Friday, November 2, 2018

"A Wrinkle in Time" (2018) Part 2

I started last week with some thoughts on the plot and characters of the 2018 adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time. This week, I'll be finishing up my review/rant with thoughts on thematic and cinematic elements of the movie. This does contain spoilers. 

Obviously, everyone has a different thought on the theme of a book, so I can only speak from what A Wrinkle in Time did for me as a novel and what it did for me as a movie.

The movie picked up on some themes of the novel--the iconic love conquers all, for instance--and light vs. the darkness.

Light vs. darkness took an interesting twist in the movie adaptation. The discussion of giving into evil is turned into invasion of evil--an interesting choice for a world that doesn't seem to believe in a devil any longer. People's role in giving in to evil, choosing to satisfy their inner greed and jealousy, is sidelined for a theory that something from the outside comes in and fills the emptiness. It's a subtle change in nuance.

Unsurprisingly, they opted to eliminate Scripture references from the cinematic adaptation. While not shocking, I thought at least one of the quotes (John 1:5) would have been pertinent to the themes expressed in the movie. I was also mildly surprised at the neglect of referring to the Mrs. W's as angels (or even stars)--it seemed an interesting part of backstory that was cut out. It would be a far stretch to call the novel a Christian novel--it's really rather Universalist, listing Christ right next to Buddha as a warrior for the light. But someone would have thrown a fit over religion if it had been included, I suppose.

I was also disappointed that the concept of tessering was not explained further. There's a really interesting explanation in the book that's rather iconic and I thought they had set up a nice play into it with Meg's folding note she received from her father, but I suppose they thought it was a little overfull for a kid's movie.

On a really petty side note, I was also bummed that they didn't include one of my favorite lines--"Like and equal are not the same thing at all!" The neglect of it plays into the overall botching of the Camazotz plotline. I thought it would be an interesting play considering the increased diversity of the cast. (Which they didn't beat into your skull, so it worked nicely. It felt pretty organic, really, so points for that.)

Thoughts--Movie Stuff

Alright, here we get to the part that I don't usually get to review--the cinematic appeal of things. Overall, I felt the movie was just too bright. It's a sci-fi movie, so it'll by necessity have loads of CGI, but it felt like it went out of its way to be bright, obnoxious, and almost overly stimulating. Camazotz (with the exception of IT), felt just the same as Uriel, which was ludicrous. The portrayal of IT was unconventional, but creative--a series of neuron connections instead of a disembodied brain. I'm not sure I'm a huge fan of it, but hat tip for the neurons firing.

The music, overall, didn't impress me. It just felt overwhelming and climaxed a bit too much for my taste (every little thing got a music climax). The actual plot climax didn't feel like it got a deserving score. That being said, some of the tunes repeated rather nicely.

The CGI was good, though that's not always saying much anymore. There wasn't too much that took me out of the movie with thoughts of, "Holy cow, that's a green screen!". I'm still not sure why the changed the pegasi-creatures on Uriel into flying cabbage monsters, but I'd heard about that in reviews, so it didn't shock me too terribly much.

Alright, I think I finally got all the ranting out of my system. Any thoughts? How's NaNo going?

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

NaNo 18: The Deep Breath Before the Plunge

Hey, look, I found a way to sneak LOTR into this post! 

So, I wasn't going to post before the event actually started, but I find myself needing to let out some fears before we embark on the mayhem that will be NaNoWriMo 2018. And, if I'm being honest, it's more for myself than anyone else--because I know, deep down, that in less than a week I'm going to be snowed under in a morass of self doubt and sleep deprivation that makes me question why I'm writing in NaNo.

I guess here's my answer now, future self:

You need it.

This is for you. Not for your ego, or your pride, but for your sanity--just like running.

Will you publish anything? Maybe not. Probably not, even, with how allergic you seem to be editing. And that's fine. But you know how much better you feel when you're writing.

It's your outlet for all those hopes and fears, doubts and worries, tensions and joys you accumulate all day. And while you were absolutely right when you signed up for that half marathon that you need to stop staring at your screen so much and enjoy the outdoors and be active, you also can't just ditch the whole creative side of your brain for nearly a year. You've been there. You've done that.

For better or for worse, you like stories. You grew up with them, learned from them, were shaped by them. And now, you need them to come out. It's how you get the tension out. It's how you subconsciously work through problems. It's how you bring to life all those random thoughts that flit through your head over the course of the day, and you feel better for it.

Deep down, you know this.

You also know you work better on a deadline.

Don't tell me you don't--I've seen just about as much of your past as you have. When was the last time you did something early? (Other than your tax return debacle--look how that turned out! <okay, maybe that's not a good example, but I'm sticking to it>)

You need some way to transform all your daily struggles into something you can actually grapple with, and this is the best way I've figured out. (If you find out something else in the next couple of weeks, let me-us?-know, okay? But I doubt it).

So write like the world depends on it, because you never know, it just might. The story world will depend on it, if nothing else.

Don't let your past failures hold you back. Last year was last year. Each day is new (even if you're like my current self and couldn't sleep last night and just decided to restart the day at 5 am and have now been up close to 28 hours straight. Still a new day. Kind of.)

I guess what I'm driving at is just go for it (Just do it is to cliche. And possibly trademarked.) Write. Write for yourself if no one else. The worst that's going to happen is some carpal tunnel.

From one sleep deprived R.M. to her audience (possibly including another sleep-deprived R.M.), good luck and happy writing!

Friday, October 26, 2018

"A Wrinkle in Time" (2018) Part 1

Be forewarned: I'm discussing the recent adaptation of  A Wrinkle in Time. If you've been following the blog for long, you know it's one of my favorite books and things could get messy. But here goes. This article does contain spoilers for both the book and the movie.

For those of you who don't know, A Wrinkle in Time follows the sci-fi adventures of Meg Murray, a young girl who is out to find her father who went missing in an inter-dimensional/space travel experiment. She's assisted by her younger brother, Charles Wallace, school friend/acquaintance Calvin, and three mysterious women: Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which. Their travels take them to various planets, where the children discover that there is a great evil in the universe which is even now trying to gain control of Earth. Meg and company must rescue her father from a planet that has given into this evil, while also not falling prey to it themselves.

Thoughts on the Movie--Plot
I promise that I really do have some good things to say about the movie. Firstly, the first two thirds of the movie did a good job of sticking to the book's plot and even the last third did a fairly good job of doing so. It was definitely recognizable as A Wrinkle in Time. 

They decided to add a couple small scenes that I felt changed the tune of things a little bit, but overall felt fine. Some were necessary for transporting the setting from the 1960's to the modern day and worked well. Why they decided to change when Mrs. Whatsit enters the story is beyond me, but it didn't hurt anything other than the general flow.

The last third of the movie saw some more significant changes in plot. They got rid of the Aunt Beast plot line, which I felt wasn't a bad choice as far as run time for the movie. Sure, I think there's a lot of thought that went into that bit, and it might not be as bad as Tom Bombadil in Fellowship of the Ring, but it's easy to remove without sacrificing terribly much of the story arc. I think leaving it out did harm Meg's character arc a little, but such is life.

Where the plot really made me unhappy was the plot on Camazotz. It went from being a planet that had been under control of The Black Thing to being The Black Thing/(The) IT itself. It went from this utterly creepy place in the book, filled with grays and a subtle mechanical-ness and off-ness to this gaudy, overwhelming, almost Alice-in-Wonderland place. It didn't feel evil. It utterly lost the chill it had of being a planet under The Black Thing's control--because part of the plot was that was what was about to happen to Earth. Rather, it became this abstract, trippy place that I wouldn't have been sure was evil if the Mrs. W's hadn't pointedly told us that. The use of the Man with the Red Eyes is the primary victim in the portrayal.

Sadly, the climax was a weak point in the movie. Rather than facing IT being pivotal for both Meg and Charles' development as people and the showdown being truly terrifying, I never felt that IT had much of a chance. Also, the voice they used for IT did not do much for me--the creepy, monster-esque voice had nothing on the calculating voice of Charles Wallace as portrayed in the book.


As far as characters go, they really did a good job with Meg. Overall, she's predictable as the same girl from the book, and I really felt that she was the same character, despite significant differences in appearances. There's always something lost in translation from page to screen, but they did a good job overall of staying true to her character, even if (as mentioned above), they might have done more with her story arc. For how well they did with Meg, I really wanted to like the movie more.

Unfortunately, Meg was the only character they really transferred well. Calvin wasn't terrible, but he felt...flat. You learn virtually nothing about him in the movie and there's not much to make you like him other than the fact that he befriends Meg. He has some tragic backstory about not being able to please his father, but we don't even get much about that. In the book, there's this really endearing scene where he calls home to make sure his mother knows he'll be missing dinner, even though he just gets yelled at by one of his many siblings. It makes you love him, and there's nothing similar in the movie.

Charles Wallace bugged me, though I'm still trying to figure out exactly why. He's explained to be a prodigy, but we don't see much of that. He also doesn't have much of a character arc. In the book, his character development centers around hubris. He doesn't even have much to be proud of, because we don't realize how smart he is.

Now we reach the point where I get onto my soapbox. The main downfall of this movie for me was the portrayal of the Mrs. W's. Mrs. Who transfers fairly well (though they have her quote weird things--give me more Shakespeare!), but then they have her talk without quotes so much that it loses its touch. Sadly, she's the best of the three ladies.

Mrs. Which as portrayed by Oprah does very little for me. In the book, she's mysterious, in the background, and generally elusive. In the movie, they seemed to want Oprah to take the lead. Fine, but they totally got her character wrong. Yes, it's biased, but I'm a book purist. I might have been okay with it if they had offered significant improvement over the novel, but they missed the mystery of her character to balance out the more outgoing two. (And omitted the wordplay of Mrs. Which appearing as a witch, one of many such omissions).

However, the most egregious violation of character was Mrs. Whatsit. Mrs. Whatsit goes from this comforting, warm, outrageous character to a snooty, snobbish, stuck-up prom-queen-esque disaster. (I know, I know, I'm overprotective of the book.) Really, I enjoyed a good portion of the movie, but I could enjoy very little where she was in it.

Join me next week for discussion on the themes and cinematic elements of the movie, as well as for NaNo kickoff!

Did you see the movie/read the book? What did you think? Am I overreacting?

Friday, October 19, 2018

Reflections: Work

Some foolish person somewhere once said, "Choose something you love and you'll never have to work a day in your life."

I don't know where they were working, but I find that a little too good to be true.

You see, when I'm not writing, I'm doing my "real" job as a veterinary technician. And I love it. There's nowhere else I'd rather work, no other team of coworkers I'd rather have, no other job I'd rather do.  It's challenging, rewarding, heartwarming, fun, enjoyable, and (though it sounds terribly cliche) my passion. I can't imagine doing anything else full time, even writing.

But it's work. To steal a quote from the Princess Bride, "Anyone who says differently is selling something."

Even on this week dedicated to  my profession
, where my awesome workplace insists on showering all of us techs with food and coffee and gifts, it's work.

Holding down a Mastiff that's dysphoric and unsure where it's at when it's waking up from anesthesia is work. Pulling up a downed horse using ropes is work. Scooping manure is work. Dragging yourself from your warm bed at 2 AM to go anesthetize a cat that ate a thread is work.

It's not glorious. It's sweaty. Hot. Sometimes miserable. Heartbreaking, when all your effort goes to waste.

You see, we seem to think that work is a bad thing. That putting forth effort, that striving with all our might, that throwing our backs into the ropes, is the worst thing that could happen. That trying to learn the names of 30 different drugs and how they work is torture. Work. It's an ugly word.

But is work really a bad thing? What if we rephrased "work"? What if we chose "strive" instead? Working isn't bad. Drudgery is bad. Working only for the money is rather dismal (and I suspect that's what the author was truly driving toward). Don't get me wrong--you should do something you enjoy, something you're good at, something that gives you purpose. 

But would our goals really give us purpose if we didn't have to strive for them? Give them everything we have? Would our jobs be as rewarding if they came easily to us?

That's the true drudgery we ought to avoid.

So, rather than avoiding work, let's find work that really satisfies. A job to which we can apply our efforts with our whole hearts--whether that's writing or something else entirely.

 Go find something worth putting your soul into, even on days when it feels like really dull work.

Friday, October 12, 2018

NaNo 2018 Intro

I can't believe it's been a year since I've written anything in a WIP. I've...missed it. But I must confess, I fear sitting at my computer November 1st about to engage in the insanity that is NaNoWriMo and finding that my entire ability to write has disappeared.

That being said, I've found that doing things that I fear (because of the possibility of failure) are some of the most rewarding things I've ever done. And also the craziest, but, you know...

Will I write 50k? I don't know. That's a lot. And the years I really set out with 50k in mind tend to be the years I faceplant. Instead, I think I'm going to take my 2016 approach--the last time I won. I'm going to set out to write at least 6 days a week and shoot for a wordcount of 20k. It doesn't have to be a cohesive novel. I'm not going to plan it out. I have a main character, and a concept, and that's about it. We'll see what happens.

How will posting work on the blog? I'm really happy to have posted 3 weeks in a row now. (Wow, my life is getting sad. But we're improving.) I hope to keep it up. I'm thinking I might try some story snippets this year. My story idea is a little disjointed, which might make it good for some snippets.

Anyways, NaNo is about having fun. And if it keeps me busy and gives me a bit to think about other than work, I'll take it.

Even if my novel is essentially about anesthetizing mythical creatures. Because I have no life.

Are you participating in NaNo? What's your story about?

Friday, October 5, 2018

Friday Fiction Fix: Courage

The Short

Book 1 of The Legacy Chronicles

By: Lauren H. Salisbury

4.5/5 Stars 

What: A slave woman must evade an alien empire to save her son's life.

Recommended to those who like: Sci-fi, Christian, allegory

The Long

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review*

It's been a horribly long time since we had a book review on The Book Hound, but I can think of no better book to come back on. Courage is the sort of book that the blog was designed for--imaginative Christian speculative fiction that's written to excellent standards and provokes deep thought in the reader. (Also, I'd like to give a shout-out to Ms. Salisbury for being patient with me for the overly long time it took me to review her book. She's a saint.)

In the future, humans have been enslaved by the powerful Esarelian Empire. In spite of their daily hardships, many of them maintain hope and faith in the God from Old Earth. One such couple is Elias--a man who will fight to the end for his family and their community--and Gilla--who wishes to pass on her strong faith to her children. But before their next child can be born, their world is turned upside down and Gilla must have the courage and faith to protect her son.

The resulting story is imaginative, colorful, and rich with life. Once I finally sat down to read it, I flew through the (digital) pages. While insightful readers will discern quickly what Biblical story the novel parallels, the characters feel like truly living beings with their own motivations, emotions, and thoughts. While the allegorical nature of the plot makes some points predictable, the setting gives the story fresh life and insight.

The story does at points rely on strong telling rather than showing, but I found that the writing overall was of good quality and added to the story. 

The Bottom Line: A great pick for readers who enjoy sci-fi with an allegorical twist, I would recommend Courage to readers who are looking for a relatively quick and enjoyable read with rich characters and intriguing settings.

Friday, September 28, 2018

The 2018 Tolkien Tag

It's Tolkien Week again! To celebrate, I'll be filling out the blog tag from Hamlette over at Edge of the Precipice. (And don't run too far--I've actually got a book review lined up for next Friday!)

1.  What's your favorite Middle-earth story/book?
This one depends entirely on my mood. Ready for something lighthearted? The Hobbit. On a drive or somewhere where I need to gnaw on something for a few hours? The Silmarillion. Feeling dark and upset at the world? The children of Hurin. 

In short, there's a Tolkien for just about every one of my moods.

2.  Do you have a favorite subplot?
I don't know if it counts as a subplot or a book since it came out as its own story, but Of Beren and Luthien out of The Silmarillion is definitely my favorite.
3.  What's your favorite theme in Tolkien's books?  (Can be in one specific story, or overall.)

I really like the idea that history is made up of individual people who do great things (or even seemingly simple things that end up being monumental). It gives me hope for  doing the little things in life.

4.  Do you have a favorite weapon from Middle-earth?
Probably Anduril--it's hard to beat its history. I really wish there were more named bows from Middle-earth, however. 

5.  Would you like to be a hobbit?
Let's see, I like to eat, farming doesn't sound too bad, I'm happy to have a simple life, and I don't mind going barefoot, so...sure!

6.  Do you have a favorite romance/couple?
That's a nearly impossible pick between Beren and Luthien or Faramir and Eowyn. I don't like romance as a general rule, but Tolkien writes dang good romance. 

7.  What's your favorite Middle-earth creature?  (Can be "real" or "imaginary.")
Oliphants! Mostly because Samwise likes them so much.

8.  What character do you look the most like?
Ooh, I don't know that I look much like any character since I cut my hair. We'll go with some hobbit--my love of food shows a little bit.

9.  Are there any books about Middle-earth or Professor Tolkien (but not written by him) you recommend?
I have not actually read any books about either the author or the place, unless you count the works edited by Christopher Tolkien. It's a deficit that I'll have to make up sometime.

10.  List up to ten of your favorite lines/quotations from the Middle-earth books and/or movies.
Alrighty, here we go again! As always, I've tried to avoid duplicating my answers from previous years:

-"What do you mean?" he said. "Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?" (Gandalf)

-"In one thing you have not changed, dear friend," said Aragorn: "you still speak in riddles."
"What? In riddles?" said Gandalf. "No! For I was talking aloud to myself. A habit of the old: they choose the wisest person present to speak to; the long explanations needed by the young are wearying." 

-"Begone, foul dwimmerlaik, lord of carrion! Leave the dead in peace!" (Eowyn as Dernhelm)

-"Fool of a Took!" he growled. "This is a serious journey, not a hobbit walking-party. Throw yourself in next time, and then you will be no further nuisance." (Gandalf)

-"What course am I to take?"/ "Towards danger; but not too rashly, nor too straight." 

I hope you enjoyed my answers. Be sure to check out the rest of the festivities going on over at The Edge of the Precipice this week and be sure to stop back in here next week for a sci-fi book review!