Yesterday we lost Leonard Nimoy, I won’t bother repeating here what has been said countless times already. I am a member of my generation, and as such I cut my SF teeth on Star Trek reruns. I make no apologies for that fact, and I admit that I, like countless others, was more drawn to the weird character who was originally meant to be little more than a sidekick than to the valiant hero (sorry, I could never quite warm up to Captain Kirk).
One thing I find fascinating, however, is the shift in Mr. Nimoy’s relationship with his own character as seen in the titles of his autobiographies (I Am Not Spock in 1977 and I Am Spock in 1995). That he would have a love/hate relationship with the fictional character that had effectively taken over his life is logical enough, and a part of me can’t help but to be relieved by the fact that in the end he chose to embrace him… or maybe it would be more accurate to say that in the end he chose to make it his.
That, I suspect is the key, a key that is hidden in those dates. When I Am Not Spock came out the extent of the Star Trek official corpus was restricted to the three seasons of the original series, which was itself about ten years old by that time. That’s a long time to be held hostage by a figment of someone else’s imagination. The thing is that the Spock we get to see in that series, while memorable, is probably the weakest and most stereotypical incarnation of the character. It was a character that, while featuring some important contributions from the actor, was conceived first and cast later. It was in the motion pictures that Mr. Spock truly came into his own, or at least that is how it seems to me. It was also in those films, especially in the ones he actually got to direct, that he was finally free to take his character in the direction he wanted. That, I suspect, is one of the key elements that enabled him to make his peace with the role Mr. Spock had carved for himself in his life.
I was reading an article about a new kind of film rating that is being introduced in Sweden: one that is meant to address the problem of sexism. It is one of those things that sound like a good idea until you start thinking about them. I mean, encouraging writers to include more female characters, and to have them talk about something other than men is a great idea (sorry guys, you are not that central to our lives), but the problem is that that places a number of artificial restrictions that can be downright ridiculous under certain circumstances.
After all, if a movie has to feature at least two female characters, talking to each other about something other than men to get a passing grade, what would the rating for a classic such as Lawrence of Arabia (1962) be? Well, on the positive side we can safely say that the movie got part of it right, as none of its female characters can be accused of wasting their breath talking about men. In fact, in three and a half hours (or more, depending on the version), there is not one single word that is actually uttered by a female character (come to think about it, I don’t think there are any female extras either), and the truth is that it doesn’t really matter. The reason: given the nature of the plot -and when and where the story is supposed to take place- their absence felt appropriate. That in turn brings me to the reason why a rating that is meant to police a ratio of male to female characters, and dictate how those characters are supposed to interact with each other is a bad idea: the fact that different plots call for different things, and I’d like to see writers and directors retain the right to tell their stories as they see fit without being penalized for it… even if that calls for a movie that is well north of the three hours mark, and in which women are nowhere to be seen.
And after a few interruptions we are back to the Discworld theme. In fact now we come to Moving Pictures. The movie buff in me absolutely loved it, the reader in me… not so much. Oh, it was still hilarious, don’t get me wrong, and I loved all the little nods at the history of film, but there was still a level at which somehow I felt that this book failed to connect, the problem is that I am not exactly sure why.
Maybe it is the fact that there are some rather superfluous subplots that I found somewhat distracting (like the whole thousand elephants thing), or maybe it is the fact that the ‘almost mirroring our world’ jokes were repeated once too often for my liking (‘banged grains’ anyone?), I’m not really sure. In fact it may just be due to the fact that, with the exception of Rincewind and the Librarian, I have always had a little trouble relating to the wizards as a whole, and at times I feel like they are one running joke that has been kept running for a bit too long. Sure, they are entertaining enough, but there is only so much you can do with slapstick comedy, and compared with the other characters in this particular universe I feel that they lack a certain depth. They are the wizards, but in a way that’s all they are, they don’t really contribute anything. The City Watch is a link to the city of Ankh-Morpork as a whole and a mosaic that offers us a glimpse into its different cultures in microcosm, the Witches and Tiffany Aching are a link to the folklore of the Discworld and Death is death… even the couple of stories in the Moist von Lipwig series have a clearly defined aim, but at times the wizards come across as little more than a source of comic relief. The problem is that to be able to provide that comic relief there has to be something bigger than they are –something for them to provide comic relief from– and if that something is missing they can easily wind up dragging a whole story down. That is what I suspect happened in Moving Pictures. If it had remained as a mostly standalone story with the character of Victor, and maybe the Librarian, as the only links to Unseen University this would almost certainly have been one of the best books in the whole series, instead it ends up falling somewhat flat, and that is particularly frustrating because the first half of this thing was great.
Of course, I realize that my not-quite-dislike of the wizards is a matter of personal preference that may well say more about me than it does about the books and characters, but it is an issue that does play a role in how I perceive this series, and seeing how this is supposed to be my blog, well, my personal preferences are bound to come into play.
And now that the DVD is out, I finally gave in and watched the film version of The Hunger Games (and that in turn means that you get stuck with a series of post on the subject, regarding both the books and the film). Over all I have to say that the film was a pretty big disappointment, though in a way it was also an interesting example of some of the difficulties inherent to the film portrayal of what is a first person narrative. Simply put, film is, almost by definition, a third person medium. In the book we see the world through Katniss’s eyes, in the film we actually see her and her interactions with that world, and that is a significant difference that is not easy to overcome. But let’s go over some of the differences between both versions, and what those differences mean for the story itself.
Two of the most obvious differences that are a byproduct of the change in perspective are the way in which in the film we have the characters of Claudius Templesmith and Caesar Flickerman filling in some background info that must still be communicated somehow –such as the details about the tracker jackers– and the way in which Haymitch included explicit notes with the gifts from the sponsors, whereas in the book we have Katniss working out their respective meanings on her own. Of course, in this second instance this has an unfortunate side effect in that it diminishes the character of Katniss to a certain extent. Continue reading Hungry for more
Yes, I usually talk about books, but this is about one of my favorite films of all times, one chances are you have never heard of: Strings, a 2005 movie directed by Anders Rønnow Klarlund. I first saw it with no expectations whatsoever. Someone just handed me the DVD without a word (and without the box). Within five minutes I was hooked. The movie is an unusual one to say the least, and even though the ending came as a bit of a disappointment (I felt like the director had tried to force in an ending that was consistent with the story he had set out to tell without realizing that the film had soared so far above it that it no longer fit), it just took my breath away. It is beautiful, shocking and haunting. An epic tale of war, peace, love and hate that had me from the opening scene. Yes, the performances can best be described as ‘wooden’ but that is what makes them absolutely unforgettable, and in a world in which CGI plays an ever increasing role in film production this one does serve as a sort of wake up call. Five stars, and that is just because most review systems don’t allow me to give it six.