X-Men 3, and me.

May 30, 2006

Today I watched X-Men 3 for the first time. 

It leads me to say that entertainment can be quality work without me enjoying it. 

While I fully recognized that the movie had all that is lawfully required for a summer blockbuster, I didn't manage to enjoy it very much.   Which is too bad for a movie that I have been looking forward to for years. 

I guess this is the problem when you're a geek – too hardcore to accept anything that doesn't fit in my geekitude.  Like movies that don't match comics.

Not that I'd know…. what was… in the comics…  Cause I don't read them… 

right.

Yeah, that's it.

Greg

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I was recently on a trans-pacific flight.  My fatigue told me it was about two A.M.  There were to be 3 movies showing on the flight.  The first had been something new and dramatic by Robert Redford.  It involved a lot of people sitting around, looking stoic in the out-of-doors.  They would cut to a person, the person would talk, there would be a dramatic pause, then cut to person B.  Person B pauses dramatically, then speaks, then pauses, then cut to person A again.

It went on for a while.

Also, I think there was a bear. 

Well, I didn't bother to watch that one all the way through, really.  And when it was over, I said to my self: "Self.  You had better try to sleep at least a little on this flight."  And I thought about trying.  And then I thought "What is this next movie like?  Maybe you could give it 5 minutes of your time and see what you think before rejecting it.  You haven't seen movies in 2 years, but you've slept practically daily.  Maybe you'll like it."

So I put on the headphones and watched as a movie I had never heard of started playing.

It was black and white, which I thought was dumb and gimmicky.  It was directed, the opening credits proclaimed, by George Clooney – which I immediately found suspicious.  At this point I became hostile and started growling.

Then it started.  There were tight camera angles.  There was a great monolouge about the importance of the impartial media.  There was shouting over each other – so much that you couldn't even understand what people were saying.  There was great american history presented in a quick and exciting way. 

90 minutes later, I didn't want to sleep.  I wanted to wake up the Japanese girl in go-go boots next to me and tell her about what an amazing film I had just seen.

Good Night, and Good Luck is a great film.  What makes it great is that it's not only entertaining – it's important.  The subject matter is the 1950's media and political battle between reporter Edward R. Murrow and senator Joseph McCarthy.  Can CBS air a show that is attacking a politician who is endorsed by the shows sponsors?  Is it ethical to say no? 

Cinematography is great.

Music is great.

Acting is the best I've seen.  David Strathairn is *insert a word that means amazing but which isn't over-used by people who review movies in order to emphasize he really is just that amazing*.

The plot is quick and powerful.

Go buy this movie.

-Greg

I've been looking forward to writing the review of this book since about 1/4 of the way through it when I could no longer deny the fact that Clarke is a better writer than I could ever hope to be.

And it made me mad.

Normally I just read fiction for entertainment and pay no attention to the skill of the writer unless it's glaringly bad.  I'm the same way at movies.  Unless the entertainment is really really bad or really really good, I just sit and enjoy it with brain functions at a minimum.

Susanna Clarke just gave me 782 pages of "Woah, this lady is GOOD."

For a long time I have thought that new fantasy novels could not be entertaining nor original in content. How many elves who speak breathily and have pointed ears can you have?  The orcs are bad, dwarfs like caves, and wizards are able to do magical things for no apparent reason.  Everybody knows it, and it's been done.  I felt that this horse had been beaten so many times by so many awful authors that there could never be anything good come of the fantasy genre.  Maybe this is why I'm enraged at Clarke. 

I can't really decide how to relate the story.  There are stories within stories – and footnotes to give you more in-depth knowledge about whatever subject some one or another has brought up.  I kept thinking to myself "how in the world did she come up with that?"  Even the little asides are creamythick with story-telling goodness. The story is complex, frightening, engaging and written so convincingly that you start to wonder how much is real.  Aren't there societies of magicians in the early 1800s?  If there were magic, wouldn't it work about like that?  I found myself wondering if, by reading the book, somebody was casting a spell on me to make me read more.

But only once or twice.

Which made me mad at Clarke.

And then I gave in to the bidding of the book…

(this kind of comment reminds me of those radical religious people who burn harry potter books.   I hope they don't get ahold of this review.)

From the opening of the book:

Some years ago there was inthe city of York a society of magicians.  They met upon the third Wednesday of every month and read each other long, dull papers on the history of English Magic.

They were gentlemen-magicians, which is to say they had never harmed any one by magic – nor even done any one the slightest good.  In fact, to own the truth, not one of these magicians had ever cast the smallest spell, nor by magic caused one leaf to tremble upon a tree, made one mote of dust to alter its course or changed a single hair upon any one's head.  But, with this one minor reservation, they enjoyed a reputation as some of the wisest and most magical gentlemen in Yorkshire.

A great magician has said of his profession that it's practicioners "…must pound and rack their brains to make the least learning go in, but quarrelling always comes very naturally to them." and the York magicians had proved the truth of this for a number of years.

In the autumn of 1806 they recieved an addition in a gentleman called John Segundus.  At the first meeting that he attended Mr. Segundus rose and addressed the society.  He first began by complimenting the gentlemen upon their distinguished history; he listed the many celebrated magicians and historians that had at one time or another belonged to the York society.  He hinted that it had been no small inducement to him in coming to York to know of the existence of such a society.  Northern magicians, he reminded his audience, had always been better respected than southern ones.  Mr Segundus said that he had studied magic for many years and knew the histories of all the great magicians of long ago.  He read the new publications upon the subject and had even made a modest contribution to their number, but recently he had begun to wonder why the great feats of magic that he had read about remaind on the pages of his book and were no longer seen in the street or written about in the newspapers.   Mr. Segundus wished to  know why modern magicians were unable to work the magic they wrote about.  In short, he wished to know why there was no more magic done in England.

Mr. Norrell has his ideas.  Jonathan Strange has his ideas.  There is much of pride, contention, love, compassion, and fear as these two (the only true, practicing magicians in the age) find their lives spun around in politics, friendship, greed, the plotting of evil men, and the prophecies of the mysterious Raven King of ages past – The greatest human magician to have lived.  (not counting merlin who, all scholars and theoretical magicians will agree on this point, was half demon.)  

The storytelling is masterful and damned convincing, and the author ties the reader into knots as you get to see all sides of a disturbing story unfold.  Is there magic?  What is it?  Why don't we have it any more? Are there magical creatures?  Just because a thing is prophesied, does it have to happen?  The characters are every bit as developed and wonderful and frustrating as are real people, which only serves to make you love and hate the book more.  You will start to have emotional responses to fictional characters.  You'll start to think in 1800's-speak.  You'll start to worry that random little things could lead you to being caught in some kind of sinister enchantment.  And you'll never ever want to be polite to or have any kind of conversation with any kind of fairy thing, should you come across one.

She ought to lose a point just for ruining the human/fairy relations our nations have been building for so many years.

If you hated harry potter, this is the book for you.

In fact, I would say that if there was ever any part of you that liked any fantasy at all… this is the book for you. 

We'll give Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell a smashing 4.7 on a scale of -5 to 5.

This is my review of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.  Hereafter reffered to as "Incident."  Or maybe "Curious."  Or maybe "Dog."

Night-Time is a book about an autistic boy named Christopher who discovers his neigbor's dog, dead – killed with a garden fork.  He likes the dog, and is quite distressed by his discovery.  He is found by the neigbor, holding the bloody poodle in his arms, rocking back and forth, making moaning noises.

The book is 'written' by Christopher, who has an assignment from a teacher to write a story.  

Then the police arrived.  I like the police.  They have uniforms and numbers and you know what they are meant to be doing.  There was a policewoman and a policeman.  The policewoman had a little hole in her tights on her left ankle and a red scratch in the middle of the hole.  The policeman had a big orange leaf stuck to the bottom of his shoe which was poking out on one side…

…"How old are you?" he asked.

I replied, "I am 15 years and 3 months and 2 days."

"And what, precisely, were you doing in the garden?" he asked.

"I was holding the dog."  I replied.

"And why were you holding the dog?" he asked.

This was a difficult question.  It was something I wanted to do. I like dogs.  It made me sad to see that the dog was dead. 

I like policemen too, and I wanted to answer the question properly, but the policeman did not give me enough time to work out the correct answer…

…He was asking too many questions and he was asking them too quickly.  They were stacking up in my head like loaves in the factory where Uncle Terry works.  The factory is a bakery and he operates slicing machines.  And sometimes a slicer is not working fast enough but the bread keeps coming and there is a blockage.  I sometimes think of my mind as a machine, but not always a bread-slicing machine.  It makes it easier to explain to other people what is going on inside it.

The policeman said, "I am going to ask you once again…"

I rolled back onto the lawn and pressed my forehead to the ground again and made the noise that father calls groaning.  I make this noise when there is too much information coming into my head from the outside world.  It is like when you are upset and you hold the radio against your ear and you tune it halfway between two stations so that all you get is white noise and you turn the volume right up so that this is all you can hear and then you know you are safe because you cannot hear anything else.

The policeman took hold of my arm and lifted me onto my feet.

I didn't like him touching me like that.

And this is when I hit him.

Christopher decides that, although everybody has 'forgiven' him (since he is a 'special boy') he's still going to prove his innocence.  And write a paper for his teacher at the same time. 

Christopher can not understand, nor feel complex emotion.  He understands happy and sad.  So he relies on logic for most of what he does in his life.   And it is great to read this book and find that, as Christopher follows the methods of his hero – Sherlock Holmes, he gets it right.  And not just about the dog, but about why his life is the way it is, why his father is doing what he does, and the story of his family. 

In the meantime, you get to understand more and more about Christopher and autism.  After just a few pages it's hard to believe that there really isn't a Christopher John Francis Boone out there who wrote this book.   Soon you find yourself promising yourself that the next time you encounter a person with emotional dissasociation you will remember what you are reading at that moment. 

It's a good book because it changes the reader.  It's a good book because it's a great story from simple circumstances.  A very rich, complex, heartwrenching and rewarding world from the view of a boy who can only see things literally. 

I give it a 4 on a scale of -5 to 5