The Desolation of Smaug

The Hobbit: The Desolation of SmaugI saw this with my son this past Saturday; it was a fine Christmas present. The movie met and exceeded my expectations, which probably wasn’t too difficult to achieve; my only desire was to see something entertaining, and my only hope was that the film carried some resemblance of the book; and as already mentioned, it met those expectations quite easily.

Some things I found disappointing

I’ve long ago recognized an idiosyncrasy in Peter Jackson’s action sequences, they always push past the borders of my suspended disbelief.  In this particular film, a dwarf rolling in a barrel and crashing into roughly ten or twelve (possibly more) orcs, flattening, disarming, and in some cases killing them, before landing back into the river and in sync with his fellow dwarfs also fighting orcs as they flow down the river was a bit much for me to handle (and it’s not beyond my self-observation that I’m caviling about the absurdity inside an already absurd scenario that involves an imaginary land filled with imaginary types of things, beasts, and races of bipedal beings that I have absolutely no problem accepting—which of course is ironic—but for some reason, the line was drawn at barrel-pummeling).

Legolas (or “Leg-less,” as it was heard by my son, who has not read the books or watched any of the previous movies, and who was terribly confused because Legolas clearly has two legs) continues to wreak havoc on orcs with such relative ease that it leaves this viewer in wonder why he doesn’t just kill all the orcs in Middle-Earth and spare millions of lives, because he obviously can.  Continue reading

Ebenezer Scrooge

thumbnail_a_christmas_carolFrom Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol:

Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog-days; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.

External heat and cold had little influence on Scrooge. No warmth could warm, no wintry weather chill him. No wind that blew was bitterer than he, no falling snow was more intent upon its purpose, no pelting rain less open to entreaty. Foul weather didn’t know where to have him. The heaviest rain, and snow, and hail, and sleet, could boast of the advantage over him in only one respect. They often “came down” handsomely, and Scrooge never did.

The Divine Invasion

The Divine Invasion is book two in what is known as the Valis Trilogy (a name given posthumously to P.K. Dick’s last three books). Even though The Divine Invasion is considered the second volume of this trilogy, it bears next to no resemblance to Valis (book one) other than that it deals with God’s place on Earth and a divine device created by God known as Valis that transmits beams of enlightenment to specific people.

In case you haven’t read the book, which I imagine many have not in recent times, I will spare you the book summary and just address the major theme of the story, which is the concept that God has been pushed out of our world by the forces of evil and literrally has to try to sneak back unnoticed in order to wage war against Satan. It’s a concept I’ve never crossed before and wholly found interesting.

Since God’s removal from Earth (in Dick’s novel), religion was under the total influence of Satan and played a key role in keeping God out. As matter of fact, when God (referred to as Yah) made his attempt to return, the Cardinal Fulton Statler Harms, wanted to destroy the people responsible for bringing him. The Cardinal believed that it wasn’t God returning, but Satan, which tied in how corrupted the world had become. His attempt at stopping God failed, however, and the war for salvation began. P.K. Dick gave his readers a TBD on its outcome.

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O, V-2, Where Art Thou? Pynchon’s Rainbow

Somehow I managed to tackle Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow—or I should say, I was tackled by Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow; because, I mean, who really tackles Pynchon? Some superior intellect that would talk circles around me—that’s who. Or maybe even that person would be kidding him or herself.

Overall, I don’t know if—or how—I can comment on the plot of the story. Is there a plot? I’m sure there is, but it’s about as unconventional as any other out there. I think Richard Locke wrote it best with the title of his 1973 New York Times review: “One of the Longest, Most Difficult, Most Ambitious Novels in Years.” You can read the review here. It’s worth the read. Locke did a much better job than I ever could at breaking down the book and its themes.

I try to imagine the general reader today—The Hunger Games fan or the Twilight Series guru—trying to embrace Pynchon’s behemoth, and all I see is the book being shut—or turned off (for you eReaders)—before page five. And I can’t say that I would blame them. With the limited time we all have today, and the ridiculously short attention span, how can I expect the average person to withstand Pynchon’s beautiful, yet complicated prose? And it is beautiful.  Continue reading

Suspend Your Disbelief

It’s probably one of the toughest things for an audience to do; suspending disbelief requires losing rationality, logic, and factors of probability. For an artist (particularly a writer and filmmaker), getting their audience to believe that the impossible is possible is extremely tricky and often done incorrectly, leaving the audience sour or flat-out irritated. I’m not going tell you how to correctly go about getting an audience to believe in the impossible—that would require a level of arrogance I don’t have—instead, I’m going to draw attention to a couple of artists who successfully convinced me to believe, as well as a couple of artists who almost failed, and did fail, at doing so.

Steven Spielberg is quite possibly the king of getting me to believe. A great example of this gift is represented in the movie Jaws, particularly with the ending.

Had I never seen the movie and had no idea what was going to happen, and if you told me that in the movie Jaws, a small-town sherif lays on the tip of a sinking boat that a gigantic great white single handedly sunk, and fires a hunting rifle at an oxygen tank stuck in the jaws of this great white and blows it to smithereens, I would probably tell you, “Sounds like the worst movie of all time.” However that is not the case. Jaws was the highest grossing film, ever (at the time of its release). It destroyed the competition. Everyone had to see it for one reason: It scared the piss out of them!  Continue reading

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