Yesterday I saw the trailer for the new Godzilla movie for the first time…on the big screen of a theater. It already looked good just on Youtube. It’s really great in larger scale. Can hardly wait for the movie to come out in May of next year.
After the trailer there was a movie called The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, loosely based on the book The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. Now, if you know of my history with the films of Peter Jackson, you’re probably expecting a rage filled rant. But this time you’d be wrong.
I certainly have a fair few criticisms of the movie, but as for feeling… Well, I was pleasantly unemotional watching it yesterday. Sure, I rolled my eyes a fair few times, but otherwise no strong feelings either up or down. Except for the scenes with Smaug. Smaug was very well done. Benedict Cumberbatch did a great job bringing out the dragon’s personality.
Anyway, onto my thoughts on the film. Beware of spoilers!
Consider submitting a paper proposal for Mythmoot II, to be held in the Baltimore, MD area December 14-15, 2013. Moot-goers will view a special screening of the 2nd Peter Jackson Hobbit film, and attend informative and entertaining sessions with scholars and fans. Papers can be on any fantasy topic (Harry Potter anyone?), with areas of special interest including The Hobbit (naturally), fantasy games & gaming, and adaptations of fantasy in television, film, art & music. Proposal deadline is August 18th. Read the #mythmoot CFP here!
Of the wide variety of articles in this week’s Common Room, one of the most fascinating is Laura Miller’s “Desecrating Poe,” posted over at Salon. Her scathing review of the new Fox TV show “The Following” includes commentary on art, beauty, and the artistic portrayal of violence. Sample quote:
Violence in popular entertainment is usually discussed in absolute terms: Either you think it should be reined in quantitatively or you defend it in blanket terms, as a matter of free speech. This bogus polarity obscures an important question: How is it used? Eyes are gouged out in “The Following” because the mutilated female corpses (all young and pretty in life) make a ghastly spectacle and enable Carroll to torment Hardy with talk of severing the victims’ ocular muscles one by one. Eyes are gouged out in “King Lear” to indicate that the play’s social order has descended to sub-human brutality as a result of the main character’s refusal to see the truth. It’s the same violent act, but in the latter case it is replete with meaning and induces an elemental despair, while in the case of “The Following” it’s just gleefully lurid.
Follow the link for the rest of the story, including many discussable points.
In other news and commentary:
Bloggers and C.S. Lewis fans: Review blog Pages Unbound is hosting a C.S. Lewis read-along throughout the month of February. Ways to participate include reviewing Lewis books or hosting discussions on your own blog, sending in guest posts to the Pages Unbound proprietors, and simply following along to read and/or comment on Lewis’ oeuvre.
Artemis Fowl author Eoin Colfer has been chosen to write one of eleven new Doctor Who short books, and the big speculation of the week is that J.K. Rowling may be chosen to write another. Colfer’s much-revered name was the first to be released; other news will hopefully be coming soon.
A series longer in the making than Harry Potter released its finale on the eighth of January: Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time epic began with The Eye of the World in 1990 and now, after Jordan’s death in 2007, has been completed (from Jordan’s notes) by Brandon Sanderson with A Memory of Light. Jordan’s story is known for worldbuilding almost unrivaled in its depth and range, a cast of characters large enough to fill a decent-sized small town, a high page count–fourteen books averaging over 800 pages apiece, a fantastic magic system, a handful of repetitive descriptors, and–to its loyal fans–a great deal of awesomeness. One of those loyal fans happens to be writing this blog post, and can hardly stand the wait for her copy to come in the mail.
Brandon Sanderson’s release post offers some final details: for instance, that Jordan himself wrote the ending before he died, and why the ebook release has been delayed. Also, Tor art director Irene Gallo toured the bindery as the book was in production, and posted a long set of pictures from the process.
There are rumors–again, only rumors, but still–that Universal may be getting the rights to create a Middle-Earth theme park. It seems likely that a satisfactory recipe for lembas will be as difficult to come up with as a satisfactory recipe for butterbeer.
It’s the third day of Christmas, the feast day of St. John the Apostle–patron of authors and publishers–and a good day to sit around the common room, drink some spiced pumpkin juice, and contemplate magical things. To start, we have Christie over at Spinning Straw into Gold posting about Father Christmas as Fairy Tale:
[St. Nick’s story] is a fairy tale. Or a folk tale, if you prefer. Many elements of a fairy/folk tale are present: an ordinary person called to do or be something extraordinary; a journey, whether symbolic or literal; dealings with faeries (elves); reward and justice; the sense of mystery or more questions left than answers. Here is a figure as universal but specific as Baba Yaga.
Going on with news and commentary:
King’s Cross Station has now opened a little official Harry Potter memorabilia shop at Platform 9 3/4.
Jon Michaud over at the New Yorker argues that The Hobbit is a better book than The Lord of the Rings.
It’s release day for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey! On account of which, there are a nearly infinite number of relevant articles and such this week, some of which are aggregated here:
In not-so-small Harry Potter news: the stars of the Potter films are getting together to film a Potter mini-movie, which will be shown at the theme parks containing Potter attractions. Over at The Guardian, Ellie Lewis makes a guess at what the movie may be about.
Each December from 1920-1943, envelopes bearing hand-drawn stamps from the North Pole arrived for J.R.R. Tolkien’s children. In the guise of Father Christmas or one of his companions, Tolkien sent (with the complicity of his neighborhood postman) stories, paintings and sketches of life at the North Pole. The family preserved these artifacts and, after the professor’s death, published them as the Father Christmas Letters in 1976. Revised and republished every few years since then, Letters from Father Christmas (as it is now called) is a classic collection belonging on every fantasy-lover’s holiday reading list. To whet your appetite, here is a memorable entry featuring my favorite character – the hapless North Polar Bear:
As this post goes up, it’s still November 29 by my clock, on account of which: Happy Birthday, C.S. Lewis and Madeleine L’Engle! Born exactly twenty years apart–Lewis in 1898 and L’Engle in 1918–the two authors must have shared a trace of magic along with a birthday, for few children’s books have been more loved than The Chronicles of Narnia and A Wrinkle in Time. Here’s to Jack and Madeleine, both of whom have been loved by many of us for nearly all our reading lives.
Fairy tale writer and aficionado L.C. Ricardo, has written a beautiful piece on symbolism and meaning in fairy tales, which was just published on the webzine Enchanted Conversation. From L.C.:
That is not to say that fairy tales are mere allegory. Perhaps this one-sided interpretation carries some blame for people’s frustration in“telling the same story over and over again.” If a tower is always a phallic symbol and the maiden either imprisoned or protected from the masculine, we rob the tower of its first childhood impression. That of something tall, stone, unreachable. Something enchanted, according to that which makes up its very definition. And from there—who knows what it could be?
Do you agree with her on the openness of interpretation, or disagree? What do you think of the universality and personal appeal of fairy tales and fantasy literature? Feel free to hold forth in the combox.
Here’s the news from the week: