Oddly-Specific Genres: Skeletons in the Closet

It’s October! Time for spooky stories full of skeletons and secrets. When these tales are about metaphorical skeletons in a family’s closet, we think it makes for a great prelude to a horror-ific Halloween.  We hope you agree!

Thanks to Julie and Mary-Esther for helping me with research for this post!

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From Page to Screen: The Man Who Would Be King

We’ve been focusing on schools this month, but not everything worth knowing is learned in school. Sometimes the school of hard knocks delivers more memorable lessons. . . .

Daniel Dravot and Peachy Carnahan have decided that the 1880s British Empire does not appreciate their talents. And the two former British army sergeants do have a point. They feel like they’ve contributed more to building the Empire than administrators and British authorities, who are less than appreciative of their military exploits or how they have occupied themselves once they were discharged. Specifically, the powers that be are not pleased with Danny and Peachy leaving a trail of blackmail, fraud, and smuggling, among other things, in their wake.

They know that going home to England would mean menial work, which doesn’t seem very enticing given their adventures in India. But they also realize that further prospects in India are now limited, as well.

The two friends, thus, decide that they will go away to the remote, mysterious kingdom of Kafiristan. Once there, they will use their martial skills to serve as mercenaries and ingratiate themselves with a local chief as a stepping stone for them staging a coup, setting themselves up as rulers, and robbing the locals of their wealth. It’s not a retirement plan endorsed by most financial planners, but Danny and Peachy are pretty sure it will work out marvelously for them. What’s the worst that could happen?

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Silence (2016)

Silence

A long weekend is coming up for most of us! What better way to spend part of it than indulging in a little big screen time from the comfort of your couch? Here’s one film I would say is a must-see that you might have missed. . . .

In the midst of intense persecution of Japanese Christians in the 17th century, Portuguese Jesuits Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Garupe (Adam Driver) insist on traveling to the country to find their mentor Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson). Reports have surfaced that he has apostatized, and they refuse to believe it. Despite the danger, they enter the country and quickly find themselves in a world of concealed faith, persecution, and difficult moral dilemmas.

I was intrigued by this movie when it was first announced for several reasons. One is that it was a Martin Scorsese film, and as I mentioned earlier this year, I enjoy his work. I was also intrigued that this movie seemed different from many of his recent efforts. Beyond the specific historical time period–not commonly covered in popular culture–it also didn’t feature many of the actors who frequently pop up in his movies. Some of the themes in the movie–guilt, sin, salvation–are recurring in his work, but still, it seemed like a change from business as usual, and I was intrigued.

And I’m happy to say I wasn’t disappointed! Though the basic premise sounds like a rescue mission, that’s really not what ensues. It’s hard to explain the rest of the movie without providing spoilers, but I appreciated how ultimately complex it was. The movie isn’t very interested in demonizing one side or the other and is instead more focused on probing different characters’ responses to their situation.

I appreciated that, and I thought the actors did a great job of conveying that. In fact, one of the best performances in the film for me was that of Yōsuke Kubozuka as Kichijiro, the priests’ nervous, potentially shady guide. His character was one that could easily have fallen into well-worn tropes, but the movie avoided that and was all the better for it.

The movie has an offbeat sense of pace, too. It isn’t action-packed, but it also isn’t boring. It’s a long movie–over 2.5 hours–but I found it absorbing throughout. As a given in any film about persecution, there was violence, and it was disturbing, but it wasn’t as graphic as I was expecting. That in no way made it less disturbing, but I did find that surprising, especially given how spectacularly violent so many of Scorsese’s other movies are.

In a way, this movie probably felt the least like a Scorsese film of all the ones I have seen, but I don’t think that’s a problem. There are some really interesting camera angles at times and a dark sense of humor pervading several scenes and some other touches that I think of as being quintessentially Scorsese. The book is based on a novel by Shūsaku Endō, which I would like to read and haven’t had time for, and I suspect the fact that it is an adaptation is one reason for its differences with the rest of his work.

The film is not without its flaws, though I found them pretty minimal. I thought the cast did a great job, but I did find some of their attempts at Portuguese accents uneven. Their efforts ranged from “generically foreign” to “Irish and not even trying,” but I didn’t find it as distracting as I usually do, which I consider a testament to the overall quality of the movie. I also thought that there was a touch too much narration, usually one of my favorite parts of a Scorsese movie, but I assume that was excerpts straight from the book.

Overall, I thought this was an excellent movie. If you like historical drama or thought-provoking drama, this one is well worth watching. As always, follow this link to our online library catalog to place a hold or learn more about the movie.

Recommended if you enjoyed The Mission.

Have you watched this movie? Have you read the book? How do you feel about movie accents? Tell us in the comments!

Oddly-Specific Genres: As Seen On TV

The dog days of summer are here! For many of us, this means it’s time to stay inside and binge watch some TV. But did you know some of the best of those great TV shows you love are actually adaptations of books?  It’s true!

Everything from epic fantasies (Game of Thrones) to historical romances with a science fiction twist (Outlander) to dystopian social commentary (The Handmaid’s Tale) to modern Western mysteries (Longmire) to supernatural comic books (Preacher and American Gods) are adapted for television now.

And if you think the adaptation craze on television is going to be ending anytime soon, well, think again.

Below are some books to start reading now, so when the television adaptations they are based on hit DVDs or the screen soon, you’ll be ready.

Special thanks to Mary-Esther for giving me some excellent suggestions for shows highlighted in this post!

As always, follow this link to our online library catalog to learn more about these items.

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From Page to Screen: Victoria

When it comes to being a world builder, it doesn’t get much bigger than having an entire historical period named after you.

But when eighteen year old Alexandrina Victoria ascended to the British throne following her uncle’s death, nobody was really thinking of her future reign in such grand terms. For the most part, they were just hoping she didn’t do anything too obviously embarrassing.

Victoria’s growing pains as a young monarch in the tumultuous first couple of years of her reign is explored in a recent novel and TV series from Daisy Goodwin.

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Stephanie Storey’s Oil and Marble (2016)

Oil and Marble

“Are you a Leonardo person or a Michelangelo person?”

This is the question Stephanie Storey asked me at Books in Bloom when I approached her about autographing my copy of her book Oil and Marble, a novel that chronicles the heated rivalry between two of the best artists who ever lived. Both of whom are definitely people who changed the world for the better!

Now, personally, when it comes to favorite artists, I’m a Caravaggio person. I’ve been obsessed with Caravaggio since I was a teenager. What with his strikingly realistic paintings that wonderfully capture human emotions but also absolutely horrified his 17th century contemporaries, his defiance of then-current painting tradition, his fixation on depicting decapitations (frequently starring his own severed head), and his tumultuous life (which included numerous brawls, at least one murder, being run out of several cities, and a mysterious death), he’s just always intrigued me.

But picking between Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo was pretty easy for me. I told her I was a Leonardo person. My dad, a talented artist in his own right, introduced me to da Vinci, one of his personal favorites, when I was a kid. (Thanks for having great taste in art, Dad!) Da Vinci’s art interested me, but the man himself was what really fascinated me. I loved that that he was talented in so many different fields, from art to engineering, and that he was so fixated on experimenting with flight. And on a personal level, as a kid who compulsively kept a journal and loved to write backwards, I always appreciated his massive collection of journals, full of mirror writing.

So, when Stephanie Storey asked me if I was a Leonardo person or a Michelangelo person, I told her I was a Leonardo person. We chatted a little about why, and then when I turned to leave, she smiled and told me she–a self-proclaimed Michelangelo person–hoped after I read the book that I’d appreciate Michelangelo too.

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Oddly Specific Genres: Worldbuilders

Actions speak louder than dreams . . . at least when you are building better worlds.

So this month we turn from imaginary worlds to the stories of real people who envisioned a better world and made it happen. Read on – worldbuilders just may come in more sizes and shapes than you imagined!

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