Archive for TV series

the sandman

Posted in Books, Kids with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 5, 2022 by xi'an
“What is missing – regrettable for a story made of this material – is the strangeness and the anxiety that immediately distinguished The Sandman from all other comics.” , Le Monde
Although I never read any of The Sandman comic books, and could not finish Gaiman’s American Gods, I nonetheless watched (decidedly Netflixy!) Netflix’s rendering over the past week, which I found mostly pleasant if on the light (although dark) side. Except for a few gems like Morpheus’ stroll with Death in Richmond and Hammersmith. And the unbearably lengthy “24 hours” episode about an endless spiral into primal violence, induced by the psychopath John Dee and Morpheus’ ruby. The actors are mostly terrific, starting with Tom Sturridge playing Morpheus as a young Robert Smith! But also Vivienne Acheampong as Dream’s librarian or Stephen Fry as … Fiddler’s Green! As a aside, I found out that the (much lighter) Netflix’s series Lucifer is also inspired by the corresponding Sandman character.

Hugo Awards finalists 2022

Posted in Books, Kids with tags , , , , , , on May 15, 2022 by xi'an

Here are the finalists of the Hugo Awards for different categories, with some read, somne watched, and some to-read:

Best Novel

  • A Desolation Called Peace, by Arkady Martine (Tor)
  • The Galaxy, and the Ground Within, by Becky Chambers (Harper Voyager / Hodder & Stoughton)
  • Light From Uncommon Stars, by Ryka Aoki (Tor / St Martin’s Press)
  • A Master of Djinn, by P. Djèlí Clark (Tordotcom / Orbit UK)
  • Project Hail Mary, by Andy Weir (Ballantine / Del Rey)
  • She Who Became the Sun, by Shelley Parker-Chan (Tor / Mantle)

Best Novella

  • Across the Green Grass Fields, by Seanan McGuire (Tordotcom)
  • Elder Race, by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Tordotcom)
  • Fireheart Tiger, by Aliette de Bodard (Tordotcom)
  • The Past Is Red, by Catherynne M. Valente (Tordotcom)
  • A Psalm for the Wild-Built, by Becky Chambers (Tordotcom)
  • A Spindle Splintered, by Alix E. Harrow (Tordotcom)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

  • Dune, screenplay by Jon Spaihts, Denis Villeneuve, and Eric Roth
  • Encanto, screenplay by Charise Castro Smith and Jared Bush
  • The Green Knight, written and directed by David Lowery
  • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, screenplay by Dave Callaham, et al.
  • Space Sweepers, screenplay by Jo Sung-Hee, Yookang Seo-ae, and Yoon Seung-min
  • WandaVision, screenplay by Peter Cameron et al.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

  • The Wheel of Time: The Flame of Tar Valon, written by Justine Juel Gillmer, directed by Salli Richardson-Whitfield,
  • For All Mankind: The Grey, written by Matt Wolpert and Ben Nedivi; directed by Sergio Mimica-Gezzan
  • Arcane: The Monster You Created, written by Christian Linke and Alex Yee; story by Christian Linke, Alex Yee, Conor Sheehy, and Ash Brannon; directed by Pascal Charrue and Arnaud Delord
  • The Expanse: Nemesis Games, written by Daniel Abraham, Ty Franck, and Naren Shankar; directed by Breck Eisner
  • Loki: The Nexus Event, written by Eric Martin, directed by Kate Herron, created for television by Michael Waldron
  • Star Trek: Lower Decks: wej Duj, written by Kathryn Lyn, directed by Bob Suarez

WoT first three impressions

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 18, 2021 by xi'an

As I was pessimistic about the adaptation of the behemoth (14 volumes) Wheel of Time adaptation as an Amazon TV series, I was not particularly disappointed after watching the first three episodes! Regarding the following comments, I do realise that having started reading these books in 1990 and having completed reading the 15 volumes puts me in a tiny minority and that anyone unfamiliar with Jordan’s universe would take the story as it comes rather than checking for discrepancies from the gospel.

Good stuff:

  • Egwene and Nynaeve are delivering strong personalities to their respective character, kudos!, in a sense improving upon their book counterparts!
  • Moraine Sedai is reasonably well rendered, although she could have appeared as more ambiguous though (and why did they add this injury in the Bel Tine scene to the original story?)
  • this includes her telling of the story of Manethren
  • the way Trollocs and Fades are rendered is great
  • the scenery is mostly fabulous, esp. the entrance to Shadar Logoth
  • meeting the Tuatha’an was great, except for the fake scare at the beginning, and the arguing about their non-violent commitment is pretty convincing
  • the idea making the first Darkfriend we meet  more humane and ambivalent than in the book is hopefully going to be seen again

Bad lines:

  • the choice of having the Dragon being one of the five friends, incl. Egwene and Nynaeve, clashes with the structure of Jordan’s world, as well as Moraine’s early infodump
  • Matt, Perrin, and Rand appear incredibly naïve, but maybe this was already the case in the book
  • Matt is decidedly downright unpleasant from the start (i.e., even before Shadar Logoth)
  • the notion to have Perrin already married and the ensuing trauma are terrible novelties, the more because he doesn’t look so traumatized by the ending
  • the special treatment of Nynaeve by one trolloc is missing from the book and unclear as to its contribution to the plot (and why would Moraine leave without her?)
  • costumes are terrible, almost uniformly!, and too modern, looking like they were bought from second hand stores (and more globally there is a feeling of cheapness in the set designs, from Shadar Logoth to Tar Valon)
  • Moraine’s and Lan’s fight in the Two Rivers is rather unconvincing and messy (why did she need to turn this nice inn building into missiles?!)
  • why would Rand and Tam miss the village Bel Tine celebration to return to their farm?
  • The Guardian got highly negative about the show and even about the books (which the first reviewer had never read) maybe seeing too much in the (admittedly terribly heavy) writing style of Robert Jordan and maybe trying too had to draw a comparison with Game of Thrones (just like so many critics). So did the New York Times
  • making the only Darkfriend so far coming out of the open and a sword expert
  • Lan not commenting on Rand’s father’s heron sword, while zooming on said heron several times
  • the sooo slooow walk of Egwene and Perrin in the third episode once they get on track(s), thanks to the wolves
  • the Whitecloacks being depicted as just too evil from the start, with no ambivalence whatsoever (this was also true in the book, which [spoiler alert!] makes Galad joining them later—sorry for the spoiler—difficult to fathom)
  • similarly, the first Red Sister we meet (Liandrin) is similarly too one-sided to give a balanced picture of the different Ajahs in the White Tower

a journal of the plague year [lazier August reviews]

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 5, 2020 by xi'an

Read a wonderful collection of short stories set in the same universe and spirit as Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, The Ladies of Grace Adieu, by Susanna Clarke. With the same pleasure as I read the original novel, since the style is similarly subtle and refined, with a skilled work(wo)manship in relating the stories and a bittersweet pleasure in contemplating this alternative England where some magic lingered, although in a vanishing way. The first short story is incredibly powerful, especially for being a “first story” Susanna Clarke wrote for a writing course. To quote Neil Gaiman on his reception of the story, “It was terrifying from my point of view to read this first short story that had so much assurance. It was like watching someone sit down to play the piano for the first time and she plays a sonata.” Plus the book itself is beautifully made, from its old-fashioned binding to its pastiche of 19th century Romantic drawings. (I cannot make sense of the “Grace Adieu” village name, which would mean farewell to Grace or graceful farewell in French. Or yet thank Dog if misspelled as grâce à dieu…)

Followed a should-watch suggestion from a highly positive review on the New York Times and watched The Half of it, not to be confused with The Other Half which I did not watch… Nor the other The Other Half. The story is one of a love triangle (that the NYT relates to Cyrano, rather grandiloquently!, even though the notion of writing love letter for someone else and as a result the writer falling in love… is there indeed). Taking place in a sleepy little town on the Pacific North-West, near Wenatchee. The story is far from realistic, as far as I can tell, with almost invisible adults and with senior high teenagers behaving like adults, at least for the two main female characters, most of the teens working after class while also writing essays on Sartre and Plato, and discussing Remains of the Day for its philosophical implications. A wee bit unrealistic, with some allegoric scenes such as floating head to head in a hot spring, outing their love declaration like tragic Greek comedians in a full church. But the actresses are brilliant and escape the paper-thin constriction of their character into something deeper, by conveying uncertainty and then more uncertainty while building their own life into something grander. Not the unbearable lightness of being but certainly with enough substance to reach beyond the “charming queer love comedy” summarised in The Guardian.

Ate tomatoes from the garden for almost every lunch in August as there were so many, surprising free from bugs and birds. And had a toasted squash lunch, skin included. Peppers are still at the growing stage… And my young olive tree may have irremediably suffered from the heatwave, despite regular watering.

Also per chance noticed that the one-hundred year-old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared hilarious book had been turned into a film. And had an enjoyable time watching the understated play of this hundred-year old and his hundred year story. And listening to the multilingual if mostly Swedish original sound-track. (Incidentally, yet another intrusion of the 1930s eugenism with a racialist (!) doctor sterilising the central character to stop his fascination and experimentation with explosives.)

Rewatched Manhattan Murders Mystery, which I had not seen since it came out in the early 1990s. Once I got into the spirit that this was filmed theater, rather than fixating on the (ir)realism of the plot, it became hilarious (starting with the urge to invade Poland when listening to Wagner for too long) and I could focus on references to older movies, although I must has missed the bulk of these references. For instance, the pas de deux of Allen and Keaton at the melting factory has a strong whiff of Astaire and Rogers step-dancing. The shooting scene in the movie theater is explicitly linked with Orson Wells, seen behind the screen in The Lady from Shanghai.

a journal of the plague year [lazy August reviews]

Posted in Books, pictures, Running, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 22, 2020 by xi'an

Read Blood of Empire, the final volume in the Gods of Blood and Powder trilogy. By Brian McClellan. Which I enjoyed reasonably well as bedside literature, although its weight meant it would fall at the slightest hint of sleep… It took me longer than expected to connect to the story, given I had read the previous volume a few months ago. This series is classified as “flintrock fantasy”, a category I had never heard of previous, meaning a limited amount of gunpower is used in weapons, along with the aid of magical abilities (for the happy few). The style is a wee bit heavy and repetitive, but the characters are definitely engaging if over-prone to inner dialogues… The only annoying part in the plot is the presence of a super-evil character about to be become a god, which ruins most of the balance in the story.

Had a long-pending due watch at Trainspotting T2. (Loved the NYT label as “Rated R for a bagful of vomit, mouthfuls of bigotry and nosefuls of cocaine”, obviously in the same regressive spirit as the film.) This is definitely a sequel to the first film. And hence hardly comprehensible on its own. Except for a few locations like a run-down pub on the edge of nowhere, a flat overlooking a car part dump and Spud’s high-rise welfare housing, T2 lacks the gritty vision of Edinburgh found in its forbear. And the characters have lost their toxic edge, except maybe very much maybe for the psychopath Franck. Even the de rigueur final swindle has a rosy and predictable justification. Fun nonetheless! On the (tourist) side, I enjoyed a mostly superfluous scene where Renton takes Spud running up Arthur’s Seat along its most scenic route, with an iconic end image of Edinburgh gradually fading into fog. There is also a surreal (short) scene on Rannoch Mor, with the Oban train stopping at the hikers’ stop. (I never managed to start Welsh’s books, due to their phonetic rendering of Edniburghian Scots that make reading unbearable..! By comparison, most dialogues are understandable. A funny line when the hostess welcoming tourists at Edinburgh Airport with a mock Scottish accent acknowledges she is from Slovakia.) Camera tricks like fast backward and colour filters a wee bit old-fashioned and heavy-handed, in the spirit of the first movie as if nothing had ever happened since. Maybe the moral of the story. Not looking for a potential T3, though.

Read a forgotten volume in the Bernhard Günther series of Philip Kerr, A man without breath. As usual building on historical events from Nazi Germany to set this ambivalent character at the centre of the action, which is this time the discovery and exploitation of the Katyǹ massacres by the Nazi propaganda to drive an edge between the Soviet Union and the other Allies. The book is rather uneven, with too many plots, subplots, and characters, and open criticisms of the Nazi regime between complete strangers do not ring particularly realistic. And draw attention away from their own massacres, like Babi Yar (celebrated in Dmitri Shostakovitch’s Symphony No. 13). Interestingly, given that I read the book at the time of the JSM round-table, a thread in the story links to the Spanish Civil War and the attempt by fascist doctors like Vallejo Nágera to picture left-wing Spaniards as psychiatrically degenerates, fantasying the existence of a “red” gene… (It took me a while to trace the reference in the title to Goebbels’ quote “A nation with no religion is like a man without breath.” )

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