Sunday, September 12, 2021

Mary Queen of Scots (2018 film)

Oh my. I am so deeply sad. The 2018 film 'Mary Queen of Scots' was heart-wrenching. The end-credits music is shredding my soul as I listen and write this. I knew the story. I knew the reluctance with which Queen Elizabeth I executed her cousin. I knew the tragedy. Because in that time period, men and especially women, faced so many tragedies. So much manipulation, so much scheming, so many gambles that succeeded, but more often failed. I first realized how brutal and enormously unfair that era was when I read a novel about Lady Jane Grey when I was a kid. A young woman pushed into vying for the throne by her family despite her wishes, and then when that gamble failed, beheaded at the age of 17. I knew Mary's fate was equally tragic, but my heart hurts thinking about the treacherous sabotage of her reign that her council and brother carried out years before her execution. Her husband's betrayal, her brother's twice, and most especially her protector's.

And then I'm struck again and again, how monarchs like Elizabeth I, despite their seeming power, can exert so little of it sometimes. How they are the mercy of their nobles' goodwill, and the perceptions of their people. She could not help Mary, no matter how much she wished to.

And then thoughts of the patriarchy come to mind. How Elizabeth's voiceover at the end reminds us how high the price is to fit into the patriarchy, to wield power. Her very joy, her love, her self had to be sacrificed.

And then I think how much calculating scheming went on during these eras. Maybe coz there were so few ways to advance your position in life or improve your circumstances, that all you had was marriages, and attempts at the throne or other powerful positions. Lifelong or life-ending ways. I do not believe we have true meritocracy currently. There is too much systemic oppression and control of our lives, but I am grateful for how much meritocracy we do have. There are many ways to get ahead that rest on your skill and determination. And although fortune and powerful connections still play a massive part, at least there is no longer this dangerous gambling with your family's lives.

And finally, although I love watching historical movies about this era, I hadn't been keen to watch this movie. I think I felt Margot Robbie and Saoirse Ronan were too modern, maybe I was worried the movie would be too stylized and modern too. But it was perfect! Those actresses are magnificent, and they nailed their parts of course! I shouldn't have doubted. ;)

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch, #1)Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

WOW!! What an original, amazing scifi!!! What I loved most was the uniqueness of the world and characters she created! It was just so fascinating! My mind feels pulled in by how complex, unique, and interesting it was. Like I'm trying to understand it and grasp it, understand something I know I love, but can't quite envelop my head around!

And I've always argued that what makes a scifi story actually scifi is that the story depends on the setting! And holy moly does this story depend on the world she created! And she captured and really conveyed how a multi-part AI would think and act. So impressive!

The writing was fantastic too. Some scenes were reminding me of Guy Gavriel Kay. Like with both of them, there's sometimes these incredibly pivotal, poignant moments or scenes, and I just feel hit by them. Either emotionally or a big reveal, and I find myself rereading the scene several times to get that feeling again and absorb the scene more. Only complaint is it's not a page-turner. I was loving reading it but for the first half as everything is set up, it was easy to stop when chapters ended. As the story climaxed that of course changed but it's still not one of those novels you devour. Especially coz of the complexity of the plot as you sit there mulling over what this or that means!

And another unique and cool thing is that the Radchaai don't have different gender pronouns and the author used "she" as a gender neutral pronoun for everyone and I gotta say I enjoyed that! And boy did she well describe how the differences in language are affected by culture and vice versa!

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Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Years and Years ... what a great dystopian TV show!!

It's been a while since I've been bowled over by a show or movie. Bowled over enough to write about it. Bowled over into an overwhelm of emotion. And holy crap did Years and Years do that!! I do wish for a little more... hmm... emphasis on the climax I might say? The denouement was amazing and satisfying and completed the story so perfectly, but it might've been too long? Coz like there were bigger climaxes in some of the episodes! And the story and scenes were there for a big climax, it just didn't feel as if they were used big enough. Which might be coz I feel they didnt crescendo the theme music as loudly over it like in other episodes.

WHICH brings me to one of the most powerful aspects of this show!! The theme song I'm gonna call it. Holy moly!! So utterly devastingly amazing!! Check it out here although that's not as intense a version as some of the ones in the show itself I feel. The soundtrack was composed by Murray Gold and it is simply brilliant!! I'm gonna quote one of the youtube comments coz they nailed it! "I've never heard a song that is so full of hope yet so hopeless, so happy yet so sad and so insane and terrifying as this song." Insane and terrifying yet also happy and hopeful!?!? THAT is why it's so incredible! And the intensity of those emotions that it triggers... holy fuck!! And it was always played on these hugely revealing, impactful scenes!


And then story and the characters and the acting!! So insanely incredible! I've never seen Emma Thompson play such a hammy, Trump-like character, but god was she the right choice! That moment when she tells Stephen she could be killed if she doesn't do what shes supposed to?! Her eyes! Omg her eyes!! All the thoughts and emotions contained in them!! That's why you use Emma Thompson!! Holy fuck! And the acting from all of them is insane off-the-charts good!! And the characters so perfectly crafted!! Just wow! 

And I loved Daniel and his relationship with Viktor!! When Daniel died, I sobbed and sobbed! Not a good choice of a show to watch when I'm feeling sad and missing my dead father extra badly, coz I just got overwhelmed with the sadness! :(

And finally I need to talk about how realistic and so extremely well told this dystopia was!! When you read 1984 in modern times you can't help but dismiss it coz that particular dystopia couldn't happen given our current world. So this show made me realize you need updated dystopias! Ones that show us how easily that terrible world could happen in our current times! When people ask me why I think privacy and civil liberties are important, I just say go read or watch some scifi... you'll get your warnings. We could lose our freedoms so easily.

So yeah... Years and Years was soooo incredibly realistic!! You can see all of that happening so easily!! Trump set the path, and just thank god he didn't get re-elected. And I might be thankful to covid, coz I wonder if he would've if the pandemic hadn't hit!?

And most other dystopias, for example another Brit show Utopia comes to mind, aren't realistic enough to scare so they just feel like an exercise in depressing. Years and Years is depressing for a good reason!! And is juxtaposed with happy moments which is what real life is like! So the message of this show is so powerful, yet wrapped around a story and characters you reallly care about and totally captivate you! What a superbly crafted show!!

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

The Black Prism by Brent Weeks

The Black Prism (Lightbringer, #1)The Black Prism by Brent Weeks
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Well I'm done. Thank god. And the ending was as unfulfilling as expected. But I'm hard-pressed to pin point why exactly I hated it. Main thing is I was just soooo not engaged!! :( Maybe coz I couldn't get behind any of the characters. Maybe coz it often felt like he was over-explaining things like why they'd lost their horses, or the unnecessarily complicated magic system. So it was such a chore to read it. A painful chore. But I loved Weeks' Night Angel series so much I wanted to at least finish this one book. To see if it got more enjoyable. It did not. sigh. :(

The magic system is fascinating, the use of all the colours of light was a great idea, especially with each colour having its own properties. But it felt really silly that they have all this power, yet can only craft objects with it that they then have to use mundanely, like physically throwing fireballs, and pedalling a magic boat!?

And then he spent way too much time explaining it! I don't need to learn how to draft light, just need to read about what happens! These books remind me of Tolkien... the author spent way too much time developing their world so they can't stop talking about it, at the expense of story!

And Kip's constant inner monologue of self-criticism was exhausting. And I hate to criticize that coz I have that going on in my head too. But I read books, especially scif/fantasy, to ESCAPE those thoughts!! Not read them on the page. :(

The Night Angel series definitely had the feel of a new writer, but it was fun, and the story was so great and engaging! This one the story is amazing, great complexity, characters, world, but the book was soooo not engaging. It's like he matured as a writer but only in some areas?! Anyways, I'm disappointed. :( I love you Brent Weeks but this series is not for me.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2021

A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine

A Memory Called Empire (Teixcalaan, #1)A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's interesting... it feels kinda hard to rate it. I did enjoy it. I do wonder if I enjoyed it more coz I had a few people kinda warn me of its weaknesses. ;) So I think I'd say this... as far as story goes, it's amazing! Also amazing is the world she created... so cool!!

But one of the main things that kept me from loving it was the frenetic pace of events. As Anthony Rapp's review put it, the number of things that happened to her, potentially traumatizing, were unrealistically handled. ie. 10 crises later and no sleep, and she has no impairment to her thinking or speech or decisions? And it was just plain exhausting to read!! The character didn't even get the glass of water that someone got her after she was unconscious for like 12h! And she could've had a night's sleep in between each event and it not change an ounce of the story! It reminds me of some of the Anita Blake novels, same frenetic pace of crises for no reason.

And the other big thing for me was the writing style. Really convoluted sentences and paragraphs sometimes. It wasn't til I got to the end of a long paragraph that I realized it'd been about her being attacked! Or there's these long sentences where the subject is at the end of like 4 lines, or after 2 descriptive side-notes. So you're reading several lines til you know what those lines are describing or what the sentence is about.

And the ending was so open-ended for the character that I just felt a bit lost and unsatisfied. Although I guess that's to leave room for the sequels? But the story did end perfectly and satisfyingly! :)

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