Brienne of Tarth!

For a while, self was waiting for the ball to drop in Times Square, but Justin Bieber wasn’t on the night’s list of performers so she got bored.

Self has spent the days leading up to New Year’s bingeing on Game of Thrones Season 5.

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

OMG Brienne! So good to see you! Hey, did you just chop off someone’s head with your mighty sword? And hey, did Vanity Fair really opine that maybe Stannis Baratheon isn’t really dead? And oh hey, what’s with Danaerys surrounded by a marauding pack of plains horsemen (If self were Danaerys, she’d pray for a quick execution. Which, this being GOT, will never happen)

Vanity Fair refers to Brienne’s path in Season 5 as totally off-book. What does that mean?

Also, one of self’s favorite moments in the finale of Season 5 was Theon and Sansa jumping off a wall together, holding hands. At last! These two most degraded of characters — go take a leap of faith! If only someone would go truly off-book and have Ramsay Bolton throw himself off a castle rampart, not into a snow bank but into a pit of sharpened stakes! That would be the only fitting end for such as he!

Also, she doesn’t understand what’s happening to Arya but possibly the young damsel is becoming bat-shit crazy as who wouldn’t be after living in a cold stone monastery-type place with a man who speaks in cryptic sentences and is constantly shifting faces. Not to mention the girl who keeps striking her.

Then of course self is in complete denial about Jon Snow.

Maybe he’s turning into a White Walker!

Maybe now that he’s been released from his physical incarnation, his true essence can flit about and become a true instigator!

Also, Stannis and to a lesser extent although maybe not to a lesser extent Mrs. Stannis: HOW COULD YOU?

Also, loving the Podrick/Brienne camaraderie.

Also, that was quite a long, lingering look at naked Cersei, even though it was for the purpose of showing the Queen’s absolute humiliation (Only Lena Headey could pull that one off so convincingly!)

Also, self knew without a doubt that when Ellaria gave Myrcella a full-on lip-to-lip kiss, she was up to no good, which was borne out about an hour or so later, when Myrcella started gushing blood from her nose. All in front of her dad, Jaime Lannister. Since Jaime’s ship didn’t look very far from land, self wondered if he would turn the ship around and slay Ellaria. Which — did self ever share with dear blog readers that she saw the actress who plays Ellaria in the Globe production of Titus Andronicus last year? And she was truly truly awesomely seductive. Anyway, of the three acolytes of Ellaria (who are very bad fighters, despite the showy whips, in self’s humble opinion), the smallest one has an impressive rack, and shows it off. Another looks like she could be Filipina. And as for Jaime, she thinks the metal hand is cool. But he should really go back to engaging in witty repartee with Brienne.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Guardian: 75 Films to Watch in 2016

Self enjoys reading The Guardian. In particular, their film blog.

Yesterday, she stumbled across a piece called: 75 movies to look forward to in 2016.

75??? Only The Guardian would have the temerity to post such a mind-boggling list of 2016 movies.

Well, self will attempt to take a gander.

Here are her conclusions, after one read-through:

  • Keanu Reeves is back! He’s in at least three 2016 movies.
  • Michael Fassbender is in everything. Michael Shannon is in everything. Ryan Gosling is in at least two upcoming.
  • Matt Damon is back as Bourne (triple somersault YAY!) and Paul Greengrass is directing (Wowowowowowow!!!)
  • Charlie Hunnam Is. In. A. Movie (Oh God. It’s been too long)
  • Casey Affleck is in a movie. Self likes Casey Affleck. More than she likes his brother.
  • They’re making a film of Shusako Endo’s Silence! They’re making a film of Shusako Endo’s Silence! And it’s starring Liam Neeson, Andrew Garfield, and Adam Driver. Oh God.
  • Ryan Reynolds in Deadpool (And this one actually seems like it might work)
  • Jennifer Lawrence is mentioned as getting $20 million for the space movie she’s in with Chris Pratt. BTW, people? She’s worth every penny.
  • They’re making a movie (Neon Demon) about “beauty-obsessed women in L.A.” and self loves the cast: Keanu Reeves, Elle Fanning, and Christina Hendricks.
  • Star Wars spin-off Rogue One: Another Brit (Felicity Jones) stars.
  • Anthropoid, about the assassination of one of World War II’s most brutal concentration camp commanders: Reinhard Heydrich. This one stars Jamie Dornan and Cillian Murphy. These are two gorgeous men, dear blog readers. If self weren’t already cheering about the plot, she’d be cheering at the prospect of seeing these men’s gorgeous cheekbones in close-up on the big screen.

BTW, saw Joy and enjoyed it. It seemed rather muted for a David O. Russell film, especially one starring his muse Jennifer Lawrence. Self thinks Amy Adams could have handled that part. But Jennifer is truly a force. Self refuses to complain too much about a film that has her in it.

Stay tuned.

Story # 8 in Gaitskill’s BAD BEHAVIOR

“Secretary” was over surprisingly quickly!

All self has to say is: the movie took a slight story (one of the slightest Gaitskill stories self has ever read) and made of it a fully realized film.

Who directed the movie? Must find out! He/She deserves kudos!

Self hardly feels anything for the character on the page, but in the movie, her heart went out immediately to Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character. Rent it on Netflix, if you haven’t already seen it!

Now to Story # 8 in Bad Behavior:

She remembered something he had said to her sometime before: “Don’t worry, Connie. In fifteen years, I’ll be doing my retrospective at the Whitney and you’ll be publishing regularly in The New Yorker.” He paused. “But by then we’ll be ugly.”

LOL!

To close, another picture self took yesterday, while walking the High Line:

DSCN2302

There is a Museum of . . . Sex? Self learns something new every day!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

Advice For Writers: Story # 6 of BAD BEHAVIOR

If you really want to be a writer, then don’t move to New York. You’ll just wind up in some dank little dump in the East Village with bars on the windows, and oh, I don’t know.

And:

She had to admit that a large part of the reason she was even trying to get a job was for the approval of people she’d known in Illinois, many of whom were living in New York and thought of her as a hopeless neurotic . . .

— “Trying to Be,” Story # 6 in Bad Behavior

It’s after Story # 6 that self decides she will leave the collection. Because Story # 7 is “Secretary,” which was made into an excellent movie about self-mutilation (The main character was played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, a casting choice that was sheer genius) and how much Maggie’s character wants to be whipped by her boss, played by James Spader.

And self doesn’t believe for one moment that there exists in the universe a woman who secretly wants to be whipped by her boss. Of course, this is fiction, and Gaitskill does have a point she wants to make.

Nevertheless.

Why has this trope proven to be so enduring? Fifty Shades of Grey, hello!

This evening, self went to Barnes & Noble on 86th and had just mentioned to the woman at the Info desk that she was looking for The Strain when the woman said: “Science fiction. Shelved by title. Look under del Toro.” Impressive!

It’s exactly the same type of reaction self got when she was in Hodges & Figgis in Dublin. She barely even had time to say The Bane Chronicles when the saleswoman said, “YA. Look under Cassandra Clare.”

Stay tuned.

 

The Guardian’s Review of Mockingjay 2

Self is writing this, her third post of Saturday, even though she swore she’d go out and walk the streets of Manhattan! On this unusually temperate December day!

She wants to see “Joy,” David O. Russell’s new movie starring Jennifer Lawrence.

Self loves J-Law.

Anything with J-Law in it, self will watch.

But she just can’t stand The Guardian review because it is all J-Law. There is not one mention of J-Hutch. And Peeta, his character, self’s thought all along, is the real reason The Hunger Games is such an enthralling story.

Sure, Katniss Everdeen is really kick-ass. Kick-ass like no other. Her hunting? Her bow and arrow? Not to mention her Mockingjay outfits? Epic.

But the Katniss Everdeen story wouldn’t be anything without the character of Peeta. The guy makes us believe she has a heart. He’s in love with her from afar, it’s the greatest stroke of luck (for her, not really for him) that he gets reaped along with her, he gets to play a fake romance with her that really screws up his brain, gets hijacked, then keeps trying to kill her.

In short, Peeta is a mess.

The films gave very short shrift to his character. Which was a mistake. Because when the end came, when Katniss gets to have him, there is just no ooomf.

Self doesn’t know if Lionsgate had no faith in Josh Hutcherson as an actor. Or if they just wanted to cash in on the J-Law phenomenon. But the films would have worked better if they’d given Peeta his due. Seriously.

That said, she really loves the way Mockingjay 2 ended: not because of the meadow scene (In this scene, J-Law looks like Maggie Gyllenhaal! Not a criticism, just saying), but because of the scenes with Peeta and Katniss together in her house: Peeta reading aloud Annie’s letter in the kitchen (And J-Hutch just looks so good here), the two watching it rain. Katniss joining Peeta at night in the guest room. Because: normal is good! Normal is where Katniss needs to be! The daily routines — and not her Messianic mission — save her.

Suzanne Collins wrote this ending because she knew she needed to show Katniss whole. The selflessness of the warrior woman needed to give way to her personal satisfaction.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Eye Spy: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

The WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge is EYE SPY:  Photograph people or pets, but remember: The Eye has lots of other potential meanings, too.

Eyes are the windows of the soul, self remembers hearing once.

Very true.

Picture # 1: Liu Kongxi’s lovely painting (which self saw in an exhibit of Chinese artists in Florence, November 2015)

DSCN1682

“Hello, Birch Forest: The Records of Youth (No. 18)” by Liu Kongxi

Picture # 2: A sculpture of the Blessed Virgin in the Santa Maria dei Fiore in Florence. The look in the Virgin’s eyes is inexpressibly lovely.

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The Blessed Virgin: Santa Maria dei Fiore, Florence, November 2015

Picture # 3: Totally Gratuitous. J-Hutch! Self loves his eyes.

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Josh Hutcherson as The Hunger Games’ Peeta Mellark, in Pre-Hijack Mode

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Science Fiction, Coming to a Theater Near You

(From Tor.com, which has an amazing amount of new content, every day — but of course, they are a conglomerate of writers, while self is just SELF!)

BTW, wonder why there are so few women on this list? Self has actually met one of these authors: Charlie Jane Anders. Long long time ago. Don’t bother asking him if he remembers self.

  • The Man In the High Castle, by Philip K. Dick: Presents an alternate history where America loses World War II and is split between Nazi Germany and Japan.
  • Preacher, by Garth Ennis (writer) and Steve Dillon (artist):  After getting accidentally possessed by a creature called Genesis, Reverend Jesse Custer goes on a quest to find God. Joining him for the journey are his ex-girlfriend and a wise-cracking Irish vampire.
  • American Gods, by Neil Gaiman: It’s about the battles between old gods and new.
  • Uprooted, by Naomi Novik: Plain, clumsy, loyal Agnieszka is handed over to the Dragon, a fearsome wizard who takes one girl from her village every ten years.
  • The Dark Tower, by Stephen King: Combining elements of sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and Westerns, it follows a gunslinger on his quest to find a tower that is both physical and metaphorical.
  • Skin Trade, by George R. R. Martin: A private investigator gets involved in a string of gruesome serial killings that reminds her of her father’s death two decades prior.
  • Red Mars, by Kim Stanley Robinson: The story tracks the colonization and terraforming of Mars, as told through the perspectives of the First Hundred who are chosen to leave behind an Earth suffering from overpopulation, ecological disasters, and the emergence of transnational corporations threatening to overthrow the world’s governments.
  • Midnight Texas, by Charlaine Harris: Phone psychic Manfred Bernardo relocates to Midnight, Texas, and then winds up overstaying his welcome — probably because of all the murders.
  • How To Talk To Girls at Parties, by Neil Gaiman: Enn and his friends go to a party hoping to talk to girls, only to discover that the girls, especially one named Zan, are not what he expected.
  • Ghost Brigades, by John Scalzi: 75-year-old John Perry enlists in an inter-galactic war that has soldiers fighting in younger bodies into which their consciousness is implanted.
  • Spin, by Robert Charles Wilson: The Big Blackout cuts Earth off from the Stars and Sun through an alien barrier.
  • Six Months, Three Days, by Charlie Jane Anders: Tracks the doomed relationship between a man who can see the future and a woman who can see many futures.
  • Luna, New Moon, by Ian McDonald: In 2110, fifty years after the moon’s colonization, the top ruling families — the Five Dragons — are intermarrying, poisoning, sabotaging, and battling for control of the Moon.

Stay tuned.

 

Mockingjay 2: Cry, Cry, Cry

Self can’t believe it.

She can’t believe IT’S OVER!

She caught the 1:20 p.m. screening at the AMC Loews almost directly across from the Lincoln Center, a few days ago. Only a block away from Alice Tully Hall, where Dearest Mum once played (when she was still a teen-ager). So ironic that self hasn’t yet been to a concert in Alice Tully Hall but here she is sitting in AMC Loews with a bucket of popcorn on her lap, anxiously awaiting the final film in The Hunger Games franchise. But ever since Niece Georgina recommended Suzanne Collins’s trilogy to self, self has been on a Peeta kick. Yes, her favorite character in The Hunger Games isn’t Katniss, it’s Peeta. And it’s always going to be Peeta. Forever and ever and ever .

J-Law, you were awesome! Every time the camera zoomed in, your facial expressions were so on point! Thank you for your portrayal. Now there’s talk of making a pre-quel with some younger actress. Ixnay! Self would much prefer a sequel: with you again.

Woody Harrelson, you were equally great!

SPOILER ALERT!!!

And so were you, Elizabeth Banks! That scene where you bid Katniss good-bye, decked once more in your Capitol finery (How could Effie get away with dressing like that in District 13? Wouldn’t Coin have frowned on that kind of extravagance?), self found it so affecting.

It was nice to see Philip Seymour Hoffman’s smirk, one last time.

Although she didn’t initially agree with the choice of Donald Sutherland to play the role of President Snow, boy did he kill his part in this final installment. That conversation he has with Katniss near the end, when he says he doesn’t believe in waste, the part where he makes Katniss start questioning Coin’s motives, that part was made infinitely more believable because of Sutherland’s trademark sardonic delivery.

OMG, Finnick’s death was worse than it was in the book. Because it was so — graphic. And he was calling out to Katniss. And self almost couldn’t bear it.

FINALLY:

JENA. JENA MALONE. Talk about the perfect Johanna. Mockingjay Part 1 suffered tremendously from her absence. But she was back! And self loves Jena/Johanna. Truly loves her.

P.S. Julianne Moore as Coin — her pupils had a disconcerting tendency to go all to black, and she looked like a soulless witch. Which, self guesses, was the point.

Tallies: One super-hot Galeniss scene, at the very beginning. Unfortunately, instead of pressing his advantage, Gale mopes. And mopes. And mopes some more. And, honestly, if self were Katniss, she wouldn’t have waited for Peeta. Even though self is Everlark to the max, if Liam were hanging around all the time, being all loyal and supportive, she would not blame Katniss at all for switching affections.

J-Hutch, if only there were more of you Not-Hijacked. If there was one flaw she saw in the film, it was that the end didn’t allow enough time for the “growing together” of Katniss and Peeta. Self was waiting for it, she was waiting for the voice-over narration, she ached to hear J-Law’s throaty voice say “Peeta and I grow back together.” But it was not to be.

There’s a scene where hot Peeta is bent over planting primrose bushes while Katniss sneaks up behind him. The camera starts zooming in on — ahem! Never mind. But no, F-Law was extremely respectful and provided no more than two or three seconds of  J-Hutch bent over. Please!

Not even the teeniest hint of anything in the end, just that cuddling thing K and P do, then — babies! Toast babies!

Ugh! Not enough time in the end! The end! The end!

 

Victory Can Only Come After Struggle

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge, VICTORY, posted on Friday morning. Right after that came news (from Twitter; self’s news always come from Twitter) about the Paris attacks.

It seemed very ironic, that the photo challenge urged us to think of the positive. The terrorists made that all seem like such a travesty.

Nevertheless. Nevertheless.

Here are some pictures that self needed to look at today. Reminders of the positive.

The inaugural issue of Irish lit mag Banshee was celebrated at the most recent Cork International Short Story Festival, in September. Self was so glad she attended the launch:

It is a perilous venture, the field of literary magazine publishing. But the young women who edit BANSHEE prove that the dream never dies.

It is a perilous venture, the field of literary magazine publishing. But the young women who edit BANSHEE prove that the dream never dies.

One of the most life-affirming and redemptive characters of recent fiction is, in self’s humble opinion, the baker of The Hunger Games. She only caught the symbolism today: Hunting doesn’t feed the belly, doesn’t sate it, to the degree that bread does. In the purported love triangle of the trilogy, there was never really any other choice for Katniss: Peeta Mellark rocks.

Self will mourn the passing of this franchise when the final film opens on Nov. 20. J-Hutch, you did a great job bringing Peeta Mellark to life!

Self will mourn the passing of this franchise when the final film opens on Nov. 20. J-Hutch, you did a great job bringing Peeta Mellark to life!

Finally, one of self’s favorite reads in 2015 was Crab Orchard Review’s West Coast and Beyond issue, which included a haunting short story by Lucy Jane Bledsoe. Self brought the issue with her to the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig, this past summer. Whenever her writing energy flagged, reading a bit from the Crab Orchard Review never failed to revive her inspiration:

Several of the contributors from the West Coast & Beyond issue will be participating in a panel during AWP 2016/ Los Angeles, end of March.

Several of the contributors from the West Coast & Beyond issue will be participating in a panel during AWP 2016/ Los Angeles, end of March.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Joseph O’Connor’s STAR OF THE SEA, Prologue

We had chopped across a filthy-tempered Irish Sea and docked at Kingstown to take on provisions; then crept down the jagged south-east coast, making for Queenstown in the county of Cork (or ‘Cobh’ as it is known in the Gaelic language). Seeing Wicklow glide past, or Wexford or Waterford, seemed to many a bitter taunt, a poultice being ripped from a putrefying wound. A consumptive blacksmith from the town of Bunclody jumped the upperdeck rail near Forlorn Point and was last seen swimming weakly towards the shore, every last shred of his will employed to bring him back to the place where his death was certain.

Star of the Sea, by Joseph O’Connor: Prologue, page xvi

Photo Credit: Andrew de Jesus

Photo Credit: Andrew de Jesus

It’s a novel of the potato famine and the Irish immigration to America. And self saw the play of it last night in Galway.

Shattering. The woman sitting next to self couldn’t speak afterwards, she was crying so much.

Stay tuned.

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