A Reading List (No Joyce! Or Swift!): Historical Fiction

Near Temple Bar, Dublin

Near Temple Bar, Dublin

Self rode around Dublin on the Hop On-Hop Off double-decker bus today (the weather was gorgeous!).  Self met two fellow Americans who, it turns out, hail from Daly City, California!  She stayed on that bus for about two hours.  Her thoughts began to revolve around UK-centric historical fiction she has read and enjoyed.

Naturally, she loves Catherine Dunne (especially Another Kind of Life) and Sarah Waters (especially Fingersmith and The Night Watch), but here are some others that sprang to mind:

Ivanhoe, by Sir Walter Scott:  Set at the time of the Norman Conquest (plus self remembers it was made into a pretty fab BBC mini-series, with Ciaran Hinds playing villain)

The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Baroness Orczy (Surely that’s a pseudonym?  This was the novel self voraciously read and re-read, summers in Bacolod)

The Eagle of the Ninth, by Rosemary Sutcliff (Did anyone see Channing in the film adaptation?  So gorgeous, even when wearing Roman toga)

From Hell, by Alan Moore (The first book self bought on this trip; she spent a gorgeous April afternoon reading it in Russell Square, and then had to mail it home because it was too heavy to lug to Ireland)

One of self’s all-time favorites is Sebastian Barry’s anguished novel of World War I, A Long, Long Way.

And she knows a writer who is addicted to Nora Roberts.

Today self bought a wee pocketbook from the National Gallery of Art:  The Happy Prince & Other Stories by Oscar Wilde.  Oh, she cried already after reading the title story.  It was just so — poignant.  The swallow and the Prince, each dying of neglect, but united by generosity of spirit (Clearly, self adores angst!)

Now to read the next story, “The Nightingale and the Rose.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

 

Game of Thrones 4.3 Unfolds

Self missed the first five minutes of tonight’s episode. Whenever The Man knows how badly self wants to watch something, he does something creative like turn the sound down completely, and pretend he can hear fine while self asks plaintively, Can you please turn up the volume.  Those few precious seconds before self walks to the TV and turns up the sound herself, those are his triumph.

Tonight, self was in front of her computer in son’s room, but she kept one ear cocked for the Game of Thrones theme music.  At precisely 9:04, she dashed to the living room to check and found Sansa being rowed out to a ship: apparently, the episode had started a few minutes earlier.  The Man was grinning like a Cheshire Cat. Do you see what an effort is required of self to maintain some semblance of equanimity, dear blog readers? To blog on a regular basis, when someone is constantly playing tricks on her?  Nevertheless, self is nothing if not determined.  She will not — repeat, NOT — permit anyone’s silly antics to distract her from her true avowed purpose!

SPOILER ALERT!

As soon as Khaleesi enters the picture, self tears her eyes from the flat-screen HDTV to post. There’s some hoo-ha about which of Khaleesi’s champions will confront the challenger from the opposing army.  The hunk Daario wins the bidding competition and doesn’t even need to get within six feet of his opponent — slain, QED. Piss on the ground afterwards to show extent of contempt.  Self still can’t get over that this Daario is brown-haired, while the one last season was blonde. Plus, why does Khaleesi still sound as if she’s taking vocal enunciation lessons.

There is more amusing chicanery with Arya and The Hound, in which a poor farmer gets banged on the head with the blunt end of a sword and loses all his silver.

Cersei and Ser Jaime have wild, hot sex, in front of Joffrey’s corpse.

The New Malevolence (The character’s name is Oberyn Martell, which sounds seriously ridiculous. Let’s stick to calling him The New Malevolence) is shown cavorting in bed with a blonde boy-whore, who reveals he is 25 years old. There is ample view of the boy’s backside, as well as of the ample bosoms of sundry anonymous harlots.

Tyrion has a very emo scene with faithful Podrick. As he turns to go, Podrick reveals that he has been offered a knighthood in return for his offering testimony against Tyrion at his trial. At which Tyrion urges him to get as far away from King’s Landing as possible. “Podrick,” quoth Tyrion, “This is good-bye.” Oh, the FEELZ!

Sam does something incomprehensible:  in order to save Gilly from the lustful stares of 100 warriors at Castle Black, he drops her off at a brothel, where she is surrounded by xxx awful harlots and their dubious clientele.  In exchange for some coin, Gilly and her baby are offered a place to sleep — in a filthy barn stall.  Yes, Sam, way to show your love.

The Wildlings (that’s Ygritte, for those of you not quite up to speed on GOT) and their new Cannibal Allies attack a village, wreak bloodthirsty mayhem, and ensure that one little boy escapes to Castle Black to deliver horrible eyewitness account of the atrocities.

Khaleesi hurls parcels over the walls of a mountain fortress.  As the people within seem to consist of either:  a) bare-chested slaves; and b) sissies in blue silk tunics, self is quite satisfied that this gesture will result in easy victory.  She doesn’t even have to wait for the Big Reveal to know the outcome, but all right all right, here’s what the parcels actually contained:  broken chain collars.  Three Cheers for the Ever Righteous Khaleesi!  Always so on point with political symbolism!

Will Littlefinger preserve Sansa’s honor or will he — gulp — tarnish her purity? (For only the nth time, self finds herself exclaiming, regarding Sansa:  SHE IS SO STUPID)

Will Jaime ever be able to keep his thing in his pants in future encounters with his beloved sister?  WHERE IS BRIENNE WHEN YOU NEED HER?

No further scenes of Theon degradation in this episode, thank goodness.  WHERE IS YARA GREYJOY?

Ser Davos asks his little friend, the princess with scales on her cheek, to write him a magnificent letter saying xxxx

(To be continued. Self will be in London for 4.4.  She’s not sure if the place she’s staying at will have TV in the rooms. Where oh where can she watch the episode?)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

“Look! The Pie!” : Game of Thrones 4.2

No Khaleesi in last night’s episode. Good.  Episodes just get so portentous and clunky when Khaleesi and her dragons put in an appearance, at least they do in self’s humble opinion.

SPOILER ALERT!!!

There was one major character death, some scenes of further Theon Greyjoy degradation (He apparently now sleeps with the hounds), some fluff involving Shea and Tyrion and the much-anticipated Purple Wedding (No, that scene between Tyrion and Shae was more than fluff.  More like Shakesperean tragedy. Ugh, self hated Tyrion’s words. Of course he had to say them.  Is it possible that Tyrion could love Shae any more than he does? But in order to save her life, he had to get her away as far from himself as possible. Tyrion, you are so noble!)

There was more of that slim-hipped bad guy with the neatly trimmed beard.  His partner to the wedding feast looked like she might have stepped out of Return of the Jedi or something. (There was a snippet of him exchanging amorous looks with Sir Loras, one of self’s favorite secondary characters. A promise of intrigue yet to come!)

The scenery was bright, more Mediterranean than United Kingdom.

Cersei was monstrous.  Perhaps even more monstrous than Joffrey.

Self’s favorite line of the night:  “Look!  Here comes the pie!”

Strategic Distraction!  Such a clever girl, Margaery Tyrrell is (Not to mention, her wedding gown was absolutely gorgeous.  The color! The intricate beadwork! The relatively discreet baring of back and front! Sexy but definitely NOT salacious!)

Brienne appeared, plainly garbed in a blue tunic, and Cersei became very hard-eyed.

That scene where Cersei approaches Brienne, and starts making all kinds of nasty insinuations — self loved that the camera gave at least equal attention to Brienne’s face.  And the Maid of Tarth’s face, especially at that moment, and given who she was talking to, just looked so — pure.  Baffled.  Like maybe Brienne was thinking:  What is this woman going on about?  But when Cersei stated (not asked, stated):  “But you love him,” bless her heart, Brienne didn’t even have the good sense to make up a lie.  And at that very moment, with this woman (who wishes her only harm) standing right in front of her, she looks around, and sees — who else?  Jaime Lannister, looking at her and Cersei.  That right there, in self’s humble opinion, was the BIG REVEAL of the night.  Self could feel her heart breaking into a million tiny pieces.  She fervently hopes Brienne’s end doesn’t come in Season 4 because — the FEELZ!

R.I.P. Joffrey.  Your death scene was magnificent.  Jack Gleeson, you did a superb job.  Truly superb.  Self, for one, will truly miss you.

Stay tuned.

Spawn of THE HUNGER GAMES

Self can hardly wait for Sunday night, when she and The Man will be riveted to the HDTV for Game of Thrones 4.2  Mebbe Yara Greyjoy will put in an appearance, finally?  Could we have more of the Brienne/Jaime interaction, please?  Mebbe Tyrion and Joffrey do a little arm-wrestling?  Mebbe Jaime Lannister feels in the mood for another bath?  Mebbe Jon Snow undergoes an inititiation ceremony requiring — another bath?  Mebbe Khaleesi also feels in the mood for a bath, like the one last season where Daario surprised a malevolent intruder and offered his sword and everything that entails to naked-in-the-tub Khaleesi?  Does Sansa end up running away with Littlefinger?  When is the Purple Wedding?  Hopefully, not too soon.  The show would lose a tremendously rousing villain in Joffrey.

Anyhoo, self is as usual on her fanfiction.net site.  It’s just so great that there are also authors who do the Brienne/Jaime shipping and write fabulous fan fiction about this pair.

But nothing so far has dislodged her devotion to The Hunger Games match-ups.  Peeta/Katniss is still her favorite (Though, self must admit, Four as played by Theo James is pretty delectable. She’ll hunt up Divergent fan fiction shortly).

This morning, the fan fiction she’s reading has an arena:  Prim has volunteered to take Katniss’s place in the Reaping, because Katniss is preggers with Gale’s baby.  Peeta gets reaped per usual.

There is an eye-watering scene (Angst to the nth power) where Peeta swears (on national television) that he’ll do everything in his power to send Prim home.

So, from the very first scene in the arena, while everyone else starts running for cover away from the Careers and the Cornucopia, Peeta stops to pick up an exceedingly bulky backpack.  Then he follows Prim (and her ally Rue) to the shelter of the forest.  But the girls get separated from Peeta because even though they are using the four-note Mockingjay signal to alert him to where they are, Peeta doesn’t know how to whistle back.  That is, he is terribly out of tune.  So the girls and Peeta wander around, looking for each other.

Then the Game-makers start a huge forest fire.  Then Peeta gets horribly burned but still carries the bulky backpack.  Then the girls find Peeta, who’s passed out.  Then Prim attempts to heal his burns.  They open his backpack, and discover the following items:

  • several packs of dried beef and fruit
  • a few packs of hard crackers
  • three grain-and-nut bars
  • a bag of walnuts and a bag of almonds
  • several thin protein bars
  • two dried sausages
  • a hunk of cheese
  • three cans of soup with pull-tab lids
  • a box of tea (What need there would be for tea in the arena is — well, never mind)
  • a “largish” bag of rice
  • a blanket
  • some rope
  • a cooking pot
  • a sewing kit
  • and, at the very very bottom of the backpack, a medical kit

YAY!  YAY!  YAY!  Which means Peeta will live — for at least another day!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

 

Game of Thrones 4.1 — The Hound Rules!

Dear blog readers, self accidentally threw the paper where she wrote all her quotes from Game of Thrones Season 4 Episode 1, but take her word for it, it was bloodcurdling, it was vicious, Ygritte was scrawnier than self remembered her being (and rightfully so, as Jon Snow ditched her apparently), there’s a tribe on the hunt and they eat people, and The Hound was just GLO-RI-OUS!  Simply GLOR-RI-OUS!

Holy Cow, there he was bargaining with a short runt of a man over some chickens.  The man asked The Hound if he had any money.  Whereupon commenced the most glorious television dialogue EVER:

Hound:  Not a penny.  I’ll still take a chicken.

And it went on and on and on.  Somehow, it ended up being all about chickens.  One chicken, two chickens, heck, The Hound said he might as well have all of the available chickens.

To which the runt of course took exception.

Which resulted in a wild melee with The Hound slaying all, with a wee bit of help from Arya (Self was screaming from the beginning of the brawl:  GO AHEAD, ARYA!  WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR!  PLEASE DON’T JUST STAND THERE WATCHING THE HOUND ACCUMULATE MORE DISFIGURING FACIAL SCARS!)

She, it turns out, has a unique method of dispatching her victims.  She takes a sword, and gently pokes, as if debating, and then she — pushes the sword home, but OH. SO. SLOWLY.  Which makes the deed appear three times as brutal.  Take self’s word for it.  Arya sticking The Needle into the throat of the runt is an act so intimately personal it might as well be up there in self’s list of Ten Most Horrible Murders of All Time. Yes. Worse even than Hannibal Lecter chomping on a nurse’s eyeball.

Jaime Lannister has, inexplicably, decided to go short.  Why why why?  He looked so devilish and dirty with the long locks.

The guy who plays Joffrey — Jack Gleeson, self had to look it up — is so impeccably petulant and EVIL.

Natalie Dormer (Margaery Tyrell) has self’s second most favorite line of the night, something about hanging a necklace of dead sparrows around her neck.

Brienne puts in an appearance.  Alas, she and Ser Jaime are back to the platonic.

Where is Gendry?  Hope he surfaces soon!

Oh, the dragons got big!  And Daario is played by a completely different actor.  The old Daario was blonde.  This one is dark-haired (and also a lot more craggy-faced)

Khaleesi’s slave girl/companion/translator is still the second most beautiful woman in the series.

Self has yet to see another of her favorite characters:  Yara Greyjoy.  Who, at the end of last season, swore to take fifty of her best killers and sail up the narrow river to take her baby brother home.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Fan Fiction, Sherlock and Self

In Edinburgh, in the Surgeon’s Museum (which is located in the University of Edinburgh Medical School), there is a special exhibit on the man who served as the inspiration for Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes (Doyle studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh).  Since self is extremely nosy, she decided to open a closed door that was at the far end of the exhibit area, and saw an empty amphitheater, with rows and rows of wooden desks all facing a proscenium.  Class was not in session.

Today, self is thinking about Sherlock Holmes because she is once again tackling her Pile of Stuff (which is absolutely exploding with unread magazines).  The January 27, 2014 issue of The New Yorker is what she is looking at this afternoon.  There’s a very interesting article by Emily Nussbaum called  FAN FRICTION:  SHERLOCK AND ITS AUDIENCES.

As self proceeds through the article, she learns that a particular scene in Sherlock Season 3 was inspired by Sherlock Holmes fan fiction.  Can you guess which one, dear blog readers?

One thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three, one thousand four, one thousand five . . .

Time’s up!

We’re at a critical moment:  Holmes is on the roof of a building, preparing to jump. Somehow,  Moriarty winds up there, too, and leans in for a kiss.  Self’s jaw almost dropped to the floor.

Self knew it!  She knew it!  Because it’s in the same episode where a group of London geeks (fan fiction practitioners) sit in someone’s cramped and cluttered apartment and conjecture about the two years Sherlock was thought by everyone to have perished.  (They also tweet theories using hashtag #sherlocklives)

Anyhoo, self loves the Benedict Cumberbatch Sherlock.  The first time she saw the actor was in a movie called Amazing Grace, where he played anti-slavery parliamentarian Pitt.  At that point in time, there was only one reason self wanted to see the movie, and that was Ioaon Gruffud.  She had absolutely no idea where the filmmakers had picked up the beady-eyed Cumberbatch.  Only years later, after watching her first episode of Sherlock, did self finally “get” the Cumberbatch affect:  the lankiness!  The floppy, messy hair!  The cigarette pants!  The sexy!

In the series, “when Sherlock reads a crime scene, enormous words appear on the screen, like an on-line word cloud.”

Sherlock, Nussbaum writes, “has inspired reams of slash fiction.”  Today, “you can find slash fic about almost any character you can imagine, from Harry Potter/Draco Malfoy onward.”

Self recently registered for membership in fanfiction.net, and she can attest how addictive it is.  There are actually people who leave comments like these:

“I work as a waiter and I’m right now in an alley behind the restaurant, hoping for an update to your story before my boss comes out and catches me . . . “

“I’m on a cruise of the Mediterranean and I keep thinking up excuses to go back to my room so I can check for any updates of your story.  My family thinks I’m nuts . . . “

Never, ever will self reveal her fanfiction.net identity, because she’s doing very fluffy writing.  She follows seven writers.  She hopes with all her heart they don’t turn out to be 14, but they might be.  Because they still worry about getting “caught” during chemistry class or skipping math class to do some urgent reading in the bathroom!

She’s heard it so many times:  The internet is the death of books.  It may be the death of books, but it is definitely a clarion call to the imagination, and to the power of the simple act of reading.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

David Denby on Jack Ryan (The New Yorker, 20 January 2014)

How self loves an article such as this, the one Denby wrote on Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, a review that seems to span all the great movie heroes of self’s life (excepting the science fiction ones like Neo and Ripley.  And mugging, self-deprecating ones like Indiana Jones.  And even puppy-ish ones like Luke Skywalker.  But, self, one cannot have everything.  If there’s a lemon meringue pie in front of you, stop pining for rhubarb because whatever)

So, self knows the Jack Ryan movie came out months and months ago.  Maybe even prior to Christmas. Cut her some slack here, dear blog readers.  Since December, self has:

Been to Claremont

Been to Seattle

Been to North Hollywood

And now she’s about to go to the Tyrone Guthrie Center in Ireland.

Not to mention, two writers groups meetings, driving around in a car that failed a smog test four times (white-knuckling all the way) falling into passionate love with fanfiction, applying to a summer writing conference, and writing poems/stories/novellas and anything and everything under the sun involving words.  And of course, madly taking pictures of her garden and so forth.  No wonder it’s taken her six weeks to get just a third of the way through The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family, by Annette Gordon-Reed.

Now to the Denby article.

Chris Pine, he says, is “an enjoyably talented actor” who “gives a successful impression of a man frightened to death.” (And she knows exactly what scene Denby is referring to.  It comes early.  Self will not tell.  Rent the movie on Netflix)

When Denby thoughtfully summarizes the plot (Ryan is in Afghanistan, “his helicopter goes down”), self realized with a shock that she had absolutely no memory of any of these scenes.  She even forgot how Ryan and Keira Knightley’s character met.  But now Denby tells her that Knightley plays “a medical student who is holding out for a date until” Ryan “can overcome the excruciating pain and run like a track star,” which sort of reminds self of Katniss holding back her love until Peeta gets over wanting to kill her.  Ehem!  Kevin Costner is also in this movie (Again, self almost forgot).  Here, according to Denby, he tries “to look mysterious and dangerous by not doing much.” (Note to self: Examine Laurence Fishburne’s performance in the Matrix movies to tease out possible parallels?)

The movie “is set in the new Moscow, which, despite many cutting-edge skyscrapers and a glass-and-metal office of icy brilliance . . . ” (and which, self might add, is flooding the pages of The New Yorker and the New York Times Book Review with literary product, which means it will be years — even, decades — before writers from marginalized communities and 3rd world countries like the Philippines manage to break through) “is pretty much like the perfidious old Moscow that Clancy prized in Cold War days.”

And now, this being David Denby, some background on Tom Clancy:

Tom Clancy was an insurance salesman in Maryland when, in the early nineteen-eighties, he wrote a book, The Hunt for Red October, that Ronald Reagan, with a handsome public mention, turned into a best-seller . . .  He died last October.

Oh. Self didn’t know.

Somewhere in this review is the million-dollar question:  How do the Jack Ryan films stack up against James Bond and Jason Bourne?

James Bond, “no matter who plays him, and no matter what the actor’s age, always seems about forty . . . ”  In contrast, “Jason Bourne does age — his story, as recorded in the three movies starring Matt Damon, was consecutive and heart-wrenching.  Bond and Bourne, one playful, one serious, are both genuine franchise heroes.  Ryan is just a property.”

Denby goes through the list of actors who have played Jack Ryan:  Alec Baldwin (arguably the most handsome Jack Ryan), Harrison Ford (the sturdiest Jack Ryan), and Ben Affleck (Self totally forgot that Affleck even played Jack Ryan).

He also gives credit where credit is due:  to Paul Greengrass, the master of shaky-cam technique, who honed it to such great effect in the first Bourne movie and inspired a whole group of shaky cam practitioners like Doug Liman and Gary Ross. (Self knows there will never ben another like Paul Greengrass.  She saw United 93 in the old Bayshore Century 20, by herself in the middle of the day, and the last five minutes of that movie were as incoherent as food mixed up in a blender. And yet, she groaned. Not out of frustration, but out of sympathy.  Because that is probably what it felt like to be on a plane pointing straight down to the ground.  Anything else — a steady cam, say, with close-ups on the unknown actors who played the passengers — would have been grossly insulting)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Denby on Katniss

The New Yorker, 2 December 2013

The New Yorker, 2 December 2013

Apologies, dear blog readers.  Self knows there’s a new science fiction movie out, one that’s starring Shailene Woodley and Theo James.  She’s excited to see it, just hasn’t had a chance yet.

The Pile of Stuff is truly — enormous.

This morning, she reaches in, pulls out a New Yorker, and settles down to read the movie reviews.  Just to show you how old this issue is, the movie being reviewed is The Hunger Games:  Catching Fire.

It’s very interesting:  Denby writes that teenagers tend to view the gladiatorial fights-to-the-death literally, while their “elders” think about them metaphorically (“as a metaphor for capitalism, with its terrifying job market . . . ” or “as a satiric exaggeration of talent-show ruthlessness”)

“Distraction,” Denby writes, “is supposed to work miracles.”

(Well, it does, David.  It does.  What can self say?  Distraction is, in fact, a most excellent and potent tool.  Just ask parents of recalcitrant toddlers, beleaguered office managers, conniving politicians, crafty taxi drivers and military strategists, thieves and other people up to no good, magicians, low-lifes, jerks both run-of-the-mill and spectacular etc etc etc)

While the first Hunger Games movie was “an embarrassment,” Denby calls “the first forty-five minutes or so” of Catching Fire “impressive.”

An excerpt from the review:

For Katniss, the pleasure of victory never arrives.  At the very beginning of the movie, we see her in silhouette, crouching at the edge of a pond, a huntress poised to uncoil.  She hates being a celebrity, and she certainly has no desire to lead a revolution.  Jennifer Lawrence’s gray-green eyes and her formidable concentration dominate the camera.  She resembles a storybook Indian princess and she projects the kind of strength that Katharine Hepburn had . . .

As for the rest of the characters, Denby assigns one adjective (more or less) for each:  Peeta is “doleful” and Gale is “faithful.”  Caesar Flickerman is “unctuous and hostile.”

Woody Harrelson gets a little something extra:  As Haymitch, he is a “hard-drinking realist” who nevertheless “guides Katniss through every terror” and “is the core of intelligence in the movie . . .  his glare and his acid voice cut through the meaningless fashion show.”

And that is about all self can squeeze out for now.  Oh Pile of Stuff.

P.S. Can self share a secret with dear blog readers? She longs, longs for the filmed version of Mockingjay, knows it’s not arriving until Nov. 21 this year, and has already decided to clear her November calendar. Yup, that’s right: no travels, no workshops, no classes, even NO WRITING (if that’s even possible). Most of all:  No angst, no domestic crisis, no recriminations, no regrets over things said or unsaid, no self-doubt, no dithering, no envy of others getting NEAs or Guggenheims or MacDowell acceptances, no wringing of the hands, no mundane distractions, no remodeling projects, no Tweets, no literary contests, no reading of book reviews, no compiling of “Best of 2014″ lists, no planting, no housecleaning, no shopping whether for essentials or non-essentials (even food), no entertaining of mysterious knocks on the front door or of phone calls from solicitors, no bewailing of personal imperfections, no exaggerations, no facials, no massages, no Vinyasa Flow classes, no research in Green or Hoover libraries etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

DIVERGENT Quote of the Day

Self crawling along through Divergent.

Apologies, dear blog readers.  She knows a lot of people checked in on her previous Divergent posts, and the movie’s opening next week already, and Sole Fruit of Her Loins wants to see it.

But the weather’s been soooo beautiful.

And she’s still having all sorts of car problems.

Today, she’s on p. 59, and the beginning of teen fiction territory. Mild spoilers ahead:

I see a few hands stretching out to me at the edge of the net, so I grab the first one I can reach and pull myself across.  I roll off, and I would have fallen face-first onto a wood floor if he had not caught me.

“He” is the young man attached to the hand I grabbed.  He has a spare upper lip and a full lower lip.  His eyes are so deep-set that his eyelashes touch the skin under his eyebrows . . .

Our heroine makes it into the Dauntless headquarters:

People are everywhere, all dressed in black, all shouting and talking, expressive, gesturing.  I don’t see any elderly people in the crowd.  Are there any old Dauntless?  Do they not last that long, or are they just sent away when they can’t jump off moving trains anymore?

Further along, Tris (formerly — in her pre-Dauntless existence — called “Beatrice”) gets to try her first hamburger.  Members of the oh-so-meek Abnegation faction are referred to as “Stiffs” by the Dauntless.

“You’ve never had a hamburger before?” asks Christina, her eyes wide.

“No,” I say.  “Is that what it’s called?”

“Stiffs eat plain food,” Four says, nodding at Christina.

“Why?” she asks.

I shrug.  “Extravagance is considered self-indulgent and unnecessary.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

“300: Rise of an Empire”

This movie is not a prequel, neither is it a sequel.

It is a simul-quel!

Self doesn’t know whether simul-quel is a real word, but let her explain:  The events take place around the same time as Leonidas leads his handsome and buff half-nekkid army of hot men to the Hot Gates to offer up their tremendous physiques in sacrificial battle against a Persian giant (conveniently named Xerxes, which means he is a historical character) who is adorned with the most fantastic body piercings.

Anyhoo, The Man saw the movie Saturday (by himself, as self was too busy checking her FB page) and swore when he got home that Tom Wisdom was in it, by means of simul-quel or something.

Yeah, right!  Self caught a wee glance, for about 10 seconds!

Nevertheless, here are her thoughts:

The hero is named Themistocles, and everyone keeps whispering the first syllable of his name so it comes off sounding like “mistocles,” which then led self to think of the word “miracles” or “mystical” or some such.  Or perhaps self is just hard of hearing.

When the action is not happening, we are shown scenes in Athens.  The people of Athens are a pasty-faced bunch, draped in red and blue and white togas.  Because they are intellectual, get it?  When Themistocles/Mistocles appears in Sparta to appeal for aid, self got so excited.  Because now we were in the realm of buff bods and lots of wrestling.

About halfway through the movie, it occurred to self that the battles were simply an excuse for two hot generals to play out some very subliminal erotic urges.  For as Freud pointed out, the Oedipus Complex is strong in the human psyche.  Or was he referring to the Erotic Complex?  Anyhoo, all those subliminal urges are definitely in play here.

At one point, a face-to-face between the two generals is arranged, and Themistocles/Mistocles is ushered onto the Persian general’s boat, and this general just happens to be played by Eva Green, her bountiful bosom on full display.  Since Themistocles/Mistocles is not apparently burdened with a wife (as Leonidas was in 300, though Leonidas himself probably had no complaints about having a wife as hot as Lena Headey), and as Eva Green plays a totally bloodthirsty whore of no morals (called, of all things, ARTEMISIA), they engage in rough sex.  And when Themistocles still refuses to switch sides, Artemisia throws a major hissy fit and has him thrown off her ship (but not before he’s had time to salvage his modesty — at this point, though, who cares? — by draping himself in his blue Athenian toga).  The Athenians waiting back on shore for the return of their general look a little — skeptical, shall we say — when he returns sweating like a horse and rather close-lipped about the negotiations.  (Self, you have an absolutely filthy mind!  Why would you think that was what the Athenian henchmen of Themistocles/Mistocles were thinking?  They seemed perfectly poker-faced.  Respectful, even!  Self’s just saying)

Eva Green, Eva Green.  Sigh.  Why has she appeared in only a few tacky movies since immortalizing Vesper Lynde in Daniel Craig’s first Bond movie, Casino Royale?  It is incredible how much energy she puts into her role here.  But, why not. If one is going to commit to a role which calls for bloodthirsty beheadings as well as rough sex, one has to commit 100%.  And Eva Green certainly delivers.  Nay, more than delivers!  Her performance is so 120% it’s almost bat-shit crazy!  And that is what makes this a movie worth seeing.  (Aside from the Spartans and 10 seconds of Tom Wisdom)

Self would also like to say that she waited until the end credits to see who was responsible for the costumes.  Because Eva Green’s clothing was of the full-on dominatrix variety, and self loved all the ripped/torn bodices, the chain-mail sleeves, the golden (rhinoceros?) horns poking out of her back, the boots, the metal covering the outer lobes of Artemisia’s left (and only her left) ear.  And self thought she even glimpsed a wee bit of fishnet stocking. But how could that be, when the last epic shot does not show any coverings at all over Artemisia’s legs.?  Self is sure, though, that in one of the close-ups, she saw fishnet.

She wondered what other actress might bring this level of commitment to such a role.  Jena Malone, perhaps.  It has to be someone who could convincingly present a sexy femme who gets progressively sexier with the appearance of each new, bloody scar.

There was even a poignant father-son-fighting-together scene, which recalled the Tom Wisdom/guy-who-played-his-father pairing in 300.  Only, in the Rise of Empire scenario, the father was waaaay hotter (in self’s humble opinion, at least) than the son.

Self will comment on the transformation of normal-looking Xerxes into Rodrigo Santoro draped in body piercings, in Part 2.

Stay tuned.

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