Monday, April 25, 2011

Objects May be Closer Than They Appear

Game of Thrones: The King's Road was on last night and I was not disappointed at all; I was intrigued. Daenerys Targaryen turned out to be a bit of a surprise. From frightened almost rape victim to woman in charge was a quick turnover and I see echoes of dreams of dragons in her eyes. Bran who fell to his death last week is not dead and his mother, Catelyn, has lost her wits a bit. She feels betrayed and abandoned by her husband, Ned Stark, and hates her husband's bastard, Jon Snow. I think he's intense but definitely an interesting character. Sansa, their oldest daughter, is a preening brat who is destined to marry the king's son, the crown prince Joffrey, who is the nastiest piece of work next to his mother Censei and her twin brother Jaime. I rather like Lord Tyrion; he's interesting and a bit of an imp, but still much more likable that his siblings, both of whom remind me of something wicked and nasty slithering on the ground. I'd say snakes, but I wouldn't demean the species by comparing the two.

The show and the books are new to me, but I do frequent a few blogs that discussed the show and what they thought would happen, like Bran's third eye opening as a result of the fall. In fantasy, as in the common reality, the opening of the third eye means becoming psychic. Being able to see a three-eyed crow that presages the awakening instead of the death of Sansa's dire wolf Lady would have been more interesting, but where are you going to find a three-eyed crow?

The whole series is fascinating and there are hints of so much more that will likely not make it to the screen. I don't mind discovering books from movies or television -- I've discovered quite a bit of good literature and some favorite authors that way -- and I look forward to reading all the books in the series. I don't have the time now since I have a stack of books to review, but I may have to take a short leave of absence to catch up on my personal reading. After all, eight years without a break is a long time. The chance of becoming stale or burnt out is great and, since I've had no vacation in eight years of reviewing, I think I'm entitled to one now, especially when there are books like George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire awaiting my attention. The series is good, but I want to read the undercurrents and dangerous rip tides that Martin wove into the fabric of his tale.

Some books, and some authors, stay with me and I remember the details as if I had just read them long after the echoes have faded. One such was an anthology I was reviewing. The stories were a mix of good, mediocre and not baked long enough and through the stories was the continuing story of a baby whose eyes had been pecked out by crows. Snippets of the child's life as she grew and the appearance of crows, usually a few lines, were enough to raise the hairs and goose the flesh, and I still remember those interwoven bits of a dark tale even though the details of the main stories are forgotten. I only have so much memory space as it is. Even now I can easily conjure those blackened pits where eyes once were as I delve into the brain of an evil woman determined to bring her dead master's plans to life in my own book. It's not so much about possession or devil worship, although there are several darker elements in the Victorian gothic tale I am weaving, but a genetic gift met with the sharp scientific scalpel that ends with the creation of one of the most evil periods in Whitechapel history. The foundation is being laid and from that solid mass will come the nuances of a future battle for the soul of a man and hints of a terrifying future. That should be enough to whet the appetite -- at least for now. The rest remains for me to write and you eventually to read.

Discovering something new by whatever means is always fun. I finally managed to see The King's Speech and I disagree with those few critics who called the movie boring. It is painful, but only in watching the Duke of York struggle to be heard and understood. He had a horrid stammer and no wonder since he was abused as a child and forced into a mold not of his making, like being made to be right-handed when he was left-handed. Yelling at a child and demanding he conform is no way to inspire obedience or acquiescence. Lionel Logue, played by Geoffrey Rush, one of my favorite actors, was quite ingenious, despite the lack of formal education and titles, and he reminded me of Sister Kenny and her treatment for polio, a treatment that was effective in almost all cases she treated. Too bad the doctors didn't figure that out and follow her methods. The same was true of Logue's methods for helping Bertie overcome his stammer; they were unconventional and treated the problem with wonderful success, instead of filling poor Bertie's mouth with so many marbles he couldn't speak. It might have worked for Demosthenes, but I doubt he had so many marbles in his mouth or that they were so large. Nothing like indiscriminate treatment following an old method without any real understanding of how to apply it.

Colin Firth was brilliant and deserved the Oscar for his performance and I was quite surprised by Helena Bonham Carter's portrayal of the Duchess of York, Elizabeth. I remember reading that she seldom spoke in public even though she was a very intelligent woman. She said that it was best to remain silent and supportive than to be heard. Carter's performance was easily heard with quiet dignity and unflinching support. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire movie, even though I was surprised to discover that King Edward VIII was so feckless and irresponsible. Wallis must have been one heck of a woman or have been able to contort so effectively during sex that the king was utterly and irretrievably besotted; there is no other explanation for how he handled things. He was the wrong monarch at the wrong time, and I doubt there was a good time for a monarch such as he, although history is riddled with examples.

One thing I have learned is that I cannot rely on all critics to enjoy the same movies I do. I read reviews, and write quite a few of them, but I trust my own judgment, which is surprising considering my own vocation. Bad reviews intrigue me until I must see the movie and discover what all the fuss is about. I've been disappointed on a few occasions to find the critic was right, but I do sometimes agree with others. Reviews are guidelines, as I see them, and should not be the last word on anything, including mine. I have some experience and background in literature, but I am not the last word either. I am one person judging books and movies by my own taste and predilections, a sort of arbitrary rear view mirror: some objects may be closer than they appear.

Game of Thrones is my pick for fantasy of the year and The King's Speech is a quiet and marvelous character study I will eventually acquire for my own library, but I'm a critic, so judge for yourself. Use my views as a guideline not the last word.

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