Category Archives: Favorites

Miyazaki March – Spirited Away

For my last review in Miyazaki March (here’s all other posts for Me, all over the place ‘s Miyazaki March) we will discuss one of Hayao Miyazaki’s finest Studio Ghibli movies: Spirited Away. If you were waiting for this to happen: Finally! If not: Awesome! Because finally we arrive at Miyazaki’s arguably most awesome animation feature. But let me elaborate.

via wikipedia.org

Yeah, yeah, we all know it: This 2001 released feature won the Golden Bear at the Berlinale Film Fest and later snatched an Oscar for best animated movie. It cemented Studio Ghibli’s reputation as The Animation Studio of Japan and of Hayao Miyazaki as The Animation Director. It became the highest grossing film in Japan ever and made a shitload of money internationally, while critics loved it and continue to love. The hell, I love it.
There is nothing about Spirited Away that bugs me. Everything about it feels right and in place and if I were to tell you about parts that I am critical about I would have to crack my brain, cause from the top of my head, I cannot think of One. Fucking. Thing. And seriously, how amazing is that? What a treasure of a movie must it be for me to not find anything in it that I have a problem with?

The gods who come to be guests of the bathhouse are fantastic. I love the cultural depth of it, without having ever really delved into it, but hey, gotta save some fun for later, right? I get the sense that they are gods and obviously we meet two river gods that inform us about their “function”. What is so wonderful about them is how different they all look, how ridiculous some of them look (giant chicks, anyone?) and how the movie is all like: of course these gods wanna have a good time in the bathhouse, y’all. I enjoy watching the “stink spirit” with the protruding bubbles of immense stinkery and how he turns into that slightly creepy river god. And I love love love how Chihiro just takes the gift her gives her and is grateful without having the slightest clue what these drab, brown ball might actually be.

via heyao-miyazaki.tumblr.com

Talking about river gods we need to talk about Haku. Oh, Haku. How you are a dragon, but also not, because you are a river god. How you could be portrayed as a love interest, but are not, because you are a loyal friend. How you could be a simple character, but are not, because you’re complex and you need to be to both survive the situation and help those who do not know how to survive it. Can this boy do any wrong? And okay, here is maybe one thing that I can whine about when talking about Spirited Away: The whole “we’ve met before, remember?” plot device felt a little contrived and I feel the story would have at least equally worked if it had been left out. But it’s nothing really. And it is totally made up for by my favorite song of the super-amazing soundtrack: The Dragon Boy. That shit is a film score, children, and you better appreciate.

via popcultureplaypen.wordpress.com

Supporting characters are of course of major importance for a film to work perfectly and with Spirited Away we encounter an awesome array of memorable supports. I love the portrayal of Chihiro’s parents, I love Lin (and all the obviously yet curiously non-human staff at the bath-house (seriously though, what are they??)), the frog, love grumpy Kamaji and heart with all my might those little soot-ball beings. I think Boh, the Yubaba-like bird and the three jumping heads are hilarious characters and I especially love how Boh re-enacts the scene of Chihiro crushing the black slug coming out of Haku’s body.

via ececakir.wordpress.com

Then there is Yubaba. And amazing she is. Seriously, her looks alone win her ten points. Her whole damn behaviour and how she is, after all, still a pretty decent sort of being who is trying to play loosely by the rules, trying to make a profit. While she is sort of a villain for both Chihiro and Haku, I never get the sense that there is real ill will against either of them involved and in the end, neither of them is really furious at her for what she does. Plus, there is the mystery of Zeniba. Is that really her twin sister or is it just another very different aspect of the same person? It is also interesting that Yubaba is portrayed as both large and in charge, yet motherly, cunning and business focused, yet capable of empathy and sorrow. Despite seemingly being a caricature and a simplified female villain, Yubaba is actually quite a complex character, very reminiscent of Dola of The Castle in the Sky with her tough exterior concealing a compassionate interior.

via neoseeker.com

Talking about quasi-villains, there is of course No Face. It is not that we do not see a face, at first it is pretty much all we see of it. But it really is a mask, and even as such does not seem to be placed on the body where the face actually is. But that’s all just the name, what is really amazing is how No Face is both a villain that turns out to be someone in need of an understanding friend and how it remains this mysterious being throughout, its background and history never once explained, without the story suffering from it in any way. No Face can be interpreted as a lot of things. On the surface level it is a spirit that seeks for something more meaningful than earthly possessions and realizes that these cannot fulfil the longing it has for this something else. Turns out it is somebody understanding it and taking care, which in itself is after all no fluffy and mindless concept, but gets even more complicated because it is so closely tied to the character of Chihiro. No Face could just be after her, because she was nice to it, but despite that being plausible, it still begs the question in how far No Face is a reflection of the beings populating the bath-house or even of Chihiro’s feelings. Plus, No Face enables Chihiro to prove how awesome of a character she is in actually just coming around to accepting No Face as a companion because she isn’t really frightened of him.

via theasianflicks.blogspot.com

And OH. MY. LORD. The train ride, you guys, this fucking train ride. A little like the airplane-cemetery scene in Porco Rosso the train ride is the single most amazing thing about this movie. I absolutely adore it. I love how the story goes from gross villain chasing after Chihiro to the two of them sitting right next to each other on a train that is full of people who are nothing but shadows. The whole ride is so deeply and touchingly melancholic. This devastating sense of a disconnect when looking at those shadow people realizing that these are probably just normal people. Or were normal people. Or want to be normal people. But we never know what they really are. We just now what they look like and see how their lives in the train and on the platforms looks like the lives the we are living and good gracious fuck, what does that say about us a human beings? What comment is being made, and why, if I think it is a comment, does this scene make me so profoundly sad?
Can’t handle it, folks. We should discuss this one in the comments.

via picturesdepot.com

Oh, isn’t it obvious how I haven’t really talked about the most important person in this movie yet? I give you: Chihiro. Yay! Of all the young girl protagonists that Miyazaki bombards us with she is my favorite, because damn. It is amazing how she is this grumpy little “don’t wanna move here” thing that seems so passive and unwilling and turns into a full-blown heroine with unlimited superpowers of acceptance, forgiveness, courage and strength. She is, in one word, admirable and it is exactly because she is never set up to be that, she just happens to react and ultimately act that way. And that is because she cares. All the beings she meets, she cares about, be it a ginormous baby, three bouncing heads, sootballs, villains or jumping lanterns. Chihiro cares about each and every one of them, doesn’t dismiss or discard them, but takes them for who and what they are and perceives an intrinsic worth and value in their existence and the mind-boggling mastery of everything amazing of this is just almost too much to bear. Chihiro is the most unlikely heroine and as such she absolutely rules and I wish I could be like that.

Whoda thunk it? With nothing to complain about, Spirited Away is simply my favorite Miyazaki movie of them all. I am hardly capable of any serious discussion because I have to verbally drool over its awesomeness and I hope you can forgive me.
If you haven’t seen it yet, go watch it.
If you have, go re-watch it.

Advertisements

Why music videos are great, or: Paula’s Von Guten Eltern

Today I will introduce you to the wonders of German music. And German music videos. Which is just a way too blown up way of starting to talk about the German band Paula (that exists since 1997) and their 2001 single Von Guten Eltern (To Come of Good Stock, basically) which is a nice little tune (sorriez for not being able to dig up an English translation of the lyrics for you guys) with a fantastic music video. Which is really all it needs to get me blogging, so let’s get right to it.

#1 Pastel Colors
You have obviously not been closely following this blog (as if there were anything better to do…) if you do not know that I have UNDYING ETERNAL OVER THE MOON L.O.V.E. for pastel colors. And yes, my love comes in caps. Aren’t those pastel tones just too pretty? The whole thing lulls you in. How much fun it must have been to choose furniture, fashion and make up and blend it all into this pastel-colored domesticity-leaking nightmare dream? And have some blurry filter over it? Welcome to my life in ten years, ya’ll. Better learn to play an instrument.

#2 Polishing fruit
She is polishing the apple in her neatly arranged fruit basket. While this might be enough said already, I want to point out how very alien the notion of doing such a thing seems to me who is fundamentally incapable of keeping space he occupies tidy. Yet at the same time I am all like “right on!” and want to run and polish all bananas, pineapples and coconuts I can find.

#3 Those twins
They are like Alice (the wonderland type) and Tweedledum and Tweedledee (wonderland inhabitants) mixed into one, yes, actually, two. Parted hair, blue pastel outfits and creepy stares (and a bunny! Do not forget the bunny!) make for effective, ermh, screen-time. But seriously (haha, kidding) how much fun are they? And do you also wonder if they are identical or fraternal twins? Or maybe not even twins at all? I bet five Tatooine Shillings on fraternal twins. Anyone take me on?

#4 Eating chocolates
Eating chocolates is in itself one of the most awesome concepts in the whole wide universe, of course. Eating them on your bed because you’re pastel-colored world is just a tad too much to bear and stuffing way to many at the same time into your singing mouth – BEAUTIFUL! People everywhere should just lock themselves into their bedrooms and stuff themselves with way too many chocolates from time to time. The world would be a better place. And yeah, it totally has to do with all the guilt and shame that follows.

#5 Ending with the smiling girl
Okay, technically it ends on a metronome, but you get my point, right before that. Now if you had a withered stone-cold little heart – like me – you could come to think that the blissful picture painted in this video is full of irony and critical commentary. Yeah, I know, GASP!! How could you even, what the, I can’t, even. So while this is thus firmly established as fact, what better way to melt our hearts into pools of joy and happiness by ending on a cute young girl smiling full on and close up in the camera? No better way says I, and feel like the world is such a wonderful place.

Wenn man sich gut benimmt, hat man sich wieder lieb.

Ceremonially reviewing Florence + the Machine’s Cermonials

You may remember my first Florence + the Machine review where I talked about their_her first album Lungs (here) and was raving, cause I enjoyed it from beginning to end. This last October she released her sophomore album Ceremonials and naturally expectations run high, so let’s have a look at how it fares as an album.

via boerse.bz

I could try to fool you and act like I do not love it from beginning to end, but instead of just giggling and saying awesome a lot I will try to be articulate and state: this album has both met and far exceeded my expectations. I started with fear, cause if you like an album that much (me and Lungs) you may expect too much from the second album and not give it its individual chance. Especially if the album heavily involves Paul Epworth who produced her Lungs single Cosmic Love which is, ermh excuse me, one of the greatest songs of all time. I am relieved to report – and also a little amazed by the fact – that I love Ceremonials just as much as a I love Lungs, which I consider to be quite the accomplishment. It totally works as an album and I can’t wait to finally possess the vinyl and have this ultimate one-album-feeling about it, even though it means I miss out on the special edition bonus tracks.

But since we’re all so fond of statistics and charts and all let us break the album down song by song, starting with the one I like the least up to the one I love the most. As a twist each title gets as much sentences as there are ranks in reverse order. Makes total sense, right?
But let me first make the honorable mention shout-outs to the three acoustic versions plus one demo on the second disc of the special edition, cause not only are they all about my favorite tracks, they are also just really really nice and it’s good to have them.

All this and heaven too
In one sentence I can only say that this doesn’t really suck, but the lyrics kinda do cause they are very reminiscent of (does anyone even remember) Natasha Bedingfield.

Never let me go
Another song that isn’t horrible, but the chorus doesn’t really do it for me and feels like a let down. Too cheesy and safe and un-Florence on an album so full of greatness.

Leave my body
While You’ve got the love was an amazing album closer on Lungs, this one is kind of a disappointment. My feeling is that the song intends to be darker than it actually is and thus doesn’t really work nor bear the significance it tries to bear. Which is sad, cause it does have some potential.

No light, no light
Florence Welch said in an interview that this song represents the album in its entirety, but I am really glad that it does not really, cause it is not my favorite. She clearly likes it, since it’s set to become the second single. However, it feels a tad too safe for me, like something that someone else could easily have come up with really – and I don’t like the chorus. Its saving grace is clearly Florence’s voice and style, but that alone does not make it a stand-out track.

For those who can see it (it does not work in Germany e.g.): I am most definitely going to talk about the racist implications of the imagery used in this video, probably tomorrow.

Bedroom hymns
I’m not here looking for absolution? This is kind of a reverse case to other songs on the album in that the chorus totally convinces me, but everything else, except for the last part, doesn’t. Though, and I will confess it here first (can you see them headlines coming?), my feeling is that this is actually a grower and half a year from now this could easily be one of my favorites. It is not now, so let’s wait and see. And the ending with its jammy feeling is really great…

Strangeness and charm
Of the songs I like less, this is one of the more awesome ones. I love its upbeat nature. I love the verses. I love the bridge. But as with some others it is the chorus that doesn’t really work for me and thus diminishes the impact a little. In this case really a shame, cause with a killer chorus this would be a killer track.

Seven Devils
This is a peculiar case for me. I really love the beginning and the chorus and overall I think this is actually a pretty wicked song. However, somehow it ends up in the middle of the field and I often find myself skipping it. Probably because the bridges and verses don’t entirely convince me. Having said all that, I tend to think that over time this one will actually climb on my list. Of course I need to listen to it more often to get there. If this is one of your favorites I would actually really like to know why, so please comment!

Only if for a night
We are actually breaking an invisible wall here, cause from here on I will talk about all the songs that I always listen to, while I often tend to skip the other ones mentioned before. Only if for a night is in the middle field, because there are some aspects to it that don’t convince me a hundred percent, like e.g. the beginning. However, since I’ve heard Florence recount the story of how she dreamt of her just shortly before passed grandmother on tour and how this became the inspiration for this song, well it makes it oddly personal to me, all of a sudden. And I agree, how weirdly practical is the advice of a ghost to concentrate? I love how this track works as the perfect introduction to Ceremonials. It gives us massive drums and tops it off with the mandatory choir, all contrasted to Florence Welch’s amazing vocal range. And it gives us the first hint of what awaits us in terms of bass on this album. Which is an awful lot and probably the major departure from the previous album – but for all the right reasons.

Breaking down
Breaking Down feels a lot like Pretty in Pink. There, I said it. It is most definitely not pink, but it does definitely reference the 80s. In a good way, of course. It sounds like one of those feelgood teenager movies where everyone has ridiculous hair and wears oversized color-blocking sweaters that are pretty rad, but also hurt the eye. So while the whole thing evokes positive 80s nostalgia the lyrics are actually a lot darker than I would have expected. But also in a good way. It is an odd combination here, but the whole anxiety theme works remarkably well with the kids’-song-80s-feel of it. Thus, my initial reaction upon first listen of “I don’t like that one” quickly turned into adoration (with a neon-bandana and turquoise leggings y’all).

Lover to lover
Strangely, this one was a grower for me, while to many other people it was an instant hit. Now I totally get the appeal. In an interview on youtube (to youtube actually) Florence said she tried to write this song from the perspective of a man on tour. Gurrl, take your inspiration where you can get it, cause it doesn’t really feel like that to me, but it does sound fucking amazing. I love the Sixtie-ness of it (though you could argue for the 70s as well I guess). It has a damn catchy chorus, an awesome ending, nice choirs, good bridges. There are all the right pieces and I love it don’t get me wrong, nevertheless I feel like there should have been an extra punch. I don’t even know where or how, but something to make it stand out even more. Having said all that I will so totally dance to it when I’ll encounter it on a dancefloor. Cause song was made for jumping to it.

Remain nameless
Dude_ttes, this one! Effin’ this one. This bassline drives my neighbors insane but sums up oh so very nicely what Ceremonials is all about (and what differentiates it from its predecessor). Oddly, I somehow think or rather feel like this one is a cover of another song, but my short and unrepresentative google search does not confirm my suspicion. Does anyone know? I am even more impressed if this is all Florence’s doing. Cause not only is the music A+, the lyrics of this one are just brilliant. You can call me anything you want. I am a little sad that it is not going to be a single or won’t even get a lot of exposure since it is one of the bonus tracks of the special ed. IMHO it totally deserves to be on the actual album, though it admittedly doesn’t really fit that well with the rest. But then again, did Kiss with a fist?

What the water gave me
This was my first impression of the new album, and what an impression it was. It totally reassured me that things will be fine, that there is another masterpiece on the way. And how true that turned out to be! By now I find myself liking other songs on the album even more than this one, but every now and than it just blows me off my feet. It is such a powerful song, with this immense build-up and this amazing choir. I am deeply in love with how deceivingly quiet it seems for the most of it just to build up to this point of breaking loose and letting it all out. And I really like how Florence + the Machine stick to their themes. There is a lot of water being mentioned on Ceremonials, and has actually also been referenced quite a lot on Lungs (where it was all about breathing, obviously). And this song not only mentions water prominently it also feels like a massive wave of sound that crushes you, takes you down and drowns you in its awesomeness. Its heartbreaking choirs will fill your lungs and choke you to tears. And if you think I’m exaggerating: I am most certainly not.

Shake it out
This is another case of “didn’t like it that much at first but love it now.” Which seems weird to me now that I know how wonderful that song is and what I love about it. And what I love about it is that the chorus is gorgeous, but the verses are even more so. It creates nice imagery with language and the music takes you there to make you shake it out with your very limbs. It is an obvious single choice, but that didn’t occur to me at first. Now I keep dancing away at the very hint of this song. Cause I like to keep my issues strong.
Once again the interesting aspect of this song is its lyrical darkness contrasted with very upbeat and dare I say positive rhythms and melodies. I am also very fond of my pretend command of language to more or less (read: less to zero) accurately describe the musical phenomena I observe. Cause really, I have not clue. Don’t get me wrong, most of the time I can identify the chorus, but that is about where my deeper knowledge ends. I’m just putting words on it and pray to ancient greek goddesses that you’ll bear with me and my nonsense. Thanks.

Spectrum
This is kinda my Ceremonials’ Cosmic love. Which might not make much sense to you, but it totally does in my head. I promise. What I mean is that this song feels much like Cosmic Love on Lungs. It is an absolute and definitive favorite and evokes feelings that make my universe feel bigger and brighter and somehow more worth living in. And if a song does that to you, grab it and hold on to it, sez I. It is in many ways also very similar structurally to Cosmic love, with the verses, the build-up, and the quieter bridge towards the end – and of course a very powerful chorus. Plus choirs, drums and harps, which was the excellent model recipe for Lungs. Fun fact: I can’t help but think of Destiny Child. Say my name, y’all. Maybe Beyonce will sue. Cause there is also Florence’s Halo cover floating around the interwebz. It might be floating around HERE. But it also might not.

Heartlines
Heartlines is damn near perfect. Damn near, cause obviously there is another song that beat it to the top spot. But admittedly, technically we might just call it perfect. I am deeply in love with the beginning. But I am also deeply in love with the verses. With the bridge. With the fuckingly amazing chorus. With the message. I mean, come on, keep following the heartlines on your hand? You have to come up with that shit. I love the tribal drums and deep bass and how it totally complements Florence’s voice that brings full range in this one, from whispering to shouting, trembling and breaking it down crisp and clear. I am sincerely hoping for this one to be a single, because it totally deserves to become a universal hymn. My absolutely favorite line in this one is “I’m there with you up against the wall on a Wednesday afternoon.” Because let’s face it: how many times do Wednesday afternoons get screen time in pop songs? Exactly, basically never.

Landscape
Yup, I guess you didn’t expect this one on top of the list. Or did you? One of my absolute favorite songs on Lungs was Swimming which also wasn’t on the regular album, but only available on the special edition. The same with Landscape, which is squeezed in between the demo and the acoustic versions. But damn, what a gem it is! At first it took me a few days til I realized that this and Heartlines isn’t the same song, and once I figured that out all hell broke loose. All positive I-can-finally-listen-to-this-on-its-own hell. It feels more like a Lungs leftover than any other song on the album, probably because it reminds me a lot of Kiss with a fist, even though the song’s atmosphere is a completely different one. But seriously, I love every single thing about it from beginning to end. Those drums are the shit. And I keep humming this tune to myself ever single day, barely able not to burst out singing on the train, cause it is so infectious.
This is probably the place where I should wonder what it is with those amazing extra tracks Florence keeps hiding away from bigger audiences (plus, I got 5 sentences left). I’ve already mentioned Swimming, and her cover of Addicted to love was musical geniousness. Now here is Landscape being my fav of the album and Remain nameless scoring incredibly high. I suspect girl has a vault of treasures hidden away, she’ll not be able to fit them on all the B-Sides she’ll be pushing. Which makes me teary eyed.

All in all, this album is stellar, and I cannot wait to see them perform the songs live (which I hopefully will next spring in Berlin). And it makes me excited for Florence +the Machine albums to come, of course. Cause if she can keep the standard or even manages to improve it there is a hell of a lot goodness in store for us.

Go, give it a listen.

A Storm of Words – My humble review of George R.R. Martin’s A Storm of Swords

I just mentioned the word humble in the title to lure you in. So, now that you’re here let’s get this review started.
Talking of course about the third (or third and fourth) novel in the Song of Ice and Fire saga by George R. R. Martin. Let’s keep this shit real: by now I am addicted to this series like Whitney Houston to crack. Only with more positive side effects.

via wikipedia.org

I guess I read the UK paperback issue, cause I read two books: A Storm of Swords – Steel and Snow and A Storm of Swords – Blood and Gold. Which tells us that the thing is long and which of course makes us giggle a little, cause heehee, we’re in on it, right? Steel and Snow, that’s like Jon SNOW on the wall (arms and all) and Blood and Gold, if that’s not referring to the Lannisters, to what else, asketh I. It is the third instalment in the series (my reviews of no. 1 HERE and of no. 2 HERE) and was published in 2000. I’ve already confessed my addiction to the saga, but nonetheless there is stuff that I liked and some that I didn’t, so keeping with trahdishion I give you a rundown of Minuses and Pluses with a little Could-Be-Both in between.

Janos Slynt
The whole “Jon Snow is a turncloak” and the ensuing election of a new commander of the Night’s Watch left me all a little underwhelmed. Granted, it wasn’t horrible, but it was a tad too obvious and Janos Slynt in combo with Alliser Thorne was just too bad a villain to be taken as a serious threat. So Jon Snow is Commander of the Night’s Watch now? How will that tie in with him being the son of Rhaegar and Lyanna and supposed future king…oops, just wondering about some theories there. Unfortunately he became a bit of an asshole, which is sad, cause he was a favorite character before.

Melisandre
Oh, the fuck with the whole Lord of Light business. R’hllor sucks, that’s what it is. As a god and kinda as a storyline. His whole Christian god yet not Christian god shenanigans get on my nerves and Melisandre better start bringing some kickass bad or she’ll be the blandest mysterious women all in red in the history of gods who set swords on fire. Can somebody just shoot her and make her go away?

R’hllor
I’m being a bit unfair with Melisandre here, cause my real issue lies with R’hllor and the potential storylines I see coming with him/her/it. But then again, Melisandre’s character is basically nothing but a spokesperson for team R’hllor, so there.
To my non-joy there is also the whole Dondarrion/Thoros fraction praising his ass and we don’t even wanna go into Lady Stoneheart territory.

The Ironborn
The whole Greyjoy family, well maybe for the exception of Asha, sucks, at least IMHO. I get it, we are supposed to get an insight into their plotting and we need a setup for Crow’s Eye and the havoc he is about to wreak upon Westeros and its political system, but – and I can’t even explain why – I just don’t like to read about them, least of all about the Drowned God and this whole bullshit. I remember being really pumped about the whole religious systems co-existing in Westeros in the beginning, with the Seven and the Old Gods, but now all we get is some Norse myth in masks and pseudo-Christianity and the fun of reading about religious underpinnings is gone. Can the Old Gods please make an appearance? Like, let all the weirwoods cry blood?

via best-selling-books-uk.blogspot.com

Handling of the wildlings
In my last review I bitched and moaned about how I didn’t wanna read about the wildlings cause I expected what, well, actually happened. That’s us being told that they’re all actually human and have their own sorrows and their own honor and alla that which is blurgh, cause: really? I could’ve told you three years ago. Having said that making them all just fodder for a mandatory epic battle that turns out to kinda not be so epic feels like betraying them and what they actually could have been and the threat they could have posed to the Seven Kingdoms. Now that they are gone as a storyline I kinda miss them, but most of all because of the potential they actually had as such.

Littlefinger
You know what, Littlefinger used to be such an entertaining and interesting character. And now he is just a vile manipulator that schemes his way into positions, Lysa Arryn’s bed and poor Sansa’s life and innocence. Argh, he really is the scrupulous fuck he always claimed to be and it ain’t half as much fun as thinking he might just be saying it and actually be an awesome kid.

Lysa Arryn
She sucks more from a meta-point-of-view in that she feels so totally like a constructed character that is there to serve a purpose that it makes it hard for me to believe her actions, words and supposed motivations. Also, despite the Eyrie probably being a really pretty place, all the shit taking place there since book one continues to cement its status as most dreadful places of them all in the Seven Kingdoms, complete with a caricature of a female ruler, which is really just a little pathetic.

-/+

Daenerys
What leaves me neither hot nor cold is once again Dany. Her storyline isn’t actually bad, the whole Unsullied business and freeing slaves all over the east (not to mention glimpsing at those ancient cities) is pretty neat, but then there is the whole “was Rhaegar really the greatest man in all of history I wonder” business mixed with the “Oh no, Ser Jorah betrayed me, and you too Ser Barristan whose name I just learned, but I forgive you” and the “cute, my dragons are like kittens, they hiss and fly and kill, heehee, cute” thing. Ermh, I don’t know, it’s all not terrible but it is also not great and reads rather like some teenage girl-grows-up-to-be-a-princess thing which, well, aren’t there other options?
But since we all know that by the end of this saga Daenerys is going to rule the entire world, let’s see if coming plot-twists will make her journey a tad more interesting.

via buecher.de

+

Ygritte
Admittedly, I wasn’t an Ygritte fan at first, but damn, girl grew on me fast. Her practical down-to-earth-ness and her keeping it real all the time with anyone made me give her my reading heart and also admittedly her tragic death kinda cemented that status.
You know nothing, Jon Snow. Nuff said.

Jaime chapters
What a shocker, we get to read Jaime’s POV. And even more of a shocker: it is actually really kinda awesome. Cause of course he’s an asshole-ish prick, but hearing about his motivations and learning about his outer and inner journey made me really appreciate him as a character. Plus of course, his totally seeing what goes wrong with his twin-sister and her attempts of keeping the peace.
I am also really really fond of him losing his hand and what it does to him in terms of finding the inner human being again. Not even mentioning the potential love-story unfolding here.
And how heart-wrenching is it that he lied to Tyrion all these years and finally admits it – only being lied to in return (and setting up some major future conflict here). Poor Lannisters, they just don’t know how to.

Brienne
Speaking of potential love-stories unfolding: How incredibly gorgeous is Brienne of Tarth as a character? Not only is she righteous and honest and dutiful, but girl is so out of the box for everyone and goes against anything that the Westerosi belive in that it chokes me with tears, because she is Samwell-Tarly-level of awesome in being the ugly duckling that is really just the mightiest of them swans in all of birds on water history. Can somebody please give her a little kiss on the cheek from me? Kthanx.

Tyrion
He ruled ever since, right? Everyone loves Tyrion and everyone should, cause he survives and he saves Joffrey’s reign (though he hates his guts), he is the most awesome unwanted husband anyone could ever have (Sansa, be grateful), he treats his favorite whore nicely (and she is being a dick in return) and ta-dah: he finally kills the super-villain that is his father and does away with his stuck-up-ness and frees us from the one on team evil that can actually hold it together and make evil work.
Wonder where he is and when he’ll show up. Miss you, Ty, come back soon, please.

via theinquisitveloon.blogspot.com

Arya and Sandor Clegane
Awww, the Hound, good old houndy Hound, how we always kinda knew you had a heart of gold and now that you’re with Arya who is cool in all the right ways (despite having to learn a lot and grow a lot and endure a lot and a lot of a lot else) you show all your true colors and we would all really like to hang out with you more and learn how to be such a scapegoat with a heart of gold. I’m kinda sorry that their time together was so short.

The Unsullied
Yeah, Daenarys, blah, but the unsullied, I mean, man. Man. M. A. N.
That is one rough existence right there. Wouldn’t wanna be in their shoes. Kill your puppy dog? Kill a baby? Castration? No wonder that don’t sound like the most appealing job description ever. So they become the greatest killing machine consistent of thousands but what makes them really awesome is the moment they go all like: we’ve hated this existence for like ever, we just didn’t let y’all know and kill the slave-masters and support Dany and her slave-freeing shenanigans. I mean, awww, man, fucking: AWWWW! Touched my heart right there.

Samwell
We cannot not mention him. From staying true to the Watch to freeing Gilly, meeting and helping Bran and ultimately of course him killing one of the Others, Samwell continues to be the favorite overweight clumsy young man in all of ASOIAF.

The Red Wedding
This book tries to bring some epic moments, but if there ever was one in this very instalment, it would of course be the Red Wedding that takes home the price. There we all were believing the Frey’s to forgive Robb and then – BAM – they not only kill him, but most of his host and unbelievably also Catelyn. And even though we are all well aware of Martin’s tendency to kill off major characters I have to confess that Catelyn’s death really was a blow (while Robb’s was anticipated, really) and left me with a few moments of disbelief. Now we know that there is a twist to Cat’s death, but let’s wait with judging that one.
Other than that, the whole set-up of the Red Wedding: super-neat. From both Martin on the meta-level and the Frey’s and Lannister’s on the in-the-story-level. Thumbs up for the chill, dudes.

So, I conclude this lil review here, knowing full well that I left a lot (like really a super lot: Davos, Sansa, Bran, Oberyn Martell) out and that, if you don’t know the novel, you have no fucking idea what I am talking about here. If you made it to this sentence nonetheless, kudos to you! What I hope you got from this rather eclectic review (note to self: review shortly after reading the book, not long after it, having already started subsequent novels) is that I really really really enjoyed the ride and can totally recommend you take it as well.

Winter is coming (now also officially here in Frankfurt, Germany. Thank you, the Starks).

Why music videos are great, or: Kimbra – Cameo Lover

Don’t we all know it: being absolutely obsessed with one single song for no apparent reason whatsoever? We do. Alas! I got reasons, mind you. Cause it’s fun and life and love affirming and all. Speaking of course of:
Cameo Lover. Miss Kimbra an me, we do not have a story. I was aware of her existence and her single Settle Down which didn’t overly settle with me (heehee). This one though….
I cannot even try to express the love I feel for the song alone. When I think of the expression “music in my heart” I think of this: a song I totally love, that rings in my head a whole day and – you may laugh all you want – gives me confidence because it, urgh, I really don’t know, but it boosts my confidence level and general positivity (even though it doesn’t even have to be a positive song). Blah blah what?
Yep, the video is very amazing too. Here’s why:

#1 The Girls.
Hugs for Kimbra, but how awesome are her dancing girls here? Apart from that killer choreography… Just the way they look and how they all kinda don’t match but then again match very well. From the ridiculous hair to the pastel-colored-outfits (applause to stylist Sarah Banger) they make my heart swell. And to praise the choreography once more: I especially love love love when they do the whole tambourine thingy.

#2 The Boys.
Now there, guys, don’t you worry. Cause I likes you too! Cause Kimbra’s being all semi-metaphorical here with the stern boys blindfolded cause their little hearts have to be opened up first. And cheesy as I am I of course totally dig it. The color-swap, the minimal finger-dance choreography, even the final reveal when love interest no. 1’s blindfold comes off. Oh, gender-juxtapositions, what have you done to me?

#3 The Colors.
Now there, everything that tries to go symbolic on our asses with colors and in the process engages the whole rainbow is a WIN in my book. Seriously, I freaking love it. All black suits turn to colourful chair-dancing gents and the pastels of the girls’ outfits and all in front of that bright white background and my heart is about to stop and my head about to explode cause damnit, this whole color-scheming is right down my alley. Therefore major shout-outs for production designer Sally Addinsall and colorist Christine Dobson.

#4 The Dress.
And how could I discuss girls, boys and colors without mentioning The Dress. Oh, I am a hundred percent that when you look at it in real life it’ll suck abominably but on camera this is the million dollar dress, baby. The pink, the yellow, the shape, the fifty-ness of it, everything comes together perfectly. Heck, I even love how it is incorporated into the choreography in terms of shape and wriggling her arms around that.

#5 The Direction.
And all of what I’ve mentioned so far owes its debt to the fuckingly fantastic direction, which is really ah-mah-zingg!! The cinematography (by Edward Goldner) is flawless, the choreography is stellar, the camera movement is engaging, the editing brings the suspense, mood fits song and song fits visuals and in the middle of it all Miss Kimbra being made a star, because one director (Guy Franklin) in this world cared about what he did. Not that others don’t, but allow me some grandeurish pathos here.

Every day’s like talking in your sleep.

Top Ten list of places I’d like to be at right now

Granted, I could also just say that this top ten list is made up of top ten travel destinations, which would probably be equally true. However, it is very hot in Southern Germany right now and I have to write applications which is one of those things that sound like little fun and are actually less than you’d have expected. So where would I like to be?

via concurringopinions.com

#10 Rome

I’ve never been there, but somehow I think, one should have been, at least as a EU citizen, right? Ok, there is Berlusconi, and ok, it’s probably even hotter over there, but still. Just for some good old sightseeing and pretending to get some educational input while basically really just relaxing.

via p2news.com

#9 Portugal

Not unlike Rome, I guess. Never been there, but have wanted to go for a long time now. It’s probably lovely. I imagine beautiful landscapes and quiet country-side scenes, long walks along the shores and laughing with the locals…Well, parts of that at least. I have this “it’s gonna be nice there” image of it and would like to find out if it’s true. But it will also be very hot there.

via billigfliegervergleich.info

#8 Paris

Been there, loved it, been there again and was robbed, loved it still, went again and loved it again. So naturally I just really want to go to Paris again, preferably with my sweetheart and do some good old touristy stuff while enjoying the European Metropolis-ness of it all. Without riots, please.

via unknown-egypt.blogspot.com

#7 Egypt

Speaking of riots, I assume that Egypt as of now is maybe not the funnest country in the world to be for tourists, but then again it still is Egypt. Never been there, but really want to see pyramids and the nile and alla that, but I am also afraid of being thoroughly disappointed by the “ultimate tourist experience” one is likely to have due to heavy tourist traffic in good old Egypt.

via likeitis93.blogspot.com

#6 New York

A friend of mine is going in a few days and I could not be more jealous. It’s frickin’ NY and I love love love big cities, so basically NY and me should be a match made in heaven. And there is really no excuse, no political upheavals, no language I couldn’t master, no crazy price-tag to the flight. Still haven’t made it, still want to go.

via fotos-von-axel.de

#5 Kenia

Been there in 2006 and since then the country’s been through a lot. Just recently reconnected with a friend from there (and then) and funnily enough this coming weekend I’ll meet up with two of the women I was there with, one of whom I haven’t seen or spoken to in years (plus: she doesn’t know yet, heehee). I would really love to go there again, revisist places and faces and experience some more of this beautifully awesome country. Though I don’t know if I’d climb Mount Kenya once more…

via mabryonline.org

#4 India

Classical case of Orientalism. I just gotta admit it and get it off my chest. India seems so irresistibly fascinating for the sheer variation in people and lifestyles and I’m always like: no matter what, you can just go there and try to make it. Of course I’d probably wither within a few days, but somehow I feel like I must go there once and try to live it like for real. Whatever that means. Slap me now.

via valetourism.net

#3 Okinawa (Japan)

I could really just go anywhere in Japan right now (well, except for maybe…), but most of all I’d like to go back to Okinawa and the southern islands and islets again and just enjoy a crazy hot summer with the landscape, fruits and beaches to go with it. Oh and yeah, brush up my terrible Japanese of course. Good student that I am.

via crossfitbern.typepad.com

#2 Iceland

Also a place that I’ve already visited in the past, and it really was a magical experience. The freedom of camping in terrific nature, surrounded by amazing friends, aww, it was perfect. I really wanna go again, see some more and revisit what I liked best. Also a place I’d like to bring my sweetheart with me, cause he’d really like it too.

via telegraph.co.uk

#1 Mongolia

How can I have not been to Mongolia? For whatever reason I am totally obsessed with going there. It’d be perfect right now: cool, supposedly stress-free and no computer to remind me of application duties. In my mind it’s basically the most beautiful country on earth, so don’t think I come without expectations, ha. Preferably’d go there by trans-siberian railway, just soak in that wide and empty landscape. Somebody care to give me shitloads of money to buy the damn ticket? kthanx.

So how bout you? Where would you wanna be?

Drooling over Mr. Shabba’s Classic Sci-Fi Film Posters

Oh, you wonder what plans I have for the weekend?
Go out and party? Hit the flea-markets? Relax and read a book?
There is only one concrete goal I know I’ll pursue these next two days: Get my hands on a print of the amazingly awesome Alien film-poster designed by Mr. Shabba. Why? Have a look for yourself:

L.O.V.E.
Seriously, I need this. Put it over my couch, my bed, frame it for the bathroom, you name it. This is so ridiculously rad, I’m gonna have to kill myself. Or basically really just order it online.
If Alien is not your thing (it certainly is mine and I profess my love HERE), but you’re still nurturing a little Sci-Fi geek inside your soul, you got a few more choices. 2001: A Space Odyssey, E.T., Terminator, and Blade Runner are also available from his re-design collection.

all posters (c) Mr. Shabba, you can visit his online Shop by clicking HERE

Out of the rest I like the Blade Runner movie poster the best, but that’s probably due to the fact that I also really enjoyed the movie. Though I liked E.T. as a kid, and I think the first Terminator is pretty neat. So basically, despite the undeniable favoritism regarding Alien, I love the Alien poster most because the design is so gorgeously wicked!
What’s your favorite?

One post to bind them all: Revisiting The Fellowship of the Ring

Ah, Lord of the Rings. So much has already been said about it, what could I possibly add? Hah! Never think I will not come up with an excuse. In this case: LOTR TFOTR. Cause, please, beginnings, dude_ette, everybody loves beginnings! It’s just that in the case of Lord of the Rings people are all like: uuh, Rohan, and uuh, Aragorn becomes king, and hell yeah, 2 and 3 made a shitload more money than the first movie (in case you wondered: this is going to be about the movie), yadda yadda alla that. But me sez: hell to the no, Fellowship of the Ring all the way! Gee, I distinctly remember seeing the trailer with my best pal Janine and we were all giddy with excitement, and then the feeling of deep-rooted content and happiness leaving the theater, just having seen this beautiful piece of movie art. It was heaven!

via mutantreviewers.wordpress.com

I’ve probably watched The Fellowship of the Ring about 25 to 30 times by now. I bought the expensive box set the day it hit the stores, for whatever reason. And I guess I just can’t really remember because the later instalments have thoroughly disappointed me and my LOTR enthusiasm that I’m still surprised by how much love I have for TFOTR every time I see it. So let us have a look at the YEAHs!, the BLAHs…., and the ARGHs!!!

The YEAHs
To approach this very scientific review from a technical rather than emotional side, I first have to give major shout-outs to the structure of the Fellowship of the Ring. I, for once, absolutely love the prologue and was really sad that we never got an epilogue at the end of Return of the King (as was promised in the TFOTR audio-commentary by Peter Jackson and pals on the DVD). I’ve seen a lot of people hating on it, but I love the overall feel of it and since I was a total LOTR newbie at the time the first movie hit German theaters, I felt thoroughly introduced to the concept of The Ring and the conflict that awaits us. But of course it’s not just the epic yet concise prologue, it is also the warm beginning in the Shire, where every human being in their right mind would want to live anyways (yeah, I just wrote that) and a lot of the credit has to be given to the adventuresque tour-de-force of the whole first movie. Basically we’re moving from expositiony intro to place A, run to place B, stop shortly at place C, solve a riddle at place D, escape to place E…. you get the idea. And it serves the movie tremendously, because, as IMHO the latter movies show, the characters and their relationships alone are too cookie cutter and stereotypical to carry plot and story. But since they’re all running all the time, this problem never really shows in TFOTR. Phew! I am also very happy about the decision to put Boromir’s death in the first part (can you imagine dragging that over into the second one?) and the ending that splits up the fellowship and creates the constellations that are so important for what happens afterwards.

via metalonly-forum.de

Following closely on the heels of overall structure is the pacing of the movie, which I think is fantastic, since I never get the sense that we linger too long at one particular point either in the story or on the map. There are a few moments of rest, and they are of course needed, but all in all this movie moves forward and gets us through the events without ever leaving me feeling: bwrah, another shot of XY and when do they finally leave this place Z?

So I give major credit to the pacing for enhancing the illusion of a vast world. Both structure and pacing create the sense of travelling through countries and landscapes, making the passage of time believable and bearable, which is a feature that the other two movies do not accomplish. They are plagued by having to move the Rohans to Helm’s Deep in ridiculous extras-stolling-the-plains-shots or by Aragorn meeting the ghost-army of neon-green ants in his little detour, both instances that feel strangely disconnected to the overall passage of time and distance in relation to other events. Once again, the structure is a major factor in that, especially when it comes to characters, because TFOTR admittedly has it easier in that it has all the main characters assembled and move together through Middle Earth, while part 2 and 3 have to jump back and forth between stuff happening at a variety of places. By picking up a few characters here and there or meeting important ones in places passed, the first one succeeds in introducing it’s sequence of locations and ground it in the narrative through the people we meet there and the things we learn.

via mittelerde-kurier.de

One of those instances is the whole segment taking place in and around Moria, where we solve a little riddle, fight a lake-monster, find out about the annihilation of a whole city of dwarves, meet Gollum and learn a little tinsy tiny bit about him, meet some Orks face to face and see Gandalf battling (and apparently losing to) the Balrog. While it is one unit in the film’s structure, there is a broad variety within it, it keeps moving and it excites me, even the admittedly sort of ridiculous scene on the staircase of horrors.

But the crowning jewel of all of that is, of course, Lothlorien. Awww, Lothlorien, how I love thee! Seriously, the forest is beautiful and it helps that they are major art-deco fans there, those elves, cause I’m a big fan of art-deco designs as well. But Lothlorien would only be half the fun without Galadriel, and yeah I better admit it now: I’m a huge Galadriel fan. I love the hilarious irrelevance of Celeborn (he gets a pompous intro just to be of no importance whatsoever), but I love the test that the Ring represents for Galadriel, and I love that she passes it. Since we’re in confession mode already, I got to say that the major fascination of Lord of the Rings for me lies in the power of the Ring itself. The notion that it is a tiny object with an own will that it can force upon those who possess it and turn them into its evil servants fascinates me, for it is somewhat of a metaphor for real-life concepts of evil doings in order to get either things or power. And it is of course particularly interesting to see characters being able to withstand that power. It is fascinating when Gandalf does, when Sam does, when Frodo ultimately fails, but what makes the moment with Galadriel so impressive for me is that she is this thousand year old super-wise being who already possesses a Ring of power and yet has to admit that she is tempted deeply and has to muster up all her courage and strength in order to withstand the power of the Ring. That of course makes it all the more gratifying that she actually succeeds in resisting.
All character-strength aside, I love how she seems to be this super-scary ice-queen bitch when she talks to Frodo at night, but then again seems to be mother earth with golden smiles for everyone later on, especially in the deleted scenes on the DVD, which features some more art-deco goodness to salivate on. Oh, and did I mention: Cate Blanchett. ‘Nuff said.

via ryetopia.blogspot.com

The BLAHs
Loving the power of the Ring so much, I have to mention Tom Bombadil of course. I only read the novels after seeing Fellowship of the Ring, so at the time I fell in love with it, I didn’t even know about Tom Bombadil’s existence. Having found out about it, I was sad to see him cut, cause I loved the scene in the book and of course the mystery he represents. Who is he, that he can easily resist the powers of the Ring? But I’m not super-sad, and I guess it’s rather just a BLAH than an ARGH because I’ve seen TFOTR before reading the book, so: lucky me!

And all the raving about Galadriel aside: While I really enjoyed her little power-rant the first time around, I can’t watch the scene anymore without grinning sheepishly at the tacky special effects employed there. They are really kinda ridiculous.

via tolkienlibrary.com

The ARGHs
The Uruk-Hai. Not only do they kinda suck in their crawling-out-the-mud-and-kill-the-Orks introduction (cause it’s ridiculous…”yeah, we’re born evil!”) but my oh my, those racist underpinnings. Let’s just revisit: The wise-beings who everybody loves and wants to be are tall, blond, white elves. The super-evil killer-creatures that everyone fears and does not want to get in contact with are built, black, and have dreadlocks. Ermh, yeah, what could possibly be wrong with that depiction? It perpetuates racialized stereotypes even further and acts all so what, how could that be a problem? AAAAARRRRGHHHH!! Really, I love TFOTR, but I’d love it even more if we had black elves with dreadlocks and the Viggo Mortensens and Sean Beans of this world as evil Uruk-hai. Dear everyone involved in the making of these movies: That is one horribly racist misstep that was really unnecessary.

via freude.li

Not to excuse the racist undertones of the movies, but the problem lies of course first and foremost with the books themselves. Middle Earth is not only highly racialized with its distinct categories of elves, humans, hobbits, dwarves, orks and whatnots, but it is also super-racist, cause the tall, blond, white guys are all super and yay, while all those who are smaller, darker, and supposedly uglier are stupid and of course evil. Yuck at that message. And the movie obviously never has any hint of intention to question that, celebrating their Orks as highly inefficient inter-racial (or even sub-racial?) beings (cause yeah, “mixing races” seems to be a horrible thing …*headdesk*) who are not only to be considered ugly but are also of course very stupid. Oh my. Don’t you also wish to just see the whole story retold from an Ork perspective? A la: The Great Story of Suffering of the People of Orkdom, or something? I sure would.

I could write a whole paragraph about the sexist structure of both LOTR books and movies. But I won’t go there now. It is there and I see it and I just do not want to discuss it right here. Apologeeeeez!

One minor issue that bugs me thoroughly (I mentioned it in my The Last Unicorn review) is the scene where Gandalf says to Frodo in Rivendell: “It’s October.” Red Zombie Rage! Srsly, elves and shit, outrageous places and the invention of new languages and then I’m supposed to believe that they just happen to use the same calendar as ours? With the same names for months? Every time people come with the “Tolkien’s worldbuilding is the most comprehensive and most impressive” argument I just roll my eyes because of this. October! What the hell?

via moviefanatic.com

Altogether, The Fellowship of the Ring is a movie that is firmly seated in the top 10 of my all-time favorite movies. There is a lot of goodness, but there is also enragingly stupid wrongness, and I guess my ongoing appreciation is less due to the fact that there are some great visuals and nice moments, but because as a movie it offers itself to closer scrutiny and fruitful critical readings. I can see that there are things wrong with it, but I can also say why and I can relate it to other issues of the movie and at the same time debate it in a wider cultural context. And yes, I think that is even more gratifying than sitting there being entertained and excited while gobbling down popcorn and hoping for Arwen to dump Aragorn’s stupid ass. So yay for cinematic criticism!

Yep, you better watch it!

Why music videos are great, or: Janet Jackson’s Whoops Now

Time for another instalment in my self-indulgent series of talking about what music videos I love love love for no other reason than me being able to because I say so. Ha! Haters to the left….
Whatevs…. y’all might be sayin’, just give us the damn thing and your Top 5 reasons why you love love love it. What you waiting for?

#1 Whoops now
Always a good reason to like a music video is because you like the song. In this particular case the song is really the main reason why this video makes it into the series. By Janet Jackson standards it’s certainly not the most ambitious nor necessarily the best music video she’s done, but the song is one of her best IMHO, so you gotta deal with that. I love the “Jenny from the Block”-ness of it, as in: hell yeah, I’m an international superstar in the early 90s, but folks, I know what it’s like to have to go to work at the office instead of spending quality time with my friends on the weekend. As if…. And then being on Jet-Skis and all that rich-kids-shit. But still, Janet convinces me more of keeping it real than Jenny, probably because Janet never really had it really real, so her version of real is always a sugar-coated nipple-free fun world. Or whatever.
Lil’ fun fact: The first single from the very same album “That’s the way love goes” features Jennifer Lopez as a dancer in the music video.
Another lil’ fun fact: The song itself isn’t credited on the album art, since it’s a hidden track. But being one of the best on the album they made it a single nevertheless. I’m glad bout that.

#2 This shirt
Ok, no.1 was wordy. So let’s shorten this point a little. Just look at this shirt. It’s a pink polo-shirt with turquoise trimming. Heehee, what? Obviously no stylist whatsoever was working on that project and thanks to that we have that atrocity of 90s fashion to remind us how very human even Ms. Jackson can be. The next point will prove it.

#3 The hair
Oh ma gaaaawd, that hair. If you ever wondered what decade that thing was filmed in and the shirt didn’t give it away, look no further. In German we call it Bumspalme, which can’t be translated nearly as eloquently but actually suggests that it’s a hairdo meant for sex. In a non-erotic, look-down-upon-it kinda way. But, as terrible as it is, how cute is it at the same time? With that shirt? Oh, those 90s. They sure knew how to fuck up style back then.

#4 Ms. Jackson
Simply a beautiful black woman, out with her friends, having fun in the sun. I’m not gonna lie, I’m a little creeped out by how she looks like that nowadays, which indicates that nothing about her face has aged naturally. That’s kinda sad, we can discuss this another day. That’s not to say she hasn’t had any work done by the time of the video, but since we don’t even remember her face before any nose-job, cheek-job or xx-job we take it as basically au natural, ok? And as such, here she is: A beautiful black woman, distinctively less whitewashed than in other videos or photo-spreads. A sharp reminder of what pop-culture does to color without us even noticing most of the time.

#5 private footage/music video
Now, I don’t believe for a second that any shot in that video wasn’t explicitly set up for the music vid, but since it’s done well, it doesn’t feel like it, it looks really like Ms. Jackson would be taking her vacation with a bunch of friends. What I particularly like about the direction and editing is how the parts where she’s actually singing the lyrics blend in seamlessly, even though they clearly indicate that this is no ex-boyfriend-held-the-camera-for-private-fun shoot, but a professional music video. But the effect of the casualness is very well done, and I appreciate that.

Sorry, I can’t go.

The Last Unicorn is so rare, it has books and films written and made about it

Every Christmas here in Germany “The Last Unicorn” animation film is shown on TV (usually on crappy RTL2). I’ve grown up watching the movie, I know it by heart, and ever year I force my poor family through another screening of the thing. By now, I got my sister hooked, so I’m not the only one forcing it unto other members of my family. Just recently I read the book after years and years (and years) of not doing so, so I thought: Good time to write about one of my favorite movies in the entire world!

via wikipedia.org

The Last Unicorn was written by Peter S. Beagle and published in 1968. It has turned into a classic, although it initially wasn’t overly successfully apparently. By now more than five million copies of it have been sold and it has been translated into many languages, and I’d like to think a lot of that has to do with the movie. The movie has been produced and directed by Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin Jr. for ITC Entertainment, and its screenplay had been written by Peter S. Beagle as well (who stated that he thinks the movie is magnificent). It has been released in 1982.

via wikipedia.org

There are a few differences between the book and the movie in terms of plot and characters. The main difference is the whole storyline about the town of Hagsgate that prospers and knows no death because the rest of King Haggard’s country has to suffer, and the whole connection that Prince Lír has to the village, the foretelling about him bringing down the king and his castle and his subsequent ascendancy to the throne. There are also minor differences like the four soldiers in King Haggard’s castle in the book, the extension of the scene of Schmendrick with the enchanted tree in the movie, and the physical description of characters (most notably when it comes to Mommy Fortuna). Apart from that a lot of the dialogue in the film is taken directly from the book and reading it I felt like watching the movie. I read the book in German, so I guess a lot of its beauty in English is lost to me (well, I can still go and read it in English another time), but the German version was well-written and didn’t read like a translation, so, no complaints there.
Would you ask me to pick I probably would go with the movie. Part of that is without a doubt me growing up watching it every year, but I also like the concise point it makes, more so than the book with the Hagsgate storyline (which is short, admittedly) that reads overly moralistic in a book that already asks a lot of moral questions. Then again, the film version has its own flaw: The musical interludes. Yep, sometimes the characters sing, and it is especially painful when Lady Amalthea (aka the Unicorn) and Prince Lír profess their love for each other in song. Argh, now that I think about it maybe I should rather pick the novel over the film. Bottom line is, they are both really good.

via animatedviews.com

So, what is The Last Unicorn actually about? Other than the plot of a unicorn finding out about being the only one and saving all the others.
The question is not that easy to answer, which has to do with the different characters and the different things they stand for, I guess. One possible answer is: happiness. A world without unicorns is a world without happiness. As much as King Haggard is portrayed to be the villain, he is also one to identify with: There is little that makes him happy, entertainment, money, power, they all do nothing for him, even human contact doesn’t. But to look at unicorns and feel the joy, that is what keeps him alive. But what then is happiness? Possessing beautiful things? Pets? Enslaving other creatures? Hardly. So we could dig deeper and ask what the unicorn potentially stands for, and obviously there is also a moral tale. The unicorn and its close relationship to the forest is a strong symbol for the unity of all living matter, the necessity of cooperation between creatures and nature to make things work, to create a beautiful and healthy environment. However, the unicorn also stands for magic, being a magical creature it is a symbol of human imagination, of the things and the beauty human beings can come up with when they dream. The novel does not endorse just any sort of dream though, because as it repeatedly makes clear: you have to be pure-hearted and kind-spirited to be able to recognize the unicorn for what it is.

via laidown.com

One thing the unicorn is, is immortal. And another major theme of both novel and movie is the relationship we human beings have with death. The unicorn cannot die and once it is trapped in a human body it feels the flesh dying, something it has never felt before. Now, we don’t exactly feel ourselves dying, but we feel ourselves getting older, and facing the reality of our own death is something we all eventually have to do.
The Last Unicorn presents and comments upon various concepts of dealing with death and decay. There is Schmendrick, a sort of antithesis to the unicorn, because he is a mortal who becomes immortal temporarily (which is a paradox, I know thankyouverymuch), but wishes to age and die, because for him immortality is not just a symbolic sign of stagnation and zero development, but actually a very concrete reminder of his own inability to use magic the way he is supposed to be using it.
Molly Grue as a character feels like people we all know I’d say: Someone who hasn’t aged well, not only in a physical sense, but also in a spiritual one, because she had dreams and hopes and nothing ever really came of it. “Where have you been?” she asks the unicorn, “how dare you come to Molly Grue now that I am old?” Which is touching, because I’ve seen people like that time and again. And I always think that those people should not give up, which is what saves Molly Grue in the end. She thought that she had reached a point where it was all that is to it, but then there is the unicorn, the ability to dream of magic, and adventures ensue, which for her really mean doing chores somewhere else, but also expanding her horizons, meeting challenges and forming intimate bonds with other people.
King Haggard on the other hand has obviously been around far too long. He doesn’t even want to live, and he knows it, but he isn’t strong enough to let go. He is a slave to the Red Bull and/or the Red bull is a slave to him, the relationship is so old that they both don’t really remember, I suppose. He has never been happy, and he probably never really will be, cause his greed has brought him only one thing: Loss. He lost the ability to enjoy what he has, to appreciate it, and the only time he remembers what it means to appreciate what you have is when he looks at something he possesses but doesn’t really have: the unicorns and their connection with all living beings.

via tvmovie.de

There is not much to comment on with Prince Lír. Other than his father he too experiences loss (the love of his life, no less), but he becomes a better person for it, grows because of it, instead of stagnating like his father. Captain Cully becomes a better person because of losing his wife and men, singing and touring across the countries. And yes, of course, the Red Bull himself … There is a lot he potentially stands for and just because I can, I leave this one untouched for now.
A pet-peeve of mine is inconsistency within fictional universes. Now, The Last Unicorn is clearly fictional, although there is the occasional hint at a connection to our world, like e.g. the whole Robin Hood scene that brings Molly Grue to Schmendrick and the unicorn. And I can accept that, that is mighty fine with me. But what bugs me, is the butterfly and his crazy talk which would be okay if it weren’t for him talking about events that happen in a time that is clearly in the future (at least in my head) for the characters within the story. Or are we supposed to think that the world in The Last Unicorn is set in the future of our world? Then there is no representation of noble deeds other than Robin Hood? C’mon, really? It’s like this point in Lord of the Rings when Gandalf says to wakening Frodo in Rivendell “It’s October” and I’m all like: Wait what? You invent whole languages for peoples populating this fictional universe and you won’t even come up with other terms for months? Or another system of counting time, a different sort of calendar? Can’t accept that, sorry. So, Mr. Butterfly, you get little love from me.

via brer-powerofbabel.blogspot.com

However, there is one part of the story I particularly like. In the movie even more so than in the novel, probably because that is really my image of the character. It is of course the part about Mommy Fortuna, how she captures the unicorn and Schmendrick, who we meet there for the first time, sets her free.
What I love about the whole passage is how it sums up so nicely what the rest of the story tries to convey: we are all mortals, trying to find a way to immortality, but we probably couldn’t even handle it.
Mommy Fortuna knows that she is a minor witch and will never become a great person that all humankind will remember infinitely. But she managed to capture two immortal beings, the unicorn and the harpy. She doesn’t say it in the book, but if I remember correctly says it in the movie: This is her kind of immortality. She might be long gone and forgotten by all other mortal beings, but the harpy cannot die, she is immortal and will forever remember the time she was held prisoner by Mommy Fortuna – and that is Mommy’s kind of immortality, being remembered forever by the harpy she humiliated by capturing. I love the brilliance of the concept, the sharpness of the honesty that Mommy Fortuna is able to tell herself that she isn’t made for greatness, but that the unlikely event of capturing immortal beings grants her a place in history that will be remembered longer than any history that human beings write down and pass on. And although I think we should not get stuck on dichotomies, I kinda really like the dichotomy of two immortal beings who are so very different from each other that one of them is willing to kill the other.

Okeyi, sum-up time. Needless to repeat it, but I do so nevertheless: The Last Unicorn, both novel and film, is a great story. It is grand exactly because it knows how to avoid mere gestures of grandness, the characters do not need to be stereotypical heroes and princesses, but they need to be flawed beings (even the unicorn, who has to learn that a mortal existence is no less of an existence than hers) in order to be able to achieve greatness and thus make the story grand and epic.

Get it, read it, watch it.