Divergent

 

Divergent (2014) by Neil Burger

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Let me start by saying: I haven’t read the books (yet). They’re somewhere on that long list of want-to-read books I hope to get to in the future and watching the movie certainly pushed them up quite a bit.

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I’m intrigued by the concept of the story. But I’m also a little confused. Let’s look at the plot:

In a not too distant future in post-war Chicago, society is being sorted into five factions. When Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley) is tested for the special virtue that will decide which faction she might best fit in, she finds out that she’s divergent – she possesses multiple virtues which means she might not fit in anywhere.

Divergents are considered dangerous in the society she lives in and changes within the government lead to the systematic prosecution of divergents. Beatrice must learn to hide in her chosen faction to avoid detection. But hiding ceases to be an option when her parents’ faction becomes the target of a vicious attack.

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I guess it’s a little like getting into Hogwarts and being sorted into houses by virtue but then, of course, it’s not like the Harry Potter-series at all. There’s no magic, there’s technology. Nobody has a super power and having multiple virtues can actually paralyze the bearer.

As I said, the concept is certainly intriguing, but having only watched the movie, I feel that it was not able to convey the layers of the complex social system that lies beneath the story – at least I hope that something like this exists in the books.  Thus the movie left me a little restless to find out more – which is not bad in itself, it just makes the movie a bit dissatisfying.

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Something that cannot be said about the acting. To be sure, I watched the movie because of Kate Winslet. She is a singular reason that never fails to attract me and she’s amazing, and amazingly evil. I love her character, I love how she protrays her – and I love that I can usually trust Kate to star in watchable movies that rarely disappoint. The star of the movie, Shailene Woodley, doesn’t either. She’s vibrant, she’s a good actress, and it’s actually a little disconcerting how much she reminds me of a younger Kate Winslet. It was good to see Ashley Judd again – even in a rather small role, she certainly made an impression. The same goes for Zoe Kravitz and Mekhi Phifer.

I liked this movie, and not just because of the great casting choices. It’s interesting, smart, has great pacing. Beside the fact that I felt a little left out of the loop where background was concerned (I’m aware that the medium does not allow for delving into it too much or the pace would suffer), I feel that I could have done with less of the love story between Tris (Beatrice changes her name to Tris after chosing a new faction) and Four (Theo James). Some of the dialogue in these scenes was also rather corny. But apart from that it’s certainy watchable and I’m looking forward to reading the books and then (maybe) come back for the second film of the series.

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Book vs. Film – The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games (2008) by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games (2012) by Gary Ross

It’s been awhile since I read the book and I read it in two days – the following two days I read the second book. Which is to say that my memory of these four days that happened sometime last August are vague at best. Also, these four days immediately followed me writing my bachelor thesis… wow, I just remembered that. I am amazed that I  remember reading The Hunger Games at all.

I loved the book – the first one, that is. It is well-paced, it is exciting, it is captivating. Katniss Everdeen is not a likely hero, sometimes she is not even likable. But she is practical, and I think this is one of her best characteristics. It is what makes her effective, leave it to Peeta to be likable.

The story is not simple: Thirteen districts fought against the Capital in a war  about 74 years ago and they lost. That is why “The Hunger Games” were invented. Each district – except 13, because 13 has been wiped off the map – sacrifices 2 of their children to these games where only one will survive. A cruel concept, kids killing each other off and this concept works much better in the book than it does in the movie.

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) from District 12 volunteers to participate after her sister Prim has been chosen. She and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), a baker’s son, travel to the games. Katniss makes an impression with the judges when she shoots an arrow at a roasted pig they are about to eat while she is performing. She is considered to be a strong fighter but also a high risk by President Snow who fears an uprising of the 12 districts.

And he is right: Katniss’ behavior in the arena defies standards. She becomes a recognizable face who cares for others. She becomes the underdog everybody loves – including Peeta who has been in love with her since forever. It is this love that sponsors and audience crave and the organizers of the games use it to their advantage. But in the end it is Katniss who challenges everybody and wins – but the price for this victory might be high.

The movie follows the same storyline. Katniss Everdeen has been well cast with Jennifer Lawrence. The fighting is amazing, the supporting cast is great with young and older actors/actresses that show great performances. Still, I did not enjoy the movie half as much as those two dazed days I read the book.

Of course, there is always the premise that the book is considered better, more elaborate. The story has more space to reveal itself, we learn more about the characters, a new world opens infront of our eyes. But it is not only these undeniable truths that pretty much work for every literary adaptation. I felt that the movie lacked a lot of the warmth the book holds. Katniss is a loving person, even though she is not the most show-y when it comes to affections. She cares deeply. The movie shows very little of this. It seems the movie makers readily sacrifice the warmth of the book for the Twilight-look, as I would like to call it. Well, with vampires this might work but The Hunger Games is about human beings – even though some of them have a twisted sense as to the definition of entertainment.

A lot of the coldness of the movie derives from the sterile settings. From the book, I had the sense that everything in the Capital would be luscious, overly plushy, kitschy. But many of the settings were bare. The scenes in the training area are especially disappointing, metallic, and, yes, cold.

This, of course, does not a bad movie make. I am usually not someone who builds too many expectations but I was still disappointed. The movie in all was entertaining but not something out of the ordinary. The best aspects were the great cast, and seeing some of the more memorable scenes of the book unfold – though the whole storyline with Rue (Amandla Stenberg) was… again, disappointing.

I have already mentioned that the aspect of kids or young adults killing each other is more difficult to put into a movie than a book. Although the book was quite graphic, it was not visual. The killing of that small curly-haired boy (was he from District 5?), for example, was gruesome. The premise of The Hunger Games is, of course, this same cruelty, the unfairness, the paralysis of the parents but actually seeing these young people killing others their age (and some of them even enjoying it) is disturbing, especially considering that many among the audience are the same age as the youngest that are being killed here. I am not exactly a prude when it comes to violence in the movies (horror after all, is one of my favorite genres) but this was harsh… maybe because it felt real.

The love triangle is certainly something I could have done without – book and movie. Considering the book, I always hoped that the girl who gave Katniss the mokingjay-pin would reappear (she was the mayor’s daughter but I don’t remember her name) and I totally would have shipped them. But she was cut from the movie (which made for an awkward mokingjay-pin exchange with Prim as a token that was not really a lucky charm). Just like in the book, I found movie-Gail much more appealing than movie-Peeta, so, I guess, you can put me down for Team Gail (Liam Hemsworth).

On the whole, the movie was okay, entertaining, with a great cast. But make no mistake – the book was AWESOME.

Book vs. Film – Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go (2005) by Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go (2010) by Mark Romanek

Yes, I have written about this movie before but now I have also read the novel. And let me tell you: it is just as good. Actually book and movie are not that different. And this is quite an accomplishment if you consider that the book is written by I-narrator Kathy. Ishiguro has written the screenplay together with Alex Garland and they succeed in telling the same bittersweet, touching, and complex story.

Obviously, the novel takes a closer look at the feeling of the narrator, the reader learns more about the issues of the homes and the kids that are to donate.  But Kathy and her peers seem just as naive as they are in the movie. Miss Lucy tells Tommy that things are not explained enough and this holds true even in the novel. Sometimes it gets a little tiresome to have Kathy explain things repeatedly but it works well within the context of the story, Kathy’s wish to preserve memories.

I wrote in my former post that I read some subtext into Ruth’s feelings for Kathy. This also holds true for the novel. Ruth does not seem to care much for anybody, at least not romantically, yet she is bound to Kathy not only by acquaintance, or the coincidence that they grew up together. And one has the feeling that she always fights Kathy more than is necessary…

The book tells us more about Miss Lucy’s story. She is a key character in both versions but the book explores her more thoroughly, is giving her more time with the other characters – especially with Tommy. Tommy’s dilemma with his art and creativity is further elaborated on which is good because this aspect of the movie seemed rather confusing. In all, the novel fills the gaps that the movie cannot fill. It is also well-written. If you find the time, put it on your reading list, it certainly is worth your while.

Harry Potter 7.2

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (2011) by David Yates

This is where Potter continues – and ends. And it is as many have said: an era ends. We have all grown up or older with him and his friends and it is sad to see them all go. But if you have to go, go in a blast of fire and rubble and don’t look back, I guess.

First of all, the movie was dark. Those who have thought it was darkest last, have come to know an even darker dark. But it was magnificently shot – just think of that early shot of Snape standing in that window, it was fantastic. The dark figure, the grey backdrop… fantastic.

Finally, we got to see all of Snape’s (Alan Rickman) story and it is a bitter one. Having been in love with Harry’s mom, Lilly, from an early age, he had to watch her falling for that no-good Potter guy. Don’t tell me, you did not feel for him there, it was so sad. And, of course, he was an almost good guy in the way he protected Harry and even killed Dumbledore (Michael Gambon). Well, I was one of those who always thought that the headmaster’s faith in him was not misplaced, so there.

And another one got part of the action: Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis). And he is the secret hero of the whole showdown – as he was also in the book. I love the scene where he walks into the middle of the baddies and says: “I am Neville Longbottom.” and everybody laughs but he certainly raises the spirit. Another thing I love with the Harry Potter-franchise is, that I think all actors stuck to it (I think Dumbledore was the only main character who was played by more than one actor – due to Richard Harris’s death). To see those boys and girls grow up. Remember Ginny (Bonnie Wright) from the first movie? I do. And Neville has grown into a man before our eyes – he was always brave but he finally got to be the hero.

While I loved most things about the last installment, there are some things… well, what happened to Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), people? Suddenly, she grows all soft on us and just drools over Ron and tells him how awesome he is? WTF? You know, Hermione is my favorite character (Bellatrix Lestrange is a close second – go figure), and she has always been quite the heroine, someone little girls can look up to. And then she kisses Ron and is turned into his lapdog? Wrong move all together. Because it feels like girls have to be sweet and doleful to get a guy, because Hermione did not get much from Ron when she was always better at everything… it just feels wrong, is all.

I have already mentioned the difficulties I had with taking Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) seriously. That still holds. Bellatrix (Helena Bonham Carter) was such a great villain, she was so mean, so… evil. And Voldemort never got his s**t together. I mean, he couldn’t even be called evil because he failed at every attempt at it. His minions were always more successful at spreading terror than him. Maybe next time we just need a strong female adversary for our superhero (or preferably superheroine) and not some dude without nose and strange manerisms. Just saying.

All in all, though… it is hard to believe that Harry’s (Daniel Radcliffe) gone, that Hermione’s gone (and a wife and mother – I did not like the ending in the book or in the movie… it’s too heteronormative, and altogether disturbing…), that Ron’s (Rupert Grint) gone. We’ll miss ’em. We will even miss Draco (Tom Felton) and his weirdly colored hair… another thing I would have liked to see (again in the book and the movie): a coming out of the wizarding world. I mean, there has been much that happened in the muggle world that was related to the war between good and evil wizards and you, Joanne K. Rowling, are telling us that after the final battle we have all gone back to normal? Pity that, ’cause how great would it have been if the Hogwarts Train in the end had left from platform 7, instead of 9 3/4?

Oh, one last word to Maggie Smith: KAZOOM, lady, KAZOOM!

Book vs. Film – The Wives of Bath vs. Lost and Delirious

The Wives of Bath (1993) by Susan Swan

Lost and Delirious (2001) by Léa Pool

I love films but, incidentally, literature has always been my more cherished first love. If there is a way to combine these two passions of mine, I am always already hooked to the idea. I am not sure when I first saw Lost and Delirious. Have I read about it somewhere and ordered the dvd hoping it was good? Have I accidently come across it on tv? Was it something somebody told me to watch? I don’t remember but I certainly do remember that the first time I watched it I read that it was based on the book The Wives of Bath – and yes, I am one of those weird people that read the credits, opening and closing. And I am saying “based on” here because the film says it is “based on” not “inspired by,” which would probably have been the better description. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.

(that is the German dvd-cover, by the way, I like it)

I love the movie. Yes, I know it is not so easy to work through like a good lesbian comedy, but I still think it is worth our while. It tells the story of a shakespearean love, passionate love, a love lost becomes delirious. Strangely enought the narrator of the story is not one of the two lovers. It is Mouse Bedford (Mischa Barton), who has been shipped off to boarding school by her evil step-mother and rooms with Paulie (Piper Parabo) and Tori (Jessica Paré). Paulie and Tori are in love (they are not lesbians, they just love each other).

When some younger students, among them Tori’s little sister, surprise Tori and Paulie in bed with each other, Tori tells her sister that Paulie slipped into bed with her without her knowing and that Paulie has a crush on her but that she herself is totally into guys. She breaks up with Paulie and Paulie snaps. In the end we have another dead lesbian and the dignity of outrageous rightousness on our side, a bitter sweet ending that once again confirms that life is not fair.

(there is actually a different book by the same title out there, so make sure you get a copy of the book by Susan Swan)

The book is another matter. Mouse Bradford (yes, the movie makers changed the last names of the three main characters, although the German dvd-cover actually says Mary Bradford, not Bedford – probably just to say that we also know the book and not just the movie, we are snobbish that way) is shipped off to boarding school by her step-mother, but she is not evil, nor is her father quite the touchy kind that he is in the movie. And it is mostly her relationship to her father – or lack thereof – we are told of (the movie puts more emphasize on the mother-daughter relationship of both Mouse and Paulie). Morley is a doctor who works too much and Mouse worries about him but not enough as it turns out that Morley later dies of a heart attack.

Although Paulie and Tori do have a relationship, Paulie disguizes herself as Paulie’s brother Lewis to be with her beloved and it is not quite clear if Tori knows that Paulie and Lewis are the same person (I would argue that she knew but that it really did not matter to her much). The case of Paulie is more complicated as Paulie sees herself as a boy – and the fact that Lewis is working on the school’s premises as a caretaker proves that she is very good at passing. Tori’s brother Rick raises suspicion that Lewis might not be a boy and in order to prove that he is, Paulie kills the caretaker Sergeant to get his genitals. She is declared insane in court.

Although the names of the characters are quite consistent, the book and the film tell two completely different stories. The characters themselves are very different. Mary “Mouse,” for example, has a hump in the book, while Mary “Mouse” in the film is merely a little younger and very shy. The imagery is also completely different. While movie maker Léa Pool works with images of Shakespearean gallantry and nativism, which finally reasolves in Paulie’s rebirth as animal/bird, the book’s central image is the mighty “King Kong” and Tori substitutes for the white woman. Susan Swan paints the picture of a transgendered FTM, and in Mouse’s flashbacks to the trial she defies Freudian theory of penis envy and declares that one does not have to have a penis to make a woman happy, that only man think one has to have one. Swan does not merely draw a picture of a lesbian love that cannot survive heteronormative conventions but a picture of plurality within “lesbian” experience – or maybe “queer” would be the better word here.

The times the stories play out in are also completely different. The book takes place around the event of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, while the film seems to be located cosily in the 1990s. The disparity is great. But both book and movie are worth reading and re-reading, watching and re-watching.

Back to tv: South of Nowhere

You may not know this but I loved South of Nowhere – or as little of it as I was able to download from the net. I have only watched the first season but it was a great show that unfortunately only made it through three seasons.

This was a show that never made it to the German tv screens and it really is a shame because as far as drama goes, and teenage struggles, and sexuality among teenagers, it was really good. The good news is, they want to make a movie out of the show and they (cast and crew) want you to watch these two videos – that is, 100.000 of you until April 27 (thank you to afterellen.com).

So, here you go, watch:

and:

Well, I hope the movie will come, this all looks really good (I can’t fathom how much I missed those characters – except for Glenn, of course).

Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go (2010) by Mark Romanek

Unexpectedly, I watched a really good movie this week. Why unexpectedly? Because I watch movies for the strangest of reasons. For Never Let Me Go the reason was that the novel it was based on was written by Kazuo Ishiguro and I remembered that he had also written The Remains of the Day. Not that I have read either novel but I do believe that some novelists write perfect stories for movies and I guess Ishiguro is one of them – all based on the fact that I love The Remains of the Day.

I did not read the short synopsis for the film so I was utterly unprepared for what was to come. The movie catapults us into a strange ultimate universe – without telling us so, after all everything looks just like good ol’ Britain to me – where clones are bred as inventories for human spare parts. The kids that grow up to be donors live in special homes out in the country without interaction with the outside world.

The story follows three of these kids, Kathy (Carey Mulligan), Ruth (Keira Knightley), and Tommy (Andrew Garfield), whose lives are interwoven as they befriend and fall in love with each other. Ruth turns out to be rather selfish in that love since she pretty much steals Tommy away from Kathy out of – as she later confesses – jealousy. Though she states that she was jealous of the love that grew between Kathy and Tommy there are also indications that she may have been in love with Kathy (I don’t know what the novel says about this but I may yet find out…).

As they grow up their paths devide but will ultimately reunite the three. Ruth makes her confession and Kathy and Tommy try to recapture what they had. But their time is short as they are heading toward their conclusion – which is just a nicer way to say: death.

The story is captivating, the idea of a world where humans breed clones for spare parts is scary but is never really moralized over within the movie, the spectator is to draw their own conclusions as to the question: do clones have souls?

The acting is great. Besides the wonderful three leads (and also the very talented younger selfs – Isobel Meikle-Small, Ella Purnell, Charlie Rowe) we have Charlotte Rampling as Miss Emily who leads the home the three live in, and Sally Hawkins as Miss Lucy, a teacher who critiques the system a little bit too audibly. And let me tell you, Keira Knightley can be quite scary!

This is a great movie and finally an innovative story. Hollywood does not do innovative that much these days so maybe we have to turn to Brititsh movie making to see something good these days…

RMB: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Back in the days I have probably watched each Buffy-episode only once… except for the sixth season which I have on cds (yes, cds). Now I have just watched the first season and man, how much one forgets. For example, that you can get addicted to a show like Buffy.

Even with all this hair (there’s really a lot of hair in those first twelve eps) it is a great show. Sure, it is pretty much “demon of the week” mentality but the legendary one-liners (each and every one you could print on a t-shirt), the chemistry, the nerdiness… and rewatching I even like Angel (a little).

I never liked Angel – or Cordelia for that matter – and I was actually relieved when he got his own show which I never watched. And when he took Cordelia and that weird Windham-Price (was that even his name?) with him I was really glad.

But back to Buffy. I spent the last few days watching the first season and it was great – I said that already. But what really got to me was the chemistry between Buffy and Willow. I actually see some subtext there… weird since every time they talk to each other it’s about “boys.” Maybe it’s about the way Willow pronounces “boys” – is she trying to convince herself that this topic might interest her? Then again knowing Willow’s way this kind of thinking is probably not surprising.

Well, this is also the first time I am watching the first season in English and I am as always amazed at how much better it is to the German dubbing (not that it was bad in this case, it is actually okay other than with Xena which was mainly horrible – the translation was, the voices were okay). With Buffy there are so many popcultural references and you don’t get all of them in the German translation.

I am looking forward to watching the whole show again although that won’t be for some time since money is always a factor (I hate it when they not only make the dvd boxes expensive but on top of that make two boxes out of one season – I am not sure they do this elsewhere but they do it in Germany, it sucks.

I am looking forward to meeting Faith again, and Tara… some of the greatest stories already come back to haunt me and I would like to watch them all right now… and then there is always season 7 which I have yet to watch. Did I mention that I never watched season 7 (except for the first three episodes)? Well, Whedon killed off Tara in season 6 and so I lost interest. I am loyal like that and it was not like anybody except Buffy ever came back from the dead (okay, many others did come back but it was usually as vampires and that did not make them quite immortal with Buffy around, if you know what I mean)… Tara was my favorite at the time, I had already lost Faith…

Well, it is good reminiscing every once in a while. Now I am going back to my paper. It’s Sunday, a good day to going back to something you have once loved, whether just remembering it, or maybe re-watching it. Sometimes it is also good to remember that tv did not always suck (pun intended).

Back to TV: Glee

It has been some time since  I first wrote about Glee and I may not be as undevidedly positive about it anymore. But I still like it a lot and I especially liked it today (living in Germany has its drawbacks especially when it comes to TV, let me tell you). I like how tv can emotionally drain you and Tuesday’s episode of “Glee” did just that: it drained me. Or more acurately this face

broke my heart.

Y’know, I never liked Santana much. Sure, she is hot, and her story line with Brittany was always a lesbian highlight, still… Santana, too bitchy, too typically bi-curious. And then she came out as “don’t put a label on me” and it just got to me.

Two weeks ago I had a blog entry about “Glee” planned. It was entirely Rachel’s fault, seeing her in flannel made me think about her sexuality and on how gay she really is. So I thought about how gay the show was and how gay every single one of the characters was and I actually made a gay-meter (no, I do not have any other hobbies, I fill my time with thinking about how gay tv show characters are… not really, only when I cannot sleep). And guess what, Santana actually scored lower than Rachel while Brittany was just topped by Kurt (I did not include Blaine since he’s not at McKinley). Well, I guess I was wrong about Santana…

Several times after having watched the episode this morning I have thought back on that heartbroken face and it actually made me incredibly sad. I never thought Santana could do that to me but I guess it is a credit to Naya Rivera’s acting skills and in moments like this I appreciate acting and the significance it has within culture – and that culture as thus has value in my life.

Glee is a great show. Maybe I am going to come back to it and write about it’s sociological value as comment on today’s (American) society but today I just want to say that it made me feel – as trivial as that may sound – and I am grateful to be able to hold on and cherish this (I get so sappy sometimes but I am sure you know what I am talking about).

Pretty Little Liars – Follow-up

Have you ever noticed how people in TV shows and films always knock, like there was no door bell? What is that all about?

Anyways I though I come back to you on the topic of Pretty Little Liars or short the PLLs. Here is another visual, just so we don’t forget what they look like:

So, they have been back for some weeks on your tv screen and it’s getting weirder and weirder – which is not to say that it’s bad. It isn’t. The girls are likable – though still all suspect -, so are the boys who play their love-interests/suspects-of-the-week/dickless boyfriends (that last one I borrowed from Heather Hogan – I bow to her genius), and, of course, A is still vicious, and glorious at it.

I still like Emily best; but then who wouldn’t, they actually show her more in her swim suit these days than in anything else (I am so glad the actress is old enough so I can say this without perving).

But another part of enjoying the show so much are the recaps on Afterellen.com by Heather Hogan. I may not catch each and every reference to American culture but I do get some and think they are hilarious. Heather Hogan is hilarious, sometimes I enjoy her recaps more than the actual show… okay, the visual is better on the show… and did you see Aria in that skimpy little red dress – or Spencer with a tie… I am not saying anything about Emily and swim suits again, no, I won’t.

Read the recaps here.

Okay, I was looking for one of Emily in her swim suit and found one of Shay on a Harley – I get distracted too easily!

What was I gonna say? Oh, yeah, good show, quirky, glammy, with just the right amount of dericulousness to love it… and I do love it. It’s one of my three favorites now… I will tell you about the other two, too. Soon.

P.S.: I must confess that I have a crush on Caleb. I could say that it is because he looks and dresses like a lesbian but I won’t say that. Instead I would suggest it is because he is so wonderfully butch compared to dickless Sean.

As of this weeks episode I figured it out: Caleb IS a lesbian (and I guess, so is Toby…). Maybe I haven’t been paying attention but the only time I read about one person asking another: “Are u sure?” when they were about to have sex was in Xena-fanfiction, and Xena-uber-fanfiction (spreading through all genres, I swear!).

P.P.S.: Regarding A – I figured out there must at least be 4 or 5 As. Think about it, u have to have at least four to stalk each PLL and possibly one who does all the other mischief, keep an eye on parents etc. Anyways, now that Paige kissed Emily A probably already has a picture of it… hmmm… I wonder which parent is gonna get mail these days. Will we have another girl outed by photos sent by mail, a certain redhead, for example?