raving about from the get go. My Demi gods of Summer are the people who produced, designed, wrote, directed etc any elements of the movies in the past few months that made me sigh in contentment, gasp in delight or even made my eyes go wet (I'm talking to you Wall-E!!!)

Don't know much about box office or diminishing theatre goer statistics or rising cinema prices, as usual I know what I like, so bring 'em on!

Robert Downey Jr. /The makers of Iron Man

Kudos to RDJ for coming back from a devastating period of drug addiction and jumping straight into the hearts of the viewing public. Everyone's glad he's doing so well, and they want him to keep it up. How does he do it? With acting ability I guess. He wowed everyone with Iron Man earlier this year and accomplished an even more amazing feat by making me fall for him - not head over heels, but through a gradual process which makes me think it's for keeps. He was funny; he was endearing. He was compelling. He also had great arms! Tell me you didn't notice in the iron pounding scene? He also worked well with the other characters including Gwyneth Paltrow as his secretary, the excellent Pepper Potts. His other co-stars were also excellent down to the robots – special props go to "robot with fire extinguisher" – excellent performance.

The whole of the movie was a treat because of RDJ and because of the story. It had heart, and it was mad fun as well.

Special mention must also go to the people who designed Tony Stark's home. Wow! I will gladly add it to my list of "Stuff From Movies I Want". (This list also includes a lightsaber, Arwen's necklace from Lord of the rings, various outfits from Jane Austen movies..... but more on that another time.)

The People at Pixar (Call me! I want to work for you!!!)

To all those who thought that Pixar could not do it again, I send a long, loud, sustained I TOLD YOU SO!!! I mean their track record is excellent. Take a look at Monster's Inc, Toy Story, Finding Nemo and The Incredibles and get back to me. If you did not think these movies were poignant, ground breaking, breathtaking and all out fun, I wash my hands of you, I give up, there's no hope.

Anyway you must know by now I'm talking about Wall-E. (His name by the way stands for Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class.) Only Pixar could take a little robot with a body like one of those rusty, metal lunchboxes we used to have and a head like a pair of binoculars, and make a hero – "a little robot that could" so to speak. Just the type I like. I mean macho posturing is okay in its place, but characters that humbly but determinedly keep trying and trying and getting up whenever they're knocked down touch my heart, and Wall-E does that in spades.

His lack of speech makes him all the more endearing. He doesn't need to say more than the couple of words he knows and squeak his prerequisite sound effects; the work done on his body language was exemplary.

Again design is a big plus in this movie. I mean a robot that looks like Wall-E could conceivably exist in real life to clean up the streets (I know Port-of-Spain could use a few). The design of his counterpart EVE is beautiful; the sort of manmade design that leaves you in awe. Sleek, flawless, coldly deadly, she is the opposite of Wall-E. The perfect woman I say! But she has a "human" side too, and she reveals her heart and warmth as the story progresses. I loved her.

Some people have suggested that Wall-E, with its post-apocalyptic setting, is one of the darker Pixar movies, but the strength and hope are key elements in the story. The moment when several of the characters work together to help Wall-E made my eyes water (strong reaction for me). Wall-E himself doesn't give up – perhaps partly because he's a robot with a single minded purpose, but mostly because he is pure of heart, undaunted and determined – a true little hero on treads.
Christopher Nolan and The Dark Knight Crew
Everyone's seen The Dark Knight by now right? You've heard everything there is to know about it – it's dark; it's surprising; it has great acting, great story.
I attribute all that to the movie's director Christopher Nolan. Of course, we've seen credits at the end of a movie, a colossal amount of people are usually involved in steering the behemoth that is a feature film into harbour, but I usually like to give credit to the director.
So altogether: "All Hail Christopher Nolan!"
The guy did good work, and I appreciate a filmmaker who does good work fairly consistently. Nolan hasn't done much, but what he's done is quality stuff. It shows in his Batman movies which have good stories and good characterization.

The Dark Knight is an excellent example of this. Everyone is talking about Heath Ledger's work here, and he is very good. For one thing, if I did not know it was Heath Ledger, I probably would not recognize him under the crazy, wet clown makeup and with the slightly nasal voice and odd mannerisms. Christian Bale is a treat as usual. (I liked him in Little Women, Henry V and Newsies – ya gotta love Newsies). And I enjoyed the supporting characters like Michael Caine as Alfred and Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox.
I like how ordinary characters get to be heroes in this movie as well; Batman doesn't do all the work. (This element was also pretty apparent in Spiderman II) In addition, there's Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent, everyone's prince (or white knight), a sweet, brave, guy who you know you might really support and who you would grieve to lose. Alfred and Lucius are key players too; Batman couldn't do without them. Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon is one of my favourites; he looks like a worn, hard working police officer, an ordinary man, and he performs his acts of heroism with ease, a sense of duty and a straightforward manner, no flair. He does what he has to do.
It's good to keep these characters in mind when so many others are criminals or are infected by the corruption which depressed me a little in this film (some of it struck a little too close to home). I attribute all this dark, enthralling goodness to Christopher Nolan. Very good job sir, I salute you.
I must make a quick mention of the entire staff who produced this movie's soundtrack. According to IMDB, that job goes to Hans Zimmer, so I congratulate him and his entire staff for making the decisions (I assume) of having large chunks of the movie without sound. At other times, an eerie whistle/alarm/siren sound accentuates the tension. It definitely amped my anxiety up a notch. I'm sure other movies have done this similiarly, but this is the first time it resonated with me so strongly.
Special mention again to whoever designed the bat bike. Add that to the list please: It actually looked like something you could ride on. I would add Bruce Wayne's gorgeous apartment as well, but all I saw was the bedroom with the massive bed, the cool, sleek interior design with the screens as accents and the lovely massive windows with the vista of Gotham city for real life wallpaper. We didn't see much else of the apartment though, no kitchen, no bathrooms, but wait there was his awesome balcony and a place to have a really lush and elegant party... oh and a secret tunnel – almost forgot that....heck it's going on the list.
George Lucas and Steven Spielberg
Indiana Jones was back with a vengeance this year, and I felt about him the way I felt about George and Steven: it's always good to see that they're still out there. I admit I wasn't always a Spielberg fan. For years I had a mental block against him. His movies were imaginative but always had elements I couldn't stomach, but eventually my block was dislodged by Spielberg's diversity. His movies cover a very wide spectrum of ideas and subjects- dinosaurs, the Holocaust, slavery, Peter Pan - and I don't know any other director off-hand who can do the same. It seems to me that he does whatever grabs him at a given moment; perhaps he's one of the few film makers who have that luxury, but you still have to give him props for doing it. He's still not my favourite director, but I no longer feel inclined to view his work with a jaundiced eye.
One of the reasons I started liking him better is because he works with George Lucas. I mean he's smart enough to see that Lucas is a complete genius. You might as well know that George Lucas can do very little wrong in my eyes. Yes, I know he makes mistakes, and his latter day Star Wars movies have inconsistencies and problems. I know he directed Howard the Duck, and all that, but I still look at him and think, "I can't stay mad at you!" One reason for this is that he is so deeply invested in the fantasy he has created. Like any good author, his story has background and depth to fortify what narrative is being presented to the audience. Another reason is that his ideas resonate with me more than Spielberg's. I get the impression that in some ways we think alike, that we can be awed or moved by the same things. This is the type of kindred spirit connection I've talked about before. You can read a good story or watch a good movie and think it's really good, but on a personal level it can connect with you and make it something more. The Star Wars trilogy did that for me, and it's the reason I am still invested in the mythology of it even though some elements of it have disappointed me.
Anyway the fact that George and Steven produced another riveting and exciting Indiana Jones movie made me feel happy and pleased to know they're still both out there dreaming their crazy dreams. This was not my favourite Indiana Jones movie, but it was a very good one. Some elements of it seemed to be more unbelievable than usual, and I am conflicted about that. Is it that when I was younger, I was more likely to accept the impossible things I saw in the previous films or was this truly the most unbelievable Indiana Jones films ever? I suppose taking a look at the older ones again will solve my dilemma, but it won't affect how I feel about the movie much. I mean the unbelieveable things were still cool. Only Indiana Jones could use a fridge to the effect that he did in that movie. No more details here though. Go see it yourself.
Honourable Mentions
I've already said my piece about The Hulk (see below), so I'll only say a word about the Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. I thought while I was re-reading Caspian that the plot was very spare, and I suspect that the director would have a lot of room to play with the story. That's basically what happened. Don't think the choices were always perfect or totally original, but I enjoyed them regardless. It was great seeing the children again. I think they all did wonderful jobs. As High King Peter, William Moseley still shines for me. He's going to be a real heartthrob when he grows up, and he has a kingly look. I enjoyed the way the duel he fought at the end played out, and I like the way he and Caspian kept clashing with each other, even though it was not what happened in the book. I liked Prince Caspian's character despite the odd accent. I also enjoyed the battle scenes which were very well done. Some fans have had issues with the castle attack scene, but I think it had a definite purpose to the story and the way Peter's character was developed in this narrative arc. And of course, it gave some great opportunities for some wonderful stunts. All the children performed their fight scenes wonderfully. And... oh yes, I want a talking mouse exactly like Reepicheep. No I'll take the little bad boy himself if he'll let me.
My last word is on Hellboy II: the Golden Army. Not a perfect movie, but an interesting one. For some reason I'm not a fan of Hellboy himself – too much of the big dumb smart mouth, but interestingly I cannot dislike him. I find I tend to prefer the other characters around him. It was the characters and the design which captured me in this movie. Forget the storyline, what about the amazing animated telling of a legend at the beginning of the story? What about the motley crew of creatures going about their business in a place intriguingly named "The Troll Market"? (I wanna go there.) What about the villainous fairy tale/nightmare creatures that popped up regularly throughout the story? The whole movie was living proof of the endless imagination in the mind of director Guillermo del Toro. While watching, I felt a spasm of delight as I remembered that the upcoming Hobbit movie will be in his hands. Hopefully he will take the story and make it his own and not a copy of the vision of Peter Jackson.
Anyway that's my parade of the demi gods of Summer. They've all done such a wonderful job. I hope that this is a definite trend for summers to come. Feel free to comment or disagree folks or invoke the names of the gods you think I missed. Talk amongst yourselves.

Monday, July 14, 2008

My Date With The Not-So-Jolly Green Giant

How can you not love eyes like this?

This summer*has truly been the Summer of Superheroes in my mind. We started off with Iron Man. Now Hellboy and Batman are on their way. I might even consider arguing putting Indiana Jones in that category – no ordinary human being could do such amazing things. I am pretty much excited about them all. Even though I am not a fan of Hellboy, the visuals in the trailer are starting to convince me. However I'll talk about my latest super hero experience this season: The Incredible Hulk.

Before I go any further I have to warn you that when it comes to the Hulk I'm prejudiced. He is definitely an awesome superhero though sometimes I question that term because he's not really the kind who's out to save the world. He's just a big, unstoppable force who's basically always on the wrong side of the U.S. military. Perhaps it's this unusual slant that makes him interesting. Or maybe it's poor mild mannered Bruce Banner who's plagued by this monster inside of him that could break out at anytime. In that, he's not too different from the rest of us. We all have to keep a check on our emotions, and a lot of us have to fight to keep our tempers down before we get out of control. In poor Bruce's case, the results just happen to be more far reaching, with bigger explosions, holes in walls etc. In short, the Hulk is a manifestation of the conflicting personalities in all of us, and I think I can relate to that. Maybe that's why I like him.

However I must say what kicks Hulk up a notch on my coolness meter is the transformations. I think the old tv series started it off well. Remember when some witless thugs would push Banner aside, and he would conveniently fall behind a counter or something. While the thugs go about their business, Banner's eyes would take on that eerie green glow, and then you start singing (or at least I do), "Now you're gonna get iiiiiiiiiiit." That's what a Hulk movie has to have: a "Now you're gonna get it" moment.

The old tv series did a good job building up the tension in these scenes, and I remember waiting eagerly for this moment in every episode. When the first movie came out I was ready to see the Hulk in another incarnation, to see another type of transformation. I mean Lou Ferigno and Bill Bixby did their jobs well, but if there is any hero who needs a little special effects work, it would be the Hulk. While Lou Ferigno is an intimidating looking guy, I wanted to see what a man mountain of a hulk looked like. It's impossible for an ordinary man –no matter how buff- to become this big green Frankenstein. (On a side note, what exactly happens when Banner changes? How can his body create that much muscle mass out of nothing so quickly? Perhaps it's some sort of quickly dividing cells? That might hurt. And where do they go when he changes back? Hmmmmm.)

I've heard a lot about what people thought about Ang Lee's Hulk movie a few years back. I've heard the complaints and the fuss, that it was too thoughtful (how is that possible?), that it took too long for the Hulk to appear, (uh, they were trying to build the story), that it was confusing (a little but not that much) and that it was boring (nope) – in short, I don't agree. It wasn't the greatest movie ever, but there was some good work put in there. I respect Ang Lee as a director – his body of work alone is so varied, you've got to be a leetle awed by that. I love how he tried a different format, tried to make a story which was about the man as much as the monster. Besides that, I cannot believe any movie that features sweet faced Eric Bana and one of my favourite actresses Jennifer Connelly could be all bad. This movie also generated one of the best trailers I have ever seen. No lie, I actually watched it over and over in fascination. Check it out here:

Anyway, what did I think of the new movie? Didn't I already say I was prejudiced? It would be hard for me not to enjoy a Hulk movie, but this one had a lot to like. Instead of Eric Bana, this one has Edward Norton who does a good job here as he does in every movie. You ask Edward Norton to play a mild mannered man struggling to come to terms with a terrible curse, and he does it right. Of course, no matter how bad you feel for Banner, you're still waiting for him to bring down hell on himself again, so the Hulk can make an appearance. The requisite slugfests which follow are great, and at one point, I witnessed one of the most intense hand to hand fights I've ever seen in a movie. Besides that, this movie doesn't forge any new frontiers, but I had lots of fun, and that will do for now. To summarize, I'll post the review I posted on Facebook i.e.
Hulk run round. Hulk smash up stuff. Good fun.
So there you have it, so far my Summer of Superheroes is going fantastically. What with discovering Robert Downey Jr for the first time (yup never really knew anything about him before. Iron Man made me a convert) and seeing Indiana Jones in action again, things are going well. Next stop The Dark Knight and the most unkempt Joker I have ever seen

* Yes I use the term "summer" even though I live in the West Indies. These are North American movies so I feel justified

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Adventures in Lit Class

Let me know if this is weird to anyone out there, but quite often when my friends and I from St. Joseph's Convent Port-of-Spain meet up, our reminiscing about our adventures in school often meander around to the books we read then. I wonder if anyone else does this? I can explain why we do it. It's probably because we spent so much time poring over these books, discussing them, sometimes hating them (and man did we hate some of them) that they are forever interwoven into our memories of crazy teachers, mind numbing tests, the lame (or adorable) boys across the street and that time a pervert took up a vantage point across the street (remember that guys).

During my own reflections I have found that I am overall rather pleased with the books that came my way during my seven years of exposure to school literature. The selections were supposed to expose us to a variety of classical books which touched on different cultures, and they didn't do too badly. Now a days I can smugly say I've actually read Chinua Achebe and Derek Walcott and Tennessee Williams. Even though, the aftermath of some of our literature lectures resembled a battlefield with fallen convent girls sprawled on their desks (not dead but sleeping the sleep of the dead), I still vividly remember some of the insights expressed by our teachers, and the ideas which dawned on me. I loved good class discussions on good books – when everyone had something to say and the reflections and ideas zipped back and forth. Those were joyous times for me.

And we read some good books, especially as we came to the last years of school. I was introduced to Jane Austen in SJC. Saw my first Shakespeare film then too and it's still one of my all time favourites. Perhaps I might never have picked up these books if they had not been introduced to me. Even the books some of us disliked gave me new perspectives and opportunities. I don't like Hardy's "Tess of the Durbervilles" but I love his "Far From the Madding Crowd". I am not a huge fan of Virginia Woolf's "To the Lighthouse" but I still was inspired by her "flow of consciousness" narrative. I do not think it's possible to read what is considered good literature without getting something out of it. I learned how to define true love as we examined Charles Dickens' "A Tale of Two Cities". I got a better appreciation of poetry from Wordsworth's lyrical ballads and I learned to love many works which are still a part of me today. I was surprised to find that my university education didn't have the same effect on me. I suppose my SJC exposure will remain as one of my greatest inspirations.

So in appreciation for these great influences I'm going to do my own tribute to my literary education – the best of times and the worst of times, and I'll start with.....


I don't remember who among my classmates noted that the books we read tended to be depressing. Whoever made that observation was right. There seemed to be a conspiracy among our literature teachers to expose us to the most gloomy texts among the recommended reading lists. In Form One, we read Patrick O'Brien's "Island of the Blue Dolphins", not a terribly sad book, but it had a tasty selection of unhappy situations. In later forms, it just got worse. Second year featured John Steinbeck's "The Pearl", a story of how the discovery of a spectacular pearl brought tragedy and destruction to a guiltless fisherman and his wife. You certainly didn't put down this book with a sunnier, more hopeful view of the human race.

Later on, we tended to study authors as well as the books they wrote, and it became quickly apparent why some of these people wrote the unfortunate tomes which dotted our literary landscape – they were a pretty messed up bunch themselves. Poor Virginia Woolf, besides living through years of sexual abuse from her half brother and the throes of bipolar disorder, apparently sometimes heard birds singing to her in Greek. I personally thought that I would not recognize what languages birds were singing in, but I assumed this was a confirmation of her brilliance mixed with her mental problems. Anyway the poor lady eventually drowned herself. However Tennessee Williams could quite easily compare notes with her. After all he spent a troubled life dealing with his mentally ill mother and abusive father before presumably killing himself by swallowing a bottle cap. (My question here is: Why?!) The fact that evidence has surfaced lately that Williams' may have been murdered doesn't stack up to a whole lot in the scheme of things – not to Tennessee anyway.

Please be assured, I am not of the school of thought that every book should have a gloriously, happy ending. Authors have a right to miserable lives just like everyone else. (They do seem to tend to have miserable lives more than the average person which does not bode well for me, but I digress.) However, we did seem to have a dirge of downers at SJC. This became more apparent to me when I made a comparison with my brother's reading material at his all boys school. He read "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" in Form One and "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" in Form Two! Some sort of prejudice was apparent there; I'm sure of it. Are girls more likely to enjoy the tragic and disheartening? Is it necessary to ensure that boys be exposed to the fun, the magical, the uplifting? Someone needs to look into this, but once again....I digress.

Don't get me wrong, depressing books don't equal to mediocre ones. I could wish to be as brilliant as Woolf, Williams, Steinbeck et al for a hundred years and not come close to their brilliance, but their stories didn't touch me and some of my classmates. But the great thing about books is that we are free to change our feelings and opinions about them. I often wonder if I would still feel a bit impatient with Tess Derbyfield of "Tess of the Durbervilles" or feel a little world weary of Blanche DuBois' fragile instability if I took a look back at these stories years later. Who knows? It's definitely worth a try, but I have a particular affection for the books which I felt a connection with almost at once – the stories done by my fellow kindred spirits.....


Once people hear you like to read, they are inclined to pick up any book that comes to hand to give as presents assuming the notorious book lover would be delighted to get anything with words printed on a page. I have no doubt that there are people who would gladly devour anything that is handed to them, but unfortunately this does not work with me.

Since I am incapable of throwing a book away, some of these untimely gifts remain on my bookshelf untouched. Such was the case when my aunt gave me a copy of Jane Austen's "Emma". Out affection for my dear aunt, I made an effort now and then. I glanced at long complex introduction or looked hopelessly at the first lines of the actual story, but of course I had no real interest in diving in. Then some clear sighted, far thinking genius among the St. Joseph Convent POS English literature teachers chose Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" as a book to study for A Level Literature. Oh happy day though I did not know it yet.

Instead, foolish me, I approached the novel apprehensively and read the first, surprisingly brief chapter, then I paused in disbelief. It was interesting; it was fun; it did not lose me with heavy, lugubrious prose. Could it keep up the momentum? Could it? It did. Though many years have passed, I will always recall my first experience reading of the romantic trials of Elizabeth Bennet as one of the most astonishing relationship with a book I've ever had. P&P was everything the critics always say and that you don't dare to believe – it was sparkling, witty, unforgettable etc. etc.

And so Miss Austen and I became lifelong friends, and I was flung with delight into the flood of adaptations, internet fan groups, fan fiction etc which went with it. The 1995 version of the book came out around that time and drew other fans into the fold. (If you haven't seen this movie, you must! I shall expound at a later date.) Miss Austen is now delightfully interwoven into my literary landscape and she and her following are always more than welcome wherever I hang my hat. Since then of course I've read Emma which is - like all of Miss Austen's work - so brilliant, I would be jealous of her if I didn't love her so much, so you see, never throw away those weird books your family, friends and co workers foist off on you. You really never know...

The Bard himself also came into my life more fully during my school career. I had gone through "Midsummer Night's Dream" by the time I'd reached Form Three and thought it was okay. I was mostly smugly proud of having completed at least one work by the intimidating playwright no one understood. But I had not yet learned the true joy of Shakespeare. And once more in my life a movie helped to bring that impression home. If you haven't seen Kenneth Brannagh's version of Henry V, you need to right away as it is one of the most thrilling movies ever. It's dramatic and wonderfully acted. Brannagh delivers the speeches of the Henry V in a gripping way which makes you want to jump into the breach on the next battle charge (even if you've never held a weapon in your life and probably would be crying for your mommy before the fight was half over). Our teachers had taken the entire class to see the movie, and I confess we understood very little of the intricacies of what was going on, but that didn't matter! We had escaped the confines of school for several hours and we were in a cinema. We were watching a show with lots of action and some stirring looking scenes and it ended with a lovely romantic interlude (one of my favourites up to this day). I for one had a wonderful time, and the fact that Shakespeare was to be said out loud, acted out loud and just scene came home to me from that moment. Thanks Kenneth. Thanks Will.

Of course there were other books and authors that worked their way into my universe in my formative years. I won't discuss them at length here. I am really glad that I had a chance to read "A Man for All Seasons" and "Ti Jean and his Brothers". As I say, the books got better as we got older, or maybe we were changing and getting better as we changed. Some stories were still sad like Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart" but as I said that doesn't equate to not liking the story. The simplicity and power of Achebe's novel was a joy and though the tale was tragic it wasn't too heavy to bear. Isn't literature wonderful? Without my lit class I would not have experienced the bawdiness of Geoffrey Chaucer for example or the simpler poems of William Wordsworth. I definitely have another reason to appreciate my time in SJC during my best of times and worst of times.

Feel free to share your own literary adventures. Come on! Post already!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Our First Meeting

I've been planning to do this blogging thing for a while now, and as usual I've been thinking about it a lot and not actually getting around to it. Though I think I am justified in over thinking this a bit. After all it's a blog – a blog which can potentially touch the hearts and minds of millions if done in just the right way. That's an intimidating possibility. Can I write something that can touch the hearts of millions? I would be happy if I just caught the attention of a small, loyal band of followers – at –Duh, Dah, Dah, Duh - the Crossroads of Imagination!

What kind of weird, new age kind of title is that you may ask? Well, what I hope is that I can use this blog to reflect on creativity and creative thinking, but don't worry this is not as didactic as it sounds at first. Think of how creativity and imagination figure in the world around us. Creative people like Jim Henson, George Lucas, Diana Wynne Jones, Coldplay and Jane Austen inspire and delight us every day, and I love talking about them and discussing them and talking about them some more. So if you don't recognize some of these names you will. I'll probably spend a lot of time talking about the books, movies and television shows that inspire and fascinate me as well.

And of course, I'll be discussing my own travels in one of my favourite countries i.e. my own imagination which is truly an astonishing place as it is for each of us. This will mostly involve my discussing my efforts to make writing and editing a career. I hope that likeminded people, especially writers or at least people interested in literature, will come and share their thoughts as well.

And of course what better place could this great meeting of minds occur but at a crossroads of the imagination - a place where all these various creative thought processes can converge. What more can you ask for? I can't wait.