Movie Moments – by Alice X. Zhang

Some of my favourite characters and movie moments captured by http://alicexz.deviantart.com with selected quotes.

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Say ‘what’ again. Say ‘what’ again, I dare you, I double dare you motherfucker, say what one more Goddamn time!

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I don’t give a shit about sleeping, Leon. I want love, or death. That’s it.

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Let me go home.

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I just don’t know what I’m supposed to be.

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These days, there are angry ghosts all around us – dead from wars, sickness, starvation – and nobody cares. So you say you’re under a curse? So what? So’s the whole damn world.

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I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time… like tears in rain… Time to die.

Must-see anime – Gin no Saji

You’ve seen one. You’ve seen them all.

That’s a claim that can easily be made about most anime belonging to the same genre. There are certain “rules” which authors adhere to. Sometimes they bend them, sometimes they flat out break them, but still the rules are there.

Gin no Saji follows Yuugo Hachiken, a boy tired of trying to live up to expectations he cannot meet. He decides to enrol in Ooezo Agricultural High School, a boarding school in the countryside, as a means to escape the stress brought upon by his parents and his lack of direction. For more adverbs and adjectives visit: myanimelist.net.

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What you might call “rules” of a slice of life anime are present in Gin no Saji. But it’s not the rules that really matter, do they? It’s the characters’ originality and plausibility, the setting in which those rules are being applied.

I’m a sucker for anime in which nothing really happens. And when I say nothing, I mean nobody saves the world, establishes new world order or reinstates the balance between the universes – basically your average slice-of-life is my cup of tea. And Gin no Saji is at the same time average and extraordinary, which is a combination I really enjoy because it is not easy to pull it off.

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Gin no Saji is about friendship, limitations and about having good fun while trying to become a better version of yourself – as much as life will let you. However, all of these usual topics are dealt with while our protagonist Yuugo and his motley crew learn how to make bacon and cheese, while taking care of pigs and cows and learning all there is about horses.

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Somehow, the agricultural setting manages to make all those usual slice-of-life tropes shine brighter and make you laugh and care even more. A must-see for anyone who enjoys slice-of-life. Really.

HOWEVER !!!

If you don’t like/eat meat I think it might be better for you to skip Gin no Saji.

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Also, if you do like/eat meat and have issues with where it actually comes from, you might find some parts of Gin no Saji not-so-nice.

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Damaged Women & Tattooed Men

This is a post about Brown Family, a “contemporary erotic romance series set in Seattle” written by Lauren Dane. For more details which do not include my opinion visit laurendane.com or goodreads.com.

I’ve read the first instalment of the Brown Family series years ago and I remember I enjoyed it, so when I felt the need to dip my brain into the Cheap Thrill pool, I thought of Lauren Dane.

Coming Undone (Brown Family 2) is nothing to write home about [but here I am, writing a post about it], but it’s a good enough way of spending an evening after a hard day at work. It’s a simple story about a young widow with a daughter who moves to a new city in search of a new life and gets down and dirty with a guy who doesn’t do relationships but does tattoos, family and friends. The widow has a dark past, because someone has to be damaged, I guess. I liked Brody and the [pause to look up name of main character] Elise because they both were almost lifelike.

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There’s a lot of sex in the book which kind of got old real fast. Frankly, even when I pick up a “contemporary erotic romance” I can do without 15 sex scenes, 20 pages per scene. But then again, it is an erotic romance, and I had the same beef with Laid Bare (Brown Family 1) so I really shouldn’t bitch about having to skip some pages.

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After Coming Undone, I’d logged onto Goodreads to see what’s next and imagine my surprise when I realize the two protagonists of Inside Out (Brown Family 3) are one Andrew Copeland [say what?] and Ella Tipton [maiden name Brown?]. I gave it a whirl but gave up because I couldn’t find the chemistry between the non-Brown characters and I couldn’t bring myself to care about Ella, her freckles, her boobs and her funny voice.

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Logging onto Goodreads, again, I discover a totally crazy summary for Never Enough (Brown Family 4) which made me gag.

Gillian Forrester spent her life running…until Miles came along. The moment she held her older sister’s unwanted newborn, Gillian stopped running and began building a life for her adopted son. Now, thirteen years later, Gillian’s sister reveals the father’s identity on her deathbed – a revelation that shakes Gillian to her core. Adrian Brown is the epitome of the successful rock star. It takes a lot to shock him – but the bombshell that he has a thirteen-year-old son rocks his world [PUUUUUUUN! Because he’s a ROCK star!]. And Adrian is even more surprised when the buttoned-up elegant woman who’s raising him ignites his erotic and romantic attention – and engages his heart.

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So that was a no. But I am an adamant creature, stubborn some would say, so I’ve decided to try and to read another Brown Family (and Friends) book – Drawn Together (Brown Family 5) which was doomed from the very start. I mean the main character is Raven who shows up in all the previous books as a crass, impolite woman whose juvenile actions are interpreted with words such as “honest” and “direct”.

So, another DNF.

I don’t understand what’s with Lauren Dane and wounded women and women in peril? Maybe the Brown Family series is the Wounded Female series? Maybe there’s more variation in her other series…Let’s check on Goodreads:

Giving Chase (Chase Brothers #1): …Despite Maggie’s happiness and growing love with Kyle, a dark shadow threatens everything-she’s got a stalker and he’s not happy at all. In the end, Maggie will need her wits, strength and the love of her man to get her out alive.

I think I’m done with Lauren Dane for now. However, aside from Coming Undone, she also gave me an excuse to put a Tom Hardy picture on my blog which is always a plus. So, thanks Lauren.

Meh

The Summer I Became a Nerd by Leah Rae Miller

Maddie is a popular, cheerleading, quarterback-dating girl with a dark secret. She likes comics, a lot. She hides her true, comic-loving self in fear of losing her popularity which she cultivated over the years. However, she is forced to slowly show her true face and accept who she really is with the help of the boy she’d been secretly pining after for years. Book includes comic book talk, LARPing, a guy called Logan and words such as adorkable.

I cannot seem to get a break. This time break was not given by The Summer I Became a Nerd. I was not expecting to be amazed at the magnificence of its literary merit, but I was expecting….  What in the world was I expecting when I picked this one up?

The Summer I Became a Nerd is something of a book, although not really. It’s more like a rough draft that could have been a book, a fun book at that. There’s just so much missing from it. I feel overwhelmed just thinking about making a list.

So I won’t.

The one important thing this book lacks is soul. Fact is, even the crappiest of books can have a soul. The Summer I Became a Nerd has these words, and stuff happens. Some stuff is cute, some mildly entertaining.

But in the end, it’s just meh. Read it. Don’t read it. In the end it’s really all the same.

Featured Image by gelopsychedelico.deviantart.com

Film Adaptation. Done Right.

You know how people say: “You should’ve seen it on the big screen“? I have discovered recently this also applies to The Silence of the Lambs, one of my favourite movies of all times.

The Silence of the Lambs is one of those movies which I have watched enough times to have memorized not only all the lines, but also the way those lines are delivered as well as facial expressions of characters as they deliver them. I guess this tends to happen when a movie is directed masterfully, the casting is freakishly good and the script kicks ass. So, not very often.

I’ve seen the movie a billion times and I thought I appreciated it for all its worth. However, I was wrong. Only on big screen can you appreciate the sheer genius of Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Demme. For the first time I was able to fully appreciate how good Jodie Foster is as Clarice Starling.

Aside from the obvious reasons for loving this movie, I also love it because it is the best film adaptation I have ever seen. It is the epitome of film adaptation. It’s film adaptation, done the right way. You take the source material (which is awesome, requires no tweaking and needs not be tampered with) and you give it a dimension only the medium you’re adapting it to can give it.

You give it a voice, you give it a face. You use a simple thing as a look to convey a thousand words that a book cannot communicate. You use the camera and sound the way a book uses words and descriptions – to draw in the audience, make it a part of the scene, make it feel the story, make them live it and suffer it. The Silence of the Lambs is proof that Demme understood his medium and had respect for the source material.

It’s a fucking masterpiece, this movie. It’s also one of the rare film adaptations that I actually like more than I the source material.

The only thing that would make me appreciate it more would be hearing the lambs scream as they are being slaughtered. But I think the current level of appreciation will have to suffice.

A Case of Literary ADHD

Rose Christo’s Gives Light Review

I’ve been itching for something light to read, so when I realised I’d bought a book titled “Gives Light” it seemed a no-brainer. I couldn’t for the life of me remember why I had bought it,  which I absolutely loved because I had no idea what to expect.

In the beginning, the book was capable of smoothing out the wrinkles of a shitty day.

Halfway through, it became apparent that I will not enjoy the book. Rose seemed to have had a bunch of various ideas which are perfectly OK, but she really should not have put them all in one book. It’s just too much, and the book ends up being about nothing and everything and about no one and everybody. It’s all over the place and no character is given proper attention due to this literary ADHD.

I will list all the things that were not given proper attention in Gives Light. And no, I do not care that it is the first book of a series because a series is a series, and a book is a whole in its own right.

  1. Skylar St. Clair is a mute teenager who got his throat slashed by a man who had killed his mother
  2. His father has disappeared without a word and Skylar is put in a custody of his paternal grandmother who lives on the Nettlebush Reserve
  3. Skylar’s mother was murdered on the Nettlebush Reserve by a member of the tribal council
  4. He was in fact a serial killer who had murdered several women
  5. The son of the murderer, Rafael Gives Light, lives on the reservation
  6. Native American customs and history are interspersed throughout the book
  7. For the first time Skylar becomes a true member of a community and makes friends
  8. Skylar’s new friend Annie has to take care of her two siblings because her mother is in the Army and her father is useless (it is mentioned somewhere that he had a stroke)
  9. Rafael Gives Light becomes one of his best friends
  10. Skylar’s father turns out to be a criminal who brings illegal immigrants into the country
  11. FBI and social services regularly visit the reserve and threaten the fragile stability of Skylar’s new life
  12. Skylar slowly falls in love with Rafael and Rafael returns his feelings
  13. Skylar is briefly conflicted about his feelings for Rafael – briefly because there’s so much shit going on in the book he has no time to deal with it for a longer period of time.

Imagine all this (and more – I avoided spoilers) crammed onto 285 pages, and do not forget to include descriptions, internal monologue and musings of a teenage boy who uses words such as “vociferous“.

Let’s go general and explore topics.

  1. Dealing with severe loss and monumental change
  2. Facing painful past experiences and achieving personal growth through adversity
  3. The treatment of Native Americans in modern society
  4. The importance of preserving the culturally and spiritually rich Native American customs and way of life
  5. Dealing with the fact that you are different and learning that “normalcy” is a matter of perspective/upbringing
  6. Treatment of crime and punishment in different cultures

I’m sure I could come up with more but I think this is enough to illustrate my point.

It’s a shame, really, because the book is well written. If the first list was cut down and one or two of the topics given proper prominence, I believe it would have been a really good book and I would have probably been half way through the second part of the series.

This post is about Hajime no Ippo, it really is. Mostly.

This is going to be a really long post. So, here’s an executive summary for you: Hajime no Ippo is one of the best animes I’ve ever seen. Now look at the pretty pictures and then go watch Hajime no Ippo. Oh yeah, also, you should watch Haikyuu!

I’ve been watching anime since 2004. I’ve chosen this year somewhat arbitrarily because it’s the year I’ve started to differentiate anime from other forms of animation. In 2004 I’ve seen the ever amazing Escaflowne, Cowboy Bebop, Trigun, Rurouni Kenshin Reminiscence and Berserk. These five are still  my favourites.

I’ve dabbled in most genres, but I have never ever made an attempt at sports anime. The idea of watching +25 episodes in which dudes reach bankai in football or tennis sounded as appealing as, well, as this:

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However, I’m not hardcore (in some cases this is bad, in this case it’s good). So, under the influence of Tumblr people, once it came to choosing a sports anime to watch (not my idea), I’ve suggested Kuroko no Basuke, which turned out to be your typical shounen ai with “level-up” available in almost every episode.

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It was cute and fun to watch, even though it was too intense (yes, there is such a thing). The fact that a single game spanned through four or five episodes was really just a little too much.

The real epiphany hit with Hajime no Ippo which is now a proud member of “The 2004 Club” (it’s my club, it does not need to make sense to you). The idea that an anime about boxing could even apply for membership has never crossed my mind. But the perfection of Hajime no Ippo is indisputable.

It kept me at the edge of my seat during every single match. At one point I was yelling angrily at the television and Ippo. Ok, more like at ten points, and more like at Ippo, Takamura, Kimura, Miyata and Date. Even Aoki.

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I loved every single character and the fact that each one gets enough screen time and attention. The relationships between them are developed with care and love. There are no fillers, and once the fight is announced it happens within an episode or two. What you would call a filler in a “normal” anime cannot be called a filler in Hajime no Ippo, because trust me – you’ll watch it with the same interest and be as engaged as if you were watching the main event.

Yes, they do defy the laws of physics but somehow the fact that everything gets explained on the sidelines makes the gravity-defying fighting spirit – convincing.

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Hajime no Ippo is like every other anime, but yet it is unlike most. It takes all your usual tenets like the importance of friends and family, dedication, practice and spirit but it never goes too far. It doesn’t even go near the edge – it doesn’t really need to because it’s got you on the edge.

Now let’s review some stellar moments in Hajime no Ippo which are only marginally related to boxing.

Like crazy karaoke.

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Encouragement through di*k references.

Oh this is truly a pun contest.

Fishy talk.

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Now, you thought that was it, did you? Well, if you’ve come this far, kouhai, let’s touch upon yet another sports anime which I heartily recommend (as heartily as I recommended Hajime no Ippo).

This time it’s Haikyuu! an anime about volleyball.

Yes, I know. Who cares, right? Well you should. Because this one comes very close to Hajime no Ippo with animation, character development and plot.

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I loved the fact that, even more than Hajime no Ippo, Haikyuu is not an anime about one talented person with god-like tenacity and dedication. It is not even about the members of one team, it is primarily about volleyball, about the importance of team work and about how a team can become more than the sum of its members’ strengths and weaknesses.

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Even though Hajime no Ippo is without a doubt superior, Haikyuu! resonated with me more because growing up I loved team sports, and I have dabbled in handball for five or so years. I was reminded of the sense of purpose and focus you have as a part of a team working to achieve a common goal. Being prepared to shed and spill blood, with wanton disregard of personal well-being – only to get there. I also remembered the unequivocal and heartbreaking realisation that, sometimes, all you’ve got is not enough when faced with a superior opponent. However, you sure can have a lot of fun trying.

One of the reasons I loved Haikyuu! is because the character development is awesome, and it resulted in one of my favourite anime scenes ever – and this is a side-character we’re talking about.

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P.S. Neither Hajime no Ippo nor Haikyuu! are completed and the fact that they are awesome nonetheless speaks volumes.

Sorry for this crazy post. It’s been more than two years since I’ve last written a post about anime (or manga), which means that it has been two years since I’ve have been enthusiastic about an anime (or manga).

I thought about condensing the post and making it readable to someone other than me, but when it comes to anime and my emotional response to it, it’s almost impossible to control.

 

When Stars Align in Marvel Universe

I was fifteen when the first X-Men movie came out. I think it’s no wonder that Wolverine has had a special place in my heart ever since. I was young and impressionable, and Wolverine was well… I was fifteen.

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Two days ago, before I’ve watched Logan, I still loved Wolverine. I might not be fifteen anymore, and I might be on the old side of the cosmetics-industry timeline, but hey, I’m still alive.

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And then Logan happened. And, lo, I’m not so crazy about Wolverine. But I sure as hell love Logan.

I think Logan is a result of some serious celestial alignment. When James Mangold talked to the Marvel people, they were probably too busy counting the millions they’ve made and they just told him to do whatever the hell he wanted with the story.

And he did an awesome thing. He made a great movie, which is, coincidentally, based on a comic book character.

I can’t believe I’m writing this, but it was painful watching Logan. My two favourite superheroes were not only reduced to mere men, but reduced to feeble, old men, fighting their last fight which wasn’t even a big fight. I had to look away from the screen more than once because what the story was doing to Logan and Charles was just a bit too much to bear.

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The fact that Hugh Jackman decided he was done with Wolverine was probably the best thing that could have happened to this movie. Because Logan is done with Wolverine. Fact and fiction are perfectly reflected in Jackman’s acting, in his physique, and the script uses this mercilessly.

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A great movie, indeed.

Featured image taken from Animus Vox.

Raw Liver & Melted Vanilla Ice Cream

The decision to delve once again into the American Gods was only a matter of proper incentive. The premiere of the TV show seemed like a good one, and, boy, were my reading buddy and me right about rereading this one.

I’m not sure who’d read American Gods in 2013, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t me. I have been taken aback by every major turn of events. The review itself is, however, in line with what I feel about the book, although I think it was too vague, so let’s list the three things I loved the most about American Gods.

1. Coercive Suspension of Disbelief

Suspension of disbelief and the type of willing suspension the author requests from me is the most important part of the book. It’s the deal breaker. Halfway through American Gods, I’ve realised that, for me, Gaiman’s quality as a writer comes firstly from the fact that I haven’t even realised that I was suspending disbelief. You simply have no choice in the matter. It comes as easy as breathing and it’s not willing – it’s compulsory. I think this is achieved by presenting the impossible as mundane, and mundane as extraordinary; snow is something to write home about – talking to your dead spouse is an afterthought.

2. Intelligent Design

Nothing in this book is accidental. Every adjective and every metaphor is carefully placed. It’s all so deliberate; far from being effortlessly beautiful. Even though I’m a big fan of effortless beauty, it is impossible not to appreciate the way Gaiman structured and planned everything to make you believe.

3. Raw Liver and Melted Vanilla Ice Cream

When Neil puts in an effort to put that beauty onto the page, he does so magnificently. The thing I really liked is the way he treats the colours. I might forget some of the characters (I already did),  but I will not forget Mr Wednesday’s suit which was the colour of melted vanilla ice cream, nor will I forget the room which has walls the colour of raw liver. I’ll take the colours with me.

“He perceived the pain in colours: the red of a neon bar-sign, the green of a traffic light on a wet night, the blue of an empty video screen.”

Five to Four

However, there is something of a downside to rereading. First time around, I gave American Gods a five. This time around – it’s a four. The ending was anticlimactic this time and the Laura-Shadow relationship was not something I felt was as game-changing as it was meant to be. I needed a bit more convincing.

P.S. Still haven’t delved into the TV show. But I love the idea of Ian McShane as Wednesday. But then again, I love the idea of Ian McShane as pretty much anyone anywhere.

You Perv, You!

“You are a sexual deviant. A pervert, through and through. Now, now, don’t get so defensive. Allow me to explain.”

Jesse Bering: Perv – The Sexual Deviant in All of Us

What is Jesse Bering’s Perv about?

To put it plainly, the Perv explores the normalcy of what we perceive as abnormal in sexual behaviour and/or desires and it takes abnormal from the equation.

One of the best covers ever shows even more plainly what the book is about. Imagine yourself reading this book on a bus and you’ll get what it’s all about.

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Why I liked the Perv?

Bering uses documented paraphilias (a whole bunch of them) to illustrate the impossible malleability of human sexuality. He cites numerous studies, and describes practices of curing paraphilias and homosexuality throughout history. He does this in a way that made me completely numb to the word “normal” – the word I have learnt to detest because it is usually coupled with unspoken bias.

I’ve always felt that, as long as no one is harmed physically or psychologically, the “anything goes” principle should be applied. My belief, I have to admit, was tested throughout the book, but I concluded my reading experience with: I do not have to be able to internalize it to accept it.

The scientific reconstruction (or deconstruction?) of what we perceive as “natural” and “normal” is what made me fall in love with sociology; the impassionate approach to things people feel strongly about but fail to explore with a cool head. Perv might seem light on occassion, but the cool is always there.

Why I did not like Perv enough to give it five stars?

It’s easy to read (and like) a book which pretty much tells you you’re right. Despite those parts which tested my open-mindedness, reading this book felt like a friendly pat on the back. “You’re so evolved in your thinking! So cool! Here, have this study which proves you’re right.” This, of course, has nothing to do with the quality of the book itself, but I feel it dulled my ability to be objective and it put the book at 4.5 stars.

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While I honestly enjoyed Bering’s witticisms and puns and I found it very pleasing to laugh hysterically at his sarcastic commentary, at times I found it to be a bit too much – bordering on judgemental. Here comes the illogical part of my four-star review. Part two. I love a bit of nonPC humour. I do. But I could not stop myself from thinking about an imaginary person; let’s call him John Smith.

John decided to pick up the Perv. John is ok with gay people. I mean, he’s still struggling to abandon the “let them do what they want behind a closed door” maxim. But he’s trying because his best friend in the world turned out to be – gay. I do not see John making it through the first chapter of the book.

Yes, this book has been written for a specific target audience. The cover and the title make it blatantly obvious and the way in which it is written only serves to confirm it. And yes, there are probably books out there intended for the audience to which our John gravitates to. But hey, it’s my review. And even though I play pretend to being objective, I perceive the term much in the same way I perceive normalcy. So there.

P.S. Let’s not forget the possibility (or rather probability) that I’m underestimating John and overestimating the delicacy of his sensibilities. Perv might have given me a pat on the back, but I can’t pretend that I hold no bias.