mollyringle: (Maurice & Clive)
For those of you who share my slashy-romantic tastes, I recommend to you the Mexican film Cuatro Lunas. Watched it last night on Netflix and found it beautiful. Happy spoiler: no one dies! (Yeah, I'm scowling at you, Brokeback Mountain.) Many gorgeous men/boys and tons of heart. Read subtitles (if your Spanish isn't quite up to scratch, which mine is not) and enjoy.
mollyringle: (moon over ocean)

Look at news, see Carrie Fisher has died.

Step 1: Don't cry.

Step 2: Fail step 1.

"I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out..."

Carrie, you were unvarnished and eccentric and troubled and hot and smart and sassy, and showed us that a female icon can be all those things at once. Thank you.



Love to her friends and family, and to all the hurting fans whom 2016 has trampled thoroughly. (Shout-out to George Michael's memory too...sigh.)

mollyringle: (Parrish stars)

Oh, Gene Wilder... 2016 has been a cruel year for celebrities and the reaper. Jeez.

Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles are two of the first movies I ever remember seeing, on the VHS machine my mom and dad rented from the newfangled video store in the early '80s. We got our own copies ASAP and watched them over and over. To this day I can pretty much still recite them. Safe to say Gene Wilder (along with Mel Brooks, Madeline Kahn, Marty Feldman, and the rest of the team) were integral at shaping my bizarre sense of humor. Thank you for that, folks; a thousand times thank you.




mollyringle: (Buffy folk - by mangofandango)
I see that the small class size of Hogwarts is a trending topic lately. The "Voldemort-era anti-baby-boom" explanation as shown there on Buzzfeed may actually make some sense. But on the whole I'd attribute the small-ish cast to a trope you see a lot in fantasy, sci-fi, and other works involving extensive world-building. As far as I can tell, TV Tropes doesn't have a name for it (or maybe they do, but I'm not searching deep enough), but I'd call it something like "Not Enough People For This World."

You get this impression not only in Harry Potter, but in Game of Thrones and other fandoms. We see, or at least hear of, armies and other groups made up of thousands or millions of people, and we know we're dealing with a world fairly vast and large, yet all the widely-strewn characters keep bumping into each other within it. And when you do need an army of millions, they aren't there and you end up with seven or eight familiar faces doing the heroic defending. (GoT does have people hiring entire armies, I know. But at the same time, they also frequently have people traveling hundreds of miles and randomly encountering someone they know. And you occasionally get the weird impression that some entire kingdoms have, like, fifty or sixty people living there.)

TV Tropes does have the "It's a Small World After All" trope and the "Contrived Coincidence" trope, which both overlap what I'm describing, but are not quite the same thing. Thoughts? Anyone else have the Not Enough People For This World impression in other material?
mollyringle: (MST3LOTR-dance - arwen_elvenfair)

Steve and I have finally started watching The Lord of the Rings with the kids. I have only been waiting to do this with them since before they were born.

They haven't seen or read any of Tolkien, so they went into this without any background knowledge (other than a general feel of how fantasy stories work from other series and films, which does help), but they've followed it pretty well actually. Given their untrained status, though, we're starting with the theatrical releases. Extended editions are a bit much to spring on someone the first time through.

During Fellowship, they were totally not taken in by the fall of Gandalf. One was all, "He'll use his magic to come back," and the other was like, "Totally." Then our younger kid perkily said he'd like to be the Balrog next Halloween.

Last night we finished The Two Towers, and they agree that the Ents trashing Isengard is one of the most satisfying things to watch ever. It then occurred to us to wonder: what would happen if Treebeard took the One Ring? My first flippant thought was, "Moss and lichen on EVERYTHING," but actually (of course) it turns out there is a long and interesting fan discussion about this already.

Also, I managed not to break into song at "They're taking the hobbits to Isengard!", but it took effort.


Bonus material: our younger son doing his Gollum impression.

mollyringle: (arthur)

I was lately remarking to various people in comments that, by the end of Merlin, Arthur and Merlin "out-Frodo-and-Sam Frodo and Sam." But maybe it's a tie, to be fair. Now my mind won't rest until I've delineated all the items on the bromance checklist that both pairs seem to be using as their guidebook. Let's go!

Master and servant situation: check!

Save each other's lives a whole bunch of times (bonus points if you get soaked): check!



Also make verbal promises about continuing to save each other's lives: check!

Wear armor together even if that isn't usually your thing: check!

Play with ropes together: check!


Occasionally fall under evil magic influence and try to kill your bro: check!

Carry each other in case of unconsciousness: check!


Come around to seeing servant's mighty worth even if you took him for granted at first: check!

Hold your bro tenderly at the end and make us all cry: check!

Tearfully see him off on a boat headed for magical lands: check!

Yeah. I guess it's a tie.

I will go down with these ships. Bromances. Things.

mollyringle: (Caillebotte - Rainy Day)

I feel like I should post something. Summer kind of melts my brain, though, especially when it's been as hot as Seattle has been this year. We got virtually none of our beautiful "June gloom," the layer of clouds we usually get that keeps it cool and keeps summer officially away until the 5th of July. Instead, this year, not only did it not rain on the 4th of July (sacrilege! It must rain on the 4th of July in Puget Sound!), it was hot all that week, all of June, and all last weekend. We've had almost no rain at all. The grass is already scorched to stiff, dry brown. Leaves are turning yellow and falling off trees. It's like a lovely September afternoon...but it's July.

For the first time ever in all my lifetime in the Pacific Northwest, I caved and bought an air conditioner. Last weekend when it was 98 degrees out (aaaaarrrrrrrggggghhh), we did a lot of standing in front of it. (When you feel like snickering at our idea of "hot" up here, keep in mind very few of us have any A/C, and in fact our houses are more designed to trap heat in than to let it out. So it quickly got to the mid-80s indoors here with no way to cool off--until we got the A/C, that is. But it only really cools off one room at a time.)

BUT now it's cloudy and mid-60s again. Whew. So perhaps I can perhaps think once more.

Tidbits of good news:

The Seattle Public Library finally carries one of my books!

I showed my kids the 2003 Peter Pan movie, and they liked it. In fact, the younger one has been watching it again for a couple days in a row. I, being a girl, still adore the non-canon kiss they added. Peter spiraling up into the sky afterward, literally glowing and with a face-splitting smile, captures youthful post-kiss feelings so beautifully. Even if he's not supposed to want to grow up. ;)




Latest fermentation experiment: I'm trying homemade lacto-fermented juice. The ginger bug is made and bubbling nicely, and I've just added it to orange juice. Wish the good bugs luck.

Not a lot of big trips going on for us this summer, but we do plan at least to get to mountains and coast at various times.

Writing (starting a new novel). Reading (all kinds of stuff). Learning mindfulness (some days go better than others).

So. Happy summer!

mollyringle: (Froud - kissed by pixies)
We've been reading L. Frank Baum's Oz books to the kids at bedtime this summer. So far we've read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Marvelous Land of Oz and are in the middle of Ozma of Oz. Despite the rather formal and occasionally antiquated narrative and dialogue, the kids seem quite taken with it, just as I was in my childhood. And as a grown-up writer now, I still bow in supreme admiration to Baum's wildly creative imagination. Further notes, adapted from some I posted on Facebook:

Jun. 29:
Started reading The Wonderful Wizard of Oz to the kids last night. They seem to like it. Differences from the movie I'm noting now (which I once knew but had forgotten):
There's a "Wonderful" in the title.
They're silver shoes, not ruby slippers.
No long lead-in with Dorothy running away and thinking of a place over the rainbow. It's more like, "Once upon a time, CYCLONE." Which works fine, actually. (Also, it isn't a "twister" or a "tornado;" it's apparently a "cyclone.")
The good witch they meet in Munchkinland isn't named and isn't Glinda; she's just the good Witch of the North. Unlike Glinda, she is a small, wrinkled, white-haired old woman.

Yes, I'm sure there are webpages detailing all the differences. It's fun to use my own brain, though. Once in a while.

Jul. 27:
Latest beloved-childhood-film-rewatching-with-kids: The Wizard of Oz, following up on our reading the book with them. It's still mostly awesome! The Lion is the weak point, with his corny 1930s comic relief stuff, but there is still plenty of good acting and gorgeous filming to make up for that. I especially liked the Scarecrow's physicality, adroitly flopping and tumbling about as if actually made of straw. The kids really liked the movie too. (Toto was their favorite.)

And it's been long noted by Oz fans, but L. Frank Baum's books, and this film accordingly, pass the Bechdel Test, and not just barely, but soaring over the requirements. Heck, women, good and evil, pretty much rule the land of Oz. Well, the Wizard rules too, but he's a humbug. Now that I look up Baum on Wikipedia, having realized I know almost nothing about him or his life, I learn his wife was from a family of women's suffrage activists, so indeed, he was well up in the progressive stuff.

On the music side, I never noticed before that they use Mussorgsky's "Night on Bald Mountain" in the score for a short time, during the fight in the Witch's castle. Cool.

Aug. 1:
The 5-year-old: I want to be the Wicked Witch of the West for Halloween.
Steve: Cool. Maybe your brother can be your Winged Monkey.
Me: And I can finally realize my childhood dream and be Dorothy. Dad can be Toto.
Steve: Or the Scarecrow.
Me: Ooh! Yes! We can have a Dorothy/Scarecrow thing going on.
Steve covers his face.
Me: I've traumatized Daddy.
Steve: I'm broken.
Kids, meanwhile, are doing a rather excellent job cackling like Margaret Hamilton.

Aug. 18:
We finished reading The Marvelous Land of Oz (book 2) to the kids last night, and ha! I had forgotten that the boy Tip turns out to be, unbeknownst to himself, the princess Ozma under a magical disguise, and he gets changed back into his true feminine form and takes the throne. Yes. Ozma is a trans woman. Kind of.

Considering that chapter came with this Glinda/Ozma illustration as the header, we can at least safely say Baum is a treasure trove for LGBTQ/progressive-thinking type fans, even if he didn't anticipate all the ways in which he might be interpreted:

ozma-glinda

(I mean, sure, this is likely a "magical kiss of life" kind of thing, but the kiss wasn't actually in the text, so, up to interpretation...)
mollyringle: (couple w/ umbrella on street)
I finished re-reading The Fellowship of the Ring last night, and will turn the page and keep straight on into The Two Towers, since this is the big heavy single-volume edition I'm reading. I was inspired to get out the Extended Edition DVD this morning and re-watch the ending scenes of FOTR to note the various subtle changes.

One thing I like about the movie version is the parting between Frodo and Aragorn at the breaking of the Fellowship. After having been rushed at by Boromir, it makes sense that Frodo would next turn upon Aragorn with suspicion and test him by tempting him with the Ring. So I love that we see that happen, and can see for ourselves--and Frodo can see--that Aragorn will only close Frodo's hand over the Ring and step gently back, and swear he would have gone with him all the way to Mount Doom. Similarly, I appreciate that Merry and Pippin get to glimpse Frodo, recognize he has to leave, and help him by creating a diversion, rather than just realizing he's gone and not getting to say goodbye. Both partings are well-paced and poignant, with satisfying inter-character relationship closure (for the time being), so I'm glad they were added, even though they aren't strictly necessary. That is, Tolkien's version might make slightly more sense: i.e., Frodo decides to sneak off alone because if he announced he was off to Mordor, everyone would insist upon following him and he couldn't bear to let them all get into such danger on his account. Still, I can't help preferring the sweet farewells.

I especially think so since in this re-read I'm appreciating Aragorn more than before. Hobbits are still the most lovable, but Aragorn, Boromir, Legolas, and many others are striking me as a lot cooler and more sympathetic than I remembered from earlier readings of the books. And the Aragorn-Frodo friendship is particularly likable, the King and the Ringbearer, especially since (and I had forgotten this) Aragorn is buddies with Bilbo too. They hang out and talk poetry when Aragorn visits Rivendell. It's wonderfully cute.
mollyringle: (sex/kiss-Stage Beauty)
Back in December I read, or technically re-read, Lady Chatterley's Lover. Isn't it nice how this day and age we can say that with no fear of being arrested? In any case, here's my Goodreads review, for starters:

---
Technically a re-read, but I didn't remember much of it from the first time around. This time around I found it very good. Rather than raunchiness, though, sadness, or at least poignancy, breathes through it somehow. I don't know if this is because I was aware (from reading the introduction) that Lawrence was dying of tuberculosis when he wrote it, and had to endure a lot of abuse about the book right up until his death. That certainly could be part of it. It's probably equally likely that it's the setting that makes it sad: post-WWI England was a shattered place, mood-wise. And if that society was messed up about sexual mores too, well, no surprise. Given that supremely messed-up background, the affair-turned-love between Connie and Mellors *is* surprising in its frankness and wildness. But shocking? Scandalous? Hardly, from today's point of view. No one who's read a modern steamy romance novel could think so--and in fact, those of us who write them should consider Lawrence one of our patron saints for paving the way and enduring the firestorm from the prudes.

If the book is occasionally wrongheaded (by modern standards) about some sexual issues--like the brief but derogatory mentions of homosexuality, or the apparent lack of knowledge about the existence of foreplay--well, that's no surprise, given the wrongheaded society it was coming from, which Lawrence illustrates and denigrates so well.

It has a strange repetitive narrative style sometimes, and engages in head-hopping (in terms of POV), and overdoses of dialect within the dialogue, but all of that bothered me much less than it would in most books. As love stories go, or simply as novels go, it worked for me, and I salute its melancholy charm as much as its racier qualities that made it famous.
---

Then, curious to see some movie version of it and how the film medium would handle things, I lately found a copy of the Sean Bean BBC version at the library.

Incidentally, it led to this conversation between myself and husband:
Me: So, I'm watching the Sean Bean version of 'Lady Chatterley.'
Steve: *looks a bit confused*
Me: You know, where Sean Bean is Lady Chatterley's lover.
Steve: Oh. Sean Bean. For some reason I keep mixing up him and Mr. Bean.
Me: Yeah, that wouldn't work as well.
Steve: Yeah.

But as for the Sean Bean version (which is merely called Lady Chatterley)...




Cons:
Awkward expositional dialogue and occasional weird camera zooms/movements.
Cheesy dream sequence. (Oh no, movie, you didn't! Gah. You did.)
Overdramatic background music.
Slightly too much lipstick and eyeliner on m'lady sometimes.
Numerous close-ups of Connie's wedding ring during torrid love scenes with Mellors. Yes, thank you, we did remember she's married.

Pros:
Casting. Joely Richardson makes a sweet, natural, sultry Connie. James Wilby is a perfectly deplorable Sir Clifford (poor James; he's good at those roles, but to some of us he'll always be our sweet Maurice too). And Sean Bean is a pretty hot Mellors. Who knew Boromir had it in him? Bean masters that characteristic Mellors mix of prickly-snarky-cocky and moody-vulnerable-tender. Mellors is written as having a mustache, by the way, and we know Bean can look fine with facial hair; but I approve of the clean shave they gave him for this film. A bit more handsome and less sinister.

Pretty forests and flowers. The lush beauty of nature is an important theme in the book, so it's good they got that right for the film.

They seem to have dropped what's-his-name the depressed Irish writer from her earlier affairs. (Though maybe that was him kissing her hand at a party.) Good. He was a drag and didn't add much to the story.

More of a clear happy ending than the book gave us, and I suppose that's a pro; though for unfaithfulness to the book's melancholy nature, it could be considered a con.
mollyringle: (winters jewels)
FINALLY, I saw Les Misérables, the latest film installment. It only took this long because I have kids, and arranging the sitter and coaxing my husband to use our precious date night for this, well, these things take time. (Thank you for being coaxed, dear husband.)

Thoughts in random order!

Evidently, when someone says, "Who goes there?", you should not answer, "French revolution." Doesn't go over well.

Extreme close-ups during singing: a few too many of them. It was like Sinead O'Connor's "Nothing Compares 2 U" video, over and over. Mind you, it was impressive to know we were hearing the actual singing the actors were doing during those takes. And I found it reassuring that famous beautiful people have pores and little brown spots and other skin imperfections too. Thank heavens.

Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway both deserve their Oscar nods. Russell Crowe wasn't as bad as I expected; in fact, he made Javert more endearing than I usually find him. (The bit with the medal he pins on someone else who shall remain spoiler-free-nameless was a very moving addition, though that gesture isn't in the book.)

I love Gavroche, and Daniel Huttlestone did a great job, but must they always have him do an Artful Dodger accent? We are in *France* here, you know. Not London.

You know what I'm going to say I disliked, if you've read my Les Mis thoughts before. Yeah, that's right: the way they condense down the gorgeous, lengthy, super-romantic Cosette-and-Marius relationship from the book into, literally, one day. No one is going to buy it, their being "in love" when they just met a second ago. Why the hell couldn't the filmmakers give them a montage, Marius sneaking in night after night to sit and talk with Cosette in the garden, the way the book has it? In the book, it's Cosette--not Eponine--he's buddies with, Cosette (not Eponine) he sees regularly and talks for hours with and knows really well after a month or so of such meetings. In the book, he talks to Eponine a couple of times. She's obviously into him, and he's awkward about it, and he uses her to get Cosette's address because she's willing, but that's about it. But in the musical, oh no, it isn't enough that they give Eponine the most gorgeous songs; they also have to rob Cosette and Marius of any real, actual interaction that any sane person would feel sympathy for. ARGH. Don't get me started. Whoops, too late.

Give me a second while I calm down from that rant. Seethe. Deep breath. Okay.

Eddie Redmayne at least did save the part of Marius from what all too often becomes blandness and idiocy in many versions. He had the dorky, stammering, happy-in-love thing down, but also showed his noble revolutionary side well.

Favorite surprise-cutie revolutionary: Grantaire, played by George Blagden. Hel-lo! Also, much love for the book-faithful moment in which he opts to die next to Enjolras. (Spoiler there. Sorry. Whatever; no one reads LiveJournal.)

Aaron Tveit as Enjolras was, of course, beautiful. Highly well cast. And I'm so glad they did away with his Adam-Ant gold-barred jacket from the stage version in favor of a basic red one.

Impressive barricade, guys! Coffin in front, looked like. Really sends the message, "Pretty much everyone here is going to die." Oh, but I loved how one of the Friends of the ABC got the tavern mistress's chair by hauling her off it in a big long kiss. There weren't enough smooches in this film, really.

The Thenardiers were almost too lovable. Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter, despite looking ridiculous, pulled off the parts with surprising subtlety and humor, to the degree that I was glad to see them whenever they showed up. That's not the case in the book; the Thenardiers *are* a bit humorous, but the general reaction of most readers is, "OMFG, I hate these people." But that's okay. The movie benefited from the comic relief.

Elephant statue! Another book-faithful detail. Hurrah.

I managed not to cry in the cinema. I'm good at being stoic in public that way. But if I had this at home on DVD, there would have been waterworks.

"Bring Him Home," from the viewpoint of the book reader, doesn't make a lot of sense. Valjean kind of hates Marius at that point, but he is risking his life to save Marius anyway because it would make Cosette happy. This whole "he's like the son I might have known" stuff doesn't really wash for me, this early on in their acquaintance.

That said, 2 hours and 37 minutes is really not enough to do justice to a story of this depth and breadth. The music is wonderful, and the costumes and scenery were breathtaking, and I'm so glad this movie version exists. But someone needs to do a perfect, lengthy miniseries someday. With all the RIGHT Cosette-Marius-Eponine dynamics, dammit. Shoujo Cosette is doing a fairly good job so far actually, but it's, you know, anime. For innocent kids. With way more giggles and fluffy puppies than Victor Hugo intended.

And may I remind you that I summed up The Brick (that is, the unabridged novel version of Les Mis) with my own attempt at condensing things, so you can see what the musical changed, if you wish.

VIVE LA FRANCE. Au revoir.
mollyringle: (Buffet of victims)
Good couple of days for my fandoms lately.

We have of course the newer, longer Hobbit trailer...



...in which I found myself unexpectedly thinking, "Dang, there are some hot dwarves in that bunch." (Particularly Kili, though Thorin is handsome as well.) If it looks as though we're in for some broad, slightly dumb humor--well, let's be fair; that was kind of canon for The Hobbit as a novel. Drunk carousing elves and plate-chucking dwarves are part of what Tolkien gave us to work with. Can't expect Peter Jackson to just leave that lying on the table, can you?

Incidentally, as [livejournal.com profile] serai1 and I were discussing yesterday, Martin Freeman looks perfect as Bilbo, partially because he's already proven himself a great Arthur Dent--and, if we think about it, Arthur Dent kind of is Bilbo. They're both grumpy homebodies hauled at great reluctance from their houses to go on a grand perilous adventure, and spend most of the time wishing they had their tea. Or handkerchiefs. Hey, I can completely relate.

Switching gears, we also got an extended preview/trailer/thing for the new Les Misérables:



The more I see of it, the more I dare think they're getting Hugo's story as right as they can. They're adding book-faithful details that weren't in the stage show, such as the elephant statue inside which Gavroche sleeps. And the cast's voices sound awesome so far.

But if that's too heart-wrenching for you, and you want something funny, enjoy Neil Patrick Harris and Jason Segel breaking into an impromptu version of Javert and Valjean's confrontation song:



I LOL'd. Now I want Neil Patrick Harris to be in a production of Les Mis. He'd be a great Javert, but honestly he could be any part he wanted. Enjolras, Fantine, Eponine--whatever. He'd rock it.
mollyringle: (books & pearls)
EDIT: Here I use "indie/independent publisher" to mean "small press." I am not, at this time, self-published, though the term "indie" seems to mean that too, lately.

I'd like to state again how pleased I am with the independent presses who have published me, Central Avenue Publishing and The Wild Rose Press. I've met more authors over the years, and read more about their experiences, and increasingly I'm coming away with the impression that those published (or formerly published) with the big houses often felt ignored and unloved. The attention from their editors/agents was being devoted far more to those couple-dozen huge-name writers who made all the money for the house, with little time to spare for the lowlier names.

As to advances and royalties: indie presses don't pay advances as often. True. But that's always been fine with me, as an advance is only that: an advance against future royalties. So you earn no royalties until the book has "earned out" its advance, and, according to the experts, the majority of books take years to do that--if they ever do. And your advance isn't likely to be a cool million bucks. Heck, no. Try a couple thousand dollars. To last you a few years? I'd rather just take the modest quarterly royalties I rightfully earned. In addition, royalty rates with big houses are usually smaller than ours in the small-press world.

So between the personal attention, the input we're allowed on cover art (again, almost unheard of in the big publishing world), the no-worse-than-average royalties, and the way e-readers have taken off lately, I'm getting happier by the year to be involved in indie publishing.

Also, in the indie-press world, we're far less likely to have movies made of our books. That's actually a blessing in disguise. Let's be honest: 9 times out of 10, doesn't the movie adaptation suck? And the writer usually gets no say in it. I mean, even with Twilight, which had the most gigantic following in the world and should have been able to afford doing everything perfectly, they couldn't get the makeup right and ended up making Robert Pattinson look like a powdered donut with lipstick.
mollyringle: (Haeckel anemones - by neitherday)
In Finding Nemo, why do the sharks have an Australian accent, but none of the other sea creatures do?

And why can most of the fish understand human speech--some of them can even read--but they can't understand whale speech?

Yes. Sorry. I keep overthinking Pixar's plots and poking my finger into the holes. I ought to stop.
mollyringle: (Powerpuff - by Xenia)
I can't talk much about Les Misérables on Facebook anymore because people are starting to make fun of me for it over there. Luckily I still have this LJ, where no one particularly cares one way or the other. So--for those who might care, and for my own records:

This site is both cool and funny. It's a collection of the various illustrations that have been done for print editions of Les Mis over the decades, some pretty, some ugly, some very confusing. The site's captions have been giving me the occasional LOLs. For example:

Cosette dines at the Thénardiers with either the family cat or Gollum
Valjean considers calling the anti-graffiti hotline
and, perhaps my favorite,
Grand Prize Winner, World's Shortest And Least Effective Barricade

I have also lately learned that there is an anime version of Les Mis (Shōjo Cosette or Shoujo Cosette) that runs for like 25 hours (52 episodes) and, as far as I've gotten in it, includes more fluffy puppies than the original Hugo. But it's cute and sometimes oddly accurate and might be a good way to introduce kids to the story. (It probably gets more violent later--barricades and stuff, you know. I haven't gotten that far yet, but I can't see how they'd get around it.)
mollyringle: (dome - Gothic Choir)
I hadn't read The Hobbit since I was a kid, so, given the upcoming movies (evidently there are going to be two, not one), I felt it was time to revisit Bilbo and Smaug. Having finished it, my review:

Though this was a re-read for me, the first go-round was so long ago that I'd forgotten a lot of the book. (Hey, look at that! A whole passel of giant spiders! And Frodo and Sam thought *they* had arachnid problems.) Tolkien, as ever, excels at his world-building: the landscape and its unusual inhabitants feel totally real, and made me look around with new appreciation at rocks, plants, and streams in my own neighborhood, as if they all might harbor magical beings or properties.

I take a star off because, as with The Lord of the Rings, the pacing is kind of screwed up. They kill the dragon too soon (shot by a guy who barely figures in the story up to that point), then *other* battles happen as the kinda-sorta-climax, and then (as with LOTR) the giant Eagles end up saving the day at the last minute rather than our heroes saving themselves. Also, that Necromancer who Gandalf was off fighting, completely off screen--well, that makes sense if you've read LOTR (oh yeah, it's Sauron), but viewing The Hobbit as a novel on its own, that development is a bit perplexing. LOTR has more human (/hobbit/elf/dwarf/etc.) emotional drama to give it greater merit despite the pacing issues, while The Hobbit feels more like it's meant for children--and that's okay in some ways, as it's also a lot less heartbreaking.

Also, what was up with the silly elves? I said to my husband, mid-read, "The elves in this one are weirdly happy. Like, cracking jokes and being goofy. Maybe later on, the whole Ring situation, and the going-west stuff, was making them grumpier...?" But it still doesn't completely make sense. So I'll be curious to see what Peter Jackson does there. I really cannot see Elrond singing tra-la-la rhymes and dancing merrily. Legolas, maybe, if he had a frat-boy phase. Orlando could totally play that.

All that said, Bilbo is a charming protagonist, and there are lots of gems of scenes in this book. Also some actual gems, like the Arkenstone. Hah.

Incidentally, have you seen Peter Jackson's video blog entries about the making of the new films? Huge fun. I need to go back and view the ones I haven't seen yet.

From The Hobbit I moved straight to a long-intended re-read of Les Misérables. I'm now about a third of the way in, and so far I am annoyed with Victor Hugo for these things:

1) Burying a wonderful, amazing novel among a bunch of extraneous chapters about French history, which dissuades people from reading it. Therefore I recommend you read the *abridged* version--or else get the unabridged, but skim when you find yourself wading through Waterloo or the Paris sewers or someone's needless monologue. I want people to love this novel as much as I do, and they won't if they force the unabridged upon themselves.

2) The title. Jeez, Victor, who's going to want to read this? There's misery in these pages, sure, but the story is much more about love and compassion. And it's even funny or sensual in several places.

3) Creating seriously huge dilemmas for his characters, reaching a point of agonizing conflict which *my* novels may never approach. Example: Ex-convict Jean Valjean has disguised his identity and established a new and benevolent life, in which he's about to do a dying woman the favor of rescuing her little daughter from the slavery she's currently trapped in. However, that same week, he hears that the "real" Jean Valjean has supposedly been caught on a petty theft, and, being an ex-con, is going to be put back in prison for life. So. Save the innocent guy by revealing his identity, and thus get recaptured and be unable to help the little girl? Or save the girl and let the innocent man go to prison for life? I mean, seriously. I never manage to plot stuff this awesome. (Spoiler: Valjean manages to do both of the good things. That's why he's a hero.)

4) Being heartbreaking enough to hurt, but beautiful and romantic enough to keep me obsessively reading. I cain't quit you, Les Mis.

There's an upcoming movie for this too, complete with new and fully heart-rending trailer:



Marius fangirl sidenote: though I liked Eddie Redmayne perfectly well in The Pillars of the Earth, and though he looks lovely in that trailer, he just does not look like the curly-black-haired, marble-skinned Marius described in the book. For me Marius will always look like Rufus Sewell back in the young days. (Rufus also starred in The Pillars of the Earth, as it happens. Kinda why I watched it.)

Rufus Sewell
mollyringle: (Frolijah)
Regarding this useful article on the dos and don'ts of novel endings, something they could have said, expanding on "light the fuse and run," is "get it done and then get out." That is, don't let the post-climax material run too long. Even some otherwise great novels make that mistake.

I know this will alienate me forever from die-hard Tolkien fans, but I felt The Lord of the Rings (the novel, that is) went on too long after the Ring's destruction. Specifically, the scouring of the Shire didn't work for me. I see how it's important to show that the war extended even to the gentle faraway Shire, but our good professor basically already showed that with what happened to the four hobbits (actually five; Bilbo too). In terms of pacing, it felt like a big stumble or hiccup. We were winding down and watching what happened to each hero as he or she went home, then boom, we're back into battle scenes? Didn't like it. As far as I'm concerned, it's okay if Saruman does meet his doom back on his ruined tower, from a tidy arrow fired by Legolas.

For that matter, I also felt the Tom Bombadil sequence was a big hiccup or stumble on the path of getting the action started. Therefore I totally understand why Peter Jackson didn't put either of them in the film. And I utterly forgive it. Though I know my elf- and dwarf- and hobbit-costumed friends will raise an outcry at my saying so.

(Admit it, you miss the days when 90% of my LJ posts were about LOTR. It's kind of nostalgic, my posting this, isn't it?)
mollyringle: (Gryffindor)
SPOILERS AHOY!! (I didn't think anyone still lived who didn't know how the Harry Potter series ends, but on Facebook I was proven wrong. So. SPOILERS, YARR!)

1) Maggie Smith rocks. By stepping out between Snape and Harry early in the movie, and dueling Snape straight out of the castle, she once again proves her awesomeness without even saying a word. Is there insurance I can buy to make sure I, too, have the steel and charisma of Dame Maggie when I'm elderly?

2) I find it ridiculously entertaining when actors get to do disguise-potion identities, such as Helena Bonham Carter pretending to be Hermione pretending to be Bellatrix.

3) Young Snape in his Pensieve flashback (which all of a sudden resembled one of the more romantic Tim Burton movies) is pretty much designed to make us Gothy-hearted types fall in love with him. But I do think it annoying and unjust--or just stupid on Snape's part--not to let us, or practically anyone else, see that attractive side of him, like, ever. Okay, so he was a double agent and had to be noxious to the good guys. But I don't know; he seemed to actually hate them. And that irks me.

4) I'm so glad the Hermione/Ron kiss didn't involve a house-elf discussion. However, getting drenched by dead-basilisk-infused water doesn't seem like the tidiest time to mouth someone else's face, either. Oh well.

5) Why am I crying so much at this movie? Why is Rupert Grint making me cry most of all? I was not prepared for his reaction at finding Fred. Sidenote, however: if you didn't know about Fred, and you were watching the film on a computer screen (which I was), you might've had trouble figuring out who they were kneeling and sobbing over. It's a bit subtle. But since I did know, it was very very sad and effective.

6) LOL at That Awkward Moment When Lord Voldemort Hugs You. Jeez, I never felt sorrier for Draco. (But I was proud of him for clearly not wanting to step forward and join the Dark Side.)

7) Neville's speech was another weepy point. But I wanted to step in there with a wet washcloth and interrupt him to take care of his head wound. It's a mom thing, perhaps.

8) Signs I'm getting older: Daniel Radcliffe looked handsome to me all middle-aged up. More so than usual, even. He also resembled youngish Michael Douglas a little that way. Huh. Odd.

And finally, irrelevant to this particular movie but still funny...

mollyringle: (Shakespearean love -  songstressicons)
Joss Whedon must have heard some of us complaining about the way he rampantly abuses and kills off characters, because he has just filmed a comedy! (There are a zillion news links you can find about this fast-breaking story. That's just one.)

It's Much Ado About Nothing--yes, the one by Shakespeare--and is apparently set in basically modern day, and stars Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof as Beatrice and Benedick. Yay! We finally get to see Fred and Wesley (as it were) acquire the romantic happy ending they, uh...well, I don't want to be spoilerish, but the end of the Angel series involved a lot of tears and "NOOOO" on many of our parts.

This time, of course, Joss didn't write the material himself; he used Shakespeare's. But he chose a Shakespeare *comedy*, at least, rather than a tragedy. True, it's "comedy noir," as he points out--that bit about "Let's pretend Hero is dead!" is pretty dark. But it ends up all right, and that's more than we can say about practically all the relationships we cared about in the Buffyverse. So thank you for this, Joss. It looks delicious and fun and I can't wait to see it, and it's good to say "Squee!" about a Whedon project again without feeling some dread that it's gonna hurt.
mollyringle: (Elvgren girlie)
When you write for certain genres, there are rules you have to follow, or you'll likely get rejected. And the rules for romance include a couple of--if you ask me--unrealistic and silly ones that I simply cannot always follow if I'm going to write an interesting story.

The big one is about cheating. Infidelity on the part of the hero or heroine is an absolute big-time no-no in the romance genre. Now, I understand it's a sensitive topic, and that cheating has hurt lots of actual people, who therefore don't want to read about it. However...yeah, it does happen to lots of actual people. Therefore it's a pertinent issue. And while infidelity is usually not the *best* idea, I wouldn't qualify it as pure evil in most cases either. And, more to the point when we're talking about writing, it usually makes for juicy plot twists. Therefore, though I don't want to include it in all my stories, I do sometimes explore the sticky and interesting issue of being not 100% faithful to one's significant other.

Mind you, in both the published books where I've gone into that territory--What Scotland Taught Me and Relatively Honest--I was dealing with teenagers, not married adults. Age 18 is a time when plenty of us make questionable decisions, and learn from them. I was going more for realistic coming-of-age than strictly for romance. Nonetheless, I think a love story benefits from a dose of reality--and a dose of juicy gossip.

Also: how come we modern romance novelists have to stick to this no-cheaters rule when some of the most acclaimed love stories on film--and on paper--had infidelity in spades? A couple of whopping examples off the top of my head:

Gone with the Wind: All right, it's more like historical fiction masquerading as a bodice-ripper, but it's still considered to have set many a standard for romance. And, dude! Scarlett marries two other guys before giving Rhett a chance--stringing him along all the while--and, in the meantime, does her best to seduce Ashley, a (mostly) happily married man. This would never fly with a modern romance editor. But it's a great book, and Scarlett's ruthless, clueless flirtations make for a ripping good read.

Sleepless in Seattle: Again, held up as a contemporary classic of the romantic film genre. But Meg Ryan's character, throughout, has a fiance, a nice guy, who she's sleeping with throughout most of the film, and lying to about her crush on this stranger in Seattle. Again, romance editors would send this a tidy rejection letter. But if she didn't have the fiance, she'd have no particular reason to be so conflicted about checking out Tom Hanks, and you'd have no story.

Can you think of other examples? Do you have non-negotiable rules for the love stories you read? Or are there no deal-breakers as long as the story is well written?

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