Saturday, December 21, 2013

New York City

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

The following post may contain spoilers!

The second installment of Peter Jackson's The Hobbit trilogy released this past Friday, and as I am a massive Lord of the Rings fan, I of course saw it as soon as I could Friday afternoon. I thought it was a fantastic movie - it was much different from the first installment but still good in its own way. The cinematography was better and more creative, and the casting, set design, and musical score were phenomenal. The film vastly differed from the book, to the point that it felt like a completely different adaptation. A part of me wishes that Jackson had stuck to the more lighthearted feel of the book, but I went in knowing that he had changed and added many events and trusted that he knew what he was doing and would make it fantastic (and he didn't disappoint).

I love the character development we see in the cast, especially in Bilbo and Thorin. Not only does Bilbo slowly evolve into a more mature, courageous hobbit, as seen through his role in helping the dwarves escape the elves' prison, but we are also clearly able to see how the Ring starts affecting his mind, something not shown in the book. Similarly, we are able to see how Thorin's journey has affected him and how he struggles with valuing his lost homeland over the lives of his companions. 

I love the additions of Legolas and Tauriel to the trilogy. When I first heard Jackson was bringing Legolas back, I wasn't too thrilled, but once I saw the film and realized what he was doing with the storylines, I loved the elf roles. Also, although Tolkien never mentions Legolas in the book, there was every possibility of Legolas being present at the time of the story given his age. I also loved the idea of adding a female elf character, especially once I heard Evangeline Lilly was cast for the role. Although I've always loved The Hobbit, it needed a better male/female balance and Tauriel was a perfect addition with her personality blend of fierceness and compassion.

I particularly loved the new-to-the-films-but-familiar-to-the-readers characters - Bard, the Master of Laketown, Thranduil, and Smaug. Luke Evans portrayed Bard perfectly, giving him a more well-rounded, 3D feel than he is given in the book. Stephen Fry made a brilliant and disgusting Master, though I wish we'd seen more of him (I expect he'll have a larger role in the final installment). I was very excited to see Lee Pace as Thranduil, especially after seeing some of his shots in Jackson's production vlogs. The way he held himself, especially when leaning over to talk to Thorin, was so specific yet seemed to flow so smoothly - he was perfect for the role. And of course, Benedict Cumberbatch was Smaug, which may have been the best casting decision for the entire movie. Cumberbatch's voice perfectly matches the tone of a dragon and he nailed the emotion in every single line.

The set design and CGI in this film were a vast improvement over those in the last film. An Unexpected Journey had many outdoor landscape sequences and so there was not much noticeable artificial set work. Also, many scenes in the first film were clearly computer generated (to the point of me cringing in my seat), without much sense of realness to them. This film had far more sets, with Laketown being my favourite. The intricacies of the canals flowing between all the rundown houses gave it a maze-like feel and made the chase scenes more visually appealing. The CGI was loads better in this film as well. After the first one, I was worried about how the sequences of Smaug would look, but in fact the dragon looked incredibly real. In particular, the first glimpse we see of of with just his eye opening and closing almost made me forget that it wasn't a real dragon, especially when in the same shot with Bilbo (Martin Freeman).

The Desolation of Smaug is much more action-packed than its predecessor, similar to how The Two Towers was compared to The Fellowship of the Ring. There were moments when the action infringed on the storyline, but overall the fighting scenes were well-done. I particularly enjoyed the elves/hobbits/orcs barrel sequence with its moments of humour breaking up the otherwise intense scene. I also, for the most part, enjoyed the added storylines. I love how Jackson decided to link The Hobbit more to The Lord of the Rings trilogy than is evident in the book with the growing armies and strength of Sauron, something that we didn’t experience in the LOTR movies. Although I didn’t like how the dwarves split up in Laketown, I did like knowing what was happening to Bard and getting a bit of foreshadowing for the next movie.

There were a few plot points I disliked. As I am a huge fan of the book, I was really looking forward to some of the key events – Beorn and Mirkwood (the forest, the spiders, and the prison & barrels) – and I was disappointed by what instead transpired. In the book, Gandalf cautions the dwarves not to anger Beorn so they walk up to his house two at a time and end up getting along with him really well. I was picturing it to be a comical scene in the movie, but instead in the film Thorin & Co. are being chased by the Orcs and they barge into Beorn’s house uninvited and spend the night there before they meet him the following morning. The meeting itself is depressing as Beorn relates the unlucky tale of his people and news of the Orcs movements through the surrounding areas. I felt the added Orc storyline competed with the original story and made the scene feel rushed. The Mirkwood, spider, and imprisonment sequences were the same way. They were chopped short of the book version in order to, as seen as the movie goes on, to leave room for the heavier and longer scenes later. In the book, Mirkwood takes up a considerable chunk of the pages and the scene where the dwarves try crossing a river without falling in could have been made either comical or serious, but instead was completely cut out. The spider scene was also shorter than I was expecting from all the buildup, although it did otherwise play out the way I expected, aside from the elves coming in at that point instead of the Company running into them by accident later. The imprisonment scene only had the dwarves kept in their cells for a few hours when in the book they were there for weeks. I realize they had to cut the scenes short for a reason, but I was wishing they had showing a longer passage of time.

I have mixed keeping about the Kili and Tauriel romance (or Kiliel, as Tumblr calls them). On the one hand, I think it was sweet and added a positive element to an otherwise intense film, but the boundaries could have been set up better. I loved Kili’s little crush on Tauriel, but Tauriel was a little too involved with helping him to only have a small interest in him back, despite that seeming to be what Jackson was going for. I’m interested to see what happens in the third installment as Kili dies in the book and I’m assuming Jackson will at least keep character deaths true to canon.

Despite some of the treatment of book plot points, I thought it was an absolutely brilliant movie. You can clearly see Jackson’s style evolving into bigger and better visions and outputs with this film and I’m very much looking forward to the third film.

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Saturday, December 7, 2013

Holiday Favourites

I finally feel safe celebrating the holiday season in public! I've been listening to Christmas music since October, but people have such strong opinions about waiting until after Thanksgiving that I've held onto this post for a few weeks before posting. Here are some of my favourite holiday movies, albums, and songs.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Day of the Doctor

WARNING: The following section DOES contain spoilers!

Yesterday was the much anticipated 50th anniversary of the world famous BBC drama Doctor Who. The previous episode, released in May, ended with Clara and Eleven inside his (The Doctor's) personal timeline, and we saw The Doctor's biggest secret - a previously unknown regeneration that turned away from the name "The Doctor", the one who killed the Daleks and the whole of Gallifrey. As the season ended with this surprise and then the BBC released hardly any insights into what the 50th anniversary episode would contain, there was quite a bit of speculation as to how this past regeneration would fit into the timeline. Further news that David Tennant was resuming his role as Ten and Billie Piper was returning as well really set off the internet rumours. 

The episode ended up having an absolutely brilliant storyline - not as amazing as "The End of Time" from season 4, in my opinion, but still good in its own way. The first 15-20 minutes of "The Day of the Doctor" seem a bit random; the storyline jumps between 3 different plotlines that all seem random and unrelated, although they do show pieces of The Doctor's history that Whovians have always been curious about (The Time War and Ten's relationship with Queen Elizabeth I), but as the episode goes on we see how they all fit together. There were plenty of Ten & Eleven moments with loads of humour mixed with the more serious overtone, and 8.5 (the secret regeneration) even fit perfectly in the funny bits despite his characteristic solemnness. I nearly screamed of excitement at the "All twelve of them? No, all thirteen!" moment when we saw a brief glimpse of Capaldi as Twelve, as well as when Tom Baker (who played Four) cameos as the museum curator (Headcanon: he gave the dorky science girl his scarf). And of course, Ten's heartbreaking last words are still "I don't want to go." (cue teary eyes). 

There were a few things I wasn't happy about:
1. I did not at all like how Moffat fashioned Queen Elizabeth I. In history, she is famous for never marrying and staying an independent monarch. In this episode, she seemed like a silly, lovesick woman whose only goal was to marry The Doctor. Her character served little actual purpose and I really wish that, since we had been wondering about their relationship for several years now, he would have done a more satisfactory job of explaining it.
2. I understand having Billie Piper play the interface as Bad Wolf, but I (among many others) was hoping for more Ten x Rose moments. Even though I knew it was very unlikely that she would return as Rose Tyler, there was a perfect moment when they were all in the shed together and 8.5 mentions "the Bad Wolf girl" and Ten looks at him and says, "...what Bad Wolf girl?" that they could have made use of instead of just skipping over it. Moffat said he didn't want Billie as Rose because that was Russell T. Davies' character, which is understandable, but it was a little frustrating to have a perfect moment and then not use it.
3. I don't like how Moffat keeps changing a lot of old storylines. I understand wanting to make it happy by keeping Gallifrey stored in a painting, but at the same time, the destroying of Gallifrey is part of The Doctor - it makes him who he is forever afterwards. They made it so that Nine and Ten are still the same, but I wish Moffat would stop messing with important previous Who history.

Otherwise, I thought it was a good episode and I loved seeing all the characters again. Six months didn't seem that long to wait while I was going through it, but now I'm on a Doctor Who kick again and I want more episodes all the time again... help. Until Christmas, Allons-y! Geronimo!

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Thursday, November 7, 2013

2013 | October Favourites

Movie - There were two: Much Ado About Nothing (2013 version) and The Fall

Much Ado About Nothing: Joss Whedon created this Shakespeare adaptation and filmed it over a week-long period while also shooting The Avengers. The film is in black & white and is very simplistic, setting it apart from other adaptations. I was worried it wouldn't be as good as Kenneth Branagh's version from the 90s, but the two are so different that I love them both for different reasons. I had been wanting to see it ever since its production was announced, but it only went to one theater in my area and I was never able to see it until it was released to Redbox. I highly recommend this movie to fellow Whedonites, Shakespeare fans, and anyone who enjoys a good movie (everyone, really).

The Fall: I remember seeing this movie on Netflix Instant Play and thinking the cover was interesting, but I never felt the urge to see it until I learned that Lee Pace was the co-lead (everyone's favourite Piemaker from Pushing Daisies and elf king from The Hobbit trilogy). I wish I hadn't waited so long to see it because it was one of the most beautiful, emotional movies I have ever seen. The movie is set in a hospital in the early 1900s and centers around a young girl named Alexandria, a grove worker who broke her arm due to falling from an orange tree, and stuntsman named Roy, a man who broke his legs during a stunt trying to win back his girlfriend and is now suicidal. Alexandria befriends Roy and he tells her a fantastic story of five men banding together to exact revenge on the villain who ruined them all. The story itself, while not following much of a concrete plotline, was portrayed so perfectly by the cast. The dialogue was realistic, especially regarding the age and language differences between Alexandria and Roy, and the final half hour had me crying (and I rarely get emotional over movies). The film was beautifully done - the sets were rich colours and, weird as this seems, the sound editor was incredible. The way certain noises were made more noticeable than is usual for a film really made it sound authentic. This is not a movie I would expect most people to enjoy, but if you love emotional, beautiful films, I would highly recommend it.

TV show - The Blacklist. I'd been hearing such good things about NBC's newest crime thriller that I made time to watch the first two episodes. From what I've seen so far, it lives up to its high ratings. The show is about a former government agent named Raymond Reddington who, despite now being #4 on the FBI's Most Wanted List, inexplicably surrenders to the Bureau and offers to help them catch terrorists under the condition that he speaks only to Elizabeth Keen, the Bureau's newest profiler. Reddington's motives are unknown at this point and there are several other mysteries presented in the first episode that give the show several options to go in the future. I've enjoyed what I've seen so far and I've almost forgiven NBC for canceling Smash, my ultimate guilty pleasure show over the past year.

Album - Wrapped In Red by Kelly Clarkson. As I'm sure everyone knows by now, I am a massive Kelly Clarkson fan, so my recommending this should come as no surprise and will be completely biased. I was concerned that it would have too much of a country sound to it, but I needn't have worried. This is one of the best Christmas albums I've heard and I foresee myself adding it to my holiday playlists for years to come. It has a perfect mix of all different styles - some classic Christmas, some blues, some jazz, some pop - it has something for everyone. As always, Clarkson's vocals are spot on. I'm completely in love with this album and I highly recommend it to all holiday music lovers.

Artist - Active Child. I had previously heard of Active Child through Ellie Goulding's cover of their song "Hanging On," but it wasn't until Ellie was featured on their newest song "Silhouette" that I began looking through the band's music. They have a laidback, ethereal quality to their music that makes it perfect for listening to while studying. I personally enjoy their newest EP Rapor and their original version of "Hanging On."

book - The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. As this was the only book I read this month, this is really the only one I can mention. I would recommend it only as a perspective-changer as it's not one you can enjoy reading over and over again. The book is Walls' memoir of her childhood up through early adulthood. She grew up in a poor family that travelled constantly due to her dad's inability to hold a job longer than a few months. I found it a fascinating read, but it's only for those not expecting something lighthearted and fun; it has some very heavy moments.

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Sunday, November 3, 2013

College | 10 Things I've Learned

The semester is more than halfway over, which means I have now acquired valuable knowledge that may (or may not) be helpful for those going to college in the near future.

1. Invest in plenty of microwave mac & cheese. It's a lifesaver when you don't have time to go to the dining hall.

2. If you're ever trying to avoid homework but still want to (pretend to) be productive, clean stuff. I only ever clean my desk when I'm trying to avoid homework.

3. Never go to on-campus coffee shops right after class ends. The lines are horrifyingly long.

4. The Venn diagram of people who have bad taste in music and people who play their music out loud in the shower is a circle.

5. Always remember to take your room key with you when you leave your room, otherwise you will end up locked out of your room at midnight in your pajamas and wet shower flip-flops and have to sign out a temporary key and fob to get back into the building. I certainly don't know this is from personal experience.

6. Do all the free/cheap events that you can. Last weekend I attended a chorus concert, an internationally acclaimed one-man play/puppet show, a haunted hall, and the state fair, all of which were low to no cost because I had a student ID. Where I live, you can also get a free bus pass with a valid student ID which comes in handy when you don't bring your car on campus with you.

7. If your campus offers any sort of LaundryView website, USE IT. It will save you multiple unnecessary trips up and down four flights of stairs... not that I speak from experience about this either.

8. If a new restaurant on campus opens, don't go for the first 1-3 days. Even when you go at a time that you think it won't be busy. Because it will be. Guaranteed.

9. Prioritize your clothing. You really can't fit as much in your dorm room as you think you can.

10. Use Rate My Professor. It will save you countless amounts of time and frustration if you look up professors ahead of time and avoid taking classes from the bad ones.

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

2013 | September Favourites

 movie - Annie Hall. A friend of mine recommended this movie on Twitter, and, as she nearly always has good taste in films, I trusted her judgment and rented it from my university's library. My only previous experience with Woody Allen's work was one of his most recent, Midnight In Paris, which I absolutely loved. Annie Hall is even more incredible. It fit my "perfect movie criteria" - the plot was character driven, the personality changes were believable, the scenery was well shot and matched the story, and it kept my attention the entire way through. The story follows a pessimistic New York comedian, Alvy Singer (Woody Allen), who falls in love with a ditsy girl, Annie Hall (Diane Keaton). The film follows their relationship from the moment they first meet and chronicles their difficulties that are mostly due to their conflicting personalities. If you're a fan of unique or quirky films, this is a good one.

books - "Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them" by Newt Scamander (J.K. Rowling). I'm sure most people have already heard about J.K. Rowling's screenwriting debut turning this book into a movie (if you haven't, the announcement is here). Regrettably I had never read this little gem until this past month, but as soon as I heard about its future movie adaptation I knew I had to read it ASAP. It's a very short book, only 42 pages long, set up like one of Harry Potter's wizard textbooks for Hogwarts, complete with "handwritten" notes in the margins from Harry and his friends. It details many of the magical beasts in the wizarding world, some mentioned in the HP series but most not. While I enjoyed flipping through it and reading about all the creatures, I would only recommend this to fellow Harry Potter fans as an ordinary reader might find it a bit dull.

 TV show - Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Before I saw the pilot, I had mixed feelings about this show. After seeing the pilot, I still have mixed feelings about this show. While I love Joss Whedon's work and I love all of Marvel's superhero movies, I was worried this show would be too campy for me to really enjoy. The pilot did a great job of introducing the characters, their roles, and their relationships with each other, as well as offering some good special effects with the high tech equipment used by the agency, but I still am not quite convinced that I will be sticking with this show all the way through. I really like the idea of the show, however, so I am looking forward to how it progresses and evolves throughout the season.

artist / album - there are 4, actually. September was a good music month.

 ReVamp. As I may have mentioned before, despite my generally more indie-themed music taste, my favourite music genre is actually female-fronted symphonic metal. I was introduced to this band through Nightwish's facebook page, as Floor, the lead singer of ReVamp, stepped in for Anette, Nightwish's lead singer, during Nightwish's 2012 tour. I fell in love with Floor's unique vocal capabilities as they combine what I love best about both of Nightwish's lead singers. ReVamp has made two albums, the most recent of which, Wild Card, released earlier this month. The band stays a little more on the metal side of the genre, but the tinges of chorus/symphony in the background combine beautifully with Floor's vocals to pull it all together. I recommend this band to anyone who enjoys the symphonic metal genre or female-fronted rock bands.

 The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones score. Technically, this album released in August, but I didn't pay any attention to it until I saw the movie over Labor Day weekend. Although I felt the movie fell short of its potential, the score is incredible. I've listened to it way more times than I care to share, and it's currently tied with Klaus Badelt's score to the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie as my favourite movie score. It has an incredible blend of frantic moments and slower melodies, and the choral work is superb. A definite must for anyone who enjoys fast-paced instrumental music.

 AM by the Arctic Monkeys. I never paid attention to the Arctic Monkeys before, but I heard such good things about their newest release that I decided to give it a listen. From the moment I first heard the single "Do I Wanna Know?" my opinion on them had changed. There are few records where I like every song, but this is one of them. This album has the perfect indie rock sound that I love - I'll definitely be playing it throughout the fall season.

 Pure Heroine by Lorde. The album had a Monday release day so this just barely makes it into this month's favourites. First, let me just say that if you haven't heard anything by Lorde yet, you are missing out. This girl is phenomenal. It's hard to believe she's only 16 and writes her own music because it is so much better than most of the other music played on mainstream music these days. The album includes two songs from previous EPs, her famous single "Royals" and a more recent single entitled "Tennis Courts." The remainder of the album embodies the same general sounds and sentiments as the already released songs, giving the record as a whole an urban sound.

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Saturday, September 14, 2013

A Week of Concerts

Monday, September 2, 2013

2013 | August Favourites

TV show - Buffy the Vampire Slayer
I had intended all summer to start watching it, but it wasn't until the week before school started that I finally began the first season. The first episode wasn't too impressive but it had a lot of potential, so I kept watching and ended up finishing the first season within a few days. I'm now halfway through season 2 and completely hooked. My favourite character is either Cordelia because she's so ridiculous or Xander because he's like a teenage version of Friends' Chandler. It has a perfect balance of humour and horror, happy and sad moments, friendship and romance - my only real complaint is that the Master in the first season was kind of a weak villain, but the show was just getting its start so I can forgive that.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

College | Initial Impressions

As of the time I'm writing this, I've been at college for 10 days. Thus far, it has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. I could go on and on and on about it, but that would probably bore everyone so I'll stick with a summary.

I moved in a day earlier than most other dorms on campus because I live in the Honors Quad and the honors program was hosting an event, CORE, for students to get to know each other and the campus better. CORE was the best decision I've made here so far because I met so many new people and made so many new friends just in one day. Most of them live on my hall which is nice because then it's easy to, say, all crowd into someone's dorm room with pillows and junk food and watch Pitch Perfect. Living in the Quad is one of my favourite things here so far. I love living on a hall for the close community aspect, and the Quad is like its own little village of people that care about academics and are dedicated to learning.

Classes started on Wednesday, which meant we had 6 days of doing whatever we wanted. The university hosted many, many events involving free food and other goodies, so we (my hallmates and I) went to most of those. It also gave us plenty of time to get to know other people on campus. I discovered, to my great pleasure and not-really-surprise, that the majority of the people in my hall are massive Harry Potter nerds with quite a few Sherlockians and Whovians mixed in (as well as another girl who watches Buffy and a fellow Richard Armitage fan - best hall ever).

As much fun as the past week had been, I was ready to start classes when Wednesday came around. I'm taking 6 this semester: German II, Nutrition, FYC, Intro to Shakespeare, Metamorphosis & Metaphor, and soil science. I was happy with all of my classes except for soil science, but even that one doesn't seem too bad as he's not giving us a final. The first words out of my German professor's mouth on the first day of class were, in German, telling us that most of the class would be conducted in German - exciting yet terrifying for my first class of the year. But it's actually really fun so it's working out well so far. All my other professors are nice/normal as well, except my Shakespeare professor who is a little nutty and rather sarcastic, but not entirely in a bad way ("interesting" is the best word to describe him).

As far as living on my own and being independent: I love it. I never minded living at home and my parents and I got along really well, but over the past calendar year I'd been really ready to live on my own. I've always been a bit more of an independent person - I've never in my life gotten homesick - so I knew I would enjoy moving out, but so far it's been even better than I imagined. I haven't done anything really differently than when I lived at home, but it's more of the thought that I'm completely in charge of my own actions and happenings that makes it so exciting.

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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Not So Funny

About a week ago, my sister, a few friends, and I went to see The Great Gatsby at the local $2 theater. While I enjoyed the lavish, artistic and thematic elements of the film, I had the same problem with the characters that I did while reading the book - I hate all of them. Though I know this is somewhat the point of the tale, I couldn't enjoy the rest of the movie because of it.

But Fitzgerald's famous tale is not the only one with which I've had this problem.

Lately, I've found it incredibly hard to get into any comedy shows. In the past few years, American sitcoms in particular seem to have shifted their base of humour from jokes in dialogue to awkward/uncomfortable interactions between eccentric characters. One such show is The Office. I used to love The Office. I watched the first four seasons within a few weeks. But I eventually stopped enjoying it because I noticed that in order for the show to keep going, the characters had to become more and more quirky and the situations more and more awkward to the point that everyone was just flat out obnoxious to each other all the time. I noticed that I was no longer rooting for any of the characters because I didn't like any of them anymore.

I had the same problem with Arrested Development and Mad Men (not a comedy I know, but the same issue). I only managed a few episodes of each show before giving up on them both because I couldn't find enough admirable qualities in any of the characters to like any of them.

Why the shift in television designs? What was wrong with the normal sitcom storylines like in Friends and How I Met Your Mother? All the characters had their own little idiosyncrasies, but they were good characters. You could identify with them and cheer them on because they were multifaceted. Even the "players" were likeable because they had personalities outside of that stereotype. The humour, while sometimes based on conflicting personalities, was also used through dialogue and situations. The shows were much more relaxing and enjoyable to watch because you weren't constantly frustrated with the characters.

I'm not entirely against awkward humour - I still love watching old episodes of The Office and I like when the technique is used in small amounts. But the increasing number of shows that include this kind of theme are making it harder and harder for me to enjoy watching new television shows and is turning me off of "humourous" shows in general. Until, if ever, more shows contain better entertainment, I'll be avoiding modern comedies.

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Saturday, July 13, 2013


Friday, June 21, 2013

2013 | Summer Bucket List

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Good Old Days... Maybe

This past week, I've been increasing hit by bouts of nostalgia. Not the normal kind you'd expect from someone who just graduated high school, but weird longings for random events. For instance, I was looking through my photo roll on my phone a few days ago and found some pictures from my trip to Universal Studios in Florida a few months ago. Ever since I saw those pictures again, I have felt this strong urge to pack a suitcase and travel to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I look at the photos and all I want to do is walk through Diagon Alley and sit in front of Hogwarts and drink Pumpkin Juice and ride a Hippogriff again.

On a more regular basis, nostalgia will hit me when I rewatch a movie that I used to watch constantly. Monsters Inc. was my absolute favourite movie when I was seven, and a few weeks ago I watched it again in honour of the upcoming sequel. I remembered every single line and laughed at all the same jokes, plus I understood the adult humour that completely went over my head as a child. That movie represents a section of my childhood that I probably wouldn't remember as well otherwise.

But the biggest source of nostalgia for me is music. I am one of those people who never leaves the house without my iPod. There are certain bands and even complete genres of music that I only listen to during certain seasons of the year. Because of this, I often go through a sort of "journey through my past" whenever I hear a song that reminds me of a certain time in my life. This occurred a few days ago when I listened to a few songs from Ellie Goulding's Halcyon album released last fall. I listened to that album every single day for two months driving to and from my community college campus, and to this day, every time I listen to it, I visualize spicy chai lattes and cold, cloudy weather and school and long car drives

But nostalgia, as nice as it is sometimes, can be tricky. Usually when I'm reminiscing about the past, I don't remember the not-so-good details. While Ellie Goulding may remind me of my favourite parts of last fall, her music rarely brings back memories of how challenging last fall was for me while I was trying to juggle school and a job. And of course, we all know what it's like to look back on our childhoods - we didn't realize how easy we had it until it was gone. We as humans have always had a problem with glamorizing or mis-remembering the past, sometimes with not-so-great results. So while it's fun to remember the past and look back fondly on old memories, I also have to remind myself to learn from the negative aspects of my past.

"There's a certain nostalgia and romance in a place you left behind." - David Guterson

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Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

Although I'd heard of this story ever since the movie came out in 2008, I had never read it or watched the film, so on Wednesday I checked it out from the library. The book, written by John Boyne, is about the friendship between a German boy named Bruno and a Jewish boy named Shmuel (who lives across the fence in a concentration camp) and the unexpected consequence of their friendship. In the book, Bruno is not very aware of the global situation at that time period nor the German prejudice toward Jews even though he is the son of an important Nazi Commandant. He befriends Shmuel with no thought to the danger that could arise or the complications of their relationship. I found the story very engaging, although the ending was tragic (I won't give away what happens, but suffice it to say that I came very close to crying). In a way it was sweet that Bruno and Shmuel were together to the end, but the actual events that brought about the ending were tragic.

Thursday night after work, I decided to watch the movie version. I'm always a little skeptical of book adaptions, but this one was rather well done. They changed the order of a few events, but otherwise it was a decent adaption of the storyline. The thing that really differed, though, was the knowledge of the characters. In the movie, everyone was more aware of what was going on than they were in the book. Bruno's parents knew that he could see the camp from his window, Bruno knew who the Jews were and their significance to Germans, and most importantly, everyone was aware of what happened at the end. In the book, no one notices that Bruno had disappeared and it takes them a year to figure out what happened. In the movie, a few soldiers and his family almost immediately realize he's gone and figure out what has happened soon after it occurred, making the last scene devastating to both them and the audience (I did cry that time).

To me, the movie is much more emotionally moving than the book. The book was written from Bruno's perspective, and so there are things left out because he doesn't understand them. In the movie, the audience is given the full view of things, and, as an older viewer, I was able to completely understand what was going on. I had the same reaction after watching the movie that I have every time I read The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom - the depths to which humanity can sink when unchecked is indescribably horrible. The soldiers in the movie truly believed that Jews were inferior humans, perhaps not even human, and so didn't even blink an eye when a soldier beat up a Jew in front of his children for no reason. 

At the end of the film, Bruno's parents realize that they've made it to the camp too late - Bruno is already gone. His mother immediately breaks down and starts crying and screaming, but his father just stands there, stunned at what has happened. Perhaps that was the first moment he realized the atrocity of his political party, or maybe he was just in shock over what had happened and how his own actions led to it. And perhaps that is the most tragic event in this story - to watch a family get ripped apart by a horrible realization that their actions led to this terrible consequence.

 “. . .only the victims and survivors can truly comprehend the awfulness of that time and place; the rest of us live on the other side of the fence, staring through from our own comfortable place, trying in our own clumsy ways to make sense of it all.” - John Boyne, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

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