Monday, 23 December 2013

The Nightmare Before Christmas



Holiday Season Special:



 Now that the holiday season is upon us and in but two days it is Christmas, let me recommend a movie to watch one of these days (that is if you haven’t watched it already).


The Nightmare before Christmas is a Tim Burton project which dates back to 1982 when he wrote the poem while working as a Disney animator. Since then Disney had been meaning to put this poem into work either as a short movie or a 30-minute tv special.  When it finally came out as a stop motion musical fantasy movie in 1998 it was released under Touchstone Pictures because Disney considered it to be too dark and not really meant for too young an audience.


To me it is one of those perfect productions meant for adults who are still in touch with the child within them. It is the perfect combination of the gloomy and the merry. But marrying these two contradictory notions within the same production is Tim Burton’s specialty anyway.




So what is the story of The Nightmare Before Christmas?



‘Twas a long time ago,
Longer now than it seems
in a place that perhaps
you've seen in your dreams
For the story that you are about to be told
began with the holiday worlds of old


Now, you've probably wondered
where holidays come from.
If you haven't I'd say
it's time you begun.
For the holidays are the result of much fuss
and hard work from the worlds that create them us


Well you see now, quite simply
that's all that they do,
making one unique holiday
especially for you
But once, a calamity ever so great
occured when two holidays met

 by mistake



This introductory poem sums it up for us but let me give you a more detailed description of the story. Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town is fed up with his work and renown. One successful Halloween after the other…he feels hollow and he yearns for something new. That is when he stumbles upon the Christmas Town. Bewitched and overcome by the spirit of Christmas he will soon find himself doing something he never means to do.


The music was composed by Danny Elfman who also takes part in the movie as the singing voice of Jack Skellington. I have to say: The music makes this movie what it is!! I have always been a great fan of Danny Elfman and Tim Burton so the movie is my personal heaven for Christmas. As a matter of fact we have got a family tradition of decorating our tree to the soundtrack of The Nightmare Before Christmas.


It is the perfect film to watch during the holiday season. However its gloomy and dark atmosphere might be a little too hard for children under 8 years of age so if you are planning to watch it with your kids be on your guard. As for your inner kid…he/she will be most satisfied and will thank me for recommending it to you.


 

HAPPY HOLIDAYS EVERYBODY


AND


MEEEEEEERRY CHRISTMAS!!

Saturday, 14 December 2013

The White Queen

T.V Series

Consisting of 10 episodes, this British Drama series covers the reign of Edward IV and how Richard III came into succession, right to the end of the Battle of Bosworth Field. However the main focus is on the court and most particularly the powerful women of the court. 

Edward is crowned king by the Kingmaker Richard Neville the Earl of Warwick who will betray his own choice of King because of Edward IV’s wife, Elizabeth Woodville, a mid-ranked lady in English Aristocracy. Richard Neville’s regarding this choice of a wife, defiance will set a series of events into motion which later will shape the entire English history.  It is funny how when you stay too close to the knots you cannot see the great design of the entire carpet and sometimes, that which we deem an unfortunate flaw will turn out to be the greatest little detail which gives life to the entirety of the pattern itself.

Those who know me, know that I am a great fan of Queen Elizabeth and her character as a woman who reigned superbly on her own with no related male figure around her, be it a husband, brother or even half-brother for that matter back in that age.  

A woman who defied all and yet managed to stand tall and fast against every plot and treason.

A woman who gave England its own church and its own theatre.

And this is the story of her ancestors, right towards the end and after the Wars of the Roses.


And it is a story of loyalty, treason, love, hatred, witchcraft, faith, curses, blessings, war, peace, and first and foremost ambition, because at the end of the day ambition will rule over them all.

What I liked about the series most is how it was quite true to the historical events (and some of the historical rumors) and yet it managed to keep its own point of view and narration. I must admit to not liking the scenes of Elizabeth Woodville dabbling in witchcraft which adds an unnecessary amount of fantasy into history but then again if I sit back and ask myself: “Did these people believe in and blamed witchcraft for what befell them?” . The answer would be a simple “Yes”. So I decided to not take those scenes all too literal but rather a weakness of that specific age and time.

You will find portrayal of Richard III quite different than that of William Shakespeare’s and truer to the historical records. After all Shakespeare, not unlike his many contemporaries, served and admired Queen Elizabeth, not forgetting that she is a Tudor and Tudors had to black name Richard III in history in order to secure their throne.  Still the famous line “A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!” will escape your lips because such is the impact of Shakespeare!

 

If you get past the first episode of the series with all the mushy romantic sentiments you will find the rest of the work really well written, played, directed. For those who are interested in medieval English history, Wars of the Roses and the steps into the Golden Age of Queen Elizabeth, I would suggest watching The White Queen first and then continue with the series Tudors (there is a merit to that production despite the fact that it was inclined to stay in Henry VIII’s bedroom far too much but not without a well-founded reason) and last but not least conclude it with the 1998-production: Elizabeth (the movie) where you will see Cate Blanchett displaying her superior role-acting as always. I do not and cannot recommend the subsequent movie Elizabeth, the Golden Age because it miserably lacks the superiority of its predecessor both in insight and in production.

I think it is time to conclude this post in praise to the series “The White Queen”. I would most certainly recommend it to anyone who is interested in that specific age and time.
 



Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Moliére (Film 2007)

Directed by Laurent Tirard, the film is a French production which was released in Europe in January 2007 and USA july 2007. It is a work of fiction although supposedly Moliere is in it but what is conveyed throughout the film is his works coming into life within this fictional biography. The story takes place in France 1645 when Moliére is released from the prison, by an extremely talentless and mind numbingly idiotic aristocrat who hopes to gain the affection of a young Marquees. The rest as we call it is pure comedy!

The role acting is superb as are the setting and direction. The comedy of condition blends so well with physical comedy in the embodiment of the plot but of course the director owes that greatly to the humor of Moliere himself and the talents of his actors.

The video below is a great scene between the aristocrat and Moliére while he tries to teach him a thing or two about acting. Watch it for sure and you will not regret it:

And below I attach the trailer. If you would like to have a pleasant night, after a hard day's work, in order to release some tension through the genre of comedy then Moliére is going to do just that for you. I strongly recommend it.

 

STAR WARS



Episodes: I,II,III,IV,V,VI


Now that there is a new Star Wars movie blooming somewhere in the horizon, it occurred to me: “Hey, I have never watched Star Wars. Let’s do that!”
 
So that’s what I did…One movie after the other. I had a good trainer though, by whom I was instructed to watch the old trilogy first, which are the epsidoes IV, V and VI; only then was I cautiously permitted to commence to I,II,III; which I did.

Before that my knowledge of Star Wars movies, was restricted to the first episode I had seen in the cinema but did not pay attention because of a boyfriend factor and the glimpses of Master Yoda, I appeared to catch every time there was Star Wars airing on tv channels, whom I used to call “The Green Creature”.

I was so sure that after having watched Star Wars I was going to trash it here!

Funny…as it turns out, after all the blood and gore and sex I, inevitably, keep watching in contemporary works and series, the naivety of Star Wars was like a breath of fresh air. Everything in it is so naïve that it makes it almost childish. It was a nice change of pace to be able to watch a "grown up movie" with my 4 year old son and then have light-saber fights with each other (Of course he is Luke and I am Princess Leia). It was nice to watch the Return of the Quest Romance for a change! Lately there is a new fashion of making everything grey, “no good guys and no bad guys!” since it is claimed that life isn’t like that. Excuse me but I can point out some villains of the history and even some villains of our times that can make Lord Sidius and Darth Vader wear their shoes reversed! If one claims that there are no villains in real life then I suggest one reads more newspapers and history books.It is true that in real life the villain doesnt always lose and sometimes the bad guy wins. Well this is where fantasy comes to rescue offering you a nice warm corner called escapism. After all...this is not supposed to be real life and real world...

I do admit though, the direction is minimal and the transitions between the scenes are the effects of old Windows Movie Maker which I don’t even use for my slideshows anymore. The Green Creature aka Master Yoda is still ridiculous to my eyes and the cute koala bears, parading under the name of Ewoks giving a nice beating to Storm Troopers is in fact laughable. Some of the plots are cheesy and rushed, the mistaken identity tradition was not employed as it should have been, but, and this is a big BUT, I will watch those major flaws and fails, and take it any time of the day over works which lately sneak into our screens, under the name of fantasy when in fact they have got nothing to do with it at all.

This is fantasy, this is the genre of quest romance with futuristic, sci-fi elements, and if you think the plots are cheesy and action guided, and you don’t like the fight between the good and the evil then you are absolutely free not to watch it. Throwing a bunch of dragons and magic into blatant sensationalism does not a fantasy make. And in this supposedly sci-fi work I have found more fantasy fiction then I could have imagined.

Finally in concluding this post I will adhere to the tradition of Star Wars and liST the movies I found enjoyable from best to worst.

-Episode III
I think in this latest production, the world of Star Wars had really matured in both movie direction and plot. I simply loved one specific scene with the impending mask on Anakin’s face. Ewan McGregor had excelled in the role of Obi-Wan. The biggest technical fail in my opinion was the computer generated storm troopers.

-Episode V
This was all the way a very pleasant movie to watch. There were a lot of parts where I was impressed when considering that this movie is two years older than I am! I agree with Princess Leia’s sentiments when she tells Han Solo that she loves him. She has got my blessing in her choice. Jokes aside I find Han Solo to be one of the best charming scoundrel characterizations.

- Episode IV
Considering that it was filmed back in 1977 I find it completely inspired. I am going to choose to excuse the pitiful sword fight (if you can call it that) taking place between Vader and Obi-Wan.  

-Episode II
Apart from the seriously lame scene with Padme and Anakin rolling on the grass I find the overall quality of the movie well enough.

-Episode VI

The worst spot was harder to choose than the best. I find both the sixth episode and the first equally good and bad. First I went for the sixth because of the koala bears and then I remembered that the first episode had the mutant giraffe Jar jar.The sixth offered closure but the first offered the Sith. So I went for the older movie for the fifth spot because of its age and placed episode one in the sixth place of my list. There we go:



-Episode I

In my opinion it had very little to offer and they were all Liam Neeson.

So I think, that is all there is to say about Star Wars for me. Would I watch them again? Well I guess I would…every three years, in case the Empire wins. I wouldn’t watch it in the sickly way I do with The Lord of the Rings with all my neck hair standing up when I see the Shire but still…this is as far as it goes for me with sci-fi since I am a hard-core fantasy fan.

May the Force be with you!!!



Sunday, 3 November 2013

Phonebloks

Finally an idea worth keeping!!



I have very recently come across this bit of information on the internet. Now I did not have a lot of time to read about it but what I have read so far really makes me like this vision already. The video below really says it all but if I had to sum it up here is the idea:

You get a phone which is built on changeable, hence upgradable blocks. You can build it according to your needs and upgrade it when you feel it is getting old. The idea behind it all is to prevent fast-growing technological waste. I so far like it very much indeed. I hear they have already signed up with a specific phone company in order to bring this project into production and I would like to follow their progress quite closely.


You can find more info on their official site .

Friday, 25 October 2013

www.coursera.org

Online Games: Literature, New Media, and Narrative

Mission accomplished!

I recently have come across this incredibly entertaining and instructive outlet of self-development: Coursera. It offers a wide-range of Universities from all around the world as well as some classes in multiple languages; But if you would like to give it a try English is a must since the best and the most courses are offered in English.
 
It works pretty easily, you go visit the page, sign up for the site and then choose the class you would like to roll and you are good to go. There is a wide range of courses, some of them requiring a specific previous knowledge, some of them, just for beginners. In any case if you wish to acquire a plain Coursera certificate it is completely free but if you would like to receive a completion certificate from the University of the class itself then you are supposed to pay for it.

Either way it is a great way for self development with or without a certificate. I have rolled for several classes, some of which I follow closely by doing the quizzes and the assignments and some of which I simply put on the watch list because although I do not care about the certificate I would like to follow them still in order to gain knowledge.

In all the courses you take you can either download the class videos in order to watch them on your tv later on or you can follow them on your computer.

I myself have just completed my first course in distinction track. As the sub-heading suggests it was of course about gaming but it beautifully and thoroughly evaluated games' narratives in various forms and how books and poems are remediated. I have to say; I enjoyed every minute of this course and learned so much on a topic which I already knew well. But this course helped me go to the roots of the specific genre of fantasy fiction. We have evaluated and discussed various works including a part of Spencer's Faerie Queene

But the class's main focus was on The Lord of the Rings. We have discussed and prepared assignments on how Tolkien's work was remediated into films and games. Since I had a fine grasp on the subject already, as many on the course also did, we were able to appreciate it on another level. 

If you have got time, please spare 15 minutes to watch the video I have created for an assignment. We were supposed to make our way to Weathertop and compare and contrast how the three medias (the book, the film, the online game) handled it in their own ways. We had to primarily focus on only one aspect and I had chosen to compare and contrast  the setting / mise en scène / gamespace. We were instructed not to include any videos from Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings so I had to find other ways to illustrate the points I was making concerning the movie. I hope you will enjoy it.

In concluding this post I would like to say thanks to the main instructor of this course along with his TAs who made the class discussion videos so completely enjoyable. 

I will be coming back to coursera , that is, if I ever leave it at all...    

  

Thursday, 12 September 2013

The God of Small Things

Should write shorter novels...

  Written by Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things did look like a promising book when I lifted it off the shelf. It was written back in 1997 and so far it is the only novel of the mentioned author. The main theme implies how the small things change your life forever whereas every life changing event which leads to a series of catastrophes is in fact the opposite of small and unimportant. 

The setting is quite strong with detailed descriptions of not just the spaces but of characters as well. So visioning the book and directing your own movie in your head while reading it is quite the easy task. 

What is not an easy task is reading through a story which feels stretched after a while. 

In general I am in great favor of a mystery, which is to be revealed later on or at the end. Especially if it includes a O.Henry style twist. But if the author reveals too much and lets the reader guess it through the mid-book then it is completely ruined. And no amount of repetitive staccato sentences lifted off from "Waiting for Godot" is going to save it. 

Despite the wrong technique employed in the book, the story is interesting and even informative when it comes to reading about a culture which is so wholly unconnected to that of your own. The non-sequential narrative is a must when there is a mystery to be revealed. Going back and forth in the story is always refreshing and it is even something I adore since I've read my first Jose Vasconcelos book.

Looking at the book from every angle I can see its misused potential. Much like the characters within it, the book refuses to transcend and instead stretches itself to its limits, up to a point where you sit back and say: "Just get to the point please.". The third person narration used in the story resembles a chatty 90 year-old who has to talk about her childhood for an hour beforehand in order to explain why the wine she bought yesterday was tasty. 

In concluding this post I have to say that the book was not bad. It could have been a masterpiece had it been shorter and if the writer had not succumbed to some cliche techniques such as repetitions and staccato sentences which really only work for short stories and plays. As it is now however I can only call it mediocre.