Sunday, March 24, 2019

WHAT IT IS week ending 3.24.2019

Back again.  This week I'm expecting to be spare in my descriptions of what I've read, watched, listened to, etc. because I'm hip-deep in the revisions of novel #2.  Things have been going along quite well with that, but it takes up a lot of time and it has to be my priority right now.  So, let's see if I can temper my "wordy-bitch" personality and knock this one out quickly.
(to be honest, I'm dubious, but we'll see)


The Dark Knight:
When Christopher Nolan's Joker movie hit, I saw and I wasn't as enamored as the scores of online fans.  But in rewatching it with my son, this past week, I have to say, it's better than I remember.  Not as unassailable as its rabid fans would have you believe . . . but, then again, I see pull quotes on comic collections I read that are so flamboyantly hyperbolic that I kind of chalk it up to fanboys being fanboys.
Don't get me wrong, Heath Ledger was amazing and rightly deserved the Oscar for his turn as the Joker, and the Dark Knight is a pretty great action movie and a top of the line comic book movie, but it's not exceeding its reach by too much.  I had forgotten how much it took from Alan Moore's "Killing Joke," which was something that pleased me, in this rewatch.  And, though I may not hold this film as highly as many, there's still much to learn from this movie.  (it was directed by Christopher Nolan)  Primarily, the ability of Nolan and the writers and actors to make something as off the wall as a caped, gravelly-voiced vigilante going against a psychopath in clown makeup who ends up birthing a second fractured psyche with only half a face and somehow ground it enough to make you believe that all of this mayhem and destruction could actually be happening somewhere is laudable and well worth analyzing.

To Kill a Mockingbird:
Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch.  Robert Duvall as Boo Radley.  Brock Peters as Tom Robinson.  Harper Lee's singular novel brought to life on the screen.  This was the first time I'd watched this film, after finally reading the novel a few years back.  We watched it with our son, and though he wasn't excited about the prospects, he settled in and was engaged the whole time.  So, that's a win, especially as we prepare to go to New York and see Aaron Sorkin's adaptation in April.
As with most adaptations, there are scenes truncated or excised wholly, and other bits shifted around.  Having only read the book once, I wasn't as aware of these things as I might have been, though there was one scene shifted around that I felt was weakened by the change (the scene where Jem catches his overalls on the fencing behind the Radley house as the three kids run away), but this is a minor nitpick.
The most important thing to take away from watching "Mockingbird" is what Sorkin has stated he wished to achieved with his adaptation, allow those characters who are not white to have a say and have some agency in the story, especially considering how focal the character of Tom Robinson is to "Mockingbird."  For me -- and this is something I do strive for -- I want to include characters from all different backgrounds in my stories and make them significant and well-rounded, to try and make my fiction a reflection of our world and all its myriad wonders.

When the first season of this Netflix series dropped, I was all in.  Kyle Chandler.  Ben Mendelsohn.  Sam Shepard and Sissy Spacek.  Family secrets.  All set in the Florida Keys.  Yes, please.  I binged season 1 and was ready for season 2.  But, when season 2 hit, I watched the first half of the first episode and then tapped out.  I'm not sure what it was, but it felt different and I wasn't buying anymore.
Well, I decided to drop back in and see if I still felt that way.  Not so far.  I've rifled through the first four episodes of season 2, and the tension is ramped up to a point where I just want to sit and finish this season over the weekend.  (But I've got adult things to do, so that's not happening).

Even though Ben Mendelsohn's character died at the end of season 1, Mendelsohn is back for the second season, in flashbacks and as a haunting specter talking to his brother, John (played by Chandler), which, as much as anything, has me excited for this season.  Mendelsohn is electric in his scenes, and when he and Chandler get to interact, it's top of the line stuff.
Each episode is at least an hour long, thanks to the Netflix model, and yet it never feels overstuffed and it never feels long and, conversely, it never feels long.  The creators have managed to pace out these episodes almost perfectly and that is certainly one thing to take away from this series.  But, secondly, and most importantly, I think the best thing about this show is the way the writers manage to paint the main characters into a corner, with few options of getting out, none of them good, and then have something happen that is unexpected, on the part of the characters and the audience, to save them, at least for a short time.  It's not just the cleverness with which the writers manage to lift the characters out of their dire circumstances, but it's the deftness with which this happens.  It never feels forced.  It never feels like a trick.  It always feels natural.  They lay the groundwork for these twists, but they don't tip their hand.  It's really smartly written, and I'm glad I got back on the Bloodline train.


Hemingway and Women: Female Critics and the Female Voice
Ever since reading "The Old Man and the Sea" in high school, I have been a fan of Hemingway.  He is my favorite classical author.  But I've only ever read him for pleasure, never thinking too deeply about his fiction, which is obviously -- for someone like me, who aspires to publication -- a personal shortfall.  With this book, I am working toward remedying that.
This has been a fascinating read, so far.  Female critics reevaluating Hemingway's fiction through a feminist lens.  The main thesis running through all of these essays is that, for too long, the male perspective has overwhelmed the analysis of Hemingway's work, often utilizing Hemingway's larger than life and overly masculine legend to overlay onto his fiction, putting forth the idea that his women characters are shallow, one-dimensional pieces on the chessboard, when, if one looks at things from a female/feminist perspective, multiple dimensions are opened up, as to these characters, and a new understanding of Hemingway's work is revealed.
It really has been a joy to read these essays.  And the idea that, maybe, it isn't so much the misogyny of the author at work as the misogyny of the critics, which has colored our understanding of Hemingway's writing, for so long, is revelatory.  Not that these female critics are letting him off the hook for that misogynistic view, that is a valid reading of much of his work.  But some of the ideas -- of twinning, or of Brett Ashley in The Sun Also Rises not being a "bitch" character but a strong, independent woman -- are ones I want to take with me when I read, and re-read, Hemingway.  And many of the ideas and thoughts put forth in these essays are also ones I would like to put forward in my own work, with regard to female characterizations.


Eric Shanower and his Oz graphic novels:

Shanower's delicate and precise linework is always beautiful.  And his ability to craft characters that are more than one-dimensional within the framework of Baum's world of Oz is laudable.  These books are, at their heart, fun adventures.  They don't need darkness or relevance to be enjoyable.  And this is something to applaud.


This week I was all over the map.  No one composer or artist grabbed the bulk of the time in my ears.  So, a shoutout to John Williams (music for Star Wars), Graeme Revell (music from The Crow), Don Davis (music for The Matrix), Trevor Jones & Randy Edelman (music from The Last of the Mohicans), and Clint Mansell again, among others.


So, last week I bragged about my 40-day streak of writing.  And then, on Sunday, family stuff came up, and I didn't do any personal writing, breaking the streak.
But, that meant I could start another.  We're at 6 days and counting.  Work continues on the second draft of Novel #2.  I've started in on chapter 5 and have been working through roughly 2000 words a day on the first draft.  I've been cutting, reworking, and shifting around major pieces of what I wrote, initially, and I am finding a clarity and conciseness that I am happy with.  Of course, this second draft will go through another stringent revision, but at least I'll have something lean to work from.

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