Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Chronicling Me Some Narnia, Part 1

Wherein I Review the movie Prince Caspian

First of all, I have to admit: I'm not very demanding when it comes to Narnia movies.

For example, when I first saw The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, I didn't really care about the acting or the dialogue or what have you. I was pretty much just thinking something like, "That's just what I imagined! Right up there on the screen!"

I read all the Narnia books when I was a kid, and even though I probably couldn't have told you much more than the skeletons of the plots of them (before I re-read them this week--more on that later), when I saw the first movie, it all came rushing back to me. Because it was just what I imagined! Right up there on the screen! Then I went back and read the book, and realized it was actually pretty bare-bones. Still, it had given my pre-tween imagination plenty to work with.

So the Narnia books aren't like Harry Potter, where they have to cut stuff to make it a movie (which is usually what angers the people who love Harry Potter books but hate the films). If anything, the screenwriters add a little bit, and I think they're pretty good--on the whole--at adding things that are in the spirit of the book. (On the whole. More on that momentarily.)

Ergo, I really liked Prince Caspian. What's not to like? Pretty landscapes! Talking beasts! Big ol' battles! Children with British accents! C'mon, it's Narnia!

As I was saying, I generally liked what they did with the book to make it into a movie. I think the screenwriters did a pretty good job. Structurally, the book Prince Caspian is kind of a mess. (Watch out, I'm about to give some SPOILERS on a 57-year-old book!) The Pevensie children are in England, for about half a page. Then, BAM! They're in Narnia. They spend quite some time trying to figure out where they are and what they should be doing and eating nothing but apples, and it's fairly tiresome. They finally figure out that they're in their old castle, but hundreds and hundreds of years after they left. Then, finally finally, they meet somebody else, who is the dwarf Trumpkin. Then he tells them the story of Prince Caspian, so you have a flashback that goes on for a good three chapters. Then the narrative switches back and forth from the kids walking and walking and walking, trying to meet up with Caspian to Caspian hanging out with his army, holding off the enemy in a fairly boring fashion. In, like, the last quarter (or fifth, I don't remember and I don't have it handy) of the book, the kids and Caspian meet up (again: finally) and then there's some short battling with the enemy, and then The End.

So (movie SPOILERS now!) the movie balances Caspian and the kids much more neatly in the beginning and has them get together much more quickly. The movie also adds a battle at Caspian's evil uncle's castle, which is much better cinematically than Caspian's boring defense of his stronghold. So, good good and good.

More ambivalently: Aslan's role is scaled down from what it is in the book. On the one hand, his not being in it very much might seem to sideline him. However, because of the nature of the Aslan plotline in Prince Caspian, I think it just hammers home the point better. It's all about how having faith that Aslan will show up is important, and that's just made even clearer by how long they have to wait for Aslan. It also makes Lucy's unwavering certainty more impressive, since she has to hold out longer. In conclusion, I approve.

Then there are two Peter issues. First of all, in the book, there's a literary tension because you have two heroes, Caspian and Peter. (Action heroes, that is. I'm discounting Lucy here because she does her own thing which, while ultimately more important, is more subtle in the story structure.) Which one of the young men is the hero? Who needs The Defining Moment more? Who, when you get right down to it, gets the glory? Lewis, I think, leaves that unresolved, and while in real life that wouldn't be a problem, in a fairly simple story, it just doesn't quite work. the movie solves this literary tension by making it actual tension--Peter and Caspian have a real power struggle. This very acknowledgement of the impossibility of having two hero/leaders makes it possible--after Learning Their Lessons, each of them accepts their role, but it is Caspian that emerges as the Official Hero. And he should be, since it's his world, his kingdom (Peter did already have his turn), and his movie--he is the title character, after all. So again, the point goes to the screenwriters.

The second Peter problem is that, in the movie, he's whiny, angry, and kind of insufferable. I don't want to go overboard on the Potter references, but he's not unlike Harry, c. Order of the Phoenix. He got on my nerves, is what I'm saying. Still, I can see the reasons for this choice. Especially in the earlier books, Lewis just didn't do that much character development. Book Peter is perfect, but blandly so. He does what needs done and does it well; he's The Man--but he has no personality. I peg this difference mostly on time period. In the 40's and 50's, who didn't want a stoic man's man for the hero? But in the 21st century, we like our characters flawed. So we get a flawed Peter. . . . Yet, because he was really annoying, I'm going to call this one a draw.

Furthermore, in the movie, we get the addition of a flirtation and even a kiss (!) between Susan and Caspian. First of all, I'm pretty sure that were he alive to see it, that would have given C. S. Lewis some kind of seizure. As MacKenzie pointed out, it really did come out of nowhere. I guess that the motivation was, again, character development, but it really did feel gratuitious.

Oh, also the bad guys are Mediterrean/Latino, for some reason. Well, so is Caspian, but still. That's kind of random. Unnecessary/somewhat demeaning, am I right? (I was also irresistably reminded of a reviewer I had read comparing Caspian's fakey accent to Inigo Montoya's, when Caspian had a sword up to his uncle's neck and was being all threatening about how the uncle had killed his father. I mean, come on.)

Even so, my tally shows two cons to one tie and five pros. And those structure pros are big ones--I read the book right before I saw the movie, and I was really wondering how they were going to pull it off. Overall, I've got to say it was a very good adaptation.

Here ends my needlessly long (and probably fairly boring) analysis, but stayed tuned for over-thought musings on Narnia. It's going to be good times.
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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

In Which I Continue to Dislike John McCain

I was reading yet another issue of my roommate's Time magazine (her mom got her a subscription, but I'm the only one who reads it, unless my gentleman caller picks it up when he's over here), and I like this article. It's about McCain's stance on Iran and what McCain says Obama's stance on Iran is, but it's also about the overall theme of talking to other countries, specifically countries we don't like.

The post-Straight-Talk-era McCain is apparently of the opinion that having talks with "the bad guys" is a bad idea. I would say that this stance is one of my pet peeves, but pet peeves make a person annoyed; this just makes me really, really depressed about the state of the world and the United States' role in it. I just don't buy the whole "It would give our enemies prestige!" thing. For one thing, like Joe Klein points out in the article, if their whole deal is painting the United States as evil, then it helps them out when the US refuses to speak to them. Besides, the remote possibility that sitting down with American diplomats or, much further down the line, the American president would somehow boost their domestic power ought to be outweighed by the possibility that negotiations could bring about an improvement in relations. Talking to the other guy is the cheapest and easiest way of solving problems. And if, after this election, if we continue to live in a country where it's more valued to act like a tough guy than to try to solve problems like reasonable people . . . .

Like I said, now I'm really depressed.
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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Blogging Live from the Airport!

Greetings from Kansas City! I'm on my way home for my sister's graduation from K-State, and I'm in the homestretch of a six-hour layover. I sure wish this was the longest layover I've ever had, but . . . no. So, since there is free wireless at Kansas City International Airport, and that fascinates me, I thought I'd share some of my air travel observations.

Can anything compare to stewardess hair?

(I actually usually do say "flight attendant," but "stewardess" had a better rhythm there.)

The flight attendant on my trip from Madison to Kansas City had hair that I found a little astonishing. I drew a sketch of it, and have done my best to replicate that in MS Paint for your edification:
I don't know if that gets the point across at all--it was like an overdone short hairstyle that you would expect an overly made-up flight attendant to have, but then, for some reason, there was also a ponytail. A side ponytail. Basically, it was the fanciest mullet I've ever seen.

Mennonite on a cell phone!

I just saw a Mennonite with a cell phone, y'all. She may even have been texting. Is that allowed?

In the event of a water landing

you can use your seat cushion as a flotation device. Honest question here: how often does this happen? Of all the crashes there are--which I know isn't a big number to begin with--how many are both 1) survivable and 2) into water? I don't think I've ever heard of this happening. If I'm correct that it never/almost never happens, isn't the whole flotation device thing a pretty useless comfort? Is it like, "Your seat back table has been coated with wolverine repellant, in the event of wolverine attack" ?


Here is a given about my life: if I am in an airport, then I went to bed too late and I got up too early and I've been frazzled about the whole airport ordeal for at least the past 24 hours. On top of this, everyone who goes to the airport has to deal with the time schedules that are rigid for them, yet apparently optional for the airlines; they have to do that whole ridiculous shoe thing (Come on. One moron tried to do that ever and it didn't even work. Why do all the rest of us have to take off our shoes until the end of time because of that? All I can say is, I'm going to be mad if some misguided young woman becomes, say, the Bra Bomber). It's not good times. It's angry times.

Additionally, the Kansas City airport is--apart from the free wireless internet--the WORST. AIRPORT. EVER. (OK, I know this isn't true. I bet the, like, Bogota airport is way worse. KCI is just the worst airport I've ever been to.) It has 30 gates, so it's not a small airport, yet there is not one single restaurant that purveys edible food. There's a Quiznos, and it's awful. I had a sandwich there last time I was here, and it was cold and the meat was gross and the tomato was unripe and they were out of wheat bread and the eating area was filthy. So today, I went to the "sports bar." It looks nice, and they charge $10 for a sandwich, so you think it would at least be decent, like most airport Chili'ses, but no. I spent $13 on a flat coke; fatty brisket sandwich served on like, Wonder Bread and with gross BBQ sauce; and soggy fries. I'm glad the waitress didn't ask if everything was OK, because I might not have had the self-control to lie.

Also, there is precisely one shop in the entire pre-security area that sells bottles of pop. Seriously. The rest only had off-brand juice, maybe a bottle of PowerAde, and water. I ended up buying a bottle of Coke (it was that, Diet Coke, or Sprite) at the little cart after security. The woman there was very nice, which was a good thing, since she charged me $2.43 for a 20 oz bottle of Coke. If she was rude, I might have lost it at that juncture. Two dollars. And forty-three cents. I hate you, Kansas City airport.

Sorry about the ranting, but that's the downside of traveling alone--having nobody to complain to. That and having to drag all your carry-on luggage to the bathroom.
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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Bill Richardson

I'm going to take a couple minutes here that I should really, really, really, really be working on a paper or three (and that's not just a mildly cute turn of phrase--seriously, I either need to be working on one paper or three papers. MAN, I need to finish grad school, toute de suite) and write a blog post about somebody else's blog post about Bill Richardson.

I think it's pretty much a given that Bill Richardson is kind of awesome. I also feel like he has some extra, stealth-awesomeness--that is, I bet the more you know about Bill Richardson, the more awesomeness is revealed. As this guy says, "Bill Richardson: current Governor of New Mexico, former Secretary of Energy, U.S. Congressman, head of the Congressional Hispanic ikeCaucus, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., personally negotiated the release of Americans in Iraq and Sudan, adjunct professor at Harvard, nominated five times for the Nobel Peace Prize." Come on. That's awesome.

However, I sadly must disagree with Bob Harris's guess that Bill Richardson is going to be Obama's pick for vice president. And I'm not just sad because of Bill's aforementioned awesomeness, but because I think the reason he won't be the veep candidate is . . . a race thing.

I was talking once with a person I know who is black, and she said she's afraid that when it comes right down to it, in the voting booths, Americans still won't be ready to cast their presidential vote for a black man. I disagreed with her, and I think the primary results in fairly vanilla places like Wisconsin and Kansas back me up. For one thing, I have a theory that when somebody is famous enough, people stop thinking of them by their race first. Greg Gumble, for instance, isn't "that black guy who broadcasts sports," he's Greg Gumble. And Obama's pretty famous. For another thing, racism is painfully Uncool. Very few people want to be a racist or for other people to think they're racist. So I think that, in 2008, a black man can be elected president.

However, I think a ticket of a black man and a Hispanic man would give more people pause. One factor here is that, although I stand by the thing I just said about racism, I feel like bias against Hispanic people is more acceptable in this day and age than that against black people, what with all the anger about immigration and whatnot. That being said, I think Bill Richardson might have been viable (and, of course, awesome) as VP had Hillary won the nomination*. It's only the combination of two non-white people on a ticket that I can't see working at this point in time. I honestly think there's a large segment of the American populace who would find it threatening, whether they would put it that way or not.

(I just want to note here that I would vote Obama/Richardson in a heartbeat, clearly. [And there's an example of what I'm talking about with people-being-afraid-of-other-people-thinking-they're-racist thing.])

If it helps, I was reading something that said Kathleen Sebelius is their top guess for Obama's VP. However, it goes without saying that there's NO WAY there ever would have been a Clinton/Sebelius ticket. No publication would even mention that possibility. At least Obama/Richardson is conceivable.

*yeah, I'm just writing her off at this point. If Time can do it, so can I. (Although, admittedly, they love Obama more than I do.)
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Tuesday, May 6, 2008


I'm in the library, working on a paper that I need to have finished by Thursday (pages to go: 25. pages down: 0. How . . . usual). I am also drinking a Pepsi (this library is cool like that) and it has one of those contest-y code things: SMNNY SMORK.

Isn't that great? That should be the name of a dimunitive, bumbling fantasy-novel sidekick, or something. Smnny Smork.

Things that might actually be interesting that I intend to blog about soon (but can make no promises on day or time--see the paper page count, above):

Birthday adventures! (I'm 25 now, which I still contend is weird.)

College Jeopardy! (airing this week and next--all I'll say now is that if you tune in and look really closely Monday-Wednesday of next week, you might see me in the audience)

And probably some other stuff. We'll see.
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Sunday, May 4, 2008

Fainting Goats!

I know this is no Baby Animal Friday, but it's still pretty awesome.

Oh, the internet. You will never cease to teach me hilarious things, will you?

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